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The Stumbling Of Man Upon The Uttermost West.

YayGollum

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I, The YayGollum Person, Moved This. Because It Looks Better Here?

Lurking in the shadows just two doors down from the inn's entrance, Artos waited. He had watched the group surrounding his intended victim through thick, watery glass and he pondered. Why in the name of Nahar's sweat-stained saddle does Horatio want this boy dead? He seems harmless enough, though he does seem to have an inordinate amount of security around him...maybe he does pose some sort of threat....

All instincts telling him to think before he acted, the wolf-trainer and his wolf faded into the stream of people moving quickly along the main street, each focussed on their own problems. Artos' ability to blend with his surroundings ahd always stood him in good stead, enabling him to discover things many people wish would stay buried. Coupled with the fact that Serra often became a second set of eyes and ears for him, the two made a formiable combination when it came to skulduggery.

It wasn't long before Brandor and his companions left the Big Rock and began making their way down the street in a haphazard fashion, with Brandor craning his head this way and that, obviously a tourist in these parts. An older man was regaling him with tales, while at the same time complaining about everything from the price of honey, to the fact that he hadn't had a good adventure in so and so many years.

Serra meanwhile followed the group discreetly, her nose pressed firmly to the ground. After a short while of trailing after them, she turned and made her way back to Artos' side. Her report he found interesting...and vaguely disturbing.

Father, there appears to be five persons with the youngster, though I am unsure. There's what smells like a lizard with him...and a stony, slate-like scent as well. There's a dwarf as well. Artos looked at her sceptically. "A lizard? Are you sure?" She glared at him in annoyance and he held up his hands in apology. "I know, I know...who's the wolf here? Well, I suppose we'd better just follow them. Everything about this job seems wrong to me, but the alternative..." He sighed heavily. "Let's get on with it, shall we?"
 

Ghorim

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With his acidic ale in hand, Glauer was just about to embark on his tangled life story for Barulin, who had asked most eagerly for it. Suddenly, however, that oddball Nandreeson came barreling over to them, his lungs puffed out with laughter and his hands flying about like a wild pair of tentacles. Glauer got slapped hard on the back and nearly dropped his drink — again. Barulin had been smacked and hugged at least twice before he scurried to his feet in a rage.

“What’s this, eh?!” The dwarf’s shout somehow failed to draw the attention of the local crowd. Truor’s habit of bellowing every sentence must have desensitized them. “Who do you think you are, acting so familiar?”

“Oh, eh... this is Nandreeson!” Glauer was terrified of upsetting his newfound kinsman. “He’s a friendly sort, as you can see.”

“I hate friendly.” Barulin glared at the stranger from over the brim of his drink, and took a hostile-looking gulp from the mug.

“Oh, come off it!” declared Nandreeson, still unflappably affable. “Let’s share a round, what say?”

“How do you know him?” Barulin asked Glauer, ignoring the fellow as one does an excitable puppy.

“We’re traveling together, along with some others. To the east.”

“You’re on the road with long-leggers?” The disapproval in Barulin’s voice was apparent.

“Well, I was about to explain how that all came about, you see...”

Nandreeson was calling for a waitress.

“Nae, nae...” Barulin shook his head disappointedly, and Glauer’s heart sank. “You do not need fools like this for companions! Think of your bloodlines and heritage. If you’re to adventure, do it like me: alone and unencumbered.”

“You travel alone...?” Glauer felt his awe only redouble toward this brave adventurer, whose weathered figure reminded him of the tales he had often heard whispered about his folk’s long-buried heroes.

“Always.”

Now Nandreeson had his drink, and was bandying it about without any heed for his clothing.

“Well... I thought... are you headed east, Barulin?”

“... Perhaps.” The dwarf’s eyes seemed to search the room as he spoke.

“Then... perhaps... you could accompany us? It’s a good crew, I tell you. And there’s this... living stone contraption... named Narvi, of all things! You really must see him.” Glauer began to realize halfway through his speech that he was prattling on, and Barulin’s interest was on the wane. He felt the other dwarf’s shame and embarrassment on his behalf, which only made him all the more desperate. “I’d... be ecstatic to have you along. I haven’t had the company of a kinsman... well... it’s been so long, you see...”

