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Old 03-15-2007, 02:13 PM   #361
Folwren
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
The hauberk came off and Athwen, with Adnan’s help, gently helped the dwarf lay back. She smiled at Adnan, thanking him silently, and then her hands went to the dwarf’s arm again. She glanced up at the dwarf’s face now and again, wondering what he searched for as his eyes moved about.

Yes...that arm was broken, and his shoulder was badly dislocated. Something probably fell on him. She would have to set it, wrap the shoulder and splint the arm. A painful operation for Vrór. She had better set right to it.

“Athwen,” Vrór said quietly, stopping her abruptly. She looked at him quickly. “Did I ask you about the tunnel before, too?”

What was it that plagued him about that tunnel? She reached across him and took the hand of his uninjured harm and pressed it reassuringly. But she paused to reply. What was wrong? “Yes, you did. You asked me about it twice, but that’s alright, Vrór. You’ll be fine. Now wait here. I need to get somethings.”

She got up before he could answer and walked briskly away. She would need bandage and something to work as a splint. She would need help, too.

In a little while, she found someone to give her a helping hand, and she also hunted up a flat piece of wood nearly four inches broad. “It will have to do,” she said with a sigh, tucking it under her arm. She followed her helper back to the grove where Vrór lay waiting for her. There, she prepared her bandages, and checked the wood again. It was smooth and without splinter, worn so by wind and sand. She dusted it carefully and rinsed it with a little water to clean off the bits of sand that clung to it.

When she came again to Vrór’s head, he found the dwarf once more too unconscious to speak or be spoken to. It was better that way, Athwen figured.

With the help of the young man, she set the bone and bound the wood splint close to it Then with the utmost gentleness, for the dwarf had come back to his senses during the short operation, she set the arm in a sling and tied it up around his neck.

“So you don’t move it,” she told him as she bent over him. “No doubt you will move it anyway, if you're like any other man I know, but this will at least keep the movement limited.”

When she was through, she carefully gathered and wound the remaining bandage and tucked it away in her bag. She made Vrór as comfortable as she could and then left him alone so he could sleep and she went back to Dorran.

Last edited by Folwren; 09-07-2007 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 03-27-2007, 01:07 AM   #362
Child of the 7th Age
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Makdush

With the moon high overhead, Makdush had meant to take off from the camp and head back across the plains to the rock strewn cove where they had bedded down for the past few days. The Uruk had expected Ishkur and Gwerr to do the same. To his surprise, that had not happened. The two orcs had stubbornly decided to hang out inside the camp. They showed no signs of leaving, though it was now only a few hours more until the sun would rise.

Somehow Makdush could not bring himself to head out on his own. He kept his distance from Ishkur and Gwerr and sat by himself at the central campfire, occasionally peering over in their direction. This was more from curiosity than any feelings of anger or hostility. He had also kept away from the other Uruk-hai. He had even thought of hunting out a few of the women to find out what was going on with them. But the females and younger orcs were nowhere to be seen. He hoped they had not totally disappeared. Sometime after midnight, a few more horses had come straggling back into camp and Makdush had managed to snag one of these for his own. The horse was a rather ungainly creature, stocky and battlescarred, lacking the grace and power of Ishkur's mount. But at least the creature provided him with a way of getting around. The horse was brown in color with a thick black mane and tale daubed with mud and dirt. The Uruk had started calling him 'Grunge'.

Makdush still could not shake the feeling that someone would be coming back to the slavers' camp sometime later that day. He decided to go out and have a look. Mounting up on Grunge, he kicked the horse in the flanks and sent him galloping out of camp. He rode off in a westerly direction while keeping a sharp eye on the distant horizon.

**********************

Lindir

Lindir rubbed his eyes, stretched, and sat up in his bedroll. They had talked about leaving later in the morning, but several of the riders had expressed a desire to get on the road early, while there was still some cover of darkness. He gulped down a hurried breakfast of spring water and a small square of bread, girded his sword to his side, and quickly made his way to the eastern edge of camp where the riders had gathered and were now mounting up.

Lindir glanced apprehensively around the group. Several of the scouts still looked tired, wearing bandages, favoring an ankle, or rubbing at a nagging injury. Even the horses did not seem to be up to their best. The Elf gazed over at Azhar and Carl who had stopped to talk with each other. Both of them had strained expressions on their face, as if they were in pain or worrying about something. The girl was riding behind Kwell. He hoped the boy had learned his lesson, and there would be no more instances of someone running off without letting anyone know. Now, however, was not a time for lectures. Once Lindir had made sure they were all there, he beckoned with his hand that they should follow his lead. The group trotted out onto the plain, heading slowly but steadily towards the slavers' camp.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 04-07-2007 at 08:29 AM.
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Old 03-31-2007, 09:15 AM   #363
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Orcs:

Makdush had ridden no more than half a mile when he noticed a small copse of scrub bushes and tumbled rocks, a sheltered enclave on the plain that offered a safe vantage point from which he could scan the entire horizon. Quickly pulling the horse inside and positioning his body behind the tangled curtain of boughs, he stared fixedly towards the west and immediately observed a cloud of dust no more than a mile distant. Someone was fast approaching the camp and, from the size of the dustcloud, this was more than a party of one or two lonely riders.

The immediate problem was what to do. Should he turn now and ride back to camp to warn the others of their immediate danger, or was it better to continue to wait and gage who these intruders were and what they intended to do? The party could be slavers returning to camp, or even a contingent of slaves, but it was also possible that they were simple traders making their way from the north back to the plantations in Nurn. Plus, if he pulled out now, there was the danger that the advancing party could not help but notice a large orc on horseback riding so closely in front of them. It would be better not to give them a warning like that.

With some misgivings, Makdush decided to stay and see what was happening. With most of the orcs drunk and asleep, there was little possibility that he could rouse them quickly enough to get out of the way before the men actually entered the camp, if that was their intention. Gwerr and Ishkur were in a different position. They were alert and awake and on the far side of camp, and he should have enough time to get back to them even if he waited to get a glimpse of the party that was approaching on horseback.

Makdush waited for the party to approach. He could see a small troop of men and also several females, all of whom had iron weapons strapped to their sides. The latter puzzled him greatly, Orc women did not normally carry or use swords or great throwing daggers. From what Makdush could gage, these people were slaves coming back to retrieve booty from camp. He decided to wait till they had passed and then skirt around to the south and approach the camp from that direction, heading straight back to Gwerr and Ishkur, who would hopefully still be in their tent.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 04-07-2007 at 09:18 AM.
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Old 04-05-2007, 04:07 PM   #364
Durelin
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First come, first serve...

The party had set out as early as they could, though still weary from the previous day’s battle, and some also from the tears that followed. Those still able-bodied had collected the bodies of their fallen friends, and had placed them with deepest care and respect on the funeral pyre whether they had known them or not. Many still could see the flames when they closed their eyes, and Beloan wondered if any of his companions had slept any better than he had. He had slept, and it had not taken long for him to fall into empty dreams, but it had been far from a restful sleep.

When they set out it was still mostly dark, and no one welcomed the sun as it crept up above Ephel Dûath. They were guided by Lindir back to the slavers’ camp, and Beloan tried his best to be optimistic not only about their victory but also about the opportunity it had opened up to them. The Easterlings were not only looters of men but of anything that might be of worth, and there was no doubt they had left most of it behind. The former slaves and Fellowship would have to travel light as they continued their way North, but perhaps there would even be a cart of use to them, even a pack animal? Beloan hoped there would at least be food and water.

Despite their weariness the scouting party arrived at the slaver camp while it was still quite early in the day, a silent pride helping to maintain their strength. They had after all defeated their foe, even though such a battle was part of what they were trying to escape. The group’s spirits were high as they entered the camp, but an uneasiness spread quickly through each person when Lindir motioned for them to stop. Beloan softened his steps but did not stop moving, until he caught sight of bodies lying on the ground in the middle of the camp.

“They’re orcs,” Lindir whispered.

Beloan’s hand immediately reached for his knife. “Dead, or…?”

“Just asleep, it seems,” the elf replied.

Beloan crept forward, to see better for himself, and came close enough to see without doubt that the creatures were still breathing. He considered stepping from one body to the next and slitting their throats, knowing that if they woke up he and his companions might easily be overcome. He counted the orcs, and determined that the Men, Elf, and Hobbit would be in a dire situation if they had to fight: six full grown males against their tired twelve, which included younger members, was undeniably necessary to avoid. But he could not kill a sleeping enemy, particularly when this enemy had not attacked him yet. That would be too much like them, too much like these orcs, or worse.

It did not take long to realize why a group of orcs was passed out on the ground in the daylight, as Beloan noted the empty jugs and bottles around them. He smirked at the thought of how many men would be disappointed to learn that they would not be getting anything to celebrate with out of this camp. Suddenly Lindir was beside him, and Beloan was lucky he only jumped slightly, producing only a slight scraping noise from his boots. “Drunk,” Beloan whispered, and Lindir nodded. “Hopefully drunk enough to be hard to wake,” the man added.

The two quietly slipped back to the others, and were immediately faced with questions. Beloan gave anyone a murderous look who thought they should raise their voices above a quiet murmur, and his eyes darted around them and his ears strained for any sight or sound of possible friends of the sleeping orcs’. Lindir checked their surroundings as well before informing everyone of the new occupants to the camp they thought they had won.
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Old 04-07-2007, 09:25 AM   #365
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Orcs:

Makdush waited till the company had passed and climbed up on his horse, heading in a southwesterly direction. Once he was out of eye range from the company, he spurred his mount in the flanks and raced forward to the tent where he had seen the two orcs earlier that day. Makdush quickly retraced his steps and then leapt down to the ground, running across the compound. By now the other riders would probably be entering the camp.

Throwing up the leather flap, the Uruk cried out excitedly to Gwerr and Ishkur: "Riders! Riders in camp! A group of twelve to fifteen. Men and women. Slaves or slavers, but probably slaves." Makdush's words tumbled out in quick succession. He did not even stop for an answer, but growled under his breath. "They're here for plunder and probably to stick knives in our backs. We need to get out now and save our necks!"

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Old 04-07-2007, 09:34 AM   #366
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Ishkur heaved himself up and stared blankly at the tall Uruk who had unexpectedly stomped into the middle of their tent. It took a moment for the meaning of the words to penetrate his brain.

Ishkur's first impulse was to tongue lash the Uruk for trying to play a foolish game on them. Ishkur glanced over towards Gwerr and, seeing a look of complete bewilderment etched on his companion's face, stuck his head through the opening of the tent and stared westward. Barely visible on the far fringes of the encampment was a small contingent of horses and mannish riders that had already reached the portion of the camp where the other orcs were sleeping.

