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Old 05-26-2008, 09:13 PM   #121
Firefoot
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Scyld

“No, I’m not. And I take it you’re not either,” replied the man.

Scyld neither affirmed nor refuted the statement. True, he was not eager to ingratiate himself with these people. However, the thought had come to him that he might be better off going willingly to the camp than being discovered skulking in the hills. While he had learned a thing or two in the last couple months spent on the run, Scyld was no woodsman. He might evade their notice for a few weeks, but to what end? He would learn far more by being down among them and gaining their trust. He had little to fear, so long as his identity remained hidden.

Scyld could only assume this man had a similar story. It would be fear that kept him up here in the wild, Scyld guessed; had the man committed some crime, and did he simply fear authority? Or was it more personal than that? Did he fear recognition?

And the deeper question – why was he hear at all, and why had he stayed here all this time? Scyld thought he looked dimly familiar, so perhaps he was a native to these parts, but without a name to match the face he might as well never have seen the man before for all he knew about him. Regardless of this, he had been here at least as long as Scyld had been gone, and Scyld needed information. He needed to know what had conspired here since his departure, how the people felt about Sorn’s death, whether he himself had been forgotten or if he was a part of the rumors concerning Linduial’s kidnapping, whether the destruction to Sorn’s holdings had been intentional or incidental.

But to gain information, he must also offer it. “I believe we may be able to help each other,” he said abruptly. “I am called Nydfara.”

The proffer of even a name caught Oeric off guard. He had no reason to fear or suspect this man, but something about his manner reminded Oeric of a dog with a bone, some jealously guarded secret and a bristling if approached too closely. The suggestion that they might be of use to each other, though, intrigued Oeric. Of what assistance could he possibly be to this enigmatic stranger? And more importantly, to what use could Oeric himself put this ‘Nydfara’?

“I’m Oeric.” He replied, deciding there could be no harm in an exchange of names. There were undoubtedly those still around these parts who would remember him from days gone by. He had lived here with his grandmother until his early teens. Whether or not there had come to be associated with his name any taint or stain he knew not, not yet at any rate.

Without wishing to reveal more at this point, Oeric beat directly to the point. “You speak of helping each other. As you guessed, I’m not wishing to make the acquaintance of our new neighbors, not at this point anyway. How would you propose to help me in that? And what will you require of me in return?”

Scyld smiled grimly. Good, the man was open to an exchange; let him think he had found an ally. Scyld had not yet discovered how useful he would be, however. "Any enemy of these neighbors, as you call them, is a friend of mine. You know your own needs best, and perhaps you might tell me how I could best help. My own request is simple: I want information, anything you know or are willing to tell me about these people or this land. I have been away on certain... errands... for some time now and find myself out of touch with recent happenings."
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Old 05-26-2008, 11:55 PM   #122
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Ginna let out a gasp of breath she did not realise she had been holding, which she hoped went unnoticed amidst the tinkling sound of metal shards hitting against each other as Harreld searched through them. It took a bit of effort to keep herself from breaking into tears when the smith had shouted. She knew she was in a precarious position here, daring to speak to the smith after everything that had transpired between them, and the thought of Harreld - always so gentle despite his appearance - yelling at her was more than she could bear.

Thankfully she had been mistaken, or so Harreld claimed. But it seemed that if she really desired to make herself an amenable company to him, she would have to keep her tongue in check when she's with him. He liked the quiet of Scarburg, he said. No matter, she could always enjoy a good chat with Kara and Frodides, as well as Modtryth and Léoðern, whenever she desired. There was no need to repress the woman's need to talk completely. It was just that...she thought he enjoyed hearing her speak. Perhaps all that time back in the old Mead Hall, he had simply been patient with her, but in truth every moment spent with her had been trying to him? Was that what had damaged their friendship?

She wanted to be silent altogether, if that was the way he worked best. She could not keep herself from asking one last thing, however.

"Is that why you left Edoras, then, even if you knew you would for some time be working in crude conditions here?" she asked, her voice nearly a whisper. Because I thought you will be choosing Garreth over me, especially after what I did, she added to herself.

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Old 05-27-2008, 02:42 PM   #123
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Nydfara and Oeric

Out of touch with recent “happenings”? It was clear that this self-styled ‘Nydfara’ was curious to know how Sorn’s hall had burned to the ground. Oeric had no intention of satisfying that curiosity though, not now. Not one given much to dissembling, Oeric merely shook his head slowly, saying, “You know as much as I, I’ll wager. These . . . settlers appeared out of nowhere, and I have no idea what their intentions are, except from the look of it, they are here to stay. The landowner here, Sorn his name was, is gone – I don’t know where or why.” Oeric nodded in the direction of the ridge, and the destruction which lay beyond. “As for that, I was wondering if you could tell me.” Not exactly an untruth, but a careful sidestepping of what he himself knew. Nydfara’s own denial of recent knowledge was in turn an admission that he had been here, at some time or other. Oeric had a suspicion the ‘errands’ the other man referred to were likely to be such that would not bear too close a scrutiny. It lay within the realm of possibility that Nydfara did have some knowledge of what had gone on before Oeric’s own arrival at the already deserted hall.

Not knowing how to proceed with this probing without giving away more than he received, Oeric thought once more upon how this man, or any man, could help him. Still unsure of his own desires, Oeric said simply, “As for myself, I wish only to remain as I have been before yesterday, left alone, until such time as I choose otherwise. In this you can be of help to me merely by making no point of bringing my presence here to anyone’s attention.” Nydfara eyed him shrewdly at this last statement, and Oeric surmised that the man was assessing this request for silence on his part. Whatever Nydfara made of it, however, the man only nodded slightly, neither agreeing to, nor denying, the request.

More than that, if indeed Nydfara had anything to add, was not to be explored, as, at that moment, a cry came to them on the air, causing both men to freeze. The call was close, and they were both alarmed that anyone should have approached so near to them without their realizing it. It was one word only. “Help!”. But it induced completely different reactions in the two.

Nydfara was on his feet in an instant and moving away from the cry, across the stony ground in a wary but rapid half crouch.

Oeric’s first response, born of his innate character, was to hurry down the slope and towards the distress cry. Whatever mishap had befallen the one who had called out, the voice, though strangely accented, was clearly that of one in need. As he made his way forward though, Oeric’s mind at least considered the possibility of whether those on the other side of the ridge would have heard the cry. His feet slowed as he considered his own position. If he made himself known, or was spotted and apprehended, then explanations would be requested, then required of him. He could perhaps play dumb and claim no knowledge of what had happened here. But then again, he himself had no way of knowing who might have heard by now of his own flight, and pursuit. His isolation here was both a cocoon and a prison. If word had gone beyond these lands . . . if Swain had really had time to send word to Edoras . . . Confusion and fear brought his feet to a halt. Then once more, a second cry, much closer, came.

Stiffening, Oeric realized that whoever it was, they could be no more than 30 or 40 paces away. A stand of willow bushes still provided him cover, but he knew their presence signaled the presence of water, and that in turn suggested what might lay beyond.

Still irresolute as to what he would do, Oeric cautiously made his way closer. Dropping to the ground, he wriggled into the bushes and pulled himself forward until he could catch a glimpse of what, and who lay on the other side. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, those beyond the ridge would soon arrive. Having heard the call, their attention would be occupied by aiding their hapless fellow and he could stay secure and unoted in the thicket. Slowly inching forward, Oeric listened for the sounds of both plight and rescue.
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Old 05-28-2008, 09:22 AM   #124
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Harreld

"Is that why you left Edoras, then," Ginna asked, "even if you knew for some time you would be working in crude conditions here?"

"For the quiet?" said Harreld. "No. In truth, I did not know that it would be this quiet out here in the country. I came because I wanted to." Because I hoped I could change your mind. "I needed the change. There, now I'm ready. The fire needs some air again, bellowsmaiden." Harreld smirked at the name. She was far more than that to him, even if he could not have her to wife. He liked her, and liked her talk because she asked interesting questions instead of never ending talk about nothing.

Ginna pumped the bellows while he worked, and this time the ladle went together nicely, as if it had never been broken. And that was what Harreld liked best about smithing. Wounds in metal could be healed as if they were never there; unlike those of heart and flesh.
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Old 05-29-2008, 06:34 AM   #125
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Harreld held up the fixed ladle and examined it closely; Ginna, too, looked at it, and smiled proudly. He really was good at his work. The smith turned his eyes toward her just in time to catch her expression, and she quickly turned back to the fire. From the corner of her eye she saw Harreld put aside the ladle and take another misshapen one, but she could not see his face.

Bellowsmaiden. That was what he called her. Ginna turned the word over and over in her head, trying to see how it fit. What did he mean? Was that all she was to him? Did he really think that the daughter of Randvér would be contented with such a job - with such a role? Ginna was surprised to realise that it did not matter much to her. For the here and now, if that was how she could help Harreld, why not?

Ginna saw that Harreld was preparing to fix the ladle in his hand and took her chance; she did not want him to break it again. "If you will have me, I can be your bellowsmaiden so long as you need one."

Harreld looked at her, surprised. Ginna held his gaze.
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Old 05-29-2008, 10:51 AM   #126
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Somewhere in the plains of the Westemnet

The hunting party slowed their horses to a trot, making it seem unbearably long to make any progress across the never ending stretches of land. Lither was whistling a jovial tune as he swayed in the saddle; the high pitched ringing of the notes began to get on Erbrand's nerves, but it seemed that neither Balvir, nor Matrim, paid any attention to him or Lithor. Lithor, looked to Erbrand, as if he was fifteen years his senior, yet it seemed that he had the enthusiasm of a young boy. Not once when they were riding had Erbrand seen a stern look on the guard’s face, it was always lit up with grin or a smirk.

"Lithor!" came the quick words of Balvir, "Either you sing a song or you ride in peace, that whistleling is getting on my nerves." Lithor responded by shutting his lips. Erbrand couldn't help but smile.

