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Old 12-20-2005, 10:55 PM   #1
Bêthberry
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Leaf The Yule Log

The Yule Log

The longest night was upon them, the winter solstice, when a fleeting few hours of sunlight waned and darkness waxed upon the land. Blinding winds and bitter snow harrowed the land outside The Green Man Free House. Yet some must venture out, for on this night must be found a beacon of light as a reminder that dark was not eternal. The Yule Log must be found, stripped of branches, decorated with holly and mistletoe and evergreen, and brought indoors to burn twelve nights, burn continuously, to mark good favour and fortune for the coming year.

On this night, man and wight, dwarf and elf, troll and bear and boar and other denizens of the sleeping forests—yea even a hobbit or three--were bound by the ancient lore. There would be feasting aplenty, and wassail and ale, and tales that chilled the soul in competition with the winter’s cold. For each night, once the Yule Log was lit, some would stand watch over it, never letting the flickering flames abate the long night long, for twelve nights. And to comfort their cold watch, they were bound to tell tales, tales of ghosts and wights and any manner of fell beast, to cheer their spirits and keep the spirits that haunted the cold outside the doors.

So this, then, is the solstice story of the Barrow Downs for this year which marks the half decade of the new millennium of the Seventh Age. Come one, come all Downers, RPGers or not, take warmth from the Yule Log, and share your tales of ghosts and goblins. Weave a new character or wrap an old one round ye for warmth and tarry here these twelve nights. Your Innkeeper be known by the name of Carr Dagnysson.

It is early in the third age, in the Iron Hills beyond Erebor and Dale and north of Mirkwood. The Hobbits have not yet begun their Wandering Days.

Merry Yule to you all, Downers. Bêthberry
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Old 12-23-2005, 03:28 AM   #2
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‘Greenman . . . up ahead, I’m thinking.’ In the darkness beneath the weak stars and hidden moon, the outlines of three small figures appeared and disappeared in the swirling snow. ‘Leastwise, here’s the blaze Madoc put here last summer,’ said Andwise, brushing the flakes from the axe cut in the tall fir’s trunk. ‘Got the three smaller gouges there just above it.’

Willem urged the pony from beneath the sheltering boughs with several insistent tugs on the lead line. His brothers followed along, their cloaks pulled tight about them, as they trudged up the low rise overlooking The Greenman Free House. The lantern lit beneath the overhanging roof winked invitingly at the Hobbits the nearer they drew to it . . .

-o-o-o-

‘Was hail, you Harfoots!’ said Andwise, lifting his cup to his brothers. ‘Drink hail!’ they returned, raising their own. ‘And no goblins be near to mar our enjoyment of it,’ Andwise murmured as the rims of their mugs clinked. Willem and Madoc drank deep, enjoying the spiced concoction as it slid easily down their throats and warmed their bellies. Andwise picked out the piece of toasted bread that floated on the surface of his drink and chewed it slowly.

‘Master Dagnysson!’ called out Willem, his now empty mug waving in the air. ‘Another if you please. And one for my brother, Madoc.’

‘None for the slowpoke, there,’ Madoc added, grinning at Andwise. ‘Though if you’ll bring me his, I’ll sing you a song we have about this marvelous brew.’

‘Ah, you’ll sing it anyway, you know that,’ laughed Andwise. ‘I can see the drink has already loosed your tongue. Go on, then.’

Madoc took the cup from Andwise’s hands and took a quick swallow. He cleared his throat, humming the tune at first. At the urging of his brothers he sang the words, his clear tenor, weaving merrily about them:

The nut-brown ale, the nut-brown ale,
Puts downe all drinke when it is stale,

The toast, the nut-meg, and the ginger,
Will make a sighing man a singer,
Ale gives a buffet in the head,
"But ginger under proppes the brayne;
When ale would strike a strong man dead,
Then nut-megge temperes it againe,

The nut-brown ale, the nut-brown ale,
Puts downe all drinke when it is stale . . .


A gust of wind whipped down from the north and battered against the shutters as the last notes rang out. The Hobbits shivered, recalling stories of shadowed creatures that lived beyond the Grey Mountains and the Withered Heath. They drew their chairs nearer the warmth of the fireplace and the light from the burning log.

Last edited by Arry; 12-26-2005 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 12-26-2005, 12:08 PM   #3
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A rustling and thump of branch echoed in the dark, accompanied by creak and groan of wood against wood as the winter wind whipped around the Green Man Inn, knocking oak and yew branches over the top of the wooden barricade that surrounded the small village. With imagination fired by the wassail you could almost imagine the wood singing along with Madoc's song, providing a ghostly echo to his merry words. Carr Dagnysson, his gimpy leg aching from the cold, stopped his hauling of the barrel into the kitchen long enough to listen to the song. They were strange creatures, these haflings, nearly half the size of the men in the village, but their cheery spirits could be counted on to give heart to others.

~ ~ ~

Outside, a dark shape that gleamed luminous under the moon shifted and lumbered towards the wooden stakes that provided harbour to the village. A large nose poked at the barricade, testing for weakened planks and then it caught scent of something. It stopped, motionless for a time. Then it sniffed at the air, scenting fir pitch burning and let loose a low wonking moan that seemed to be echoed from the forest beyond the village. The shape backed away from the barricade, but then, drawn by the hunger in its belly, it moved forward again, skulking around to find a north side of the wind which didn't carry the scent of the burning log.

And the wind battered the sign of the Inn, so that it swung in a sort of drumming accompaniment to the halfling's song.
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Old 12-26-2005, 03:56 PM   #4
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The sounds of the wind as it battered about the public house brought news to the two tall figures that trudged down the snow skewed path toward the door. Their walking staffs, dark and heavy from woods far from this northern land crunched against the icy underlayings of the most recent snowfall.

‘And tell me again, my dear Mori, why we’ve come to this grace forsaken place?’ The question hung for a moment in the icy air as the wind stilled itself for a moment. ‘Stamo pulled his heavy fur cloak closer about him only half expecting an answer to his idle complaint.

‘Hush, ‘Stamo. Can you not hear it yourself. There are old things moving in the darkness. Some for good and some for ill . . . and some,’ he said, closing his eyes as his ears took in the night, ‘. . . some neither, but only for themselves.’

‘Stamo shifted on his cold feet, trying to bring some feeling back to the rising numbness of his lower extremities. ‘All I can hear at the moment is the creaking of that old wooden sign. Though now that you speak, I note it’s stopped.’ The small hairs on the back of his neck prickled as he too caught a whiff of something other than the smoke from the pub’s chimney. ‘Best we move ourselves within, I think,’ he said low, nudging his companion in the back with the gnarled knob end of his staff. ‘That is, I don’t relish the thought of a stand off with those “some for ill” creatures you spoke of.’

The heavy oaken door swung open easily at Mori’s touch, and he led them into the entryway. It was warm within, the fire inviting as it crackled merrily in the grate. Stamping the snow from their boots on the thick rushy mats and shaking the snow from their cloaks, they looked about the room.

‘There, that place over there, near the blaze,’ said ‘Stamo, pointing to a table near where three small beings sat. ‘If I move close enough to the heat I think I can thaw these frozen limbs.’ He moved toward his chosen chair and sat down, easing his cloak over the tall chair back. Hiking the thick, dark blue woolen material of his outer robe to his knees he savored the warmth as it began to penetrate his boots and long knit socks.

Mori placed his own cloak over the back of his chair and leaned in toward his companion. ‘I’m going up to the counter to get us some food and drink.’ He eyed ‘Stamo and raised his brow as the man inched his boots closer to the flames. ‘And don’t think about pulling your boots off to get those toes of yours warmer. The stench will drive out those nearby and we’ll both be asked to leave!’

With a warning glare, he stood and walked up to where the ale casks stood. ‘Good sir!’ Mori hailed the innkeeper. ‘Two of those steaming drinks,’ he said, pointing to the mugs the Hobbits were holding. ‘What is it called? It smells wonderful! And would you have something for two cold and weary travelers to fill their bellies with?’ He fished for the pouch in the deep pocket of his indigo robe. And finding it, pulled out a number of oddly marked gold coins. ‘Will this do?’ he said, leaving them in a small heap on the wooden counter. ‘Pleasant place here, The Green Man. Interesting name. Is it a local one, here in the north?’ he went on.

His eyes slid about the room, noting the shutters were latched tight, and the door bore iron holders where a stout beam might be put to secure it. ‘Good,’ he murmured to himself, not wanting the terrors in the darkness to intrude upon this haven.
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Old 12-27-2005, 02:55 PM   #5
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The tall man’s question drew her attention, waking her again as had the song of the three little folk. Old Goody Holtsdottir turned her wrinkled face to where the voice had come from. The one good eye of that ancient crone peered out from between the strands of grey shot hair, focusing on the speaker. It darted down the length of him and up, coming to rest with a look of surprised interest at last on his face. He bore a certain glamour, it seemed to her. And though he wore it easily enough, she thought he was constrained by it.

Guðælfr, for that was her given name, shifted her old bones on the hard seat of the chair and looked at the man’s companion. Relaxed as a cat might be before the fire, though like a cat, she minded, his senses were not dulled by his enjoyment of the warmth. And at need, she thought, he might spring up, the mask of drowsy contentment thrown off.

‘The wheel of the year turns in this cold land this night,’ she said, leaning out into the light from her dark corner. ‘See,’ she said, nodding toward the hearth. ‘The Green Man gives us one of his great limbs to push back the darkness and holly from his hair with which to keep it lit. That and the good barley for the wassail, the wheat for the bread, and the fruits of the vine and flower for mead and wine. A good ‘un, he is.’ ‘Though he suffers no fools,’ she cackled’ ‘ ‘Pon you, it is, to keep from the darkness.’

