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Old 07-12-2015, 08:51 AM   #41
Legate of Amon Lanc
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Hilderinc

Hilderinc looked down at the potato in the foreign woman's manicured hand. She indeed did not look like just anybody, and judging from the manner of her speech, she came probably from Gondor, if not Mundburg itself.

"Thank you, my lady," he replied in the language of the Mark. It seemed to him she might want to speak it, perhaps to show her skill the way some nobles liked to, since she first talked to him in that language. He almost reached out for the potato with his left hand, out of fear his right arm might betray him again, but then it occured to him the foreign lady might see it as bad manners, and he instead took the potato in his right hand.

And it slipped from his fingers.

Any other man in Hilderinc's place would have flushed bright red, but the only thing that might have betrayed the soldier's emotions were his eyes. Both him and the woman just stood there frozen; then, after what seemed like long awkward silence, she bent down and picked up the potato again. Wiping it into her already dirty sleeve, she handed it back to Hilderinc.

"Here, your..." She paused, apparently in search for words.

"Potato," Hilderinc finished for her.

"Potato," she repeated.

"Thank you." This time he reached for it with his left hand and put the potato into his belt pouch. He looked back at her. "Would you prefer if we speak the Common tongue, my lady?"

The look on her face made him reevaluate his impression that she might be one of the nobles interested in showing their knowledge of foreign languages.

"Yes, please."

He bowed his head slightly. "Then let me welcome you here in Scarburg, my lady. My name is Hilderinc. I can show you around. It is a humble place, especially now after the hard winter, but I am sure we will find you a place where you'll feel comfortable. I can take you to meet lady Saeryn, I am sure she will be happy to welcome you. If she is not too busy," he added after a short pause. He hoped the new guest would not see it as insult that the lady of the house might not have time to see her immediately, but she did not really give that kind of impression, and it was more than clear that Scarburg was now in commotion.
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Old 07-12-2015, 09:21 AM   #42
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Brith

"Then let me welcome you here in Scarburg, my lady. My name is Hilderinc. I can show you around. It is a humble place, especially now after the hard winter, but I am sure we will find you a place where you'll feel comfortable. I can take you to meet lady Saeryn, I am sure she will be happy to welcome you. If she is not too busy."

Brith smiled. It had been a relief that the grim mud-covered man spoke Westron, and spoke it remarkably eloquently at that. And now he was being most helpful.

"I would indeed love to meet with the Lady, but I am sure she has more pressing matters at hand at this very moment. I am pleased to wait."

She paused. The man was looking at her, his expression unreadable. "Oh," she said. "How silly of me. I'm pleased to meet you, Hilderinc. My name is Brith - well, my name is Brithiel really but no one ever calls me that, not even my mother called me that - and I am a seamstress."

He nodded at her politely. "Then maybe I can show you around first, Lady Brith."

"Thank you," she said. "I'm hoping to stay for a while."

He did not ask more, but instead led her out of the worst of the commotion. He pointed out the stables and the sheds, then took her for a short tour of the Hall itself. His way to put things was short and informative, if not military. He had the gait and the scars of a soldier too, but he didn't talk more about himself. Brith wondered why he wore his hair short unlike virtually all other knights of Rohan, but she did not ask. Even though he was curt, he was polite, and that put her at ease. He reminded her of some of the dúnedain of the North in his grimness.

She made some small talk as they walked, commenting on the excellent workmanship of the buildings. Many of them were clearly recently constructed, and even though they bore signs of being taken apart after that, the solid groundwork was there. She had seen much shoddier work in many places in Arnor. Still, the state of disrepair was very evident.

"You will have a busy summer ahead of you. So many things to make this place fit for an Eorl." She cast a quick glance at her companion to see if he had taken her remark the wrong way. She hadn't meant to think out loud.
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Old 07-12-2015, 02:55 PM   #43
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Wilheard

Eodwine had left and Wilheard went back for Bolt. He had left his mare's reins to a soldier that had come with him from Edoras, alongside with the instructions to hold her until he'd come to collect and stable her. Wilheard could see Bolt was uneasy, shifting her weight and tossing her head. The man handed the reins to Wilheard with a sour look.

"Your mare has a foul temper, sir. She bit me," the man said.
Wilheard stroked Bolt's muscular neck. She was much more at ease already. "I am not surprised," Wilheard said. "She doesn't like strangers." He scratched Bolt's forehead affectionately. "Oh, and you're dismissed," he added without even glancing at the soldier.
Muttering something under his breath, the man hurried away.

"Let's take you to the stables. You need a rest," Wilheard told Bolt and started leading her towards the stables. He didn't need a guide - after all, he had lived in Scarburg for a time, even though it had been years ago. It felt like it had been in a different life. He knew he had been to Scarburg only half a year ago, but all his memories of that time seemed to be coated in a thick dark grey fog. He remembered Bolt kicking a hole into her stall, he remembered a girl chasing a crow across the yard, and he vaguely remembered a lecture from his father about drinking, but that was all. He had been numb and miserable. Well, truth be told, he was still a little numb and miserable, but he had horses and people to look after.

There were a couple of people in the stables when Wilheard entered. He recognized the ostler Léof and greeted him curtly. Léof pointed him to a stall where to take Bolt. He was clearly used to some men preferring to seeing their horses themselves. Wilheard unsaddled Bolt and gave her water and the horse bowed down her head to drink.

Wilheard looked over his shoulder and saw a young man approaching with feed for the ill-tempered mare. Only then he realized it was not really a young man, more like an overgrown boy, and one he remembered all too well. "Javan, is it?" he asked, straightening himself to his full height. He smiled mirthlessly down at the lad, and he knew the scar made it look like a grimace. "Are you still in the habit of beating women?"

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Old 07-12-2015, 07:57 PM   #44
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Javan

Javan attended to the duties Léof gave him in a methodical way. He often helped in the stables though it was not his only job, and he knew what must be done. He noted where the men who brought their own horses stabled them and then went and fetched hay for them.

He approached the latest stalled horse, thinking more of his own upcoming supper than the one he held in his arms for the mare, when the man addressed him.

“It’s Javan, isn’t it?”

Javan stopped, the hay hanging rather limply in his hand. He raised his head and looked at the man. He knew him at once and frowned, not at all pleased to see him.

“Are you still in the habit of beating women?” Wilheard asked with an unpleasant sneer.

