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Old 04-29-2006, 02:37 AM   #281
Undómë
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Away – Wistan’s farm – Dunstede

‘Well, Master Thornden, perhaps we should head towards the Hall. I’m sure you must have other freeholds to visit for the Eorl.’ Wistan urged his horse alongside Thornden’s, and waved for the others to follow along. ‘I wonder, are you collecting just the coin at present, or will you be wanting to take the pig along with you that we give each year to the Eorl’s household?’

As Thornden and Wistan went along talking together as they rode, Rose and her brothers fell a bit behind.

‘And whose idea was it that you bring the steward out here?’ Willim asked, punching her lightly on the arm. ‘Not yours, surely.’

Rose punched him back a little harder causing him to wince. ‘Guess whose it was,’ she dared him. ‘Light of your life, your star from heaven . . . yes, she was in on it . . . Ardith. Though I have to say,’ she went on, poking Aesc in the arm, ‘it was your Mayda that egged Mother on the worst.’

Garan chuckled as his brothers and sister exchanged words and a friendly succession of pokes and punches. ‘And so . . . what are we to report to our good-wives when they question us tonight, eh?’ He narrowed his eyes in mock sternness. ‘And you know Brita will want a full report.’ He looked about at his brothers, who were attentive to any details they might glean from the conversation.

‘Hmmm . . . well, let’s see . . . we had a leisurely ride for the most part out to meet you and father,’ Rose began. She cocked her head to the side, thinking of the sorts of things the wives and her mother would want to hear. ‘He was a perfect gentleman, good sense of humor, asked intelligent questions. He sits a horse well, admired the fields, the plantings . . . and oh yes, spoke about his family quite at length.’ There were murmurings of approval at this bit of information, as it would be looked on quite favorably. Rose looked up to where her father and Thornden rode, judging whether he would overhear any of the conversation with her brothers. Deciding he could not, she went on. ‘He is most definitely unattached, no prospective bride lurking in the shadows. And,’ she left this plum for last, ‘we did speak, in the general sense, about marriage.’

He didn’t try anything . . . funny, did he,’ asked Willim. ‘While you were riding alone with him . . .?’ He left the question hanging, watching her closely.

Rose lowered her head, as if the question were uncomfortable, then looked up at him, grinning impishly. ‘No! Not even a bad joke passed between us, and besides I would have punched him hard in the mouth if he had.’ She held out her knuckles for inspection. ‘See?’ She brought he horse to a halt, forcing her brothers to a stop also.

‘Now I’ve given you all plenty to divide up and share with your wives. Where’s a little reward for me.’

Breca nudged Aesc. ‘Go on tell her what we saw at old Eadig’s farm.’

Aesc leaned forward a smile on his face. ‘You were right. The oak tree at the edge of the orchard, the bee tree. The old queen has flown and there is a large swarm round one of the branches in that old hawthorn. The scouts are out, we could see them flying back and forth. If we can get your new hives out there, you can capture the lot.’

Her eyes were gleaming with anticipation and delight at this bit of news.

‘Go on,’ he went on. ‘You know you’re dying to have a look. We’ll get your hives moved out there early tomorrow morning.’

As Rose rode off, Willim look after her, a serious look on his face. ‘Don’t know about you all, but I intend to have a little talk with Ardith about sending our sister out by herself with someone we don’t even know. And Mother can complain all she wants to Father. I don’t like it and I won’t have it done again.’

* Ж *

‘Come on!’ came Wistan’s voice. ‘Catch up! Master Thornden here doesn’t have all day to wait for us!’ He caught sight of Rose heading off at a run away from her brothers. ‘Now where is that girl getting off to?!’

* Ж *

Just a short time brought the men to the Hall. Wistan had one of his sons fetch the money box and the rent was passed over to Thornden. ‘If you can wait just a little longer, I’ll write up my request for Eadig’s adjoining farm to the Eorl and send it along with you.’

When he’d finished with his short note, he folded it over and sealed it with his ring. He handed it over to Thornden, saying that they would bring the pig when next they came into the market. ‘Now, would you like a cup of ale before you take your leave, Master Thornden? Wouldn’t want you to be thirsty as you ride.’
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Old 04-29-2006, 06:07 AM   #282
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"Well, my lord," began Garstan, "I was thinking. While the wall is down, might it be wise to move the kitchen back a bit from the main hall? With all the cooking and flame in the kitchen, it makes the Great Hall over warm in summer, I'm sure. And too, should the kitchen take fire, it would spread quickly to the rest of the hall as things are. So I've seen it before where the kitchen was separated a bit. Moved away by a hall. What do you think?"

Eodwine considered. Or tried to, distracted as he was by Léof's foolish daring (though had he been younger he'd have called it roguish instead), Saeryn's comeliness, a crowd of folk all about some of whom stared and gawked in the 'wrong' direction, and a mess of a mead hall to return to. Garstan's idea was good and he saw no reason to say him nay. He brought the look of the back yard to mind. Where was Garstan thinking of building the kitchen?

Oh. That was a problem. Eodwine frowned.

"There is a beloved old alder you would have to cut down, and though no doubt we could use the wood, I would be saddened to lose it. Otherwise, your plan is good. Can you solve my problem?"

It was Garstan's turn to frown. "Allow me to think on it, lord."

Now they were in the middle of the celebrations of the race just run. Eodwine saw Garwine giving Léof a bearhug, grinning as if he owned the horse himself. Or, perhaps, had made a winning off a bet. For a brief moment Eodwine's middle stirred with a wish that he'd thought of betting on Léof; then he shook it off, knowing that it would not have happened, for he would have persuaded the youth out of it, or tried.

Léof had seen the three approaching, and looked up expectantly. It was hard to say whether he was expecting a rebuke, a pat on the back, or something else. Eodwine decided to mix his word.

"Well done, my ostler! Though I should land on your other foot with my own hoof to get some sense into you! Nevertheless, a brave race, well run!"

Eodwine chose not to mention the matter of the black steed that had been steadily gaining and seemed to 'lose heart' in the last furlong. Meanwhile, Saeryn was positively wriggling by his side with excitement.
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Old 04-29-2006, 07:17 AM   #283
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Léof had perked up considerably as the situation sunk in: he had won. He had actually beaten all those other horses, many of them probably more well-bred or better-trained. He was receiving a great deal more attention now than before the race; one man had actually offered to buy Æthel and had offered a sum that would have bought his father’s plow and maybe the two draft horses with it! Léof had politely declined, saying that Æthel was not for sale. The man had been persistent, then asking if Léof’s services as a rider were available. Léof had explained that he was an ostler, not a jockey; but not wanting to disappoint the man too much he had said that perhaps he could occasionally ride some races for the man.

But between that man and a passel of girls fairly fawning over him and making him quite uncomfortable, Léof had been quite relieved to find Gárwine approaching with a large grin on his face. Eodwine’s approach had been greeted with a little more trepidation, but now Léof grinned abashedly at the lord’s words.

“Thank you, lord,” he said, “but I might advise you against breaking my other foot – you’d be left with an ostler that couldn’t walk at all!”

“Not that you wouldn’t try,” inserted Gárwine.

“And probably get my neck wrung for my troubles!” laughed Léof. His spirits were too high to be dampened by such kidding, and he realized now that he had forgotten to be annoyed with Gárwine, nor could he find it in himself to do so now. Soon the jesting died down, and Léof recalled the tired horse at his side and, rubbing her nose, said, “In all seriousness, this girl deserves a rest and a hot mash, and I’d like to get her back to the stable.”
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Old 04-29-2006, 08:36 PM   #284
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Away - Wistan's Farm - Dunstede

Thornden looked slightly embarrassed as Wistan offered him some ale, pausing a moment as he put the note into his pouch. Finally, he shook his head. “I greatly appreciate your offer, sir,” he said, “but your good wife and daughter in laws have already served me quite well. I had at least two cups of tea, sir, not to mention the biscuits they continued to hand me. Thanks mightily. I can’t be staying longer. There are still many stops to be made before dark, you’ll understand.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Wistan replied, nodding. “You had better be on your way, I guess. A good day to you, then, Thornden.”

“Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.” He bowed his head slightly as he stepped back and left the house. His horse stood waiting for him as he gathered the reins and mounted and then, without a look behind him, he road out towards the road again.

“Good heavens, Thornden, my lad,” he said to himself, glancing up at the sun. “You can’t be staying around people’s houses that long or else you’ll not get back until tomorrow, or else return without the full amount, and that wouldn’t be very good now, would it? They were friendly folk though, weren’t they? I hope they will come to the Mead Hall. They’d be a welcome addition to the regular company.” He grinned broadly at the thought.

“Cwen would then have quite a pick of young men for poor Rose,” he chuckled. “I wonder if she’s had much trouble lately? Probably not out here. The farm is so far from many people, and I think by now if any of the neighbors were acceptable they would have been decided upon. . .”

And so with such thoughts of his last visit running about in his head, he rode on, quite confident now that most of his visits would go well. If they didn’t . . .well, he wouldn’t mind, he was sure. He could handle it, even if they wanted to put up quite a bit of trouble, he was sure he could handle it.

“We can try, anyway,” he told Flithaf. “The worse that can happen is if an old house wife chases me off with a broom. I can always explain to Eodwine. . .”
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Old 04-30-2006, 06:50 PM   #285
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Garstan thought hard. Eodwine was correct. He hadn't thought of the alder, but he had seen it. Lèoðern and Linduial had climbed into it one day, using a sturdy branch as a vantage point to look over the rear of the inn yard. There had to be some way of working around the tree. Garstan pictured the area in his mind. The tree stood near to the former rear wall of the kitchen, dangling branches over the building's roof. It was too close to the hall. Where could he move the kitchen without injuring the tree?

A deep frown crossed Garstan's face as he puzzled over the inn's geography. The rear was the only area with enough space for the expansion. Some 50 feet stood between the back of the building and the property edge, ample enough space for construction. But only 30 feet were on the sides. The kitchen would stand directly against the neighbor's property if he built there. That would never work. But there were no trees to the side of the building. Merely an open expanse of grass and shrubs, the same as the ground to the rear of the alder. If only there were some way to put the kitchen behind the tree and connect it to the main hall.

Then it dawned on him. There was a way. A little less convenient and a little more difficult to build, but a way to save the tree.

"My lord," said Garstan, "it seems that there is a way. Suppose the kitchen were built behind the tree. Maybe even with a window to look out upon it. And then suppose the hallway were built off the side of the Great Hall to curve around to the back and make a courtyard between the kitchen, hall and corridor. It would save the alder and make it the centerpiece of a sheltered garden. It would be more difficult to build, of course, and I would have to make a second stove in the new kitchen, since the old kitchen and its stove would become part of the great hall, but the tree would be safe. Does that meet with your approval?"
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Old 04-30-2006, 08:34 PM   #286
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The group were walking in the direction of the Mead Hall as they talked. Saeryn had taken her arm from Eodwine's and was walking behind he and Garstan, and was holding Æthel's reins while Léof rode her. Garwine strode happily at Léof's side, and they were trading reminiscences of the race, reliving its moments from one point of view then the other. Meanwhile, Garstan was mulling and talking through the problem of the alder. Before they had left the grounds, Garstan posed his question. Eodwine liked the idea very much of building the kitchen a little farther back and making the alder the centerpiece of the new courtyard and garden. It would be a very sunny, pleasant spot, one that could be a special gathering place for the folk of his household instead of guests. It would be a good thing to have a pleasant place where people like Garstan, Searyn, Léof, and the others, could go knowing that it was theirs.

"Yes. I like it greatly. You have my yes to it. Show me a drawing of it to firm it in my mind as well as yours, to be sure."

"Yes, lord!" Garstan smiled, his step becoming lighter with the prospect of his idea being not only approved but given the go-ahead.

"My lord," said Saeryn from behind them, "you have somewhat to speak of to me."

"Oh?" Eodwine said, looking back. "What might that be?"

But before Saeryn could say what she meant, up ran Degas with Lèoðern bouncing dangerously on his shoulders, looking a little scared and even more excited for riding the wild horse of a man so high up and without a proper saddle. But Degas did not look as gleeful as the child. Quite the opposite. His face was white.

