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Old 01-19-2004, 06:43 AM   #201
Nerindel
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Sting

Amandur

Maethor's death still weighed heavy on Amandur's mind as he watched the tall slender figure of Léspheria slipping away into the ensuing darkness to warn her people of her Cousins intent. A disparaging sigh escaped his lips as he turned to take up his post along side the elven archers. Had he been wrong to try to hold the ford? Had he lead the young ranger to his end? The image of the jeering orc holding aloft his young friend head made him shiver violently.

"Are you alright mellonamin?" Fintár asked his grey eyes creased with concern.

He nodded that he was fine, and lifted his bow too continue his barrage on the orc's, but deep down the seed of doubt had been planted and he wondered if it had not been folly to think that he could ever protect his elven love, when he could not even protect his own kinsmen.

Suddenly the dark speech of Mordor cut through the night air, breaking his despairing thoughts. The harsh language of Mordor had not heard in middle-earth since the fall of Sauron. Even the elves faltered, recoiling in disgust and horror at the sound of the black speech polluting their minds.

"Gurth gothrim lye!" (Death to our foes!) The elven captain cried out above the dim of orcish cries, pulling his command from their recoil and launching them into action. The archers resumed their volley. However, with the orcs, now being directed by Naiore many of the arrows skipped harmlessly off their enemies raised shields.

"Galadtal! Lintal! Tula sinome!" (Galadtal! Lintal! come here!) he heard Fintár call and immediately two lithe, fair-headed elves turned from their position and approached their captain, he could not hear what they discussed but suddenly the two elves nodded, then sprung away in opposite directions.

"There are two more patrols like ours; I have sent the swiftest and light-footed of my company to find them. it is likely that they will have heard the din of the orcs and already hastens this way. but I have given orders to have the two patrols turn aside and flank the foul creatures; hopefully they will not know what is going on until we have them completely surrounded.” Fintár informed him, seeing his puzzled expression.

"Wry grins formed on his lips as he saw were the elven captain was going, their arrows were almost spent and were proving ineffective against the orcs black metal shields. Fintár was about to give the order to draw weapons and charge at the orcs, but they waited patiently for the creatures to draw a little closer.

"What of Naiore?" he whispered, "this attack is obviously some ploy or diversion that she can pass unseen!” Fintár nodded his agreement, "but Imladris will not be totally deserted, we can only hope that Léspheria gets there first." Finar replied his sharp eyes still firmly fixed on the advancing orcs.

"She will!" Amandur whispered confidently, remembering the elven woman determination. He drew his sword ready for Fintar's command to attack, then remembering how much Maethor had loved this fair realm calling it his home, he resolved not to let his death have been in vain.

"Sii'!"(now!)

As Fintár gave the order they leapt forward blades drawn assailing the orcs with a fury not seen among the elves since the last alliance. Amandur decisively swung his sword across the throat of the first orc then filled with new determination he pressed forwards with the elves battling in the memory of Maethor and the young ranger’s love of this fair land.

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Old 01-20-2004, 08:03 PM   #202
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Sting

Vanwe

Finding herself again in the confides of a cell, again mistaken for her mother, Vanwe did what she usually did when finding herself in such situations; she withdrew into herself and waited for her captors to realise their mistake. However, the image of the elf behind the trellis window haunted her, adding yet more fuel to the compulsion that Naiore set deep within her, it threw her mind into turmoil, from which she could find no rest.

Locked in this turmoil and unrest, she barely noted the coming and goings of her warders, their questions audible but indistinguishable she sat cowered on the wooden floor, her arms hugging her knees close to her chest, but even that brought her little comfort. A small silvery light fell at her feet, drawing her sapphire eyes slowly upwards, she did not hear the gasps of the two elves who for the past hour had been trying to get answers from her, and they saw the light of another in their care in her eyes! Nor did she note their sudden change in questions as they tried to ascertain her name and her reason for being here, when orcs where attacking their very borders. she just stared at the silvery moon beam grasping to it like her own glimmer of light... her father was alive as was her mother, she would come for them!

The two elves soon gave up their questioning and left, Leaving orders for food and water to be brought to the elf. They also ordered her watchers to inform them if there was any change or if she decided to speak. However, she did neither and the food now lay cold and untouched.

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+


Léspheria

Darkness began to fill the valley as Léspheria hurried across the stone bridge, the moonlight reflecting off the clear waters of the Bruienen, gave a silvery glow to the hidden haven. Léspheria did not stop to admire its beauty but made her way through the gardens to the last homely house. As she passed a small cottage to her right she faltered a torrent of emotions assailing her sensitised mind, raising her hand to her head she looked up to the broken window of the cottage, from within she could hear Menecin pounding on his door and yelling at his guards.

"It's not her! It's not her!" he raged

Shaking her head sadly she moved on, the bard was prone to violent outbursts and bouts of denial regarding Naiore's treachery, so she thought no more of it. However, even as she dismissed Menecin's denial the memory of Naiores attack at the ford came back to her. The elf had assailed her with her mother’s most painful emotions; Léspheria remembered them well having endured her mothers torment at the hands of the Revennor. Her mother’s realisation that Naiore had betrayed her was the worst of all, that knowledge had broken her mother’s strong spirit.

As she pushed open the large wooden doors and stepped into the house, her weariness and despair began to ebb away. She determinedly made her way down the ornate hallway, But the usual laughter and song that greeted the weary traveller was not to be heard. The halls were silent and elves hurried back and forth some with messages and guards preparing to defend their homes! Léspheria turned to her right and found herself greeted by two guards that stood before the doors of the main audience hall. Each clad in gold plate and bright helms covered their dark heads.

"Lady Léspheria, it is good to see you well!" one of the guards said greeting her and as she looked at the guard, she saw that it was young Lírëvaire; the young elf lived up to the name given him, Song weaver, and wrote some of her most favourite pieces. It surprised her that he now stood guard in front of the great hall.

"Temporary I assure you!" the young elf laughed seeing her confusion, "Every man was needed when the orcs attacked" he continued the bright smile fading into a disheartened sigh… she place a comforting hand on his shoulder and with effort the elf smiled nodding his thanks.

"Now I must speak with our lords at once on an important matter!" she told him urgently

"Of course my lady" he replied pushing open the doors to the great halls.

She stepped confidently inside, there were several elders and councillors within, and on the dais sat, Elladan and his brother Elrohir paced restlessly behind him, the Lords were in deep conversation, which stopped abruptly at her entrance.

"My Lords" she said with a respectful dip of her head, "I bring grave news!"

"Master Tallas is dead!" there was a moments silence then hastened whispers spread through the assembled elves, stopping abruptly as Elrohir spoke.

"This is grievous news indeed, but I must ask what of his tomes?"

"They were taken and destroyed by Naiore," she answered grimly.

"So she knows that the bard lives?" Elladan sighed looking to his brother.

"Yes my Lord, I believe the orcs are her doing, a diversion so she can get to him!" at the mention of the disgraced elf of the house of Finarfin, a heavy silence filled the room, until Elladan finally spoke.

"Come you must tell us everything!"

"Even if something seems unimportant you must share it!" Elrohir added offering her a seat.

Léspheria took the seat and began to retell her pursuit of Naiore, starting from her letter from Lothaniel.

Last edited by Nerindel; 03-18-2004 at 06:06 AM.
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Old 01-21-2004, 05:15 AM   #203
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Sting

Gilly

Gilly had been just about to protest to Misters Kaldir and Dúlrain, that Miss Benia and she really should have some say in what was to happen to them, when the distinct ringing sound of clashing metal found its way through the night air and to their group. It gave her great pause to hear that fighting was near. So much so, that she quite forgot her complaint, and wondered exactly who might be fighting whom and to what purpose. And despite not knowing much about these things, she did gather that it sounded frightfully close, and reminded her again that she had naught but her knife to protect herself and her dear friend. Though Miss Benia did have her father's sword. She thought to ask the dagger of her again, but after having witnessed the struggle Dúlrain had had with the orcs several days ago, she was loath to strip her friend of any advantage.

Her face must have betrayed her thoughts, she realized, for Dúlrain came forward with a fine short companion sword in his hand and entrusted it to her saying, "It is light and a of a proper size for one of your kind. Please take it to use in your defense, Mrs. Banks."

Gratefully accepting, Gilly hoped that some skill might also come with the sword the ranger buckled at her side. And giving him a low curtsey she said with gravity, "I am much indebted to you sir, for you kindness!"

"I am much indebted to you, also," the ranger replied. "And may this blade serve you well! For I am proof that you can strike a commendable blow at need. But as you know, to do this you must have a weapon."

"And such a beautiful one too…Thank you, sir!" the hobbit murmured, looking at it appreciatively.

Then turning to Benia, the ranger explained, "We ride for Imladris at once. We might have to fight our way through, so be prepared. Kaldir and I will do our best to shield you. Both of you,” he added, looking again to Gilly. “But you must be prepared to fight," he warned.

Benia and Gilly looked at one other nervously, wondering what was in store for them, before taking to their horses. Gilly on the small pack pony rode along side Benia, as Kaldir hurried them, shouting from behind. Toby was at the rear sitting behind Kaldir on the great grey horse of his. Out in front, Dúlrain spearheaded the group.

They had gone a short ways and before she knew it, orcs seemed to be popping up, out of the ground, in the darkness, assaulting them. But the wave was quickly broken and three of the creatures soon lay dead on the ground, before Gilly had even a chance to raise her sword. A loud command to ride was heard as Kaldir drove them faster through their peril. Though sounds of unrest still filled the air from the distance before them.

If Naiore Dannan had raised this many orcs to her cause, the hobbit thought, and if she were indeed to attack even Imladris as these men now seemed to think she might, truly what was to keep her from the Shire also. For she had been headed toward that region and had seemingly changed her route only on some unforeseen whim. Orcs in the Shire! It must never happen, never! Gilly had had enough of tyrants in her day, and she swore that she would do all in her power to keep it from happening again.

As a second wave broke upon them, Gilly dug her heels into the pony and shouting “for the Shire!” leveled her blade at a rather sickly looking attacker on her right. Dispatching him after a few mishaps, which almost cost her pony, she looked around to see if there were more that needed to be felled. But catching sight of Kaldir, her heart wavered within her. He had an unnatural expression on his face that made her fear him once again, though she now considered him a friend. Quickly looking around for Dúlrain, she saw that he was headed for the river, with Benia close behind, and pulling her horse in to line behind them, she shouted over her shoulder to the bounty hunter. “To the river Mr. Kaldir, it’s the river! We are almost there!” before galloping down the hill after them.

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Old 01-22-2004, 12:47 AM   #204
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Avanill

Avanill was now struck by a new fear. Had he made the right decision? He was not entirely sure. All he wanted to be sure of was that he stayed alive. Breathing deeply he trod his way through the underbrush his sword drawn and alert. His thoughts were with Naiore, he wondered exactly what it was that made her choose Barrold and himself, and after the violent display of elf power on Vanwe he wondered what would become of her. Surely being this close to Rivendell the elves would be able to help her, maybe by now Naiore has already begun her fall. he thought slowing to observe which way he was going, steadily he headed down a ravine.

Avanill was not a tracker so it was a surprise to him when he was surrounded by three orcs. “Fantastic” he muttered as he drew also his knife. these are the ones Naiore gathered he said to himself. “I thought there would be more of you.” He said to them but they did not answer instead coming at him. Avanill was ready for them though, surprise attacks were something his mother had trained him for, since he was a boy. All he had to remember was stay calm. The first orc came at him from in front while the second came from behind. Avanill in swift movements cut the throat of one. Avanill being young, had strength was on his side, he knew this and used it to his advantage, impaling the second but not before the third leapt onto his back and cut him across the shoulder. With one yell he flipped the orc over his shoulder and promptly beheaded it.

“Stupid sods.” He muttered. “What if I had still been in Naiore’s side?” shaking his head he sheathed his knife before noticing the nagging pain of his shoulder. Avanill pulled the material of his shirt enough so that he could see the crimson of blood appearing. He sighed and gathered up what had fallen to the ground during the scuffle and continued down along the ravine


It was then that he saw the figure of an older man coming towards him form the opposite direction. Avanill stood still, there was no use in him hiding, for the other man had seen him too, he had grey eyes, Avanill couldn’t help thinking how much like blade steel they looked in the fading light, and after surveying him for a minute Avanill realised the weather beaten man to be a ranger. so much for a clean getaway . Still holding his sword he bowed to the man as a sign of respect.

“Are you going to attack me?” the other man asked, standing his ground.

“Why? I have no quarrel with you sir, so indeed, quite the opposite. Some orcs have already taken my edge for a random scuffle away in a hurry” His voice was cool and calm as he sheathed his sword. a ranger would not attack an unarmed man who has stated he does not want a fight he thought daringly and moved a step closer. The older man did not move.

“What is your name and what purpose do you have for being here.”

“My name is Avanill son of At-“ he stopped, he thought perhaps that the mention of his mothers name would make the ranger suspect to his background.

“Avanill son of Atoren, as for my purpose of being here, it was to kill Naiore, and Barrold Ferney. He has killed some men whom I hold in high esteem, not to mention my sister. As for killing Naiore, she has taken something close to me and corrupted her. So much that she fears me” He stopped, and a rush of pain came over his face, from his back. He was quite pleased with the story he had spun on the spot. “My predicament is quite complicated.” He finished.

“The our plight is somewhat the same, we both seek the death of the elf.” The older man “My name is Rauthain”

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Old 01-29-2004, 05:47 AM   #205
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Rauthain

Traveling down the ravine, Rauthain saw something move in the silver light ahead of him. It did not appear to be an orc, but displayed rather the more fluid progression of a man, one who was traveling alone. In the dimness the ranger thought perhaps it was Maethor, sent on some errand to locate Naiore in this maze. For the man wore dark clothes and bore some little resemblance to him from the distance. But as he neared, Rauthain recognized he was also younger, and wondered how he might happen to be caught traveling though the Trollshaws at night when a band of malevolent orcs was aboard. And of the unwelcome host the man was undoubtedly aware, for even now his weapon was at ready, as he threaded his way through the valley.

Still Rauthain had his misgivings regarding the bare blade, and its bearer’s disposition, and watched with interest trying, to judge his intent, as he made his way closer. The traveler had stopped and waiting upon Rauthain’s approach he bowed respectfully to the old ranger as he guided Juta closer.

Rauthain questioned the stranger, stopping before him and saying, “Are you going to attack me?” for though he had greeted him, he still held sword in hand.

“Why? I have no quarrel with you sir, so indeed, quite the opposite. Some orcs have already taken my edge for a random scuffle away in a hurry,” he stated calmly as he finally sheathed his sword, taking a step closer. As he advanced, Rauthain caught sight of a shining gleam running down his shoulder, and cocking his head slightly as he looked him in the eye, asked, “What is your name and what purpose do you have for being here?”

“My name is Avanill son of At-“ he hesitated, “Son of Atoren…” And as he went on to declare his purpose to be of similar nature to Rauthain’s, though of a vengeful turn, the ranger looked down at the ground marking the man’s boots, as he listened. Narrow they were, distinctively so.

Slowly looking up again, he saw an expression of pain cross this newcomer’s face, mingling with the confusion of sharply contrasting shadows that lay there. “Our plight is somewhat the same, we both seek the death of the elf. My name is Rauthain,” the grizzled man announced.

“Well met then Rauthain, and good hunting to you. But if you will pardon my haste, I would be on my way,” Avanill said lightly, going to pass the other in the darkness.

“Ah, but I see you are injured,” the ranger observed, swinging down off his mount to further discourage his departure. “I have some simple medicine in my possession that has served me well, if you would care to make use of it.”

Looking at the ground, a grin rose to Avanill’s lips. “I also have certain medicines in my possession, but this wound does not require what I carry. Thank you no, I will be alright soon enough.”

“As you wish,” Rauthain replied. “But I do insist that we travel then together, for this is no night for a wounded man to be roaming here, and you are headed the wrong way if you seek those you speak of.”

The younger man paused in thought for a moment before speaking. “Then by all means, I will follow your lead, such is my fortune to meet with a ranger who might redirect my steps to Naiore!”

Rauthain smiled at this, guessing that Avanill’s true desire was to leave the Ravennor far behind him. For even in the darkness the ranger saw by his boots and bearing that this was the second and unknown man he had been following for so many days. And he could only speculate on his reason for abandoning her train.

But the ranger also knew that he would in the end need all the strength he could gather against her, and wagered this one would fight along side him rather than face Naiore’s wrath at his defection alone, in the coming days. He also had hope that in trying to prove the sincerity of his story, this man might prove easier to keep a watch on and possibly become an asset rather than the inevitable liability a prisoner usually ripened into. He would still bear a careful eye, to be sure, and the ranger would be careful also in his speech, not to betray his suspicions, at least until Imladris was reached, and he could be properly treated.

But for the present, Rauthain did not care to tarry any longer. And though he felt it more urgent to join his fellow rangers in Imladris, than to pursue Naiore directly, he did not speak of his plans to Avanill. Instead he headed for the ford saying, “Come then and let us see this thing through!”

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Old 01-29-2004, 02:26 PM   #206
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Sting

Kaldir

"To the river, Mr. Kaldir, it’s the river! We are almost there!”

Kaldir heard Mrs. Banks calling to him and, turning, saw her wheel her pony and charge down the hill after Dúlrain and Benia, who had already gotten a good distance ahead. Knowing that he should not allow the company to be separated, he turned his horse to follow. With the hobbit, Toby Longholes, still clinging to his back like a terrified limpet, Kaldir kicked the gray horse into a gallop. Even so, by the time he caught up to the others, they had already reached the riverbank and dismounted.

"I will be a dangerous crossing," Dúlrain said grimly as Kaldir drew up to the rest of them.

Kaldir nodded and dismounted.

"Crossing?" echoed Toby doubtfully as Kaldir lifted him off the back of the horse and placed him on the ground. Then, seeing Kaldir's black expression, the hobbit nodded meekly. "I know, I know," he muttered under his breath. "Another word and you'll cut my throat and throw me over the falls." He sat down and, putting his chin on his fist, stared bleakly at the fast current of the river.

Kaldir let a brief shade of a smile touch the corner of his lips. How right Toby was! He had been hearing Naiore's voice and the Black Speech of Mordor as she urged her forces onward in their assault on Imladris in his mind for some time now. Unable to shut it out, the sound of her voice put him in an edgy, murderous frame of mind. All he needed was some sort of impetus, and he would be more than happy to silence the treacherous little blighter forever, whether he might be of use to the elves or not. Turning away from Toby, he reached into his pack and extracted a coil of rope, which he took a long look at, then tossed to the ground in disgust.

"It's too short." He had cut off of it one too many times in making bindings for one prisoner or another. It would never reach across the river. Seeing the questioning looks from the others, he threw up one hand in frustration. "I had hoped to run a safety line across the river to aid us in crossing. My rope will never reach."

"Use mine. I'm sure it will reach," answered Dúlrain immediately. He turned and pulled a deceptively thin coil of rope from the pack on the back of his horse. Kaldir recognized it instantly as being of Elven make. He nodded gratefully.

Looking around for something to anchor the rope, Kaldir pointed to a large boulder near the water's edge. It was almost as though it had been chiseled for exactly that purpose, as one end tapered to a narrow width, where it was notched deeply to prevent slippage. "We'll tie one end to that boulder. I'll find something to secure the other end when I get to the other side." As Dúlrain tied the one end of the rope to the boulder, Kaldir took the other end and tied it tightly around his waist. Once it was secure, he turned and remounted his horse. "Use what's left of my rope to secure everyone to the safety line before they enter the water," he told Dúlrain. "There should be enough left for all of you."

Dúlrain nodded, joining Kaldir again at the water's edge. "I'll feed the rope out slowly as you cross," he added, taking up a coil of the Elven rope.

Kaldir nodded and smiled at him with his one-sided smile. "Here's to a watery grave," he said cryptically. He nudged his horse forward into the current. Dúlrain said something in response, but Kaldir was unable to hear it over the rush of the water. The depth of the river increased rapidly. In a matter of several feet, Kaldir had entered the full force of the current, which flowed around him with an icy swiftness. One false step on the part of the horse and the two of them could easily be swept away and over the falls. Sensing this, the horse balked, but Kaldir urged him forward. The river bottom dropped off sharply, and, the next thing he knew, both he and Nico had been carried some feet downriver as the horse began to swim. Kaldir struggled to keep both his grip on the horse and his own head above water. Finally, the horse's hooves gained purchase on the river bottom on the other side and surged forward toward the far bank. As they emerged from the current, Kaldir looked back and saw that Dúlrain had already prepared Benia to follow him. He dismounted quickly and, leaving Nico at a short distance from the water's edge, began to untie the rope from his waist. Once he had finished, he secured it firmly to the base of a large tree trunk. Then, holding tightly to the newly placed safety line, he waded back into the river up to the waist. He signaled for Benia to move forward.

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

Benia

When Benia arrived at the river bank and dismounted, her heart sank at the sight of the dark water and fast current. Surely Kaldir and Dúlrain did not intend for them to cross there. It would be madness. When Kaldir joined them a few moments later and began to make preparations to do just that, she swallowed hard and looked around for Gilly. She found her friend also staring at the fast-moving water but with a look on her face that was closer akin to horror than mere dismay.

"Oh, Miss Benia," whispered Gilly, barely audibly. "I can't cross that river. I shall be killed here on the bank by orcs sooner than go into that water."

Benia looked from Gilly back toward the two men just in time to see them exchange a few words. Then, with a rope securely tied to his waist, Kaldir rode into the thick of the current. She sucked in her breath sharply as the swift water took him and his horse. The only things visible to her on the bank were the shapes of their heads, struggling to stay above the surface. Unconsciously, she reached out and grasped Gilly's hand.

"They are rigging a safety line for us," she said quietly in an effort to comfort Gilly, not entirely sure that she was comforted herself. "We shall be fine. Neither Mr. Kaldir nor Mr. Dúlrain will allow anything untoward to befall us. They have taken good care of us thus far."

Gilly said nothing, but on looking at her, Benia could see that she was not convinced. Partly to encourage Gilly and partly just to get it over with, Benia gave Gilly's hand a final squeeze, then let go and approached Dúlrain, where he stood on the riverbank feeding out rope to Kaldir.

"I'll go next," she volunteered. "What do I need to do?"

