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The Enemy of my Enemy is my Friend... for now

Miss Insanity

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"My name is Vaaralinen and I am an escaped captive of the Easterlings, as I gather you are also by the noises your watchman made. He... met me as I was fleeing the Easterling caravan. He directed me over to this cave, where I hoped to warm my fingers and sooth my wounds. If I ask to much, I shall leave..." She looked hopefully at the women who had tried to calm the man who seemed to be in charge. If anyone's liable to help me, it'll be them she thought. "I lay my weapons down, as a sign of armistice. Please, trust me."
 

Majimaune

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Straag stood up. "I trust you Vaaralinen, can I call you something maybe a bit shorter? Come sit by the fire...If he," at that Straag inclined his head towards Orion, "will let you free."
 

Seregon

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Orion wasn't willing to trust her, yet that could just as easily be said for almost everyone else in the cave. So he stood aside and let her get close to the fire, watching her carefully, and turning to put his back to the cave wall. Alana kept her hand on his shoulder, and for some reason as time went on he felt calmer and calmer.

Rhea smiled at the woman who'd entered. "Welcome, Vaaralinen. If you want, I'm sure we could persuade Orion to give you some food." She smiled sweetly. "We were captives, also. We plan to head West, later." Orion gave an angry laugh, and Rhea glanced at him, gave a tired smile. "It was his idea."

"I’m taking you to my people." It was quiet, soft, with a tone that Orion had never heard her use before. Orion looked her over, those deep brown eyes searching hers in a way that filled her with warmth… and sorrow.

"Who are your people?" And suddenly, he realized: her golden eyes, her deep brown hair… and her unpointed ears. She was a mortal… and worse…

"I am an easterling…"


Laia watched all of this happening, surprised and a little afraid at first. Yet as soon as they began exchanging pleasantries, she smiled, and joined in. "I'm Laia." She said to the woman, inclining her head slightly, not even realizing she was doing it. There were some things learned by rote from being a servant. She shifted rather impatiently. Are we ever going to leave? She wanted so desperately to be as far away from her master as possible.
 

Rosalee LuAnn

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Sorry it's taken me so long to post, people... I'll fine-tune this later. I hope.

Rosie gazed at the sleeping girl. Sleeping, Clover looked calm and peaceful—very unlike the complaining, active girl that Rosie felt she had been chasing… how long? Rosie realized that they had been prisoners a short time ago, a few hours at most—it somehow seemed much longer than that. At that thought, Rosie’s ankle gave a particularly vicious throb, as if to remind her that all the time she had been running from the Easterlings, and then from that fight and the cave of strange figures, she has been abusing her leg abominably.

Now that she was off her feet and felt relatively safe, the pain of her injured shoulder and ankle took advantage of the space in her mind that had been occupied earlier with running. Rosie was suddenly aware that she was extremely nauseous and lightheaded… and hungry. She had no food, no supplies, no weapons… only an impulsive, overactive, useless child. She instantly discarded the idea of leaving Clover on her own, that was simply not an option. But Rosie did not look forward to having to drag little Clover around when there might be angry Easterlings about, hunting for escaped prisoners…

Rosie’s fatigue finally hushed the string of thoughts running through her brain, and she dropped into a shallow sleep, full of red dreams where she was chased by some unknown horror, and every step she took sent a jolt of pain through her body.
 

AraCelebEarwen

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Harsh, clawed hands dug into her struggling arms, another kept a crushing grasp around her face. A strange scented container was forced into her mouth, filling it with a sickeningly sticky syrup. She tried to spit it out, but was reworded with a staggering jerk and a blow to the side of her head. Her eyes swam, her head held up only by the same firm hand. Again her mouth was forced open, the same bottle once again shoved past her dry lips.

Clover's body lie curled tightly on the hard cave floor. Trembling, she woke suddenly, gasping for air as though the syrup was still running down her throat. Completely confused in the dark surroundings, she kicked backwards across the graveled floor tell her back was pressed against a rough stone wall. Memories came back in a wash then; Clover's wide eyes darting here and there in the darkness, her heart pounding in her ears.

