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  1. #1
    Nar Gwathren: Land of Shadow

    Nar Gwathren: Land of Shadow

    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 4th January 2004, 10:03 PM
    'At length they came to the Prince Imrahil, and Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw that here indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins. "Hail, lord!" he said. "It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lorien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth's haven west over water."

    '"So it is said in the lore of my land," said the Prince.'

    ~ The Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King; Chapter IX
    J.R.R. Tolkien



    The gray eyes stared longingly from the tiny barred window, catching a fading glimpse of the lands beyond the shadow of Minas Morgul. North Ithilien still lay shrouded in the morning mist, the fair green of its forests shadowed with a growing evil. Through the trees and brush ran the remains of what had been a Gondorian road, running from the stronghold of Minis Tirith through the ruins of Osgiliath, to Minas Morgul. In the midst the buckled walls and fallen stones of the old capital ran Anduin the Great, the river flats glinting blue where they could be seen. Mount Mindolluin rose gray and purple in the distance, with Minis Tirith upon its out-thrust shoulder. As the sun set, all at once the vision faded and Loth�riel watched as night took the lands and veiled them in a dark menace.

    "Do not look from the windows," whispered a voice close at hand. "All that will do is breed unnatural hopes."

    Loth�riel let go of the bars and dropped back to the ground of the cell with a sigh. "How long has it been since you lost all hope?" she hissed, aware that the guards were awake. She had long since lost all heed of her words.

    "Ever since I first saw this tower in the distance," replied the older woman.

    Loth�riel felt for the wall in the darkness and sat down. There were whispers all around her in the darkness. All of the female thralls were kept in the one chamber, and few of them had the strength or will to oppose the evil that held them there. "I was born here," the girl said to herself. "And I have not lost hope."

    "Sleep, child," the elder woman told her. "In a few hours it will be time to get back to work."

    "I can not sleep. Something is happening." The whispers faded as the other thralls drew closer. A chorus of soft voices pleaded with her.
    "What? What news from the outside world? What have you seen?"

    Loth�riel leaned back against the damp wall, closing her eyes. "The Gondorians are retaking Osgiliath."

    Her closest friend in the tower, Morwel, laid her hand on Loth�riel's shoulder. "Now is the time for you to escape, 'Riel. While the Ringwraiths are in confusion, and Gondorians hold the crossings."

    "I shall try, at least. Are you still willing?"

    "I cannot escape with you, 'Riel! We would be marked too soon. But I can at least give you some of my food ration to strengthen you for the journey."

    Loth�riel's eyes teared as she stared bleakly at the tiny patch of moonlight on the wall. "It's almost time for me to try."

    Morwel took her hand and helped her to her feet. "Remember, if you ever have a chance, that your friends are still locked here." Her words were strained, as if she were holding back tears.

    "Listen!" came the whisper in her ear. "The guards come to lead us out." In the hall, a whip cracked ominously.

    Loth�riel felt a long dagger pressed into her hands. "I kept it hidden for years," said Morwel. "It was my mother's." Her friend nodded, choked with tears, unable to speak.

    The door screamed on its hinges as the thralls shielded their eyes from the glare of the red torches. They milled around according to how they had planned, long before. As the orc-guards tried vainly to keep track of them all, Loth�riel slipped out of the door, willing to die to gain her freedom.



    OOC:
    This is a Lord of the Rings RPG, taking place just before, during and after the War of the Rings, following the lost daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth, and her companion/s.

    Anyone is free to join this RPG, but there are a few ground rules:

    1) Members of the Fellowship, and other characters in the books are NPCs, unless you discuss it with me beforehand for exclusive control.

    2) This RPG will follow the books as closely as possible. For those of you who haven't read them, just make sure that any major events work with the whole scheme of things. For example, since we have maps of western Middle-Earth, we know there are no more or less kingdoms/domains than those that Tolkien himself put there.

    3) This RPG is semi-plotted, so it has to have several events happen. For example, Loth�riel is actually mentioned by Tolkien in the index of the Return of the King, and she is said to be the only daughter of Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth.

    4) Be as descriptive as possible! Tolkien's books were filled from cover to cover with details, so we should feel free to let our creativity run wild.

    5) Most importantly, no God-modding. God-modding is taking control of a thread and making other characters do what you like without permission, or making your character so amazingly perfect that no one else comes close.

    Sorry if that sounds like a lot of rules, but I'm sure ya'all know most of them anyway. Now just have fun! If you have any questions, just PM me.
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 5th January 2004, 05:37 PM
    OOC: Yay! I haven't read the books, but I've seen the movies. (Not that that makes much difference, but oh well.) Here we go... here's my chatracter's bio.
    http://www.christianforums.com/showt...76#post1500776

    IC: A pair of pale green-eyes looked towards Osgiliath. A large group of riders, charged from Minis Tirith. They would be no match against the endless ammount of orcs that now occupied Osgiliath. They will all be lost! she thought as she ran from her room.

    Avarielle ran for the palace where Lord Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, dwelled. She ran inside and knelt before him.
    "My Lord, why have you done this?" she asked, looking up at him.

    "I take it you are talking about the charge I ordered on Osgiliath? Gondor does not bow to the armies of Mordor, nor to any enemy. Osgiliath will be taken back, you will see. Besides, Boromir is leading them. With him in charge, they will not fail."

    "Forgive me my Lord, but Osgiliath is overflowing with Orcs. The army you sent out will be no match against them. My Lord, they will all be lost! Then what will we do if Mordor attacks?"

    "You worry too much. Your brother will return to you, I promise." Lord Denethor replied.
    It was obvious he did not wish to discuss it further.

    Avarielle ran from the room, the anger rising inside of her. Her brother was all she had left! Boromir is a wonderful leader, but can they really deffeat that many? she thought. She looked towards Osgiliath. The army had reached the city. She could only hope that Lord Denethor was right.
    Posted by Kelly (Member #7742) on 6th January 2004, 03:52 PM
    I think you meant Faramir.
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 6th January 2004, 04:38 PM
    OOC: No. I meant Boromir. This is before Return of the King. Kook, maybe you could explain it better.
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 6th January 2004, 08:57 PM
    OOC:

    Okay, there have been several questions about the timing, so I'll try to make it clear. This particular point in the story takes place when Boromir and Faramir really do recapture the city. In the books this happens years before Boromir leaves for Rivendell, but in the movies it is shown to be just before Boromir leaves, in Faramir's flashback in the extended cut of the Two Towers. This means that this RPG takes place before Boromir reaches Rivendell and the Fellowship is formed.

    If there is a good deal more questions, I will start a thread in the OOC section.

    IC:

    The upper halls were empty of orcs as Loth�riel slipped quietly along, making hardly a sound. After a year in the tower of Minas Morgul even the most confident of it's inhabitants, be they master or captive, would subside into perpetual silence as they felt the power of the darkness growing. The orcs themselves were the most reliable of all of the Dark Powers' servants, being enslaved to its will. Yet even they hated and feared the Dark Lord of Mordor.

    The halls were lit with the eerie red flicker of a few irregularly-placed torches. Those that burnt out were not replaced for many days, or even weeks, leaving convenient patches of darkness for the fugitive to slip through. Not that she was worried about being discovered missing - that would not happen until the thralls were counted at dawn. What did worry her was the gate. She could have to wait hours, or days for it to open. It was always heavily guarded by a company of orcs specially bred to that purpose - taller than men, with cruel eyes, sharp claws and bent blades. Some of them also carried bows, but fortunately they were not long enough to reach past the bridge.

    Slipping from shadow to shadow as silently as a wraith, Loth�riel descended a flight of stairs, paused, then skipped down another into deep shadow. Two human patrol guards passed her, discussing heatedly in their own tongue. If they had been more attentive, they might have caught a flicker of red light on a pale face as she picked the nearest guard's pocket. From the contents, she deduced that he had free access to the larder - a small wheatcake and some smoked deer jerkey. She was not averse to eating the guard's food, since they were much more choosy in their meals than orcs, who would eat anything that moved, even each other.

    Pocketing the food and feeling not the least bit guilty, Loth�riel crept down the last three flights of stairs to the main level of Minas Morgul. Here, the going was not so easy. Three of the four main passages in the tower intersected in the large chamber at the base of the stairs, running off into the darkness, winding their way through the various store-rooms, armories, housing, chambers and exits. She knew that somewhere along the Eastern passage it intersected with another, which ran along the cleft to Cirith Ungol and a myriad of store-houses. She did not want to go that way. The whole place was bustling with orcs, and she would be discovered quickly if she did not discover a safe place to hide. An orc that came too near she strangled silently with a thin cord she found on the stairs, and then hid him under two bales of hay.

    Crouched in the darkness at the base of the stairs, she watched the traffic of orcs and men as they passed through, hoping for a chance. The next leg of her journey was the most dangerous of all, right through the heart of a bustling enemy capital. There was next to no chance of her making it out. The danger of her position suddenly became apparant as a troop of orcs passed up the stairs she had just lately descended. As quietly as was possible, she crept behind a high stack of sacks and barrels, no doubt the grain that the slaves grew in the bloodied fields, to be exported to those nearer the front in Osgiliath.

    That was a thread of hope. Osgiliath! If she could only make the crossings of that city, she would be safe at last. Then her eyes darkened. No land was safe from evil any more. With leaden limbs she prepared to make a charge through the passage she judged to lead to the enterance. All at once, time stood still. At the highest of the windows on the western side of the chamber, a white crescent hung in the sky. Having only seen the sickle moon from the inside of her prison cell and the slave fields, she caught her breath. A sign? Perhaps.

    Time returned to its normal flow, as two Easterlings approached the grain pile, arguing in their own harsh tongue, which Loth�riel understood well enough.

    "Why'd ye have to get this lot brought inside? We'll be taking it out soon enough, and ye're wastin' a precious lot of time an' energy," the first one barked.

    "Ah didnae have any instructions otherwise, mah friend. Bazk said 'here', so I did -- "

    "Ye fool, Malkfa!" spat the first man, shaking his head. "Th' both of ye."

    "Well, now it's here, so what do we do? If ye're so smart, Katzor?" Malkfa was subordinate, and regretted his words instantly.

    "Ye get your precious Bazk to get a crew of our countrymen -- " Katzor gestured towards the pile, " -- to get this lot out of here. Move 'em out ta just inside the gate, we'll let the next range patrol take 'em South. An' tell 'em ta be careful with th' barrels, some of 'em are empty on purpose, for the troops ta store water with."

    "Aye, captain."

    "Don't expect ta have th' same rank tomorrow, mate. Ah don't take kindly to insubordination."

    The two Easterlings moved off, and Loth�riel bowed her head in relief. Not only had they not noticed her, but she had a chance to get through the maze of unfamiliar passages without a problem, to the gate. She knew that the crew that took the stores to the gate would leave it there unguarded, at least for a length of time. After creeping around to find an empty barrel, she managed to find one with a loose lid. Bales of hay for the calvalry was stored in the same area, and it took only a moment to pull some loose and place it in the barrel to soften the ride. She crawled inside and pulled the lid on, securing it just in time as the men came to take the load to the main gate.

    With a jolt, Loth�riel felt her barrel rolled sideways onto some sort of cart. The horrible feeling of continual rotation made her stomach churn, and she couldn't risk losing her lunch in such cramped quarters. She was curled up in a protective position, protected partially by hay but still being bruised continually and thrown around. The cart started to move, and she closed her eyes as the long nightmare continued to unfold.
    ...to the topTop



  2. #2
    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 7th January 2004, 01:06 AM
    The fields rolled like fine silk carpets in all directions and the sun shone upon The Shire benignly, causing the fields to reflect a golden light unseen in many regions of Middle Earth. Trees dotted here and there on the hillside carelessly as the road opened up into the home of the hobbits. Peace loving and generally labelled annoying, the hobbits� nature had saved their land many times. Their small stature had been overlooked and hence they were left out of many conflicts raging through the continent.

    Klieka banged a frying pan against the smooth surface of the stone table. The noise, jarring to the ear, rang three times like an impending dome and shortly afterwards, Cloken saw his little cousin ran out of the house. The lad was probably carrying an errand for Klieka, who was making her family�s share for the coming party, but the lad stopped beneath the huge tree where Cloken laid smoking his pipe, and prattled, �So you�re here! I should go back and tell Klieka that you�re hiding for a smoke. She�s furious that you went missing for half a day. You�re supposed to help prepare the food, what are you doing sitting under a tree? You will get into trouble for that.� Lecture done, the lad of seven years of age made a turning and got ready to jog back up to Klieka�s. Cloken sat up straighter in slight alarm, but maintained his lazy position knowing what his cousin would rather do.

    �But I have to deliver words to Mr Lorral about flour. She will be most unhappy if I went back so early before asking Mr Lorral,� the lad mused. In other word, I don�t want to face Klieka in her present unstable state.

    �Off you go,� Cloken said, climbing to his feet and rapping his cousin�s head smartly with his knuckle. The wind blew Cloken's reddish curly hair around his face, and he pushed it out of his sight.

    �Are you going back now?� the lad asked automatically.
    �Mind your own business, or you will be late for the party carrying flour!� Cloken roared.

    The lad fled.

    Cloken Philotin was a hobbit in his early thirties. Living with his sister who had been widowed recently, he was suddenly entrusted with the job of child caring. His nephew, who was only two years younger than his cousin, was a nice little boy. He was quiet unlike most hobbits, and this quality of his drew the two together. Cloken supposed his nephew had inherited the same quality from Cloken�s great grandfather, who, despite being quite the unusual hobbit, exuded a degree of self-confidence and authority that no one dared make fun of him. Cloken did not particularly enjoy parties, but he did not particularly hate them either. He just did not feel like getting into it today, this being part of his mood swing. He had had several mood swings lately, mainly due to the fact that he was tied down looking after his nephew when he could have been out doing things that he liked. He never once complained about the situation though, being part of the family meant taking responsibility of your siblings and parents and any other relations. Cloken dusted his pants, allowing himself a moment of childish indulgent of leaving his sister and his nephew, and wistfully shuffled back down the hill to Klieka�s house.
    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 7th January 2004, 05:59 AM
    The sun was barely out of its cradle when the men put in charge roused them unceremoniously. Chilled to the bone as always and with sleep heavy in him, he pushed his unwilling body up from the mat and tossed his thin, ragged blanket aside. With morning came another day of work, and another day of mental torture was how Cavsor Kelsyin viewed it. He filed along with the other prisoners, slaves to be exact, and they quickly washed their faces in the deathly cold little stream. Cavsor splashed water onto his face and cupped water to be poured onto his head. He was used to being dirty and having lice call him home, but he was not one to forget common sanitary problems. Cupping more water, he attempted to wash his hair. The water ran down his tanned skin that was used to outside exposure and gathered on his unshaven chin to drip slowly onto his shirt. After a few seconds of struggle, he scrambled to his feet and ran back to join the line. His brown hair was dampened with an unpleasant smell, but the freshness gave him courage to face the day. The men flung them loaves of bread and they began to eat quietly and efficiently. Today they were to help with the transportation of grains, wheat and hay to the south, and some empty barrels for water storage. After they had eaten, they went mechanically with the men and began moving back and forth between the warehouse and the wagons waiting by the gate, carrying sacks and rolling barrels with their callous hands.

