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Old 03-19-2007, 02:00 PM   #121
Dimturiel
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Tora waited patiently for her father to finish his scolding. She was much too used with his way of treating her to be affected. She had become to take it for granted. Actually, she would have thought something was wrong if her father would not present her with his usual view of what an "undutiful daughter" she was. Maybe she really was, she could not tell. Yet she was sure that the lads would not have brought her father's knife quicker than her. Why, they were sure to have met some playmates and return only after nightfall, probably with the knife lost to boot.

Yet all her indignation at his favouring her brothers was forgotten when the idea of getting married was suggested. Tora felt flustered. She knew that she had no other choice, knew she could be hardly expected to spend the rest of her days pining for one that was lost. Yet why not? What harm could she do with that? Yet no, her father could not keep her for eternity, and he had already shown signs of wanting to get rid of her as soon as possible.

This thought hardened her. Her father had placed the question expecting her to be grateful for his proposal. Well, she was not and she was going to show him that.

"I guess it matters little, my father, whether I would like this or not." she told him. "As a matter of fact, I would not like it, not with someone I have never spoken to before, someone I cannot trust. Yet the look on your face tells me that you care not for my oppinion in this matter. Then, if the thing is already decided, why ask me? One thing, though, father, if such a question is not an unsuitable one to ask. But what is his name? Have I not the right to know at least this?
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Old 03-21-2007, 01:52 AM   #122
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Torguar was not perturbed by his daughter’s sullen tone; she was offering no essential rebellion, which relieved him. Though full of bluster, especially when addressing his wife and daughter, he did not relish real quarrels that went beyond what he regarded as good-natured yelling.

“Don’t you worry your head about it, my girl, your father’s not cruel and he’s not an idiot either, eh, isn’t that right, wife? Of course you’ll get a chance to meet the lad. Soon enough, in fact, so brighten up. I have spoken to his mother, and the young man is to visit us tomorrow.”

He knew of the unfortunate death that had struck at his daughter’s hopes and heart, but he imagined that the slain suitor could easily be replaced in Tora’s affections. Women were like that, after all. Give them a home and a man, any man, and they clung to him. And by the sound of it, this Drenda was not just anyone – he was a noble youth with considerable prospects.

“Of course, Tora my girl, I would not pledge you to someone I hadn’t given a proper examining. Who knows? Their side of the bargain may not hold; the mother may have talked up her pup; it wouldn’t surprise me. But the word is he’s a good man, well, a boy really, younger than you are, I think; not much money, but a strong arm, an excellent hunter, and plenty of courage. Noble blood, you know. A fine catch for the family. His name is Drenda, son of Drenduld; the mother is called Gausen. The boy lives at the Hall; if you marry him, you’ll be presented to the Chieftain himself, I should expect!”

Torguar smiled widely and gave his daughter a quick clench, conveying a throwaway, momentary sense of love. Then he let her go, and started to walk out, giving her a wink as he left:

“And he’s tall and good looking. What more could a girl like you ask, eh?”
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Old 03-30-2007, 10:18 AM   #123
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Khandr quickly led the Elves back down the corridor and into the large room where the rest of the party was waiting. The rest of his companions followed close behind. For the next half hour, there was little conversation. Khandr did what he could to cover his earlier blunder and to encourage his guests to linger at the table. Dishes loaded with cheese and pastries were passed among the guests. Briga hurried from one diner to the next, carrying a large flask of sweet red wine, being careful to refill the cups as soon as they were emptied. At Khandr's bidding, she was especially attentive to the envoys.

Only after many cups had been emptied, with the flame of the torches burning low, did the guests forcus their thoughts on other things. It was Khandr who gave the first signal, turning towards the Elves to speak. When he did so, he spoke with an openness and frankness that surprised many at the table. "My friends, I apologize again for my error. Never would I greet a friend in such a manner. For that is how I see us: Elves and Men bound in friendship, bound by oath, who must stand together against the long cold hand that reaches down from the far north. I have only one excuse for my behavior. These long months in this village have dimmed my judgment. They have made me less than I was. I feel compelled to speak frankly. Perhaps I am unwise to do this. Yet someone must know and hear what I am about to say. Someone I trust...and I do trust the honor and integrity of the Elves."

Khandr looked down and sighed before he went on, "It is not easy here. No...it is not easy. I came as an envoy of King Bor and expected to be met as a kinsman. For, as you know, our two peoples are related. That did not happen. Where once there was friendship and alliance, only suspicion lurks. Where once a strong ruler stood over a proud people, now..... " Khandr's voice broke off, and he spoke in a brusque, uneven tone. "Now, I do not know. I came to negotiate a treaty of marriage between our two tribes. For often, in the past, it has been the custom for our people to enter into such pacts. The marriage negotiations have gone nowhere. A pity perhaps. Yet,.....it is more than that. Much, much more. A curtain has gone down. A curtain of secrecy at court. I know not what is behind it. I only know I am afraid. Afraid and tired. Perhaps I am wrong. I hope that is so. But I have long sensed that there is something going on, perhaps something that will touch upon the fortunes of the Elves as well as the Borrim. Perhaps you already know and understand these things far better than I, for you are Elves while I am only a man. I only ask that you remember my humble words when you deal with the court. And, before the night is over, I ask you to tell us what is going on. For our hosts have not shared any of the news with us. We hear only rumors and speculation and fear and do not know what has happened in the North. My men too.....I would ask them to speak up. They remain silent out of respect for you and your people. Yet I am sure some of them have questions and, like myself, are concerned. If so, I would humbly ask that they be allowed to speak."

Khandr glanced over at Lachrander and the younger Elf. The latter looked to be barely more than a boy. Perhaps he had not been wise to speak so openly. It was not like him. Usually, he was so even tempered and circumspect. He pushed back this thought. Easy or not, these words must be said, and this might be the only chance he had to address the Elves without the men of court breathing down his back.

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Old 04-09-2007, 07:07 PM   #124
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Convenience

Though she had not expected much from this man, Jord was still invariably disappointed. The only information he had about the Borrim could have been observed in five minutes from a hundred yards away. But who was the real fool: pathetic Brodda, or herself for expecting anything of worth out of him? It was an incredibly slow and painful process realizing that these beings were even more useless than orcs because they typically were softer. She did not remember ever having to belittle herself to this level. Living among them! Living as one!

Her body reacted to her spirit’s rage more intensely than she meant it to. The teeth clenched, the hands gripped the arms of the chair till their knuckles turned ghostly white. But Jord knew she could not kill this man, or any of them. Not yet, not unless it was absolutely necessary. She almost hoped it would be, soon…but she could not really wish for anything that might jeopardize her success, and more importantly her Master’s success. She wiped her body of any expression of emotion, cutting herself off from it as much as she could without forfeiting control of its muscles.

After all, there was one great benefit to being surrounding by such small-brained animals: they made excellent puppets. And to think for this one she did not even have to set a trap! He had taken the bait had been laid out for another, but he had fallen for it, as well. Jord’s only regret about that was the lack of sport. It seemed Uldor would have to suffice for such enjoyment…how sad. Though, she had not yet really gotten a look at those Borrim. Still… Anger boiled beneath a frosty surface for a moment until she forced the cold deeper.

“You are the most…beloved servant of your master, most trusted. Why should you not be considered second to what he might, regrettably, lose for himself?”

Brodda smiled, but before he could make any sort of answer he thought to be subtle or humourous or even mildly intelligent, Jord continued, “In the mean time, all you must do is continue to serve your noble master well. And I advise you go to him now.”

Using the word ‘advise’ kept it from being a direct order, and so the man complied promptly with her suggestion. He knew it would be difficult to explain to his master where he had been if he were gone too long, and it would have ruined a great deal for him if Uldor discovered he was even speaking to Jord. She knew that suspicion ran deep in men like Uldor, and with good reason.

When Brodda left her, it did not take long for restlessness to set in. She had no need to rest her body – the body; it was not hers – and her spirit had been restless since it had lost its previous body, the beautiful, powerful form she had crafted for herself, and which she could control fully, which she could leave and alter and recreate whenever she pleased. This mission would not only seize such a victory for her master, but also gain back her full strength and dignity. There would be no pause until it was complete. Jord left her chambers to try her next contact, and see if there was any reason for her to ever again have men-servants in addition to Morgoth’s slightly more convenient creations.
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Old 04-10-2007, 02:25 PM   #125
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The afternoon fled from beneath Uldor’s feet and hands. He worked to prepare a proper banquet for the elves. It was not a job he enjoyed, but he believed in doing anything that he had to do well. Why make a shoddy job of it?

Servants were sent out every five minutes to run to the market and fetch something that Uldor had forgotten to tell the previous servant to get. He meant well, but he was no a housewife, and a list of what he needed never entered his mind.

He left strict orders with the cooks to make the best of their dishes and do their work as well as they possibly could. The great hall in which meals were taken was prepared, hung with greenery, great strips of bright colored cloth, and with many lights and lamps put up on the walls and ceiling and tables.

People to invite...He frowned at the thought as he himself hurried through a hall on his way to make sure that all went well in the kitchens. The nobles and lords that hung around the place all day, he guessed. Had better give them proper invitations. Not written.

He came out from the hot kitchen five minutes later, satisfied that the supper was well underway and would be as excellent as the men there knew how to prepare. It would not be long now. Two hours would be ample time, he thought.

Where were the elves? He had not seen them since he had left the room of meeting. He stopped a passing servant.

“Have you seen the elven ambassadors?”

“No, sir,” the man replied. “Not since they left the hall some while ago.”

Uldor nodded and passed on. He would need to have someone find them and bring them back. They could be anywhere! He scowled and mentally cursed his bad luck of having to prepare anything for such unwelcome guests. Guests that slipped away without notice.

Passing another servant, he stopped him as well. “Find Broda, and tell him that I want him. I will be in my private chambers.” He went there immediately and shutting the door behind him, went once more to the window.

The sun was sinking, sending a red light out over the Ulfing city. Uldor could nearly feel the darkness that would follow quickly upon the red light’s footsteps. The early evening of a young spring would quickly descend.

But for now, he could enjoy the light that mixed itself with the golden air. The beautiful effect of the sunset brought again to his mind the beautiful face of Jord. He had forgotten her in the business of the afternoon. He shouldn’t have forgotten. He would not let her know that he forgot. When Broda arrived, he decided, he would not only have him go find the elves, but he would also send him to ask Jord if she would come to the banquet.

Uldor turned away from the window and went to a table against the wall. He pulled forth paper and an inkwell with a quill pen and a blotting page. He needed to write a proper invitation to the elves.

