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Old 08-23-2008, 03:52 PM   #241
Firefoot
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Léof

“So how do you like that?” Léof asked Æthel as Erbrand left the stable area. “A new saddle just for us, and none too shabby either!” He set it down over a post nearby; he would not saddle her until he was ready to ride later on. “And a race today as well! Up for it?” Walking around her head he tugged her forelock affectionately. “Of course you are.” He led her to one of the few stalls that had been set up; most of the horses stayed in the paddock areas most of the time, but when a horse’s use was requested he would often catch that horse, brush him up, and put him away in a stall so that he would not have to be rounded up later.

Just as he was finishing up, he noticed Rowenna approaching, rather to his surprise. Rowenna had no horse and was therefore an infrequent visitor to the stables. This logically resulted in Léof rarely having need or opportunity to talk to her. “Good morning, Rowenna,” he said. “Is there something I can help you with?”

“Yes, actually,” she said. “I wish to ride in the horse race today, and for that I need a horse.”

Léof only halfway managed to constrain a wince. “Well, let me think,” he said. There were a couple of horses that Rowenna could ride that belonged to the Hall rather than to individual riders, but while they were sturdy and stout of heart, neither was particularly fleet of foot. Even if Léof had the coin and inclination to bet, the competition would have to be poor indeed for him to put money on either of them. But how to tell this to Rowenna? Perhaps he could get her to choose for herself. “Well,” he repeated, “most of the horses here are owned by the people in the hall, like Eodwine’s Flíthaf or Erbrand’s Traveller, and you’d need permission I can’t give you to ride them. There are two other horses, though, that anyone could ride because they belong to the Hall. I could point them out to you, and if you like one of them you could ride it in the race.”
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Old 08-24-2008, 01:58 PM   #242
Groin Redbeard
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As Cnebba, Garmund, and Javan’s faces lit up with excitement Erbrand began to feel at ease. His stuttering stopped and he began to describe the games in their full grandeur. When Cnebba and Garmund rushed off for their arrows, Erbrand watched them dutifully do their job, but his gaze soon shifted to Javan

"You boys were gone for a long time today.” he stated, “was anything the wrong?”

“Yes, we had some things that needed to be worked on.”

Erbrand caught the sound of tension in the boys voice when he spoke. He didn’t want to pry into the matter too deeply, the boys should handle their own affairs, but he felt as if he should say something to the kid in the few moments of solitude that they had left.

“Don’t let it get to you, Cnebba and Garmund a still young. Besides, lord Eodwine has thought you fit to train these boys and you have gained back the trust of many in Scarburg.”

Erbrand regretted those last words, as Javan gave him a wounded look that he had seen in animals before they died. Immediately, he remembered the fire that Javan started, and although Erbrand was not there at the time, he had heard the subject repeated by many with a less than favorable opinion of Javan. The mentioning of him losing peoples trust might have caused Javan to remember the cause of it.

They he had not meant it like that he feared that the boy might. Words stuck in Erbrand’s throat as he tried to say something to refute what he had said. Erbrand stayed quite hoping that Javan would speak first.

Last edited by Groin Redbeard; 08-24-2008 at 06:50 PM.
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Old 08-26-2008, 10:08 AM   #243
littlemanpoet
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Rowenna

"Yes, please show me."

Léof led her down the aisle and pointed out the two Scarburg horses. She could see from where she stood that, whereas they were strong and good beasts in their own right, they would not be of much use in a race. Léof was telling her their names and their virtues, and she was nodding her head, glancing around. And so she saw a beautiful chestnut stallion with strong legs and hocks; and it was looking at her. She could tell at once that this one had spirit.

"Who's mount is he?" Rowenna pointed.

"That is Flíthaf, the steed of Lord Eodwine." Léof identified him in a tone that suggested that it was a foregone conclusion that she could not ride him in a horse race. Rowenna had different ideas.

"I'll go talk to him," she said, giving Flíthaf a pat on his strong thigh on her way out. She did not see Léof's expression, so did not know whether he viewed her with scorn, surprise, or something esle.

It did not take long to find Eodwine; he was still in the kitchen area, looking on as others chose which games they would play. She walked up to him.

"Will you run the three legged race with me?" she grinned.

His brows rose. Then a smile began to grow on his face. "I suppose that could be fun," he allowed.

"Good!" She clapped her hands and jumped up and down as if the matter had been settled. Then she folded her hands and swayed from side to side, looking up at him from pleading eyes. "There is one other favor I would ask, though I know it is much to ask."

"Oh? What would that be?"

"May I ride Flíthaf in the races?"

One brow rose higher and the other lowered in Eodwine's surprise. "But then what steed would I ride?"

She had thought of this and had prepared a ready answer while she walked over. "If there is more than one heat, we could ride him in separate heats; surely I will not win my heat, and at least will have gotten the chance to ride a race."

"I - I suppose that could work, though only if Flíthaf is willing."

"Oh good good good!" Rowenna clapped her hands again, grinning brightly. She flitted away back toward the stables and threw over her shoulder, "I'll go tell Léof!"

Eodwine watched her go, rather stunned. What had happened to the girl? For girl she seemed right now, more than woman, and more fetching than ever in a silly way. All in all, he could imagine himself enjoying such moods in a wife.

"Young lass has got the Eorl wrapped around her finger today, he?" cried Lithor with a big grin on his face. Eodwine scowled. He would have to watch himself around her, he realized.
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Old 08-27-2008, 10:56 AM   #244
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Oeric, early morning

Listlessly, he plucked at the remaining shreds of flesh still adhered to the inside of the shell. Discovered yesterday and mostly consumed, raw, the night before, the turtle had provided a bit of meat in an otherwise root and berry diet. Oeric was vaguely aware of the way in which his clothes flapped about his frame when he walked. The natural impetus to eat was slowly waning as his mind turned ever inward upon itself. The reason for his existence seemed far beyond his capability to ascertain by now; most hours were spent holed up in the little burrow he had crafted. Nothing more than a declivity scraped by some animal into the roots of a tree perched on a relatively dry hump of marshland, it served to keep off some of the rain.

For a week after his encounter with the odd stranger called Dan, Oeric had continued to skirt the ever changing and growing camp. The promises made that day were apparently being upheld, for the while, as no further searches were made with Oeric as their intended quarry. At least, no-one came out to track him and there seemed to be no attempt to flush him from the marsh. Oeric had managed to find vantage points whereby he could somewhat keep an eye on the goings on of the new settlers. Even their forays into the marsh to gather wood held no specific malignant threat to his solitary watch keeping.

One morning, however, he had taken up a crouched position to the northwest, towards the end of the ridge of rock running behind the old ruined hall. Far removed from the camp itself, he could still crane his neck and see the activities of those coming and going towards the south of the settlement. It was the noise that had first alerted him to what was about to occur that day. An unusual murmur of many voices rose through the morning air like a distant flock of herons. It was unlike the newcomers to gather together in number except at meal time or an occasional evening address by their lord. Risking his concealment, Oeric had slipped closer, climbing the rocks until he could just stick his head out and get a glimpse of the camp. There he saw them, almost all the lord’s people it seemed, gathered in small groups, tools in hand, walking slowly towards the burnt out hall. Oeric could not hear the instructions given, but as they fell to it was clear what their assignment was. Armed with rakes, shovels, buckets and brooms the settlers began to attack the lumpy floor of the hall. Strewn with the debris of the conflagration, it was now to be swept clean. The hard earth underneath would be raked and leveled, in preparation for the task of erecting a new hall.

From the weeks spent here truly alone, before the lord and his company’s arrival, Oeric knew the exact placement of the fire scorched bones which lay beneath the ash. With horrified fascination, Oeric watched one small boy who played more than worked with the broom he wielded. Step by step the child had moved until he was standing almost on top of them. Any moment his foot would make contact and he would hear the crunch or feel the unexpected object . . . he would bend down and feel amongst the charred remains and . . .

Oeric blinked. Surely he was not mistaken. The child had been standing in the exact spot, but had raised no cry of surprise or discovery. A few moments later, the ash had been swept away, the floor underneath now exposed, bare and devoid of any object, let alone two entwined skeletons. Feeling light headed, Oeric looked about frantically for some sign that he was mistaken in his memory, that some other settler in some other part of the ruin had stumbled upon what remained of his life. Yet time passed, the floor was slowly but surely revealed, and . . . no bones.

Somehow, for some reason, someone had removed them. After his hours of vigilance, Oeric felt this with a certainty. Was it possible that with no regard for what had happened here, whoever had discovered the remains had gathered up the vestiges of two lives and unceremoniously thrown them on the midden heap? Oeric knew that the other one had been buried, however anonymously. Could it be the two had been given a similar send off? For the one thousandth time since the newcomers’ arrival, Oeric cursed himself for a craven for not having had the courage to retrieve his precious treasure when he had had it all to himself. And now what? What had been done with them?

For the rest of that interminable day, Oeric had waited in agonized impatience. When night had at last fallen, and the camp had drifted off for the most part to slumber, he had painstakingly made his way around to the spot where he knew the other had been laid to rest. Oeric’s heart sank as he crept close enough to see that there was no second grave, no disturbance of any kind in the earth beside the sole mound.

Oeric had silently sent a prayer up as he searched about, hoping against hope that he might yet stumble upon a second grave. As the night hours flew quickly past, no trace had he found of any interment. With unreasoned anger, yet also with a faint flutter of hope in his heart, he concluded that the skeletons must indeed have been cast aside like yesterday’s offal.

For many nights after that, Oeric searched as best he could. The refuse of the ruined hall had been dumped behind the latrine, no doubt as future filler for when a new one was to be dug and the old to be covered. He started there, knowing the impossibility of the bones having gone undetected and unremarked by any of the clean up crew. Yet still he had searched. Fruitlessly, he had risked imminent detection, although waiting until the wee small hours made visitors to the latrine rare. A thorough search of the pile of rubble had however revealed no bones. In desperation, Oeric widened his searching to all the areas around the camp, and beyond, to the point where sanity decreed that there could be no reason for any of the settlers to cast the bones so far afield. Or, with gut wrenching anguish, Oeric realized that if they had so chosen, his chances of finding the remains on his own were slim to none. He slept little and ate less, spending each moment either searching or laying in wait to begin his searching again, once both sun and moon had set and the men posted to keep watch were yawning and less attentive. And as he lay waiting in his lair, his mind turned over and over, and over again, what he should do if he never found them. With each day then, as his hopes diminished, so to did his reason for continuing to exist in this world if they were well and truly gone from him.

The last two nights now, Oeric had not even bothered to search. His mind was as pinched as his belly, one thought only cursing through it. There was at least one who knew where his darlings were. He did not know that person’s name, or age, or whether it be man, woman, or child even. But he did know one thing – where that person, whoever it was, was to be found.

His eyes lifted momentarily in the direction of the camp.
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Old 08-28-2008, 02:14 PM   #245
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Lithor

Dozens of eager participants swarmed around Lithor shouting which games they wished to be in. Lithor laughed at the commotion and his own confusion as he jotted down everyone’s names on a scroll. He breathed a sigh of relief when the last name was written down, and he rolled the paper back into a scroll, but almost he immediately unfolded it, he had forgot all about Rowenna’s requests. Lithor hesitated a moment to put her name down, it wasn’t a women’s place to compete side by side with grown men, besides he didn’t much like the cocky attitude that she had. However, his quill soon scribbled down her name, but a scowl was on the guard’s face.

Lithor went to find lord Eodwine, the races would be the first games of the day and it wouldn’t be proper to start them without a word from eorl. He was puzzled to find Eodwine talking to Rowenna about Flithaf, the eorl’s horse. He waited quietly behind Eodwine shifting his weight on his feet, and finding himself edging closer and closer to find out Eodwine’s answer. Rowenna acted very excited when he consented and Lithor was both shocked and amused that Eodwine gave in to her demands.

