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Old 07-22-2007, 09:03 PM   #841
littlemanpoet
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Eodwine knew what he wanted, and Thornden's quesiton prodded it from him.

"Tie them up tight, then search them over. I want no trick locks or blades or any such on them anymore. Then put them back into the downstairs closet, and work out a change of guard. They are not to be left alone.

"Where's Léof? I want him to ride to Meduseld and give warning of our escaped outlaw so that the King can make any plans he sees fit."

"I'll go find him," Falco offered.

Harreld was walking Ginna to the doors leading to the kitchen, and had the door opened when Garreth growled, "Now how is it my brother finds a young lady to cotton up to and I'm left standing here all alone?" Then he raised his voice. "Ginna girl, have you a twin? A sister? A cousin?"

Harreld turned and faced him, red as a beet. "Stow it, Garreth! Leave off with your jokes until a more jesting time!" With that he closed the door behind him with a bang.

"I wasn't joking," Garreth muttered.

"There's always the former captive lady," Falco pointed out.

Eodwine winced. Had these fellows no sense of propriety? "Falco, go find Léof. Now! Garreth, I think you've earned yourself a drink. Get you to the Hall where you will be served!" With those two gotten rid of, only the Eorl and his two men at arms remained, except for Rowenna, leaning now against the alder tree.

"How do you fair? Are you hurt?" Eodwine asked.

She shook her head. "They threatened my life often enough, one more time does not unnerve me." She paused and looked at the door through which Ginna had passed. "The girl, Ginna. She thinks wrong of me."

Eodwine had not forgotten Ginna's words. "She said that you were one of them. Why?"

"When they had us both by the knife I said things that I thought might give us a few more moments of life, and she took them as if I was allied with them."

"What did you say?"

"I suggested to them that they had not died because I had your ear. I needed to make myself of value to them in any way I could, or they might have killed me. It is how I have survived among them."

"Is that all you said?"

Rowenna paused, then shook her head. "Nay. I also suggested that they might make use of her as they-" she paused again and looked away at nothing in particular "-as they had used me. I did not mean them to. They were just words." She faced him again, her eyes pleading. "You have to believe it! Liars are quicker to believe a lie than the truth."

"Was there anything else you said?"

Rowenna looked at him, her eyes shining. She swallowed. "Yes. I tried to get her to hand over the knife she held. I feared for her life as long as she held it, for they might have tried to use it against her. I admit that I spoke harshly."

"So you made yourself seem an enemy to her."

"Yes, lord. For her good."

"Is there anything else that you said?"

She shook her head. "Nay, lord. There was nothing else."

Eodwine said nothing, but held her eyes. She did not look away. He had kept his own face clear of all warmth, for he did not want her to think that he regarded her with sympathy, even though he did. She needed to be examined in her words, for he did not know her. None of them did. She still held his eyes. She was strong, and had clearly been made so by the dire circumstances of her recent life with these scoundrels. It made Eodwine's blood boil, for he could well imagine the evil to which they had put her.

"Very well. We will talk of this more later." He turned to Thornden and Garwine, who had listened to this exchange with great attention. "Take the prisoners down to the cellar. And tomorrow we begin work on a real dungeon!"

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Old 07-23-2007, 12:29 PM   #842
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Léof was starting to wonder if he and Thornden had not simply made something up out of nothing. There had been a couple of shouts earlier, but since then he had heard little else and seen nothing.

Of course, if something had happened, it was also rather doubtful that he would find much in the residence wing, where Thornden had told him to check. Dutifully, he had checked both the down- and upstairs, finding nothing. As he was again heading downstairs, he heard a voice coming from the opposite end of the hall. As he came into sight, he spotted Stigend, axe at the ready.

“I don’t think there’s anyone except me around here,” Léof offered. “I’ve checked both floors.”

Stigend did not appear convinced. “Could someone have come in while you were upstairs?”

“Well, I suppose so,” answered Léof, becoming increasingly confused by Stigend’s manner. “What’s happened?”

Before Stigend could answer, however, the door behind him opened and he whirled around, axe held high. Whoever it was that Stigend expected did not appear; rather, Falco emerged from the door. He seemed not to notice Stigend at all, for his gaze went straight to Léof, who by now had come down from the staircase. “There you are!” Falco said. “Eodwine wants you to take a message to Meduseld.”

“What’s happened?” Léof repeated, more urgently this time.

“You haven’t heard? One of the outlaws has escaped!”

“Just one?” asked Léof.

“We caught the rest of them again,” Falco explained impatiently.

“Right,” Léof replied, still absorbing this information as he headed for the stables. Fortunately he had not yet had time to put away his saddle and bridle and both were still right outside Æthel’s stall. He quickly replaced them onto his horse and led her out into the courtyard to find out if Eodwine wanted him to report anything other than the brief details Falco had given him.
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Old 07-23-2007, 08:46 PM   #843
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“Take the prisoners down to the cellar,” Eodwine said, turning to Thornden. “And tomorrow we will begin work on a real dungeon!”

Thornden bent at once to obey, pulling the Ulric up onto his feet. Garwine followed his example, prodding Withold to stand. They took them back through the kitchen and down again into the cellar. There, Thornden shoved his man into the corner and then he stooped and picked up the cut ropes. They were cut in only one place and would work again, for now. Thornden would come back with new ropes to take their place shortly.

While he bound the outlaw's hands and feet again, his thoughts whirled bitterly about in his brain. ‘Dolt!’ he called himself viciously. ‘It’s your own fault for not searching them! Clumsy fool that you are! You might have known they had hidden weapons on them! You’re fortunate Eodwine said nothing to you. You’d deserve it, you would, if he yelled properly at you.’ He tugged furiously on the rope, tightening it harshly, and Ulric grimaced.

“Both the women might’ve been killed,” Thornden went on, half aloud and through gritted teeth. “Both of them! And it’s all you’re careless doing. Garwine!” he snapped suddenly.

“What!” Garwine replied, a little startled.

“Sorry,” Thornden apologized, turning from Ulric. “Have you got your man bound?”

“Yes.”

“Then go ahead and search him as lord Eodwine instructed.” ‘And as I should have instructed earlier today,’ he added to himself. For a minute, there was silence as the two men searched the outlaws. They searched them as thoroughly as they knew how, coming out with nothing.

When they were through, Thornden and Garwine left the cellar, once more closing and locking it behind them. Thornden left Garwine alone at the door and went up, intending to find other men and working out a change of watch, as Eodwine wished. He intended on having two men there at a time, and on having both men wide awake at any hour of the day, until the outlaws were gone.

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Old 07-24-2007, 05:33 PM   #844
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Even as everyone else disappeared from the table bearing the broken body of Rilef, Kara remained there still, unable to tear her eyes away from the scene in front of her. From a young age she had been schooled to believe that death was a natural and necessary part of life, but not death like this, needless and dealt by vicious hands. Finally she closed her eyes and turned from the table, fully intending to make her way back to the kitchen, but as she opened her eyes again she felt hot tears spring to them and instead made her way out of the Hall, looking for somewhere quiet to shed her tears in private.

Frodides meanwhile had been picking herbs in the little garden behind the kitchen, hoping to give Ginna and Kara time to get to know each other. It was no good having two girls in a kitchen if they didn't get on or there would be jobs done half heartedly as one would think the other should be doing it. No, she thought to herself, best to let them hammer out any issues now rather than later. And with that sage advice she had gracefully settled herself onto one of the benches out the back and tilted her head back in the sun.

Which was exactly how Kara found her a little while later, having grieved as much as she needed to at that moment. The sight of Frodides snoring gently, completely unaware of the sad event that had taken place, brought a smile to her face and it was with sorrow that she reached out a hand to wake her up. For however peaceful she might look Kara knew that her temper would soon be up if she was allowed to nap the afternoon away.

"Frodides?" She said quietly, shaking the older woman's shoulder.

"What?" Was the frighteningly immediate response.

"I'm sorry, I thought I should wake you. There's something - "

"Wake me?" Frodides didn't give her a chance to finish. "How can you wake a person if they're not asleep? I was resting my eyes that's all, giving you and that new girl some time alone. Haven't fallen out already have you?"

