Mythgard RP!


I've been woefully neglectful of this thread, but that's going to change. I've a ton of logs to post, and they'll be going up over the next few days as I get them edited.


Chapter 9: A Chilly Reception

Maegdin stirs the fire in the grey light of early dawn. He tosses another few branches on the fire before heating a skillet and beginning to cook a rasher of bacon for an early breakfast.
Minabel spots the group at a campsite at the top of the ridge. "Ah, you are exactly where that Ranger Saeradan said you would be."
Trumodir comes up to the campfire after checking her horse and sees Mina there. "Greetings!"
Bialver opens his eyes as fire begins to crackle, sniffs the bacon, then digs three honeycakes out of the backpack which has served him as a pillow. He tosses the honeycakes to Trumodir, then levers himself up and goes to see to Utsending, his mare.
Trumodir smells the bacon and quickly backs away from the fire.

Minabel turns to Trumodir. "Greetings, Trumodir. Well wishes to you all. I am sorry that I became separated from you two days ago. I was in bed and that Ranger Saeradan told me where to find you.”
Arasthel lays curled up on her bedroll, but as the gentle sounds of the others moving reaches her ears, she wakes, sitting up while rubbing her eyes. "Morning, all." She murmurs sleepily.
Adaldag moves over to the fire and joins the others. He nods to the returned Minabel and then looks over the food being prepared.
Maegdin raises a hand in welcome as Mina rejoins them. 'I'm just glad you were willing to come with us and that you're well. You're just in time for a meal, and then we'll be off on the road again. I hope to make Trestlebridge before the day is out.' He turns the bacon and pulls out his plate as it finishes cooking.

Arasthel reaches for her hat, now dry after the rain drenched it, and pulls it onto her head, tucking all hair up underneath it.
Bialver comes back to the fire, and nods a welcome to Mina.
Minabel looks at the bacon and her mouth waters. "This all looks so good. I must admit that I missed you all, even if it felt good to sleep in a real bed for a couple of days and to have a nice hot bath."
Trumodir nods at Bialver in thanks for the honeycakes he provided, thankful that there is something to eat besides burnt flesh.
Maegdin smiles. 'I hope you enjoyed it, because it may be some days before we find hot baths again.'
Arasthel smiles at Mina. "Welcome back." She says quietly.
Minabel looks over the group. Thank you all."
Adaldag helps himself to some bacon whenever it's ready.
Bialver digs three honeycakes out of his pack for himself, and moves out of the smoke of the fire.

Maegdin tests the bacon with his fork, and nods. He pulls a couple pieces off for himself and gestures to the others for plates. 'Come now, quickly. I'd like to be on our way before the sun is fully up. We've a long road yet today.'
Trumodir calls to the others from some distance away from the fire, "Yes, best hurry, the sun will not tarry!"
Minabel takes a few slabs of bacon. "Um, bacon is my favorite food."
Adaldag quickly eats his bacon and then moves over to his pile of armour so that he can assemble himself.
Arasthel smiles at Maegdin and thanks him, reaching for a plate of food. She eats quickly, but saves a portion for Birdie, who was currently up in the air.

Minabel gets up from the log where she was sitting and straightens her dress with her hands. She grabs her bow and walks over to Maegdin. "I am ready to go."
Trumodir replies, "Me too"
Bialver finishes up his honeycakes, dusts off his hands, and goes to saddle Utsending, who is cropping grass not far away
Maegdin finishes quickly and packs his few things. He walks to a nearby spring to clean his cooking gear, as well as fetch water to douse the fire. His few preparations completed, he saddles his horse and waits for the others to ready themselves.
Adaldag moves over to his horse as well, waiting for the others to move before he mounts it.
Trumodir leaps onto Marr's back and whispers, "Well, faithful friend, let's see what this day has in store for us."
Bialver checks Utsending's tack one last time, leads her to the spring to drink, and refills his water bottle before he mounts up
Arasthel rises, packing up the last of her things and moving to her horse to tie her pack to the saddle.
Minabel unties her horse from a nearby bush. "Come Rosalyn". Let us be off.

Bialver knees her gently over to where the others are gathered.
Maegdin nods to the others and climbs onto his horse. 'Well, if we're ready...' He turns towards the north and leads the way along the crest of the hills till they come to a break where they can return to the lowlands and the Greenway.
Adaldag climbs atop his horse and follows Maegdin.
Bialver rides carefully, always trying to find the softest surface for his horse's feet, but the day is long and hot, and horse and rider both begin to flag.
Trumodir throws her head back, allowing her hair to stream behind her, exulting in the ride.
Minabel taps Brianne gently on her flank and she begins to trot gracefully.

The journey north passes uneventfully. Though the day is somewhat hot for the season of the year, it is not unpleasantly so. In the afternoon, a light breeze kicks up, and clouds begin to stream up out of the West. The company eats a frugal lunch in the shadow of a few trees to the east of the Greenway, and then they continue on their way at a trot.

As the Sun touches the tops of the hills to the west, they come to a long defile leading up into the first of the North Downs. Matt turns in the saddle and smiles. 'We've made good time. Trestlebridge is right at the top of this....' He trails off as the breeze blows the scent of smoke down towards them. His face darkens and he kicks his horse to a gallop, charging on up the hill.
Adaldag kicks his horse into a gallop as well and follows closely behind Maegdin.
Arasthel also urges her horse forward at a quickened pace, and at the amount of smoke, frowns.
Trumodir senses the cause of the smoke and her face darkens in anger

Maegdin draws Randir to a halt as they crest the hill and Trestlebridge comes into view. Wisps of smoke curl from within the town, more than would be expected from simple hearth-fires. The guards at the gate look warily at the company as they come up the road, but the town's wall seems to secure still.
As they reach the gate, Utsending becomes restive at the smell of smoke...and less pleasant things. She shies and sidles while Bialver talks to her softly.
Adaldag rushes forward toward the guards. "What happened?" he asks. It's possible the guards would recognize him, as he is no stranger to Trestlebridge and has family here.
Minabel wrinkles her nose. "What is that awful smell?" What besides the town burned?" She takes out a handkerchief from her corset and covers her nose.

The guards relax noticeably as Adaldag comes up. 'Well, looks like Tenderlarch finally decided to send someone. I'm glad it's you, Ada. We've had a rough time of it the last week or so. We've been dealing with some Orc raids out of the Downs! Never heard of them around here before, but we started gettin' refugees from the farms up in Kingsfell last Sunday, and then on Hevensday, we started getting Orcs attackin' the far end o' the Trestlespan!'

The man continues. 'Things came to a head two days ago on Starsday: that fool Hinton fell asleep at his post, and next thing we knew, half the town was on fire and a dozen Orcs were runnin' through the streets! We had a couple folks killed dead, even!' The guard shakes his head. 'Hinton's lucky the Cap'n only drummed him out of the Watch and clapped him in the stocks. If it were up to me, I'd 'ave hucked his sorry carcass off the Trestlespan.'

Maegdin rides up next to Adaldag. His eyes widen with surprise at the mention of Orcs. 'Orcs, you say? Here in the North Downs? But how can that be?'
Minabel turns to Maegdin. "What are orcs?"
Trumodir interject, "They are vile servants of the Enemy! I hate them more than anything! Just let me at them!"
Arasthel frowns more at their report, then looks warily at the others. "How did orcs come so close to Bree without anyone noticing?"
Bialver leans over Utsending's neck. ''Shhhh, girl....shhh...'' he says soothingly.

Minabel turns to Trumodir. "Do you suppose they know Sharkey?"
Trumodir says, "Who is Sharkey?"
Minabel wrinkles her nose again. "Sharkey is some thug who hires men to attack the local farmers. He sent men to kill my parents. I suspect that it is a false name. No one seems to know who Sharkey really is."
Trumodir adds, "I don't care who they know or don't know, they don't deserve to live and if I have a chance, I'll make sure they don't!"

Adaldag pales as the watcher tells his story, but he nods. "Hinton always was a rather dull fellow." He looks at Maegdin, then back to the guard. "These folks with me are all friends and won't cause any problems. We'll do what we can to help around town." He peers into the gate. "Do you know if my brothers made it out alright? Garet and Henrick?"

The guard nods at Ada. 'Yes, your kin are fine. A bit spooked, like all the rest of us, but none the worse for wear.' He looks over the others behind Ada, and his face hardens when he sees the Ranger. 'We'll certainly welcome you and your friends, Ada, but his kind's not welcome here.' He points an accusing finger at Matt. 'Them Rangers wander all about, north, south, and east, but they never bothered to give us any warnin' that this trouble was brewing. He can either turn around, or pass through town if he must, but he'll find neither bread nor rest here.'

Bialver mutters to Trumodir ''And they see more than you'd think, while they wander...''
Trumodir mutters back, "Everyone must prove himself to strangers"
Maegdin sighs, as if unsurprised at this. He looks at Ada and the others. 'I don't want to cause any trouble,' he says softly. 'If you'll let me pass through and over the bridge, that will be enough.'
Adaldag frowns at the guard. "He's as much a friend as the others, and he'd give his life for this town if he had to. You judge too harshly. Don't let anger at these orcs drive away allies, especially good ones like him." He jerks his head at Maegdin.
Arasthel watches the others speaking with the guards as a cry from Birdie is heard. Her falcon descends to land on her saddlebag.

The guard opens his mouth to protest and takes a step toward Matt, but the Ranger raises his hand. 'No,' he says firmly. 'I'll not be a cause of argument between you and yours. I've spent many a night sleeping on the road before. One more won't kill me. Take your rest here tonight, and if you will, I'll meet you on the Greenway a half-hour's ride north of the bridge tomorrow.' He nods to the guards and makes his way through the town and over the bridge, ignoring the dark looks and muttered insults as he goes. Just before he rides up the causeway onto the bridge, a clod of dirt strikes him in the side of the head. He simply brushes it out of his hair and off his shoulder before continuing on his way and making camp within sight of the bridge's end.

Bialver exchanges a glance with Trumodir
Trumodir interjects, "no reason for me to stay in this town tonight. I'll go along with you to keep you company" She follows behind the Ranger, growling at the folk as she passes
Bialver smiles. "Well spoken, Dughter of the Knurrebjorner"
Trumodir calls behind her, "Bialver, aren't you coming?"
Bialver leans foward and whispers in his mare's ear, then knees her into a trot through the town and crosses the bridge. He shrugs and says to Trumodir as he trots up to her "She doesn't like the smell of the town..."

