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Old 06-05-2003, 12:58 PM   #161
Nurumaiel
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Shield

"Yes, as a matter of fact I did," said Nuru. She glanced at Rie. "Rie can tell you that much. We were visiting Rohan just recently and we saw and spoke to him at The White Horse. I also spoke to him on my way back to Rivendell, for after some time Master Elrond sent a message saying that if I so desired, I could return. Needless to say, I rode there as speedily as I could!

"About a month passed at Rivendell with Girithtil still torturing me with cruel words and deeds, until at last I found her in a time of trouble (my memory seems to not wish to recollect what it was) and I was the one thrown to her to help her quite by chance, for I stumbled upon her weeping in the night. We were not friends, but I could not leave her in sorrow, so I spoke to her and helped her, and we became wonderful friends. Since then, everything has been a dream at Rivendell, as it should be.

"And there ends my tale thus far. I've travelled to the Shire, where I met Rie and we became friends, I've travelled to Rohan to see Firramer, and I've travelled here to meet all of you. Some day my story will grow greater and longer and so interesting everyone will want to hear it." She gazed out the window, her eyes shining with excitement. "I'll write it down in words and leave it here for all the Men, Dwarves, Hobbits, and Elves, and those yet to come, and I'll pass over the sea to the Undying Lands, where I'll live in peace for all time."
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Old 06-06-2003, 09:51 AM   #162
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Sting

As the elves and humans chatted softly about Nuru's story, Lindo sat back and exchanged glances with Poppy. Suddenly, it seemed oddly ironic that the Big Folk and the elves, with all their advantages, still had personality clashes and resulting heartache.

He looked up at the doorway to the kitchen. It had a small glass window at eye-height for a man, and on the other side of the window someone had painted: COMMON-ROOM. But from this side, it was backwards: MOOR- NOMMOC. The words looked strange, and curious.

They're just runes, even when I look at them backwards; why do they catch my attention so? he wondered. And then he realised that he was fascinated by Nuru's simple story in the same way. Hostility turned to friendship seemed no great surprise between hobbits; but between elves, or men, it held for Lindo a strange wonder, like something seen in a reflection or somehow inside out or backwards. He could see that Poppy felt the same.

Nuru was chatting with Rie and Aman. Lindo sat back and slipped into a reverie, listening to their musical voices, familiar, and yet not comfortable; musical, but not a tune that one could hum or sing. He let the sounds swirl and grow strange in his mind til they melded into wonder, something strange and foreign yet somehow familiar, like the runes on the other side of the window.

As he daydreamed, half enchanted, he imagined Kheled Zaram, the Mirrormere, showing a crown of stars dimly replected even in broad daylight. He looked about him, and thought that these folk were like that; stars, shining softly in broad daylight; and he wondered, whether they were real, or just a reflection in the water. But the reflection must come from somewhere, he thought. They are real, even if all I am allowed to see is the reflection.

One of the elves slipped into song and the music enfolded Lindo and wrapped him into a dream.

(Note: post inspired by
[ June 09, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
mooreeffocthread, started by X-Phial.)

[ June 09, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 06-17-2003, 02:48 PM   #163
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Sting

The Innkeeper started at the ringing of a bell in the back room. He trotted quickly through the door, only to return moments later carrying a scroll. Wiping his hands first upon his apron, he unrolled the paper and began to read. As he reviewed the message, a scowl creased his face. With a sigh, he walked over to the bulletin board which hung over the end of the bar and tacked up the scroll.

By now, everyone in the room was watching the Innkeeper. He looked up, and shook his head wearily. Then he spoke loudly to all the patrons of The Seventh Star. "Well they've gone and done it again. Can't leave well enough alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it I always say. But no! They're never satisfied leaving things be. Always tinkering with this and tugging at that!"

Nuru looked at the barkeep with confusion, then whispered to Lindo, "Who might 'they' be?" Lindo shrugged.

The Innkeeper's face was turning red and sweat began to form on his brows. He was now waving his arms as he spoke. "Post this! Announce that! Without so much as a by your leave! Well fine. If that's how it is, that's how it is and you all better look!"

The crowd stared at the Innkeeper in confusion. Some shook their heads sadly or tapped meaningfully at their temples. He looked from one to the other, then threw up his hands. "By the One! I'm surrounded by half-wits and fools! The Rules! They've made new Rules! Read 'em!"

He strode away muttering. Settling in behind the bar, he began scribbling at a piece of paper. "Wait til they hear in Rohan and the Shire..."
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Old 06-29-2003, 10:26 AM   #164
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

There was a buzz of discussion after the guests had read the scroll. The rules were debated enthusiastically. In a brief lull in the conversation, a clear voice spoke, “Hear, hear!” Heads turned to gaze in astonishment upon the speaker.

There stood the Loremistress of Minas Tirith, Estelyn Telcontar, head held high. She looked as royal as was possible with a face brimful with mirth. Her eyes danced, and her lips seemed ready to burst into laughter.

“Many have been sad, thinking that the tale of the Entish Bow has ceased and no more shall be heard of fair Merisuwyniel and her companions. Indeed, the Bow has been avenged, for those who hewed the Ent were slain, yet are still many parts amiss that are needed complete its reunification. The tale shall continue shortly; therefore let those who assisted me in its telling hear this call:

Arise, arise, Writers of Théentishbow!
Fell puns awake: spoof and parody!
Humour shall be shaken, canon be shattered,
Poetry slaughtered, ere the Itship succeeds.
Write now, write now! Write in Gondor!


“All those who participated in the story are requested to assemble at the discussion thread,” she continued. “There shall we meet anon.” With those words she opened the door, letting in a breath of fresh air, then disappeared in the blinding sunlight.
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Old 08-21-2003, 03:50 AM   #165
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Pipe

As light descended warily into the courtyard, scattering spiders and illuminating the worn cobbles, the Innkeeper sighed his way out of the side door. Another day was beginning and he had barrels to haul up to the bar, and his help was late. As always. He adjusted his apron, freshly washed and starched, and therefore remarkable in its discomfort.

The side-door swung closed behind him silently, as it always did. He wondered how a door that he had never seen oiled or adjusted could not make a whisper, even after many years of service.

Then he cursed, lowly and bitterly, as he had not remembered his keys. Not only could he not return upstairs to his predecessor’s warm and functional bedroom, but the cellar was closed to him as well.

He wrung his hands in frustration and stared down at the ground, just beginning to lighten as the sunlight washed weakly over the white walls of the Inn.

Then he forgot his worries and nearly cried out with shock.

The dawning day revealed a grey, curled body just three paces within the main gate. Even in this light he could see the remnants of the vivid blue that slashed across the pale tunic of the body. He also saw many other stains as he ran forwards. Dark red they seemed, and many of them.

As he approached, his heart nearly stopped as he discerned, just barely, the slightest movement of the thin ribs beneath the shredded clothes.

As Summer turned to Autumn, as night turned to day, Rimbaud of the Seventh Star had returned home.
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Old 08-21-2003, 02:42 PM   #166
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

In the midst of the tale she was trying to tell,
in the midst of the laughter and glee,
she had softly and suddenly vanished…



Whatever instinct it was that had prompted Estelyn to come to the Inn at this early hour, she was thankful to have heeded it. Her face filled with concern as she gazed upon her wounded friend. What had befallen him during his mysterious absence? Was there a connection to the dangerous adventure they had experienced together some months ago?

However, all questions were of secondary importance; she was relieved to see Bethberry already there, the one person who was needed most. Carefully she helped the others to lift him up; he groaned weakly, his face turning ashen with pain. They carried him inside, placing him in a room on the ground level to avoid jolting him by climbing the stairs.

Estelyn went to get a basin of water and a towel. Gently she wiped the feverish face, then stood aside to let the healer examine him. She felt helpless, not knowing what to do. She could only wait…

[ August 21, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 08-22-2003, 04:14 AM   #167
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Pipe

He grappled with the light. He could not remember how long he had been straining to grasp the white glow. Every time he felt he had a grasp, it melted away. Those moments scared him, for when he touched at the light, there was more. Pain and noise, and a wrenching fear coursing through him, in this hollow place.