"No, but - "

"Well that's a blessing. Now so long as some fine fellow doesn't come along and get the two of you fighting over him we should all be happy!" She stated, a frown of disapproval crossing her face at the thought of it. "Now, what is this something that was so important?"

Haltingly Kara told her of what had happened and almost broke down again herself as she watched Frodides' normally stoic face fall. She was one who naturally allowed her emotions to show but Frodides kept things to herself, so to see such pain and bewidlerment on her face was startling.

"Why would they do such a thing? Those two were no threat to anyone that was clear enough." She asked, and though no answer was expected Kara gave one anyway.

"I don't know. Lord Eodwine has locked them up inside I think, perhaps he'll question them."

"Locked up? Here? But there's nowhere safe to put them and there are young children about! Come on girl," she said, leaping to her feet with far more agility than Kara would have given her credit for, "let's go see what solution has been found."

Kara followed, hoping that Frodides wasn't about to barge in and rip into poor Eodwine before he had a chance to deal with the outlaws, but as they reached the kitchen she found herself worrying a great deal less about that and more about Ginna, who was currently being helped onto a stool by Harreld and looked decidedly the worse for wear.

"What in the world happened to you?" Frodides apparently agreed, and was taking the direct approach to getting answers. A few moments later and she had the full story, reported by a very shaky Ginna and a distracted Harreld, and it was clear to all that she was now on the warpath.

"Right. Kara, you stay here and keep an eye on young Ginna here, she needs no more excitement today so I want you both to stay out of harms way. You, Smith, where's Eodwine?"

"In the courtyard, or he was last I saw him." Came the reply, and Frodides marched off in that direction, muttering to herself as she rehearsed what she was going to say when she found Eodwine. However, when she finally came upon him talking to another girl who didn't look as well as she might, she had come up with nothing better than:

"My lord, just what exactly has been going on? I find one of my girls in tears and the other telling a tale of being an inch away from death! How did this happen? And what happened to my kitchen? It's a mess!"
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:48 AM   #845
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Eodwine stared at Frodides with thinly veiled ire. In most cases he was able to greet each new challenge as it came with, he liked to think, a gallant and generally happy bent of mind. But having not enough men and murderers almost escaped and having almost killed his charge, had renewed that itch that bugged him now and again, that he was not up to the task for which the King of the Eorlingas had set him. So his tone was more bitten off than he liked, but he could not seem to control it.

"Murderers were kept in the cellar. We have no dungeon. They tried to escape through your kitchen. Make me a list of the repairs needed and I will see that they are done."

Frodides' eyes had strayed to Rowenna.

"She was their captive and is now free. See that she is fed and any other needs met. I must see to finding more men at arms to defend this Hall."

With that, Eodwine turned on his heel and made his way into the Great Hall, then to the courtyard, with his eye on the stables. Léof was standing by his horse, seemingly ready to depart.

"Léof!" Eodwine called curtly. "Where are you off to!"
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Old 07-26-2007, 10:19 AM   #846
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Entering into the courtyard, Léof had initially been disappointed and rather frustrated to find Eodwine nowhere in sight. He had been given the bare bones of a message, and no information about Eodwine’s whereabouts; would it really be so hard to tell him just what was going on around here?

He had only been standing there for a few seconds before Eodwine emerged from the Hall, somewhat alleviating Léof’s ill will. He had not been forgotten, then.

But just as he was about to ask what Eodwine needed for him to do and say, he was cut off by Eodwine’s curt question: “Léof! Where are you off to?”

He felt quite taken aback by the lord’s tone; it was his orders that he was following, after all! Unless Falco had been playing with him? But Léof thought it an unlikely thing for the hobbit to do.

“Falco told me that you wanted me to take a message up to Meduseld, sir,” he replied, managing to keep most of the reproach out of his voice. “Since the stables were on the way, I thought I would get my horse before coming out here to hear the details of your message. Have I done wrongly?”
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Old 07-26-2007, 05:38 PM   #847
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Eodwine

Eodwine came to a full stop and closed his eyes tight, wincing.

"Nay," he said heavily, his eyes still closed, "you have not done wrongly." He opened his eyes and heaved a deep and unrefreshing sigh. "I am overwrought with too many things at once and forgot my order to Falco. Where is the misfit, anyway?" Eodwine looked from side to side as if expecting Falco to emerge from underneath one of the stones loose in the courtyard.

"Misfit!" cried a shrill voice from the stables. "I'll fit you with a miss!" Falco emerged, walking swiftly and full of vim toward Eodwine and Léof. "I carried out your order, and thought I'd keep a lookout in the stables while the boy was away."

"Very well, leave off," said Eodwine peevishly, "I've somewhat more for Léof to say to the King or his man." He turned to Léof. "Tell Meduseld of our adventure with the outlaws. Tell the tale as best you can, if you choose. But tell them that the scrawny one of the three, one Ghem by name, is escaped and at large. And put word out that the Eorl of the Middle Emnet seeks men at arms who will be well rewarded. Have you any questions, Léofric?"

Rowenna

Rowenna did not really want to go back into the kitchen, not with Ginna there. She did not dislike the girl, but she felt unready. She had survived two years of captivity by being ready for anything, and here she was, unready to share space with a girl because of mere spite.

What is wrong with you, 'Wenna? she asked herself, using her late father's endearment for her.

The Eorl's questioning had unnerved her. Worse, she was rattled by being so unnerved! Not that she had answered poorly. She thought that she had answered well, using the truth, for it would best serve. What nagged her was that she had felt so strongly the need to be believed by this man.

For two years she had not cared whether she was believed or not. Sometimes an outlaw's trust was more danger to her than his distrust, depending upon the situation. But never had she wanted so badly to be believed. Why was that, she wondered? But she could not think of an answer.
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Old 07-27-2007, 08:52 AM   #848
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“No, sir,” said Léof. Tell the tale – Ghem escaped – men at arms needed. Got it. And he took his leave, mounted his horse, and rode off towards Meduseld. His reproach for Eodwine had all but faded, seeing how worn Eodwine had appeared for those few moments. Responsibility seemed to ride heavily on his shoulders, at times like these, but he was still, no doubt, the most lordly man he had ever met.

Of course, that may be about to change, with him taking a message to the king himself. Léof started at the thought, and at his stiffened body Æthel halted in the middle of the road, drawing a curse from the man behind him. Jolted back to his senses, he nudged Æthel forward again, calling, “Sorry, sir” back over his shoulder.

It was obvious now – he couldn’t believe the thought hadn’t occurred to him before, although he had been more focused on the message than its place of delivery. Of course “to Meduseld” meant “to the king.” But he was hardly in any shape to go before a king! His clothes were both dusty from the stables and smudged with dirt from the battle. Perhaps he would not go before the king himself – but he rather doubted it.

Well, Eodwine thought he was fit for the job, anyway. That would be sufficient.

It was not a long ride, and at the top of the hill Léof left Æthel and ascended the broad steps up to the doors of the hall with growing trepidation. At the top he was stopped by the door warden. “What is your name, and what business do you have with the king?”

“I bring a message from Eodwine, Eorl of the Middle Emnet. I am Léofric, his ostler.”

“Very well, then. Have you any weapons?”

Léof spread his arms. “None.”

And the great doors to the hall opened, and Léof was permitted to enter. The long hall was unlike anything Léof had ever seen before, and only with effort did he keep himself from gawking once his eyes had adjusted to the dimmer interior. At the other end of the hall he stopped at what he deemed an appropriate distance from the two seated figures of King Éomer and his queen.

He was much relieved when the king spoke first, relieving him of the need to find something to say. “Greetings to you, Léofric. What message do you have?”

He found himself speaking before he even had time to wonder how his name had gone ahead of him so quickly. “It is more of a tale than a message, lord,” he began, and at Éomer’s gesture to continue, he began the story. He was no bard, he held the interest of all there as he told the story of Rilef’s arrival, and Eodwine’s venture out into the country, and the outlaws and the battle. The final part he was forced to skim over, since he only knew the barest details himself: “After locking the three remaining outlaws in the cellar, somehow they escaped, and while two have now been secured again, the one called Ghem has escaped into the city. It is this that the Lord Eodwine wishes you to know, and that he wishes word to be put out that he seeks more men at arms who will be well rewarded so that such a problem will not occur in the future.”
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Old 08-02-2007, 03:41 PM   #849
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The king shifted in his seat.

