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Old 06-04-2007, 07:25 PM   #801
littlemanpoet
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This Elborn was a handsome enough fellow in his ship-legged way. Rowenna smiled just enough to suggest that she was not ill-disposed to him, and nodded to indicate that she understood his meaning about the lockpicks. She tried to toss her untossable, matted her winsomely and failed, and wished very hard that she could get to the Eorl's mead hall very soon so she could bathe, brush out her hair, and maybe even find a new dress to replace the rags she wore.

She wondered how this Elborn knew about Ghem's lockpicks. She wasn't convinced that he was telling the truth about himself, in general. It was not that he seemed less likely to be truthful than any of these others, including the Eorl; living among outlaws for two years had taught her to place her trust in others carefully and seldom. She wondered what had sent him away from the sea, for it was clearly where he belonged. The outlaw scouts and guards had not seen him nor heard of him before this day, and that was saying something. Ghem's talk had been as if he'd snitched his lockpicks off their previous owner unbeknownst, which might or might not be true. At any rate, she had no intention of mentioning Ghem's lockpicks to anyone else. Better to let things happen that she could not easily stop, no matter how unforgiveable, and see what might be made of them later. It was how she had survived among outlaws.

Things were in a bad way for Ulric and Withold, perhaps less so for Ghem; which suited her fine, considering all they'd put her through. Not least of all was today's outrage, killing her poor dogs, Bull and Claw. She wanted to tear both their eyes out. Instead, she schooled herself away from her rage and forced herself to think on the memory of Bull, her big strong and courageous mastiff, and Claw her clever wolfhound, brother to Fang. At least Bear, her hound, had not been killed, his sad eyes looking back at her as if he too grieved his packmates. Gray, her wolf-dog, was too high spirited and in the moment to think any more upon Bull and Claw. Her pointed ears were up and forward as she looked from speaker to speaker, her curly tail flipping back and forth like a darting fish.

But not all the outlaws had been accounted for. This would not do.

"Lord," she said into the first pause in conversation among the others, "I know each of these rogues by face and name. I would help you be sure that all are accounted for if you will show me the dead."

"Witch! Traitorous witch!" cried Ulric.

She gave him not even a glance, holding the eyes of the Eorl, who agreed to her offer. He sent Haleth and his men back to Meduseld with his thanks, then he and his men showed Rowenna each of their kills. It was in this way that Thornden's story came out again, and became less mysterious, of a headless rogue whom he could not remember having killed.

"What do you make of it, lord?" asked Thornden.

"I know not."

"I do," Rowenna said. "Cedric is not among the dead, and he is not captive. He must have escaped. He was one of the more clever ones, and spoke less than he seemed to know."

"Where might he have gone?" the Eorl asked.

"I know not."

"What might he have a mind to do?"

"I know little of that either, except that this one's head is missing, whatever may be made of that. And be sure that whatever may be, will be to Cedric's advantage."

"And clearly to the disadvantage of this headless one," Eodwine remarked.

"Maybe he is spying on us this very moment," Falco offered, looking around.

The eyes of all who remained wandered here and there among the bracken and briars and trees and stone outcroppings, but very little if anything could be seen, and there was no sudden noise as if this Cedric was trying to make a hasty exit.

"Who was this Cedric?" Eodwine asked. "What can you tell me about him so that it can be decided what to do about him?"

"He was last to join us," Rowenna answered. "He proved himself useful with his sword and dagger, and he took orders well enough. He kept to himself mostly."

"When and where did he join you?"

"Some moons ago, not far from Dunland."

"Did he ever speak of any plans of his own devising?"

"Nay, never. He offered to add his sword to ours for a fair share of the gains."

Eodwine shrugged. "Well, since there is little enough to know about this fellow, let us leave this place and return to the Mead Hall."

As she fell into line towards the rear of the party, Rowenna wondered what to expect from Ghem, and this Elborn; and from Cedric. She kept her thoughts to herself.

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Old 06-10-2007, 02:46 PM   #802
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"I am afraid I still know little about what is around. Perhaps we can explore? I would like to see more! But...must you be off home? Will someone worry about you?"

Elfthain paused and thought, he had no desire to part from his new friend but having been allowed to go to the inn to gather news on the general's return he wondered whether strictly speaking he should return. It was not that he feared punishment but that he had lately come to realise that reliability was the key to greater freedom. At home he had generous bounds and as long as he told someone where he was going, had completed his chores and returned in time for meals he could please himself much of the time. He also had the wit to realise that at home, he was usually kept under the friendly eye of the farmhands and villagers and his mother would soon hear of any mishap or misbehaviour and the price of not having her fuss over him was not giving her grounds to fuss.

Edoras was not home and he would dearly love to explore properly and in all honesty he was sure he would just be in the way.

"I think it will be alright. They know that I was coming to the Inn and so if anyone looks for me they will know that I am with you. But I don't think anyone will miss me for a while - they were all too busy. As long as we don't go outside the walls it should be fine". Elfthain hoped that that was true and the pair set out, Elfthain letting Lys set the pace.
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Old 06-13-2007, 12:53 PM   #803
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For the second time that day, Elián raised an eyebrow in surprise. He had assumed that the woman with the dogs was part of the Eorl’s group, either a guard or a tracker, but when she acknowledged his warning about ol’ Ghem’s lock picks with nothing more than a smile and a toss of her untossable, matted hair, he began to suspect otherwise. This suspicion was confirmed by her subsequent conversation with the Eorl, in which she inventoried the dead for the Eorl and his men and identified the missing outlaw for them: some fellow named Cedric. Idly, Elián wondered if he knew Cedric, too. He was terrible with names, which could come in handy when being questioned by the authorities – after all, you couldn’t divulge what you couldn’t remember – but he never forgot a face. As for the girl, he had not seen her before, but by his guess she had lingering sympathies for the outlaws since she had chosen to do nothing with the information he had given her about the lock picks. Apparently, she was already aware of their existence, even without his input.

Elián shrugged amiably to himself. He had done his part for law and order and, having done it, had decided to wash his hands of the whole business. The outlaws weren’t his problem. In fact, if he could manage it, he would like to stay on their good side as well as the Eorl’s. After all, as he knew very well, escapes did happen and a person could sometimes find friends in unexpected places.

What was his problem was the matter of getting to Edoras, where he hoped he could either vanish for a while – at least long enough for things to settle down again in the South – or purchase enough supplies to continue his flight north toward Bree. An old shipmate and friend had hailed from Bree originally and since returned home again, having had enough of the sea, to settle down and join his family’s blacksmithing business there. Elián had hopes of finding work with him until it was safe to return to Belfalas. Now… if he just knew where Bree was. He knew that it lay to the north somewhere, but that was about it. He hoped to find a reliable map, as well as supplies, once he got into Edoras.

With that thought occupying his mind, Elián fell in at the rear of the line as the entire group, led by the Eorl, assembled on the path and began to move in the direction of town. Finding himself behind the young woman with the dogs, Elián decided to try speaking to her again.

“So, how is it,” he asked, moving close up behind her. “That you seem to belong to the outlaws, yet you have the complete trust of the Eorl? It’s a rare spot to be in, to hold both ends of the anchor line like that.”
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Old 06-16-2007, 09:31 AM   #804
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Rowenna cocked her head at Elborn's query, glancing at him with one raised brow. Could he not see the rags she wore instead of a good dress? Or was he mimicking daftness? Or asking something obvious to see how she would react? She shrugged.

"I was their captive for two years. They had me bound, waiting upon their kind ministrations." She said her last words with a sardonic smirk. "The Eorl found and rescued me. And my dogs."

“Two years, all bound up?” asked Elián mildly. “Seems like a long time for them to be toting you around with them. And your dogs. Explains your choice of wardrobe, though, don’t it?” He grinned, but, seeing that she was not amused, changed his tack.

“If it was me, I’d’ve ransomed the lot of you as soon as possible and spared myself the trouble of a couple years’ worth of ministrations, as you put it.” He gave her a sideways glance, thinking that she must have been treated very badly during her time of captivity. She seemed so angry. But then, he reminded himself, if he had spent the last two years trussed up like a holiday goose and relying on the kindness of a bunch of cutthroats, he’d be cranky, too. If that was really her story. For all he knew, she could be one of the outlaws just passing herself off as a hostage for her own purposes. After all, the captives looked about as rough and ill-used as she did. Who could say for certain that she was not one of them? To take her at her word alone, the Eorl was either a trusting fellow or an idiot, decided Elián. Either that or the girl was already known to him from an earlier association of some kind. Either way, Elián had his doubts. There was still the matter of the lock picks.

“I mean, you must be worth something to someone, eh?” he finished.

So this Elborn wished to bandy with words, taking advantage of her first slip. Did he wish to be her opponent, or her friend? Or both? She could not tell. Not yet. "To none but my former captives have I worth," she answered coolly. She allowed some small portion of bitterness to slide along her next words. "I have no kin. These outlaws killed them all." She waited for a comment of some kind, but none was forthcoming. She did not normally need to fill silences, but his gibe still goaded her, and she wanted her faulty speech fixed. "I meant that my captors bound me today so that they would be sure I was where they had left me. Does that satisfy your quibble?" She almost gave way to a sudden urge to raise her chin, frowning, and walk ahead of him, effectively turning her back on him. But that would be rash, and she fought down the urge. Deeds wrought from how one felt so often went awry; those wrought from thought were the more trusty. She continued her easy pace beside Elborn.

“It does indeed,” answered Elián. “To be honest, I don’t think there’s anyone who’d pony up a cent for me either.” At least not for his health and well-being, he added to himself. He was fairly certain that there was a least a little coinage available for the individual who handed him over to the hangman. “I am sorry to hear about your family, though. Why didn’t you just run away? With those great big dogs on your side, I imagine you’d be more than a match for ol’ Ghem and his lot.”

Elián cringed as soon as the words left his lips, hoping that the young woman had not noticed his use of the outlaw’s name. It was a stupid slip, but lock picks or no lock picks, outlaw or no outlaw, he was beginning to like the girl. It was making him a little too chatty for his own good.

Rowenna had good peripheral vision and caught Elborn's cringe. Had he twisted his ankle? No, nothing like. Had he said something he regretted? Her eyes widened ever so briefly: he had used Ghem's name without having heard it from anyone else. So he knew Ghem from somewhere. And he knew about Ghem's lockpicks. Had Ghem stolen them from him? Were these two old rogue-brothers? Fellow lift-pads? Better not use this tiny morsel of advantage this very moment; there might be a better time to use it. She tucked it away for safekeeping.

"You did not see Ulric and Withold kill two of my dogs as if they were ants. This whole brood were killers. I would not have lasted the day I chose to run."

“Oh, I see,” answered Elián. “Shows how much I know of outlaws,” he added a moment later in an attempt to cover his earlier slip. With a polite incline of his head, he dropped back a few paces, as though conceding that she had scored a point on him and he was feeling duly chided. In reality, he was silently chiding himself: put a set of petticoats in front of him, even raggedy ones, and sooner or later his brain turned to oyster shells and he began babbling away as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Or a price on his head. He sighed. It was probably because he had spent so much time at sea with no females around except the captain’s wife, Mrs. Snorrisson, who was a formidable creature and a good bit more dangerous than her husband when she was in a temper. In Elián’s opinion, she scarcely counted as female. He was tempted to perform a theatrical shudder at the thought of her, but decided the better of it. He had already drawn enough attention to himself as it was. Elián smiled ruefully at the ground. If he valued his own hide – which he did -- he really had to get a grip on himself, most especially his mouth.