Javan’s lip curled with disgust, and he dropped the bundle of hay at Wilheard’s feet.

“She was more a brat than a woman,” he replied, turning on his heel.
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Old 07-12-2015, 09:22 PM   #45
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Scyld

This shirt would certainly have to be washed before he wore it again, Scyld mused as he juggled the muddy potatoes in his arms and looked about for a place to put them. He was interrupted from his task by the sound of a familiar voice, however, as he looked up to see Rowenna standing there. A glimmer of a true smile crossed his face before settling into something more reserved.

"I greet you, Nydfara. It has been years. Who brings this food?" she asked.

He felt suddenly guilty – it had indeed been a long time. Had she thought to hear from him? Did she intend for him to feel this way? Surely not – he must be reading into her words that which was not there. Better, safer, to focus on her question.

“Well, I helped to bring it,” he remarked smartly, “but Athanar’s son Wilheard led our convoy, and the food was sent by the King from Edoras.” He paused. “How have you fared, these last few years?”
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Old 07-12-2015, 09:29 PM   #46
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Saeryn

The two pots of porridge were nearly boiling. Saeryn stood by the stove and stirred first one pot then the other. She laid her hand on her belly. Her hands were trembling again. They often did now after very little exertion, and what with lifting and pouring the grain into the bins, she was very tired.

Stefnu and Modtryth came into the kitchen, carrying a sack between them. “This is the last one,” Modtryth said.

“Good. These will be done shortly. The fire’s hot enough, we can start more water.”

“Should we prepare anything else? Potatoes? Some of the dried meat, perhaps?”

Saeryn shook her head. “Not yet. The porridge will do us all good, but eating too much all at once would do more harm than good, I think.” She laid the spoon over the rim of the pot. “I will be back,” she said.

She went out the door into the hall and across to her and Eodwine’s room. She opened the door cautiously, so as not to wake her son, and was surprised to see Eodwine stretched out on the bed beside Eoghan. She went to the bed and laid her hand gently on her son’s forehead. He was still hot, but he seemed fast asleep and did not respond to her touch. She reached across him and touched Eodwine’s forehead. He, at least, was not feverish. He was asleep, though, and Saeryn took the moment to study him. He may not be sick, but he was far thinner than what was right. The skin was pulled tight over his cheekbones and his eyes were sunk far back.

“Are you asleep?” she asked in the tiniest whisper. If he was, she would let him lie until the porridge was entirely finished, and then she would wake him.
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Old 07-13-2015, 03:38 PM   #47
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The mud was brown and sticky on her fingers. It was on her dress and in her hair and on her hands, and on others’ hands as well. Many muddy feet came towards her, and many muddy hands dropped the muddy potatoes into the now muddy sack. It was a muddy world today.

Ledwyn stayed behind after the others have left, having recovered most of the scattered produce. On her hands and knees, she felt the area, searching for any hidden ones that may be buried in the dirt and puddles. No potato may be left to waste, not when each one could have meant the difference between a living person and a person otherwise. Her search yielded four potatoes and half as many stones. She only stopped when she covered a circle around the fallen sack twice.

She was filthy. There is no way she could come into the kitchen in this state. Ledwyn gave thought to it, and walked to the well. Drawing up some water, she washed herself first as best as she could. She splashed some on her skirt and shoes. They are wet already. At least they will be a little cleaner. She rubbed the fabric until the worst of the dirt came off. Last, she washed each precious potato, as well as the sack, taking care not to drop them into the well.

Once back inside the kitchen, Ledwyn dried her load so that rot would not form, and placed them gently into a clean, dry sack. She put them away with the rest of the stores – oh how blessedly full now! – hung the wet sack to dry, and joined the rest of the women in their duties.
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Old 07-14-2015, 04:23 AM   #48
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Stefnu

New kettles of porridge were already simmering slowly next to the ones lady Saeryn had already prepared. Stefnu trod from one to the other with a spoon, humming quietly. Behind her, steady flow of suddenly frantically active Scarburgians as well as many of the newcomers were still streaming into the kitchens. More and more sacks of oats, vegetables, and all manner of edibles appeared that made Stefnu's mind already devise intricate ways of how they all could be used and what amazing and different kinds of meals they could be put into. As the supplies piled up, however, she began to think more soberly. There was much more to do.

"These are almost ready," she said to Modtryth, pointing at the kettles. "Did you see how many people arrived? I just hope this will be enough."

"There are no more kettles to make it in," Modtryth said. "These will have to do."
Stefnu nodded, laid the spoon aside and walked to the nearest pile of sacks. She surveyed it critically.

"These cannot just all be clumped about the hall, true?" she said. "Somebody should sort them out."

"Maybe that somebody should be us," Frodides's voice chimed in from behind.

Stefnu turned around, her braids whipping her back.

"And right you are, Frodides!" she exclaimed. "We cannot wait with everything for lady Saeryn, and she will have the little ones to take care of anyway. Leave that to me! As soon as everyone gets their meal, I will take a look at these-"

She noticed a curious look from Modtryth, and paused.

"I don't think I am going to eat much anyway," she finished. "When we are done with the meal, you can eat and I can make sense of these. And we need to know what we have here." Her gaze fell on one of the small sacks.

"Nuts," she noticed, picking it up. She rattled the bag. "What if we threw a couple into the porridge! There's not much, but just for the look! And for the flavour! I am so sure everyone will be happy to just have something they can crunch with their teeth."
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Old 07-14-2015, 10:46 AM   #49
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Elfthain had probably never worked so hard in his life before as he did unloading the waggons. He had helped with harvest of course and that work was long and hot, scything and gathering from dawn til dusk, but he hadn't done anything so strenuous as lifting full grain sacks in chainmail, the combined heft of which was not far off half his own body weight. And so eager were the locals to have the goods safely in their stores that they set a brisk pace, almost as if they feared that the carts might be driven off yet part laden if they were not swift enough. He was determined to keep up even though his legs threatened to buckle each time he lifted a full sack.

By the time his waggon was unloaded he was almost on his knees and hugely relieved that the unloading of the other carts seemed under control and not in immediate need of his help. He reckoned he could be spared to take care of Safran who had waited patiently amid the chaos. The mare turned her sweet head towards him and whickered softly. Elfthain stood close to her and gently pulled her ears. The sight of her bulging saddlebags had reminded him of something "Sorry Saff, I have one more thing to do and then I will get you sorted" he promised. "I won't be long", He extracted a bulky and heavy oilcloth wrapped parcel from one of the big leather panniers, No point lugging this back from the stables when I am right by the kitchen door he had thought.

