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Old 04-17-2011, 01:04 PM   #201
Galadriel55
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Thiliel skipped over to the kitchen before going outside, and quickly wrapped some cookies in a clean white cloth. Mistress Celebrindal wouldn't mind some, I reckon. She then hurried to deliver the message to the woman.

Before she entered, she heard two people speaking. The conversation ceased when she knocked and tentatively stepped inside. The dark-haired man talking to Celebrindal was the very one that left the common room after Thiliel reported Celebrindal's request. She noticed that he was still wearing his blade.

"I am sorry to interrupt," she begun a bit shyly: that man was making her feel ill at ease, "Mistress Asta - that is her name, I believe - said that she is coming soon. Her and Master Coldan and some other man were talking. They aren't fighting anymore. Oh, and I brought you these." Thiliel handed the cookies to Mistress Celebrindal. "May I take your tray, if you are finished your supper?"
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Old 04-17-2011, 03:16 PM   #202
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Coldan wasn't sure whether to trust his ears. Had Asta really just apologized to him? He couldn't recall her ever doing that before, not on one of those occasions when she had sent him on some laborious errand which had turned out to have been completely futile on his return because she had had the thing she'd sent him to bring to her within reach all along; and it was rather obvious that it cost her no little effort to swallow her pride that much.

He cleared his throat, feeling uncomfortably self-conscious. "Vell, Asta, I - I may hev spoken a few rash vords myself." He hesitated to say more in front of Lord Sador - somehow, he didn't trust that fellow as far as he could throw him, in spite of all his honeyed words and ingratiating manners - , and besides, he didn't really know what to say in the first place. Asta's tell-tale blush when the sweet-tongued nobleman had mentioned Aldarion's 'connection with a lady of Dol Amroth', whatever that was supposed to imply, had not escaped him; and what could Sador have meant by 'almost relatives by marriage'? All that hinting and circumlocution made his head swim, especially as the wine was beginning to get the better of him. He needed some quiet to sober up and sort it all out.

"It's been a long day, and I vould like to take some rest", he said to both of them. "I've got to zink some zings over. Please tell Br - Mistress Celebrindal to send ze girl for me ven she vants me, Asta; I'll be in my room. If you'll excuse me now", he concluded, nodding to Sador, and made a point of adding, "my lord."

On his way to the door he passed Harrenon, who had seated himself in a safe distance from the quarrel earlier, and bowed to whisper to him: "Harry my friend, if you vould do me a favour, keep an eye on Asta and zat limping fellow for me, vill you? Zat man is up to somezing, and if it's any good, I'm a Variag." He squeezed Harrenon's shoulder thankfully. "And if you ever fall in love viz a voman, tek an advice from me and - vell, just better don't."
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Old 04-17-2011, 07:04 PM   #203
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"So, Aldarion- I heard tell of an altercation in the common room involving you and Coldan," began Brinn. For a split second Aldarion wondered how Brinn had found out so quickly, but then he remembered Branor's departure. He probably came straight to Brinn. Can't say I blame him either.

"I want to hear from you exactly what happened," continued Brinn, "The full story- anything you believe to be relevant."

Aldarion smiled slightly. "If you ask Coldan the same thing, you will doubtless hear something a bit different, as he and I clearly disagree on what precisely is relevant given the current predicament of this troop."

Brinn nodded. "Everyone sees things in a different light. But please- right now I just need your version. It's getting late."

"All right," said Aldarion. "The incident was entirely a result of Coldan needlessly speaking ill of me in my absence. When I went to the common room upon my return I was informed by Branor that Coldan had essentially blamed the entire plight of the troop on me. Doing such a thing is entirely unfair and serves no positive purpose even if it were true! We already have more than enough on our hands without useless backbiting!"

Aldarion took a deep breath and made a point of quieting his voice. "When I asked him about it, all Coldan wanted to do was discuss Asta, and demanded that I either declare my undying love for her or label her as some sort of harlot. I mean really- is this the time to be starting a battle between troop members? We have the opportunity of a lifetime here, and I really don't need Coldan making things any more difficult."

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Old 04-17-2011, 11:16 PM   #204
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"It is an opportunity of a lifetime," said Brinn, "and I have no doubt that you will rise to the occasion. Provided," she added with a wry smile, "that everyone else does as well. I don't want this to weigh you down, Aldarion, even if your role in this is not as reasonable as you make it out to be. I will speak with Coldan, learn his side of the tale, and, at the very least, try my best to keep this from distracting us from the work that we all need to be doing." She stifled a yawn. It really was getting late. Surely, if Coldan was as temperamental as Branor and Aldarion had made him out to be, it would be best to wait till morning when he had cooled off?

"Now," she said, "we had better start discussing the changes that we plan on making--tomorrow evening, perhaps? If the inn hasn't burnt to the ground by then, that is. I'll try to get everyone else to keep asking questions and gather information tomorrow. I'm hoping that someone can learn how the official festivities are usually run." She yawned again. "Thank you for coming and speaking with me, Aldarion. If you could find my husband on the way out, I shall need his help for me to retire for the night."

A few minutes later, Rollan came in. As he assisted Brinn he explained to her how he'd followed Asta to the common room and seen her dramatics, but Brinn couldn't keep the information in her head for long. "I don't understand it," said Rollan. "One moment Coldan's ready to declare his love for her, the next--"

"Rollan, love," said Brinn, "kindly stop talking before you implicate yourself in this matter and force me to get violent."

Rollan wrinkled his nose. Why, his wife hadn't a violent bone in her body, and he couldn't even recall her yelling, except on stage. Maybe that was why his advice on Asta had gone sour?

Women could be so very strange at times.
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Old 04-17-2011, 11:20 PM   #205
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The next morning saw a smartly dressed child making her way down to the First Circle. She looked far too small to be wandering off on her own, so she must have slipped her parents. Only the streets were so deserted...

The child made her way into the common room of Ingold's inn, and patiently waited to be noticed.
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Old 04-18-2011, 02:44 PM   #206
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Aldarion rose early in preparation for his big day. He hoped to have an opportunity for a brief nap in the early evening, but it was no guarantee. Thankfully he had slept quite well during the night. He had worried that his frustrations from the day in combination with his anticipation would keep him awake, but in fact he had dropped off nearly immediately.

Fully dressed and geared up, a bulging bag of notes slung on his back, Aldarion crept quietly from his room and exited the Inn. It would take a bit of time to get up to Lord Borondir's home, and Aldarion was anxious to get started on his work.
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Old 04-18-2011, 03:49 PM   #207
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Amdír hoped to get the balance of the set pieces in storage on Lord Hallas's estate in a single trip, though it had taken three to get them out there last season. As the original plan had been to haul all the set pieces in the day before, he felt as though he were a day behind, and there was a lot of fresh construction and redressing to be done before the stage would be ready.

With this in mind, he rose early, and headed down to Ingold's Inn, to see if he could drum any of the Players into assisting with the task.
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Old 04-18-2011, 05:23 PM   #208
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Born and raised in a wine-growing country, Coldan had thought himself immunized against the less pleasant side effects of excessive drinking by life-long training, but the hangover he awoke with on his second morning in Minas Anor was a stinker the likes of which hadn't plagued him since the aftermath of his fifteenth birthday. Fending off the walls that pressed against his maltreated skull with groans and curses, he dragged himself out of bed and to the wash-stand, where he filled the basin with cold water from a jar and plunged his head right in.

Gasping and sputtering, he jerked his head back up and shook and blinked the water out of his hair and eyes. The memory of yesterday's various altercations all came back to him now, starting from that ill-fated rehearsal with Asta in the afternoon. That had not at all gone as he'd meant it to, and looking back on it now, he had to admit to himself that he bore a good part of the blame for that; calling her out on her flirting with Aldarion hadn't exactly been the most tactful way to prepare for a declaration of his love. And that quarrel with Aldarion himself in the common room - thinking of it made him wince now. He had behaved like a drunken boar, and that in front of that Lord Sador, who was under orders to supervise them on behalf of their none-too-friendly employer. What had he thought he was doing?

After all, what business was it of his whether Aldarion had been playing fair with Asta or not? He was done with her, wasn't he? At least he had told her so, after she had called him a name that used to cause blood feuds where he came from, and still did at times. If Sador's rumours turned out to be true and Aldarion really had only used her to amuse himself, didn't it serve her right?

