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Old 12-15-2003, 02:40 PM   #241
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Sting

"Oh, yes, my Lady. At least, I think they are. There have been all manner of guests; why, a whole troop of performers and artists from The Silver Swan is here. Over there, is a man-- Morien named him Red-- he doesn't know who he is or where. And that great, burly man with the shining curls, is from the north Anduin. And most of them are here to see the elf-- that elf over there, the one with three children; and one asked if she was going to kill him. Baran, I mean, the one with the curly brown hair. And she-- that elf with the children-- she drew her knife. Imagine, my lady! Right here in the Inn!"

Supressing rising giggles, Estelyn exchanged several glances with Bethberry. Young Mellonin had a great deal to learn about how to tell a story-- and how not to. Facts, impressions, events, opinions and wild conjectures tumbled out of her. When Estelyn herself could no longer keep it all straight she burst out into peals of laughter, and Bethberry joined her.

"All right, Mellonin. I see that there are some people I should raise a glass with. If you can, come and join me when I do, and listen. We'll see if we can't organise some of these stories into genuine tales."

Mellonin looked at her fearfully, unsure whether that was a rebuke or not. Estelyn smiled. "Your skills are young. We'll work on them." And Estelyn turned back to Bethberry.

**********

Sniffing, he poked his nose just outside of his cozy hole. A faint whiff... ever so faint. It brought back memories of a year before, when the common room had been crowded and a lady had brought... oranges. He sniffed. There it was again.
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Old 12-15-2003, 02:44 PM   #242
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Sting

Uncle Leemon?,,,,,

Slipping down to his knees, the old man stared quizzically into the solemn eyes that gazed boldly back at him. His brain felt addled and stiff beside the nimble mind of this obviously gifted child. He tried puzzling out the meaning of her words, thinking through the names of all the folk he'd met since his arrival at the Havens, and every variation in Quenyan or Sindarin that he could remember, but he still could not understand what the child was asking.

Once more, the little one tugged on the hem of his sleeve and repeated her request, "You know....Uncleleemon," impatiently slurring her words together.

As realization dawned, he turned and beamed at her, his eyes catching fire like great blue jewels sparkling under a sunbeam. For an instant, the weariness of his body faded as he reached out to tousle her soft brown curls. "My, my! Aren't you clever! Many a grown Man would not have seen that resemblance. No, I am not Ancalimon. But we are distant kin. And I do know your ammë as a friend, though perhaps not so close as Ancalimon did. Indeed, I would like to speak with her."

A small voice interrupted. "Do you know where Uncle Leemon is then? I'd like to go visit him." For, although this gentleman looked interesting to Cami, her mother's tales of the other fellow had sounded a bit more exciting, involving things like swords and displays of flying dragons. This fellow did not seem to carry any weapon at all.

The wizard stood up and sadly shook his head, "No, I'm sorry. I can't help you. I believe Ancalimon now dwells in a distant land close to Elvenhome. And I have no way to reach him there."

Cami didn't know where Elvenhome was, since she had not heard her ammë discuss this before. But she politely tugged on the old man's sleeve, guiding him over to where her mother stood.

Pio looked up and smiled, extending her hand in greeting. For it had been a number of years since they had last seen each other. Aiwendel inquired as to the name of Pio's youngest, since only the twins had been born at the time of their last meeting. Upon hearing that the little girl was named 'Cami', he fought back a smile, but said nothing more. So many years ago.... Glimmers of a time when he still understood why he was here.

After brief greetings were exchanged, Aiwendel led the Elf over to meet Rôg, explaining that he was his companion and servant, and that the two of them intended to travel to Harad to track down some of the rarer birds and animals. Aiwendel looked up expectently at Piosenniel, "Please forgive me for asking, but do you and your husband still have that splendid ship that sails under the emblem of the Lonely Star? For we wish to hire a vessel, and would gladly pay well for passage down to Umbar. I have long wanted to travel to Harad. Such a fascinating place, it would seem! And, now that things are settling down a bit, it would appear to be the perfect time."
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Old 12-15-2003, 08:27 PM   #243
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Tolkien

Raefinden. His nerves tingled to the sound of that name. There was something positively smashing about it! Positively smashing? Now, where on earth did that term come from? He knew he had reconnoitered it to his own working vocabulary quite some time ago, but he had absolutely no inkling from where.

So much was happening so fast in the common room of this Inn, it was hard to keep track of it all. So many people. Um, folk. It seemed to be the appropriate way to express oneself here. The rather grand elf lady and her three children, and the court she kept - if it could be called a court; she did seem rather queenly after all - were apparently headed for some place called Harad. It sounded desert-like. Yes, he was certain of it. How he knew, he could not say.

Red, or Raefinden, as it pleased him to name himself, decided that it was high time for him to busy himself in some way to pay for his room. He got up from his table and walked over to Morien.

"Sir, I would be most gratified if you would find some means of emp-" he stopped. The innkeeper looked at him blankly, as if trying to make sense of his grammar. Take care of your speech, Red he said to himself. "Forgive me." He bowed. "Please give me work, to pay for my room, sir."
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Old 12-16-2003, 10:33 AM   #244
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Sting

Avarlond

"Silly creatures, the both of them," thought Avarlond, casting a backward glance over his shoulder at Isabel as she joined the dark-haired woman, Edelis, at her table. Isabel was the fiancée of Airefalas, Avarlond's younger brother, while Edelis was someone he knew socially by way of her husband, a man of similar standing to his own in Gondorean merchant society. In Avarlond’s opinion, the two females shared barely a wafer of true substance between the two of them. Nonetheless, he could still see their appeal. They were highly ornamental, both of them, with their large eyes and flowing hair. One could cut a fine figure at court with either one of them on his arm. And both were more than adept at navigating the complicated waters of Gondorean high society. Avarlond had to admit that though he preferred a woman with a little less looks and a little more character, his brother could have made a worse choice in terms of a wife.

Even as beautiful as she was, though, Avarlond found Isabel a little tall for his tastes. Slender and straight as a willow wand, she could stand in her stocking feet and look his brother straight in the eye... not that he had ever seen dear Isabel in her stocking feet. (What would proper society say?) He actually preferred them smaller with a few more curves, like his own wife, Tessa. Thinking fondly of his wife, he turned his back on the two beauties at the table by the fireplace and continued across the common room toward the bar where he had last seen the innkeeper standing.

“Ah!” he repeated to himself. “There’s the fellow now.” He raised his hand in greeting and was just stepping forward to speak to the man, when a red-haired young man stepped in front of him and addressed the innkeeper regarding a job. He had the look of a vagabond, which made Avarlond’s habitual frown deepen slightly. Here Avarlond was, a wealthy and powerful man of business, waiting while the riff-raff begged for handouts.

Wasting his time, more like. He should be back at his office, working, seeing to the important business of the day, not hanging about an inn. Well, no matter. He had intended to ask the innkeeper which of the two elven women was Madame Piosenniel, but, seeing the man occupied, Avarlond decided to take a more direct tack. He drifted in the general direction of the largest group, carefully eying each of the two elven women, trying to determine which would more likely be the woman he sought.

Just then, he heard a very elderly man say to one of them, “Please forgive me for asking, but do you and your husband still have that splendid ship that sails under the emblem of the Lonely Star? For we wish to hire a vessel...”

The Lonely Star! That would be the vessel that Airefalas had sailed on to Umbar, which meant that this woman would be Piosenniel. Watching her as she spoke to the elderly man and his companion, he studied her face and was struck instantly not only by her beauty but by the air of wisdom and strength that she carried about her like a cloak. Those two bits of fluff in the corner would do well, he thought, to spend time at this woman’s side. They could learn quite a lot from the likes of her, that is, if they were capable of learning anything other than which fan to carry with which gown and who should be seated next to whom at a banquet.

Avarlond’s characteristic frown turned to a bit of a smirk. He knew he should be more charitable in his judgments of others. His wife and his dear mother, who was the most generous, good-hearted soul he had almost ever encountered, reminded him of it constantly, but he found their generosity of spirit hard to maintain. The truth was, Avarlond was a busy man. And, as a busy man, he was also an impatient man. And, nothing made him lose patience quicker than the spoiled fatuousness of women like Isabel and Edelis.

He edged closer to the elven woman’s group. She was still busy with the elderly man and his companion, but Avarlond would see to it that she would not leave before having a quick word with him, as well.
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Old 12-16-2003, 04:01 PM   #245
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Sting

Isabel

Isabel listened with interest as Edelis described the scene that had taken place just prior to her and Avarlond's arrival at the inn. Her large blue eyes widened in amazement as she heard tell of the lovely elven woman's brandishing a knife...and, in front of her children, no less.

"This lady must be some sort of renegade!" finished Edelis breathlessly. "I only wish she would speak a little louder."

"Me, too!" rejoined Isabel, covering her eager smile with a carefully manicured hand. She cut a quick glance under half-lowered eyelashes in the direction of the elven woman's party and was surprised to see Avarlond standing on the fringe of the group, his attention focused on the woman Edelis said had been brandishing a knife not five minutes earlier.

"Oh, dear!" Isabel gasped, turning quickly back toward her companion. "Don't look," she said urgently. "But it seems Avarlond is waiting to speak to her."

"Really?" Edelis leaned back and took a long look in Avarlond's direction. "My goodness, I think you're right. Do you suppose that's the captain's wife he came to see?"

Isabel sat up very straight in her chair. "Oh, I hope not," she whispered. "It would make me worry so for Airefalas. I mean, if the wife is hanging about brandishing knives in front of her children, what sort of cutthroat is the husband? Hmm?" She clasped her elegant hands dramatically in front of her. "The man could be a pirate for all we know."