Knees hugged to her chest, the girl's head slowly began to sway and sink forward to her knees; sleep pulling her back into an even darker place then the silent cave.

Dawn came slowly, slipping into the mouth of the cave but unable to go so far in as to fully touch the huddled figure. Dark patches showed plainly on her face; the groggy expression and deep bruise on her left temple giving evidence to the treatment she had been given. Half awake, Clover had stayed sitting up; heavy-lidded eyes gazing across at the woman. Rosie had been tossing and moaning in her sleep, making Clover feel increasingly unsure and at a loss. There wasn't anything to eat here and hardly even anything to drink but for what had gathered in the hallow of a stone just outside the entrance. Clover's eyes moved from the woman to the mouth of the cave and back. Would she notice if she slipped out?...

About a half hour later, the girl had somehow found the way and was moving back towards the wagons. It had to be there somewhere. If she could just get the pack... Quiet feet kept moving over the dampened ground. Another quarter of an hour later and she had to catch herself from just walking from the shelter of the trees. She couldn't see anyone around, several wagons -one tipped on its side- were still where they must have been the night before. Carefully, Clover worked her way 'round to the last wagon in the line. A shudder ran over her skin as she reached up to climb in. Piles of bags, weapons, bundles and... she pulled her gaze away from a stash of dark bottles tucked in a pile of bloody looking cloth. Snatching up the first bag that seemed anywhere near right for what she thought the woman might have had -as well as another that looked to have some sort of flat bread in it- the girl slipped quickly back into the woods and towards the cave... more or less.

As soon as she felt she was far enough away, Clover ducked down beside a brushy patch and started to dig through the second bag. Two bottles of something that smelled sharp to her little nose; several bundles of a strange, bread-like stuff wrapped up in leaves; some kind of powders in little boxes and bags and a little trinket that made her mouth fall open in wondering surprise. It was little more then a well kept coin, but it glittered in the palm of her dirty little hand like nothing she had ever seen before. Time slipped past; one loaf of bread was gone and another had one half-hearted nibble taken out of it before the child felt much fuller then she had been in a very long time. Warmed by the sunlight and drowsy from a filled tummy, she slipped just under the edge of the brush and had quickly fallen asleep.
 

Rosalee LuAnn

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In which Rosie is miserable.

Rosie woke feeling as if her pulsing heart had moved up to her head and was pressing against the back of her eyelids, forehead, and neck. She groaned. The floor of the cave was rocky and uneven, and certainly not the most comfortable place she had ever slept. There were a couple of sore spots on her back where particularly pointy rocks had bored into her...

Rosie's train of thought stopped abruptly when she noticed that the cave was empty except for her. Sores forgotten, she gazed about frantically, thinking maybe Clover had merely slipped out of sight for a moment... she would be back, she had to...

Rosie crawled out of the cave. The sun was a fair way up into the sky--perhaps an hour or so since sun up. How long had Clover been gone? Dare she call out--who, or what, might be out there? The terrain was rocky, and there was no way for Rosie, a merely mediocre tracker, to even try to follow any trail Clover might have left.

Rosie sat still for some time, going through all her options... but in the end, the only thing she could think of to do was to go and look for the foolish child. And she would need to start soon--each minute could be taking Clover further and further from the cave.

Resigned, Rosie, examined her ankle. It did not look like it had improved during the night--indeed, it looked much worse. Swollen, with a mottled pink, purple, green, yellow, brown, and blue bruise, and a large cut that looked infected. Rosie looked away. She could limp, hop, crawl... she could, and would. This wasn't the worst position she had ever found herself in, and she was determined that it would not beat her.

Resigned, trying very hard not to feel miserable, Rosie started to slowly make her way away from the cave, with only a vague idea of where she was going, most of her mind consumed with trying not to jostle her now throbbing ankle and sore shoulder and aching body more than was absoultely necessary. Once upon a time, she tried to distract herself, the corageous Rosie embarked on a great quest...
 