But then she had apologized to him - a rare thing for her to do under any circumstances, and to him of all people. And - and she had been crying before that. He clearly remembered seeing the traces around her eyes. And that had been even before Sador had told them about that 'lady of Dol Amroth', so -

He stared at the wall in shock when the pieces began to come together in his head.

"You, my friend", he told his image in the small mirror on the wall, "may vell be ze dumbest fool valking Middle-earth."

After that, it took him a while to gather enough courage to venture into the common room in order to look for some pickles and salted herring and find out whether there was anybody left in the company whom he hadn't offended yet.
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Old 04-18-2011, 07:39 PM   #209
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Amdír had not been present for the dramatic events of the evening before. He had popped into the inn long enough to give Brinn her crutches, and then quickly trimmed and shod them in leather before heading home. Consequently, when he returned the following morning, he had nothing about Coldan in his mind other than the fact that the man was younger than he, and unlikely to be involved in reworking the script at the inn--and so, possibly available.

"Coldan," he called out to the man of Dorwinion as he entered the Common Room, "if I promise you a fine lunch at Lord Hallas's estate, can I have your assistance for the morning and the earlier part of the afternoon?"
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Old 04-19-2011, 01:37 AM   #210
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Harrenon got up early the next day. He usually did when they were so near to a performance as they were now, since he was usually to nervous to sleep much. And the Valar knew that he had reasons enough to be nervous now. Usually he would have been able to tell himself that things were bound to go smoothly in the end since they were all talented enough to avoid making fools of themselves. Now, however, he thought that if things went on as they had begun, they would be lucky if they did not get thrown out of the city even before they had a chance to perform the play.

The trouble that kept coming to them was actually the main reason why Harrenon had decided to follow Coldan’s instructions and keep an eye on Sador for a while. He himself did not really think that the new arrival was up to anything harmful, but he knew he would better have proof of that before he imparted his opinion to Coldan.

Frankly, Harrenon was slightly exasperated with the latter’s behaviour during the past few days. He had his own explanations for it, which had almost been confirmed the night before when Coldan had mumbled to him some nonsense about how he should never fall in love with a woman. Of course, there was also the fact that Coldan had asked him to keep an eye not only on Sador, but on Asta also. Yet Harrenon had no intention of doing that. He cared too much for his hide to risk annoying Asta.

Harrenon headed for the common room. Sador was not there yet. Good. That meant he had some time to eat before he started his new mission. Harrenon shook his head when the thought entered his mind. If I’m not careful, I’ll be turning into Branor soon, he told himself. The entire idea was absurd, he knew that. He also knew spying had never been a talent of his. He was bound draw attention to himself. And what was he going to do if anyone noticed his behaviour and challenged him about him? Of course, he could always plead curiosity, everyone knew he was not lacking in it, but would he be believed this time? The entire situation was absurd, but it was too late for him to turn back now.

One day, Harry,” Harrenon told himself. “You’ll land into hot water. And then – maybe then – you’ll hopefully learn that it is fine to simply say no sometimes.
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Old 04-19-2011, 02:02 AM   #211
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Sador of Burlach had two awakenings this day. At dawn, hurriedly dressed, he limped a bleary way some steps to a prearranged corner, a couple of small, pale letters in his hand, where he encountered a Guard Captain on a roan horse.

The young man eyed the older soldier curiously for a long moment. This captain again; a free agent, an unpredictable one; he did not know his name, only that he had passed a mysterious dispatch to Aldarion. Still, he was, for the moment, the only tool at hand.

"These," Sador spat out curtly, "this to my father, that to the elder of my sisters. And now, I'm going straight back to bed."

***

Cirdacil - already at his desk - received and read the letter without any surprise, nodding automatically at several points, the very model of an industrious old gentleman in the process of confirming his worldview. Then he set the message down and took up the quill and account book again.

Lady Aerwen read her communication an hour or two later, on her way into the Tower's great library, where she delighted to spend her days in profound reading; the old and superannuated Guard who served as porter, a mild and owlish man who was particularly fond of this sweet, plain, ageing maid, passed it to her. She left the seal unbroken until well within the library. Finding her usual seat, she took down a History of the Isen Campaigns. Only now did she lay the letter between the tome's pages, and read it quickly as if swallowing an unpleasant errand. But there was unwonted, if suppressed, excitement in her eyes, too.

***

Sador might have got back to bed, but not to sleep; the arrangements here were hardly luxuriant, anyway. And he was as harried by as much worry by any of the players, albeit of another sort. Were not things going rather too conveniently? Today was all-important; everything was to be won; and he could not help experiencing some forboding about it. Besides, soon he would face her again (and rest assured, he was not here thinking of his sister, nor of any among the company). He had passed an uncertain night, and it was not to be redeemed even by the sweet afterslumber of a lazy morning...
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Old 04-20-2011, 08:37 AM   #212
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Coldan had agreed to join Amdír, and the older man thought that he noticed an element of relief in his agreement, as though he were glad to get away from the others. Perhaps it meant nothing, but Amdír noticed that Coldan was alone until he came up and asked him to join.

As they rode out of the city and around the great wall, Amdír remembered that Coldan had asked for advice the day before about how to win Asta's love. At the time he had been glad that Rollan had answered, but he wondered now if something had gone awry. He was not sure, however, if he should ask Coldan about it, or if he should let the poor man enjoy the chance to forget about whatever was troubling him.

He decided on the latter--though if the opportunity to steer the conversation in the direction of Coldan's troubles arose, he planned to do so.

"They tell me, Coldan, that Dorwinion is a hilly land beside a great sea. Is it much like Gondor, then? You've travelled to Dol Amroth and through Emyn Arnen. Do the shores of Belegaer remind you of the shores of Rhûn?"
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Old 04-20-2011, 09:35 AM   #213
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It was a more unkempt looking Sador of Burlach than the previous day's who now stumbled jerkily into the inn's central meeting place; already his decision to pack papers, not a change of costume, was beginning to tell, in creases and rumples amidst fine silk and satin; neither had he bothered to provide himself with a comb, and his long white-gold hair was in a disorder of errant strands. It seemed like a kind of fellow-feeling in him that made him take in and approach young Harrenon first, who had something of the same scattiness about his appearance.

"Morning, good sir. I do not think we have yet met? I am known as Sador; would you like to take breakfast with me? I already owe your company much," he said with a wryly laughing expression, "for last night your playwright purchased my drink and provided my entertainment, too...

"What do they call you, who are you to play, and would you rather eat bacon or eggs or both?"
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Old 04-20-2011, 11:35 AM   #214
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Elanor tucked into her third plate of food and relished the opportunity to swing her legs back and forth from the chair. It was a habit she'd had to break herself of when she'd entered the Queen's service, even though Pippin had assured her that he continued to "get away with it" when he was South.

She was rather pleased with herself--here she was, on her own Mad Adventure Bent, and all for a perfectly decent cause, too! Of course, she had her own interests, too... Drat, the Court must have been rubbing off on her!

The lass who had given her breakfast--Thiliel, her name was, and she seemed pleasant enough--had been only too happy, once she learned who Elanor was, to let her know that, yes, the King's Players were at the inn, within the courtyard, and that she would let the mistress of the troupe know that Elanor wished to speak with her when she brought her her breakfast. That seemed a little odd to Elanor, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it, so she let it lie.

For now, though, Elanor was in no hurry, so she continued to eat her breakfast, and watch the other people who were eating, idly trying to guess what sort of people they were from their appearances and their mannerisms.
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Old 04-20-2011, 01:53 PM   #215
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Worn out by the hard work and turmoil of the day before, Asta had risen somewhat later than usual, to find that Coldan had already left with Amdír, and that Aldarion was nowhere to be seen. She was not sure if she was relieved or disappointed. Perhaps both.

The Common Room was still quite crowded; so much so, in fact, that Asta was unable to attract the attention of the flighty little maid, and had to resign herself to waiting.

She caught sight of Lord Sador's fair head. The young nobleman was, for some reason, chatting away to Harrenon, of all people. Asta could not imagine why; Harry was such a dull youth, with never a word to say for himself, that she could barely remember he existed much of the time.