Never taking his eyes off of Kaldir, Dúlrain gave her careful instructions on how to cut a length from Kaldir's rope and attach one end to her waist, the other to the safety line that would soon stretch across the river. "That way," he concluded. "If the current takes you, we shall have a way of getting you back. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Benia answered and did precisely as he had explained. Then, she mounted her bay mare and rode back to where Dúlrain still stood. By then, Kaldir had reached the far bank and was signaling for her to come. Dúlrain checked the knots she had tied that secured her to the safety line, tightened one, and then smiled up at her.

"Be brave. We shall make sure you get across safely."

"Thank you," Benia answered and tried to smile back, but found herself unable to manage more than a nervous grimace. Casting one final glance back at Gilly, she rode into the water. The cold hit her like the collapse of a stone wall. She gasped and grabbed tightly on to her reins. Seconds later, she found herself totally submerged as her horse lost her footing and began to swim. Benia panicked and struggled toward the surface, water rushing into her mouth. As her head broke the surface, she began to cough, but never for an instant let loose of her reins. She thought that surely she would drown as the horse swam on and on. Then, suddenly, she felt the firm grip of Kaldir's hand on her arm and heard his voice in her ear.

"You're safe now. Ride for the bank."

Still coughing, she kicked the mare forward and rode for the bank for all she was worth. When she had reached the safety of dry land, she turned looked back. Kaldir still stood up to his waist in the river on her side, while Dúlrain had turned to face Gilly. Her heart sank as she saw Gilly shake her head and take a step backward.

"C'mon, Gilly," she murmured. "You can do it!"
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Old 01-31-2004, 04:00 PM   #207
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Sting

Gilly

“It no use Mr. Dúlrain, I can not swim and will surely drown if I try! Perhaps if I stay here I can hide until the orcs have passed, and then…and then…. Oh, I don’t know what then!” she said looking out over the Bruinen to see Kaldir help Benia’s stumbling horse out of the current. Benia’s hair was streaming as she coughed and looked back over to the far bank. Gilly shook her head and took a step backward, suppressing a strong urge to bolt fast and far away from the swiftly moving water.

She glanced back to see Toby, leaning against the rock that held the rope, watching the exchange.

Once he saw Benia was safely on the other side, Dúlrain turned to the hobbit. “Now Mrs. Banks,” he said calmly. “ I do not know what you may have heard of Orcs, but they are also skilled huntsman. If you were to remain here I should not like to have to face your family, who will have been worried over you. It would be far better for your children to learn that their brave mother crossed the swift river Bruinen, trying to help save Imladris, then that she was taken by orcs, and slain. For even if by chance, you were to drown you would have had died nobly. And though there is no shame in being captured by orcs, it is hard news, and it does something to the persons that have lived to hear such tidings.”

Looking again to Toby, he winked at her and walked away down the bank a bit, throwing a stick into the current and watching it float quickly down stream.

Gilly did not answer, but closed her eyes frowning. He was right of course, but she had this overwhelming fondness for breathing at the moment. She seemed to be able to think of nothing else as she tried desperately to picture the boy’s faces, and Carl.

Dúlrain gave the hobbit a few moments before folding Kaldir’s rope to cut off another section. Getting down on one knee, he tied it securely around the hobbit slim waist. “Kaldir and I are here Mrs. Banks, we will not let you drown. And do not forget I am indebted to you. If you remain here I will be obligated to remain also, to defend you against the orcs, regardless of their numbers.”

Gilly’s eyes opened. “Oh no Mr. Dúlrain, you can’t! Not with your side!” She pleaded shaking her head.

“I would have no choice.”

“Then I also have no choice,” she whispered, her brow still knit with concern. “Or face the possible that guilt. What must I do?”

“Ride your pony across,” the ranger said nodding toward the pack animal close by. “Soon after entering the river the pony will start swimming. It will be strange, and he will be deep in the cold water, but do not be alarmed, just do not let go of his neck.”

“I can do that, I think,” Gilly finally said.

“Can you hold your breath?” Dúlrain asked.

“Yes.”

“If the water starts to go over your head, hold your breath. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I do,” she said in a far away voice.

“Come then,” he said bringing the pony to were the hobbit stood. Wincing he picked her up and set her on her perch. “Do not forget, Mrs. Banks, hold on!” he reminded, leading the animal down the bank just upstream of the safety line. Slapping the pony’s rump to start its descent into the river, the ranger quickly returned to the safety line, pulling it taut.

Gilly’s eyes went wide, as the water steadily and rapidly rose up the pony’s legs. She felt panic springing up from deep inside her as it began to rise up her own legs as well, lifting her skirts until they rested like a flower around her waist. Pushing them hurriedly under the water, she grabbed the horse’s neck, clinging to the poor creature as though it were life itself, and watching as her small wooden tatting shuttle bobbed to the surface and floated quickly away, dragging a small piece of her handiwork with it.

As the ranger had warned, the pony soon began to swim in the frigid water and the hobbit was pushed off by the swirling current, remaining like a green streamer hanging from the pony’s neck, the rope tethering her to the safety line tangled round her foot. As they reached the center of the river the current grew very strong, too much so for the pony to keep pace. And it slowly passed under the safety line and began to drift down stream. Still the hobbit tried to hold on, her sodden skirts now over her head and she was more or less stretched taut herself, between the poor pony and the safety line, her rosy cheeks puffed out like two balloons. For she couldn’t breathe, her head was face down in the water as the pony’s neck slipped from her grasp and she blindly found the reins, which slipped quickly through her fingers.

Cut loose from the horse, Gilly disappeared under the water, and opening her eyes saw only green dimness around her. She began frantically pushing her palms toward the surface, but found she was only dragged deeper in the freezing water. Suddenly, she felt a tug at her waist. Kaldir’s rope! Grabbing it, she pulled herself along its length until she surfaced, sputtering, quite close to where it looped over the elven rope. Holding on to it for dear life she coughed trying to regain her breath. Shaking the water from her eyes, she looked around, her feet remaining pointed downstream.

She could not see the pony, but Benia and the bank were getting closer. Dúlrain had unloosed the rope at his side and he and Kaldir were struggling in tandem against the current to pull Gilly in like some big green fish. Kaldir had once again entered the river, straining to maintain his balance while keeping the rope taut and pulling the hobbit nearer.

Seeing that Kaldir meant to deliver her from this ordeal Gilly began propel herself along the safety line toward him, quicker than a cat under similar circumstances. Soon she found the current less strong and she could just touch the bottom of the riverbed, the sturdy form of Kaldir just a few yards away. Stretching out his long arm, as she drew closer, he caught hold of the hobbit who was shaking uncontrollably. Settling her in the crook of one arm she buried her face in his chest repeating, “Thank you Mr. Kaldir. Oh, thank you,” grateful for the strong arms that kept her above the waters.

Bringing Gilly and the rope’s end back to the bank, Kaldir deposited the hobbit with Benia, and tying off the rope again, he moved down stream to where the pack pony had emerged sodden, upon the bank.

“Miss Benia, I surely thought I was dead,” Gilly said softly. “I thought I’d never see my family ever again.” Then remembering that Benia’s parents were no more and that she had always had to face such dangers, she cried silent tears as Benia embraced her, and tried to calm her trembling friend.
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Old 02-02-2004, 10:06 AM   #208
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Dúlrain and Toby

Holding the fine elven rope taut in his hands, Dúlrain kept a watchful eye on the frightened hobbit woman. As she rode deeper and deeper into the dark water, His breath caught in the back of his throat as the pony passed under the safety line and began drifting down stream, dragging the poor hobbit woman face down with it. Seeing that Gilly was in trouble he moved quickly to where the rope was anchored, glancing back across to Kaldir, he saw that his brother had guessed his intent and gripped the rope with both hands ready to take the strain.

"What are you doing?" Toby screamed his dark eyes wide with terror as he saw the ranger’s hand moving to untie the knots that secured woman's lifeline. Ignoring Toby's panic Dúlrain continued to work at the knots, determined that the woman should not drown.

"She'll drown if you loose it!" Toby frantically yelled now upon him, pulling at his arms trying to prevent him from his urgent task.

"She'll drown if I don't!" he snapped pushing the hobbit forcefully aside.

"I must feed the rope so Kaldir can pull her ashore,” he added with a sigh, seeing that Toby was genuinely concerned. Finally understanding, the hobbit nodded and hurried to help the ranger undo Kaldir's well-tied knots.

With the rope securely in both hands he slowly began feeding it into the water, feeling the pull of the strong current he dug in his heels and worked against it to keep the rope taut as Kaldir worked to pull Gilly ashore. Dulrain sighed with relief, as a small dark head broke through the waters surface, coughing and spluttering, but alive! even Toby found himself relieved that the Shire woman lived, but she was not yet safe, still fighting against the current and the burning feeling in his hands as he let the rope slowly slip through them, he continued to feed Kaldir his end of the rope. His wounded side now ached from the strain but gritting his teeth, he bore the pain until Mrs Banks was safely in Kaldir's care.

Seeing Kaldir passing the hobbit woman into the gentle care of her friend, he relaxed somewhat knowing, the hobbit woman was again in safe hands. As Kaldir secured the rope his end, Dulrain began hauling the rope so it would once more be taut for one last crossing. However, as he turned to re-anchor his end to the rock, he saw Toby's pale face frozen in abject terror, staring at the moon's silvery reflection in the deep dark water.

"Toby, help me tie of the rope!” he called, trying to distract the hobbits attention. As if in a daze Toby slowly did as he asked, but as they rechecked the knots he suddenly bounced up, "No I can't I just can't!" he wailed backing away.

"You can and you will Mrs Banks could!” Dulrain replied sternly grabbing the hobbits shaking shoulders.

"No I couldn’t possibly hold my breath that long!” he cried shaking his head, Dulrain sighed heavily and spoke frankly to the hobbit. "What other choice do you have Toby? Sit here and wait for Naiore to find you? Do you think she will be any less merciful than the river? "On hearing his options Toby shook his head vigorously and looked across the black expanse to the far side, "No, that one I never want to meet again, you are right it would be better to die at the hands of the river than to suffer at the hands of that elf. I'll do it Mr Dulrain I'll do it, just tell me what to do."

"Hold on to me and do exactly as I told Mrs Banks, do you understand?" As Toby nodded his understanding, he cut the last of Kaldir's rope in two, tied one end securely about Toby's less than hobbit like waist and with a wince helped the hobbit onto the back of his horse. He then tied the remaining length about his own waist and leads Dir to the bank were he mounted, securing both safety lines to the elven rope.

With a quick nod to the others on the far bank, he urged his horse into the icy water. A few feet in the full force of the river hit him and he felt Toby's terrified iron grip about his waist, bring a sharp pain to his wounded side, but gritting his teeth he urged his horse on, holding tight to the reigns, so as not to be swept away by the current. Suddenly the river bottom dropped off sharply and they began drifted down stream, as Dir struggled to swim to the far bank, Kaldirs rope burned at his side as the current tugged relentlessly. At first he felt that all the fires of mount doom had been set loose upon him, but it quickly melted into nothingness as the icy waters numbed his injured side, he felt nothing not even Toby's iron grip.

Suddenly remembering the hobbit tethered behind him he glanced back, his own head now barely above the water. However, Toby was nowhere to be seen. Quickly struggling against the current he wrap one hand about Dir's reigns and twisted back reaching for the rope that held the slight hobbit to the safety line, His head sunk under the rushing water as he grabbed at the hobbits rope and struggled to pull him to the surface. After a few minutes struggle the pair came up coughing and spluttering as Dir’s hooves finally found the river bottom on the other side, and as the horse surged forwards Kaldir took hold of the stallion’s reigns, guiding the horse to the bank.

"I swear that if we ever make it to this Imladris alive! I will never steal another thing!" Toby gasped between coughs.

"I shall keep you too that! Master Longholes!" Dúlrain breathlessly grinned as he passed the hobbit down to Kaldir.

"I wasn't serious about a watery grave you know!" his brother frowned, but despite himself Dulrain laughed, "But I was serious when I said not today! The icy depth of the Bruinien is not our fate, but next time you can take the hobbit!" With a laugh Kaldir lead the horse out of the water and onto the bank.

"Check that he is alright, he got quite a scare back there" Dulrain said to Kaldir, indicating the shaking hobbit his brother had just deposited on the bank.

"And so did we!" came the gentle concerned tones of the southern woman and her hobbit friend.

"My apologies ladies, but I could not let him drown. He may be a scoundrel and a nuisance, but he is not evil. I believe he merely took a wrong turn at a cross roads in his life, if you understand my meaning.” as he spoke he looked to Kaldir out of all of them he would surely understand the cost of Toby’s wrong choices. However, to his surprise Mrs Banks went to comfort the bedraggled hobbit.

But as he watched Gilly crouched next to the shivering form of the hobbit, the numb reprieve of the icy waters suddenly subsided causing him to lurch forwards, his hands clutch at his side as he slowly slid from his saddle, the volcanic fires threatening to tear his side apart as he held on to Dir's neck for stability.

"Dulrain are you all right?" Benia asked concerned as she saw the colour drain from his face.

“I’ll be fine in a minute, the water took it out of me a bit,” he lied trying to smile assuredly but as Benia rounded the horse her gently eyes went wide with horror. “Kaldir!” she exclaimed alerting the other ranger to her alarm. However, as she hurried towards him her face drawn in fear he followed her gaze down. The rope, still tied to his waist, and the hand that held his side were soaked in blood, his blood!

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Old 02-03-2004, 09:18 PM   #209
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Benia

Benia was still holding Gilly tightly around the shoulders, speaking to her softly and trying to stop her from trembling after her difficult river crossing, when she looked across to the far bank just in time to see Dúlrain and Toby ride into the dark waters of the Bruinen. Her body tensed as she watched the current take them, the hobbit's head suddenly disappearing under the water. Sensing Benia's sudden distraction, Gilly looked out over the water as well. Both of them watched as Kaldir, still waist deep in the river, grasped the safety line with both hands and, putting his full weight behind it, pulled the rope taut.

As Dúlrain's head briefly dropped below the surface, Benia loosed her grip on Gilly and moved swiftly toward the water's edge. Two heads broke the surface of the river, both man and hobbit, coughing and sputtering as they fought for air.

"Benia!" cried Gilly behind her. "Don't go too deep! Your skirts!"

Looking down, Benia saw that she was already up to her knees in the dark water. If she went any further the current would surely seize her skirts like wind into a sail. With no safety line, there would be nothing Kaldir or anyone else could do to save her from being swept downstream. She stopped, scarcely breathing, and watched as the horse with its two riders continued to struggle against the rushing force of the water. After what seemed to be an eternity, the brown horse's hooves seemed to find the river bottom. As Dir surged forward toward the bank, Kaldir caught the reins and guided the horse in. Benia turned and ran back toward Gilly and the others, nearly weeping with relief that they had all made it across.

She listened happily as Kaldir and Dúlrain exchanged a few bantering sentences about Toby, but her joy and relief evaporated quickly when Dúlrain suddenly lurched forward, holding his injured side. "Dúlrain, are you all right?" she asked as he slid slowly from his saddle. His face had taken on a deathly pallor.

"I'll be fine in a minute," he answered lightly, trying to smile. "The water took it out of me a bit."

"Oh, no..." Benia whispered to herself, coming around the side of his horse to where Dúlrain stood. Her amber eyes went wide with horror as she saw that his side, his hand, and even the length of Kaldir's rope that had secured him to the safety line were all soaked in his blood. "Kaldir!" she called out as she hurried toward Dúlrain, her face drawn in fear. "Kaldir - now!"

Seeing that Dúlrain was maintaining his feet only by holding on to the neck of his horse, Benia rushed forward and caught him in her arms, faltering only slightly as his weight shifted from the horse's neck to her. Within seconds, Kaldir was at her side. He cut the tether that bound Dúlrain to the safety line with his dagger. The bloody rope fell to the ground. Then, sheathing his dagger, Kaldir looked around for someplace he could take Dúlrain where he could be at least somewhat sheltered. Orcs were already beginning to gather on the far river bank. He scowled as an arrow broke the surface of the Bruinen about ten feet from the waterline.

Catching Benia’s eye, Kaldir shook his head. “You will have to do what you can for him for the moment.” He gestured toward the far side of the river with a tilt of his head. “We must act quickly.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Benia watched as Kaldir reached out and gave Dúlrain's elven rope a sharp tug. It fell into the water, the knot on the far bank having obligingly given way. To prevent the orcs from making use of it, he rapidly reeled it in.

Holding Dúlrain, Benia felt increasingly helpless as Kaldir attended to other matters like the rope, and not to Dúlrain's wound. She knew he had no choice - all of their lives were at stake. He had to see to their defense first. After all, what good would it do to see to Dúlrain's wound and staunch the flow of blood, only to have them all instantly slaughtered by orcs? She would have to take care of Dúlrain herself, just as she had taken care of her father's wounds on more than one occasion in the past. She pressed her bare cheek, the one without the spangled chain, against Dúlrain's face and, placing her lips against his ear, spoke to him softly.

"Come, my love," she said calmly as a black arrow pierced the water only a few feet from where they stood. "You must walk with me now. Just a little way. There is shelter ahead in the trees." Turning, she took most of his weight across her shoulders as she guided him toward the thin fringe of trees that separated them from the sheer face of the rock cliff that rose ahead of them. He nodded and began to walk, but his steps were slow and unsteady. Benia could tell that he was holding on to consciousness by nothing more than sheer determination. Behind her, she could hear Kaldir barking instructions at Gilly and Toby, that they were to get up and make for the trees at once. Glancing back, she saw that he had his own and Dúlrain's horses by the reins and was running in pursuit of Gilly's pony who had wandered a short distance upstream. Her own mare was barely visible through the darkness, far up on the bank among the trees. Ignoring all of this, she continued guiding Dúlrain steadily toward the trees.

"Just a little farther, my love," she whispered as another orc arrow skittered harmlessly across the stones to their right. In a few more steps, the two of them would be safe among the trees, and out of the range of the orcs' arrows. His hand tightened around hers whenever she spoke, though he said nothing in response.

Benia no longer cared if Dúlrain knew the true depths of her feeling for him. Her mother’s warnings about hiding her heart from the world no longer mattered to her. Dúlrain’s lifeblood was seeping away through the gash in his side. All that mattered to her now was saving him, stopping the flow of blood from his body before it was too late.

As she reached the shelter of the trees, she was joined by Gilly, who helped her to lay Dúlrain comfortably on the ground in a bed of dry leaves. At the sight of the blood, Gilly shook her head. “Oh, my,” she murmured.

“Give me your pinafore,” ordered Benia. “I haven’t the time to get anything from my pack.” Gently, she opened Dúlrain’s shirt and pulled it aside to expose the gaping mouth of the wound. Dúlrain faded from consciousness.

Gilly nodded and did as she was told, taking off her wet pinafore and handing it to Benia, who first wrung it out, then wadded it into a knot and pressed it against the gash. “Pressure,” she said, only half to Gilly. “Pressure will stop the bleeding.”

Gilly nodded and continued to hover helplessly at Benia’s shoulder. A second later, she was joined by Kaldir, who had handed the reins of the horses over to Toby with the admonition that he make himself useful. Kaldir was bleeding now, too, from a gash on his upper arm, having been grazed by an orc’s arrow. He leaned over Dúlrain’s unconscious countenance. “How is he?”

“Unconscious,” answered Gilly.

“How’s the bleeding?”

Benia moved the soggy pinafore aside for an instant and looked at the gash. The flow of blood did seem to be slowing. “I think it’s stopping,” she answered cautiously.

Kaldir nodded. “Good. We must move at once.”

Benia looked up, her amber eyes flashing. “No. It will kill him.”

“It will kill him if we stay. The orcs have found us and it will be only a matter of time before they figure out a way to cross the Bruinen. Put a fresh binding on the wound. We ride at once for the stair.”

Benia pushed the blood-soaked pinafore into Gilly’s hand and rose to her feet, tears rising in her eyes. “He can’t possibly ride and you know it.”

Kaldir’s icy eyes narrowed. “He will ride if I have to carry him in my arms. Now do as I say or get out of the way. His life and all our lives depend on it.”

Benia felt Gilly’s hand lightly touch her wrist. “He’s right, Benia. Mr. Dúlrain said much the same thing to me on the far bank. Kaldir will take care of him. Won’t you, Mr. Kaldir?”

Kaldir nodded. “As if his life were my own. Now, move.”

With shaking hands, Benia knelt and ripped a few strips of cloth from the hem of her dress. Between the three of them, Kaldir, Benia, and Gilly lifted Dúlrain and, taking the strips Benia had ripped from her dress, tightly bound the blood-soaked pinafore into place. Within moments, they were all mounted again, this time with Toby riding behind Benia on her bay mare. She took the lead, while Gilly rode behind her on the little pack pony. Kaldir brought up the rear with Dúlrain’s unconscious figure propped heavily against him on the front of his saddle. He led Dúlrain’s horse by the reins. Keeping as close as possible to foot of the cliff and under the thin cover of trees, they rode as quickly as they could manage toward the south and the staircase that would gain them admittance to Imladris.

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Old 02-05-2004, 05:17 PM   #210
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Sting

Léspheria

As Léspheria took, the seat set for her and the Lords of Rivendell dismissed all their company, but six tall, fair and noble looking elves, all that remained of the high council of elves. She thought back to the beginnings of her journey, recalling her first encounter with the elf maiden that so matched her mothers reputed beauty. However, even as she remembered the young elves resemblance to descriptions of the betrayer of elves, she remembered the fearful glances and the warm smile when on the rare occasions it broke through her deep emptiness and sadness. The kindness and eagerness to help those around her, all traits that where her own and that she hoped Naiore had not stripped from her.

As she looked up from her musings, the gathered council waited for her to speak. she began at the Forsaken inn retelling her meeting of Naiore’s daughter, The bounty hunter , Vanwe’s untrained gift, the arrival of Amandur, The request of her brother, her many meetings in Bree, the discovery of Tallas, and then the journey eastward. Leaving out for the moment the painful memories of Vanwe’s mental assaults by her mother and the memories Naiore choose to assault her with and that she knew that Naiore was the one responsible for her mother’s torture and eventual death.

She then told of their crossing of the ford, pausing painfully as she told of Maethor's demise, their was a moments silence as all in the room silently prayed for the elf friends mortal spirit to find it's way to Illúvatar's gentle embrace, then she continued to tell them that Fintar with Amandur held the stairs waiting for reinforcements.

