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Old 11-26-2002, 04:36 AM   #41
piosenniel
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Sting

Her grey eyes narrowed as she saw the man holding the grey map in his hands. She had not meant for a stranger's eyes to study it. Rising lightly from her seat, she stepped past Bird and made her way to where she could watch him closely.

'Who is that?' she whispered to a passing servant. 'Ransom, m'Lady, is what he calls himself.'

Pio moved up quietly behind Ransom, her right hand tucked curiously beneath the loose, left sleeve of her tunic. 'The map, sir, and now.' she said softly, her voice just inches from his ear.
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Old 11-26-2002, 08:03 PM   #42
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Sting

It seemed to Gamba that the more dishes he washed, the more dirty ones appeared at his elbow.

Actually, that wasn't far from the truth; the inn was quite busy, many people were eating and drinking, and there was no shortage of dishes to be done. And the cook was content to let him wash them. Blearily, he kept scrubbing, with the occasional punctuation of a cavernous yawn.
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Old 11-26-2002, 09:20 PM   #43
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Sting

Susan stared at the Elf in surprise. Had she done that all in one breath? And who was this "he" she mentioned?

Menelduliniel continued to look at Susan eagerly, waiting for her reaction. After a few seconds, Susan closed her mouth and cleared her throat while she thought of something to say.

"So you're from Mirkwood? Last time I was there was...well I don't remember the last time I was there. Must have been a long time ago." She shrugged and took a drink of her mead. "Anyway, I'm in the business of story-gathering, you know, and one thing I do remember was having a meeting with King Thranduil to see if there were any worthwile stories I could record. I met his sons too. That Legolas is a piece of work, I tell you. You ever meet him?" She started to take another sip of her drink, but paused halfway to her mouth. The Elf's face was beet red and her fists were clenched on the table top. Susan put the mug down, concerned. "Are you all right?" She asked.

[ November 26, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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Old 11-27-2002, 12:09 AM   #44
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Sting

Mithadan plucked the map from Ransom's formerly over-zealous and presently nerveless hands. He noted that the point of a dagger protruded from Piosenniel's sleeve with its point dimpling the skin of Ransom's neck just below his ear.

"I'm certain the gentleman was trying to help, darling," said Mithadan gently as he looked into Ransom's eyes. "Ithryn Luin. 'Blue Wizards'. Gandalf would be better able to elucidate I think. Speak to him. And have an ale on me."

The Man walked towards Gandalf while rubbing his neck. He glanced back at Piosenniel, than joined the Wizard at his table. An ale appeared quickly at his elbow. Mithadan tossed a silver coin to Rimbaud with a nod.
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Old 11-27-2002, 08:10 AM   #45
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Afetr depositing some takings with the exceptionally tall barman, Rimbaud pushed his way into the kitchens. He almost laughed to see the short, hairy-footed Hobbit struggling with the great plates and mugs of the Inn. Perched on a stool, all red-cheeks and puffing, the sight was highly comical and many of the staff in the kitchen were barely concealing grins.

"There, there, good master," he exclaimed. "It seems you have more than earned your keep."

Gamba scrambled down and peered anxiously up at the grey-clad Innkeeper. He rather suspected what was coming.

"Time for you to dry your hands and face your friends again," said Rimbaud sternly, but a twinkle in his eye belied his words and for a moment it seemed he would tousle the young hobbit's unruly mop of curls, but instead the blue-eyed man pivoted on his heel and made a swift egress from the bustle of the kitchens.

Gamba looked at the wooden door to the common room, swinging shut after Rimbaud, with some trepidation.
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Old 11-27-2002, 09:43 AM   #46
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Sting

Gamba cracked the large door and peered through into the smoke while the kitchen staff looked on, smiling. He hesitated, and closed the door again. A waiter came in, gathered a platter of steaming dishes, and with an amused glance at the redfaced and dishevelled hobbit, headed for the door.

Gamba ran his fingers through his mop of curls, succeeding only in making them wilder; he straightened his shirt hastily, tucked in his shirttail, and then as the waiter proceeded through the door, melted behind him, and used him for cover til he could slip under a table again.

Rimbaud kept an eye on the door and wondered when the hobbit would gather his courage and come back out, when suddenly a mop of curls appeared by his side. "Reporting, sir, " mumbled a sheepish voice; wide brown eyes gazed up at him as a pair of very clean fists were jammed deep into breeches-pockets.

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-27-2002, 10:42 AM   #47
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel closed her eyes a second and took a ragged sigh.

"Fine," she said, "Yes...fine. I am fine. The stories he could tell you if you had gone within the last, oh, say twenty years. Even if you had gone within the last fifty years, he would have had plenty of stories. Yes, so many stories he could have told you. I have not been welcomed peacefully to Mirkwood in fifty years, but I saw it about twenty years ago. So-" she broke off a second, her voice shaking, then continued, "So much had changed."

Susan looked at her closely.

"And," Menelduliniel said, praying that she would not break down in a fit of rage or tears, she knew not which, "Yes. I have met the Prince. He is more of a 'piece of work', as you labelled him, than you could ever imagine. He was to be married once. Did you know that? To Lady Poldorawen. She was a trainer of shieldmaidens, actually. It would not have been much of a marriage. She was too headstrong. The Prince is so strong-minded that, if he were to marry an equally strong woman, the kingdom would be torn apart. But he claimed he loved her. None know if he truly did or not. I do not believe he did. I believe he loved m-...a person of quite a different rank."

"And of you?" Susan asked the Elf.

"I...I was...am...the daughter of two servants of Thranduil. Laeron and Draugien are their names. They are good and faithful to the King. That, I suppose, is why they did not leave when I did. The King loved them. I think he liked me as well. He allowed me to rise above my station and train with other shieldmaidens of noble birth. Poldorawen was my master. She worked us too hard. I believe she killed a few maidens in the process, but none believe me since I have no proof. They say it is just my jealousy. Well, I am no longer jealous of her. She is dead and gone. She will no longer plague anyone."

"What were you jealous of?" Susan asked Menelduliniel.

"Of what she had in life," Menelduliniel said, sighing and fighting her emotions.

She could tell that Susan knew of what she spoke.