As for Sador himself, she felt she had misjudged him. He really had been quite charming to her the previous evening. Although– here Asta frowned, and narrowed her pale eyes– he had managed to evade all her attempts to find out anything more about his plans, his connection with Aldarion, or Aldarion's with the unnamed lady of Dol Amroth, with the same ease with which Asta could manipulate a tool.

She still had the mysterious note under her pillow. Perhaps she should show it to someone? But who? Brinn? Rollan?

While she pondered, her gaze lighted on a very pretty girl-child sitting near by. Strange that such a little thing should be left to breakfast by herself– but then no doubt whoever had charge of her had not gone far. Certainly no child alone could have accounted for so many empty dishes.

The little girl looked up, meeting her eyes with unchild-like coolness, one golden brow delicately arched in enquiry. Goodness, thought Asta, but these city children were bold! That is, if the little girl was from the city. There was something in the cast of her features that seemed vaguely foreign– not just to Minas Anor, but to anywhere else Asta had been on her travels. She had, Asta decided, almost the face of an adult in miniature.

"Good morning, dear," said Asta brightly. She had not really had all that much to do with the little ones, but she knew this was how one was supposed to talk to them. "Where are your Mummy and Daddy?"

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Old 04-20-2011, 02:11 PM   #216
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Coldan had agreed to Amdír's invitation gratefully enough, relieved to disentangle himself for a while from the quagmire of stress and hurt feelings back at the inn; hopefully, that would help him to see things with fresh eyes on his return and maybe make some amends for the upheaval he had caused.

Only when they had passed the gates did he remember that he had been supposed to see Brinn the night before, but if she had sent for him, he had soundly slept through the summons, having fallen asleep immediately after going to bed (or rather, after luckily hitting the bed in the right moment when it happened to wheel his way). There was a small chance - well, about the chance of daisies growing in Mordor, if he knew her - that she had forgotten about it as well, but if she had not, he was in no particular hurry to face her.

His head still aching with a vengeance, he wasn't feeling very talkative, but after a while, when they were out of the city and turned south, following the gradual westward curve of the great wall, the carpenter broke the silence.

"They tell me, Coldan, that Dorwinion is a hilly land beside a great sea. Is it much like Gondor, then? You've travelled to Dol Amroth and through Emyn Arnen. Do the shores of Belegaer remind you of the shores of Rhûn?"

Blinking against the morning sun that was just climbing over the tops of Ephel Dúath, Coldan let his eyes drift over the green fields, gardens and pastures that gently rolled down towards the Great River.

"Yes - and no", he mused. "Our sea is landbound on all sides, so ze tides are veaker zan zose of ze Belegaer, zough it can still get stormy enough when the strong east vinds blow unbroken across ze plains of Rhûn. But the land is much alike, in parts at least. My family hails from Dol Bychin on ze vest coast, between ze River Celduin and ze southern mountains; it's warm and mild zere, although ve're farther north, much like your Ithilien and Belfalas viz zeir olive groves and vineyards, and zere are neat, busy ports at Nerevar and Burias - pretty towns, if nothing near as splendid as Dol Amroth and Pelargir. Ze veather is cooler up north around Celduin's mouth, vere my uncle Gwithold lives, but ze soil is dark and fat zere, and corn grows on it in abundance, and sugar-beets, even sweet galenas or pipeweed, as they call it up in Dale; ve hev learned to smoke it from zem, and grow it for trade as vell as for our own use."

He smiled at Amdír. "I hope I'm not boring you, but to tell ze truth, it gladdens my heart to speak of my home country; it vas good of you to ask me about it."

The smile vanished, overshadowed by a frown. "It's not ze land zat feels foreign to me here, it's ze people. I feel at home among ze Dale folk - zey're of a kind much alike to my own countrymen. But you Gondorians, I don't know vat's wrong viz you. 'High Men' you style yourselves and look down upon us whom you call 'Middle Men' as if heving an Elven Queen and a zree zousand year old city somehow made you better zan ze rest of ze vorld."

He blushed, suddenly remembering whom he was talking to. "Beg your pardon, Amdír, I meant no offence - I've met good, decent men among your people, men like you or Harry or zat officer at ze armoury yesterday. But most of zem seem to me more like your former boss, Lord Cirdacil - haughty and selfish; or glib and cunning like zat son of his who has moved in viz us, pursuing the Valar may know vich hidden plans. Even our own Aldarion seems to care little about anyzing other zan his art and his personal fame." He silently cursed himself for going down this particular lane of thought.

"But it's rude of me to complain to you about your compatriots. Let's speak of somezing else. Vy don't you tell me a bit about zat Lord Hallas whose estate ve're heading for?"

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Old 04-20-2011, 03:51 PM   #217
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just below the Citadel, on the highway winding down to the Sixth Circle

After the day's first industrious session at the Exchequer - roughly from dawn to the time when lesser worker rose in the first place - it was the custom of its Lord Warden to pause, and travel a little while out of the Citadel to find brisk and temperate refreshment at the house of his elder son, Ecsichil, heir of Burlach.

It was a more comfortable place, truth be told, than the traditional outposts of the ancient aristocracy of Anarion's kingdom, up on the Citadel above the rows of more mercantile grandeur. Perhaps, Cirdacil thought wryly, his eldest child's house spoke to his own frankly commercial blood. But now, by one of the quirks of economic irony that were the one element of financiery that still threw him occasionally, the wider, lower, mansions of the Sixth Circle were finding more favour with the younger nobility, like Ecsichil and his wife. Here they could be ostentatious and showy; could work, live and above all entertain beyond the reach of the gerontocracy's eye, or even the duties of Court. Nevertheless, Cirdacil always got a hearty welcome at his son's house in the morning, and he was almost always too busy to interrupt the Sixth Circle's rhythm by night.

He rode on one of the staider Treasury transportations now, an old white mule that not only knew its place, but was rather proud of it; and up here, so far from any precinct that lacked privilege, let alone savoured of danger, he took with him only a single Guardsman, and him not always.

He was very fortunate that he had chosen so to do today, though. For, hardly had the pair of them left the Citadel half a mile behind them, when Cirdacil coughed phantasmagorically, shuddering so violently from his saddle that had it not been for his Guard's firm and timely grasp, he would have impacted hard upon the cobbles.

"Are you not well, my lord?" this mere soldier (albeit of the Tower) now gasped out, against all protocol.

Cirdacil did not answer. He did not seem to be aware of the danger he had been preserved from, of the Guard's sudden and pressing touch, a grip which quite possibly would even have caused pain to a man of smaller will-power than the old Lord Warden.

"Do you see that man?"

"I'm sorry, my lord?"

"The very young fellow."

The Guard of the Citadel was puzzled. No one especially juvenile was near them; two bearded and middle-aged fellows in rich clothing were having a patently boring colloquy outside one of their houses; well, that woman in a higher window could be youngish, but his lordship hardly meant her...there was a sailor who looked more dead tired than any age especially...

...and there could be no doubt about it, it was at the sailor that Cirdacil was now staring, rather wildly, as he began, even, to gesticulate in a species of high over-excitement.

"Stars above, those eyes! His eyes...soldier, bring...that sailor...over here...I want a look at him...oh...tell him it's about the new ship money surcharges or something, and who I am. Tell him who I am, for certain; Cirdacil of Pelargir."

The Guard hesitated to fulfil his instruction, as the old man had obviously lost it at last; the crowning indignity that he seemed to have forgotten his very identity as Lord of Burlach, had just yelled out his old commoner's name...soon he would be telling the whole city about his career in the flax markets, or something...still, Lord Cirdacil was known to have a temper on him, to look after his own but to be a bad one to cross, so after a shortish pause the soldier did ride over to the sailor after all, hoping the Lord Warden wouldn't fall off his mule while his command was carried out...
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Old 04-20-2011, 04:20 PM   #218
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Elanor's face broke into a wide smile when the lady with the sandy hair stopped by and asked her the question--and in a different dialect at that! Was she from the countryside? Or even beyond? "They're in the Guest-House in the Sixth Circle just outside the Citadel. Well, Mum certainly is; Dad might be out in the gardens at the Houses of Healing right now. He can't stand not having anything to do."