    Five years of labour had made Cavsor a lean and muscular man, but his fitness was not something to boast about. Being fit meant being healthy, and consequently, more work. He held out one hope on the fitness of his strength that he will be able to endure till the chance of escape came. This hope had helped him survive many hardships. He was just not the type to sit and admit defeat without a fight. Loading up the wagons was tedious, but as scheduled, they managed to get them all loaded in time. Just in time, for the orc captain was getting impatient, which might have been one crucial factor in the sudden quickening of activities around. At dawn, as the sun cast the sky a pale pink, the tall gates of Minas Morgul opened ponderously, and horses trotted out pulling their load with their human counterpart pulling along beside them.
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 7th January 2004, 10:47 PM
    Suddenly aware that the cart had stopped and the men had left their positions, Loth�riel gave the lid of the barrel a sharp kick from inside, sending shockwaves up her spine as it refused to give way. A kind of hopelessness filled her as she gave herself up for trapped. However, a few more kicks later, and the wood gave way, splintering slightly at the edges. When she managed to pull herself out of the wooden cylindar, the barrels further up the line of carts were being rolled off by a few men, to be placed onto sturdier constructions for the harsh journey south.

    Knowing her peril, the maid crouched behind a bale of hay and replaced the lid onto the barrel before creeping away into the shadow of the gate, wrapping herself tightly in her tattered cloak and pulling the hood low enough to conceal most of her face in shadow. She knew that the orc-sentries would pass by soon enough, and she had no cover.

    "Hoi!" an Easterling captain shouted in her direction. "Ye, there ... stop lazing around an' start unloadin' the stinkin' carts!" He waved a sort of whip menacingly, and she got the point.

    Loth�riel complied with considerable alacrity, knowing her danger. The wood from the sides splintered her hands as she clambered up, trying not to let her hands tremble. The back of the cart swung down with the lift of a latch, and the barrels were light enough to roll easily. She busied herself with this task, while waiting for her chance. It came after the goods had been loaded onto overland waggons, and the slaves were being hooked up to thick, long chains leading from the front to guide the sometimes errant horses.

    Loth�riel contrived to blend into the shadows as the slavers progressed along the lines of mostly obedient men. Her hands clenched tight as they neared, her nails digging into her palms, her fingers trembling with fear. As the man who was chaining the closest line looked away, she seized the chain and closed the metal bands about her wrists. She found reason to look elsewhere as he turned back, somewhat surprised but unsuspicious. Thinking he had already fastened her to the chain, he passed on to the next man, who fought viciously before submitting to the handcuffs.

    The wheels that moved the gates began to grind together, a tiny thread of sky appearing between the two monstrous slabs as they swung inwards. The thread widened to a crack, then the sky began to steadily expand. Loth�riel gazed out at the sight of freedom, captivity still stained bitter on her lips and cold on her wrists. Even though not locked into the chain, she was no less a slave than they. She heaved mightily at the chain as the gate finished opening, the combined effort of the chained crew encouraging the cart-horse to a slow trot.

    The way Minas Morgul was constructed was this -- its black battlemented walls running from one side of a great cleft to another, tall and impenetrable. Behind the blockade rose sheer and ebon the great tower of Minas Morgul, where dwelt the Lord of Morgul and six of the other Nazg
    l. The battlement was fronted with a deep chasm that ran from cliff to cliff and opened not ten feet from the outer walls, partially carved out by nature and partially dug by the servants of the Dark Lord. The ravine was crossed by only one path, a narrow bridge wrought of black stone and guarded by cunningly carved warg-beasts. It was this road that the slaves were crossing as the sun rose over the western mountains* behind Mount Mindolluin, where lay Minas Tirith and Gondor.

    As the slave party crossed the bridge, they came to the Morgul Vale, a wide land barren of all plant or beast. The ground was thick with dust black as ash, and the lot of the slaves became worse. They labored on, until they reached the road that ran from North Ithilien to the Harad. The goods were going to the Crossings of Poros, which was far South.

    Loth�riel's eyes lifted briefly to the lands beyond the Anduin, the mountains blushing purple in the early light, the peak of Mindolluin gleaming too bright to look at steadily. //Hope,// she told herself. //think of freedom.// But then she felt a sudden flame light on her back, and a trickle of blood as the slaver bent his whip over her back.

    "Put ye're backs intae it, ye vermin!"

    "Water!" whispered a slave hoarsely, and soon the cry was taken up -- "Water!" They cast their eyes longingly towards the Anduin, ten miles off.

    //This is the closest the path gets to water,// Loth�riel told herself, and waited for her moment of opportunity. It seemed like an eternity before the guards turned their backs, but when they did, it was not a moment she would have chosen to escape. From the direction of Osgiliath came the cry of death as a winged shadow swept towards them, fear flying before and beneath it, chasing after the wind and being caught up in it. The shadow split into three, and at the shriek of the Nazg
    �l even the Easterlings quailed and covered their eyes. The slaves for the most part fell to the ground, and the carts were either pulled to an abrupt stop or were flying wildly over the rocks, the horses driven mad by panic.

    As the cart behind swerved to avoid them, Loth�riel forced herself to break free of her trance. Her arms caught at the lead rope, her muscles standing out as she forced the poor creature to come to a stand. Its sides were flecked with lather, its brown eyes wild. It was not an evil horse, merely one brought up from the south for the menial tasks of pulling and lifting. The Nazg�l swept overhead, throwing the maiden into the side of the horse, who bolted, dragging her with it. She took thought of how to free it, and her knife came out again, slashing at the leather straps harnessing it to the wagon. Several had already broken, and the blade made quick work of the rest. By that time, the fear had passed and the Easterlings were looking to control the wayward animals.

    Having never ridden a horse, Loth�riel had considerable difficulty even getting aboard one, much less riding bareback on one driven half-mad by the presence of the Nazg�l. In the end she managed it, but no sooner had she urged the carthorse to move forward than an Easterling charged her, his sword unsheathed. Unable to avoid him, Loth�riel braced herself for death. The blade pierced her lower right chest above her hip, blood instantly staining her chest all the way to her knee.

    The pain shot through her body as the man withdrew his sword cleanly, thinking her wounded mortally. By some chance, Loth�riel relaxed her grip on the horse's halter at the same time that the Easterling flung himself against it. Needing no further encouragement, it took off with a bound across the plain at a speed a racing thoroughbred might envy, hooves striking the ground in unison.

    Her fingers caught underneath a harness strap, Loth�riel felt a scream building itself up in her throat, issuing as a strangled groan. The horse's gait jolted her terribly, and she was sure some of her fingers on her left hand were broken. She just barely managed to cling to the horse as it barrelled onwards, unpursued. The Easterlings had brought no riding horses with which to give chase, and contented themselves with beating the remaining slaves, who were giving them great trouble. Cheers and jeers both rose from the group as the carthorse gained momentum, heading due West towards Osgiliath.

    Half unconscious from the pain, Loth�riel hung low accross the horse's back, her eyes filled with tears of mingled pain, fear and joy. "For freedom!" she felt the words tear themselves from her throat, her hope rising high within her. She did not look back, or she might have seen two of the Nazg�l bank steeply and turn from their path to Minas Morgul, now having only three miles between them.

    ~~~

    * In Middle-earth, the sun rises in the West and sets in the East.

    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 8th January 2004, 12:46 AM
    Trouble was brewing in the air, but keen as he was, Cavsor did not notice it. The chains cuffed on him were worn and rusty and he was lucky to get one that was worn enough to come off at a slight jerk. There had not been many escape episodes, so the orcs did not pay much attention to the state of the equipment. Cavsor was pulling a cart along with two humans, his mind thinking of today�s sleep already when all hell broke loose.

    Not so soon after the desperate cries for water, three flying beasts with huge leathery wings and emitting a shrill sound that drilled into the ears painfully, descended upon them. Flying right above them, the creatures swept by with devastating effect. They probably did not mean to do it on purpose. Maybe the riders were being careless about it? Terror drove the Easterlings and the slaves down to their knees, effectively halting the procession and causing much running, shouting and wailing. The horses stomped their hooves, tossing their heads wildly and straining against their harnesses, their liquid eyes wide with pure fear. Cavsor crouched between his fellow slaves, his heart beating so fast that he was afraid of it leaping out of him. At the sight of the beast, he had bolted to a crouching position beside the cart, the chain jerking off quite easily as he hoped to gain some sort of a shelter from the dread rising inside him. He watched the chaos around him with a kind of detached fascination while a voice yelled somewhere at the back of his mind to pull himself together. Not having encountered these beasts a lot, it was not a wonder that he was cowering like the rest of the party.

    As his eyes wondered around, they came to land randomly on Loth�riel. All he saw was not a woman, the hood was hiding her face, but a slave like him, pulling at the rein and� Cavsor�s eyes widened at the audacity of this slave. He was attemtping to escape on a horse! The brown haired man tensed, curling his fingers inward as the horse raced out. He could see himself sitting on it, but it was not him. He quickly looked around, the fear in him suddenly subsiding at a rapid rate, no, drained out of him to be exact. Scanning through the chaos, he ran up to another horse and lifted the harness free. Being used to doing this kind of thing he was quite deft at it. With the harness off, he was about to swing up onto the horse when he sensed a body behind. An Easterling came hurtling towards him with arms outstretched. �How dare you!� he snarled and latched onto Cavsor, his hands on his throat. Cavsor reached up to take hold of the Easterling, struggling to get his hands off his precious neck. The force of the Easterling was crashing, and Cavsor felt himself suffocating slowly, the air coming in and out in gasps. The horse would have bolted by now. It was pure luck that the animal was standing quite still, possibly due to fear, but this won�t last forever. Balling his left hand, Cavsor dealt a heavy blow against his attacker�s head so hard that it almost snapped the Easterling�s neck. Cavsor kicked out with his right leg and punched the Easterling�s stomach with his right hand.

    The hands around his throat loosened their hold. Gasping like a fish and spluttering profusely, Cavsor turned dazedly to the horse and pulled himself up onto its back with minimal difficulty. He had not ridden a horse for five years, but sitting on one again brought all the old instincts back. Cavsor refrained the urge from massaging his neck. He kicked at the horse�s side. �Cavsor!� somebody shouted.

    He did not reply. There was simply no time to check. He had to go now while fear still lingered in their captors. Letting out a loud whine, the animal took flight down the road towards the south, right after Loth�riel.

    ...to the topTop



  3. #3
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 8th January 2004, 05:55 AM
    The ears of the dun were flicking back and forth as the long-enslaved stallion soldiered on, relishing the opportunity to run for once. His short, sturdy legs struck a steady tattoo while Loth�riel tried to make sense of her first riding experience. Her body soon settled into the pattern of the horse's gait, but she could not figure out how to hold on properly, until she found that gripping with her knees righted her balance.

    As the Morgul Vale gave way to the leafier greens of North Ithilien, the land became more fertile. Fine, soft grass grew about, thickening to a dark green in small gullies. It chanced that as the horse slowed to a canter, Loth�riel glanced behind. To her surprise, another horse was overtaking them swiftly, and the rider was no Easterling by his dress. But the horse and its rider was not what held her attention. Farther behind, not two miles off, came two of the three fell beasts and their equally terrifying riders that had passed them at the cross-roads.

    Loth�riel felt their dread come upon her, and she turned the horse and spurred it up a small rise. When they reached the crest and dipped into a hollow, they plunged into the forest fringes. The same forest extended far northwards to Henneth Ann
    �n, where was the Forbidden Pool and Faramir's usual haunt. At this point however, it was less than three miles wide from East to West, and consisted of slender birch and laurel, with a few saplings of oak and maple. For the moment, the fell beasts lost sight of her, and she pressed her advantage, allowing the horse to choose the best course as she kept it at a high speed. The Nazg�l passed overhead once, but did not spot her. The other rider was also entering the trees, and had vanished from her vision.

    As the trees eventually thinned, the plucky stallion needed no urging to increase his speed. As short-limbed and stocky as any other packhorse, he displayed his full appreciation of his release and kicked up his heels. Loth�riel pressed her unhurt fingers over her bleeding abdomen, feeling slightly lightheaded and giddy from the bloodloss. The pain from her broken fingers was fading, but the deeper wound in her chest continued to throb mercilessly, sending an electric sensation through her body every time the horse changed gait.

    The underbrush ended suddenly, and the forest spat them out onto a mostly bare, flat shelf that sloped slightly upwards until it dipped into the river flats. The day was still early, with the sun just above the white tower of Minas Tirith in the distance, making it difficult to make out the seven-walled city. The bright light fell upon the ruins of Osgiliath, painting them a pale hue of pink, and glinting about the broken rubble like molten silver.

    "Greatheart," Loth�riel whispered to the horse as it reached the upwards slope, "We have need of more speed." She did not need to explain why -- the Nazg�l had returned.

    ~~~~

    "My lords!" came the call of one of the younger lookouts. Faramir looked up from where he was picking up a new quiver of arrows, his brother Boromir leaping down from the jagged remains of a ruinous wall to hear.

    "What news? Orcs?" Boromir's eyes leapt with the fire of battle-lust. He would have liked nothing better than to sheath his sword in the guts of another enemy than to hear news of anything else. Boromir was known to be a warrior of fierce repute and for his pleasure in taking risks, as well as being the eldest son of the Steward of Gondor.

    Faramir glanced at his older brother before turning to the lookout. "What is it, lad?"

    "Nazg�l - two of them," the lookout reported.

    Boromir rolled his eyes heavenward and muttered, "The Valar save us!" while Faramir winced. The former continued, "They left the city at dawn! Where are they?"

    "Come to the walls to watch. They are pursuing two horsemen from the woods of Ithilien."

    "Two horsemen?" mused Faramir. "The wraiths do not usually trouble themselves with such small parties. And why risk coming so near to Osgiliath?"

    Boromir reluctantly sheathed his sword in something other than orc-flesh - it's metal case. "Right, then, to the walls 'tis."

    Faramir nodded and caught up a few extra arrows from the stash. It never paid to be too careful where the Nazg�l were concerned. Their fell beasts were fed from the hands of the Witch-King himself. Wicked, cruel beasts, even when not ridden by the wraiths they slew more beasts than they could eat, enjoying instead to torment and kill needlessly. They were each over twenty-five feet long, with the head of an adder and the mouth of a pirahna. The flying wolves were covered in a thin layer of armored black scales, dull and covered with scum. Their wingspan was so large and their strength so large that the updraft under as they passed could easily topple grown men like tumbleweeds and snap a tree with a wrenching bite. Each wing was tipped with a barbed point, and their black legs was tipped with eagle-claws.

