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Old 03-02-2008, 12:32 PM   #601
shaggydog
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Jims too shared Haves' lack of knowledge of the ways of dwarves. To his recollection there had never been one staying at their inn at Bree. He wasn't even sure he had heard tell of any frequenting Bree itself these past many years. The times were strange and growing more disquieting by the month. Many an unusual tale was being told of unexpected travelers crossing through the land. But these most put down to mere fancy, or too much ale. Jims himself had paid them little mind, as the business of keeping body and soul together was becoming more difficult with each passing season. It was with great interest then that Jims pricked up his own ears to catch the dwarf's reply to Haves' question.

Hairfoot Droggins never did reply to Jim's own inquiry, but after a moment of silence, the hobbit had slipped off the seat next to Jims, wandered away, and then without warning crumpled to the floor. Jims had been on the point of getting up to assist the little fellow, but Songo had very quickly come to and regained his own, albeit wobbly, feet. Jims kept an eye on him as he negotiated a somewhat erratic path back to the bar, coming to rest near Jims' elbow. "Whasbringsyoushere?" tumbled from Songo's lips, and Jims took it to be a question meant for him.

With a mix of slight concern and more amusement, Jims replied evasively, "Oh, just getting out and about, you know. It never hurts to see what others in the business are up to. Perhaps pick up an idea or two." Jims' errand wasn't exactly secret. He only wished to pick his own time and place for discussing business matters with the barkeep, or the inn's owner. That thought once again brought to mind Jims' stabling needs, and, hoping the barkeep had had time to sort things between the dwarf and the elf, he called out down to that end of the bar,

"Oh, by the way, I turned my horse into the first empty stall in your stable. I hope that's alright. I didn't see the stable boy about. With this downpour, I think I'll be staying the night over, if you have accomodations."

Awaiting the barman's reply, Jims said casually to Haves, "Are you stopping here, or do you think you'll press on once the weather clears?"
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Old 03-21-2008, 09:36 AM   #602
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The scuffle between the dwarf and the elf had been brief, Dick had intervened before things could get heated. The elf had not said a word during all of the commotion, and when it was all over he had just gone back into his transe, but what he was really doing Groin could not tell.

He had contented himself to sitting alone in a chair by the window. It was still raining outside, but it had greatly decreased. Groin couldn't stand it any longer, he got up from his chair, walked over to the bar, gave Dick another gold coin for his good services, and thanked him again. He then grabbed his battle axe and hoiseted it over his shoulder.

When he was outside he withdrew a cloak and threw it about himself. He left Stock by the West road, and in due time made it to the Blue Mountains and met his cousin Grioger. Groin dwells there to this day.
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Old 03-27-2008, 01:05 PM   #603
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After further desultory conversation with Haves, Jims attention was caught by the exit of several of the taproom’s patrons, including the dwarf who had been involved in some minor dispute with the elf at the far end of the bar. Listening more closely, he realized the rain had subsided, or perhaps stopped altogether. At least, the storm had abated to the point where travelers felt they could resume their journeys, or locals could make their way home for the afternoon tasks. Jims thought again of his horse, and hailed Dick, who opined that any of the empty stalls would do as well as another, but that Jims might want to make whatever instructions he had for the beast’s care known to Will, the stable boy.

To that end, Jims hoisted his long frame from the comfortable seat at the bar and, foregoing his cape, ambled out the small circle of door into the inn yard. The sun was now shining, albeit fitfully, from behind clouds which still scudded quickly across a pale blue sky. Jims crossed the yard to the stable and stepped inside.

At the third stall, the one into which Jims had somewhat hurriedly shoved the animal earlier, he stopped, perplexed. The half door to the stall stood open, no horse within. Thinking perhaps he had used the one beyond and mistaken himself, Jims pushed the open half door to, and peered into the stall beyond. This one held a small grey donkey though. Now totally flummoxed, Jims quickly made a search of all the stalls in the small stable. But his mount was nowhere to be seen. Could it be that the stable lad had found the beast during the storm and, having some reason to do so, removed it and stabled it elsewhere? This seemed entirely unlikely, however, the alternative was not one he liked to contemplate. As worthless a beast as the old screw was, if Jims, through his own negligence had failed to secure the stall door, and the horse was now off wandering the roads, it might mean hours spent searching for the wretched thing.

With a groan, Jims turned to go back in the inn to at least inquire where he could find Will, having seen no sight of him in the yard or stable. A flutter of something caught his eye though, and Jims stooped lower, crouching down beside the stall door to see what it was.

The grizzled grey tuft had caught in a splinter of wood. It moved lightly with the breeze which puffed through the stable door, and as Jims reached to pluck it, he overbalanced and struck out a hand to keep from falling. Pulling his hand back from the spot in which he had thrust it, Jims looked with curiosity at the muddy print which lay beneath. It was the size of his own hand, even a bit bigger perhaps. With a growing realization, Jims inspected the strands of hair he now held more closely. He hoped he was wrong, dead wrong, and that someone, even the inn keeper perhaps, kept a huge dog, for protection and giving alarm when needed most likely. Clutching this hope as tightly to his heart as he clutched the hair to his chest, Jims hurried back to the common room.

Approaching the bar, Jims said, rather breathlessly, “I say, Dick, my horse seems to have gone missing during that downpour. Do you think Will could have moved it, do you have another stable?” At the look of surprise on the barkeep’s face, Jims concluded that no such thing had happened. So he went on, trying to keep the growing dismay out of his voice. “I’ve found this stuck in the stall door.” He stretched out his hand, displaying the fur. “Do you have a dog, perhaps, a really big dog? I thought . . . well, I thought perhaps a dog might have, well, you know, been sniffing around and perhaps the horse got excited, and, well . . . ran off.” Jims’ voice trailed off, knowing that in order to get his old nag excited it would have taken something quite out of the ordinary.
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Old 04-08-2008, 09:06 PM   #604
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Far away from the little wooden inn, the tall warrior elf wandered through visions of the past, oblivious to his surroundings.

In the aftermath of the War of Wrath, he had returned to Doriath in search of the only maiden to whom he had ever given his love. As he dreamed, he relived the sheer, bleak desperation that he felt when he found the forest deserted and the caverns largely empty. The Queen had gone, and all her court with him. Only squatters and beasts had he found dwelling in those hallowed halls beneath the forest floor, and they knew nothing of the whereabouts of Melian, Elloth, or any of the great people that had once inhabited Menegroth. Sick with sorrow, he had wandered thence into the wilds of Beleriand. His heart was broken; he had failed Elloth.

He would have died witless in the hills, but a band of wandering warriors found him sick and unconscious and brought him east, away over the Blue Mountains. There, while Numenor rose out of the sea and Beleriand foundered, he regained his strength of body and mind. However, his memory was forever lost, and though he became a great hunter and warrior again, he knew nothing of his past save that it was dark and sad.

He recalled these days, which, though hard, were fulfilling. In Eriador and Rhovanion they hunted the creatures of Darkness, meeting Elves and woodsmen and tall mariners as they traveled from place to place. He also recalled the brief visions which he began to have - visions of an slender fair-haired elf-maiden clad in blue. Though they troubled him, he treasured the visions, for he knew they came from his past. Over time, he grew again to love this vision again, though he never learned her name. And as they journeyed across the lands of Middle-earth, he inquired after an elf-maiden of her description. But no one had seen or heard of her.

Eventually the men died, one by one, of wounds or of age, but the elf lived on, growing canny, stern, and hard. He had been sad when the last old warrior had died with an arrow through his heart and buried him where he fell. Alone then he began to travel, battle-axe and longsword in hand, ever hunting creatures which prowled in the darkness. And ever he grew more estranged from those he sought to protect, burying his love for Illuvatar's Children beneath his hate for the Creatures of Morgoth and Sauron, until he even forgot the lovely elf-maid who haunted his empty past. But now and then he would ponder the strange device upon his scabbard: a rose amidst a field of fiery stars.

"Gwathagor" people began to call him, Shadowblade, for he came out of the shadow of Beleriand, and in the darkness he dwelt, and was like a shadow himself, so silent and swift was he. He took the name.

Of these things and many others he dreamed, drawing strength from these memories which he had so long buried. Hours passed; people came and went at the inn.

There was a crack of thunder and he awoke with a start, head down on the broad wooden counter in the Golden Perch. He caught the end of the new fellow's sentence.