“Enough.” Barulin cut in, watching Nandreeson proceed to drench his shirt in a brown downpour. “Don’t get so comfortable with begging from your knees. You are a Khuzd, although it seems you have forgotten. I shall... follow, perhaps. To teach you a lesson or two, if nothing else.”

Glauer’s lips drew close together, and his expression twisted about in a mixture of excitement, hurt, and determination. “Aye, of course. I am honored.”

Suddenly, the hairy old codger known as Truor came stumping over to them, reaching for a shield that stood in proud display upon the wall. Neither knew him, but Truor gave them a look and a nod of such knowing respect that they instantly felt more at ease with him than Nandreeson.

"I just hope my senses aren't playing tricks on me! It's good to see that you guys aren't all gone!"

Neither dwarf was terribly used to being recognized for what he was anymore, and both regarded Truor in present surprise, though Barulin's look was tempered by an inherent distrust for outsiders.

“As long as the mountains stand, we’ll be about,” said Barulin.

“Indeed!” Glauer just had to chime in, his dormant racial pride stirring in a spectacular awakening. “Watching over Arda from beneath the stones!”

“Don’t get carried away, now...” muttered the other dwarf.

---

After the brief meeting upstairs, the group came piling down with Truor at the lead. Barulin hadn’t followed them up to their conference, opting instead to slouch at a mead-soaked table and finish his drink. This time, however, Glauer gave him a pathetic and pining look, and he opted to tag along. It was an odd mob of travelers, and Barulin was content to trail far behind, perhaps to preserve the illusion that he was still a lone dwarf. Even haven seen Glauer, he felt like the last one. The rest had fallen into a rut as deep as their cavernous mountain mansions.

He stomped through the ocean of overgrown limbs that filled the city streets, swaying between the tree trunk bodies practically unnoticed. Barulin always kept sight of the party that paraded ahead, his eyes burning with that ancient, feral hunger of his people. He wasn’t always sure what he was lusting after... something great to set himself against. Whether falling in with this unlikely troupe brought him any closer to his goal... well, that didn’t seem entirely possible.

But someone had to set this Glauer straight...
 

chrysophalax

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Pondering on how he might separate his intended victim from the herd, so to speak, Artos told Serra to continue following Brandor's group while he got his horse ready for travel.

As she disappeared into the night, the dark-haired man had more than his share of misgivings. Not that he was afraid for Serra's safety, exactly...rather, he felt incomplete, hampered without her at his side and this annoyed him.

"Why did I buy a horse anyway?" he muttered irritably as he stomped along the cobblestones to the next street over, where he had left the animal hidden in the darkness of a tumbledown shed. "I can't move silently, they eat everything in sight, they're too excitable..." An ear-splitting neigh greeted him as soon as he came within earshot of the beast. "And then, there's that!"
He cringed. Horses adored him.

Grumbling under his breath as he fished an old carrot from one of his pockets, Artos found himself staring into trusting brown eyes and cursed himself for a soft-headed fool. He reached out to stroke the large head, almost against his will. "Come along, horse. We have little time to lose. Tread softly now!" he whispered, then mounted with practised ease.

Knowing that Serra would return the instant the little group did anything out of the ordinary, Artos began surveying the ground closely. Fortunately for him, the number of people travelling with Brandor would only make his job easier and it was no time before he found their tracks. Funny thing though, they appeared to be moving away from the water. Interesting.

Curiosity now piqued, Artos followed slowly along. Sign as fresh as this meant there would be no need for speed as his quarry seemed to have no idea they were being followed, which was exactly as it should be.

Once again, the wolf-trainer turned his mind to the problem of why Horatio had called in this "favour". The youngster, from all what he had seen, looked as green as any other young lad that might set out adventuring, for lack of anything better to do, so why kill him? What was he worth? Would he possibly be worth kidnapping?

Artos decided quickly against that option, given that Horatio wanted the lad dead, it was highly unlikely he was worth anything alive...Hm. That led to another line of thought, a line which brought him a little closer to the truth. If this lad needed to die, what of the father? Was he dead already, thus the urgency...or was there something even more insidious about to be perpetrated?

Artos frowned. Knowing Horatio, it was bound to be the latter.
 

YayGollum

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Upon leading the group inside a building with a sign that simply proclaimed, "Bakery," Truor sniffed around like he owned the place and finally pursed his lips at a hulking baker. "You wouldn't happen to have any fresh honey cakes, would you? I'll take a lot, thank you."

