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Old 01-28-2007, 02:41 PM   #681
littlemanpoet
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"These are Lefun and Ritun," answered Falco.

This Léof was a smart one. Falco appreciated that. He'd seen the nudge from the older boy to the younger, and that it had made little difference. This Javan was obviously a sheltered lad who needed to see the world a bit more than he had till now. These thoughts passed through his mind in a moment as he introduced the twins.

"They've been making do as best they could out by the ruins that Garmund and I - and your older brother Thornden -" he glanced Javan's way to include him "- went to just yesterday. We found 'em there and we asked 'em if they'd like to come on by here and live better. Right?" Falco looked to the twins for their nods.

Ritun, who was situated behind Lefun, nodded his head while his brother spoke.

"Asked to come we wert, and said aye."

"There you have it," Falco said. "So what duties are you leaving unattended to come gawk?"

“We’re not leaving any duties,” Javan blurted out. “I mean, we were just grooming some horses. We came because we heard someone screaming.” He finally looked away from Lefun and Ritun and his eyes settled on Falco. They were still as round as saucers and nearly as large. Falco’s face wore a look of unveiled annoyance and Javan swallowed, abruptly realizing that he was still staring, even if it wasn’t at the twins. He dropped his gaze and looked at the ground, sending small glances up at the hobbit and then at Lefun and Ritun. “What did she scream for?” he asked.

Falco pointed at Lefun and Ritun with his thumb. "Because she saw these two unexpected like. But she's fine now and so are we, and there's your answer. Now off you run back to your duties so's the twins an' I can sit in peace back here."

The two boys did not leave.

"Well? What are you waiting for?"

Léof was frowning. "For better courtesy, sir!"

Falco's eyes had their turn at going wide. "Well, I guess you're right. Well then, please do accept my apology for my annoyed words. And if you would please excuse us, we will retire to the bower. Good day!" Falco turned and began walking to the Alder Tree Court.

His words were hardly better, as their meaning was no different than the first time; but the form was right enough. The two boys finally turned away and went back to the stables, not without frowning glances.

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Old 01-29-2007, 02:17 AM   #682
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What moments ago was a stinging pain on Ginna's palm had diminished to a dull throb. Frodides was right - the wound wasn't deep. Ginna had watched as blood spilled generously from the cut, swirling, staining the water pink, and then, overwhelmed by it, vanishing. Now the spectacle of liquid converging with liquid was over, leaving the water to dance contentedly by itself as Ginna's fingers wriggled in its midst, delighting in its soothing coolness.

Ginna turned to watch Frodides sweep away the debris on the floor. Stupid girl, of course there's a broom, she silently berated herself. She looked again at her wound. It still smarted a bit, but once bandaged she knew it would no longer be a bother. She had been hurt worse.

The last traces of the broken dishes had disappeared beneath the broom, and along with it came a little of Ginna's guilt and shame. Perhaps, she thought, Frodides was not at all as stern as she first appeared. What the Lord Eodwine - and her father - had to say on what happened she was yet to hear, but for the moment she was spared from the judgment. It was as though Frodides knew exactly how she felt.

"Thank you," Ginna sighed, supposedly meant for her ears alone, but too deep in her own thoughts she did not hear how silent the kitchen had become.
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Old 01-29-2007, 12:13 PM   #683
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The new turn in the conversation had Kara fascinated. She had never met a Dwarf until Náin arrived at the Hall and so knew very little about them. The idea that someone could be considered young at 53 was amazing to her. Why, Frodides wasn't a great many years from that age and Kara thought of her as an old woman!

"Dwarves must live to a great age then. For you to be considered the same age as I am you would have to live at least twice as long." She commented.

"That is true," he replied with a nod, "and when war or other troubles do not cause us to die earlier than we should we do live longer than humans."

Kara paused for a moment to ponder on what those other troubles could be. She had never heard of a Dwarf getting sick, though perhaps they were like the men of her own home town who would force themselves into the fields despite raging fevers rather than admit they were ill. A more burning question than that was in her mind though, and she chose to ask that instead.

"Is that why you don't make friends with them? Humans I mean. Because you would be sad to lose their company when they die and you don't?"

The question seemed to startle Náin as he didn't reply immediately. Suddenly worried that perhaps this was something he would rather not have thought of Kara made to change the subject again, but was interrupted by the Dwarf's thoughtful answer.
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Old 01-31-2007, 08:22 PM   #684
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"Is that why you don't make friends with them? Humans I mean. Because you would be sad to lose their company when they die and you don't?"

Náin was, as Kara seemed to perceive, startled by her question, but unlike some of the previous topics discussed, he did not find this to be an uncomfortable topic, though it did merit thought.

"No..." said Náin uncertainly, pausing in his stride to consider. They were standing amid the old Gondorian ruins by now, and Náin found the ancient, crumbing masonry an aid to clarifying his thought.

"It is a truth that certainly does not encourage our interaction," admitted Náin, on second thought, "but I do not think it is the full tale. Much has been said of the secrecy of the Dwarves by your peoples, and there is some truth to them. The keeping of secrets, once entrusted, and the preservation of who we are as a people is deeply important to a Dwarf. Men, by contrast, betray lightly secrets a Dwarf would hold to his death. And Man is always looking forward to new horizons, new seasons, and new ways of doing things. This is hard for a Dwarf to perceive. If something is not broken, we do not seek to replace it."

"But Dwarves are supposed to be clever artificers," said Kara. "I'd have thought you liked tinkering with things."

"With things, yes," said Náin, leaning on a low stone wall, and looking not at Kara, but at the White Mountains behind them. "With tools and toys and trinkets. But with home and culture?" He shook his head. "We would not rest after we were expelled from Erebor, for it was our home and it was how life was meant to be. Even a thousand years and more since Khazad-dûm was barred to our return, we have felt exiled. Our tongue changes not over the centuries, nor do we forget our histories or our families. We are like rocks, changing only slightly over time."

Náin turned back to Kara, who was not looking at the mountains, but watching him.

"Great friendships have been struck between Men and Dwarves before," he continued. "The entire nations of Dale and Erebor testify to this. You are correct that it is not easy for a Dwarf to lose a friend in what seems a cruelly premature fashion. We do not befriend easily, nor do we take to the loss of friendship easily."
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Old 02-02-2007, 10:30 PM   #685
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Having received Marenil's answer, Eodwine thanked him and left the Mead Hall with Randvér, who wanted to see his friend and Eorl's new estate, such as it was. Eodwine was somewhat embarrassed to show his friend the parts of the Mead Hall holding that still strongly resembled an Inn rather than an Eorl's keep. However, Randvér had made Eodwine's acquaintance during the War, when he had just come from the Gap of Rohan as a mere farmer and freeholder. So Randvér was quick with praise at Eodwine's good fortune in having risen so high.

"You have served your King well, and he has rewarded you."

"More than I deserve," Eodwine replied.

"Question not the wisdom of the king when his gifts come into your hands. He knows what he does and why."

"I give in!" Eodwine laughed.

"But now, friend Eorl, you have a new problem. 'Tis the same as mine. You need another wife."

Eodwine's shoulders slumped. Not this again. "Rand, I have been through two attempts, as it were, to find a marriageable woman, and both times came to nothing."

"So you will try no more?"

"I did not say that!" Eodwine looked about him for some excuse to change the subject. "There! You see the new paddock. Do you think it large enough?"

They leaned on the rails, taking in the late spring sun, talking of many other things as well as the day drew toward noon.
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Old 02-05-2007, 05:01 PM   #686
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Suppertime

The sun was moving toward setting. Eodwine had seen Randvér off, who, though Eodwine had tried to convince him to stay, had wished to be back home not long after nightfall. "Take care of my daughter," he had said, "and do not fear to whip some sense into her."

"Whip? I should think not!"

"Do not relent from needful discipline, then."

"I will do what must be done, friend Randvér. Trust me."

"I do! 'Tis her I do not trust. Fare well!"

Shaking his head, Eodwine had watched him ride off away. As he watched, he saw the blacksmith twins making their way from their shop to the Mead Hall.

"Greetings, Garreth! Greetings Harreld!"

"Good even to you!" they replied.

The three traded the day's news as they walked into the Mead Hall, and found a table near the kitchen.

"Is that two headed man still around?" asked Garreth warily.

"No. There is no two headed man. There are twins who are joined at the waist, whose names are Lefun and Ritun. Now stop being such orcs about it and let be! They are twins as much as you, except that they have had the misfortune of having to share the same pair of legs."