Balvir struck Erbrand as a serious person, the Gondorian's dark bearded face was always stern and his deep blue eyes were always watching something. His hair hung down to just below his shoulders, which were extremely broad. Erbrand remembered him mentioning something about him being a captain in the house of a man called Aeol, or something like that; he never was good with remembering names.

“He’s not as bad as he is,” Erbrand suddenly noticed that Matrim had been riding beside him, “He’ll calm down in a little bit,” Said the Gondorian in a low voice.

Matrim was a calmer sort than Balvir and had a lesser likeness to Balvir. He never seemed to be angry or happy, Erbrand had not seen him smile or frown at all. However, the way that Matrim spoke seemed to sooth Erbrand’s tense feelings, and he could see that Matrim was a calm and gentle sort when it came to handling people.

They rode on in silence for around twenty more minutes until they came to a sloping area of the plain. Balvir motioned for silence and to dismount, they did so as quietly as they could. They left their horses to feed on the grass as they all followed Balvir up a wide hill. When they reached the top Erbrand could see that they were looking over a small basin of land. All around the place the ground rose and then gradually sloped down to where it was once again flat. There were no trees on the hills, but the grass got deeper and greener as the ground sloped down, to a small group of trees near the center of the basin.

“Well, this is certainly an ideal spot for hunting!” Erbrand said smiling. He would never suspect to find something like this in the vast open spaces of the Westemnet.

“Yes,” Matrim replied, “We’ve had luck here before in the past, and we usually find a good quarry here, mostly deer.”

“Let’s hope we have that same kind of luck again,” Balvir said grimly, “Come, let us prepare for the hunt. If there is anything in those trees we’ll flush them out soon enough.”

Erbrand followed Balvir down the hill back to the horses. There they strung their bows and examined their arrows. Erbrand could feel the amount of excitement in Traveler; he loved the hunt as much as his master did. Erbrand patted the horse on the neck and stroked his mane while making adjustments to his stirrups. A familiar procedure that Traveler knew well: “It won’t be long now, old boy,” said Erbrand, “It won’t be long now.”

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Old 05-30-2008, 09:47 AM   #127
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"If you will have me, I can be your bellowsmaiden so long as you need one."

Harreld looked at her, surprised. She held his gaze. She looked so serious, as if more hung on her words than the need for someone to handle the bellows while he worked.

If you will have me, she had said. I can be your wife she had not said. But did she mean that? Harreld was not sure that he dared to allow himself to think that. He came back to his senses and closed his mouth, for his jaw had popped open a little bit. She was waiting for an answer.

"I would love you - er -" He flushed. "That is to say, I would like you to be my bellowswife-" His blush deepened. This was going badly. "I mean bellowsmaiden!" He pulled his eyes from hers and fumbled with his hammer and dropped it to the ground. He was glad for the distraction as he picked it up and wiped the grass off. His face began to feel not quite so hot.

"Except that when I have a real smithy it will be hot and close, and I would not have you mar your b-" His blush deepened again. Confound it! Why not say it? His flush deepened even more but he was determined. "I would not have you mar your beauty, dear one." He looked straight in her eyes, glad to have said his thought even while his face felt so hot it could catch fire and he'd have no need of a bellowsmaiden! Harreld, he said to himself, you are hopelessly smitten and you know it. No, worse. You love her. He watched her still to see how she would react, happy to have admitted it to himself, and feeling emboldened to maybe sue for her hand despite her higher place in Eorling society. A smith's wife was if not noble, certainly respectable.

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Old 06-02-2008, 11:38 AM   #128
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Somewhere in the plains of the Westemnet

Traveler was out of sight down the hill from where he was crouching. Balvir had told him to take a position on this side of the basin where the deer would be driven along. His bow was at his side with an arrow already nocked and ready for shooting, he could see Balvir and Matrim side by side slowly moving towards the clump trees with absolute silence.

The plan was for the most skilled rider to flush the deer out on his horse and kill as many as he could while riding, the person just happened to be Lithor. Lithor would then try to steer the deer to the already waiting Balvir and Matrim, and then it was up to him, to pick up the pieces and shoot as many of the escaping deer as possible. He couldn’t help but feel that he was being excluded from the group, it seemed to him that he had the least out of all the roles that everyone played; he would be lucky if the deer even came in his direction, he might not get any.

Erbrand sat there on the hill watching Balvir and Matrim take their positions, Lithor was out of sight, and he thought about the excitement that they were feeling and how he would like to have his share of it all. He loved this part of his profession, catching the animals for hides that he would later craft into leather; the thought of being a mere spectator in it all was disappointing to him. He dismissed the idea from his head as being extremely selfish, and he cursed himself for pondering the thought for this long.

Just then Lithor appeared from across the basin galloping towards the trees with both of his hands clasping his bow. As he neared the trees, the tall grass within it stirred and nearly two dozen deer sprang from it and out into the open. Lithor drew his arrow back and let it fly, hitting one of the deer in the chest, but he did not stop when the deer fell, he quickly knocked another arrow and fired again, but this time his arrow was accompanied by Balvir’s and Matrim’s. Lithor drove the deer right in the direction of the two Gondorians, and their long bows sang in unison. The animals halted confused by the two figures that stood before them, but their confusion didn’t last long soon they were scrambling in whichever way to get out of the range of the flying death that surrounded them.

Three broke away and ran in the direction of Erbrand; now it was his turn. They were drawing closer to him as he raised his bow in readiness. He drew the string back so that the fletching of the arrow was at his chin, two slow breaths and on the third one he held in and let go of the string. The force of the pull drove the arrow hard into one of the deer’s chest and it fell rolling over in the grass until it lay still on its side. However, Erbrand’s part wasn’t over yet, there were still two deer on his side of the basin, it was his duty to catch them. He jumped to his feet as he saw the dead deer topple downward in the grass, and ran back to where Traveler stood. The horse had been stripped on any unnecessary gear, and he perked his head up as he saw Erbrand running back to him. Without hesitating, the man leapt onto Traveler, swinging himself on the horses back, and gave a loud whistle which the horse responded to by galloping hard in pursuit of the two deer. Erbrand pressed himself close to Traveler’s mane as the wind whistled past his ears, and they soon came close to one of the deer, while the other escaped. He drew himself tall in the saddle as he nocked an arrow for another kill, but when he fired Traveler’ josteling sent his arrow flying high. He drew another shot, and as he rose in the saddle he let go and the arrow went flying into the deer’s flank. The horse halted has Erbrand quickly fired another shot into the deer’s heart.

When he got back to the clump of trees the others were slinging the deer across their horse’s backs. Lithor gave a cry of triumph when he saw the two deer already slung across Traveler’s back.

“Good hunting,” Lithor said, his voice filled with enthusiasm “Well done Erbrand, I was afraid you wouldn’t get any.”

“I believed that myself for awhile,” he replied, smiling as Lithor shook his hand in congratulations.

“Yes,” Matrim said coming up and examining the deer, “Your lord Eodwine will be pleased when we return. His hall will not go hungry for a couple days more. I am anxious to get back and help with the real work around there.”

“Indeed, but our job isn’t done yet,” Balvir led two horses up to them, “Sixteen deer is a fine day of hunting, but it is the horses that will have to carry them back to camp, and they will be tired long before we reach there. Let us get what distance we can before we stop to rest.” And with that Erbrand led Traveler, who had two more deer slung to his back, after the others on their walk back to Scarburg.

Erbrand was also anxious to get back, to Scarburg. The Sun had risen high in the sky and there was no relief from its rays out where he was in the open, but not only for that reason did he want to get back. He wanted to see Dan again, and there were other people in the camp that he wanted to meet before the day had passed.
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Old 06-04-2008, 11:21 PM   #129
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Crabannan waited with his arm around Horse's neck, waiting for a response from one of the boys. He did not look nearly as threatening as he had a few moments before, but his rough appearance was still enough to keep the two younger boys from answering. Javan, on the other hand, had no such fear of grim strangers, as he had already demonstrated. He stepped forward.

"We've all got work to do. But if you follow us over there, I'll show you where you can get some food."

"Aye, that'll do fine. Lead on, then."

Taking Horse by the reigns, Crabannan followed the three boys down the road into the camp. Javan halted momentarily to point out the kitchen to Crabannan while Cnebba and Garmund continued on.

"My thanks, lad. Though that's surely not your name," said Crabannan with a bit of a crooked, half-smile as Javan turned to go.

Javan faced Crabannan again. "It's Javan."

"Javan then." Crabannan proffered his hand and Javan took it. "I appreciate the help, and I'm sorry for picking you up earlier. I haven't done much to make myself welcome, I fear. Well, now, I've delayed you from your work long enough - you'd better get back. They probably think you ran off."

They parted and Crabannan wandered down to the kitchen, wondering all the while why Javan had flinched at his last words. First you pick a fight, then you insult people with your awful jokes. Well done, Crabannan. Well done.

The smells coming from the kitchen tent had Crabannan's mouth watering by the time he reached. At the time, it seemed to him that he had never smelled anything so good in his life...or at least since his last hot meal following a period without food. This had happened more often than he cared to remember during his soldiering days, but at present, he had no thought but the meal which awaited him. He stepped around to the open side of the tent and looked about.

"Excuse me," he said gently, trying not to scowl, which was hard for him. He tended to scowl without meaning to, and this put people off. "I'm looking for a meal. Who do I ask?"

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Old 06-05-2008, 09:25 AM   #130
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Kara and Frodides had been largely left alone in the kitchen that day since Saeryn's arrival. Modtryth who often helped out had been volunteered to keep an eye on their old friend and Ginna had long since disappeared from care duties to help Harreld. Both events had kept the two cooks engaged in some serious gossip and they had both enjoyed the quiet that came from only having the two of them there. It had been some time since it had been just them, and Kara found herself happily reminiscing as she washed up. She liked Ginna a great deal and enjoyed passing on what she had learnt from Frodides, but every now and then it was nice to go back to the old days.