The baker rumbled with annoyance at the disturbance the group was causing his production. He snapped at any employees who's curiosity led them away from their work. To Truor, while considering his entourage ---> "Hrm...are they with you?"

Truor, peering behind the guy and having forgotten who was behind him, jumped and raised his shield a bit at the proximity of Narvi, who was examining a loaf of bread and muttering something about the hope that the taste made up for the aesthetic simplicity. "Don't do that!" To the baker ---> "Yes, they're with me! They are my apprentice adventurers, and you'll give us enough honey cakes for all. Fresh ones!" He then turned to shoo the group to one side of the room.

The baker raised his eyebrow at the presumption but knew Truor and was pleased with the idea of the old guy being out of his hair for a while, and maybe never coming back this time. While he set his crew to work, Truor leaned into a corner of the room and surveyed his own. "Alright, so it's a rescue." To Kastor ---> "And you know where the guy is? Or, at least, you know how he thinks, and where he could be? Why'd you come all the way out here looking for people to help? Is business so good up in the Forodwaith that you don't have time for one little rescue?"
 

chrysophalax

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Wolfhame was annoyed.

He had been waiting his chance to confront/accost his intended victim for quite some time now, but Brandor and his cronies seemed determined to discuss the merits of honey cakes over seedcake until nightfall. He had even drifted closer, hanging about within earshot of the doorway, listening to the rantings of the eccentric traveller the young man had picked up back at the inn. Nahar's saddlesores, the lad knew how to pick 'em!

The trouble now, was the smell...the insidious smell of fresh-baked breads and buttery pastries. Artos was certain it was all some cruel plot to drive him mad.

Just as he was about to give in, Serra came trotting up, bold as brass, with an evil twinkle in her grey eyes. I know what you're thinking, father. You should have gone north, to see if any of the old Beornings still live in these parts. Honey cakes always have been one of your weaknesses.

She's worse than a wife, that one. He scowled down at her, but she only flopped down on her side at his feet, tongue lolling in amusement. He'd always hated how she gloats when she's right.

"I give up! Mind the horse, will you? This will give me the chance I need to check out this Brandor." She leapt up on his chest, then walked off with that superior air of hers to see to it no one made off with his horse. Women...

Upon entering the bakery, several sets of eyes glanced at him curiously, then went back to whatever they had been doing. Not for the first time, Artos was glad of his nondescript looks.

A truly odd assortment of...folk surrounded Brandor, making him an impossible target in such close quarters. No matter. the wolf-trainer thought to himself, This may just work to my advantage! He made his way over to the counter, listening to the banter between them as he did so. Now all he needed was an opening in the conversation...
 

Narya

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"And you know where the guy is? Or, at least, you know how he thinks, and where he could be? Why'd you come all the way out here looking for people to help? Is business so good up in the Forodwaith that you don't have time for one little rescue?"

“It wasn’t my idea…” Kastor began to say when, suddenly, someone entered the bakery, startling everyone inside. Kastor looked up and saw a large man with dark eyes and hair.

"Good afternoon, sir! If you're here for our honey cakes, we've got some on their way right now. Or can I help you with something else?" greeted the frightened baker.

"Probably just another hunter," said Truor, and he blinked up at Kastor again. "What were you saying?"

Kastor was hesitant to proceed with his statement. The man didn’t look harmless—even though his physique is slender and Kastor had a much bigger built, it was obvious from the way he stood so menacingly at the door that he was there for something else other than cakes and pastries.

Instinctively, Kastor stood up and shielded the boy from the stranger by standing right behind Brandor’s chair.
 

Firawyn

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“Artos, is it?” a low voice said from the shadows.

Artos turned to see man stepping into view.

“What do you want? You smell like elf.”

“And you smell like werewolf.” The man paused. “I’m half elf, half human – or so I’ve been told. My parents died when I was a lad.”

“What happened to them?” Artos inquired.

“Killed by werewolves, actually.”The man looked amused at the thought.

“Are you a werewolf slayer?” Artos growled.

“Nay, my father was. That’s what got him and my mother killed. I was spared, and raised among werewolves. Your brethren are my brethren, as it were.”

Now Artos was interested, but still very suspicious. “You have a name?”