"Yes, he is a 'piece of work'," Menelduliniel continued, "He is a good man, but he does not realize his charisma. I suppose I may have mistook kindness for love, but could I make such a serious folly?" She paused, "Yes...I suppose I may have. I have made many errors over the past decades. He made it quite clear to me upon our last meeting that he holds me in no higher esteem than he would an Orc. No, he did not say those words, but I knew it. He still claimed to love Poldorawen. Could you imagine that?" Menelduliniel laughed bitterly, "Ai, well, Estelarion tells me I must move on. I suppose I shall. But, how can I move on when I am here and everything I see reminds me of him? In Harad it was different. Everything was so very different. The language and even the culture was foreign. I never even thought of him. But here...I know he is merely many days away. But, we must remain here, I suppose. Estelarion wishes to journey to Rivendell at some time to visit his kin. I wonder if I shall be able to journey there? Well, we shall soon see."

Menelduliniel fell quiet into a mass of self-pity, as she was wont to do, even when the occasion did not demand it.

At that time, Estelarion came over. He seemed to no longer be mad.

"Suilannon, hiril nîn," he said, addressing Susan.

"Greetings," she replied.

He sat down next to Menelduliniel.

"Is she getting melodramatic again?" Estelarion asked Susan.

"I am not melodramatic," Menelduliniel argued.

"You do not know how lucky you are to be free, hűn nîn," Estelarion said.

"I would be better off dead," Menelduliniel pouted.

"We shall soon be off to Harad again, Menelduliniel," Estelarion said, "And you would have been better off dead had the Orcs kept you prisoner. Think of your blessings. I know you told this beautiful lady all about estel and how you cannot see how I could be named hope and all that you complain to me, for you tell all that, but I am a realist Menelduliniel. I believe in hope where hope dwells. I can see no hope in what you strive for. I do, however, see hope in you moving on. You will find your own place someday, Menelduliniel. It will most likely be in Harad, for you adapted to that culture more quickly than I could ever have thought. You will return there and your life will be good again. You will see that someday."

"How can you be so pessimistic, yet so optimistic?" Menelduliniel complained, "It is just not right!"

"Did you listen to what I said at all?" Estelarion asked. He then realized that Susan was still listening. He turned to her and said, "And what of you, kind lady? What of your tale? Or do you know any, even if they are of other people, that might cheer this cold heart that sits next to me, denying yet desperately grasping at a love that does not exist?"

Estelarion looked at Susan with pleading eyes as Menelduliniel continued to pout like an infant.

"Please," he mouthed, "She needs this merriment if you can provide it."

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: VanimaEdhel ]
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Old 11-27-2002, 02:06 PM   #48
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The Eye

Susan looked at the two expectant faces before her and sighed. She didn't usually use any of her stories for herself, but Menelduliniel still looked like she wanted to cry, and Estalarion had such concern for her. This situation was probably worth giving up a story for. She began.

"A long time ago, before the Wars that cracked the world, an Elf lived in Doriath. He was nobody important, just one of the many who followed King Thingol away from the Sea when Tulkas the Mighty was leading the Elves West to the land of the Valar. His name was Helevorn.

"Helevorn lived there happily for many years, and was never unsatisfied, never wished for more than Eru had alloted him by his own choices, until the Noldor returned to the land. Then, when Lady Galadriel came to Doriath shining with the Light of the Trees, Helevorn realised what he'd given up when he followed King Thingol away from the host of Elves.

"As time passed, he became more and more unsatisfied with his peaceful life in the Forest and one day he left. He wandered in the world for several years, seeking he knew not what. All he knew was that he hadn't found it.

"He eventually found his way to the sea and in its wildness, he finally found a match for the wildness in his spirit and thus, a restless peace. He built a house there by the shore and lived there for a long time, ignoring the outside world and being ignored by it.

"He was walking by the shore one day, watching the clouds, when he became aware that he was being watched. He peered through the trees on the far side of the beach and called out to the figure he saw there. The bushes twitched, and then out stepped a woman. A tall, beautiful, dark haired Noldor.

"Her name was Culúrien. She'd followed Feanor into exile with the rest of the Noldor, but had realised how misguided he was and had run away into the wild. She'd found this beach and had been watching Helevorn forr several days, but she had been alone for a long time and was glad to have been discovered.

"Helevorn was equally glad, for he'd yearned for another voice in the stillness by the sea.

"They dwelled there together for a time and the seasons turned and Culurien was with child.
Helevorn rejoiced, but Culúrien's reaction was harder to judge.

"Then the time came and the child was born. A girl. Helevorn named her Erana, his gift from the sea.

"For five days they were happy. On the sixth day, Helevorn woke and Culúrien was gone. No explanation, no trail, just vanished. In a panic, he rushed out the door to find her, leaving the child in her cradle. Neither he nor Culúrien were seen or heard from again."

Susan stopped talking and let out a long breath. She looked around, surprised; she'd gathered quite an audience.
"What happened to the child?" Someone in the crowd asked.

Susan gave a small, tight laugh and said, "Ahh, the child. She was found by Men and raised by them. They named her-- they gave her a different name and raised her as best they could, but they were Men and she was an Elf. Her adopted mother died when she was still a child, as did many of the others in the village. She grew up wild." She took a drink of her mead and looked at the table. Even after all this time, the pain was still fresh. She looked up at a light touch on her arm. It was Meneduliniel, and she was smiling.

"Thank you," she murmured.
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Old 11-27-2002, 06:25 PM   #49
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Silmaril

Bird watched carefully as Pio confronted the stranger who had shown such interest in the oliphant-skin map. But the situation seemed to have resolved itself, with Mith stepping in to bestow a peace-offering of ale.

Birdie could not think why Pio had made such a fuss about the map. Perhaps she was missing something that the Elf perceived. It would not be the first time, thought Birdie.

But all thoughts of the map and its riddles were suddenly replaced by a most wonderous, delicious smell that had started to waft through the kitchen door. Everyone in the inn raised their heads and drew in a warm, satisfying sniff of the marvelous aroma.

Bird waved over one of the mysterious pot-boys employed by Rimbaud and asked "What wonderful dish is being prepared behind those doors? I have never smelled anything so scrumptious!" And the sudden growling of the skin-changer's stomach concurred with Bird's opinion.

"Ah!" said the servant with a smile, "a special dish is being prepared tonight. What you smell is the roasting flesh of the Meleagris gallopavo, a most wonderous, beautiful and wily bird, which dwells in the deep forests of the North Lands. It's head is naked and white, but it's body is clothed in feathers of black, bronze, red and gold. And the bird can spread it's wonderous tail into the shape of the rising sun, and walk with all the majesty of a King of Men."