He had been inside before of course but not in any state to take in the detail of the environment. Now he noticed several women who seemed to be part of the household, about his mother's age or older he guessed for the most part though there was a younger looking one who was looking rather grimy and damp. Not that Elfthain was in any position to judge. Already less than fragrant after several days travel, his exertions hadn't improved matters. He knew a hot bath would be out of the question but a swill under a pump or a bucket or two from the well would be a start.. even that would have to wait . The women were all busy either with pots on the stove or examining their new stock of provision and even though he didn't really believe Cenric's theories on the unpredictability of women past first youth, he became diffident in the presence of the strangers.

He tapped gently on the doorframe before speaking "Is it alright if I leave these with you?" he enquired entering the kitchen and setting his burden on the table and loosening the wrapping to reveal two large stoneware jars. One of the women raised an eyebrow and asked what he had so he continued, "my mother sent them for the lady of the house - this is leaven, she thought you might not have been able to keep yours going if you had run out of flour ... I have fed it during the journey so it should be alright." At least the antisocial nature of the travellers camp had meant that he had evaded this strange procedure being witnessed. He unstopped the smaller jar and the lump of wet dough was still obviously fermenting."She thought it would let you have bread that bit quicker" he explained. "And this is honey from our own bees. there wasn't much to spare so she said to give it to someone who would know how it would be best used" He didn't unseal this. It had been used sparingly even at home for many months and hadn't been part of the requisition more a personal gift from one household to another made in the knowledge of its value. To smell it would be too tantalising. He tried not to think of it's sweetness let alone the meadows at home where the hives would be set in proximity to the spring flowers and where his colt was no doubt growing sleek on new grass. That jogged his memory again.. "oh and can you tell me where the stables are... I need to see to my horse" ..

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Old 07-14-2015, 06:44 PM   #50
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Rowenna

“How have you fared, these last few years?”

"Well enough." Her exploits in turning away the Easterlings came quickly to mind, but she would not brag to him. He would have to ask her to get that out of her. Better for him to learn of it from others.

"I know a thing or two about finding food in the wild, so I am not as hungry as some here. So this food is not for sale but free? The king is a good man."

He was fiddling with the potatoes, as if wondering what to do with them.

"Here, I will take those inside." She took them from him one at a time, wiping the dirt and mud from each in turn before taking the next. While she did this she asked, "Where did you go that took you four years?"
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Old 07-14-2015, 09:26 PM   #51
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Saeryn and Ruari

Eodwine did not stir. Saeryn sighed and drew her hand away from his forehead. She had hoped to discuss with him the arrival of the caravan and of the contents of the letter from Athanar, but it would have to wait, she told herself.

She went back out and had nearly reached the kitchen again when she spotted the back of a small red head poking up amongst a pile of sacks stacked near the door. She stepped around the bags and looked down at her daughter, sitting just in the midst of them, a raw potato held in both little fists.

"Look, Mama," Ruari said, holding the potato up for her to see. "They brought food." The potato skin was scored and broken, and the white flesh showed through. Ruari had been gnawing at it with her little baby teeth. Tears sprang up into Saeryn's eyes when she saw it.

"Yes," Saeryn said. She smiled, trying to hide her tears. "Yes, daughter, but potatoes have to be cooked before eating. We have porridge cooking in the kitchen, let's go in and get some of that." She held out her hand towards Ruari. For a moment, her daughter hesitated, still clutching the potato. Then, without putting her potato down, she reached out and took Saeryn's hand.

They went into the kitchen together. The women glanced at her as she came in, and she noticed an expectant silence in the air, as though she had entered just in time to interrupt a question from being answered. A young man whom she did not know stood by the table with two jars in front of him.
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Old 07-15-2015, 03:56 AM   #52
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Stefnu

Upon the sight of the leaven and honey, Stefnu rushed to the table. She looked first into the jars, then quickly up at the boy who had brought them. She did not have to make an effort to put a big smile on her face.

"These are treasures, lad! Treasures! Aren't they, lady Saeryn?" she glimpsed her entering the kitchens.

"His mother sent this for you," she added, pointing at the leaven and then at the youth towering over her. "That is so lovely!" Then she spotted little Ruari's red head sticking out in curiosity from behind her mother's skirt. Stefnu smiled at her, which was already enough to make the girl break away from her mother and run towards the table and the unfamiliar young man, a thing she had obviously been itching to explore since the moment they entered the room.

Stefnu moved the jars closer to the edge of the table, so that Ruari could examine them.

"Come and take a look what this good boy has brought us. See? There is leaven, so we can make bread! And here is some honey," she picked up the jar and held it towards Ruari to smell. "He brought it all the way from his family where they have bees that make this honey. We can put a little bit in your porridge if you are nice! Has she been nice today, lady Saeryn?"
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Old 07-15-2015, 02:45 PM   #53
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The new arrivals put Elfthain into a bit of a quandary; the tall woman although much younger was clearly the lady of the house and for the long moment of silence that followed her appearance he thought perhaps he should repeat his speech, awkward enough the first time. He was saved by one of the older women, the one with fire-gold hair whose effusive reception of the simple gifts made him colour a little from embarrassment. Nevertheless it also relayed the information without him having to, so he was grateful. However Elfthain felt he should say something but what? The woman had opened the jar to examine the contents and the sweet fragrance transported him back to his home and his childhood, days of plenty when porridge with honey and thick cream was standard fare not a treat that required good behaviour...he hoped that the little girl had been nice, she was the Eorl's daughter seemingly and yet was clutching a spud as possessively as if it were a mead cake at Midsummer.

Elfthain had a lot of cousins of varying degrees and he was especially close to Elwin's large brood who regarded him as their big brother. So he noticed that the the little redhead was eyeing him curiously and she was definitely the person he was least daunted by... so he sank down to sit on his heels and held out his hands to the child so as to let her decide whether to approach him or not.

