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Old 12-07-2009, 09:16 PM   #641
Groin Redbeard
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Girth

His feet were comfortably perched on the table. Never had he had the chance to eat such magnificent food! Such cooks were angels! Girth’s left hand was filled with mutton joint and his right hand dutifully scratched the ears of Dog. His eyes darted around the hall and settled on a couple standing close to the fire. Girth watched them for a while, finding comfort in their obvious affection for each other, but the scene did not last long. The man gave the woman a slight peck on the cheek and departed. The rings of the man’s fiddle soon echoed throughout the hall once again.

“You see, Hamrod, they are not such an unsophisticated people as you think. Though I don’t know why you think of such things. People like us should be satisfied with what is currently ours. After all, most of the people here are simple folk like ourselves.”

“Nay, it was not that the people are un-so-phi-sti-cat-ed, as you say. I have no clue what that means.”

“I hang around my betters too much. But go on…”

“These people are too independent. Why look take that old soldier. Such disrespect! It would do these people good to feel the lash.”

“What? What is this I hear from your lips?! I have never known you to be such an unfeeling man.”

“Aye, and I have never known men such as these.”

“You condemn these people too fast. They are a different people; therefore, it holds that they have different customs. I hold reserved opinions of all men involved in the squabble, but I forgive them. Why just look with what they have provided us with: a magnificent hall and an abounding feast. Tell me Hamrod, when was the last time that you supped at your lord’s table? Have you ever been invited in your lord’s home.”

“It is not our place to sup at lord Athanar’s table or to be invited in his house.”

“True, true, therefore, I am grateful that I am allowed to sup where I have the better sense to stay away from.”

“That didn’t make a lick of sense.”

“Maybe, but that is how I feel and nothing you say is going to make me miserable tonight. Let your opinion ferment for a while longer. The more it sits the more it will stink, in your case.”

“Spoken like a true swine herder!” Hamrod shook his head causing his straight curly hair shaking like ruffled bush. Girth grabbed his belly and laughed heartily.

“Aye, I’ll drink to that. May the dirt of Scarburg bring forth a great many piglets!”
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Old 12-08-2009, 11:33 AM   #642
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Saeryn

Saeryn stared at Athanar, not comprehending quite what he meant. “The king has given you lands and a title, what more do you really expect? Eomer may not realize that you are hoping for some larger grant from him. What if you don’t ever leave this place, after all? What then? Your sons will not simply step aside for my child, if your family is still here when the time for an inheritance comes. I cannot see that they would let anyone outside of your family take something that they would rightfully think is theirs. I don’t blame you, lord Athanar. Don’t think I do. It is a difficult situation that all of us have been thrown into. I wish there was some simple way of solving this problem, but so far as I can see, I cannot say what the answer is.”

----
Thornden

Thornden watched Lady Wynflaed walk away, followed by their sons. He was struck with the authority she held over them. It was very different from the authority that Saeryn exercised, being much colder and aloof. She let her orders leave no room for argument, and even if they did, she didn’t, for she left without waiting for any questions to be asked. Twice she had done it to him now in less than two minutes, first ordering him to come, and now ordering him to stay.

He turned his head to Lithor and Crabannan who both stood waiting.

“Well?” he asked. “What’s happening now, Lithor? And what are you doing here, Crabbanan? I hope you weren’t looking for a fight?”
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Old 12-08-2009, 01:58 PM   #643
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Wulfric, Wilheard and Wynflaed

The two young men followed their mother in silence. Wilheard was thinking of other matters, and Wulfric knew better than to start arguing with his mother while the three old Scarburgians were still within earshot.

"Now," said Wynflaed once they were far enough, "both of you had better have a perfectly reasonable explanation for what you were doing here and why--especially you, Wilheard. Unfortunately, I myself cannot think of any excuse you could give me that would hold water, so I must needs conclude that neither of you are particularly reasonable and are in fact lacking in mental faculties altogether. Do I make myself clear? Why were you not in the Hall setting a good example for the people?"

"You might ask that same of Master Thornden," Wulfric replied. "We two just went out for a short walk. He, on the other hand, was plotting treason with that old soldier called Lithor. Lord Athanar needs to know about this."

"I was not asking for an explanation of Master Thornden's behavior. I was asking for an explanation of yours.

Be that as it may, you know full well that we of the Eorlingas do not deal with anyone, traitor or otherwise, by striking at them in private as if we were ashamed for others to see our deeds. If indeed Thornden and Lithor were planning treason, why did you not run and fetch your father as anyone respecting the rule of law ought?"

Wulfric and Wilheard exchanged glances. Again Wulfric spoke: "The accusation of treason should not be spoken lightly. We followed Lithor to ask him what were he and Thornden up to."

"And we also wanted to know what he had done to upset Father, since we weren't present when that happened," Wilheard added quickly. Wulfric gave him a dark look.

"And if indeed the accusation of treason should not be spoken lightly, why are you so quick to accuse Thornden?" Wynflaed held up a hand to quiet her sons.

"I am not saying that your accusations are groundless; however, thus far Thornden has proven himself a reliable ally in this transition of power. If what you say is true there must be stronger evidence at hand than a mere conversation, overheard at the wrong times. Such things have been expanded and exaggerated in the past, to the grief of all. And this still does not explain, Wilheard, why you leveled the baseless accusation at Lithor that he hit your sister, nor why you were so eager to strike him."

"How can you say the accusation is baseless!" Wilheard burst out. "That man hates our family! He obviously disrespected our father, and he insulted me and Wulfric too. Who else would dare offend Aedre?"

Wynflaed laughed--a slow, quiet, rueful chuckle. "Ah, the innocence of youth," she said. "You must have taken the tales of Orcs and Riders too much to heart when you were young. We are not fighting a single Shadowed enemy as we were when you were children, my sons, and we are not fighting for land or even people, but for their hearts. I can think of many good people who, if goaded the wrong way, would do something they previously thought dishonorable in the heat of a moment--even something as dishonorable as striking a defenseless girl.

The one who hit Aedre, as it turns out, was not a man but a child her age. But since you were ready to jump to conclusions based on a few scanty actions of this man, you very nearly made our already tenuous position worse. If you will continue to so dishonor our house that the hearts of these people are set against us--whether you think you are in the right or not--you will hurt me, your father, and yourselves even more than if you had let small slanders lie. If you cannot learn to deal with people and these situations properly and respectfully, I am not above placing you in the service of the stablemaster for a day or two. And I doubt, when he hears of this, that Lord Athanar will be above it either.

I am ashamed of both of you, my sons, but even more ashamed of myself that I should have borne and raised such sons as this. Leave the ruling of this hall to the adults until you have proven yourself fit for their company."

Wynflaed took a deep breath. "Now, as for the matter of Thornden--I wish you to tell me, word for word, what you heard him and Lithor say. I do not approve of your snooping about like this, but we may as well make use of such information."

"As for the matter of Thornden, I'm going to report that to Father, not you, since I know you will undoubtedly present the matter in a way that suits you and not true to what I say," Wulfric replied.

"And as for being ashamed, that you should indeed be." There was a flash of anger in his eyes and although he knew he was on dangerous waters, he could not help but continue: "What kind of woman are you? You hardly care that your daughter was beaten, and you join the insulting choir against your sons without first bothering to find out what happened. You refuse to act on treachery against your lord and husband, undoubtedly you will do nothing until he lies dead at your feet!"

Wynflaed's eyes smoldered. "I very much do care that Aedre was hurt, and rest assured that the one who laid hands on her will receive justice." Her lips spread into a thin, feline smile.

"If you truly think that Athanar and I will do nothing in defense of this treachery and treason, then you have forgotten--we both of us grew up and lived--and survived--under the court of Grima Wormtongue. I assure you, compared to those dark years, these intrigues are child's play. And as for you, Wulfric--how can you expect anyone to treat you as your status merits if you cannot even keep a civil tongue when talking to your own mother?

Make your report to your father, son. It is, in fact, probably better that you do so than I, since these matters are strictly military. I shall learn as much about this situation as I may, and if it turns out that you were blameless in all your words and deeds here, I will apologize to you. You are correct--I should not be ready to assume you are wholly in the wrong.

But if you think Lord Athanar will trust your account of these events over anyone else's simply because you have spoken to him first, you are mistaken. If I learn that you have left anything out--including your fist, Wilheard--it shall go worse for you in the end.

Go, with my blessing, to share your intelligence, and in the meantime I shall try to glean as much more from this situation as I may."

Wilheard gave his mother a morose look. Wulfric wanted to reply his mother's words, but he knew it would end up in another sermon - such was the way of aging women - so he merely nodded.

"Come, Will," he said to his brother. They turned to go.

"I may be unable to keep a civil tongue when talking to my mother but she is surely unable to keep her tongue when talking to her children..." Wulfric muttered as they started towards the Hall where they would find their father.

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Old 12-08-2009, 04:42 PM   #644
Groin Redbeard
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Lithor

Thornden seemed annoyed in his voice. Lithor was very surprised to see that Wynflaed had acted so promptly on the situation, she had startled him far more than the young man’s oncoming fist (Lithor still had not caught the young men’s names). Lithor watched for a moment as the men obediently trotted after their mother and then turned his attention to Thornden and addressed him formally.

“Certainly not, Master Thornden. Crabannan is in no way responsible for my actions. Indeed, he came here to prevent a fight but arrived too late. I am to blame for this fight.”

“Tell me what happened.” Thornden asked. Lithor was quiet and stood straight at attention as if to expect an order or rather a judgment.

It may seem strange to hear Lithor, who had almost been in rage and indignation with his two unknown opponents, suddenly turn and defend them by remaining silent. The answer is simple: being now twice accused of treason in one night he had better start acting like a soldier. The consequence of his actions had finally begun to sink in. Decades of training, long forgotten under Eodwine’s rule, were beginning take hold. Lithor had been more like a guard than an actual soldier under Eodwine. Now that Lithor had come into contact with a lord who was true soldier, his mind began to draw its nourishment not from everyday working life, but from training and years of unquestionable obedience.

However, Lithor was troubled that if he took the better part of the blame the accusation that the men will bring against Thornden might be believable. Lithor was not optimistic with two of his lord’s sons about to testify to their father, he hardly expected Athanar to be a fair judge in this case. What mattered was keeping Crabannan’s (who had already been in hot water with Lithor) and Thornden’s reputations clean.

“I will not defend my actions, sir, but I think that you should know that these young men are out to slander your good name. They are accusing you of treason as well, sir.” Lithor was still standing at attention but he noticed that Wynflaed had joined them.

He hated to be gawked at and examined like some horse at a fair. Athanar’s words rang in his ears: court jest, start acting like a soldier, should know better. This is precisely why Lithor liked Eodwine’s rule: everyone was their own man adhering to a common law—that was a working man’s life, a peace time life. All that had vanished so fast today. Still, Lithor would do his duty and start being more obedient. Lithor swore allegiance to his lord; however, his conscience would remain his own.
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Old 12-08-2009, 08:03 PM   #645
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"I don't know what your actions were, Lithor," Thornden replied. "It might be defence enough if I were to just learn what happened." He glanced at Wynflaed, standing silent just out of the ring created by Crabannan, Lithor and himself. "As for their report to their father, I know not how they could slander my name, for I have done nothing to be ashamed of.

"Come, sir," he said, only half sternly. "You must tell me what has happened here, or I cannot possibly judge fairly."
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:02 PM   #646
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Coen shook his head as his men bantered, and waited for Hilderinc to finish as he tried to answer the captain's question in between all the interruptions. Coen nodded at the man's conclusion that the barracks would be fine. He was sure they would be, and that the complainers like Scyrr had become too accustomed to his position in Edoras. This Scarburg was a far cry from the Golden Hall and the barracks attached to the hall and in the surrounding area.

"You should be happier to be building than riding at the head of a charge," he said pointedly to Scyrr before answering Hilderinc's question. He glanced around the group of soldiers, letting his eyes linger a moment on the young Baldwic. "And I hope none of you will lose your wits over any kitchen maids," he all but muttered before turning back to Hilderinc.

"Thornden?" he said as he thought. "I expect so. He was the man the soldiers here answered to, and of course he's going to continue managing some things around here, at least for the time being." He stroked his beard momentarily, something he did not do often. This Thornden was quite a young man, not that he seemed incapable. "You men are still under my command, and the few soldiers under Eodwine will be under my command as well -- and remember that even though I talk of you separately, by tomorrow you will all just be soldiers of Scarburg."