"Do you have a dog, perhaps, a really big dog?"


It took a moment for the elf to realize the implications of this, and for the man to finish speaking.

"They are wolves," he said to the man. "Great wolves from the cold north, and they hunt in packs. I killed several this afternoon and fought one last night, which may have been their leader."

He was torn now between two roads. The first was the trail of the Draugring, the Cold Wolves, which had led him to this provincial village. He could not leave these hobbits defenseless against a terror which they knew not. The second was the path which had just risen before him, like a horizon of land before a lonely mariner: to find Elloth, who surely lived...surely. The locket left little doubt in his mind, and he found himself yearning above all else to find her again.

With an effort, he forced the urge down, subjecting it to his duty, as he had done for so many ages before.

"Call me Gwathagor," he said to the man, standing before him and extending his hand. "Can you wield a sword?"
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Old 04-09-2008, 09:03 AM   #605
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Jims eyebrows rose into his hairline at the elf’s statement and then question. Great wolves from the cold north! And this fellow had already killed several? Jims had little knowledge of wolves of any kind. The tales he had heard at the Rose of the Fell Winter of 2911 seemed to his ears stories meant to scare little children. That such creatures might yet again be prowling this far south was practically unbelievable. That such creatures might have something to do with his missing horse was fantastical! And the thought that Jims might know anything about how to wield a sword, well, that was the most laughable part of the whole situation.

Extending his own hand and not even registering the fact that he was shaking hands with an elf, Jims replied, “Sword? No. I’m no fighter. Used to do a bit of wrestling at the market day fairs now and again.” Jims realized how idiotic that must have sounded to the elf, who was no doubt an experienced warrior, if the rumors of their great age could be credited. “Neither am I a tracker or hunter,” Jims continued, “and it may well be that this fur and the paw print I saw in the stable just now were from earlier. Perhaps we should take another look and see what other signs there may or may not be.”

Jims hoped the elf’s inquiry as to his swordsmanship was an indication of the fellow’s intent to once more take up this ongoing battle with the wolves. If he could get Gwathagor to take the lead, Jims felt he might then be able to adopt a much more minor role in the search for the missing horse. Glancing over to the fireplace, where he had rested his staff against the wall next to his now dry cloak, Jims gulped nervously. Remembering his manners at the last moment, he said, “And I’m Jims, by the way. Jims Barleycorn, of Bree. My family runs the Rose and Thistle there.”

Feeling he was beginning to gabble, Jims shut his mouth with an almost audible snap, and awaited Gwathagor’s reaction.
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Old 04-09-2008, 10:09 AM   #606
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Songo sat bolt upright. How long he had been asleep he did not know. He lifted up his blurry eyes but everything just blended into one. He had probably drunk too much alcohol. He'd never tried it before, and he didn't know it would be like this. He thought it would taste much nicer, and the way the old men and hardened travellers talked about ale glorified it far beyond what it was. But he liked mead. No wonder, since it was made out of honey.

He blinked furiously until the outlines of things slowly started to take shape again. Jims wasn't near him, but that was only to be expected. He would have moved away from a sleeping drunkard, and he had snored no doubt.

Before he knew what was happening, he was telling a crowd one of his tales, and they were listening intently. And it wasn't just children, which he expected, but also adults. In fact, there were only three children in the whole group. Time flew past, and soon he was immersed in a game of riddles with two other men. After answering a particularly hard one, he realised that his mind had gone blank, and he couldn't think of one. He knew it was bad form, but he used one of the lesser-known old Rohirric ones:

"Swings by his thigh / a thing most magical!
Below the belt / beneath the folds
Of his clothes it hangs / a hole in its front end,
stiff-set and stout / it swivels about.

Levelling the head / of this hanging tool,
its wielder hoists his hem / above his knee;
it is his will to fill / a well-known hole
that it fits fully / when at full length

He's oft filled it before. / Now he fills it again."


As he finished, the two men cracked and laughed for a bit, and then asked him to repeat it. This he did, but they could not puzzle it out. In the end they gave up, so he had to tell them an answer.
"A key," he said. And their faces filled with understanding, and they marvelled at the cleverness of it.

But then he saw Jims come through the door with a worried look on his face. He tried to go up to him, but Jims was already talking in a hurried conversation with Dick. Then in wonder he saw the elf that had been motionless for hours suddenly stir. He and Jims exchanged a few words, and then they were off. Songo quickly followed, he knew they were up to something, and he did not want to miss this adventure.

He caught up with them just outside the door.

"So where are you going?" asked Songo.

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Old 04-22-2008, 10:41 AM   #607
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Dick stared after the elf and man with an open mouth. He remembered himself suddenly and shut it again a moment later, but it nearly popped back open when the elderly hobbit, Songo, went running after them.

“A horse missing...and Will missing, by all accounts...this does not sound good, Dick,” the innkeeper said to himself. He cast an experienced eye over the common room. Everyone was content, drinks were filled, and the fire was burning merrily. Someone had opened the window to allow the damp, cool air in, along with some light.

Satisfied that everything was well in hand, Dick took the chance to hurry outside and check on matters himself.
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Old 04-23-2008, 09:35 AM   #608
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Jims flung a somewhat hurried reply to Songo’s inquiry over his shoulder as he followed after the elf. “We’re going to find my horse.” Hopefully, Jims added silently to himself.

Elf, man and hobbit entered the stable in quick succession, Gwathagor kneeling briefly to examine the paw print. Jims stood aside, casting a brief glance at Songo. The little hobbit’s eyes were the size of saucers as he too looked at the huge print.

Just as Gwathagor stood, the innkeeper poked his head around the table door. His face looked a mix of curiosity and concern. In an attempt to break the tension of the moment, Jims quipped “Perhaps your stable lad has tired of the fine ale here and borrowed my horse to try his luck at some other tavern. I’m surprised he didn’t invite you to join him, Songo. You’ve acquired a taste for it, I’ve noticed.” He winked at the hobbit whose gaze swiveled uncertainly up to his own.

Noting the somber look on the elf’s face, Jims asked lightly, “Well, Gwathagor. What do you make of this? Have your wolves return and asked my nag out to supper? Shall we follow and join the party?”

Jims unconsciously fiddled with the strap to his staff as he awaited Gwathagor’s response.
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Old 04-23-2008, 10:58 PM   #609
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The tall elf with the blue cloak straightened and stood.

"There was only one wolf here and it was small - compared to its fellows, and so probably a scout. The others are near by."

He walked to the door of the stable and stood looking out into the dwindling light.

"Very near," he said. He stood for a moment scanning the road and the woods and hills beyond before turning back to the man and the hobbit. He looked from one to the other. "Find something sharp."

Then he stepped out, back into the evening twilight, where the air was still cool from the earlier rainstorm. He strode through the courtyard to the lawn beyond, dotted with fruit and nut trees. Beyond this was a fence, and then the road, from which a lane led through the lawn to the courtyard.

"We will meet them here, among these trees, when they attack. We could track them, but it would be foolhardy to try to fight them on their own ground in the dark."

He drew his slowly drew his sword. The blade shone uncannily bright in the falling dark as he hefted it several times, recalling its balance and its weight. He swung it in several lightening-fast arcs about him, then returned it to its sheath.

"Jims!" he called out. "Are you ready? We do not have much time."
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Old 04-30-2008, 11:26 AM   #610
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Dick stood in the shadow of the stable door and looked out at the elf. What it just his fancy, or did the elf seem to glimmer in the falling shadows? It was a trick of the light, surely. All the same, he looked frightening, fierce, but strangely beautiful and certainly mysterious, standing there in the courtyard of the beloved Perch, with his long, bright sword. Songo and Jims pushed past the landlord, each having found some sort of weapon, and went to join the elf.

“I...I’ve got to find Will,” Dick called after them. “Good - good luck!”

He retreated into the relative safety of the stable. He suddenly felt small and cowardly. “Good luck?” he questioned himself. “You wish them good luck and then run back into safety yourself?”

“The wolves aren’t my concern,” he said. “I wasn’t made for fighting or adventures. Besides, Will is missing. I have to find Will. Will!” he raised his voice to call for the ostler. He stood and listened for a moment. No reply. Not even an answering movement.

Dick began to search in earnest. He looked in every stall, opening the doors and peering into the gloom. The horse inhabitants turned their great, bright eyes on him. Some knickered, expecting dinner. No Will in any of the stalls.