"What is the matter, Degas?" asked Eodwine. "Where is Linduial? I thought she was with you."
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Old 04-30-2006, 10:31 PM   #287
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Degas hoisted Lèoðern above his head, bringing her down into his arms gently and smiling to reassure her. He'd been very careful, though he moved quickly enough to worry any father. Garstan accepted her with a paternal smile, a quick tickle, and a nod to Degas, saving his questions of her day for a moment better suited to an eruption of excited chatter. All present looked at Degas as he ran long fingers through his hair, catching his breath.

He looked around, his eyes haunted. Saeryn stepped forward, trusting the reins to Garwine.

"Degas... Lin?" She was afraid of the look on his face, his usually smiling mouth drawn tight, his eyes utterly bereft of the twinkle so often decorating them. He bent over, hands on his knees, breathing hard still. He straightened to meet Eodwine's hard stare, unable to stand it more than a second or two before looking away.

"She..." He'd been preoccupied with the music, the tune still within his ears. She'd spoken to him as he showed Lèoðern the jewelry, but he'd hardly heard over the sounds of the crowd. He watched Lin's shapely figure move along the line of vendors, unconcerned that she would stray far.

"Degas, Degas," squealed Lèoðern, tugging at his hand. "Come and see!"

He'd knelt beside her, admiring to her satisfaction the litter of kittens she had discovered, smiling at her enthusiasm over their tiny grey forms, climbing over each other, their pink tongues licking spotted noses, worrying only about the light pink her pale skin was turning.

"Would you like a pretty scarf, my lady?" he asked, standing and swinging her up into his arms. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened adorably. A vendor, wide from the sampling of his own wares, smiled at the young man and his companion, pointing toward a stall a dozen yards away. Degas nodded his thanks and, with the girl's head on his shoulder, he worked his way through the crowd.

"Pick anything that meets your fancy." he said, setting her down to better inspect. This vendor was an austere old woman, sharp eyes keen. The transaction went smoothly and, with Lèoðern's burning neck now safely covered with brightly colored silk, Degas turned to find Lin, Lèoðern's hand in his.

He scanned the crowd, eyes searching for her unmistakable form. Her bearing alone should have been enough to find her, with those in her presence acting in such a way that would turn any lovely young maiden's head. He thought of her posture as he looked for her. Her back straight, her shoulders squared; she presented an imposing figured when she cared to do so. He couldn't get enough of those moments when she relaxed with a carefree laugh. He felt his chest warm those times that her cold demeanor broke and she favored him with a shy smile, though it was such a rare occurence that he often thought he had imagined it all.

His meandering thoughts were brought quickly to an end when he realized that she was nowhere to be seen. His usually relaxed gait shifted into a stride as he lifted Lèoðern again to move faster.

"The Lady of Dol Amroth?" he asked those he passed. "Have you seen her?"

Trying not to panic, Degas worked his way smoothly back toward the Hall, eyes scanning the crowd for familiar faces. If she had lost him when Lèoðern had drawn his attention to the kittens, if she had merely wandered too far and lost her way, Linduial would return to the Hall. Degas hoped beyond hope he would see her smiling, sharing a gossip with Saeryn in the sun, or some such female action, upon his return; his chest felt heavier than usual, the hot sun doing nothing to dispell the shiver now dancing across his shoulders.

He'd found Saeryn and Eodwine both, accompanied by several others of the household. Lin was not with them. He tried to speak again, afraid to meet Eodwine's gaze again. He spoke to Saeryn's waist, voice hesitating, trying to keep his words light enough that Lèoðern, eyes happily following the erratic flight of a butterfly, would not be upset by them.

"We were separated. I had hoped to find her at the Hall." His words carried a weight that revealed his worry and Saeryn responded, her own light voice laced with nerves.

"Eodwine--" She could see the Hall in the distance, the view broken only by visitors to the city as they passed. Marenil sat outside and all was calm there. She could not see Lin.
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Old 04-30-2006, 11:54 PM   #288
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A new stranger stepped over the threshold of the being-renovated Eorling Mead Hall. He stood an impressive four foot six, sported a two foot-long, red beard, and muscular arms wider around than some people's legs. He carried a massive pack, off of which dangled various hammers and chisels, and at his side he sported a wicked-looking bearded battle-axe. His name was Náin, son of Narin, son of Nori, and he was a Dwarf of Erebor.

The first thing that Náin noticed, as he entered the Mead Hall, was the general absence of people. He presumed, rightly, that they were all about in the streets of Edoras, entertaining themselves or being entertained by others, at the horse fair.

He dropped his pack to the ground, the steel heads of his hammers clinking on the stone, and the pack itself landing with a thud that belied the idea that it was filled with mere clothing and food. He stretched, looking around, but saw no one.

Making use of the time he had until someone discovered him, Náin opened up his pack, and began digging around, eventually pulling out a rather crinkled piece of parchment, which he hastened to try and smooth out with his massive, muscular hands. Once again, he read the words inscribed thereon:

"To the Eorl of the Middle Emnet, Keeper of the Mead Hall," it read, "from Thorin III Stonehelm, King of Durin's Line, King Under the Mountain, Lord of Erebor, with greetings.

We have long conversed with our Royal peer, King Éomer son of Éomund, Lord of the Riddermark, regarding the establishment of a colony of our people in the realm of the Riddermark, for the mutual benefit of both our peoples. Our well-renowned kinsman, the Lord Gimli son of Glóin, begins even at this time to establish the Dwarven colony in the great fortress of your people known as Helm's Deep.

Having received so much in the way of aid and assistance from your King, we have desired to repay him in some small way for his generosity, and have sent a renowned sculptor of our people, one Náin son of Narin son of Nori, who bears this letter, to the city of Edoras to adorn it with such statues and scuptings as he may in thanks for the friendship between your people and ours.

Having informed the King Éomer of this intent, he has directed us to send our servant Náin to seek the hospitality of the Eorl of the Middle Emnet's Mead Hall. We trust that he shall be an honourable representative of the people of Erebor, and commend him to your famed hospitality."


And the letter ended with a crest portraying an anvil and hammer, surmounted by a crown with seven stars- the emblems of Durin and his heirs, and the signature of Thorin III Stonehelm.

Náin turned the letter over somewhat nervously in his hands, unsure of what his welcome would be like. The Mead Hall appeared to be in a state of either disrepair or major renovations, and he was unsure if the Eorl would be eager to accept a guest, although he was willing to help with the construction if needed. Though his chosen field of expertise was sculpture, he was well-enough versed in basic masonry and smithying- as are nigh on all Dwarves, among whom such crafts are widespread and well refined.

Still, Náin was a Dwarf in a strange land, and uncertain of his welcome. The Lord Gimli had by his exploits and friendship with King Éomer made the Rohirrim friendly to and somewhat familiar with the Dwarves, but they were not the Men of Dale, accustomed to their everyday presence. And since he had taken his leave of Gimli and the Dwarves making for Helm's Deep, he had been uncomfortably aware of his alienness.

It is therefore, perhaps, somewhat natural that upon someone entering the Hall behind him, he was somewhat startled, and jumped in the air, hand on his battle-axe, only to realize that all the other person had said was:

"Excuse me? Can I help you?"

Last edited by Formendacil; 05-01-2006 at 12:13 AM.
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Old 05-01-2006, 05:22 AM   #289
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Kara had been in the kitchen with Frodides for most of the day, preparing food for the meal for the rest of the Hall's inhabitants upon their return. Thanks to Saeryn's relentless checks on the state of the cupboards they had enough food to serve a small army, but with all the excitement of the horse fair Kara thought that the young ones in particular would be especially hungry, and set about making a larger meal than normal. There was not much she could do in the way of hot food, as the stove was not yet fully complete, but the makeshift oven outside was still burning gently and gave more than enough heat to cook some essentials.

She was just coming back from the oven, bearing a tray of bread rolls this time, when she heard clanking and a thud from inside the Mead Hall. She stopped and listened for a moment, but could hear nothing else. Looking around she couldn't find evidence of anyone's return, be it Thornden's horse or the squealing of Lèoðern. Cautiously she made her way round to the front of the Hall, and peered in through the door and caught sight of a figure in the shadows. For a moment she thought it was Garstan's son dressed in a child's battle costume, but as she got closer she realised her mistake and blushed, glad that she had not made the comment out loud, for many Dwarves were notoriously sensitive about their height.

He seemed not to have noticed her, being engrossed in a letter. She didn't wish to startle him, so stepped forward slightly as she spoke.

"Excuse me? Can I help you?"

Her attempt failed however. As the words left her mouth the Dwarf spun round, hand on axe. Kara let out a sharp shriek as he did so, dropping the tray. Bread rolled everywhere, and the Dwarf immediately lowered the axe and held his hands up, trying to gesture that he meant no harm.
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Old 05-01-2006, 12:30 PM   #290
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"Sorry!" Náin raised his hands quickly in peace. "Sorry! You startled me! Here, let me help!"

Feeling extremely flustered, and quite sure that his cheeks were as red as his beard, he bent over, and started to pick up some of the bread rolls.

"No, no," insisted Kara, "it's as much my fault as yours." She too bent over to pick up the rolls. "But, as I was saying, can I help you? It's clear that you're a stranger here."

"Well, I, ah, I'm looking for the Eorl of the Middle Emnet," said Náin, still rather flustered. He dropped several of the rolls he had just picked up, half-missing the tray he was trying to put them on. Kara held up a hand.

"Here, let me!" She picked up the re-dropped rolls, put them on the tray, then faced Náin.

"Now," said Kara, "you said you wanted to see Eodwine. I'm afraid he's not in right now. He went down to the Horse Fair. Is it urgent?"

"Yes- I mean No!" said Náin. He really didn't like talking to the womenfolk of Mankind. At the height that he was, it was generally difficult not to stare at various parts of the female anatomy, which weren't even camouflaged, as they might be on a Dwarf woman, by a full, healthy beard- or any beard at all. He did his best to control his nervousness, and look Kara in the eyes.

"What I mean is," he said as carefully as he could, "is that I was told that I might find hospitality here while I stay in Edoras. I've got a letter-"

Náin held up the crumpled parchment he'd been reading over.

"But if things are too busy with the construction and all," he rushed on, "then I can find somewhere else. I saw an inn on the way in, and I've got plenty of coin for my purposes and it'd really be no trouble at all-"

"Whoa!" said Kara. "There's no problem at all! At least, I think there isn't. How about you just settle into the Great Hall until Eodwine returns? I'm sure there won't be a problem. Let me give you a hand with your sack."

"Don't bother!" Náin interjected as she reached for his sack. "I doubt if a delicate human like you could hoist that. With a heave, he grabbed the hammer-laden pack off the ground two-handed, and slung it onto his back. He appeared to sag an inch or two under the weight.

"I don't think I got your name. I'm Kara, I'm sort of the assistant cook around here."

"Náin son of Narin son of Nori, at your service," said he, sweeping off his dark brown hood in a low bow that had his hammers and chisels jangling forward. He rather clumbsily regained his feet.

"You said something about a Great Hall? Would it be possible to find a tankard of ale? It has been a long journey..."
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Old 05-01-2006, 03:59 PM   #291
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Kara couldn't help but smile at the new arrival. He was so obviously uncomfortable around her, craning his neck to ensure he couldn't possibly be accused of looking anywhere he shouldn't, and so dropping everything he picked up because he wasn't watching where he was putting it down. Taking pity on him she gently pushed his hands away and set about recovering the fallen rolls herself while he told her something of his business there. Finally getting everything back into place, she wondered where to put the Dwarf while he waited for Eodwine. Most of the place was still in a bit of a shambles what with all the repair work going on, but she supposed the Great Hall would do for now. Her offer to carry Náin's bags for him was quickly rebuffed, and she thought perhaps with good reason, as even the Dwarf had to heave it up onto his shoulders. However, the suggestion of finding him somewhere to wait was more gratefully received.

"You said something about a Great Hall? Would it be possible to find a tankard of ale? It has been a long journey..."

