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Old 09-03-2003, 02:15 AM   #1
piosenniel
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Tolkien The Lingering Darkness Fan-fiction

Elora's post

The Fourth Age was filled with both promise and uncertainty when it first began. Much of the familiar past had left Middle-earth’s shores, never to return. Some lamented the past at its departure. Much beauty, wisdom, strength and courage passed with the Wise whom set out for the undying lands from the Grey Havens. Some filled their spirits in the space the Wise left behind, looking forward to a new future that they would help shape. Some were eager to forget the past. Great evil had fallen at great cost. The shadow would be shaken, but it would take time.

And there were some who sought to cling to that past, the dark as well as the bright.

Middle-earth was gripped by renewal as the Age of Men came. Towns were rebuilt, lands settled after long abandonment enforced by Sauron. Change is never easy. Realms were forged anew. Gondor had a King and Queen after so long without. New grass sprouted green on the scorched fields of Pelennor with the Spring. Order spread out from the seats of mortal power. Osgiliath was slowly cleansed. Minas Ithil, forever tainted by Mordor’s occupation, was sadly and reverently taken down and laid to rest.

Orthanc regained its splendor, as did Minas Tirith and Meduseld. The Shire, shaken to the core, slowly settled back into peace. Yet nothing was as it once had been. The past remained as it was – past. The changes and marks of the cataclysmic war could not be entirely blurred by new growth and optimism. Lothlorien lay still and empty, now as immersed in the stream of time as the lands around it. Mirkwood turned inward. Dol Guldur was dismantled. Imladris, where those who had not departed mortal shores lingered, became more remote than ever before. The King’s protection of the Shire ensured no Big Folk found their way into at least that corner. Discontent bubbled in Umbar, Harad and Rhun still.

The future was not entirely certain, nor becalmed. The people across the lands wished for peace and forgetfulness. Celeborn, along with the new kings Elessar and Eomer, put their full backing behind cementing the new peace and order within the land. Orcs that teemed in the Misty Mountains and infested Mordor still had to be seen to. They were not the only darkness that lingered behind in Sauron’s wake. His net had been cast wide and those in his service were many. Saurman was not the strangest bedfellow after all.

With the Rangers, the Elves, the Riddermark and Gondor now largely unopposed, optimism was high that that which remained could soon be put to final rest. Dwarves slowly spread their influence through the Misty Mountains. Orc, goblin and troll numbers dwindled. They had no benefactor now. Mordor was a land where the full force and weight of Gondor rested over. Pit after pit of horror and evil was thrown open and cracked like an overripe melon. It split beneath the force, and slowly melted away.

The discontent further south proved more difficult to overcome. There was another thing that proved stubborn. Not all had been done when the Wise left. Behind them, entrusted to those that remained, was another task. Justice had not come to all. Of all allies of Mordor that somehow escaped destruction, one of the chiefest remained at large. Enigma, riddle, aberration, her name was Naiore Dannan and she could not be permitted to continue.

The Wise reluctantly disclosed what little they knew of Naiore Dannan. Elf, she was, and in the service of Sauron she had been since the Second Age. Kin to Galadriel, little else was to hand apart from one inescapable fact. Naiore Dannan remained at large and continued to elude capture. Alive with her was a malevolence of intent too strong to allow to continue. The hunt for Naiore Dannan continued to little avail. It crossed borders into lands known and otherwise. It reached after her, finding shred of trace every now and anon. After 12 years of the Fourth Age, the search came as did she to an inn.

Here is set down the final telling of this sad tale. At the Forsaken Inn, a day’s ride from Bree on the edge of the Wild, it took the unlikeliest gathering of all to begin what could not be done in a hunt that had stretched through two ages. There is found Lespheria and Amandur, Elf and Ranger in turn and both tied to Naiore in vastly different ways. Benia, a woman from the troubled south, lies in the keeping of another troubled soul named Kaldir, a Ranger too but fallen in the darkness. He watches, intent on quarry who has on her head a handsome price. His quarry is Vanwe, unclaimed and hereto now forgotten daughter of Naiore Dannan, a secret she closely guards for fear of her mother's evil falling upon her and those around her.

Yet the hunter and the hunted can be one and the same. Kaldir himself is watched, by Gilly whom suspects Kaldir in Benia’s disappearance. The hobbit is not easily trifled with. Neither is Hanasian, a Ranger like Kaldir, left not fallen. He nears the inn as another watcher of Kaldir waits nearby. On her head is the highest price ever set, by Dwarf, Man or Elf. On her head rests also such atrocities that would give even the Wraiths pause for regret deep in their undead souls. In Imladris, one who has felt and survived her shadow lingers also in the watchful keeping of his Elven kindred.

The Forsaken Inn, where the beginning of another ending unfolds, is peaceful in the summer morning light. The innkeeper was busy looking over the common room’s empty tables and chairs before breakfast. Fimbriel nodded in satisfaction and sought the kitchens. It would be a thirsty day, if she guessed the morning’s mist aright. The arrival of travelers looking for something to slake their thirst and a place to rest from the midsummer heat would not be too far away.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:40 AM   #2
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Nerindel's post - Lespheria

The midday sun shone through the open stable doors as Léspheria finished packing her white elven mare. Turning towards the doors and shielding her sharp elven grey eyes, she watched the tall figure of her friend as he scanned the road beyond the courtyard. She recalled their first meeting, the young ranger had been sent to the halls of learning in Rivendell to meet with his new tutor, but on entering the halls and seeing only her he had winked mischievously and asked if she knew were he could find the master of the halls. She managed a weak smile as she remembered Amandur's apparent embarrassment, as she informed him that she was to be his tutor.

He must have sensed her watching for at that moment he turn to face her, a warm smile playing on his lips. Léspheria kept her smile as she walked towards him, glad that the great war had not adversely effected him as much as it had so many others. "I am almost ready to leave, all that is left for me to do is to inform the good lady innkeeper of my departure," she told him, looking in the direction of the inn that had been her home for the past two weeks. She slowly drew her gaze from the inn and returned to Losseserme's stall, the mare snorted impatiently, as she let Léspheria lead her from the stall to the hitching post outside. Amandur joined her and together they made their way back to the inn.

(1)"Amin dele ten'Vanwe!" The elven words slipped off her tongue before she realised that she had said them aloud. "Don't let it worry you, I promise you that I will look out for the young woman's well being as long as my task keeps me here!" Amandur reassured her. She nodded her thanks, glad that he had chosen to keep his watch for Naiore in the inn and not abandon it for her sake.

Amandur pushed open the dark wooden door and held it open for her, "I will wait for you out here!" she nodded and went inside alone. The common room of the forsaken inn was already busy and alive with conversations and the occasional burst of laughter, the dark corners held hastened whisperings and those wishing no other company than their own. Léspheria determinedly made her way to the bar were Fimbriel the auburn haired Rohirrim innkeeper was rushing backwards and forwards filling tankards for the many thirsty patrons, who had chosen to stop in and quench their thirst on this hot midsummer afternoon.

Léspheria raised her hand to catch the innkeepers attention, Fimbriel looked her way and signalled that she would be with her just as soon as she could, while she waited her eyes roamed around the room, The kitchen door swung on squeaky hinges as Rowana Brandybuck hurried back and forth bring lunch to the inn's hungry guests and Amarantha Willow weaved expertly around the tables mopping up spills and refilling empty jars. Léspheria suddenly felt a pang of guilt that she would be leaving when the inn was so obviously busy, But just then she again felt the pain in her left shoulder, reminding her that her brother needed her help more.

As she struggled to focus her mind so she could block out her brothers pain, she noticed something else. "Amarantha, has not Mrs banks or her exotic friend come down for lunch today" she asked gently grasping the young hobbit woman's arm as she passed. Amarantha quickly scanned the room, then shook her head "No! Miz Léspheria I have not seen either one all day, but it has been a might busy today" she shrugged apologetically. "Thank you Amarantha, Miss Nightshade did mention that she was planning to leave, maybe they left early." Amarantha nodded reassured and went back to her work. Léspheria was not so sure, but before she could think any more on this puzzle she heard someone speaking to her "And what can I do for you this fine afternoon" Fimbriel beamed as she brushed a few stray auburn hairs from her face.

"I am afraid that I must take my leave of your fine establishment, my brother is injured and I must go to him at once" Léspheria sadly told her. Fimbriel's smile faded and was replaced with a look of genuine concern "I'm sorry to hear that, of course you must go to your brother, is there anything I can do?" she asked sympathetically. "No, No, I have everything I need, I gave my room key to Vanwe and ask her to hold the room till my return, my journey requires haste, so many things had to be left behind." Fimbriel nodded, then the pair said their goodbyes.

As she left the inn she saw Amandur waiting next to her mount, he helped her up then taking her hand in his he whispered softly, " Ride swiftly and be careful!" "As always!" she assured him. She then turned Losseserme and set off at a slow trot until she came to the rear of the inn, she had decided that she would go south-west through the downs. She gently bent over and whispered into the mares ear, (2)"Vanne linte!" Losseserme then broke in to a fast gallop; they speed across the downs and did not stop till nightfall.

Under the eaves of a small wooded area not far from the Greenway Léspheria made her camp, after eating a meager supper she lay down on her bed roll and looked up at the stars, The watcher as always twinkled brighter than the others and as she watched it she could not help thinking on the puzzles that the past three days had revealed to her. The first being the appearance of Vanwe who seemed to be a puzzle in herself, her face was that of a criminal who was much sought after by men and elf alike, but her deep blue sapphire eyes, revealed that she was the daughter of one who remained under the protection of her people. Vanwe had unknowingly revealed that they shared the same bloodline, confirming her suspicions that Naiore was the missing name in Finarfin's family tree, something that her brother and her kin had chosen to keep from her, although she could not yet figure out why?

Her thoughts then drifted back to the southern woman, Benia and her hobbit friend, Gilly and their lack of presence that morning, she only hoped that they had taken her advice and left the inn in secret, Both herself, Vanwe and a ranger named Hanasian had tended Benia after a rather nasty fall, Vanwe had treated the woman’s sprained ankle, revealing to her that they also shared the gift of healing. She only had to reduce the swelling and bind it. Vanwe's raw talent was impressive. But on leaving the southern woman to her rest she had seen another ranger who had introduced himself to her earlier as Kaldir, he watched the room with great intent. The southern woman was not the only person that she sensed the ranger was interested in, later that same day she had caught him spying on Vanwe, which he denied when she confronted him, she had guessed that Vanwe would have often been mistaken for her mother and she had been determined that it would not happen again, not while she could prevent it!

Kaldir's lack of emotions had made her suspicious of his intent, but his words had revealed that she had been right to be concerned, "she resembles an acquaintance of mine from the South. I was curious to learn her name to determine if it was she. I was hesitant to approach her directly as the last time we met was under, how shall I say it? Less than optimal circumstances." Sudden pity had lead her to lower her sword and let his reasons pass, she realised that he was yet another victim of Naiore's malice. Strong emotions had surfaced unbidden as he spoke, ones revealing much pain and hatred, emotions that Léspheria feared to explore having felt them strongly through others. First in her own mother and then in Vanwe's father and now this ranger!

Léspheria slowly closed her eyes and fell into a fitful sleep, the memories of the emotions she felt from all those who had encountered Naiore Dannan, plaguing even her dreams.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:40 AM   #3
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Nerindel's post - Amandur

Amandur stood at the door to the stables of the Forsaken inn scanning the area just beyond, Léspheria's hesitation before entering the stables had lead him to believe that she had sensed something or someone in the wooded area surrounding the inn. It might be only an animal or another guest, but considering the nature of his quarry and Léspheria's abilities he thought it best to be mindful. 'Once Léspheria has left I will take a better look' he thought to himself, sighing as he realized that he would not be going with her. 'she had been right, the kings rangers may have put the young elf woman's life in danger by following her trail, in the hopes that she would lead them to her mother, and he now felt that it would be wrong to leave the young woman to such a fate, even if he felt that Vanwe may prove a problem later on.

He knew not how the elf woman felt about her mother, he knew she looked for her, but for what reason he knew not. Would she protect her mother regardless of her crimes? blinded in much the same way as Menecin, by love or the hunger of it from a mother who abandoned her. Yes! That may be it, Vanwe's longing for motherly love may be why she is looking for her. Interesting, but it may indeed prove problematic when it comes to capturing Naiore.

Amandur then felt Léspheria's gaze on his back, he turned towards her smiling warmly. "I am almost ready to leave, all that is left for me to do is to inform the good lady innkeeper of my departure," she smiled as she walked towards him. Although she smiled he could still hear sadness in her words as she gazed in the direction of the inn. He then watched as she lead her horse from the stable to the hitching post outside the inn. He followed her quietly. "Amin dele ten'Vanwe!" Léspheria said quietly. Amandur stopped and looked at her; it was not often that she used her own language when not among her own kin. Seeing her obvious concern he promised that he would look out for Vanwe's well being, while he could. She seemed reassured by his words, so he gently opened the inn door for her, "I will wait for you out here!" he said wishing to keep his watch. She nodded and went inside.

Amandur wandered back over to the hitching post and casually leaning on it he continued his watch, thinking about the events of the past month as he did. It was now a month since he received word from King Elessar that the criminal Naiore Dannan had been seen heading north. Elessar had requested that he travel to the inn and meet the elf ranger Lóthaniel Denfëa, who would tell him more. He had actually met Lóthaniel just outside Bree about two weeks later, His old friend had been glad to see him and told him everything he and the other rangers had learnt, the discovery that Naiore had a daughter and their belief that this daughter would lead then to the illusive Naiore. Lóthaniel had then explained that he had other business to attend to and would not be accompanying him to the Forsaken inn. Lóthaniel spoke at length about his families connection with Naiore and how Léspheria knew only little, He had been taken aback by the fact that they had kept this information from her, and had argued that she should be told, Lóthaniel had disagreed, he feared that the same fate that befell their mother would also befall his sister. He had reluctantly agreed not to say anything to Léspheria, but he strongly believed that she would eventually find these things out for herself and he had told Lóthaniel so!

The Kings orders were to capture Naiore and bring her to Minas Tirith for trail, there was also a bounty but Amandur was not interested in such things, he wanted only to see this criminal brought to justice. So after leaving Lothaniel he had gone straight to the vicinity of the inn. He had made camp just beyond the wooded area that surrounding the inn and for the past two weeks he had been watching it and waiting to see if Naiore appeared, but nothing had he seen or heard of her in that time. The message from the King had also said that there was other rangers in the pursuit of this elf, but he had seen none that he knew until the previous night, when he had observed his good friend Hanasian lying under the stars with Vanwe. He had wondered if Hanasian was one of these rangers, he hoped so. The next morning when he had seen Hanasian leaving the inn, he had intended to stop him and find out if what he hoped was indeed true. But he heard a scream that he had immediately recognized as Léspheria's and his concern for the elven lady had lead him into the inn to see if she was all right.

Before he could finish his thoughts Léspheria emerged from the inn, he helped her onto her horse then gently taking her hands he bade her "Ride swiftly and be careful!" "As always!" she assured him. He watched her until she was out of sight then he wandered over to the tree's to see if he could find out what Léspheria had sensed, he found disturbed earth and broken twigs, but they could have been caused by anyone, he was just about to give up his search when he heard something! He crouched down behind one of the tree's and watched as the tall figure of the ranger who had help him to take Léspheria to her room after her fall that morning, emerged from the trees nearest the stables, as Lothaniel looked at the good side of the rangers scared face he was sure that he knew this ranger from somewhere, but he could not think where! He watched as the Ranger entered the inn, then he got up and sighed "Well Amandur there is nothing here!" he then walked back towards the inn. He stopped just before the stables and gave a long sharp whistle; the Stablemaster gave him a curious look. But after just a few minutes a tall black charger emerged from the forest, halting right in front of him. "He is beautiful," the stable master whistled. "Yes, he is" Amandur laughed patting his old friends neck, " I would think that he is in need of fresh hay and something to drink," he chortled handing the reigns over to the bearded man. "I will see to it right away!" the man smiled leading the charger into an empty stall.

Amandur then realised that he too had not eaten all day, so he headed towards the inn to see if he could gain some supper and maybe even a room. "The whispered conversations may even reveal some new clues" he chuckled to himself.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:41 AM   #4
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Ealasaide's post - Benia

Bound wrist and ankle, Benia Nightshade lay in the darkness of the abandoned cellar. Despite the skilled healing efforts of the two elves back at the inn, her sprained ankle throbbed under the tightness of the rope. Kaldir, the bounty hunter who had seized her out of her bed at the inn, had been gone for hours. She had already begun to wonder if he was ever going to return. Half of her mind hoped that he would. She would hate to starve to death, alone and forgotten, in the empty cellar. The other half of her mind hoped never to lay eyes on him again. She knew he meant to kill her. Why he had not done so already was a mystery to her.

Thinking back, she remembered how he had brought her to the cellar and dumped her rather unceremoniously on to the dirt floor. From there he had dragged her over to a wooden chopping block, where an axe already waited, but, instead of chopping off her head or hands as she had expected him to do, he had simply given the tribal tattoos on her hands a long stare in the flickering candlelight. Then, inexplicably, he had kissed each of her palms and left, taking the axe with him. She had not seen him since. The candle he had lit when they arrived in the cellar had burned out hours ago. Now, whether he came back or not, Benia had the feeling that she had come to the end of her life. Either way, she was waiting to die. Whether the end came quickly or slowly seemed to be all there was left to determine. The ropes that bound her were strong and the knots, like iron. She knew there would be no wriggling loose.

Shifting her legs to a slightly more comfortable position, Benia pondered the last several days of her life, thinking about the mistakes she had made. The trip to the Forsaken Inn had been a foolish and sentimental thing to do in the first place, and, since arriving there, she had done nothing right or sensible. Actually, in retrospect, she realized she had thrown caution to the wind nearly from the moment she had first crossed the inn's threshold. With that in mind, she had to admit that it was no surprise to find herself in her current predicament.

The worst part of the whole scenario was that she had not only endangered herself, but involved her friend Gilly, as well, which was - to her mind - unforgivable. Benia sighed. She hoped desperately that Gilly was well on her way back toward Bywater and safety by now, not hanging about inviting more trouble. She blamed herself for Gilly's involvement. If she had just not written that letter inviting Gilly to meet her there at the inn, none of this would have happened. Gilly would be safe at home with her family in Bywater, and Benia, herself, would be going about her own business miles away from the inn. There would have been no ill-fated songs, no sprained ankle, and, most of all, no bounty hunter.

She was sure the song was what had summoned the bounty hunter out of the wilds, like a genie from a bottle. She had made the mistake of letting herself get too comfortable in the warmth of the inn's common room and, not only bursting into song, but bursting into song in the most conspicuous way imaginable... in the language of her own nearly extinct Haradrim tribe, complete with finger cymbals. In the darkness, Benia blushed from her own foolishness. She might as well have just burst into flame. It had been no coincidence that the bounty hunter had appeared the very next day. She was sure of it.

The sprained ankle, too, was as much her own fault as anything else. If she had just watched where she was going instead of worrying so much about where the bounty hunter was, she would have seen the pewter tankard left on the stairs. As if that wasn’t enough, she had pretty much sealed her own fate by sending the kind Ranger, Hanasian, who had helped her after her fall on the stairs, on that ridiculous errand to Bree. In all reality, he had been her only protection. As soon as he had gone, the bounty hunter had made his move and the next thing Benia knew, she lay tied in an empty cellar, waiting to die.

She sighed again and was just closing her eyes to try to sleep when the sound of a firm step on the floor over her head jolted her awake. She struggled into a sitting position and edged away as best she could from the narrow staircase that led upward to the abandoned blacksmith’s shop. There was a click and a slide of a bolt, followed by the creak of stiff hinges as the trap door opened over her head. Straining to see through the darkness, she could barely make out the tall shape of the bounty hunter descending the stairs. He carried a small bundle which he set down beside her. A few seconds later, a fresh candle flickered to life. Benia’s amber eyes struggled to adjust to the light as the bounty hunter knelt beside her and untied her wrists. When he had finished, he moved away to take a seat on the stairs.

He nodded toward the bundle he had left on the floor beside her. “I suggest you eat,” he said quietly.

Startled, Benia did as she was told and reached for the bundle. She had not eaten in over twenty-four hours, but it was not until she smelled the rich aroma of Aldarida Boffin’s cooking that she realized she was famished. Even so, she hesitated before taking even the first bite. She turned a curious gaze toward the bounty hunter, who only smiled his peculiar one-sided smile, the candlelight casting his scarred features into sharp planes of dark and light.

“It’s not poisoned if that’s what you’re thinking,” he told her, guessing her unspoken question. “I suggest you eat it.”

Benia did as she was told. Even though it was just a cold supper of whole grain bread and cold chicken, she couldn’t remember when any food had ever tasted so good. Watching Kaldir from the corner of her eyes as she ate, she saw that he was simply waiting for her to finish. His sword remained sheathed at his side and there was no sign of an axe. Even the chopping block lay where he had left it. Finally, she gathered her courage to speak.

“If you mean to kill me,” she asked. “Why do you bring me a meal?”

“Perhaps I don’t mean to kill you just yet.” Seeing that she was finished, he rose from his perch on the stairs and gathered the empty crockery back into the bundle. “You’ll need your strength. Can you ride?”

Benia nodded.

Kaldir did not answer immediately, but picked up the rope and retied her wrists, even tighter it seemed than before. “Then we leave on the morrow,” he said at last, casting barely a glance at her bare feet that lay partly visible under the hem of her dress. Without any further explanation, he took up the bundle of now-empty crockery and departed back up the stairs.