"Léofric, tell me what Lord Eodwine has done with the lands formerly held by the coward that took my wife's niece captive for ransom."

"I know of nothing, my king," Léof said in confusion.

"It is as I thought," the king growled. "Tell him I want to see him here before sundown tomorrow. Also, I will send a half dozen men with you. Have Eodwine board and room them for the night, and return with them in the morning."

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Old 08-04-2007, 01:05 PM   #850
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“Yes, my king. I will tell him,” Léof answered, bowing. King Éomer then gestured another man forward, a guard, Léof thought, and he took that as his dismissal. He turned and walked again the distance of the hall, this time hardly noticing the splendor of the place. He had not noticed his own tenseness as he spoke; telling his tale to the king had felt strangely natural. But now that the whole affair was over with, Léof felt rather shaky, and he thought that if he should stop walking his limbs might cease to support him. He concentrated on taking deep breaths as he walked, and by the time he left the hall and descended the steps, he felt strong enough again to lift himself into Æthel’s saddle.

He was granted a few moments rest before the six promised guards arrived. One gestured for Léof to lead the way, and he did so, feeling mildly awkward with the guards following him. After all, an escort was meant either for someone important, a king or lord, or a criminal, and Léof, a simple ostler, was far from either of those things. Well, you were banished from your father’s house… Uncomfortable thought.

The ride could not have been short enough, and upon their arrival at the Mead Hall, Léof dismounted and left Æthel at the hitching post for the moment. He absently patted her neck in promise of a good brushing soon. He was confused for a moment about the guards – should he do something with them? – but with an internal shrug he decided he should simply find Eodwine and give him the king’s message.

He quickly found Eodwine inside the Great Hall and delivered the message word-for-word as nearly as he could remember it, then added, “I think the guards are still out in the courtyard.”
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Old 08-04-2007, 07:17 PM   #851
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As he strode out of the Great Hall to the courtyard, Léofric at his heels. He could imagine the king's words.

"Has Eodwine done anything with that traitor Sorn's lands that I gave him?"

"No, oh king."

"Drat him! Tell him I want to see him and I want him to explain to me why he dallies. I gave him a command and I expect to be obeyed!"


A hard lump formed in Eodwine's gut. How was he going to explain this?

"Lord king, the man I asked to be my steward over Sorn's lands refused. There has been no one else worthy of the task."

"But I told you to move your entire household out there, not have a steward do it for you!"


The lump hardened.

Six horsemen had dismounted and were looking about the grounds dubiously. They're probably wondering how an old inn can hope to serve as a lord's mead hall, and they'd be right.

He knew the men. To his surprise, three of them were the very same he had thought of, Théogud, Alwalda, and Finnas, as those he wanted to recruit to his Hall. Maybe they had volunteered. It was a hopeful thought. The three others were Osbert, Bregwald, and Lowson. Of the three, Bregwald was elder and the leader of the others while the other two were also new to Meduseld.

Eodwine greeted them. It was getting on toward sundown and though none of the House had eaten, the outlaw Ghem still had not been found. Eodwine told Léof to ready his horse and join them in the search for Ghem.

"Lord," said Bregwald, "Do you know of a surety that the outlaw is not on these grounds?"

"Nay. He could be skulking about."

"Might we leave the ostler here then, in case he turns up? He could give warning."

The man had sense. Eodwine nodded and swallowed his pride that he had not thought of such a common sense thing himself. "It shall be as you suggest. Léof, let Thornden and the others know that the outlaw may still be on these grounds, and all of you are to search the whole of it until you are sure he is not here. I will go with the king's men to search the town."

With that, Eodwine mounted Flíthaf and the seven horsemen rode out of the courtyard.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:43 AM   #852
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Taralphiel's Post

Lys followed Elfthain through the market, his sense of wonder at the place dulled after being so unnerved by the sight of something he held oddly dear to him.

Elfthain was warm and kept a friendly conversation going which comforted Lys greatly, but did not completely distract him from his thoughts.

That blanket was a key to his memories, but it was completely out of reach. Lys limped along silently, letting this thought eat away at the pit of his stomach.

Soon the afternoon drew out and the Lys began to wonder if he should be getting home. Tugging softly on Elfthain's sleeve, he gestured the boy to the orange sky and he too agreed it was time to be off.

Approaching the Hall Lys sensed from the expressions of those that busied themselves that something had gone wrong. Lys sped up his pace and began to look for people to question on what had happened. Most of all, he looked for Thornden.

Weaving his way through to the kitchen, he saw sombre faces. He began to ask whoever would stop to talk if they had seen Thornden. Eventually he was directed to the cellar.

----

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Thornden was pacing the cellar steps in front of the door where the outlaws were kept when Lys found him. He looked up as extra light flooded down onto him. “Who is it?” he asked.

“It’s me – Lys,” replied the boy, starting down towards him. “I wanted to find out what happened.”

“Well, where’ve you been that you don’t know?” Thornden asked somewhat shortly.

“I was out with Elfthain. We were in the market while you were gone saving the Eorl. Have I done wrong?”

Thornden looked at him. The boy stood directly before him now, staring up at him with quiet, unwavering eyes. “No, you have done nothing wrong. I’ll tell you what happened. . .” So, in the dimness of the cellar stairs, Thornden told Lys all that had taken place that afternoon. He told him merely the outward story, saying nothing of his own vexation about when the outlaws escaped and how bothered and rather alarmed he was at Javan’s disobedience.

“So, here I am now, guarding them until the end of this hour. Then I’ll be replaced with someone from Meduseld. Lord Eodwine sent Léof earlier to get help from there.”

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Old 08-11-2007, 10:02 AM   #853
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Fourth Age, Year Fifteen, 24th day of June

Eodwine sat at his desk in his room, the sun having risen not long ago, parchment, quill and ink ready to hand. The parchment lay blank before him, the inkless quill absently twirling in his hand. One month had passed since the adventures of the ruins, leading to the deaths of Rilef and the addition of Rowenna with the status of permanent guest. The outlaws Ulric and Withold had been hanged after a trial that had been hours long rather than the quick affair Eodwine had expected. One exchange that had stuck in his mind more than others came back to him now. Ulric had been given the right to speak. Speak, he did, standing bound hand and foot before Eodwine's Seat.

"Guilty you would find me, and a murderer I am. I deny it not. I'll be hanged on the morrow. But this woman-" he indicated Rowenna with a nod "-is guilty of every evil of my hand over the last year and more!"

Eodwine had looked at her then. Her expression was unchanged. She met his eyes unblinking, unwavering, unsmiling. Eodwine looked away, back at Ulric.

"This is a dire accusation. Explain your words."

"Aye, that I will," Ulric nodded. "We captured her and killed her family, and at first used her as we liked. But she was not the only woman we've had. Where are they all now, you may wonder? For they are gone. I will tell you. They are dead and food for crows, for she killed them to get rid of rivals. What's more, she murdered her own offspring, twice. And all that is nought laid beside this one thing, that all we have done over the past year and more has been because she thought it, said it, and convinced us to do it."

"How do you explain that I found her bound and guarded by your dogs?" Eodwine asked.

"Because she said to tie her up, for by being thought of as our captive in case things should go awry, she'd still be free and could get the rest of us free in case we were caught. And then she betrayed us. And why? Because she's an ambitious whore and likes better what she might get out of you set against the likes of me. And who do the dogs obey, by the by? Don't you see? She's the one who's led us. So if we die, so should she, and for the same crimes. That's all my say."

The Hall had been silent. Well it might be! Eodwine sat and pondered the man's words. Maybe he was lying baldly out of his hate. Maybe his words were the truth at last from a condemned man. There was no way to know. Rowenna would have to be heard. Eodwine had bidden her to speak to the charges. She had stood and spoken in an even tone, but all could hear her.

