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Old 07-29-2004, 03:53 PM   #401
Imladris
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Tolkien

As Gwyllion seemed to think that throwing pebbles around Mellonin was not an amusing past time, Aeron stood up and saw that Ravion was staring at Mellonin with a look of confused bafflement on his face. Aeron sniggered.

Kicking at tufts of weeds, Aeron slouched towards Ravion and leaned against a nearby tree. "I hope that you're well pleased with yourself," he said cooly.

Ravion looked surprised. Good .

"So," said Aeron off handedly, "do all rangers steal?"

Ravion whirled around and glared at the boy. Aeron smirked and cocked a brow.

"I was just wondering," he added. "I've been told by many that all thieves are liars as well."

He looked significantly at the ranger. His impassive face did not betray whether or not Aeron's jibe had struck home or not.

"See, what I told Mellonin was true," he said softly. "There is no difference between you and I, besides the fact that you have the honourable name of ranger while I have the name of thief and liar and skulking boy."

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Old 07-30-2004, 03:50 PM   #402
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Ravion

There was a long moment of silence after Aeron had finished talking. Ravion stared evenly at the boy. Neither moved. Gwyllion turned to watch them, as their silence held more import than any words either of them could have said.

Suddenly Ravion grabbed Aeron by the collar. The Ranger was not much taller than the boy, but was still able to lift him off his feet. "You have pushed me beyond the limits of my patience," he growled. Out of his peripheral vision he saw Gwyllion fetch Mellonin. "I have kept myself from saying anything that I may regret. You may have forgotten, but you are here at my pleasure!"

"Ravion--" Mellonin called, but Ravion raised his free hand to silence her.

"You have pushed and pushed, and I do not know what you expect to receive from it, but I assure you that you do not want me to do what my emotions are telling me to." He threw Aeron, who stumbled but remained on his feet. "Your accusations are wearing thin. I have made my mistakes. I am sorry that you have made some of the same mistakes. Part of making mistakes is atoning, and the end of atoning is forgiveness. Perhaps you were a part of my atonement. I plan to end your role in my atonement."

"Ravion, what do you mean?" Mellonin asked.

Ravion did not answer. He grabbed his bag from off of Gond's saddle, then took the horse's lead and brought him to Mellonin. He took her hand, put the lead in it, and closed her hand around it. "Gond I give to you, in recompense for the help I cannot."

"Ravion, you are being--"

"Irresponsible? Absurd? Probably both." Ravion slung the bag over his shoulder. "And an irresponsible, absurd man should not lead the search for your brother. I leave this errant boy in your care. If he gives you too much worry, send Gond for me. Wherever I am, he will find me, and bring me back."

Ravion went to Raefindan. "Take care of them for me," he said quietly. "I know that you are capable, and that you can take charge in my absence."

He took a few steps away, then turned back. "Farewell. And Mellonin, I wish you the best in finding your brother."

With that, he left.
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Old 07-30-2004, 04:57 PM   #403
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White Tree

Aeron's jaw dropped, and slowly it broadened into a grin. Could he believe his good luck? The ranger was actually leaving. Finally. The ranger that thought he was better than anybody else, purposely breaking the ties that bound them together. But if he thought that he was going to stay with this riffraff, then he was sorely mistaken.

"I think you're forgetting something, Ranger," drawled Aeron, smirking a little. "I vowed to be in your service. If you're releasing me from that vow, then I am not bound to stay with them. Unless," he added softly, "you are changing the terms of agreement?" He arched his brow. "That would, of course, make you a liar."
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Old 07-30-2004, 05:57 PM   #404
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White Tree Raefindan

Ravion stopped and faced Aeron, his face impassive. "If you must take it so, so be it. Lying is not the worst offense of all my days. You are freed of the vow. Do what you will." He turned again and left them.

Aeron let out a whoop of glee. "Time to go, Gwyllion. Let us be gone from here! Back to Minas Tirith and good thieving!"

This was not good, thought Raefindan. Especially not in the darksome chill of the night. Ravion had made it quite clear why he was leaving, being somehow of the opinion that his leadership of the group was too flawed to continue further. It was absurd.

"I do not want to go," Gwyllion said in a forlorn voice. "I am too tired. I want to sleep."

"Fine, then sleep. We'll leave in the morning." Aeron sat down next to his sister and stared into the fire again.

From what Raefindan knew of other rangers - from what he had read? (he shook his head) - flawed leadership was no reason to quit. Quitting was a worse mistake than any made be persevering, short of betrayal or open murder. It revealed a worse flaw in character than admitting one's mistakes and making the best of bad situations. Quitting meant that Ravion did not really trust in the warp and weft of how the world worked, that a thing might be meant to happen.

And this, too, might be meant to happen, come full circle, for it made quite a few new things thinkable that had not been up until now. Among them were the departure of Aeron and Gwyllion. Another was that Mellonin and he would be free to move on, and perhaps at a quicker pace, unencumbered by the care of Aeron and Gwyllion. On the other hand, not having a Ranger to lead, meant that they were now at the mercy of the trail.

It also meant that Ravion might be free to search for Mellondu on his own, also free of the care of Aeron and Gwyllion, not to mention of Mellonin and himself! Ravion had been chiefly responsible for keeping him alive when he had had pneumonia.

"We shall simply have to not get sick, or lost, or injured, or overly hungry," he mumbled to himself.

"What, Raefindan?" Mellonin asked.

"We shall have to be very careful to stay healthy, and keep our wits about us, doubly hard with both you and I losing sleep from bad dreams." He stood suddenly. "I must catch him and convince him to come back to us. We need him too much." He strode past Mellonin.

"Raefindan, wait!" Mellonin blurted.

It was not in Raefindan to brush off anyone for any reason, no matter how urgent his purpose. His stride faltered and he faced her.

Having his attention, Mellonin's gaze faltered and she looked to the ground. "Let him go. Maybe it is better this way."

"You know it is not."

She threw up her hands and rubbed her forehead as if to massage some useful thought from an overtired mind. "Let him go anyway. Give him time."

Raefindan sighed. Very well then. He walked over to the fire and faced Aeron and Gwyllion. "You two are going back to Minas Tirith in the morning?"

"Maybe, maybe not," Aeron replied.

Raefindan walked back over to Mellonin. "I have no sleep left in me. I slept for a very short while and dreamed badly before Ravion left us. You have had no sleep, but I wager that sleep is not near you either."

"'Tis so," she nodded.

"Then let us leave." She nodded again. Raefindan turned to Aeron and Gwyllion. "Mellonin and I are leaving this place, for sleep is far from us. You must choose now if you will come with us, or stay here and sleep. Maybe you will catch up to us on the morrow, if that is your choice. So are you coming with, or staying here?"

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Old 07-30-2004, 06:25 PM   #405
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Tolkien Gwyllion

Gwyllion frowned and rubbed her eyes. This was becoming too confusing. Why was Ravion leaving? What was this about bad dreams?

Apparently they had to leave now -- well, Mellonin and Raefindan had to. Aeron frowned and said, "It's not safe for us to split up. Of course the Ranger," he gestured behind him with a small grin, "is brave and strong so he doesn't need to fear that. Gwyllion wants to sleep --" she shot a grateful smile at him -- "so, we will stay with you the night and go where you will but in the morning we leave straightway for Minas Tirith."

Gwyllion beamed at him. She was glad to go, in a way. All the travelling, all the squabbling was getting a trifle wearisome. Of course she would miss every one, but she could understand why Aeron had wanted to leave. She herself had thought it wrong that Ravion had taken Mellonin's side in the fist fight earlier in the day. And while Aeron did have a sharp tongue for truth, it was not good that Mellonin had attacked him because of it.

"Come along Gwyllion," said Aeron, stooping down.

She clambered onto his back, her legs swinging and murumured, "Thank you Aeron."
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Old 08-03-2004, 11:36 AM   #406
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Evening of Dec 22: Mellonin

Well, this certainly solves a host of problems, mused Mellonin as they prepared to march northwest. Gond snorted at her as she tightened his girth, sniffed her as she held his lead, and looked over his shoulder to the southeast.

"We will return you to your master. Have no fear, " she said. She wondered as Gond's nostrils flared and flared, and his huge barrel swelled; then she winced as he let out a thunderous cry. It would have echoed anywhere else. In this desolate swamp the neigh seemed to fall flat. But there was no mistaking the heart behind it.

