View Single Post
Old 10-28-2003, 01:53 PM   #189
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: The Long Lake
Posts: 228
Airerūthiel has just left Hobbiton.

Etheldreda wrinkled her nose as a sickening stench writhed in her nostrils. What was that smell? She stopped halfway through the motion of scrubbing the floor and took a deep breath. It wasn't coming from inside the Golden Hall, that much she knew. Her years of stable work had given her a keen sense of direction when she'd had to look for horses that had wandered too far whilst grazing the plains. She stood up slowly, abandoning her bucket and cloth, and took careful steps towards the scent. It grew stronger as she neared one wall. Her eyes travelled to the window.

Fear chilled her blood to ruby ice as she stared out in horror. Ravenous flames licked at the wooden thatched buildings, setting them alight. She wanted to cry out in horror. It was only then that she realised where the fire was coming from. The stables of the Horse were burning down!

She thought of Tycyn instantly, remembering the manner in which he had become hers. The blaze at her father's first stables, when she was a girl of seven or eight summmers. The bay foal had been the only survivor of the horrible fire. Even now the terrified cries of the horses echoed in her mind, swallowed up by the crackling of charring wood and straw. She would not let her best friend meet the fate of his mother.

Ursa, the head of the servants, turned at the sound of running feet. She only caught a glimpse of long dark hair rounding a corner as the steps faded into nothingness. Shaking her head, the woman went back to her work. Many of the girls who had done the scullery maid's duties before this maid arrived had complained about the work, but she certainly hadn't expected the new lass to just run out of Meduseld without even saying goodbye after less than a day.

Etheldreda raced through the streets of Edoras, her heart slamming against her ribs. Several irate peasant women chided her as she knocked into their shoulders. Her ears were deaf to their reprimands; she could hear nothing but the fear pulsing through her body. Every part of her ached with fright. Terrifying images flickered across her eyes for fractions of seconds, merging into one scary vision that seeped like poison into her every thought.

Out of breath and panting heavily, she reached the inn in a matter of minutes. It felt as though she'd been running since the First Age. A crowd of black figures were flocking towards the stables, some trying to put the fire out, others leading horses away from the blaze. She could hear the cries of those who had whipped themselves up into a panic. These faded in and out of her mind, replaced by one repeated phrase: got to find Tycyn, got to find Tycyn...

For a moment she started forward, taken over by the desperate desire to find her horse. The heat that hit her was that of a thousand forges. Her throat was tightening, constricted by the noxious fumes. She had to fight it. Saving her horse from the destiny of his foalhood stable-mates was, for a minute time, more important than her own life. She did not care whether the fire consumed her. Let her sacrifice become legend among the Rohirrim! The tale of a woman dying for taking such pride in the traditions of her adopted people would not lie for a thousand years.

It was then that she saw a young woman of about her own age stroking the nose of a bay stallion. One glance at the horse was all that she needed to break down. The tears that spiked her eyes like a hundred needles were almost as hot as the flames. She ran across the courtyard, calling out to Tycyn in Rohirric. He turned towards her voice and whinnied softly. The girl who was leading him and two other horses gave his halter a slight tug.

She reached her horse and threw her arms around his neck, burying her face in his soft brown coat. The tears trickled from her clouded eyes, dripping down Tycyn's shoulder. She did not want to let him go. Her head and heart felt as though they would explode with despair and worry and relief and joy. No job mattered more than the safety of her stallion.

"I presume he belongs to you then," the girl said, her eyes smiling behind her blonde fringe. Etheldreda smiled back, nodding.

"Thank you for rescuing him," she said gratefully. "He's the only thing I've got in all the world. My name's Etheldreda." She held out a still-soapy hand and laughed nervously.

"Sigrid," said the girl, shaking Etheldreda's hand warmly and firmly. "Come on, let's help the rest of these horses!"

As Etheldreda ran for more water, her mind wandered to the cause of the fire. She was sure it was no accident. Who would think of doing such a thing to the inn, to Bźthberry and Aylwen? Perhaps she could ask Sigrid what she thought about the blaze. She allowed herself a slight grin. Maybe, just maybe, she had finally found a human friend she could trust.
'If they give you ruled paper, write the other way' - Juan Ramón Jiménez
I love pirates!
Airerūthiel is offline