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New Tharbad (RPG)

Firawyn

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Cyryn went slowly through the darkness, his hand clenching at the arrow embedded into his left shoulder. The pain was far from overwhelming, but he didn't enjoy being wounded in the least, nor did he like giving orcs a trail of blood to follow him.

Stopping to rest on a tree and recover his bearings, he got the glimpse of a torch out to the East. He began to reach for his sword, but the voices on the wind soothed his nerves.

"The words of Men", he mused. A friend unlooked for perhaps?

Feeling the darkness closing in on him, Cyryn quickened his pace and came to the ruined city of Tharbad and his faceless voices. There he found a small helping of soldiers and civilians scurrying about busily, giving Tharbad renewed life. As he approached what appeared to be a gate, two guards stepped up and held out spears.

"Identify yourself!"

Cyryn bowed to the men as a sign of respect. "I am Cyryn, son of Kweyn. I came from the East, over the Misty Mountains, and was beset by a great host of orcs. I was wounded and require aid. Imladris is too far, I beg of you to help me."

"Go find Lord Dalin," the elder of the two guards snapped. The other hurried off and returned minutes later with the fore-mentioned Lord. If Cyryn had not been so weak, he would have drawn his sword and lain it before this Lord to show unconditional surrender, but he could not.

"Why has this man not been taken to the infirmary?" Lord Dalin snapped.

"I thought you'd want to question him before he was let into the city, m'lord," the older guard replied slowly.

Dalin grunted. "He'd half unconscious now from loss of blood. What kind of answers will I get from a dead man?"

"Yes ser," the two guards replied. One fetched a stretcher and Cyryn was laid upon it.

A moment later, Cyryn felt a hand on his good shoulder and a kind voice speak. "Can you tell me who shot you, elf?"

Cyryn felt his consciousness slipping away. "Orcs...followed me...I regret..."

And then Cyryn knew no more.
 

Firawyn

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Lord Dalin found himself walking the streets of Tharbad, muttering prayers to Eru for aid. Their leader was dead; Bolin had been struck by a fever some weeks ago and had slowly wasted away. Lord Bolin's death struck Dalin harder than he'd let anyone see - for Dalin had been his mother's brother. He was family. Dalin dreaded the letter he'd have to compose to her, especially since his own father had been slain in battle during the Great War of the Ring.

The Council was in chaos. He had only months before been appointed to the council himself, along with one other Lord. The Council had started as a Council of three, but in the time since re-founding the city, Tharbad had grown enough to warrant more minds to deliberate the running of the settlement. Some thought there should be no one to actually lead the Council, but rather maintain a status quo among the four remaining Lords, and add one more to break any ties when a vote was called upon. Others wanted there to be a set leader. Not only a tie breaker, but one who would have the power to say yay or nay to the larger issues.

Such as this new elf visitor residing in Tharbad's infirmary - Dalin had made the executive decision to grant the man aid, and he was quite certain the other three Council members would rebuke him later for not asking their opinions. The only reason Dalin had been summoned to the gate hours before was because the guard on duty used to be a member of his family's personal guard. Old loyalties die hard, Dalin mused.

On top of having the Council on his tail, Dalin knew he must deal with the coming Orc Hoard. The elf had brought trouble to them, and for that Dalin was not grateful. They didn't need any more trouble here in Tharbad.

Lost in a train of thought, Dalin did not hear the young soldier, called Rylee, come up behind him. "Ser!"

"Yes, Rylee?" Dalin sighed, knowing full well that the boy going to be filling his plate with more things to deal with.

"Master Bryown says that the damn above the city needs repaired as soon as possible, or the city will flood upon the next rain," Rylee said.

"And?"

"And Lord Herma says that he needs to talk to you about the funeral arrangements for Lord Commander Bolin."

"And?"

"Master Tyreon said to report that the elf will survive. He will send word when the man awakens."

"And?" Dalin crossed his fingers, hoping that there was nothing else.

"Since Lord Bolin was in charge of food supplies, you aught to make certain someone else is looking after that so we don't all starve to death," the boy stated.

"Who told you that?" Dalin asked.

"I just thought of it," Rylee frowned. "It's nearing supper time. I'm getting hungry."

Dalin nodded. "Anything else?"

"No ser, that's all."

"Thank Eru," Dalin sighed. "Go fetch your dinner. I'll see to it first thing that someone takes charge of inventory."

"Any messages that you need delivered first?"

"No, Rylee," Dalin replied. "I'm sure to bump into anyone I could need to talk to while I'm taking care of everything you've just said I need to do."

Rylee looked sympathetic. "Sorry, ser."

"It is what it is, lad. Now off with you." Dalin watched with a chuckle as the boy ran off without another word, no doubt toward a source of food.
 

Peeping-Tom

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Introducing :

Gallas Curugam Dínel...


An Elfin can have many names, and for sure, this Elf have had his share of different names in his long life as servant for, first, Lord Gil-Galad and later, Lord Elrond. But for now, only three were in use; His very pale ears gave him the name of "Light-Ear", Gallas, his abillity to master or craft almost every type of material, it be wood, metals, stone or gems gave him the name "Skill-hand", Curugam. The third name, the one he normally uses, was given to him by a lot of different people and races, for not telling about his past and his origin, "Silent-Elf", Dínel.

Dínel was born shortly after the drowning of Beleriand, while his parents stayed at Círdan's newly build Havens. His father is pure-bloded Noldo and his mother is of the Ossiriand Green-Elven origin. (The story of his father and his fathers origin, is the reason for his silence about his past and own origin. Hint : Father is Feanor-kin)
When comming of age, about 70 years old, Dínel joined the Lindon-Guard of Lord Gil-Galad and rose through the ranks, until he, at the age of 512, was appointed the rank of "Herumacil Cundondur", Sword mastering Servant of the Lord or personal guard in other words. During the battle of "The last Alliance", Dínel was appointed as Body Guard for Lord Elrond and thus was unable to prevent (...or try to prevent) his Master, Lord Gil-Galad's death. He stayed in the service of Lord Elrond, until the end of the "War of the Ring" when he joined the "Host of free Elven", those elven who stayed in Middle-Earth for aiding men in the beginning of their time of dominion. The "Host of free Elven" is just a common name for those Elven who have no Elven-Lordship and is not a real host.

On the road, The Greenway, between the Sarn Ford crossing and Thadbad :

Dínel has offered his services to King Ellesar, whom he actually have taught, played with and guarded, when Aragorn was a child and youth, in his time at Rivendell, and have recently helped at the rebuilding of Annúminas. But before finishing his work at Annúminas, Dínel recieved a message from the White City of Gondor, that trouble had occured, at the very important crossing at Tharbad and that his skills might be needed.

"Orc's are still ravaging among the Misty Mountains and the southern Eriador and the situation, regarding the leadership and the rebuilding of Tharbad, is still unsolved..."

Dínel recited a few words from the letter, he had recieved. He knew that the crossing was essential for the joined Kingdoms existence, but he had no clue as to what was expected of him.
"Do they need me as Yrch-slayer, as Guardsman, as Handyman in the building process or for the Council itself? ...well, I guess I just have to wait and see...", he thought.

It would take a few days for Dínel to reach Tharbad, even though he had his Grey Imladris Mare, Mornem, to aid him, for the road was still rough and irregular and still not safe from wolves and marauding bandits. While he was perfectly capable of protecting himself, Dínel prefered the cautious approach towards any kind of hostile activities. He would rather move slow and silent than fast and loud...
"...No meaning in giving away the advantage of surprise if it can be avoided.", he thought and in the same moment he heard the sound of wheels and voices of men in front of him, approaching from the south. Dínel looked around, trying to find some trees or bushes, large enough to hide a horse but found none...
"By everything evil... there's nothing here but pebbles and low scrub... nowhere to hide...", he thought and prepared himself for the worst...
He unlocked the sword in the saddle-sheath, ready to fetch and freed the bow from its shoulder-lock and opened the quiver for a quick reach of the arrows, if nessessary... "Hmm, there's no high ground to benefit from here... Well, plan B it is then...", he thought and unmounted Mornem and placed her across the road. He, himself, sat down at the side of the road, some 100 feet back... with his longbow in his hands... and waited.
Just a few minuts later three men in a small cart pulled by a single horse came up the road and made hold when they saw the horse blocking the road.
"Mae Govannen...", Dínel said loudly, noticing that the men looked more like unarmed, dirty, poor and spooked common men, than Orcs or bandits of any kind...