Ishkur's second impulse was to agree with Makdush, grab up his things, and hightail it out onto the plain to the south, putting a very large distance between himself and these intruders, whoever they might be. He wanted and needed to protect the gold they had found. That money held the promise to a new life. But before he could open his mouth and yell at Gwerr to leave the tent, another image came tripping into his mind. What good would all that gold be if he and Gwerr were on their own with no other orcs beside them? What kind of a life would they have? There would be no orc women to wait on him or do the cooking....no possibility of a mate of his own. Lately, Ishkur had been thinking about that a lot. He had also been thinking about how nice it would be if he and Gwerr could be the acknowledged leaders of the other orcs. To be truthful, he had really enjoyed the few times he had been able to stand up and speak for the group and get the others to go along with his ideas.

Turning towards Makdush, he growled, "You lowly toad.....afraid? Just like a Uruk...all talk and no action. Afraid that a bunch of riders--WOMEN riders--can take you down? I'm not leaving here. We came here to start a group of our own, a place where the bosses can't push us into the mud. Maybe you've forgotten that. I haven't. Maybe we can't save all the others. But I think we can make enough trouble that we can save some of them, maybe steal some of their horses, and get out of here, or maybe even run them through clean and take everything they have." Before Ishkur could say anything more, Gwerr had also joined in the argument.

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Old 04-08-2007, 03:24 PM   #367
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Makdush, Ishkur & Gwerr

Gwerr was probably the most surprised himself as he realised he was siding with the Uruk in this. But what Ishkur had just proposed was total foolery to him.

“Now listen to me you maggot! Twelve to fifteen of them... on horseback! What are you thinking with the birdbrain that’s given to you my friend?” He glanced at the Uruk from the corner of his eyes and saw him grinning to this new developement. Gwerr was trembling with anger and was already reaching for the hilt of his axe before he came back to his senses and concentrated to his fellow again, now with lower and more tempered voice.

“Okay mate. I know you have had hard times, we all have. I also know you have acted somewhat weird lately. That’s fine with me. It’s your own stinking life anyhow. But do I...” he glanced back to the Uruk once again, giving him the most challenging stare he managed, “...do we have to hammer sense into your empty head?” he spat the word we. “So you think we three should run to them over the open, right? We’ll stand no chance that way. Can’t you see it?”

Gwerr took Ishkur from the shoulders and came close to his face. “Listen to me. We get out of here and we do it fast before they come close enough to find us. Right? Then we search for the females and the brats... After that we reconsider. We may try a surprise attack to save some of them later – if they leave any of them alive in the first place – or to rob them of everythnig they have. Whatever... But that's then. Not now! With the females we have a force enough to beat them. But the three of us? No chance in an open attack. You know it.”

Taking care to show his back to the Uruk Gwerr winked an eye to Ishkur and nodded very carefully towards the horse. Without a sound his lips formed a clear articulation of the word “remember”.

“What are you two doing? We’re in a hurry. They are inside the camp already!” Makdush called them from near the entrance where he had slipped to follow the developement of the situation in the camp.

“Just hold a second, big-boy!” Gwerr said and drew his axe. With two steps and a single blow he cut the backwall of the tent open from as high he could to the ground. “We leave from here. Now let’s move!”

The three rushed from the tent. Makdush went first, Ishkur led the horse and Gwerr came last. Smootly they disappeared to the sparse thicket beginning from behind the slaver-commander’s tent and in a moment they were already outside any visibilty from the encampment as the few larger boulders and the low hillocks hid them neatly.

After a short walk Makdush climbed a small mound and tried to get a view back to the camp.

Ishkur and Gwerr both stopped. “Hey brute, what’s going on back there?” Gwerr asked the Uruk.

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Old 04-10-2007, 10:45 AM   #368
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Carl

As Carl’s horse joined the knot of riders that gathered on the very verge of the slaver’s camp, he noticed that Beloan was casting looks about that were very dark indeed, quickly silencing anyone that so much as dared to whisper. The hobbit looked questioningly toward Lindir, and following the elf’s glance, guided his horse to the edge of the group in order to see what it was that held his attention. There just a few yards before them was not the camp’s guard, as he half expected, but rather an assemblage most grotesque. Misshapen forms sprawled in the dust, and Carl assumed they were long dead, their mouths gaping. But as he looked closer, the deathly pallor of some appeared broken by splotches of rosy red, where the sun had scorched them. And here and there the hobbit saw a jaw move, or an arm flail out at some invisible insect, and he came to the realization that these must be orcs. Strange ones sure enough, basking like cats in the sun.

Carl absently pushed back the curls that clung to his forehead as he digested this latest twist. He hadn’t reckoned on meeting any orcs so far from the mountains. Judging by all the accounts he was familiar with, he had only associated them with mountain passes of one sort or another. And to find them here came as a most unwelcome surprise. Frankly, after all the fighting and worry and sorrow, not to mention the empty stomach that groaned in his belly, he had neither the caution nor good sense he might have had otherwise, but waxed angry. No doubt the filthy brutes had rummaged though anything worth taking back to the injured. And most likely they had pawed through the food as well. Spitting as his stomach rumbled, he thought of their own limited supplies.

If only he had some notion of how deeply orcs dream! His eyes darted about the littered camp, seeking scattered stores. Perhaps he and the others could quietly gather what they needed and be off before they were discovered by the bleary-eyed monsters. Finally, spying the barrel that lay beside the orcs, his own weary eyes became fixed upon it as he awaited some direction to be given by those more familiar with the creatures than he.

Ah what a sorry shame this is! he thought to himself, as he wondered if any other casks might yet remain untouched…perhaps there in that tent sitting far away from the slumbering creatures. No, that plumb was sure to have been plundered! Bound to have been some leader’s quarters, with maps maybe…and medicine?

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Old 04-10-2007, 01:17 PM   #369
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Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Folwren is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Kwell sat atop his horse with Azhar mounted behind him. He could feel her leaning to one side so that she could see and hear Lindir as well as he. Her arms around his waist pulled at him slightly and he shifted his weight to counter balance hers.

Lindir told them in very few words the situation of the matter. Drunk orcs, Kwell thought with distain. His eyes flicked beyond Beloan and Lindir and looked towards the camp. Now that he knew what to look for, he saw the bodies of the beastly things.

“Why don’t we just kill them and have done?” he asked, the words slipping gruffly from him before he could stop to think about them. He paused briefly. There must be an explanation to his words, he thought. He looked at Lindir and said as though in defense. “They won’t do us any good!”

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Old 04-10-2007, 05:22 PM   #370
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Johari

Had Lindir not motioned for them to stop, Johari would have continued to heedlessly ride on into the camp; her mind had been focused on other things: at first, how nice it was to be away from the camp, and, yes, away from Hadith for a while, and the conflicting emotions he brought to mind, but now mostly her thoughts turned to how very uncomfortable her horse's back was. No matter how she shifted, she could not find a comfortable position on the hard leather saddle. She had never ridden a horse before, and it had not occurred to her when she volunteered for this expedition that they would not be walking but riding. On finding out, she had initially been non-plussed; it had not seemed that difficult of an affair. Already, though, she could tell that she would soon be sore, despite their slow pace, and she still had a ride back to endure.

The sight of the Orcs caused her to forget her present discomfort, however. While her primary hatred was directed towards the slavers and her old plantation overseers, she bore Orcs no love. A flame stirred in her eyes and her hand immediately strayed to her knife hilt. When the boy Kwell spoke for killing them, she readily agreed. "Even more than that, they may do us ill! If we kill them in their sleep, it's no less than I reckon they would do to us! We have already fought one enemy, and most are too weary or hurt to face another. Let us be done with them!"
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Old 04-10-2007, 05:52 PM   #371
Durelin
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Durelin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Durelin is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Khamir

Since the scouts had left early that morning, Khamir had been up and about, limping around the little camp they had thrown together, and resuming many of the same duties he had when they were still in the cave. They were not as great in number, but he thought they were stronger. At least they were more together now than ever, and all of the former slaves had welcomed in the new additions, even though they were outsiders.

At the moment, all were especially quite taken with Athwen and her skills, her hard work, and her simple kindness. The idea of someone taking care of them, particularly when that someone had no obligation to, was not something most of the former slaves had experienced in a long time. They had cared for each other in bits and pieces as necessary, and some of the older had taken the younger under their wing, but…it had been all about them depending on each other for survival. If only they had realized sooner that they all were dependent as part of the whole.

Khamir did his best to round up some more people to help Athwen, and gathered up those capable to help pack up their small camp so that they’d be ready to move when the scouting party came back or other word came. As they were not sure what they might find in camp, perhaps they might need extra hands to carry it all back? Many were excited about the prospect of fresh food or water, though some were convinced that anything those Easterlings ate could not be edible to any normal person. And all in the back of their minds liked the idea of what things of value might be found. Of course, only the young actually shared those hopes aloud.

Doing his best to ignore the sharp pains in his leg, Khamir helped gather things up onto the small cart that had survived their travels thus far largely intact, with limited repairs. The number of those who could actually do any sort of manual labor was depressingly few to the one-armed man, and so even what he could do was of help. But more than that, he hated being left behind. He knew very well that no one thought him worthless, and that with his injury he would have been a burden, but that did not mean he did not feel worthless.

After a time, though, even he had to admit that he could do no more until he had rested a bit, and so he limped his way back to where Vrór and Adnan were still recovering. Both had been sleeping all morning so far, thankfully. It was all they could really do to help their recovery along. Khamir had been so glad to see so many alive he had feared for, particularly Hadith. The last time until well after the battle he had seen the young man was at the battle’s start. Why was what it he suddenly worried about so many people? It was rather…annoying.

When Khamir sat down a little more roughly than he meant to in between the Dwarf and Adnan, Vrór turned his head to look up at the one-armed man.

“Good morning, Vrór,” Khamir said in a voice little above a whisper. The Dwarf smiled slightly in response. “Did you manage to sleep alright?” the Southron asked.

Vrór’s smiled disappeared, and he wrinkled his brow in thoughtful confusion. It took several moments before he answered with a hesitant, “I don’t quite know…it sounds funny, but, I really don’t think I remember…”

Khamir frowned with worry. “Do you remember when you woke up?”

There were another few moments of silence, and then Vrór barked a small laugh. Khamir thought there might have been a twinge of bitterness to it. Then the Dwarf spoke, “Khamir, I think I may have a…problem.”
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Old 04-11-2007, 04:51 PM   #372
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Azhar:

Azhar's grip on Kwell's waist tightened as the meaning of the words sunk in. She hardly knew what to say. She had no special love for orcs. They were dirty, and they smelled and looked too different. Frankly, they scared her. She had heard terrible stories when sitting around the campfire late at night how orcs devoured the flesh of men and attacked without even the slightest reason other than an overwhelming lust for blood.

Yet there was something about Johari and Kwell's eagerness to kill that made Azhar uneasy. The few orcs she had known on the plantation were little different than their Easterling overlords. She had felt the sting of the whip from both. If Kwell and Johari had found unknown Easterlings asleep in the camp, would they have run them through in their beds without even a second thought? Azhar did not think so.

