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Old 06-09-2006, 08:59 AM   #41
JennyHallu
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Lin woke from a restless slumber to faint sunlight slanting down from a high vent in the opposite wall of the cellar, and falling with little warmth across the bars of her cell. She reached blindly for the pitcher of water she kept beside her bed, her hand grabbing at empty air before she remembered where she was with an unpleasant start.

The cell was spring-morning cold, and the air coming through the vent blew fitfully against her body, still clad in the light linen gown she'd donned for the fair the day before. Glad no guard seemed to be around, she used the cracked chamberpot that had been provided for her, and shoved it carefully under the cot, making sure not to spill. No one had yet come to clean it out, and she hoped they would soon, before it began to smell.

Wrapping the thin blanket around her shoulders she sat on the edge of the cot, using the wan light to inspect the bindings on her arm. She hadn't done too bad a job the night before, actually, but she untied the knot and unwrapped it, inspecting the damage. Her wrist wasn't quite straight, and this worried her. If she did get out of here, she wanted the arm to be usable still, after it healed. She tried to ignore the dark purplish welts swelling to prominence, aware that there were far more hidden under her gown, and a certain tightness around one eye spoke to yet another. She wondered briefly if she could set it herself, remembering her painful examination last night had shown her the breaks were clean. She had once watched her father's surgeon setting her brother Farahil's broken arm, though, and remembered how he'd bound the arm to straight bits of wood to hold it steady while it healed. She had nothing like that...unless...

She turned, searching under the bed. The floor was dusty, but bare. With a sense of disappointment she started to turn away, but the corner of her eye caught and held on one of the slats holding the straw mattress. With a strong heave she managed to lift the mattress onto a shoulder, reaching down awkwardly to pull at a slat. The weight of the mattress made her usual graceful movement impossible, but, getting her fingers under the edge of the slat, she lifted it and knocked it awkwardly onto the floor.

Too long. The slat was too long. Gritting her teeth she slipped her fingers firmly under one end of the slat and stepped down hard near the middle. Lifting with a grunt, she fell back unbalanced onto the bed as it broke. The short fall jostled some bruises, but she looked down at the slat in triumph. Now all she had to do was set the bone, and bind it tight.

Lin was trembling in anticipation of this coming pain. She grabbed the bar of the cell tightly with her injured hand and pulled very very slowly back, feeling her progress with her good hand. To her surprise, the pain really did not much increase as she did so, and as she carefully settled the bones back where they properly went, she felt almost a feeling of relief. It hurt, by Eru it hurt, but she could bear it. If she had to. She placed the arm firmly but gently against the bed slat and bound it firmly down with yesterday's wrapping, using her teeth to tighten the knots, making sure she could move and feel her fingers. As she straightened up, she heard the footsteps in the cellar behind her and spun rapidly around. Scyld stood there, with a tray of food. Eggs and some cold ham, it seemed.

“I have a message with breakfast for you,” he said smirking, but it couldn't quell her triumph in this moment. “How did Sorn put it, now? Something like if your wrist hurts so badly, he will come down himself and set the bone. And I would not count on Sorn’s skills as a healer.”

Lin grinned thinly, humorlessly, lifting the set and splinted arm to Scyld's gaze like a challenge. "Tell that yrch he can fall on his sword," she said, answering the smirk.

Scyld did not answer immediately, entering her cell to set down the tray. He took her glass for a moment as he left, and when he handed it back to her through the walls of the cell, she could smell the wine that had replaced most of the water he had brought her. She gripped his hand for a moment as she took it, aware of the risk he ws taking.

"Thank you," she murmured sincerely.

A feminine voice at the top of the stairs called Scyld's name, and they both turned towards it like children caught out of bounds. Scyld threw her a warning look and left before the woman could come down.

Lin watched him go with a half-smile on her lips. No need to fear this getting found, she thought, knocking the glass back and gulping down the contents before setting ravenous to the cold and ill-cooked meal as though it were a feast in her honor.
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Old 06-10-2006, 01:43 AM   #42
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Sorn sat a while longer after Scyld left. He studied the dagger Linduial had used again, smiling before placing it gently back in her basket. He stood, taking a key from his vest pocket, and locked the door to the study. He kept all of his finest things in there, and in better times, all of his land titles and fortune. Placing the key back in his pocket and patting it down, he decided to go for a walk.

The long hallway where the study sat was a central of three long passageways in Sorn's estate. The first had a larger room at it's beginning, so that one entering would be lead to the left, and to Sorn's long hearth that stretches almost the width of the front of the House. At the end this first hall connected to the outside, and a path to the stables. This hallway also had the one entrance to the cellar where Linduial was being kept.

Sorn walked to the front of the central hallway, cutting through the hearth and taking the long route to the back of his house. He enjoying casting an eye into his servants rooms, making sure they were well kept and nobody was up to nonsense. Reaching the end of this first hallway, Sorn stepped out into the chilly air.

Looking forward, Sorn could see some bustling in the stable. The door was heaved wide open, and he could make out people readying a cart. 'Ah, Osfrid is preparing to leave' he thought, and stepped onto the stone path to give the man and his woman a few last orders.

On his way, he saw a figure, lumbering slowly through the cold. He grinned. Gurth rambled along, his dog barking at his heels. It seemed that the drink of the night before had yet to clear Gurth's thick head. Sorn stopped and smiled at him.

"Good Morning dear Gurth! You were given too much last night, I fear. You should set to the kitchen and get some bread for you and your hound. You look to sorely need it!"
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Old 06-10-2006, 08:48 AM   #43
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Degas rode with a bitter resignation to his fate as messenger, his entire being aching, rather, to be a member of the rescue team.

He would find the tip that would lead them to the very gates of the fiend's home. That way blocked, he would use his copious amounts of wit to discover a hidden entrance. Moving silently as darkness, he would guide his team through torch lit halls crawling with potential doom. Making their way to the cavernous dungeons, he would spot Linduial. As he'd move toward her, the fiend himself would jump from the shadows and engage him in battle. Swords would clash, daggers would lash out, and Degas would end the battle in a way that legends would later depict as marvelous and kind, disarming the cruel beast that had stolen fair lady and arresting him for the crime with no injury to him. It wasn't, after all, for Degas to meter punishment for the crime. He would look up, Linduial, clad in flowing white, would meet his eyes... He would take the keys from the monster's belt and move to her. Her shackles would fall and she would throw her arms around him and--

Degas hit the ground with a resounding thud. His horse was dancing nervously, stamping at the ground, whinnying. Degas rolled to his feet quickly, rotating the shoulder he landed on and rubbing it as he circled his horse carefully.

She'd never bucked him in her life and he'd raised her from infancy. There, before in the road, was a large snake, coiled and hissing. He shivered at the sight of it, glad there were none present to see what he was about to do.

Grasping her firmly by the reins, Degas led a wide circle around the serpent. Move it? He shivered. He'd only ever dealt with snakes when Caelyn had asked of it. Saeryn had no fear of them. She was fascinated by their sleek scales, the quick darting motions of their tongues. Degas would rather they did not exist, but for the sake of his pride, he would pretend no fear in the presence of others. He rubbed his horse's nose softly, whispering soft reassurances as they avoided the snake together. Once further, and certain of her calm, he mounted once again and continued to ride.

Perhaps a few more hours before his arrival, he thought. He reached into a pack for some dried meat and an apple, guiding his mare with his knees. A few more hours before he informed Lord Farlen and his sons, all of whom Linduial spoke of with great love, that she was missing and the fault was his own.

Last edited by Feanor of the Peredhil; 06-11-2006 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 06-10-2006, 05:14 PM   #44
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Deren walked with three other men down the sloping streets towards the gates. Two of them carried spears. Deren and one other, both of which had never acquired the ability of using a spear well, walked behind, their swords and daggers by their sides. They said next to nothing as they marched. People silently made a way for them, staring with wide eyes at the grim and stern faces.

They found the gates opened, as usual, and the two guards left to watch it sitting on a great rock just by the wall. They both leaped to their feet as they saw the four men approaching and stepped quickly into their places, suddenly in rigid attention.

The formost of the men, Lystholn come with Deren walked to one to explain their appearance. "You've heard of the kidnapping of Lady Linduial?" he asked. The man nodded stiffly. "We've been sent to add extra guard on the gates, to try to spot any questionable characters coming in or leaving."

"Are we being kicked off duty, then?" the man asked, a flash of what may have been eagerness darting over his face.

"No. We've merely come to add men. We're to question every person who comes into the city about whether or not they have seen anything suspicious out on the road or anywhere."

"Ha. Not like they'll answer if they've a hand in it!" the guard scoffed.

"Perhaps," Lystholn answered coldly. "People who don't have anything to do with it, peasants, rich travelers, anyone, will speak up if they know anything. That's all I hope to acquire. Yet we might hope for some good luck. I think that if anyone does know something about it but doesn't choose to tell we may be able to notice some. . .discomfort while we put the questions to him. Take your posts. Fyn and I will stand outside."

He was obeyed. The two original guards stood back and allowed Lystholn and Fyn to pass through to take up their place outside the gate. Deren and his other companion stationed themsleves opposite the first two guards. Now all they had to do was wait until the first traveler came seeking to enter Edoras. Deren leaned his shoulders back against the wood of the gate post. All they had to do now was wait, and no one knew how it would be, or how many people would pass through, before they gained any real information or something they could use.
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Old 06-11-2006, 03:39 PM   #45
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Gurth ceased his strange attempts at song as the Master hailed him, holding up a massive hand in salute. At his feet, Grendel also slowed, panting in a gargantuan manner, its great pink river of a tongue lolling out from between its daggers of teeth. Gurth assumed a solemn...practically noble...expression as Sorn addressed him.

"Good Morning dear Gurth! You were given too much last night, I fear. You should set to the kitchen and get some bread for you and your hound. You look to sorely need it!"

At the sound of "kitchen" and "bread", Gurth nodded gratefully, like a drowning man thrown a line or an invalid offered a cure by a doctor. He yanked Grendel along by the scruff of his neck, who came willingly enough, quite tolerating treatment from his owner which would have been instant death to any...less proportionally sized. The giant shook his head, his yellow locks tumbling back impressively, and he smiled widely.

"Sorn," he remarked amiably as he passed his lord, who returned the gesture with an almost fatherly smile. When the colossal Fool reached the farmstead's pantry, he found a fine breakfast laid out for him; bread, certainly, but also a specially huge flagon of goat's milk and a wheel of goat's cheese, as well as a haunch of ham to be shared between man and beast. As the loyal retainers felt the food settle in their stomachs, they stretched contentedly, knowing that never would there be any such Master to treat them so kindly.

But Gurth was not unaware of the meaning of duty, and once his repast was finished, he set out to the door at the house's left end which led down to the cellar. The time had come for him to assume the guard duties of that weakling sneak Scyld, and protect that strange creature beyond the bars, whose gaze inspired a feeling with which he was uncertain and confident.

It was, did he but know it, guilt.
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Old 06-13-2006, 09:13 AM   #46
JennyHallu
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Torim wandered the Fair rather aimlessly, picking at the roast-pork-on-a-stick creation he'd bought from a vendor. It was steaming hot, and good...but his enjoyment of the event was severely curtailed by the thoughts racing through his head, brought on by the rumors racing just as quickly through the crowds. The Lady Linduial, cousin to the Queen, has been kidnapped. And Torim feared he knew exactly where the young woman was.

He stepped quickly aside as a group of grim-faced guards rushed through the crowds towards the gates, his mind seething with indecision. Should he find who was searching for her, and tell them what he had seen on the way, or should he protect himself and his family and keep his mouth shut?

Sorn was a character whom Torim knew well, at least by reputation. Vicious and amoral, the man never gave up a grudge or forgave, and no matter the slight, punishment was brutal. Torim's personal opinion was that the lord was truly a coward, but a coward in power could be a fearsome thing. Silently he wrestled with his conscience, thinking of his young wife and two small children, defenseless on their farm all too close to Sorn's borders. Sorn is overconfident. He'll make a mistake, and they'll find him on their own. But if Sorn hears you were the one to betray him...