Edelis took another long look at the elven woman on the other side of the room, then shook her head, more than a touch of skepticism entering her dark eyes. "Oh, surely not."

Isabel turned in her chair and took a long look of her own in the direction of the elven woman. Then, she, too, shook her head. "No, I think not," she pronounced after a moment. "She hasn't the look of a cutthroat. As a matter of fact, her children are quite presentable. Not little pirate urchins at all."

"No, not at all," agreed Edelis. "They are quite attractive little people. Lovely manners, I must say... aside from suggesting that their mother might kill someone right here in the common room."

"Well, as they say," rejoined Isabel. "Out of the mouths of babes..."

"What?" asked Edelis with interest.

"What do you mean?" asked Isabel in response.

"Out of the mouths of babes, what?" persisted Edelis.

Isabel felt genuinely perplexed. What was the rest of that saying? She had heard it her entire life, but for the life of her, couldn't think how it ended. Finally, she laughed and threw up her hands. "Fly dragons, of course!"

Edelis laughed and Isabel felt pleased with herself for being such a wit, but, even as she laughed and joked with her friend, her thoughts strayed constantly to Airefalas and, by association, Avarlond. Airefalas, she knew, was an experienced seafarer. He had been at sea in one capacity or another since he was a wee boy of nine, and was well-respected as a first mate and, more recently, as a captain himself. Then that unfortunate event in the Bay of Belfalas, when he lost one of Avarlond's ships to corsairs. Isabel sighed. He had only recently been ransomed back with his crew when he and Avarlond had gotten into that horrible row. It wasn't as though Airefalas could have helped losing his ship, but, no, Avarlond had reduced him from command, anyway. It wasn't fair. Avarlond could be such an unforgiving man. So, Airefalas had left his brother's firm and signed on for the voyage on the Lonely Star. Isabel looked again at the elven woman, wondering if she knew what a good officer she and her husband had gotten for their voyage.

Isabel missed Airefalas terribly, though she didn't wish to admit to anyone quite how much. While he was away at sea frequently, his absence usually didn't trouble her much. She usually had plenty to do to amuse herself around Minas Tirith, but this time it just felt different. He had gone to Umbar, where everyone knew things were still a bit touchy. Anything could happen. She wondered what tidings Avarlond would hear from Miss Piosenniel. She wanted desperately to be in on the conversation, but knew that Avarlond would not allow it. She knew he thought of her as silly and pointless, with no head for anything but parties and pretty dresses. All her presence would do is confuse the issue. Well, whatever he managed to learn, she supposed she would find out soon enough.

Turning once again toward Edelis, Isabel smiled pleasantly. The serving maid was just returning with their wine. They would drink a glass to Airefalas and pray together for his safe return. And... she gave Edelis a considering look... the safe return of Edelis' husband as well. Wasn't he somewhere abroad, too? Investigating new markets or some such thing. They would drink a glass for him, too.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 5:05 PM December 16, 2003: Message edited by: Ealasaide ]
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Old 12-17-2003, 03:37 AM   #246
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1420!

Piosenniel

‘And now that things are settling down a bit . . .’ Pio frowned at this phrase, thrown in among the old man’s other words. From what she had gathered in conversation with those recently returned from the South, ‘things’ were not yet settled enough that a pair of birding enthusiasts would feel comfortable wandering about the countryside in search of rare species. She glanced at Aiwendil’s companion – no bodyguard, if she had the right of it. He looked the sort to be soft and hesitant. And the old fellow . . . were he cut from the same mold as her old friend she would not worry about him. But he looked less sure of himself, if that were possible, than her last chance meetings with him.

Aiwendil had come to the end of his speaking, and stood looking at her expectantly. What she wanted to tell him was to wait . . . that when Mithadan returned they would take them south. The old man had seen Pio’s friend safely to her destination, and Pio, in turn, would return the favor. Problem was, she chided herself, Mithadan would not return for at least three weeks, and the two companions, she sensed, were eager to be off.

‘Ah, Aiwendil. Were the Lonely Star at Harlond, I would welcome your booking passage on her. Unfortunately, she is gone for at least three more weeks. Can you wait that long?’

Rôg had drawn near his companion and now spoke quietly with him. The old man nodded his head in agreement. Turning back to Pio he said that they really could not. One of the birds they were studying would have migrated by then, and they would miss their opportunity. Could she suggest another ship and captain? The Scuppered Gull, she told them was one that might meet their needs – its captain was one Faragaer. They would find him a fair man to deal with, she said. ‘Just let them know that I have sent you.’

A few more pleasantries passed between them, then Aiwendil thanked her, saying they would seek out the captain after the morning meal. As he turned to find the table Rôg had gotten for them, Pio put her hand on his arm to detain him. ‘A favor, if you would,’ she began. ‘Bird is traveling in the south. She has been seeking news of her kin.’ Pio pulled the letter from her waistband, to share parts of it with the old man. ‘This is the most recent letter I have had from her. Unfortunately it is two years old. But, in it she mentions a growing unrest in the area around Umbar. Not all favored the rise of the new King and the dominance of Gondor. There were faint rumblings of changes in the making then, and unfavorable, I think, in Bird's opinion. I fear that over these last two years the disquiet may have grown. And for some reason she has not been able to send messages.’ She grasped the old man’s sleeve more tightly. ‘Be careful; be circumspect when you are down there. Pay attention to the little details you pick up. And . . . should you see Bird, send word to me. And if she can, have her send word also.’ Rôg, by this time, stood fidgeting near the two, obviously eager to be on their way. Aiwendil nodded to Pio, saying he would do his best, and thanked her once again for her help in finding passage south.

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

At a smile and a motion of her hand, her children gathered about her. ‘Oh, ammë, can we stay just a little longer?’ Isilmir’s plaintive question was followed by Gilwen’s explanation that they had a new friend, one Odrin, the Dwarf sitting at the table with the Hobbit, Elf, and woman. ‘He’s only just finished one story,’ continued the boy, ‘and I should like to hear another.’ He raised his brows, giving another argument. ‘He was just about to begin one. And we shouldn’t be rude and leave before it’s done. Father would want us to be polite.’ A smile crinkled the corners of Pio’s eyes. So, he had brought out the heavy artillery! Gilwen picked up on this leverage, saying she thought this story would have something to do with a trip south they had made. ‘We’ve never been there! Can’t we stay to hear what it’s like where Father is?’

Little Cami watched the negotiations between her brother and sister and her mother with interest. She wanted to stay a little longer also. The old fellow she had met was sitting at a nearby table with his companion, and she had heard him tell her mother they were going south. Perhaps she could get a message to her father – that he shouldn’t forget the small present he had promised her. Some little carved figures for her toy ship . . . animals from the desert lands. As she slipped away toward their table, she saw her brother and sister with smiles on their faces as they waved to Odrin and headed back in his direction.

Pio shook her head and laughed. ‘Like herding cats!’ she murmured. From across the room, Aman caught her eye and waved her over. She was just on her way to her friend’s table when a man’s voice called her back.

‘Avarlond,’ he said, seeing the questioning look on her face. ‘ Airefalas is my brother, Mistress Piosenniel . . .’

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 6:13 PM December 17, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 12-18-2003, 11:17 AM   #247
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Sting

Avarlond

Avarlond waited patiently as the elven woman finished her conversation with the elderly man and his companion. She had just settled her children and was beginning to move away from him again when he managed to catch her eye. She turned toward him, a questioning look on her face. Avarlond acknowledged her with a courtly gesture that could have been seen as either a deep nod or a short bow.

“Avarlond,” he said to her by way of introduction. “Airefalas is my brother, Mistress Piosenniel. He sailed with your husband to Umbar on the Lonely Star.”

Piosenniel returned his nod, smiling graciously. “Yes,” she said. “I remember meeting him. How can I help you?”

“It is not so much how you can help me,” he answered, a faint smile twisting on the corners of his lips. “But how you can - begging your pardon, Mistress - help the womenfolk of my family. You see, my brother and I had a bit of a falling out over a matter of business, so I wouldn’t expect to hear from him, but Lady Isabel -” he nodded in the direction of Isabel and Edelis “- is his fiancée. She hasn’t heard from him in some time and grows concerned. His mother - our mother - is greatly concerned as well. I promised to make some inquiries on their behalf, which is what brings me to you.”

He paused, nodding again. “I was hoping, Mistress, that you might have some word of the ship, how she fares, or whether she might be soon returning to port. It would comfort the ladies so to know that all is well.”
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Old 12-19-2003, 08:23 PM   #248
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1420!

Whatever else was true, Red was sure that he had not spent much time in his forgotten past doing much by way of hard labor. His back was screaming! He was on his knees, scrubbing the wood floor in one of the inn's rooms with hot, soapy water, using a very sturdy wooden brush.

When he had asked Morien for work, this was not what he had been thinking of. Rather, something more on the lines of reorganizing the scrolls alphabetically, or sweeping the floor in the common room, or waiting tables even. This was hard work. Morien was getting his room paid for, no danger!

Red left the brush in the puddle on the floor, and leaned back, still on his knees, pressing both hands into the small of his back. The ceiling was crawling with spider webs that needed removing. He would have to tell Morien about that.

Just then he heard a muffled noise from the hallway.
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Old 12-20-2003, 12:51 PM   #249
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1420!

Piosenniel

And it would comfort me as well if I knew all was proceeding smoothly.

