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Old 02-04-2006, 05:20 AM   #41
Anguirel
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Manawyth looked at the young ostler gravely. The youth was his own height already; no surprise, for the Horse-lords grew straight and tall on the plentiful grain they farmed. His courtesy surprised the Dunlander; aye, there was something wary in his look, but nothing of loathing. Truly, time had past since the war. Who had it claimed for this boy? A father or uncle, perhaps, or an older cousin...too young for a brother...

"I offer thanks," he said stiffly. "I render to you the horse." Taking the worn leather bridle, he placed it in the stable-lad's hand. "Here is for the pains of you." A few copper coins from Dunland; he hoped they would be able to be accepted and spent in this land.

"I go to seek the...Eorl," Manawyth concluded, his tongue struggling with the peculiar syllable. "Good...meet."
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Old 02-05-2006, 01:24 PM   #42
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Gárwine hated Dunlendings. In the years before the War, his grandfather had rode to the west with the men of the village to defend the towns on the borders from Dunlending raids. Only half of the riders returned, including Gárwine's father, but his grandfather had remained with the other half, now buried under the grass of the Westfold. When he returned, Gárwine's father told him about the savagery of the Dunlendings, and how they killed every golden-haired rider that stood in their path, and how they ran across the windy plains in huge, bloodthirsty hordes. From these stories Gárwine learned of the Dunlendings' dark hair, lust for gold, hatred of the Rohirrim, and inhuman ways of life.

And so when Gáwine saw a Dunlending ride up to the stables, he let out a groan. He would not get along well with this man, no matter how civilized he might appear riding a horse. He did not speak the language of the Mark very well.

"Good . . . meet," the Dunlending said, slowly and careful of each sound.

"Yes, good meet," said Léof, who treated the Dunlending with politeness. Still, Gárwine could see Léof's wariness of the visitor. "Come," he said, leading the Dunlending to Gárwine, "He will take you to the Eorl."

Gárwine could not believe his bad luck. He, an armed soldier of the Mark, was to lead this scruffy, poorly educated, half-savage Dunlending to the Eorl. He grinned with some annoyance at Léof. "Yes, I will take you to the Eorl," Gárwine said to the Dunlending. Even closer, Gárwine could see that one of the Dunlending's eyes was closed tightly shut. Was this a result of battle?

"Come, follow me," Gárwine told the Dunlending. The Dunlending was obedient, and followed just behind Gárwine. They entered a doorway leading into the inn, and they followed a dim hallway to the common room. Gárwine was nervous to have a Dunlending right behind him and just out of sight, but he just kept his hand near his sword and reminded himself that the Dunlending must be just as nervous to be so deep in the heart the Mark. He would've turned his head to get a better look at the visitor, but he wasn't sure if the Dunlending would find it rude to be stared at. Gárwine just kept his head and eyes forward and his hand resting upon the pommel of his sword.

Gárwine found Eodwine and Thornden walking through a doorway across the common room. He approached, with the Dunlending at his side. Eodwine and Thornden stared at the visitor. "My lord, he wishes speak with you."
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Old 02-05-2006, 03:52 PM   #43
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Eodwine and Thornden were discussing what should be done for warmth between the time the wall hearth was unbuilt and the new mead hall hearth was put in place, when Gárwine approached them, a dark haired youth in tow. A Dunlending! Eodwine's hackles rose.

"My lord," said Gárwine," he wishes to speak with you." Gárwine stepped aside so that both eorl and steward could get a good look at the newcomer. He was too young to have been amongst those who had ravaged his family during the War, so he could not hold that against him. Eodwine tried to unclench his jaw. What was a Dunlending doing here? Clearly the worse for wear with one eye closed for good, what would make a Dunlending youth leave his homeland, degraded as it was, and come to the heart of the sworn foes of his folk?

The youth shifted his stance, seeming discomfited by the lengthening silence with which Eodwine regarded him. Thornden coughed into his hand. Eodwine cleared his throat.

"What do you want?" He was aware of the tension in his own voice; no, the veiled wrath, would be a better way to describe it. Did the youth wince at his question and the tone with which it was asked, or had he just blinked? The youth opened his mouth when a noise from the nearest corridor interrupted him.

"Good morning everyone!" It was a somewhat high pitched voice for a Rohirrim, and no wonder, for it was Master Falco Boffin, the Holbytlan, up late and yawning cavernously. "Hail, Lord Eodwine, my friend. Goodness, but it's hard getting used to calling you that, you old lout! Where's breakfast! Or at least second breakfast! And how's about finishing that ol' yarn about Gob and Twid-" Falco stopped and seemed to sense for the first time that things were not as they usually were in the common room. "What have we here? Who's this?"

"Good morn to you, Master Falco," Eodwine answered, his jaw feeling quite unnatrually tight around the name that he usually said in a much friendlier fashion. "We have here a Dunlending youth. Know you what that portends?"

"Nay, but you'll tell me, I'm sure!" Falco approached and bowed deeply to the youth, whose eyes widened in startlement at the hobbit's courteous but odd behavior. "Welcome to the Eorling Mead Hall! I am Master Falco Boffin, erstwhile shirriff of the Shire in the north, now guest of Lord Eodwine of the Gap, Eorl of Middle Emnet, as he now styles himself, quite fittingly as the King has so named him! Please pardon my late rising this morning, for I had grave business to apply myself to last night."

"Aye," Gárwine smirked, "grave business with Eodwine's mead cellar."

"One must find what rewards one can when given the the task of counting and classing the wares of the hall! And how are you called, sir?"

The youth of Dunlending's one good eye opened wide in surprise to be addressed so, and with such courtesy, in the heart of the enemy of his folk.

"Answer the question, young man," Eodwine said, finding himself just a little relaxed by the easy confidence of his friend Falco. He even managed a grim and rueful half smile. "And do not forget to tell us your purpose for coming here."
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Old 02-05-2006, 07:55 PM   #44
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Saeryn had bustled about the property all morning. She'd spoken with Æðel over the guests rooms and to Gudryn over trifling matters of clothing and hair, sparking grins and laughter. As she cleaned her own room and saw that others were fed and without need, she spoke to Kara in the kitchen and was delighted to see the girl up to her elbows in flour with a tune on her lips and a smudge extra of the flour decorating her cheek.

She'd not seen Eodwine since just after sunrise, busy as they were with their own tasks, but she thought perhaps a cup of tea would be appreciated. Brewing one, light and sweet with just a hint of milk and sugar, she carried it and a fresh honey-cake out to the hall, humming.

She smiled wide at the appearance of a small kitten around a corner and paused to pet it. She laughed, startled, as it jumped to her shoulder, and she stood slowly, giggling as it sniffed her ear. She'd gotten to know the creature several days before and it had taken to following her around, showing itself at the most unexpected times. Now she backed the door open, careful to keep tea in cup and cake out of reach of kitten.

Had her mind been on such things, she'd have noticed instantly the tension of the room. As it was, she had already forced the tea into Eodwine's hands with a motherly order to drink up and eat before he fell sick of exhaustion and hunger.

She was surprised when his answer was merely a curt nod. He was tense, standing tall, and seemingly trying to hold himself in a state of calm collectedness. Saeryn looked around, taking in now those else who stood there. Master Falco, of course, and she nodded to him. Several others she knew, and a stranger.

From him seemed to radiate uncertainty and from some of the others what almost felt of disdain and at least unsure welcome. Saeryn looked from face to face. She was too young to appreciate fully the past's influence on now. Those were matters of tales and parents, and her parents were long since dead. As it was, she felt little of the uncertainty and much of the discomfort. It would not do at all.

"And you sir?" she asked the Dunlending. "A cup of tea?"

There was silence. She'd bustled in before the youth could answer Eodwine's question and now she stood without nerve, or perhaps with too much, welcoming all those who wished it. She hoped she was not fighting a losing battle.

"Tea it is, and I'll be right out with it." Without waiting for response, she left again, returning swiftly and disappearing, so much as she could, to the back of the room. Tea solves every problem, her mother had always told her. She hoped that it would, though she was sensible enough to know that her hopes might prove false. There was no harm in trying though... the youth looked haunted and that was never a sign Saeryn wished to see. Ghosts of the past, though a fact of life, were not welcome to stay around if she had anything to say.

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Old 02-05-2006, 10:37 PM   #45
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"Yes, I will take you to the Eorl," Gárwine was telling the Dunlending. “Come, follow me.” Despite the polite, almost friendly words, Léof thought he could detect a new tone in Gárwine’s voice that he had not heard before – and stronger than wariness. Was a man truly to be hated simply because of his race? This was something almost new to Léof – he had rarely left his farm except to occasionally go into the nearby village for supplies, and while his father had fought in the war, he never spoke of it, not that Léof had ever heard. In truth, Léof’s life had been all but untouched by the events of the war, and the fervent hatred of his people for the Dunlendings had never been deeply instilled in him. Wariness and mistrust, yes, but never hatred.

And it was not as if the man had been openly hostile. His eyes drifted down to the copper coins that he still held in his left hand. He had never seen anything like them, but they should still be worth something since they did seem to be real copper. Pleased at his earnings, he pocketed them and recalled suddenly the horse whose reins were still grasped in his other hand. He tugged gently and gave a click of the tongue, and the horse followed him willingly into the stable.

After unsaddling and unbridling the horse, he gave him a quick brushing and looked him over. The horse had no obvious health problems and did not seem inordinately tired. Whatever else he may be, the man had taken reasonable care of his steed and that meant something to Léof. He settled the horse into a clean stall and filled a bucket of fresh water. Unsure whether the horse had eaten anything that morning, Léof gave him a part ration of hay. The horse seemed content, so he continued on his earlier intention to get a feel for the stable.