"Hello my friends... what is your errand here, if you don't mind me asking? One has still to be careful around these parts of the road.", Dínel tried to look and sound like a Ranger as to not scare the strangers, though he did, purposely show his bow to them... They claimed to be traveling traders, heading for Bree, but the cart had no holdings but the passangers and Dínel did noticed just that. He raised and pulled back his hood and showed his unmistakable elven featured face with dark brown hair, pale skin and even paler ears and bright shining grey eyes. "I am Dínel of Lindon, on a mission for the court of King Ellesar Telcontar and on my way south, to the city of Tharbad. I see no goods in your cart for you to trade and I do not like to be spoken the untruth, but I will not be a hindrance for you. Only, my friends, I need news... Of what can you tell of the situation in the south? And why are you travelling openly and unarmed and without proviant of any kind? These are still dangerous paths to travel...", he asked. When seeing his elven splendor and hearing his deep voice of commanding authority they dared nothing but answering his questions truthfully.
"We have fled from Tharbad, my Lord. Uprising have startet, there is no real leadership and Orcs are on a rampage, attacking everybody and might even attack Tharbad itself.", one of the men told.
Dínel looked with hardend eyes at the men but spoke softly.. "I am not your Lord, please do call me Dínel. But IF I had been your Lord or Master, I would have punnished you for fleeing people in distress... that is one of the worst crimes in elven communities. But, as I said earlier... I will not stop you in your flee... because I can not use fleeing soldiers or guards for anything in my quest for rebuilding Tharbad. But IF you were proud men of Tharbad, who would defend it and its citizens from Orcs and bandits... and who would go to any length to make the city and the crossing look its finests and clear the roads for any unwanted creatures for when the King and Queen comes to visit... Then I would be able to use you and to tell the King of your noble deeds and who knows... King Ellesar might even be paying his respect in thanking you all in person... The King IS known for making such noble features. Now what say you?"
The three men put their heads together and whispered silently among themselves for a while... then one of them spoke up. "My Lo... Dínel... We have no weapons and no skills in fighting, we are workers in masonry... but if you were to be our Commander... and could provide us with weapons... we would follow you back to Tharbad and make our king proud of the city and its citizens." He went silent for a brief moment before asking the, for them, most important question, "...Dínel, will the King really be thanking us in person? ...and will we get to see the Queen too?"

Dínel put on a big smile... he did know, how these human minds functioned, and was quite pleased with himself, in turning them around as quickly as he had done, but he knew that they might flee again, if they encountered any trouble for real.
"As for being your Commander, I'm not sure. I believe that Tharbad already have a Commander, but I'll put in good word for you... And for weapons... I have a spare sword and a couple of Daggers in my saddle... And regarding the king and the Queen... well, between us four... I've known them both from when they were children, and they might listen to my words... but not a word to anybody else about that... that'll be our secret.", Dínel answered.

The three men cheered, turned the cart around and was quite eager to rush back to Tharbad. Dínel had a quiet laugh and shook his head... "I don't know if it's the chance to actually meet the Telcontar or maybe just to lay their eyes on the Queen or maybe simply because they think they share a secret with an Elf that made the trick... but never mind that... I've got at least three pairs of helping hands, and that's what counts..."
The four of them rushed as quickly as possible towards the city, and within a few days, without any memorable incidents, they could see the west gate of Tharbad in the distance... Dínel, even with his elven sight, could not see any gate-guards, but he was sure they were there, and that they had already spotted the incomming strangers...
 

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Peeping-Tom

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Gallas Curugam Dínel

At the west-gate, entering Tharbad


Dínel and the three human renegades had reached the west-gate of Tharbad and still, there was no sightings of any guards protecting the city. Carefully he led them through the gate and eventually entered the city itself, unhindered. "This is most disturbing... everybody and every creature could just walk in.", he thought. He then called the three men forth... "Men of Tharbad, masons or whatever you call yourself... This gate needs gards. Nobody should be able to enter, without the whole city knowing of it in advance. I need you three men to take the place as guards, until proper relieving is found. Will you do that for me?", Dínel asked.
The three men argued between themselves for a short while, before one of them spoke up... "We have had no training as guardsmen, have only small weapons and can hardly stop any intruders who would use force entering the city. How can you suggest such a task from us?"
Dínel fetched a small double-horn made of deer-antlers from, and handed it over to the spokesman. "I said nothing about you trying to stop anybody or anything from entering the city. You just blow that horn whenever you spot something nearing the west-gate as to alert the citizens and the soldiers that should be here. Despite its size, it makes a very loud noise, hearable all over the city, even inside the buildings."
The men argued some more, before agreeing to the task Dínel gave them...
"I have no authority, as of yet, in this city, but I will take the chance and promote you all anyway... I, Gallas Curugam of Lindon, hereby announce you as Watchmen of the West-gate of Tharbad in the service of the city and the House of the ruling King of Arnor answering only to me or the King, until I say otherwise. Do all of you accept the title and the responsibilities that comes with it?"

"Aye... Yes Sir!" the three men yelled as one.

"Then Watchmen of Tharbad you are for now... I do not have any fancy suits to give you, but here is a small purse of silver coins. Consider it your payment for your services as guardsmen." Dínel fetched a brown leather pouch from within his blue cloak and pulled out a small purse from it, and handed the purse to the men. "There shall be two Watchmen on the palisades, on watch, at all times. The third should provide the others with food and drinks and remember to get some rest himself. And then you take shifts in watching, providing and resting. Now get on your posts, and remember to blow that horn.", he said and saw the two of them climbing to the top of the palisade beside the gate itself and the third running into the city trying to fetch some food and water for them all.

"Now where can that commander be hiding?", Dínel thought and slowly rode his mare into the streets of Tharbad. He purposely had clad himself in shiny armor inside his deep blue Lindon Cloak and sat upon his mare unhooded and with his grand sword clearly visible as to look special and important enough to be noticed by everybody in his sight. He now wished, he had his horn to blow, just to make a lot of noise... "This city sure needs a shake up...", he thought when he finally spotted someone who looked like a commanding person (Lord Dalin).

"Mae Govannen, I am Gallas Curugam Dínel of Lindon, summoned to the city of Tharbad in offering of my assistance and counseling if needed. I have come from the rebuilding of the Kingly city of Annúminas by the proposal of the house of Telcontar at the White City of Gondor.", Dínel spoke out loud and unmounted his horse.
Without awaiting any answer, he stepped forward to the stranger (Lord Dalin) and offered his hand... "I'm not good at being formal... I hope I have reached a commanding person of Tharbad, and that he will accept my informal self... If not, I'm just embarrassing myself and hope the good man, will then point me in the right direction.", he said with a smile...
"I am called Dínel and I hope my aid and words will be well recieved...", he made a slight bow of courtesy and awaited an answer...
 

Peeping-Tom

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Introducing :

Praag



As one of the lesser Uruk-Hai's of Mordor, Praag escaped the great downfall of Barad-Dûr by not being there at all. He had been sent to investigate the 'incident' at Isengard (the Ents and Huorns intervention), when the One Ring was destroyed. He felt a great relief, right away but also a great internal hollowness of not belonging anywhere and being of no use anymore. He search for eventually survivors of the mountains orcs in the Misty-mountains and found a great host of Goblins of the older tribes. Beeing a trained and skilled fighter, Praag quickly made it as a leader of a small group of Goblins (7 in all) and have again found a meaning of his life : To hunt, to steal, to rob and to kill... everyone and everything not originating from the Misty-Mountains... including other orcs or uruks if needed.


At the secret Orc-camp within the marshes of Nîn-in-Eilph.

Praag, along with his band, had been walking all day in the treacherous marshes before reaching the campsite. They have been walking for 10 days now, starting at the caverns of the Mountain-Goblins, down to the Sirannon and been following it right to the marshes. A couple of days of rest would be a healing help for their sore bodies.
"All right you maggots... Unpack the supplies and fix me some fresh meet...", Praag yelled to a couple of the nearest Goblins. "Three days we rest... then we move alongside the banks of Mitheithel right down to the Crossing. Although, the city around it is, again, populated and being rebuild and expanded, there are not enough manpower to defend both the city and the travelers. That will be our chance... What do you say? Shall we have fresh man flesh? Hahh... they won't even notice us comming..."

The band lightened up and started yelling and growling and working themselves up for the big event...

"Oh yes... this is going to be easy meat down the throat....", Praag thought and started laughing...
 

Ghorim

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It had rained all spring.

Randal vaguely remembered a time when the constant showers had brought relief. After a long shift on the walls, hauling blocks up and down the scaffolding, the rains would come to wash away the day’s grime and sweat. He could fill his upturned helmet with the rainwater and drink until his belly grew swollen. At night, he would stare at the barracks ceiling and listen to the vague din of raindrops against the roof, lulling him under.

Now he heard every raindrop like a pinprick against his skull. Awake or asleep, it was always there: that swarming buzz of rain. Now it stung his skin when it fell.

It was the season of mud in New Tharbad.

You couldn’t escape it. The rain reduced all of the avenues to slop, and the deep gorges cut by heavy cart wheels made it all the worse. The mud caked in thick globs on boots, bled up pant legs and streaked onto hands and faces. It clung to you like a living thing, just waiting to be brought inside the makeshift structures that King Elessar’s men had built or refurbished. And then it made itself at home indoors, marking the trails of everyone’s comings and goings.

