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Old 12-06-2002, 01:56 PM   #1
Rimbaud
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Rimbaud has just left Hobbiton.
Pipe The Saving of the Seventh Star

The Saving of the Seventh Star
Invite only.
This tale carries on from this post in the Seventh Star.


**********************

All her training was evident in the purposeful nod of the head. “I will aid you, Master Rimbaud,” she declared.

Rimbaud smiled gratefully but briefly, and moved to the wardrobe, from whence he retrieved a dark cloak, with a hood similar to her own. He clad himself in such, and adjusting his hood to hide his face, motioned for her to do the same. The cloaked figures stood close to the window, in the small wood-panelled room. Rimbaud secreted a small oil lantern beneath his cloak and turned to face the Princess.

“Will you tell me who gave you the letter?”

“In time.”

He nodded.

“My Lady, are you armed?” he asked, a note of caution in his voice.

She nearly laughed at his unexpected naivete. Composing herself, however, she kept her smile hidden in the shadow of her hood. However, he knew her well enough and reddened slightly. The light from outside was paling as evening drew close.

“A foolish question,” he said. He looked over at the mirror on the wall, beside the wardrobe. She shifted to get a better view as he moved towards it, but he disguised his movements well and she did not see how the wall swung away and the second staircase to his quarters was revealed. She knew of the labyrinth of passages that riddled the Inn but not of their entry points.

Again he led, surefooted in the darkness of the narrow passage as he moved down. She was about to ask about the secret door in his room when it swung silently shut behind her, plunging the thin staircase into darkness. The sound of Rimbaud stopping his descent, some way beneath her could be heard. She swallowed her nervousness and felt for the rail alongside the stair; she began to climb down. Estelyn heard his downward passage resume, and followed his footsteps, hearing them change as the staircase spiralled gently. She realised they were not going to the ground floor, the common room or kitchens.

Rimbaud led her down quickly, not slowing the pace, not allowing her to judge where other doors must be. He heard the noise of the common room as they descended down past it. He felt the heat from the chimney, which adjoined part of the passage wall. Before too long they were walking on level ground, on cold stone flags, although still in darkness. Away from the dry wood stair, he drew out the lantern and smoothly ignited it, although Estelyn did not see how. Light bloomed in the darkness and it took some time for their eyes to adjust.

The passageway had widened here, she wondered at how spacious it seemed. The flickering light cast ominous shadows up against the walls. She realised swiftly that they were underground and that the Inn was far more massive than she could have imagined. From the large grey stone passage they were in, many ran off from either side, their entrances deep black maws. Up ahead the main way curved to the right and she could not judge how long it went on.

Rimbaud knew well the complexity of the Inn's secrets and led her swiftly to a point just below the main fireplace of the common room. This was evident by the chimney column which descended, oddly, to the ground far beneath the fireplace.

“The puzzle of which I speak is near here,” said Rimbaud. “As I said, the letter led me straight there.”

“I am not sure what you expect me to know of the matter,” said Estelyn, feeling a little off-balance. “But I am glad to help you.” She said this last a little tentatively, and pulled her cloak tight around her, for it was very chill in the passages, and there was a draft upon them as they stood, close together. Rimbaud walked ahead again, turning left into an inconspicuous pathway, off the main passage, which ran through the middle of the catacomb.

“Carefully now,” said Rimbaud normally. “We do not wish to disturb…any clues that may be around.” Estelyn wondered at what other things there were to disturb down here, but kept her counsel.

At the end of the slightly damp passage way was an innocuous wooden door, with a central knob, once golden, now tarnished green. Lichen lined the passage and the odour was not pleasant. Rimbaud strode for the door, undistracted. He pushed upon the door and entered before she had traversed halfway down the passage. Estelyn noted the marks of his previous visit here, and saw that he had forced the door before, and it would not close fully now.

****************************

“Here,” said Rimbaud and gestured to what lay inside.

He had no idea what it meant but he knew he didn’t like it or what it might mean. He felt the Princess move up behind him, looking past his shoulder at beyond. He sensed her nervousness but said nothing. The room was small, the same stained grey stones as in the tunnel that led here forming the walls, moss and lichen sprouting between. Rimbaud wondered at the damp in this area of the Inn. He knew much of the Inn, yet this passage and this room had never given him cause to investigate. The floor was cold grey stones, carpeted in dust, as the passage leading there had been. Yet in the centre of the room, the dust had been disturbed and flung about. The marks of Rimbaud’s last visit stopped a pace inside the doorway. It was freezing cold. In the dead centre of the room, a hole gaped blackly, yawning at them. To its side was a slab, cold grey, some four inches thick. It had clearly been shifted from where it disguised the hole beneath. A cold breeze came from the home, stirring their cloaks.

The dark, square hole was not what their eyes were drawn to, however. By the side of the dark floor door lay three grim items. One was a rough helmet, with a rough symbol painted in red on the front. The symbol was that of Mordor, and for the educated and experienced Princess, it was the symbol of an orc of Cirith Ungol’s regiment. Beside that, lay an axe head, blooded, light red, the weapon of an orc. A mysteriously nondescript arrow was beside that, wooden shaft and simple feathers. The tip was also stained, in a dark, viscous looking fluid.

“The door was un-opened and undisturbed’” said Rimbaud, breaking the clammy silence. “Whoever opened the trap-door and placed the items there left through the floor, as they came. They were strong too,” and he nodded at the thick slab, shifted so that it overhing the hole in one corner, not fully removed from it’s place in the floor. “I see it that the person is trying to help us.”

Estelyn wondered at his perception, having reached the same conclusion. She nodded and continued to listen.

Rimbaud went on. “They encountered an orc or orcs, were wounded and brought the pieces of that story here. The orc was slain by the arrow, as I read the matter. But why here? What was that party doing beneath The Seventh Star? How did orcs get near here? The Guard is well-manned. My Lady, I am puzzled.”

He looked at her acutely. "But you know something of these matters, no?"

The Princess sighed. This was a riddle and no mistake.