Alone in the candlelight, Benia listened as the trap door creaked shut and the outside bolt fell into place with a decisive click.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:42 AM   #5
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Ealasaide's post - Kaldir

As Kaldir slid the bolt into place that sealed his captive, Benia Nightshade, into her cellar prison, he frowned to himself. Why couldn’t he kill her? There was a hefty price on her head in the south, as there was for any of the remnants of the Painted Sand tribe. He didn’t even need to deliver her alive. Since the Painted Sand people had the peculiar custom of tattooing their women’s hands with clan markings and tribal symbols, all he needed in order to collect the bounty was her hands, salted, mummified, or however he cared to deliver them. When he had abducted her from her bed at the inn the night before, his intention had been to make short work of her. He had even pre-stocked the cellar with an axe, a pound of salt to preserve the hands, and a heavy chopping block. All remained unused and Kaldir found himself facing a fresh set of problems, not the smallest of which was what to do with the southern woman now that he had her.

Stooping to pick up the bundle that contained her used supper dishes, he made a noise deep in his throat that sounded something between a grumble and a growl. If he intended to take her with him, he would have to find a horse for her and some shoes. Having taken her from her bed, she was barefoot with nothing heavier than a cotton dress to protect her from the elements. He would have to find a way to obtain her belongings from the inn. The sprained ankle made the horse a necessity. Of course, she could ride double with him, but he was afraid he would find that a touch too distracting, especially for the journey he had a feeling he was soon to undertake. As it was, he had difficulty pushing the image of her dark amber eyes and shining black hair out of his mind. Having her on the same horse with him would be a disaster. He would get a second horse.

Or he could let her go, just leave her in the cellar to her fate. Kaldir thought about it as he walked back through the darkness toward the inn. That would be the simplest solution, the obvious thing to do, that is if he did not go ahead with his original plan and kill her already. Her hobbit friend would no doubt find her well before she managed to starve to death. Mrs. Banks seemed like the determined type. Nonetheless, he found himself continuing to waver over what to do with Miss Nightshade.

Approaching the inn, he slowed his steps. He was growing annoyed with himself for his own indecision. The problem was that he felt a connection to Benia, as thought she had something to do with him on a fundamental level. He wasn’t sure what that something might be, but, if he were to destroy her, he would never know.

He would get a second horse. He would return Cook’s dishes to the inn, settle his accounts, and then seek out Cobhan Tupper, the local gypsy horse-trader, and negotiate or threaten him into a decent price on a passable mount for the girl. Stopping just outside the inn grounds, Kaldir gave his head a quick shake, as though trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind. The whole situation was crazy. He should just go back to the cellar and do the deed. When she was gone, that would be the end of it. No more haunting images of smooth brown skin and long-lashed eyes. She would be nothing more than a commodity in a bag, to be turned in for a price. Finally, he nodded to himself but the expression in his pale eyes was bitter and hard.

Pushing the thought of Benia out of his mind, Kaldir stepped forward into the inn’s yard. The grove of trees that lay on the far side of the inn from where he stood reminded him of his more pressing concerns. First of all, there was Vanwe, the young elf lady upon whose head lay a substantial price, placed on her by the Haradwraith village that had been foolish enough to lose her, the daughter of Naiore Dannan. He had almost managed to capture her several times earlier in the day, but each time found himself waiting, instead, for a more opportune moment. She was impulsive and quick, but clearly frightened of her own shadow. He could use that fear against her, but really didn’t think he would need to. She had a tendency to bolt suddenly out of rooms where there was the relative safety of other people to go off by herself, where she became - for him - a sitting duck. He was confident that it was just a matter of time before Vanwe joined Miss Nightshade in her cellar prison. Or, rather, took her place. Then, soon after, he could begin the long journey south to return Miss Vanwe to her village.

But he was troubled by the presence of the other, the one he had taken to thinking of as The Watcher in the Woods. It was a familiar malevolence that he had sensed there that afternoon, one he knew well from long experience. But could it really be she? He had no desire to go creeping about in the darkness to find out, but, come dawn, that was exactly where he intended to go. It would make sense for Naiore to be there. After all, the daughter was there, why not the mother? He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck as he cast one more glance across the yard toward the gloom and mist between the trees. He had the distinct feeling that she waited for him out there between the black tree trunks, a dark presence with unfinished business. The long-smashed bones of his face began to throb. He had some unfinished business with her as well. Daylight would be there soon enough. He would find out then if Naiore had indeed come to the north.

Stepping across the threshold into the cheery warmth of the inn’s common room, Kaldir made first for the kitchen where he dropped off the crockery from Benia’s dinner. Then, he returned to the common room, where by chance or fate, the first face to catch his eye was that of the horse-trader himself. Always one to follow his instincts, Kaldir took it as a sign. He joined Tupper at his table.

"Greetings, you old horse thief," he said pleasantly, taking the empty chair at the horse-trader’s elbow. "Have you any horses to sell?"

Cobhan Tupper looked up in surprise, then a grin spread across his swarthy, whiskered face. "To an old scoundrel like you? Of course.’ He took a long drink from his tankard. "What happened to that big gray stallion of yours? Did he finally die of ill humor? I believe I still have a hoof print in my backside courtesy of that evil-tempered beast."

Kaldir smiled wryly. "You shouldn’t have tried to steal him." Raising his hand, he signaled to Rowana Brandybuck for an ale. "He’s stabled outside."

"A fine animal! Would you be interested in selling him?"

"No. I’m only interested in buying."

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:43 AM   #6
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Hilde Bracegirdle's post - Gilly


Eyes narrowed, trying to pierce the evening gloom, Gilly came to a stop behind the thick trunk of an ancient and sickly tree, it’s dark leafless branches uplifted, casting a claw like silhouette against the sky. The hobbit shuddered involuntarily in the cool dew-laden air. At the edge of the village sparse trees, disfigured by a seemingly desperate search for firewood grew among the derelict buildings, reminding Gilly of the refuse left on the shore after a great storm. Disagreeable confusion. It reflected her own weary state of mind.

Before Gilly the object of her attention, Kaldir, an ominous presence in the rising mist, walked purposefully through the darkness, disappearing into the shadow. A flood of panic swept the hobbit along as she swiftly ran to follow this quarry. She could not afford to lose sight of Kaldir. He was her best chance at finding Miss Nightshade. Her only chance quite likely. And she must find her. Quite foolishly she had not told anyone as of Miss Benia disappearance last evening. It had been her wish to have gained Miss Léspheria’s council, but seeing her in such distress in the morning she was fearful that Miss Benia’s assailant might have attacked her as well, and did not wish to bring her further suffering. So she alone tried to piece together what exactly had transpired. It was obvious to her that it had not been the lady’s own volition that had taken her out of the window at the inn, but rather a man or less likely an elf that had forced her to take this undignified exit.

Who this person could be was a matter Gilly had pondered tirelessly, coming up with two suspects and one possible accomplice. The chief suspect was the man she followed, a ranger with a rather menacing disposition, who had lately arrived at the inn disrupting the calm of Miss Benia and Gilly’s visit rather much like a horse stepping in a still puddle. Nothing was clear. Their ease was taken from them completely when he had unceremoniously posted himself by the stair leading to the quarters Benia and Gilly shared. And he had been possessed of a stealthy sort of aggression and a confidence that the hobbit found most convincing. But this morning, when she found that Miss Benia had disappeared in the night, Gilly was dumbfounded to find Kaldir still about the inn aiding the elf Léspheria. It just didn’t fit. If not Kaldir then who would have done such a thing?

The other figure who featured in Gilly’s internal debate was Hanasian, another ranger who had come to Benia’s assistance when she was injured while seeking the sanctuary of her room, away from Kaldir. Though initially wary of any ranger, Gilly found herself weakening in her resolve regarding Mr. Hanasian’s case. But then, had she not seen him speaking late last evening with the strange southerner Vanwe, and quite close to Benia’s open window? She perhaps, would have heard of the price for bringing down a member of the Painted Sand tribe. Then again, all these three might be in league with one another. After all Hanasian apparently was on familiar terms with Kaldir. Or then again it could be someone Gilly had not spotted. She began to feel dizzy again, faint with hunger and weary of the circle her mind was describing.

Gilly’s thoughts turned outward once more as Kaldir passed through the door of one of the abandoned structures. She heard a low metallic scrape as a bolt was drawn and wondered if Benia might indeed be found alive in this very building. But perhaps it was the nest of thieves. She must be cautious.

After a pausing a few moments Gilly followed Kaldir over the threshold, desperately hoping that the ranger wasn’t poised just inside the door, waiting for her. A deep voice faintly could be heard beyond a heavy wooden door. And there, A female voice!

Planting herself in the deepest of shadows in the empty room, Gilly began her vigil, knowing herself no match for a ranger, she must needs wait until he departed again before she could effect Benia’s release.

Thinking back over the last few weeks, it seemed ages since Gilly received the letters that initially disrupted her otherwise peaceful existence. The first being from her sister-in-law the contents of which in effect was politely discerning if her family could move in with Gilly’s while relocating back to Bywater. Sylvia had been of the growing opinion that Brandy Hall was no place to bring up children and if hers were to be taken as examples of that region’s youth Gilly was inclined to agree. And the vague reference in regard to the purposed end of their stay she had found quite trying.

And again, the very next day the postman had delivered a second letter addressed in a rather flowing decorative script. This from Miss Benia Nightshade. Gilly had fondly recalled the slight, kindhearted lass with large amber eyes. She had had no word from her since the days before the war and slowly had come to fear the worst had happened to the dear girl and her family. They had been like green leaves blowing about before the wind in those pre war days, just one step ahead of the storm brewing in Harad. Indeed that is how they had become acquainted, Gilly pleading their case to her father until he agreed to shelter them on his small farm until the danger of their southern pursuers had past. But that chapter had long since been closed. Miss Benia had grown to be a fine woman albeit to Gilly’s mind a bit outlandish to set eyes upon. Still she had her father’s wit and fortitude alongside her mother’s appearance, and it proved a pleasant combination.

In her letter Miss Nightshade had relayed that she would be in the area near Bree and would like to see Gilly again if Gilly could manage to find her way there. She would be staying at the Forsaken Inn. The hobbit in hindsight regretted ignoring the misgivings she had upon reading the name of the inn, but at the time she had feared bed bugs and stale toast rather than the exploits of bounty hunters such as the one she now found herself trailing. (That had changed quickly upon her arrival). And at the time she was overjoyed at the prospect of seeing Miss Benia again, so much so as to press her husband Carl to agree to the journey.

Carl had accompanied Gilly as far as the inn before turning toward Archet to stay with distant cousins. He had arranged to meet Gilly in a few days time for the return trip home. Meanwhile, Miss Nightshade had promised to keep a watchful eye on her friend, keeping her out of mischief. Never before had she seen the Brandywine let alone crossed over the Greenway, and the hobbit felt herself ill at ease as well as excited. Accordingly, she had had a sense of apprehension even amidst her marveling at the sights and curious ways of her fellow guests, some few of which brought to mind once again the ill treatment she and Carl had received at the hands of Sharkey’s men, and was rather sad to learn that Benia’s troubles had not ceased after the war….

Gilly woke suddenly to the sound of footsteps ascending the stair. She couldn’t have been asleep over long for it was still mercifully dark in the room. Of this Gilly was grateful, for at the door there soon appeared Kaldir’s dark form hurriedly shooting the bolt home before stepping outside and across the road. The hobbit sat silently counting to what she thought was a large number before allowing herself to race to the cellar door. Heart racing as she unlocked the door, Gilly found it an awkward task descending the steep stairs with Jack Nightshade’s sword strapped to her back, and stumbling down the last few she called, “Miss Benia! Miss Benia, are you here?”

“Yes Gilly, I am. Just over here my friend, see here in the corner,” came a soft reply. “But you should not have come to visit me today. Carl would not be pleased to hear that I had taken you to such a place as this!” Benia gave a dispirited smile. “You must go directly, for I assure you the ranger will not be long gone!”

“Oh no Miss Nightshade, I will not go. I mean to get you out of here. Ach, now who would go and tie you up like this? As if you would be causing harm to anyone!” Gilly came forward to free Benia using a small knife, but her friend stopped her and looked her in the eye.

“Gilly, please listen! You must go now. Kaldir will be back and we will both be trussed up like this before we have gone a mile if we leave now. If you truly wish to help me, go back to the inn and gather my things bringing them here. I will need my boots to travel any distance quickly, and a think we shall gain a good lead if we wait until the ranger goes to fetch his horse as he plans tomorrow.”

“Then I will do as you ask, but please take my knife while I am away. I would feel better for your having it.” She paused thinking the plan through. “Am I to go with you then?”

“I won’t have you stay here, for Kaldir to toy with!”

“Then I suggest we head for Archet, Carl is there and will be able to help us.”

“Very well, just hurry and be careful.”

Gilly made her way up the stairs again, bolting the door behind her before slipping out into the night. She fairly ran to the inn, climbing the vines to enter Benia’s room though the open window. Collecting the few things her friend had left, she put her meager handful of pocket money on the table hoping that it might cover the cost of their stay, before throwing the rucksack out the window and climbing down after it.

Soon Miss Benia would be safe again, and she and Carl would be on her way back to Bywater. Very soon this would be only an unpleasant memory, but it could not be soon enough for the tired hobbit.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:44 AM   #7
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Snowdog's post - Hanasian

It was a cool, cloudy night when I approached Bree, and though I had made good time from the Forsaken, something bothered me in my leaving that place. For there was Vanwe, admitting to be Naiore’s daughter right there before me, and the long night of words filled me with an intensity that said to my bones that she was near . . . very near . . .

I decided to encamp just north of the road in the thick growth of the Chetwood, not far from the gates of Bree. For surely my arrival will be more welcome at the first light of day than at the deeps of the starless night. I unlimbered Blackveil and let her wander as she does, always staying close it seemed when we were out in the wilds. Though it were not so here near the city, for the King’s men had long since made travel from Bree to Rivendell safe, there still was the old cautions among many of the order of Gatekeepers of Bree. And yet, as always, Blackveil was my eyes and ears as I rested. But tonight’s sleep was not that restful... for I drifted into dream...

It was Year 5 of the return of the King, and two shabby Rangers, me and Farasan of Ithilien, were on the move in Dorwinion, silently acting upon a tip. The lands were still barren but new signs of life were blooming in the spring as fresh vineyards were planted in the year after the War. The rain was hard and on the third straight day, and we approached the small house silently in the sounds of the storm. Farasan had become a good friend of mine since the war, having slain that ratty little orc that had keyed me with a poisoned arrow and was about to shoot. But Farasan’s movement was not quick enough to kick the raging Variag who charged in upon me, and I turned his blade with my own. But I did not see his other blade, the short black one that bit into my side. It glanced off a rib after penetrating the leather vest and fell to the ground as I slashed at him, but the wound weakened me and I fell. Farasan had turned to face more raging men of Khand and did not see me fall, but later he found me in the aftermath as I tried to stand. Farasan had served long in Ithilien under Captain Faramir, and was not too pleased to be caught in the White City running a message when the war closed in on him. He was newly married then, and surely Faramir had this in mind when he gave him the order. A good man Farasan was and a great fighter, and our friendship began that day of meeting on the battlefield, brothers-in-arms. Yes, a good man he was, though his mind did wander to his wife and young child now, living anew in the fair woods of Ithilien.... He should not have been on this mission....

... Ready to make a move, for there was little movement in the house, and in hopes we had Khazûl, Naiore, and Varicar, three of what we called the Remaining, inside. A cadre of ten archers of Ithilien were about the house ready to shoot, and were in waiting in the darkness. Surely none would get away alive. The kid from the winery was sure they would be here, and through the day as the house was watched, it appeared he was right.... but still there was that shadow of doubt inside....

...The door burst into splinters at the kick of my foot, and likewise the back door from Farasan’s foot, and in we rushed. Varicar lay dead in seconds as Farasan’ sword fell upon his neck, and Khazûl jumped up before me in surprise. I stepped toward him, but he charged hard... harder than I expected. Little did I know that Naiore was behind the huge former Easterling army commander, and as he stumbled into my sword, skewering himself and pushing me back into the doorframe, Naiore turned and let fly a knife toward the charging Farasan. Deflecting it with his sword, he saw not the second knife Naiore pulled from Khazûl’s belt, and she buried it deep into his throat. I stood in pain and anger after pushing the dying Khazûl from me, and letting fly the Variag knife at the fleeing Naiore, it took hair from her and embedding into the doorpost as she fled over the top of the dying Farasan. It was almost instantly that I heard arrows slamming into the house as the archers tried to take down the fleeing Naiore, and I would have pursued her if I thought I wouldn’t be mistaken in the driving rain. But I paused and knelt by Farasan, pinching the knife in his neck in hopes of stopping the bleeding. But it was to no avail as he gasped his last words to me...

... I rode slowly, another horse in tow, and the spring gardens of Ithilien were in bloom. I came to the stately home of Farasan, and I stopped and dismounted as Hannah emerged in smiles... smiles for the return of her husband... her husband had returned to her, but not as she wished him to...and I thought of Naiore, his slayer as she eluded the arrows in that dark, rainy night. Maybe I blamed myself for his death? But the thought was interrupted by the sound of that laugh.. the same one I heard seconds before I blew in that door...


I jumped awake in a sweat! Standing and shaking, seeing the face of Hannah change from pure joy to pure sorrow... my side ached where I was wounded in the war, probably some from laying upon that wily pinecone, probably some from the memory of the war... I quickly looked about in watch as was custom of Rangers to see if danger was near, and seeing I was outside the gates of Bree as the sun colored the straggling clouds over the Misty Mountains pink I turned to Blackveil who wandered up nearby.

‘Ready to go girl? They will want to stable you in the city. Maybe I will walk from here and meet you tonight when I return?’

Her nudge of my shoulder was partly in check for my sanity after my troubled sleep, and partly in thankfulness of my not taking her into a city. That stable by Laketown suffered much from her temporary confinement. With a swish of her tail she was off into the trees, and I cached my belongings I would not need in town.

The town of Bree was a nice place, though tales and rumors were rampant there. A tip from Bree was not worth its cost in ale to get it, for it would be a yarn spilled from a local or a visitor from the Shire, but if one looked at those who came and went from other parts, there could be some information gleaned. I knocked upon the South Gate just as the sun peeked its way over the distant horizon and below the clouds. The seemingly eerie golden light spread about Bree Hill as the keeper opened the gate. Yes, friendlier times it was in these years of the King, for it was only at the whim of the gatekeeper if he wanted to open the facedoor to ask of business. It was not uncommon these days for them to open the gate right off.

"Good morning sir" He said with a tired smile. He was the morning gateman, and was still waking up. A voice behind him asked me,

"What is your business so early?"

‘I am here for the day, to re-supply and rest.’

I didn’t like his demeanor as he was a bit grumpy. But then he was just off his night watch at the gate.

"Hanasian I know you better than that. You come to smoke and drink and gamble, and maybe..."

‘No, I am here as I said, for I will be on my way ere you work again. But maybe you could tell me something.’

He looked at me with a half smile and said, "What?"

I looked around and then said,

‘Maybe you could tell me where the Nightshades could be found?’

He was silent, but as we walked the road together he said,

"Sure, one of the boys does smithing. Has a place just a thousand feet south of the Pony by the draw in the hill."

I thanked him as he turned for his house, a yawn slid out as he waved goodbye, for he would go to find sleep, the nocturnal type he was.

I walked the road toward the Pony, and people tall and small were beginning to stir this fine summer’s day. I nodded to a few though most ignored me, and it was soon I was before a smiths shop.

‘Hail sir Nightshade?" I said to the young man who was stoking the fire of his forge. He looked up at me and straightened.

"That be me." he said, though he looked suspicious at me for knowing his family name.

‘I bring word from one who claims kinship. She stays at the Forsaken and goes by the name of Benia...’

And elder man had come out of the house when he heard his son talking, and he said gruffly,

"Spawn of Jacks I reckon. Word was a comin’ for I felt it. What is she to you? One who caught your fancy for a night?"

I was taken aback somewhat by his words, but replied respectfully,

‘She is one who sings beautifully, as a nightingale upon the quiet waters Mirromere. She wanted word to be brought to her kin that she was delayed in arriving. I assume you were expecting her?’

He crinkled his face and turned away from me. "Maybe, but why did you not escort her then?"

‘It was not her wish.’ I replied, sensing all was not well between the lines of the family. I went on, ‘She has word of one of her mothers kin, and said you, of her father’s kin could get word to them.'

He turned and said,

"You delivered word, and I thank you for my part. Will there be anything my son can help you with??"

He was eyeing the exotic black knife on my belt, the one which wounded me in the fields of Pellenor. I could see this getting colder, so I turned and said,

‘No, just delivering the message as requested.’

I needed something to drink! it was too early for ale, but the tea from the Pony smelled good. I stopped in for a hearty breakfast and tea, and then to the mercantile to trade and barter for some good parchment paper and inks and quills, and other goods. Surely I would relax a bit, then I would be back on my way to the Forsaken. Yes, leaving was not the thing to do, but for this instant when I saw a dark, wild looking fellow who I had intentions to meet. He came to trade away some vegetables he had grown, and I could tell he was nervous. He was from Dunland, for I had met him before, and by the passed word of the wanderers toward the Forsaken, he had let me know he had knowledge.

I slipped him some of the pipeweed I had acquired and he looked at it, and after taking it he looked about and then to me, whispering,

"I have seen her! The one you seek!"

I looked at him with a doubtful gaze, for many have told me this, and many times they were close, but never on the mark like that night in Dorwinion. He leaned toward me and said,

"Near Tharbad where they are re-building the great bridge, the river is a hard cross, and one so sought by the Kings men such as she could not ford by the city. She crossed Dunland by my fields! I was near the River Greyflood when she swam it! About ten miles west of the city! It is low since the warm spring melted the snows, and the rain has been little but for the one summer storm."

