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Old 03-17-2006, 04:36 PM   #121
Firefoot
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“A fine horse, isn’t he?” responded Léof. “This is Flithaf, Eodwine’s horse – his old charger.” Léof laughed. “Don’t tell him that he’s getting older, though. He still has enough spirit for a horse half his age.” Thornden chuckled along with him, although the horse seemed to hold himself above such jokes. Léof gave him a final pat on the withers before letting himself out of the stall. He had been about finished, and would leave Flithaf to finish his breakfast in peace.

The past week had been good to Léof. Though his contact with many of the people around the hall had been fairly minimal, he had quickly developed an easy confidence around the stable and its horses. He knew from painful experience which one bit and which one was a picky eater, and which ones he could be comfortable with inside their stalls. His old comfort with horses had been coupled with a new level of security, and while he had not lost sight of his determination and past experiences, he felt that he had found a freedom that he had never quite known before. Sure, he had three weeks yet to prove himself, but he saw no reason why this should be a problem and, wisely or not, some corner of his mind had already asserted itself as master of the stables. Safety was here; he need not fear as at home that his father might come thundering in after him.

He looked to Thornden, curious now as to what had brought him out here. Léof did not particularly recall seeing him around the stables at any point during the week. He supposed that if Thornden were to be Eodwine’s steward, as he had heard, then he would need to be familiar with all parts of the Mead Hall. “There isn’t anything I particularly need to be doing right now – would you like me to show you around the stable?” Léof offered. Thornden agreed, and the pair moved down the aisle with Léof comfortably but respectfully answering any of Thornden’s questions.

They were interrupted after a bit by the arrival of Linduial in out of the rain. In the dry warmth of the stables, Léof had all but forgotten about the damp outside and was now all the more grateful for its snugness. After all, a stable had to be kept dry because if the hay became wet it would rot, which could cause all kinds of problems.

His focus drifted back to Linduial; he had little idea as to why she might have come out here. She may have just come out to see her horse, as the apple in her hand might suggest, and take advantage of the dry stable, opposing the construction going on with the roof in other parts of the hall. And the weather was certainly unpleasant for a ride – unpleasant for going anywhere. But obviously she had some business out here.

“Good morning, Linduial,” he greeted. “Can I help you with anything?”
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Old 03-17-2006, 05:08 PM   #122
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Lin was at first surprised to see Thornden in the stables, but it quickly occured to her that she was undoubtedly not the only one eager to escape the bustle of the main hall today. She nodded a formal greeting to both men, and walked lightly through the straw to the door of her horse's stall, offering the apple gingerly and smiling when the mare took it, whuffling breath tickling her palm.

"Actually, Leof," she began, suddenly realizing that her title and formal address had become less and less common over the last few days, and deciding quickly that she didn't mind a bit, "I had a favor to ask of you, if you have a moment later today." She explained her desire to hang her things on the wall.

"I expect to be in Edoras for a good long while, and I wanted it to feel a little bit like home." Suddenly she was homesick for her dainty lady's bower at home. Unbeknownst to her, she proved what a relaxing effect a week in Rohan had had on her formal manners, (though were she concentrating the ice-maiden was still there if she needed her) for her loneliness showed on her face for a split second before her usual friendly-but-closed expression washed it away.
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Old 03-18-2006, 01:03 PM   #123
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The request was certainly unexpected, if bordering on unusual, and for a moment Léof did not respond. “Yes, I suppose I could help you with that,” he answered, still not quite sure how to take the request. If only she wasn’t so hard to read. Her expression always seemed somehow muted – always, every time he saw her. Léof could not understand her. Were all Gondorian nobility like this? He thought that he should get a headache being surrounded by such people.

And he was struck by another difference – wall hangings? Although there was a perfectly comfortable cot in the room adjacent to the tack room, Léof had been perfectly happy on one or two nights to bed down in the empty stall next to his Æthel’s – never mind anything so frivolous as wall hangings. Comfort, he was coming to realize, could mean so many different things to different people. He did not need much to be comfortable, and was all the more content for it. But she was a guest here, and a wealthy one at that, so he reckoned if she wanted wall hangings, she would have them. It would not be so difficult a thing, and he honestly did not mind helping.

“I’ll stop by in a little bit,” he added. “Do you want me to come directly to your room, or will you be out and about?”
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Old 03-18-2006, 03:41 PM   #124
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"I'll be there. I'm trying to get my things organized indoors, since it's so rainy without, and unpacking a little so I'm not living out of a trunk." She smiled sweetly and gave the horse a final pat on her velvety nose before turning fully to face the young ostler. "You do a wonderful job, Leof. I love how sweetly it always smells in here. I didn't know a stable could smell so good. And thank you so much for your help!"

She threw the shawl back over her hair and had left the stables before Leof could say another word, running cheerfully back across the courtyard, pushing any thoughts of homesickness to the back of her mind. She arrived in her room damp and slightly rumpled, and started pulling clothes out of her trunks and putting them away, alternately singing and humming to herself as she worked. Her winter and summer cloaks went on hooks by the door, riding boots and various pairs of court slippers under the bed. Three exotic silk scarves in vibrant colors and a tapestry with an elaborate maritime scene embroidered on it were tossed on top of the bed, ready for Leof. The room was large and well-furnished, though the furnishings were rougher than what she was used to, and she hung her dresses in a tall wardrobe against the wall. This freed enough room in her trunks to sort the various underthings, jewelry, and other items neatly, and she pushed one, containing such everyday items as these, against the foot of the bed, and the other, holding the personal toys and trinkets she'd stuffed into corners and odd spaces in both trunks, against the wall.

She opened that last on a whim, and rummaged happily through the contents.

A box of wonderful and clever things her father had collected through his travels over the years, meant for gifts as she needed them. Luxury, her father had taught her, was a tool, rather than a right or even privilege. "It backs up everything you say or do," he'd said. "It draws the attention of others, and then your talents and your manners have more power in high circles." She'd realized then that that very thing meant luxury was also a danger. She had to always be aware of herself. Marenil had tried to teach her that she could really relax, at least more than she did, but the lesson hadn't yet stuck.

A small wooden basket filled to overflowing with threads in a myriad of colors, with a paper package of needles underneath it, for embroidery

Five books. One was poetry, one an atlas. The other three were histories. Two smaller volumes, hidden underneath these, contained a ledger and a diary, respectively. A lockbox contained her's and Marenil's funds.

She turned over a sheaf of paper intended as a gift for Queen Lothiriel. Despite how much of it she carried, fine paper was precious. Underneath was a package neatly wrapped in sailcloth. She couldn't remember putting it there, and lifted it out curiously. A note, written cross-ways on an old letter, slipped out of the top. She read it quickly: "A gift for someone far away from home" and her brothers' signatures. She unwrapped it and delightedly found it full of sugar candies and chocolates, wonderful delicious sweetmeats that she had a horrible weakness for...she reached for one, then had a sudden idea.

Saeryn's room was next door...she'd surely be able to hear Leof when he came. She closed and relocked the trunk quickly, then re-wrapped the package, almost skipping out of her room and to her neighbor's. She knocked twice, and entered at a muffled invitation from within. Eyes sparkling, she walked up to where Saeryn sat, opened the package ostentatiously, displaying its toothsome contents. "A gift from my brothers," she explained happily. "Doesn't it just look lovely? Much too nice not to share..."
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Old 03-18-2006, 08:14 PM   #125
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Thornden stood by and watched the short interchangement of words. He smiled slightly at Leof's rather surprised look at the lady's request before he responded to her. Thornden himself only wondered a little why she had come out to ask Leof's assistance, but he didn't trouble his head much about it.

"Well, Leof," he said, once the matter had been decently settled. "I guess I'll leave you, as you're about to be busy. Thank you for showing me the stables. I think you're doing well with everything and you may be sure that I'll tell Eodwine as much." He nodded as he prepared to leave and Leof thanked him. "Don't take the trouble to thank me," Thornden said, smiling again. "I can appreciate good work when I see it. So long, then. "

A breath of cooler and wetter air met him as he opened the door. He had almost forgotten the rain and he grimaced as he stepped out into it. How his sisters would laugh at him - a recent Guard of Meduseld in dislike of rain! Well, it didn't matter. He ducked his head and hurried across the open ground as quickly as he could without appearing ridiculous.

"Well, my lord," he said, approaching Eodwine. "When do you suppose this wretched rain will quit and we can be back to work? I can't tell you how anxious I am to get my hands back to work again. It's quite vexing, you know, having nothing to do with so much to be done." He took a seat beside Eodwine and looked around himself. "I've just come from the stables," he went on in a moment, looking back at Eodwine. "Leof showed me around a bit and he's doing an excellent job keeping everything, including the horses, clean and in good order."
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Old 03-18-2006, 09:18 PM   #126
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Saeryn's eyes widened at the treasure Lin carried. She untangled her legs and rose, keeping the quilt around her shoulders and ran to the door, making certain that it was closed. Turning, she came back with a contagious smile. Offering Lin her own blanket, Saeryn took another from the trunk at the foot of her bed, shaking it out and wrapping it close about her. She dug for a moment, finally discovering what she sought: a neatly wrapped package of spice drops. Moving back to the fire, she sank to the floor in a tailor's seat and beckoned Lin to join her.

"Where did you find these?" she asked curiously, her eyes lit with mischief. "Surely the discipline it would take for them to survive the trip from Gondor would have been beyond me."

She opened her own sweets and placed them between her and Lin as she spoke. The rain poured as heavily as ever. Saeryn pulled her blanket tighter against an imaginary draft as the heat of the fire released a heavenly sweet scent from the dark chocolate before her. She breathed deep, smiling.