He found a few horses that, judging by their fresh and alert appearance, had obviously been stabled here for a while. Perhaps they belonged to the mead hall’s employees or local people. All were fairly ordinary, and Léof moved down the aisle steadily. But that last horse he found made him stop and look closely: a large chestnut, no longer young but still of noble bearing. Léof felt as if the horse was sizing him up, making sure Léof was worthy of his job. Here, he knew, was a horse worthy of one of the proud Riders, and the logical assumption was that he belonged to Eodwine. Right then, Léof resolved to pay extra care to this horse; he seemed to deserve – nay, expect, no less.

Realizing that he was gawking, Léof backed away from the stall and headed for the tack room. After all, his saddle and bridle – and now the Dunlending’s as well – required care much more than this horse needed his admiration. This brought back the troubling thoughts of the Dunlending, and as he set himself up to clean up the leather, he found himself hoping that the strange man was not being treated too harshly inside. The mead hall's people had seemed like kind enough folk; surely they would not turn away the man simply because of his culture. Léof hoped they would not; every man deserved a chance, and after he had worked so hard to find a job for himself, he could not bring himself to wish the same on another. But recalling Gárwine's reaction made him wonder what was really going on inside, and whether his faith that the man would not be turned away was wholly unfounded. He only wished he knew for certain.
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Old 02-06-2006, 01:38 AM   #46
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Manawyth had soon found out that Leof's politeness was but an exception. The young Rohirric soldier beside him had almost certainly been left bereaved by the war, for his attitude fluctuated between carefully stolen, searching stares and apparent indifference. He was clearly irritated to be told to escort a Dunlending. Manawyth could put up with this easily enough, and did not look at the boy at all.

Then the Eorl. The goggling his blue eyes followed by an almost alarmed "What do you what?" Manawyth smiled in grim satisfaction. Every one of his expectations was crystallising here.

Then they were all shattered by the entrance of the rubicund little child. No, it was older than a child, and too beardless for a Dwarf...and by the sky, how it talked. As he listened, Manawyth remembered the Dunlending tales of the small folk who had come to stir the forests to rage. While this fellow could probably talk a forest into performing a sword-dance, he did not exactly fit the fell halflings of martial folklore. Manawyth returned his greeting with a cautious smile, revealing quite a few lost teeth.

Then a...serving-wench?-of some sort burst in, and offered Manawyth a drink he had never heard of. He knew that the Rohirrim downed beer prodigiously, and he supposed it was something the sort; but as bad luck would have it he was caught between answering her and Eodwine. He was released when she scurried off.

His confidence dwindling as he faced the Eorl again, Manawyth knelt uneasily. "Lord...I am seeking to a position here. They tell me you have soldiers, ostlers, joiners and such. I can fight...or work hard?"

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Old 02-07-2006, 02:15 PM   #47
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Gudryn did not realize how long her face had been scrunched up with surprise and uncertainty. She looked away from Æðelhild and began to laugh, "of course, I do suppose that makes the most sense".

Me? A Lady? My fate has certainly changed indeed.

Gudryn smiled again at Æðelhild and nodded her thanks. The young lass, Gudryn realized, would make a fine friend when the time came that they would know one another better.

"Well", she spoke rising from the table, "I am on my way to my Father to see what else needs to be seen to this day, I would have you follow as a friend, but that is your choice to make". Gudryn smiled and with a wave of her hand she set off towards the end of the Hall.

Carpenters began to arrive taking measurements of their own whilst setting up ladders and other scaffolding. They discussed rather loudly amongst themselves the means of the design and the ways in which to go about it.

Gudryn stopped right beside her Father only to find that things were out of sorts. The tension in the room was thick enough to cut it with a knife, she could swear she heard the pounding of many hearts in the silence.

It was then she laid eyes upon the dark haired youth. A Dunlending. She knew little of them kept under the short leash of Rand for many years until now and with her inexperience she found it hard to fathom the discontent that was focused on this wounded lad.

Among the few others that encircled him, she felt she was the only one whose heart beat of pity for how could she understand what the others had lost? What her Father what Gárwine had lost in the war. She could find no words to speak lost in this tumult of emotion.
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Old 02-07-2006, 03:01 PM   #48
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Thornden stood beside Eodwine, his calm eyes studying the stranger from Dunlend. As they had entered the room and first seen the black haired man, Thornden had felt immediately Eodwine tense and become rigid. His very words were cut short and seemed barely able to come out. Thornden glanced at him as he practically demanded what the young man wanted.

The two sudden and unexpected interruptions, one from a hobbit and then the second almost immediately from Saeryn, failed to put off the ill will entirely, and still there remained the strained, tense waiting.

But as the young man knelt, Thornden softened inwardly somewhat at once. He had no personal dislike towards the Dunlendings. Every man had his rights and should get some sort of chance, and this youth didn’t appear to want trouble.

“Lord . . . I am seeking to a position here. They tell me you have soldiers, ostlers, joiners, and such. I can fight . . . or work hard?”

Thornden remained silent. It was not his place to speak. To give false hope, or say anything. The young man was awkward in the speech of the Rohirrim, and yet he still tried. Thornden slowly looked over him, studying his face and his apparel. He was not a handsome figure, nor did he posses a completely kind look, but his expression was not sour, or bitter, nor was it particularly disagreeable, and certainly not disrespectful towards Eodwine. This at least could be marked to his favor.

And still another part of his mind measured up what could not be seen. He was, after all, a Dunlending. Cunning and dishonest folk as often as not, he had heard. The look and expression that Thornden saw could easily be merely a disguise, hiding who knows what. It was impossible to tell what lay behind that single eye.

‘I will not judge him either honest or dishonest, true or false,’ Thornden said to himself, still keeping his steady gaze on him. ‘Time will tell, if Eodwine gives him time.’
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Old 02-07-2006, 06:55 PM   #49
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The Dunlending youth knelt. “Lord . . . I am seeking to a position here. They tell me you have soldiers, ostlers, joiners, and such. I can fight . . . or work hard?”

Eodwine was a little surprised at the youth's sudden humility. He was a foreigner though, and a Dunlending at that, and not to be taken simply at his word. The moment lengthened as he considered the youth's words, and what he would do about it. At last he spoke.

"Have you a name?"

"Manawyth, Lord."

"Manawyth," Eodwine repeated, feeling the foreign phrase on his tongue. "Rise, Manawyth." The youth rose. "I will speak frankly, Manawyth of Dunland. Your folk razed my farm in the Gap of Rohan during the War, murdering my wife and children. I was with the Rohirrim who took vengeance against your people. That the Dunlendings have lost part of their homeland is blame you could lay at my feet. Further, you have the look of an outlaw, or at least a fugitive. Is there some crime you have committed against your own people that you flee to us here? If so, why would I take you in? For if I take you, it will not be as mere jobman, but as liegeman and I your lord. Speak for yourself and do not hold back, Manawyth of Dunland."

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Old 02-09-2006, 08:08 AM   #50
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As he waited for the Eorl's reply, Manawyth felt more eyes drawn to his strange figure; a maid, little more than a child, who looked fondly on Eodwine as if some near kinswoman, but also seemed sympathetic, glancing solicitously at him; and another typical Rohir, with hair between yellow-tawny and grey, tall and strongly built, who clearly held some authority here.

But then Eodwine began to speak, his tone, if anything, gruffer and more uncompromising than before. After extracting Manawyth's name, he made his grievances and objections clear.

"I will speak frankly, Manawyth of Dunland. Your folk razed my farm in the Gap of Rohan during the War, murdering my wife and children. I was with the Rohirrim who took vengeance against your people. That the Dunlendings have lost part of their homeland is blame you could lay at my feet."

Then we are the same, Manawyth thought irritably. Have the Strawheads no grasp of logic? But he reproached himself as best he could, though he could not hide a spark of defiance in his dark eye as the Eorl continued.

And part of their homeland? Even the Rohirrim did not deny that they had stolen the entire Westfold in years gone by! Of course they called it "prowess and conquest..."

"Further, you have the look of an outlaw, or at least a fugitive. Is there some crime you have committed against your own people that you flee to us here? If so, why would I take you in? For if I take you, it will not be as mere jobman, but as liegeman and I your lord. Speak for yourself and do not hold back, Manawyth of Dunland."

Here Eodwine struck close to the truth; but as he had no sound reasons for doing so, Manawyth was prepared to evade his question.

"You say I look like...outlaw...Eorl. That is well. You...you look like lout, plunderer, strongarm-wielder and thug to my folk. Why? My kind left your childer dead, your kind my brothers. It has been so for longer than your tales tell. Yet we are men now."

Manawyth looked around the hall in appeal to all who stood about.

"Does the King of Rohan will that men should be his foes, because they were his grandsire's foes? Does he ask that his servants," and he glanced back at Eodwine, "think so?"
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Old 02-09-2006, 08:37 PM   #51
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Eodwine's eyes narrowed on the Dunlending. The upstart had answered Eodwine's question with one of his own! Thus, he was trying to take right-of-speech away from the Eorl of the mead hall! ...rash and overweening! The Gondorians had a word for it: insolent.

Long ago, when Eodwine had been a youth just called up to Théodred's war host, he had been taught that when fighting, he had the choice of meeting a blow with the sword or buckler, thus losing gain of the first blow, or taking the blow manfully upon breast armor or shield and swinging his sword into the foe's body, defenseless by dint of his outthrust sword arm. In so like, in a war of words, he had learned that one does not answer the question posed in a retort, but asks his own again until answer is given.

But was this a battle of words, or a truth seeking? Eodwine had spoken the truth plainly, hoping to be rewarded with trade in the same coin. But this overweening upstart wanted a battle of words! Eodwine opened his mouth to angrily speak his question again, ignoring the churl's baiting; but years of experience in service to the king had trained him to hold his tongue until the rash word dissolved on his tongue while a new and better thought grew in its place.

So he waited a moment, not taking his searching eyes from the Dunlending, who grew more ill at ease the longer the silence held.