Miss Insanity

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Vaara felt uncomfortable. It was as if she could feel the eyes of the others moving over her body, judging her and making decisions already. She smiled at the women who she had spoken to already as she shuffled towards the fire and stood. The menacing-looking man who had met her as she first entered still kept a watchful eye on her. She noticed a warg, examining her with one 'eyebrow' slightly raised. Another man rose and broke the awkward silence. "I trust you, Vaaralinen..." his voice faded in her mind as she saw a vein appear on the menacing man's forehead. Time slowed and drifted as sweat began to form on his brow. What was he thinking about? "... If he will let you free." Vaara returned to the present. "Thank you...?" she struggled to remember his name, then realized she had never gotten it. "I'm sorry..." she stammered, "but I don't know your names."
 

Majimaune

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"Didn't I say it...No? Well I am Straag. Please, sit."

It went on and on... this torture, never ending.

"RELEASE ME!" He blacked out.
 

Seregon

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Rhea smiled kindly at Vaara. "My apologies. I am Rhea." And she inclined her head slightly as a greeting.

"Names are useless." Orion spoke quietly, and all eyes turned to him. "They mean nothing." He elaborated.

"He's Orion, and I'm Alana." Alana's words were kinder, and softer, and she was still very close to Orion. Orion seethed. Hadn't he made it obvious that he didn't want to give his name? People seemed replete with things to call him. Why couldn't she use one of those words?

"I've had enough of this." He stood, grabbing his pack. "This standing around and talking. It's all useless. How much closer to Middle Earth are we, for all of this? For all of this time, that they could be catching up to us, how far have we gotten? A few hundred yards of forest! A cave! I don't care what the rest of you do, but I'm heading west. I don't want to be recaptured, and dragged back to their sacrifice." And he walked from the cave, noticing the rain had let up and was now was but a drizzle. He didn't even have to look around. He knew which way was west immediately, and he headed straight for it, only moving to the side to sidestep trees and bushes. And sure enough, he heard footsteps behind him.

Rhea was stunned. Alana had followed him first, and Rhea saw others starting to follow, too. Why? And suddenly she realized - he made sense. He might be evil, he might be totally and completely immoral and violent, yet he made a very good point. They'd been resting for hours, with the Easterling camp not that far away. And Eru help her, she followed him out of the cave, after Alana, keeping her distance so that the others would have someone to watch, yet making sure to keep her eyes on the elf.

Laia watched Alana and Rhea follow him out of the cave, bit her lip. If I follow him, it might just be me, and him and the female elves... But if I don't... it might just be me, and "master"... She felt her lip curl with disgust, and she hesitated only a second longer before deciding that Orion was, ultimately, the lesser of two evils. And she followed the other female elf - Luinwe, was it? - out of the cave.

"… and so are you." And Orion’s eyes got wide, he backed away from the tree, tripped over a root, and fell flat on the forest floor. Evia shook her head, and stepped towards him. "Didn’t you see?" And he backed away, struggling to get to his feet. "You always had to shave… Your dark hair and eyes, your clumsiness…"

"No… No…"

"…Your less-than-elven stealth…"

"Don’t!" His face was twisted with sorrow, tears were filling his eyes, and suddenly, she came over to him and put her arms around him. And he wept. He wept for his blood; for his life; for the fact that in actuality, he was exactly what he hated. He wept for all this, and because he knew, somewhere deep down, he’d known this all along.
 

YayGollum

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Raoul shook his head and laughed at himself for keeping such company. As everyone filed out, he gratefully rushed off to inform his Orc that they were leaving. He looked forward to surprising the humans by returning. He hadn't gotten far when he heard an Orcish curse and saw Bugburz climb carefully out of a tree. "Ar! Could you stumble through this forest any louder? Yes, you are my loyal mutt, but - " He stopped and held his hands up placatingly when the Warg began a warning growl. "Alright, alright! Our willing meals are leaving, then?" "Try to keep your stomach under control. They'll just have to get used to your manners. See anyone looking for us yet? I don't think our unlikely travel companions will mind if we snack on a few Easterlings." "Nar. Nobody. They're in a hurry for something. We'll just have to watch for others coming this way." The two gave themselves plenty of room as they caught up with the group. Bugburz only yelled at the Warg a few times for leaving a trail on the way. He hung back once they found the group, but made sure to play with his weapons and grin evilly at them a lot. Raoul chuckled a bit at that but attempted to look non-threatening as he trotted beside them. They certainly smelled a lot better than the Orc.
 