"Seldom is this bird taken, for it is most cunning and secretive, but my Master, Rimbaud, has actually managed to procure a flock of these mysterious fowl, and is raising them in a secret location outside the city walls."

"Might I and my companions partake of this wonderful bird?" Birdie asked, with little hope, for it sounded as if a feast of this sort would be beyond their means.

"Of course!" cried the servant with a wink. "My master Rimbaud has prepared a banquet to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of his most successful inn "The Seventh Star", and all here are invited to celebrate with him, and share a feast of these most delicious roasted birds. There will be enough for all! Not just for today, but for many days to come."

"And for that we are all most thankful!" said Bird with a laugh. 'Bring us a bottle of your best Mirkwood Golden wine, and we will be happy to "honor" your birds with our company!"

"There is one thing you should know, before you eat of the flesh of the Meleagris gallopavo." said the servant with a mysterious air.

"What is that?"

"Whoever partakes of this bird will shortly fall into a deep slumber for at least one hour. But do not fear!" He said, seeing the look of dismay on Bird's face, "for you will have the most wonderous dreams while you sleep. And when you awake, all will be ready to feast on dessert!"

A Happy and Peaceful Thanksgiving to all my fellow Barrow-Downers around the World - Birdland

[ November 27, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-27-2002, 06:30 PM   #50
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel smiled. The others probably would not know of whom Susan spoke, but Menelduliniel had hidden her identity enough to recognize when another was doing the same.

"I hope that Erana will someday find it within her to return to her people. Her true people," Menelduliniel said, "I know that they would welcome her back. Although there are many different kinds of Elves, I am sure any would welcome her willingly."

She looked into Susan's eyes, showing that she understood.

"Find it in your heart to come back," Menelduliniel mouthed to her, smiling, "And thank you again."

She rose and fetched herself some more mead.

Estelarion muttered a quick "Thank you", smiling a bit, then he got up and helped her get more mead. The returned and sat back in the chairs.

"Tell another story!" another person called out.

"Not tonight," Susan said, smiling.

EDIT: Told you I'd come back today! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Wishing you a long, peaceful celebration!

[ November 28, 2002: Message edited by: VanimaEdhel ]
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Old 11-28-2002, 04:46 PM   #51
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The Eye

"A toast," Susan proposed when the two Elves returned to the table, "A toast...to friendships, old and new." She raised her mug to Menelduliniel and Estalarion and drank.

"Now, she continued when they'd drunk as well, "What brought you two from Harad to here? I came because I heard the gwaith-formen were coming, but I've since heard they're farther West, in Rohan. I'll stay here for a while though; the mead is rich and the company is good." She took another drink.
She watched Menelduliniel especially. How had she known who Erana was? She hadn't connected that long-lost maiden to herself in thousands of years, and wasn't even certain now what had brought that story out instead of one which was more innocuous. She smiled at them to cover her thoughts and gave a mental shrug. It most likely wasn't too terrible that Menelduliniel had discovered her secret. As long as not everybody listening had, she could handle one knowing it.

edit: Happy Thanksgiving all [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ November 28, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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Old 11-29-2002, 02:44 PM   #52
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Silmaril

"We came because he," Menelduliniel said, elbowing Estelarion hard, causing him to almost choke on his drink, "Desires to travel to Imladris to seek his family. He will not listen to me that, knowing the close kinship that Elrond and Thranduil hold, I will most likely not be welcome. Ah, we will see where the trail ends. Who knows, Lord Elrond may be kind and enable me to stay in Imladris as long as I am with Estelarion."

"They will let you come," Estelarion said, "Why would they not?"

"I know not," Menelduliniel said, somewhat sarcastically, "Maybe because the Prince, himself, drove me out of Mirkwood when last I saw him?"

"That was a few years ago," Estelarion rationalized.

"A few years is nothing, my darling friend," Menelduliniel said, bitterly.

"Imladris will be a refuge for you," Estelarion said, "They will permit you to pass through and even stay there."

"We shall see," Menelduliniel said, doubtfully. "I, personally, think I would have more of a chance venturing into Lothlorien and living to tell the tale than Imladris."

"They will not kill you," Estelarion said in an exhasperated voice.

"And what is to prevent them? I am a murderer to those people."

Estelarion stifled a laugh, causing a low grunt to come from his throat. "If they only knew you," he said, "They would know you were no killer. They may still want you dead for your nagging, but they would know that you would never willingly extinguish the spark of another life. Unless, of course, you were whining them into their grave."

He got a sharp smack in the stomach from Menelduliniel.

"Ow! Stop!" he exclaimed.

"Then do not be rude in the presence of a lady," Menelduliniel said.

Estelarion held back the urge to make a comment on the "lady-like" nature of Menelduliniel.

"To return to your question," Menelduliniel said to Susan, "I am pressing Estelarion to return to Harad after this venture. You may travel with us if you please."

She gave Susan a look, obviously showing that she wished Susan to say no and that she really meant that Erana should find her home.

"We are always looking for company," Estelarion added. The poor Elf was clueless to the silent understanding between Menelduliniel and Susan.

He also missed the small look of frustration that Menelduliniel shot at him. She proceeded to role her eyes and look at Susan, mouthing something. Susan could just make out the words "Men" and "Blind". She smiled and nodded.
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Old 11-30-2002, 03:31 PM   #53
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Susan smiled and nodded at Menelduliniel, then glanced at Estelarion. The poor man had no clue what was really being said between the two women. If she'd been a bit younger and had less self control she might have laughed at him for it, but she didn't. She too had had unobservant moments in her life and it did no one any good to have them pointed out. To his credit, he looked a bit disappointed when she replied, "Thank you for the offer, but I've been to Harad and their stories are bit...bloodthirsty for my taste. Although that was some time ago, so things might have changed there. Tell me, is "The Hunter's Bow" still repeated in the inns and taverns of Lowenna?"

The two sitting across from her looked surprised. After a moment, Menelduliniel responded, "No, I haven't heard of that story, nor have I heard of a city named Lowenna, although we've stayed mostly in the capital, Ariwenna, so perhaps we've simply never been there."