For some reason, he truly wished she would come.
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Old 04-10-2007, 03:58 PM   #126
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Only a few minutes had passed since Brodda left the confines of Jord’s rather plain abode when he was accosted by a servant dispatched by Uldor. It had not allowed him much time to dwell on those few moments he had spent with that most mysterious woman.

“Lord Uldor demands your presence immediately, sir.”

Nodding to the lowly servant, he handed the man a few coins that were jingling loosely in one of his pockets. It was not that Brodda cared much for anyone else; rather it was just good policy to keep his master’s other servants from trying to knock him from the next-lowest step on the ladder. That sort of monetary exchange had become second nature for Uldor’s chief servant, and thoughts of what he was actually doing rarely crossed his mind.

This time was no exception, and he hurried off without a second thought to receive Uldor’s message. This, much like his use of coin, was not something new to him. His master usually demanded his presence for some reason or another, but it was always to handle the more delicate situations.

~*~

Arriving at the door of Uldor’s personal quarters, he knocked lightly and pushed his way in without waiting for a response. Brodda was not keen on announcing his presence when in the company of more “noble” men. Upon entering, Brodda found a visibly rattled Uldor waiting for him.

“You’re late,” his master spat. “I have important business to take care of, and you have been out of reach.”

Brodda bowed his head somewhat, acknowledging his failure in duty to Uldor. “I was gathering valuable informa…”

“I do not care what your reasoning is,” Uldor interjected angrily. “I have a task for you, and you will do it.” Brodda nodded in acceptance. “I want you to find the Elven envoy, quickly, and deliver this invitation to the feast I am hosting.” Uldor slipped the letter to the envoy to his servant.

Brodda turned on his heel, and made his way to the door. As he pushed open the door, Uldor interrupted the quick exit. “Oh, and I want you to personally invite the Lady Jord to the banquet. Make sure she comes.” His servant made no sound, and quietly slipped out into the Ulfing town.
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Old 04-15-2007, 05:24 AM   #127
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Lachrandir had been finding the meal among the Borrim a surprisingly convivial affair after the initial frostiness of the tribesmen's welcome. Used to revelling in a hard and ascetic existence, where the saddle was more familiar to him than the pillow, he ate and drank the Atani fare with a certain enjoyment that seemed almost unElven, lightly discussing the excellence of the cheese with his host sitting opposite.

When Khandr turned to the worries of local politics, then, Lachrandir applied himself with a little regret and impatience visible in his face. He did not answer himself, letting the Man's speech run on, taking in the sense accurately, but not all of the particulars. When it seemed that words were expected of him, he acted instead, with a pronounced shrug more vocal than many speeches.

"You must understand, Khandr my dear fellow, that any friction between your clans is not our concern, nor can it be by right. You have been granted lands by Maedhros, the Ulfings by Caranthir, and something more than lands too - the power and the duty to observe your own customs and sort out your own problems. We will not and cannot interfere unless - Illuvatar forbid it! - you actually come to blows. But you ask for news, for yourself and your followers. That, friend, I can provide..."

Lachrandir paused, looking thoughful, and took a slug of the Borrim mead. There was little of the famous Elven elegance about his movements, but a wealth of barely-suppressed strength. Only his beardlessness and his unfathomable gaze separated him from a burly, brusque and intractable Man.

"I said before I would talk to you alone, Khandr, and many of your people are now looking on. But they will hear the news soon enough anyway. It is not surprising for any who have had ears to listen. Maedhros has decided to fight Morgoth, and he is forming the greatest league of Elves and Men known. I have come to summon the Ulfing levies. As for you..."

Lachrandir looked hard at Khandr with pity, mixed with the patronage and pride the Elf found himself unable to drop among Men.

"Forget about arranging marriages, my friend. You should all be girding on your weapons; your families in the North will already be called out, I expect. It is hardly worth rushing ahead to join them, for the time is short; you can leave this settlement with the Ulfing detachment."

In the midst of his words, the Elf caught the anxious eyes of Briga, moving about refilling jugs behind her husband.

"Hard news, lady, I am afraid. I assure you that the women of our folk, those many who are not fighting themselves, share your grief."
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Old 04-15-2007, 11:40 AM   #128
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Until this point, Briga had paid little attention to the conversation at the table but had dutifully carried the flask of mead from one guest to the next. Now, upon hearing the ominous words of the elven messenger, she set down the pitcher and summoned her courage to speak, "It is as we feared then. We are to be caught in the dreadful throes of war." She glanced over at her husband and sighed, shaking her head in regret. "Is there no choice in this thing? None at all?"

Her wistful words were directed not at Lachrandir but towards her beloved spouse. Khandr stood up and walked over to his wife, lacing his fingers tightly about hers and gently lifting them up. He bent over slightly and placed the slighest hint of a kiss upon her cheek, while ruefuly shaking his own head. "No, my beloved. We knew it would come to this one day. We have no choice. Not that I would want one. It is our duty to serve. Maedhros is wise and must feel it is the time to strike. Perhaps this will be the day when we finally overcome Morgoth and his servants and free these lands of their terrible blight."

Once more, Khandr turned about to face the Elf, "Tell those who sent you that this party of Borrim will remain faithful to their oath. We will gladly set aside small rivalries or any other thing that gets in the way. Still, part of me fears that these tensions at court are more than simple bickering between blood brothers. We shall continue to be alert and, should we see or hear anything that causes us concern, will try to get news back to you or your kin."

"There is one other matter. I had thought to sponsor a great hunt to celebrate our friendship in honor of both your own people and our hosts in this village. Now, with this battle soon to be upon us, I do not know. But still I am thinking a day given to the hunt would not go amiss. We must have friendship and trust between our peoples to fight together in the field, to say nothing of the practical need to stock up on supplies for the women and children we leave behind. Perhaps a day spent in such a pursuit would push aside our differences and help us understand each other. And if, by chance, we should hear any rumors or half whispered tales that strike fear in the heart, we will pass along such news and let those who stand over us judge their merit and worth." Khandr nodded in the direction of the Elves.

"But now, before we part, I would ask my men once again: do any of you have questions for the Elves or perhaps wish to share with them any news you have picked up in the village. For sometime the chance word or sight can have great importance." Khandr glanced about the table to see who intended to speak.

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Old 04-16-2007, 07:09 AM   #129
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A war it is then… the war it will be. The words of the elf were echoing in Fastarr’s mind and taking ever new forms as they strayed around in his consciousness. Soon he got somewhat derailed from the initial thought. And we will be riding to it with these Ulfings... but what if we cancel the hunting? Could we reach our kinsmen in time then? Unfortunately the way Khandr had put his words sounded like he was still determined to go on with it. Fastarr glanced quickly at Hunta and Bergr. From their stern faces Fastarr thought he could read the very same questions going through their minds as well.

Suddenly Khandr addressed the three asking whether they had any information to share with the elven ambassadours or questions to ask from them. There surely were questions in Fastarr’s troubled mind at the moment but he was a bit unsure which of them he could actually have courage to ask or which of them would be wise to ask in the first place.

Gathering his spirits Fastarr straightened his back and nodded shortly to Khandr before he turned slightly in his chair to face the older elf. “My name is Fastarr, son of Fernlann. I am the good lord Khandr’s retainer like my uncle Balff was for his father. And I do have a question to you most venerable ambassadors of the good prince.” Fastarr had never been good at speaking formally and was uncomfortably aware of it as he looked at the two elves who were now concentrating their attention to him.

“If a war it is to be, to the war the Borrim will go. You say that the time is short for us to join our kinsmen but is there any possibility for it? It’s not only that we would wish to fight with our kinsmen but it’s also that...” Fastarr was thinking nervously how to formulate the thing he was trying to say. “... that, I don’t think we can fight alongside these Ulfings.” he blurted out in the end.

Fastarr was embarrassed as he realised what he had said. He also realised that he had to explain himself somehow but at the same time he was afraid that he might manage to speak himself even deeper into trouble. Nervously he glanced at Khandr who looked at him questioningly and not too approvingly. He bit his lip and continued.

“A smile without malice, a warm welcome or appreciation of a fellow man are rare treats in this town... Like an evening at the inn without a fight or two.” Fastarr was about to continue making more examples but luckily thought the better of it. “What I mean is, like my uncle Balff told me when I was a young boy, that the minds of the lords are mirrored in the actions of their subjects. I never quite understood what he meant by it but now I think I can see it. These people take sides, they argue continuously, they cheat, they stab each other in the back... It’s like a spell or poison that has spread all over the town. I’ve never seen anything like this. It feels like this whole town is a drawn string of a bow that can’t be held drawn for a long time anymore. There is something wrong with this place.” Fastarr was even more nervous than before and had to take a sip of the mead to bring back his courage.

“Every reasonable man is afraid when he goes to war. But going to war with these people... I don’t know which I would fear more, the enemy or these people around me.” With that he took a firm hold of the cup in front of him and drank a good draught from it. He didn’t dare to look at anyone around him so he just stared at the way the candlelight danced on the rim of the cup when he turned it around and around between his fingers.

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Old 04-16-2007, 07:43 AM   #130
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As Fastarr talked, Embla slipped away, unnoticed. The arrival of the elves had intrigued her. She had seen so little of these great tall folk in her life, and never at such close quarters. She had not been in the least surprised that haughty words were uttered to match the proud, fair faces.

Then came the anxious talk and portentous looks that passed between the men as they spoke of war. She cared little if the Borrim left to fight, and even less who they marched alongside. She would be glad to see them gone. Then she would show the hag who could be mistress of the hearth. And if the men were to die in battle, why, she would be a widow, perhaps she could leave this misbegotten tribe for good, and return to her own people.

This idea had not previously occurred to Embla. Did she wish her husband dead? No – she reflected – on balance she did not. But she wished for escape, that much she knew. Never so strongly as now, as she watched as the elven lord addressed her hated rival in courteous, kindly tones, and her husband acknowledge his love for the first wife both in word and in deed.

She could not escape for good – yet – but she could escape for now. Out into the air, away from the strong smells and heavy air of Khandr’s hall. She would seek out this woman Jord – a perfect excuse. The obedient wife, following her husband’s will.

Embla knew where the lady Jord dwelt, for she had often watched her, wondering who she was and what her role could be. She made her way past the Ulfling dwellings, but before she had reached her destination, she found what she was looking for. A dark figure, clutching a gauzy shawl about her, the lady stood alone, seemingly deep in thought. Now she was so close, Embla realised she had not thought how or if she would get into conversation with this beautiful creature. She stopped, trying to hide herself from the other woman’s view, but she suspected it was too late.

