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Old 11-08-2007, 02:48 PM   #201
Nogrod
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As soon as Ruadan entered from the gate Fastarr threw his arms over him and yanked his staff towards him forcing Ruadan's throat between the staff and his chest. Fastarr pulled Ruadan quickly to the shadows of the gate and forced him to his knees.

"Why were you after that old chap? Tell me now and tell me quickly. I've killed men before..." Gah, an overexaggeration but maybe I'm forgiven for the circumstances... Fastarr pulled the staff firmly tighter towards him leaving Ruadan gasping for air. Ruadan's feet started kicking into the air.

"Tell me now or end your journey right here", Fastarr hissed from between his teeth while slightly loosening the grip. Tell me you fool, I don't want to kill anyone any more... there has been enough sorrow from one...

"I... I... I can't t-tell... They'll kill m-me..." Ruadan was trying to get air to his lungs.

Fastarr yanked the staff even tighter he had done the previous time. Ruadan's face started turning blue.

"What do you think I will do to you if you don't tell me? Here your death is imminent. From the hands of your lords you may still escape". Just to make his point sink in Fastarr added the pressure and then released it. Ruadan was coughing his lungs out. There was water pouring from his eyes and bubbles fell from the corners of his mouth. Ruadan drew his lungs full of air.

"They just told me to get him with whatever it would take, whatever it would cost. I needed to turn him to Brodda the chieftain who serves lord Uldor. That's all I know."

Fastarr started tightening the grip once again and Ruadan felt it.

"Honestly! I know nothing else! That's what I was told to..."

Fastarr thought for a moment releasing the grip enough for Ruadan to breathe again. Then he took the staff from around Ruadan's neck and slowly straightened himself up. Ruadan fell on all fours from exhaustion panting heavily.

Before Ruadan had chance to see it coming Fastarr had knocked him unconscious with a firm hit from his staff. After dragging Ruadan behind a few barrells and checking no one had been overseeing the incident he straightened his tunic and ran after Hugo.

There was no one behind the corner. Fastarr made the conclusion and took to his feet. To Khandr's residence then... I can't take part on the hunt without Leafeye... and I want to know something before I go back there.

Rushing finally through the gate of Khandr's quarters Fastarr found the old man standing at the steps, seemingly waiting for Hugo whose noise could be heard from the stables to the right. He was frozen under the gamling's gaze.

Finally the old man raised his eyebrows and Fastarr felt like he could breathe again.

"Master...? Well, erm... I mean what did lord Khandr mean when he said that he might not come back from the hunt today? Is it something that has to do with you? And do you know what is the right thing we should do if that evil would befall on us?"

Last edited by Nogrod; 11-08-2007 at 03:00 PM.
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Old 11-08-2007, 08:58 PM   #202
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Thorn

The Song did not sing this man's name to him.

"I greet you. I am Thorn, some time of the Ulfings. How are you called?"

"Fastarr, Master Thorn."

Having named himself, the young warrior cocked his head expectantly, making it clear that he was still expecting an answer to his original question. Thorn glanced at the images on his staff. Yes, this young man was almost all Eagle; there was a bit of Otter about him too; decisive and quick to action but strong of feeling as well.

"One of the Eldar taught me how to listen to the Song of Arda," Thorn said calmly. "I had words from the Song for your lord: two things. First, that the Ulfing lords will betray Lord Caranthir to Morgoth Bauglir. They will turn coat in the midst of battle. Second, that this day is the last Lord Khandr will spend within the walls of Arda."

Thorn raised a hand to stop Fastarr who had frowned and opened his mouth speak quick words of anger.

"Had I not told him the second thing, he would not have taken decisive action to warn of the Ulfing betrayal. He knows in his heart that this is his last day, and has proven true to his honor by sending your fellow armsman to warn the Borrim king of my words."

The one called Hugo returned from the stables, having overheard part of Thorn's words.

"Fastarr, he knew my name before I gave it."

Lachrandir

What, wondered the Elf, was all the fuss? Did they not want to go on this hunt? It seemed that this Borrim lord was very impressionable. Some fool of a shaman had apparently spoken some rubbish that had quite won the man over to change some plans he had laid out, and whilst the Ulfing lordlings chafed impatiently, he busied himself with seemingly urgent business that had nothing to do with the rest of those gathered. It was really quite amusing, especially to see Uldor so infuriated that there was someone - besides himself of course - whom he could not control. To cover his rage, Uldor spoke mindless banter to him, eyeing the Borrim lord suspiciously.

By contrast, Ulfast's eyes seemed to constantly be moving from one subject to the next, never resting in one place for long. What was he looking for? Game ready to be killed? Lachrandir shrugged, hoping that these boorish, ugly Men might turn out to be of some real use to Caranthir's military plans.

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Old 11-08-2007, 09:06 PM   #203
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It was not long before Ruadan came back to his senses. The first thing he was aware of was a terrible ache on the side of his head where Fastarr's staff had struck him. The next thing he felt was the ground beneath him. Slowly, he opened his eyes and sat up. His head swam and a sharp pain shot down his spine.

He looked about. He was lying in an out of the way place, an alley of sorts, tucked between the outer wall and a small shed.

Ruadan swore under his breath as his lifted his hand first to his head and then his throat. “Gah,” he said, gulping slightly as he rubbed his gullet. “I didn't even see the bloke.”

It did not good to sit there and feel sorry for himself. Slowly, and in much pain, he pulled himself to his feet and stumbled out into the open. He had to find his master, the cheiftan Brodda, and tell him what had passed. A sick feeling tightened his stomach and he quailed deep within himself. As little as he would admit it to any other man, he feared to make his report.

“Sir,” he said, when he had found Brodda after long search. “I was waylaid and my purpose ruined.”

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Old 11-09-2007, 07:17 PM   #204
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"Fastarr, he knew my name before I gave it."

It was Hugo who clearly tried to make him believe in this man's speciality.

Thoughts were going to and fro in Fastarr's mind. So he is a soothsayer... but why did he have to ask for my name then? But Lord Khandr believed in him as well...And what is the right thing to do now? The right thing is to protect lord Khandr but if he is to die anyway... what then? Is there an alternative course I should take? The Ulfings will turn against Caranthir... well, we knew it even if we didn't actually know it... So that was what lord Khandr was talking to Hunta back in the field. Does the song say what a faithful retainer should do?


"Does the song say what a faithful retainer should do?" Fastarr mumbled aloud and met the calm gaze of the old man.

"I thought I'd be needed in the hunt to look after my lord and to find out whether there are some fishy things going on in the Ulfing court. Now you have undermined both of these occupations for if lord Khandr will fall anyway and it's true that the Ulfings will take the side of the dark one there is nothing I can do there."

The agonising outcome of what he said got clear to Fastarr only as he spoke his words.

What should I believe? What should I do then?

"Lord Khandr said we should pay heed to what you say. So what is it you say?"
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Old 11-10-2007, 07:15 AM   #205
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Thorn watched the intense young man before him. Mere seconds passed as Fastarr, as Hugo had called him, mulled over his words. A slow smile came to Thorn's face when Fastarr had asked his question. He was loyal.

"Did your lord command you? Have you completed the tasks of his command?"

"I was commanded," Fastarr replied, "to find and protect you." He glanced at Hugo. "And to have Hugo and Grogr find a place of hiding for you."

"Have you done the second part?"

"I will now! Hugo, you and Grogr are to hide this man from the Ulfing lords."

"We will do our best, Fastarr, sir."

Thorn smiled. "Now that you have fulfilled Lord Khandr's command, your first task is that which it has always been. It would be a shame if Khandr's murderer is never found out."
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Old 11-10-2007, 05:22 PM   #206
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"I would have a word with you, my lady. Come pull off the path so we may talk where none can hear." Guiding his horse towards the cover of a wooded copse, Khandr stared directly at the young woman and shook his head, uncertain how to go forward.

For a long time there was silence till Embla finally spoke, "You are not at the head of the pack today. What has happened? It is not at all like you..."

"No," he replied in a husky whisper. "I have much on my mind. There are signs and omens that all is not well. But these do no more than confirm what I already felt in my heart. I will leave now and go back to the house. I will tell Briga to ride back to our homeland. I will ask the servants to pack our belongings and accompany her quickly on the road, that she may go and stay with our daughters and their families. For there is no safety in this town. You are welcome, Embla, to accompany her as my second wife. But if that does not suit your needs, you are also free to strike out on your own. Since you have born me no child and are a second wife, the custom of our people is such that these bonds may be dissolved.

Khandr stopped a moment, staring fixedly at the ground, as he searched for the right words, "I am afraid in my desire to forge an alliance of our households that I have done you an injustice. For your eyes flash with anger, and sometimes I see a quiet sadness. I had to say something.... I would not leave this task undone." He shook his head and shifted uncomfortably in his saddle. Then he took a chain from around his neck. It was made of gold and fashioned with many stones. He held it out to Embla. "I would not have you leave with empty hands. For times are hard and you will need some help. My wife Briga will have my lands and all my other possessions, but you will need something to get by."