The moment Elborn could no longer see her face, Rowenna smirked. "Shows how much I know of outlaws." So lame as to be laughable. She did not let herself laugh. She had enjoyed the conversation, as far as it had gone. Elborn was a likeable enough fellow, but that was the possible trap: too likeable. She needed to know more about him first; just as she had studied each of the outlaws and come to know their quirks - and their needs - especially the ones they didn't even know they had. Elborn's questions had been too near the bull's eye: she had learned how to manipulate the outlaws so that she not merely survived, but in the end got what she wished for from them.

These thoughts slipped to the recesses of her mind as she heard raised voices ahead, between the Halfling, the Eorl, and the Eorl's right hand man.
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Old 06-16-2007, 03:02 PM   #805
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When they first started out from the place, Thornden did not walk beside Falco and Eodwine. He fell into line behind Eodwine, and when his younger brother moved to stay with Falco, he called him back. Javan obeyed reluctantly, leaving the Hobbits side and going to Thornden with a sullen look.

The entire group set off. Some of the guards of Meduseld took up Rilef’s body and walked behind Thornden. The others from the Mead Hall walked behind those – Garmund going directly behind Rilef, looking crushed and depressed. Javan’s curiosity kept his head craned over his shoulder, staring with wide eyes at Rilef and Garmund, until Thornden laid his hand on his shoulder and jerked him forward again.

“What happened?” Javan asked.

“Don’t know,” Thornden replied in clipped tones.

“Weren’t you here?”

“Not when he got hurt.”

“Did you-”

Thornden didn’t want to be questioned. He had questions of his own to ask and he deserved answers more than Javan’s silly curiosity did. “Javan,” he interrupted, “why are you here? I told you to stay back at the Hall, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” Javan said slowly. “It was Falco’s fault. He wanted to go get help and we couldn’t use his pony, and I didn’t want him to ride mine all by himself because…he’s so little I didn’t think he could control him.” Actually, the thought had not really entered his mind, but it was an excuse. “And,” he went on quickly, “I was only expecting to go to Meduseld to get help, it was all Falco’s idea to come here.” He quickened his pace and plucked Falco’s sleeve. “Tell Thornden that it was your idea to come here after getting the men from Meduseld, Mr. Falco.”
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Old 06-16-2007, 06:28 PM   #806
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"Of course it was my idea," Falco announced. "What of it?"

"I ordered you to stay at the Mead Hall," Thornden retorted.

"You've no rights to ordering me around, plain and simple," Falco shot back, "and if you'd listened more close to Lord Eodwine here, you'd know that."

Thornden's shoulders stiffened and his brow positively thundered with the wrath that was obviously building inside of him. He was trying very hard to control his tone, however, and what came out was disappointingly shy of the pique Falco was hoping for.

"Lord, what have you said regarding Falco that I heard not aright?"

Of all the nuisances, thought Eodwine, this is poorly timed with grief so thick in the air. But deal with it he must. He did not answer straight away because he wanted to make sure he gave the right of it. Simply put, Thornden was second in command at the Mead Hall. However, Falco was Eodwine's personal guest and not a Man - or Hobbit - of the Hall. In fact, his status was more on a par with an ambassador. For he was, after a fashion, an ambassador from the Shire to Rohan. But only informally; and hobbits were, if nothing else, very clear about formalities. No, ambassador was a stretch. Still, Falco was his guest and therefore had a certain status not given to his hired help or bonded men.

"Lord?" Thornden prompted. "Did you hear my question?"

"Aye, I heard it. I was trying to think it through clearly, for I do not think I ever did lay out for you the - ah - precise - ah - status - of Master Falco Boffin." (He realized that he was resorting to formal Gondorian verbage in order to be as careful as possible. He was glad that he had had such exposure over his many years as King's Messenger to Eomer.)

"Precise status, lord?"

"Aye, you ninny!" Falco threw in. "I'm guest and friend of the Eorl! Not to be ordered about by the likes of you!"

What really irritated Thornden the most about Falco was not that his words were so outrageous, but that he was smirking and grinning his way through his jibes. Thornden was being made fun of! Few things bothered him more. A retort was ready to jump off his own tongue, and one that he knew he would regret, but the Eorl spoke first.

"Enough, Falco. Though you may not be Thornden's underling, he still deserves respect. He is, after all, my right hand man at the Mead Hall. Thornden, Falco is my guest but not a formal ambassador. He is not one to whom commands may be lightly given-"

"There! I told you!" Falco blurted.

"I'm not done, Master Falco," Eodwine scolded mildly. "-however, Thornden, in the case of emergencies, it is your bounden duty to hold both bond and guest in safety. To do so you have no recourse but to order things as you see fit. So you were right to command Falco for his own safety. And Falco, perhaps you had cause to refuse to submit to Thornden's command, but you did wrong to involve Javan, and you should apologize to both Thornden and Javan."

"But I did not force Javan-!" Falco started.

"There are no buts," Eodwine cut in. "Javan is Thornden's to scold as he will. To you I speak as a guest in my house but also as friend."

"I see," Falco said. He took two more steps, stopped, turned, doffed his hat and bowed. Thornden and Javan were forced to stop suddenly, causing a small jam-up behind them. "Masters Thornden and Javan, I have wronged you both. I offer you my deepest apologies."

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Old 06-17-2007, 10:05 AM   #807
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Léoðern had absently got up from Ginna's lap when Frodides had given her permission, and Ginna was glad that the child consented to come with her. They went out the kitchen and walked across the yard in silence. Ginna gently led Léoðern to the same bench where she had talked to Harreld the previous night, and lifted her up to let her sit.

"Are you feeling better, Léoðern?" Ginna asked, brushing away the strands of hair that had stuck to the girl's tear-stained cheeks.

"Ye-yes," she replied, her voice trembling a bit, but nevertheless she had stopped crying. "I'm sorry. I'm a big girl now, and big girls shouldn't be crying."

Ginna smiled in spite of herself. "Big girls can cry every now and then, if they have good reasons."

Léoðern looked at Ginna with a brave sort of twinkle in her eyes, as though eager to prove that she really was a big girl, and explained how Falco's sudden bursting into the Hall, shouting about how the Lord Eodwine was in trouble, had scared her, and more so when her father Garstan had to go and rescue him. "I don't want them to get hurt," she finished tremulously, and tears threatened to fall again from her eyes.

"That's a good reason, but they will be fine. The men of the Mead Hall will be with him, and together they will all bring the lord back safely." Ginna thought fleetingly of Garreth, Harreld, and that man who did not know her name, and immediately chided herself for doing so. It was not as though Léoðern could discern her thoughts, but all the same...she should not even be thinking about them. "Your father's a hero. You should be proud of him."

A broad smile came across Léoðern's lips, and she nodded fiercely.

"Now, while we wait for them, what about that tour I asked of you yesterday? Do you remember?"

"Of course," Léoðern exclaimed. "Come on!" And she slid from the bench -- "Be careful!" -- onto the ground and took Ginna by the hand, the latter standing up elegantly. Léoðern giggled.

"Why do you giggle?" asked Ginna.

"You move just like my friend Linduial. She's a princess. That's why I thought you're a princess, too."

Ginna laughed at the memory of their first meeting, and the irony of it. Indeed now she was a serving wench, as she had guessed! She couldn't help asking, "And where is your friend now?"

A spasm of sadness came upon Léoðern's face. "She went back to her home. I miss her so much."

Ginna felt pity well up inside her - not so much for Léoðern as for herself. She knelt before the child and looked her squarely in the eye. "I'm not a princess, as I told you, and I never will be. But I can take her place while she is gone, if you don't mind. Can we be friends?"

Léoðern laughed and screamed, "Only if you let me call you 'my lady'!" And she ran at top speed away from Ginna, who stood up and immediately caught her. Hand in hand they strolled towards the Hall, and it was as though Léoðern had not been previously crying. Ginna could only marvel at and envy the resilience of youth.
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Old 06-17-2007, 11:58 AM   #808
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How sincere Falco was in his apology, Thornden could not tell. He stood rigidly for a moment, as Falco spoke. It was a ridiculous, humiliating moment for both of them. All the same, he had to bear it like a man.

Thornden returned the bow slightly when Falco stood up again. “Your apologies are accepted, Master Falco, and I trust we do not have such a misunderstanding again. . . “ Not likely, he thought, but he could at least be polite.

“You’re forgiven,” Javan piped up. He was oblivious to the embarrassment but he felt important and proud to have Eodwine notice him to the point of making Falco apologize.

But Thornden was annoyed. Javan looked as though he thought he deserved the apology. “I think Falco may be right, lord,” he said, as Falco turned and they began to walk again. “He could not have forced Javan into doing anything. It was likely Javan’s own doing that led him out here.”

“That is not my concern,” Eodwine replied calmly, “and I do not mean that Javan should not be held accountable for his own actions, but Falco did somehow include him in this when he should not have.”

“I understand,” Thornden said, nodding slowly. “My lord,” he said after a slight pause. “What do you think? Should I not have given him the order to stay? You have said that in such a case I must order things as I see fit – but was I wrong? If I was, then I would have you tell me, that I might learn from my mistake.”
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Old 06-17-2007, 04:01 PM   #809
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Rowenna had been watching and listening as the exchange between the Eorl, the Hobbit Falco, and Thornden (for that was apparently his name) wound around to Thornden's latest question. Rowenna shook her head once, but once only, at the sheer density of this Thornden's question; for that was how she saw it. The Eorl had as much as told the young man that he had done right, and now he was actually telling his lord that he wanted the same answer in bald terms. She wondered how the Eorl would react. She considered that this moment would tell her much about him, as the previous had told her much about the other two.

Eodwine slowed and met Thornden's eyes, his expression firm. "If you had made a mistake, I would have told you." Then the Eorl continued on his way, keeping his own counsel; Rowenna was very curious what he was thinking at this moment. The way she saw it, the Eorl had chosen not to take note that Thornden's request was ridiculous, but kept his calm and answered him. Still, Thornden looked a little stung by the reply. She wondered if the young man was a bit overly sensitive to others' opinions. That could be useful to know. And was the Eorl always so forgiving of others' foolishness? Just how forgiving was he? Rowenna had not known anyone so lenient, but then there was very little to go on so far. She wondered if these last two years had maybe taught her the ways of the outlaw too well. She thought about this and other related things as they made their way to the Mead Hall, which looked remarkably like an town watering hole, as some might call it, when she finally laid eyes on it.

Women came out to greet them and looked appropriately crestfallen as the two headed dead man was brought amongst them. Rowenna stayed toward the back of the group, keeping an eye on everyone else - including Elborn who had not left them - to learn what she might before committing herself.
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Old 06-22-2007, 08:50 PM   #810
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By the time Kara had returned to the kitchen the new girl she had just had time to be introduced to, Ginna, had disappeared and Frodides and Modtryth were clearing up the dishes that had been left scattered in the great hall as everyone had rushed out. Guiltily realising that she had been of absolutely no help so far Kara hurried to help, filling the sink with soapy water and starting to wash up.

She was down to the last couple of plates when Ginna reappeared, looking a little flushed and smiling down at Lèoðern who was chattering away quite happily as they entered the kitchen. Frodides also turned as the two entered, a satisfied look crossing her face as she saw them.