"Hello, my name is Elfthain," he said softly
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Old 07-15-2015, 02:58 PM   #54
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Scyld

“Of the first nine months, I will say little yet save that it was a long and wearisome journey - I hope never to make such a one again – and that it was about a matter that must be brought to the Eorl.” He felt the clenches of that ever-present knot of fear. Soon all would be made known, soon he would be free. “The next three years I spent with my family.” The word still felt strange in his mouth, as if it ought not to belong to him. “I stayed with my brother Bedric, and from my brother Aelfred I learned something of leatherworking. Last October I made up my mind to leave and return here, but as you know winter came early and hit hard, and I have been in Edoras waiting out the winter.”

It was a perfectly factual account, yet expressed so little. He did not have the words to explain the great joy he had found in his young nieces and nephews or in setting his mind to a craft, nor the way he had never quite belonged, never quite felt at home. He looked around at the familiar landscape. The Hall itself had changed a bit, but not the land: that was exactly as he remembered. “It is strange to be back,” he said.
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Old 07-16-2015, 02:18 PM   #55
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Wilheard

"She was more a brat than a woman."

She was neither, Wilheard thought. She was just a girl then. Not so much now. He had been with Aedre all winter and it seemed that somehow, when he hadn't been around, his little sister had transformed into a tall and beautiful young woman he hardly knew. The gangly girl he'd taught to ride horses and even played with dolls with when he was small and she was tiny, she was gone.

As Wilheard was thinking of his sister, Javan turned to go. "Well," Wilheard said. "Beating brats is a pastime you and I have in common, Javan. Except I only do it when a brat gives me a reason to. You better remember that."

He turned around and started grooming his horse. Bloody scarburgians, he thought. Here we go again.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:23 PM   #56
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Rowenna

It is strange to have you back. No, she did not have him in any way; he was not hers in any sense, would she or not.

"What is strange about it? Come, the potatoes need to be in the hands of the cook."

She carried them in her apron into the Meadhall, expecting him to follow. Would he? She thought so, but a momentary pang of doubt clutched at her stomach. She did not look back.
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Old 07-16-2015, 08:30 PM   #57
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Saeryn

Stefnu offered the honey to Ruari before Saeryn had a chance to respond or even thank the young man.

“Has she been nice today, lady Saeryn?” Stefnu asked.

“Well, she…” Saeryn began, hesitant and somehow confused. Food should not be used as a reward or withheld as punishment. General good behavior should not be rewarded. It simply was what was expected. She knit her brows together and looked down at her daughter and then up at the boy. He knelt and held out his hand towards her.

“Hello,” he said. “My name is Elfthain.”

Ruari smiled and put her hand in his, as she had been taught. “I am Ruari,” she said. “Look,” she showed Elfthain the potato in her hand. “I found this out there. Are you hungry? I am hungry.”

Saeryn stepped forward at last. “Welcome, Elfthain. I am Saeryn, wife to lord Eodwine. You are welcome here. I thank you for your gifts.”
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Old 07-16-2015, 09:11 PM   #58
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Javan

Javan stopped mid stride and paused with his back to Wilheard. He knew better than to carry on the conversation – it is better not to answer a fool, Thornden had told him many times when Javan had tried to explain an argument or fight, for it simply encourages them and makes you a fool yourself – but how could he ignore such accusations and biting comments?

He turned around.

“I didn’t beat your sister,” he said. “She pushed me into it.” Actually, he had pushed her, but then she hit him. The provocation was indeed unendurable, and he gave her a bloody nose for it. He remembered it well, for his punishment had been long lasting, and much of the time he spent forging a chainmail shirt under the tutelage of the ancient Raban had been used in reflecting on his crime.

“I have learned much since then, Wilheard, and I would not strike a girl or woman, no matter how she scolded or carried on, the way your sister did. Something you may want to remember is that Eodwine is eorl here now, not your father, and you will not bully us as you used to.”
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Old 07-17-2015, 06:38 AM   #59
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Wilheard

As Javan talked, Wilheard kept his eyes on his horse. Then he turned, deliberately slowly.

"Don't be a fool, Javan. It suits you ill, a man almost grown."

With a jolt, he realized Javan must be the same age as he himself had been when he'd last stayed in Scarburg, if not actually older. He pushed that thought away, as well memories of all the foolery he had done with his brother, and all the lectures and punishments they had endured from their father and mother.

"We both know Lord Athanar was a much stricter eorl than your Eodwine."
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Old 07-17-2015, 08:38 AM   #60
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Elfthain hesitated between replying first to mother or daughter but remembered his manners and rose back to his feet, though retaining the little girl's hand in his own and giving it a gentle squeeze.

"I am honoured by your welcome, Lady Saeryn, but I assure you no thanks are necessary, at least not to me, I am merely the courier. My mother though will be glad to know they are well bestowed." He bowed again and dropping back on his haunches added, "and I am honoured to meet you too, Miss Ruairi. My mamma says I am always hungry and if I don't stop growing soon she will have to start feeding me hay like the horses! But I don't think I am as hungry as you are just now." He could see the little tooth marks in the potato and it broke his heart. Ruairi was surely no older than his little sister had been when she died, and he wondered .if the convoy hadn't got through when it did, might this little one also have failed to see her sixth birthday?

"I think your potato will give you a horrid tummy ache if you eat it as is. I like them best cooked in the embers of a fire so that the outside is nice and crispy and the inside all soft and fluffy but that takes a long time. So if the porridge is ready you could have that now and it will be nice and warm and gentler on your insides. And if your mama thinks a spoon of honey will do you good then it might make it even nicer." He couldn't really see how the child could be denied a taste now the jar had been waved under her nose but thought the idea that it was almost medicinal, like the foul tonic his grandmother had been wont to dose them all on through the winters, she would understand it could not always be expected. He looked up at Saeryn hoping he hadn't said the wrong thing, "but now if you kind ladies all would excuse me I feel I really must see to my poor horse, she is a patient beast but she has been waiting a while for attention now."

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Old 07-17-2015, 05:41 PM   #61
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Scyld

Scyld made an amused noise in his throat as he fell into step beside Rowenna. “What is not strange?” he returned. “I spent so many years wishing to leave and having nowhere to go, but once I left I found I could not stay away. And now that I am back, I do not know which strikes me stranger: those things that have changed or those that have not. Some things are just the same, as if no time at all has passed. The changes are unsettling, though, and I am sure that I will find I have missed a lot.” He quirked an eyebrow at her curiously, wondering if she might say more of herself.