"Like you, I wish he had not gone, " she said, tugging at him as she turned to follow the others. Raefindan, Aeron, and Gwyllion were ready to go. "But for us, I think it is best that he has gone." Relief flooded her, for a moment, for a while. She need hide from the ranger no longer.

Raefindan knew, of course, but she trusted him like a brother.

Truly? she asked herself, and then gave a feirce nod. He will never replace my own brother. But it is as if I had two; an older, redhaired brother, and a younger dreamer. The thought pleased her, and she accepted it easily, even smiling a little. Raefindan, my adopted brother, and most loyal ally in my search for the younger blood brother. Raefindan will not leave me. It matters not if the others do.

She felt a twinge of guilt at that; little Gwyllion, who seemed so very present sometimes, and so lost at others; clever and simple, crafty and naive, foolish and wise. And she showed very good taste, being fond of Ravion.

It is best that he depart. It is best. We will find Mellondu, somehow, with fewer distractions. He has left us all his supplies; I wonder why he did not take some for himself; but we will find the way. We must. We will not grieve his departure.

I will not grieve his departure.

I will not.

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Old 08-03-2004, 03:35 PM   #407
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Ravion

Ravion did not stop or look back until a mile and a half or more was past him. If he did, he was not sure that he would not turn back.

When enough distance was between him and his companions--his former companions--that he felt safe, he sank to the ground and put his head in his hands. Sometimes he wondered if he had any more sense than Gwyllion, or Mellonin's moonstruck brother. He had acted in the heat of the moment, impetuously, without thinking it through. What would they do without him? He was their leader. Perhaps they deserved better than him, but they had no better than him. All they had was him. And he had abandoned them. What an irresponsible child he had been!

He opened his sack and brought out some bread. Unwrapping it, he stared at it. Suddenly there was no more hunger in him. Not for bread, at least. Perhaps for company.

Where was he to go now? He had no horse. He had nothing but the clothes on his back, some food, and a sword. He was alone.

But was he not always alone?

"Your brother?" Ravion asked quietly. Mellonin nodded, swallowing hard and composing herself. "We'll find him. I swear it to you."

He had sworn it.

And now he had left.

He shook his head vigorously. It was too late now. He would not crawl back with his tail between his legs. He could only imagine what Aeron would have to say about that. They would be fine without him, anyway. They would be fine.

Erundil

Erundil and his horse were both weary, but still they continued on. Ravion would be interested in the news he had.

Ravion was always such a strange one. When he was young, freshly accepted as a Ranger, he never had his mind on his training. He was a very capable young man, but it took a patient teacher to train the boy to focus. And sometimes, Erundil wondered if the way he had been forced to sit down and learn had not broken some of the sense of wonder in the boy. Although Erundil and Ravion had not seen each other in a long enough, he knew that the man the boy had grown to be was somber and lacking in much cheer: very different from the boy that Erundil had known.

As the night was coming on, he saw in the distance a small group of people walking slowly. One of them, a young woman, led a horse. Was that Gond? He looked more closely. It was Gond. But where was Ravion?

He approached them slowly from behind, then dismounted and cleared his throat loudly. All of the company turned, startled. "I see a horse without its rider," Erundil said quietly. "And its rider I know. I must ask, where is Ravion? Where is Gond's rider?"
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Old 08-03-2004, 08:22 PM   #408
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Night of Dec 22: Mellonin

Mellonin stepped forward. "Greetings. You are a friend of Ravion? Judging by how well you know his horse, you must know him well indeed. He has departed for Minas Tirith, or so I believe."

Mellonin studied the ranger, and thought it odd that he also studied her. Indeed, as she wondered what he could tell her about Ravion, he slowly approached her, staring.

"He left his horse with you, and returned to the city? On what errand?"

Mellonin shrugged, and her voice cracked slightly. "None that I know of, except perhaps seeking solitude. If he find it he will do well."

"Solitude."

"I fear we were too annoying for him," she said, and then stopped. Why am I prattling? What if he is Ravion's friend? All the more reason to send him on. She bit her lip, and then wished she hadn't.

"When you find him, give him our regards." Idiot. Why would he want your regards? Why would he care that you even thought to send a message? "Tell him we will return Gond to him as soon as we may, and that he need not concern himself with... with our... with us." Fool, fool, fool. Stop prattling!

Raefindan interrupted. "Unless he wants to concern himself with us."

Mellonin shot him a look full of daggers. Aeron was smirking, Gwyllion was studying the new ranger with the same awe she had felt for Ravion, and Raefindan was thinking hard. She glared at him again.

Gond stamped, and nickered at the Ranger.

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Old 08-04-2004, 01:55 AM   #409
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White Tree

Not another blasted ranger! Did they never stop coming? Who cared where Ravion went? Honestly, the man was better left alone. He was very unpleasant to be around and he lied. Aeron narrowed his eyes. Whoever was friends with Ravion was up to no good.

Why did Gwyllion like rangers? Probably because she was disillusioned about their true natures. She must view them as some kind of man that was above her, when, in fact, they really weren't. Aeron wondered if he should point out that Ravion was not this man that she thought he was. He toyed with the thought a little, wondering if he should tell her or not. It wasn't good when one hled another up above themselves. He bit his lip. It didn't matter, really. They'd probably never meet Ravion again any way.

Well, Mellonin didn't seem too upset that the ranger had left, so he was surprised when she saw the daggersome look she shot at Raefindan when he had suggested the possibility that Ravion, was indeed, interested in their fate. Why the statement displeased her so, Aeron neither knew nor cared. He was just pleased that she had suffered some jibe.
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Old 08-04-2004, 02:14 PM   #410
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Tolkien Raefindan

The ranger narrowed his eyes. "What did you do to annoy Ravion?"

Raefindan stepped forward. "My friend presents herself in a harsher light than she should." Mellonin's eyes widened in anger and she gritted her teeth. Raefindan pressed on. "I am Raefindan, and Ravion left the leadership for this group in my hands. It would have been better for him to stay with us, for he would make the best leader of us."

The ranger interrupted. "Then why did he leave?"

Raefindan met the ranger's eyes. "Because he thinks that he has failed us."

The ranger looked at Raefindan askew, as if he was trying to determine if the red headed man was to be trusted. "Why does he believe that?"

"He accused himself of being irresponsible and absurd."

The ranger shook his head. "Eerie spun sable?"

"Forgive me," Raefindan smiled. "I meant to say that Ravion accused himself of being faithless and a fool. He is too hard on himself."

The ranger's brows raised. "Now he begins to sound more like the Ravion I know. How long ago did you part? What way did he go? I shall track him and speak with him about these matters."

Raefindan answered his questions and pointed back down the path. The ranger took a step and stopped, regarding them sternly. "Mind you, I am able to track you wherever you go, and I think you will not get far very fast, so be sure that if I learn you have spoken lies, I will find you and take Gond, and bring you to justice."

"We do not fear that, for we do not lie," Raefindan said calmly.

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Old 08-04-2004, 02:37 PM   #411
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Shield Ædegard

"And I have wondered for days now how to tell you that I wished to go with you to your father to ask for your hand, and to win him over to returning to Edoras with us, so that he can live with us and thrive there. Do you think he might think well on it?"

Leafa did not answer at once. Ædegard looked into her eyes hopefully, and she did not look away but returned his gaze. At last she said, "I do not know. But it would give me joy to ride with you to my father and ask him."

"When this quest is over, we shall do that. Now we must not delay the others any longer." They kissed again, only quickly this time, and he walked Leafa to her horse and helped her up, then mounted his own again. The humans urged their horses to a gallop, and soon had caught up to the Elves and Amroth. Bella was irrepressible.

"Amroth! Amroth! Ædegard and Leafa are to be married!"

Amroth and the Elves turned in wonder. "What knews is this?" Amroth asked.

"It is true! Ædegard just sued for her hand in marriage, and she has given him her hand!"

Amroth looked at the two who had become betrothed with a faint smile on his face. They had ridden up behind Bella and were now holding hands across the space between their horses, beaming.

"I wish you good health and a long life together, Ædegard and Leafa."

"Thank you, Amroth," they said almost in unison

Nethador had been watching all that had taken place between the two betrothed, his eyes darting to Bella time and again. He rode up to Amroth and stared at him. Ædegard had seen him do this before, and it always seemed as if the boy came away from these stare downs calmed or quieted, while Amroth was afterward seen to smile, as though relieved from the hardship of his dreams. This time Amroth laughed.

"Yes, Nethador, it was sudden! Two days? Four? But they are both Rohirrim and their minds and bodies are much alike. You are not so lucky. Give it more time."