I looked at the wall. Yes, she stirred it up in Rohan quite a bit, always seem to get clues of her there. I decided his information was worthy for the most part, and gave him the rest of the pipeweed. It was the wild stuff from Rhun, and I would keep the Farthing smoke I just got. He was happy and I went outside to sit and smoke. It had to be Naiore, from what he said, and her movements were usually concealed well. But sometimes poor farmers are not seen, or not thought of as being worthy of having to be concealed from. For even one as wily as Naiore must weary of hiding her every move. But where would she go? Could she be here in Bree? Try to infiltrate the Shire? No, would stick out sorely among the Halflings...

I lay against a tree trunk and smoked and thought, writing again parts of what I called the Annals of the Dúnedain Rangers, when thoughts again drifted to my dream of the morning and then to that day... my hand dug out of my pocket a leather pouch, one not much different from the one he had of Vanwe’s. I opened it and let slip out of it the lock of hair. The hair my knife took that fateful night... I was not thinking the other night or I would have given some of this hair to Vanwe, since she sought her mother.... That was it! Maybe Naiore sought her daughter? Hanasian, you old mossbrain! Surely she was making for the Forsaken, for she must of had word of her daughter! Besides, why linger here when I could see again Lady Benia Nightshade and hear her sing once again? But Vanwe was the key . . . and I am here...

I stood and stashed away my pipe, parchment, quill, ink, and the pouch with Naiore's hair and made way for the south gate. Blackveil will be grazing, but would know to come at my call when I retrieve my cached gear. I had to make time back to the Forsaken, and it was still morning, I could make it back by nightfall.

I was silent as I rode, Blackveil could sense my urgency. I rode through the day as the sun westered, and a stiff westerly wind drove the air about me cooler, pushing the warm southern summer air back. A squall line of clouds built high in the sun, and their dark undersides belched streaks of rain and an occasional lightning bolt as the differing airs danced up their storm. My thoughts turned to Vanwe and the talk we had of Naiore. How could I tell her that her mother slew such a good friend, leaving a child fatherless and a mother widowed? Did she already know? She will learn of Naiore’s ways, soon enough. I approached the Inn as the sun dropped below the horizon, turning the lands an eerie dark, with the tall clouds sunlit still in the east....

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:44 AM   #8
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Elora's post - Naiore

The afternoon shadows grew lush and long, reaching further a field as the Sun made her way into the West. Naiore watched the darkness stretch and grow around her with pleasure. With the night would come other things and she had been waiting long and driven for. She remained still and at relative ease in the embrace of a shadow cast by the ancient bole of a fig tree. It loomed massive over her, surrounded by the adjoining woods that carpeted the land around the inn she was watching.

Some may account it a pleasant place. For Naiore, it was a land of failure and frustration, a wretched place and she had little love for the tree or anything else that lived within its bounds. She was difficult to see, enfolded as she was in twilight darkness. Her inky leathers bore the stains of hard travel. Mud daubed her boots, all but obscuring the delicate silver stitching tracing vine tendrils up her boots. Her hair was no longer smoothly braided. Unearthly golden wisps escaped to graze her cheek on the lifting breeze of a midsummer afternoon. Her state and presence gave rise to a great many questions, the answers to which Naiore did not greatly care to entertain as she cast a simmering glance towards the Forsaken Inn.

Rangers, cursed scions of Numenor, had pushed her hard through the wilderness. She had managed to elude them, her skills tested as they had not been in the past 12 years. Still, although she was for the moment safe, she was far from pleased. It grated to be sitting beneath a shedding tree encrusted with mud. She should, right at this moment, be running in free abandon further to the north. She should, as she sat in darkness gathering her wits and thoughts, be bringing a new tide and era to a land that had escaped the harsher ravages of war. She should, by all rights, be at the pinnacle of power, all the might of Mordor at her back.

Naiore flicked a braid back over her shoulder, its golden weight added to the other seven that hung long to her waist. Instead, she had been cheated of all that should have been hers, even the small prize of the Shire. Rangers and her own people conspired to hem her in and bring her down like an animal. They would take her, bound hand and foot, to face justice as the ignorant liked to call it. There was no justice in this world. There was no love either. No softness, no compassion, certainly no valour or glorious. Those who sought it were fools, nothing more. If anything, two ages spent in the turmoil of Middle-earth had taught her that. The much vaunted values of her kin and the infant cultures that clambered noisy and brash at its feet were lies. They deluded themselves. There was only death, fear, pain, woe, suffering and one other thing. Revenge. That was all.

She who saw the truth and in doing so mastered both it and the world around her, she who had held such power in countless lands, mastered terror and was mistress of the hounds of war and hell, sat in a cold wood. Even had she tried for the Havens to seek release from these mortal lands, she could not penetrate the bristling ring set in place by Elessar around the Shire. His name curdled in her mouth. Twelve years spent running from a beggar king of mortal descent to come to this!

Naiore raised starlit grey eyes to the darkening sky. In them was the long tale of her years. A sadness so heavy it could suffocate her was allowed to surface for air as she glanced at the sky. Then cold anger and revenge settled in and pushed the tiredness away. She looked at the inn, considering it once more. Her face was impassive, as often it was, carved elven beauty remarkable even amongst her own kin. Her face had beheld horror untold, she had wrought it with her own hands, for reasons few could understand. Now she sat waiting for an incipient snare to spring, dirty and desperate but not without her pride. She wore that like armour. It had gotten her through before this day.

The Inn was glowing with firelight in the early evening. Her gaze shifted to the stables, where it was said her daughter worked. Naiore could see no sign of Vanwe just yet, but her sources were adamant. They well knew the price their lies would earn them. It was a difficult death at the hands of a Ravennor. Naiore’s reputation was not conferred to her without merit.
Somewhere was a Ranger too, one she knew. She had expected to find Kaldir skulking in the forest. Such acts were not beneath him as they were her. The presence of both Kaldir and Vanwe was not a coincidence that could be ignored. She should have killed the whelp when she was born, unwanted by-blow that Vanwe was. The idea that some long buried maternal instinct prevented her was laughable. Only the perilous consequences of a lack of restraint keep her silent. Rangers were about, though not as thickly here as they were further West.

Vanwe should be well south, in the desolate Haradwaithe, kept with the goats and the barbarians Naiore had left her with. The fact that she was not had left and survived the journey north and eluded capture told Naiore much. The fact that Vanwe was known to be tracing her told her more. She would be a woman now, grown and no longer a helpless babe. There was no telling the danger she was. Perhaps, Naiore thought, she could use Kaldir to put an end to Vanwe and her threat. She could see to Kaldir after that.

But the fallen Ranger would need to be pushed, if only to see past his immediate mercenary loss in Vanwe's death. It remained to be seen if she could achieve that. He had proved difficult to break, those years ago. Kaldir was a rare challenge, one she had enjoyed then as she soon hoped to.

Naiore waited out the twilight. Travelers were still straggling in to the inn. Vanwe would appear. She worked in the stables, assisting a man who was no real threat for the likes of Naiore. Kill Vanwe and Kaldir, attempt again to push north without a tail, and see if bloodshed could not find the Shire after all. She was without any other purpose, and she would pursue this with a breathtakingly singular will that proved stronger than steel.

The Free Peoples could not hope to contend with her. Sauron himself had never truly conquered all of her heart and soul. Menecin neither. In the face of all she had endured and perpetrated throughout the wars of the Second and Third Age, rising time and again, ceaselessly vigilant in her quest for knowledge that had consumed her life, achieving the death of her daughter and Kaldir was nothing but a light aside.

Perhaps, Naiore mollified herself, one of them held what she looked for. Perhaps they could tell her from where fear spawned. It was unlikely, but possible. She held to that, for it made the ignominy of her failure in recent months to reach the Shire, her fugitive life since Sauron's fall lesser. How they would have laughed to see her reduced to such a state provided they escaped her with the facility to laugh intact within their bodies and souls. She could endure a rough night and hard travel if it meant the achievement of all she had endured and suffered for.

Whilst her riddle of fear circled in her head, Naiore watched from the trees. She needed but the slightest opportunity to begin, and she had tired of idle waiting and ceaseless flight. In the depth of night, she would strike. Snare Vanwe, lead her away and draw Kaldir after her… and then when both were dead and no longer able to scheme against her, she would no longer have the inconvenience of a bounty hunter to hamper her north ward’s push. The lanterns of the stars began to spring into life as Naiore maintained her watch on inn, pondering who had found sent Vanwe north. Elrond’s son’s mayhap? Celeborn? A contemptuous smile curved her lips as she pondered her kinswoman’s husband. Yes, Celeborn of Doriath would do just such a thing. She would see to it that much ruin came of his impertinence.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:45 AM   #9
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Elora's post - Vanwe

… The water dripped in a regular ceaseless rhythm throughout the day, the night and the day. It was broken up by the scratching of rats in the straw, perhaps a wet and hacking cough nearby or a croaked song that had taken possession of a man’s voice and raised it like a tattered flag of insanity against the reality of the bars. Torchlight flickered fitfully against slick and dark stones as through the flames resented their presence, free as they were from the bars but locked in damp darkness. They would come by regularly, sometimes relighting torches that had rebelled and gone out. Some brought hard bread that was passed through the bars. That marked the beginning of another day. Sometimes it was water. That marked the night. It was race to claim bread or water before the rats did.

In that bleakness, a spider spun a silken web in the far corner of her cell. The strands caught the intermittent torch light, tiny gems caught in the web to dazzle unwary observers. It would float in the icy blast of wind that raced down the passage every time the outer main door would open. Then the sound of boots would start, counter tempo to the dripping water. There had been a lot of boots on the stone one morning after the bred had been pushed through the bars. The tiny jewels in the spider’s web became fiery with torch light that they had brought with them. She remembered that. It was beautiful, even if everything else was not and she had smiled faintly in that grimness to behold it.

The men had golden hair, like hers in many respects and yet not. It fell thickly around their shoulders, sometimes braided. Her own was a more delicate shade, lighter in weight and smoother in texture. Some clutched helms under their arms. Their torches glinted off mail. It was not as fair as the spider’s web. She remembered a saying as she took in their grim presence. Silk was stronger than steel. She looked into their faces and wondered about that.
One of them had produced a large iron circle. Many keys jangled discordantly from it. He fitted one to the lock at her bars.

The others stepped back, hands tightening around sword hilts that jutted from their belt encircled hips. She looked back up at the spider’s web as the door creaked in protest at its opening. Two men stepped through.

“On your feet,” one roughly ordered in Westron. He glowered at her. She did as she was told.

“We need more light,” the other one spat over his shoulder. Men slowly stepped closer to the bars. They held their torches out, reluctant to cast light on those within. She was struck by the realisation that they did not really want to see what they thought they were going to.

“Move but a muscle and you die,” intoned the man who had first spoke. She believed him. The other renewed his grip on his hilt, swallowed hard and stepped forward. He tipped her chin up, his fingers hard and rough against her skin. She stared blankly ahead, not daring to breathe. She heard movement, the sound of paper being unfolded.

“She is reported as claiming her name to be Vanwe,” he said. Doubt was in his voice, tempered also by suspicion and a dangerous anger that could flare brighter than any torch at any moment. Vanwe could smell it. She knew its scent well.

“Perhaps it is so, Farald. Look at her,” urged the man who held her chin so tightly.
“I’ve seen that face often enough,” the other replied heavily. She heard the paper bunch in his fist.

“Then by what sorcery did she achieve this?”

She saw two faces crowd her vision. They peered at her in silence. One shook his head as the other released her chin. She sagged back at the sudden change in balance, recovering quickly. A curse hissed in the silence, and somewhere else someone laughed blindly to fill the hole that insanity left in his mind.

“Silence,” roared one of the men in her cell. He cast her another glance. She lowered her eyes and mentally withdrew. If the anger came now, it was best she was not here. She knew what that glance meant. It was best if she was far away when it started. It was easier.

“It is not her Farald,” the other said.

“You had best hope that it is not,” Farald spat. He turned on his boot heel and stalked from her cell.

“What about her,” a man called after him.

“She can go. If I find her again, she’ll not fare so well. Rohan has had more than it’s share of the wider world and its Elves.” His voice floated back down behind him. There was a blast of air as the main door was opened. The men followed him, boot steps filling the prison's sagging emptiness once more. One remained by the open door to her cell.

“I would be swift, were I you. This is no place to dawdle with the doom of Rohan on your head,” he said. He walked away, a slow and measured tread. She watched him open the main door and pull his helm on. He had reports to make. Naiore Dannan was not in custody as they had thought. Those who already readied the gallows would have to wait a little longer. After 12 years and centuries of suffering, a little longer is both an instant and an eternity.

Vanwe ran then, the wind at her heels. She ran running fast, past grass and trees and village. Faster and faster, away from Rohan who nearly hanged her in mistake. Away from Umbar and the slave galleys where soldiers had nearly sold her when their error in her identity was known. North, where her mother had gone it was said and perhaps where her father was buried. Mirkwood, loomed ahead of her. It would be an arduous task to avoid those within it…


“Vanwe, have you found that cider yet?” The innkeeper’s voice called down into the cellar from atop the stairs. Vanwe started from her reverie, blinking at the bar of torchlight that shone golden on the earth floor of the dark cellar. She gathered her wits, pushing the cobwebs of unwelcome recollection aside.

“Yes,” Vanwe responded as she made for the stairs. The innkeeper smiled in relief. Vanwe had been gone so long in the cellar she had started to worry. With a shake of her head, she returned to the common room which was starting to fill with the rapid onset of evening. Vanwe reached the top of the stairs with a final shiver that slide down her spine. She looked over her shoulder, back into the darkness of the cellar and then firmly shut the door on it as she shut another in her mind. No more memories, not tonight, she resolved as she too returned to the common room.

“I’m sorry it took so long,” Vanwe said as she handed the cider to the innkeeper. Busily filling waiting cups and placing them on a tray, she shook her head and shot Vanwe a brief smile.

“I thought something was wrong, is all. Go have some supper. You look pale. Have you eaten today?”

“No,” said Vanwe though she meant to deny that anything was wrong. She was but a wandering Elf, nothing more, no past, nothing.

“I thought as much. Quickly, sit before Cook sees you and I’ll fetch something from the kitchens as soon as I see to these.” The Innkeeper hoisted the tray of mugs and pints and whirled off. Vanwe passed crowded tables where Men and Hobbits spoke or ruminated in silence. There were no Elves tonight. At least she would not have to avoid them. There were Rangers though and that was unsettling. Rangers were only slightly less enthusiastic in their pursuit of her mother than the Rohirrim. Choosing a quiet and unoccupied table, Vanwe sat with a heavy sigh and a heavy heart.

Lespheria had left the key to her room in her keeping. Vanwe played with it absently upon the table top, wrapped deep in her thoughts once again. It had been months since she ventured north and she had found nearly nothing. Her mother was not here and neither was her father. Perhaps those who whispered of their deaths were right after all.

“No need to look so sad, Vanwe, have some wine.” Vanwe looked up at the Innkeeper’s kind smile as she set the wine glass down. Then she was off again as a table full of Men called for ale. Oh, Vanwe said inwardly as she stared at the glass and then at the key, there was need. Here she sat, alone and no closer to the truth and her family than she had been when she set out from the South. It was possible that they hunted her even now. They had done so all through Gondor and Rohan. Their wrath at her flight would break upon her shoulders and back, and all for nothing. She had failed.

As Vanwe sat faced with the vast pointlessness of her life, she felt the weight of another’s gaze upon her. She dared look up to find a Ranger, not Kaldir nor Hanasian nor Amandur, considering her closely. A sliver of fear lanced through her and her hand closed over Lespheria’s key. She looked sharply away again and withdrew inwards. The urge to flee to Lespheria’s room and hide was strong. Her brow furrowed and she rested her head on one hand. Elsewhere in the room someone laughed loudly. The door opened and closed.
Vanwe looked up in time to see Hanasian walk through the door, the road clearly upon him. He had come back, as he had said he would. Her heart was glad for that. His alert gaze combed the room as he took in his surrounds. When it swept over her, the Ranger would only have seen the long golden curtain of her hair as her head rested once more on her hand. A small flame of hope had sprung up within her, though. Hanasian had spoken of her mother under the stars and he had said he wished to speak with her upon his return. Perhaps he held what Vanwe needed. He had returned. It was a sign that not all was lost. Perhaps he knew something she could use. If nothing else, he was a friendly face. In the Sea of Strangers she was surrounded by in the common room that too made her glad.

Kaldir wished her only for the gold on her head. Of that she was certain. Amandur suspected her of the same incredulous crimes laid at her mother’s feet. Lespheria had left with the morning. Hanasian was the only other person who knew who her mother was and was neither suspicious or a bounty hunter. The night did not seem so large or alone now. Vanwe set down the key and sipped at her glass a little.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:46 AM   #10
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Imladris' post - Maethor

Maethor slowly reigned his eager stallion and lingered in the shadows of the forest. The Forsaken Inn loomed like a great shadow, ominous in the eerie light of the moon. Maethor shuddered...great evil was here, lurking in the shadows. He considered the quest that had led him here, the mission to pursue the elf Naiore. He shuddered again as he thought of her, the elf that had run with Sauron. It seemed impossible that a member of the Fair Fold would sully herself with such evil.

Naiore had harmed many, tortured even her own kind. Maethor remembered Kaldir, the ranger whose spirit she had tried to break. Maethor snorted in disgust. Kaldir had indeed lowered himself to the ranks of bounty hunter, yet he was a Dunedain...he was a brother yet.

It was a night laden with memories. Memories of evil times, of darkness that still needed to be routed out of the happy lands. The Shire...his blood turned chill as he realized that Naiore had probably wished to spill blood in her wrath of vengeance upon this fair land. Curse her, that elf woman. Maethor laughed aloud, suddenly, at the Hobbits...the Hobbits that had been (and are still) ignorant of the evil in the south. Even though viewed as a scallywag among them, Maethor loved the little folk and he could not bear to see Naiore harm them and their land.

At the memories, dull hatred took possession of Maethor's mind as he slowly dismounted and tied his stallion, Nair, to an old hitching post. Creeping softly, hiding in the shadows, the ranger made his way to the door and opened it. Hanasian and Amandur should be there in the room. Maethor peered about him, trying to distinguish the figures of men in the thick fog of smoke as he sought for the two rangers.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:47 AM   #11
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Everdawn's post - Avanill

Avanill restrained his horse from further movement than was necessary. It was true that the pair looked a formidable team when out on the open road, Avanill pitied his victims greatly. The Forsaken inn he chimed to himself. “Ah yes, I should think it has been time enough for the people who owe me, to pay me back. Has it been due time for them Amathalay?” he asked the grey horse who seemed to stamp his hooves in approval.

“So do I.” Avanill replied and dismounted the animal. And remembered his mother, the formidable bandit, Atantri’s parting words to him. “It has come time mother, I must journey north.” Is what he had said gathering up his weapons, seeing standing before him the tired form of his thirty six year old mother Atantri. “So soon? You are eager my son, and that may get you into trouble in the future. Remember that.” She said as she handed him his cloak. “Not if you have taught me well.” He said back to her. “That is what I fear most. I can offer you one piece of advice that will see you through all of your years, even when I am gone.” Avanill stopped dead, and listened eagerly, as he always did when his mother spoke.

“Trust no one. I would be dead ten times over if it were not for this instinct. You owe no allegiance to anyone, not even to me, you are your own person. The days of old with our companions of the bandits are near over, if it is your choice to deal with them, make it be that you trade to Mordor. There is still resistance there, and a will to pay high prices for goods.” Avanill had kissed his mother on the head and left with the grey horse whom his mother used to ride in her days of terrorizing Pinnath Gelin, and whom she had named Amathalay, after a traitor her friend killed saying “It is a name only fit for a horse.”

It had been a long ride for Avanill on his old but sturdy and intimidating steed, but he had been here before. His mother was right, he had been dealing with the bandits of Pinnath Gelin, but he had not guessed that she was so close to the truth, his company did take goods from the bandits and sold them in turn at a higher percentage to outlaws in Mordor, to name one in particular, Naiore. Yes she paid high prices for Avanill's goods, and it was common knowledge that the king's men were after her.


It was his black market trade which had brought him here in the first place, on his way further north. “Hello Sir” came the voice of a man from the stables. Avanill turned around to see him, “Dervorin, if it isn’t you. Last time I saw you, you owed me a debt!” said Avanill cheerfully. “I uh… I paid you back, begging you pardon Avanill.” Said Dervorin, slightly alarmed.

“Of course you have!” Avanill chortled, “Not to hold a man’s debts against him of course…” he trailed off and walked closer to the man. “… you fail to pay me on time again and I will have your head-“ Avanill paused when two decent looking men came into the stables, to which Avanill changed his time immediately, “And yes, my mother is fine.. how is your family?!!” the men left shortly after Avanill finished this sentence, which prompted him to go back into threat mode. “Fine” muttered Dervorin. “Well…” began Avanill leaning closer again, “they wont be next time, understand?” and without waiting for an answer, Avanill turned on his heel and entered the inn leaving only his horse and the swish of his cloak in his wake.

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Old 09-06-2003, 08:48 AM   #12
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Elora's post - Menecin

The stars were perhaps their most beautiful in early morning. Menecin had remained sleepless through enough nights to make such assessment with certainty. Imladris was peaceful. He was not. It was an irony that never failed to shred what little grip he had on lucidity. The rage and grief twisted upon itself a little tighter. It never got tight enough to stop.

If he stilled, he could hear the breathing of those that watched. As he studied the clear morning sky, he wondered not for the first time what they watched for. They were waiting for the storm to break loose. He knew it for he saw it in their eyes when they thought he was not watching. He never stopped watching though. To stop would be to surrender to the dark fog that sinuously seeped into every thought and dream.