"You are free then to do as you please. To come or go as you want...."

He started to retreat, but then looked back one last time. "There is one thing. If you hear or see anything strange from those at court, and especially from the woman Jord, whom I do not trust, you would be wise to speak with me or, if I am not here, then to Fastarr or one of the Elves. There is evil afoot....great evil. I do not think I will live to see the end of it. But perhaps you may yet do some small thing that will help preserve the light that is left to us. Just keep your ears open and your heart fixed to goodness." With that strange pronouncement, the weary envoy signed and quickly rode away from the hunt.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 11-15-2007 at 01:40 AM.
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Old 11-13-2007, 02:45 PM   #207
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Fastarr was startled. His confusion was easily read from his bodylanguage and from his face. Everything was clear and plain to see but Fastarr had to really strain to work it all out. A murder... of course a murder... but by whom and couldn’t it be stopped? He felt an urge to be on his way, immediately. How long had he been away from Khandr? Was it already too late? Or was there too late in this situation?

“Thank you... sire. I’ll pay heed to your advice and will speed on my way... and maybe...” he paused to swallow, “... Maybe there’s something that could be done to prevent the horrible deed?” He was not expecting for soothing words but he had to ask that question.

“The Song is the Song. It’s the truth woven from the very fabric of this world itself reaching farther human eys can see or ears hear. But you may affect what happens afterwards if you stay true. So go now. May the blessing of Valar be with you.”

Fastarr bowed to the old man and stood still for a moment. Suddenly he came back to his alert self. For an outsider it would have looked like he had been somewhere away for a moment but now he was animated again and turned towards Hugo who had just reached them.

“Quickly now Hugo, get inside before you’re seen by too many curious pairs of eyes standing at the porch.” He glanced at Thorn and returned back to Hugo. “And Leafeye...?”

“She’s inside”, Hugo waved towards the stables. “I just gave her some oats. You know how I spoil those beasts.” Hugo gave him a warm smile trying to uplift the mood but got graver immediately after that. “She’s ready to go. Don’t worry about us. We’ll manage. Valar bless you and lord Khandr”.

Fastarr took Hugo from the shoulder and looked at him with love and appreciation in his eyes. He shook Hugo’s shoulder and said solemnly: “You’re a good man Hugo. I’ve said that a thousand times but some things just can’t be repeated too many times. Now take care of our guest. I’ll see if anything is to be done.”

With that he turned and ran to the stables. Soon enough Leafeye galloped from the stables carrying Fastarr whose eyes now had an intense and focused gleam in them. The rider and the horse headed back towards the fields like fire was chasing their tail.
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Old 11-29-2007, 07:18 AM   #208
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Khandr had gone bolting down the path scarcely aware of where he was going. His mind conjured up one grim scenario after another, each picture more horrifying than the last. He still did not know where the real danger lay, either to himself or, more importantly, to the military endeavor they were about to undertake. As he rattled into the courtyard, the old lord unsteadily dismounted, feeling his age drop down upon his head. Suddenly remembering what he had neglected to do, Khandr turned and barked out instructions to one of the stable lads standing in front of the house, "Go now. Quickly! Take one of the mares and ride back to the hunt. Leave word with the others that I have been unavoidably delayed by personal business.....something I could not put off. If I do not make it back before this morning's chase is done, have the others join me here for the festive meal that we have planned" Khandr stared at a broad grassy knoll where a series of tables had already been set out. Servants were running back and forth from the hall, each carrying plates filled with cheeses and meats and large kegs of ale and mead.

The boy looked quizically in Khandr's direction, but his lord gave no indication that he was about to share any further information. Nodding and pulling down on the brim of his cap, the lad raced into the stable and saddled up, hurrying back along the path on which Khandr had just come. Meanwhile, the man handed his horse off to another of the servants and then went inside the house.

"Briga....Briga?" He rushed into the kitchen where he knew he would find her supervising the last minute preparations for the meal. "She looked up startled to see him returning so soon when the hunt was still going on. Before she could inquire as to the reason, he waved off all questions and pulled her to the side, telling her something of what had gone on in the glade earlier that day, but leaving out the words about the personal danger that now confronted him. Quickly he explained, "That is why you must go now, as soon as the feast has ended. No one will think to check the roads so soon. You must go straight home, and the other servants with you. There is danger afoot and you would all be safer away from here and far from the field of battle. This place, at least, is no longer safe. One other thing....." Here he turned away so she could not see the look on his face. "You must take my personal papers with you....those things hidden at the bottom of the chest. The journal I keep of my dealings with those at court.... That must go to King Bor. And do not forget to bring my will or other official papers. Leave nothing here for I no longer trust our hosts."

Briga opened her mouth as if to protest, but he summarily shook his head. "There is no arguing about this thing. No one is safe here, and I will not rest easy till you and the rest of the household have journeyed home. One other thing....Embla may choose to come with you or she may not. I have given her a choice, and I think she will pick her own path." He glanced over at his wife, and saw a look of true relief on her face. For once, he had done the right thing......

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Old 12-04-2007, 05:14 PM   #209
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"You are free then to do as you please. To come or go as you want...."

Embla caressed the necklace she had been given with her fingers, and gazed at her husband, lost for words.

Freedom. She could appreciate the shamed sincerity of his words, and for the first time, she felt something approaching affection for this man who had been her husband. Given the age gap, and the fact that their physical relations, such as they were, had been joyless and perfunctory, this warmth was hardly romantic. It was more like the feeling a niece might feel for an uncle who had given unexpected tip, or a that of a truculent pupil receiving praise from a hitherto forbidding teacher.

Khandr continued to speak. ".....the woman Jord, whom I do not trust.... evil afoot....speak with me or, if I am not here, then to Fastarr or one of the Elves.... help preserve the light...”
Jord....Fastarr....who to trust .... Embla felt like she was in a maelstrom. “My Lord....I too have felt this evil. I will speak...”
....but she spoke to the air. Khandr had spurred his horse and he was gone.

Too late. Alone, still clutching the necklet she had been given as her parting-gift, Embla sank down onto the greensward. But free.....her mind grew blank with the thrill of it, and suddenly the peculiar feeling she had in the field, after her meeting with Jord, came back with increased power. Her mind filled with horrors... nameless things that slowly began to form words....words that she she must share.
She rose up again. What she had seen had left her cold and sick in a grey world. Her hair stuck dankly to her brow and her robe felt prickly against her flesh. She needed to speak to someone, quickly. To find comfort. Fastarr...the name, and the face that went with it, came instinctively to her. She rode off at frantic speed towards the stable where she had last seen the hunter.
There he was in the field, about to spur on his horse, his broad, comfortable back to her. “Fastarr,” she almost screamed. He turned, looking distracted but at the same time welcoming. The words of her vision came blurting forth.
The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, and more can see

Fastarr wheeled round and stared at her, aghast.

I saw there wading through rivers wild
Treacherous men and murderers too,
And workers of ill with the wives of men;
There the vampire sucked the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; would you know yet more?


Embla stared back, panting. She scarcely knew what she had said or what the fell words meant. She had seen in her mind’s eye something almost too horrible for contemplation.

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Old 12-09-2007, 06:30 PM   #210
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Uldor sat with no attempt to hide his boredom and annoyance. He tapped the pommel of his saddle with his gloved fingers and peered about him with his lips pressed close together in a scowl. About him, the murmur of many voices rose and fell as people talked and gossiped the minutes away.

He was about to turn and make a remark to his brother sitting near him when his eye caught sight of a figure riding through the press of people. It was a mere boy, but he was looking straight at Uldor and riding in as straight a line as he could manage. The Ulfing sat up straighter, picked up the reins he had allowed to droop over his horse’s neck and waited with keen attention while the messenger drew nearer.

“My lord,” the boy said, dismounting as he drew near and bowing. “Lord Khandr has sent me to say to you that he is delayed by – by a personal matter that could not be put off. He bids that you go on ahead of him, and if he does not join you in the hunt, he will be at the festive meal he has planned.”

“Very well,” Uldor muttered, more to himself than to the boy. He hesitated not an instant to make up his mind. “We will go.” He looked at Ulfast and relayed the message in few words, and told him his decision to be off at once.

“Is it not strange, brother. . .” Ulfast began, but then trailed off and did not finish his thought.

“Eh, what?” Uldor asked, but upon receiving no immediate response, he shrugged it off. “Never mind, let’s be off before the morning is entirely wasted and all our preparation goes to naught.”

Word spread quickly through Uldor’s company of men. Girths were checked and tightened and then men remounted. Uldor took his spear in his hand again and spurred his horse forward. With a clatter of hooves and a cheering upon either side from the onlookers, the hunters were away.
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Old 12-14-2007, 05:07 PM   #211
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Embla and Fastarr

I saw there wading through rivers wild
Treacherous men and murderers too,
And workers of ill with the wives of men;
There the vampire sucked the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; would you know yet more?