Besides, you don't know who to talk to or anything, and they'll probably hold you for further questioning and all that, and you'll get home late, and everyone will worry...

But they say Linduial is little more than a child.

I'll wait. I'll wait a little while, and then go tell them what I saw, if they're still looking for the kidnapper. Maybe you were wrong, anyway. If they're still looking for the kidnapper before I planned to leave, I'll talk. If they promise to keep my name secret...

~<*>~

Lin shuddered when the giant Gurth plodded down the stairs, with the large dog again at his side. However, her new sense of self-reliance was still with her, and she knew that she needed everyone at her side she could finagle around. Her plate was wet with the juices from her meal, and she nervously tipped it sideways through the bars, moving slowly so as not to startle her guard, and placed it down on the floor.

"For your dog," she said to Gurth, pointing at the plate and the dog, and being careful and distinct with her words, not sure how much she needed to do for the man to understand her. She was thirstly still, though the wine had admirably dulled the pain, and if Gurth seemed less frightening now than he had last night, perhaps she could find the courage to ask him to fill her now empty cup with water.
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Old 06-15-2006, 09:51 AM   #47
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Gurth's eyes grew large and bright when Linduial extended the plate with its meagre remnant of a consumed meal. The vicious Grendel, also, stared brazenly at the captive woman. What did that gaze mean? Anger? Pity? Anticipation?

And then, in the same moment, the creatures' mouths slid open, and as Gurth laughed, and laughed, Grendel barked, and barked, running about in circles, wagging his tail, as Gurth beat his feat and slapped his thighs. It was a stunningly...well, almost majestic...outburst of vulgar mirth.

When dog and master had recovered themselves from their overpowering fit of amusement, Gurth turned to Grendel somewhat sternly, though his eyes still shone.

"Sit, Grendel."

The wolf-mastiff gave a short whine and then a staccato bark of consent, settling itself in front of the cell, its eyes alert. Gurth turned away, striding rapidly out, giving no indication where he was headed. Linduial made an occasional overture to the dog, but without its only friend it was peevish and gave out a low and distinctly discouraging growl in response.

At last there was another clatter against the door, and Gurth entered. (It seemed he was not physically incapable or cripplingly clumsy, for when possessed of the key he opened the door and locked it with ease. He proceeded down the stairs, a deep frown engraved on his features. Grendel caught the giant's mood and growled louder, almost as if he was restraining his every muscle from leaping upon Linduial, smashing apart the bars, and gobbling her every morsel up. The captive noblewoman, understandably, edged back against the wall. She could see that the massive oaf seemed to have a new, and rather larger, club, as well as some indistinct object behind his back. He approached, nearer and nearer...

And then it became clear. Gurth was carrying no weapons, but a quite enormous joint of ham in one hand, and a pitcher of goat's milk in the other. Grendel pranced about, his tongue flapping up and down, though he emitted no noise, relying on imploring eyes for his appeal. Gurth chuckled.

"Grendel", he said, in the tone of a wise arbitrator, rending off one slab of meat and chucking it to the dog, before pointing to himself, saying something indistinct in a low voice, and ripping off another chunk.

"Munch!" he concluded happily, bending down in an awkward position and pushing the remainder of the ham and the jug of goat's milk through the hatch into the cell. He waited proudly for Linduial to react with pleasure, looking tremendously pleased with himself.
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:57 AM   #48
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Lin looked at the haunch of meat and the pitcher for a moment in confusion. Why had he brought her food? She had been offering...a paltry offer, she knew, but Gurth had treated it as a request. Why?

Her eyes travelled to the empty plate still sitting outside the bars of her cell, and then naturally to the large dog greedily devouring its portion. Grendel...there was her answer. Gurth was simple, that was patently obvious. But though words were useless, he was not entirely incapable of communication. Relief flooded Lin's heart, and she laughed happily aloud. Words were her refuge and her strength: only when communication failed was she truly helpless. And with Gurth the difficulty was merely a language barrier. Many times had Lin watched her father's dogs nosing at their dishes. Lin had pointed out to Gurth her own was empty, and he had filled it, with foodstuffs of the same quality as he gave Grendel, whom he clearly loved.

Cautiously, but with an open smile on her face, Lin crept forward, eyes locked on the big man, alert for any sign of movement. Did she but know it, she looked not entirely unlike a beast herself, for a moment, before she straightened by the food, carefully picking up the meat in her good hand and tearing at it neatly with her teeth. She was not really hungry, having just eaten, but she took a few good-sized bites to show her gratitude before turning to the milk.

A whole jug, all to herself! Lin smiled happily and poured some into her glass, sipping the rich liquid with hearty appreciation. This gift she would savor, and she sat crosslegged to drink it, her eyes still on Gurth, but now thoughtfully. He'd rewarded her as he would the dog, but Lin was not at all insulted. Rather, she was inwardly almost elated. If Gurth thought of her as a pet, as a lesser member of his own pack, perhaps he would feel protective towards her.
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Old 06-15-2006, 01:01 PM   #49
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Haleth

As Haleth finished answering the question of one of his men and was turning back to Eodwine, he overheard the comment of the one speaking to Eodwine, “I think that it would be a good idea not to rile anyone up before we have any evidence against them.”

“An excellent point,” put in Haleth. “I doubt we would accomplish much by knocking on people’s doors and asking about a kidnapping. Those innocent would probably be annoyed, to say the least, and the guilty one would almost undoubtedly lie. Rather, I think it would be better to send some men out into the city to ask some subtle questions. Perhaps you, Eodwine, and your two men here would be one of those search parties? You'd probably attract less attention than armed guards... Try to find out if any of these men have been in the city recently, I suppose, and anything else you might be able to find out - use your discretion.

“I suppose that will be all for now… if none of this works, I’m about out of ideas. If you come up with any, I’d be happy to hear them. If anything interesting turns up, I’ll be in touch.”

“Very well,” responded Eodwine, and with that, Haleth set off to find a few more men to send out into the city. The queen was counting on him… but how did one go about finding a kidnapper? It would be luck indeed if anything turned up…

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Old 06-15-2006, 04:11 PM   #50
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Evening settled with deceptive peacefulness over Rohan, its beauty unnoticed by the tired and subdued party eating a late supper in the Mead Hall. Most of the Hall's residents were busy with their own tasks, but those involved in the search for Linduial were still awake, recapping their failures and successes over the day. Haleth and Eodwine sat, closely attended by Thornden and Garstan, quietly discussing the events of the day and plans for the morrow. Marenil sat in the corner, too worried to go to bed, but nodding in his chair. Deren was still stationed at the gates, for there was yet another hour before they closed for the night, late due to the Fair.

~<*>~

Lin sat on the threadbare cot, wakeful and wary, one eye on her guard, and her mind fixed on the cold light of Earendil, shining strongly through the vent. The day had been long and weary, but successful, and she felt she'd established some sort of rapport with her two guards. A start at least, and tomorrow another day. The light of Earendil seemed especially close, warming her despite its silver chill, reminding her of its promise of deliverance. She sighed in a contentment at odds with her surroundings, her fears calmed for at least a little while.

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Old 06-16-2006, 09:50 AM   #51
Feanor of the Peredhil
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Degas sat in a tall backed chair by a roaring fire, listening to the sound of rain pounding the roof and trickling through the ceiling to tap its way musically into pots. He could smell a simmering stew and strongly wanted a bowl or two to fill his complaining belly as he stared into the flickering flames.

"I'm sorry, young lord."

He looked up into the deeply etched face of the innkeeper's wife. She'd spent the last hour with the boy, feeding him broth and keeping him warm until he fell asleep.

"Is there no way?"

"Unfit for work as he is, we just can't afford another mouth to feed." She gestured toward the dripping ceiling and the patchwork furniture, all comfortable and worn with long use, no one piece matching another.

"But he will be fit! He's sick and weak, but you can tell by the sight of him he hasn't always been nor will he be for long."

"I am sorry."

Degas tried to look through the thick glass of the window. It would still be light had the storm not come. Clouds had moved in as Degas rode, covering the sky and bringing dusk hours early. He'd rode onward more quickly, hoping the storm would hold off. He'd been yet a half hour short of the next town when the rain began to pour in slanting sheets. The road flooded with small rivers of mud from the saturated fields along it and Degas dismounted to lead his horse more sure-footedly. He'd stumbled over the boy, sprawling into the muddy road. His horse, finicky though she could be, had remained calm. Degas rolled over, wiping mud from his face and opening his mouth to the sky, expelling both dirt and water with a disgusted spit.

He'd groaned when he saw what had tripped him and knelt beside the boy, wiping mud from him as best he could, being himself covered. He'd been breathing, but he was cold, and his breath came short. Degas had given him a mouthful or two of fresh water before tying him to his horse. They'd walked for twenty minutes in the pouring rain before finding a small cottage with lit windows.

"Ye'll find The Roadside yonder, down that road a bit." Degas had followed the direction in which the old man's finger pointed, turning off of the main road and walking through ankle deep puddles for a half mile or so before finding the rickety inn. He'd hoped to find lodging and food for the night... though he was only an hour or two from Farlen's lands, the weather was nowhere near passable for travel. The only light on the roads came from flickering lightening and the ditches were treacherous, running heavily with water and plant debris. He would continue on in the morning after finding a caretaker for the boy. Or so he had hoped.

Now... the innkeeper and his wife had discussed it at length. They couldn't keep the boy on and no-one in the area had the means for it any more than they did.

He'll have to come... but he can't ride. Degas considered the implications. He could not, in good conscience, leave the boy to fend for himself. He could not even leave him, sick and helpless, with money in his pocket and call that passable help. It was his duty to help and protect those who had need... Degas wondered at the boy's story; why he had been travelling alone, how he had fallen sick, how long he had been on the road before Degas had found him. No, the boy needed help and Degas could offer it.

Eodwine would understand the delay... he hoped.

Last edited by Feanor of the Peredhil; 06-16-2006 at 07:07 PM.
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Old 06-16-2006, 05:36 PM   #52
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The baggage was loaded onto the cart, and once Osfrid had ran inside to retrieve a basket of food from the cook, he and Muriel rode off down the dusty road to Edoras. Osfrid smiled and wrapped an arm around Muriel's shoulders. It was good to be on the road again, out of Sorn's musty house and away from his shifty henchmen and servants. It was just like the days before he had met Sorn… He basked in his joy while he could, until Muriel pulled him out of it with her questions.

"What did Sorn tell you, when you and he spoke before we left?" asked Muriel.

"What? Oh, just a little thing about a doll," Osfrid said. "The rich lady had a doll with her when we took her from the fair. Sorn thinks it must've been a gift for somebody. He wants us to investigate if we can."

Muriel pursed her lips and considered this bit of information for a moment. "Does she have a younger sister, maybe?" she suggested, "Or maybe a young friend?"

"I don't know. We'll have to wait and see." He smiled at Muriel. She was beginning to think like a spy. He leaned back, casually holding the reins, and resumed his daydreaming about the good ol' days when he once traveled all across southern Rohan, committing all sorts of mischievous crimes, before he had even heard of Sorn.

The rest of the journey to Edoras was rough and bumpy. Though Osfrid didn't mind it, Muriel complained that her legs were sore, and so she and Osfrid would often rest by the side of the road for a bit. When noon came, they stretched a blanket at the roadside and had a picnic. The cook had prepared a rather bland meal of bread and cheese, but Osfrid and Muriel were grateful after their scant breakfast earlier that morning. Once Osfrid had hitched the mules back to the cart, they continued their journey. They passed through rolling farmlands mostly, and occasionally passed through a few tiny hamlets. They traveled long into the afternoon, and Muriel soon began to complain of boredom.