Pio’s grey eyes darkened for a moment, then flicked to where Avarlond had nodded. An expectant pair of large blue eyes looked quickly away from where she stood with Arefalas’ brother, the long ash blond hair falling forward like a veil to cover the crimson staining her fair cheeks. ‘One does not wish to appear to be too eager,’ she remembered her sister-in-law instructing her when first she came to live in Gondor. ‘Society does not favor the woman who cannot temper her emotions. It is not convention to be so forthcoming.’

Isabel appeared the very model of frail womanhood – a well-crafted air of vulnerability, innocence, and powerlessness was about her. A half smile appeared for only a second on Pio’s face as she wondered if that same steel backbone she had seen in other ladies of Gondor held the young woman’s figure so ramrod straight. Perhaps when the Lonely Star returned she would meet the First Mate’s intended one.

For now, she held her gaze on Avarlond. ‘It has only been three weeks since the Star went south; there has not been time to hear back yet from Umbar. We estimate that it will take at the very least five weeks to complete the trading mission and return. Though, since it is a new area for trade being opened for Gondor, it will most likely take a number of weeks longer to secure the contracts.’ She wrinkled her brow at him. ‘But then you must know that, being a merchant yourself.’

Pio looked briefly toward the two ladies at the table, their heads bent together in hushed conversation. ‘Tell her that there have been no ill tidings from the south. The mission is only half done by the Captain’s schedule, and I expect the Ship and all its crew to return safely in three or four weeks time, and with their pockets well lined with the riches of the Southlands.’ Isabel glanced toward them for a moment, then turned away again. ‘And tell her I will send word to you if I do receive news from the Star.’

Like little leaves caught in a sudden breeze, Isilmir, Gilwen, and little Cami came racing up to surround their mother. ‘The story is finished, ammë! And Odrin has promised us another when we see him again.’ Isilmir’s eyes were alight with images of closely fought battles, and Gilwen gave out with a Dwarven battle cry she had just mastered. Cami, not one for tales of well fought battles, was already thinking about how the Dwarf had promised a story of the great Wyrm who had stolen his people’s gold. ‘A clever Wyrm,’ Fastred had chimed in, ‘but not clever enough to outwit a Hobbit.’

‘You will excuse us, Master Avarlond,’ laughed Pio as the children clamored for her attention. ‘It is time for us to be heading home now. Dreams of glorious battles . . . and dragons, if I have the right of it,’ she said winking at her youngest daughter, ‘await my little crew.’ She reached out and touched him lightly on the arm. ‘I will send word when word comes to me.’

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

In the flurry of capes being put on and good-byes said, Cami seized the opportunity to visit the old fellow once more. She tugged at his sleeve as he sat at his table drinking the last of his wine. ‘Ammë said that you were leaving soon. If you see my atar will you tell him to remember his promise to me?’ Aiwendil smiled fondly at the little one and nodded his head ‘yes’, chuckling a bit. ‘How small and safe a world she moves in,’ he murmured.

‘Yes, kept safe like other small creatures by the hands and eyes and wisdom of those about her . . . at least for now, and as we can,’ rejoined Pio, as if he had addressed her. She fastened Cami’s cloak about her and pushed the curls back from her brow. Gilwen leaned patiently on the back of an empty chair, watching the slender fingers of Aiwendil’s companion draw lines in the beaded perspiration on the ale mug’s sides. Her eyes considered his face next, and his dark brown eyes. Light from the small lantern above the table caught the small stud in his ear as he turned his head to look out the window. The light from the window threw his features into relief. Gilwen frowned at the image, and prodded her brother who had come to stand hear her. ‘Don’t we know him?’ she asked, prompting Isilmir to look closely at the man.

His answer was cut off as Pio said good-bye a last time to Aiwendil and herded the three out the door and to their waiting mounts. In the ride home and the recounting of Odrin’s stories, amidst the plans for honeycakes and Baran's visit, the question was forgotten.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 4:36 AM December 21, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 12-21-2003, 04:20 PM   #250
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1420!

Rôg

Rôg watched the four as they swirled out the Inn’s door, letting it bang shut behind them. His companion’s eyes followed them with interest, still chuckling at the comments of the littlest one. Turning back to Rôg he downed the last few drops of wine and stood up with the aid of his staff. The young man shouldered the larger of the packs, helping Aiwendil to adjust the strap of the smaller satchel across the folds of his robe.

‘I’ll meet you outside,’ he said, opening the strings to the soft leathern pouch that hung at his belt. ‘Let me just pay the Innkeeper and we can make our way to the docks.’ A few moments later he was standing by the old fellow, their feet turning south toward Harlond.

A fair distance was passed in companionable silence as the two made their way down the path along the river. Gulls wheeled in the air along the edges of the mudflats as the two approached the port, seeking easily preyed upon fish and any promising pieces of flotsam and jetsam. ‘The Scuppered Gull, wasn’t it?’ asked Rôg, shading his eyes against the sun to catch the names painted on the ships. ‘There she is,’ he said pointing his finger. ‘There in the last berth but one.’

They picked their way down the docks to the slip where the ship was tied. Rôg ventured a question that had been on his mind since they left the Inn. ‘Tell me something, if you will, Aiwendil. That woman that you asked about the ship . . . Piosenniel. How is it that you know her? And if I might also ask – why would a Skinchanger from the north seek her out?’
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Old 12-22-2003, 02:11 AM   #251
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"....How is it that I know her?" Aiwendil repeated Rôg's initial query and glanced sidewise at his young friend, wondering just how much he dared reveal. "I have known Pio a very long time. I met her shortly after I landed in this part of the world."

The old man sounded tired and hesitated for a moment, but finally continued with his story. "A distant kinsman of mine had dealings with Pio and her husband. He was using the Star to transport some folk up the river who hoped to settle along the banks of the Anduin and in the western part of the forest formerly known as Greenwood. I offered to help guide her friends northward. In recent years, I've seen her several times. She has always dealt fairly with me and, although she can be hot headed at times, I've found her to have good judgment and a kind heart. Indeed, the woman can be a whirlwind at times when it comes to getting things done. As to her personal affairs, I know little." An image of Mithadan and their three little ones, especially the impetuous Cami, slipped through his mind.

"The Skinchanger from the north? Her name is Bird. I know less of her than I do of Pio. But I will say she can be incredibly persistent when it comes to safeguarding her friends, and that she and Pio were companions on the road for some years."

Aiwendil hesitated before continuing, "There was a time, long ago, when I thought Bird might help me accomplish an important task. A task that had been laid down for me from one in authority far across the Seas. But, alas, I did not see her for many years. And, by then, all chance of accomplishing anything seemed to have vanished. It has indeed been a while since I have even thought of her." An uneasy feeling stirred in the recesses of the old man's mind, which he hastily pushed down.

"But, come! Enough idle talk. Shall we try to arrange that passage with the shipmaster whom Pio recommended?"

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 12:08 PM December 22, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 12-22-2003, 08:06 AM   #252
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Sting

The muffled noise in the hallway repeated itself, sounding suspiciously like a snort. Red turned, baffled, and peered out the door, careful not to overstretch his back while doing so.

From behind her basket of linens, Mellonin burst into peals of laughter. "Forgive me--" she gasped, "I am sorry. I'm sure you are doing your best. Forgive me."

His surprised expression faded into a resentful frown, and she immediately composed herself, and entered the room, placing her basket on a part of the floor that was still dry.

"Raefindan, you're obviously of noble blood. Your hands are far too soft. Whatever else you may have forgotten, working with your hands isn't one of them; you never learned it in the first place," she said, more gently now. "Look at you... you need something to kneel on; didn't you think of that? And you might want to wrap your hands."

Red shook his head. "Never mind my knees. My back is what really hurts. And I don't think I have that much noble blood, either."

She smiled. "Which began to hurt first, your knees or your back?"

He scowled at her.

"Your knees hurt first, and you tried to favor them. And then your back began to hurt."

He stood up, painfully. "All right. I'm clueless. Tell me."

Now it was her turn to frown. "Clueless?"

"It means-- well, it means that I'm confused, I'm sorry, and I'll listen to what you have to say."

She nodded, and let it go. "Here, no one will miss this." She folded up a blanket and handed it to him. "Wait here." She returned with some strips of cloth. "For your hands." She then picked up her basket of linens. "I must get several rooms ready. I will return as soon as I may." Raefindan began wrapping his hands, and Mellonin slipped out.

As she worked, she puzzled over the new stranger. With his soft hands, he couldn't be anything but royalty. Clearly he was not from Minas Tirith; even if his mind had become addled, and he forgot where he was from, others would have recognized him if he had been from this city. But neither Rohan, nor Dol Amroth, nor Dale had any red-headed royalty that she had ever heard of. All the mannish royalty she knew of was either golden haired or dark.

How did he come by the red hair? Did he have dwarf blood? She shuddered at the implications; but no. It was obviously a foolish idea; he stood straight and tall and rather slender, and was clearly, purely mannish. He just had red hair.

And completely soft hands. "Not even weapon-calluses, " she muttered. "Nothing. What did he do? Where is he from?"

She wondered more and more if Raefindan's mystery might not be somehow connected to her brother's disappearance. If he could appear, could her brother disappear? But if Raefindan couldn't tell her his own story, how would she learn, how would she guess if there was any connection?
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Old 12-22-2003, 07:57 PM   #253
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Raefindan hoped that Mellonin didn't take his facial expressions to heart. He liked to exaggerate his expressions now and then. He would have to show her just how exaggerated he could be some time, when she knew him better. But now he had to ask himself how he knew that about himself, and he again came up with no answer. Royal blood? He thought not. Most assuredly not! More likely he was the court jester, or whatever there was akin to that wherever he had come from. Hmm.... clueless. He knew the word was one that came naturally to his mind. Should I be more careful that my words reflect this place? He felt that he should, but that he would probably let some things slip. He shrugged.

