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Old 11-14-2002, 05:16 PM   #1
Mithadan
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Sting Castle Maladil - RPG

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

Late in the Second Age, Maladil forfeited his Elvish immortality to marry Adela, a mortal woman. They had a son named Kenelm, a daughter named Calimiel, and ten beloved servants.

All was well until Adela died. Then, Maladil bemoaned his earlier decision. One night after smashing glasses and bottles against the bricks of the fireplace in a drunken rage, he swore a mad oath that unless Kenelm sailed West and convinced the Valar to restore his immortality, his fëa would refuse to depart Middle Earth, but remain inside the castle through all eternity, though his body die. Maladil further swore that neither would the Valar take his children or servants the way his wife had been taken, and that Kenelm, Calimiel, and all his servants would share his fate.

That very week, Orcs raided the Castle and slew all the inhabitants in their sleep. But the Orcs stole away no treasure, for the ghosts of Maladil, Kenelm, Calimiel, and the servants drove off those who dared disturb the precious metals and other finery.

It is said the ghosts guard the dread fastness to this day. Maladil shakes the foundations of his Castle with angry pacing footfalls and the stormy shrieks of one gone insane. Kenelm plays a harp with missing strings and sings softly of his captivity. Calimiel tends the ancient herb gardens, reputedly containing plants no longer in existence anywhere else in Middle Earth in this Third Age. Some servants weep, while others resigned to their boredom pass the time with chores to take their mind off their horror.

A recent Council of Rangers held near Sarn Ford has determined an increasing level of peril in the vicinity of the Castle at Tharbad. Outlaws ... and perhaps worse creatures ... are taking advantage of the fell reputation of the area. Though fear prevents foul ruffians and brigands from setting foot in the Castle itself, they expand their territory ever nearer, even unto within sight of its walls. Gandalf the Grey has been asked to see what, if anything, can be done to lift the curse of Castle Maladil or at least drive out what other evil lurks nearby. Those who accompany the wizard may each have their own motives: duty, friendship, interest in rumored treasure, curiosity, seeking their own road in company with strong companions for safety in numbers ... But whatever the reason, it is hoped that all see the wisdom in banding together and combining their talents for the common good.

As a new day dawns, Gandalf and a small band of travelers make ready to leave the Trade Inn at Sarn Ford, to journey South to Tharbad.
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Old 11-14-2002, 05:43 PM   #2
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel strapped her pack on and looked over at Estelarion.

"Are you ready?" Menelduliniel said, smiling mischievously.

Estelarion sighed a bit, "I suppose so. But, why is it you insist on thrusting us into the heart of danger?"

"This is not as dangerous as some of our sojourns have been," Menelduliniel said, absentmindedly, as she finished checking that she had everything.

"Do not underestimate the danger involved with this," Gandalf said, as he passed by.

Estelarion gave Menelduliniel a satisfied look. She ignored him as she finished.

"Are you already?" Menelduliniel asked Estelarion.

"I have been ready since last night," he said, "I know not why you insist on waiting until the last moment to prepare yourself."

"Well, most of the others are packing," Menelduliniel said, defensively.

"That is enough of that," Gandalf said, "If we are to journey as we plan, I will need a little more decorum from you two. You cannot carry on like this when we are on the road."

The two Elves quieted down and prepared their packs for the journey...
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Old 11-14-2002, 06:20 PM   #3
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Silmaril

Alearindu rode back to the Inn in the early morning sunlight, her copper hair flowing free in the wind.

She tied her horse to a post outside of the Inn. Her horse, Mornen, was steel black and pools of silver showed in his coat by moonlight. He snorted and rubbed his muzzle against her shoulder.

Alearindu had just come from a morning ride around the area. She was already packed, and had been since the night before. She was looking forward to the journey, yet she also dreaded it slightly for a reason not yet known to her.

Alearindu patted her horse on the muzzle and then walked into the Inn where the other traveler's were. She sighed a little and glanced around the room. Her green eyes then landed on Gandalf and she walked over to him.

She bowed a greeting. "How long do you expect it will take us to reach the Castle Maladil, Sir Gandalf?" She queried him.

[ November 14, 2002: Message edited by: TheLadyAerowen ]

[ November 14, 2002: Message edited by: TheLadyAerowen ]
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Old 11-14-2002, 06:43 PM   #4
Aylwen Dreamsong
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Sting

Aislan helped her father with one last horse. A beautiful one at that. She helped him take the lovely thoroughbred mare to the stables. Then she knew it was time to bid him good-bye, as she was to go on a journey to the Castle Maladil with the great Gandalf the Grey.

"Bye, father. I won't be too long, and you don't have to worry. I also hired a stable boy to help you a little around the Inn, and-" Aislan started, but was hushed by her father's embrace.

"No need to worry 'bout me, little one, you just take care of yourself. All will be fine, I trust you to come back!" He smiled at her, and Aislan smiled back at her aging father.

She walked out of the Trade Inn's stables, as her father was given charge of a steel-black stallion. Aislan did not look back, for she knew it would make it harder to leave.

She had been packed for a while. She packed the night before in her small room near the back of the Inn.

As she walked to the common area of the Inn, Aislan easily caught sight of the wizard Gandalf. Aislin waited a moment as a copper-haired woman near her spoke to Gandalf.

Aislan looked around at the company that had shown up by now. Gandalf, two elves, the female human, and a few hobbits. She was sure there were more to come.
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Old 11-14-2002, 08:45 PM   #5
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Sting

In a room on the second floor of the inn, Hinura opened her eyes and yawned after a good night's sleep. She blinked at the bright sunlight coming through the window, and reluctantly sat up to get dressed.
Pulling her tunic over her head, the young bard recalled the meeting made the night before, where she had encountered Gandalf the Grey-imagine!- and learned of the journey being made by his company. She had dreamed of making such a journey to this place as a girl, and was only averted by the reputation of the lands around the castle.
Hinura picked up the little harp that she had propped up against the wall by her bed and turned a few of the pegs; it was out of tune after being used the night before. She ran a hand across the strings to check it, and smiled; it once had taken her ages to get it to sound right, once upon a time.
She peeked out the door to see if anyone was out and about yet. Her eyes widened to see a small crowd aready forming downstairs. "Oh no," she groaned. "I slept in!" Incredulous that she would do such a thing on such an important day, she raced back inside. After carefully placing her harp inside her packsack, she hurried out of her room, holding her packsack with one hand and frantically trying to pat down her bed-head with the other, she thumped down the stairs, coming to a sudden stop to face her companions for the journey, who were looking over to see who was making such a racket. Hinura gave a bright, and slightly embarressed smile. "Hello," she said timidly.
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Old 11-14-2002, 09:11 PM   #6
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Sting

The true question, my dear Alearindu, is how long will it take us to leave Castle Maladil?

* Alearindu hadn't been in attendance during the Council of Rangers held two days ago. Instead, it was her lot to be on patrol that day, and to rescue two Hobbit lads fallen into the River Brandywine. Later that afternoon, Alearindu had been in the Rangers' secret log cabin on the outskirts of Sarn Ford when Bethberry had come capering in with a basket filled with wild turnips, carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, strawberries, and blackberries. And that night, Bethberry returned, this time with Gandalf bearing dinners of mutton stew, bread, butter, and ale for all the Rangers present. A much-needed feast, for there'd been no time to hunt or gather while the Council was in session. So Gandalf was of course previously acquainted with Alearindu, and Alearindu had been informed by Strider about Castle Maladil. *

* Meanwhile, Menelduliniel and Estelarion kept up their typical morning banter nearby, cheery enough in their own fashion. Truth be told, the wizard had grown sentimentally attached to these two Elves despite their flightiness. *

* Outside roving free and munching dew-tipped grass from the lawn was Midnight, a former war steed of Mordor whom Gandalf had befriended after defeating the wraith who rode it. *

* Meanwhile, the daughter of one of the Trade Inn's stablehands stood nearby. Ever since Aislan had overheard Gandalf tell the Tale of Castle Maladil that night in the Common Room, she'd been nearly as adamant about wanting to come along as a certain cheeky Hobbit named Podo Cotton. Fortunately, Gandalf had scared off Podo, sensing something not quite right about the fat merchant. But Aislan? While the wizard disliked the thought of her facing danger, she was free to share his road. *

* And hustling down the stairs came Hinura the Bard, whom Gandalf now bade a good morning. A fine chance meeting, this. For Hinura's wooden harp would well complement the singing of Meneli and the flute-playing of Estelarion. *

* Gandalf counted out silver with which to pay for his room and board, and settled accounts with the Innkeeper while waiting for the rest of the group to assemble. *

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]
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Old 11-14-2002, 11:37 PM   #7
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Sting

It was still dark outside when Andreth and her father caught their first sight of the Brandywine River. The pair had ridden hard and fast over the past three days to cover the distance from Michel Delving to Sarn Ford in as swift a manner as possible. Just last night they'd made camp beside the road and risen while the stars still twinkled in the skies, hoping to reach the Inn by dawn.