Kara nodded and led Náin through. She helped him unload his bags from his shoulders and down onto the floor again, noting that that was the noise she must have heard before, and left him to settle into a chair. She returned to the kitchen to fetch his ale and some more dough, as the rolls were ruined now, and a new batch would need to be made. She also picked up some food. The Dwarf had not requested any, but he had said the journey had been long, and good food was always the best way to recover from such things. Leaving Frodides happily complaining about the extra work she detoured round by the oven to put the rolls in, and then headed back to the Hall.

Náin seemed startled when she re-entered from a different direction to the one she had left, but his eyes soon focused on the food and drink she was holding in her hands. Putting down in the table in front of him she was rewarded with a smile and a cry of thanks, as he tucked into what lay before him. Kara realised that, for now at least, she had nothing pressing to attend to.

"I wonder sir, would you mind if I joined you for a while? It has been a long time since I met one of your kindred and I would like to hear more news of the outside world."
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Old 05-01-2006, 04:34 PM   #292
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While Kara headed away with the rolls, and then out of the room, Náin eased his pack off his back, and sat down, taking note of the construction around him, and noting with interest what the builders had been doing.

Then Kara re-entered the room from another door, startling him yet again, but carrying food and drink for which he was grateful. Accepting it with eager thanks, he began to tuck in, when Kara sat down opposite him, and said:

"I wonder sir, would you mind if I joined you for a while? It has been a long time since I met one of your kindred and I would like to hear more news of the outside world."

At least, Náin thought, sitting down it was easier to talk to them face to face. But he was still somewhat flustered. Men, and their womenfolk in particular, had no idea what pieces of art they were. Compared with a Dwarf, even an average Man or Woman looked graceful. Dwarves were made practically, which Náin approved of, but with a great love of things beautiful. And as a sculptor, Náin was particularly aware of the beauty of Men.

"Yes- I mean, no, I don't mind," he said through a mouthful. At least, he thought, he had managed not to spew any of it across the table.

"Though I fear," he continued, "that you probably know more than I, as Edoras is much more centrally located than any of the lands between here and Erebor. And a sorry journey it is from there, too. The Old Forest Road is once again somewhat passable, but it is a sorry road indeed, and once one reaches the lands of the Beornings, there are no roads south. The Lord Gimli said that he's travelled by boat down the Anduin, but we Dwarves are more comfortable travelling on our own feet, so we had to stump it through the Wilderland on foot. Other than passing through the Golden Wood"- Náin shuddered- "it was a decent, if lonely journey. The Gladden fields was the worst- mosquitoes EVERYWHERE! There's talk of a north-south road from Dale to Dagorlad, but that's a very long way indeed, and we'll see if it ever happens."

"But what brings Dwarves to the Riddermark in the first place?" asked Kara.

"The Glittering Caves!" said Náin. "I have not seen them, but the Lord Gimli has described them so well that I can almost see them in my mind's eye. They are to the Dwarves what flower gardens are to a gardener- but like the largest, most beautiful, well-tended garden ever. Or it will be, once we have begun our work. For now it is more like a lovely, but dishevelled, forest vale of wildflowers."

"I've never heard of them, I don't think," said Kara. "They are here in the Mark, you say?"

"Never heard of them!!" This time Náin did spew some ale in Kara's direction. "Oh! Beards and bullfrogs! I'm sorry. I didn't realize the Lord Gimli was so right in saying that the Rohirrim did not know the treasure they have! When he said that you used them for storage and a place to hide during war, I assumed he was jesting! Chisels and chests, I'm sorry about the ale..."

"It's nothing," said Kara, wiping her face on her sleave. "Don't worry about it. I still don't know where these Glittering Caves are, though."

"Oh... what was it called?" Náin absentmindedly twisted his jaw as his tongue sought something caught in his teeth while he pondered. "They're behind a big fortress... the Gondorians built it..."

"Helm's Deep?"

"Yes! That was it!"

"So what are you doing Edoras then?" asked Kara. "I assume that this Lord Gimli and the rest of your countrymen went on to Helm's Deep?"

"Yes, they did," nodded Náin. "I've been sent to Edoras by King Thorin as thanks to King Éomer for allowing us to colonize the caves. I'm a sculptor, so I'll be making statues and busts and whatnot as King Éomer wishes."

"So you'll be staying here at the Mead Hall for a while, then?" asked Kara.

"That's the plan," said Náin, poking a finger in his mouth, still trying to get at the food stuck between his teeth. Then he noticed what he was doing. "Er... excuse my bad manners. It's been a long time on the road. You don't need any real manners out there."

"Stop worrying," said Kara. "And especially don't worry about finding anywhere else to stay. If you're here to aid King Éomer, I'm sure Eodwine will be more than honoured to have you. And he should be back before TOO long to tell you so himself. Meanwhile, eat up!"
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Old 05-01-2006, 08:54 PM   #293
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"Fancy meeting a Dwarf in Edoras," said a strange somewhat high voice behind Náin. Seeming less startled than usual, the Dwarf turned around to see someone even smaller than himself, and full grown by all appearances. The little person bowed low, so low that his nose was close on touching his very hairy feet.

"Falco Boffin of the Shire at your service," said the little person.

"Náin son of Narin son of Nori at yours! You're a hobbit!"

Falco smirked at the widened eyes the Dwarf was watching him with, and walked up to a nearby chair and sat down, puffing on his long stemmed pipe.

"I overheard you and Kara talking, as I was just waking up from a nap. So you are from Erebor and will help Eodwine rebuild this place?"

"If that is what he wishes, though scupting is my trade of choice. You stayed away from the horse fair," the Dwarf observed.

"No use to the likes of me! Ponies are enough trouble!"

"What brought you so far from the Shire, if I may ask?"

"Ask you may! Eodwine did! I wanted to see the world! I saved his life and he owed me, so I told him he could pay his debt by taking me with him back to his homeland. So I'm his freeloading guest, I suppose you could say." Falco grinned at Náin, then resumed puffing on his pipe, sending smoke rings into the slowly thickening air. "Have you ever sculpted a hobbit?"
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Old 05-03-2006, 11:10 PM   #294
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"Have you ever sculpted a Hobbit?"

Náin shook his head.

"Until just this moment, Master Boffin, I had never seen a Hobbit, though I remember the stir when Master Bilbo Baggins visited back in the winter of 3002. Never met him, though."

"So Mad Baggins went on another mad adventure," Falco nodded, as if approving. "And at his age! What a hobbit." He reached down to his pipeweed pouch, pulled it out, opened it, and held it out to Náin.

"Longbottom Leaf," said the Hobbit. "Best variety there is. I'm told most Dwarves are fair smokers. Have a pipeful!"

Náin reached down to his weighty pack, threw open the main flap, and dug around. Finally, he removed a very well-wrapped and padded pipe.

"Haven't had any use for it since the Gladden Fields," he said, almost apologetically. He filled the pipe with the pipeweed, lit it, and began puffing contentedly.

"So," Kara said, after a few moments of Falco and Náin smoking had become monotonous. "Are you suggesting, Falco, that Náin should sculpt a statue of you?"

"I don't see why not," said Falco. "This Mead Hall can use a few more decorations, as far as I am concerned. And what a more fitting way to celebrate the friendship of the Shire and the Mark than a statue of a Hobbit in the Mark's new Mead Hall. And since I'm the only Hobbit available..."

Falco let his words trail off, his meaning clear. Kara looked him in bemusement.

"Where would we put the statue, Falco?" she asked. "Statues are all very well in courtyards, town squares and the like, but they look rather out of place in most parts of an inn- or a mead hall."

"That's up the Eodwine," said Falco, nonchalantly.

Náin stroked his beard in contemplation, watching Falco move. Yes, he could make a good statue of the Hobbit, maybe even a great statue. The Hobbit had the good, artistic lines of Man, though smaller, and given as he seemed to be to a certain amount of gesticulation, striking a heroic pose would not only look good in stone, but would be somewhat in character.

"It'd have to be lifesize, of course," Kara was saying, Náin noticed when he came out of his reverie. "Anything smaller would be easily lost."

"Double size," said Náin tersely, pipe in hand as he spoke.

"That would make me... how tall?" Falco did some mental puzzling.

"Seven feet tall," said Kara, "or thereabouts. A veritable Númenorean."

In his mind's eye, Náin could picture the statue of Falco, one hand raised in welcome, the other holding a pipe by the bowl, clearly just lowered from his mouth. The Hobbit would have to have his face turned upwards ever so slightly, since he almost always had to look up to view the Men around him. It would be nicely symbolic as well, as a sort of a sign of looking up at the Heavens, as though entreating Mahal to smile on the people below.

Náin's mind wandered back to the conversation upon noticing that Kara and Falco were both staring at him. Náin realized that he must have looked rather distant.

"Sorry," he rumbled. "I got... er, distracted thinking about the statue."

"So it's a go, then?" said Falco, pleased. "Excellent! When can we start?"

"As soon as the Lord Eodwine returns and grants me a place to stay," replied Náin. "And, speaking of places, I'm going to need somewhere to use as a studio..."
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Old 05-04-2006, 05:05 PM   #295
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"We were separated," Degas said morosely. "I had hoped to find her at the Hall."

"Eodwine--" Saeryn murmured in a nervous tremor, not finishing her thought. She was looking toward the mead hall where Marenil could be seen sat outside. Linduial was not with him.

"Where have you searched, Degas?" Eodwine asked, his voice tight and low, his words as gently spoken as he could manage.

Degas looked at his feet, then slowly lifted his gaze to meet Eodwine's eyes with a reddened face. "From the shops to here. That is all." His eyes flitted nervously for another place to look before he blinked them back to Eodwine. He blurted, "I asked many on the way and no-one has seen her!"

Eodwine swallowed. This was not good. It was not like Linduial to be hidden in a fair. It was her way to promenade and draw attention. If she could not be found, something ill had happened. A weight as of lead settled inside Eodwine. What could have happened to her? he wondered. Captured? Kidnapped? Worse?

"Degas, I charge you to search the fairgrounds, every inch. Leave no possible hiding place unsearched. Garwine, go with him. Saeryn, Léof, Garstan and I will go to the mead hall and seek for news of her there. Do not return to the mead hall until you have asked any who might know. She must be found! Do I have your yes?"

Degas looked pale, but nodded. Garwine spoke his yes, and the two left at a trot. Eodwine started off at a quick pace, Saeryn tugging at the reinds of Æthel to keep up. Garstan carried Lèoðern in his arms, jostling her gently; she was crying, having sensed the bleak tenor of the exchange between Degas and Eodwine.

What will I do? Eodwine thought. If she is murdered I am no Eorl worth the name. If she is captured, I must rouse a rescue party and bring her back to safety. If she is kidnapped, I have little wealth. He shook his head as he strode to the mead hall.

When they came there, Marenil looked up.

"Marenil," Eodwine called, "has Linduial been here in the last hour?"

"Nay, lord, she has not." Marenil's face fell and creased in sudden worry. "Is she lost?"

"Aye." Eodwine apprised him of all that had happened in the last hour, forgetting in his mood the horserace just won by Léof. Nobody mentioned it.
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Old 05-05-2006, 03:44 PM   #296
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At the Horse Fair

Manawyth stood among the rest of the tussling throng, their long, yellow locks swaying about, making him conscious of his own dark ones. He had known Dunlendings to have rinsed their hair pale, but he was not yet ready to stoop to such artifice to embrace a people still not his own.

"A fine stallion," he called out, swallowing some of his lilt. "He's seen much battle, my lords..." He tugged on the black horse's halter gently.

"I'll bet," a loud, coarse voice answered. "Probably 'gainst us, waelsman..."

Manawyth swallowed the "strawhead" that had risen to his gullet and ignored the cry. Instead, his eye roving the crowd, he caught the glance of a tall man-at-arms with a sword at his side, a freeman at least, and by the look of his garb in the service of some great patron, perhaps one of the Eorls who attended the King.

"Sir, you seem a judge of quality..." the Dunlending started. The man of Rohan returned his look evenly, brazenly, and Manawyth bit his cheek slightly.

"How much would you take for it, trader?"

"Sir thegn, if you prefer to pay in kind, I am a singer with a borrowed instrument. I'll swap this horse for a harp o' gold with the best, most supple gut."