They came to the door to the kitchen, and Scyld stepped ahead to hold open the door, gesturing for her to enter ahead of him.
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Old 07-18-2015, 04:04 PM   #62
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Rowenna

Rowenna wondered if she was in Nydfara's thought one of those things that had changed, or stayed the same. She was not sure how she felt in either case. And why could he not stay away? What was there at Scarburg that drew him? Surely, not herself? There must be more. He had been here before it had become Scarburg; could that be it? He had been a slave to the hated Sorn, and when she thought of that she felt herself pulled toward him because of their shared past.

He opened the door for her and gestured gallantly for her to go first; it was a courteous deed, one that seemed new for him; he had changed. Was it family? Where else had he been?

"Thank you."

She passed into the kitchen and he followed. The warmth was pleasant in the kitchen. Though it was not bitterly cold outside anymore, it was not warm.

After his cascade of words he fell silent. Was he studying her, or waiting for her to say something? She set down the potatoes on a table and turned to him.

"Shall we go see what else is in the wagon that needs taking in?"

He nodded. She led him back outside again, and slowed so that they walked side by side. She paused before she spoke, then looked at him levelly.

"You were missed." His eyes opened wider and a momentary look of surprise flashed across his face before he mastered himself; but curiosity remained. She needed to say something more to take the edge off her words. She allowed a sardonic half smile. "I have been bored."
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Old 07-18-2015, 05:38 PM   #63
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Saeryn

“But now if you kind ladies all would excuse me, I feel I really must see to my poor horse,” Elfthain said. “She is a patient beast, but she has been waiting a while for attention now.”

Saeryn nodded her head. “Of course. When you go, please tell the stablemaster - Léof - and any others in the stable that we have something ready to eat.” He departed, and Saeryn turned to the other ladies. Modtryth had already begun filling bowls with the porridge and Kara was arranging the bowls on trays to carry out into the main hall.

“Ruari,” Saeryn instructed, “go wake your father and tell him there is something to eat.”

--

Javan

“Don’t be a fool, Javan. It suits you ill, a man almost grown. We both know Lord Athanar was a much stricter eorl that your Eodwine.”

Javan scoffed. “If by strict you mean he does not take offense at the slightest provocation, then yes, Eodwine may be less strict, but at least he doesn’t overlook the misdeeds of people close to him, or treat men in his household differently than others outside of it.” He clearly implied Athanar had shown favoritism, but he did not feel the need to say it outright. Wilheard was not so dense that he needed it pointed out to him in flaming red lettering. Javan felt sure he’d feel the sting of the insult, and he smiled.
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Old 07-18-2015, 07:25 PM   #64
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Scyld

Rowenna's statements set Scyld's heart pounding. He was pleased by her words, and it frightened him how much. You are not a free man yet, he reminded himself. He did not know yet how the law would deal with his transgression (though he felt fairly certain that Linduial's letter would exonerate him, else he would not have returned), nor did he know how Rowenna would handle his secrets. He could not let himself be ruled by his feelings now.

Still, he could not escape the conclusion that she was glad of his return (however she might veil the depth of her attachment with light words), and that he was glad of her gladness. Being more comfortable with light words that heavy ones, he responded in kind and did not keep his amusement from his face.

"Such a harrowing time you must have undergone without me," he said, a smirk belying his solemn tone. Rowenna laughed, and Scyld realized suddenly how much he had missed these conversations with her - he could think of no one else who understood his sense of humor as she did. They came to a cart that was still half-laden with goods, and he climbed up, handing one sack down to Rowenna and taking a crate for himself. "But surely you cannot have spent all of four years bored," he said. "You must be able to tell me of at least one funny or interesting thing that has happened while I was away."

Last edited by Firefoot; 07-19-2015 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 07-19-2015, 07:24 PM   #65
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Cerwyn - At a West Emnet Farm

Going to Edoras! Cerwyn still could not believe her luck, though it had been a full two days since her father had given her permission. Clothes and supplies were strewn everywhere, none of them in her pack: she could not decide what to bring. Probably she did not need to bring so many things, but she had never been more than a few leagues from home before and did not know how to pack.

Perhaps Father really was changing, she mused. It had taken long enough – more than half her life, since mother had died. She did not remember well how it had been before then. Léof had and he used to talk to her about it. Even her memories of his stories had started to fade, though: it had been five years since he’d left. At first, she’d been terribly lonely without him. They had been each other’s greatest ally and friend. Now, she’d grown accustomed to his absence, and no longer felt such a great emptiness at home. She had friends, of a sort, in the village nearby, but Father discouraged her from spending much time there. He did not often grow violent any more – but she had also gotten better at not getting caught. She knew when he was likely to miss her.

So now, to let her go to Edoras! Not alone, of course. She would be traveling with Everild, a widow of three years, and her oldest son. Theirs was the cabin closest to Cerwyn’s, and the two families had been of great help to each other during the harsh winter. During that time, it seemed Cerwyn’s father had formed quite a connection with Everild, and they had announced their intention to wed just a few weeks ago. Cerwyn thought that she must be the only woman for leagues around who wasn’t put off by her father’s drinking.

Then again, maybe she was changing him. Already Cerwyn was seeing it.

Maybe Léof could come home.

She knew, or thought she knew, two things of Léof since he’d left. She’d received one letter from him, long ago, and in it he’d said he’d taken up a post with the new Eorl in Edoras. She did not know why he’d stopped writing, and it rankled with her, but mostly she missed him too much to be truly angry. Then, sometime later but still now a couple years ago, she had happened to be in town when a traveler passing through was discussing this same Eorl, and how he’d moved his Hall to a place called Scarburg, somewhere east of Edoras. She guessed that Léof would have gone with him, and hoped that he might still be there.

This might be the one chance she had to find him. He would not come home on his own, she felt sure of that by now: he was far too stubborn. And their father, in turn, would never seek him out to invite him back: even if he wanted to, he was also too stubborn. In this, at least, did Léof take after him.

Well, neither would she be deterred. Already she had a plan. She was sorry already for the worry that she would cause Everild, but unrepentant of her plan. Once they reached Edoras, she had no doubt that she would be able to learn the whereabouts of this Scarburg, and then she would sneak away and go. This brought to mind the first thing she had to pack.