The light he had to reach, for he would not fall into emptiness. Yet it kept slipping further and further away from his nerveless grip.
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Old 11-20-2003, 07:47 AM   #168
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Sting

A mouse crept along the mantel, nose twitching. No crumbs. In the dark corners there were several shadows that were vaguely man-shaped, some with glasses nearby. But they had not moved in the mouse's memory even when the wind blew the candles. They didn't smell very good. And they weren't dropping crumbs, either.

With fond memories of orange peels, and a rather less appealing memory of spilled Tequila, the mouse climbed down, and snuffled at the kitchen. No orders had been taken; no one had come in or out. The kitchen door had not opened in a long, long time.

His marketplace cousins were fat and shiny. The mouse pondered his own protruding ribs, and sighed. Once this place had been good living. The old customers had wearied of it, but perhaps new customers would come. He decided not to move out to the marketplace just yet.

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-21-2003, 05:30 PM   #169
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

Though the darkness of early morning still shadowed the room when the Loremistress opened her eyes, she knew immediately where she was. She lay in her own bed, savouring the luxurious warmth of her own room after the discomforts of a long journey. Estelyn yawned, then stretched her arms, deciding that it would feel better to get up and go for a walk than to sleep longer.

Some minutes later, she stood at the entrance to the ‘Seventh Star Inn’. She had hoped to combine two pleasures, a cup of hot tea and a visit with the Innkeeper, but instead of the expected lights in the kitchen windows, darkness welcomed her forebodingly. Puzzled, she pondered the significance of the long-grown grass on the doorstep and the slightly unkempt appearance of the yard. She could hear none of the usual animal sounds from the stables which normally accompanied the presence of guests.

True, the Innkeeper had been away often before; she and all others were used to his sudden absences. But his well-trained personnel had kept the Inn running smoothly, thus keeping up the feeling that he would be back soon. She had never allowed her thoughts to dwell long on the possibility that one of his journeys, though she was one of the few who knew how dangerous they were, might be her friend’s last. The wounds of their perilous adventures together had healed, but a deep-seated fear still haunted her dreams occasionally. What if…

She walked around the Inn, looking to make sure there were no observers before slipping into a hidden entrance. There was no fire at which she could light a candle, but the sky was less dark by now. She threw open the shutters and the windows to freshen the stale air, pacing from one room to another to look for anything that might explain the abandonment of the building. A slight movement caught her eye, but when she turned, nothing was there. Must have been a mouse, she thought.
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Old 11-21-2003, 10:47 PM   #170
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Sting

He hesitated behind the leg of a chair. The wind was in the wrong direction, and however much he twitched his nose, he could not catch the woman's scent. She floated from one window to another opening curtains and shutters and the windows too. The air stirred and sweetened. He could even catch a faint whiff of yesterday's marketplace.

He followed the shadows to the fireplace. Climbing up to the mantel, he hid behind a picture frame and peered at the woman as she restlessly studied her surroundings. Disappointed that she showed no sign of preparing any food he yet lingered, watching as she went into the kitchen and returned with a large mug. She drew near the fireplace, and skeptically considered the dusty kettle dangling over the cold ashes.
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Old 11-22-2003, 01:39 PM   #171
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Sting

In contrast to the bright morning air and the early smells of the marketplace, an odd musty smell reached her nostrils. She wrinkled her nose and rearranged the napkin over her bread-basket. As she walked away from the market, her eyes checked to and fro for the source of the musty smell.

The windows were open at the Inn! There had been no activity there for so long. Her brother would be thrilled! And then she sighed, and shook herself. She had to find him first.

Perhaps he was at the inn! Her steps quickened, and she approached and tried the front door. It was shut. Puzzled, she went to an open window, and cautiously peered inside. An elegant woman stood facing the dark fireplace with a mug in her hand.

Clasping her hands around her basket-handle, she bowed her head slightly. "Beg pardon, my lady, and a good morning and good health I bid you. I am looking for my brother; perchance have you seen him?"

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-23-2003, 04:36 PM   #172
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

Estelyn stood still, holding the slip of paper in her hand. A wave of relief washed over her, and she was aware that her fear for Rimbaud had been greater than she had let herself realize. The message, though terse, was clear enough to her, and knowing that her friend was with the healer reassured her. Yet what was to happen with the Inn? Her thoughts spun in circles, considering and rejecting plans for the future. She registered the scampering of a mouse on the fringes of her attention. Fond though she was of the falcon, she was glad that the little creature had survived. Perhaps that was a good omen for this once so hospitable place.

Suddenly she remembered the face and voice that had been at the window and disappeared at Wyrd’s arrival. Hurriedly her steps took her to the door and she peered out. A woman, unknown to her and not yet clearly to be seen in the twilight of dawn, was stooping down to pick up a basket and its contents. The Loremistress walked over and said, “Can I be of assistance to you?”

The face looked up at her with fearful eyes. “What was that?” she asked, trembling slightly. “Some demon, flying in and out of the Inn?”

Estelyn smiled reassuringly. “You need not fear – that was a falcon, bringing a message for me. He is gone now. Will you not come in and have a cup of tea with me – if I can find some, that is.”

Together they went into the Common Room, then rummaged through stores in the kitchen until they found both tea and a tinder box to light a fire. Shyly, the woman offered her basket, saying, “I have fresh bread – would you like some?”

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Estelyn. “Now we have almost a real breakfast!” When they sat at one of the tables, cradling their cups of tea in their hands and chewing the crusty bread, she spoke again. “Now, if I remember rightly, you were looking for your brother. There is no one here; the bundles in the corner that I first took for people are only old cloaks and blankets left here. Will you not tell me about yourself and your brother and why you are searching for him?”
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Old 11-23-2003, 08:17 PM   #173
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Sting

"Yes, Lady, I will," she replied. "First let me tell you about my brother. His name is Fingon but all call him Mellondu. He is a good lad, hardworking, and always responsible, even though he is quiet and dreamy. We are apprenticed to the same family here in the city. I was apprenticed first, of course, five years ago, and he was apprenticed three years later. He has learned metal-smithing; and sometimes he learns a little carpentry from our Master's neighbors."

"That sounds like a good combination," Estelyn said. She considered the young woman and did some guesswork; apprenticed five years ago-- probably at age fifteen. That made her twenty now, and her brother perhaps about seventeen or so. "And what about you? What skills are you learning?"

"Oh, " she said with a little laugh, "Embroidery of course, and sewing, and cooking. And cleaning." She sighed. "I would like to learn to do the books, but I do not know my numbers, and I keep hoping that they will teach me runes. They have not. Not yet."

"I see. Go on, " Estelyn said. "And what is your name?"

"Finduilas, my Lady, but no one calls me that. They call me Mellonin."

"Finduilas and Fingon are noble names. Your parents like history?"

"Yes. Our family was important, generations ago. But not now. Noble names are now all we have. That is why Mellondu and I prefer our nicknames."

"Mellondu, Mellonin. So he is Friend-dark, and you are Friend-white?" Estelyn pondered the girl's dark hair and dark grey eyes, and waited for a more logical explanation.

Mellonin considered the depths of her teacup and answered, "He's very moody. But of course, he is never rude, or impolite, or careless. Just sad, and quiet. My parents said that he is gloomy and I'm the cheerful one. So, Darklove and Lightlove. It started out as a joke, of course. He isn't really dark. Just sad."

"I see. And why are you looking for him?" Estelyn prompted.

"Two nights ago, he did not come home, " Mellonin replied. "Our Mistress was very worried, and our Master was angry and said he must have had too much to drink and fallen asleep somewhere, and that he'd be back at dawn with a headache. I did not think he would drown in his cups, but I held my tongue." She fidgeted with her teacup. "But then the next morning, he did not return, nor last evening. Nor this morning either. And no one in the marketplace had seen him, yesterday, nor the day before. I've been asking, and no one has any news."

"What does he look like?" Estelyn said.

"Well, people say he looks like me, only an inch taller, and a finer, thinner face."

"Ah. You resemble each other quite closely?"