He searched in the grain room, the tack room, the hay loft, the storage room, everywhere, and Will was nowhere to be found.

“He’s probably gone off to find Jims’ lost horse. I hope. But he should have told me if he were going off to do that.”

“Dick, you fool,” he answered himself. “Will would have told you if he were leaving.”
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:19 AM   #611
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Gable had searched for hours, for a sign of the hobbit, but she couldn't find him anywhere. She was beginning to wonder if she had merely dreamt of him coming and climbing the tree. But the footsteps on the ground prove otherwise. She figured he must've gotten away and was taking refuged elsewhere, or was already back at the Inn. She looked up in the tree again and could see where he used to be, but no hobbit.

She sighed and stood. She began walking back towards the Inn, tired and sore. She looked off to her right and heard rustling branches. She stopped and then looked into the bushes. She could have sworn she heard something, but found the bushes empty. Blinking slightly and stepping away from the bush she though, 'I guess these wolves are confusing me and causing me to loose my mind in some sense.' With a sigh she began walking down the road. As she felt the wind in her hair she got the sudden urge to run. With slight smirk she began to run, faster and faster until she let out a laugh. To her it sounded half crazed-half childish. She finally slowed down once to the yard of the Inn. She smiled and went inside the Inn.

She looked around at the Inn, then she walked quickly inside, there was more commotion going on than usual. She looked around, hoping to catch a slight glimpse of the going ons.
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Old 05-05-2008, 08:54 PM   #612
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Mirabell

Mirabell shivered, pulling her shawl tightly around her body with one hand and guiding her pony Calla along the Stock Road with the other. Something about the Shire just didn't feel right tonight. Having been on the road the entire day, Mira chalked it up to fatigue. The Golden Perch Inn was in sight, and that meant a hot drink and a soft bed. She squeezed Calla's sides, but the pony plodded along at a steady pace. Calla had been Mira's pony for years, and she loved her dearly. It was her old aunt Leila who had given Calla as a gift, and Mira was on her way to visit her. Aunt Leila was getting on in her years, and her family was whispering behind closed doors that her mind wasn't as sharp as it used to be. Mira hadn't really noticed; Aunt Leila had seemed the same --

Calla suddenly quickened her pace, snorting nervously. Mira spoke in a soothing voice, wondering why the animal was acting differently. She heard rustles in the bushes alongside the road, but dismissed it as a deer, or rabbit. Tuning out the clop of Calla's hooves, Mira listened more closely. She realized that the sound of branches breaking and underbrush moving was caused by something much bigger than a deer. Her heart beat faster and she urged Calla on, the pony acknowledging her legs and speeding up to a trot. The Golden Perch was so close; the rustling in the brush became louder. Calla burst into a skittish gallop, whinnying frightenedly. The two sped the rest of the way to the stables, passing a group of folks in the courtyard.

Once inside, Mira chastised herself. The darkness combined with her fatigue had played tricks on her mind, making her afraid of nothing. Calla had innately picked up on it, and they had scared the dickens out of each other for no reason. As she led her to an empty stall, Mira stroked Calla's neck The pony whickered softly as Mira removed her saddle and bridle and threw a blanket on her back. With nothing on her mind but a warm, soft bed, Mira turned to leave the stable and almost bumped smack into a hobbit.

"Oh!" she exclaimed. Realizing that he must have also witnessed her frantic dash to the stable, Mira's face became a bright crimson. "Ah, do you -- are you -- working here at the Inn? I need -- er, would like a room. If you have one. Please."
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Old 05-14-2008, 10:40 AM   #613
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"Jims! Are you ready? We do not have much time."

Jims seemed to have been frozen to the spot at the elf’s words. He swallowed hard but his mouth was bone dry of a sudden. A knot had formed in his stomach and he half wished he had said nothing and pinned the loss of his horse on the apparently equally missing stable lad. Then, amazingly, Songo grabbed up a pitch fork from the corner of the stable where he stood and marched out into the yard to stand beside Gwathagor. Taking a deep breath, which seemed to stick in his throat, Jims grasped his staff tightly and pushed past Dick, striding in as confident a manner as he could manage to stand next Songo.

Dick, showing eminent sense, departed quickly, saying, ““I...I’ve got to find Will. Good - good luck!”

Resisting the urge to follow the innkeeper back into the stable, Jims asked instead, “Alright, Gwathagor. Where do we make our stand?” Jims hoped the nervous timbre of his voice wasn’t as readily noticeable to his companions in arms as it was to his own ears. He tried as best he could to push the elf’s words to the back of his mind. "There was only one wolf here and it was small - compared to its fellows . . . “

Before the elf could answer, though, there was a clatter of hoofbeats on cobbles as a small pony turned into the yard at a reckless pace. The rider, a hobbit, did not draw rein but practically galloped right into the stable. Unsure of the import of such haste, the elf, the man and the hobbit exchanged puzzled glances. But Gwathagor was not to be deflected from his chosen course. “Come. Let’s choose our positions.” He said in a steady voice. With a last glance to where the rider had disappeared into the stable, he added, “They may be closer than we think.”

Praying mightily that Gwathagor’s sword would be enough to deal with however many ‘fellows’ might return with the scout, Jims followed as the elf and the hobbit made their way to the clump of trees not a stone’s throw from the stable. Obeying Gwathagor’s silent signal to take up his position behind a large oak, Jims knelt down, leaning against his staff. It was stout ash, two inches thick. But crafted for walking, not fighting off large, hungry wolves. His eyes as big as saucers in the growing twilight, Jims glanced over to see Songo resting comfortably against the pitch fork, his face calm and fully alert now. The little fellow certainly had some hidden aplomb, Jims realized. Trying to configure his own features in a similarly relaxed mien, he peered into the road and wondered how long they would have to wait.

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Old 05-18-2008, 01:14 AM   #614
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Why here?

The storm had passed southward, leaving the evening air warm and clean Occasional rolls of thunder could still be heard in the distance as the sun went down in Stock and the shadows of the three companions grew long: elf, man, and hobbit.

Why here?

This question had troubled him ever since he arrived in Stock. Why had the wolves chosen this particular village of this particular land to invade? Certainly the Shire was a prosperous land, but the wolves had passed many settlements and villages during their long trek down out of the cold north, so they were certainly not hunting for food. What was it that drew them here, far from their accustomed territory?

One by one, the sun's rays were extinguished behind the distant horizon of hills in the west. Darkness fell in Stock, and a chill wind blew down from the north. The elf wrapped his cloak around him tighter and looked over at Songo, who held his pitchfork tightly in both hands, staring grimly out over the fence and past the lane into the woodlands beyond. A few paces away, Jims crouched low behind a tree, waiting with a rather disconsolate look on his face. The elf smiled. Unlikely warriors, these two. This would be the strangest battle he had fought - in a long time, at any rate.

"Jims, Songo. When they come, there will be many of them - more than thirty. They will strike together, as a massed force, and will try to overwhelm us. Fortunately, we do not need to kill them all, only enough of them to make the attack not worthwhile for them."

He didn't know this for sure. Indeed, until he knew why they had come, he could not know how to stop them. What were they hunting? What prey did they seek this far south? The question reverberated through his mind, striking deep subconscious chords; the answer felt familiar and close, something he had overlooked. And yet, it evaded him.

"Look! To the east," said Songo, pointing. They looked.

The moon was rising.

A great silver-blue circle it swung up over the trees. A howl floated up into the night sky. Then a score of others, startlingly close, took up the call. They rose swiftly to a frenzied, chilling cacophony, and then fell silent just as quickly. The elf looked at both of his friends and nodded.

"Do not risk yourselves unnecessarily."

Jims nodded emphatically. He appeared visibly shaken by the wolves battle cry, but he rose to his feet and gritted his teeth nonetheless. Songo muttered angrily to himself.

Then they came, bounding silently across the road. Over the fence and the gate and into the orchard of the Golden Perch loped the Draugring, sleek silver beasts with blue light in their eyes.