Coen looked at Hilderinc thoughtfully, but not accusatorily. "Why do you ask? Did you have any problems with him when he showed you the barracks?" He glanced around at the other men now, as well.
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Old 12-08-2009, 09:40 PM   #647
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Lithor

"Sir, it is not a question of truthfulness, it is a question of character." Lithor spoke in a low tone to Thornden. Lithor was wary of Wynflaed standing amongst them. So far he disliked her children, had no cause to love her husband, but how would she fair? Her eyes seemed gentle and understanding as Thornden's. They seemed to command for Lithor to continue.

"Madam," he said bowing low. "Sir," he turned again to Thornden. "I have been in squabbles like this before and I know that it is the person with the best character who is believed. Let my past actions be my witness, whether it be a good or an ill one." Lithor turned to Wynflaed and bowed again.

"I crave your pardon, madam, if I seem rude. Today has been a strenuous day for us all and I feel quite out of myself. I trust your sons to be truthful men and I trust that their telling will be accurate. I, therefore, yield to your graces and will speak no more tonight."
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Old 12-08-2009, 10:30 PM   #648
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Thornden pressed his lips together. If Lithor would not speak to defend himself, then so be it. "You are retiring, then?" he asked. Lithor nodded. "I bid you goodnight," Thornden said. "I will see you in the morning."

Lithor turned and departed and Thornden turned back towards the hall. Wynflaed walked beside him and Crabannan came a step or so behind. Thornden turned to look at him. "I am sorry I leaped to conclusions just now. I should have known that you weren't looking for trouble."
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Old 12-09-2009, 06:49 PM   #649
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Wulfric & Wilheard

The two brothers walked to the hall in silence. Wulfric was too aggravated to start about the treachery at hand or about his mother's nannying; he feared that if he let himself start, there would be no end to his rant. Wilheard, on the other hand, was trying to come up with the most painful yet lawful enough ways to revenge on the rascal who had beaten his sister.

They entered the hall, full of warmth and merry chattering of people. They looked with despisal on the unknown faces. Traitors, though Wulfric. Beaters of kids, thought Wilheard.

They found their father deep in conversation with Lady Saeryn and her brother.
"Excuse me my lord, there's something that cannot wait," Wulfric cut in formally, hardly letting Saeryn finish her sentence.

Athanar's blue eyes flashed with annoyance, but also with interest. "I have an important discussion here, Wulfric."
"Not to disrespect, but this could be even more important," said Wulfric. Wilheard nodded in agreement.

For a while, Athanar studied their serious faces and the anger behind their eyes, and rose up then. "Excuse me, Lord Degas, Lady Saeryn..." he said and lead his sons to the corridor next to the hall.

"Now what is it?" he asked with an edge of impatience to his voice.

"The locals act with utmost disrespect towards us," Wilheard said.
"But we can handle that, of course, we are grown up men and we can earn the respect that belongs to us," Wulfric amended quickly, stepping on Wilheard's foot. Why was his brother such an idiot?
"Well what is it then?" Athanar asked, now the impatience clearer in his voice.
"Treachery," said Wulfric. "We heard Thornden discuss with a soldier named Lithor, and Lithor was talking of how Thornden must earn your trust so that the folk that lived here under Eodwine can use it to their advantage."
"And what did Thornden say?"
"He didn't say yes or no."

Lord Athanar shook his head. "Then you are making hasty conclusions and we will not discuss this matter now. There has been enough talk and trouble for today."
"But..." Wulfric protested and Athanar cut in:
"I will nevertheless expect a full report of the discussion tomorrow. I will also want to hear how did you manage to hear the discussion and what happened outside after Thornden came back in and he and your mother left."
"Sure, my lord," Wulfric said stiffly, inclining his head a little.
"Sure, o most noble and gracious liege-lord to whom I give my loyalty until and after my woeful death in the hands of thy enemies," Wilheard said in a mock serious voice and bowed so low that his hair wiped the floor.

"Good night, boys," Athanar said, his eyes glinting with amusement, and went back to the hall.

"Idiot," said Wulfric, and smacked Wilheard.
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:24 PM   #650
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"Why do you ask? Did you have any problems with him when he showed you the barracks?"

Hilderinc shook his head firmly. "No, sir. I was just curious. Even though you are now the first in command here, commander Thornden will also be our superior from now on. I think he has not given himself away very much when showing us the barracks, he just lead the way. Of course back then he did not have yet the formal authority."

So, Hilderinc thought, it did not seem that Coenred had any special feelings about Thornden either - not especially positive, but also not especially negative. That was reassuring by itself, although tomorrow and the following days will certainly show more. Hilderinc assumed, given his own experiences with many commanders throughout the years, that he would be able to figure Thornden out quite soon.

And the conditions of this entire stay here - Hilderinc looked over his shoulder at the rest of the soldiers in the hall - will be all the same from the beginning, unless some unexpected things happened. That would mean that accustoming himself to the circumstances will be the most reasonable thing to do in the very beginning, as soon as possible, as it has been always anyway. Many of the young soldiers - and sometimes also old, more experienced ones - made often the mistake of riding against the wind, thinking that the world will change if they fight hard enough. But Hilderinc knew very well that this was not the case. Many soldiers will come complaining about Scarburg, about its other inhabitants, about this and that, while eventually they will get used to Scarburg as it is and succumb to the conditions and the daily rythm of the place. It made one's life a lot easier if he did that earlier than later, though.

Getting accustomed to new commanders and new fellow soldiers was one of the ways to do it. Coen had said it well - "by tomorrow you will all be soldiers of Scarburg". This was exactly the case. They will all be the soldiers of Scarburg, only some would refuse to accept it immediately. But that's how it was. And it was easier to accept it than to learn about it the hard way.

In a way, Hilderinc now pitied that there have not been any more attempts for interaction between the local people and Athanar's folk today - apart from perhaps the very bad and awkward performance from this Lithor, of which Hilderinc still was not sure; the man seemed to be perhaps one of those who, despite their age, seemed to favour riding against the wind. But even apart from that the atmosphere has been possibly just too tense tonight. After some time of drinking and eating Hilderinc now felt more relaxed, even among most of the people the initial unrest seemed to be forgotten, but if they were to be ready to start doing something tomorrow, they would better not start getting acquainted with each other now as that could well last until morning. And Hilderinc at least wanted to have clear head tomorrow of all days, and he would also prefer to feel as little grumpy from having to wake up as possible.

He actually started to think that it might be more reasonable to go to sleep earlier, to return to the barracks before most of the other men do, to claim some good spot for himself. The soldiers would likely make noise while returning, but as a seasoned soldier himself, Hilderinc has learned how to wake up easily and again immediately fall asleep easily and almost anywhere.

He turned back to Coenred. "I think it will be all easier for us to start to work together when you are here in command, sir," he said, thinking now about the soldiers who were familiar with Coenred from Athanar's household. "And it will be easier for those who originate from here that commander Thornden will be there with us, too. You will see us working as one, the soldiers of Scarburg."

Hilderinc intentionally used the word "Scarburg", not "Athanar", and it occured to him that maybe Coen did the same thing before on purpose. Telling the soldiers that they were all soldiers of Scarburg eliminated the gap between those who could - like that Lithor seemed to - still ride against the wind and not accept Athanar's presence, for whatever absurd personal reasons.

Hilderinc was thinking about lifting himself and leaving the table if Coen did not have anything more important to say to his men about tomorrow. Some fresh night air and getting early to bed was just preferrable now.

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Old 12-09-2009, 10:19 PM   #651
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Náin was watching Athanar again. The Dwarf had drawn his own pipe, and was gently tamping a bowl of pipeweed in with his broad, muscular thumb. He had to move briefly towards the fire to find himself a light, since it was more effort to strike tinder and flint than he was interested in exercising, and soon a cloud of sweet-scented smoke was drifting towards the rafters from his corner near the fireplace. Quite possibly, he thought, if it were only Athanar and himself who smoked in Scarburg, the idea might develop that it was some sort of noble past-time.

Degas and Saeryn were left alone as Athanar's sons approached him, and drew him aside to the corridor. Náin watched their interaction through the thickening film of smoke, and shook his head slightly. Young noblemen, it seemed, came all too often in the spoiled model--or, at least, the immature. Wulfric and Wilheard were too old to be acting like children--though they were, in Náin's opinion. It was the curse of the nobility--and of Mannish nobility specifically. Granted, it was years longer before a Dwarf was full-grown, but no nearly-grown adolescents would have acted so obviously puffed up around the Lord of their house, especially if he were their father.

Not that Náin had any idea what the young nobles were cornering their father for. It didn't matter. They had the excited, self-consciously proud bounce to them that said they had something to say that made them important. In an adult, it would be called toadyness, but in children--which they belatedly were--it was simply immaturity.

Here the Dwarf's sympathies were decidedly with the common folk, who had no time for nonsense. In Rohan, as in Dale or Bree or Gondor, if your father was not wealthy, you started labouring with him form a young age--younger than Wilheard, certainly. But when your father was a noble? Náin thought a touch more Dwarvenness would serve Men better, by apprenticing their noble sons to a craftsman, but no noble among Men would ever consider such a thing. So while Náin was both a lord of moderately high standing among his people and a master craftsman, the sons of Athanar would probably never be more than nobles--maybe, if they were lucky, Athanar would send them for soldiering, and they'd learn discipline thus.

Not that it seemed likely. Wulfric, at least, should have been sent off already if he were to serve with the Riders, and Wilheard would ride as well if Éomer had to summon the Muster of the Mark.

As usual, thought Náin, Men do things well up to a point--and then cease being practical because of some unfathomably large blind-spot. So often it was their children.
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Old 12-10-2009, 08:39 AM   #652
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Hilderinc's gaze was wandering about the room and for the first time he properly noticed the Dwarf sitting near the fireplace. Now he remembered that he had spotted him before, but his mind was probably occupied by other things at that moment - like Athanar's or Saeryn's speech - and he didn't pay much attention to the short man back then.

Hilderinc had no experience with Dwarves, he had never encountered one face to face, even though he knew many of them were now working at Helm's Deep. This Dwarf was just as Hilderinc had expected Dwarves to be: short, rather square-shaped and with ridiculously long beard. Hilderinc's eyes stopped at him for a while and he also noticed that the Dwarf was smoking a pipe. That only contributed to the alien feeling the Dwarf was giving to Hilderinc. Of course, the habit of smoking was not completely unfamiliar to him, but he had never tried it himself (he did not even expect to have a chance to try it) and it still seemed like a novelty to him. Lord Athanar also had a pipe, Hilderinc has learned about that fact already back in Edoras, shortly after entering into his service. It seemed like an odd habit for an old man like Athanar, but perhaps for the nobles it was an interesting curiosity to occupy themselves with. Actually Athanar might not have been the first of Hilderinc's superiors who had been smoking, Hilderinc was thinking that possibly one of his earlier masters had been smoking as well. If rumours were to be believed, this habit came from one of the strange peoples beyond the Mountains, the holbytlan - in whose land, if rumours were to be believed once again, Saruman of Isengard and Wormtongue have met their end. Folk from the legends and bedtime stories - as Hilderinc kept hearing them since his childhood - yet according to what Hilderinc once heard from one old traveler from the North, they have killed that slippery snake. Too much real for the creatures from children's stories anyway. A bit like these Dwarves.

What was the Dwarf doing here anyway? The Dwarves were rumoured to be good craftsmen, perhaps that was why this one was in Scarburg. But couldn't the former eorl's men have built the Hall by themselves? Hilderinc was wondering about that. The Hall certainly did not seem to be in any better condition than if it was being built by Men only, as far as he could see. Now was this the Mark or some sort of Dwarfland? Maybe it was just the previous lord's whim to have a "special" worksman here. Great lords indeed seemed to have these weird habits. Hilderinc wondered if Athanar was of the same mind, though. But once the Dwarf was here, Athanar would probably leave him in his place. Especially if they shared the pipeweed-smoking habit. But what exactly was this Dwarf's position in Scarburg anyway?

Hilderinc interrupted his thoughts at that point. His mug seemed empty and he was not sure if he wanted to stay around much longer. Maybe a last one, then, and after that it was the time to go.
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Old 12-10-2009, 10:54 AM   #653
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Lithor

The hall was merrier than when Lithor had left it. Good, it was good to see some mighty cheer within the hall. On the far end Lithor saw the two sons withdraw with their father. How honest would they prove? He would find out tomorrow. On the right hand corner of the hall the soldiers were talking in groups segregated between old and newcomer. His friends Matrim and Balvir seemed to be enjoying themselves, Lithor desperately wanted to talk to them to anyone of his shrinking circle of friends. Those who he had thought knew him well received him with cold stares as he walked along the wall into the barracks. He had half thought of sleeping in the freezing night air rather than sleeping with more than half a dozen soldiers who thought the worst of him, but in the end he decided against it. Let them try and force me out. I still might have friends left. He knelt down on his bed and threw the covers on.