"I wore his clothes one day, and fooled many people."

Estelyn's eyes sparkled. "Indeed. And did he wear yours?"

"No, my Lady!" Mellonin replied with a shocked giggle. "No, he didn't!" She decided that she liked this Lady. She raised her eyes, shyly, and searched the Lady's face, softly lit by the growing daylight on one side and firelight on the other. "But my Lady, what would you do? Where would you look for him? I've already asked all his friends that I can find. He misses the Innkeeper here, I know. He used to come here and listen to songs and tales. That's why I had hoped you knew of him."

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-23-2003, 08:29 PM   #174
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Sting

He had heard tales of a hawk that came into the Inn. He shuddered, and his heart calmed down little by little as he listened to the conversation of the two visitors, Lady and Servant-girl. The frightening hawk faded from his mind as soon as the servant-girl uncovered her bread-basket.

Oh, happy morning, happy destiny, that brought these visitors here today! In the dancing firelight, under the table, he believed he saw... crumbs. Perhaps one of them would even spill a few grains of sugar, or some drops of honey.

His nose twitched, and his mouth watered.

[ November 23, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-24-2003, 02:26 PM   #175
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Sting

The door to the Seventh Star crashed open and a broad shouldered Man bearing two great sacks entered, ushered in by a chill breeze. He dropped the bags to the floor and turned, rubbing his hands together vigorously. Upon seeing the other occupants of the common room, he froze with a frown on his bearded face, then stepped forward drawing a long knife from his belt as he moved.

Mellonin stepped back with a slight gasp, but Estelyn stood still with a slight smile upon her face. As the Man advanced, she reached down to the guttered lantern and turned up the wick, illuminating her face. "Mae govannen," she said. "I know that Yule approaches rapidly but is it not too early to be doing any carving?"

The Man halted, then slid the knife back into its sheath. With a deep rolling laugh, he strode forward and grasped Estelyn in a great hug. "My Lady!" he cried. "I've not seen you in a week of ages as they say. Pardon my blade, but one cannot be too careful, you know. I thought you might be a squatter or worse yet some wight come to haunt the Inn." Then the smile seemed to fade from his face and he held her at arms length as if to examine her for some sign of darkness. "How is...?"

"Being cared for," she answered. "By one whom we trust. He will live."

"Good, good!" he boomed, his voice echoing off the rafters. Then he returned to his bags and rummaged through on quickly. When he straightened, he held a bottle which he tossed to Estelyn, who caught it deftly. "Open that and we'll have a toast to the Old Man after I put these things away."

"And what might these 'things' be?" asked Estelyn.

"Why supplies of course," he cried. "I've six more bags in a cart outside. And in a week's time workers will arrive to remodel this place." He waved at some cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. "After our friend went away, I took over here for a time. But I had unfinished business at home in Lossarnach and had to shut down for a bit. But we're re-opening soon."

"You!" he shouted. Mellonin cringed in fear. "If you want some wine, be a good girl and lend a hand with those bags. If I leave them too long they'll likely grow legs and walk off on their own. Now scoot...!"

As the young lady scrambled to the door, he smiled and spoke softly. "Good to see you, My Lady. Good to see you indeed."
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Old 11-24-2003, 03:28 PM   #176
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Sting

Nose a-quiver, eyes bulging, he savored one promising whiff after another. When the servant-girl re-entered, more aromas followed her. Flour, honey, cheese, roots, apples. The day had only just begun; it would be a long wait til nightfall.

He found a gap in the wall, squeezed through and turned around. He still had a view of the fireplace and surrounding tables. And if some crumbs went unguarded long enough, he would know.

********

Mellonin returned hastily with a large bag, placed it carefully beside the others, and turned to get another. But the booming voice spoke again. "Take them to the pantry; no sense in making two trips!"

She re-shouldered the bag, and turned for the kitchen door, shooting a questioning look towards the lady, who gave her quick directions to the pantry. She hurried through the kitchen door, found the pantry and put the bag down. Then she hastened through the common room to fetch the next one. The Lady and the Booming Voice were laughing and had begun catching up on old times, so she carried the remaining bags undetained. When all eight bags were lined up in the pantry, she listened a moment; they were still talking.

She returned to the kitchen and paced a little, and then quietly stepped back through the door. They paused, and looked at her.

"Shall I have a look in the cupboards, sir? The pantry smells a bit rank."

[ November 24, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 11-25-2003, 04:14 AM   #177
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1420!

Rôg

The last part of their journey, from Druadan Forest to the White City, had been a pleasant one. There had been much to see and discuss as they passed on the outskirts of the forest, making their way to the thickets of Grey Wood. ‘We can pass through these,’ the old man had said. ‘It will be safe for you to do so. No poisoned arrows to be wary of.’

Late autumn held the woods in thrall. Birds were few, just the hardy souls who had not as yet gone south to warmer climes. Or those brave ones who staked their claims in these trees year round. Ravens and crows – their raucous tale-telling echoing off the bare trees as the travelers passed.

Three days of travel had brought them to Gondor, and to an Inn the old fellow said was comfortable, the owner discrete. ‘The ale is good,’ he’d said. ‘And wine and other spirits from Elessar’s kingdom find their way to the cellars of the Seventh Star. Possibly something from your homeland.’

Rôg smiled within the folds of his brown hood, pulling his cloak more tightly about him as a chilly breeze gusted. He would be glad to leave these northern lands with their promise of increasing cold. And gladder still to be spending the night in the warmth of an Inn.

‘Come,’ he invited, holding the door open for his companion. ‘We’ll find a table by the fire. I’ll see if they have the spiced wine you favor.’

The old fellow’s eyes glinted with anticipation, his face wreathed with a merry smile. Twitching his cloak about him, so as not to catch on the roughened frame of the door, the old man entered, his staff thumping loudly on the wood, small swirls of dust floating up from each footstep.

Rôg entered close behind, shutting the door firmly against the outside cold. His nose wrinkled slightly at the musty smell; his eyes narrowed at the layers of grime and dust.

‘So, this is the Seventh Star, eh, my friend,’ he murmured softly to his companion as they seated themselves at a table near the small, crackling fire. ‘And the ale, you say, is good?’ Rôg propped his feet on the nearby hearth, relishing the feel of the welcome heat through his boots. He pushed back his hood as he leaned toward the flames to warm his hands. The flickering fire caught the small gold stud that winked from the top inner curve of his left ear. Shoulder length black hair fell forward, brushing across the olive plane of his cheek.

‘Shall I get us something to drink then?’ he asked after a few moments, sitting back in his chair. ‘And perhaps something to eat?’

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 5:10 AM December 10, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-25-2003, 06:00 AM   #178
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Estelyn and Mellonin had cleaned pantry cupboards for quite awhile when the Loremistress noticed how high the sun stood in the late autumn sky. She stretched her aching back, ruefully realizing that increasing age and her recent journey were taking their toll. She would welcome a break now, she reflected, smiling slightly to see the young woman’s energetic enthusiasm for the task they had undertaken. She was a good worker, no doubt – and suddenly she remembered that Mellonin was not the mistress of her own time; she was an apprentice, and no doubt a stern Mistress was waiting for her to come back to her tasks at home.

It won’t do to have her punished for forgetting the time and helping us here, she thought. Wiping her dusty hands clean on the cloth she had bound around her waist as a makeshift apron, she called the girl. “You have been a wonderful help,” she said warmly. “I fear we have both forgotten the time though. Your Mistress will be awaiting you, I’m sure.”

Mellonin’s eyes opened wide, startled. She had not thought of her work at home, and had actually enjoyed the hard labour here, since she did it of her own free will. “Oh yes, Lady, I am afraid she will be angry with me for staying away so long.”

“I have an idea,” Estelyn said. She went to the Innkeeper’s desk, searching for a piece of paper and a quill. Sitting down, she penned a few lines, signed with a flourish, and folded the page. Lighting a candle at the fireplace, she dropped some wax onto the edges and took out a chain that had been hidden under her dress. A ring was attached to it; she pressed it into the wax, blowing to set it before handing the missive to the young woman.