Everyone had stopped caring at a certain point. About the rain, the mud, the crushing gray skies. They were grim men: grim leaders chosen by the King’s hand, and grim followers picked in turn by their commanders. Their morale bent, but it did not break. Even at their most miserable, they could swallow their bile, puff out their chests and pour themselves into the rebuilding effort.

And the task at hand was endless. There were the grand walls, crumbled and vine-choked, some needing to be rebuilt from the foundations up. The old buildings, which were scarce more than rectangular heaps of stone. The dam, which leaked and sputtered with every new rain. Each one of them pulled a shift at reconstruction, even the members of the council.

Or what’s left of it, Randal thought with a grimace. He was standing on the covered porch outside the infirmary, nibbling at the last bits of an apple — the last apple in his personal ration. He stripped it right down to the core, bruises and all, savoring what was likely to be the last bit of fresh fruit he enjoyed during his tour in New Tharbad. It capped off a midday meal of stiff, dark bread and salted jerky, to go along with all the blasted rainwater he could drink.

When he wasn’t toiling on the walls, Randal worked as Master Tyreon’s assistant in the infirmary. It was a maiden’s station, or so his comrades told him. But he’d been doing a great lick more work than they had, the sluggards, shuffling out there in the rain on sentry duty. Between construction accidents and skirmishes with orcs, there were patients aplenty for Tyreon to tend. He was a queer old bird, with thick mustaches that smothered his lips entirely. Tyreon ruled his roost with a brusque sort of impatience, and if Randal didn’t move double time to assist him, he got a growl and a bark for lollygagging.

But now there was this stranger occupying one of the beds, and everything suddenly felt different. An Elf, or half of one, anyway. Randal didn’t know his name. There were some mutterings going around the camp as to what the stranger’s arrival meant, and the others asked Randal for regular updates on the Elf’s condition.

“Oh. And here I thought I was a useless maiden, darning socks until the men return from their war games.” Randal sneered, but in time he relented and told them what he could.

Now he peeked in through the infirmary’s doorframe, hoping Tyreon wouldn’t notice him and order him back to work. The half-Elf lay as still as ever in his bed. His expression was strained, always taut, as if he were fighting some great battle in his dreams. Rumor had it that he had been out hunting orc, but that the prey got him instead. And what would happen when those orcs followed the blood trail to the fortress…?

“Ho!”

Randal spun around, to see a cloaked and helmeted figure looming in front of the porch, ignoring the present drizzle. The thick nose guard threw his eyes under shadow, but Randal could see a toothy smirk glinting beneath.

“Still playing at nurse, brother? Or are you set to stomach some real work?”

“I pulled my shift on the wall at dawn this morning, Rickard. While you were still snoring in bed, most likely.”

“Mmm… while I was out rummaging for dry kindling, you mean. Fending off the orc hordes with my right hand and picking up logs with my left!”

Rickard was Randal’s little brother, or at least that was what the records showed. But in truth, Rickard had a good four inches and two stone on him. Once, Randal had been able to look down at his brother. That is, until the summer Rickard turned 13. The growth spurt came without warning, like a sudden squall at sea, and by the time Randal realized what was happening it was Rickard who towered over him. The younger of the two brothers quickly filled out into an athletic, broad-backed and square-jawed ox.

With his growth came a fresh bloom in confidence, as the once-shy Rickard suddenly found himself the center of female attentions and the champion of all the other boys in their village. He could flick pebbles so that they skipped all the way across the fishing pond, heft hay bales as though they were infants, and out-race, out-wrestle and out-anything all challengers — including a few grown men.

Randal hated him for it, as was his right. So he dedicated himself to books and learning, the one field of play where Rickard could never hope to best him. As Gondor continued to stave off threats from within and without, both of them were conscripted into the service, and both distinguished themselves in different ways. Rickard had a knack for destroying things, while Randal had a knack for mending them. So when the New Tharbad endeavor came into focus, their ex-commander Dalin pushed them both to the front of the line, young though they still were.

Rickard stepped up onto the porch. He still had his spear with him, fresh from a stint on guard duty. He leaned around Randal, whom he increasingly seemed to regard as a chest-level obstruction, to glance into the infirmary hall.

“So how fares the Halfie?”

Randal shoved him, and Rickard made an exaggerated stagger backward. “Well, for all their brutishness, the orcs remain quite skilled when it comes to the brewing of poisons. Our friend in there took a shot to the shoulder, but the toxins in the arrow tip have weakened his entire body.”

“Will he wake up anytime soon?”

“I cannot say.”

“Well, better hope not.” Rickard glanced over his shoulder. No one was there. “There’s another Elf in camp, and I believe this one’s full-blooded.”

“Eh?” Randal leaned in close, but not before checking over his own shoulder. Thankfully, Tyreon was at work in the back. “How’s that?”

“He came in not an hour ago. Strutted right up to Lord Dalin like he owned the place and held out his hand. Maybe it was the scent of the first Elf that brought him here, eh?”

One Elf could be chalked up to circumstance, Randal thought, but two? It made him nervous. “Well, you know how Elves can be. They feel the need to put on these airs…”

“Ah! But that isn’t half the tale. You won’t believe what the new Elf dragged in with him.”

Yes, this already was getting to be too much. Randal folded his hands tight behind his back to maintain composure. “What’s that?”

“The Three Pack Rats.”

“The Pack Rats?” Randal’s brows shot up. “What, did he arrest them?”

“They pledged loyalty to him.” Rickard retched up a wad of phlegm and spat it into the mud as punctuation. “After running out on us like that!”

“Surely Lord Dalin will not accept them back? Deserters! They weren’t soldiers, no, but I daresay the same penalties apply to masons.”

“Masons no longer. The bloody Elf armed them, I’m told. And if that’s the case, then those three blood blisters will have a long line of swords waiting to duel them back at the barracks. And I’m at the head of the list.” Rickard smacked his brother on the shoulder. “Ha! The walls could use a bit of extra mortar, besides. Three large sacks full of rats, ground down into meal…”

“Rickard.” Randal spoke in a sharp whip crack, and it stilled his brother’s tongue. “I know full well that none of us asked for it, but this is the last sort of development we need. There’s already fellows in the barracks picking sides over this disaster with the council. The same orcs that shot the… Halfie in there will damn well know how to track him to our gates. We cannot get caught bickering amongst ourselves at a time like this! We must unite.”

Rickard looked unimpressed. He ran a gauntleted hand through his coarse black side-whiskers and snorted. “Well perhaps you should share such fine sentiments with the council. The rest of us have a code to maintain. I say stuff your ‘unity’ if it means clearing a seat at the table for rats. Harboring deserters makes us weaker, not stronger.”

Randal was halfway to figuring out a retort when Master Tyreon’s booming voice erupted from within the infirmary.

“Randal, you sleepy dormouse! Get in here. Our patient is rousing!”

The brothers exchanged a glance. Rickard’s face brightened. “May I have the honor of welcoming our esteemed Halfie to New Tharbad?”

“No.” Randal growled. “Go prance off and do whatever it was you were doing before you bothered me!”

And without waiting for a response, he turned to dash back inside, slamming the door behind him.

Rickard stared after him, paused to consider, and then shrugged, stepping back out into the rain.
 
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Halasían

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Hanasian and his company had set out from Minas Tirith to head north. The time in Minas Tirith was both relaxing and intriguing. Lord Aragorn was delighted at the news that the renegade clans of Khand were for now subdued, and his services in the far east and south were not needed. It was well nigh 40 plus years since the War of the Ring, and settling the grievances of the peoples that were under the rule of Mordor was an intense and time-consuming, but well worth the effort. With the exception of Khand, most of the realms of men settled with the King of Gondor and worked for peace and commerce with their former enemies.

King Elessar was troubled though. Even though all seemed well in the lands if the former enemies, rebuilding the old realm seemed to have some troubles. The old cities of the north were well under way in being rebuilt, and he had set out a party to rebuild the bridge of Tharbad a few years back. It was this project that troubled him. Though dwarf stone masons were eager to get on with the job of rebuilding the ruined bridge, there seemed to still be some troubles there. Therefore, Aragorn sent forth a company of soldiers under the command if Hanasian, who was a Ranger that rode with him through the Paths of the Dead during the war.

A dark, mysterious group, with some members from the far reaches of the realm, the Black Company of the East were a tough group. Though they had the appearance of some of the evil legions of Mordor, they served the King. Granted they were paid mercenaries, and the members consisted of former soldiers of Gondor, Rohan, Dunland, Harad, Rhun, Dale, Harad, and even Khand. But they swore an oath of allegiance to King Elessar, who paid the company well. Hanasian had mustered this odd group of soldiers from the remnants of the war to serve a need. They were a dozen strong now after the campaigns in Khand, for the life of one who decides to serve in an elite group of mercenaries may be short indeed.

They set out for the north, and with a night rest in Rohan, they set out for Tharbad. They should be there by the darkening hours of the next day...