"Hmmm," Harreld murmured, "maybe it would be good to have a talk with them. It might be good to get to know another pair of twins, no matter how many or few legs they have between them."

"That's the spirit!" Eodwine clapped.

"Fine, fine, fine," Garreth said. "I'm hungry and thirsty. Where's that Kara?"

"Off for the day," Eodwine replied, "but we have a stand in. I should think she'll be out and about shortly."

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Old 02-07-2007, 05:15 PM   #687
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"So lads, how was your day?", Stigend asked the two dirty and grim-looking boys as they came to the table with their bowls. Without a word or a glance they both started spooning their soups. It seemed neither of them was exactly willing to answer Stigend's question.

"Proper work makes a hungry man..." Garstan said in amusement and smiled to Stigend who nodded him back approvingly.

"But you know what? I can already write the letters A, D, E, F and G!" Leothern who was also sitting at the table declared full of pride. "And tomorrow I will learn a lot more!"

"Hush, Leothern!", Garstan turned to his daughter with a look that made her turn back to her own bowl.

..........
The boys had spent their day at shepherd Ordulf's place just outside the town. He had asked for men to hire from the Mead Hall to help him with the shearing yesterday but lord Eodwine had then had to turn him back emptyhanded as the renovation was taking all the men in the Hall and there were no free hands to spare. So lord Eodwine had been most relieved when he had heard the plan of Garstan and Stigend this morning. He had been happy enough to actually give the men freedom to bargain a deal with Ordulf as they saw fit.

The fathers had taken the two somewhat resisting boys to Ordulf's place after breakfast. The old shepherd was delighted with his new, although unexperienced farmhands. He would have the boys for five days and learn them the trade. He was also given free hands with the discipline as long he would stay reasonable, and he should provide the boys with a lunch once a day. Garstan and Stigend were offering the labour for free but Ordulf insisted that the Mead Hall would get at least one lamb for it's help to him. He also suggested that if the boys would turn out handy helpers he would provide them with enough of their self-sheared wool to make two small winterjackets out of. The fathers had approved the deal and thanked the shepherd from his generosity and Old Ordulf begged the men to send his warm thanks to the lord of the Mead Hall.

..........
The boys were back now after their first actual day of work in their life.

Neither seemed to be in too high spirits and they seemed to concentrate only in their eating. But soon their bowls were licked clean from every last drop in them and all the crumbs of bread had been picked by their little but dirty fingers. They clearly couldn't prolong it anymore.

"I'm tired dad... Can I go to sleep?", Cnebba asked his father looking straight into his eyes, now using his begging expression Stigend had always found so hard to resist. But here, in front of all the others he had to colden his heart and take a firmer stance.

"Well, you two tell us how your day went first. You may possibly have a bit lighter go with your evening studies today as it's your first day... I quess?", Stigend searched for any compassion or backing from Garstan's eyes, but wasn't too sure of his expression.

"Did the sheep stink as bad as you two do?", Leothern asked, attempting a purely curious tone in her voice.
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Old 02-07-2007, 08:18 PM   #688
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Knowing well that Lèoðern's voice held poorly hidden merriment, Garmund frowned. "It's not so funny. You'd stink too if you had to fight the sheep."

"Fight the sheep? The nice little lambs? Why would you do that?" Now she was laughing.

"They aren't so nice when you're trying to take their wool," he grumbled. Garmund snatched a leftover heel of bread and tore it with his fingers. He was still hungry, never having worked so hard in a day before in his life.

"Surely the work cannot have been as bad as that?" Garstan asked.

"Yes it could," Garmund said, shooting a glare at Cnebba. "But it didn't have to be. It didn't start out quite as bad as it turned out to be."

"It wasn't my fault!" Cnebba protested.

"Yes it was. You let go."

"You nicked her skin and she twisted away!"

Stigend, seeing a fresh quarrel brewing, interrupted. "Now boys. Don't fight. What happened? From the beginning."

The boys glared at each other for a moment. Then Garmund began to tell the story.

"It wasn't so bad at first. Old Master Ordulf showed us how to shear the first sheep."

"Then we tried to shear a little while he helped us hold the shears."

"Then he said we could try ourselves while he watched."

They fell silent again, staring angrily.

"And then?" asked Garstan.

"Cnebba was trying to hold her and I had the shears..."

"And that's when the sheep got away."

"Yes. Do we have to go back?" The boys sounded glum.

Garstan looked at the boys, both amused and pitying.

"Well, you have had a hard day. But nothing worth having comes with ease. I think you, Garmund, must go back for the rest of the week. And I think that you will find that the job is easier if you can learn to work well with Cnebba. As to the lessons for tonight, I have not decided. I am not sure that you can pay mind to your book well after a long day of work. What do you think, Stigend?"
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:53 AM   #689
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Frodides had left Ginna to her own thoughts while she swept up the mess on the floor. After all, a little bit of peace and quiet would do the girl good after the shock she'd just had. Even so, she had kept a close eye on her as she'd bustled around the kitchen making just enough noise that her presence would remain obvious. Frodides had seen the look on Ginna's face as she had met her father's disapproving eyes, and she didn't think anyone who looked as devastated as Ginna had at that moment should be left to their own devices. But it was at a moment when Frodides had her back to her newest charge that Ginna finally seemed to come back to reality.

"Thank you." Came the soft voice, and Frodides turned to see Ginna lazily stirring her hand around in the bowl. 'Perhaps not quite back with us yet.' The cook thought with a small smile, as Ginna wasn't even looking at her.

"You're welcome." She said aloud, and allowed the smile to grow as the girl jumped and shot a startled look in her direction, a blush spreading over her face as she realised that she had been heard. "Now let's take a look at that hand."

Ginna had lifted her hand carefully from the water and allowed Frodides to inspect it, salve it and bandage it with little more than a wince. Carefully she experimented with it, wiggling her fingers and making a fist, smiling as she found that she could do both without it hurting too badly.

"Better?" Frodides had asked, receiving an enthusiastic nod in return. "Good. Then shall we get on with what we were doing before? It's getting closer to suppertime now and I could still use some help."

"Are you sure you want me to help?" The girl had replied, fidgeting nervously as she spoke. "I - I made such a mess last time."

"And no doubt you will again. You're learning, and you're not yet used to the strange happenings that go on here. Just wait though, and you'll soon find that a Hobbit with three feet attached to his head could wander through this kitchen and you'd not bat an eyelid."

Ginna had smiled at the image even as she shook her head in disbelief, and the apparent confidence that Frodides was showing in her soon had her following orders and helping with preparations as best she could. The two had worked quietly but comfortably until suppertime had arrived, and were just preparing to begin taking the evening meal out to the Hall when Ginna spoke up again.

"Frodides, am I to serve all this by myself? I don't yet know what I am doing, and I don't know how much I can carry at once."

A sigh escaped Frodides' lips as she considered her answer. Of course the girl shouldn't be working alone. With an injured hand on top of inexperience there was no telling what kind of mishaps would occur. But what was she to do? Kara was gone, Saeryn who had so kindly helped when needed was gone, and even Modtryth ...

"Another new arrival? Frodides your kitchen will soon be overflowing with workers!"

Eyes moving toward the door Frodides saw the welcome figure of the woman she had just been thinking about. Quickly relieving her of cloak and basket she explained the situation and received a promise of help in answer.

"Alright Ginna, Modtryth shall be your guide for this evening. Let her help you and learn as you go."

Putting a tray of bowls of soup into Ginna's hands and plates of bread into Modtryth's she sent them on their way before a reply could come from either and went back to work, praying that there wouldn't be another disaster before the day was through.
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Old 02-09-2007, 01:48 PM   #690
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Stigend was relieved to hear Garstan’s words. “I do agree with you on this”, he said and nodded to him. Then he turned his gaze to towards the boys again.

“You seem to be still hungry lads?”

Both boys nodded after they had first checked quickly each others intentions. Neither seemed to wish to be the only one admitting the hunger.

“I still can’t believe you wasted your whole day shearing that one sheep, even if you had to give it a good chase...” He studied the boys trying to find clues from their expressions. Both boys were trying to pull a stone face.

“So how about this? You tell us the rest of the day’s adventures and then you’ll get something more to eat? And we'll skip your studying today.” He glanced hastily at Garstan and he seemed to agree.

Garmund and Cnebba exchanged suspicious looks.