"Slow down, slow down," her father panted. "We're almost there. We can afford to give our horses a breather."

With great reluctance, Andreth pulled back on the reins, and sat squarely down in her saddle. If she had her own wish, she'd have gone galloping madly into town to arrive as soon as she could. But there was no sense in angering her father. Not when he'd finally agreed to let her go.

As the Inn at Sarn Ford loomed ahead of them, Dagnir shook his head and sighed, "And exactly what am I going to tell your mother?"

"Please don't start that again," Andreth begged. "Just tell her someone from the family had to go. Even she would agree with that. This is the busiest time of year for you. And Brandir is an apprentice. He can't just take off anytime he pleases. That leaves me. So here I am."

Andreth's younger brother had recently apprenticed to the Rangers. It was he who had brought the news to Michel Delving about the strange affairs that were afoot. Dagner and Andreth had been touring the Shire with their textile wares piled high in their cart. They'd unhitched the horses and left the cart behind them in the care of a friendly hobbit family whom Dagnir knew well. Then they'd raced over the hills to Sarn Ford as quickly as they dared.

Upon reaching the front of the inn, father and daughter dismounted. "Remember what I told you. I've contacted Mistress Bethberry to act as your chaperone and keep an eye on you."

"Father, I don't need any chaperone. I'm twenty-four years old."

"You can't be too careful these days." Dagnir countered gruffy. "Things seem to be going from bad to worse. Anyways, remember what I said to you. It's not the treasure. No good father would risk his daughter's neck for treasure. It's the honor and the rightness of the thing."

"I'll remember. I promise." She turned and planted a kiss on his cheek. But, to tell the truth, Andreth's mind was more on adventure and freedom than on any question of honor or rightness. Still, she understood what her father meant.

Dagner walked up to the innkeeper, and inquired if he might speak with Master Gandalf or, better yet, Mistress Bethberry with whom he was well acquainted. His daughter would be accompanying them on a journey. He did not want to leave her until he was sure that she was safely in their care.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 11-14-2002, 11:40 PM   #8
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Sting

Holly followed Bird out of the common room and into the Inn’s courtyard. She watched her friend as she once again counted the eleven silver pennies she had won from Gandalf in the riddle game. Bird was just putting them into the small leather bag pulled from her skirt when the Hobbit approached her.

'So, my wealthy friend, where are you bound for now?'

Bird shrugged, and tucked the bag once more into her waistband.

'I'm not sure myself.' mused the hobbit, kicking at a loose stone in the courtyard dirt. 'Have you heard that Gandalf has plans to leave today? To that castle, I think. The one he scared the timid listeners with a few nights ago.' She looked speculatively at the folk gathered in the yard, and sighed. 'I do grow weary of being in one place for so long. My feet are itching to feel the open road again. I intend to leave soon, and probably with Gandalf and his companions as their way and mine travel in the same direction, at least for now.

She heard Perry's soft whinny come from the stables. 'Well, best go see to my travelling companion. She picked up her small back pack and strode toward the stables, to feed and groom her pony and make ready to go.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-15-2002, 03:10 AM   #9
Susan Delgado
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The Eye

Anna began her day the same as she always did, by hovering high above the castle and watching the sun rise over the trees in the forest. After all her years of being dead, she could never make up for the time when she'd been alive and had no opportunity to watch the day be born.

Most days she stayed here for some time after the sun was up, simply because she enjoyed the fresh air (what could penetrate her icy form) and because lately the castle had seemed too small with too many people in it, though it was actually large and very few people lived in it. Anna snorted derisively to herself. Nobody lived in the castle at all. She stretched her long, thin arms out to allow the sunlight to beam through them. If only she could be alive again! Damn Maladil anyway! And Adela for good measure; she was the only one to have escaped this endless, lifeless place. She briefly considered consigning Maladil and Adela's children to the void as well, but she thought of Calimiel, who was her friend, and Kenelm...Kenelm. She sighed. She simply couldn't do it. She would go insane without those two to ground her.

A little shiver went through her when she heard the strains of Kenelm's harp. He was playing from the garden this morning...odd. But perhaps the morning's beauty had enticed him out as well. She floated down around the front of the castle toward the rose garden, noticing one of the second floor maids busily dusting a table as she went past. She snorted in disgust. Why did they even bother? No living person was ever going to use those rooms again, and it wasn't as if the ghosts needed them. To each her own, she supposed. Maybe the girl was just bored, and by the Valar, Anna knew how that felt.

She paused under the climbing vines just around the corner from the rose garden and hovered there, listening.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]

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Old 11-15-2002, 08:42 AM   #10
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The Eye

Kenelm sat on a crumbling stone bench, the one that had moss growing out of every crack in its marble-ish surface. His hands drifted flawlessly against the old instrument, carrying out a sorrowful, yet soft tone with his eyes closed. The 'beauty' of the garden consisted of rows upon rows of beautiful flowers, already opening to greet the sun and to exhale the air from this ghost-ridden castle, their leaves filled with drops of liquid silver that captured the reflection of all that it saw.

Then an odd thing occurred. Kenelm stopped playing his music, and looked up at the sun. He murmured, "I cannot play... Anor bears no music for me..." He slowly stood up, the old harp held carefully in his slender hands. He then looked in the direction of Anna. The wind rustled the leaves slightly, making a few petals drop off the venerable flowers. Kenelm lowered his eyes, then walked silently out, his tresses dragging 'on' the ground behind him, and if you'd look closely, you would see that his form casted no shadow. He retreated back into the dank castle, not caring if Anna followed him.

Once more, the music of the harp wandered through the halls and snaked about the pathway and Kenelm sung mournfully in a soft, quiet voice. The servants did not pause in their 'work', for this was a daily happening. Kenelm heard the crash of glass faintly, continued to play, and a servant-ghost drifted towards the sound. Father again... such a reckless one, always breaking things, like the way he broke my heart.. Kenelm thought in response, then sighed and plucked the strings.
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Old 11-15-2002, 10:10 AM   #11
Birdland
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Sting

"You're cracked", said Birdie, "and the Wizard is even more cracked. Look at this!" Bird gestured around the Inn's courtyard, where which was filled with activity. Elves had been arriving throughout the morning, summoned who-knew-how. The Rangers were also to be seen, pushing into the commons room to help themselves to the breakfast supplied by the good Bethberry, sharpening swords and checking gear, or lounging in the sunlight, smoking their pipe-weed and looking inscrutible. The inn had never had so much business, and the innkeeper had never been busier. It seemed a small army had descended on Sarn Ford, all summoned by Gandalf the Grey.

Bird was in a foul mood. The rooms at the inn had filled up fast, and Holly's room had been let out to the couple of elves to share at the last minute. Bird had spent an uncomfortable night in the rafters of the stables, and had barely been able to snatch a hot bannock from the kitchen as the board was being set up in the commons room to feed the travelers. The whirlwind of activity was making her decidedly nervous.

"Why you would want to follow this mob to the castle is beyond me. And for what? Riches? If they do succeed in whatever they're planning, you'll be lucky to get a gilt cloak pin out of the deal. Any gold will disappear into Elven coffers in Rivendell, believe me. And just what do you plan on contributing to this little outing? Do you intend to "draw" the ghosts out? "Draw"? Get it?" Birdie laughed at her own joke, then shooed away a curious Elven steed that was sniffing at her bannock. "Get away with ye!" she muttered, as she waved her hand. "Dratted destriers. Where's Olo? He should be rounding up these horses, y'know. Anyway, if you do fall in with this bunch, who's going to watch your back? Not these Elven folk, that's for sure. They'll have no time for a Hobbit".

"Well, that's what you're for, Birdie." said Holly with a laugh.