Beside him lay a lap harp. He had left it out all night, instead of covering it from the cool air. A harp such as this deserved better. This harp had played with Maglor. Maglor himself had overseen its construction, had plucked it's strings. Menecin plucked at a string himself. Maglor had gone mad. He had watched it unfold before him. Another irony that did not escape him. He was following in Maglor's steps, but he had taken no terrible oath other than to love her.

Her face was carved upon his memory, as was her voice and her scent. He could feel her upon his skin still. Menecin's eyes closed, the ache rising. She was there, just beyond his touch. No evil was in her that could be seen. Yet her actions were filled with such malice of intent. The rage sharpened and the grief. She was there but was lost, as was he. Adrift in pain, the world shattered by love, vast gaping wounds in his spirit that did not heal. Neither did he die. Even in her pain there was no mercy.

"Perhaps a song to welcome the day will grant what succor sleep did not this night, Menecin."

He could not keep the bitter smile from his lips as he struggled to keep what raged within him in abeyance. The savagery must have shown in his spahhire eyes. It was a brutal light that was revealed to one of the many who watched over him.

"There is no more music," he snarled in reply. The expression of shock was to be expected. Menecin saw it too often to expect anything less. He drew himself back, sealing off his senses. A few short hours, when night was done and the day not yet begun, he allowed himself. He would awaken within him, undead, unalive, in the transitory hours of each day. He would float. He had been brought to anchor by the Elf who had watched him through the night.

Menecin unfolded his tall frame, clad in the customary finery of a skilled bard who had performed remarkable feats of bravery and courage. Wisdom gleaned from three Ages in Middle-earth blended with his distress, making him dangerous to any and all, including himself. He turned, and walked unhurriedly back towards the chambers they allotted him at Imladris. Their comfort was barely noticed by Menecin. All was hell.

Behind him, in the eastern sky, day's blush had begun. The stars winked out, one by one, and he withdrew into himself. The startled Elf trailed him, wary and concerned with the bard's beloved harp cradled carefully in his arms. Menecin closed the door to his bedroom firmly. The Elf found the harp's aged and battered case and gently placed it into its wardship. He straightened, looking at the wooden door that sealed Menecin away from the world.

As many had done before, he shook his head in sorrow. A hint of the bard's formidable passion and greatness had emerged, only wracked with anger. All of it was brought about by one woman, her name no longer spoken. Her bounty price was the highest ever set. No trace of her though, apart from the trail of ruin she left scattered through the lands. For her, he suffered. The Elf seated himself at a nearby table and inked the quill that waited.

Next to the date, he recorded his observations.

"No change, no glimpse of relief, only rage."

His quill hovered a moment and was then set aside. He did not add the other comments that filled his head. Instead, what he did record was the latest on a page filled with similar comments. Books spanning decades, hundreds and thousands of years, contained the same dreary pattern. How anyone endured such torment, refusing to believe that she was indeed what she was known to be, defied imagination. It would have been better that he did not survive. Sometimes, it is best if the healers fail.

The Elf rose once more and stoked the small fire in the grate to warm the room for the next who would watch Menecin. Within his room, Menecin sat disconsolately with his thoughts and attempted to free himself from madness that always loomed and never swooped to relieve him of self-awareness. He longed for it with a need that shamed him.

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Old 09-06-2003, 06:16 PM   #13
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Hanasian enters the Forsaken Inn:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was getting pretty dark when I approached the Forsaken Inn, and I was tired from the day which had started early in Bree. I had done what I promised Lady Benia Nightshade, and now I was back. I watched the lands as I approached the Inn, for the air had a strange but familiar chill to it.

The trail of smoke stretched above the old building before a wisp of cool summer breeze from the north took it south. The rumble of thunder from the faraway Misty Mountains subsided as the darkness fell over the lands, cooling the heat of the day. The chill air won this day's battle, but the dissipating high clouds that shone silver in the rising moons light spoke of another hot day tomorrow.

I slid off Blackveil and took a satchel and bags from her. She would run free without a burden this night, and with a nod and a smile from me she grunted and was off up the grassy knoll behind the Inn and stable. I carried my load the last several hundred feet to the Forsaken and paused outside before entering.

A chill blew over me, and though the breeze was cool, this was one that I had not felt for at least 7 years... my eyes squinted and I looked about the place, and all seemed to be in order. The porch roof that sloped down had shadowed me from the moon, and the din of talk and such came from behind the door. I walked to the side edge and looked about; my eyes followed the horizon slowly north of the road where the grassy hillocks were broken by trees of alder and willow. They were spread out for easy passing, and the tall grass danced in the breeze around them. I looked northeast, in the direction of the Midgewater some miles away, and it looked as it had always. Yes, all appeared on order, but it did not feel right to me. I leaned against one of the posts that held the porch roof up, and wondered for a moment what all this post could tell over the years...

I finally pushed the door open and the sounds grew immediately louder. I stood inside for a moment and looked around at the faces there. It was only a couple days when I was here last, but it seemed so long ago. I looked to my left where the bar stretched out of the wall and ended openly in about 20 feet. A gap between its end and the wall that led straight down the hall to the lower floor rooms was only about five feet, and the traffic of the maids and servers from the kitchen sometimes crowded through with near accidents being avoided at the last second. The staff here had been at a long time, and seemed to know every inch without looking.

Just inside the opening to the hall, there was a stairwell that led up to the right, turning as it did to the left and through an archway to the upper hall, where the larger and nicer, and should I say, more expensive rooms were. But this Inn had seen its better days. The sound of the creaking, worn floorboards could be heard at times through the din of the Inn, and the two large log supporting beams that stood in the middle of the common room floor stretched high to the roof beams, for there were no rooms above the Common Room in this Inn. They all stretched out toward the back. About the floor there were a herd of small tables, each with a brood of rickety stools gathered about, with every one speaking of times past by the carvings that had been left through many of nights revelry through the long years.

The Inn was seeming unusually crowded this night, more so than when I left days before.... the heavy odor of ale and thick aroma of pipeweed being burned, making the room hazy and grey... but the air seemed different, and so I looked at the folk who were there.

A few folk stood along it with their evening beverage in hand, though one had nothing and was ordering. Maethor! I recognized him right off from the sound of his voice as he ordered, and he sensed me, for he looked over his shoulder and I nodded once in greeting. I then looked over the common room and I saw who appeared to be Lady Vanwe, her head down and her hair splayed about. I fingered the pouch I had in my vest pocket, and I thought a bit of that day long ago... Yes, I would give her some of that which I have of Naiore's.

But there would be time for us later. I didn't see Lady Nightshade, but then her ankle would probably keep her from moving too much. She was most likely upstairs talking with Gilly the Halfling, and a slight smile came over me. To have such friends! I would call on her later and see how she is, for my mind again drifted to Farasan, and that day... I need to have an ale.

The fireplace was against the far wall from the door, and it made the two rooms behind it on the lower and upper floor prime ones in the winter months. But tonight the fire was burning low, for the heat was not needed. Its only purpose was to keep a steady supply of water hot for teas, and that which the cooks needed. But the best tables were near it, and so it was I found myself sitting, leaning the old chair to the wall so I could watch the room. Maethor carried two tankards towards my table, and I knew I would owe him at a later time, but still I could not shake the aire I felt since arriving. I kicked out one of the chairs and Maethor set the tankards on the table and went to sat, but my eyes were ever searching the folk. I wonder where Vanwe is? I would like to see her again, and . . . But I had not told any of it save Vanwe, in hopes to finding a clue.

Step could be heard, the sound of heavy boot on well worn wood stairs, and soon one turned and eyed the common room. It was Amandur, and he had sprung for a room upstairs! I waited for his gaze to find me, and as Maethor sat, I lifted my tankard toward Amandur. He too nodded slightly... it was a silent way of the Rangers to greet in public, for the secretive and dark paths the Dúnedain had taken for so many years of darkness made it so, and the fair words of the brethren meeting again would wait for a time when they were alone.

Amandur walked over, and as Maethor turned to see who I was looking at, I pushed out another of the old chairs, this time on my left, for Amandur.

'Hail Amandur!' I said in a low voice not much audible over the din of the crowds' voices. Maethor too mouthed a word of greeting, and his arm went out for a maid to bring refreshment for our newest arrival.

I shed my satchel and bags by the hearth and wall near my chair, and too the blanket and my cloak which covered it all. I stretched my bare, sun-darkened arms a bit my black leather-clad legs straightened under the table. It had been a long ride to and from Bree. I felt again that chill and I again felt the pouch in my vest pocket. I looked first to Maethor, then to Amandur, and leaned forward as I set my tankard down on the table and said in a slight whisper,

'She is near, I feel it!'

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Old 09-06-2003, 07:04 PM   #14
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As Maethor strode dreamily towards the bar, his dark eyes fell upon a maid, and he could tell she was an elf. He froze and stared at her: he had never become used to their beauty, and always he would stop and watch them in awe. The years in Rive -- no Imladris, he hastily corrected himself, had been wonderful years of young beauty and wonder. He sighed happily as he watched her and murmured part of the elvish lay of Nimrodel a she watched her. The elvish language...what a fair thing it was.

Vanwe lifted her head and Maethor, jerking himself to the real world of the grungy inn, realized that he must have been gawking and, turning so that she would not see his crimson face, he turned again to the bar and began to order an ale. Plopping some coins upon the counter, he felt a presence, a friendly presence, enter the room and, turning, he saw that it was Hanasian. He nodded in greeting and said, "Excuse me. Make that two ales, if you would." He smiled at the woman behind the counter and saw that Hanasian had taken a seat at a table.

"Hanasian. I was expecting to find you here," he said quietly as Maethor joined the aged Ranger and looked at him admiringly.

Maehtor saw Hanasian raise his tankard in greeting to another and Maethor silently nodded his own welcome when he saw that it was Amandur. Motioning a serving maid to fetch another ale, Maethor gazed at Amandur as the ranger, too, joined himself and Hanasian. Maethor felt his blood chilled as he heard Hanasian whisper, "She is near, I feel it!"

Maehtor's spirit plummeted as he heard the awful words. He could only mean Naiore. Sipping his ale, he murmured, "Are not the rumors false? Is she truly an elf maid?" It couldn't be true. What elf would turn to evil?

The two rangers nodded and Maethor's spirits crashed through the floor as he pushed his tankard away. "How do we know find her?" he sighed, twiddling with a raveling thread from his cloak.

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Old 09-06-2003, 09:09 PM   #15
Elora
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Sting

Naiore

So many Rangers! Still, it would get no easier, not now that the hornet's nest had been stirred. Naiore welcomed the fall of night proper as it sank over the lands. The hours would pass soon enough. Vanwe's lodgings were in the stables. She has to come out soon enough. There was a moisture in the air. If she waited long enough, she would have the confusion of fog to add to her allies this night.

Naiore stretched muscles that had remained in position for long hours already. No outward sign of impatience did she give. She was a creature of discipline and formidible will. She could wait until the small hours of the morning to float in with the foggy tendrils and snatch up Vanwe. Then, when she had her bait, she could unfold from there. Kaldir, for example, would fall into her lap.

The very thought of that brought a smile as cold as it was perfect to Naiore's lips. She could finish what she started there. Leave what was left to be found. The shock of that discovery would be the first footsteps of the terror that would unfold, a terror she would bring. They would know, before the end, all too well why such misery was brought to them. The dreams of freedom and peace would be shredded. There were no such things and those who had destroyed her life would learn of it at her hand.

Naiore's mind circled back to the Rangers. Kaldir was only one, likely isolated too although the brotherhood of Rangers is hard to gainsay. What of the others... some were experienced and some were not. They were but mortal men, though... no match for her skill,blinded and bound by their delusions of honour.

Rangers were not the only presence at the inn tonight. The fog would not be her only ally. True, she could trust the fog more than she could the contraband thief... but then she could have use of him also if she was to get beyond the immediate surrounds of the inn. She had to make for Bree, and she would need supplies.

There were many hours before Naiore would strike and she was not idle. As she waited, still as a graven statue, her mind raced and wheeled through such twists and turns that her old Master would haven been well pleased. A sense of melancholy rememberance tempered her thoughts, sharpened by anticipation of what was to come, the new future she would carve out.


-----------------------------

Vanwe


As with most evenings, the sinking of the sun brought many through the Inn's doors. Outside at the hitching post a row of horses newly arrived waited to be installed into their accommodations for the night. Inside, the guests saw to their needs. The kitchen was busy and the bar was hopping. Fimbriel was filling ale tankards and glasses with admirable flair and efficency.

Vanwe could also see the heads of the two hobbits as they weaved from table to table. Aramantha carried platters of food that she gazed at longingly as she dropped each one off. Rowana juggled tankards and mugs with remarkable ability. Vanwe glanced at her barely touched glass and sighed. Devorin materialised in the press at her table.

"There you are," he said with a grin. "It's a busy one tonight!" He took a seat opposite her. "I've seen to the latest arrivals, Vanwe." Vanwe felt a flush of guilt, for it was she that was the assistant. She opened her mouth to apologise and found it waved away before she gave it voice.

"You can sort the horses out at dawn tomorrow," Devorin said obligingly. There was a tension in Vanwe's gaze that troubled him, yet she nodded.

"The very least I can do is find you some ale," she offered.

"Now that is something I will not deny," Devorin said, leaning back in his chair and glancing around at the Rangers. Something was afoot. Before he could question Vanwe further, the Elf was on her feet and heading towards the bar.

"Finished your wine already Vanwe! Lucky I remembered to water it this time," Fimbriel's quipped as Vanwe appeared behind the bar. Those waited renewed their orders for ale and the like at the sight of another. Vanwe started filling tankards and glasses dutifully.

"Devorin would like some ale," she replied over the din, or rather through it with her distinctive Elven voice.

"I'll bet he would, but I'm too busy to wait on him hand and foot tonight!"

"I said I'd bring him some," Vanwe said, setting a foaming tankard down in front of a Man. She ducked away from his gaze as he thanked her. No need to risk being recognised as her mother.

"Shy thing,' she heard him mutter. Yes, better he think her shy than her mother. How is it possible to be that evil. It could not be, no.... Vanwe belatedly realised that Fimbriel was speaking to her.

"- Drop these off on your way. Rowana is run off her feet and see if they are wanting food as well."

"Which table," Vanwe had to ask. Fimbriel looked in askance at her and motioned towards the table that a gathering of Rangers sat at. Vanwe swallowed hard.... it would be walking into the lion's den with no more than a tray and some ale to defend herself with. Amandur's questions unnerved her. He suspected her of something, she knew it. He reminded her of others, of Rohan sometimes. There was also the other Ranger she did not know but had been staring earlier. Hanasian... he was there, true enough, and he knew something of her that the others did not. But what was her word under the stars compared with his brethren.

"Are you sure you're alright, Vanwe?" She blinked and nodded uncertainly. Fimbriel passed her a tray with tankards for the table of Rangers and Devorin. With no alternative, Vanwe picked up heavy feet and made her way back through the room. First she went to where Devorin sat at his ease near the heart.

"Perfect," he breathed as she passed down the tankard. "Any chance of some food to go with it." Vanwe nodded and attempted to return his smile. Devorin had no idea what she was, who she was... but he trusted her nonetheless. With all these Rangers about, he may come to regret taking her in as he did. Assistants who are taken for questioning by the King's Rangers are not the most suitable employees.

With that thought in her mind, Vanwe turned to the other table. A lion's den... They were in close conversation that faltered as she neared. It was important to behave normally, Vanwe knew after her experience, but such things are impossible. Hanasian and Amandur both glanced up at her, and the other Ranger turned about. Questions, so many questions, and she could not answer them and did not even believe what few answers she had herself.

She set down the tankards onto the table. They seemed overly loud to her hearing, eyes averted.

"I can also bring you food if you wish. Cook has prepared dinner. We have a lamb stew with fresh vegetables and some soup from lunch still - pumpkin I believe. Fresh bread, honey and cheeses also.

Is anyone hungry?"

Amandur was studying Vanwe like a hawk and the impulse to dash away from table and inn was strong. She could hear her heart thrumming in her ears. Hanasian's hand drifted to his vest pocket, expression thoughtful and grave also. It was as Vanwe had thought. He knew of Amandur's doubts. She wished to wail that she knew nothing of her mother save that her mother could not be what they all said she was. It could not be!

Vanwe then looked at the Ranger she did not know. Curiosity seemed to be in his gaze. Of all the tables, why did Fimbriel ask the stable assistant to take the order from this one? As soon as she had done this, assuming she was not arrested on the spot, she would take Lespheria's key and go to her room. If they were to come for her, Haradians or Rangers, then they would look for her in the stables - the one place she would not be!

Vanwe's thoughts turned deep within her, a fatigue rising for she was tired of running. Yet, for the Rangers that sat at the table they saw only an Elf who waited for their orders and hoped they would wave her off.

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Old 09-07-2003, 12:05 AM   #16
Nerindel
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Sting

Amandur

After procuring a room Amandur went upstairs to his room, the innkeeper had promised to send someone up with his supper. On entering the room he had went straight to the window as requested it afforded a good view of the wooded area to the side and rear of the inn. The moon cast an eerie glow over the wooded area sending shivers down his spine.

A loud knock on the door drew him from his watch. He opened it to find a rosy cheeked young hobbit woman standing in the hallway holding a bowl laden with lamb stew and two large crusty slices of bread and butter. "thank you!" he smiled carefully taking the plate from her. "will there be anything else sir?" she enquired, "No, that will be all thank you." The young hobbit nodded and hurried off down the hall.

Amandur sat by the window as he ate his supper, watching the steady stream of people coming and going from the inn, his eyes drifted to the downs in the direction that Léspheria had rode out on that morning, he wondered were she was and what she was doing. He found himself feeling glad that she was not here, he know how much it pained her to felt the negative emotions of others especially pain, maybe Lóthaniel was right to keep the truth from her. The sudden canter of hoofs and a loud whinny brought his attention back to the area surrounding the inn. Hanasian he whispered seeing Backveil galloping up the grassy knoll.

Pushing his plate aside, he made his way down stairs, His dark eyes scanned the smoky common room trying to locate the Ranger. He soon found his sitting at a table at the far end of the room. Hanasian raised his Tankard in silent greeting, Amandur inclined his head slightly and walked towards them. Hanasian was not alone Maethor was with him , Hanasian pushed out a chair on his left and Amandur sat on it as Maethor acquired him an ale.

Amandur leaned back in his chair and took out his long grey wooden pipe and pack it with some Southlinch he had acquired in Bree, puffing gently as he light the weed, once lit he turned his seat slightly so he could rest his feet on the lower bar of the empty chair beside him.

'She is near, I feel it!"

Amandur sat up at these words nodding his agreement, he now felt that Léspheria had felt Naiores presence in the vicinity of the inn and the disturbed earth among the trees had been hers.

"Are not the rumours false? Is she truly an elf maid?" Maethor muttered from beneath his tankard, Both Amandur and Hanasian looked to each other and shook their heads "no the rumours are not false, An elf maid by all accounts to look on but I've see the pits of the revennor, the unspeakable horrors she inflicted on her own cousin and many more besides" Amandur sighed, as the vision of Léspheria's mothers broken body filled his mind. He took his pipe from his mouth and took a long drew of his ale in the hope to wash away that vision.

"How do we now find her?" The younger ranger sighed

"By keeping a watchful Eye on...." he stopped as Vanwe approached their table and set down three fresh ale's. He studied her face as she asked them if they would like anything to eat.

"I have already eaten and can strongly recommend the stew," he smiled as he leaned back on his chair and draw on his pipe, blowing smoke rings into the air as he waited for Hanasian and Maethor to order or decline the offer and let the elf woman return to her chores.

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Old 09-07-2003, 02:03 PM   #17
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Sting

Rauthain

Night had not long since fallen when Rauthain drew near his stopping point and taking pity on the horse had dismounted, walking along side the animal for several miles before reaching the Forsaken Inn. There he had hoped to rest the horse for a time before continuing the long circuit from here to Bree, then up to Fornost and finally the Ettenmoors. This small village was well known to rangers and he could ask no further of the beast, though it would have pleased him more to have been in Bree by this time.


Reaching the noisy and brightly lit Forsaken, Rauthain led the weary stallion to the well. Taking rope in hand, the creak of a pulley could be heard through the rising mist as clean water was drawn up from the depths below. Splashing the water into a shallow basin from his kit, the ranger set it before the horse, patting the proud neck before returning to the tie up the well’s rope.


Though a raucous noise could be heard from the inn, the stable yard was still as Rauthain took the reins and crossing to a grassy dell, drove a peg in the ground tethering the horse until his return. “Rest as well as you may,” he spoke softly to the animal. “We’ve a long ride yet, and the worst of it at the end.” Then after stroking the mud-speckled shoulder, Rauthain left to join the noise of the Forsaken.


Opening the door he took stock of its denizens, looking in particular for any from more southerly regions that he could gain tidings from. There were several other rangers in the room, at least three of whom Rauthain was well acquainted with. Shifting his gaze he noticed the long silken gold hair of an elf woman. And as she turned her head Rauthain’s heart became as ice, for she revealed a striking profile that he had once seen so many years ago. It was as if Naiore Dannan herself were causally serving these rangers. But the mannerisms were altered, the proud coolness striped away. Surely this elf had not been the basis of the report he had received? For anyone having had the misfortune of Naiore’s attentions could see plainly this beauty had no malevolence behind her eye.


Requesting food and drink of her, Rauthain considered her closely before he turned and caught Hanasian’s gaze. Raising his tankard slightly and with knitted brow he cast a quick sidelong glance at Vanwe, before joining the three.


“This is an opportune meeting!" he spoke in low tones. "Little did I understand that I would fall in among friends when crossing this threshold. I thank the horse that tired when it did, else I should have missed such a welcome sight!” And smiling broadly Rauthain produced a pitcher of ale and began refilling the group's tankards. “To our continued health and that of our liege!”


