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Reniad en Agarwaen*

Elvenladyfair

Crazy elf maiden
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Evil. *smirks*

Falathiel sat in silence for a moment, pondering the task that lay before her. She put one hand behind her to feel the pointed scabbard of one of her short swords. It seemed they were just as thirsty for blood as she was. It was something she craved more than life. . . that euphoria of blade to flesh, watching their eyes glaze over. . . feeling their soul leave them. That was something no wine, no drug, no sensation could match.

If this Man is good for what he says, then I could profit much. He might try to double-cross me and not pay me when the time comes.

"You know how to stike a good bargain, if you believe in putting a price on a life." She hesitated for a moment, realizing that for an assassin, she sounded soft.
"But I'm afraid, I shall need a. . ." She paused, as if she didn't know the words to say. She stroked her chin, as if in thought.

"A bit of a going down-payment."
She watched the Easterlings dark eyes flicker with anger.
"It wouldn't need to be much, just enough for any traveling expenses I might have, or weapon repair. . . things of that nature. And I don't spend money frivilously."
It was true, on more than one occassion, she needed to buy glass to repair her arrow heads, and a new whetstone here and there. Just the basics.

"It of course is entirely up to you, but denying me this one thing would not be wise."
 

Elorendil

Lover of music
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Evil!

Beril leaned back in his chair and regarded her, as if considering her demand. This elven assassin was predictable, if anything. This stipulation was not unanticipated and the answer had been formed long ago. Still, it was probably better not to let her know that. He reached down with one hand to hold the pouch of coins, as if weighing in his mind whether or not he should give it to her.

After a long moment of feigned hesitation, Beril shrugged. "No doubt you fear that my master will not pay you when you have completed your part of the deal. A completely unfounded concern, I assure you."
He paused, toying with her. Anger flared in the elf's eye at what she thought was a refusal of her imposition. Before she could speak, Beril added, almost as an afterthought, "Still, I suppose that a few coins as a token of good faith is not too much to ask."
He tossed the bag of coins onto the table. "Will this suffice?"
 

Elvenladyfair

Crazy elf maiden
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In the deepest, scarriest part of the woods.
Evil, again. *sly smirk*

The clanck of the coins on the table was the most wonderful music Falathiel had ever heard. To her ears, it was sensious, beautiful, and stirring all wrapped up one short,quick noise.
"That will more than suffice, I thank you." She quickly snatched up the bag and hid it in her own travel sack."

With that, she rose to her feet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll retire to my room, if there is nothing further."

She left without waiting for him to answer, strands of her long hair trailing be hind her. It had been some time since she had had a job to do, and she had let her hair grow, while she waited. But now. . . it was time to cut it again. Long hair just wasn't practical when wielding two short swords and a bow, so she needed to shorten it till it fell just above the nape of her neck. And she needed to mix some of her special concoctions, just in case. There was so much to do to prepare for a hit, but it was well worth it in the end.
 

Morohtar

Schmendrick Returns!
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The silence terrified Danaeth the most. The darkness thickened the harder he tried to pierce it, and the crackling of the fire sounded like approaching footsteps to his untrained ears, which only stretched further his already thin nerves.

"Who are you, O' assailants of the night? By what name may we call those who would disturb peaceful travellers as they slept?" Kilio's voice died quickly in the grasping branches, choked and leaving the forest quieter than before, if it was possible. His call seemed to echo in Danaeth's mind, and no answer came for some time. When it did, it chilled Danaeth's blood more than the deepest frost ever could.

"Strong words from the weak have no power. You would be well advised to speak in a more temperate manner to those who could kill you before you take another breath." The voice came from everywhere; the trees, the rocks, the very heart of the fire that dimmed as the words were spoken, as if the flames felt the same chill.

He held his sword tightly, though it felt flimsy and harmless in his hands. Cairbrent replied fiercely to the voice, though Danaeth thought his reply sounded weak against the indomitable presence that surrounded their camp. Elorendil also spoke, and her words also seemed stifled. Danaeth didn't dare speak, he simply cowered and awaited doom, death, and the red dawn to follow, though he might not live to see it.
 

Morohtar

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Kilio had listened to about as much arrogant mockery as he could take. He called back to his assailant, "Rather I would embrace death than be forced to listen to anymore of your flagrant insults and threats. This is free land, and travellers may come and go as they please; you have no dominion over this place. You are naught but thieves and ruffians! If you wish to kill me than make it quick, for I have friends to join in the afterlife. If not, then leave us be. " He raised himself up from where he had taken shelter and looked around, arms raised in challenge. He waited for the sharp whistle of arrow shafts cutting through the air, and the pain that would follow, but silence prevailed, and he felt only the sting of the cold air.
 
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Morohtar

Schmendrick Returns!
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Evil, but really just misunderstood...

Eos leaned against the rock while listening to the man's reply, then smiled as he heard the sounds of the ensnared making an arrogant, fatal mistake. He had toyed with them enough; they could provide no more entertainment, and were therefore expendable. His smile died and he raised his hand to signal the attack. He paused for a moment, and a mischevious, malicious smile donned his face. He lowered his hand slowly, postponing the attack momentarily.

"Your foolishness amuses me, for that you are lucky. As you say, this is not our land, therefore you have as much right as us to walk through it. No, it is not circumstance that led to this situation, instead it is our nature, as theives and murderers that causes your life to be in such danger. I love none, care for few, and hate many. Those I don't know, I hate. That is why you and all those with you shall die."

He stood upon the rocks that he had hidden behind, and stared intensely at the large figure that stood below. The sun had risen to some height now, and much of the area was easily visible. The man's face was grim, hardened by a life of fighting. He would enjoy killing this man.

"But not now. No, that would be too easy. Do not think me merciful, for it is not because of mercy that I let you go, but for sport. You shall be given one day without pursuit, travel wherever you will. But when the sun rises again, we shall pursue you to your deaths. Hurry now, and do not delay in your leaving, for it will lessen the entertainment." With this final statement, he left his place and returned to their camp. He knew the others would dislike his choice, but he didn't care. He sat and began to sharpen his blade.
 