Adaldag frowns at the townspeople as he brings his horse to the stables. He quickly hands it off to the stablehand and takes off at a run toward where his family house was. He calls out to the others as he runs, "I'll join you all in the morning! I must visit my family!"
Minabel looks after Maegdin and Trumodir. "I hope you do not mind if I look for an inn in town? Smell aside, it beats another night outdoors."
Arasthel is also frowning as she nudges her horse onwards to the stables. Once there, she dismounts and moves Birdie to her shoulder as she unties her pack. "I suppose now we must find a place to sleep..."

Maegdin finds a spot overlooking the bridge and the Greenway to make camp, and busies himself for a few moments preparing a fire before settling in for the night. He nods companionably to Trumodir and Bialver, but says nothing.
Trumodir sees to her horse, whispering in its ear and stroking its soft muzzle, then draws near to the fire.
Bialver settles himself by the fire, elbows on knees, chin on hands
Trumodir settles herself with an arm under her head and gazes up at the night sky; she smiles as she reflects on how she can see the same stars as fill the night at home in the Vales.

Maegdin pulls an apple from his pack and takes a bite before saying softly, 'You did not have to come with me. The townsfolk here would certainly welcome you, especially if Adaldag vouches for you.'
Trumodir responds, "Tru is my name and true I am; I won't stay where one of my group isn't welcome".
Bialver shrugs "Stuffy little room that smells like panic, and the soot of no clean fire? I'll sleep sounder out here." He grins at Trumodir and adds "And what'd we do should harm came to you, Ranger? Sulk back to Bree and try to face we-know-not-what on our own?"

Maegdin looks between the two of them and smiles slightly. 'Thank you for your concern, but I can handle myself. I've spent many a night sleeping in the wilds. I'm older than I look.' He finishes his apple and tosses the core in the fire. 'I thank you, though. It is good to be accepted on my own merits for once.'
Trumodir shakes her head and murmurs, "People ought to get to know someone before they judge him."
Bialver gestures vaguely at the downs stretching away north, and the hills rising to the east "Unchancy lands, Ranger."

Maegdin looks over at Trumodir as he pulls a piece of cram from his pouch. 'Trust for strangers is rare in these parts, and you must admit that I have something of a rascally look about me, do I not?' He looks over at Bialver. 'Not for me. I've walked these hills for many a year, and know them like the back of my hand.' He takes a bite of the bread and begins chewing.
Trumodir rolls over, her eyes heavy, and murmurs a good-night to the others
Bialver fills his pipe. "Best we stick to you, then. rascally or no""

Maegdin nods to Bialver. After a long while, he finally swallows. 'Take your rest. I want to set off as soon as the others arrive tomorrow morning. We still have some miles to go.'
Bialver lights his pipe with a splinter of wood from the edge of the fire, and puffs contentedly for a time. Eventually, he knocks the dottle out of his pipe, nods a "goodnight" to Matt, and stretches out by the fire.
Maegdin continues to sit next to the fire throughout the night. Finally, in the wee hours, he lies down and take a few hours' rest.


Chapter 10: Unexpected Company

Maegdin awakes as the first faint light of dawn begins to lighten the east. He stokes the fire and gathers his things to make the departure easier.
Bialver stirs at the sound of the fire beginning to crackle, and lumbers off to find water
Trumodir opens her eyes at the faintest hint of dawn; she rolls over and sees Matt at the fire.
Maegdin raises a hand in greeting to Trumodir as she wakes, but says nothing. He sits in silence and puffs on his pipe as he waits for day to break.
Trumodir sits up, and taking a small packet from her bag, unwraps it and eats the honey cake it contained.

Bialver finds a pool east of the Greenway from their night's camp – an un-looked-for good fortune. He peels away his armour and his clothes and jumps in with a whoop. He climbs out after a thorough ducking, shakes himself dry, and comes back to the fire with his mail over his arm.
Maegdin raises an eyebrow at Bialver, but remains silent. His gaze shifts between the eastern hills, beginning to glow in the light of dawn, and the Road, both north and south.

Miriaden strode through the hills with the silent step expected of her people, her head turning at the sound of voices in the distance. Hesitating for a moment with a squint, she listens for a moment before heading in that direction to investigate.
Trumodir follows Matt's gaze, keeping her thoughts to herself
Bialver rummages in his pack for a slightly battered honeycake, and goes off munching to see to his mare.

Maegdin smiles slightly at Trumodir. 'We'll not leave till the others arrive. Though perhaps I should quench the fire...' He stands and does so before burying the ashes and sitting back down.
Miriaden pauses a little distance away, giving a curious look to the group camped there. She heads their direction, a warm smile on her face. "Hello!" She calls out to them, lifting her hand in a wave.
Trumodir calls out, “Hello stranger! Who be you?”
Maegdin stands as he catches sight of the newcomer. He smiles broadly as he recognises the voice. 'Is that you, Annie?' he calls. 'This is an unexpected surprise, but certain not unwelcome!'
Trumodir glances at Matt. "You know her?" she asks.

Miriaden smiles at Tru and was about to answer, but at hearing Maegdin's voice, she smiles widely and looks at him. "Matt?" She walks towards him as though greeting a long lost relative.
Minabel looks the stranger up and down. "Are you a Ranger too?" she asks the stranger.
Maegdin walks over to Annie and embraces her as a brother would. 'I did not think to find you here, cousin,' he says with joy plain to see. 'What brings you here to the north?'

Miriaden smiles warmly to him, lifting her arms to give him a brief embrace. "I had thought you remained near Bree. I returned to the North, scouting the rise of..." she glances to the group for warily for a moment, then says, "Orcs."
Bialver looks up sharply at the word
Minabel sighs and says under her breath, "Great, another of those 'Rangers.' Welcome," she says to Miriaden. "Did you say your name was "Anne?"
Trumodir growls fiercely, her fingers flexing as though they were claws
Maegdin notices the unspoken words and nods. 'Much the same has led us here,' he says. 'We found some troubling news which needs shared. Do you have any news from the rest of our kith and kin?'

Minabel turns to Bialver, "Do you suppose all of those 'Rangers' are somehow related to each other? They all seem to be each other's 'cousin.'”
Bialver shrugs "Gladsome it is to meet kin unexpected"
Miriaden 's expression grows grim as she looks up to Maegdin. "Orcs and men from Angmar making their way through our lands." She says vaguely.

Maegdin 's face sets hard at the news. 'Then we must make all haste that we can,' he says. He looks at Minabel. 'Where are Adaldag and Arasthel? Have they chosen to stay in Trestlebridge? We can't wait for them any longer.'
Minabel looks at Maegdin. "I do not know. I did not see them at the inn when I came to the main room this morning. Perhaps they stayed for breakfast. I hear they are serving boar steak and eggs with bread and honey."

Miriaden turns her attention to the other members of the group, adopting a warm smile again, her usual desire to put others at ease returning.
Bialver looks her over curiously, but smiles and makes a slight bow.
Minabel decides that she may like this Ranger, particularly since she seems to have good taste in shoes.
Trumodir smiles broadly, glad to know that this is Matt's cousin, which is a good enough recommendation to her

Miriaden looks from the group back to Maegdin. "And what of your task?"
Maegdin sighs and turns away from Trestlebridge. 'We can't wait for them any longer. Let's be on our way. They know we head north. I'll have to trust that they can catch us up if they wish to follow.' He mounts Randir and looks down at Annie. 'Can you come with us, or are you headed back to Bree-land?'
Minabel mounts Brianna and follows Maegdin.
Bialver goes to saddle Utsending, who is grazing nearby.
Trumodir calls Marr to her side and mounts her swiftly.

Miriaden nods to him. "I was returning to our refuge, but I could join you, though I have no horse." She says, looking at all of them on their steeds.
Maegdin nods. 'However, without a horse, you would delay us. Climb up behind me. Randir can bear us both, at least until we reach our journey's end.'
Miriaden nods up to him, crossing to Randir. "Thank you, Matt." She reaches a hand up to him for aid mounting.
Maegdin nods to the others. 'Let's be off, then.' With that, he rides down the hill to the Greenway and sets off to the north at a steady pace.

The trip north passes uneventfully. By the early afternoon, the hills to the east have fallen away from the road and a long broad land slopes up to the east. As the sun goes down and the shadows lengthen, the company comes to a crossroads. A cart track leads off into the eastern highlands, while the remains of the Greenway continue north into a dim, misty vale. Matt pauses by the crossing and looks back at the others. He points to the east. 'That is our path, but first, there is someone I need to speak with. From the signs I've seen, he's encamped to the north.'

Trumodir peers north and shudders slightly at the sight of dead trees
Miriaden glances toward Fornost, then around at their surroundings out of habit.
Minabel looks at Fornost and shudders. "Look at that field with dead trees. How sad? No good hunting grounds?"
Bialver squints out over the downs, muttering to himself
Maegdin looks at the others, noticing the worry. 'With luck, we won't have to head out onto the downs,' he says. 'Let's find my friend. We can camp with him tonight.' With that, he heads up into the hills to the northwest.

Maegdin leads the company over the ridges for perhaps half an hour before coming upon a ruined wall atop a cliff looking down into the downs before Deadman's Dike. He dismounts and calls out a halloo. A man clad in brown and grey walks around the wall, visibly relaxing when he sees Matt and Annie. 'Ah, welcome, friends,' he says. 'Make yourselves at home.' He waves them towards his fire with a slight smile.
Maegdin walks up and grasps the man's arm in greeting. 'Hello again, Mincham,' he says with a slight smile. 'It's been some time. I hope you're well, though I wish we could have met in better circumstances than this.' He gives a wary glance off to the north, now quickly falling into dusk.

Trumodir dismounts and leads her horse near where another is grazing, presumably the horse of the ranger sitting by the fire
Miriaden dismounts before Maegdin, turning to greet their host with a smile.
Bialver looks around for shelter for his mare, but, finding none, turns her loose to graze.
Minabel dismounts from Brianna and ties her to a tree. She takes an apple out from the pockets in her dress and gives it to her. "Sorry that there is no sweet grass here, my dearest steed." She moves over to the fire and sits down next to the Ranger there.

Mincham scowls slightly at the north and nods. 'I've grown used to it, it seems. I'm surprised to see you with companions, though, Maegdin. There must be some reason for it, which you can speak of later.'
Maegdin nods and settles himself by the fire. 'Indeed, we shall.' He looks around at the others. 'For now, though, I think I speak for all of us when I say that a fire and something warm to eat would suffice. We won't impose on your hospitality for long.'
Miriaden goes to stand next to Mincham, giving him a wry smile at her swift return. She only left here this morning. She takes a place at the fire as well, pulling out a few rations.