Mellonin looked at the rune imbedded in the wax with big round eyes. Though she did not know many runes, this one was so familiar that any child would have recognized it. It was the rune of the King, though slightly different than she knew it from coins – a tiny feather, perhaps a quill, was added to one side.

“Do not be afraid,” the Princess smiled. “I have every right to use it – but I only do so when I think it might be useful to impress someone. Give my letter to your Mistress, do your tasks as faithfully as you have helped with ours, and when you are finished, if you may, come back here to tell me more of your story.”

° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° ° °

Though she had spent the rest of the day attempting to clean the rooms, soliciting some necessary help to assist in the task, the Inn was far from its usual hospitable appearance by evening. She had hoped to have another day before guests came, but when the door opened, she smiled at the two men who entered and sat down near the fire. Fortunately, the flickering light disguised the weariness in her face. She approached the table and asked, “What can I do for you, gentlemen?”
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Old 11-25-2003, 02:57 PM   #179
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Sting

Taking the sealed letter and dropping a quick curtsey, Mellonin raised her eyes to meet Estelyn's. "Thank you, my lady. I will return as soon as I may."

She turned, glancing about for her basket, and found it on the table. It was much lighter than it had been; with an inward groan, she draped the napkin over it and turned towards the door. As soon as she passed through it, she gathered her long skirts in her free hand and ran.
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Old 11-25-2003, 03:53 PM   #180
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Sting

Ai! Customers and the common room's not near ready! The Innkeeper placed two fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle. After a few moments, the kitchen door swung open and several cloaked figures issued out into the room, only to seemingly melt into the shadows. A refilled cup of wine appeared at the elbow of the Innkeeper, who sat back and watched as Estelyn approached the newcomers.

The sound of a bucket dropping into a well came from outside. The scratching of a broom on the stone floor could be heard though it was difficult to see where the noise came from. When the Innkeeper glanced behind the bar several minutes later, the wood shelves had been wiped and a line of bottles and glasses had appeared. Soon a fire was roaring in the hearth.

The Innkeeper nodded with a smile. Good! they haven't forgotten how to work.

[ November 25, 2003: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 11-26-2003, 01:34 PM   #181
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Sting

Oh, this day was just getting better and better. Goodbye, protruding ribs; it wouldn't be long now til he grew sleek and shiny. These guests did not look like the neat-and-tidy sort, not at all. And the Innkeeper's Booming Friend had already left a trail of crumbs beneath him, in addition to spilling several drops of wine.

He put his chin down on his forepaws, and settled in to wait for the wee hours.
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Old 11-29-2003, 10:29 PM   #182
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Rôg

A courteous voice intruded into the space between the old man and the younger. Looking up, Rôg acknowledged with a nod the woman who had asked the question. ‘What can I do for you, gentlemen?’

‘Wine, goodmistress,’ he replied with a look at his companion. ‘Warm and spiced, if you will.’ He leaned close to the old man and murmured something to him, a question, an observation. ‘And a loaf of brown bread, if you please, with some of that soft farmer’s cheese to spread thick on it.’ The old man leaned near him, the breathy softness of his request barely audible. ‘And honey . . . yes, honey . . . and an apple . . . that would be nice.’

When the food had come, the two settled in to enjoy it. That is, they did so after a few moments of silence, and the placing of a small amount of each of the foods on an extra plate they asked for. Noting the curious glances of the others when he placed the little plate of offerings toward the far edge of the hearth, Rôg smiled at the woman, who stood nearest.

‘For our friends,’ he said, as if she were to understand it was an everyday occurrence. He nodded at the little plate partly hidden behind the hearth broom that leaned against the stones. ‘They may be hungry, and we have plenty to share, thanks to you.’ His voice drifted off as his hand hovered over the remaining food, seeking his next delight. The explanation, such as it had been, was punctuated by the crunch of his even white teeth through the crisp, red apple.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 5:11 AM December 10, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-30-2003, 04:35 AM   #183
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Sting

He could hardly believe his eyes. But he couldn't argue with his nose; the food was real. And there was a path of shadows he could follow to get to it.

The wee hours had not yet arrived. Should he wait?

It was the bit of cheese that convinced him to emerge. He crept along the shadows, and came to the hidden plate, and carefully picked up the cheese. Nobody was watching. That is, nobody was looking directly at him. But the two men, young and old, that had put the plate down were gazing into the fire, and trading whispers.

He took the cheese back through the shadows, and settled into his hiding place, and ate. Then he fetched the bit of apple. Again, the two men looked near him, but not straight at him; this time they chuckled softly. When he finished the apple, he went back out for the bread; but there was that honey, and the drops of wine. He was tempted to stay. But he took the brtead, and returned to his hiding place, and ate it. He would go back for the honey and wine and scout for crumbs when the common room emptied for the night.

As it was, he was quite content. He curled up, and drifted off to sleep, with the welcome noises of travellers in his ears. He hoped more would come. But he was growing rather fond of those already here.

[ 5:56 AM November 30, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-01-2003, 02:44 PM   #184
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Sting

Word of the re-opening of The Seventh Star travelled quickly. By the evening of the day that the large, bearded barkeep arrived at the Inn, several of the former regulars had stopped by for a drink and a song. The fire burned bright in the hearth that night and passersby may have heard snippets of The Lay of Leithien or even the comic song Skinflint The Twisted Ent.

News travels as fast as tongues wag, or so say the goodwives, and the next morning some came by even for the break fast. Those who did pronounced the fare as good as ever, and the service as well. If there was any complaint at all, it was that despite being asked, the new Innkeeper would give no one his name.

Tiring of shouting "Barkeep!" one of the locals decided that a nickname would have to do and cheerfully dubbed him "Morien", which is "Blacky". The Innkeeper smiled at this, stroking his full beard, but shook his head, saying only, "Close!". But thereafter, the nickname stuck and he was known as Blacky, and several less flattering names as well, though the latter were used always behind his back.
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Old 12-02-2003, 05:07 AM   #185
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Sting

The inn's door opened on a conversation that had been going for some time now, revealing two individuals wrapped carefully in travel-worn cloaks.

"It is merely an inn, and fortuitously named also," said one with a note of exasperation in her voice. "What could go wrong," she threw back over her shoulder as she stepped through and into the common-room. The deep cowl of her cloak concealed the wry smile that some have described as impish in the past for good reason. The individual behind her knew many of such causes, which in turn lead him to sigh and shake his head as he followed her through.

"I would have thought the wisdom of the years past would incline you to not ask such questions." His reply was partial lament and partial resignation. The pair threw their hoods back to reveal their faces and a better view of the Seventh Star/

"Wisdom," the woman snorted with some amusement, "You speak of wisdom when all I want is some refreshment." She turned to hang her cloak on a vacant peg by the door, lips twitching in private laughter. Her companion merely took in the mischevious expression that flittered across her face and said nothing. With a shrug, he added his own cloak to the peg by hers. The problem with Elora is that what she considers refreshing many others consider baffling, peverse, improper or just plain bad behaviour in polite company.

At least, he conceded inwardly, she had made an effort with her clothing to blend in. Elora's hands smoothed her tunic over her hips and then moved to flick an intricately woven thick copper braid back over her shoulder. She surveyed the common-romm openly and was soon on the move to the bar. Ronnan caught her up, a little self-conscious of his elven appearance. There were few places that Elves could pass without comment, and Elora insisted mainly on avoiding them.

Ronnan adopted a more composed expression, the antithesis to Elora's lively one, and managed to arrive with her at the bar without the indignity of having to run to catch her up. Yule decorations warmed the common-room, an interesting Edain tradition that was just one of the things Elora found endearing about the Second Children.

"An ale, please, good Innkeeper," Elora requested with a generous smile. She reached into a pouch that dangled from a curiously wrought metal and leather belt at her hips, examined the coins and then placed them upon the bar countertop. Ronnan cast a surreptious glance at their currency, to be sure they were appropriate to use in an inn in the White City. Elora waved a hand at him and added, "A wine, no doubt, for him." There was a hint of laughter at that, which Ronnan ignored. Gondor may well be the heart of mortal kingdoms, but that did not mean he had to imbibe their ales when there was perfectly good wine available. He would soon discover whether the vintage met with his Eldarin high standards.