Smiling slightly at her nostalgia Kara found herself pulled back to the present by a voice carrying from the entrance to their makeshift kitchen.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for a meal. Who do I ask?"

Turning Kara found herself looking at a dark man who was clearly tall as he was stooping a little in order to see through the rough doorway. The shadows and his own dark clothing made it difficult to see his face but his voice sounded kind, if a litte gruff, and Kara welcomed him accordingly.

"Good morning. You've come to the right place if you are looking for food. If you'd like to sit down just outside I'll bring you something. I would offer you the table in here but as you can see it's a little overcrowded right now." She cast her eyes over the kitchen table, currently covered in anything that could not be considered safe lying on the floor. "Is there anything in particular you would like?"

"No thank you. Anything would be good. I will be outside as you say."

Drying her hands Kara made up a platter of bread fresh cooked earlier in the day along with some cheese and little of the cold meat they still had left before pouring a cup of wine and taking the lot out to the stranger, followed by Frodides' pointed comments about being careful who you break bread with.

She found the man sat outside on the grass in the sun, his pack and cloak slung out on the ground behind him, face turned up to the sky as he rested.

"It is a lovely day isn't it?" She said, not wishing to make him jump by simply putting the food down in front of him.

"It is indeed." He replied, a smile on his lips as he opened his eyes and sat straighter to look at her. "Ah! Is that breakfast?"

Kara nodded and passed him the plate and cup, receiving a grateful thanks in reply. Aware that Eodwine was willing to accept any guest she didn't feel a need to let him know about it straight away, but thought she should gather some information about their visitor first.

"Do you mind if I join you?" She asked.

"Not at all. Please, sit, uh ... I'm sorry I didn't catch your name?"

"Kara. I'm Kara, assistant cook here. And yourself?"
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Old 06-05-2008, 08:27 PM   #131
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Eodwine

“Is something amiss?” asked Léof. “Is there a better way which I have overlooked?”

"Nay, Léof," Eodwine smiled, "Thornden fears that I will not allow you to use any wood, for I wish our new hall to be built of stone."

A look of surprise came over Thornden's face, but he kept his peace.

"However," Eodwine continued, "the ruined hall will have to be cleared away at some point, and there is much wood there, though much is beyond use; still, I would like us to see what may be found in there first, to use as makeshift fenceposts or other things we need. What think you, Léof?"
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Old 06-07-2008, 06:48 AM   #132
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Oeric cursed softly as he caught a sight of the cause for the call for help. An extremely odd looking individual was stuck up to his shoulders in a patch of bog! The marsh was riddled with them, and those who were luckless to stumble into one were destined to remain, until and unless rescue came their way. And this man, if man he was, was certainly going nowhere by virtue of his own exertions, except perhaps further down into the hole. For that was the way of these boggy patches, the mixture of water and land gripped the body and sucked you down. Struggling only resulted in sinking deeper and could easily result in bringing about a swifter death.

The strange looking man seemed to have realized this as he was not attempting at this point to extricate himself. His dark face was unusually composed for one in such a predicament, and by this Oeric reasoned the fellow was one used to dealing with crisis. That was a plus. If he stayed calm, the chances were greater that someone would come to the rescue in time. . . if they had heard him call out.

Oeric silently willed the man to call out again, and again if necessary. Casting his mind back to his childhood days, Oeric tried to gage how well sound would travel over the ridge. He also was mentally calculating both the time remaining before the man sank completely and what materials might be at hand to get the fellow out, if it should come to that. As several minutes passed, he could see that the man was also apparently making some calculations of his own. Several more times he did call out, waiting to listen between times for sounds of approaching footsteps. But as the minutes passed, no such sounds came to either man’s ears. This added to Oeric’s growing conviction that, as no sounds of the new settlement to be reached him here on the far side of the ridge, in all probability the man’s cries were not going to reach his companions, assuming he was one of them.

Cursing again, Oeric made up his mind and wriggled as quickly as he could backwards out of the copse of willow scrubs, got to his feet, and ran as swiftly as he could back in the direction from which he had come.
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Old 06-08-2008, 07:01 AM   #133
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Rowenna

Excused from the tent by Æðel and Modtryth, Rowenna went first to the latrine before returning to her duties at the baker. To her left Léof, Thorden and Eodwine were working on the animal pens. Rowenna saw Garstan with Lys; Garstan was standing with his hands on his hips, looking toward the front road as if looking for someone. Beyond the ruin was Harreld at his temporary smithy, and there was Ginna sitting opposite him! Rowenna had thought that little flirtation had ended, but perhaps not. So the girl was back at it again, which seemed odd considering how many other men there were to choose between. Maybe there was more to that than had seemed so at first.

The latrine was back in an outlier of the scar, hidden from view on all sides by boulder and dirt and bracken - unless someone scrabbled up to the slope on his stomach on the other side and peeked down. It was quiet back here, maybe too quiet.

On her way back to the kitchen, she came close to one of the outbuildings of the ruin which had escaped destruction. It was hard to tell from the outside what it might be used for, whether as a meat curing shed or tool shed, or a crib for seed or harvested grain. This one smelled odd, which suggested it could have been the meat curing shed. The door was shut. She tested it, and found it unlocked. She opened the door and was struck by a terrible stench. She plugged nose and squinted through suddenly teary eyes into the darkness.

It was a dead body. Her gorge rose but she forced it down. It was half decomposed, half eaten. There was a small hole in one corner of the shed through which animals had apparently had access to ready food. It had been a man. She pushed the door shut and rushed away stumbling, and fell to all fours, panting for good air. The crabgrass growing in patches around her smelled sweet by comparison to what she had confronted.

Eodwine would need to be told. After regaining her composure, she got up and went straight to the animal pens under construction.

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Old 06-08-2008, 01:40 PM   #134
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“They probably think you ran off!” the new comer said in parting. Javan frowned as he turned away. What an unlucky thing for the man to have said!

“‘They probably think I ran off,’” Javan grumbled quietly between his teeth. He trudged back towards where Garstand waited, the two boys following him. “Of course I didn’t run off, and it wouldn’t have taken so long if they hadn’t fought.”

He stopped as he came insight of Garstan, waiting with his hands on his hips. Suddenly self-conscious, Javan felt for blood on his face and he glanced sideways at Cnebba. This could look very bad, he realized. Oh well, he shrugged, and walked forward.

“We’re back,” he said to Garstan as they got closer. “Sorry it took so long.”
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Old 06-08-2008, 04:49 PM   #135
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"I'm Kara, assistant cook here. And yourself?"

And there it was. His name and vocation. Crabannan took a deep breath and looked away briefly, staring up towards where the sky and the Scar met, grey against blue. This question made him uneasy, as his name frequently earned him a quick ride out of town. And then he had done and been so many things, that he hardly knew what to describe himself as anymore.

He considered mentioning that he had been a soldier of Rohan, but decided against it, as the matter of how he had come to leave the ranks of the muster might come up in conversation. No, best avoid that subject for now.. So, after a few seconds' deliberation, he settled on the occupation that he had until recently held and that he deemed would be the quickest way to the heart of this particular villager. It had worked in the East Emnet...for a little while, at any rate.

"Nice to meet you, miss. My name is Crabannan - " and here he cast a quick glance in Kara's direction to see if the name had rung any bells. It hadn't. " - and I'm a kitchen-worker."

As soon as the words left his mouth, he realized she would never believe him. He knew he looked like a highwayman or a bandit. The arsenal of weaponry helped little. How many kitchen workers carried two swords, a longbow, and a knife? Or a harp?

Kara raised her eyebrows.

"Oh?"

Evidently she was skeptical. Crabannan assumed a look of utmost sincerity.

"Yes, indeed. I was, until recently, a kitchen-worker. "

Kara raised her eyebrows a little higher.

"Mm-hmm," she said, and looked at him a little askance.

Crabannan sighed and looked about him, then back at Kara. He smiled at her a little wryly, and also a little embarrassed. Better to be honest this time, he thought. Maybe these people are different.

"I believe my looks are against me," he said. "To be honest with you, Kara, I'm a bit of a wanderer. I did work in a kitchen, once, but I was, um, very bad at it. A great many dishes were broken while I was there."

He suddenly realized he was quite tense and was fingering the large hunting knife which he carried strapped to his left leg. He pulled his hand away without drawing attention to i and looked down at his plate.

Biting into his bread, he continued: "I've done a great many things - too many to count, sometimes. I have trouble staying one place very long. I've been a soldier, a guide, a farm-hand, a hunter..."

He trailed off. That about exhausted the list of respectable occupations he could muster. There were many others which he wouldn't dare mention around these people, not unless he wanted to be sent on his way as quick as he could pack his bags, which were few. He had been a bard before the War, but he always felt pretentious bringing that up. And that was a long time ago, he reminded himself.

This conversation was making him irritable. Crabannan had learned to deal with his past by accepting it and not dwelling upon it; he did not apologize for it and he did not speak about it. Unfortunately, being around these happy, friendly people was making him thoughtful, something he tried very hard as a rule to avoid. Curse you, Kara, he thought. Why couldn't you have left well enough alone? He changed the subject abruptly, for her good as well as his own.

"Tell me about the settlement," he said, gesturing vaguely towards the tents. "How long have you all been here? Who is the eorl?"

Crabannan chided himself for being even mildly angry with Kara, as he knew her curiosity was natural. Hopefully she won’t pry too deep, he thought, as he drained his wine in one long swig.

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Old 06-09-2008, 08:39 PM   #136
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Oeric made little attempt to avoid detection as he wound his way through the muddy patches and over small hillocks of last year’s dry and matted grass. The byre was but a few minutes away, a one time winter’s shelter for the sheep he had helped tend. He hoped that the fool stuck in the bog had the sense to keep still just a bit longer, and he thought perhaps he should have made himself known before leaving to get the rope he knew to be in the tumble down shed. On the other hand, there was still a chance that one of the dark man’s own would hear him or happen upon him and then Oeric’s help would not be needed, if they knew the proper way to extract one as deeply mired as that one was. If, if, if . . .