And a new thought came.

"Thornden, how would you speak to this man were you in my place?"
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Old 02-09-2006, 11:58 PM   #52
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Gárwine stood a few paces away from Eodwine and the Dunlending, listening to every word they tossed at each other. The Dunlending subtly had just called the eorl a lout and a plunderer, and still avoided the question posed to him. Gárwine made up his mind that the Dunlending was an outlaw; for what other reason would he skip over Eodwine's question, throwing out a mouthful of rash words as a poor substitute for an answer? He confirmed Gárwine's image of a Dunlending: a rude, sly, dishonest man who did not know how to treat his lords.

And Gárwine was grieved to see Eodwine spoken to by the Dunlending in such a way. Gárwine was already fond of his eorl, who had given him a job and a roof over his head, and here he was, standing before his steward, guard, and very own daughter, asked such insolent questions by one of the people who had slaughtered his family. Gárwine glanced at Gudryn, but her solemn face gave no sign of her feelings.

"Thornden, how would you speak to this man were you in my place?" said Eodwine, commanding the room's attention and turning to his steward. Gárwine gave a thin smile. Eodwine would show the Dunlending not to wield words against an eorl of the Mark.
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Old 02-10-2006, 07:47 AM   #53
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Saeryn was uncomfortable with the way the conversation had turned. The eyes of the two men gave away what their carefully chosen words did not, and Saeryn could not ignore the barely cloaked hostility. Her pity for the Dunlending turned to blame and fear.

Why had this man come here? Saeryn had finally found a place in which hard words rarely pierced flesh. She had escaped her brother's angry moods, replacing his oppressive lordship first with Bethberry's kind and maternal caring, and now Eodwine, as close to a father as she'd had in years, as her friend and leader. She had not sworn to him... he had not asked it... she was not even certain if she would.

To be bound again to one place... to be kept and chained by duty that she would perform freely... as long as questions never lingered whether or not her choice was free.

Eodwine would make this man swear fealty. Would he make Saeryn? He had every right... it was his hall, his lands. Saeryn worked for him, but as a friend. Would she become one of his people, as this man must?

If the Dunlending stayed, would Saeryn's life be filled again with bubbling emotion, rarely displayed, but always felt?

She stroked the head of the kitten in her darkened corner and shivered at the prospect.

She had not believed Eodwine capable of bad feeling... she had only encountered him smiling, or at worst, guarding his friends against enemies. While she knew that he must have a weakness, something that could gall him beyond all else, she had assumed that it would be fleeting. She had hoped that it would be.

If this man stayed... Saeryn worried that she would not. She could not... would not... live again in a place where anger was ever present. She could not allow herself to be bound.
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Old 02-10-2006, 08:25 AM   #54
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Manawyth held the Eorl's blue gaze with all his mind's strength. His lips trembled slightly, and his knuckles were paler than they ought to be, but he did not intend to surrender. He might be forced to come to abide among the Rohirrim, but he would not put up with insults, not if they came from the King himself. The Dunlanders also had pride, not the golden, supreme arrogance of the Horse-lords, but a dull, dark, smouldering flame of their own. It burned all the more fiercely for the threats it had faced. The Rohirrim held themselves a hardy and valiant race, because they had defended a wide land and lost it but once.

But the Dunlanders knew that they had held a land that was no land at all for hundreds of years. To live on the scrapings of rock, and still to remember to live as your ancestors did, and to so die. That was the way of the Dunlendings.

The Eorl asked his second for advise; the same veteran warrior who had sized Manawyth up before. But the Dunlending saw little reason to hope for a reprieve from that direction. He continued to stare at the lord of the Hall.

He knew that whatever humanity his bedraggled entrance had stirred was squandered now. But he believed it was right that it was so. And the Eorl and his men were now committed to pit their wheat-fattened tongues 'gainst his.

The fearful look of the pale wench who had earlier offered him tea alarmed him somewhat, however. What was he, an Orc bringing fire to the bales?

He would be refused, and he would ride back to strive and die in Dunland, in all likelihood. But he would not leave the horse-lords with a memory of a small dark ape who had submitted and fawned.
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Old 02-10-2006, 11:58 AM   #55
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Thornden’s lips parted somewhat in surprise at the rashness of Manawyth's words. Lout and plunderer? In appearance? Eodwine may have spoken more hastily than Thornden would have, but he had a right - at least more of one than this man had.

“Thornden, how would you speak to this man were you in my place?” Eodwine asked.

“Why, lord,” Thornden replied after a pause the length of a breath, “in your place, I would have complete authority to say anything I should like. I know not for sure whether this churl’s ill spoken words have offended you. If they have not, that is all well, but I imagine that if that is the case, you would not have asked me for an answer, but laughed the insult off and replied somehow easily. You asked him a fair question that every man who cares for his property has right to ask. You gave him a chance to answer you fully, without interruption, giving his story. He answered you with a question of his own, adding insults as well. Either he thinks he holds the position of lord here and so imagines that he has the authority to speak thus to any man,” he cast his glance towards the Dunlending briefly, “or he hides something.

“Whichever it may be, he has answered back evasively and haughtily and insulted you to your face, daring your intelligence and authority in your own hall, and has refused to answer your question. Under such circumstances, it may be well if pity withdraws, and you send him from you. For if you would let him stay - what would come of it? Would harsh feelings, hatred and anger consistently dwell within these walls? Dark, heavy silence between the two of you, and coldness whenever either is present? It would not do, unless both of you were willing to forget the past quarrels between the races and he be willing to dwell under your lordship and authority.

“Thus would I answer him, then, my lord. But some of the weight lies also on your shoulders - that you will be able to forget where he comes from and not hate him for his race.” He turned his eyes again towards Manawyth. “Ask him again what his past is and if he is fully honest with you, make your decision. You have given others a chance to stay and prove themselves. His case must be desperate to have come so far from his homeland. Perhaps he is willing to take back hasty and thoughtless words.”

‘You are a fool, Thornden,’ he told himself, after he had finished his speech. ‘None of that will ever work. Why did you not tell Eodwine that had you been he, you would have thrown the man out as soon as such words passed his lips in your hall?’ Inwardly, he smiled mockingly at himself. ‘Because such thoughts are not always best. If this will work, it will be far better than to turn the man out. . .and that may yet be what happens.’
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Old 02-10-2006, 02:18 PM   #56
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"Fair words, fair words, Master Thornden," Falco Boffin the hobbit interrupted. "I don't cotton to all those high sounding words you threw in there. Doubtless they're borrowed from Gondor or Elves, but I suppose you've had some schooling."

"Are you trying to say something useful, Master Falco?" Eodwine smirked, looking around the broad form of Thornden at the hobbit.

"Why of course, you big lout! At least the alien got that part right. O' course, the lot of you are big louts. But plundering? I know plenty about plundering as we had old Sharkey's ruffians in our land before four famous hobbits came back and set things to rights. Now this fellow, Manawyth - man with a big chip on his shoulder - he has the look of a ruffian, but he's alone and close to beggary, not like the ruffians I know of."

"Master Falco," Eodwine said, folding his arms over his chest, "I have a mind that you are trying to make a point of some kind. Please be merciful to my ears and tell us what it is!"

"Very well! Not too many moons ago I thought of the lot of you as 'big trouble', not least that Uien and Falowik who joined me in saving your skin in the north lands. I've learned since that there are indeed some bad among you, but some good too. There are stories the famous four brought back that say a lot to me about this hear moment of ours. The King of Gondor hisself is supposed to have met with them in Bree and looked foul to them, but felt fair. And there was another hobbit they met, by all accounts, leastways what I can make out of 'em, who was a lone bedraggled type and not a very good sort at all, and Nine Fingers hisself had pity on him, and the way I hear it, the War might have gone bad if not for that pity. You've given these others a month, do the same for this Man a with a chip on his shoulder and one eye closed an' all. That's what I say. Now, where's breakfast around here?!"

"My thanks, Master Falco, for telling every last one of us 'what for'! It's nigh on lunch time and you're up late. If you want breakfast, see what mercy you can find from our cooks in the kitchen."

Falco swaggered off yawning, but gave one last parting shot. "If you throw the fellow out on his behind, you'll have me to answer to!"

Eodwine grinned, then looked back at Manawyth from Dunland, who was staring at the retreating hobbit with one eye so wide, the other seemd to be trying to do the same even with its lid down.

"Well, Manawyth of Dunland, it seems that I must at least give you a chance, or I have the formiddable Master Falco Boffin to answer to! I still must learn who you are before any lasting agreement can be wrought, but I am of a mind to give you this same month that Master Falco reminds me of. What say you to that?"

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Old 02-10-2006, 02:50 PM   #57
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Saeryn listened silently, fretting. The Dunlending had shot her a sizing glance and she felt that she'd come up wanting... but she was uncertain why. She had taken the role of housekeeper only that morning, promising to herself that she would model her welcoming behavior and reassuring smile after Bethberry's... and yet she sat alone, worried, nervous, uncertain, and unwelcoming to the stranger that stood alone. Bethberry had left the Inn in the capable hands of Eodwine to travel with an Easterling, and Saeryn could only shiver with uncertainty as a Dunlending stood before her.

She wanted so much to stand beside him, to lend support to his cause. She had come, a runaway, so recently. Had some of these very people before her not taken up her cause, even without knowing what it was, she did not wish to know where she'd now be. Most of them, especially now, with so many new faces, knew nothing of Saeryn but her smile and voice. They accepted her without question.

This Dunlending stood alone. Saeryn felt for him... but she felt more for herself.

Eodwine was letting him stay, if he could speak for himself. Would the tension continue? Would there be so many traces of ancient hatred ready to burst forth at any time?

A month...

Saeryn picked up the kitten from her lap and left the hall, locking herself into her room. She hoped no-one saw the glimmer of fearful and guilty tears.