“Young lass has got the Eorl wrapped around her finger today, he?" he cried, perhaps a little too loudly, with a broad grin on his face.

He was met with a scowl from Eodwine, but the grin did not erace itself.

“I’m sorry my lord,” Lithor said apologetically, but still grinning, “but you know what they say: laughter is the corrective force which prevents us from becoming cranks.” he chuckled again at his small joke, not realizing how formal he was being with a superior.

“Everyone, attention please, may I have your attention!” he cried aloud with raised hands, “the morning is spent and the festivities are about to begin, but first our lord has a few words to say.” And with that Lithor stepped aside and let Eodwine speak.
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Old 08-30-2008, 11:17 AM   #246
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Saeryn and Degas

Saeryn knew where Eodwine spoke of. She turned and led Degas from the tent and away from the teaming camp. For a while, they both walked in complete silence. Saeryn walked with her arms wrapped about her middle. Since the extreme excitement earlier, her wound had seemed to hurt a little more than usual. She had thought it mostly healed, with only a rather nasty looking scab left to witness the misfortune, but clearly it was still more fragile than she thought.

When they had walked out some distance from the encampment, and she knew that no one would hear them, even if they did notice them, she began speaking, while she continued walking.

“Degas,” she said, “Fenrir had not changed, when I went back. You must have guessed that.”

Degas glanced at his sister, but was hesitant to let her see how deeply worried for her he was. The sister he remembered wanted no man's pity. How much had changed? He so desperately missed their childhood, free of so many worries.

"I have guessed as much," he responded, hoping his words would not staunch the flow of hers. He was afraid that if she stopped talking now, she would never again begin.

"Yes," Saeryn said. She was quiet for a long moment, for she didn't know how to put into words the mental agony she had gone through at home. She went back of her own will and had stayed there of her own will, for she had come to realize that so long as she was running and hiding she would never be happy. And perhaps, she had thought, if she stayed where she was supposed to stay, perhaps her brother would change for the better. But he never did. She lived under his ridged, iron rule acting the lady of the house, while Fenrir governed the land however he saw fit. What he saw fit, Saeryn abhorred.

She finally knew where to begin. "Before I had left home almost a year ago, I had only seen my own discomfort. I only realized what wrong Fenrir did towards me, you know?" Degas nodded. "So I didn't notice at all of how he handled our men and serfs. I don't know if he acted wrongly towards them at that time.

"But when I went back my eyes had been opened. I'd been with Eodwine long enough to know what was fair and what was not. I admire Eodwine - I mean, how Eodwine treated his landholders and his household members and servants. And that was, well, still is, how I think any land lord should behave.

"So I went back with this new knowledge, and when I came to Fenrir and he set me back in what he thought was my place, it was not the restrictions he set on me and how he treated me that I was troubled with, it was how he was treating our people." Then her voice changed, becoming suddenly bitter as she spat out the next words.

"I could say nothing. Whenever he came up with an unjust edict or decree, I had to stand by and watch. When I tried to speak, he told me to keep quiet (for that the is the rightful thing for a woman to do in his hall), and the one time I did not comply with his orders, he locked me in my room for three days. I was furious, but he threatened worse, so I didn't test him." It was clear that she still felt furious, for her eyes sparked angrily as she recalled being forcefully put into her chamber and hearing the key turn in the lock.

Then the fire receded and her voice became sad. “I stopped going to his false court. I did not want to see the injustice anymore. But it could not be hidden. But Maggie, a servant I had made friends with, told me of some trouble. She was worried, because Master Fenrir had sent out a decree that unless the serfs brought forward the men or boys guilty of supposedly stealing recent grain gathered into the master’s gathering houses, he would take the oldest son from every family and either hang or have them beaten as he saw fit.”

Degas stirred angrily, his fingernails biting hard into his palms. "His madness has exceeded even what I dared and feared to guess. He was not this cruel when we were young. Or perhaps he had simply not yet found outlet for his predilections. There is a sickness in his mind. Or was," he corrected himself sadly, "There was a sickness in his mind."

He grimaced, and said, "I am afraid to hear the rest, yet I must. Our people would not have borne such a decree lightly. Yet why did they not seek the aid of our overlord? For the Folde is not an island, separated from the Eastemnet entirely... Or did they go to Himræd, who rules over even Fenrir? Or was there no time?"

“They tried,” Saeryn replied. “Two men were sent as soon as Fenrir’s order had been put out, but when Fenrir heard of it, he became passionately angry. At first, I was the only one who heard him, we were at dinner then, and he began yelling and railing on about how they were all treacherous and all wanted to undermine his authority, and then how he wouldn’t have it, that he’d put a stop to it, by heaven. He got a couple men of his household and put them on his finest horses to go after the messengers, but those men never made it out very far. Some of the villagers stopped them and sent them back, tied hand and foot and riding backwards in the saddle.

“I think that’s what pushed Fenrir over the edge. He gathered the rest of what men would follow him, armed them, and sent them out to suppress the rising rebellion he believed was happening. He didn’t realize that he was starting it. Like children, if one boy strikes first, the other will strike back, and our people did. Fenrir didn’t have many who were loyal to him and they were easily killed or at least persuaded to change sides. Then they turned against us, surrounding the house, calling for Fenrir’s blood, swearing they’d burn down the house and kill us like mice trapped inside.

“Fenrir answered them mockingly, and they brought battering rams to take down the door. It didn’t take very long for them to get in, and then...” How could she explain the deepening darkness of the evening? The swirling smoke and flame of the torches they carried? The torn feelings she had endured as she stood beside her brother, prepared to defend herself and the household, even Fenrir, when she knew all along that the people were wronged and deserved justice?

“They rushed in upon us, brandishing pitchforks and shovels, and a couple had knives or short swords. They took Fenrir alive, stripping him of his weapons, and then binding him securely. He shouted horrible oaths at them, threatening them with death and torture when he got free. Degas, he was mad - insane. He must have been to say such things. The people knew it, too, and began murmuring amongst themselves what to do with him. One, a big, dark haired fellow, said he was a murderer, and that he wanted to murder more of them, and that he should be killed himself. He looked as though he were going to do it, too, and he approached Frenrir with his knife. I stepped in his way and told him not to touch Fenrir, that he had no right. He became angry and struck at me with his weapon. I tried to dodge, and almost did, but not quite, and that’s how I got hurt.

“The man standing about were angry with their companion for hurting me. They pushed him back into the crowd and two of them helped me out. As we were leaving, I heard the people back in the hall becoming loud again, a lot of angry shouting. I don’t know how they came to their final decision, or what it was.

“The two men saddled my horse for me, telling me that this wasn’t my fight, I had no business there, and they didn’t want me hurt, and so I should leave. They put me on the horse and escorted me to the edge of our land. When I looked back, I saw the red glow of a fire beginning to rise. In seconds it had leaped up like one of the huge bonfires we used to have at mid-winter day - except much larger - so I knew they must have set the hall on fire. I don’t know if they killed Fenrir first or let him be burned alive.” Here she fell silent, weighed down heavily with the thoughts of her narrative.

Degas turned to look at his sister. The grass blew around them. The day was bright, and the morning had grown late, and the breeze was insistent, but not strong; it moved the grass, and Degas's hair was pulled somewhat from his horsetail, but it would not interrupt today's games, except perhaps to tug at arrows as they flew.

He was silent for a long moment. "The messenger who found me in Gondor said to me that the hall was burnt. So he must have left when you did, or later. He said to me that you were missing. I take this to mean that he did not know where you were, or that you had already gone. He said to me that our brother was slain. I do not know that he witnessed this, or that he was told it. Saeryn," he began, "you did not witness the death of Fenrir. How is it that you know he is not alive? Do you know for certain that I have inherited the lands and responsibilities of our forefathers? Do you know for certain that he did not escape?"

Saeryn looked him straight in the face. "Those men were there to kill. If they had let him survive, he would have been taken somewhere for judgement, and then I would have been found as a witness. No one has come. So he must be dead."

Degas inhaled deeply, and exhaled slowly, watching a flock of small birds lift from the fields and take to the air, twittering happily. The ground was full of seeds at this time of year. The grass rustled near his foot and he glanced down. A small grass snake slithered past his foot, and he swore, flinching and stepping backward quickly.

"It is only a snake, Degas." said Saeryn with a bit of her old long-suffering humor.

"Yes," he said, calming himself. "Just-- Yes."

He looked around, pondering. "It seems to me that if our people were so angry and so driven as to burn the hall, they would rid themselves first of the master of it. Unless, of course, they intended mere symbolism. A point well made, to be sure: any wise man can see that a lord has no power without vassals, and it takes only one man willing to sacrifice that which is convenient to him to crumble a stronghold to the ground.

"Still," he continued, digging his booted toe into a patch of bare dirt. "I must of course return to rebuild that which is lost."

"That is your duty," Saeryn said quietly, though her tone sounded a little doubtful. Degas looked at her and Saeryn smiled awkwardly, looking down at her hands. "That's not much of an answer, is it?" She sighed and looked back up at him. "Degas," she began, and stopped. Now that she had told him so much that she had held in close silence, she felt as though she could confide completely in him, like she had used to. But this seemed like such a raw topic now. They had never discussed it openly. She had to. "Degas, if you go back, will you ask me to go?"

He looked at her in surprise, and reached out to touch her. He hesitated, but then meeting her eyes, he smoothed a stray lock of her dark red hair away from her eyes. "Saeryn..."

He fell silent. "I must speak with Linduial. I would have her live there with me after we wed, but before I bring her to our people, I must first earn their allegiance. I do not deserve it, at least not yet. I am honor-bound to them, and I hope that in time they will love me as their lord. Once they approve of me, once they see that I care for them and that I will treat them fairly, and do unto them as I would have done to me, I hope to bring her to them so they can fall in love with her as I have.

"I cannot arrive on the eve after such events with a pretty lady on my arm and tales of sailing ships and tattooed adventurers. I cannot ride into town with a beautiful woman and a song, my lute on my back, and hope for them to have faith in me.

"I must speak with her, and explain to her what has befallen. I must go quickly, before brigands and ruffians take advantage of the chaos this rebellion has left in its wake. People like to be ruled, if they are ruled fairly, as it saves them much thought, and much energy. Even a cruel ruler has loyal subjects. I barely dare think what Fenrir did about which we shall never even know.

"Saeryn... I want you to return with me. To give me advice, and to lighten my mood, and to help me win the hearts of the people. You know that they love you; they have always loved you. Far more than me, the shy little poet who could scarcely stutter a refrain amidst a crowd much less orate to the masses."

She began to speak, yet he silenced her with a soft look.

"Saeryn, I want you to return with me. But I will not ask it of you, and I will never command you.

"What I will ask of you is this: that either your return to the protection of the queen or that you stay here, with Eodwine, either as his wife or his ward, but under his care and watchful eye. I believe that you are safe here, and Eodwine is a man I hold in great regard. Whether you desire him as your husband or no, I trust him to care for you as he would his own wife, or his own daughter. I trust him to care for you as I would, without hindering you or harming you.

"So no. I will not ask you to return with me, unless you desire it. And I will not ask you to marry any man against your will. And I will not ask you to live as a handmaiden to the queen, forever comfortable, yet bored with the duties of a lady with few obligations and fewer pursuits.

"I ask only that you choose a place that is safe for you, where you will be happy, and where you will be free from harm, for much harm has befallen you while I was not here. The blade which injured you, dear sister, should have wounded me instead. Is it possible that you could ever forgive me for what you have suffered? It never should have been..."