"Oh, Osfrid," Muriel said, turning to him from where she sat gazing at the countryside, "When will we reach Edoras? There's nothing to do here but sit and watch the scenery!"

Osfrid shifted in his seat and dropped the reins from one of his hands to stroke his moustache. "Well, Muriel dear, I'm afraid we won't reach Edoras for some hours." Muriel slumped her shoulders in disappointment. "But we can pass the time by embellishing our disguises," Osfrid continued, "False names won't be enough! We need complete false identities, histories, and reasons for traveling!"

Muriel sat up, eager to pick a new history for herself. "Oh! I want to be a noblewoman!" she said.

Osfrid chuckled. "I'm afraid I had something a little more simple in mind," he told her. He turned his head for a moment to take a quick look at the luggage loaded into the back of the cart. Nothing that would indicate a specific occupation… An abundance of cloth, for example, would let them become cloth merchants, or carrying barrels of apples could give them the disguise of orchard-tenders. Osfrid sighed. They would need to be traveling for non-commercial purposes. "Now, listen here, Muriel," he continued, "I'm afraid we can't even disguise as merchants if we don't carry any possible merchandise with us. We can be…farmers, possibly? Traveling to visit your ill mother east of Edoras?"

"I suppose…" Muriel said. "Must we be farmers? Can't we be anything…um, richer?"

"Well, dearie, our luggage isn't the stuff of luxury. Just the bare essentials, and rather simple essentials at that..." He paused to stroke his big, blond moustache again. "I think we can best be farmers on our way to your ill mother. Bertwald and Hilda, traveling farmers."

Muriel shrugged and turned back to watching the countryside go by, a little disappointed that she had became only a farmer.

The journey continued as before. The sun headed west, and they spent afternoon riding. Muriel still sat in absolute boredom, while Osfrid contented himself with driving the cart down the seemingly endless road. The afternoon became early evening. The stars appeared, and still they rode on. Muriel, feeling tired, had rested her head against Osfrid's shoulder and tried to sleep, but the jolting of the cart kept her awake. Just when she finally felt at rest, Osfrid nudged her in the ribs.

"Look, Muriel," he whispered to her, "We're here."

She sat upright and leaned forward to peer at Edoras in the dim light of the evening. There it was, the long-awaited city. "Finally!" she muttered.

Osfrid drove the cart up to the wooden gates, where a soldier stepped forward with his hand upraised, indicating that they should halt. Osfrid slowed down the cart. The soldier was unexpected. Was this because of the kidnapping? Undoubtedly. "Remember our disguises, Muriel," he told her as the cart rolled closer, "I'm Bertwald and you're Hilda. This is especially important now. The guards must be here to question travelers." Osfrid turned from Muriel and took a deep breath, grinning amiably as the guard approached.

"Hello, there, friend!" Osfrid called from the cart, "We weren't expecting guards. I don't suppose some urgent matter of safety has come up now, do I?"

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Old 06-19-2006, 08:30 PM   #53
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Darkness was beginning to fall. In a few minutes, they would be able to shut the gates and return home to a warm supper and bed. Deren yawned a huge yawn that nearly split his jaw. He sighed and rubbed his eyes. Another few minutes went by and he stood up to go to Lystholn to express his thoughts on going home. Lystholn turned towards him as he approached, but before Deren could say a word, the sound of carriage wheels came out from the darkness. The clopping feet of a tired horse sounded out in the night, and then the shape of a cart and horse came into view.

Lystholn and Deren glanced at each other and then Lystholn gave a great sigh and began to stand up.

“Don’t worry about it,” Deren said, placing his hand on Lystholn’s shoulder. “I’ll deal with this one, then we’ll be able to shut the gates for the night.”

He turned and walked forward, his hand up, and his face set. Inside his head, he ran through the questions that they had asked all the people entering the gates. The driver pulled back on the reins, uttering a low ‘woah!’ to his horse. It came to a stop and stood chewing on its bit.

“Hello there, friend!” he called out as Deren walked closer. “We weren’t expecting guards. I don’t suppose some urgent matter of safety has come up now, do I?”

Deren filed that quickly away in his mind as he finally stopped near them. He laid his hand on the horse’s high back. “You might, if you like, but if you would choose not to, then don’t,” he answered him.

“Don’t rightly know what you mean, sir!” the chap said, sounding amiable enough.

“Something did come up in yesterday’s proceedings. You can understand, I’m sure. . .lots of people, some of them not altogether honest. We’ve been sent to make sure no further villains entered the gates. What’s your name, sir?”

“I’m Bertwald, and this is my wife Hilda. We’re from the Middle Emnet on our way to the West to visit Hilda’s mother. She’s sick and they don’t think she’ll live long. From what we’ve been told, she may not be alive even when we get there!”

“What are you doing in Edoras?” Deren asked, disinterested in the woes of Hilda’s family. “Where are you going?”

“You wouldn’t expect us to ride all night, could you? We have to rest sometime. I was planning on going to our lord’s Hall to sleep tonight and break our fast in the morning before we leave again.”

“You’ll be leaving in the morning?”

“I imagine so!”

Deren looked at him sharply. In the dark, he had no doubt that Bertwald could see little of his face or expression, and he dearly wished he could. It might have made the man tremble a bit. More than that, if Bertwald could see his face, he could see Bertwald’s face, but as it was, he found it extremely difficult to tell if the look on the man’s face was the simple honesty that most farmers’ faces bore.

“I hope so,” he said, stepping away from the horse and cart. “We’ll be watching for you. Good night.”
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Old 06-21-2006, 08:42 AM   #54
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Degas watched the boy as he slept, knowing that he must wake him, knowing also that any information gleaned from the boy would do little to help his sour mood.

Pretty Lin is missing and I'm to blame; Eodwine lets me salvage my name by bearing ill news like a messenger boy rather than saving her myself like a man and now... now I'm trapped in the rain at an inn with no tenants with a boy that can't walk and that I must protect.

He looked the boy over... he looked smaller clean. There were no bruises... he hadn't been beaten, or at least not within recent memory. That meant either good behavior or a good master as his attire, before the innkeepers had found him clean garb, had placed him as a servant... but to whom? The old woman had combed his jet black hair and it lay flat and straight, even dried. What was it about Gondor that made being blonde or red-haired such a marked appearance? Degas blended in nowhere with his flaming locks. He wondered, not for the first time, where his parents' parents had originated... surely not from the land of the forgoil. He grinned lopsidedly at the insult... to insult a person for the way they looked? Why did it matter?

He looked back at the boy, noting his pale skin. Not an outdoorsman, then, unless he'd not been outside since the spring rains ceased. Degas glared half-heartedly at the window once more before resuming his activity.

He was small... not scrawny, just small. He looked quick. Degas gaze fell upon the boy's left ear; a tiny hole pierced the center. He laughed and knew without asking that the boy admired the sailors of the south. A dreamer, or perhaps an adventurer of the making. Yet the hole was closing... a master and mistress not so keen, perhaps?

At Degas's laugh, his eyes fluttered open and he looked afraid.

"Where'm I?"

"You are safe."

"Who are you? You've got red hair... 'nd yer accent's all funny."

Degas grinned and refrained from rolling his eyes. "My name is Degas. I am from Rohan, perhaps a day's ride from Edoras. D'you mean t' tell me, boy, that my Westron's gone foggy with Rohirric?"

"No, sir." He pushed himself up against his pillows, eyes wide and face earnest. His teeth were mostly straight and one was missing, right in front. His nose was tip-tilted, but it seemed to suit him well. Degas had to admit that the boy was cute. Had their been a wager, he'd have placed money that bullies loved this one and that they'd been taught a swift thing or two that size isn't everything. "Just that I could tell you ain't from these parts, least not from birth like me."

"Is that so?"

"Uh huh."

He was growing on Degas. The young lord tried to harden himself... it was much like stray dogs... they could tell when they found a good candidate and spent inordinate amounts of time looking utterly lovable and helpless. He'd raised countless strays as a boy. He's not a stray and I can't raise him.

"What's your name, boy?"

His face fell. "They've called me Hefigtyme since my master and mistress fell from favor and released me from service."

"Well, no burden are you to me, so a new name must be found. What name was yours before then?"

"My parents called me Feowertyne because they'd already had thirteen. My papa said my mama was tired all the time when I came along."

"I can see how that could happen." Degas chose not to hope. It was cold by the window but he saw no nooks that might conceal extra heat and he would rather be cold than cold and disappointed. "What happened to your thirteen brothers and sisters?"

"Most of 'em died when we were little." Degas eyed the boy's small frame and held back a quick grin. "A coupla the boys grew up and turned into blacksmiths and stuff, but my papa said I'd get crushed under the weight of my own hammer so I'd better not even hope it. And my sister Fyrmest..." he looked around as though half-expecting to see a reprimanding older sibling or parent. "They don't talk about her now, which 's a shame, 'cuz I liked her real much. She fell in love and ran off to live in the wild with a Ranger. A real Ranger, and my parents were ashamed. Can you imagine the adventures she must be having?"

Degas was beginning to regret his question. The boy had slept and apparently recharged while Degas sat next to a fire; his limbs were falling asleep without him.

"I can imagine. Feowertyne, I found you on the road while I was travelling. Do you remember it?"

"No sir, but I remember travelling well enough."

"Why were you travelling alone and on foot, Feowertyne?"

"Just Feo, sir. My brothers said I was too lil to get strapped down wi' such a big name. And I was travellin' a'cuz I had nowhere else to go."

Degas had been afraid he'd say that. "By nowhere, you mean--"

"My master and mistress got caught doing things that I guess they shouldna been. I don't know what it was, but they made medicines and stuff with herbs I picked 'em 'cuz they said I'd fit real well into all the places the good stuff grows and so I'd pick 'em the plants and find 'em the mushrooms 'nd all and they'd brew up medicines and all and then sell it. But I guess they did somethin' that the King didna like and so they couldn' do it any more and they turned me out."

"They didn't." Degas was curious about the story and surely enough:

"They mos' certainly did." Feo was indignant and to place a look of adult indignance on the petite face of a small boy child of maybe ten, with a missing tooth and a hole in his ear, was a sight that would stay with Degas for quite some time.

"And your siblings? You could not go to them?"

"No, sir. See, my brothers tol' me that I'm too small to work for 'em and that they don't want me." There was no trace of sorrow or resignation, just acceptance that his size was reason enough for family to cast away family. Degas thought of Saeryn and Caeli, conveniently forgetting Fenrir's temperament. The three of them had always been close. "So they said that I oughta travel east and north and go up to Minas Anor and get a job there, so I started walkin'."

"And how far did you get?"

"Well... it was two days ago that I started walkin' 'nd then it got real cold out while I slept." Degas notice that while the boy's voice was enthusiastic, his body was mostly still, and he clutched at the blankets that were over him. "And then I walked another day and slept in a barn while nobody was watching and I know it was wrongful for me to sneak in like that, but sir, it got so cold..."

"I believe you." Degas heart was softening despite all of his attempts otherwise. You're the younger son of a house that fell out of favor with the death of your parents. You've not the depth of purse to pick up a stray bigger than a small cat. You're on a mission! You have to face Linduial's family. You can't drag a boy child, and a sick one, across Gondor! "And today?"

"Well... I woke up when a little girl screamed and I got outta there real fast 'nd ran pretty far but it was cold out today and I was real hungry 'cuz I forgot to pack food 'nd even though I slept in a barn, I wasn't hungry 'nuf that I'd steal from decent hard-workin' folks."

"Would you steal from lazy folks that weren't decent?"

"No, sir!" The answer was emphatic. Degas was glad to hear it. No, fool, you don't care. Do not care. It's simple. You have a responsibility to the man in whose home you stay. He's your sister's friend and protector, and you owe it to him. No strays. Not this time.

"Feo, the rest of the day?"

"Well, I walked for as far as I could, and then I... I don't really know. But then I woke up and I was all wet and someone, was it you?, was carryin' me and then I was here, and where is here?, and there was an old woman and now there's you and did you tell me your name?"