"Me? I'm getting out of here, and you would be well advised to do the same. Get on the road soon as you can, before these 'questers' stir things up."

"I'd advise against that" came a quiet voice, and the two companions turned to see a green cloaked figure sitting on a bench near the stables.

"Volondil!" Holly greeted her new-found friend. "What brings you in from the woods? Are you to accompany Gandalf as well?"

"If needed", said the young Ranger cryptically. Volondil had learned cryptic from his hero, Aragorn.

And just why shouldn't we take to the road this fine morning?" Birdie asked saucily, hands on hips.

"Because you would not get more than a mile. The doings at Castle Maladil have drawn more than Rangers and the Elves, you know. No roads are safe now. Any lone travelers will be waylaid by brigands, or worse. No, the safest place for you two right now is right here. And you would be advised to do whatever Gandalf tells you. That is, if you want to get out of this alive."

Holly and Birdie looked at each other. "This is what you get for befriending a Ranger." said Birdie.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-15-2002, 10:43 AM   #12
Mithadan
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Sting

In the Elven enclave of Imladris, the morning dawned quiet and serene. The House of Elrond stirred as the birds trilled to greet the sun. A whisper of wind ran through the trees and in the pine woods to the North, several Elves burst out in song. But within the House the calm of the morning was disturbed by angry words.

In the common room, an Elf stood at a table over a fallen chair. The muscles of his jaw clenched and unclenched making a scar which ran across his cheek writhe like a snake. His shoulders were thrown back and his hands closed into fists. Across from him, Glorfindel sat calmly, looking up at the agitated Elf with clear grey eyes.

"What do you mean?" demanded the Elf. "Speak clearly, for I will not stand for baseless accusations."

"Calm yourself, Nardol," replied Glorfindel mildly. "I accuse you of nothing. I say only that the Battle of Five Armies has brought us but little respite and the days grow dark again. The Orcs of the mountains spawn in great numbers and Trolls wander the lands. It is as if some evil will not let peace lie upon the Northlands.

"We are growing few in number and have need of unity among our people. Too many now merely count the days ere they will pass into the West and grow disinterested in Middle Earth. But you at least claim that you have no wish to seek the Straight Road. You have often enjoyed the hospitality of this House and I merely suggested that you should consider repaying that hospitality with service and allegiance to our causes."

"Repayment?" cried Nardol. "Have I not traded with the Dwarves of the Ered Luin and has this House not seen profit from my journeys? Your causes? You would have me align myself with that rag-tag that call themselves Rangers? Far have they fallen yet never were they lofty to begin with for the Atani have never been trustworthy or deserving of my aid."

"You underestimate the Dúnedain," replied Glorfindel quietly. "And if you will not lend them aid, there are other ways to assist this House rather than wandering about at your own whims."

"Enough!" cried the Elf. "I shall pay for my room and board as if this were an inn if you wish. But my time is my own."

"Enough indeed!" came a voice from the door. Elrond entered the room and stood by Nardol placing a hand on his shoulder. "Put away your purse. I have no need of your silver. But the days rush along to uncertain ends and we will have need of your aid and that of many others besides. Your company is happy to rest here for a time and is welcome. But I will have no hard words in my House today. We are brethren and must act like it."

Nardol glowered at the Lord of the House. "Then what would you have of me? Would you throw me forth like Thranduil and bar me from this place?"

"Nay," said Elrond with a smile. "But you chafe at our hospitality like a horse spoiling for a race. I think that you would benefit from some space and some freer air. Your company is not ready to leave but you are. Thus, would you consent to undertake an errand for me?"

"To 'repay' my debt for your hospitality?" he answered with a glare at Glorfindel. "Yea. I would gladly undertake a short journey."

Elrond held up an envelope and handed it to Nardol. "This contains a letter which I would have you bring to Gandalf the Grey. You know of him, do you not?"

Nardol took the envelope. "The old fool who meddles ever in the affairs of others? Yes I know him."

A flash of anger appeared on Elrond's face. "If you know him, then you know he does far more than 'meddle'. You should learn to use gentler speech and contain your temper." Nardol stood silently and looked down. Elrond continued. "I have heard he may be found in the area of Sarn Ford. Bring this to him and, if your pride will allow it, perhaps you should accompany him for a time for it may be to your benefit."

"Very well," responded Nardol as he placed the envelope in a pouch. "You are right that I would see the open road again. I will find Gandalf for you and deliver this. I leave today." With that, he turned and stalked away...
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Old 11-15-2002, 10:43 AM   #13
Birdland
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Sting

The Butler drifted through the walls of the castle - literally - and the keys at his belt kept up a soft jangle, though they did not move at all. The strains of Kenelm's harp could be heard faintly through a narrow, unglazed window, where a weak beam of sunlight lit up the dancing dustmotes.

He paused before a scullery maid, kneeling beside a beautifully carved table in order to dust its intricate legs. Silently he pointed to a spot she had missed, and she, jut as silently, polished the dark, dusty wood. Then the sound of breaking glass reverberated through the halls.

"See that the glass is cleaned up immediately" The Butler ordered, and the maid's form faded. The Butler walked on, patroling his territory, seeing to it that all within the castle stayed just as it was, throughout eternity. He knew his duties well, and would repeat them, day in and day out, for however many eons it took for the Valar to submit to his Master's demands.

"Where is that Anna?" he muttered angrily to himself. "She should be seeing to the linens now. And my Lady's chamber needs airing" He drifted on, going over and over in his head what needed to be done today. Over and over again.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-15-2002, 10:54 AM   #14
Susan Delgado
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Sting

Anna did turn when Kenelm entered the castle, but she wasn't following him. She too had heard the breaking glass and was curious what old Maladil was up to now. Of all the residents of the castle, he was the angriest, the most unsatisfied. He was constantly stalking the halls, shouting, breaking things, and generally getting in everyone's way. They'd all learned to ignore him as much as they could, but as the ghost hurrying by with the dustpan attested to, sometimes that just wasn't possible.

Anna came upon Calimiel when she reached the corridor leading to the kitchen and paused. What's he doing now? She asked silently. In the beginning, the ghosts had been able to speak in whispers if they tried hard enough, but they'd soon given it up as a pointless grasping of their lost humanity. They now spoke to each other mind to mind. It worked just as well.

Calimiel turned her head, acknowledging Anna's arrival. He's going through the kitchen breaking every dish he can find.

Anna nodded. She'd figured as much. She sort of felt sorry for Tella, the scullery maid, who was rushing back and forth with a dustpan, but not too sorry. She didn't have to clean up the broken crockery if she didn't want to, no matter what Maladil said.

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Old 11-15-2002, 11:24 AM   #15
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Sting

Poppy came down the stairs of the inn, and joined the group gathered outside. Her heart quivered with anticipation, she had never expected to find herself on a journey like this when she had left Tuckborough for the umpteenth time. She carried her small pack on her back, for she had not brought many supplies with her. She had a long dagger by her waist, but no other weapons.

As she walked into the main room of the Inn, she was almost knocked over by Hinura, who was rushing downstairs. Poppy smiled, trying to cover up her extreme nervousness. She had never been on a quest of such importance before, in fact she had never been on a quest in her life. Her years had been spent running wild throughout the Shire, sometimes further afield. But looking around her this morning, and seeing the mix of people, daunted her slightly, and for a passing moment she regretted her hasty decision to go with them.

But so spellbound had she been by Gandalf’s tale in the Inn a few nights ago, she was unable to resist. In any case, she couldn’t back out now. Pausing for a moment to compose herself, she went over to where Hinura, Menelduliniel, and Estelarion stood, considering the journey ahead. She smiled brightly and attempted to make herself feel more at home with these strange adventurers.
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Old 11-15-2002, 12:19 PM   #16
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Sting

Olo was already in the stable when Bird and Holly entered. He stood in a dark corner and leaned on his pitchfork, having just mucked out the stalls for Midnight and Peri, and watched the two women step from the bright morning sun into the shadows of the stable. Their heads were bent close together, their voices low, so that he could not make out the words.

Holly was doing most of the talking, her hands punctuating sentences, emphasizing important points with their gesturings. Miss Bird looked unconvinced by the Hobbit's argument, and mildly irritated by something out in the yard, as her eyes strayed often toward it, and a frown crossed her face.