Mirelena

Out of Practice RPer...
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When the Dark Elf appeared upon the rock, Cair shuddered to his core. Deathly beauty and a heart of malice was enough to freeze the blood of the bravest soul, he was certain. Yet, Kilio stood tall and strong. His blood did not seem to slow with fear. Indeed, Cair sense a boiling beneath the calm exterior of his friend.
His threat and ultimatum delivered, their antagonist disappeared behind the outcropping again and Cair could amost imagine the cold sound of sharpening iron in the distance. Warily the travellers began to move about the camp, gathering their posessions and moving into the shadow of the trees.
"Is that it?" Kilio whispered to Elorendil.
"For the moment. Less talk, we must move from this place, NOW."
Cair did not realize that he had been holding his breath until his lungs began to fatigue. He exhaled slowly and his heart began to race. Curses, he thought, It's not 'til after the confrontation that my hearts begins to beat like an Southron war drum.
He resheathed his short sword and made his way toward Danaeth while muttering something about Elves and their grossly over-exaggerated command of wisdom and knowledge.
"Just because they're supposed to live forever doesn't mean that they have learned anything in that time. I have friends who have more street savvy than a hundred elves. I'd like to see them survive the streets of Rohan and Gondor with no food, money, or precious title to keep them alive. OW!"
The last part of his comment had been made directly to Danaeth. Cair had walked up behind him and slapped him on the back. "I keep forgetting that you wear mail. It hurts my tender hand every time!" he exclaimed with a wince.
Danaeth laughed nervously. "It has served me well many times. Not the least of which is just now."
"What do you mean by 'now?'" Cair replied with an innocent expression of curiosity. His fear seemed to have significantly dissapated with each step taken away from the confrontation, "During the Elf's exasperating and over-confident verbal assault? Or when I slapped you just now?"
"Both."
"Ah, I see how it is, you don't care for your old friend anymore. You would wear chainmail to protect yourself from an attack and you say 'not the least of which' is Cair." He pulled a brightly colored hankerchief from Danaeth's collar.
"You never cease to amaze me with your sleight-of-hand antics!" he said, a rueful smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"Ah, and never shall I reaveal my secrets to you! Though, I do know that we have a day's march ahead of us. Perhaps, with a little wine in my gullet, I can aggrivate you with some more tricks." Cair replied while he waggled his eyebrows up and down.
Danaeth chuckled, but soon grew solemn. "I do not know how much more time you will have to teach me, Cairbrent, my friend. After the elf spoke, I felt dread fill my innermost being. If we should come to blows, Cair, I do not think that I will live long enough to learn the things that you astound me with so much.
"But come," he said suddenly, "Enough talk of foolish fears and dark thoughts. Perhaps you should go and tease Duathmin. I know Elorendil is dying to boil over at someone after all the exictement of this morning."
Cairbrent laughed and patted his friend on the back; a little more gently this time.
 
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Mirelena

Out of Practice RPer...
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Evil

When Eös raised his hand for the attack, Jakoval drew his sword eagerly. The harsh metallic ring of the lethal weapon gave it a sinister voice. The lust of battle and blood already glowed in the pirate's eyes. He lept forward silently, like a fiendish shadow, but held when his leader began to speak again.

Eyes widened in frustration, he obeyed whispered orders issued by Eöna to retreat. He followed the elven siblings through the undergrowth until they reached the stony camp now bathed in golden morning light. Jakoval was too incensed against Eös to notice any of the still beauty around him.

"What in the name of-" he began as the murderous, masculine form seated itself and began to sharpen iron.

"You would dare to question the order given you by your captain?" Eöna hissed at him.

"I would when it seems as though the order given is intended to make us look like cowards and weaklings. What was the point?" Jakoval retorted.

"I will not stand for your insolence, Rat!" she said. Her voice was tinged with ice as she laid her hand upon the hilt of her elven blade. Jakoval saw her movement and mirrored it.

"Have I ever mentioned that you are exquisite when you are angry?" he asked deliberately inciting her cat-like rage.

In a flash, her sword was drawn. Iron clashed against iron, but the sound fell dead amid the stifling trees. Jakoval imagined this as a dance amid a whirl of metal and tireless limbs. Both would take a hard, sharp blow and give theirs in turn. Grace and agility pitted against quickness and strength. The few other members of the band drew together to watch and shout encouragements to whomever seemed to have the advantage at the moment.

Eös ignored the commotion until it came close enough to kick dust upon his blade. He then lept to his feet and roared, "Enough!"

The two assailants drew apart as he addressed them both with a voice as hard as granite, "You disturb me. If my decision was pointless, this is even more so. Eöna, go your way. Jakoval," he said, setting a threatening gaze upon his waterman, "If ever you dare to question my decision again, you will not have the satisfaction of falling at my sister's hand. I shall reserve that pleasure for myself. Prepare yourself for pursuit."

Jakoval flinched as the Dark Elf's voice dropped lower and lower. There was more power in the decieptive purr than there was in the most primeaval, animal bellow. As he walked away, he recalled again why, besides the hope of claiming Eöna, he bided his time and obeyed Eös' word as law.
 

Elorendil

Lover of music
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"What is this about the foolishness of elves?" Elorendil asked as she stepped up soundlessly behind Cair and Danaeth. "You ought to mind your tongue, my friend, and not say such things in the company of an elf. Were we not friends, I might slay you in retribution for such a rash comment." Though her tone was teasing, the spark in her sapphire eyes showed that she was a little irked at the belittlement of her race.
"It is true that some of the Eldar do not always make wise decisions," she continued, "But I have met many men less wise than even the most foolhardy of elves. On occasion, you are included in that number, my friend Cair. Threatening poor 'Min, just now, was one of them. I ought to have her lick you to death for it. Why do you insist on torturing my companion when she has done nothing to you?"