"Perhaps not. I am Degas, and it was me that brought you here. Here is a small inn, about an hour's ride in dry light south and west of Minas Anor."

"Sir, if you don't mind my askin', why'd you bring me?"

"Because it was cold and wet and you lay napping in the road. That is not, I might add, the most comfortable or safe place to lay. I found you by tripping over you and thought it best to find you a safe place."

Feo's nose was running and Degas pulled a clean kerchief from the pocket of his breeches and handed it to him. The boy started coughing.

"Now, none of that. No getting sicker than you already are."

"Why not?"

"Because, boy, it seems there's nobody to take care of you, so you're going to have to" Degas screamed at himself silently once more, but even as he did, he knew that he'd never have left the boy. "Come with me."

"Ride with you, sir?"

"Just Degas, please, Feo, and yes."

"Where're we going?"

"Back toward where you came and further. I ride toward Dol Amroth bearing news. But we cannot ride until you are well, so sleep now. It is late. We will speak more in the morning."

Degas rose and felt his joint crunch. He winced a bit and bounced a bit on the balls of his booted feet before feeling that his legs were his own and he could use them properly. With a wave as he shut the door, Degas made his way back to the common room where the old man and woman still sat over mead.

"He will ride with me in a few days. I'll need food and lodging for us both, and a second horse. This should pay for the first two," he set a bag of gold pieces on the table between them, "and can you tell me where I can find him a mount? Nothing fancy, just a horse or pony that can bear his weight and a few packs over distances. Speed matters little, but endurance is of the utmost importance."

The woman looked at her husband and he nodded. "We've a small pony in the stable. Her name is Gehola and she is old, but she is sweet and patient and can go far, as long as you don't ask of her what she can't give."

"I will look at her in the morning. Until then... a room?"

The old woman rose with as much internal creaking as the doors upon the hinges that she pushed through back toward Feo's room. She unlocked the door next to his and opened it, the lantern in her hand swinging gently, the light lazily beating away shadows.

"Thank you, lady, for everything, and good night."

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Old 06-23-2006, 05:51 PM   #55
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Osfrid drove the cart through the gate. "And a good night to you, sir!" he called. Once through the gate, he slumped down into his seat, his smile wiped away. He cast a nervous glance behind him to check that the guards were well out of earshot and that the street was empty before speaking. "What sort of twaddle was that?!" he complained to Muriel once he knew he wouldn't be heard. "Something about something happening in some sort of proceedings, and having to watch out for villains! Not a straight answer out of him. Somebody told him to keep the kidnapping a secret, I'll wager. Ha! Those fools might try to hide information from me, but they can't!" He quieted his voice as they passed a shadowy group of ruffians near an alley. "But if the guards won't talk," he whispered to Muriel, "There'll be plenty of ordinary folks who will."

Muriel wasn't interested in Osfrid's speech. "Oh, yes…" she said back to him. She leaned against his shoulder, with her arms hugging one of his arms, cuddling close. He called me his wife! Thoughts of marriage ran through her head. Her parents would be so proud of her, that she would marry this handsome outlaw instead of those dull farmers back home. And all the girls would be so jealous…

The cart rolled up the hill, past the group of ruffians at the alley's mouth, and up to the mead hall. Osfrid spotted the stables and drove the cart forward. A boy with a lantern, undoubtedly an ostler, emerged to guide them. "Remember our disguises," Osfrid whispered one last time to Muriel.

The ostler greeted them, and Osfrid introduced himself as Bertwald and Muriel as his wife Hilda. "We're travelers from the Middle-Emnet, and we heard we could find a place to stay at this hall."

"Certainly. Lord Eodwine will be glad to have you as guests. I'll handle your cart for you."

"Thank you, son," Osfrid said. He climbed out of the cart, and helped Muriel step daintily to the ground. Osfrid clapped the young ostler on the back and tossed him a silver coin before the two walked across the courtyard and entered the mead hall.

The hall was warm and bright. A fire had been lit in a great hearth at one end of the long hall. A few people sat at the tables nearby, chatting casually. Osfrid and Muriel could smell something meaty cooking in a kitchen somewhere, probably behind the door near the fire. Osfrid even heard faint, jovial laughter from down a hallway. Despite the warm surroundings, Osfrid and Muriel stepped forward cautiously.

"Alright, Muriel dear, let's find out as much as we can, but be careful. Don't let anything true about us slip out. This is the hall of the eorl. There are sure to be dozens of guards and search parties crawling through here daily."

She nodded in understanding. Osfrid smiled at her, and turned his head to the hall. "I've heard my wife and I can find a good meal and a place to stay here!" he announced. "Now, where is the eorl? And the cook, too?"
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Old 06-24-2006, 10:53 AM   #56
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Garstan sat wearily by the fire. The party had walked far on their first day of searching, though they had not yet left Edoras. There were many places to seek news, to ask if anything had been seen, to find out if the kidnappers had let drop a careless word of their plans.

Eodwine gazed absently into the flames. "A long day, Haleth," he said. "Though I fear we have nothing worthwhile to show for it. No news of Linduial was to be had."

Haleth gave his assent. "No. Not a word. It is strange, though, that a woman could be taken from the streets of Edoras, with the crowds of the fair all around, and without one bystander to have been present to witness it."

Eodwine made no reply, still staring at the flickering light. He seemed distracted, yet intent. Garstan studied the Eorl's face, wondering what was troubling him.

He tried to draw Eodwine back to the conversation, "But, my lord, surely we have learned something today. We learned that several of those on the list cannot have been involved. Ćfic has been away to trade his horses, and Eadric with him. Pehthelm has been ill these last weeks and still is tended by the healers. That leaves only Sorn, Cuichelm and Fenrir."

"There are others on the list, Garstan, whom you have not mentioned. Why?" Haleth held the stoneshaper in his gaze.

Garstan returned Haleth's look. "Because they are too far from Edoras to have taken Linduial, written a letter, and had it delivered all on the same day. True, they might have sent notice of the deed before the lady was secure in their keeping, but it would be foolish to raise the alarm before she was well hidden. I do not say that we should not give them our notice, but I do say that the three I have mentioned are more likely to have been involved than those more than a day's journey from here." Garstan, more keenly aware than ever of his unequal experience, hoped that he had not pressed the issue too far.

"You speak wisely, Garstan." Haleth clapped him on the shoulder. "Then we go next to seek word of Fenrir, Sorn, and Cuichelm. What say you, Eodwine?"

Eodwine gave his agreement to the plan and lapsed back into his musings on the fire.

Garstan joined him in staring at the light, wondering how they would investigate the remaining three suspects. It had been simple to inquire about those with nothing to hide. But how much harder would it be to gather information on someone with a secret to keep?

Secrets. The word brought Garstan back to Eodwine's face. The Eorl was intent on the embers, seemingly lost in thought. He hoped that whatever troubled the Eorl would soon pass. This distraction would make Eodwine an easy mark for the kidnappers, should they be discovered while Eodwine kept his mood. Garstan would keep watch for the both of them.

The hall door opened, and two strangers, a man and a woman, entered the room.

The man spoke and his voice echoed over the room. "I've heard my wife and I can find a good meal and a place to stay here! Now, where is the eorl? And the cook, too?"

"It seems that we have visitors, my lord," Garstan said.
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Old 06-24-2006, 12:23 PM   #57
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Eodwine stared at the fire. It had been a pointless day. He knew that they wouldn't find anything out in Edoras. The kidnapper would not be so careless. Not as if he had put his whole heart into it, he confessed to himself. His wife was alive! She was a captive of Dunlendings, probably forced to wife to some ill-begotten rat-herder, no less. No. She had only come in dreams, but so vivid! Her sweet and beautiful face, her expressive eyes, even her slight overbite lent to her winsomeness, and it had all been there in his dream. But she had not appeared to him as the winsome young wife of fifteen years ago, but as a woman of forty years, gray in her blonde tresses, lines of sorrow outlining her face, crows' feet at her eyes, and other signs of the passage of time. Surely his dreaming mind was not that creative! She must be real, and alive!

Eodwine looked up. Visitors. Asking for the Eorl.

He let out a breath of resignation and stood up. "I am the Eorl. How may I and my Hall host you?"


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Osfrid bowed to the Eorl. "Thank you, lord, for your kind hospitality. My name is Bertwald, and this is my wife Hilda-" here Muriel curtsied, "-and we seek a good meal and lodgings for the night. We've traveled a long way, you see, we're on our way to visit my dying mother-in-law, and we would appreciate it if you could spare us travelers a room here…"

"That I can," the Eorl told them. "I will see that Kara brings two meals to you." Osfrid and Muriel sat down at his table, and the Eorl walked to the kitchens. Osfrid smiled encouragingly at Muriel. She sat uncomfortably in her chair, casting glances all around at everybody, acting nervous. "Don't worry," he whispered to her, "Just let me do the talking and nobody will suspect us of being anything more than a farmer and his wife on their way to a dying relative."

The Eorl returned, and soon after came plates of breads and cheeses and meats, and mugs of frothy ale. Osfrid dug in immediately. The picnic lunch by the roadside had hardly been enough to tide him over till dinner. He made conversation with the Eorl as they dined, hoping to probe his mind about the kidnapping.

"Lord, something has been troubling my mind ever since I entered the city. Now, I pass through this town often, always on my way to sell my goods at faraway markets, but today was different. There were guards at the gate this time. They stopped my cart, had to ask numerous questions and whatnot, gave my wife quite a scare, you see, and I've never had to be troubled like that before. Has something happened lately?… I've heard rumors something's happened."

"I would that you not worry overmuch. The guard on the gates is tripled at the order of the queen. I am sorry that your wife has been frightened, but it would be worse that she came to harm at the hands of those we would find...."

"Yes, my wife thought they were robbers at first… These guards don't have to do with the abduction of that princess, does it?" Osfrid said, hoping the change in subject would help him learn more. "I've heard rumors that she was kidnapped at the fair, but I was skeptical. Could've been false. I live far from Edoras, you see, and most of the news we get is mostly hearsay, usually twisted in some way or another. But when I saw the soldiers at the gate, I knew it must've been true! Isn't it true, lord?"

The Eorl seemed unsure what to say. "You have guessed right, though I wonder that your wife thought the guards were robbers, wearing Eorling markings at the gates of Edoras! Be sure that we are doing all we can to see to the matter. Excsue me, please, and I'll have a word with the guards; we do not want them to be overzealous in their duty..." He stood and bowed to his guests and left the table.

"What's he telling the guards?" Muriel asked when the Eorl was gone. "What if he knows we're spying? What if the guards will kill us in the middle of the night?"

"They're not going to kill us!" Osfrid told her. "That'd be ridiculous…" He reached a hand out to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly. "He doesn't know…at the worst he'll tell a guard to keep an eye on us. And I wouldn't blame him after his most important guest was kidnapped." Muriel nodded, and resumed dining, feeling a little better.

A little blonde girl came running around the table, giggling madly. A boy a few years older chased her around and around the tables. Osfrid watched the race, and couldn't help but smile at how adorable the little blonde girl was. As the little girl ran near, Osfrid reached out and caught her in his arms. "Gotcha!" he said, and she shrieked gleefully as Osfrid swung her into the chair next to him. She giggled again and squirmed in her seat. "Well, well," said Osfrid, "Who do we have here? What's your name, little girl?"

"Lčođern," she told him, "And that's my brother Garmund."

Her brother came and tried to share the chair with his sister, causing more giggles and mirth. Osfrid sent him away with a special task. "Here, Garmund, I must send you on a special quest." The boy's eyes grew wide. "You must venture deep into the blazing hot kitchen and fill my ale mug with the cook's secret elixir! Go, be swift!" He gave the empty mug to the boy and pointed him in the direction of the kitchens. Garmund saluted like a soldier and bravely marched off to achieve his quest.