"I am accused of murder by a murdering rogue. Did I kill women? Yes, because they pitted us against each other, and it was kill or be killed. Did I kill my own babies, twice? Yes, because they forced me to, as they wanted me for their pleasure, and a baby at my breast would be a hindrance and a burden unbefitting of the whims of a band of outlaws. Did I make them their plans over the last year? Yes, in hopes of finding a way to be free of them. Pitted against the vile strength of a dozen evil men, I had to choose to be a slave until I died, or use what wiles I could to survive. So if I am to be accused, my crime is having done what I needed to do to survive."

"Lying witch!" Ulric said.

"Silence!"

She had spoken all these things without the merest glint of a tear in her eyes, not the merest quiver in her voice. Was she that cold? Or had she become so hardened by her life's trials? Was Ulric lying, or was Rowenna? Or were neither lying? Eodwine had a hunch that there was much that was being left unsaid, and he had spent the next hours questioning Ulric, Withold, and Rowenna to try and pry any of it loose, to no avail.

In the end, Ulric and Withold had hanged, and Rowenna had not. She had become a drudge for all of the least liked chores of the Hall, and had kept her peace uncomplaining. Today Eodwine expected to see her on her knees with a bucket of water and soap, cleaning the tiled floors yet again. He got up with a sigh and went down to break his fast.

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Old 08-16-2007, 12:17 PM   #854
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Javan’s eyes opened and he was instantly wide awake. The sun was fully risen and long shafts of light lay on the floor by the windows. Thornden was up already and getting dressed. Javan sat up and swung his legs out of bed.

“Today I get to return to the stables, don’t I?” Javan asked eagerly.

Thornden looked at him upon hearing his voice. “Yes,” he answered, quietly.

“Harrah!” cried Javan, leaping up out of bed.

“Pipe down, will you?” Thornden muttered. “It’s too early in the morning to be making such noise.”

Javan was quiet, but his face continued to shine with excitement as he reached for his breeches and pulled them on. He was out of the room before Thornden and bouncing down the hall towards the stairs.

The main hall was nearly empty when he made it there. He took no note of the people just yet as he ducked down the corridor to the kitchen. He needed to get breakfast first - just a quick one for now - and then he would head out to see Léof. He entered the kitchen and found Ginna and Kara working together at the table.

“G’morning,” Javan said. His eyes strayed to a basket full of newly baked bread. He could see steam rising from the small loaves. “Might I trouble you for some bread?”

“There’s some in the basket there. Take as much as you like,” Kara replied, nodding her head.

Javan moved forward quickly and gingerly picked up one of the small, round loaves. He broke it in half, drawing in breath through his teeth as his fingers felt like they were burning. He put half of it back and the other half, juggling from one hand to the next, he took away with him, thanking the two young cooks and hurrying out.

He went back up the hall towards the great hall. By the time he reached it, the bread had become cool enough to hold still. He nibbled cautiously at it while he cast his eyes about. Nothing struck his fancy except...

Javan grinned and he began to walk again, making his way across the floor quickly. Rowenna was on her hands and knees, working already with water and soap and a scrub brush.

“Away at it again, are you, Rowenna?” Javan asked. “Didn’t you just do this a couple days ago? Is it entirely necessary?”
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Old 08-19-2007, 06:27 AM   #855
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Rowenna stopped and took the boy's rapid-fire questions as an opportunity to stretch her aching back and loosen the stiffness in her fingers from gripping the brush hard.

"I do as I am told. 'Necessary' is not for me to decide." She looked at him, studying him briefly. Javan, he was called, full of vigor and wrestlessness, like a young horse that does not like the bridle. "Go ask Frodides if it is necessary, if you like."

She picked up the brush in both hands, dipped it in the hot soapy water, and began scrubbing the floor again. She did not look up at the boy. If he chose to speak more, she would answer. If not, she would keep at her work.

At least she had a new dress, even if it was a handoff from Kara who, it just so happened, was the same size as Rowenna. And her hair was not a tangled mess anymore. It was almost an embarrassment to her how much these small things pleased her. But she told herself it was what they meant: she no longer fought for survival among outlaws.

She had been surprised at first how much of her thought and will had been taken up with the struggle to live and wheedle from Ulrich what she could. And now she could hardly help herself from discretely studying and weighing everyone around her, to see how the power was apportioned, who had it, who was angling for more, who was losing it. And she also found herself forming fantastic strategies as to who was the most useful, and how they could be used, to raise herself up into a position of power here.

She had discovered that Ginna, for example, was in a most strange position. Whereas her work was lowly, she was the Eorl's old friend's daughter, and so had more influence than it seemed, and more than the girl seemed to be aware she had if she only knew how to use it.

And then there was that Garreth. Twin of Harreld, Ginna's love interest, if that was what it could be called. And with Harreld so caught up with the girl, Garreth had cast about for anything with a skirt, and quickly settled on Rowenna. She rolled her eyes. His interest had been spoken in no uncertain terms. Her disinterest had at first been spoken as discretely as she knew how, but no avail, and by the time two weeks had gone by she had found it necessary to tell him straightly that he was not for her. Poor fool. She was a land holder's daughter and would not marry a blacksmith almost twice her age who would no doubt leave her widowed and at the mercy of whatever sons could keep her. No, she had bigger plans for her life, if she could bring them about.

And why could not Ginna see that leading Harreld on was no good? She was the same rank as herself, and her father would not grant such a union; it would be stooping too low. The girl was meant for a land holder like her father. Or better, if she could learn how to harness that wild horse of a temper of hers and use the strength of it to advance her own ends.

All these thoughts passed through her mind quickly, being rehearsed from earlier, and she glanced to see if the boy still stood there or had moved on.
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Old 08-19-2007, 07:11 PM   #856
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“Seems to me, if I was you, I’d say something,” Javan replied. “No, I’m not going to argue with the old, stuffy Fordides. She’s not my boss and I’m not that concerned about it. All the same, I think it’s awful mean of ‘em to give you the worst jobs of the lot. Why do they do it, d’ you suppose?”

Rowenna straightened and looked up at him again. Her lips were pressed together as she thought of a reply. But before it came forth, Javan went on.

“I’ll bet I know why.” He plopped to the ground beside her, folding his legs beneath him. His eyes were wide as he spoke. “It’s ‘cause you used to live with the outlaws, that’s what.” He nodded his head sagely. “They figure you don’t know how to do much else than slit throats and take care of yourself, so they have to keep you to simple work where’ve you no chance to murder no one. That’s why, I expect.” He took a bite of bread and before he could get it chewed and swallowed his quick, running mind came up with a question that he would dearly love answered.

“Was it exciting living with the outlaws? I saw you at the trial. You said you fought! And you’re only a woman! Did they bring in a lot of treasure and gold? They were cut-throats, weren’t they? Did they ever bring in heads?”
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Old 08-20-2007, 07:11 PM   #857
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Listening to the boy rattle off his questions, Rowenna could not help raising an eye brow. She allowed a slight smirk to come to her lips; if she didn't she feared she would start to giggle. And that would not be very becoming at all for the kind of young woman she had worked hard to become. How to answer? Matter of factly.

"It was a hard life and one I do not wish to go back to. And yes, there were heads. Stuck on spears sometimes, sometimes left to lie about as food for wolves and worse."

A strange place to find a possible ally and friend, in the person of an uncontainable boy. Not that she would tell him any real secrets, for it was clear enough that he spoke whatever came into his head, closely guarded secret or not. And she would be a fool to ever tell him to do something for her that she didn't want found out. He wouldn't be able to keep it to himself. She told me to do it! Rowenna could well imagine. Still, it could be useful having such a one as a friend of sorts.

"But I do this work because I chose to. I asked Frodides for the hardest work." She paused. "You don't believe me, do you."
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Old 08-21-2007, 09:19 AM   #858
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Léof had risen early as ever, stretching contentedly before dressing and pulling on his boots. A new day, but one that already promised to be not quite the same as the others. Today Javan would return to the stables to be his assistant after his month-long ban. As he considered this, he walked down the long stable aisle, checking on each of the horses in turn. As always, he stopped for a few extra moments at Æthel’s stall, rubbing her long face as he commented, “Up for a ride today, girl? Time to see what Javan is made of, hmm?” Perhaps it might have been better to wait a couple days so that Javan wasn’t quite so excited over his return to the stables, but the truth was that Léof felt like a good ride, and this was the perfect excuse to leave the Hall for a bit.