She let the woman muddle in confusion only a moment. "Oh, but where are my manners?" She reached across the table and clasped her hand for a moment, relishing the fact that here she could indulge in Shire customs that often perplexed outlanders. "Elanor Gamgee, at your service. Who might you be?"
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Old 04-20-2011, 06:44 PM   #219
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"But it's rude of me to complain to you about your compatriots. Let's speak of somezing else. Vy don't you tell me a bit about zat Lord Hallas whose estate ve're heading for?"

Amdír thought about it for a moment.

"Lord Hallas is the sort of lord who you would not have seen in Minas Anor before the time of Elessar. Do not mistake me, he is a good man, but he is not a serious minded lord. He has a thousand interests, and as many friends. That is how he became the Master of Revels, when no other lord in the court wanted the task, and that is how he lost it, once he made it successful. He is an easy master to please, because he has wealth and does not fear to lose it--but he will not be impoverished any time soon, for he has good men as his stewards, and he inherited vast properties in Ithilien that are only these past few years being reclaimed.

"I do not know why there is a special sort of pride that seems to affect many Gondorians. Perhaps it is a just pride in the fight we made against Sauron that has become twisted, so that we no longer recognise that there were others who fought him as well.

"But perhaps it is more than that... perhaps it is the pride of Númenor haunting us yet--but I think it is not Gondor's purity that makes for this arrogance, but the fact that the blood of Númenor has become mixed. The way I see it, if only Númenóreans had settled in Gondor, they might have recognised their allies as fair partners without fearing that they would usurp them--but that is not how our tale was written. Instead, the Men of Gondor today are equal parts Númenórean and Men who never left--Men who might have been akin, they say, to the Edain of the House of Haleth in ancient times, Men related to the Dead of Dunharrow and the Dunlendings, and the peoples of shadowy Minihiriath. The Númenóreans did not recognise them as kin, in the same way they recognised the Northmen of Dale and Rhovannion as kin, and so although they formed one realm, they did not form a realm of trust.

"Instead, the Númenóreans feared the local Men, who outnumbered them--they feared that they would not be true if Sauron returned, and when Sauron returned at least some of the Men--those we call the Dead of Dunharrorw--proved them right. In their turn, the local Men feared the Dúnedain who had come over the Sea--feared them because they were tall, and bright, and long-lived; because they built great cities and fortresses and knew much. They loved them--and they feared them.

"And that, I think is how, although the Dúnedain never outnumbered the rest, that all of Gondor came to think of itself as pure-blooded Númenórean. The Men who were did not trust those who were not, and those who were not wanted to be so, and in both cases only those who whose blood could be trusted--those who were family fostered a distrust of those who were different. That is why, when we first met the Northmen, and were ourselves strong, we distrusted them--we distrusted them so much that we rebelled against a great king who shared their blood. That is also why, when we were weak, and needed their aid, we found a way to call them kin--those of the House of Hador that never crossed the mountains we said---and so we gave them Calenardhon."

Amdír paused, and looked at Coldan directly. "I apologise for going on so," he said. "I have wondered at such things before, however, and it seems to me that we Gondorians put down those who are different in order to assert how 'Gondorian' we are--how Númenórean we think we are. You mention Cirdacil, and he is a good example. His name is High Elvish, and his title is great, but the Elvish of Minas Tirith is not his mother-tongue, for he hails from Pelargir, where they speak the Common Speech, and his birth is as low as yours or mine. Who knows what blood is in his ancestry? Perhaps he has the blood of Corsairs, as you have the blood of Wainriders.

"I think Dorwinion has the better way of responding to such ancestry--to ignore it. What does it matter if an enemy soldier fathered one of your ancestors? Lúthien the Fair was the ancestor of Ar-Pharazôn as well as Tar-Míriel after all, but her goodness did not lighten his darkness.

Amdír paused again.

"I should apologise again--I do not know how much of the history that is commonly told to our children in Gondor is told in Dorwinion. Though you were our east-march once, you have more kinship with Dale than with Gondor, and much has passed since our lands were sundered. If I am speaking too much of our admittedly overwhelming history, which truly does drench everything in Gondor with its taste, perhaps we should speak of something else. Did you find that Rollan gave you the advice you sought yesterday?"
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Old 04-20-2011, 07:51 PM   #220
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Vëandur stood in the morning sun, not seeing it, and heedless of the keen breeze from the south that under ordinary circumstances would have cheered him, putting him in mind of the open Sea and its simple pleasures.
He was torn by indecision: he had set out for the Citadel very early (and with a head aching from drink in the bargain) to find the Captain, to warn him. Relentlessly, his mind played over and over the conversation with his ship's Second Officer in the Rohirric Unicorn the night before.

"You must see it, Vëandur", Níndoran had said. "The Captain has not been himself lately. Why think you he, and us besides, are kept here so long at this time? They have hard questions for him, I think."

"What madness is this?" hissed Vëandur. "The damage we sustained last month was done by the storm, not he."

"Have you forgotten that I myself was there?" said Nindoran, grasping Vëandur's shoulder. "He told you to turn the ship to hard port, when his own First Officer was shouting that we were in danger of broaching to port! We could have capsized. He would not listen to counsel, and the cost almost was our lives."

"One mistake! What means that?" said Vëandur heatedly. He felt dazed to be having a conversation like this at all, and was very grateful of the loud din of the other voices around them. He drained his third glass of mead.

"You know that it is not only 'one mistake'", replied Níndoran. "What of his ridiculous search of the ship for the so-called 'thief' of that basket of fruit he received from those men of the Harad we aided? Three days he looked! When he first spoke of it, I talked with the deckhands. In five minutes I had a confession from one of them that he'd eaten the lot. When I told the Captain, he drew blade against me, and told me never to say such a thing again."

"I heard he was drunk", said Vëandur more softly.

"He was. But not enough to have forgotten what I said. Yet the next day he stormed through all our quarters and raved about thieves and Orc-friends being against him. He is a danger to us all, and I tell you this: if he is not relieved of his command while we are here, we shall remove him. Forcibly, if the need arises." He looked Vëandur in the eyes. "And any who stand with the Captain will share his fate."

The debate had been interrupted by the arrival of four more of the ship's crew, who were already barely able to stand, and who had insisted on Vëandur and Níndoran joining them in earnest merriment.

Níndoran's words still rang in Vëandur's mind as he stood in the clear light. Níndoran was right: the Captain had been acting very strangely, and Vëandur had been having his own doubts before that night. Yet, Vëandur so admired the man, as a leader and a man of the Sea, that he wished to first try to help him in some way. Maybe the Captain just needed a rest. But what to do?

He was startled out of his dark thoughts by the sight of a guard, wearing the livery of the Tower, walking smartly toward him.

"Your name, Man of Gondor?" he said to Vëandur.

"Vëandur son of Falastur of the Fleets," he replied. What could this be about? Had they been overheard in that inn?

"You are wanted by Cirdacil of Pelagir. He wishes a word with you."

Pelargir? thought Vëandur. He looked over the guard's shoulder to see an old man sitting on a mule, looking back at him intently. Even from here, Vëandur could see the man was trembling. With anger? Fear? Vëandur steeled himself, and walked toward the old man, with the guard closely following.
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Old 04-21-2011, 03:44 AM   #221
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"What do they call you, who are you to play, and would you rather eat bacon or eggs or both?"

Harrenon wondered whether Sador ever paused to catch his breath before asking his endless string of questions. When the man had first approached him Harrenon had to admit to himself that he had felt slightly panicked, thinking that somehow Sador had overheard Coldan advising Harrenon the previous night to keep an eye on him and had now come to confront him about it. Yet it seemed not. And if Sador really wanted a conversation with him, so much the better. It was easier to keep an eye on someone when you were talking to them. Harrenon had, in truth, thought about approaching Sador too, yet he knew it would have taken him quite long before he managed to initiate a conversation.

“Should I answer your questions in the order they have been asked?” he asked grinning. “I’m called Harrenon, although recently my colleagues have taken to calling me Harry too. I do not know where that came from, nor do I know whether I should be pleased about it. See, I haven’t been called that since I was a child. I’m playing the part of Legolas in the performance, as well as that of the Witchking. Not very big parts, true, but I am quite satisfied with them. As for the matter of bacon and eggs, I think I will have both this morning. It has been a couple of very busy days and there are still more to come. I must confess, I will sleep easily once this particular performance is over. Now let’s eat.”

