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Old 05-02-2010, 12:52 PM   #1
piosenniel
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White Tree Homeward Bound RPG

How did the things come to this pass? Mir wondered, looking up from where he sprawled on the floor, his lethargic and heavy-lidded eyes locked in a grapple with the icy stare of the escaped thrall. He had been too immersed in his paperwork to pay much attention to the sound of the ruckus outside, until a few moments ago, when the thrall burst into his office and tackled him to the floor. He was completely taken by surprise, and while he had instinctively put up a fight, it had been brief; he was no match against his young and desperate assailant, and in the initial confusion did not even have the presence of mind to give the alarm. So here he was, sprawled on the floor, with the escaped thrall on top of him, having torn his own blade Naegling from his grasp and holding it to his neck with a snarl.

“Regnár,” Artamir said slowly, recognition stirring in his eyes as he lowered them to the metallic sheen of the blade at his throat.

It was a traditional festival play, this Hunting of the Thralls. They released the useless slaves into the streets of Rhun every Harvest Festival, when the festivals in the streets reached their peak, without gear or weapons. Then the civilians and soldiers hunted these slaves down and spilled their lifeblood on the pavements of the streets as offerings to the gods in return for a bountiful harvest. They say that the more blood spilled, the better pleased the gods would be… As Mir did not believe in the gods, he distanced himself from the Harvest Festival, staying in his office to finish his paperwork while other officers and guards were all out on the streets with blade or bow hunting down the slaves. To think that a slave, instead of wandering witless in the streets, would make his way straight into his office in the heart of the guard barracks! It was insane, unbelievable… or would have been, if his assailant wasn’t Regnár.

“How pleasant that you remember me. Nice office, and what’s with that new livery, were you promoted in my absence?” A cool and icy smile lit Regnár’s countenance as he pressed the blade deeper into Mir’s neck. A thin line of blood trickled down and pooled on the floor.

Of course Mir remembered. He had been a junior officer back then, one of the many nameless rank-and-file soldier who flocked to the banner of Sauron. After the campaign ended disastrously with the destruction of the One Ring, he had taken it upon himself to shepherd the scattering rank-and-file and strike out for Rhun with the Gondorian patrols hot in pursuit. He had waited until crossing the Anduin, then deliberately made slow progress so as to let the more overzealous and overconfident vanguard overtake them. Then he struck in an ambush, killed most of the soldiers, and took about half a dozen, including the leader of the vanguard, back to Rhun as war slaves. He was promoted to the senior officer for this feat. And as for the leader of the Gondorian vanguard, the young man with fire and ice in his spirit and an unyielding pride that made him a difficult prisoner to control, he had not seen him after he handed the prisoners over to the higher ups and received his promotion… until now. Apparently, the five years of slavery had done little to quench Regnár’s spirit or his fighting skills.

“Did you really think that this was a good idea, coming after me? At least, in the streets, there is some chance of hiding out until the festival is over and then slipping out unnoticed. Here? Even if you kill me, how do you presume to escape from the barracks?” Artamir tried to smile back in return, trying to maintain his pride, even though he was sure that death was just around the corner.

By the corner of his eyes, he could see the two children – half Easterling, but with enough of the Gondorian blood in them to give them distinctively Gondorian features, especially the boy who was fair of face and hair – cowering in the corner of the office. He had purchased them in the open slave market the day he came back from the war, the girl as little as six back then, on what could only be assumed to be a sudden whim. He had no wife or relatives, and his deserted home needed dusting, and he needed someone to lit a crackling fire in the fireplace or cook for him. He would have done better to buy a mature woman slave instead, since the children were near useless in housework and spent most of the time playing, and he ended up doing most of the housework anyway, but it didn’t matter. He never meant to indulge them, but he had never raised a hand against them either, perhaps because he just didn’t care. They reminded… No. Better not to think about it.

“We’d never be free of this cursed place alone. But with your help…” The smile again, and this time even icier.

“We’re returning to Gondor,” another voice rang from behind the door. Then there was the sound of the door opening, and more gaunt-looking slaves milled into the office, most of them whom he did not recognize, except for one soldier who had also been a member of the pursuit squad. What the… Did that Regnár bring them? Mir suddenly remembered with a flash how he gathered up the scattering Easterlings and returned to their homeland against overwhelming odds. How ironic. He hoped for a moment to hear the pound of the guards and the alarm bell, but no, there was no one who could help him. Outside the street the ruckus still went on, but the hallway outside the office was deserted and without a sound. Of course. All the guards are out on the streets hunting as well. The guard barracks was actually the safest place to be in the moment.