Alone with Lčođern, Osfrid could begin questioning. "Well, Lčođern, my name is Bertwald, and this is my wife Hilda." Muriel waved and Lčođern waved back.

"Have you been to the horse fair yet? That's why my wife and I are here: to see all the horsies and buy things from the vendors." Osfrid told her.

"Yes! I went there. The fair was fun."

"Really? I think it will be fun when I go there, too. Who'd you go with?" He thrust a hand into a pocket to see if he could find some candy to loosen the girl's lips.

"With 'Egas and Linduial," she said, carefully pronouncing Linduial's name.

Osfrid nudged Muriel. "You might want to hear this!" he whispered. "Now, Lčođern, you went with Linduial, eh? And who's Egas?"

"Degas!" she said, correcting him. "He's my friend. I rode on his shoulders."

"Rode on his shoulders, eh? Like on a horsie? He must be a lot bigger than you, then, to have carried you through the fair like that."

"Oh, yes. He's Linduial's size!"

Osfrid found some candies in a pocket. He had bought them for Muriel the last time he was at the fair, the same day they abducted Linduial. He passed one to Lčođern. She giggled and swung her short little legs joyfully through the air. "So, it was just you, Linduial, and Degas at the fair?"

Lčođern nodded, preoccupied with sucking on her candy. Her brother returned carrying a full mug of beer. "Kara didn't have what you told me to get, so I just got beer." Osfrid smiled and patted the boy on the head. He gave him a candy, too, and the boy took the seat next to his sister, eavesdropping casually on the conversation.

"Now, Lčođern, does Linduial have other friends?"

"Oh, lots. Like Saeryn and her grampa."

"What's Linduial's grandpa like?"

"He's old. He's sitting over there." She pointed to an old man sitting by the fire. Osfrid thanked Lčođern for her delightful conversation and told her and her brother to run along. They did, probably to tell everybody about the nice man with the candy, Osfrid realized with chagrin.

"Come, Muriel, let's go pick out a room for the night." She was unhappy to stand, being more comfortable sitting. To pass by all those guards and friends of the Eorl made her nervous. Osfrid smiled at her and wrapped an arm around her waist, and she forced a smile back. Osfrid would keep her safe. They walked together toward the hallway at the end of the hall, but Osfrid paused a moment beside a guard, and asked him quietly, "Who is that man by the fire? Isn't he Lady Linduial's grandfather?"

"No, sir, that's Marenil. He's a guardian of some sort. He came with her when she traveled from Dol Amroth."

"Thank you, lad," Osfrid said, and he and Muriel disappeared into the dark hallway beyond.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


littlemanpoet's post

Eodwine reached the gate of Edoras and found Deren with the other guards.

"Greetings, Deren! I hope your thankless chore at the gate has paid you in some bit of news. What know you of this Bertwald and Hilda?" Eodwine smirked. "The wife seems to have mistaken your King's Markings for robbers' crests, if you can believe it! Do you remember the pair?"

"I remember the pair," Deren replied, walking forward. He placed his hand on the horse's shoulder and looked up at Eodwine. "They came through not long ago, just after dark. Said they were on their way to see the woman's dying mother and had to stop here on their way. Why do you ask? Has something come up?"

Eodwine wondered at that: the woman had spoken nothing of a dying mother. Had the man? Eodwien could not remember that he had. It was suspicious. Then again, anything and everything seemed suspicious these days. Eodwine scowled, not liking that he was suspicious first.

"They have come to the Mead Hall seeking shelter for the night. What think you of the pair? Tell me all your mind about them."

“Well, I do not rightly know, sir,” Deren replied. He knit his eyebrows together, wondering if something had happened and asking himself all the while why the Eorl had come all this way to question him on the matter. “This job has made me question everybody, for real and in my mind. I did wonder that they came so late, but I do not suppose we can really hold that against them too much. He spoke strangely, sir, to tell you the truth. All day we had people coming through here and they did not know why they were stopped by guards and most of them didn’t say much. They just answered the questions straight and went on. He. . .well, he talked, but without making his point quite clear. But maybe it was only my imagination.”

Deren scratched his head. He was talking in circles and that certainly would not help in the matter. “I would just keep an eye on him, my lord,” he finished. “If he fails to leave tomorrow morning early, then there would be real cause to worry. He told me that they were only stopping for the night, and when I asked him if he’d be leaving tomorrow morning, he said ‘I imagine so!’ and I let him pass."

"My thanks, Deren. I will watch these two and see if they leave early tomorrow. If we could spare men, maybe we should have them followed. I will give the matter thought. Good night to you!"


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Upon his return to the Mead Hall, Eodwine went directly to Haleth and asked him to his own rooms for a talk in private. Once there, Eodwine went straight to the point.

"I know not if you heard Bertwald's own words as to the greeting he and his wife were given at the Gate. I spoke to Deren who was the very guard this Hilda claims to have mistreated her; or I should say, this Bertwald claims that Deren was, shall we say, overzealous. Deren told me that it seemed this Bertwald talked more than need be. That suggests to me that he may be crafting a bed of lies, as they say. I admit that I have no other call to think ill of the man, but these are bad times. So I would ask of you that the couple be watched. Maybe they will lead us to the fiend who has taken Linduial."

Haleth hesitated. Where did one draw the moral line? "In normal times, such would not even be thought on," he answered slowly. "As like as not it is simply an innocent couple staying here the night. Would not watching them be near the same as questioning those nobles on our list simply because they meet our guidelines?" But then what had been the point of guards at the gates of Edoras if Haleth was not going to take their word when someone seemed suspicious? "I would be loath to have them followed in the case that they are innocent people. But if they do not leave the Mead Hall in the morning, then yes, have them watched. If they leave, let them go."

Eodwine was unsure of Haleth's thought, but Haleth was the ruler in this matter. He nodded, "Aye, that is well."

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Old 06-26-2006, 07:53 PM   #58
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Marenil leaned back in his chair. Exhaustion and worry were evident in every line of his body, and he drifted quietly off to sleep in his corner of the Hall, unable to focus on Lin's danger any longer against the needs of his body.

His last waking thoughts, however, were of her safety, and in his troubled dreams she cried to him for help and he could not find her.

~<*>~

Lin slipped into a light, but serene slumber, the starlight, the sense of accomplishment in her splinted arm, and even the presence of her guard providing her with something she hadn't expected: a sense of security, however tenuous.

~<*>~

Two days passed with little progress towards finding the missing noblewoman, except for a frantic sense of urgency rapidly spilling from the high halls of Meduseld down into the Fair. Entertainments and song took on a certain hectic quality, young children virtually disappeared from the proceedings, kept at home by parents frightened out of security, and there was a low undercurrent of worry underneath every bargain driven. The royal couple were well loved, and yet there was no missing the cold, grim anger on the faces of the frustrated searchers, as they went out through the Fair, questioning any who might have or claimed to have seen the woman during her stay in Edoras.

Torim firmly settled his pack onto his back, heavy now with the goods his family needed, and a few little gifts for his wife and two small children. It was the day he'd meant to leave, and Linduial had not been found. He sighed, thinking of his wife's pretty face. She'd understand missing him a day; wouldn't worry too much. He turned away from the Gate, and trudged resignedly up the hill toward the Mead Hall. This early in the morning, no few of the searchers would still be there, choosing their course for the day, and a duty begun is sooner done...Torim pushed his fear of Sorn's petty vengefulness to the back of his head. There were great things at stake here, and he meant to see them through.

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Old 06-28-2006, 08:28 PM   #59
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Life for Scyld had fallen into a fairly straightforward routine, watching Linduial most of the day, fetching her meals, and receiving a break now and again when Gurth came to watch her. Scyld knew that Gurth sometimes brought down extra food for Linduial, and he doubted that Sorn would be pleased if he knew, but nevertheless Scyld had kept silent about it. If cornered over the topic, he could always say that he had assumed Gurth was feeding the food to his great dog – most of it was meat, and he certainly fed the dog enough anyway.

Today had so far been no different. Scyld now sat in silence, watching Lin eat her breakfast. His guard on her had grown laxer; never once had she attempted to escape, leaving Scyld to assume she had realized it would be smarter not to, and he had stopped loosening a knife blade every time he opened the cell door; and already she had grown on him enough that he would be hesitant to use a knife on her anyway, except to just show as a threat. She intrigued him. While clearly wanting for many things, she had asked for nothing more since that first day, nor had he given her anything save for the continued wine in her glass at meals. They had talked only a few more times, just enough to leave Scyld wondering occasionally what sort of person she was outside of a prison cell – other than the pampered noble he still half-way took her to be.

In other words, if worst came to worst and a search party came here after her and he came out badly… would he be able to rely on her at all for some level of vindication? Or would he simply be thrown in with Sorn? And even if he did manage to somehow escape, he did not want to be hunted down. He had to face the truth… eventually she would return to her family, one way or another, or be killed. Scyld would not partake in her killing – he had nothing to gain from such. Therefore… he might eventually need her on his side, or at least not against him. And he knew the next step to take.

“Linduial” – she looked up – “those things you had with you in the basket at the fair… were they important?” His tone was completely neutral; she would have no clue from that whether he meant the question for good or ill. Let her manner of response be part of the test.

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Old 06-29-2006, 03:01 PM   #60
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Linduial glanced up in surprise, the bite she had been about to take poised midair on the dull knife she was allowed. "Important? This something Sorn wants to know?" She'd relaxed greatly in Scyld's presence over the last few days, and some of the lighter bruises were starting to change color as they began to heal. Unfortunately this made her look somewhat more battered rather than less. The garish splotches of yellow and green only made the deeper bruising more glaringly obvious.

She didn't wait for an answer, but popped the bite of bland 'sausage' into her mouth and continued, speaking around it with no trace of her old, polished manners. "I don't suppose anything there is terribly important to anyone but me, really, but even so it's a shame to lose them. The basket I borrowed, and the other things were meant as gifts to some people who mean a great deal to me, but they didn't even know about them." She threw Scyld a quick glance, her next comment surprising him again with the depth of viciousness this seemingly mild little songbird was capable of. "Just one more thing to fantasize eviscerating Sorn for."

She laughed a little at the look on his face. "If you think I'm bad, you should meet my brothers. They wouldn't wait to talk or fantasize about it--and I wouldn't do it myself. I'm far too much the pampered child to get my own hands dirty." Her expression was wry, but her eyes glinted with a genuine loathing when she spoke of Sorn, quickly supressed as she changed the subject.

"So why do you ask about my things?"
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Old 06-29-2006, 03:30 PM   #61
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Scyld shrugged. “Curiosity – wondered if I should keep them in mind or not. I’ve no doubt Sorn would like to know... but I have no reason as yet to tell him.” He watched her for a moment more, still thinking about her impassioned outburst against Sorn. Her hatred of him – not surprising in itself, really, but the depth of it – that was a bit surprising, but good – good for him. It was time to let her know some things…

He looked her in the eye and spoke quietly and with feigned nonchalance; he had been an eavesdropper far too long not to give heed to being overheard himself. “I caught sight of Sorn with them the other day – admiring the knife, I think – and I know where they are… and how to get to them.” He watched her face as the implications of this settled in. “I know a lot of things that Sorn would probably rather I not knew – at least, things he would never tell me…” Scyld paused, still not sure how much she ought to be told. She would certainly want to know about Osfrid’s mission. Actually, presented in the right light, that would be the perfect thing to tell her. But first, he glanced around to make sure the door at the top of the stairs was closed. He had much more to fear from Sorn than any potential rescue party at the moment.

“For example,” he continued in the same deadly quiet tone, “perhaps you remember Osfrid? No matter. But Sorn has sent him and his lady friend on a mission to Edoras. He never told me why, but I could tell you.” He had gotten her attention now and was thoroughly enjoying drawing out the suspense. “He wants to find some weakness of yours… a person you wouldn’t want to see hurt.”
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Old 06-29-2006, 03:47 PM   #62
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Haleth

As the fourth day of searching for Linduial’s kidnapper began, Haleth was beginning to feel rather resigned. On that first day, they had narrowed it down to just three likely possibilities, but since then they had made very little headway. Their information, the few bits that they had anyway, was inconclusive and circumstantial. None of the three suspects looked more likely than the next.