"Feeling better now little madam?" She asked Lèoðern, who gazed up at her and nodded vigorously. "Well that's wonderful. Do you think we could have your new friend back for a little while? We need her help now."

Lèoðern nodded again and let go of Ginna's hand.

"Bye m'lady!" She called as Modtryth, who had offered to take her on her rounds of the Hall so she wouldn't be underfoot in the already quite crowded kitchen, led her off down the hallway.

"M'lady?" Frodides inquired of Ginna with an amused arch of an eyebrow, but continued before she had a chance to answer. "Well m'lady, if you don't mind coming down to our level for a while I have a little task for you."

Ginna flushed, whether in annoyance or embarrassment Kara didn't know, but moved to the table Frodides was standing at all the same. Kara followed suit, assuming she could be of some help and having little else to do.

"Ah!" Frodides said, catching sight of Kara coming closer. "I'll leave you to teach the basics to our new girl here, I need a look at that garden." And she disappeared out of the back door, leaving Kara and Ginna alone in the kitchen.

Seeing that she had been left with the easy task of teaching Ginna how to sharpen the knives used in preparing meat and how to prepare a salad. Neither were tasks Ginna would usually be required to do, but Kara had found that working in a kitchen often meant you ended up doing something that was not supposed to be your responsibility, so it was good for Ginna to learn this now. In addition, the simplicity of the tasks would allow them to finally finish the conversation they had tried to start that morning.

"Hello again." She began. "I'm sorry we got interrupted this morning. I'd say it isn't usually so crazy in here but I'd be lying! There's always something going on in this place."

"Always? Oh dear, what have I got myself into?" Ginna went in a mock panicked voice - Lèoðern's mood seemed to have rubbed off on her - and Kara chuckled gently. "So, what are you going to teach me?"

"Not too much." Kara replied. "I suppose you've already learnt serving food and drink out in the main hall, so we're really doing things you might be asked to do if we're very busy. First off we have sharpening knives, an easy job if you don't mind the noise it makes!"

Kara picked up one of the duller knives and a sharpening stone and began her demonstration, Ginna watching her movements closely.

"Want to give it a try?" Kara asked, and Ginna nodded, holding her hands out for the tools.

"Oh!" Kara cried, catching sight of the girl's bandaged hand as she stretched it out to receive the knife. "What happened? Does it hurt? Maybe we should do the salad instead."

"This? It's nothing," Ginna said in an awkward chuckle. Kara gave her a dubious look, still holding on to the tools. Sighing, Ginna pulled her hand back and raised it for Kara to see.

"It was just a silly accident yesterday. I was carrying some dishes when Master Falco, Lefun, and Ritun came in--"

Kara nodded and smiled understandingly. She knew what came next.

"It was unfair to them," Ginna continued, feeling her cheeks heat up a bit. "I apologised to them last night, and I'm sure I'll never be frightened by them again. But as I said, it's nothing. I've been wounded worse - accidents are bound to happen when a female is being taught the use of a sword. Now then..."

She held out her hand towards Kara again, and Kara placed the tools in it with a still doubtful glance at the bandage.

"Well, just tell me if it starts to hurt." She said, trusting that Ginna would know when to stop if she needed to. "So what were you doing with a sword?" She continued, deciding it was time to find out more about Ginna. Upon receiving the knife and the stone, Ginna had straightaway started on her task, and it was a few moments before she replied.

"My father wanted me to learn how to use it, for my protection. I'm his only child, you see, and my mother's gone," she added, with a glance at Kara. "He knows Lord Eodwine from the War, and requested of him to...let me stay here for a while."

"Oh I'm so sorry about your mother." Kara said, almost reaching out to comfort Ginna, but stopping herself as she realised she was still holding sharp objects in her hands. "Is that why your father wants you to stay here? So you can have some female company?"

Ginna could not help smiling. That was a good enough alternative reason, she thought. And it could have had an element of truth to it; Randvér could have known that there will be enough women in the Hall to keep her company...and keep her well-behaved.

"You could say that," she said at last. If she had any plans of saying more she was denied it, as a shrill voice rent through the silence of the Hall:

"They're here!"

Quickly looking at each other, Ginna and Kara dropped the knives, wiped their hands on their aprons, and ran out the kitchen, Frodides coming up behind them. Outside was Modtryth and Lèoðern, with downcast faces. Ginna turned and saw what they were looking at.

"Oh, no," she whispered. "What happened to him - them?"
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Old 06-25-2007, 07:57 PM   #811
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"All questions will be answered in due time," Eodwine announced. He ordered the three outlaws to be taken to the securest rooms in the basement of the Mead Hall, which happened to be a closet behind the wine cellar. They were secured there.

Then Eodwine led those who carried Lefun and Ritun into the Mead Hall. The best they had to lay them in state was a large table, so Eodwine had it brought to the front part of the Mead Hall, halfway between the central firepit and the front door. It was not long before everyone associated with the Mead Hall had gathered around the body in repose.

Eodwine told all gathered the story of the day, and had Thornden tell parts of the tale that he did not know well, and then he required the same of Falco.

"Is there anyone else who would speak up at this time?"

Silence settled over the sombre gathering for several moments.
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Old 06-26-2007, 09:36 AM   #812
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Having nowhere better to go and nothing better to do, Elián followed the rest of the procession back to the Meduseld. His first impression of the place was that it was just a big, rather elderly inn, but as he entered the Great Hall, he soon discovered that, while it did have certain elements of an inn, it was indeed the Eorl’s seat. Elián watched with carefully concealed interest to see how the prisoners were disposed of and smiled to himself as they were stowed in the wine cellar below decks. It wasn’t much of a jail in his opinion and probably wasn’t in much of the opinion of the outlaws either. With the right tools, he figured that he could let himself out of there in no time. Ghem probably could, too. The question was less how effective was the jail cell itself as it was how effective were the guards? He would be interested to see how events unfolded. The knowledge could come in handy if he ever found himself on the wrong side of the Eorl’s cellar door.

In the meantime, though, the fate of the outlaws wasn’t really his problem. Nonetheless, he did find himself looking around for the woman with the dogs and, not seeing her, assumed that she must have gone off somewhere either to clean up or to find suitable space for her pets. He had forgotten to ask her name, but thought that he had heard someone call her Rowenna… Rowena… Helena… something like that. It was a pretty name, but he still had not quite made up his mind about the woman herself. Oh, she had a pretty face all right to go with the name, but there was something of Mrs. Snorrisson about her that put his teeth on edge. Maybe it was that toughness under the surface that conjured the image of his former captain’s wife. Of course, the woman would have had to have been tough even to have survived two years with the bunch of fellows she had been running with. On the other hand, there was still the matter of the lock picks. The fact that she had done nothing to alert the Eorl’s people as to the existence of the picks in the hands of her former captors still bothered him.

And where did that leave him? She knew that he knew and Ghem knew him, and, in fact, Ghem had gotten the cursed lock picks directly from Elián himself. In fact, Elián had made them with his own hands. Before running away to sea, he had spent several years apprenticed to an unscrupulous cutler who had taught him, among other things, how to craft a very efficient set of lock picks. The tiny dagger that went along with them had been Elián’s own invention. He had made at least fifty sets of both over the years and sold all of them for a tidy profit. That is, all but one. He still carried a set himself. Elián sighed. It left him in a very precarious position, particularly if word came up from Belfalas that he was a wanted man.

They couldn’t possibly be looking for him this far north. Could they? He was just a member of the crew…

Rowenna-Helena-whatever-her-name-was had something on him. While it was not much, especially if she had not picked up on the slip he had made in calling Ghem by name, it was enough to make Elián feel vulnerable. He very much wanted to find her, to get to know her a little better, and, in doing that, find out if he could trust her. If she could be trusted, then everything was lovely. If not? Then he had some decisions to make. Either he needed to disappear or she did.

In the meantime, he would have a flagon of mead and get a feel for the atmosphere in the Eorl’s great hall. Already, the Eorl had launched into a tale of the day’s doings and of all the events leading into the death of the two-headed chap and the capture of the outlaws. Elián listened with great interest as he knew almost as little of the events of the day as the local serving girls did. He was silently relieved when the Eorl made no mention of him at all or of how he had happened to join the party in the woods. With any luck at all, the Eorl had completely forgotten his existence. That way, maybe, he would not have to answer any uncomfortable questions.
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Old 06-30-2007, 08:13 PM   #813
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As they made their way across the courtyard and into the mead hall, Rowenna asked one of the members of the Eorl's party where best to put her dogs. He was pointed toward one Léofric, the stableman, who looked young for the job. She moved toward him and put her question to him. The young man gave thought for a moment and led her back out front toward the road, and around the stables to the yard behind the hall, where the latrine was. Apparently, her dogs were to be kept aback of guest rooms where they would be far from all other animals and people as well. Rowenna thanked him and situated them for their comfort.

Léof had not neglected to tell her where she could find food for her dogs, and she made her way around the latrines and walked toward another, smaller courtyard where grew an alder tree. To the right was the kitchen and to the left the main hall. She passed the tree and came into the kitchen. No one was there, occupied still with the rites of passage for the two headed dead man. Rowenna found little to hand. Looking about, she saw a doorway into a cellar. She passed down the small flight of staird and found herself in a winecellar.

She heard voices. Odd. They were coming from the closet. Who could that be? She went over and put her ear to the door. The hairs on the nape of her neck rose: Ghem, Ulric, and Withold! They were speaking of escape. It would be tempting to help them get away, but they would demand that she came with, and she would have none of it. She wanted to stay with this Eorl, and see what could be made of this new situation.

Ah. Ghem was talking about his lockpicks. She would leave them to their wiles. She looked about and found a covered bin in which was salted meat. She took a loaf of bread and went out to her dogs, listening for sounds of an attempted escape.
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Old 06-30-2007, 10:41 PM   #814
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The girls and the women came out to meet them in the courtyard. Thornden stepped back away from Rilef, allowing them to come and see him. He pulled Javan away with him and led him inside. “I want you to go up and wait for me in our room,” he said, leading to the stairwell. “I can’t see to you yet – there are things to be taken care of here.”

“But, I’d like to see what went on!”

“I’m sure you would, but that’s not the point. Get on with you.”

Javan turned with great reluctance and obeyed slowly, walking towards the hall and climbing the stairs up to their room.

Thornden returned to where the others still stood in the courtyard. It was his duty to see that the captive outlaws were taken care of until Eodwine had time to think about them and see them properly disposed of. Without bothering Eodwine, he went back to where Garwine stood, still guarding the outlaws faithfully.

“Bring them in. We’ll find proper and strong rope and make sure they’re all secure before putting them away somewhere.” He turned to lead the way in. Garwine pushed two of the men forward and the third going on without prodding.

It did not take long to find the rope and a place to put them. Down in the kitchen cellar was a closet. There was only one door and the place had no windows. Thornden and his two comrades bound the three outlaws securely, hand and foot. Thornden went out from the closet last, locking the door after them and drawing out the key.

“Thank you, Garwine,” he said as they climbed the stairs again to the kitchen.

“You’re welcome,” Garwine replied. He smiled and nodded and went out of the kitchen again, down the corridor to the great hall.