“You’re more foolish than I had thought, if you believed that I could procure a ship for you or open the barred gates of Rhun.” Mir said quietly, pushing away the blade that still pressed into his throat. “Kill me for vengeance if you wish, but you’ll never get out of this city alive. Once released, you’re offerings to appease the wrath of the gods; even the king himself would not be allowed to snatch you to safety, even if he wanted to. And the guards will be returning any moment. Good luck with your afterlife, kid, I’ll meet you on the road to hell.”

“You’ll cooperate if you don’t want to be flayed alive, as much pleasure as I would derive from doing so, Easterling. For starters, find us some inconspicuous clothing, and let’s move camp to somewhere less dangerous; preferably your home. And if...” It was a low and soft purring, but there was a steely ring to it that left no doubt as to its sincerity.

Mir almost laughed outright. You’ll kill me anyway when I am of no more use to you, he was going to say. And he wasn’t afraid of death; not now, not when she… No, not this again. His eyes flickered for a moment to the children cowering in the corner, then to the gaunt slaves, and then back to the cool stare of Regnár. His mouth twisted in what might be a grimace or a bitter smile. Perhaps he deserved this, after so many years of doing the exact same thing to other people. And he had killed them, too, or sold them as slaves- Life was such a strange thing. One of the Haradrim mercenaries that he used to work with wouldn’t shut up about a concept called ‘karma’, and while he had paid little attention then, he couldn’t stop thinking about it now. Perhaps this karma was catching up to him, after all.

“Throw on the guard livery in the closet,” Mir said bitterly. “And get that knife off my throat, unless you want to chop it in two, in which case you’ll be a porcupine of arrows before the night is set. I’ll take you to my home.”

~ Eorl of Rohan

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-23-2010 at 07:33 AM.
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Old 05-23-2010, 07:10 AM   #2
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Eorl of Rohan's post - Ariel Silverwood:

Leaning on the windowsill, Ariel swallowed nervously as another hunter swept past the curtained window of Mir's Office. In the streets, the hunt was still on. The cruel sun beat down bright on the bristling spearheads and made them sparkle as though they were made of beaten silver. The crimson-feathered ritual arrows screamed menacingly as they arced across the ashen heavens. Hounds snarled afar as the harsh whistle of the torrential wind sliced through the thin air. The streets resounded with the wailings and death-curses of the sacrificial victims; but occasional forlorn cry, perhaps a whimper, was all that marked the passing of another one hunted. Beers bubbled in their tankards as Easterlings toasted the bountiful harvest in the warmth and safety of their home, while outside blood foamed crimson in the alleyways and the gutters.

Ariel remembered more than two score faces he had seen in the cells of the Harvest Festival Preparation Committee: wide-eyed children, mothers desperately clutching suckling babes to their breasts, weeping old women, and snarling young men. They had been thrown helter-skelter into a makeshift pen like so many cattle to await the day of the Harvest Hunt. He had hoped – unreasonably, as he well knew – that all of them would survive the hunt to meet them here, in the Barracks, just as his captain had suggested. But life was cheap in the City of Rhun, why should theirs be any different? In the end, they four were the only ones that managed to make it here unscathed.

He himself, Ariel of the Silverwood, the stern and fey Captain Regnar with a fell ringing in his voice as he spoke of the righteous prevailing, the silent Rohirrim who wouldn’t even give his name of yet, and the sensuous Suscana with an unnerving light in her eyes. These were the four members of the unlikely fellowship that they had tumbled into by no other reason than that the maia who weaves the thread of life had not seen it fit to cut theirs. What an unlikely bunch they were to survive. No weapons, enemies everywhere, the gates barred and shut. Not to mention that the only bulwark that could possibly stand between themselves and certain death was currently telling Regnar to meet him on the road to hell, his eyes dark with cynical fury and his voice as bitter as the cud.

Mir Wainrider, the Easterling lieutenant-general. No. Not anymore. Mir had been promoted to the Captain of the RhunGuards for his valour in the the Dark Lord’s War, Ariel had heard, a crowning achievement which brought an end to his colorful career as a shadowstep tracker-scout for a highly efficient slaver racket.

‘In the course of his career Mir must have reserved a place for himself in the darkest dwelling places of Mandos’, Ariel thought, ‘Yet he does not fear to invoke the halls of Mandos for himself as well as us. Is he fearless of Eru’s judgment, being a heathen, unaware of the all-devouring darkness that awaits him at his life’s end? Or does he know and not care?’

Death was so close, and everywhere. Ariel shivered, doubting whether this escape plan could be pulled off, yet ashamed that he showed his fear openly at such a critical juncture. He had lived as a pale wraith of his former self the past five years, fearing each raised hand lest it strike a blow, and now it seemed that cowardice had bred itself into his very bones. Would they die like dogs in the streets of this hostile foreign city, and their parched bones gleam white under the harsh sun for stray wolves to gnaw on? He felt bitingly the terror of death’s shadow, and welcomed the cold and clammy embrace of his mortality. Mir, too, must be merely putting up a brave face because his death was inevitable no matter what he did.