These torments would pass in time. It had been his experience that time and solitude would heal him. For a long time Lithor lay gazing up at the beams thinking of all those faces in the hall and of those two ungentle men who he would encounter tomorrow. No need to worry about that yet, tomorrow will come in its own good time; sleep instead.

~~~~~~~~~~

Erbrand & Girth

The song ended on a fast beat and Erbrand was relieved when he had finished it. Playing such fast songs challenged his mind to race faster than his fingers, but it was very well played.

“Well done good sir!” Someone shouted nearby. It came from a balding man of incredible size sitting to his left in a most liberally comfortable position. Erbrand rose and walked over seeing a good opportunity for a meeting.

“I don’t believe I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance.”

“Pleasure? That is a matter of taste. Few people find pleasure in the acquaintance of a pig master.”

“You attend pigs?”

“Pigs, cattle, goats, all are my own to protect and watch just as Athanar watches over us. I have no such prominence (nor do I seek any mind you) as you but I am proud and content with my status in life.”

Erbrand smiled. “I hold as much prominence in this hall as you, good sir. Tonight’s honor will be gone tomorrow. I am a tanner and craftsman by trade.”

Girth’s eyes brightened when Erbrand said this and eagerly pointed to a chair for Erbrand to sit. “Good! then we may speak as equals and not be bound by the restraints of formality.” Erbrand already began to feel uncomfortable—he liked formal speech. However, Girth pressed on with question after question pertaining from everything from quality of mud (as if Erbrand studied the mud on the bottom of his boots every night) to relations with the locals (as if Erbrand had bumped in to Tancred and his friends everyday in the kitchen). The discussion (rather the questioning) proceeded in this style for a good many minutes leaving Erbrand feeling very tired of the mundane questions he had to answer but also pleased at finding such an open person. Presently the discussion changed.

“Tell me of your former lord.” Girth asked right after Erbrand had finished answering Girth’s previous question. For a moment Erbrand did not know what to say, the thoughts taking form in his mind.

“My former lord?” he said presently, “You mean lord Eodwine.”

“Is that his name? Oh, then tell about this Eodwine. Was he a good lord?”

“I do not think that there is a better man in Rohan, save the king. He was a gentle ruler and did not like to pester his subjects a lot. When something needed doing he would calmly address the people and tell them in the plainest terms what was happening.” Girth listened intently he nodded his head in thought.

“An honest man?”

“I never knew a more humble and honest man than him. My loyalty to him is fierce. I would follow him down a dragon’s throat.”

“Ah, I can see Eodwine was a good lord by the loyalty he instills in his subjects. Loyalty is everything when it comes to ruling.” Girth rubbed his head and looked to where Athanar sat. “What think you of my lord?”

The question was not unexpected, Erbrand had anticipated it. “I have had the privilege of actually talking with your lord, Athanar.” Girth’s eyes widened in amazement. “When I talked with him he sounded reasonable and a good man, as every bit as good as lord Eodwine was. However, I have yet to swear an oath of allegiance to your lord, not that I expect him to ask for one, nor do I intend to give him any.” Girth gave Erbrand a cautious stare, he was speaking too loud. The two leaned closer to each other and Erbrand continued in a suppressed voice.

“I do not like your lord, Athanar, at all!”

“Why so friend? Is it because he ousted your soldier from his place in the middle of the hall?”

“That soldier is a friend of mine.” Erbrand said in a growl. “I have known him to have an honorable and a loving soul. Athanar does not know what he is talking about when he accused Lithor of treason!” Girth leaned back in his chair and viewed Erbrand thoughtfully.

“Go on, sir, continue. What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I say.”

Girth looked astonished at Erbrand. If there was vocation where bluntness and brute honesty were required, this man would excel at it.

“Know you to who you speak?” Girth asked astonished. “You should curve your tongue a little more. Men in such lowly estates as us cannot afford to be ratted out to our better for such slanderous talk. Athanar is my lord as well as yours now and we should honor him.”

“Aye, and let the Dark One who reigned in Mordor be sometimes honored for his burning throne!” Erbrand’s eyes were lit with rage. His fist slammed down on the table at his last word. Girth looked around uneasily, no one had noticed them.

“Sir, I see honesty in your eyes,” spoke Girth with urgency as if Erbrand’s honesty was a disease that must be cured immediately. “Come now, your full mind is not yet known to me. Empty your thoughts to me and I will empty mine in turn.”

“Athanar has shown nothing but disrespect for Scarburg and its people since his first minute of arrival! First, he strips my lord Thornden and my lady Saeryn of their titles and offers the titles to some of his own people. Then to seem “reasonable” and “kind” he offers them lesser titles.”

“Know you this for certain?”

“Aye, it was as unmistakable as your portly belly in his speech. And speaking of speech, did not lady Saeryn speak wiser than he? Answer truthfully, she was not talking about her wonderful status and how the king gave Eodwine the earldom of of the East Emnet therefore she should be in charge. She was above that, talking of unity. Athanar will treat Saeryn until everyone is calmed down and then toss her out of the hall!” Erbrand was getting too loud once again. Girth urgently motioned for him to quite down. They were not noticed.

“Secondly, Athanar has dared to cudgel us with the terrible news of my lord Eodwine being close to death, may he be spared! That speech he made was full of foul handed tricks, such as suddenly revealing that parchment from the king. Thirdly, Athanar has moved too fast in asserting his lordship and has shown that he is too hard in his dealings with us. A most unjust move to condemn a soldier that he doesn’t know, performing a tradition that he doesn’t honor. Do you not have games at great festivals such as these, Girth?”

“I do not think it was the surprise of such a bold game that angered my lord as it was Lithor’s words. He questioned Athanar’s rule and again questioned him when he was called on it.”

“Ah! Are we to condemn men for inquiring to why they are being accused of treason over a baseless claim? Your lord is too eager to assert himself over us. He expects us to fall in line and follow him without any ceremony of allegiance. Why does he need to rule Scarburg if his objective is to deal with the treacherous nobles? A military expedition would work better in my opinion. Athanar is a tyrant just like the Tancred and Faramund. Those two jackals who he calls sons are devils of the deep too, I can see it in their eyes!”


“Enough, in truth enough!” Girth was not angry, but frightened. This man had changed from being complacent and pleasant to being on the verge of explosion. No, he had exploded and had quite lost his head.

“Calm down friend. You speak too passionately of things that you have no business in speaking of.”

“Is it not my business by whom and how I am ruled over?”

“No sir, in fact it is not. Lords are placed over us by the king himself. An act of defiance against our lords would be an act of defiance against the king. We must go along with the king’s will no matter what.”

“In that you are wrong, good Girth. For the king may appoint nobles to look after us because he knows their abilities as governors, but that does not mean he knows their hearts and the fullness of their minds. Ambition and ingratitude can easily be disguised in modesty and gratitude, patiently waiting until the time is ripe to pick their fruit. Look at the nobles who we have dispute with. Did the king not appoint them too?”

“True, you speak truth, Erbrand. But as long as my lord is an honest man, I need not be ashamed of him.”

“He is not an honest man and I am indeed ashamed of him! My lady has been ousted from her position without a care and replaced. I have heard insults lain on lady Saeryn that make my ears burn. Yet, no action is taking against it; whereas, Athanar demonizes a good soldier for less. Such arrogance is not fit for lords, only for fools.”

“Listen Erbrand, and I mean listen carefully. You may not like how things are going right now, but it may all change soon enough. I know Athanar to be a fair ruler and I doubt not that all will be dealt with and properly balanced. Just like Athanar might have misconceptions about Lithor, so may you about Athanar.” For the first time Erbrand’s complexion softened with surprise. He had never thought of it like that.

“Lord Athanar is ordered by the king to look after us here at Scarburg and he has the king’s authority in the matter. It is only right that he should have command of Scarburg, and I see no treachery or foulness in him producing a piece of parchment that proves his authority. Lady Saeryn will find a position that will suit her and the old Scarburg in time. Tomorrow will be a better day for us all. Though if Lithor is executed for treason, it will make a lier of justice, but I doubt it will come to that. No use fighting it, best accept fate and live with it.”

Girth was indifferent to how is lord ruled just so long as it was honest. He had no ideas of permanently settling at Scarburg, his troubles would all be left behind when his lord decided to up and move. Girth was disturbed by Erbrand’s explosion of rage. Not fifteen minutes ago Girth had seen him acting quite happy with a maid over by the fire. There was love in his eyes then and not a spark of hate, yet this was an uncomfortable warning to what this fellow could fast become. It was unhealthy for a peasant to get too upset about things he could not change. However, Scarburg was a small settlement; perhaps the peasants had more say in their governing than they did in a large city.

“Fate may not always go justly with us,” Erbrand said. “And you are right that we must live with it one way or another, but I will never be silenced from speaking my mind.”

“Of course, friend, I do not wish to silence you. If you choose to get upset over such things then you do that. Simply tone it down a bit.” He smiled.

“I am sorry if I have offended you in my rage against Athanar’s injustice. I now know you to be a man of clear thought and would feign know you better. My first impression of Athanar was that of a good man; I hope he proves to be so again.” Erbrand smiled and rose from his seat.

“That he will, friend, that he will you wait and see. The hour is late and I am tired. Till tomorrow then, and may it prove a brighter day to us all.”

Last edited by Groin Redbeard; 12-10-2009 at 04:33 PM.
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Old 12-10-2009, 04:43 PM   #654
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Athanar returned to the table clearly agitated. Degas and Saeryn couldn't help noticing it. Their questioning gazes followed him as he sat down and emptied his goblet with one draught.

Lord Athanar turned towards the kitchens to see anyone at the door. As Ginna emerged from the door he waved his goblet to her and then finally turned back to face the siblings.

"Well?" Degas asked, trying to sound as neutral as he could.

Lord Athanar breathed heavily gazing at the goblet he toyed with in his hands absent-mindedly.

"Well... I don't know." He glanced around to make sure no one else was hearing them speaking. "Well, watching you two... you could be my children, you're not that different age from Wulfric and Wilheard... and yet you seem so much older." He fell silent and studied the goblet in his hands.

"Maybe I should have given the two more responsibilities to stand for themselves... maybe I should have thrown them out to stand for their own a lot earlier..." Athanar shook his shoulders and finally turned to look at the two again. "I don't know your stories but I hope being able to hear them one evening... What made you decent and reasonable noblemen?"

He fell silent for a moment but then continued: "That's what I have been thinking myself over and over again... My childhood was not easy... I had to fight for myself and for justice to me and my brother..." Suddenly there was a tear in his eye, and another.

"Please lord Athanar..." Saeryn started, but he waved her to let it be. After wiping the tears from his cheeks he turned back to the two again.

"We were schemed away from the lineage of inheritance by my cousins who were helped by their family. My brother..." He had to swallow once again.

Suddenly he straightened himself up. "Excuse me.. There maybe another time for this..." He had heard the oncoming steps and Ginna was there indeed pouring him and the others some more wine.

Athanar thanked Ginna with a cordial smile and then turned back.

"We'll have to make some strong decisions tomorrow... We just can't afford another day like this." He took a sip of the wine looking like thinking where to begin.

"Someone bruised my daughter today, this Lithor-fellow played fool with me openly challenging king Eomer's decree - and he was supported by some people here... but now I hear my sons have meddled up with this Lithor and Thornden as well..." With the last news Saeryn and Degas looked confused. Athanar could sense a worried look in Saeryn's eyes.

"No one's hurt lady Saeryn... at least physically." He made a try for a comforting smile but it was a bit lame and he knew that. He was not in a good or comforting mood himself, too much aware of the sleepless night of heavy decisions he would be facing.


They heard the door opening and saw Thornden and Wynflaed coming back in - and someone following them but taking another route coming inside.

"Master Thornden" Athanar said firmly and then turned to Saeryn "Lady Saeryn".

Waiting for Thornden and Wynflaed to take their seats he then continued.

"I want to see this Lithor and that guy who stood for him here tomorrow morning after breakfast... before the military excercises. I hope you Thornden will see it done. And you should be here too yourself." Thornden nodded.

"And if anyone of you knows who was the person who roughed my daughter, let that person be there as well." He looked at all the people around the table.

"I'll see personally that Coenred will be there, and my sons... to hear different sides into what happened out there." Lord Athanar emptied his goblet.

"But I would like to see you lady Saeryn and lord Degas there as well to make sure the judgements are dealt fairly. That should do for the disciplinary measures... But we have other matters to discuss as well tomorrow, especially concerning you and your unborn one lady Saeryn. I hope I can come up with a suggestion on that tomorrow."

He rose up and laid the goblet on the table. "But for now... if you have no pressing matters to share I would like to wish you a good night everyone... I have quite a many issues to settle before I can get to sleep..."
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Old 12-10-2009, 11:22 PM   #655