"They have already been sent," Elrohir assured her seeing the concern etched on her face.
With a slight nod of understanding , she waited patiently as the council discussed and debated all they had been told, the twins at one point drew together and whispered in secret, "Then our assumptions are true!" she heard Elladan whisper to his brother as she strained to listen to several different conversations at once. "But the reluctance to eat or speak does not hold well!" she heard Elrohir reply, his high brow creased in a contemplative frown. Of whom do they speak, she wondered, as she ignored the other conversations and concentrated on the voices of her lords, but just as she thought they were about to answer her question the large doors of the hall swung open.

All heads turn! A flustered guard hurried towards the dais. Without regard for the others in the room, the guard sunk to his knee and bowed before Elladan and Elrohir. "My Lords, his temper has risen and he threatens to break down his door, I do not know how much longer we can hold him!"

"We shall come at once!" Elladan answered, Elrohir nodding his agreement. As the two Lords rose to followed the guard, Léspheria rose also, realising that they spoke of Menecin she wish to help, perhaps she could quell his anger with news of his daughter.

"No, Léspheria you have had a hard journey and should rest," Elrohir gently counselled. but even as she began to protest Elladan came up behind his brother, “It may yet be that your skills will be required before this night is over!” he added with a faraway look in the direction of the ford, where they knew the battle to hold the stairs raged on. "We will speak again when this matter is resolved," Elrohir assured her. With a resigned sigh, she nodded and watched as the Lords of Rivendell quickly followed the guard from the hall.

Behind her, she could hear the council breaking up and preparing to leave, agreeing to ravine once the matter of Menecin recent fit of madness passed. As they slowly departed, she caught parts of their conversations, mostly concerning the bard and his sanity. However, a few discussed the nature of their foe, how it was a bad day when an elf brought orcs to Imladris.

With a heavy sigh she followed them from the hall and made her way silently along the ornately decorated passages, till she came to the central stairwell of the house, The stairs spiralled upwards to the bell tower and on the walls surrounding the stairway where the detailed paintings of great battles and historic events involving their people. Slowly she climbed the stairs to the first floor where she followed the east passageway to her room. She paused shortly trying to remember when last she had seen the interior of her room, but as she opened the door and stepped inside she saw it was just as she left it, several dresses hung on dressmaker’s dollies half done and the pine writing desk, littered with books and papers that waited to be attended too.

As she drew further into the room, she heard whispered voices and running water and as she looked round, she saw steam escaping from the adjoining room, with the thought of a warm bath to relaxing her aching muscles, she moved towards the two elf voices, but she stopped abruptly as she caught the topic of their conversation.

"They say that it is an elf that has brought this trouble upon us, Meril!"

"Oh no it can't be, you must be mistaken Terphil, surely no elf would ally himself with orcs!" the older of the two elves replied.

"It's true but its a female not a male, I overheard one of the guards saying that they had caught her outside the Bards cottage and that now at this very moment she is held in a cell and refuses to speak, even to our lords!"

Léspheria gasped as Menecin's ranting’s came back to her, 'It's not her!' Had he seen the guards take their prisoner? Could it be that they held Vanwe rather than Naiore in the cells? She had to find out! Turning quickly she fled from the room, flew down the stairs and out towards Menecin's cottage. Even from the garden, she could hear the bard’s wrath, but it did not slow her hurried pace, entering the building, she ascended the stairs and burst in to see several guards attempting to bolster the door against the bards attempts to knock it down. The twins looked up from their debate and looked at her questioningly.

"You must let me speak with him!" she exclaimed, staring determinedly at the door and the guards that barred her way.

"That is a request that we can not in all good conscious grant, he is again in the grips of his darkness and your safety could not be guaranteed." Elladan answered calmly.

"No! I believe he knows what I fear, that you have his daughter not Naiore imprisoned in our cells." She rebuked sharply turning to face her Lords.

Elrohir sighed heavily, "Regrettable as it is, we already know this to be true, but she refuses to talk to us or even eat the food we send to her!"

"We are not to know what hold Naiore has over her daughter and what lies she has fed her." Elladan continued.

Léspheria looked between the door and the twins, she could see their dilemma, but Vanwe did not deserve this treatment from her own kin, if she went to the elf now she may loss the tentative friendship they had begun to form, but as she looked again to the door holding the enraged bard she saw a way.

"Let him try!" she whispered.

"No!" Elladan answered adamantly, But Elrohir looked to the door contemplating her words.

"We cannot be sure what he would do!" Elladan pressed.

"But isn't it possible, brother that perhaps together they could over come what ever hold Naiore has over them, I too am reluctant to put such a bold reminder before him, but it may be the only way." Elrohir said to his brother.

Reluctantly Elladan nodded his agreement and Léspheria slowly walked towards the guards that struggled to hold the door, they looked at her then to their Lords, who nodded indicating that they should let her pass. Raising her hand to the door she spoke clearly but softly, "Menecin, it is Léspheria Denfëa, may I speak with you?" The cries and pounding persisted so she continued, "I am the daughter of Valaindon, and I believe you and she were friends?" The pounding stopped as the elf within fought to remember where he had heard that name before or so she assumed.

Slowly she opened the door, broken furniture littered the floor and artwork lay torn from their hangings, she cautiously stepped inside, but suddenly found herself pinned against the wall, the twins and their guards surged forwards. "No!" she said calmly with a wave of her hand, her heart raced as the bard studied her face and his unstable emotions tugged at the mental barrier she had in place, but she did not think he would harm her intentionally.

"It's not her!" he screamed in her face.

"Vanwe, her name is Vanwe," she whispered, the bard’s eyes softened and his hold relaxed as he stepped back mouthing his daughter’s name. Tears fell down his cheeks, "Vanwe" he said looking to her for answers.

"Come!" she whispered softly, leaning forwards and offering the elf the support of her arm. "I think she would like to meet you," she offered warmly, as the Bard hesitated, then nodding Menecin slowly took her arm and she guided him from the room. Elladan nodded approvingly as he came to the bards others side, and behind her she could heard Elrohir ordering the guards to see to the repair of the bards room, then he too followed them from the cottage and together they took Menecin to his daughter.

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Old 02-06-2004, 02:07 AM   #211
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Silmaril

Avanill

Avanill lingered in front of Rauthain and his horse for a while, contemplating whether he had done the right thing or not. But all he knew at present was that he wanted to go home, way south in his homeland of Minhiriath.I hate to admit it he thought as he stood before the ranger, but I should have listened to my mother And now a feeling of shame passed over his brow, after all she had taught him, and the fact that she had lived for so long in his line of work for Avanill to go against everything Atantri had said was all in all a Blasphemy against her.

In his mind, Avanill hoped Barrold was having better luck with Naiore, he smiled at the thought of Barrold struck dumb under the tree. Now that was certainly the mark of Atantri, and her son had taken up her signature way of escape. And he would have been fine, if it were not for the ranger. If it had not been for Rauthain, Avanill would be out of another fight. It was true that it would be easier to kill him, but Avanill was not like that. Why should he kill this man who has done no harm to him?

Now however, it seemed that Avanill had dug a hole deeper for himself, now he had said that he was in pursuit for Vanwe and that Barrold had killed his sister. Avanill figured that he would be able to get away with most of it, now that it was that he had no malicious intent upon any of Naiore’s party, or even Naiore herself. He did hope, however, that if he was discovered, they would no find out about Tallas. At any rate, they could not convict him. There was no evidence to suggest he had even killed him. It would be Vanwe who would be the undoing of him, though Avanill could argue the influence of Naiore.

The more he thought of it the more Avanill began to worry, but he was cool of character and did not show it easily. Presently though, Rauthain had begun to move, and Avanill followed. “Ranger, shall you have the elf’s blood or shall I?” It was a demure comment but spirit lifting all the same, he drew his sword again and followed the ranger and his horse.
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Old 02-11-2004, 08:31 AM   #212
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Rauthain

“Come then and lets us see this thing through,” Rauthain said, tugging on Juta’s bridle. But Avanill did not move, as if he would be an obstacle to the older man.

“Ranger, shall you have the elf’s blood or shall I?” he said coolly, unsheathing his sword as though she might be found at the next turning. It was indeed an interesting question, and Rauthain found himself thinking fleetingly of Kaldir. Perhaps it was right that he should not be the one to find her and risk further harm. Perhaps this was the way for an old man to make his final recompense, though the chance of success seemed increasingly slender.

“Know Avanill,” he said staring in the direction he would go, “that as one of the King’s rangers, I am bound to capture the elf and bring her to face the King’s justice, if at all possible, though my heart speaks differently. For if she were to be mortally wounded I would be far from unhappy, though it would likely be unwise to release such a ruthless feä from its fleshy cage so that it may inhabit this land forever. But for either course, she must first be found,” he added after a moment, looking then deeply into the other’s glittering eyes to see what might be hidden there. “And I reckon that we are not too far behind.”

“Let us not delay anymore then,” the younger man said, “and I will follow your leading, that I may not confuse the trail.”

**********

Slowing, they came near the point where the ground rose again and emerging from under the trees became a grassy slope, running down to the water's edge. The ranger had long since discovered among the heavily trampled ground, the light and delicate step that he had first seen at the Forsaken Inn. And smiled to himself that he should have stumbled across these fresher prints by chance. Straining his ears to listen, so that Avanill might not catch him unaware, he could hear also shouts and the muffled sounds of a skirmish in the distance, steadily rising over the sound of the river. Rauthain stopped and turned to speak to his fellow traveler.

"Why do you stop?" Avanill queried.

"To warn you. Here are the very footprints of Naiore," he said, "and so we may soon need to decide this matter you broached earlier."

"Naiore has been here?" Avanill muttered to himself, his eyes searching the hopeless confusion of prints at his feet. "How long since she has past though this place?" he asked of the ranger.

Rauthain unsheathed his sword and pointing to a spot close to Avanill's boot said, "See, this is where she has walked, some hours ago."

"You are very sure then?"

"I have been following her since before she passed through Bree," the ranger said. "One learns to recognize these small traces after a time. But let us make ourselves useful now and hurry."

Rauthain made his way toward the edge of the trees, being careful to place the horse between himself and Avanill, and keeping his pressing concern for the others to himself. But upon emerging from the wood, signs of struggle were everywhere evident. And they were forced to skirt around an orc who had fallen in their path, an arrow protruding at an odd angle from his neck. Soon finding also footprints of Léspheria, Amandur and Maethor, Rauthain increased his pace through the field until he spied a heap of green and black among the darkened grass, between two fallen orcs.

Hurrying to the spot, so near the water's edge, he scattered the birds gathered there in the morning light, and was overcome by the painful recognition of the sundered body of his friend. His anger welling up inside of him so that must keep moving, he got up immediately and began casting his eyes about, looking for the raven-haired head, and finding instead the slender knives strewn in the grass. Picking them up he laid them with the body.

Disregarding Avanill's steady gaze, he walked in a heavy, nigh haphazard manner, ranging across the grass until he came upon what he sought, and taking the head gently in his hands, he returned to the body, asking Avanill's help. Together the men dragged the stiff form to a little hollow among stunted trees that lay well above the high water mark of the river Bruinen, and lay it there.

Not this one, Rauthain thought, again and again. Not the one for whom he had held such hope! Now he was gone to his doom, and had not to have lived to see better days.

"I have became a caretaker of the dead of late, and death surrounds me," he said with a grim smile to Avanill. "But the wind shall not pass over these bones laid bare. Nor shall the sun see them. I hope that you might excuse me that I might cover them, before we cross the ford. For by the sound of it, I may not be able to accomplish it afterward."

And Avanill climbed upon a grey standing stone and sat watching as Rauthain covered the body, once more building a cairn marking the passage of Naiore through these lands. Choosing the larger stones by the river's edge, the ranger gazed across to the steep and slippery bank at the other side of it, and the dark shapes moving there. An arrow soon landed at his feet. Staring at the black-feathered shaft, he saw a small wooden shuttle bobbing in a pool of still water beside it and picking up the simple tool he wondered at it, quickly slipping the sodden thing with its trail of green in his pocket, before setting off to complete his sad task.

After the body was fully covered, Rauthain signaled to Avanill that he was ready to continue, and the younger man slipped easily off the boulder he had been sitting on. Together they walked to the verge of the water, and viewed the orcs on the other side.

Crossing over to Juta, Rauthain removed the orcish sword from his saddle, choosing to brandish it rather than his own blade, and swinging into the saddle before readying his bow, he addressed Avanill. “I think sir, that today you might have the honor of spilling the Ravennor’s blood, if you are still willing. But go on ahead of me so that I might defend your path with my bow. And do not let fear grow in your heart, for if any other shall approach you, I will ride them down, until such time that I am also too heavily embattled. Go now.” He finished, raising the bow.


Rauthain watched expectantly, to see which way Avanill would turn. If he were to refuse Rauthain could easily drive him forward into the river, but if he were to head for the far bank perhaps with some luck he might draw Naiore out from her hiding place with the ranger’s bait, and her wrath lead to her undoing. It was a slim and hopeless chance, but Rauthain’s own life he now counted for little and she would have little time to ensnare them with her guile, having no doubt resorted to more traditional weapons in the fray. It was as good an opportunity as any, Rauthain thought as he started toward Avanill and the river.
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Old 02-14-2004, 09:21 PM   #213
Ealasaide
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Kaldir

Driving Benia, Toby, and Gilly ahead of him, Kaldir rode as quickly as he could in the direction of the staircase that led into the Elves' hidden refuge of Imladris. Dúlrain's unconscious form weighed heavily against his chest and shoulder, but he refused to let it slow him more than was absolutely necessary. Ahead of him, Benia Nightshade, who rode with Toby on the back of her saddle, turned frequently to look back, but it was not Kaldir whose progress she was checking. It was always Dúlrain’s face that her amber eyes sought, Kaldir noticed. He felt a twinge of pain as he remembered the way she had looked at him just a few minutes earlier when she had turned on him, practically accusing him of trying to kill Dúlrain, when all he was trying to do was save them all. There had been more in her face than simple concern for a fellow traveler. Kaldir knew at that moment that he had lost her.

Frowning, he dragged his eyes away from the glossy black of her hair, as she rode on in the lead of their small group. He could see that she and Mrs. Banks had already drawn their swords. Even Toby Longholes carried Benia’s long dagger in his hand. Kaldir knew that his own sword was blocked from his reach by the presence of Dúlrain’s prostrate figure, but his dagger was in easy reach. Or, if it came to that, he could draw one of Dúlrain’s two swords and fight with it, but his movement would be sorely hampered by the presence of the other man. Kaldir set his teeth. He would just have to hope that the sounds of intense fighting that grew louder with each step they took toward Imladris would be confined still to the far side of the river. In fact, it would be their only hope. They could never fight their way through as they were.

In the lead, Benia suddenly reined her horse to a stop, throwing her sword arm up as a signal for the others to stop as well. Still leading Dúlrain’s riderless horse, Kaldir rode up beside her.

“What is it?” he asked.

She nodded in the direction of a small grove of trees directly ahead of them. “I saw movement in the trees.”

“Elves or orcs?”

“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Elves, I think, but I can’t say with any certainty.”

“I saw it, too,” chimed in Gilly from behind. “It was a just a shadow of a movement, but someone is definitely waiting under the cover of the trees.”

Kaldir nodded, his gaze flitting from Dúlrain to the trees and back. He was just trying to decide what to do next, when Dúlrain suddenly stirred, murmuring something about the river. The pale lids flickered over his grey eyes. Kaldir reached up and gently slapped his cheek. “Wake up, brother,” he said quietly. “We need your help.”

“Help,” echoed Dúlrain softly, his eyes opening. “We must help Imladris.” By reflex, his hand reached for his sword. Kaldir caught his wrist.

“Not yet,” he said gently. “Perhaps we shall fight for Imladris in a moment. But for now, I need you to get back on your own horse. Can you manage it?”

Groggily, the ranger nodded. “Dir will carry me well. We have been through many a battle together.”

“Good.” Kaldir nodded and drew the brown horse up beside his grey one. “He’s here now. Can you get from Nico to Dir without dismounting?”

Dúlrain nodded. With considerable effort and Kaldir’s help, he moved awkwardly from one horse to the other. On taking his place in Dir’s saddle, Dúlrain instantly bent low over the horse’s neck, his breath shallow with pain. Benia rode up beside him, placing her hand on his shoulder. She whispered a few words to him that Kaldir could not catch, but Dúlrain nodded. In a moment, he raised his head. Seeing that he seemed all right for the moment, Kaldir nodded. Then, he drew his sword and wheeled his horse in the direction of the trees.

Gilly rode up beside him. “Mr. Kaldir, what are you doing?”

Kaldir looked down at the courageous hobbit lady’s face and, seeing the concern there, smiled his one-sided smile. “I’m going to see who awaits us in the trees. If it is elves, it shall be our deliverance. If it is orcs, I should be able to hold them off long enough for the rest of you to make your escape. Ride back in the direction of the falls. It will buy you time. Do not stop if you see me fall.”

“But-” Gilly began to protest, but Kaldir silenced her by raising his sword.

“Cheers, Mrs. Banks!” was all he said as he turned and trotted in the direction of the trees. Looking ahead, he, too, caught the faintest trace of movement amongst the heavy shadows. Even with the moonlight, it was too dark to make out whether it was orcs or elves who awaited him. He scarcely breathed, listening for the twang of a bowstring, as his horse’s hooves carried him closer and closer to the wood.

Suddenly a shadow rose up from the ground nearly under Nico’s feet. The horse half-reared as a firm hand caught the bridle and a clear voice called out in the Elven tongue, “Halt! Who seeks to pass?”

At the first hint of movement, Kaldir raised his sword to strike, but upon hearing the voice, he lowered it quickly, knowing that more than one Elven bow waited with arrow nocked to the string within the shelter of the trees. “Kaldir of Westernesse,” he answered quickly. “I have with me Dúlrain of Westernesse and two hobbits of the Shire. The fourth is a southern woman.”

“Imladris is under attack,” answered the elf. “What business have you here?”

“One of our number, Dúlrain, has been grievously wounded by orcs. We seek the aid of your healers.”

At that, another shadow broke from the trees, his hand raised in a signal for the archers behind him to hold their fire. “I am Rinmar, captain of the guard. You say you travel with a Dúlrain of Westernesse?”

Kaldir nodded. Moving very slowly so as not to seem threatening, he sheathed his sword and pointed back to where his companions waited. “He awaits with our other companions. He desperately needs the attention of your healers.”

Rinmar nodded and with a gesture summoned a handful of other elves from their places of concealment to retrieve the rest of Kaldir’s party. “Dúlrain is a friend of mine,” he said to Kaldir. “It grieves me to hear of his being wounded. We will, of course, do everything in our power to get him to the Houses of Healing as soon as we can, but we may find our way barred. The orcs have crossed the river and assault the very doorstep of Imladris. Our plan is to flank them and drive them back across the river. Have you any amongst you who can fight?”

“Only myself,” answered Kaldir. “I put my sword at your disposal.”

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Old 02-16-2004, 10:27 AM   #214
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Amandur

Dark hair clung to his face, blood, filth covered his hands face, and clothes, his shirt and tunic ripped where orc blades had breached his defences, but none of his wounds were more than superficial and did nothing to slow his attack! Amanda hew down orc after orc, Stepping right out of the path of his current attacker, he thrust out his left hand burying his Elvish dagger deep into the creatures exposed left side, just under its raised arm. Then without waiting to see the creature fall, he pulled out the dagger and raised his sword arm to block the strike of the next orc. As he pushed the creature’s spiked mace upwards, he brought his dagger across and slit the orc’s throat. It stumbled back dropping its mace and grasping for its bleeding throat, its eyes wide with fear. Amandur thrust hard and drove his sword through the dying creature’s chest putting it out of its misery.

Finding a momentary reprieve, he climbed up onto a nearby ledge and looked around to assess the battle. As he had feared the orc’s having out numbering Fintár’s patrol were steadily pushing them back and still there was no sign of reinforcements. Searching the battle below he found Fintár pulling his elves back to a more defensible position, leaping from the ledge dagger and sword still in hand he ran towards the Elven captain’s position. Cutting down any orc’s that strayed into his path, he was just reaching the rocky bluff when a large ugly orc stepped in front of him blocking his path.

Amandur's eyes narrowed with contempt and his teeth gritted as he recognised the orc captain who had held aloft the head of his young friend. He raised his sword meeting the downward thrust of the creature’s scimitar and pulled his dagger across to strike. However, the orc chief anticipated and batted his left hand wide. Therefore, he stepped back and right pulling his sword from the orc’s pushing blade, coming behind the creature as its own force sent him stumbling forwards. Nevertheless, before he could strike the creature found his footing and met his blow with its scimitar the metal rang as the two blades repeatedly clashed with neither fighter scoring a hit. As Amandur parried another strike from the orc, he was glad of his vambrace’s as the scimitar glanced of his leather and plate wrist defences. As they clashed again Amandur pushed forward, the orc did likewise, their faces now mere inches from each other, the stench from the creatures warm breath was almost unbearable, but he continued to push.A grin came to his face as the orc’s sword arm began to waver. However, his grin was short lived with a growl the orc chief’s large balled fist smashed into his face sending him stumbling backwards. He rolled out of the path of the orcs fast descending blade and slashed his sword along the creature’s right leg as he rose. Ignoring the blood streaming from his broken nose, his dagger blocked the orc chief's enraged counter.

"I will squeeze the life from you like I did that other ranger!" the orc captain sneered thrusting his other hand out to grab for his neck, but Amandur switched, pushing back he brought up his sword to lock with his creatures jagged blade and thrust his dagger into the brutes side.

"I don't think so!" he gasped, kicking the brute back as it loosed it's iron grip to look down at the weapon still protruding from it's side. Then with a quick lunged he ran his sword through the creatures abdomen. However, the stubborn creature refused to give up and die, grabbing the hand that held the blade protruding from its stomach so it could not move. It growled raising its scimitar and swinging it level with the ranger’s neck. Amandur tried to pull his hand free, but seeing the raised blade he decided to try and dodge the blow, he pulled left and ducked the orcs blade missed it's mark, but with the dying orc still holding his sword and hand he lost his balance and fell backward pulling the large orc down atop him. He heard the crack as the force and weigh of the finally dead orc broke the arm still held fast to the hilt of his sword, he gasped as the hilt pressed on his chest under the orc immense weight.