Peri whickered loudly, drawing Holly's attention. Pulling a wizened apple from her vest pocket, she held it out to the pony, scratching him absentmindedly between the ears as she continued her conversation with Bird.

' . . . and besides, if I understood correctly, there is more than enough treasure at the castle. The high and mighty Elves won't give a fig if a Hobbit and one small, insignificant woman wander about the castle and its grounds doing pen and ink studies of the architecture and landscape.' She paused for a moment, and a small smile played about her lips. Her eyes narrowed and a feral gleam flared in them briefly. Bird arched her brows, waiting for the Hobbit to go on.

'In fact,' she continued, 'I've been wondering where I might use this stock of old vellum I picked up.' She rifled through the contents of one of Peri's side packs and pulled out a ragged sheet of aged vellum from a small portfolio case. She held the dilapidated piece of kidskin up in the pale light filtering through the stable slats.

'Old vellum, eh?' remarked the unimpressed Bird. 'What's so great about that? Looks like the mice have been nibbling on it, if you ask me.'

'Yes,' smiled the Hobbit. 'Just the sort of nibblings an old map might have, don't you think? Just the sort of minor diversion two old grifters might use should they want to assure that others will not be looking in the same places they are. No need to be greedy, just find a little something to get us by for a while.'

'Grifters?' came the questioning voice from the shadows. Olo stepped out into the light and looked from one to the other. 'Maps? Just what are you two talking about? It sounds dangerous. I would advise you not to do it.'

Bird and Holly looked at one another. 'And that,' said Bird, shaking her head, 'is what you get for befriending the stable hand!'

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-15-2002, 01:21 PM   #17
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Sting

"Olo, dear, I do believe there are some horses wandering around the inn yard that need your expert care, m'dear", said Birdie sweetly, but Olo just thrust his pitchfork into the haymow and crossed his arms stubbornly.

"Those Elven steeds can take care of themselves, and don't appreciate the attentions of just any hostler. My attentions needed right here, it appears. Miss Holly, just what are you doing with that map, and where did such a thing come from, I'es would like to know." Olo talked to Holly, but his accusive glare was on Birdie.

"Well, don't look at me, young Olo. I had nothing to do with this. Didn't even know she was carrying such a thing. And if I had known, I would have thrown it in the fire. But I'll echo Olo's question; just where did you get such a map. Don't hold it up like that!" Birdie hissed, "Someone might see you." Bird glanced around the stable. She suddenly suspected even the mice in the walls of having unfriendly eyes and ears.

[ November 15, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-15-2002, 02:04 PM   #18
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Sting

Holly laughed at the both of them - Olo for his overwrought concern for her and Bird for her overwrought concern about everything. She knelt down by one of the hay bales and spread the old vellum out in a pool of light shining down from the rafters. Bird and Olo crouched down beside her, as she ran her finger over the dim and fading lines on the skin.

'It was a few years back, as I recall. On one of my forays into Eregion to sketch the autumn shadings of the trees along the Hollin Ridge, and work my way south to capture the lights on the new snows of Caradhras. I had finished the studies I meant to do for that trip, and was just come to the place of Ost-in-Edhel, thinking to sketch the ruins there before heading home for the winter.

A small band of Wanderering Elves, passing down the Sirannon heading West to Nîn-in-Eliph, came upon me there, and we passed the night in pleasant companionship. They sang stories of the Elder Days and I sketched them as they sat by the flickering campfire, their grey cloaked forms almost fading into the evening shadows. In the morning they left, as silently as they had come. We had thanked each other for the company of the campfire, and I remember giving them a few of my group sketches, though I kept the individual portraits of the singers. In turn, they gave me several maps I had commented on, saying they no longer needed them and that I might find them useful in my travels. This was one of them.'

'I still think it's too dangerous for you two ladies to be traipsing off with it. We should tell Gandalf, I think. Or at least Volondil!' Olo stood up and hauled Holly to her feet with his hand. Bird stood, too, and grinned at Holly.

'I know, Bird. I know. By the One, he called us ladies!' She turned to Olo, still holding her hand, and kissed him sweetly on the cheek. 'No need to worry so, Olo. We'll have all the protection we need. You're coming with us, aren't you? You can take care of any dangers while we scout around.' Holly rolled up the map and tucked it into a safe place in her vest.

Olo looked at her, not knowing quite what to say. Bird nudged him with her boot. 'Better bring that pitchfork, Olo. Sometimes Holly's plans don't quite work out the way she means them to.'
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Old 11-15-2002, 02:20 PM   #19
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Sting

Meanwhile, in a rancid-smelling lair safe out of reach of the sun, the location of which was known only to its foul denizens, Morhâk the Looter sifted through spoils with Shagdug Darkspear:

"Still say we gots us a good deal goin', Shagdug, so quit yer whinin'. Sleep if yer wants." The hunchbacked figure yawned himself after a long night's work.

"Sleep? So yer can claim any good stuff what we don't deliver to the Dead? Tell me again, Looter, why we packs up fine crockery and bottles and brings 'em to those what can't eat or drink?" Shagdug rubbed bleary eyes against the weariness of morning.

There came a grudging conspiratorial growl. "Handin' over them tall, fancy prisoners last time is what gets me. Better not get to be a habit. But the Butler's right, benefits us all to keep Master Maladil distracted."

Shagdug uncorked a wine bottle, drained the contents, and belched. "Well let 'im throw empty bottles. I could use me some distractin' meself."
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Old 11-15-2002, 02:32 PM   #20
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Sting

Andreth stared at her father and sighed, "I'll be fine. I really well. The Innkeeper says Gandalf won't be back for a few hours. Plus, he's not even seen Bethberry yet."

"You have lots to do. Go on back to Michel Delving. I promise to introduce myself to Mistress Bethberry. You know Brandir talked to her. You've got nothing to worry about."

Andreth was slowly herding her father towards the door of the Inn, trying to prod him into leaving. Several of the other travellers were turning around and looking in her direction. She was uncomforably aware of their gaze and wanted to sink under the ground.

Her father turned towards the door. "Alright, since you are so anxious to get rid of me."

No, father, that's not true. I love you. Only I don't see anyone else here with a parent." She glanced nervously from side to side. "And I do promise to be good."

She put her head down on her dad's shoulder and whispered, "I'll do what you say and be very careful. You'll be proud of me, I promise.

Then the two hugged each other and said their goodbyes. Andreth sat and watched as she saw her father disappear down the road. She leaned against the wall of the Inn and breathed a sigh. I'll miss him, I'll miss all of them, but I'm free. I'm really free, and Bree is behind me. She felt relieved and pleased with herself.
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Old 11-15-2002, 04:14 PM   #21
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Silmaril

Alearindu glanced at Gandalf and smiled a little. "First, we have to leave here, though." She laughed. "And that just might be a while."

Alearindu looked around again and noticed that most of the people in the Inn were talking, and almost ready. She didn't know the exact way to the Castle, and therefore hoped someone else knew.

She sat down in a chair and pulled out her sword, Megildu, 'Sword of the Night'. She took a cloth from her belt and cleaned the sword again, though she didn't need to.

Alearindu placed her sword over her knees, stretched and looked at Gandalf again.

"I just hope that we can all leave the Castle Maladil, no matter how long it may take us."
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Old 11-15-2002, 07:22 PM   #22
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Silmaril

Menelduliniel began humming to herself while she sat, waiting for the others to prepare themselves. She looked over to see Estelarion staring at her.

"What is it?" Menelduliniel asked.

"Are you thinking the same thoughts that I am?" Estelarion said, a twinkle in his eye.

"I do not think this is the time to sing, if that is what you mean," Menelduliniel said, "None will be listening and many are out of earshot. We will be a hinderance."

"That has never stopped you before," Estelarion said, "And, with your voice, all will hear. And people can always use a song."

Menelduliniel sighed and thought a minute. She broke into a smile, "Why not? We may as well give people a warning of sorts of what they will be in for when we begin this journey."

She stood up and Estelarion got out her flute. They began to play.

Na haer a
Na haer a

Randir tri in'rys
Gelnnir tri in'rys

Na haer a
I'wain an in'rys
Na haer a
I'wain an i'methed

Penio hûn le.
Randir tri in'rys.
Penio hûn le!
Glennir tri in'rys

Randiron
Annir ben in'rys

Randiron
Tirir ben in'rys.


Hinura, by that time, had joined in, the gentle heart complimenting the other two beautifully. They stopped and all smiled at each other.