Nethador glanced at Bella and hung his head. Bella heard, and saw, and turned crimson. She quickly turned her horse away and stared off at the western horizon as if something there was of keen interest. Ædegard saw nothing and wondered what she saw.

Liornung laughed aloud and began singing one of his songs. Amroth urged the party to continue south. Between then and the sun's height, they covered much ground.

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Old 08-04-2004, 02:40 PM   #412
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Erundil

Ravion had departed for Minas Tirith? Erundil placed his hand on Gond's withers. So the man was still a boy after all.

"You were...too annoying?" Erundil echoed. The young lady nodded. "He was, then, your leader."

"So say some," the boy said caustically. Erundil turned to him and raised an eyebrow.

"Clearly Ravion was not in your books," Erundil said with a wry smile. The boy snorted in reply.

Erundil turned away and leaned his forehead against Gond's. Why would Ravion have left? It was unlike him, even in his most impassioned moments, to abandon a mission. If nothing else, the boy was stubborn. What had driven him off? It would take a real desperation.

He looked at the company that Ravion had abandoned. "This is odd behavior for Ravion. Are you quite sure that he was all right? It is not like him to have run off. If for nothing but his fool pride, he would have stayed the course. Was he quite well?"

The company looked to each other. "I am concerned for Ravion," said the Ranger. "I am Erundil, a friend of his of old. I helped train him. I cannot help but think that something is not right."
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Old 08-04-2004, 08:34 PM   #413
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Night of Dec 22

"I helped train him." As a flush crept from her throat to her face, she cringed. Something is not right? Ah, ranger, little do you know the truth of what you say. Something has not been right ever since... ever since I began to ... ever since I felt... ...oh, what a fool am I, what an idiot I have become.

The ranger-- this Erundil-- stood beside Gond, whose lead Mellonin still held. Erundil seemed more comfortable with Gond than any of them. And in coming in between Mellonin and Gond, Erundil seemed to come between Mellonin and Ravion. Suddenly, deeply, Mellonin resented that. Her face was now quite red.

Yet now that the ranger had asked a question, she found nothing to say. Once again biting her lip, she turned to Raefindan.

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Old 08-04-2004, 08:40 PM   #414
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Bringing it to night...

As the group reveled in the sudden promise of two lives intertwining, some unknown anxiety also called them to drift onward. Something unsettling, and unspoken, moved them ever forward even as they all basked in the sweetness that had struck between Ædegard and Argeleafa. Bella found it especially wondrous and even confusing, for she had known little of such love and such affection. First thoughts brought hope for the future of the two Rohirrim, who had known each other for such a short time and yet knew one thing for certain – that they were meant to be together. Second thoughts did not come until Amroth’s cheery words rang through the air –

“Yes, Nethador, it was sudden! Two days? Four? But they are both Rohirrim and their minds and bodies are much alike. You are not so lucky. Give it more time.”

Bella could feel the heat and the blood rush to her cheeks in an unstoppable manner as she felt Nethwador’s eyes upon her. Turning her horse in a different direction even as the group trotted onward, Bella gazed into the distance and thought deeply about the strange thing called love. How could love have come so quickly and deeply between Ædegard and Leafa? It seemed as if some spell had overcome them, and Bella wondered if it would let go only after they had wed. If something could come so easily, could it not leave just as swiftly? And what meaning had such a thing, to come and go in such a fleeting manner? Bella could hear all these questions crossing through her mind. Ædegard and Leafa hardly knew each other! Nethwador knew nothing of Bella!

The group rode on, and the late afternoon sun soon began to fall beneath the horizon. Bella lost track of the length they had traveled, and when the last rays of the sun streaked the ground that they treaded Bella urged her horse to catch up with Liornung’s.

“Liornung,” Bella prodded, her voice toned in a way so that only the two of them would hear their conversation. She did not want anyone else to know her contemplations on love. “Liornung, it is all so confusing! Can you make sense of what has happened this day? Love seems to drive this whole journey, the love between Amroth and his Lady…and now love ties Ædegard and Leafa. Amroth’s love is long and tightly woven into a tangled web, but for our friends the line is clearly drawn, and they make it seem simple again. I am lost upon the meaning.”

“I might not be the best person to ask. Maybe you should ask the lovers themselves?” came Liornung’s suggestion, which made Bella frown and knit her brows. Liornung laughed and pointed to Ædegard and Leafa, riding before them with hands interlocked. “However, perhaps you should not look for the meaning of it, because if you asked hundreds of people what love is, you may very well receive hundreds of different answers. But I know this…that love knows not what time is.”

“I shall keep this in mind, and thank you, Liornung!” Bella smiled faintly, still confused but considering Liornung’s last words. Amroth halted before them, dismounting his horse as the Elves and Nethwador followed his lead in quick succession. The sun had long since settled beneath the hills. Amroth and the Elves seemed prepared to allow the more Mannish members of their company get rest.
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Old 08-04-2004, 08:56 PM   #415
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Night of Dec 24

Amroth groomed Echo, his eyes straying sometimes to Ædegard and Argeleafa, and sometimes to Nethwador, sometimes to Bella. Bella, on the king's request, stood nearby, and softly sang for Amroth. Liornung joined her, softly humming, while he watched the king. Amroth's eyes shone with joy as he wrapped himself in his cloak and lay down. Bella's song trailed off, and Amroth smiled at her. "Lady Bella, many thanks." Nethwador and Erebemlin came to Amroth's side, and Amroth nodded at his companions; his eyes gleamed.

"Have a care, my lord, " said Erebemlin.

"Fear me not. I will heed your summons as I have in the past. Only do not call me too soon, " Amroth said.

Erebemlin nodded.

Amroth laughed, and pulled his cloak tighter around him. "I am too eager! How shall I sleep? Sing over me, friend. I must waste no time: I grudge every moment!"

Erebemlin reached for Amroth's brow, and his song mingled with the starlight and both melded in to Amroth's dreams. They were suprised to see him gasp. Erebemlin leaned closer, looking startled.

"Beloved, come; I am here, I am here! The waiting is over, it is over!"

He thought his heart would break; he kissed her, and buried his face in her golden hair, clinging to her. She whispered to him, and he shed tears even as he laughed for joy. He held her closer, tighter; he kissed her again.

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Old 08-05-2004, 06:47 AM   #416
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Night of Dec 24

Taitheneb was approaching the three-- Nethwador, Erebemlin and the dreaming king-- when Erebemlin withdrew his hand from the king's forehead. Raising a fist to his lips, he hesitated, stood, and turned away. Nethwador looked from the king to the elf, and spoke in his strange tongue; the elf shook his head. Nethwador stood.

Taitheneb slowed. "Is all well? The king smiles; of what does he dream?"

Nethwador spoke urgently again, and Taitheneb opened his mind to the boy. Erebemlin had forgotten him. Nethwador was torn by the king's smile and the elf's withdrawal.

Erebemlin shook his head. "He deems she is found. His joy is very great."

Joy filled Taitheneb's eyes and spread to his smile. "Where is she? Erebemlin, find out where she is! We shall go to her, and all will be well! Erebemlin, go back to the king! Why tarry?"

Erebemlin began to pace. "I do not know. I-- it is -- "

"Silmaethor, we must find where she is. Come, we must not miss this chance, if chance it is. Silmaethor, why do you delay? Will the king not be angry if we fail him thus? His joy will turn to grief should he lose her again!"

Erebemlin spun, and his brow was knit in uncertainty, his eyes gleamed with fear. "I do not-- Taitheneb, this is most strange. I do not trust this dream! And yet his joy is so strong, how shall I diminish his hope? I fear his hope is false. I fear this dream is false!"

Taitheneb studied his commander. "What shall we do?"

"I do not know. I fear to watch over him, now, with his joy so great. Would you not be angry if I watched your dreams?"

"Yes," Taitheneb said, and hesitated. "Yet I know my beloved is safe in Valinor. I have no fears for her safety; I have not asked you for aid in seeking her. Would you thus fail me if I had?"

"Fail...?" Erebemlin echoed, eyes widening. After a moment's hesitation he spun back to his king who now lay very still. Diving into the king's dreams, he cautiously looked around.

"My lord, where is she?"

The king did not answer.

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Old 08-06-2004, 06:53 AM   #417
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Night of Dec 24

The silence echoed. Nethwador and Taitheneb watched as Erebemlin searched for any sign of Nimrodel.

"My lord?"

Tall and golden-haired, the king stood beside Erebemlin, silent, disbelieving. Erebemlin's fears deepened.