As a tiny child, she recalled the haunting words of one old granny who always spoke about how things would be better now that the Dark Lord had been defeated. The slaves on the plantations would be freed and, ever so slowly, Easterlings and orcs would change their ways. Azhar had not believed the grey headed one then, although part of her had wanted to. Intervening years had only confirmed her opinon. No one had come to strip off their shackles; the Easterlings and orcs kept acting the same way they always had. But Azhar could not forget how the old granny's eyes had brightened when she spoke about the possibility of change.

And then there was the puzzle that Rôg presented. She was still worred about how he was feeling and had not had the chance to talk with him after the battle. But she had seen once what he could do. The great wyrm could probably slay a troop of fifty men unaided, yet Rôg had chosen to act only when someone was directed threatened. Azhar instinctively sensed that these two problems were somehow connected, though she couldn't have put the meaning into words. The uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach was not going away.

Seeing the hard look in the eyes of both her companions, she turned around to address Lindir in a muted voice, "Kill them? Run them through in their beds? But isn't there any other way?"

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Old 04-11-2007, 08:26 PM   #373
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Grask

Grask had been napping in the shade beneath one of the wagons - a nice, out of the way spot, as he thought - when he was woken by the sounds of hoofbeats and voices. At first he was afraid, thinking that the slavers had returned and now he was trapped beneath one of their wagons in mid-day.

But their voices did not sound like the slavers' voices. They were quieter, more furtive, and they seemed to have stopped rather than dispersing into the camp.

As quietly as he could, Grask crept to the edge of the wagon and looked out. The angle was awkward, and he could only see the riders' backs, but it became quickly clear that these were not, in fact, the slavers. For one thing, there appeared to be females among them, which struck Grask as peculiar. More importantly, he realized that the two who were riding double were the man-children who had disappeared from the pit. They were alive! Grask did not know why this should make him so happy, but it did. They did not frighten him, and their presence made him also fear the rest of the group less.

Now one of them spoke, the male child. Grask thought he was mishearing. Kill them, he'd said! And then a woman's voice spoke, and she agreed with him! Grask began to tremble with both fear and anger. Hadn't Grask tried to help the pair in the tunnel? Hadn't he? And the boy said kill them! And if they would kill these Orcs in their drunken sleep, he knew that they would not stop at killing him, if he was found. He could not be found here! He backed away and in his agitation missed the gentle words of the female child. He crawled out from under the wagon on the side opposite these merciless Men. It was only a short dash to the cover of vegetation; Grask took a deep breath and ran, his feet making only the slightest noise on the dusty ground. Within seconds he was vanishing into the vegetation. They mustn't find him. Without really thinking about his direction, he headed for the Orc-camp. Perhaps the females would be there; they seemed to have disappeared from the slavers' camp quite some time ago. They ought to be told of this, Grask thought, especially if all their males were to be killed in their sleep... but not Ishkur, Grask hoped. He had not been drunk like the others. The thought of this Orc who had shown him some kindness almost made Grask turn and go back - hadn't he said that he might need Grask's help someday? - but he continued on his path. He would tell the females first, and then maybe he would go back.

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Old 04-13-2007, 05:34 PM   #374
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Lindir; Makdush and orcs

"Hold your swords! Johari, Kwell. Azhar is right. Put the weapons down." Lindir did not speak loudly, but his tone and look brooked no hesitation. He quickly went on to give a series of orders. "Unsheath your daggers and get the heavy rope we brought. Bind them all and throw them into the pit where you were imprisoned earlier. Get others to help you." He nodded directly at Kwell and then explained at greater length. "We'll keep them chained to the wall so they can't escape through the hole in the pit. We need these orcs alive. For all we know, they're an advance party coming through for a great troop of soldiers. If we slay them, we may doom ourselves to not knowing that. Work quickly and quietly so they do not awake until they are well bound."

He walked up to the halfling and spoke, "Carl, get someone to help you bring rocks and debris to plug up the hole in the back of the cave. We don't want them doing what we managed to do. And could two of you go out and search the plains around the camp to see if there are more orcs nearby?"

Lindir had heard the hesitation underlying Azhar's plea. He felt little different than she did. Running through an enemy who was asleep in bed was something he preferred not to do. He assumed the orcs were enemies. What else could they be? But there was no declared war, and these particular orcs had done them no damage. He could not simply slay them without warning or provocation. And the need to gain information was not just a ruse. Orcs generally travelled in large bands. If these few were here, there were undoubtedly others somewhere close by, and they needed to find out that information.

**********************

Makdush barked back at Gwerr, "Shut your mouth. I can't see." Taking a few strides forward and pushing the overhanging limbs of a neaby scrub tree away from his face, he stared down at the western fringes of camp, standing perfectly still on the ridge. The men in the distance were not looking in his direction and seemed totally absorbed in what they were doing. He was too far away to make out the words that were passing between the riders but the scene in front of him was not hard to decipher.

He called over to Gwerr and Iskhkur, "Good thing we got out of there. They've found the others. They're still dead to the world."

"Dead? They're dead? They've killed them." Ishkur muttered a curse under his breath.

"No, you moron. Not dead....still sleeping. They must be drunk as all get out. Actually," and here Makdush grinned broadly, "these riders must have hearts of mush. I'd have run the sleeping idiots through by now. They are standing around arguing with each other."

"They haven't killed them yet?" Gwerr sounded as if he couldn't believe his own ears.

"No. Two have unsheathed their weapons but do not strike. They keep babbling at the mouth. They can't agree on something. What fools!" Makdush added under his breath, unable to comprehend why anyone would hesitate to kill in such a situation. The Uruk thought a moment and then suggested, "Maybe they're not running them through because they plan to torture them later and find out about their companions." This was not a pleasant thought.

Ishkur shrugged his shoulders. "Could be. At least they're still alive. But who can figure out men. Worse than Elves, I say. Maybe it's the soft hearted women who can't bear seeing blood."

Makdush shook his head, "I don't think so. One of those holding a sword is a woman. Oh, yeah, not only have these fools brought women with them, it looks as if they've dragged along one of their little brats."

At these revelations, Ishkur looked totally shocked. What kind of warriors would do such a thing?

Makdush turned back towards the camp. This time it was his turn for shock. "By the bloody eye of Sauron! The one stopping them from striking isn't a man. Too tall to be a man, even a man of Gondor. It's an elf." The Uruk spat on the ground and fumed, "Elves....I hate them. Every stinking headache has an elf at the other end."

"Well, at least they're alive," countered Ishkur. "We still have a chance. Any sign of the women and the brats."

Makdush shook his head, "No, I can't see them in camp. Someone needs to go out and check the area."

"I'll do that." Ishkur countered. He turned to leave the grove, still leading the horse behind him, but not before stopping for one instant to confide something in Gwerr's ear.

"Watch your rear!" Makdush grunted as Ishkur left. "Looks as if they're sending out a party to look for us."

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Old 04-17-2007, 11:28 AM   #375
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Azhar:

Azhar's eyes widened as she watched their party spring into action, carrying out the orders that Lindir had laid down. She could not tell from the look on Kwell and Johari's faces whether they were still upset or were content to go along with what the Elf had said. Personally, she felt relieved. She wanted absolutely nothing to do with the orcs. Even their looks repulsed her. But neither was she comfortable running them through with a sword while they lay asleep on the ground.

She slipped over beside Lindir and spoke quietly to the elf, "Thank you. I hadn't thought about other orcs being in the area. I just didn't feel comfortable slaying a sleeping orc when he had never done us any actual harm. But do you think that there are more of them?" She gazed nervously out towards the plain, her eyes sweeping the horizon, and shuddered slightly before she spoke again. "Lindir, if there are more of them, what would we do? And what if they come upon the spot where our main camp lies? Maybe we should leave to go back and warn the others."
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Old 04-17-2007, 12:26 PM   #376
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Lindir:

"Can you handle a wagon?"

Azhar looked up puzzled at the question Lindir had posed to her. "A wagon?" she echoed.

"Yes. Have you ever driven a wagon before? Could you harness up a brace of horses to a good sized cart?"

Azhar frowned, reflected a minute, and then replied. "I think so. I did not have to work in the fields. But the overseers often asked me to run errands and bring out loads of supplies."

"Good. Get one of the other men to help. Have him bring along his horse. Walk over to the far side of camp. You'll see the slavers' wagon sitting near the campfire. I was going to use it to convey the supplies back to our main camp. Now it will serve a different purpose. Hitch up the horses and start driving west. I need you to return to the others as quickly as you can. Once you're there, speak with Athwen and Dorran to explain what has happened."

Lindir stared off in the distance, as if searching for something, before turning back to explain, "The plain truth is I can't answer your questions. I don't know why these orcs are here. Orcs travel in gangs. That's how they live, and that's how they are controlled. It's easier to influence a mob than someone standing off by himself who's able to think on his own. Sauron and even Morgoth before him made sure that none of the orcs ran off to grab anything of their own. Being an orc means blindly following the group. You have to keep your mouth shut and do what you're told. You can't think too much and never, never separate yourself from the gang. Some Elves used to say there was a tiny bit of goodness left even in orcs. A few orcs still dreamed of having lodgings of their own out in the wilds where they could hunt and fish and thumb their noses at the bosses. Not a very lofty dream, mind you, but better than going around the countryside slitting throats. But I never met an orc with that dream, and, I do know orcs don't go roaming on their own." Lindir again stared off in the distance as if he was trying to find something.

"What does this mean?" Azhar prodded.

"Either these orcs were separated from their band and are looking for a second one to join, or they are the advance party for a large military troop making its way to or from Nurn. If they don't report back to their troop, the whole band will flood this area to find out what's happened, looking for blood. Orcs are lousy trackers, especially on a plain like this. They are as likely to stumble over to our main camp as they are to come towards us."

"Tell Dorran and Athwen these things. Tell them we must bring the two camps together. I thought of having us ride back and just desert this place. But this camp is better stocked and can be more easily defended than ours. Our best chance for safety is here. Have Athwen put the most severely wounded in the wagon. The rest must walk. Have them start tomorrow morning. They must not delay any longer than that."

"They're not going to like this," the girl objected.

"No, I don't suppose so. Athwen will be understandably concerned about having to move the wounded and the others so quickly. And Dorran..... Dorran will not be pleased that our new camp will have a pit full of living orcs. Be that as it may. I will not run through a sleeping man or orc when I have no declared war against him. As to getting further information out of these orcs, I have my doubts. I am not prepared to torture them, though I will try to put the fear or Mordor into their hearts. Orcs have strange beliefs about elves and perhaps we can use that to our advantage. But for now, we must get the others here. Run now, be careful, and may you come back safely."