This man needed a friend to stand beside him. Saeryn had been given that gift... and now she withheld it from another in need. But the hostility was too much. Pulling a quilt from her bed, Saeryn wrapped herself within and cried over memories of the past and worry of the future.
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Old 02-13-2006, 07:08 AM   #58
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Once more, the intervention of the Halfling skewed the whole current of emotion in the room. The creature amazed Manawyth. This was no smaller, tree-rousing Wose that fed on human blood...though admittedly it seemed to have a penchant for a good rare steak. No, Master Falco Boffin was beyond any of the foreigner's expectations, and he stared and he stared till he found himself, to his own surprise, laughing.

"Of your kindness, you have me taught...manners," he conceded with a free, wide smile.

It changed the stamp of his face-neither uncertain nor desperate, nor defiant even. There was much genuine mirth, of a sardonic sort, to be found in the lines of the Dunlending's mouth. He tore his wide eyes...eye...from the small, rotund figure to answer the Eorl at last.

"I answer ye in truth, sir, since ye ask...things...unloaded, without...weight. I served a Chief who...was stricken, yes?...at the Hornburg, and came away from the battle with the few...the few who left the many dead...young was I then, so young..."

He paused.

"Of the trials of Dunland a bard only is fit to sing, and it is...right that they be told in Dunland's own...tongue. I stumble in the Horse-Lord's voice. There is a harp in the hall? With a harp understanding will come easier, know ye not a sound of our speech."

Manawyth was aware he had avoided answering the Eorl's first questions again. But he was not sure if he could at all, without music to help him.
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Old 02-14-2006, 09:27 PM   #59
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"Do you play the harp, then?" Eodwine asked with sudden interest.

"I - I touch it," Manawyth replied, uncertain of his words.

"Then you shall touch mine!" Eodwine declared. "Gudryn, dear!"

"Yes, father?"

Eodwine asked her to fetch his harp, which she did gladly, running off quickly.

"'Tis almost the noon hour," Eodwine said. "You are thirsty, Manawyth of Dunland?" Manawyth acknowledged his thirst.

"Then mead you shall have to loosen your tongue, and mayhap the difference in our speech will be overcome by good ale and better song. Come! Sit by the hearth!" With that, Eodwine placed his arm on the Dunlending's shoulder, to the surprised and wide eyed stares of all those who had seen the tension between them. Murmurs passed between this and that onlooker. Eodwine was aware of it all, and smiled within.

Gudryn came back with the harp, and Aðelhild came out of the kitchen with a tray loaded with tall ale-cups, followed by Kara, who held a ram's horn, the flaring end held high. Eodwine smiled. This was one of his immediate changes, in keeping with the traditions of the Eorlingas, mead served in a ram's horn. Aðelhild came to Eodwine first, handed him a cup, then took the ram's horn from Kara, and filled his cup to the brim. He brought it to his lips and tasted it. He smiled.

"It is good!" Everybody cheered. "Let the horn be passed, starting with our new bard!"

So it was done.

After Manawyth had drunk from his mead cup, and set about tuning the harp, looking somewhat bemused at the turn of events, Thornden sat next to Eodwine.

"Lord, I am curious, and unsure how to broach my-"

"You wonder at my change toward yonder bard."

Thornden nodded.

"Bards have a special place in my heart. If this man is such a one, his place of birth matters not to me. That is the all of it."
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Old 02-14-2006, 09:57 PM   #60
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Saeryn's room was near to the hall. After a short but heartfelt cry, she set about to neatening up; a pointless diversion, given her room's spotless state. She fussed about, occasionally tugging at the corners of her blankets. She threw open her hastily closed curtains, hoping that the bright sunlight would cheer her. She splashed the tear stains from her cheeks with cold water and loosely braided her hair afresh.

As she bustled about, considering her hopes and her fears, she decided that what would come would come. She knew what she must do if asked to swear fealty... she would move on. She could not be bound again, no matter who her lord might be. She could only hope that Eodwine would overlook it when ascertaining loyalty of all those under his watch. Perhaps she would stay out of sight for a time... out of sight out of mind, she had heard. She would test it, she decided, and make the likelihood of the inevitable conversation far lower. Saeryn hoped that none of the new arrivals would be inquisitive enough to draw attention to her ambiguous place.

Finally, unable to find either speck of dust in need of wiping or paper out of place, Saeryn sat on her bed with her head in hands. She closed her eyes for several moments and merely breathed. Suddenly the unmistakable and unearthly sound of harp strings met her ears. She looked up and toward the wall that her room shared with the mead hall, mouth open slightly in surprise.

The tense voices had subdued and tentative tuning notes were plucked on the instrument. Saeryn's innate curiosity strove against her new found resolve to keep her head low. Compromising with herself, she slipped into the hallway and opened the door to the mead hall an inch or so, peeking through. She blushed to realize how young and foolish she must look and so slipped her way through the door to stand in front of it. Eodwine nodded a welcome back, though all other eyes were now on the Dunlending. Saeryn curtsied slightly, acknowledging her friend. She stood away from the crowd and waited now to hear what would come.
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Old 02-14-2006, 10:55 PM   #61
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Léof really had not accomplished very much since Gárwine had taken the Dunlending inside – he was too distracted. He glanced around the stable and saw a few things that could be done but nothing that he absolutely needed to do at that precise moment. He would return later… after he had heard the news, and after he had found a bite to eat. Despite the large breakfast, a good lunch sounded excellent to him.

Pleased with his decision, he left the stable and entered the mead hall, where he heard the gentle sounds of a harp filling the air. Now even more curious, he stepped closer and realized that it was the Dunlending who played. Léof had certainly missed something here, but he guessed that the Dunlending had been accepted into the Mead Hall by Eodwine, at any rate. He spotted Gárwine standing off to the side, and something was stiff about his stance. Apparently his welcome had not warmed much.

Léof headed towards his friend, hoping Gárwine would fill him in. “What has happened here?” he asked rather quietly. “Have I missed something?” His second question had two possible meanings, though he left it up to Gárwine to decide: he might take it as an extension of the former question, but what Léof was really hoping was that Gárwine might explain to him his apparently instant dislike for the man, a sentiment that Léof could neither wholly understand or, unless given better reason than he had worked out for himself, approve of.
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Old 02-19-2006, 03:49 PM   #62
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After his compliment to Manawyth, who seemed a good wager to be his future bard, he walked over to Saeryn, still standing in the corner. He had marked her quiet and bashful entrance into the mead hall as Manawyth had begun his song. He saw no sign of tears, but as he approached, her face looked troubled, and she working hard to hold herself from further tears.

"Is something amiss, lady Saeryn?" The warmth of his tone belied the formality of his words, for he thought of her as much like a daughter to him as was Gudryn.

She jumped a little, blushing that he'd so easily seen through her front. She considered the truth and considered her recent fears. She respected Eodwine too much to lie to him, but her thoughts were still too sensitive to share.

"Amiss?" she asked carefully. "Only that it's nearing lunch and you've barely eaten. You'll fall sick if you're not careful."

She bit her lip and caught herself, quickly pretending she hadn't. She wasn't lying, she qualified to herself... she was merely skirting the truth a little.

Eodwine smirked. "If such a woeful face is the mirror of your thoughts, I must be near death's door." He rubbed his belly with both hands, finding no lack of innards. "No, that is not it. Worried about my health you are not, though I thank you for the kind thought. If you wish to keep your troubles to yourself, I will not gainsay you nor threaten them out of you, d-" Eodwine caught his tongue. "-dear child." He forced a smile.

Saeryn felt guilty now, keeping from him what was on her mind. She could not solve her problem without sharing it with him... but she did not want to bring up the subject of swearing allegiance. While he'd doubtlessly assure her that no such thing was necessary, it would bring to his mind speculation as to why she was so nervous of it. It might raise questions that had no answers she cared to give. She sought for an answer that would divert his attention from her history. She was curious as to how much he knew or guessed... but asking him would be akin, to her mind, to inviting disaster.

"I... I am worried about my twin. He disappeared from the Inn days ago with no word and he took almost nothing with him. I don't know where he is. I hope..." She trailed off, mentally smacking herself. She didn't want to speak of her family and what had she done but give a perfect opening for such discussion?

"From what I have seen," Eodwine answered lightly, "your brother Degas is likely to disappear for days and turn up when he pleases. He is no doubt at some rival inn with a wench on his-" Eodwine paused. Saeryn's expression only became more morose at his light words. He frowned. "Do you fear his death, then? Has he said something to you?" Eodwine put his arm around Saeryn's shoulder and drew her nearer to the fire, careful not to strain her bruised ribs. "Here, sit and speak your heart if you like, d-" Eodwine clicked his tongue, "-lady Saeryn. I will do what I can to aid you."

She allowed herself to be led to the fire and to be sat like a child next to Eodwine. Manawyth had begun to play a lilting melody on the harp, one that suited the melancholy expression on Saeryn's face.

"He said nothing to me," she murmered, worried. "That is what bothers me. In his first... his only, I suppose... days here, Degas told me of..."

She stopped, nervous. She became unusually fascinated with the state of her shaking fingers. She tried once more. Eodwine sat, silently listening.

"Our brother..." she paused again, uncertain of what bothered her as much as that she did not know exactly what to say. "When my parents died... my sister and I... What I mean to say is that my sister... my brother and I..."

A quiet tear leaked out as her voice cracked. Before Eodwine knew what had happened, his hand had reached out to wipe the tear from her face; it stalled for a split second. Her eyes darted toward his hand and to his eyes. He reached and wiped the tear away, removing his hand to his lap.

"Go on," he said while his mind sped with fleeting thoughts, wondering if anybody had seen the gesture, and if they guessed - wrongly or rightly - what it might portend.