[ December 12, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-07-2002, 12:06 AM   #2
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril

“Some I know,” Estelyn answered, “and some I have suspected. These underground passageways have been known to me many years. When I was a young girl, but newly come to live in the city, I often fled from my tutors. Seeking a solitary hiding place, I came upon the outer entry to the tunnels. It lies outside the walls, well-hidden and known only to those of the royal house. Messengers wishing to enter or leave the city unseen use it, for it leads to the house of the king. Its ways branch out in many directions, yet most of them were made as a labyrinth, for confusion only, leading nowhere. I have memorized the right path, as have all those who belong to the House of Telcontar.

“Yet I have long suspected that some of the paths have been opened and can be entered from other places in the city. This house once belonged to a noble relative of ours. Who knows why he created this trap-door and to what purpose he may have used it?”

“What concerns me more,” interrupted Rimbaud, “is, who is using the passageways now? Where else do they lead?”

Estelyn bowed her hooded head slightly, staring at the stone floor with unseeing eyes, then lifting her steady gaze to her companion. A slight flicker that did not come from the faltering light of the lantern revealed a moment of indecision before she finally spoke again.

“The underground paths lead not only into the city, but also far away, under the Anduin, almost to Mordor itself. I have not travelled there, though I have seen maps and know which direction the way takes. These tokens trouble my thoughts; if the outmost entrance has been discovered by enemies, it forebodes ill for us. Who knows whether orcs may already be in hiding there. We must act swiftly and secretly to prevent a terrible tragedy.”

Rimbaud nodded decisively. “Indeed, I have thought the same. I would not have us go without some food and drink, though, for we may not be able to return as quickly as we like.”

A slight smile curved Estelyn’s lips and lent warmth to her gaze. “You think practically, as always, my friend. Would it not also be wise to inform one trustworthy person of your household of our intentions? I can leave without my absence being felt, but your sudden disappearance would cause concern.”

Rimbaud led the way back through the dark hallways, glad of the purposeful movement that chased the chill numbness from his limbs. He took one turn that differed from their previous path, opening a door into the storeroom. Whispering lest they be heard by guests or staff, they decided quickly what was necessary to take along without being overly cumbersome. Deftly, Estelyn packed provisions into two small bundles, while her companion disappeared through the opening in the wall.

Only moments later, Rimbaud quietly re-entered the room, grasped one bundle and led the way back down to the passages. When they entered the room with the trap-door, he pushed the wooden door behind them shut as far as possible.

“No need to let anyone who might find their way here know where we have gone,” he said curtly. His cloak parted as he moved, and Estelyn approvingly noted the sword that now hung at his side. Others might have thought it a strange weapon for a simple innkeeper, but she knew better than to wonder at it. She could feel the hard metal of her own dagger hilt on her hip, familiar and reassuring.

Rimbaud held the lantern over the dark square opening, peering down to see what lay beneath. “I will go first,” he said, placing the lantern on the floor. With that, he jumped into the hole, landing on the uneven, slippery ground below. Estelyn handed him the lantern, which he set aside before stretching his arms up to grasp her hands firmly as she followed him.

“I do not like to leave that opening, but I fear the stone is too heavy for us to move, and we may be glad to be able to get back in quickly,” he murmured. They stood still for a moment, listening and trying to discern which way their cautious steps should lead them.

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 12-10-2002, 08:09 PM   #3
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Pipe

Immediately, the cold assaulted them. It burrowed into their skin and threatened to subsume their senses to its will. Yet they were hardy and advanced slowly, the flickering light of the small lantern dwarfed by the encroaching dark. The ground was treacherous and uneven. There was the subterranean drip of water, the sound cloying, a clammy thickness.

Rimbaud tugged his cloak around him, and moved forwards. There was only one way to travel, three sides of the trapdoor's entry being solid walls of rough stone. It slanted downhill. The cold was bitter. He nearly slipped a number of times on the slippery and uneven surface. He wondered at the wisdom of their decision. His hands felt for the walls either side of him from time to time.

"I trust this ground will even out for us," intoned Estelyn with mock-pomposity, and Rimbaud smiled in the flickering lamplight, turning to see her eyes, gleaming in the dark behind him. He caught the flash of her white teeth.

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 09:50 AM   #4
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

At first, they proceeded with careful, yet purposeful steps, taking the only possible route. Rimbaud stooped slightly to avoid striking his head on the low ceiling of the tunnel. Estelyn concentrated on the direction, comparing the way they took with her memories of the passageway charts.

It was not long before Rimbaud’s left hand, which had been grazing the wall, stretched out into emptiness. He turned his head, his gaze a wordless query. Estelyn nodded and gestured toward the opening. They turned the corner, continuing on a way that was still rough and slippery, but level. Shortly afterwards, a draught of air from the right announced another passage. The ground here was smoother, an indication that they had reached the main way, Estelyn knew.

They moved more quickly now, so that Estelyn, surprised when Rimbaud suddenly stood still, collided with him. She gasped and steadied herself, whispering “What is it?” He raised the lantern so that she could see past his arm. A glint of light on the ground mirrored the flame of the lamp. Rimbaud bowed to pick up a piece of metal; it looked like the point of a knife, marked with scratches that could have been strange runes or marks of previous usage.

“This is not from a weapon of Gondor,” he spoke quietly. “Are we yet inside the boundaries of the White City?”

“Yes,” she answered with a troubled note in her voice. “We are near the outer wall, but still some distance from the entrance to the passages. Think you that a foe was here?”

He turned to let the light flicker onto the walls. An attentive eye could see that there were marks of a scuffle, though the moisture that trickled down to the ground had left little evidence of what had transpired.

“Whoever it was must have been chased away,” he concluded. Neither spoke the thought that was on both minds: If the foe had left alive, would he bring back more of his kind to wreak havoc in the city? Rimbaud laid the piece of metal in Estelyn’s hand; she carefully placed it in her pouch. They walked on as quickly as possible, all senses alert for further signs. Other passages opened up to the left and right; Estelyn counted silently and tugged at Rimbaud’s sleeve several times to indicate a change in direction.

Finally the path forked ahead of them. “Which way now?” he asked. The light shone into the right-hand passage, showing that the ground rose steeply.