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Old 04-19-2007, 11:01 AM   #377
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Carl

It seemed to the hobbit that everyone was itching to do something about the orcs, and quickly. And being so, the search for a volunteer to help remedy the flaw in their lockhole, by means of filling it in, became unnecessary. For one of the settlers came forward directly, eager to lend a hand. It was a hand that Carl readily accepted, and together the two of them started for the dark mouth of the pit passing through the camp as silently as they could.

But when they came to a spot were it appeared some smithy had been at work, Carl motioned the settler to go on ahead. Then walking gingerly around the lengths of heavy chain that were stretched out on the ground, he picked up one of the many hammers, and a metal rod as well. And seeing a torch also, he tucked it under his arm thinking that it no doubt would come in handy. Looking around one last time for any other useful items, he put a few more things in his pocket and left, quickly rejoining the man who stood waiting at the opening to the pit. Together they slipped down into the chamber and out of view.

“It was still the dank musty place that Carl recalled, but it was a good bit cooler than it was out in the sun, and as the hobbit reached in his pocket for the flint, he vaguely hoped that the torch would not give off too much heat. The retreating darkness revealed the man once again, as he turned around to examine the walls of the pit, casting a huge shadow behind him as he searched. “Looking for the hole? It’s down over there,” the hobbit said nodding toward the back of the pit where the stream still flowed.

“Under the water!” the man summized. “How are we to keep the stream from washing away our work? All we have to bar its way is sand and gravel!” He bent down to try and scratch the floor of the pit with very little success, while the hobbit watched.

“True, true. You have a point.” Carl admitted, scratching his head. “It’s no good building a dam if it’s bound to burst, now is it?” He took a deep breath as he thought wistfully of Vrór, certain that the dwarf could easily have found some simple solution that he had been overlooking. But suddenly a thought struck him, and his eyes sparkled brightly in the torchlight as a grin grew on his face. “You aren’t a feared of dark places now, are you?” he asked. The man gave a mock frown and shook his head. “Nor water...nor small spaces?” the hobbit pressed.

“Nay, they give me no cause to be afraid,” the man replied, wondering what the small fellow before him had in mind.

“I thought as much,” Carl declared merrily, as he wedged the torch in the rocky wall. “Here, heft me up and out of this hole. I’ve an idea.”

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Old 04-19-2007, 02:14 PM   #378
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Back at the main camp....


Rôg was still somewhat sore from the encounter with the slavers. His ribs ached if he moved too quickly, but he could now at least take in a decent breath without sending sharp little stabbing pains ricocheting through his chest. It was his head that bothered him the most. The gash at the base of his skull had scabbed over; tender only when he prodded at it.

Something, though, seemed to have come loose in whatever gave him a steady bearing. If he stood too quickly, turned his head too fast, the world would begin to spin a bit, his vision become slightly unfocused. Dizziness followed....and if he tried to walk, his legs would go all wobbly as if his feet could not find a steady place to put themselves. As such, he had begun to use a broken off stave with which to hobble about.

He joked about it to the others who’d stayed behind when the scouting party had gone out. ‘It’s like the old-wives saying,’ he’d tell whoever asked about his new reliance on the stick. ‘Four legs in the morning; two legs in the afternoon; three in the evening.’ Then laughing, he’d add, ‘Of course, with Athwen’s good ministrations I’m hoping time will turn back on itself soon and I’ll be able to walk about as before.’

I hope, at least, that will be the case! he often thought to himself. He could not imagine how he might manage a shape-change. The idea of some dizzy bird trying to fly, much less land somewhere dismayed him. And should there be another attack....A grimly funny picture ballooned in his mind. A large something....oliphaunt, perhaps – looking fierce, intimidating, even; for the briefest of moments. And then it would begin to wobble and totter; its eyes going all googly. The foe would begin to snicker and laugh....

Ah well....maybe they would laugh themselves silly and fall off their horses. He shook his head and laughed a little himself.Or maybe, I could just fall on them....

Laughter bubbled up at this conjured picture and he lost his balance as he shook his head again. Rôg crumpled down onto the dirt, his stick skittering away to the side. Others, he knew, would be looking at him rather oddly. Still chuckling, he sat up, brushing the dust from himself as best he could.
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Old 04-19-2007, 02:58 PM   #379
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“Hssst! Quiet, now!”

Mazhg gathered her sister close as they crouched in the underbrush where they’d been resting. Through the spaces in the leafy overgrowth of the bushes which gave them some semblance of shelter they watched; their dark brown eyes darting furtively at the loud intruders.

It was an oddly assorted group that had come clattering into the area where the males lay in their drunken stupor. Males . . . and female, too . . . all ahorse. A kind of raggedy looking bunch. But still, they were armed and they were Men.

And there was that tall one, bossy seeming, who looked particularly menacing . . .

“Keep still!” Mazhg whispered low in Zagra’s ear. “There’s nothing we can do for that drunk lot.” The sisters hunkered even lower among the leafy bushes. “I’ll keep you safe." As she circled Zagra’s shoulders in an assuring hug with one arm, her free hand was grasped tightly about the oaken handle of the sharp-edged spade beside her
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Old 04-21-2007, 09:29 AM   #380
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Ishkur hides the gold

Ishkur advanced cautiously over the plain and was careful that the intruders in camp could not see him. He spent almost an hour searching for the women orcs. Gwerr was right about the need to find them. Their was always greater safety in numbers. He especially thought about Ungolt and hoped that she had not been hurt. He did not think she was among those who had fallen asleep after drinking too much.

After making a circle around the entire camp, checking every spot that he could think of, Ishkur finally gave up. He wanted to keep looking but he had other things he had to do. It was simply too dangerous to delay any longer. He swung back to the outsirts of their original camp site. There were two tumbled piles of rocks right beside a stream. Since he had no shovel, he had to find someplace to hide the gold that did not require a lot of digging. He looked over both piles of rocks and chose the one that offered the most protection. Then he went over to the pile of boulders and, using all his strength, removed one of the rocks, placing the gold into the hidden niche and covering it up again with the heavy stone. He scuffed out the ground to make sure that there was no trail leading to or from the treasure. Then he got on his horse and rode back to where Gwerr and Makdush were waiting, explaining that he could not find the women, although he had scoured the plain in all directions. He pulled Ishkur over to one side, some distance away from Makdush, and grunted a word or two in his ear to let him know where and how the gold had been hidden.

****************

Ungolt

There was a rattling sound in the underbrush that made Mazhg and Zagra turn and nervously stare at each other. Then they heard another female orc whisper, "Sisters, is that you? I have Urga and Gwella with me." Ungolt's head popped out from behind the bush. She was immediately followed by the two orcs Gwella and Urga, the first younger, the second older, who usually walked together on the road.

"I found them," Ungolt explained. "I thought we'd better stay together. There's a good hiding place near the brook. Not really a cave but the rocks are piled up. There's just enough room for us to crawl inside. I think we'd be safe there. It's not far."

"But the others," one sister asked, "what's happened to the rest?"

"I crept down to the camp. I saw what happened. I don't know about Grask or Makdush. I haven't seen them or Ishkur and Gwerr. But the rest have all been thrown into the pit where they used to keep the slaves. There are big rocks....too big for me to move. I can't help them." Ungolt sadly shook her head.

"What should we do? I took this to help." Ungolt held out an old battle sword, but then confided. "I don't really know how to use it. Ishkur showed me once but I still have a lot to learn. Should we hide, or keep looking for the others? Should we just wait till it's dark and try to run away?" She softly added, "I don't care so much about Makdush, but I was really hoping to find Ishkur and Grask and Gwerr. How can we make it all the way north without someone to help us? I wanted to get back to the mountains. But now everything looks so bad."

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Old 04-21-2007, 01:43 PM   #381
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Beloan

The varied responses of the scouting party confused Beloan even further in his feelings. He would have liked it if all the orcs in Middle-earth had gone with Sauron to a final grave when the War ended, but it still felt…wrong to take a blade to any sleeping form. It seemed like…well, something they would do - orcs. And they were not like them.

Beloan was surprised by Lindir’s lack of hesitation when it came to sparing the creatures’ lives. He admired the Elf’s honor, but he could not say he did not understand Johari and Kwell’s desire to be rid of the orcs. Shae appeared to be fuming and shocked by the idea that they would be kept alive. Well…for now.

The Elf did not hesitate in giving orders, either, to imprison the orcs and notify the others of the discovery. This discovery indeed complicated things, particularly because as Lindir and many of the others well knew, six orcs just wandering the country was not right. There were more somewhere, or there was something else going on. Either way, they needed to be careful.

What Beloan found most surprising about the Elf was that he was entrusting a great deal to a young girl. Khamir would have a fit, he thought a little fondly. But Azhar had proved a very strong person, and she certainly always had her wits about her. Beloan had heard she had done something quite heroic during the battle, and wondered if Lindir had been witness to it. And it was undoubtedly wise to keep as many men, and women like Shae, in the slavers’ camp as possible with orcs to guard and be on the lookout for.

“Other than that, I suppose all we can do is sit it out until the others arrive,” Beloan commented to Lindir and the others, “With our numbers, most of us should be keeping our eyes on these orcs all the time.” Most of them... He turned to look at Azhar, who appeared all prepared to get a move on with her orders. “Would you mind my help, Azhar?”
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Old 04-21-2007, 06:20 PM   #382
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"Help? Yes." The girl's first words were brusque and short, but then she added in a softer tone. "I could use help, but you'll need to bring your horse to the other side of camp so we can hitch them both up to the wagon." Azhar gave a brief indication of the direction she was going with a wave of her hand and, without waiting for an additional response, began hurrying over to the spot where the wagon was parked.

Along the way, she was stopped by one of the other scouts who offered a temporary loan of his sword to ensure their safety on the road. She shook her head and immediately dismissed the offer, explaining she would do just fine with her trusty slingshot and knife.

Privately, Azhar was not sure about having Beloan come along. Although Lindir had suggested she find someone to join her in the wagon, she had been considering slipping out of camp totally on her own. She almost wondered if Rôg had confided something to Aiwendl or Lindir about what had happened during the battle, since the elf had not questioned her ability to fight. In any case, she would not try to wield a weapon like a sword of which she had absolutely no knowledge. If things got tough, she would opt for her animal form, as inexperienced as she was. Hopefully, none of this would be necessary. They would make the trip in a short time and arrive safely at the home camp.

Azhar was not sorry she was leaving. Orcs made her uncomfortable and nervous. Moreover, someone had to get a message through to the others, and she would be able to find out how Rôg was doing and perhaps even talk with him about what had happened earlier. She needed to talk with someone.

They hitched up the horses and climbed into the wagon. "You can drive, if you like," she indicated to Beloan. "To tell the truth, I am so tired from staying up half the night, I'm more likely to fall asleep. She crawled into the back and stretched out on a pile of old blankets, staring up at the skies as the wagon rocked gently along.