They were standing very close to each other now, and looking directly at one another. Saeryn's head tilted slightly to the side as she heard his last words. As he spoke, relieving her of her worry that he would ask her to go back with him, the shadows from the past seemed to slip away. She had been wounded, but she was made well again. She had felt hard feelings against Degas, but here he was, asking for her forgiveness, and she knew that she had no other wish than to grant it. Her heart lightened, and a smile came to her face, as well as a mischievous light into her eye.

"Will I forgive you?" she asked. They had been serious long enough. "Only if you can catch me." She turned and darted away, laughing. Degas stood in shocked surprise a moment and then he ran after her.

He easily caught her, swooping his arm around her waist. Saeryn fell laughing into his embrace. She threw her head back, her eyes sparkling.

"Degas!" she said, catching her breath. "You have said two things which have made me more happy that you can possibly know. I will come visit you in your holding as soon as you have it established, but I do not wish to go with you. I want to stay here, and be Eodwine's wife, if he will still have me, and I am so happy that you have given your approval."

Degas laughed as well, and kept his arm around his sister, and they began to walk back to the tents, and to the sounds of laughter and shouting than swept across the land toward them. "Of course it would only be proper for him to ask me for your hand, as Father can no longer give it to him, but now, darling, you know my heart: your hand is not mine to give, only yours. If he will still have you, you know my answer, and are free to give it to him. I merely ask that I be invited to the wedding."

He crinkled his nose in mirth and she giggled, and with that they were back within the hearing of others, and Degas called loudly, "Where is Eodwine? I should like very much to embarrass myself later today by trying my very best and still losing to him in the races."
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Old 08-31-2008, 08:43 AM   #247
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After lord Eodwine had broken the news Stigend had took to himself and wandered around the encampment finally finding a seat from a stump and setting down just to sit and think.

It was an honour indeed to have been chosen as one responsible for the works while lord Eodwine was gone. But it was also a burden he was a bit afraid to take. It was not that he didn't think he wouldn't be competent. He was assured enough of his skils and ability to supervise the kind of tasks there were to be completed in the next few days. But the fact that he would need to command also those who were not builders themselves, to take authority over the soldiers for example, was something he didn't feel comfortable over. He could always consult Thornden to be sure but it stil bothered him.

Cheers and shouts from the site brought him back to the here and now. The games... He rose up and walked hurriedly to the camp just when Eodwine was about to give a speech.
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Old 08-31-2008, 01:14 PM   #248
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They rode back to the hall at a leisurely pace. Cnebba and Garmund rode behind Javan, who rode behind Erbrand, and chatted excitedly about the games. Javan, however, stayed silent as Erbrand led them back. It was not uncomfortable anymore, Erbrand actually liked the fact that Javan wasn’t talkative, it gave him time for his own thoughts.

The day had turned out marvelously, thin wisps of could covered the bright blue sky and were slowly moved westward by a breeze. The long brown grass, mingled with the wildflowers, waved in the breeze as grasshoppers leapt from blade to blade at the approach of the horses. A rabbit bounded from it’s barrow in their path, Erbrand glanced behind him to see if the boys would try out their new skills in the bow, but the two were still talking and Javan payed no attention to a mere rabbit, he probably wouldn’t have shot if he had seen it.

“Tell me, Javan,” said Erbrand, “What games might you play in today?” Erbrand didn’t turn his head, but he knew that the question prompted Javan to ride beside him.

“I’m not sure yet,” began Javan, “I’m sure that there will be horse racing and archery, I’d like to do both. Perhaps tonight there will be riddles.” Erbrand looked at him in surprise.

“Riddles? You surprise me with your choice.”

“What about you, what games will you be in?”

“As many as I possibly can,” Erbrand turned and smiled at Javan, “I’ll leave the riddles up to you. Wit has never been my strongpoint.” Javan smiled at the compliment.

“Hey you two,” Erbrand turned around and faced Cnebba and Garmund, “What games I witness you being in today?”

The boys urged their horses up to Erbrand and began all at once to express their wishes for the games. The conversation continued enjoyably until they reached the camp. All of the people were gathered around the breakfast tent listening to someone speak. He could hear mumbled words, but couldn’t decipher them. The boys stopped at the stabled and tied their horses to the stakes before they dashed eagerly off to the tent. Erbrand approached the tent, still mounted on Traveller and dismounted when he was close enough to make out the words of the speaker, Eodwine.
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Old 08-31-2008, 02:48 PM   #249
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Eodwine

“Everyone, attention please, may I have your attention!” cried Lithor with raised hands. “The morning is spent and the festivities are about to begin, but first our lord has a few words to say.”

I do? Eodwine looked at him, startled, but for only a moment.

"Lithor, maybe you should check your eyes, for the sun is yet two hours away form being above our heads." He grinned. "I am thinking that you are eager to begin the games! Or maybe you want an early lunch! Have you learned a hobbit trick or two from old Falco Boffin?"

"Now that would be telling," Lithor laughed, as did some of the crowd.

Eodwine grinned and looked at each of the people gathered there in turn. They looked at him expectantly, many with happy expressions, as well as the unsmiling faces of Crabannan and Nydfara who did not know him well, and the ever serious face of Naín (or what one could see of it with all that beard). These people were devoted to Scarburg, and most of them to him as their lord. He thought of this frequently, and in private shook his head in wonder that a mere farmer's son should be created Eorl of a realm and given charge over the wellbeing of every man and woman who lived therein. These well rehearsed thoughts passed through his mind in a moment.

"My friends, this day - this hot day-" he grinned, getting sympathetic laughter and groans, "-is a day of celebration. When we arrived here a month ago, expecting an old but well built hall and stables, we found a burned ruin and more than enough work to be done. It seemed a task maybe to great for such a small company to complete before the cold of winter. But our numbers grew thanks to Dan, and Naín, and Erbrand, and Crabannan, and Nydfara, and our will grew with each new willing worker."

Eodwine noticed that Erbrand had arrived just in time to hear his own name, and he nodded toward him.

"In one month we have made a baker-!" he paused, gesturing overhead, "new tents," he paused and gestured between each thing on his list, "a new pen for our beasts ... a new smithy ... a repaired meat shed ... and most important of all we have cleared away the old ruin and brought near the stone and wood we will need to build a new hall. You have done well!" The people cheered. "Yes, there is much yet to be done, but it can wait until the morrow. Today I give you a command that you will play games, feast heartily, take pleasure in the company of these friends around you, and come to the bonfire tonight to enjoy a game of riddles the like of which has perhaps not been heard in these parts in many years." He raised his arms. "Enjoy this day!" The folk cheered.

"And now I turn the games over to trusty Lithor."

Just as he stepped down, he saw Degas and Saeryn coming back from beyond the Scar, apparently having said all that needed to be said. Degas looked happy, but not in the same way as in old times. There was a peace and resolution in his face that boardered on grimness, but not quite - Eodwine doubted that the young man could ever quite get the twinkle out of his eye. But Saeryn was beaming, and positively glowed. Eodwine's breath caught. This was the Saeryn he remembered from a few months ago before things became so strange and difficult. He started to breathe again, and began to walk toward them, eager to learn whatever they might have to tell him.

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Old 08-31-2008, 08:01 PM   #250
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"Friend Eodwine," Degas called with a grin, "there is much to discuss, not least of which is our forthcoming horse race!"

Saeryn laughed brightly and excused herself from the men, seeing Nain and wishing to greet him properly.

"What is this sudden change?" Eodwine asked in wonder, for Saeryn's dark red hair glinted with gold in the sun, and her smile was infectious.

Degas looked after his sister with a fond smile before slinging an arm around Eodwine's shoulders. "We spoke of many serious things, and some not so serious, and she is happier now than she has been in many months. You shall see a clear change in her, I am certain, like a long winter which has at last melted away to birdsong and blossoms, and early shoots of tender green. Perhaps she will speak plainly to you soon of what transpired between us. Her closed heart seems open once more, and for that... For that I am eternally grateful. To return to Rohan and find my sister alive, and to find her hurt, but able to be healed. To leave her presence knowing that she is full of joy once more...

"My thoughts I wish to share with you in full, for I greatly desire your counsel before I leave and I wish to depart as soon as may be, to return to my folk and take my place as their lord and protector. Tomorrow, perhaps, or the next day, I shall ride, if I may be so bold as to take advantage of your hospitality until I have laid my plans. We need not speak today, but when you have a moment to spare? Your people are good people, and they work hard, and they deserve their day of revelry, and I cannot help but believe that you deserve it at least as much."
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Old 09-01-2008, 09:20 AM   #251
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Léof

Well, how do you like that? Léof thought as Rowenna trounced off, leaving him utterly stunned. Ride Eodwine’s horse? Flíthaf was a venerable steed and Léof was unsurprised that he had captured Rowenna’s eye, but to have the nerve to actually request to ride him in a race that Eodwine would no doubt want to ride in himself? Léof’s features settled into a faint scowl. Some people could not simply take what was given to them, and it seemed that Rowenna was one of them, hard as she worked around the camp. But surely Eodwine wouldn’t oblige her anyway; that would teach Rowenna to mind her place.

With that thought in mind, Léof continued about his duties, knowing that there would be several horses to prepare for the race that day. It could not have been ten minutes before Rowenna returned, however, looking absolutely exultant. Léof raised his eyebrows in question. “You may saddle up Flíthaf for me for the race!” she announced, and Léof was again left standing agape. Eodwine must be in quite the expansive mood this morning. Or had Rowenna somehow blackmailed him? Was that even possible? What ever could she have on him? But it was not his place to ask questions, nor could he even think of a prudent way to suggest such a thing.

“Very well, then; he will be ready. Any other surprises I ought to know about before I go and enter myself in the race?” he asked, his tone wry but the question not altogether in jest.
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Old 09-01-2008, 10:49 AM   #252
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Saeryn and Rowenna

Saeryn’s heart was soaring and she felt happy with everyone now. The merry atmosphere that was soaked into the entire populace of the encampment could not compare with the happiness that she felt now. She felt almost carefree again - a state of being that she had not possessed for many weeks.

Nain had arrived that morning. She had been slightly aware of this before she and Degas had gone out, but now she saw him standing in the crowd, but looking rather alone, and she started towards him to greet him. But in the between time of her walking to him, she saw Rowenna just coming from the stables. She lifted her hand to hail her.

“Rowenna! What is going on? Tell me what is happening today and what games there are, and what you are in!”

Rowenna told her the list of games. “And I am riding in the horse race!” she said. Saeryn glanced at her, noticing the slight, uncontainable ring of victory that was in her voice.

“What horse are you riding?” Saeryn asked, for she knew well enough that Rowenna had none.

“Lord Eodwines,” Rowenna answered, and she smiled as she said it.

“Flíthaf!” Saeryn cried, with a laugh. In her mind she pictured Rowenna on top of the huge war beast, the idea was comical. The horse was built for endurance and carrying a heavy, armor clad man into battle, not a race. At the same time, a strange shadow of suspicion fell over her mind. “You must be joking!”
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Old 09-01-2008, 11:55 AM   #253
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Rowenna

“Any other surprises I ought to know about before I go and enter myself in the race?” Léof asked wryly.

Rowenna stopped and turned and gave him an appraising look. His expression was not altogether friendly.

"Just that I may win!" She grinned, but could see that her boast was not altogether welcome. She did not want Léof for an enemy; his position in Scarburg was too critical to her future success. "But I wish you well in the race too! You will be racing, won't you?"

"Aye, I will. I have won before," he could not help saying.

"Then I pose little threat to your success," Rowenna replied. "But I will need some practice with Flíthaf so I do not embarrass myself. I will be back soon!"

"I will have Flíthaf ready."

"Thank you!"

With that, she turned and left the stables, eager for the games to begin. There was Saeryn, coming near, looking happier than Rowenna had ever seen her. What had changed?