Bialver sits and shrugs off his pack, stretching out his legs before the fire
Minabel pulls out some boar jerky from her pocket and nibbles at it; a look of discomfort of looking forward to a hard night spreading on her face.
Trumodir looks over at the ranger Mincham. "Would you happen to have any cream or cheese?" she asks
Minabel looks at Mincham as well. "That would be lovely" she says
Bialver sighs and digs in his pack for a couple of honeycakes
Miriaden takes a bite of her small loaf of bread, looking around the group with a curious expression. She gives an amused smile at the question, shaking her head slightly.

Mincham nods and settles himself by the fire, turning the coneys he has cooking as he does so. 'I'm afraid that I haven't,' he says in response to Trumodir. 'It's rather difficult to get anything besides game here, and not even that is all fit to eat. I'm afraid all I have are these coneys and some skins to keep you warm tonight. The north wind can bite deep here.'
Bialver silently passes half the honeycakes to Trumodir
Trumodir turns to Bialver with a look of thanks in her eyes
Minabel shivers and turns to Mincham. "How can you bear this desolation and wind?"
Mincham shrugs. 'You just get used to it,' he says simply. 'There's nothing else for it.'

Minabel inquires of Mincham. "Is it true that a great battle was fought here years ago and that a king defeated an evil sorcerer? My father used to tell me stories of the North Downs beyond Bree.”

Miriaden frowns a little at Mina's question, taking a bite of her bread as she pushes her hood from her head.
Mincham sits silently for a few moments, testing the coneys. As he pulls them from the fire and cuts them up, he says, 'Yes, there was, but I don't think we should speak of it now.' He begins to pass around the meat to any who would take it.
Minabel looks surprised at Mincham's response. "Why ever not, it all sounds so romantic and exciting. All those knights fighting." The Ranger does not answer her.
Maegdin accepts the dinner gladly, and eats in silence, for the most part. The company engages in small talk for some time as the night closes in, until some of the party begin to nod off.

Miriaden gives Maegdin a silent, questioning look as she eats, but doesn't ask now.
Trumodir scoots back a bit from the fire, as usual when other are eating "burned flesh", as she calls it.
Bialver dusts the crumbs off his hands, arranges his pack as a pillow, lays his club and bow within reach, and falls asleep without taking off his chainmail.
Once the others have finished eating, Trumodir inches back toward the fire and putting her arm under her head, lies down and falls asleep.
Maegdin sits up for some time, glancing between the fire and the downs to the north. As the others fall asleep, he moves over next to Mincham and speaks quietly and with some urgency.
Miriaden finishes eating and rises, walking towards the edge of the camp in her usual vigil over the fields.


Chapter 11: The North Downs

Maegdin walks back to the campfire from his vigil over the camp as the sky begins to lighten. He gently shakes Mincham awake and leaves him to begin preparing the food. Matt goes back to looking out over the northern fields. The mists and fogs lie thick there, shrouding the distant gates of Fornost from their view, and a low roof of clouds has rolled in from the West overnight.

Trumodir gets up and stretches. "What will this day bring, I wonder?" she says to herself
Bialver rolls over and grumbles, looking for a blanket to pull over his head
Miriaden stood at the far edge of the camp, eyes trained on the fields of Fornost. Her hand rested on the hilt of her dagger out of habit as she kept vigil.
Minabel turns over in her sleeping bag and pulls the covers up to her chin. "Must we get up now? It is so cold and the fire is so weak". When she receives no response, Minabel reluctantly gets out of her bag and begins rolling it up. She then looks for a stream to wash her face, neck, and hands.
Trumodir strides up to Maegdin and asks, "Is that where we're headed today?" nodding toward the north.
Maegdin nods in response to Trumodir. 'Yes. I'll explain over breakfast. Go get warm by the fire.' He pulls his hood up against the chill.

Finding no stream and feeling very sticky and uncomfortable with the humidity of the low lying mists, Minabel goes over to the fire and begins warming her hands.
Trumodir strides back to where Bialver is lying and gives him a swift kick. "Wake up!" she says loudly.
Minabel looks across the Fields of Fornost and begins to shudder. "Is it my imagination or are there ghosts walking around out there?"
Bialver blearily opens his eyes and looks at his kinswoman. "Why are you kicking me?" he asks
Trumodir replies, "Because you're lazy".
Bialver snorts "And who stayed up all night at the Landvættr's?”
Minabel looks away from the Fields and back at the fire. "I do not like the look of that field. When can we leave here?"

Miriaden finally pulls her eyes from the darkened field and strides over to Maegdin. "I was through there not long ago."
Maegdin looks over his shoulder at the others by the campfire, and then speaks in a soft voice to Miriaden. <S>'And what did you see out there, cousin? Mincham fears that Orcs have come down from the north and taken the ruins.'
Bialver grunts and stands up, digging in his pack for a honeycake and his waterskin
Miriaden nods, murmuring back to Maegdin. <S> "Orcs have filled Fornost and are beginning a patrol of the road. They have camps now set up outside the ruins also."
Bialver investigates a tub of water near the camp's only tent, and carefully scoops some onto his head

Maegdin sighs and shakes his head. <S>'That is ill news, and we must needs bear it to Esteldín. At least we no longer need to take the journey north Mincham asked of us, and we can depart in haste once we have broken our fast.'
Minabel sees that Bialver has found a tub of water. Once everyone has moved away from the area, she gets in the tub full clothed and begins to scrub her arms and legs.
Miriaden turns to look to Maegdin, then over her shoulder at the others. <S> "What comes next for your companions?"

Mincham busies himself with making a quick meal. He boils a pot of water and makes porridge for the group, along with toasting a few slices of bread. He hums to himself as he does so.
Bialver sniffs at the scent of porridge in the air, and puts the honeycake back in his pack.
Minabel gets out of the tub and walks over to Mincham. "Do you have any coney for that porridge? I can hunt some. I know how to skin and boil a brace of coneys".
Bialver mutters to Trumodir "We'll save the Honunghleifr for time of need"
Trumodir nods silently. She says, "I'm glad it's porridge and not bacon"
Bialver asks Mincham "is there water nearby, Ranger? I fear our friend has spoiled your supply"

Maegdin turns his eyes away from the north and looks back at his fellows. <S>'I do not know. I told you yesternight of the news we bear from the Barrow-downs. I know not what Halbarad shall ask of me, but I know that these who come with me will not wish to stay behind.' He smiles slightly. <S>'I knew not that such courage could be found in Bree, but they have not disappointed. I only hope our roads do not lead into darkness.' He looks her in the face. <S>'Will you come with us to Esteldîn, cousin, or is your errand too urgent to delay?'
Miriaden smiles gently at Maegdin and nods. <S> "My dealings with Breefolk have oft surprised me also...and I will join you as you journey to Esteldin. I am to check in with Halbarad for my next task."

Mincham looks up at Bialver's words. 'Hrm? What's that? There's a spring down the hill to the north that's clean enough. It's probably rather cold this morning, though.' He looks over and catches sight of Mina and sighs.
Bialver 's eyes follow Mincham's pointing finger, and he sets off down the slope to the east
Bialver turns back at Mincham's sigh, and picks up the tub of water
Minabel blushes. "I did not mean to spoil your drinking water. I though it was a bath tub. You do have a pavilion with a tub near here, do you not?"
Bialver rolls his eyes to Trumodir, and sets off down the hill
Bialver returns some minutes later with the tub now full of fresh water, and sts it down by the tent.
Bialver bows ironically to Mina, points to the tub, and mimes drinking.

Trumodir sighs and says heavily, "I wish Matt would stop whispering to Annie and come tell us what the plans are for the day."
Bialver shrugs, and goes back down the hill for his own ablutions
Trumodir scratches herself thoughtfully
Minabel frowns at Bialver's jest and turn to Mincham. "Where is your army?" and then turns to Maegdin "What are you two Rangers talking about and what kind of language is that anyway?"

Maegdin nods. <S>'Very well, then. Let us eat and be on our way.' With that he returns to the others and settles himself near the fire. 'Here, cousin. I'll take over with that. Annie has something she needs to tell you. In private,' he adds, looking at the others.
Miriaden follows Matt to the fire, her steps nearly silent. She nods to Mincham and smiles.
Bialver looks hopefully at the boiling pot of porridge
Maegdin takes the spoon and continues to stir the porridge as Mincham turns to Annie and walks off. Matt looks up at Mina. 'What do you mean, army? There's been no army in these parts since the days of the kings.' He ladles a little bit of the porridge into his bowl and tries it. 'Yep. It's ready. Hand over your eating gear, and I'll get you set.'

Bialver hands over his wooden bowl with alacrity
Miriaden heads off with Mincham to speak privately.
Bialver digs around in his pack and pulls out a wooden spoon, carved with with what could be bee-skeps
Trumodir pulls her horn spoon out of a pocket

Maegdin ladles out porridge into bowls as they're handed to him, as well as passing out pieces of toasted bread. Finally, he sets aside bowls for Annie and Mincham, and then serves himself. He settles down to eat quickly, paying no heed to the others for a few moments.
Trumodir stares hard at Matt, waiting for him to speak
Bialver tastes his porridge and nods to the Ranger.
Bialver scrapes his bowl clean with his spoon, and bows towards the pot where it sits by the fire. He mutters, "a blezanarorð to the grautr in time of need"

Miriaden murmurs her conversation with Mincham in hushed tones in Sindarin. They both occasionally look over towards Fornost before continuing their discussion. Finally they return to the group, taking their bowls. Annie smiles warmly at Maegdin and says. "Thank you for dishing up for us. I am grateful." She eats quickly.
Maegdin looks up and smiles slightly as Annie and Mincham return. He finishes his breakfast and then looks around at the others. 'Once you're ready, friends, we'll be heading off. We've no cause to go north, it seems, and I'm as happy as you to hear that news. We'll make our way east into the Kingsfell today.

Trumodir looks up at the sky and nods. "The day isn't getting any younger, and I expect you're taking us a fair distance".
Minabel sighs "Lead on, Rangers. It cannot get any worse than this no matter where we go."
Bialver puts his gear away, shoulders his pack and his bow, and goes to saddle Utsending
Maegdin nods to Trumodir. 'We do have a good way to ride today. Once you're all ready, we'll get on our way.' With that, he stands up and packs up his few things. He walks over and speaks softly with Mincham before going to stand next to his horse and wait for the others.
Bialver returns to the fire, Utsending ambling after him.