"I could happily leave it there just to smell..."
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Old 03-18-2006, 09:29 PM   #127
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"Sit wi' the likes of you when I've rags to profit me?" cried Ruthven. "Not likely! I'm off to see Frodides, and now. Act sharp as the Reeve you claim to be!"

"Yes ma'am!"

With a grin on his face, Eodwine watched the rag lady trounce off toward the kitchen, and sat back down. He busied his mind with picturing the next and next, and next, steps in the building to be done once the rain stopped. He had not gotten far when Thornden arrived under the makeshift mead-tent and sat down, a good report on Léof quickly offered.

Eodwine smiled again. "My thanks for the word. I'm glad of you being active in the goings on of the mead hall from low to high. And it's good to know that you think well of Léof. So do I. I doubt not that we've found us our ostler for at least a year and a day.

"And I'd be vexed with the rain stopping us too were it not for my ovenish head hot with the next and next steps to be taken in the building of the new hall. Still..." Eodwine ducked over his knees and peered at the bit of gray sky to be seen beyond the edge of the tent. "This kind of April gray looks to be with us for all of a day and maybe more. It makes for no fire in our tent-hall, for we'd have to throw back our roof to let the smoke out, which would douse the fire." Eodwine raised his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "So it goes."

Someone was approaching. Eodwine turned to look. It was Falco puffing his pipe, as usual, patting his rounded belly with deep satisfaction.

"Good greeting, Master Falco! How was second breakfast?"

"Need you ask!" Falco cried. "It's a shame you're losing Frodides. A fine cook she makes." Falco sat across from Eodwine.

"Do you not think that Kara will do as well, then?" Eodwine asked.

"Maybe, maybe not. Proof is in the pudding. In a pan, no less." Falco looked at the tent roof warily. "You're sure this roof will hold all that rain water?"

"Sure enough, sir, as I've been sitting here all morning. I wager Kara's puddings will be reasonable fare," Eodwine turned to Thornden. "What think you of our cook in training's cooking, Thornden?"
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Old 03-19-2006, 12:24 PM   #128
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Thornden smiled and laughed slightly as he sat back in his chair. "I'll warrant it does little good asking me how well she does, sir!" he said. "As long as the food is hot and edible, I'll eat it without much fuss. I must say, Frodides does something of a marvelous job, though. . .maybe you could keep her a while yet and maybe talk her into letting some of her secrets slip to Kara?"

He doubted such a thing could actually be done. Some cooks were perfect mules when it came to telling other people how they made their pie or their sauce or their something the best in the land. Secrets, they called them. But what was the good of knowing how to cook well if you never taught anyone else?

He chuckled to himself again and shook his head. A short pause fell and he looked out at the steady dripping rain. "Linduial came into the stables while I was there," he said. "She asked Leof for some assistance. It appears as though she's expecting to stay some while and will be trying to make herself more at home. Is this the case, sir? Is she to be here long? I guess the stay may be of unknown length, so long as her guardian is not doing well. How is he ,do you know? I haven't seen him much these past few days. . . is he still confined to his bed?'
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Old 03-19-2006, 01:57 PM   #129
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Gárwine was in his room at the former inn. The rain was pattering outside and there was little to do. All of the carpenters and other workmen had left for the day and Gárwine remained in his bedroom. Gárwine, to stay amused, had polished his sword to a brilliant shine, went for a walk around the inn (carefully avoiding the main hall, which was roofless and had been set off-limits by Eodwine to nearly anyone), and had returned to his room after receiving an apple to munch on from Frodides. At the moment, Gárwine was rearranging the room's furniture and standing from various angles to survey his work. He had moved his table to under the window, and the trunk from the foot of the bed to the outside wall, and had placed both chairs in the room at the table. There was just one thing missing. Gárwine set an old jar on the table to act as a centerpiece. Now the room was beginning to feel more like a home rather than an inn room previously occupied by countless strangers.

Gárwine liked his new home. He approved of everybody, with the slight exception of Manawyth, and the bustling town better suited his mood than the remote villages he had lived in out on the plains. Over the past week, Gárwine had visited the marketplace and purchased a few new articles of clothing, earned a few coins helping an old woman carry groceries to her home, and kept a good eye out for Uncle Wilfrid should he track Gárwine down to Edoras and demand him to return to the farm. There were a few look-alikes in the streets, but the true Wilfrid was nowhere to be seen. Gárwine felt relatively secure that if Wilfrid had not came by now, he never would.

Gárwine smiled satisfied at his rearranged room. He had chosen a bedroom at the north-east corner of the building. Down the hall were the other bedrooms, and beyond those were the great hall and the kitchen.

Gárwine exited his room and plodded down the hall towards the other bedrooms. Satisfied with his new furniture arrangements, he decided to visit the others. Léof would be near the stables tending to the horses, Saeryn was probably in her room, and Eodwine might've been in the main hall. Gárwine headed for the stables. There was an exit into the courtyard just down the hallway.

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Old 03-20-2006, 07:59 PM   #130
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Léof smiled in pleasure as Thornden left the barn. His approval certainly meant something, and more than on a personal level. It was assurance that this job would almost undoubtedly be his at the end of his month. He had not yet written to his sister of his position here, but decided that now he could safely do so, and decided to do that later on this very day, probably before he went to bed that night.

On an impulse, he went to his small personal room and pulled an apple out of the bag he had gotten from the kitchen. Tossing it up and catching it as he walked, he found Æthel’s stall with her hanging her head outside to greet him. Holding both hands behind his back in a game he had always used to play with her, he waited for her to pick a side. After a moment, she nudged his left side, the side with the apple. “Smart horse.” He produced it and she munched happily while Léof let himself inside the stall. He walked to her side and laid his hands on her back to lift himself up, but as he was doing so she swung her head around and butted him – hard. Surprised, Léof toppled to the ground and after a shocked moment, he began simply to laugh. The puzzled expression on Æthel’s face at this made him laugh all the harder, and he could not have stopped even if he had wanted to.

He was startled out of this by a cold drop on his forehead. His head jerked upwards, and sure enough, there was a small hole in the roof, just enough to let the occasional drop through. Nothing a bit of patch wouldn’t fix, but with half the stalls in the stable empty there was no reason to leave Æthel here. The stall next to hers was empty and had fresh straw; he could easily move her there. He took her by the halter and led her out of the stall, and was met by Gárwine heading his way.

“Good morning, Léof… was something very funny?” he asked.

Léof, too full of high spirits to be embarrassed, shook his head. “Just Æthel here goofing off.” Noticing the curiosity in Gárwine’s look, he explained, “There’s a bit of a leak in the roof in her stall – nothing major, but I’m moving her into the stall next door. I’ll have to get some patch from the roofers when they start working again.

“So how are you doing? I haven’t seen much of you these past couple days – is anything interesting happening?”
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Old 03-20-2006, 09:51 PM   #131
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Thornden spoke of Linduial, wondering how long she'd stay, and riddling his talk with 'sir' and 'my lord', asked after the princess' guardian, Marinel. '...is he still confined to his bed?'

Eodwine smirked. "I think 'twill take me a long while before I'm used or at ease with being called 'my lord', though 'sir' is more of an ease to me, from the éored days."

Thornden sat up, frowning. "I am sorry, lord, should I call you something else?"

"Oh, nay," Eodwine replied with a wave of the hand.

"Don't let him fool you, Thornden," Falco murmured around the stem of his pipe. "He likes it well, I dare say. Goes straight to his head, I wager." Falco winked at Thornden.

"Too true, too true," Eodwine replied with a sigh, and turned to Thornden. "Your respect for my office is a good thing. I just feel not risen to it, sometimes. Think nothing of it. As to Linduial and Marinel, I think they will stay a while. Linduial for her own reasons, and Marinel now for his health, though he had planned to return after assuring that I would see to her protection."

"Such pompous yammer as that," cried Falco, his pipe in hand now, "and you'll forget where you came from, Master Eodwine!"

"May it never be!" Eodwine grinned. Looking at Thornden again he said, "Did you know I was born a farmer's boy? Far out west on the Gap of Rohan beyond the West Emnet. A rough land, too close to raiding Dunlendings back in the days before the War." Eodwine fell to staring at the puddling grass just beyond the tent. "Now it seems that was Saruman's doing. Happy am I to have heard of Ents and their deeds. Good neighbors they make."

"Like as not to step on one's taters in the garden, I'm thinking," said Falco. "D'you suppose that's why their women left 'em?"

"How do I let you get me talking about such things, Master Falco?"

"Don't blame me! You're the one reminiscing!"

"Maybe we should gather everyone around and do a bit of Gob and Twiddle. What think you of that, Thornden?" Eodwine asked.
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Old 03-21-2006, 07:24 AM   #132
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Marinel

Marinel entered the kitchen to find it rather quiet, but both Kara and Frodides were there, working steadily to prepare the day's meal. Young Kara was hauling a sack of potatoes to a table, and with a wink at Frodides (who was chatting away, as only women can, with another older woman) as he stole a bit of the pastry dough she was rolling out, he pulled out his belt knife and sat in a chair beside the girl.

"Good morning, lass," he said with a smile, moving a pile of potatoes close and setting to peeling them before Kara could protest his assistance. "And what lovely things do you be making this morning? I've enjoyed the meals you've brought in for me, very much. A great cook you're working out to be, none could ask for better."

Frodides sauntered over and placed a slice of warm, dark bread on the table beside Marinel, with a bit of cheese, and went back to her pastry, her conversation with the other woman never stopping. Marinel gave the retreating woman an appreciative smile, but didn't go straight to the meal. He finished the potato he was working on, wolfed down his breakfast with a speed to match a young boy, and went cheerfully back to another potato.