The_Black_Company_by_samshank0453.jpg
 
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Peeping-Tom

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Dínel in the inner city


While having just introduced himself to Lord Dalin, a loud noise suddenly broke the silence. "It's the alarm horn... someone is aproaching the west gate.", Dínel thought. "I'm so sorry, Sir. I'll have to run for the gate, but I hope we can have a proper talk at a later, and may I add, a better moment." With that, he mounted his horse, Mornem, and quickly rode to the West Gate. The paved streets, or what was left of them, was becomming increasingly flooded and muddy. Mornem had a hard time finding foothold on the slippery surface. "Does this downpour never ends...", Dínel thought, unmounted the horse, fetched some rough suede cushions from a saddlebag and tied onto Mornems hooves. "Now, this should do your job somewhat easier, my friend." Dínel patted Mornems dripping wet neck,remounted her and continued towards the gate.

"Are you sure, it was the best thing to do?", one of the masons on watch-guard said. "I mean... we were told, only to use it if we saw somebody approaching. What will he say, when he realizes nobody is coming?" "Arrh... come on man, get serious. If this is not, at least, as good a reason as an intruding hoard of orcs, I don't know what is...", the one, who had blown the horn answered. "Anyway, if either happens, we are all screwed, I guess..." The third mason came running from his resting place... "Wha...whats up? Who's coming? ...and how many? ...and what?", he stammered, almost out of breath. "Yes... I would like answers to the same questions, watchmen of the West-Gate!", a loud deep commanding voice spoke up. The three watchman, jumped up, startled by the sudden presence of the Elf, as if he had just materialized in front of them, out of the blue. He saw the expressions on their faces and to avoid any false rumors of him being some kind of magician or wizard, that had happened before, he quickly spoke up again... "I did not mean to scare you, but the rain and the cushions under the hooves together makes a silent trot by Mornem. I sometimes use the cushions myself... Now tell me, why was the horn activated... who is comming, from where and how many... quick now." The last part was said in a hard and loud tone. The masons kept silent for a brief moment and then the one with the horn spoke up... "No one, my Lo... ehh, Dínel. It's just that the river is rising... and that's very quickly at the moment. We believe that the Dam has been overflowed and might burst at any time now. And if that happens... well, I guess we don't wanna know. I thought it best to alert the city of the situation..."

Dínel took a quick look up the river towards the dam. His elven-sight did see water gushing besides and over the dam itself... "And I believe you did right in that...", he said, "I am relieving you from your guard-duty, but ordering you to fetch your mason-tools and to fix that dam as quickly as you can. I am no expert into dam-building, but I suggest you to dig a trench besides the dam, as to let more of the water flow more easily down the river, towards the city and to ease the pressure on the dam itself. Then you heighten and thicken the dam with whatever rocks and boulders you can find and secure them with mortar. I hope the city can cope with the increased river level for some days...If you do that job and do satisfactorily, I guess you have paid penance for your desertion."
Seeing this opportunity as a better evil than the guard job, the three masons excepted the job.
"I did not ask, as a proposal... I ordered you... as your last order under my command. You are now masons again, and as such under the command of whomever controls the rebuilding of Tharbad. That dam has to hold... It is now your task... your responsibility... earn your respect back, not just from me but from the whole city and the King himself, but do it quick."
Without a word, the three masons handed him their weapons and the horn...
"I'll take my horn back, but the weapons you get to keep. No man should go unarmed, no matter who they are or what they do... Now move... save the dam and save the city..."
The masons quickly fetched their tools and enough supplies to last a week for three men and left the city towards the dam in their small one-horse driven cart.

"This is getting worse by the minute... where's the soldiers? Where's the officers? Who's in charge in this god-forsaken ruin of a city? ...and then this everlasting downpour. Has Ulmo finally decided to claim Middle-Earth for himself?", Dínel thought while dragging Mornem, and himself, into a partially dry, still standing but empty, house. Here he undressed his wet clothes, removed his armor and packed it away into a large saddlebag, put on some dry clothes and a Lightbrown and white long coat made out of deer-hides. He hung the wet clothes and cloak to dry inside the house and started to dry out Mornem too with some straw he found in a corner. He relieved her from her heavy saddlebags and fetched her a small amount of hay and fodder from them. "We're almost out of food, my friend. Let's hope there's somewhere we can replenish our supplies." He took a look around the small, single roomed, house... it was made out of small dried clay-bricks, supported by wooden-planks on the inside, a single window in the two free walls, the east and west walls, the other two walls were shared with the neighboring houses. The missing entrance door should have been in the door-frame besides the window in the east wall. The roof consisted of loosely laid wooden planks made waterproof with tightly compressed straws, fixed to the planks with hemp-cords. It had a fireplace at the north wall and a shared chimney with the neighbor. "Well, it's not Lindon or Imladris but it's empty and free and if it's good enough for you, Mornem, it's good enough for me too.", Dínel said and watched how his horse presumably enjoyed her new accommodation. He fetched a piece of parchment and wrote a note which he attached to the door-frame fetched his sword and a broad-brimmed brown leather hat and left the house, still aiming to find someone with some kind of authority in the city. "Now, you behave yourself and protect my house...", he said to Mornem and took a look at the note he had put up... It was written in three languages : Sindarin, Rhorric and the common language of men :

"This is a claimed property by
Gallas Curugam Dínel of Lindon.
Any problems, reclaims and such shall be made to me in person.
No entrance is allowed unless permission is given by me.
Beware of the horse..."



Dínel
did not find anything or anybody useful on his stroll through the wet ruin-city of Tharbad and ended up at a house of healing (infirmary) close to the east-gate. He opened the door and entered... "Mae Govannen... Hello... My name is Dínel. I wondered if someone in charge was available..." he tried to sound as casual as possible and kept the hat on as to not reveal all of his face.
 
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Elora

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Rin scrunched up her eyes and peered at the deluge from beneath it. She sighed heavily, already sodden to her bones. Cold water would have pooled in her boots, if she had them. She peered down and wriggled toes that had turned a distinct shade of blue, visible in the grey murk even if she could not feel them. She twisted back to the scrub behind her and tried to make out her brother.

"This is not going to work, Loch", she again announced. Loch made no response, and Rin turned back to peer up the track she was standing by. She made a truly pitiful figure, which was exactly what her slightly elder brother was counting on. Rin kept wriggling her toes in the ragged remains of her 'boots' and sighed again for good measure. The numbness, she mused, meant that she no longer shivered.

Rin stared across the track at the bank of trees on the other side. Truth be told, her mind wandered. Abject hunger bordering on starvation did not bode well for alertness or concentration. Rin's stomach twisted sharply, sending stabbing pain shooting through her. She gritted her teeth and wrapped arms too thin around her middle and waited.

"They're not coming, Loch. Maybe they turned off or found somewhere dry...or"

"SHHHHHHHH!"
Rin scowled at the trees over her brother's imperious tone. They were both tired, frozen, starved and soaked. He needn't get so uppity with her. He knew she was the best pickpocket to grace what passed as their family. Why, if he had only listened to her, they could have remained in that town that smelled like wet rat and pigs for at least another two days, made so much more coin and would now be somewhere warmer than out here-

"Is she dead?" A stranger's voice startled Rin from her brooding and she struggled to pull her blurry eyes into focus. A soldier, a hard bitten one, stared at her. Rin blinked, collected her wits and put on her best damsel voice, "Please sir... some bread?" Another soldier joined the one standing before her. Both had their hands on their sword belts, restless eyes.

"Not quite," the first soldier mused, studying her hard for a long moment until the commotion behind her drew their attention. Swords snapped out and there was the sound of a man, Loch, shouting. Rin looked down at her fingers, twitching numbly by her side. The two men stepped past her. She didn't know what took possession of her, but they moved on past her minus their coin pouches. Rin forced her frozen feet into motion, stumbled onto the track and tucked the pouches into the rags that swathed her slight frame.

The soldiers never spared her a glance, knowing she was perhaps two breaths from starvation. Loch fought like a bull, and the two soliders went to join the two that had flushed him out. Rin stumbled on to the other side of the track and through the trees she had been so furiously staring at for so long. She stopped, turned to look back through the branches. The four soldiers swarmed over Loch. Properly fed and rested, he'd be a match for two, and give the other two some sore trouble. He was as weak as she was though. Living was hard in these lands. Rin's head spun and she leant a hand out against the bole of a tree to steady herself.

"RUN!" Loch's bellow sent a bolt of fear through her. Movements jerky, Rin spun and pelted madly through the trees. She ran, chest burning, on numb feet. She ran, through the rain, darting erratically. She ran, blind as a march hare, straight into a man that seemed to materialise out of nowhere. He plucked her up easily.

"Ho there, I think that's far enough," he said from beneath a deep cowl. Sharp eyes, bright grey pierced her as she dangled. Rin knew how fragile the rags wrapping her were. She had but to twist hard enough and she'd be on the ground again and free to dart away. But she had seen such cowls and eyes before. She started back, vivid blue eyes glassy and wide peering through golden hair made dark by the rain and plastered to her head. She flailed, but whatever energy she had was now gone. It was a half hearted attempt.