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Old 04-19-2007, 10:03 AM   #131
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“Every reasonable man is afraid when he goes to war. But going to war with these people... I don’t know which I would fear more, the enemy or these people around me,” Fastarr had concluded decisively.

Lachrandir allowed the words to hang in the air forsome moments, but it was quite obvious that he intended to reply to them. His brows had creased and his eyes were filled with a deep fire; the very stamp of disapproval lay on his face.

"Master Fastarr," he said at last, "there are some Elves at the court from which I come who would take your words as proof of all the weakness of Men; that we should never have accepted your tribes into our lands; that you are a feckless race given to squabbling amongst yourselves.

"I do not myself believe such ill of your kind," Lachrandir continued with a wry smile, "and I remember that the Elves, too, have had their bitter feuds and divisions. But such arguments are still the material Morgoth's agents love to use."

The Elven envoy looked Fastarr squarely and determinedly in the eye. "Your peoples must unite, whatever misgivings, or else become vassals of Orcs. These are difficult times, and no one can be allowed the luxury of infighting. As I speak older and worse quarrels than yours with the Ulfings are being dealt with; the Sons of Feanor have even sent a messenger to Doriath. Men must likewise muster and fight together."

The Elf shrugged. "If you would still rather hurry North, I am sure it can be arranged. But truth be told, I think you Borrim would be of great help here. I have seen the rifts between the sons of Ulfang, and the muster may be slow work; I would be gratified, as would my lord, if you stayed to help arrange it."

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Old 04-23-2007, 04:27 PM   #132
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Retreating from the walls of her thankfully temporary chambers, Jord walked quickly without seeming as if she were hurrying, the slight train her midnight blue dress following her steps, and she held her head high without looking at anyone she passed. And no one dared look at her. Even the people in the streets knew she was their better, though they did not know how far beyond their imagination her powers extended. So utterly clueless.

Not one of them realized how useless their deeds were, and few of them how useless their very existence was. Those that forfeited their lives for some ideal or ruler did not count among the observant, though Jord had to admit they were welcome losses. She enjoyed the little wars the creatures, especially the mortal ones, put on, but too often they got in the way of her plans and, more importantly, her Master's plans.

Currently, though, mortals and immortals alike were playing into her hand quite well. Hopefully the swarthy little man she had given more coins to than likely he had ever had at one time in his life would come through with something. If he did he would prove more useful than that dolt servant of Uldor’s. Well, she could not expect the thing that served such a small mind to have much to him at all.

Jord had to keep him close, though – almost as close as Uldor. And as long as she held on to him, he would prove a useful tool for disposing of the Ulfings once her Master was through with them. The starkly dressed woman heard the crunching of footsteps on the dry dirt road too near her for comfort. Her skin tingled slightly with disgust and annoyance. Stopping suddenly and turning in one graceful movement, Jord’s eyes fell on a woman whose appearance was slightly out of place, almost in the same way as Jord’s body was, with her pale skin.

The young woman was dressed almost as crudely as any of the Ulfings in the pathetic excuse for a city, but she wore a number of jewelry items, and so it was clear she was not actually a native. The only significant visitors other than the Elves were Borrim, and Jord doubted any insignificant ones would be able to walk around with even extremely simple jewelry, much less risk it. But then, the young woman did not look like the Borrim, either.

Transforming her piercing glare to a soft smile, Jord eyed the girl. Yes, she had seen her before…several times. Was she often there on purpose?

“Are you looking for something, my dear…and I could perhaps help you?” There was no reason for Jord to scare this little thing off yet. Besides, she always had better luck with the females having useful minds.
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Old 04-24-2007, 01:50 PM   #133
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Tathren's humour had been improved by having been fed - while the fare might have been a little rustic by the standards of an elven lord, the bread and cheese were wholesome and unexpectedly very palatable. To a boy with the perpetual hunger of younglings of all races, it was as welcome as any ornate feast and perhaps more so, for after a long journey or a wearisome day there is no desire to savour intricate dainties and simple food offers the greater comfort.

The rich red wine was potent enough to relax his body if not his tongue and each sip eased the tension of his hours still and silent attendance on his lord in the Ulfing Hall. He spoke little other than to accept food and acknowledge those who filled his cup, partly from awkwardness at his previous outburst but mainly because Lachrandir and Khandr spoke of high matters about which he had no further insight to offer, other than perhaps to observe that his master who had been so lordly in the Ulfing hall now was almost genial amoung the Borrim.

The suggested hunt caught his imagination and he longed to ask more about what was proposed. He knew little of the ways of men and wondered in what manner they hunted - on foot or on horseback, with hawk or hound. The latter was most likely if they hoped to fill the larders of their folk and gazehound likelier still. However he felt his curiosity was frivolous in the light of the more serious matters and without an easy cue he did not trust his limited skill in the mannish tongue to reopen the subject without seeming too crass. He would wait and maybe when they eventually took their leave of their hosts, a polite enquiry might heal any bad feeling Khandr might bear him from his close encounter with the boy's knife.

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Old 04-24-2007, 03:28 PM   #134
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Brodda had, after some searching, found the Borrim hovel where the Elves were spending their time. Although he was eager to get the ordeal over, as he discovered rather recently within himself an increasingly spiteful view of the Ulfing overlords, he was also quite hesitant. If he fouled up the invitation, the Elves might reject the feast. Or at the very least the Elves would not be the gracious guests they were busy trying to project. Either way, that would bring Uldor’s wrath down on his head.

He continued to pace outside frantically. The sort of emotions that were welling up within him were not exactly ones he was accustomed to. And anyone who might have seen him might have assumed he was stricken by the thoughts of a lover and was desperately awaiting her. That assumption might not have been far from what poor Brodda was feeling. His impatience was at least partly tied to a longing to see Jord again. He wasn’t sure why he desired that, though.

At last the Ulfing man made up his mind about what to do. Since he would be entering a Borrim abode he could simply hand off the message to one of them, and as the hosts they would relay it to the Elven party. And, Brodda thought, he would be able to project his hateful position towards those hosts without repercussions from Uldor. “Yes,” he hissed under his breath, as he knocked on the door.

When the door opened a crack after a moment or two of silence, Brodda could see a Borrim man standing in the sliver of light that escape the house. “Yes? Who is there,” was the questioning response to his knocking. “Brodda. I’ve come from Lord Uldor with a message for your guests.” The Ulfing let his distaste for the Borrim slip out subtly. Handing over the invitation letter, he added, “Be sure to take it to them quickly. If I find out that you have delayed at all in doing so, I will be sure to inform my master that it was you uncultured Borrim that caused it.” Turning on his heel, without waiting for a reply, he left the threshold of the home to venture off to find Jord, who he was sure was more important to Uldor and himself than the Elves.
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Old 04-28-2007, 09:01 AM   #135
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"Another banquet?" Lachrandir asked dryly as he perused the note Khandr's doorkeeper had passed on to him.

"We are evidently in demand, Tathren. Uldor has summoned us to attend his table. A strange phrase, that; a little premature. Still, we had better be off."

Lachrandir rose from his seat with remarkable lightness, and inclined his head slightly towards Khandr. "We shall see you at this hunt, then, no doubt, especially as the boy seems so eager..." His jocular reference to Tathren was evidently a sign of some softening towards his host.

His impression of the Borrim bore some resemblance to a lump of honeycomb with a fly stuck in it, he meditated. Much of what he approved of in Men could be found in them; but on the other hand, this constant bickering about tribal affairs...

And for that matter, he continued to be stymied by the idea that a man as apparently genial and proper as Khandr could...love? or just lie with?...two women at once. Lachrandir realised he had heard nothing from the quiet, junior wife all evening. Where was she now; attending to some task? He was irritated by her absence, for he would have liked to balance his earlier courtesy to the first wife by bidding her some kind of farewell. No matter.

While he had been lost in his reflections Tathren had been bandying a few words about the expected hunt. He smiled; the lad now seemed content and in fine fettle, probably due to the food inside him.

"Come, Tathren," he said, mirth at the sides of his mouth, feeling as if he was hailing a hound. "And good-bye, Khandr, good-bye to all this household. We will return soon enough..."

All but yanking Tathren by the arm, Lachrandir took his leave by the darkened entrance that had caused so much trouble, and recalled the Ulfing's earlier directions, which, reversed, should lead them back to the Hall.
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Old 04-29-2007, 10:50 AM   #136
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“Are you looking for something, my dear…and I could perhaps help you?”
Embla was startled that this exquisite creature had addressed her so courteously. It was, she realised, a very long time since anyone had spoken to her in such a way. “I do not know,” she stammered. “I am Embla, of the Bairka....of the Borrim, I should say. Wife of the lord Khandr.” She wished to make a good impression on the mysterious woman before her. She was painfully aware that her own shabby apparel and appearance cut a sorry figure, next to the elegant poise of the other woman, enveloped in delicate gauze.

Embla had been staring at the ground, but now she looked up, and found the dark woman held her glance. Somehow, she felt compelled to stop the dissemblance. “Second wife,” she said. “It is not honourable. Not among my people. Nor among the tall people, the elf-folk, neither. Their lord would not speak to me, he does not find the marriage ways of the Borrim to his liking. No more do I. I am shamed. So shamed that I want to remain in shadow. I find it hard to walk under the sun.”

Embla, so accustomed to keeping her own counsel, did not understand why she was suddenly blurting out the dark things in her heart. Perhaps she hoped this woman would be a sympathetic ear, someone whose situation was akin to her own.

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Old 04-30-2007, 05:46 AM   #137
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The invitation to "another banquet" dismayed Tathren, for his hunger had been not so great as he had imagined. This realisation arrived with the missive, when he already eaten more than his need and drunk to often from a cup that never seemed less full. He was aware that he rose to his feet less gracefully than his lord and this was not entirely due to the need to raise the heavy, and nearly forgotten bag of treasure to his shoulder.

Lachrandir's tug on his arm was as sobering as the cool breath of the evening air. Tathren struggled a little to match his master's longer stride and watched his face for signs that his conduct had fallen below that required of a page. He detected only a trace of amusement and no ire on Lachrandir's face and deemed that nothing he had done, or said in the unfamiliar tongue had been beyond the pale. That knowledge eased his heart but each step carried him nearer to another feast and did nothing to ease the sensation within as too much cheese mingled uneasily with too much rich wine. He wondered how little he could consume of the Ulfing's vittles without giving grave offence and disliked the conclusion he inevitably reached. His only hope, and it was slight, was that Ulfing custom might regard him as a servant, required only to attend his master not to eat at the same table.