Perhaps it was worst for him. Others, they could do things. Ask questions at the gate or in the city, mostly. But he always had to be available in case there was news – people had to know where to find him. That meant he had been spending a lot of time doing very little or nothing at the Mead Hall, which had become the unofficial headquarters of investigation.

He was preparing himself for another long day when a man stepped into the Mead Hall. He looked to be a traveler, but not one come from a journey. He did not see Eodwine at the moment, so he approached the man himself, trying not to feel too hopeful. Surely if the man had information, he would have come to them before now.

Trying to keep the tiredness out of his voice, he asked, “Can I help you, sir?”
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Old 06-30-2006, 03:19 PM   #63
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“He wants to find some weakness of yours… a person you wouldn’t want to see hurt.”

Lin turned her eyes away from her breakfast to meet Sorn's gaze. Fury rose gleaming darkly in those eyes, and her face closed off, leaving her with a cold, blank look that was almost frightening in its lack of intensity.

"There is only one person on this earth I would wish to see hurt, my friend," she said flatly, anger letting her make the claim she'd been dancing around with Scyld. A cool, detached part of her marvelled a little over it: she had truly begun to trust Scyld. She hadn't expected that. And she wished no harm to Gurth, who was merely a child, with a child's fervent desire to please, and a tool dangerous in the wrong hands. She found she did not particularly care about Osfrid's fate. "And that is Sorn."

Scyld said nothing, seemed to be thinking about something, but he did not break her gaze.

"What exactly does he plan to do with this information? Kidnap another? Add murder to his many crimes, if it isn't there already?"

~<*>~

"Can I help you?" A tall and powerfully built man stood before him, by his build and grace obviously a warrior.

Torim nervously scratched his head, already uncertain of the wisdom of his actions. "Actually, m'lord, I thought...mayhap...I might could help you."

The man looked at him expectantly.

"Th--that lass ye've been a-searching for. I maybe know where you could find her."

The warrior's eyes lit up fiercely, and he near dragged the frightened Torim toward a table, where sat three or four other men, in various states of dejection and discouragement. Torim realized one was his own new Eorl, Eodwine, and his knees went a little weak. He wondered belatedly if he might have a chance to run away.

With many stutters and false starts, and so quietly that the men had to lean far in in order to hear him, Torim described what he had seen on his journey to Edoras: the battered young woman standing up to Sorn, and his further mistreatment of her.

"But why didn't you come to us earlier?" one of the men demanded harshly. "It's been three days, she may have been killed already!"

"I-I--I was a-feared, m'lords!" Torim stammered wildly. "I didna wish the lass harm, but I am a simple man, and my bit o'land lies far too close to m'lord Sorn's than is my liking. He's vicious, and my family's there, my wife and th'littles, and if Sorn knew I spoke to you, 'e'd kill th'littles quick, and m'wife...Aren't you, lords, aware of what manner o'man he is? I fear him greatly."

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Old 07-01-2006, 08:39 AM   #64
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"Come lad, catch up. We're nearly there." Degas called over his shoulder to Feo and grinned. He had sight of buildings on the horizon and thought them to be, though was unsure, buildings in the care of or belonging to Lin's family. Feo rode a dozen or so yards behind Degas, looking at the world wide-eyed. All that was left of his sickness was a barking cough when he did too much, and Degas kept him calm, though it was harder than most anything to keep the boy sitting still once he had the energy to move.

Feo trotted his sweet-tempered pony up next to Degas. It had taken all of about thirty seconds once they had left the inn for Feo to become comfortable with Degas. Degas tried to sound gruff and distant, but he mostly failed, and Feo learned quickly that if he pretended that Degas was tough and unapproachable in front of anybody, Degas would laugh and play games during much of the ride when there was nobody looking. He couldn't, of course, be seen as a soft noblemen, willing to take in stray children and treat them as his own younger siblings... he must appear distant! He grinned at his own bad illusion. What was the point? The world knew perfectly well that he was about as firm as pudding... they merely took their cues from him and pretended that he was tougher than he really was. It was all a game to him, and he knew that Feo understood it as such.

"Degas, what happens to me when we get there?"

"I'd recommend that you run off as soon as you're able."

"You'd leave me alone?"

"Shall I put it clearly? If I'm drawn and quartered, I assume that you'd prefer not to be seen associating yourself with me. Am I right?"

Feo's eyes widened and he grinned, showing the gap where a tooth had recently been. Riding in the sun, dozens of freckles had suddenly appeared to complete the image of a rascal. "You can be sure, lord, that if you are met with bad favor, I will deny ever having known you."

Degas laughed aloud, fascinated by this boy child. His speech had hints of education, most especially when he was joking back and forth, and he adopted many of Degas's words quickly, but when he spoke fast, or nervously, it carried far less annunciation. It was as though he chose not to reveal most of what he knew. Degas wondered why. Feo seemed more comfortable with an uneducated drawl than anything else, though he was clearly confident with other words. It was much like Degas speaking Westron and Rohirric; he was comfortable with both languages, and knew them well, and only a well trained ear could catch a lilt in his voice born from interchanging them so frequently, but he would always prefer Rohirric. He wondered if Feo considered both forms of speech in the way that Degas thought of the languages that he had mastered and decided that it would be a good thought for a rainy day.

"That's a boy. Self-preservation." He laughed and reached across the distance between mounts to clap Feo on the shoulder.

"So what's it I'm keepin' myself safe from?" He spoke as though he and Degas were old friends of the same age, and Degas liked his attitude. Travelling became lonely, and Degas was used to the silence of the road. It was more fun to sing with an audience, and having somebody to banter with as he rode did not upset him him in the least.

Degas was comfortable enough with the lad to be candid. He decided to tell him straight what their errand was. It was unfair to drag him along without warning, and Degas was surprised that Feo had not asked before why they rode. "I've been sent to tell a noblewoman's father and brothers that she's been kidnapped and it's my fault. On top of that, I plan to ask their permission to court her."

Feo looked as though Degas had told him that he meant to ask Lin's father to hand over his estate and work as his servant. "You mean t'tell me that yer gonna tell 'em you lost ther girl and when you find 'er agin, you wanna handfast with 'er? You've gone crazy!"

"Perhaps I have. We'll see what their reaction is. I have visions of being thrown into the ocean... she tells me her brothers are seafarers."

"That would be a proper adventure!" Feo's eyes lit up. "Do they battle pirates?"

"One could guess, perhaps, that they have done so. Why not ask them when we arrive? If you like it there, and they are willing, you could stay on with them for a time and work for your keep. They might teach you to sail." Feo's eyes took on a dreamy quality and Degas knew that his guess had been right.

"So that's where we're goin'? Up ahead?"

"So it would appear."

"Think we'll get there fast?"

"Fairly quickly, I would think. Our mounts are tired though, and an extra few minutes will not harm my errand, and will help our dear friends that have done well to carry us so far."

"So we have t'wait?"

"A bit longer, yes. Our four-legged friends have been kind to us. We must return the favor."

"But then I'll meet these sailor brothers?"

"Yes, I believe you will."

"And I get to see you drawn and quartered?"

"You sound so enthused about it."

"I sound what?"

"Excited. You sound as though it would be enjoyable to watch."

The talk continued thusly until Degas and Feo reached the walls of Farlen's land and the pair were greeted by a rather strong looking man with a good natured face.

"Greetings, my good man," Degas spoke politely. "I have business with Lord Farlen, and with his sons... it is important that I speak to them quickly."

"I can see you to Farlen's home, but you will perhaps have to wait. Farlen is at field and his sons are an hour's ride or more from home. I will see to it that they are found. Please, follow me."

Degas dismounted and motioned for Feo to stay ahorse, taking his reins and guiding both mounts behind the man that led. He schooled his face into one of business, trying not to let the world see his pure terror at the prospect of reactions to his news.

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Old 07-03-2006, 01:19 PM   #65
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Scyld

“I do not know. Not another kidnapping,” answered Scyld in a quiet, strange tone. My friend. Not since he had come to Sorn’s house thirteen long years ago had anyone deigned to call him friend: none of Sorn’s other employees or acquaintances, and certainly never Sorn himself. But this woman – this noblewoman he held prisoner and from whom he withheld all but the barest kindnesses – she did?

He had been trying to make her into an ally, or even something less than that: a tool to be used for achieving his own ends. Never in his wildest schemes had he thought to make her a friend. A friend. She trusted him. He had never sought her trust, only her good will. He should have been elated. Her trust could be his trump card – only able to be played once, perhaps, but to astounding gain.

Instead, her friendship terrified him. He had no experience with it, no past experience from which to judge. How could he in good faith even contemplate betrayal? Wait – in good faith? Scyld could not remember doing an honorable deed in the past decade. Why change now? Because of two words: my friend. He could not return the favor, nor could he forget it or let it sit. He did not want this burden.

“Perhaps murder is his intent,” Scyld continued harshly, “and if it is, I care not.”
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Old 07-05-2006, 08:49 AM   #66
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Thornden sat with Eodwine and Garstan as Haleth stood behind the stammering and terrified peasant waiting until he finished speaking.

"I-I--I was a-feared, m'lords! I didna wish the lass harm, but I am a simple man, and my bit o'land lies far too close to m'lord Sorn's than is my liking. He's vicious, and my family's there, my wife and th'littles, and if Sorn knew I spoke to you, 'e'd kill th'littles quick, and m'wife...Aren't you, lords, aware of what manner o'man he is? I fear him greatly."

What was Thornden to think? The man had reason to fear, that was true, and who wouldn’t want to protect his family? But to actually know that some helpless girl was in the grasp of someone as Sorn (and the man knew very well, clearly, what sort of man Sorn actually was) and not do anything about it for days, was hardly short of cowardice.

‘We can’t all be heros, though,’ Thornden said to himself. He averted his gaze away from Torim’s face and looked at Eodwine. Surely there would not be any more sharp words towards the fellow for his silence. Yet should the lady have suffered much because of the three days’ delay. . .Thorndin didn’t feel so sure that any one of them sitting there would feel very kindly towards Torim.

He leaned slightly towards Eodwine, but said nothing as the pause grew longer and into one of those horrible silences. What would he say? And what could they do - now that they knew who had her and maybe where she was to be found?
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Old 07-06-2006, 06:56 AM   #67
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Lin's eyes flashed angrily towards Scyld. How could he say such a thing? And yet...something did not ring true. He was too angry with her, when ordinarily his response would be dry laughter or scathing scorn at her...naivete, I suppose. And it's fair. I am naive, though I am rapidly learning.

Her anger receded rapidly, and she leaned back thoughtfully. When she spoke her voice was gentle, and that in itself seemed to startle Scyld. "Perhaps it is his intent. But you should care, Scyld. Adding murder to his crimes does you no favors."

He recoiled, as if in expectation of some righteous lecture, and Lin laughed softly, with only a trace of bitterness. "I mean when he is caught. Whatever happens to me doesn't matter, whether I live or die. He will still be caught, and made to answer." She looked over and caught Scyld's eyes with her own. "And so will any who aided him, or served him. You know this. Adding the murder or harm of an innocent, and to no purpose other than to cause me pain...even if I lived and argued for you, I do not think I could save you, if you knew of such intent and did nothing. And certainly no one else is like to try."
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Old 07-06-2006, 01:03 PM   #68
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"It is not up to me whether anyone else tries." Scyld was becoming increasingly baffled, and his fear had not abated one bit. He did not understand her, and his dry wit availed him not at all in this situation. He wished she would fight back, yell at him, or even just say nothing and sit there in sullen silence. Instead, she seemed to be trying to help him. Help him! Even if I lived and argued for you… Why? Why was she doing this?
"But whether you try is," Linduial replied.