Elorendil abandoned her half-teasing tirade, her gaze moving to the long shadows cast by the trees in the early morning. The smile that tugged at her ruby lips vanished abruptly, replaced by a more serious expression. Worry furrowed her pale brow. Though the confrontation seemed to have come to an end, she still could not shake the sense of unease that troubled her. "But now is not the time to settle such things," she said. "We have been given a chance to avoid needless bloodshed and should take it. We must move off, quickly. Though I believe we would win in battle against these 'fools', as Cair calls them, I do not know at what price our victory would come. We would not be altogether unscathed, I think. Let us depart, before it comes to blows."
 

Morohtar

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"That is why you and all those with you shall die."

Eonä smiled sadistically and ran her tongue along her top lip as she heard her brother say those delicious words. She could almost hear the screams now; she took special care not to puncture the lungs when she plunged her blade deep into another's flesh, making their agonizing last moments gloriously vocal. She could almost feel the warm splash of blood across her face whenever she hit an artery, the coppery taste when a drop landed on her lips.

She lost herself in these thoughts, and almost missed her brother say, "But not now." She listened in horror as Eos postponed the massacre in favour of a hunt. Disappointed, Eonä signalled the retreat and crept silently back to the camp. She watched her brother from a distance, wondering what thoughts now went through his mind.

"What in the name of-" Eonä cut Jakoval's question short, her voice dripping with malice.

"You would dare to question the order given you by your captain?" Eonä snarled as she confronted the coward.

"I would when it seems as though the order given is intended to make us look like cowards and weaklings. What was the point?" Jakoval responded. Eonä's blood burned with this slight against her family. Her hand fell instinctively onto the hilt of her sword, her slender fingers tightening around the grip.

"I will not stand for your insolence, Rat!" she said, her voiced raised in anger. Her family's honour had oft required blood, and she was happy to oblige.

A lustful smile appeared on Jackoval's lips as he readied his own blade. "Have I ever mentioned that you are exquisite when you are angry?"

Eonä responded as quickly as she could get over her digust. In a flash her blade was drawn, and it soon clashed with his. She spun her blade clockwise, aiming for the side of his neck, but his blade thwarted her efforts once again. Back and forth they went, blades twisting and weaving through the air, often nigh missing flesh. Eonä watched for a weakness, and found one; when Jackoval attacked, he often overextended himself, exposing his right side. She reached for her knife with her left hand, readying herself for the kill.

"Enough!"

Eonä backed away from Jackoval, fire still in her eyes. Her brother walked towards them. "You disturb me. If my decision was pointless, this is even more so. Eöna, go your way."

She turned and walked into the forest, her pace quickened by the adrenaline that still coursed through her veins. She stopped by a large tree, sheathed her sword and tried to calm herself down.
 
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Ghorim

A Dwarf
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Neutral (but leaning Evil)

Helmin lurched forward through the dead foliage, far from discrete, resembling a clumsy ox more than a whispering ghost. Damn the trees! They besieged his vision, each one the same as the last, each one potentially concealing a shadowy form. Dwarves cannot trust the forest; it is too filled with deceit. Helmin's balance seemed to sway to and fro, as if the woodland spirits were playing a prank on him with each step, tugging at the forest carpet to send him stumbling forward. The dull yellow of the decaying woods became a haze that left the dwarf squinting to see ahead. Finally, a group of figures became visible, ambiguous in their composition save for a towering form that stood at the group's fore, arms spread wide. Despite Helmin's typically dwarvish racket, he remained unnoticed.

The dwarf knelt down in the bushes, but was unable to maintain this position for long, and fell upon his rear. He grunted in annoyance, rubbing his bleary eyes as the exchange of threats continued unabated.

"Your foolishness amuses me, for that you are lucky. As you say, this is not our land, therefore you have as much right as us to walk through it. No, it is not circumstance that led to this situation, instead it is our nature, as theives and murderers that causes your life to be in such danger. I love none, care for few, and hate many. Those I don't know, I hate. That is why you and all those with you shall die."

Helmin's gaze shot up to the source of these words, and through the obscuring leaves and the mist of his own drunken senses he could barely make out a form standing on a rock high above.

"But not now. No, that would be too easy. Do not think me merciful, for it is not because of mercy that I let you go, but for sport. You shall be given one day without pursuit, travel wherever you will. But when the sun rises again, we shall pursue you to your deaths. Hurry now, and do not delay in your leaving, for it will lessen the entertainment."

Perhaps half of these words Helmin was able to decipher, as the ale had still yet to drain from his head. Its effects, in fact, were worsening by the minute, as the dwarf's fatigue stretched his capacities thinner and thinner. How long since he last slept? Helmin's counting was faulty; he tried to calculate the hours, but the numbers danced about his sleepy wits, defying a proper tally. The dwarf's eyes faltered, the lids lowering gradually as he struggled to recall what exactly he was doing in this strange forest. Employment...?

"What... 're the squirrels gonna give me a job protecting their acorns?" asked Helmin aloud, beginning a hearty laugh before suddenly remembering his surroundings and hastily shoving a gloved hand to cover his mouth. He glanced about, and hearing no one approaching, settled back down again.

That brief scare refocused the dwarf. He was going to attempt to join one of these two sides as a hired hand, aye? It seemed that they wouldn't be settling their scores upon this morning. What was it that the fellow on the rock had said? They were going to pursue the other group... the one that stood just ahead of Helmin. Well! That cleared the matter up rather quickly. Even in his inebriation, Helmin knew that he'd rather play the role of predator rather than hapless prey. Besides, Helmin noted as he peeked through the underbrush, this party had an Elf in it.

"Hmmph!" muttered Helmin. "The day I work with one of those beardless, song-singin', tree-climbin' jesters is the day that the Helcaraxë melts!"