They talked about the games she would be in, and Rowenna told her which horse she would be riding.

“Flíthaf!” Saeryn laughed in surprise. But the pure joy left her eyes even though she still smiled. “You must be joking!”

"No, I asked him, and he said I could."

"Asked who?" Saeryn said, her smile fading a little bit more.

"Eodwine, of course."

"But will he not be in the race himself?"

"There will be more than one heat. I will ride in the first, and he in the second."

"But what if you both win?"

"We shall see," Rowenna said. She had a plan, but suddenly she felt that she did not want to divulge it to Saeryn, whose questions verged on interrogation. "But enough about me!" Rowenna slipped her arm in Saeryn's and they walked side by side. "What games will you be in, Saeryn?"

Eodwine

One thing had not changed about Degas, he used many words, like a man of the court, to say what could be said more quickly. But that was his way, and Eodwine found it amusing anyway. He could see how Saeryn could have become the winsome young lady she was, having a twin brother like this.

"I will be going to Edoras myself, Degas. I was planning to leave on the morrow. Maybe you and I should leave together, and so we would have the trip to Edoras to speak of all that we are of a mind to. What say you to that, although I would not pull you away from your sister so soon if you would rather wait?"

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Old 09-01-2008, 03:48 PM   #254
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"Saeryn and I have spoken of this. She wishes to stay here, if that is favorable to you, and not return to Queen Lotheriel, or to the Folde with me. She has promised to come see me there when all is calmer, and I have promised to visit here as often as I can be spared." Degas grinned, thinking of what must be running through Eodwine's mind just now, and added, "I would be grateful for your company."

He did not add that he felt at least as grateful that Eodwine's presence would take Degas's mind off the forthcoming discussion with Lin up until the very moment he stood before her.
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Old 09-01-2008, 07:42 PM   #255
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Saeryn

“What games will you be in, Saeryn?” Rowenna asked, capturing her arm.

Saeryn blinked, shaking herself out of her thoughts. “I have not decided!” she said. “You have just told me the options yourself. I have learned how to throw a knife, so I think I will join that, though I doubt I’ll win. And the three-legged race will be fun. But why,” she said, coming back to the racing, “why did you ask Eodwine if you could ride Flíthaf and not trouble me for my horse? He’s more fit for you, and can run faster that Flíthaf, I’ll lay my bet on it.”

--

Javan

The four of them seemed to arrive just in time to sign up for the events that they wished to partake in. At the edge of the encampment, they all slid off their horses and leaving them standing with their reins dangling on the ground, they went in to see what exactly was going on.

Javan found Thornden as quickly as he could.

“What’s going on, big brother?”

“Haven’t you heard?” Thornden asked, turning with a smile.

“I’ve heard that we get the day off and are having a proper festival with games and feasting and all! What are the events, though? Erbrand only had a vague sketch!”

“There are lots. I don’t know if I can remember all of them. Let’s see...horse racing, foot racing, wrestling, javelin throwing, knife throwing, a sack fight of some sort, a sword duel - no, you can’t participate - quarterstaves...others, I can’t recall.”

“No archery?” Javan asked disappointedly.

“Oh, yes, archery, to be sure.”

“Excellent.” The boy rubbed his hands together with anticipation. “Do we have to talk to someone to get into what we want?”

“Lithor, over yonder. What are you planning on doing?”

Javan told him the same as he had told Erbrand and then made off for the group of people surrounding Lithor.
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Old 09-02-2008, 02:53 AM   #256
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Dan quickly returned the contents of his pouch. He had been careless. No-one should see that yet. The time would come for that, but it wasn't now.

He took a drink from his water pouch, savouring it in his mouth. It was one of those times in life when he realised just how nice water was. Drúedain only normally drank water, but on his travels he had tried many strange, foreign drinks. But nothing could compare with good old simple water.

Dan was still in deep thought when he saw Erbrand confronting that strange Northern man, Crabannan. He always seemed such a troublemaker. He was about to go up to them and say something, but a dwarf beat him to it. Something clicked in his head. A dwarf? He thought. In these parts? He'd have to talk to him some time. He liked Dwarves. He admired their courage and stamina. He was jealous of their incredible hardiness. He had not met many dwarves in his time but he had heard that many years ago, Drughu and Dwarves had had a good relationship and were often seen among one another. Maybe it was their similar height. Normal men's similar outlook. Or the fact they both enjoyed carving rocks and other materials. Here was someone who he could truly relate with.

He looked up and saw Erbrand approaching him happily. It took a moment for him to come back to reality. He had been thinking about the mysterious man again. If he did not come in two days, Dan would tell Eodwine. But he had said that two himself two weeks ago, but couldn't bring himself to do it. But now he was resolute. He would tell Eodwine.

Erbrand was walking in his direction.
"Good morning, Dan," Erbrand said as came up to him. "Are you alright, Dan," Erbrand questioned "Is there anything I could do to help?"
"Yes, I'm fine," replied Dan "Don't worry about me." He wasn't fine, but he couldn't tell Erbrand that. Erbrand trusted him, and he didn't want to ruin that bond between them. "And what about you?"
Erbrand answered that he was alright, but something in his eyes told him otherwise. His expression had darkened a bit.

They didn't really talk that much, as Erbrand had to go to skin the animals he had caught. Dan thought that all his traps were just cheating. Real hunters actually went after their prey, and didn't just wait for them to get trtapped in such a cruel devices. They didn't even stand a chance. And morever, the Drúedain had a policy to kill their prey as painlessly as possible, and didn't wait for them to starve or bleed to death.
But though he didn't agree with his methods, he liked Erbrand. He was a good friend, and loyal. Sometimes the would go out hunting, and they would teach each other some of the other's skill. But just as Dan would never master horseriding (but that might be partly due to his size), Erbrand would never be as good as Dan at tracking. But they each learnt much from each other.
Anyway, they were going hunting that day, so Dan was in a good mood. He would have to talk to him later, ask him what the matter was.

-

Later that day, Dan was in the kitchen tent, when he heard Lithor speaking.
Near the end of the speech, Erbrand brushed past him. He called, but he could not be heard over the cheering of the croud. And he was too short to be seen above some members of the camp.

At first, he had perked up at the idea of a competition like this one, but now he had been left alone. He wanted to discuss it with someone, Nevertheless, he immediately signed up for some of the events that most suited him, ones that he was good at because of his unusual (compared to the others') lifestyle.

He went to look for Erbrand.

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Old 09-02-2008, 11:28 AM   #257
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As Eodwine stepped back from the center of attention Lithor stepped back into it.

"Very well spoken, my lord. The first games of the day will be the horse race, when everyone is ready we'll begin over there," Lithor pointed towards an open space outside the camp with markers he had set up the day before.

Almost as soon as he finished he felt another poke in his side. He turned around expecting to find Rowenna's confident beaming face, but instead his gaze was lowered a couple feet to Cnebba and Garmund, who were quickly approached by Javan.

Erbrand

Horse racing! It was a skill that he liked to do for fun as well as for exercise, although he might have been better at it if he had a suitable horse. His skills would be put to the test today and his heart sank as he saw all the participants running to the stables for their horses. Traveller was munching on some grass just outside the kitchen tent as Erbrand walked up to him. The horse was bridled but not saddled yet, Erbrand led the horse away with the intention of getting him outfitted, but decided against it as he saw some of the nimbler lighter horses that the others were riding. Erbrand led Traveller over to the racing area and tied him to one of the stakes that Lithor had set as markers and waited for the race to begin.

Suddenly Erbrand remembered what he needed to do. On his way back with the boys he had made up his mind to ask Kara about it, but forgot to when Eodwine was speaking. He rushed back to the Kitchen, which was still swarming with people and drove his way into the crowd peering above all the heads to catch a glimpse of Kara's dark blonde hair. Finally, catching a glimpse of her on the other end, standing at the door of the kitchen, he pushed his way through past Dan and a grumpy Nain, who glared at him as he pushed passed.

"Kara!" his face broke into a smile as he made it out of the crowd and approached her, she seemed startled at her name being called. "I'm glad I've found you."

"Really, why?" she asked surprised.

"Well, as you know the races are the first games today," he began to rub his fingers together and he spoke with a quaky nervousness, "and that means that the rope-tie race will be coming up soon and I... uh, was wondering, that is if you're playing in the games today, if you would maybe consider," he paused for a second before continuing, "would you consider partnering with me in the race?" His words came out fast and he stood shocked and speechless, too embarrassed to say anything else.

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Old 09-02-2008, 05:34 PM   #258
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When Eodwine and Lithor had finished speaking, Crabannan took his time finishing his second plate of breakfast (which he had managed to acquire without Frodides' noticing), and then began to make his way through the crowd towards the tent door. Erbrand brushed by him at the entrance, diving headlong into the crowd with a single-minded and business-liek air about him. He failed even to notice Crabannan, which was all to the latter's liking. Pausing outside the tent, he looked back over the crowd, which was now thinning, just in time to see Erbrand accosting Kara in the far corner of the tent. He hastily looked away, swore under his breath, and strode off to find his horse.

Crabannan had asked Lithor to put him down for the horse-race, among other things. Horse (which is what Crabannan had always called his steed) was not a noble creature. In no way did he resemble his noble Rohan-bred cousins; neither in disposition, nor in appearance. Horse was lazy, moody, obstinate, disproportional of body, shaggy of mane, and possessed a curious coat of mottled grey and brown to boot. Nonetheless, he had saved Crabannan's life more than once, for he possessed a single useful quality: when in danger, Horse could run like a demon. At these times, his master lost all control of him, for the horse became like a thing possessed and wild: eyes wide, nostrils flared, ears back, hooves flying, mane and tail streaming in the wind. To see him being running from a pack of wolves or from a bandit, one might think that he had fallen in the path of the Wild Hunt, and that the diabolical Hounds of the Dark Lord's Huntsmen were after him. Otherwise, his performance depended largely on his mood. He never really obeyed; it would be more accurate to say that he either agreed, and then complied. Whether this would prove the case today in the race was a matter quite beyond Crabannan's control. There was only one way to find out.

Crabannan saddled Horse up - with some effort, for Horse had grown unaccustomed to the saddle over the past month - and rode him about at a gentle pace for a few minutes, though he knew that any amount of effort on his part to prepare Horse for the race would serve little purpose if any. If Horse chose to run, they stood as fair a chance any purebred Rohirric stallion of winning. If he chose not to, there was nothing Crabannan could do make him change his mind. Coming to a stop, Crabannan slid off the saddle, and patted the horse's neck and head.

"Look here; we both know that you can run." He was talking to Horse now, a habit developed during long journeys. "Whether you want to or not is your affair, but I want you to know that your choice will have consequences; either I'm --" Horse whinnied. "No, I'm not going to feed you to the hounds - a meal they'd, at any rate, likely turn down. I was only saying that I'm going to look very stupid if you get into one of your fits of melancholy and refuse to run. See? It's simple enough. If I look foolish, you won't look any better." Horse looked away, bored. "Ah! But you could care less what anyone thinks, I suppose? I wish I could say the same." Crabannan sighed.

His attention was quickly drawn to the sounding of several short horn blasts, warning the riders to make their steeds ready for the race.

"The race is about to begin, and I'm standing about like a witless stable-boy talking to a indolent clod of a horse," he said out loud in frustration, aiming a kick at Horse, which the beast neatly sidestepped, used to such fits of melancholy in his master. The creature excused such outbreaks, attributing them to bad humors and letting them passed unrebuked.

He seized the reins and walked swiftly towards the makeshift track which had been marked out by wooden stakes, brooding all the while.
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Old 09-02-2008, 07:43 PM   #259
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Rowenna

“Why," asked Saeryn, "did you ask Eodwine if you could ride Flíthaf and not trouble me for my horse? He’s more fit for you, and can run faster than Flíthaf, I’ll lay my bet on it.”