The Ranger that had her gave her a light shake, and two pouches tumbled out and thumped onto the wet earth between the Ranger and where she stood.

"You should have gone for their rations, girl," the Ranger chided. She weighed no more than a child, even if she were far too tall to be called any such thing now. The Ranger dropped her, scooped up the pouches and gestured at the trees behind him. More soldiers, a whole company, Rin realised with a sinking stomach. The mad rush through the trees had gotten blood flowing enough to let her shiver in fear and cold.

"On your feet," said the Ranger that had snared her. He pulled her up firmly by a shoulder so fragile he was quick to let it go. He shook his head at her, then turned towards the track. "Come on then," said one of the soldiers. His expression was hard, relentless, and he pushed her forward to follow the Ranger. As they neared the track, Loch's struggles became clearer. When the Ranger, the rest of the Company and Rin stepped through the trees, Loch stared at her and then sagged.

"Hope it was worth it," said the soldier that had made her march back with them. "Probably wasn't, but I didn't ask to be born," Rin retorted with a bleakness that made the soldier pull back in surprise. Subdued, the four soldiers stepped back. Loch picked himself up from the ground and stood. Rin walked to stand by him. Her entire body was shaking with exhaustion. Her vision spun.

"You should have run, Rin," Loch said to his younger sister, the sole remnant of their family. Rin nodded automatically and sat suddenly on the muddy track, unable to trust her legs anymore. She just didn't care what happened. Loch looked down at his sister. She looked like some spindly twig, wasting away as if she would melt in the rain if she sat there long enough. Her face was pale, her eyes shone with a fever that would be the death of her in her current state. Rin leant against Loch's leg and closed her eyes.

The rain kept falling, falling, falling... and everywhere were soldiers and Rangers and at last the sweet comfort of death and of never being hungry or cold again.

"Why'd you do it, Rin? Rin?" Rin didn't answer because Rin wasn't conscious.

"If you're to make your lives as bandits, they'll assuredly be short careers," the Ranger said. Loch ignored him and tried to rouse his sister. Her head lolled.

"Well, what have you say for yourself before the King's justice is served," asked one of the nearest soldiers. Loch made no reply at first, bending to stretch Rin out on the ground and tucking what was left of her clothing against her body. Her skin was so cold it was as ice and yet beneath it burned like a furnace.

"All we wanted was food," Loch replied, "I don't think she knew what she was doing." He smoothed back hair as golden as his own from her brow. She shivered beneath his touch. "This wasn't the plan," he murmured,"It wasn't supposed to be like this."

The Ranger stared at the pair, obviously brother and sister though the boy's eyes were as brown as his sister's were blue. Perhaps twenty summers on the boy, less on the girl, clearly starved and desperate, they made a pathetic pair. They were so run down that even an orc wouldn't bother with them. The girl had hit him at full speed and she weighed no more than a half emptied sack of corn meal. The Ranger looked at his men. They'd seen much worse than this in their collected campaigns and years, but they did not have the protective blur of battle to deaden the impact of such sights.

"Well, what say you men," the Ranger asked. "What shall the King's Justice mete to these two vagabonds. Speak your minds quickly, or the girl will elude us all."

"
 

Halasían

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The two looked a bit worried that they may have bitten off a bit much. A dozen well armed men is not a mark one would take lightly unless they're desperate. Mulgov, a big black Haradian said something about keeping them as pets, which got a chuckle from some of the others, but Hanasian waved his hand for silence.

"We will break here, for these trees offer a little break from the chill wind, though the rain has worked its way through them. Still they look as though a bit of a meal they could use. We'll rest cold so everyone give up a bit of saddle fare for the kids to eat. And Khule, toss the girl that old cloak of yours. It will give her some protection from the elements along with some warmth, not to mention allowing her some decency from the eyes of you lot."

They all dismounted, and Mulgov along with Khule the Easterling kept a close watch on the two. Nothing was going to go missing while they rested and ate. The girl blankly accepted the cloak, even though it stunk and could use a wash, and the bits of bread and dried meat were gladly accepted. After they hungrily took part on what was offered, Hanasian asked them...

"So, since we had the opportunity to meet, I can guess your names from your words to each other. Now tell me where is it you came from, and where is it you go?"

He stared at the boy, seeing a possible future prospect in him. That will have to wait though, for much will be determined by their words and deeds this day.
 

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Where from and where to were mighty questions indeed for the unfortunate pair. Loch placed an arm around his sister, who seemed to lapse in and out of consciousness against him. She was awake, barely, when the Ranger quizzed them. Loch felt her stiffen, despite her relentless shivering, with suspicion that she had always had for soldiers since they left what was once home. Home, a tantalising and now impossibly distant place for them both."Don't tell them," Rin tried to say. Her shivering made it hard to get the words out.

"Less talk from you and more eating would be a fine idea, girl," growled the big Haradian with a wide smile. Loch sensed there was no malice in it, but Rin had no such faith. She all but crawled across her brother to the other side, and perched there to peer back at the large man from across Loch's shoulders. For his part, the man laughed and took another powerful bite at some hardened meat. Half dead, half conscious, half terrified, the girl had spit and he liked that. He demonstrated by waving the jerkey at her. Rin only clutched at her brother closer, cloak slipping from around her shoulders.

The others grinned, mostly, though some saw the entire affair as all too familiar and all too sad. They ate and watched in silence. "Don't trust them, Loch! Don't!" Loch reached and pulled the cloak back up. As far as his sister was concerned, there wasn't a single soldier to be trusted and after what they had seen he could hardly fault her for that. But it didn't have to be that way, Loch knew. If you were on the other end of the sword. If you were on the other end, then the things that had happened to their parents simply didn't happen. "Eat, Rin, slowly or you'll get sick remember?" Rin never took her eyes off the Haradian, who had given up with his peace offering and resumed eating it. She set her teeth at the corner of the bread and teared a piece off, slowly chewing and calculating how best to extricate them from their current mess. One mess after the other.

Rin's head spun sickeningly and she took another bite as Loch defied her carefully thought through instructions and responded to Hanasian's original questions."The Borderlands," he replied and trusted to his instincts. Rin fought to keep consciousness beside him and dug a sharp elbow into his ribs. Loch stiffled a wince and continued,"And we're going anywhere that's safe." Rin elbowed him again, harder.

"They'll have a hard time finding that with their habits," Khule announced. Men grunted their agreement around them. Hanasian waved silence again and probed closer, watching the young woman with mounting concern. "Which border," he quizzed. Loch hesitated, years of bitter racial prejudice had taught him caution. In for a penny, as their Da used to say each morning long ago. That prejudice had cost his father and his mother their lives and had flung them into the teeth of a wide and impassive world that had little place for the likes of them.

"Dunland," Khule said, "That's what I'd wager, with his eyes like they are and their hair." Beside him, Rin hissed a warning and then toppled face first into the grass, half eaten bread rolling from one out stretched and limp hand. "Aye, Dunland, and what of it!"

"Now you've done it, Khule," Mulgov said, waving at the fallen and newly unconscious girl. Loch knelt to lift his younger sister up. "Ah! She's burning up!"

"And she wasted perfectly edible stale bread," Mulgov said, shaking his head. He liked the girl, but she sure was hard to keep awake. The boy, though, a good feed and he had promise.

"Don't get too close," Khule warned. "I made that mistake and it nearly cost me a month's pay!" Loch chafed Rin's cheeks in a bid to rouse her. Her shivering started to become violent, and her eyes moved beneath pale lids, but she did not wake. Mulgov stood, retrieved the bread and studied the scene below. "If it's an act, it's a damn good one," he rumbled. Hanasian sighed heavily and reached under his tightly drawn cloak to fetch out a pouch that did not contain money. He pushed the girl's brother aside, pulled open her mouth and crumbled a dark powder between her lips that he washed down with a quick swig from his water bag. A long moment passed and the shivering abated to more normal levels.

"How long have you been out here," the Ranger asked, studying the young woman sprawled on the ground before them both. "Forever," Loch groaned. "And you were heading for New Tharbad," Hanasian stated, the conclusion foregone. Loch nodded, staring hard at his sister. "I still think we should keep them," Mulgov said,"Even if they are trouble," Khule grunted, clearly unimpressed still about losing his wages temporarily to a slip of a girl. Hanasian shook his head, scooped up the girl and handed her across to Mulgov. "Mount up men," he ordered. Grumbling, the men did as bidden. Loch was assigned to ride behind Khule. Hanasian took the girl himself, hoping the added warmth of the horse would be enough to get her through to Tharbad, a roof and four weatherproof walls.

Rin, perhaps blessedly, was entirely insensate for all of this. Oblivious to being handed about soldiers, she wandered fever fuelled dreams of a place long ago and a woman whose voice still haunted her memories, that of her slain mother. Loch, though desperately worried for his sister still marvelled at the day's turn. He was in a waking dream, a soldier at last.
 