It was Embla and something was wrong. Something really was wrong.

Embla wawered to and fro on her saddle staring straightforwards with empty eyes when Fastarr finally reached her and took the reins of her horse bringing them to a halt. Fastarr unmounted to grasp her thigh and arm to prevent her from falling.

“What is it, Embla? What is it?” there was a slight panic in Fastarr’s voice as Embla seemed to be somewhere beyond the here and now of the fields. She didn’t react.

“What was that? You saw something? You’re allright?” he shook Embla’s thigh and tried desperately to find any signs of sense in her. He shook her violently now with both hands. “Talk to me! Embla!”

Suddenly Embla came back to her senses troubled with what had just happened and confused about Fastarr holding her in his grip. She looked down at Fastarr trying to compose herself.

“Please help me down, I’m feeling quite shaky...”, she whispered taking hold of Fastarr’s shoulders still looking a bit dizzy. Then she fell forwards.

Fastarr carried her weight easily and slowly brought her down to the grass. They stood there a moment looking at each other. It felt awkwardly familiar to stand there: Fastarr’s arms were on Embla’s hips and her arms were on Fastarr’s shoulders. But even as there were so much that reminded Fastarr of their last encounter most everything had changed. Fastarr knew things had changed but Embla knew even more... and there were new tides they both were totally unaware of.

“What was that Embla? You really scared me with all those murderers, vampires and wolves... What happened to you?”

“I don’t know... I mean... I’m not even sure what I said or saw... It was terrifying”, she laid her head low and shivered with even the partial remembrance. She started shaking all over.

Fastarr grabbed her tighter into his arms and let her cry silently against his chest while he tenderly stroked her hair and back trying to sooth her as best he could. He was trying to breathe slowly and calmly to assure her that everything was all right.

But even if he managed to look and feel calm outside there was a thunder and a roar inside him. It felt to Fastarr it could explode at any moment.

There was the passion he hadn’t felt since the early and happy days of his marriage... the passion he had kind of forgotten to exist in him. And now it was there much stronger than the last time. But there was also this feeling of fragility and tenderness and a great sorrow which would keep them apart to the rest of the days. A love that would never fulfill, pure and clean from the passions of the flesh. Wasn’t that something to strive for? And wasn’t she something he should just adorn and keep at a distance in the first place? Wasn’t it not only his duty to his lord but also to her that he would treat her as a flower, a crown jewel not be be violated with rough hands or physical thoughts? Wasn’t he just thrown into this situation and he’d need to get out of it with honour.

But there was also all this talk about evil, all this talk of death and treachery... That old man had talked about it, Khandr had talked about it and now even Embla had talked about it... Were all the people going crazy? No. He felt the evil himself as well... or at least he thought he felt it... all that talk made him feel it... the Song, the fates of men, the prophecies, the vampires, the wolves... And where was Khandr he was supposed to protect or at least wittness how he met his end? Now why was he here and not beside his lord? He’d need to do the right thing... Fastarr felt her breasts under her robes against him as well as her hip pressing his groin.

“Lord Khandr set me free...”, Embla managed to mutter in the end her face still buried in his chest.

That awoke Fastarr from his thoughts. He pushed her gently a few inches away from him and waited until she lifted her eyes to meet his.

“You saw Khandr? When was that?” he asked her getting focused again.

“Just a moment ago. Why do you ask that?” Embla answered truthfully although Fastarr thought he noticed something like disappointment from her face as she heard his question.

“What else did he say? Where is he now?” Fastarr asked now more agitately.

It looked like Embla had to compose herself to answer the question. Finally she was ready.

“He talked about there being evil afoot... and that he would probably not be here to see how it all turns out... and he told me to find you if there is trouble”. Embla studied Fastarr’s expressions as she spoke and Fastarr actually felt he was in a cross-examination rather than just listening to what Khandr had said.

“Okay... I’m found now”, Fastarr said and withdrew his hands reluctantly from her hips. He was more than confused about all that was going on.

“Now tell me about the trouble and I’ll do whatever is in my powers”, Fastarr managed to say but it felt like half of the words got stuck to his throat.

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Old 12-15-2007, 12:52 AM   #212
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At Dag’s house

‘Granny, come here won’t you,’ Káta said in a low voice, gesturing to the old woman to stand by her side. ‘And you, Jóra, just here before us.’ Fálki still stood by the wagon, a hesitant look on his face. His mother motioned him forward, placing him just behind her and Dulaan. ‘Let’s go, then, and mind that basket daughter mine.’

The occupants of the house could not help but hear the clip-clop of the horse, the crunch of the wheels against the graveled dirt path way leading up to their dwelling. Mem stilled the spindle against her hand, her ear cocked toward the entryway. ‘They’re at the door, Gunna. Who is it?’

Káta rapped firmly on the wood, twice, and was about to knock a third time when the door swung open, Gunna’s face changing from one of a questioning look to a smile of welcome. Jóra stepped forward, a smile on her face. ‘Here,’ she began, holding the basket toward Gunna. ‘This is for.....’ Her mother’s hands fixed firmly on the girl’s shoulders, drawing Jóra back toward her.

‘Greetings to you and your house, Gunna,’ Káta began, in a more formal manner than usual. She nodded toward the forge where Dag’s hammer rang loud in the distance. ‘There were obligations which could not be left unmet, else Grímr would have come with us today.’ She urged Jóra forward, directing her to place the basket in the doorway at Gunna’s feet. ‘Accept this gift of food from our family to yours, if you will.’ Without waiting for the other woman’s reply, she went on, motioning Fálki to stand between her and Dulaan. ‘And if you will again, my son would ask to be allowed to gift a small token of his regard for your dear sister, Mem.’

Dulaan nudged Fálki, pointing with her chin toward where the basket with jam sat, half in, half out of the entryway. He reached inside his vest, drawing forth the small square of folded material. Grasping it lightly in his fingers he unfolded it, draping it carefully over the basket’s handle. A softly woven, light blue scarf, it was.

‘This was my mother’s scarf,’ Káta explained. ‘Her mother wove it for her from their finest sheeps’ wool. She was the flower and delight of my father’s life. And he often said, when she wore it wrapped about her head, that surely some lovely being had stepped out of a Spring’s morning just for him.’

A brief breeze skirted about the little group’s feet and riffled at the edges of the offering, inviting an answer.....

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Old 12-28-2007, 02:53 PM   #213
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So calm, so solid, so safe...Embla knew she had done the right thing, found the right person. Fastarr´s touch and presence did so much to soothe the storm in her mind. Even the warm smell of him, redolent of leather and stables, gave comfort which helped focus her own turbulent senses. What this all meant, for her and for him, she did not know or even want to think about, just yet. It was what she had said, and what she had seen in her mind´s eye, that she must make sense of, now.

"The wolves...." She sat down on the grass again, and Fastarr crouched beside her, his hand on her shoulder, heavy and reassuring. "Ulflings...." she looked at her companion with a growing comprehension that was if anything, more terrifying than her previous bewilderment. "Fastarr, I think....those wolves I saw were men... who will turn on their friends....the Ulflings will betray us all....and the vampire, too...I knew this creature, it felt familiar, and close...."
"Embla..." Fastarr sounded urgent. "Even without your visions, I knew there was evil afoot. I was hastening on my way to find my lord Khandr - danger stalks him. But nor can I find it in my heart to leave you, frightened and alone. Will you come with meback to my lord´s dwelling?"

Embla felt great relief. She knew she could depend on this man, not just for comfort but also for a plan of action. "Yes, I will come." No more words were needed. Fastarr helped her into her saddle, and they both spurred their horses towards the Borrim stronghold, as fast they could go.

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Old 01-04-2008, 12:28 AM   #214
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The Right of First Kill


‘At last!’ Valr flicked the reins against his mount’s neck, pulling up beside his brother. He was eager to be off on this, his first great hunt. The skin on his arms twitched in anticipation, mirroring his horse’s own excitement.

‘Ssst!’ Falarr glanced quickly toward their father, then back at Valr. ‘Quiet, now. It would not do to criticize, or seem to criticize, the Lords. They do things in their own time.’ He reached a gloved hand toward Valr, clapping him on shoulder as much to ground his brother’s energy as to offer a sympathetic gesture.

Grímr motioned them up beside him. The host had remounted and as swiftly as Uldor urged his own mount ahead the others briskly followed. ‘Now remember, the Lords should blood their lances and blades first. If we see a boar, we’ll give a yell out to Uldor and drive it toward him.’

‘Just Uldor?’ Valr asked, wanting to fix this rule in his mind. His father’s words had carried a certainty about them; the accompanying look on his face emphasizing the importance of what he was saying.