Struggling he managed to push the brute off using his free hand. Then catching his breath he pushed himself up and grabbed for the dagger that still protruded from the orc side. standing he tested the weapon in his right hand, but the sharp pain told him that it was no use, so he sheathed the elven blade and went to retrieve his sword. Just then, another orc seeing that he was defenceless charged at him. Realising that he would never retrieve his sword in time, he awkwardly pulled out his dagger using his left hand. However, it was not need, as the advancing orc raised its axe to strike its eyes suddenly widened and it fell forwards, dead! It was then that he heard the whistling of arrows all around him and the panicked cries of the orc's as the tried to flee, but Fintar and his patrol leaped forwards from their defensive position hewing down those how still advanced. Kicking over the orc chief's corpse, he pulled free his sword and went to join the elven captain.

"Glad to see you are still alive!" Fintar called in greeting as he buried his elven sword deep into the side of a fleeing orc.

"And lucky to be so, your friends arrived just in the nick of time." he answered, slicing his own sword across the back of another orc, the pair fought back to back, till Amandur caught a instant glint out of the corner of his eye. Quickly finishing off the orc before him, he moved round so that Fintar now faced were he had seen the glint like light on metal and he now fought the elf’s orc.

"What do your elven eyes see back there in the trees?" he cried over the clash of weapons.

"A dark shadow, a fleeing orc perhaps" the elf replied peering into the darkness, Amandur sighed as he lunged at his attacker, for a moment he thought it was Nai…, "No! Wait, it's an elf, it’s hard to make out her outline, she must be dressed in black, but her weapon is defiantly elvish, no orc could weld such a weapon." Fintar called breaking his thoughts. Gritting his teeth, he swung his sword burying it deep in the orc's side and spun round to go after the elf woman, but Fintar stood in front of him blocking his way.

"Do you think you would win a fight with this elf the way you are?" the elven captain asked looking at the rangers bloodied nose and broken arm,

"But I just can't let her get away!" he protested.

"She is defeated her allies are retreating, let one of the elf patrols pick her up" Fintar continued calmly.

"And if they don't and she slips passed them as she has so many other pursuers, what then?" Amandur asked grimly.

"Then my friend at least your arm will be mended and you will be in a better position when you finally apprehend your fugitive." Fintar answered placing a reassuring hand on the mans shoulder. Amandur nodded conceding to the elven captain’s words, he was right to go after Naiore in his current state would be folly. His frustration showed as he kicked a nearby orc corpse.

"Come my friend, there is still fighting to be done before we can return home!" The elf captain grinned, pointing back towards the stairs, where a large group of orcs still stubbornly tried to push forwards. As they ran forwards towards the main battle, he saw horses, four, no five the fifth flanked by several elves.

"Friends of yours?" Fintar asked looking towards the riders.

Amandur strained to see, but as they got closer, still he saw the distinguishable scarred face of Kaldir, fighting off his attackers. The hobbit woman and the other woman must be the ones that both Léspheria and Dulrain had spoken of. In front of the woman brandishing a dagger, he was surprised to see Toby, but who is the other rider he thought.

"I know of them, the ranger also seeks Naiore, I must speak with him, he my have news of Rauthian and Dulrain who followed behind." Fintar nodded and the pair headed towards the rider hewing down any orc that crossed their path.

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Old 02-18-2004, 08:06 PM   #215
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Gilly

Gilly eyed Toby Longholes with some unease as he sat wielding a dagger so close to Miss Benia. Miss Benia’s very own dagger mind you! But Mr. Dúlrain had expressed some confidence in him, and a ranger’s intuition was not to taken lightly. So Gilly tried to hold her tongue, but still kept a watchful eye on him, and rode just a little behind her fellow hobbit, lest he attempt to disappoint them all.

True he had seemed quite rattled at the crossing, as she herself had been. And despite all the damp and distress, had received her quite cordially, as she attempted to cheer him. She had, in fact, confessed that she was thankful that she did not have to bring home to Bywater the news that she had been witness to the end of Mr. Toby Longholes, as many her friends had pinned their hopes on him in those days when he lived in the Shire, where perhaps unwittingly he had stolen a few hearts as well. And on occasion would still mention him too, when things weren’t going well with their husbands. Toby had become the mysterious and handsome lone wolf in their minds. A foreign hobbit who had slipped into town, eliciting all manner of speculation on his marriage prospects, and then disappeared again without a trace, leaving Gilly to suffer through her friends’ broken-hearted wistfulness.

She had never quite understood their romantic draw to the sharp featured stranger, who seemed to prefer the company of the town’s malcontents and agitators more than its more respectable denizens. It had certainly done little to encourage a better opinion of him at the time. But never mind, those black days lay far away and they had more immediate troubles at hand.

Fortunately Mr. Longholes seemed to be up to showing a little of his worth by the look of him, and that she did find most encouraging, indeed. She even dared to hope that there might be more than a base metal under his tarnished reputation; something just a bit nobler than he had thus far let on.

She sighed as she thought how far removed from their past two hobbits could be, and how they both appeared to be so much changed. It was as if this travel and the fast moving river had ground off the well-worn veneer from life, and spit them out to stand dazed on its far bank. Of course saving one’s one skin is impetus enough to help in battling orcs. But she too had had to change, steeling herself to do whatever was necessary to help see her friends as well as herself safely to Imladris, and there hopefully find an end to Naiore. A sad rag-tag lot they were, only Kaldir seeming to have the will to press on.

Searching for her pocket and the smooth comfort of her tatting shuttle, she was reminded that both pocket and shuttle were now were gone, as well as her knife, which she imagined had sunk in the river. And her pocket, along with the pinafore itself, the material of which was bought in such seemingly frivolous times, had been called upon to serve as a much-needed dressing. Pressed tight against the ranger’s side it was serving a far better purpose than it ever had, staunching the flow of life’s blood that had seemed to leave it’s host only too willingly, rendering Dúlrain so very pale that he had began to look as though his fine features were carved of some type of warm hued marble. It frightened her.

Poor Mr. Dúlrain, so brave. It hardly was right that he should be suffering so, and when that vile elf who had wronged so many could still walk about. And there also, Miss Benia, so distraught and in her own pain which she once more concealed. And though it broke Gilly’s heart to see, she wanted so desperately to be of some help to them. For certainly she would have been lost long ago without their having guided her through this unfamiliar land. Seeing that she risked growing melancholy, she plucked herself up, and willingly closed her mind’s eye, that she might better see what was around her. And glad she was of it too, for at that moment something caught her attention under the trees. Benia had seen it too and sitting tall in her saddle reined in her horse giving a noiseless signal to stop, as she studied the boughs before them.

In a moment Kaldir road up beside her, and after a few hushed words, helped his comrade to regain his own his own mount, before turning Nico and his attention to the shadowy grove ahead. Drawing his sword, he started in the direction of the trees, alone.

Alarmed, Gilly urged the pack pony along side the great grey horse as it made its way. “Mr. Kaldir, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to see who awaits us in the trees,” he said with a smile. “If it is elves, it shall be are deliverance. If it is orcs, I should be able to hold them off long enough for the rest of you to make your escape. Ride back in the direction of the falls. It will buy you time. Do not stop if you see me fall.”

“But-“ Gilly began.

“Cheers, Mrs. Banks!” was all Kaldir said as he raised his sword and departed. Gilly was shocked and followed dumbly for a short distance. She would never leave if she saw Mr. Kaldir fall. How could she, when all he seemed to have in this world was Dúlrain, who himself seemed beyond their care? How could he think her capable of it? She would not simply let a pack of orcs have the man without a fight from her, no matter how short lived that fight might be. Even small and fragile insects can deal out death and why should she not too bother those who might harm to those she counted as her friends?

Quickly looking over her shoulder to Miss Benia and the others, she too held up her sword and saluted them before turning to follow Kaldir, already under the shadow of the trees. If there were orcs Mr. Kaldir would not defend their group alone, she vowed. Galloping across to were Nico stood motionless, Gilly was relieved to find that it was indeed elves that they had glimpsed moving among the deep shadows, and Kaldir now spoke with them.

As Gilly quietly approached, she heard a tall elf asking Kaldir if there were any among his group who could fight. The Ranger answered that he was the only one and offering to join in the battle he put his sword at their disposal. Riding up then Gilly felt awkward, not knowing if she might offend them, but swallowing hard she blurted out, “Please sir, I could also help if needed, for the Shire as yielded more surprising things in the past than a housewife brandishing a sword, and I would be honored to help defend both my fellow travelers and Imladris.”

All eyes looked toward Kaldir questioningly. And seeing that the elves deferred to him, Gilly also sought for his answer. Turning to address the hobbit, the man spoke most gently to her. “While I value such an offer Mrs. Banks, I would propose that you might be of more benefit to your companion Miss Nightshade and Dúlrain, as they make their way to their refuge.

“But you are also my friend sir,” Gilly declared, “And I would not see you hurt, and without me there to aid you.”

“Then as my friend, I will entrust you with all that I value. Do not put yourself in harm’s way, but encourage them as you might, for I will count on you to help deliver Dúlrain safely to Imladris, and I think Miss Nightshade may require your aid in accomplishing this.'“ And seeing Gilly’s crestfallen looks he added, “It would give me much peace of mind to know that such a tenacious guardian was with them on the way.”

“This I will do, if I cannot fight along side you,” the hobbit conceded reluctantly. “For the rangers have long protected that which I hold most dear and I would willingly return the favor. Though in my heart I fear that I may not see you again.”

“You will see me again,” Kaldir said. And thus the matter was decided.

Quickly, Kaldir and the elves made their way to where Dúlrain remained barely seated on his horse, Benia’s amber eyes scanning the terrain for their enemies as they again moved toward the stair. Gilly could see the disfigured forms of the orcs moving toward them in the confusion, but always Kaldir or one of the elves struck them down or carefully aimed arrows brought a lethal rain upon them before they reached the center of the knot, where lay Dúlrain.

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Old 02-20-2004, 01:29 AM   #216
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Avanill

Avanill

Avanill sighed. He was getting deeper and deeper into the mess that he himself had helped to create when all that he really wanted to do was escape. He could tell that Rauthain did not trust him, and Avanill did not blame him for a second.

A thought flickered through him for a second, a slight fear at the possibility that Naiore was over the river. He stood by while Rauthain recovered a body from the water. Avanill did not pay much attention to it until he saw it directly.

“Well, that’s certainly not good, an end, but what an end indeed! He must have killed many orcs before meeting his end.” Rauthain said nothing, though he did look angry, Avanill decided to hold his tongue.

After a while Rauthain looked in his direction where Avanill had been staring at the figures on the other side of the ford. “I think sir, that today you might have the honor of spilling the Ravennor’s blood, if you are still willing. But go on ahead of me so that I might defend your path with my bow. And do not let fear grow in your heart, for if any other shall approach you, I will ride them down, until such time that I am also too heavily embattled. Go now.” Avanill hesitated, his stomach dropped. He could kill some orcs easily enough, but with only one bow defending his path? Madness he thought.

His face hardened. “Fine.” He said gruffly. “I will be honoured to kill the wench and Ferney..” he added as an afterthought. This was definitely not his day. Avanill had one thing to his advantage, he was a remarkable good swimmer and in no time he had crossed. The orcs had seemed to miss him in the crossing so they were surprised to see him hop out and draw his sword. He cast a look back at Rauthain who had already started shooting orcs, before starting a slaughter of his own.

It was only a small group of orcs and though Avanill’s shoulder was slashed, he still tore through them relatively easily. So far he had seen no sign of Naiore, which was good for him, he had intended to get away from the carnage before he was consumed in it, but fate it seemed had other plans.

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Old 02-22-2004, 09:07 PM   #217
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Narya Barrold Ferney

Barrold Ferney

Ferney knew that he shouldn’t have trusted the boy, he was after all his rival, no matter how good-hearted he appeared to be. Barrold could do nothing but stare from where he lay, slumped at the bottom of the tree, even his mind was not working properly.

Darn Boy! he cursed, more angry at himself than Avanill, he should have known better. He could feel pins and needles returning to his feet and hands. Now he could turn his head. He was glad, at least that Avanill hadn’t lied and left him for dead. Lying was not Avanill’s style.

A while longer and Barrold was fine again, he searched for things that Avanill may have left, there was nothing. How was he going to explain this to Naiore? Barrold began to think that Avanill had had the right idea.

“Righto boyo” he said to the wood, thinking that perhaps Avanill still lingered to see what he may do next. “Ill let you go, but mark my words; if she come after ‘yeh, ain no one going to save ‘yer then.” He shook his head and turned back to where Naiore was camped, only to remember that he was still short of Toby. Cursing he returned to the beaten track and continued on his way, groggily swaying as he walked.The things im gonna do to that runt when I come across him he cursed inwardly falling down into one great heap and struggling to make his way upright once more. “Ill kill him!” he shouted.

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Old 02-25-2004, 03:23 PM   #218
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Rauthain

It pleased Rauthain that Avanill crossed the river after only a slight hesitation, and without any further persuasion from him, deftly gained its far bank. Though the ranger had marked a certain sense of resignation as he spoke of pursuing Naiore and Ferny to the death. He lacked the enthusiasm one would expect from an avenger. And happily, he also lacked the glimmer of pleasure one might see had he been purposefully drawing the ranger into a trap. Rauthain felt comforted seeing that his suspicions thus far appeared to be correct. Avanill had not left Naiore's service under the best circumstances, but was acting more as a man impressed into duty having little by way of loyalties.

But now defending his charge, Rauthain rapidly depleted his quiver, pausing only to swing his bow over his shoulder again as his horse struggled to crest the muddy bank. Once more on level ground he raised the orcish blade he carried, and bore down on the great orcs, steadily working his way toward Avanill's position. Avanill meanwhile remained constantly engaged. The young man was a fine swordsman Rauthain judged from the corner of his eye, but that swordsmanship could just as easily be played out against his own skill and he was doubly glad that his ward had risen to the task.

But as the two men were so occupied, a guttural cry broke out echoing across the river, and Rauthain turned back, his horse rearing. A large contingent of orcs was streaming rapidly out of the north following the western bank, the spearhead of which had reached the ford and was eagerly closing in. Seeing Avanill had spied these newcomers also and now fought off his opponents with urgent intensity, the ranger kicked Juta sharply and charged, scattering the remnants of the young man's opposition. Wheeling the horse round, the grizzled ranger extended his arm, saying, "We must make for the stair or we will be too easily extinguished." Grasping the hand offered him with his own bloody arm, Avanill swung up behind the ranger, and together they bolted hoping to find a more defensive position on the stair, but instead the enemy's numbers grew thicker, and in the distance they could see a knot of activity moving hard by its entrance.

Rauthain slowed, wavering in his decision, for there seemed no harbor for them. And as he scanned the terrain near the stair he spied a bare outcropping not far from it. On that lonely outpost a dark sentinel stood, slender and clad in black mail, her two curved swords flashing red and her hair golden in the sun. She stood for a moment, silent and regal, coldly observing the bloodshed below before quickly vanishing again under the cover of the woods. Rauthain twisted around to see if Avanill had seen this fleeting presence as well, but upon turning saw instead the oncoming tide of orcs from the river. Springing once more into action, he again headed for the stair, and as they drew closer the mournful sound of a horn rose above the fray The assemblage quickly unraveled with a ground swelling of terror at the well ordered advance of the elves, its thinning bulk expelling orcs in every direction. Chiefly they fled seeking another passage to the safety of the mountains, but some rushed back toward the ford. The confusion grew and the riders soon were caught between the two converging groups. Still aiming for the passage to Imladris, Rauthain faced the fleeing forces. For as they began to meet them, the great orcs passed them by, having no thought but to break through and save themselves from the encroaching elves in the chaos, and thus spread their confusion to their newly come comrades. And so Avanill and Rauthain passed through with only a few challenges, as though they were nearly invisible to their enemy, and at length come to a the spot where the elves still fought the remaining creatures they had encircled. Joining in the fighting the riders fought beside the elves at the foot of the stair.

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Old 03-01-2004, 02:28 PM   #219
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Menecin

He had a daughter, what would he say to her? He posed this question over and over in his mind as he silently let the dark haired she elf led him through the still gardens and to the front steps of the last house of the elves. He paused on the porch, as the sound of distant battle could still be heard and he looked back briefly wondering were Naiore was in all this.

"Come concern yourself not with distant battles, Vanwe is your concern and she will need you as much as I believe you need her," the elf at his side whispered, with a heavy sigh he pulled his weary gaze back to her and nodded. He stopped then, seeing her fully for the first time "You look so much like your mother!" he exclaimed. She smiled and nodded but not without a glimmer of sadness behind her grey eyes. Turning back to the house, she led him inside. Along the ornate hallways until they reached the central staircase that led to the first floor and the bell tower. However, they did not ascend these stairs; instead, they turned left following another passage, then left again to a flight of stairs that descended below the house. They stopped before a large heavy looking oak door. Elladan knocked hard upon the wood, almost at once a small hatch opened, and an elven guard peered through, in the next second, he heard the locks click open and watched as the door swung silently open.

"Any change?" Elohir asked, "No my lord, she is still the same." was the guards simple reply.

"She has not eaten or drunk and will speak to no one." Elladan explained seeing the bards puzzled frown.

As they stepped further into the room, he felt the elf at his arm tense, he followed her gaze towards the nearest cell, his heart pounded at the sight before him bent on the floor her gold spun hair hiding her lithe form, was the elf he had seen from his window... his daughter! As Elladan ordered her guard to open the door, he felt Léspheria let go of his arm and hurry forwards, to kneel beside the huddled elf. He froze in place as he watched Lespheria help Vanwe to her feet. Watching the concern etched on her face and the care with which she helped Vanwe. For an instant, he thought he was looking on Naiore and Valindon, before... he stopped suddenly in his thoughts as the young elf lifted her head and he found himself looking back into his own eyes. Clear and deep yet filled with so much pain and confusion, that it pulled at his fragile heart and the urge to hold her and tell her that it would be all right grew within him, even as his own fractured mind told him it was not, that Naiore was out there and likely looking for both of them.

Suddenly the elf before him faltered, weather from exhaustion or shock he could not be certain. However, instinct drove him forward and he caught her, if not awkwardly, in his arms. Her head nestled into his shoulder, her soft hair brushing his cheek and he tensed as fractured memories of Naiore, his Naiore assailed him. Nevertheless, he determinedly pushed them aside, this was not Naiore, she was his daughter, something else that Naiore had taken from him, but now she was here.… As he looked down on her silken hair he realised that she was sobbing, slowly he pulled her to arms length.

"You must tell them your name and your reason for being here, my daughter!" he gently told her.

"My name is Vanwe," she answered through parched dry lips, looking around he saw the untouched cup of water, reaching for it he urged her to drink, which she slowly did.

"She told me that you where a prisoner here and sent me to come get you out!" Vanwe sobbed breaking down before him.

"Oh! My dear child what has she done to you?" he whispered sympathetically, "tell me everything, no matter how bad you think the telling will be." He then listened with a mixture of horror and anger as Vanwe retold the events of the past few weeks, with Léspheria adding the parts yet unknown to the younger elf.

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Old 03-02-2004, 11:29 PM   #220
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Kaldir

He saw her. At first it was just a shadow at the corner of his vision, but the shape of her was unmistakable. He turned his head and there she was, standing alone on an outcropping of stone, watching defiantly as her well-ordered assault crumbled before her eyes into chaotic retreat. A second later, she was gone. Kaldir froze, his sword halting mid-stroke as a wave of tremors swept through his body. His grip loosened and the sword nearly slipped from his hand. Naiore.

The orc he had been fighting sensed weakness and sprang forward, his yellow fangs bared. His sword cut a wide arc in the direction of Kaldir's throat. Coming to his senses at the last second, Kaldir dodged hard to his right. The orc's blade missed its mark, slashing Kaldir's shoulder instead. Blood burst from the wound, but Kaldir scarcely felt it. With a determined grimace, he tightened his grip on his sword once more and, as the orc struggled to regain his balance, he forced the blade home. It lodged fast between the orc's third and fourth ribs. As the heavy orc fell to the ground, Kaldir was pulled from his horse, landing in a heap on top of the dead orc. He wrenched his sword free and struggled to gain his feet, his eyes irresistibly drawn toward the shadows into which Naiore had vanished.

He took only a step in her direction before a sharp stab of remembered pain ripped through his mind. He faltered and dropped to one knee. He was on his knees, his arms bound behind him. She stood before him. He kept his face and eyes averted but she would not have it. Her silken fingers gently traced a trail across his face, which was still whole in those days, then her fists closed tightly around handfuls of his hair.

"Look at me," she hissed, wrenching his face around. Still, he kept his eyes averted from hers. She uttered a short order in the black speech and instantly the lash of a whip bit into his back. She stepped back as the lashing continued.
Kaldir lurched forward, bent nearly double as his carefully structured defenses failed him. The sword dropped from his hand.

The lashing continued until he lay on the ground, his face pressed into the damp stones of the dungeon floor. The skin hung from his back in bloody strips. Naiore's fist closed again around a handful of his hair. Lifting his head, she spoke to him softly.

"Look at me," she purred. "Are you afraid, Dúnedan?" This time, he complied, his eyes meeting hers in a gaze of pure hatred.

"Tell me," she whispered, smiling. "Where does the fear spawn?" His body tensed as her mind invaded his, ripping violently through the layered tapestries of his memory and thought. "Where?' she whispered between clinched teeth as her mind continued to push and probe through the deepest layers of his being. He had never felt such intense pain his life, but still he fought her. Struggling to close off whatever he could of his mind from her, waves of tremors broke across his body. Blood dripped from his nose and ears...


Kaldir blacked out.

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Old 03-07-2004, 03:40 PM   #221
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Gilly

Slowly the procession made its way to the crevice that bore the broad stone steps leading to the elves’ hidden refuge. At which point Dúlrain was carefully lifted from off his mount. The commander quickly placing the injured ranger in the care of two under his authority, who began transporting him away from the immediate danger of battle. Leading the riderless horse as well as her own, Benia followed behind them as they went, and directly after her Gilly picked her way amongst the horror that littered the battlefield.

Still clutching Dúlrain’s companion sword, the hobbit could not take her eyes off the ground in front of her. It seemed so very unreal that such things could still befall the free folk in this age, and the few remaining elves still loose their lives to the violent discord that seemed to echo though Middle Earth. Men too, struggling to establish peace, ended up embattled to do so. And embattled by what? One single elf, albeit a surpassingly dangerous one, and a pack of her foul cronies whose sole glory was in the shadow of their own appetite?