Ronnan looked about the common-room as wine and ale were found. The Seventh Star was nice enough. Elora had dragged him into worse places, some of them inns also. Still, he failed to understand why she had insisted on coming to Gondor, to the White City and also why had had to come along with her. That had been a point of contention for them both, rare in their long association with each other.

The innkeeper set down a glass filled with a clear liquid in front of Ronnan and a tankard of ale before Elora. Elora gave generous thanks and Ronnan nodded politely, wary of any wine that did not come from the famous Dorwinion Estates of his people.

"Let's find a table," Elora said with some enthusiasm, taking up her ale gratefully and turning about to face the room. If the innkeeper noticed any oddity about her, he hid it well. Not only had Elora's eye colour shifted from green to blue since entering inn, but her tunic did not completely hide her unusual garb beneath it. There was no shirt or skirt beneath it, but leather clad arms and legs.

That had been the source of dispute before arriving at the inn, Elora ending it by throwing the tunic over her leathers and asking Ronnan if he was happy, which he plainly was not. When Ronnan made no reply to her suggestion concerning a table, Elora breezed towards one. He trailed in her wake, sipping experimentally at the wine in his glass. She was seated and watching him in time to register the look of pleasant surprise upon his features. The wine was more than passable.

Ronnan took his seat and set his glass on the table.

"See, not so bad after all," Elora said companionably. Ronnan sighed and sucuumbed to the temptation he had resolved not to indulge in earlier in the day when Elora had hinted at her intentions for the evening.

"What are we doing here, Guardian?" Elora's eyes were a deep sapphire at the moment, a dangerous colour. She leant forward with a smile and replied, "I knew you'd get curious sooner or later, Ronnan."

"What are we doing here?"
"Refreshing ourselves, Ronnan," Elora replied with mock innocence. "What could be more pleasant than a cool drink after a long road in a nice inn at Yule time?"

With some, that may be a rhetorical question. Ronnan could name several things that leapt to mind, such as remaining comfortably ensconsed in his halls, enjoying the exquisite art of the bards for example. He also knew that Elora could name several things.

"I have a feeling I will find out," he said, sipping at his wine once again. Elora nodded, leant back, uncurled her tall frame and took up her tankard.

"That you will, my friend, that you will." From over the rim of her ale, she took to examining those also in the common-room, one by one. Some moments of silence passed between the two, until Ronnan sat upright hurriedly.

"Where did you get Gondorian coin from," he asked in a hushed whisper. His worst fears were confirmed when he watched a single delicate copper brow arch over her eyes. "Acquired it," she replied demurrely, masking her smile behind her tankard and resuming her study of the patrons.

Ronnan set his glass down and spread the fingers of each hand over the table for a moment. "You've been wagering again," he said with certainty. "I don't know where or how on the road over the past weeks, but you have." Elora said nothing, watching him now.

"It's the only way you could have changed Rhun for Gondorian coin."

"Does it matter, Ronnan," Elora mildly asked, lowering her tankard to the table.

"Yes," Ronnan replied hotly.
"Why," she asked with customary curiosity sparkling in her gaze.
"It matters because apart from the improprietry of the Guardian touring the White City on a gambling bent, I have spent five weeks in a saddle to accompany you to honour our oaths of service and duty. I will not play beard to your improper behaviour on this occassion!" The righteous outrage was clear in Ronnan's face and voice.

Elora remained silent for a moment, leant forward and without a trace of a smile said, "Elves don't make good beards, Ronnan. They can't grow them." Only then did she smile, resume her langourous posture and take up her tankard. Ronnan's mouth opened and then closed on a hot retort.

"You can leave if you wish. I did not ask you to come with me, if you recall." Elora sipped at her ale as if it mattered not one whit to her. Ronnan knew better though.

"If you think to slip away to wager like a common street rat in the inns and bars of Minas Tirith, you can think again."

This time it was Elora's turn to sigh, which quickly became a fluid ripple of her shoulders in an eloquent shrug. Dear as Ronnan was, it was sometimes burdensome to carry their expectations of proper decorum about with her wherever she may go. Elora pushed Elven pre-conceptions of appropriate conduct for one such as she to one side and turned her mind to blessedly lighter diversions. Just once, she would like to not have to labour under weightier things and tonight she would have her wish.

She had not ridden five weeks, forced to sneak off and wager her currency to the proper Gondorian coin, to allow Ronnan to prevent her now. Tonight, if there was a willing partner, she would wager. Her gaze slid to Ronnan as she considered what she was willing to put into the pot. Perhaps one Elf could be bid... she'd need to get him more wine though. Elora's lips curved into a soft smile as she played with that thought and her eyes roamed once more.

There was another question as to what would be wagered over. She curious as to what those in the White City considered game for such wagering, and it had taken her hundreds of years to find the opportunity to discover this for herself.

"Ronnan, be a dear and go get some more ale and wine. Please?" Ronnan had drained his glass. He shot her a glance that let her know exactly what he thought, gathered up the glass and mug and went to do as bidden.
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Old 12-02-2003, 09:48 AM   #186
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Sting

Mellonin slowed as the inn came into sight, and paused to catch her breath. She gazed at the sunset, sad and happy at the same time, and wondered why; wondered why she felt hopeful, when her brother had not been heard from in four days.

She looked down at the letter in her hand, and puzzled over it again. It had been written late last night. The Master and Mistress had been closeted away yesterday, and mum today; the Mistress tight-lipped and angry, the Master absent-minded and nervous. The forge-workers had been puzzled, and even the animals had been ancy.

At sunset they had ordered her (washed and combed and in her best dress) back to the Inn, bearing a mysterious letter and a basket of gifts. She puzzled over them. Jars of honey and jam, a spiced ham, a bottle of very good wine, and a round of cheese. Still mystified, she approached the door, and softly entered.

She was not unattractive, and the mistress had ordered her to look her very best. All eyes followed her. They puzzled at the basket she carried and the letter in her hand. She blushed under their stares, and scanned the people. At one table sat an old man and a young man; she nodded nervously to them. At another table sat a woman and ... was that an elf? And there was something very strange about the woman, also.

And at another table sat the Innkeeper, Morien. Not seeing Estelyn, she approached Morien.

"She'll be right back," Morien said. "Have a seat." He pulled at his ale.

She would rather have stood, but neither did she dare disobey him. "Yes, sir." She sat bolt upright, clutching the basket in her lap.

"You could relax," Morien growled at her.

"No, sir," she replied.

Estelyn returned, and Mellonin hastened to her, taking refuge in her kind glance. "Please, my Lady. My Mistress sends you these foods and my Master sends you this wine, with their compliments. And they have written you a letter, my Lady."

Estelyn raised one eyebrow, and suppressed a giggle. The twinkle in her eyes set Mellonin at ease. Estelyn accepted the basket, opened the letter, and read it as Mellonin waited.

"And what do you think of this?" Estelyn asked her.

"My Lady?"

"Don't you know what this letter says?"

"No, my Lady."

"Come with me." Estelyn led Mellonin to an empty table and motioned her into a seat. Lowering her voice, she motioned Mellonin to lean close, and softly she read the letter to her.

"To the Most Esteemed Royal Princess and wise Loremistress Estelyn Telcontar, greetings and salutations. We wish to express our most profound and humble gratitude for your kindness to our beloved servant Mellonin, whom we cherish as our own precious daughter...." At this Estelyn glanced at Mellonin, who looked rather surprised. Nodding, Estelyn continued. "We estimate that we shall never be able to repay our debt of gratitude for your kindness toward our beloved servant... ... feh... blah, blah, blah. Anyway, the important part is this, down here." Estelyn pointed towards the bottom. "Remaining at the Inn, she will of course be better able to inquire after news of her missing brother. We have contacted her parents and they are agreeable to our plan. Therefore, should you find the plan agreeable to you, please accept our offer of her apprenticeship and service for as long as you enjoy her services or at least until the fate of her brother can be ascertained. She has few belongings and will be able to gather them quickly at whatever time you see fit. We are grateful to entrust her to one so learned, wise, kind, generous, trustworthy... blah, blah, blah."