Miriaden shovels the last of her porridge into her mouth, looking slightly less than ladylike about it, but then she was never one for dainty manners. Setting her empty bowl aside, she rises and dusts off her trousers, giving Mina a little look at her comment before grabbing her pack and heading to Maegdin's horse.
Trumodir whistles to Marr, who comes near at the sound

Minabel looks sideways at Miriden and wonders how someone can be so unladylike.
Bialver leans comfortably against the mare's side, waiting for the party to get itself organized before he mounts
Minabel calls Brianna over and climbs daintily onto her back.
Maegdin nods to the others as he sees that they are ready. He climbs up on Randir, and then offers a hand to Annie to climb up behind him again.
Miriaden grabs Matt's hand, accepting his help as she climbs up behind him. She murmurs a thank you.
Bialver mounts up and knees Utsending over to Trumodir and her steed.

Maegdin bows his head in farewell to Mincham. 'Be well, cousin.' With that, he leads the company back to the Greenway and then turns east, riding up into the hills and away from the chill that shrouds the fields of Fornost.
Minabel rides after Maegdin, happy to leave behind this dreary cold place.
Bialver clucks to his horse and follows the Ranger

* * * * * * *

The day dawns clear and cold over the small camp beside the stream. Maegdin leans against a ruined wall and looks out east over the Kingsfell, then back to the others just beginning to stir beside the embers of the fire. He knocks the dottle out of his pipe and sets about dousing and burying the ashes.
Miriaden walks through the tall grasses, having been out scouting the last couple of hours. Looking over the group, then to Maegdin, she walks to the fire and sits, pulling out her rations to eat.
Trumodir wakens with a loud yawn, leaps up, and stretches herself
Bialver yawns and stretches, his eyes half closed, not really interested in being awake yet.

Trumodir wanders over to the fire. "Where are we?" she asks Miriaden
Bialver cracks an eye open, curious to hear the answer to Trumodir's question
Miriaden gives Tru an easy smile and looks around. "This area is called the Kingsfell. There isn't much out here, though some farmers still own land here."
Trumodir muses, "it's a pleasant enough place"
Bialver decides he's awake whether he likes it or not, and rolls to his feet. His eyes light up when he notices the stream.

Maegdin stamps out the final coals with his boot and starts to spread the ashes. He looks over at Trumodir. 'Aside from the farmers, there are few other folk,' he says. 'We're almost at the end of our trek, though. You can look forward to sleeping inside and having a decent meal tonight.' He smiles slightly and finishes filling in the fire pit.
Trumodir replies, "sleeping outside never bothers me"
Bialver carefully lays aside his clothes where they'll stay dry, gives a shout and runs towards the water, launcing himself from the bank with a loud whoop
Trumodir adds, "I do hope they have honey there"
Miriaden wraps up the remaining provisions before taking a drink from her flagon of water. She nods and puts her things back into her pack. "I look forward to sleeping on a real bed again. And a mug of ale will sit nicely." She chuckles a little.

Bialver swims accross the stream and back, then climbs out and shakes himseld vigorously
Maegdin looks down the hill at Bialver's antics and shakes his head, a smile on his face. He looks to Trumodir and shrugs. 'Do you know, I've never thought to ask when I've been there. I suppose we'll find out tonight.' He settles down and pulls some biscuits and cured meat from his pouch. 'Eat quickly. I'd like to leave soon.'
Bialver rolls himself dry in the grass, and begins to dress.
Trumodir takes a swig from her waterskin and nibbles on a honeycake she had in her pocket
Miriaden lifts a brow, trying to suppress her smile at Bialver's antics.

Bialver gestures towards the stream. ''That's mountain water',' he says, 'but it's come a long way''
Maegdin smiles and nods at Bialver, but says nothing, being too busy eating.
Trumodir paces impatiently. "The sun is rising higher in the sky; I don't know how far this place is that you're taking us to, but we'd best get going"
Bialver frowns. "Too clean for the witch-kingdom, nor the taste of Forochel's ice floes." He looks to the Ranger. "What's north of here?"
Maegdin swallows a mouthful of water from his skin and stands up. 'There are high hills to the north,' he says. 'The ice-lands are on the further side, but the streams that flow from them are fresh and clean. The ones further west feed Lake Evendim and the Brandywine.' He walks over to where his horse is picketed and begins saddling him for the day's journey.

Bialver whistles for him mare, who has been calmly cropping grass nearby, and whispers against her ears before he saddles and bridles her.
Trumodir follows suit, whistling for her horse.
Trumodir leaps onto her horse and gives a cry of exaltation, glad to be journeying to a new place today.
Bialver shoulders his pack and bow, loads Utsending's saddlebags, and hoists himself into the saddle.
Maegdin cinches the final strap and climbs on his horse. He gives Miriaden a hand up and then looks around at the others before nodding and leading them at a steady pace across the bridge and into the fells.
Miriaden takes Maegdin's hand and climbs up behind him.

Trumodir starts singing an old beorning song about the beautiful morning.
Bialver joins Trumodirs song in a slightly off-key basso profundo

Maegdin smiles as he rides along, hearing the Easterners' voices rise on the morning breeze. As the sun climbs up the sky ahead of them, the day begins to grow warm, though a steady breeze from the northern hills keeps the company comfortable. They pass a number of small farmsteads set well back from the trail, but they can neither see nor hear any other voices. Nor are there any lines of smoke visible from the chimneys. Maegdin scowls slightly as he notices this and quickens his pace.
Bialver rides contentedly along, but his nose ocassionally wrinkles as at an odd smell, and he looks around like someone trying to decide what's bothering him.
Trumodir rides along, enjoying the breeze, the plants, the trees, the whole atmosphere of the place. "I would like to get to know this place better" she thinks

In the middle afternoon, the company comes to a crossroads out on the fields. A path cuts across theirs, running north and south along a long ridge before the land dips down into a long depression before the feet of the eastern hills. Maegdin checks his horse as he draws near and turns to face the others. 'We're very close to the end of our journey, friends. No more than an hour, and perhaps less. However, I must do you a discourtesy here. No one who is not of my kin may see the path to the place I lead you to with open eyes. I would trust you to close them of your own accord, but there are others who may take it ill. I must bind your eyes, I am afraid.' He pulls several long bands of linen from his pouch with an apologetic look on his face.

Bialver shrugs and knees Utsending next to the Ranger's hose
Miriaden nods in agreement to Maegdin, then adds, "It will not be long you will be without sight, but it is important. Thank you for understanding."
Trumodir grunts with disappointment; she doesn't want to forego the lovely view before her.
''If you meant me a mischief, you'd have done it without coming so far as this.'' Bialver says, leaning in so the blindfold can be wound around him head.
Trumodir adds, "I suppose we'll be going in single file so our horses can follow yours".
Bialver strokes Utsending's neck, and leans forward to whisper into her ears
Maegdin nods to Trumodir as he ties the cloth over Bialver's eyes.
Trumodir lets drop her reins, knowing that Marr is a wise horse and will follow the others.

Maegdin looks over his shoulder. 'Annie, could you tie the horses' reins to the saddlebow of the one in front? I trust the horses, but they may stray or spook.'
Miriaden nods, sliding off of Maegdin's horse, taking the reins of each horse and securing it to the saddle of the one who would go before it. Eventually there was a train of horses, ready to go. She could be heard murmuring to each beast, smiling as she worked.

Maegdin also climbs off of Randir's back, walking to each member of the company in turn to bind their eyes, speaking apologetically to each one as he does. When all is ready, he climbs in the saddle and leads the company in several circles, going this way and that until any sense of direction the others may have is gone. He then sets off towards the eastern hills.

Maegdin raises a hand in a silent greeting to the watchers who step out of the trees, leveling bows at the company in silence. They nod and withdraw, while the train of horses continues on. A wall of stone spans a narrow defile in front of them, and more archers watch their approach with interest. Maegdin waves a greeting to them and speaks over his shoulder to the others. 'We are here, friends. Only a few more moments, and you can remove your blindfolds.'

With that, he leads the company into the refuge of Esteldin, passing through the first courtyard and into the second, calling greetings to his fellows as he passes. Finally, he climbs down and walks to each of the company, removing their bindings as he goes.
Miriaden continually looks over her shoulder to ensure all the horses remained attached and followed, and that the blindfolds remained in place. Finally she turned her eyes ahead to the hills, smiling as they enter their refuge. Once Maegdin stopped and dsmounted, she followed suit, waving and greeting a few of her kin nearby.
Maegdin smiles to the others. 'Welcome, friends, to the camp of Esteldin. You are as safe here as you are in any place in the North. If you will come with me, we can see to our horses and then to ourselves. As I promised, warm fires, hot food, and a wall against the night.'

Bialver looks around him, some buildings half-tumbledown, some in good repair, but the place has the air of a camp more than a town.
Trumodir looks around and asks, "Where is the person in charge of the food?"
Bialver mutters to his kinswoman ''Those grasslands might nurture many hives, but it's only wild honey I'd look for here.''
Maegdin waves his arm towards a building on the far side of the courtyard. 'The butteries and kitchens are over there,' he says. 'I'll take you there as soon as we see to our horses. I'll leave you to settle in while I go let the captain know we've come.' He looks at Miriaden. 'Can you tell them what they need to know while I'm away?'
Miriaden chuckles softly at Tru, grinning. "We will certainly lead you to the mess hall, fear not." She nods to Maegdin. "Certainly."

Trumodir adds, "I don't see any grassy places for the horses. Is there food for them here?"
Bialver looks around for anything like a stable, but fails to see one.
Maegdin smiles. 'There are hay and oats aplenty for them. Come, follow me.' He takes Randir's reins and leads the company to the pickets for the horses, where they set about making their mounts comfortable for their stay.
Bialver looks apologetically at Utsending as he tethers her.
Trumodir sees to her horse without comment, but with a resigned look on her face.

Maegdin finishes caring for his horse and then turns to Miriaden. 'Can you show them to the mess, cousin? I imagine that Halbarad is getting anxious to have me report in, and I'd like to not keep him waiting.'
Miriaden nods to Maegdin as she follows and says to the others as she motions for them to come with her. "As you may have already guessed, there is no going in and out of the refuge as a matter of our safety." She heads towards a building, delicious aromas of cooking food drifting out the door.
Trumodir follows eagerly, her stomach growling, for she has had only a small piece of honeycake to last her all day.
Bialver sniffs the air, and gives Trumodir a grin
Trumodir growls to anyone who will listen, "I'm as hungry as a bear!"