“Cnebba couldn’t hold the sheep still. That’s why I couldn’t shear them!”, Garmund exclaimed.

“That was because you were nicking them all the time! It was all your own fault.” Cnebba snapped back.

“C’mon now children!” Garstan came in between. “Now surely Ordulf saw all this. Didn’t he make you try the other way around?”

The boys were quiet for a while looking away from their fathers and each other in some embarrassement. After a short silence it was Cnebba who began this time.

“Unlike him, I learned to use the shear blades!” He threw a face at Garmund.

“Oh, did you! That was just because I could hold them still!” Garmund protested and returned the face to Cnebba.

Garstan and Stigend exchanged looks in amusement.

“So how many sheep did you shear today?” Stigend asked the boys as they had frozen still after noticing their fathers’ amusement. They looked a bit confused and were seemingly both struggling to come up with a figure.

“It was fourteen we did”, Cnebba said eventually.

“Huh! Fourteen? It was fifteen!”, Garmund disagreed strongly.

“You can’t even count!” Cnebba called him back.

“Just wait and I’ll show you some counting!” Garmund shouted.

“Okay, listen now you two!” Stigend said loudly enough for the boys to stop their bickering. “It looks that you have not fared too bad after all, so what’s all the hassle now? If you learn to pull it together it will be an easy week for you two, and you’ll get the nice wintercoats for it. I’ll promise we will find someone who will turn your wool into coats. If you're worthy of the wool... So think about it.”

The boys looked at their fathers and then carefully at each other. Garmund especially had to check Garstan's expression and Garstan nodded to him in approval of Stigend's words.

“Now go and get some more bread and soup to yourselves before you starve to death”, Garstan said and gave a short laugh. Stigend had to really concentrate not to burst himself before the boys had left to get something more to eat.

After they had chuckled a moment Stigend turned towards his friend.

“They truly seem to be like fighting cocks, but I guess we may succeed in this. You saw their shuffling and shifting when it came to things where they had succeeded today?”

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Old 02-09-2007, 03:08 PM   #691
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Eodwine was at table with Garreth and Harreld when Modtryth and Ginna came into the Mead Hall with trays of food and drink. Eodwine saw that Ginna had got her hand wrapped, which was good.

"Well looka there!" Garreth was half whispering behind him.

"I see her," Harreld said. "In fact, I saw her first."

"I spoke of her first," Garreth shot back.

Eodwine turned about and leveled his gaze at both of the black smithing twins. "She's the daughter of a friend of mine from the War. She's likely not marriagable to the likes of you, being a landholder's daughter. So don't get your hopes up or go about strutting and showing off by word or deed, do you hear?"

"Now Eodwine!" Garreth protested. "What do you think we are? Desperate?"

"Yes," he answered, "that's exactly what the two of you are."

Garreth pulled a face, not having expected to be pinned down so easily by his own words. Then he glanced at his brother, whose eyes were still glued to Ginna. He scowled and smacked Harreld aback of the head.

"Ow! What'd you do that for!" Harreld tried to return the slap but Garreth fended it off with an elbow.

"Didn't you hear the Eorl? None of that leering!"

"Leering! Leering!!" Harreld looked indignant. "I was doing no such thing." He resumed staring, his eyes going dovey. "She's a beauty."

"Ah, that trashes it!" said Garreth. "He's gone moony just like that."

Eodwine turned away and snickered, hoping the twins couldn't see him do it. He raised his hand and called to Modtryth for food and drink. Before long Modtryth, with Ginna in tow, was headed in their direction.
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Old 02-11-2007, 04:25 PM   #692
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"So I did, Stigend." Garstan's eyes still glinted merrily. "They know well that they spent their day better in work together than they would have in their bickering, but they would rather keep their fight than show it." Garstan laughed again, shaking his head. "What a pair of proud boys we have. But they cannot keep it forever if they have more good luck together."

"I think they're just silly," Lèoðern commented airily.

"Who's silly?" Garmund came around the table with a fresh bowl of soup and a small dish of bread.

"You are." Lèoðern made a face.

In better spirits after his first helping and with Cnebba still away from the table, Garmund pointed at his sister's bowl in mock gravity. "Ha. I say it's silly to not have finished your soup by now. Last one finished is the silliest."

The children began eating as fast as they could.
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Old 02-12-2007, 03:01 AM   #693
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Ginna followed Modtryth into the Hall cautiously; one accident was more than enough for her first day. But for the most part she was looking out for her father, because she was not sure she was ready to see him together with the lord.

Eodwine, seated with two men Ginna had not yet met (twins, and normal-looking ones, she was marvelled and relieved to observe), called to Modtryth, and a glance at him told Ginna what she wanted to know: her father had gone. And without even saying goodbye. She felt an unexpected pang of sadness but bitterly shrugged it off. It was better that way, she told herself, they had embarrassed each other enough.

The lord noticed her searching gaze. "Your father had left, Ginna," he said aloud. "He wished to be home not too late, and did not want to bother you and Frodides." Ginna suppressed a grunt, nodding instead. Glancing at the two unfamiliar men, she made to put the tray she carried down in front of them, beside the plates of bread Modtryth had brought.

As she did so, her arms brushed against the outstretched ones of the twins, both of whom chose that moment to reach for the bread. She instinctively drew back, blushing a little at the blunder, and smiled to indicate that no harm had been done.

The men looked up at her. "I don't think I quite caught your name," one of them said. "Where are your manners, Lord Eodwine?"

"My name is Ginna," she responded before Eodwine could say a word. "I came here just this morning, and I will be your new serving wench. Which reminds me...if you will excuse us."

She bowed slightly, and turned to walk back to the kitchen with Modtryth. She felt a flutter in her chest, and an awkward sensation of being watched. Those looks - Ginna knew them. Indeed they were all too familiar, and it worried her to see them there. There, of all places.

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Old 02-12-2007, 08:30 PM   #694
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"Oh no," mumbled Garreth into his ale cup. "Look who's coming."

Harreld and Eodwine craned their necks as circumspectly as the occasion allowed, except that it was Falco with Ritun and Lefun stumping behind, coming from the back door that led to the Alder Court.

"Time for first supper!" cried Falco as he took the chair right next to Eodwine. "Here you go, Rilef!" he said slapping the seat beside him while the blacksmith twins shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.

"Falco," said Eodwine, "call them by their right names out of courtesy!"

"Nay but they don't mind it a wit!" Falco rejoined. "It's easier!"

"I'm sure it is, but I'm not so sure they don't mind." Eodwine turned to the conjoined twins. "Would you not rather be called by your own names?"

"Rilef calls us both," Ritun said, shrugging his shoulders, while Lefun nodded.

Eodwine sighed. "Very well."

Modtryth came by, and Eodwine asked her for food for the three newly at the board.

"Where is Ginna?" Garreth asked Modtryth.

"In the kitchen," Modtryth replied evenly.

Harreld cuffed Garreth on the shoulder. "You leave the new wench be, brother. She's work to do. This here good wife can serve us well enough."

"And since when are you all of a care about who serves us?" Garreth asked pointedly.

Harreld's head sunk and he stared into his ale cup, muttering something unintelligible.

"You're all moony," Garreth declared.
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Old 02-13-2007, 09:22 AM   #695
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There was too much going on. There was this new serving wench Ginna who Modtryth had hardly even met and with who she really ought to talk with. Then there was little Cnebba, just returned from day's work. Modtryth was curious to hear what he had to say about his first day at the shepherd's (and what would be Garmund's version of it). And of course there was work to do.

Modtryth hurried to the kitchen to fetch food for the newly arrived. Frodides was there, as always, looking after the food. As soon as the old cook saw Modtryth approaching she started to ladle food out from the pot to bowls. "How many?" she asked. "Rilef and Falco, that makes two, no, three", Modtryth replied. Putting the bowls on a tray Modtryth asked: "Where's the newcomer girl? Didn't she come here? I'd like to have a few words with her." "Oh, I sent her to fetch water from the well", Frodides replied. "And don't you girls start your nice little chit-chats after the meal's over, for I can't surely look after the food and do all the serving!" "Of course not", Modtryth replied, smiling and left the kitchen with the tray.
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Old 02-16-2007, 09:49 AM   #696
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"What!?" Garreth cried, his arms flying up, for Harreld had stoood up of a sudden.

"I need the latrine," he said under his breath.

"What for? Since when can't you hold your ale?"

"Shush!" Harreld said.