If only she could talk some sense into Naiore. Of course Gilly knew that it was an absurd notion, and she herself would no doubt shamefully burst into tears at the very least, but she couldn’t help thinking that the elf’s parents must not have known the merits of a stout wooden spoon when dealing with willful children. Or perhaps they knew it too well. How else could an elf have developed this deeply cruel and unnatural flaw?

Remembering again the trials that Mr. Kaldir must have suffered, Gilly glanced back toward where he fought alongside the fair folk who held the remaining orcs attention while Dúlrain was taken up. At first she could not see him as her eyes searched the confusion. But then as she squinted, a kneeling form she spied between the shifting combatants. To Gilly’s horror, she saw that that it was indeed her friend and that he bore a similar pained expression as she had first seen in the streets of Bree.

Without giving thought to herself or her charges, the hobbit left the pack pony and the safety of the procession to Imladris, rushing headlong into the fray. Dodging this way and that to avoid the sparring enemies, she reached her former captor’s side, just as an orc raised his blade to finish him off, as if some wounded animal were left on the field. Enraged, Gilly ran thrusting the point of Dúlrain’s sword between the lacings of the creature’s leather armor, shouting, “His life is his own, and neither you nor your mistress will have it of him!” The stout orc swatted this pest as she withdrew the sword, lofting her several feet, so that landing on her back she found she could not breathe. Clutching the gaping wound, the orc turned to avenge its own murder, and Gilly feared that she too would die today. Indeed the orc loomed quite close before it fell to its knees at her feet, and thankfully collapsed.

When Gilly returned to Kaldir, he appeared in a trance, his shoulder bleeding profusely. “Oh Mr. Kaldir!” she exclaimed looking anxiously around for help. “What a time and place you have picked to have a spell!” Seeing that there was no other to help, Gilly gently cupped Kaldir’s scarred face in her hands, bringing it to face her own. “Look at me,” she said firmly, as if speaking to one of her sons. “We must get you out of here. Tell me Mr. Kaldir, can you stand at all?”

But Kaldir’s stare was disconnected, unfocused, filled with pain and hatred. He was someplace faraway; someplace he seemed to care very little for. And as the hobbit searched his eyes, they seemed to dim, and his body slackening, slipped to the ground beside her.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Rauthain

Avanill and Rauthain fought at one another’s side, as much so that Rauthain could see that his partner did not have a hand in any mischief, as to defend each other’s back. Juta had wandered away quite some time ago, leaving the two men to work their way to the stair on foot. Given the distractions he encountered, Rauthain was following Avanill as carefully as he could, but stopped short when he saw an odd sight. There on the field was a lone hobbit crouched over a still body. Tears were in her eyes as she tore her petticoat to bind up the figure’s wounds.

As Rauthain drew closer he recognized the woman, and felt dread at discovering the identity of the person to whom she ministered. And as he approached he did indeed see that it was Kaldir who appeared lifeless at her side. Coming to stoop beside her, he quickly checked for a sign of his friend’s condition, before addressing her. “So we meet again, you with tears in your eyes,” he said smiling kindly at her. “And me thinking I was too late!” Gilly shook her head, sniffing as she put the final knot in the bandage.

“Be of good courage madam, this one has a strong heart and you will not loose him so easily. It would take more than this scratch to snatch his life, but I fear some older and deeper wound has come to bear.”

“I see that also, but in any case he must be taken away from this place sir, or he will not live. Already an orc has tried to destroy him.”

“Yes, the orcs would like to destroy all of us, no doubt. But where would you have me take him?”

“Not too far, just to the stair, sir.”

Now it occurred to the ranger in passing that in carrying out this needed action, one that lay close to his own heart, he could no longer keep watch over his charge, Avanill. And he would hardly be surprised if the young man took it upon himself to find Juta and make a hasty escape to where ever it might be that he wanted to go. Which would be bad in itself, for he should be held to judge for his part in the Ravennor’s plans, but also because Juta was not Rauthain’s own horse. And the older ranger dearly wished for the help of either horse or Avanill in conveying the limp weight of the tall and well-muscled Kaldir. Resigning himself to the inevitable play of events, Rauthain labored to lift Kaldir over his shoulder

“Then to the stair we go,” he said, and staining under the heavy weight, and following the swift hobbit through the battlefield, feeling regrettably like a large and slow moving target.

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Old 03-10-2004, 04:23 PM   #222
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Toby Longholes

Toby looked straight ahead as the procession steadily made its way towards the hidden refuge of the elves, wondering if he would be any safer with them, than he had been with Naiore, after all she was one of them. Just then, they stopped at the broad stair that would lead to his salvation or his imprisonment, which he was yet undecided. He watched as the ranger Dúlrain was carefully lifted into the care of two tall dark haired elves. His brow creased with genuine concern as the ranger winced with pain, he found himself deeply concerned for the man’s well being, this ranger had showed him compassion, several times, even when he knew, he was not deserving of such acts kindness.

“Do not worry for your friend he is in good hands, “ a soft voice lamented beside him, turning he was meet by the soft grey sympathetic eyes of one of their elven escort, “ Our healers will see to his wounds.“ the elf smiled reassuringly. As he looked into the depths of the elves eyes he saw sincerity and comfort, not cold lifeless serenity, like he had seen in Naiore’s the few times he had dared to look at them, even then it had been brief, for he had fear that if he looked to long or hard he would loss himself to madness. The elves words had comforted him in more than one respect; with an awkward smile of his own he nodded his thanks.

Looking down he saw the dark bloodied dagger in his hand. The woman he rode with had given him it and he was thankful that she had. for although the bounty hunter and their elven escort had fought off the majority of their attackers several had managed to slip through and he had been forced to fight or fall foul to Naiore’s allies. Even though his circumstances were, grim he was not yet ready to die and certainly not at the hands of these foul creatures, so he had fought, albeit rather awkwardly wedged in front of the southern woman. As he stared at the dark blood that stained the weapon he remembered with growing discomfort the ease with which the blade, no he had taking his attackers life!

Pulling his eyes away, he looked back to the battle behind them. It was then that he saw the hobbit woman, Mrs Banks break from their group and rush headlong and rather foolishly, he thought into the ensuing battle. “What is she doing!” he muttered, “she’ll get herself killed!” he hesitated for a moment looking between the hobbit woman and her southern friend who lead her mount beside him, but seeing that the southern woman was already burdened with concerns for Dúlrain, he decided that there was nothing for it, he would have to go after Mrs banks himself. Turning he broke from the safety of the elven procession and dove headlong into the battle, weaving in and out, dodging orcs and elves alike.

“Mrs Banks!” He called frantically after the hobbit woman, but she could not hear him over din of battle. It was then that he saw the cause of the hobbit woman’s rash actions. “The bounty hunter!” he frowned looking between the two. Oh no, he thought as he watched with mounting horror as a large orc stood over the bounty hunter ready to strike, but to his surprise and abject horror Gilly ran forwards thrusting her sword between the lacing of the creatures armour. “Gilly!” he cried as the brute backhanded his attacker, sending her into the air, he ran forwards his dagger readied to aid the stout hearted woman, when to his dismay a dark figure stepped before him blocking his path, looking up he saw the yellow fanged grin of the orc blocking his way. With a gulp he stepped back trying to steady his shaking hand as he brought his dagger up to defend against the creatures downward blow. The creatures hammer met his dagger and the force sent him staggering backwards. However, before he could bring his dagger back to bear, the orc used his momentum to slap him hard sending him to the ground. As he shook of the groggy feeling, he saw the creatures hammer falling towards his face, with a frightened squeal he rolled out from under the blow and jumped to his feet. “I’m coming Mrs Banks!” he cried as he charged, plunging Benia’s dagger into the orc exposed flank.But to his horror, the orc continued to turn, with the dagger still protruding from its flank. He was suddenly frozen with fear as the creature raised its black hammer, he closed his eyes waiting for death, that he was sure would follow.


Hearing something whistle above his head, he opened his eyes. Thwack… Thwack… Two green fletched arrows protruded from the creature’s chest and neck and wide eyed it crumpled to the ground dead. Toby spun round looking for his saviour, a tall fair-haired elf, with bow in hand nodded. Relieved to be in one piece he laughed and nodded his thanks, before turning back to find Gilly, to his relief she too was on her feet, but she was not alone a broad shouldered man with greying hair was bent over the bounty hunter.

“What were you thinking running into battle like that, we are hobbits not tall strong warriors?” he chided as he reached the woman, but his stern words were lost as he noticed the new bruising forming on her already bruised face.

“Mr Kaldir was in trouble!” she answered as if that was enough.

“B… but he’s a bounty hunter, he would not have done the same for you?” Toby frowned not understanding.

“And the same could be said of you Master Longholes, yet you are here.” She replied simply.

“Eh… err… well.” he flushed averting his eyes. “Well if you insist that he is worth saving I will help if I can.”

As he turned to ask the grey haired man how he could help, he almost jumped back with a yelp as he saw familiar piercing grey eyes looking down, a long narrow nose at him. “Eh… err… Mr Rauthain I didn’t recognise it was you,” he stammered.

“You know each other?” Gilly asked surprised.

“Hmm, yes we have met; I believe Master Longholes has something that belongs to me!” Rauthain answered looking at him knowingly. “But never mind that just now, we have to get our friend to the stairs.” Briefly, Toby looked from the injured bounty hunter, to Gilly, and then nodded.

“What do you need me to do?”

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Old 03-13-2004, 02:43 AM   #223
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Avanill


Avanill recovered Juta for Rauthain as he carried the man over his back. For a moment he was stuck between hopping up on the horse and riding away and helping the ranger with his friend. For the first time in his life, Avanill was nervous.

The opportunity had arisen for him to make his get away. Everyone who was at the scene was attending to this man Kaldir. Avanill froze, it was the same man whom he had discovered speaking with Barrold on the first night in Bree. “It’s a small world” he muttered from Juta’s side. He took a second to look about him, there were multiple enemies, but the landscape was nothing but serene, however bloodied it’s waters were becoming. It was now that he had realised that he had come a long way from the various Inns and the underworld which he had frequented all of his life. It was true that Atantri had raised her son in a good environment of his grandmother’s inn but it was inevitable that some part of her would want him to carry on her doings. After all, it had taken her hundredth dance with death to decide to give away her trade.

All in all, just how beneficial was his trade to him? Sure Avanill could provide for his family, but Atantri with all her legacy would not permit him to do so. He had a small fortune, a vast knowledge of pharmacy, and a horse he hated. But along with his comfortable earnings, came his multitudes of enemies; those who endeavoured to kill him if he did not get to them first, his countless murders, a fear that one day his mother’s enemies may find his mother and the possibility if ever he became lazy that he would be caught by the authorities.

Was this an honourable life? He had never thought about it until this instant when he was under attack and fetching a horse. No, and helping Naiore- was he mad? Deep down he had always known that they were doomed before they began. Right now though, he did not know whether or not she had the upper hand, and this beautiful place was being bathed in the blood of impure beings.

Presently he pulled at Juta’s bridle to make the animal come. He saw Rauthain with Kaldir slung over his shoulder. For the first time in a long time his conscious spoke to him. And what it said was to make a decent man of himself and start repaying for all the hurt and corruption he had caused throughout his life.

“Rauthain!” he called. “Let our friend Juta help us with your mate!”. But Rauthain was not alone, with him were two hobbits, and one of them was Toby.

“Well, well, well.” Chimed Avanill, “Indeed it is a small world.”
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Old 03-14-2004, 06:15 AM   #224
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Naiore

Like a deathly shadow, Naiore silently moved beneath the shadows of the ancient trees. Her curving blades brought a swift death to those unfortunate enough to find themselves in her path. Both fleeing orc and pursuing elf fell beneath her rage, as she cut a path away from the failing battle. The orc’s now having served their purpose she left behind to face the swift retribution of the elves. She had not honestly expected these loathsome creatures to breech Imladris’ defences, but she had expected them to make short work of her pursuers, but being as incompetent as they were stupid they had failed even in that. “Five! I handed them five rangers and they kill but one!” she reeled, slicing through another orc who had the misfortune to find itself in her path. At least they had bought Vanwe the time and distraction needed to reach Imladris unhindered but even that reassuring thought brought no solace the enraged elf.

For several miles, she cursed the orcs and their failings, and then her anger turned to those who had betrayed her. “Toby Longholes!” She spat contemptuously. She had witnessed the hobbit in the company of Kaldir, knowing that the snivelling creature had warned the ranger of her plans. But even as she cursed not having killed the rat when he had first stumbled into her lair, her anger turned to the others of her company it seemed that the hobbit was not the only one looking to save his own neck. Avanill also raised his sword against her, allying himself with her enemies. Then there was Barrold, no sign could she find of the villain and she expected that he had tucked his tail between his legs and ran like the coward she had suspected he was. She would make them all pay for their treachery and they would learn the true meaning of pain!

By the time she reached the northern reaches of the forest, she was exhausted both mentally and physically. Several ages of discipline and control, crumbled under the realisation that the treachery of Toby and Avanill could be her undoing, Should they inform the elves of Vanwe all would be lost. Desperately she looked around trying to figure out what to do. She suddenly felt lost in a sea of emotions, alone with questions so long ago conceived still unanswered. “No!” she spat defiantly “I will not give into despair, I still have Vanwe. Menecin will watch as I rip the answers I seek from our daughters mind, and then I will rid myself of both of them,” she hissed desperately trying to grabble for some sense of control. “Then I will deal out death to those who have hindered my course. “

Looking out on the lowland hills that lay to the east she decided that she had no choice but to wait and see if her compulsions still held within her daughter. Grasping to her sullen resolve she set off into the edge of the wilds heading steadily eastward towards the pine forest that sat above the last hidden refuge of the elves.
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Old 03-14-2004, 02:52 PM   #225
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Kaldir

Kaldir's eyes flickered open then closed again as he struggled back into consciousness. Someone, he knew not who, had lifted him and was half-carrying him across his shoulders, Kaldir's feet dragging limply across the stony earth. His mind still caught somewhere between waking and the world of nightmares, he tried to find his feet and walk for himself. Even as removed from the waking world as he was, he could sense that whoever carried him was either man or elf. Whoever it was hadn't the foul stench of an orc. Clumsily, he began to place his feet one before the other, trying to keep pace with his rescuer. His head still lolled weakly forward as his mind tried to find purchase in the waking world.

"Wait!" a familiar voice called out to one side of him. "I think he's trying to walk." In response, Kaldir's rescuer slowed slightly, allowing him the time to land his steps evenly. Kaldir's eyes flickered open again. By reflex, his hand reached for his sword. It was gone.

It took him a moment before he could place the voice. Finally, it came to him. "Mrs. Banks?" he murmured. How came she to be in Mordor? Only he wasn't in Mordor. That had been the dream. Naiore. He had seen her. This was Imladris and he had seen Naiore. The jolt of adrenaline that hit him as he remembered where he was wrenched Kaldir abruptly back into a foggy consciousness. Only half-aware of what he was doing, he pulled away from his rescuer and drew his dagger from the sheath on his belt. Naiore had to be stopped. Looking around, he saw the world in surreal detail: the battlefield, the grim faces of the elves as they pursued the fleeing orcs back across the river... but everyone, including himself, seemed to move with a nightmarish slowness. He could see Mrs. Banks take a step toward him, her hand stretched out. A ranger - his rescuer, perhaps? - threw out a hand to restrain her.

"Let him be!" the ranger said to her urgently. Kaldir turned toward the voice. It was familiar, too, as was the face. Trying to clear his head, he gave it a quick shake. All it did was dislodge a sharp jolt of pain that caused his eyes to water. Raising a hand to his face, he took a step backward and nearly fell over the body of a dead orc. Awkwardly, he regained his balance and turned again toward Mrs. Banks and the ranger. There was another with them as well, a hobbit, who again looked familiar, but Kaldir was unable to place him. Mrs. Banks shook off the restraining hand of the ranger.

"Mr. Kaldir," she called, only loud enough to be heard over the din of the ongoing battle. "It's me! Mrs. Banks, remember? Wherever you've been, you're back now. We've got to get you to the stairs." She took a step forward. His eyes fixed on the jeweled sword in her hand. Where had he seen it before?

Dúlrain. And Benia. Where was she? He turned and looked in the direction of the stairs. Slowly, reality began to settle back into place. He could see Benia Nightshade halfway up the staircase with a still unconscious Dúlrain and a small party of elves, who were both defending and helping them in their slow progress toward the entrance to Imladris. Lowering his dagger, Kaldir let out a long breath. It was coming back to him now: the river crossing, the meeting in the grove with the elves, the fighting. He turned a sharp glance at the hobbit who stood behind Mrs. Banks. Toby Longholes. Kaldir noticed he still carried Miss Nightshade's inlaid dagger. He had been surprised when she had given it to the hobbit to use, but, so far, it had not seemed to be a mistake. He let his attention shift to the ranger.

Rauthain?

By then, Mrs. Banks had reached him and her small hand closed around his. "Mr. Kaldir?"

He looked down at her and nodded. By then, their party had been joined by yet another man, this one leading a horse by the reins. As the newcomer engaged Toby Longholes in a short conversation, Kaldir sheathed his dagger. He still felt strangely weightless and detached from his surroundings, but at least things were beginning to make sense again. He gave Gilly's hand a squeeze, then released it.

"We should make for the stairs," he said quietly, knowing that they were all still vulnerable, largely because of him. "Where are my horse and my sword?"

When Gilly shook her head, he reached down and took the orcish blade from the dead hand of the orc he had nearly tripped over only a few minutes earlier. As for the horse, Nico could take care of himself. Woe be unto the orc who tried to ride him. He would find the horse later. He gave a curt nod of thanks to Rauthain and, guiding Gilly before him, turned in the direction of the stairs.

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Old 03-17-2004, 07:38 PM   #226
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Menecin

The time was fast approaching Menecin thought, and Naiore’s mind turned once again to him, now that she knew he had lived. And he too craved with all his being to go to her, to put an end to what she had begun in him, silencing forever the clamor that beat incessantly in his mind. But long gone were those days when she would take interest in his nightmares or make a show of pity. Now she loomed a both loved and detested figure presiding over every fragment of his waking thought, stealing from him even the peaceful solitude he had once found in his art. For every impulse was tainted by her imprint. He, in his naiveté, had not believed their venture, their mutual interests would end badly and that she, continuing to pursue their darker paths, would emerge from it so depraved. But listening to his daughter’s words he yet again was shown the essential truth of what his love had become.

Menecin, holding at bay the chill anguish that gripped him as he learned of Vanwe's recent suffering and his unwitting part in it, took up her hands still clutching the cup, and long searched the hauntingly familiar eyes as he traced his own heart’s whisperings. Glancing quickly at the others who crowded in the small room, his sad piercing eyes returned to the girl. “Neither you nor Naiore Dannan can free me, nor Lords Elladan or Elrohir, I no longer hold hope of it." The rich voice grew hard as it took a fierce edge, "But mark my words daughter, though you are here in this cage now, you are free. Do you understand? - You must resist, you have to resist…” he trailed off weakly.

Vanwe shook her head almost imperceptibly and Menecin sighed. No she did not understand, not yet, not fully, and seeing the girl's confusion, he softened, stroking her fair hair gently. No this was not his Naiore, this was an innocent sent to torment him, his own flesh twisted and sent to deepen this already hellish night. Would Naiore not stop? Would she then corrupt her own offspring for her satifaction? He rose as he began to weep silently, turning his back so that his daughter might not see his bitter tears or the depth of his pain. Yes, she would do this. Well he knew her hunger far surpassed her great beauty…and in her serenity there was no peace. No peace.

He could hear as Valaindon...no, no…it was now Léspheria who spoke in hushed tones to the girl, his child. He suddenly felt worn, and a renewed burst of sorrow brought with it a chill in his heart that soon swept over him, until his body trembled. He was alone, yet he was not. “We must resist,” he murmured, blankly staring at wall, as though he would see through the stones there. “I promise you I will not loose you Vanwe, though I myself am lost."

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Old 03-23-2004, 05:58 AM   #227
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Gilly

"We should make for the stairs,” Kaldir said quietly. “Where are my horse and my sword?” Gilly shook her head. To be quite honest, she had forgotten about the few meager advantages the man had, and reprimanded herself that she should be so careless as to lose track of them the moment he most required her help.

But rather than trying to restore them to his possession, Kaldir reached down behind him and took up the weapon of a fallen orc that lay there. Giving a short nod to Rauthain he turned again to the hobbit, who with furrowed brow, stared past him to the grey ranger, as if she would ask one more favor of him. His attention now diverted, Rauthain did not see Gilly’s worried look.

A little unsteadily, Kaldir turned the hobbit around, gently guiding her and toward the place where she had left Benia and Dúlrain’s company. “That is a fine brand you carry,” he said to distract her from her concern. “Be sure to wipe it clean.”

“It is Mr. Dúlrain’s,” she said softly, turning her wrist to examine the bloody blade in her hand as she reached the stair.

“Yes, I know.”

“I’ve made quite a mess of it, haven’t I?” she said picking up the edge of her torn petticoat and wiping the blade clean.

“I do not think that he will mind,” Kaldir said. “When we reach Imladris I will show you how give it a new edge and oil it well before you return it to him.”

“Thank you sir, I would be grateful if you would. And I will take good care of it meanwhile.” Gilly lapsed into silence for a long time after that, thinking of Dúlrain and hoping that his wound would heal, so that the companion sword might again be of use to him. She had never seen Miss Benia so distraught, or the ranger look so bad. It was good that her friend had gone ahead with the injured ranger.

Steep the stone steps were, and broad enough so that an elf leading his horse might gain entrance to Imladris. And being wide, many there were who hurried past them as they climbed into the cover of the pines, without their having to make way for those who still defended the passage.

The hobbit’s unease returned to her. She had hoped that Rauthain might follow close behind, incase Kaldir should loose his footing. To tumble down this long flight would surely land one in poor condition, and she with only bruises, found it difficult to climb them. She feared that Kaldir with his hurt might grow faint again, or that he might be touched by that other malady that seemed to plague him. But the set look had begun to return to his scared face, and the dark fire had rekindled in his pale eyes. Something seemed to be troubling him apart from the stairs.