“This is the way to the outer entrance,” she said. “If we seek to follow the foe to Mordor, we must take the way to the left. Yet I wish to look here first; it may be that a sign has been left. I will take the lantern and lead the way.”

They stopped and listened, but nothing could be heard save the eerie echoes of dripping water and whistling wind. Estelyn began the ascent, supporting herself with her free hand and struggling to find secure footholds as the stones rolled away under her sturdy boots. Rimbaud was thankful that his thick cloak saved him from feeling those that struck him. Despite the cold and the concern for their situation, he smiled wryly, wondering if his companion had chosen to lead at that moment for her own reasons.

Finally the ground levelled and they paused, panting from the strain. The darkness lightened almost imperceptibly as they hurried ahead, eager to see the light of day. Suddenly Estelyn stumbled, almost dropping the lantern as she struggled to regain her footing. Her hand touched a clammy mass that lay at her feet…

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 01:49 PM   #5
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Rimbaud lowered the lantern, yet before even the light reached the items strewn on the floor, the coppery scent of blood came to his nostrils. A small cloak lay on the ground, sodden with blood. Rimbaud touched some to his fingers and brought them to the light. A red, neither deep nor light.

"No orc blood this," he muttered, and Estelyn nearly relaxed, until she realised what that entailed.

Rimbaud rose from the heaped clothing. He studied his fingers in the light,turning them over as if searching for answers. Estelyn shifted uncomfortably. The cold had numbed her fingers.

"The wound the bearer of this cloak took was grievous," mused the Innkeeper. "Yet there have been no traces of blood between here and the trapdoor we entered through."

"We have more than one helper," said Estelyn, quickly, the emphasis and question clear.

Rimbaud simply nodded, barely visible to her in the dim and flickering light.

Estelyn moved towards the light that gently suffused the end of the right-hand fork. The path slanted upward, and was formed from drier rock, with earth and sand evening out the surface. Rimbaud moved after her. As they neared the entrance, they saw that the light filtered in through the leaves of a rhododendrum bush. Pink flowers were incongrously scattered about the egress.

Rimbaud stopped,and Estelyn moved on several paces before she realised. He was looking back into the cavernous black, back towards the blood-soaked cloak they had found.

"No body," he said. Estelyn nodded. She agreed the wound must have been fatal. "Our helper lost a companion," he stated.

"Or would dearly like to have us think so," said Estelyn. Rimbaud snarled wordlessly and turned back towards her. He grinned suddenly at her, a light in his blue eyes, limned by the light from the outside.

"I need to breathe outside," he said.

"Mind we are not seen," she said quickly.

****************************

They pushed gently through the foliage at the end of the passage. They emerged blinking into the pale wintry sunlight of late afternoon. Rimbaud had no concept of how long they had been underground, but he estimated two or three hours at most.

They made a light lunch, and spoke little. Here, the Anduin curved against Emyn Arnen on the far side, a snake's back of river towards Minas Tirith on the near shore. Trees surrounded the stony clearing and bushes that covered the tunnel's mouth, tall and deciduous. They felt protected and glad for the open air, although both knew it should be brief.

**********************************

"We should move, Master Innkeeper," said the Princess, rising and smoothing her tunic under her robes. She disappeared into the trees for a short time, and Rimbaud packed away their provisions. He stared out at the broad stillness of the Anduin through a gap in the trees. He wondered what lay in store for them. This exit was still undisturbed, they had been puzzled to discover.

When Estelyn returned, they made their way back into the darkness. Rimbaud had refilled their lantern from his pack. They rearranged the leafy doorway as best they could.

"Once again we go forth," he murmured, and she laughed gently. The darkness swallowed them and the light from their lantern.

The clearing was once again left silent and undisturbed. It seemed as though it had never been visited.

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-11-2002, 02:04 PM   #6
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Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Boots

Thoughtless, vain, and feckless, they were seen, but not by anyone they would have suspected.

From high above two yellow eyes watched the strange creatures billow about. "They must both be wearing long, large cloaks," thought the falcon. The bodies seemed to sway in and out of the tree branches. Noiselessly, the falcon swooped down, staying hidden behind trees. He marked them well, even down to the tenor of the concern in their eyes, before they retreated once again into the grassy hill of the Anduin. One was blue-eyed; the other, hazel, with a more delicate bearing.

Swiftly the bird flew back to the Star, but he hesitated on the window sill, not wishing to make a sudden appearance and alert all. Soon, he would be noticed.
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Old 12-12-2002, 01:51 PM   #7
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Silmaril

After the brightness of daylight, the tunnel seemed much darker to them than before. Rimbaud remembered the bundle of stained cloth just before almost stumbling over it and turned to his companion. “We should not leave this here,” he suggested, “but we cannot carry it with us.”

“I know where it can be hidden,” she answered, lifting the moist heap gingerly. “Go on.” They proceeded slowly, trying to find a safe foothold with each step on the rocky, miry ground. Often they slid downwards and were glad of the rough walls against which they steadied themselves. Finally the ground levelled slightly. They had reached the fork.

Estelyn nudged Rimbaud and motioned him to stop and hold up the lantern. Her hands probed the wall as if searching for something. Then she leaned forward; he could not see what she did. Suddenly a piece of the seemingly solid wall slid to one side, revealing a hole. Her hand explored the dark cavity and pulled out a parchment before bundling the moist cloth inside and closing the secret compartment.

Then she unceremoniously pushed him around the corner. They were on the way to – who knew what? Rimbaud looked back and was startled to see no opening where they had been. Estelyn met his puzzled gaze with the ghost of a smile.

“The passage to the outward entrance cannot be seen from this way,” she whispered. “Skilled masons crafted this wall long ago, the same that made that secret hiding place. Now for some light to read the message!”

She unfolded the brittle parchment with care and held it up to see what was written on the single page, then gasped and handed it to Rimbaud, wide-eyed, wordlessly. His glance moved over the missive rapidly, and this is what he read:
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Old 12-12-2002, 02:20 PM   #8
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---------------------------------------------
As expected, one of House Telcontar reads these words, likely also he of the blue and grey. Know this. You and your country-men are in grave danger. Mordor seeks passage to the Cities of Gondor in a manner befitting their foul kind. As rich princes created these tunnels, so shall orcs swarm through them, soon enough. The Master of the Guards cannot be trusted. All is compromised. May you that stand here make the right…
---------------------------------------------

The note ended there, the red ink trailing to the corner of the paper. The writing was hasty, blotchy and difficult to read. By contrast the paper was of the highest quality, thin, pale and smooth.