"You'll cooperate," Regnar answered quietly, but it was more of a command than a question.

Ariel shuddered at the chill in Regnar’s tone. He had heard this tone once or twice before, long ago, when he was still a youthful and overbrash Pel-Tirith recruit who served under his command. It was cold and hard, even cruel. It was obvious that Regnar was prepared to wrench whatever use he could out of Artamir even if the Easterling captain refused to lend his aid. How long did that tense silence linger? A second, or a hundred? Silverwood realized that Regnar had come out on top when Mir violently wrenched away his stare from Regnar’s grim countenance and smiled in bitter acquiescence. “Throw on the guard livery in the closet, then, I'll take you to my home." Mir said, and his voice was weary, wooden and dead. It was only then that Ariel realized how listless Mir looked. It startled Ariel, that one who held such an esteemed office and lacked for nothing, a merciless slaver who had ruined a thousand lives without losing sleep over it at night, should be haunted by sorrow like other mortal men.

He asked impulsively: "What could you have lost all these years, Easterling, that were as dear to you as the green and rolling fields of Gondor and the laughter of our family and friends that you have taken from us? What have you lost, that casts such pallor over you and dampens the angry flash in your eyes? You were not so inclined to yield back then, and neither were Captain Regnar so sa-”

Ariel choked off the last word – he had meant to say, ‘sadistic’ – and turned away to open the closet instead, ashamed of himself. Circumstances change. And people adapt to it. Perhaps it was only he who never matured. After all, he wasn’t mistreated in any way as long as he did his job, which was little different from what he would do for amusement when he was still a scout of Gondor, and there were plenty of wild game in the woods of Rhun. His master had a cruel streak that seemed common in almost all Easterlings, but it was almost never directed toward Ariel. Not as long as he retained the pleasing illusion that it was he himself that had taught Ariel how to hunt and made him such a skilled hunter. In truth, Ariel had never borne the brunt of cruelty in a way that other thralls have, although he had learned to fear it from watching how his master treated the other thralls, and it horrified him to se how it’s experience left such a visible mark on the temperament of his captain. But perhaps his captain was the wise one, and he himself a childish fool-

In the dusky recess of the armoire, the dark crimson and gold livery of the RhunGuards glittered in the sinking sun's rays which filtered in through the window. He took out the respective sizes and lightly threw them to Suscana, the Rohirrim, and last to Captain Regnar. As for himself he hesitated, seeing as there was no size that fit someone so lanky and so slightly built at the same time, and at last settled with a uniform two sizes too large and a crimson cloak to cover the unwieldiness of his livery. The cloak was embroidered intricately with the iron crown of Melkor, He who Arises in Might, of whose identity he had no idea except that he had heard him referred to by and by as the chief of the evil gods that these heathens served.

“I would advise you not to wear that,” Ariel heard Mir say in a half-amused voice, now sitting up with a hand closed over his still-bleeding neck. “Even the most thickheaded of the guards would notice something amiss if you flaunted the captain’s cloak out in the open.”

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:10 AM   #3
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Durelin's post:

As Regnár pressed the knife into the Easterling's throat, he repeatedly promised himself he would kill this man...but not yet, not yet. This man was his way out of this place -- the only chance, at least. There were no guarantees, and he knew he was taking a great many risks. But when had that ever stopped him? It was what got him here in the first place, he thought bitterly...

He smiled -- he could not help it. This delighted him. This man had been the focal point of his hatred for this land and this people who enslaved him for the past five years, and before that he had hated them for the harm they had done to Gondor and for serving the Dark Lord. Regnár often thought of them more as creatures than men.

And they had tried to turn him into a creature...they would hunt and kill him as one, too. But he had more wits than a common beast, and more will. In only one way would he recognize he was like an animal: if cornered, he would fight to his death. If he could not escape through this wild plan, he would at least cause as much trouble and bring as many Easterlings down with him as he could.

The Easterling gave in to the slaves' demands; Regnár thought he would be cowardly enough to do so. The Gondorian grudgingly removed the knife from Artamir's throat and slowly rose, still holding the knife out and watching the guard carefully. He wanted dearly to take the knife and chop off some of the mess of hair on his head -- he had not been able to remain clean shaven since his capture. That and all the hours of work out in the sun had made him look more like these Easterlings. It made him feel unclean both inside and out. But his current appearance might serve to his advantage along with the guard livery...