Oeric let out a big breath of frustration. Why did these people come here, come now? Why couldn’t he have been left alone in his shame and grief? Why did that fool have to go and get himself stuck? Why had the one called Nydfara used his brain and run the other way, while he, like an idiot, had gone running straight towards discovery and his own undoing? Shaking his head in anger, Oeric none the less kept on his course and soon arrived at the shed.

It was the work of but a few seconds to enter the dim interior of the byre and fish about in the moldy hay of years past, clutching the rope in his hand and setting off once more, back the way he had come. How often since finding it had he not thought long and hard about its possible use, the one remaining cross beam of the ruined roof standing starkly silhouetted against a starlit sky, beckoning. And now it would be used to save a life instead. Even a simple mind such as Oeric’s could grasp the irony of that.

Hurrying back, his mind inventorying the scattered willow boughs he had seen littered about the copse, Oeric paused once more at the edge of the patch of scrubby trees. Straining his ears, he heard neither any sound of approaching rescue from the camp, nor did he hear any further cry from the fellow in the bog. Well, fate had decided this one it seemed. He quickly selected the boughs he would need and with no further thought for secrecy, crashed through the willows to meet that fate.

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Old 06-10-2008, 11:48 AM   #137
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Late Afternoon

The Sun was high in the sky and progress was slow. Traveler slumped and sagged as he walked behind Erbrand, his mane was damp with sweat and each breath came out in long sighs. The humans were as tired as their animals, not one of them had any rest since they set out that morning.

It was not long before Balvir found a place with shade, under a large oak tree. The hunting party unloaded their game off of their horses and let them roam free to graze, while the men drank from their water flasks. Their spirits were lifted by the needed rest and soon all four of them were laughing at hunting stories. Lithor told them about the time that he learned to shoot from horseback, shot, missed the deer, fell off the horse and broke his arm, Erbrand howled with laughter until tears came from his eyes. Now of course seeing a man fall and brake his arm would be an offal thing to behold, but everything seemed so far away right there and then, plus, Lithor told it in a most amusing way.

Soon Erbrand began asking questions of the three men’s youth and where they grew up. Lithor told him that he grew up on a farm in the West-March near the river Adorn. Matrim told Erbrand that he grew up in the town of Ethring, his father was a noble in the town. Balvir grew up in the southern ends of Gondor in Belfalast, and Erbrand listened as Balvir recounted his days in the city of Linhir looking out each morning on the Bay of Belfalas. All the while Erbrand listened with intrigue at the stories of strange places, he didn’t interrupt their accounts to ask a question, and instead he let his imagination fill in the blanks.

“Tell me,” Erbrand asked when Balvir finished speaking, “I’m new to Scarburg and I’m desperate to make sure I know who everybody is, and I was wondering if you could help me out?”

“Well the first people you’ll want to meet is Harreld,” said Lithor, “He’s a smithy you see, and a darn good one at that, he is shy around strangers, especially the lady folk, but you’ll find that out soon enough.” Lithor laughed at his own joke, and the two Gondorians laughed with him. Erbrand didn’t know what they meant, and he took it for some inside joke.

“Let’s see,” Lithor said, counting with his fingers, “There’s Stigend the carpenter and Leofric, he’s the fellow you saw at the stables this morning, he takes care of our horses back at Edoras, and Garston the stone shaper. Then for the ladies there’s Ginna, Frodides, and Kara, who all work in the kitchen.” Lithor chuckled to himself again. “And then there’s Rowenna, now you better watch yourself with her.”

“Why is that?” Erbrand asked.

“Her past has been a terrible ordeal,” Matrim chimed in, “While she was still a young woman she was abducted from her farm by brigands and has seen death come to her father and two children. Her experiences has made her awfully determined at some things and frequently causes trouble if she is to gain from it, but when you’ve been through what she has been through you can’t really hold it against her, nasty business. You just make sure you never get on her bad side.”

Erbrand solemnly nodded his head. Balvir stirred from his comfortable dormant position, his back against a tree, and got up.

“Well, let’s break it up, we should be getting back Scarburg. We’ll go round up the horses,” Balvir motioned for Matrim to follow him.

Erbrand sat for a little longer pondering the names of the occupants of Eodwine’s household. He knew that the day would be nearly gone by the time he got back to camp, no socializing today. His back was ached as he rose from his spot, Balvir and Matrim returned with the horses and he began slinging the deer over Traveler’s back.

They reached the scar around an hour later; it wasn’t long before they were back at camp. Lithor broke into a fast song that was familiar to the group and they all joined him in singing. Erbrand’s thoughts of the strangers at camp faded from his mind, he was accepted as one of the group by these three and that was all that mattered.
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Old 06-13-2008, 03:47 PM   #138
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Scyld, late morning (same day)

“Help!”

Scyld reacted instinctively. Another’s plight was not his problem, unless by helping the person he might help himself. He knew neither the current situation nor identity of the endangered, he had not himself caused the problem, and he could feign ignorance later should it prove necessary. Time to be gone. He snatched his pack and sped off.

Oeric’s actions told another story. Fool. If his utmost desire was to remain unknown to the Eorl and his men, he would not run toward the cry. Oeric, Scyld judged, was conflicted, and conflicted men were the most dangerous sort, because one could never predict what they would do. Sorn had always been straightforward. So had Linduial, though Scyld still did not understand her. This Oeric, though – he did not act as he spoke. Nor had he spoken wisely if Scyld’s help was truly something he wished to gain. He had asked for Scyld to keep his secret and offered nothing in return. Whether by ignorance or unwillingness, he had proved a poor informant. And now he had proved he could not even keep his own skin safe by haring off after a cry for help.

Very soon, however, he slowed his pace as a new thought came to mind. He was ready to enter the newcomers’ camp, was he not? And how better to earn trust than to help one of their own? The plan, somewhat risky in his mind, warred with his instinct. Almost against his will he found himself stopping and turning around. He did not have to make his presence known right away. He could wait and see what Oeric made of the situation. Yes, that would suit. And if helping out seemed unprofitable, they would never need know he was there.
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Old 06-13-2008, 07:13 PM   #139
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Eodwine - late morning, same day

Léof had given his assent to rummaging through the ruins for makeshift fenceposts, and so the three of them, including Thornden, were busy at it. It was hard, sweaty work, for most of the time such wood was found beneath and behind other more ruinous items such as downed walls, ruined furniture, and the like.

The stables, which had been situated on the western side of the old hall, were worthless, a heap of burnt wood good for nothing but kindling for bonfires. They had greatest success on the east end where there was an upstairs crashed down upon the lower level; it was this lower level that offered the least ruinous scraps of fencepost. After more than an hour of hard, sweaty work, they decided that they had found enough of what they were looking for, and hauled their findings back toward the paddock.

They were met by an urgent and pale Rowenna. "Lord, I have something to tell you that cannot wait."

Eodwine's brow rose. "Is someone in danger?"

"Nay, no longer, though someone was indeed but had the worst of it. I found a dead body of a man in one of the sheds."

"Is every man among us accounted for?" asked Eodwine, looking around.

"This man has been there since before we arrived, I am sure, lord," Rowenna answered.

"Léof, Thornden, I think we have earned ourselves a break. Let us see this."

The three men dropped their wood in a pile and followed Rowenna back to the shed, and Rowenna opened the door wide. They peered in and found it just as she had said. After observing, with nose plugged and eyes watering, Eodwine shook his head and ruminated that they had spent an entire day and more in the place with a half eaten dead body of a man waiting in a meat curing shed. It was unthinkable except that it was so. He wished mightily that it was not.

"Well, what do you think we should do about it?" Eodwine looked around the small group. "Bury it? Burn the thing and its innard to ashes? Or," he grimaced, "I have heard tall tales that the Haradrim have been known to 'examine' such bodies for signs of how and why they died." Eodwine had smirked at his use of the foreign word.

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Old 06-13-2008, 09:49 PM   #140
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Léof - late morning (same day)

It had been with some trepidation that Léof followed Rowenna to the shed, torn as he was between curiosity and trepidation. A brief glance, a passing whiff told him all he wanted or needed to know. Something had to be done with it (he could not think of the body as a “him”), and his first wish was that they might simply burn the entire shed with the body inside of it – but wood was too valuable, it seemed, for such a wasteful process.

Eodwine’s suggestions were far more plausible, until he mentioned the Haradrim practice. “Lord, surely not!” Léof cried out at this. He would be hard pressed to tell which was fouler, the sight or the smell of the corpse, but ‘examining’ the body as Eodwine put it defied his imagining. The thought of touching the body even enough to bury it revolted him. “Let the dead lie in peace!” Then he faltered. “Unless – you really think it might tell us something?” Of course foul play had been involved. People did not just lay down and die in abandoned sheds. “But – would any know what to look for? And who could stand the smell long enough to look? Lord – let the dead lie. Can the way he died truly be important?”
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Old 06-14-2008, 09:43 PM   #141
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Thornden - Late Morning, Same Day

Thornden stood by with almost as much disgust as Léof. Eodwine’s suggestion seemed to disturb Léof a great deal and in any other circumstances, Thornden would have grinned at his reaction.

“I think Léof may be right, although my reason for thinking so is not because of the smell. Even if we were to try to tell how he had died, what would we look for? And if we found anything more than what we already know (namely, that he was killed by someone and hidden here) what good would it do us? What could we do? We couldn’t find out who did it.

“I say we bury it and have nothing more to do with it.”
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Old 06-16-2008, 10:09 AM   #142
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Eodwine, late morning, same day

"Rowenna? Have you any thoughts on the matter?"

"Bury it or burn it," she said simply.

Eodwine shrugged. We can use the wood, if it is not ruined by the foulness of the corpse, so we will not burn it. Bury it we shall." But Eodwine wondered what they would find. "We will bury it up in the scar, away from our settlement. Before we begin, we will be wanting cloths for our faces and coverings for our hands. Maybe Harreld or someone has a board of good length we could lay the body on so that we need not touch it without need. Rowenna, go see Harreld and have him come too."