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Saeryn felt embarrassed when tears came to lord Athanar's eyes. She looked away, across the hall, and then at Degas briefly. How had she and Degas turned out thus? Good parentage, mostly...their mother and father had been kind and gentle and let them learn the lessons of life instead of holding them above it. But more recently, Eodwine himself had trained her, at least, and maybe Degas, too.

After a moment, the strong man that had been present all day returned and Athanar was once more composed and stern. He turned his speech to what must be done on the morrow, and Saeryn again looked at him, listening in silence. She was startled to hear Thornden’s named mentioned and her eyes shot towards the door. He put her fears to rest – another fight had not, apparently, taken place. She missed his implication when he added ‘at least physically.’ In just a moment, as though to confirm to her that Thornden had not been hurt, the man in question came inside with Wynflaed and they both came back towards the head table. Athanar called Thornden over and addressed himself to him.

"I want to see this Lithor and that guy who stood for him here tomorrow morning after breakfast.” Saeryn looked from Athanar to Thornden. Their eyes met briefly. “Before the military exercises,” Athanar continued. “I hope you, Thornden, will see it done. And you should be here too yourself." Thornden nodded, and considered asking why Crabannan was wanted, but he held his tongue when he saw Athanar continuing.

"And if anyone of you knows who was the person who roughed my daughter, let that person be there as well.” Thornden leaned back slightly in his chair and broke the eye contact with Athanar briefly. He knew very well who had roughed up the lord’s daughter, and apparently Athanar didn’t. He looked towards Saeryn and saw that from the way she was looking downwards at her hands, she, too, knew. He looked again at Athanar, waiting for him to finish.

When he rose from his seat, Saeryn, Degas, and Thornden rose as well. “But for now, if you have no pressing matters to share I would like to wish you a good night everyone. I have quite a many issues to settle before I can get to sleep."

Thornden gave a half hearted smile and bowed slightly. Saeryn curtsied, and Athanar turned to go. The three of them sat down again and Saeryn leaned towards Thornden across the table.

“What happened out there?” she asked in a quiet tone of voice.

“I don’t know. Athanar’s two sons were angry with Lithor and Lady Wynflaed and I arrived just in time to save him from being beaten.”

Saeryn clenched her teeth and drew back. “Don’t worry,” Thornden said, smiling a little at her anger. “Although Lithor seems unlikely to have raised his hand in defense, Crabannan was standing by and I doubt he would have continued standing by doing nothing for very long.”

“Why did they want to fight him?” Saeryn asked.

“I don’t know. Lithor refused to say.”

“The two boys came in and pulled Athanar aside to speak with him,” Degas observed. “They seemed angry about something.”

“Angry!” Saeryn said. Her eyes flashed a little. “They were probably angry that they weren’t given the opportunity to bully Lithor!”

Thornden shrugged. He played absently with his knife, turning it in his fingers with his eyes fixed on the blade, watching the light flash up and down it. “They seem like hot-headed young men. Their energy just needs to be turned to something worthwhile, that is all. I don’t think they’re really bad.”

“Don’t make excuses for them, Thornden,” Saeryn said. Thornden looked at her. “Your younger brother isn’t truly bad, either, but I expect he’s going to catch it something fierce tomorrow for hitting Athanar’s daughter, and in the larger picture, what he did is nothing worse than what Athanar’s son’s intended to do to Lithor, if you are right. Lithor is old enough to be their father, and they should respect his years, not strike at him like a vagabond. Those two young men should receive a worse punishment than Javan, for they should know better than he. But will they be? No. I can almost promise you that nothing will happen to them whatsoever.”

“Javan deserves what comes to him,” Thornden said. “Just because Athanar’s sons are not disciplined doesn’t mean that Javan shouldn’t be. Don’t think I don’t agree with you, Saeryn,” he said as he saw her bridle with anger and then prepare another answer. “But I don’t feel sorry for my brother, and I’m not really making excuses for Athanar or his sons. I’m just observing that they’re no worse than he was when he first came here. So, I think we should endeavor to accept them and treat them as Eodwine would have if he were here – give them a chance, and the benefit of the doubt, and see what we can make good.”

“You would be just as happy to be walked on, wouldn’t you, Thornden?” Saeryn asked. Thornden didn’t answer. He just looked at her. “One of your men gets accused of treason and then after being humiliated before the entire hall, goes outside for some peace, and the eorl’s own sons go out to beat him, and you’re just willing to say, ‘let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and make them good.’ I would have never imagined you would take it so mildly.”

“He wasn’t beaten, Lady Saeryn,” Thornden said.

“No. But he would have been if your brother – your brother who you don’t care about, whether he gets in trouble or no for the same crime that these two young men were about to commit and won’t be punished for – if he hadn’t come in and told you.”

“This is so, but they did not commit any wrong, and therefore I cannot see why you should expect them to be punished. I do care for my brother, but he has a hit a girl – and she happened to be the eorl’s daughter – and I’m not going to beg Athanar to not do anything to him. My power of persuasion will probably only go so far as to protect one person out of favor with Athanar tomorrow, and I think it is more important that Lithor be shielded, considering the circumstances. If you disagree, I am sorry, but I can only do my best in the circumstances given to me, and I am sorry if they do not meet your approval.” The last statement came out sounding stronger and more out of temper than he had intended it. He laid the knife down by his plate and sighed. “I’m sorry, Lady Saeryn,” he began, but she stopped him.

“No, Thornden, never mind. It is late, and we are both tired. We’ve been through a lot today and I think neither of us realized what restraint we were under as long as we were with Athanar. I’m sorry I became angry. I think I will try to go to bed.” She stood up. “Goodnight, Thornden. Goodnight, Degas.”
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Old 12-11-2009, 02:17 PM   #656
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Shield Athanar and Wynflaed

Seeing her husband rise to leave the hall, Wynflaed rose to follow him. As soon as she was out of the hall her steps quickened until she had caught up to him. She rested her hand on his arm.

"I hope my lord has enjoyed himself this evening?" she said with a small, somewhat sad smile.

Athanar heaved a sigh.

"We do seem to have our work laid out for us..." They reached the private chamber reserved for the eorl and his wife.

Stepping inside, they found Lilige waiting. She dropped a curtsey.

"Good evening, Lilige," said Wynflaed. "I trust Aedre behaved herself?"

"Indeed she did, my lady. I sent her to bed two hours after sundown."

"Thank you. I will not require your services any further this night; it is late and there will be much to do tomorrow. My husband will assist me."

Lilige curtsied again and left the room. Wynflaed sat down at the edge of the bed and began to work at the braids that her maid's fine work had kept tightly bound to her head through the entire banquet. Silently Athanar moved behind her to help work them free.

"I am glad," said Wynflaed, "that Aedre seems to have gotten through the evening well despite her mistreatment earlier today. I shall have to check on her myself tomorrow morning."

"That was plain outrageous... I could understand displeasure with changes, even action like Lithor’s… but roughing with a young girl... and eorl's daughter! I’m not going to be lenient with that person, whoever it was..."

"Athanar, you are pulling at my hair!”

“Oh, forgive me… I was getting upset…" Athanar was confused. "Do you know who it was that bullied her?

“From what I gathered from her account, it was a boy around her age. Apparently he said that you weren't the real eorl here, and she felt the need to correct him. Lilige said she recognized the child... I believe Javan was his name. At any rate, I think we need to hear the account from more people ere we pass judgment; Lilige only walked in at the tail end and Aedre has been known to embellish things in the past..." She sighed. "But justice must be taken. It is never right nor honorable to strike a lady, especially a child."

“Hmm… but if it was also a child who did that...” Lord Athanar fell into his thoughts while still unwinding the braids from his wife’s hair. He sighed heavily. “I was ready to get that person flogged for real you know, but if it was a child as well… you’re right, Aedre might not be totally blameless then…”

“Are you suggesting…”

“Oh no my dear. I think the kid needs a punishment. It’s not only what happened between him and Aedre, but it is a matter of principle that eorl’s daughter is not to be bullied… and if she is, there will be consequences.”

There was a silence while both concentrated on opening the last braids from Wynflaed’s hair. When it was done Wynflaed started combing her hair and lord Athanar sat down next to her on the edge of the bed looking at his wife. She was still a beautiful lady, actually he had always thought she looked even fairer with her hair open.

“What have you thought with that Lithor?” Wynflaed asked, still combing her hair.

"That Lithor deserves a fair punishment... and people should understand why it is so… things like this must be resolved determinedly. Especially if what you told about this Javan is true; that he had also questioned the eorldom… I will allow no disrespect or mutinies in my Hall and that kind of thoughts need to be cut off firmly and immediately."

"It was good of you, my love, to involve Thornden in that decision. I could, perhaps, understand Master Lithor's words at the beginning--speaking out of ill habit or misunderstanding, but afterwards?" She sighed. "I am rather glad it is not my place to determine treason among soldiers. At any rate I fear that the laxer style of command Eodwine appears to have exerted extended to his men at arms as well. I do not know what to make of that."

Wynflaed smiled. "What exactly did Wulfric and Wilheard tell you, anyhow? They refused to say anything of what they had heard Thornden and Lithor talking about, except that it was all treason."

"I’m not sure, they told me the same, well, they said Lithor had suggested treachery but then again Thornden had not aswered him… I do actually trust this Thornden fellow and what they said confirms it to me... but the treason then? If that Lithor has actually suggested some tricks it will be worse for him. Do you know what happened there in the first place? Where did that claim come from?"

"Apparently they overheard the two talking, leaped to conclusions, and tried to take matters into their own hands--or fists, I should say. By the time I and Thornden arrived Wilheard had his fist aimed for Lithor's face. I got there in the nick of time, as you might say, but they did not take their chiding very well." She sighed. "They appeared to be under the impression that Lithor was planning to kill you, had been the one to hurt Aedre, and all sorts of other things. I tried telling them that their violence would only make matters worse, but Wulfric told me--his own mother--that I cared more for these strangers than my own family's welfare and that I would do nothing to stop these so-called traitors until you laid dead at my feet!"

"What? They acted like that on you? What a disgrace!” Lord Athanar was clearly agitated and sprang up from the bed. After some furious walking around he finally came to her wife now a bit more settled. Stroking gently her hair he bent down to her. “What have we done wrong with them my love? I mean, look at Degas and Saeryn, they must be approximately their age – and how they behave, how they carry themselves like noblemen do…"

Wynflaed shook her head; her eyes glimmered just a little at the lashes. "They do not understand honour or nobility beyond mere prowess on the saddle, and I do not see how they ever will. Maybe if the Southrons attack Gondor again and Eomer calls for a muster?" She sighed. "A little war would do great wonders for our sons, and gladly would I see them put in harm's way if they came out of it as men and not these overgrown children."

“You might be right my love, but they have to learn… and one can’t order wars just to get his children educated into the secrets of nobility…” Athanar actually laughed for the thought and kissed his wife gently on the neck taking a soft grip on her shoulder.

He stood up and started walking around again… but how? but how?

"Wait a minute my dearest... I think I have it!"

Wynflaed rose to join him and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Tell me!"

"Lady Saeryn will have a child, but it will take twenty years for the child to grow up..." Athanar whispered to her ear, pulling her closer. "If we do it well here - and that requires that these people look well on us – king Eomer will be pleased… and we can be far away from here then: in Edoras, Minas Tirith, Dol Amroth... whatever you fancy my dear. Back with civilization..." He folded her in his arms.

"Mmm..."

"So why don't we adopt Saeryn as our heir?" With that he pushed her a little away from him to look at her in the eyes. "That would grant the good will of the people here, and our sons would get a reminder of needing to actually earn their status themselves." He was smiling.

Wynflaed laughed. "They will not like that, I'm afraid! And I daresay they shall rather deserve it, if this carefree behavior of theirs continues!"

"Exactly. And I actually trust Saeryn not to wish for any other inheritance than this Mead Hall to her child... she feels like a true noblewoman, even if she’s so young and emotional; but we might make such a clausule in the deal that her inheritance would concern only this Mead Hall and nothing else we might own by that time… or later."

Wynflaed stepped out of her husband's embrace and walked over to the bedside table where her jewelry box lay. "Hum. It does seem to be a better solution than any others I have thought through this night. I am not sure how the common people will understand or take to it, though. They may think that we are merely using the adoption to further our own ends and control the Lady Saeryn further, if they do not see that we would be leaving her and her child all the property they would have had if not for Eodwine's illness. We shall have to give the matter some more thought."

“You’re right Wynflaed… as always.” Athanar gave her a smile and sat back on the bed starting to open his shoelaces. “I’ll think about it… we’ll think about it.”
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Old 12-12-2009, 08:40 PM   #657
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12th of November, year 15 (fourth age)