Thornden stood for a moment, considering, and then he turned and also departed from the room, but he went by the outside door and headed towards the front courtyard. On his way, he saw Rowena, the woman that Eodwine had found in the ruins. She was leading her dogs someplace and she did not see him.

Thornden went in search of Léof. He found him, as he expected, working on unsaddling and whisking the horses’ coats with dry straw.

“Léof,” Thornden said, drawing near and stopping a few paces away. “May I speak with you?”

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Old 07-06-2007, 10:14 AM   #815
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The closet in the Eorl’s wine cellar was small and damp with no windows, very little light, and no way out other than through the stout oaken door that had been locked securely from the outside. What’s worse, the place stunk of rotten cabbage. Ghem guessed that the Eorl’s people must have used the closet at some point to store fresh vegetables, but that it had since fallen out of use. They must have forgotten one of the cabbages, he decided grumpily. It stunk. And now he along with his cohorts, Ulric and Withold, had been bound with ropes and tossed in there with it, elbow to elbow on the floor like three sacks of potatoes.

“Left in here to rot…” Ghem muttered. His head still ached brutally from the pounding he had taken earlier from one of the Eorl’s men, and the rotten cabbage stench in the closet had done nothing to make it feel any better. He was in a foul mood that was getting fouler by the second.

Ulric elbowed him sharply in the ribs. “Shut yer mouth,” he growled. “We’d be lucky to be left to rot. They’ve got the rope in mind for us.”

“That’s right,” agreed Withold from somewhere in the darkness on the other side of Ulric. “We don’t get outta here, we’ll be dangling for sure.”

“Not me,” argued Ghem. “I’ll go down fighting first.”

“Yeah? With what?” asked Withold with a sarcastic snort. “Yer breath? I noticed you didn’t bring yer sword.”

“Laugh it up, funny-man,” retorted Ghem. “When you’re swingin’ from the gallows, I’ll be enjoyin’ a nice pint of ale in a cozy pub a long ways from here.” Ghem smiled to himself. Withold obviously didn’t know it, but Ghem had the means to escape hidden inside his left bracer and in the hollow behind the buckle of his belt. All he had to do now was figure out how to get at them. The guard had done a disappointingly good job of binding him. In fact, the ropes were so tight around his wrists that his fingers were beginning to go numb. Ghem flexed his hands, trying to get the blood flowing through them again. He was going to need his dexterity.

“Yeah, you and yer mama’s ghost,” persisted Withold. “You’ll swing with us.”

“Shut up, both of you,” snapped Ulric. “We need to find a way to cut these ropes.”

“I’ve got a way,” said Ghem. “I just can’t reach it.” He went on to describe the miniature dagger and the lock picks to Ulric, not caring whether Withold heard or not. He’d decide later whether or not to let Withold come with him and Ulric when they escaped. He and Withold had been at odds for weeks, and it was about time that Withold learned to watch his mouth. In the meantime, though, the dagger, which could cut through their bindings like a hot blade through butter, needed to be retrieved from its hiding place behind Ghem’s belt buckle. With his hands tied behind his back, Ghem needed Ulric’s help, and possibly Withold’s as well, to find it and draw it out. The three of them soon fell into a hushed but intense discussion of how best to do that. Finally, they hit upon a workable scheme.

So intent were they on constructing their plan that none of them noticed a slender shadow pass across the keyhole as a young woman pressed her ear against the outside of the door, listening. Quickly, the shadow flitted away, unseen.

The three outlaws squirmed from their haunches on to their knees and, with slow careful movements so as not to fall, began to knee-walk toward the door. The idea was to position Ghem’s belt buckle so that the tiny spot of light allowed into the closet through the keyhole would fall on his buckle. With Withold to direct him, Ulric would retrieve the dagger. With this plan in mind, Ulric backed up to Ghem and groped blindly for Ghem’s buckle with hands that were tied behind his own back. Withold, as the only one of the three with a clear view Ghem’s belt buckle, gave directions.

“Straight back now… that’s right... I can see the hilt. Up just a bit. There!”

Ulric chuckled as his thick fingers closed around the bone handle of the delicate knife, and he grinned as he drew it out of the hidden sheath. Within seconds, he had cut his own bindings and those of his companions. It rankled Ghem a bit to wait as Ulric cut Withold’s binding before his own, but there was no arguing with Ulric on the matter. After all, Ulric was the boss. Ghem put his anger aside. There would be plenty of time later to settle old scores. For the present moment, escape was all that mattered.

As Ulric pressed his face to door, peering out through the keyhole to the wine cellar beyond, the closet fell into complete darkness. Needing no light, Ghem felt for the lock picks he had concealed in his bracer. He smiled as his fingertip grazed the one that he needed.

“All clear?” he asked as he pulled the pick from its slot and turned it between tingling fingers.

“Clear,” said Ulric. “The fools have left us unguarded.”

Ulric rose to his feet and took as step back as Ghem assumed his place at the keyhole. Ghem inserted the pick into the lock and, after only a few deft turns, was rewarded by a resounding click as the tumblers fell into the place and the lock fell open. Cautiously, he pushed the door open.
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Old 07-06-2007, 05:42 PM   #816
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Modryth read Cnebba’s expression easily enough from a distance when the party was coming into the main yard. Something terrible had happened. She ran to meet her child with open arms and Cnebba ran to her. They hugged each other tightly falling on their knees. Modtryth could feel that Cnebba was shaking all over and he was sobbing now, after all the brave face he had given to the others. “My poor child, what has the world done now? Please, mom is here now and you’re safe and sound. Mom’s here… just let the bad things out, mom’s here…”

Stigend came to them at last withdrawing from the group and stroked their hair as he didn’t know what else he could do.

“It’s the twins… they are no more…” Stigend offered as an explanation to Modtryth. “These outlaws were responsible of it. But we caught them and justice will prevail.” With that he kneeled to the level of his wife and son and grasped them both into his arms. “Nothing will give them back. But we shall see justice done after this horrible affair. We should weep today indeed but we should always stand up against the monsters who do such things…”

Modtryth raised her head to give an irritated look at his husband. Save us your lessons on justice of the Rohanians… that was what she meant and Stigend got it immediately. He took a firmer grip of his wife and son and laid his head down towards Cnebba’s shoulder who was still shaking.

After a minute or two Cnebba was cooling down and his trembling ceased. It was Modtryth who lifted her head first and addressed Stigend:

“Let’s go inside now.” She took a tighter grip of her son and added to him: “We’ll get to our room now. No one is going to be helped and nothing made straight by lingering here at the courtyard. Now brave up my little...” She rose her head and looked at Stigend studyingly. “You owe me a couple of explanations but I think their time is not now…”

Stigend nodded and took Cnebba with both of his hands hoisting him up from the ground while Modtryth let go off him. Cnebba resisted more feebly than for real.

After they had gotten to their room Stigend laid Cnebba to the bed and leaned over him. “I think lord Eodwine is going to deal some quick justice and I need to be there, to defend the case of the twins and to see for my part that justice prevails. Now be a good boy and stay here with your mother. I’ll be back soon.” With that he kissed his son to the forehead and rose up. Facing Modtryth he frowned and took a step towards the door.

But he couldn’t leave yet as Modtryth’s eyes were literally nailing him to his place. Stigend frowned again but in the end spoke:

“It’s a court-thing. They need witnesses. But Cnebba should stay here… or if you find Garstan, maybe the kids could be together… I mean Cnebba and Garmund… I think Garmund has the tougher time of these two.”

Stigend turned away and left the room without waiting for Modryth to answer him.

Cnebba rose up from the bed and stared at nothingness.

“What is it my child?” Modtryth asked her son gently but Cnebba was if he hadn’t heard the question.

Garmund… how does he feel now? I thought Rilef was nice and friends I could have, … but they were his friends already… It’s so terrible to Garmund… Cnebba shivered with the remembrance of how the twins looked lying in the pool of blood.

Not saying anything Cnebba rose up from the bed and went to the corner of the room where his few personal possessions laid. There was a small knife his father had made and given him to his birthday a year ago. There was an old linen cloth that had belonged to his grandmother, beautifully embroidered in Dunleding-style. There were different beautiful stones he had collected from different places about… and some weary and time-beaten dolls he didn’t himself remember how old they were. But then there was the wooden knight. Stigend had carved that to him after they had gotten into the Mead Hall. It was figurine of a charging man on horseback spear laid down ready for attack. Cnebba immediately remembered how enviously Garmund had looked upon it when he had showed it the first time. That would do.

Cnebba took the figure into his hands and turned towards his mother.

“We should see Garmund. Can we, please mom? I have something for him.”

Modryth was quick enough to follow the tracks of his son’s mind and smiled frowning in away that was more than telling. She was most delighted of her son’s reaction.

“Let’s go then and find Garmund.”

As they came to the stairs they realised that most of the people had gathered into the main hall. Rilef’s body was laid on the table and Modtryth felt sick to see it laid that openly in front of everyone’s eyes. She tried to call Cnebba’s attention elsewhere but that was too late.

“Mom, it’s Rilef!” then Cnebba’s voice broke. “They’re so… dead….” Modtryth tried to hug her child gently but before she had time to come up with it Cnebba was on it again.

“Garmund is there, look there, beside Garmund and daddy! Let’s go!” With that he ran away from Modtryth.

Cnebba made himself room to sit beside Garmund. He had hidden the figurine under his skirt. After sitting down he carefully poked Garmund. No proceedings were out yet but everyone were just waiting and whispering. Slowly he drew the figurine from inside his skirt and presented it to Garmund.

“Take it. You can have it.” Cnebba said as Modtryth hurried to sit beside Stigend and made a knowing glance towards Stigend, smiling.

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Old 07-08-2007, 06:33 AM   #817
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Having heard everything she needed to hear concerning Lefun and Ritun's death, Ginna slipped away from the congregation in the Mead Hall and stealthily made her way back to the kitchen. She did not even let Kara see her, even though she could have needed her company, at least in finishing the work they had left behind. She wanted to be alone, to think, to express what she was thinking even just through her face, without anyone noticing and asking her what was wrong.

She knew Rilef's death should not affect her much, for she had only met them the day before, but her encounter with them was not as simple to her as it probably had been to them. Her apology had been sincere; she was concerned about how much she might have offended them, and was determined not to do it again. Perhaps she felt she could relate with them - surely they always had people judging them based on their appearance, and caring not to see what lay beneath it. Just like my father, judging me for what I had done, and refusing to consider that it might have been his fault . . .

As she walked slowly, with the kitchen in sight, she felt a tear fall unexpectedly down her cheek. Remembering her father, he could not control memories of her mother also flooding in . . . she had died shortly before the War, when Ginna would have most needed her in her father's absence . . . and now Rilef died after she arrived in the Mead Hall. Am I a curse to the people around me? she asked herself bitterly, and let more tears fall.

Ginna stopped at the kitchen's threshold and quickly wiped her face, though she was quite certain no one was there. She stepped forward, and with relief found she was right. She took up the knife she had been sharpening and continued her work, just as though there had been no interruption, her emotions churning inside her but careful not to let them show.

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Old 07-08-2007, 12:43 PM   #818
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Having fed her dogs, Rowenna chose to go back to the mead hall to see how things were with the two headed dead man. She wondered whether it would be quicker to go by way of the alder court and through the kitchen, or through the door that must be at the back of the guest rooms, or all the way around the stables. She rejected the long walk that Léof had taken her along, which left a tour through the as yet unknown guest rooms, or back to the kitchen. The guest rooms would be an interesting diversion, and Rowenna was curious. She had never heard of a mead hall that seemed as much like an inn, and so it intrigued her. But the likely try at freedom in the offing down by the kitchen tickled at her mind, and so she decided to pass by the alder tree.