It was settled, then. All Helmin had to do was scale the incline up to where the other party was surely camped, and introduce himself to their leader. After that, he'd simply let his radiant skills with the throwing axes do the talking, and the job would be his. Even dead tired and dead drunk, Helmin was convinced that he would land employment with minimal effort. Triumphantly, he began his march toward his new job.

---

It was two hours later when Helmin shambled up to the encampment, barely on his feet. All manner of twigs and burrs were newly lodged in his beard, and he looked like the very essence of Nature untamed with his wild eyes, ragged breathing, and faintly musky odor. Two guards approached him, appearing by equal degrees confused and amused by this wild dwarf of the woods. Helmin didn't notice their expressions... all he saw were two blurry forms hovering up to him. At long last, his destination!

"All right! Who's in charge around 'ere?" asked Helmin, with a certain reckless authority about his manner.

The two guards, entirely unsure of how to react, exchanged a glance.

“Well? Mutes, are we? Fetch your master! I've an offer to make.” The vein under Helmin's left eye twitched in a sudden spasm, and he pawed at it angrily with his hand.

As comical as he seemed to them, the duo were quick to realize the extent of the arsenal that the dwarf carried with him. It was also evident to them that the beardling was not entirely in his right mind at the moment, and to refuse his request might very well be at their own peril. So it was with swift steps that they went to summon their commander.

Helmin moved unsteadily over to the center of the camp, and though the sights of the world about him were coming and going at random, the dwarf could sense that the band of mercenaries - his colleagues - was closing in a tight circle around him. The old thrill returned to Helmin's heart… completely surrounded! And if he failed this trial, what would they do to him then? Whereas others would have fractured and crumbled under this sort of pressure, Helmin feasted off of it, licking his chops in delighted anticipation.
 

Ghorim

A Dwarf
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Leaning Evil (Part 2)

The leader and his entourage appeared before Helmin as a massive blob, devoid of any distinguishable features. Occasionally his vision would briefly refocus, giving the dwarf a quick glimpse of some details, but on the whole he might as well have been blindfolded.

Going off a hunch as to where the leader stood, Helmin took a dramatic step forward and bowed deeply, a gesture that nearly took him off of his feet completely.

“Good mornin', my good sir! Perhaps you're curious as to why I've…”

“Hey Dwarf!” came an interrupting call from the crowd, “you're talking to his sister!”

Discordant laughter filled Helmin's ears as he reeled back a few paces and blinked his eyes. He rubbed his face a bit and turned to his right.

“Ah! Well, you can forgive me for being mistaken. She has the same commanding air as her brother, after all!”

A disastrous first impression, to be certain, but Helmin would not allow it to phase him.

“Let me cut to the point, then… I've already wasted enough time with preambles and such. I was passing through this area and couldn't help but overhear… you were shouting loud enough for the whole forest to hear, after all… that you plan to hunt the game that currently takes its rest down in the valley below! Well! 'Tis a noble pursuit, to be certain! However…”

Helmin glanced over the group that had encircled him, hardly seeing a thing other than a mass of blurred colors and shadow. He laughed sharply, smacking his belly with his hands.

“It seems that you are not properly equipped for the mission! Mine eyes have glimpsed this group that you seek to run down like beasts of the wood, and I can say with all honesty, good and true, that they shall not go down easily. By Durin! I'd say that the big one would have half a dozen of these oafs for breakfast!”

Grumbles could now be heard coming from the crowd of miscreants. How dare this pint-sized drunkard speak so ill of them!

“And, well, the Elf! She'd put arrows right between the eyes of another six before any of 'em even knew what was happening!”

Helmin chortled with his whole body, stumbling about in a full circle as he took in the entire group. The commander thus far had remained still and silent.

“So… your arsenal is badly in need of an upgrade, it seems! And I, Helmin son of Hurdor, am exactly the weapon you need to ensure that those dogs shall irritate you no longer! Doubtless you've heard of my magical touch with the throwing axe, but allow me nevertheless to demonstrate!”

Helmin took a few steps back, grinning without restraint. The outlaws widened their circle instinctively, unsure of what was to come. Each found his hand drifting gradually toward his weapon.

The dwarf reached beneath his cloak, his left hand going to one of the two small axes that he kept stored in loops on his vest. His expression turned fast from jovial to dark, as a swift cloud eclipses the moon. The familiar feel of the axe handles seemed to have a sobering effect on the dwarf as he glanced about the area. A hush descended upon those gathered; some members of the crowd felt sweat creeping down their backs.

A smile burst forth on the dwarf's face, and he yanked forth the weapon. But he did so with too much force, and uncharacteristically lost his grip on the throwing axe. He bobbled the weapon clumsily, and could not regain control of it. The blade tumbled through the air, and landed on the leafy forest bed well to the dwarf's left.

Snickers filled the air, but none louder than the one that came from a bald-headed mercenary to Helmin's left. So amused was he, that he became possessed by the urge to speak.

“Ha! This one still reeks of his last drink! A rusty blade, he is, and a stunted one to boot! All dwarvish bluster and no ability! What shall you do next for us, Naugrim? Will you trip over your beard for us?”

Helmin's body stiffened, and his gaze shot to his detractor. That blazing fire, birthed in the forges of the Iron Hills, returned to Helmin's gray eyes as he stared the man down. The drunken mists fled before that glare, and suddenly Helmin could see the offender in vivid detail, as if he were illuminated by divine light. The dwarf's prideful fury had effectively shocked his mind back into working order, and woe be unto any who stood in an enraged dwarf's path. The man's grin faded slightly, but did not disappear entirely. An angry gaze alone would not extinguish his insolence.