Degas rose before dawn. He scrubbed his face with cold water to wake up better, and found himself vainly wondering why no one had noticed he had recently taken to sporting a short beard. He cleaned his teeth and, shivering, pulled on a sapphire blue shirt over his gray breeches. Boots on, he fastened a dagger to his belt and tied his hair back with a thin strip of hide.

And then he went in search of Rowenna.

She was in the kitchen, sipping tea with a look on her face that suggested total displeasure.

"A word?" said Degas quietly. "Outside?"

She rose and followed him, wondering what in the world her lord could possibly want from her this early in the morning, unless perhaps it was to commiserate about the way the Mead Hall had fallen to ruin so quickly. Not, she reminded herself, that it was the lady Saeryn's fault, but things would never have been this ridiculous if Eodwine had been here. He would be ashamed of his men, brawling, and the boy for striking the little girl. Yes, he was over-indulgent, but he would never have tolerated grown men behaving the way the new lord's sons behaved.

She shivered as the full brunt of the morning wind hit her as she rounded the stable corner. It was a miserable, grey sort of day, and the wind was wet and chafing. If she'd known her lord would demand a word with her outside the warmth of the kitchen, she'd have worn a shawl. She would say something to him about his lack of consideration, that she would.

"I shall make this short," he said, leading her into the stables. The sudden transition from the loudly blowing wind and wet air to the warm stable, which smelled of horse must and hay, meant a sudden silence broken by the stamp of hooves and the munching of hay. Leof would be in and out, working, but Degas did not mind his presence. Any others would be noted before they reached earshot.

"My lord," Rowenna interjected irritably, "It is still dark out, and my breakfast is getting cold."

After a month working closely together, she felt comfortable sharing her brusque opinions with him. In private, of course. And, as long as it was in private, Degas was tolerant of her tone. He even smiled.

"Then I shan't keep you from your breakfast. As your lord, I ask a favor of you. No, it is not a command. I understand that there are many reasons why you would desire to say no. And a good lord never makes a command he cannot be sure will be followed. That sort of thing forces followers to question their allegiances. In any case, it has come to my attention that my sister may neglect her own care in favor of coming to the rescue of others, and I fear that of the others that would leap to her defense, most would be punished depending on the nature of the problem."

Rowenna tapped her foot, used to Degas's mannerisms. He'd keep it short, would he? Her eggs would already be cold and rubbery. Pig food, she thought. Perhaps Kara would replace her breakfast, if Frodides was not in a mood. Her hands found her hips and she glared at Degas, clearly insinuating that he should get on with his point.

"I need someone that can play a quiet and unnoticed guard for my sister. Clearly not in terms of physical situations: I do not foresee such a thing occurring, and I believe that Lord Athanar would grievously punish anything of the sort. Still, however, I wish for Saeryn to have a companion whose presence will not draw unwanted attention. A lady's maid," he finished. "As I said, this is a request, not a command. Wenna, I wish for you to attend to my sister. As her maid, you would be privy to much information, and your presence would be excused in places anyone else would be forbidden.

"If I could stay here indefinitely, it would not be an issue, as I could act on my own sister's behalf. However, there are too many matters that call me away. You know how things are at home... I cannot stay away for much longer, and it would give me great peace of mind to know that my sister was not left with no useful allies."

Rowenna sniffed and brushed an imaginary speck of dirt from her apron. "I shall consider your request, my lord." She curtsied. "Now if I may return to my breakfast?"

He dismissed her with a flick of his hand toward the kitchens and she wrapped her arms around herself as she emerged back into the blowing wet.

Degas stopped to cosset his horse, and spotted Leof entering with a bale of hay.

"I will assume you heard some or all of what was just said," he said quietly, meeting the younger boy's eyes. "While I wouldn't presume to forbid you from mentioning anything to your lord if directly questioned, and I believe Athanar would understand my motive, this is a matter in which discretion could mean the difference between more troubles in your home, or fewer. Do I make myself clear?"

Confident Leof would not run off immediately to tell the Hall that Degas worried about his sister enough to solicit the aid of the woman who had wanted Saeryn's husband for herself, he left the stables in search of his own breakfast.

The day would be long, and he preferred to be at Athanar's side before the drama began.

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Old 12-12-2009, 09:27 PM   #658
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Erbrand

The chirping song of a robin awoke Erbrand from his rest. It was early, but he always awoke early. There was only the faintest light coming through the bottom of his door, it was not yet dawn but it was beginning to come. With a great effort he got up off the floor and rolled up his blankets and skin. He slept in his workshop, a small wooden building where he kept his tools and skins for tanning. The hut was just barely large enough for him to lie down in, but it was no more than a place to keep his tools and possessions, a table and space to work were all outside. After rolling up his sack and putting it away he reached for his wool cloak—it was dreadfully cold outside. A chill blast of air met his bearded face as he opened the door. Squinting from the dull light sky and the mild wind he stepped outside. Again the robin which had woken Erbrand from his light sleep greeted him as he stepped outside, cold and wet with dew. Erbrand looked at the pitiful bird that did nothing but make beautiful music. It was too stupid to migrate for the winter. The frozen ground crunched under his boots. Thank goodness the snow had not arrived. Winter had definitely come.

Everything was quiet and empty. Drink and a late night was making it difficult for people to get up. Erbrand thought about going into the hall and see if Kara was up yet but decided against it, knowing how much stress the kitchen staff must be under. No, people were probably still sleeping anyway and he had work to do as well. Leaning back inside the door Erbrand grabbed his bow and quiver full of arrows. Nobody was a better runner or a deadlier shot in Scarburg than Erbrand, and that was a fact. He had beaten everyone in the race and the archery contest, even Thornden, back when Eodwine was lord. Since then, he had put that skill to good use and had turned into a marvelous hunter. It was an uncomfortable thought to bring Athanar, not Eodwine, venison.

So today is truly his first full day as lord. I pray it turns out better than yesterday. I still have not told him about the danger, about Oeric. When am I going to do it man? I do not know, the time is still not right. I must tell someone even if Athanar might not be the right person to tell. Very well, I will tell Saeryn to whose husband I swore allegiance to. This lord has no oath to hold me accountable. I will tell her.

With a quick pace Erbrand began to make for the hall. Smoke was coming out of the chimney, somebody had to be up. He was just about to open the door when a familiar voice said softly: “Good morning, Erbrand.”

“Lithor! I never knew you to be an early riser.”

Lithor rose and rubbed his hands through his hair. Dew trickled down his leather jerkin and he shuddered as some of the cold water absorbed in his clothing. Had he stayed out all night?

“I have a heavy heart and have had a light sleep. For nearly two hours I paced the grounds before you awoke.” Lithor’s voice was calm. He twiddled with a singly straw of hay in his hand.

“Walk with me, friend," He continued. "I would enjoy your company this morning.” Lithor asked with genuine but a nowhere near happy smile. It was a that same tone that Erbrand heard Lithor speak in last night: tired and beaten. He was not about to play on Lithor's sympathies.

“No I will not, Lithor.” Erbrand responded rather hotly. Lithor was surprised. “We are not going to start that sort of talk. You will be fine with Athanar.” Erbrand had rightly assumed what was on Athanar’s mind and he was in no mood to discuss Athanar right now.

“I feel that my trial will begin soon. I will not defend myself for I was in the wrong last night.”

“Lithor, you do not have to tell me anything,” Erbrand was still sounding agitated. “I am convinced of your innocence even if you are not.”

“I cannot ask you to understand such things, Erbrand. You are not my age and therefore have not seen what I have. You are also not a soldier and know very little of discipline. I do not fear any punishment that might bruise me, end me, or humble my pride, but I do fear banishment. Oh joyful spirit that use to keep me like good medicine, where are you now? I am not ashamed to say it to you, my broken spirit is drying up my ancient bones.”

For the first time in his life, Erbrand was frustrated with Lithor. A broken spirit (as Lithor described it) was the exact opposite of what was needed. The old man had given up too easily. Just then the door opened and two familiar figures popped out. It was Balvir and Matrim. Balvir wore his usually grim face but this time Matrim shared in the expression.

“Right glad are we to see you.” Matrim exclaimed seeing Lithor. “We were coming to find you. How do you feel this morning?”

“Like an old piece of clothing: used and subjugated to too many rough conditions.” His face was grim, but he put on a smile. “Friends, I am ashamed of myself. I am just as frightened as a dumb thief, I do not feel like a man at all. I do not mind swords, lances, or arrows, but this makes my very blood run cold.”

“As well it should,” Balvir was the next to speak. “It is only right that you should feel something and it should not be joy or excitement. What did you expect?”

Though nobody but Lithor knew it, Balvir was very near Lithor’s age. Time had been kinder to Balvir, his hair was not yet white as was Lithor’s; therefore, nobody knew that Balvir was near the age of fifty. There was a pause, but soon his words had their affect on Lithor.

“Very true, Balvir.” Lithor said. “Ever the straight talker. But no matter how much today unsettles my blood, I am right glad I have noble friends. I will fret for myself no more, courteous and merry words will be my language, nothing else.” He stood and smiled broadly and took Balvir’s hand first, then Matrim’s, and then Erbrand’s.

“You changed your mind then,” Erbrand asked. “You will defend yourself?”

“I will defend only where I am in the right. There is another matter, which you do not know of, that I will address.”

“What’s this?” Matrim asked disappointedly. “I expected at least an hour’s worth of debate and reasoning for us to cheer you up.”

“What makes you so sure reason would cheer me up?” Lithor chuckled. “I have never met anyone who can be cheered by reason. I will only get more miserable in seeing just how bad my situation is, as reason would prove. If you want to cheer someone up, what you need is understanding. Reason is best left for debates, young Matrim.”

Balvir chuckled and Erbrand began to feel hope. This was the Lithor he knew. Though even if the trial turned out in Lithor's favor (it was doubtless that Athanar would punish Lithor) Erbrand wondered if he would see much more of the soldier. Athanar's job was to bring the locals under his control and that would mean flexing Scarburg's military muscle. He expressed his thoughts to the three soldiers.

"I do not know what you mean by never seeing us." Balvir said.

"No, of course we will see each other, but it might not be as often. I know that the soldiers have a drill this morning you might be so busy training to take on Tancred and the other lords that a permanent rift might appear between soldier, peasant, and lord."

All of them looked grim at the thought. Though they knew of Athanar's talk with Erbrand, a peasant, it was clear that Athanar would not have the common men interfering with anything that was under his rule. The scolding of Lithor had taught them this. They would have to know their place.

"Nay!" Lithor said very energetically and sprang up the steps to where he stood over them. "If you are thinking that Athanar is a iron fisted tyrant then you are indeed wrong. Do not constantly blame him for my sake. I was wrong. Give him half a chance. Learn from my mistakes and be obedient soldiers and workers and today will be better."

"I hope you are right, Lithor." Erbrand nodded grimly.

After this, Balvir and Matrim went in search of a meal with the rest of the soldiers now that they saw that their friend had recovered from last night. Lithor and Erbrand watched them depart until Erbrand finally remembered that he had traps to check and headed off towards the marshes at a brisk walk, shielding his head underneath his hood from the wind. Finally alone, Lithor went inside the hall. Not to find breakfast, food would not agree with him now, but to find Thornden.
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Old 12-13-2009, 08:06 AM   #659
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When Hilderinc woke up, he noticed that it was early yet. All of the other soldiers in the room were sleeping, although a few blankets thrown in the corner betrayed that some might have already gone out early... or not returned at all, which would seem inconsiderate at least.

Quietly dressing and wrapping himself in his old worn-out grey cloak, he stepped over snoring Scyrr and opened the door into the Hall. Everything was empty, but the early sounds of the stirring day could have been heard from around the place: a distant neigh of a horse in the stables, hushed voices from somewhere outside the building, quiet chirping of a lonely bird.

He decided not to go towards the kitchens yet, even though he felt a cup of something warm might do him good. Instead, he slipped out of the main door and around the building he strolled into the meadows beyond the Hall. There was frost in the ground and the grass was covered by mild white rime.

The sky was grey yet, but a stripe of rosy-yellow glow could be seen in the East. The forest at the border of Scarburg's neighbourhood breathed gentle streams of early morning mist and the marshlands to the north seemed drowning in milky haze. Hilderinc stopped and took a deep breath. The smell of chilly air, crisp yet scented with the flavor of the trees and the wet ground far away, filled his head. This was a different smell than that of the wide grasslands of Eastemnet, different from the smoke-scented smell of morning Edoras, from that of windswept Wold or even of the western pine-scented, yet dry air mixed with the odour of smelted iron coming from Isengard years back in the times of War.