[ December 12, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-12-2002, 06:07 PM   #9
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“How…,” began Estelyn. Rimbaud folded the parchment abruptly, the noise stopping her. He handed the Princess the re-folded message and smiled faintly in the darkness. The sparse light accorded his face gave him a slightly malevolent air, all shaded cheekbones and deep-set eyes.

“We are being pushed and prodded,” he said. “I am half of a mind to go back and either inform who we should in Minas Tirith or at least some of the Star’s more…potent allies.”

Estelyn shook her head. “I don’t think we can let this out yet,” she said. Or ever, she thought. “People would panic if they knew what we do, and moreover, from this,” and she patted the pouch at her waist, where the paper was stashed, “it appears that we cannot trust the Guard overmuch.” Yet she knew of whom else he referred to but she would prefer that route remain unused, for now.

“According to this note only,” said Rimbaud, but they both heard the hollowness of his words. For the observant such as they, the note only went towards confirming some long held suspicions. He lifted the lantern up higher to more clearly perceive her face. “We are being led, perhaps, to our doom.”

“That possibility I cannot deny,” said the Princess calmly.

Rimbaud sighed. “Whoever wrote this – I presume it to be our helper – was disturbed in the writing. What action would he have advised, do you think?”

“There was to be a choice.”

“Aye, true enough.” He fell silent. The tunnel was quiet and chill about them. “If we emerge with this information, and Mordor has a hold on some in Minas Tirith, then we would be in immediate danger.”

“To my mind the Guard has at least one pair of eyes in the Star,” she said quietly, and to her surprise, he simply nodded a casual affirmation.

“Your mind is as mine, I think,” he ventured. “To seek the final pieces to this jigsaw and its solution.”

“With as few people in the know as possible,” she confirmed. They shared a small smile, and both turned to face the maw of the tunnel that carved beneath the Anduin.

They took a few steps forward, the tunnel wide enough for them to walk abreast. At the same time, they became aware of the smell of death.
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Old 12-13-2002, 11:38 AM   #10
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Silmaril

Faint at first, the noxious odour grew ever stronger as they proceeded down the tunnel. There was an occasional opening branching off to the left or right, but they heeded them not. As much as their noses would rather have signalled them to turn back, they indicated that this was indeed the path they must needs take.

The Innkeeper walked purposefully, with attentive eyes scanning the ground and walls for clues. Estelyn’s impatient steps took her ahead of Rimbaud until she realized that she could see nothing in the shadow that her body cast. Her restlessness grew more intense with every step and became evident on her usually composed face, though there was none to take notice of it.

The passage took a sudden turn to the right, and she winced as her hand grazed the rough wall. The stench was now unbearable; a wave of nausea overcame her. No draught could be felt, and the flickering light of the lantern fell upon an obstacle which blocked the way.

They could see the dull glint of dark metal mingled with a heap of leather, cloth and twisted limbs. Neither had actually seen an orc before, but they needed no one to tell them the identity of the horrible features and empty, leering eyes piled there. Black stains blotched the bodies and clothing, exuding the terrible odour that almost overwhelmed them.

Every breath that they took was a torment, yet both strove to regain clear thoughts and decide what to do.

“Should we go back?” Estelyn asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“We know what lies behind,” answered Rimbaud. “The puzzle’s solution lies beyond these corpses. We must try to move them and go on.” With these words, he set the lantern down and began tugging at the foremost orc body.

The princess hesitated only an instant before grasping the other end and pulling with all her might. It was good that the main passageway was wider, or they would not have been able to move the bodies. The strain warmed their cold limbs; sweat beaded Rimbaud’s brow, and his companion smiled wryly.

“Well, Master Innkeeper,” she said lightly, “we shall be glad of the cold draught as a refreshment after this!”

“Indeed,” he reiterated, “I am warming to this task and shall be delighted to thank our unknown benefactor for providing it!”

Five orcs had been moved aside when they came to the last body. But it was no orc that lay before them. The pale, slender limbs of a young human were visible, and Estelyn caught her breath as they turned him over to see his face.

“You know him?” Rimbaud queried.

“I have seen him,” she answered, “though I know not his name. He belongs – nay, belonged to the Guards and has been in the royal houses on duty. What has he to do with this business?”

“No cloak,” the Innkeeper noted. “That part of the riddle seems clear now. But who removed the cloak and escaped with it, and why was his comrade left here to lie among his foes?”

They had spoken in low tones that did not carry far, yet their quickened breathing and the beating of their hearts had distracted them from their usual watchfulness. Suddenly they heard a sound behind them, echoing in the passageway.

Instinctively, Rimbaud grasped the lantern and climbed over the bodies. Estelyn scrambled after him, and they fled as noiselessly as possible. An opening to the left appeared, and they rounded the corner into a tunnel that twisted and turned several times. Suddenly the way ended; ahead of them was a solid rock wall, and they knew not whether friend or foe followed them…
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Old 12-14-2002, 12:08 AM   #11
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Pipe

Estelyn gasped as Rimbaud gripped her by the shoulder and span her around, so that she faced the other way. She found the lantern in her hands of a sudden, and barely had time to note Rimbaud’s blade leap almost unbidden into his hand before he was five paces ahead of her, back the way they had come. She almost commented on his manners (her shoulder felt bruised) and his hitherto latent chauvinism but before she could speak, a dark figure sprang out from around the last corner to confront her friend.

