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Old 02-02-2005, 09:47 AM   #322
Shadow of Tyrn Gorthad
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Ealasaide's Post - Fador

Fador listened in silence as first Ráma and then Thorn addressed the assembly, both of them speaking eloquently in favor of taking up arms against the growing power of the Wyrm. Thus far, he had been careful to take no public position himself, choosing instead to speak through others who were sympathetic to his view, such as Mumtaz and Hadya, but he knew that he could not remain silent and neutral forever. The time would soon be upon him when he must take a strong position and lead his people. The problem that faced him now was how to lead them where he wanted them to go, into the grasp of the Wyrm, without the willing cooperation of Ayar’s daughters or Thorn. The new young leaders would have to be circumvented or, failing that, eliminated somehow, perhaps driven from favor.

Fador smiled inwardly. It had been easy enough to circumvent them in getting rid of the northerners. In fact, it seemed that no one of any consequence had yet noticed the absence of the Gondorian sea captain and his first mate, even though the two had been gone for nearly an entire day. Only Latah had noticed their absence when she arrived in the early morning to do her usual round of cleaning. Fador had impressed upon her the importance of remaining silent and she had quietly acquiesced, bowing her head as he explained to her how he had sent them away the day before on an errand of great importance to the clan. If she valued their lives, as well as the lives of Surinen and the two other tribesmen who had accompanied them, she must remain silent. Spies were everywhere. Like a dutiful daughter, she had sworn to say nothing until at least a day had passed and the travelers were well out of reach. How easy it was to fool those who were so willing to believe.

His conversation with Hasrim the night before had gone less smoothly. Fador had flown out to the agreed upon meeting place at dusk, as they had planned, in the shape of a peregrine falcon. Circling high above the tall desert grasses, he watched as his contact arrived, again wearing the shape of a bat. For an instant, in the seconds before Hasrim regained his human form, Fador toyed with the notion of tucking his wings and making use of the fearsome speed of a peregrine’s dive, of plucking the bat out of the air with his talons mid-flight. It would have been so easy, and Hasrim deserved no less for the lack of respect he had shown Fador the day before, but the instant passed. Instead of diving, Fador floated down easily on the dying thermals and settled on the ground beside the other maenwaith man. Each of them having regained his human form, their conversation was brief. Fador told the Wolf of the departure of the foreigners from the Eagle camp a few hours earlier, traveling northward. Hasrim had been furious at the head start that others had gained and left quickly, muttering to himself, his parting words to Fador a threat. If Fador has caused the delay intentionally... Returning to his own camp, Fador had at first been amused by the threat, but later regretted his own foolishness. The delay had been intentional. He could just as easily have sent the Gondorians off later in the day at a time closer to or even after the time of the pre-arranged dusk meeting, but Fador had decided otherwise out of pique. He had been angry at the way the Wolf had disrespected him the night before and had decided to tweak his nose. Now, in retrospect, he began to wonder what the gesture might cost him politically. If Wyrma were to learn of it... Fador pushed the thought aside, his attention returning to more immediate matters.

“...if we do not fight,” Narika was saying. “Many of us will lose our way forever.”

The man she was speaking to, a tribesman named Amalik, nodded his understanding. As Narika and Thorn sat down, a murmur of voices rose, filling the meeting area with a confusion of differing opinions and reactions. Fador raised his hand in the call for silence and slowly the noise subsided.

“We are a people divided,” he said once a respectful quiet had again taken hold. “Thorn and the daughters of Ayar say that we should take up arms and go to war against our fellow maenwaith. They say that this is the only way to preserve our sovereignty and our nomadic way of life, yet there are many among us who disagree. There are many who say flee, let us not kill our fellow maenwaith. Still others say let us not be hasty, let us wait and see what this city has to offer. Perhaps it will bring opportunity, rather than slavery.”

“If we wait and do nothing -” Barakah’s clear voice rang out beside him. “This city will bring us death. Did you not hear the words of Sorona? The Guardians of the Dreamtime have revealed all to her. They have shown her what awaits us in the city and it is not opportunity, that is unless you are in the business of burning or burying the dead. We have been given this warning. We should take heed.”

“Hear, hear,” muttered Dakarai from his place beside Barakah.