    The lookout led them through the tumbled stone walls of Osgiliath's eastern side to the outer walls, of which parts still rose tall and proud from the ground beneath. Grimly, the two brothers hastened up a partially ruined staircase to the remains of the battlements. The sun at their backs threw shadows into stark relief as they searched the grasslands for the horsemen.

    "There!" cried the sentries, and pointed. The two Nazg
    �l were hovoring just behind the riders, almost one mile from the walls. All at once a clamor rose as they cheered the fugitives on, aware that there was only a slim chance of them surviving.

    Boromir pointed suddenly to the foremost rider, starting up the rise towards the walls. "That one's wounded. Is there any way we can get help to them? Archers? Anything?"

    Faramir shook his head. "There aren't enough archers in the city. The main taskforce brought to Osgiliath was swordsmen."

    One of the lookouts shouted for their attention. The Nazg�l were moving in for the attack.

    ~~~~

    The ground was passing underneath Loth�riel at what seemed to be an incredibly slow pace, and every hoof-fall and leap jarred her wounds and brought tears to her eyes. The carthorse was struggling now to find the strength to keep going. He had been racing at a gallop or a canter for over nine miles, and he could feel the fear still overtaking. Even though made of almost unbreakable stuff, he was exhausted and needed both water and rest.

    The Nazg�l split, one heading after Loth�riel, and one after Cavsor. She did not turn her head to look behind her, her attention wholly on sticking to the horse's back and not ending up as carrion in the beast's claws. Blood pounded through her head at the same beat as the stallion's hooves, eating up distance in time that seemed to pass impossibly slow.

    A breath of cold, dank air passed overhead, and she turned her head slightly, slowly, to see the beast drawing level, legs extended to grasp her. Five steel claws to each of its feet, glinting in the pale light. She shuddered and turned away, feeling vomit rise in her throat.

    ~~~~

    The two sons of the Steward watched breathlessly as the shadow floated gently over the slowing horse, freezing them in place with a shrill cry of victory.

    ~~~~

    Loth�riel shut her eyes and waited, five seconds passing in slow succession. The first claw was inches from her head when she yanked suddenly on the halter, causing the carthorse to slide on its hindquarters. The poor beast jerked to a stop, yanking at the reins as his instincts told him to run.

    The sudden move fooled the fell beast, whos huge bulk prevented him from slowing so rapidly. In an attempt to keep his mount from crashing to the ground, the Nazg�l rider checked the beast's attack and pulled him up, trying to see where the escapee had vanished to.

    //Six hundred yards,// Loth�riel told herself. //Six hundred yards and you're within bowshot of the walls.// She loosed the reins in her hands and felt the panicking horse beneath her come off of the ground so quickly that it nearly stumbled on some loose gravel. It was fighting now, fighting to reach that ever-so-distant goal, the hilltop. The Nazg�l fell back, aware that Loth�riel would reach the safety of Osgiliath, yet unwilling to give up the chase completely.

    Loth�riel saw the shadow above and ahead of her drop back quickly, preparing to drop down on her. The cold breath of its wings pressed down on her once again, crushing her will to fight. Driven mad by panic, her horse jerked to the right, avoiding a sweep of the fell beast's head. A claw caught his rider and spun her sideways in the saddle, her right hand clamped tight to the harness. The Nazg�l was flying evenly beside her, and she looked into the depths where its eyes should have been. Their wills locked in struggle as the distance closed.

    Three hundred yards. The beast reached for its prey once again. Loth�riel let go of the harness with her left hand, and grasped the ancient knife in her broken fingers. She waited until she could feel the claws closing on her, and then she swung, shearing one claw completely off and driving the blade deep into the creature's leg. With a shriek of pain, the beast drew back, disobeying the Nazg�l rider's directions.

    One hundred yards. She felt herself losing her grip on the rope, and found her determination slipping. Just within bowshot of the walls, she let go completely, tumbling from the carthorse's back like a leaf in the wind. Loth�riel was unconscious before she hit the ground.

    ~~~~

    "That's near enough!" shouted Faramir, pulling an arrow from his quiver and setting it to string. He sighted along the shaft and pulled it as far back as possible, aware that the few archers on the walls were doing the same. As the Nazg�l brought his mount under control and stooped to catch hold of the fallen rider, he loosed his shaft. It struck the beast's neck and stayed there, causing the rider to call off the attack. Cheated of its prey, the Nazg�l gave a piercing cry that echoed throughout the ruins.

    "Someone get a healer and get that person inside the city!" he shouted, irritated that no one else had thought of it.
    ...to the topTop



  4. #4
    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 8th January 2004, 07:54 AM
    Cavsor gathered the reins in his right hand. He was beginning to get back into the rhythm of horse riding. The horse sped over the green tufts that shortly gave way to a forest. Choosing his route and concentrating on the road ahead, Cavsor soon lost sight of the rider he was following earlier on. The trees closed in on him, covering him in their protection and projecting shade on him. Cavsor drank in the fresh air and the sight of rich green trees rushing past him like a drowning man surfacing from the water. The feeling of wind rushing past, the sound of horse hooves striking the ground, the sight of something alive other than grime and soot and dirt, and the chattering of birds around him was reviving. Cavsor felt he had gone to heaven and he thanked God profusely for this newfound freedom.

    He knew however, that he was not entirely safe yet for pursuit was most likely coming his way and he was spot on. Bursting out from the forest, he greeted not first with the huge shadow that swept over him, but the wave of fear touching his soul. He bent double on the back of the animal as the horse jumped, turning instantly into almost a nervous wreck. Cavsor pressed his head onto its neck, refusing to turn his eyes skyward. After a few panicking minutes, he forced himself to straighten up and spurred the frightened animal on, kicking its side urgently. He steeled himself against the fear that permeated his being and risked a glance background.

    What he saw almost overwhelmed his sense of defiance and froze his head in that turning angle.

    The beast shot straight towards him, flying low above the grass, flattening the green shots in its wake. Though his heart seemed dipped in ice, survival instincts took over, and with heart pounding, he steered his horse to the left as the beast swept in.

    It missed.

    Turning the horse into a full gallop, Cavsor used his legs and the pulling of the reins to guide his horse towards the walls of Osgiliath and at the same time, guiding the animal to run in a way that avoided the sharp claws of the beast. Cavsor sweated, perspiration drenching his shirt. He felt the wind of the beating motions of the wings and the sound lingered in his terrified mind like a fast approaching funeral, as if it had come alive to claim him. He dug in his heel to urge his mount on, and the animal obeyed. Cavsor�s eyes darted to the side, seeing the shadow and using that to judge the beast�s next move. He knew the horse was going to go down soon. The physical and mental strain on the animal was too great. He was amazed that it could keep up so far without slowing.

    The beast swooped down.

    Cavsor jerked at the rein to slow down his mount, and the horse turned a bit towards the right, still running but slowing in gait. The beast past by where they were with claws outstretched. An intense pain sheared Cavsor�s back and he almost fainted right there. Somewhere in the bottom of the sea of pain, he was dully grateful that the long slash was on the left side of his back, and that the cut did not penetrate any bones. He dread of being struck a cripple when he had only gained his freedom. The horse plunged on under its rider�s expert handling and although the rider was weakening fast, they managed to arrive within sight of bowshot, and the archers let fire their deadly missiles. Cavsor was still too affected by the beast�s proximity to feel relieved. The horse slowed as the gate loomed close, and Cavsor was dimly aware of the slave he saw before, lying on the ground at the feet of her mount. The blood was sticking onto his shirt and his head began to swim.
    Posted by God'schild (Member #11236) on 8th January 2004, 11:52 AM
    OOC: My character's profile; www.christianforums.com/t82680 Oh, and sorry if this post seems a little rushed, I'm in a huuge hurry.

    BIC:
    -----------------

    *Even as all these things were happening, Pendai was working among the men, for she was though she battled as one of them, she also healed. The scream of a fell beast echoed across the plain and a shudder of hate ran up her spine, but she forced her mind to remain on its work. Pendai knelt beside a man with an arrow-wound in his shoulder, fishing around in the gash to find the tip. The head of the arrow must be removed because it was poisoned, but that removal would bring much pain for the tip was barbed. She spoke quietly past the distant din of voices, her words gently accented by some strange tongue,* Now, this may hurt... I will count and on three I will pull. *The man went slightly pale.* One. *He closed his eyes. Pendai gripped the base of the arrow.* Two... *Without warning, she yanked the evil thing out with all her might, ripping past the wounded flesh. He cried out as a new surge of blood poured down his side. Within moments, however, she bound it with a poison-lifting herb and the bloodflow ceased.

    Pleased with her work, Pendai cast aside the arrow as she rose, wiping her fingers on a rag. She was about to go and find her horse and join wherever the battle was, when a man came running through the ranks, saying her name.* Pendai, where is she? The woman is needed, where is the healer? *Pendai called after him* I am Pendai *The man came to her, explaining hurridly,* Two men on horseback made for this city, persued by two nazgul. They have escaped but one is mortally wounded and of the other I know not save that a healer was called for. We must go. *Pendai followed him, quickening her pace to match his. He lead her in a winding course through the broken city till they at last came alongside Faramir, who was watching the dark figures of the nazgul's evil stead wheel in the sky. The man addressed his captain, swiftly coming to attention.* Sir!

    *Faramir turned, about to say something, but his words were stolen from his lips as he saw Pendai. Had it been some lighter time, he would have laughed.* I did not know you were with us, but I will ask no questions. *He nodded to the man, signaling he was dismessed, then turned his attention more fully to Pendai.* They bring the wounded as we speak, but I know not if they lived. The riders were struck with much of the evil of the wraiths! *He gestured openly to the group of four men who were hurrying down the hill to a huddled form, bloodied and crumpled. Pendai saw also the bent form of a man on a horse, obviously wounded as well, plodding toward them. She saw even from here that they were near death.*
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 8th January 2004, 02:52 PM
    Avarielle was breathless, as she watched the Nazgul chase the two riders. Others had stopped to watch the suspenseful chase. As soon as one got too close to a rider, the people would gasp. When the riders would get farther ahead, they would cheer. When the one rider fell, everyone gasped and went silent, waiting for what would happen next.
    Posted by God'schild (Member #11236) on 9th January 2004, 01:19 AM
    OOC: Hey all.. This post here is actually by Kookabura, but her computer is spazing out so she asked me to post her post for her. Hope yall don't mine!

    BIC:
    -----------------------



    The two men who were carrying Loth�riel into the city glanced backwards as they came, fearful despite the fact that a half dozen archers kept them safe from the hovering Nazg?l. There was no need to tell them to hurry to shelter, the very presence of the wraiths made them all to aware of their own vulnerability. They did not know the nature of the rider they were carrying none-too-gently along, nor did they care. Their only thought was for the condition of their own bodies. Somehow, they did remember to catch the reins of the spent carthorse, who was all too willing to follow them obediently.



    Two other Gondorian soldiers were hurrying along to where Cavsor still sat his horse, slumped over the animal's neck. They, too, cast glances skyward as the Nazg?l slowly abandoned the riders they had chased all the way from Minas Morgul.



    ~~~~



    Faramir nodded to the soldier who had led Loth�riel's mount to the ruined city, and took the reins from him. The poor creature was still trembling with fear and spent adrenaline. His flanks were streaked with lather, and sweat was dripping from his neck. The stallion's mouth was ringed in pink foam, bloodied from the bit in his mouth. As Faramir patted his neck, he spoke soothingly to the horse. "You poor Greatheart," he said, unaware that Loth�riel had called him the same just over an hour before. "Someone give this brave creature a proper rubdown and then take it to Minas Tirith." As he spoke, Greatheart arched his neck proudly, his eyes still wild.



    Boromir had gone to the fallen rider, who was being laid on some spare cloaks. Pendai was inspecting her arm, ignoring all of the commotion as men crowded around.



    "That's no man, it's a woman!" New respect was showing in the soldiers' eyes.



    "She looks like she caught some bad wounds."



    "Will she survive?"



    "That was an amazing chase!"



    "Where's the other one? There were two .... "



    Boromir needed only one look at the blood staining the girl's shirt to make his judgement. "You had better take her to Minas Tirith directly," he suggested. "The Houses of Healing would be a much better place to treat her wounds - " He had caught sight of the shoulder Pendai was inspecting. A rune of the Haradrim was branded on her should, labelling her clearly as a slave. Boromir was suddenly struck with the enormity of the girl's position. She had clearly escaped from her slavers, and covered the entire ten miles separating the crossroads in front of Minas Morgul to the ruined city of Osgiliath on the Anduin. If she did not get to proper safety within the day, she would not survive to experience the freedom she had fought so hard to get.



    "Get her to Minas Tirith," he ordered into the air. //If she lives, what an amazing story she would have to tell!// As some temporary bandages were wrapped around her various cuts and bruises by Pendai and some assistant healers, he caught sight of her face for the first time. It touched some chord in his mind, seeming so familiar to something or someone he had seen before, but couldn't remember.



    Loth�riel's raven-black hair was cropped short to just below her chin, her eyes sunken and hollow from near-starvation. Her skin was so pale that it was a natural step to assume that she had never seen sunlight, or had lost a good deal of her blood. For one moment, Loth�riel shook off the darkness that threatened to consume her and stirred, opening her eyes. Boromir turned to see a frown on Faramir's face, as if he, too, were struggling to remember some lost connection. When he looked back, Loth�riel was unconscious again, and being readied to be carried to Minas Tirith.



    Boromir would have said something to his younger brother, but a shout for a speech was going up from the men crowded around. Having only just retaken the city, it was his tradition to impassion the the men once more, the same men who had watched their friends and comrades fall beside them. Unbeknownst to him, the Steward - his father Denethor - was arriving at the city to congratulate his eldest and belittle his youngest. It would be a while before the subject came up again, just before Boromir left for Rivendell.



    ~~~~



    "You know that rider?" Faramir mentioned it as Boromir was saddling his horse for the ride to Rivendell. "The one who was chased here this morning?" he clarified. Boromir nodded for Faramir to continue. "She looked familiar."



    Boromir stroked the bay's neck. "I noticed that too."



    "She looks a bit like mother, but that's not entirely it .... " Faramir mused.



    It suddenly clicked in Boromir's mind. "Imrahil!"



    "Excuse me?" Faramir was frowning again, trying to understand.



    "She reminds me a lot of Imrahil, you know ... of Dol Amroth?" Boromir slung his pack behind the bay's saddle and stepped into the stirrups.



    Faramir looked up at his brother, having a sudden premonition of his brother's journey, whether real or imagined, he did not know. "Why must you go?"