Hilderinc remembered details of many places where he had been staying during the years, from one end of the country to another. There have been distinctive features of each of these places, and Hilderinc liked many of them, as they gave something of a spirit to the place. The smell of Scarburg's pre-winter morning seemed to have a chance to become one of them - Hilderinc could easily grow fond of it. He wondered how long is he going to stay here? Athanar had just arrived - how long is he going to need as many soldiers as he has now after he deals with the neighbouring lords? Actually, given the circumstances, it did not seem unlikely that the soldiers might stay here infinitely - as much as Athanar could. Except for the ones sent in particular by the King, the men belonged to Athanar's household - and they would stay protecting the small and exposed Mead Hall. It was likely that even with the soldiers of old Scarburg already in place, Athanar would keep everybody around - he could probably afford it and with the circumstances with the local lords being as they were, keeping more soldiers around would be better than less.

Hilderinc wrapped himself tighter in the cloak. Even if Athanar suddenly changed his mind, he probably would not mind. He had changed his masters many times, moving from one to another during the long fifteen years after the War, just as the chance played out. It would not have ever occured to him to become something else than a soldier - he had always been one, and even though after the war ended there was considerably less work for somebody who was not a simple guard with permanent employment, some opportunities always popped up here and there - either a problem with bandits, a brawl between the local nobles or simply a lord looking for expanding the size of his household. Hilderinc's experience and skills usually earned him a temporary place with a lord in need of soldiers - and after the matter at hand has been dealt with or after the lord realised that he cannot afford to keep addittional soldiers any longer, Hilderinc got his payment and then go, look for another place. It has always been like that, sometimes shorter stays, sometimes longer, but never permanent. So, what about this one?

That remained to be seen. There was still a long way, nevertheless. What was the matter at hand now was that Hilderinc's fingers started to freeze and he forgot to take his gloves. He turned his back to the marshlands and marched back to the Hall. Before he could reach the warmth of the house, he spotted somebody heading right towards him over the white-speckled grass. Hilderinc stopped when he saw the man, trying to recognise his face, and the man stopped too. Then Hilderinc realised who it was: the young bard who has been playing the fiddle yesterday. And also the one with the bruise on his face - the one who was fighting with Áforglaed. What was he doing here so early? Perhaps also taking a stroll in the frosty morning?

Hilderinc started to walk towards the man again. He remembered his yesterday's idea about getting to know the locals as well as possible. This was as good opportunity to make acquaintances as any.

"Good morning," Hilderinc addressed the man when he was close enough.

"Good morning," the man replied. He probably also did not expect to meet somebody here in such an early hour.

"Out for a morning stroll?" Hilderinc asked. "By the way, you have played nicely in the evening. I really liked it. I think you are a good musician - maybe you'd better not involve yourself in situations where you can get your fingers hurt, though. Whatever the case, it is not worth losing the opportunity to practice such a good skill with the fiddle," he added, hinting at the brawl the man had with Áforglaed yesterday.

"I am Hilderinc, by the way, one of the new soldiers here."
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Old 12-13-2009, 07:20 PM   #660
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Lilige closed her eyes tightly against the morning light. She stretched, yawning. Her sleep last night was the worst she'd gotten in weeks. She was sure there'd been a piece of straw or something poking into her back, but she hadn't been able to find it.

Lilige staggered into the kitchen, still blinking sleep from her eyes. She paused in the doorway, looking at the people there. Her brief stop there to request a meal to be sent up to her and Lady Aedre had been rushed, and she had not been able to make much sense of the bustling confusion. This morning she had much more time.

Her eyes narrowed, not in hostility, but in confusion as she saw a dark-haired woman. They were uncommon to say the least among the Rohirrim. Giving her head a tiny shake, Lilige forced herself not to stare. Averting her eyes, she walked over to one of the other women.

"Good morning," she said, voice still slightly rough from sleep. "How was the banquet last night? I wasn't able to attend, but my Lady seemed wearied. I hope nothing disturbing happened?"

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Old 12-13-2009, 10:08 PM   #661
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Thornden had no slept well that night. He tossed and turn a great deal and woke frequently, half starting and looking about to try to ascertain what time it was. As he lay back for the fifth time, he muttered to himself, “One would think it was you who was in trouble.” Despite the fact that he personally was not to be called before Athanar to receive judgement, he still felt dreadful. He rose, therefore, early, and went out to the hall to see to it that the fire was large and healthy.

He was still standing by the fire, watching the flames, when his brother entered the hall. He glanced up when he saw the movement by the wall and stopped Javan’s silent passage towards the front door. “Come here, Javan,” he said. Javan gave a longing glance towards the door and came. Saeryn’s words from the previous evening nagged at Thornden cruelly, and he still didn’t even know the full story. “What happened yesterday, exactly? Between you and Athanar’s daughter.”

“You don’t know?” Javan asked.

“Well, I heard you two yelling and then when I turned about to look, you’d already hit her and she was lying on the ground. I want to know why.”

Javan shrugged and then gave a short account of what had occurred. Thornden nodded when he had finished, and then said quietly, “Very well. Go and help Léof, if that’s what you were intending on doing.”

The boy hurried off and Thornden was left alone again. He sighed and rested his hand against the mantle. He stood thus, wrapped in silent thought, ignorant of the few and scattered people who came, passed through, and exited the hall again. Most were searching for breakfast or for someone else, their morning hardly begun, and no one addressed him.

Then suddenly he was aware of someone who had not ignored him and passed by. He lifted his head and saw Lithor standing nearby. Thornden lowered his hand and stood upright.

"Good morning, Lithor," he said.
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Old 12-14-2009, 11:00 AM   #662
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Erbrand

Seems friendly enough. Erbrand thought to himself as he hoisted his bow on his shoulder holding it in place with one hand and extending the other. “I remembered you from the hall. Remember, the kitchen, I bumped in to you.”

“Of course.” Hildernic replied sounding pleasant.

“I thank you for your compliment and no I am not on taking a stroll. I am a tanner.” Hildernic gave him a quizzical look. Erbrand realized that he sounded snobbish to the stranger. His answer only gave Hildernic another question: what was a tanner doing out here near the marsh?

“Oh…sorry.” Erbrand said awkwardly. “Being a tanner in these remote reaches I am forced to find my own hides to work with, see.” He held up his bow. “Though I suppose that playing a fiddle would be an easier job and not damage my fingers, as you say, I would far rather have my fingers pluck this string.” Erbrand pulled his bow string and let it twang. He chuckled slightly.

“Did you really think that I was a bard?” Erbrand asked amused. He examined his rough hands and looked over his low, dirty, clothing. “I must say that I don’t look like one today, but I am not sure I would like to look like one any day. I saw one once in Aldeburg, all prim and woman like in his thin figure dressed in rich clothes. No, there is work for these hands to do.” Erbrand lifted his fingers up and wiggled them.

“Ow! That was a nasty hit I took.” Erbrand examined several bruised knuckles. “Fights are no fun unless you win them I guess. I am luck that he did not break my fist. Did you brawl much, master Hildernic, in your youth?”

It was an odd question. The answer to which Erbrand wanted to hear, for when he knew it, he would also know if Hildernic was a man of impulse and adventure. Erbrand had practically given the brawl away and was planning on telling Hildernic if he was reliable. Already a plan was forming in his mind if this man could be relied on to help him bring Oeric in. Thoughts of glory flashed in Erbrand’s head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lithor

The hall was beginning to bustle with people. It always seemed that whenever a few people woke the rest of the hall was not far behind them. Some of the faces were familiar but most were people were soldiers and therefore Lithor did not know the majority of people. Someone brushed by him not too gently, striking Lithor with his shoulder. Lithor did not turn and kept walking. Attention was what the person wanted from him. However, Lithor’s attention was on Thornden. Perhaps he wanted company and comfort, Lithor had no clear objective in seeing Thornden this morning, other than where Thornden was the council would soon be. The master’s head was bowed in thought on the mantle, but Lithor still wanted to stay.

”Good morning.” Thornden sounded tired and Lithor wondered if he slept at all. I have gone ahead and caused my troubles to worry him. Poor master Thornden and there is so much else he needs to do. But despite this thought Lithor could not help but see the humor in Thornden’s statement. He let out one loud “HA” and folded his arms.

“Is that a joke, master Thornden. It was not a good one.” Lithor smiled even wider. “But yes it is a good morning, if you take me out of it. Any news on when my trial begins? I am very anxious to get it over with.”

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Old 12-14-2009, 11:11 AM   #663
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Thornden did not smile, though the slightest hint of one did stretch his lips slightly in reply to Lithor’s smile. He shook his head in response to Lithor’s question about the joke. He studied Lithor closely while the man spoke. Was he truly as unworried about what was to take place as he looked? He had always been quick to smile and quick to laugh, but today, for him of all people, did not seem like a day for merriment.

“I do not know when your trial begins. I have not seen Athanar yet, nor any of his family. I, too, am anxious to get it over with." He wondered what good he would do in the court. He did not like to tell Lithor that he was uncertain of himself and the outcome. So he remained silent. "How are...how are you?” he asked instead.
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:13 PM   #664
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Lithor

“How do I feel?” Lithor asked in return. “Why, like any man in this position would feel.” He eyed two men passing by before he leaned closer to Thornden and replied in a voice barely above a whisper. “I feel like a goose waiting to be led to the chop. I do not feel as chipper as I sound, but do not tell anyone that. I will laugh with any punishment Athanar gives me.”

His eyes saddened, but only for a moment. He would not be gloomy as he had promised. Thornden, however, was very grave. There were obviously more matters pressing on his mind. Athanar will rely heavily on him today to complete the transition.

“I see that you have found yourself in good favor with Wynflaed.” Lithor said with a pleasure in his eyes. “That is good. She seems honest and good, though I do not know how such a noble lady could have raised such…” Lithor thought for a proper word. “Such ‘misbehaving’ sons.” He smiled broadly.

“By the way, are we still searching for the person who hit the lord’s daughter? I pity the person, though I think that those two young men suspected me of it (cannot wait to find out what their names are).”
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Old 12-14-2009, 02:29 PM   #665
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Thornden grimaced. Of course Lithor felt like a creature being led off to slaughter. That is practically how he should feel, though the more Thornden learned of Athanar the less likely he seemed to actually kill anyone for an insult.

“By the way,” Lithor asked, “are we still searching for the person who hit the lord’s daughter? I pity the person, though I think those two young men suspected me of it (I cannot wait to find out what their names are).”

“Be in suspense no longer, on either account,” Thornden said. “Their names are Wulfric and Wilheard. Wulfric is the older one, I believe. And as for the one who struck their sister...” A look of annoyance that he couldn’t quite keep contained passed over his face. “That was my brother, and I knew it from the very beginning, though I did not know who the girl was when I first saw her lying on the ground. Yes, I, too, pity him, for it seems to me that of all the things that happened, Athanar has been made most angry by the fact that his daughter was beaten – he mentioned it more than once, and I have a feeling that had this not happened, he would not have been half so inclined to put such a heavy hand on things last night.” He paused and kicked at a log in the fire. Then his mind grasped on what Lithor had said before asking for the two young men’s names.

“What do you mean, you think Wulfric and Wilheard thought you were the one who’d hit their sister? Why do you think that?”
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:13 AM   #666
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"Ow! That was a nasty hit I took." Erbrand examined several bruised knuckles. "Fights are no fun unless you win them I guess. I am luck that he did not break my fist. Did you brawl much, master Hildernic, in your youth?"

Hilderinc's eyebrows rose slightly at the question, but it was only a very small change in his expression, otherwise, his face betrayed nothing of the emotional response inside him. So this man really seems like a brawler, after all, he thought to himself. So much for a quiet bard.

But then, the guy was not an obvious ruffian-type person. In the worst case, he could be one of these unpredictable types - as Hilderinc was sort of suspecting from the beginning - kind and mild with his fiddle-playing and tanning, but with a bit of a hidden violent nature which sometimes erupted and made him join the nearest brawl, or start one himself.