She went over to Léof’s old trunk of clothes and possessions and sifted through it. Father had never touched it, and when Léof left he had been about the same size as she was now. She found a serviceable pair of breeches, a shirt, and a hat, and stowed them at the bottom of her pack. A boy travelling alone would be less remarked upon than a girl, and a disguise would make it harder for anyone trying to come after her.

She was so eager to put this plan in place that she did not even mind that once she was caught her father would probably never let her leave the cabin again – at least not until he married her off, a possibility that loomed increasingly likely now that she had passed her eighteenth birthday and now that her father was remarrying, thus gaining a wife to care for his home as his daughter had for so many long years. She wouldn’t have it. She had not yet thought of a suitable resolution to this problem, but pushed it to the back of her mind for now.

She had to finish packing.
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Old 07-20-2015, 12:54 PM   #66
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Elfthain left the kitchen to find Safran where he had left her, eyes closed seemingly dozing and resting her white hind foot. "Wake up Saff, he said softly "let's get you sorted out". The mare flicked an ear and blinked at him as if to say that she hadn't been asleep, merely resting her eyes. It was only when he had unhitched her and retrieved his helm from the waggon seat where he had abandoned it before he had started unloading that he realised that no one had actually told him where the stables were. Deciding he couldn't go back and ask yet again, and that they couldn't be so far away he let the mare around the Meadhall buildings and before long found the stable yard. He paused to allow Safran to drink from a trough and caught fragments of a less than cordial discussion. One voice he recognised, that of Wilheard. The other was strange to him as was the name he thought he heard, Jan or something like it.

Saffy finished drinking and spattered her master with water. resigned that I was hardly going to mar his appearance at this stage he led her on in to the stables talking to the mare so as to give warning to the men lest they prefer their discussion unwitnessed.

He acknowledged his commander as military discipline required, then turned to the other, who was a perhaps a little more than him in age though a little less in height .

"I seek the ostler, Leof, the Lady Saeryn bids me tell him and any other here that food is now ready... and I also need to know what to do with my mare". He though he heard a stifled snort from Wilheard though maybe he imagined it. He knew some of the older knights laughed at his "pony" though he couldn't imagine why Wilheard had any cause to sneer. Saffy might have the soup-bowl feet, abundant mane and sturdiness inherited from her cob ancestor but she was brave and enduring and wise, while it seemed to Elfthain that Wilheard's mare was simply the most malevolent thing on hooves he had the misfortune to ever encounter. "where to stall her I mean.. or she could be turned out if that is easier.. she is very well tempered" he said pointedly "but I need to rub her down first .." his voice tailed off and he wondered if they would realise that he must have heard their conversation to know that Leof wasn't present. Saffy bumped his arm with her nose... she was ready for a bite of hay now and ideally a nice bit of mud to roll in. Her winter coat was starting to shed and it itched.

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Old 07-20-2015, 02:26 PM   #67
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Wilheard

"If by strict you mean he does not take offense at the slightest provocation, then yes, Eodwine may be less strict, but at least he doesn’t overlook the misdeeds of people close to him, or treat men in his household differently than others outside of it."

Genuine disbelief washed over Wilheard's face. For once, his words failed him. He had his own grievances with his father, and his own misgivings about his nature, but Javan's view was so badly skewered he wouldn't have known where to start.

"Lord Athanar disinherited his own son for the benefit of the unborn babe of another man, yet you accuse him of favouritism," Wilheard said quietly. That old wound still hurt. Everything still hurt that had to do with Wulfric.

As he was talking, he almost missed another lad entering the stables and greeting him curtly. This one had been with them from Edoras, and Wilheard would have barely noticed him if not for his ridiculous mountain pony. It was no steed for the rolling plains of Riddermark.

"I seek the ostler, Leof, the Lady Saeryn bids me tell him and any other here that food is now ready... and I also need to know what to do with my mare,"
the newcomer announced. Wilheard suppressed a snort and turned back to Bolt. She was what you would call a mare, not the shabby little thing the boy rode, however sturdy and reliable the pony was.

Wilheard let the peasants sort out the care of the pony while he finished grooming Bolt, then made his way out of the stables. He wouldn't mind something to eat and drink.
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Old 07-20-2015, 04:54 PM   #68
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Javan

Athanar had disinherited his eldest son? Javan had not known that. Perhaps it had been common knowledge in the hall at the time, but Javan had been a mere boy, and had spent every free moment he had outside with the Cnebba and Garmund. They had not paid attention to the heir of the eorl, for they felt no love either for him or his offspring. Still, the information came something as a shock. It certainly proved Javan’s words unfounded, and left him feeling more than a bit foolish after all.

He was grateful for the interrupted that the stranger brought. He would have felt inclined to retract his words and possibly apologize, and that was an idea he did not much care to think about.

“Léof’s up there,” Javan said, waving somewhere past the young man. “I can tell you where to take the mare, though. If she’s good tempered, as you say, she can go out into the yard with some others. You can rub her down here first, if you’d like.” He walked down several paces from the stall where Wilheard had stabled his mare and indicated a ring set into the wall where the mare could be tied while groomed.

“I am Javan,” he said, as the boy tied the mare to the ring. “What are you called?”
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Old 07-20-2015, 05:08 PM   #69
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Ruari

Ruari scampered off to wake her father, barely listening as her mother called after her, “Do not wake Eoghan!” She ran to their room and paused at the door. She reached up, hanging on the handle a moment before slowly letting her weight push the door open. It swung in silently on its hinges just enough to let her slip through. She pattered up to the bed and peered over the edge, right into Eoghan’s face.

Ruari squinted her eyes and frowned and then carefully made her way to the other side of the bed. She climbed up and crawled across to where her father lay, his back to her. She leaned across him, resting her arms on his shoulder and bending her head over his, and her red hair falling in his face.

“Papa,” she whispered, stifling a laugh. “Papa, wake up. Mama says there is something to eat!”
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Old 07-20-2015, 07:46 PM   #70
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Rowenna

Something interesting or funny? He walked by her side. Her eyes were on the sack she carried, a small smile on her face. He walked beside her, hugging the crate to himself. Little had happened that could be called funny, and it was not her way to have such thing ready to mind. There was the other thing, and she had already promised herself not to brag of it. She did not mean to leave him hanging, waiting on her words. They were back to the kitchen door when she finally spoke.

"We were attacked by Easterlings."

She opened the door and let herself in, holding it open for him.