    Boromir lowered his head. "I wish I knew. Remember today, little brother .... " His horse's hooves clattered on the paving as he spurred his horse out of the city.
    Posted by God'schild (Member #11236) on 9th January 2004, 03:32 AM
    *The elven maid bound her hair back with a white cord and bent to inspect the new patient, her critical gaze roving intently over each sign of pain or other wound. She noted also that there was something strange in the girl's countanance, even as she lay cold and unconcious. It separated her from the faces of most humans she saw, a kind of strength perhaps? This one had a great part to play in the making of history, no doubt... Her life must be saved. Pendai knelt and with a dagger began to cut away a piece of the dirty, bloodsoaked rag that might have qualified as a shirt, noting the brand on her shoulder. The moment Pendai saw the cleaved flesh of the sword wound in her chest, her eyes widened and she whispered an exclamation of shock to Eru. The wound was very deep and very open, and a dull stream of blood ebbed out with the weekening beat of her heart. The poor creature should be dead! By what power of will she had stayed alive so long, Pendai could not guess. She fairly attacked her small bag of dressings and began binding the dreadful gash with a passion born of desparation for the girl's life, frantically calling to the nearest person,* Get me a horse that can fly... Do it now!

    *The soldiers scattered in a frenzy, all dashing in a different directions for a horse and calling various names to their comrades. Pendai stuffed a temporary polluce into the wound to keep it clean long enough for the girl to survive, doing everything in her power to stop the bloodflow and using every trick her mind could recall. Blast, if she got here but a few minutes later, she would not have survived...

    Four horses were brought quickly to her, the men that held their harneses panting. Pendai looked up, summing the steads up at a glance, she silently chose the one on the furthest left for it looked the freshest. She then turned back to Lothriel, grufly muttering an order the man behind her.* Get me a torch. *The man looked stunned, about to ask 'why', when she maliciously interrupted him* Do it!! *He cowed and dashed away to find a torch.*

    Scooping Lothriel up with painstaking care, she somehow managed to mount without dropping her, but once on the horse she realized she had left her things on the ground. Savagely she cursed in a foreign tonge, lapsing into english again she barked to whoever might be listening,* Someone get my bag, it is over there! No, not that bag you fool, that one. Yes. Thank you... Where is that torch!? *The man came running back, handing her an unlit torch, looking half fearful and half bemused. She took the thing and secured it behind her saddle.* Good... Now go tell Far�

    *She froze, just remembering that there were indeed two wounded riders come from the nazgul. Even elves could be forgetful. Enough! No more could be done, one mortally wounded girl was all she could manage for now. At least she could only hope that the second rider's wound was not so deep, nothing more could be done; she could not trade one life for another, and the one of the girl was the one she was currently given to preserve.

    With a cry she spurred the new horse into a gallop and went thundering down the hill toward Minas Tirith, muttering words of what some would call 'magic' over the girl she bore and over the stead, willing it to speed. She chose the horse well, its gait was long and smooth, and with each step it devoured the ground beneath it with new vigor for the horse wished much to please its rider. For a time they rode unhindered, Pendai even began to suppose that the girl may survive, when a shrill scream filled the distant air and rose to a sickeningly high pitch till it passed to high for hearing, and the horse beneath her shied violently in fear.

    Pendai nearly lost Lothriel in the abrupt movenent, but miraculously juggled her girl back onto the saddle, thanking whatever may be listening for sparing her. A new cry went up and the horse pinned its ears, taking the bit in its mouth and preparing to run back to Osgiliath when Pendai began murmuring soothing things to the horse and eased it to stay its course, filling its mind with her words instead of the shriek of the nazgul. A familiar shadow passed overhead, blocking her from the sun and slowly growing larger and larger on the ground that sped beneath her mount's hooves. The cold presence loomed behind her and she knew that the fell beast was nearly upon her, but she had not forgotton the torch.

    Spinning around and seizing it, she shouted three words in a foreign language and the torch awoke in a small fountain of white flames, and this she literally threw at the faceless shadow perched upon the great back of its evil beast. Her aim went slightly astray, but it serves its purpose. A jagged sound more terrible than anything the human mind is able to conceive tore madly across the air as the Nazgul was engulfed in fire, the beast it rode abruptly rocketing upwards. Pendai managed a mangled grin, even amidst the chaos. She had learned much over her centuries of living, and one of these things was that the wraiths did not love fire...

    Minis Tirith was very close. Its gates oppened narrowly and the encouraging shouts of the men inside ushered her within its gaits. She burst through the slim shadows of the doors and came sliding to a halt on the tile of the streets of the city. Her horse went spinning into a pile of shields, and with a crash at last they were halted. Pendai tumbled off the horse, still bearing Lothriel she shouted hoarsely,* Someone get a stretcher! I come with a wounded, go quickly!

    *And thus, they came to the city of Minis Tirith*
    ...to the topTop



  5. #5
    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 9th January 2004, 11:30 PM
    The Shire

    As usual, Bilbo started with a speech that at first delighted his listeners but gradually saw them all busily blinking, nodding and yawning without anybody noticing, as if participating in a secret competition that everybody was keen on doing. Cloken�s head was in the course of dropping headlong into his goblet when a sudden thundering of cheers jerked him back into the party. Automatically, his two hands found each other and started clapping heartily with the rhythm set by the crowd. The quiet hobbit blinked away a few drops of tear in the process and was slapped at the back by one of the elder hobbit that was busy wiping his eyes with his hand. Bilbo beamed at this show of happiness as his fellow hobbits raised their goblets in salute. At last, the party could begin.

    Cloken took his goblet at the first signal of movement from all those present right after the speech was finished, and attempted to escape from what was to come. He had not taken five steps from his seat when three of his aunts, all in their late fifties crossed unconcernedly into his path. Forcing his face into a welcoming smile, he found the liquid rapidly disappearing from his goblet as they bombarded him with questions of Klieka and his nephew, along with pieces of elderly advices flying his way. As the party came to a full swing, Cloken was passed from one relative to another, going round and round in some sort of a waltz that left him gasping with exhaustion. Parties. He always found them too rowdy and excessive. But today�s party was like none others. The night sky soon exploded into myriads of colours, a dazzling display not seen in many years. Cloken drank in the fireworks as much as his brethrens, cheering over the snapping sound overhead as colours blossomed into different shapes, showering the expanse with diamonds of red, blue, green, purple, orange, yellow and some other hues that he could not name. Gandalf sure had a way with how to make a crowd go wild properly without falling on top of each other.

    Osgiliath

    His back felt like it was on fire and even those sent to assist him dared not move him. It would be useless to place him on a stretcher; he would have to be carried face down anyway. After one look at the situation, the healer in charge made the carers tie him to a fresh horse, and with one rider holding the reins of the horse that Cavsor was on, they followed the way that Pendai treaded on just minutes ago. Osgiliath just did not have adequate medical supplies and proper facility to treat patients that needed greater care. Cavsor managed a quick look at the new horse under him before his vision began to dim. He had tried to stay conscious for as long as possible, but the wound on his back and the emotional battle was turning out to be too much. Cavsor let his fate rest in his rescuers� hands.
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 10th January 2004, 03:58 PM
    Avarielle noticed that coldiers were riding towards the city. Perhaps they'll have news of my brother? she thought as she ran for the gate. She reached it just as they entered Minis Tirith.

    "You there," she said, stopping one of them. "do you know my brother, Lorran?"

    The soldier nodded. "Aye."

    "Is he alive?" Avarielle asked nervously.

    The soldier nodded. "Aye, he is." he said, and moved on.

    Avarielle felt like leaping for joy. He's alive! She ran back to the wall and looked out at Osgiliath. Ever since the death of their father, Avarielle and her brother had always been close. Avarielle couldn't remember her brother ever not being there for her. If something were to ever happen to him...I don't know what I'd do.
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 11th January 2004, 01:41 AM
    Minas Tirith, city of Gondor

    4 July/Afterlithe

    Boromir sets out from Gondor to Rivendell


    The ground seemed to shudder beneath her as Loth�riel was lain onto the cold earth. Her skin seemed to be alight, her whole body burning up in a fever. Cool hands touched her forehead, arm, her side ... then there was pain as the fingers probed the wound on her side. Voices seemed to be drilling into her brain from all angles. Her mind was still entombed in the shroud of the Nazg�l's call, the beat of the fell beast's wings still pulsing heavily in her ears. The Cold Breath had blanketed her in the shadow of the Dark Tower, and her body was slowly being lost to it.

    Voices calling ... crying? She couldn't tell. Loth�riel's eyes opened briefly out of pure reflex, but the richness of the colors soon overwhelmed her vision and everything faded to the dull monotony she was used to ... under shadow.

    The ride to Minas Tirith passed into a deeper darkness than that under her eyelids. The only thing that roused Loth�riel was the shriek of the Nazg�l overhead, and even then, she could not summon the strength to resist the fear that consumed her. She briefly recognized fire and the elvish the healer spoke, before they passed through the gates of Minas Tirith into the fortress city. A voice was shouting: "Someone get a stretcher! I come with a wounded, go quickly!" The buck and heave of the horse's withers seemed to continue, even though Pendai had brought it to a halt in the midst a weaponry pile. It sickened her.

    Then the shadow of a face bent over Loth�riel, soft elvish words delaying the evil of the dark before it had her wholly in its grasp. The words flowed easily, calming the fear in her mind and then soothing the pain in her side somewhat. As the Cold Breath began to gnaw at her open wounds and freeze her veins, Loth�riel recognized only two more words ... "Nar gwathren ... " All else faded.

    16 August/Wedmath

    The sun was already creeping over the top of the tower of Minas Tirith when Loth�riel managed to shake off the dawnless dusk that had held her hostage for over forty days. Dust-motes shimmered in the rich golden light that streamed from the highest part of the windows; it was high noon in the capital city of Gondor.

    Puzzled as to her whereabouts and wholly forgetful of her escape and retrieval, Loth�riel tried to push herself up on her elbows to get a better look. A dull pain in her right side insisted that she was, or had been, wounded. Loth�riel quietly acquiesced to her body's requirements, returning to her former position. But yes ... it was real light, not some horrible trick perpetrated by the loathsome orcs. Even more confusing was the softness under her body - unless she was mistaken, it felt like she was lying on some sort of pad that shaped to her body. Crisp sheets were pulled up to her shoulders, draping over her emaciated frame.

    Ever so slowly, her memory trickled back to her. As Loth�riel craned her neck painfully to catch a glimpse of her surroundings, objects were brought slowly into focus. She was in some sort of chamber built of sandstone, lying on a hay-stuffed mattress. A row of slender arched windows lined the one wall, reaching from the ground to near the flat roof, over fifteen feet. Each window was individually paned with hundreds of pieces of crystal glass, each set into a steel diamond frame. It was through these windows that the light was shining, preventing her from seeing anything beyond the glass.

    After several moments of looking steadily into the light, Loth�riel's head was swimming. She had not seen sunlight since a month back, and that had been the first time outside of her cell. The slaves kept for the sole purpose of producing food were worked during the night-time to diminish the chances of a raid from the West - men of Gondor and Rohan dared barely to put foot outside of the sight of watch-fires lest they end up without their head. It was not safe to stir after sunset. The maid let her head fall back onto the mattress, out cold before she even noticed the ever-attentive Pendai by the carven door.

    23 September/Halimath

    Four Riders enter the Shire before dawn. The others pursue the Rangers eastward, and then return to watch the Greenway. A Black Rider comes to Hobbiton at nightfall. Frodo leaves Bag End. Gandalf having tamed Shadowfax rides from Rohan.


    //Twenty-eight days since I awoke from the fever of the Nazg�l,// Loth�riel mused, her left hand trailing the design on the coverlet. At her request, the healers had moved her to the veranda of a cottage in the Houses of Healing, in the midst of the gardens. Having not been around free laughter and children at any time of her life, she withdrew from such company that afforded her that experience. Loth�riel had just counted her twentieth birthday lying immobile on a bed in a virtually forgotten area of the city. After the initial excitement at her escape, the people of Minas Tirith had promptly forgotten her existance, and that was how she wanted it to remain.

    The air was still and warm, even for an autumn evening, upholding the scent of lilac and climbing honeysuckle. Wisteria blooms hung in clusters of blue, white, purple and rose from the overhead rafters. The silence was only broken every now and then by the trilling of some late-leaving bird. A sward of green grass ran away from the veranda where Loth�riel was required to remain on a cot, only able to sit up for a certain length of time before blacking out. Pendai had explained patiently to her that this condition could continue for months on end if she did not rest properly, and then kindly ordered her to stay in bed.

    And so the bed-ridden and thoroughly bored Loth�riel lay still, fidgiting as she watched the sunlight on the trees. Nature was where she was in her element, she decided. As soon as she was able, she would purchase a horse and take to the hills ... to ride. The life of a wanderer had always appealed to her over the dearly bought ruffles and ribbons of a noble's daughter - not that she knew her father was a prince of any kind. The only shred of detail that she knew of him was his name - Imrahil of Dol Amroth. No whisper had come to her ears in the weeks she had been intermittantly conscious that alerted her to her unique heritage.

    25 October/Winterfilth

    Council of Elrond


    The last light of dusk was fading from the sky as Loth�riel turned back towards the cottage, moving slowly as to not irritate the healing wound on her side. Her gait was uneven, her steps often slowing for her to rest her weight on the low rock wall that bordered the garden from the orchard. Loth�riel's frequent pauses made it easy for her to stop and listen to the various noises nature makes after dark.

    The wind was rustling the dying leaves both in the trees and on the ground, piling them into stacks and then tumbling them end-over-end to the lower levels of the city. A finch chirped one of the last birdsongs of the year, stooping to pass over Loth�riel's head before disappearing into the darkness of the treetops. Humans were not content to be left out either, and a lilting harmony was taken up to the stars from some distant gathering of souls, hovoring briefly on the night air to bless those who lingered underneath the canopy of Heaven, before parting to some nether shore.

    The singers were not the only humans to lend their voices to the gentle night symphony. Two were standing just beyond a copse of trees, unaware of the walker's presence. If she hadn't heard her name mentioned, Loth�riel wouldn't have lent an ear but left the conversation private. As it was, she crept closer to hear any information pertinant to her existance.

    " ... seems to be recovering well. I haven't seen the like for years - someone out of Minas Morgul! Imagine."

    "Don't get too excited, Thwenel," replied the second voice. "If I'm not mistaken, she's going to be more on her plate before long."

    There was a pause as Thwenel tried to make sense of that statement. "What do you mean?"

    Loth�riel could imagine the second person rolling her eyes at the question, and when it spoke it was in a patronizing tone as if the answer should be obvious. "Because that girl is the daughter of Prince Imrahil! As soon as that comes to light, she's going to be whisked away to Dol Amroth and safety."

    "Oh, of course. I'd forgotten ... the Prince was crushed when his wife was taken, and pregnant too. To think that she lived that long in Minas Morgul!"

    "It's quite a feat."

    "I'm sure she'll get everything she likes in Dol Amroth ... I heard it was a lovely seaside haven ... and since the castle's been rebuilt it's much more beautiful, even than the old one ... Karsiel, have you ever been there?"

    "In my position? Not likely." Karsiel's voice was softer, rueful and envious. Loth�riel took that moment to creep away to the cottage, her mind a-whirl as she tried to think through the facts she had been given, to no avail. It would seem a mystery to her for the rest of her life. One question kept popping up in every corner of her mind, even as she tried to quell it.