Linduial

"Actually, I didn't know they were there," she said, as, with a mischievous grin, Lin reached over, grabbed a chocolate and popped it in her mouth, eyes closed in mock rapture as she chewed slowly, letting it melt a little in her mouth before she swallowed the smooth, creamy treat. She wrapped herself in the quilt and cozied herself on the floor right by the fire, a rare openness in her face.

"I love chocolate," she confessed, as though it were a state secret. "And my brothers know it. They bribe me into doing whatever they please by keeping a private stash I'm only allowed into for rewards. They're the ones who get it for me. This is the first long journey I've ever made on my own, and not surrounded by maids and servants and carried in a litter and constantly made much of. I like the difference--but I would go North, instead of South to where the chocolate is!"

She smiled happily. "And I bet even less of this treasure gets up here than it does home. Dol Amroth is home to a lot of sailors, and we do quite a bit of trade with the South, especially now that there's peace. My brothers are always in the thick of it, and they go further than anyone else. They call themselves adventurers, and they are so full of wonderful stories when they get home. My father only encourages them."

She paused, thinking of her family. Her brothers were so dear to her, handsome strong men that they were. Her mother had died years ago, but Lin had never felt the lack. She supposed she ought to be adding all her myriad of cousins into the equation, but ever since she had had to learn a long list of rules concerning which she could and could not marry, she tended to ignore them altogether.

"So, Saeryn," she asked curiously. "What's your family like?"

"Do you have brothers?"

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Old 03-22-2006, 04:04 PM   #133
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Thornden laughed silently to himself as light hearted bickering passed to and from the lord of the Hall and the short, round hobbit. But, no indeed, he hadn’t known that Eodwine had been born a farmer. . .no one would have thought it, seeing him now. Well, now they might, with the makeshift roof above and the rain dripping outside, making mud of the yard. But not when they heard his title and saw what the hall was going to be. Yet everybody has to come from somewhere.

“Maybe we should gather everyone around and do a bit of Gob and Twiddle. What think you of that, Thornden?” Eodwine asked, turning to him.

“Maybe. So long as I’m not asked to carry it on immediately,” Thornden answered at once. “I’m not such a bright mind at coming up with stories like that. I’d stumble about like a drunken man in the dark and then end up in silence, except it wouldn’t be silent because everyone would be laughing. But I’m more than willing to listen.”

“Then let’s separate and go see what the others think,” Eodwine said, standing up as he spoke. “Come along, Falco.”

The three parted ways and Thornden went back out to the rain to the stables to see if Leof was still there. He was, and Gárwine with him. He suggested to them the continuing of the tale of Gob and Twiddle and they both agreed quickly to come. Leof told him that he had to finish something in the stables quickly and then he would be able to join them, and Gárwine was going to stay to help. So Thornden smiled and nodded and left them.

He went to the kitchen where he thought it would be best to tell it, seeing as it was the largest room still in service, and it had a warm, merry fire - a comfort on a day like this. Falco was already there and Fordides, with Kara and the elderly lady Thornden had seen earlier, were evidently already acquainted with the plan.

“Where’s master Eodwine?” Thornden asked, stopping in the doorway.

“He’s getting the others,” Falco replied. “He’ll be here in a minute.”

“Well, good,” Thornden said, coming in and taking a seat. “I’ve got two recruits on their way.” He glanced around the warm, bright kitchen and smiled a little. “I think we’ll have an excellent gathering. Though,” he added, suddenly remembering. “Those twins won’t be here. . .they probably won’t like missing anything, but it can’t very well be helped.”
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Old 03-22-2006, 04:46 PM   #134
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Brothers... Saeryn let memories capture her for only a moment before responding, still caught in the light and freshness of childhood.

"Yes... two brothers and a sister. Degas, the younger of the brothers, is my twin, though he is taller than me, and broader about the shoulders in that typical brotherly fashion, with hair darker red and tied in horsetails most often, and he is the sort to make the ladies of Minas Tirith swoon as he plays reminiscent and sad melodies of times long past, wars long fought, and romances long since forgotten for his own contentment on the white walls of the city under the dying sun... or at least that's how he tells it, most especially if there are new ladies present for wooing." Saeryn smiled to think of her chivalrous and charismatic twin, casting her worry for him away. She would not fret over him, though he'd been gone without word for many days.

"Where are these siblings? Do they follow your lead and ride abroad?" asked Lin, savoring the gentle bite of Saeryn's candy on her tongue. "I would guess you a traveller such as myself, but travellers do not often come to play hostess in the halls of a lord, or at least not that I have seen or heard. How did you aquire your father's leave to go? How did you come to be here?"

Saeryn looked into the fire.

"My parents died long ago. My eldest brother is lord of our lands. I do not have his leave. Rather am I here by the courtesy of Mistress Bethberry, and here I remain under the protection and with the lasting friendship of the Lord. My sister is dead, my eldest brother distant, I can only hope, and my twin's whereabouts are utterly unknown, though most of that which he brought with him to Gondor resides now in the room beside this and all that is gone from here is his horse and, of course, himself."
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Old 03-23-2006, 07:59 AM   #135
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Linduial read much between the lines as Saeryn spoke uncomfortably of her elder brother, and her face showed a pretty moue of distaste. But this twin...Saeryn seemed to be about a year older than she, so Degas would also be older...He sounded mysterious, dashing, a little scandalous even. Lin began to build a picture of the young man in her mind, with a rascally crooked smile, wild auburn hair, strong and built like her brothers and unrealistically handsome, a rugged wild man with a veneer of class and Gondorian style. Mentally she compared this image to the men she had grown up knowing. Beside her imaginary Degas, her suitors seemed...dull, foppish. Dark hair and grey eyes seemed monochromatic rather than a memory of nobler times, especially when placed beside the fire and verve of this new young man.

She was staring at the fire, sucking on candies in a companionable silence, as she daydreamed. She had just been imagining Degas rushing into the courtyard in an all but fire-breathing semi-wild stallion, unable to take his eyes off of herself (in her most beautiful finery) in the doorway, and trying to get the expression of remote disinterest just right on her face, and wondering if there should be a number of slightly less pretty but more interested girls around for Degas to ignore in single-minded pursuit of her, when a knock at the door made her jump.

She rose hastily, a guilty flush covering her cheeks as though someone had been listening in on her thoughts, and attempted to cover her confusion by stuffing the candies under the quilt on her chair as she jumped to her feet. Saeryn, unaware of Lin's thoughts and thus infuriatingly unperturbed, welcomed Eodwine into the room, leaving the door wide open, as propriety demanded, as Eodwine explained his invitation to join the company in the mock-hall to while away the rainy morning with story and song.

Saeryn happily accepted, and turned to Lin to see her plans. Lin, still blushing furiously to the curious glances of both the lord and Saeryn now, stammered acceptance, and turned her glance rapidly to the floor in order to try to compose herself.
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Old 03-24-2006, 11:03 AM   #136
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"Excuse me, Eodwine." A silver sleeved arm snaked around him, tugging him fraternally out of the way. Black covered legs with knee high boots (carefully cleaned before worn indoors) stepped into the room, past the lord of the hall.

Recognizing the voice and careless stride, Saeryn hurried to embrace her brother before changing tactics and pushing him hard into the doorway. The hood of his damp cloak fell back to reveal damp locks shading twinkling eyes. He caught her hands and kissed her on the forehead.

"What a welcome, sister. Did you miss me?" She glared, tugging away from big hands that had held but loosely.

"Excuse me, my lord Eodwine, Linduial, my brother and I need a private word." Eodwine looked at Degas with unreadable emotion in his eyes toward the irresponsible young man that had caused Saeryn so much anguish. Lin looked at him with quite another emotion. With a look to Saeryn, they left the room without question, hearing, but politely ignoring, the next comment from Degas.

"My lord Eodwine?" he imitated in falsetto. "Have you wed since I've been gone? And where is my dear lady Bethberry? I'd hoped to beg her hospitality and forgiveness for my truancy."

"Bethberry's gone and Eodwine's been lorded, given this hall, and is remodelling. Surely you noticed as you came barging in past him." Saeryn leaned upon the mantle, her quilt forgotten on the floor, with her arms crossed threateningly.

"Come sister of mine, do thaw. Your frosty ice queen approach has me shivering in my shoes. What have I done to warrant it?"

"You, brother dearest," she replied with a voice as cold as he claimed, "disappeared without word. You could have been anywhere. Anything could have happened. Where have you been?"

"Frolicking." he replied with a grin that made Saeryn groan. "Oh come now," he added, seeing the look on her face. "It was entirely innocent. I realized that I'd left some belongings at an Inn some day or so's ride away, so I went back for them."

He moved toward her, embracing her, and her tears burst forth.

"I am sorry that I said nothing... I did not think. But all is well now, no?" He patted her on the back, pushing her away to look into her eyes.

She sniffed and nodded.

"He'll not find you here, you know." She nodded again and beckoned for him to sit. In a few short moments, she had informed her twin of the many items of business that he had missed in his travels.

"Well that's quite good, then." he smiled. "Eodwine is a good friend. I shall have to thank him for his protection of you, and apologize for so hastily brushing him aside. You know, sister, you could marry him and produce lovely little blond haired Eorlings to help you run the inn."

He ducked her swipe and jumped nimbly toward the door.

"Yes, yes, I know, dear girl. Have I not heard it all before? I'll be a content old maid until I die, so help me, and I'm not becoming some lord's wife to produce healthy heirs and naught else until I fade from memory." He winked at the glare she shot him. "I'm sure you'll make a wonderful wife to some lucky man eventually. But more likely, you'll thrive in your role here... you'll make a wonderful hostess for the new lord. Now fulfill your duties, if you will, and find me dry clothes and food."