She cocked her head listening to the wind as it beat upon the shutters. Her gaze flicked to the sturdy door. ‘Hear that!’ she asked. ‘There’s a voice ‘at moans in the wind. The trees beyond the village have caught it in their limbs and throw it back now. Listen! Listen now! Something hungry comes, I think.’

Goody sat back in her chair, the clarity afforded by the present moment, passing. She mumbled a few indistinct words over the cup of cooling wassail in her hand, peering into it as she swirled the fragrant liquid with a bony finger of her other hand.
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Old 12-28-2005, 03:20 AM   #6
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'Twas the night of the winter solstice, a time of deep magic and distant memories that had been almost buried under shadow. For not only did the dwarves and hobbits and men huddle close to the fire and tell their tales, but even the creatures of the dark forests and wild plains came together to share a morsel of warmth.

There were two paths that led to the Green Man Free House. The one skirted the front facade of the Inn: a path filled with two-leggeds and the animals they called their own. But another smaller track came around the back, leading up from the river and a vast thicket of trees. Here there were few two-leggeds but, instead, all kind of creatures rambling and lumbering and leaping into the outer courtyard of the Inn, right next to a broken down shed.

A snowy owl sat on the eve of the Inn, staring down at the small assemblage of beasts who had made their way into the back courtyard. Several had slipped and slithered under the gate; three creatures had flown down from the trees, and a few of the larger visitors had pushed over an old board in the fence, intent on wriggling their way inside. A small pile of garbage had been set to burn earlier that day, and a few smouldering coals yet remained to throw out its warmth over the animals now slinking inside the courtyard.
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:35 AM   #7
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‘What’s that she said?’ whispered Madoc turning round to where the old woman had disappeared into the shadows. ‘Something hungry? And coming this way?’ He frowned and cocked his head toward the nearest shuttered window. ‘Can’t hear a thing, save for the wind and the snow as it mashes against the wooden siding.’

‘Well I heard something moaning when she was talking.’ Willem’s eyes grew wide as he spoke. ‘Reminded me of something.’ He let the images form from the old stories that he’d heard. ‘You know how granda used to tell those tales his granda used to tell him? The one about where he and his brother lost a nanny from their herd, is what I’m thinking of. T’ the west there . . . where the Grey Mountains touch the forest. They hunted high and low among the mountain ash and the firs. There were things in there, granda said, that walked among the trees. Like shepherds to them as we be to our goats.’ He took a sip from his cup and went on. ‘Granda said they were careful to keep out of sight and out of the way of those creatures. Not that they looked fierce or mean or such. But so concerned with their flock were they, that it seemed they would have no regret or the slightest reluctance about trampling right over you if you got in their way. And anyway what I was trying to say was that he said they had a booming kind of voice and a sort of echoing moan when calling to their trees.’

‘It’s just the wind as has you spooked,’ said Andwise. ‘You know we’ve been on those slopes many a time, and seen no such creatures as granda spoke of. The trees were all rooted nicely on the mountainside, ash and fir alike. And not a bit of calling passed among them as I remember.’ He chuckled as he raised his mug to Willem. ‘Now, not saying granda’s tetched or such, but mayhap the cider he’d brought for his lunch had turned hard. And its spirits set him daydreaming.’

Willem eyed Andwise and snorted. ‘If granda said it happened that way, then that’s the way it was!’ Madoc shrugged, not wanting to choose sides and went back to considering his cup of wassail.

‘Granny!’ Willem turned round in his chair and leaned forward to where Old Goody sat. ‘Begging your pardon, Granny . . . but about that Green Man fellow. I know you said he’d given his limb for the Yule fire, but you don’t suppose he’s reconsidered the giving, has he? And come to take it back . . . ?

Last edited by Arry; 01-11-2006 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 12-28-2005, 08:59 AM   #8
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The sun was well past setting. Out of the northern woods came a pair of reindeer running side by side, hitched to a sleigh. The sleigh was piled high with skins, tied together with sinew-string, into sacks holding rumpled and unknown contents. A rider sat amongst it all. The runners, of tree rind, shaped under knife, cured and oiled with care, made new tracks in the deepening snow.

The Green Man Free House came within sight. Bright it was against the dark of night, its windows like eyes looking cheerily.

The sleigh slowed before the House. The rider jumped from the sleigh, flinging the reins over the reindeer horns, wrapping them to post, pulling out two feed sacks, tying them to so that the animals could feed or not, and munch snow if they wished for their water. The rider tied down all that was needed to stay on the sleigh, and pulled off one sack from it and slung it to shoulder, trudging to the front door.

Not over tall was the rider, the leather footwear home-made, not very large. The hooded figure's face was hid as opened was the door and light of warming fire shown on the sack bearer. A work roughened hand was revealed as fur lined gloves were removed, and the large hood was pushed back to reveal a face fair and beardless, hair yellow as summer grain and a braided ponytail thick as a dozen year sapling. The jaw was strong, the cheekbones high, the brow broad though fair.

"Where's the welcome for Wenda?" she said with a smile as she stamped the snow from her leathern boots and slung the sack from her back.

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Old 12-28-2005, 03:41 PM   #9
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Goody roused herself from her ale-tinged ruminations. There in some less fuddled corner of her mind was a voice, a question. ‘Granny!’ now who would call that out to her, she wondered. The only seeds she’d sown and nurtured had been those herbs she’d grown for simples. No get from her barren belly e’er got babes of their own.

‘Begging your pardon, Granny . . .’

Her eye focused on the halfling’s face as she recalled his question. ‘The Green Man? Take back his gifting?’ she cackled loudly at the thought. ‘Nay, nay, my little friend.’ Her gaze shifted round the room, peering into the shadows. ‘But that’s not to say there’s not others would douse the light and swallow us whole.’

She pushed back some straying strings of hair and tucked them loosely behind her ear. ‘Something’s moving in the darkness. Best poke up the fire, good sir, and drive it back.’

She laughed again a phlegmy undertone rattling against any merriness she’d intended. Goody held out her cup to Willem. ‘Granny’s throat is dry lad. Fill my cup to keep it wet, and I’ll tell you a story ‘bout those creatures your grandfather spoke of . . . the ones as watched over the trees.’
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:58 PM   #10
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Carr Daynysson trundled into the large hall that led out from the kitchen and nearly stumbled into the furry bundle that was Wenda. "Of course, ya wench, there's great welcome. Come and warm yourself with the likes of the folk here who be willing to tell the tales to keep the log burning."

The two marched past the great fireplace where the Yule Log was burning. Wenda betook herself to a chair beside the two tall men while Carr carried a huge, steaming urn which he placed upon the table, while behind him hurried a young lad of maybe ten or twelve year, who balanced a large tray filled with mugs of various shapes and sizes. The boy was small but wiry, large dark eyes wide with excitement at being allowed up this night with the adults. His ears had heard every comment, comments which Carr had not always heard, given his deaf ear, and so the lad had proudly informed the Innkeeper that his attention was wanting.

"Tankee, Birger, you're a handy spare ear or twa," observed Carr as he opened the spiggott of the urn to fill mugs all round. He handed two to the men identified as Mori and Stamo. "Your coin is good for several more," he announced, "and more particularly your apparent curiousity in the Green Man."

Mori raised an eye at the Innkeeper and helped himself to some of the warm brew to chase the cold away from his belly. Carr handed a mug to Wenda, refilled the halflings' mugs, and peered into Goody's mug. He eyed her sombrely and then refilled it.

"There's strange knockin's and noises outside. Best get on wit' your tale, Goody."

And with that he poured the lad a small mug and himself a tall one.

Last edited by Bêthberry; 12-29-2005 at 07:46 AM.
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Old 12-29-2005, 03:06 AM   #11
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Koobdooga's post -- Egil

Egil raised a hand in welcome when Wenda entered. His deepset eyes glittered in appraisal of the sack she’d slung to the floor. One hand slid down to pat the sack couched beside his chair.

The Glitterfist Hall had been busy these past few months. Beneath the western tip of the Iron Hills their forges had belched out great clouds of smoke and their hammers had rung out against the metals used in the making of fabulous toys. Set with glittering gems in the whorls of enameled color and the cleverest of mechanisms, the bright creations would whirr and twirl and move about at the turn of a key. They were much prized by the men of this northern area. And those who could make the trading price bought them to be handed down to their children and to their children’s children.

Already, Egil had delivered a small creation, egg-shaped and golden, to the mayor of the town. Set with rubies about its middle, it twirled slowly at the key’s turning on its red enameled base, blossoming open like a flower to reveal the tiny figure of a huntsman all in gold as he gave the death blow to a great, tusked boar with his stout stave.

The Dwarf chuckled to himself, recalling how proud the mayor was of the kill last year, and wanted something to recall it to mind for his future generations. His good-wife, on the other hand, was desirous of something pretty. And as their purse would not stretch to cover two toys, a compromise had been struck.

He pulled his chair nearer to the great fireplace as the others gathered about the steaming urn, stowing his sack carefully out of the way beneath it. Taking the offered mug, he raised it to Goody, and gave her an encouraging nod. ‘Go on then, Gran,’ he said. ‘Tell us your story from the days gone by.’

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

Undómë’s post -- Old Goody's tale

Well, then, this is how it was told to me by my Gran, and she got it from hers, and hers before her, and back to that first daughter who spoke the tale. And so it must be true . . .

She saw from the corner of her eye how the Halfling who’d spoken of his granda’s story nodded his head, ‘yes’, at her words.

When the world was young, great stands of trees covered much of it. Beeches and poplar, ash and oak, and the evergreen firs and pines that thrive here in this cold land. And many, many more of their cousins, short and tall; fat and thin.