Food was brought to them. While they were eating, Harrenon took the chance to inspect his companion. He wondered again what was the real reason behind Sador being there, but he knew that he would never find the courage to ask. He decided to try another question instead:

“Tell me, if you do not think I am too bold to ask, what do you think of our little group so far? We interact with outsiders so seldom that we are sometimes curious to see how other people perceive us.”
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Old 04-21-2011, 09:45 AM   #222
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Sador laughed freeheartedly at his new companion's tentative question, and paused, still smiling, to eat for a little before he was ready with his reply.

"How other people perceive you, eh? Always a matter of guesswork. If you listened to the word on the street, my dear Harrenon - I think I shall stick to your full name's grandeur - if you listened to the word on the street - and trust me, right now, people in this City of ours are talking about nothing else..."

The young man paused again, apparently hindered by a hilarious series of memories, and calmed his diaphragm with a slug of water. He went on just before Harrenon could prompt him.

"...well, then, you'd believe any number of things; that the King himself has only one concern, and that's seeing your august drama; that my father the Master of the Revels, bless him, would gladly chop up the lot of you and stew you in boiling oil...that you are the finest regiment of magicians, and at the same time the sorriest crew of rogues, that the Tower of the Sun ever looked on...

"...but I still have not answered your question, truly. What do I think? I think it's hard to judge when I've not even seen a rehearsal, and when your playwright, who I think is a truly brilliant artist, but a little touchy, will not even let me see his script. But we've talked about it a little, and I've kept my eyes open, and I have, after all, managed to form an opinion or two."

Sador made an expansive gesture of despair with his arms and rolled his eyes. "If you'd seen the boring, traditional dross we've had to put up with at stuffy Court functions for Cormare before, you would immediately understand, Harrenon, that you boys and girls are a gift...and the odder you may be to our ears, as I see it, the better. We've heard endless, droning odes of the King's love for the Queen, sat through thorny philosophical mysteries based on the epigrams of Mithrandir, and that's not even touching on the chanted military epics, which sometimes last for days in bare plainsong. By contrast, you lot have passion, engagement, romances, egregious Elves and so on, something for everyone. You're great. The people love you, and so will we...just the way you are."

Especially, Sador thought in the midst of his peroration, if we see as kingly an Aragorn, or such a highly-strung Boromir, as I was lucky enough to witness yesterday evening...

***

Sixth Circle

Lord Cirdacil narrowed his eyes as the nautical man - not quite as young as he'd looked - identified himself to the Guard. Neither of the names meant anything. But then, there was no reason they should. The real question was, of whom was Falastur the son...

Practical considerations were overwhelmed now by memories, all but lost images of a fraternal parting, illuminated through the mist of seven decades only by a pair of great, harshly shining eyes of grey - the same eyes that met his own, brown and pedestrian, now, with an unfamiliar trepidation about them.

They had taken different ways, means, and lives, barely for reasons of their choosing. When Beren was young, to go to sea meant easy money; his brother had come to the age of destiny a decade later, when the Corsairs were already something of a counter-dividend. Cirdacil had gone inland with a great mercantile house in a low circle of the Tower of the Guard, and never seen the broad-limbed Beren, hero of his childhood, champion of his maturity, ever again.

Through all these thoughts, he had left the Guard and the sailor alike hanging. Probably, by now, they were certain he was quite mad. He got down from the mule with the same surprising sprightliness that he could often still display, and coughed cursorily in the Guard's direction to intimate he should look after it.

"I have a single question for you, sailor," Cirdacil said, "as your place of birth I can already hear in your voice." His own, he noted with a mixture of satisfaction and nostalgia, had quite lost the seaward lilt.

"What was your grandsire's name?"
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:12 PM   #223
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Vëandur stood tensely, trying to read the old man's eyes. The guard behind unnerved him: he did not like it when people stood so near when he could not see them.

Finally, the old man spoke.

"I have a single question for you, sailor," Cirdacil said, "as your place of birth I can already hear in your voice."

"What was your grandsire's name?"

It was not at all a question Vëandur had been expecting. He stood a moment, then carefully he said "I know not which grandsire you mean, my lord. My mother's father is Ardamir, a fisherman. Of my father's sire, I knew him not at all, only that his name was Beren".
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Old 04-21-2011, 04:12 PM   #224
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"If I am speaking too much of our admittedly overwhelming history, which truly does drench everything in Gondor with its taste, perhaps we should speak of something else. Did you find that Rollan gave you the advice you sought yesterday?"

Coldan winced; he would have preferred to avoid that topic a little longer. He wondered whether any of the other players had talked to Amdír about what had transpired at the common room the night before, but concluded it was unlikely - he hadn't seen the carpenter around after nuncheon yesterday, and nobody else from the troupe had been up and stirring before they had left this morning.

"You're a shrewd man, Amdír", he said, looking at his companion curiously. "If we hedn't set out so early, you vould probably hev been told a few stories about my deeds or misdeeds yesterday afternoon and evening, and none of zem too complimentary, I suppose." He sighed. "I don't know, Rollan's advice may hev been sound enough, but I'm afraid I hev made a rather poor job of putting it to practice. At least his vords gave me ze courage to speak my mind to Asta, vich in itself is a big step forward; unfortunately, my mind happened not to hev ze most appropriate zoughts in it at ze time."

He gave another, deeper sigh and decided he might as well have it all out and ease his heart without further circumlocutions.

"To give you ze long and short of it, ve hed a nasty quarrel. I complained about her flirting viz Aldarion, and she got all upset and called me an Easterling. Vat you may not know is zat vere I come from, zat is about ze vorst zing you can call a man, and it's not unusual for it to lead to a knife in ze insulter's entrails. Vich is, I guess, hard to understand for you, seeing zat many of us, like myself, do indeed hev Easterling blood somevere in our ancestry; but ve don't mention it, pretending to be pure Men of ze Vest - much like you Gondorians, in a vay; for ze peoples of Rhûn hev been our deadliest enemies for more zan a zousand years, and even now ze Dark Lord is gone and zey no longer vorship him, zere is still unrest and ever so often skirmishing and plundering along our eastern borders.

Anyvay", he resumed, "Asta knew exactly vat she vas saying; and I got into a cold rage and told her I vould none of her no more. I don't remember ever feeling so miserable in my whole life as in zat moment." He paused and shook his head about himself. "So I did ze logical zing and vent straight to ze common room and did my darnedest to get plastered senseless. Cue for Aldarion to turn up and complain to Branor and zat lordling, Sador, about how I hed unjustly blamed him for our trouble viz ze play; vereupon I took my anger and frustration out on him and challenged him on how he vas dealing viz Asta." He paused again, trying to make sense of the story he had just told. "Zis may sound crazy to you, but even zough I was mad at her, I still vanted to make sure zat if she preferred him to me, he vould treat her fairly.

Ze argument got heated, and ze only reason it didn't come to blows vas Asta herself showed up and stopped us. And zen ze strangest zing ever happened - she apologized to me for vat she hed said earlier; and I sort of did ze same, or at least I hope I did - my memory is a bit hazy zere. And - " He stopped himself just in time; he was not going to be so indiscreet as to mention her dried tears to anybody. "Vell, never mind. Anyvay, I hev no idea how she feels about me now, and about ze whole affair. I hardly know any longer how I feel myself."

He turned his head to look at Amdír. "I don't really know vy I'm telling you all zis, Amdír, except zat you'd hear most of it from others soon enough. Ve heven't talked zat much in ze past, alzough ve've known each other for zree years now, and I know much less about your own life beyond your dealings viz our company zan I'm beginning to zink I should like to. But zere is somezing in your face and talk zat inspires trust and confidence. Lord Cirdacil has lost a better man zan he vill ever know."
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Old 04-22-2011, 01:21 AM   #225
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It took a moment for Asta to register what the "child" was saying.

"Oh! Then you're– Forgive me, I– I thought..." she stammered. The woman smiled, as if to say: it happens. Asta recovered her dignity as best she could. "I'm Asta of the King's Players."