"Oh, I know where you're off to!" Garreth gibed.

Those at the table watched Harreld stomp off out of the Mead Hall, and turn left.

"Latrine's the other way!" Garreth shouted. Harreld turned around just long enough for everybody to see him look indignant and go very, very red in the face. Then he went into the kitchen.

"What's going on?" Falco asked.

"Nothing," Eodwine said, looking squarely at the Hobbit. The last thing he wanted was for Master Boffin to get his hobbit gossipy tongue going on this little tidbit. He rounded on Garreth, whose mouth was open ready to spit out exactly what he was thinking. "And you keep your mouth shut, Gar!"

Garreth looked stunned. "What did I do?"

~*~

Harreld made his way into, and through the kitchen. Only the cook was there, and she asked what he was wanting.

"The latrine."

"Out back!" said the cook.

Harreld made his escape through the far door and took a look around. He had never been in this part of the place before. There was a nice little courtyard a-making, with a nice slender tree in the middle of it, giving off shade. There was a bench under the tree, big enough for a few people, and there was somebody sitting on it. He took a step closer, fearing and hoping and forgetting how to think.

It was her. She turned and saw him. His tongue quit working. His brain was suddenly turned to useless sponge. He stared.
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Old 02-17-2007, 08:30 PM   #697
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The jar from which Ginna had practised pouring water into cups that morning stood on the ground by her feet, once again filled with water. She knew Frodides would want her back in the kitchen quickly, as those newly come were yet to be served, but Ginna had to take a breather. Apparently her wound had not yet completely healed; the pain had returned after her effort to lift the heavy jug. It was a good thing Modtryth was there to help Frodides.

Sitting on the bench, she closed her eyes and exhaled lightly, as the throbbing in her hand continued. She had had a tiring day, one she would have to get used to, but the physical exhaustion was nothing compared to the emotional confusion she now felt. No, now's not the time to think about it. She had work to do.

Ginna slowly, reluctantly opened her eyes. She was about to stand when again she sensed someone watching her; it was an ability she had picked up and almost perfected from experience. She turned, and saw one of the twins, the one who had not talked to her. Staring.

She quickly averted her eyes and stood. She stooped and lifted the jug from the ground - too quickly, she realised, as a fresh wave of pain came to her wounded hand. The jug slipped, and if not for her quick reflexes the water would have spilled.

"Let me-" a concerned, uncertain voice came from the direction of the man, who ran approaching. She looked up.

"I'm sorry; my father told me not to speak to strangers."

The man went red as a beet. "Oh. Sorry, I won't bother you further." He turned to walk quickly away.

"Sir!" Ginna called. He stopped and turned. "If I will be serving you regularly, I should at least know your name."

"Oh. Yes. Garrold." He winced. "I mean Harreth." He winced double hard and shook his head furiously. "No! I am called Harreld." If before he had seemed beet red in the face, now he was three shades more crimson yet. "Good day." He turned to leave again.

Ginna felt a blush creeping through her own cheeks looking at the poor man. Was there any way she could make him feel more comfortable? "Please, and what of the man who had been beside you on the table, whom I can only assume is your twin brother? Surely I will be serving him as well?"

Harreld scowled. "He is called Garreth. Yes, he is my twin. He is -" He paused, seeming a bit reluctant to talk of him. "He is - quicker to speak than I." He paused again, his face working in some emotion Ginna could not discern. "He speaks too quickly sometimes."

"What do you do?"

"We're smiths." And without warning, he placed his hands on the water-filled jar left on the ground between them.

"What are you doing?" Ginna asked politely, with a hint of shyness in her voice.

"I will carry it for you, if you don't--"

Ginna had placed her hands on Harreld's, and she felt them loosen their grip on the jar at her touch. She saw Harreld, blushing more heavily than ever, look at her bandaged hand.

"B-but--"

Ginna took advantage of his loosened grip and gently pried off his fingers from the jar, placing hers on where they had been. Effortlessly, it seemed as she ignored the pain, she lifted the jar. Harreld gaped at her.

"Don't worry about me, Harreld, I'll be fine. Maybe you should go back to the Hall; your brother might be waiting for you."

She turned and walked back to the kitchen, her hair lightly swaying behind her.

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Old 02-24-2007, 03:05 PM   #698
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Thornden arrived rather late to the dinner table. He had been long with the books, running over the figures of money coming in and out. He had set to the job early that afternoon and had finally come to the end of his task. He quietly got his serving from Modtryth and went to take a seat.

He had hardly begun to eat his meal when Javan and Léof came in through the door together. They went and received their food and as they came back, he called to them and waved them over. As they took their seats opposite him, he asked them how their day went.

“I enjoyed myself,” Javan said at once. “We got to brush the horses a lot, though we didn’t have much time to excerisize them.”

Thornden nodded and glanced at Léof. “Was he much help, Léof?”

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Old 02-25-2007, 03:35 PM   #699
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Léof was only too grateful when Thornden waved them over to sit with him as it saved them from any awkwardness that might result from sitting too near Lefun and Ritun. Léof was not at all eager to repeat the morning’s experience, which he felt had ended only slightly better than it had began. He had briefly glanced over at them again as he followed Javan to meet Thornden and nearly shivered. He couldn’t help it – even if they were friendly, they (he supposed he ought to think of them in the plural) looked too much like something that would count for a monster in a children’s tale. He could just imagine it: the red-eyed two-headed monster that ate babies out of their cradles… Now that was absurd, and Léof felt guilty for even thinking such a thing. They could not have helped the circumstances of their birth any more than he could… but the thought wouldn’t go away.

Now he turned his mind to the conversation at hand, just as Thornden was asking, “Was he much help, Léof?”

Léof nodded slightly. “He was – or at least, he will be. He has a few things to learn first, but at this point I’d say that the arrangement will work out well. I’m still trying to figure out his skills – such as, I told him that sometime this week we would go out riding. We’ll see.”
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Old 02-26-2007, 01:26 PM   #700
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“That’s what I can’t wait for,” Javan said, beginning to shovel the food into his mouth. “He said that after he sees if I can handle the horses I’ll be able to do more.” That wasn’t exactly what Lèof had said, but Javan had probably forgotten. “He also said that we might be able to teach the horses how to jump.”

“I did not say that!” Lèof cried, stopping with his hand midway between his plate and his mouth to look at Javan.

“Well, I think you were going to, before that girl screamed and we ran out to see what was wrong,” Javan said, looking sideways at him as he continued to eat.

Thornden looked from Javan to Lèof and back. A small smile twitched at the corners of his mouth as he saw the mischievous glimmer in Javan’s eye. Of course Lèof had not said anything like that. At least...Thornden hoped he had not. But Thornden did not think that his brother would let it rest. He did not know Javan extremely well, but he knew him well enough to know that the boy loved adventure of any sort. He’d have to watch him and make sure that nothing dangerous or damaging happened.

But jumping the horses was not really Thornden's concern or business. He would say nothing, until Lèof had answered, and only do so then if Javan made another contradiction or argument.
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Old 02-28-2007, 04:11 PM   #701
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“No, I wasn’t,” Léof replied firmly. “It’s not a good idea, Javan.” He glanced over at Thornden, who thankfully did not seem to be taking Javan’s rendition of what Léof had said seriously.

Javan was frowning and there was a stubborn set to his jaw. “But - ”

“But nothing,” Léof cut in. “We aren’t jumping the horses.” He hated to sound so harsh, but why had Javan had to bring this up again? Léof had thought it was settled. And now, to start the argument in front of Thornden… Léof still did not feel so secure that he was above wanting to make a good impression on Thornden, all the more so when it was his brother they were talking about. If not for Thornden’s presence, Léof might have softened his words with a, “maybe just a small jump,” or “some other time.” It did not help, either, that Javan was starting to act like a spoiled child, in Léof’s eyes. In truth, if Javan would just accept it, Léof would readily change his mind if there didn’t see any reason not to. It probably wouldn’t matter, though, and this would all blow over, Léof hoped. And Javan had seemed at least responsible enough not to do anything reckless or stupid. Maybe Javan would even forget about the whole matter.
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Old 03-01-2007, 01:55 AM   #702
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Ginna found Frodides alone in the kitchen when she returned from the well.

"Where's Modtryth?" she asked as she put down the heavy water jug on the table, much to the relief of her wounded hand. She quickly checked the bandage. It was still in place, and without a trace of blood she was relieved to find. There was only the throbbing.