She came in the door and stopped, listening for sounds from the cellar, and heard none. She did here the chopping sound of a knife against a board, and saw a young woman who could not be any older than she herself was, her face long and drawn and still wet with recently shed tears. This was curious.

Rowenna had shed many tears in the first few weeks of her captivity. She could remember having felt horrible, grieving for her father, and feeling very sorry for herself. But tears became no more than a luxury and a waste of the strength she had needed to survive. She had not cried in nigh to two years. Even now she could not recall what the horrible grief and self-pity had felt like, so completely had she closed them off from herself, to survive the harsh life of the outlaws. So she felt no sympathy for the girl now.

More urgently, if Ulric, Ghem, and Withold came up from the cellar right now and found the two of them in the kitchen, it might not go well for either of them. She had to get this girl our of here, fast! - - without making a scene while she was at it.

"Hello, I am Rowenna." The young woman looked up in surprise and wiped at her eyes with her free hand. "What is your name? Could you help me a moment with my dogs?" Rowenna pointed back outside in their direction, holding the gaze of the girl.
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Old 07-08-2007, 08:53 PM   #819
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“Of course. Just let me put him away first,” Léof replied, patting the horse’s shoulder. Thornden nodded. Léof unclipped the horse from the aisle and led him to a nearby stall. After making sure the water pail was filled, he left the horse and returned to where Thornden stood. “Can I help you with something?” Léof asked.

“Well, yes,” said Thornden. “It’s about Javan.”

This piqued Léof’s curiosity. After all, Javan had only spent a short while in the stable, not yet the full week of trial they had initially agreed to. “I’m listening.”

“I am considering removing Javan from stable work as punishment for his disobedience today,” Thornden explained, “but first I want to know how much help he is to you. If he is a great help to you, he will remain where he is and I will come up with another suitable punishment.”

Léof did not respond quickly. Javan’s arrival at the scene of the fight had surprised him, of course, but he himself had spoken no word of reproach; that was not his place. But now Thornden was effectively placing the nature of Javan’s punishment in his hands. “He is not necessary to me – I managed alright before he came,” Léof replied truthfully, “and he has much to learn. He does seem to learn quickly, however, and in time I could come to depend on him. I will support your decision whether he goes or stays.” There. That was fair – and removed the actual decision-making from Léof’s shoulders.
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Old 07-09-2007, 05:49 AM   #820
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Lys had been able to freely walk the Halls since his recovery, but this had been the first time he had a companion free of duties to explore with.

Lys' first thought was to walk to the markets. Hrethel would be busy, and would not want him playing as his shadow. Lys had wished to see the markets for some time. Walking with Elfthain was just what Lys needed to lift his spirits and lessen his worry over Thornden.

Entering the marketplace, Lys was near stunned by the colours, smells and activity. The food stalls lured him with their deep scents and Lys suddenly felt the wish that he had coin to purchase a savoury pie or an apple or carrot.

The food stalls stretched for most of the space allocated to the markets, but small wares stalls dotted the area, selling stock left from the horse fair. Lys followed Elfthain as he bounded from stalls carrying swords, to trinkets and jewellery and then to finely polished and designed saddles.

Lys stopped at a stall selling woven goods. The goods were of varied artisans, and for varied uses. Soft woven fabric for dresses and tunics were gathered in ordered piles while blankets of different colours were displayed about the edges of the stall with pegs and tied lengths of thick twine. Lys stopped at one blanket.

It was the same as the one he had been found in, his only possession. His had been torn and stained in the mud beyond the hope of any cleaning. This one had reds that burned and blues that where icy cool next to them. The gold twine sparkled to Lys eyes. He stopped staring when Efthain’s hand was on his shoulder, and he finally heard the query of the stallkeeper.

"Nice work, is it not boy? Sold to me by a stanger, 'least to these parts. Doubt it was the maker. Did not know the skill put into this. Not of Edoras, no. An outlying people, I say. Worth a bag of coin, at least."

Lys heart seemed to sink to the pit of his stomach. He smiled and nodded, turning to Elfthain who was looking at him with concern.

"You look pale? Are you ill? Should we be going back?"

Lys shook his head. There was still time left in the day, and he did not want to miss more, even if more than his ankle was aching.
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Old 07-11-2007, 03:32 PM   #821
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Leaving their makeshift cell behind them, the three outlaws crept silently up the stairs toward the door to the kitchen. Ulric led the way, followed closely by Withold, with Ghem bringing up the rear. Ulric still held the tiny dagger that had cut the ropes that had bound them, wrist and ankle, only a few moments earlier. While it was barely three inches in length, the miniature dagger was razor sharp and could do considerable damage to a face or a wrist. It being their only weapon until others could be found, Ulric held it between his thumb and index finger, concealed behind his palm. Should he need to use it, the element of surprise was almost as valuable to him as the blade’s sharp edge.

Reaching the top stair, he paused, listening to the steady chop, chop of the cook at work, preparing the evening’s supper for the Eorl’s guests. Slowly, he cracked the door and peered out. The kitchen was empty, save for the presence of one young woman. Unaware of their presence, she seemed completely absorbed in her work. The chopping continued as Ulric smiled to himself. She would be easy to overpower, knife or no knife.

He was just beginning to push the door open when the door from the kitchen to the outside suddenly opened directly opposite him. He pulled the cellar door swiftly to without taking the time to see who was coming in. To his utter surprise, he heard a familiar voice.

“Hello, I am Rowenna,” said the newcomer. “What is your name? Could you help me a moment with my dogs?”

“Rowenna!” hissed Ghem from the bottom of the short staircase.

As though in response to Ghem’s exclamation, Ulric cracked the door once more. It would not do to go charging out there only to find that Rowenna had been accompanied by others. He had to make sure that she was alone with the other young woman. A single glance told him that she was. Feeling very confident, Ulric pushed the door open and stepped into the kitchen, followed closely by Ghem and Withold.

“Hello, my dear,” he said to Rowenna, catching her firmly about the wrist with his free hand. The hand holding the knife landed on her shoulder as he stepped behind her. With a subtle movement of his wrist, he flashed the small blade before her eyes so that she should know that he was not unarmed. “Nice of you to come help us out! Right timely, too.”

The other girl had been caught so much by surprise that the response she had just started to give to Rowenna died on her lips. The tear that had already been trembling at the corner of her eye, burst free and rolled unchecked down her cheek, dropping from her small, rounded chin to the floor as she turned to face the trio of rough-looking men who seemed to have appeared in the kitchen out of thin air. Her kitchen knife paused in mid-air as Withold and Ghem closed on her. Ghem reached out and took a meat cleaver from its hook on the wall, as Withold picked up a second kitchen knife from the counter where the girl had been working. It had been newly sharpened and shone with a dangerous glitter.

“Shh-shh-shh,” said Withold with a slimy grin. “There’s a good lass… not a peep. Give us the knife afore ya hurts yerself.”

“Yeh,” said Ghem with a creepy, false kindness. “Give us the knife, poppet.”
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Old 07-11-2007, 05:21 PM   #822
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Garmund looked at the toy in Cnebba's hand. Not long ago, the little carved rider had seemed a thing of great importance; and it had tweaked the beginnings of his jealousy. Now, after all that had happened over the day, with Ritun and Lefun lying still and quiet on the table, Garmund felt how little the quarrel mattered.

He reached out and closed his fingers around the toy.

"I'm sorry, Cnebba," he muttered. "Friends?"
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Old 07-12-2007, 09:52 AM   #823
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Rowenna

Rowenna's throat clenched in panic. Every nerve in her body urged her to scream, or because of the threat of death at knife point, to swallow the scream and weep silently.

No.

This was not the first time. It had been this way all the time those first few months, and then there were more incidents later; the last one had been Eric, one of the most rascally ones, who was now thankfully dead.

Make the best of the situation.

Using her silkiest voice she said, "You are just in the nick of time, my love." She leaned back into Ulric, using her body to remind him of his lust. "I was beginning to wonder if Ghem was going to remind you of his lockpicks."

"Lying witch! You betrayed us."

"Silly boy, I played the Eorl. You did not die. Why do you think not?"

Rowenna could see out of the corner of her eye that the young cook's eyes were widening with fear, not having expected such words from her.

"See, you even have a new wench for your pleasure."

"Don't trust her Ulric!" growled Withold.

"Girl," said Rowenna, her voice suddenly harsh, "hand over the knife if you wish to live. If you do not, my friends here will think nothing of slitting your throat once they've taken it from you. They've done it before. And don't be a little fool and scream, or you'll get yourself killed even quicker."

Rowenna wondered what the girl would do. Confound Ulric for not trusting her more and loosening his grip on her!

"Ulric, my dear, I would be so much more useful if you take your little knife from my throat."

Eodwine

None of the others wished to speak, Eodwine concluded after a short wait. He ordered Garwiné to stand honor guard over Rilef's body, and ordered Stigend to build a casket so that Lefun and Ritun could be buried in the back pasture that night. Then he indicated that the others were free to go about their duties. Eodwine remained standing where he was, reflecting on the strange events of the day. He was startled to realize that almost everyone had left without him aware; except for Falco, Garmund, Cnebba, and Modtryth. They were still standing where they had been, each of them eyeing their Eorl.

"Well? One of you wishes to say something now that the others are gone. Please speak your mind."

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Old 07-12-2007, 04:04 PM   #824
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Garmund’s fingers were closed around the toy. Cnebba laid his own hands over Garmund’s and pressed them firmly as a mark of a deal. Cnebba looked at his friend to the eye.

“Friends…”, he said and pushed the toy towards Garmund. “You keep this. I’ll ask my dad to make me another one and then we can play with them together?” Garmund nodded approvingly and they gave each other a short smile.

---

“Stigend, I wish you to make a casket for the dead. They should be buried today.” Lord Eodwine ordered and Stigend rose up nodding to the eorl. “That will be done immediately” he said and turned away to get his tools.

The hatchet… I left it in the alder court in the morning… Stigend turned back and went out of the door leading to the yard between the hall and the new kitchen. He picked his axe from the pile of logs he had been carving in the morning when he heard voices from the kitchen. There were some rough male voices but also a female voice which was not that of Kara. Everyone’s at the hall so there shouldn’t be anyone in the kitchen…

Stigend crept carefully to the door and peeked round it.

Two men were bullying Ginna and one had a knife at Rowenna’s throat. Rowenna had just turned her gaze at the outlaw who was threatening her.

“Ulric, my dear, I would be so much more useful if you take your little knife from my throat."

For a second Stigend was confused. now what is this? My dear… being more useful? But there was no time to think.

“Alarm! Everyone alarm! The outlaws are loose, in the kitchen!” Stigend shouted from the bottom of his lungs and took a step to close the doorway. He had picked his knife to his left hand and in his right hand he held the chip axe.

“Allright brutes, leave the women and drop your knives. You have no way to escape.” Stigend was suddenly trembling with anger. It was not only because he despised outlaws in principle or even that these outlaws had attacked his lord… these things would have not triggered such a powerful reaction from him. But it was what they had done to Rilef and even more to the point how their deed had affected Cnebba and Garmund. Remembering the anguish in the eyes of the little boys made Stigend boil over with the brutes who were now bullying women.