"Aye, lord." Rowenna hurried off while the three men stood upwind of the shed, waiting in rather keen discomfort for the task that lay ahead.

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Old 06-17-2008, 11:28 AM   #143
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The hunting party, late afternoon

Jokes and laughs were exchanged during the last length of the trip. The Sun had begun to set and filled the sky with a dark yellow light that cast shadows everywhere. Erbrand could hear the crickets in the grass and the birds flying home to their nests, it seemed as if all of nature was slowly shutting down for the night. They had left the clumps of trees far behind them and walked their horses through the familiar tall grassy plain that would lead them to Scarburg.

The company slowly quieted down as they started to climb up a hill, Balvir said that they would be able to see the camp from there. Erbrand's horse, Traveler, struggled with every step up the gradual slope; it pained him to see his horse struggle so hard, but there was nothing he could do, all he could do was try to get the horse to move faster. When they reached the top of the hill they scanned the horizon, Lithor was the first to spot it and he yelled and pointed towards the south.

"There it is, can you see it," he said, "We're home at last, there's the camp!"

The others could barely spot the camp, it was about two miles south with a short trail of smoke trailing up into the sky.

"You have got keen eyes Lithor," said Matrim, "I imagine that supper is being prepared."

Erbrand smiled at the sight as he helped Traveler up the hill, but then something else caught his eye. As he turned to checked the deer strung across Traveler's back something caught his eye, a large group of men and women stood on a bluff around a thousand feet behind them. Erbrand's eyes widened with alarm, there were around fifteen men and women with a wagon and three horses standing and just staring at them. He hastily grabbed for his axe, in his saddlebag.

"Balvir, we've got company." Balvir turned, looking a bit confused at Erbrand's shaky voice. When he saw the peasants strung out in a line on the bluff, his eyes widened. Matrim and Lithor grabbed for their bows, but Balvir raised his hand in a silent command of silence, they both stopped.

"What are they?" Erbrand said in a half whisper to Balvir.

We know what they are," Lithor said angrily, "The same people who burnt the Scarburg Meadhall!" he moved forward as if he was going to charge the peasants single handely, Matrim stopped him.

Balvir stood silent for a while longer, both of the companies just stared at each other for a long while. "You may be right, Lithor," Balvir said calmly, not taking his eyes off of the peasants, "but it's best that we don't start a fight without your lord Eodwine's approval. They're probably Nomads, or peasants on an errand" he pointed at the wagon and horses, "The people of the East Emnet are a scattered people, it would be best if we made ourselves known to them and of our intentions." Erbrand tried to see if the peasants had any weapons with them, but he couldn't tell from this distance. The idea of walking towards an unknown group of people that are a potential enemy of theirs was not a comforting idea to him.

"Lithor," said Balvir, "You will stay here with the horses, if anything goes wrong you ride back to the camp and get Thornden and his men." Lithor didn't say a word, he just nodded and looked down at the ground, Erbrand knew that the horseman did not like being left out of the picture. "You two will come with me," said Balvir, "Let's get it over with." Balvir stepped forward, followed closely by Matrim and Erbrand. Matrim was fingering a longsword strapped to his side, and Erbrand nervously grasped his axe, Balvir was unarmed as far as he could see.

When the group was halfway to the peasants they stopped and waited to see if they would make a move. There was a uncomfortable moments of silence, the peasants stood like statues in the sunset. Suddenly someone yelled and the peasants sprang to life. Erbrand raised his axe in readiness and expected a shower of arrows to come down on them at any moment, but it was something different entirely. The peasants disappeared behind the bluff and left.

"What was that all about?" Matrim said in disgust.

"They're not ready yet," said Balvir.

Erbrand looked uneasily from side to side. "I'm not sure I like the idea of lingering here much longer," he said, "this might not be the last of them."

The three of them ran back up the hill to the horses where Lithor was waiting. Without a word being spoken they each grabbed their horses reins and urged them on with all possible speed.
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Old 06-17-2008, 07:12 PM   #144
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Rowenna - same day, late morning

Rowenna came up to Harreld's makeshift smithy and found Ginna sitting across from him, pumping the bellows as Harreld worked on kitchen utensils. Rowenna kept a straight face but smirked inwardly. The girl can't stay away from him, she said to herself. The two were not speaking much. They both had their eyes glued on the work Harreld was doing. owenna stopped a couple of paces off.

"Sorry to stop your work Harreld," she said, glancing briefly at Ginna as well, "but we have found a dead body in one of the sheds and Lord Eodwine wants you to help with the burial."

Harreld mutely put down his tools and stood, stretching his back and legs. Ginna's face registered her alarm at Rowenna's news. She sat there, apparently wondering what to do.

"Ginna, could you send word to Garstan and the others while I help with the body?"

Ginna seemed relieved at not having to go see the dead body, and left without complaint, although maybe there was some reluctance to leave Harreld. It was hard to read her, or him just this moment. Rowenna led Harreld to the shed.
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Old 06-18-2008, 12:20 PM   #145
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Cnebba – late morning

“We’re back. Sorry it took so long,” Javan said. Cnebba glared at him. He was spoiling this.

Garstan’s eyes travelled from Javan’s bruises to those of his own son, and then to Cnebba’s nose which had started bleeding again.
“And what exactly was it that took you this long?”

Garstan hardly ever scared Cnebba, he was like a kind uncle to him, but now the stoneshaper looked quite stern. Cnebba shrunk smaller, hoping Garstan would not look at him.

Garmund’s face was a little pale, but his eyes were defiant. “We fought.”
“With an orc,” Cnebba added. Garmund scowled at him. Cnebba took a step back. He could not understand why Garmund was angry with him.
“Garmund and Cnebba attacked me”, Javan said.

“You did? Garmund, I’m disappointed with you. Cnebba, I’m sure your father is not very proud either. And Javan, you’re old enough to know better to no to continue a fight.” Garstan was shaking his head. Cnebba didn’t think he was very angry after all. Maybe they would now forget it all.

“Cnebba, you rascal, stop grinning,” Garstan said. He himself was grinning, though, but his eyes were serious. “Don’t expect to get out of this so easily. I want to speak with your parents with this, and with Javan’s brother. Who knows if we should even consult Lord Eodwine.” Cnebba and Garmund cast a look at each other. Surely not Lord Eodwine?

“Anyway, I won’t tolerate behaviour like that and nor will anyone else in this Hall. Here we’re all friends.” Garstan was scratching his head. It occurred to Cnebba that the stoneshaper maybe didn’t know what to say. “Now boys, stop glaring at me. We’ll bury this topic until the evening. We have work to do and it already has been delayed because of you.” The three boys nodded, more or less obediently. “Cnebba and Javan, fetch those poles over there. Garmund, you will help with this rope here.”


Modtryth – a few hours later


Saeryn was still asleep. She had slept lightly, face creased with tension. Modtryth had sat by her side and talked to her like to a child or a sick horse when she had half-woken up, terror in her eyes. Eventually her sleep had eased and now she was sleeping seemingly calmly. The healer Aedhel was with her now. She had told Modtryth that Saeryn’s physical wounds were not bad and most of her weakness was caused by exhaustion and distress. She had also said, more quietly, that there was the danger that Saeryn’s wounds would get infected and she could develop a dangerous fever.

Modtryth tried to ward off those thoughts. It was pointless to worry before anything had happened. She headed to the kitchen, both to see what was happening and ask if the children had been seen. On her way she met Garstan. The stoneshaper looked a little worried. “What is it?” Modtryth asked. “The boys. Garmund and Cnebba fought with Javan today. Fought to the point of a fist fight.” Modtryth’s eyes narrowed. There was a certain young man whom she’d have a word with. “I of course scolded them. I also told them we’d have a proper discussion in the evening, you and Stigend, I, Thornden and the boys themselves.” Modtryth nodded. That made sense. “We’ll see to it when the day’s work is done, then. Where are they now?” “They’re helping me with the tents. They’re all doing good work.” Modtryth smiled thinly and nodded. “Till later, then.”

After exchanging words with Garstan, Modtryth decided to go to the kitchen as she had planned. Cnebba was in good hands for now. Modtryth was curious to hear the latest gossip and see how little Leothern was faring before returning back to Saeryn.

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Old 06-18-2008, 08:01 PM   #146
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Javan - Same Day - Late Morning

Javan took the scolding as mildly as he could. He thought it was unnecessary and unfair, at least to be directed at him. What did Garstan expect him to do? Stand by and let them clobber him? He had not continued the fight, he had merely defended himself, he believed.

He brooded on it for sometime while worked on erecting the tents. His mood remained black as they worked, and he said very little, except when it was absolutely necessary, and then it was sharp.

The job seemed to be taking a very long time. All that was needed were some small tents, and yet here they were, still working, over an hour later, on the first one. The frame was almost completed and Javan was tying together the last stakes.

“I’m going to go get us some water,” Garstan said. “You three wait here for me. Javan, you can finish lashing this pole to that and then, when I get back, we’ll put up the canopy.”

Javan nodded and Garstan went off. Javan finished tying his knot. “Bring me the knife so I can cut it.” He looked over his shoulder to see Garmund slowly move to obey. “Hurry up, will you?” he snapped.

Garmund gave him a rather sullen look and handed the knife up. Javan cut the rope and stepped down. He put the knife back in its place and then glanced around. “Let’s start getting the canopy ready.”

“Father said to wait till he got back,” Garmund said immediately.

“He won’t care,” Javan replied. “Besides, we’ve been taking so long to do this job, we may as well hurry. I don’t want to be stuck here all day. You two are so slow. C’mon and help me with the canopy.”

The boys looked at him. “I’m not disobeying, I’m just going to unfold it!”

“You always get in trouble,” Garmund said. “I don’t want to be in trouble with you by disobeying. We already are in trouble for fighting.”