He stifled a sigh and resigned to an uncofortable fate, voiced a line of thought that had just occured to him:

"Uncle, is it not strange that the Borrim Lord has not been invited also to the Ulfing's table. For is he not an emissary of his people as we... I mean you are? Surely the office demands the courtesy even if he be representative of a lesser kindred? Of course the Borrim kept their gathering private... perhaps thus is the way of mortals" he mused.

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Old 04-30-2007, 09:41 AM   #138
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Khandr bid his two guests goodbye and watched as they strode up the corridor, pushed opened the door, and disappeared into the night. Turning back to the Borrim, he first addressed Fastarr in a kindly but serious tone, "In truth, my good friend, I am not sure you should have been that blunt. But you have put into words what all of us were privately thinking. Perhaps it is better to let the elves know our suspicions. We cannot trust these Ulfang lords. Sadly, these elves do not see or understand that. They put our suspicions down to tribal bickering. But what I have seen at court hints at something far darker and more foreboding. I am determined to find out what that is. Perhaps someday these elves will look back on this night and wish they had paid more attention to our warning. Until we can present them with more information, more proof of what is actually going on, they will not listen to us."

Khandr surveyed his guests still sitting at the table, announcing in a decisive voice, "Go, then! Return to your dwellings and think on what has been said. Make plans to gather the information I have requested. Indeed, each of you should go see the person whose name you have been given, either before the hunt or during it or both if you can. Report back to me anything you hear or see that is even slightly out of the ordinary. If we can assemble the pieces, we may be able to solve this riddle."

Then Khandr bade goodbye to his friends and retainers and saw them to the door. As he was coming back in, his first wife came over to speak, "You were hurt, were you not? Affronted not to receive an invitation to such a feast?"

"Aye, what lord has an ambassador in court and sends him not one word of greeting? This is beyond decency. I am surprised that the elves did not pick up on that. If an envoy came to King Bor, he would not leave them sitting alone while others feast and exchange news. When I first came here, I only thought that our brothers had soured on the marriage and wished to be released from their promises. But now I see that there is much more. The old king no longer rules here. There are others in control, and I can only presume that these men are afraid we will find out something that they are desperately trying to hide."

"Since all the others will be involved with this feast, it will do me no good to go to court and try and find an audience. I will draft a letter tonight and send over a messenger to hand it to those who are assembled at this feast concerning our proposal for a hunt. I will request....nay, I will demand....an immediate answer. If that answer is no, then we will pack up tomorrow morning and head back to our home. I care not what these elves say or think, for I will not fight beside those I cannot trust. If they have enough decency to reply and accept, then we will stay on and take our chances, though I fear that is not the wisest course. For I have seen how they act at court. Something is very wrong."

Briga looked up concerned at her husband, "Your words leave a cold chill in my heart. What is it you fear? There is something you are not telling me...."

"Aye, my love, and until I can be sure, I will not share this thing even with you."

"You should tell me," she pressed. "For sometimes in the past, I have been able to help you in ways that only a woman can."

"No. Not this time. I pray that I am wrong. But I will not share my thoughts with you. For, if I have guessed right, then I am holding dangerous news, and I would not willingly put you in any danger." He leaned down, kissed Briga gently on the head, and whispered to her, "If something should ever happen to me, you must gather the other Borrim and leave immediately for home. No matter what or when that is. Someday you may yet rejoice that you have only daughters to love and no sons."

She glanced up at him, the alarm clearly evident on her face, "Why do you say this? We will do as we have always done. We will be together and come safely home to tend our fields and wait for both grand-daughters and grand-sons."

Khandr grimly replied, "I too wish for this." Then he stalked out of the room to retrieve his pen, sitting down to write.

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Old 05-01-2007, 12:46 PM   #139
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Meanwhile, back at the Hall of the Ulfing...

Drenda was an early arrival at the banquet for the envoys, and felt the usual awkwardness accompanying this situation. He had misplayed his hand, revealed his keenness to attend this feast, shown himself up as a trumped up youth, a bumpkin. And there were precious few men who would be interesting, or useful, to talk to about him.

Still, he felt the comforting pressure of his paternal circlet on his brow, and put his social unease from his mind. What was wrong with a little embarrassment if it furthered the sacred cause of vengeance after all?

There was a clash by the door as a new guest arrived to join the dozen or so prematurely gathered. But no newcomer entered the Hall. Instead voices clashed in apparent anger. Was some drunkard perhaps being turned from the threshold? Drenda rose from his mightily uncomfortable bench and dashed over to see what was going on.

At the same moment a guard he knew vaguely, a certain Anydor, came into the Hall, looking, as usual, surly and rather bored.

"Some farmer outside, Master Drenda, demanding he come in, says he knows you."

"A farmer? I don't know any farmers," Drenda answered crossly, but to his horror a bow-legged, ruddy figure lurched through the doors in Anydor's wake.

"Oi," he started with a drinker's confidence. "Would you be the lad who wants to bed my girl, little Tora? I'm Torguar, boy; vouch for me for this feast..."

Drenda blushed as scarlet as the intoxicated farmer. He had wanted to handle delicate affairs this evening; the constant presence of some country dullard could only be a bore and a hindrance. But if he denied knowledge of Torguar, he would lose any chance of winning the girl and her small, but stable dowry. His mother would be furious. And he simply could not, at this stage, afford a break with his mother.

"Er...er...of course, of course, what, er, luck to meet you here, my friend," the boy stammered out. "Anydor, I know him. He's safe for the feast."

The door-guard still looked sceptical, but more clamour at the Hall's gates called him away once again. Drenda motioned Torguar to a place by his side, inwardly despairing...
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Old 05-08-2007, 09:30 AM   #140
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Uldor approaches Drenda

As soon as Brodda left him, Uldor set about preparing himself for the feast. He washed his face and his hands and then changed from his dark clothes into another outfit of lighter material with brighter colors. The contrast of the light blue and white cloth against his dark skin was handsome, but almost harsh.

He finished dressing and went once more to the window. The sun had disappeared behind the hills and darkness was falling with swift shadows over the earth. Torches were lit down in the courtyard, and before the door, a great square of light fell out on the ground. Some people were already arriving.

Uldor set his back against the corner made by the wide window sill. He lifted one foot and placed it on the sill, folding his arms over his chest and looking out. From where he half sat, he could view quite easily all the comings and goings of the courtyard and who entered the door. Behind him, the room was unlit, and he stood unobserved in the window.

When he decided that enough people had come, he left the window sill and went into the darkness of his room. He picked up a belt with a jeweled dagger hung on it and strapped it around his waist. Then he went out, composing his face to meet the unpleasant business of the evening - he hated acting the host and having to be polite.

For all his dislike of it, Uldor did an excellent job acting the part. He was actually smiling as he entered the hall and glanced around to see what guests had arrived. He continued to smile even when his glance told him that Jord had not arrived. The elves had not come yet, either, which was almost a blessing in itself.

Uldor heaved a small, unnoticeable sigh, hiding it well behind his smile. He looked at the lords of the hall, talking together as though no troubles existed. He looked over them once more, and his eyes settled on the young stripling Drenda, seated on one of the benches lined against the wall. Beside him, sat another, heavier, duller looking fellow, and a bit of actual amusement came into Uldor’s smile.

He approached Drenda slowly. “Good evening, lad,” he said. “How does your mother fair of late? I have not seen or spoken to her of late.”
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:29 AM   #141
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They said eyes served as windows to the soul, and Jord knew it was true. There were ways to penetrate a person even with mortal eyes – as long as the mind behind them was potent enough. A simple gaze into this woman was enough to draw from her what already wanted to burst forth. Jord smiled in a rather patronizingly kind way, as if she were thinking of Embla as a “poor dear.”

It was a poor thing indeed that these mortals so often made servants and slaves of each other, but it was sadder still that they all thought they should be free.

But, it was this sort Jord would find most useful. The despondent slaves subjugated to what they were opposed in a culture there were a stranger to; displaced and disenfranchised: the embodiment of desperation. Still alive with a mind and body at their disposal, but they though they had nothing left to lose… All that was necessary was that Jord became their wise master and gentle overseer, and they were all hers.

“Ah, Embla,” the darkly clad woman began, sounding almost apologetic. But when she really began to speak, her voice became more conversational, though there was a sincerity to it and her demeanor.

“There is no reason for you to hang your head for the shamefulness of others. You are not the one willingly participating in a…” Jord paused for a very brief moment, calculating her words, “…primitive culture. You do what you must, I am sure, and by neither succumbing to nor accepting their ugly mores you show them that you still live by your own ways. Because of that you should hold your head up, I should think.”

As long as she avoided sounding like she was telling Embla what was what, Jord’s ideas would easily slip into the woman’s head. Sometimes the communication of earth-beings was amusing in its own way. The simple phrases “I am sure” and “I should think” were ample enough expressions of self-doubt for her to not sound as a ruler giving orders to a subject that were far from cleverly disguised as ‘advice.’ The expressions of mortals were especially primitive, but they had their quirks.

Primitive…she had been describing the Borrim as such quite a bit lately. It was an excellent tact to use against them, pitting their culture against that of the Ulfings. Regardless of how many origins and customs the two peoples shared, there was more than enough there for her to work with. They were lowly and primitive, crawling on their hands and knees to kiss the feet of the Elves because they lacked enough backbone to stay up.

Better to kiss the feet of Morgoth than those of the Children who walked the earth.

It was a lucky meeting, to find the perfect leverage within the troublesome Borrim party – a person who thought similarly to the Ulfings about the ‘foreigners.’ And she was located so conveniently behind that leader, Khandr. Anger and despair could easily be nurtured into violence, and decapitating the Borrim body was a possibility she had so far only dreamed about.

“Already I respect you, Embla,” Jord added with a smile that was truly out of amusement rather than kindness. “I would help you, if I could, but…I suppose there is nothing that can be done, is there?” There was an edge to her final question. Regardless of whether or not the woman attempted to answer it, Jord was sure it would remain on her mind.

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Old 05-09-2007, 09:38 AM   #142
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The sun was already behind the western hills as Dag made his way home. The sword he carried weighed heavily in his hand, due more to its association to the political machinations and in-fighting between Ulfang’s sons than to its true heft. His heart did not feel the satisfaction which usually came from using his skill to fashion such a weapon. And his spirit rebelled against the implacable force of Ulfast’s will which was drawing him into this game where few could be called winners. Even Mem, and thus Gunna, would now be players, pawns over which the chieftain would have a power Dag would be hard put to countermand. Well, he thought grimly to himself, should it come down to it . . . if his family’s safety was put at risk . . .