"Do it yourself. I'll be in the kitchens." She stuck her tongue out at her brother, hugging him quickly as she ducked past him and out the door.
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:52 AM   #137
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Lin was aware, in a detached sort of way, that she was standing with her mouth open, staring at her friend's closed door. Abruptly she closed it, teeth clacking together as she wondered aimlessly whether she had accidentally conjured the young man up with her day-dreaming--and, considering Saeryn's frustrated shove rather than greeting, would he forgive her for it? Degas' tall rangy frame, dark red locks, and a strong-boned handsome face with dancing eyes seemed imprinted on her brain, and it occured to her that it would be an awful shame if he didn't.

She straightened her skirts and curls, all too aware of her slightly rumpled state and the amused eyes of Lord Eodwine behind her. He hadn't even noticed her...He'd greeted his sister, at least seen Eodwine...but he hadn't so much as nodded in her direction. This realization stunned her. She knew she was pretty. Beautiful, even. Dozens of near-identical young men in carefully appointed ballrooms had told her so, had told her she was proof of the rumors of Elven blood in Dol Amroth's House, had hung on her every word and gesture. Yet this one...hadn't seen her? She caught her reflection in a window. Milky-white skin, slender yet womanly figure, long delicate fingers, dark curls framing a pale elfin face and large starry-gray eyes. She had always thought herself at least meriting a glance from a man, and usually a second.

But perhaps the young men of Belfalas had seen only the fine green silk and perfect embroidery of elven design, the delicate filagree silver earrings, the small but opulent family seal she wore on her little finger, carved in jade from the far East of Harad, and traded by sea from the South. And maybe this young man, from a rougher country that cared less of such things, saw only a slim, untried girl with soft hands and skin that had been carefully shielded from the sun all her life.

She looked over at Eodwine (both seemed to have been shocked enough by Degas' sudden arrival to stay where they were) and asked, confused enough not to worry about the propriety of the question, "I am pretty, aren't I?"

Just at that moment, the door sprang open and Saeryn flounced (no other word for it) down the hall toward the kitchens, and Degas stood laughing and leaning on the door frame. Linduial blushed furiously. There was no way on earth the young man hadn't heard her question. What was it about the Rohirrim that made it so difficult for her to keep her comfortable detachment?

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Old 03-27-2006, 04:42 PM   #138
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Degas leaned against the doorway, propped carefully to look nonchalant. He eyed the girl until Eodwine coughed meaningfully. She turned an even deeper shade of red and Degas spoke, holding back a grin.

"Very pretty, I assure you. Your slender frame brings to mind the lovely swaying motion of a delicate lily in the early dawn air. Your eyes remind one of an impossibly deep ocean that one cannot help but fall into. Your light voice is reminiscent of the soft trill of a flute at the break of day and your cream skin is so flawless that I am amazed at its very existence, though at the moment, a very becoming shade of rose adorns your perfect cheeks. It utterly amazes me that such power and delicacy can be so easily mixed within one lady of the South. It is verily my pleasure to make your acquaintance."

He straightened from the doorway and bent now over her hand, raising it to brush with his lips. He looked up into her eyes, winking, and she looked away, the same vibrant shade of pink that he had so carefully described. Dropping her hand, he slung an arm around Eodwine's shoulder and led him away from the floored young woman.

"My congratulations to you, Lord of the Mark." he spoke to Eodwine as they walked toward the kitchen. "A posting well deserved. I would commend the king for it were I not afraid of the repercussions of my terribly bold statements. I'm sure you'll understand if I limit myself to mere genial thoughts sent toward his general direction? Also, Lord Eodwine, I must thank you for your kindness to my lady sister. She has told me what you have done for her and I am much indebted to you for it."
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Old 03-27-2006, 05:08 PM   #139
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Æöelhild stood watching the rain run down the fogged pane of her window, her room was warmed by a fire that crackled brightly in the small hearth set into the right wall. She liked her room, although smaller than she had once been used to, she found it cosy enough and more comfortable than the cold stone or rough earth of the past years flight. From the window she could see the mead halls courtyard with the stables to the right and too the left the newly constructed canvas covering that was to be the temporary mead hall.

As she looked down on the stables she thought of the week gone by and of her new found friendship with the new Stable Master, Lëof. she admired his resolve and determination to earn a living enough for both himself and his sister that they could finally move out of the shadow of their abusive father, it also gave her some hope that she too could begin anew.

set aside the ghosts of the past’ she quietly told herself.

It had almost been a relief to share some of what she had kept to herself for so long. That night in the stable beneath the clear starlight sky she had told Lëof about her Uncle, how he had come into her life directly following the death of her father and grandfather and taken away everything that was familiar to her, including her favourite horse a chestnut mare that she had loved so dearly, ‘We were practically raise together’ she had told him. She did not speak of her position in Gondorian society nor of the events of the night that had forced her to flee from the lands that she had always called home, but she did confide in him the abuse she had endured at the hands of her uncle. How he had locked her away from the world she had known and loved telling those that sought after her health and well being that she was sick, practically mad with grief, refusing to see or speak with anyone. He had stolen her freedom and practically made her his slave and like a slave if she did not perform to his satisfaction she was harshly beaten. Lëof had listened intently and when she had suddenly stopped not wishing to go on he had not pressed her but simply placed a comforting hand and nodded his understanding.

On the days that had followed, when she was not busy with her own chores or helping Frodide’s and Kara in the kitchen’s she would be found helping Leof in the stables, they had grown comfortable with each other and oft laughed and joked in a light and easy manner that surprised a few of the others, who until recently had only seen a quiet, introvert young girl who only on the very rare occasion allowed herself to relax enough to join in the frivolity of the hall. Her laughter was light, her smile warmly infectious that it gave her young face a more womanly glow when seen.

Of the others she had seen little except at meal times, Eodwine, Thornden, Gárwine and even Falco busied themselves in the effort to change the old common room of the white horse into a new mead hall fit for the Lord of Mid-Emnet and although she took instruction from Searyn regarding the chores that required the days attention, the young woman who was now the halls hostess spent much of her time with Linduail, the Gondorian noble woman and cousin to the Queen of this land if rumours were to be believed. This news made Æöel slightly uncomfortable in the young woman’s presence and although she was sure that they had never before met, especially with her being from Belfalas and she from Minas Tirth, there was still that niggling worry that some rumour or scandal of her sudden departure might have reached the ears of the young noble woman. So she was careful to be unobtrusive but polite in the young woman’s presence hoping to go unnoticed as just another serving girl. But Linduail’s Guardian or her fathers Steward as it had turned out, she could not avoid, three times a day as instructed by the healer she brought him the herbal infusion that would help him regain his strength. When awake he had always thanked her politely and she responded in kind, waiting only long enough to take back the empty cup. However of late he would find reasons to delay her, little things like asking her to pass a particular book from his dresser or pouring water from the pitcher next to his bed and always he would frown thoughtfully as though something she had done had puzzled him.

She looked away from the window then and turned to return to a seat set next to the fire, beside the chair was a small spindly looking table upon which sat a dusty old pouch and a few coin’s, her pay for the previous weeks work. She had not expected much as living under the halls roof seemed payment enough but Lord Eodwine had been generous and agreed to pay her coin as well as board. She looked from the small pile of coins to the sword that sat propped against the wall, the firelight gleaming off its polished surface showing clearly the dark line of damage across the flat of the blade. She frowned recalling how it had become so.

It had been several months back when both day and night had been filled with cold rains and harsh winds, she had thought to seek the shelter in the mountains, but Ered Nimrais (the white mountains) was not to be traversed easily and she soon became lost. She wandered aimlessly through the mountains for several months before finally finding her way out into the Eastfold where she was waylaid by bandits who sought to separate her from her fathers sword and what little coin she had left. But she would not relinquish the weapon and had been forced to defend herself. Being the granddaughter of a weapons master/smith she had been taught how to handle a sword, (though this was never made common knowledge). But the sword she wielded had been crafted for her fathers hand and not hers so it was heavy and cumbersome and took several heavy blows to the rocky ground causing the fracture in the metal. As it happened it was not the sword that saved her it was the rains of those past months, they had made the earth slippery and treacherous and as the bandits less light footed than her gave chase one of them lost their footing and careered into the other, allowing her to make her escape, but again she was lost she did not know these land and it was several weeks before she finally arrived at Edoras, half starved and penniless.

She looked again from the sword to the coins and resolved to save what she earned until she had enough to paid for the repair, It was more than a weapon to her, crafted by her grandfather and wielded by her father it was the only link she had left. Just watching the firelight dance of its polished surface or rubbing the oil rag across its flat brought a strange but alluring comfort to her. Gathering up the coins she placed them into the pouch and slipped them under her mattress for safe keeping. The sword she re-sheathed and propped carefully against the end of her cot.

Then dousing the flames of her fire, she quickly fixed her hair and adjusted her skirts before heading down to see if there was anything else needing done, There hadn’t been much to do all morning and Æöel was feeling slightly restless… perhaps I will see if Leof needs a hand she mused thoughtfully.

She quietly passed into the kitchen, where she was surprised to see so many people. Frodides stern faced stood wagging a wooden spoon inches from Thorndens nose telling him absolutely that they could not use her kitchens as a common room, Master Falco was helping himself to some bread and cheese, while at the table Master Marenil sat next to Kara silently peeling potatoes. Seeing her stunned expression he mouthed that he was feeling much better.