"A singer. Your folk have always been inventive," the stranger acknowledged. "You have a deal. Keep your horse back and meet me in Goldwine Street three hours from now, and you will have what you ask for."

***

A long wait, seeming ever more estranged, Manawyth thought, as he remembered the continuing excitement of the Horse Fair not so far off. In contrast, the Goldwine-way was almost emptied. Beside him, the horse tossed its head in apparent anxiety.

"That's him!" Manawyth heard in the distance. At first he thought his acquaintance from earlier in the day had come back with his master. He was not so far wrong in this, for amid the mob of men appearing on the street the stern fighting-man could be seen, and a haughty nobleman on a white horse was not far off. But evidently they had not come alone, and there was no sign of a harp. Besides, it was not the soldier who had shouted, but the coarse man who had insulted him before. This could not be a good sign.

Manawyth automatically felt for his blade, then remembered that, to cement his position as a cleansed man of peace, he had sold it.

"There's the wolf's-head Dunlending with his stolen horse!"

That made Manawyth start, because it was so true and yet so false. The black horse had never belonged to him; but certainly never to any of these Rohirrim either.

"You lie, churl," he yelled back. "I will swear on it."

"What worth is a waels' word," a proud voice cut in, "when set against that of Cuichelm of the Mark?" It was the splendid Rider, who had slipped easily from his horse.

"Men, take hold of his arms," the nobleman cried, his voice seeming ugly when raised in anger, rather than left in languid smoothness. "Adlaf...take that horse back to my stables...we shall try this wretch after he has spent some time in suitable...quarters..."

"Stop, off, get off, you forg..." Manawyth flailed his arms impotently, but caught the errant word even now. "I mean-halt! I am under the protection of the Eorl of the Mid Emnet!"

"How quaint," Cuichelm answered laughingly. "He's one of those new men, isn't he? Perhaps he commonly feels sympathy for outlaws..."
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Old 05-05-2006, 04:21 PM   #297
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At first, Garstan thought nothing of Linduial's disappearance. Most likely, she had merely wandered off at the fair, drawn from booth to booth by the finery displayed at the many stands. She could easily have lost track of time and drifted to the far edges of the fairground. Degas would find her. He had, after all, kept good charge of Lèoðern. The two, Linduial and Lèoðern, were alike. That fact had not escaped his notice. And because Garstan could easily imagine Lèoðern drifting away in the fairgrounds, he could think the same of Linduial.

Yet how could the very noticeable Linduial have managed to go unseen through the fair? That was the only part of Degas' story that troubled him. Somone must have seen her. Why hadn't they? Of a sudden, Eodwine's worried face struck him, and the Eorl's fear spread to Garstan's mind. Linduial might be in trouble. The girl didn't seem the most able to defend herself from attack, should such a mischance have befallen her. Garstan's heart sank at the thought. Linduial, with her kindness and cheerful high-spirits, deserved better. It would, too, go hard with Degas and Eodwine to have been unable to protect her. And Lèoðern, now chattering lightly and eagerly to her brother about the fair, would lose her double. Disappointment at Linduial's absence was already working its way into her words.

But it was senseless to worry now. Garstan still hoped that she would find her way back to the Mead Hall separately from the rest of their party. Then they would all have a good laugh over dinner when they knew their fears had been for nothing. But Marenil's statement that she was not at the Hall shattered that hope.

All of their hopes now rested with Degas, still searching the fairgrounds. He would find Linduial. He had to find her.
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Old 05-07-2006, 06:08 PM   #298
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Queen Lothiriel of Rohan strove to be a conscientious ruler. She had loved the wild, verdant beauty of her adopted homeland from the moment Eomer had first brought her here, so many years gone, and had worked hard to gain the respect of these people. They had once been rough and strange to her, but now they were dearer to her than the tall, proud, sea-bent warriors of her youth.

But family was family.

Lothiriel had been thrilled to see young Linduial had arrived. She remembered her cousin only vaguely, as a dark-eyed, serious child, and the poised slender young woman who had presented herself at Court had come as something of a shock. The girl's wit, beauty, and natural charm, however, had won over the older and more mature woman in an instant. Linduial had also brought enough letters, luxurious gifts, and cheerful gossip of half-forgotten names and places to make Lothiriel feel like a girl again herself, as her cousin filled her in on the mundane cycle of births, deaths, and 'who-married-whom's for an hour, closeted in her chambers.

"When did this arrive?" she snapped at the guard standing before her, crinkling the paper he'd given her in nervous fingers.

"Only a few minutes agone, Lady. A child brought it to the door guard, said a man had paid him to deliver it, for your eyes only."

"And was the child detained? Have we a description?"

The man held out his arms sheepishly. "No, he'd run off before anyone realized it was a serious matter."

"I see." Lothiriel glanced down again at the paper in her hand, impotent anger rising quickly in her breast. Linduial was intelligent, sure, but young and inexperienced, still adjusting to life here. And this anonymous man... Lothiriel growled in anger. Eomer had spent the last fifteen years rebuilding his country, painstakingly repairing the ravages of war and treason. A calmer part of the Queen hoped, for the sake of this unnamed offender, that he was not of the Rohirrim, for if he were, she and her husband would be responsible for his punishment.

But there were other failures to deal with first.

~<*>~

Lord Eodwine's Eorling Mead Hall was in chaos. Lothiriel found Eodwine in the front courtyard surrounded by people, all of whom were shouting and talking and milling about. There was a young man whose face was a study in guilt and dejection, another was limping badly, the Hall itself was in ruins. A pretty young woman hung on Eodwine's arm, but he seemed oblivious to her in the face of whatever challenge he faced now.

In the midst of this confusion, Lothiriel finally discovered an outlet for her restless anger. As she strode into the courtyard with her guards struggling to keep up, the company fell silent, surprised at her appearance, waiting expectantly for her to speak. She gratified their curiousity quickly, as she was in no mood to waste time on formalities.

"Lord Eodwine of the Mark," she said clearly, her voice chill. "Where is my cousin?"

Eodwine visibly started. Whatever he had expected to hear, it was not that. "My queen--" he hesitated, knowing that this was going to go badly. "--I do not know. She left for the Fair this morning, and was separated from her party. We were gathered here to go search for her. But how did you know?"

Lothiriel's temper flared. "Don't bother searching for her," she snapped thrusting the letter she held at the confused man. "You won't find her easily."

Eodwine took the paper and read it through quickly, then, with a pale glance at his queen, over again more slowly, before handing it to the young woman at his side, dropping her arm and standing alone, suddenly bone-tired. The woman glanced at her Lord, the queen, and briefly at the distraught young man near her, and as the silence continued expectantly, read the letter aloud with a nervous cough.

"Queen Lothiriel of Rohan,

"Your lovely cousin Lady Linduial of Dol Amroth has fallen expectantly into my care. The expense of her transportation and care are such that I shall require a thousand pounds of gold or I am afraid her safe return shall prove outside both my means and my interest. You shall have three weeks' time before I contact you again, and I will expect payment."

"It's not signed..." the young woman faltered lamely, eyes wide with worry.

"It didn't have to be," returned the Queen, opening her palm with a glimmer of gold to show the slim signet ring Linduial wore on all occasions. She closed her hand tightly around it once more, and returned her attention to Eodwine. "You are sworn to her protection, Eorl."

The man nodded in acknowledgement. "I am."

"One of my men shall be commanding a party to find and rescue her. I shall expect you to join them."

"I will."

"It will also fall to you to inform her father of what has happened. I would suggest you not to delay. My uncle can be a harsh man when his family is threatened."

Eodwine nodded again, and Lothiriel reached out in sudden kindness, gripping his arm firmly as she spoke quietly, for his ears only. "I supported you before my Lord, Eodwine of the Mark, and I do not regret my decision. I hope you do not come to hate me for it. I still see in you what I saw before. Don't be discouraged!"

She straightened and cast a look over the disorganized rubble that had once been the famed White Horse Inn. Where the hearth had been, a new one was rising, and despite her fear for Linduial she smiled to see it. "Your hall shall be great when you have built it, Eodwine," she said. "And your house also.

"My commander shall speak to you of your plans." At a gesture, the leader of her guard stood forth, and she gave him quick instructions to take only volunteers from the eored guarding Meduseld before gathering the remainder of her guard around her and returning to her home.
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Old 05-07-2006, 06:16 PM   #299
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It was nearly and hour after nightfall when Thornden rode slowly up the streets towards the mead hall. He had completed the day’s work, but, it having taken more time than he expected, he had not stopped by his sister’s home. Inwardly, he scolded himself for it, but it couldn’t he helped. He had wanted to reach Edoras as early as possible after dark, hoping to have less trouble getting through the gates. There had not been much delay there, but he knew had he come much later, they would have been less likely to let him in so easily. He’d make the visit soon, he promised himself. Very soon. But, even telling himself that, he could just hear his sister’s teasing rebuke at not coming sooner.

But now his mind turned towards home. He hoped for a warm meal, and some merry company. The boy he had found, too, would be there. Not waiting for him, he realized in a moment, for he wouldn’t know him, but he’d be there, bandaged up and cared for.

“Hopefully he’ll be asleep,” he said to himself. “He should be sleeping, anyway. He’ll need all the sleep he can get in the next couple weeks until he’s mended.”

He entered the yard and after dismounting, he led his horse into the stables. Leof met him, for he had been expecting Flithaf’s return since nightfall. With a few quiet words and a goodnight bidden, Thornden left the horse in his care and hurried inside.

It was with surprise that he noticed that the hall was empty. He paused in the doorway and looked about. In a moment, Kara exited one room and walked across the floor, an empty plate in her hands. She looked at him as she passed on the opposite side of the room, but said nothing before disappearing into another doorway. She was the only living thing to be seen, though.

Thornden didn’t know how to explain the strange silence to himself. He shrugged and went in, shutting the door behind him. He would find some water and then report to Eodwine with the money he had gathered and the different messages from his freeholders for requests and whatever else they had thought to write or send by word. But the next moment he changed his mind. It would take some time speaking with Eodwine, and he would like to talk to the boy if he possibly could, but the longer he waited, and the later the time got, the less likely it would be that he would find him awake. So, having made up his mind, he washed his hands in his room, put his pouch down on the bed, took off the dusty vest he wore, and then went to the room where the injured boy lay.

The door slowly and silently swung back on its hinges as Thornden pressed against it gently. He put his head in first to see in what state the boy lay before he went in. Slowly and carefully so as to make no noise, he approached the bed.

The boy lay on his back. He wore a clean shirt, and the covers of the bed were pulled up over his stomach. One arm was folded over the blankets, and the other, splinted and wrapped in clean white bandages, lay by his side. His head was bandaged also and his face was turned away from the door and Thornden could not tell if he slept or was awake. But then he suddenly moved and turned his head and looked at him.

Thornden stopped abruptly and stood completely still. There was a complete silence as they looked and studied each other for a moment. Then Thornden let out the breath he had caught and walked forward freely to the bedside.

“Well, lad, how do you feel?”
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Old 05-07-2006, 06:59 PM   #300
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Lys had spent his day in quiet rest, slowly wandering in and out of sleep, and in relative comfort. He had been provided with a warm and satisfying lunch after the healer Hrethel had left, and the occasional sharp pang of pain from his ankle or arm were his only complaints. He did not voice them, but lay quietly, listening to the bustle outside of the door.

It seemed to him that as the day wore on, a great excitement took the Hall. Many people rushed in, hushed and anxious voices too far away to tell the subject. Lys wondered if it was him they were speaking of, but shook it out of his mind.

'They would not worry so much about you' he chided himself inwardly. 'You're just a broken little boy. You aren't going anywhere for a while, so all debts will be paid...somehow...'

As the day wore steadily on, the movements in the Hall began to fade. Lys heard one particular clang, like tools being dropped hastily, but they were soon hushed. Lys looked slowly about his room, enjoying the last warmth of the afternoon. But in his mind, the young boy could not shake off his sore predicament. No home, no money, no memory.

This last fact caused him to grimace. He could have a family somewhere. They could be searching for him, worrying for his safety. Maybe others were looking for him, out to finsih the work they started. Lys shut his eyes, trying to clean such thoughts from his head, and reassure himself that he was safe.