“These young people speak wisely when they say we must reach out to the other tribes of the deep desert,” continued Barakah. “We must band together with them in order to save ourselves. When the Counsel of Elders first met following the death of the Meldakhar, I counseled our leaders that we should flee into the deep desert. Since then, having had the opportunity to speak at length with both Thorn and Narika, I find myself falling into agreement with them. Flight would be fatal, unless it were only a temporary measure to be taken while we gather our allies around us. Ráma spoke the truth when she said that we must look for allies wherever we can find them.”

“But she’s mad,” Harith’s quavering treble broke in.

“You’re mad,” snapped Dakarai in response, turning a pair of very sharp eyes on the wizened little man. “You should go back to your dice and your gaming pieces and let those of us who have a pair of brains to rub together get on about our business.”

“Let him speak!” ordered Fador. Dakarai fell silent, but continued to stare balefully at Harith, who nodded smugly at the assembly, giving everyone a happy, though toothless, smile.

“Ráma’s gone completely daft in the head,” Harith repeated once order had been restored.

For a moment, all faces turned toward Ráma, whose gold-flecked eyes widened in a combination of surprise and bewilderment.

“You see,” continued the elder. “I heard her talking to Narika there who may be a little daft, herself, too, you know.”

“It is a serious thing to say that the daughters of Ayar have gone mad,” said Barakah. She turned toward Harith with a gentle look that contrasted sharply with the anger on Dakarai’s face beside her. “Pray, tell us, dear Harith, why you make such accusations.”

“Because I heard her talking.” He nodded again, rather unctuously this time. “I told Mumtaz and he said I should not go to Thorn but go to the assembly and here I am, even though she said, Ráma said, that the Elders mustn’t know. But we do know. I know.”

“Know what?” prompted Fador impatiently. Although he wore a mask of something akin to annoyance on his face, he felt a wild, dancing glee in the pit of his stomach. So soon! Here the new leaders had not even been officially established and already there was something which could be used to discredit them, to undermine their ideas and integrity. He bent forward so as not to miss a single one of Harith’s wheezy, tale-bearing words.

“Ráma wants to run off to the Time of Legends and look for the Great Eagles.”

At a mystified look from the others, Harith began to get impatient. “She wants to run off to the southern mountains and look for an elder called Ayka, who she thinks can tell her where to find Thorondor and the great Eagles. She thinks they can help us against the Wyrm!”

“Madness!” exclaimed Mumtaz from Fador’s left, almost as if on cue. “Utter madness!”

“And Narika told her to go.”

All faces turned again toward the two sisters.

“Is this true?” asked Barakah gravely. Her bright eyes studied each of the young women’s faces in turn, searching their expressions for signs of truth or of madness. “Please explain yourselves.”


Child's post for Ráma and Narika

As soon as Barakah had posed her question, Narika slipped away from Thorn to come and stand near her sister. She leaned close to Ráma and confided, “You must share mother’s wishes with the assembly, but first let me deal with this troublemaker who has his nose in places where it shouldn't be.”

Narika stepped forward and politely bowed before the Council in the manner that she had learned as a young girl. Her voice, though firm, showed no hint of fear or anger. “Elder Barakah, I would gladly discuss this with you. Indeed, I intended to do so in private once our clan had made its declaration of war. The tale that Harith weaves is true, yet only in part. He speaks like a child who has overheard a few fleeting words from his parents and, understanding little, can only guess at what these words mean. Ráma can best explain what happened that afternoon, since she was the one who sat with Mother and heard her final request.” At this revelation, murmurings and hushed whispers spread through the crowd. Narika waited a moment for the noise to subside and then continued, "Now I would speak of Harith, for his conduct raises a point of honor that not only concerns me and my sister but the honor of our clan.”

Narika fixed a firm eye on Harith. Their accuser stood on the far side of the circle, looking decidedly uncomfortable. Turning from the Elders, she addressed him directly. “Since when does one maenwaith spy on another under cover of darkness? Ráma and I spoke inside the tent with the leather flaps drawn down and securely fastened. Even later, when Thorn and I met, we made sure to secure the tent flaps tightly. You must have come spying as a sand rat or crawling pest and, under cover of darkness, squeezed beneath the flap. That is the only way you could have overheard our conversation.”

“Are you certain, my lady?” Barakah pressed. “Perhaps Ráma discussed these things with others?”

Narika emphatically shook her head, “There were no others, at least not within the Eagle camp.”