The dwarf's lip shot up in a snarl, and he took a sudden step toward his target, planting his left foot into the ground as his right hand swooped down to retrieve the throwing axe. Now the dwarf's right foot moved forward, and Helmin drew the recovered axe across his body in a tight windup. Then came the toss, in an unexpectedly sudden movement. The blade sliced through the air in a flash, hurtling toward the jokester's skull. A satisfying thunk reached Helmin's ears, but this was immediately followed by the sound of a blade being drawn behind him. The dwarf's head spun over his left shoulder, and he instantly perceived an assailant approaching. Helmin drew another axe from his vest with his left hand, and without so much as drawing the blade back let it fly. The axe struck the attacking bandit across his sword hand, and both weapons fell to the ground, with soft thuds coming one right after the next.

The dwarf now moved back to his position in the center of the circle, drawing two more axes simultaneously from his cloak, his steely gaze shooting about the onlookers in a swift arc.

“Who's my next volunteer, then?”

Silence, save for the pained grunts of the disarmed miscreant, greeted Helmin. He smiled softly as he placed the axes back within his cloak, but now the inebriated joy was gone from his visage. Instinct had returned, and with it Helmin's cold, brusque manner. His shameful display of drunkenness was vanished. The dwarf turned back to his first victim, looking over his handiwork.

The man still stood there, absolutely still, trembling from shaved head to dirt-covered toe. A faint trickle of blood ran down the left side of his bald head, where the blade had grazed his flesh. The axe was lodged in a tree just behind him.

With nary a glance at his conquered foe, Helmin marched past the petrified rogue and recovered his weapon from the tree. He then moved back to pick up the other axe, returning both to their respective homes on his vest. His clear-eyed gaze now shot to the commander.

The sight of the bandit leader, now plainly visible, froze the dwarf in his tracks. Surely the ale was still playing tricks on him! But no… the tall, slender form… the flowing hair… those unholy ears… it was an Elf! He had just auditioned to join the company of a tree-hugger! In that terrible moment of realization Helmin cursed all intoxicating brews and swore them off for life, for now there was to be no deviation in his fated course. In his ale-drenched carelessness he had failed to recognize the race of his intended employer, and now he must live with the horrifically degrading consequences. For how could he back down from the position now, having just assaulted two of this pixie's men?

The dwarf cleared his throat, and spoke gruffly. “My conditions for employment are but two… 25 percent of the payment upfront, and I'd like for these two slugs that I've just disposed with to be my personal escort for the duration of the hunt, as they both owe their miserable lives to my mercy. As for my actual salary… well… I believe I've shown what I'm worth.”

Helmin folded his arms across his chest, and awaited a response from the commander.
 

Rosalee LuAnn

Tablespoon
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right here on this very spot, where else? :D
Mua ha ha ha... *evil grin*

In a deserted part of the wood, one sound could be heard distinctly over the rustlings of the trees overhead--the ring of a knife being sharpened. If one was looking for the source of the noise, it would be several moments before they would be able to make out the hooded figure perched atop a large grey boulder, so well did his dull grey-green cloak blend into the shadows of the wood behind him. Seemingly confident of his solitude, the figure started to sing. The voice was a deep baritone; strong, controlled, and honest-sounding, a voice one could trust easily and blindly. The man seemed to be making up most of the song as he went, so it came out in snatches as more lyrics were thought up.

"Who sees all, but is not seen?
Who's unseen eye is the most keen?

Who's blade is quickest at the kill?
Who'll dare to do what no other will?

Who's revenge is always surest?
Who'll run for days and not need rest?"

Here, his inspiration seemed to stop, for there was a long pause. He put away the knife, then stood completely still, making it even more difficult for him to be distinguished from the trees and boulders behind him. he pushed back his hood, revealing a stern face with near-set grey-blue eyes and blonde hair that had been bleached by much time in the sun. He gazed up toward the sky, at a gap in the branches above his head, as if he were expecting something to happen up there. Not long after, something did--a black speck appeared in the sky, and came closer. The raven--for that was what it was--decended quickly, finally alighting on the man's arm. A ghost of a smile crossed the man's face, but it was so quickly gone one would be left wondering whether they had really seen it. He watched the bird intently as it turned it's head back in the direction it had come from, then fixed its beady black eye on his. After a few moments, he nodded.

"As I expected." he murmured to the bird. "We will wait until the sun sets before we follow." He lifted his arm and the bird flew off again through the gap in the branches. The man smirked, murmuring as he watched the retreating bird, "For your sake, my keen unseen eye, I hope you do not fail. We follow them, watch them... they will not know they are followed by any others, they'll not be watching for me. She will be easily taken."
 
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Morohtar

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Kilio watched as their adversaries disappeared into the forest, leaving only shadows and whispers of malice. He stood frozen, staring at the stone upon which death incarnate had stood moments earlier. The final dying crack and hiss from the fire loosed his mind, and he jumped slightly. He looked around and whispered, "is that it?"

Elorendil returned her arrow to its place, and spoke. "For the moment. Less talk, we must move from this place, NOW."

Kilio nodded in acknowledgment and prepared to depart. He packed fabric in between each metallic object to reduce noise and took a few sips of wine to calm his nerves. He paused for a moment, walking towards the rest of the group and catching the last of their conversation.

"...know at what price our victory would come. We would not be altogether unscathed, I think. Let us depart, before it comes to blows." Elorendil tone matched the sense of urgency on her face.

"Elor is right," Kilio said, "we must leave soon, if we wish to leave without bloodshed. I don't know why they didn't kill us just now, but I doubt their actions would be repeated if we met again. I think it would be best to leave as soon as possible. I say we stick close to Anduin, and travel along side it till we reach Osgiliath." Each went to prepare for their journey, and soon they departed with speed. Perhaps too much speed, Kilio thought, noticing the few broken twigs and light footprints left in mud and moss. Small clues, but clues nonetheless. Alas, it cannot be helped, lest we move so slow they need no clues to find us. They pressed on, driven still by the words of the dark elf. He guessed it a weeks journey, though their need could shorten the time by a day or two. Once in Osgiliath, they would lose themselves in the crowds.
 