"I think you don't give proud Flíthaf enough credit! Anyway, I'll not take your horse from you. Don't you want to be in the race?"

Saeryn looked off in the distance as if trying to decide. "Yes, I think I will race!"

"Good!" Rowenna laughed. "We'll show the men how well women can ride! But you asked why I chose Flíthaf. I just went to the stables and there was this grand horse looking straight at me, his ears perked up as if he wanted me to ride him! So I asked Léof who he was, and who he belonged to, and he said Eodwine's steed, Flíthaf, and that was that."

"What if there is only one race?"

Rowenna did not respond immediately, but tipped her head as if giving thought to a new idea, even though she had already thought through the whole matter to the last detail. Finally she looked at Saeryn seriously and said, "Then I will of course tell Lord Eodwine that I cannot possibly take his own steed from him." She turned her head. "Look! There go Aethelstan and Matrim, and Javan and Erbrand, off to the stakes! And there's Eodwine, heading for the stables! I had better go make sure! And you need to ready your mount! Let's go!"

The two young women ran arm in arm toward the stables and Eodwine; it just so happened that Lithor was with him.

"Lithor!" Rowenna called, "how many races will there be?"

"We will have one race," he answered.

"Oh!" Rowenna stopped and disengaged her arms from Saeryn's. She looked sadly at Eodwine. "Lord, I cannot keep your horse from you. You must ride him. I will step down from the race." She made a point of looking as crestfallen as she knew she would feel if she actually expected not to race.

"Nonsense!" Eodwine said, as gallantly as she expected, "You may ride Flíthaf today. I will ride another mount."

"Oh! Thank you!" She rushed up and gave Eodwine a hug and a peck on the cheek. Then she grabbed his hand and tugged. "Come! We must find a mount noble enough for an Eorl!"

Eodwine seemed reluctant to be pulled along to the stables.

"Saeryn! Help me! Grab his other hand before our lord decides not to race himself!"
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Old 09-02-2008, 08:25 PM   #260
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Léof

Finally freed of people seeking his attention, Léof headed off for the baker where everyone had gathered in hopes of learning in more detail just what was going on that day and what events there might be and who was entered. He had not crossed but half the distance, however, when a large contingent of the Hall broke off and started heading towards him, and the stables. “What is going on around here?” he asked aloud to no one in particular.

“The horse race, Léof! It is the first event!” cried Javan, who was nearby.

“The first event! But I have had no time to prepare any of the horses save my own, and that only by chance!” Léof replied in exasperation, forgetting for the moment that he still had not entirely forgiven Javan and no longer talked much with him. “They are all no doubt thoroughly dusty, and there is only so much space in the stables such as they are for people to be saddling up horses…” But Javan had already hurried off to find his own mount. Shaking his head, Léof turned to follow. Most of the riders had better be willing to prepare and saddle up their own mounts, if this was how much warning they wanted to give him. Honestly. He didn’t even know who all was riding in the race and on which horses.

Well, he would focus on Æthel and if someone needed him for something, they would know where to find him. He reminded himself that he was far from the only able horseman in the Hall, and most of the others would have no troubles with saddling up their own horses. Even so… he could have done with some warning. He liked to be prepared. Focus, he told himself again. If he wanted to win this race, and he did, he needed to have his mind on it alone. “Well, Æthel baby,” he addressed the horse as he pulled her out, “ready to run?”
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Old 09-03-2008, 07:28 AM   #261
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"Saeryn! Help me! Grab his other hand before our lord decides not to race himself!"

Saeryn did not answer. She stood rooted to the spot where Rowenna had left her, with a slight flush upon her cheeks and her lips half open. Across the quickly widening gap between her and Eodwine, their eyes met, and all her eyes said to his were, 'How could you?' She meant it in more than one way.

Rowenna did not need her help. That much was obvious. She had gotten all that she wanted and Saeryn highly doubted she really cared if Eodwine rode or not. Any doubts Saeryn had about her decision to race were suddenly and completely wiped from her brain. With a hardening resolve, she gathered her skirts in her hand and strode onwards.

She passed the merry Rowenna, chattering much too cheerfully with Eodwine, and walked directly to her saddle. She picked it up, hefted it deftly on her shoulder and reached for her blanket and bridle. In less than a minute, she swept out again, once more passing the two of them without a glance and walked towards the paddock.

All the horses came to greet her at the gate, eager for any treat she might offer. Saeryn ignored them all as she placed her saddle on the fence. She climbed over it, urged the horses away from her and walked to her own. He took the bit and bridle admirably and followed Saeryn to the gate.

Rowenna and Eodwine were there, presumably to choose which horse Eodwine would ride. Eodwine opened the gate for her and allowed her to come out while he made sure no other horses took the chance to follow. She thanked him quietly as she passed and took her horse over to the saddle.

She groomed him quickly and began saddling. By then, Eodwine had chosen his horse and brought him over and tied him near Saeryn. They worked without speaking for a moment, their backs to each other. Finally, Saeryn broke the silence.

“It was very chivalrous of you to allow Rowenna to ride your horse.” Perhaps there was just enough emphasis on the words ‘chivalrous’ and ‘your’ to cause Eodwine not to answer. Saeryn pressed her lips together. It was not only the fact that Eodwine gave Rowenna Flíthaf to ride that rankled. Her blood boiled at the memory of Rowenna rushing to Eodwine and hugging him, and then kissing him (however lightly) on the cheek. She had never taken such a liberty.

Then the heat lowered and she cleared her head. It was not really Eowdine’s fault. She should not be angry with him. She resolved to make up, and turned her head slightly towards him. “Will you race with me in the three-legged tie race?”
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:42 PM   #262
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Eodwine

Eodwine worked the brush over the flanks of his mount.

She had actually kissed him! Yes, it was only a quick peck on the cheek, but if there was one thing Eodwine understood about women, it was that they were at least as territorial as men. No, they didn't mark their land with fences; instead, they marked off men they claimed with their own kinds of marks. Rowenna had kissed him in front of others, and thereby was making a claim that he himself was in her territory and no one else's. Lithor and Saeryn were the two who had seen Rowenna's claim in action, and Eodwine was quite sure that it mattered not in the least to Lithor.

As it always was with Eodwine, when Saeryn was near, he was aware of her presence, and very aware that she had not helped Rowenna pull him along to the horses. He had glanced back at her once, and her eyes positively flashed with indignation: 'how dare you let her kiss you! how dare you let her talk to you that way! how dare you let her have your horse! how dare you let her drag you around like that! how dare you let her take the place I used to have with you!'' Were all those messages in that one flash of a glance?

And now Saeryn had interrupted his troublesome thoughts with an offer which spoke of a familiarity which had not seemed to be there at all until these last few moments. So maybe it was as Degas said: the old Saeryn was back, and that would be something that Rowenna would not like at all, to be sure! He was not entirely sure what he thought of it either. He did not like the thought of being a prize two women tore each other apart over. So he was not keen on answering her simple offer, since it was most definitely only going to make things worse. Well, better to cut open the wound before the infection spread. He continued to rub down the horse he would ride for the race.

"I would run the three-legged race with you, Saeryn, except that Rowenna already asked me."
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Old 09-04-2008, 08:00 AM   #263
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Saeryn’s indignation rose higher than before. She jerked back around to face her horse, turning her back to Eodwine, and a short, clipped statement answered him. “I see.” She tightened the girth viciously, causing her horse to twitch uncomfortably before she realized what she was doing. As she eased it again, her mind found another outlet of anger.

“I guess next she’ll be asking for your keys and rod of lordship!” she muttered. “And I suppose you’ll just hand them over to her, won’t you?”

“What did you say?” Eodwine asked.

“You heard me,” she replied curtly. “You’ll serve them to her on a silver platter, too, no doubt.” She’ll hear it from me, she added to herself. She sent a flaming glance in Rowenna’s general direction (she was with Flíthaf in one of the stalls). A woman ought to know better than to waltz in and claim an eorl for herself without asking first.

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Old 09-04-2008, 10:18 AM   #264
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Eodwine

Eodwine stopped his grooming and faced Saeryn. He had heard every word, for he had been listening carefully in case she muttered.

"Lady Saeryn of the Folde, stop what you are doing and look at me."

She did not stop her activity immediately, but her fingers slowed. "Are you going to scold me, then?" Her voice was flat.

"Your words deserve it, for they are childish. Though I am your chosen lord and protector - for now - I will only ask and not require, that you curb such vicious words as beneath you."

Saeryn opened her mouth to retort.

"You will listen, Saeryn!" She closed her mouth, but her eyes flamed at him. "You have not explained why you have returned here. You have kept to yourself and not talked with me. I have not known what you expected, nor what to expect from you after you fled from me and my proposal of marriage. Rowenna has made her wishes plain to me; she wants me for her husband, and I have told her what she must become to deserve to be my wife. I made my wishes plain to you two months ago, and you fled. Since then I have not been sure of you. You have not since made your wishes plain. What do you wish? What do you want, Lady Saeryn?"
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:56 PM   #265
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Lithor

"My lord, allow me to walk with you to the stables." said Lithor, jogging to catch up with Eodwine.

"My lord there is a question I must ask you. It was very noble of you to offer you steed to Rowenna, but you must know full well that there is only one heat in the race."

Eodwine stopped and looked at Lithor with surprise, it was obvious now that the eorl had not known. Lithor kept on talking despite this.

"My point is, my lord, that you need a steed worthy enough for your position. I will not be riding my horse and I was wondering if you would like to have him? He can match any of the steeds racing here today and with you riding him the two of you will be a formidable match."

"I thank you, Lithor," the eorl said after a moment of thought, "I'll accept your offer."

Lithor was smiling again taking pride in the honor it would mean for the eorl to ride his steed. They just began to walk to the stables when he felt a gentle prodding in his side. Lithor gave short cry and spun around to face Rowenna. Lithor gave her a tired look, half annoyed and half startled, he was getting tired of being poked today.

"Lithor!" Rowenna said, "how many races will there be?"

"We will have one race." Lithor said with a smile, acting courteous as he could.

Nothing prepared him for what was about to happen next. Rowenna offered to give Flithaf back to Eodwine, it was only when Eodwine declined did he get what she was playing. He had not expected Eodwine to accept Rowenna's offer, after all he was a gentleman, he didn't even pay any head to the kiss that Rowenna gave the eorl but he did notice the hurt look on Saeryn's face as she witnessed Rowenna's act unfold.

While Rowenna was busy dragging a reluctant Eodwine to the stables Lithor went ahead to get the eorl's horse ready. It amazed him at the complex game that Rowenna was playing, making a spectacle out of herself and Eodwine at the same time. It the situation didn't bother him, rather it amazed him.

"Lithor my boy," he said to himself as he readied Eodwine's new horse, "aren't you glad you never got married? Of course you are. Women, who can figure them out? I certainly can't."

Saeryn was grooming her horse already when the eorl came up and started grooming his own. Lithor hung around for a little while hoping to offer some assistance when needed, but it soon became clear that the best thing that he could do was leave.
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Old 09-04-2008, 04:15 PM   #266
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Kara had lost herself in the excitement of the planning for the games. The ongoing confusion surrounding Saeryn, Degas and Eodwine was forgotten entirely as she eagerly listened to the list of activities and decided which she could and would take part in. The sack fight, she thought, I would have no chance of winning but it would be fun to take part. The rest of the games mentioned seemed a little too skill-based for her and she was just about to settle for just joining in with the one event when she heard a voice mention a rope-tie race.

"What's that?" She asked quickly, catching the speaker before he could disappear.

"The rope-tie?" He answered. "Well it's popular enough, you might know it as a three-legged race. With the two runners tied together?"