He hardly dared to finish that thought even in the secret recesses of his own mind. But he knew what he would do, if the time came.

With no joy in his soul, he pushed open the door to the little house, seeing the two women look up at his entrance. Gunna’s features were set in an expression of angry resolution; Mem’s bespoke the same calm with which she always faced life. Dag did not give Gunna the opportunity to get one word out, raising his hand in a gesture of silence. He shot her a look which she had never seen on his face before, and setting the sword aside, Dag sat down beside the fire, lifting the baby from Mem’s lap. The child cooed and laughed, reaching up to grab a fistful of his hair. Gunna turned away and reached for a wooden bowl. Slowly, she began filling it with her husband’s supper, not wishing to look at him again, not wanting to see that look again.

As she knelt and held the full bowl out to him, her face still turned aside, she felt his hand encircle hers. Tears filled her eyes as he pulled her close, her face resting against his shoulder. As the baby wiggled in his arms in protest, Gunna listened to the steady beat of his heart but for once, the sound did nothing to reassure her. As strong as he was, her husband was only one man. One against how many? How many lackeys did Ulfast own? How many men had he bought with promises of wealth, or power? And how many more had fallen under his sway because they, like Dag, dared not refuse him? Dag had something Ulfast wanted. His skill as an armorer would be of great use, should weapons be needed. And what was the use of weapons, if not for the vanquishing of other men?

Unable to keep silent, Gunna whispered into his neck, “Don’t take her, my husband. Don’t take her to that place. You can not know . . . You won’t be able to stop . . . “

“Quiet, woman!” Dag growled, but his arm still pressed her tightly to his chest. “There’s no way around it. You know that, as well as I do.”

Gunna pulled away from him, leaning back to look him in the face. The expression of a few moments ago was gone, but in its place was one equally as untractable. Still, she had to try. “Dag, listen. Tell them Mem is sick. Tell them she’s too weak to be out. They’ll never know. Ulfast . . . “

“Ulfast has spies all over the settlement! She goes – and I’ll see that she comes to no harm.” Dag’s voice was low and rough, but he stared into Gunna’s dark eyes, willing her to believe, to trust. Gunna wished nothing more than to do so, to believe that her husband would take care of it all, that he would watch over her sister, and watch out for himself, and that they would both return safe and he would laugh at her fears later that night as they lay together.

And she saw that Dag wanted, no, needed the same. He needed that belief from her. A belief in his ability to protect them from harm. Neither one could allow that shield to slip for an instant, for once doubt set in, their fear would be their undoing. When playing the game with one such as Ulfast, or his father, or brothers, the belief a man had in himself might be all that stood between survival and annihilation.

Sinking back onto her heels, Gunna swept the baby from her husband’s arms and pushed the bowl of food into his hands. “Eat!, she commanded, with a forced smile. “I’m sure there’ll be no food for the likes of you at such a grand affair!” Taking Mem by the hand, she pulled the girl to her feet. “Come, we’ll make you presentable, as my husband wishes. Such an honor – to be called to perform for the chieftains. Your blue dress, that’s your nicest one. And the striped scarf . . . “

Dag swallowed his dinner down as Gunna made a show of fussing over her sister. The food had no taste though, and sat like a hard lump in his stomach. Finally, his wife was satisfied with her ministrations and presented his sister-in-law to him for inspection. With barely a glance at the girl, Dag stood, taking the sword in one hand and Mem’s hand in the other. He kissed his wife lightly on the cheek, and with a gruff, “Hurry! It won’t do to keep them waiting.” he led the girl out into the evening darkness.
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Old 05-09-2007, 10:51 AM   #143
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Drenda jerked to his feet rapidly on being addressed, motioning to Torguar to follow his lead.
.
"Good eve, aye, Lord Uldor," he stammered. "My mother is quite well, I think." A little irritation could not help entering his voice as he thought of her. It was she who had caused this absurd situation; here he was, caught between the Chieftain's son, the cynosure of all his ambitions, all his prospects; and on his other side, that stupid lunk of a farmer. Both, naturally, were friends of his mother. His mother. How long would she continue to pluck at the strings of his existence?

"This is Torguar Torgatling, your Lordship's loyal subject," he muttered, gesturing to the man beside him, his voice fading away. He felt lowered by the very introduction, as if some quirk of chance had forced him to hurl a lump of mud at Lord Uldor's passing chariot.

But Uldor was apparently no longer listening. A slight, veiled figure, who had passed through the front doors without question, so proud and chilly was her air, now approached the Lord's left side.

"I heard you asking after me," she said calmly. "That was courteous." She made a slight, deferential movement, which cast her black veil from her face.

Though she was nearing forty years of age now, Gausen's presence in the hall was impressive still; the precise, sharp regality of her features, the plain but striking adornments of silver in her black hair, and the fact that no other woman had as yet joined the throng, and certainly not an unaccompanied one. She did not smile at the Ulfing prince, but directed an intense glance at him, as if inviting him to speak to her, and to her only.
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Old 05-09-2007, 01:55 PM   #144
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A conversation overheard.....

‘Here! Spread this out in the back of the wagon, Valr.’ Káta handed up one of her large wool blankets, looking on critically as the boy flipped it open and let it settle of itself to the wooden floor. For his part, Valr sneaked a peek at his mother’s face, noting her brow wrinkling as the blanket fell in a rather rumpled manner.

‘I know, I know,’ he said, pushing the wrinkles out with his feet. ‘Just hang on a bit and I’ll have it all straightened away.’ He smoothed out the humps and bumps and pushed the padded stool up against the backrest of the front seat where his father and mother would sit. Granny Dulaan would sit there, another small quilt at hand to cover her if she needed. Jóra would most likely sit on the blanket next to Granny’s stool. She would have an endless supply of questions to ask her mother and Granny. It was not often, after all, that the family would go to the great hall. Never really, save maybe for father. Valr looked over to where Fálki and Falarr stood. He and his brothers would sit at the back of the wagon, their legs dangling over the end of the platform. Talking men talk.

At least that was what he hoped. He’d overheard the last of a hushed conversation his mother had had with his father while the family made their preparations to go. And he wanted to know the details. The words hadn’t been clear. But he’d noted his mother’s tone of voice – serious, the sort of voice she made points with; the sort of points she expected her audience to agree with. He’d expected a rumbling sort of reply from his father, as was his usual approach. But instead there had been a booming laughter, quickly hushed. And a puzzling, though satisfied seeming, ‘By my father’s blade, the boy has guts doesn’t he? To stack the odds in his favor before coming to us.’ Grímr had fallen quiet for a moment causing Valr to strain his ears mightily for any further pronouncements. When it came, though, the words rang quite clearly and with a certain tinge of pride behind them. ‘And good for him, the young fox.....though truth be told I always thought it would be Falarr who would come to us first.’

‘Well, he hasn’t come to us at all yet, now, has he?’ his mother had said in an irritated way. ‘Best you call him in. Before we go. If Dag is there, and Mem has said anything, I don’t want to be accused of overstepping my bounds. It’s you after all who should broach the subject with him.’

Valr stepped away quickly from the woolen curtain that partitioned his parents’ area from the rest of the household. Crunched back into a small sliver of shadow, he watched as his father stepped out and looked quickly about the bustling interior of their home.

‘Fálki! Son! Come and attend me for a moment.’ He paused, nodding back to where Káta stood. ‘Just some last minute things to go over.’

Valr was able to hear no more of the conversation; his brother had spied him as he neared the curtain. And giving him a rather meaningful look, Fálki had sent him scurrying away with a shake of his head.

~*~

Arrival at the Hall

‘So, here we are!’ Grímr pulled the wagon up near the Great Hall, turning off to the left onto a large, cleared area where the wagon and horses could wait. ‘Boys! Help Granny down. Jóra, you fetch her pillow along. Valr! Come round with some of the hay and put it down for the horses to munch on.’

He walked round to where Káta sat, waiting for him. ‘M’Lady,’ he said grinning up at her, as she stood and took his hand to steady herself as she stepped down. When all had gotten off the wagon and skirts had been smoothed and tunics straightened, Grímr offered his arm to his wife and set off toward the entry way to the Hall.

‘Remember,’ he murmured, smiling and nodding to those he knew as they drew near the door. ‘Fálki and Falarr, you stay with us this evening. Jóra and Valr you attend on Granny, please. See that she’s comfortable and has something to eat and drink.’ He winked quickly at Dulaan, knowing she would understand he was entrusting them to her care.

‘Oh, look,’ he said as they entered into the Hall. ‘There’s Erling! I didn’t know if he would come or not. And who’s that with him? Waving to us?’

Káta smiled toward the two her husband had pointed out. ‘Just a hello, then,’ she said speaking low to Grímr, ‘We should seek out the Lord and his sons and give them our greetings first.’

~*~

As her parents and two older brothers made their way toward Erling, Jóra took Granny’s arm, and standing tippy-toed looked about the room. ‘Where shall we settle in, Granny,’ she asked, her mouth drawn up in a disappointed way. She motioned for Granny to bend down a little so she could whisper in her ear. ‘Do you think, just maybe, we could walk around just a little?’ she said in a wishful voice. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen Elves. Not up close at least. Have you?’

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Old 05-11-2007, 02:24 PM   #145
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Uldor had practically made the inquiry out of politeness alone. What else was he supposed to say to the young man? He cared not an inch for the man who sat beside the boy, though the situation was slightly humorous. Drenda was so serious, and so wanted to make a good impression. Let him try, and let him be rewarded.

So Uldor turned with false politeness to the farmer as Drenda introduced him, but as his eyes passed from the handsome young man’s face towards the brutish, heavy face of the farmer, he caught sight of another, much more pleasurable figure, drawing carefully and gracefully near. He didn’t catch the name that Drenda said, and he didn’t care.

“I heard you asking after me,” said the veiled woman. “That was courteous.” The sheer, black cloth was swept back with a deft movement of elegance. Uldor met her piercing, dark eyes even, and he returned the serious look with an equally calm and straight face. For a moment, they merely looked at each other, and if anyone had been observing them, they may have thought words passed with their eyes alone.

Finally, Uldor broke the gaze and gave a slight tilt of his head, a gesture of even more courtesy, for it was the beginning (or the remnant) of a bow, which is meant for honor.