It was then he heard slow footsteps enter the room. His head was turned from the figure, and slowly he looked over to see. Despite the warmth and comfort of the room, the young boy was quietly terrified. He imagined a dark figure with dagger in hand ready to still his small life. He looked up slowly, trying to mask his fear.

Lys' eyes softened as he saw the man looking over him. His look was warm and gentle. He stood and smiled almost nervously at the bandaged boy. In silence for a moment, Lys shifted a little and wondered what to say. 'This must be the man who owns this Hall.Lord Eodwine...' he thought.

"Well, lad, how do you feel?"

Lys looked a little startled when the man finally spoke. Pausing a moment, his mouth opened and about to speak, Lys pondered how he should word his thanks.

"I am doing much better Lord Eodwine, a--"

A hearty chuckle escaped the tall mans mouth before Lys could word his 'and I am very greateful'. Lys looked up at him with a puzzled expression.

"You give me a title higher than I have earned" he said, before taking a seat in his chair.

"My name is Thornden, and I am Steward to Lord Eodwine. But I am flattered you think me worthy of such a position!"

Lys smiled a little, and muttered an apology, slowly sinking into the mattress in embarassment. As he did, he noticed Thornden slowly look over his splinted arm.

"The Healer has done quite a good job. When I carried you in this morning, I knew not how bad your wounds were. I am glad you are recovering quickly, young...?" Thornden looked at him carefully, enquiring his name.

Lys almost did not know what to say. He had found his rescuer, to whom he owed a debt he could not fathom to repay.

"Lys." he said while smiling "My name is Lys, and I am truly very grateful to you, Thornden. Had you not found me, I do not know where I would have ended up..."

Thornden touched his shoulder comfortingly "No matter now, Lys. You shall be up in time, and I am sure your family will wish to know of you..."

Lys turned from him at the word 'family'. His state was always in the back of his mind, but bringing his loss of memory out into talk made him feel very small. Thornden's brow creased at his actions.

"I am deeply sorry, Lys. You have no family...?" he prodded gently. Lys did not blame him for his curiosity, but he did not wish to share his troubled.

"Better to say I have no memory of them. Or of anything before this morning." he said, quickly and bitterly, hoping the man would not ask him more. Thornden sat back, taking his hand off Lys' shoulder.

"That is quite a burden..." he managed to say at last. "But not one that you will have forever, I am sure. For now, it is best to rest and recover. I will help how I am able, to find what you've lost."

Lys looked up at the man, his bitterness fading, and a small pang of guilt for speaking so foolishly.

"I am sorry. I did not mean to speak in anger. I am most thankful for your help, Sir Thornden..."

Thornden laughed again. "No need for Sir's and Lord's on me, Lys. It is simply Thornden, and I am very glad to see you'll recover. For now, rest. I shall see you in the morning."

Lys smiled. "Thank you Thornden. Good Night."

Thornden then turned, and slowly eased the door closed, leaving Lys in the warm dark of his room. He fell again into sleep, smiling at the thought of his new found friend and rescuer.
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Old 05-09-2006, 02:51 PM   #301
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As the crowd dissipated, Ithaeliel caught snatches of anxious conversation. This one mentioned the Queen of Rohan, that one whispered about a girl at the horse fair, and the word "kidnapped" slipped from the mouth of a worried woman as she passed by. The tall girl gave a slight gasp when she heard that, her green eyes wide in astonishment. "What has happened here of late?!" she wondered aloud. As her gaze drifted around the street, she eyed a pile of rubble where a familiar place had once been. "Oh... oh, dear, the hall! I'd so been looking forward to it!" She turned to a man who stood nearby with a panicked look on her porcelain face. "Do you know what is going on here? What's happened to the Eorling Mead Hall?"

"'Tis only being renovated," a man told her. "No cause for concern, maiden. But... poor Lady Linduial..."
"Linduial?!" Ithaeliel cried. "The Queen's cousin? Is she the one who's been-"

"-abducted," the man finished. "A rescue party is to be organized. Surely you won't help?"

Ithaeliel would have willingly complied, but she had traveled from far away without a mount of any kind, and the moment this man issued his offer she became painfully aware of the exhaustion in her body and the brittle feeling in her bones.

"Sir, I wish I could, however I'm very tired and do not think I could travel any further. I feel as though I were an old woman at the moment," she joked dryly.

The man returned her jest with a chuckle and a dry smile of his own. "Well, I hope you find a place to rest your weary self, as it seems your planned venue of respite is in ruins."

Ithaeliel laughed a little and shook his hand with more enthusiasm than she might have expected of herself. "I am Ithaeliel of Minas Tirith."

"Pleased to meet you," said the man as he bowed. "I am Eorl. Good luck to you in Edoras, and I hope you have a pleasant stay."

"My thanks to you, Eorl," nodded Ithaeliel before walking uncertainly toward the mead hall. Perhaps someone would tell her what to do...

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Old 05-09-2006, 09:35 PM   #302
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It was well past dark. Eodwine was sitting in the kitchen, nursing a half a mug of ale, his chin in hand, elbow resting on the table. It had been a day worth forgetting. But that must not be. All had gone well until Linduial had gone missing. With Lothiriel's appearance at his front door, Eodwine's day had become the second worst in memory. Worst had been the windswept day he had finally come home from war only to find his farmstead burned, the bodies of his wife and children burned husks in the middle of it all. He shook his head and felt his throat tighten and his lips quiver. This will not do. He furrowed his brow, wiped his eyes on his sleeve, and pulled an angry pull on his ale, spilling some down his chin as he filled his mouth with the nectar. Think! Linduial must be found. He didn't need Lothiriel to tell him that. He was a little irked that she had taken over the task of finding her, as he was the princess's guardian; but he understood that Lothiriel took special interest, seeing as they were related.

Eodwine looked up. There was someone moving quietly in the shadows just beyond the kitchen door.

"Eodwine?"

It was Saeryn.

"Can you not sleep, d-" There I go again. "-dead of night and all that?"

Saeryn rubbed her eyes as she slipped into a seat beside him. She yawned. She was exhausted, yet awake. She was quiet for a moment before responding, her voice little more than a whisper.

"Dreams. When my mind lets me sleep, the dreams wake me." She blinked away worried tears, ignoring them. "I take it you are much the same?"

The smell of her filled his head. His arm wanted to curl around her slender shoulders. So easy, so likely on a half drunk night like this. Nothing but empty air separated her leg from his on the bench.

Stop it.

"Aye." He sighed. "Would you like something to drink?"

Saeryn usually avoided spirits, disliking the fuzziness that took over her senses. Tonight though... with thoughts of Linduial already clouding them, she just wanted to sleep, to forget her worry. She remembered the last time she drank anything stronger than cider... she'd been recovering already from an injury and had stood, head reeling. Unsure whether it was injury or alcohol, she'd gone to bed, excusing herself early. Now, health regained, memory returned, in the latest hours of the night, she wanted her cares to dissipate. Saeryn wanted, just for a little while, not to think of Linduial and Degas, of Fenrir, of Caelyn. Of the hurt young man healing in a room nearby. Of her place in the world, or even merely in Eodwine's Hall. Of Dunlendings and the Rohirrim, of every little thought that plagued her as she tried to sleep. Sitting beside a friend; she couldn't sleep anyhow...

"Something. Anything."

Something in her tone woke Eodwine out of his preoccupation with his own battles. He looked at Saeryn's face and could see from the dim firelight, the tears collected beneath her soft eyes.

"Saeryn," he said, his throat catching, "I'm sorry. I have been thinking only of myself." Regardless of his worries over attractions and age difference, regardless of his dream, he gathered her to him and held her close, and it seemed good to him.

Saeryn relaxed against Eodwine for a moment, gathering herself.

"I am just worried about Linduial. Eodwine... we will find her again, won't we? I'm so worried for her. I feel so guilty when I am in Marenil's presence. I cannot help but feel like if I had not been cloistered in the cellars, I would have been with her and this may not have happened."

Eodwine's head jerked in startlement. Saeryn looked up, wondering. He smiled.

"You are not to blame, my l-" he paused, thunderstruck at what his tongue had been about to slip out of his mouth. He started over. "You are not to blame. My lacking as a lord is to blame. I should have sent Garwine with Lin. She shall not be unaccompanied away from the mead hall once we have her back. And we will have her back." Eodwine's voice had strengthened, his final words spoken as if day could hold off night.

"No." Saeryn pulled away from Eodwine, startled. "You can't blame yourself! If anybody is to blame..."

Saeryn stopped, unwilling to betray Degas. She had already forgiven him in private, knowing that there was nothing he could have done. He'd explained how they had been separated. He never could have guessed...

Eodwine read the look on her face when she stopped speaking.

He hung his head and sighed. "'Tis a tangle of blame, enough for all to go around." His eyes came up, suddenly fierce. "But there is one only who is blameworthy. That one holds Linduial for ransom. He shall pay for his crime. I will see to it."

Saeryn nodded, accepting this. She sipped Eodwine's drink, searching her thoughts for something unrelated to Lin's disappearance.

"Eodwine... your dream. What was it?"

Eodwine looked suddenly at Saeryn as if she had trapped him against a wall and was threatening his life.

"I forgot."

Eodwine knew he was a bad liar, and from the sudden look in Saeryn's eyes, she apparently knew it too.

"The dream, Eodwine. What was it?"

"You don't want to know", he mumbled, pulling the drink out of her hands and sloshing some liquid more or less in the general direction of his mouth.
Her curiosity was made stronger than ever by his refusal.

"Eodwine... please?" It took conscious effort to avoid batting eyelashes or pouting lips. She really wanted to know.

Eodwine looked at her sidelong. "I warned you, you don't want to know." Her face began to look as if she could not decide between begging and throttling. Eodwine raised a hand. "All right!"

"Shhhh! You'll wake the others!"

Eodwine nodded absently. "All right. He stared at his mug. "I dreamed that-" his voice caught in his throat. He did not want to say this to her, but he had to and knew it. "I dreamed that- No. Let me say it aright. My wife came to me in a dream while I slept last night. She said to me, 'Eodwine, I am not dead. Come find me'."

He turned to her, his eyes intent to read Saeryn's face, to see how the dream affected her. He did not know for what he hoped.
She could not remember him ever having mentioned his wife before. She searched her memory for a story, or even a word or two in passing, and found nothing. She knew that Eodwine's wife and children had died, but she could not remember where that knowledge had come from... and she knew very few details.

"Go on..." she urged tentatively, her voice no louder than the slight breeze through the kitchen window that played with her hair.

Was that fear in her voice? Kindness? Eodwine began slowly. "I found her and the children, blackened husks in the remains of our house. At least, I had always thought that; now I am not sure who or what those husks were. Kéðra. 'Heather' in the Common speech, you know. What if she is still alive, captive-wifed to a Dunlending who has no right to her? Should I go find her? If I did, where would I look? How would I find her? She would be so changed." His speech had quickened with each new thought. "But maybe the dream was no more than a dream." He paused, his head hanging over the table, staring vaguely at the table top. "Little I can do about it until Linduial is found, though that may be too late."

He turned to Saeryn, searching her face to see what she made of his strange murmurings.

She did not know how to respond. How long had it been? Could he be right... But she had had much the same dreams, her parents calling to her from a distance, bidding her to follow them. They had died on the road, or so she had been told. She had been young... how could she be sure?

She looked away, staring dismally at shadows. Dreams were only ever just dreams, she wanted to tell him, yet that would make a hypocrite of her. She had never meant to stay here... she'd merely been passing through, following the road her parents had taken, following the road Caelyn had already treaded upon. She'd wanted to know... to see the last sights her parents had seen, to meet with her sister and to escape her brother.

She hadn't planned to settle at the Inn; she hadn't planned to become Eodwine's hostess. She meant to leave the Inn with the coming of spring to follow the voices in her dreams. She'd been travelling north by a roundabout way. She failed to notice Eodwine looking at her as she fell into her own thoughts.

How could dreams so similar come to such different people? When Degas had found her with news of Caelyn's death, Saeryn lost her nerve, afraid now to follow. Her attention wavered and she looked back at Eodwine. Time, she thought, to be honest once more. With no light and a bit of ale to loosen inhibitions, Saeryn spoke quietly, half hoping Eodwine would forget by morning.