Rather than feeding the horses first as he normally did, he decided to head to the kitchens to get some breakfast for himself and find out if Javan was awake yet. He went by way of the courtyard and Great Hall, where he found Javan plunked down beside Rowenna, who was washing the floor. “Good morning,” he greeted them, walking over.

“Léof! Thornden said that I could go back to the stables!” Javan exclaimed.

Léof smiled. “Then you can help me feed the horses this morning,” he said, “just after I go get something to eat.” And with a polite nod towards Rowenna, he headed off to the kitchens.
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Old 08-21-2007, 11:59 AM   #859
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“But I do this work because I choose to. I asked Fordides for the hardest work.” Javan’s brows knit a little and Rowenna saw it. “You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Well. . .” Javan scratched his head a little. It wasn’t fully polite to doubt someone at their word, but. . .she didn’t seem like someone who expected everyone to be perfectly polite all the time. Not when she talked about heads being brought in on spears. Most women didn’t talk about that sort of thing. They’d sooner tell him to keep quiet and not ask. So, he answered truthfully. “Not exactly, no. Why should you ask for the hardest work? It doesn’t make sense! You don’t like scrubbing the floor. . .do you?”

Before she could answer, Léof came in at the front door and approached them. “Good morning!” he said, coming near.

“Léof!” Javan scrambled up to his feet. “Thornden said I could go back to the stables today!”

“Then you can help me feed the horses this morning. Just after I go get something to eat.” He nodded to Rowenna and made off. Javan’s face was lit with excitement. He turned back to Rowenna, grinning widely.

“I’m going to be working in the stables after today,” he said with great importance. “That’s what I like to do. I’ve always liked horses a great deal, and I can ride ‘em, too. You like horses, don’t you? Can you ride?”
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Old 08-21-2007, 07:18 PM   #860
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Léofric came by and greeted them. Rowenna returned his greeting, using his full name as she always did with everyone. Javan was an excitable boy, to be sure. Rowenna wondered if Léofric was quite as eager to have Javan as Javan was to be Léofric's helper.

“That’s what I like to do. I’ve always liked horses a great deal, and I can ride ‘em, too. You like horses, don’t you? Can you ride?”

Rowenna smiled. "Yes. I had my own filly before -" she furrowed her brow "-before I was taken by the outlaws." She had been about to say 'before ... you know'; she had promised herself that she would never shy away from the memory of the horrors of her captivity, but she had almost done so, so soon. She realized with a little anger that she would have to force herself to think the hard thoughts and speak the hard words. The warm memories from earlier times must not be allowed to buffer her from the memory of rough hands using her roughly, evil words spoken to her. And the warm memories must not be allowed to soften her into easy chatter. She felt her face compose. To Javan it looked like she had been about to really be happy, only to shy away from it and become cold and stoney again.

"I did choose this work, believe it or not. I do this to remind me that I am an escaped slave and an orphan."

She held his eyes to see that her words sunk in, then gripped the brush, watered it in the bucket, and began scrubbing again.
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Old 08-22-2007, 08:16 AM   #861
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For a moment it looked like Rowenna was going to actually continue being companionable. Javan’s smile got a little wider and his eyes a little more eager as she told him she did once have a filly. Perhaps she would tell him what the young horse was like, what color she was, and what Rowenna had named her.

But no. Suddenly the happiness seemed to fade and her smile left not only her lips but also her eyes. Once more a hard line came up around the muscle in her jaw. She was composed, humorless, cold, and her talk went back to the job at hand.

“I did choose this work, believe it or not. I do this to remind me that I am an escaped slave and an orphan.” She looked at Javan with the look he’d often gotten from his mother or older sisters to make sure he understood something he didn’t want to understand.

“Well,” Javan said, a little ruffled at her behavior - her closing up like a clam shell. “Well, I don’t think that makes much sense. You’re not a slave any more, that’s what I think, and you shouldn’t act like one.”

She ignored him, seemingly, and went on scrubbing the floor, using both hands on the brush. “You shouldn’t look at the ground so much,” Javan told her. “And at people’s feet. You’re better than that. You can look people in the face now.”
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Old 08-22-2007, 09:56 AM   #862
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A grim smile came to Rowenna's lips as she continued to scrub. To be told by a mere boy that one is not making sense was ironic. And of course it would appear that way to Javan. He did not understand how a moment - or many moments strung together without quarter - could change one with no going back. She did not mourn the change, for the last two years had made her strong of will and of mind in a way that could not have happened otherwise, except perhaps after many years. In a way she felt old. But she had thought of a way to explain it to Javan.

"Everyone is a slave, no matter how free. Even King Eomer may not do certain things, such as murder his queen, or forsake the Eorling vassalage to Gondor, or he will face the consequences. Everyone is a slave. You Javan are also a slave: is there not someone you dare not cross?

"And you are not making sense. If I am the murderess you say, then I cannot be "better than that", as you put it."

She was testing him, to see how much capacity for thought lay behind those sparkling eyes. He was too young to understand, of course, but she dared to hope that she might be surprised.
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Old 08-22-2007, 12:17 PM   #863
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A look of confusion passed over Javan’s face. It struggled with his conviction that he was right, and neither the expression of confusion nor the conviction won, rather that of angry annoyance.

“I’m not a slave!” Javan burst out. “Not to anyone, I’m not! I’m not afraid of anyone. Not - not Thornden or even lord Eodwine, that’s what. And I never said you were a murderess! I just said that the others might think you are. You never wanted to kill anyone! And I think that if you spent more time thinking about your present freedom and how jolly well you have it now and less time feeling sorry for yourself and what happened, you’d be much happier and you might not be stuck scrubbing stupid floors and breaking your back in menial tasks day in and day out.”

He aimed a kick at the bucket of water to illustrate his point. The blow was harder than he meant it, and the water sloshed violently as the bucket leaped sideways a foot. Most of it spilled, soaking Rowenna’s skirts.

Javan clapped his hand over his mouth in dismay. “Oh, golly,” he said in a much quieter tone. “I’m awfully sorry, Rowenna. I didn’t mean to make you wet. I’m so sorry. . .” He was kneeling again beside her instantly, pulling the bucket away and mopping the water up with the nearest cloth he could find. He stopped after a moment, appalled, realizing the cloth was Rowenna’s skirt. “I...” he blinked. How utterly unfortunate. She must think him a dunce. “I’m so sorry.”
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Old 08-22-2007, 05:29 PM   #864
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He was just a child, of course. Rowenna's words had done what they were supposed to do, see what he was made of. And of course he revealed far more than he meant to. She jumped back when he kicked the bucket, but not enough to miss getting wet. She shook her head at his antics, now full of woe for his misdeed. He was more a slave than he could possibly understand, but it would do no good to explain that to him. Maybe some day he would break free of some of it, enough to choose his enslavements.

When he lifted the hem of her skirt in his hand and realized that his cloth was in fact her skirt, the look on his face almost made Rowenna lose control and fall into a fit of giggling again. Silly boy. She sighed, forced the smile off of her face, and spoke quietly.

"Javan, look at me." Slowly the boy raised his hanging head and met her eyes. "Come with me to the kitchen and ask Frodides for towels. I'll need to refill the bucket now. The water was getting too cold at any rate."

"But your skirt is all wet!" He was close to tears.

"What of it? Skirts dry after a while." She rose. "Come with me."

She led him down the hallway and to the kitchen, wondering about Javan's claim that she was feeling sorry for herself. It could not be right, but she found it hard to shake it from her thoughts.