Susan leaned back, shocked. Lowenna was no longer the capital of Harad? How long had it been since she'd journeyed South? She leaned forward, determined to get to the bottom of this. "The capital is Ariwenna, you say?" They nodded. She leaned back again and took a drink of mead. "I was in Harad a long time ago, longer than I'd realised. I wonder if it's a different city altogether or simply a diferent name...can you tell me where it is?"

Estelarion described the city, sitting next the Anduin delta, overlooking the City of the Corsairs across the river. Susan nodded, relieved. The city of her memory was still there, just called by a different name. She was surprised they hadn't heard "The Hunter's Bow", though. When she'd been there, that story was repeated at least once a week as a parable of what happened when a person got careless. Ah, well, perhaps she'd go back someday and reintroduce it, but not today. Estelarion's mention of Rivendell had sparked an old memory. She realised someone had spoken. "I'm sorry, what?" She said, looking up from her mug.

Estelarion repeated himself patiently, although the expression on his face was irritated. "I asked if you were certain you couldn't go with us to Harad. We could use the company."

Susan glanced briefly at Menelduliniel. She seemed to be looking anywhere but at her partner, as if embarrassed at his persistence. Susan smiled. "No, but thank you again. After I leave here, I think I'll make my way to Imladris. I believe I have some distant relations there I haven't seen in a while." She looked at Meneldulinel as she said it.

Estelarion nodded. Still, he looked a bit disappointed. Susan reached across the table to pat his hand, then reached for her mug again. To her surprise, it was empty. How had that happened so quickly? Ah, well. She flagged a passing server and asked for a refill. He nodded and made his way back toward the bar, then brought her mug back, brimming. She smiled and took a long draught.

[ February 08, 2003: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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Old 11-30-2002, 04:41 PM   #54
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel noted her partner's keen interest in Susan (or Erana), and smiled inwardly. Later, she would have to remember to tease Estelarion about this fascination...

But Susan had been to Harad. This was good.

"Was there a Huin-en-Lhuig when you were in Harad?" Menelduliniel asked.

Susan nodded her head. "They must be fairly new," Susan said.

"I believe they must be," Menelduliniel said, "Although there have been enough for there to be a few generations of men. Not of the same family of course, but..."

"Ah, yes. My travelling there was done long ago," Susan smiled.

"You cannot be very old," Estelarion said, still seemingly flirting with this new friend. Menelduliniel could not take it anymore. She let out a small laugh.

"What?" Estelarion asked.

Menelduliniel quickly got herself under control.

"Nothing, nothing at all," she replied, sharing a smile with Susan.
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Old 11-30-2002, 04:42 PM   #55
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Sting

Cami shook her head and sighed. The first day of roast Meleagris gallopavo had indeed been special. Both Cami and her friend Andreth had eaten a large plateful of the tasty fowl and begged Rimbaud to bring them more. They had stuffed themselves to bursting, and, as Rimbaud had promised, promptly fell asleep for one hour, sprawled out on the benches in the tavern.

But that delicious feast had now been several days ago. The strange thing was, although considerable time had passed, Rimbaud still seemed to have a bountiful supply of the bird. Cami would not admit this to any of her fellow guests, but, truthfully, she was getting a bit tired of the strips of white and brown fowl that Rimbaud persisted in serving to them in a variety of guises. She'd had meleagris stew, meleagris pot pie, smoked meleagris, meleagris fricassee, and even taters and mushrooms with meleagris on top.

"Excuse me, Rimbaud," she intoned. "Do you have anything else in that kitchen except for leftover poultry? Perhaps some lamb or even a sausage or two?" Cami wondered if she should take her business elsewhere to find an establishment that had a bit more variety on its menu.

"Ah," said Rimbaud, in a rapturous voice. "That is the mystery of this bird. The more you eat, the greater the stack that is left to eat the next day."

Cami shook her head in dismay. She'd been raised on a farm, and had never heard of such a thing as a platter of meat that replenished itself. This would be quite handy for some hobbits she knew who had families with nine or ten children. However, she did not have quite such a large brood to feed, and the taste of the fowl was becoming a bit boring, especially since she continued to fall asleep every time she ate it.

Rimbaud brought Cami and Andreth the lunch special, vegetable broth with chunks of meleagris gallopavo. Cami sighed, but seeing no other options in sight, raised her spoon and attacked the steaming brew, hoping that the bird would soon grow tired of replenishing itself.

Happy Thanksgiving leftovers!

[ November 30, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 11-30-2002, 05:57 PM   #56
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Susan stared at Estelarion. Was he trying to flatter her? She was not young. She'd seen three Ages of the world, was older than Lord Elrond himself, and this Elf, whom she doubted had been born before the beginning of the Third Age, told her she was too young to have been to Harad before the formation of the Huin-en-Lhuig. What were three or five or a dozen generations of Men to one such as her? Still, he seemed sincere in his flattery, so she merely smiled and drank her mead.
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Old 12-01-2002, 02:01 AM   #57
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Sting

Pio watched as a seemingly magic drowse induced by Rimbaud's fowl soup crept over the patrons of the Seventh Star. 'An interesting phenomenon,' she thought to herself, 'and one which could easily be avoided if one did not partake of meats for food.' She picked an orange off the tray of a passing server (amazing how the thing needed seemed always to be close at hand here)and peeled it slowly, popping each succulent section into her mouth with great relish.

She nudged Cami with the toe of her boot and got no response except a small snore. The same with Mithadan and with Bird. Even Gandalf seemed to be nodding off under his great, pointed hat.

Pio picked the map up from the table, tucking it in her belt, and went looking for Rimbaud. She found him discussing a recipe for Meleagris gallopavo hash with the cook, a wicked smile on his face. So engrossed was he in the discussion of this delicacy that he did not hear her as she approached.

His head snapped round as she drew his attention with a polite cough. 'Excuse me, Rimbaud, but would you do a slight favor for me.' He nodded his head, his blue eyes fixed on her. 'Between the next courses of poultry and sleep, can you tell my companions from the Star I have gone out for a walk, and shall return in due time? Thank you.'

She watched in mild amusement as the cook took his cleaver to the pile of poultry scraps and pulverized them. A fierce determination to best the phoenix-like leftovers gleamed in his eyes, but still the pile lay heaped there as large as ever. Leaving him to his dogged pounding of them, she pulled her cloak tight about her and silently slipped out the kitchen door.

[ December 01, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 12-01-2002, 09:28 PM   #58
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A companionable silence fell over the three as they sat and drank. After a while, Menelduliniel and Estelarion began a quiet conversation on their side of the table, which Susan politely ignored.