He knelt on the blanket Melonnin had provided, and grabbed the brush around his cloth-wrapped hands. Yes, he could feel the difference. He could put more of his weight into his brushing. And now he grimaced as the pain moved into his shoulders, arms, and wrists. He figured that it was as it should be, for he was finally doing it right. He straightened, looking at the floor as if he had seen a ghost there.

"Well, by George, look at that!"

Raefindan could see how much cleaner the spot was where he had just worked on, compared to the areas he had been slaving over. He rolled his eyes.

"Oh no. Now I'll need to go back over the rest of it. I'm going to die before I get this done!"

He looked over his shoulder, hoping nobody had heard that little bit of melodrama. Melodrama. Now, there as another word he knew, and knew what it meant, but was sure it did not fit in this land and place. What would Melonnin say about it? 'Melo' would be related to 'friend' in the elvish speech here, he considered as he sloshed the brush in the bucket again, and 'drama' had no place in any bit of the elvish speech that he knew of.

"And how, Raefindan, do you know that?" It was as if he knew this place from wherever he had come from. How? He did not know, and wished he did. He grimaced again, stopped to crack his back, and fell to his assignment yet again. And he would have to find out who 'George' was now, too.
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Old 12-30-2003, 11:51 AM   #254
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Sting

Mellonin looked in on Raefindan, and he looked up at her with a weary smile.

"Much better," she said. "Morien will give you dinner after all."

The look of dismay that crossed Raefindan's face drew another giggle from Mellonin, and she entered, and put her empty basket down. "No, I don't think he's really harsh enough to refuse you food. But he wants us to think he is."

"He didn't strike me that way, " Raefindan replied, scrubbing.

"I suppose not," Mellonin mused. "Perhaps I'm thinking of my old master instead. But anyway, you'll be done in time for dinner at least. Have you remembered anything?"

Raefindan looked down at his red hands. "No. Not even who George is. Any news of your brother?"

She shook her head ruefully. They exchanged wry looks, and with a shrug and a sigh he turned back to his scrub-brush. "I'll sleep well tonight, after this. Maybe by morning I'll have remembered... something. Or perhaps at dinner you can ask me questions, and maybe that will jar my memory and I'll remember. Would you like to try that?"

She brightened. "All right. Yes." Feeling a little more hopeful, she went to fetch a broom and sweep the stairs and the hallway.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 2:29 PM December 31, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 01-03-2004, 11:30 AM   #255
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It was late and the commons was almost empty. All of the guests had been served and left for home or to bed. Raefindan sat at table with a bowl of stew in one hand and a dark brown ale in the other. He placed both before him and heaved a sigh. He stretched his back once, and then set to. In moments half of both drink and stew were gone.

Mellonin came by with her own bowl of stew and a cup of clear liquid. "You've gained yourself an appetite!" She sat in the chair next to him.

"How could I not? I haven't worked that hard ever in my life." Raefindan met her eyes as she ate her stew. He could tell she what thought. "Yes, I know I'm soft by the standards of this place, but from where I come-" he lapsed into silence, staring a moment into his cup before returning his gaze to her. "- I think - I'm considered about average."

She swallowed. "How can that be? Who does your labor if all of you are soft as you?"

Raefindan frowned, perplexed. "I don't know!" He dipped his wooden spoon into his bowl of stew again, and lifted it to his mouth. "We don't have wooden spoons at table." He put the spoon in his mouth.

"What then?"

"Metal," he said, chewing.

"Metal? What is that?"

"A kind of ore from the ground. Like iron for swords, only made into spoons."

Mellonin looked at him in disbelief. "Is metal so common where you come from then?"

"Yes, I suppose so."
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Old 01-04-2004, 12:29 AM   #256
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Sting

Raefindan looked up as Mellonin choked on her drink.

"Mellonin, are you all right?"

Muffled explosions of laughter at her own clumsiness alternated with coughing spells, both of which she vainly tried to suppress. Finally she calmed herself, wheezing slightly. Raefindan watched her, worried.

"I'm sorry, " she coughed. "Where were we?"

"Metal spoons."

She continued, wheezing. "Mettle spoons. It reminds me of Nettle. Nettle spoons... Ouch. That sounds like a very uncomfortable way to eat."

He decided to change the subject slightly. "I remember that I didn't walk very long distances the way people here commonly do. Somehow, traveling was less time consuming. I'm not certain how or why."

"You rode horses." Mellonin shrugged.

"Not normally."

"Mumak?" she said, alarm in her voice.

Raefindan laughed. "No. No Mumakil."

She relaxed. "But where did you ride to?"

"Classes."

She frowned.

And so did he, putting his head into his hands. "I don't understand. I can't remember."

"Eat, " she said. "How about some more soup?"

He sighed. "Please."

She got up to fetch a round of seconds, and he stared at the table.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 1:24 PM January 05, 2004: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 01-04-2004, 07:13 PM   #257
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I'm sorry, Melonnin," Raefindan said. I seem to be experiencing hallucinations as well as general amnesia. I thihk it's high time for me to get some sleep. I'm sorry about the soup, but I've lost my appetite. I haven't touched it. Please feel free to put it back in the pot."

Raefindan got up and tried as hard as he could to go around the illusory image of a mage whose power went beyond all bounds of Arda, let alone the commons.

"I really must drink less of the heady ale around here," he murmured as he tilted his way up one flight of stairs and found the room appointed to him.
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Old 01-04-2004, 07:27 PM   #258
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Sting

"Raefindan? Weren't you sleeping out in the loft?" Mellonin called after him.

Groggily, he swayed back down the stairs, one hand to his head. "The loft. Of course." He headed out the back kitchen door. "Quieter out there, " she sighed, and retired soon afterwards.

The mouse watched her depart, and then ventured forth into the mulch pile. He found plenty to fill his stomach, including a full bowlsworth of fresh soup. For the first time in many months, his coat was sleek.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 8:29 PM January 04, 2004: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 01-13-2004, 03:04 PM   #259
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Sting

Mellonin rolled over and sat up, squinting at the dust in the sunbeams, and stretched, and rubbed her eyes. She dressed quickly, hoping that the grey serving staff had the teakettle on. Snatching up her pen and parchments, she rolled them together, and then placed the newly mixed bottle of ink (made from the blackest soot she could find in all the Seventh Star kitchen) into her apron pocket. Then she paused. What if the cork wasn't tight? She removed it, and carried it carefully upright down the stairs.

No one had arrived yet, but the grey serving staff did indeed have the teakettle hot. She thanked them, and brewed some, and sat down to study her runes. When she finished the tea, she stood, and walked slowly around the Common Room, rune by rune sounding out the signs. When Morien came downstairs she was engrossed in the label of a bottle of wine. He cleared his throat, and she guiltily put the bottle away.

"Well? What did it say?"

She blushed, picked the bottle back up, and stuttered, "The finest shimmering harvest from Dor-En-Ernil on the bay of Belfalas."

He snorted. "Well, it's good, and good enough, but I won't say I've never had better. Good morning, lass," he said, nodding at the waiter in grey, who placed a steaming plate of breakfast before him. Her set to with a will.
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Old 01-16-2004, 10:03 PM   #260
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Raefindan walked into the commons, rubbing his forehead as if trying to remove cobwebs of sleep from his mind. He made his way to a table on legs that did not wish to work right and rested an elbow on the table and used his hand to prop up his head.

"Good morning! Are you well?" It was Melonnin.

"I'm not sure. Bad dream."

"Oh. I'm sorry. Are you hungry?"

Raefindan nodded. He looked around; it seemed quiet. "If you have a moment...?"

"I think I can spare a little time. I'll be back with some food and tea."

She soon returned. He was hungry, and ate a few bites and sipped his tea before he began.

"I was someone else, a prince of some seaside fortress city. I was walking in the woods nearby, and saw an Elven woman who was lost. I took her to safety and I learned her tale from her. She - she was beautiful! I - I -" Raefindan broke off, a weight of sorrow pulling at the edges of his mouth. He face Melonnin, his eyes filling. "I fell in love with her." He looked away and stared at his bowl of porridge. "She did not reject me, so I don't know why I feel as if she-" he shook his head. "-died." He wiped at his eye. "I do not know who she was, but it felt as if what I dreamed was real. I dreamed someone else's life, I think." He turned to Melonnin. "Have I gone daft or worse?"

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Old 01-27-2004, 06:59 PM   #261
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1420!

Mellonin said, "Maybe it is your past you dream of?"

Raefindan nodded. "Maybe. Or yes and no. I don't think that I lived near water where I come from. And the two Elven women, I had never seen before. But that she died - or someone died - maybe that did happen." He allowed a rueful smile. "George or no George."
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Old 01-27-2004, 07:25 PM   #262
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Sting

Mellonin studied Raefindan. "You do not seem to me like one who has gone... daft, " she said slowly. "You seem sad, but not moonstruck."

"Moonstruck..." He shook his head, and ran a hand through his fiery hair. In moments, his eyes glazed.

Mellonin glanced at his bowl of porridge, knowing that the workday would begin sooner than Raefindan wanted it to.

"Raefindan?"

He frowned, wishing she had left him in his reverie.

"A busy day will help you to forget your bad dream."

"It wasn't all bad, " he replied.