Their follower had been far closer than she had anticipated and must have been hard on their heels chasing. She ran forwards, the light flickering wildly as it bounced in her grasp. She wondered that Rimbaud had even seen the assailant in the dark, yet seen him he had, for she heard the clash of steel. She felt, rather than saw the body crumple before Rimbaud and had not time to cry out what her nose told her. The scent was not that of an orc.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

“I know,” he breathed as she arrived at his shoulder. “I had not time to decide, it was dark…”

She hushed him with a touch to the cheek in the near darkness. She tended to the light, and under her ministration the light blossomed anew, and they took stock. Before them, prone, broken, lay a human body, dressed inconspicuously in black. The familiar coppery scent of blood and seat came to them. Rimbaud dragged his sleeve across his face. From the depths of his cloak he pulled a rag, and wordlessly cleaned his blade. Estelyn knelt at the corpse, for corpse it was, she ascertained.

A young man, barely out of his teens, brown hair. A plain sword, a soldier’s sword, lay alone beside his nerveless grasp. A peculiar melancholy fell upon them. All was silent, bar their breathing, and they felt divorced from the world, here, all alone in the dark of the earth.

“What have I done?” whispered Rimbaud. The whisper seemed to reverberate back at him, taunting. The light from the lantern the Princess set on the ground cast leaping shadows over the deceased, dancing amongst his hair and playing in the pool of blood collecting beneath him.

“Fear not, friend,” she breathed, turning over the dead man’s left hand. Clenched in the fist she pried apart was a scrap of fabric, brown and mottled. Rough characters were scrawled upon its face, angular, jagged. Even in the dark it was all too easy to discern from where the message had originated. The language was that of Mordor. “You have rid us of another traitor.”

Rimbaud said nothing and she realized how much he hated death. She remembered other trials over the years; how he had avoided conflict if he could find other resolution. No coward he, she respected his skills at negotiation, which well complemented her own. How he had come about them was a matter much open to question and the truth of it was known to very few.

“They’ve used these tunnels for a while,” he said eventually, his mind moving like quicksilver. “Messengers.”

She nodded at his thought. She stretched out a hand and closed the eyes of the man before their feet. His face was still warm. Some trick of the air resembled a breath on her wrist and she started. She looked up at her friend, who stood, head bowed, still lost in thought.

“There can be no doubt that a force in Mordor has reassembled,” she said.

“We must inform the King,” he replied, lowly, not meeting her eye.

“The King is away. Who knows how long his business will take him? The Guard cannot be trusted, we can be sure of that now,” she said, rising to stand next to him.

“Let us make our way back to where we were disturbed,” said Rimbaud, finally lifting his gaze to meet hers. There was a distance in those deep-set eyes, yet even in the lantern light, the blue flashed, hard and cold. She shivered. “If we can,” he added, ominously.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

His fears proved unfounded. Despite the darkness and the tortuous snaking of the tunnel, they came, surprisingly swiftly to the place where orc bodies were strewn about. The smell was more deeply unpleasant than either of them had remembered. Estelyn stepped gingerly ahead of him, until they were standing just fifteen feet or so from the fork, in the Mordor tunnel.

“For now we should consider that passage a complete dead end,” said Rimbaud, grimacing a little at the stench. He still seemed deep in dysphoria. His voice was low and pained. The mention of the passage appeared to have reminded him of the events inside. A shadow crossed his face.

He shook himself. “Forward,” he said. He took her by the arm, as if they were in court, and stepped forward towards Mordor with a grandiose flourish. She could not help but laugh, although the sound rang hollow in the morbid caverns. He released her arm, she straightened her robe; the darkness soon returned their trepidation to them intact.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They had travelled for another hour in the bleak and unyielding terror that was the tunnel under the Anduin towards Mordor. They lost track of where on the surface they should be, for the tunnel, curved wickedly, back and forth, until at times they were unsure of which way they faced. The dark had become stifling, their lungs felt clogged with it. At times, it was if they pushed through water, so thick was the black air. At times, the way had sloped down, at others, up. However, oddly there had not been the myriad passages leading off, as there had been earlier. It became clear that this tunnel they traversed was of a more recent ilk than the ways nearer the Inn, and not hewn of the same hand and mind, for the construction was rough, and the height and width of the tunnel varied from step to step. The rocky roof swooped oft-times, sending them to stooping.

“This is Mordor work,” he mused out loud, early into the hour. The sound of his voice in the quiet had so startled them that neither had spoken for quite some time.

Yet it came to the point where hunger and fatigue – for the walk in the bad light and uneven surface was exhausting – took its toll, and a halt was necessary. Still, words did not come easily in the gloom. Estelyn silently handed him some fruit, a little bruised, and he returned to her some hard wafers. On this rather dry sustenance, they made their repast, sitting on the dusty floor with the lantern between them, watching over each other’s backs. They sat for no longer than half an hour, yet when they rose, they felt stiff and awkward.

They moved on. There seemed little to say.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They breasted another rise in the passage when suddenly light flared around the corner ahead of them and the rapid tramp of feet could be heard. There was hardly time to prepare.

“Our doom is upon us,” said Estelyn. “There is no place to run!”

The stretch of passage they were in was even more makeshift than the rest. Rough wooden poles appeared to support the roof; the tunnel had been badly bored. Earth had crumbled down in places. It appeared highly unsafe. The smell of the enemy ahead left them in no quandry as to what they faced. Marching orcs of a regrouping Mordor.

The tramping grew deafening, and they knew that their light had been spotted. Roars and harsh shrieks rained at them.

Rimbaud drew his sword, and saw that the Princess had her dagger in hand. Her face was pale, but unafraid. He gave her a nervous half-smile. “I have a plan,” he said, before chaos burst upon them.

[ December 14, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-14-2002, 09:06 AM   #12
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

The first orc that reached them was running so fast that he impaled himself on Rimbaud’s sword. A second one stormed past whilst the Innkeeper pulled his weapon from the fallen body. He whirled to defend his companion only to see the attacker crumple to the ground, black blood gushing from his neck and dripping from Estelyn’s dagger.

Still more orcs came, and one after the other met the fierce edge of their blades. They kept the bodies of the fallen foes between them and their attackers, an obstacle which slowed the orcs’ progress. One particularly large orc climbed over his comrades’ corpses with a huge, curved weapon raised to fall upon Rimbaud, who had turned to cut down another that had stumbled beside him. Yet before his blade met its mark, he collapsed. The hilt of the Princess’ dagger protruded from his abdomen. Rimbaud swerved to one side to avoid being buried under the massive body.