She casually glanced around the inn. Most of the audience that had gathered when she told the story of Erana had dispersed, but there was one left, she saw now. A Man, sitting at the next table, watching her with eyes as blue as the midsummer sky before a thunderstorm. She could see that he was young, though she'd never been good at discerning the ages of Men. He stared at her for a moment longer, then deliberately looked away, as if he'd lost interest. She shrugged. After a moment, however, a voice came quietly from his direction, "Tell another story, Lady Elf."

She turned toward him, eyes hooded. "Young Man, I am not a teller of tales but a gatherer. If you have a story, by all means speak up and I will gladly make a record of it."

He leaned back, seeming surprised. He looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "I know the story you mentioned. "The Hunter's Bow". My family's told it for generations."

She looked at him directly for the first time. "How could you? You're not Haradrim and you certainly weren't around when I was there. That was...a very long time ago."

He chuckled a little, then stood up and headed for the bar. "Wouldn't you like to know?" He murmered as he passed the table.

Susan stared after him, open mouthed in astonishment, then looked down to meet Menelduliniel's gently amused smile. Estelarion was still watching him at the bar.
Menelduliniel took a drink of her ale. "Now there's a strange one, and no question," She commented.
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Old 12-02-2002, 08:53 AM   #59
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The gluttonous feasting appeared to have abated, and Rimbaud happily delegated the running of the Inn to itself. Quite often the Inn seemed better able to cope with things than he did. He hummed under his breath carelessly as he moved to the rear of the kitchens. A small painting of a girl standing amongst willow trees hung, incongruously, alongside a rack of pots and pans. Rimbaud gazed at the painting expressionlessly.

The staff in the kitchen knew better than to trouble him when the quietness descended upon him and moved about their business in an even more efficient manner than normal, which meant an eerie silence in the kitchens, despite the activity.

When the Innkeeper was sure that all eyes were averted from him, he pressed a corner of the painting as if brushing dust from it. A thin section of the wall behind the painting slid soundlessly away and he stepped through into the darkness beyond. Behind him, as the wall slid back into place as inobtrusoively as it had departed, the common noises of the kitchen resumed. No comment was made, these staff were loyal.

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

Not loyal enough for whoever designed the Inn in times past, however, mused Rimbaud. Despite the pitch blackness, he walked unerringly forward, here turning right and then right again, the stone flags beneath his feet cold and smooth. He walked for a short time before reaching out with his right hand. It met rough, crumbling, moss covered stone. The short passageway met an abrupt halt here. At this point, the ignorant would falter, for some of the staff knew of the secret door from the kitchens, but none had come beyond this point.

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

The conversation in the Inn flowed naturally and few missed the unprepossessing Innkeeper with the curious eyes. Those that did, knew little of where he was. Only one suspected the truth, and she was as tight-lipped as ever.

[ December 04, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-02-2002, 11:32 AM   #60
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Sting

Varda had sat quietly in the Seventh Star for some time, observing the goings-on. She
laughed slightly as she watched people drift off to sleep after eating Rimbaud’s soup, wisely, after seeing the effects, she had declined the offer of soup.

She wondered how the meat could possibly keep replenishing itself, but shook her head and decided not to confuse herself thinking about it.

She saw Menelduliniel and Estelarion with some other elf, sitting drinking together, and went over to join them. She knew Menelduliniel and Estelarion from travels, but this other elf, she hadn’t met before.

“Greetings, I’m Varda,” she said politely, before sitting down.

[ December 02, 2002: Message edited by: *Varda* ]
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Old 12-03-2002, 06:11 PM   #61
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel and Estelarion smiled and greeted Varda.

"Suilad!" Menelduliniel exclaimed in greeting.

Varda smiled back at Menelduliniel.

"What do you suppose is with that gentleman?" Menelduliniel said to Varda, indicating to the mysterious man that had passed by, "Do you know who he is?"

"Nay," Varda replied, "Why? Do you know him?"

"No," Menelduliniel said, "That is why we wanted to know. Well, I guess there is only one way to find out."

"Menelduliniel..." Estelarion said in a warning voice, "Do not disturb men you do not want to tangle with."

It was too late, Menelduliniel had already arisen. She crossed the room to the stranger.

"I am sorry," she said in a polite tone, "But I did not get your name."

"That is because I did not give it," the man rebutted into his ale.

"Why not?" Menelduliniel said, not getting a response. "Please tell me?"

The man smiled, "Persistent, yes?"

"Of course," Menelduliniel smiled.

"Well, all right."

Menelduliniel sat across from the man as he finished his ale and waited for him to tell her who he was...
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Old 12-04-2002, 02:10 PM   #62
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Silmaril

Estelyn had been wondering about the contents of the letter she had secretly delivered to Rimbaud when he accompanied her to the storeroom. He seemed withdrawn since reading it, though no one would have noticed without knowing him well. She did not ask him about it, but watched unobtrusively to see if she could be of help in any way.

She often carried messages when she travelled and had thought nothing unusual of this request, yet it seemed the letter had not been as harmless as she had considered it to be. A dark and menacing shadow seemed to hang over her friend, and she postponed her journey to aid him if possible. When she realized that he had vanished into the kitchen an unduly length of time, all her senses were alert for danger…

[ December 04, 2002: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 12-04-2002, 02:29 PM   #63
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A rider wearing the livery of Gondor burst into The Seventh Star bearing a rolled-up scroll under one arm. He waved to those he knew, then proceeded to the end of the bar where he unrolled the scroll. He tacked up the parchment over the bar, then cleared his throat and cried "Adventurers wanted!" Then he backed away as the patrons crowded around the notice which read:

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Findereg, Elf of Mirkwood, seeks adventurers to assist in a trade mission to Laketown. Reasonable pay and usual benefits. Payment of wages guaranteed in the event of untimely death. Death benefit doubled in the event of consumption by spiders or dragons.
For details, speak with Susan Delgado in The Shire. Please refer to the mission by name. It is called "Roll Out the Barrels."

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

--------------------
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Old 12-05-2002, 09:53 AM   #64
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Murmurs swelled around the Inn as the messenger repaired to the bar and sat unobtrusively on a tall stool. Patrons turned to each other and discussed the missive. The parchment was peered at and prodded a good deal. The Inn was humming with intrigue, rumour and good humour...