"Of course!" Kara laughed in delight. She could certainly do that, all that was necessary was finding someone willing to be tied to her. She cast her eyes around in search of a friend, but the kitchen was so busy that she found it necesary to move right out of the crowd before she could spot anyone.

The first person she saw was Nain, who had hung back when she had darted forward to find out what was happening. Her first impulse was to run to him and ask him to join her but as her brain caught up with her she realised that he would feel both embarrassed and obligated and she did not want to force him into doing anything he would not enjoy. The next person to catch her eye was Frodides, but she quickly discounted her as a possible running mate as the old cook was not one for excessive exercise, nor for 'putting herself out to look the fool' as she said on many an occasion.

"Ginna!" She called out, finally catching sight of someone who might actually be willing to join her. The girl turned round, surprised to hear her name above the tumult. "Ginna," Kara repeated once she had reached her side, "have you any interest in the games? Would you like to run a race with me?"

"I ... I don't know." Ginna replied, seeming a little taken aback. "Which race did you want to run?"

"The three-legged race." Kara replied eagerly. "It isn't one where you have to be particularly fast, it's a bit of fun rather than a serious competition."

She watched as Ginna thought it over, unaware of the somewhat complex nature of those thoughts. Ginna was not sure that she was quite ready to partake in a bit of fun with the people of this camp. Though she had spent a lot of time among them now she still did not feel entirely secure of her place among them, especially now with the possibility of her father's arrival in the not too distant future. The decision was further hampered by the simple fact that she was not a good runner, and despite Kara's assertions that the race required little in the way of real talent Ginna suspected that her stockier friend would still have more of an aptitude for it. Despite this, however, the happy and hopeful look on Kara's face ended up making the decision for her.

"Of course I will." She said, and couldn't help but smile at the pleased look she received in return. "You will have to remind me of any rules though, it has been a long time since I have been involved in such a race."

Kara was about to reply that of course she would do exactly that when she heard her own name being called above the noise and turned to find Erbrand behind her. She greeted him warmly despite her surprise but felt her heart sink as he asked his question.

"Well, as you know the races are the first games today, and that means that the rope-tie race will be coming up soon and I... uh, was wondering, that is if you're playing in the games today, if you would maybe consider, would you consider partnering with me in the race?"

"Oh!" She cried out, truly dismayed. "Erbrand I am so sorry, I would have loved to run the race with you but I have just asked Ginna whether she would run with me and she agreed. I am sorry."

"It, uh, it doesn't matter. I ... it was only a thought. Another time perhaps." Erbrand's flaming face was now directed at the floor as he attempted to leave, stumbling over his words as much as he was over his feet.

"Erbrand wait!" A voice called, and for a moment Kara thought it had been her own as she felt so guilty for the disappointment clear on the man's face. It had not been she who had called out, however, it had been Ginna. Erbrand looked up in surprise and as Kara turned to face her friend in confusion Ginna launched into an explanation.

"Kara, it's alright, you can race with Erbrand. No," she continued as Kara made to interrupt, "it really is alright. I wasn't sure that I wanted to race but I didn't want to let you down. But now that you have such a good replacement for me I won't feel guilty at all." She smiled as she spoke, feeling more at ease now. "I am quite happy to watch with Frodides and Modtryth, I promise I won't feel left out."

"Are you sure?" Kara asked.

"Completely." Ginna replied.

"Well then Erbrand," Kara spoke as she turned back to Erbrand with a beaming countenance, "if you still wish to race with me then I would be very glad to partner you."
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:00 PM   #267
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This was like adding insult to injury, and at first, Saeryn could scarcely stand and take it. Eodwine made it clear that she had no choice except to listen. So she did. He wanted to know what she wanted. As though it were so easy to tell him! He might have at least asked her at a more opportune moment. As it was, her mood was such that her reply was civil, yet her voice was very strained.

“I believe it is the custom for the man to speak first, lord Eodwine,” Saeryn said, aware of the proximity of others. “I could think of no way to approach you with modesty and honor."

She let the two words hang in the air between them; obvious was Rowenna's unspoken name. "I left because I was frightened and uncertain about how to answer you - afraid I’d give you the wrong answer. I could not stay and allow such rumors as there were to affect your reputation... or mine. I thought it best to think things over from a distance, so that I could think clearly, and so that my hesitation would not cause yet more gossip to spread.

"I came back because I was hurt and afraid and wherever you were seemed to be home for me. I returned wounded, and there was no chance to speak, and then when I recovered I thought that, as before, there would be time for me to figure out my own feelings, as well as yours, and they became clear to me. Yet there seemed to be a division between us. You have not spoken to me as you once did, and you never asked me anything. Not about my health, not what I learned when I left, not why I returned. I finally figured it out today, and realized, once Degas was here, what I wanted. Yet today I also found, as I had not known before, that another woman occupies your thoughts and your time, so I apologize for being in your way. I shall step aside.”

She began to turn away again, her eyes filling with tears, her happy smile from just moments ago a mere memory, but Eodwine detained her by his voice. "I am not occupied with her anymore than what I just stated."

"Oh, no?" Saeryn flared, whipping back around. Her tears were forgotten and her fury suddenly won in the struggle of maturity. "I don't know what else to call it when I see an unmarried woman make such open signs of affection in the middle of everybody. Or when a man gives up his own horse to let her ride in the race! You might not have been offered this fine animal, Eodwine - you might have stood out, watching that selfish girl ride Flíthaf. If you had offered him to me, I would not have accepted him! She doesn't want you, Eodwine. She wants your lands, your title, she wants the glory of being an eorl's wife. And if you stoop to receive her, because she flatters you and you are drawn to her smirks and her harlotries, then I will be glad that I was not bound to a man so shallow."
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Old 09-05-2008, 09:45 AM   #268
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Eodwine

Eodwine began to smile. His smile widened. Saeryn looked at him both in anger and puzzlement, and the faintest twinge of mirth pulled up at her lips as she stared at him angrily.

"What do you find humorous in this?" she asked.

"Welcome back, Saeryn, the Saeryn I came to love in the first place."

A riot of emotions passed over her countenance, of pleasure, confusion, but still mostly anger. "Do not try to flatter me, my lord."

"I do not. You must understand that any bone you have to pick, is with me, and not Rowenna. She is not of your station and is not trained to nobility. She is a farm girl. Her life these last two years has been hard-"

"So you just make excuses for her!"

"No. I know what she is trying to do, and I have made it clear how hard it will be to become what I must have in a wife, yet she persists. That is a good thing in her, persisting. It has helped her survive. But it does you nor her nor me no good to judge her with such harsh names. Speak no such words again, of her or anyone, without clear proof.

"One thing I will ask for now, though. Will you dance with me tonight?"

Rowenna

She could hear most of what was being said. Why had he not told her that he already had someone he wished to marry? How humiliating!

Harlotry!

Rowenna's hands shook with rage. She kept silence and listened carefully to every last word Eodwine spoke. From it, she could tell where his heart lay; she had never had a chance with him once this Saeryn had come back, and maybe not before. Then there was the last straw: he asked her to dance with him. She came out from her stall and stood before them both before Saeryn had a chance to answer his question.

Her voice was low, controlled, yet shook with rage. "How dare you call me a harlot! You have been cared for and pampered all your life and not been ravaged by thieves and murderers!"

She turned to Eodwine. "Why did you not tell me about her?"

"Because I did not know if she would ever come again."

So there it was. This other woman, Saeryn, may have left his land, but she had never left his heart; it was so clear now. "Then I am nothing more than a farm girl to you."

"Rowenna," Eodwine said, "listen to me. You have been embittered by your two years of slavery. You need to put it to rest, in whatever way you may. Until you do, you will not be free."

What was he talking about? What had her slavery to brigands to do with anything that was happening today? She shook her head. "You're just trying to turn all the blame on me. I refuse it. Ride your own horse. Run the three legged race with her."

She walked stiffly between them and away from the preparing horse race. She headed back to the baker. There was Nydfara. Suddenly her wrath kindled hotter than it had been. She walked up to him and slapped him in the face as hard as she could, then turned from him to leave Scarburg. I am done here, she said to herself.

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Old 09-05-2008, 05:07 PM   #269
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“Oh dear,” Saeryn gasped. She didn’t know what else to say, and she hardly had the breath to say it with. She turned to watch Rowenna walk away. “Eodwine, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know she could hear me.” Not that that was much of an excuse.

Everything was so mixed up. She could not think what to say to Eodwine, and she could not begin to concentrate while Rowenna’s form was still in view. She watched her with fascinated attention as she stormed angrily away.

“She might do herself harm because of what I said! Or someone else,” she added, as Rowenna met someone outside the baker. She flinched as Rowenna struck Nydfara in pure rage before turning and striding out of view beyond the tents.

“I have to go after her,” she decided suddenly.

“Saeryn-” Eodwine began, but Saeryn had already rushed to her horse’s head and loosed his reins from the fence.

“She’s going away, just like I did!” she explained hurriedly as she made a swift, clean mount. “I saw that look, Eodwine! Unless someone goes after her, you’ll never see her again.”
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Old 09-05-2008, 07:06 PM   #270
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Scyld

Scyld had watched Rowenna approach with an indolent smirk on his face. Thought she’d had Eodwine wrapped around her little finger, did she? Well, apparently she wasn’t the only one with her eyes set on the Eorl, though he didn’t know where Saeryn’s interest had come from. And though from his distance he couldn’t hear the exact words, the raised female voices spoke for themselves, and clearly Rowenna had come out on bottom.

He did not understand at first why she was coming to him – to complain? Frankly, her plight amused him. But she wiped the smirk clear off his face when she stepped right up to him and slapped him across the face. Hard.

Of all the illogical - !

Utterly bewildered, he stared after her for a moment as she strode away. Anger sparked briefly before giving way to condescension. So she was leaving then? Not competing to go off and sulk because she could not have her way? And he’d thought she had tenacity.

“So that’s it, then?” he called after her. “You’re just giving up?” He laughed shortly, harshly. “And I thought you were made of tougher mettle than that.”
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Old 09-05-2008, 09:35 PM   #271
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Rowenna

She stopped and turned. Did Nydfara not see what he had done to her? She hadn't realized it herself until now, but it was suddenly so clear. He had reminded her of the brigands, and so she had found him fascinating. And then they had talked, and had flirted, and the attention, such as it was, floated her out of her carefulness and she had become a young maiden once again instead of the plotting, careful, tenacious survivor she had learned to be. And look what it had gotten her!

"You're a man so you wouldn't understand. Worse yet, you have no feelings because you don't dare. I pity you. I hope someday you can come out of hiding behind that smirking mien. As for me, there's no place for me here anymore."

Eodwine was a strong man, and she would have done her best to be a good wife to him, and yes, she would have reveled in the high estate of such a role. But she realized now that she did not belong here. After all, she had come among them with a single goal, and that was to make this leader of men her new mate. That goal was not to be achieved, and therefore there was no reason to remain.

She turned and walked away, toward the front gate, toward the road, to lead her back to Edoras, then to the Folde where she had been raised, and she hoped, to a life that might be worth the living.

Eodwine

"And do you think, Saeryn, that she will listen to you? Do you really think that you understand her?"

She half turned and said over her shoulder, "I do not know, but I have to try!"

Eodwine threw up his hands, deciding to let these two women work things out between themselves, if it was possible. He led the replacement horse back into its stall, and went over to Flíthaf, and patted him on his strong haunch and back, and neck.

"Ah, my faithful steed, it will be good to ride again, will it not? At least you I can count on to know who and what you are, and do what you do best, and that is to run!"

Rowenna had done a good job with him, he saw, having been thoroughly groomed. Well, she was a maid of the Eorlings, and some skills were never forgotten even after years of no use. He climbed on Flíthaf's back. The horse pranced and muttered, eager to get out and run. It was grand high on Flíthaf's back, one could see so much farther and the world looked so much larger. And the might and girth moving beneath him passed into his own body. He was ready to race.