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Old 04-25-2007, 02:15 PM   #383
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All was dark and still. The hour was just before dawn. The party of scouts had left a little while ago, and all of camp was silent and seemed to be asleep. For a while, Athwen passed like a wraith from one patient to the next, but at last she, too, stopped her restless stirring and sat down next to Dorran. With her back to a rock, and her hand lying on Dorran’s hand, she fell asleep.

She woke again to the sound of rumbling wheels and the clopping of trotting hooves. She stirred and lifted her head. The last few stars were burning out as light from the rising sun climbed higher and higher into the sky. A cold, grey dawn was breaking, and a gentle, chilling wind began to sweep the plain.

Athwen looked around herself, taking note of the wounded around her. They were all sleeping peacefully it appeared. Dorran had moved in his sleep, evidently, and folded her hand between his two. She smiled, and gently pulled free so that she could stand and go see what was coming.

She went to her bags and picked up her traveling cloak. Putting this around herself and drawing it close, she started out, away from the grove of rocks, and towards the open plain to where the wagon must have stopped.

She came out into the open and made her way carefully down the slight slope. Where the ground became level again, a wagon had indeed stopped. Two horses stood harnessed to it, looking glad for the rest. On the seat, still holding the reins, sat Beloan. Athwen didn’t really know him, but she figured there was some reason for him to have come back. She approached and stood beside the wagon, looking up at him.

“Good morning, friend,” she said, “how is the scouting party going? What have you returned for?”

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Old 04-26-2007, 04:03 AM   #384
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Carl

By the time Carl revisited the spot in the camp where the metal work had been done, and had returned once more to the pit, the man named Tikam had waded into the stream and busied himself gauging the size of the crevice. “Watch yourself there,” the hobbit whispered hoarsely overhead, before dropping down a few more pieces of metal that clanked as they hit the chamber floor. The man looked up to see Carl's silhouette briefly obscured as the smithy’s leather apron followed, fluttering down heavily.

It was only as Carl hesitated, staring at the apron below him that he realized perhaps it would have been better had he tossed the things a bit further off. And reading the hobbit’s expression, without a word Tikam strode out of the water and moved the things aside. "Many thanks friend," Carl puffed as he dropped to the floor of the chamber himself. Brushing the dirt from his hands he picked up the large piece of leather and began rolling the other things in it. "So now, do you think you could fit through that chink in the wall?" he asked leaning back on his heel as he appraised the man's bulk.

"Surely, it would run too close to try," Tikam replied. “But if it proved too tight for me then so much more so it would be for an orc.”

“Well let’s hope they fit as well as the bung in a cask of Nurn’s finest. Sadly I don’t know a twig’s worth about orcs, but I hope their bones are made of ivory and not willow wands, otherwise they’ll slip through anything we do to stop them, like a mouse.” Carl said pointing to the tiny opening high above the stream. “How are we to fill that?”

“I don’t believe the smallest orc would fit there. Anyway, they are more like gutter rats than field mice! But they’ve flesh and bone same as you and I. ”

“Have they now?” Carl mused as he climbed into the water. Truth be told, he didn’t care to think too closely about the comparison. “Well one thing I do know for certain is that this chink here in the water is bigger than it seems. Are you sure you won’t have a go at it? There is a cavern on the other side and I figure it's best block it off from over there.”


Tikam held up his palms as though to ward off the very idea. “I do not like the idea of drowning overly much. But I will try to hide the openings on this side, if that would be of help.”

“If I can't do anything to change your mind, that would be the next best thing,” the hobbit said, sloshing into the water. Tikam suggested that he pass the bundle of leather through the hole once the hobbit had had the chance to reach the other side. But thinking about it Carl insisteded on tying the bundle to his ankle so that he could drag it along behind him.

The water was cold as the hobbit summoned the courage to travel once again under the stones. Then, disappearing suddenly under the water he pushed through the current that streamed through the hole. In a few short moments he emerged on the other side. Black as pitch it was, and Carl had a trying time freeing his ankle from its burden in the dark. All the while he hoped fervently that no orcs were lurking in the cavern waiting to strangle him. But when he had loosed himself from the apron he opened it and spread it over the hole, holding it in place with the metal rods he had found.

Blindly, he heaped loose stones against the wall, and silt over that, until he was too tired to do anymore. It seemed sturdy enough. Trudging weakly out of the water he plopped himself down on a dry rocky seat in the wall, resting awhile. He had not been there but ten minutes when he noticed his toe was in the water, when it hadn’t been a minute before. This was easily dismissed as his imagination. But in a few more minutes the dark water was lapping at his heel. “Oh glory, the dam is working. The water must be rising already!” he muttered, realizing that given time it would overwhelm him. Jumping back into it, he found that even now it was thigh high, and so hurriedly he began his sodden and stumbling march up the dark passage until he could see the opening onto the old stream. It shone like a beacon in a miserably flooded burrow, and Carl made for it with haste.

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Old 04-26-2007, 08:13 PM   #385
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Zagra clasped tight her sister’s hand. Ungolt’s telling of the happenings down in the camp had scared her. She whimpered a little, but at a shake of the head from her sister she stopped.

Mazhg was of two minds about the captured Orcs. On the one, she and her sister were safe.....why should they not strike out on their own, leaving those males and their problems to sort out themselves. Others of the women might be persuaded to travel along with them. Yes, that was a possibility.

But.....she looked to where Ungolt held the old sword. She wondered if Ungolt had ever used a weapon against another person. And as the woman had confessed, she really didn’t know how to use the weapon. Mazhg wondered, too, if any of the women could defend themselves if set upon. She put one arm around Zagra’s shoulders and drew her shivering sister close.

In the end, her considerations for her sister’s and her own safety won out. They would be safer in a group. And not just of women, but of men, she grudgingly conceded, whose stronger arms and skills with weapons could assure that safety.

‘Let’s make for that cave you found, Ungolt,’ she whispered, rising as quietly as she could from she crouched. She reached down a hand and pulled Zagra up alongside her. ‘I think we might be safer there for now.’ She cocked her head toward where the male Orcs had been captured. ‘Maybe when it gets real dark, we can sneak back and see if there’s anything we can do.’

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Old 04-27-2007, 06:05 AM   #386
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Azhar and Dorran:

Azhar sat quietly and listened while Beloan repeated Lindir's words: that everyone in the camp must make haste to gather their belongings and leave in the morning to venture across the plain.

"But why?" Athwen had prodded, "Why so soon when many lie sorely wounded?"

This time, it was the girl who responded, "In the camp, we found orcs....six sleeping orcs that the scouts seized and threw into the pit."

At the mention of the word "orcs" Dorran stood up and hurried over to where his wife stood. "Six orcs? But were there others? Orcs rarely travel in small bands."

The girl nodded her head in quick affirmation. "Yes, that's just what Lindir said. He fears they may be the advance party for a battalion of warriors coming across the plain. It's not safe here. Perhaps not safe anywhere, but it is better that we come together in a single camp. The wagon will help us. We can use it to carry anyone who cannot walk or ride."

"Orcs!" Dorran grimaced and spat on the ground. "Lindir is right. If these six are scouts, the main party will not show for a day or two. We still have a small window of time to act. It's important that we leave early in the morning and travel as swiftly as possible." He looked down at this wife and asked, "You know the state of the wounded better than I. Is this thing possible? Can we make it?" He glanced over at his wife.

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Old 05-03-2007, 02:35 PM   #387
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Khamir

Khamir was shocked when he heard shouts that “they were back,” and immediately was afraid something had gone wrong. They? The entire party, or...? When he limped over to find a cart pulling in to the makeshift camp and saw only Beloan and Azhar in it, the Southron was not sure if he should be relieved or dread even more. He was glad to see his friend, at least, and he gave the man a nod in greeting.

Beloan’s message was not bad news for the scouting party, at least, but it was for those at the camp, with so many wounded and weak to move. It would be a longer trek than it should to get all of them to the slaver camp. Athwen seemed particularly concerned, and perhaps as angry as the gentle-mannered woman could get about the matter. Khamir had hoped they would get moving again as quickly as possible, though. He hated this waiting around...waiting for more trouble, more setbacks, and more death.

“In the camp, we found orcs....six sleeping orcs that the scouts seized and threw into the pit.”

At the girl’s words Khamir felt nearly every muscle in his body tighten from a mix of fear and rage. Orcs...and so few...but their presence and their numbers was not the biggest shock: rather, it was the fact that they were captives. Orcs did not take prisoners unless they were specifically ordered to. They were animals; they didn’t show mercy. And Khamir knew that was what this was. Mercy. If that Elf knew so much about Orcs, why was he so soft?

It took a great deal of effort for Khamir to keep his mouth shut while Dorran spoke, and he broke in after the man was finished, though the Southron knew he was cutting off Athwen from answering.

“The Orcs are captives?!” he shouted angrily from behind some of the others who had gathered to greet the wagon. “They had best be dead before I get there, or I’ll have work to do…”

After his outburst, and a sigh that helped release some of his anger, he glanced at Athwen apologetically, a little ashamed.
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Old 05-03-2007, 02:39 PM   #388
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Anger bubbled up inside Azhar as she turned to face Khamir, "They were asleep. What would you have us do? Run them through without a second thought? Lindir hopes to get them to talk. Perhaps to find out whether there are other troops nearby. But surely you would not kill someone, even an orc, in his sleep!"

Azhar whirled around to Athwen and explained. "I will go help the others prepare to leave. Darkness comes and we must be ready to move out in the morning. Hopefully, people will be in a better mood by then." With that she turned and stalked away.

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Old 05-03-2007, 02:42 PM   #389
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Athwen was stunned to silence by more than just one person’s words. To move the wounded would be difficult and possibly dangerous work. Some of the wounds, if jarred and reopened, could bleed badly, and for some of those men, to loose any more blood would likely mean losing their very life.

And then the news of the orcs was surprising, too. Dorran’s reaction was shocking to Athwen and it made her heart beat with nervousness. Dorran was rarely so obviously angry and disgusted and it nearly frightened Athwen. But Khamir’s words...pure hatred rang in his voice and his words revealed murder. Athwen’s head snapped about and her eyes flashed, but it was Azhar who responded.

“They were asleep! What would you have us do? Run them through without a second thought? Lindir hopes to get them to talk. Perhapts to find out whether there are other troops nearby. But surely you would not kill someone, even an orc, in his sleep!”

What did she mean, Lindir hopes to get them to talk? Surely he did not intend. . .

“I will go help the others prepare to leave,” Azhar said to her, interrupting her disturbed thoughts. “Darkness comes and we must be ready to move out in the morning. Hopefully, people will be in a better mood by then.” She leaped down from the wagon and started away. Athwen sent a single, reproachful look at both Khamir and Dorran, and started after Azhar.