Chapter 12: An Appointed Task

Minabel watches the others at breakfast with a far off look in her eyes. She is distracted
Bialver looks down at his porridge and mutters something about always having been good with animals
Maegdin nods to the others. 'It is good that you have rested. I fear we may have another journey ahead of us today.' He gestures to their plates. 'Eat quickly. The captain wishes to speak with us as soon as may be.'
Trumodir gives a big sigh – why must they rush through the first big breakfast they've had in a long time?
Miriaden scrapes the last of her breakfast from her plate and picks up her coffee, drinking it as quickly as she can without burning her mouth.

Bialver takes a couple of corn cakes and slips them into his pack, finishes his porridge, pats the goat. and stands up
Trumodir looks over at Maegden. "Do I have time for another cup of goat milk?" she asks.
Maegdin smiles over the rim of his mug. 'There is no need for such haste, friends. Halbarad said soon, not instantly. But don't dawdle.'
Trumodir looks longingly at the milk. It has been so long since she has been anywhere where goat milk was available; in fact, she hasn't had any since she left her beloved flock of goats in the Vale.
Bialver looks wistfully at the porridge pot, but contents himself with refilling his tankard

Miriaden is no longer in such a rush and sets her coffee to the side after sipping, then pulls her quiver into her lap to begin inspecting each arrow one by one. "Did he say what sort of journey?" She asks quietly.
Trumodir takes a last swig, gets up from the table, and strides outside. She takes a deep breath and cocks her ear, listening to the lovely song of a bird somewhere nearby.
Bialver scrapes his plate clean and looks around for where to put it. he ocks his eyebrow at the Rangers
Maegdin finishes up his plate of eggs and toast and sits nursing his ale while he waits for the others to finish their meals. He shakes his head at Miriaden. 'No. He did not. However, our tidings from Fornost have fillen him with further concern, that much is plain.'

Trumodir comes back to where the others are still finishing up and says loudly, "I thought we had to get going! What's keeping you all?"
Bialver , not receiving an answer about what to do with his plate, licks it clean, leaves it on the table, and follows his kinswoman outside
Miriaden gives a slow, silent nod and looks back to her arrows, squinting as she inspects them before carefully placing them back in her quiver. "I am ready." She slings her quiver onto her back, adjusting the straps.
Bialver comes back into the Mess, retrieves the goat, who he puts on his shoulder, and returns to the courtyard.
Minabel wrinkles up her nose and looks at the stinky goat. "Where is lavender oil when you need it?"
Bialver harrumphs. ''She's a very *clean* goat.

Maegdin chuckles slightly at Mina and drains his mug. He stands and heads out, leaving his plate on the table. 'Come with me, if we are all ready.' He looks at Bialver with a slight smile. 'But best leave the goat outside of the library.'
Bialver looks baffled ''But what does she read, if she can't go into the library?''
Trumodir pats the goat affectionately and a bit wistfully, thinking of all the animals she left behind when her father sent her away from the Vales.
Miriaden rises to her feet and nods, ready to go.
Maegdin shakes his head and sighs, but leads the company through the camp to the library.

Bialver exchanges a sympathetic glance with Trumodir, but puts the goat down and shoulders his pack and weapons and trails after the others towards the library.
Maegdin leads the way into and through the library, until they come to the room where Halbarad waits for them. Shelves of worn codices and ancient scrolls surround the tall Man, who turns his weatherbeaten face to them as they enter. 'Welcome, friends old and new,' he says gravely. 'I am glad that you could come. We have much to discuss, and but a little time in which to do so.'
Trumodir shuffles uncomfortably, somewhat intimidated by all the books.
Miriaden follows Maegdin to the library with her usual light step, knowing the way, though out of habit, took up the rear. She shuts the door behind the group once everyone is inside, and leans against the back wall, her grey eyes settling on her Captain.
Bialver 's gaze strays to the shelves, but he forces it back to the rangers

Maegdin settles himself in a chair and leans forward, meeting Halbarad's glance. 'What is it you wished of us, captain?' he says quietly. 'We are all resolved to assist in whatever way we may.'
Halbarad looks all five of them in the eye for a long while before speaking. 'The news you have brought from Fornost is worrisome,' he finally says. 'That such a host should have been able to pass down from the North undetected and take a position of strength threatens all who dwell round about. The peoples of the North Downs must be called together for a council to deal with this threat. There is much for you to do, and I am glad to know that you are willing.'

Trumodir glances quizzically at each of the others, wondering what they are thinking and aware that she is not as eager to face evil as Maegden had made it sound.
Miriaden nodded to Halbarad, looking awfully comfortable with the idea of heading into such things. Her hand lowered to rest on the hilt of her sword out of habit, her thumbnail picking at it absently.
Bialver catches Trumodir's eye again, and smiles encouragingly

Halbarad continues. 'The task I have set for you is not perilous, friends, so you need not fear. We must call the folk of these lands together, and I have it in mind to send you to Trestlebridge to summon Mayor Boskins or her guard-captain to this camp. Other messengers have already been sent to the Dwarves and to the Elves.'
Miriaden nods silently as the Captain speaks, looking at the others before turning her eyes back to Halbarad. "When must we depart on this errand?"
Trumodir ponders Halbarad's words, a bit suspicious of why he would need five people to simply carry a message to someone. She wonders what he may not be saying.
Minabel asks Halbarad "What type of lady is this Boskins?"
Bialver sighs. "Back to Trestlebridge, is it?", he asks. "What's the southern route, through the hills, like?"

Halbarad glances at Trumodir and looks her in the eyes. He smiles slightly. 'Of course, this message could easily have been borne by one or two, but since your company recently passed through the town, the residents may be more well-disposed towards you.' He looks at Miriaden. 'I would have you leave as soon as you may. The road is long, as you know, and time is short.'
Miriaden nods in response. "I will head to the mess hall the moment we finish here and get supplies." She murmurs, surprisingly a little shy when it comes to speaking with the Captain.
Trumodir receives Halbarad's with a new respect; how did he know what she was thinking? She resolves to trust him a bit more.
Maegdin nods as Halbarad speaks, but remains silent for now. The captain continues, turning to Minabel. 'I do not know. I knew her father somewhat, but we received word only shortly before you arrived that he had been slain in the recent attack on the town. I fear that she will not be inclined to listen to us.' He looks over at Bialver. 'The southern route is impassible. Those hills have been overrun with Orcs of late.'

Minabel continues, "Are not the people of the North Downs farmers like the people of Bree? Perhaps then they will respond to a daughter of a respectable gentleman. I will speak with this Boskins.” She turns to the others. "You others are a little more shall we say "exotic" and might not be as well received. How does she feel about Rangers?"
\Halbarad smiles slightly and nods to Minabel. 'Very well, then. It is my hope that you can convince her to come. We must all band together against this threat, or the tide will surely overwhelm us separately.'
Trumodir looks sideways at Minabel; although she is somewhat offended, she must admit that what Mina said rings true.

Bialver gives Trumodir a sly smile at the word "exotic". It looks almost as though he's fighting back a giggle.
Miriaden looks to Mina. "I doubt she would receive us well, though one of her own Bree-folk may well be our best hope." She looks to the others, her brow furrowing, then nods to Mina again.
Minabel says, "Of course, first I must make myself presentable. Is there a dress shop in Trestlebridge?"
Trumodir offers, "I will gladly go with you to Trestlebridge, but you are right; Mina should do the talking."

Maegdin bows his head to Halbarad. 'As you wish, sir. If we have your leave, we should go prepare for the journey.' The Captain nods his head. 'Go, then,' he says. 'Return swiftly to aid us.' He raises a hand in farewell.
Bialver murmurs to his kinswoman "Perhaps we could stay here and eat this good food, so as not to upset anyone"
Miriaden bows her head shyly to Halbarad and murmurs. "Navaer." She turns to leave.
Minabel smooths her hair and dress and prepares to depart.

Maegdin turns and leads the company back out of the library. He says nothing until they are back out under the open sky. There, he lets out a large sigh and runs his hands through his hair. 'Well, that went well. Oft, when the captain calls you, there is no good news.'
Miriaden eyes Maegdin and mutters. "Do not speak too soon, mellon nin."
Bialver 's face bursts into a bright smile as the little goat come prancing up to him. Then he sighs.
Minabel holds her nose as she realizes that Bialver's goat has joined them.
Bialver looks the goat in the eye, and says seriously "Alas, haðna, I must go, and you must stay. But I will return to see you again"
Trumodir considers Bialver's whispered comment about staying in Esteldin while the others go to Trestlebridge and wonders if they would take it amiss. She, like Bialver, is enjoying the rest and food here.

Bialver coughs "If our good Mina, so wise in diplomacy, thinks we might distress the good townsfolk with our uncouth appearance, perhaps it were best not to take such a risk?" He looks hopefully at the Rangers
Maegdin looks over at Trumodir and Bialver, a look of surprise on his face. 'It is your choice as to whether you wish to come with us or to stay here until we return. However, I suspect that Minabel was referring to Annie and me. Were you not?' He turns to look at Mina.
Bialver look sideways and Trumodir and mutters "Valskr"
Miriaden also looks at Tru and Bialver in surprise. "Why would you stay? I is your choice, of course, but...I think the larger the group, the more urgency she may see."
Trumodir squares her shoulders and looks Maegdin in the eye. I joined this group to do my part in fighting the evil that is spreading across our land and I will not back away now."

Minabel turns to each of her companions in turn. "Well, the Beornings are rather uncouth and the Rangers are well-spoken but not very put together in their appearance, so I think you are all in need of makeovers. This is why I think I should lead the group, since I am the most presentable.”
Maegdin smiles slightly at Mina's words, but says nothing.
Miriaden 's brow lifts slightly at Mina's words and her gaze slides down to inspect her coat. She didn't look /that/ rustic....did she?

Maegdin smiles slightly. 'I doubt the good folk of Breeland would listen to me and my kin even if we turned up in silks. Given that, I think it best to let actions speak for us.' He looks around. 'I would have all of you come, but I will go regardless.' He turns away and heads towards his horse to prepare for the journey ahead.
Miriaden nods in agreement. "I will head to the mess hall and get some rations and supplies before we go. I do hope you all come along, but it is your decision."
Trumodir follows a bit slowly, wishing she could stay with the animals here in Esteldin and wondering why her father sent her instead of her brother.
Minabel thinks about what she will need to bring to convince Boskins to help them.
Miriaden gives the others an encouraging smile, then heads off towards the mess hall.
Bialver smiles wryly and murmurs to Trumodir "It was a good try"


Chapter 13: A Call to Men

The company from Esteldín has an uneventful journey back over the Kingsfell and down the Greenway. By the afternoon of the second day out, they have drawn near the north end of the Trestlespan. No enemies have they sighted on their road, but the guards at the bridgehead still eye them nervously as they crest the last hill and cover the last stretch of road. Mat rides forward, hand raised in friendship. 'Good evening, friends!' he calls. 'We need to speak with Mayor Boskins! There's an urgent matter that needs discussing.'
The men scowl at the Ranger, and one of them says, 'You can tell it to us, and we'll let her know if it's worth her time. She's no time to deal with ruffianly folk out of the wild like you.'
Miriaden held the rear of the group, her hood pulled up, though she had been though town often enough that the bridge guards would know her. She watches Matt and the guards for a moment before she turns to look around the hills.
Bialver mutters to Trumodir ''We should have stayed back at the ranger landnám."
Trumodir growls softly to herself, something about people not recognizing their betters.