“I did ask after you,” he said. “And I am delighted to see that you have come to be able to tell me yourself how you do.” Yet defiant of his words, he did not look pleased. Even the fake smile that he had worn upon entering the hall was gone. Not a glimmer of amusement or pleasantness remained in his face. He merely looked at her, grave and quiet. To a hopeful woman, perhaps serious but with love behind the dark eyes.
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Old 05-12-2007, 06:05 AM   #146
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Tora was hurrying through the streets of the settlement. It was late and she had still so many things to do before she could finally be allowed to rest. For one thing, she had to find her father from wherever he was. It was usually her youngest brother who did that, but now he had fallen ill and Tora had to go. It was nothing serious-not yet, at least-but her mother thought it best for him to spend some days in the house. If she could keep him there, that is, thought Tora grimly.

On her way she had made a few inquiries about her father. One man reported to her that he had seen him heading towards the chieftain’s hall. Tora felt baffled. What could he be doing there? It was true that a feast was to be held there in honor of the elven guests-or so rumor had it- but a mere farmer would certainly not be invited to such an event. Then why had he gone there? Had he no sense at all? Had he, perhaps, drunk so much that he no longer thought of the consequences of his actions both regarding him, as well as his family?

Tora quickened her pace. Things did not look good. She only hoped that the chieftain’s would be in a good enough mood not to punish a drunken farmer too heavily. Perhaps they would have enough drink in themselves at the time to make them more indulgent. But maybe he was not even in the hall. Perhaps he had not been allowed in.

On reaching the hall, Tora saw a young guard sitting in front of it, with a look of boredom on his face. Plucking her courage, the girl approached him.

“I…I am sorry to bother you, but could you help me?” she began hesitantly. “I…well, I have been told that my father had headed for the feast and I was wondering…”

Tora paused, biting her lips, desiring nothing but to be away from that uncomfortable situation. How could he explain to the guard that he was looking for a drunk farmer in the chieftain’s hall? And what if she was wrong? What if her father was not even there? The guard, however, nodded curtly at her words.

“Your father would be that drunk rascal shouting to be admitted to the feast, no?” he asked. “It seems he was safe to go there.”

Tora’s eyes widened. He was in the hall? But how…? Yet that was not the time for questions. She had to fetch her father out of there before the situation got even worse than it already was. Taking a deep breath she told the guard in a tone as calm and as natural as she could make it:

“Well, of course he was thought safe to enter. How could he not be when they have invited him. Now, I should have been with him, but I had some work at home said I would come later. So would you please let me enter?”

That was exactly what the guard did not want to do, but the girl had spoken in so natural an air that she could not have been lying. Not in so unconcerned a tone with little signs of fear or worry on her face. Therefore, he stood aside, letting her enter.

Tora thanked her fortune for having taken her so far. She was now inside, and able to look for what she had come to find. Yet she could not help wondering how the evening would end. The talk with the guard had left her with her heart beating fit to burst and her knees shaking. But nothing could have prepared her for what she was to see in the hall. There was her father, sitting beside a young man whom she had never seen before. Yet that was not the cause of Tora’s fears. For she could very well see that Uldor was close by. How come he had not already thrown her father out, she could not tell. Now was the time to act, she thought. Now before it was too late.

With resolute steps, he headed towards her father and tapped him on the shoulder. She could see surprise and annoyance on his face, but she told herself not to be put off by that.

“What are you doing here, father?” she asked, not letting him speak. “I have been sent to look for you, and I must bring you home. Come with me.”

She could see anger growing on Torguar’s face. It was clear his daughter’s words did not please him. He opened his mouth to reply, but Tora cut him short.

“Come.” she repeated putting a hand on her father’s shoulder, and then adding in a quiet whisper. “This is no place for the likes of us.”
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Old 05-13-2007, 03:13 PM   #147
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There was an uncommonly cheerful aspect to Ulfast's visage after his interview with the smith. It seemed that a different man returned to the hall than the dourly sardonic one who had left. This Ulfast smiled and seemed to mean it rather than to wear it to cover malice. Nearing the gates of the hall, he had even tossed a handful of copper to astonished townspeople, who then scattered after the unexpected largesse in a way that Ulfast thought similar to chickens after grain. He beamed at his own generosity and crossed into the chieftain's grounds.

The smith would appear with the sword and his sister-in-law. After such an appearance, as Ulfasts's guests, the support of Dag's family for Ulfast - genuine or not - would seem certain. True, they were only common working folk. But Dag was a craftsman who could well-arm many men for battle, and one who seemed to have some prominence among the people of the town. If Ulfast's quarrel with his brother ever came to open fight, it would be the blood of those people that decided the outcome. Better to have as many on his side beforehand as he could muster.

Preparations for the banquet were surely well underway. Ulfast laughed aloud. Mem's addition to the evening's entertainment would not have been known to Uldor. Ulfast hoped his reaction to the unexpected arrival would be amusing.

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Old 05-14-2007, 08:18 AM   #148
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Arriving at the great hall, Mem clutching his hand tightly not from fear but from a need to keep up with his brisk pace, Dag led his good-sister to the smaller entrance to the far west side, which gave way first to a cramped storage space of sorts. Here, whatever provender might be needed within could be deposited until called for, and servants could stand guard over their master’s belongings unless they too were called for. Tonight, with every Ulfing of any note whatsoever, and many lesser vassals, assembling to honor the elven envoy, the anteroom was tightly packed and already quite warm with the heat rising from many bodies.

Pushing his way inside, Dag kept Mem close, pulling her arm through his. Ulfast had left no instructions about where and when to deliver the sword, so Dag continued elbowing men aside until he reached the opening into the main hall. There he paused and scanned the smoky room, trying to catch a glimpse of the young chieftain.

As expected, the room was already crowded with men and women from many of the powerful families and clans of the settlement, and beyond. Most of the faces were familiar to him, at least known by reputation, if not personally. In the course of his survey, he nodded briefly once or twice to men who he actually would call friend, and they nodded back. But of Ulfast he saw nothing. Dag was on the brink of turning back into the cramped entry to ask if anyone had seen Ulfang’s second son, when he caught sight of Grimr and Kata. His wife’s good friend stood with her husband talking to a well dressed man Dag did not recognize. Beside the couple waited the sons who were so similar in appearance that Dag could never keep them straight. Dag knew the family only slightly, the friendship being more between the women; but he knew that Grimr was a well respected resident of the settlement and that Gunna had of late encouraged him to make the man’s acquaintance. She hoped that such an acquaintance could help her husband understand better the undercurrents of this place, understand better and negotiate better. Perhaps tonight would present him with such an opportunity, Dag thought.

As if some silent signal of his thoughts had raced across the room, one of Grimr’s sons raised his eyes to meet Dag’s. The boy’s gaze slipped quickly, however, slightly to the right. It took Dag a second or two to realize what the youth was staring at, or more precisely, who. And when he did, Dag stiffened. He glared back at the boy, wishing now he could more readily know which twin it was who so boldly ran his eyes over the girl standing quietly at Dag’s side. The boy’s eyes flickered momentarily back to Dag and seeing the anger on the smith’s face, he quickly turned his gaze elsewhere.

Mem, feeling the bulging muscles of her good-brother’s bicep tightening, asked quietly, “Do you see him? Ulfast?”

“No. I don’t think he’s here yet.”

The curtness of Dag’s reply did not surprise or bother Mem. She was well used to his shortness, and tonight’s circumstances were backing him into corners he had no wish to be in, she knew. To divert him, as well as to satisfy her own curiosity, she asked, “Do you see any of our neighbors? Or have only the important families been invited?”

The tension of the evening was having its effects on the smith. His wariness was climbing to a level of paranoia totally outside the realm of his prior experience. With a jolt of suspicion, Dag wondered if there was more to that lingering look of that young buck than he had first thought. Surely, Gunna would have told him if she had heard anything, seen anything. It was ridiculous, Dag told himself. The girl was never alone, was never left unsupervised . . . but, no. That wasn’t quite the truth of it. Gunna did sometimes leave Mem for a few minutes here and there. Just today, he knew, Gunna had been gone, what? Twenty minutes? A half hour? Would it be possible . . . But Mem was so innocent. She knew nothing of men, except what she heard from the other women. Her songs, though, he realized suddenly, belied a total lack of knowledge of such matters.

With such thoughts chasing themselves in his head, Dag succumbed to the temptation to say, as casually as possible, “I see someone across the way that I believe you know, sister. Falki is it, or Falarr? I can never tell one from the other. Grimr’s sons?”

It was his turn to feel his sister-in-law’s hand tremble slightly on his arm, although she remained silent. Dag quickly continued, “Whichever one it is, he seemed most interested in us, or you actually, Mem. Do you know the fellow?”

Mem struggled inwardly. She knew Gunna’s words had been wise ones – let Grimr approach Dag about any proposed match, that was the proper way. But if Dag already had a suspicion . . . After Dulaan’s whispered words this afternoon, to know the boy was here, tonight, in the same room, caused Mem’s breath to catch in her throat. And he had been looking her way! And she did know Falki. Of course, Dag would know that already. She could not very well deny it. The sensation of butterflies batting around inside her stomach made it difficult for Mem to speak. But she finally managed to say, “Yes, I know Grimr’s sons. He has three altogether. And Falki, well . . . Falki, yes, I, I believe he is . . . interested in me.”

Dag looked at his sister-in-law dumbfounded, then turned his head to glare once more at the boy who had unknowingly added yet one more upset to his already upsetting evening.

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Old 05-14-2007, 04:41 PM   #149
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‘Look, you stay here with Granny. I’ll go fetch some drink and food.’ Valr looked over to the table they’d found on one of the raised areas along the wall. It was near enough the fire that the older woman would stay warm, and just high enough that if Jóra stood up, she could look over most of the hall and watch for the Elves. Granny seemed to have found some acquaintance already. The two were already head to head and must have seen someone about whom they were sharing the latest gossip. Their sharp birds’ eyes darted here and there; the occasional finger wagging as if to emphasize some point.

‘But I want to come with you!’ Jóra’s pleading voice cut through her brother’s instruction to go sit by Granny. ‘I want to see some of the ladies close up.’ She gave her brother her sweet-face look and put on a promising smile.

Valr was not fooled. ‘Don’t give me that face,’ he hissed at her. ‘Go ask Granny if it’s alright if you come.’ He put his hand on her arm, restraining her before she ran off. ‘And you have to absolutely promise you’ll stay right by me. I don’t have time to babysit you!’

As she turned away, Jóra crossed her eyes and stuck out her tongue. Not so her brother could see her, but just as a silent comment on his high-handed comment. She ran up to where Granny sat and spoke quickly to the older woman. No need for Valr to know that her question had been, ‘Granny, are you comfortable?’ She looked innocently down at her brother as Granny nodded her head in the affirmative. No need to bother Granny, who seemed happy talking with her friend, with any further information, Jóra thought to herself.