Stigend raised his left hand fingering his knife and thence signalling that he was both able and willing to use it as a ranged weapon as well. Stigend looked at Ulric who was nearest to him. "Drop your knife and let her free!"
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Old 07-12-2007, 06:21 PM   #825
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"This is all my fault," Falco declared. "I should never have talked them into comin' here," he continued in a low voice. "He was better off on his own."

"You blame yourself for their death, Falco?" asked Eodwine. "It's a fool thing to do. Bringing him away from the ruins might have saved-"

"Them!" Garmund deftly inserted the correction.

"What? Oh, sorry. Bringing them here might have saved their lives. I was the one asked them to go back there today, so if anybody deserves blame, it falls on my shoulders."

"Ah but don't you see," said Falco, "If he'd never left he'd have kept hid."

"They!" Garmund interrupted.

"Aye, they!" Cnebba joined in, grinning. It was great fun correcting one's elders.

"Now boys," Modtryth reprimanded mildly.

"Maybe and maybe not. Anyway, he's dead - I mean, they are dead. May we be the better for having them among us for a little while."

Suddenly a cry went up from the alder court. “Alarm! Everyone alarm! The outlaws are loose, in the kitchen!”

"Curse it!" cried Eodwine. "Modtryth, take the boys upstairs to your rooms and close the door, and block it! Falco! Grab a weapon!" Eodwine dashed to the armoury, grabbed a sword and throwing axe, and ran toward the back hall which led directly to the kitchen.
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Old 07-12-2007, 08:44 PM   #826
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Ulric, Withold, & Ghem

The blood rushed to Ulric’s head as Rowenna leaned her supple body into his, her familiar scent filling his nostrils as she purred, “Ulric, my dear, I would be so much more useful if you take your little knife from my throat.” She knew how to work his particular hungers well, having proven it many times in the past, but Ulric knew that now was no time for games. He had to keep his wits about him if he wished to live. The hand holding the tiny knife moved closer to her throat, rather than farther away. If she had indeed convinced the Eorl that she was a mere hostage, then that is what she would remain. He grabbed her roughly around the middle and jerked her against him as a booming voice exploded from just outside the kitchen door.

"Alarm! Everyone alarm! The outlaws are loose, in the kitchen!"

As the newcomer burst through the door, a knife in one hand, a throwing axe in the other, Withold made a lunge at the serving girl. Before she could make a move in her own defense, he had disarmed her and sent her knife skittering harmlessly across the floor toward the fire. Like Ulric with Rowenna, he spun around to face the newcomer, holding the girl’s slender figure between him and the threat that loomed in the doorway. He held the gleaming blade of his kitchen knife to her throat. A small bead of blood appeared against her pale skin as the knife grazed her just below the chin. Ghem, being the only one without a hostage, continued to brandish the meat cleaver he’d snatched from the wall only seconds earlier.

“Drop your knife and let her go!” ordered the young man, looking at Ulric.

Ulric laughed harshly. “Take it from me.”

As the man took a step in Ulric’s direction, looking as though he fully intended to carry out Ulric’s challenge, Ghem slipped behind him and slammed the door to the Alder yard shut, dropping the bolt solidly into place. The newcomer was surrounded.

“You shouldn’t have raised the alarm,” said Ulric. “That was a stupid thing. Now someone is going to die.”

“Yeh,” snarled Ghem at the newcomer. He reached down and picked up a piece of firewood from the pile just inside the door with his offhand. “Drop yer weapons unless ya want it to be you.” While the log he had picked up wasn’t much of a weapon, it could take a blow from the newcomer’s axe if need be and buy him enough time to counter anything his opponent threw with a swipe of the meat cleaver. Or it could make an admirable bludgeon if he got in close enough. Either way, it was better than nothing. Better than Ulric’s teeny little blade, anyway. He waited for the young man to make a move, his muscles coiled like a viper’s.

In the meantime, a great deal of shouting and pounding of feet sounded from the direction of the great hall. Ghem began to think of the door at his back and came to the abrupt realization that perhaps sliding the bolt had not been such a brilliant idea. It might be their only avenue to escape.

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

Elián

“Alarm! Everyone alarm! The outlaws are loose, in the kitchen!”

Ah, blast, thought Elián as the call to arms echoed throughout the Great Hall. Ghem and the blasted lock picks. Neither wanting to take part in the recapture operation nor wanting to be accused of inaction during a time of danger, he reluctantly put his mead aside and trotted dutifully behind the Eorl to the armory where he had been forced to leave his weapons on the way in. He found his own sword and dagger where he had left them and, pulling both from their scabbards, followed the Eorl down the hallway toward the kitchen. Inside, he could hear a commotion, voices. Something about women.

Women?

Well, that wasn’t right. If Ghem and the boys wanted to menace the local gents, that was one thing, but if they were going to pick on the pretty little serving girls he’d seen earlier, that was too much. He was definitely going to have to throw in with the Eorl on this one.

“Sorry, Ghem, mate,” he muttered under his breath. “You’re on your own.”

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Old 07-14-2007, 07:36 AM   #827
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Rowenna

So Ulric was going to play it like a rogue. Rowenna had more than half expected it. She had been playing both sides against the middle so far, to see which side came out on top, but she had secretly been hoping that she could leave outlawry behind. If it was not to be, she would have to make the best of it that she could.

When the man yelled and charged into the doorway, Ulric grabbed her around the waist and pulled her against him roughly. The only movement she could do now would be to strike at Ulric's face blindly with her small fists, or feebly kick her heel into his groin. Had he given her more freedom of movement, she could have surprised the man before them by kicking his sword hand, possibly disarming him. But that would be too decisive and ruin her chances at leaving outlawry. She held her tongue and stilled her body; it was time to wait things out to see which side won out.

Falco

Maybe Eodwine was right, maybe not. Falco was still convinced that Rilef would have been able to hide from the outlaws had he stayed in the woods around the ruin. But he was dead, and the outlaws were trying to escape. Eodwine and Elborn had run down the kitchen hall, effectively blocking off that escape. That would mean that the arbor court was their most likely means of escape, unless they planned to climb out through the hole in the cone shaped roof of the kitchen, which was frankly too small even for himself. That or dig a tunnel out of the cellar. Falco looked again at Lefun and Ritun.

"I'll avenge your death on these outlaws if I'm given the chance. Seein' as Eodwine plans them to hang anyway, it wouldn't hurt if I hurry them along."

He did not go to the armoury, but walked steadily past the firepit and the Eorl's Seat, past the tables and benches, past the door to the guest rooms, past the stove in the south wall of the Great Room, and through the door to the Alder court. The kitchen door across the court was shut tight. Had the outlaws done that? Where was Stigend? For it had been he who had yelled the warning, no doubt.

Falco stooped and searched the ground. The lawn was new and rough here where the kitchen had once been, and it had truly been small, fitting into the tiny space between the Hall and the Alder tree. Rocks were plentiful and he had his choice. He picked up four of them, holding three in his left hand, testing one in his right, feeling its weight, its edges, its curves, for just the right throwing grip.

The story of Mayor Samwise's "Apple Toss in Bree" was famous in the Shire, but also here in Rohan where the Master of Buckland had been a knight, and told the King, who had laughed heartily; his eorlings had liked the tale and the story of the halfling's skill of the target had spread across Rohan. It had been the same in Gondor.

"So let's show 'em, Master Shirriff of the Shire," Falco said to himself, "that it's not summat only the Mayor is good for, but most every Hobbit west of Bree."

Falco Boffin waited at the door to the Great Hall for his chance, should the outlaws come charging out of the kitchen into the Alder court; a deft and deadly shot to the side of the head would fell 'em, and maybe kill 'em, and if not kill 'em, then someone else could finish 'em off with a sword. Or tie 'em back up to contemplate their hanging on the morrow. Either way would be just as well.
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Old 07-14-2007, 02:33 PM   #828
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In the Kitchen

Stigend had been concentrating too much on Ulric who held Rowenna on the blade. Ghem had managed to leap to the door bolting it. When Stigend retreated a step towards the wall and turned lightly to have both of them within his view he heard Ulric calling him from his right: “Now someone is going to die.”

Glancing swiftly back from Ulric to Ghem on his left he saw him grasping a piece of firewood. He did not see Withold or Ginna properly as they were behind Ulric and Rowenna.

“Drop yer weapons unless ya want it to be you.” Ghem said in a firm voice.

There was a noise coming from the corridor that united the Hall and the kitchen and it grew louder. Stigend saw how Ulric turned to hastily glance at the doorway at the other end of the kitchen as well as catching Withold’s nervous look as he was the closest one to the corridor with his hostage.

“You drop your weapons! You’re only making this worse for yourselves if you don’t!” Stigend yelled at the outlaws.

“Worse than going to the gallows? What might that be for you?” Ulric grinned to Stigend and took a firmer grip from Rowenna’s waist.

That was the moment Ghem striked. Stigend felt that something was coming towards him and fast from his left. Immediately he realised he had forgotten Ghem for a second too long – and Ulric had taunted him for that. Fool!

The backhanded hit was aimed at his throat. Stigend had barely time to turn enough to parry the swing of the cleaver with his left hand so that it only inflicted a cut into his left shoulder. His grip of the knife loosened with the impact and the knife went flying to the floor. With the momentum of his leftward movement Stigend brought the chip axe to fall down on Ghem with full force but he had clearly taken that into account as even partly unbalanced by Stigend’s parrying move the axe fell straight to the billet in his left hand. Ghem fell backwards towards the door with the thrust of the blow and Stigend fell forwards as the force of his movement and the sudden weight of the log now sticking with the axe draw him.

It took Stigend two steps to balance himself. Ghem had arisen to a defensive position at the door still holding his cleaver that now had blood on it. Stigend swang his axe in the air to get rid of the log of firewood. It clattered to the floor. From this new position Stigend was able to see all the outlaws as he now was standing more near to the fireplace in halfway between the two doors.

“The Eorl is coming and all the men… So drop your weapons…” There was a frozen second when no one moved or said anything..

“Now!”

Stigend looked at the outlaws challengingly while the rumble from the corridor came louder. He had to bite his lips from pain. His left shoulder was bleeding heavily.
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Old 07-14-2007, 07:45 PM   #829
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Eodwine halted just before the door to the kitchen in order to take stock of the situation; he didn't want an arrow or other missile to put an end to him before he had a chance to do anything worthwhile. Sword in his right hand, throwing axe in his left, he crossed his weapons before him as a partial shield and took a step forward. One outlaw held Ginna by knife, another held Rowenna, and the third and smallest had his hands free and his knife dripping blood, facing down Stigend, who was wounded in the shoulder.

They could flee through the back door! Eodwine quickly crossed the space, facing the outlaws, and blocked their way. Elborn came just inside the kitchen and blocked the way to the Great Room.

"You are matched man for man," Eodwine growled. "Unhand the women and throw down your weapons!"
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Old 07-15-2007, 06:34 AM   #830
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There were seconds of silence following the Eorl's challenge, as though the outlaws were weighing their options. Leaning forcedly now against the body of his captor, Ginna thought back on the last few moments with regret. She cursed herself for not moving with her instincts, for holding back, for giving in to surprise when the outlaws sprung suddenly on her. She felt the knife at her throat prick her skin, but not the pain it should have caused. Her blood was surging in anger, in disgrace, her father had not taught her all he knew only for her to end up in a situation such as this . . .