"Suilannon," Menelduliniel greeted formally, "I am Menelduliniel."

"And I, Estelarion," Estelarion said, smiling at the new member of their group.

"And I," Hinura said, "Am Hinura."

"It will be a great pleasure to travel with you," Menelduliniel said.

"And I with you fine players," Hinura responded.

The new companions all smiled at each other.
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Old 11-16-2002, 11:38 AM   #23
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Boots

Although the sun was warming the air now and the dew and mist of the chill night had almost disippated, Bethberry's fingers were still numb with cold.

She had risen far before dawn, packed her bag and leather satchel, taken a quick breakfast of bread, honey and tea, and then sought the secluded path into the wood which she and Gandalf had trod two nights earlier. In the dark, with but the stars and moon to guide her, she shivered as she searched for the patches of borage which she had seen while delivering the meals to the Rangers in their cabin.

Stepping lightly and swiftly, she was careful not to be seen, for she did not want to attract any more attention to the Rangers' cabin than the several meetings had already done. Feeling the leather and wood pendant which Strider had placed around her neck a short two days ago, she then wrapped her heavy cloak more tightly around her for warmth as she stepped around yew and cedar, ducked the low branches of elm and oak, occasionally getting the hanging mosses tangled in her hair. The moonlight barely penetrated to the forest bed, illuminating small, shifting patches of the leaf debris with a silver sheen, for Bethberry had left the small beaten path soon after entering the forest.

She was searching for the tall elderberry shrub, its leaves a mottled cream and green which was the sign she had marked. She thought she had found it when a voice spoke quietly to her out of the dark.

"The woods are dark and deep with strange goings on. Are they safe for a Bombadil, even one who is an Honorary Ranger?" Strider inquired of her.

Bethberry was startled, for despite her woodcraft, she had not heard him approach. She looked at the tall but slightly stooped figure who came to her side, cloaked and hidden, and she would have become uneasy had not the voice given away his identity.

"You have given me a valuable lesson, Strider. I was so intent on attaining my goal that I listened not for others."

"You trod quietly and lightly; none would have seen you save any looking for you. What do you seek that you must come by starlight and moon?" A rustling overhead drew his eyes up, and he noted Wyrd had come to perch on a nearby branch.

"A patch of borage that I marked the other night, delivering the supper. It is hard to come by and I would have a goodly supply of it, if I may, notwithstanding the bag you have already given me."

Though it was dark, Bethberry sensed the Ranger smiled. "So your keen eyes discerned it, River Daughter. You alone are the only one other than myself to have found that patch. You are almost upon it. Here," he said, as he drew her around the elderberry shrub to the west side and pointed to the herbs almost hidden under the leaf fall. "Take what you need; the patch is large and tended by me. You fear you and Gandalf will have much need of it?"

A gentle smile rounded Bethberry's face. "I do not fear, as you say, Strider, for a light, nay a song, guides me that gives me hope. Yet I worry that we might. Unease grows these days even among those who watch not."

The Ranger could not help but warm to the calm declaration and be comforted by the light which glimmered even in the dark from those hazel eyes.

"Merry met, daughter of Tom and Goldberry. I stand corrected in the gentlest of ways. Do you want help or my company back to the Inn?"

"Unless you know of greater trouble than that I am aware of, I would not disturb your work here, Strider.And I have Wyrd."

"So be it. Good night, nay, good moonlight to you, Bethberry, and good chance to you and Gandalf on your journey."

With a short bow, Strider then retreated into the forest shadows and Bethberry turned to her task.

"Spirit of the elderberry, allow me trespass and forgive what branch or twig I might need break to gather the borage." She spoke the petition softly as she knelt and quickly picked a goodly supply of the fragrant leaves, nimbly at first but as the night wore on the cold crept into her fingers, her knees and her feet. She was glad when her harvesting was done and she could chafe her hands repeatedly.

A quick and uneventful return brought her back to the Inn, where she spied many gathered around Gandalf.

"Forgive my delay. I will quickly seek my room and be ready to depart."

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 11-16-2002, 01:18 PM   #24
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Sting

"Best keep that map safe, and secret, Holly."

"What!" cried Olo, "you're not going along with this cracked scheme of hers, are you Miss Birdie?"

"No, I am not "going along" with the cracked scheme. I am, however, going along with Holly. She has been too good a friend to leave her to go wandering into this by herself. She will need someone to pull those furry feet out of the fire before long, and I intend to be there when it happens."

The thought of the flighty skinchanger "protecting" Holly did little to comfort Olo. "That's the trouble with these times," muttered the Hobbit. "To many women-folk getting themselves involved in things that are best left to their betters. Should be staying at home and tending to their hearths.

"Their hearths?" Birdie snorted. "Listen, you insulated, isolated young stablehand. I've had two 'hearths' burnt down around my ears, and I owe it all to the actions of my 'betters'. Oh, I know, 'grave forces are at work. Evil must be thwarted'. But while the lofty Lords of Elves and Men are doing the battling, they have little time to care for us lesser folk. We can only get out of the way and take care of our own."

Bird couldn't believe that she was defending Holly's plans, but Olo didn't know what things were like out in the wide world, and how many poor women, and men, had lost all due to the ravages of Sauron's forces, and the resulting battles conducted against them. The Wilderness was full of refugees and fugitives. It could only get worse in these lawless times.

"A little gold can go a long way, when it comes to keeping a person safe in these times. Though again," and here Bird looked at her friend, "I don't think you'll see much of it from this Castle Maladil. Not after the Elves and the Wizard have been through it."

"Elven maps", Olo grumbled in disgust, "Those things should be handed over to Gandalf, straight away. Maybe he would pay you for them, and then you wouldn't have to be going off seeking treasure."

"Not likely", said Holly, "he'd probably give me a pat on the head as he flew off to pore over them, and forget all about the source. No, this map is mine, to do as I see fit." Holly patted her pocket where she had hid the map, and looked at both of her friends. "So, are you with me?"

[ November 16, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-16-2002, 01:42 PM   #25
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Sting

'With you on what?' came a voice from the doorway of the stable. Backlit by the morning sun, the person's shadowed features were indistinguishable. Holly groaned inwardly when she recognized the tall,lean figure and the authoritarian way in which he stood.

Olo stepped forward to speak, and the Hobbit grabbed his hand, pulling him back beside her. 'Volondil!' she said warmly. 'We were just discussing whether Bird would be joining us or going her own way. You'll be happy to know she'll be in safe escort with the rest of us.'

She saw Olo frown at her, and she turned to him, smiling sweetly. 'I haven't had my breakfast yet. What say we go find a little something and go down to the river's edge to eat. Perhaps enjoy a pipe before we have to be on the road.' She turned back toward the Ranger, noting the small smile that played along his lips. 'And no, Volondil, you don't have to shadow us. We won't go far. We'll be fine!'

She winked at Bird as she hurried Olo out the door.

'Miss Bird'll keep you company for a while!'

[ November 16, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 02:03 AM   #26
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Silmaril

Celumëomaryu carefully made her way up the stairs. She had some private rules that prevented her from disregarding the architecture of the castle as some others did. Specific spaces were designated for her pacing; eliminating the walls as barriers would have left her wandering through the building with no aim and no chance to turn around, either physically or in her thoughts, and that way madness lay. At this time of day, she ought to be threading her way around bookshelves in the library, up one aisle, down the next, left at the window and right at the door, but the sound of breaking dishes had lured her downstairs. Real work came seldom, and pacing could wait.

Tella was taking a moment to rest, staring down at all the shards that were left. Celumëomaryu peered into the dustpan, only to find that the foolish girl had emptied it already.

“Tella!” she said. She clung to the use of her voice as much as possible, and even now, when, for all practical purposes, it didn’t work at all, she insisted upon moving her lips as she mind-spoke. Her envy of Maladil’s ability to scream, moan and wail was boundless, but mind-speech was effective in any case. The girl turned.

I’m cleaning, Celumëomaryu.

“A commendable occupation.” The slight overtone of irony was lost on the girl, but maybe that was just another unfortunate side-effect of mind-speech. “How much have you cleaned?”

I’ve been busier sweeping the dishes than counting them, if that’s what you mean.