Just when Estelyn thought she could lift her arm no more, the onslaught ceased. She could hear the echoes of heavy-shodden feet coming nearer, though not yet upon them. Her breath came in panting gasps, her arms trembled from the exertion, and her hood had fallen back from her wildly dishevelled curls. She looked toward her companion and saw that his hand was bleeding.

“You are hurt!” she cried out.

“Nay, ‘tis only a scratch,” he replied. “Better to let it bleed, lest there might have been poison upon the weapon.”

“If you indeed have a plan, make haste!” she exclaimed. “Who knows how many foes are yet coming!”
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Old 12-14-2002, 04:12 PM   #13
Rimbaud
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Pipe

The grim scene was lit by fallen brands of the enemy; their own lantern lay smashed and useless upon the ground. The flames sputtered and danced.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Each breath hurt his ribs; he felt bruised from scalp to toe. His sword hand and arm were numb from the repeated shocks on shield and sword. He felt revolted and disgusted and his stomach churned. He could barely bear to face his companion; he felt tainted by the sheer death around him, some ten broken and twisted forms that had once held life.

“You sent evil to be judged,” panted Estelyn, her breathing harsh and irregular. She knew him well. “We have to move.”

Yet he moved not, head bowed, as before in the passage. Flashes of the fight were smashing through his mind, splinters of violence that threatened to topple his sanity. His blade flicking, flickering, parrying, twisting. A snake in his hand, and at times he wasn’t sure if it was fighting him or the twisted ones that snarled at him. The sword so swift as to be a shield, protecting the both of them, and when it was breached, the remarkable Princess stepping up to him and dealing death with her curious efficiency. The smell and the noise.

He had rid himself of his cloak in the first seconds, and now it was ruined, spoiled, rent on the ground and sodden with the blood of their enemies. His own too, as he noted further cuts upon his arms and hands. His tunic was sliced open in several places, rimmed in a familiar crimson. He barely felt the pain of the wounds or her ministrations as she tugged at his sleeve, trying to separate the soiled material and the cuts. He could taste a foul tang on his tongue and knew, with another turn of his stomach, what it was, what had spattered upon his face.

“Innkeeper, this was an advance party only!” she hissed, her hand cupping his chin. He had a day’s growth of stubble and looked thoroughly disreputable; she turned his head to face hers with her hand. “The main body approaches. We must flee! We have made a grievous error coming this way alone. Come!” She pulled on his arm. When he came only slowly, she lost patience and slapped him, hard, the flat of her palm against his cheek.

That woke him up. His eyes flashed fire at her and she nearly took a step back, but he controlled himself quickly. “Good Eru, my Lady, this is some adventure,” he muttered. She lifted the corner of her robe and wiped his face with it. “Now, master Innkeeper..” she began.

She cut off abruptly with the brutal hiss of an arrow. She gasped and clutched at him, and would have fallen to her knees had he not held her under the arms. An evil, black fletched arrow protruded from beneath her ribs. Her eyes flickered in agony and she gasped for words.

“No,” said Rimbaud fiercely. He swung her to the side of the tunnel, her back to the rough, earthy surface and she slumped to the wall. He took up from the ground a rough, wooden, round shield of a fallen orc; just in time, for as he lifted it, a second arrow thudded into it, the head just protruding through the near-side, inches from the flesh of his arm.

He was sure this time they were both doomed. Yet he knew not how to stop. Estelyn’s eyes were rolling in her head. He had no time to look up for the enemy, but he heard them coming towards them, as they huddled by the side, shielded somewhat by the bodies of the fallen. He covered both of them with the shield as best he could as he worked on his friend. Using her dagger, fallen from her grip, he cut the arrow shaft, leaving half an inch protruding from her tunics. From the length he had cut off, he saw that it could not be too deep inside her – her clothes were well made, thick and tightly woven. That may have saved her life. He hoisted her to his arm. She moaned and her eyes snapped open again. He began to run, supporting her, she half running, half being dragged.

Rimbaud dared a look behind. Barely twenty paces away, the orc archer was taking aim again. Behind him, a squad marched steadily towards them, keeping order, not bothering to run them down. A hundred or more. Other archers ran forwards from the group to join the first one. Arrows whistled by them, two deflected in the shield, a third slicing open his shoulder. He gasped in pain. They staggered a few more paces, out of the widened area of the fight, the area supported by the tall wooden poles. He half threw, half lowered her to the ground. He wasn’t sure if she was still alive as he whirled.

A flurry of arrows streaked for him as he ran at them, the shield torn apart by their force as he held it before him. He threw it from his arm; he stumbled as it caught on his tunic nearly dragging him down. He did not fall, and instead dragged his left hand on the ground as he stooped. Finding a wickedly curved dagger he threw it blind, hearing a scream as it hit a mark. He straightened, running to the tunnel wall on his left, weaving and ducking so that they could not aim their bows at him. Soon, he was too close for arrows and among them. He moved through them, lithe, desperately agile, fuelled by strange adrenalin. He hardly bothered to strike at them as he pushed and dodged his way, half stooped, constantly stumbling. A fierce blow found its way to his side, but rebounded, striking the scabbard on his sword belt. A great bruise on his leg weakened him and nearly finished his progress right there, but he scrambled for footing and continued, past the small group of orcs with bows.

The main body marched towards him, screeching as they saw him. The confused orcs he had darted through milled after him. He slashed at two support beams on the left before diving for the ground, two orcish blades streaking over his head as he rolled, making for the right hand side. The beams splintered and snapped, the ceiling rumbling and earth falling. The orcs screamed in dismay. A panicked melee ensued, as they scrambled to get at Rimbaud. The numbers of the orcs worked against them, they struck at each other, pushed and scratched, enraged by their inability to get to their human tormentor and fear of the tunnel collapsing.

Rimbaud removed another column with a great slash of his sword and now the earth was shaking around them. He rose fully and streaked back towards the Princess. He pushed through two orcs, who screamed as they scrabbled for purchase on his clothing, ripping and tearing at him. He stumbled to his knees and then was up again, as rocks began to fall about them. The noises, rumbling and crashing and screaming were deafening.