And Ginna was not used to being held under a man's power; she had been the one who overcame them. For a moment she had thought of following the girl Rowenna's lead, as an act of desperation. Rowenna . . . Ginna suddenly found her voice.

"She's with them," she snarled, pointing at Rowenna with her chin as she looked at Eodwine. "I don't know how she came to be at the knife's point now, but she's working with them, or she used to."

Ginna did not think her talking could endanger her, or else she did not care, but she went on and turned to Rowenna, "I'm sorry, Rowenna, but now it's too late for me to - how did you call it? - help you with your dogs."
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Old 07-16-2007, 08:53 AM   #831
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Ulric, Withold, & Ghem

“You are matched man for man,” growled the Eorl. “Unhand the women and throw down your weapons!”

Ulric exchanged a slit-eyed glance with Withold before responding. “Better to die by the blade than the rope….” He began, but was cut off by the angry voice of Withold’s hostage.

“She’s with them!” the girl cried out, pointing to Rowenna with her chin. “I don’t know how she came to be at the knife’s point now, but she’s working with them, or she used to…” She went on speaking to Rowenna but Ulric was no longer listening. He watched the Eorl’s face for his reaction. Who would he believe – Rowenna or the serving girl?

“Shut her up!” he ordered Withold from the corner of his mouth. In response, Withold pressed the flat side of his knife’s blade tightly against the girl’s throat. A mere turn of his wrist could slash her throat clean through.

“Shaddup!” he said harshly into the girl’s ear. She fell silent, but he could feel her muscles tense with rage. It was not exactly the response he had hoped for. He had hoped she was more the cowering, swooning type, but, apparently, he had no such luck.

Off to the side, near the door to the Alder Court, Ghem was feeling a little less confident than he had felt a few seconds earlier when he had landed the blow on the other man’s shoulder. While his opponent was bleeding heavily from the open wound, he had not only kept a firm grip on his axe, but had managed to relieve Ghem of his piece of firewood. Out of position now for grabbing another one, Ghem continued to brandish the cleaver threateningly. At the same time, his eyes flitted from side to side, assessing his position and searching for a way out of the rapidly filling kitchen. He almost laughed outright when his eyes fell on the man guarding the door to the Great Hall. It was none other than Elián, that same Belfalas pirate who had sold him the lock picks several months earlier. Ghem had been surprised to see Elián in the woods with the Eorl’s men that afternoon when he was captured, but had since forgotten all about him. Now seeing Elián guarding one of the exits, he couldn’t believe his luck. He began to edge surreptitiously in Elián’s direction.

As he reached the place where Withold was standing, he made a subtle gesture in the opposite direction with his head. “Out the backdoor to the kitchen yard,” he murmured. “I’ll cover yer back.”

Withold nodded and began to edge back in the direction of the door to the Alder court, dragging his unwilling hostage with him.
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Old 07-16-2007, 08:15 PM   #832
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Eodwine wished he had more men at arms. Why did he have only two? Garwine and Thornden were good men, but these outlaws were pointing up the weakness of having only two. He had even had word from a couple young men from Meduseld who were interested: Théogud, Alwalda, and Finnas , each of them younger than Thornden, but worthy fellows. And they might not be enough either.

Some men were coming up the hallway, Garstan and Garwiné.

"Garwiné! I ordered you to stay by Rilef!"

"I'll do you more good here, my lord, punish me how you choose!"

Eodwine smiled between clenched teeth despite himself, actually relieved that Garwine had come. "To my side, then! And Garstan, I want you to guard that doorway with your life! By no means come nearer these rogues! You've saved my life enough already!"

"There, now, you rogues," said Eodwine, pleased. "We've doubled you. You've no chance of escape. Throw down your weapons and let the women go."

"Only to hang!" Ulric cursed. "I'll take as many of you down with me fighting as I can."

"Fight? Holding a woman as your shield? A more cowardly death I could not have named," Eodwine scoffed. He was tempted to mock them by challenging them to let the women go and fight to the death, but he overcame the fey urge and chose to see to the protection of his House instead. After all, these rogues would make some mistake and it would be their end.

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Old 07-19-2007, 08:01 PM   #833
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Ulric let the Eorl’s taunts slide past him without a reaction. Of course, he would hold a woman as his shield. He would hold a six-month-old baby as his shield if that’s what it took to save his skin. Still keeping his gaze focused primarily on the Eorl, he cast a lightning glance in either direction to check the relative positions of Ghem and Withold. Withold had begun to edge in the direction of the door to the kitchen yard, while Ghem, inexplicably, had shifted in the opposite direction. He now stood closest to the man with the axe who had first burst into the kitchen, and seemed to be moving in the direction of the doorway to the Great Hall: a doorway which was rapidly filling with men.

Pulling Rowenna with him, Ulric, like Withold, moved toward the door to the kitchen yard. Locking his gaze with that of the Eorl, he said, “We are leaving through that door. The first of your men to move against us will bear the death of this woman on his soul, for I will plunge this knife into her throat. The second man will bear the death of that young woman.” He nodded toward Withold and the serving girl. “Blood will be spilled, but the first blood will not be ours. It will be that of the ladies.”

Withold nodded and shifted his blade so that the knife pointed upward into the soft spot just below the serving girl’s chin. A single push would finish her.

When the Eorl showed no initial reaction, Ulric continued to move slowly, carefully toward the door. “Ghem!” he barked. “Open the door.”

Seeing the hallway fill up behind Elián with a half-a-dozen armed men, Ghem abandoned his plan of slipping past the seaman and did as Ulric said. He edged back past the man with axe and raised the bolt of the door to the kitchen yard. Pushing it open a crack, he glanced out. Only two men occupied the kitchen yard: a single man-at-arms and a hobbit. Ghem decided to take his chances. Closing his hand around the meat cleaver in a white-knuckled grip, he threw the door open and bolted directly at the two in the yard. With a little luck, he could be past them both before either one of them had time to react. Lowering his head, Ghem charged forward, his shoulder pointed directly into the middle of the man-at-arms’ chest. He hit him with resounding thud, knocking him off his feet and knocking the wind out of him. Leaping over his momentarily prostrate figure, Ghem pelted off as fast as he could for the open space beyond the stable. The hobbit made a grab for his leg as he passed, but a swipe of the meat cleaver at the hobbit’s arm seemed to make the halfing think twice. Ghem didn’t wait to see if the blow had actually hit its mark. He lowered his head and ran, flinching almost immediately as a rather large stone sailed past him, frighteningly close to his left ear.

As Ghem made his sudden break for freedom out the back door, the standoff in the kitchen broke as well. Ulric and Withold, dragging the two women with them, made their move for the door. Ulric, the first through the door, found himself face-to-face with the man-at-arms that Ghem had flattened on his way past. The man had recovered his feet and, although still gasping for breath, raised his sword, pointing it at Ulric. Silently cursing Ghem for his treachery, Ulric tightened his grip on Rowenna. His dark eyes studied his antagonist shrewdly, trying to get feel for what sort of man he was, what sort of strategy would be most effective against him.

Behind him in the kitchen, chaos erupted. Ulric startled as Withold came flying out the door backward and landed sprawling on his back at the bottom of the steps, his hostage on top of him, and a burly and roaring madman on top of her. Withold’s knife flew out of his hand, disappearing somewhere in the area of the woodpile. Completely ignoring the girl trapped between them, the madman had grabbed Withold by the throat and was choking the life out of him, while at the same time pounding Withold’s head against the packed dirt of the path. Withold, in a desperate attempt to save himself, had let go of the girl and groped with one hand for his attacker’s throat. The other hand threw violent punches at the man’s face, but landed very few blows, as the servant girl still squirmed and screamed between them.
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Old 07-20-2007, 03:06 AM   #834
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Eodwine

“We are leaving through that door," Ulric growled. "The first of your men to move against us will bear the death of this woman on his soul, for I will plunge this knife into her throat. The second man will bear the death of that young woman.” He nodded toward Withold and the serving girl. “Blood will be spilled, but the first blood will not be ours. It will be that of the ladies.”

This Ulric was clever, whatever else he was. Eodwine glanced at his men, each taking his cue from him. Tight lipped, he shook his head, continuing to hold his weapons still before him. It was Eodwine's first duty to Randvér, Ginna's father, that the girl survive, even if it meant that the outlaws escaped.

Two things are clear, Eodwine thought as he watched the three scoundrels begin to make their way out the Alder Court door, this Eorl's Hall needs a real dungeon and more men at arms. He would see to them both on the morrow.

Ghem was out the door. Eodwine hoped that someone was there to stop him.

Two more pairs of lumbering runners were coming up the hallway. First came Garreth. He still had on his linked chest plate that he had made for himself, not having had a chance to take it off since the skirmish at the ruins. Eodwine widened his eyes and tried with his mobile face to get the big smith's attention. Garreth stopped and took stock; it seemed that in the heat of battle was the only time he had sense; in the heat of words one never knew what would come from him. So Eodwine was thankful that Garreth was showing caution. He nodded to Eodwine and stood in place.

Ulric, Rowenna captive in front of him, passed out the door.

Next came Harreld, also still wearing his chest plate. He stopped right behind Garreth, took one look at the outlaw and captive still in the room, and his eyes went red. He roared and pushed Garreth out of the way. He failed to draw his sword and ran full tilt at Withold and Ginna. Both captor's and captive's eyes went wide as Harreld bore down on them both.

"No!" Eodwine yelled, to no avail, and rushed forward in Harreld's wake. Next moment, Harreld had both captive and captor sprawling beneath him and backwards through the door. Ginna screamed. Had she been wounded by Withold's knife? Eodwine so no blood. But the doorway was blocked.

Eodwine looked over his shoulder. Stigend, Garwiné and Garreth stood behind him, waiting for instructions. Elborn could be seen passing through the back door out of the kitchen, Garstan right behind him.

"Garwiné and Garreth! Out the back! Follow Garstan! Stigend, your shoulder's a mess. Stay where you are."

~*~

Falco

"Blast the scrawny one!" Falco said as the smallest outlaw ducked just in time to miss his throw. He disappeared around the latrines. The dogs could be heard yammering at him, but no doubt they were of no avail, straining at their leashes.

Falco fingered his next stone. He would not miss twice. If only Thornden would keep out of the way! There was the big, black haired one. He was scowling at the one fleeing. Falco had his stone ready to throw. Suddenly there was a roar from the kitchen. The big brute looked back in surprise to see his fellow falling backward out the door, the new wench falling on top of him, also backward, with Harreld on top of them both! Good. The 'Big Trouble' had left his head in plain view, and the top of blonde girl's head only came up to his collar bone. Falco aimed and threw. The brute fell like a toppled tree. The girl struggled free of his loosened grasp and fled to the tree which she stood behind, waiting to see what would happen next. Thornden drew his sword and stood over the felled outlaw.

Meanwhile, the remaining outlaw's face was turning purple under Harreld's death grip.

"Harreld!" It was Eodwine yelling from inside the kitchen. "Harreld Smith! Your man is down!" Falco could see Eodwine's sword at the ready.

The blacksmith seemed to come to his senses and looked at Ginna, struggling beneath him.