Celumëomaryu sighed, and drifted grandly to the other side of the room. She kept a record of all the dishes the castle had ever ordered in her evidently infinite memory, and was prepared to count them herself. She was satisfied, in a way—here was a task that might keep her busy for hours. However, after only a moment, she turned in astonishment.

“Is there a whole set missing?”

Tella stared at her as if she were raving. What are you doing?

“What does it look like? I have to calculate the costs of this for Maladil.”

Do you suppose he cares? He broke these dishes himself, you know. It’s just as likely he’ll break more tomorrow, costs or no.

“And what do I care what he cares? Somebody needs to make sure that things are done properly, and if Maladil is too---well. If Maladil won’t do it, I will.”

Tella sighed.

“He’d better not break any more dishes, either. What are we to eat from, I ask you?”

And she buried herself in her task, ignoring the fact that the provoking girl seemed to be laughing at her.

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: Belin ]

[ November 19, 2002: Message edited by: Belin ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 03:03 AM   #27
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Sting

At Celumëomaryu's entrance, Anna was prepared to go elsewhere, but she stayed to watch the Elf's abuse of poor Tella. The girl was just doing her job, however misguided it might be, and didn't need to be mocked for it.

Leave off, Celumëomaryu. She's only doing what she's told to do.

Celumëomaryu rounded on Anna. She considered her little more than a chambermaid, though she'd had as much power as the Elf had, when she was alive. "What do you mean, 'leave off'? Who are you to tell me what to do?"

I'm a resident of this castle, just as you are, and she is.

Celumëomaryu snorted silently. "That means nothing. You have no power over me."

Of course I do. I have as much power as anyone. Even him. She gestured toward the kitchen when a poorly aimed butter dish flew through the doorway. It impacted with the astonished Elf's chest and smashed into the wall behind her. With a "Haaah!" She vanished. Anna turned at the sound of Tella's giggles in her mind and smiled before she wandered off up the stairs. Discomfitting the accountant was always an accomplishment, and though it was really Maladil who'd done it this time, she doubted he knew or cared, and she felt no compunctions about taking the credit. She turned back in time to see Tella kick a shard of glass back into the kitchen and fade out. Two major accomplishments already and it was still early morning! Anna sensed this would be a good day.

[ December 11, 2002: Message edited by: Susan Delgado ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 08:50 AM   #28
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Sting

After a while standing in the common room in the Inn, Poppy started to feel a little out of place. She wandered outside in search of fellow travellers, and once more saw a small crowd gathered around Gandalf. Although not yet there, she remembered that Bethberry, the River-daughter was also coming on this journey with them. She had felt instantly curious about this strange character, having seen and heard rumours of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry on her numerous journeys.

Thoughtfully, she strolled over to the group, and greeted them warmly. She puffed on her pipe, and a grey, wispy, smoke ring floated up into the clear sky, bright in the early dawn.

“All ready to set off, Poppy?” asked Gandalf.

“Yes, master Gandalf,” Poppy replied. She noticed Menelduliniel, Estelarion, and Hinura sitting a little way off to the side, and singing. Alearindu was standing in conversation with Gandalf, and all of a sudden Poppy felt very left out of things, being the only hobbit in the crowd. She stood there unnoticed, until she spoke up, and asked Gandalf and Alearindu when they were leaving. Gandalf looked up into the sky.

“Soon, I hope. Who are we still waiting for?” he said, peering about him. Poppy looked around at her surroundings, a little pang of guilt eating at her heart for disappearing in such a way. She had asked at the inn for tidings to be sent to her family that she had set off, and would not return for a little while, but still her parents would be worried. Poppy reminded herself of the adventures and the treasures at the end, and tucked the feeling at the back of her mind. All that remained now, was to set off.

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: *Varda* ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 09:10 AM   #29
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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

The hot bath had been an indulgence, but a needful one. The warm waters had taken the dirt out of Bethberry's nails, the moss out of her hair, and, more importantly, the chill out of her bones. There was no sense beginning the journey ill, sick, or ailing.

Yet Bethberry scrambled to pack and organize this new batch of herbs in her satchel, pay her bill with the Innkeeper, and begin her accepted role on the journey. She had wished Dagnir had not been so set on Andreth having a chaperon, but she knew fathers and their solicitude for daughters. Hadn't she herself fought that argument many years ago? She chuckled to herself, wondering if Andreth had made that connection yet.

Throwing her bed roll over her shoulder, lugging her bag, and hefting her precious satchel of herbs and salves under her arm, Bethberry made her way through the Great Hall to the bustling group outside. She spied a shy looking hobbit and, a little ways in front of her, the young women who could only be Andreth.

"Well," thought Bethberry to herself, "if ever we need someone to mark a spot, Andreth would be the likely one, her flaming red hair easily visible at great distance." She positioned her self and began her somewhat unusual approach to the recalcitrant young woman.

Her bags provided a ready prompt as their weight caused her to shuffle them around and wobble ungainly. On cue, Bethberry tripped and fell against Andreth, her bedroll unrolling and her satchel partially spilling open, revealing a tantalizing small bag of chocolates and sweets, the two of them then tumbling into the young hobbit.

'Twas an entrance designed to break the ice if not a limb or two.

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: Bethberry ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 09:57 AM   #30
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Child of The 7th Age Post

Andreth felt her feet give as the Lady and her bags came crashing against her side. The young maid tried to jump out of the way, but to no avail. She found herself down on the ground with the small hobbit, the one named Poppy, pinned underneath her skirts.

"I'm so sorry," Andreth blurted out to Poppy's wiggling form. She quickly got up and began trying to untangle the hobbit girl who was still trapped beneath her own pack and all of the belongings of the other lady.

Poppy giggled and rolled out from under the baggage, sitting up and extending her hand. "I'm fine. My name is Poppy. You must be the girl from Bree."

Andreth nodded yes and shook her hand.

"Are you alright, Mistress Bethberry?" Poppy asked.

The woman responded by laughing merrily. "I think that's the question I should be putting to you two."

She quickly checked the girls over to make sure they were in one piece, and then introduced herself to Andreth. "I am Bethberry, and I'm glad to see that no damage is done. I do apologize. Next time, I'll winnow out a few more of my belongings, or get a better hold on the load."

Andreth said nothing for a moment, but looked intently at the older woman. So this was Bethberry. She looked a bit different than she'd imagined. Her eyes were fresh and clear like leaves of spring rustling in a forest. Andreth had expected a wizened prune. This at least seemed better than what she'd feared.

Andreth reached out her hand to offer a polite greeting, but then froze. Half of the contents of her pack had spilled out under the table. Andreth could see a spare jacket, her tiny hand loom for weaving small items, plus a few balls of yarn rolling here and there. And then she spied what she most feared. There it was, clearly visible to all, if they just craned their necks a bit. This was not good. She'd better do something fast or everyone in the room would be asking questions. Plus, she didn't want to think what her father would say about this blunder.

She hastily crawled under the table and scooped up her loose possessions, stuffing them back in the sack. Andreth took special care with one very old item, making sure that it was safe and well hidden again.
Then Andreth quickly pulled herself up, and cordially greeted Poppy and Bethberry.

Bethberry gave her a puzzled look. For one moment Bethberry seemed about to comment further on what had happened, but thought better of it and went on instead to other things.

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

Piosenniel's Post

Breakfast by the river had been foregone when Holly and Olo passed through the yard and noted how their fellow travellers had begun to gather about Gandalf.

'Won't do to be late on my first time out, will it?' said Olo. He put his hand on Holly's arm and brought her to a stop. 'I'll just grab my pack and walking stick, then pop down to the kitchen and get us something to eat along the way. You see to Peri, get him all packed up. And I'll meet you in the yard.'

It was an agreeable plan and Holly waved him off. She strode back quickly to the stable, and brought Peri out from his stall. 'Well, old friend, we're off again.' She scratched his ears, then offered him another apple. He munched on it contentedly as she threw the small blanket pad over his back, followed closely by the packs, buckled securely round him.

'So, how does that feel?' she asked him, as she stepped back to survey her handiwork. He raised his head up, then shook his neck and withers, testing the feel of the packs on him. He shook his head back and forth at her and snorted, then looked to his left, eyeing the pack there.

'Hmm! Let me see what I can do.' She shifted the items in the offending pack, putting the smoother sided ones nearer his flank and the odd shaped ones to the outside. 'And now?' she asked, when she had finished. He shook himself once again and took a few steps. Then with a whinny and a light step, he led her out the door of the stable and to the crowd waiting in the yard.