~*~

Eodwine had been listening from around the corner. He had feared that he would be found out by Léof, but he had passed the other way also. Eodwine had been intrigued by the oddity of the boy striking up a conversation with the young woman that most everyone else left alone; she seemed to prefer being left alone. So when she had become almost conversational, Eodwine had been curious to find out what she would say to such a boy. Her replies had been strange, while Javan's had been exactly what one might expect from such a high spirited lad. Did Rowenna really view herself as an escaped slave and orphan? Doubtless, her two years among the outlaws had been harmful. But how much so? There was no way to know without having known her before it happened. Eodwine shrugged and came out of the shadows. He walked by the wet floor and followed the pair, some way behind now, toward the kitchen, to break his fast.
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Old 08-22-2007, 05:55 PM   #865
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Léof was about halfway through his breakfast, enjoying the eggs and freshly baked bread and chatting lightly with Kara and Ginna. He knew neither of them particularly well, seeing as he was typically occupied on the opposite side of the Hall as either of them, although he was decidedly more comfortable with Kara, for the simple expediency that she was closer to both his age and background. He usually wasn’t quite sure what to make of Ginna, nobleman’s daughter that she was, and of quite a marriageable age. Léof figured that his own father would want to be rid of his sister long before then. He tried to stay away from that thought, and the guilty realization that he had thought less and less of his sister’s plight in the last weeks. It was easy to forget, with this new life of his going on all around him.

Just then, Rowenna trooped in with a very guilty-looking Javan trailing behind. There was a moment of shocked silence in the kitchen before Kara and Ginna were bustling after towels and Léof found enough of a voice to exclaim, “What happened? What did you do?” This last was aimed primarily at Javan in response to his expression, and Léof almost immediately regretted it; he wasn’t trying to cast accusations about; it had probably been a simple accident.
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Old 08-23-2007, 07:51 AM   #866
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Javan sent Léof a pitiful, rather pleading look. “I kicked the bucket of water and it spilled all over the place,” he said. “And then-” He stopped himself abruptly and blushed a deeper, more thorough shade of red. He nearly told them he had used Rowenna’s skirt to mop it up. Instead, he ducked his head to avoid any more of their looks, snatched two towels out of Ginna’s hands and turned to escape. He dodged out the kitchen door, preparing to launch himself into an immediate run, but his forward momentum was very suddenly stopped as he came into contact with the large and very solid body of lord Eodwine himself.

Javan stumbled back, a look of absolute horror rising to his face when he saw who it was he had nearly bowled over. “Lord Eodwine!” he gasped, but then he stopped. He turned his head sharply to look at Rowenna who was watching him. He swallowed. What had he said less than five minutes ago? ‘I’m not afraid of anyone...not even lord Eodwine.’

“I’m sorry,” he muttered without looking the eorl in the face and then he began to move forward, to pass him and to get out into safety.
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Old 08-24-2007, 09:46 AM   #867
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Eodwine smirked. "Has Rowenna pawned off her drudge work on you then, Javan? I thought you were working with Léof."

The boy didn't answer. His head ducked lower and his shoulders rose higher as he stumbled down the hallway back to the Great Hall. Eodwine shook his head and sighed and made his way into the kitchen, where all eyes were suddenly upon him. Ah, he thought, the Eorl has arrived.

"Good morning, everyone. Has our humble kitchen turned into a fast breaking hall? Whatever happened to a good cooked breakfast?"
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Old 08-28-2007, 04:22 PM   #868
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“It does seem that way,” Léof replied, but his mind was still more focused on Javan than Eodwine. How ever had he kicked over the bucket? Léof felt for him; it was bad enough that something like that would happen, but then it had to be made into a rather public spectacle. Javan would bounce back, though; he was cheerful enough – and the prospect of a ride would help.

He finished the last couple bites of his breakfast off and handed his plate off to Kara. Before he left for the stables, however, he turned to the Eorl. “Lord Eodwine?” Once acknowledged, he continued, “I’m going to be taking Javan out riding later today – I want to see where he’s at, since I did not have much of a chance when he started helping out the last time. At any rate, we’ll be out for a while.”
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Old 08-29-2007, 12:17 PM   #869
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Javan went out again to the main hall, his towels in hand. He resented those words of Eodwine’s, for no boy could bear such a jibing remark, however well deserved.

He came to the wet section of floor and dropped down to the ground to begin sopping up the water. He herded it gently all into one, round pool, and then made a valiant effort to get all of it dried up with his two towels. Much of the water from the bucket had been absorbed by Rowenna’s skirt and he finally managed to get it nearly all dried up. The towels were soaked through and dripped as he lifted them, wadded up in his two hands. The ground was streaked with droplets of water, but Javan could do nothing about that - his supply of dry cloth was out. Rowenna could easily get the rest.

He carried the dripping towels to the outer door and outside he wrung them until no more water would drip out.

As he returned inside, he saw Léof coming from the kitchen. “I’m about to take these back to the kitchen, Léof,” Javan said, hurrying forward. “Then are we going out to the stables?”
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Old 08-30-2007, 07:00 PM   #870
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Eodwine told Rowenna to stop and break her fast. Kara and Ginna kept up a playful banter as
Kara kept the rashers and eggs and bread coming while Ginna kept the dishware and cutlery ready to hand. One by one the householders straggled into the kitchen. First came Falco, then Thornden, followed by Garstan, Garmund and Léoðern, then Stigend and Modtryth and Cnebba. The new men at arms had not yet wakened. It was just as well. Eodwine wanted his closest householders to know what was coming first.

Frodides came in, stretching and yawning, commenting on how right and proper it was that she should get a longer morning rest and let the youngsters take care of the easiest meal of the day.

Once everyone was busy with their food and drink, Eodwine broached his news.

"As you all know, I've been up to Meduseld often enough lately." The eyes of the others had drawn to him. "King Eomer has given me a decree and a command. The decree is that he's taking back the direct rule of Edoras. It is no longer part of the Middle Emnet."

"That don't make sense," Falco blurted. "How can you role your Eorldom from here if this ain't part of your lands?"

"An aptly put question," Eodwine replied. "The King's command is for me to move my seat of rule from Edoras. He has given me Sorn's lands to be my own."

"But that's some of the poorest land in the realm!" cried Garstan, who had had a first hand look when they had rescued Linduial, the niece of the Eorling queen, from the outlaw Sorn.

Eodwine nodded. "I am aware of that, of course. The King has commanded me to drain the marshes near Sorn's holdings, and every inch I can make to grow crops or feed cattle, is mine for the claiming. On either side of the Scar."

"Scar? What's that?" asked Falco.

"Its'a rocky spine that runs east to west across a small portion of the plains. It is of little use, but one cannot simply move entire hills one does not like. We shall have to see what can be done with them. At any rate, I've decided to call the place Scarburg. It seemed fitting. So it will fall to each of you whether you wish to stay here, at the White Horse Inn, or to come with me to Scarburg, for the King will let me keep this Inn, so that it may once again be a hostelry for travelers who are willing to pay for room and board. So that is hwo it is." Eodwine turned his attention to his cooling food, and took a few bites before the inevitable questions started coming.
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Old 09-01-2007, 02:40 PM   #871
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Léof ran into Javan as he was leaving the kitchen. “I’m about to take these back to the kitchen, Léof,” he said. “Then are we going out to the stables?”

Léof nodded. “Yes – it’s time to see to the horses’ breakfasts. I’ll meet you out there.”

“Great,” said Javan, and they parted. Javan caught up to Léof shortly after he reached the stables, whether from reluctance to spend any more time than necessary in the kitchen or from eagerness to begin work again in the stables, Léof did not know. “Here’s what we need to do,” he began. “We’re going to feed them and fill their water pails first, and once they’re about done we’ll turn about half of them out into the paddock and muck out their stalls. We’ll do the other half when they go out later; it’s easier than individually removing the horses to do their stalls. You can start with the water pails… take each one out back and make sure it’s clean, then fill it up at the pump. Got it?”

Javan assented and was about to head off, but Léof couldn’t resist a teaser. “And, Javan? When we’re done, I have a surprise.” But he refused to say any more than that.

Last edited by Firefoot; 09-01-2007 at 02:43 PM.
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Old 09-03-2007, 07:14 PM   #872
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Javan hurried off to do as Léof told him to do. He got two of the water buckets and hurried out to the pump to get fresh water. All the while, his head spun with excitement about the promised surprise. What could it be? He had begged Léof to give him a hint, but the hostler had merely shook his head, pressing his lips shut, and refused to answer with a single word. Javan had let off quickly, knowing the sooner he got his work done the sooner he would know.