There was something about this that reminded her of Mellondu, if only she could remember what. Now it was her turn to frown.

"You two think too much, " said Morien. They both jumped; perhaps he was right...

"Red, you can scrub the empty room across the hall from where you were yesterday. And Mel, didn't you notice we've had breakfast arrivals?" He returned to the bar and began preparing pots of mulled cider.

Raefindan shoveled porridge into his mouth, grimacing with the effort it took to swallow, but knowing he would rue it later if he left any now.

Mellonin touched his sleeve. "I will visit when I may, " she said, and swept toward the breakfast customers, smiling and chatting. Raefindan finished his porridge, and with a last shudder brought the bowl to the kitchen and climbed the stairs gritting his teeth.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 9:25 AM January 28, 2004: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 01-28-2004, 12:57 PM   #263
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Sting

She sat at the bar for a moment, just a moment, and rested her forehead on her hands. The dizziness persisted. Folding her arms, she laid her head on them and closed her eyes. Her head hurt and she suddenly regretted her breakfast.

A customer called, and with a glance at Mellonin, Morien tended to the customer himself. Mellonin was left sitting alone at the bar.

To the north, snowflakes eddied and swirled, smoothing the details of the land. The golden leaves of Lorien hung heavily under its weight. The leaves stirred in the wind, but the wet snow clung and did not fall. Amroth paced the forest, searching, hunting, feeling that she was always just over the next hill or around the next bend. Desolation crept in with the wet and cold; he shrugged it off, pressing deeper into the forest.

In the south, the grey sea surged and sighed. The air was warm; the breeze whispered of peace, of calm, of hope that had been. Memories of the sun were sweet and gentle, but the sun was hidden, and the northern sky was dark. Imrazor searched the woods, calling, calling. No one answered. Ever and anon, he looked over his shoulder to the sea; if she had taken that road, she was lost to him forever. He turned back to the woods. Where was she? He crested another rise, and called again. His words were lost in the fog.

In the north, a storm rumbled, whipped by a wild wind. All but imprisoned by glistening ice, a small cascade of water yet sang as it tumbled over cold stone. Liting, lyrical, the stream sang on and on, lost in the tearing wind and rumbing thunder. Few heard the song, and those that did heard only the echoes of an old melody, and heeded only the memories of that which was past. No one heeded the despair that was present.

Fog. Ice. Darkness. Despair, echoes, silence. Mellondu's breath came in short gasps. He gazed into a stream, and golden and brown locks of hair swirled in the water. At the seaside, women's voices echoed in his ears, whispering, singing, pleading. He searched for them, calling, running. There were no answers. He was drenched with sweat. He ran on. Or was he swimming? He could not breathe. He cried out; was it fog, or darkness, or water, or storm that took away the sound of his cry? Or had he made no sound at all?

"Are you all right, Mel? Mellonin?"

With a start, she woke, and looked around, wildeyed. "Mellondu?" she whispered.

"You look pale, lass," Morien growled. Then he leaned closer, whispering. "Don't you go getting sick here in the common room in front of all these customers."

"My brother, " she whimpered, and lurched to her feet. Her wide eyes strayed to the staircase. "Raefindan--" Then she swayed and clutched at the chair with one hand and at her stomach with the other.

Customer's heads were beginning to turn. Morien gestured at a few of the staff; one of them stepped to the bar while Morien took Mellonin's elbow and firmly escorted her out of the common room.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 2:39 PM January 28, 2004: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 02-01-2004, 03:37 PM   #264
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Sting

Morien escorted Mellonin to the doorway of her room. She followed his gesture and went to the bed and sat down. Morien kept going down the hallway, to the linen closet where he fetched several folded blankets. Returning to Mellonin's room he looked in. Mellonin was already curled up under her blankets. He leaned into the room, and draped the folded blankets across the headboard.

He turned, closing the door behind him, and went to find Raefindan, who with hardened eyes and set jaw was scrubbing another floor.

"Mellonin looks awfully pale. Get her a bucket. Make sure her floor stays clean, and try and get her some fresh air without giving her a chill."

Raefindan nodded, wondering why Mellonin was sick, but he got up, and found a bucket and brought it to her room. He knocked hesitantly. No answer. He knocked harder and was answered with a muffled "Go away..."

"I was told to bring you a bucket, Miss Cheerful," he retorted.

"Leave it," came the muffled answer.

He opened the door, and slid the bucket along the floor towards the bed. She pulled the covers up over her head and disappeared completely.

For the next three weeks, very little was seen of Mellonin. She complained of fever, aches, pains, strange dreams, and the smallest of noises sounding like thunder. Although the grey-clad wait-staff met her needs, Raefindan checked on her every day and asked how she was feeling.

She was hardly sociable, or even civil. Raefindan came to dread his daily visit as a chore. But he persevered.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 7:39 PM February 01, 2004: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 02-06-2004, 09:27 PM   #265
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1420!

Over three weeks, Raefindan adjusted to life at the inn. Morien pressed him to step in for Melonnin in the commons, which he enjoyed much more than scrubbing floors.

The only thing he did not enjoy were his dreams. They all followed the same theme. He was glad they did not come every night. He had found his dreams persuasive and bothersome enough to ask Morien if he knew anything about people named Amroth, Nimrodel, Imrazor, and especiallly Mithrellas. For the people in his dreams spoke these names.

Morien told him of the legend of Amroth and Nimrodel, in which Imrazor and Mithrellas played a role. It all made sense, except for one thing: why was he dreaming this legend? It boggled his mind.

The two most bothersome things about his dreams were that he was Imrazor, and that he was falling in love with Mithrellas, who, for him, was somehow more than the Mithrellas of legend, but how he could not put into clear thought. It was not exactly as if she herself one thing in his dreams and another in legend. Rather, in his dreams, his response as Imrazor was out of keeping with the legend, as if he foresaw her death, or remembered it somehow.

He checked in on Melonnin every day, hoping she would be better. He hoped that she would be able to tell him more than Morien could. He didn't know why that might be so, but so it was.
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Old 02-17-2004, 05:08 AM   #266
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****In a dark and hidden place of Gondor ****


"How dare you? I was needed."

"It was not safe and you were not there to share in the decision, Master Innkeeper."

The invalid snorted, but weakly, then had to catch his breath.

"And my safety is always of such paramount importance," he whispered fiercely, spitting out the last two words.

"Stop, the fever has made you angry. You must rest, Rimbaud."

"You don't understand," he managed, through cracked lips. "We caused a delay only, a disturbance in the turn of events. The Princess and I... Where is she?"

"Safe."

"Always this word with you, Healer," the voice was fading into darkness again now, but still the eyes glimmered and the hooded woman could not prevent a shiver. She tucked the odd white star-shaped stone back inside his ruined tunic and sighed.

She leant closer. He was still trying. "I must..." The fever snatched him away again, and she sat up, unthinkingly smoothing her hands on her cloak.

The fever should break tonight and maybe in the morning he would be lucid. She felt the purpling bruise above her eye. Maybe.

****

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Old 02-18-2004, 05:55 AM   #267
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One week later


Break it had, and lucid he was, but Bethberry the Healer was not sure if she did not prefer the Innkeeper asleep.

“Come now, the mare can move faster than this,” he snapped, his eyes fixed forwards, sitting in the same tense position beside her on the bench of the cart, bent double with his arms on his knees.

“No need, valacirca,” she murmured as before, using an old nickname of his. “You are sick and admit you know not what you face.”

“The Princess and I will decide.”

“Just you two? The fate of the White City?” Her voice had no edge, but he shifted briefly to glare at her, before fixing his eyes again on the road ahead.

“Well, we can form a Council,” he said. “I just need to be back, to garner my information, to see the lay of the land, to converse with the princess and those who cared for the Star in my absence. Few know of its secrets and its importance.”

“The labyrinth beneath,” she said, calmly. She was not stupid. However, her perspicacity had only the effect of silence upon him.

Rimbaud of the blue and grey, innkeeper and more, was driven. Driven by the inner force that had kept the gimlet blue of his eyes even in the darkest places; he had the unflappable Healer on edge. What did he know of the secrets beneath the Inn? What treachery had he spoken of in his fever dreams? How did the Lady Estelyn know so much of what was happening? The Healer sighed and drew again gently on the reins. It was not her way to be so curious; yet she had Wyrd fluttering everywhere in search of the truth.

One thing was certain. Whatever danger had been uncovered, neither the half-dead Rimbaud, nor Estelyn would go to the Guard or higher in the City. This told her of high treachery, and made her spine cold as she thought of her friends within the city walls.

***

It was the same scenario as before when they reached the postern gate of the Star. Rimbaud lifted his hand, the weak moonlight flickered off his ring, and the gate swung slowly open. This time he laughed at her almost veiled questioning look.

“Olaf sleeps not,” he smiled, for the first time in months. “There is a lever in his cottage for the gate, and a bell that rings when we rounded that last corner."

“A sort of magic then,” she smiled back. “I cannot stay. I will leave you here.”

He nodded absently, and she knew she’d gain no thanks for her weeks of ministrations as he lay dying, twice poisoned, and at times half-mad.

***

Still in this way, he of the blue and grey returned to the Seventh Star of Gondor, sending word for Estelyn who was staying at the Library. The staff had locked his room against him, but it had many entrances. None saw him return bar Olaf, who would say nothing. Still moving only from force of will, he moved to the bed. He had much work to do in the morning.