Out flashed the elven sword of Doriath, its single blue gem glittering as fiercely as the eyes of the wolves. The first wolf sped straight towards the bearer of the sword, and found itself suddenly swept aside, slashed wide open. It hit the ground with a whimper and chaos broke loose all around. Snarling, whirling tails, and flashing eyes swirled about the trees and about the three companions. With a surprisingly ferocious yell, Songo killed his first wolf as it, leaping towards him, found itself impaled upon his pitchfork. He jerked the farm implement out of the wolf's corpse and turned to face his next foe. Stab, jerk, stab, jerk. Had the elf been watching, he would have seen the hobbit repeat the process many times that evening, as dead and wounded wolves began to accumulate about him. But he was not watching. He was caught up in the fight, oblivious to his surroundings, slashing left, whirling right, hacking down, lunging, dodging, and stabbing, he flew about like a whirlwind of cold steel and fury. Wolves dropped dead about him, piling up like leaves in a forest, and still they came on. 20 wolves had met that length of steel before he began to slow down and reckon with the situation.

Jims had watched as Songo stabbed a wolf with the pitchfork and turned away to face another. He had watched as the first wolf pulled itself to its feet and prepared to tear Songo from behind. He had then found himself charging forward, staff raised high, half-surprised at what he was doing. The wolf turned too late, but just in time to see Jims's staff crack down between his eyes. After he recovered from the initial shock, he began to run about, finishing wounded wolves with swift blows to the head - and more than once saving Songo's life.

One by one, thought the elf. They are attacking Songo one at a time. He is not their prey, which means that...

He looked and suddenly realized that the wolves were attacking him, surrounding him. They didn't care about Songo and Jims, or The Golden Perch or the Shire at all. They wanted him. Or something he carried.

The locket. The realization seared through his brain. But why?

Ignoring the question, he renewed his attack, hurtling forward into the ranks of wolves, striking down the beasts left and right. The circle broke and reformed, and was devastated again and again by the indomitable elf-warrior, whose spirit burnt cold and fierce like his long, bright sword.

Then, suddenly, the wolves drew back, away from the three, who found themselves side by side. The ranks parted, and forward stepped an enormous black beast of a wolf. Around its massive neck was a silver collar, and in its eyes was a deep, burning hatred. Slowly it moved forward and began to circle.

The elf spoke slowly and steadily to Songo and Jims, never taking his eyes off the great wolf chieftain.

"I think you both ought to leave now...it doesn't want you. They're after me, they'll leave you alone...if you RUN!!"

He shouted the last word in command and simultaneously leapt forward towards the monster.

It was the last word Jims and Songo heard him speak, and they obeyed. Only when they reached the door of the inn did they stop to look back. In the moonlight they saw the elf's sword flashing down in a great arc, and then the ring of wolves breaking and rushing upon him. He disappeared for a moment under the wave of fur and claws, but soon rose out of the tangle, sword-first. There he stood for a brief moment, outlined in the silvery light, fighting on madly and elegantly as the number of wolves dwindled. Then, suddenly, he broke free, and the last they saw of him was his ragged blue cloak blowing in the wind as he vanished into the forest, running. North. The wolves followed him.

He was running again, as he had for so long. In his hand he clutched the locket which was the center of all the questions which haunted the dark corners of his soul, which were now simultaneously pursuing him and being pursued by him. Ahead, he thought perhaps to find the answers he sought...and perhaps a certain elf-maiden who had once given him the locket. Behind, he left a village stirred by a cold breeze, and a dead wolf wearing a silver collar.

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Old 05-26-2008, 09:25 PM   #615
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Dick was puzzled and very worried. Will was no where to be found and it was getting dark. The horses were hungry, the water buckets were almost empty, and the stable hand was no where near. He slowly walked back up the stable aisle, thinking.

Hey! There was a noise in the stall up ahead! Perhaps Will had come back in after all! Dick hurried forward, opening his mouth to say something, when all of a sudden -

“Oh!” the hobbit lass exclaimed, jumping backwards after they almost collided. Dick blinked. This wasn’t Will. “Ah, do you – are you - working here at the Inn? I need – er, would like a room. If you have one. Please.”

“Oh,” Dick said, nearly just as confused as she. “Yes. Yes, of course there is room. Come. Let’s go in. I am Dick Boffin, landlord.” He gave his best welcoming smile. “Pleaes come in.” He led the way out of the stable and across the yard to the inn. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Songo and Jims coming back from their wolf hunt. The elf was not with them. Dick and the hobbit lass stepped inside.

“Rowan! We have another guest.” Rowan threaded her way across the common room. “Please take her to a room suitable for her. She needs a place to sleep. One you’re settled in, miss,” he said, turning to Mirabell, “you can come back into the common room here and have some warm supper to eat.”
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Old 05-30-2008, 11:39 PM   #616
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Mirabell is shown to a room...

Rowan hurriedly put down the tray of mugs she’d brought from the kitchen, sighing as she did so. She’d hoped to have a leisurely sit-down as she wiped the last of the rinse water from the just washed cups; some time to look about the common room and see who was about.

Ah well...best laid plans... she heard her old Gran’s voice whisper at the edge of her thoughts.

She wiped her damp hands on the dishtowel she’d slung over her shoulder and laid the cloth wadded on the stack. Best see to the new guest, she thought, get her settled in...then, perhaps there would be time for a more leisurely task.

Perched precariously on the edge of the table just outside the kitchen’s door, the mugs gave a dull clink-clunk as the Hobbit’s foot knocked against the near table-leg. No, you don’t! she muttered. Pausing midstep, Rowan reached out her right hand toward the teetering pile. She slid the tray deftly toward the middle of the table top, turning slightly to steady the stack with her left hand.

Taking note that the mugs were no longer in danger of toppling, Rowan hurried over to where Master Boffin stood with the gold-haired lass. She gave the new guest her best smile, motioning for her to follow along.

‘I’m Rowan,’ she said, glancing back as she opened the door to the hallway which led into the hallway that wound into the hill. She picked up a fat candle from the wooden box just inside the entryway and lit it from the lantern near the door. ‘I think this room might suit,’ she said, smiling as she opened the door to the fourth room down the hall and gestured for the lass to enter.

There was a cot against the far wall with a colorful, thick quilt covering it and a fat, soft looking pillow resting against the plain headboard. A woven rag rug ran alongside the bed. On the left wall was an oaken chest of drawers with a pitcher and washbasin sitting atop it, and next to them a clean white towel and wash cloth. A little clay jam-pot perched on the edge of the chest nearest the bed, its riot of flowers from the Inn’s garden making a final welcoming statement.

Rowan lit the lantern on the bedside table. ‘There’s a bath room just at the end of the hall...shared. Let me know if you want a bath. Otherwise,’ she went on, picking up the pitcher from the chest, ‘I’ll just fetch you some nice hot water and you can have a quick wash up here in your room.’ She swept her glance about the neat little room. ‘Is there anything else you need? I’d be happy to get it for you...Miss...??? Sorry, I don’t think I caught your name.’
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Old 05-31-2008, 01:10 AM   #617
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Had anyone been listening they would have thought a pair of Hobbits were arguing with each other. As it was, it was only Will discussing out loud with himself the post he’d received that day. His mother, the redoubtable Pearl Longholes Hayward, had decided to come to Stock in two weeks time with two of her daughters-in-law, Sapphire and Lily, to buy a bolt or two or so of sprigged cotton and some yards of lace. Never mind that there was a perfectly adequate cloth shop in Crickhollow that had served her family well over the years.

He puffed on his pipe; clouds of smoke hung thickly above his head. He worried the mouthpiece and stabbed the air with it as he read the letter again and then once more. Read between the lines, that is. It wasn’t cloth she’d come to inspect is what he expected, is what he knew. She’d come to see what her youngest son was ‘doing’ with his life. Translation: had he found a suitable lass yet? And when would he be tying the knot? She’d seen through the letters he’d sent of how well he was doing at the inn; had enough of his fending off questions of settling down like his brothers had done. His mother would be coming to set him on the ‘right’ track.

It was drawing toward dark when he roused himself from his brown study. The big oak beneath which he’d sat, and paced, and leaned against in his bemusement cast a deeper shadow now and from a ways beyond it, the restless sounds of the horses and ponies broke in upon his thoughts. Will folded his mother’s letter into a small square and jammed it deep into one of his vest pockets.

Back in his familiar routine he pushed away his irritation and fell to taking care of the animals and their needs. Fresh hay, some oats, clean water . . . and the occasional apple for those whose insistent noses nudged him as he tended to them. They listened to his troubles with tail-twitching patience, seemingly swishing away problems with an easy flick of ear and tail.