“But technically I do not know anything. No one, Sorn least of all, ever told me these things; I only overheard that he was sending people to Edoras to find people you wouldn’t want to see hurt. He gave no orders for them to actually be hurt; perhaps he only means to find out who they are and threaten you about them. I don’t really know anything about what Sorn intends to do.” Now Scyld was starting to hit his stride once more. Everything he had said so far was true, if of questionable morality, but now it was time to start riding the fine line between truth and falsehood.

“And in truth? I am not sure I want to know. The less I know, the less that can be held against me. What Sorn chooses to do is his affair.” This was not wholly true; Scyld lived by the motto that the more he knew, the better off he was – as long as no one knew that he knew. He would have to be careful with how much he told Linduial. “And it will do me even less good if I try to stop him and he kills me. I am no fighter; that is certainly not a skill Sorn ever taught me. I have no doubt he would not hesitate to kill me, and if he decided to, he probably could.” The lie came easily to his lips, despite the nagging feeling of guilt that was beginning to tug at his mind. But why should he feel guilty at all? Why should he feel any moral responsibility towards her whatsoever? How did she make him feel this way?

“I do not know why I tire myself explaining these things endlessly,” he cut himself off. He was venturing into dangerous territory again. “Or why you pretend to care. You try to lead me on with honeyed words and expressions of good will – but for what reason? Surely,” he mocked, “you have no honest reason to care for one of your captors. You only lead me on so that I will help to save your friends.”
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Old 07-06-2006, 01:54 PM   #69
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Lin raised a delicate eyebrow. He sounds so...defensive. An amusing switch, really. "My friends are equally out of my reach and yours," she pointed out reasonably. "Neither of us could do anything from here to help them. And they have many to protect them and now--" she made a sweeping gesture that seemed to encompass herself and the iron cage she sat in. "--they will be most careful.

"You've already taken risks to help me," she continued, raising her cup to him through the cell door. "Not much, but Sorn is a dangerous man. I'm not sure he's--quite sane. Which means his reaction to even the little you've done for me could be unpredictable, at the least.

"All I mean to do is make you an offer. You know as well as I do that no profession of ignorance will protect you in this case. I am beloved of the Queen. When Sorn is caught, he will be tried by an angry populace, and punishment will be both swift and harsh. If I yet live, I say that you may call on me, and I shall speak for you. For Gurth, as well, for he does not know what he does, and should not bear the consequences of it, and he has been surpassingly kind to me, in his own way."

A dark bitter voice in her mind erupted in protest to this offer, made on a hunch and a whim.

What are you saying, Lin? He's done the bare minimum to help you, every step of the way.

But he's done that.

Murder is probably already one of his crimes. He is not to be trusted! Why, you fool, do you trust him?!

I must trust someone. And it affects him that I do, it confuses him. He's thinking about it, I know he is.

You don't have to trust anyone. And you run the risk that all you do is infuriate him.

I choose to trust him, and I will bear the risk.
The bitter voice subsided, and Lin settled back against the cell wall with a sigh, watching for his reaction.

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Old 07-07-2006, 09:47 AM   #70
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Haleth

Haleth’s initial annoyance with the man had subsided, and he wished now that he had not been quite so rough. After all, the man had come now, and that was the important bit. Now they could actually move on to finding Linduial – and he would have something more to report to the queen than “no progress”.

“Peace, man,” he said, realizing that the panicked man had never given his name. “What is done is done, and while I wish you had come forward earlier, that cannot be changed. We will see that neither you nor your family comes to harm because of your service to us and the queen; indeed, you shall be rewarded handsomely should your information prove correct. Now, your name, please?”

“Torim, m’lord.”

“Now, Torim, could you describe Sorn and the men who were with him?” Haleth probed.

Torim seemed to seize up again at the mention of Sorn, but spoke in a reasonably steady voice, telling them first of Sorn, then of a thin, average height man with short blonde hair, and finally of a sturdy blonde man who he seemed to recall had a mustache.

Haleth nodded. “Your help is very much appreciated.” He looked to the others. “Can any of you think of anything else?”
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Old 07-07-2006, 10:11 AM   #71
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Scyld

Scyld’s confusion outweighed his joy at this pronouncement. “I have already asked you to speak plainly once,” he growled.

“The offer seemed quite clear to me,” Linduial answered.

“The offer, yes, but not what you want in return. Surely no one in their right mind in your position would make such an offer without wanting anything back. What do you want of me?” This was Scyld’s last attempt to make sense out of her. Bargains, he could understand. Offers born of trust or friendship… not so much.

“Well, obviously if I am to testify for you, I must be alive,” she said.

“That is all?” asked Scyld warily.

“Did I ask for anything else?”

What was this, some kind of fool’s bargain? Could it really be possible that there was no catch? If so, how ever did people who thought like this survive and do well for themselves? That such people existed had never truly occurred to Scyld. Unless… there was one other possibility. “How do I know that if I let you or help you to survive, you will really speak for me and that you are not just bargaining for your life?” She just looked at him. “I do not understand you,” he said finally, annoyance creeping back into his voice. “Not at all.”
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Old 07-07-2006, 11:17 AM   #72
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Lin shrugged, also confused. Had his dealings always been with men of such poor faith that he had no trust in her?

"It's in your own best interest for me to live. You know it is," she said, irritation rearing its ugly head in her own voice as well. "If you are caught, call on me, and I will come."

"And when you do not?" he snarled at her.

"I keep my word!" she snapped. "If I do not come, it will be because I cannot, and you will be out nothing anyway. The offer stands, even if you are too dense to accept it!"

A footstep sounded just outside the cellar, and she fell silent, eyes blazing with irritation even as she fervently prayed no one had heard the whole of their discussion.
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Old 07-07-2006, 03:53 PM   #73
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Listening to Torim's story made Garstan uneasy. The man did not seem craven (or so Garstan hoped, thinking that had he been completely without courage, he would never have come forward at all), yet he had held back his knowledge of the kidnapping for three days. Sorn must be a brutal man, far worse than the half told rumors the search party had been somewhat uselessly told. Three days, and those days had passed without word that the kidnapper's demands would be met. He feared for Linduial, trapped as she was under the ill guardianship of her probably increasingly frustrated abductor. They had to hurry.

Torim described Sorn's companions. The description of one, though it started as a picture that might have fitted most any man of Rohan, began to catch Garstan's ear. Middle height, but strudy. Blond hair to his shoulders. Then came the difference. A large mustache, brown coat, and black boots. Garstan had seen this man. And heard of him in a way that now caused to to jump forward in alarm and anger as Haleth asked, "Can any of you think of anything else?"

"Indeed, my lord, I can." Garstan looked from Haleth to Eodwine, seeing his own thought mirrored in their faces. Both seemed filled with consternation, though he could not tell who held more frustration with their lost chance to follow the suspicious visitors to Edoras. Eodwine, whose suggestion to shadow the visitors had been rejected, or Haleth, who had made the error of rejecting the plan. "Do not fear, Torim. He is gone now. But not two days ago, the second man you speak of was under this roof as a guest." A grim laugh, devoid of humor escaped him. "And I might have known it then, had I but a little more wit. The man spoke to my daughter and questioned her about the fair. I thought nothing of it then, setting it to the curiosity of a passer through Edoras, but I see it now. Though, mayhap, I should have suspected then. I know that you suspected them, Eorl. Had their actions been known, perhaps they would have been followed as you intended, and we would be nearer to finding Lady Linduial."

Garstan paused, taking in the frustrated silence, puzzling over the questions they had put to his daughter. "Lčođern spoke freely and told him of Linduial their ill-fated trip to the horse fair, as he asked. This Sorn must have sent him to gather word of our doings here." He scowled, furious that his children had been in such close contact with the villianous schemers, worrying that they would now be in danger from the kidnappers, wondering what the purpose in their questioning had been.

"I fear too that my own children are now in the view of the kidnappers. Though they have no rank or wealth to make them objects or ransom, Linduial took some interest in my daughter. I do not know why else she would have been chosen for questioning, and I do not know what the kidnapper's intent was in doing so.

"I have but one question more for you, Torim. Where is this Sorn and where did you see him last with the lady?"

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Old 07-07-2006, 09:57 PM   #74
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The cold air left a comforting burn in Sorn’s throat, and made him shiver a little. He gave a light pat to his horse, which was enough to set him at a canter down further into the valley. The vast lands by Sorn’s estate were not all his, but few would mind or notice him riding through it. The stray farmer would not dare to challenge him. He’d earned a reputation that had such benefits.

Sorn studied the steely mountains, and they reflected in his vacant eyes. He passed his mind quickly over the past four days, and all his…‘precautions’. By now Osfrid would have made his way well into the Hall of the new Eorl, and be returning with all the information he needed. This would be another key to keeping the fiery young Lady from making a movement while in his keep.

Sorn then began to dwell over his current list of minions, servants, and housekeepers. It was at this point that all knew the stakes of his ambitious endeavour, and the consequences should it fail. Sorn knew he could do only little to keep loyalty, and so he would have to simply hope to barricade the rising streams. Some, like Gurth, had simple loyalty and little way to make coin or advantage from betraying him. Others like Scyld...

Sorn fidgeted, thumbing the leather rein as he remembered the expression on Scyld’s face whilst he stood in the study. He needed to be watched, carefully. Many in his troupe would not think twice to act on Sorn’s orders. Scyld obeyed, but he also thought on his orders. Sorn knew that was a great sign of trouble.

The sun began to rise over the peaks as Sorn rode towards his home. The windows flickered with warm candlelight from the previous night, and Sorn could see the kitchens were active with signs of the first meal being prepared. Being out for almost over a two days had left Sorn’s stomach restless, and his kitchen hand knew of his like to wander away for days without notice.

As his horse leisurely slowed into the property, a startled stable-hand peeked from behind a barrel. Sorn gave him an easy, even look as he nervously took the reins. With another pat to his horse, he dismounts and makes a long stride to the kitchen.

Entering the hall, Sorn could feel the immediate wafting warmth, and smell of roasting meat. However, as his steps lead him past the entrance to the cell, he sensed something less than welcoming. Voices.

Sorn stopped, his lips curling into an ugly grin. Was Scyld talking to the prisoner? That would be an unwise move. Sorn stepped closer to the door, his keen hearing drowning out the other bustle.

Carefully he detected someone’s voice...

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Old 07-09-2006, 06:55 AM   #75
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Foolish, foolish, foolish! Scyld heard the footstep at the same time as Linduial, and knew it would be easy to blame her for being the one loud enough to catch attention – but he, too, had thrown caution to the wind… and he also knew it was not now the time for blame.

He had been on the point of cautiously accepting her offer – or at least not fighting it, as he had argued his way so far as to not back down easily – but if someone was listening – someone who in all likelihood was Sorn – he absolutely could not do that. His plans were too far from ripe to have to face off Sorn now, but even if he did get off now, the damage would be done. The seeds of suspicion would be planted in Sorn’s mind, and he would be watching for any slip of Scyld’s, however small. Scyld had been careless, far too careless.

“It is useless and foolish for you to try and plead your case with me as you obviously have nothing more to offer than empty words and threats,” he said. “I am as unsympathetic as Sorn and understand you as well as simple Gurth might. I tire of hearing you yammer at me all the time; be quiet or I will shut your mouth for you.”

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Old 07-10-2006, 06:28 AM   #76
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Lin was furious, and made no attempt to hide it. "The offer stands," she hissed at him, before favoring the man with a truly wicked smile. A deep breath, and she launched full-voiced into the furious tirade she'd not been in since the first night of her kidnapping. "I demand to see Sorn!" she exclaimed between streams of rude invective directed at Scyld. She took the tin plate with the remains of her breakfast still clinging to it and flung it as hard she could with her good arm towards her jailor, viewing the moist eggy mess it left on his face and shirt with satisfaction. "Slop! Scraps! I am not a dog, and I am not to be served such a horrific excuse for food!"