Eodwine

His eyes fluttered open. Red hair hung over his eyes. The sweet giggles of his daughter floated by his ears. He kept his voice quiet for Eoghan's sake.

"Something to eat? Are you playing make believe, Ruari?"
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Old 07-20-2015, 07:56 PM   #71
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“I am Javan,” he said, as the boy tied the mare to the ring. “What are you called?”

"I am Elfthain" replied the young soldier, "and this is Safran," he added unbridling the little mare. "Say hello Saff" he added tapping her shoulder lightly and the horse lifted her right foreleg up and before her and waved it as if shaking hands a few times. "Well done girl", praised her master finding a rather batterd bit of carrot in his pocket which Saffy deigned to accept. "She can do other stuff too...even a proper bow on one knee...or could" Elfthain added a bit sheepishly,realising it might seem a bit babyish to teach one's horse tricks.

He was itching to ask about the evident bad blood between Javan and Wilheard but hadn't the nerve, and his babbling was the consequence. "I was only thirteen when I got her and it seemed like a good idea then" he covered, trying belatedly to give the impression that he was much too grown up for such things now. He hefted the heavy saddle from Saffy's back to a saddle horse, and unfolded the saddle blanket to cover her back so she wouldn't get a chill while he worked on her. He had retrieved grooming kit from his luggage and set to work chatting to Javan as he did so "I came with the waggons as is no doubt obvious. Can't say it was the most enjoyable time I have had. He..." Elfthain nodded at Wilheard's departing back, "is not a ray of sunshine. In fact he is a complete misery... I think even that brute of a horse of his is better company but unfortunately he is my commanding officer.. or maybe he isn't anymore now we are here!" The boy's face brightened wondering about this technicality. "but aren't you in a hurry to get something to eat? I won't be very long though, there is no point getting her very clean since she is being turned out". As he talked he had been checking Saffy's feet for stones and her legs for injuries then rubbed her coat where her tack had been and made sure there was no sign of soreness and brushed off the worst of the loose hair. "That will do for now, but I will sweep up if you lend me a broom". Elfthain looked ruefully at the drifts of dusty bay hair on the stable floor. "Apart from that she is ready to go out if you show me where..but shouldn't we tell Leof about the food first?".

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Old 07-21-2015, 05:29 PM   #72
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Scyld

Rowenna was quiet for a time, and at first Scyld thought she was merely taking the time to think of a story. Perhaps it truly had been an uneventful time in the Hall.

Then she said, “We were attacked by Easterlings,” and Scyld wondered instead if this was a story she was reluctant to tell for some reason. She certainly did not seem eager to share more details, which, of course, only intrigued Scyld more, as if this thoroughly unexpected opening to a story were not enough. They dropped off their loads and headed back outside for another load.

“Well, it seems the attack failed, seeing as the Hall and most of its people are still here,” said Scyld dryly. “Though how that came to pass, I cannot see.” Scyld was no soldier, but even he could see that the Hall was poorly situated for defense against a determined attacker.
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Old 07-21-2015, 06:22 PM   #73
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Léof

Léof was less than pleased to see Wilheard leading his mare into the stable, and it was hard to say which of the two he welcomed less. Probably the horse, he decided. Wilheard, though taciturn and surly, mostly kept to himself and had a good hand with horses, which Léof respected. His horse, on the other hand, had kicked out her stall wall last year and was prone to biting. Léof thought that he had finally come to an understanding with her right before Wilheard had left. Now Léof supposed he would have to start all over.

He went back out to the courtyard and saw that there were still a few horses left who had not been seen to at all, mostly those harnessed to the carts that were still being unloaded. Léof chose one and led him into the stables. He seemed a good-natured animal, and after untacking him Léof started to lead him out of the stable when he caught the sound of his name. He looked down the aisle to see Javan talking to a young man nearby and changed his course.

“I am Léof,” he said to the newcomer. He glanced back and forth between him and Javan. Surely Javan would be able to help him with anything in the stables? “Is all well here?”
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Old 07-21-2015, 10:03 PM   #74
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Javan

Javan's eyes widened with surprise when Elfthain made his horse show a courteous leg. He grinned broadly from ear to ear as Elfthain explained she knew more tricks. He stood by, watching and listening in silence as Elfthain brushed down his mare quickly, talking all the while.

"That will do for now," Elfthain said as he finished, "but I will sweep up if you lend me a broom. Apart form that, she is ready to go out if you show me where. But shouldn't we tell Léof about the food first?"

"Never mind sweeping up!" Javan said. "Time will come for that later. We do need to find Léof, though."

He turned about as he spoke and nearly bumped into the person in question. "I am Léof," Léof said. "Is all well here?"

"Aye," Javan answered. "All's well. This is Elfthain, just come with everyone else, and here is his horse, Safran." He gave her a friendly slap on the shoulder. "He's taught her all sorts of odd tricks, he says, and sometime I'm going to see them. But Saeryn has sent word that there is food to be had inside, and we were about to find you and tell you so."

Ruari

"No, Papa!" Ruari said, leaning back and sitting on her heels. "There is porridge made! And I found a potato! And a nice man brought honey, and maybe I can have some, if I have been good, Stefnu says. But," she dropped her voice suddenly, remembering abruptly Saeryn's second instructions. "I am not to wake Eaghan up. Just you."

Last edited by Folwren; 07-21-2015 at 10:06 PM.
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Old 07-22-2015, 04:04 PM   #75
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Elfthain was happy to let Javan introduce him to the ostler and merely smiled and nodded but he nearly choked at his next words "He's taught her all sorts of odd tricks, he says, and sometime I'm going to see them. ".

He realised he had been babbling but having replayed in his mind as much of what he said as he could remember he was fairly sure he hadn't promised any such thing. Much as he was grateful that Javan didn't seem to think Saffy's talents juvenile, but was if anything impressed, it was some time since she had performed her full repertoire and they might well need to practise in private before demonstrating before an audience of even one. Maybe he wouldn't be around long enough to need to make good on his "promise".

The possibility didn't cheer him surprisingly. Friendships had become more complicated in recent years. The boys he had grown up with, in and around Upbourn had become.. not distant exactly.. careful as awareness grew that he would be their landlord one day and if he planned only a short military career, that day might be sooner rather than later. Conversely at Edoras he knew some feigned friendship in the hope of advancing their careers, knowing that his great uncle had reached the rank of full Marshal of the Mark and Elwin was tipped to match that achievement ere he was done.