elfgirl

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Rhea seemed kind enough to the woman, yet Orion significantly less so. He didn't snap at her, or act as she thought he might of, yet he just looked thoughtful and dark and spoke quietly, almost softly, almost as if there was a note of kindness that he thought was there. She felt she should quickly intervene; for some reason, he was the one they were following. He couldn't be making too many snappy, mean comments.

"He's Orion, and I'm Alana." Her words were sweet abd soft, and she tried to stay very close to him.

"I've had enough of this." He snapped at the others. "This standing around and talking. It's all useless. How much closer to Middle Earth are we, for all of this? For all of this time, that they could be catching up to us, how far have we gotten? A few hundred yards of forest! A cave! I don't care what the rest of you do, but I'm heading west. I don't want to be recaptured, and dragged back to their sacrifice." And he stepped out of the cave, quickly, determined. She followed without so much as a second thought.

Luinwe watched all of this very closely, shocked and more than a little afraid. Alana followed quickly, then Rhea, and Luinwe bit her lip, cautiously following them out, noticing others following her. She spied Laia and tried to smile reassuringly, though it was halfhearted at best.
 

AraCelebEarwen

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Slowly crawling out from beneath the bushes, Clover looked around carefully. The sun was a little brighter in the tree-tops now. Stretching out stiff limbs and taking a yawned breath of the cool, damp air, she hefted both bags over her shoulder and to her back. Weighed down by the bundles, the girl's footsteps were slower and somewhat unsteady over the rocky ground; making the journey back take even more time.

A little more then two hours after she had left, Clover could again see the opening of the little cave. Somewhat pleased with herself, she shifted the packs and quickened her steps the last few yards. She knew the woman had wanted her things back, and she hoped very much that she had brought the right things.'Maybe something here could help Rosie take care of her ankle' she thought as she remembered the way she had been limping.

Starting to feel worn out by her burden, Clover stepped quietly into the cave, set the bags down and looked up with as much of a hopeful smile as she could muster. When no other sound met her, and her eyes adjusted enough to see clearly that no one was there, it felt all over again like she'd been left and forgotten.

"Rosie?" Clover's little voice called from the mouth of the cave. "Hello!?" But before she could call again or be any louder, her voice went back to its learned quiet. Wrapping thin arms around herself, she sank into a cross-legged sitting position just inside the cover of the empty cave. "See?" she whispered to the rocks in general; "Grownups don't care about anyone else." Upset at what she took to be for granted, Clover sat there only a little longer before coming up with the idea that she had in fact been left for good and that she may as well do something about it. There was no way she could tell which direction would take her to any sort of town, so she decided to stay where she was; for a while at least.

By the time the sun was nearly half way up in the still cloudy sky, the child had not only unpacked both bags, but had set things up along the walls of the little room and was looking for something to make a softer bed with.
 

Miss Insanity

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Vaara was confused and bewildered. She didn't know what to do. She had only just arrived, and now the group was moving out. Should she stay with the group, or move on without them? They are moving in my direction, she thought to herself. She made her decision, and stood. Double checking that her blades were where they belonged, she followed after the others. The warg seemed friendly enough, but she kept an eye on her Orcish acquaintance who was following closely behind, snarling and putting on a bit of a show. She wondered about Orion. What was about him that stirred something in her. Although she felt no direct connection, it was as though she could understand his feelings. Women's intuition she figured, and marched on.
 

Rosalee LuAnn

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In which Rosie is surprised

Ahead there was a clump of bushes with a shady-looking gap big enough to crouch in. Rosie told herself she had only to reach those bushes, and then she could rest. She fell once, and didn’t particularly want to get back up again, but more than anything the feeling of being exposed encouraged her the last several yards to the shade of the bushes.