But with pale Ariel and a woman this plan was close to madness. He knew he could trust Ariel to keep his wits about him, at least, but even after five years in the south he still looked akin to a Gondorian prince... And he knew next to nothing about this woman, except that she was an old slave. Hopefully that meant she was tough and would not slow them down, but her age might do that anyway.

Could Regnár and Ariel pose as guards, and the woman (what was her name? Suza or something?) could simply pose as the servant she was? Regnár glanced at the other beings present in the room, his mind turning. The children were witnesses...

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:10 AM   #4
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Thinlómien's post:

Suscana watched the men's angry back-and-forth with indifference. The events of the previous week bounced wildly in her head: the mysterious disappearance of Lady Rhedea's necklace, the accusing fingers of the other maids pointing at her (she should've been more careful when stalking at night to meet Kilden and she should've known better than to accuse the Lord's favourite maid of the theft, but it was all said and done now, she couldn't change it anymore), her being thrown to the dungeons to be released to the hunt and the wild plotting led by Captain Regnár.

She had thought him crazy back then, even seen a madman's glint in his dark eyes when explaining his plans to the slaves gathered around him. The idea of making it to the infamous Mir Wainrider's office in the barracks seemed like pure madness - if they managed to escape, that was definitely not the place to go to hide from Easterlings! Susca had decided not to follow any reckless plan like that but during the hunt - she was trying to push all the images of blood and faces full of anguish from her mind, no time to dwell on it right now - she had somehow found herself between the choice of following Regnár to an alley which led to the barracks or running into the hunters who were advancing from both sides.

And now they were all here. The men were quarrelling, which was nothing surprising. There was intense throbbing of pain in Susca's left arm and she hoped she hadn't broken any bones. She could not bring herself to listen to the fight between Regnàr and Mir Wainrider, even though it would determine the fate of all the people in the room. She was feeling numb, struck by both the realisation that she had survived the notorious hunt and the amount of pain and death she had seen that day.

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:11 AM   #5
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Folwren's post - Merra:

The night of the hunt was Merra’s least favorite night out of the entire year. Usually, they stayed home, and the noises of the hunt could not be heard quite so loud, nor so often. Also, at home there were things to do to occupy their attention. Penram stood at the window, looking out. Merra stood beside him, but her back was to the sights of the streets and her arms were crossed over her belly.

Merra had been just on the verge of asking Penram why Mir had brought them here to the barracks when a sound outside the door caught the children’s attention. Merra pushed herself upright and turned towards the noise just before the door was burst open from the outside and a man flung himself inside, directly atop of Mir. Three figures followed him, but Merra’s eyes were on Mir and the stranger, grappling now on the ground. When the stranger wrested the knife by force from Mir’s hand and held it against his throat, Merra sprang forward with an involuntary cry.

Penram had her arm before she had crossed half the floor, and he pulled her forcibly into the far corner. She turned her face towards him, and his body half shielded her from the sight, but she could not keep her eyes from being drawn towards the assailant and their master. Penram’s arms were about her, protecting her physically, as he always did, but he couldn’t stop the trembling.

Mir stopped struggling, once the knife was against his throat, and he and the escaped slave were talking rather familiarly together, Merra thought, but she could not fully understand what they were talking about. None of what the slave said made sense, and Mir’s responses seemed almost as wild. But one thing was clear: Mir was being forced to do something he did not want to do, and the man forcing him was enjoying his job of convincing Mir very much. Whatever was happening was not good. Mir might end up dead, and if he died, no one would be there to protect Penram, and if Penram died…

The stranger finally drew back his knife and his death grip on Mir, and his glance fell on Merra and her brother.

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:11 AM   #6
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Dimturiel's post:

Penram stood at the window, unable to tear his eyes from the sights outside. Merra was next to him, but at least she was not looking out. Penram wished he could turn away too, but he still stood there, watching, as if by seeing the Easterling hunt out their slaves he would somehow understand why this was happening.

Penram was always restless when the hunt started. He knew that Mir only needed to say the word, and he and probably Merra too would be thrown outside in the hunt. Since they were hardly of any use to Mir, Penram sometimes wondered whether that was not the reason why the Easterling kept the two children with him, after all. So that one year he would set them loose on the streets to give his compatriots two more helpless thralls to pursue. Of course, Mir had never treated the two harshly and sometimes Penram wanted to believe that the Easterling would never want to hurt them. But attributing kindness to his master went against everything Penram knew. He was fond of Mir, in a way, but he knew that he was an Easterling. Penram and his sister were Gondorian. Easterlings hated and despised Gondorians. They did not protect them, not unless there was some hidden reason for that protection.