“But none of this is true!” protested Harith. “Not true at all. I never intended to spy on the women, and I certainly never put on a different form.” Harith shifted uneasily from one foot to the other, refusing to look up and meet Narika’s eyes. He continued in a whining voice. “I was just searching for my special ivory dice, the ones I received as a wedding gift. They had slipped out from beneath my sash somewhere in front of the tent. I was crawling and feeling my way along the ground. My ear was close to the small crack at the bottom of the flap. Not on purpose of course,” Harith hastily added, “I merely wanted to find my dice. Then I heard Ráma speak and her sister answer, just as I have told you.”

Harith looked straight at Ráma and pointed an accusing finger, “This one is mad. Her sister protects her in her madness. You all know this. You were there when it happened, but everyone was afraid to say so for fear of offending Ayar.”

There was an uncomfortable silence before Barakah broke in, “That is enough! Ráma is not on trial for her mistakes as a child. Nor is this about anyone’s ability to shift forms. I only wish to know the truth about these charges concerning the preparations for war. For the moment, we will set aside the question as to how Harith came by this information, although what Narika has said does concern me.”

“Daughter of Ayar,” the Elder turned to face Ráma speaking in a gentle tone, “tell us of your mother's wish and whether Harith speaks the truth. Do you or your sister intend to run off on some fool’s errand as your accuser claims?”

“A fool’s errand? This is no fool’s errand.” Ráma strode forward to Barakah and directly addressed her. If she was upset by Harith’s charge of madness or his comments on the incident from her childhood, her speech and demeanor did not show it. She quickly explained, “ Narika and I only seek to carry out the wishes of Mother who talked with me at length the afternoon before she died. Yalisha, Miri, and Claris were there for part of that time and can vouch for much of what I say. They heard mother speak in urgent terms of the clan’s need to go to war and how it was time to take a stand against Wyrma’s enslavement of the maenwaith . Mother said Narika and Thorne must be given the headship of the clan and that we must ride out and call upon the other clans to join us in the fight.”

After listening to Ráma, Barakah directed a question at Yalisha who stood nearby, “Did Ayar speak clearly at this time, or were her wits already addled by the poison?”

Yalisha responded without hesitation, “No. I am certain Ayar knew what she was saying. Until she slipped off into her final sleep, Ayar was perfectly aware of what was going on around her. She said these things just as Ráma has reported. I was inside the tent with Claris and Miri and heard her words with my own ears.

"What of the Great Eagles?” Barakah pressed.

“I do not know. I heard nothing about them. But at the end, Ayar asked to be left with Ráma to speak privately with her. I saw no reason to deny such a request and left for a few minutes. When I returned, mother and daughter were hugging each other, and Ayar was lying down to rest. She seemed happy and relaxed, more so than I had seen her for the past week. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from her heart. A few hours later, the poison returned and by morning she had passed.”

“Elder Barakah,” Ráma interrupted, “I can tell you more about this. After Yalisha left, mother spoke to me about several things, and one of these was the Great Eagles. There is certain lore passed on through the line of the head of the clan. This lore says that, years ago in the midst of another war, the clan had done the Eagles a service and had been promised aid from them if there should ever be a pressing need. For the same reason, these mighty creatures taught our ancestors how to take on our special Eagle shape. As a token of their promise, the Eagles gave the clan a jeweled band that could be returned to them when help was needed. As a child, Mother had actually seen this band and thought that Ayka might have it or even know where the Eagles' aerie lay. Ayka is an Eagle herself, one of our own who withdrew to the mountains when she understood that Sauron’s might could threaten the clan’s well being. She saw what was coming and left years before the actual trouble started. Mother suggested we simply stop and talk with her on the trip south when we journeyed to rouse the other clans.”

The Elder shook her head and noted, “I am trying to remember. Years ago, I remember a teller of tales who visited us and told stories around the campfire, wonderful stories that I had never heard before. I believe her name was Ayka. But I was young at the time and can scarcely remember what she said.”

“Teller of tales? Ráma would have us put our doom in the hands of a storyteller? This is nonsense.,” Mumtaz’s voice rang out harshly over the group. “It is unfortunate that Ayar’s wits left her in the final hours, but she is not the problem. Anyone can fall into delusions when poison overtakes the mind. It is Ayar’s daughters who should have known better. If they are not mad, then they suffer from a total lack of good judgment . It makes me shudder to think that the well being of the clan lies in the hands of such easily deluded fools.”