Once reaching the apex of the ridge the stairs began the lengthy descent that meandered along the side of the deep valley. With the battlefield behind them, the traffic on their path lessened and Gilly wondered if they might find Miss Benia, or at the least catch sight of her. Soon all would be put right. The elves would find this Naiore - and hopefully she and Kaldir would not - and send the wicked one very well bound to King Elessar, Mr. Dúlrain would have the care he needed, and she wagered that Miss Benia, Miss Vanwe and she would at last be free to go on their own way. But she did wonder what Kaldir might do. Return to collecting bounties? Oh, he would not go back to such a thing! Would he? She tried to put the image from her mind as she vividly recalled the formidable presence he had cut at The Forsaken Inn. Unfortunately, he was certainly good at that trade! Had he changed so much then? Or had she been the one who had been transformed? Wasn’t he after all still pursuing people, and here she was cleaning blood off a borrowed sword on her torn petticoat, and traveling in the company of a bounty hunter. And yet she still felt to be in many ways the same person, only now in the strangest of circumstances.

Looking back at Kaldir as they traveled now among oak and beech trees, she saw that he was looking rather grim. Perhaps sad to loose his horse, she thought to herself. Actually, she too had no idea where her pack pony had gotten to and hoped it followed Miss Benia’s mare as it had for so many miles. Suddenly a smile rose to her lips, as she stifled a laugh.

“What is so amusing, Mrs. Banks?” Kaldir spoke behind her. “I could use some levity.”

“Oh Mr. Kaldir, I just had the funniest notion! Mr. Longholes had asked Mr. Rauthain if he could help in removing you from were you lie on the field. I just imagined what would happen if he sent him after that great horse of yours!”

“That would be something to see,” the man grinned. “But how would you know that of my horse? Have you tried to lead him away?”

“No sir! I swear!” Gilly declared turning crimson. “It never entered my head, sir. But I must admit I had a rather rough introduction to him at the Foresaken Inn, just after Miss Benia…well, just after Miss Benia disappeared.”

“So you might know how his water bucket was destroyed and the door to the stall damaged.”

“I confess, I don’t think he was very pleased to make my acquaintance,” Gilly said laughing as they proceeded and the sound of water could be heard.

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Old 03-23-2004, 06:10 AM   #228
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Toby Longholes

Toby’s eyes widened with horror as the Bounty hunter regained consciousness, pulling away from Rauthain and drawing his dagger on them. Stepping back, he saw that the ranger restrained the hobbit woman as she tried to reach her… friend. This Toby just could not figure out, how was it that a hobbit of the Shire would befriend herself to a bounty hunter. Bill Ferney and Old Sharky had told him that he would never be accepted by the Shire hobbits, that they would always look down their nose at the Breelander hobbit as they would any outlander. But here was a hobbit from the Shire not only befriending an outlander but being genuinely concerned for his well being, no wait, she had even saved his life. Toby’s head reeled, at how easily he had been manipulated, and that that same manipulation had remained with him for so long. Even as he looked at the hobbit woman and the bounty hunter, he wondered if he could ever repent his scoundrel ways and return to the Shire. Just then, the bounty hunter’s unfocused gaze fell upon him making him shiver uncomfortably, forcing him to lower his head and stare at his hairy feet.

However, as Gilly pulled free of Rauthain’s restraining grasp and stepped determinedly forward to speak to the bounty hunter, he found himself moving to place himself behind her, in case the Bounty hunter should forget the woman’s friendship. Only relaxing when Kaldir finally lowered his dagger, but as he watched the hobbit woman grasp the Bounty hunters hand, her face etched with concern and sadness, he remembered why she had seemed so familiar on their first meeting. The image of the burning building and the young hobbit woman standing outside crying as she watched comforted by her husband as their lively hood burned to the ground came to his mind. It had been his fault that the house had been torched; he had reported to Bill that the shopkeeper had been keeping food from the sheriffs and distributing it to the rebels. Turning away to ashamed to look at the woman further, he wondered if the woman too could place him, how could he repay such a debt.

He gulped hard as he looked up to see Avanill walking towards them, frowning in confusion as he realised the he and the ranger, Rauthain were already acquainted. All the same, his grip tightened around the hilt of the dagger the southern woman had given him. His eyes narrowed with suspicion as Avanill addressed him. “A small world indeed!” he muttered contemptuously, placing himself between the hobbit woman and the young rogue. But as Kaldir and the hobbit woman moved towards the stairs Avanill placed a firm hand on his shoulder, “If you know what’s good for you Master Longholes you will hold your tongue!” he warned in a low threatening whisper, giving Toby reason to wonder what lies the rogue had spun Rauthain . Toby shrugged the young mans hand aside, and then hurried to put some distance between them.

He continued beside Rauthain in silence, watching the two unlikely friends as they walked together ahead of him. Their sudden laughter brought a confused frown to his brow. Toby would never have called any of his associate’s friends; in fact, he could not remember the last time he had a true friend or if he even had experienced the kind of friendship he was now seeing before him. Surely, she would remember one that had so wronged her, he thought. Still she had shown him kindness and even comforted him after the harrowing crossing of the river. Toby pulled his free hand down his tired face; there must be some way I can repay my debt to this woman. The Realisation that most of his life had been wasted pained him as deeply as though the dagger in his hand had been plunged in to his heart, perhaps if I help this, woman the pain will ease, he thought desperately trying not to give in to the despair that was filling his mind.

“How comes it that a respectable woman of the Shire should fine herself in the company of a Bounty Hunter?” He sighed, turning to Rauthain hoping the ranger held the answer he sought.

*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*

Amandur

As Amandur and Fintar pressed towards the stairs, they found their way hampered by fleeing orcs, many of which just ran straight passed them, intent on leaving with their life’s, But several seeing the wounded ranger as an easy target made the mistake of raising their weapons against him. However, with the elven Captain covering his vulnerable right flank and his sword now starting to feel comfortable in his left hand, they soon made short work of their attackers. The remainder of Fintar’s patrol soon rejoined them finishing off those that were fleeing.

As the elven captain spoke with his patrol, Amandur looked around. Bodies of both orc’s and elves littered the once green banks of the river staining it in a deathly mixture of black and red. His eyes scanned the surreal scene before him, searching for his companions. Only the elves remained searching for survivors among the dead, several elves began the foul task of piling orc bodies for burning and others attended their own dead. Turning back to Fintar, he saw that the elf was in deep conversation with another elven captain, “Rinmar!” He exclaimed. The elf turned with a grinned and the two clasped arms in friendly greeting.

“It is good to see you well my friend,” The elf said pulling back as Amandur winced with pain, “Well alive at least!” he laughed

“And you my friend,” Amandur answered returning his friends grin. “Per chance have you seen any of my company?” Amandur asked, hopefully. “Three… no two Rangers!” he wavered remembering Maethor’s premature death. “Rauthain and Dúlrain?” he pressed.

“Dúlrain I have seen, he is badly injured and is at this very moment being escorted to the last house, for healing, but he was not alone. Another ranger Kaldir of Westernesse, a southern woman and two hobbits also accompanied him, but I know not this Rauthain you speak of. But my patrol did report seeing two men aiding in the battle, perhaps one of these was your friend!” Rinmar answered.

“Perhaps,” he answered distantly, looking again towards the stair. The rider he saw surrounded by elves must have been Dúlrain, but how came he to be in the company of the ex-ranger and where was Rauthain? He contemplated these thoughts for a moment before Rinmar interrupted. “Our friend will soon be in good hands, you need not worry.” Amandur shook his head, turning back to his elven friends.

“Yes the Lady Lespheria is also in Imladris,” he told them.

“Well there you go, with the lady tending him he will soon be up on his feet again.” Fintar added

“But it looks like you also could use the tender care of the healer!” Rinmar said, looking over the rangers injuries. “This arm is definitely broken, come I have to take my report to our Lords, I will accompany you to the house.” Amandur nodded his assent, then after bidding Fintar and his patrol farewell he and Rinmar made their way to the last homely house.

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Old 03-25-2004, 06:47 PM   #229
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Rauthain

As Rauthain led Juta and advanced on the stairway beside Toby, he looked past the lithe form of Avanill in front of him, to Kaldir and Mrs. Banks walking on ahead. The tall man appeared in a proper mind now, though the ranger could not be sure if the pressure bearing down on his former compatriot's mind might not be increasing rather than subsiding as he neared this eventuality, and his concern that Kaldir might yet be directly influenced by the one he sought was renewed. He could see it would not fair well for the hobbit should Kaldir loose his self-possession, and he wondered that she should accompany him gladly when he had so gravely threatened them just moments earlier.

In his ears still echoed the words he had spoken to Dúlrain beside the dying campfire. He would not let Kaldir stand in his way of finding Naiore. He had set himself upon this long since, and yet now he found his resolve again wavered. Had he not caught sight of her on the hillside and yet tarried among his companions? And even though he now had Toby Longholes and Avanill along side him to see to Imladris, was not the Ravennor the more ominous threat to peace. Not only to the peace of the west but he now realized she continued to threaten his own calm as well as Kaldir’s.

"How comes it that a respectable woman of the Shire should find herself in the company of a bounty hunter?" Toby sighed, breaking into the ranger's thoughts.

"How does a ranger become a bounty hunter?" Rauthain mused. "Providence? Misfortune?" He stopped speaking for a moment considering the question more fully, as they traced the path cut in the stone face. "So she is from the Shire, is she? I had imagined her of Bree stock," the ranger began, again focusing on the slight lady in green, so at ease in Kaldir's presence. "Why do you say the Shire?" he questioned, after some thought. "Has she spoken to you of it?”

“Yes, she had in passing mentioned it. I suppose she thought it only polite to.” Toby replied, looking more at the cut stone in front of him than his fellow traveler.

“I had reckoned her to be a long time friend of Miss Nightshade's, for fast friends they would seem, but if what you say is true I cannot imagine how that may have come to pass. And indeed that very friendship I deem is what drew her into Kaldir's company, though I do not know how Miss Nightshade figures with him. I had at one time thought them both captive, but as you see it does not appear to be so,” Rauthain frowned. It seemed almost as though Kaldir himself was the captive, and not necessarily of the two women he had held in his train, though they did inexplicably seem to merit his good will. But rather he was still captive of a past that could not be altered, as Rauthain also felt himself to be. Naiore still had Kaldir bound to that dimly lit world of her making, though surrounded now by the beauty of Eriador, he could not see it.

“Captive? To the bounty hunter?” Toby questioned, evidently surprised.

“It does not appear so”, Rauthain repeated. "But I have told you these things freely, and now it is my turn to make a request of you, Master Longholes. I would ask that you return that which you borrowed of me, the squirrel skin pouch that was at my side as we rode to Barrold's place. Your little feat of daring nearly cost me my life and I would have my flint and whetstone, though you may keep the copper, it means little to me. And you had earned it."

“I do not want your money, it was only a spiteful urge brought on by your treatment of me.”

"I do not believe you intended such a dire outcome, and so will not hold you accountable for this, but it is a hard thing to strip an old man of the tools of his trade," he scolded.

"Here, here is the pouch with nary a haypenny missing," Toby exclaimed searching his pockets to produce the slim purse. "I do not want your coins."

"Ah this is a surprise!" Rauthain said, his eyes glinting in his amusement. "I had supposed I would have a greater struggle and had not expected you to surrender it so readily!"

"My heart is not in it, and I am sorry if it has caused you as great a trouble as you say."

"Then there is no more to be said. But truly it is a good thing you had not met me at the time or I may have been carrying a hobbit skin pouch today! But I have managed well enough as you see, and have borrowed a few things, though I made quite sure their owners no longer needed them," he said tying the purse back on his belt. "I see you have mended the cut strings as well."

Removing from his belt the whetstone he had gleaned from the fallen orc, he grinned as he presented it to Toby. "Here, to show my goodwill you may keep this as a memento."

Toby took the stone and studied the odd runes, "It is a strange gift!" he said. And not knowing what to do with it, he slipped it in his pocket.

“I have found many strange things on this journey,” Rauthain said pulling a shuttle also from his belt and squinting at it briefly, he placed this too in his pouch. “ And I expect I will see many more before it is though.”

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Old 03-27-2004, 04:31 AM   #230
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AVANILL

The debonair trader kept his eyes upon the ground. He was not glad that he was surrounded by rangers, or the fact that Naiore was near. A strange clam passed over him though, the calm that came from making up his mind. He would stay true to his own oath this he hoped would bring him salvation, but no matter what fortunes the future would bring, either way the young trader knew he would have a challenge.

The new companions who came were strange indeed, a hobbit woman, who was referred to by Rauthain as Mrs Banks, as well as Kaldir the bounty hunter. Avanill recognised him from Bree and was sure that he had remained innominate enough for him not to be noticed.

He had not until now thought again of Toby, it was the excuse of finding him that had given Avanill his chance of escape. So it was with mild consternation that he had looked upon the hobbit.

Avanill sent a sideways leer to Toby, looking at him with the same look that made him formidable; as a player of poker may give when he was in possession of a royal flush, the kind that no man could tell what thoughts were looming behind his eyes. Avanill would have to be very careful of what he said, one slip and he would damn himself.

Presently he was lost, he could see that the bounty hunter and Rauthain as well as Mrs Banks were further ahead. “If you know what’s good for you Master Longholes you will hold your tongue!”, yes he reasoned that would do for now. It would give him time to think.

He began to think what Atantri would think of her son. No, Atantri would not be pleased. Everything he had learned as a boy was not in order now. His business, his life, his ideals meant nothing now. Everything that mattered was bringing down the elf. And who knows, All he needed now was by some act of fortunate serendipity, to run into Naiore alone and his life was forfeit.

Still leading Juta for the ranger, Avanill had followed the company and was greatly impressed by the beauty of the landscape, but something lingered around them and he took no second guess in saying that it was the presence of Naiore.

The mention of Barrold in the other’s conversation struck a chord with him. Though none would know it. He wondered whether he should peak of him to them and tell them of how he came to be here. He was distracted by the same eerie feeling inside his mind, which caused him to draw his sword slowly. He caught the eye of Mrs Banks seeming alarmed at the sudden violent movement. Avanill nodded at her. “Not to worry Ma’am, my mother always told me that I should have a steady hand waiting a surprise attack- ” he cut himself off immediately, realising what he had said, any mention of him being Atantri’s son would be another fatal move “From my brothers, I mean… they were older than I and very rough…”
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Old 03-30-2004, 05:58 PM   #231
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Kaldir
At Gilly's prompting, Kaldir thought back to his brief visit at the Forsaken Inn, his run-ins there with Hanasian and Lespheria, his relentless stalking and eventual abduction of Benia Nightshade. It seemed a very long time ago, even though, in actual fact, those events lay not even a month in the past. Nonetheless, the world seemed a very different place now. Strangely, upon entering Imladris, he felt almost like a ranger again. The single-minded anger and resentment that had driven him so fiercely for years had subsided within him to a mere undercurrent. He knew the change was largely owing to the presence of his companions over the past several weeks: Gilly, Benia, Dúlrain, and even, to a far lesser degree, Rauthain. He felt a kind of connection to them all that he would not have believed himself capable of feeling, even so recently as a month prior.

He looked down at the orcish blade in his hand. Perhaps it was time for a change in his life. If so, he would have a good many bridges to mend before he could return to the society of his brethren - if that was the course he decided to take - not the least of which would be with Rauthain and Amandur. Over the years, he had allowed, even encouraged, so many bonds to be broken. Ahead of him, Gilly laughed merrily.

“I confess, I don’t think he was very pleased to make my acquaintance,” she said, speaking of her introduction to Kaldir's horse, Nico, back at the Forsaken Inn.

"I don't think he is ever pleased to make anyone's acquaintance," answered Kaldir mildly. "Unless whoever it is arrives bearing a bucket of oats or a brush and a curry comb. To be honest, I'm surprised you didn't come away a pair of hoofprints embedded in your backside."

"I did come away with a set of teethmarks," admitted Gilly. "In my backside."

Kaldir laughed drily. "Then I'm not surprised. Every once in a while, the ornery old fellow even takes a snap at me." He paused and looked back in the direction of the staircase. "Even so, I should like to get him back. He and I have been through quite a lot together."

"I can imagine," answered Gilly. She, too, turned and looked back toward the battlefield and the fading sounds of fighting. It was mostly over now. The orcs had been put to flight, and the elves had begun to go about the sad business of seeing to their wounded and collecting their dead.

Still looking back, past Rauthain and the others who followed, Kaldir hesitated as a rush of light-headedness swept over him. Closing his eyes, he raised his left hand and rubbed his forehead over the bridge of his nose, where a headache had begun to take root. Naiore was still out there somewhere, not terribly far off, if he knew her at all. He still intended to catch her if he could and collect the revenge he was due, but, for the first time, he felt a nagging doubt that he was up to the task. After all, had not the mere sight of her just made him swoon on the battlefield like a timid milkmaid? He frowned darkly. Perhaps it was just the shock of seeing the Ravenner for the first time after so long that had made him react so. He would have to assume it was that. Otherwise, how could he force himself to go on? Next time, he simply must not be so weak.

Kaldir turned and, with Gilly beside him, again moved onward toward the last homely house. Ahead, he could see Amandur and Rinmar, the elven captain he had encountered in the grove, mounting the front steps. Amandur seemed to be favoring one arm, which made Kaldir remember suddenly the blow he had received at the hands of the orc he had been fighting when he first caught sight of Naiore. He looked down at his own torn and blood-soaked clothes, noticing that the bloodstains had already begun to dry a rusty brown around the edges. He had gotten so accustomed to the notion of pain, that he had not even noticed the stubborn, throbbing ache that had set in across his shoulder and upper chest. Perhaps, he thought to himself, it had been the loss of blood that had made him lose consciousness on the battlefield, rather than a passing weakness of mind. It was a comforting thought, but Kaldir instantly recognized its falseness. To delude himself with such niceties could only lead to failure and death where Naiore was concerned.

"A scratch," he murmured.

"What's that?" asked Gilly at his elbow. He looked down at her and noticed that a fresh bruise was rising on her cheek in nearly the same spot as the one that had recently healed, which she had received at the hands of the orc in the Lonelands.

"It looks as though you've taken another blow to your face," he said, kneeling down beside her to take a closer look. "It's not too bad," he added. "I don't think the bone is fractured, but you should be more careful. After all, gallant mistress, you don't want to end up looking like me. Perhaps it is time you hung up your sword."

Gilly looked doubtfully between Kaldir and the jeweled sword in her hand. Then, she shook her head. "Well, I don't know... with all these orcs about..."

Kaldir laughed. "They will be gone soon." His pale eyes grew serious. "Once their mistress has been dealt with, there will be nothing to keep them here. When that time comes, should I still be breathing, I place myself at your service to return you safely to your husband and home."

"After all," he added, rising again to his full height. "It would be only right as it is by my actions that you find yourself in these circumstances at all."

Gilly seemed about to respond to Kaldir's words, when her attention was suddenly drawn away by something happening on the walkway behind him. Kaldir turned in time to see that the unfamiliar young man he had first noticed with Rauthain and Toby Longholes on the battlefield had just drawn his sword. The three of them had come up behind him and Gilly as Kaldir had paused to examine the bruise on Gilly's face. Noticing the hobbit lady's eyes upon him, the young man rather glibly rattled off an explanation for his actions that sounded reasonable enough on the surface, but Kaldir heard something in the undertones of the fellow's voice that set his instincts as a bounty hunter on edge. The young man was lying. Why?

Narrowing his eyes, Kaldir studied the newcomer's face.
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Old 03-31-2004, 04:00 AM   #232
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Vanwe

So much had passed since the arrival of her father that Vanwe found herself both physically and mentally drained, a thousand questions played in her mind, and she struggled to find some semblance in which she could begin to put words to the conflicting and confusing thoughts running through her mind. Her fathers firm but gentle hands drew her from the confusion of her tired mind and she held his gaze with a little intrepidation as he looked long and searchingly into hers. a little fear surfaced as she saw the years of pain and despair held within his sapphire eyes, but she could not look away, her heart feeling impassioned to her fathers grief, only he would understand the depths with which her mothers lies tore into her heart. She followed her fathers eyes as he glanced at the others gathered in her small cell, wondering what part they each played the sorry events of past and present that some how encapsulated her family. Then she listened as her father spoke.

“Neither you or Naiore Dannan can free me, nor Lords Elladan or Elrohir; I no longer hold hope of it.”

A deep sadness glistened in the blue of her eyes, though she did not fully understand the depths of his words, the despair in his words ached at her heart. His rich voice suddenly took a hard fierce edge, which frightened her a little.

“But mark my words daughter; though you are here in this cage now, you are free. Do you understand? - You must resist, you have to resist…”

She looked longingly into his eyes for more, what did he mean resist! Resist what, her mother, her captors! She shook her head regretfully; she did not understand so many questions yet remained unanswered. Her confusion must have shown on her face, for her fathers features softened and he stroked her hair gently, she closed her eyes accepting his comfort, no, needing it. However, as her fathers hand drew away her eyes opened, and she saw him rise and turn away, confused she turned to the only other face in the room that knew.

“This is hard for him also, not till this day did he know that he had a daughter, and to find that Naiore would keep this from him, then send his daughter to bring him to her is a bitter pill to swallow.” Lespheria whispered as she put a comforting arm about her shoulders. A new guilt crossed Vanwe’s mind, had her mother used her solely to torment her father?

“You are exhausted it has been a long night perhaps….” her elven friend started to say, but she stopped her, “there are still question that I need …” she began.

“Shhhhhh, I promise, that if I hold the answers to the question you need answered I will give them to you willingly, but first you must rest it has been a long night… for all of us.” Lespheria said turning her head to indicate her father and the tired slump of his broad shoulders; she was just about to nod her agreement when her father again spoke.

“We must resist,” he muttered without turning. “I promise you I will not loose you Vanwe, though I myself am lost.”

Vanwe slowly rose and walked towards the turned back of her father, now understanding that he spoke of her mother and her compulsions, so much pain was there in his words that she felt the need to go to him. Putting her hand on his shoulder, he turned. She simply nodded, needing no words to rely that she understood some if not all his words, though in her heart she prayed that some day he would find some semblance of peace, for she refused to give in to the conception that she was to find her parents only to realise that they were already lost to her.

The hushed voices of the other elves drew her and Menecin’s attention, it looked to Vanwe that they were quietly debating something, seeing her gaze one of the two lords stepped forward, inclining his head in simple greeting.