Penram was distracted by noises at the door. He turned to see what it was, in time to cacth sight of a man – a slave, he could see that, and Gondorian, too, by the looks of him - bursting in, flinging himself on Mir. Penram gasped and was ready to draw a step back, when he saw Merra making as if she was ready to head towards where the two figures were wrestling. What was she doing? Penram thought, swearing softly in an involuntary burst of irritation. He ran towards her, pulling her into a corner. Perhaps, if they managed not to draw attention to themselves, they would be left alone. What would happen to them afterwards, if their master died, was another matter. Penram felt Merra trembling and put his arms about her in an attempt both to protect and to comfort.

The man had let go of Mir by now, and his eyes had fallen on Penram and Merra. Penram felt his throat becoming dry. What was he going to do to them? He would surely not let them live, after they had just witnessed him attacking an important Easterling officer. The man seemed to take a step towards them, and Penram burst out then, in a desperate attempt to keep both him and his sister alive:

“No, don’t kill us!” he pleaded. It was most likely useless, and he knew it. People never listened to pleas. If anything, it enraged them even more. “We’re Gondorian, just like you! At least spare my sister. She will not betray you. She is only a child. She cannot even understand what is happening.”

That was a lie, and Penram knew it. Merra could understand everything very well. But it was the only thing he could think of that might determine the attacker to spare them.

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:11 AM   #7
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Folwren's post - Hama

All the violence was absolutely unnecessary. Hama stood behind all the others in the doorway, easily looking over Susca’s head and watching the struggle disapprovingly. Precious time was being wasted by bandying words back and forth and there were more important things to do than threaten to kill their only way out. He was about to point this out to Regnár when Regnár finally stood up. Hama gently eased his way into the room, passing behind Susca with a hand on her shoulder as he came in. His eyes turned towards the closet indicated to contain the guard’s livery. Ariel was already sorting through the slim pickings there. Without looking, Hama knew there would be nothing to fit his tall, powerful frame. He shrugged, not carrying much. He could manage.

He did not see the boy before he heard his voice, shrill with fear. “No, don’t kill us! We’re Gondorian, just like you! At least spare my sister. She will not betray you. She is only a child. She cannot even understand what is happening.”

Hama looked around sharply. Regnár’s eyes were set rather hard on the children. Hama didn’t like the expression in his face. He took half a step in their direction, and answered the boy instead of addressing Regnár.

“You don’t have to worry. We don’t kill helpless people when we can help it.” This was half directed to Regnár. “Come on out of the corner there, and stay in sight, that’s all.” He waited for some sign of acknowledgment from the boy, then, with a final glance at Regnár, he turned his back again and pretended to mind his own business.

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Old 05-23-2010, 07:35 AM   #8
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Old 05-23-2010, 09:36 AM   #9
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Artamir Wainrider

Mir’s house was situated in the quiet suburbs which bled affluence and tranquility like a gutted pig, a place where the cream of the crop of the elite citizens of Rhun resided. This house bespoke of modest ease-of-livelihood, even if it was dwarfed by the sprawling and luxurious mansions that surrounded it. It was characterized by clean whitewashed walls and a leaf-green roof that sloped in an easy incline; it was also complete with an enclosed yard where shy marigolds peeked through the gaps between low-slung garden fences, as well as a sinuous earthen path that led to the lantern-lit front porch. A couple of straw armchairs and a lean-to sunshade lazed in the afternoon sun.

As they trooped to the porch, a middle-aged man waved cheerily from the courtyard of the house next door to Mir’s. He was a plump red-faced man who sweated prodigiously and beamed a jolly smile. He brandished his garden shears with all the passion and might of an overweight tame rabbit, somehow managed to clip the edges of his hibiscus bush without accidentally cutting his sausage-like fingers in the process, and waddled over to Artamir.

“‘Tis nice weather, cap’n Mir, isn’t it? ‘Tis rare to see you bringing around your guard chums for dinner, or having ANY other friends than myself for that matter, heh. I almost writ you off as a loner. My kid says you are a fair superior, but that’s where it stops - thanks for keeping an eye on that troublemaker, by the way - fair, and cold. ‘Cap’n plods on and on like an oxen yoked to a plow’, says my son, ‘no sense of mischief at all!’ He’s right, too. You SHOULD enjoy life more, Mir. I mean, you wouldn’t even consider buying a good buxom Gondorian wench – I saw one the other day on the slave market, gosh, what shapely legs, too bad I’m happily married – why, I sometimes wonder whether you’re not made half out of ice and half out of stone!”