Maegdin shakes his head at the guards and sighs. 'I've no time to waste, and I was instructed to speak only to the Mayor. Come, now. Be reasonable. What could I possibly do in the midst of a whole town filled with folks who mislike the very sight of me? If it'll make you feel better, I'll leave my weapons with you.'
The guard gives the Ranger a black look, and furrows his brow as if thinking. Finally, he nods and says, 'I guess that's fair enough. You'll leave your horses on the far end of the bridge, though. Not going to let you have an easy time of getting away if you do any mischief.' Mat rolls his eyes slightly, but nods. He climbs down off his horse and looks at the others. 'Best leave your gear with the good guardsman as well,' he says.
Trumodir snorts, "I hope Marr gives him a good kick when she has the opportunity"
Minabel is not sure that she trusts these strangers enough to leave her bow with them.

Maegdin unslings his bow from his back before unbuckling his sword-belt. He hands them both to the guard, and then pulls a knife from his boot and passes it over. He waits for the others to do the same.
Bialver looks around carefully, as though noting possible routes of escape. He nods once, and leave all his visible weapons with the guards
Miriaden does not look happy with the idea of leaving her weapons, but she removes her bow and quiver from her back, then her weapons-belt, carrying them to the guard. Then her daggers from her boots.
Trumodir reluctantly hands over her axe since she can't hide it; she mutters to Maegdin, "I hope this turns out all right"
Bialver murmurs ''We shall see what kind of friðgjafl this Ranger is, after all."
Minabel moves to take the dagger hidden in her corset, but then pulls back her hand. She hesitates again, and then pulls it out and hands it to the guard.

Maegdin takes his horse by the reins once all the company have handed over their gear and leads them across the bridge and into the town proper. He passes the reins off to another guardsman on the far end of the bridge, and then walks calmly through town, ignoring the dark looks and mutterings from the townsfolk. He stops outside the Mayor's house, where the captain of the guard glowers at him. 'What's this, now?' he asks gruffly. 'What's *two* of you folk doing back here, along with these other outlandish folk? What in blazes are my guards doing?'
Miriaden gives the guards a friendly smile as she passes by them, pretending their dark looks didn't exist.

Maegdin raises his hands to Trotter, showing that he's unarmed. 'I need to speak to the Mayor, Captain. There's troubling news from the north that she needs to know about. Feel free to join us, if you wish, but I'll not speak about it out in the open.' The guardsman gives him a look which speaks volumes, but he nods curtly and opens the door. 'I'll be watching you,' he says. 'Mayor!' he calls. 'Got some folk come to speak to you. They say it's urgent.' He waves the company in, giving all of them scowls while they pass him.
Trumodir looks darkly at Captain Trotter as she passes him
Minabel smiles at Captain Trotter is she goes past him, but he does not seem to notice.
Miriaden moves past Captain Trotter, giving him a polite smile as she heads inside.
Bialver stumps stolidly up the stairs, giving the Captain a polite nod as he passes
Trumodir becomes a bit anxious once she's in the house. She murmurs to Bialver, “It's way too small for all of us to fit comfortably. I wish I could be back outside, somewhere in the open spaces north of this awful town and away from all this smoke.”

Maegdin makes his way into the front room of the house, where the new Mayor is seated in a chair near the fire, looking over papers. She looks up at the newcomers, and scowls when she sees two of them are Rangers. 'What do you want?' she says. 'I've naught to say to the likes of you.' Mat gives her a smile which he hopes is disarming. 'Mayor, I wouldn't trouble you if it wasn't urgent. I've troubling news that you and your captain need to hear.'
Nellie Boskins gives him a look of slight surprise before motioning to him to get on with it. 'Some friends of mine brought word that Deadman's Dike has been taken by Orcs. We worry that they may soon make a move on this town and on other places to the south.' The mayor sighs heavily. 'Why am I not surprised?' she mutters. 'I'm sure that's not all you came to say; otherwise, you wouldn't have bothered me.'
The Ranger shakes his head. 'No, it is not. We've come to ask you to come back with us. All the folks of the North Downs are being called to a council.' Captain Trotter takes a step towards the man, but Nellie raises a hand to stop him.

Miriaden watches Mayor Boskins with a compassionate look. "It is important that all who call this land home have a say in how to approach this threat, Mayor. Please do not dismiss it, this is vital."
'You must think I'm some kind of fool, Ranger,' she says bitterly. 'What other folk are there in these hills besides the farmers out east? And all of them have fled here or to Stoneheight. If you and your folk want to get me out of town so you can rob and murder me, you'll have to try harder than that.'
Mat opens his mouth to speak, but the Mayor slams her hand on the table as she stands to her feet. 'You be quiet as well!' she shouts, pointing at the other Ranger. 'If you Rangers truly cared about the threats facing Trestlebridge, you would help us here with these Orcs. We would not have had to suffer as we have! I...we lost all those dear to us!'

Trumodir stares hard at the mayor, biting her lip to keep from bursting out in a way that would undoubtedly hurt their cause. But if looks could kill, the mayor would surely be dead.
Minabel comes forward. "You have not right to condemn the farmers with your stubbornness. These Rangers are here to help you and you turn them away. You condemn the farmers of the North Downs to slavery to orcs, or worse."
Eskild creeps further under the window to hear better. He feels somewhat alarmed by the news of the strangers.
Bialver gives Trumodir a steadying look, and looks around the room, his eyes lighting nowhere

The Mayor rounds on Minabel. 'And what would you know, child?' she snaps. 'The farmers that yet live have come here, and it's my duty to keep them safe. I shall not come to this "Council", nor anything else. And I shall not be convinced otherwise! Now, if you have no other business, leave me to see to the defence of this town!' Mat attempts to say more, but Trotter grabs him by the shoulder. 'That's enough out of you. You heard the mayor: get out of here afore I toss the lot of you in the stocks for the night.' Mat pushes the man's hand off him and stalks back out the door, muttering to himself the while.

Trumodir gives the mayor one last dark look, accompanied by a growl, and bumps into Trotter—on purpose—on her way out the door
Bialver suddenly seems to loom over Trotter, giving the man a hard stare before he shoulders past him and out the door
Minabel huffs off, "Foolish woman, and no sense of fashion either."
Miriaden frowns at Trotter, then at the Mayor, but only shakes her head as she leaves with the others. "She is doing what she thinks is best for her people, even if she is doing the wrong thing." She murmurs to Minabel.
Minabel turns to Trumodir. "The people of this town will regret the day they chose that woman when there shops burns down and they have no more clothes"

Eskild runs out from his hiding spot in the bushes to block the group at the steps. He says, 'Hey! You guys! You're those queer folk everyone says bring trouble!'
Maegdin pauses on his way down the steps as a young man steps out of the bushes. 'And what do you want?' he says bitterly. 'Come to gawk at the Rangers and heap more abuse on us?'
Trumodir turns quickly toward the young man, startled at his sudden appearance.
Bialver frowns at the newcomer, but holds his peace
Minabel turns to see the young man. "Who are you?"

Eskild says, 'I 'eard everything! Every word! That old bat Boskins en't never lift a finger to help no one. She just spends all day in that house yellin' and doin' nuthin. But I en't like her. I want to help! You say orcs will come and attack Trestlebridge, an' I believe you. I wanna help you fight them orcs!' He puts on his best brave and confident face.
Trumodir lets out a deep breath—a sane person, here among all these mad folk! She gives the newcomer a big smile and shakes his hand—perhaps a bit too strongly.
Minabel looks the young man over. "You look younger than my sister Amy. How old are you?"
Eskild says, 'Seventeen. Turned it last month.'

Maegdin raises an eyebrow. 'Is that so?' he says. He gives the fellow a look-over, and then sighs. 'Except we're not off to deal with them. I've got to tell a friend of mine about the Mayor's answer. Then? Who knows? But for now, we've a long ride ahead of us, and I'm afraid you can't come.'
Miriaden looks over to the newcomer, brows furrowing in doubt.

Eskild stands directly in front of Maegdin. "Whatever you be doin, it's better than sittin here and waitin for them orcs to kill us. I wanna help. I'll do anythin."
Minabel's jaw drops. "Seventeen? We cannot bring babies on this trip. Come back in five years."
Trumodir turns to Miri who is standing next to her and mutters, "This young'un should be rescued from this awful place; why not take him with us? He'll likely just get into trouble with the watch if he stays here."

Bialver says "You? A mere bjarnhúnn?. What will you do on a long journey, in grave danger?"
Eskild unsheathes his sword. "I got me a sword. Was pa's afore he got killed by orcs. He taught me to use it real good too."
Trumodir turns and addresses Maegdin. "I'll take responsibility for this young'un if you'll have him. He needs to get out of this place, and there's fire in his heart that will stand him in good stead."
Bialver begins to smile.

Maegdin holds up a hand to cut off the others. 'No!' he says with some force. 'I will not bring one so young and untested with me. I am sorry, lad, but you need to stay here. If you want to make a difference, join the guard.' He turns and makes his way north through the town, expecting that the others will follow.
Eskild scowls. "Guard won't do nuthin! They en't do nuthin last time orcs come, an' they won't do nuthin again!"
Minabel adjusts her hair and goes after Maegdin. "Best to leave the child here".
Trumodir stays where she is, calling to Maegdin, "I guess you'll be going with a smaller group than you're used to, sir. I'm taking my stand with this young'un.”
Bialver breaks into a laugh. "Come", he calls after the Ranger, I dub this one a Röskr Bjarnhúnn. We two of the Vales will see to his safety. And when there is no safety, we will see he dies well."
Trumodir smiles broadly at Bialver, "I knew I could count on you, cousin", she says gratefully.