Beneath the trees and in the glades between the stands, the forest floors were covered with a riot of flowers and tangles of bushes bearing berries or flowers themselves. We two-legged creatures had not walked much in the vastness of these forests; it was the birds and beasts who made the trees and underbrush their home.

Now far, far into the west, it was said, there is a great Lady who loves the growing of things. Large and small, they are all her province, it is said. And some say, though Her lips had not the telling of it, that she sent creatures of her own design to care for her forests and her gardens.

Great, tall beings. Brown limbed and lithe; clad in green and grey bark; their chins covered with twiggy, bushy beards. Dark brown eyes they had, deep wells of brown shot with a green light. They keep off strangers and the foolhardy. They train and teach and walk and weed. Herders of the trees; wanderers in the mountains and the valleys and the plains where the trees grow. They keep them safe, as they can. Still do, though it’s said the number of their kind grows less.


She looked at the Dwarf and then round the others in the room.

‘Woe to the one who takes axe or fire to Tree-walkers’ flock. He might find himself snatched up by long brown fingers and the air squeezed out of him, til his eyes pop and heart goes still. Or crushed under a great seven-toed foot, down down into the ground. For the worms and such to feed on.

She cackled at the expressions on her listeners’ faces. ‘We should all be grateful as the Green Man has gifted us this tree,’ she said, throwing another piece of holly into the heart of the blaze.

Her gaze drifted to the glowing embers beneath the flames.

‘I saw’un once,’ she murmured low. ‘Oh, not the great tall walkers. A pretty little thing, she was. Cheeks as red and full as any apple as ever grew. Soft, white flowers in her silky yellow hair. It was early of a morning, at my granny’s hut. Late spring, too. With the dog-tooth violets just coming into bloom beneath the apple tree at the edge of the herb garden. Milking the nanny is what I was about. And I saw her, with my two good eyes back then, as I started for the goat shed. She was humming to herself. And first I thought there was bees about. But it was her. A pleased sort of humming. And she bent right over the edge of my gran’s garden and ran her long, thin fingers through the plants as were just bushing out. She looked up and caught me looking right at her and trying to be still as ever I could. Quick as a wink she took herself off.

‘Well, you can bet I took myself off, too, ran fast as my short legs’d carry me to tell gran what I’d seen. She weren’t surprised in the least. Just said I’d seen her ‘visitor’. Like it was the most everyday thing as could happen. “She likes my garden,” gran told me. “Comes to weed it when she can. And she stirs the plants.”

‘ “Stirs the plants?” I asked.

‘ “Wakes ‘em up a bit. Sorts ‘em out and tell’s ‘em what they need to know to grow to suit her. Has her own ideas about such things. Most particular.”

‘Anyways, at was all she’d say about it. And I never saw the pretty little lady again. Still . . . always tried to keep my herbs all in order and growing good in my own garden. Just in case, you know . . .’

Old Goody’s voice trailed off, and she seemed to fall in on herself once again. The Yule log crackled and popped, an ember flying out onto the hearth. She roused herself enough to shoo it back in where it belonged.

Last edited by piosenniel; 12-29-2005 at 02:52 PM.
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Old 12-29-2005, 04:23 AM   #12
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The stubby tailed, brown mouse of a bird, a winter’s wren, flitted from branch to gate post to eave of the ramshackle shed, finally coming to rest on the rim of the old oak bucket that sat by the smoldering trash heap. He ruffled his feathers, fluffing out against the cold night and hopped from foot to foot. Across the smoldering heap he could see the other birds and beasts who’d come to claim their place by the small fire’s warmth for the night.

His bright black eyes took in the gathering and a rich, fife-like piping rose from his throat, trilling up with the rising smoke. He was glad to be here, though uncertain what had brought him from his nest in the rotted log near the stream. Something had called him, he was sure of it; lifted him from the dark night’s torpor as he snuggled warmly in his nest of leaves and twigs and bits of fluff got from the summer’s cattails. Something . . .

Flitting the short way to the ground, he ran mouselike toward the edge of the mound where the embers burned the brightest. ‘Look!’ he cried. The sound of his voice caught in a semblance of words surprised him. An otter lifted his sleek-furred head and grinned at him, as if he understood.

‘Look!’ he went on, his left wing pointing to the pulsing heart of the coals. ‘There are pictures moving in the fire.’
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Old 12-29-2005, 08:17 AM   #13
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The first night passed without incident, all yet merry with the thoughts of the festivities. Most of the guests stayed up to hear Goody's tale and were rewarded with more than a quiver down their spine. Yet, as the night drew on, most slowly wended their way towards their rooms, which the Innkeeper had warmed with hot stones in their beds. Goody and a few others remained to keep the Yule Log burning but Carr had been among those who sought sleep. Time enough later he decided to sit with the tellers.

And so the morn brought work, clearing out the kitchen fires and rekindling them, helping Cook prepare the breads and stews and pies by bringing up supplies from the larder, no easy task given his leg. Each year at this time it ached and he remembered Yules past.

He sprinkled the embers out on the pile where yesterday's rubbage had been burned and noticed the tracks around it, most of which he recognised. Aye! Let all animals take community in these dark nights that welcome a new year. He heard a short, sharp chirp. A wren was it? Carr looked up and saw a snowy owl perched atop the shed. Maybe with these around other creatures more fey would stay away.

With that he returned to the Inn, offerring Goody a heaping plate of breakfast buns and cheeses, some eggs and sausages and gut stuffing, a steaming cup of coffee. A reward of free breakfast for each teller! The first watch had passed and the log burned brightly. Would Good stay to tell more? He couldn't remember how her tale had ended.... sleepy old man that he was.
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Old 12-29-2005, 09:33 AM   #14
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He heard it again a harsh rasping sound within the concealment of the trees, attempting unsuccessfully to mimic the whisper of the wind through the swaying bare branches of the oak and the yew. Three times now he had heard it and again he turned, his sharp eyes searching futilely for a source, but again nothing! It was there, what ever it was, watching, waiting, he could feel it. Cracked dry lip’s curled in distain as he shot a warning glare into the dawn shadows of the trees.

“Who or what ever evil haunts this place would be well advised to come no further and trouble not those beyond, least they wish to feel the sharp bite of Mandur’mak! (Hell’s sword)” His gruff voice echoed a moment before being swallowed up by the renewed howling of the harsh winds.

“Now if that name doesn’t drive the fear of Eru into what ever lingers hither, perhaps knowing who wields it may?” A soft melodic voice whispered.

A vibrant young woman wrapped in artic bear furs stepped out of the shadows behind the dark clad stranger, The first wisp’s of fresh white snow landing on dark brown curls. He did not mark her appearance with any undue surprise, for in fact he had known her to be there for sometime, shadowing his advance towards this sleepy snow covered village.

“Arato, ‘The eternal’, wielder of Hell’s sword,” she went on coming to his left shoulder and running a leather gloved hand long the pommel and hilt of the sword that hung ever ready at his side. “ Sworn to Serve and Protect the lands and it’s people from the denizens of the dark, to send them to the void where they belong and to ensure they never return!” He said nothing in reply his gaze still fixed on the shadow filled forest , but he had heard every word though it meant nothing to him, not like it once had.

“Penitent soul? cursed warrior? heroic fool?” She smiled sympathetically as she came to stand before him, her green eye sparkling like emeralds as they found his.

“All and none” he smiled back wistfully, “all and none” he repeated raising a dark gloved hand to touch her pale cheek.

“I thank the Valar that you came,” she sighed, closing her eyes as she nestled her cheek in his hand recalling the warmth of his touch.

“Well do not waste your thanks, they have nothing to do with my decision to come!” Arato huffed, pulling his hand suddenly away. “You know as well as I that they sit protected and safe from the hardships of this world and do nothing to aid in the struggles of mortal men, I want not and need not of them let the elves worship them if they will but men make there own fate and are influenced by none but themselves!” his reply was sharp and betrayed more than a little bitterness that stung at the young woman’s heart.

She was not elven herself , but had been raised by them and had taken their beliefs as her own, she did what they did out of love for the world created for them by Illuvatar and the Valar, too protect that which was given them. Maranwe the elves had named her telling her that it meant destiny, for those elves believed that nothing happened with out purpose and that they had been destined to find her.

But Arato was different and Maranwe believed he no longer knew for what purpose he fought, he had lost much and was marred by the evils he had see and faced and it was for this purpose that she had begged him to met her here. That she may once more remind him why they do what they do.

“Hush let us not speak of such things, the Yule log is lit and must be kept, there is drink to be drunk and Tales to be told,” she smiled her hand gently finding his, he did not look at her but continued to look out into the darkness for sign’s of what lingered beyond his sight.

“If I stand here any longer, I shall freeze!” she laughed lightly stamping her feet on the soft wet snow in an attempt to warm them.

“What ever is out there can wait, if it has not run off already, look a new day is born… Please Arato will you not see the turning of the year with me!” She concluded as he finally turned to face her.

“The Yule? has a year really passed already? He whispered half to himself, shaking his head in mild surprise.

“My Lady I would be delighted to spend the Yule tide with you, if you are sure you can endure my company that long?” he then grinned holding out his free arm for her to take. With a shake of her head and a smile of her own she took his arm and together they took the last few feet to stand before the door of the green man free house.

Holding forth the door Arato let the lady enter before him, then leaning his staff by the door , he graciously helped her out of her cloak, his marred hands fumbling briefly with the clasp, before slipping it from her shoulders and turning to hang it from a peg by the door. He was astounded to turn and see that she wore not the leathers and forest garb to which he had become accustom but a fine gown of festive red velvet that hugged her waist elegantly and gave her a beauty that till now he had never noticed.

She grinned at him knowingly and indicated a small table close to the fire, near to where others where gathered, he nodded his agreement and continued to watch her as she walked towards the small group, then chuckling within his hood he noted that she still wore her boots under the long skirts of the fine garment, the boots that he knew concealed the daggers that had save their lives on more than one occasion.