‘Watch yourself!” snapped Ráma. “My mother’s wits were perfectly fine. Nor were these stories foolish. The Eagles are real. They exist. They are part of our past and who we are. If you deny them, you deny a piece of yourself. Mother was quick to realize that we must not rely solely on such special help. We must use every bit of our own strength and wit. But if there is a chance, even the smallest chance, that these great creatures could come to our aid, we should not hide our heads in the sand.”

“Really now, Ráma,” Mumtaz drawled, “I am surprised at your stubbornness. Have you yourself seen these creatures? Has Narika? Has anyone here had the pleasure of meeting a giant Eagle?” The hubbub in the air died down and was replaced with complete silence. “Come now, friends, speak up. If no one has even seen these Giant Eagles, I do not think it wise to put our faith in them. How sad it is that the two daughters of Ayar have been taken in by a fanciful story. And I am even more stunned that Thorn would have given any credence to their words.”

Ráma stood silent and perplexed, uncertain how to respond. Suddenly from the back of the gathering, emerging from the shadows, a tall man strode forward to the front of the assembly with a heavy wooden staff in his left hand. Even those who had seen and known him from before marveled at the sight of his eyes, so deep set and pensive were they. He bowed respectfully to the Council. “Elders, I ask your leave to speak. I believe I may be able to help you with this matter.”

“But you are not a member of this clan,” Fador objected.

“That is true, but I come from a land where many have the ability to change form. I have sometimes thought of my kin as being specially close to your own because of that. And there are even those in this gathering who can attest to my skill in taking on more than one shape, including that of an Eagle. ”

“Yes, I have heard that you possess such skills," Barakah interjected. "Someday, I would hope to speak with you at greater length.“

Fador responded with some reluctance, "We do permit maenwaith other than Eagles to stand before our Council. Since you have mastery of forms, I grant you permission to speak.”

Mumtaz stared at the old man and scowled in disgust, glancing around to meet the eyes of his friends, just as the tall figure began to address the assembly, “My name is Aiwendil. I have lived among you in recent weeks and seen the goodness of your ways. I tell you that the Giant Eagles do exist. I myself have stood in their presence, speaking to them just as I speak to you now. I have also heard of promises made to this clan long years ago: that if your people were ever in peril, they could call on the Eagles for aid. This is no small gift. Indeed, it is an extraordinary thing. I know of no other people in Arda who have received such a promise. Ayar spoke the truth, and her daughters were wise to heed her words, as was Thorn. If there is any chance that the Eagles could lend aid, you would be foolish not to request such assistance.”

Barakah stepped forward to ask Aiwendil another question but before she could reply there was a series of shouts coming from the back of the assembly, “Look there! The herders have returned upon their camels.”

Two men hastily dismounted and made their way to the front. With grave faces, they announced to the Elders, “We bring news....dire news.”

Ealasaide's Post - Fador

As several tribesmen departed from the back of the assembly to see to the camels left outside the meeting circle by the new arrivals, Fador turned his attention to the two sweaty, dusty men who had pushed their way to the front. He recognized them at once as the brothers, Amal and Abdou. They were solid fellows, loyal and reliable, if a bit unimaginative, just the type who should be left in charge of the herds. As he recalled, they were related somehow to Hadya, who sat a few feet behind him, her sister’s boys, perhaps.

Fador nodded to each of them in turn. “Amal. Abdou.”

The two young men nodded in response, their dark eyes shifting from Fador to Thorn and back, as though not certain to whom they should deliver their message. Seeing this hesitation, Fador decided to assert his authority. Until Thorn was officially made a leader of the Eagle clan by ceremony, which would not happen for days, he had no real power. Until then, Fador saw himself as the one in control.

“Speak, man!” he said, addressing Amal, the elder of the two. “You say you bear dire news. What can be more dire than the matters we discuss already in this assembly?”

“We bring news of the death of Siamak.”

“The leader of the Owls,” murmured Hadya from behind.

“How did it happen?” asked Fador. His mind was already churning with the news of Ráma’s impending search for the great Eagles. Now there was this to consider as well, proof that Wyrma was on the move elsewhere. He would have to think quickly to stay ahead of the game.

“It was very strange,” answered Amal gravely. “He was struck ill by what was thought at first to be an insect bite, but his healers were able to do nothing for him. He was dead by the following morning. The Owls are in turmoil.”

“Just like our Ayar!” a voice exclaimed from deep within the assembly.

“Do they ask for our aid?” Narika asked quietly.