“Jamie.” The man stepped further into the light, revealing a very young face.

“Your parents died when you were a lad, huh? You look as though you’re still a lad!” Artos chided.

“I’m older than you, Artos. Far older. Inherited my mother’s immortality, it seems.”

“What do you want?” Artos asked.

Jamie shrugged. “Something to do. Company. I’ve been without a companion for a very long time.”
 

chrysophalax

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Glancing around with acute discomfort, Artos took the man calling himself Jamie by the arm and propelled him out the door.Whatever he had to say had better be worth his not getting any honeycakes!

Confused looks followed the two men and Brandor's party relaxed. Even Kastor no longer felt Brandor was at risk any longer, but determined to keep an eye out for the two, as they were acting strangely.

Artos ground his teeth together. "Now. Tell me what it is you really want. I have no time to waste on lonesome vagabonds and what in the name of the Valar was that about in there? You're a what? A werewolf hunter?" As he spoke he could hear very faintly Serra's light footfalls as she slipped closer to the man before him, silent as a shadow. Who ent yo, Horatio? Was he that certain I would fail to complete the task he set me?"

The moer questions he asked, the more seemed to fill is mind as he searched the face before him. He had said he wanted a companion, that he wanted company. Had he meant Artos? And why now? Ever since he and Serewing had parted company what seemed years ago, he had kept himself to himself, fearful of what might happen should he find myself too near other people when the gibbous moon hung grinning like a bleached skull in the night sky.

Why was this man so fearless? Despite himself, he was intrigued. "Serra, come." From where she had been lurking behind Jamie, she trotted over to Artos and sat herself down in front of him, her eyes never leaving the half-elf."

"Tell me again and tell me true. Who are you and what do you want of me? I have pressing business that will not wait long. Be swift!"
 

Firawyn

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Jamie smiled stiffly. Artos seemed the type of man to not trust easily, which was perfectly alright by Jamie's point of view. The longer it took for him to gain Artos' trust, the more lasting of a bond they would have. Of course, it went both ways - Jamie didn't trust him worth a raw steak at the present. For all he knew, Artos would betray him just as his foster brother, Arryn had.

Without thinking, Jamie's hand brushed down the center of his torso. His only telltale sign of age was a long, hidious scar that ran from just below his neck all the way down to his belly-button. His brother had tried to slice him from neck to nuts with his shart claws, one full moon, mny years ago. Jamie had been told to take it as a kindness that Arryn had not bitten him - that he was not now werewolf. Jamie would rather have joined the ranks of werewolves, that lived out his immortal life as neither human, elf, or werewolf. He had tried over the years to find a place among one of those peoples, but always - every single time - he was rejected and scorned.

Jamie turned his attention to Artos now, who had very uncerimoniously shoved his tired body out the door.

"Tell me again and tell me true. Who are you and what do you want of me? I have pressing business that will not wait long. Be swift!"


"I told you true the first time. I seek companionship. I was out a bar and overheard the barkeep mentioning that a man called Horatio had told him to keep his eyes peeled for werewolves, and that someone called 'Artos', was looking for a companion of similar kind."

Jamie said this in a very calm and collected manner. There was a short pause, and then Jamie continued, this time with a bit more edge in his voice.

"Believe what you will, werewolf, but I am the very stock of companion that you seek, and as I said, I am seeking a companion as well. It seemed to me to be an ideal arrangment."
 

chrysophalax

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"If you know of Horatio, friend, then you are no friend of mine. The man is cruel beyond words, completely ruthless and without pity." Artos made to turn away, then stopped himself. "And never again call me werewolf!" His eyes glinted dangerously as he drew nearer to Jamie. "Why would you want to be one of them? Do you seek the blood of innocents so much?"

"Apparently you do." said Jamie quietly. That drew a startled look from the wolf-trainer. "Why would you say that?" he asked before he could stop himself. This was maddening! Why did this man make him so curious?

Jamie jerked his head knowingly toward the door of the bakery where Brandor and his followers were and Artos felt his face turn dark. How did this person know so much of his purpose here and what else did he know? Artos found himself growing more and more uneasy as he drew away from the stranger. He sensed a trap of some sort. He knew well the price of failing Horatio and began to wonder if not killing the boy had been the right decision after all.