Dorran had asked her if it was possible to move the wounded, but Athwen had not answered. Khamir had interrupted, and quite honestly, she didn’t know if it was possible. But orders were orders, and Lindir would not have given such drastic ones if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Besides, Dorran himself had said that it was necessary.

She stopped on the edge of rock sheltered hollow in which the wounded lay. Her eyes scanned her charges, her hands rested on her hips, and her lips pursed themselves together. Most of them, she decided, would make it just fine. One or two would be in possible danger. A couple would have to walk, but they would be able to manage it.

“Azhar,” she said to the girl waiting by her side. “Run back and tell them to bring the wagon is as close as they can. Then send Dorran and Beloan and any other man who can back here, to help these wounded.”

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Old 05-08-2007, 07:59 AM   #390
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post for Lindir

Lindir stood motionless on the western edge of camp staring out across the plain. He was still worried about Aiwendil. The old man would surely have understood to meet them in the slavers' camp. Yet, despite all the elf's efforts, he had not been able to sense the wizard's presence or convey him any message. It was as if the istar had purposely shielded his mind to keep anyone from finding him. He did not think the old man was dead, but why he had done such a thing Lindir could not imagine. Perhaps Aiwendil had chanced upon a group of strangers in the wild and was trying to keep from being detected. For one instance an image of a large troop of orcs rose up and assaulted Lindir's mind, but he quickly dismissed that possibility. Orcs, even the brightest and most powerful, could not mind read.

Whatever the reason for Aiwendil's absence, the old man was sorely missed. He could have been sent back to the base camp with Azhar and be able to report back to Lindir what was going on there. As it currently stood, the elf could only hope that Beloan and Azhar had made it across the plain without meeting any orcs and that the entire camp would be arriving safely the next day.

It was the moment in the day just before darkness fell. Lindir still had enough light to traipse along the perimeter of camp and check to make sure that everything was alright. He had almost finished surveying the entire area surrounding the camp and had swung back towards the pit where the orcs were imprisoned. He could hear curses and angry cries coming up from the bottom of the rocky chamber, but the prisoners were securely fastened by heavy leather thongs and had no chance of escape. The elf reminded himself to station at least two guards on the outskirts of their campsite, more to make sure that no one was invading the camp from outside than because of any fear that the prisoners themselves would try and escape.

Lindir stood on a hillside that looked down on the pit, one that was covered with rocks and thick bushes, a perfect place for anyone to hide if they wanted to get a closer look at what was going on. Bending down to inspect the underbrush, the elf saw something that sent a bitter chill through his heart. Tracks.... Clear signs of tracks that had been left not by a man or orc, but by a horse. The tracks were fresh and deep and purposeful, suggesting that the horse that had stood here had carried a rider on his back, and a heavy one at that. A second look at the dirt only confirmed his fears. There were scuffed footprints belonging to several large two-footed creatures. At least one pair of tracks was too large to be man sized.

Lindir's fingers tightened momentarily on the hilt of his sword. Then he deftly removed the bow from his back, selected an arrow, and swung around, searching for any sign of the orc creatures who had come here with the horse. Seeing no one, he dropped the bow to his side and sprinted back to camp, calling out to everyone to join him near the fire pit. There was a heavy mist in the air that seemed to suggest a rain was coming. Quickly, the elf explained, "It is just as I feared. There are clear signs that several orcs stood gazing down on us no more than a few hours ago not far from the pit. Worst of all, they had at least one horse. I can only presume that these orcs were additional scouts who have gone back to warn the others. I am afraid we may get some visitors tonight. I only hope it is not too many." He looked around at the men and sighed, "I wish I could say otherwise but there'll be no sleep. We must station ourselves behind boulders and in the thick of the brush. We must greet them with a hail of arrows and rocks near the mouth of the pit, for that is surely where they will go. then we must charge in and attack them directly. Let's just hope their numbers are not too great."

He was about to dismiss the group when one of the men called out. "You do not know these parts. But often the windstorms come at the start of the rainy season. Already, I can feel the weather shift. The night rains are coming. I just wanted to warn you that it may be hard to see if we get a heavy rain. But there is another thing. If we find it hard to see, they may find it hard to get a good footing. That may be in our favor sisnce we attack from afar."

"I did not know that. Your words are wise," Lindir responded. "And perhaps,, just perhaps, we can help nature along. There is water in the creek, and we have several buckets. Go quickly now. Carry some of the water back to the mouth of the pit. Try to soak the ground, and then lie down a thin layer of cover, enough to hide the mud but not enough to give them real traction. The rest of you go and gather rocks along with any bows and arrows. Check the camp to see if any were left behind. Do your work quickly as we have little time before night falls, and I do not think our guests will be late."

With that the group dispersed and went to their duties.

_________________

post for Makdush

"I tell you I heard this not more than an hour ago," protested Makdush. "Two men talking, saying that the rest of their band will arrive sometime tomorrow. Who knows how big that group is? This time Ishkur is right. If we are going to free our comrades, it must be tonight. The man fools are tired. They do not know we are coming. I found a heavy rope in camp that we may draw them up one-by-one. We should only have to kill one or two guards. Surely we can do that. What will it be then? Are we soldiers or do we sit here like women " He glared over at Gwerr and Ishkur.

It was Ishkur who spoke first. "You know how I feel. From the first, I wanted to strike at these vermin and rescue the others. I say go."

Gwerr's response was longer in coming, "I do not like it. Being a soldier is one thing. Keeping my neck from being slit is another. But if what you say is true, this will be our last chance. And I would not travel north and leave them behind. We need more than the three of us to make it safely to the north. I will go. But Makdush," and here Gwerr glared, "you'd better be right about this."

"We'll leave the horse here, and other things as well," Ishkur muttered softly to Gwerr, giving no explanation as to what he meant by other things. Makdush wondered about that but there was no time to ask. The three set out towards the camp as soon as darkness bathed the plain. The rain was already coming down in a steady sheet.

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Old 05-13-2007, 04:31 PM   #391
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Khamir

Khamir knew he was wrong to interrupt Athwen, but he could not and would not feel what he had said was wrong. And certainly just words couldn't be wrong in that way. He was right, justified in his anger. And orcs were creatures. They were not like Men or even the Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits who were strange to him. They did not have the same sort of heart or soul, if they had one at all. He knew this from what he had observed with his own two eyes, and the pain he had received at the hands of monsters.

He had thought of the slavers as monsters, too. They were men, like him, just from the East... No, that was different, he told himself, forcing away the exception that might break his rule.

Khamir worried that Athwen would have some stern words for him, but he was surprised that instead the girl spoke up again.

"They were asleep," Azhar began, her voice stronger than he expected from such a young child - particularly a girl. "What would you have us do? Run them through without a second thought? Lindir hopes to get them to talk. Perhaps to find out whether there are other troops nearby. But surely you would not kill someone, even an orc, in his sleep!"

Anger boiled up again in the Southron. This girl dared to judge him, dared to give him some kind of lesson in what was fair and right and just. He had heard it all before: all this nonsense of not attacking a man when his back was turned, not touching those who are innocent, using only what force was necessary. Rules like that were nice in a game, when fairness was a part of what kept it fun, but life was not a game. And life in...this land...this dark place...there was nothing fair to it. Herd animals left behind the weakest, and predators attacked the weakest of the herd...the creatures of Mordor of all types behaved in this way, and men who lived by any other way were the weakest left behind.

Khamir opened his mouth without words prepared, and without any concern for whether or not he might regret what would emerge, but then he caught Athwen's disapproving glance. It was like the look his mother had given him on countless occasions when he would return home late, usually battered and bloody, and sometimes with a new possession in his hands that did not really belong to him...and, even now, it was enough to quiet him, though he was unable to listen to what the woman said as his mind was plagued with hatred. Khamir left in silence to inform Adnan and Vrór of the news, and help them and others prepare to leave.
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Old 05-14-2007, 11:00 AM   #392
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Carl

Lindir’s pronouncement that they had already been spied upon by hidden orcs, along with his speculation that some stealthy visitors might appear in the night left Carl feeling distinctly on edge. And the hope of rain after the oppressive and seemingly endless dry weather, normally would have been welcome news to the farmer, but now it only added to the tension with its uncertainty and timing. If only those orcs would pipe down! the hobbit thought as he struggled to follow his thoughts to some sort of conclusion while a commotion and howling jeers emanated from the pit.

Try as he might, Carl’s anxious mind couldn’t get a firm grip on the reasoning behind Lindir’s decision to spare the orcs for now, when so many around them had suffered from their likes. But his brain kept circling back to the notion instilled it him that they were myth-like, filled to the very brim with evil. Surely those very beasts would skin and salt Man, Elf or Hobbit, free or imprisoned, given half a chance…make sport of it too! The slavers had been a hazard, to be sure, but at least you might have the hope of reasoning with them. But Orcs? The hobbit shuddered pondering it, and took his place in the line forming to transport water to the edges of the pit. He couldn't help but wonder if the decisions of elves were to be trusted once they had been around for more than a few hundred years, or so. He for one, couldn’t sleep a wink while those orcs were in the camp. But then again, Lindir didn’t appear to need much sleep, did he?

It was not long before water was being splashed about the pit, garnering more loud shouts and jibes from the orcs trapped below, as the small rivulets snaked their way under the grate that covered the hole. The imprisoned creatures’ pointed words were all the more injurious for the grains of truth that they bore, as their barbs condemned their treatment at the hands of their captors. So effective this tactic was to the uninitiated that hobbit quickly excused himself, saying that his injured arm was not yet ready to heft the large buckets of water, let alone buckets of buckets. But the truth of it was that the insults had struck his conscience, with a sting greater than the one in his arm.

And so as the first raindrops fell, he took to searching about the camp far from the pit, gathering what he could to help defend against the anticipated attack, and ever mindful that he should keep on eye out for what they might need should they see the light of day again.

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Old 05-14-2007, 02:39 PM   #393
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The three Orc rescue party getting into trouble

The three orcs advanced towards the camp in the thickening rain. They had drawn their weapons and were approaching the camp fast and quiet. Makdush had refused to take the lead and so Ishkur was in the front. Gwerr came a few yards behind to his left and Makdush was at level with Gwerr to the right. Gwerr was checking the left flank and left-behind Makdush the right flank and right-behind, Ishkur took care of the front. They worked as a team now as they were forced to do it.

They had just passed the slaver captain’s tent and were fast approaching the pit when Ishkur suddenly stopped and raised his hand up. The two halted immediately and went down. All three were trying to hold their panting and kept motionless for a moment just listening and sensing the envirovement.

As soon as Gwerr realised that there was no imminent threat to them but that Ishkur had halted for some other reason he started crawling slowly forwards. From the corner of his eye he could note Makdush reaching the same conclusion. The rain was getting ever heavier making the coming darkness even deeper.

“What is it?”, Gwerr hissed from between his teeth when he was close enough.