“I do not always get in trouble!” Javan replied fiercely, whipping around to face him. “Take it back!”
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Old 06-19-2008, 01:57 PM   #147
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Late morning- where Dan's story left off...

"Help!" shouted Dan, a fourth time. Why him? He had always hated marshland, and now he hated it even more.

Marshes made it hard to track animals, and to walk. The Drûghu were especially short, and this made it even harder for them to traverse this sort of land. They could get trapped in puddles that normal men could get out of simply because of that fact. Why? He thought again, cursing his ill-fate.

He thought he could hear rustling in front of him, and he thought he could make out a shape (or the movements of the plants, in a way that suggested a shape) coming towards him. Who or what it was he did not know. Was it a friend or foe? Or just a confused animal, blundering into a natural trap.

But just as it had come, whatever it was quickly disappeared back the way it came.

"Help!" he tried to shout, but already the mud was reaching up to his chin, muffling his voice slighly. He grasped upwards with his hands, trying to grab onto something- anything- that would allow him to pull himself upwards. But his hands caught nothing.

All his attempts at rescuing himself were futile, he thought, so he migt as well just relax. His body stopped thrashing about, and a sense of calm took hold of him. Now he would find out what the Gift of Men really was. He welcomed death. It would be better than what he was about to suffer.

His head went deeper under the mud, he lifted it back, so only his face was above the murky surface of the fetid swamp. He thought he heard another rustling, but was probably just his imagination.

"Help!" he tried once more to shout, already his head had sunk under, and all that exuded from his mouth was a bubble, going slowly upward through the congealed mud-water. His hands thrashed up and down, left and right, above his head. But this time he caught something. It really had been a person. He pulled on it with all his strength, but suddenly, he felt it give a little, and he was sinking again. But soon, it was tight again, and this time it was being pulled by someone from outside the puddle. A sense of utter relief entered his body. He went limp, except for his arms, hich grasped onto the rope with all the strength Dan could muster. He knew that if he slipped or let go, it would be just as bad as if the person who had come to save him had not pulled. It require both of their efforts to save Dan.

Finally, from out the puddle, the top his head appeared, crested with mud, his hair matted and brown. But his hair was almost totally covered by the congealed mass that could be called mud, for want of a better word, but was more like water. When his face broke the surface, he almost opened his, eyes, but then stopped himself before he did, otherwise the liquid would fill his eyes, causing him a temporary blindness. when his mouth came into open air, he opened in wide, gasping for air. He swallowed at least two mouthfulls of mud before the air finally came in. But when it did, it was a relief beyond anything he had ever felt in his life. He was alive! He had been sure that his fate was sealed, that he would die alone in a foreign part of the world, away from his family and friends. But luckily, he had been proven wrong. The had been someonw willing to lend a helping hand, more than that, they had saved his life!

Slowly but surely he emerged, soaked, dripping with mud, onto the bank, if it could be called that. It was after all, only a puddle.

He tried to wipe the mud away from his face with his sleeve, but all he accomplished was smudging it further.
Finally, he got the mud out of his eyes, and looked straight into the strained face of his saviour.

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Old 06-19-2008, 05:59 PM   #148
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Eodwine - same day - almost noon (with thanks to shaggydog)

Rowenna came back with Harreld, who wrinkled his nose.

"It is in there?" he asked.

"Aye," Eodwine said. "We must take it out of there and bury it."

They found spades and climbed a little way into the scar. Finding a likely spot with not so much rock and gravel, Eodwine and Harreld were the first pair to set to, taking a turn digging while the other three watched. Then Léof and Thornden took a turn. When all four men had had a turn, Rowenna jumped down into the growing hole before Eodwine and Harreld stopped stretching their aching muscles in preparation for taking another turn. The girl did not mind getting her hands dirty, and no matter what she did, it seemed she could not help looking fetching doing it. As she dug, the four men discussed how they would go about removing the body and burying it. They would need gloves, which Harreld had pairs of and to spare, for it would not do to touch the fetid flesh.

Rowenna stopped and looked up. "Have you never been curious what lies beneath the skin?"

Léof pulled a face.

"Not beneath skin ready to fall off the bone," Eodwine remarked. Rowenna shrugged and kept digging.

At last they had the hold dug, about six feet long, three feet wide, and three feet deep. Eodwine had heard of six feet under, but this harsh land was unforgiving, and he decided that three feet was enough to ward off wolves and the like. They found a strong plank of wood and returned to the shed. Eodwine told Rowenna to wait outside, but he could not stop her from peering with great fascination into the gloom.

Even in the dim light, they could see that the man had been a big burly fellow, muscle running to fat, perhaps an indication of middle years, and the luxury of having more than enough to eat. His clothes, torn and eaten through as they were, also told of a good life; good quality homespun befitting a man of importance, no lord but maybe a well off farmer or craftsman. Through half closed eyes, the men approached the body with caution. The visible presence of death was no stranger to them. Even violent death was not so rare, whether from the war, or the time leading up to it, or from the multitude of accidents that could strike a man, woman, or child down at the least expected moment. Yet this gruesome reminder of the frailty of life had settled a thick mantle of respect and dread over them.

Thick leather boots encased the feet, which lay closest the door. The legs and torso stretched inwards, diagonally, towards a heavy table by the wall, which had no doubt been used for a cutting surface, hundreds of shallow slices streaking its surface. The head, or what was left of it, lay close to one of the table legs, face downwards. The back of the skull appeared to be intact. Raggedly chewed patches of scalp remained, from which trailed long tufts of rusty hair mixed with an abundance of grey . The entire back of the corpse showed signs of decomposition and having been gnawed upon. But a close but brief inspection did not reveal any significant wounds or signs of the cause of the fellow’s demise.

If only they could have stopped there. Laying the plank down beside the body, it seemed most appropriate and easy to roll it onto the wooden slab by grasping the shoulders and giving a good push. The corpse turned belly up most obligingly and to a man they all jumped to their feet, gasping for breath and standing clear as best they could. The face was a ruin of decomposed mush, at first glance perhaps attributable to the rodent activity on the soft fleshy parts of the face. Eodwine, however, steeled his nerve, and his stomach, and bent down for a closer look. The gaping maw that had once been the right side of the man’s lower face was smashed in, the upper jaw shattered, broken teeth sticking out at odd angles. His gaze travelled downwards to the mess that was the chest and stomach and that at least was a tale any idiot could have read. Although the flesh was almost non-existent, a long rent of splintered bone was easily discerned, tracing a path from the left clavicle to the middle of the right ribcage. The instrument of this destruction, it would appear, was to be found lower down, nestled half in, half out of the cavity where the man’s innards had lain, and where now a mucky pool of black decay coalesced. The meat hook, used for hanging heavy sides of mutton, venison, or pork was embedded tip in and even the wrenching of the body as they had rolled it over had not caused it to drop free from its tomb. Fascinated, Eodwine saw the point had pierced the back bone and thus the hook lay securely anchored in place.

The dull gleam of metal affixed to antler provided the final revelation to the onlookers. Under the dead man’s body, twixt hip and groin, a formidable dagger had lain concealed. Naked to the air once more, its role in this drama was unclear. Had it belonged to the killer, or was it some counter-point to the silent but eloquent accusation of death by another’s hand? Eodwine reached out and carefully plucked the dagger up, noting the smear of dried rusty colored blood along its edge. He set it on the table and called his fellows to the nasty business.

Soon the body was covered with dirt and rock and the five of them were tamping at the soft mound with shovels.

All five agreed that a strong drink and a thorough washing were quite in order.
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Old 06-20-2008, 09:31 AM   #149
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Léof - afternoon

A strong drink… at any other time, Léof would have bowed out. He had watched his father become drunk and violent far too many times to count, and Léof had vowed never to become that man. Nor did the taste recommend itself to him; he had tried it once, a few years back and on a dare, and that had been enough. Never mind that it had been exceedingly poor quality; Léof hadn’t anything to compare it to.

But to forget the dead man’s face – Léof thought that he should not mind getting a little bit drunk. Nausea had threatened all afternoon, and he thought that if the sordid affair had continued any longer he really would have been sick. Perhaps he ought not rule out the possibility just yet either, for his stomach churned just thinking of the matter. Just don’t think about it, he told himself. So great was his detachment that he hardly realized when they arrived back at camp and a round of drinks was called for.

He eyed the drink before him warily for just a moment. Then, with only the slightest flicker of trepidation in the back of his mind, he took a large swig. The taste was somewhat better than he recalled, but the burning as he swallowed remained just the same. He took another gulp, then a third. He soon began to feel pleasantly light-headed. No wonder people drank this stuff; nothing seemed so bad under the drink’s influence. Not even dead bodies in the shed. Léof shuddered involuntarily. Perhaps a few more swallows.
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Old 06-20-2008, 11:48 PM   #150
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After finishing his much needed breakfast, Crabannan had wandered through the camp at an leisurely pace. Skirting the work parties and tents, he slipped through the camp unnoticed, but observant, gnawing on the remnants of the bread (which Kara had given him at breakfast) as he took in the sights and sounds of Scarburg. Like a young tree, the settlement was alive and growing fast, sending out branches and putting down roots in this hard, rocky land.

Crabannan could not help but be impressed by the tenacity of these Rohirrim, carving out their living where was so little to be had. Seldom had he met a people as tough as they - save perhaps in the hot south.

After he grew bored of eavesdropping and shirking work, Crabannan wandered his way towards the eastern end of the camp, and thence up onto the Scar. He scrambled and clambered up the rocky slope, through jagged rocks and scrawny pines until he suddenly found himself looking out and down across a vast region of reeds and mud and little pools; and beyond that, in the distance, green fields. Turning back towards the west, he saw the settlement of Scarburg nestled at the foot of the Scar. He sat down atop a large flat rock in the sun and, there, for an hour or more, he watched the bustle of the fledgling tent-village: women carrying baskets, boys raking stones out of garden plots, men repairing tents, smoke drifting up from scattered fires.