The plump man took a ragged gasp, having spilled out too many words at a gallop, then plunged on, dabbing his sweating forehead with a dainty lace-lined handkerchief. “So, dear chap, how about it? Me and me wife’s holding a harvest ball tomorrow at sundown in my manor, see, lots of pretty gals from the neighborhood will attend to sip wine and dance. The handsome cap’n of the guards, with an illustrious career that spans half his life and supplied us stay-at-home folks with more slaves than we know how to deal with, well, not many suitors can beat that, you know? Even with that sour look of yours, gods, would it kill you to smile more often? Anyway, if you’d just come out into the social life once in a while, mingle with folks, then I can fix you up in no time.”

He beamed and clapped Mir on the back. “I can help you, old chap. Just say the word.”

Artamir disengaged himself with difficulty from the grip of this plump man, whose name was Kiln Blackwater, his longtime neighbor and friend. He was an amiable man who sometimes intruded himself into the affairs of his friends when he was not wanted; loyal and genial, but wearying at times. Mir usually did not mind when Kiln shouldered himself into his life. Kiln was no fool, but a shrewd observer and a good judge of both men and circumstances; he usually had a good reason for anything that he did. But this… No. This mess was his to deal with, not Kiln’s.

“Thanks, but I’ll pass.” Mir said dryly.

“A pity, there might not be a next time.” Kiln looked disappointed as he waddled off to his house.

Mir watched his neighbor’s retreating back for a moment, and then opened the front door for the Gondorians, giving a half-mocking bow of a gracious host. “Welcome to my humble abode.” He said wryly, as he heard the door creak shut after their entrance as well as the dull sound of the door being barred and chained from the inside. For better or for worse, there was no going back.
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Old 05-23-2010, 02:01 PM   #10
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Artamir Wainrider

The reception lounge was neat and luxuriously furnished. The wall lanterns cast flickering shadows on the walls of the reception hall, while the crimson and orange embers glowed luminescent amidst the ashes of the hearth. A warm and gentle light flooded the lounge. It also bespoke of a love of lore. Bookcases laden with ancient tomes were carelessly plastered to the walls; those versed in lore may have noticed that the scrolls spread on the mahogany writing desk to the side were written in elvish runes. An exquisite silverwood lute embossed with gold was leaning on the desk. A furry bearskin rug covered the floor, with the head stuffed with all the teeth in its half-open jaw still intact, the eyes replaced by onyx crystals. On it was placed a low chestnut coffee table, accompanied by a smattering of comfy armchairs and a luxurious sofa. Mir sank into one of the armchairs as soon as he entered, his limbs as heavy as lead.

“Merra,” Mir told the wide-eyed child as he leaned close casually, “Look on the second top shelf for freshly-baked loaves and a pot of whipped cream. Serve our guests, won’t you?”

Mir then whispered to Merra under his breath: 'Go. Take Penram with you, and hide.' It didn’t exactly take scintillating intellect to realize that Regnar wanted him dead; with sufficient bad luck, the children might be mixed up in this as well. Now if she had the presence of mind to take her brother and RUN- Merra was too young and too little, he wasn't sure whether she even comprehended the urgency of the situation or the peril that she was in. At least Penram seemed to understand. Mir had flinched when he had heard Penram shamelessly beg for mercy, but he had to admit that it was the most effective approach that could be taken towards the soft-hearted Gondorians. Sometimes pride had to be set aside in order to protect the people that really mattered.

Or you live your entire life wishing that you had done anything other than what you did, Mir thought sadly as he watched Merra scurry off.

Mir waited until the others warily settled themselves into the armchairs and the door was barred and secured, then said: “Do you even realize your predicament? You are hunted in a closed-off city, surrounded by towering and heavily fortified battlements on one side, and the wide deep sea of Rhun on the other. 'We're returning to Gondor', was it? How childish.”

Mir then went on with his somber assessment of the ways out of the City of Rhun:

1. “If desperation has not clouded your minds, surely you know as well as I that the gates are barred to all until the Harvest Festival draws to a close. That includes RhunGuards. Even if you can pass yourself off as one, which you can’t. The Easterling tan and the soldierly raiment might fool the common passersby, but anyone who has heard you speak would know you for a Gondorian from your distinct accent. Not to mention that even military personnel are not permitted to subvert the lockdown without special clearance from me or the Commander. See the scrolls over there by the writing desk to the side? That’s the clearance document. But it’s useless without my signature and my presence. Do you think you could sway me to your will so easily a second time, Gondorian?”

2. “Perhaps you were thinking, the Alchemist’s Guild of Rhun delves less into the personal affairs of those who come to them seeking sleeping draughts or poison then do the House of Healing of Gondor. I suppose you could attempt to lull the guards to sleep and slip past a side gate, but how would you convince the guards to partake of the tampered provisions without rousing suspicion?"