"In the Hall," the cook replied, placing a tray of freshly baked bread beside the jug, "serving those who have just arrived. What took you so long? You know we need your--"

She looked up just in time to catch Ginna letting go of her bandaged hand. Concern flooded out her preoccupation. "Your hand bled again? Well it was my fault for--"

"No, no," Ginna interrupted, holding out her palm to Frodides. "It just hurts a little, but I'm fine." She answered her questioning glance with a smile, then reached out for the tray in front of her. Frodides did not seem reassured.

"Are you sure you'll be fine? I don't mean your hand," she added when Ginna opened her mouth to speak. "The twins are out there."

Can she read minds? Ginna wondered. She had just been hoping (in vain, she knew) that Garreth and Harreld would no longer be in the Hall when she went out there again. Or perhaps Frodides saw her and Harreld and heard their exchange? Her heart skipped a beat at the thought.

Frodides seemed to have seen the puzzled expression on her face. "Lefun and Ritun," she elaborated. Ginna thought for a moment, then laughed - half at the memory of that morning's events, half in relief.

"It was just an initial shock. What happened this morning should be enough to teach me not to be frightened by them."

The cook smiled. "I better not hear that bloodcurdling scream again, then." She turned her back on Ginna, bowl in hand. Ginna left the kitchen carrying the tray of bread, and met Modtryth who was on her way back. "I'm sorry," she whispered to her, and the older woman smiled and waved it off.

Apart from Lefun and Ritun and the hobbit who was with them earlier that day, there were three other new people on the table: Lèofric, the ostler whom Ginna met that morning, a younger boy, and another man. Surely there are more females in this household than I've yet seen? Ginna thought. She caught a glimpse of Harreld staring down at his empty plate as though in a daze, and his twin Garreth was talking - or trying to talk - to him.

As she approached the table, Ginna took a good look at Lefun and Ritun, and was quite surprised to realise how quickly she grew accustomed to their appearance. They were no longer frightening, nor even half as strange as they seemed at first. The hobbit noticed her and scowled a bit; his companions followed his gaze. Ginna gently placed the tray in front of them, fighting down the blood rising to her cheeks.

"Good evening, Master Hobbit, Lefun, Ritun," she said loud enough just for them to hear amidst the scattered chattering. "I'd like to apologise for what happened this morning. Honestly, I meant no offence, and I promise it would never happen again."
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Old 03-02-2007, 10:20 PM   #703
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Thornden understood the situation entirely. The smile grew larger on his face and he looked down as Léof almost glared at Javan for a brief instant. But the ostler looked away almost at once. Thornden knew Léof well enough to know that he didn’t like giving such an absolute and hard no. Thornden glanced at his brother swiftly. Javan wanted to press his point and Thornden knew that it wouldn’t be nice of him to do so.

“Javan,” he said abruptly. The boy looked at him. “Léof has said no and you need to take that as your answer.”

“But-” Javan said again and even when Thornden looked a little harder at him, he still went on, but in a softer, more pleading of a tone. “It won’t hurt anything, Thornden. Please talk him into it.”

“Absolutely not. I have nothing to do with the horses here. You have been put under Léof’s authority in the job of keeping the horses and the stable, and you’re going to obey him without question.”

Javan shut his mouth and looked away. He didn’t feel like questioning his brother just then. Not when there was a hint of fierceness in his voice over the matter. He decided that it would be best to leave the idea of jumping the horses alone, at least for a while. He comforted himself with the thought that there would be other interesting things to do.

And with new ideas springing up in his mind, he set again to eating his supper. After a few bites, though, a new subject jumped to his mind. He leaned forward towards Thornden and half whispered, “Have you me those fellows over there?” He nodded his head towards Lefun and Ritun. Thornden scarcely moved his eyes in their direction and he positively scowled at Javan.

“Yes, I’ve met them. Sit up and be civil.”

“But are they…safe?” Javan hissed back.

“Lord Eodwine would not let anything unsafe in the hall,” Thornden muttered quietly, giving Javan an annoyed glare.

“He might have jumped in over his head this time,” Javan said, sitting back and returning to his meal. Thornden deemed it wise not to answer. “What do you think, Léof?” Javan asked after a momentary pause.
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Old 03-07-2007, 05:00 PM   #704
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Léof hesitated. He did not like being dragged into this disagreement between Thornden and Javan, and he did not know which was a more uncomfortable topic: jumping the horses or Lefun and Ritun. “Well, maybe…” said Léof. But when Javan seemed to take this as an agreement and about to tell Thornden so, Léof hastened to add, “But they could hardly help the way they were born. I think you ought to listen to your brother and trust Eodwine’s judgment. I highly doubt that the Hall is in any danger."

With that he returned to his meal, brooking no further discussion and hoping he could finish his plate in peace. The conversation could hardly get more touchy after all this.

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Old 03-12-2007, 12:58 PM   #705
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One day ends ...

Kara thought over Náin's answer carefully, feeling almost ashamed that she knew so little of the history and beliefs of his race. Even the words he used were foreign to her, and she marvelled that those words hadn't changed since the dawn of time when the tongue of her own folk changed with mere location. She wondered how much of his history Náin would be willing to share with her, for if it was all as intriguing as the little she had just learned she would be an eager student. But for now her thoughts were still concentrated on the question at hand.

"Why then do you choose to be friends with a human? What makes you decide that the friendship is worth the pain of the loss?"

Náin paused once again before answering Kara. Deep questions were worthy of equally deep answers, and as they were also questions he had not truly asked himself, he was not quite certain of the answer he could give.

"I am uncertain if you are referring to myself or to the entire Dwarven race," he said, stalling somewhat as he pondered the question. "If you refer to my entire people, I suppose it is unavoidable. The Lakemen have a saying that I have heard that no man is a puddle, by which they mean that we are all bodies of water joined by rivers and streams. We all have contact with ours. And this is as true of races as of individuals.

"For us Dwarves it began as simple practicality. We are poor farmers, and men were poor craftsmen. The situation has changed little. We continue to live most closely with men who provide us with food and whom we provide with goods of a quality they could not provide. And we are allies together in face of a greater enemy."

Náin was looking in Kara's direction, but his eyes did not seem to focus on her, as if they were looking far over the many leagues to the Lonely Mountain and his father's home.

"Though the relationship of Dwarves and Dalemen is mutually profitable and respectful, I would not say that many Dwarves have forged friendships with many Dalemen. Few of our race befriend those who are not Dwarves, and only then when they feel it merited. We give our loyalty only after serious thought, but it is then given for life."

The answer was thoughtfully given, yet Kara didn't feel to have gained a reply. Mutual need might give rise to alliance and even acquaintance, but friendship? She didn't think so.

"But what about you? Have you ever made friends with a human. Given them your loyalty?"

Dwarves do not generally flush in a perceptible way, due to their ruddy complexions, but Kara was almost sure that Náin got a touch redder. Náin, of course, had realised that he was talking to a human.

"Never before I came to Rohan," he said, clasping his hands behind his back as if he didn't know what else to do with them. "But since I have arrived... I am not sure. I had always assumed there was some special moment of change from mere acquaintance to loyal friendship. Now, I think I have learned better. There is no perceptible moment when a block of marble becomes a statue and ceases to be a block of marble."

Náin, who had generally been avoiding Kara's face, now looked her squarely in the eyes.

"I would be proud if you might call me such a loyal friend," he said, his often wavering and tentative voice as steady as the hills. "You have treated me with kindness, patience, and respect, and I would fain be able to return that as I might."

Kara was struck speechless at the unexpected and entirely flattering gesture. Her questions had come from mere curiosity, not any desire to discover whether Náin thought she was a friend. She wondered for a moment whether what she had said had caused Náin to feel that he had to offer her his friendship, but as she looked down into his serious face she realised such a suggestion was foolish. If she had learnt anything so far that day it was that Dwarves do not say things they do not mean. A smile graced her face as she finally found her voice and replied.

"And I would be proud to call you a friend, Náin. It is an honour to be regarded so highly that you would want me as one, and I will try to be worthy of your faith."

The Dwarf bowed his head in the shy manner that Kara had become used to, making his next words muffled, but still causing her smile to widen further.

"The honour is mine, and I have no doubt you will be a good friend."

"Well come then!" Kara said, pushing off the stone wall she had been leaning against. "Let us take lunch as friends so you don't have to carry that basket around all day."