The orcs started to flee, the other way from Rimbaud and Estelyn, trampling over each other in their eagerness to escape. Rimbaud fell to his knees as he reached the Princess, crying out in despair. She lay still, doubled over and her back to him. He had not the will nor the energy to keep going. Scant feet behind him, the roof caved in, dust and rocks collapsing to the floor, striking shrieking orcs, drowning out their sounds. A cacophony of terror and a rush of air swelled out towards where the Innkeeper knelt by his prostrate companion, nearly knocking him over.

Something struck him hard on the back of his head and everything went black and silent.

[ January 07, 2003: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-15-2002, 01:02 PM   #14
Estelyn Telcontar
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Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.Estelyn Telcontar is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
Silmaril

Stabbing pain forced Estelyn back into cruel consciousness. She struggled to open her eyes, trying to remember where she was. The reddish reflection of a flicker on the rough stone wall pierced the darkness and caused her to turn, wincing, to its source. A small flame sputtered in the heap of stones and rubble that was now where the tunnelway had been. She had not the strength to wonder what had happened, but with a rush of concern, she remembered her companion. Her gaze searched the surroundings. There lay a prostrate body, motionless, ragged clothing stained both red and black. Then the flame went out; she was alone in the dark.

Sorrow overwhelmed her, mingling with pain and despair. Sobs racked her body and tears flowed hot and salty over her cold, scratched cheeks. Accusing questions flooded her mind: Why had she not insisted on getting help? Should she not have recognized the trap into which they had walked? How could she have been so presumptuous to think that they could solve this riddle by themselves?

Suddenly she realized what the closed tunnel meant; the danger from Mordor was past, at least for this time. The Seventh Star and the White City were safe for now. She knew her friend well enough to be certain that he had taken that risk willingly. He had brought her to safety, yet how should she continue, leaving him behind?

Weariness finally overcame her and she slept, giving in to the cold numbness of her limbs, no longer caring to move.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

With a start, she awoke and attempted to struggle to her feet as she heard the rustle of movement near her. Had an orc survived? Her instinct prompted her to flee, but a wave of pain and dizziness caused her to sink back to the ground.

“Estelyn?” a voice called, weak but familiar.

“Rimbaud!” she gasped. “You live?”

“Aye,” he responded, “this head is to hard to be easily cracked by mere stones.” He heard a sound that was half laugh, half sob from her direction. Concerned, he crawled in her direction. “You are hurt; we need to get help. Do you think you can walk?”

“I will attempt it,” she answered. “But how shall we find the way in the darkness?”

“There is only one way we can go,” he said simply. “Yet I wish I had a light, so that I could see how your wound fares. The arrowhead at least is still in it.”

“It does not bleed overmuch,” she stated. “And I would rather go with you than to wait here, alone in the darkness.”

He had reached her side and stretched his arm out toward her. Gently, he cupped her head in his hands, relieved to feel the life in her. Then he grasped her arms and lifted her to her feet as gently as possible. Supporting her with one arm and reaching out to feel their way with the other, he stepped forward. Their progress was slow; though the Princess said nothing, he could hear her strained breath and knew her to be in pain.

Soon the ground became more even; they had reached the older part of the tunnel. Yet they could go no faster, for Estelyn’s strength waned more and more. Their eyes had grown accustomed to the blackness that surrounded them; it mattered not whether they were open or closed. Yet the force of habit caused the Innkeeper to look, and he realized that there was a lessening of the darkness, hardly noticeable.

Rimbaud remembered the passage to the outside and steered to the left. Feeling the wall, he found the hidden turn. The ground sloped steeply upwards. The exertion was almost too much for Estelyn; as the light of day grew clearer, he could see that she was hardly conscious. Fresh red stains were visible on her cloak, where she pressed it to her side. Finally they reached the opening. Never had the pale evening sun seemed such a welcome sight to Rimbaud. He laid his companion on the ground carefully, then looked around. Dusk was approaching, the pale sun sinking below the treetops.

[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-15-2002, 10:23 PM   #15
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Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.Bêthberry is a guest of Elrond in Rivendell.
Boots

A soft voice in a dark cloak spoke out, in hushed tones, to the bloodied figure and the prostrate form on the ground.

"You are lucky Wyrd sees what others cannot. What has this wild chance cost you and what must I now pray I be able to accomplish?"

Bethberry rushed forward in sombre measure, looking over Rimbaud and seeing countless cuts, hurts and bruises which of themself would not account for the greatest hurt she saw in his eyes. She then kneeled beside the almost unconscious Princess, whose breathing was erratic and whose eyes, beneath the dark lids, were darting wildly. Estelyn's face was hot, even flaming, and her forehead was coated with beads of perspiration. A check with her hands brought forth coagulated, sticky fluid from the woman's side while her fingers prodded gently the area around the broken arrow. Bethberry bent low and smelled the wound and rose again, greater concern in her eyes. "It was poisoned; it reaks of monkshood. Perhaps the only saving grace is that she has bled so much."

"Here, I have brought my mare Riverdance and a small cart. Help me lift the Princess into it, and then you yourself lie down as well."

With trouble and some effort, for the Innkeeper was more hurt than he would admit, the two lifted Estelyn onto the cart, who moaned loudly several times and who then began to thrash about. Bethberry held a small vial to the woman's nose and she became calmed, but the action cost precious moments. She cut the tunic aside and washed the wound with water and agrimony before pressing a small knife into the punctured skin, to extricate the tip of the arrow. Estylyn cried out and shuddered, but Bethberry, wincing, held on until the arrow was out. Blood ran more freely, but at least that was a good sign. She shook over the wound dried bugleweed and horsetail and then covered it lightly.

"That's all I can do now." She stood up and regarded the Innkeeper, who the rising sun showed to be wan, even ashen and covered with slashes and crusted blood.

"Can your care wait until we return to the Seventh Star?" Bethberry inquired of him. He signified his agreement with barely a nod.

"No, wait," she said, reaching yet once more into the leather bag hooked on the side of the cart. "You must chew some of this, slowly, savouring it, and swallow." She offered Rimbaud a cloth, doused with water from the small bottle, and wiped away the dirt, sweat, exhaustion from his face. He was too tired to take the borage himself; she had to hold it up to his mouth before he would take it.