Without Horse to converse with, and surrounded by solitude and silence, Crabannan grew thoughtful. He cursed himself for acting like such a fool that morning, and wondered gloomily what reports those three boys were spreading about him. The thought dashed his hitherto good mood. Impressed by the hospitality he had been shown, he had begun to consider staying on for a few more days, but he doubted he would be welcome once Lord Eodwine (whom Kara had told him about during breakfast) found out what kind of man he was - an apparent troublemaker and a ruffian. But perhaps these Middle Emnet folk were more gracious than their East Emnet cousins. All the same - Crabannan had no intention of introducing himself to the eorl. There was no need to. He would lay low and quiet for a day or two, then continue on to Edoras.

Below, a knot of folk carrying something towards him caught his glance, and a practiced eye told him it was a corpse. He slipped down from his perch and moved down through the boulders for a closer look. He saw them bury it without ceremony in the rocky soil, and then head off back towards the encampment.

"Curious," he said aloud to himself. "I would have thrown it in the bog and saved the trouble of digging."

Who could the dead man have been? It seemed unlikely that it could have been someone the villagers knew well, given the indifferent burial. Perhaps it was connected somehow with the burning of the hall...? After all, Kara had not been able to tell him how the hall had burned. Perhaps...perhaps friendly and hospitable Scarburg had its skeletons after all.

Crabannan chuckled wryly to himself, for he suddenly found himself very badly wanting to stay. Scarburg was steadily becoming a rather interesting place.

Upon reflection, he reckoned that with a little effort he could find himself some legitimate work and a friend or two. Perhaps he'd seek out Javan, who he had rather taken a liking to, and see if the lad could help him settle in. He swung down over a final boulder and began to move back towards camp. He was hungry again.
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Old 06-22-2008, 02:54 PM   #151
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Light eyes stared back into dark, the bond of humanity now welded securely, linking these two in the way only death so close to life can approach. The ache of muscle and sting of raw, abraded skin went unacknowledged by the simple shepherd. Together, they had accomplished that most exhilarating, and yet humbling, of feats – snatching a life back from the edge of that abyss into which all men must ultimately fall.

The sight which had met Oeric’s eyes when he first rushed back into the copse and then through it ti the boggy patch of ground beyond had almost convinced him that such a feat was beyond possibility. The strange, dark man had sunk up to his ears, his face turned desperately upwards, his mouth and nose still clear of the muddy ooze, yet barely so. Oeric had not hesitated then, his actions becoming those of instinct tempered by experience, haste mixed with calm. Panic and a wrong move could spell disaster for them both. He had called out in a low voice, so as not to startle or alarm, brief reassurances that, though it might take a while, freedom was within sight now. Oeric wasn’t sure if the fellow spoke the same tongue as he, or if his ears were so full of mud as to render him deaf. But a slight relaxation and continued lack of struggling, as Oeric had advised, led him to believe the man might have heard and understood.

Meticulously, Oeric had chosen his path until it was no longer feasible to actually place a foot down in safety. With utmost care, he began laying out his pattern of willow boughs, stretching out his length on them, spreading his weight over the treacherously shifting mud. A head long rush to aid without the needed forethought was usually the cause of multiple deaths and a failed rescue from these bogs. The would-be benefactor, if unwise enough to try to reach the one trapped directly, merely ended up mired in the same predicament.

Oeric crept forward as quickly as he could, testing each move, each shift of his own weight. Finally, with one last wiggle, he was within a body’s length of the dark one. He dared move no closer. Coiling the rope, he cast and succeeded the first time in lassoing it over the man’s shoulders and arms, which, mercifully, were still above the mud, although Oeric could only guess at the suffocating press of such a position on the fellow’s lungs and windpipe. Slowly, Oeric pulled at the noose. The man’s hands flailed about, grasping at it and it seemed he had it. But as Oeric tried to pull steadily enough for it to tighten about the other, it slipped and lay impotently on the mud. Grimacing, Oeric tried once more, and with a brief smile of triumph, he managed once more to cast well and this time pull it tight enough to hold firmly. The far end he had already knotted around a sturdy willow root back on the edge of the bog. Now at least there was a functioning counter-point to the suction of the bog which would keep the man from sinking in further.

Oeric wriggled backwards until he was on firm ground then, wishing for a horse, or better yet, a team of oxen, he grimly untied the rope from the willow and looked about. The closest overhanging limb wasn’t that close to the man, nor was it overly sturdy looking, but it would have to do. Circling about, he threw the end of the rope up and over the limb, gave it a preliminary test pull, and then, wrapping the rope several times about his fists, he put his back into it and started to pull steadily. His body leaned at a sharp angle to the ground as he silently pulled with all his might. For many long moments nothing happened. Sweat trickled into his eyes, but he dared not slacken up to wipe it away. After what seemed an entire lifetime, he felt the smallest of movements. Redoubling his efforts, he grunted loudly, gratified to feel the rope move an inch. He risked a glance at the man, only a head and arms visible, the hands gripping the rope determinedly. Oeric called out again for him to stay quiet and not try to push or kick with his legs. The man stayed quiescent, and inch by inch, Oeric’s efforts fought the bog’s grip. Finally, the man’s upper body was free. He was stretched out, bent at the waist and half laying on the surface of the mud. Although Oeric could imagine the fatigue of body and mind that the ordeal was putting the fellow through, he still on grimly to the rope, which no doubt was sawing through the skin of his back and ribs as surely as it was Oeric’s hands. With renewed determination, Oeric pulled steadily, leaning almost horizontally to the ground. With a terrific squelching sound, the bog at last relinquished its hold and surrendered the man, who skimmed across the surface as Oeric fell to one knee and almost onto his face.

Jumping up, Oeric hurried back to the mud encrusted fellow, grasping his wrists and pulling him the last few feet to solid ground. Oeric had the fleeting impulse to run then, knowing he had done what he could. But exhaustion and ambivalence both overcame this urge, and he flopped down beside his new acquaintance. The man was laying on his back, breathing noisily, and staring up at him.

“Next time, be more careful.” was all Oeric could think to say. For some strange reason, the stocky, dark man grinned, then chuckled, then laughed outright at this. And for no reason he could think of, Oeric tilted his heads back and laughed along with him.
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Old 06-22-2008, 05:20 PM   #152
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Ginna - Noon

It was back to the kitchen for Ginna, back to the work she knew best in this place: helping Kara and Frodides prepare the meals; serving them to the hungry household; washing the dishes. She was not meant to do anything else while she was here; a serving wench was all Eodwine and Randvér had agreed for her to be. Whatever had she been thinking?

As she worked quietly, she was vaguely aware but heedless of the questioning looks Kara kept tossing at her. She would tell Kara whatever she cared for her to know in time, but right now Ginna wanted to keep her thoughts to herself. She needed to think things over, to stop herself from committing more actions before she realised their consequences.

Except that when I have a real smithy it will be hot and close, and . . . I would not have you mar your beauty, dear one.

Harreld's words echoed in her mind. They brought her relief for a few reasons. For one, she remembered now that this was her niche. Kara and Frodides needed her more than Harreld did, especially now that Modtryth had Saeryn to take care of, at least until the lady was completely healed. And who would look after Léoðern when everyone else was busy? No, Harreld would have asked Garreth to come to Scarburg with him if he could not work alone.

Second, and more importantly, so far as she was concerned, his response proved that he did not despise her as she had feared. Perhaps it was really for the purpose of finding that out that she had offered to help him. And though he refused her, his first words - slips would be more appropriate - told her what she needed to know, and partly what she had already known, or guessed at.

I understand, she had replied, looking down at her hands as she felt a blush creeping to her cheeks. And thank you, she had added in a whisper, but Harreld missed it as he had already begun mending the ladle in his hand. They had spent the rest of the time in silence, until Rowenna came to call him away. Ginna had been reluctant to be parted from him when she felt there were still some things left to discuss; but as he had not pressed on with what seemed to be his intentions, she had not seen it fit to question him further at that time. She had done as Rowenna asked, telling Garstan and the others of the dead body found in the ruins and the planned burial, and then returned to the kitchen. She thought Harreld would probably let her know if he still needed her.

But what if Harreld did speak plainer at some point? Ginna couldn't help wondering. How, then, would she respond? If Ginna knew her father at all, she was certain he would be arriving in Scarburg soon to help his friend Eodwine rebuild his home. If Harreld came to that point, perhaps the man who had always made her life difficult could make that decision easier for her, one way or another.
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Old 06-24-2008, 07:02 PM   #153
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Scyld, late morning

Was watching someone drown and doing nothing the same as killing him? Scyld wondered idly. Oddly enough, Oeric seemed to have disappeared, though he had to have come past this man struggling in the bog. Scyld had hidden himself some distance away to watch the drama unfold. He had seen men die before. Not many, only a couple, but to interfere would have meant his own death. Now, however, helping would come at no cost to himself. In fact, he may even be rewarded. Wasn’t he on the point of entering the Eorl’s camp anyway? Assuming, of course, that this one was from the Eorl’s camp.

Fortunately, he was saved from making up his mind by Oeric’s return. The rescue itself was unremarkable, but the man who emerged from the bog certainly was. If man he could be called – so stumpy were his limbs and strange his proportions that he must be one of the Wild Men. Scyld could scarcely believe it; he had always more than half thought that they were only a figment of legend. What strange company the Eorl kept! Then, just to further his shock, Oeric and the Wild Man began to laugh, for no apparent reason at all. It was not a familiar sound to Scyld. He himself rarely laughed, and at those times it was a biting sound that contained little merriment. If there was anything amusing about this situation, it was the sheer irony; Oeric who had no desire to be discovered had willingly risked his safety, while he who was ready to make himself known hid. A slight but grim smile crossed Scyld’s face. Yes, that was ironic, and Scyld had a good eye for irony.