“I do not believe we have been properly introduced, my name is Elohir and this is my brother Elladan we are the lords of this house,” the elf lord said indication his brother and the house they where in.

“We ask that you forgive us our mistake and allow us to make amends by inviting you to be our guest?” Elladan continued coming to his brother’s side. Vanwe was slightly taken aback, so used was she to her captors sending her swiftly on her way after learning their mistake. She nodded her head in way of thanks, not sure what to say, but knowing that she would like get to know her father a little better if she could.

“Very good then it is settled, Lady Léspheria will show you to one of the guest rooms so you can refresh and rest if that is your want,” Elladan smiled warmly.

“Our home is your home for as long as you chose to remain with us.” Elohir added graciously, and then turning to Menecin, he informed the bard that his cottage was being attended and that he too would have to take a guest room until the damage was repaired, the bard said nothing but nodded his understanding. Then Léspheria stepped forward and offered to show them to their rooms.

Vanwe followed beside her father as Léspheria lead them through the ornate hallways and up the wooden stairway, Vanwe could only look in awe at the depictions of great battles and historic events that covered the walls. Lespheria named a few but would not go into much detail, saying only that those stories were better heard in the hall of fire, narrated by storytellers or sung by the bards. Finally, Léspheria stopped them in front of an intricately carved wooden door.

“This will be your room,” Léspheria told her, opening the door and gesturing for them both to enter, and as she looked around, she heard Léspheria indicate to a door that led to an adjoining room that was to be her fathers until his cottage was repaired.

Léspheria then excused herself, “I am sure you have much to talk about, I will just be down the hall fourth door to your left should you need anything.”

“Léspheria…I… “She began undecided weather she wished to ask the elf’s part in this or to thank her for her help. However, Léspheria just smiled and nodded that she understood, promising that they would speak more once they were all rested.

Now alone in the room with her father, she was not sure what to do or say. He stood at the open balcony window looking out over the gardens of Imladris, she hesitantly walked up beside him there were a few questions that came to mind but the pain she had seen in his eyes made her hesitate, but she knew only he could answer her questions. So standing on the balcony of the guest room of the last homely house looking out over the calm serenity of Imladris, with her father at her side she hesitantly asked her question.

“What was she like? …I mean she wasn’t always the way she is now… was she?”
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Old 04-06-2004, 04:51 AM   #233
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Léspheria

After leaving Vanwe and Menecin to get some rest, Léspheria retired to her own room. She slipped off her pack and removing her bow and sword, propping then against the wall next to her bed. The bath that her attendants had filled was now long cold, and as she delicately ran her long fingers across the cold water, she thought of the others at the ford. Her kin who would insure with their immortal lives that the creatures breed in mockery of their people would never breech the sanctuary of the last homely house. The faithful Dúlrain, Rauthain and Amandur, who she knew would also forfeit their lives if it meant the protection of others, just as Maethor’s short life had been forfeit. However, no comfort was there in these thoughts, she wondered over and opened the large glass balcony windows, stepping out on to the ivy laced balcony she rubbed a weary hand across the back of her neck trying to relieve the sudden tightness of her muscles.

Her gaze turned in the direction of the ford and she found herself hoping, no praying that Amandur was still alive and would soon return to her. She suddenly realised that he had been her strength on their journey, a journey that had cause her to question herself something she had never before felt the need to do. Both her kin and her own family had strived to keep her from knowing her link to Naiore, What did they fear? All her life she had been inquisitive, asking many questions. Most of her youth was spent in the vast libraries of Imladris and Lorien, then when she had exhausted both she took to travelling with the rangers and learning their ways and looking for more answers. Even her healing abilities had intrigued and fascinated her at first and she was always willing to try new methods and explore how the body work, but that had ended abruptly! As an apprentice healer, she had found a small bird it was badly injured and very near death, she could feel its pain and work feverently to heal the creature, but everything she tried failed. She could feel the small bird slipping from its mortal bounds, but not peacefully, as she had naively believed all mortals went, but with pain and anguish. No longer able to stand the torment of the creatures suffering she placed her hand on the bird’s small chest and using the healing skills she had been blessed with, she stopped the small-feathered creature’s heart from beating. Even know after so long she remembered how easy it had been and even now, it terrified her as it had then. Is this what they feared, that she too would fall into the inescapable dark path of Naiore or even worse that she would fall to Naiore’s will… like her mother? The sudden realisation made her weak and she held to the balcony for support, suddenly she felt Vulnerable and alone, there was no reminders of all the good she had accomplished in her life, their was no comforting words or bolstering affirmation that all her efforts where for the right reasons, she was alone with her doubt.

Her head slowly lifted and she gazed westward through tear filled eyes, for any sign of the others, for any sign of Amandur. She had been wrong to shut him out, had it not been for his strength, his subtle reassurances and even his love and friendship she might have not even made it this far. She at least owed him the truth of her heart, but even as she thought these words, doubt again caused her to question if her need would endanger his life unnecessarily.

“It is the Ranger?” A voice quietly asked behind her. Surprised that she was no longer alone, she turned. Making to bow quickly as her eyes fell on Lord Celeborn, but he stopped her and lifted her head gently in his hands. “I heard your account and could not help but notice the pause and the heaviness in your voice each time you spoke the ranger’s name.” The elf lord went on sympathetically. Léspheria nodded and then turning back to face the west she whispered softly.

“I do not deny that of late I have not been able to control my feeling for him as I should.”

“As you should” Celeborn frowned, “What is it that you fear? The long dark years after his death spent in perpetual grief and mourning or that he will die and you will not?” he pressed watching her face for the slightest hint of what troubled her mind. At his words she turned, she had not even thought of that eventuality, concerned only with the present. She contemplated his words for and moment then answered thus.

“No, strangely enough I do not fear that eventuality, however I do fear that in revealing my heart I will bring him only pain and suffering.” As truthful as her words were they still stung at her heart and again she turned away.

“Naiore!” Celeborn sighed and a hint of weariness entered his voice. “Ever has the lady of the swan been a thorn in our side, She does not only doom herself with the murder of her kin, but she ruins those she leaves behind, Menecin, Vanwe, your mother. Would you let her too be the ruin of you?” he asked his voice dropping to a mere whisper.

“Yes if it meant that he would be spared!” she replied without hesitation.

“And what then? What would he do? Do you really believe he would do nothing?” Celeborn countered calmly.

She did not need to ponder his words for her heart told her what Amandur would do, “He would go after her alone if need be.” she whispered, lowering her head in resigned affirmation. “Then what am I to do?” she whispered turning as he lay a comforting hand on her shoulder.

Celeborn shook his head sympathetically, “I can not decide for you but this counsel I do offer, If he loves you as much as you do him, Naiore will know it, he has not the ability to hide his feelings, nor do any of the others you travel with. She will use anyone of them if it suits her purpose and not just against you, though you pose the most threat to her. Think on this before you make any decision and know that what ever you decide the blessing of the Elves goes with you.” Smiling he placed his hand atop her head and then after a slight nod he turned and left, leaving her to ponder his words.

Léspheria turned, hugging her arms close to her chest as she looked to the west thinking on Lord Celeborn’s kind counsel, but before she could come to a conclusive decision, she heard the sound of horses and looking down she saw several elven riders and among them a face she recognised, one not elven.

“Benia!” she whispered, but as the riders neared the house, she saw that they carried a wounded ranger, but not Amandur his hair was to dark. Quickly she lifted her herb satchel and hurried down stairs, passing the guards set at Vanwe and Menecin’s door. The riders pulled up at the door and she ran towards the wounded ranger, the elf carrying him gently lowered him into her arms. She quickly assessed his wounds and asked two of the elves to help carry him to the halls of healing.

“What happened to him?” she asked Benia as the woman hurried to the ranger’s side.

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

Dúlrain

Dulrain drifted in and out of consciousness his mind replaying events of his life, from his hard but life affirming child hood to the enigmatic experiences of his adolescence and beyond to the loss of his father and the anger and vengeance, which drove him into the mountains, to avenge his father death! Then his loss of Kaldir and the long years spent in hopeless search. The loss of the only family he knew at the hands of orcs had almost driven him into the darkest pits of despair, only his reluctance to believe that Kaldir could have fallen foul to orc had kept him going. He also remembered how when that hope had failed he had immersed himself in his work, so he had no time to dwell on the loss and his feelings of failure and helplessness. His memories then turned to his hunt for Naiore, the finding of Kaldir after so long believing him dead, killed at the hands of the orcs at Ravenfalls, the meeting of Mrs Banks and Benia Nightshade.

“Benia…”

He called her name in a moment of conscious thought. He felt her hand squeeze his but his eyes would not focus, but he did not need them for he could remember every contour of her exotic face. Her rich amber eyes that gleamed when she smiled and her dark braided hair he could even hear the gentle tinkling of her facial jewellery as they moved in the gentle summer breezes.

Slipping again into unconsciousness, his thoughts drifted to Kaldir and their journey through the down, ending in the question Kaldir had not answered ’Did he love her?’ He had asked the question already knowing in his heart the answer, but he had needed to hear it from Kaldir’s lips.

“Kaldir!” He cried out, again regaining consciousness.

“He loves her! She can never be mine!” he muttered between shallow breaths, no longer aware if he was conscious or not.

He felt cold and his body shivered violently, despair crept into his heart. If he could not hold her and let her know that he would protect her until the end of their days, professing his undying love, perhaps it would be better for all if he died here and now. For he could not deny his brother this chance of happiness. He saw how the woman affected Kaldir drawing out the poisons of Naiore, to reveal the ranger he once was. He loved them both and that love so deep and unyielding pulled at his heart.

Eleven words like song filled his head and he no longer heeded his pain and despair, the sound like calming waters soothed and calmed his restless mind, blanketing all conscious thought and letting him drift into pleasant dreams of golden glades and silver voices raised in light and merry song and laughter.
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Old 04-09-2004, 08:48 AM   #234
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Menecin

It was so quiet there, the room open and airy, in sharp contrast to his crowding thoughts. The sun rays that slanted through the trees giving dappled illumination to a vast garden that flowed below the balcony and down toward the river, in imitation of the peaceful tranquility of Illuvatar’s thought before the existence of Arda, a harmony now only to be gained though years care. Wild but trained, the view looked as though the verdant grounds might have happened there by chance. But Menecin had seen that it took great skill to achieve this balance, the appearance of a natural state that should have come artlessly, and had been more readily near the mark in earlier ages. And it took work to tame the abundance that would threaten it, so unlike the wild fragrant beauty of Ithilien to the south.

It had been many years since he had last been in those lands that rested between the Anduin and the Mountains of shadow, when his long searching had ended there, and he lay broken upon the red stained rocks and wildflowers that drew their life from a deep cloven torrent below Henneth Annûn. The flame of his hope snuffed out as his life drained away, like a candle that guttered, leaving his mind as shattered as if she had crushed the bright mirror of it under her slender boot, when she turned and left him for dead. Menecin clenched his fists, as the familiar sickening storm rose in his heart once more, and causd him to desire violent action, to lash out and through his rage dispel the intensity of these disjointed memories.

“What was she like?…I mean she wasn’t always the way she is now, was she?” Came a voice soft and hesitant, as if the breeze itself whispered to him. Menecin clutched the balustrade firmly as he struggled to quell his fury and piece together an answer to the simple question. But he could not. He had thought at one time that he had known the answer, but it would not now be reconciled to his experience and what he had been told.

He studied the young elf that stood beside him in the doorway. So striking she was, and echoing her mother’s grace. Like a young sapling grown in the shadows hints of its future strength and beauty. What could he tell her? He did not wish to damage her, nor yet to encourage a destructive curiosity.

Her mother had been a spring breeze to him, dancing through the tall pines and upon the sandy shore of Belfalas, cool and clear and inspiring. It was then he had first come to be fascinated by this elegant and uncommon one, who clothed in choicest raiment, sought not the trappings of court, but to know of the deeper themes of life. And uncovered them with keen intuition and insight, as if her eye had been trained to discern between the fine underpinnings of life and the result those forces brought to bear upon those around her. Then she had delighted him with her continual discoveries and revelations.

“What was she like, you ask daughter?” he said turning once again to the trees. “She at one time was like the ocean, the surface of its great depths sparkling brightly in the sun. Deceptively calm and peaceful she was, and beautiful. But like the sea, she harbored hidden and treacherous currents that would drag a man under so that he might be carried away, to despair of ever breathing again.

“No Vanwe, I do not think she was always the way she is now. In early days, when she still explored the extend of her gift; she had not yet begun to dedicate it to the evil pursuit she now follows. Something changed in her path. At first I thought it Sauron who held her thrall to his purpose, as Morgoth his master had enthralled so many before him, and so I fought to discover your mother’s whereabouts to release his hold on her. But found only that she was not as I thought, and she would now have her plunder, violating even those who held her dear. Killing them also if it suited her ends. So it happened to Léspheria’s mother your kinswoman, and so I fear it will be also for you if you return to her. She knows the effect of her searchings. And I deem she views this ruthlessness as a sign of strength. I will not hold you here by force,” he said letting go of the balustrade to face her again. “But I pray thee, do not go back. It is a warning I give from experience, and the one thing I am sure of in this constant night.”

“Then there is no hope of a change? That she might become again as when you spoke of the early days?” Vanwe asked looking hopefully up into her father’s face.

Recognizing this delusion, Menecin overcame his own deep impulse and recited that with which he ever reminded himself, that which he knew to be the truth. “No, some great flaw is in her heart from the time her making to achieve this disposition, and to think otherwise is grave mistake.”

And so they stood silent for a time glancing out over the balcony to the healing garden below, and did not speak of the travelers and fighters who could be seen in the distance slowly returning to Imladris after defending her from the one of whom they spoke..
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Old 04-10-2004, 06:44 PM   #235
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Amandur

Amandur and Finmar had just reached the house when the sound of laughter made them turn. a short distance from the house he could see the ex-ranger Kaldir holding conversation with a hobbit woman who he could only surmise must be Mrs Banks, pleased too was he to see Rauthain not to far behind, Toby also was still in their company, but with them was another, a young man he was not familiar with. Seeing his contemplative frown, Finmar asked if something was wrong.

“I am not sure,” he answered absently, studying the stranger’s movements. The depth of his stride and the lack of bounce in his light but sure steps, it reminded him of one of the sets of tracks he had been observing over the last several weeks. However, without seeing the tread of the man’s boot he could not confirm or deny his suspicions. Two men he knew had been in Naiore’s company and it seemed too coincidental that this young man should appear at the same time as Naiore attacks Imladris.

“Was the young man in Kaldir’s company when you met?” he asked the elf captain, still watching as Kaldir and Mrs banks seemed to wait for the others to catch up.

“No, nor was the other ranger, only the two periannath.” Rinmar answered following his gaze.

“The ranger I know, his name is Rauthain and he travels with my company, the young man though I am not familiar with, though I have an idea who he might be,” he informed his companion, his eyes narrowing into a distrustful scowl.

“Will guards be needed?” the elf frowned making to reach for the fine elven blade at his hip.

“No, my friend, at least not till I can be certain that my suspicions are founded.” Amandur answered placing his hand atop the elf’s preventing him from drawing his blade.

“I will have to inform my Lords about this stranger, am I to say he is in your charge?” Rinmar asked turned to face Amandur to be sure the ranger understood that all responsibility would be his, but Amandur did not turn, he simply nodded his understanding and began to walking toward the company approaching the house. Rinmar shook his head, then turned and entered the house to deliver his report.

“Hail, friends!” Amandur greeted as he approached, Kaldir gave a curt nod of his head in acknowledgement, Rauthain returned his greeting, Toby shifted uncomfortably as was to be expected, but the stranger remained indifferent.

“And just who might you be I wonder?” the hobbit woman asked eyeing him suspiciously.

“My apologies Mrs Banks, I forget that we have not been formally introduced, my name is Amandur, I also am one of the Kings Rangers and friend to Lady Lespheria, with whom I believe you are acquainted, she will be most please to hear that you are here safe and well, “he smiled.

“Miz Lespheria she is here!” the hobbit woman exclaimed. Amandur nodded, “Oh Mister Kaldir Miz Lespheria will be able to fix up Mister Dulrain, like she did miz Benia back at the inn!” said the hobbit woman with a little relief.

“The Healers of Rivendell will be able to fix us all up,” he laughed, indicating her own and Kaldir's injuries as well as his own.

As he spoke with the hobbit women the others passed them and mounted the stairs to the last house, as the stranger passed by he glanced down and sure enough, the tread left in the soft ground match those he had been following for several weeks. His distain showed as he looked up at the young mans back.

“Will you excuse me a moment Mrs Banks?” he hastily apologised and without waiting for her to answer he strode forwards towards the stranger, the image of Tallas’ cold body, the body he had to bury, again rose fresh in his mind. But before he reached the young man a firm hand gripped his right arm, and he looked up to see Rauthian. No words passed between them, he could see from the rangers eyes that he too knew or at least suspected that the young man had been in Naiore’s company and that he wanted to wait till the others where safely inside, before confronting him. Amandur nodded reluctantly and Rauthain released his grip, but he continued to keep a suspiciously close eye on the young man.
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Old 04-12-2004, 05:56 PM   #236
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Gilly

Gilly could see now that she would indeed be in need of Kaldir’s help and protection if she were to find her way home again, as well as to provide some sort of convincing proof for her neighbors that she had indeed traveled to Rivendell, and not merely disappeared from Bree in order to play some cruel joke. And she had wanted to thank Kaldir for his kind offer, but then Mr. Kaldir could not go as far as Bywater, and what a shame that was. Not only because it meant she would have to do the convincing on her own, but because she had the notion to cook him a grand meal after all this was over, a fat roast with potatoes and mushroom gravy, maybe raspberries and cake and cream, to both thank him and try to tempt him a bit with the more domestic life she thought he needed. Perhaps if he were to have a steady, kindly home, even if it was not his own, he would not feel the need to go around toting folks away from theirs, scaring them half to death with his rope and his scowling.

But as she picked through these thoughts of hers, trying to find an appropriate way to say “Yes please that would be very nice of you, and thank you very much. And would you mind kindly repeating to my dear husband what you just said then about it being your actions what’s landed me here?” when she heard a long slow metallic scrape ending in a tang that made the hair of her neck stand on end.

Looking back, the young man who accompanied Rauthain, approached them with sword drawn and frowning. For a moment Gilly thought that he meant them harm, but seeing her surprise the man quickly nodded at her. “Not to worry Ma’am, my mother always told me that I should have a steady hand waiting a surprise attack - from my brothers, I mean - They were older than I and very rough….”

“I think I could learn summat from your mother then!” the hobbit said clutching the yoke of her dress in alarm and wondering what manner of man this might be. “Dear me, you’ve given me a fright! I can only hope my own boys never warrant such a warning. And if they did I surely would never give them a sword such as you carry or there’d be naught but hams and briskets all the way to Hobbiton!” She turned to Kaldir for reassurance, but found he had grown serious again and she wondered what he was thinking as he studied the other man’s face.

Reaching out, Rauthain put his rough hand on the man’s back. “Avanill, though it is wise to be alert to the danger that surrounds us, I do not think the elves of this place will respond well to guests entering the heart of their land with drawn swords. It is a place of knowledge as well as healing. See there?” The grey ranger squinting, pointed further along their path toward where it opened upon a green sward that was divided by a swift stream. “This is Karningul and just over that narrow bridge is the house we seek. You may just barely make out the steps of it from here. ”

Gilly quickly returned her sword to its place at her side. “Mr. Avanill, is it? If you don’t mind my saying so, it looks as though you could do with a bit of healing yourself. I’m sure that should any of your brothers find you here, we all would help protect you,” she reassured him. “Will you put away your sword?.”

“Yes,” Rauthain agreed. “If those who would do us mischief where to overtake us, be sure will all fight along side you!”

Avanill slowly slid his sword back in its scabbard, looking not so much at those around him, but seeing another who fast approached looking as though he too had fought hard in battle, for his hair was damp from sweat and he held one arm close upon his belt as he walked. “Hail friends!” this man said soberly as he quickly advanced. Gilly looked from face to face to see who it was he addressed, and curiously only Rauthain gave voice in reply, Kaldir merely nodding. Toby who had looked relieved to see Avanill’s blade sheathed, now looked uncomfortable again with this addition to their group. Not sure what this meant exactly, and what Toby might know of him, she eyed the man with suspicion. “And just who might you be I wonder?” she questioned him when he drew up.

The man apologized introducing himself as Amandur, a ranger and friend of the elf Léspheria who had seemed so kindly disposed toward Miss Benia and herself, when Kaldir had appeared threatening at the Forsaken Inn. “She will be most pleased to hear that you are safe and well,” he said smiling. Surprised as the hobbit was, to find he knew her name, she was overjoyed to find that the Lady Léspheria was here also! Such a comfort she had been helping Miss Benia’s ankle so, and hopefully she too was well, for when Gilly had last seen her she had appeared quite distressed.

“Miss Léspheria, she is here!” the hobbit fairly shouted in her happiness and relief, “Oh Mr. Kaldir, Miss Léspheria will be able to fix up Mr. Dúlrain, like she helped Miss Benia back at the inn.”

“The Healers of Rivendell will be able to fix us all up,” Amandur laughed. True they were a sore sight and in need of rest, Gilly thought as she and Amandur watched the ragged band pass them by on their way to the bridge and the steps.

“Will you excuse me a moment Mrs. Banks?” the ranger said distractedly, moving off to follow the rest. Gilly saw him catch up to them quickly, and Rauthain draw up beside him. Remembering the words Avanill had spoken and not wishing to be left behind, the hobbit quickly hitched up her skirts and ran lightly over the soft green grass to the stone bridge and over, passing by her fellow travelers and waiting on the stone steps for them to catch up again, wondering where Miss Benia and Dúlrain might be now, and if her friend might might know already that Lady Léspheria was here also.

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Old 04-15-2004, 12:48 PM   #237
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Benia

As they arrived in front of the great house, Benia saw Lady Léspheria rush out to meet them, carrying a satchel of herbs with her. She felt the tension she carried in her shoulders relax slightly at the sight of the healer, but still Benia could not cease to be afraid for Dúlrain until she knew within her heart that he would recover. Dismounting, she watched as the elves of Dúlrain's escort delivered him into the Elven lady’s arms. Hurrying to Dúlrain’s side, Benia found one of the Ranger’s hands and folded it tightly between both of hers.