She did not feel safe in this place, and being only half-functional, weaponless and alone certainly did not make her feel any better about her situation. Most of the time she was supposed to be looking for Clover she was looking for the people that she imagined were following her, and she started at any noise.

It was cooler out of the direct sunlight, and Rosie leaned back against a rock and closed her eyes. Her foot was still out in the open—her leg felt better when it was straight—and as much as she wanted to stay hidden, she wanted to ease her ankle more. She found a comfortable position and tried not to think about the aches and pains that had multiplied each time she fell because of her bad ankle and shoulder.

Rosie woke up not long later, to some unknown noise. She sat as still as possible for several seconds, inadvertently holding her breath… but the noise did not repeat itself. “I can’t do this anymore.” Rosie said to herself. “I don’t know what’s happened to me lately, but…” she shook her head. “I need to get back… Clover is gone. I’ll just have to take care of myself… I’m used to doing that, anyway.”

She eased her way out of the bushes and onto her feet. Her rest seemed to have done her ankle some good, at least, because it didn’t hurt as badly. Checking the placement of the sun, which had risen a good way up into the sky, she started on her way back to the cave.

The trip back seemed shorter than the trip out—perhaps because she knew where the thing that she was looking for was. It felt nice to see boulders and bushes she remembered resting on or looking under, to know that she was not completely vulnerable.

Soon she was back at the cave. Tired and grateful, she sank down with a sigh and crawled in. It took a couple seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dimmer light of the cave, and when they did she scrambled frantically backwards. Someone had been in the cave, someone had put various things around as if they meant to stay—but it WAS the same cave… where could she go? Had someone been following her?

There was a thump, a squeal, a rustling noise, and a shrill “Ouch!” Rosie whirled around so fast that she wrenched her shoulder and it started throbbing again in earnest. Rosie forgot about her shoulder for a moment, however, because there was Clover, rubbing her knee with green-stained hands, a pile of branches and grass scattered at her feet. Rosie was so surprised, and so grateful, and so tired, that all she could do was sit and stare as a couple of rare tears trickled down her dusty cheeks.
 

AraCelebEarwen

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Unable to watch her feet around the bundle of long grasses and soft-leaved branches she had been gathering, Clover didn't see the dip in the ground. As she put her foot down, it caught and tossed her forward. Letting out an involuntary squeal as she fell, her hands shot out, sending the greenery flying. Even with as much as she had gathered, it proved to be too little to pad her right knee from the stony ground. "Ouch!" Sitting up as quick as she could, she took hold of the scraped knee and began to rub at it as though that alone would make it better.

Something in the back of her mind clicked, bringing her eyes up in a snap. Something was here that hadn't been. No sooner had she looked up then she saw the woman looking back at her. Clover froze. What was she doing here? Hadn't she left her on her own? What had... Was she crying?... Clover's face was a picture of hurt surprise.

"I thought... Didn't you..." Clover stuttered, her large, confused looking eyes flickering from Rosie to the cave, out to the forest and then down to the bloodied patch of skin on her knee. "I got your pack for you. At least, I think it's yours... there were so many!... I didn't know which one it should'a been!..." Rosie could see that the girl was getting herself worked up as she tripped over an uncharacteristic burst of words. "I thought you wanted it so I went to find it but when I got back you were gone an' I thought... I thought..." Tears pricked at the girl's eyes. Her face went down again to the spilled bundle, her eyes locking on a single blade of grass while she struggled to figure things out.
 

Seregon

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"Orion..." He glanced at her, anger written on his features. "It's been four days. We need to stop, and rest, and eat." He turned his eyes back to the path in front of him.

"If they find it difficult, they don't have to follow me." Alana grabbed his arm, deciding that this was a time to assert herself.

"We're stopping. And so are you." They turned, glaring at each other.