Who sent you? he wondered, feeling unaccountably chilled. Serra nuzzled his hand, sensing his discomfort as he waited for answers he hoped would be swift in coming.
 

Firawyn

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Jamie was a cunning creature, that much was sure.

"I wonder why you would kill blindly? Perhaps it would be more in our interests to kill Horatio, instead of this innocent boy? Or perhaps it would be beneficial to just wait, and watch, and the decide what the best thing to do is."

He paused.

"And by best thing, I do not mean the right thing. I do believe in a moral plum line, to an extent, but I also believe that one who helps himself will come to better ends. I certainly would not have survived this long had I not helped myself."

"And how are you helping yourself now?" Artos inquired.

"I told you already. I seek a companion. I have been alone for a time, and in my solitude I have avoided battle. I don't want my blade to grow dull with the passage of time, so I seek a companion that will lead me in whatever direction, in hopes that my blade may come to some use."

"So would you find battle and leave your companion for dead?" Artos growled, thinking that he was about to uncover this Jamie's true colors.

Jamie scoffed. "Never. What good is finding the right companion if one doesn't intend on keeping him? What good is death and glory if a companion does not live to tell of your deeds?"
 

Narya

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[FONT=&quot]Brilliant!’ Kastor thought, hearing Jamie’s introduction, ‘another addition to the circus!’ He hoped that Brandor would not consider adding him, but the boy had the nasty habit of collecting people as if they were jewelry. ‘One more and I wouldn’t need to find additional crew. Of course, I would have to lay off some of them just to accommodate the rest of this confounded army!’[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Brandor stood and made a move towards the door. Kastor stopped him. “Brandor,” he said, “we do not need anymore people in this voyage.”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Says who?” Brandor asked; a tinge of annoyance in his tone.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“The mission is for us to go where your father was last seen,” Kastor said. “I have advised you against it, but you refused to heed my warnings. I understand your need to find proof that Doran is dead, and I will take you there and hopefully bring you back home alive—and with all your useful limbs intact—though this is against my own counsel! But I will not vouch for the lives of every creature you recruit! I have a responsibility to my crew and to you—but my responsibility ends there.”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“What are you trying to say, Kastor?” [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Their lives will be in your hands, Brandor,” Kastor said. “Your hands. Are you ready for such accountability?”[/FONT]


[FONT=&quot]***[/FONT]


[FONT=&quot]Nin sensed something strange. There was someone in the room that felt akin to her.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then someone spoke…[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Who is it that speaks so sweet and clear,” Nin asked. She crawled up the sleeve of Kastor’s coat and hid herself in the thickness of his auburn hair. Someone had just left the room; he was outside.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"I told you true the first time. I seek companionship. I was out in a bar and overheard the barkeep mentioning a man called Horatio had told him to keep his eyes peeled for werewolves and that someone called 'Artos' was looking for a companion of similar kind. Believe what you will werewolf, but I am the very stock of companion that you seek, and as I said, I am seeking a companion as well. It seemed to me to be an ideal arrangement."[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then a harsh voice interrupted the almost melodic sound of the first. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"If you know of Horatio, friend, then you are no friend of mine. The man is cruel beyond words, completely ruthless and without pity. And never again call me werewolf! Why would you want to be one of them? Do you seek the blood of innocents so much?"

"Apparently you do. Why would you say that?"
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]
"I wonder why you would kill blindly? Perhaps it would be more in our interests to kill Horatio, instead of this innocent boy? Or perhaps it would be beneficial to just wait, and watch, and then decide what the best thing to do is."

"And by best thing, I do not mean the right thing. I do believe in a moral plum line, to an extent, but I also believe that one who helps himself will come to better ends. I certainly would not have survived this long had I not helped myself."

"And how are you helping yourself now?"

"I told you already. I seek a companion. I have been alone for a time, and in my solitude I have avoided battle. I don't want my blade to grow dull with the passage of time, so I seek a companion that will lead me in whatever direction, in hopes that my blade may come to some use."