Ishkur turned around to address both of the two now close behind him. “The pit is there, see? But there are no guards anywhere to be seen...” Ishkur looked at Makdush questioningly.

“Now what is this crap?”, Gwerr grouched in a low voice looking at Makdush sternly.

They were silent for a moment as they all were gathering their thoughts on this sudden change in the situation. They had been ready to attack and kill and then free their friends but now there was no one to be seen or heard from the pounding rain. They were eyeing each other in disbelief.

“I can smell a rat here. I say we pull back”, Gwerr whispered at last. He was looking at both his companions seriously. “There is something wrong here...”

“No Gwerr. We need to rescue our friends... and his...”, with that Ishkur nodded towards Makdush. “We need everyone now and you know it. And we have no better chance for it but now. You remember what Makdush told us? There will be a band of humans around here tomorrow so it’s now or never.” Ishkur seemed to be both focused and determined.

Makdush seemed to have fallen deep into his thoughts but was soon to react to what was said. “They’re humans... They’re taking shelter from the rain, you know those skinless spindleshanks...” He glanced at both the orcs. “I say we’ll go for it, now”.

Gwerr realised that he was left alone with his reservations and grunted. “I see your point Ishkur my friend”, he said without even glancing at Makdush. "But let’s do this carefully. I just don’t like the smell of this... Remember that they have that elf with them”. Gwerr studied Ishkur’s expression for a while and then added. “I’ll go and have a look around. You two go with the rope. I’ll meet you in a minute”. With that he sprang to his feet and disappeared into the gathering darkness and rain from the sight of the two. Ishkur nodded to Makdush and they started approaching the pit slowly.

Gwerr was furious but tried to calm down as well as he could. He almost wished to discover humans hiding behind the nearest bushes ready to attack them just to show the others that he was right, but surely it would be much better if Makdush would be right and they could just free their friends with no fight. The warmongers and those keen to fight were usually those who hadn’t actually tasted a battle in their lives – or fools. Gwerr had had his share of fighting during his lifespan of a few thousand years and had grown wise enough to avoid any if he could. Funny I’m still alive, he thought to himself while these ideas sprang through his mind.

Gwerr started searching the nearest thickets and bushes around the pit. He paused beside a larger bush for a while as he thought he had heard movement from within it. He was streching his senses trying to focus to the bush while maintaining an ear to the surroundings as well and filtering the occasional noises from his comrades from behind him. Apart from the rain it was quiet.


*** ~ ***
Ishkur and Makdush had reached the pit only to discover the door to it being ajar. Makdush pulled it open and Ishkur kneeled to the ground to address their companions.

“Are you there? It’s me, Ishkur. We’re here to get you out”, he hissed as loud as he dared.

“Ishkur, by Mordor it’s good to hear you!” Colagar shouted back from the bottom of the pit.

“Quieter you idiot” Ishkur hissed back. “We’ll throw you a rope and you’ll climb up, okay?” Ishkur called back careful not to raise his voice over the falling rain.

“Throw us a knife first as we’re tied”, Kurrak called from the bottom of the pit a lot quieter than Colagar had done.

“Ohh, you stupid drunkards...” Makdush muttered as he unsheathed his knife and gave it to Ishkur.

“Okay, here it comes. I hope someone of you gets hit, you idiots”. With that Ishkur dropped the knife to the pit.


*** ~ ***
Gwerr thought he saw an odd dark shape beneath the bush. It might be a boulder as well... he thought to himself but decided to have a closer look anyhow. He turned a couple of branches away from his sight and readied his axe when he heard Makdush calling him.

“Gwerr! C’mon and give us a hand. We need to pull these drunkards out from there.”

Gwerr hesitated for a moment but backed away in the end. It's probably a rock anyhow and we need to get away from here as soon as possible...

When Gwerr reached the two Makdush was already lowering the rope down to the pit and Ishkur was on all fours following the rope with his eyes.

But then the rocks started falling on them. Lots of sharp rocks thrown or slinged on them from all around. Most of them went astray and crackled to the ground around them but a few hit as well. Gwerr got a nasty hit to his upper back and fell down to his face from the impact. He rose up shutting the pain down only to see a band of fierce looking humans coming towards them their blades revealed. And there were more rocks speeding on their direction from behind the men that approached.

Gwerr had just gotten to his feet and turned to face the men coming towards them when a rock hit him to the forehead. All went black in his mind for a second. He tried to hold his balance with pure instincts but the ground was too slippery and he fell back over Ishkur who had been - alarmed by the sudden attack - trying to rise up behind him. Gwerr realised himself tumbling down on his mate but then there was nothing under him but air. He was falling.

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Old 05-16-2007, 08:52 AM   #394
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Kwell worked with a will, when it came to sloshing buckets of water around and over the pit opening. He had obeyed Lindir and not killed any of the drunken orcs, even if he had wanted to, but to be able to make them even more uncomfortable than before was wonderful to his mind. He nearly laughed as the water and mud splashed and dripped down into the pit and they sent up curses and horrible imprecations. They did not cause any fear to start up in him, as they used to. Their threats were empty. Their hands were bound and had no whips clutched in them.

But soon, Lindir said it was wet enough, and they must retreat and take cover until the other, sober orcs came in. The rain was quickening. The mud was thick, slippery, and as ready as they could make it. They retreated and gathered stones and sticks before finding a hiding place.

They waited. Silently. Kwell wondered again and again if this would actually work. It was risky - and all for the sake of not killing the orcs. He didn’t understand why they just could be shot. Why bother throwing them down into the pit with the others? Were there not enough orcs to get information out of? He couldn’t comprehend Lindir’s thinking...

After a long while of silence, intermixed with the steady patter of the rain, Kwell saw dark figures moving in closer. Kwell shifted his weight and picked up two rocks. They were over the pit now...leaning down to reach the ones inside...

The first rocks were thrown. Kwell stood up and hurled first one and then the other with all his might. He bent again to get more and then, as he continued to throw, those with swords and other, longer weapons charged. Kwell continued to hurl as many rocks as he could, over his friend’s heads and hopefully at the three orcs, but as the humans got closer, he ceased his bombardment, for fear of striking someone in his side.

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Old 05-23-2007, 10:28 AM   #395
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One minute Makdush had been laying prone at the mouth of the pit, letting out the rope inch-by-inch to those who waited impatiently at the bottom. The next minute they had fallen under a steady barrage of rocks and arrows. Struggling to rise, Makdush saw Gwerr go down just to his left. He could not be sure whether his companion had simply slipped and fallen in the muddy morass or actually been struck by an arrow. One second later Makdush watched as Ishkur followed Gwerr into the depths of the pit, apparently struck in the thigh by a two large rocks that had come hurtling in their direction.

Determined not to repeat his companions' mistakes, Makdush let out a cry and lumbered to his feet, searching for sound footing and lunging for the sword still strapped at his waist. But his efforts had come far too late. There was no time to react. Within a second four figures had run forward: three men and an elf. It was the elf who reached out and ripped the sword from his hand. One of the others retrieved the dangling rope and began to wind it around his body and legs, knotting it tightly in many places. Makdush tried to kick and scream but there were too many for him to get away. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw a man jerk a dagger from its sheath and rear back, aiming towards his neck. He expected the downward thrust to come swift and fatal. Instead, the elf barked, and the man snatched back the blade, complaining under his breath but complying with the order. A second later and he too had joined his companions in the pit.

"Ishkur, Gwerr?" he cried out in frustration, cursing the moment they had decided to try and rescue their companions.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 05-26-2007 at 10:17 AM.
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Old 05-30-2007, 12:18 AM   #396
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Both Ishkur and Gwerr lay in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the pit, too groggy to answer or to try and loosen the bonds of the other orcs. Soon after Makdush was hurled into the cell, the wooden grate was again thrown open. This time, the tall Elf and two of his companions lowered themselves down on ropes, binding Ishkur and Gwerr with tight leather straps and rope. The uruk and the two orcs were thrown against the cave wall and their leather straps secured to metal rings. Finally, the three jailors were again pulled up to the surface. The pit was silent and black, but no darker than the feeling of rage and frustration that assaulted Ishkur's mind.

By this time, he was awake and miserable. Ishkur wished he had never suggested helping anyone. He should have listened to Gwerr. Next time, if there was a next time, he must be more careful. He called out to Makdush and Gwerr and to anyone else in the pit who was awake, "I hate elves. Those monstors must each have ten pairs of eyes and ears. This one knew we were coming. He knew it before we even got to the pit. His men were sitting up waiting for us." Ishkur kicked at the wall in frustration and felt the leather strap pull tight against his side and prevent him from moving any further.

There was another reason why Ishkur was angry but he wasn't going to tell anyone. He didn't know how or when but he had seen that pushy elf before. He was sure of it. Probably they had fought on some distant battlefield, but he couldn't remember anything more. He covered his feeling of uneasiness by snarling at the others, "If they drag us out of here to get us to talk, I'll say nothing. At least nothing important. I'll hang my head and play along with their game. But I won't believe anything they say or promise. They're all liars. And at the last minute, when I have a chance, I'll make them pay. If I go down, some of them are going with me." There were growls of agreement from every corner of the pit.

Ishkur slumped against the hard stone rock. Strangely enough, what he thought about were the women and young ones who were still loose on the outside. Maybe they'll get away, he reflected. Yeah, sure....and maybe they'll sprout wings and turn into balrogs. That utterly ridiculous suggestion of women sticking out their noises to help the men made him grimace. It would never happen. Women were useless. They couldn't fight and had no sense of standing beside a buddy. Yet Ishkur still regretted the loss of his hunting lodge and the women lined up to wait on him. When he finally slept, there were no dreams, only an empty black hole.

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Old 06-02-2007, 09:39 AM   #397
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Azhar had followed Athwen's instructions and spent the remainder of the evening preparing the wagons to depart the next morning. Everyone who could stand on their feet had helped gather and pack away the supplies that needed to be transported the next day. They had lined the back of the wagon with soft blankets, assembled packets with flasks of water and food, and made sure that all the healer's supplies were readily available for the trip.

The journey was not a long one, and those who were most seriously injured would be accomodated in the back of the wagon. But the going would still be slow since so many bore minor wounds and would need to stop for frequent rests. The plan was to load the wagons immediately, have everyone get a full night's sleep, and set out the next morning very early. If there were no complications on the road, they should arrive at the new camp by mid-day.

Despite the hard work, many took time to share the latest news. The revelation that orcs had been discovered and were being held in the new camp spread like wildfire. Azhar heard both muttered threats and expressions of dismay that left her feeling uncomfortable. Even those who were injured had retrieved their weapons or gone searching for stones to take along on the trip if a fight developed. While many were frightened to hear what had happened, some seemed almost eager to get into a fight once they reached their destination. Almost no one could understand why Lindir had not given the order to slay the sleeping orcs. Dorran had been outspoken in his dislike of the situation but he was not the only one. As the packing finished and the camp settled down for the night, Azhar lay awake in her blankets unable to sleep as she worried about what would happen after they reached the camp.
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Old 06-09-2007, 11:04 AM   #398
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Lindir and Aiwendil..