The campfire crackled, providing light that was no longer being supplied by the fading sun. It was small, as Orion had been quick to point out that a large fire would be a beacon for those looking for them. They didn't have many of the normal camping supplies, yet they made do, a hodge-podge type of camp thrown together quickly. A guard had been assigned, and at the moment, the warg was the only one who had to be awake. Suddenly, they heard a very slight noise, and Orion emerged from the darkness, a large buck draped across his shoulders. Alana was with him, beaming, as he set the deer down, and glanced around him. Rhea was scowling, looking the two over thoroughly. They both had bloodstains, though Orion many more, as the rain had not fully washed the blood off of his clothes. There was no sign of weariness in either of them, their elven blood giving them wonderful stamina.

"We need someone to clean it, and leave some raw bits for our friends over there." He looked around for a volunteer, and noticed Rhea's looks. "What?" He was really quite sick of people asking him things.

"You expect us to think you two went off to hunt?" She chuckled. Orion's brow knotted, and he thought for a moment, before looking disgusted.

"Don't make me sick. Now is someone going to clean this or not? I don't have to eat it; I can live. We could just... give it to the warg." He gestured toward the animal, smiling, not even noticing Alana's very, very put off look.

"So what now?" He suddenly seemed so somber to her, so tainted. And he looked her in the eyes, and he knew. He swallowed, and turned back, clutching his knees and resting his chin upon them, looking at the moon.

"Orion…" She laid her hand on his shoulder. "It doesn’t change anything. It was always there… all I did was say it." Yet she knew it was a lie. Before she said it, it was a question; a suspicion. It was there, yet unconfirmed, like a shadow. It wasn’t a truth that had to be realized or viewed; it could just be safely tucked away, hidden in some corner never to be confronted or worried about. It wasn’t really, true; it was still in that gray area between truth and fiction. Yet then she said it, and she made it true. He couldn’t hide from it anymore; couldn’t tuck it into some corner of his mind. It was right there, in the middle of everything, and it made everything different. It made him different, it made her different. There lives weren’t tainted with this shadow until she’d decided to drag it into the open. They didn’t have to notice how it affected them, because before, as far as they were concerned, it didn’t.
 

yhwh1st

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Glancing around, Figwitt wondered where the human had gone, for he seemed to have vanished into thin air. Quickly turning in a circle he took in his surroundings. Where could he have gone? Figwitt pondered this for a moment, then moved toward the sound of running water. Kneeling by the stream, he took a long drought then leaned back on his haunches, contemplating his options. He was interrrupted by a familliar smell. 'Mushrooms!' He followed his nose in the semi dark and found a rather large patch of the squat vegetable. He grabbed the nearest one and stuffed it into his mouth. He may have only been a day or two without food, but the prospect of more stopped him from gourging himself. He must find a way to carry the rest with him.
 

Majimaune

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No one else seemed to be coming forward to fix up the buck for cooking.

"Okay I'll do it." Straag got up reluctantly and went over to the buck. He drew out a small hunting knife from his belt and started to cut off the skin, trying to get it in a nice large piece. Once he had done that He cut off any parts of meat worth eating and laid them on the skin that was spread out on the ground. Straag also took out the stomachs* and the liver so that they could be cooked and eaten too.

Straag started a small cooking fire. While the flames died down to leave hot coals he went in search of large green leaves and some herbs. When he got back he placed the cuts of meat on the leaves, sprinkled the herbs on and then rapped the leaves so that they would fully cover the meat and that none would get burnt. The meat was then placed on the coals to cook.
 

yhwh1st

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A quarter moon was high in the night sky, but he was on his way to rest. It would be dawn in a few hours and the clouds were rolling in swift and fierce. The morning promised to arrive cold and wet.

A lone hobbit sat crouched in the brush outside a clearing. The light of a waning moon dimly illuminated abandoned carts and two dead asses that had been crushed by an overturned cart laden with a large cache of weapons. Several rats seemed to be feasting on the carcasses. No other movement was to be seen in the clearing. Figwitt crept out from his hiding place and quickly, yet quietly, made his way to the overturned cart and began to rummage through its scattered contents. He picked up a bow and some arrows. Slightly large, but they could be carved down if I found a – Aha… he thought as he picked up a small knife in a shabby leather scabbard. Fearing to linger too long, he took another quick look around himself and grabbed two nearby water skins, one empty and one almost full, and a small sack that he thought might be useful. Taking a careful look around before leaving the shelter of the cart, he made a mad dash for the nearby line of trees.