“You can take the girl out of the warrior but not the warrior out of the girl” he chuckled to himself removing his own cloak and hanging it next to Maranwe’s. His Dark hair was peppered with grey and his careworn face was marked by three deep scars running side by side down his left cheek and neck, but he thought nothing of it as he moved to join Maranwe who was now speaking with what look like the innkeeper of the establishment, enquiring if they were yet too early for breakfast and a tankard or two of mead.

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Old 12-30-2005, 01:54 AM   #15
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The great owl who'd been perched on a bough, high above the assembly, glanced down at the wren and heard him speak. As if in response, the owl spread out his snowy wings and glided to the earth, standing almost at the edge of the firepit. The bird's tone, though solemn, was not unkindly as he turned to address the wren and the others in the circle. His speech, like that of the other animals, was not the common tongue used by Man, but the ancient language of the Elves that some call Quenyan. In his snowy plumage, the owl looked much like a wizard with billowing white robes.

"Has not your mother told you the tale?" the owl gently chastised the wren. "On this, the longest night of the year, when the Yule log crackles on the hearth, all the creatures of the field and woods come together and speak the old tongue, the father of all words. And strange pictures leap out of the dying flames to remind us creatures of what we must do tonight."

A small rabbit rushed to the front of the crowd, breaking loose from his mother's stern grasp, and ran over to where the embers smoldered, his voice laced with wonder, "I see a picture. I do see it. There are wonderful trees dancing in the flames.....apple and cherry trees, I do believe." He glanced over shyly at the owl and asked, "But what does this mean?"

"Do they teach nothing to children these days?" The owl grumbled under his breath. Out loud he said, "But this is the night when the earth comes alive. We must go wassailing and sing to the trees so they will bring forth blooms in the spring and then the sweet fruit."

Just at this moment, a line of fruit trees sitting just outside the courtyard of the Inn began waving their branches and leaning far over the fence as if calling out for a song. The owl piped up and began his verse:

Quote:
Oh lily white lily your lily white pin,
Please to come out & let us come in.
Lily your lily your lily white smock’
Please to come out & pull back the lock.
A great bear lumbered up pushing a gigantic barrell that had been left at the cellar door, which was filled with last fall's cider. He sat down squarely on the cask and broke open the wood casing so the cider ran out in pools. Quickly, the animals scampered forward to drink and soon all were singing quite loudly and just a bit off key:

Quote:
Our wassail, jolly wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail
How well they may bloom, how well they may bear
So that we may have apples and cider next year.
Oh master and mistress oh are you within?
Please to come out and pull back the pin

There was an old farmer and he had an old cow,
wanted to milk her but didn’t know how.
He put his old cow down in an old barn,
and a little more cider won’t do us no harm.

Harm me boys harm, harm me boys harm,
and a little more cider won’t do us no harm.

The girt dog of Langport, he burnt his long tail,
And this is the night we go singing Wassail,
O Master and missus oh we must be gone,
We invoke Varda's blessing 'til we come again.

Oh the ringles and the jingles
and the tenor of the song go: merrily
Merrily, merrily, oh the tenor of the song goes: Merrily

Hatfulls, capfulls, three bushel bagfulls
and a little heap under the stars.

Hip hip hooray!
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Old 12-30-2005, 04:05 AM   #16
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‘Here’s one for the mossy-bearded apple tree!’ chirped the little wren. He’d found the ale to his liking and had managed to down his fair share. He puffed out his breast feathers in the pale morning light and trilled a merry tune.

Oh apple tree, we'll wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear
For who might know where we may go
To be merry another year

To grow well and to bear well
And so merrily let us be
Let every creature down his drink
And ‘was hael’ to the old apple tree
Brave lads, and a health to the old apple tree


The ancient apple tree beyond the gate rattled its sere leaves and banged a branch or two against the wooden fence. The wren flew tipsily to the tree’s branches and danced along the length of a bare limb. Others of the animals gathered took up the singing, all of them feeling exceptionally merry, if not a little fuddled in their thinking.

His head reeling a bit from the long night without rest and the good ale, the wren gave the old tree a last bow and flew up to one of the shuttered windows at the back of the Inn. There was a small knothole, just big enough for him to crawl into and begin to tuck his addled head beneath one wing. The inner shutters were latched tight and he leaned his body heavily against them.

The sounds of voices in the room beyond barely reached his sinking consciousness. But, all of a sudden the inner shutters were pulled open and his drowsing form tumbled inward. He landed clumsily on a dark blue robe folded neatly on the bench beneath the window. Above him stood a tall man, looking down the length of his nose at the poor bird. And just beyond the one man was another, just as tall, all wrapped in his bed sheets and peering at the wren with a questioning look on his face.

‘Begging your pardon, sirs,’ the wren managed to tweet out. His head was aching now from the fall. He yawned widely, an incongruous act for one with a beak to manage. He fluffed out his feathers and looked blearily at the two large creatures. The room was nice and warm. With another large yawn he fell to his side on the soft material, and began to snore . . .
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Old 12-31-2005, 05:00 AM   #17
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Mori paced about the small room; the only light in the darkness of the early morning, a candle. And it near burnt down to the plate it stood on. Stamo groaned and pulled the quilts over his head. He was tired of hearing his companion’s voice . . .

First it had been about the story the old woman had told. Mori had sat straight up on the straw filled mattress and said quite firmly, ‘I knew it!’ Stamo had sighed and propped himself up on one elbow, knuckling the tiredness from his eyes. ‘Knew what?’

While Stamo’s dreams had fled eastward to the rugged steppes and wide landscapes in which he now moved with ease, Mori’s had flown west and he began to talk about the Lady there. A Lady both of them knew quite well. She was a sister to their patron’s wife. ‘Do you remember,’ Mori had said, quite pleased with himself. ‘She made an entreaty, that her beloved trees have some who might watch over them. I’m sure those are the very creatures the old woman and that Halfling spoke of.’

Wishing to return to sleep, Stamo mumbled some affirmative that indeed it must be so. And wasn’t it clever of Mori to have put the pieces together. He was just easing himself back onto his pillow, when he felt his companion jostle him on the shoulder. ‘What’s that now?’ Mori whispered, getting up from the bed. Stamo could hear him fumbling about in the darkness, and then the quick, sudden light of the candle dispelled any hope of further sleep.

‘Best you not be doing that trick outside this small room’s walls,’ Stamo chided him. ‘These Northern men may mistake it for some shadow-craft.’ He sat up groggily on the edge of the bed and gathered the quilts about him for warmth. There were muffled sounds coming from beyond their shuttered window. Singing they thought, down in the courtyard their room overlooked, at the back of the inn. An odd assortment of noises, too. Not just off key in a drunken sort of way, but gruff in a way, and growling at times. And at others as high and light as the voice of some sweet tongued bird. Accompanying it were scratchings and scufflings as of branches scraping against wood in the wind or the heavy-footed steps of some large creature as it tried to move in time to the song.

‘It’s only some who’ve been awake all night,’ Stamo said. ‘Still singing; their bellies full of ale. There’s naught to be concerned about.’

‘Then they must have come while we were sleeping. And why are they standing about in the back yard of the inn and even more curious, how is it that they’re drunk?’ Mori looked expectantly at Stamo, who had lost his friend’s line of reasoning long ago. ‘The Elves,’ said Mori, to the further confusion of Stamo. ‘Who else do we know who speak Quenya?’

Mori’s hands were now on the latch that held closed the inner shutters of their window. Stamo had risen, too, curious now about his friend’s statements. He’d wrapped the top quilt from the bed about him in an attempt to keep away the cold. His eyes went wide at the small feathered form that fell in with a plop! onto his folded robe as Mori pulled the shutters open. And even more his surprise when the tiny wren opened his beak and made excuses for his sudden entrance.

‘The bird is talking!’ Stamo stuttered his gaze fixed on the now snoring form.

‘And quite drunk, by the smell of him,’ Mori added, his nose wrinkling at the sour odor of old ale upon the wren’s feathers. ‘Get dressed,’ he went on, scooping the inert form into his large hand. He tucked it carefully into the sleeve of his robe and motioned for Stamo to follow him down stairs.

The two made their way out of doors and round to the back of the inn. The trees about the area looked all in their place and round the warmth of the refuse heap were a few small animals poking about for scraps, or just huddling near the warmth of the coals. An overturned barrel lay near a broken down shed, empty of the ale it once held. And there, on the spine of the shack’s tattered roof, perched a snowy white owl, his great golden eyes staring at the two tall men who were just entering the courtyard proper.

‘Greetings, my friends!’ Mori called out gently in Quenya to the curious assembly. There were scuffling sounds as if others lurked in the shadows about the yard or beyond the yard among the trees. He scooped the still sleeping form of the wren from within his sleeve and held it out on his palm. The poor little bird appeared dead, so still was he. ‘Are you missing one of your number, perhaps?’
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Old 01-01-2006, 03:40 AM   #18
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Willem was the first of the Hobbits down the stairs to the common room. ‘Bring us a plate of buns and cheese and eggs, if they have them,’ said Madoc from beneath his layers of quilts. ‘And tea, hot tea and plenty of it with honey.’ He snuggled down deep into his nest, mumbling how it was too cold to get up yet.

‘And sausages!’ came Andwise’s voice. ‘Or at least some rashers of bacon.’ His voice was less loud in its requests. He’d tipped a few too many cups las evening, and his head pounded with the effort of too much movement or too loud noises. They’d both been snoring again by the time Willem had finished tucking his shirt into his breeches and ran his fingers as a comb through his hair.

Standing on the last stair, Willem looked about the room. There, near the fire, was the old woman who’d told that wonderful story. She hadn’t moved an inch, he thought, since last he’d seen her.