This was not the first hunt Valr had been on, thought it was his first as a hunter. His part on those previous times out with his father and brothers and sometimes his father’s friends had been to scout the prey and with shouts and noisy wooden clappers to drive the game toward the hunters. ‘Tis the first step toward being a hunter,’ his brothers had told him, reciting by rote the instruction of their father. ‘Noting the habits of the animal you wish to bring down, thinking as it would think will help you first to find where it has been and where it’s gone and what it will do when found and cornered. So was I taught by my father and him his father before. And so will it be with my sons.’ They had grinned as they had spoken to him that first hunt when he was nine years old, their twinned voices sing-songing the words. ‘Enough!’ he recalled his father had chastened them. ‘Let’s hope he doesn’t send the quail all higgledy-piggledy as you did, Falarr!’ Valr had taken those words to heart, both the instruction and the gentle admonition.

The hunters fanned out as the chase progressed. Valr’s eyes scanned the area they were passing through, old habits kicking in as he did so. Were this my brothers and father, he thought, his eyes fixing on a scattering of oaks with their thickets of low growing bushes beneath, then I would head that way for sure. He turned his horse toward the trees; his eyes flicked toward Falarr as he rode off, grinning widely at his brother. ‘Come on!’ Valr urged him. ‘Here’s your chance to show me you aren’t the bumbler father made you out to be.’

The two made a wide berth to the right of the trees and undergrowth, darting round to come toward them from the side farthest from the other hunters. There were acorns scattered beneath the boughs in the small clearing, some trampled in the soft dirt, some only empty shells, and overlaying all was the sharp-hoofed patternings of animal hooves criss-crossing the ground.

‘Good eyes, little brother!’ came the hushed whispering of Falarr as they neared the area. ‘Let’s see if there’s one fine hog left hiding among the leaves.’ With a gleam in his eye, Valr nodded at his brother, and giving a quick kick to his mount’s flank he urged the horse forward at a measured pace.

There was a scuffling sound in the thicket followed by an increasingly angry squeal. From beneath the cover of the shrubs a swarthy, hefty figure shot out and away from the approaching men.

‘Father!’ Valr cried, seeing Grímr approaching riding toward them. ‘Head him off!!’ Grímr rode at the charging boar, turning him more toward the other hunters.

‘My Lord! My Lords!’ Valr shouted, waving his lance wildly in the air toward Uldor and his brothers who rode apace off. ‘A boar.....a boar for your lances!!’

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Old 01-05-2008, 11:08 AM   #215
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Khandr bid his wife goodbye and immediately retreated to his study. A large chest was positioned along the side wall, one that held many of his personal belongings. He knelt down on the floor, raised the heavy lid, and reached inside, lifting out a smaller wooden box shut tight with a copper lock. Placing the box on the table, he removed the thong from around his neck and inserted the attached key into the lock. Once it was open, he began removing the contents of the box, setting some sheets of paper and assorted items to the side, until he finally came to the small journal that he was looking for.

Khandr drew out the small leather case and sat down to read the entries: information that had been passed to him by the other Borrim when he had asked them to make inquiries of various people. He finally found what he was looking for. He read and reread the passage and quickly reached a decision, scribbling an extra word or two onto the last entry. Then he went and retrieved two sharp daggers from the wall and thrust them inside his belt along with the small leather case. If I am going to meet my death, he grimly mused, I might as well do so in a useful way. He stalked out of the room and decided to cut through the large storeroom that led to a door used occasionally by tradesmen to deliver their wares. He would be less likely to run into anyone that way.

The storage room was half empty and in complete darkness as there were no windows or other openings that would let in the outside daylight. Cursing himself for being without a candle, Khandr fumbled his way to the other wall, when he heard a noise from behind. He was still a long ways from the door that led to the back courtyard. Whirling around and drawing out both daggers, he snarled, "Who goes there? Show your face."

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Old 01-06-2008, 03:19 PM   #216
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"Who goes there? Show your face." The words were the snarl of a man expecting his death.

Thorn came into the dim light.

"I am Thorn. You gave your man command to hide me in your house. I thank you. I did not expect to see you again. You have done as well as could be hoped."
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Old 01-07-2008, 12:57 AM   #217
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"Ah, Thorn, it is you." The snarl was gone, and Khandr sounded strangely calm. "I took no chances. I owed it to my family to make arrangements for them, and I have done that for both my wives. Now there is something I must give you."

Khandr reached inside his belt and drew out a small leather case, the same one that he had been reading in his study just a short time before. "If something should happen to me, give this to whomever you think would get the most from it. Some time ago, I asked each of my wives and the Borrim retainers to gather information from those at court, both men and women. Some had better luck than others, and one or two, I think, may have learned things that they did not disclose. Still, a smart man can read between the lines. I ask that you not open this now. But, if I should die, sit down and read this over, and see if it is of any use. I can not put all the pieces together, but what you spoke to me on the field is also what I have been sensing. But perhaps you or someone you know would have a little more luck in understanding things. Now I go to the palace to see if I can turn up another piece or two...."

Without waiting for an answer, Khandr turned and stalked out of the cellar into the outside courtyard and then headed quickly down the street.

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Old 01-07-2008, 02:30 AM   #218
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At Dag's house

There was a small gasp, quickly stifled, as Káta finished her little speech. Gunna’s eyes widened at the woman’s words, her eye’s flicking quickly toward her sister who sat on a little stool spinning some wool and then back to the scarf-draped basket in the entryway. For her part, Mem looked expectantly toward the entryway, a smile of delight at the promise of such welcome company lighting her features.

‘Well, sister,’ Mem said, wrapping the unspun yarn about her spindle and setting it aside. Her hands now free, she smoothed her skirt over her knees, and gestured to the cushions near her. ‘We should not keep our good friends waiting. Please, have them come in.’ Káta glanced at Gunna, waiting for her invitation.

Jora squirmed away from Granny’s side, her eyes on the baby just to the other side of Mem. ‘Oh, there you are, little sweetling!’ she laughed dashing across the threshold. She swooped down on the little girl and swept her up in her arms. ‘We’ve brought some of Granny’s jam,’ she confided to Mem as she sat down at the woman’s feet. ‘And Mother packed some of her sweet buns, the ones with the fat currants in them. Jora dandled the baby on the ground in front of her, the infants delighted squeals breaking the silence at the door.

‘Come in the,’ Gunna said motioning for the others to enter and seat themselves around the low table in the center of the room. ‘The scarf . . . it’s lovely,’ she went on, as she picked up the basket and followed Káta in. She gave Káta a smile. ‘I don’t suppose it’s for me, now, is it?’

‘It’s for you, Mem,’ Jora whispered. ‘You heard what mother said, didn’t you,’ she continued. ‘It’s really pretty. Blue like the sky and soft as ever.’ Jora went on with her running commentary to Mem. ‘Fálki’s brought it to give to you, you know.’ Her voice dropped even lower. ‘I think it means we might be sisters.’ Mem felt the heat from this last pronouncement rise to her cheeks.

Granny moved past Káta and Gunna, to a place near Mem. She patted the seat near her, one closer to the young woman. ‘Come, Fálki. Sit here.’
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Old 01-07-2008, 02:35 AM   #219
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Treachery and the Hunt

Jord could feel it in the air; it, and its symptoms: suspicion, hate, fear. It pervaded the Ulfing village, like an invisible plague of the spirit, infecting all it touched. None were free from its influence, and none would acknowledge its presence. The false camaraderie of the hunt was a glorious, futile attempt to cover and ignore it. The strained relations of the three princes bore witness to its presence. Like the walking, living specter of the king, it haunted the halls and minds of the Ulfings.

Good, she thought. Good. These people are ripe for picking. I am the harvester.

She closed her eyes, and gloried in the foul stench...of treachery.

Jord was standing on the porch of the king's hall, and her hair and gown were blowing gently in the warm wind. Eyes still closed, she breathed deep through her nostrils, gathering the breaths and thoughts of the village, listening closely to the words contained therein. But this was no Song, no Deep Truth. This was a hungry creature scenting for its prey.

I am not the harvester, she thought, and smiled. I am the hunter.

Early that morning, she had stalked silently down from her chamber and out through the hall onto the porch, and there she had stayed. She had watched the town come to life, watched the scurry and bustle begin. Once or twice she had nearly smiled instinctively as she watched mothers going to market with their children. Even now, she frequently found that her human body had a mind of its own, and had to be controlled with great concentration and focus. Inwardly, she cursed her mortal prison, and cursed its base instincts and tendencies and weaknesses.

I am better than this. I am purer. I am the hunter.

She had watched as the hunt had been organized, as the huntsmen had mounted their horses and sharpened their spears. Both Uldor and Ulfast had ignored her as they passed her on the porch: whether out of spite, or out of some confused attempt at subtlety, she couldn't tell. She could never tell.

They were both fools, she told herself, but useful fools. Both believed themselves the sole possessor of her good favor.