Morohtar

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Eos walked away from the camp, listening for the sound of a coward sneaking up behind him, content with stabbing him in the back. No such sound was heard; apparently his voice had worked it's subtle magic once again, inspiring obedience through fear. He searched for his sister, knowing her tempermental nature and how quickly she could be driven to kill. He found her perched high in the branched of a tree, her fiery hair blowing softly in the breeze. But her hair was the only part that seemed calm, the rest of her trembled with a hatred that would have frightened the Valar. She turned when his step landed on a twig, her eyes filled with death beyond the capacity of an ordinary elf. Eos had long assumed the poson that had weakened their mother also gave them some unnatural traits. And that is why we were envied, and cast out.

"Come down from there Eonä, before you fall." Eos knew well enough that his sister wouldn't actually fall out of the tree; he had found taunting her one of the easiest ways to elicit a response.

Eonä dropped silently from the tree, slowly approaching her brother, her blood cooled sufficiently to actually listen to whatever her brother meant to say. Eonä knew well enough to allow Eos to formulate most of the plans, his calculatingmind had kept them out of trouble on many occasions, and her got them out of just as many. But this last decision, to allow those travellers to go free, seemed folly.

"Why did you let them go, Eos? Why, when we had complete surprise, and they had no cover, nor any chance of escape, would you allow them to get away? We may be the ones in the trap next time, and they may not repay your mercy."

Eos turned to walk back towards the camp. "Mercy? No, mercy is sparing the life of one who deserves to die. Killing honourable men, that's... unspeakable. If we meet again, then I shall kill them, and have no qualms with it." He sighed as he walked on. I grow tired of this life. They walked on in silence.



As they continued towards the camp one of their men approached and spoke incoherently about something; Eos caught only a few words, though "small" and "fetid" didn't bode well. True to Eos' worst fears, there stood before him a Naugrim, more stunted and ungainly than most. This dwarf bowed low before Eonä, who gripped her dagger, desperate to sever the dwarf's spine, saving them all from his incessant babble. Someone informed the runt of his mistake, and he did his best to repair his image, babbling on once more about their deficiencies and his apparently renowned skills. His first impression already in shambles, he made to impress them with his “renowned skills,” succeeding in only further damaging his image. Eos could stand for no more of this, and had almost signaled the tiny one’s death when the unexpected happened. In a flurry of steel two of his men were beaten, which despite his constant derision was no easy task. Eos smiled a twisted smile. I will enjoy killing this one when the time comes.

“My conditions for employment are but two… 25 percent of the payment upfront, and I'd like for these two slugs that I've just disposed with to be my personal escort for the duration of the hunt, as they both owe their miserable lives to my mercy. As for my actual salary… well… I believe I've shown what I'm worth.” The diminuitive figure stood, arms crossed, waiting for a reply.

Eos stared straight at the dwarf, and the dwarf stared straight back at him, his own intensity matched. Eos spoke finally, “No advance, and no escorts. It took all my strength not to kill you when I first saw you, so you owe your life to me. As for payment, you shall have your share of the spoils. That is all I offer, take it or… suffer the fate of one who intrudes upon our camp.”



Now it was Eos that waited for a reply.
 
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Ghorim

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Definitely Gone Evil Now

Like most members of his folk, Helmin possessed a diminutive form that belied a colossal strength of will. He locked gazes with that shadow-spawned Elf, and saw in those eyes that frigidness with which he had grown so intimately familiar. For Helmin had dwelled as a parasite on the underbelly of humanity, and in response to its horrors his heart could only harden all the more, until there was no warmth emanating from its core. The organ merely performed its function now, sending blood to the limbs so that the dwarf could complete his work, thus earning sustenance and perpetuating his own directionless existence.

In times past, Helmin had stood atop a hill in the wailing winter winds, watching from afar as one group of men set fire to the homes of another tribe, hearing the faint cries of terrified civilians from afar, smelling their lives as they became consumed by flame. In other towns, he had seen up close crime victims young and old - from the sickly old man cut down for his purse to the hapless babe left feebly suckling on a cold breast. These sights had initially helped to spur the dwarf into his grisly profession. He had quickly learned that humanity in its heart possessed the capacity for more wickedness than any other race that served the Light, and Helmin from then on sought to cleanse the Atani of their scum.

And yet, the more jobs he took, the more the lines blurred. Helmin's quarry seemed to become less and less deserving of his violent brand of justice. Were they criminals, or victims themselves? He himself, meanwhile, had become an agent of destruction, a beast to be feared as he approached in his dark traveling cloak, features shrouded in impenetrable shadow. Helmin had long since turned away from himself in disgust, yet continued on, for his life knew no other aim.

What, then, could this Elf do to inspire fear in him? Helmin had seen the worst of Men. He had hunted and captured them, slain them, at times accepted employment from them. And yet... in the figure that now stood before him, the dwarf viewed something more perverse, something once noble twisted and mutated into hideous depravity. Those eyes, bright with the spark of eternal life, yet blighted by a desire to destroy, gave Helmin pause. The dwarf could see that this being was more dangerous than any other that he ever encountered. Caution now became an ever-present necessity. He responded to the leader's counter offer in slow, measured tones.

"Indeed, you do possess all the leverage. I humbly apologize for my audacity. I shall accept a share of our winnings that is correspondent with my contributions, be they great or little. I am fully confident, however, that I shall more than earn my keep. If this demonstration has not suitably impressed you, then perhaps the head of the giant shall win you over."

Helmin knew that the towering figure he had glimpsed in the forest below was the backbone of the other party. Certainly, the Elfess would pose a serious problem to any hunter, but her skills would effectively be countered by those of Helmin's newfound commander and his sister. But that colossus... Helmin was certain that he was the greatest asset of the prey. As for the other members of the hunted party, he thought nothing of them.

The dwarf's words grew more intense now, though his demeanor remained impassive.