"Amroth," said Nethwador. "Where did she go? What happened to her? Why did she leave?" The boy would not be stilled. "Amroth, where is she? What went wrong? Why is your dream empty now?"

The king raised one hand to Nethwador, and stood silent, searching the horizon. They waited. Disbelief and sorrow washed over them in waves. Nethwador tried again. "Amroth. Amroth?"

The king shut his eyes and spoke in measured tones. "She has closed her mind, " he said. "She has turned from me."

Erebemlin and Taitheneb waited, afraid to ask why. Nethwador knew no such fear. "Why would she do that?"

"Because, " replied the king, "she has been grieved by me for so long; so many years."

"I thought she was glad to see you. I thought she said the wait was over!"

The king nodded. "She did. At first our joy was great. But then she said that she would wake; that it is always the same; she dreams with great hope, but wakens alone and heartbroken. This time, she said, she would wait and grieve no longer; that I had grieved her for the last time, and that I would not deceive her again."

The elves waited with dread. Nethwador shook his head. "What does that mean?"

Amroth was silent.

Nethwador asked again. "What did she say? What then?"

Amroth's face grew stern as steel; his eyes were cold, his voice even. "She said nothing. But I know that she went to another."

"What!"

"Yes. As if she had come to it after long searching, and had at last made up her mind. Nethwador, she went from the grief I have given her to find refuge in another."

"She would not do that. She could not! It is wrong! She promised. She promised!"

"Yes, Nethwador. She promised."

"Then she can not do this! She must not! We must not let her!"

Amroth turned to Nethwador and looked him in the eye. "Little brother, how shall I change her decision? How shall I claim her promise? She has closed her mind and her heart to me because I have failed her. What can I do?"


The dream-landscape faded, and the three friends looked up to see welcome stars. Amroth's eyes opened, and he slowly sat up, and looked around.

On the southern side of the camp, the mannish folk slept. Amroth looked from them to Nethwador, and shook his head. "Let them rest. " But he stood, and slowly paced out of the circle of firelight, and spent the night wandering a broad circle under the glittering stars.

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Old 08-06-2004, 06:47 PM   #418
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Eye The Elves

The elves lay outstretched on their backs, both looking to the stars in their own thoughts of dreams, Amroth and his lady, and what it all meant. Taitheneb rose to his elbows and watched the king saunter off on his own beyond the fire light. “You should go to him, Silmaethor.”

“Nay, mellon. He is feeling a great emptiness that I cannot fill.” Erebemlin was deeply concerned about Amroth, and he still couldn’t shake the feeling that his dreams this night were not real. If the elf’s instincts were true, many questions would need to be raised. What, or who, would cause Amroth to dream this way? Was this dream weaver linked to the fleeting mind they crossed the night before? Could another elf be involved? Erebemlin knew naught of misguided elves living in the region. Only a being with a certain degree of power would be able to create and fill the king’s head with such powerful dreams to cause delight and then pain. Erebemlin kept these thoughts to himself…he would speak with Amroth about his suspicion once they were on the road.

Taitheneb trusted Erebemlin and knew the Silmaethor would do what was best, and so the younger elf let his mind wonder until it hovered over the humans, still resting in the wee morning hours. He smiled as he thought of the promise made between young Ædegard and Argeleafa. It is wonderful the way love has found its way within our camp. Taitheneb opened his mind to Erebemlin who still gazed at the bright stars.

If you are speaking of the betrothed, I see only another example of Man’s poor judgment and hurried actions. Taitheneb began to object, but Erebemlin continued. Those two have only known of one another for a matter of days. They know nothing of each other, and I believe, nothing of love. It will not last.

Taitheneb was grieved to hear Erebemlin’s cold words. He agreed their decision came surprisingly quick, but that did not mean it would not last.

You disagree with me, I see. Mellon, you pay too much heed to the humans. They will not be here long enough for us to spend energy thinking about their every move.

Taitheneb’s eyes flashed. You’re words are harsh, Silmaethor. These people are our companions, and I believe they are here for a purpose as you and I are. What the younger elf would have liked to have said was if Erebemlin had every loved another being beyond his duty, he would understand how wonderful the actions of the young couple were. Taitheneb kept this to himself, and rightly so, that kind of remark would only breed hard feelings and turmoil between the elves. They were comrades, and Taitheneb cared very deeply for Erebemlin, but he did wish for more for the elder.

I am sorry my words are difficult to hear, Taitheneb. Come let us put this aside and begin preparations for the day’s journey.
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Old 08-06-2004, 08:44 PM   #419
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Dark-Eye Tharonwe

Amroth believed the dream, but the other Elf doubted it. Tharonwe would have to be careful. They were closer now than ever, and that could be no coincidence. The humans were of course much easier to manipulate. Even the ranger, who did not know he dreamed, for he was forgetful of them, had been nudged toward a weakening of the little hunting party. But another ranger had come. So many people in or near his swamp, all at a sudden. How odd. If Amroth searched in dream again, it would be necessary to block his way with an illusory dream, or he would win through to Nimrodel. That must not happen! But Tharonwe knew that his game was more dangerous than ever. He would need to avoid capture.

He stopped in his thought, sitting in his cave, watching his oven make swamp lembas. It was of course not nearly as good as that which could be had in Lothlorien the Fair, but Tharonwe made do as he had to.

He had stopped in his thought because he could think of no reason to avoid capture. Much use could be made of it, were it to occur. Not that he would look for it. If they passed him, he would have to track them and splay their dreams. And that would lead inevitably to their awareness of him, unless he killed them first. It was an option he had not considered before. Kill or be captured. He stared into his oven.
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Old 08-06-2004, 10:55 PM   #420
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Ravion

The stars were above Ravion as he lay on his back, staring up at the cascading waves of sky, the wisps of clouds, and the faces of his friends.

The silence seemed more profound for want of Aeron's babbling. The fire seemed to warm him less in the absence of the heat of his companions' bodies. The stars seemed all the dimmer without the light of Mellonin's eyes...

He tore himself from that line of thought. No use thinking about that. He drew long, even breaths and forced himself to clear his mind of such ideas. How could he concentrate on the next leg of his journey while his mind was still with his abandoned company, with Mellonin?

He did not even know what the next leg of his journey was going to be. He could go back to Minas Tirith...he could go up north again, searching for orcs...he could try to find Mellonin's brother...

That thought startled him. Why had it even occurred to him? He had given up that mission. It was the first mission he had ever truly abandoned. He was done with it. He was finished. It was no longer his concern.

So why could he not stop thinking on it?
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Old 08-12-2004, 12:58 PM   #421
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White Tree

Aeron shifted Gwyllion on his back and snorted. "Yes, you're right, Ranger," he said loudly. "There was something not right. His attitude for one." He glowered at Erundil. "He has this annoying habit of lying and, from his own mouth, stealing and that is hardly the way of rangers is it? But, worse than that for I myself have a few of those faults --" he bowed slightly, a grin on his face -- "is that he dared to put himself above me, if you know what I mean. He wasn't fair either," he added, remembering Mellonin and the fight.

Behind him he could hear Gwyllion begin to snore softly. She was getting extremely heavy to hold and he wished that the ranger would just leave and find his ruddy companion. Rangers were always holding people up, not caring whether they had something else to do.
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Old 08-14-2004, 10:53 AM   #422
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Erundil

"Lying and stealing," Erundil echoed thoughtfully. The boy nodded. "Lying and...you say he admitted his theft to you?"

"More than once," Aeron said.

"This is grave," the Ranger muttered. The young woman he had spoken to at the beginning watched him closely, her brow furrowed. "Perhaps I was wrong to take my eyes off of him."

"What do you mean?" the red-haired man asked, putting his hand on the young woman's shoulder.

"Ravion, since he lost his father, is prone to...violent shifts of temper. I am afraid that without the supervision I had been giving him, he has come back to the sort of lifestyle he often slips into. Perhaps you have seen him like this? Hunting down the remnants of the war in bitterness, because he feels he was slighted during the war; wearing out his body in fruitless chases and then with drink; wearing out his mind with futility. But if it has come to theft and lies, then it is time he came back to Gondor, and with me."

He stroked Gond's mane absent-mindedly. "Will you help me?"
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Old 08-16-2004, 11:20 PM   #423
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Tolkien

Aeron groaned. "You want us to help you find your ranger?" he asked, his eyebrows shoot upwards. "What is this? I thought that rangers were trackers...why do you need our help? We have lives too you know. We don't exist to come at your beck and call."