“What happened to him?” asked Léspheria. The elf’s gray eyes took in the ranger’s wet, blood-soaked clothing and the makeshift bindings that had been ripped from the hem of Benia’s skirt with a glance.

“He was wounded by orcs in the Lone Lands some five days hence,” answered Benia softly. “Kaldir did his best to rush him here, but the way has been rough. We were forced to cross the river just above the falls. I fear it may have been too much for him.” The hint of a sob found its way into Benia’s voice. “Please say you can help him.”

Léspheria gave Benia a searching look, which made the southern woman feel suddenly self-conscious, crouched there on the ground in her torn, muddy dress, the kohl smeared around her eyes. Under the gaze of the beautiful Elven lady, she felt more like a mongrel than ever. A hot flush rose up in Benia’s cheeks, but her grip on Dúlrain’s hand only tightened.

“Benia...” murmured Dúlrain, his eyes flickering open for an instant before landing on Benia‘s face and closing again.

Léspheria’s gaze softened.

“He’s lost a good deal of blood,” she said gently. “Until I remove the bindings and take a close look at the wound, I cannot know how badly he is hurt, but he is strong. If he could make it this far, I’m sure his chances are good.” Reaching out, Léspheria touched Benia’s wrist. “Fear not for him, lady,” she added more softly, her voice strangely touched with emotion.

Benia nodded and, feeling hopeful for the first time since Dúlrain’s collapse on the riverbank, reluctantly released his hand as two elves lifted him to carry him to the halls of healing. She jogged along behind them as the two elves moved swiftly through the great house that had once been home to both Elrond and Queen Arwen Evenstar, but the beauty and wonder of the place was lost on Benia as her only thoughts were for Dúlrain. Ahead of her, she could hear him muttering and crying out on occasion in what she could only assume was delirium, once calling out clearly for Kaldir. A few minutes later, she heard, “he loves her...”, then “...never be mine...” Her dark eyebrows knit together in confusion.

Just then, the elves bearing Dúlrain turned into a softly lit room, where they laid the injured man down on a waiting bed. Léspheria, who had been walking a few steps behind Benia as they moved through the halls, slid past her now to a table near Dúlrain’s bed and began to lay out the herbs from her satchel. Neither wishing to leave nor to get in the way, Benia hung back against the wall next to the door, watching nervously as the elves who had carried Dúlrain began to cut the bindings away from his wound. Hugging her elbows, she slid down the wall until she sat on her heels, her long, black braid pulled forward over her shoulder. Her dress still wet from the river crossing, she shivered, feeling suddenly very cold and very alone.

Benia had never been in the presence of many elves in her lifetime and certainly had never experienced any place like Imladris. She had been so focused on getting there for Dúlrain's sake that she had not given any thought as to what would become of herself when the time came. Now that Dúlrain had been safely delivered in to the hands of the healers she had sought, she found herself feeling very intimidated and overwhelmed. If only Gilly were there with her.

Gilly! Benia realized with mounting horror that she had been so intent on saving Dúlrain that she had simply ridden off and left her best and dearest friend in the world to her fate on the battlefield. All she could do was hope and pray with all the strength in her heart that Gilly had made it into Imladris unharmed. If anything ill had befallen the little hobbit lady, Benia knew she would never be able to forgive herself and would carry a burden of guilt for the rest of her life. And Kaldir, too... Remembering the way she had behaved on the riverbank toward him, Benia felt a spike of shame. She could see now that it was through his sheer determination and bravery that any of them had made it even as far as the stair, yet she had had the nerve to turn on him and fairly accuse him of trying to murder Dúlrain. She remembered the expression that had flashed across his scarred face as the words left her mouth. She might as well have driven a knife into his chest. If only he could find it in his heart to forgive her. She had been so frightened.

Reaching up, Benia brushed a single tear from the corner of her gemlike eyes.

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Old 04-19-2004, 07:49 AM   #238
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Léspheria

In the gentle glow of the softly lit room, Léspheria arranged the herbs that might be need to aid in the Ranger comfort and recovery, to her left a young apprentice healer appeared with a basin of salty water in his hands and a fresh towel draped over his arm. She washed her hand thoroughly in the solution and once dried she replaced the towel over his arm, holding him gently in place that he did not leave at once.

“Please bring warm towels and dry clothes for the lady,” she whispered in the young elf’s Silvan tongue, indicating with a slight incline of her head the southern woman who sat shivering against the wall by the door. She let go of his arm and smiled appreciatively as the elf nodded and went at once to see to her request.

Turning back to her patient, she saw that the two resident healers of the halls had already begun to remove the ranger’s blood soaked clothing. As she joined them their faces looked grim, “There is a lot of blood,” one whispered to her as she carefully removed the blood soaked bindings, but she said nothing and concentrated on the task before her. The wound did not trouble her as much as the growing unrest in the young man’s mind. He was tethered on the edge of an emotional precipice torn between choosing life or death, the wound she could heal but if he gave up on life then their would be nothing she could do, she knew she would have to work fast before he made this choice.

As they cleaned the wound, she began to chant softly, hoping that the calming effect of the ancient spell would belay his unrest and dispel his despair. Her gaze strayed momentarily to the southern woman as she felt the emotions behind the rangers despair….Love! Unyielding and unbridled, but not just for the woman who had brought him to the house, another kind of love played a part in this ranger’s precarious state of mind, one of friendship and fierce loyalty and the two threatened topple him over the edge.

He would willingly choose death rather that hurt either one! She suddenly realised as she examined his wound. It was deep but not beyond her skills to heal, however there was clear signs of infection, likely from the freezing waters of the Bruinen, but to her relief the bleeding had stopped, stanched by his companion’s quick thinking and tight bindings. With her realisation of the rangers mind her need for urgency increased, she would require help, but no other healer remained in Imladris who had the skills she would require to help her save this young man‘s life… except one!

Looking up she spoke hastily in silvan to the nearest healer “I need you to bring me the young elven woman, Vanwe she has same skill in the healing arts as I do. I will need her help if I am to save his life!” The healer nodded his understanding and she quickly informed him where the elf woman could be found. She did not wait to see his hasty departure, but turned to the second healer and instructed her to prepare a simple poultice that would fight the infection and dissolve harmlessly once the wound was closed. By this time the young Apprentice had returned and was offering Benia warm towels and dry clothing, but feeling her gaze upon him he turn, then with her eyes and a slight incline of her head she let the young elf know that his assistance was needed. He quickly turned to the woman letting her know that he was needed then quietly slipped up beside her and waited for her instructions.

“Do you know how to make herbal infusions?” she asked the apprentice, wiping a cooling cloth across the rangers sweat drenched brow.

“Yes my lady, I have been instructed in that skill.” the young elf answered at once, as he turned to lift a fresh basin of cooled water and bring it to her.

“Good, then I need you to make a simple infusion of Syzyium aromaticum and Matricaria Chamomilla.,” she instructed him, as she again dipped the cloth into the cooled water.

“Cloves and chamomile?” the apprentice frowned confused, “Yes! Like I said simple, but very effective,” but seeing that the young elf still did not understand she continued to explain briefly. The cloves will fight the infection and relieve his pain and discomfort, while the Chamomile will soothe his nerves and hopefully break his fever.” The apprentice’s cheeks flushed with apparent embarrassment, as she remained him of the healing properties of each ingredient. “At once my lady,” he hurriedly replied, backing away to do her bidding.

“Stay with us my young friend she whispered,” as she placed the damp cloth on the rangers forehead.

She then turned to the table and opened the draw on it’s under side, wherein she found a sharp needle and some horse gut which she would need to close the rangers gapping wound. She carefully threaded the fine thread through the eye of the needle then held its tip carefully over the orangey flame of a nearby candle. As she did this, the female elven healer returned and applied the freshly prepared poultice to the wound, and then knowing what was to come next, she leaned across the ranger’s chest holding his arms tight, in a restraining manner.

Taking a deep breath she removed the red-hot needle from the flame and gentle holding the wound closed she punctured the needle through the living flesh to make the first stitch. As expected the ranger regained consciousness and screamed out in pain, but she pressed on ignoring his cries, not even noticing the return of the first heal as he hurried to help his colleague restrain the struggling ranger. Only when she saw Vanwe’s familiar hands helping her to hold the wound close did she look up, nodding appreciatively then returning to finish of the stitches.

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

Vanwe

Vanwe stood with her father looking out over the tranquil gardens of Imladris, his words wore heavy on her heart, but they revealed to her the truth of what she had so verdantly tried to hide from herself. Naiore could never be the mother she longed for her to be and giving into that delusion would only bring harm to those whom she would hold dear, she could see that now. But neither could she find it in her heart to hate the mother who had abandoned her and sought to destroy those who had once held her dear. Turning her head she regarded the worn features of her father, lines carved through years of pain and torment marked the fairness of his long face, and his eyes held an agony that he had for so long suffered alone. Vanwe’s hand hesitantly reached out finding that of her fathers, her instinctual precedence to heal his hurts giving dominance over her doubts and fears. She knew in her heart that she could never completely remove his pain and she would not try. But perhaps she could share his burden or at least distract from its pain, wrapping her hand about his and leaning her golden head on his shoulder she whispered,

“No longer are we alone father!”

He did not speak and she did not need him too, contented for the moment that he had not pulled away as she feared he might. As she rested her head on, his shoulder and looked out again over the gardens of her kin a strange but pleasing calmness filled her, easing for that moment the troubles of her heart. They had found each other and for that, at least she had her mother to thank.

A loud sharp knock broke through the serenity of the moment causing her to start, quickly regaining her composure she turned towards the door, “enter!” her father called letting go of her hand and starting towards the door. A tall dark haired elf, robed in earthen tones hastily entered the room, on seeing Menecin the elf paused; he had obviously not expecting to find the bard.

“My apologies, my Lord” he quickly recovered, bending respectfully. “I look for Miss Vanwe, Lady Léspheria informed me that she could be found here.”

Vanwe cautiously stepped out from behind her father, “I am she,” she answered wondering what this elf could want of her, experience had taught her to be wary for often people wanted what she could not give. As if sensing her in trepidation her father addressed the elf.

“And for what reason would a healer of Imladris seek my daughter!” The elf started slightly at the accusation in the bard’s eyes, but remembering his need for haste he turned to Vanwe and continued.

“The Lady Léspheria seeks your help, a ranger lies in our halls mortally wounded and she asks if you will come.”

Surprised Vanwe looked between her father and the healer, “I..I don’t know how I can help,” she answered unsure of herself and her abilities.

“Are you not a healer?” the elf asked confused.

Vanwe regretfully shook her head “No, I am no healer, I have on occasion healed minor injuries, mostly on myself and on small animals, but nothing to the extent of which you speak. I do not know how my limited ability can be of any help.”

The healer smiled warmly, “Any ability is a help my lady. If the Lady Léspheria believes you can help then it must be so, for not readily is she wrong in such matters , will you come.” He pressed motioning towards the open door. Still unsure of what help she could provide she nodded and followed him out of the room, pausing only briefly to look over her shoulder at her father, it gave her a little comfort when he nodded indicating that he would follow.

Entering the hall of healing Vanwe paused allowing her eyes to adjust to the soft light, her eyes going wide at the surreal scene before her. On the bed lay a man, a ranger she had been told, but she did not know this one, his deathly pale skin glistened with feverish sweat, and even from the door, and she could sense the wrongness of his injury. Looking up from the ranger, she saw Léspheria, she held a needle in the flame of a candle her gentle face lined with care and concern. An elven woman then moved to restrain the injured man and she felt their guide brush past her as he too move to help restrain their patient, in an instant she knew what Léspheria intended to do, she still did not know how she could help but she did know that she had to try. Quickly she placed her hands around the wound gently pressing the two side of the deep wound together, nodding uncertainly as Lespheria smiled at her appreciatively.

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Old 04-20-2004, 12:45 PM   #239
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Benia

Wiping the lone tear from the corner of her eye, Benia watched attentively as Lady Léspheria washed her hands in a basin brought by one of the other elves and prepared to begin the treatment of Dúlrain's wounds. She scarcely noticed as the elf who had brought the basin slipped from the room, listening instead to Léspheria's soft chanting, frustrated that when they spoke amongst themselves, the healers spoke in their own Sylvan language, which lay beyond Benia's understanding. Even so, she found herself inching away from the wall and closer to where the healers worked, unwilling to leave Dúlrain entirely in their hands, regardless how wonderfully capable those hands might be.

"My lady," said a voice softly in the common tongue.

Benia turned and saw that the young Elven apprentice who had earlier left the room had returned bearing an armful of towels and dry clothing.

"Lady Léspheria thought you might be in need of something warm and dry to wear," he continued, offering her an Elven-made dress of deep green silk and several thick towels. "The towels have been heated by the fire."

Benia took them gratefully and bowed her head in thanks. "You are too kind," she murmured. "Please thank Lady Léspheria for her generosity as well."

The Elven apprentice nodded, but before he could reply was called away by Léspheria. Swiftly, he made his excuses to Benia and slipped into his place beside the lady at Dúlrain's bedside. Hugging the warm towels to her bodice, Benia watched as one of the assistant healers leaned across Dúlrain's chest to restrain his arms, while Léspheria heated a needle in the flame of a candle. Then, Léspheria bent forward and, using the red hot needle, began to sew. At the ranger's first cry of pain, Benia felt her body tense. She tried to steel herself against it and let the healers do their work, but as his cries continued, his body straining against the restricting hold of the assistant healer, she found she could not remain unaffected. When a second assistant joined the first in holding Dúlrain down, Benia could no longer bear it.

She put aside the bundle of towels and clothing and rose swiftly to her feet.

"Stop it!" she cried. "Please stop."

Léspheria paused and looked up, her fair face etched with concern. "What is it?" Beside her, another elf who had joined Léspheria only a moment earlier hesitated as well. Benia was surprised to recognize Vanwe.

"You're hurting him." Benia said softly, her amber eyes meeting Léspheria's gray ones with a steady gaze.

"I'm sorry," answered Léspheria gently. "But it can't be helped. The wound must be closed."

"Yes." Benia nodded. "But not like this." She reached out and took hold of one of the assistant healers' hands. "Let go of him."

Clearly doubtful of Benia's intentions, the assistant hesitated and looked warily toward Léspheria for instructions. Léspheria nodded, first to one assistant then the other. Both of them released their hold of the ranger and stepped back. Vanwe and Léspheria remained in place, Vanwe's long, dextrous fingers still holding the gaping wound closed as Léspheria waited, the needle poised in midair.

Moving past them all to the head of the bed, Benia smoothed Dúlrain's black hair back from his face. His breath was still coming swift and shallow from the pain, but at least he had grown still. Casting a reproachful glance at the two assistants, Benia bent down and pressed her cheek against the side of Dúlrain's face, her lips nearly brushing his ear. His skin burned.

"Can you hear me?" she whispered, laying one of her tattooed hands against the far side of his face. She reached out with her other hand to find his hand where it rested on his chest.

He nodded weakly, but at the touch of her fingers on his, closed his hand around hers in a grip so tight that her eyes watered.

Careful not to wince, Benia closed her eyes, continuing to stroke the side of his face gently with the fingertips of her other hand. "That's good," she continued, barely loudly enough to be heard by Vanwe and Léspheria. "I'm going to tell you a story now, but first - " she paused to kiss the side of his face just above his ear. "But first we must take care of the pain."

When he nodded again, Benia went on. "We mustn't fight against the pain. That only gives it power. What we are going to do is accept it and let it go. Are you ready?" She waited for him to nod once more, then opened her eyes, giving Léspheria a significant glance. Understanding, Léspheria nodded as well and communicated with a look to Vanwe that they would continue to wait. Lowering her eyelashes once more, Benia turned her attention back to Dúlrain.

"You and I are all alone," she said in a soft and soothing tone. "We stand on the edge of the Great Sand, near a well that was once used by my people but that is now running dry. On our hands, we wear heavy gloves, like falconer's mitts. We are going to collect the pain now, every jagged shard. As you draw it up and release it from your body, we gather the pieces together until they form a ball that sparkles in the sunlight like an orb of broken glass. Outside of you. Can you see it?"

"Yes," breathed Dúlrain, his eyes still closed.

"We take the pain and we place it on the goatskins that we have laid out on the sand between us. We wrap the skins around the pain in many, many layers until the jagged edges can no longer be seen and we bind it up in cords of the softest silk. And, taking the bundle, we lower it into the cool darkness of the well. The pain is moving away from you now."

"Yes..."

"There is a slab of granite, lying in the sand nearby. You pick it up and place it over the mouth of the well. Together, we take a piece of white chalk and, with your hand over mine, we mark the granite with a rune that will keep the pain trapped in the well. It cannot follow you."

"Cannot follow..."

"We smile at each other and walk toward our horses." Benia opened her eyes again and gave Léspheria the slightest nod. Responding in kind, Léspheria prepared the needle to continue its work. "We've been riding all day," Benia whispered to Dúlrain. "Deep into the grasslands, leaving the Great Sand behind us. The pain is very far way now."

Dúlrain gasped sharply as Léspheria's needle pierced his flesh again. His body tensed, but he did not cry out.

"The pain is very far away," repeated Benia. The ranger relaxed slightly. The side of his face continued to press tightly against hers, but he no longer struggled against the ministrations of the healers. Benia felt a tentative relief as somehow, between the growing affects of Léspheria's herbs and the hypnotic flow of her own voice, his discomfort waned. She continued with her story.

"It is nearing sunset and the sun's rays paint our faces orange. The mountains ahead of us glow with a soft rose pink. There is a spring ahead in the line of trees that separates us from the mountains. Smelling the water, our horses whicker and dance..."

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Old 04-21-2004, 03:20 PM   #240
Hilde Bracegirdle
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Rauthain

It was after the elves had shown them to the place where they might be quartered among those young rangers who still trained under their tutelage, Amandur and Rauthain set about trying gain word on Dúlrain's condition, insisting that Avanill come with them. Yet without pause the rangers had found Toby a companion when he showed a slight reluctance to join them, the hobbit for his part, looking visibly relieved to see the three men start off down the path toward the main body of the house without him.

But going along the winding path through the rhododendrons and great banks of ferns that rose beside the way, Rauthain suddenly taking hold of Avanill's arm pulled him off the path toward a grotto overhung with wild roses, indicating Amandur to follow. The young man sharply jerked his arm away and went to reach for his sword, but Amandur had already drawn his weapon, and with his left hand placed it at the fellow's throat. "Steady," Rauthain admonished in a whisper. "We have already had enough bloodshed for one day, and I have seen that you are both worthy opponents. No, we are not here to spill blood, but to speak of one whose blood was spent among the circle of oaks in Chetwood." Rauthain lowered his chin and looking out from under his brow gazed into Avanill impassive face. "My friend and I, think you know of whom I speak. We know in truth, Avanill, son of …Atoren, did you say? Your feet have betrayed you."

The young man drew himself up and with his chin held high, quickly assessed his position.

“Do not contend with us, it would not be to your advantage, I assure you.” Amandur advised coldly. Then turning, he addressed the old ranger. “Let us escort him now to Elrohir and Elladan, and gather their counsel on where he might be kept until we might deal with him.”

“You speak well Amandur, but how shall we deal with him, for Tallas was highly esteemed by our brethren?” Rauthain sighed.

“And was quite brutally murdered.” Amandur added.

“Sadly yes. But as I was saying, there is not a wandering ranger in this land who would not wish to have Tallas avenged, myself among them,” Rauthain admitted. “So you see your life is forfeit Avanill, the rangers on one side and Naiore on the other. For even if you did not escape her company without leave, as I suspect you did, after your stay with us in Karningul, she will no longer trust her pawn, but will doubtless seek to sacrifice it at the earliest opportunity. I can truly say that I am glad I am not in your place.”

“I do not live life haunted by fear, nor do I choose to now,” the young man said proudly.
“Yet there are times when it is hard to lay such possibilities aside.”

“It is better to leave the matter to the elves or at least leave him for safe keeping until we return from our hunt, and can transport him together with Naiore to suffer the King’s judgment.” Amandur mused. “He will be quite safe here both from rangers and from escape, though I do not know if they might have room, for many orcs of rank were captured today.”

“He will just have to live alongside them in his captivity,” Rauthain said simply. “I see no other way.”

“But there is another way,” Avanill said, his eyes narrowing. “Perhaps I can show my worth by being of service in your endeavor.”

“What help can you be, except to provide a sharp knife when dispatching us in our sleep! We have enough to mind, without you on the trail.” Amandur said sheathing his sword. “No, I do not think we have use for you, nor will we strike a bargain.”

“Truly, my freedom would be profitable for you, for you will need to subdue this ravennor once you have caught her. And though you bind her with the strongest elven rope, you cannot constrain her mind,” he paused to gauge their expressions. “I have witnessed her talents sir, and what she is capable of. You would not stand for long against her, but would come to a point where you yourself would gladly cut her bonds and free her.”

This struck a chord in the old ranger, and he knew in his heart what the young man said would prove true given time. “But if we ask it of them, the elves would provide us with the assistance we require.” He replied, knowing full well that Imladris could ill afford to spare its guards to accompany them.

“It is a long way to Gondor, and ample opportunity for her to work her damage upon us. I had in mind certain preparations and compounds, the production of I have some mastery of. These would render her quite helpless.”

“Can not the elves furnish these things also?” Amandur said, dismissing the thought, “and at less risk to us.”

“Yes, they might have something akin to what I speak of, but I have in reserve some potent ingredients, even the elves would shun. Too strong or unstable, and some others too risky but still widely used in areas the elves do not tread,” he said with a sidelong glance at Amandur. “I have come by them only by chance and by my family’s close contacts. You will find them very effective drafts, found nowhere else in the west but on my person. They would dull the Ravennor’s mind such that she would walk in a dream, not able to focus her thoughts, but still she could walk. She could travel long distances without being bound. See here are my stores,” he said opening the satchel at his side, pulling out packets and unwrapping carefully stored vials. Then turning to Amandur he explained, “I would not mislead you in this, for my own life is at stake and perhaps more than that. But do not underestimate my value to you, for strength and armaments alone will not bring Naiore to face the King.”

“You may well be right, and you have thus far been of great assistance, but we also must consider that you might misrepresent your skills and loyalties. Not to forget also your part in the murder of our friend Tallas. But were we to agree, and you play us for the fool, as I live,” the old ranger declared, “my anger would lay heavy on you! And should you turn against us on the road, it would be my great satisfaction to chase you like a fox and repay you.”
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