Saeryn's eyes were fixed on her hands. Eodwine's fingers had been rough from life's work, but they were surprisingly soft and gentle as he wiped away Saeryn's tear. She remembered what it was like to be held tight by her father as she cried as a child and sighed.

She spoke now toward the floor, unsure if her voice was even loud enough for him to hear.

"A short time after my parents left, word came to us that they had died. I do not even remember what their errand had been. My brother... my older brother... was of an age. He became..." She could not remember if Eodwine knew any of this. "He became the lord of my family's lands. He... he is arrogant. Rash. He does not always know the correct thing to say, so he allows his actions to speak for him... And he has always desired power that is beyond him. To take what he believes is promised to him..."

Saeryn remembered bruises as a girl when she had made him look like a fool before some local boys. He had found her after in the stables and she had carefully hidden the tender purple marks from her parents and from her twin. While most boys would never dream of hitting a girl, Saeryn's brother was... She considered a long line of curse words before deciding that silence better filled the space. The memories burned her like hot smoke, stinging her eyes and catching in her throat. Her freedom of choice had been taken from her in every sense after her parents had died. Even her stallion had been sold. Fenrir had wanted to show his sister her place... subservient to him. He was the lord and she was merely a girl.

Shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Saeryn had left. She had stolen a horse from her family's stables and disappeared before the break of dawn. She whispered now.

"I overheard him discussing my betrothal. My parents... my father had never mentioned one. Never. I expect that my brother was arranging a marriage for me that would secure more power for him. I left. He's been searching for me. That was the last thing that Degas told me before he disappeared."

She blushed at her own story, falling silent. She was a silly girl. A runaway. She'd had an enviable life and a good marriage was being planned. Why had she told him anything? She'd thrown away a life that some would kill for. Eodwine had every right to send her home. Saeryn could barely breathe for fear that any respect he had had for her had disappeared. She was just a foolish girl.

Eodwine sensed that she was holding much back; yet she was opening her very heart to him. A rapid succession of emotions swept through him: sympathy for lost loved ones - he knew that pain; anger at any who would harm her; rage at this brother who would use her life for his own ends; and last, resolve. Eodwine took her shaking hands in his.

"Saeryn, you are safe here. The law of our folk does say that your brother has certain rights ... listen to me, Saeryn!" he whispered, for she had looked up at him in sudden fear. "Saeryn, the heart of that law is that you should marry well rather than for his gain. I say again, you are safe here, for there is another law amongst our folk, that one who holds authority may stand for you against he who would use the law of our folk to his own ends instead of for justice. Saeryn, I will stand for you." He released her left hand and raised his fist to his heart. "By the Eorling that I hold from the King, I swear it!" He held her eyes, which had grown wide and still looked troubled. Her cheeks had become flushed. Yes, good, thought Eodwine, she understands the nature of oaths. "Once more I will say it, Lady Saeryn of the Folde, m-" he closed his mouth abruptly "-my guest and friend: you are safe here."

Manawyth had touched the harp with a melancholy melody up until this moment. When Eodwine had finished his words and released Saeryn's hands, and glanced at Manawyth, the Dunlending began to sing.
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Old 02-20-2006, 12:03 AM   #63
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"Have I missed something?" asked Léof. He had just returned from the stables and had missed the entire ordeal with the Dunlending.

"Well, yes. You've missed quite an intense discussion. Come, sit down and I'll tell you about it," said Gárwine. He and Léof unstacked a table and two chairs from where they were pushed against the wall and sat down. Gárwine sighed and laced his fingers together as he decided where to start his story.

"Well, as soon as I led the Dunlending to Eodwine, there was certainly a lot of . . ." Gárwine paused to choose his words, ". . . animosity. Everybody was watching the Dunlending. The Dunlending wanted a job here, you see. Eodwine was wary; he told us of how his family was killed by those barbarians. He asked the Dunlending if he was an outlaw, and that was when the Dunlending spat out the most vile backtalk spoken in Edoras." Gárwine folded his arms and cast a despising glance at Manawyth. "He practically called Eodwine a lout and a plunderer before his very household! But it was the holbytla who convinced Eodwine to let the Dunlending stay. eodwine has had quite a sudden change of heart.

"If Eodwine will tolerate him, so will I, but I still don't trust the foreigner. My father told me too many stories about his folk. They're a wild and savage people. I've heard about how they'll burn an entire village if they find one fair-haired Rohirric child. They live in wild tribes and just seem to fight without either reason or end. And the fact that our new Dunlending friend is an outlaw on top of all that doesn't comfort me much."
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Old 02-21-2006, 03:52 PM   #64
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Thornden sat silent by Eodwine’s side, his eyes resting calmly on Manawyth, the strange Dunlending who had caused, one moment, so much tenseness, and who the next, was sat down welcome by the fire, given a free and probably much needed drink, and now cradled a fine harp in his hands. Thornden’s lips twitched with a small smile and he looked without turning his head at the Eorl. He was still confused by the sudden change of Eodwine’s behavior towards the Dunlending, but he asked no other question as he realized immediately that Eodwine’s attention had left Manawyth and gone to another person in the room, his countenance becoming less merry, and yet possibly more tender.

Thornden looked away and down briefly, but when Eodwine rose and walked away, he lifted his head and looked after him, and then past to observe who he approached. He recognized at once the young woman who had spoken to him earlier that day. She stood apart from everyone, hoping to be unnoticed, and looking a might uncomfortable at being addressed by Eodwine.

Thornden, well aware that it was not his place to watch them, turned his eyes and attention away. For a moment, he looked again at Manawyth, who was playing quietly on the harp but singing nothing yet, and then, folding his hands and resting his elbows on his knees, he lowered his head and his eyes and fell to thinking.

There hadn’t really been much time that morning to think. From the moment he had stepped in through the door until this instant, he had been preoccupied and busy, either listening, or answering someone’s questions. Now he had a moment to draw breath and consider his circumstances. And what he considered now was the position that he had somehow seemed to acquire - at least for a month. He smiled somewhat grimly to the floor and a flash of half amusement sparkled briefly in his eye. His companions had little thought what they had sent him off to achieve that morning when they told him that the new Eorl would need someone to guard his hall for him. Who would have thought that Thornden, mere guard of the King’s Hall would have stepped up in a matter of minutes to Steward of an Eorl in a Mead Hall? Few people, that’s for sure.

I wonder if I even deserve it, he thought to himself. I have had no real experience in such a thing. Sure, I have learned, but not from experience, entirely. . .except to bear arms and keep my head. But am I really fit for it? That was a question, wasn’t it? Well, he’d been given a time of trial, and when those thirty days were through, a clear decision could be made. Until then, he resolved on doing the best he could do.
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Old 02-21-2006, 04:51 PM   #65
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Æðelhild had been in the yard stuffing those mattresses that had needed it when Frodides had called her in and asked her pulling straw from her hair and fussing over her apron to help Kara. “His lordship calls for ale and me and young Kara here in the midst of luncheon too,” she frowned her face a deep shiny red not only from the heat of the kitchen but from her own flustering’s too Æðelhild did not warrant.

But before even Æðelhild could say that she knew not what to do the cook had pressed a tray of tall ale cups into her hands saying reassuringly, “You’ll do alright lass, just offer Eodwine a cup and then take the horn” she nodded her head towards the large rams horn that Kara held carefully in her hands. “ Always pour for his lordship first and wait, he will instruct you as to who is to be served first, then go round the room and fill for all present.”

Æðelhild had been listening so carefully to Frodides instruction that she hadn’t realised that the woman had guided them across the kitchen and through the door to the mead hall until she looked up to seeing expectant faces watching her. She swallowed hard and walked gracefully across the hall to Eodwine ,doing as the older woman had instructed and as Eodwine took the cup, drank and addressed the hall she was reminded of an unusual courtesy (well in Gondor at least) that her grandfather would bestow the guests of his house, how strange! she had thought that what she had once thought just another of her grandfathers eccentricities was so like the customs of another land?

But before she could dwell on it more Eodwine had instructed her to pass the horn to a dark haired stranger holding a harp who he named as the halls new bard, she noted that a few eyebrows had raised at this , like the Lord had just paid the young man a great compliment and again she was reminded how her grandfather would have her pour for his most important guests.

The young bard seemed to notice that she had not the look of others gathered in the hall for he looked curiously at her dark hair as she filled his cup from the horn, but he said nothing and instead raised his cup to Edowine and nodded his thanks. She moved on then but not before noting the permanent injury to the young mans eye, a mark of war she wondered as she filled a cup for Master Boffin who had just returned from the kitchens with his plate fully laden.

“So Miss Æðel what do you make of our new young friend?” He grinned nodding towards the new bard.

“I’m afraid I can not yet say, master Falco, for I have not yet heard him play.” she answered glancing in the young mans direction to see him bent over the harp carefully tending to it’s tuning.

“What… er… no, I meant about him being a Dunlending!” he frowned looking up at her.

“Oh he is!” she answered a little surprised, she knew little of these men other than that they had fought on the side of Saruman during the war and most of this she had learned from master Falco and his stories, she remembered also the heated words of Eodwine and the Twins anytime the Dunlending’s where mentioned, there was not much love lost between the Rohirrim and the Dunelending’s, much akin to Gondor and Harad she thought contemplatively.

“It seems to me master Falco that a man should not be measured in what he has done during war time, as I am sure each thinks his own cause just, but rather his mark is in what he does after war is it not?” she smiled thoughtfully as she continued to studying the young Dunlending. “So I say for now my judgement is reserved, but a greater respect I have now for our new Eorl,” she continued her gaze now shifting to follow Edowine as he walked across the hall to Searyn, “That he can set aside his differences to offer this young man who till very recently was his enemy, work within his halls is a mark of humility rare among nobility,” she pointed out thoughtfully.