Having set the stable in order, Will made his way toward the Inn. A plate of nice, fat mushrooms would put him in a better frame of mind, he thought. Fried crispy, in butter. And a pint of dark, strong stout to further smooth away the edges. Yes, that would do nicely!

And maybe he could talk to Master Boffin, too. Perhaps he could be gone when his mother came on her shopping expedition. Buying trip for the Inn? Something that would take him away for a great deal of the time she’d be here. Or a building project – new roof for the stable, maybe. Something to keep him occupied long into the evening and away from his family . . .
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Old 05-31-2008, 09:01 AM   #618
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Settling in...

Delighted with the cosiness of the room, Mirabell gave a tired smile as she spoke to Rowan. "Mirabell Took, but for the most part people call me Mira. The room looks lovely; I don't think I'll be needing anything but that hot water you mentioned." Rowan smiled and said, "Alright then, Miss Mira, I'll be back in a few minutes after you've settled in."

As the other hobbit closed the door behind her, Mira took another look around the room. Stepping over to the bed, she ran her hand over the quilt, admiring the different colours of fabric and the thick quality. The flowers gave the room a lovely scent, and as she sat down on the bed Mira inhaled deeply, enjoying the sweet odor. Just as she flopped back onto the bed with a sigh of contentment, there was a knock at the door and she heard Rowan's voice: "Miss Mirabell? I've got that hot water you wanted."

Mira went to the door and opened it, thanking Rowan for the water, and shut it again. She quickly washed and combed her hair, her stomach starting to rumble with hunger. When she was satisfied with her appearance, Mira left her room and proceeded downstairs to the common room, wanting nothing more than a hot cup of tea with a sufficiently large meal. As she entered it from the hallway, she glanced around for Rowan. Seems as though she's not here, Mira thought to herself, and her stomach grumbled in protest. She sat down at an empty table to wait for Rowan to reappear, hoping it wouldn't be too long.
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Old 05-31-2008, 09:18 PM   #619
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The sandy-haired pony gave a decided toss of his mane as his mistress tugged on the reins. From this short distance Cookie caught the scent of fresh hay – and oats! His nostrils widened taking in the heady promise of food. He was a stout little fellow given to as little exertion as he might manage and as much feed as he might appropriate. He looked back over his shoulder at Miz Miribelle with as encouraging an expression as he could muster.

‘Yes, yes, I know my little dear. I’m hungry, too.’ Miribelle Rushybanks sat fully upright on the little cart’s padded seat and looked about the darkening yard. At a distance, she saw a familiar figure just heading up the few steps to the Inn.

‘Will?’ she called out in a firm voice. ‘Is that you?’ She thought she saw him turn toward her and she waved. ‘Come help me won’t you with Cookie.’ She set the brake and stepped down from the cart, wrapping the reins about the brake’s handle once she’d set both feet firmly on the ground.
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Old 05-31-2008, 09:52 PM   #620
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Supper is a bit delayed...

Well, they’ll just to to airdry now... she thought, shrugging her shoulders at the stack of mugs still sitting out where she’d left them.

No sooner had Rowan come back from seeing Mirabell to her room than she’d been called into the kitchen by Primrose. Cook, it seemed, was in somewhat of a tear; her day upset with tales of wolves marauding the countryside. Why some of the Inn patrons had whispered it about that they might have to bolt the doors to prevent being got at by the savage beasts. The stories of previous encounters grew as the day had worn on. And along with them had grown the size of the wolves and their number.

There were bangings about in the kitchen; skillets slapped hard on the stove top; cleavers clapped down hard on the cutting board as chickens were cut into pieces. Hmmmph! thought Rowan taking in the scene. No wolf or pack of wolves would dare step paw in Cook’s kitchen!

‘Here,’ she said picking up a basket into which she scooped a plentiful heap of flaky biscuits. ‘Let me just take these out to the Common Room.’ She placed the basket on a tray along with several pots of jam, butter, and honey. From the back of the stove, Rowan retrieved the kettle and set about making several large pots of tea. These she placed on another tray with a bowl of sugar, a pitcher of cream, and some tableware – small plates, knives, spoons.

Primrose gave her a grateful look as Rowan balanced the trays on her hands and back through the kitchen door. A few quick steps brought her to a large table in the center of the Common Room. She set down her burdens and arranged the biscuits, tea, and accompaniments about the table’s top. The mugs were retrieved from their smaller table and set near the tea pots.

Clearing her throat loudly, she clinked a spoon against one of the empty mugs. ‘Supper’s coming in a bit,’ she said, not elaborating on the reason for its delay. ‘Here’s some tea and biscuits and jams and such to tide you over ‘til the chicken and taters and peas are done.’ She glanced toward the kitchen hoping to see Prim’s face giving her an encouraging nod. No such luck.

‘Come on ‘round,’ she encouraged the waiting diners, motioning for them join her.
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Old 05-31-2008, 10:15 PM   #621
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Seeing to Cookie.....

‘Will? Is that you?’

Thoughts of food, drink, and not least, escape were put aside as he heard his named called. Turning about, he saw Miz Rushybanks motioning for him to come over. He trotted toward her, a grin on his face.

‘Bet you’re here for chicken and biscuits, aren’t you?’ he said with a smile. As he recalled the old gal enjoyed Cook’s chicken and despite her slender build could put away a good sized helping of it, along with plenty of well buttered biscuits.

He helped her retrieve her carpet bag from beneath the cart seat and unwrapped the reins from the brake lever. ‘You just go along now,’ he said, nodding his head toward the door. ‘Cookie and I are old friends. I’ll see him to the stable.’ He reached up toward the pony’s ear and gave it a scratch. ‘Some sweet hay for you, eh, fellow? And a nosebag of oats, yes?’

‘Oh, and Miz Rushybanks,’ he went on, recalling her fondness for that foreign drink – coffee. ‘Might have to make do with tea tonight. I don’t think the shipment of those beans you like brewed have come in.’ He gave a little shiver, recalling the one taste of coffee he’d tried at her urging.
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Old 06-01-2008, 09:28 PM   #622
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Tavaro, clumsy in his haste

‘Been too long here among the Little Folk!’

Tavaro laughed quietly to himself at the thought. The enticing scent of that hillock of biscuits drew his attention away from the poem he’d been writing. Warm, inviting, mixed with the promise of blackberry jam. And wasn’t that the fireweed honey he’d tried earlier that morning? He remembered that scent, redolent of a grassy clearing in the forest just to the west where the plants had sprung up in the Spring just after sweeping fire.

‘You’re getting rather Hobbitish, indeed,’ he went on, putting his quill down carefully and snapping the lid tight on his little inkwell. His stomach grumbled in anticipation of a plate of biscuits and a mug of steaming tea. Leaving the bit of parchment he’d been writing on to air dry, Tavaro stood up and made his way to where Rowan stood pouring tea.

‘One of those large mugs, if you please, Mistress Rowan,’ he said with a smile. His eyes twinkled as he surveyed the table. Picking up a small plate, he placed one of the larger biscuits upon it, split the flaky delight open quickly, and slathered it with butter. Both halves, of course. And atop the glistening cover he spooned out a generous portion of jam on one half and an unsparing puddle of honey on the other. Taking his mug of tea from the table, he turned, intending to head back to his table. His Elven grace did not sustain him; eyes on his tasty prize, he bumped against someone, spilling a bit of his drink.

‘Oh, please, excuse me!’ he said. ‘I haven’t got hot tea on you, have I?’ he went on, his grey eyes growing wide with alarm.
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:34 AM   #623
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Apology accepted

Miribelle was taken a bit back. Not just because she’d had hot tea spilled on her but because one of the Fair Folk had addressed her. And not just addressed her, but made a very nice apology. To be sure it was his fault and it was only proper that he offer an apology, but still . . . one of the Fair Folk . . . talking to her!

Pull yourself together, Miribelle! she chided herself. She smoothed her skirt, and gave a little pull on her vest to straighten it. Looking up at the Elf, who was still quite tall despite the fact he had graciously bent down to speak with her, she smiled encouragingly. ‘It’s only a few drops that splashed on my skirt,’ she demurred. ‘It should dry just fine. Mostly, I think, it sloshed onto the floor here.’ She tapped her foot near a small sized puddle on the floor between them. ‘No need for alarm. I’m sure these old boards have seen their share of spills and splashes.’