It seemed that Náin was not averse to the idea, and the two sat by a small stream running through the midst of the old ruins, happily munching on all that Frodides had packed for them. It didn't take long for the meal to be finished, but as Kara stood to pack the basket again she realised that they must have spent more time out than they thought as the sun was already beginning to set.

"I'm sorry Náin, we might have to cut the journey short a little or we won't be back until long after dark."

Náin nodded gravely, and took a last glance at the ancient Gondorian ruins about them. They had not belonged to a fortress or great palace, but to a less grand, but equally enduring, homestead. The Dwarf thought it likely that this had been the main house of a large country estate, probably handed down in the same family for centuries. When had it finally been abandoned? In which invasion had the last son of the family failed to return? Which disease had driven the last settlers away?

"It has been a good day," said Náin. "I do not think it necessary to prolong it. And I would not keep you out past sundown. Though I think you have little to fear in my company, I would not deprive you of a full night's rest."

Kara laughed, mystifying Náin who had seen nothing amusing in the suggestion that there might be unsavoury sorts out to menace them, but the Dwarf said nothing, and took the basket from Kara. He had long since learned that humans laughed easily, and was no longer much concerned by it.

Sure that Náin had no inkling that her laughter had less to do with the idea that something might attack them but rather more to do with the other possible connotations of his words that she was sure Frodides would join her in a giggle over, Kara happily began the journey back to the Hall. They walked fast as the light was already almost gone, but it was still fully dark by the time they arrived. Seeing that the front doors were now closed they made their way around to the kitchen door, which always stood open until Frodides retired for the night, and slipped through it into the warmth.

"Ah!" Cried the old cook, catching sight of them at once. "I was wondering where you'd got to. How was your walk? And your lunch master Dwarf, was that acceptable? There are some who would have seen you go without it!"

Náin's brow wrinkled a bit.

"I do not take your meaning," he said. "Do you mean that someone wished to prevent us bringing lunch wiht us?"

It was a bit peculiar to consider, but Náin was more comfortable with Frodides than with most denizens of the Hall. Perhaps it was that her no-nonsense approach to things was more Dwarven than most. The look that Frodides gave him, however, was completely incomprehensible to the Dwarf, for some reason.

Unsure as to whether Náin honestly believed there was some conspiracy afoot that intended to stop people having lunch or whether he was, in his own way, joking, Frodides gave him a hard stare and gave in.

"Well, never mind. You had it and that's enough. Now then, I suppose you've noticed the rest of the Hall has already put themselves to bed - are you going to take some supper before you do the same or have you tired yourselves out enough for one day?"

Both Náin and Kara replied that they would in fact go right to bed, having eaten lunch late and not yet being hungry again.

"Alright then. Off with you." Frodides said as she shooed them out of the kitchen, blowing out the lamps as she went. "There are some new bodies around that'll need introducing but that can be done in the morning. Goodnight!"

And she disappeared before Kara had time to question her.

"Do you think she means new guests?" She asked, casting a quizzical look at Náin who simply shook his head in matching confusion. "Oh well, we'll find out tomorrow I suppose."

Standing now at the top of the stairs Kara was overcome by a wave of shyness. The day had been pleasant and she had greatly enjoyed learning so much about Dwarves and Náin himself, yet now she wasn't sure what to say.

"Umm, I - thank you," she began haltingly, "for a nice day out I mean. It was a lovely way to spend my day off and we must finish the walk one day. So, um, thank you and ... goodnight!"

Turning on the spot she headed to her room at a pace not quite fast enough to be called a run, but close to it, leaving Náin standing in puzzled silence.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:00 PM   #706
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Another begins

The inhabitants of the Hall awoke the next morning to an emptier house than was usual. The Lord Eodwine was nowhere to be found, and nor were the newcomers Lefun and Ritun. Even the little troublemaker Falco had seemingly disappeared. Those who came in for breakfast looked toward the empty table at which Eodwine usually sat with confusion, and it wasn't until a brave soul dared interrupt Frodides at work that the reason for the absence of so many was discovered.

"They're on a day trip." Was the snapped response to the query. "Eodwine wanted to see this place the twins have been living in so off they went this morning to have a look at it. And that Falco went along too. Not invited as I recall but he does have a nose for interesting happenings. Out you go now," she finished, forestalling any attempt at further questioning with a thinly veiled threat, "or there'll be no breakfast for you!"

The news spread fast, and by the time the last regular had arrived in the form of little Leodern asking to see her new friends there wasn't a soul who didn't know that the lord of the Hall was gone for the day. Only time would tell whether the place would burn to the ground without him.
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Old 03-12-2007, 01:03 PM   #707
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The Return of a General

Edoras came into view slowly, for neither the rider not the horse had a great deal of strength left for haste. He lifted his head slowly, and the barest traces of a smile cracked upon his wearied face. He was home at last. He had come back to Eomer, as he had promised he would.

The hard campaign against the outlaws in the Westfold had taken more than he could have dreamed out of him. His force had been ambushed, destroyed utterly by the villainous cutthroats of the wilds. He, as a general, had been taken captive. He had been tortured for many weeks, subjected to the most appalling pain, but he had not broken. It was not in his blood to do so. Eomer had entrusted him with a mission, and he would die before he broke his word to the king.

His horse clopped slowly up the long path towards the gate, and the rider lifted his head to see the banners of Rohan flying proudly in the wind. All was not lost, then. He had not escaped for nothing.

For escaped he had, one night, when the outlaws were roaring drunk, he had cut his bonds on a sword they had carelessly left lying by his bed. He had taken up the sword, dressed himself once more in his general’s armour, for they had kept it as part of the ransom on his life. Roaring a war cry, he had fallen upon the drunkards like the wrath of Helm Hammerhand himself. Drunk as they were, those that escaped his sword had fled. Exhausted, he had saddled one of their horses and started his ride for Edoras and King Eomer.

The sentries on the watch were struck dumb as they saw him approach. They had doubtless though him long dead, but with an almighty cry of “Open the gates!” they swarmed to let him in. He smiled, genuinely this time, the first smile to cross his lips since many weeks ago. He rode his horses slowly up the streets, dismounting in front of the Meduseld and walking creakily up the steps to it. The guards stared rather indecently at him, and when the doors opened, he was relieved to see a familiar face come out of them.

“Haleth…” he spoke, his voice hoarse from lack of use.

“You…are the luckiest…how…we all thought you were…”

“I know, old friend.”

“You look terrible.”

“I know.” He said, his face splitting into a grin. He drew the man into his arms and embraced him like a brother.

“Tell the King I have returned, Haleth. Tell him I have survived.”

“I will, old friend, but you should get yourself to the inn. You look like you could be blown away by a gust of wind. Get some food and ale in you, clean yourself up…The King will not object, I am sure.”

“I will. Thank you, Haleth.” Embracing the captain once more, he descended the Meduseld steps and made for the inn. He felt dead on his feet, and he desperately needed a drink. People stopped and gaped in the streets as he mounted his horse and set off towards the Mead Hall. The whispers caught on the wind made their way to his ear and he smiled again, as though making up for lost time. The words lifted his spirits more than he would ever speak.

“General Hama has returned…”

Beating the familiar path to the door, he pushed it open weakly, stumbling slightly as he walked in he was very glad to find the comfort of a chair. Reversing it, he sat down at the table and called for a drink.

“A pint of the house, please.” He said, audibly.
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Old 03-13-2007, 11:37 AM   #708
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Javan

Javan was once more the first one out of bed and away to the stables. He was up almost as early as he had been the previous morning. He dressed quickly and silently and went out. Lèof was up before him again, but this morning, instead of cleaning out a stall, Javan found him saddling a horse.

“'Morning, Javan,” Lèof said, “Go in and get Falco’s pony’s saddle. It’s the smallest one in there.” Javan almost stopped to ask him why they were preparing horses so early for riding, but he stopped himself before speaking and turned to obey first. As he came out with the saddle in both arms, he asked.

“Why are we getting the pony ready? And that horse? Who’s riding out so soon?”

“Lord Eodwine and Falco are going with the twins somewhere. Hurry up and saddle the pony. He’s ready.” He nodded towards the little horse as his hands busied themselves on Flíthaf’s girth.

Together, they finished preparing the horses for riding and then led them out. Eodwine and Falco with Lefun and Ritun were coming out of the hall. Eodwine quietly thanked them and took the reins. The two boys watched the company of four leave the courtyard before turning back and setting to work in the stables. After perhaps an hour, they heard the sound of hooves in the courtyard. Javan was closest to the door and he dodged outside to see who it was.