"I followed dreams. My parents called to me. My sister called. I wanted to follow their path, to see what had become of them, or at the very least, to see what they had last seen. My dreams brought me here, Eodwine. I never meant to stay. I cannot fault you for taking such dreams as you've had so seriously when it is because of mine own, not just because of Fenrir, that I ever left home at all."

Eodwine had watched her face work, biting her lip, frowning, wondering what these signs meant. Then she had spoken, revealing yet another kinship between the two of them. Maybe she was half his age, it did not matter. Soul-friends they were meant to be, it seemed to him. He smiled affectionately.

"Maybe-" He, or maybe the drink in him and the late hour working, chose to allow his tongue to speak more of its want. "Maybe, sweet Saeryn-" he reached down to her hand and found it pliable "- lovely Saeryn-" he raised her hand "-after we have found Linduial and brought her back to safety-" he closed his other hand over hers "-you and I can go on errand to help each other find those we seek."
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Old 05-12-2006, 11:31 AM   #303
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Away-the streets of Edoras

Cuichelm's rejoinder to Manawyth's invoking of Eodwine's title had led to copious laughter from his armed freemen and sycophants. They had lost no time in hauling Manawyth up and tying him, seated backwards, bound and gagged, to a mule. The streets were none too clean after the Horse Fair and several of the less nobly minded Rohirrim seized handfuls of dung and flung them at him.

Manawyth was afforded a split-second of satisfaction when one of the townsmen aimed ill and struck the tall man-at-arms who had caused the situation full in the face. Incensed, the pompous fellow drew his sword and thrashed the offender with its flat till Cuichelm bade him stop with a lazy glance of prohibition. The Lord turned his horse until he looked the defenceless Manawyth in the eyes.

"We're going to Meduseld, Dunlending. The King and his officers have little love, so I here, for your sort, but I am an influential men, and can probably-since you are friend-moderate the hanging to a mere dismemberment. Or, of course, you could insist on the trial by ordeal and keep us all entertained. The gods know we could use a laugh at court at the moment, what with the abduction of the Queen's cousin!"

Manawyth jerked his legs ineffectually. That cousin had to be the Lady Linduial. He had talked little to her but listened much, and found enough to laugh at slyly in her naive confidence. But he was deeply saddened by the thought that the girl's spirit had punished her so soon. He knew Eodwine and Thornden-who had treated Manawyth with particular justice and kindness-were bold men and would give their all to return the young noblewoman to safety; but he felt incredibly frustrated at his complete inability to help.

The prospect of Meduseld, too, was not comforting, for he was inclined to agree with Cuichelm on the attidude of the King towards Dunlendings. It had been King Eomer who had ordered the merciless reprisals; he was known among Dunlendings, indeed, as "Edigh the Bloodied One." Manawyth had considered resorting to a call for an Ordeal before, but Cuichelm's flippancy decidedly put him off the idea.

Very well then, he thought grimly. You'll have to lose your hands, at best...or elude these forgoil fools, somehow...

***

The somehow, beyond any expectation, arrived. For when Cuichelm and his train were close to the hill topped by the Golden Hall, there was a cry of anger somewhere behind Manawyth's field of vision-that is, in front of Cuichelm-which quickly magnified in size. There seemed to be a considerable crowd blocking Cuichelm's progress, and their shouts now began to be distinctly heard-

"Down with Cuichelm! Down with the Geld!"

"No more taxes! Why should we pay when there's no war on?"

"Down with the Geld! Let the Witena have its say!"

"The King, the King! Where is he? He'd put a stop to this. Justice and the King!"

"The Geld" was a phrase Manawyth remembered a pair of dissatisfied drinkers at the Mead Hall mulling over one night. It was essentially a tax that pressed hard on the common smallfarmers, levied by King Eomer, on the advice of certain nobles, in order to pay for a future war planned, in alliance with Gondor, against Harad. The problem was that in the minds of the populace, the war was a projected, distant and rather improbable idea; the harvest share they were surrendering was rather closer at hand. It seemed that Cuichelm must have been one of the lords who had advocated the Geld, and that a party of Rohirric countrymen were protesting against him. Armed violence was probably not far off.

"Silence, men," Cuichelm bellowed. "The King shall answer your plea as and when he wishes! Go back to your farms and your cursed cattle..."

His voice was drowned out in a cacophony of disordered yells, of anger, pain, surprise and sheer meaningless human noise. Some kind of riot was evidently in order. Cuichelm shouted an order that just about carried-

"Harry them, men! Harry them!"

Then something akin to actual battle came into being. Manawyth could even see some of it now; partisans of Cuichelm clustered round each other, wielding whatever came to hand, the rebels, for that is how they now appeared, attempted to swamp them or pull them from their mounts. It was uncertain who had struck the first blow.

What was certain was that at one stage an angry Rohirric farmer cried, "The King! The King! Stop abusers of justice!" and sliced the cords that bound Manawyth. He fell from the mule in an undignified manner, clueless as to who had rescued him, and scrambled, ignored by all, out of the way. When he was clear of the surging, thronging riot, he ran all the faster. He no longer knew where he was going, but he intended to escape the farce that had caught up with him.
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Old 05-12-2006, 09:12 PM   #304
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April 25, Fourth Age 15

Eodwine winced as the light of the sun angled into his window, struck the brand new mirror on the wall - a gift from Lothiriel for the successful rescue of Linduial - and straight into his eyes.

"Ow!"

He shut his eyes tight and rolled over. A cock crowed. There was a knock at his door.

"Yes?"

"Lord, it's Kara. You wanted breakfast served with sun-up."

"Aye, that I did," he yawned, stretching. "Thank you, Kara! I will be down shortly!"

He heard her steps disappear back in the direction of the kitchen. The old kitchen. Garstan's loyalty had taken him away from his plans to build a new kitchen. But now the good man could begin. Eodwine was eager to see that able man's hands and mind at work. Well they had been proven in the last twenty days!

Eodwine rose and stretched again, splashed water on his face, and donned himself in clothes befitting this special day.

This was to be his first Court day, when all and sundry came from all over the Middle Emnet to speak their grievances and ask their boons. Eodwine would receive gifts and give as good as he got. Better yet, he would stand all those before him who had come to his hall thirty days before, and asked for a place. They would hear his judgement on their service, and hear whether they would be kept in. And he would mete out justice. This thought made him scowl. There was the matter of Manawyth.

And there was the need for another visit to that bard and prisoner before Eodwine held court. He needed to know more about the man than he did. But enough. It was time to break his fast and greet the many of his household. He hoped that Linduial's bruises would heal quickly and would not disturb her overmuch this day.

He left his room, went down the hall, and into the mead hall, which now had a complete roof. There was much more to do, but at least the bare bones of the structure were in place and their heads would be kept dry. It was a little dark, for the windows were still blocked in. Lanterns hung from beams, and that helped much, but it was still rather dim. He would have to talk to Garstan, Thornden, and Marenil about that. Maybe they could offer some advice.

Kara brought out a plate filled with sun-up eggs, bacon rashers, a sausage, and cheese. With it was a pitcher of fresh water. And a good stout loaf of brown bread.

"My thanks, Kara. How is Frodides this day?"

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Old 05-13-2006, 08:35 PM   #305
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Thornden had less of a rude awakening that Eodwine. When he opened his eyes, the sunlight streamed in through the open window along with a gentle, cool wind, and a bird’s song. He yawned and stretched and sat up. The day promised to be good, at least in weather. As he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, he wondered briefly if the court that Eodwine had to attend would be quite as good. As he dressed, he went on thinking – considering everything else that would take place that day. The thirty days that Eodwine had spoken of at the beginning of his time was up this day. Thornden’s own place and immediate future would be decided upon sometime in the course of the day.

Once dressed, Thornden exited his room and made as straight a way to the make shift kitchen as he possibly could. He found Fordides alone there, bent over a great bowl of something. As he entered, she turned towards him. One arm was looped about the huge bowl, the other hand clutched at a wooden spoon as she stirred.

“Good morning, Fordides!” Thornden said, in his sweetest tone, slipping around the table. “How’re the rolls behaving this morning?”

“What’ve ye come here for, fellow?” Fordides asked, seeing past his disguise of friendliness and getting right to the point.

“Breakfast. Breakfast for two, actually.”

“Aye, aye, I could’ve told you that myself.” The woman nodded her head knowingly and put down the bowl, the spoon sticking up out of it. “You’ll be wanting it for yourself and that poor boy again.” She tsked briskly as she shook her head over two plates as she filled them. Thornden grinned and his hands went to his pockets. She turned towards him again, a plate in each hand. “Now, wait just a moment and I’ll get a tray. . .” That was done quickly and then she handed it to Thornden. “Now, take it and enjoy your breakfast.”

“Thank you much, fair maiden of the kitchen!” Thornden said, taking the tray gratefully. The wooden plates were piled high with eggs, sausage, bread, and cheese. He winked at her over the lovely meal she’d given him and then scurried quickly towards the door. She hitched up her shirts to her knees and aimed a kick after him, but he was already gone.

Thornden went quickly on through the hall and came to Lys’s room. He pushed the door open and entered without knocking. “You awake yet, Lys?” he asked as he entered, pushing the door closed again with his foot behind him. “I’ve brought breakfast again. A little early today, I know, I know, but I’ve got work to do today, I imagine.”

He placed the tray on the small table by the bed and dragged a chair closer. Sitting down, he clasped his hands between his knees and leaned forward to study Lys. The boy was hardly awake and he slowly pushed himself up as he yawned.

“How’s the arm today, lad?”
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Old 05-14-2006, 05:38 AM   #306
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After giving Eodwine his wake up call Kara headed back downstairs to the kitchen and Frodides, who was busy getting a plate together for the Eorl. The woman was determined that he should have the best, as she still felt uncomfortable with the idea that she was not earning her keep. Kara thought this ridiculous, as Frodides was doing just as much work as she ever had, except that much of it was done from a chair. Still, it meant that Eodwine got a good breakfast, and he seemed grateful for it when Kara brought it out to him.

"My thanks, Kara. How is Frodides this day?"

"Doing well, my lord. Her leg is almost fully healed now and Aedhel says it will not be long before she is back to full strength. Frodides herself believes that she is at full strength now and should not be coddled as though she were a child, but so far she is abiding by the rules and not taking on too much."

Eodwine nodded with satisfaction, glad to hear his cook was much improved. Settling down to eat his breakfast he was somewhat surprised that Kara did not leave, and seemed not to be wholly there.

"Kara? Is there something else?"

Startled from her thoughts Kara shook her head to clear it and focused on Eodwine.

"Yes, Lord, but I am not sure what. Before all the trouble over Linduial I had meant to mention something to you but it has been driven clean out of my head."

Eodwine smiled, knowing such memory lapses happened to everyone at some point. Still, he had a long and busy day ahead what with holding court, and would appreciate some peace and quiet as he ate his breakfast to think over what he would do. He began to mention this to Kara, but only got as far as telling her about the court when she suddenly cried out.

"That's it! Lord, over the past few weeks Frodides and I have noticed that food sometmes leaves our kitchen without our permission. No, we don't want to charge anyone." She quickly forestalled Eodwine's question, not wishing him to think she believed anyone in the Hall to be a thief. "There are reasons for it. Frodides and I cannot be in the kitchen all the time, and if people are hungry they are welcome to eat. The problem is that some of what is taken should not be, as it is needed for later meals. We thought perhaps that a table could be placed in the Great Hall, laden with food that is available, so that those who come down for breakfast and find us missing can take from that table, and so not cause us difficulties later. Is that acceptable?"
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Old 05-14-2006, 06:49 AM   #307
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Léof awoke feeling refreshed for just a few moments before a heavy feeling of anticipation settled in. Today was the day that Eodwine would either accept him or not. Even though Eodwine and Thornden had both expressed approval of his work here, he still felt rather nervous – if he could not stay here, he had no where else to go. Well, perhaps this was not now true. After having won the race – which deep down inside, Léof still was not completely sure he should have won – he could probably find work as a rider somewhere. But what kind of living would that be? Certainly no kind that he would want to bring his sister in to. Besides… he liked it here. It was a second home… these people were almost a second family. He tried to shake off the feelings. Of course he would be able to stay. No worries.