"Aye, to the King and his rangers!" came the reply.


The aging ranger set down his empty tankard and settled in his chair, occasionally looking past Amandur and Hanasian, his mind returning to the question of Vanwe.

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Old 09-07-2003, 05:11 PM   #18
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Pipe

Hanasian in the Forsaken Inn:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I could see my brethren eye Vanwe in various suspicious ways, for the likeness was great. But I could still see the face of Naiore as she grinned at me, sacrificing her cohort upon my sword. And how she looked as she took down Farasan... It is no doubt that much has been done by Naiore to countless others, each affecting scores of others.

I smiled at Vanwe as she stood as if frozen, a nervous shaking I could detect as we considered her and her words. It was Amandur who broke the ice as he recommended the stew. I replied to Vanwe,

'Aye miss, the lamb stew with some cheese and bread will do, thank you.'

A look of a guarded relief came over Vanwe, and soon Maethor, who also had just arrived at the Inn, requested some fare as well. Rauthain was fresh off a ride, and ordered as well, and Vanwe seemed somewhat relieved she could turn away from the table. I watched her turn and walk away, thinking of our converse a couple nights ago, and knowing she holds the key to finding Naiore. My bretheren considered her as well in their own ways, but for the moment after Vanwe's departure from our table, only the words of our meeting was heard between us. But in our minds we thought of Naiore, and the likeness that Vanwe held of her, and each of us watched her in a guarded stealth of surveillance, with the exception of Maethor whose back was toward her route about the common room. But he studied our eyes one at a time, reading on his own that which his mind spoke of our thoughts which our eyes gave away.

I sipped again my tankard now that Rauthain had the foresight of getting a pitcher of the heavy ale, and I spoke quietly of her,

'She does look like Naiore, but she is just an elf-maiden who works here. She is young in the accounting of years of elves, only being I would guess as old as a single generation of the Dúnedain. Naiore is an ancient elf, though I would not use the term maiden in her reference. Vanwe spent time in the south, and has recently returned north. I believe she knows of Naiore, and may be kin, and in fact may be tracking her as well, though I think it is only, as it is for most of us, due to an evil inflicted by the Ravener.'

I did not let on right now that she was indeed the daughter of Naiore, for I feared their reaction. But I would let them know once we were away from the Inn.


The aroma of Amandur's pipeweed caused me to reach for my own pipe, and I tamped a pinch of the Southfarthing leaf I acquired in Bree. Leaning over to fish out a twig from the kindling box by the fire, I then jammed it into the simmering orange coals in which the dry stick ignited. I lit my pipe and drew some, and held it over to Amandur who was looking to re-light, and soon or table was amidst a thicker cloud of smoke. I then said in response to Rauthain's toast,

'To the King!'

No, I did not toast ourselves as the others did, for it was true we were Dúnedain Rangers who served still the King, but since the war some stayed in service as I and my brethren here, but some did not. I also knew my mission....

My mind then thought of Kaldir, and I knew that Amandur knew of him as well, for he was the one who first met the five of us near the North Downs in 3009 of the last age. It was five who returned from Raven Falls upon the upper Mitheithel. Our party was seven when we rode out, I being then a young Ranger on one of my first extended rides. It was hard to return without Kaldir or Elendir, and worse yet was we knew Elendir was slain, but we did not find Kaldir's body. So it was a calloused joy that I found him here, not the man I knew and rode with for a short time then, but alive. But darkness filled his eyes, and rightly so seeing how he looked now.

'You know I saw and talked to Kaldir here a couple days ago.'

I said to Amandur as my pipe burned itself out. I had been puffing in thought for a bit here, remembering. He looked at me, and I nodded.

'I didn't recognize him at first, but later I spoke and it was he. He don't look too good. I believe he hunts bounty, and seemed to be interested in ....'

I broke off. I thought now of Benia, and the fact she was not here, or Kaldir, or Gilly for that matter. I boiled in concern, though I knew the mission was to find Naiore. I could not allow harm to come to the fair woman whose voice sang to my memories of my days away south. There was something in the air alright, and it was not good. I again sipped my still-near-full tankard and looked about. The folk there seemed the regulars, and some travelers who could not make it to Bree proper and the fine accommodations of the Prancing Pony, and the shadier ones who usually gravitated here to avoid the scrutiny of the King's Constable in Bree. I looked at one who seemed shady who stood at the bar(Avanill), and I knew this Inn had changed little since the King came to power. But their business was their own until it crossed the line of lawlessness, right now, I wondered of the Lady Nightshade so I could pass to her news of Bree, when Vanwe came balancing a large tray with hot stew and a loaf of sourdough and some cheese...

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Old 09-07-2003, 05:25 PM   #19
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Tolkien

Maethor watched the elf maid with the fair hair depart to bring the stew and he noticed with some concern that the other three rangers opposite him watched her closely as she wended her way towards the kitchen. Puckering his brow slightly, he wondered if she was Naiore herself for he had heard of the beauty of the Ravennor. No it could not be, he said to himself sharply. He had neither seen nor felt malice in her mien. Maybe she was kin.

He jumped slightly at the mention of Kaldir...the man who had turned to bounty hunting. "Yes, Kaldir does hunt bounty," Maethor said softly, answering Hanasian's trailed sentence. "It is grievous that, though he has kept his life, he has turned to such distasteful ways." He sighed, but visibly brightened when Vanwe brought the stew. Nodding gently at her, he dipped his spoon and played with the chunks of meat that bobbed enticingly upon the surface.

Glancing at each ranger in turn, Maethor said, "I felt a presence in the woods tonight...as if the forest were holding its breath or as if something tainted the air."

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Old 09-07-2003, 07:31 PM   #20
Elora
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Sting

Vanwe

Vanwe steadily loaded up the tray with the ordered meals. She had gotten most of the way. Now to deliver them and find sanctuary in Lespheria's rooms. Fimbriel and Devorin could manage without her, surely, for she was of little use to any as it was. Rowena passed the last plate to her, the golden, ripe cheese upon on.

"Wouldn't do you no harm, Vanwe, to try some of this yourself." Vanwe nodded but said nothing on the matter. She was not hungry and what was one missed meal in light of everything else? The Elf still found it hard to understand why Cook and the hobbits had made her food their concern. It was a mystery, one of many here in the north, and it would not be settled tonight.

She collected the tray up, pushed back through the crowd and returned to the table of Rangers. Again conversation faltered. Silently she set out the contents of the tray, transferring plates, cutlery, food and the sunny napkins of the inn onto the table.

"Sirs," she said with a carefully deferential tone so as to give them no further quarrel. She was almost done and she would not trip on her escape from the den over her incivility. She had learnt it the hard way in the south and could not forget it now. It was beaten into her very bones.

She managed a small smile for Hanasian and another for Maethor who did not seem as hardened in his thoughts and unspoken questions. Amandur, though, his questions frightened her with her lack of answers. His questions and her answers had led her into prisions dank and infested before this inn. Questions meant bars on a cage, and there was a grimness of purpose within him that startled her. Rauthain she did not know what to make of. Instead, habitual caution guided her to ensure she made as little impression as possible.

Tray all but empty, Vanwe dropped a curtsy and moved as quickly as she could to the nearby table of Devorin. She unloaded the rest of the tray quickly. He caught her wrist easily.

"Whoa there," he said as though she were a skittish colt, "Where is yours?"

"I have things to do first, Devorin. I have to check Lespheria's rooms. She asked me to watch them for her and I have not checked them all day," Vanwe tested his grip a little frantically as Amandur realised she had spoken Lespheria's name with interest.

"I have to go, please," she said. Such boldness to her employer would have seen her beaten for her temerity. Inwardly she braced herself for what would follow as he frowned up at her in surprise. Devorin realised the extent of her unrest and released her swiftly.

"Go then, Vanwe, no need to fret. The sky is not falling." Vanwe stepped back in relief with the now empty tray in one hand. Oh, but there was need to fret! If only the sky was falling! The inn was bursting at the seams with Rangers and one even knew who she was! Devorin did not know, he cold not know.

Instead, Vanwe turned away. She cast a glance at the four Rangers as she sped past as quickly as she could without appearing to run. That would only feed suspicion. Rowena very nearly had to duck as Vanwe tossed the tray into the kitch on her way past.

"Where are you going," Fimbriel called after her retreating back. Devorin materialised at the bar in search of another ale. Vanwe had sped off before he could ask another of her.

"She's off to Lespheria's rooms. Something about checking them," he said, shaking his head in mystification. Up the stairs, Vanwe fitted the key to Lespheria's lock with fingers that seemed to rattle a little. When she heard the lock click open, she burst through the door, shut it and leant against it. There she paused, to listen for footsteps on the stairs or floorboards. The dull roar of the common room filtered up through the floor faintly.

Four Rangers! Four of them! All below! Rangers were as dangerous as the Rohirrim. She remembered how they had sat ahorse on a ridge, watching her eerily as she raced out of their grasslands into the north. She remembered his face as he inspected her own, filled with disgust and repugnance for who he thought she was.

Vanwe washed a clammy hand over her face and moved to the small hearth to light it. No trace of Kaldir yet, or Benia or Gilly either! Vanwe's mind all but hummed with possibilities. The Rangers were going to arrest her. Benia, Gilly and Kaldir were going to take her back to Harad.

The fire slowly grew into small life, and Vanwe sat on the floor before it, alone and small in the long shadow of her mother. Not for the first time since setting out, she asked herself what she thought she was doing. What could she achieve? All this way for what: arrested by Rangers, captured by hunters, or to find her mother really was as they said she was and her father really was dead.

In the quiet of Lespheria's room, a tear slipped free. That was all she allowed. Tears were of no avail. They had watered the sands of the Haradwaithe and changed nothing. Slowly she stood, smoothing crumpled and worn skirts and walked to the windows. She stood there a long time, staring at the night, until she finally drew the drapes. Then she sat in the chair and tried to think.

Yes, there were four Rangers down there, but one at least had word of her mother and that was why she was still here instead of fleeing into the wilderness long ago. Hanasian had said he would return and he needed to speak with her. She risked all this for his tidings and fear would not drive her to throw it all away now. Besides, if he wished to arrest her he had missed his opportunity during that night. They had both slept under the stars.

Unless he went for aid to bring me in... yet what danger am I? Vanwe held up her hands before her face. Urchin, dispossessed, beggar... there were infants of greater peril than she.

Amandur, well he had seen her heal Lespheria. Maybe that hasty revealation of her skills would stand her in good stead a little longer. Still, he watched like a hawk did Amandur and all too often she felt she resembled a mouse, squeaking and scurring hither and thither, whilst under his gaze.

As for Kaldir... maybe he would not be so bold with Rangers about. She could only hope. Certainly, she had to make sure she gave him no opportunity. Perhaps she would sleep in Lespheria's room tonight. She'd use the chair and not her bed, so as not to cause offense to the elegant Elf Lady who had entrusted her with the key.

Her wits had gotten her this far. Time to trust to them again, for she nothing else. As for all that it would come to, well it was not possible that her mother could be that evil. It simply was not. The tales of Naiore couldn't be true and if that was so, then perhaps her father wasn't dead also. Vanwe pulled out the tattered scrap of paper and read their names.

"Naiore," she sounded softly, her mother's name, and "Menecin," her father's. The threading of her pulse abated a little as she sat in the chair in Lespheria's rooms, safe. A note of longing hung in the air after her voice faded. Vanwe drew her feet up to her chest in the chair and looped her arms around her knees.

It would all be well. She would find her mother, and she would not be evil, and her father would be alive. She would not be arrested nor would she be dragged back to the hell of that village. It would all be well. She had risked too much for it to be otherwise. In Lespheria's rooms, Vanwe was allowed to will it so at least within those four walls until the outside world pressed in on her once more.

And noone knew she was there, apart from Devorin, Fimbriel and perhaps Amandur. Vanwe rested her head upon her knees and closed her eyes to see the future how she wished it to be. The key that she had left in the door peeped through the lock to watch her dreamy smile take shape before the hearth. The paper had been set aside, and now she held a small length of braided leather thong.

She would never go back. She would find them. She would not be taken and she would prove all that had been said to be wrong.

Menecin


Elrohir sat in his father's great library, famed throughout the lands, in the latter day sanctuary of Imladris. His brother stood nearby, eyes roaming over the report Elrohir had given to him upon arriving. Elladan spoke the words aloud, echoing those that had leapt into Elrohir's memory to fix themselves there.

"...sightings of Naiore Dannan," Elladan said gravely, looking at his twin over the report. Elrohir closed his eyes for a moment and wished not the first time that the White Council had dealt with this remnant of woe before leaving.

"Elessar Elf-stone said he expected as much in his last missives. Eomer of Rohan claimed she had been sighted as well," Elorhir said calmly. There could be no arguing with this.

"That may well be, brother, but knowing that makes none of this the easier," Elladan muttered with characteristic spark as he resumed reading the report. It went on to details where she had been sighted and by whom. Some were even to give a rough description.

"The Dunedain reported indications that someone or something was attempting to pass the King's Ban into the Shire. Have been so for months now.

What interest would Naiore Dannan have with Hobbits," Elladan went on to ruminate. The pride of the Ravennor was well known to those familiar with her handiwork. Triffling with Hobbits seemed uncharacteristic in the least, if one neglected to consider two relevant pieces of information.

"Who was the reason for Sauron's downfall... and the Haflings are not the onlt thing of interest to her here in the north." Elrohir set down his goblet, too unsettled to consider more wine. Elladan crossed the library and took a seat by his brother.

"Those who care for him say his moods are blacker than ever. Could he know something, do you think?"

"Who can tell what Menecin knows now? Not I, not our father.... not even the White Lady could tell," Elrohir lapsed into silence, brooding the matters a little further. "Where now are the Dunedain?"

"Last report has them throughout the northernmost fences, those that did not go south to deal with Umbar's unrest. Scattered through the wilderness, which is where she is also.

Word needs to be gotten to them. Aragorn would give much to see Naiore Dannan brought down. We all would," Elrohir replied.

"We can send word, but methinks the Rangers will learn of this by other means. We need also to look to our own borders, and Menecin."

The brothers bent their heads to discuss the details for an hour, after which Elladan strode out of the library on his way to see it done. Elrohir was left with the report, the empty library and the spectre of the past hanging in the dancing light of the fireplace. Not even his father would have known how to proceed with such a one as she, Elrohir reckoned. It was a thought of little comfort.

He rose and soon his bootheels echoed over the tiles of Imladris as he saw to the guard over Menecin. If Naiore Dannan was in the north, they would be on their guard for her should she strike. And strike she would, for Naiore Dannan could no more withhold from action than she could renounce her evil. As he walked, a song written long ago by Elven standards, echoed in his head. It was of a maiden, fair as the dawn over the forest, beautiful and distant as moonlight on the waves. It was said that it was sung of Naiore Dannan, Lady of the Swan, a title she still claimed in bitter humour.The hand that had penned it, the voice that had sung it, was said to be that of Menecin. As Elrohir neared the preternaturally still area that Menecin now abided in, it was hard to credit that his voice had ever lifted in song and that Naiore Dannan had ever been so glorious. Yet, Galadriel had said it was so.

Sauron's reach was long, from beyond the nothingness of the Void, the Everlasting Dark, even now. Elrohir knocked quietly upon the door and slipped in to speak with the guard concerning vigilence.

Menecin, who rarely slept, listened in the darkness of his mind and room and smiled. He knew she would come back.

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Old 09-08-2003, 09:05 AM   #21
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Sting

Amandur

Amandur nodded his greeting to Rauthain as he joined them and as the others gave their orders to the young elf woman, he pondered how much they each knew of their quarry and if like he they knew Vanwe's relationship to Naiore? He watched the elf maiden over the lip of his tankard as she left to prepare his companions fare.


Hanasían's quiet words drew him back to his companions and he listened as he spoke his thoughts regarding the young elf. His head nodded were their conclusions matched, but as he spoke of Vanwe being but kin to Naiore he turned slightly and studied the ranger, a slight crease of the lines by his eyes told him that Hanasían indeed knew the truth of Vanwe's relationship to the criminal they sought, turning back he saw Rauthain and Maethor taking in all that was spoken, bringing him to the conclusion that neither one had meet Naiore or they would have guessed the truth of Vanwe's heritage, he knew only the truth because the elven twins Léspheria and Lóthaniel had chose to share it with him.

'And in fact may be tracking her as well, though I think it is only, as it is for most of us, due to an evil inflicted by the Ravener.' puffing thoughtfully on his pipe he contemplated these words, he knew she was tracking her mother for that is how he came to be here, he thought to show his message from their kin and king to the others, but something in Hanasían's voice conveyed a personal evil and not just the numerous wrongs she had inflicted on many of the peoples of middle earth, causing the message to remain tucked in his breast pocket.

As he drew again on his pipe he realised it had gone out during his ponderings, But Hanasian was at hand with a re-light, Puffing at the re-lit pipe he nodded his thanks and raised his tankard as Rauthain toasted the health of their king.

"Aye, to the King and his rangers!" he said, thinking of those who had gone southwest to deal with the orcs that escaped their net and now infested the blue mountains, the same orcs who some how managed to capture one of their captains.

'You know I saw and talked to Kaldir here a couple of days ago.' Amandur looked up to see Hanasían addressing him, and as he continued the vision of a thin blood soaked man wreathing on the soiled floor of one of the cold dark pits of Mordor, flashed into his mind. The ranger had been beaten and tortured so bad that they had not a first been able to tell if it was man or beast, let alone one of their own, only after the man had spoken cracked words in their Adûnaic tongue had he realised who he had found. Oh! you old fool, he silently berated himself, looking at Hanasían and Rauthain in turn he put the rangers old face and name together. 'How could I be so blind,' he thought to himself as he chewed on the end of his burnt out pipe.

"Yes, Kaldir does hunt bounty," Maethor's words interrupted his thoughts and he turned to listen what his young friend had to say

"It is grievous that though he has kept his life, he has turned to such distasteful ways."

Just then Vanwe appeared balancing a large tray with hot stew , sourdough and an assortment of cheeses, Amandur watched as she silently set the table, placing steaming bowls of stew before his companions, he noted the small smile she afforded Hanasían and Maethor and her lack of eye contact with him, 'hmmm, I have frightened her with all my questions' he thought as she hurried away. But Maethor's words brought him back to the table.

As he listened to the other reply to the younger rangers word he heard someone speak Léspheria's name, glancing round he saw that it was Vanwe who had spoken the elf woman's name, then he remembered that Léspheria had given her key to Vanwe for safe keeping. A look of concern crept upon his face as he saw that the stable master gripped her arm, but he relaxed as he let go at her request. The young frightened elf cast them a glance that only he had seen then sped up the stairs.

He smiled as he turned back to his companions, He was now almost sure that Léspheria had given the young elf her key so that she had somewhere else to hide if she needed it. Although alarmed that she hide from them, he thought it wise that she was in the relative safety of the inn rather than alone in the stable.

As he again listened to the conversation at the table he heard Rauthain say he couldn't beleive that Kaldir had turned bounty hunter.

"I was there!" they all looked to him with curious eyes, sighing he continued "I was there when Kaldir was found! Myself and a few of our kin chose to venture into Barad-dûr and search it's foul pits killing those who lingered and freeing any prisoners we found. It was here that I found Kaldir, though I did not know it was him until just now, he was in a bad way his entire body soaked in his own blood that we thought he would not last the night, but he did and we got him to Gondor. When I returned from my task in Mordor and inquired of the man we had left in their keeping they informed me that as soon as his wounds had healed he had left and I have heard no news of him till now." he paused for a second to ascertain their reaction then continued,

"I too spoke with Kaldir briefly, this morning in fact. But with the elven lady Léspheria taking a fall from her horse I did not put name and face together until you mentioned him" he said looking at Hanasían.

"Have you seen him since!" Hanasian asked concern furrowing his brow. Amandur thought back.

"Yes!" he finally said "I saw him from my room window as he left the inn with Cobhan Tupper!"

"The horse thief !" Maethor exclaimed,

"Maybe he needed a horse?" he shrugged, wondering why Kaldir would be meeting with that scoundrel. He also wondered if he knew that his tormentor was near, through Kaldir's tormented rantings of adûnaic words when they had first found him, Amandur had made out but Two words... Naiore Dannan!

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Old 09-08-2003, 09:38 PM   #22
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Sting

Rauthain

Rauthain savored the ale and company in the silence of the contented, passively listening to the words of his colleagues. It had indeed been a long time since he had been able to sit at table with such a group.
He deemed it would be a long while until he was like to again, and so determining, he made the most of it gleaning what he could and enjoying what he might.


The explanation Hanasian had offered regarding the elf, he accepted without remark, although these calming words raised more questions in the old ranger’s mind. And catching sight of Amandur’s apparent interest, Rauthain wondered if there might be more left unspoken. Pursuing it no further for the present, he did not give voice to his suspicions, but rather lett his gaze wonder from table to table, listening absently until the name of Kaldir was mentioned.


Hanasian had been saying he was at the inn and had talked with him also, not recognizing Kaldir at first. But how should this be? Surely Hanasian would have recognized the man after spending months in the wilds with him, one of only a handful of men. No, Kaldir was dead, though his body was not recovered.


“Kaldir is dead,” Rauthain declared aloud echoing his inner line of thought. “Tis some trick of necromancy that would divert our purpose.”


But when Amandur told of the discovery of the tormented ranger in the very bowels of Mordor, Rauthain relented asking Hanasian if Kaldir spoke of his life before Ravenfalls.


“The exchange was too brief,” Hanasian replied, not wishing to touch upon the matter of Kaldir’s watch on Miss Nightshade.