She helped him climb into the cart, on the side away from Estelyn's wound, and he fell with a heavy thud, almost senseless. She covered them both with heavy blankets until they could barely be seen. If she moved fast, Bethberry could have them both back to the Inn unseen by the early morning sun. But it would be a long, grim day before she could ascertain if the two would be fine.

[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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Old 12-17-2002, 10:36 AM   #16
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Pipe

A warmth engulfed him, swallowing him. Flickers of red and black pierced his vision, and he was awash with pains, ebbing and flowing. His body felt like an ocean of senses, waves of feeling roiling and crashing upon his consciousness. A sudden jolt swayed him back to a painful awareness. There was a sour taste in his mouth and his head was ringing with noise and confusion. He felt sick and dizzy.

His face was covered, stifling, and with a stiff and inordinately painful arm, he cleared the thick hemp blanket from his face. It was dark but he could see stars, peering from above scudding clouds, thin and wintry, their trailing lengths scarring the pebbled star-scape. How was it night? How long had they traveled? He was in a cart, the back of a cart and there was a warm body beside him. He pushed himself up on his elbows, fierce jolts of pain jerking down his arms. Up front, a dark-cloaked figure swayed with the gentle motion of the cart. He did not need to see the pale hindquarters of the familiar mare in the reins or the items in the cart, with smells faintly exotic, to know who the figure was. A momentary puzzlement fogged his mind.

It all came back to him then. He barely managed to reach the side of the cart. When his stomach had emptied itself and his throat was raw, he managed a choking breath. He felt rather than saw their cloaked driver peering back at him once or twice from the shade of her cloak. He croaked “The back gate!” and she nodded almost imperceptibly. He would have smiled had a flash of urgent fear not burst upon him. He half-rolled to where his companion lay, a huddled shape under the thick blanket. Her chest was rising and falling in short, shallow gasps. Her face was burning to the touch. Rimbaud fumbled around him for what he knew must be there. A whisper from the front of the cart came back to him on the night-breeze, “There, under the seat.” He reached under and found it, a thick water-skin, half-full.

His hands shaking, and his fingers fumbling, he removed the cap, and, tilting Estelyn’s head back slightly, allowed a trickle to pour into her throat. She murmured and thrashed her legs a little.

“Hurry!” he said insistently, hardly lifting his head. He knew the driver had heard but the cart did not pick up speed noticeably. Rimbaud aimed another trickle of warmish water down the throat of the fevered Princess. The cart rolled on, steadily through the night.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Not so very far away, in a large building in Minas Tirith, a shadowy figure made his report, to the great satisfaction of he who had given the instructions. “Very good,” he was told. “Do you believe that it will be necessary to remove any who may suppose to know too much?”

The voice of the underling was low, a sinuous whisper. “As far as I know, sir, those that were sent perished also.”

His master rose, tall above him. “That is well.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Dawn was yet an hour off when the cart rolled unseen to a halt outside the back gate of The Seventh Star. Bethberry stepped down from the cart and approached the gate, with the intention of opening it.

“Hold!” came the whisper from the cart. She half-turned. Rimbaud beckoned her over. “You would be in grave danger trying to sneak in that way,” he said hoarsely. He held up his left hand, and a ring, previously unseen and unknown to Bethberry, glinted faintly in the starlight. The gate creaked and Bethberry faintly heard cogs in motion around the gate as it swung slowly but smoothly open. She had not time to ask the thousand questions that sprang to mind. Rimbaud lowered his hand and she walked swiftly to Riverdance’s head and led him in. The injured man whistled, and she started.

“Fear not,” he said, “Ulaf can be trusted to keep quiet.” The man in question came, presently, from one of the Inn’s outbuildings nearby. He nodded to the Innkeeper, just visible, shoulders and head above the side of the cart in the faint morning light. Riverdance whickered as she was led away and Bethberry seemed uncomfortable but had more pressing matters.

“Upstairs?” she asked.

“Yes, if we can manage it without waking the guests!”

It was a struggle, even with Ulaf’s help. By the third stair, Rimbaud’s help in carrying the Princess was negligible. At the top he motioned them to wait with her on the landing. He caught his breath and walked to his small chambers, separate from the other rooms of the Inn, fetching his keys from the chest within.

When they had installed Estelyn in a bed in one of the simpler rooms, Bethberry made her way to the kitchens to fetch what she needed. Rimbaud delivered instructions to Ulaf; the stable-hand helped him to his rooms, and Rimbaud slept.

Some time later, Bethberry came to his rooms. The early afternoon sun streamed in through the windows and the Inn was a bustle around them. She sighed sadly as she saw him, sprawled atop the blue linens of his small bed in his soiled clothes, and muddied boots. Blood had stained the sheets and dirt was over the floor. There were signs that he had been all over the room, traces of blood and earth, on the desk, and incongruously on the mirror. Fool man doesn’t know when to stop, she thought wryly.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

As she stood there, in the doorway, a figure touched her shoulder, causing her to jump. A short lady, in the grey of the Inn stood before her, two young helpers behind her. Bethberry was surprised, she could not remember the staff here, normally so efficient and noiseless, ever approaching her unasked.

A question formed on her lips, yet before she could ask it, the woman had pushed past her into the room. “The Inn takes care of its own, thank’ee Miss,” she said over her shoulder. The two helpers squeezed through as well, and then Ulaf, bearing a great steaming basin of water. The woman looked up at Bethberry before she bent over the Innkeeper. "You be sure not to let your tongue be flapping now, Miss,” she said. “This Inn keeps its secrets and this Innkeeper especially.”

Bethberry laughed. It seemed the Innkeeper had his match in the small but tigerish head of staff. She gladly left him in her care and made her way down to the common room.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The End of the Saving of The Seventh Star. We hope people enjoyed reading this small scale RP as much as we enjoyed writing it. Thanks for reading, if you did!


This story blends back into The Seventh Star here.

Thread closed.

[ December 17, 2002: Message edited by: Rimbaud ]
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