"It was a request," said the Ranger calmly. "Not an order."

Aeron fell silent. One could not argue with a request...but it still irked him. Why else would two children, a useless woman, and a strange red headed man be journeying through the wilderness unless they had a quest to complete. But no matter. Gwyllion and he didn't have to go along help this ranger. They'd stick together until day break and then they would go back to Gondor. Hopefully the blasted merchant wouldn't still be trailing them...
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Old 08-17-2004, 08:16 AM   #424
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Nightof Dec 22: Mellonin

Raefindan held Mellonin's eyes, and thoughts raced through her mind.

Go crawling back to him? Stir all that madness back into the seething pot? I have just begun to ... to... I am free now. I have no desire to.... we don't need him. We don't.

Raefindan spoke. "You know we'll be luckless without him."

She snorted and gestured at Aeron. "Luck?"

Raefindan watched her evenly. "That's not what I mean. We can't track a two-week-old trail, and you know it. And we owe him this. He has saved each of us from death. If this ranger is concerned about Ravion, how can we discount our debt to him?"

"He released us from that debt. He released us from everything, " Mellonin retorted. I was glad to be freed. Do not push me into that snare again.

Raefindan stepped closer to her and dropped his voice to a whisper; the others looked away, save Aeron, but he did not hear Raefindan's words. "In your heart, were you glad of that release?"

Mellonin 's lips tightened. "My heart is fixed on seeking my brother, " she whispered back.

"For that we need a ranger, do we not?" Raefindan persisted. "And what other ranger would you choose?"

She stared at him for a long silence. This redheaded brother does not bend like my own younger brother. How I miss my Mellondu. How I wish he were here, and I would care not one whit for Ranger nor thief. Oh, Mellondu, where are you? Why have you not come home? If I must track you, then Raefindan speaks truly.

She turned to Erundil with a shrug. "As you wish. We will seek the departed ranger."

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Old 08-21-2004, 03:07 PM   #425
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Erundil

"We will seek the departed ranger."

Erundil nodded sharply, as though it was obvious that they would. "Then we should start off. There is no telling how far he has gotten--even without a horse, he makes excellent time; this is especially true if he suspects he is being pursued."

"You speak like he has been a fugitive," the young lady said suspiciously. Erundil glanced at her. Her face was set, but there seemed to be a struggle behind her brave front. The Ranger wondered briefly what it was about discussion of Ravion that made her so uncomfortable.

"He is a fugitive only in his own mind," Erundil said, "but always a fugitive there. He blames himself for his father's death. He blames himself for his orders during the war, for not being at the front lines. I fear for his safety if he has had another one of his...spells."

"Spells?" the red-haired man echoed, looking anxious.

Erundil took a breath to respond, then shook his head. "It is not your concern. I will see to Ravion, and I will bring him back to Gondor. He should not be out on his own. You will not be burdened with him again, I promise you."
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Old 08-21-2004, 03:27 PM   #426
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Raefindan's group

Raefindan gestured to the ranger Erundil to lead the way, saying as he did so that they would willingly follow him, since he was the most likely to find Ravion. He asked Mellonin to follow Erundil, leading Gond as she did so. She agreed to with a curt nod of her head.

Since Aeron and Gwyllion were no longer officially members of their party, Raefindan felt that it was not his place to make a request of them as to what place in line they should hold to, so he let them decide. Aeron chose to take up the rear, Gwyllion with him. Jorje made it quite clear that he had every intention to dog Raefindan's steps.

They set off. It was a new direction, not the way they had come, even though it was the only way Raefindan knew to Minas Tirith. He assumed there must be another way. He was glad of it, for all that, for it meant walking wide of the home of the swamp elf.

They walked for an hour, slowly, for Erundil got down on hands and knees often, to make sure of his trail, saying that Ravion's skill as a ranger was making it harder for Erundil to track him.

Once, when this happened, Raefindan glanced behind him and saw Aeron, but not Gwyllion.

"Aeron," said he, "where is your sister?"

Aeron looked about him, dumbfounded. "I do not know. She was walking with me just minutes ago!" He made a face. "Well, behind me minutes ago. I think."

Raefindan turned to face the ranger. "Erundil! We have lost a member of our party!"

"Make that two, for Ravion's trail has confounded me in the dark. I may as well see to this other lost one." He stopped near Aeron. "When was she last seen?"

"We do not know," Raefindan said.

"Stay here while I test the trail behind us," Erundil said.

Worse and worse. They really did need Ravion, and this pointed it up as clearly as anything. Ravion would have forced his will on Aeron, no matter how difficult that proved to be, and would have made sure to keep track of all of them. Just over an hour under his leadership and their youngest and most helpless member was gone, drowned in a murky bog, for all he knew. Jorje had not even nosed or heard her disappearance.

Raefindan looked to Mellonin. "We needed Ravion. Such as this would not have happened with him."

"Do not blame yourself, Raefindan. This breaking of the fellowship has riven our group into aimless factions and it was Ravion who caused that."

Gond snorted, whether in annoyance at Mellonin's blame or something else, Raefindan did not care to guess. He shrugged in response to her well argued point, and looked back down the path, trying to peer beyond Aeron, to see if he could make out Erundil's hoped for return. He knelt down and scratched Jorje's ears. Jorje sniffed at his other hand, and whimpered. Gond snorted again. Maybe the horse could tell that something was a miss in their group. Raefindan heard sniffles and whimpers behind him. Mellonin crying again. He could imagine why. She liked her privacy in such moments, so he kept his face toward the path they had walked.

Gond snorted again, seeming more disturbed this time, and moved a few steps. It was dangerous in this swamp to move a horse in the dark, path or no path, especially without a ranger to lead them. Mellonin had stopped crying, so Raefindan felt it was seemly to ask her to keep the horse still. He turned to speak, but she was not holding Gond. She was not there.

"Mellonin?" The horse looked back to him. Jorje trotted forward and sniffed the ground where Mellonin had been standing, then sniffed the air, whining.

"Mellonin!" Raefindan sighed. "Just great."

"What is wrong?" Aeron said.

"Mellonin is missing too."

If Aeron had had a ready quip to comment on the good fortune of Mellonin being gone, it died on his lips. Instead he turned and called out his sister's name, fear and panic in his voice. Raefindan called Mellonin's name again.

"What is wrong?" Erundil asked, hurrying back to them. Raefindan gave him the news.

Erundil nodded. "I have found the place where this one's sister was last with us. I cannot make out the cause of her loss in this dark, though I checked the waters around that place carefully enough, and I do not think she merely stumbled into a bog. Have you enemies?"

Raefindan's heart went suddenly cold, and he watched Aeron's eyes go wide.

"The swamp elf!"

"Tell me of him," Erundil said.

Raefindan related his own experiences, but did not mention his dreams, even though he suspected the swamp elf regarding them. When he was finished, the ranger nodded.

"We should remain where we are, facing each other, until dawn. Do not sleep!"
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Old 08-21-2004, 04:25 PM   #427
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Tolkien

Aeron listened carefully to Raefindan tell of the swamp elf. How rudely the swamp elf had treated him, of his and Ravion's part in rescuing him (a broad grin of pride broadened his face), and finally his suspicion that the swamp elf had captured Gwyllion and Mellonin.

"But why?" Aeron blurted angrily, his hands balled in fists. "Why would he capture Gwyllion?" He ran his fingers through his tangled hair. "Why would an elf do that anyway," he snarled, pacing. "I thought they were supposed to be good and gracious and full of light and goodness," he added in a mocking high pitched voice. "Or do they turn out to be just like our 'good' rangers?" he added, glaring at Ravion's friend.

He breathed heavily. What would the elf do to her? He never should have put her down...never should have woken her up. He should have held her like he had been doing. If they hadn't been delayed, if they hadn't listened to that dratted ranger...

Don't talk about the ifs.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Stupid Aeron not holding me, Gwyllion thought resentfully as she plodded behind him. She wasn't that heavy...he could have held her until they found Ravion. But no, he had to be all pushy and mean.

She rolled her eyes and sent him daggers with her glare. She dropped her eyes. She was too tired to make sure that he felt the piercings in his neck. Sleep wrapped her arms around her...fogged her brain with her whispers.

Dreams -- frightening dreams. She was underwater...she was drowning. A great tentatacled monster drifted closer. His snake like arms clutched her, grabbed at her. Poison rushed through her veins...she was dying...