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

The doors to the Inn were flung open. They slammed against the walls to either side of the doorframe with a simultaneous and resounding crash. People jumped to their feet, hands grasped at sword belts for absent weapons. The Elf Piosenniel stood adjusting her sleeve demurely, but she was leaning forward, attention on the door intently. Mithadan had swept to his feet smoothly and taken two steps towards the door way, cloak billowing in the cold gusts from outside until the figure in the doorway was discerned.

It was the Innkeeper, but he did not appear the neat and reserved character of scant minutes previous. Those who had seen him enter the kitchens earlier looked puzzled at his entrance through the front. Rimbaud looked disheveled and frantic, the wind had blown his hair wildly and he appeared to be at a loss for words. He moved inside the Inn swiftly and, with some difficulty, pulled the doors shut and bolted them. He then turned, leaning against the wood panels of the dark doors, panting. All eyes were on him. He appeared to gather himself and straighten his hair and adjust his tunic.

Without explanation, he strode to his desk and sat, in his customary position, head downcast, although few believed they escaped his attention. One had seen his hand gestures and knew them of old. She rose swiftly and moved to the edge of the great black desk. Her deep blue cowl still shaded her face from view. She stood patiently, hands clasped in front of her. Her thick, rich blue robes hung down to the floor.. Slowly, the uncomfortable air in the Inn abated, and low conversation resumed. Mithadan returned to his seat. The wizard nearby studied the Innkeeper intently but did not rise and did not speak.

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

She watched him intently, noting the stretched and drawn nature of his face, flushed from the cold air outside. He sat silently, head bowed. Her keen eyes saw the thickness of the texts on the desk and the worn nature of the quills set along the rim of his well-appointed desk, and she wondered at them. What writings are these? Yet she left the question unasked, although he surely saw her gaze.

Finally he motioned with his hand, rose and made his way through yet another small wooden door, to the left of the great fireplace this time, and led her up the wooden staircase there. She followed, swallowing her irritation at his presumption and his overly mysterious air.

When they entered his rooms above the common room, she pulled down her hood and shook loose her hair. When she was composed, she faced him and said firmly, "Now, Master Innkeeper, tell me what message I brought to you, to send you so far from decorum."

Rimbaud stood by the window, looking outward. The room was silent, although below them they heard the Inn resuming normal service.

"The message was a warning," he began. She quelled an urge to question him, and instead shifted her robes and sat on the wooden chair at the functional desk. She turned slightly to look up at him, framed by the cold grey of the outside through the window. She saw his jaw clench and unclench and a muscle jump in his cheek. She missed little.

He sighed and spoke again, calmly, clearly having mastered himself again. "The message was a warning, sent from an unknown source - it is for this reason I need to question you. It led me to a place within the Star that I had not been for many a year."

The well-dressed lady said nothing, her face remaining composed. She knew something of the secrets of the Inn but volunteered little.

"But more than that," he went on, "More than that, I need your help with a puzzle. A riddle that scares me - yet fascinates me, I do not deny. You have the knowledge that I...that the Inn needs to guarantee its safety."

Princess Estelyn of the House Telcontar looked at him squarely, her eyes on his. "I will help you, for the sake of our friendship." Her voice gained an intensity. "But! I will not risk my life on half-tales and hearsay from thee, Master Innkeeper. I know your past too well to think of you as a simple publican. Tell me fully and tell me now."

He turned from the window and told her.

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

To read of what happened to Rimbaud and the Princess, and of the future of the Inn, see here.

[ December 06, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-07-2002, 02:59 AM   #65
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The Eye

Susan wasn't sure what to say after seeing Rimbaud run through, closely followed by a Princess of Men. She glanced around at her table companions and then the Inn at large, but it seemed no one else knew what to say either.

She sighed and rose to wander the room. As she neared the huge fireplace, she inspected the Founders' plaque and felt an odd flush of pleasure upon finding that, by whatever power the plaque had been imbued, her name had appeared on it among the other distinguished scribes.

[ December 07, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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Old 12-07-2002, 09:35 AM   #66
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Sting

Click. Click. Click. Swish... click... drip...

The figure of a woman, shadowed beneath a huge green greatcoat, dripping with muddy water, walked across the common room of the Seventh Star and sat down in an empty chair near the fire. Not a word, not a sound, no noise came from her person, save the faint dripping of her coat. She stared into the fire, consumed with deep personal thought.

The time would soon come, she knew. No doubt about it; since she had chosen to leave little Mir in the care of Adannon, she had felt the weight heavy in her heart... the day was coming when she would be called to ride again. But in whose service? Who would Karigan of Gondor serve?

Finally she stood. Advancing over to a table with empty seats at it, she looked at the free folk sitting around it, trying to discern if there was a leader. "Is there room for another traveler at this table?"

Her voice was the slightest bit gravelly, a little low for a woman, though her face showed her quite clearly to be a still young female of the human race, though she stood only 5'2". Nothing remarkable about her person in the slightest, unless it could be her hands, which, gloved in brown leather, bore white trees. Nothing remarkable at all.
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Old 12-07-2002, 02:53 PM   #67
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Sting

Rianna Steelfeather smiled as she entered The Seventh Star. It had been a long time since she had been in Gondor. A long time to Rianna, at least.

She walked in, standing just at 5'3 and trailing just a bit of mud that had clung to her boots. She searched for a place to sit and rest for a time. She found a chair near the blazing warm fire, and sat down, warming her cold hands.

No one around her stared in the slightest, for it seemed to be the night for strange travellers. The young human female's travelling clothes were comfortable and worn. The only token that would cause one to guess where Rianna had hailed from was a small patch on her cloak, depicting two crossed axes and a hammer at the bottom.

Rianna's loose, dark brown curls fell to her shoulders after she took her cloak off. Her tan skin glowed in the firelight. She gazed around The Seventh Star, smiling as people told tales, made friends, laughed together, and drank to their heart's content. She wondered what story she would tell if the chance arose.

(BTW, welcome to the 'Downs, Errand-Rider Karigan [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]!)

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Aylwen Dreamsong ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 09:46 AM   #68
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Susan had not been mistaken. Others noted her flush and sideways glance at the plaque. Some patrons gasped and murmurs sprang up around the inn. The penultimate name on the list, still glowing as if freshly scribed by some magical hand was Susan Delgado. On seeing this, Gandalf rose, slowly and said, "A round of applause for our newest Gondorian!"