Ulfast, clever, capable Ulfast is already mine, and Uldor will break soon. He believes treachery beneath him, but deep inside he knows that he is loyal to no one but himself. Soon he will come to see that my master’s way is the way of profit and of gain. Then it will be a matter of time, while one brother makes up his mind to do in the other. I will start the chain. I will clear the path. I will make the first kill.

The princes and their grand hunt had been gone for nearly half an hour when Jord left the porch. In the street she paused momentarily and looked around her once more. Once more, she took in the scent of the breeze.

Blood...I can smell it. It is on the wind, it is coming soon. I am the hunter. The hunt is up.

Then she moved through the crowd, unmarked, in the direction of Khandr’s dwelling.
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Old 01-07-2008, 02:05 PM   #220
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At Dag's house

Fálki could feel the warmth rising at the back of his neck as he nodded at Granny. This will not do! he admonished himself. Had not his father taught him the art of staying steady in uncertain situations? He took a deep breath and walked slowly to the proffered seat, kneeling carefully so as not to touch against Mem, but to be on a level with her as she sat upon her low stool.

Jóra looked up at him from her place at Mem’s feet, a hint of gleeful anticipation in her eyes. He raised his chin to her, indicating she should move off a pace. A glance at her mother’s raised brows confirmed the command and she swallowed her protest. Though she scooted away the least distance she thought would satisfy. The baby girl she sat firmly on her lap facing the unfolding scene. ‘Now you be quiet, sweetling,’ she whispered into the baby’s ear. Jóra gave the little girl a gentle hug. ‘I might get to be your auntie!!’ For her part, Gunna stepped quickly to Mem’s other side, sitting down close to her sister, her arm resting about Mem’s waist in a light manner.

A certain studied quiet fell about the room, then Káta spoke a few words. ‘Mem,’ she began, drawing the young woman’s attention with her voice. ‘Grimr asks that you forgive his absence at this visit. There were.....obligations.....the discharging of which could not be put off.’ She paused, thinking how best to proceed. Putting her sense of convention aside, she slipped into her heartfelt thoughts. ‘Long have I wished for a good match for my son, Fálki. Now he is grown to manhood and I....that is, both his father and I can see his thoughts, his wishes and hopes, have settled on someone. On you, Mem. And we would welcome you, if that is your choice and that of your family,’ she added, her gaze taking in Gunna as she spoke.

I think you heard, as we first entered,’ Káta smiled at her daughter as she began again. ‘Heard that we had brought a small basket of gifts for your family. One of them is a scarf my mother handed down to me, one her mother made for her. I’ve given it to Fálki, to give to the woman he chooses for his wife.’

Granny leaned in toward Fálki, whispering a few simple instructions to him. He unfolded the woven scarf and laid it carefully across Mem’s knees. His hand brushed barely against her hands folded tightly in her lap, a quick touch only, and hastily withdrawn.

A voice at the doorway startled away the woman’s response.....

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Old 01-13-2008, 03:26 AM   #221
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At Dag's house

‘What’s this?’ Framed in the doorway stood Dag, a look of puzzlement furrowing his brow. His gaze took in Mem, the blue scarf spilling brightly across her knees; her face suffused with a happy wonder, her sightless eyes followed Fálki’s movements.

For his part, Fálki rose quickly, turning to face Dag. He could feel the heat rising in his cheeks. His mother stepped forward, intending it seemed to intervene. Fálki motioned to her with a sharp motion of his hand to step back. ‘No disrespect meant, Master Dag. To you or your house,’ Fálki began, taking a few steps closer toward Dag.

Gunna moved closer to her husband, laying her hand gently on his forearm. She leaned in close to him, speaking low. Dag kept his eyes on the younger man, even as he nodded at his wife’s words.

Mem’s voice broke into the hushed conversation. ‘Look, Dag!’ She held up the scarf. ‘It’s a gift. A bride gift, from Fálki. For me.’ She turned her head in the direction from which Káta had spoken. ‘I didn’t get a chance to answer your question, Káta. At least I think you meant it to be a question – that if I chose, you would welcome me. I’d like to say yes to you. But . . .’

Jóra scooted closer to Mem and touched her on the knee. ‘Oh, you’re not going to say no, are you, Mem?’

Mem laughed, a sweet sound that spilled out into the seriousness of the room. She reached out, touching the girl lightly on the cheek. ‘I just thought, perhaps,’ she answered, ‘I just thought that I should answer first to Fálki.’

Silence settled over the little gathering.

‘Well,’ broke in Jóra’s voice after only a short time. She nudged her brother in the leg. ‘Ask her!’

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Old 01-14-2008, 12:40 AM   #222
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The REAL First Kill

Like a shadow Jord passed through the press and din of the market. At its edge, she paused briefly, and looked back. Whether because of the crowded high street, or because of some dark magic she wove about herself, no one had noticed her. Satisfied, she moved out into the backstreets of the village, leaving in her wake a lingering sense of unease and disquiet, bickering merchants and fighting children. Her path, simultaneously following instinct and long-set purpose, led her down the narrow street of beaten dirt, every step bringing her steadily nearer to Khandr's lodgings.

The Borrim and their leader had been given a large house several streets over from the palace. As Jord neared it, alert and wary, she reached with her left hand into the wide sleeve of her gown and grasped a knife which she wore on her right forearm. The blade was long and slender, and forged of cold, dark, thirsty iron. It was a relic of her former life, before her humiliation at the hands of the elf-witch and her adoring minion. She clenched her teeth as the extent of her current disgrace again struck her full in the face. She had lost everything: her power, her shape, and even a measure of her Master's favor. All she had left was the cold knife, and this she now held in an iron grip. Many lives it had quenched, in the days of glory, when she had labored alongside Sauron at the will of Morgoth, but never had it tasted the blood of an Easterling. Jord smiled. Blood. It had been over-long since she, too, had tasted blood. Her smile was cruel, and there was no warmth in it.

I shall not fail him, she thought. I shall be restored, and Lord Morgoth shall reign. Jord turned the corner onto the street that led up to Khandr's house.

Her prey was before her. She stopped, but not out of surprise. Down the middle street strode Khandr, eyes cast down in thought, coming directly towards her. They were completely alone. Jord nearly laughed; it was absurd, and pitiful, and perfect.

Suddenly becoming aware of Jord, Khandr came to an abrupt halt ten feet from her. He froze, tense and hunched, his eyes narrowed, with the innate knowledge of a hunted creature that its end has come. Yet he did not waver. Swiftly he drew out twin daggers and raised them as he prepared to face the darkly clad woman that stood in his path, whose slight form belied the shadow that stretched out before her, ominous and threatening.

Jord was faster. She covered the distance between them with unnatural speed and silent ferocity, and leapt upon her prey, her face expressionless apart from a grim determination. They landed in a cloud of dust. It hung in the air for a moment, and then settled slowly to the ground, revealing a grim scene. Khandr lay on his back in the street, blood already beginning to trickle and pool about his head. Jord was on top of him, her right knee pressed into his chest. She had held his left shoulder in her right hand while with her left, she driven the dark knife straight through his throat as they fell. He never uttered a sound.

She pulled the knife from the wound, wiped the blood upon Khandr's cheek and stowed it again in her right sleeve. Still kneeling on his chest, she smiled and pulled his face closer to hers, looking as far back as she could into his eyes.

"You have failed, Lord Khandr."

She uttered the words mockingly, spitting them out, crushing down the dying embers of his spirit.

"Your death was appointed and could not have been otherwise. It was inevitable, for we...are...power. There was nothing you could have done. Take comfort in that, and in the knowledge that you will not be alone on your journey to the realm of the dead. Many more will follow after you; some sooner, some later. Many, many more: men, and elves. All appointed."

Her nails dug into his face. Her tone had become half-soothing, but she spoke now with a renewed contempt.

"The Ulfing lords will come to know what must be, as I already know it. They will betray your people and their liege lords. You have died for nothing. No cause, no purpose. You have accomplished nothing. Your death is meaningless. I am Thuringwethil and now I will taste your blood."

And she did, as with the last sparks of life Khandr's despairing eyes roved and his fingers twitched, searching, grasping for something...anything...

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Old 01-15-2008, 04:15 PM   #223
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Embla and Fastarr change course

Embla and Fastarr rode like there was fire on their tails. From the bustling open fields to the narrow but empty alleys of the settlement they rode without a word.

Am I too late... am I too late... the thought kept recurring in Fastarr's mind until he suddenly had to steer fast aside when a cart pulled by a young boy not more than twelve winter's old appeared from behind a corner. Embla passed him so near he could have reached her with his arm. Her scent filled Fastarr while his eyes now followed her body moving up and down on her saddle in front of him. Are we too late... are we too late... Fastarr spurred Leafeye to a full trot to reach her and not to be forced to have that view that made him think of things he shouldn't.