He rose, flexing his foot a few times as he had every day the past week or so. Not completely healed yet, but not disabling anymore either. He could walk normally now, only feeling spasms of pain when he moved it in an awkward way. One of the toes that had broken hadn’t quite healed straight, but this did not bother Léof. What did he need his toe straight for, anyway?

He began his morning rounds, starting as always with Æthel. He had been concerned for her in the week or two following the race; it had tired her out more than he would have thought and she had not been eating right. But now she seemed to be returning to her old self, and Léof was glad. He could not have borne it if he had somehow hurt her permanently. As it was, Léof doubted he would ever race her again. It had simply been too hard on her.

As Léof went about morning feedings, his mind wandered, not back to Eodwine’s decision, but to Æðel. He had seen her scarcely at all in the past few weeks, and had never tried to talk to her, not about the race, not about his foot, not even about general things like Linduial’s kidnapping. He regretted this, but time had made it harder not easier to consider approaching her. The hurt had festered and begun to scar; like his foot, it seemed that it would not just heal itself. But what was he to do? She seemed just as intent to avoid him as he, her, and he recoiled mentally at the thought of approaching her.

But how much was a friendship worth?

No, he had not wronged her, after all; he should not have to go to her – right?
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Old 05-14-2006, 03:06 PM   #308
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"Saeryn... Saeryn, wake up."

It was still early and she'd been awake late sitting with Linduial. Degas sat next to her slightly curled form, on top of the blankets she clutched at with tired disorientation.

"'Gas," she mumbled into her pillow. "Go 'way."

He tucked her hair gently out of her face. "Saer, wake up. I'm back and I need you."

She woke up now, opening her eyes and coming to the realization that Degas was sitting next to her. She could feel the warmth of him coming through the blankets. She pushed him off of her bed gently and bade him to turn away as she changed. She spoke as she did so.

"She's been back for a bit... not too long. She's all right. How did your trip go?"

She noted that his skin was darker and his red hair looked a little bit more burnt golden. He looked slightly impatient when she finally let him turn. She had changed quickly, donning the gown she had laid out the night before for the day's events.

"Degas, what is the look in your eyes?"

"Relief, Saer... you've no idea. I had news on my way into the city, but hearing it from you is more... more real, I guess." She nodded, understanding. He continued now, his real agenda clearer. "Saeryn, you need to play hostess. Her brother Farahil came back with me. He's waiting in the Hall to be attended to. He doesn't speak much, but I'm fairly certain it may be more that he loathes me for letting his sister get taken than anything else. He might speak more to you, but either way, he'll need to be given a room for as long as he stays and Eodwine needs to know that he is here."

She nodded, curious about Lin's older brother. Linduial had told her stories of this younger one... the sailor that taught her archery and fletching. Saeryn had wanted very much to meet both brothers and Lin had promised that they would travel together to Dol Amroth one day, but she had not realized she would meet one so soon. She excused herself from Degas and went to the newly roofed hall to greet this newest guest. She sent Degas to Eodwine's room.

He knocked on the door as she went down the hall, calling softly so not to wake any still sleeping.

"My lord, it is Degas. May I enter?"
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Old 05-14-2006, 07:13 PM   #309
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"You awake yet, Lys?"

The young boys eyes slowly began to open, seeing the hazy form of Thornden balancing a tray in his hands. "I've brought breakfast again. A little early today, I know, I know, but I've got work to do today, I imagine." He set the tray down, and moved a chair closer to the boys bed. Lys slowly began to rouse, trying to sit himself up in bed. Thornden looked down at the tight bandage over Lys' arm.

"How's the arm today, lad?" Lys smiled and rolled his shoulder a little. "I don't feel much discomfort. I am doing much better." Lys leaned over to smell the warm breakfast Frodides had prepared, and his stomach gave a happy grumble. Both he and Thornden chuckled at the sound.

"I won't keep you longer from your meal, young man!" he said, and pushed the tray in between himself and Lys. As they ate, Lys looked up at him and noticed his brow furrowed. He looked to be mulling over a small thought.

"Today is an important day, is it not Thornden?". Lys remebered Thornden telling him of the events of the past few weeks. Today was the day of Lord Eodwine's first Court. Many would come to settle their greivances. Not the least of them was one who had come to stay at the Mead Hall, a Dunlending. Lys did not seem to grasp the importance of his birthplace, but Thornden often stated with empathy that it did not do well for him. Lys was glad that Thornden thought so kindly on all people.

"Aye, I remember telling you about this day. It will be eventful, no doubt. I do not know my place in it. But I wonder..." Lys picked up his tone, and put down his piece of bread. "Wonder on what...?"

Thornden smiled, and waved off the boy's worried expression. "Don't worry, Lys!" he said with a smile. "It won't do any good speculating. I've been here thirty days, you see, and it is the time for Eodwine to decide if I shall keep the job of Steward."

Lys smiled. Then it was a good day! Thornden was certainly worthy of the charge. Nothing in Lys' mind could make Eodwine think otherwise. He set back to his warm fist of bread, before asking Thornden yet another question.

"Thornden, could I come to see you today? My foot is feeling much better..." While Lys was more than grateful for the care he received, he had been in this small room for almost three weeks, and he longed for a change of scenery. Thornden looked on him gently as he scooped up the last of his sausage with bread.

"I do not wish you to strain yourself, Lys. Hrethel said more than three weeks rest up in bed. I know you want to see the outside world, but it will not run away while you're abed!" Lys frowned a little, but nodded, as he knew Thornden was right.

Thornden saw his disappointment and sighed a little as he sat back in his chair. He studied Lys carefully from head to foot, or what he could see of him. He certainly couldn't walk, but surely it wouldn't do any harm if he were carried out. And perhaps he could sit atop a horse. But it would be going directly against doctor's orders. . .

"I suppose," Thornden said slowly, looking back at Lys' expectant face, "I suppose we can take you for a small outing for dinner this evening. I know all the residents are looking forward to seeing this mystery boy I've had hidden away all these weeks!"

"Thank you so much, Thornden! " Lys grinned. Thornden winked at the rise in Lys' expression, and put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I think you're getting better, Lys. You'll be alright in a little while longer. Now," he went on, standing up and collecting the empty tray to return to Fordides, "you make sure to rest well today. I'll come around when I can, and in the evening, I'll come early to help you get ready for dinner."

With that, Thornden left with a smile, and Lys looked out the small window and grinned. He could not rest, when such a wonderful time awaited him this evening.

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Old 05-17-2006, 01:02 AM   #310
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By the time the Eorl of the Middle Emnet of Rohan was rising, most days, Náin son of Narin had been awake for a couple hours. It was not that he was an early riser by nature. Left to his own inclinations, he would probably have rarely risen before the noon hour most days. Náin loved his sleep, and savoured every minute he could acquire.

But the Dwarven people were a race that prized, among other things, hardiness and hard work. Inclined though Náin might have been to sleeping in, fifty-some years of training automatically woke his body at five in the mornining. And, though he would have enjoyed more sleep at times, Náin was accustomed to his habits and was not troubled by them.

This particular morning, as he strolled over to the alder in the middle of the courtyard between the main hall and the new kitchen, he was awake and walking before Eodwine by a matter of several fewer minutes than normal, though he knew it not. Nor did Náin particularly care.

As had become his habit since dwelling at the Mead Hall, Náin's first walk of the day took him to his chief project, which was nearly finished. The double-scale statue of Falco Boffin, tall as a Númenorean, sat almost done on a stone base at the foot of the alder tree. Náin didn't care much for trees one way or another, but he had to admit that the alder made a suitable and impressive backdrop to Falco's statue, complementary to the relationship between Hobbits and nature.

When he had started on Falco's statue, the Men had expected him to do it in a room somewhere, and to move the statue out when it was finished. Náin had scoffed at that idea. The weather was nice, the courtyard was a scene of busied construction anyway, and there was a good deal more room to work in. Why cramp himself in a stuffy room somewhere?

Looking over the statue with a pleased eye, Náin mentally guessed that it should be finished either that day or the next. It was a job well done, he thought. Already, he had several ideas for his next project. The late King Théoden had been a great hero, and yet Edoras was completely unadorned with any semblance of him, or possibly a smaller statue of the Lady Éowyn for the King, or maybe a couple of fancy columns to spruce up the gates to the city. Yes, Náin had many ideas. It was simply a matter of running them by King Éomer or Eodwine, or some other important lord of the Mark, and finding one that one of them liked. An easy task.

Pleased with himself and his work, Náin made to take a detour back to the Mead Hall's main entrance, where he would make his way to breakfast. A short walk was just the thing to get ready for a good day's labour.

Though he had kept mostly to himself over the past few weeks since his arrival, Náin had become fairly well acquainted with the normal habits of life in the Mead Hall, and as he re-entered the Hall, ready for breakfast, it seemed to him that there were more people astir than normal.

Ah yes! he thought, Eodwine was holding court today. Small doings, compared with the whole kidnapping affair involving that Gondorian lady, but revelant to the daily lives of a few more people in Edoras. Wondering if he might not get as much work done as he'd intended, Náin headed in for breakfast.
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Old 05-17-2006, 06:09 PM   #311
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Eodwine was in a soured mood. Saeryn had brought Degas before him and the young man had given his report. Well enough. Degas had seemed a little pleased with himself, which was only natural; this was Degas, after all. At the same time there was a little bit of standoffishness to the lad. Or was that the right word? Eodwine couldn't think of it. At any rate, Degas seemed a little ill at ease. Maybe he was impatient to go resume his courting of the recovering Lady Linduial. Eodwine half hoped that she would give him a good tongue lashing.

He had complimented Degas on "a job well done," and sent him on his way, leaving Saeryn still standing before him.

"Yes?" His tone was curt, he noticed. She did too; a slight frown played around her eyebrows.

"Degas has brought back one of Linduial's brothers."

"Oh?"

"He would like to meet you. Do you want to go down to meet him, or would you rather have me bring him here to see you?"

"Bring him up here." She left quickly. Had there been something in her tone, in her face, that belied more than she meant? And what had she said this brother's name was? No, she hadn't said at all. That was odd.

While Eodwine waited for her to return with the new guest, he happened upon the reflection of his own face in the mirror Lothiriel had given him. There was a prounounced frown on his face. Where had that come from? He could not recall why he was so dour. He passed his hand over his face, trying to relax his expression. He looked again. Better. But not great.

There was a quiet knock on the door.
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Old 05-17-2006, 08:39 PM   #312
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Saeryn responded to the soft invitation to enter. She pushed open Eodwine's door, beckoning for Farahil to enter before her. He shook his head politely, reaching carefully and easily around her just above her shoulders to hold the door. He gestured that she should enter first and she obliged, smiling a little.

"My lord Eodwine, may I present Farahil of Dol Amroth, son of Lord Farlen and brother of our Lady Linduial?"

Farahil nodded his thanks and smiled to Saeryn. He bowed to Eodwine and stepped forward lithely before offering his hand, large and callused, tanned. Muscles rippled beneath a well-fitting black shirt. Saeryn was much impressed with the way that Farahil's broad shoulders were hugged by his sleeves. Born and raised amongst the Rohirrim, she was much unused to black-haired strangers. The few strangers she had come across in her youth had been blonde and built much like her brothers. Linduial's brother was several inches taller and well-built with darker skin and chin-length straight hair tied at the nape of his neck. His high cheekbones highlighted dark eyes and his bearing was light and powerful. She sensed that he could probably fill a room should he choose, yet he didn't.

"Lord Eodwine," As Farahil spoke, Saeryn was fascinated by his voice, low, calming and exhilerating as waves pounding upon a shore. His Rohirric was easily understood but his accent spoke of a life spent far south and some words were slightly hesitant as though he were unsure of his desire to use them. "My family offers its gratitude for the safe return of Lady Linduial. My father bids me to extend the hand of friendship between our houses forthwith as further thanks, with all such meaning as such an offer implies to be taken as truth."
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Old 05-18-2006, 08:49 PM   #313
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"My lord Eodwine, may I present Farahil of Dol Amroth, son of Lord Farlen and brother of our Lady Linduial?"