"Let's show them what 'fleet of hoof' means, my friend!"

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Old 09-06-2008, 09:10 AM   #272
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Every feature of his body slumped as Kara gracefully declined his offer. Erbrand’s heart was flying high, like a dove, on the wings of his hopes, but those hopes were broken and as a consequence his heart fell into the deep chasm of despair. Her refusal was not unexpected that terrible possibility of being shunned had haunted his thoughts ever since the idea came into his head to ask her, but he was not shunned, it was true that he had been refused his his desires but it was because Kara had already promised to race with Ginna, if only he had arrived sooner! It was useless to dwell on such thoughts, Kara made her choice and was gallant in her decline, the least he could do was to respect her choice.

"It, uh, it doesn't matter. I ... it was only a thought. Another time perhaps."

His words were not as graceful as Kara’s had been, Erbrand found himself almost forcing the words out of his mouth, his face grew red. No matter how he tried to accept the blow that fate had dealt him, he still found himself wanting to be with her. Erbrand forced a feeble smile to match Kara’s genuinely beautiful smile, he couldn’t hate her. His feet stumbled as he began to leave, finding himself still wanting to stay, but knowing that he must go.

“Erbrand, wait!” came a cry and he turned to see Ginna, he had barely noticed her standing next to Kara.

Ginna launched into an explanation, telling Kara and him that she would gladly give her place up to Erbrand. Kara tried to protest, but Ginna silenced her with assurances that she was happy to do it. Erbrand’s instinct was to decline Ginna’s noble gesture, but something held him back, he did not want to be pitied, his pride would not normally allow it, but this time he gladly cast it aside, he wanted desperately to have this chance with Kara and his luck had finally caught up with him. A smile slowly stretched across his face, his excitement and delight could barely be contained.

"Well then Erbrand," Kara spoke as she turned back to Erbrand with a beaming countenance, "if you still wish to race with me then I would be very glad to partner you."

“Wonderful,” he replied clapping his hands together in joy, every nerve in his body seemed to fidget with excitement, “I’m so happy.” He did his best to contain the rest of his words, fearing that he would make a fool of himself if spoke anything else. He rushed to Ginna and shook her hand gratefully and enthusiastically with a face that looked like it might explode with laughter.

“Thank you, thank you,” were the only words he found suitable for expressing himself, he rushed over to Kara hoping in someway to express the way that he felt, “I’m so glad!” were the only words that he could think of to say.

He was grinning from ear to ear, as he waved and joyfully ran back to the racing grounds, he felt as if a great burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Dan was walking to the racing grounds when Erbrand spotted him.

“Dan,” he hailed.

“There you are,” Dan replied smiling at Erbrand’s unusually mirthful attitude, “I’ve been looking for you.”

“Well you’ve found me now, come we can talk but first I need to warm up Traveller for the races.” He slapped Dan on the shoulder, “come on, I’ll race you to the horses!” He was off and running before Dan had a chance to reply, laughing all the way.
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Old 09-08-2008, 02:17 PM   #273
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Rowenna and Saeryn

As soon as she had answered Eodwine, Saeryn spurred her horse into a trot. Her heart beat high in her chest, hoping that she would be able to find Rowenna and that Rowenna would stop and listen to her. What would she say that Rowenna needed to listen to? Saeryn did not precisely know.

As she came up the short rise and came level with the baker, she saw Rowenna, walking swiftly away from the entire encampment. Saeryn did not draw rein at all and continued to go forward quickly.

"Rowenna!" she called, when she was close enough. "Please wait!"

The woman didn't even turn her head. She kept on doggedly, but Saeryn saw her fists clench.

Saeryn urged her horse on faster, passed Rowenna and then drew rein just in front of her. "Please don't go. You didn't understand. I didn't understand, either."

Rowenna did not slow her pace. If Saeryn meant to bodily block her way, she would have to try harder than that. She pivoted around Saeryn and her horse and kept walking, but said, "What is there to understand? Eodwine wants you, and not me. There is nothing else to understand. I will not stand in your way, so I'm leaving."

Saeryn lifted one rein and the horse turned about on his hind feet and then fell into pace beside Rowenna.

"You think that being here, you would be in my way?" Saeryn asked. "Don't be a fool! What I meant was, you didn't understand the relationship between he and I, so it's little wonder you acted as you did. Because you did not win him, now you throw a tantrum and run off? This is your home, Rowenna, and running will do you no good. Take my word for it."

"You do not understand me. My tantrum, as you so kindly call it, is done. But my foolishness, as you name it, is not foolishness. I had but one goal, to win the lord of this eorldom as my husband. Now it is clear to me that my goal cannot be achieved, for he loves you. There is no reason for me to stay. I have a new goal."

"Perhaps you set your goal too high," Saeryn suggested quietly. "It's no reason to just turn your back forever on the friends you've made here. Where do you intend to go - where you can find a home and friends?"

Rowenna slowed but did not stop; it was not because of any persuasiveness in Saeryn's words. In fact, Rowenna had not even heard Saeryn's last words because she had become consumed with an ugly fact. It sapped her of the strength to walk toward her goal so quickly. A lump came to her throat; try as she might she could not swallow it down, and it came out in a plaintive hollowness in her voice. She stopped; Saeryn stopped also and turned her horse to face Rowenna.

"I have no friends in Scarburg. I thought you might be that for me, but now we are rivals. No, not even that." She grew angry again, but unshed tears stung her eyes. "Can't you see? I have no friends in Scarburg!" She stumbled around Saeryn and her horse, wiping at her stinging eyes. "Go back to your lover! Leave me alone!"

Saeryn's heart ached to see someone feeling and acting so rejected and alone. Saeryn had everything she wanted - even the man she loved - and Rowenna now believed she had nothing, or even less than nothing. Saeryn understood suddenly what Rowenna must be feeling. Rowenna had believed that Eodwine felt inclined to love her, and that soon, her goal of marriage might be fulfilled. She had thought that Saeryn was her friend, someone who almost could be relied on to hear things that lay close to her heart. These illusions had been wiped away, suddenly and without mercy. Eodwine had professed with his own lips his love for Saeryn, just after Saeryn had defiled Rowenna's name and reputation.

Saeryn slipped down from her horse and ran after Rowenna. She grasped her arm gently. "Please forgive me," she said quietly. "I did not mean what I said. I was angry, like you are now. Please don't go like this. I like you Rowenna, truly I do, and I don't know what possessed me to say such evil things."

Rowenna looked at Saeryn's hand on her arm as she listened. She had not trusted anyone, except for a growing faith in Eodwine, since her father had died. She had not been close to any woman since her mother had died years before that; she had been the apple of her father's eye, and somehow she had dreamed that she might have something like that with Eodwine. Now Saeryn spoke words of entreaty to her. To her! She could feel herself losing control. She did not like losing control, but she hated her isolation even more. For a moment she imagined melting into Saeryn's arms and bawling as she had not done since time out of mind, and she reckoned that it would be a humiliation beyond bearing. Yet she could not bring herself to reject Saeryn either, for her heart starved for what she was offering. To make it worse, she could feel herself slipping out of control, and something in her could not abide that either. She could not find a way through; yet something had to give.

She wrenched her arm from Saeryn's gentle grasp and stumbled to the side of the road where she fell against a tree trunk. She felt unbearable pain welling up from inside and it came out of her throat as an animal moan; she could not believe it was her own voice. Her eyes stung, for tears still would not come, but she fell to her knees for the pain inside was unendurable. She had to stop it! She hiccuped and fought to stifle the pain but it would not go away.

Saeryn didn't know what to do. She stood in the middle of the road, staring at Rowenna. It was true, she didn't understand her, but she did see clearly that the young woman - indeed, she was little older than Saeryn herself - was suffering a pain far deeper than Saeryn had ever known herself, or could possibly even guess.

A lump grew in her own throat. She swallowed back and then went forward cautiously. Rowenna did not turn her head or make any sign that she heard her approach. Then suddenly, Saeryn knelt beside her, put her arm about her shoulder and drew her to her own body, trying to comfort her as best she could. She soothed her like a child, murmuring softly into her ear - "Hush, Rowenna, it's alright - it's alright. You can talk to me."

Rowenna felt Saeryn take her close and whisper calm assuring words, such words she had not heard since she was a little girl. And for some reason Rowenna did not understand, it was endurable for Saeryn to come to her and offer comfort, so that she had not had to take that humiliating step. She could not cry, the tears would not flow, but as she rested in Saeryn's arms, the pain slowly ebbed until it was an endurable ball inside. She tested her voice and found that she could control it again.

"Saeryn, you are - you are good - good to me." Suddenly the tears came and she could not stop them. It was a long time before they subsided.

Saeryn waited until Rowenna had ceased to cry, and then she drew back and looked Rowenna in the face. It was only then that Rowenna saw that she, too, had been weeping. "Now," Saeryn said as she drew a trembling breath, "Let's go back and find a place where we can sit in peace. We've both missed the horse race by now, and no one will bother us so long as the games progress. If you like, we can talk, or I can help you prepare for whatever journey you feel you have to take."

Rowenna did not understand it, but for some reason, Saeryn's tears made it possible for Rowenna to make a decision that would have been impossible moments ago.

"Yes," she nodded, "I do believe that maybe I should leave Scarburg, but maybe not." A fleeting smile came to her face, the first one in many moons that had been unplanned. They stood and walked slowly back to Scarburg, Saeryn leading her horse by one rein, and both of them said much to each other about their lives, and it was in this way that they realized that they both had grown up in the Folde. This new sisterhood, as it were, added a new thread into the fabric of an unexpected friendship, and this time true, that had begun to weave itself between them.
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Old 09-08-2008, 02:36 PM   #274
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Lithor

After leaving the stables he made his way across the Scar to the racing track. Crabannan was already waiting with his sorry excuse of a horse, Lithor didn't think the poor broken beast had a chance of winning against any real horse. Traveller stood unsaddled and alone, where was Erbrand? The two soldiers, Aethelstan and Matrim, stood patiently on the side.

Lithor lifted his hunting horn to his lips and gave two short blasts, signifying that the beginning was soon at hand. People poured across the Scar from the camp, Eodwine, Javan, Leof, Erbrand and Degas were among them, with Eodwine riding Flithaf.

“What’s this?” Lithor said chuckling to himself, “Has Rowenna given you back what is yours, or has my horse proved too spirited for you?”

“No, Lithor, Rowenna gave Flithaf back to me of her own free will.”

“Than I assume that she won’t be racing today.”

“No she won’t,” responded Eodwine, looking back towards camp with a troubled expression, “and I’m afraid that Saeryn won’t be joining us either.”

“Saeryn, not racing?” Lithor replied shocked, “thank you my lord, I will not press you any for further information.” Eodwine gave him a thankful smile and joined the racers.

The contestants were now all lined up and the watchers were scattered gathered on the Scar, which provided an excellent view. Lithor walked up and down the line of horses trying to even them up, which proved to be a difficult job. Many of the horses fidgeted and stepped out of place, unlike the dormant horse of Crabannan, who looked like it was sleeping. For the most part the riders kept the horses at an even line and didn’t try to inch their horses ahead to get a head-start.

Another blast from Lithor’s horn brought a silence over the land. There was no need for a speech this time, just a statement of the rules.

“Riders,” said Lithor in a raised voice for the audience to hear, “the rules of the game are simple. Ride out to that red flag you see there,” he pointed to the flag a good ways off, “circle around that and ride back to this spot; the first rider across this line wins. Make this a fair and clean race and may the best man win.”

He stepped aside and raised his horn, “the race will begin on the third sounding of the horn!”