3. "As for the boats, none are free. If you succeed in stealing a fishing boat lying about untended, it would be perilous to venture afar on such a flimsy vessel and it would not be stocked with enough provisions. Even if you make the wise decision of stowing away in one of the more massive vessels and massacre the hapless crew afterwards, do any of you Gondorian kids know how to steer an Easterling warship? Our technology derives from the Art of the wizard Saruman Curunir who trained us in the secret lore of how to use black rocks for fuel.”


“So how do you plan to leave this place?” Mir's laughter was cold. “And that’s but the first of your problems. How will you deal with the inevitable pursuit, the treacherous swamp, or the hostile elves who assail all who pass beneath the shadows of their wood? Eryn Lasgalen you name it now, but for long has it been called Mirkwood. The mind of the elves that have never bathed in the light of Laurelin and Telperion will not be swayed as easily as the fading remnant of Noldor that Elessar have seduced to his cause, and for long they have lived in fear and distrust of us men. Even you they will shoot to kill.”

“No, you have seven days till the Harvest Festival draws to a close and my absence is noticed.” There was no smile on his countenance now as Mir spoke grimly, yet a cynical and desperate amusement still glinted in his eyes as he raised his voice. “Seven more days to live; that is my gift to you, my honored guests, seven days to make peace with your gods. That’s more than you could have hoped for when you came barging into my office in this pitiful façade, isn’t it?”

As wary as the thralls must be of his words, Mir was sure that at least some of the ragtag band had sense enough to see the truth in his assessment of their chances. He had not lied, after all. There was little chance of them escaping the City of Rhun in the height of its celebration of the Harvest Festival. Not unless he lent them his aid.

“Or do you have any other plan, Regnar?” Here Artamir’s voice sank into a dark whisper as he leaned forward, “You and your rash plans, isn’t that what earned you thralldom in the first place? How many lives would your bloodlust gorge upon until it was sated, Regnar of Gondor, how many more must need be butchered for your rashness and pride?”

It was in stealth and charisma that Mir had always excelled, not in swordplay and archery, but in tracking across the wild and in diplomacy and gentle words of encouragement. He was one on whom the mantle of command sat easy. He had always been gifted in swaying the others to his will. And this time his subject wouldn’t be too difficult to sway; Regnar already wanted him dead anyway, he could see it in his eyes, one remark that cuts deep would do it. And Mir had no wish to lend them his aid, much less be dragged along as their prisoner. Better a clean death as befits the Captain of RhunGuard.

“Each man’s life is his to gamble with as he sees fit, but not so the lives of the recruits who trust and rely on his counsel. You didn’t care whether they died or not, Regnar, blinded as you were by a chance to gain fame and fortune. No. Back then, we Easterlings posed no more threat to Gondor. Defeated and on the run, I found myself in charge of the near-impossible task of leading the injured and dejected rank-and-file back to their homeland. We were homesick and terrified. But you relentlessly pursued us over fen and woods, even when your victory was secured, forced us to make a stand and fight. You needn't have done that. They needn't have died. Do you presume to lay their deaths at our feet, fool, when it was you and your rash pride that sent them to their deaths?”

Mir’s voice was as sweet as honey and as venomous as a basilisk. “You sent them to their bloody deaths, Regnar. You say that you seek to return to Gondor, free as the air, while their bones bleach white in the ditches of Anduin without so much as a stone to mark their passing? What makes you think that you deserve life? What makes you so different from I?”
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Old 05-23-2010, 02:16 PM   #11
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Merra

Merra understood more than Mir gave her credit for. She nodded her head to both his first and his second, true command and then withdrew. She tugged mutely at Penram’s sleeve and together they slipped out of a door leading farther into the house. There they stopped, and Merra told Penram what Mir had said.

“But I don’t want to hide. I want to see what happens.” She looked at her brother, her eyes giving him the pleading expression she gave when she was trying to get him to do something.

--

Hama

The house was surprisingly nice, in Hama’s eyes. He had never been inside his previous master’s home, so he really had nothing to compare it to, but he did not think that a captain of the guard would own such a home and keep such furnishings. It was not like the home of a warrior in his own country, where the décor would have been simple, and practical. There was little extra finery in Rohan.

When Mir addressed them, Hama fixed his eyes on him and locked his attention into his words. At first, he reached up and clasped his hands behind his head as he leaned back in his chair. But as Mir’s voice continued to grow softer and his words more poisonous, Hama’s hands came down and soon rested on his knees. His eyes flicked between Mir and Regnár, knowing the results of Mir’s words would likely be a fierce rejoinder, if not a physical attack. Although Hama was not the only slave there who knew that Mir’s life must be spared at present, he was probably the only one capable of keeping Regnár from taking it at present. He waited, poised to spring, if necessary.
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:50 PM   #12
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They approached the Easterling's home without much trouble; few wished to exchange word with what seemed to be the captain and his guards in full array. Of course, it was an odd scene, bringing both his slave children and his guards with him. But it seemed plenty had seen him with those slaves before, and how a captain commanded his men was up to him. Besides, it was a strange day to begin with. No one was interested in what this captain was up to on a festival day.