    What had kept her alive?

    25 December/Foreyule

    The Fellowship of the Ring leaves Rivendell


    The city of Minas Tirith was just beginning to stir as Loth�riel awoke, only a few early-risers and the next shift of the city guard moving about the streets. The sun had not risen above the peak of Mount Mindolluin, but the sky was lightening with streaks of grey and a tender pastel palette of colors. By the time she had dressed and was leaving the healer's ward, archets of gold and orange were lacing the clouds. Pendai alone of the healers was awake, but she was attending to another person in the ward and could not - or would not - speak.

    When she had seen the resolute look on Loth�riel's face the week before, she had passed her without a glance. It was the look of one who felt a whole hoard of new limits imposed upon what they had deigned freedom, and felt more constraint closing in. To be completely honest, Pendai was longing to leave the seven-gated city and get back to what she loved most. But the healer was constantly having new wounded to care for and had felt unable to leave.

    Loth�riel crept for the door, but turned back to whisper into the silent room, "If anyone asks for me, I am in the gardens as usual." What was unusual was that she was no longer content to wait for life to pass her by, and this time her walk was slightly different ... she was plotting her escape. If any resident in the city caught wind of her desire to leave, she would have been locked into a luxurious room until her father replied to the letters sent by Faramir and his father. But Loth�riel would not wait around for fate to hand her a golden card. She was going to go out and earn one for herself, whether it be black iron or blood red.
    ...to the topTop



  6. #6
    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 11th January 2004, 05:28 AM
    One month. In a month�s time, the long slash on his back had healed nicely under the vigilant care of the healers of Minas Tirith. The pain, during those long hours lying on his chest was nothing compared to the discomfort his position brought. Anyone who talked to him would bend down or squat on the ground. He appreciated their willingness to make him feel comfortable, but being unable to move in order for the healing to take place, and having to lie like that robbed him much of his privacy and observation. Anyone could walk in on him without his knowing. The day when he could finally get up to exercise and was allowed to sleep on his back like a normal person was an absolute relief. After he was discharged from the healing house, he was summoned to the solders� quarter where he was questioned thoroughly. Cavsor spilled out everything he knew of Minas Morgul, leaving nothing out. His questioner did put in one question that he could not answer though, and that prompted him to visit Lothiriel. However, the questioner informed him that she still had not regained consciousness.

    What was there to do in Minas Tirith? Cavsor found this newfound freedom refreshing but also a little perplexing. The future now lay in his own hands yet he had no idea where to begin. The fact that his mother and sister were not in Minas Tirith left him bone weary. He spent a few days secluding himself in the more isolated part of the city, letting the grief wash over him and the bad memories burn. Though his brother had greatly encouraged him to escape alone if such a chance arose, he was not sure whether he could ever forgive himself for leaving his sibling to a cruel fate. Cavsor�s solitude was broken one day as he chanced upon an old lady who had taken an interest in him. Her husband and sons had all died, given their lives in battles. She now made a living by weaving and despite her poor eyesight; she could feel the needles and threads like it was second nature. Seeing the young man sitting day and night facing the plain between Minas Tirith and Osgiliath, the old lady finally went down to him and asked him to help her haul a bucket of water. From that day on, he had been helping her out a lot. She never once asked about his past and the thing that was upsetting him, but she did make a suggestion that gave him a small purpose.

    �Why don�t you train with the lads? Men these days should learn to wield a weapon, whether in defense or attack.�

    The sword training came back to him quickly, but he realized it was still too far from the skill he saw around the barrack. In the three months up till Lothiriel fully recovered, Cavsor concentrated all his energy into his training in swordsmanship, archery and horse riding. It was good exercising the muscles of his newly healed wound. Cavsor fell into the training routine with such a fierce determination that he managed without noticing to attract the eyes of upper ranking soldiers of Minas Tirith. Though he was not part of the army, he was given scouting missions, or rather; he was invited casually to the missions. Having nothing that he needed doing, and wanting to pay back the training they gave him, Cavsor went on the missions willingly. Sometimes, he felt the need to go to these missions. It was as if he could lose himself in the excitement of the danger around and at the same time, took revenge on the orcs who had destroyed his family.

    Waking up early as usual, Cavsor would stand at the walls to see the sun rise, but not today. Leaving the old lady�s house, he made his way to the Healing House to check up on Lothiriel. He had gone to see her a few times in the last four months, hoping she could wake eventually. It disturbed him greatly that he was lucky to exercise his freedom while the other slave, whom he found out was female, had fallen into a coma. With anxiety and hope in seeing her awake, he entered the Healing House. The coloured glass windows sent coloured lights into the room. As always, the House was filled with patients of every kind of sickness and injuries, and the healers were up despite the early hour, tending to their charges. Cavsor saw Pendai examining a patient and he popped his head in around the screen. The healer, without raising her head, told him what he had not yet asked.

    �That�s great news,� he replied with a huge smile and left to head for the garden.

    Since his arrival in Minas Tirith, Cavsor�s appearance had changed dramatically. He had shaved, his hair was combed, his face washed, and his ragged clothing was replaced by a clean blue tunic and gray pants. He doubted even his brother would recognize him in this attire. With anticipation, Cavsor followed the path to the cottage located in the midst of natural wonders. He strolled into a sea of sweet fragrances and mosaic colours as flowers of various eye-pleasing hues guided his footsteps. The garden was peacefully serene, filled with the songs of birds.

    The Gondorian�s steps slowed. He had always seen Lothiriel in a bed, but she was now standing with her back to him. Cavsor hesitated. He did not want to intrude on her privacy. What business did he have with her anyway? He did not even know her to begin with. The brown haired man stopped his forward movement totally, debating whether he should retreat or not.
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 11th January 2004, 06:05 AM
    Cavsor was not the only one who's appearance had changed. Despite having lain in a bed for over four months straight, Loth�riel had somehow managed to gain enough weight to lose the skeletal appearance that had been her own all of her life. Her skin, while still pale, was no longer pasty, and her hand was steady when she brushed a strand of hair from her eyes. That, too, had changed slightly. Loth�riel's ebony locks had lost the look of being a straw thatch, and had been neatly trimmed to match her jawline.

    The impenetrable gray eyes had not altered the slightest, and still loomed large and ominous, clouded with a storm of turbulent thoughts. After overhearing the conversation two months before, she had managed to enquire discreetly as to the rumors. Loth�riel had not only discovered that they were quite correct, but that the Prince Imrahil was to be visiting Minas Tirith, and that he would arrive sometime in late January. That left his daughter precious little choice as to timing. She would have liked to have left the safety of the city after making solid plans, but she could not risk getting caught too late. Loth�riel had the feeling that as soon as her father clapped eyes on her, that she'd be relegated to the 'safe zone', ostensibly to be out of harm's way, but also out of the action.

    Her walk through the gardens had been leisurely until she reached the wall of the Fifth Gate, which was only waist-high at that point when looking between battlemented piers. The stone was still cool from a night in the dark, but Loth�riel did not feel it. She felt only the inner chill of what was to come.

    "I must find a horse," Loth�riel said to herself, then stiffened.

    There were footsteps behind her, coming over the greensward. She did not turn immediately, wishing subconsciously that whoever was there would lose interest. Eventually, though, she turned and greeted the man who stood there, clad in blue and gray.

    "Good morn, sir," Loth�riel said briskly. "Is there some way I can help you? Or if you like, I can remove myself from this area and return to my lodging - " her voice, while not kindly, contained little acid. Her face had portrayed neither friendliness or hostility, but rather a curiousity and a question. After saying this, she suddenly dropped her head. "I'm sorry ... " she said in a hushed voice. "I'll go."

    Cavsor held up his hand to prevent her from leaving. He quickly realized that was not a thing to do as she shrank away. Being a former slave, Loth�riel was quickly startled and disturbed. To her, a raised hand meant a beating, no matter who's hand it was. The idea that not all men would harm her had not yet occurred to the maid.

    Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 11th January 2004, 09:03 PM
    Cavsor lowered his hands hastily at the reaction his gesture induced. He wasn�t really prepared to speak with her but his feet decided to move without his knowing. It was clear that Lothiriel was in a state of agitation. Cavsor searched for words, trying to make her feel comfortable as he thought of what to say.

    �No. No.. please don�t mind me,� he stammered a bit. �I..� he said, amazed at the speed the thoughts were swirling in his half emptied mind, �I just want to see how you�re doing. I escaped Minas Morgul the same day as you.� The words flowed more easily once he grasped hold of something familiar to him. �You were in a coma for a long time.�

    Lothiriel�s hand flew to her mouth in surprise. She had not given the day much thought. Every memory brought back terrible dreams, and she had been trying her best to erase that day from her mind, no matter how significant it was. The rider that she caught a quick glimpse of did not stay in her mind. She did not even know who he was to begin with and suddenly, he was right before her, telling her of his concern for her and revealing his identity as a former slave in Minas Morgul. Abruptly, she was taken back to the torturous time back in the dread city, and though it shocked her a little with the surging recollection of those days, she found the fear she held in her gradually softening and her instinctive apprehension of Cavsor lessening. Cavsor was her only link to Minas Morgul, a place that will probably forever be imprinted on her, and it was strangely consoling to meet with one who had also had the same experience.

    �So that was you,� she said once she managed to recall the event of the day she made good of her escape.

    �Yes,� Cavsor acknowledged, �I could have never done it without you,� he said, his tone showing his gratefulness and Lothiriel saw a light of respect in his brooding dark eyes.

    �What do you mean?� she said in puzzlement. Had she seen him somewhere in Minas Morgul? Did she know him?

    �I was keen on escaping, but I missed a number of opportunities either because of ill timing or my own cowardice,� Cavsor said regretfully. �Your run to freedom was to me, as painful as the whipping the slaves received�� his voice lowered in remembrance, �I could not stand the sight of another slave running away while I was still stuck behind the cart pulling hays around for the orcs.�

    Lorithriel laughed. She never thought her escape would help another slave in such a dramatic way, and Cavsor�s reason behind his run to freedom, though commendable, seemed too eccentric for her. Her laughter died down slowly as she put herself in his place. She probably would have reacted the same way if she saw another slave taking flight while she remained a caged bird behind bars.

    �You�re welcome,� she said, catching her breath.

    Cavsor smiled; glad to see that she was not as afraid of him as she was moments ago. �You planned it quite thoroughly,� he said, analysing her plan. �Women slaves don�t normally work in the transportation of supplies.�
    Posted by God'schild (Member #11236) on 12th January 2004, 01:22 AM
    *Many things passed through Pendai's mind as Cavsor left for the Gardens, her thoughts consisting of bittersweet memory. Loth�riel reminded her strangely of herself before the coming of the shadows and it was slightly disturbing. Ah, how she longed to be young and free again! It is easy to forget what it means to love, but once forgotten it is very difficult to recall, nigh impossible. It had been many years since a laugh passed Pendai's lips.

    Though it was against everything she stood for, the grumpy old healer actually found herself becoming distantly fond of Loth�riel, though she dared not admit it... Simple 'fondness' was one of her greatest fears. It was a shame that the girl would lose her freedom so soon after her escape, but that is the way of it for daughters of royalty. Her father would undoubtedly keep her 'safe', but this safety would mean little more than comfortable captivity. Alas, but everything seemed doomed! All would fall into darkness sooner or later, it made little difference how or when.

    Pendai? *A soft, small voice drifted quietly to her ears. She raised her head to see the shadow of a girl standing in the doorway, clutching a tiny rag-doll. Being entirely unaccustomed to children the elf maiden hadn't the faintest idea how to address her or what to say when she did. Did not a housewife she healed once long ago say that children were simple minded? Perhaps. She replied as simply as she could, wondering what the child would say. A sixth sense told her to keep her tone very, very gentle.* Yes? *The child seemed a bit panicked to have been answered so directly, leaving Pendai very much hoping she did not say the wrong thing. There was a long pause before she spoke on. When at last she did, she was half-fearful, but not entirely afraid.* I am Rudhanna. He said.. He said that you're an elf. A healer. *Pendai waited as she regrouped her thoughts and carefully continued.* Is this.... True? *Pendai was shocked to find the teeniest born of smiles forming beneath her nose. How awful! Did all children do this to strangers, she wondered?

    At a loss of what else to say, she replied again very simply.* Yes, *Pendai then nodded for good measure, agreeing with herself.* I am. *The child stepped at last out of the shadows and into the multi colored light of the stained-glass windows, leaning heavily on a ridge in the wall, and then Pendai saw that this child was very, very unwell. Tender sores covered her feet so she was forced to walk lightly on them, as it was clear she was in pain. Her legs were like shrunken willow twigs, quivering with every movement, utterly unsteady and hardly useful. A great gash raked down half her small, frightened face and down her neck, and this was not properly cared for so it was was a sickly greenish purple with old infection, forcing her left eye shut. Ugly bruises dotted her face and shoulders like the light from the glass, and she was stunned to spot a small knife wound in her arm. Most awful of all these things were her hands, which were twisted inward like a crumpled bit of paper, and she had so support the meek rag-doll with her chest to keep from dropping it.

    Rudhanna spoke shakily, her single open eye full of what some might call foolish hope.* He said.. *She paused, hugging her doll very close in a pause that Pendai was beginning to expect.* He said that elfs who were healers did things that were very good, to make you well and to give you rest. *Pendai's heart went out to the girl entirely and she was helpless to do anything but nod. Reassured, the girl took another faltering step, continuing along the wall. She paused yet again to look abashedly at her hands, then to look up again.* Can you make these well? *Pendai dared not get up lest she make the child afraid, but she very slowly and very kindly gestured to an empty bed near the girl, instinctively smiling yet she had a bit of a knot in her throat.* I can try..

    *The girl would not accept assistance onto her bed, but at last she found herself comfortable and was nearly asleep, but Pendai could not help but ask,* How did you come here, girl-child? *And she then thought to herself, the poor creature could not have walked... *Rudhanna yawned and smiled, saying simply,* He brought me. *Pendai got no further with this, so she asked as gently as she could manage,* And who is 'he'? *The girl's eye closed and she said in something of a murmur,* Mister Glofinal... *And with that she fell into the first fair sleep she had in most of her life, under Pendai's carefully observing gaze.*

    ~~~~~~
    *The Elf-lord Glorifindel burst out of the Tower hall of Denethor, a jagged storm looming behind his gaze. The door guards dare not stop to question him, for they could see the contained fury of his movements and did not have any wish to experience it. In the elven tongue he cursed the thing which allowed Denethor to rule Gondor as long as he had, his mutterings slipping in and out of english.* May Eru remove him from the throne, Fauyaer ai nadorhaun! A steward of Gondor he should be, but is not. Mereth en draugrim.. Amin feuya ten' lle. He will do nothing, and his people will suffer dearly for his ignorance as the child already has... *He then paused, catching the arm of a peasant who cowered beneath his grip.* You! Where in this confouded nostal can I find the Healers? *The shunned man pointed dumbly down and south. Glorifindel scoffed,* How far, fool, how far!? *He replied in panic,* 'Tain't but fi've lev'ls daown, m'lord, 'ho don't 'urt me, I ain't done nuthin' undeservin'! *He cast the man aside and fairly fled away, following the crude directions as best he could manage.