‘My don’t these look good,’ Miribelle went on, changing the subject to something more pleasant. ‘Cook has a very light hand with the biscuits, don’t you think?’ She picked up a mug of tea and picked out a tasty looking biscuit from the basket. ‘Don’t you just love this blackberry jam!’ she said helping herself to a fair dollop.

She glanced back up at the Elf. ‘Gracious! Here I am nattering away at you and haven’t even introduced myself. I’m Miribelle . . . Miribelle Rushybanks from Stock.’
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:54 AM   #624
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With a well practiced toss, Will let sail his cap back toward the pegs by the kitchen door just after he’d entered. He glanced back, and there it was hanging precariously from the edge of a peg. He held his breath as it teetered, threatening to fall. And grinned widely when at last it settled into place.

‘Well, that champion toss should earn me a second pint tonight,’ he announced to no one in particular as he ambled toward the kitchen’s table intending to sit down and have something to eat and drink.

His intentions were cut short in their accomplishment as a much harried Prim approached him with a pile of scrubbed taters in a small basket and plopped them down on the table’s top. These were quickly followed by a largish pot, a paring knife, and the instructions to “deal with them”. Will looked toward Cook, hoping for some sort of rescue. But she was doing battle with a number of chickens, her cleaver flying up and down in a determined manner as she chopped them.

Recognizing the inevitable Will picked up the knife and began his assigned task. He smiled at Prim, who nodded hurriedly as she began ministering to a pot of peas.

‘I don’t suppose a thirsty fellow could get a mug of ale, could he?’ His words fell upon deaf ears. Well, not all deaf – one of the ladies had given a snort at his suggestion.

‘Right, then,’ he sighed. Picking up a tater, he attacked it with the paring knife at a quick pace. The faster these were done, he thought, the faster he’d have his mug.

What on earth’s got into these two? he wondered. Supper was going to be late. An unusual state of affairs for Miz Cela’s kitchen, he pondered further. With another sigh he settled fully into his assignment. His stomach grumbled in protest at being put off. Sooner as these are done, sooner you get fed, my pushy friend...
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Old 06-03-2008, 10:09 PM   #625
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‘Tavaro,’ the Elf replied, nodding his head at the Hobbit. ‘Tavrobelion, originally. But if you please, Tavaro, to you.’ He waved Miribelle ahead of him, pointing her toward his table.

‘I’d be happy to have you dine with me, Mistress Marshybanks. It’s always nice to talk while you eat, don’t you think?’ Tavaro pulled out a chair for his companion. ‘Here, let me just clear these papers out of your way.’

Tavaro sat his own cup of tea and plate of biscuits on the seat of his chair. He gathered up the songs and poems he’d been working on earlier and rolled them up hastily, stuffing them into his worn leather satchel on the floor by his chair.

‘There, now we have room for mugs and plates!’ He sat down opposite her and smiled. ‘Tell me a little about yourself, Mistress Rushybanks. Do you live about here? In Stock?’ He took a sip of his tea. ‘Or are you traveling though, like me?’

Last edited by Tam Lin; 06-08-2008 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 06-04-2008, 11:27 PM   #626
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Now isn’t that an interesting pair! Rowan smiled, watching the exchange between the tall Tavaro and Miz Rushybanks. Physical differences aside, she thought they were well matched for a certain air of elegance and propriety.

‘Excuse me . . .’ A voice from the other side of the table called her attention away from the Elf and Hobbit. ‘Will there be something more coming soon?’ On of the Inn’s regulars had just come in and stood looking perplexed at the offering of biscuits and tea.

‘Here, Toby,’ Rowan offered with a wink. ‘Have a mug of tea to tide you over ‘til Supper’s done. Just a bit behind times this evening. But rest assured – chicken, taters, and . . .’ she pursed her lips trying to recall what the vegetable was. ‘And, oh yes, peas . . . with plenty of butter. Just like you like it.’ She tilted her chin up toward a small table near the fireplace. ‘And look, there’s your favorite spot for supper. You just go on and have a seat. Soon’s the food is dished up, I’ll bring a plate right out to you.’ She held up her hand as Toby opened his mouth to speak. ‘I know, I know – there’ll be extra butter for your taters, too.’

Rowan picked up the nearly empty basket of biscuits and made her way quickly back to the kitchen. ‘The crowd is still hungry,’ she called out as she entered the room, waving the basket for emphasis. ‘Any chance the chicken’s near done yet?’
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Old 06-05-2008, 08:05 PM   #627
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‘No, not traveling through,’ Miribelle laughed. ‘Indeed, I live here in Stock.’ She took a sip of her tea. ‘I’m a weaver – these past years at least. And I run a small fabric shop in town.’ Miribelle reached down and hauled her carpet bag up to her lap.

‘I’ve just been down Marish way to see one of the goodwives there who spins yarn. Lovely, soft wool she gets from her little flock of sheep. Much prized for ladies’ shawls and baby’s blankets.’ She reached into her bag and pulled out several skeins of fine spun yarn – a soft green, a nut brown with flecks of black, and sunflower yellow. ‘Lovely colors, aren’t they? She has a deft hand with her dyes. And closed mouthed about how she makes them, too.’

Miribelle placed the skeins carefully back in her bag, snapping it shut firmly. ‘Truth is, Master Tavaro. I live by myself. And though my cooking’s quite passable, I like to treat myself once a week to Cook’s chicken and taters.’

‘What about you? What brings you here to our little village?’ She munched happily on a bite of her biscuit and blackberry jam as she waited for his answer.
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Old 06-05-2008, 08:35 PM   #628
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Will said nothing in response to Rowan’s query. Instead, he held up his little knife, a half-pared potato skewered on the end of it. He cocked his head toward Cook, who seemed to be muttering over her frying pan.

Come sit by me he mouthed at Rowan, sliding a chair out from under the table with his foot. ‘Something’s put a wasp under the old gal’s petticoats today,’ he whispered, leaning in close. ‘You have any idea what?’
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Old 06-08-2008, 09:34 PM   #629
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Tavaro considered the elder Hobbit’s question carefully, choosing the words he would use. He did not wish to lie to her, but a little misdirection would work as well he thought. No need for all the details of his journeying to be told. He waved his hand toward his leather satchel.

‘I’m gathering stories, Mistress Rushybanks. From all over. Songs, too.’ He paused for a moment to eat a bite of biscuit and drink some tea. ‘We Elves love to gather such things in, keep these tales pressed between the pages to be read and sung and wondered at through the ages,’ he went on. Tavaro fetched out the leather-bound chapbook that perched just within the confines of the leather satchel. ‘See here,’ he said, opening to one of the ink filled pages. There were small sketches of all sorts of people. And between the sketches were lines written in a fine Elven script. ‘These were a trio of Dwarves I met. Here, actually, a while ago. They had some fine stories and fine songs, too.’ He tapped his foot in time to one of the tunes and hummed it in a deep voice. ‘I’ve never been in one of the mines, but you can almost hear the song resounding down the long deep tunnels, can’t you?’
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Old 06-08-2008, 11:04 PM   #630
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Rowan scooted the chair close toward Will. She picked up a small knife from the table and fell to paring taters with a deft hand. ‘Well, Prim told me Cook’s upset about the wolves and all that as went on earlier,’ she said in a low voice, leaning in closer toward Will. She flipped her now jacketless tater into the pot and put down her knife. ‘And I think that’s probably part of the problem, but....’

Rose motioned for Prim that the pot was full enough it could be set to boiling. She helped Prim to set the pot on the stove, and they both worked at stoking the fire to a hot pitch. ‘I’ll watch the pot and help Will peel another batch, Prim’ Rowan went on. ‘Why don’t you take those other biscuits and more tea out to the common room? There’s a lot of hungry folk out there. Let Master Boffin know what’s going on here in the kitchen, Maybe he can offer a few rounds of ale to take the edge off.’

She watched as Prim gathered up the food and drink and went sailing through the door. She hurried over to sit with Will again. ‘The thing is . . . about that problem we were discussing,’ she whispered. ‘I saw Cook get a fat letter from Hugh, the postman earlier in the day. Right after breakfast was cooked and served, in fact. Now I don’t know what it said, but she turned white as a ghost when she read it.’