In the mean time, though, he would guess what it would be. It could be a number of things, but he had no hints to start from. He worked in haste, and before very long, the watering was complete and he was in search of Léof.

“I’m done with the water,” he said when he found him returning from taking a horse out to the paddock. “Will you tell me what the surprise is now?”

Léof shook his head. “Just get a lead rope, Javan, and move these two horses out to the yard. One at a time. I’ll tell you what it is when we’ve completed the work.”

--
Thornden

In the kitchen, a short silence fell after Eodwine had given his news. Thornden pushed the few remaining bits of eggs about on his plate with his fork. He looked up and cast a critical eye about the kitchen, looking at the newly built walls and stove. He had grown to rather like this place. The three months he had been part of the household had made the entire place seem more like home than the whole year he had spent living in the barracks as a guard of Meduseld. But perhaps things would not change very much when the Eorl moved. If Thornden went with him, the new holding would soon become as familiar as this old one.

He looked at Eodwine. “How soon does the king wish you to move your household? And who do you intend to take with you, and who will you wish to stay here, to look after the inn?”
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Old 09-04-2007, 04:45 PM   #873
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littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.littlemanpoet is battling Black Riders on Weathertop.
“How soon does the king wish you to move your household?" asked Thornden. "And who do you intend to take with you, and who will you wish to stay here, to look after the inn?”

"Some of you are bound to me by oath of a year and a day, and so shall join me, I hope willingly. Those who are not so bound, I hope that you will join me out of friendship.

"The King's will is that we go as soon as we can be ready." Eodwine's mouth slid into a half smile. "I could delay for a week or a month more, claiming the needs of many details, but I know the king's mind and heart in this, and he does not wish me to tarry.

"The only delay of real import is finding an innkeeper. Who among you care I to lose? None! I fear I shall have to find an innkeeper somehow, and that could take days, I fear. Do any of you want to be an innkeeper?" he finished doubtfully.

"Not I!" declared Frodides. "I'll be cook here if you don't want me coming with you, but not innkeeper!"

"You may come to Scarburg if you like, Frodides."

The cook smiled briefly, then said, "Kara! Quit dawdling and give the Eorl some of those eggs and rashers! He has hungry work ahead of him!"
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Old 09-04-2007, 05:45 PM   #874
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Léof had noticed with some appreciation the unforeseen side affect of his surprise: Javan had completed his work with the water buckets very efficiently. When Javan reported back to him, he nearly spilled the secret, but decided to hold on to its enjoyment for a short while longer and instead passed off a horse for Javan to take to the paddock. He followed with two more and smiled to himself at the brisk pace Javan set, though it was not quite fast enough for Léof to chide him for running.

When five horses had been let into the paddock and they were done, Javan turned to Léof and asked, “Now will you tell me?”

“Surely you have some guesses?” asked Léof.

“No clear ones,” said Javan impatiently.

“Very well,” Léof laughed, “and I hope it was worth the wait. You and I are going out riding.”
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Old 09-05-2007, 03:01 PM   #875
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Javan could have laughed out loud for joy. He nearly did. He also nearly clapped his hands and jumped, but he didn’t do that, either. Instead he smiled broadly and skipped backwards towards the tack room, knowing they would need to go there first to gather tack and other things for the ride.

“Really?” he cried, leading the way. “What horses are we riding? Can I ride a different horse than my own? He’s not very tall and can’t go fast. And we already let him out to the paddock, anyway. Can I ride that great bay one at the end there?” He bounced and skittered as his hand waved towards the stall. Though he did not know it, it was Eodwine’s horse that he indicated, and Léof immediately shook his head.

“No. That is entirely out of the question. If your horse is already out in the paddock, you can ride Garwine’s. She is gentle enough, and will keep pace well with my horse.”

“Which one is she?” Javan asked with a deal of disappointment in both his voice and expression.

“She’s the dark chestnut without the star on her forehead. Herefola. She is the one like my horse, Æthel.”

“Oh, please let me ride the other!” Javan begged.

“That’s lord Eodwine’s horse, Javan, I can’t let you ride him! Get the saddle for Herefola and let’s have no more arguing.” Léof picked up his own saddle and Javan turned with a bitter shrug to obey him. The sour look had entirely left his face, though, by the time they were drawing the horses out of their stalls and tying them to the rings in the aisle.

In five minutes, the two mares were saddled. They stood side by side, their heads up and their ears moving about with excitement. Very handsome they looked, their deep, coppery chestnut coats glistening. They were remarkably alike, and Javan was so pleased with their appearance he nearly forgot his disappointment about not being able to ride the retired war horse.

“Alright,” Léof said, “let’s take them out. We can get on them in the courtyard.”

Last edited by Folwren; 09-05-2007 at 03:30 PM.
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Old 09-05-2007, 05:17 PM   #876
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Léof was more relieved than he let on that Javan had let the subject of riding Flithaf drop. He supposed that it was no wonder that Javan should rivet on the lordliest horse in the stable – he himself had taken note upon his arrival, three months back – and it was not unlike Javan to be stubborn to the extreme. But Léof trusted that the excitement of the ride would be enough to drive the idea fully from his mind, and Herefola would be a good mount for him, steady and even-tempered (but with enough spunk to please Javan), and as he had told Javan, able to keep pace well with Æthel.

They led the horses out into the courtyard where Léof let Javan mount first as he watched discreetly. In this, at least, he looked competent enough, and Léof followed suit. He clicked his tongue and Æthel stepped obediently forward, and Javan fell into step beside them. After only a couple minutes, Javan proclaimed, “This is boring. Can we go faster?”

“Not through the streets of Edoras,” Léof replied. “Give Herefola a chance to loosen up, and get comfortable on her first.”

“All right,” Javan said, a hint of sulk back in his voice.

They reached the city gates shortly (but not nearly soon enough for Javan, Léof was sure). As they were heading out, they passed a man heading in, who by the state of his appearance seemed to have been traveling for a while. Léof nodded politely towards him and received a rather stiff nod in return, as if the man was unused to friendly greeting. But all thought of the man was promptly driven from his mind as Javan nudged Herefola into a trot without warning. Léof quickly caught up to them, mildly reproving Javan: “You might have said something.”

“You said we could go faster outside the city,” Javan pointed out.

“That I did,” said Léof, and he realized that he really did not mind. He wanted to observe Javan, of course, but he realized that he was actually enjoying himself; it had been some time since he had left the walls of Edoras. Seeing that Javan was doing just fine with a trot, he grinned. “Come on,” he said, and pushed Æthel into a canter as they passed between the green mounds rising on either side of the road.
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Old 09-06-2007, 09:05 AM   #877
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Javan grinned as Léof sped into a canter. A mischievous glint came into his eye. He would see what paces this new horse had. With a whoop of joy, he dug his heels into her sides and stretched himself forward. She leaped at once into a gallop, gaining on Léof and then passing him quickly. As though anxious to meet Herefola’s set speed, Æthel tossed her head. Javan looked back over his shoulder and saw Léof tighten the reins momentarily. Then he, too, bent forward over his mount’s neck and the bit loosened in Æthel’s mouth. She lowered her head slightly and plunged forward into the faster gait without urging.

Side by side, the two horses galloped, passing with thundering hooves over the deep green grass. They went in a great, sweeping arc, bringing the walls of Edoras about to their left.

Slowly, the horse’s feet went less swiftly. Léof and Javan drew rein as one accord and they brought the mares to a stop. Javan looked at Léof and laughed as he panted for breath. Herefola’s sides beneath his legs heaved as she pulled in air, but she was not weary. She pranced hotly beneath him, eager for more movement.

“We should walk them out some now,” Léof said, turning Æthel’s head away from Edoras. Javan quickly came by his side.