‘Granny,’ he said, coming to stand at the edge of the small table on which her plate of food had been set. ‘I just wanted to thank you for the tale you told last night.’ He pulled out a chair and sidled onto it, his legs swinging freely off the ground. I hope you don’t mind me sitting here with you. The fire is nice and warm, feels good against my feet.’

He eyed her heaping plate of food, and his belly began to grumble quite loudly. It was Madoc who carried their coin, and he chided himself for forgetting to get some from the little leather pouch Madoc had left on the chest in their room.

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Old 01-01-2006, 03:29 PM   #19
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‘Your belly’s as loud as a sky full of thunder!’ Goody chortled as she looked at her tablemate. Her knobby fingers cradled the cup of hot, strong coffee, as much for the warmth of it as for the drinking. ‘Don’t fancy naught but a hot drink of a morning any more,’ she went on. ‘Like as not, cook will be shaking her finger at me if she comes out and finds her good food gone cold.’

She eyed Willem and nodded her head. ‘Don’t suppose you could help an old woman out, could you?’ She nudged the plate of still steaming food toward his side of the table. ‘I’ve a mind to sit here and watch the fire burn into the new year. Keep me company for a bit and give us a tale of your own. I’ll trade this heap of savories for a heap of words from you.’ She pushed the plate right under his nose. ‘And what’s your name, lad. Let’s start with that. My name’s Guðælfr Holtsdottir. Old Goody, to most. But you can call me Granny if you wish. Seems respectful enough from your lips.’

In the fireplace, the flames drew down and she leaned forward to push the great log in just a little further. ‘Now tell me a tale, sir. And one I’ve not heard, if you can.’ She poked at the coals, pushing them about the unburnt wood. ‘Old Goody’s herbs are sleeping this time of year; so there’ll be no gathering of them to ease the aches and pains. And so she’s gone to gathering words,’ she crooned softly to herself. ‘So as to ease the spirit.’

‘Go on now, lad,’ she urged him once again, her gaze coming round to fix on him. ‘Eat your breakfast. And give Old Goody a tale.’
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Old 01-01-2006, 09:48 PM   #20
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Wenda roused herself and struggled out of the straw filled bedding. She threw her furs over her agile girth, her boots on her feet, and went out to her reindeer, making sure of their care before seeing to her own. Then she went inside.

As she came inside, she overheard the old crone whose tale she'd listened to eagerly. "Go on now, lad. Eat your breakfast. And give Old Goody a tale."

She was speaking to one of the three halflings, the first for his first breakfast, seemingly.

"Aye!" said Wenda. "I'd like to hear a good tale from a halfling after the dire whisperings I've heard before I got here. Then if you like I'll give you a taste of what I've heard."

This far to the north, the sun came close to never rising for weeks at a time each year. Those were chilling times to soul as much as bone, and Wenda had heard enough to chill her own soul for three winters running back to back, 'may whatever gods that oversee such things ne'er let such come' she said to herself.

Wenda sat nigh to the pair but at a different table, not wanting to go where she'd not been invited. The yule log's fire was heating her well enough where she sat.
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Old 01-02-2006, 03:09 AM   #21
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‘Go ahead, m’am,’ Willem said, looking over to where Wenda had sat down. ‘Go ahead and tell us your news.’ He looked at the generous helping of breakfast Goody had given him. ‘I think I’ll be busy with this for a while. And besides, I don’t know too many real tales. A poem or two and some things my granda told me. I can always tell you one later . . . if that’s all right with you Granny.’

He stood up from his chair and pulled one out for Wenda. ‘Would you like to sit with us, m’am?’ he asked. ‘Easier to talk if you’re sitting nearer.’ He looked at Goody, but she had gone back to poking at the fire, her cup of coffee forgotten on the table.

Willem sat back down, figuring Wenda would come to sit if she wished. His eyes took in the feast before him; he hardly knew where to begin. He picked up the spoon Goody had passed over to him, and began shoveling up the eggs. Halfway through he broke one of the buns in two and used it as a scoop so that not a morsel was wasted. The sausages came next, stuffed in a second bun, and after them the savory scoop of gut pudding. Willem took a deep breath once the last bite was swallowed and pushed himself back from the table.

‘Sorry,’ he said, pushing the plate away from him. ‘I just don’t think I can squeeze in even one piece of that cheese.’ He pursed his lips as if reconsidering. ‘Well, not right now, at least,’ he said, pulling the plate back toward him. He picked up the last bun and stuffed it with the cheese. ‘I’ll just save it for later.’
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Old 01-02-2006, 07:11 AM   #22
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Wenda thanked Willem for his offer, and joined him and Goody at table. She smiled to herself as Willem battled with himself over the last morsel of cheese.

"You're wanting to hear news?" she asked. Encouraged by her two table mates, Wenda went on. "It's best such tales as I have to tell, be told while the sun's on the snow."

Carr Dagnysson came up and placed a hot mug of mulled cider on the table before Wenda. She thanked him well for it, and asked after some eggs and bread and rashers of hogflesh.

"I've no coin, as you might suspect, but I've furs that might serve in their stead, if you take my meaning, Master Dagnysson." Carr tipped his head, considering, and told her he'd talk business later.

If he'd rather have me earn my keep by scullery or some such, so be it as long as I've a roof over my head and walls to keep the unwights out, she said to herself. The howling wind made the walls moan and crack, and Wenda suppressed a shiver.

"I go far north of here where the sun shines not for days and days uncounted, where I get me the white fur from bears, seals, and hares, or the harsh matting of the big tusker. Nay, I never have brought one down alone. I follow the wolf packs and scare them from their kill long enough to cut away the fur. They like it not and threaten my hide or that of my deers often enough, but they like not the taste of my spear and arrows and keep their distance.

"Anyway, it came on dusk and I was still working the skin off a tusker, when the growling of the wolves changed to whimpers of fear and they slunk away. What, I ask myself, might put fear into the wolves more than me? I looked around thinking I might find a hungry bear or worse."

Wenda stopped to take a sip from her mulled cider.

"Worse it was, and the hairs on my neck hackled. It was there and it wasn't, this shadow, as if it was made of the dusk and the wind. No troll nor warg nor orc was this, and I thought I was dead or soon to be. I ran, leaving the skin uncut, pulling my deers along with me. Once I got me under some firs, I looked back. The shadow had settle itself over the felled beast. And I saw it rise, a fell light in its eyes, its skin hanging off it where I'd cut, and it started walking toward me. I fled."

Wenda broke off and looked at the door, as if making sure it was closed, as she sipped more of her cider.

"When did this happen?" asked Willem.

"Four nights back," Wenda replied. "To this place I fled, straight. May it keep fell beasts without."
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Old 01-02-2006, 04:32 PM   #23
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Egil’s ears pricked up as Wenda spoke. The Dwarf’s brow furrowed at her tale of a shadow and fell beasts. ‘Did it follow you, lass?’ he asked, drawing near to the table so as to hear the last of her words. ‘And the shadow you spoke of, could you tell if it followed after? And how far?’

‘Sorry to listen in,’ he said to the three at the table. ‘But I’m traveling further north once the snow lets up a little. There’s a small settlement of men just north of the withered heath I’ve some business with. Were you near there or passed through at all?’
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Old 01-02-2006, 08:31 PM   #24
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Arato and Maranwe now sat at the small table she had first pointed out on their arrival, it was close enough to the fire to share in it’s warmth and glow, but not yet close enough that it’s heat would fuel their weariness and bring them to sleep too soon. While it was true that they had not slept that night, neither looked for rest, both accustomed to rationing sleep as was their need in the paths they each chose to tread. Besides they had only just arrived and it would be rude to not sit awhile, they had both reasoned silently. As luck had had it they had arrived just as breakfast had begun being served. Once introduced to the Innkeeper, Carr Dagnysson and the procurement of bed and board agreed upon and coin exchanged, the innkeeper had seen to it that both the breakfast and mead requested was brought to them.

As he ate Arato listened to Mara, (he oft shortened her name thinking it less elvish than the full name given her) as she describe how dark things had been said to have taken up residence in the woodlands of her adoptive parents homelands, explaining that that was where she had been for the past several months. She off course had no need to explain herself to anyone least of all him, but he let her continue regardless, understanding that she sometimes needed to talk things through to either sort them out in her own head or to get another’s fresh objective.

“And did you find anything interesting?” he asked casually, before removing another mouthful of fluffy, yellow eggs from his fork.

“No, not at first ,” she answered after swallowing a morsel of her own breakfast, “the usual, dangers of the woods off course, Wild bears and other forest dwellers, a bandit or two chancing their luck on the forest road, but nothing to cause any undue alarm. In fact I was all for giving up and turning back when I noticed the branches of the trees above my head shaking,”

“Not Just the wind then?” Ataro asked nonchalantly, waving his fork before him as he spoke.

“No the Autumn winds blew northwards yet the branches above my head pulled south, Strange I thought to myself.”

“Strange, indeed.” Ataro replied, his fork forgotten halfway to his mouth and his left brow raised in contemplation, his interest now truly captured as he waited for Mara to continue.

“So I followed the pull and as I walked I became aware in the fading light that several of the trees where connected by a fine thread of some sort and the further south I went the more of this fine thread was to be found. But not just stretched from tree to tree no it was woven,”

“Like spider webs?” Arato interrupted astounded at what she was implying.

“Yes and that is exactly what they were and as soon as I realised it I was most anxious to get myself and the two elven hunters with me out of there. That’s when we heard it, the clicking a horrible sound never before heard in the greenwood. It sent chills down my very spine and as we executed a hasty retreat I could feel the pull of many hungry eyes watching our every move, it was too much for one of my companions and he ran blindly forwards into one of the webs…” Pausing for a moment to wet her lips and a tightness in her throat with the mead in her tankard, Arato noted a light of sadness in her eyes.