Excusing himself, the old ranger walked outside and lighting his pipe leaned against the wall pondering this news, it’s sting weighing heavily on his heart. At last bestirring himself at the thought of a horse thief about, he went to check on the stallion he had tethered in the dell.


Rauthain thought it strange that he had not and did not feel the presence Maethor had spoke of. He felt only the pain of remorse…and dread prospect of seeing Kaldir again.

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Old 09-09-2003, 01:57 AM   #23
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Avanill had entered the Inn which was crowded. In many a corner sat dark dangerous looking men, osme he knew, others he did not. After nodding several times to the men he knew, Avanill settled at the edge of the bar. And there he took from a small box, a small glass bottle containing a shiny red powder.

Almost as if he had called, another man came and stood beside him. "Avanill?" he asked in a gruff voice. "The very same" he answered in his usual casual tone, his blue eyes not moving to meet the man. "Well, is that it then?" the man asked turning his attention to the bottle in Avanill's hand.

"Yes, the petals of the Simbelmynë can be lethal when combined with other things. I made it myself, a pinch is enough to kill any man, or any man's beast." Avanill handed over the bottle while the man placed a large amount of coins on the bar in front of him. Avanill's eyes glinted at the sight of the gold. "Are you an apothecary then sir?" the stranger asked.

"Partly" Avanill answered befor the man left as though he was not there in the first place. "Well that was an earning" he sighed to himself before sitting down at a table not so far from the door. Avanill never made it his business to learn what his goods were used for, that way he could never be accused of knowing of a crime. Most of the time Avanill got away with supplying his trade, and any man who dared tell the authorities usually lost his tongue. Its not that he was a violent man, Avanill was clever and the penalty if he was convicted of trafficing was high.

What came next was that Avanill was alerted to the appearance of several simarly clothed men, dark and well armed who sat together, and Avanill got hte feeling that they were well travelled. At once his breath was caught in his throat. Rangers. He had previously had run-in's with rangers, but at no time was there bloodshed. He knew better than to get off side with that kind. They were stout and sworn to protect the roads and were loyal to King Aragorn.

Avanill was not usually troubled by them, he was not a rpime threat. He often went in the guise of being a trader or messenger. Avanill pulled his hood over his head and sat waiting until the opportunity would arise that he would find new business or a room for the time being.

Avanill looked back around the inn. There were elves as well. Avanill snorted under his breath. The fair race indeed, but even an elf can be evil and have a soul which is ugly he reminded himself. The first tales he had heard of the elves were told to him by Atantri, his beloved mother. She had been very young then, her brothers had taken her north (she had been friend to the rangers then) and in the woodlands they had met a company of elves passing to the Grey Havens.

Avanill had also had his meetings with elves. The most dangerous had been the servent of Sauron, Naiore. Dark were the days when Avanill slipped into the realm of Mordor, though it had been taken by the forces of good. Avanill had not side in that. He would be well kept no matter what the outcome had been.

Then came the words from the table of the rangers, mostly unhearable, but once the spoke, "Naiore" Avanill's head snapped. No, why would she be around here?he thought quickly and then was confronted by an elf maid. Avanill raised his eyebrows. "Ale sir?" she asked. For a moment the young trader thought it was indeed the Mordor elf. "No" he said quickly, and the elf walked away. My word! Does the blood of Naiore flow elsewhere? he wondered.

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Old 09-09-2003, 11:38 AM   #24
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Kaldir

After a pint and a brief conversation in the common room of the inn, Kaldir departed with Cobhan Tupper to take a look at the horse trader's stables. To hear Tupper tell it, he had the finest selection of horses in all of Middle Earth, exceding even the stables of King Eomer of Rohan. The reality, Kaldir well knew, was considerably different. Usually Tupper had a few scrubby cart horses and pack ponies with the occasional good horse thrown into the mix by chance, a lucky win at dice, or theft. Kaldir knew better than to ask Cobhan Tupper where a horse came from. The odds were strong that he really didn't want to know. Besides Tupper would lie, anyway. There were ways, of course, to get the truth out of him, but what was the point?

Kaldir cast a sideways glance at the horse trader, who stumped along on his left, swinging a lantern at his side.

"I've got a lovely little mare," Tupper was saying. "A golden bay. Beautiful coat. Only three years old!" Kaldir made a mental note to check the mare's teeth. "She'd be perfect for your ladyfriend."

Kaldir gave him a sharp look.

"Uh, prisoner!" Tupper corrected himself. "She'd be the perfect little horse for your prisoner. Gentle as a lamb."

Kaldir nodded, letting the horse trader carry on with his sales pitch, but only half listening. His thoughts had returned to the Forsaken Inn and the likely presence of Naiore Dannan. He had a feeling that if he wished to carry out any of his plans, either to capture Vanwe for the bounty or to seek revenge against Naiore, if she was indeed present, he would have to move quickly. A number of Rangers, his own former brethren, seemed to be gathering at the inn. He had a feeling that it was not purely by chance that they had chosen to gather there, especially not with the presence of Amandur. Rangers of his standing with the court in Gondor rarely hung about in the wilds. Amandur would be there for a reason. As for Hanasian, Kaldir's old comrade from the battle of Raven Falls, he represented a little more of a question mark. During their conversation of a day or so earlier, Hanasian had implied that he, too, was a hunter. A hunter of what and for whom? Kaldir had a strong suspicion of the answer. And Hanasian would not be working alone. King Elessar always sent his men out in teams... which would explain the arrival of the other two rangers, Maethor and Rauthain. He wondered if the team was complete now and if they had any idea how close their quarry was. Either way, Kaldir intended to get there first. He knew Naiore better than any of them. And he knew what she was capable of.

Kaldir stopped and looked back over his shoulder toward the inn. So many familiar names among the Rangers gathered there. He had a feeling he had known most of them...before. Reaching back into his damaged memory, he tried to place them. Hanasian, he knew. Amandur, he had no personal memory of, but had heard of him much in the time since the War. Nonetheless, he had a feeling that they had met. He just couldn't remember how or where. As for the other two... he would need to see their faces. The names on their own meant nothing to him.

Turning his attention back to the matters at hand, he found that Tupper had stopped a few paces ahead of him on the road and, lantern raised, was watching him closely. Seeing Kaldir's eyes on him, Tupper's shrewdness evaporated quickly to be replaced by a syncophantic smile. Kaldir let a slight smile curl on the good side of his face in return, but the smile failed to travel as far as his pale blue eyes. He knew that Tupper, the old bandit, given half a chance would cut Kaldir's throat in a second if he thought it would be to his advantage. Then he would go back to the inn and steal his horse. This time, Kaldir did smile, but only to himself. Tupper was a rank opportunist of the worst kind. And completely predictable. They finished the walk to Tupper's place in silence.

Arriving at the stables, Kaldir followed Tupper from stall to stall as they looked at the animals Tupper had available to sell. As it turned out, the mare Tupper had spoken of on the walk over was pretty much as Tupper described her. She was a little older than a three year old, closer to five, but quite sound, Kaldir discovered as he examined the animal from nose to tail. She would do quite nicely for Benia. There was also a pack pony that interested him, a shaggy little creature of non-descript color who was a little on the thin side, but would no doubt fill out with a little fresh air and feeding. He would also need tack for the two animals. It was time for the negotiations to begin.

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Old 09-09-2003, 04:33 PM   #25
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Benia

Benia watched as Gilly climbed the stairs and closed the trapdoor behind her, leaving Benia alone again in the light of the candle the bounty hunter had left burning. Once Gilly had gone, Benia turned her eyes toward the flickering light only to see that the candle had burned down to a nub and was soon to go out.

"Oh, be careful, Gilly!" she whispered to herself. She had no idea where the bounty hunter had gotten off to, but, wherever it was, she had a feeling it was not terribly far away. In fact, he might be back at any moment. In afterthought, Benia wished she had let Gilly at least untie her, but was grateful Gilly had left her her little knife. At the time, she had been more concerned with keeping Gilly out of the clutches of Kaldir. Although she had said nothing to Gilly about it, she remembered clearly the sound of Kaldir's voice as he bent over her bed in the inn, his hand pressed firmly over her mouth, "If you cry out the first one through that door to be slain will be your friend, Gilly," he had growled in a low, forbidding tone. She had known at once that he was not one to bluff and that Gilly's life was in danger. She would not be responsible for Gilly's death.

Resolutely, Benia tested the knots that bound her wrists behind her. The rope was strong and the knots as firm as iron shackles. She wouldn't be untying them. If only she could work them around to the front, maybe she could cut through the ropes themselves with Gilly's knife. Rolling over on to her side, Benia stretched as far as she could and, with a good deal of effort, managed to slide her bound wrists over her hips to behind her knees. There she got tangled briefly in her skirts before finally being able to slide her bare feet through the circle of her arms. Her shoulders felt as though she had nearly dislocated them in the process, but she breathed a sigh of relief. She now had at least a fighting chance at freeing herself.

She found Gilly's knife in the pocket of her skirt and wedged it tightly between her feet. Her sprained ankle throbbed, but she ignored the pain and began to saw at the rope that held her wrists. She missed her own dagger, the one Kaldir had taken from her back at the inn. It had a longer blade and was always carefully honed to a fine edge. She had received it and its silver and lapis lazuli inlaid scabbard as a gift from Qirfah, the wife of the Painted Sand chieftain, when she had been formally recognized as her mother Benia the Fair's daughter and a member of the Painted Sand tribe. To lose it pained her greatly, but Benia put the thought of it out of her mind. She had larger troubles than just a lost dagger, although it did bother her to think of such a fine thing in the hands of a hunter like Kaldir. But she would have to let it go.

She blew a stray strand of black hair out of her eyes as she worked at the rope. It was a good little knife and sharper than she had expected, knowing that Gilly kept it more as a tool and kitchen utensil than a weapon. She was making slow progress through the thick fibers of the rope, but she was making progress. She paused to reposition the knife, listening for any sound from above that meant the bounty hunter was returning. Satisfied at last that there was nothing to be heard but the usual creaking of an old empty building, she returned to her work. A half hour passed before finally the last strand of rope popped apart and her wrists were free. She allowed herself a quick smile, nearly the first one since the time of her capture. She flung the cut ropes aside and, taking the knife in her hand, began sawing at the ropes that bound her feet. The night was passing quickly. She had to be out of the basement when Kaldir returned.

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Old 09-09-2003, 07:08 PM   #26
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Naiore

Oh, now this was an interesting thing to behold indeed. Naiore watched the reddish glow of a lantern bob along silently. Within it's scope was one man she did not know and another she knew well indeed. She had tested him thoroughly before. Full lips curved into the first general smile of pleasure of the day.

Kaldir, I remember you. Without so much of a muscle twitching, visions unfolded from her long and ancient memory. A man twisted and writhed in pain, a great deal of it arising from his physical injuries. However what had fascinated Naiore was the ephemeral internal pain. It was that which scarred deepest of all. Kaldir had proved himself unique in that respect in the pits.

Any man could bleed. It was a crude and unsophisicated manner of unknitting their strength. Naiore allowed it only when her time was short. It weakened their resolve, their strength diverted to keeping life within their ruined bodies and opening their souls to her. She could reach and seize the fear and the pain, complicated and silvery things, to see what she could see. Rage, desire for life, desperation... all fruits to open to see what lay within.

Yet Kaldir had proved remarkably resilient and had fought her on a front that most Mortals crumbled on. He fought her for his very spirit with a ferocity that was refreshing, challenging and startling. She had not been able to reach his boundaries, impudently interrupted by the "Free Peoples" of Middle-earth.

Naiore's keen sight marked the evidence of their encounter upon his face. Yes, it was him. She'd fought hard for this one, recognising his worth. Managed properly he would have been of great use. The orcs saw only Man-flesh and ruin. Sauron's wroth had been great when news of the carnage she unleashed upon them reached him, and she had been summonsed herself to explain. But when she had explained Kaldir's remarkable strength of spirit, in a Mortal Man no less, Sauron had understood and she had been questioned no longer.

Afterall, had not Naiore seen such strength before and aided him in selecting the wraiths. Her abilities and senses were unique. Let the Eldar work on the Younger and see what would come of it. She would have discovered much had she been allowed the time. Naiore extended her senses carefully around her... wariness was everywhere. No surprise that, with Rangers at every turn.

One even stood on the porch of the Inn, smoking and boldly staring at the night. How he would have started if she had emerged. One thing to think she was near, another altogether to discover she was. Naiore's gaze switched back to Kaldir and the other man, a thief.... Tucker, she made out. Another interesting fact to tuck away. She'd appropriate a mount later, from the thief. Let him wail about the theft.

She'd have to wait still, though the impulse to take Kaldir back into her tender mercies was strong. With the Ranger standing on the porch, he'd have the others out and she'd have Kaldir but not Vanwe. Besides, it seemed Kaldir had company from his negotiations and she had no way of knowing the manner of his companions. Patience was the key, it was her chief weapon. Discipline, preparation, patience: those things made her formidible. No orc to go dashing wildly out waving sword and screaming blood thirstily for flesh was she.

So Naiore remained where she was still as night drew on. Already the trees had started to don their wispy misty robes. It would not be long now and already much was falling into place. A horse thief to supply mounts, willing or no, Vanwe and Kaldir to gather up like a bountiful harvest. Barrold in Bree with his safehouse to stow away in. Cover of night and fog at her disposal.

Her fullsome smile remained fixed in place. Spirit in and out beneath the noses of the Rangers. Still, why where they here... where Vanwe was? Her daughter would pay a heavy price for her treachery. Naiore's eyes travelled up to the window that her daughter had gazed out of. A heavy price that she would collect in the small hours of this night.

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Old 09-09-2003, 08:09 PM   #27
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Tolkien

Maethor watched Rauthain depart and sighed inwardly -- and shuddered. Kaldir...Maethor had heard the story before, but it was still unsettling. He continued to play with his soup, broodingly, as his thoughts turned to what he had said to the other aged ranger, Rauthain. Frowning, Maethor tried to analize what it was he had felt. It was as if a shadow had thrown itself over the sun, he thought slowly. He nodded. Yes, that is what it had felt like.

Maethor sighed and wished that he spoke as well as he wrote. When he wrote, the words flowed from his pen easily, and he wrote what he meant. But when he spoke, the words he used were clumsy, ungainly, and awkward.

Rising, he said to Hanasian, "I will return shortly. Nair...I must see if he is comfortable." A smile crept into Maethor's eyes as he spoke of his stallion. Nair was a noble beast and Maethor glowed with modest pride as he thought that he had indeed trained the spirited stallion well. Crossing to the stables, he saw that the trough was full of fresh water and that the manger was full of oats. Rubbing Nair behind the ears, he whispered a song he was composing into the patient ears of Nair.

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Old 09-09-2003, 11:09 PM   #28
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I gave a nod to Rauthain as he stood from the table, draining his tankard and setting it down with a thud. The thoughts of each one at this table stewed nearly as long as the lamb meat in the fine stew I had hardly touched. I worked on eating it as I thought of which course to take here, and before any meaningful decisions came my way the bowl was empty. So too was there no more bread or cheese. It had been awhile since I really ate a good meal, days in fact, before I left for Bree.

The telling by Amandur of his finding of what was left of Kaldir sent a chill through me. What if I had known more and tried to find him at Raven Falls? Why did Elendir take us, only seven of us, so far into the rough lands? Reckless it was! But he was an elder captain, first serving under Chieftain Arathorn and.. and my father Halasían! Kaldir and I, we were young, and we trusted our Captain...

And now he hunts bounty, and runs with horsethieves. But such was the terrors of Mordor and that of Naiore in those days. It is a miracle his mind and body withstood it for 10 years!

The talk and thoughts of Kaldir caused me to gaze quickly about the common room. I did not see him, his fair side or his foul. Nor did I now see Vanwe, and still no sign of Lady Benia or Gilly. There was one who seemed shady in his demeanor, and he greeted another and my instinct was to check for my pouches. A quick move of my hand as I sat down my half-empty tankard told me they were in order. Of course if I had been well drunk, I probably wouldn't have noticed. A parting glance at the two told me they were making a shady deal of some sort, and I noted that his glance toward us was deflected as if he wished we weren't here. I thought of busting it up, but then, this was afterall the Forsaken Inn...

""I will return shortly. Nair...I must see if he is comfortable."

Maethor's words broke my mind's thought stream and cut short my attention on the two traders, and I smiled and nodded as he parted. A fine horse was a Ranger's best friend, and in a pinch a lifesaver! And the bond between them can be stronger than an Elven tri-corded rope. I never did tell him of how I aquired such a horse as Blackveil, who will not allow any to ride her save me. Even when I wish her to carry another, she will only do it reluctantly and under protest. A mind of her own she has, and I am sometimes thankful for that.

Amandur had been raiding my cheese and bread, and that after he ate earlier! I knew I didn't eat all that! He too was in thought of our course of action, and I said,

'We will have to pursue any leads however minute here, for it seems a critical juncture this time. The air is chilled with her, and so we must be diligent.'

I sipped once more my ale, but the taste of it was not right anymore. Not that it was the brew's fault, but when my mind had such burden on it, drinking was not in order. I sat it down on the table and stood, asking Amandur,

'What room is yours?'

"The end of the hall, door on the right... why?"


he muttered, knowing that I intended to use the floor this night for whatever rest I may gain. But mainly because I wished to pass news from Minas Tirith which I had carried with me since I last saw King Elessar. I was sure he had some of his own, and so it would be best talked of behind a solid oak door.

'Ok, I'm taking my wares there for the night...'

My eyes burned grey as we looked at each other, and he knew I had something to tell in private. But anyone who may have been watching us as would only sense it was a simple converse...

'...and I have to check on a friend I left here two days ago. She hurt her ankle and wasn't moving about too well, and I haven't seen her or her friend all night.'

He shook his head slightly, acknowledging my silent words, but looking like he was responding to my words. He had a slight look of one-upmanship on his brow if he too wasn't burdened with thoughts of his own.

I headed for the hall opening, dodging a serving maid who twisted and turned about, me, another patron, a table, and one of the inconvienient posts. She did it all with a tray of full tankards held high above her head. She was good at her work!

My boots pounded their cadence up the stairs, and as the din of activity in the common roon faded, I paused at the top and looked at the door which was Benia's room. My left arm held my cloak and satchel bags as and I tapped on the door with my right, and I whispered,

'Miss Nightshade?'

The door echoed only silence, and so I tok the forward move and opened the door. The darkness told me all I needed to know. She had left, and Gilly as well. I knew Gilly didn't feel comfortable with me talking with her friend, and maybe the request to go to Bree was so they could get away unnoticed? No.. not Miss Nightshade... there was something amiss here, and though it didn't stink of Naiore, it was not right... besides, I wanted to hear Lady Benia sing again.

I pulled the door shut and went on down the hall, noticing a key in a door. I hesitated. The sounds from behind it were that of one in thought, and the whispered words of Naiore and Menecin drifted to my ears. It was Vanwe, and I thought of tapping and seeing her. But sometimes one needs to be left alone, and besides, am I going to look into every room on the upper floor? I will speak with Vanwe in time, but now I need to drop my load.

I got to the door and realized I didn't get the key from Amandur. It explained his slight look I noticed when I left the table. I smiled now. I set down my bundle and took out the Khandese knife and worked the hilt. Out came a sharp needle, used to poison their enemies in close combat if they have a chance. A stealth weapon I had no use for in its original purpose, but it did come in handy at times. I slid it into the keyhole at an angle, and with a few twists of my wrist, the door opened. I have been a few times thankful to that old Khandese trader I had met at the Desert Inn in Pelegir when I waas there. he showed me this particular use of this "weapon".

I sat my things by a chair that sat by a small hearth. It was a nice room, but still small for the prices charged in my opinion. Looking out the window of the dark room shown a silvery light of the moon illuminating about 4 feet of ground fog that collected in the draws. the chill air gathered there, and the stars and moon were indifferent to it as they made their courses through the sky. It had been some time since Midsummers Day saw the waxing of a full moon, and if Radagast were around, he would surely have some words of wisdom to say about it.

Yes, the night was beginning to grow long. I shook off thoughts of travels past, and the trail long I have kept vigil on seeking Naiore. I would see to getting Vanwe that which she would want in the morn, for I would be up at the early sunrise. Tomorrow would be indeed long....
_____________________________________________

Nerindel's post - Amandur

As Hanasían made his way from the common room, Amandur re-lit his pipe and collected his thoughts, there was much to tell and much he hoped Hanasían would reveal to him. His hand went to his breast pocket and pulled out the neatly folded parchment, Elessar's message revealed very little only that others where also on Naiores trail and that if he could he should join with them. But in Bree Lóthaniel had told him much and this he would share with his brethren.

Deeming that enough time had passed since Hanasían's departure he rose from his seat and made his way up stairs, he paused at Léspheria's door, remembering his promise to her to watch over Vanwe while he remained at the inn. She will be safe tonight at least he thought as he continued on to his room. He grinned as he turned the small brass handle and found it unlocked,

"The key was not needed then my friend ." he laughed as he closed the door behind him.

"No" Hanasian replied a wry grin on his face as he fingered the Khandese dagger he had used to open the door.

"You wish to know what I know of both Naiore and Vanwe," he whispered grimly as he walked toward the window.

"Only recently have we discovered that Naiore had a daughter, The elven ranger Lothaniel and a few of the kings men were patrolling the road to Belfalas when they heard rumours that an elf fitting Naiore's description had be seen in the area, they picked up the trail and Lothaniel became concerned when they found out that their quarry inquired about the elven bard Menecin, who is protected by the elves of Rivendell. They caught up to their quarry in Firien wood as she rested by the Mering stream. Lóthaniel being their scout on this journey had been the first to see their quarry. At once he knew they had made a mistake, the elf was younger than Naiore and her demeanour was not that of the Revennor of Mordor, also their was one major difference.. her eyes were that of her fathers, an elf that Lothaniel helped to protect. They immediately fell back and sent messengers to King Elessar and Lord Celeborn, telling them of their discovery." Amandur turned from the window to look at Hanasían, he looked up as Amandur paused, waiting for him to continue.