At last the camp lay quiet. The orcs were secure within the pit, and, since Lindir required less sleep than the others, he had volunteered to take the remainder of that night's watch. Moreover, he was having trouble sleeping and wanted time to reflect on the strange happenings of the day and what should be done after the rest of their party arrived. That event should occur by mid-afternoon. He was keenly aware that, even within his own small group, several of the former slaves thought him addled or soft for not running the orcs through as they slept, since there was bound to be trouble once they were freed.

Perhaps these men were right, the elf regretfully mused, but he could not bring himself to slay someone who lay in a drunken stupor. Lindir could agree that Orcs were vile, dispicable creatures, yet he did not know what to do. If he set them loose on the plain, they could later reappear and make him regret his decision. But was it right to execute an orc simply because he belonged to a particular race that had done great injury in the past and presumably might do so in the future? An uncomfortable memory from his own boyhood flitted through his mind, which he hastily pushed aside. In any case, he objected, the decision was not his to make. He could suggest or try to persuade, but the group would ultimately determine the fate of the prisoners.

A stirring in the bushes caused the elf to stare out into the darkness. His fingers tightened about the hilt of his knife as he leapt up for a closer look. There was a second rustling, and the bushes parted to reveal a familiar face. "Aiwendil? Is that you?" Without waiting for a response the elf darted forward to embrace his friend. His words came spilling out. "Where were you? I could not sense your presence or your thoughts since you left the battle." He added in a chiding tone, "You should have told me you were safe."

The old man shook his head and struggled to explain, "Lindir, I am sorry, truly sorry, but I had no choice. I found myself in a strange predicament. The slightest mistep could have cost me my life. And not only my life, for I knew I must return to give a warning to you. So I kept my thoughts close for fear that others might overhear."

"Overhear? What kind of threat lurks on the plains that could read the mind of an istar?"

Aiwendil was silent for a moment before responding in a cryptic tone. "I have learned some things since my departure that may affect our fortunes. I do not know all with certainty. Many questions remain, but I heard enough to let me guess what must have transpired in Mordor over the past few years and what may yet befall us in coming days. It does not make me easy, and I will share all in good time. But first you must tell me what has happened here.....how we fared in the final minutes of the fight and who is with you in this place. How are our friends who still wait in the old camp? And Rôg? Can you tell me of his fate? For I have been troubled with disturbing dreams and strange forebodings whose meaning is unclear."

Although Lindir wondered what Aiwendil had glimpsed on the plains of Mordor, he did not press for an immediate answer. Instead, he did as the old man requested, sharing what news he could and adding the details about their strange encounter with the orcs. Aiwendil seemed as baffled over the latter episode as Lindir had been. The istar could not offer any explanation for the behavior of the orcs or understand why such a small party would be travelling on its own. Nor did he have any idea how they should handle the prisoners.

Finally, once Lindir had finished with all his news, he pressed Aiwendil to describe what he had seen, "Could these orcs possibly be connected with the threat you saw on the plains? If so, we would be better off slaying them and, by doing so, prevent news from reaching the others."

Aiwendil shook his head, "Anything is possible. But I do not think so. What I saw on the plain had nothing to do with orcs. Indeed, I did not see a single orc. The threat seems of a different type. Do you remember in the last battle of the War of the Ring how the forces of the olog-hai were scattered to the winds? Those great giant creatures, so full of cunning, were among the worst of Sauron's monstors. So mighty were they in battle that none saw them fall on the plains of Mordor. In fact, some doubted that they could even be slain. But with the destruction of the Ring and the demise of its master, these stone creatures fled the field of war as if they had lost their minds, and have not been seen since that day. That is....none have seen them until two days ago when I beheld a gathering of the olog-hai just north of here. I saw and could not believe so I stayed in their camp to learn more...."

"Olog-hai?" Lindir interrupted. "But is that possible? Most have said that these creature cannot act unless they are directed by a mind greater than theirs. Once Sauron died, they disappeared into the hills."

"So I thought as well. But this much I can tell you. They travel north to the same mountains and foothills where we are heading. They intend to gather their forces there. Now there are only twenty or so, but many more are expected with the slow turning of the seasons. What I do not know and can not guess is whether another mind lies in back of their actions, or they have come up with this plot on their own."

"But what is their intention? For what purpose do these olog-hai gather?"

"I can not say with certainty. But I heard the name of Elessar cursed many times, and all in the camp spoke of the need to head west to attack once they establish control over Mordor. Exactly what their plan is and when it will be put in operation, I do not know. Even so, I am sure of two things. It will never be safe to settle on the Plateau of Gorgoroth until these creatures be gone from there. We are doomed to fail as long as they live. And the longer they live and plot, the greater the threat is to Gondor and to all the free peoples of Middle-earth."

"But we are too few, too few to face such a threat," Lindir countered. "No rag tag band of travellers can hope to defeat a threat such as this." The elf's voice was solemn.

"Yes, that has occurred to me as well. Perhaps we should just stay here and send messengers back to Minas Tirith to ask for an army to help us clear the way. But there is also danger in waiting too long. It will be many months before a request can arrive at court and a convoy of soldiers be sent into Mordor. Who knows what damage the olog-hai can do in that time? Now they are twenty...by next spring their numbers may swell to a hundred or more. That is the danger of waiting."

"We need allies then....immediate allies," observed Lindir with a shake of his head. "Preferably troops with battle experience. But where do you propose to get such reinforcements within the next month?"

Aiwendil grimaced, "That is what I hoped you would be able to tell me. So shall I pass on this news tomorrow when we are gathered to judge the orcs, or wait until another day when tempers are cooler?"

"To be truthful, I don't know. Let us wait till tomorrow and see how things go. We may need to remind the others of the need to keep a cool head and not to split into many factions. One more thing, though, before we turn in. Aiwendil, earlier you spoke of someone overhearing your thoughts. Why did you say this? The olog-hai do not have that ability."

"I'm not sure. Only at moments I could have sworn that there was a mind, a great mind, pressing against my own, almost willing me into submission. That is when I decided to lay hidden and not draw attention to myself even by a stray thought. No, I find it hard to believe that any olog-hai could do that. I am not sure. Perhaps it was only my imagination. Sitting in the middle of a camp of gigantic stone creatures is not good for the nerves. But still, if it is possible that there is a greater force directing these olog-hai, then that force might have the gift of reading thoughts as well as other magical abilities."

"But who could do this?" Lindir prodded.

"I do not know, and you can probably make a guess as good as mine.... There are a few of Sauron's friends who were never accounted for."

"The Mouth of Sauron?" Lindir asked in a flat, dead voice.

"Yes, or perhaps one of the two istari who disappeared in the East and were never heard from again. I hope this is not so for then we would face an even greater fight. Let's handle one problem at a time. Let's figure out how to deal with this handful of orcs before we go on to other things." With that, the Lindir and Aiwendil parted. Lindir stayed to guard the pit, while Aiwendil found a spot to turn in for the few short hours that remained before sunrise.

Last edited by Child of the 7th Age; 06-10-2007 at 01:19 AM.
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Old 06-12-2007, 07:47 PM   #399
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In the past couple of days, Grask had run a full gamut of emotions – adventurousness, nervousness, curiosity, trepidation, satisfaction – but not until this point had he felt any true fear. His search for the females had been outstandingly unsuccessful; he had not even found a footprint or a bag left behind. To all appearances, they had simply disappeared. Grask wondered if they might have simply up and left, tired of the males’ drinking and lazing about. Up until a little while ago, he could have cared less, but now, with all the males held captive in the pit, it meant he was alone.

Completely, helplessly, alone.

Not to mention wet and miserable.

He had hunkered down beneath a squat thorny tree after his initial failure to locate any of the others, both in hopes of remaining hidden from the men and as at least a token shelter from the rain which had begun to fall steadily a little while ago. The tree was no match for a nice, dry cave however, and before too long Grask felt soaked to the bone and chilly.

Then he had heard what sounded like Orkish voices not too far away and felt a gleam of hope return. Before he could get up to join them, however, he heard more shouts and a commotion in the direction of the camp. After that he heard no more Orc voices or rustling in the bush. He could only guess that Ishkur and his mates had been captured like the rest.

And he could only guess that all the Orcs that had been captured would be killed. He did not know why they simply had not already killed them and had done with it, if that was what they were going to do anyway, and Grask saw no other alternative.

So where did that leave him? Even if he were not found, he would be left on his own out here in the wilderness. He had no idea where he was, and was not even sure of the direction from which they had come. Oh, sure, he could survive out here for a while, but without a larger group he wouldn’t last long.

He might die out here.

He was afraid.

Last edited by Firefoot; 06-14-2007 at 05:01 PM.
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Old 06-15-2007, 10:00 AM   #400
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The two camps are reunited:

Before stretching out to rest in her bedroll, Azhar helped Athwen care for the injured and made sure that the supplies were packed on the wagon so they could get an early start. Despite her exhaustion, she had difficulty falling asleep. Ghostly images of battle and menacing orcs came crowding into her head. She could not imagine what Lindir would do to appease all the different opinions in camp and make sure that the prisoners would not become a threat. Even if the elf agreed to have the prisoners executed, the main column of soldiers would turn up on the doorstep of their camp, curious to see what had happened to the missing scouts and likely hungry for blood.

To make things worse, a steady drizzle had fallen through the night, leaving the ground littered with puddles while the residents of the camp tossed and turned in discomfort trying to get some sleep. Azhar was not surprised by the weather. The wet season in Mordor was short and intense. Once the storms began, it was not unusual for there to be a steady downpour punctuated by intermittant storms three weeks or more. The rain had made it difficult to pack up quickly and get out of the camp at sunrise. By the time the long caravan had actually left camp, it was already late in the morning. With most of the party on foot and many still suffering in the aftermath of the fighting, it had taken them nearly three hours to cover the seven miles between the two camps. The steady drizzle had gotten worse and was now a heavy sheet of rain.

Wet and bedraggled, Azhar trudged into the slavers' camp, immediately presented herself to Lindir, and hastily explained, "We're here. All of us. I don't know how, but Athwen's managed to get everyone safely across the plain without losing any of the injured. But I have to tell you....there's one thing." Azhar's voice trembled as she struggled to find the right words. "It's the orcs. There are a lot of upset people in camp. They can't understand why you let the orcs live. They say it can only mean trouble. Lindir, I agreed with you. I didn't think it was right to kill them when they were lying there drunk. But what are we going to do? What can we do?" She looked up at the elf with a pleading look in her eye hoping to find some answers.

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