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Old 09-09-2008, 09:02 PM   #275
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The Horse Race

The horses stood in their allotted places. They fidgeted nervously, knowing from the tense eagerness in their riders’ legs that something was afoot - some pawed the ground eagerly or stamped with their back hoof, others tossed their heads, protesting at the restraining rein. Only Crabannan’s horse stood completely still. His ear swivelled briefly towards the other horses one moment and then went back to its lazy, backwards position.

Lithor raised the horn to his lips. At the first blast, all the horses became still. Their heads came up and their eyes were fixed on him. The second sounding, and the riders seemed to settle deeper into their saddles, heels came slightly closer to the horses’ sides, and hands about the reins clenched tighter.

The third blast blew and as one body, all the horses sprang forward into action. All of them, that is, except Crabbanan’s. Horse stood still, completely unconcerned as the others flew on ahead. Crabbanan cursed under his breath. He lifted his legs (and his elbows) and shoved them hard against Horse’s ribs, but the animal only rocked forward a little bit. Again and again, the unfortunate rider tried to get Horse to move, but his encouraging kicks did not seem to convince the horse of anything. Finally, after what seemed like minutes to Crabannan but what was probably only a few seconds, Horse lifted his head. His ears perked forward and his eyes swept the racing field. Then, with no form of warning, besides a sudden snort, he took off - and nearly left Crabannan behind.

The hooves of the contesting horses pounded the earth. The horses picked up on their riders’ will to win, and each animal put all its effort and strength into it, for such it is that a beast of that kind was made to serve. They all ran well, others better than the rest. Æthel with Léof atop her seemed to fly. Flíthaf came close behind them, Eodwine bent low over his neck. The others came after, Erbrand, Degas, Javan, and Aethelstan - the last two being so close together that it was difficult to tell who was coming first. Behind them, Horse was thundering up quickly, the ground passing under his feet as though he were wind itself.

They swept around the red flag, turning at dangerous speeds, and headed back up the last stretch. The viewers began cheering wildly, for Flíthaf and Æthel were neck and neck. Their nostril’s flared and their hooves sent up sparks. Then Léof bent forwards more ever so slightly, his hands relaxed on the reins to Æthel’s bit, and the little mare responded with a last spurt of speed.

She finished the race barely a head’s length ahead of the warhorse.

Léof and Eodwine exchanged brief glances as they reined their horses in and other racers began to pour in between them, finishing the race mere half seconds after them.

Horse came in third to last.

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Old 09-12-2008, 02:19 PM   #276
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"Stupid beast," said Crabannan, as he walked Horse back to the stable. The two plodded along together. Crabannan's brows were furrowed, but Horse seemed fairly pleased with himself. "Completely useless, except when your own hide is in danger." He grimaced. "I should sell you back to that farmer in East Emnet - though I doubt he'd take you."

Horse licked the back of Crabannan's head. Crabannan hollered, leapt aside, and raised his hand to clout Horse hard - but found he couldn't do it. Against his will, almost, he smiled bitterly, and patted the horse's strong jaw.

"Aye. At any rate, you're no more than I deserve. We suit well together, you and I."

Leaving Horse cleaned and watered in the stable, Crabannan returned to his tent, and sat down on his cot. He was skipping the other games for the time being - they seemed silly. There would be fighting and spear-throwing and archery later on, however, and these he looked forward to.

His month in Scarburg had been peaceful, but this irked him nearly as much as it refreshed him, for he found that he was clumsy and inefficient as a worker, despite being strong. The tools of peace did not lend themselves readily to Crabannan's hands and mind, and there was always someone who could do a job better than he, or faster. The result was a frequent and profound feeling of uselessness; he knew that he did not have a place in this peaceful village. He had wished more than once that the village would be attacked by marauders or by rival eorls. Then he would have had the chance to prove his worth - for his skills lay elsewhere, in the handling of weapons of all kinds, in fighting with his hands, in the finding of forest paths.

During this time, the harp had been a source of pleasure for him. Often, after dark, he would walk away from camp up onto the Scar and, when he believed himself alone, he would sit and play for an hour or so - sometimes longer - before returning. He played battle songs, love songs, funeral songs - songs of sadness or of joy, but all spirited, tunes he had learned as a young man in Dale. This did him good, for the music eased his spirit, even if it often encouraged his tendency toward melancholy.

Crabannan sighed and reached under his cot. He pulled out a long bundle, which he set upon the bed and then unwrapped, revealing a longbow and a longsword, both of fine quality and well-cared for. He set the sword upon his lap and, closing his fingers about the handle, half drew it. It felt right and comfortable; he hoped the swords they would use that afternoon would be of reasonable quality. For now, he would reacquaint himself with this one. It had been far too long.

And then he smiled, and, for once, it was without either irony or bitterness. He was content.

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Old 09-12-2008, 04:49 PM   #277
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Everything had happened so fast, the reality of what had happened took a brief moment to register in Erbrand's head. Traveller's neck was bent and his nostrils flared as he struggled to catch his wind. For a moment Erbrand forgot all about the winning and leapt from Traveller's back. He cursed himself as he felt his horses chest heave in and out.

"You're selfish, selfish, Erbrand!" he muttered to himself over and over again. Speed was not the poor beasts purpose in life, it was in strength that Traveller would succeed, and in spite of this Erbrand made his horse do what was not intended of him, the selfish want of winning was on the top of his list and as a consequence had nearly broken his horse. Traveller lifted his head slightly and turned as he felt Erbrand run his fingers through his mane and rub his neck; he knew that touch. It was the touch that his master gave him at the end of a day of pulling wagons and hauling goods to and fro, it was the touch he got just before offered a carrot or a precious lump of sugar. Erbrand lifted his horses sunken head and looked him squarely in the eye as if he were examining him.

"We sure showed them, didn't we boy?" but Traveller payed no attention and instead started biting at Erbrand's sleeves to see if he had some hidden treat. A crooked smile crept across Erbrand's face as Traveller shook his mane and stood up to his full height. It would take more than one race to keep him down.

"Leof," Erbrand cried out as the boy dismounted, "well done, I have never seen a horse run so fast or ridden so admirably. Very well done!" Erbrand smiled and gave a playful wink as he shook Leof's hand.

Back across the Scar he led Traveller, back to the stables where he would be safe from wondering. He noticed that Horse was already put in his stall, though it looked quite refreshed for being in a race. With a farewell pat on the back Erbrand left Traveller to munch on his carrot. Crabannan was just crawling into his tent as Erbrand walked by, he had an urge to taunt his rival after he had lost in the race, but decided against it, Crabannan had a temper to match his own. Instead he raced by with the satisfaction of beating him when it came to handling horses, but the real contest that he anticipated to have with Crabannan was still to come: the quarterstaff fight. Though he was hesitant to enter the contest, he wanted desperately to beat Crabannan at his own game, or at least show his worth in a fight.
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Old 09-13-2008, 09:21 AM   #278
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Léof

She had done it! Æthel had done it! Léof had known she could, of course, but that did not detract from his pleasure now. As he eased her down from the gallop he observed her carefully and was pleased to note that her gait was steady if perhaps less spirited than normal, and she still held her head high. Any race would take its toll, but she was scarcely tired. He circled her back around, dismounting when he neared the finish line again.

Made slightly effusive by his victory, Léof cried to Eodwine, “Good race, my lord!”

“And to you, Léof,” returned the Eorl, but Léof thought he seemed a bit distracted, and was immediately put in mind of Rowenna and Saeryn, who had not returned for the race. A shame, that – Saeryn’s mare would have put in a good bid for the win. But it was not his affair – if they had more pressing matters to attend to (and they certainly did, by the tone and volume of their earlier conversation with Eodwine in the stables), it was their business.

He hung around a little while longer, accepting the congratulations of the various hall folk. Soon, however, preparations began for the next event, and he had a hot and sweaty horse to attend to. He took Æthel and another horse as well (he could walk out two horses just as well as one; not all the riders need take their own horses back) and headed back to the stables, whistling a cheerful tune as he went.
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Old 09-13-2008, 10:48 AM   #279
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Eodwine

He was genuenely happy for Léof. The lad had run a good race. He said so, too. Then he turned to Flíthaf, who looked him in the eye restlessly, hardly any sign of tiredness in him. If anything, it appeared that the stallion was ready for more.

"Maybe later today, my lad," Eodwine said, caressing Flíhaf's cheek. "I reckon that I owe you more time than I've given you of late, and for that I'm truly sorry. You and I shall make up for it on the morrow."

He turned to Léof and asked if his ostler could take care of Flíthaf, for he had a rather irksome matter on his mind. Léof did so willingly, and Eodwine thanked him, then walked off at a good pace toward the entrance to Scarburg. He got as far as the road just beyond the entrance where he saw something that made his eyes open wide and his jaw drop.

Saeryn and Rowenna were walking slowly back toward him, Saeryn leading her mount by the reins, and they were talking and smiling, and even laughing! His heart lifted and his eyes moistened. He had desired Saeryn in marriage for months now, and had been kindly disposed toward Rowenna ever since her rescue - though he had not liked some things about her attitude; but now he suddenly came to love them both. Saeryn he wanted for his wife; Rowenna his heart held like a father. It was strange that they were both the same age, but there the similarities largely ended.

They had not seen him. This was not a time to intrude. He turned back to Scarburg, no longer feeling burdened. "Flíthaf, I'm sorry I was so heavy on your back; perhaps we would have won. No matter! The foot races are next!" Eodwine trotted back to the Scar where they were soon to begin.

There he found Lithor readying the other runners: Erbrand, Osmund, Degas, and Matrim, as well as Garmund, Cnebba, and Javan. They would all run together, but the boys were to be given a first place for themselves no matter which man won the race.

"Friends," Eodwine said loudly, "I am willing to wager one copper that Osmund will win the short race. Who will take my wager?"

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Old 09-14-2008, 03:59 PM   #280
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Garstan and Stigend were following the competants getting ready from close up. There they were the two proud fathers looking at the same time both hilarious and a bit uneasy. The cause for their confusion was with the relations between the boys, to be exact the relations of all the three boys. They just both hoped the games might do the trick... but it might turn into a disaster as well for even if the archery-practise had kind of turned the relations for better it had also opened new shifting alliances and that was clearly a sign of things not yet being quite settled.

Stigend glanced at Garstan who tried a smile but failed miserably and ended up frowning lightly looking Stigend back into the eye. Stigend was just about to open his mouth when lord Eodwine called for his bet on Osmund.

The two were silent for a moment eyeing each other as if asking whether they should call for a bet in the kid-run. Slowly they both nodded in refusal and turned back to follow the preparation for the run. Stigend realised his heart was pumping hard. He felt the pulse in his forehead.

~*~

Cnebba was drawing breath slowly and filled his lungs feeling how he grew in size and stature with all the air inside him. Then he made a small pause full of air and then let it flow out like a long awaited relief. He eyed every now and then Javan beside him and Garmund behind Javan. They both seemed focused even though it was at least once or twice he caught Garmund glancing towards Javan and him. He would have to show those two... and he realised the two others were thinking exactly the same. At least Garmund was. And Cnebba was sure Javan was too even if he didn't show it.

Cnebba saw his dad and Garstan in the crowd watching him and Garmund getting ready for the race. Stigend smiled to him encouragingly when their eyes met. Cnebba smiled back hastily but felt confused.

Then he saw Leothern standing beside Garstan holding his hand and her gaze going intensively through the line of the runners. Suddenly she was looking at him. Cnebba turned away from her eyes and stared straight forwards to the track in front of him like if he hadn't noticed her looking at him. He pulled in some air and tried to look as confident as he could not daring to glance sideways...

Last edited by Nogrod; 09-14-2008 at 04:02 PM.
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