Maegdin turns back to look at Trumodir and Bialver. 'Very well, then. I need to speak to Halbarad, and in haste. I'll go by myself, if need be.' He turns away and continues walking towards the horses.
Minabel calls to Trumodir. "Do not be a fool. That silly mayor has condemned the people of this town to death. If you stay, you will die with them."
Maegdin rounds on Minabel. 'Will you be quiet?!' he snarls softly at her. 'Do you want to cause a panic?'
Minabel pouts. "No one speaks to me that way. I am Minabel, daughter of Bram, gentleman farmer and his wife Mina."
Miriaden looks at Eskild and shakes her head before following the others, getting her horse and her weapons.

Eskild swells with even more confidence. "An' I know this land! I know this land better than all ya!"
Trumodir retorts, "Who said anything about staying? Let's get out of here, Bialver, young'un...what did you say your name was?"
Bialver lifts an eyebrow silently at Trumodir. "Do we follow?" he asks
Eskild says, 'Eskild. Eskils Hartwick, ma'am.'
Trumodir nods. Well, Eskild, Bialver and I need to retrieve our horses and weapons; come along with us and we'll see what happens. Do you have a horse?"
Bialver rolls his eyes as the party's voices die off in the distance, and bows to his kinswoman and the stripling who makes such a brave show
Eskild nods vigorously. "Yup! Best horse in all Trestlebridge! She can run all the way from Deadman's Dike and not a sweat!"
Trumodir nods to Eskild. "then get your horse and meet us at the north end of the bridge."
Bialver 's bow turns into a gesture towards the bridge "We will meet you on the other side in a quarter of an hour. Do you not fail us."
Eskild nods excitedly before darting off to retrieve his horse.
Bialver looks about for a tavern. but, not seeing one, ambles slowly towards the bridge

Maegdin shakes his head and continues walking towards the bridge. He unties his horse's reins from the hitching post and walks across the bridge, grumbling the while. He keeps doing so as he collects his weapons, glowering at the guards the whole time. He mounts his horse and waits for Miriaden and Minabel to join him. He looks off to the north and east, then at the dark clouds moving in from the west. He shakes his head.
Minabel whistles to Brianna and when she comes, swings up into her saddle. She then waits to follow Maegdin.
Miriaden mounts her horse, nudging the beast up next to Maegdin as she looks around the hills. "We will work with what we have." She says softly to the other ranger, trying to be encouraging.

Bialver pauses on the bridge, deep enough in its shade to be out of sight of the company, and waits.
Eskild trots up to Bialver on his chestnut mare.
Trumodir calls out to Maegdin, "You can't keep us from going to Esteldin, now can you? We'll meet you there and maybe you'll have come to your senses by then." She turns to Eskild and says, "Don't worry, this is just a short storm that will blow itself off soon."
Maegdin sighs and nods at Miriaden. He sets off at a gallop along the Greenway, not looking back.
Miriaden kicks her horse into a gallop and races through the deserted lands keeping pace with Maegdin.
Minabel turns back and see that the Beornings and bringing the child and she shakes her head in disbelief.

Bialver reaches out a casual hand and plucks Eskild off the ground by his collar. “We have taken responsibility for you, cub” he says, giving the young man a shake to emphasize the seriousness of what he says. “Do not shame our judgment.”
Eskild studies the clouds. "I en't afraid of storms. I hunt in these lands often." He says, 'I won't let you down mister. I swear it on my pa's grave.'
Bialver gives a low whistle to get Trumodir's attention, and tosses Eskild to her.… but gently
Trumodir gives Eskild a big bear hug and says softly, "Glad we found you son, or you found us"
Bialver whistles, and Utsending comes trotting up.
Eskild is a bit disoriented at having just been thrown.

Maegdin and the others have not ridden for more than half an hour when they see three other riders coming down the Greenway at a great pace. Maegdin checks his horse and waits for the others. As they draw nearer, it becomes plain that they are Rangers. Maegdin calls out to them when they come within shout, 'What news, cousins? Why the haste?'
One of the others shouts back, 'Orcs! A warband has come down out of the hills. They must mean to burn the town to the ground, else they would not move in the sunlight. We must warn the folk of Trestlebridge.' Maegdin shakes his head. 'I doubt they will heed you. The Mayor just spurned Halbarad's summons. I fear they will think this some ruse.' He sighs. 'But, you are right. Let us return.'
Minabel sighs. "You are not seriously thinking about going back to that town and trying to convince that impossible woman to come with us?"
Miriaden frowns, her hand already moving to rest on the hilt of her sword. "We can't leave them to their own devices. They are ill-prepared for an orc attack. We protect these people whether they like it or not."
Maegdin looks over at Mina as he turns his horse. 'No. We are going back and will defend the town or die in the attempt. You had best come with us; the Orcs will not let you live if they meet you on the road.' With that, he sets off for Trestlebridge again.

Eskild easily pulls himself into the saddle and gathers his reins. "I never caught your names."
Trumodir says, 'I'm Trumodir, daughter of Grimbeorn, and granddaughter of Beorn himself.”
Bialver smiles "Bialver of the Hunnangsbjorner, at your service"
Trumodir said this as the two beornings and Eskild were riding easily northward, in the general direction of Esteldin.
Eskild grins broadly. "A pleasure to meet ya both."

Bialver smiles. "And who are your people, Gallant Cub?"
Eskild says, 'My pa was Egon, a loyal defender of Trestlebridge. But he been killed by orcs in the last attack.'
Trumodir looks intently at a cloud of dust a way up the road and says, "I see a group riding toward us at great speed. Maybe Maegdin has changed his mind already."
Bialver squints at the road. "Then let us wait, and not tire our horses to no purpose." He adds "But perhaps OFF the road, in case these are not our friends"
Trumodir nods in agreement.
Bialver looks at Eskild "You know this road. Find us cover"
Eskild nods and steers his horse off the road and down a small slope hidden by trees.
Bialver follows the youth, and guides Utsending out of sight amongst the trees
Eskild says, 'They won't see us here. Not unless they look real hard.'

Maegdin and the others ride back south along the Greenway at a great pace, their horses panting at the effort. In only a few minutes, their company has drawn near enough to the others for them to plainly see that they are the Rangers and Mina. They do not seem like they are intent on stopping before Trestlebridge.

Trumodir says to the others, "Looks like they're in a big hurry. Guess we should follow after them. They might need some help.”
Bialver nods "Just so, Kinswoman. Son of Egon, we ride for Trestlebridge; is there a quicker way?"
Eskild nods. "Follow me. We'll join the road just north of the Trestlespan." Eskild guides his horse through memorized trails and staying away from the road.
Bialver knees his horse into motion and follows

Miriaden was already pulling out her bow as she watches the orcs' cloud of dust racing behind them. This was going to be close and they would not have much time to make ready before the orcs reached Trestlebridge.
Eskild urges his horse into a gallop as the trees and ground even out and the Trestlespan starts to come into view.

Maegdin and his company draw near the Trestlespan only a little behind the others. The guards, seeing two groups racing out of the north, grip their weapons and shout. When he comes close enough, Mat shouts, 'Not now, you blasted fools! Orcs are coming! Mount a defence! Get across the bridge!' He quickly dismounts and begins to lead them back into the town.

Bialver stifles a whoop, but loosens his club from its binding to the saddle
Trumodir could feel rage building inside her as she spurred Marr on. Just let her at those filthy orcs! They would regret their encounter—those that lived to tell about it!
Bialver leans over and says evenly to Eskild "You know the town's weaknesses. Where will we three do the most good?"
Miriaden races her trusty steed across the bridge, barely taking a moment to murmur instructions to her horse before grabbing anything and everything she could carry to create a barricade on the bridge.

The guards look shocked for a moment, but then the dust of the Orcs' march further up the road catches the light of the setting sun. The men of Trestlebridge scramble into action. As they do, the westering Sun is eaten up by the dark clouds rolling out of the west, and a sudden twilight falls. Thunder echoes from under the cloud.


Chapter 14: The Battle of the Trestlebridge

The storm clouds continue to roll in from the West as the company from Esteldín make their way across the bridge. Maegdin walks close beside the Rangers new-come from the North, deep in conversation with Mallennor, their leader. As they come out the south end of the bridge, they catch sight of Captain Trotter and Mayor Boskins walking towards them, followed by several guards.
Miriaden walked with her kinsman, listening to their quiet discussion, nodding as they give her some instructions. As the Trestlebridge Mayor and Captain approach, she stands a little straighter, but lets others do the talking.

Maegdin pauses and lets the leaders of the town come up to him. The Mayor stops a few yards from him and glares. 'I thought I told you and yours to get gone. Instead, you show up with more of your rascally brood! Be gone and have done with you!' Mallennor takes a step forward, holding up his hands. 'Mayor, we have come to lend you aid in your defence. A whole warband of Orcs are descending on your town. Speak to your guards if you don't believe us. We have but little time to mount a defence.' The Mayor and the captain look over at the bridge guards. 'It's true, ma'am,' one of them says, fidgeting with his spear. 'We caught sight of a cloud of dust coming down behind this group, right before the clouds come up. Better safe than sorry, right?'
Minabel scowls at Trotter. "How rude!"

Eskild rushes forward. "If you won't believe them, then believe me! There are Orcs coming, more than ever before! You knew my father, and you know me! If we don't prepare to defend our homes, then there will be no Trestlebridge!"
Bialver, listening to the argument, digs a couple of honeycakes out of his pack and gives one to his kinswoman.
Trumodir looks approvingly at Eskild, more than ever glad that she stood up for him.

Trotter and Boskins look at Eskild, then the guardsman, before speaking in quick whispers to each other. After a moment, the Mayor nods. 'Very well. I still don't trust a one of you Rangers, nor you other folk, but I'm not going to turn away help if an attack's coming.' She shakes her head at Eskild as Trotter begins shouting commands to his men. 'I thought you had more sense than to take up with Rangers, Hartwick,' she says. 'On your own head, though.' With that, she turns back and heads back to her house.

Miriaden finally breaks in with a roll of her eyes. "We do not have time to argue about the validity of our report, we need to make preparations. Now." She didn't wait, but turned and headed off to find something to use as a barricade on the bridge.
Eskild does the most intelligent thing in his life and holds his tongue despite looking like he's about to blow a cork.
Bialver watches Eskild's face, and digs out another honeycake.
Trumodir gives Eskild a sympathetic pat on the back and turns to help Miri find barricade material
Minabel looks around for herbs. "We are going to need bandages and healing herbs for the wounded."