Olo had not yet appeared. Holly stood leaning against Peri and surveyed the group. Volondil had been right, many more travellers had joined them, trusting to strength in numbers.

A lone Hobbit caught her eye,standing not too far from Gandalf. Leaving the pony to forage in the sparse grass at the side of the courtyard, she walked toward her, and tapped her lightly on the shoulder.

'Begging your pardon, Miss,' she said as the startled Hobbit turned to face her. She held out her hand in greeting. 'It's good to see another Hobbit among the travelling companions. That is, I assume you are going with Gandalf when he leaves.' She looked questioningly at the still startled Hobbit, and laughed. 'I'm sorry. Where are my manners! The name is Holly, and I'll be going down the road with this group at least as far as Tharbad.' Peri had, by that time, wandered over to where Holly stood and now nudged her in the back for attention. 'And this,' she said, laughing once again as she drew him up beside her, 'is my dear companion, Periwinkle.'

The pony stepped forward and nudged the unsuspecting Hobbit in the arm, then blew out a gentle, hay scented breath at her. He stepped back and stamped his front hoof once in approval.

[ November 18, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 10:14 AM   #31
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Sting

Poppy, startled at first by Holly coming up behind her, then laughed.

“I’m sorry, my manners escaped me at first as well!” Poppy shook Holly’s hand. “My name is Poppy Took.” She smiled with relief. “I must say, I’m relieved there’s another hobbit coming along on this journey! I was beginning to feel a little out of place, height wise.” She smiled wryly.

Poppy stroked Peri’s mane. “I love horses,” she said, looking for a conversation opener. “I’ve always wanted to learn to ride, but I never really had the opportunity back in Tuckborough.” Poppy felt anxious to make a good first impression, she didn't want the journey to get off to a bad start because of her.
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Old 11-17-2002, 10:50 AM   #32
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Sting

With the soft jangling of keys wafting before him, the Butler inspected the work of the servants. The stage had been cleared, all signs of his Lord's handiwork had been swept away; to where, he had no idea. He trusted that the maids had an suitable place to dispose of the remains of the broken crockery and glass.

The table and shelves had been reset, ready for the moment when Maladil relived again the torment of his drunken rage and his defiance of the Valar. As it had been, night after night, through the long years.

"Hmmmmm, we shall have to restock soon. Our supplies of breakables are running low." The Butler expected another delivery soon though, and hopefully, this would be the last. Soon, if all went well, Lord Maladil, and all who served him, would be free of their ghostly charade. Soon, hopefully, The Oath of Maladil would be fulfilled.

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: Birdland ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 11:43 AM   #33
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Sting

Peri shook his head at Poppy in a most decided manner. Holly chided him, saying, 'Don't be rude! She didn't mean she was going to ride on you.' She searched the sidepocket on her rucksack and handed the other Hobbit a small carrot, indicating she should offer it to Peri.

'He's never actually been ridden.' said Holly by way of explanation for the pony's behavior. 'From the look in his eyes when he sees another horse being saddled up, I'd venture to say he thinks it something just this side of contemptible.'

Olo had come out the door by this time, his pack on his back, a plate of fruits and hot buttered scones spread thick with gooseberry jam in one hand and two mugs of honeyed tea in the other. She introduced the two briefly. Motioning for him to follow her, Holly led him and Poppy to a small table in the yard.

She invited Poppy to sit with them and have a little something. 'Olo and I can share this mug.' she said, placing the other in front of the now seated Poppy. A few moments of comfortable silence passed as the three tucked into the food before them.

Holly licked the last stray dribble of jam from her fingers and washed it down with a swallow of tea. 'You know,' she said companionably to Poppy, as she held out on the flat of her palm a stray morsel of scone to the patient pony, 'if you want to learn about horses and how to ride them, this is just the Hobbit to talk to.'

Olo blushed to the roots of his hair, and stammered that he would be more than happy to give Miss Poppy the benefit of what little he knew.

Holly gathered up the plate and mugs and left the two of them to talk horses. She strolled to the kitchen and rinsed the dishes out, leaving them in the sink for the kitchen boy to scrub later.

As she passed through the common room, she noted a young woman waving good-bye to someone just departing. An interesting look of relief mixed with a small measure of guilt briefly cross the woman's face.

'Who's that?' she asked Blossom, a sharp eyed serving girl who kept close tabs on the who and what of the Inn's business. Blossom paused and looked toward the doorway, running the roster of guests and arrivals through her head.

'She's from Bree, I know that.' Blossom's brow furrowed as she searched her memory further for a name. 'Andreth!' That's the name. From that Man family there - the ones who do the weavings.' Blossom smiled, satisfied at her answer and turned back to resume her duties.

Holly stood for a few moments watching the young woman. Would she be coming on this journey with them, she wondered. And where was she really bound for and why?

The young woman had stepped back from the doorway, and Holly stepped through, on her way out to the Inn yard. She smiled at Andreth as she passed and nodded her head in greeting. Her fingers strayed to the vest she wore, and ran softly down the familiar patterns woven in it. It had come from Bree, she knew, a trade she had once made with some passing wanderer on a long ago journey. Now she wondered if this new companion's family had woven the cloth from which it was made.

'Small world.' she thought to herself, smiling. She could see that Poppy and Olo were still engaged in conversation, and she left them to their talk of horses.

Gandalf was near, watching the ebb and flow of peoples in the courtyard. She walked up to him and took out her clay pipe. Offering him some of her stash of Southern Star before she filled her own bowl, she asked him, 'Think this group will get itself together soon and be on its way?'

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 11:50 AM   #34
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Sting

Volondil approached in the gloom of the stable as the laughing Halflings retreated into the sunshine. He walked towards the strange, small woman slowly, as if he were trying to invade the space of a woodland creature, ready to bolt.

Birdie didn't bolt, but she did put the comforting warmth of Peri between her and the Ranger. A handsome man, but she had seen his like before. The troubles of Middle Earth surrounded him like a shroud. He was part and parcel of it, sworn to cause against an ancient enemy, bound to a path whose end was known to only a few. Except Death of course. Death knew the end of all paths.

"So you have decided to accompany your friends on this "mad quest" then?" said Volondil with a small smile.

"Ha! Not I. I want no part of this mission." Bird stuck her chin out, but her fingers fumbled with the thick hair of Peri's mane.

Volondil frowned "But your friend seems to think you are coming with her. Surely you don't plan to desert her." The Ranger admired the woman's sense of self-preservation; it was a skill best-practiced in these hard times, but he didn't like to think of her as backing out on a promise.

"I made no promises." Bird blurted out, as if she could read the Ranger's thoughts. "She knows how I feel about all this. Holly will be fine, with so many noble folk surrounding her. I'm away."

"And I say you should not be taking off on the road by yourself now. It is perilous. And I would have you stay here..." Volondil caught himself at the last minute, and added, weakly, "where it is safe."

"I'll be fine. I'll travel by daylight, and cut across country." said Bird, picking up a very small pack, hardly large enough to carry the things necessary for the usual traveler.

"You have no horse?" questioned Volondil

Bird laughed, "Nay, I don't need one of those bothersome beasts. The burden they bring is hardly worth the burden they bear." This was such an outlandish statement that the Ranger hardly knew how to reply, though his face said all that was necessary. Bird looked down, caught in the lie, and started to stroke Peri's nose in apology.

"I had a horse once. He died." She didn't look up, and she continued to stroke the good pony.

"It's hard to lose a noble friend, I know." said Volondil gently. "I've felt that grief myself."

"Well, I won't. Not again." Then she shrugged and laughed. "Shank's mare is good enough for me. And now, good Ranger, I bid you adieu. May you find your fortune at Castle Maladil."

"I go not for fortune, but for duty. Surely you know that much about a Ranger's life." said Volondil angrily, as the woman brushed past him and made her way to the stable door.

Bird stopped, and slowly turned. It seemed that she was ever saying the wrong thing around this young man, and having to explain herself, instead of exiting with a laugh and a flippant reply. It made her very uncomfortable.

"I know." she said, then asked quietly, "You'll look after Holly and Olo? When you can?"

"Of course, though I would rather they did not take this journey, and I wonder that Gandalf would even allow it."