"Oh! Your pardon, miss, I forgot about you." He went red in the face and got up off the girl and the outlaw. Ginna scrambled to her feet, apparently none the worse for wear, though she was shaking from head to toe. The outlaw lay on his back, coughing, Eodwine's sword at his throat.
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Old 07-20-2007, 04:29 AM   #835
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Ginna trembled horribly as she got up to her feet. At any other time she would have felt thoroughly embarrassed to be in the position she had found herself in moments earlier, but then she probably would not have been a mere inch from certain death. Absentmindedly brushing dust off herself, she looked up at Harreld and saw the redness in his face, and the concern in his eyes. Ginna opened her mouth, completely meaning to thank him for saving her life, but before she knew it she had thrown herself at Harreld and began sobbing on his chest.

Tears streamed down her cheeks and her shoulders heaved violently, and she felt Harreld, after a bit of hesitation, lightly place an arm around her. She did not care that she might have looked like an utter fool, or that the yard was hardly the place to break down, especially with some men of the Hall and her captor just around her. The trauma she had endured was simply too much.

"Harreld," she heard Eodwine say beside her, "bring Ginna back to the kitchen."

The smith's chin brushed against the top of her head as he nodded, and this seemed to rouse Ginna. She quickly tore herself away from Harreld and walked towards the outlaw's knife, which she had seen fall earlier.

"Ginna!" Eodwine called sternly, but the girl heard nothing but the pounding in her ears. She crouched down beside the lying outlaw, placing his own knife against his throat.

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Old 07-20-2007, 03:43 PM   #836
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Even if lord Eodwine had particularly told Stigend to stay where he was he followed the eorl and Garstan to the Alder court. He saw two of the brutes captured but didn’t see Ghem anywhere.

"Bring Ginna back inside. Modtryth and the boys are upstairs, let her stay with them." Stigend heard lord Eodwine tell the smith. Upstairs… Modryth and the kids…

“Falco? Thornden? Has either of you any idea where that third one went?” he asked trying to hide the anxiety that had just taken over him.

“Well he ran for his life I can tell you… through the paddock. But where he got then I don’t know as I had this other one to fell.” the hobbit answered and smiled at Stigend while pointing at Ulric who laid on the ground stunned.

Stigend was just about to open his mouth and ask lord Eodwine whether they should check the stables and the hall itself just to be sure when he heard the eorl calling Ginna loudly. The girl had a knife on Withold’s throat. Modtryth and the kids… it’s now.

Stigend made the decision in an instant and ran straight through the Alder court and in to the hall from the door that was opposite the kitchen door. Lord Eodwine would have other things in his mind for a while and Stigend just had to find out that Modtryth and the kids were safe from Ghem.

The hall was quiet and Rilef’s mutilated body laid on the table in the flickering firelight. The only noises were the cricks and cracks from the great fireplace. It looked pretty macabre. Stigend crept silently to the residential wing and listened closely. To his great relief there were no sounds of a brutal outlaw who would wish to take hostages out from women and children. Coming near to the door that lead into the yard he stopped and took the last few steps even more carefully and peeked out. Everything around the stables seemed quiet as well.

He backed a step away from the door. But what next? Lord Eodwine would have enough men to handle the two brutes so he was not needed there… indeed Eodwine had kind of dismissed him from duty because of his shoulder. That made things easier. But if Ghem was still around would he just try to steal a horse or would he have some other plans? Stigend gave it a thought. It was more probable that Ghem would try to steal a horse than to creep into the hall itself. So he should go to the stables quietly and lay an ambush on him. But leaving this position where he literally stood between any intruders and Modtryth and the kids would leave them into a more vulnerable position… Of course it was also possible that Ghem was already a mile away taking his first breather somewhere far enough.

For a moment Stigend just stood there in the dimly lit corridor of the residential wing and peeked out occasionally to the stables. It was quiet everywhere. He could of course go back to the Alder court and ask lord Eodwine to order someone to help him and thence secure the residential wind and the stables both... but he would not leave his wife and the kids unprotected anymore now as he stood there in watch already... and he now knew how vile creatures these outlaws could be.

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Old 07-20-2007, 08:37 PM   #837
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Harreld

Harreld felt his face go hot, like it always did when he did something foolish. He wished that he could catch himself before he did the foolish things, but it just wasn't in him; especially when lovely young ladies were near. Like Ginna.

Suddenly she was hugging him, burying herself against him, crying into his chest. That couldn't be very comfortable as her face had to be smearing against his unburnished chest plate armor. Once he got over the shock, Harreld decided that he really liked it that she had given herself over to her tears, on his shoulder. Tentatively he laid his heavy arms on her small shoulders. He could smell her hair! That was nice.

Eodwine told him to bring Ginna to the kitchen. He was about to do so when Ginna broke away from him with a cry. Next thing he knew, she had the nasty outlaw's little knife to his own throat.

"Ah, Ginna, I - you - I mean - don't hurt the m - I mean -"

~*~

Rowenna

Rowenna watched as the young cook acted out her selfish passion. Let the youngster flail and brandish if she chose. She had never had to endure worse, it was clear. Maybe she was spoiled, maybe not. These men, let them talk her out of hurting Withold. For Rowenna's part, it didn't much matter whether the girl imposed swift justice now, or if the Eorl did so on the morrow. Withold surely deserved to die, not least for what he had done to Rowenna - more often than she cared to remember. She had half a notion to go to the girl and take the knife from her and plunge it into the rogue's throat herself. Ah, but that would be folly. Wait and see. The girl was a firebrand, saying or doing the first thing that came to mind, whether it helped or not. The big blacksmith was taken with the girl, sure enough. That was useful to know as well. And Ghem seemed to have gotten away. Rowenna would be free to make whatever life she could here at the Eorl's hall. But she would have to make sure to undo any damage this Ginna had done by declaring that Rowenna was "one of them". She didn't think it would be very hard to find her way clear of that; after all, the girl was a hot head.

Now, where had that Elborn got off to? She had seen him in the kitchen, but that had been the last time. Surely he should have come to the alder court by now? Had he gone around the outside of the kitchen? Surely there had been enough time for that?

~*~

Eodwine

"Ginna," interrupted Eodwine, "put the knife down. Do not harm him in your ire and become no better than he. My word is law here, and I will see that he is given a just punishment."

Still Ginna hesitated.

"Ginna! Ginna Randvér's Daughter! Do as I say!"

Ginna had kept her eyes on the knife as if she had been contemplating the deed. Her angry eyes and tear stained face came up and she looked at Eodwine, but the knife still stayed on the outlaw's throat.

"Ginna," said Harreld tentatively, "y- you don't really want to do that. Let me take you away from here."

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Old 07-21-2007, 12:26 AM   #838
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"Ah, Ginna, I - you - I mean - don't hurt the m - I mean -"

The girl took no heed of Harreld's bumbling. Just the slightest movement of her hand, and justice would be served. Ginna knew it was not her responsibility, but they did not know what it was like to have their life entirely in the wrong hands. They did not feel the uncontrollable urge to fight back, life for life, the moment an opportunity came . . .

"Ginna, put the knife down. Do not harm him in your ire and become no better than he. My word is law here, and I will see that he is given a just punishment."

But what if he escaped? One of them had already done so. Better now that he was helpless, before he got the chance to regain with words the life he was about to lose . . .

"Ginna! Ginna Randvér's Daughter! Do as I say!"

I am not his daughter. Randvér's daughter would not have been easily subdued. Her father . . . her father would hear of this, and what would he think? Would he not be proud if she made up for her initial cowardice with this act of bravery?

She hesitantly looked up at Eodwine, keeping the knife in place. There was still a chance. One push, and all would be over for the outlaw. Surely Ginna's punishment would not be equal to the wrong she was about to commit.

"Ginna," Harreld spoke suddenly, "y- you don't really want to do that. Let me take you away from here."

Her eyes turned to the blacksmith, fully expecting to meet pity in his. There was none; as at first it was filled with concern, now to overflowing. Perhaps it was the confidence in his voice, perhaps even the fact that for the first time he had not turned red in speaking to her, but Harreld had won her over. Ginna slowly stood up, walked over to the Eorl, and placed the knife in his outstretched free hand.

Harreld approached her and, with more courage now, it seemed, again placed his arm about her. She was about to let him guide her back into the kitchen when a movement to her right, behind the tree, caught her attention. Ginna cast a smouldering glance at Rowenna.

"Lord," she said to Eodwine, "do not forget her."

Overcome suddenly with weariness, she suffered herself to be led away by Harreld, leaning heavily against him.

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Old 07-22-2007, 01:11 PM   #839
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Standing near the door at the residential wing Stigend got a new idea. Where’s Leof? I haven’t seen him… He might still be in the stables. Now if he’s there and doesn’t know that there is a possibility of an outlaw creeping in… But at the same moment he heard a sound of quiet footsteps from the direction of the hall. He was in full alert in a second. No one would come through the corridor, at least silently… If anyone was just coming in they would come the straightest way through the nearest door and they would not have to move quietly. And in no way had the eorl and the others had time to already tie-up and lock the outlaws yet… and even then they would not come in this silently…

In distress he crept quietly away from the door and moved towards the hall. There was indeed someone moving quietly in the hall. Stigend tried to peek in but saw no one. Sweat was pouring down his face from both excitement and fear. He would not wish to meet Ghem again as he seemed to have been a cunning and able fighter compared to his one and half years training with the men-at-arms and the occasional fights with drunken brutes who had scorned his wife or son. And not less because his left arm felt quite lame now… there was no feel in it anymore to be frank. How bad is it indeed? … I need to check it… later, he thought to himself and still crept forwards to the door separating the hall from the residential wing. But if it was Ghem… he’d surely face him rather than letting him drag Modtryth or the kids with a knife in their throats like his friends had done to Rowenna and Ginna. The image of that filled his mind with horror and anger.

The steps were coming closer.

Stigend raised his chip-axe and made for a better position in relation to the door. For Modtryth and the kids then … ¤%&?# Stigend cursed in his mind as the sudden movement sent pain radiating all around his body from his left shoulder. It’s not senseless then…, he frowned to himself.

The steps stopped. It was quiet. Someone... whoever it was had heard his movent.

Stigend would wait for no longer. He paced to the doorway and called loudly: “Who is it?” His axe was ready to deal a blow to anyone threatening his wife or son… or Garstan’s children for that matter.
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Old 07-22-2007, 04:29 PM   #840
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Thornden stood at the ready above one of the outlaws. The man was not completely senseless. He lay partially propped up on his left elbow. His right hand was pressed against his bleeding forehead as he stared at his companion, just a few feet away.

Thornden was looking at the other outlaw, too, and Ginna, as he listened and watched carefully. He said nothing as Eodwine ordered and Harreld advised Ginna not to kill him. He kept his own thoughts and words to himself. He would hold no sway over Ginna and her actions and would only complicate the matter. But it would be a foolish thing if she killed him like that. Foolish and dishonorable.

Finally the girl stood up and placed the knife in the Eorl’s hand. “Lord,” she said, before going. “Don’t forget her.”

Thornden turned and looked in the direction that Ginna glanced. Rowenna stood by the tree, looking on from a little distance. He didn’t understand and turned again to Eodwine and the rest in time to see Ginna and Harreld making off towards the door at the wing of the hall.

“What shall I do with them, lord?” Thornden asked after they had gone. “I can put them in the cellar where they were before and stay and guard them, if you would be satisfied with that.”

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