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Old 08-22-2004, 02:54 PM   #428
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Dark-Eye Raefindan and company

Raefindan smiled at Aeron's protests and questions as he hunkered down beside Jorje, whose right flop ear perked up as he sniffed the menacing air.

"Let us be fair to Master Erundil, who has shown nothing but honor so far. And he has told us some of why Ravion may have proven less able a leader than we thought, and that is a good deed. Come, sit with us and watch."

Erundil secured Gond's reins and walked the horse over to the other side of Raefindan from Jorje.

Reluctantly, Aeron shuffled over and knelt next to Jorje. "I would rather be looking than sitting," he said.

"I would the same," Raefindan replied, "but it is no use in the dark. Let us bear each other-"

There was a sudden thud, and Gond rose on his rear hoofs with a scream. Erundil stood, holding onto the reins tightly. Raefindan and Jorje stumbled out of Gond's way, which was lucky, for the horse came down on its side. There was an arrow protruding from Gond's neck, near the left shoulder.

"Hold him down!" cried Erundil. "That arrow must come out now!"

"Should we not take cover?" Aeron yelled.

"Where would you go?" Erundil said. "We are in the open all about. The only safe place is under water, and we may end up there yet! Hold steady now!" Erundil grabbed the arrow in one hand, and placed his other on Gond's shoulder for purchase, and pulled.

Suddenly, Erundil and Gond screamed together: an arrow had pierced the ranger's hand and sunk into the horse's shoulder. The ranger switched his free hand to the new arrow and pulled, groaning loudly with the effort.

"Raefindan! Pull the other arrow out! Aeron! Grab a cloth from Gond's saddlebag!" Aeron looked up at the darkness fearfully, then furrowed his brow, and dove for the saddlebag, rummaging through it with quick hands. Raefindan grabbed the arrow still in Gond's neck, and pulled at it with both hands, unwilling to give their tormentor a fresh and easy target.

Erundil bent down and sniffed the wound in his hand, as well as the two on Gond. "Poison! Curse it! The arrows are coming from there!" Erundil pointed beyond where Gond had been standing. "Hide behind the horse!"

But no more arrows flew for the rest of the night. Erundil fought to stay awake, but his breathing became labored, despite Aeron carefully preparing poultices according to the ranger's directions. One was wrapped around Erundil's hand, and two more were laid on Gond, who did not get to his feet.
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Old 08-22-2004, 03:24 PM   #429
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Tolkien

Aeron paced the mucky floor of the swamp like a trapped dog, his tangled hair flying into his face, mud splattering onto his baggy trousers. Of all the things to happen so far this was the worst. Drat Ravion for leaving them. If he hadn't left then this wouldn't have happened. His eyes darted across the land scape, searching for Gwyllion.

A snort from the horse and a particularly heavy breath from the other ranger (drat his name -- impossible to remember) caused Aeron to turn on his heal. The ranger's eyes were only half open. What remained to be seen of his eye was glazed and foggy and unfocused. A barely perceptiable grimace flickered around Aeron's mouth.

"I'm going to look for Gwyllion," he said abruptly.

Raefindan rose slowly to his feet. "You can't, Aeron."

Aeron flushed hotly. "And why is that, Red Head? You doubt my courage? You think me a coward like that skulking, lying, thieving Ravion?"

Raefindan sighed and shook his head. "I only doubt your eyes, Aeron," he said slowly. "You do not have the skill of the ranger's in tracking."

"I don't care," Aeron snapped. "I'm going to find my sister. It's not as if he'll be able to find her," he said, gesturing to the ranger. "We have no idea what sort of poison flows within his veins. He could be dying!" Aeron shouted. "So it doesn't really matter when I go look for Gwyllion, does it, because either way he won't be able to help me!"

"We don't know if it's septic yet," said Raefindan quickly.

"What?" asked Aeron irritably. "Use words we can all understand."

A strange expression passed over Raefindan's face, but he said calmly, "We don't know if it's deadly or not. And," he went on before Aeron had a chance to continue his rant, "if you leave us now you'll either be sucked to your death in the swamps or else fall captive to the swamp elf."

"Are you going to try and stop me?" asked Aeron softly, his eyes narrowing. "Just try and do it, why don't you?"

He turned on his heel and began to trot towards the swamp. He had no idea where to start looking...he figured that if he looked under ever scraggling bush, crossed every bog, he'd find her sooner or later.

A heavy weight bored into him, sending him to the ground. Drat him! Aeron flailed wildy, but Raefindan wrapped his arms around him and said, "I can't let you go!"

"Get off me!" Aeron shouted, trying to flip over so that he would be in a suitable position to pound Raefindan's stomach into a pulp. "Let me go, my sister's out there! I'm not going to sit around watching a ranger sleep when Gwyll could be dying! Let me go!"

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Old 08-23-2004, 11:23 AM   #430
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Wee hours of Dec 23: Mellonin

Water, water, get me out of the water. I cannot breathe. I cannot see. Oh, how I long for air. All is dark. I cannot move; tentacles surround me; their poison sucks the lifeblood from me. All is fading, and yet I cling to life.

She clawed at her knife-sheath, but could not reach it; the tentacles held her arm pinned to her side. She twisted, left, right, to no avail.

Ravion could have saved you, and you let him leave. You are a fool. And now you will drown, and will he ever even know? And with you gone, what will become of your brother? Your parents will pine, and die.

The cold slowly seeped into her heart. My parents. I cannot bear their sorrow. How they will weep.

She strained against the tentacles, but they held her fast.

I must breathe. Why do I die not? There is no breath to be found.
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Old 08-23-2004, 04:27 PM   #431
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Tolkien Gwyllion

In the dark waters, Gwyllion tried to push the tentacles away, but she could not. Just as she could not push away the nightmares that whispered in her ear of death and sorrow. She opened her mouth to scream, remembering too late that she was under water and if she screamed she would surely drown. To her surprise, no voice echoed blurrily in the depths. She was not drowning. She could...breathe. Why could she breath? Was she dead?

She could feel bubbles pelt her skin, and she turned. Aeron was in the water, thrashing as he fought the tentacle that was clinging around his throat. His eyes were shot with blood, his face pallid. His fingers scrabbled at the tentacle, trying to pry it from his throat. His legs churned the water and she could hear his muffled screaming.

"Aeron!" she tried to shout, but she could not move. She could not swim. She was tied, her legs could not work, neither could her arms. She tried to swim towards him frantically. She tore at the ropes that bound her but they would not come undone.

He was dying, and she could not help him.

Her stomach turned to ice as she watched his strugglings grow feebler. Finally, as his eyes glared unseeingly at her, the flame of life snuffed from them, she felt a shriek strangle within her, and all was darkness.
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Old 08-23-2004, 09:04 PM   #432
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Raefindan

Raefindan hung on as tightly as he could. Holding onto Aeron was like trying to hang onto a triple jointed weasle, but Raefindan had the greater weight and the longer limbs, and was able to keep purchase, and most important, Aeron beneath him. He waited it out while Aeron wriggled and punched and spit. It hurt. Raefindan felt his gore rising, but he hung on. It was too important for them to stay together. Aeron's pounding ceased and his wriggling got more violent. After a few minutes, the wriggling stopped.

"Raefindan, you big oaf, if my sister dies because you're holding me here, I'll make you pay."

"There is nothing you can do to save her until it is light. You can do her no good by going alone in the dark while our enemy knows our every move. I need to have surety that you will stay with me this night. I need you by my side, Aeron, for the sake of us all."
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Old 08-24-2004, 01:13 PM   #433
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Erundil

The world was a little hazy, his sight a little filmy, when Erundil woke, but inside his head everything was very clear. He knew exactly where he was. He knew what had happened. He was not at all surprised to see the arrow wound on his hand, or a fight going on above him.

Erundil studied the wound on his hand in a manner that resembled mild interest. His head was swimming and his injured hand was throbbing. He felt his breathing become somewhat laboured. He wondered if the poison was, as the red-haired man--Raefindan?--had put it, 'septic'.

(It also bothered him somewhat, in the state of clarity and calm that the poison had put him in, that he did not know the meaning of the word septic. He considered himself a learned man, and it was rare that a word was brought up in any language of Men or Elves that he did not know.)

He sat up slowly, propping himself up against Gond, whose breathing was slow, but more even than Erundil's. Another brief thought: Ravion would be devestated if his horse was to die. Perhaps he ought to be here.