“But that is not for the likes of me to comment on” she grinned suddenly turning back to Falco, “I shall pour the mead and hold my tongue and do what I can to make our bard feel welcomed and see what happens from there!” she winked moving off to follow Kara who had continued on as she spoke to master Falco and as she did the Bard began to play, a quiet tune that spoke to Æðelhild of hardship and sorrow and although she had left Falco in seeming good spirits her heart was heavy with thoughts of her old life, of her father and her grandfather and the dunlending’s choice in tune had brought a slight ache to her heart.

Then reaching the table of Léof and Garwine and hearing the latters harsh opinion of the Dunlening she had started, almost slopping mead over the side of the young Rohirrim’s cup, she apologised quickly and hurried on. Would he think of her thusly if he knew…would the others! she thought anxiously, Guilt now replaced the ache in her heart that she did not know if she could hold herself together much long, she quickly apologised to Kara asking if she would mind finishing passing the horn without her making some feeble excuse about needing air.

So that as the bards tune ended and he lifted his voice to sing Æðelhild held herself long enough to slip from the inn and find a quiet place behind one of the small out buildings where she then wept silently into her hands.

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Old 02-21-2006, 05:10 PM   #66
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Léof absorbed Gárwine’s words quietly, hardly noting the maid that had come around to fill their cups except for her apparent discomfort while pouring. Why...? But the thought quickly fled in the presence of others coming from Garwine's explanation Could such stories about the Dunlendings really be true? They were people, after all, if perhaps uncivilized, and Léof had no idea whether they were even that, or how much so. Yet, calling Eodwine names in his own hall…? This disturbed Léof about as much as this news of the Dunlending being an outlaw. That would probably explain the eye. Yet, what did the title of outlaw mean? What had the man done? Something truly bad, or a mistake? So many different meanings a word could have. In a sense, one might call him an outlaw, banned from his own home by a cruel father. Was he to be judged as such? Léof would hope not. So why this man?

Perhaps he was simply too trusting. What did he know of political matters, of the long history that had sundered the two peoples? He did not even have that much experience with people – his own family and sparse contact with people in the nearby village.

So many new and disturbing ideas, and all of them found on just his first day here. He had never felt like he missed much by living a simple farm life, yet it seemed that he really had. Good thing that horses were the same here as at home, or he wouldn’t stand a chance at finding work anywhere. And a good thing that as a simple stable boy, he wouldn’t need to know much about any of these troubling issues. He did not envy Eodwine in the least.

He realized that Gárwine had come to the end of his explanation, and scrabbled around for something to say. What was there to say? He was in over his head. “I see.” But it did not do his feelings justice, and he plunged on. “But – do you know for sure how many of those stories are true, and how many are made up by men’s… hatred – and fear? Perhaps some is true, but how can we judge? Can an entire people really be so evil as that?” He saw Gárwine’s look and cringed inwardly. Apparently, he was digging himself a hole that would only become harder to climb out of. “Of course… I do not have much experience with these matters. My father never spoke of the war, and this distrust of the Dunlendings is almost as foreign to me as they themselves are.” He sighed. “Never mind. Perhaps only hunger and weariness make me say so. Perhaps I should not have said anything, but I cannot shake the feeling.”

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Old 02-22-2006, 08:40 PM   #67
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Linduiel sat primly on her horse, glaring at her guardian. By noon today, their guides had said. Noon! Never at this pace. Once she reached Edoras, and Marenil had been convinced of her safety, he would finally return home to Belfalas and leave her be. Surely it can only be a few more miles… If it weren’t for Marenil keeping a careful eye on her deportment she would give a hearty kick to her horse and get there!

“Come on, Mar, how much further?” Deliberately she shortened his name, knowing he disliked it. “Please, can’t we go faster? You know we’re close and you know I can ride. By the Stones! I’m twenty-three years old! I’m too old for a nursemaid!”

Marenil sniffed at the nickname, but looked over at the young woman affectionately. She was so impetuous. What joy that she would never remember the days when this road would have been dangerous to travel in an armed company. Now here they were, a rich and beautiful single woman and a single, elderly (he had to admit it) companion, almost to Edoras. “You have already manipulated your father, your mother, and all three of your brothers to get to make this trip. You know I see right through you, you little minx. You are almost fifteen years younger than Lothiriel. You barely knew her before she went off to wed King Éomer, and your visit is of minimal importance to her, save for the letters you carry from your brothers, who were her playmates. You are at least not going to look like the hooligan you are when we arrive in Edoras.”

She snorted but said nothing. Marenil watched her bouncing impatiently in her saddle with amusement. Linduiel was young and reckless, and her father had spoiled her, the youngest of his daughters. But she had inherited the best of her family’s traits: she was beautiful and vivacious, if a little vain of her slim figure and dark curls, and he had been her tutor often enough to know what a keen intelligence hid behind her sparkling grey eyes. “Don’t worry, my dear, we’ll get there soon enough. Here, it won’t hurt for you to speed up a little, I suppose. Don’t get out of hearing, but go ahead and run off that excess energy you’ve got. Remember I’ve got your letter of recommendation.” She flashed him a grateful smile and urged the horse into a gallop with a happy whoop, leaving Marenil to his thoughts in peace.

That her father had thought to waste this youthful enthusiasm in a marriage…Marenil had no objection to a marriage, Linduiel needed something to ground her, give her a center that could curb and channel her enthusiasm and intelligence. But the young man her father had found was not the right one. He was too young himself, and he did not have Lin’s cleverness. But someday…he looked across the green fields at the figure riding circles and figure eights at top speed but obediently nearby. She had been right to come here. Not for her reasons, her fear of what her father had planned, but perhaps she would find what she needed to learn in this harsh and lovely country. At least her father had had to give up his idea of wedding her off to some green lad. Lin had bought herself time, at least.

~*~

As the pair rode into the courtyard of the Mead Hall, Linduiel, now looking tidy and ladylike as she ought, took in the mess and construction doubtfully. “Marenil…? Are you sure this is the right place?”

Marenil raised an eyebrow at her. “Do you doubt me? This is the right place. But your impatience means we’re here almost two months before your cousin expected you. I’m sure if we’d arrived when she said in the letter there would be none of this. I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about it. Your letter says there should be someone here who can take responsibility for you, and let me go home. I say we should find him first thing,” he sighed. “I’m too old for this.”

Linduial looked with affection at her friend. “I will miss you when you are gone, but at least I’ll be able to do as I please here, without my father to notice I’m still unmarried…”

Marenil snorted. “You will not do as you please. You will conduct yourself with all the grace and courtesy I have spent all these years pounding into your pretty head. Now, do you see a groom about?”

The pair dismounted carefully in the muddy courtyard, unsure where to go or what to do.

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Old 02-23-2006, 04:10 PM   #68
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An awkward silence followed Léof’s words. “Well, you could be right. He does know our language well enough and rode here upon a horse. But . . . still, he's a Dunlending. I still don't trust him,” responded Gárwine after a bit. His words and tone were both neutral enough that Léof could not quite be sure whether Gárwine really did agree with him or whether he was only saying it to not explicitly disagree with him. Since he did not know the intent of the words, he was having difficulty formulating some kind of response, and once again silence settled over the table.

Fortunately, Léof happened to look up and see out the window a pair of riders stop their horses in the courtyard. He excused himself from the table, relieved at being saved from continuing this conversation. But as he stood up, he noticed a strange thing: the maid he had fleetingly noticed before was slipping outside, and something about the way she moved reminded him strongly of his sister when she was trying to hide that something was wrong. He frowned. She had definitely been disturbed, and he could not help but wonder about it. He could do nothing about it – at least not now. He had to attend to these people in the courtyard and their horses.

He hurried outside, trying to put the maid from his mind. He looked the travelers over curiously. The dark-haired young woman and a rather old man – her grandfather or some other relative? Simply a friend, an escort? – did not look like Rohirrim. She certainly looked wealthy, noble, if her appearance indicated anything. He was painfully aware of his own disheveled appearance.

“Welcome to the Mead Hall,” he said, smiling. “My name is Léof – Léofric – and I am the ostler here.” How wonderful those words sounded! “I can take your horses, and if you have any questions, I can try to answer them.”
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Old 02-23-2006, 07:13 PM   #69
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Linduial almost didn't notice the young ostler approaching them at all, so engrossed was she in looking about herself at the somewhat chaotic courtyard of the Hall. Only at Marenil's sharp surreptitious elbow did she jolt back to reality. "Really?" she asked, with her usual habit of jumping into a conversation with no preambles or introductions. "Doesn't look like much of a hall, now. Looks like..."

Marenil interrupted her smoothly by treading on her toes, preempting the hurt look on the lad's face. He had seen the expression of pride as the boy Léof had introduced himself...it reminded him of himself, many years ago.

"What my lady Linduial of the House of Dol Amroth means to say is that it looks like it is in the process of growing from a fine Hall to a great one, and she wonders if it is ready for us. But your warm welcome tells us all we need to know. We would be happy to let you care for our horses." He threw a significant glance at Lin, pleased to see by her face that she had realized her error and was sorry.

"Oh! Yes!" Hastily Lin rummaged in the dainty, lady-like purse Marenil had insisted she keep out of her trunks and produced a few coins, which she pressed into Léof's hand with an earnest and sunny smile she hoped would make up for her rash statement. When will you learn to think before you act...? she berated herself, surrendering the reins of her tired horse.

Marenil chuckled to himself as she tipped the lad. He knew her every expression. After all, hadn't he served her family since before her father had wed? Served her right to realize she was wrong now and again. "Off with you, girl," he scolded her. "Go ahead and wait for me inside. I'll just be giving the ostler here a bit of a hand."