Estelyn lowered the letter, and considered Mellonin. "You didn't know about this."

"No, Lady."

"What do you think of it?"

Mellonin sat back. Much of the letter confused her; three points were clear in her mind. One: they claimed to cherish her as their own daughter; that, she doubted. Two: At the Inn, she would be more likely to hear news of her brother. That she believed. And third, her parents approved of the mysterious plan.

"What plan, my Lady? Do they mean that I should work here at the Inn?"

"They are offering your service not to the Inn or the Innkeeper, but to me," Estelyn said.

A slow smile spread across Mellonin's face, and Estelyn watched it deepen and brighten until the young woman shivered with joy.

"I should like that, my Lady," Mellonin replied, "if it is agreeable to you."

[ 11:31 AM December 02, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-02-2003, 11:41 AM   #187
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“I do not know how your mistress could let such a good worker go,” Estelyn mused. “Apparently she credits me with more importance and influence than I actually have. However, to reject her offer would likely offend her and bring you more difficulties than advantages, I think, and I can indeed use a capable helper. I gather you would rather stay here than come to the palace complex…”

She looked at Mellonin questioningly, and saw from the frightened expression in her eyes that the mere mention of the palace intimidated her. “I thought as much,” she said. “I must take a few moments to consider what is best; in the meantime, I promised you some wine as thanks for your help.” She went to get a bottle and some glasses for both of them, pouring the fragrant liquid before raising her glass and saying softly, “To a good future for you and also for your brother!”

After a few moments of light chatter to ease the young woman’s nervousness, Estelyn left her, walking to the table where the Innkeeper sat. “Blacky, is it?” she spoke with one raised eyebrow.

With a seeming meekness belied only by a twinkle deep in his dark eyes, the Innkeeper answered, “Some call me Morien, yes.”

“Nonsense!” she retorted briskly. “If you insist on playing hide-and-seek with your name, there’s no need to dignify it by saying it in Elvish. You could just as well ask to be called ‘Lord Blacky’! Be that as it may, I have a matter to consider with you.” She handed him the letter and watched as mirth welled up in the somber face.

“What do you intend to do with this generous gift?” he asked.

“I think it would be best for her to stay here, for she seeks news of her brother, who disappeared without a word. If anyone has heard of him, you will find out here first. This would give me the opportunity to be of assistance to you and still pursue my own work – I must see to the new documents I brought from my journey. How is it – have you already found enough helpers to run the Inn, or can you use a diligent worker in the kitchen?”
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Old 12-02-2003, 12:18 PM   #188
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Sting

Mellonin watched uneasily as Estelyn showed the letter to Morien, the Innkeeper. To distract herself she looked around at the other guests. She studied the two men for a moment, but her eyes were drawn to the oddly dressed woman, and-- could that really be an elf?

"Ronnan, be a dear and go get some more ale and wine. Please?"

As Ronnan stood and walked toward the bar, their eyes met, and Mellonin, despite all her training, did not drop her gaze. He nodded politely at her, and continued on his way.

As he returned with a drink in each hand, she stood. "Please, Mr. Ronnan, I am looking for my missing brother Mellondu. He could be my twin but that he is taller and thinner. Have you seen or heard any news of him?"

The elf studied her a moment and then replied, "I have no news of your brother. I am sorry."

She nodded. "I bid you good day, " she replied, and sat back down. Ronnan returned to his table. Mellonin had another sip of her wine, and tried to gather her courage to address the two men at the other table.

[ 3:25 PM December 02, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-03-2003, 03:00 PM   #189
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Sting

"Hmmmm," said the innkeeper as he scratched at his beard. Then he directed a meaningful and pointed look at a member of the Inn's staff. Clad in grey, he stood unnoticed by the hearth, surveying a few occupied tables nearby. The older man who had entered earlier put down an empty cup and continued his conversation with the younger guest. The server stepped forward and snatched up the empty cup, bringing it over to the bar where it was duly refilled and returned to the table. The old man raised a hand as if to summon a server, then noticed the refilled cup sitting next to his elbow. He looked about with a moment's confusion, then nodded to the innkeeper in appreciation.

Estelyn watched these proceedings, then nodded in understanding. "Efficient, unobtrusive, silent and very well-trained," she observed. "It's as if the Inn were their life." The innkeeper nodded in turn. "One might say so," he murmured under his breath.

"Then what shall we do with the girl?" asked Estelyn. "For better or worse, she has been passed on to me and I would not turn her into a personal servant. I daresay it would not suit her well, and I have little doubt that this is why her fosters have let her go so easily. And there is the matter of her brother."

"Aye, her brother," he answered. "Very well. I suppose we have need of one to welcome guests both to the Inn and its common room. One who speaks, that is," he added with a laugh. "But she must not get the idea that she is in charge of the staff. They might...take offense. She must let them do their job while she does hers."

He reached below the bar and withdrew an apron which he handed to Estelyn. As she turned and walked towards Mellonin, he called after her. "And she'd best smile! The customers like that!"
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Old 12-03-2003, 03:18 PM   #190
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Sting

Mellonin watched Estelyn walking towards her with an apron, and heard Morien call out. She took a deep breath, bracing herself for whatever might come, wryly smiling at Morien's comment.

Smile? Smile!? Perhaps Morien knew more about Mellonin than Estelyn did. She took another deep breath, and another, and then burst out laughing.

Morien glared at her, and she put her hand over her mouth, and blushed as several guests turned. Morien's glare turned into a scowl, and then he turned his back on her.

She was almost fully composed by the time Estelyn stood before her holding the apron.
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Old 12-03-2003, 05:06 PM   #191
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Sting

Mellonin had barely tied the apron's strings when the door to the Inn swung open again. The girl turned to welcome the latest arrival, blinking against the morning sun which streamed in through the open door. A smile, however, did not quite reach her face. Instead, her eyes opened wide as the morning's light was eclipsed by a figure which filled, nay, more than filled the doorway.

He turned slightly sideways and ducked so that his mane of brown hair cleared the portal's frame. Then he straightened and sniffed dubiously at the air before stepping forward into the common room. "Mercy!" said a patron, the first to recover his voice. "Darkness at mid-day! Would you look at the size of him!"

'He' was a good head taller than the innkeeper and broader as well. His hair, which was long and tied in a single plait reaching halfway down his back, was brown as the leaves of an oak tree in the fall. The length of his hair in back was nearly matched by his long and curling beard in front. He wore a heavy green cloak over a brown tunic and breeches held by a woven rope belt. His boots were of some sturdy padded cloth. In one hand he held a staff, but if he bore any other weapon none there could see it.

Stepping forward, he looked down at Mellonin and grinned slightly at her sagging jaw. Then he spoke in a voice as deep as distant thunder. "A table if you please? And a cup of..." At that moment, a grey-clad server hurried up with a large cup of mead which she placed upon a table. Still unable to speak, Mellonin pulled out a chair for the new guest. He sat gingerly, waiting for the seat to stop creaking before resting his full weight on it.

At this point, with the eyes of all patrons upon the newcomer and the innkeeper's eyes upon her, Mellonin found her voice at last. "M-m-m-ay we get you some breakfast sir?" she asked. "Perhaps some bacon or ham?"

The man shuddered as if he had been offered a dragon's venom. "No!" he said sharply. "But some bread with butter and honey and perhaps a few apples would do me well."

Even as Mellonin turned towards the kitchen, a server swept by, dropping off a platter with a half of a loaf of bread, slathered with butter and honey and a small basket of green apples. Almost dizzy, Mellonin turned back to the table with a gasp. Then, regaining her composure, she nodded her head and said, "Welcome to the Seventh Star, sir. I am Mellonin." At that moment, she remembered to smile.

The man drained his cup in a single draught, then answered. "I am Baran and I am from the Vale of Anduin where I dwelt in the North 'ere beginning my journey."
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Old 12-03-2003, 06:11 PM   #192
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Sting

Mellonin stared at him, wide-eyed, and struggled. "Anduin. The Vale of Anduin. In the North. Ah... Mr. Baran, do-- did you enjoy living there?"