"Well, a Wizard always has his reasons, though he seldom explains them. Good-bye, Volondil. Perhaps we'll meet again." Then she turned and was gone, walking away from the crowd gathered in the courtyard. Volondil sighed, partly in exasperation, partly in resignation.

Bird turned away from the swelling crowd of people around Gandalf, quickly ducking around to the back of the stables. Looking to see if anyone watched, she then quickly buried her pack in a shallow hole and covered it with straw and dirt, saying a small blessing on her few worldly possessions, that they might lie there safely until she returned. Half her silver pennies remained in her pocket. Then, checking again for unfriendly eyes, she raised her arms.

A small black and white crow flew over the roof of the stables, and landed in the branches of the oak tree that shaded the courtyard. It watched the proceedings of the meeting with curiosity, and kept its shiny black eyes on the forms of the Hobbits. And every once in awhile, it would follow the movements of Volondil the Ranger.
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Old 11-17-2002, 04:26 PM   #35
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Menelduliniel and Estelarion moved towards the barn. The saw a group of people already. They silently went to the corner and sat down together to see what was going on and whether they could hear an approximate time of departure.

When they heard of none for a time, Estelarion got up. Menelduliniel reached up with a hand, and he pulled her up. They approached some of the party that was near a pony.

"What time do you think we will be leaving?" Estelarion addressed one of the members of the party.

"When all is ready," the person said, not being of much help.

"Why don't we go see how everyone is doing? And meet new people?" Menelduliniel asked Estelarion, elbowing him a bit.

"All right," he sighed. They made their way back towards the Inn. They entered and they soon found Holly and Gandalf smoking some pipe weed. They walked over and sat next to them.

"Is everything practically ready? Who is coming? How many are coming? What can you tell us of the journey? How long should it take?" Menelduliniel asked, firing off questions. Estelarion laughed and patted her on the head.

"Easy there," he said, "How about we try one at a time?"

[ November 19, 2002: Message edited by: VanimaEdhel ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 07:54 PM   #36
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Sting

Holly had finished her pipe, and felt the need to stand a stretch a bit. The two Elves, Meneldulineal and Estelarion, had come over to ask questions of Gandalf about this proposed trip. She said hello to each of them, and said she was sorry but knew nothing about the trip other than that she she was indeed going. She made her excuses to Gandalf,leaving him to answer the Elves questions, and got up to walk about the yard. Poor Peri stood beneath the oak tree ready to go, looking quite forlorn that they had not set out as yet.

She went over to him and unbuckled his side packs, removing them and his underblanket. Piling them against the trunk of the tree, she led him over to the grass sward just beyond the stable, telling him to make himself comfortable, she would call for him when it was time to go.

The sun was growing bright and hot in the sky, and she sat beneath the oak, her back resting against the pile of packs and the folded blanket. She watched the comings and goings of the Inn’s patrons, until her eyes grew tired. Her head lolled back, and her heavy eyelids were just on the verge of closing when she felt a warm splat on her outstretched arm.

Her eyes flew open and her eyes focused on the offending small white patch now clinging to her forearm. She wiped it off with a fallen oak leaf, and standing, looked up into the branches of the tree for the culprit.

A jackdaw hopped back and forth on one of the lower branches, and she could swear she heard a small chortle escape it. ‘Bird!’ she thought to herself. ‘Now what’s got her so spooked she’s gone and changed into another form.’

Holly sighed and sat back down. ‘Bird, you coming with us on the wing, then?!’ she said out loud. She looked up at the bright eyed creature staring down at her. ‘Let me know if you want me to put your belongings in one of Peri’s packs. There’s plenty of room, just show me where they are. And please, if you really don’t like my plan, just leave me a note next time!’

[ November 17, 2002: Message edited by: piosenniel ]
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Old 11-17-2002, 10:14 PM   #37
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Sting

Hinura walked a little ways off from the crowd, lost in her own thoughts. She was truly glad that there would be at least two in this company who share her passion for music and for song; it would help the long hours on the road pass by quickly. She studied the sky; though it was still early, it was likely to be a fair, warm day, the only visible wisps of cloud visible high up.
To pass the time while they waited to be underway, the young bard sang softly to herself, remembering a story she had heard early in her travels.

Fonn: Ó a iù nach till thu Dhòmhnaill ?
Ò a hì nach till thu Dhòmhnaill ?
Ó a iù nach till thu Dhòmhnaill ?

Là dhomh 's mi 'siubhal a' mhonaidh

Có thachair rium ach Dòmhnall

Thòisich sinn air beadradh spòrsail

Thànaig am beadradh dhuinn gu dòruinn

Bhagair e mo léin' a shròiceadh

Chuir e falt mo chinn fo bhrògan

Thug e sgian bheag às a phòcaid

Cha b'e siod a gheall thu Dhòmhnaill

Ach réiteach agus banais 's pòsadh.
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Old 11-18-2002, 01:58 AM   #38
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Sting

* Gratefully inhaling the last bit of Southern Star gracefully offered by Holly, Gandalf spoke aloud as if to himself. In a musing tone of contemplative distraction, he answered the inquisitive Elves Menelduliniel and Estelarion while counting heads. *

Counting myself and not counting animals, so far there are twelve of us here:

One Bombadil: Bethberry, Singer-Healer and Honorary Ranger.

Two Elves: Menelduliniel and Estelarion, both Warriors and Bards.

* peering at Andreth * The light of the Fair Folk shines in your eyes, too, Andreth, Elf-friend. And yes, I know your name, though we haven’t been formally introduced. But I know not what you bring to this company.

Three Hobbits: Holly, Artist; Olo, Hostler; and Poppy, who perhaps might be persuaded to serve as a Scout.

* Gandalf was careful to avoid mentioning the term "burglar" or supposing out loud that Poppy might follow in Bilbo Baggins' footsteps, for it was only almost a year after Bilbo's disappearance, and there were certain Hobbits who whispered amongst themselves that Gandalf had spirited Bilbo away to an uncertain end in a suspicious manner. *

Four of the race of Men: Alearindu and Volondil, Rangers; Aislan, Hostler; and Hinura, Bard.

Then there’s myself.

We appear to be missing one: Birdland. Were she here, we’d have thirteen, to match the thirteen ghosts at Castle Maladil.

* At this point, Holly spoke up saying that it was all right to leave, assuring that if Bird wanted to join, she’d be able to catch up on her own, with no trouble at all. *

* The roll call taken, Gandalf took to the road and settled into a comfortable walking rhythm with his staff. Some of the company marched behind in ones or twos as if they were on parade. The more eager of the company dashed on ahead as if they were in a race. Still others drew up easily alongside the wizard, or alongside those who followed him. The black steed Midnight strode along behind at an easy gait, willing to follow Gandalf, yet poised to break into a full gallop and match the Elven steeds, should they offer a competitive challenge. *

* Just then, the sun came out from behind a cloud to act as escort as they travelled South from Sarn Ford to Tharbad. It was 10:00 o'clock in the morning by Shire reckoning. *

[ November 18, 2002: Message edited by: Gandalf_theGrey ]
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Old 11-18-2002, 07:04 AM   #39
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Silmaril

Eirian began to hum softly to herself as she walked. The sun was shining warm on her shoulders, and by all signs, it was going to be a beautiful day. She started to sing quietly, a merry song.

Long the road
Bright the sun
Bread and sleep
When the road is done
Yet to the road my feet must keep
Down to the Sea or river deep

Suddenly a voice called out from behind a tree.

"You there! Who are you?"
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Old 11-18-2002, 11:27 AM   #40
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Sting

Poppy remained close to the others as Gandalf took the roll call. The last thing she wanted was to be left behind. She shivered at the thought, she longed for adventure. On the brighter side, at least she had broken the ice with a few people, even if it had involved being squashed slightly under Andreth and Bethberry. Thankfully, the only thing that had been dented was her dignity, and that little.

As the group set off, Poppy felt a surge of excitement rise up and bubble in her heart. This was indeed very different from her wild roaming about the Shire. This was a true adventure. And to a hobbit just out of her tweens, the experience was exhilarating, to say the least.

She looked with interest at the members of the group that she had not yet spoken with, Alearindu, Volondil, and a few others. She hoped to have the chance later in the journey, but at first wanted to find her feet and strive not to make mistakes that would have consequences for the rest of the group.

[ November 18, 2002: Message edited by: *Varda* ]

[ November 19, 2002: Message edited by: *Varda* ]
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