He took the reins of his own horse, and gestured the boy to lead the way with a smile. As they turned away from Lin's slim form pouting in the doorway he looked down at Léof with a wink. "Never mind her, Léof, lad! She's just a silly girl lets her tongue run off and leaves her wit behind. She means no harm. It's as plain as the nose on my face that this is likely to be the finest hall in the Mark." His tone was kind, and not condescending. He had helped his lord enlarge his own home with every child, he certainly recognized the signs of construction, although he missed the grey stone they built with in Belfalas.

He paused a moment, reminiscing. "And to be part of it at the beginning...I remember my own first job, lad. It's a proud thing."
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Old 02-23-2006, 09:14 PM   #70
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“Never mind her, Léof, lad! She's just a silly girl lets her tongue run off and leaves her wit behind. She means no harm. It's as plain as the nose on my face that this is likely to be the finest hall in the Mark,” explained the man. Léof nodded. He had not really taken offense at the lady’s words. But there was a one who had never had to work for much in her life, who had never had to deal with the death of a mother and a careless and sometimes cruel father, who had not grown up having to look out for herself and a younger sibling besides. No, he did not feel offense, nor even resentment. But if hard times came her way, he thought she seemed more likely to break than flow with it and make it through. Though she might be several years older than him and probably had a much better education, he could not help but feel that she was mostly naïve and inexperienced. But who was he to judge? He was charged only with the care of her horse.

“And to be part of it at the beginning...I remember my own first job, lad. It's a proud thing.”

“That it is, sir, and thank you,” responded Léof. He could already feel the beginnings of respect and liking for this old man. Léof did notice, however, just how much he was being treated as a lad – even if not unkindly so - and this bothered him. He knew that he looked rather young for his age, but he was not a boy in either age or experience. His mind was immediately set to trying to figure out how he might avoid this. His first thought was to get himself cleaned up – before he went back to the mead hall, in fact. Other than that, he supposed he would simply have to prove by his actions and speech that he was not just the young stable boy.

His thoughts returned to the matter at hand. He had noticed that the horse he was leading was still quite warm from the ride – whether because he had been ridden particularly hard or had simply been pushed along at a fast pace recently, he could not quite tell. “I’d like to walk this horse around a bit more before putting him into a stall,” he told the man. The other horse did not look so tired, leading Léof to think that the man had ridden along at a more sedate pace. “If your horse is fine, if you could tie him up out here in the aisle? I can take care of it, if you’d like to head on inside,” Léof offered. He honestly was not sure how much help the man intended to give. “Or if you prefer, there is a tack room just down the aisle where you could put the saddle and bridle. And might I ask the horses’ names? And… I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name, either…”
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Old 02-24-2006, 12:33 AM   #71
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Saeryn listened to the soft and slow melody that danced across the Dunlending's harpstrings. She could feel her heart still beating heavily, pounding out a strong rhythm that she smiled to note matched the beat of the music. Others in the hall went about their business, this interlude unnoticed. She looked down modestly and, eyes wide, back up to Eodwine. He met her eyes squarely and she murmered, her soft voice caressing the already gentle vowels of the land.

"I am undeserving." Eodwine began to speak and Saeryn stopped him with a hand placed on his. "You have treated me as a daughter, keeping me safe from the moment we met. I have hardly been fair to you, taking advantage of your friendship without trusting enough to share why I needed such safe-keeping.

"I feared... I fear to swear an oath. I cannot be committed to one land, to one hall... to one lord. I cannot swear to you as you have sworn to me." Her hands shook and she withdrew them from his, hoping he did not notice and knowing that he did. "I can give you nothing more than the love of a daughter... I cannot swear to you a proper oath of allegiance. I will understand..." Her voice broke. "If you choose to protect me and fulfill your oath... by sending me away."
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Old 02-24-2006, 08:08 AM   #72
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“Or if you prefer, there is a tack room just down the aisle where you could put the saddle and bridle. And might I ask the horses’ names? And… I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name, either…”

"My name is Marenil," the older man said cheerfully, affectionately stroking his horse's nose. "And as for the horses, I'm afraid I haven't the slightest idea what their names are. They were gifts from friends of my lord in Minas Tirith, and he was so proud of the oddity of living in Minas Tirith and owning a horse he gave the poor dears the most ridiculous names. No beast needs to live with a name like 'Son of Nahar'...I've been calling Lin's mare Pansy, and my gelding here Apple, and they seem not to mind."

He winked cheerfully at Léof. "I've got a grandson about your age, you know. As a matter of fact, he just entered the service of my lord, as a page. (Which makes me wonder if perhaps I've made an error in calling you 'lad'; but you can't do anything about it. It's healthy to have respect for your elders.) I'll tell you the same as I tell him...I'm sure it wouldn't hurt me to care for these beasts myself, but my bones are old, and frankly, I don't want to. I'll just leave this lad here..." he looped the reins over the boards of the stall. "...and let you do your job."

He felt suddenly particularly old. It had not occurred to him until just now that his son, now head groom back at home, had been a full grown man for quite some time, and that the people he'd seen as boys for years were working becoming men...He sighed, and left the stable feeling slow, and bent over, and tired.

Linduial was still waiting for him in the doorway, holding her saddlebags. "My trunks should get here in...what? A week?" She'd left her things in the hands of a merchant train travelling from the City of Guard slowly and steadily. "Marenil? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, dear. Let's just go in and speak to the lord of this Hall. Maybe I can get off these old feet for a while and rest."

Linduial laughed, a sunny, clear sound, that cut deeply through his self-pity. "Old, Mar? You? You'll never get old." She slipped a slim arm through his. "You know you're like a father to me. I'll miss you when you head back home, but with your son's Filië expecting again, I won't hold you." She kissed him softly on the cheek. "As long as I have to reach up to do that, you're not old. Now come on, you're supposed to be taking care of me. What would my father say?"

For a moment, Marenil understood perfectly why Lord Farlen allowed this slip of a girl around him so easily. He couldn't help it. Men had no natural defenses against youth, beauty, and sweetness, combined in such a perfect triple threat. Then Lin poked him ornerily in the ribs, muttering "Posture, posture! Don't sag!" in such a perfect imitation of her deportment tutor the budding realization was completely lost.

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Old 02-24-2006, 04:52 PM   #73
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"I can give you nothing more than the love of a daughter," Saeryn said in a nigh whisper. "I cannot swear to you a proper oath of allegiance. I will understand-" Her voice broke "-if you choose to protect me and fulfill your oath... by sending me away."

She was not looking at him, so did not see the slight flush he felt upon his cheeks. He was old enough to be her father; it was well worth remembering, considering that his arms ached to crush her to him, to dry her tears, to . . . . . well. Just so. He kept his hands folded in his lap.

"Send you away! How could I stand as he who speaks for you and stands against all comers if you are not here? Silly child." Her head still bowed, she looked up at him with questions in her blinking eyes.

He looked away, suddenly uncomfortable. It was thus that he saw two visitors come in, arm in arm, well to do by the look of them, the young lady brimming with life, the somewhat elderly man stooped and tired.

"No more of this!" Eodwine bantered, tapping Saeryn's knee. "We have guests and you are my hostess! Dry those tears and snap to it! You have nothing to fear from me. Nothing at all!"

Eodwine stood, and caused the frowning and confused Saeryn to stand too. He wiped her tears with both his hands again, and gave her a peck on the forehead, which made her only more confused. He gave her a gentle push toward the now waiting pair, and watched as she walked toward them, back straigtening.
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Old 02-24-2006, 06:41 PM   #74
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"Welcome." Saeryn said, holding her hands wide and with a smile. She stood tall, confident but wondering, trusting that Eodwine's loving hands had well-cleared her cheeks of tear-stains. The old man smelled comfortably of horse with a light touch of something spicy... perhaps pipe tobacco. A light floral scent lingered about the woman. "Do you require lodging? A meal? Certainly a drink to ward off the unwelcoming dust of the road. As you can see, we are in the midst of change, so things are not quite as they will be. However what you need can be acquired, if only you ask."

Saeryn spoke clearly, her voice stronger and more sure than it had been for days, even when she had impishly informed Eodwine of her role in his hall. A light shiver danced upon her shoulders and she wondered at the warmth in Eodwine's hands. She could still feel his fingers upon hers. Blushing slightly, she thrust the sensations to the back of her thought to reflect upon another time. Had she known about the new light that danced almost hidden in her eyes, she'd have blushed all the more, wondering at its existence and meaning.
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Old 02-24-2006, 06:50 PM   #75
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Gárwine watched Léof leap from his seat to help the visitors outside. He was now sitting alone, with nothing to do but sip his mead and try to convince himself (without success) that the Dunlending was a poor bard. Near the fire sat Eodwine and Saeryn, speaking in hushed voices. Everyone else had wandered away shortly after they had forgotten the Dunlending's words.

Inside Gárwine's mind two sides were debating the Dunlending. One side, sounding like Léof, argued for Manawyth, and the other, with Gárwine's ordinary voice, argued against trusting him. They both spoke to Gárwine, trying to persuade him either to like or to loathe Manawyth.

You know, Gárwine, Léof has a point there. You really don't know if those stories about Dunlendings are true, and if they are, you don't know if they apply to this Dunlending, said the first stream of thoughts.

There's some truth in every rumor, said the opposite thoughts, and besides, this Dunlending is an outlaw. All outlaws should be avoided. The thoughts seemed to snarl at the end of each sentence.

So he ran away from his family, but so did you. When you ran away from Uncle Wilfrid, were you not deciding to be an outlaw?

The snarling voice took a gentler tone. Gárwine, you did nothing bad in leaving Uncle Wilfrid. You are at an age where you can take care of yourself and seek your own destiny. It was right of you to leave the farm. You committed no crime; you neither are nor were an outlaw. You're now a man-at-arms of a great mead hall. Don't feel guilty about Uncle Wilfrid. He's the one who kept you as a laborer in his fields. Now, that Dunlending, there's an outlaw.