He would need to find out who was in the Inn and more importantly why. He had more enemies than he had imagined, but perhaps more friends too. He needed to find a trustworthy coterie. He needed sleep.
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Old 02-23-2004, 03:54 AM   #268
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“Incredible,” said the Princess politely, but with evident fatigue. “Fascinating.”

“Well, indeed!” enthused the aged librarian, his rheumy eyes doing something akin to shining. “This is a very rare manuscript, and I’m sure you will not mind my remarking that even I was not aware of its presence here. Truly incredible. But so archaic, and such ridiculous claims! A truly remarkable find, my lady, you must forgive an old man’s enthusiasm.”

He drew to a close, breathing heavily. His gnarled but deft fingertips brushed the surface of the tattered parchment cautiously.

Estelyn smiled, although had he been looking directly at her, he would have seen it was more a grimace than an expression containing any pleasure. She knew too well the veracity of some of the parchment’s ‘claims’. A secret society devoted to the construction, protection and secrecy of the great Lab’rinthe under Minas Tirith… This would have been peculiar enough, but what had nearly cracked her imperturbability was the constant and almost shameless mention of Gorthaur’s Will.

However, her mind was made up. She needed to make her way to Mount Mindolluin, and before that, pay the visit to the Seventh Star that a peculiar summons that morning warranted.

“Keep it safe,” she pressed the librarian. “Many find documents containing such claims of these dark materials to be foul and would…”

“My lady,” he hissed with asperity and some good humour. “I have worked here long enough…”

She left with half a smile playing on her features, but a chill upon her heart.

On to the Star.
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Old 02-23-2004, 10:59 AM   #269
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Question Tapestry of dreams

RPG Proposal Under Development: Friends Of Nimrodel : Tapestry of Dreams


She rolled over with a groan, and sat up, peering into the shaft of sunlight that Raefindan had just let into the room. "Must you? Oh, it's you."

"Good morning to you, too."

She sniffed, and then mumbled "Thank you."

"How about some fresh air?"

"Please."

He stepped out and returned a moment later. She had risen and hastily donned a tunic and a cloak. "Oh, dear, I certainly need a bath. No, don't get too close."

He snorted. "Why do you think I wanted to open a window? I have questions to ask you. You can answer them through the washroom door if you like, but I need answers."

"That would hardly be modest. But I can bathe in the stables."

"That's modest?"

"If I hang enough horse-blankets and you promise to be honorable, yes."

"You're incorrigible."

"In-- Incorr--" They turned towards the back stair and headed down for the stables.

"Incorrigible means that you are terribly annoying and stubborn! Now tell me about Nimrodel. And Amroth. And--"

She gasped, eyes wild with hope, and Raefindan turned a hard stare on her.

"Mellondu! You have dreamed about Mellondu!"

"What? Your brother? No, I haven't--"

"Yes you have!" she accused, siezing his arm. "Tell me! Hide nothing from me!"

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Old 02-26-2004, 09:34 PM   #270
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The night before…(a.k.a The Attack of the Midnight Writer)

The gray-clad servants had extinguished the lamps and retreated from the room shortly before the moon had a third of its journey through the night sky. Without their ministrations, the fire in the common room of the Seventh Star had collapsed into a mound of glowing embers. Shadows flickered and danced across the walls, spawned by a quartet of candles that drove the darkness from a table in the middle of the hall. Despite the fairly reasonable size of the table, messenger cylinders, scrolls stray scraps of paper, and a handful of empty inkwells all but hid the surface. A large, black tome sat in front of the only occupant, its pages covered with small, spidery script. His labors had begun shortly after the evening meal, when he broke the wax seals on the scrolls and began reading. When the last drunken guests had stumbled into the beds, he began to write

While he waited for his final letters to dry, the Gondorian carefully sorted the scrolls and returned them to their respective cases. A little candle wax and a small stamp ensured that no curious maids would be doing some supplementary research the next morning. The inkpots went back into his small writing box along with the feather pens and a small sharpening knife. He gathered up the remaining scraps of paper and deposited on top of the embers, giving them several experimental prods with a fire poker to ensure their timely destruction. After tucking the scrolls and the now closed book under the other arm, he blew out three of the candles. The moon had just begun its downward trip when the guest extinguished the candle and settled in for the night.

The next morning…

Rimbaud’s clandestine entry into his establishment had succeeded in securing the bruised and battered innkeeper a good night’s rest. Olaf gave the proper commands in the dim twilight before the dawn, and the servants and cooks sprang into action. Most of the guests rose with the crowing of the roosters and began to prepare for their return to the long and dusty road. Some simply purchased traveling rations from the kitchen and went on their way. Centuries of experience had demonstrated to merchants that eating on the run (or walk, or ride) greatly cut the travel time and, conversely, increased the long run profit. Others, who did not feel the pressure of time, loitered long enough to enjoy the prize-winning breakfasts before departing. Finally, some guests intended to remain at the inn through the next morning (or perhaps beyond). These, like Rimbaud and the previously mentioned nighowl, generally did not rise until after the ninth or tenth hour had come and gone.

Despite his late rising, Casimir Danwedh exuded a general impression of untidiness and sleepiness. Two large bags hung beneath his eyelids, strongly hinting that the Gondorian had not slept well for an extended period of time. His short beard and long, black hair had obviously not suffered the discipline of a comb, and generally shot off at an odd angle. While he had not spent the time to tidy up his appearance, his clothing bore some evidence of decent attention. A tunic bearing the coat of arms of Gondor hung around his shoulders, held in place by gravity and a skillfully designed leather belt. In contrast, Casimer wore fairly nondescript brown trousers and leather, dirt caked boots.

He stumbled across the room and dropped into a chair not far away from his previous workplace. To his relief, the servants had cleared away any remaining traces of his labor. The innkeeper would, no doubt, charge a premium price for the number of candles Casimer had consumed during his research. Two gray clad servants, bearing a cup of some hot liquid and a bowl of porridge, approached and set their burden on the table. The scent of freshly brewed tea drove the last vestiges of sleep from the official’s addled brains. He nodded thankfully to both servants before beginning his morning meal.
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Old 02-26-2004, 10:06 PM   #271
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Tolkien tapestry of dreams

He wrinkled his nose. "I will, but first you need to get cleaned up. And you need to tell me about your dreams, too. I insist, you first. Be a dear."

"Be a deer? But I'm a human. What do you mean, be a deer?"

Raefindan shook his head. "Not deer as in animal, but dear as in a kindly, caring - oh, never mind! Do you wish for me to wait outside, or do we go to the stables?"
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Old 02-26-2004, 10:45 PM   #272
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Boots Secrets ravelled and unravelled

Mid morning found the Healer tired but pleased. She had accomplished her preliminary distractions in appearing so openly in The White City.

With Wyrd at her side, or, more properly, hovering near her or sitting on her arm, she had visited her usual round of merchants and traders. She had made every effort to be seen as she went about her business of contracting for comestibles for the Inn, spices for the kitchen, rare currents and other dried fruits, and the precious beans of coffee which made The Horse favoured over other inns of Edoras. It was important for people to remember her in the market, to recall that the Innkeeper from Rohan was making one of her regular visits to The White City for supplies for her inn.

That Wyrd had sent birds and fowl fluttering madly in their cages was all the better, she thought, for establishing her presence as a natural function of her regular duties. With Wyrd, too, people took less care to muffle their conversations from her, believing she was involved in supervising him. She overheard much that had not been meant for her ears and so discovered easily what tales went whispering around the city in these strange days.

Then, satisfied with her purchases and discoveries, she wrote a note advising her most trusted broker what goods to prepare for the convey north on the Great West Road. Entrusting it to the small cylinder on Wyrd's leg, she sent him off, hoping that sight of him would inspire people to believe she was hear him. Then, she silently retreated from the market, dodging this way and that through the narrow alleys. She had her main purpose still to satisfy before she could return to the Star.

* * *

Luck was with her as she found the Herb Master tending his garden, so entranced with the leaves on some of his plants that he saw not her entrance.

She peered over his shoulder at the blackened leaves, and recognized the typical sign of poisoning by walnut trees.

"You need to move your plants to the other side of the garden," she commented quietly but amiably.

Startled, he looked up, with a frown. Bethberry was a healer like himself, and he knew her well, but he liked not her knowing the problems of his garden.

"It is a dry season, and the plants suffer. I merely need to water them more," he replied nonchalantly, with the air of one accustomed to having his wisdom accepted.

"True, true," she acknowledged while deciding she could use the situation to her advantage. "Yet, perhaps if you move some, but not all, you can test my idea." From his scowl, she knew he would not want to mention her presence here, yet would be greatly tempted to try her suggestion.

He changed the subject, drawing her away from his dying plants but inadvertently disclosing the rather higher incidence of poisonings and beatings that he had to contend with. As he described the symptoms and characteristics, she realized she had been lucky to save the Innkeeper.

"You'd best prepare yourself for this." The Herb Master's voice drew her back from her thoughts and she found him volunteering to augment her supply of herbs and tinctures, salves and oils.

'Good," she thought to herself. 'He will not realize I had come to him for these very potions and supplies. Let not word spread that the Healer had depleted her supply in ministering to one who should be dead. Perhaps it will be best if he be thought dead." Yet to the Herb Master, she expressed her gratitude and debt that she would now be prepared should any problems appear on her road back to Rohan.

She withdrew, believing her appearance in the House of Healing would not be remarked upon, but was suddenly called to.

"Why Mistress Bethberry, if I had known you were to be here, I would have planned a lunch. Or at least called our dear friends together. Why, it has been a half year since we saw you last. And you wrote not of your coming."