Asta had never seen a real, in-the-flesh halfling before. She could not help darting a glance at Elanor's feet, which sure enough were bare of shoes but thickly covered with fur. So that part was true. She was a great deal smaller than Sereth, however, and though her complexion was much the same delicate brown, her curling hair was a deep golden colour. Either she was an exception then, or somebody back in the dim mists of the company's beginnings had been very wrong about what halflings were supposed to look like.

The tiny hand still clasped her own. Asta wondered what she was supposed to do with it.
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:36 AM   #226
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"I know not which grandsire you mean, my lord. My mother's father is Ardamir, a fisherman. Of my father's sire, I knew him not at all, only that his name was Beren."

The old lord listened soberly to Vëandur's faltering, puzzled answer. At the last word, that short, evocative, high name, he made a firm, rapid, nod; but in words he did not reply for some further moments, as he turned away from the younger man, and began to look out upon the morning skyline. He stared into that part of the distance where the shine of the Anduin river was flowing, and seemed to murmur words addressed only to himself, or perhaps to an entity that heard with ears other than material ones. Almost, Vëandur and the guard would suspect in that moment, he was praying; not for something, surely, but for someone. But at last he turned again back to the sailor.

"I knew your grandsire - Beren - well enough," he said. "He was lost at sea, though I never heard any more exactly of the manner of his death. I hope he went peacefully to Osse's locker, and not by the harsher steel of some craven and misbegotten pirate."

He gave another of his brusque, business-like nods, this time to the guard, and abruptly remounted the mule. It seemed for far longer than an instant as if both were going to ride off (for the guard mounted his sturdy gelding too, now) and leave the seaman to wonder alone. But then the lord held up his wrinkled and slightly palsied, shaking hand in a halting gesture.

"Stay, my man. I must impart another word, after all, to the mariner."

It was with shining tears that threatened the timbre of his voice - that voice, too, on a sudden regaining the singsong Pelargir resonance - that he admitted to Vëandur, as if it cost him much, "He was my brother."

And he alighted to his feet again, and held out quivering arms in the most awkward looking of proffered embraces.

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Old 04-22-2011, 02:50 PM   #227
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Vëandur had stood listening to the man named "Cirdacil" with increasing astonishment.
The name itself had stirred something within him when he had first heard it from the guard, but why that should be he did not know. He could not remember ever seeing this old man before, even in passing during previous excursions to the City.

At the words "He was my brother," it became clear. Vëandur had heard the name before, from his father long years ago, when Vëandur was only a small boy of five summers or so.

His father and he had been at the shore sitting upon the quay. Both had been in a fine mood, smelling the salt in the air and hearing the musical cries of the gulls. Falastur had been telling him a tale of his first time at sea with his own father.

"When can I go?" Vëandur had asked.

"Soon I shall take you with me, but your mother thinks your years are yet too few. Fear not, if the Sea runs in your blood you shall not be kept from it."

"I'll bet the Sea runs in the blood of all our family!" Vëandur had said, looking at his father with admiration.

"Not all," said Falastur. "My uncle Cirdacil felt not the call. He turned away from the Sea and went north long ago. It is many years since I have seen him."

"I don't understand why he would turn away from the Sea," said Vëandur.

"Neither do I, my son. You must remember though that it needs many men to serve the needs of Gondor, not sailors only. Judge him not."

The memory passed through Vëandur's mind in seconds. Now, seeing the name made into a living man in Minas Anor far from the Sea, Vëandur could tell the resemblance to his father in the old man's face, especially in the nose and mouth.

"It is joyous to find kin, especially where one does not look for it," said Vëandur.

He struggled for other words, but instead grasped the old man's arms and accepted his embrace.

After several moments, they parted, looking at one another.

"Alas, I can tell you little of Beren that you do not know," said Vëandur. "My father said that he set out on a voyage to the Anfalas one Spring day and never returned. It happened ere I was born."
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Old 04-22-2011, 03:56 PM   #228
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"Vëandur, son of Falastur, of the Fleets," Cirdacil repeated now, in simple wonderment. "My old cheeks blush to admit it, but I had forgotten even the sound of my little nephew's name, till I saw those eyes of yours...and now I see I have a grand-nephew, and grown a brave pilot for his country! Well..."

He shook his head in simple disbelief. Even now, he did not look like a kindly old man, more like a difficult curmudgeon who had been hit on the head with a mattock and was just coming round.

"Well," he said again, "I intend to make it as glad a discovery as I can arrange, though my time is always short, and I'm sure in your active path of life, yours is, well, as much so. But I shall tell you now that you have four fine young cousins, and that we are a family of no small importance, by the grace of the late lamented Steward, and the favours, too, of the King now ruling. Yonder," he pointed further down the fine, broad street, to a long mansion of yellowish limestone, "stands the house of my elder son, Ecsichil, to where I was on my way...and I am sure he would be delighted..."

But Cirdacil cut himself off half way through his sentence, still gazing penetratingly at his new nephew; his eyes might be smaller and browner, but they had, after all, a similar force of will.

"Actually, a better plan has occurred to me. I must tell you, then, though as my near blood you need observe no more courtesies than you think fit, that I am more widely known as Cirdacil, Lord of Burlach, Lord Warden of the Exchequer, and...unfortunately...Master of the Revels, too, at the moment. My younger daughter is married to a lord from Dol Amroth, but I know she is visiting her brother at this house, this evening, for a party of which they think I know nothing. More fool them!

"All my children, your cousins, two boys and two girls," the old man's pride here seemed at the point of overweening, "will be gathered at once. Now, I shall be free from the toils of the Exchequer at midnight; if you too are at liberty then, shall we meet here shortly after that, and surprise the rest of the family together? Then I can introduce you properly."

Cirdacil waited for Vëandur's answer, simultaneously looking him up and down with such exactitude that the mariner might wonder if his distinguished uncle had genuinely proposed his scheme out of affection, if he wished to see this country cousin brought before his noble children only when he was in finer array, or if another reason altogether worked somehow upon the old man...
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:44 PM   #229
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A party? With family he had never before seen, who did not know him? The thought made Vëandur smile nervously. Intruding on parties was something he had done a time or two before (mostly with friends from his ship, all drunk), but this was different. Yet, he did not see how he could refuse Cirdacil's offer. Anyway, the old man knew his own family better than Vëandur did, at any rate. And there was really no reason he could not go. As long as he left word with someone in the Second Circle quarters his crew had been allotted saying where he was going, it should be no problem.

Thinking of the crew brought crashing back the trouble with the captain, temporarily banished by the unexpected meeting.

Perhaps Cirdacil might have some influence that would help, he thought. And acceding to the old man's desire in what looked to be a minor matter surely would not hurt that chance. Also, Vëandur was curious about the unseen relatives, and wanted to meet them. He made up his mind.

"Lord Warden of the Exchequer and Master of Revels? How pressing your duties must be, my uncle. I would hear more of them, and of your life here when you have time. I am here in the City while my captain takes counsel, and know not when I shall have to leave." He paused, and bowed.

"Very well, Lord of Burlach (for so it seems fitting to call you in the public ear), I shall meet you in this place at midnight. I would have the chance to speak more with you, and meet those kin long sundered. May this be the beginning of new bonds between us!"
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:26 AM   #230
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“You're great. The people love you, and so will we...just the way you are."

Well, that was a relief, Harrenon thought. It could, of course, have been told only out of politeness, but right now Harrenon did not care whether Sador’s words were really honest or not. Any validation was good enough, at the moment. And, he had to admit that Sador had style and a way of making what he said seem very believable. No doubt a very useful talent.

Harrenon looked at his new acquaintance thoughtfully. There was something else Sador had said, something about the Master of the Revels not exactly having good intentions concerning them. Of course, he had heard those rumours many times, and the fact that Sador had now mentioned them to him confirmed in a way that there could be some truth there. How much, Harrenon still did not know, but he could of course try finding out.

“You know,” he said musingly, “I kind of think that even though your father might want to stew us in boiling oil as you so vividly put it – well, I believe that you would not exactly agree with him, would you?”