A third voice, a real one, broke Gárwine's thoughts. "Posture, posture! Don't sag!" The visitors whom Léof had left to help were entering, and Saeryn was already at her feet and welcoming them. Gárwine promised the two debaters in his mind that he would tolerate Manawyth but still be wary around him, and with those thoughts in mind he stood to greet the visitors.
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Old 02-24-2006, 07:42 PM   #76
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The second Linduial walked through the door into the great room her bearing completely changed, years of training and learning kicking in instantly. It was almost as if a different young woman walked into the room than had walked into the inn: this girl was tall, slim, and straight, her face austere and proud; rather coldly beautiful. A suitor had once told her that if the legends of Mithrellas were true, then she was the proof, and it had taken poor Marenil weeks to cut her back down to size.

Not that he disagreed, but this public ice-maiden her tutors had created was certainly not the proof. No, the proof was in her eyes, still dancing with warmth, heat even, as though the coolness of her carriage demanded some opposite balance in her eyes.

Marenil stepped forward carefully to greet the pretty young woman who came to greet them. In her bearing he detected much the same training as his Lin had had, but none of the ice, and he hoped that in her stay here, Lin might learn graciousness. Having practically raised the young woman behind him, he certainly didn't miss the traces of tears in her eyes, but he knew Lin would never notice, and he was far too much of a gentleman to bring it up.

"My lady," he said courteously, bowing. "I am Marenil, and I am guardian of Lady Linduial of Dol Amroth, kinswoman of the Prince, and of his daughter Lothiriel, who is known to you. My Lord Farlen has given his blessing to his daughter's desire to live in Rohan for a spell, and the Queen Lothiriel told us in a letter that she might find lodgings here."

He paused for breath, determined to get the whole request out at once so that he could rest. His breath seemed to be coming a little short. "I request that the Lord of this hall offer his protection to the Lady Linduial, that I might return home to fulfill the duties of my oath" --he took a deep breath, unconsciously lifting his right hand to his chest-- "to her father." He was hurting a little, in his chest. "If you could" --a ragged breath. The pain was getting worse-- "present me to him..."

The rest of his speech was forgotten as a sudden spell of dizziness overcame him and he toppled to the floor, clutching a hand to his chest and gasping. Lin's cool, proper demeanor was abandoned instantly, and she threw herself at his side, uselessly taking a hand and crying that someone help her. Marenil was her compass and her guide, he'd taught her the best of everything she knew, and in this crisis all she could see was that the tall tree she leaned on was falling before her eyes. She panicked, unable to see anything but the withered hand of her dearest friend, nor hear anything but his labored breathing.
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Old 02-24-2006, 11:01 PM   #77
Feanor of the Peredhil
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Saeryn politely listened to the old man's request, knowing that Eodwine could hear it well from his position and would soon come to answer. The kindly fellow's breath seemed to come short as he spoke. Saeryn meant to offer him a seat as soon as may be. Journeys were long and not always easy for the most hale of young riders, and these two had travelled far from what he said. She saw his left fingers twitching and clenching into a tight fist before falling loosly at his side.

When he collapsed, Saeryn's breath caught in surprise. Quickly, she knelt beside him, calling to Eodwine as she did. In seconds he knelt beside her, looking to the old man and carefully shifting him to a better position. Saeryn felt the warmth of Eodwine's leg where it touched against her own; she smelled the soft soapy musk of him.

"I know nothing of healing, Eodwine." she murmered, careful to keep her words between them. "I know that the lass, Æòel, tended wounded in Gondor's healing houses... are there any here with more experience? She is so young..."
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Old 02-25-2006, 12:25 AM   #78
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Eodwine knelt beside Saeryn, over the ailing Marinel. He looked as white as birch bark, and pasty; an odor of panic and illness exuded from him.

"Go fetch Æòel, then, my dear - child," Eodwine replied.

With a glance that rested momentarily on Eodwine's eyes, Saeryn got up and rushed out of the room; he watched her hurrying form before pulling his attention back to the matter at hand. Eodwine looked up and saw Gárwine standing stock still in surprise, having been moving toward Marinel and Linduial from Dol Amroth.

"Gárwine! Get to horse and to Meduseld and call for a healer!"

Gárwine nodded and ran out of the hall as well.

"Has this happened before?" Eodwine asked of this princess Linduial.

"No! Never! I do not understand!"

"We shall see to his care," Eodwine replied, looking her in the eyes. "I promise you!"

Eodwine rose and called Thornden over. Between the two of them, they lifted Marinel onto one of the tables, and waited. Linduial caressed one of his hands. Eodwine watched Marinel's eyes go back into his head. That couldn't be good! He hoped Saeryn would find Æòel quickly.
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Old 02-26-2006, 07:01 PM   #79
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Æðelhild let self-pity and fear wash over her as she struggled bitterly with the memories of that last night in Minas Tirith vainly trying to convince herself that she had acted only in her own defence and that none of what had befallen was her fault, but the image of a cold dead stare haunted her. He had come to help her, it was her fault he was dead! Visitors were forbidden and there would be recompense if her uncle found out all this she knew but still she let him come, it was her fault she should have told him not to come ..no she should have insisted!

Much of what actually happen that night was a blank to her. Finding them together in her fathers study her Uncle had flown into a mad rage turning on her childhood friend, demanding to know what he was doing in his house with his niece, as though she were his possession and Halfric some roguish ruffian.

She had stepped between them hoping to reason with her uncle only to earn the back of his hand as she had so many times before hard across her face which sent her to the floor where she must have banged her head on something hard, for the next thing she remembered was waking up next to the unmoving form of her dearest friend, his glassy dark eyes staring out at her cold and empty.

She shuddered at the memory letting her tears fall even more uncontrollably. For there was more, more that she hoped the others, those within who had shown her not only kindness but had given her work and a place to stay would never discover a horror that she herself wished she could forget.

Gárwine's words echoed over and over in her mind… an outlaw… an outlaw… an outlaw… Fear turned quickly to guilt as she thought on what price the goodly Lords kindness would undoubtedly cost him if what she had done were to be uncovered or worse still if they came for her.

She was still debating this and weighing if truly anyone would still be searching for her after so long , it was almost a year since, and she had passed through several towns and villages without so much of a murmur of pursuit, when suddenly she heard a distant voice calling her name.

“Æoel, Æoel!”

She stood quickly wiping away any trace of the tears that had just fallen, dabbing her puffy eyes with the corner of her apron.

“Æoel, Æoel!” the voice called again this time closer and seemingly with a sense of some urgency.

Saeryn she thought now recognising the voice, quickly taking a deep composing breath she stepped out from behind the small out building and walked towards the young woman.
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:14 PM   #80
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Gárwine leapt out the door at Eodwine's command and ran into the stables kicking up hay and dust. Léof was tending to the old man's and the girl's horses.

"Léof! The old man's fallen on the floor! I need a horse; I'm going to Meduseld to find a healer." said Gárwine. He found Herefola's stall and was already unleashing her when Léof told him to stop.

"Take Marenil's horse. It's still prepared for a rider. I haven't taken off the saddle or reins yet; I've been tending to the girl's horse since they arrived."

Gárwine nodded his thanks and leapt upon the horse. With a crack of the reins they were out the doors and onto the streets of Edoras. The smaller, narrower streets were fairly clear of crowds, giving Gárwine long clear stretches to gallop through at top speed. But once Gárwine reached the great road that wound its way up from the gates to Meduseld on the hilltop, the way was blocked by crowds shopping in the market, which was apparently held on this day. Gárwine slowed his horse down to a trot and weaved his way through the people. Time was precious; every moment spent in the crowds was another moment the old man spent stretched out on the floor. Gárwine became agitated. He sped up the horse and darted between groups of people.

"Out of the way! There's an emergency!" He shouted as he rode. The people, though irritated, had no choice and moved towards the sides, letting Gárwine gallop through. With little delay he was at the foot of Meduseld's steps, where he gave the horse over to a guard for safekeeping. He rushed up the stone steps and for the second time that day entered Meduseld.

The air was cool inside and stirred by light breezes around the hall. The light was less dim than in the morning, but it was still rather dark. The windows high up the walls were the only sources of light. The throne at the opposite end of the hall was empty. The only occupants of the hall were a few guards in a corner, speaking in whispers, and a few servants who crossed through the shadows where the light failed to penetrate. Gárwine, not sure where to find a healer, stopped a passing solemn-faced attendant, arms piled high with linens.

"Sir, there's an emergency at the former White Horse Inn, and I have come seeking a healer." His words were quiet and calm. It was the tranquil feeling of the hall already calming him.

The attendant only nodded towards a corner and walked away. In the corner was a group of servants and other attendants, quietly talking among themselves. One of them saw the attendant's nod and approached. He was an aged man, with grey, wispy hair curling around his head and a thin and scrubby beard. His face was tanned and wrinkled by his many years out in the sun. He walked with a slight limp but he seemed untroubled by it.

"They call me Hrethel," he said, shaking Gárwine's hand, "What can I do for you, young sir?"

"There's been an emergency down at the mead hall," said Gárwine, but Hrethel shook his head. "The White Horse Inn, it was called," he clarified. Now Hrethel recognized the place. "Anyways, one of our visitors has collapsed upon the floor, and we need a healer quickly. Do you have a horse you can ride?"

"What do I look like, a rider of the Mark?" said Hrethel, "I'm a healer. I don't care much for horses."

"Well, you can ride mine," Gárwine said, noting the man's limp, "I can run. Do you know where the place is?"

"Certainly. I've been there once or twice back when it was ran by Bêthberry. I've heard she's gone east. Is it true?"

"I wouldn't know; I've never met her. Now come, time is passing!"

They exited the hall and ran down the porch steps. Gárwine handed the reins of Marenil's horse over to Hrethel, who mounted the horse with a wheeze. "I'll see you at the inn," Gárwine said, and Hrethel galloped down the hill with Gárwine running after him.
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