He listened closely to Raefindan and the boy Aeron, although their voices sounded like they were coming to him from a great distance. Finally he realized that their situation was not good at all, and he tried to speak, but it only came out as a somewhat pitiful noise. Both of the fighters turned to him.

"Speaking may be too much effort for you now, Erundil," Raefindan said gently. Aeron simply glared at him.

"I know," Erundil said. "Gond."

A long pause.

"Gond?" Raefindan urged, still in a kind voice but with an underlying anxiety.

"If Gond can...if Gond can walk, send him after Ravion," Erundil said brokenly, interrupted by ragged breaths. "He will find his...master. He...he always does. If Ravion comes back, perhaps he could...could be of some...of some help."


Ravion

It had been hours, but Ravion had not moved from where he had set up camp.

There were two forces pulling on him, and he knew which path he needed to take, but he could not bring himself to take it. His anger and his pride told him that he was not needed in what he now thought of as Raefindan's company. That way led the same life that he used to live, consisting of nothing but vain chases and overnight stays at taverns where he was looked on with intermingled suspicion, respect, and pity.

His common sense and that sixth sense that had developed around Mellonin told him that not only was he needed in Raefindan's company, but that he needed the members of that company; and what was more, that something was not right. He had left in anger; he was being called back in worry. But how could he go back?

It would take more humility than Ravion thought he had in him. He would have to ask permission to re-enter the company. He would return as the lowest, not the leader. And for some insane reason he worried what Aeron would say. Had he grown so weak that he could not take the criticism and sarcasm of a boy? Was that how far Ravion the Ranger had fallen?

He stood up. Perhaps this was still about his pride after all, perhaps it was still about Aeron, but he had to prove it to himself that he was not such a child that he would run from responsibility at the slightest discomfort, the slightest trouble. He would return. He would ask forgiveness. And maybe he could regain their trust. He took a step forward.

Or maybe not. He stopped.

He shook his head and rubbed his face harshly. This was no time for doubts.

He took another step, and started to retrace his path.
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Old 08-25-2004, 04:49 PM   #434
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The soft strains of a fiddle just barely touched upon the ears of those who were awake to listen, and the tune was happy yet sad at the same time. Argeleafa crept to Liornung's side and sat down beside him, listening to the music with a slowly crumbling face, until at last with bowed head she let the tears slide silently down her face. The tune ended at once, but not in an ungainly way, for while it was abrupt the skill of the player made the unexpected end lovely though not complete. 'Little Leafa,' said Liornung, gazing at her in distress, 'why are you weeping? What will Ædegard say if he sees you so unhappy? Lassie, you should be the happiest girl in the land now!'

'I am happy!' she said. 'But, Liornung, I am afraid. I do not know if I chose right to accept Ædegard's offer of marriage. I have known him but a few days. What if it is just a passing care for him, and I do not truly love him?' Liornung said nothing but looked down on her solemnly. 'I am so very unhappy,' she said, and bent her head to weep more.

Still Liornung said nothing, but let her dispose of her overwhelming grief, and when she was calmer her tear-stained face looked up into his, and she said, 'What am I to do?'

'I cannot tell you,' said Liornung.

She gazed at him desperately. 'Shall I wed him when I am uncertain?'

'Of course not,' said he. 'And you will not wed him until our return home. You will have enough time to resolve what your true feelings for him are.' He paused for a moment, studying her, and then he said, 'You know you love him...'

'I do not know! That is where the problem lies.'

He gave her an indulgent, amused smile, yet he said nothing but, 'Dry the tears from your face and go off to bed. You should not be up at this hour.' When she did not move, he added further, 'You may speak to me further in the morning if you choose, yet the best way to resolve your doubts would be to speak with Ædegard. Not about this matter, mind you, but of anything, and to be about him often, and watch him, and listen to what he says. You will decide if you really do love him or not only by looking to him. Not to me, lassie, not to me.' He smiled at her once again, and then he began his tune again. She saw nothing to do but go.
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Old 08-26-2004, 10:07 AM   #435
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Dec 25 before Dawn: Amroth

Amroth paced in a wide circle round the camp, looking outward with eyes and heart. His eyes saw little of use. He knew it gave him a headache, but he could not forbear straining into the distance from time to time, especially when his heart was weary and his mind confused. He did so now, his brow furowed, his eyes squinting, glittering in the December starlight.

In the camp behind him slept or watched his friends, for whom his love grew daily. THey each acted in turn as an anchor to the heaving ship of his heart, so often aching, now numb with pain just as his mind was numb with confusion. HIs eyes remained outward, but every so often his heart cast back to his friends, and he marveled at them. His heart yanked and wrenched at these chains that held him fast, and yet they did not break or yield, these friends of his. They held fast, through storm and gale.

He paused, shed a few silent tears, then walked on. How he loved them. Erebemlin, Taitheneb, Nethwador; Bella, Argeleafa. Liornung and Ædegard and Finduilas.

Finduilas?

There is no one in the company by that name. Who is she?

He paused, and shook his head as if to clear it, but that only made it ache more. He walked on.

Finduilas? Who was she? Amroth wondered again.

The sister of Fingon.

Amroth tensed, paused again, and closed his eyes. You.

My lord.

Why do you say so? thought Amroth.

Since you rule me, how else am l to address you?

Your sister. Where is she? asked Amroth.

Would that I knew.

I knew not of your sister, replied Amroth.

You did not ask. You spoke of Nimrodel alone.

I meant you no harm, and promised you none. Do you doubt my word? thought Amroth.

I do not. Yet I too am grieved.

Sorrow crossed Amroth's face; perhaps it was fated, yet it saddened him nonetheless. You are not alone, thought Amroth.

That much is certain!

I speak not of myself, friend. Many others were broken by her-- as you will be, thought Amroth.

Let us not speak of that.

"My lord?"

Amroth opened Fingon's eyes, and stared at the tall elf in front of him. "... Ere-- Erebemlin?"

The tall elf trembled. "My lord! Rest. Come, lie down and we will watch over you. You must not weaken now-- not now. "

Taitheneb sprang to his feet, and came running. "Lord Amroth-- "

His words were cut short as his king swayed. Catching him, they bore him back to the campfire. Nethwador was sound asleep near the fire, and they set Amroth down near him. Hastily fetching Amroth's blanket, they wrapped it around the king. Then laying his hand on the king's head, Erebemlin looked up at Taitheneb, and there was fear in his eyes.

"The king is retreating. The man returns."

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Old 08-26-2004, 01:56 PM   #436
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Tolkien Ædegard

The party were breaking their fast. Ædegard looked for Leafa; she was still abed. He wondered if something was wrong, but shrugged and supposed that she needed more sleep.

Nethador sat across from Ædegard, and as he munched, his eyes flicked from Bella to himself, which began to irritate him, like a fly unable to decide which perch it liked better. When they had finished, Nethador came up to him, his face nervous, his hands fidgeting.

"Good morn," Ædegard greeted warily.

Nethador nodded. Then he fell to his knees and assumed a pleading position, not facing Ædegard with it, much to his relief. Nethador pointed to him then to Leafa, who had just sat up, rubbing her pretty eyes. Ædegard frowned, confused. Was the Easterling boy trying to tell him something? The boy put his hand to his mouth and said nonsense, making as if to throw the nonsense into the air with his hand as he spoke. Ædegard shook his head and frowned more deeply. Had the boy gone daft in the night? He only started motioning more wildly, pointing intently at himself, then Leafa, then himself and Bella. He could make no sense of it.

"What are you trying to say, boy? Have you lost your wit in the night?"

Nethador moved his hands more wildly than ever, using the same motions over and over again. Ædegard backed up a few steps, fearing that the boy had come down with some fever in the night, one he was sure he did not want to catch. Finally, the boy threw up his hands in seeming irkedness, and walked away, giving Ædegard an unfriendly look.

Liornung came up to him, strumming on his fiddle, a concerned look on his face. "Why refuse the boy?"

"Refuse him of what?"

Surprise replaced sadness. "You did not know what he asked?"

"I could make no sense of his mumming."

"Ah me," said Liornung. "He was asking you to teach him to speak our speech so that he could propose marriage to Bella. You did not understand that?"

The Easterling boy wanted to learn Common Tongue so that he could propose marriage to the Gondorian lady? It was an offensive thought. Surely the blood of Gondorians and Rohirrim were on the boy's hands, for bloodguilt passed from generation to generation, and no doubt his ancestors had been among those who warred against the West in service to the Dark Lord.

"I will do no such thing!"

"Whyever not, my friend?"

"He is an Easterling! And you should not either."