Now that’s dangerous ground you’re treading, Harry my lad, Harrenon told himself warningly. But he could not exactly take it back. And maybe, if he watched Sador carefully, he might learn from his reaction what exactly he had been put to do there. Then he would maybe find out whether he was really up to no good or not and perhaps he would no longer need to make a fool of himself by tailing Sador all over the place just to pacify Coldan.
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Old 04-23-2011, 03:33 PM   #231
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Aldarion's mind was racing as he made his way through the streets of the third circle. Lord Borondir had given him much to think about, and had promised much more the following day. During his service in the war Borondir had actually met several important characters central to the drama- King Eomer, Prince Faramir, and King Elessar himself. But while mere meetings were not a great help, Borondir had in fact spoken at length to Eomer while laying siege to a city in Near Harad, and Borondir had from him a first-hand account of quite a few important events, including quite a bit about the Lady Eowyn and Meriadoc the Halfling.

The next day it was promised that Aldarion would hear a great deal about King Elessar, and from Borondir's hints it seemed that perhaps Branor's spy-king ideas were not entirely without legs.

As Aldarion turned up the side lane towards the house of Bregolas, he was uncertain which feeling was the strongest at this point- fear or excitement. There was a fire burning within- the incredible opportunity, the prospect of doing something great! But at the same time the task was a bit overwhelming, even if he gathered all the necessary information. So much could still go wrong.

He was shaken from his thoughts by shouted greetings from Bregolas's youngest son, Arminas, who had evidently been keeping watch for him. "Aldarion!" the boy shouted, running forward to meet him. "Father and Mother are nearly done preparing for you! It's such a nice day they said we'd eat out behind the house." Arminas grasped Aldarion's hand and pulled him exuberantly towards the left side of the house where it bordered against the wall separating the third and fourth circles. "We can go around this way!" he said, grinning back at Aldarion. "We probably have enough time for me to show you father's new horse! He got him when he was promoted to captain this past spring."

Aldarion hastened to a jog to match the pace of Arminas. Though they could be an annoyance in the theater business, Aldarion generally liked children. They were so enthusiastic, imaginative, and full of promise, and worries did not seem so oppressing when happy children were around. It was easy to be optimistic.

As they rounded the back corner of the home they emerged into a small area behind the house enclosed by a stone wall and paved with large stones. Against the back wall there was a little pad of dirt-covered ground fenced in with well crafted wood. Within the enclosure stood a fine roan horse. "Father let me pick his name," said Arminas as they approached. "I called him Nahar. My friends said it wasn't very original, but I thought that it was the best name for a horse."
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Old 04-24-2011, 07:17 AM   #232
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Sador seemed to take Harrenon's hesitant query in good heart. Really, given how underslept and relatively unkempt he felt and looked, he seemed, surprisingly, in quite the good mood this morning.

"Oh no Harrenon, you can rest assured, I have no wish to stew you in any substance so unpleasant. Why, that would ruin a good dish. I simply intend - with the permission of Brinn and of Master Aldarion, if it is forthcoming - to simmer you with spices, and leave you all tasting a little more exotic..."

He leant back in his chair now, well at ease, and seemed to bring his mind back to an earlier point in their conversation.

"Your roles, for instance - they seem admirable opportunities for an up and coming actor. The Lord of the Nazgul will be simple enough, for nothing captures the attention of the multitude like a villain does. The official accounts of that monstrous captain always seem, if you'll pardon the turn of phrase, a bit lifeless. He was a man of a kind until his destruction, a high king and a fair one untold years ago, legends say...if I were you, I'd try and eke out the human tragedy of it all, not just play the bogey-man to scare the infants."

It was apparent that Sador had thought about this kind of thing before; he spoke with real enthusiasm about the history and his conception of the character, in a manner that was a little reminiscent of Aldarion's, if much less serious.

"As for Legolas of Eryn Lasgalen, well, in its way that is a more mysterious part altogether. Have you ever seen or spoken with the Elder Folk? Perhaps in Dale you have even come across the hero of the Fellowship's people...I even heard a story you had performed at Thranduil's woodland court, and surely that cannot be true? Tell me about them, for I have long wondered. I was very young still at the coronation, when so many Elves graced our City, and have seen none since save the Queen herself, if we count her as such."

"Tell me, if you can, are the woodland folk are golden-headed, as I am," Sador ran a hand through his hair, of which he seemed very fond, "or dark, like most Men of Gondor, even the Elvish folk from Dol Amroth? No one ever seems to know the answer. I heard a tuppenny bard sing the other day that Legolas performed all his deeds out of knightly love for Itaril, a maiden of the Elfin court...it sounded a fanciful tale, but an entertaining one, perhaps even fit for the stage..."

Sador seemed to bring himself up short at this point. "I am sorry, I have talked too long and too excitedly for you to satisfy any of my queries yet. The truth is, it is a great pleasure, and a rare one, to chatter of such things; and however much I may enjoy doing so, my fate is depressingly preordained, to enter the royal service as my father did..."
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Old 04-25-2011, 08:08 AM   #233
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Thiliel's chat with the small lass was pleasant enough. The girl semed too small to be in the inn byherself, but Thiliel didn't enquire. After all, she herself has gone on adventures alone when she was this height. The girl had any right as she had to be in the common room.

What really seemed queer was the lass' family name. "Elanor Gamgee", she called herself. Gamgee is not a common name in Gondor, Thiliel mused, I'm not sure if it's a name at all! She picked up the tray that she was preparing for Mistress Celebrindal and set off to her cart. Only then did it hit her: Elanor could be a Hobbit! Thiliel almost dropped the tray with the thought. How could I be so slow! I should have asked her! Wow! A HOBBIT! But then she's no lass at all...I've been talking to a lady who could be twice as old as me! But she seemed to enjoy my chattering...

Thiliel paused before Celebrindal's door. Maybe she hasn't awakened yet. Coming to a decision, the girl knocked twice.

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Old 04-25-2011, 08:34 AM   #234
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"Lord Cirdacil has lost a better man zan he vill ever know."

Amdír wasn't sure what to say. He was a humble enough man in stature that he was rarely flattered, and he tended to see his better qualities as simply doing what needed or ought to be done, rather than anything praiseworthy in itself. And then there was the troubling fact that, begrudgingly, Amdír privately agreed with Coldan about Cirdacil not being likely to ever know what a fool he was.

"You are kind to say so," he managed to say after a pause. Then, so as not to dwell on that thought so much, Amdír pointed ahead a low hedge running through the fields.

"That's the edge of Lord Hallas' lands. We're no more than half an hour from the loading up. I should thank you again for coming. It's difficult handling some of the pieces alone, and I don't have the same strength in my left arm as most men, thanks to the Easterlings."
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Old 04-26-2011, 03:09 AM   #235
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Harrenon had by now deduced that Sador was quite fond of talking – or, maybe, of hearing himself speak, Harrenon was not quite sure which. Nothing or relevance was said, however, at least not in Harrenon’s opinion. As a matter of fact, all that enthusiastic babble was giving him a headache.

Of course, that point about the Witchking’s history was quite interesting, or it would have been, had he not heard it already the day before from Bergil, who had also told him that the Witchking had not in fact killed Boromir, contrary to what the Players had believed – but then again, the Players had believed so many erroneous things, one more hardly mattered. Which of course meant that Harrenon’s time on stage as the Witchking – a favourite of his, which he most certainly did not portray as only a “bogey-man to scare the infants." as Sador thought he did. He actually preferred the role of the Witchking more than that of Legolas. Not because he was one that secretly had evil aspirations. It was only the fact that he had little to do as Legolas, only throw arrows at random and make silly noises for effect. He had actually tried once to talk to Aldarion and get him to give up the sound effects but, predictably, Aldarion would hear nothing of it, claiming that Harrenon had surely made a fool of himself while on stage in worse ways than that.

The rest of Sador’s speech, however, did not do anything but to amuse Harrenon. Well, well, who would have believed the son of none other than the Master of the Revels had such idealistic notions and such dreams! Still, Harrenon decided that it would do no harm to flatter his acquaintance a bit, now that he had the chance.

“Oh, I am sure you will do splendid in the Royal Court,” he said when Sador finally ended his speech. “You seem to have the making for things like that, or so I think. As for your questions – well, I regret to say I haven’t met too many Evles to be a good judge of them.” (As a matter of fact, Harrenon had never seen an Elf in his entire life, but he was not going to let Sador know that). “See,” he added, “There really was a performance in Thranduil’s halls, but you will have to ask Brinn – I mean, Mistress Celebrindal – for more details, since it was long before my time. Regarding that tale that bard of yours told about Legolas and his supposed beloved – well, yes, that would be fit for a play. But I am sure we could leave others to write it.”