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"Worry not missy,

Hanasian said as the company started to ride,

"None here will harm or take advantage of you. They are rather foul in appearance, but they all mean well and serve King Elessar"

Rin showed no response, and Hanasian hoped she wouldn't go falling off the horse. A hand went up and fingers moved, and tey set out a a fair gallop. They hoped to make Tharbad by nightfall.

~ ~ ~

The rain intensified as they went on, and the grey skies darkened with heaviness and the onset of evening. They weren't going to make it. Hanasian had to make a decision to either push on in the cold wet darkness or stop and make a cold camp. Too many leagues yet to go, and with things uncertain in the city, he decided to take them off the road to a thicket of trees by some rock outcroppings about a half mile east of the road. He sent Wulgof the Dunlanding and Amira of Dale up to scout the high ground while the rest tried to settle for some rest as best they could. But it wasn't long before Wulgof and Amira returned...

"We found orc-sign, and it is at the most a day old. We should be wary here."

Hanasian talked to the two a bit more, noting that Loch was lingering close by, listening curiously. They weren't saying anything that needed guard, so Hanasian said to him,

"You... Loch, come here."

Maybe by instinct he turned to head the other way, but paused and came forward slowly. Hanasian said to Wulgof and Amira,

"We should ask this man, for I have a feeling he has been around here quite a bit of late. Loch, have you seen any orcs or sign they have been in your travels?"

Loch looked like he was thinking, and was maybe in shock that he was being asked this. Hanasian went on,

"We just want to know what you have seen since I'm sure you and the girl had your eyes out for anyone moving through these parts. Speak free boy."

Hanasian had already made up his mind that they would go forth to Tharbad in the dark, taking their chances with the city watch than being waylaid in the night by orcs, but he wanted to engage this boy. Maybe it was what he saw at their meeting or or a gut feeling he had, or both, but Hanasian was thinking there may be more to this boy....
 

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Loch turned to where his sister lay. If she were awake, she’d be glaring at him hard enough to set his hair on fire. He knew why that would be, but he also knew his own mind. He turned back to where the Ranger and the two scouts stood, chewed it over some more and decided to cast the die whilst Rin was sleeping.

”Aye, sporadic and old at first,” he confirmed. “But it got fresher and thicker as we closed on Tharbad. All the game vanished too.” Loch gestured at his own spare frame and then scratched at his chin. Rin would have his hide for consorting with soldiers, but Rin was plain wrong headed about it and he knew that for certain. “How long since you’ve found game,” Amira asked the young man. Loch shrugged one shoulder laconically. “Three days, this would be the fourth I suppose.”

Hanasian studied Loch carefully as he spoke. Aside from his sandy hair, Rohan at a guess, the lad had similar features to Wulgof, confirming the lad’s earlier tale about his origins. His sister, however, was entirely another matter. There was neither Dunland or Rohan in her features. All it took was once glance over to where she lay, now blinking blearily at the men and horses around her. The young woman, Hanasian could not help but conclude, had the look of a people long scattered by the inexorable predations of war – his own northern kin.

But that was not all Hanasian thought of. Loch’s statement confirmed several other things about the young man. He was, it would seem, a skilled tracker and reasonable hunter. There was no other way for the pair to be in such reasonably good condition. He was also keen to belong, clearly soaking up the company of the men around him. Lastly, Loch was fiercely loyal to the sister that did not remotely bear any resemblance to himself. Rin had sat up now and was glaring at Loch like her brother had known she would. Loch ignored her, which prompted her to then stand.

“We ride, then,” Hanasian said once he noticed Rin was on her feet and conscious again, “Hard as we can”. Khule, who had drifted over muttered, “Not as hard as we could,” flicking a dark gaze at Loch and then his sister. “I can too ride as hard as you,” Loch unwisely replied. The men chuckled knowingly around him. “Well and good,” Hanasian said after a moment’s further thought. “We’ll see in five or so minutes.” Dismissed, the men peeled away to tend to their saddles and themselves before they again had to mount up.

Loch strolled over to where Rin stood, fidgeting with the slipping cloak. Molguv loomed over the pair and plucked up the cloak with a grin. He produced a wickedly curved dagger, carved a head sized hole in the middle of it and then dropped it back over Rin’s frozen, shocked face. “That,” Khule cried, “is MY CLOAK!” Molguv winked at the Easterner and sauntered away. Khule turned back to his horse, muttering thick curses in his own tongue. Hanasian meanwhile had plucked out two apples from his own saddle bags and brought them to the siblings. “Eat,” he said sternly. “You’ll need to be able to hang on to keep up.” With that, he left the pair to it.

Rin stared at the apple in her hand, speechless. Loch took a large bite, chewing hard and ignoring the renewed glare she turned back on him. “What do you think you’re doing, Loch,” she demanded, taking a bite out of her own apple and closing her eyes momentarily as the sweet rush of it permeated her and made her light headed. “I’m helping, Rin. It’s not so hard. Even you could do it if you wanted to,” he teased around another mouthful of apple. Rin’s scowl returned deeper than before and Loch threw his arms up. “What, Rin? What’s the big problem?”

Rin rolled her eyes, lowered her apples and hissed a response,” I’ve said it before, Loch. They’re soldiers.” Loch pointed at the apple in her hand,” Mmmm, evil soldiers who give you food.” He pointed again at her makeshift poncho. “And that, whatever that is.” Some way off, Khule muttered, “It was a cloak.” Rin waved his arguments aside with a shake of her pale hair and a stubborn set to her chin. “It doesn’t matter which army, they’re all the same, Loch and you have finally gone mad if you're letting all this fool you!”

Loch looked up, his own jaw bunching as he stared hard over his sister’s head. Then he took a bite of his apple and chewed it carefully. “Well, Rosmarin,” he said heavily and sparking a growl as he invoked her full name, “ We’ll do it you’re way. Let’s say that those men were soldiers. Let’s say that, even though I know they weren’t. If that is true, like you say it is even though you were only five, then I’ll tell you this little sister. If Da had known his way around a sword, maybe he and mother would be alive today! Maybe if Da had been a soldier, we’d still have a -“ Rin’s slap broke the rest of what her brother had been about to say off.

It shocked the both of them. Loch straightened, fists closing at his side and then took a careful step back with narrowed eyes. Rin stared at her own hand, pale and shaken, and then to her brother’s face. “No Loch, don’t you ever blame them. It’s not their fault. That’s not right,” she said urgently.

Hanasian, like the others, had watched the confrontation spring to life with some interest. He strode over between the pair. “Enough, I think. Mount up, men!” He pointed Loch over to Wulgof, and took Rosmarin’s upper arm through the cloak. “I’d finish that apple in a hurry, were I you.” Rin’s apple had turned to ashes as far as she was concerned, but she lifted it to her mouth all the same, unable to take her eyes off her elder brother.

“If I’m wrong, Rin, then so are we both,” Loch said in parting, turned his back and walked away. "Make sure Wulgof gives you a weapon of some sort," Hanasian said to hurry the boy along. Hanasian looked down at the young woman he had in hand, sorely tempted to question her further but lacking the time to do so. “Ready?”

Rin tossed the apple core away. “Nearly,” she said, tugging her arm. Hanasian let her go and she took a few steps to the side, plucked a grey green plant from a rock and chewed some leaves. Hanasian pointed to his horse. Subdued and still chewing she complied. He mounted and stretched down to pull her up.

“If anything happens, you get down low against the horse’s neck and hang on,” he instructed. Rin nodded and swallowed, shoulders slumped. “What,” he started to ask as he kicked his horse into a trot and then a canter. “Lamb’s Tongue,” came Rin’s reply, “for fever.” Hanasian let a brow rise as that little tidbit sunk home. The girl had unschooled healing abilities.

As night fell, Hanasian’s company rode as fast as they dared towards Tharbad, scouts ranging around seeking further sign of impending attack. As he rode, Rin before him, he couldn’t help but wonder about her origins. She looked of northern stock and, if he guessed aright, possessed abilities of a similar origin. As Rin rode through the night, she closed her eyes and hung on. The Lamb’s Tongue broke her fever as she had known it would, but it couldn’t stop what she kept seeing in her mind’s eye. Her mother’s blood spread in a growing pool across the floor of their cottage, a hungry and relentless tide that had stolen everything from her.
 

Ghorim

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Randal had always wondered how Master Tyreon could keep such steady hands with such a jittery temperament. When their visitor Dinel popped his head in and asked his simple question, the prominent vein beneath Tyreon's right eye spasmed in irritation. The healer had his black gaze trained on the half-Elf’s shoulder as he removed and redressed the bandages with clamp-jawed concentration.

“Randal,” he rumbled, his mustache curling inward upon itself. “Handle it.”

Even with only a few months as Tyreon's assistant, Randal knew how to read that thick, graying mustache, and this time it told him to move. He hopped up, hurried to the door, and ushered Dinel outside. But before he left, he stole a glance back over his shoulder, and caught a look at the half-Elf’s swimming, delirious face. No, their patient wasn’t out of the woods yet.