“What is going on?” she whispered taking a seat beside them, “Why is everyone in here?”
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Old 03-27-2006, 05:20 PM   #140
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Twice in ten minutes Linduial found herself totally flummoxed by Saeryn's handsome twin. She stared after him for a few interminable moments, then fled in the opposite direction, after Saeryn, lifting her skirts and running full out, wishing the uncomfortable flush on her face would fade.

"Saeryn...," she gasped, as her friend heard her footfalls and turned. "...your brother..."

She didn't know how to explain it any better than that, but that seemed to be enough. Saeryn took one look at her stricken face and flushed cheeks and laughed, but kindly, in total understanding.

========

Marenil was thoroughly enjoying the chaos and commotion filling the kitchen. Kara had not protested his assistance, and the pile of potatoes was dwindling at an alarming speed. Old Frodides was demonstrating a power of persuasion it was obvious Thornden hadn't been prepared for. Marenil noticed an accusatory glance from a new arrival, and smiled to himself. Young Aedhel was a very good nursemaid, but her manner was--constrained. Something bothered her, and he didn't think he had ever seen her look comfortable with him...If an old man bound to his bed could make a girl that nervous...

She was a puzzle and no mistake.

Frodides paused for a breath, and began again with refreshed volume. Marenil considered helping the young man smooth things over, but decided his assistance might not be welcome. He decided to let Thornden handle the situation himself, and took up another potato, one of only five remaining. He pointed out the count to Kara with a wink, and leaned back comfortably in his chair, watching Folco grabbing snacks for himself behind the irate Frodides' back with cheerful amusement. It was nice to be back around people again. Chaos and confusion was his element. When things ran smoothly he was bored and generally taken for granted. But in a crisis, Marenil shone.

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Old 03-27-2006, 06:12 PM   #141
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Saeryn tried hard not to laugh and failed, compromising with a hug and a pat on the back.

"Poor Lin... he has that effect on everyone." Saeryn's smile was wide, her eyes dancing with amusement.

She talked as she once did to her sister Caeli when she mooned over a visiting lord, nodding understandingly as Lin's face revealed her thoughts.

"Come, love, we'll get a cup of tea from the kitchen. I'm sure Frodides has a pot on. And a whisper came to my ear from a small lark that a certain someone you've been worrying about is lurking there. We can play a bit of Gob and Tiddle after that. Hm? How does that sound?"
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:10 PM   #142
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Things would have been marvelously comfortable in the kitchen. Thornden liked a warm blaze and merry company on grey and rainy days, but that wasn't to be this time. Fordides made that very clear as soon as she realized what was happening.

'I won't take any of your plumfoolery here, young fellow!' she cried, snatching up a spoon and advancing more quickly than he would have expected. 'Don't you think I have enough to do to keep the meals coming out in time without all my counter space being taken up with people sitting and talking?'

'Don't be hasty,' Thornden was rather inclined to say, but he didn't get a chance. The cook was continuing, and that spoon was getting to move more quickly than he liked.

'I'm all very well good and happy with stories being told, but not in my kitchen. The place wouldn't be fit to be seen, much less to cook in, when it came time to cook dinner if you stayed here. Take everyone out! Out, out! Or else there'll be some real reckoning to do.'

He didn't know if she was actually intending to apply the ladle, but he ducked nonetheless and dodged to the other side of the table.

'Alright, everybody,' he said, barely keeping enough wits about him not to run and loose whatever dignity he had left, 'it doesn't appear that we're welcome here after all. We'd better all get out, or else face consequences.' He shot a glance towards Fordides who raised an eyebrow rather meaningfully. The hand with the spoon, now resting authoritavely on her hip, twitched slightly and he nodded as though he understood. 'So, let's gather to the Hall, or what's there of it. Miserable as it may be, perhaps story telling and some ale will warm us properly.'

He added to himself, though not aloud, that it wouldn't be half as nice, but that couldn't be helped. Not when Fordides guarded the kitchen like a dragon its lair. They'd have to make do with the damp, and, really, it probably wasn't half as bad as he made it out to be. It wasn't really cold, but he ignored that fact. Sending another pleading glance towards Fordides (which was replied with and killed by a withering glare) he led the entire group towards the door.

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Old 03-27-2006, 09:59 PM   #143
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“So how are you doing?" Léof asked, "I haven’t seen much of you these past couple days – is anything interesting happening?”

"I've just been around the town, running errands for the carpenters and such work." Gárwine said. He casually leaned against Herefola's stall. She came up to rub at his elbows. Gárwine scratched her nose. She looked much healthier than a week ago, after Gárwine's great ride to Edoras. Léof had taken good care of her.

Léof hummed a half-amused tone. "If you're not busy later, Linduial has asked me to help hang wall hangings. Want to help? I thought it would be fun to see how the Gondorian nobility live." He grinned.

"Sure," said Gárwine. Linduial had been the most intriguing of all the girls at the mead hall: a noble maiden of a far away land, probably hiding all sorts of exotic treasures behind her bedroom door. Gárwine had not seen much of her over the week. And wall hangings? Gárwine couldn't imagine that she'd need help hanging a few cloths on the walls. She seemed tall enough. "Wall hangings, you say, like tapestries?"

"Yes, and maybe paintings or other decoration. She was somewhat vague in her description. I suppose she might want some furniture moved around, too. You're welcome to help."

After a short pause, Gárwine said, "I think I will help. I've been curious to see what she's brought from Gondor. What do you suppose she has in that room? I think it's probably full of chests of gold and family heirlooms. She is nobility, you know."

"A princess. Her luggage must be filled with silk dresses and golden jewelry. She must be used to being pampered by dozens of servants and living in palaces. But she doesn't complain about the Mead Hall."

As the two boys were daydreaming about the luxuries of the life of a Gondorian nobleperson, Thornden came walking down the hall to the stables. He appeared in the doorway and told the boys that Eodwine would soon continue the story of Gob and Twiddle. "Would you like to join us?" Thornden asked.

"I might come later, when I've finished my work here," said Léof. Gárwine nodded his head to show that he was staying.

"Suit yourself," said Thronden and strode back the way he came. Léof, meanwhile, was moving his own horse into another stall. Gárwine stood by Herefola, patting her neck. He had only seen her once or twice over the week and was glad to see that she was doing well.

"You know, Léof, have you noticed how our horses look so alike? Sometimes I wonder if they are related somehow. Herefola's mother was given to us as a gift, after my father and his comrades fought away Dunlendings in the Westfolde years ago. How did you come by Æthel?"

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Old 03-28-2006, 07:27 AM   #144
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At Saeryn's commiseration, the shock that had frozen Linduial finally wisped away, leaving her talking at a mile a minute, trying to explain away her fascination with Degas. It wasn't working.

"When he got here, he didn't even notice me, Saeryn! Didn't even take a second look...I always get noticed. And then after you left, he-- he told me how pretty I was in the most ridiculous terms, and kissed my hand, and Oh! he was making fun of me, I know it!"

Saeryn was smiling in amusement, an arm around Lin's waist, as the younger girl spoke rapidly, gesturing wildly with each sentence, voice rigid with embarassment and frustration. Lin paused for a breath, and continued in a much softer voice, suddenly shy.

"And Saeryn, he's very handsome, he really is, and so clever, and he really does love you very much indeed. And if he thought I were pretty...Really thought, I mean, not just teasing me...well...," Lin smiled softly and earnestly at her friend. "I wouldn't mind."
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Old 03-28-2006, 07:44 AM   #145
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Saeryn's mind whirled, but she was not upset. If Lin wouldn't mind if Degas thought her pretty, Saeryn certainly wouldn't mind it either. While the girl (barely younger than her!) was a little silly, it came from a sheltered life rather than from pure silliness. Put in her element, Saeryn had no doubt of her abilities. But the poor girl was as far from that element as a ship lost at sea, trying hard to get its bearings from stars through an overcast mid-day sky. Saeryn took pity.

"Degas doesn't lie."

"What?"

"He doesn't lie. I've never heard him utter a falsity that I can remember. If he said that you are pretty, no matter how laced his tongue was with foolishness, he believes it to be true. Now whether or not he thinks that you are, as you said, really pretty... that's not for me to say. But if you want to catch his attention... really catch his attention... ignore him."

"What?" Lin's vocabulary had lost much of its girth since the arrival of Saeryn's dashing brother. Saeryn rolled her eyes in mock exasperation.

"If you treat him with the same casual uncaring that he is very intentionally doing to you, he'll be curious like you wouldn't believe." Saeryn hoped that this advice would not backfire. She'd watched his brother win ladies' hearts for years, and only ever had seen one woman that was his match for games. A mutual friend had sent the pair as a couple to the dancefloor and she had been polite, proper, and above all, very aloof. At the end of their dance, she had left him with a wink, disappearing into the crowd. Saeryn had heard nothing more for weeks than the mysterious woman who had asked Degas nothing of himself, nor had she expressed interest beyond propriety.

Saeryn smiled, satisfied that it would work. "Now if you'll just act around him like you've acted around Eodwine!" Lin blushed and Saeryn laughed. "I know that he is off-putting, but try to avoid him knowing it. He'll be that much more cocky if you let on."

They entered the kitchen to the sight of an abashed Thornden, a content Marenil, a smiling Kara on return from disposing of potato peels, and a harrumphing Frodides, among others. She held back a smile, guessing at what had transpired. Standing in the doorway, leaning, if she had known it, the very same way Degas had done when speaking to Linduial. She spotted Falco palming a roll and looked away purposefully.