At least Harrenon hoped that would be the case. The last thing he wanted to do was to portray a character that was mooning over some obscure Elven-maiden. Knightly-love, indeed! he thought disdainfully. Nothing made one act more absurdly than that and Harrenon wanted nothing to do with it. If he was to have romance in a play, why could it not for once be straight-forward and natural, without all the drama that made one forget about the real story?

Seeing Sador’s rather mortified look, Harrenon realised that he had inadvertently spoken the last words aloud. He smiled apologetically.

“I hold more with tales of adventure, you see,” he hastened to explain. “Nor do I find the type of relationships tuppenny bards usually love to sing of the most moving things that can be put in a tale. Why, what about friendship, then? I have found tales of friendship much more touching than all the love-stories put together. But that, of course, is just a quirky opinion of mine.”

He waved his hand carelessly, as if showing Sador that he should not pay much attention to his ramblings.
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Old 04-26-2011, 04:59 PM   #236
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"That's the edge of Lord Hallas' lands. We're no more than half an hour from the loading up. I should thank you again for coming. It's difficult handling some of the pieces alone, and I don't have the same strength in my left arm as most men, thanks to the Easterlings."

That last remark made Coldan raised an eyebrow. He had noticed occasionally that the carpenter moved somewhat stiffly at times, but to the extent that he had given thought to the matter at all, he had assumed it might be due to an accident at work. Stupid, he scolded himself. Of course Amdír would have been in the War, like any able-bodied man his age.

"So you were vounded in ze Var? And by Easterlings? And yet you spoke of ze fact that I hev zeir blood in my veins like it doesn't matter to you?"

Amdír shrugged. "Why should it? You're not the man who gave me that wound. And even if you have a tiny drop of the blood of his people in you, why should I blame you for what is beyond your power to change? A man should be judged by who he is and what he does, not by who his fathers were; or so I hold."

These words provided ample food for Coldan's mind to chew on for a while. "You're right, Amdír", he said at last. "I guess I might as vell stop being so touchy about it." Too bad he hadn't come to this insight about a day earlier, or he might just have laughed Asta's insult off, and everything that had happened afterwards might have gone a lot differently.

"But", he continued, eager to change the subject, "now you mention it, I vonder vy none of us seems to hev zought of asking you about your memories of ze Var! Vere you on ze Pelennor?"

"So I was", Amdír nodded, "and a gruesome thing to remember that is. I do not speak of it often, but if you feel my memories could help you people with the play, we can talk about it at more leisure over lunch, when our work is done."

They had now reached a junction where a smaller road forked off from the highway leading down to the Harlond and turned sharp west. Following it, they climbed up a spacious valley that nestled between two spreading roots of the Mindolluin massif, its floor a patchwork of green meadows, orchards with their trees laden with fruit, and corn-fields where farmhands were busy bringing in the last crops while they passed them by; on the upper slopes cattle were grazing. Near the head of the valley, where its rocky walls closed in, stood a stately manor built of the same white stone that Coldan had seen everywhere in the City, surrounded by a small village of stables, sheds and barns, as well as several houses of more modest size, less splendid but still neat and well-built; these, he surmised, would be the dwellings of the numerous servants and workers in Lord Hallas' employ.

In the middle of the wide courtyard in front of the white mansion Amdír reined in the mules, climbed off the driver's seat and greeted the servants who welcomed them, calling each by his name, with a familiarity that spoke of long acquaintance.

"Please see to it that the beasts are fed and watered, will you? I've brought a friend along today to help me with loading our sets, Coldan of Dorwinion, prompter and occasional actor with the King's Players; I had to bribe him with the promise of a fine lunch when we're done, so I depend on you to help me keep my word."

"Do not worry, Amdír", one of the men replied with a laugh. "Your friend shall have no reason to rue his coming hither. Everything will be ready when you are."

Amdír led the way to a barn that stood hidden behind the backside of the manor and opened the big creaking door. Coldan stepped in and stood, blinking to see in the twilight that filled the barn, between the familiar set pieces he had so often performed among and even more often hidden behind, always alert to provide the needed cue when one of his fellow-players faltered in their texts. The showpiece, the big mountain backdrop which could serve as Erebor as well as Amon Rûdh, Mindolluin, part of the Misty Mountains or Mount Doom - then lit from behind so it seemed to glow inside, and with smoke rising from the summit - was missing, for Amdír had already brought it to the inn the day before; but there was the street corner which nobody really knew what it had originally been supposed to represent but which would do nicely for any scene set within Minas Anor, and there the Mirkwood backdrop which could easily double as Lothlórien with a little change of lighting, and there the Tower of Isengard, shown in dramatic perspective to appear higher than it was and painted on both sides so it could change into Barad-dûr with a simple turnaround.

"All right", he said, rolling up his sleeves. "It's ze vork zat's never begun as takes longest to finish. Let's get started."
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Old 04-26-2011, 11:39 PM   #237
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Elanor smiled, squeezed the hand, and let it go. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Asta," she said. She paused--the name sounded peculiar rolling off her tongue. "You're not from around here, are you? The Players, I mean. Oh, but that's terribly rude of me--let me start again. It's a pleasure to meet you, especially because you're with the King's Players. I know we're going to see you on Cormare and all, but I wanted to stop by and see you all in advance. I dearly love history, after all, and especially what folk are doing with it here--it's all so different back home, you see!" She took a sip of tea. "So, if any of you are agreeable, I'd love to hear a little of what you're doing, from the pony's mouth, as it were. What sort of things do you do with the Players?"

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Old 04-27-2011, 01:55 AM   #238
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"In answer to your first question: we're from Dale– at least most of us are."

"I see," said Elanor, "so you're the King of Dale's Players!"

"Er– yes," said Asta, though she was rather hazy on that point. The troupe's name came from some long-ago, half-forgotten jest of Rollan's, which for all she could recall might have been about the King under the Mountain, or the King of the Wood Elves, or even wicked Butterbur's successor, the King of Bree. Brinn had cautioned them against saying too much of this in Minas Anor, where folk seemed to take these matters very seriously, and might ask awkward questions about their supposed royal patron. She moved on quickly, to a subject closer to her heart, "As for what I do– well, it's more a question of what don't I do– why, sometimes I think the whole company would fall to pieces if it weren't for me! Not that Bri– Celebrindal– doesn't work hard... but between acting roles and fixing everything and working the mechanicals– particularly the dragon–"

"The dragon...?" the halfling repeated. "But... isn't the play about the War of the Ring?"

"Yes, of course– so naturally we had to put in the Great Dragon of Mordor!"

"Oh," said Elanor, looking a little blank, "that dragon."

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Old 04-28-2011, 09:05 AM   #239
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Brinn & Rollan

Rollan and Brinn took their breakfast together in the cart. Amdir had dropped the crutches off earlier, and after Brinn had done some test-stumping, she was reasonably confident that she could get around.

Still, there was something comforting about having breakfast in the comfort of one's own room (well, cart), and more comforting still being alone with her husband a little longer. Still, when Thiliel stopped by, she made sure to let her know that she would be dining in the common room, barring any further mishaps.

Thiliel was brimming with energy when she brought the food in, which was a blessing--Rollan was not much of a morning person, and Brinn's desire to discuss the subject of Coldan (and, when he wasn't proving particularly forthcoming, the mysterious Sador) was not mutual.

"You seem sunny today, miss," said Brinn. "Is there any good news from the inn?"
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Old 04-28-2011, 03:58 PM   #240
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"You seem sunny today, miss. Is there any good news from the inn?" Celebrindal enquired.

"It's a sunny day", was Thiliel's reply. She giggled. "Also," the lass added after a pause, "there's a girl in the common room who wanted to see you. She called herself Elanor, and she has a peculiar family name - what was it? Gam... Gamgee. Yes, Elanor Gamgee. She looks like a girl, but you know what I think? I think she's a hobbit!"

Last edited by Galadriel55; 04-29-2011 at 05:14 AM.
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