He himself, Embla and Khandr all got mixed up in his mind. Love and death, honour and shame, daring and failing, finding and losing...

Suddenly Embla pulled her reins and halted. She could see Khandr's residence now from the corner some two hundred yards away.

"Now what is it Embla? Why do you stop?" Fastarr asked her with concern in his voice as he came to her side.

"That vision haunts me Fastarr... The wolves, the vampire... and all." She was looking straight forwards but still looking at nowhere. Her fingers were nervously fiddling with the reins. Finally she turned to face Fastarr and said thoughtfully.

"Khandr knows what is going on and if his fate is sealed there's little we can do about it... It can't be changed Fastarr... believe me, it can't be changed." There was a deep sorrow in her eyes even if she tried to brave a smile. Fastarr felt she had made a decision and was waiting for her to speak it out.

Fastarr was torn apart. He had wowed to protect his master and his cause but he had also promised to do the right thing. Which was which now if protecting Khandr was no option? If Khandr was in his residence with Thorn and the household staff he would be relatively safe but if he wasn't where should he go looking for him? And Embla made sense. There was a clear object that felt right.

Fastarr glanced at the lavish building and then turned to Embla.

"You mean the elves?"

First there was a silence. Then Embla nodded slowly not raising her head up. She knew the decision was hard to Fastarr.

"They're in the hunt... it will be hard to find them...", Fastarr tried but then fell suddenly quiet.

"Fastarr, they need to know. They need to know before it's too late". She looked at him with compassion in her eyes. "If you feel you need to go after Khandr I don't blame you but I'm decided now. I need to see the elves." Embla leaned backwards and took the reins pulling them gently to prepare her horse to yet another go, looking at Fastarr to the eye challengingly.

Fastarr glanced at the residence one more time before turning back to face her.

"We'll find those elves together! I'm no master-hunter myself but I know their ways... It would take you the whole day to find them alone... Let's go!" Fastarr pulled the reins almost violently and made Leafeye to turn around. "Follow me, I know the straight route!" With that call Fastarr strode forwards in full gallop with Embla trailing him as well as she could. They were flying now.

Fastarr led them the way he had used almost every day taking Khandr's horses to excercise outside the town. So even if Embla didn't know the way her horse knew it by heart. After bursting out from the gate Fastarr wawed Embla to follow him away from the fields towards the forest to their left. Before they reached the edge of the forest Fastarr made Leafeye to slow down enough for Embla to come level with him.

"Whatever the Ulfings lords may be they will surely take their guests of honour to the best hunting grounds... There's a small stream that goes through the wasteland and falls down to a pond not far from here. The game may ever be here and there but there's always some by the pond."

Embla nodded while she continued forwards towards the edge of the forest.

"Remember... if I raise my hand it means halt and be quiet. Spoiling a hunt is something no hunter forgives... to no one."

"Aye sir", Embla said half jokingly trying to uplift the mood but met only with a stern face.

Fastarr spurred Leafeye to a light trot and Embla followed him to the woods.
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Old 01-15-2008, 04:30 PM   #224
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“My lords! My lords! A boar for your lances!”

The call came from their left. Shouts rose among the men, but no one spurred their horses before Uldor and Ulfast. Side by side they urged their mounts, wheeling about and galloping forward. With excited shouts, several of the hunters split off to their right and others to the left, all with the intent to surround and capture the boar.

Ahead, Uldor could see the two young men waving their spears, and still shouted with excitement. And running in the space between them and the Ulfing princes the boar came pelting.

He was a large beast, his tusks shown white in the sunlight, and his eyes were red with fury at being disturbed. He charged forward, headlong into the line of horsemen waiting for him, directly towards the brothers Uldor and Ulfast. The two of them shifted their lances in their hands, lifting them from their resting place on the stirrups and turned them to be thrust downward, piercing the animal as it came near.

As it came charging on, it became evident that it would pass directly between them, on Ulfast’s right and Uldor’s left. Uldor reined in his horse and tried to bring him around in order that his spear might come to bear. Ulfast continued to gallop straight onward.


The lance was lowered, the point nearly grazed the ground. Two yards were between the charging horse and boar and then no space at all. The point of the lance thrust the boar in the shoulder, burying its head deep. Uldor saw Ulfast reining in his horse; he saw the lance twist cruelly in his hand and arm. The boar stumbled and then got up again to run, and Ulfast was half thrown, half pulled from the saddle.

Ulfast scrambled to gain his footing. The boar was squealing and roaring with fury and his feet plowed the ground as he drove himself forward, dragging against the spear, and lunging towards Ulfast.

Uldor gripped his lance and edged his horse forward. The wild hog twisted as Uldor’s lance pierced him, but then turned again to attack Ulfast.

With a curse, Uldor leaned downwards, driving the lance deeper and deeper into the boar’s side, but still the animal did not stop. He was nearly onto Ulfast now. The younger Ulfang turned to face it. He was still not on his feet and the struggle was hopelessly one-sided.

But Uldor leaped down to the ground as well. His knife flashed out. From behind and above he struck downwards once, twice, and again and finally, the boar stopped in its attack.

There was a pause and a silence, it seemed to Uldor. He knelt, panting, above the bloody hulk and then he lifted his eyes to Ulfast. His brother sat, clutching his arm where the tusk of the boar had grazed him, also panting as he stared at Uldor.

“Well, brother,” Uldor said. “You’re not going that way. No. I need you yet.”

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Old 01-15-2008, 07:39 PM   #225
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Too soon....too soon.

Khandr's face had registered no surprise as he had watched Jord spring forward on his path wielding a narrow blade of cold iron. This had been coming. He had known it for some time. Whether she was woman or something wholy different, he still could not say. But her ravenous appetite for hatred and division had become all too clear in recent weeks, slowly made evident by the few words that Embla and his retainers had brought back to him. There was no regret for his own life, and certainly no surprise. It was a price he must pay for one last stand against the forces of the shadow lord who threatened to engulf them all. The ending, he had known, was never in doubt. There was no way to avert it. He was no Elf, nor one of the great and mighty....only a simple man.

Still, he cursed his own ineptness. Why now? Why here? Just a few more steps, a bit more time, and he would have stepped inside the palace. He would have made his way to the woman's chamber. There, he might have found something to prove his hunch that a great evil was about to descend upon their heads. Without that confirmation, he dared not raise his voice to speak with Lachrandir. The Elf, he knew, would only laugh at the bumbling guesses of one of the secondborn. If things had been different, if could talk freely man-to-man.....perhaps the story would have a different ending. But none of that was possible in the world in which they lived. Khandr still was uncertain what the woman was conjuring, but the fate of Beleriand and all of his beloved Borrim surely lay upon it.

All this slipped through the old man's mind in the merest instant. Khandr reached out with what little strength was left in a fruitless effort to communicate his suspicions, all the while praying that someone would blunder onto the path so that he might warn them of the woman's evil. He had been too closed in his dealings. If only he could share his suspicions now. But the streets were empty. Everyone was at the hunt. Still he clung stubbornly to life, though the blood spilled out from his great wound staining the skirts of his assailant a brilliant crimson.

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Old 01-15-2008, 07:59 PM   #226
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Thorn was walking steadily away from Khandr's house toward the Hunt. But his mind was with the Song; it had grown in dissonance with the Morgoth theme growing in power. His minion amid the Ulfings had struck, her rage and envy blaring like reed pipes, high pitched and piercing. Khandr's lifeblood was spilling on the ground and staining Jord's gown with bloodguilt.

Khandr's heart beat its final halting dirge.

Too soon, too soon to my doom
and the end of hope for my folk.


Nay, it was not so. Thorn was aware that Jord's envy and rage, while adding to her might for the kill, rendered her almost deaf to the Song, and so she did not know who sang Khandr's elegy.

Bold you lived, Borrim lord,
caring for kin, friends and folk.
Bolder in death, O bringer of boons,
you warned the wary, sending word
to Borrim folk of Ulfing betrayal,
of doom the Bauglir wrought in his wrath.
The haughty heed not the warnings of woe,
but the humble hear and will heed your word.
The sons of your folk will find safety,
their daughters sing of the selfless deeds
of kindly Khandr, beloved lord.
Not vain your death, but valorous and daring.
Rest till you run where wrath cannot follow;
Hie you home beyond the walls of the world.

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Old 02-02-2008, 05:07 PM   #227
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Ulfast

"Oh to be needed!" thought Ulfast ruefully.

'Well, brother, you’re not going that way. No. I need you yet.'

Uldor's words stung. It made Ulfast's blood boil. Who did he think he was? 'Heir apparent' was the answer, curse his hide!

Ulfast staggered up to his feet, testing his grazed arm. "My thanks, brother," he said offhandedly, as if saving his life was no great deed. "Had it come closer I might have had to break a sweat." Ulfast grinned so that the insult could be taken as a joke. Then he looked down at the beast that had almost been the end of him. "A fine beast! He will make a feast for many!" He turned back to Uldor. "Fail not to reward those who gave you the kill, my brother. And you!" he said, turning to Ulwarth. "Next time you act like my near death is a sideshow for you, I'll put a mark on you where you'll remember it!"