But his question did not sound like a provocation - it was however possible that the fellow was "gathering information" for later to see whether Hilderinc was an easy target. But in a way it sounded more like genuine curiosity - so perhaps the man was trying to look for potential companions among the new soldiers? Maybe someone he could recruit to his "gang"? Maybe something like that has been already existing here, Hilderinc had encountered these things few times on some of his stays: a group of soldier pals formed a sort of bullying squad - and then they were making trouble among the others. Of course, if something like that existed here, this guy might have understandably felt uncertain with the arrival of the new soldiers, not knowing whether his gang is not going to face a similar gang of the newcomers, possibly stronger than the original one. Trying to fish for friends among the new people would be the most clever way to try to cope with the issue.

Nevertheless, Hilderinc never had any intentions in joining any of these internal fights. He preferred to stay out of any groups like that.

"I haven't really been into brawling, if you ask me, mister..."

"It's Erbrand."

"Erbrand, all right... Well, like I said, I have never been much into that kind of things. Or, maybe better said, I have never been much on the good side with troublemakers. Honestly, I think there are better ways for a man to spend his time," Hilderinc said these words with all attentiveness, prepared to dodge if the man became angry at these words and attacked him. "Like tanning or playing fiddle," he added calmly, to sort of soften his response if it has been taken as a provocation - and to possibly encourage Erbrand in focusing more on other things than brawling.

"Maybe this is why I became a soldier," Hilderinc decided to finish his speech after a short pause. "I think fighting needs a cause."
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:35 AM   #667
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Lithor

So those are their name. Lithor rubbed his chin. Noble names for vagabonds. But Lithor had no time contemplate on the Wulfric and Wiheard as Thornden continued, annoyed Lithor thought. Thornden’s cool gaze and attitude that had topped his conversation last night, and even just moments ago, began to melt under his warm anger. Lithor had never seen Thornden riled, even now Thornden muzzled his anger. It was good to see that Thornden put aside some of the formality that surrounded him.

“Oh nothing,” Lithor said still smiling. “I dealt them an insult for their discourteous behavior and they assumed I was after their whole family. Child play, all of it.” Lithor leaned against the mantle opposite of Thornden and stared into the fire with him. The warm flicker of the flame was surprisingly relaxing to the mind and eyes. Relaxed as Lithor was, he felt Thornden’s hard stare.

“I would not worry about Javan. He’s done worse.” Lithor said, insensitive to the painful images it might evoke in Thornden’s mind. “Besides, Athanar has no more right to punish your brother for striking his daughter than I have to punish Wulfric for trying to strike me. Children will be children and I do not see the point in making such a big deal over something as petty as a fat lip. Now if Athanar and Wynflaed have enough sense about them, which in this case I doubt, they will keep the fact that Javan was the bully quiet; however, if they do not, then dealing with Wulfric and Wilheard is punishment enough. They will break your brother’s hand if they have half the chance.”

The effect of his rambling came to him quickly when Thornden lifted his head sharply to look him in the face. His lips tightened in a hard line and his eyes flashed as he glanced about the hall for either of the eorl's sons. "Wulfric or Wilheard, you mean?" Thornden said, looking back at Lithor.

"It is what they tried to do to me." Lithor said dryly. Thornden shut his mouth and clenched his jaw, reverting his eyes to the fire once again.

“Why did Javan hit the girl anyway?”

“He said she was bossing Cnebba and him.” Thornden answered (Lithor could not tell if he was angry).

“You do not say?” Lithor said with great surprise. He was not surprised at the fact that the girl was bullying two boys (his own sisters did a lot of that in his day) but that it all fit so well into a defense for Javan.

“Well no worries, master Thornden. If you have a moment, I think I have a plan we can weasel Javan out of punishment from Athanar.” Lithor wore one of his cocky grins, the kind that people see on a cat’s face after it has just swiped a gallon of cream.

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Old 12-15-2009, 01:33 PM   #668
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The morning chill had just begun to lift as Crabannan scrambled down out of the rocky hills outside Scarburg. Just in time, he thought, for the Hall was beginning to bustle. He picked his way down between large outcroppings of rock, trying to avoid patches of loose shale. He was in a good humor, which was all for the best, given the bad start he had gotten with the newcomers on the day before.

He had risen early and chopped a pile of firewood for the kitchen, as was his custom, after which he had climbed up onto the hill to watch the sun rise. His harp he had taken with him, plucking notes as they came to him, singing old songs, murmuring snatches of rhyme to himself. The loneliness was restorative to Crabannan and bit by bit, he had felt himself regaining his footing, as it were. His thoughts fell into place. His nerves grew calm, his hands less restless. He had smiled - then caught himself.

He was smiling again as he wound his way back into the valley. Down ahead of him he spotted two men talking. One was Erbrand. The other - one of the new fellows. Hilderinc. Crabannan paused for a moment, reflecting. It was no good trying to avoid Hilderinc, or any of the other new soldiers, for that matter. It was not likely, anyway, that they would remember him, as the War had been over for many years - but the fact remained that they reminded him - of the past, something on which he did not like to dwell. There was so little to be proud of. They all looked the same to him, these Rohirrim. They all reminded him of the men he had fought alongside, the men he had -

He slipped and slid down the hill about ten feet, scattering stones everywhere. They bounced and rolled down the hill towards Erbrand and Hilderinc. Crabannan followed shortly, back on his feet again.

"Good day." He greeted the men. "The day of reckoning, yes?"
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Old 12-15-2009, 03:54 PM   #669
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Thornden grew more and more uncomfortable as Lithor spoke. He didn’t like discussing Javan’s crime. Not in this fashion. He felt that people expected him to try to side with Javan and do his utmost, as a brother, to defend him against any wrath to come. They did not seem to understand that Thornden couldn’t accommodate Javan in any such fashion. Yes, he was Javan’s brother, but Thornden was also the third in command of the mead hall. His duties and loyalties demanded that he detach himself from any personal feelings, even in something so ‘petty’ and unofficial as this. He had resolved long ago, when Javan first started to prove troublesome to Eodwine, that he would stand no more than necessary between Javan and the eorl (whoever he may be) and his judgments.

In addition to this, he felt that what Javan had done was more than just give Ædre a bloody nose and fat lip. He had broken some un-written law of society. A woman should never be struck in such a fashion. She should always be handled gently and carefully. That was a nobleman’s role and code of behavior. Javan had to learn it before he became a man, for by then, it would be entirely too late. Besides that, Ædre was the daughter of Athanar. Would everyone be so swift to defend him if he had struck Wynflaed? Or hit Saeryn, heaven forbid? No, he thought not.

“Well no worries, master Thornden. If you have a moment, I think I have a plan we can weasel Javan out of punishment from Athanar.”

“I think not,” Thornden said, stiffly. “I have little desire to get him completely off the hook, but I will see to it he is not unjustly treated. You don’t seem to understand, Lithor. Even if the girl was in the wrong, Javan should not have struck her. I will not pretend, even with you, that I think that my brother is perfect. He made a mistake, and it is only right that he should be required to pay for it. I won’t have him growing up thinking it’s acceptable to hit someone like that, much less a girl or, as he grows older, a young woman, and so forth.”

Lithor looked at him and merely raised an eyebrow. Thornden sighed, and reconsidered his words and his decision. “Alright, tell me your thoughts, and if it turns out that I need to defend him, I will consider what you say.”

Last edited by Folwren; 12-17-2009 at 09:53 PM.
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Old 12-16-2009, 10:09 AM   #670
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Erbrand

It was plain that Hildernic was thinking hard when Erbrand was speaking, now Erbrand knew why. Hildernic was speaking of brawling as if it was an occupation or a past time. Of course there are better ways to spend one's time, I am not challenging you to fight. All the while that Hildernic was speaking Erbrand began to feel less inclined to tell the man about his adventure with Oeric. Hildernic's last words confirmed Erbrand's suspicions: he was an idealist and had almost no sense of humor.

A reply was in place, but before Hildernic finished Erbrand was distracted by somebody coming, or falling, down the Scar. What a sight, Erbrand almost laughed!

"Good day." He greeted the men. "The day of reckoning, yes?"

"Someone seems to be happy about it. You should not be after siding with Lithor last night. Ah! but I do not want to talk about that. I think I should be getting back to my work." Erbrand eyed Hildernic curiously.

"You seem like a good fellow." He eyed Crabannan. There was a sudden impulse to let go of his secret. Erbrand was going to tell Crabannan anyway and Hildernic seemed like a sensible person. However, in the end he decided against it.

"Good day to you sirs."


Lithor

“I will not pretend, even with you…”

Lithor was hurt by these words. He might be full of mirth more than somberness, but he was not a simpleton or a toy that people could play with. Why should Thornden pretend with him? Lithor certainly never pretended with Thornden.

“Well it is simple.” Lithor replied dryly, some of his enthusiasm dampened. “Punish Javan first. I did not say that he should be spared from punishment, only from Athanar’s punishment. Do you really think that Javan’s crime is worthy to be held in the same instance of a military trial? The law of blood allows and the law of society demands that you, as Javan’s brother, correct him, not Athanar.”

Lithor was puzzled by the whole deal. Thornden talking in Javan's defense? What, is it going to be a trial for Javan as well? The consequences of a boy striking the girl will be the same whether it was a lord's daughter or a peasant girl. Lithor dared not say it, for he knew that younger people take things the wrong way, but he thought Thornden was being a little cowardly in the whole deal.
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Old 12-17-2009, 06:48 AM   #671
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When Hilderinc saw Crabannan approaching in a rather rushed way, his initial thought was that he indeed had been cornered by two members of a gang who have been following him on his morning walk. But soon the thought was dismissed and proven foolish. Obviously, he thought, that would be a very unlikely thing to happen anyway.

Erbrand seemed to have decided to go about his business. Hilderinc reminded himself that he should probably get back by the time all other people are awake - also in order to get something to eat for himself. He looked at Crabannan. The newly come man's face was unreadable. A mysterious man, Hilderinc thought. What does such a person do here in the first place? He remembered his yesterday's encounter with Crabannan and the interrupted question when he asked him whether he was a Woodman. Something about the man was slightly unsettling.

"We seem to meet each other quite too often," Hilderinc said after a while. "I assume you were taking a morning walk, or are all the musicians in this Hall going to the local marshlands for animal skins?" He left but a short pause, not expecting an answer, as it was not a real question.

"I was just thanking master Erbrand for the nice performance yesterday, and I might say here that I liked your music too," Hilderinc continued. "You seem to know the instrument really well, I assume you have been playing it for a long time to obtain such skill. Have you been invited here as a bard by lord Eodwine?" Hilderinc has been wondering about it, as that would at least explain the presence of the stranger here in the first place.
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Old 12-17-2009, 10:18 PM   #672
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He had said something wrong. Thornden was almost instantly aware of it. Lithor’s manner became stiff and withdrawn. Thornden became more wary, but he still stuck to his previous position.

“His will not be a military trial, of course,” Thornden said. “I do not even know if Athanar will treat it as though it were a court at all. All he said last night is that he wanted him to come before him around the same time that you did, but I think that it was more of a matter of convenience then it was a matter of that particular time being his time of court. But if it is, I will not be surprised.

“I have an idea that I will be the one who punishes him, but not before Athanar has seen him and decided what is to be done. It’s not quite so simple as you think. It’s not as if Javan had merely hit a peasant girl. Understand if he had, I would have spoken to the girls father even in that instance before deciding on any punishment, and heard what he thought. But the fact that Ædre is an eorl’s daughter makes the crime greater.”

--

Saeryn

She would not have wakened for a while had a knock at the door not roused her. Saeryn turned onto her back and raised her head. “What is it?” she asked. Modtryth put her head in the door.

“I’m sorry to wake you, but you said not to let you sleep in this morning.”

“Of course,” she mumbled to herself, remembering saying so the previous evening before going to bed. “Thank you,” she said, to Modtryth. Modtryth withdrew and Saeryn sat up and reluctantly pushed the blankets off herself. Her bare feet touched the cold floor and she shivered. She reached for her dress and began to prepare herself for the day, but just after she had pulled it over her head, her stomach seemed to flip. She stopped her movements and frowned, feeling disgusted and sick. What was this? She didn’t need to get sick in the middle of everything that was happening! Resolved not to feel ill, she commenced dressing.

By the time she came from her room, she looked palish green. She kept one hand pressed firmly against her belly, trying to calm the awful feeling of impending disaster. She slowly walked through the women’s quarters and out into the hall.

Modtryth was working around the tables. Saeryn called to her and beckoned with her hand. “Modtryth, I think I am ill.”
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Old 12-18-2009, 11:25 AM   #673
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Lithor