A round of whispered negotiations passed between the two. Jóra promised to stay close to her brother, and he agreed to take a somewhat circuitous route to the tables laden with food and drink. ‘Here! Hold onto me,’ he said, stepping out into the milling crowd. She grasped the offered hand, the cloaks of men, the dresses of their ladies already pushing in against her. Despite the hurried pace, she glanced upward as often as she could, hoping to see an Elven face. Though what exactly that might look like, she wasn’t sure.

~*~

They had just come to the far west side of the building, near one of the doorways into the main hall when Jóra tugged urgently on her brother’s hand. ‘Hold up a minute, my shoe’s come untied. I’m tripping over it.’ The two jostled past a couple of servers and made their way to the wall. A number of small crates were stacked along it, affording the two a place to rest for a moment. ‘Here let me fix it for you,’ Valr said patting the edge of one of wooden crates. He’d noted the tie had broken off and thought it would be quicker for him to do it than for her to fiddle with it. ‘Just put your foot here,’ he went on, offering his knee as a platform.

As he began to even out the offending piece of leather thong, he caught the sound of a familiar voice. No, two familiar voices. ‘Mem,’ Jóra whispered. ‘And Dag, too.’ A look of anticipation crossed her face. ‘Ooh, I wonder if Gunna’s brought the baby!’

‘Quiet!’ Valr hissed back. ‘They’re talking about the twins.’

Jóra, too, turned her head slightly to hear the conversation. Her eyes widened at what she heard, her mouth dropping open in a surprised ‘O’. Valr’s mouth had drawn up in a knowing little smirk. ‘So that’s it!’

‘That’s what?’ Jóra asked, her voice rising above a whisper.

Valr tugged her up from the crate and pulled her quickly back into the crowd. ‘Come on! Let’s go talk to Fálki.’ He grinned at his sister. ‘I want to see him squirm!’

‘But what about Granny.....’ Jóra’s question trailed off as her brother pulled her along at a rapid pace.

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Old 05-15-2007, 10:57 AM   #150
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Drenda suppressed an anguished gasp of frustration as he saw the Chieftain's son practically ripped out of their conversation...by none other than his mother. As usual. A part of Drenda acknowledged that his mother existed to further his success, but it was often suppressed by the way he resented her harsh charm in moments like these; he was conscious he was arresting to look at himself, but that was scarcely any advantage at all for a real man. With a kind of aching annoyance, he turned back to Torguar...

A short, compact, even dumpy figure had rapidly joined them. At first Drenda, seeing another woman, felt like swearing out loud his hatred of all female kind in perpetuity, and their meddling meanderings. But then the girl, much to his surprise, gripped Torguar by the shoulder and began whispering urgently, evidently wanting the older man to go with her. Of course, Drenda realised! This was the daughter!

He almost laughed, and with some real happiness too, as the pair of them began to move off from the bench, Torguar apparently having supped too well to offer any effectual resistance. And besides, the girl was evidently a tough little creature. He smiled without effort at the departing couple, uncertain if either had seen him, though the maid - Tora, that was her name - did throw a glance back. His smile grew wider. She was thoroughly disappointing to look at, of course, but he hadn't expected much, and he found her ready handling of her tiresome old boor of a sire really quite funny.

With a birdlike movement of his head, the youth scanned the Hall for Uldor and his mother, but could not track them...and at that moment there was another commotion at the door. Some of Uldor's household, henchmen of the yes-man Brodda, had come in, and word rapidly circulated that the Elvish envoys were on their way...

***

"I weary you, my lord, I fear," Gausen said, at the other side of the hall with Uldor, behind a convenient screen of sycophants talking and bragging with noisy meaningless.

"I would never wish to weary you. Yet if you ever feel fatigued by the weight of your affairs...remember that I know a little of the world's hardships, that we are of an age, and of a mind, that I have fondness for you, my lord..."

The widow still avoided mirth, curling her large lips inward, as if assuming a look of extreme piety, as she murmured in the heir's alert ear...

"...fondness equal to that I hold for my child. You are more steadfast than a brother, too, Lord; kinder than a husband. Yet there are some who would look with unfriendly eyes on our friendship, even as they do on your glory..."

Gausen dropped her voice ever lower, and crept ever closer. "Amid your pleasures and your might, lord, be mindful of your brother Ulfast. He knows how to fight. He killed my lord long ago, and he could kill again..."

She steered her reluctant companion to a gap in the press, guiding his haughty glance towards where Drenda stood, staring idly about.

"A good lad, my lord. Tall and strong. Tell me, Lord Uldor, would it not suit you in your heart of hearts to have one brother instead of two...?"

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Old 05-21-2007, 10:33 AM   #151
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As the guests began to assemble in the hall, the quiet corridors of the chieftain's abode grew loud with merriment. The sound passed to Ulfast's chambers, and he made ready to join the festivities.

The halls were filled with servants hurrying to the main hall with food and drink. Others bore trays of trinkets to be gifted to the guests. Ulfast walked among them, planning to enter the hall unseen so that he could watch the guests - and his brother - before they knew of his presence.

He slipped quietly to a corner of the room and looked over the crowd. It seemed as if the entire settlement had gathered in the hall. Even so, he was surprised to see a man whom he knew to be a bitter enemy of Uldor's. Ulfast had forgotten the man's name, but knew that he had narrowly escaped death at his brother's hands once before. Ulfast made a note to speak with him later; perhaps he could learn something of value.

He looked next for Uldor, but did not see him in the crowd. Ulwarth, too, was not to be found. It mattered not - Ulfast could speak to his younger brother later.

Then Ulfast spotted Dag standing across the room with the singing girl. The smith looked none too pleased, and Ulfast grinned, amused by the apparent irritation on Dag's face, and moved towards the smith.

"I welcome you, Dag, and you, Mem." Ulfast smiled at the girl. "If your song is half as fair as your face, your fame is well-earned.

Do you have the sword?"
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Old 05-21-2007, 11:19 AM   #152
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Uldor looked at the woman carefully. His mouth remained tight shut as she whispered on and on. She thought she was cunning enough to catch his imagination - to trap his innermost mind with her woven words. He felt disgusted that he had ever associated himself with her. Compared to Jord. . .He must not compare any woman he ever knew to Jord, though. This woman would help him yet, in his schemes.

“Amid your pleasures and your might, lord, be mindful of your brother Ulfast. He knows how fight. He killed my lord long ago, and he could kill again.”

A smile twitched about Uldor’s mouth. Mirthless, almost evil. He turned his head in the direction she indicated. Drenda was over there. Uldor couldn’t deny, he was a fine boy. He had much to learn, but if he could learn it - if he would learn it. . .

“A good lad, my lord. Tall and strong. Tell me, Lord Uldor, would it not suit you in your heart of hearts to have one brother instead of two?”

A chuckle rolled out of him. A small, almost unnoticeable laugh. “Nay, fair Gausen,” he said. He looked at her. She was indeed fair, for her kind. “I have hopes yet for poor, wronged Ulfast. I can not expect you to understand, but Ulfast has cause to be jealous and angry with me, but thus far, there has been no reason to be rid of him.

“Hush, don’t say anything,” he said, his voice sinking to a soft, reassuring murmur. “I understand your hate for my brother. I do not blame you. But it’s not time for him to be dealt with. There will be judgement in the end, I promise you. Then all our wrongs will be avenged.

“For now, I bid you wait. The time is not ripe. There is much yet to be done. Wait, Gausen, wait.” And he bent forward to press his lips against her cold brow.

I shall give her hope. She’ll wait for me, but I can not leave her starved for my attention. He drew back with those thoughts and looked at her again, giving her a chance to have a final word before he turned to greet more guests.
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Old 05-25-2007, 02:35 AM   #153
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"Oh, I am used to waiting," Gausen whispered, something that might have been a smile in happier days crossing the proud curvature of her mouth. "An expert, you might say, my lord. But bother with me no longer...it seems the most important guests are at your gates..."

***

She was not wrong. All around the area of the Hall's front entrance, the petty nobles seemed frozen in motion, making tentative movements forward and back, as if unsure whether to approach in fascination or recoil in fear. A loud, haughty voice sounded all about in the newly crystallised-silence, as Lachrandir curtly thanked the guards who stood aside for him and his squire.

The dust of the township's streets had adhered to the Elves' finely woven cloaks, but this baptismal brownness, which almost absorbed them into the rugged surrounding hall of Men, was banished when the leading envoy swept back his cloak to make clear that omnipresent, gleaming star of Fëanor at his tunic, its brightness like an ever-vigilant eye.

An awkwardness descended, as if the envoy was uncertain who, among the crowding huscarls and nobility, he ought to address first. There was a hint of desperation in his large, shining eyes as he cast his glance around for some means of polite social contact with the Ulfings. None of the sons of Ulfang were close enough; his Elven vision located Uldor in speech with one of the few women; Ulfast with another (evidently in promiscuity as in all else, the sons of Ulfangs led by example), and what looked to be her father or brother; Ulwarth nowhere he could glimpse, and certainly not the senile old Chieftain himself.

Then, by some stroke of chance, Lachrandir spotted the man he had earlier asked for directions, in company with his wife, quite nearby. "Good sir! I thank you for the service you rendered us earlier this eve," he ventured...
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Old 05-25-2007, 02:41 PM   #154
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‘Yes, I’m feeling a little parched my self.’ Dulaan’s stomach rumbled as she shifted on her cushion. ‘And hungry, too,’ she said, grinning a little at her old friend. She stood up from her seat and planted her hands on the smooth, pine table top. ‘Let me just have a look about. My little helpers should be making their way back with drink and food.’

Granny’s eyes scanned the room. She wiped at. her eyes, trying to clear them of the smoke from the lamps and torches. ‘Don’t see ‘em yet, ‘ she hmmph’d to her friend. Her eyes darted toward the banquet table and traced the most direct route back to her table. ‘Don’t see the rascals,’ she went on. ‘But then I don’t suppose they would take the easiest room to and from.’ She chewed on the inside of her cheek, thinking. ‘The Elves! She talked her brother into getting her a close-up view of them.’

One of those sudden hushes rolled across the room diverting her attention. Granny’s brow furrowed as she sought the source. Those must be the Elves! And have mercy, weren’t they making toward Grimr and Káta.

Motion, too, seemed to have come to a standstill as the ambassadors made their way across the floor. A whir of movement caught her eye. Valr! And wasn’t that Jóra he was pulling along by the hand . . .
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Old 05-25-2007, 03:00 PM   #155
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Where comes light, darkness follows.....