    At last reached the houses of healing, silently bringing with him an aura of frustration and urgency, thus attracting the glances of many curious onlookers. He had to inquire to several people before at last he was directed to Pendai, but when he saw her, he knew her to be 'the strange foreign healer' at a glance. She was unlike every other simple handmaiden that roved about and gave fevered foreheads cold cloths. Glorifindel approached her quietly as to not disturb the sleeping wounded that lay everywhere, placing his hand on her turned shoulder, his voice low.* Pendai, you are? *Pendai was becoming accustomed to strangers asking for her name. She stood, expecting it to be but another concerned reletive inquiring on their unwell family member* Master, strangers are not bid to be here, this is a place of rest and healing, now if you would kindly just� *When she at last turned to see who it was that spoke, she was surprised (to say the least) to find herself looking into the darkened grey-green eyes of an elven lord, a ghost of a smile on his face. Her sentance broke off like it had been taken from her. Glorifindel noted her surprise and managed a dry, soft kind of laugh, offering a gracious bow.* My lady, I had no intention of startling you, forgive me. I am Glorifindel of Rivendell, come to find the aid of whomever's help I am offered. Many things we have to speak of, let us go that we might not disturb they that rest. *Pendai nodded, returning the bow, she followed him out into the open, experiencing many mingled emotions and feeling very suspicious. Only time would tell what the strange lord had to tell, but she would do as she had always done... Watch and wait.*
    ...to the topTop



  7. #7
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 12th January 2004, 09:35 PM
    �You planned it quite thoroughly,� said the tallish man in front of her. �Women slaves don�t normally work in the transportation of supplies.� Was it just her, or did Loth�riel catch a gleam of respect in those eyes? Admiration? She had never received such compliments, however subconscious. The other slaves admired her strength, yes � her stamina. That she could outrun them in any race, and still be alive after nineteen years in captivity. But they had never thought of Loth�riel as having any potential, or those who did would not voice their opinions for fear of their captors.



    Loth�riel gave a short laugh, her eyes downcast. �If you could call it a plan � most of what happened � that day � I did not plan.� She removed her hand from the stone wall and turned fully to face him, her eyes alight with curiosity.



    �How do you mean?� Cavsor asked, a slight frown of concentration forming between his eyes.



    �Most of it was good luck. I got carried out from the central chamber to the gates in a barrel, which helped me avoid detection. Eru must have smiled upon me. And at any time, the guards could have noticed I was not chained to the wagon � the horse was only a moment�s thought of how to escape the situation. Even the Nazg�l were a blessing � first, they distracted the guards, and secondly, they gave my mount the will to reach Osgiliath. Without them, I could have been caught and chased by any number of patrols, who instead cowered on the ground until the Nazg�l had passed.� Loth�riel nodded at him. �And you did better than I did.�



    Cavsor shook his head, knowing how untrue her words were. �If Eru smiled upon you, he was laughing at me.� Suddenly, he remembered not having introduced himself. �Forgive me! I completely forgot. My name is Cavsor.� He held out his hand, which Loth�riel took tentatively.



    �It is alright. I assume you know my name already.�



    �Loth�riel of Dol Amroth, am I correct?� He said it in half jest, knowing that it was right.



    A shadow flitted between Loth�riel�s eyes. �Don�t call me so! I don�t know my father, and I don�t wish to know at the expense of my freedom. I hail from Minas Morgul, nothing else.�



    Cavsor shook his head at her. �Loth�riel, most women in this city envy you! You do not wish to have comfort?�



    She raised her eyes to meet his briefly, her voice level. �If women envy me, I cannot alter that. Of course I want comfort � but a room with marble walls and gold a-plenty inherited from one�s father does not give the same feeling of contentment of a deerskin dearly bought.� Loth�riel could see Cavsor was giving her a strange look, a mixture of pity and understanding. She did not wish for his pity. �I want to experience life first, before I return to the cage.�



    Cavsor was surprised, but not overly so. He had deemed the girl fragile, and her spirit was still so, but there was an underlying will of fire underneath her skin. �All or nothing� described her aptly � she was unwilling to have partial freedom without having her own will direct her. �I am sorry that you feel enclosed.�



    Loth�riel restrained another laugh. �I do not wished to be pitied, sir. Your kindness is well noted and appreciated. But � � her eyes flickered to the lands beyond the enclosing wall, � � please, do not inform anyone of my intentions to leave the city.�



    Her comment struck him like a thunderbolt. �Leave?� He blinked. Was she serious? �Are you allowed? Are you quite well enough?�



    She looked at him levelly. �Do you think it matters if I am not allowed? I found a way out of Minas Morgul, and I shall find one out of here.�Posted by Blessed-one (Member #546) on 13th January 2004, 01:19 AM
    Cavsor searched her eyes for moment. Lothiriel not only had fire beneath her, she had a way with getting her intention across as well. He nodded solemnly, his whole demeanor changing from one of sympathy to understanding.

    �I will keep your confidence,� he said.

    Lothiriel smiled genuinely. Revealing to Cavsor of her plan was not intentional, it just happened as the conversation flowed; but telling him about it seemed to have offloaded the weight from her. She was fully intending to get away from here before her father arrived, and though she was determined, she could not help but feel a little worried since she had just recovered from the wounds she received in the latest escape.

    �I wish you success,� Cavsor said conspiratorially.
    �I will succeed,� Lothiriel declared as a parting gesture, �You wait and see.�

    Cavsor laughed, delighted at her attitude towards the challenge. Leaving the garden, he followed the path back towards the Healing House. Because he was so absorbed in the training that he had not thought of leaving Minas Tirith as yet. Travelling outside this city would enable him a chance to search for his family, but Cavsor had put that behind him for a while since he took up the training. He almost reached the Healing House when he saw two people emerging from it, their footsteps soft and their voices low. Cavsor caught a glimpse of gold and red, and immediately recognised that one of the two people he saw was Pendai. Curious to whom her visitor was and wanting to let her know about Lothiriel, but not Lothiriel�s plan to leave, he headed after the two.Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 13th January 2004, 07:05 AM
    "I will succeed," Loth�riel repeated to herself, turning back to face the sun rise over the peak of Mount Mindolluin. In the space of a few minutes, the faded gray monolith was flushed cream and scarlet at the crest, snow glittering at the distant peak. The colors reached with greedy fingers down the folded slopes of the mountain, turning the gray to a light purple.

    Closing her eyes and savoring a deep breath, Loth�riel faced the peak, her head uplifted. Few had been the moments of beauty in her life, and this one was so delicate and yet strong, that she felt it necessary to linger a moment longer. Then the light grew brighter still, and the isle of the sun revealed its scathing golden orb far above, drawn by the legendary Arien, spirit of fire that guarded the last fruit of Laurelin, golden tree of Valinor. The shadows of the ancient fortress were thrown into stark relief, and it seemed to Loth�riel that the ancient kings of history indeed were still walking down the fading cobblestone.

    //The City of Kings.// Loth�riel felt a pride of place, a sort of belonging. But it was not enough to keep her there. Abruptly, she opened her eyes and spun towards the Houses of Healing, her eyes once more incalculably remote. Emotion was suppressed, and her survival instincts took over where they had left off in the plains of Osgiliath.

    The Houses were still only beginning to stir; the horn-call to open the gates for the day had not yet come. A few of the healers and wounded not abed nodded politely to her, for it seemed to them that Loth�riel had grown both in stature and grimness. They took it for granted that some ill news had come to her and that she was in a hurry for answers. Ill, but not grievous.

    The coverlets on her bed were still rumpled, and Loth�riel took especial care to make them neat this morning, folding the extra blanket and replacing it on the end of the bed. Loth�riel gathered up her meager possessions ? namely, the extra change of clothes she had been given, her dagger, and an embroidered bag given her by a generous lady she had once held conversation with.

    On sudden impulse, Loth�riel found a ink and parchment on a desk and penned a note for Pendai, feeling a shadow creep across her mind. Pendai had been the only one besides Cavsor who had respected her spirit and not simply seen her as an escaped slave.

    'Pendai,
    I am leaving the city of Minas Tirith to take the road that runs North of this city. Please do not betray my confidence in this matter, I do not wish for my father to worry, no matter how much I would dislike being his captive. I am restless to explore further than the small world that I have known thus far. Thank you always for caring for me in my darkness, I will repay the debt should any need arise.
    Loth�riel Ielldae.'


    Hastily, Loth�riel set the note on her pillow and crept from the room. She spotted Pendai, a golden-haired Elf-lord and Cavsor walking away down the greensward towards the trees. Loth�riel hastened down the worn pathway and through the sixth gate, out into the market streets. With the few coins she had, she bought small provisions that would last three weeks and a travel cloak. The food would last longer if she supplemented it with the herbs and wild animals that she would come across.

    Loth�riel made her way to the stable, where Greatheart was housed. The only time she had seen Faramir since her escape, he had generously offered her the horse for when she recovered. He meant no ill to Imrahil, he simply thought she would eventually find use for the small horse with its big heart. Now, she was using it to escape the very net he and Denethor had laid for her.

    A stable-hand shook his head at Loth�riel as she spoke quietly to the horse, slipping a soft bit between its teeth and saddling it up to ride. The saddle and bridle were new, having been bought only weeks before. Being made for riding to war, they were lightweight and comfortable. Loth�riel knew a little about the saddles, having been set to work making many as a child in Minas Morgul. The nimble fingers of slave children were put to good use, and the cavalry of the Easterlings was better equipped than many other races.

    As she slung her small pack behind the saddle, Loth�riel heard the clear voice of a horn sound on the air, signaling the opening of the gates. She passed through the guards, speaking the lesser passwords to reach the outside. Before Pendai even knew her intentions, she was gone.

    She was not so hardy as to be above fear. Her back trail was watched very carefully, and the slightest puff of dust sent Loth�riel to the grass beside the trail. The front she put up before others was that of strength, indomitable, untamable. And though made of fire, her spirit was easily broken by the odd unkind word. Although not in the wild at any length so far, she was cautious of how she rode.

    The open road was calling her name. Greatheart?s ears were forward and his eyes were alive with interest. He fairly took the bit in his teeth and took off with his rider, taking a steady canter-trot-canter pace up the hard-packed road. Loth�riel passed a good number of other leave-takers, dodging foot-traffic and wains carrying the women and children away from the city. The people of Gondor may have been around for centuries, but they were not blind to the coming siege. Soon, the other traffic faded away into the distance and Loth�riel was alone in a world of unfamiliar terrain. The only things she knew of the land beyond Morgul Vale was the hearsay of orc-chiefs and Easterling captains.

    In other words, the path was the only thing keeping her from admitting that she was hopelessly lost. Nevertheless, had Loth�riel known the danger that was waiting for her in the Eastfold of Rohan, she would not have turned a hair. The only time she felt secure was when two sides were drawn even to fight, their views clearly expressed with only one thing left to do - fight.
    ...to the topTop



  8. #8
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 15th January 2004, 04:57 PM
    Avarielle shook her head in amazement, as she stared out her window.
    "This is incredable, Lorran!" she said, facing her brother. "Elves, here, in Minis Tirith!" she said, looking out the window once more.

    "Incredable wouldn't be the word I would use." he said flatly.

    "Oh come now, Lorran!" she said in a scolding tone. "Even you can't be as solemn as you are acting. These are Elves! It is certainly not very often that an Elf would choose to reside, here."

    Lorran had to smile at his sister. Sometimes she could have maturity beyond her years, and other times she could act like a little girl who'd just gotten a new doll.

    Avarielle faced him, with a smile.
    "Let's go talk to them!" she said.

    "Avarielle, no. No. They have their own business, let's not interupt it."

    "Oh, please Lorran! I've never met an Elf before, and I should like to, very much."

    "No."

    "Fine." she said, crossing her arms.

    She smiled mischeviously.

    "I'll go without you." she said, running from the room.

    "Avarielle!" Lorran shouted, as he ran after her.

    Avarielle glanced over her shoulder, as she ran towards the hall where the healers were. She laughed as Lorran tripped slightly, and lost his balance. She looked straight ahead, just as she ran into two Elves, leaving the Hall of the healers. Once she noticed that they were Elves, she froze, casting her eyes to the ground.

    "I-I am terribly sorry." she said, to them both, but mainly to the male who was very highly dressed. She felt ridiculous.
    Posted by God'schild (Member #11236) on 16th January 2004, 03:19 AM
    *The two elf kind stepped out into the brilliance of morning and the two were about to make their way down the path, when a girl came out of no where to run into them. The girl only just began to recover when she looked up and saw that it was two elves she ran into, and this seemed to disturb her profoundly. Glorifindel watched her face in growing amusement as she began to stammer helplessly,* "I-I am terribly sorry..." *Said she, looking down, the color rising to her face. He noted that she directed her appology to him and not to Pendai. Pendai on the other hand, noted this as well and watched, curious as to what he would do. After studying her face for a few long moments he percieved that the girl was of clean spirit and could be trusted with much, and he saw that her aid would be very useful to them. It was not by chance they came across this one... But 'till then, a bit of play could be tolerated.

    He raised one eyebrow, adopting an air of superiority which added to his presence.* Who is this, that would commit the dishonor of running into aahigh elf lord? Pendai, do you know this girl? *Pendai saw he was teasing the girl and thought it harmless to play alon. She turned her own face very grave.* No, my lord Glorifindel, I do not know her. *Glorifindel looked very surprised and gazed thoughtfully at the human.* Girl, have you a name? *Averielle looked at her feet, becoming very nervous, she rather muttered,* "Averielle.." *He raised his head and without his gaze leaving her, he asked Pendai a second question, his tone severe.* What shall be done with the lady Averielle, who has committed this act of careless disrespect? *Pendai replied without hesitation,* She shall accept the consequences, my lord. *He nodded* And she shall. Averielle, you are sentenced to meet us at the stables at high noon, where we shall deal fittingly with you. Now depart and make haste to be ready to travel. *And without awaiting a reply, he turned and went from Averielle down the path, Pendai following at a respectful distance.

    Glorifindel sorted his pace into a smooth walk that directed them toward the stables. They held a bit of a conversation as they strode down the quickly filling streets, largely ignoring everything else that went on around them. Pendai began this with a question, she being the more curious of the two.* Why the stables? *He replied easily,* I have guessed that once you know the nature of my arrival, you and I will travel. Averielle will be of much use to us, by the time all is through, I saw courage in her face. *This provoked the healer to ask,* And why then have you come? *Glorifindel paused glancing at her, his gaze darkening.* Because of death. *Pendai watched his face and read a very great anger in check. She pondered the meaning of his reply. There was a long silence and she expected that this would be all the answer she would receive when he began to speak again.* There is a great evil, my lady, poisoning the kingdoms of men from within. Rohan is cripled and has long been so, for its king has been seduced by Sauraman's evil. To the villages I rode in search of an old friend, but all I found were the ashes of deserted homes and the unburied bodies of men. Easterlings, orcs, all have seeped into Rohan and are even now going abroad, bringing destruction. To Gondor I rode hard for many nights without rest to warn King Denethor of this evil that he may prevent it in his own kingdomm, and that he may perhaps aid Rohan while its evil is young, but does he harken to my words? Alas, but for Gondor! He chose only to insult the whole or Rohan and to treat me as a whey child.