"So would you find battle and leave your companion for dead?"
[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]"Never. What good is finding the right companion if one doesn't intend on keeping him? What good is death and glory if a companion does not live to tell of your deeds?"[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Nin thought about this for a moment: there was a plot against Brandor by his own uncle. Kastor was right for doubting his allegiances and now they have enemies at the door. She had to warn him.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Your ward is in danger,” Nin whispered. “The two newcomers outside are friends of Horatio—he has sent them to kill the boy.”[/FONT]


[FONT=&quot]***[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Kastor stiffened after hearing Nin’s warning. He knew that the man named Jamie said he was half-elf, and it was that very thing that had Brandor excited, but Kastor had been exposed to that part of the world too long and his skepticism ran deep. Other than Nin, Jamie, if his claim proved true, would be the only other being with elf-blood alive.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]He is tainted,” Nin added. “His voice sounds sweet, but there is a tone in his speech—a harshness that leaves me dry. Have you seen his face?”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Nin sounded excited—an indication that Jamie was speaking the truth about himself.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“And so is Nin,” Kastor said absentmindedly.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Who is Nin?” Brandor asked.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Kastor looked at the boy, horrified that he had let the name slip out. “No one.” He went to Truor, who was studying the pastry in front of him with keen interest and tapped his shoulder. “We have to leave—now!”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot] Brandor hit the backrest of the chair with his fist. “I am the leader of this expedition, Kastor, and I will decide when—”[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“If you want to use my ship then I suggest you follow my lead, or there will be no one left alive in this group to go in search for your father’s remains!” Kastor said.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Why are you panicking?” Brandor asked. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Then the door opened and the two who had been talking outside came in.[/FONT]
 

chrysophalax

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Against his better judgement, Artos found hismelf warming to the man who stood before him. It had been a long time since he had bandied words with anyone and it conjured memories of days long gone. Before...

"Come on. We'll raise suspicion of we stand here lurking in the shadows. As I recall, you distracted me for my goal earlier. Honey cakes!" Artos turned to head back into the bakery, the sound of Serra's nails clicking on cobblestones and after a moment, the scuff of boots followed as well. A rare smile crossed Artos' face for just a moment before resuming it's normally dour expression as they re-entered the bakery.

The mouth-watering scent drew the wolf-trainer to the counter once more, ignoring the looks Serra drew. One of the men he had seen previously gave him a dark look, which he also ignored. The only one he wanted to talk with was Brandor. The boy needed to be warned, even if it was a warning against Artos himself.

He disagreed with Jamie. In his mind the best thing was always the right thing. It might not be the right thing for him personally, but when had that ever mattered? He knew he would never be able to rest guiltless ever again for the crimes which he had committed, but while he was in his right mind, he would do what he could to prevent, or at least avoid adding to his burden.

After finally purchasing some honey cakes, Artos made his way over to where Brandor was arguing with the man who kept eyeing him. Silent as his own shadow, he felt Jamie behind him, watching warily.

"Brandor? I bring you word of your uncle...for your ears alone." The big man scowled. "Who are you, stranger and why do you follow us?" Artos smiled tightly. "My business is my own and just now, it also concerns youung Brandor here. You have a problem with that?"
 

YayGollum

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Brandor, having already dismissed the notion that he was responsible for anyone, since he only planned to recruit and wave as they left on their ship, was wondering what was making Kastor seem so distracted. He smiled with understanding and waved at him calmingly when the newcomers approached. He grabbed the first one's hand and shook it while beaming a welcoming smile at the pair. "Greetings, fellow travelers! Let's not argue over such flawless honey cakes, now!" A grin at the back of the studiously busy baker. "These are all my very trusted companions, though." Narvi raised an incredulous eyebrow and looked around at the others, wondering if they suddenly looked more trustworthy. Truor puffed his chest out with pride in an, "Of course! Very trustworthy!" fashion. Nandreeson snickered, figuring it to be a joke. "They can hear any messages you have for me. My uncle is so serious! I've told him that."
 

chrysophalax

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Eyes widening in surprise, Artos shook Brandor's hand, sick at heart that he could have accepted such a commission from Horatio. It would have been like slaughtering a babe in arms! The boy is so naive...Valar...

"I'm...not certain even you will wish to hear what I have to say, Brandor." he said keeping is voice as low as possible. "Your uncle has betrayed you. He has...sent out a man to, well, see that your mission fails, as it were." He couldn't bring himself to tell the boy outright that he himself had been sent to kill Brandor and to return with proof.

"You are not safe here. If you will have me, I can help protect you, see to it that certain of Horatio's minions don't come near you. No payment necessary." The big man who seemed to be Brandor's shadow laughed dryly. "A generous offer, especially when no payment will be forth-coming! Brandor, tell these two to leave and good riddance."