The cautionary saying whispered through Grimr’s thoughts as he looked on at the entrance of the Elves. Instinctively he crossed the first two fingers of his right hand warding off misfortune even as he wished for favor. Third time sets the charm. followed the gesture. Though, he wondered if the circumstance of this charm would work for ill or good

‘Good sir! I thank you for the service you rendered us earlier this eve.’ The Elf who’d asked directions earlier drew close, his companion in tow.

‘My Lord..s,’ Grimr said, adding in the lead Elf’s companion. The both of them certainly looked like great lords. How was he to know their relation? For all he knew the one who’d asked the directions, the one who’d greeted him just now, was servant to the other. Better safe than sorry.

He felt Káta’s hand squeeze lightly the back of his upper arm.

‘Well.....here I am looking on like the rest of my fellow bumpkins,’ he went on, bowing his head a little as he smiled. ‘Name’s Grimr. And this,’ he said, his smile wider as she stepped forward, ‘is my good-wife, Káta.’ He had just introduced the twins, Fálki and Falarr, when a pair of familiar voices, raised in argument, distracted him.....

~*~

‘C’mon!’ Valr held his sister’s wrist in a tight grip as they made their way through the crowd. He’d turned back to look at her, reinforce his urgency, even as he ran forward. ‘You know I’ve got something important to tell Da and Mami.’

For her part, Jóra’s cheek had become quite flushed, her mouth hung in a silly and surprised little grin. And with her free arm she was pointing back behind her brother. ‘It’s them!’ she mouthed at him, her eyes gone wide.

It was too late, when Valr turned to see the source of his sister’s alarm. He couldn’t stop the force of their forward momentum. That is, he drew up mere inches away from the tall, fair man who stood nearest his father. But Jóra still flew forward, and banged into her brother - both of them careening, then, into the Elf.....

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Old 05-30-2007, 09:22 AM   #156
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Dag's irritation over the unexpected development in the personal life of his family was swiftly interrupted by the appearance of his unwanted patron. With an unctious smile, Ulfast approached them, saying, "I welcome you, Dag, and you, Mem." Casting a glance at Mem, he added, "If your song is half as fair as your face, your fame is well-earned." Dag knew the words were a mere politeness, but still, coming hard on the heels of this news about Falki, the smith fairly bristled, although he tooks pain to hide this from the chieftain.

"Do you have the sword?" Ulfast asked.

"Aye, my lord." Dag replied, his voice carefully neutral. He handed the weapon cautiously to Ulfast, not wishing anyone to get the wrong idea that he was threatening the chieftain in any way. Ulfast turned it this way and that, admiring the blade. He nodded in satisfaction and Dag waited for any further instructions or comments.

Ulfast though, along with everyone else in the hall, turned his head suddenly as a hush fell over the assembly. Dag looked in the same direction as 100 other pair of eyes, and saw that the envoys had entered the great room through the main doors. There was no need for anyone to announce the presence of the elves, as all present could clearly see that these two were no mere men. Their height, their faces, even their ears gave them away.

Mem whispered in Dag's ear, "Is it the elves? What do they look like?" and he could feel her hand trembling, this time from excitement, or perhaps nervousness at the thought of her upcoming performance.

Dag replied as quietly as he could, "Yes, it's the envoy from the north. They are tall beyond any Ulfing, fair of face, with a lordly air about them. And wonder of wonders! Who do they go first to speak with?" Dag looked in amazement.

"Who?" Mem whispered fiercely.

"Your friend, at least, your friend's husband - Grimr, and Kata!" Dag shook his head in disbelief. Yes, certainly, his wife was wise. If Grimr was a man of such importance that the elven envoy should choose to speak to him before the sons of Ulfang even, then this was a man it would do well to have as an ally.
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Old 06-03-2007, 02:11 PM   #157
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Khandr's invitation

With all the commotion created by the Elves, no one noticed a solitary figure slipping unannounced through the crowd and quietly placing a parchment packet in the middle of the head table where the King and his sons would soon be seated for the feast. Grogr was a plain man, a loyal servant attached to Khandr’s household, who had lived among the Borrim for so long that he no longer thought of himself as an outsider. The man had no desire to come face-to-face with Ulfang or any of his sons who had made their lives so miserable these past few months. His chief desire was to deliver his message speedily and disappear before anyone could question him.

Fortunately, Lord Khandr had been sympathetic to this approach. In normal circumstances, his master would have spoken personally with the King rather than draft a formal letter and have it delivered by a servant. That, however, was impossible. Those at court had not even shown the decency of asking the Borrim ambassador to their feast. And from the way tongues wagged in the street, the old King had little power. It was the sons who ruled and decided things. Who knew if Ulfang was kept on such a tight leash that he could not even accept or turn down the offer that had been extended to him? Moreover, Khandr knew there was a real possibility that the Borrim offer of a hunt would be declined, and the ambassador did not want that announced at the public feast, which could happen if he pressed for an immediate acceptance.

After debating back and forth, Khandr had addressed the outside of the packet to both the King and his sons, and had instructed Grogr to deliver the parchment to court in such a way that one or more of the family would be sure to see it and respond by the next day. Grogr retreated to the back of the hall, standing in the shadows of a wooden pillar, and watched as one of the lords walked up to the table and took the packet in his hands, beginning to read it. Satisfied that the message had gotten to the right person, the servant left the hall and headed back towards the Borrim encampment.

Grogr knew the words of the missive by heart. Khandr could have a tongue of honey when he wanted to. He knew exactly what the Ulfang lord would see once he broke open the wax seal:

My Brethren,

It has been long since our people came together in open and friendly discourse not directly connected with matters of governance. The Elven ambassadors have just informed me that we will be going with your muster to the wars. Yet it will take us some time until all the preparations for this outward journey can be concluded.

In the meantime, I would like to make a proposal. In hopes of promoting ties of friendship that will aid our joint endeavor on the battlefield, I wish to sponsor a hunt that will take place one week from today. As you know, the Borrim are noted for their skills in the tracking and hunting of game. All those at court are welcome to attend and enjoy the chase as well as an outdoor feast that my household will provide. The citizens of your fair city are welcome to join in these festivities. I look forward to your response.

Khandr


Now there was nothing to do but wait for a reply.
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Old 06-05-2007, 02:44 AM   #158
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Lachrandir was mighty and steadfast in body, and so when the first young Ulfing smashed into his torso he was but little discomited, even smiling thinly in apparent mirth. But the advent of Jora, as unexpected as that of her brother, toppled him back a step. Several Ulfings in turn scrambled to get out of the way of the looming Elf, creating rather a hubbub.

"Well," the ambassador concluded, "we do not greet each other with so much enthusiasm in my land, though perhaps with a little more grace of movement..." He had regained his composure now, and found himself faced with Ulfings more shamfaced and awkward even than before. With a strained smile, he turned again to Grimr, "Your children, I presume, Master Grimr? I am well used to the exuberance of the young." The envoy cast a sardonic but fond glance at the silent Tathren.

"Shall we now go and find a place, and partake of your splendid, ah, fare? I suppose we shall be expected to sit beside the Lord Ulfang, or his sons, but I would be glad to have your family about us, sir, especially as our relations have begun in such an...intense...fashion."
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Old 06-09-2007, 09:30 AM   #159
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Having done what needed to be done with Gausen, Uldor turned and walked away. He passed through the crowd easily, for men stepped back to make room for him. He stopped half way across the room, looking towards the elves’ entrance. His chest slowly expanded and fell again as he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He didn’t want to greet them. In fact, he did not actually want this banquet at all. He hated such formality – such shows of dishonest courtesy.

All the same, it had to be done. He moved forward again. Once more, a slight path was made for him. He lost sight of the elves for a moment, but he knew their general direction. Men’s gazes were more towards the elves than towards Uldor and more than once, Uldor had to pluck someone’s sleeve to make way for himself. At such instances, the man would start and draw away quickly, frightened.

Uldor came in sight of the elven envoys again just in time to see two children run pell-mell into the older ambassador. Uldor’s mood had been tolerable until then, but seeing the collision darkened it badly. As little as he respected the envoys in his own mind, he understood the necessity to give them proper show of respect, even if it was false. This…lack of proper behavior, or proper dignity, belonging in the Ulfang Hall annoyed and angered him.

He approached swiftly, striding forward with more purpose than before. He would have to make up, he realized, for some brat’s failure. What were children even doing there? This was not a party for just anyone!

He came within earshot of them as Lachrandir was in the midst of speaking. “I suppose we shall be expected to sit beside the Lord Ulfang, or his sons, but I would be glad to have your family about us, sir, especially as our relations have begun in such an…intense…fashion.”

Uldor bit his lip in vexation, but decided to ignore the words and speak as though he had heard nothing. “Good evening, my lord Lachrandir,” he said when he drew near enough. “Welcome! I am very glad to see that my message bearer found you. Please – the banquet is ready – come and we will find you your place.”

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Old 06-17-2007, 08:04 AM   #160
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Like the others in the hall, Ulfast had fallen into a silent, awestruck gaze when the Elves entered. It was strange, he thought, that even he, second son of Ulfang, and rightful heir to the Ulfing lordship, and one who had met the Elves before, still felt the same wonder as the common smith at his side. And yet, it was not strange; for the Elves held a hidden strength and power, and that power reached through the crowd to Ulfast, again awakening his desire to rise and rule over his people.

A twinge of annoyance passed over Ulfast when the children careened into Lachrandir. If Uldor wished to play chief, he should have been awaiting the guests' entrance to see that their proper hosts met them: not lesser guests and their half-wild children. The spell was broken. Again drawing forth the sword, he turned to Dag.

"You have done well, indeed." Ulfast hung the sword from his belt. "And you shall be well-rewarded."

He glanced back toward the Elves. Good. Uldor had finally seen fit to make his appearance.

"But now, be merry! The banquet begins soon. We shall speak again later."

Still annoyed, Ulfast directed his attention to his brother and the Elves and began to make his way towards them. As he moved through the crowd, he spotted Ulwarth at the banquet table. He held a paper in his hands, and seeing Ulfast, beckoned him to come to the table.

"A message?" asked Ulfast.

"Yes. What do you make of this?" Ulwarth handed him the note.

My Brethren,

It has been long since our people came together in open and friendly discourse ...


"What a stroke of good fortune! Say nothing to Uldor." He folded the paper. "Of course the hunt will go forward. And we will announce it tonight. Do you see? We will accept the offer of friendship on behalf of the Ulfings. Not Uldor."

Ulwarth smiled. "I do."
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