“Léof,” Javan said, pulling Herefola back into a relaxed walk. “Can we find a place where the horses can jump? You did say before that we might be able to, didn’t you? Can we do it out here, please? If it’s against the rules, no one will know out here. It’s a perfect chance!”
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Old 09-08-2007, 09:11 AM   #878
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"Well that's mighty fine news," Falco Boffin said around a mouthful of egg and bread. "I have a bit of my own." He continued chewing, slowly, as the others' talk died away in anticipation. It seemed like it took him a long time to finish chewing his mouthful (it was a big one admittedly - the mouthful, that is, although the mouth wasn't all that small for a hobbit, as such things go). Finally he swallowed.

"Well?" prodded Eodwine. "What's your news?"

"A moment." Falco took up his mug of hot tea and sipped at it a couple of times. "One must clear the pipes proper, o' course." He sipped some more.

Eodwine grinned. The hobbit was savoring the attention.

Finally Falco let out a sigh of satisfaction and lifted up his fork again, ready for another mouthful.

"The news?" prompted Eodwine again.

"What?" Falco's fork hung in mid-descent, his face caught in an expression of confusion, which cleared at once. "Oh! The news. Right."

He set down his fork and stood up and harumphed a big "eh hem". "My friends," he said. "I have greatly enjoyed the company of all of you, but I feel that I have spent enough time in Rohan, and I can hear the road calling me back to the Shire." Eodwine could see Falco's right hand fiddling with something in his pocket. "It is time for me to be going. Now. Well, today at any rate."

"Well, that is sad news, I'm sure, Falco. But I'm curious. What have you got in your pocket?"
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Old 09-10-2007, 08:15 AM   #879
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Thornden, having had his question answered, relapsed into silence. He quietly pushed the last bit of eggs about in his place as he gnawed on his inner lip. He thought about Eodwine’s question - “Do any of you want to be an innkeeper?” He did not really want to be, no. He doubted he’d be fit for the job. But - and Thornden sighed a little - if Eodwine wished it, he would remain.

Thornden looked towards the Eorl. He would love nothing better than to stay by his side and go with him to his new holding. Yet he would do as Eodwine bid him. It was his duty.

Before he could voice such thoughts, Falco spoke up. What bit of news could the hobbit have? Thornden waited with the rest to hear it and finally it came out.

“My friends,” said that noble hobbit, glancing around the kitchen to indicate all of them, “I have greatly enjoyed the company of all of you, but I feel that I have spent enough time in Rohan, and I can hear the road calling me back to the Shire. It is time for me to be going. Now. Well, today at any rate.”

What did the little fellow...?

“Well, that is sad news, I am sure, Falco,” Eodwine said, interrupting Thornden’s surprised thought. “But I am curious. What have you got in your pocket?”

What has he got up his sleeve, rather? Thornden thought to himself. This new idea was sudden, it seemed, and very unexpected. Thornden did not think very badly of Falco, but he did not entirely trust him and his flighty way of thinking. He clapped a sharp eye on the hobbit and waited for him to answer Eodwine.
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Old 09-10-2007, 10:54 AM   #880
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Eodwine's news might have temporarily stunned his household silent, but it had not dampened their appetites. For yet another time that morning Ginna had to shuttle away from the kitchen table for reinforcements before she faced again the hungry horde seated on it. This time they needed something to drink, and giving them that, since Ginna arrived in the Mead Hall, had been automatically her job. She made her way out the kitchen to the yard, bringing an empty water jar and a tray of cups.

As she lifted the familiar weight of the filled jar off the ground, she remembered her first day in the Mead Hall. The memories flowed through her mind like the water into the cups: Frodides's first task for her, meeting Falco and Rilef, the wound on her palm, her first encounter with Harreld--

Splash! The cup she had been filling tipped over, spilling water as it fell. Cursing silently, Ginna let down the jar and wiped the spillage on the tray, and the bench on which she set it, using the apron around her waist.

Harreld. It had been in this very place. I had sat just over here . . . and she wistfully marked the place, leaving a wet streak on the previously dry surface.

Just after Ginna had sent Kara to the yard from the kitchen, that day a month ago, she had regretted it. She was thirsty, she could not deny it, but she felt she could bear it for a few more minutes, at least until Frodides returned. Only after she and Harreld had been forced to recount to her the tale concerning the outlaw did Ginna realise how stupid, how rash she had been. And now the very man she last wanted to be with was alone with her.

She looked at Harreld. He was fidgeting, wringing his hands, obviously feeling just as awkward as she was, if not more. Ginna could not blame him; it seemed to her that she was hardly the kind of man one could force to sit in a kitchen to guard a wayward little brat. She did not notice how long she had been looking at him until he glanced her way and she found herself staring into his eyes.

"Um, how are you feeling?" she said without thinking, just to keep his attention away from her.

He coughed. "I am well. You have stopped shaking. Do you feel better?"

"I guess I do," she replied tentatively, surprised that the smith had been observant enough to notice. "But just a little. I don't know how I'll be able to feel better with the memory of my stupidity going around my head." Ginna almost kicked herself. Why could she not keep her mouth shut?

"No, I didn't mean that. I'm feeling better, really," she added lamely, giving Harreld a forced smile.

Harreld wished they were in his smithy where he could keep his fretful hands busy with his hammer and anvil. There he was at peace with his thoughts while Garreth talked all day about nothing and everything. And she could see how good he was at his work. In the meantime his thick, calloused fingers kept chafing against each other. With Ginna sitting before him, staring into his eyes, he could not think at all. Except that she should not be so hard on herself.

"You were not stupid." His words came out more forcefully than he had intended. "I mean-" he coughed into his hand, "-you sought vengeance. It is runderable - I mean understandable. Reasonable." He blushed over his mangled words.

Ginna looked down at her hands, shaking her head. "You're just saying that. I let my emotions rule over my actions. What if I did kill the outlaw, against the Eorl's command? What then would he have done with me?"

Harreld had well formed opinions about this, and probably to Ginna's surprise, his words flowed. "Done with you? Punished you before others and thanked you with none hearing. You almost saved him the need of a trial. And don't forget that I almost killed him before you did, the no-good piece of filth, for daring to cut your pret-" Harreld's eyes fell to her pretty neck, which he had been about to invoke, and he was embarrassed by his sudden awareness of her beauty. And femaleness. He went red all over again. "I mean, for daring to lettin your thrife. I mean threaten your life."

Ginna laughed gently at Harreld's blunder, but quickly stifled it lest she offend him. "I'm sorry, I forgot that," she said, hoping he would think that was the reason for her laughter. "To be honest, though, I doubt I would have been able to kill the man even if he had not stopped me. Even if you had not stopped me. But still," she reached forward, and took his large, restless hands in her own slender ones, "thank you for keeping me from taking a life. And for saving mine. I'll never forget it."

Harreld's eyes widened. Where her hands touched his, it felt like sparks from his smithy furnace. But her words were a delight. He felt all kinds of boastful promises welling up inside him, wanting speech, but when he tried to open his mouth he found that his tongue was quite tied in his head. He stared at her smiling face. He mouthed the words, "She likes me!"

And Ginna had caught them. She had felt, just like in her days of freedom, the thrill of being desired, perhaps later of being pursued, and began to see how she could use it for her own emotional benefit. In the days following their conversation she had little by little managed to lower Harreld's defences, until he was significantly more comfortable around her. This initially, however, brought about a problem in the form of Garreth, Harreld's twin, who got jealous of his brother's seeming success with a woman . . . and so he turned to Rowenna.

Ginna knew Rowenna could not be a lot older than her - for all she knew the girl was probably younger - but she could not help, for all that she held against her, admiring her confidence. It was no secret how Rowenna kept Garreth's advances in check, and soon brought them to a stop altogether. Ginna was aware that she should be doing the same thing concerning Harreld; she could not forget the reason her father entrusted her to the Eodwine in the first place. Besides, despite being of the proper age, she knew Randvér would never consent to a marriage between them. And most importantly . . . it's not as though that is unquestionably what she wants to achieve.

Without quite seeing how, Ginna realised she had already filled all cups. Putting the jar down and picking up the tray, she thought about Eodwine's recent announcement. He would undoubtedly take her with him, in keeping with her father's request. But what about Harreld? She was surprised to find herself wondering. Should it really matter?

Tired and confused, she laid aside her thoughts before walking back to the kitchen.

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