"Marenil, it is good to see you about. You are feeling well?"
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Old 03-28-2006, 08:26 AM   #146
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Marenil smiled to see the sensible young woman who had stopped to visit a few times during the week. Lin seemed to be developing quite a strong friendship with Saeryn, which only pleased him the more. Linduial needed friends her own age. He brushed a few potato peelings off his lap and rose gingerly--rain always made his knees remind him of his age.

He walked over to the two girls, pulling them a little out of the doorway in anticipation of an impending mass exodus through the narrow portal. "I am feeling much better, thank you, Lady Saeryn, thanks to the kind care of your people here. Young Aedhel is a valuable asset to any household. I shall suggest the Lord send her to study under the Healer who came the night we arrived. I think there is much talent hidden in her retiring manner." And something else besides, he didn't say, keeping his curiousity politely to himself.

"And my Lady Linduial!" he turned toward his charge with a formal bow, but his eyes and tone belied it. The girl smiled at him sunnily and sidestepped the bow to hug him tightly, surprising Marenil. If she'd relaxed this much in a week, these people were going to be no end of good for her. "Now, now," he murmured. "I'm fine, and in a few months I'll be going home, good as new."

Lin pulled away. "That reminds me...a letter for you from father came yesterday while you were asleep, sealed in one for me. It's a few months old. Must have been following us all the way here...I can go get it."

Marenil grinned at her. "If it's waited this long, it will wait a while longer. Tell me about your letter. Your brothers getting into the usual messes?"

Lin quickly began chattering happily away about her brothers' latest exploit (which seemed to involve a pirate with a beautiful hostage...stories found those boys like magic. It was uncanny.) Marenil took the opportunity to look her up and down more carefully. There was an odd look on her face, as though she had been hit with a metaphysical brick and was thinking her way around it. Marenil threw a questioning look at Saeryn as the three fell into step following the rest of the residents of the hall out to the tent-Hall that had been set up in the courtyard.
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Old 03-28-2006, 09:34 PM   #147
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Eodwine had returned to his seat in the makeshift mead-tent, sitting beside Falco. It had taken longer to gather everyone from their farflung and rather busy-bodied places than he had expected, but now they all drew near. It was just before noon, thought it could not be told from the sky.

Here was Degas, sauntering in at the rear of the little group, looking more pleased with himself than one had a right to. Eodwine smirked and shook his head just a wee bit.

There was Kara with a tray filled with mugs.

"Gather round! Gather round!" Eodwine cried. "Sorry I am that no fire can be built under this burnable roof, but the weather is not chill though wet enough. Gather close and we'll warm each other like cattle in the barn!" Eodwine caught mild winces from both Marinel and Falco. "Sorry, but you shall find this lord's speech still cluttered with the flotsam of his youth."

Kara had set the mugs on a nearby table and gone back to the kitchen. Now she returned with the ram's horn.

"Pour for our guests first, Kara," Eodwine instructed, indicating Marenil and Linduial. Soon all those gathered who wished for mead to soften the dryness of their throats, had mug in hand, filled from the horn. "Before we start the tale afresh, is there any news to be told that 'twould be good for all of us to hear?"

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Old 03-28-2006, 10:24 PM   #148
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Saeryn leaned forward from the seat that she perched daintily on, the small motion commanding the attention of all. She could have stood, but what was the point?

"For those who've not met him," her eyes ranged around the circle, pausing at each new face, "my brother has joined our ranks. Degas, please say something, and for the sake of us all, keep it short."

Lin looked carefully anywhere but at the young man near her. Kara looked at him in wonder. She'd never met anyone quite like him. He winked at her and she looked away quickly.

"Yes, I've joined your esteemed ranks." Degas spoke, his voice a mellow tenor, the Rohirrim in him caressing his vowels into a near song. Long months in Minas Tirith had given his musical voice a Southern edge. "I hope I'll not be a bother to anyone. If so, feel free to speak and I'll be on my way."

Saeryn glared at him, speaking.

"Ignore him. He'll be here until I say that he can go."

"Yes Saer." he sighed, mock long-sufferingly. She smiled at him and looked around.

"Any other news?"
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Old 03-29-2006, 09:28 AM   #149
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Marenil had been watching Linduial out of the corner of his eye since he'd met her at the kitchen door, trying to pinpoint the cause of her odd manner. He was sure that Saeryn knew what was up: she had an amused light in her eyes every time she looked at her friend. When Saeryn introduced her brother, Marenil noticed a slight blush, quickly stifled, and was exceedingly amused to see Linduial rapidly construct the icy, closed demeanor the men of Belfalas lamented in bad poetry. It wasn't as firm as she usually held it...but then usually there was no hint of a blush, and she had certainly been flustered...

He threw Saeryn an incredulous glance over Lin's head, indicating Lin and Degas with a tiny twitch of his head. She responded with a tiny hint of a smile that was definitely amused, and Marenil grinned to himself. And Lin had come here to escape a marriage? Out of the frying pan, into the fire, there was no doubt about that. He glanced at the young man consideringly. Handsome, conceited, definitely full of himself...but there was a loving light in his eyes as he deferred comically to his sister. And the Lady Saeryn was noble...He could think of worse things. The bore of a certain young man in Belfalas for example...

As Saeryn asked for other news, Marenil tucked this new tidbit in the back of his mind and rose stiffly, wryly cursing the life-giving rain he could hear pattering on the rough fabric of the tent-roof.

"I'd like to thank everyone here for their kind care of me and my Lady while I was ill. Most especially I would like to extend my thanks to the Lord Eodwine and his ward Aedhelhild. She has a great gift, my Lord. You may be new to your office, as I have heard, but you are already strong in any Lord's greatest asset: a loyal people." He bowed, respectfully, and Linduial, taking his cue, rose in his place, her court manner perfect and unassailable.

"My Lord, I have taken the liberty of sending my father, Lord Farlen of Dol Amroth, and my cousin, Queen Lothiriel of Rohan, an account of your laudable treatment of myself and our servant Marenil," she began, somehow making 'servant' sound as grand a title as any other. "You have done our House a great service, and we shall be beholden to you for it. I wish to offer you this as a token of our thanks." At a gesture, Marenil rose and handed Eodwine his signet ring, bearing Lin's family seal. Both of them had offered their thanks less formally to Eodwine earlier in the week, but Linduial, as a scion of a very great House, never forgot protocol, and firmly believed that such a formal show of gratitude, in front of Eodwine's household, was absolutely necessary.

However, as Marenil had noticed before, Lin had certainly begun to relax a little in her week with the Rohirrim. It was happening rather rapidly to Marenil's eyes, but then he'd been unconscious when they arrived, and not seen how completely Lin's guard had gone down immediately after his collapse. It was more difficult to be formal with people who had seen her at her weakest, and she had begun to be less than formal with everyone in the Hall. So only Marenil was really startled when ice-Lin disappeared abruptly and the relaxed joyous Lin he knew was always in there suddenly laughed and clapped her hands together.

"Ah!" she said cheerfully. "Now that that's over with, and if no one has any more to announce, what's all this Tob and Gwiddle nonsense everyone's so excited about?" She plopped gracelessly back down into her chair, full skirts swirling in protest, looking like nothing so much as a happy little girl, so much so that Marenil found it hard to believe her feet reached the floor.

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Old 03-29-2006, 07:58 PM   #150
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Eodwine held Marenil's signet ring in his hand, knowing full well the implications. This was lordship. Nobility. This man and this young lady were bred to it. Eodwine was not, and knew that he would be a fool to attempt to act in a way uncommon to his learning.

"My thanks, Marenil, for the token as well as the esteem it speaks.

"Mine is a court not yet become what it ought to be, and you grace it beyond its merit. I thank you." The tradition among the Eorlingas was a gift for a gift, and a mead hall lord gives greater than he gets. However, he was new and had little to offer. He thought a moment, rifling in his mind through his meagre possessions.

"Thornden, go to my bed chamber where you will find a small chest at the foot of my bed. Be pleased to bring it here."

Thornden rose and bowed. "Yes, lord." He walked away.

"Thanks also," Eodwine went on, "for your good word of Æðelhild. I will consider what you say and speak with the lass." Eodwine looked for her and did not find her. He noted also that Léof was not with them. Were the two together in the stables? A budding friendship? Maybe more? Stop it, you silly lordling, he said to himself, romance may be breaking out in certain places, cut that means not that every little corner is its nesting spot.

"Ah!" said Linduial cheerfully. "Now that that's over with, and if no one has any more to announce, what's all this Tob and Gwiddle nonsense everyone's so excited about?" She sat back down, acting much more at home than she had just a moment ago during the formal gift giving.

"Tob and Gwiddle?" Eodwine grinned. "Those would be Falco's close personal friends from up by the Shire. Perhaps you could tell us of their plan concerning old Bill Ferny?"

"I would but I need vittles first. It's time for first mid-day meal, sun or no sun to tell the time by. What about food to go with this drink?"

Just then there was a loud thump from beyond the wall to the mead hall. All eyes turned to look at the wall.

"Must have been a chair fell over," Falco commented.

"That was no chair," Eodwine retorted, rising. "More like a wood - oh ... no ... " The wall began to moan and whine, then it started to crack. With the sound of two dozen grief-stricken ghosts, the wall screamed in its death agony as it fell inward - thankfully - and toppled all over the tables, chairs, pulled down hearth, and everything else inside. And the makeshift roof fell inward, all the water that had collected splashing into the rising dust, making a cindery fog and mess of the entire property of the mead hall. Eodwine covered his face and hoped the otheres did as well. He silently hoped the kitchen and rooms remained undamaged.