“Did you manage to free him?” he asked quietly as she again set down her Tankard.

“I did,” she nodded. “But not without cost, as I hacked at the sticky threads that held him fast I set my other companion to keep watch for the thing that followed…no hunted us. The clicking sound grew louder and louder as I worked hastily to loosen the hunter from his sticky prison, but as he finally fell free it all went quiet not a natural silence mind you but the deathly sort. ‘Do you think it’s gone’ the freed hunter ask me, but before I could answer a scream from the direction of other hunter who I had sent to watch gave us our answer. We both ran to his aid, but there was no trace of him, he was simply gone. We searched for hours but found nothing but half eaten animal carcasses and bones, some of them not only animals which stole what little hope we had. As the clicking sounds return it became too dangerous to stay so we were forced to leave and report what we had found to the elven king.”

Arato did not miss her sigh at the mention of the elven king, “let me guess !” he sighed shaking his head, “ the danger was too far south to be of concern to the elves and that he would warn his people not wander so far south and he would set patrols to watch the borders!” With an aspirated sigh she nodded that his assumptions were corrected and braced herself for another rebuke from the seasoned warrior about how elves thought of none but themselves, but she knew this was not true, they had their reasons for closing themselves off, just as Arato himself did from time to time. However no rebuke came and they finished off their breakfast in silence, listening only to the crackle of the yule log as it burned and the sound of low voices around them.

His hunger sated and his thirst quenched Arato took out a long wooden pipe and a small leather pouch and proceeded to pack the bowl with a dark brown weed, that smelled particularly earthy as he lit it, he puffed gently and blew out a thin line of white smoke that curled about his head for a moment before floating up towards the rafters. Leaning back in his chair and wondering if anyone would noticed if he closed his eyes for only a moment, he began to hear snippets of the conversation going on at the table next to them.

Quote:
"Worse it was, and the hairs on my neck hackled. It was there and it wasn't, this shadow, as if it was made of the dusk and the wind. No troll nor warg nor orc was this, and I thought I was dead or soon to be. I ran, leaving the skin uncut, pulling my deers along with me. Once I got me under some firs, I looked back. The shadow had settle itself over the felled beast. And I saw it rise, a fell light in its eyes, its skin hanging off it where I'd cut, and it started walking toward me. I fled."
At this Arato was suddenly aroused from his relaxed stooper and pulling the pipe from between his teeth he quite suddenly reached across the table to pull Maranwe forwards. “ouch!” she gasped as the needle she had taken out to mend a pair of torn breeches pricked her finger.

“Avathar!” he whispered his eyes widening, ignoring her scowl as she put down both the needle and breeches and sucked on her now bleeding thumb.

“Avathar!” she whispered back surprised, taking her thumb from her mouth.

“Yes, Avathar” he repeated looking back at the table behind him.

Maranwe frowned not quite understanding, “There is no Avathar here?” she whispered.

“No ,off course not” Arato replied turning back as he realised that she could not have possibly heard what the young woman had said.

“The young woman at the table behind me, claims to have seen one!” he whispered he eyes narrowing in contemplation of what this could mean, if anything at all.

“Are you sure Arato that is not simply another fireside tale told to make the fire of the yule log seem more inviting and preferable to the cold dark shadows of these long nights?” Maranwe smiled affectionately.

“Perhaps” Arato shrugged, now feeling a little silly for assuming the strangers words to be truth. “But isn’t it true also that many stories are built from truths?” he grinned back unable to entirely admit defeat.

Realising now that Arato would not be satisfied until he learned if there was any truth in this matter, she conceded, packing away her needle and thread into a small leather pouch that hung from her waist and folding the half mended breeches into her pack, she rose.

“Well do you want to learn the truth of this matter or not?” she grinned at the sudden surprised look on her companions face, then grinning back he too rose. But as they turned to ask weather the table would mind if they joined them they where beaten to it by a rather unsettled Dwarf, enquiring as to weather the young woman had been followed by her shadow!

Maranwe almost laughed as the thought of the young woman being chased by her own shadow suddenly popped into her mind, but she bit it back as Arato glared at her smugly, as if to say, see I’m not the only one to hear what I heard said and take it as truth.

“Excuse us we are sorry to interrupt but my friend Arato here was intrigued by your little tale and wondered if we might join you?” Maranwe enquired politely of the small group.

“Intrigued!” the hobbit at the table replied eyeing Arato with astonishment, his gaze lingering briefly on the scared face. But Arato simply smiled giving the hobbit a short courteous nod of his head.

“Off course you are welcome to join us,” the older woman replied to their request, gesturing to Arato that he might wish to pull up the other table to accommodate their increase in numbers. Which he did with little effort or trouble.

Once they were all seated the dwarf again asked the young woman if she had been followed. Maranwe sat back in her chair waiting to hear how this story would unfold, but from the look in the young skinners eyes Arato had already decided that this was no mere tale and he was as interested as the dwarf to learn if it had followed her out of the north, but for entirely different reasons.

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Old 01-03-2006, 03:39 AM   #25
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"Let go of him, you brute. That's my friend. What have you done? Let go, I say."

In a single instant, before the owl or any of the more senior creatures could properly respond to the tall figure in the sweeping robes, a sparrow had fluttered into the middle of the circle and landed on Mori's left shoulder. The tiny creature squawked his indignation and began pecking at whatever lay hidden under the folds of the robe. The sparrow seemed singularly intent on rescuing his young friend from what he perceived as certain doom.

"Enough! Enough!" blustered the Owl. "We have distinguished guests, and this is the way you treat them?" He glared over at the sparrow, until the little bird cowered, trembling under the stern gaze. Then the Owl continued in a gentler voice, "Your friend is fine. He will wake soon enough. He has had a drop too much from the cask."

The Owl hooted out an order or two, and four mice scurried over from the edge of the courtyard, carrying soft grass and leaves in their mouths, piling these on top of a rocky crag to make a snug nest for the sleeping wren. "He will be fine there for a moment," the Owl explained, as Mori deposited the bird in the tiny bed. "and you, sparrow, may keep an eye on him."

The Owl waited for the tall figure to rise from the ground, and then turned towards him, nodding his head in a respectful manner. "You speak the old tongue." Owl noted with surprize. "I do not believe we have ever met but I have heard tales of men from ages past who possessed great power and knowledge. Perhaps you and your friends belong to such an order? My cousin Archimedes was privy to one who was clad in brown robes. This two-legged often spoke with the creatures of the woodlands and the plains. He seemed to know all their ways and tongues. It was quite extraordinary. And, oh, the stories he could tell..... 'Twas enough to warm the heart even on the coldest night."

Owl sighed and hung his head. Then he stared over at Mori and mumbled under his breath, speaking as much to himself as the two visitors, "Perhaps you would be willing.... Yes, that is a fine idea, though I shouldn't impose. Still, it seems a pity to pass up such a chance without at least asking....."

Raising his head again, the Owl now addressed Mori directly, "You wouldn't happen to know any stories now? Perhaps a tale or two that would be good for a day such as this when the shadows hang long over the earth?"

There were sounds of approval from every corner of the courtyard as birds and beasts, sometimes at odds with one another, but now nestled close together to share the warmth of their bodies, were hoping to hear a tale.

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Old 01-03-2006, 03:31 PM   #26
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‘He speaks of the one the Lady sent,’ Stamo whispered to his companion. ‘I wonder if any of the others have been seen by them? It would be good to know how they fare . . .’ He fell quiet as Mori cleared his throat, cutting off that line of thought.

‘Come,’ Mori said, inviting Stamo to sit down beside him. ‘Let’s hunker down closer to the embers with these new friends of ours.’ Two large rounds from the old oak that had been cut for firewood were pushed over by the bear. ‘Your chairs,’ he growled. He gave the two men a toothy smile and sat down quite near them. He loved stories, of any kind, and would often let an unfortunate animal or bird escape his sharp-nailed paws if they offered up a story he hadn’t heard before.

Now Stamo loved to gather stories, too. And Mori, when the animals were sitting quietly, nodded at him to begin.

‘We’ve come from lands far east of here,’ Stamo began. ‘And there the men still tell stories of the animals and their ways. And many of the tales, they assure me, are true ones from the long-ago time . . . when men and animals still spoke freely with each other.’ He settled in comfortably and leaned forward, his gaze sweeping the audience. ‘Now here is one about a foolish hunter and the mouse who undid his foolish deed.’

There were squeaks and chatterings from the four mice who had brought straw for the wren’s little nest. They pushed to the front of the group and sat huddled together; their bright black eyes fixed on the storyteller.

There was once a large village full of very clever people. One day, one of the men, a clever hunter, told his family that he was going out to set some snares. And so he did – working late into the evening to set them all. It was dark, dark night when he returned to his tent. He filled his belly with hot gruel and buttered tea and went off to his bed. Pulling the thick furs over him for warmth he dropped deep into dreaming, smiling in his sleep at all the animals he would find in his traps. ‘Food and furs,’ he could be heard to murmur from his greedy dreams.

The next day, it was time for daylight but no daylight came. The village people knew something was wrong. The sun did not come up. It stayed dark. The clever hunter who had set snares the day before shrugged his shoulders at the dark and said, "I will go and look for my snares anyway. Maybe I got something in my snares." So, he set out in the dark.

When he came to one of his snares, he said to himself, "Yes, I did get something in my snare!" He saw that he had caught the sun in his snare! Now, how could he free the sun? It was too hot to go cut the snare where the sun was caught, so the hunter went back to the village people.

"What happened," he said to them," is that I caught the sun in my snare. That is why the sun cannot come up."