The man mounted on the horse slowly brought his steed to a stop. Javan hurried forward to take the reins and hold the horse still while the man dismounted. Javan looked silently at him with wide eyes, for he moved slowly and painfully.

“Thank you, my lad,” the man said. Javan nodded and offered a small smile. The man smiled back briefly and then turned to go into the hall. Javan took the reins down from the hore’s neck and led him into the stables.

“Lèof! We’ve a new horse to tend to!”

---

Thornden

Thornden awoke alone in his room and went down to breakfast. He was not surprised when Eodwine and the other three were not at the hall. Eodwine had told him the night before that he would be leaving early.

Thornden got his breakfast together and went out to take a seat. He ate alone that morning, and he ate quickly. He wanted to check on Javan that morning to make sure that all was well. As he had lain on his bed the previous evening, trying to sleep, he had thought more of the conversation that had taken place at the dinner table. Perhaps the short disagreement that took place there meant more than it first appeared. Were the two boys getting along together? Was Javan too much of a burden to Lèof? Was he too young for the job? These were questions he would have to ask Lèof.

He had scarcely finished eating and was just rising from the table when a new figure entered from the main door. Thornden looked up at him and nodded in greeting. Something about the man’s face told Thornden that he knew him, or at least recognized him. But his name...?

“A pint of the house, please,” the man said as he seated himself.

Thornden nodded and at once moved to fetch it, taking in his breakfast dishes as he did so. A military man, obviously. Thornden had seen the weariness about the man. But even with that weariness he carried himself with that unmistakable uprightness of a soldier.

“Fordides, we have a guest,” he said, as way to explain his appearance in her kitchen. “He wants a pint of mead.” Fordides silently filled the order and handed the mug to Thornden to carry out. Thornden took it mutely and hardly saw her.

Why was he thinking officer? Captain. . .General. . .General. . . Thornden entered the hall again and looked up at the worn face, the bright eyes looked up at him as he entered and Thornden dearly dropped the cup. General Hama, of course! Of course? More like, of course not. How could it be? Thornden had only seen him once or twice and that was over a year ago while he was still part of the guard. Since then, their paths had never crossed, except when Thornden saw him ride out with his company of men. Then, he had been missing for weeks, perhaps months.

Thornden placed the full mug on the table before the general. “Sir,” he said quietly as the man reached for the mug. “Will you need anything more?”
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Old 03-16-2007, 09:49 PM   #709
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Lys woke and with his now comfortable slow care dressed in his simple slacks, tunic and boots. One he had to keep loosely tied to fit the tight bandage on his lower leg. Now the pressure of the fabric was more to steady his weak bones. With a quick stretch of his arms and a small grunt, he heaved his unsteady limbs up and made out for breakfast.

Lys was hopeful he would see Thornden today. He had kept himself away from the Mead Hall yesterday, visiting Hrethel. In his keenness for something to do, he had joined the healer and helped him through the day. Lys did not mind helping Hrethel lift smaller things, cleaning thick clay jars for storing herbs, and dusting and caring for his wide collection or scrolls on his craft. Hrethel had also taken the time to check over Lys’ progress. His chest and ribs no longer ached, the damage to one arm was never really cause for concern and now was completely healed. Hrethel tutted over Lys’ right ankle, and suggested then that the boy wear the bandage, at least for pressure. He had the foresight to provide Lys with boots laced low so he could adjust for the extra space the bandages warranted. Lys had thanked the old healer with a warm hug at the generous gift, but the old man shook his head at suggesting any of it be repaid. His help every now and then with keeping his work in order was enough.

Hrethel had also observed, and given him some helpful advice on what he might do around the Hall. Armed with this and Thornden's agreeance for him to start lessons, Lys was determined to be helpful in his own way.

Lys spotted Thornden, but seeing him attending to his duties, he chose not to disturb him. A man, looking newly arrived with obvious signs of travel, sat at a table as Thornden brought him a pint. Lys did not recognise this man, but wondered at his dress. Obviously this person did not travel for trade or even leisure. Lys coloured at how rude he must seem, staring at the man who was clearly a soldier. He turned away, hoping nobody had seen his rudeness.

Lys finished his meal, and seeing that Thornden was otherwise busy, he headed for the stables. Lys admitted his curiosity, and hoped that maybe Javan or Léof would be able to tell him who the newcomer was.

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Old 03-20-2007, 04:13 PM   #710
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“Untack him and walk him out,” Léof called. “I’ll be there shortly to help brush him down.” There were only two more stalls that needed mucking out, and now another would need to be bedded down for the new horse. He finished these tasks up quickly enough and found that Javan was just tying the horse in the aisle. Léof retrieved the bucket of grooming supplies and was just about to join Javan when Lys walked into the stable.

“’Morning, Lys,” said Léof, waiting and then falling into step beside him. “What’s new?”

“’Morning, Léof. I was hoping that you or Javan would know who the newcomer was. Thornden was talking to him inside, and I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“I’m not sure; Javan talked to him,” answered Léof. “Javan!” Javan turned his head as they made the rest of their way over to him. “Did the man give you his name? Lys wants to know.”
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Old 03-21-2007, 09:02 AM   #711
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“Javan!” Lèof called out as he and Lys approached. “Did that man give you his name? Lys wants to know.”

Javan tugged the knot tight and patted the horse’s neck. His fingers absently brushed at the brown hair, caked as it was with the dirt that had mixed the sweat and caked stiffly around the hairs. “No. He didn’t give me his name. All he said was, ‘Thank you, my lad,’” Javan dropped his voice to imitate the General’s. “And then he went in. Sorry, can’t help you with knowing who he is, Lys.” He smiled and reached for one of the stiff brushes that Lèof had just brought in. “He’s caked with old sweat and dust, Lèof,” Javan said, taking the brush to the travel worn horse.

“Guess who else we saw this morning,” Javan said with some importance to Lys. “It was before anyone else was up."
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Old 03-22-2007, 04:50 AM   #712
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"No. He didn't give me his name. All he said was, 'Thank you, my lad,'"

Lys grinned at Javan's impersonation, it was very good. His curiousity would have to wait. It was not so bad, Lay had always liked being in the stables. He had not the strength to keep up with the rigours of the work, but he considered Javan and Lèof the closest thing he had to real friends.

Lys idly scuffed the toe of his new boot around the hay a little. He looked up at the horse, and the careful attention Javan was giving him. Javan's comments were certainly correct. The horse looked as if journeys had been long and trying on him. But he also looked like he bore it with experience. Lys smiled and approached the beast shyly. Javan looked up and smiled.

"Guess who else we saw this morning. It was before anyone else was up."

Lys looked back up with a blink. He wondered at the people he had not seen this morning, and where they might go. A small list of faces built up in Lys' mind. But he could certainly put most down to being at work earlier, or out of bed later. Hardly one's off starting an adventure, as Lys immediately assumed must be what Javan had seen.

"Who was it Javan?" Lys asked excitedly.
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Old 03-22-2007, 08:30 AM   #713
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The dried dirt on the horse’s shoulder fell away from under Javan’s brush. It sprinkled down onto the floor in great sheets of brown dust. As he continued to brush, the coat shone back at him with a black, healthy sheen. He pushed the long, thick mane over the neck so he could brush beneath it.

“Who was it, Javan?” Lys asked at his side.

“Lord Eodwine, that’s who it was,” Javan said. “And also Falco and, oh, what’re their names? Lefun and Ritun, too! D’you want a brush to help groom him? Here, you can use this, I’ll get another.” He handed Lys his brush and moved back, allowing Lys to take his place. As he turned towards the bucket of brushes, he saw Lèof taking out the hoof pick.

“May I clean his feet?” Javan asked, his eyes lighting up. “Please, Lèof!”

Lèof shrugged and handed the pick to him. Javan took it with excitement. He had cleaned out a horse’s hooves once before, under the strict supervision of one of his older sisters. That had been some time ago, and though he remembered how to pick up the hoof, how to hold the pick, and which way to clean it out, he did not remember how important it was to approach a new horse carefully.

Lys stood at the animals shoulder, blocking his front hoof. Javan, not wanting to disturb Lys and ask him to move, went at once to the hind foot. His arm reaching out, twined about the leg, and without giving the horse a moment of warning, jerked his foot up.