Artos spared only a glance for the man, then turned his attention once more to the boy. "I-we can help, Brandor. I pledge my life that you will complete what you have started. What do you say?"
 

Firawyn

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Jamie watched in silence as Artos gave his little speech to Brandor. He was paying more attention to this Kastor fellow, who seemed to be very suspicious of anyone and everyone. Jamie imagined that Kastor had heard, at least, of Artos, for he was known by many in the community. However, Jamie himself had just stumbled into this town for the first time in his reckoning, and for that, he had an advantage.

"I-we can help, Brandor. I pledge my life that you will complete what you have started. What do you say?" Artos offered to the boy.

Brandor looked as if he was thinking things over, but Jamie already knew that he was only pretending to consider, and truly he’d made up his mind before the offer had even been made. This boy was collecting people of all kinds to bring his father home – and Jamie wondered if he truly wanted his father back, or if he just sought death and glory like the best of all men.

Jamie had been listening carefully when Kastor had shown doubt at Atros’ offer to protect the boy, without any payment. While Artos may have made the offer out of guilt for what had been his original, and possibly true, mission, nonetheless it was foolish on his part. How else could Kastor react to that but suspiciously?

Jamie decided that now would be a good time to play some of his own cards. “My young Lord, your guardian is right. Not everyone is as they seem to be sometimes. It would be wise to heed his council, for he has seen much more than you in his time, and only a fool would disregard it. I am under the impression that Artos does not have the best of reputations.”

Artos looked at him incredulously. Jamie imagined that something foul was on the tip of his tongue, just waiting to be unleashed upon him.

“However,” Jamie continued, “Artos is an old friend of mine, and my trusted companion. I will vouch for his intent upon you. He wishes only to help you, for he was betrayed by the very man who wishes you dead. In addition, any enemy of Artos is an enemy of mine, so I believe we all share a commonality.”

“Your words are sweet and flattering,” Kastor said bluntly, “but I have met others just as gentle on first impression who turned out to be the most deadly of all foes.”

“When I vouch for Artos, I vouch with my live. If you find either of us to be treacherous, I forfeit my very life willingly to the hand of the man I swore it to – Brandor.”

Brandor looked slightly uncomfortable for a moment, and Jamie knew exactly what he was thinking. Brandor was no killer, so instead of forcing himself to ponder the idea of killing, he would instead always assume that Artos and Jamie would not break their word. This meant that Artos and Jamie would be trusted by at least the boy, so either they would gain a new friend in the long run, or it would easier to kill the unsuspecting boy.

Jamie looked Kastor in the eyes now, waiting for some hint of where the man’s mind lay. Then, Kastor finally asked, “What kind of creature are you, and where have you come from?”

Jamie knew the whole truth would be too unsavory for the present trust status among this company, so he settled for a half truth. “I am half human, half elf kind. More than one-hundred lives of men I have walked this middle earth, I come from many places. When I was young, my family did not stay in one place long enough for me to call any place home.”

Jamie took a moment to glace over at Artos now. He wore a look of uncertainty and distrust, with perhaps a hint of admiration. He knew, as Jamie did, that they had just won the confidence of, at the very least, the boy Brandor. The young Lord looked positivly giddy. Now they just had to wait to see how Kastor would ultimately respond.
 
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YayGollum

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Brandor could think of little beyond wanting to go back to the inn to immediately tell the story of how he very charismatically won the loyalty of a complete stranger, no doubt an experienced adventurer. He wasn't wondering why his uncle would be displeased with his mission and tried to slow Jamie down so he could accept the offer, until Horatio's intent was made clear. He gasped and almost choked on a bite of honey cake. After a relatively gentle slap on the back from Narvi, he grasped at his thoughts to himself, "Why would Uncle want me dead? All he cares about is the business, and I haven't touched it. I'm just a kid. This can't be right."

At Jamie's claim of being half elf, he sobered and wiped his hand distastefully, nodded to Kastor, and sighed. "I'm sorry, Kastor. Evidently, word has spread about me." He spun on Jamie and stuck a finger in his face. "I might have believed that you'd follow me into the unknown. I even might have believed that my family wished me ill. They'd have good reason to, if I'd been so easily tricked by con men like you! What did you hear about me? Yes, I enjoy a good fantasy. I've told stories about having glimpses of fairies and being stalked by goblins. But no one's going to believe that you're some kind of elf!"