Liornung looked astounded. "But he is a friend of Amroth, and has proven harmless."

Ædegard shook his head. Some people were forgetting the old true ways. Harmless the boy might seem, but bloodguilt was no easy stain to overcome.

"I have put up with the boy's presence for the sake of Amroth, but I will not befriend him nor aid him in wooing Bella. It is an affront!"

"Amroth accepts him."

"I cannot account for the ways of Elves. They are a mystery. But how is it that you do not know this, Liornung? You are Rohirrim, a man of the west. This boy's ancestors have the blood of Rohan and Gondor on their hands! Such a union of Easterling to Gondorian should not be."

Ædegard walked away from Liornung, who stood as still as a stone, his face a picture of shock and horror. If the minstrel had truly forgotten his roots so much that he could not see what was plain, it was a shame, but not something that Ædegard could do much to change. He went to Leafa, who was standing, watching him approach.

"Good morn, Leafa! How do you fare?"

She did not speak right away. Her brow was low and her mouth worked before she spoke. When she did, his bearings fell away. "How could you be so cruel to the boy?"

For a moment Ædegard could think of nothing to say that he would not regret. Had Leafa too forgotten her roots? Maybe she should not be his wife! Maybe, though, he could fill her need to understand the true, deep ways of the Rohirrim. But how was he to answer her words regarding his supposed cruelty.

"My cruelty to him was nothing compared to the slaughtering ways of his ancestors. He bears bloodguilt for the deaths of many Rohirrim and Gondorians. It would be unjust to help him in his cause."
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Old 08-26-2004, 03:42 PM   #437
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Dec 25, breakfast

The lanky chestnut's lips twitched as Nethwador groomed him. Nethwador's eyes burned with anger, and his lips were tightly pressed. When he rubbed too hard, the chestnut flinched, but Nethwador hardly noticed. He did not hear Taitheneb approach.

Remember the words of lord Amroth: your horse is red like Echo, and tall, and truly he loves you. Does he have a name?

Nethwador thought, and answered. I call him wanderer. But he has no name in your tongue. You name my horse.


Tall; Halad. Celegoer, swift copper; ... holds to the young one: Beorneth. ....faithful lover, Bor-Melethron.

Taitheneb waited. Do the names fit him?

I will tell you what to name him. Name him, 'Nethwador is only for Bella!'

Would that win her?

Nethwador's eyes flashed and he did not answer, but glared at Ædegard. Taitheneb waited.
The boy stroked the horse's head, and said, "Celegoer Beorneth."

Taitheneb smiled a little. Swift Copper Holds to the Young One. It is a long name for a horse. Perhaps another name would be better.

At first, Nethwador only groomed the chestnut more vigorously. But then he turned to Taitheneb, and his eyes softened. "Beorneth... Bor-Melethron." His eyes flicked toward Bella, and his eyes burned with a softer light now, and with a nod towards Taitheneb, he faced his horse, and groomed him all over again, muttering "Celegoer... Beorneth... Bor-Melethron."

Taitheneb waited a while, then thought, Stay. Dortho. The one who stays with you; i northa Nethwador.

"Dortho... I northa Nethwador..."

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Old 08-26-2004, 07:01 PM   #438
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Dec 25, breakfast

"Ellon, you were needed here." Erebemlin's voice was like ice.

Taitheneb's eyebrows raised. "Silmaethor, you did not call."

Erebemlin's eyes blazed. "You entwine your heart too much with these mortals, ellon. Your allegiance is with your king!"

Taitheneb's eyes flickered, but he drew himself tall, and bowed slightly. "As you wish, Silmaethor. How is the king?"

Amroth looked up from his breakfast and replied, "I'm a blacksmith named Fingon, my elvish friend. And Amroth is not very well at all."
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Old 08-26-2004, 08:21 PM   #439
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Bellyn rolled up her pack, working alone and in silence. She had dreamt a troubling dream the night before, and pondering over the meaning of it kept her dark brows knit in confusion. Before she could finish her task Bellyn was joined by a silent Liornung. The fiddler sat down besides the kneeling Gondorian woman, his eyes lost in deep thought and his face showing a horrified expression.

“Liornung? You are troubled,” Bellyn ventured, daring to speak the obvious. She hoped that only words would comfort him, because she doubted her advice and ability to help the person in which she had always confided with on the journey. Bellyn remained resolved, as always, to do her best and try her hardest to do what she could for those who had been so kind to her, but Liornung’s face seemed grave and it was early in the morning for advice and help.

“I would speak naught of it, at least until I understand it better myself,” Liornung spoke softly, and Bellyn sat down from her kneeling position. If he will not speak to me, perhaps I can take his mind off the dreadful…Bellyn thought, smiling for a moment.

“Well, I have myself in a problem just like yours, then. I had a strange dream last night, very strange indeed,” Bellyn interrupted the silence, folding her hands in her lap. She was prepared to recite what she remembered of her dream, even if Liornung would not hear it. Bella still hoped that just speaking with Liornung might help, even if it was not about the matter that bothered Liornung so. “In the dream I was falling through clouds. The clouds were dark grey, and as I fell I tried to grab the clouds but they fell through my fingers. Just when I thought I would plunge to my death…I splashed into the ocean. This did not seem much better, though, because the sea was overcome with waves and stormy skies. I could not breathe, but then someone in a boat saved me, even when the boat was being crushed by the storm. When I looked up, I saw Amroth with a raven-haired lady. Behind him stood everyone of our company! It was rather frightening, I must say.”

“You do have strange dreams, Bella,” Liornung admitted slowly, letting a smile tug at his lips a bit.

“If you do wish to talk of whatever troubles you, I will listen, as I am certain most in our company would listen,” Bellyn murmured, standing from her seat and smoothing the wrinkles in her skirts. Before she could turn or move or finish her light packing, Nethwador approached Bellyn. He moved slowly, lifting his hand and taking Bellyn’s hand in his own outstretched one. Bellyn’s brows furrowed once more, confusion once more in her eyes and face.

“Dortho…” Nethwador began, his face looking nearly as confused as Bellyn’s. “Dortho…dortho…I northa Nethwador.”

Bellyn's hazel eyes widened, her jaw dropped for just a moment. Memories came flooding back. The words...she knew the language that Nethwador spoke. The words of the elves...Bellyn thought. She recocgnized the sounds his voice made. The language that her mother and father knew. Her father had stopped speaking such words when his wife had died, and Bellyn probably knew just a little more than the Easterling before her, only remembering the phrases her mother had spoken or sung in the years past.

Doubting her ability to reply with confidence and Nethwador's ability to understand her words, Bellyn hesitated for a moment, watching Nethwador pause and blink before he repeated them again. His expression made Bellyn's heart drop, and all the phrases and songs she had memorized and all the knowledge of that Elvish language left her for a moment.

"Mellon...mae...mae govannen, mellon..." Bellyn fumbled with the first words she could think of and the first words she could force out of her mouth. Would he even understand? Bellyn doubted and doubted, not just herself or Nethwador, but for a moment she doubted everything around her. "Where did you learn this?" Bellyn knew he would not know her tongue, but her last words were gently and softly spoken as some sort of awkward afterthought.
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Old 08-27-2004, 12:37 PM   #440
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Argeleafa gazed at Ædegard for many moments before she spoke, but she felt the tears of last night rising to her eyes again. She could not understand Ædegard's ill-treatment of the poor boy, so in love with Bellyn. Could she marry a man who would not assist others in gaining the longing of their hearts? Would she be left without help at times, when she most desired it?

'Ædegard,' she said at last, the tears forced down but the bitterness of them lingering in her voice, 'what you say is foolish. How can you call this boy guilty, this boy who has done nothing? Why does the guilt pass on to him?'

'The guilt was his ancestors' and it has been passed on to him, Leafa, the same way the glory of our country will be passed on to every child.'

'How can you hold him guilty?' she said again. 'Did you feel no compassion for him when he stood before you, begging you to teach him to speak so he could attempt to gain the love of his life? Did you not love me, Ædegard, when you sat by the fire each night and gazed at me, and at last when you knelt before me and asked me to wed you? Can you feel no sympathy for the boy? If you, Ædegard, sat unable to speak and there was only one to teach you, one who held a grudge against your race though you yourself had done nothing wrong, and because of it this one would not render you a simple service of teaching you to speak so you could have me, would you not weep for that? You say it is unjust!' Her tears overtook her and she dropped her head, brushing at her eyes to fight them away, and then she said again, 'How could you be so cruel to him?'
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