"When they learnt that the young elven woman was searching for her mother they decided to stay on her trail hoping that the daughter would lead them to her mother. But in Rohan they lost her trail. They realised that Vanwe was heading north so they went on to Rivendell with Lóthaniel, thinking to continue the search for Naiore in the north after replenishing their supplies. But this did not happen at this time Skaikrish an orc Chief, who somehow managed to escape from Mordor and lead a band of orc's into the Blue Mountains." Amandur looked at Hanasian as though contemplating his next words.

"I do not know if you remember Captain Halwain, he was a friend of your fathers... well his wife was killed By Skaikrish when he escaped through Ithilien. On finding out that Skaikrish was gathering an army in the Blue mountains, he took a scouting party to find out what the orc was up to, but none of them returned! Lóthaniels orders were to travel with the rangers and pick up the trail of Naiore, but with this change of circumstance, Lóthaniel and the rangers were sent to the Mountians With Halwain's daughter, to try to find the missing rangers and investigate if Skaikrish posed a threat. Like Lóthaniel I feel that the orc chiefs sudden boldness at this time is not coincidental."

"I also believe that Naiore is nearer than we believe, Lady Léspheria of Rivendell is able to read the emotions of others and this morning she sensed someone in those woods!" he said again turning to the window and looking down on the moonlit trees.

"When I searched the area there was no discernible footprints but the earth was disturbed, but any of the inns less than reputable patrons could have caused this." he sighed not truly believing his own words and waited for Hanasían's insight.

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Old 09-10-2003, 02:30 PM   #29
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Gilly

A large and twisted root appeared to have grown during the night from the old tree by the blacksmith’s shop. But if one looked closely at the knobs and bends, the form of a hobbit could be discerned, crouching in the darkness at the tree’s base. It was nearing the time of night, approaching dawn, when birds begin to cry out, calling to the sun. Gilly felt she must do something and quickly.


Since her return from the inn she had seen no sight of Kaldir and felt that surely he must have reached the cellar before she was able to return. It had been an awkward business for the hobbit, trying to transport Benia’s bag, boots and sword. Not so much that they were heavy, but cumbersome and being so, she had resorted to hiding the rucksack and weapon on her way, returning with only the boots in hand. She hoped that she would be able to find the rest again when the time came, but that was a little importance to setting her friend free.


And now as daybreak grew close, she felt she could wait no longer for a sign of Kaldir’s whereabouts, but had to attempt to enter the cellar a second time or lose the night’s advantages. So gathering her courage and silently opening the door of the abandoned shop, she moved as quickly as the darkness allowed through it, at last coming across the trap door in the floor.


Pressing her ear against the floor, breath stirring the dust and dirt in front of her, she stifled a cough as she listened. The only sounds to be heard, muted and soft. As she slowly slid back the bolt, the hobbit suddenly grew alarmed while trying to identify the noises. A loud crash followed by hurried footsteps could be heard on the stairs. Gilly’s stomach turned inward, as she frantically scrambled for a place to conceal herself. She felt an overwhelming spinning sensation with all the fire and anger of Orodruin unleashing itself in her long empty belly. To her horror, her complaining stomach began emitting loud whines of protest just as the trap door began to open. In panic Gilly curled in a ball hoping to squeeze herself body into obedience, but to no avail. Low rumbling filled the room as the hobbit held her breath waiting for the inevitable hand or blow or cold touch of steel….

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Old 09-10-2003, 05:05 PM   #30
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Kaldir

Inside Cobhan Tupper's grimy little kitchen, Kaldir and Tupper faced each other across a rickety expanse of plank tabletop. Kaldir had leaned back slightly in his chair and watched Tupper with what could easily be described as a total lack of interest. Tupper, on the other hand, was still a little too full of the inn's good ale, and, consequently, a little too full of his own self worth. He wagged a thick finger in Kaldir's direction.

"You have to pay a man what's right," he lectured the bounty hunter sternly. "That's a good little mare...cost me a good little fortune. I expect a good price for her."

Kaldir's eyebrow on the unscarred side of his face raised slightly as the shadow of a smile curled on the corner of his lips, but he said nothing.

"And you want a saddle, too? And bridle?" Tupper shook his head. "That will cost you, my friend. A well-made saddle is hard to come by in these parts." He dropped Kaldir a sly wink. "Of course, I don't need to tell you that." Finally, he leaned back in his chair, a broad smile creasing his flushed features. "But I'll make you a deal. Because you're my friend... two hundred gold pieces for the whole package!" He opened his hands in front of him and grinned as though he had just offered Kaldir the greatest deal in all Middle Earth.

Kaldir's smile broadened, but his pale eyes glittered in the lamplight. "Ah, Tupper," he said quietly, drawing the words out as he pushed his chair back from the table. "You strike a hard bargain." He rose to his feet. "But since you're my friend --"

There was a deafening crash as Kaldir flung the table out of the way. He moved forward with the speed of a striking rattlesnake and, before Tupper knew what was happening, he was pinned against the wall with the iron grip of the bounty hunter tight around his throat. The point of a dagger pricked his chin. "Since you're my good friend, Mr. Tupper, you might give my terms a listen as well."

Tupper clawed at Kaldir's wrist, but nodded.

"In exchange for the bay mare and whatever tack I need, how about I forget the rumor I heard of a traveling merchant being slain on the east road? I believe he was riding a bay mare."

Tupper shook his head frantically in denial.

"No?" A pinprick of blood appeared at the point of Kaldir's dagger. "Suppose I look at the underside of the saddle I saw out there in the stable. What name would be scratched into the leather? It wouldn't be Tupper, now, would it?"

Again, Tupper shook his head, but a look of defeat had come into his dark eyes.

"Would it be Avondale?"

Tupper looked as though he was going to cry, but he gave Kaldir's wrist a light tap. Kaldir loosened his grip.

"Anything you want," gasped Tupper, smiling weakly. "What's a little gift between friends? You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Right, Kaldir?"

Kaldir smiled and lowered the dagger. His right hand released its grip on the horse thief's throat. "What's a little gift between friends. That's right." He stepped back and began to sheathe his dagger. "There's also a pack pony that caught my eye. A little dun-colored creature in the far back stall."

Tupper began to object, but when Kaldir rounded on him again with an icy fire in his pale eyes, Tupper took a step back, raising his hands defensively. "He's yours! All he does is eat and crap in his stall, anyway." He touched the spot of blood on his chin with his index finger. "You're welcome to him."

They made their way back out to the stable to conclude their business, with Tupper grumbling angrily all the while. Kaldir kept a casual eye on him, but could tell by the defeated stoop to the other man's shoulders that there would be no more trouble from him. Kaldir regretted having to use the methods he had used in order to get what he needed, but he hated even more the idea of paying a king's ransom for a stolen horse. Eventually, he would do what he could to see that the dead merchant's belongings were returned to his family, but, in the meantime, they would do nicely to fulfill his requirements of the moment.

Leading the two animals by the reins, Kaldir returned to the inn to collect his own gray stallion, Nico, as well as the remainder of the supplies he had left in storage at the inn. Soon it would be light and the new day's work would begin in earnest. Kaldir squinted into the east and saw a faint light just beginning to touch the horizon.

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Old 09-10-2003, 07:04 PM   #31
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Naiore

Naiore slipped soundlessly through the trees away from the inn, however that which she led was not so light of foot. The gelding snorted reproachfully at her as she dragged it further. The trees were too thick to ride it away from the stables. Damn, she was running out of time. She had to retrace her steps and erase their tracks and be back in position by dawn!

Vanwe had not appeared during the night, safely ensconsed in that upper floor room. So Naiore had used her empty hours to better prepare under the cover of the night. The stable was far from secure. Devorin had snored, a considerate indication of his location and state of alertness, as Naiore had raided the Inn's gelding from it's stall.

It wasn't the fastest creature she had ever set eyes upon. Certainly it was no match for the tribute Mordor had waged from Rohan. The brown horse was strong though, wiry with stamina and resilience. Plus, it wasn't a Ranger's mount. It had been a sore temptation to hamstring those horses, but the furore that would ensure would make her life more difficult again.

After some time, Naiore and her purloined gelding reached a thick grove. It was a tangled, inhospitable mess. It was also her erstwhile home. She located her concealed entrance, carefully removed the brush and led the horse in. Within was her pack, sitting against a knarled tree. There was water too, by way of a sluggish, bracken stream that wandered on its way to some festering marsh. Naiore tied the horse to an overhanging branch and departed, taking care to replace the brush carefully.

The woodcraft of Elves was not easily defeated. Swiftly, she set about altering tracks. She worked feverishly, bent to her task. When dawn did announce its presence, streaking the sky rose, Naiore only narrowly managed to slip into the relative safety of her vantage by a slim margin.

The inn was still quiet, so too were the stables. Naiore lifted her water bottle to her lips and took a long, considering sip. One more day in this place, that was all. If Vanwe did not emerge, she would go in and get her. Not all the forces of Elves and Men would stop her in this!

Vanwe could not be allowed to fall into their hands. Her daughter was too dangerous to hand across to her foes. Rangers circled her like wolves... they knew, curse them into the darkness! A cold light of fierce rage and determined survival took up in Naiore's starlight grey eyes. She lowered the water bottle, replaced the stopper and settled in for another long stint.

One more day and Vanwe's doom would fall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Vanwe

Devorin groaned, blinking sleepily and then rolling out of his bed. Scratching a stubbled chin, he wandered through the stables. Had it not been such a busy night, the empty stall would not have been so clearly apparant. Devorin lurched to a halt, peering at the stall and casting back in his mind. Yes, Déor should be there. Devorin frowned at the puzzlingly empty stall.

He blinked at the ground at his feet. In the soft soil were Déor's tracks, his shoes distinctive and familar to the Stablemaster, and a set of footprints. Devorin squatted, peering at those. A woman's if he guess aright, glancing at their slender outline. An Elf's too, for they were light.

Vanwe, bless her, must have taken Déor out to stretch his legs. It had been a while since the gelding had been riden. He smiled at the prints and the mysterious Elf he'd taken in as an assistant. True, she was like no stable hand he'd ever heard or come across, still he would not be without her. Straightening, Devorin turned and went back to his lodging to do something about shaving. Cook hated him appearing for breakfast unwashed and unshaved.

Vanwe awoke in Lespheria's rooms with a shuddering start. Her skin was clamy and the room was dark and empty. The very inn seemed crouched and waiting in that stillness. Vanwe straighted from where she had slumped in the chair. The fire had gone out long ago. She ran her hand through sleep mussed hair and the mist of dreams she had emerged from, glancing around her strange settings until she recalled where she was. The nightmarish blend of Harad, Umbar's prisons and the Rohirrim faded slowly.

The drapes for Lespheria’s windows were still drawn, blocking the lightening dawn. Vanwe arose to pull them apart as she recalled the evening’s events and the plans she had formed. A small knot of uncertain tension hung low in her stomach. Aside from that, she seemed calm and still. It did not seem as natural as the pre-dawn stillness of the scene before her.

She turned back to the table that she had rested her head upon during the night, and the small scrap of paper that lay upon it. In the uncertain light, Vanwe read it more from memory than from sight.

NAIORE:

Do not mention her name in Harad, anywhere!

Umbar is watched by Men of Gondor. She has not been there for a long time, and her house is abandoned. The soldiers are vigilant and fell...


Vanwe recalled their intense questioning of her after they sighted her on the docks. With their black uniforms, with a silver tree and seven stars, they had leaned over her and they did not believe her at first. Umbar had been the first of a series of valuable lessons. She'd avoided Minas Tirith assiduously as a result.

No sight of her in Dol Amroth. Thieves say she is gone north and will not speak further.

Speak not her name in Rohan! Even the sight of her face is enough to bring their bright spears. Terrible tales... can't be true...

She went north and has not returned south. They wait for her.

She is not on the roads.... the wilds of the north?... what is the Shire? Where are Hobbits? She died in Mordor? Menecin killed her?


There was another question that had since been scratched out: What are Rangers? Vanwe had learnt that asking her questions in the northern wilds.

MENECIN:

He is dead - died in battle... Naiore killed him... he killed himself... he is alive but hidden by the Elves (most dangerous of all)... he died in Mordor.... Mordor is broken and many soldiers are there now - seven stars and silver tree. Stay away! He went to Valinor.... where is Valinor? Ships.... Umbar does not have ships to go to Valinor. Neither does Dol Amroth


It was a patchwork of questions and snippets, but she'd recorded each one painstakingly. Some contradicted others, some were blatantly untrue. Most Vanwe had come to after much struggle. Certainly, word of an Elf of her description asking about ships to Valinor at Umbar and Dol Amroth had created a stir.

Vanwe stared at the paper and wondered if any of it was of assistance to Hanasian. Perhaps it was. It was all she had to give him in return for his help. She needed his help, and she had little of consequence to trade for it aside from that paper, 3 meagre coppers and her own abilities which were far from impressive.

Vanwe set down her notes and crossed to where a bowl held water and began to splash it over her face. She needed a clear mind, not one fogged by questions, vague doubts and unwelcome memories. Besides, Hanasian may be more minded to aid her if she looked not quite so crumpled and worn. She peered into the mirror and sighed. Afterall there was only so much water could do.

Her mind turned then to how she could manage to speak to Hanasian without the others. Shaking out her skirts, Vanwe collected the piece of paper and folded it back into the pouch that hung at her hip from the belt. She then crossed the room and opened Lespheria's door. The hall was empty this early. She'd need an early start if she was to do her work and find time for other, more important things.

First order of business was to bring down that basket of pots that Cook had asked for. It sat in the attic. Vanwe closed Lespheria's door and pocketed the key, startled that she had left it in the door! Shaking her head at her absent mindedness, she made for the attic in the still early morning. Cook had asked for the pots yesterday. Vanwe fancied that she would not appreciate any delay and so the sooner the better.

The attic door creaked slightly as she opened it and entered the store room. Rows of boxes and baskets filled the attic. It was simply a matter of locating the one with the pots and pans. Vanwe left the attic door open as she set to her dusty task.

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Old 09-10-2003, 08:28 PM   #32
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Tolkien

A soft, yellow ray of sunlight splashed onto Maethor's face and pried his eyes open. Yawning, the young ranger looked about him and realized with a start that he was half covered with straw and laid upon the floor but a few paces from Nair, who was absently chewing on some oats and staring mournfully at him. Clambering to his feet, Maethor stretched, surprised that he had fallen asleep in such unlikely quarters, and began to scratch Nair's ears. Taking a soft brush, he began to groom the mighty stallion, talking softly in Elvish all the while. Patting him affectionately on his rolling shoulder, Maethor stepped from the stall and peered about him. The stable was empty of humans, but the horses stood contentedly in their stalls...except that one horse was missing. Maethor frowned uneasily. Kneeling before the forlorn stall, he saw the footprints of both horse and the person who had taken him away. He followed them until the faint path led to the grove of trees. Here he stopped and, after a brief meditation, decided that the best course would be to tell Hanasian and Amandur.

He returned to the Inn and asked Amandur where Hanasian was, and, after hearing the answer, Maethor said, "A horse is missing from the stables. A woman's delicate footprint is beside the marks of the horse."

Without waiting for Amandur's response, Maethor sprinted up the stairs, and coming across Hanasian, said softly, "I do not know if this is important, it may be nothing, but a horse was taken from the stable in the night or in the early morning."

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Old 09-10-2003, 08:52 PM   #33
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Benia

Having at last managed to saw through the rope that had bound her ankles, Benia pushed herself carefully to her feet. The candle had flickered out some minutes earlier, plunging her back into an inky blackness. Putting her weight solidly on her strong left foot, she stood for a long moment in silence, listening for any indication that the bounty hunter had returned. When she was satisfied that she was alone, Benia hobbled across the dark floor in the direction of the staircase, her amber eyes squinting into the darkness. She found the banister with her hand and, after first testing it for sturdiness, put her full weight against it and began to work her way slowly up the stairs.

She had gotten no farther than the third step when she heard the unmistakable sound of the trapdoor bolt being drawn stealthily back. Certain that Kaldir had returned after all, Benia scarcely breathed as her hand closed tighter around the hilt of Gilly’s knife. The trapdoor cracked open. She felt behind her with her injured foot for the next lower step, intending to back down off the stairs where she might better defend herself, when she felt something lightly brush her face. Startled, she threw up a hand to flick it away and, for the second time in nearly as many days, lost her balance and landed with a crash at the foot of the stairs. The trapdoor slapped shut.

Benia stared up the dark staircase toward the closed door as the muffled sound of scurrying footsteps filtered down the stairs then stopped. It most certainly did not sound like Kaldir. Emboldened, Benia pulled herself back to her feet and, once more, began to work her way to the top of the stairs. When she neared the top step, she reached upward and pushed cautiously against the closed door. The rusted hinges creaked easily open.

Encouraged, she pushed the door open and hobbled up the last few steps to freedom.

Poised like a doe at the edge of a strange meadow, she listened closely for any indication that the stealthy intruder was still there. Then, she heard the distinct low rumble of a growling stomach.

“Gilly?” Benia called in a loud whisper.

There was a thump, then a small shadow rose from the jumble of dusty, broken furniture that clogged one end of the small room. “Miss Benia?” Then, “Oh, bless me and keep me, it is you! My goodness, you gave me a fright!”

Benia smiled broadly. “Me, as well, you know! I didn’t know who was bumping around up here. It could have been anyone.”

“Lucky for both of us it wasn’t that Mr. Kaldir,” Gilly rejoined with a smile of her own. “For a minute there I thought my empty stomach was going to be the death of me!”

Benia laughed. “I did hear it. But -” she cast an uncomfortable glance at the dim light growing in the eastern window. “- we must make haste. He said we would depart at dawn, so he could be back at any moment.”

Gilly nodded her agreement and, without another word, handed Benia her boots. As Benia sat to put them on, Gilly told her of her trip back to the inn and of how she had stashed Benia’s sword and rucksack in a nearby hedgerow. Benia listened in silence, grimacing only a little bit as she worked her boot on to her injured foot. Freed from the coarse pressure of the ropes and supported by the sturdy leather of her boot, Benia’s ankle felt remarkably better than she had expected. The healing hands of the two elves, Lespheria and Vanwe, had indeed worked wonders.

“Can you walk?” asked Gilly, concern showing plainly in her face even in the dim light, as Benia carefully regained her feet.

Benia nodded. “I think so… for a bit, anyway.”

“Then, we should go at once. Lean on me, if you need to,” Gilly told her. Then, the two of them made their way silently out of the old building with Gilly leading the way into the fresh air of the waking dawn.

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Old 09-11-2003, 05:08 AM   #34
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Rauthain

Rauthain woke up in early morning, and though he had a few more hours to sleep, he found that he could not. Thoughts of Kaldir and Naiore haunted him in those bleak morning hours, more than just phantoms of the past, but specters to be dealt with in the very close future. It wasn’t the first time that his ease had been stolen by these same since Raven Falls. Indeed there had been many times that they had been subject of a wakeful night’s pondering. Reliving that day in his mind’s eye, and afterwards…afterwards approaching Elendir. How he had regretted the conversation!

Lying in the dell, he could hear the hiss of a horse being lead through tall grass. An early traveler, he thought to himself. Or a horse thief! He smiled at the last thought for he knew that with so many of his brethren about, few thieves would risk their lives today. Besides, horse and traveler seemed to be going at a leisurely pace, but still he took note of it.

As for his plans, things had changed considerably. He had thought to obtain a fresh horse last night and push on toward Bree, but finding his comrades apparently sharing the same topic of interest; he decided that it would be far more productive to join with one or more of them than work independently. And better too to stay for a night or more and look after the horse. Rauthain rose slowly and headed for the stables. As long as he was here he may as well clean the both of them up!
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Old 09-11-2003, 05:15 AM   #35
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Vanwe

This will take all day! Vanwe sighed as she opened the latest in a growing tally of dusty boxes and found some clothing. A creamy linen blouse greeted her as she peered in, the fabric fine in comparison to her own rough clothing. She closed that box and moved onto the next.

Bent over the container with her back to the door, the sudden sound of Fimbriel's voice surprised Vanwe.

"Oh! You're here..." the Innkeeper said, a frown of vague confusion furrowing her brow. Vanwe, feeling very like she had been found in a place she should not be, started to explain as quickly as she could.

"Cook asked for the extra pots last night and I have not yet fetched them for her," she said. The sound of running came to her from further down the hall, and a door opened and closed. Fimbriel glanced over her shoulder, catching a glimpse of Maethor as he darted into a room.

"Rangers..... the pots are over there," she replied, pointing to the far corner. It would have indeed taken Vanwe all day to find what she was looking for.

"Devorin told me that you had taken Déor," Fimbriel said absently, gaze falling on the series of boxes that Vanwe had been inspecting. "Have you found anything interesting," she asked, eyeing Vanwe closely.

Vanwe shook her head energetically. "I've not taken anything, I swear it!" She nearly tripped over her own words in her enthusiasm. Fimbriel waved her respone airly aside.

"Well you should have. It's an outrage that Devorin hasn't seen to this sooner, but then he is a Man and knows nothing of how difficult it is to do yard and stable work in skirts." As Fimbriel had spoken she had crossed room to a nearby box.

"Somewhere around here, if my memory serves, is a solution that that.... Ah, here it is!" She prised open the box and started removing the clothing Vanwe had seen before. She first picked up the shirt and held it against Vanwe, appraising with a critical eye.