“Indeed this is more serious than even you think, master Thornden. I do not know if Athanar will bring Javan before those assembled for my trial or not, but it certainly looks as that is what is planned; then, Javan will have gained two pitiless enemies.” Lithor sounded grave and worried. Lithor continued cautiously, slowly.

“The lord’s daughter is a child. Javan is a child. Being children, both cannot be expected to bear the titles of their kin as they should. Therefore, I do not see Aedre as a lord’s daughter any more than I see Javan as the son of Scarburg’s second man. They are children.”

Lithor had forgotten that Thornden had been replaced. Is Javan one to go striking children, even girls, unprovoked? Certainly not and Thornden can see that. However, that is not the question here. If only the children saw the fuss that was being made over them.

“Master Thornden, you must not confuse your loyalties. Your duty is to your brother. That boy is going to go through enough. He is to be punished, but do not let Athanar make a public display of him—Javan is not an adult. If Athanar makes Javan’s offence public, you will have to make perfectly clear that Javan is your responsibility or Javan will be in grave danger.”

Again, was worried. Wulfric and Wulheard were bullies with titles to protect them. Thornden must avoid fights with them if he is not to be charged with treason as well.

“Both of Wulfric and Wulheard tried to strike me, ‘an old greybeard who cannot defend himself’, for the same crime. They will have less respect for a boy.”

Lithor paused for a moment to think of something else to say, but realized that he had been rambling long enough. People did not liked to be talked to for long, it made them look stupid. However, Lithor knew that Thornden would not ignore his words.

“Your responsibility, my friend. Cheerful prospect is it not?”
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Old 12-18-2009, 05:13 PM   #674
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Modtryth

Saeryn's face looked more than ill, she looked half dead.

"You had better sit down for a minute, otherwise you will undoubtedly just drop unconscious on the floor."

Modtryth's words were brusque, but her tone was warm, and she smiled at the Lady when she helped her sit down.

"Cnebba!" she called across the hall. The boy was with little Léothern; they were examining something on the floor in a corner of the hall, heads bent low to see it better. Modtryth's son lifted his head reluctantly. "Go to Aedhel and ask her to make Lady Saeryn a cup of raspberry leaf tea. Now."

Cnebba cast his mother a slightly grudging look, but obeyed quickly. Léothern remained in the corner, now probing the floor with her small, plump finger.

Modtryth gave Saeryn an empathic shrug. "I know it doesn't help, but it passes. It won't last for ever. And the tea will help now. It's an old trick of the folk of Westfold." She bit her tongue before adding "they say it comes from Dunland". That didn't seem the best of topics for now.
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Old 12-18-2009, 06:49 PM   #675
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Lord Athanar

Lord Athanar woke up early as he was used to, but today he decided not to rise up and show himself before due time. And he had a lot to think even if he had stayed up late thinking already.

It was a mess and he felt ashamed. The worst beginning he had ever had anywhere he had been commanded to take the lead he thought he knew how to do.

Wynflaed was still sleeping and for a while he just looked at her leaning on his raised elbow lying beside her. Their shared quilt only covered her body from the mid-waist downwards as he had raised himself up enough to make it roll down that much. She was so beautiful! In the midst of all this, how lucky a man he was to have a wife like that... not only a pleasure to the eyes and the body, but also sensible and wise to actually carry part of the responsibilities... and a soulmate... that was probably the most important thing there was. His life was filled with duties, work and responsibilities... what would it be if there was not Wynflaed who always understood him and his worries? He stroked her hair gently until Wynflaed started murmuring and turned around towards him, still sleeping. Carefully he kissed her on the forehead... he touched her lips lightly with his own not willing to wake her up. Then quiet like a thief in the night he withdraw from the bed and dressed up.

He didn't pick the formal dress but not any of the everyday ones either. It was to be an important day and he had to show his stature with his choice of clothes as well, but not look like overdoing it. After some to and fro he finally ended up with a simple but beautiful finest wool eorling-green robes tied up with his family-belt, the large buckle of which represented an eagle on crossed staves in the background and two spears right beside them. The emblem of who he was.

There was a beautifully carved great knife he had inherited as the head of the family from hundreds of years of tradition hanging on the belt. He discarded it and laid it carefully on the top of his chest of other valuables. Instad of it he took the hammer-necklage of his grandfather and pulled it over his head. That should do he thought looking at his mirror-image from the polished copper-plate that was hung on the wall.


Coming to the Hall he saw Thornden and Lithor discussing. He nodded to them while passing and went out of the door.

The air was so fresh!

In Edoras there was always this stench of burning wood and coal everywhere as people lived so close together. But here! Just a few yards from the main doors Athanar knelt to the ground and grasped a handful of frosted soil with his fingers. He warmed up the lump of earth rubbing his palms together and then smelled it long and deep. So this was the place...

Rising up from his knees he saw a few people discussing together further away... one of them looked like Hilderinc but he couldn't say of the others.

Coming inside he noticed Saeryn... and she was looking really bad. There was this "darkling" - as he thought of her - taking care of her. Athanar took a seat on the opposite side of the table and tried to smile encouragingly. He had seen Wynflaed carrying four chirldren and it didn't look like anything out of order. "It is perfectly normal lady Saeryn, it kind of belongs to the carriage..." He finally said and tried to look as supportive he could. Which was not too much.

Looking around he found Thornden. "Thornden! Could you find lord Degas for me? I'd wish to see you both here before the day begins... I have a few suggestions to make."
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Old 12-20-2009, 02:26 PM   #676
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“Your responsibility, my friend. Cheerful prospect is it not?”

Thornden gave a humorless smile and shrugged. He was concerned, deeply, about what Lithor said concerning Wulfric and Wilheard. The more Lithor argued about Athanar, the more Thornden convinced himself that Javan had very little to truly fear from him, but when Lithor mentioned the two sons, Thornden felt undeniable fear for his brother’s sake. He had seen himself what they were about to do to Lithor and despite the fact that Lithor was older, he could have definitely withstood such treatment better than Javan. He hoped that perhaps the two brothers would not treat Javan so. Even if they did have less respect for the boy than Lithor, perhaps they would more understanding and forgiveness, seeing as he was no older than Ædre. All the same, Thornden resolved to keep a watchful eye out.

But, then, too, what Lithor said about Athanar and his potentiality to punish Javan publicly was true. Thornden did not fear that Athanar would be overly harsh or cruel, but a public disgracement would not be appropriate, either. He would ask Athanar when he got the chance.

“I will consider what you say, Lithor. I know what you mean, and I understand you now. But,” he added, as he saw Athanar enter the hall, “I think it is too late for me to discipline him myself.”

As if to confirm his words, Athanar called across to him. “Thornden! Could you find lord Degas for me? I wish to see you both here before the day begins...I have a few suggestions to make.”

Thornden bowed in his direction to confirm that he heard and understood, and then he turned again to Lithor. “Well, this is it. Thank you, Lithor, for your advice. I will see you soon.” Lithor nodded and stepped back, in effect releasing Thornden from the conversation and Thornden turned to find Degas.

He did not have to actually leave the room to find Degas, for just as he approached one of the doors, Degas came into the hall. “Degas, Athanar has asked that we go and speak to him.”

“Good. I meant to talk to him before he held court anyway.” Thornden nodded and they went across the hall to the table. Degas sat down beside Saeryn and turned to her with a smile to bid her good morning. Saeryn’s pale face stopped him, and instead he asked, “Are you feeling alright?”

“No,” Saeryn answered truthfully. “But Modtryth tells me it’s all from carrying a child, so it’s normal and I shouldn’t worry about it.”
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:26 PM   #677
Mnemosyne
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The sunlight streamed in and fell on Wynflaed's eyes. Shifting over, the chill air in the place where Athanar's warmth usually reached out to her woke her fully. She opened her eyes.

Her husband was nowhere to be seen. "Athanar..." she muttered, much less vexed than she sounded. Even on days when there was much work to be done, he "couldn't bear to wake her" even when she specifically asked to be woken near dawn. She rose and looked at the window--almost midmorning already! Sighing, she pulled the quilt back over the bed for neatness' sake--Lilige would make it later.

The mattress smelled different--it was strange how the smallest cues reminded you that you were in a new place. She wondered if it had retained any of the scent of Eodwine and Saeryn, or if they had stuffed it with new straw for their arrival.

She only looked briefly around the room before remembering that Scarburg had no bell to pull (a fine innovation from Gondor) to summon her maid. Well, if Lilige was worth her salt at all (which she was, of course), she would be in shortly. Wynflaed only really needed assistance with her hair, anyhow.

Stepping over to the chest holding her husband's clothes, she fingered through them until she knew for certain what he had chosen. Not everyday, but not too fine... just what my Athanar would do for an occasion such as this. She made sure all was in order before turning to her dresses and looking for something that would match with green...

Last edited by Mnemosyne; 12-20-2009 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 12-20-2009, 05:57 PM   #678
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Before the other woman could answer, Lilige jumped up from where she had leaned against the wall. She'd kept her ear out for the servant bell, which Lady Wynflaed usually used to tell her she was awake, but knowing the Scarburgians, they probably didn't even have one. "I'm sorry," she said quickly to the other woman, and hurried out of the kitchen and up to her Lady's room.

She quietly opened the door and peered into the room. Lady Wynflaed was searching through her clothes. Lilige winced inwardly at the sight of her hair. She opened the door wider, making it rasp slightly against the floor. "My Lady," she called to alert Wynflaed to her presence.

Wynflaed straightened and turned to face the maid. "Good," she said. "My hair needs to be fixed before the meeting today."

"Of course," Lilige said. What meeting? she thought, but put the matter out of her mind. Either Wynflaed would tell her, or she could try to get someone else to tell her. Or she wasn't supposed to know because it was a meeting of the important people. Either way, Lilige decided not to ask, but focused on easing the knots out of Wynflaed's hair and pulling it back into half-braided loops.

"And...there you are, my Lady," she said as she tucked the last strand into the loop. "Perfect." Smiling, Lilige turned to the bed, tugging at the corners.
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Old 12-22-2009, 08:21 AM   #679
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Lord Athanar greeted Degas and Thornden and after they had talked on Saeryn's condition - and when she seemed strong enough to concentrate on other issues - Athanar finally came clear with what he had in mind.

"I do understand there were strong feelings aloft yesterday evening, and ale gives strength to strong feelings." He looked at all the three carefully.

"I'm willing to come a long way towards your people to settle these issues in a decent and just manner. That means way more leniently things would go in any court in Edoras... even if I'm not going to let Lithor off the hook just like that. As a soldier he must understand his place."

Thornden looked like he was trying to make a defence of Lithor but Athanar waved him quiet with his hand. "I know you would like to talk for him... what happened outside I have no clear picture of, and would like to hear also your view of it, but maybe it's better I'll hear you as one witness among the others so that I'll put similar weight to every account of it. And what he did inside, well there is little excuse for his behaviour... and I wish to see his reactions with a blank eye."

Lord Athanar was not sure if his explanation of why he wasn't willing to hear any account on behalf of Lithor satisfied Thornden or not, but Thornden did anyway lean back again picking up a piece of bread.

"Now I've heard this Javan is just a kid like Aedre is, and with children I must say I'm totally against public physical punishments... growing up in Wormtongue's court taught me that lesson well enough. Those punishments tend to sow the seeds of hatred more strongly anything else does. Now who'd be his parents? I'd like to exchange a word with them before we start if possible?"
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Old 12-22-2009, 04:03 PM   #680
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Lithor had done no wrong outside, and it was this that Thornden wished to say. Athanar, however, did not wish to hear it now, though he promised later to allow Thornden to speak. Just as well. Then everyone, including the two young men who had apparently accused him, would be answered as well.

“Now, I’ve heard this Javan is just a child like Ædre is, and with children I must say I’m totally against public physical punishment.” Thornden allowed himself to take a breath as he felt the first real relief he had felt all morning. Lithor’s fears, then, seemed unfounded. “Growing up in Wormtongue’s courts taught me that lesson well enough. Those punishments tend to sow the seeds of hatred more strongly than anything else. Now, who’d be his parents? I’d like to exchange a word with them before we start if possible?”

“His parents are not here,” Thornden said. “I stand in their place. He is my brother. So, anything you would wish to say..." he opened his hands and shrugged and looked Athanar in the face, expectantly.
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