There was a growling sort of noise from where Cook stood. A mound of crispy fried chicken was now arranged on a large china platter next to her frying pan. She was just flouring another batch and dropping it piece by piece into her big skillet as she looked up at Will & Rowan. ‘Taters won’t get peeled with jibber-jabber,’ she directed toward Will. And you, Miz Rowan, see to the peas, please before they completely turn to mush.’
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:34 AM   #631
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Luriniel and Nienna

When Luriniel finally awoke, she could not believe how late it had become. Never had she allowed herself to waste so much time in sleep. She looked over to Nienna and found that she still slept soundly. Was it just exhaustion that held her sister in such a deep sleep her was it something more? Luriniel stood and found that it took a great deal of effort. Her body ached all over. Nienna slept peacefully. It had been many days since Nienna had looked so rested. What was it that Vehil had given her to make her sleep so long? Luriniel wondered, Why did I sleep this day away? She felt Nienna's head for fever, but there was none. Seeing that her sister was breathing normally and that the wound was healing nicely, Luriniel sighed with relief.

What next Luriniel? Can you afford to risk staying here a few days longer? Is Nienna well enough to travel? Is Melinor still searching for you? Does he care, or no longer? Too many questions. She paced the room anxiously as she weighed her options. Still feeling weak, she took her chair once more. She let her mind wander back to the days before her father betrayed them. Her mother was still living and Melinor, her betrothed from childhood, was still with her. When doubt was cast upon their family and they were treated with undue suspicion, Melinor stayed faithful. He did all in his power to console her when her mother passed and her Father fled. Why mother? You abandoned your will to live. Could you not see how much we needed you? It wasn't long after that the sisters fled from their home. Luriniel knew that Melinor would try to follow, so she drugged him in order to give herself a better lead. For several months, she was a aware of his attempts to track them. Somehow she could sense him. Then his presence grew more and more faint. It became very rare for her to sense him at all. Finally, it became to Luriniel as if his presence was no more. She felt as if her last hope died that day, the day when she lost Melinor. Yet, how could she grieve when things had been so much worse for Nienna.

Nienna had been so close to their father, then suddenly found him becoming distant from her. Loving him too much, she pushed aside warnings that he had allied himself with evil. When he was finally exposed as a traitor, suspicion fell heavily on Nienna. She too was intended for marriage, but her betrothed met her in the Hall of Thranduil and publicly denounced her. Luriniel hated him for that. She saw the shame slowly crush Nienna under its weight and knew that they had to leave. In all there travels, Nienna never blamed those who sought to betray her. Luriniel marveled at her sister's goodness. She knew that if she lost her sister, she could not go on. Eru, if you have not wholly rejected these poor sisters of Mirkwood, you daughters, please save my sister. Do not let this wound take her. Looking worriedly over at her sleeping sister, Luriniel wept bitterly. Nienna stirred and Luriniel rushed to her side only to find that her sister continued to sleep soundly. Luriniel rose from the bedside and left to room to seek food before the Inn closed up for the night.
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Old 06-09-2008, 02:55 PM   #632
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● Hithadan ●

In the distance the lights from the inn glinted softly in the falling dusk. It was a welcoming sight against the growing dusk. Hithadan stopped for a moment beneath the cottonwoods which grew along this little stretch of the brook. With a oomph of tiredness he leaned against the slender beech branch he’d fashioned into a walking stick, balancing on it and his right leg to take a bit of pressure from his left. He chided himself both for the injury to his leg and the careless actions that had promoted it.

‘That’s what comes of too much drink, you knot-head!’ he said aloud to a small bird peeping down at him from the branches of a tree. The bird, startled by his voice and the large presence of the man beneath him, twittered and flew off. The Ranger’s laughter followed after the bird’s seeming protest. And he called a bit louder, as if to apologize. ‘Not you little one! It’s this clumsy two-foot here who is the knot-head!’ There had been a number of rounds of drinks several days ago at the Pony in Bree; some bought by him, some by others. Tongues had loosened amidst the ale-driven camaraderie and some very interesting pieces of news had been boasted about. Doings especially from the south and east were valuable bits, no matter how small. To be passed on and sifted through with other news from other places by those whose task it was to keep the larger picture in mind.

At any rate, he’d drunk a drink, or two even, beyond his normal and had not been as nimble footed as he’d needed when he left the inn. A scattering of loose rock and pebbles had caught him off guard; and to be short, he'd fallen. Rather ungracefully so; twisting his left ankle and putting a rather nasty gash in his lower leg. He’d managed it this far, but now his leg and ankle were swollen fat as a Bree summer-sausage, and just as darkish red as one, too.

Hithadan hobbled the last distance to the inn and a little further round to the side door to the kitchen. He had a delivery for Cook. One of the merchants traveling in Bree had asked him to deliver a small sack of some beans, coffee beans he’d said. And he’d be mightily thankful should Hithadan be able to take them along with him to The Perch.

Stopping briefly at the pump in the kitchen yard, Hithadan washed off the grime from his travels as best he might. He shook off what leaves and dirt he could from his cloak and brushed off his pants; at last straightening his tunic into some semblance of order.

‘Delivery for Mistress Brandybuck!’ he called out, holding out the rough cotton sack as he entered.

The kitchen seemed in a frantically busy state. Without so much as a welcome, one of the Hobbits quickly took the offered bag from him and shoved a large potato masher into his just emptied grasp. A steaming pot of just drained potatoes was pointed out to him.

‘Bit of a tizzy here, Master H. Use those Big Folk muscles of yours and whip these taters into shape, won’t you?’ he heard the Hobbit’s voice say. Not waiting for an answer, the Hobbit headed to the common room with a basket of biscuits and a pot of jam. Hithadan leaned against the counter where the pot stood and fell to with the masher.
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Old 06-09-2008, 03:32 PM   #633
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Miribelle was a bit distracted. There were wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, especially as the servers went in and out the kitchen’s door. Her mouth watered at the thought of the main meal to come. And it was with a struggle of will that she refrained from getting up to have another helping of biscuits and jam.

The question in Tavaro’s voice drew her attention back to what he had been saying. ‘I have to admit the only tunnels I’m familiar with are those we Hobbits have made for our homes.’ She echoed a part of the Dwarvish refrain he’d just hummed. ‘It’s a very big song those Dwarves have made,’ she went on. ‘Lovely, really, but I should think their voices would rumble through our little tunnels like a winter’s storm through the willows along the river. Too big for our walls.’ She hummed a little more, a spark coming into her eyes at the deep beauty of the song. ‘But you’re right . . . wouldn’t it just be grand to hear this echoing in the great cavern beneath the mountains!’ Spots of color bloomed on the Hobbit’s cheeks at the daring idea she’d briefly entertained of such an adventure as that might be.

‘I really do like those little pictures that you’ve drawn, Master Tavaro,’ she continued, reining back her imaginings. ‘Tell me, what has struck your fancy here in the Shire? Have you ever been to one of the mid-summer parties here in Stock? Plenty of songs and storytelling at those.’ She eyed his tall, lean figure. ‘Why you might even like to join in a springle-ring!’ Miribelle tapped her toes in a lively rhythm as she smiled at him. ‘Keeps you young, you know!’
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Old 06-09-2008, 07:48 PM   #634
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Supper is served, at last...

‘Well I can see your mother raised you up right, Master Hithadan!’

Rowan had just sailed back in through the door from the common room after having made the announcement that dinner was imminent. Though, she didn’t exactly use that word. ‘Loosen your belts, Good Folk! Supper is on its way!’ she’d called out as she arranged several baskets of hot biscuits on one end of a long line of tables she’d had put together. A number of the lads she’d drafted into helping her in this table moving task grinned at her and one or two winked and some rubbed their hands together in anticipation of the long awaited meal.

Hithadan had whipped the taters into a mountain of light and smooth delight. She dipped a clean finger into the inviting mound and savored the taste. ‘Ooh! And didn’t she use a lot of butter, and cream, too,’ she went on, holding up the empty jug that stood near the pot. ‘Why, I’ll bet she’s a Hobbit at heart if not by birth!’

She fetched down three huge serving bowls and divided the mashed potatoes among them. These went on to a large serving tray along with three carefully mounded platters of chicken. On another tray went several big bowls of buttery glistened peas and four large gravy boats.

‘Will, you get the one with the chicken and taters. Prim you take in the cutlery and more tea and mugs. I’ll grab up the peas and gravy.’

She cast a glance at the Ranger as he began to limp toward the door to the common room. ‘Best you stay here, Master Masher. I can see you’re hobbling now that you’re moving about. Go on, sit down at the table and put that leg up on a chair. I’ll dish you up a plate of food and bring you a pint of ale.’