He considered her, bit an apple in half, chewed thoughtfully, and said, "The bees are happy and the crops grow well." Her popped the other half into his mouth as he broke the bread in half. "It's cooler there."

"So you... came from quite far north. And you like bees and honey... " Mellonin stammered, and then took a very deep breath and mustered another smile. She was desperate to ask abour her brother, but Baran was clearly interested in food and not talk. "Perhaps later when you have had your fill and are rested you could tell us a tale or two about your journey?"

Baran eyed her sidelong as he finished half of his honeyed bread and reached for another apple. "Rrrmph." One of the grey-clad servants silently disappeared through the kitchen door, and by the time Baran finished the rest of the half-loaf, another plate of honeyed, buttered bread was laid before him, with more apples. He glanced at Mellonin. "Perhaps." Then he broke the bread in half and set to.

"Please call me if I can help you, " Mellonin murmured. As she wandered towards another table, she let her path take her behind the great big man, and she studied his glossy brown hair, which seemed determined to escape the braid. It was much lighter in color than the average Gondorian's hair, and had a curl to it, and it glistened in the candlelight. She lingered another moment, studying his massive frame, and wished she could think of something interesting to say to him.

The door opened again, and another guest entered. This one looked so ordinary compared to Baran that she smiled at him without a second thought. It turned out to be an aquaintance, and they had a brief pleasant chat before he ordered some ale.

After that she busied herself about the common room, humming and occasionally singing a single verse. Few heard what she sang, but the elf could hear.

The city walls run glistening
Round Mindolluin's knee
Ecthelion's tower is listening
To Anduin's tales of the sea.
While in the dark sky shimmering
Gilthoniel's fires burn free,
The Seventh Star is hidden here
On Mindolluin's knee.

[ 7:34 PM December 03, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-04-2003, 04:46 AM   #193
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Estelyn’s cloak, already fastened, though the hood was not yet over her dark head, made obvious that she was about to depart from the Inn. She saw Mellonin’s apprehensive glance as she approached the younger woman and smiled reassuringly.

“You are leaving, my lady?” the girl asked.

“Yes,” the Loremistress answered, “but I will come back as soon as possible. I have made provisions for you to stay here – you will have a room and meals, in exchange for your help.”

“But what am I to do?” Mellonin asked, with a troubled glance around them. “The servants are so quick that they take care of tasks before I have a chance to help.”

“I know,” answered Estelyn. “They have been well-trained by the first Innkeeper here and are used to managing even when he was absent. But do not forget – you are not in the service of the Inn. You have been placed in my service, and I have a purpose in keeping you here. You see, I travel far to collect tales and documents for the library of the White City, but sometimes the best tales come to us right here, told in the Inn. That is why I come here often when I can, but I must now tend to my duties. There is much to be done after my last journey; I must order and sift the books and parchments I brought with me. I would like you to be my helper here; listen to the stories the guests tell and record them for me.”

Mellonin blushed and bit her lip, looking to the ground uncomfortably. Estelyn laid her hand on the girl’s shoulder gently. “If you do not know all the letters, I will teach you to read and write well enough. You are a bright young woman; I’m sure you will learn quickly. Do not worry! Send a message to me if anything concerns you, and take heart – you will have news of your brother soon, I hope.”

With a brief glance to the Innkeeper and a tiny conspiratorial wink, she opened the door and left.
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Old 12-04-2003, 07:37 AM   #194
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Sting

"Tales," Mellonin thought, as she watched the door close behind Estelyn.

She glanced at the elf and the puzzling woman with him, and wondered what story they had to tell. The elf met her glance, and then the woman looked up also, and Mellonin took several steps towards them. But the woman looked away, and with an apologetic glance, the elf waved her off. They were not yet in the mood to talk, it seemed. Hopefully, their tongues would loosen after a little more ale and wine.

Baran was still working his way through the basket of apples.

Morien kept to himself, of course; no doubt Estelyn knew all of his tales anyway. Mellonin's mental image of him consisted mostly of his shoulder or his back.

She turned hopefully towards Rôg and his older companion, and cautiously approached them. Perhaps they would be in the mood to chat.
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Old 12-04-2003, 07:45 AM   #195
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Sting

He had heard of men like this.

Following the shadows, he came out of hiding and crept along til he was below the great man's table, and then he cautiously stepped out into view, whiskers quivering.

Great brown eyes gazed down at him, and a rumbling chuckle rolled down the man's curly beard. "Well, declare yourself. Friend or foe?"

The mouse sat back on his haunches, and stared back.

"All right. Crumbs, I suppose?" And he tipped his mostly-empty bread plate onto the ground. But the mouse's belly was full from the generosity of Rôg and his friend, and he sniffed at Baran instead.

Reaching for another apple, Baran watched the mouse, and the mouse watched him.

As he neared the bottom of the apple barrel, the girl wandered back to his table. Raising her eyebrow at the mouse, she smiled at Baran.

"I heard you humming," Baran growled. "So... sing, and perhaps I'll find a tale to tell after that." He raised a hand to wave for an ale, but one was already by his elbow. "Ah." He sat back.

Mellonin hesitated, but then a greycloaked shadow appeared at her own elbow, and offered her a tall glass of water. She took it. It was lukewarm. Her jaw dropped; how did he know? But the greycloaked shadow was already walking away. She took a deep drink, put the glass down, composed herself and began:

Anduin springs near Gunabad
Then mingles with Langwell;
He flows beneath the eagle's Eyrie
And round the Carrock tall.
Past Gladden, Lorien, through the Wold,
He bravely leaps the Falls,
Parts Nindalf, caresses Andros,
Washes Osgiliath's walls.

He gleams past Tirith, Lossarnach
And through Emyn Arnen;
He gathers strength at Erui
And Sirith of Lebennin.
Past Pelargir and Peres, there
he spreads upon the sands
by Dor-En-Ernil, and Belfalas
beyond the realm of men.

Oh Anduin, what sights you see!
In every vale and dell
The Elder and the Younger fill
Your shores, and secrets spill
Of home and flight, of peace and war
of victory and death's knell,
Alas! could we but read your runes,
What stories could we tell?

[ 1:47 PM December 04, 2003: Message edited by: mark12_30 ]
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Old 12-04-2003, 03:52 PM   #196
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Sting

Nonesuch's Post:

Baran listened to the tune and nodded his head at the lyrics. A few of the other patrons clapped with varying degrees of enthusiasm when she finished. Mellonin blushed at the accolades and hurriedly sat down with Baran.

"Pretty," he said. "Very pretty. I can't vouch for its accuracy as I didn't come here via that route though I don't doubt you have it right."

"You live in the Vale of Anduin but did not follow the river in your journey to our city?" she asked.

"Well, you see, I was not specifically travelling to Minas Anor," he answered. "I've been wandering a bit, an indirect route if you will." He paused and drained his cup again. Although this was his third cup of mead, the strong drink seemed to have little effect upon him. A server apparently agreed and his cup was quickly and quietly filled again.

"I owe you a tale," he said. "I'll give you a bit of one. Not the whole story, mind you. Can't be too careful, begging your pardon. But here it is.

"My people are...private in nature. We don't like outsiders much, except maybe for purposes of trade. We've been living in the same area for a long time. A very long time. Legend has it that long ago we traveled west with other men and even reached the ocean. This was ages ago when the Great Dark Lord still dwelt in the north. Well, we suffered there, in the west of Middle earth, and chose to turn back and move east again. So we crossed into what is now called Eriador. But even there we found Orcs and Trolls and other evil things. Then some of my kin decided to head south and get away from the evil that dwelt in the north. So they did and my people did not hear from them, except for an occaisional rumour, for ages. Some said they didn't exist."