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Old 03-29-2006, 09:02 PM   #151
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Thornden was crossing the hall right before the door leading into the Mead Hall when the catastrophe occurred. Instinct caused him to step back and stand with his back against the nearest, steady wall, and this he did, until the falling crash had ended. But even before those few seconds were through, his mind was racing as quickly as his heart about the others outside. He had no idea what exactly had fallen, only that it was big, nor where it had fallen, except that it was awfully near where everyone was sitting together.

He carried in his hands the small chest that Eodwine had sent him to get. Turning, half blinded by the dust that had invariably risen, he hurried down the hall away from the hole that was now rent in the building, with the hope of setting it somewhere where it would be safe. He set it on a chair near the corner of it and hurried back the way he had come, nearly at a run.

He came out into what was now the open. From where he stood, he could see where the wall had fallen and how much damage had been done. He looked around him quickly, squinting through the white, dusty fog that was rising he noticed out in front, the group of would be story tellers, crouching in the drizzly, incessant rain. No one was hurt, but they all looked considerably dazed. He nodded in satisfaction and turned his head about and looked the other way. That, he saw, was where the trouble would be. The door of the kitchen was half covered up with stones and wood. The bottom of the wall was rammed in, though it didn’t fall, and Fordides was caught inside.

With one more glance towards the others, he began to pick his way as quickly as possible through the rubble towards the kitchen door. Through his mind he tried to think of someone who could help him to clear the door and get Fordides out. He hoped that she wasn’t hurt, but from where he was, he could not tell if it was likely or unlikely.

A thought struck him at a happy moment. Two people had not been present when they gathered in the makeshift hall. “Léofric! Gárwine!” he shouted. He hoped his voice was carry into the stables where they both were. “Léof! Gárwine! Come out here, quick, I need your help!” He stopped before the kitchen door, as close to before it as he could get, and tried to look in. “Fordides?” he called. “Fordides, are you alright in there?”

“Oh, aye, I’m all very well and good,” came her voice, but it was sounded strange, and somewhat broken. “But my poor kitchen’s all busted in from the outside.”

Thornden drew back and knit his brows, shaking his head at the mysteries of women. The poor cook was bewailing her wounded kitchen.

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Old 03-30-2006, 09:18 AM   #152
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“We’ve had Æthel since she was old enough to be broken to the saddle, and that was when I was seven or eight – just old enough to be the one sitting in the saddle,” added Léof with a wince. He had certainly learned something about being dumped from this experience. Æthel had been about as young as a horse could get for riding, and his father had not wanted to put his own full weight on her back, while Léof’s scant frame had been ideal. “But she was the product of a local breeding, so if our horses were related, it would have to be further back than that. I know that Æthel’s sire came from somewhere close to Edoras; he was the foal of Therlaf and Merufel. But beyond that I can’t say that I know. It was hard for me to get information.

“As long as I’m moving Æthel around anyway, why don’t you bring Herefola out? I wouldn’t mind having a close look at the two of them side by side,” said Léof.

Gárwine agreed and led Herefola out of her stall. They lined the two of them up and Léof handed Æthel’s lead rope to Gárwine. Léof marveled now at how very close the two of them really were, not only in markings but also in stature and build. Æthel was perhaps half a hand shorter and somewhat slighter, but besides a few other subtle differences, it would be easy to believe he was looking at twins.

Suddenly there was a creaking, then a cracking, then a loud crash. Both horses snorted and tugged at their ropes; Léof could see the whites of Herefola’s eyes, and Æthel looked ready to rear. Many of the other horses in the stable had also become agitated, but Léof was much more concerned about these two. He was taking Æthel’s lead from Gárwine when he heard a shout, “Léofric! Gárwine!” Léof felt a brief flash of fear and anger, not at Thornden but because of the connotations his shouted full name carried, but he had no time to dwell on it in the ensuing chaos. Somewhere down the shed row he heard a bang, as if one of the horses had kicked the stall wall. “Léof! Gárwine! Come out here, and quick!” The shout and bang were the last straws for the panicked horses. Æthel reared, and Léof could feel the rope sliding through his hands, burning them. He had enough sense not to let go of the rope, but he also was not about to let himself get hauled from the ground. From the side of his vision, Léof had the impression of Herefola struggling; he could not tell what was happening to Gárwine. But he could do nothing until Æthel was under control. She had reared up again, and her flailing hooves were uncomfortably close to his head. He backed up, giving the lead a slight tug and talking to her in a soft voice. Inwardly, however, he was starting to panic, not for her but for Herefola. Gárwine seemed to be having a hard time with her, and she didn’t seem to be getting any calmer.

To make matters worse, Léof could hear more shouts coming from the courtyard. Æthel’s ears, which had been slowly flicking forward in attention to him, snapped back again and she lunged. Léof jumped back, but not quite quickly enough to avoid having his foot stepped on. He felt his throat contract and he gasped in pain. He clenched to the lead rope, trying to find words to speak to Æthel. But for her, at least, it seemed the crisis had passed. Her front feet lifted a few inches from the ground once more before her ears flicked forwards and she stood still, quivering slightly and snorting, but calmed. Now, he knew, Gárwine would need help…
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Old 03-30-2006, 08:41 PM   #153
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Linduial watched in horror as the Mead Hall walls collapsed, a shriek escaping her lips as she spun around and instinctively crouched down beside her chair, hands over her head. She felt the shock-wave of the collapsed wall as a wind pushing against her, tangling her hair and coating her in wet and muck and dust. She stayed frozen, arms protecting herself, for a few long moments, panicked, but as no further sounds warned her of impending doom, she carefully stood, hoping that noone had been hurt.

She glanced over at Marenil and their eyes met, both remembering a bad storm that had blown up off the bay and completely flattened an entire city block in Dol Amroth the autumn past. Such storms were not unknown, but this one had been particularly bad--and even Lin had pitched in to help in the frantic search for survivors, pulling old shirts and sheets to shreds and bandaging the injured. The images of that storm were imprinted painfully on both their memories and each was frantically trying to figure out who might be in there. Shouts and faint figures working their way through the dust let them know that Thornden, Lèof, and Garwine at least were safe, but as they began digging through a seemingly impossibly huge pile of rubble and the rest of the company began to compare the scattered beams and stones to mental maps of the grounds, most came to the same conclusion at once: Frodides.

Eodwine and Degas immediately started sprinting through the rubble to the pile of debris blocking the kitchen door, with Marenil following behind only slightly more slowly. Aedhel was running for her room (the wing of the building that housed them all seemed, thankfully, to be standing) for her healer's kit, and Linduial, Saeryn, and Kara were left watching rather helplessly as the men worked to free the trapped woman.

Suddenly Lin laughed out loud, gaining her the instant attention of the other two women. She quickly sobered and turned to them with a smile. "Those ridiculous men. It will take them half the day to shift that rock. But I just thought of something...Kara, isn't there a backdoor into the kitchen, in the back wall beside the summer hearth?"

Kara nodded, slow to realize what Lin was getting at in the shock of the collapse. Lin laughed again, but sobered quickly. "Frodides must be hurt, or she'd surely use the door. But if we run, we can rescue her before the men even realize what fools they're being."

Saeryn and Kara smiled as they realized what Lin was saying, and seemed willing to go along with her, so Lin, with total disregard (for now) for her ruined dress, filthy skin and tangled hair, led them at an easy run around the back of the kitchen, all three girls giggling quietly at the sound of the men calling to Frodides not to worry, they'd get to her soon enough.

The back walls didn't seem damaged at all, but the three immediately saw why Frodides hadn't emerged. Lin shook her head slowly, for the first time realizing that the Rohirrim, not being terribly familiar with the material, used no mortar: the force of the collapse had caused the tall stone chimney to collapse, and the back door, while not blocked as thoroughly as the ones into the Hall and inner courtyard, was certainly not easily accessible. She experienced a brief stab of frustration, but quickly realized a solution was still at hand. On the same wall, to the other side of the collapsed hearth, the window was wide open to catch early morning breezes and birdsong.

Lin continued to play ringleader, standing to one side of the window, and gesturing for Saeryn to do the same. "Look at us, we three. That window is fairly wide, and none of us are. Nor is Frodides for that matter. If two of us could give the third a boost up, and then help to lift Frodides out, we could rescue our cook without the boys even realizing we'd done so. Kara, you go in, you're most familiar with the kitchen, and it's like to be dark and rather cluttered in there."

Kara nodded, and Saeryn and Lin made steps of their hands and lifted her up and over the high windowsill. "And don't make more noise than you have to!" Lin instructed cheerfully. "It will be loads more fun if the men don't realize Frodides has been rescued!"

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Old 03-31-2006, 09:01 PM   #154
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"Step away, Thornden and Degas. Let Falco and me have a go!"

"I would like to lend a hand also," offered Marenil.

"And you just up from bed rest?" retorted Eodwine.

Eodwine and Falco laid hands in and pulled chunks of broken stone and wood away from the pile blocking the way to the kitchen.

Some lord I make, Eodwine thought. I was a fool to take the title. Ill luck's with me, clear for all to see. I ought to bring the title back to the King and have him hand it to another. 'Lord, just let me be a humble innkeeper; charge my guests a fair rater for room and board, live the life of a simple man as I was born to be.' He could imagine the reply: 'Do you question my command? Did I not choose the right man to rule this piece of my realm?' No, lord, you chose wrongly this once, though I thank you for the kindly thought that intended better than I've done with it. Have you seen the wonder of my mead hall? I started out with a homely inn and now I've a ruin. So well I've done with your charge, lord! In fact, I daresay you should give me that Wardenship of the Dunlending Marches after all! In a month and a day I'll have handed the whole of it back to the Dunlendings without having meant to! Better yet, make me king! In a year and a day all Rohan will be divided up between Gondor, Dunland, the Fangorn Ents, and any other kinglet who seeks a realm to be ripped from a luckless churl like me!