    *The two turned into the empty stables where no horse was housed save one. To the finest, largest stall they went, where stood a great creature whose coat shone like white silver against the light of dawn with eyes as dark as shadows. Glorifindel went quietly to the animal and untethered it, bringing it out into the isle and proceeding to slowly inspect it for injuries, speaking quietly to it. She caught the name 'Asfaloth' in his words. He rather murmured, half to himself and half to Pendai, his voice dripping with frustration and disgust.* Denethor tells me that Rohan deserves its fate, and that Gondor need not trouble herself with matters aside from that of her own people. *He took Asfaloth's muzzle in his hands and caressed the horse's ear in a moment of passing affection, then seemed to remember himself and lowered his head in a sign of mourning.* His arrogance will be the doom of all men.

    *Pendai stood, stunned, and she was greatly troubled. The elf maid shook her head slightly to clear it.* Can all be so dismal? I knew nothing of this till you spoke of it and ii, and I know your words are true, but I wish they were not. Will all be lost, then? *Glorifindel eyed Pendai, his gaze oddly amused.* You know, my lady healer, you're name has not been forgotten in the lowly places of the world.

    *Pendai was about to inquire on this statement, but he went on before she could, so she remained silent.* Did you find the girl-child? *Pendai sharply looked at him, very surprised.* Do you mean little thing Rudhanna? *He smiled dryly.* I see you did... *Her eyes then slowly widened. She breathed the word,* No.. You are not the one that brought her, are you? An elven lord, as you clearly are, concerning himself with the affairs of a half dead child? *The girl's words "Mister Glofinel" came to mind and she looked at him thoughtfully. He managed something of a laugh and shook his head, but some dark emotion oiled his eyes.* I am not heartless! She was among the dying in one of the villages. I had not the cruelty to leave her to her fate, but I had no time to find a proper healer so I rode to Gondor with her in tow. When I came here, a man of good countenance bore her away from me to you, as he claimed you could bring life where there was none, and I went and debated pointlessly with Denethor for the entirety of a night.

    *The magnitude of all this began to reach her. It was not only Gondor and Rohan that would be lost, but the entire realm of Middle Earth, should not something be done very soon. She scoffed and cried,* But what can be done? You come bearing evil news, and yet bring no consolation for it! *Glorifindel at last finished with Asfaloth and the horse went into the humble stall for a second time, content to preform the humble task of eating barley. He paused, at large looking her in the eye (which was strange to her, for few would meet her heavy gaze) and replied,* I did not come because I have an answer to these things, I come because I do not. Even still, my journey has been made in vain, and I must depart from here to find where else my aid is needed.

    *They stood a moment in silence with an unbroken gaze, but the abrupt sound of a twig snapping caused them both to look towards its source. They saw Cavsor standing there, looking rather guilty. He stammered, unable to find something to do with his hands.* "I'm sorry, I did not mean to intrude, I meant only to find Pendai to bring her news of something, but it is irrelivent.. I shall leave." *And with that he turned to depart, but was halted as Pendai called after him,* Wait! Cavsor, what is it you wish to tell me? *He turned back, thinking for a moment, he began haltingly,* It is Loth�riel.. *She thought for a moment, pondering his words, when it dawned on her their meaning. Loth�riel was leaving. Long had she suspected such a thing, but so soon? And her wounds had hardly healed! She asked, interrupting him before he spoke on.* When did she leave? *Cavsor was a bit surprised that she knew so much, but then again, in a way it did not surprise him at all. He gestured openly in defeat,* "I do not know for sure, but it was not long ago.."

    *Pendai turned to Glorifindel, her face very clearly troubled with an undertone of the birth of mild panic.* I am sorry, my lord, I must go.. Come if you wish, both of you. Alas, I have done an evil thing! *Glorifindel chose to follow and Cavsor had no choice but to do so, thus with this she fled the staples to find the room in which the girl stayed, the second elf coming behind and the man hurrying after them. Upon reaching the upper healing house and finding Loth�riel's chambers rather easily, she went inside and saw the letter. This she snatched, scanning its quickly written words.

    'Pendai,
    I am leaving the city of Minas Tirith to take the road that runs North of this city. Please do not betray my confidence in this matter, I do not wish for my father to worry, no matter how much I would dislike being his captive. I am restless to explore further than the small world that I have known thus far. Thank you always for caring for me in my darkness, I will repay the debt should any need arise.
    Loth�riel Ielldae.


    *Her heart sunk to her middle and the blood drained from her face, and she suddenly had some difficulty breathing. She was forced to lean on the bed to keep her balance. The North road lead to Rohan. In Rohan, as the elf lord had said, there was a growing evil of Easterlings and Orcs, and if this was true then Loth�riel would meet them and be slain. She murmured,* "I am responsible for this... The death of an innocent will be on my head, Eru forgive my pride if I might trade my life for hers..." *Perhaps she might have prevented it, or at least properly equipped the girl to undertake such a venture.. But she was gone, it was too late.

    Glorifindel had watched her face and heard her muttered words, he became confused at her plight but said nothing. Were it not for his presence, she may have slain herself then and there to put an end to her dishonor in such an event. Cavsor then entered the room, and upon seeing her stricken face he felt a great weight fall on his shoulders, feeling strangely like he had done something in the wrong. Unable to take the silence, he asked,* "What has been done that has grieved you?" *She replied distantly, as if speaking to no one.* She goes to find death on the north road, this is a dark day!
    ...to the topTop



  9. #9
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 16th January 2004, 05:43 AM
    The road was bare and empty, a glimmering thread of silver winding off into the treedark. Loth�riel had reached the Grey Wood, the southern outlier of the greater Druadan Forest. She had hoped to have passed Amon D�n in one day's stiff riding, but the map she had glimpsed in Minas Tirith was faded and incomplete, and the road rougher than portrayed. Loth�riel's own knowledge was scanty enough as to aid her little and to be a poor judge of distance. She had covered the seven leagues in but four hours, and was already drawing nigh to the end of Mindolluin's steep flanks.

    Distrustful of the empty road, Loth�riel left it and turned West towards Mount Nardol, skirting the slopes of Mount Mindolluin. Her path took her down into the Stonewain valley, a deep cleft atwixt the mountains and the forested slopes of Eilenach. The road behind her seemed watched with hostile eyes, but she had not yet seen a forest of any kind in her brief freedom. In amongst the trees she felt an affinity for the forest, and the richness of the air seemed as wholesome as any food.

    Surrounded by leaping streams and clusters of Hawthorn and Birch, Loth�riel forgot her destination and wandered aimlessly for a stretch. The trees were slender but straight, their remaining leaves rattling hollowly on gaunt branches. Water trickled from a myriad of sources into pools, streams and endlessly flowing cascades over rock. Winter held the valley in its icy grip, yet could not stay the springs. Heated from the core of the earth, water bubbled up in shallow ponds, making the lowest points in the valley treacherous. Yet the valley was not a time capsule. Grass grew sparsely, brown and crisp underhoof. Instead, it was supplanted by gray moss. There was no trail through that faded land of rock and stone, and few dared pass through the haunted woods of the wild Druadan. There once had been a wain-road through, but it had been unused for over a century. The stone-flags wrought by the Numenorians had faded under water and earth, and tree-roots had broken up what remained. Little did Loth�riel know that through this valley the Rohirrim would ride in secrecy to fall upon the enemy's flank at the Pelennor fields. With the aid of the men Aragorn brought up from the South, they would drive the orcs from before Minas Tirith's broken gates.

    Finally sensing that she should find some shelter for the night, Loth�riel cast around for a suitable campsite. As she did so, she emerged briefly from the trees to glance up at the folds of the low Mount Nardol, formless and gray in the growing dusk. The sun had set behind the Ephel Duath with a plume of flame sent skywards, whether from sunset or Orodruin's sleepless fires was uncertain.

    Loth�riel found a place to sleep at the base of a toppled forest giant some way up the side of the mountain. Roots had torn loose from the soil, and overhung a small hollow at its base, sheltered from the wind on one side by a rock outcrop, and from another, the age-polished wood of the trunk. Loth�riel gathered a sizeable stack of wood from among the fallen branches, and picked her way carefully through thorny brambles. The small fire she lit licked at the fuel with greedy red fingers, consuming to ash.

    Feeling suddenly the loneliness of the ancient forest, Loth�riel wrapped her cloak around her and curled up with her back to the fire.

    ~~~~

    Hlath�k the Easterling brandished his weapon above his head, giving a quiet command to his men. For six days, his band of two hundred had been ravaging parts of the Rohan's Eastfold. While no less evil than orcs, this band was made up of and directed by men who had brains and used them. And unlike orcs, they did not burn the homesteads of those they killed. Instead, they plundered them and sent the goods back to Mordor to feed his growing armies. Southrons and Khandings had not been included on this trip, as Sauron did not wholly trust them. The Easterlings had long been under his sway, and ever ready to his will.

    Not so the Southrons, the Haradrim. Only the chieftain and his closest allies were really evil, and had been put into power by the Dark Power itself. For the most part, the Southrons were only made part of the Dark Army under threat. They lived for the most part in South Harad, and marched only to war when forced. It was a band of these reluctant enemies that Faramir would ambush, knowing their indecision. And it was these men of the South that King Elessar made alliance with after the War of the Ring, seeing valuable strength, if not friendship.

    But none of the Haradrim had come on this invasion. A swift stroke of the Dark Tower whence they came, they had relied chiefly on speed and surprise to kill so many. But Hlath�k was unsettled when after making it past the mouths of the Entwash he had met no resistance. The land was empty of people, and no livestock was to be seen. Their plunder turned up little, and his men were becoming restless with fear that some had escaped their nets. This was allayed on the sixth day, when the two scouts reported smoke rising from a small settlement only one day's hard ride West of the Mouths of the Entwash.

    Thinking themselves unnoticed, the two hundred Easterlings urged their horses up a gentle slope towards the buildings, screened by low foliage and a stand of young trees. A light mist in the evening was deepening to a thick fog, lying still and heavy about tree and man. Hlath�k kept his sword raised, delaying the charge. A score of his best men circled around the wooden palisade to prevent any men from escaping westwards. After only a few yards, they faded into the blank dimness under the stars. The mounted riders pressed closer, deeming themselves invisible in darkness and in the fog.

    Hlath�k hesitated, his arm still upraised. He'd thought he'd heard something, a sort of sound that he couldn't pin to anything. It was hardly audible, a sort of low-pitched swish, quiet enough to only mildly surprise him. Hlath�k listened for only a moment more, and heard nothing further. Then he lowered his arm slowly; the signal to advance quietly. His men pushed through the low branches, aware suddenly that the dead leaves were crackling as loud as firecrackers under their horse?s hooves. Still, they trusted that their comrades would catch any escapees that heard them. Their advance swiftly hastened to a charge, their horses gaining the top of the hill.

    ~~~~

    The Rohirrim had not been idle. Riders had been monitoring the band for almost four days, unseen and constantly on guard. Messengers had been sent to every village thought to be in danger, and the Easterlings had unwittingly been drawn into a trap of their own making. �omer, third Marshal of the Mark and the Eastfold, had ridden from Edoras with all speed at the news of invasion. Against the King's - or Grima's - orders, he had taken with him the first �ored to deal with the problem.

    Upon reaching the small town of Aldhelm, he had gathered the �ored and a few stout townsmen from the area. The townspeople were withdrawn toward Edoras and safety. A trench was dug around the palisade. It wasn't particularly deep, but sharpened ash javelins were set in the bottom, and it was covered over with netting, earth and some scattered leaves. It was hastily constructed, but in the gloom of night, it was not marked by the enemy. The best of the archers were placed behind the stout timbers of the walls, or even in the taller trees. The riders had labored long into the night, planning for a fast attack. Towards the sixth night, no watch was kept on the enemy, from the roof of one of the buildings they could see clearly the glint of light on metal, above the mists.

    Easterlings were reported around on the other side of the little town, but �omer ordered that they be killed silently. One enterprising young archer felled his first enemy among a thicket of willow. �othain, soldier of the Rohirrim, bent a willow branch as far as he dared to without breaking it, and loosed it as his enemy walked below. The unsuspecting Easterling was struck on his skull and died instantly, without a cry. �omer held his attack back until the Easterlings were at the top of the hill, not a hundred yards from the eastern wall. As Hlath�k's sword glinted in the pale moonlight, �omer gave the cry to the hidden Rohirrim.

    "Forth �orlingas!" His white crest was lit blue above with star-light and red below with the red torch-lights in the compound. The banner with a white horse on green was invisible in the shadows, but the Easterlings did not need to see it to know the identity of those who assailed them. The horses of the Rohirrim clove through the scattered ranks of the would-be invaders, driving them away from the buildings without loss. The Easterlings put up a quick defense, but hadn't a chance. They broke and fled away into the night.

    Being no fool, �omer called his men back, keeping them from pursuing the wood-wise enemies. They had lost only two men, both villagers who had been caught outside of the walls. They were stouthearted, but fools. Knowing the danger of dividing up his strength, �omer instead arranged his men into one column and sent out swift riders to monitor the Easterlings in their flight from a safe distance. Their enemies fled before them, and finding that riders had come between them and the River Entwash, they turned more southwards towards the Firien Wood and the Great West Road.

    �omer's progress was slow, as his men were in a wide line to sweep all fugitives before them. Nevertheless, he came on behind, relentless.

    ~~~~

    Hlath�k had first noticed something wrong when a horse just ahead of him stumbled and went down, screaming in agony. His own horse also plunged into the trench, but missed the stakes by pure luck. Almost the entire band lost their horses in the first charge, and those who survived drew back, astonished. Whatever they had expected, it was not such a blatant challenge. At exactly the same moment, the archers loosed their barbed shafts, picking off those bold enough to have broken through the trees. And when the Easterlings were thoroughly grim, the horses of the Rohirrim swept away their Northern flank completely, leaping the trenches and breaking through the swordsmen's lines easily.

    Knowing he was outmatched, Hlath�k called a retreat, virtually unheard in the chaos. In a last attempt, he ordered a horn-blast from the nearest soldier. The unlucky fellow fell dead with two arrows in him, but the call was heard this time. Some thirty unhorsed and twenty men who still had horses followed him back east, and they came across over three dozen who had already fled in the flatlands, the Rohirrim hard on their heels. Having not completely lost his cunning, Hlath�k ordered that spearsmen be kept on the fringe, to ward off the riders.