The villagers called a meeting, and everyone was asked to come. Even the animals and birds were called to the meeting. Everyone was told that someone had to go and free the sun.

Well, there was one particular mouse who was there. And this mouse was a very big mouse. He was the biggest animal of all those gathered . . .


‘Yes, even bigger than you,’ Mori answered, as the bear looked up with a frown on his face.

. . . And, anyway, this mouse was asked if he was willing to free the sun. He also had very, very sharp teeth, you see, and he would have to chew the snare wire to free the sun.

"Okay," said the big mouse, "I will go and free the sun." So, he went. He came to the snare where the sun was caught. He started to chew the snare wire. Even though he was burning, he did not give up. He just kept on chewing at the tough tether until the sun was free. He worked so hard and so quickly, he was able to cut through the snare wire before he was all burned up.

Finally, the sun was free. It rose up into the sky and it was daylight again.

The tiny mouse we see today . . .


Stamo picked up one of the little creatures and held him up in the palm of his hand.

. . . it is the mouse that freed the sun from the snare. He was a big, big mouse then. That is how much he burned from before he was able to free the sun. Now he is the smallest animal there is. And the rainbow that we see, so they tell me . . . that was the snare that caught the sun.

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Old 01-04-2006, 12:45 PM   #27
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The silence that followed the end of Stamo's story was broken abruptly as the door swung open and a blast of cold air and winter flurry tumbled together through the open doorway. But only for an instant, before a tall heavily bundled man had sprung in and shut the door behind him.

'Blades and Barnicles!' he exclaimed, stamping the snow from his feet and shaking his great shoulders. 'It's cold enough to kill a horse! I beg your pardon,' he said, to the few pairs of keen eyes that turned his way at his rather loud entrance, 'and good evening to all of you.' He nodded and stepped forward. 'If I could beg for a place to stand by the fire - no don't worry about getting me a chair, I can stand. A mug of ale would be possitively marvelous, however.' He paused mid stride to thrust his hand in his pocket and drew forth a silver coin.

'Who can I ask for the drink, and pay?' he questioned, glancing around. Carr Dagnysson came forward, and the new comer broke into a grin. 'Here you are my man, run off and get that foaming pint. Thank'ee, thank'ee.'

He continued his march to the edge of the fire and squeezed into an unoccupied space. To his nearest neighbor, he turned and stuck out his hand. 'Berrick Andrail, at your service.'
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Old 01-04-2006, 04:43 PM   #28
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The bang of the Green Man’s front door echoed into the inn’s back yard. From his cozy resting place, the wren raised his head and looked about. ‘Is it spring already?’ he asked in a raspy voice. ‘Is that the ice on the river breaking up?’ A cold breeze blew round the little pile of straw bringing with it a few flakes of snow. He shivered and tucked his head back beneath his wing.

‘Good story!’ came his further, muffled comments. ‘I say Owl,’ he said, daring to poke his head out once more. ‘Now, isn’t it your turn for a story in return? Make it a good one . . . ‘bout us birds.’ He tucked his head again beneath his wing, his ears open for Owl’s deep voice to begin.
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Old 01-04-2006, 05:36 PM   #29
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Few of the revelers noted the entrance of a tall, gray-cloaked form that stole softly into the Green Man Free House. Slipping through the shadows cast by the blazing Yule log, he moved to a quiet corner near the fireplace and stared at the flames, as if lost in thought. The light shone warmly on his weather-beaten hood, but could not reveal his face beneath its deep folds.

Cheers and laughter echoed through the Inn, and out of the din rose the call for a new story. "Another tale! Another!" And one of the Hobbits spotted the stranger. "Tell us a story,' he cried. "By your looks, you should know a few."

A hush fell over the room. The stranger's voice, clear and low, rang out in the quiet. "If you wish. Of ancient deeds it tells, though the end is still not known." He leaned forward into the light.

Long ago, the Noldor, led by Fëanor, greatest of craftsmen, came to Middle-earth in exile from Valinor. And there was strife amongst the Elves, and many parted in bitterness and anger. And some few, weary of discord, forsook the Princes of the Noldor and went out into the wild, seeking refuge from the evils of the day.

And so it came to pass that a small band of the Noldor came into Ossiriand, and there they settled and built a hidden fastness amidst the forest. With them went a great treasure, whose memory has been lost even to song; two Lamps, effigies of the Two Trees of Valinor, wrought by the hand of Fëanor himself ere the making of the Silmarils. They were borne by Túrwaith, once a great friend to the House of Fëanor, for he had received them as a gift in Valinor. And though he had parted from Fëanor in anger at Alqualondë, he still kept the Lamps in token of their friendship in better times, and perhaps in hope that things should be put to rights one day. And in the hidden citadel, the Lamps were kindled in memory of Telperion and of Laurelin, and the Eldar rejoiced, for there was peace.

Yet it was not fated that they should remain forever in quiet. For out of the North came a host of Orcs and foul creatures of Morgoth, and they were besieged. And the Light of the Lamps failed with the last stores of oil, and darkness fell.

And lo! Túrwaith came forth. And he sang a song of Light, and of the Two Trees, and of Valinor ere the evil of Morgoth came. And the Lamps blazed forth again. And then the hearts of the Elves were filled with wonder; and they were glad, for their foes fell back in fear at the coming of the Light, and the forces of the Eldar issued forth in pursuit. But all in vain. For from behind the Orcs, a new terror appeared; a Balrog, surrounded by shadow. Undaunted, it strode forward. But the Lamps shone still, a beacon of light in the growing dark. And the Balrog drew forth a vast, cruelly spiked mace. It shattered upon the Lamps, and their Light was extinguished. Túrwaith fell. And then the Orcs poured back upon the Elves, and many were slain, and their fortress was razed to the ground.

Yet Túrwaith lived. And he gathered together the fragments of the Lamps and journeyed onward, wandering alone in the wilderness until the Ban should be lifted and he might return to Valinor.


The storyteller drew a deep breath. "That is as far as the tale goes."

More than one listener was skeptical. "There's nothing like that in the old lore. Where did you hear that story?"

"A tale may not be known, yet still be true," he cried. Then he stood and cast back his cloak. "Behold!" He held forward his hand. The shards of two fair Lamps, one of silver and the other of gold, glistened in his palm. As a murmur passed through the room, he drew his cloak about him again and sat down. "For I am Túrwaith, and the tale I told even as it happened."

Wenda looked at him thoughtfully. "Where are you going now?" she asked, though she felt she already knew the answer.

Túrwaith turned toward her. "To the Havens," he replied, and fell into silence.
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Old 01-05-2006, 02:24 AM   #30
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Owl turned towards the wren and smiled. He was happy to see that the little one had recuperated from his wild escapades earlier that evening.

"Yes, perhaps we do need another tale," noted Owl, puffing out his chest and trying to look official. "I might be persuaded to say a word of two. These fine loremasters have given us a story about the meekest and most timid creature. Surely I could add a word of two about the wisest of the wise: the Great Bird who was friend and counselor to a powerful wizard and shapeshifter. Although this wizard might not mention the fact, the Owl actually taught him all he knew about the secrets of wood lore and the ways of the beasts. Of course, I am alluding to my cousin Archimedes!"

For a long moment, there was silence....just a bit of wiggling and a cough or two. Owl was used to having his own way and, though many of the birds and beasts crowded around the circle had heard this story a dozen times before, no one wanted to object.

Everyone sat back and waited for the tale to begin, knowing it would likely take up the rest of the evening. But, before the snowy Owl could open his beak and say another word, a high pitched howl was heard from the other side of the yard. Owl's eyes darted up and he muttered sharp disapproval under his breath. On the top of the stony wall stood an inordinately large ball of fur with a long tail and piercing blue eyes, a gigantic cat whose coat looked like a white puff ball. Behind him were two of the rougher sort of tomcats, the kind that normally get chased away by men. The first was missing an ear and the second had a deep gash over his eye. At the sight of these three beasts, the four mice shrank back in terror, and the wren burrowed his head underneath the pile of leaves and twigs.

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Old 01-05-2006, 03:22 PM   #31
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‘Did it follow you, lass?’ asked a Dwarf, drawing near to the table so as to hear the last of her words. ‘And the shadow you spoke of, could you tell if it followed after? And how far?’ He harumphed, suddenly aware of his forwardness and said, ‘Sorry to listen in, but I’m traveling further north once the snow lets up a little. There’s a small settlement of men just north of the withered heath I’ve some business with. Were you near there or passed through at all?’

'I was farther north,' Wenda said. 'Rófa and Réda are nimble pulling my sled. But yes, it did follow after. All the night I felt more than heard the unwight behind me. I tarried not but pushed on through dawn and well into day, and only when the sun was high almost to noon did I begin to feel as if I had outrun it. But the next night I could feel it again, though it seemed to be farther away. I felt its following last two nights ago.

'I fear it may have left its tusker corpse behind and chosen a human, for from a settlement I had passed late in the day, came toward dusk shivering screams to wake the --' her voice trailed off, unwilling she was to finish the thought. She looked up at the Dwarf's face. 'I hope that settlement was not the one you seek.'
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Old 01-05-2006, 03:35 PM   #32
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'Berrick Andrail, at your service.’

The voice was loud to his left, diverting his attention for the moment from his concerns.

Wenda had answered his questions as she could. Thanking her, Egil tucked away what he had gleaned from her news. He would have to think hard on his intention to head north to the village above the withered heath. If her words be true, and he thought they were from the fear he’d read in her eyes, then perhaps the village would no longer be there at all.

He shrugged off his dark thoughts for the moment. He was seeming safe here, in the Green Man, he reasoned. Its strong walls and bright fire would keep back those beasts, that being, he hoped, that Wenda had spoken of. That and the presence of a number of stalwart warriors it seemed were gathered for the while here.