The cheers and claps went on for quite some time, and Susan became quite weary of the back-slapping. Yet the smile still visited her face more often than she would have cared to admit.

**********************
The List of Gondor

Barrow-Wight
Bethberry
Birdland
Child of the Seventh Age
Estelyn Telcontar
Gandalf the Grey
Gilthalion
Mark12_30
Mithadan
Piosenniel
Rimbaud
Susan Delgado
Thenamir.


**********************
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Old 12-11-2002, 10:02 AM   #69
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Sting

Indeed, Susan,

Well done! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

For I am one of but a few ... souls, shall we say ... privileged to know of some fine work you've been doing for Castle Maladil behind the scenes. When the extent of your work comes to light, all will deem you doubly worthy of the well-deserved honor thus bestowed on you.

To better celebrate, * opens a window, points his staff out in an expansive gesture towards the heavens, quickly backs away and bids you to look out *




* bows and again takes his seat. noticing a recently-arrived woman with a gravelly voice walk up and ask whether there's any more room at the table for another traveller, Gandalf moves over to make room * Well met! Always room for one more. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]
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Old 12-12-2002, 08:10 AM   #70
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Karigan clapped along with the others, realizing that there was a specific initiation ceremony and smiling broadly at the woman known as Susan. She nodded greatfully as the older man- an oddly familiar one- made room for her at the table.

"My thanks, sir." She sat down, and there was a long pause where she regarded him carefully. "You would not be Mithrandir, the gray pilgrim, would you, sir? Your face seems familiar, though there are few men of such age still hale enough traveling the worlds these days."

(My thanks, Aylwen. I'm glad to be here.)
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Old 12-12-2002, 07:58 PM   #71
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A myriad of twinkling prisms seem to hover in the trees outside the Seventh Star; it was an early winter hoarfrost settling onto the branches, the poles, the wires, the eves of the buildings. And in the sharp edges of the night sky there rose star after star and, finally, the sliver of silver moon. The cloudless sky meant a cold night, but the conviviality continued inside the Star.

A woman in travelling clothes, heavy lined cloak, high boots, even a muff for her hands, although she held several large boxes in her arms, walked into the Star and watched the assembled guests. Some were celebrating the end of a long web of story; some were commending the successful entry of a newly loomed narrative; others were watching a flying shuttle cock, hoping it would begin to show the warp and weeve of a new pattern. She felt she would intrude upon their conversations if she spoke to them, so she silently passed on to the table.

Bethberry noticed the absence of the Innkeeper and a well-known companion but she spoke not of it. Rather, she quietly laid on the shining surface of the table two gifts for her friends assembled and friends absent, one a tin of rumballs glazed with powdered sugar, the other, a small wooden crate of oranges, swaddled in tissue paper. She left both on the table and then sought out a chair by the fire to warm herself, marvelling at the crisp, pristine walls. The texture of white leaped out at her as if rebuking layer after layer of daily habit and inertial activity, until, finally, her mind arrived at the small inner luminescence of idea and thought. Words darted on her tongue, soundlessly, and then settled into a ferment. Eyes closed, she sat deeper into the chair.

[ December 13, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 12-13-2002, 08:41 AM   #72
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Karigan nodded to Mithrandir and ate. As she ate, she spoke.

"The world seems a dangerous place to be, especially in Gondor. My son is with a friend in Minas Tirith, but I fear in my heart he may not be safe." She looked concerned, and it seemed to age her greatly. Sighing, she shook off her worry and continued. "But as for what adventure I seek? I'm looking for a place my son can grow up without fear. I want to travel, to see what lies beyond an errand-rider's road. And if I find a place in Gondor safer then Minas Tirith, I will take my son there." She smiled. "If such a place exists. My mind would say no, but my heart pleads otherwise."

She sat taller and took a drink of wine. "But to offer? I have nothing but the experiance of an errand-rider and some knowledge of the sword... I can read maps and have some contacts along the errand-rider's route, and I have the slightest of healing knowledge, but every woman who is raised in the white city has at least that or more." She shrugged. "In short, I don't offer much, save my spirit."

[ December 13, 2002: Message edited by: Errand-Rider Karigan ]
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:47 AM   #73
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Sting

From a nearby table, Mithadan raised his glass in salute. "Well met, Karigan! It is good to see a new face here. I am Mithadan, captain of the Lonely Star, a vessel but recently returned from a long voyage at sea."

He stood and walked over to the Errand Rider, motioning for the barkeep to serve a new round of drinks. "I see that you have met Gandalf. A good friend to have, who may be found frequently both in this Inn as well as those in Rohan and The Shire." He lowered his voice to speak in a conspiratorial tone, "He is well fond of Inns, they say, and others might say overfond. Nonetheless, there are few about who can tell tales better than he..."
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:23 PM   #74
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Sting

A curly head appeared beside Bethberry's chair, and a subdued voice brought her out of her reverie. Gamba held up an orange, still wrapped in its paper.

"What's this?"

Bethberry smiled. "It's an orange. Take the paper off, and then peel it..." she showed him how to peel and section it.

He tasted a section, and nodded, smiling; he gave Bethberry several sections, and then set to in earnest, and it was soon gone. She smiled quietly at him, and then looked back at the fire. He watched her for a few more moments, and then quietly curled up at the foot of her chair on the side closer to the fireplace. Together they watched the flames, and soaked up the heat.

[ December 13, 2002: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-13-2002, 10:22 PM   #75
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Bethberry smiled down at the curly haired hobbit and gently mussed his hair.

"Bless you, Gamba. You understood the mood and tone of the thought. For that I am exceedingly grateful. Sometimes sharing silence is as important as sharing words."
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Old 12-14-2002, 12:50 PM   #76
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Sting

Birdie eagerly explored the precious gift that had appeared with the return of Bethberry. She held an orange to her nose, savoring the sweet smell, full of sunshine and desert breezes. It stirred a longing in Bird of lands that she had never seen, yet called to her heart and fea. It was the smell of home.

But she was here now, and seasons changed far more radically in Gondor than in the friendly climes of the Southlands. The first snows had already coated the roof tiles of the White Tower, and wood was being hauled into the city from the surrounding lands. "Why, Yule will be here before we know it!" Birdie loved Yule. A time of celebration and reflection. A send-off for the old year, and an anticipation for the new. it was her favorite celebration of Middle-earth and one that all the races shared.