“No, miss,” answered Amal, turning toward her. “They do not seek our aid, but they do seek a dialogue. They wish to speak with our leaders. To see where we stand.”

“They did not say it outright, my lady,” Abdou spoke for the first time. “But they believe Siamak’s death to be the work of an assassin.”

“Wyrma!” another voice hissed from deep in the crowd.

“They send riders,” added Amal. “They shall be here within days, perhaps as early as tomorrow. My brother and I hurried back so that our people should be prepared to receive them.”

“Then we must have our leaders in place and ready for their arrival,” said Barakah, speaking for the first time since the arrival of the herdsmen. "Thorn," she said, turning toward the young man, who rose to his feet. "Is there any reason why you and Narika cannot be married immediately? Today, for instance.”

After exchanging a quick glance with his bride to be, Thorn shook his head. “No, Elder Barakah, there is no reason to wait.”

Fador bit the insides of his cheeks with fury as Barakah turned to the rest of the assembly. How dare she circumvent his authority and commandeer the meeting, he thought to himself. She had been a problem for years, always the voice of the opposition to Fador’s ideas, but now she had gone too far. While he had not constructed any kind of a concrete plan of dealing with the Owls, he had already begun to think of ways to manipulate them if he could meet with them alone. If Thorn and Narika were the ones to meet with the Owls instead of him, Fador’s influence evaporated.

“Then, let the wedding take place today,” Barakah was saying, her bright gaze moving from face to face around the circle. “If no one in this assembly can voice any true objection, let us move ahead with the wedding ceremony this very evening. As soon as Thorn and Narika are wed, we can have them installed properly as our leaders. By the time the messengers from the Owl clan arrive, we shall be ready.”

“But what of this other madness?” objected Mumtaz. “This business of finding the great eagles.”

“Are you still convinced it is madness?” asked Barakah, amid a rising flood of voices. “With the death of Siamak, I can see that our position is precarious at best. It becomes more important than ever that we have strong leadership in place. And we must look for allies where we can find them. If Ayar believed that the Great Eagles could come to our aid, then what advantage do we forfeit by sending Ráma to search for them?”

As voices rose on both sides and the meeting threatened to deteriorate into open argument, Fador rose to his feet. Thinking quickly, he had come to the conclusion that it would be pointless for him to oppose Thorn and Narika at this stage. Remembering the way the young herdsmen had looked first to Thorn before him, Fador understood that in an open opposition he would lose. The Eagles were a clan ruled by tradition, and in a time of uncertainty, they would cling to their traditions more stubbornly than ever. The Eagles had always chosen their leaders from the ranks of the young. Who would he offer instead of these two young people, whom the Eagle people already looked to for guidance? Himself? No, it would never work. What he must do is see that Thorn and Narika were properly installed into the leadership of the clan. He already had their trust. He must simply find ways to manipulate that trust and further his own ends through other channels. Raising one hand, he called for silence and gradually the assembly again came to order.

“Seeing as I can hear no true objection to what Elder Barakah suggests,” he said. “I submit that we move ahead with the marriage of these two young people this very evening and that, immediately following the wedding, we place the mantle of leadership upon their shoulders. We must show strength to the Owl clan, not disorganization or fear.”

He paused, waiting for the perhaps inevitable objections from outer edges of the assembly, but his ears were greeted instead by a nervous, anticipatory silence. Beside him, Mumtaz grumbled something indistinguishable. Then, Barakah’s clear voice rang out again:

“Elder Fador is right. We must show strength.”

Barakah’s words were answered with a general nodding of heads and mumbles of agreement.

Fador nodded as well. “Then,” he said solemnly. “If that is the decision of this assembly, let it be done.” Within minutes thereafter, the meeting broke up. With a direction at last and something concrete to do to prepare their clan for the future, most of the Eagles, elders and young folk alike, left the meeting with a renewed sense of focus visible both in the set of their faces and the purposefulness of their strides. Fador walked away with a similar sense of purpose, but his thoughts did not revolve around the upcoming wedding or even the imminent arrival of the messengers of the Owl clan. Fador’s thoughts centered instead around Barakah and how he could rid himself and the clan of her troubling influence. After all, he had managed to get rid of the Gondorians rather neatly. Barakah, a prominent elder of the clan, would not be quite so easy to eliminate as the two newly arrived outsiders, but it could be done. Fador touched the lapis inlaid hilt of his dagger. It could be done.

Last edited by Ealasaide; 03-03-2005 at 03:34 PM.
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