    The Rohirrim drew off, but harried them far through the night, sometimes wheeling just within arrow range and loosing their deadly shafts. Hlath�k knew his only hope was to reach the Fenmarch and Firien Wood. Once into Gondor, hopefully the horse-masters would draw off.

    "Arkn�'r�!" he swore. "Lokarr eren' tom�k k�l-v�ll�!" ("Cursed eternally are the West-Lords!") They were just over a day's march from Firien Wood.

    ~~~~

    Not knowing her danger, Loth�riel stirred long before dawn, stamping out the last embers in her fire before saddling up Greatheart for another long ride. Still fresh, the horse snuffled at her hand, expecting some treat. He found what he was looking for, a small clump of raw sugar in her palm. Feeling some urgency to leave the watchful, silent wood behind, Loth�riel patiently let him take his time, but then turned him towards the North.

    They passed Mount Nardol, and she saw the land unfold below her. Down the slopes she steered Greatheart. The road ran on before them, empty and inviting. Loth�riel let Greatheart have his head, and he ran on eagerly, changing gaits frequently. By high noon, they had passed Mount Erelas and were drawing nigh to Minrimmon, another mountain with a beacon of Gondor at its summit.

    Loth�riel began to check Greatheart's speed, her eyes now ever alert. She felt a nagging doubt in the back of her mind, something rumored in Minas Tirith that she had more than half-forgotten. An�rien was considered the grasslands of Gondor, but there was some malice here, concealed but present nonetheless. Not knowing enough of the lands to choose another path, Loth�riel advanced along the road, passing Minrimmon and Calenhad as the Sun began to edge eastwards. She could now see the deep shadows were the Firien Wood cast tree-murk over the Mering Stream, which divided Gondor from Rohan.

    Loth�riel felt two wills striving against hers, pulling her back. In her mind, she could see two sets of eyes, one pair being those of Pendai, dark-lashed, haunting, concerned. The image was so potent that Loth�riel actually came to a stop, turning to look back behind her. She could see nothing, but still sensed something - or someone - urging her to turn back. The other pair of eyes were darkling, deep-set. Saruman was not blind, and he had turned his Pilant�r towards Gondor to snare those he could. Indeed, the Easterlings had not been commanded by him, but his reward in Mordor would be great if he could encompass the ruin of an escapee of Minas Morgul.

    While she sat debating her course, Loth�riel watched the shadows growing longer. Then a shadow passed over the sun, blotting out light and hope for a brief moment. High overhead, a winged Nazg�l wheeled by, not heeding the small figure far below. It was headed North to shadow the progress of the Fellowship, and unconcerned with anything this far south. Unknown to her, it was the seventeenth of January, and the Fellowship of the Ring had reached Caras Galadhon in Lothl�rien.
    ...to the topTop



  10. #10
    Posted by CJF (Member #1112) on 16th January 2004, 06:41 PM
    As Avarielle watched the two elves walk away, she felt embarassed and shocked at the same time. I met two elves! she thought excitedly. A few moments later, Lorran arrived at her side.

    Avarielle looked at him.

    "I ran into two of them, Lorran. They want to meet me at the stables at noon. They said something about traveling." she said, still in awe.

    At this thought, a smile came to her lips.
    "Lorran!" she exclaimed. "I get to travel with two elves!"

    Lorran rolled his eyes. "Avarielle, enough of your stories. Let's get back home."

    Avarielle crossed her arms. "I'm not making this up, I'm serious!"

    Lorran gave her a look of annoyance. "Just like the time that you said you saw a Nazgul in your bedroom, and insisted I go look?"

    "Lorran, I was twelve." she said with a grin.

    Lorran sighed and shook his head. "Let's go back home."

    Avarielle followed slowly behind him. He doesn't believe me! I can't believe he think that I would lie about something like this! Once they arrived at their home, Avarielle darted up to her room and began getting ready to leave. The idea of traveling with two elves excited her, and yet she feared leaving the comfort and safety of Minis Tirith.

    Lorran walked into Avarielle's room and saw her packing a few belongings into a sack.

    "What are you doing?" he asked.

    "I told you. Two of the elves told me to meet them at the stables at noon, and to be ready for traveling. I told you I was serious."

    Lorran was speechless. Avarielle noticed the worried look on his face and smiled.

    "Lorran, you were the one who trained me for a moment like this. Now I can finally use what you taught me. Besides, you're the best fighter, horse rider and tracker that I have ever known."

    "That is only your opinion." he said with a smile.

    Avarielle shrugged, and finished packing the few things she was going to take. She went outside, and headed for the stables, with Lorran walking next to her. They were silent the entire way there. They reached the stables, and Avarielle saw the two elves were already there. She faced Lorran who was smiling.

    "When you were five years old, father watched you tumble down a few steps. You hit the ground rather hard, but you only laughed and went about what you were doing. Father always said you'd be the one to travel."

    Avarielle hugged her brother. He smiled.

    "What are you waiting for?" he said.

    Avarielle smiled and went into the stables, not daring to look either of the two elves in the eye. She felt the embarassment of running into them, come back.
    Posted by Kookaburra (Member #3850) on 17th January 2004, 01:18 AM
    Loth�riel looked down in time to see Greatheart's ears flat against his neck, his neck bent into an uncharacteristically high arch, and his teeth bared. Throughout his entire body, every muscle was strung tight, tense. Despite her best efforts to calm the terrified creature, Loth�riel felt him take the bit in his teeth and have his way, taking off in a half-flying half-galloping gait. His hooves struck the ground with such force that she was partially unseated, and clung to her seat by sheer force of will. She didn't realize it, but her hands were bleeding from the reins cutting through her tough skin.

    Feeling suddenly conspicuous, Loth�riel could see the forest looming up ahead, tall trees and long shadows. Lather flecked Greatheart, from muzzle to flank, and his lips were streaked with foam and blood. Loth�riel couldn't suppress the thought that she was being followed - not necessarily by someone evil, but followed nonetheless. But she couldn't stifle the feeling that every leap Greatheart took was taking her one step closer to some hidden menace, some veiled threat.

    Greatheart was tiring slowly, but was already weaving through the outer clumps of trees to try and gain what he viewed as the safety of the trees. However, he timed one movement wrong, and suddenly Loth�riel felt a branch strike her across her torso and drag her from the saddle. Before she could blink, Loth�riel was flying through the air. A searing pain shot through her limbs as she slammed into the knobby trunk of a gnarled tree, and the throbbing in her right side sharpened as her old wound reopened.

    Loth�riel slid to the base of the tree, releasing a jagged sigh. //So much for traveling,// she thought ruefully. //Now what?// The pain in her side was sapping her strength, and she knew that she needed to bind it or else she'd die.

    While not an expert in herb-lore to a great extent, Loth�riel had been trapped in captivity for over nineteen years, with nothing else to do during spare time than talk and learn what she could. The older captives especially liked to pass on their knowledge, which brought them a little comfort to relay. Her own mother had lived until she was twelve, and taught her how to read and write and what other feminine skills she could teach in the dungeons of Minas Morgul. In this respect, Loth�riel's mother had been most responsible for her daughter's eventual escape, and had been defiant of the dark powers in her own way.

    Notwithstanding her ignorance with maps, in relation to the rest of the population of Gondor, Loth�riel was well learned in lore, language and general knowledge. It took her only ten minutes to find the herbs for a poultice for her wound: Juniper berries from a bush on the edge of the forest, Coltsfoot from the shade under the tree-roots, Black Eldar flowers from the thin grass at her feet, pieces of Sallowbark's soft bark from around the base of the trees, and the tiny flowers from the Lance-leaf bush. Having no inclination to start a fire in such a watchful forest, Loth�riel crushed the gathered plants and pressed them to her side, wincing as she wrapped her side with a strip of cloth torn from her cloak.

    Loth�riel stumbled up from the rock, looking around warily. The road was invisible through the brush to her left, but she knew it was only about one hundred yards away. Slowly, she made her way through the trees, which were now casting an impenetrable gloom about her. Night was falling, and the sun was already partially hidden behind the Mountains in the East. Half trotting, half stumbling, Loth�riel moved along beside the path, sticking to the darker shade in the thickets. She didn't trust the darkness one whit, and she had good reason, however unknown it was to her.

    The further she went into through the forest, the stronger the urge to turn back. At last, seeming to obey some unheard command, a tree root caught her toe, throwing her to the ground. Loth�riel's ear was pressed to the earth, and her will was ebbing slowly along with her strength.

    A distant rumble arrested her attention. It seemed to emanate from the ground itself, as if the earth groaned under the feet of the Easterlings, and split under the hooves of the pursuing Rohirrim. Not quite sure what her sharp hearing was telling her, Loth�riel got to her feet and crept into a hollow at the base of a huge forest giant. Darkness closed in around her, thick and palpable. It dimmed her vision and clung to her damp skin.

    In the east, the sun set with a blaze of glory unnoticed in the depths of the Firien Wood. Night creatures with huge eyes and sharp scent began to creep from their burrows, making soft noises in the deepening gloom. The air remained still and hot, laden with moisture from the fens just North of her, almost impassible marshland.

    Loth�riel felt an ominous edge to the air, and soon she found the distant noises were no longer so remote as they would have seemed. One moment she was listening to the soft musings of the nocturnal, and the next she was hearing a horde of distant cries. Startled, she leapt from her hiding-place and ran South, following the course of the Mering Stream. Unfortunately, she had again misjudged distance. The Easterlings were virtually upon her.

    Knowing they had no hope to escape themselves, they leapt after her as one being, pursuing her along the bank of the stream. The horses were making swift headway in the shallow water.

    Having only a short head start, Loth�riel fled before them, drawing the dagger from her belt. It was only a few moments before she sighted an opening in the trees to her right, and she left the creek's side. Her change of course didn't fool the Easterlings for long, and now she was moving slower under the strain of her wounds. Blood was soaking through the makeshift bandage, and Loth�riel felt a sharp stab of pain with every jolting step she took. Every movement was to relive the moment that the blade entered her side, and every time she shut her eyes she saw the Nazg�l's claws reaching for her ?

    Loth�riel broke out of the trees and looked around, trying to make a swift decision. Behind her, the woods echoed to the sound of pursuit. She felt like giving up, giving in - letting them catch her. After all, what could she, a lone, injured girl - on foot, no less! - do against an evil beyond her strength in the first place? Mount Halifirien rose to the East, its gentle flanks forested thickly up to the snow-studded peak. There was no going that direction.

    To the West, there was a path down between the mountains and the wood, where pine needles lay thick and plentiful. Loth�riel chose that way, winding her way precariously between sapling birch and ancient oak. Every now and again, she lost her footing in the loose gravel, and the second time she slid, her hands were bleeding again. The country was rough and harsh, but it sloped gently towards a small culvert leading through a cleft in the rocks. On either side, the rock face was sheer and without foothold. Knowing it was an obvious path to take, Loth�riel vainly tried to find a way to climb up beside.

    It was too late. The Easterlings broke free of the forest and were scrambling downhill after her. Loth�riel took a deep breath and plunged into the ravine, which narrowed slightly before dropping gently away to the grasslands of Rohan. Abruptly, the gulch ended, as did the mountains themselves, piling themselves into tumbled masses away to her left.

    The Easterlings, meanwhile, had lost valuable time doubling back after the girl. Even as the last of them was emerging from the ravine, there came the thunder of racing hooves. Not half a mile away, �omer's �ored was sweeping up the foothills.

    Hlath�k could see the fugitive standing only a few yards away from his men, looking at the horses. Blood soaked her shirt and her hands were crimson with it. Hlath�k nodded to one of his men, who rode her down with his horse. She didn't resist, sinking to her knees to avoid the flailing hooves.

    The Easterling unsheathed a sword from its scabbard on his horse's saddle, then curses, dropping it. He gripped his sword-hand with his other, shouting expletives with abandon. When he held his hand out towards them, they saw that it was scorched as if by fire.

    "Rakkthu, �karr!" Hlath�k shouted to his men. "Spears, you fools!" He strode up to Loth�riel to kill her himself, but she was not even looking at him. The riders were nearing, and her whole attention was bent on them. She knew they were allied with Gondor, but - she shook herself and looked up at Hlath�k. The dropped sword was just beside her, and it looked strange.

    //From their plunder,// Loth�riel realized suddenly. She reached for it, but the effort was almost too much for her. Then her eyes cleared momentarily. Adrenalin surged through her veins, and she grasped the leather-bound hilt.

    ~~~~

    �omer was leading the force of the Rohirrim, his eyes cold and hard. He didn't understand why the Easterlings had turned back, but it was not for their advantage. Their only escape was up a narrow culvert, and they were already weary. Spear-men were at the fringe of the group, setting their spears to kill the horses of the Rohirrim. Too well did �omer already know their tactics, and simple spears would not stop him.

    A cry rang out - one of his riders was pointing towards them. Just outside the barricade of spears something strange was going on - it seemed that the leader of the Easterling party was preparing to slay one of his own men. Even as he watched, the apparent rebel rose from a kneeling position and drove his sword into the other's chest.

    ~~~~

    The sword was light in Loth�riel's hand, so unexpectedly weightless that she almost tumbled sideways as she lifted it. Hlath�k's first thrust missed as she rolled away, but his next grazed her newly-healed shoulder, drawing a faint red line. Loth�riel drove herself upwards, towards the light, which seemed an impossible distance away. Somehow, she made it to her feet, unsteady though they were. For a moment she stood swaying, but the Easterling captain was so astonished that his first blow went awry, only spinning her away.

    Somewhere, someone must have been urging her on. Pendai's bright eyes were suddenly on her mind again, and the elven blade she held blazed suddenly with a cold blue light. Loth�riel flung herself at Hlath�k, who drew back and tried to dodge. She didn't even attempt to use the sword, but her left fist struck his face, crumpling his nose and snapping his jaw. He fell to the ground, only coming to his senses to avoid being spitted the next moment. He grabbed for his sword and jumped back to his feet, spitting blood and gasping for breath.

    Hlath�k spun his blade expertly, expecting another sudden charge. To his surprise, Loth�riel crossed her sword against his, the metal ringing faintly. Then she tested his strength, whirling quickly in a perfect fencing gesture. She pushed against his sword, but the rocks under the Easterling's feet gave way, placing him off balance. Knowing she would have no other chance, Loth�riel ran her sword through his chest before withdrawing it. Normally, she would have been uneasy at the sight of his blood, but she was too exhausted to think much of it.

    The dying Hlath�k then attempted to parry the next blow, but he was unable to deflect the bright blade. His own rang and snapped, spinning away into the long grass. Loth�riel felt herself staggering, and turned to look towards the charging riders, feeling a sudden defeat.

    ~~~~

    �omer checked his horse as he drew level with her, seeing suddenly that she was a girl, and no Easterling rebel. In Loth�riel's upturned face, he read a mixture of pain, fear and resignation to death. At the last moment, his horse veered to the side and turned towards the spearmen. His men swept around her, and she collapsed to the ground, knowing no more.
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