The Healer's heart sank. With Ioreth knowing of her visit here, soon likely most of Gondor would know she had sought the Houses of Healing. Still, it could not be helped and possibly there would be something she could learn of recent events in the city. She smiled.

"Ioreth, I had little time. A stable fire left me without horse and passing travelers offered the only chance for my journey here to replenish supplies. You would noy believe how some had come to question my coffee--hose very beans you told me so much about. But let me not talk of myself. Come, tell me what other grand items you know of that I could use."

As the two walked towards the bench where shone the mid morning sun, and Ioreth nattered on good naturedly, Bethberry knew it would be some time ere she could return to the Star. Yet return she would. It would take more than the Innkeeper?s ingratitude to turn her thoughts away from the dangers he and the Princess faced. She had not kept watch over him these terrible days and learned nothing from his fevered disclosures.
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I’ll sing his roots off. I’ll sing a wind up and blow leaf and branch away.

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Old 02-27-2004, 04:22 AM   #273
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He gave his orders peremptorily but knew they would be followed closely. Then, when he had fielded the questions of these, his most trusted staff and acquaintances, he asked, “So, what of events here? Who is staying at the Star?”

It was the tall groundskeeper who smiled, showing all of his teeth. “That, good Master Rimbaud, is a very long story. There are wheels within wheels here…”

He was interrupted by Olaf snorting agreement, and the Mistress of the Kitchens trying to explain the arrangements that had been made in his absence, and the one of the junior cooks trying, with great excitement, to explain about the odd young men that had been staying.

Rimbaud of Gondor soon wished he had not asked.
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Old 02-27-2004, 05:44 AM   #274
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Tapestry

Mellonin considered Raefindan, and with a sigh, regained her composure. "For three days I have dreamt of my brother. Mingled with my dreams of him, have been dreams of Nimrodel and Amroth. They are woven together, somehow, like one of the banners in the Great Hall. I do not understand it."

She could go back to the Inn, she reasoned, or she could wash here on the stone floor; they had arrived at the stables. It was early enough that there weren't many about, and she wanted the fresh air anyway; she chose a place to hang four blankets for privacy. Raefindan lent a hand.

"The dreams of Amroth are restless, full of searching. The dreams of Nimrodel are drenched in despair. And the dreams of Mellondu are dark, and confusing, and... sad."

She filled a bucket of water at the well, and brought it to the stone floor, and chose the cleanest rag available.

Raefindan blinked. "Don't you want some hot water?"

She laughed, a little, as she went within the curtains. "Of course I do. But there isn't a fireplace out here, and I don't have all day... Ugh."

He turned his back to the curtains, and stood guard as she scrubbed. She talked on, rambling for quite a while about fog and snow and forests and darkness and locks of hair swirling in the water, and Raefindan rubbed his forehead as he struggled to follow it all.

"What I don't understand, " she finished petulantly, "is what all these dreams about Nimrodel and Amroth have to do with my brother. They lived a thousand years ago. Amroth is dead. They're both dead. What does that mean? That my brother is dead too?" She bit back the temptation to cry that had been eating away at her for three days now. "I've never been to Rohan, or to Lothlorien, or even to Belfalas or -- well, I have't been down the river beyond where it bends around south of the city. But in my dreams, I think that is where I have been. I am not sure. I have seen rolling plains filled with horses, and I have seen golden trees in the snow, and I have seen.... I think in my dreams I have seen the sea." She fought for composure again. "But I don't understand in all of this where Mellondu is. If you have been dreaming of Amroth and Nimrodel, then you must understand where he is. That must be why you came here. Tell me, do you not know where he is?"

Raefindan shook his head. "Mellonin, I am sorry. No, I don't know where he is. My dreams ..." he shook his head. "No, I haven't dreamt about your brother. My dreams have been very different. What do your dreams tell you about a man named Imrazor?"

"Imrazor?"

"Or Mithrellas."

"Isn't that a woman's name?"

"Yes, of course."

"You said what do I know about a man named Imrazor--"

"I take it you don't know about either of them."

"No. What do you know about them? ...I'm almost out of water. I need anther bucket, please."

He looked around, found another bucket, and went to the well, and came back. Her teeth were chattering.

"Mellonin, you've been sick, and here you are taking a cold sponge-bath in a stable in early winter. I hope you don’t get worse."

"A little water never hurt anyone, " she replied through still-chattering teeth. "I'm almost done."

"I still don't have any answers, and it'll be time to go to work soon. Morien knew more about Mithrellas then you do, " Raefindan replied.

"Well I'm sorry, " she snapped. "You haven't been very helpful about my brother, either."

"Hey, take it easy, " Raefindan said.

"I haven't taken anything!"

He put one hand to his head. "Don't be upset. What is the matter with you? You weren't like this before!"

Dripping, but dressed and cloaked and fully modest, she reappeared and began taking down the blankets. He helped her fold them.

"I don't mean to be rude. I am worried about my brother; I have done so little to find him. I have enjoyed working here at the Inn, and he is out there somewhere, lost, maybe hurt. Maybe dying for all I know. I must find him!"

Raefindan nodded, but said nothing. They put the buckets and blankets back where they belonged, and headed back to the inn for a hot breakfast and a day's work.

The morning's porridge held little appeal, but it was hot, and neither complained. Between mouthfulls, Raefindan said, "There's something else I don't understand."

"Mmmm?"

"Why do you think that taking a sponge bath out in the stables was more modest than taking a proper bath in the Inn?"

"What's a sponge?"

He sighed, and wearily stirred his porridge. She dropped the question.

"Sorry. In a proper Inn, it would hardly have been mannerly for a man to stand outside the door while I shouted about my dreams from the bath, would it? But in a stable yard, early in the morning, no one will care."

"Stables have ears too, " Raefindan said wryly. The barn had not been as empty as Mellonin had supposed, and he had been glad that he had stood guard for her. “Maybe this stable is different than the one you were used to, “ he replied. “Can we meet for lunch too? Maybe then we can get to the bottom of some of these dreams."

Mellonin agreed. They finished their porridge, and got to work.

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Old 02-27-2004, 10:22 PM   #275
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Tolkien tapestry

Lunch time could not come soon enough for Raefindan. Melonnin's company was the only reprieve he had from the drudgery, which he was certain he was not used to, what ever iot was he had done wherever he had been before he lost his memory.

And then there were the dead ends of his own thoughts. On one hand there were the dreams of Imrazor and Mithrellas. On the other was his failed memory. His throat caught whenever he thougth of Mithrellas; there was a connection between his dream and his past, and he could not piece it together. Why can't I remember anything before I showed up here?

It was exasperating. Which is a word nobody around here uses. That was another thing. He had many words in his head that Mellonin and the others simply did not comprehend, always taking them at the face value meaning, which led to all kinds of strange misunderstandings. What's a sponge? He laughed to himself as he rubbed the same spot on the floor for what seemed the hundredth time.

At last it was time for lunch, and the guests had been served. Raefindan knew to wait for his lunch until after Mellonin had served all the guests. They sat at table eating what was left of the mid day cold roast and brown bread.

"You spoke of Amroth as restless and searching, of Nimrodel as despairing, and of Mellondu as confused." Raefindan paused to drink some water. "Imrazor's dreams are filled with wonder at having to wife an elf as beautiful as Mithrellas, who bears him children that take after her in beauty; but every dream ends in loss, for she has left him, and he is heartbroken. It is as if she has died, for she might as well have, since she wants nothing so much as the sea and her friend, Nimrodel. For me, Mellonin, it is like having something I was supposed to have had, and was denied. I do not know how that is. What I can tell you is that the loss in the end is bittersweet either way, for there is some recompense in the dreams, with Imrazor's children, and in my past, I think, in some way I cannot remember."

"Reckon pence? What is that? It sounds like counting money."

Raefindan shook his head. "I am sorry. I mean to say that it is like receiving payment for having suffered."

"Have you suffered, then, Raefindan?" Melonnin's tone was soft.

"So it would seem, though in what way I cannot say. If I could only gain my memory back!"

"Maybe a way will be found in the dreams."

"One can only hope."

"Did you ever recall who Jorje was?"

Raefindan laughed. "You remember that. By George, I think you've got it! No, I don't remember who George was. But I don't think it was important. It would be like saying, By the sword of the King! or something like that."

"Maybe this Jorje is the king where you come from."

"Why not?" Raefindan laughed again. Mellonin eyed him over her plate of food, wondering just how sane this young man was.
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Old 03-01-2004, 09:37 AM   #276
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After his somewhat tardy morning meal, Casimir rose and briskly marched out of the inn. He returned juggling two leather-bound books, several more message cases, and another case of ink in his thin arms. While some messengers regularly stopped at the Seventh Star to drop off letters or switch horses, this Gondorian had evidently elected to take the half an hour-long stroll to the nearest hamlet with a permanent mail post. Besides the obvious need for a trusted depository for his mail, the hour-long walk gave him time to collect his thoughts and enjoy the fresh air. Casimir had tried his hardest to sleep well last night, but had only achieved three or four hours of a fitful, half sleep.

The walker deposited his most recent acquisitions on another empty table and hurried up the stairwell to his room. One of the passing servants quickly read the titles on the book’s well-worn spines: Poisonous Beasts and Fauna from the libraries in House of Healing and last year’s Annals of the Judicial Courts of Gondor from the archives of the White Tower. This piece of information would undoubtedly find its way into the hands of the innkeeper before the sun set. No one knew much of this strange guest; save that he wore the garb of an officer or official and that he paid promptly in freshly minted silver coins. Casimir did not notice the servant’s clandestine espionage as he descended the stairs with his black book and his writing kit. He pushed the Annals, message containers, and writing implements to the side and set the two remaining books in front of him.