Truor, who had been sniffing suspiciously and was thinking about saying something, shrugged, figuring that these two wouldn't be so easily dissuaded, unfortunately. He glared at the wolf until Brandor pointedly turned to him and said, "You said that you knew of some former sailors who'd like to join us. Let's get out of here."
 

chrysophalax

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Livid did not begin to describe Horatio's feelings when Thomas had broken the news to him of Artos' defection. "I want that treasure of Lorien's that Wolfhame so blithely claimed for himself and I want it taken now! The wolfman will pay for this mostake...dearly."

Early that evening a large crow had brought word to the ever efficient Thomas that the wolf trainer had broken his agreement with Horatio to murder his nephew. This had pleased the him to no end, as he had felt slighted by the lord for being allowed to kill Brandor himself. Now that Horatio had been cheated, Thomas knew he would be relied on more than ever, which could only work to his advantage.

Having summoned a troop of heavily armed troops to head north into Arnor to decimate the stronghold Artos had taken over, Thomas then decided to was time to summon Dingo. The ancient man had always offered Horatio wise council and there was no time like the present.

Meanwhile, as Horatio had been digesting the news from north of the Rauros, it occurred to him to look once more through his brother's papers. There was something niggling at the back of his mind that he had read...now what was it? Something about finding a strong vein of gold in an unlikely place, wasn't it?


********


As they followed Brandor and his unlikely group of adventurers down the high street, Artos pulled Jamie aside, grabbed his collar and shook him. "What is wrong with you? Why did you lie like that to him? He may be a boy, but his father was no fool and neither is he. I want him to trust me, not doubt everything that comes out of my mouth! If he paints me with the same brush as you just because you choose to travel with me, his life will be worth less than nothing, do you hear? Once Horatio gets something into his head, it's as good as done."

Serra snarled at Jamie, but all he did was sneer back at her. Artos stalked on ahead, trying to distance himself from his would-be companion. If the man wanted his friendship, something would have to give.
 

Firawyn

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Tall and proud, Jamie said no words in return. He brushed his long blond hair behind his ear, revealing small points. His grey eyes narrowed, for he now sensed something odd...somthing familar. Something elf. He had not felt the presence of another elf kind, tainted or not, in many years. He was one of the last of that race, and all of the sudden he knew that fate alone had brought him here.

He would not be turned down by this foolish boy and his compantions - not of there was any chance of meeting this creature who shared his blood.

"Artos, come," Jamie called with athority. "They may turn us now, but we will be joining them soon, nonetheless."
 

Narya

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Nin had never felt as alive as she did now. Hearing the sound of Jaime’s voice as he reentered the bakery, it felt like a thousand years had been removed from her small, burdened body. Here was one that was as old as she was, akin to her, yet alien at the same time. There was something about Jamie that made Nin both wary and elated, and she could not keep still in the confines of Kastor’s pocket.

She went out again, and looked at the stranger with eager eyes. He had the physique of their people—their people—what a delight it was to think of that again! His long pale hair and deep grey eyes reflected the beauty that had long forsaken this land. Suddenly, she felt ugly and she knew she would soon resent having seen this being.

You must not allow the strangers to join us in the ship,” she whispered to Kastor.

Kastor nodded slightly, then, using the technique he had mastered long ago on how to speak with her without being noticed, he said to her, “You are agitated by the presence of this elf. He is much too large for you, my dear.”

Watch your tongue, old man, I will cut your ears if you do not stop your taunting!” she hissed.

Kastor smirked.

They will betray the boy and the wolf-man will not hesitate to castrate you when he gets a chance,” she said sardonically.

“I am sure he will not harm me; his business is not with me, it’s with Brandor,” Kastor whispered to her. “Though, if I get in his way, he might turn out to be an enemy. I’ve fought worse; you remember the Taggers near the Areb River?”

Jamie stiffened, and almost, Nin was certain that he had sensed her. Afraid that she might be seen, Nin left the balcony that was Kastor’s nape and sped back to his pocket. She missed the seams in her hurry to gain entrance to it that she very nearly fell onto the table.

Mereth en draugrim!”
 

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