Was there a tremor in her voice? Farahil nodded and smiled to Saeryn, then bowed to Eodwine, stepping up to offer his hand in friendship. Eodwine kept his eyes on Farahil, but it was not difficult to shift his attention to Saeryn, who was watching the young man in a way that he must surely notice. It was annoying. Eodwine kept his face and forced smile to Farahil. He took Farahil's hand in his.

"Lord Eodwine," Farahil continued as Saeryn drew an audible breath (foolish girl, could she not control herself?) "my family offers its gratitude for the safe return of Lady Linduial. My father bids me to extend the hand of friendship between our houses forthwith as further thanks, with all such meaning as such an offer implies to be taken as truth."

Eodwine was the first to let go of the handshake, which was appropriate, Farahil being the guest. Much was indeed implied. Eodwine relaxed a little.

"It is a most generous gesture," he said, using Gondorian speech patterns he had learned in foreign courts. "I am honored. I accept your offer of frienship and return it in full measure."

Saeryn and this young man were of an age. Eodwine was not under any illusion regarding his own feelings. This young noblewoman of the Rohirrim drew his attention in many different ways. She was a beauty and a spirit both of gaiety and depth at once. Not unlike Kéðra. Who might still be alive. It was no business of his to stand between her and a man of her station and age, no matter how he felt. But that did not stop him from wanting to know how long this rival would be underfoot.

"How long will you be staying with us?"
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Old 05-18-2006, 09:12 PM   #314
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Farahil noted the strength of Eodwine's grasp and listened to his next words. He watched the older man's eyes, wondering why it was that he did not mark Saeryn's continued presence with a glance. Assuredly Farahil had marked her beauty and was curious about her. He knew of her as Lord Degas's sister, a lady of the Rohirrim, and yet she resided as hostess in the hall of a lord to whom she was unwed.

Farahil was not a stranger to Rohan, though he was to these parts, and to the nobles of the land. He had travelled several times with one of his men, a close friend and a transplant from the areas around the Entwash, riding north with him for companionship and adventure as he rode to see his family. Perhaps it was common for ladies of this land to serve in roles taken by commoner women at home, yet he did not see it as being so. Lady Saeryn was her own woman with her own set of rules, he saw, and he desired to learn more. He glanced at her and met her eyes. She neither blushed nor looked away. He looked back at Eodwine.

"I am uncertain how long I will be staying, Lord Eodwine. I do not wish to over-stay my welcome, yet I have business to attend to, both private and less so. I mostly desire to see Linduial. Words may calm fears, yet only sight can put them wholly to rest."

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Old 05-19-2006, 03:26 PM   #315
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The morning sun filtered through the leaves of the alder tree behind the kitchen. Garstan stood under the tree with a ball of twine. Construction on the new wing of the hall had been neglected during the search for Linduial. He was glad to be back at work, and delighted that the Lady was safe in Lord Eodwine's hall once again.

A stab of pain ran up Garstan's left arm as he stretched it to tie the string to the base of the tree. The wound suffered during the rescue mission had not yet wholly healed. He would be unable to start the heavier labor of putting stone to chisel for the next few days, but there was nothing to stop the careful work of measuring and marking out the places where the new corridor and kitchen would stand. With a final grimace, he pulled the knot tight and walked to the left to bring his line flush with a straight, narrow furrow in the ground that his son was drawing between the remains of the rear wall of the old kitchen and a stake that would mark the beginning of the new one's nearer wall. With the twine in place, he called to Garmund.

"Here lad. Put the stake where the twine ends."

The boy obliged with a nod. Garstan then measured off a spot three feet nearer the new kitchen and placed a second stake there, ignoring the sharp ache in his arm. The stakes marked what would be the center window of the corridor, set carefully to match the position of the tree that would be the centerpiece of the courtyard.

Garstan walked back to the alder to retrieve his twine. The new statue caught his eye. The odd dwarf, whom he had seen silently walking the courtyard while the measurements were taking place, certainly had a gift for sculpture. He wondered if Náin would be willing to help with the construction. It was a little less artistic a task than the fine statue, but Garstan envisioned some intricate work for the borders of the windows. Perhaps a bench or two at the sills where one could rest and look at the courtyard. But he was getting ahead of himself. The work hadn't even started.

Leaving Garmund to take a rest in the courtyard, Garstan headed inside, hoping to have a chance to speak with the dwarf. Even if Náin was not interested in more mundane stonecraft, perhaps he could still provide a few ideas for the project.
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Old 05-19-2006, 07:35 PM   #316
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Before answering Eodwine's question, Farahil seemed to pointedly look at Saeryn, who looked back into Farahil's eyes with an unwavering look. Or stare, more like. Then Farahil looked back at Eodwine.

"I am uncertain how long I will be staying, Lord Eodwine. I do not wish to over-stay my welcome, yet I have business to attend to, both private and less so. I mostly desire to see Linduial. Words may calm fears, yet only sight can put them wholly to rest."

"You are a friend of my house. You cannot overstay your welcome." Eodwine forced his smile to widen. But let me not keep you longer from your sister! I am sure she will be happy to see you." Eodwine turned to Saeryn. "Saeryn." She puller her attention away from the dark and handsome young man. "Please show Lord Farahil to his sister's quarters."

"Yes, lord." They left. Once the door closed behind them, Eodwine huffed a very disturbed sigh, and began whispering to himself. "They are of an age. It is right that they would be interested in each other. She is a beauty, he is a handsome lord with his whole life ahead of him. He represents the future whereas I represent the past, no doubt. Let her go. Let her go. You never had any business following her with such interest in any case. You're too old for her, you silly a*s. Find Kéðra." That stopped him short. Was his wife alive? Was she partnered against her will to a Dunlending who not doubt abused her, fathered his brood on her? Eodwine felt his jaw clenching. More likely she was long dead. His jaw loosened and his throat tightened. Get a hold of yourself, old fool. You have a court to preside over. With that, he checked his face in his new mirror one more time before leaving his room for the Hall, which he had had set up for holding court.

There was already a crowd gathered outside. This would be a long and tiring day. The last thing he needed to do was get himself worked up over a girl half his age who needed a young man, not an old.

He sat in the furlined chair that had been specially made for his Mead Hall. No one had come into the Hall yet. A makeshift firepit had been built in the center, just below the opening in the ceiling. It looked to be a good ceiling. Yes, there were the gifts he had ordered to be brought up, ready to hand as need would arise. He waited, allowing his mind to clear.
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Old 05-19-2006, 09:35 PM   #317
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Breakfast was over and the dishes were returned to Fordides. Thornden found he had nothing left to do before the business of the day took place. He knew that Eodwine would already be in the great hall, prepared for what was to come, and probably anxious for it to begin. Thornden couldn’t think how Eodwine couldn’t be at least a little bit nervous. He knew he felt so. His stomach felt tight, and the food sat somehow uncomfortably. He scolded himself inwardly. What had he to fear? Had he displeased Eodwine in the last month? Had he failed in any way?

Thornden couldn’t think that any of the answers could be yes, but he still feared to hope. He took the side door outside and for a moment stood there. He drew a deep breath and let it out in a long sigh. Then, gathering himself together, he turned back around, reentered the building, and headed straight for the hall.

As he expected, Eodwine sat there in the chair prepared for him. Thornden walked towards him and bowed slightly.

“Good morning, sir,” he said in as light a voice as he thought fitting. “Did you sleep well?” Small talk, Thornden realized with an inward grimace. Well, maybe it would get them somewhere. Eodwine answered in the positive and Thornden nodded. “When do you suppose we’ll begin seeing people?”
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Old 05-20-2006, 08:34 PM   #318
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"When my retainers have all gathered. I await them. You are of course the first one, and I welcome your presence."

Eodwine smiled by way of reassurance. He saw that Thornden was nervous and could not quite hide it. He gestured for Thornden to sit in the seat just to his right, just off the small dais he had Garstan mock up for him for this day. He was glad that with all the time consumed by freeing Linduial, Garstan had had the time, despite his injury, to throw it together, even if it wasn't made of stone. Garstan, it turned out, was handy enough with mallet, rod, and spikes, to do the job.

Eodwine wondered what Saeryn was doing, and how long she would be, or Léof, Aðelhild, Garwine, and the others.

Manawyth was another story altogether, and one Eodwine did not relish. There would have to be questions asked, since he had not had a chance earlier. To speak for Manawyth required knowing some things, and he strongly hoped the answers Manawyth - if he chose to give them! - would strengthen his resolve to protect his new Dunlending bard. He hoped he was innocent.

As time went by, his various retainers came into the Hall. He greeted each one with a smile, and they took up the poisitions he indicated for them. As soon as they were all present, he would begin holding court.
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Old 05-21-2006, 09:25 PM   #319
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Saeryn guided Farahil silently, motioning direction with a slight cock of her head. Linduial's room was at the far end of the hall. She knocked quietly, announcing herself, waiting to hear Lin's voice before opening the door.

"Good morning, love. How did you sleep?"

Linduial looked at Saeryn sleepily, shrugging her response with a tired smile. Better than had been expected, then. Saeryn eyed her with the concern of an older sister, spotting each visible bruise and knowing well that more lay beneath her soft covers and bedclothes.

"I've brought you a visitor. No, love, not Lèoðern." Saeryn winked. As soon as the little girl had been allowed, she'd hustled in a short-legged run and skip to see her friend. She'd fallen asleep next to Lin last night and Saeryn had gathered her to herself for a moment, smoothing her soft curls away from her face before bringing her to her father and returning to her friend's side. Saeryn and Lèoðern had grown close over the time spent awaiting the return of their men folk.

A few short words later, Saeryn deposited Lord Farahil with his sister, excusing herself politely.

"My lord holds court this day. Please do join us if you feel so inclined." She pulled the door shut behind her, marvelling as always how lightly the heavy wood turned on its hinges.

Pausing at Degas's room, she knocked. No response. Already downstairs, she thought. She would beg stories of him later...

She descended the stairs with the lightness of a dancer. Today would be a day to remember. With Lin returned safely and Degas back as well, and with the Lord Farahil's unexpected appearance, the day would be a fine one even without the added interest of court. Saeryn had been excused from such things as a child and had loathed them when her brother required her attendance. Yet now... the events of Eodwine's household and lands seemed far more important and interesting to her than those of her own ever had.

She met Degas coming from the kitchen as she stepped into the Hall. Together, they found their places. Saeryn smiled to Eodwine and wondered at the smile with which he favored her. It seemed troubled, though she stood with Degas... Saeryn had never been certain of her friend and protector's feelings toward her twin. She brushed the thought from her mind. A day to remember, she reminded herself, and she watched the Hall fill.
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Old 05-22-2006, 04:45 AM   #320
Kath
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Pleased to have received a positive response to her idea from Eodwine, Kara headed back to the kitchen. People were already popping in and out. The day was shaping up to be a busy one and everybody had their own things to do before Court began, including Kara. She had almost forgotten that she was here only on a trial basis what with everything that had happened since she arrived, and she sincerely hoped Eodwine would keep her on.

But enough of that for now, she told herself, shaking her head to clear it. Whether she was cook or not after this session of Court she still had lunch to prepare. No point in letting people starve now. Realising she was beginning to think like Frodides spoke she smiled, and then remembered that her mentor was to decide her fate today as well. Before her accident Frodides had intended to leave once Kara had proven herself a worthy cook. In the past couple of weeks though, the woman had been speaking of what she would do once she was up and about again properly, and it had all centred around the Hall. Kara hoped this meant she had changed her mind about leaving, but dared not ask for fear it might sway Frodides to stay when she didn't truly wish to.

Having finished getting lunch ready so that it simply needed to be taken out to the tables Kara changed her apron for a clean one and turned to Frodides, who hopped off her stool, able to walk with nothing to aid her now, though she still retained a slight limp.

"Come on then girl, we're to find out how we'll be living our lives after today, and we can't know until we get there."

They reached the Hall a few minutes later and took their places, Frodides muttering quietly that they had set off too early as not everyone was here yet. Kara didn't share her sentiments. She'd never really been involved in anything like this before, and was keen to observe as much of it as she could.
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