"Of course, do not think that I cannot glimpse what dwells in your heart, my commander. You would gladly see all those who call Mahal their Father stripped of their beards and lashed until they were naught but masses of wounded flesh. Understand that I do not have the greatest fondness for your folk, either. So I shall ever take my rest on the opposite side of camp as you, and always will I endeavor to steer clear of your path in fulfilling my duties. Then, when all our foes lay conquered and I have received my pay, we may part having seen precious little of one another."

"In battle, I shall defend your back and those of your followers, and I should hope that in recompense I shall not have to keep an especially close watch on my own."

Upon these words, Helmin glanced sharply across the group of mercenaries that still encircled him. With a smoldering gaze, the dwarf hoped to dash any plans that the bandits might have formed of catching him unawares with a blade through his back.

"I hereby swear to these terms of employment. Though some of you may doubt the honor of my folk, understand that I have been in the business for many a year, and have not advanced so far in it by being unworthy of trust."

He glanced back to the Elvish commander. "If there is nothing else, I shall take my leave of you, and await the command to resume march."
 
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Elorendil

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They had been travelling several hours when the sun began to ride high in the sky, its rays beating down relentlessly and reflecting off the mirror-like surface of the Anduin river, blinding their small band. Elorendil paid it little heed, but her companions were beginning to lag in the merciless, midday heat. Cairbrent, in particular, seemed affected by it, stumbling frequently as they trudged along. Or perhaps his clumsiness was due to the antics of an overly playful feline who paced behind him, randomly batting a paw at his dragging feet. Elor couldn't help but smile as she called the panther back to her side. He didn't share Dúathmin's affection and would be complaining about her to Elorendil later, if she didn't put a stop to it. Despite her anxiousness to put as much distance as possible between them and their newfound enemies, she couldn't help but think that they needed a rest.

She increased her pace until she drew abreast Kilio, who walked at the head of their group. "Kilio, my friend, are we to rest soon? There are members of our party who are less used to hard travel than you and I," she reminded him softly, glancing pointedly over her shoulder at the tiring Rohirrim.

He followed her gaze and walked on in silence for a moment, considering. "Perhaps you are right," he said at length. "We will travel with better speed if we take a meal and a little rest." He turned and addressed the rest of their group. "We shall rest here a while. Eat, and drink, then fill your bottles again. We shall not stop for many hours after we resume our journey."

Despite the looming presence of Kilio's last statement, they all seemed in high spirits. They talked as they ate, and drank deeply from the fresh waters of the Anduin. The sun seemed to release them from it's searing gaze, and they felt a cool breeze come from the west, sweeping through the trees that grew along the river bank. After they had finished their meal, Elorendil moved off a little way and stretched out in the long grass to rest. Her companions did the same, though most chose to do so under the shade of the mighty rowan trees.
 

Morohtar

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Danaeth sat beneath a large rowan tree, basking in the sun. The wind often swept over him, cooling his skin, producing an exhilarating sensation. It seems that my friends, new and old, have saved my life again. He felt safe with these people, despite the fact that he knew so little about them. But his heart welcomed them, and Danaeth had learned to trust his heart in the past. Whatever happened, these few would not harm him.

And some of them are not all that bad to look at. Danaeth smiled as he thought of Elorendil. Even Arwedhel, the most beautiful woman in the courts of Dol Amroth, could not rival her beauty. Elorendil’s eyes held such depth, moreso than any elf he had ever seen. It seemed to Danaeth that they also held within them hidden far inside a jewel most radiant, for her eyes always shined, especially when she smiled. When she smiles. He thought of when Elorendil had smiled because of a comment he made about Cair. He had felt at that moment that every evil in the world had been righted, that all wounds had been healed. Through his travels he had been warned of the power of the Eldar, but it was to no avail, he had been enthralled by this woman’s beauty. He sighed, knowing his chances with her were slim.

He decided that he would try to get some sleep, if only a few minutes, since his earlier rest had been rudely interrupted. He closed his eyes; the sun created a kaleidoscope with his eyelids, a soothing array of reds and yellows that slowly lulled him to sleep. At last all that he could sense of the waking world was the wind rustling through the leaves. Quiet was the sound, like a whispered shout, but the sound slowly grew. It changed slightly; voices could be heard, chanting some name or phrase Danaeth had never heard before. He opened his eyes to find that his was no longer in the forest near the river Anduin, but in some great beach, staring towards a large mansion that overlooked a harbour. He was clothed in pure white silk, with shining armour that glistened from the sunlight. There were many others around him, some in similar armour, other in armour of less stature. They all let out a triumphant shout, deafeningly loud. A figure emerged from a balcony that extended from the wall of this great mansion; tall he seemed, and wise. His face was pleasant, and he seemed to hold within him a vast resevoir of knowledge. Beside him was another man, of great stature, dress in kingly robes. The first man extended his arms in a plea for silence, and at once all was quiet.

“Oh great warriors of Numenor, descendants of the mighty Edain, here me now. You set out on this day for the lands of Middle Earth, dangerous though they may be. Fear not, for a mighty presence will protect thee. Your fallen brethren, lost in the darkness of the lands to the east call out to you now, begging you to return and save them from themselves. Your lord Ar-Pharazôn heeds their cries, and now sends forth his greatest to invite these people into fellowship and alliance with Numenor. Safety and prosperity will be given to them.”

His voice was soothing, and it seemed to Danaeth that all his words were truth. He looked at the figures again, and saw a change. The speaker seemed to grow, both in size and power. The other, who Danaeth thought to be this Ar-Pharazôn, had shrunk, and seemed old and tired. The crowd let forth a shout, which shattered the silence with such ferocity that it seemed as though silence could never return. The figure extended his arms again, and all went as deathly quiet as before.

“Many of you will be leaving love ones behind; wives, children, friends. But do not mourn, for though you leave now to the east, from the east you will return, and the glory of Numenor will be greater than ever before, and you will prosper in all things that you do, for He who protects you will also bless you. Melkor will not forget the sacrifices that the people of Numenor have made to him, and he will repay those who honour him.”