‘Egil Glitterfist,’ he said, nodding to the man who had greeted him. He scooted over on the bench on which he sat. ‘There’s room, here. Come, sit down.’ He was amused that the man had stuck his hand out at him; it was not Dwarven custom to do so. But being a trader among a number of different races, Egil wiped his own hand quickly on the thigh of his breeches and offered it in turn to Berrick.

‘Pleased to meet you, Master Andrail! What business brings you to The Green Man, if you don’t mind my asking?’
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Old 01-06-2006, 03:11 AM   #33
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The two men stood up at the appearance of the cats. Stamo scooped up the cowering mice and put them in an inner pocket of his cape. The little wren followed soon after, taking his place in yet another compartment. Mori stepped forward as the other birds took flight, seeking perches beyond the reach of the three felines.

‘What brings you to the inn, Master . . . Cat?’ Mori asked, his gaze fixing on the large white feline. The others were tough looking brutes, but this one, he thought to himself was the thinker of the trio; the others his muscle. Though, looking at the size of him, he would hardly need such furred cronies to stand up for him. ‘We’re here enjoying the warmth of these embers and sharing a tale or two to pass the Yule. Did you and your . . . companions come to spin a story for us?’

Behind Mori, and a little to his right, Stamo stood artlessly alert, his staff gripped lightly in his left hand
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Old 01-06-2006, 06:19 PM   #34
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Fear overcomes the Hobbit . . .

Madoc and Andwise came scuffing down the stairs to the common room, grumbling to each other all the way. ‘There he is,’ said Andwise, seeing Willem at the table with the Big Folk. ‘And old Mudfoot’s hounds take me if it’s not certain he’s had his breakfast already! And a substantial one by the size of the platter and the empty bread basket.’

Willem was caught up in the dire tales of Wenda and the man in the grey cloak. And spooked a bit by the presence of the man and woman who’d come to sit at his table. They seemed keenly interested in Wenda’s sightings, and he wondered what terrors they’d seen that lay behind their attentiveness. Goosebumps crept along his arms, and he shivered despite the warmth of the fire.

Imagine his shriek of fear and surprise as his two companions slid silently up behind him and poked him hard in the back with their hands, hissing at him as they did so. It echoed shrilly among the rafters as his imagination got the best of him, and he felt the wraith-like fingers of Wenda’s shadow creature pushing against him, reaching into his very being.

There was a loud thump as Willem, white as a ghost himself, slid from his chair in a dead faint . . .
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Old 01-07-2006, 11:44 AM   #35
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The white cat leapt down from the wall and started to sharpen his claws against the stack of logs sitting on the far side of the yard. The cat's tail flicked menacingly from one side to the other, as he watched the four mice who had retreated under the skirts of the two-legged. Dare he bound out and have a bit of fun with those creatures? They looked so small and enticing, nothing like the powerful beast the man had described in his tale. Tevildo was not hungry but he dearly loved a game, especially one he was certain to win.

Jerked out of his reverie by the two-legged's question, the cat sat back and licked his whiskers as he considered his options. He loved both games and stories, but did not entirely trust the man. An odd memory tugged at the back of his mind. Still, that had been at least four lives ago, and he could not recall the details.

Trying not to notice two small mice who peered leerily out from under the man's robe, the white cat responded in a voice that was tinged with velvet, "I am Tevildo. Some have called me Prince of Cats, but you must judge that for yourself. I believe we have met somewhere before, but you must excuse me for I can not recall the circumstances. I was once a member of the entourage of the Black Foe. My duties were to hunt and snare, to keep the household supplied with meat. Perhaps it was there we met.

"As to stories.... all cats have many stories, since they spend most of their day dreaming. I have a number of delightful stories that I will be most happy to share with you and the rest of this gathering. But first, you must humor me for you have me at a disadvantage. I have told you who I am. Now, I should like to know who you are, you and your friend? Tevildo turned and nodded at the other two-legged. "Then I shall be most happy to tell you a tale I know, one that explains why cats are the most powerful creatures in the world, so powerful that they were chosen to teach the two-leggeds a much-needed lesson....."

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Old 01-07-2006, 03:28 PM   #36
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Stamo stepped forward, the end of his staff thumping on the frozen ground as he did so. His grey eyes narrowed at the cat. ‘Tevildo . . . and are these your faithful henchmen come with you, too?’

‘His color has changed, too. Did you notice, Stamo? Black to white.’ Mori craned his head for a better view of the cat. ‘And lost your gold collar. Or did your Master take it from you when he threw you out?’

Mori had picked up his staff from the ground and stood leaning on it. ‘Well, then, our names. We are travelers from afar, going eastward – Morinehtar, I am called. And my companion, Romestamo.’

‘We are our master’s hounds,’ Stamo murmured. ‘And we are hunting . . .’

‘But come, Master Cat, tell your tale. Your audience is waiting.’ Mori stepped back, leaving a wide space for Tevildo and his ragged companions.
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Old 01-08-2006, 02:35 AM   #37
Huan
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Birger moved about the tables as quiet and quick as a winter hare among frozen clumps of grass. His ears, too, were as keen as a hare’s, picking up bits of stories and gossip and news as he flitted in and then way from the elbows of the guests as they rested on the table tops. He smiled to himself, wriggling in anticipation of telling Carr the snippets he’d gathered along with the dirty dishes and mugs.

He hadn’t quite understood what the man and woman had said about the creature in Wenda’s story. But Carr was a sharp man, despite the fact the years were battering against him. He’d know how to untangle their words and tell it plain to Birger.

His tray was full; the last platter he’d gathered had been the one from the Halfling. Clean as a whistle, it was, and the basket of buns empty, too. Birger was just heading toward the kitchen when the piercing shriek froze him in his tracks. He turned quickly, the tableware and crockery stacked on his tray clinking loudly against each other.

The Halfling was lying on the floor limp as an old rag. Birger had seen things of this sort before. But mostly it was a local man with too much ale under his belt. He put down his tray and ran to the fellow’s side. ‘Someone get cook and her smelling salts,’ he said, kneeling by Willem. Birger grabbed hold of the Halfling’s arm and shook it energetically as he called loudly.

‘Sir! Sir! Wake up!’
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Old 01-09-2006, 02:30 AM   #38
piosenniel
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Wren peeked out of the man’s pocket; his little black eyes fixed on the three cats. Tevildo had a cocky manner; not that all cats the bird had met were any less conceited, but this one seemed more so than most. Prince of Cats? And what was that he was saying to the man – that he had once been part of the entourage of someone called The Black Foe.

The small brown bird perched on the edge of Stamo’s pocket then flitted up to the man’s shoulder, near his ear. ‘Most powerful creatures, indeed!’ the bird snorted, bobbing up and down on his spindly legs in irritation at the feline’s arrogance. ‘You’ve got a nice thick stick, Man,’ he whispered, his beak close to Stamo’s ear. ‘Just smack the furry braggart and send him flying!’
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Old 01-10-2006, 01:54 AM   #39
Tevildo
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Tevildo had not meant to say anything outrageous, but the last outburst from the wren had tried his patience to the utmost. His back arched and his fur stood on end as he spat out a reply to the small bird, "You impudent bag of feathers! One more squeak out of you, and you'll be sorry you ever came here tonight...."

"As for you," Tevildo snorted and barrelled on, glaring at Stamo and Mori. "I wouldn't be so free with my insults or that stick. The last time we met, you both looked considerably better than you do now. I can only assume that you've angered your masters and have been sent here in these puny guises as a form of punishment! I may have lost my golden collar, it is true, but at least I haven't been reduced to your dire straits...."

Once the cat had regained his composure, his voice took a softer turn. He decided to try and wheedle his way back into the good graces of the assembled company. "But I am not myself today. Perhaps I have been too harsh. You two may have met with hard times. I am no stranger to hard times. And the bird is such a little thing. She probably does not know the proper way to treat a guest. I will withdraw my hard words if you would like to hear my story. It is one that may be of special interest to those who go about on two legs. It came from the Age that saw the birth of Man and says much about the nature of the second born. It concerns a little bargain that my master Melko made with Lord Manwe, and my own part in this affair."

Tevildo looked up at the two-leggeds in a pleasant way and then bowed to the snowy owl. "Ah, well, perhaps my humble proposal does not meet with your approval. If so, my friends and I will quietly withdraw from the warmth of the fire and go off into the dark woods by ourselves to face the cold air and the dangers of the night. What shall it be then, good brethren, a fine story or my departure?"
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Old 01-10-2006, 04:04 AM   #40
Envinyatar
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The hmmmph! from the wren was cut off as Stamo plucked him from his shoulder and held him up to his face. ‘Hush!’ he whispered letting the bird balance on his finger. ‘The Green Man’s ale has made you bold, and we will not always be near to act as your protectors.

And besides,’ Mori interjected, speaking to both his companion and the wren. ‘This is a special set of days in this part of Middle-earth, or so I am given to believe by what’s been told to me. There is a truce of sorts in effect, enmities are put aside for this short while, and tolerance come to the fore.’ He turned back to where Tevildo and his friends were standing. ‘Your pardon, please. We’ve been less than welcoming. Come, sit near the coals and warm yourselves. And then, of course, your story, please.’

The poor wren was beginning to shiver in the cold, and Stamo tucked him back inside a pocket in his cape. There were a string of short exclamations, muffled by the thick wool of the cape. And just as well . . . Stamo could just make out another hmmph! and a mumbled sore losers! followed by whiner!.

Luckily, for the peace of the gathering and the sake of a tale yet to be told, Stamo’s body heat and the soft, thick warmth of the pocket overcame the wren’s feisty attitude. Soon, the only sounds escaping from the folds of the robe were that unmistakable sounds of the bird’s beaky snore.
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