Finally he had been made aware, in the course of perhaps the most excruciating of a series of mortifying and largely one sided conversations he had been subjected to since he reached adolescence, that he was on the brink of being a very eligible bachelor and that not all who might seem interested in him, were interested in him. With every friendly overture being filled with potential peril it was a bit of a relief to be where no one, including it seemed his commanding officer, had a clue about him and consequently no designs on him to provide fortune or favour. The place might be less congenial but it had advantages.

He walked with Javan and Leof to where the horses were to be turned out and thought it best to say something to temper expectation "She may not remember the tricks - it has been a while... we have had to learn so much cavalry training... battle formations and the like, there isn't the time for much else. Saffy isn't big enough to always keep up - my uncle says she is made for comfort not speed. I have a young horse I am bringing on at home over a hand taller, so we may breed from Saff next year, while she is still fairly young - and if we can decide what sort of foal we want". The mare, unware her future was being planned, shook her head now freed from its halter and seemingly deciding that the patches of mud were more tempting than the grass sank to her knees with a contented grunt and rolled happily.

Last edited by Mithalwen; 07-22-2015 at 04:57 PM.
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Old 07-22-2015, 06:22 PM   #76
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Rowenna

She had intended to say that one thing about the Easterlings, then go into the kitchen and stay there where it was too noisy to say much of anything, and so be safe from having to admit that it was she who had led the victory. However, she found herself passing through the door that he held open for her, and walking next to him as he made his guesses about the attack.

"Yes, the attack failed, though one of the Easterlings stayed. His name is Jian, though I have not seen him all the day. He is interesting, and quite different. You might like him."
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Old 07-22-2015, 06:36 PM   #77
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Léof

In truth, Léof was only half-listening to Elfthain talking about his pony, though he smiled and made polite noises where suitable. At any other time he would happily have picked up this conversation. Now, a much greater part of his mind was occupied contemplating the food inside, and how much work he had yet to do in the stables. A couple hours’ worth, he thought, and his dinner would not wait that long. Best, then, to continue as he was, getting all of the horses minimally comfortable before eating his own dinner. Afterwards, he would have to finish getting the horses settled, though he had little doubt that after a good meal he would want nothing more than to sleep.

Having released their horses into the paddock (Safran to roll in the mud, and Léof’s horse to nibble at the sad grass that had spent so many months yellowing under the snow), Léof turned to Elfthain and Javan and said, “Elfthain, welcome to you and Safran both – let me know if you need anything or have any questions. Javan, I’m going to make sure all the horses are settled before eating. I’ll leave it up to you if you’d rather eat now.”
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Old 07-23-2015, 08:55 PM   #78
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Scyld

Scyld now felt fairly certain that Rowenna did not wish to talk in detail of the attack, though if that was the case it confused him that she had ever brought it up. In any case, he made up his mind to ask some questions of others – whether it was gossip or a riveting tale that he would find, he was interested either way. For now, he allowed her to change the subject to this Jian fellow.

“He is interesting, and quite different,” Rowenna said. “You might like him.”

Having met quite a number of the Haradrim in his journey to Dol Amroth, Scyld could well imagine that he must be an interesting fellow. In the tales of the Great War, the Haradrim and the Easterlings always seemed to be mentioned in the same breath, and in Scyld’s mind they were much the same. The Haradrim he had met bore little love for their northern neighbors, and Scyld had difficulty imagining any of them wishing to leave their own people to dwell among strangers.

“You will have to introduce me,” he said. They came to the last cart that still had goods on it – the unloading had gone more swiftly that Scyld had imagined, with so many hungry bodies to help carry in the food. “Our last load, I think,” he said, then let the conversation lapse as they headed back inside. He could not get a read on her – she had gone from polite reservation to laughter tinged with something deeper and back again so quickly that Scyld’s head was swimming. Inside, the kitchen was full of people jubilant over their first real meal in a long time – Scyld had never seen so many people so excited about plain porridge. Several women were still hard at work, making more porridge, cleaning dishes, and as they put their burdens down, Rowenna spoke over the noise: "I ought to help them." Scyld nodded, and she was gone, leaving him to wonder what he ought to make of their conversation.

Perhaps that sort of thinking was better done on a full stomach. Scyld helped himself to a bowl of porridge and took it out into the main hall to find someplace less crowded to sit down.

Last edited by Firefoot; 07-25-2015 at 04:20 PM.
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Old 07-24-2015, 05:26 PM   #79
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Eodwine

"Then we had better let him sleep," he replied. He made to rise, but found that he did not have the strength for it. He lay on his back and thought a moment.

"Papa, come!" Ruari whispered.

"A moment, moppet."

He rolled to his stomach, placed his hands on the bed, and pushed himself to a sitting position. He stood up, his legs feeling shaky, and made to follow his daughter, but felt as if he were on stilts that gave in the middle. Next moment he was on the floor, feeling lightheaded.

"Papa!" Her eyes had gone wide.

"Get mother, Ruari," he grunted.
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Old 07-25-2015, 10:23 AM   #80
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Áforglaed and Hilderinc

Áforglaed almost ran into Hilderinc as the latter was washing the remaining mud off his hands by the well, his sleeves rolled up and inspecting his arm.

"You almost pushed me into the well," the older soldier commented, as Áforglaed hurried to clean the dirt from his own hands.

"There's going to be food soon," he explained, splashing half of the pail over himself. "Porridge!"
"So I heard."
Áforglaed tried to look at his reflection in the water that remained inside the bucket, but he could not really make anything out. Meanwhile, Hilderinc finished examining his arm and was rolling his sleeves back into place.

"You are behaving as if you were afraid somebody might eat everything before you come there," he observed. "Move aside a bit, there are others who have been carrying the potatoes and would like to clean themselves before they eat."

Áforglaed glanced aside and let another of the Scarburgians pick up the pail.

"And what is all that scrubbing your face for?" Hilderinc continued.

Áforglaed turned to him, startled.

"Do I have something on my face?"
"No."
"Mud?"
"I said no."

Áforglaed craned his neck in an attempt to take another glance inside the bucket, despite knowing he would not be able to see the reflection of his face, and he almost stabbed his elbow into somebody else's stomach as they tried to get some water for themselves.

Behind Áforglaed, Hilderinc shook his head.
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