He opened the black book to his previous night’s labor and began to review his findings. Then, he began to browse through the book from the House of Healing, pausing to check the black ledger every few minutes. After a few more minutes of reading, he pulled out a fresh pot of ink and a feather. Casimir flipped to the back of his book and began to write:

Quote:
Several of the people in question suffered vomiting, violent shaking, and general malaise prior to their demise. However, this does not assist in the classification of the poisons in question because of their widespread occurrence. Some of the ministers and masters lingered for several days before their demise, but some fell dead after a matter of minutes.

Hemlock causes a considerable amount of spit to form in the mouth. Followed by considerable shortness of breath and finally death by suffocation. It can be taken in to the body through wine and water. Perhaps one or two deaths over a year.

Water hemlock, on the other hand, starts agitation and general unwellness of the mind. The body begins to shake and flail, necessitating the restraint of the patient. The victim slips into a deep sleep before expiring. I believe we can attribute the death of the Minister of the Treasury to this.

Mandrake and deadly nightshade both cause their victims to become, as one loremaster put it, “red as a beet, dry as a bone, blind as a bat, mad as a hatter, and hot as a hare.” The healers seem to believe that this has caused the ills of a fair number of rich nobles. Several have expired from secondary infections or complications.

Several herbs can cause damage to the heart, mind, and stomach, but I do not have the expertise or evidence to determine if they have attributed to any poisonings.
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Old 03-18-2004, 10:05 PM   #277
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Tolkien

Ærosylle skipped up the path to the Seventh Star. A smile was on her face, dark brown hair, shot with copper, bounced from her shoulders, her grey eyes, flecked with green, sparkled, and she clutched a leather bag. Her ragged hem of her pale green dress flapped wildly around her dancing feet.

Flinging the door of the Inn open, she threw herself into a chair and began to trace the grains of the wooden table with her finger. Two others sat at it, conversing with one another: a man with red hair and a woman with brown. Two empty plates were stacked towards the edge of the table.

Ærosylle stared at the man’s red hair: it was so lovely, so bright, so tantalizingly foreign. She flicked her eyes away, and stared at the finger that continued to trace the grain in the wood. Her feet tapped nervously, as if she wanted to go somewhere but didn’t know where to go when, with an irritable sigh, she rummaged in the bag and pulled a piece of ill shaped paper flecked with green from the leather bag along with a goose feather quill pen and a bottle of ink. Her hand quivered as she dipped the feather into the ink and began to sketch. A deformed hag’s face with hollow cheeks and a warty nose appeared upon the parchment. With long spidery line, Ærosylle drew straggling grey hair that clung to the woman’s scalp like seaweed upon an anchor.

“What are you drawing?” asked the woman, peering at the paper.

Ærosylle’s pen paused and, one eyebrow higher than the other, mouth slightly open, and eyes wide, said “It’s a woman. An old woman. A fisherwoman who will live by the sea.” She glanced up and smiled at her and continued, all the while shading and colouring the woman’s face, “Did you know that we will all grow old? Our beautiful hair will turn grey, and maybe it will fall out and become bald which would, indeed, make us even uglier than this old crone….a wart would be better than no hair at all.” She reached out and touched the woman’s hair, and stared longingly at a the man’s red hair before she said, “Leave me be…she must be perfect or she won’t live at all.”

She bent low over the paper, muttering words as she drew a still ocean, flecked with foam, and on the horizon a ship with black sails. “Corsair…” she whispered. “What is your name,” she asked, glancing towards the redhaired man and the normal woman.

“I’m Mellonin and this is Raefindan,” the woman said. “And you are?”

“Ærosylle.“ Giggling, she threw her pen down and picked the portrait up, studying it with a broad smile. But it faded, and she bit her lip as she stared at the sketch, before finally shaking her head. To the left, surrounded by smooth grey stones, was a fireplace and in that fireplace a fire burned. Red flames, streaked with orange and glimmering with blue, licked hungrily around wooden logs and sparks exploded from the collapsing wood, meeting their doom on the stone of the hearth.

Her black pupils dilated as she walked towards the fire the paper in her hands. Mellonin and Raefindan followed her. She stood in front of the fire for a few minutes, enjoying the feeling of dying skin as the heat poached her shins. With a small smile and a sob, she let the sketch fall from her fingers and drift towards the flames. The sketch convulsed into a crumpled singed ball before disappearing amidst the glowing embers of the burnt log. The taint of burning ink contaminated the homely smoky smell.

“Why did you burn it?” Mellonin cried. “It was a wonderful sketch and that paper was wasted!”

“I can always make more,” Ærosylle said with a shrug. “But the old woman! The corsairs killed her -- didn’t you see the ship on Gondor’s horizon?” she asked. She folded her arms and stared at them, tapping her foot. “They killed her…so she couldn’t exist anymore. She was a casualty of war. I do hope you understand that she’s dead, and if you’re dead you can’t exist, which means…you don’t live anymore.

“I have never been to an Inn before, and it is absolutely lovely!” she said, brightly. “I don’t know why because it’s just like a house only bigger, but there seems to be an aura of excitement and adventure which is lacking at home,” she said as she skipped back towards the table with Mellonin and Raefindan. “But I am so tired…my legs are protesting against my journey,” she laughed. “I should have flown,” she added. Seeing the two lunch plates still sitting on the table, she gestured towards them and said, “You really shouldn’t stack them so and just shove them out of the way. You’ll hurt their feelings if you haven’t done it yet.”
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Old 03-19-2004, 05:54 AM   #278
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Mellonin glanced at Raefindan, who returned the glance with tight lips, and made a sign with his hand.

"Well, " said Raefindan gently, "we certainly wouldn't want to offend the plates. Would we, Mellonin?" A sharp glance from Raefindan prevented Mellonin's surprised reply, and another, even sharper glance followed. Mellonin blinked; Raefindan was sometimes argumentative, but this was like a direct order. She bristled. A third sharp glance follwed, lips tighter this time.

"All right; all right, " she said, confused and not a little hurt, and with a puzzled glance at Raefindan she gathered the plates and took them to the kitchen.

"Where is your home, Ærosylle?" Raefindan asked. Her eyes grew glassy as she replied, "Not the seashore. No, not where the waves kiss the sand."

"How did you come here?" Raefindan persisted.

"I thought I told you. I flew, " she said.

"No, you said you should have flown but didn't, " he replied, and then realised that would only make things worse. Mellonin came back through the door.

"Well, I've soothed the poor plates' injured feelings, and they are happily on the shelf where they belong, " she replied through clenched teeth. "And now would you mind telling me--"
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Old 03-19-2004, 02:17 PM   #279
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“I’ll tell you anything you want,” said Ærosylle… “But first, did you make sure the plates were perfectly comfortable?” she asked, glancing towards the kitchen. At Mellonin’s nod, Ærosylle continued, “I think I lived in Gondor…I should have flown…this was such a long way away. Have you ever tried to fly?” she asked, leaning towards them, and rocking violently in her chair.

“No…people can’t fly,” said Mellonin.

“Just because we have wings doesn‘t mean we can‘t fly,” said Ærosylle. “I suppose you must be wondering why I would come to an inn that is so far away from my river weeds. That’s how I made the paper,” she added. “But I heard word of the Seventh Star Inn from some traveller. Have you ever stared at the stars at night?”

They nodded.

“I suppose I was rather hoping that this Inn would be a star, even though I knew it wouldn’t.” She laughed and laid another piece of paper onto the table, before she was rapidly sketching again. “The Corsairs shouldn’t have killed her,” she said as she scratched away. “As if she could have stood against them! I suppose that that just goes to show their cowardice.”

Underneath the quill pen swarthy men with rich armour leaped from their black sailed boats to the shore, attacking a squadron of Gondorian troops. Bodies were trampled to earth, one fell with an arrow in his throat; in the distance a Mumak appeared, lumbering its way to join the battle.

The pen dropped from Ærosylle’s fingers, and she glanced towards Raefindan and Mellonin. “So many people die,” she said. Her grey eyes dimmed with tears, and her voice became shrill. “Gondor couldn’t stand for long -- the king didn’t return soon enough.” She flipped the parchment so that the sketchy drawing was facing Mellonin and Raefindan. With a trembling finger she pointed to a fallen Gondorian soldier. His raven hair was a tangled mass, his cheeks were slashed, yet, through the veil of blood, there was a small, wistful smile haunting his lips. “My grandfather,” Ærosylle said, tapping the drawing with her finger as she rocked back and forth.

Twirling her hair, she looked at Mellonin and said, “What did you want me to tell you?”

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Old 03-19-2004, 04:28 PM   #280
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"Er, well, " Mellonin began. And then she leaned over to Raefindan, and whispered, "What's the matter with her?"

Raefindan glared at her again, and whispered back through clenched teeth, "She's not well. Be gentle with her."

Mellonin's eyebrows went up, her mouth formed into an "O", and then she leaned closer still, and her lips formed the word moonstruck. Her eyes filled with fear.

Raefindan sighed.

"Is this what happened to my brother?"

Raefindan shrugged, and Mellonin calmed slightly, her eyes going from the girl to Raaefindan and back again, realizing that he knew more about this than she did.

"I don't know. Ærosylle, where did you live when you were a little girl?" Raefindan asked patiently.

"In the reeds."

"So... by the riverside?"

She nodded.

"Do you have family there, or friends?" Raefindan asked.
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