Why am I doing this, she asked herself, having acted on instinct. The answer came quickly. So Sorn won't wonder what we were talking about, and question Scyld's loyalty.

She didn't know if Scyld would realize her motivation for throwing this tantrum, but it was the best thought she had. At least she'd never protested her meals before, so it was not likely he'd consider her to have suddenly began to be petty.

If it makes him worry a bit, though, I don't mind, she thought, a bit vindictively.

Scyld had been clear that he considered Lin a pampered highborn brat. She thought she'd at least challenged that notion in Scyld's mind, but Sorn likely felt the same way, and there could be little danger in fulfilling Sorn's low expectations of her. Probably less danger than there had been in setting her arm--she was safer if Sorn underestimated her.

He'll quit feeding me for a little while, most likely. The thought worried her little, however. Gurth's daily 'snacks' had been getting bigger and bigger, and were certainly better fare, if less balanced, than the food she'd been given. She'd be all right.

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Old 07-10-2006, 10:48 AM   #77
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Scyld had no idea how much of Linduial’s tirade was for show and how much was genuine, but he nevertheless felt entirely relieved at it. At least he knew how to deal with this. His wonted smirk had lodged itself back on his face, and not even the soggy, disgusting eggs she hurled at him wiped it off; shock him though it did, he was much more amused than annoyed. Rubbing his face on his sleeve, he mused that this part of her irritation was almost certainly genuine. He did not know why this did not bother him, except that he figured that if she really was as honorable as she claimed, a bit of annoyance with him would not cause her to revoke her offer.

“You are hardly in a position to make demands,” he answered, “but I shall inform Sorn of your wish.” He stood up, and as he walked past her he picked a stringy bit of egg off his shirt and flung it at her face. “Although you may wish to blame the cook for the quality of the eggs…” he murmured to her.

He tramped heavily up the stairs as if he truly were fed up with her and pasted an exasperated look on his face. He deliberately left the cellar door open as he went to find Sorn, and unsurprisingly found him rather close to the door, confirming Scyld’s guess that it had indeed been Sorn who had heard them. Sorn obviously did not know much about eavesdropping, Scyld thought with contempt. Not only had he let himself be known, but he had also not made a show of doing something else.

“The Lady wishes to speak to you,” Scyld announced without preamble. “And I do believe she was ready to throw her glass at me next if I did not find you.”
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Old 07-13-2006, 08:30 AM   #78
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The whole farmstead billowed and span like the waves of the Sea-though, never having seen the Sea, Gurth did not apply the simile himself.

"Gerraaarn, Grendel," he muttered, and when the beast stayed where it was, gazing up with an almost solicitous glance, he aimed a savage kick at it. But he was unsteady on his feet, and the dog dodged. Gurth collapsed sideways, falling into the filth of the estate's midden, yet he could not smell any of it, so strong was the cloud of mead with which he had thoroughly deadened his senses.

Unpaid with limited quantities of the golden liquid he adored for some days, Gurth had gone reifing and reaving on a neighbouring cot and taken a barrel by force. After he smashed the skull of a labourer who thought about barring his way, the rest had known better, and the giant retired with his prize. He had poured it down his gullet then, uncaring as much of it splashed over the front of his livery or washed over his hair and beard, drinking on and on till the flicker of consciousness he possessed ceased to trouble him.

Emerging from the midden now, not bothering to brush off the dirt that sprang, he grabbed Grendel by his scruff, dragged the whimpering creature to its kennel, and locked it in, winding about the iron chain. Then he turned and lurched carelessly towards the farmhouse...the side entrance...the cellars.

In such moods in the past, only Sorn had succeeded in calming Gurth's rage. Now the question was...would that be sufficient?
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Old 07-13-2006, 01:21 PM   #79
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Ennahir son of Marenil handed the reins of the visitors' horses off to a young stablehand, and called a page over. "Go get Lord Farlen, lad, he's in the west pasture."

"The one with the sheep?" the lad clarified, and at Ennahir's nod was off at top speed.

Ennahir led the man and the boy (Must be a brother, ages are wrong for a son, he thought) into the solar, bidding them have a seat. "The Lord will be a while coming in from the fields, but will see you as soon as he may."

A maidservant brought in a tray of cheese, bread, and early spring strawberries, leaving it on a table and whisking out without a word. Ennahir, too, left, to prepare some hot water and fresh clothing for his lord. Several ewes were near to birthing today, and Farlen would be as sticky and dirty as anyone else. The young man could easily wait an hour or so.

"So we have to wait to see the pirate chasers?" asked Feo with a mix of disappointment and enthusiasm. He could barely sit still for having been on horseback so long. For all that the pony was small, so was Feo, and he'd fidgeted more than he'd ridden quietly, it seemed. Degas couldn't fault him... he was no Rohirric youth, raised as much on four legs as his own two.

"Yes, boy, we do. They've not even been summoned; only the lady's father has. I wonder at the exclusion."

"Do you think they're not at home?"

"I think that they might be anywhere, though it is planting and birthing season both, so it could simply be that they are more needed than Farlen in the fields."

"And Farlen--"

"Lord Farlen."

"And Lord Farlen the lady's father then? You said her name was Linduial?"

"That I did, and yes he is. Please, Feo," Degas added, quietly, his stomach informing him that the tray of snacks could not suffice to staunch either his hunger or the nagging feelings of guilt and worry. "Say nothing in his presence unless he asks it of you. You will not, I am quite sure, want to be the subject of his focus."

It was indeed a full hour before Lord Farlen, brother to Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, was announced and stepped into the room, his powerful presence instantly arresting the attention of his guests.

Farlen was a tall, imposing man, with eyes like steel and dark hair peppered prematurely with gray. It was no sign of age or weakness, and one who knew Linduial marveled at the relation between her delicate beauty and her father's forceful countenance. He was dressed simply, in a snowy white shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbow and dark breeches. His resemblance to his brother was striking: they were as like as twins, though Farlen had never had Imrahil's interest in statecraft, despite his understanding of it. He had a mind like a trap, and when he looked Degas over quickly before meeting his eye, it was evident.

"Degas of the Folde, eh?" he said sharply. "A long way to come from Rohan for a social visit. I'm assuming you bring news of my daughter."

The boy he ignored, for now. It had been a long day; they'd already lost a ewe and her lamb, and the cursed sheep seemed even more clever than usual at getting into ridiculously inaccessible places to give birth. He could think of no good reason why someone would be bringing news of his daughter, and no other reason for an emissary from Rohan to come to him, rather than to the city, and his already strained temper growled low under his voice.

"Your assumption is correct, Lord Farlen. I will speak plainly; I am of the Folde, more recently of Minas Anor, and am currently residing in Lord Eodwine's halls, the very place in which I am sure you know that Linduial stays with Marenil as guardian. Linduial has been kidnapped." Farlen was silent and Degas continued, waiting for the outburst he was so certain would come. "Her abductor has issued a demand for ransom. Queen Lotheriel has issued a search party that Lord Eodwine and members of his household have joined. It may well be that she is returned to safety even as we speak. My journey was long and I met with unavoidable delays."

Degas fell silent and waited for response, wondering if Farlen would ask how Linduial was left unprotected. His vision of his own honor dictated that he should offer the information, but he was unsure what to say. He had never before acted as messenger and did not quite know where to begin, save where he already had.

Farlen immediately gave the man his full attention. "She was what?" he barked, not waiting for an answer. "Ennahir!"

The young man appeared immediately at his lord's elbow, and Farlen wasted no time in issuing his orders. "Send someone to the city after the boys. Someone fast." Ennahir nodded and disappeared.

"We'll have a while before my sons arrive. Tell me everything."

"Where should I begin, Lord? There was a well-sized horse fair in Edoras several days ago. The city was full and it was an event of much excitement. I escorted Linduial and a small child of our shared household. In the market, we were separated. I blame myself; I never should have looked away, even for a moment. A moment was all that it took.

"I turned and did not see her. I gathered up the child and searched the immediate area with no luck. Nobody appeared to have seen her and nor could I. I made my way back to Eodwine's hall, hoping that she had wandered, lost sight of me, and made her way back to meet me there. When I returned, she was not there.

"It was not terribly long after that Lotheriel arrived, bearing the letter from her captors and a number of well-trained men. I rode out shortly after. I have told you what I know and remember, though it is possible that I know and have not thought of details that you wish to learn."

Degas went silent, meeting the eyes of Farlen.

Farlen returned his gaze with a stony expression. The lad had been careless, that was clear, but he had owned up to his responsibility for the incident, and was certainly brave in coming here. And yet...

"It stands greatly in your favor that you come to speak to me of this, but that may not stead you well should lasting harm come to my child," he said carefully, not wanting to say anything in the heat of the moment he might regret later. His heart felt like it had sunk to his feet, and he knew he would not be able to focus on the lambing any more today. "Lin's brothers will be here in an hour or two, though, and I can not promise they will see it that way."

He wanted to threaten, to shout, to ride off at the head of an army as he had done in his youth, not so very long ago, and find and protect his daughter, and yet he could do nothing. He called another servant, and realized with another jolt of age and helplessness that he didn't know the name of the lad who answered. So many are gone...they go and new ones take their place, and by the Valar in their glory, I'm tired. I begin to see what they meant by the gift of Men. There will come a day when it will be a relief to set this by...and I probably have another fifty years of strength ahead of me, at least.

He left instructions with the lad to offer his guests a place to wash if they desired, and a full meal. He wondered briefly about the young boy with the messenger, but it didn't seem important, and didn't concern him. He was too tired, just now. He left the room without another word to either of them.
"So he didn't kill you."

Degas heaved a sigh of relief even as he glared at Feo. They followed the servant and Degas looked ahead to see if the lad had overheard; he made no move to show that he had. "Boy, watch what you say."

"My nose is in the way."

Degas raised a hand, not really intending to hit Feo, and the boy knew it and stuck out his tongue. "You are a hooligan and deserve a good thrashing, boy."

Feo calmed and walked next to Degas. "So we're being fed?"

"Yes."

"Do I have to pay for it?"

"Only in that you will thoroughly wash before touching the food. Hot water, soap. Scrubbing. Much though I appreciate the smell of horse, I like to smell it on horses, not boys."

"But Degas--"

"You will wash yourself to the point of pinkness or I will do it for you. I'd rather you save me the effort; I am tired. But do not think, boy, that I will not dunk you in a tub until you sparkle."

Feo walked silently now, moping. Degas walked silently, pondering. The servant showed them where they could find cleaning items and left to bring them food.
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Old 07-14-2006, 08:36 AM   #80
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Meandering on his way to the cellar, Gurth sat down, and, like a heap of flesh turning by degrees to stone, his aggressive drunkenness became maudlin. He wept preposterously, ruddying his already bringht complexion, rubbing dirt into his face.

Then he picked his frame up and dragged the length of his body back to the wooden keenel which kept Grendel, though he still did not think on the dog itself. Before the chained slat-door to the kennel, he threw himself down and snored, gaseous mead pouring from his nostrils.

His rough sleep was punctuated by stirrings and flailings. He ripped off most of his green and yellow garments as if boiling with heat and cast the rags aside. Then he pulled the kennel open by force, fracturing the chain, and whistled Grendel to him, who followed without question.

Taking up his cudgel, the giant walked from Sorn's lands as quickly as possible, some mysterious wanderlust driving him. He would be his own man, such as he was, for some time hence. Perhaps he had been contented enough with Sorn, but Gurth had his own strange yearning for a higher part in the web of Fate, though he usually did not realise it.

He did not know when he would come back, nor greatly care, though something in him did register that it was a pity to leave that poor bitch-pup in the "care" of the weakling slyster Scyld. Perhaps he would return and retrieve her. Perhaps he would find a better source of mead.
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