Lachrandir

These Ulfings had prowess, if little else. They would make good allies in the coming battle. "What think you, Tathren?" he asked his Elven aide.

"They are quick with their weapons. Let us hope they point always at our enemies."

"Indeed," Lachrandir remarked. Then he marked a disturbance coming their way from the direction of the village. "I wonder what nonsense this might be?"

One of the men at arms came racing up to the Ulfing brothers. "Lords! Two of the Borrim come with urgent word!"

"Bring them before us," Uldor said.

"Nay, lord, forgive me, but they seek Lord Lachrandir!"

Lachrandir raised a brow. "Bring them to me," he said. "Borrim messengers for me?" he said to Tathren. "What could they possibly want?"

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Old 02-04-2008, 09:37 AM   #228
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Ulwarth hadn’t viewed his brother’s near death as a sideshow. Not at all. He was insulted and stung, as he fully believed Ulfast wanted him to be.

“It seems you, at least, are already marked, and you’ll remember that for a long while yet,” Ulwarth answered.

Uldor rolled his eyes and gave an exasperated sigh. He stood up, wiping blood from his hands on his breeches. He glanced from Ulfast to Ulwarth, wondering how his youngest brother with so little brains could say something that sharp so quickly.

“Come, brothers,” he said quietly, “we should not bicker so, when one of us have been so near death.”

Ulwarth’s chin came up. He sent a flashing, angry glance at Ulfast before he wheeled his horse about and trotted away several yards.

It was at that moment that the man-at-arms came and announced the two Borrim. Uldor gave his permission to let them come and speak with Lachrandir and then turned to mount his horse again. His squire was standing there, holding the animal’s reins. Already, servants had come and trussed up the dead boar.

“Are you able to ride on?” he asked Ulfast as he gathered the reins in his hands. “As soon as lord Lachrandir has finished, we should continue the hunt.”
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Old 02-08-2008, 10:08 PM   #229
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Ulfast

Ulfast righted himself and brushed himself off, smearing the boar's blood where it had spilled on his clothing. He watched the two messengers, a Borrim man and woman. The man was of negligible importance, Ulfast supposed, but the woman seemed familiar. He could not say how. Their message seemed urgent, but the Elf lord's face was unreadable as usual. Not even the Elf's servant gave much away. Had there been a look of suspicion given to he and his brothers as the two messengers walked by? Ulfast wondered if it had anything to do with Jord and their plans for Ulfast to become lord.

Confound Uldor! Especially that last little bit of false diplomacy, as if he had feelings of warmth for his siblings! What a fake. Did he think he was fooling either himself or Ulwarth? What nonsense. Or was he doing it for Lachrandir's sake? Ulfast did not believe it for a moment.

What was Jord up to while they hunted? He would make sure to find out when they returned with the kill.
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Old 02-17-2008, 08:28 AM   #230
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Now that they stood in the presence of the great elf-lord, Embla did not know what to do: she felt small, grubby, ugly and foolish. She remembered Khandr’s feast, and how this tall, fair man had played a part in her humiliation.

Did he notice me then, and does he remember me now? But there was now only an echo in her of the old bitterness. She was no longer a second wife, a shadow and an afterthought. She had freedom, and she had Fastarr by her side. These thoughts made her feel bolder.

“My lord.” She glanced up at Lachrandir, and then at Fastarr. “I...I mean we....I beg leave to speak.” She blushed red-hot under the elf’s haughty gaze. Was her presence causing offence? How did elf-women speak to their men-folk? Were they subservient, like the Borrim, or did they look them in the eye, after the fashion of her own people? Should she have let Fastarr do the talking?

"I have seen things. Evil and treachery....wolves....blood....the Ulflings,” she stammered. “We are afraid and we wish to warn you and your people, that...that....”

The elf continued to stand and stare in silence; Embla floundered into incoherence. She turned to look at Fastarr, pleading with her eyes for some support, some way of explaining the danger that would sound convincing to the forbidding figure before them.
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Old 02-17-2008, 09:19 AM   #231
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It was a nightmarish situation. The Ulfing lords were standing by and they'd need to assure the elves of their treachery. Fastarr would never have had the courage to open his mouth in such a company but Embla's silent plea made him take a step towards Lachrandir. He was nervously fiddling about his belt when he finally came forwards.

"My lord... your highness..." Fastarr had trouble addressing Lachrandir correctly and felt even more nervous after making two clumsy efforts at that.

"There is a great evil afoot. My lord Khandr, he believes he's dead before this evening falls - and there is this old man, Thorn, who told he has been taught by the Eldar to listen to the Song who told it to him. I saved the old man from attack not more than an hour ago..." Fastarr was going to and fro in his mind thinking how much he should speak about the Ulfing's right there as the Ulfing lords were listening to his words. Finally he decided to try and arouse the elf's interest so that they could speak in some privacy.

"And there was this dream Embla had, with a vampire amongst us working for the Bauglir himself..." He didn't dare to wink to the elf for them to go aside for a moment as it would have been outrageous for a plain retainer to make such an eyecontact with him but his eyes pleaded the elf to take him and Embla somewhere the Ulfing-ears would not hear them.

He glanced at Embla and found her almost shaking. She clearly realised the graveness of the situation for them also. If the elves did not take them seriously they would have to run for their lives from the wrath of those Ulfings who were listening to their plea right now. For surely Embla and Fastarr would be the next game of theirs then.
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Old 02-17-2008, 01:46 PM   #232
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Lachrandir

These two were almost incoherent with fear, Lachrandir thought. It was almost difficult to make out what in Middle Earth they were trying to say. One thing was certain: they were in earnest, especially to speak ill of the Ulfings before the Ulfing lords themselves. He could see the pleading in their eyes. Lachrandir gave thought to their words but found them confused and full of vague implication.

It was generally beneath him, but Lachrandir decided that there might be something to their words, so he reached out wordlessly and touched the edges of their minds, something which they would not even be aware of unless they were given to such mental activity already. The woman had dreamed a true dream, as far as he could tell. He probed more deeply, and came upon new words.

The fetters will burst, and the wolf run free;
Much do I know, and more can see
I saw there wading through rivers wild
Treacherous men and murderers too,
And workers of ill with the wives of men;
There the vampire sucked the blood of the slain,
And the wolf tore men; would you know yet more?


These words were charged with omen. Humans could be surprising now and then. Lachrandir had not thought such rabble capable of divining soothly, but this one had. Treacherous men. Who? A wolf. What wolf? A vampire. But had not that evil been overthrown, or at least hindered of late? But the man had spoken of Bauglir; that One could be behind all of it.

But that was always so. Perhaps the Bauglir had sent these two unknowing to spring a trap unawares, other than what they thought. It would be like him to do so. It would be best to hear more of what they had to say, so that he could discern truth from lie.

"Tathren, remain with the Ulfings."

"Aye, Lord."

Lachrandir turned to the two Borrim. "Come with me, both of you, you will sup with us."

Lachrandir turned and left the clearing. If these two had any sense they would walk away from the Ulfings and follow them.

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Old 02-29-2008, 09:51 AM   #233
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Thorn

Thorn made his deliberate way from Khandr's abode to the hunting grounds. The Song led him, singing to him strange tidings: Fastarr and a woman whom he did not know were before the Elven ambassador of the Fëanorians, speaking garbled words of doom. Their words were not unlike those he had been given to utter to the Elf lord. Odd. Yet not surprising; this would not be the first time the Song had been sung and heard by more than one set of ears, and found a pliable mind and will.

Just then Thorn heard the beat of heavy wings. He looked up, expecting to see a giant vulture, but he saw nothing. Then he saw the flitting figure of a bat disappearing before him in the distance, winging far more straightly than a bat would do. What food did it seek? Why had it beat with heavy wings upon his Song-listening ears, then appear as a small bat?

He pondered as he walked.
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Old 03-03-2008, 01:11 PM   #234
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Brodda

Brodda and Ruadan rode together through the streets, searching in vain for the old man. Brodda kept up a long string of curses, bitter with his ill luck. Ruadan rode in miserable silence beside him.

“This might cost us our heads, you know, you miserable dog,” Brodda said in Ruadan’s direction. “Yours at least.”

Ruadan had nothing to reply with.

“Keep searching,” Brodda snapped abruptly. “I’m going to go back to him and feel things out before I break the news.”

Ruadan cast him a baleful look before nodding and turning his head away. Brodda reined his horse about and cantered off down the street. Once he had left the crowd of houses behind, he slowed the horse again to a swift walk and continued on his way, brooding silently over what he was going to say, what to expect, and how to deflect his lord’s displeasure.