The only way to make the situation more ironic that it already was, Scyld mused, would be if the stumpy little man refused to simply let Oeric go. He knew nothing of Wild Man customs – would he feel that Oeric needed some sort of honor for the act? Or might the Eorl have a mandate against wanderers on his land? Ha! Teach Oeric some sense, that might. Would the two fight? Somehow, Scyld had a feeling that the Wild Man would win, despite the difference in their heights. But this was all still idle speculation. How might he play a role? Might there be an opportunity here for him? He would soon know; their voices ought to carry easily over the short distance. He need only wait.
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Old 06-27-2008, 06:42 PM   #154
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Eodwine - same day - noon

"Whoa there Léofric," Eodwine grinned. "I've not seen you drink anything beside water for months, and now you're cup is half empty! Eat some food or you'll be sleeping the afternoon away! We still have some of the animal pens yet to finish."

Eodwine gave a strong pull on his own mug of mead and was pleased himself with the effect.

"I don't think Frodides, Kara and Ginna need a fourth pair of hands," said Rowenna over her smaller cup of strong drink. "Maybe I could help you speed the work."

Eodwine considered as he tore a chunk of black bread from the loaf before him. "What think you, Léof? Could we use an extra pair of hands?"

"Um, yes I guess. Maybe I'll have another o' these firs'."

Eodwine grinned. "I think we'll be needing that help, Rowenna. Go make sure Frodides can spare you."

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Old 06-28-2008, 07:21 AM   #155
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Oeric Late morning

“So what do they call you?” Oeric asked, still grinning at some unnamable feeling nestled in his chest.

“Dagan-Turi_Dan, but Dan is probably easier.” The swarthy, stocky man replied. “And thanks, I owe you my life.”

Oeric tilted his head to look up to the skies and thought about the saving of a life, when it might happen and when it could not happen. After a long moment, he said, “I’m glad that I was able to do that for you, Dan.”

The other, whether through natural reticence, or more probably due to his ordeal, said no more, merely looking away towards the boggy spot that had almost been his tomb. Oeric wondered at this strange looking man, but was reluctant to ask him about his origins. That he was alive and well at this particular moment seemed enough.

Considering the possible outcomes of his question, Oeric asked hesitantly, “Would you be willing to do something in return?”

Dan looked at him, his expression unreadable. Oeric looked back, their eyes meeting. “I would like to keep my presence here unknown, at least until . . . until I decide the time is right. I don’t know if you have come here with these settlers, but if so, I would ask that you say nothing of me.”

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Old 06-29-2008, 06:25 PM   #156
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Harreld - noon, same day

Harreld smiled at Léof's bout with the beer, but his mind was elsewhere. He had never been around a corpse before, but for some reason it did not sour him much. Death comes to all. No, his mind was on another who was not far from where they sat eating their noon meal. He thought about all the words that had passed between he and Ginna; he had memorized them all. He also had memorized the turn of her face and the movement of her arms as she plied the bellows, how a strand of her blonde hair fell into her face as she worked, and how she let it hang and did not shirk from the bellows until he told her to rest; then he would watch furtively as she pushed the rebellious strand of silky hair out of her face. He had memorized that motion too.

For a long while as they worked together, he had been happy with all that had been said, and enjoyed the quiet of the work. But then he had begun to think that maybe more ought to be said, and while he concentrated his skill on his work, he focused his mind on the question of what to say next. He had not been sure. At least, he had not been sure if he dared to speak his mind more clearly than his blundering words already had. "Ginna, I know you are of higher birth than I, and so I almost fear to ask." No. That would not do. "Ginna, I would have you to wife. Are you willing to think on it?" Or, "Ginna, will you be my wife?" That last had seemed all the wrong timing, to be said over a smithy's fire. But then, why not? Would that not be the most appropriate place, as it was so much a part of him? So he had been getting up his nerve to say those risky words when Rowenna had come by and ruined the moment, no fault of hers.

So now he sat with his back to the baker and could not see Ginna, and did not wish to call attention to himself by turning to look. Why, he wondered, had he sat on this side of the table? He could not say; he had not given it thought when they had come for food. Maybe that was indication that he did not want her to wife as much as he thought. Don't be a fool, Harreld Smith! he said to himself.

"Harreld, you're quieter than usual, and that's saying something," Eodwine ventured.

"Oh, just thinking on this and that."

"What this and what that?" Eodwine asked.

"Oh, about smithing. Some of the finer points," he said, and smiled, pleased with his own personal joke in regard to Ginna at the bellows.

"I'll leave such things in your good keeping, Harreld!"

Just then Rowenna came from the kitchen. "Frodides can spare me for the afternoon," she said.

Eodwine rose. "I suppose we ought to get back to the animal pens, then, if we can get Léof out of his ale cup!"

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Old 06-29-2008, 10:50 PM   #157
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As Eodwine and the others were rising from their noontime ale-bench, Crabannan appeared nearby, walking slowly amongst the scattered tents. His face wore its customary solemn expression, dark eyes shadowed by dark brows and mouth forming a slight frown. It took him a moment to notice the group, as he craned his head this way that, evidently looking for someone or something. However, when he realized that they were looking at him, he came to an abrupt halt.

In fact, he had been looking for Javan, but without success, and so had proceeded to follow the trailing wisps of smoke back to the kitchen; he was hungry again. He wondered how long he would be able to come and go as he pleased, unnoticed and free of responsibility. The longer the better, he thought. No sense in binding yourself down; it'll only make it all the harder when you have to move again. And that would doubtless be sooner, rather than later, he felt sure, though the thought dampened his spirits. This surprised him.

They had noticed him first, and they now stood about the table with surprise, all staring at this stranger. He was too tall for a Dunlending, but too dark for a man of Rohan. He was clad in worn garments and tall boots, and was very grave of expression - apart from a glint in his dark eyes. It could have been anything, but it struck some of those standing there as dangerous.

Crabannan stepped forward and lifted his hand in greeting, trying to look more confident and at ease than he felt. He made an effort not to glower.

"Good day...I was looking for the lad Javan. He's a friend of mine. Do you know him?"

Perhaps they would just point him in the right direction and assume that he was one of the settlers. No, he thought. I couldn't pass for a Rohir with any amount of luck.

In the ensuing several seconds, as he awaited a response, he surveyed the group. They were all strangers to him, though he felt he might have noticed one or two about the camp earlier that day. One fellow was still sitting at the bench, head on the table, hand on his mug. Crabannan smiled. Of the others, none stood out to him immediately - save one, the first to rise, who was taller than the rest and had an air of authority in his glance, which Crabannan caught for a moment. Then it dawned on him in a flash of realization. Eodwine, Crabannan thought. I'll wager that's him.

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Old 07-01-2008, 09:32 PM   #158
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Léof, afternoon

The animal pens seemed terribly unimportant at the moment. Why did Eodwine keep going on about them now? There would be plenty of time tomorrow for the animal pens. What time of day was it getting to be anyhow? Surely dinnertime must be drawing near by now - except Léof wasn’t hungry, now that he thought of it. Thirsty, though. Or not so thirsty… the ale just felt good. He took another long gulp.

Rowenna was approaching the table. When had she left in the first place? Eodwine was standing. They had just sat down! Now he was talking: "I suppose we ought to get back to the animal pens, then, if we can get Léof out of his ale cup!" So soon? Best to finish quickly then. He threw back what was left in the cup – surprisingly little, only a couple mouthfuls, and pushed himself to his feet. Or tried to. How had his legs gotten so shaky? And why was his head swimming so? He gripped the table until the world steadied out. “I’m comin’,” he said. “Though I don’t see what’s the big hurry… Good stuff, this. Woulda had some long before now if I’d known that.” Were they listening? It was suddenly very important to him that they understood this. “M’ pa drank something awful. Never thought anything he liked could be good. ’Specially not ale, made him terrible. Worse to m’ sister, though.”
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Old 07-02-2008, 10:51 PM   #159
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The fellow who had just stood up looked as if he was about to pitch over onto the ground, and Crabannan nearly rushed over to hold him up, when the drunk man caught himself on the table, and held on for dear life. Crabannan smirked. The Rohirrim certainly liked their ale...though, from the look and sound of things, this man was unfamiliar with the drink. He shook his head. Eorling ale was as potent as any he had ever tasted.

Crabannan looked from the drunk man to the others and back again. Ah, awkward, he thought. Fate must have a sense of humor. He smiled a crooked grin and wondered if he would be acknowledged. Perhaps this wasn't a good time. Perhaps they hadn't even heard him...and then he could just slip away unnoticed.

Besides the drunk fellow and the man who he though must be the eorl, there were three others about the table, standing and sitting. With nothing better to do, he now took the time to look them over.

One (Harreld) was very tall - taller than all the others. He wore a smith's apron and though he seemed reserved, his size and obvious strength gave him an intimidating appearance. Crabannan chuckled. He looks like the big cook I fought in East Emnet, he thought, remembering the kitchen knife in his leg and the cook unconscious on the floor.

There was another, lesser in height than the smith, but with broader shoulders - and this fellow, Crabannan realized, bore a remarkable resemblance Javan. This, of course, was Thornden, and Crabannan correctly surmised that he was Javan's brother.

The third was a woman. He found himself staring a bit, for she was beautiful. Indeed, extraordinarily so. A trifle showy, Crabannan mused. Still, she must have a very happy husband - perhaps even one of these fellows here. The thought made him glance about to make sure he was not receiving any glares.

This all passed through his mind in a matter of seconds, as he absently shifted his weight from foot to foot, trying to make up his mind whether to stay and see this meeting through, or to stroll off while he still had the chance.
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Old 07-03-2008, 09:10 PM   #160
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Eodwine - just after lunch - same day

Eodwine was about to answer the newcomer when Léof struggled up and started trying to make words come out of his shambling lips. Poor boy was babbling, he'd quaffed so quickly from his ale cup.

"Javan?" Eodwine replied. "He is with Garstan and the boys making more tents. But I do not know you, nor do these others. I am Eodwine, Eorl of the Middle Emnet and lord of Scarburg, ruin that it is. This is Harreld our smith, this is Léof our ostler, and this is Rowenna, one of our serving wenches. How are you called and where do you come from?"
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