He paused to wipe a stray bit of honey from his beard and sipped at a cup of water that had appeared on the table. Then he continued. "Well, the Great Dark Lord was defeated and the lesser Dark Lord who lived yonder," he said, motioning vaguely to the east. "He arose and evil things stirred again. They didn't bother with us much at first because we...we're very strong. Though later they caused us enough trouble and we had quite a bit of fighting in the last War. But among my people it was said that there would come a day when they, meaning the people of the Dark Lord, would die and then we would return to the west and meet again our long-parted kin.

"Now most among us thought this a fable and even more didn't care whether we ever met up with our kin. We don't care much for strangers, like I said. Anyway, about 5 years or so before I was born, some strangers came up the Anduin. They brought with them a young child, maybe 3 years old, and begged us to take her. She was our kin from far away, they said, and indeed she was for she had the same sort of...skills, talents that my people do. So we took her in, even though she was kind of...different. She was a bit older than me so we didn't speak much, but I know she missed her family and her people. Truth be told, some of my people didn't care for her much, though we never mistreated her. I always thought she was nice enough...clever she was. And funny. She had a way with a joke.

"Anyways, about five years before the War, she took off on her own. She went looking for her family. Then came the War, and after the Dark Lord fell, his people, the orcs and trolls went into hiding or disappeared. Lots of them died. And some among my folk began whispering that our old legend was maybe true. Some wanted to cross the mountains again and others wanted to look for our kin, and many of the latter recalled the girl...she'd be a woman now of course.

"To shorten the story a bit, I was sent to look for her. I'm the curious type and I kind of like new things and people. So I went after her into the west and wandered about for a long time looking for clues about where to find her or my kin. I haven't found her, but...well, tell me young lady, have you heard anything about dragons hereabouts?"

[ 7:01 PM December 04, 2003: Message edited by: Mithadan ]
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Old 12-04-2003, 04:23 PM   #197
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Rôg

Oh Anduin, what sights you see!
In every vale and dell
The Elder and the Younger fill
Your shores, and secrets spill
Of home and flight, of peace and war
of victory and death's knell,
Alas! could we but read your runes,
What stories could we tell?


The old man chuckled, and thumped his cane to the rhythm of the girl’s tune. He murmured the last two lines, slightly out of tune . . . a weird echo of sorts to her own singing of them that made the fine hair on Rôg’s arms prickle.

‘There’ll be no secrets spilled here,’ he said to himself, drawing up the hood of his cloak. His dark eyes blackened, the pupils widening to accommodate the shadows now thrown over his face. The man, Baran, he had called himself, listened appreciatively to the girl’s song. The thick fingers of one hand tapped on the table’s top, while his other brought the apple in its grasp mouthward, to be sundered by one chomp of his strong jaw and sharp teeth. Yes, he would like apples, thought Rôg, watching the man closely, as he applauded the girl’s song.

He turned back to the fire, sipping at his ale, and watched the flames wrap hungrily round the logs, their ever changing shapes dancing wildly in the thick, hot air. ‘Why has such a one come south, Dester’ edre?’ he asked the old man quietly.

<font size=1 color=339966>[ 5:12 AM December 10, 2003: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 12-04-2003, 05:54 PM   #198
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Sting

Mellonin knitted her brows and quieted her voice, lest more folk than Baran also think her stupid. "Dragons? I thought you were looking for a woman. Oh-- Can she--" Mellonin dropped her voice still lower. "Like Luthien Tinuviel becoming a bat, and making Beren into a wolf? Can she enchant herself?"

Baran's eyes eyes twinkled and he said nothing. Realizing she had answered a question with another question, Mellonin sat up as tall as she could, and gathered her wits. "Dragons. Well, let me see. Eighty or perhaps ninety years or so ago, there was a dragon in Erebor; the Elder Baggins spoke with him and enticed him to leave his lair, and Bard the Bowman shot him. But it sounds like that was before she was born, which is a good thing, isn't it?"

Baran smiled.

"And then during the war there were those fell beasts. They didn't spout flame, but they did have wings, and they were leathery, scaly sorts of creatures. I suppose they could have been cold-drakes, of a sort. Is that what you mean?"

Baran shook his head.

"Good, they weren't very feminine and anyway they are all dead. Then there was that... well, in the war, that big flaming monster Mithrandir defeated, up under the mountains, before he came back from the dead. It seemed dragonish to me, in the tales I've heard. Very fiery. But that was male, I think, and he's dead too."

Baran's eyes began to glaze.

"I'm sorry. Perhaps there are more recent tales and sightings that I don't know about. I only just began here at the Inn. Would you like me to ask the others?" she said earnestly.

"No. Have an apple, " he said.

"What was she like?" Mellonin asked, taking a dainty nip out of the apple. Raising her eyes to his, she waited. His eyes were brown, not Gondorian grey, and there was a richness to them that puzzled her.
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Old 12-04-2003, 06:23 PM   #199
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Sting

"Well, to be truthful, I barely recall," he answered. "It was long ago that I last saw her and I was yet a child of perhaps seven years. She was short with jet black hair, quick to laugh and just as quick to anger as I recall. And she couldn't...'enchant' herself as a dragon." He laughed for a moment. "At least I don't think so," he added with a smile.

"The dragon or dragons I seek are...well, I suppose you've not heard of them. Silly I guess. Everyone says there are no dragons left unless perhaps in the Withered Heath far to the north and that kind of dragon is not what I seek."

Mellonin gnawed at her apple, but her eyes expressed confusion. Behind her, the Innkeeper cleared his throat. Realizing that she had overstepped her bounds, she jumped up and looked about. Seeing that two new customers had entered, she waved to Baran and walked off to greet the newcomers.

Baran laughed under his breath, mostly at himself. What would such a one know of wyrms or the Last Desert? You're a fool who has been wandering alone for too long. He stretched and yawned mightily. Even before he dropped his arms a server approached and motioned to a stairwell which led up to the Inn's rooms. Baran nodded and rose wearily. Mid-day or not, a bed seemed like a good idea. He dropped some coins on the table and walked towards the stairs.

Then he paused and looked back at a neighboring table. The old man there looked very familiar, but he could not quite place him. Baran nodded a greeting, then turned away and continued on. But at the foot of the stairs, he stopped again with a smile on his face.

"Where are my manners?" he exclaimed. He stooped and reached down to the floor. When he arose, in his hand was the mouse. He stoked the tiny head for a moment, then knelt and let the animal go. It stepped away, then turned and squeeked. "Well met to you too, little one," said Baran. Then he proceeded up the stairs...
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Old 12-04-2003, 09:26 PM   #200
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Sting

The mouse hesitated, sniffed left and right, and then followed the giant man up the stairs. The mouse had more than eaten his fill for the night, there were several hiding places in the big man's room, and there would be no safer place for a small furry creature in all the city. He chose a chink in the wall, climbed in and contentedly curled up for the night.

******

With a gasp, Mellonin turned and looked at the now empty stairwell. She had forgotten to ask Baran about her brother! Poor Mellondu! What a poor excuse for a sister she was; her brother needed her, and she was that easily distracted, flitterint about and twittering like a sparrow. Daft, daft! Muttering, she turned to the other guests.

The day wore on. People came and went, some chatty, some secretive. Rog and his friend did not talk much. Neither did the elf and his strange lady-friend, except for his arguing over how much she drank. The common room filled and then emptied as the evening drew to a close. Mellonin watched the guests leave the common room, some by the front door, some up the stairs to their rooms. No one had seen her younger male 'twin', or if they had they weren't admitting it. "Tomorrow I will ask again; there will be news soon," she whispered.

Morien was wiping down the bar with a grimy rag, and he waved it at her. "Third floor, second-to-last door on the left. Small, but near the chimney; you'll be warm enough."

She nodded wearily, and then paused. She had no nightclothes! She had never fetched her things. With a sigh, she decided there was no time like the present. Morien guessed her thoughts, fished in his pocket for a key, changed his mind and said, "The kitchen window will be loose. Reach in and unlock the door that way." He poured a glass of something golden and melted up the stairs.

An hour later, Mellonin was back, all her belongings awkwardly bundled in her winter cloak. She reached through the window and unlocked the door, and dropped her bundle inside. But the stars were too lovely, and after the walk she was wide awake. She lingered outside the kitchen door.
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