Once again at the stream, Figwitt stopped to catch his breath then examined his find. Seven arrows in all. Lucky number. Feathers are in bad shape, but that can be mended, he thought. What’s this? Bread in the bag! Slightly stale, but still edible. Adrenalin too high for sleep at the moment the hobbit wandered over to the patch of mushrooms and stuffed the bag full, still hardly believing his good luck at finding them. Next, to the water, he filled the water skin, then, turning his face in the direction he believed to be west, he plunged deeper into the wood.
 

Seregon

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The Universe
Orion felt disoriented. Everything blurred, he lost his perspective… Then, suddenly, everything cleared.

"Master…" The guard bowed. "It is about to begin." And there they were, masses and masses of people, standing side by side, about to be sacrificed. He was seated, looking down on it, all, with two guards beside him. "This will give us the advantage… we will sacrifice them all, and better yet… we have something very special for you. At the end, you’ll see…" The clouds came farther together, blocking out the sun entirely. No; no… the sun wouldn’t shine. That was a line from a poem somewhere, he thought… the sun wouldn’t shine… And it began, en masse. Person after person’s throat was cut, their bodies piled together, their blood running like rivers across the ground. Then, there was only death and carnage below them. Finally, the guards brought out two elves, made them kneel at his feet. One was blurry, shifting, and the other had brown hair and brown eyes, and at her waist was a sword with a golden sun on the pommel; around her throat, a medallion in the shape of a sun. And the guard brought his knife to her throat, slit deep into it, and led the blood run over the medallion, making it glow and pulse. He pulled it off of her throat, and pressed it into his master’s hand.

"Orion..." A quiet voice woke him easily. He looked coldly into Alana's eyes. What now? "It's Graeme." Orion's brow knotted, and he sat up, looked over to the elf, who was shaking violently. "He's run a fever, and convulsing. Sometimes it's worse than this." He contemplated this for a moment.

"Someone must carry him; we can-"

"No. His fever has gotten worse. If we move him, he may die. Besides, how can we carry him with him shaking like this? If that wasn't bad enough, he's mumbling. He needs to be kept here, and treated." Orion barred his teeth.

"By who?"

"I could do it." He looked over, and there was Rhea. "I've had some experience with healing. I know some herbs which can bring his fever down, and maybe some to keep him still. Just give me some time."

"Time for them to find me? To catch up with us?" Rhea thought about this for a moment.

"We are in a bit of a valley. We can have someone patrol the surrounding area and warn us if something is coming. And it won't be too long. Just... a couple of days." She paused here, knowing he was just going to keep moving... and many with him. "Besides, it's your fault that he's sick. If you hadn't burned him he wouldn't be going through this. You let something infect him. Do you really want his death to be on your conscience?" She tried being as sympathetic as she could. He thought for a moment, and shrugged.

"I could live." Alana put a hand on his shoulder, and he glared at her.

"Please. Just two days. We'll patrol; we'll keep watch." His jaw clenched.

"Fine. Two days." Alana smiled, squeezed his shoulder, as Rhea went over to attend to Graeme.

"Thank you." Orion just grunted, and laid back down to sleep, trying to block out that deep sense of foreboding, like a cornered deer must have before its throat is cut.

"So is this an easterling symbol?" He held up the medallion, and she shifted. Her skin felt warm against his; the only semblance of peace and comfort he had left. Her eyes met his, and they held each others’ gaze for a moment. She kissed his chest and buried her face in his neck, and he wrapped his arms around her.

"Do you really want to know?" Her voice was hushed, full of fear and pain. And when their eyes met again, his eyes were filled with tears and he just shook his head quietly. She smiled sadly, wiping the tears off of his face. "I wish I hadn’t told you." He studied her for a moment, his eyes searching her face. "I never wanted to hurt you." He knew what she was going to say, and so did she, yet even when he shook his head and she knew she shouldn’t say it, she did. "I… I love you."
 

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