“To your generals I have given swords, which I have wrought personally, to aid them in their liberation of your eastern brethren. Go now, and fear not! One warning I have for you; trust not the Eldar that live in the lands of Middle Earth, for they tell lies and would decieve you. Their hearts are full of envy, and they withhold the secrets of eternal life from you. They will betray you for spite if you give them the chance. Go then forth from Numenor, remembering the tasks set for you. For lord and land, and Melkor, Lord of the Void!”

With these final words, a great call went forth, both shouting and trumpets. Swords were unsheathed and raised towards the sky, like small towers of sunlight. Danaeth unsheathed his own sword, and caught a glimpse of writing on the blade. That is my sword! I recognize the markings. He knew he could not be mistaken, for he had at times stared long and hard at that sword, trying to solve the mystery of the text. The two figures disappeared back into the mansion, and the great multitude of soldiers began to slowly make their way towards the ships that lay anchored in the harbour. There was little talking, besides orders being called out. Large cranes were lifting supplies and food onto the ships, while one by one the men loaded the boats. Danaeth finally reached the ships and loaded one. Once aboard a man approached him and extened his arm.

“Arândil, my old friend, you join us on this fine expedition? Should be quite the adventure. Sauron gave everyone a nice little speech eh? Bah! I am here for the money, not for the “liberation of our eastern brethren.” Though it seems odd to me that such a large military force would be sent. Would it not make more sense to send farmers and scholars and workers? Hah! What would I know, I’m just a soldier; I go, complete whichever task is given to me, and return. Come, let us find our quarters."

Danaeth followed this man below decks, often receiving salutes or greetings from other soldiers. He assumed that his rank must be high, perhaps even a general. If that were true, then Sauron himself would have made his sword. The thought scared him, for some power must be in the sword, an evil one perhaps. After some time he left the man’s company and went to his quarters. He lay on the bed; enjoying the silence of the moment. The slow rhythmic sounds of the ocean were greeted by the sporatic whistling of birds, and the quietly violent rushing of leaves. He opened his eyes once more and found himself returned to the forest.
 
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Morohtar

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Eos said nothing, and after a while the dwarf left his presence. Oh, how he wished to kill that wretched little thing. Listen to it gasp for air with lungs too full of holes and blood to be of any use. Watch as the life slowly drained from its eyes.

What was it in him that caused such hatred towards a race that had done him no harm? His hatred for orcs was easy enough to explain, having marred him and his sister deeper than any could. Perhaps it was the poison that coursed through his veins, created by Morgoth's Scourge, that twisted his mind to create such hatred for the Äule's creations.

Or perhaps it is that they are what I see them as, detestable animals to be used and discarded.

He walked back to his bed and laid down, closing his eyes. He rarely slept while in the company of his subordinates, the chances of one wishing to avenge their transgressions on his throat was too high. But rest he must, if they wished to catch their prey.
~~~~~~~~~~

Eonä smiled as the dwarf walked away, knowing that it's time would come to an end soon enough. He brother left as well, and she watched him from a distance, hidden from sight to catch any assailant.

The rat Jakoval passed by, his eyes trained on Eos. Eonä dearly wanted to kill him, if only because his corpse couldn't smell any worse than he already did. In fact, there were few in the group that she thought should be allowed to live. Perhaps it was the similarities rather than the differences that she hated most, the things that she saw in them that she had as well. The thought of being at all similar to these people sickened her.
 
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Ghorim

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Helmin's words went unanswered, and the collective enmity of the group seemed to bear down upon the dwarf as he stood in the mid-morning stillness. The sunlight glinted off the hardened faces of the party members, and beneath each squinted gaze seemed to lie an unspoken challenge. One stumble by the dwarf was all they desired. One stumble was all they needed.

"So I shall stand without aid," thought Helmin. He savored that sort of thought. His will, his sheer lust for survival, stacked against the designs of the world at large. That was how it had always been.

A low chuckle came from his stunted form, despite everything that he faced, and because of it. The group seemed to tense all the more at his reaction, and though all would have him silenced, Helmin's mirth did not subside. The dwarf's laughter gushed forth now, spiraling up, cresting in deep intakes of breath as his eyes held their lock on the Dark Elf.

"And a good morning to you too, sir!"

He turned about swiftly, though his gaze lingered on the commander as he went. The dwarf's eyes now danced among his comrades, his assailants, as if he was plotting a bloody end for each one. He marched through their gauntlet without a second thought, parrying hatred with a swaggering indifference that carried him away from the crowd.

Helmin proceeded well off from the main camp, into the true wilds of the forest, where the trees allowed no set path to intrude. Their appendages jutted out from every conceivable angle, even spurting out of the ground itself, ravenous for travelers to ensnare. The dwarf, so used to the boundless expanse of the mountains and the plains, felt completely hemmed in. His posturing was done, his second wind departed. Once more he ached from weariness, with all of his thoughts aiming downward, toward rest and forgetfulness.

His eyes came to stop on the moss-covered trunk of a nearby tree. Its green bed glistened gently in the darkness of the woods, inviting Helmin's shot senses with its soft texture and gentle, earthy fragrance. It was the smell of death. The dwarf approached in a near trance, and collapsed upon the tree. His weight likely would have crushed his intended mossy pillow had he not missed it entirely. Helmin groaned as his head struck the inhospitable bark. His helmet, gracefully, protected him from a more pronounced headache.

"A fine mess I've lucked into," he grumbled, removing the helm and settling his emptied head upon the moss. Vainly he sought to strategize his next move, to discover the best way to protect his throat in this vicious gang. But hardly had he begun to consider his options when the weight of the exhaustion, the ale, and the events of the past two nights simply crushed whatever strength Helmin had left. His thoughts flickered and died, and sleep dragged him off into its deepest chambers, where hazy, disjointed visions awaited him.

His snores, of that peculiarly hardy, defiantly dwarvish sort, could soon be faintly heard even from the mercenary camp.
 

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