The black horse snorted with disdain at such treatment. He hopped awkwardly on his second hind foot, and with practiced skill, he jerked up the hoof that Javan held, and then shot it out towards the boy. The horse’s leg shoved Javan away from him, harmlessly, and sent him tumbling down onto the dirt of the floor six feet away.
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Old 03-26-2007, 04:36 AM   #714
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Lys dropped his brush and ran to where Javan had taken his tumble. Despite his ankle, Lys offered Javan a hand to his feet. He smiled when Javan took it, and he helped him up.

"Are you hurt?" Lys asked quickly. Javan seemed unharmed save losing some pride to the quick-hoofed horse. Lys took up his brush again and brough it back to the horses coat. He turned his face away when Léof asked Javan if he'd ever cleaned a horse's hoof before. He kept his quiet a while, until the silence made him uncomfortable.

"Lefun and Ritun...they seem very mysterious to me.". Lys smoothed a hand across the beasts strong back and grinned at his second showing of his curiousity in one morning. "Have you spoken to them, Javan? I wish to, but I never seem to get the chance. I must be to slow!" Lys chuckled, and moved his brush methodically to the places that seemed to need it most.

"I also wonder about the man that Thornden says is being kept here. They say he stole a horse. His name is Manawyth. He is very skilled with music...I wonder how he came to be here..." Lys stopped his wondering when he saw Javan looking at him with a smile. Lys blushed.

"I have been held up in a cold room so long. I want to talk to people! Though, I am grateful for the room, as cold as it sometimes is. I wish I could repay Lord Eodwine for his kindness sooner. But I'll find a way soon. Thornden has promised me so."

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Old 03-26-2007, 02:39 PM   #715
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It happened so fast that Léof almost missed it. Javan had jerked up the horse’s foot and within seconds he was on the ground. While Lys hurried to help Javan up, Léof went straight to the horse’s head to calm him. “Whoa, there, boy, easy now,” he murmured, catching the bridle in one hand and rubbing the horse’s cheek and neck with the other.

By the time the horse was calmed, Lys had returned to the stream of conversation and Javan was back up on his feet, eyeing the horse’s foot and looking ready for another go. “Hold on, Javan,” said Léof. “I need you to tell me honestly: have you ever cleaned out a horse’s feet before?”

“I know how; I’ve done it before!” said Javan, sounding both defensive and abashed. Under Léof’s steady gaze, however, he added, “Well, once.”

Léof sighed internally. “Fine,” he said. “You just have to be careful, alright? Horses are big animals, and you could easily have been hurt just now.” He hated to sound like he was lecturing, even if he was, a little bit. “Now let’s try this again. Walk up to the horse, put your hand on him, let him know you’re there. Then run your hand down to his foot and gently lift it up. Most horses will know what you want by then and let you pick up their feet. The key is not to surprise them.” He watched as Javan carried out the instructions and nodded at him. “Good.” Still keeping an eye on Javan, he walked around the horse to where he had dropped his own brush and began brushing where he could continue to watch Javan. He didn’t want Javan to feel like he didn’t trust him, but it was little mistakes like that which led to problems… he wiggled his toes in his boot – he knew.

A silence had settled over the stable since Léof’s ‘lesson.’ Léof spoke up, trying to ease the mood again. “Sorry, Lys. I hope I didn’t interrupt you.”
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Old 03-28-2007, 10:53 AM   #716
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Javan’s pride smarted painfully under Lèof’s words. The fact that Javan knew that Lèof was entirely right made it worse. The tumble had not hurt very badly. He thought he might be slightly bruised where the horse’s hoof hit him, but he certainly wasn’t going to complain about it - it would only give Lèof more reason to scold. The accident embarrassed Javan to no end and he thought he’d never be able to lift his head again before Lèof and Lys.

He obeyed Lèof’s instructions mutely while the ostler told him step by step about how to lift a horse’s hoof. His face was bright red as he bent over his work. The other two said nothing and the silence among them was unnatural.

“Sorry, Lys. I hope I didn’t interrupt you,” Lèof said finally.

Javan dropped the hind foot and looked towards Lys. He hadn’t really been listening to what Lys had been saying. His mind had been stuck on his embarrassed pride. He remembered vaguely the flow of his words, and then his curiosity was peaked at once.

“Say, you and Thornden seem to mention each other a lot. I heard that he found you and brought you in, but what else ‘ave you done to get to know each other?”
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Old 03-29-2007, 02:54 PM   #717
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Elfthain Theodmundsson had wandered to the Mead Hall on the pretext of discovering if the rumours of General Hama's return were true. While as he was as curious as any twelve year old boy in the adventures of a hero, any excuse to escape his uncle's house unsupervised for a while would have been welcome.

It was not that he disliked his relatives. He was really very fond of his cousins and his uncle had made great efforts to fill the void left by his father's death, but at the moment no one had any time for him. He did not really expect them to with a new baby expected any moment - but he still didn't see why his mother could not have left him at home, at Upbourn while she came to Edoras to tend to his aunt. He missed the farm, and the horses, and the space. They had been in town only a day or so but already Elfthain felt stifled. So when the cook had told him the news it was an opportunity too good to be missed.

Elfthain was quite tall for his age and as the only son of a prosperous widow his clothes were of good quality and fitted him well - not for him the indignity of hand-me-downs or cast-offs. Since he had left the house without maternal supervision they were worn untidily and his his dark gold hair was as tousled as when it had parted from his pillow.

He had reached the stable yard in time to see Javan's mishap and if anyone had been looking at him they would have seen a mixture of amazement and amusement in his bright, blue eyes. How could anyone in the Mark get to about his own age and not be able pick up a horse's foot? he wondered, forgetting that not everyone had grown up on a farm and had learnt to ride as they learnt to walk. But before any thoughtlessly scornful comment could pass his lips he realised how much he would like the company of boys of about his own age and so it was a diffident lad that ventured across the yard. Anxious for acceptance, his words fell out in a tumble,

"Hello, I 'm Elfthain. Is it true that General Hama has come back alive? And would you like any help?"

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Old 04-09-2007, 12:53 PM   #718
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Léof turned to face the unfamiliar boy entering the stable. Hama’s return would be news indeed, if it was true. “I have not heard that rumor,” he said. “A short while ago a man came to the Hall, and here is his horse, but we had not heard his name.”

Elfthain’s asking for news had not seemed so out of place, but the offer to help seemed to have come out of nowhere. What was more, Léof doubted that this boy was much older than Javan, and while that did not necessarily mean anything, Léof felt wary of letting yet another person handle the horse, especially one whom he was unfamiliar with. Elfthain did seem rather lonely; perhaps he merely wanted some companionship. “I am not sure that we need any more help, but you are welcome to stay and talk. I am Léof, and these are Javan and Lys.”

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Old 04-09-2007, 03:01 PM   #719
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"Can I?", Elfthain answered the youth eagerly, " at home there is always things to do with the horses and the other animals but here - I mean at my uncles's house - there is nothing for me to do... and I just seem to get in the way if I try to help ... but I will try not to get in your way" he added quickly lest his admission cause Leof to banish him immediately.

Having deemed that this wasn't going to happen immediately, at least, he smiled at the younger boys and wondered what he should say. He wasn't used to meeting new people. Everyone in Upbourn knew who he was - or seemed to - had known him all his life for his father's family had farmed that land for several generations. But here Elfthain would have to win friends and respect for himself.
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Old 04-10-2007, 08:41 AM   #720
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Javan looked from the newcomer to Lèof as they exchanged a few words. There was a pause after Elfthain said his last bit and Javan turned his attention back to the horse.

He didn’t know who the General Hama was. He couldn’t remember if he had ever heard of him. Lèof and Elfthain both knew who he was, though, and Javan didn’t wish to show his ignorance before anyone. So instead of asking about Hama, he kept his mouth shut. After a pause, though, and after noticing that no one was saying anything, he looked back towards Elfthain.

“You won’t get in the way,” he said. “But d’you want to sit down there?” He nodded his head to the wooden bench against the wall. “I think we’re about done with the horse here. Where’re you from? Are you staying here long?” As he put the questions to the Elfthain, his sharp, intelligent eyes looked over the boy’s appearance and clothing. His clothes were fine and probably expensive and had they not been worn in a crooked and careless manner, Javan would probably have felt some dislike towards him. But the natural, boyish appearance made up for the unnatural, non-boyishness of the clean and nice clothes, and Javan liked his manner and his kindly and open face.

Javan’s eyes returned to Elfthain’s face, and he waited expectantly for answers.
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