"As I thought.... looked Elvish to me when I packed it away last summer. Take this too, and this, Vanwe? Hold out your arms!" Vanwe did as she was told, mystified at first and then thoroughly perturbed at what was happening. Fimbriel continued to speak as she added the last items.

"Disgraceful, having you walk about in a dress that looks like it would distintergrate on a puff of breeze. Why, you must have patched that at least six times! And all the while there is clothing here, gathering dust!"

Vaanwe almost disappeared behind a cloak and a gown of deep red. When Fimbriel rearraged the clothing, she saw the Elf's alarmed mien. "Whatever is wrong, Vanwe!"

"I can't wear this! I only have 3 coppers!" Never mind that what she was wearing had been stolen. Her cheeks were flushed with shame. Fimbriel's kind face took on a stern authority.

"You can and you will. Now, go change and bring that old dress of yours down with the pots. If it survives another washing, we can use it for rags." Fimbriel fixed Vanwe with a close glance and let it rest until she reluctantly nodded. Satisfied, Fimbriel turned and headed back for the kitchens.

"I've a good mind to straighten Devorin's manners for not seeing to this sooner. His own assistant, for love of Rohan!" The innkeeper shook her head and left Vanwe to consider the impending disaster. These clothes were not for her. They were far too fine for one of her station. And Fimbriel had given her breeches! Breeches! Vanwe had learnt that woman are never to wear men's clothing. If they found her, they'd beat her to within an inch of her life for that alone!

Her heart sank a little as she picked up the pots. With the inappropriate clothing that was not hers draped over the top, she returned to Lespheria's room, left the pots by the door and fitted the key to the lock.

It was not right, but she was caught. Disobey Harad or Fimbriel.... a disgrace, she had said. Vanwe peered in the mirror at herself. Yes, it was definately Elvish gear, the short tunic breeches of green suede finely embroidered. Vanwe belted her distinctly mannish belt back on and pulled on her similiarly mannish boots. She barely recognised herself. For starters, the clothing fit far better than her dress had.

Vanwe picked the worn garment up from the floor with a sigh. She needed to somehow find a way out of this clothing before her only other option was shredded to rags. She needed to speak with Hanasian somehow, dangerous as that might be. She needed to stay out of Kaldir's reach and in the midst of all this, aid Devorin with the horses. Something seemed afoot there.

Why would she have taken Déor? Stealing clothing was one thing, thieving horses was quite another. She flicked her hair back over her shoulder and felt faintly absurd as the full drape of her shirt sleeve moved with her. Stealing clothes was indeed bad enough. This day was not going to be an easy one for a whole host of reasons.

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-11-2006 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 09-11-2003, 06:56 PM   #36
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Sting

Léspheria

All was dark, but shadows of evil things passed just beyond reach. On the cold damp floor was an elven female, her hair colour unrecognisable through the blood and muck that clung to it, her fair features streaked with blood. "Where does fear spawn?" a cold but beautiful voice whispered. Damaged elven grey eyes darted around the black cylindrical cell searching for its source but the voice seemed to move as though circling the room.

"This is not you!" the prisoner cried hoarsely into the darkness.

"Hahahaha!" the cold laughter echoed around the room,

"Still you deny what is before you!" the cold voice mocked.

"It is not you it is HIM ! the elven prisoner roared drawing her sword and facing her tormentor,

"And I shall release you from his deceitful spell" her sword swung but cut only through the air.

"Fool he holds no sway over me, my choices are my own" the velvety voice boasted behind her.

"No! " the prisoner screamed wheeling around, again her sword slicing through only the dark air, the weight causing her to stumble.

A burning bored through her side and she again fell deeper into darkness only to be pulled back to life, shrouded in her dark prison faced with that which she denied.

"Where does fear spawn?" the voice whispered again,

"Oh dear Eru please let this end, if not for me for my daughter." the prisoner silently prayed.

"Where does fear spawn?" the voice yelled again, delivering a sharp blow to the prisoners abdomen.

"You shall never know the answer too that which you seek!" the prisoner replied spitting fresh blood from her mouth onto the face of her tormentor, then again sharp pain arched her back.

Léspheria's eyes snapped open, the early morning mist surrounded her shaking and sweat drenched body and Losseserme stood over her nickering lightly with concern, "It' s ok.. I'll be alright in a minute" she whispered to the mare absently, her thoughts still very much on the dream, never before had she dreamt of her mothers torment, yes the prisoner must have been her mother, she thought. The emotions from her mothers year of torment had almost killed her and if it hadn't been for the love and care of her brother, her father and her kin it may have broken her completely. The emotions still plagued her dreams, but she had learnt that while she held to love hope courage all the good and true emotions she could control the painful ones. But never before had they administered themselves as a dream, what did this mean? she thought silently.

Slowly she rose, rolling up her bedroll and attaching it securely to the back of her saddle, the small fire she had made had long died but still, almost instinctively she kicked it out. She was still a little shaken when she mounted the mare, so Losseserme went at a slow trot, continuing south-west skirting the boarders of the Shire until Léspheria urged her on to a faster pace.

The midmorning sun was drying the dew when she heard hooves in the distance, she dismounted and pressed her ear to the ground, just one she whispered mounting again. "There that hillock she said directing Losseserme to the hill. Raising her hands to shield her eyes she looked out from the hillock. yes! just one, ridding at great speed. she whispered to the mare. As the rider drew nearer she use her gift to sense his intent.

"Ed' i'ear ar'elenea! Ta Sorlas Dînmahtar!" she exclaimed guiding Losseserme towards the fast approaching rider.

"Aaye, mellonamin!" she greeted him as he pulled his dark charger to a stop before her.

"Hail, Lady Léspheria" He panted "I have been riding Three days to deliver this message to you " He continued pulling a vellum scroll from his saddlebag and handing it to her.

"Then you know not that my brother was wounded yester morn!" she informed him as she took the scroll from his hands.

"If what you say is true my lady, then I must make haste. For delivering this message is not my only task this day. I am to bring reinforcements, It seems that Skaikrish has been busy since his arrival at the mountains, the foul orc has some how managed to gather a small army." Léspheria did not miss the disdain in his voice as he spat the last line.

"Léspheria, do not worry for your brother, I am sure he will be fine, after all Halwain and his daughter Fawain are with him," Sorlas smiled laying a reassuring hand on her shoulder.

"So Halwain is free!" she asked slightly surprised by this revelation.

"Yes! you did not believe that Skaikrish could hold our Captain for long" he laughed.

"No, but nor would I believe that one as stupid a Skaikrish could gather himself an army!" she sighed.

"You think much like your brother my lady, he too believes that someone else is using Skaikrish to keep us from our watch of the Shire and the newly established north kingdom. But Skaikrish and his army is to much of a threat to be ignored, so I will be meeting reinforcements outside Bree and bringing them with me to quash the delusioned orcs plans." Sorlas informed her grimly.

"Then I shall keep you no longer my friend." she replied sensing his worry for his friends. He nodded his thanks and spurred his charger, "Namarie Arwenamin" he cried as he charged off towards the greenway.

Léspheria looked down to the vellum scroll in her hands, sighing she slowly broke the wax seal, opening it out and read the hastily scrawled elven words;

Léspheria,

I hope this finds you well, I have much to ask of you, but first I must plead with you not to come if anything happens to me, I assure you sister that the rangers and Fawain are quite capable of tending any wounds I may sustain.

As you are aware, I hoped to be returning to the inn by now, But Skaikrish has gathered himself an army. Our simple rescue has now escalated into a threat far greater than simple revenge. I am now of the belief that the traitor Niaore is behind Skaikrish's sudden boldness, but I do not believe she is here, I think she used the fool to draw the rangers away from their relentless pursuit or maybe even to expose the Shire and the northern kingdom!

As I am sure Sorlas has told you he is meeting reinforcements from Annúminas, Skaikrish is a threat that we just can't ignore, but the pursuit of Naiore will not be abandoned. Even as you read this Amandur keeps watch for the traitor! I am sure you have meet the young elven female who our kin hopes will be Naiore's downfall.

Léspheria sighed heavily as she read, after meeting Vanwe she had hoped she could prevent any more pain from befalling the elf maiden, but she had to admit that they could be right, Vanwe could be the key to finding Naiore. She did not like the thought of using the young woman as bait and if she didn't have to, she wouldn't, she thought as she read on.

Sister for long myself and the elves of Rivendell have tried to keep you and this Traitor from meeting, our reasons I cannot explain here, but the more we try to keep the truth from you the more they seem to be placed at your feet, so that now I believe that this task was meant for you. I am truly sorry that this burden should be placed upon you, but you are not alone.

Amandur and a few other rangers continue the pursuit, you should join with them. This counsel only I give you my beloved sister; Naiore has learned from the deceiver of our fathers kin, be mindful of her false words and her manipulations of the truth!

Love

Lóthaniel

Léspheria read the message several times before rolling it up and slipping it into her saddlebag. "Well my friend, it seems we will be returning to the inn sooner than expected," she sighed patting the mare's neck. "Sorlas is right, Lóthaniel has Halwain, Fawain and soon the soldiers of Annúminas" she said trying to reassure herself . She took one last look southwest towards the mountains, then spurred Losseserme back towards the inn.

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Old 09-11-2003, 09:11 PM   #37
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Sting

Amandur

Hanasían and Amandur had gotten very little sleep that night and as the sun shone through the now open window, Amandur turned to Hanasían telling him that he was going to tack his horse, he also suggested that they plan their next move regarding Naiore. Lifting his tack he made his way down stairs, on reaching the common room he lifted two red shiny apples that sat in a bowl on the end of the bar. He had just bitten into the first one, when Maethor strode into the inn.

"Where's Hanasían?" he asked Amandur earnestly, stunned and his mouth still full of apple he just indicated up stairs.

"A horse is missing from the stables. A women's delicate footprint is beside the marks of the horse." Maethor continued as he made for the stairs, but Amandur did not follow him he went straight to the stables, to his relief Kalloruvi was still in his stall, he gave the charger the second apple, hung his tack over the stall door and looked about for the empty stall.

Kneeing down he examined the light foot prints, yes! Maethor was right a gelding by the looks of the hoof prints, had been removed by an elven woman, but not Vanwe!, he thought looking out towards the trees. As he looked out he saw Rauthain enter the stable.

"What is it he whispered crouching beside him to have a look. "A horse was taken from this stall during the night or early hours, by an elven female!" he told Rauthain tracing one particular print.

"hmm, This may be nothing, but I was awoken by the sound of an early traveller leading a horse through the tall grass of the dell." Rauthain told him.

"Hmm... maybe," Amandur sighed looking back to the elf print.

"It may only be Vanwe's foot print, she works in the stables." He heard Hanasían tell Maethor as they entered the stable.

"It's not Vanwe's!" Amandur said lifting his head to regard the other two. "Look!" he said indicating the only full foot print, "an elven woman's boot made this print!" Amandur told them, but seeing their confusion he went on, "Vanwe's boots are not elven, nor are they a woman's I'll wager."

"Here!" He said moving over to the loft ladder, "this I would say are Vanwe's prints, still light but larger and with a different tread."

As he waited for them to respond, he wondered why she had only stole a gelding with so many stronger mounts in the stable, She hasn't got what she came for yet he reminded himself, They would have to be ready.

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-11-2006 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 09-11-2003, 10:48 PM   #38
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Sting

Kaldir

Kaldir was riding out of the inn’s stable yard on his own horse, leading the two he had obtained from Cobhan Tupper the night before by the reins, when he glanced back over his shoulder and saw the group of Rangers beginning to gather at the entrance to the stable. They seemed to be examining the ground and speaking together in low tones. One of them pointed toward the woods, where Kaldir had sensed the presence of Naiore Dannan the day before. The stable master had mentioned something to him in passing about how a horse had gone missing in the night. Subtly, Kaldir had glanced at the track on the dirt floor and noticed the small, feminine outline of an elf lady’s boot. Surely, the missing horse was the work of Naiore. Vanwe, the stable master’s assistant, left an entirely different print. Kaldir smiled grimly. The stable master had no idea how lucky he had been not to awake at the wrong moment.

“Naiore’s getting ready to make her move,” Kaldir muttered to himself. He dug his heels into his horse’s flank and the great animal leapt forward, the two new ones close behind. The Rangers, his own former brethren, would not be idle for long. To pick up Naiore’s trail ahead of them, he would have to move quickly. He would have to collect Benia from where he had left her in the deserted cellar some blocks away, then circle around and enter the trees from the far side. That way, Benia would not be seen by anyone at the inn, who might interfere or ask too many troublesome questions. Also, he had a feeling Naiore’s focus would still be centered around the inn, at least, so long as Vanwe was there. By flanking Naiore, he might fare better against her in a confrontation. It was by far a better strategy than walking straight toward her across the inn yard, anyway.

But, he had no illusions about the confrontation, if it happened, either. Naiore would be about as easy to capture as a wily, old dragon. Maybe she couldn’t fly or breathe fire and brimstone, but what she could do, given the tiniest of opportunities, was equally bad. Cobhan Tupper had been painfully easy to subdue. Naiore would be nothing of the kind.

He rode toward the abandoned blacksmith’s shop and Benia’s makeshift prison at an easy gallop. He should just let the poor woman go, he thought to himself as the gray shape of the empty building appeared at the end of the street ahead of him. In the pursuit of Naiore, he needed to be fast and, more than anything else, completely focused on the task at hand or it could mean his life. Benia’s presence would just complicate things. Slow him down. But he still found himself completely unwilling to turn her loose. A wise decision or not, she was coming with him. His instincts told him that she had something, somehow, to do with the situation and how it would all end, that she had some, as yet unknown, role to play in it all. She had to be brought along.

He would just have to adjust.

Kaldir dismounted outside the leaning, gray wood walls of his temporary lodging and tied the two horses and pack pony to the rusty hitching posts outside. Already, before even entering the building, he had a vague notion that something was amiss. A spike of anger shot through him as he caught sight of the open trapdoor that led to the cellar. Then, he began to laugh.

“It seems my little bird has flown the coop,” he said aloud. Careful not to disturb any of the tracks left in the dusty floor, he walked to the mouth of the trapdoor and looked down. Cut bits of rope lay in a forlorn pile in the dirt at the foot of the stairs. A single set of slender bare footprints were visible in the dust on the side of the stairs closest to the banister. His own foot prints, coming and going, marked the centers of the stair treads. On the floor, just outside the trapdoor, was the single small footprint of a hobbit.

“Well, well, well,” murmured Kaldir. “Mrs. Banks.” Moving slowly, he followed the trail of the women's footprints to the door on the eastern side of the building, noticing that Benia's prints were now made by booted feet. He could tell by their spacing that she still limped, but that she was walking without assistance. They couldn't have gone far.

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-11-2006 at 10:41 AM.
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Old 09-11-2003, 10:48 PM   #39
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Sting

Vanwe

The kitchen was filled with the bright light of morning when Vanwe entered, arms filled with the large basket of pots. Her slender form belied the strength built over years of long labour. She set down her burden in the place Cook pointed to.

“At last! I’ll need these if this rush is to keep up,” the matronly woman exclaimed. “Rowena, see to washing the attic off them. We’ll need them for the evening meal.” Rowena, however, was busy gawking at Vanwe, who stood uncomfortably near the pots.

“She looks like an Elf!” Cook nodded impatiently, back to both as she saw to the eggs she was scrambling for breakfast.

“Yes, yes… Vanwe is an Elf, Rowena, though until know you’d be forgiven for mistaking her for a will-o-wisp until now.” Rowena giggled merrily until Cook bestowed a stern frown upon her curly head. “The pots,” she prompted. Rowena sighed theatrically, giggle fading and eyes rolling and set to her task. Cook then turned her attentions to the Elf.

“As for you, sit! You’ll eat at least one meal, lass.” Cook’s wooden spoon indicated precisely which chair she was to take up and Vanwe did so. Fimbriel breezed into the kitchen as she folded herself into the chair.

“Oh, now that is much better,” she beamed at Vanwe. “Shame we can’t do anything about those boots of yours. Maybe next time a trader comes through we can find ones made for a woman's foot instead of a man's. Has Devorin been in for you yet, Vanwe?” Vanwe swallowed and shook her head. She coloured again during the discussion of her mannish boots. Between her shoes and her breeches, if Kaldir found her Vanwe was doomed. What's more it seemed the Stablemaster really did think she’d taken Déor.

“Well then you can help me. Now Cook, I won’t let her get far and you’ve already told me she missed lunch and supper at least three times this morning. Vanwe, could you please set out the chairs around the table? The guests are already about and they’ll be down before long.”

Vanwe stood as Fimbriel shot her a grateful smile, and left to do as she had been told. The floor was freshly swept, chairs perched atop the tables waiting to be set out again. In the kitchen conversation continued on, ranging from lunch and supper menus to occupancy and the larder. The commonroom was empty and quiet, and Vanwe moved to the nearest table and began unloading the chairs. Through the window, she could see Devorin moving the horses to the pasture. That was her job. She was sinking further and further with the stablemaster. She moved a little faster onto the next table, eager to finish the task given to her by Fimbriel so that she could set things straight.

The sun had climbed a little higher by the time she had set the last chair in place. Vanwe surveyed the empty room from a warm puddle of sunlight. Then her gaze fell on the bowl of apples. Having missed lunch and supper the day before, Vanwe's reaction to the sight was immediate. She had soon crossed the empty commonroom, perched on a stool by the bar and worked her way through a ripe apple.

Apples were a luxury that were rarely come by in the heat of the south. Vanwe was almost as fond of them as she was of honey, another newly discovered delicacy of the north. As she ate, her long legs swung on the stool and her eyes wandered out of the window. Outside, she saw two rangers talking by the entrance to the stables. Amandur was one, and the other was one she had seen last night but did not know his name.

Half eaten apple held in one hand, Vanwe's brow furrowed. Maybe they had heard of Déor and that Devorin suspected that she had taken the gelding. That left her little time if it were so. Vanwe twisted on her stool. She did not know where the other Rangers were, but she was running out of time if she was to catch Hansian before she found herself pinned by yet more questions.

Aware that her plans of the night before hung by but a shred, Vanwe slipped off her stool and started up the stairs in search of Hanasian. Fimbriel breezed out of the kitchens to find the tables set up and any trace of Vanwe vanished. Devorin bustled through the door of the inn.

"Is Vanwe here," he asked in a harried tone.
"She was a moment ago," Fimbriel replied.
"We've a horse missing then. When you see her, send her out to me will you? That gelding can run like the wind when he has a mind to. We'll need to get after him quick, and the sot who let him loose." With that, Devorin collected an apple from the rapidly dwindling supply on the bar and left again, chewing hard. The sort of person who stole horses was the sort of person who brought Devorin less amicable side.

Upstairs, Vanwe walked through the hall, wondering how she'd find where Hanasian was staying and hoping that she'd not trip over Kaldir or yet more Rangers. Taking a guess that he may have stayed with Amandur, and knowing that Amandur was outside, Vanwe mustered up her courage and tapped on his door.

"Hanasian," she called softly, "Are you in there?"

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-11-2006 at 10:20 AM.
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Old 09-12-2003, 04:34 AM   #40
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Sting

Gilly

“Ah this is much better!” Gilly sighed as she helped Benia through the wood. “Fresh air, new day…. I’ll tell you Miss Benia; I’m not so good at waiting. No more than I used to be, but I was sure that scoundrel had to have been down there too! And here I waited nearly too long!”


“No matter,” Benia said soothing her friend’s anxieties. “We are both no worse for it, though I dare say that we shouldn’t speak much until we are further from this place.”


“Ah… yes,” Gilly murmured nodding in agreement. And as she walked she imagined herself Benia’s walking stick, for when crossing over stream or rock or fallen tree a delicate tattooed hand would come to rest upon her shoulder as Benia steadied herself. It was remarkable how well she was getting on despite her ankle, though Gilly feared that Benia’s boot might not come off easily after their walk.


Finally, having come to a long hedgerow hard by a lonely road, Gilly bid her friend to sit by some the large rocks there, while she searched for the stowed bag and sword that she had hidden there in the night. She appeared again after much rustling and good-humored threats against the shrubs, carrying the sword and dragging the bag behind her like a child dragging a pull toy. “I’m sorry Miss Benia,” she apologized. “I simply can’t carry it, I’ve no strength left!”


“Come,” Benia said simply, taking the rucksack and sword and hobbling over beside the hedgerow to sit down. Patting the moss beside her she said, “Sit here for a moment.” The hobbit obeyed watching the desert lady as she opened her bag. “What was it your mother used to say? ‘A full stomach lends ballast to the heart’, wasn’t that it? I think that at present we both could do with some ballast, don’t you agree?”


Gilly smiled at the mention of her mother, and the old days. Benia had used to tease so about how much Gilly ate, saying she was like a bird always looking for food. And Gilly’s mother never did understand how the Nightshades could eat so little and yet remain healthy. It was the subject of many a good-natured argument in the Burrows household.


Benia pulled out bread and figs, raisins and an apple, setting them on Gilly’s knee, while she herself settled on a small piece of bread. “Eat!” she said. “You will fell better for it! And then we must press on with all haste.”


The hobbit eagerly complied with the request, both out of hunger and fear of Kaldir. She was trying to figure where to go from here -she didn’t know anything about Breeland- when she realized that surely Benia would know the way to Archet. “So we are off to Archet then?” she ventured. “I don’t know more than the name myself. Do you think you could get us there Miss Benia?”


“Yes, I know the way.” Benia smiled. “But we can not go by the roads. And not all of the way is wooded. It will be hard traveling for a hobbit and her injured guide.”


“Then we had best be off!” Gilly said returning the smile and stuffing the remaining food in her pockets. Together the two made their way away from the hedgerow and the road, deeper into the woods.

Last edited by piosenniel; 05-11-2006 at 10:20 AM.
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