Wrenching himself away, Randal followed the stranger outside.

“Dinel, was it?”

“Dínel,” the fellow corrected, pulling the brim of his hat all the lower.

“Pray tell, what is the difference?” It was a strange name, and the stranger spoke it with an accent that piqued Randal’s curiosity.

“You cannot hear it?” There was a note of amusement in the voice.

Randal craned his neck at an awkward angle — downward and forward, trying to get a better look at this other’s face. Then, in a brief flash, he caught a glimpse of one of Dínel’s bright eyes. And only then did he remember the greeting the stranger had spoken: “Mae Govannen.” Of course, how obvious!

“Ah!” Randal leaned back, looking half satisfied for having solved the riddle and half suspicious from its solution. “You must be the Elf my brother spoke of.”

Whether or not Randal’s grand discovery made any impact on the Elf was impossible to tell. “Perhaps I am. But you yet owe me an answer to my first question: where might I find someone of authority in this stronghold?”

“Authority? And you went scrounging around the infirmary in search of it?” Randal gave a half-grin, which made his round, clean-shaven face look all the younger. Dínel said nothing. The day’s drizzle continued to resound off the roof timbers.

Randal realized he’d been flippant, and cleared his throat. “Ahem… well… did you not meet our Lord Dalin already?”

“I did. And he proved most unhelpful.”

Randal grimaced. His and his brother’s loyalty to Dalin still ran deep from the recent campaigns, but he remembered his manners and ruled the matter a misunderstanding.

“I don’t imagine anyone has formally welcomed you, then?” He gave a little bow, obviously unpracticed. “Well if I may…”

“No need.” The Elf finally pulled back his hat a bit to regard the young apprentice. “Formalities disinterest me as much as they obviously do you.”

“Oh.” Randal straightened again, shoving a lank lock of brown hair out of his face. “So why, then, are you…?”

“Come,” Dínel interrupted, turning toward the rain. “Walk with me. Show me about Tharbad, tell me all you know of it, and I shall repay you with my tale. But I warn you: I fear I shall have the better of the bargain.”

The young man felt suddenly impotent, drawn to follow the Elf — his odd accent, his ancient air — but still anchored by his infirmary duties.

“My thanks, sir, but I have my master’s wrath to consider…”

Dínel had already started to stroll, and only paused briefly to look back. “He told you to ‘handle it,’ did he not?” He offered just a wisp of a smile. “Handle me, then.”

And on he went, marching out along the mud-bogged path as though it were a sunny meadow beneath blue skies. Randal turned toward the infirmary door, but stopped, cursing under his breath, and whirred about to follow the Elf without really knowing why.
 

Firawyn

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The last twenty-four hours had been a blur. One moment an injured half-elf had shown up, and an hour later he'd been shaking hands with another elf. What had King Aragorn said about elves being gone from Middle Earth? Dalin mused. It did not appear that they were so very gone after all.

When the elf, Dinel, had introduced himself, Dalin had hesitated a moment, not out of disregard for the newcomer, but because he already knew he was up to his neck in trouble for letting in the last elf. He was the green one on the council, after all. The hesitation was costly though, as that moment later a great horn had blown, and Dinel had excused himself and hastened back to the gate. Dalin had followed quickly as he could, but by the time he'd reached the gate, the elf had been there and gone, sending some masons to go off and mend the dam.

The damn breaking, of course, was the cause of the horn blowing. While on one hand, Dalin found himself irritated that this elf was taking a role as leader that he had no right to take, on the other hand, today it was needed, and for that Dalin was grateful.

Dalin, who was a mason's apprentice in his youth, decided to follow the trail to the damn and do what he could to help. He'd only become a soldier because, well, war happened. He would do far more good saving the city from floods than he would from orcs, or whatever else might befall them.

Exhausted and covered in mud, Dalin was now making his way to the infirmary. He'd worked for eighteen hours straight with the other three men, and they'd stopped the breach, for now. They'd talked about it and agreed that the dam that existed was old and would constantly need repaired, especially if this rain kept up. The only real solution was to build a new, better dam ahead of the old one, and slowly let the water through the old one. They would plug the leak until they could replace the pipe, so to speak.

Dalin looked up and saw he'd arrived at the infirmary. Why was he here?

Oh, yes,
he thought. Because of the log that tried to take off my head.

"Lord Dalin!"

"Hullo Randal," Dalin said. "Might I bother your for a bandage?"

"You've just missed Dinel," Randel said, setting to work on cleaning Dalin's wound. "He was asking about you. Where have you been?"

Dalin growled. "Trying to keep his pointy ears from getting washed away."
 

Halasían

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They had set off riding hard toward the old city, but Wulgof could sense trouble. Apparently in his years of absence, wayward gangs of renegade orcs had gathered in the hills and would raid the road and the Dunlanding settlements. He didn't like this latest hardship on his people, but what was this old soldier, a veteran of the Orthanc Legion, first of the young strong Dunlandings recruited by Sarumann to fight his war against Rohan, to do? He survived Helms Deep, and captivity under the horsemen of Rohan wasn't too bad. It was where he met Folcrum, one of his guards. They had become friends, which was no small feat considering the long-standing differences between the Rohirrim and the Dunlandings, and up to just a short time earlier they were trying to kill each other. The peace allowed Wulgof to return home where he tried to eek out a living trying to grow crops in the rocky land of the foothills. He didn't stay long, for the trauma of battle haunted him and he had no peace. He had gone north and worked odd jobs in Bree and drank at the Prancing Pony. It was there his life changed forever.

A familiar looking blonde man came in and talked to several men about joining the King's Company. He recognised the man as Folcrum. Folcrum recognised him. Few words were said by either, for Wulgof's eyes said that he would gladly become a prospect to join the company...

Wulgof realised they would likely be attacked and had his axe, sword, and daggers at ready if needed. Wasn't sure how he would be able to do battle with this hanger-on boy with him, but he showed good ability in the brief exchange he had with company men. Still, the night was dark and the rain made visibility even harder. A few of the men rode wide and would make a bird sound every few minutes to signal all was clear.

Hanasian's hand raised and signalled quickly, sensing their approach. With the bird-calls coming in with a different pitch, they slowed and drew close as they rode. A faint glow of torchlight could be seen ahead in the mist, so they were drawing close to the city's outer watch. But the hiss, thud, and cry of pain from a horse to their right was the start of the attack. Belgon, a soldier of Minas Tirith who fought in the Pelennor, hit the ground with a grunt and was hacked to death even before he stopped rolling. The fight was on...
 

Elora

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The attack, when it came, was swift and with little warning that Rin or Loch could discern. Loch heard the hiss and whine of arrows around him. In front, Wulgof shouted “Attack!” The group put on new speed, moving into a tight formation that pushed Hanasian’s horse inwards and the one Loch rode with Wulgof out. “Hope you’re ready for this,” the Dunlander grunted to Loch. Loch gripped the shortsword uncertainly and nodded, voice vanished. With a terrible scream, the orcs closed and the forces were enjoined.

The orcs were brazen, attacking so close to New Tharbad. The glow of the settlement's torches lights beckoned tantalisingly close on the trail ahead. Archers on the external horses continued their volley, Loch ducking beneath Wulgof’s bow and swinging with his short sword as best he could manage. Closer in, Hanasian drew his own blade and circled his horse about to take stock. “Remember,” he growled in Rin's ear as his gaze raked the trail ahead and the distance to Tharbad’s safety. “Head low and hang on.” Rin clutched at the pommel. The Ranger slid off his mount.

Hanasian sent the horse charging with Rin ahead to Tharbad. He jumped atop Khule’s horse and the pair moved to close the gap Hanasian’s horse had made. Nearby another horse screamed as a pike pierced it’s hind legs and severed its hamstrings. Loch was surrounded in a bewildering, sweaty, terrifying and electrifying nexus of hand to hand combat. He’d never been so close to such creatures before in his life. Three surged Wulgof’s horse, causing it to shy abruptly. Loch tumbled off its rump, rolled and came to his feet where a number of other un-horsed soldiers now gathered.

A large hand closed on what passed for Loch’s collar and hauled him backwards. Molguv grinned at him madly in the night and savagely laid into the orcs that boiled towards them. It was chaos. It made his stomach churn when he later had the time to think back on it. It shocked him when he found himself laughing and swinging beside the Haradian giant.

Hanasian’s horse surged, leaping over the orcs in a graceful arc of horseflesh. The scent of orcs drove it hard towards Tharbad and Rin clung to the pommel for dear hope. Behind her, the cries of men in battle froze her bones. Ahead of her, Tharbad and safety glistened. Behind her was her brother. Rin sawed at the reins with all her scant strength, managing only to bring the horse back around. She applied her heels and it started cantering forward, gathering speed. Only the training of Hanasian’s horse saved Rin’s life. The horse tacked sharply to avoid another orc pike, tumbling Rin from the saddle and bringing her rolling along the track until she collided with a heavy object that groaned when she hit it.