"Well, now's as good a time as any to see if folk around here will be interested in what I have in my pack. Gold and jewels are fine, but what I have even the Dwarf Lords cannot mine. And yet it may turn out to be just as precious." She turned with a smile to Bethberry and Gamba, sharing the fire and the orange. "And I can't think of a better person to help introduce my wares to the rest of Gondor. If she likes what I have, and can use it properly, I'll have everyone in Minas Anor clamoring for it, including the King's own baker!"

So the little skinchanger walked over to the daughter of Bombadil, and reaching into her pack, pulled out several small parcels wrapped in linen, and placed them on the table. A strange, faint, mingled oder rose up, encouraged by the heat of the room. It seemed to clean the air as well as athelas, but with a earthier, more homely fragrance.

"Good Yule, to you Bethberry, and to you, Gamba. I thought I would give you your yule gift early, seeing as how you were so kind to bring us your own gifts, thinking of us even after returning from such a hard journey."

"What is it, Bethberry?" asked Gamba eagerly. Gamba loved presents, even if they weren't for him. "Well, let's just open it and see, shall we?" said Bird. "Actually, I've been planning on selling this in the city. But most folk wouldn't really know what to do with it. So I thought Bethberry here should have this. The first in all the city. Once folk see what she can do with what I have here, I believe it will be all the Star can do to keep up with the demand."

Bethberry reached out and slowly unwrapped each linen parcel. The smell grew stronger, and wafed around the inn, sending heads up as the fragrance flowed over the inn. In each parcel were a small bundle of twigs, seeds, bark, and buds. Gamba looked a little disappointed. "Why, it's just herbs. Like the Herb Master keeps in the House of Healing."

"Not herbs, my good Gamba". Bird picked up a small curl of red bark. "This is called cinnamon. It comes from the bark of a tree in far Harad. And this," she said, picking up a small dried bud, "is called clove, from an evergreen of the same name. Stick some in that orange, Gamba, and see how the smells go together." Gamba did this, and was delighted at the marriage of the two odors, orange and clove.

"Now this odd looking root here is called ginger. And see these beans here? Vanilla. You soak them in alcohol to make a tinture. This is the seed of the nutmeg tree. Goes well with the vanilla. "And this," here Birdie slowly unwrapped a parcel as if it were full of gold dust. "This comes from the insides of a rare orchid, each little piece gathered by hand. It is called saffron."

Bethberry's eyes gleamed as each bundle was laid before her. Here was a wealth of the earth such as had never been seen in the cold Northlands. She was already matching each twig, each seed, instinctively with a purpose. But Gamba still looked puzzled. "It all smells wonderful. But what do you do with them. Is it medicine?"

Bird laughed out loud. "Medicine! Well, perhaps medicine for the heart, and the stomach. You cook with these things, Gamba. Each tiny piece, and it doesn't take much, adds a flavor to foods such as has never been tasted in Middle-earth. These gifts of tree and flower are used all over in the Southlands, especially in baking. Once you've tasted a cake made with the taste of the vanilla bean, you'll never want any other cake. And cinnamon in warm wine? Ah, you'll think you had gone to Valinor. I think that our good Bethberry here can think of many other ways to use these things."

"What do you call them, Birdie?" asked Gamba.

"Spices, Gamba. From the far lands of the South. And their value is higher than diamonds. A good gift to give to our good Bethberry, don't you think?"

[ December 14, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 12-14-2002, 01:16 PM   #77
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Sting

The Inn smelled wonderful as she opened the door and strode in. The scent of oranges and spices tickled at her nose and lifted her spirit. It had been a long trip back from the Shire and the homey comforts of the Green Dragon, and she wished now only to sit at ease before the great fireplace and see old friends.

Her eyes adjusted to the low light in the room. There was her old friend, Bethberry, sitting at the fireside with Bird and Gamba. She must have just returned from study at the Houses of Healing. Her face bore new lines of sadness and fatigue. 'Hard lessons, those must have been.' she thought as she studied the woman's face in the firelight. 'Though, ones worthy of being learned.' she mused, noting the deeper radiance which had settled about the figure of her friend.

The Elf shrugged off her cloak, hanging it on a peg near the door, and asked a passing server to bring mulled wine and four cups to the trio by the fire. Chafing her arms, cold from the brisk air of the outside, she went to join them . . .
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Old 12-15-2002, 09:44 AM   #78
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Sting

(OOC: Bethberry -- Thank you for editing your post. As an author, I had not been able to read your intentions before, ... (I lack Gamba's skills, I know) ... and I definitely would have approached Bethberry in a different manner had I been able to understand. I've gone back and deleted my previous post.)

* Gandalf walked over to join those gathering near to Bethberry, hoping his presence would be welcome, though he had utterly no idea of what to do or say. *

[ December 15, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]
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Old 12-15-2002, 10:31 AM   #79
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Sting

Gamba looked up at the tall wizard, gave him a wry, slightly guilty smile, moved over to make room for him (being small even for a hobbit, it was more of a gesture than a practicality) and sheepishly held his cup of mulled wine towards Gandalf.

"I think my mom would appreciate it if you would help me finish this."

Gandalf shared a knowing smile with Gamba, and quietly took a sip of the wine.
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:59 PM   #80
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The Eye

Susan had been standing nearby during the gift giving and observed the excitement with which the new spices had been recieved. She reached into her pocket and fingered the bulb there, then decided the cheer would be worth it to give the precious thing away.

"Hello, mind if I join you?" They looked up, surprised. She smiled at Gamba, who seemed nervous, and at the Elves and Bird, who were giving her slightly puzzled looks, as if they were trying to remember where they seen her before. Gandalf gave his usual hearty greeting.

"Hello, Susan! Come, join us."

She smiled, and sat, then introduced herself. "I'm Susan. I'm the newest member of the Society of Gondor," She added the last bit and they nodded in recognition.
"Bethberry, I wonder if you'd like this to go along with Bird's Yule gift?"

She put her hand in her pocket while the others leaned forward to look. She pulled out a small conical bulb, with a papery wrapping.

"What is it?" Gamba asked curiously.

"It's garlic," Bethberry answered, taking it from Susan's hand.

"That's right," Susan continued with a smile, "You put it in stews and it gives a nice spicy flavor. You can also bake it and put it on bread."

[ December 15, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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