It had not been Regnár's choice to bring the slave children, but he had no chance to argue. They claimed to be Gondorian, and they were of paler complexion certainly than their master. But two children along, as well as an old woman...if they needed to be left behind he would not hesitate to do so. And Regnár was not going to waste time trying to protect them or spare them. Either they would all make it out, or he would bring as many Easterlings down with him as he could. If the weaker of the party were able to escape because of it, so be it. But he would not give into any demands in order to protect them.

Things were going better than Regnár had anticipated. He had put most of his hopes simply in making it to the barracks and taking some of the men there down with him, including this Artamir. But now they were walking the streets unchallenged, and would get supplies, and...they would see if they could make it outside the city. Then...maybe home was a possibility, after all.

Regnár's heart pounded a little faster when the fat neighbor approached them. He watched both the Easterlings closely, standing as close to Artamir as he could without bringing up questions of 'respect for a superior.' If the Easterling captain made one out of place gesture or comment to alert his neighbor, Regnár would kill them both without hesitation.

The neighbor told the 'guards' and slave children quite a bit about the captain; even in his focus on maintaining control of the situation, Regnár noted how this fat man had an awful lot to say that should not really be said in front of anyone but one's closest family. It seemed ages before the man shut up.

Once they were inside, Regnár threw off his helm and drew the sword at his side as he watched Artamir. The Easterling gave instructions to the slave girl, and the Gondorian narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Those children better not be out of my sight for more than a minute," he snarled.

The Easterling captain turned on them and began to speak, as if he were perhaps lecturing a group of students. He exuded arrogance. Regnár could not believe his tone, his insults, and his statement about 'swaying' him. Was this man mad? A mad fool. They were here because he was a coward, who would rather live than see to it that the slaves he captured were not permitted a chance at freedom.

"It is not a matter of swaying you, Easterling, but whether you do what I tell you or I kill you," he barked.

Then the creature of a man turned to Regnár and addressed him specifically. He caused bloodshed? He? A man of Gondor, who fought to defend his people from the malice and cruelty of Sauron and his minions, such as these Easterling creatures; who had fought to end the bloodshed. No servant of Sauron ceased to be a threat to all. And as soon as he escaped here...if he escaped...he would be back with an army to raze this city to the ground, erasing its history of evil and its degenerate customs.

This Easterling was no man; his blood was not worth much. And he had just shown them that he was of no more use. Regnár charged at the man with his blade, poised to strike at his chest, stomach, and then perhaps take a little extra time to sever the man's head. If these Easterling blades were strong enough to manage that.
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Old 07-25-2010, 02:35 PM   #13
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Judging by the interior of his house, the Easterling captain was rich. Rich Easterlings lacked taste: it was all gold and silver and heavy purple curtains. Bigger windows, shades of blue and green here and there, perhaps a living plant would have made the place much more beautiful. But then again, Susca knew that these Easterlings were barbarians - how could you expect them to understand anything about things like Art or Beauty?

She listened to Mir's lecture with cool indifference. Easterlings loved to show off, and this man had apparently decided to show off with his knowledge of geography and ancient legends. How this barbarian had acquaired so much lore would have been an interesting question if there weren't so many more important things at hand. The tension between the Easterling captain and Regnar was thick in the air and the two other soldier's - the pretty boy and the Rohanian - were watching the exchange eagerly. And the kids, they had been sent away - why, did the Easterling have a soft spot in his heart? or were these perhaps his own bastards? - but their footsteps had halted not long after they had passed the door. They were eavesdropping for sure, as children always were.

Now the Easterling was downright insulting Regnár. Had he only taken them to his home to die in his own living room? And if something within Regnár snapped, what would happen to Susca herself? No doubt the whole bunch of them would be executed for the murder of Captain Artamir Wainrider. There were two options - fleeing or doing something before Regnár lost his nerve. Susca backed away quietly, when there was a rush of movement. She turned to see Regnár charge at the Easterling with blade in his hand.

"No! Idiot! You will just get us all killed!"

And with those words she realised she was as deep in this mess as everyone else in the room.
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Old 02-10-2011, 12:22 PM   #14
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Sending this thread to Elvenhome.

Both the Discussion Thread and the Game Thread may be resurrected by PM'ing the Elvenhome Moderator.

~*~ Pio
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