Rin shook her head to clear it and peered at what had ceased her rolling. It was a man, a grizzled and grey veteran that Rin had heard the others call “Bear.” He was breathing hard and shallow through his mouth and opened his eyes as she bent over him. “Thought you was long gone, lass,” he ground out. Khule, meanwhile spotted Hanasian’s horse speeding by. “Your horse,” he grunted, thrusting through another orc and flicking it off his blade. Hanasian slashed viciously, watching it ghost by and its empty saddle. He cursed what it surely meant.

It was hard for her to see, but Bear was clearly in pain. “Where,” Rin asked as she started to search about. “Gut,” Bear said as Rin discovered for herself the sticky warmth of a blow that would likely kill him. She felt about, carefully, and realised that instinct had prompted Bear to try to hold himself in. She was an entirely different person to the young woman they’d met that afternoon. “Move your hands when I say so,” she said urgently. Bear grunted. “Duck,” he said as a sword slashed the air over where her head had been. Rin looked up to see Wulgof move past her, slashing and weaving and screaming something incomprehensible to her. She returned her attention to Bear.

“Move,” she said and began the difficult and delicate task of repacking the parts of his upper stomach that had escaped. She worked quickly, focused, and instructed the man to hold himself together again. Re-pack, close, clean, she recalled Calerous chanting to the group that watched him perform this technique in the far more civilised setting of an infirmary some months ago. She could do one, some of the second, but none of the third step of his technique. Rin reached under the makeshift poncho to unravel some of the rags she had been wearing. She pulled them out hurriedly and then shifted to try to leverage Bear slightly up. He was too heavy for her to manage. Wulgof fought hard around her and when a momentary lull was won he turned back to woman. “What the hell are you doing here,” he snarled, ducking as another pike was thrown.

“Help me lift him,” Rin demanded, none of the fear they’d seen in her evident now. Wulgof peered at her, swore and then complied. Rin, meanwhile darted hands around Bear to start wrapping him up. “Waste of time,” Bear grunted. “It might be,” she said through gritted teeth and tied the bandaging off. “Now what,” Wulgof asked, eyes scanning the fray. He had no idea why he was asking her. The men had managed to form a circle, she saw and she pointed. “Help me get him in there,” she said. Together, they dragged Bear, towards the safety. “You,” Wulgof panted, “Are going to be the death of me.”

Rin just closed her eyes and dragged. Her heart lurched into her throat and then they were through. “That’s it,” Wulgof said, “No more crazy stuff.” He shook his head, and spun away. Bear was still panting. He needed to stay warm, given the blood he had surely lost. She pulled the cloak from over her head without further thought and laid it over him. It was the best she could do under the circumstances. Within the circle, Rin found others fallen. Some dead, some human, and some alive. She raided whatever she could lay her hands on – water, a dagger, cloth and set about continuing what she had done for Bear. Time lost any grip on her until an orc grabbed her ankle. She panicked, grasping for anything within reach. She found a stone and pounded at the creature, already mostly dead, until it's grip failed. The call of horns broke through the night.

A ripple of unease shimmied through those orcs that remained at the sound. Their heads swivelled this way and that and they hesitated. For Rin, it made no difference to her. She was fighting her own battle. Another blast of horns and the orcs broke with a piercing howl. They ran, gibbering, into the night. The screams of horses and the groans of men lingered in their wake. Some of Hanasian’s company that still stood walked the scene, putting down horses and ensuring fallen orcs were truly dead. Others dragged orc carcasses away. Rin continued her work, washing orc blood out of a fallen man’s face. She didn’t know his name. Someone pulled her to her feet, a hand around her upper arm tugging her upwards, and enfolded her in an embrace that pushed the breath from her body. ”You just can’t help yourself, can you Rin? Just got to fix people up.”

Loch’s face swum into view. He was talking, gabbling, asking her if she was unharmed and peering at her with growing concern as he took in her bloodied state. "Where is that cloak," he asked. Rin pointed to where Bear lay, unable to respond further. Everywhere she looked in the rain, there was more to do. “What did you think you were doing,” Hanasian asked, looking about in astonishment and then squarely at her. Rin pointed looked over at Bear, who was an alarming shade pale grey. “If you don’t get him to Tharbad within the hour, he’ll be dead no matter what I think I am doing,” she declared. Wulgof, doubled over to catch his breath said between gasps, “She’s crazy, Hanasian.”

Tharbad’s Watch thundered around them and reined in, it’s commander dismounting and seeking Hanasian out to exchange words. Hanasian dealt with the man, passing on information and requesting assistance to get several of his fallen to Tharbad quickly. The watch quickly fell out and to their tasks. Rin pointed particular men out, steering them this way and that. In the torchlight, she made an incongruous figure, covered in blood and wearing rags and dilapidated boots. It was Khule again to the rescue, donating the only other cloak he had left to his name and wrapping it around her shoulders. The Easterling shook his head as he did so, not sure what he had more difficulty understanding: her actions or his.

“I didn’t know you travelled with a healer,” the Watch officer said. Hanasian made a non committal sound, cleaning and sheathing his own sword. “Neither did I,” he muttered, turning to round up his remaining men.
 

Halasían

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The company made it to Tharbad, and there they lay Amira to rest, and got Bear and Frecol the care they would need to survive. Hanasian hoped they would be able to rejoin them in the north by Autumn, but that would remain to be seen.

After a few days in Tharbad they managed to cross north of the river, and in the morning of the 4th day they set out north up the Greenway.

(OOC:The tale can be followed in the Glittering Cves in the thread Legacy)
 
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Tanglefoot

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INTRODUCING: Django Tanglefoot, Bane of the Northern Downs

Django Tanglefoot.JPG


The hunter sent a crabine-fletched arrow to fly from the barrow-lost short bow across the fog-choked downs to lodge in the spine of a servant of Morgoth. This servant was a lowly dun-coloured plague-rat, and the hunter was a hobbit and bounder named Django Tanglefoot. He called the sleek yellow haft of yew heartwood “Thistle”, for it’s true name was unreadable to him, and he’d yet to find a soul to translate it. He forsook retreaving the contaminated arrow, and set to checking the few remaining traps.

Django had earned a name for himself along the border between the Shire and Buckland as a bane of rats and other disease-carriers. The Enemy may have fallen at the end of the Third Age, or so Master Meriadoc the Magnificent professed, but the stain of shadow still twisted the bodies of the animals in the Barrow Downs, and turned their minds to wickedness. It was the duty of a handful of bounders especially picked by the Sheriffs of Buckland and the Shire together to keep these Shadow-tainted vermin at bay.

The rebuilding of the Shire took much in the way of resources, and many bounders couldn’t afford such potentially hazardous service as bounding the Northern Barrows Pass without due compensation. Django was a hunter by trade to begin with, and he found it no small chore to extend his traps a brief way into the pass and to turn his bow to the servants of the Shadow still remaining in the West. In recent years, the Shire and it’s surrounds had finally returned to the idyllic, pastoral calm enjoyed in the years before the War for the Ring, but just as before, that peace was bought not just with the swords of the Rangers or the magic of Gandalf, but also with the clubs, arrows, and vigilance of the bounders, and few performed their duty with greater aplomb than the archer Django Tanglefoot.

Dusk crept in early in the pass, as the sun dropped behind the surrounding mountains, and Django hurriedly checked and re-set a few more traps, and jogged back to his camp well outside the mouth of the forsaken pass. By the time the sun finally disappeared into the west, he was hanging his aching feet off the back edge of his hobbit-round, painted caravan in the shadow of the Bree-land side of the mountains. With his right hand, he brought a cup of wine to his lips, and with the left brought an ancient, short-stemmed clay pipe to his lips for a puff of pipe weed. His small iron pot bubbled away with a stew of coney, wild carrots and onions, and a few handfuls of good Shire barley-meal.

He’d just finished his glass and hopped down, intent on a bowl of brown, when he saw the tower-- a great sprawling thing squatting over Bywater and spewing great black plumes of choking smoke. Somehow, he was back in in the Shire, Thistle in hand, and the black smoke swept down over him and choked him as it poured over the Shire. Broken things came out of that smoke, twisted things that put to shame anything he’d killed on the Downs. Out of the torrent of screams and the great clanging of iron, a small, sallow man came stepping out with worms pouring from his mouth. Django raised the bow of Westernese, and let fly a rooster-fletched arrow that struck with a dozen of its brothers, and black blood rushed out of him like a flood in the Marish.


Django awoke with a scream, and found himself a-bed, with the covers all twisted and tossed. The dream often came over him in the small hours, and he’d yet found enough of even Barleyman’s ale to drown it out. Realizing he’d never get back to sleep now, he pulled on breeches and his heavy tunic, and made his way down to the Prancing Pony’s common room to find a mug of coffee and a bite to eat. On his way down the stairs, he bound his longish nut-brown hair back with a leather thong, and padded his way through the thinning crowd.
 
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