Lost so in thought and consideration, Brodda did not spot the old man in the road ahead until he was withing twenty yards of him. His eyes lit up suddenly with recognition and an unfriendly smile twisted up the corners of his mouth.

“Holla! You, old man!” he called out, and spurred his horse forward into a canter.
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Old 03-03-2008, 06:54 PM   #235
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Thorn

Thorn knew how it would go. He knew that Uldor's and Ulfast's men were searching for him. He knew that he would be found and brought unceremoniously before the Ulfing lords, and he knew that he would be scorned and named traitor to his folk. It mattered not in the least to him. He did not look forward to the pain that would be inflicted upon him; he was, after all, quite human. But the Song led him, and it led him true. He would not waver, would not stray. He had learned at least that much: to waver or stray from the sooth of the Song never helped, only hindered, and to his own loss. He would walk straight to the doom awaiting him.

Such thoughts occupied him only briefly. Of greater moment was his inkling of a great winged bird or beast that appeared only as a bat. He knew that the Bauglir had many kinds of servants, and that there were fëar that chose to wear the shapes of beasts and birds of prey. Such a one had been she would had murdered Lord Khandr. Would it be so surprising that she had changed her shape and now sought more prey? He considered that he was walking toward Lord Lachrandir of the Fëanorians, and that the bat, if bat it was, flew straight toward him. Perhaps the Elf might be dead before he had a chance to deliver his message; perhaps not. Time would tell; the Song was silent on the point.

His thought was interrupted.

“Holla! You, old man!”

A horse and rider began to canter up from behind, bearing down on him.

Thorn stopped. He turned without fear and faced the rider, still in full charge.
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Old 03-06-2008, 08:06 PM   #236
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Brodda drew his horse in, barely bringing his horse to a stop before running into the old man. Thorn did not budge, although his head turned slightly to one side to avoid being hit when Brodda's mount tossed his head in protest to the tight reins.

For a moment, Brodda sat and looked down at the man. What did Uldor want with such an old, poor, shriveled man? What good would he be for their goal? It wasn’t his business to question the actions and wishes of the lords.

"You're under arrest, by order of Lord Uldor,” he said roughly. “Will you come quietly? Or do I need to knock you over the head?”
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Old 03-07-2008, 09:54 PM   #237
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Thorn

Thorn heard the Song even through this man's rough words. He knew that he would be going to his death. It did not trouble him.

"I will go with you, for I have words for your lords as well as with the Elf. You are on horse and I on foot. How shall we proceed?"

At this very moment (the Song told him), the Bauglir's emissary had come upon the Elf and the two messengers who preceded him; apparently their word would be enough or it would not, and he would not speak to the Elf. This meant most likely that the Ulfings would betray the Elves but the Borrim would not. That did not mean, however, that all Thorn's work had been in vain. Khandr had died well. Fastarr and Embla (the Song sang their names) would survive in infamy but free. The Borrim would not betray their allegiance. These things would be enough, until the Valar intervened.

These thoughts passed through his mind in a moment. He looked up at the Ulfing impassively.

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Old 03-08-2008, 10:44 PM   #238
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At Dag's House

‘Jóra!’ Káta admonished her daughter. A rumble of deep laughter broke the tension between mother and daughter; between suitor and sought. Dag patted his wife on her hand and stepped forward shaking his head, his eyes twinkled, remembering himself as a young man.

‘Come, Fálki,’ he began, stepping close to the younger man. ‘I’ll say no disrespect was taken.’ ‘Now,’ he went on, ‘let me hear you speak to Mem and let me hear her answer.’

(a little later.....)

‘So this is what it will be like when my little one is grown,’ Dag thought to himself. He stood, leaning against the wall, surveying the little party scattered about the room. Mem looked happy and somehow less childlike. Fálki, aware of Dag’s scrutiny, restrained himself from touching Mem, though his eyes found her face constantly.

The women twittered about, like a group of little birds. Gunna had made tea and from the basket Káta had brought, the sweet buns were passed round along with the jams Granny’d made.

Dag caught Gunna’s eye, motioning for her to come close. ‘This is going to work out, yes? I can’t help but feel there is something dark waiting to crush what happiness any of us might find.’ He shook his head as she whispered some reassuring words to him. ‘Never mind my gloomy thoughts. Too much time spent looking into the heart of the forge fire, I suppose.’

‘Listen,’ Dag said, speaking to the others in the room. ‘We should have a little celebration. Tomorrow. How would that be?’ Gunna nodded, happily surprised at his declaration. ‘Grímr can come, yes? And your brother, Falarr, is it? And the young boy.....’ He looked questioningly at Gunna. ‘Valr,’ she prompted him.

Plans were discussed and set for the following late afternoon, with Káta promising they would all be there. She and her family took their leave of Dag and his soon after and made their way back home.


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


Leaving the Hunt

Excited as he’d been to be at the hunt with his father and brother, that excitement had now quelled. Valr could not shake the feeling of tenseness that permeated the supposed festive gathering. He could not understand what was going on beneath the conversations and claps on the back and toothy smiles. He kept quiet, focused on his father’s reactions to those of the hunters who came up to speak. This grown up stuff was not all he’d thought it would be. At least not today, not here, it wasn’t. He was happy when his father said they were heading home.

Grímr smiled and nodded to his acquaintances as he and his sons rode toward the outskirts of the hunting group. At times he stopped altogether making small talk with someone he knew well. Once beyond the edge of hunting party, he stopped, motioning Falarr and Valr to draw up close. ‘You both did well today.’ He urged his mount to a little faster pace. ‘And I know you must have questions.’ I know I do he thought to himself. ‘Let’s get home and see what the ladies have made for our supper. We’ll speak of the hunt later.’ And within our own walls.....

His horse broke into a run with a flick of the reins. Valr and Falarr raced after him, grinning. Valr let the wind from their quick pace blow away his sense of unease. He laughed aloud, sharing his joke with his his horse. ‘He called her a “lady”!’ he cried, laughing again at the thought of his crazy little sister as a “lady”.

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Old 03-12-2008, 09:36 AM   #239
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
The man’s calmness disturbed Brodda. He shifted his weight in the saddle. “You’re not going to see the elves, you presumptuous rogue,” he said sharply. “You will proceed before me, walking, and I will ride behind. We’re going to the great hall, and if you don’t know the way, I’ll tell you. Now move.”

He jerked his head in the general direction behind him and then moved his horse out of the old man’s way so that Thorn had a clear path back into the narrow streets of the village. Thorn’s steady eyes gave him a final stare and then he walked forward obediently. Brodda’s mouth tightened with anger and disdain. The more he had to do with the old man the less he liked him.

Thorn knew the way to the hall. Brodda never once had to give any sort of direction and never once did he feel as though Thorn were contemplating any movement to escape and get away. He walked like a lamb to the slaughter, Brodda commented to himself. A cruel smile twisted its way onto his face. Like the lamb, he thought, the man probably didn’t know what he was walking towards.

At the gates of the courtyard of the hall, the guards sprang to attention. “That man is under arrest,” Brodda said as he stopped. “Put him away until lord Uldor returns and calls for him.”

The guards knew precisely what Brodda meant and one of them immediately laid hands on Thorn and took him inside the gates. Brodda looked after them a moment and then nodded briefly. Without a glance at the other guard, he turned around again and once more headed towards the hunting grounds, this time without dread of meeting his master.
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Old 03-13-2008, 04:22 PM   #240
Lalaith
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Lalaith is a guest at the Prancing Pony.Lalaith is a guest at the Prancing Pony.
The ill-will emanating around the gathering was so strong you could almost touch it. Embla shrank under the weight of the stares.
"Come with me, both of you, you will sup with us."
The elf-lord was looking into her heart and her mind, she could feel it. She had always been thin-skinned, but since the sight of her people had come to her, she often felt near-naked under the eyes of others: it was, in many ways, a most unwelcome and unwanted gift.
Embla moved closer to Fastarr, for comfort, and the two of them followed Lachrandir through the trees to a nearby clearing.
The elf looked at her, expectantly. It was time to be bold, to speak or forever be silent about what lay so heavily on her.
"I know, my lord, that to you I seem a mean thing - young and foolish. Wood, even,” she blurted. “I seem that way to myself, sometimes. I do not really know what it is I fear. But my heart tells me that there is no honour, no fealty, in these Ulflings; and if I do not tell you this now, I will never sleep easy at night again.”
Emboldened by her new-found eloquence, she continued, and her thoughts seemed to become clearer as she spoke, giving form to the nameless apprehensions that gnawed at her.
"I fear too, the woman Jord. She has the Ulfling lord in thrall, and little wonder, for her words are like honey. She has cunning, she has power over the souls of men...and women.” Embla reddened, remembering how she too had almost succumbed to the wiles and promises laid out by the dark-haired stranger. Instinctively, she reached out for Fastarr’s hand.

Last edited by Lalaith; 03-15-2008 at 02:59 PM.
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