"Whoa there, lord," said Degas, "toss those rocks any harder and I'll have a broken leg to show for it."

"Sorry, Degas," Eodwine grunted, "just working with a will. I suggest you step back."

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Old 03-31-2006, 09:28 PM   #155
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Thornden stepped back as Eodwine suggested. and leaned against what was left of the kitchen wall, wiping the sweat that had broken out from his forehead. Not that it would do much good when rain would soon replace it. His hand came back down dirty and he sighed as he wiped it on his pant leg.

Quietly he stood watching Degas and Eodwine shovel away quickly. He noticed rocks being shoved and hurled harder and farther out than necessary and he settled his eyes on Eodwine. Clearly he was frusterated and angry. Who shouldn't be? His brows were drawn down over his eyes and he scowled as he worked. Thornden cocked his head to one side and continued to watch. If he kept up at such a rate he'd hurt himself, or someone else. Degas seemed to share this point of veiw.

"Whoa there, lord. Toss those rocks any harder and I'll have a broken leg to show for it."

"Sorry, Degas, just working with a will. I suggest you step back."

"Nay, my lord," Thornden said, standing up straight. "And let you shovel by yourself? There are many of us here, there is no reason why we shouldn't help with the work. At the rate your going, you'll end up hurting yourself and not getting as much done in half the time we could. Come, let us help, and don't take it so hard."

Thornden didn't feel like taking any argument, even from Eodwine, and especially in such a matter. There was room for three of them at least to work side by side, so long as they kept their movements small and concise. Anyone who didn't work could take the rocks they move and throw them farther back, where they would be out of the way until taken care of for good later on.

"Come, Degas," he said. "Stand by our lord and leader and lend him a hand."
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Old 04-01-2006, 01:52 PM   #156
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Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Feanor of the Peredhil is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
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"Very true, Thornden. Well said. Lord Eodwine," Degas interrupted the man's work with a friendly hand on his shoulder. "there are times that a man must work alone and there are times that it is better for him to do so. But a time where a lord might throw his back out is a good one for him to notice we brawny lads and the amount of room for us to help out."

Eodwine paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. Without waiting for a response, Degas clapped him on the shoulder.

"Good man. Now let me help a wee bit and we'll have our dear Frodides out in no time at all."
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Old 04-01-2006, 03:44 PM   #157
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Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Ruthven felt the old wooden walls of the convenience quiver and shake as a loud rumbling and then a deep crash echoed through them. For a moment she thought she would experience the joke of all jokes and find the walls blowing away and leaving her displayed for all to see, and she grabbed onto the door handle. But the walls stood as voices were raised and dust came tumbling through the small cutout window atop the door. With a whistle and a grunt, the old woman composed herself and, door steadied, hurried out to see the lasses nattering outside the kitchen window.

The entire tent roof had been pulled away and down, it appeared, from what she could see.

"Lasses, what in tarnation has happened? And what are you tittering about?" she asked.
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:10 PM   #158
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Herefola kicked into the air wildly, and wrenched the lead from Gárwine's hands. She bucked and leapt, unable to be calmed by Gárwine. Herefola was one second a sedate and calm animal, and moments later she was leaping around like a wild horse out of the north. Gárwine did not know how to calm her. He was never attuned to the temperaments of horses, despite how his father tried to teach him. Gárwine could only wave his arms and shout. "Hey, calm down, whoa!" He backed away from Herefola to get out of the way of her flying hooves. Gárwine looked to Léof for help, but he was bent over in pain; Æthel had stomped on his foot. But Æthel was at least calmed. Léof straightened up, hobbling on one foot, and led her to her stall. "I'll help you in a moment, Gárwine!" he called. Gárwine nodded, still staying well away from his horse, quite unsure what to do.

Léof came to his aid once Æthel was shut away in her stall. "How's your foot?" Gárwine asked him.

"It's fine," he said, though it was plain that it still ached, "Here, Herefola, calm down." He spoke to Herefola gently, but she still kicked in the air. Léof approached cautiously, and Herefola backed away a bit, but Léof still came closer and grabbed of the rope. Herefola was kicking less and was calming down, and Léof led her back to her stall. Gárwine watched in amazement at the horse's sudden change.

"Léofric! Gárwine!"

They were still urgently called for in the courtyard. After Léof made sure that Herefola was securely in her stall, they hurried out of the stables to follow the shouts. They arrived in the courtyard, anxious to see what had happened, and to Gárwine, it looked as though part of the building had collapsed. He was flabbergasted, and stood wondering how on earth an entire wall could've fallen over like that.

"Don't just stand there, lads, help us dig!" Somebody said, and Gárwine ran to the rubble and began pulling out wooden boards and giant flakes of plaster with his hands. He chose a place next to Thornden. "What happened? Why has the wall fallen?" Gárwine asked him, "Is anybody inside?"
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Old 04-01-2006, 04:59 PM   #159
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Kara was already halfway through the window when Ruthven appeared round the corner. Her arrival was so unexpected that it made both Linduial and Saeryn jump, causing them to push Kara a little harder than they had intended. A few brief seconds later she found herself on the floor inside the kitchen, fortunately mostly unharmed.

"Kara!" Came a panicked voice from outside. "Kara! Are you alright?"

"I'm fine!" She called back and rose to her feet, coughing as the dust flew up off her. She brushed herself off a little and waved a hand past the window so those outside could see she was safe.

The kitchen was dim, lit only by the light coming in from the window. It was also a mess, and even though she'd been working in there for gone a week now, Kara was having difficulty finding her way about. There was rubble all over the place, and where the floor wasn't covered in dirt or loose stones it was littered with pots and pans. Picking her way through carefully Kara called out to Frodides.

"Hello? Frodides? Where are you?"

"Here, girl." Came a weakened voice, completely unlike that of the Hall's normally fierce and sturdy cook.

Following the noise Kara found the woman huddled beneath the table, which seemed to be the only thing in the kitchen still in it's rightful place save the oven. She bent down and saw at once that Aedhel would be needed, for Frodides had a long gash in her leg, and it looked deep. The cook herself was pale and obviously in pain, though she wouldn't admit it, taking Kara's hand and pulling herself up with the slightest of winces. Taking a deep breath she steadied herself as Kara let go of her to find a chair.

"So, how are we getting out of here. Or hadn't you thought that far?"

"Of course we had Frodides. We're going out the same way as I came in, through the window."

The cook turned to her with an incredulous look.

"You expect a woman of my age to go crawling through small holes? I'd rather sit here and wait thank you." She took the chair Kara had just found and sat herself down on it, folding her arms and refusing to budge. But Kara had not just learnt recipes and cooking techniques over the past few days, she had also learnt how to deal with Frodides, and was especially grateful for that knowledge now.

"Well, if you don't think you're up to it then of course I will wait here with you. I'm sure Lord Eodwine wouldn't think any the less of you for it. After all, you are getting older now and . . ."

She never got the chance to finish, as Frodides hauled herself to her feet again and began to make her slow but determined way over to the window, hauling the chair behind her.

"Don't think I don't know what you're doing girl. My body may be ageing but my mind's as sharp as it ever was."

Kara nodded respectfully as she took the chair from Frodides and positioned it underneath the window.

"And don't you think I'm doing this to prove you wrong, oh no, I'm just doing it to save you having to explain to your young friends out there that I was quite happy where I was and didn't need rescuing at all."

Continuing to agree Kara helped her onto the chair and climbed up with her. Together they managed to get Frodides' injured leg through the window and her foot into Linduial and Saeryn's hands. Now balanced, Kara helped Frodides swing her other leg through and carefully she was lowered down to the ground, with Kara quickly following. She showed the others the cut on Frodides' leg and it was immediately agreed that Aedhel should be found. Seeing that Kara had a better idea of what to do with the injury than she did, Linduial offered to find the girl, and ran off to do just that.

Thinking it would be a few minutes at least until she returned Kara turned to Ruthven.

"Could I take one of your shawls please ma'am? We need to keep Frodides warm til Aedhel arrives."
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Old 04-01-2006, 05:28 PM   #160
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Léof hobbled after Gárwine as quickly as he could, trying unsuccessfully to hide his limp. Now that disaster with the horses had been averted, his aching foot seemed to be the only thing that could occupy his mind. And, oh, it hurt! He feared to take off his boot and find out what damage had been done.

But now their help was needed elsewhere. It was all Léof could do not to gape as he emerged from the stable and found the hall and its temporary roof fallen in on itself – so this was what had caused the horses to spook.

“Don't just stand there, lads, help us dig!” For this Léof was grateful: the men all seemed busy enough digging out the kitchen that they would not notice his limp. An ostler couldn’t go around with a bum foot, and he felt rather ashamed that he had let the situation get so out of control in the first place. Leaving Gárwine with both lead ropes in his hand, not being cautious enough to watch his own feet, even having both horses out like that in the first place. He could have done something differently.

As he approached to help dig, Gárwine’s questions were already being answered rather briefly, and Léof only caught snippets as he began to help pulling away boards of wood and bits of plaster. Wall just happened to fall over… Frodides inside, apparently not hurt… But Léof could only bring himself to pay perfunctory attention to this news and the task at hand.

Suddenly it seemed that he could hear voices inside the kitchen. The other men heard it, too, apparently, for one of them – Léof didn’t pay any attention as to who – shouted, “Frodides? Are you all right in there?” But there was no answer, and any voices that may have been there had fallen silent or disappeared.

“Were we all just hearing things?” Léof wondered, only half aware that he was speaking aloud. “Or is something else going on here…?”
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