Rowan hefted the tray of peas and gravy boats to her shoulder and made for the door. ‘Right then, my hungry friends. Get yourselves a plate and some cutlery and start the line – one on each side of the tables, if you please. Serve yourself. No pushing, please. There's plenty! Eat up; eat up. A little something sweet will follow.’

Though what that will be is anyone’s guess! she thought to herself as she dished up a generous helping of chicken, taters, gravy and peas for the ranger. Grabbing a large mug of ale from the bar, she made her way quickly back to the kitchen.

‘Cook!’ she called as she sat the plate in front of Hithadan along with the mug. ‘What have we got for dessert?’
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Old 06-09-2008, 08:18 PM   #635
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He’d just begun to inquire about the “springle-ring” Mistress Rushybanks had spoken of when the servers came through the door, food and drink balanced carefully on their hands. He could see his Hobbit companion’s face light up at the sight of the repast now being spread on the tables, and indeed his own stomach seemed to be rumbling a decidedly non-Elvenlike response to the savory scents.

‘After you,’ he said getting up from his seat and offering his arm to Miribelle. They made an odd couple as they wound their way toward the tables.

Plate mounded with the inviting offerings from the tables, Tavaro walked carefully back to his table. He put his plate and mug down on the table’s top and pulled out the chair for his tablemate. ‘Let’s dig in,’ he said, sitting down himself. ‘We’ll talk about springle-rings over dessert, eh?’
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Old 06-09-2008, 09:12 PM   #636
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The sisters continue to take their rest at the Inn...

After eating her fill, Luriniel returned to her sister's room and found, in the closet, several heavy blankets, which she used to make a place to sleep on the floor next to Nienna's bed. Then, she went over to her pack and pulled out a leather bound book, a quill, and a bottle of ink. After marking the date, she wrote:
Second day at the Golden Perch Inn. Nienna still sleeps, but her wounds seem to be healing. We are both receiving long needed rest. It has been many years since we could go a full day without constantly glancing about to guard against trouble. Still, no sign of Melinor. Wherever he is, I wish him well. I will rest again, while I may.
She closed the book and returned it to her belongings. Having checked Nienna once again for fever and finding her temperature to be a bit low, Luriniel took a couple of the blankets and tucked them warmly around her sister. She worried that Nienna was sleeping so deeply, but she could not think on it for much longer as her eyes were growing heavy with sleepiness. She laid down on her makeshift bed and gave in to the weariness that was overwhelming her travel worn body. As she drifted out of consciousness she whispered in her heart a soft prayer that the dream might not come to her on this night.
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Old 06-09-2008, 11:22 PM   #637
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Will followed in Rowan’s wake. Behind him he could hear the happy chatter of those now digging into their meals; before him, he caught Rowan’s question about dessert. He saw Cook wave vaguely in the direction of the pantry. ‘I’ll see to it,’ he called out to Rowan who was seeing to a cup of tea for the Ranger, in addition to the mug of ale she’d already brought him.

‘Let’s see,’ he said, pulling back the pantry door. He walked quickly past the bins of flour and sugar, past the tins of tea, and boxes of peppercorns and paprika. Though it was dim in the pantry and he hadn’t brought a candle in with him, he knew just where to look, not because he helped out with the cooking, but because he had a sweet tooth. And since he’d been taken on at the Inn he’d manage to ferret out the various hiding places Cook had for her pastries and other baked goods.

As he recollected, there had been spice cookies left over from day before yesterday’s lunch. And they would only have improved with a few days’ aging. Now where had the old gal put them?

He checked all the usual places and found nothing save for a half a treacle tart left from yesterday. ‘Ah hah!’ he said aloud, reaching his hand behind the crockery jar filled with raisins. There was the large wooden chest Cook often stored away her extra cookies. He hauled it off the deep pantry shelf and brought it out to the kitchen.

‘Well, that’s taken care of, then,’ he said as he sat the chest down near the kitchen table. He fetched himself a plate piled high with chicken and all the trimmings and sat down opposite Hithadan. If you’re not going to drink that ale, man, maybe I could take care of it for you, eh?’ He glanced at the Ranger’s leg as it rested on the kitchen chair. ‘What ever happened to you?’
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Old 06-10-2008, 12:14 AM   #638
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● Hithadan ●

Hithadan shifted his weight a little on the chair and eased his left leg into a more comfortable position. ‘Go ahead, my thirsty friend, and take the ale. I think I’ll stick with good, strong tea for the while.’

‘What ever happened to you?’ Will asked, reaching for the mug.

Between the chicken and the taters and the gravy and the peas, Hithadan wove his story, embroidering on it a little here and there to draw away his listener’s attention from his real business in Bree.....

‘.....and that’s what happened to my leg. Not all that exciting or thrilling really. Mostly a tale of overindulgence and sheer clumsiness on my part.’

As he finished his story, he found he’d also managed to finish his meal. With a satisfied sigh, Hithadan pushed the plate away from him and took out his pipe and pouch of pipeweed. ‘I think I’ll pass on the cookies. Just another mug of tea, I think.’

He rose carefully from his chair and limped over to the hearth. Snatching a straw from the broom by the stove, he lit it in the fire and then let his now filled pipe from it.’ A stream of fragrant white smoke curled up from the bowl as he made his way back to the table. ‘Care to fill your pipe, Master Will?’ he asked offering the pouch.

It was a one pipe evening for the Ranger. He was tired from his travels, and made more so by his painful leg. With a nod to Cook and a thank-you to Rowan, Prim, and Will for a tasty meal and good company, he made his way to his usual room for the night.

Last edited by Envinyatar; 06-12-2008 at 09:51 PM.
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Old 06-10-2008, 01:11 AM   #639
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Dessert was spice cookies. Two, in fact, washed down with one last cup of tea. By the time she’d taken her last swallow of the sweet liquid she was beginning to feel the tiredness from the long day begin to set in. She stifled a yawn behind her hand and begged the Elf’s pardon.

‘My goodness!’ she said. ‘It seems my day is catching up with me. Sorry to be yawning, Master Tavaro. It’s certainly not your good company and conversation that’s making me do so.’ She crumpled her napkin and put it alongside her now empty mug. ‘And gracious, it’s grown quite dark out,’ she went on, reaching down to get her bag. ‘I think I’d better get my cart and see about getting home.’

Miribelle stood up, looking around to see if Will were somewhere about. She called Prim over and asked her to let Will know that she needed her cart.

‘How kind of you,’ she said as Tavaro offered to walk her out to the stable. She declined to take his arm, but walked close by him as they crossed the yard. It was a bright moon above which lit their way.

Will had harnessed Cookie to the cart and brought it out to meet her just as she reached the stable doors. He held the reins as she climbed up to her seat. She gave him her thanks and waved good-bye to Tavaro, saying in parting that she hoped he would not be leaving soon and that they’d meet again before he did. ‘We still have springle-rings to talk about. And I’d very much like to have you come to my little shop to see what I do.’

Miribelle waved once more to Tavaro and Will. She flicked the reins lightly against Cookie’s back and set out for home and her snug little bed.
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Old 06-10-2008, 09:10 AM   #640
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Will stood in the dark inn yard as Miz Rushybanks drove off. He looked longingly back toward the stable and his rooms there. He’d left the door open and the soft light from the lantern he’d hung from the post as he’d got out Cookie beckoned. His generous side got the better of him, though, and he returned to the kitchen.

Cook was busy stowing away the few leftovers from supper; Rowan and Prim were up to their elbows in soapy water as they attacked the piles of mugs and plates and cutlery. The door to the common room was open and beyond it he could hear Master Boffin sweeping the floor as he tidied up for another day yet to come.

Prim cleared her throat, drawing his attention back to the happenings in the kitchen. And with a meaningful look at the pegs where the dishtowels hung urged him to pick one up.

By the time they’d finished and Cook had swept the floor all of the Hobbits were yawning. Will waved off an offer of a last mug of tea and made his good-byes. ‘See you all in the morning,’ he called to them as he made for the door. ‘Crispy bacon, is it, tomorrow?’ he asked as he passed Cook.

‘Might be just that,’ she said, a more than tired look on her face. And he thought he heard her mumble after, ‘If there’s any breakfast at all . . .’

He shook his head, thinking in his own weariness, he had misheard.
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