Maegdin sighs heavily, but say nothing to the Mayor. Instead, he and the other Rangers head for an abandoned cart by the end of the bridge and begin pushing it up onto the span, eventually turning it on its side and blocking half the space. They talk amongst themselves as they rush back to find another.
Bialver presses it into Esk's hand. ''You fight with the Bjorner, you eat like a Bjorner''
Eskild turns to the Rangers. "The bridge oughter be our main defense. No one comes in or out but that way."
Meanwhile, Trotter and his men are handing out bows and spears and taking places covering the end of the bridge. 'You, Ranger!' he shouts to Mat. 'You and your folk can wait on the bridge. I'll not risk any of my own folk without need.'

Eskild reluctantly takes the honeycake and nibbles on it halfheartedly to appease Bialver.
Bialver looks down into the deep, river-carved canyon below the bridge. ''Is there no passing this? Do no trails lead up on the town side?''
Minabel adds "if you have any children under sixteen, you had better hide them in the towers by the bridge. I will go and collect the children."
Trumodir notices some all-heal plants growing a short distance from the bridge and rushes to pick them; she takes them to Mina for the bandages she is preparing
Eskild shakes his head. "Just a trail to the river down this side. Steep cliffs and a cold swim else."
Bialver mutters ''If we could misguide their charge....''

Maegdin and Mallennor look at each other and shake their heads. Mat calls back to the captain. 'Very well. It's not the worst we've faced!' He joins the rest of his kin in pushing another cart across the bridge to fully block the way.
Miriaden dragged anything she could find to help secure the bridge, hammering nails into boards and fixing them to the overturned wagon, pointy sides out.
Minabel returns with a trail of children and ushers them into the towers. "Stay there until someone comes for you."
Trumodir looks around to make sure of Eskild and Bialver's whereabouts

Eskild runs over to a nearby burnt out house and starts dragging remaining bits of timber to aid the defense.
Miriaden runs to the others gathered behind the cart and unslings her bow. She strings her bow and nocks an arrow, taking a place at the south end of the bridge, getting ready for the Orcs.
Bialver strings and tests his bow, and makes sure his arrows are in easy reach, then loosens his club in its baldric.
Minabel tries to calm herself down. "Just breathe," she mutters to herself. "You have come a long way from when you first met this Ranger and you can do this."

As the Rangers turn over the second cart, a flash of lightning splits the sky and a crash of thunder resounds. In the bare instant the further side of the bridge is revealed, those in the town can see at least two score Orcs massing at the far end of the bridge. As a heavy rain begins to lash down, the Orcs set up a dreadful bellowing and shouting. Some begin to move forward.

Bialver catches his Kinswoman's eye as they move to either side of Eskild. ''Death', he cries. ''Bráðdauði to the vermin!''
Eskild takes a deep breath and tries to look brave, though his hand shaking on the hilt of his sword reveals otherwise.
Minabel shivers in terror and tries to remind herself why she is here.
Maegdin and the other Rangers string their bows as they hear the Orcs begin their attack. They stand in a line facing the barricade, arrows nocked, ready to draw and release as soon as the first foes should appear. They appear calm and unconcerned.
A determined look comes into Miriaden's features as she saw the Orcs, and while her heart thudded within her chest at seeing the throng, she was undaunted. She lifted her bow and drew back the arrow, ready to fire the moment they were in range.

Bialver sees the half-eaten honeycake in Esk's hands and slaps him. ''EAT!'' he roars. ''you will fight longer, and kill more of these two-legged Valskr!''
At the sight of the Orcs, Tru's rage builds and she forgets all else in her hatred of those foul beasts; she gives her axe a vicious swing in preparation and yells out: "Let them come—they'll be minus their heads when I'm done with them!"
Bialver rolls his shoulders, catches Tru's eye, and roars out his defiance.
Eskild shoves the rest of the honeycake in his mouth, nearly choking on it.
Bialver grins and from somewhere produces a very small flask of very strong mead, which he passes to the stripling beside him. ''And drink'' he says.
Eskild gulps down the mead coughing at the taste.

The Orcs' shouting grows louder as they clamber on to the bridge. Suddenly, a deep voice rises above their din, shouting commands in Orkish. At that, a dozen Orcs swarm over the barricade, half with bows, the rest with hammers and scimitars gripped in their fists.
Maegdin, Miriaden, and the other Rangers draw their bows as one and take aim as the Orcs charge towards them. Suddenly, Mallennor cries, 'Lacho calad!' The others reply, 'Drego morn!' and loose. Five bowstrings twang, and five Orcs fall dead, green-feathered arrows sticking in eyes and throats.

Minabel takes aim at a particularly ugly Orc and releases her arrow. She misjudges the distance in the guttering torchlight on the bridge. Her arrow lands harmlessly in front of her target, who continues his advance.
Trumodir trembles with pent-up energy, ready to spring at the first Orc who gets within range, and suddenly, there he is, spear in hand! Her axe sweeps out as her foe comes within range, parting the Orc's head from his shoulders. A gout of black blood spills from his neck as he crumbles to the floor of the bridge.
Bialver roars ''THE VALES!'' and swings his club as an Orc with a nasty little hammer come within range. The Beorning's blow slams down onto the Orc's right arm. There is a wet crack, and the Orc drops his weapon, howling in pain.

Miriaden nocks another arrow the moment her first leaves the string, and she draws back and fires again at the largest Orc in sight, taking aim for the neck. The arrow flies wide, burying itself harmlessly in the barricade.
Maegdin nocks another arrow to the string and lets fire at one of the enemy archers. His shot slams home in the eye of an Orc taking aim at the company. He falls with a thud behind the barricade.
Eskild draws his bow and fires an arrow at the farthest archer. The arrow drives into the shoulder of his foe. The Orc snarls, but has to waste time breaking off the haft before he can take aim again.

The one hale enemy archer takes aim at the Rangers, but his shot goes wild as he watches his fellows fall to arrows. Meanwhile, the three other enemies pause in their assault, dismayed by the stiffness of the defense. The one Bialver attacked spits at him and claws at him with his good hand, but his nails skitter harmlessly off the Beorning's mail.

As the Orcs waver, the Rangers cast aside their bows and sweep out their swords. Mallennor drives his blade into the back of the Orc attacking the Beorning, while Bregor charges the remaining swordsman with his shield. While the Orc stands stunned, Gaellant drives his sword into the Orc's neck.

Minabel looks around at the remaining Orcs and picks a particularly small Orc to aim her arrow out. "Take that, you slimy runt," she yells and lets loose. The archer Eskild hit looks up at Mina's shout, just in time to take an arrow in the throat. He goes down, grasping at his neck and gurgling.
Trumodir tingles from head to toe with the thrill of the battle; she surges toward an Orc -apparently the last in this wave without a bow. The stroke cuts across the Orc's bare chest, laying open a wide gash. The enemy cries out in pain, but growls and comes on again.
Bialver, roaring with rage, makes a grab at the Orc charging at Trumodir, trying to get him by the collar. His fist closes on empty air as his enemy moves aside with a surprising agility. The Orc gives a harsh laugh and says something in a mocking tone as he turns his anger on Bialver.

Miriaden curses under her breath as her arrow misses, but she quickly nocks another, aims, and fires at the Orc archer, aiming for his face. Her arrow strikes home, catching her opponent mid-yell. The shot drives into his open mouth and he falls with a sudden look of shock on his face.
Maegdin puts aside his bow and picks up his shield. He draws his sword and charges the sole remaining Orc with a wordless yell, which makes the Orc looks over his shoulder at the Ranger. He has no time to react, though, before Maegdin's sword buries itself in his chest. The Ranger pulls out the blade and the Orc slumps to the ground, clutching feebly at the wound.

As the final Orc falls, the Rangers let out a yell of triumph. At that sound, some of the guardsmen look cautiously in at the south end of the bridge. Seeing the dead enemies, they take up the shout. Suddenly, however, the great Orc voice is raised again in command, and another dozen Orcs clamber over the barricade.

Eskild swallows hard as he nocks another arrow and aims for the nearest orc. The arrow slams into the shoulder of an axe-wielding Orc. The creature staggers and falls to a knee before rising again with a roar and charging the company.
Bialver mutters ''Valskr!''

The Orcs give a roar and charge the company. Fortunately, all of their arrows fly wide and the Ranger's shield-wall holds. The Beornings, however, are not so lucky. While Trumodir bats away a strike from a scimitar, one of the others lands a strike on Bialver, punching through a weakness in his mail and opening a cut along his arm, which begins to bleed profusely.
As the Orcs slam against the Rangers' shield-wall, the Men throw them back, Mallennor striking down the Orc Eskild wounded while the others hamstring and then behead one of the others.

Minabel focuses all of her energy on one particularly mean looking Orc and strings her bow. She lets her arrow fly, never removing her eyes from the Orc's forehead. Her arrow lands between the Orc's eyes, driving through its skull and into the barrier behind it. The Orc falls with a look of sudden surprise on its face.
Trumodir searches for an Orc that looks distracted and sees an archer who is focusing on something away from her. She leaps up to where he is standing and gives a wild swing with her axe. The swing does in fact go wild, burying itself in a beam next to the Orc's head. He turns and snarls at her, drawing a wicked-looking dagger and slashing towards her.
Bialver roars and swings at an Orc about to leap at the shield-wall, striking a solid blow on his enemy, throwing it to the ground and knocking the wind out of it.

Miriaden swiftly pulls an arrow from her quiver and nocks it, drawing far back and releasing it, eyes fixed on one of the archers. The arrow buries itself in the Orc's heart and the foe collapses in a heap.
Maegdin steps to the side to dodge a strike from an Orc's scimitar. As he does so, he bends down and drives his sword into the chest of the Orc Bialver stunned to the ground.

Eskild flinches away from the Orc that attacked Trumodir. Without really thinking, he grabs an arrow and takes a stab at the Orc's head without bothering with his bow. The arrowhead pierces the Orc's cheek. It reels back, roaring with pain and raking at Eskild with its claws.

While the melee goes on, the Orc archers fire. The arrows go wild, some even landing in the legs of their fellows, distracting them from their attack.
As the other Rangers drive their foes back towards the barricade, Mallennor seizes his bow, takes aim, and puts an arrow through the ear of the Orc attacking Eskild. As he does so, both Gaellant and Bregor land blows on their foes, making the Orcs howl. A loud voice yells from behind the barricade, and the remaining Orcs look around, concern evident on their faces.

Minabel takes aim at the Orc furthest from her and focuses all her energy on trying to hit him. She lets the arrow fly. It goes flying past the ear of one of the archers. As it flies over the barricade, a strangled scream comes to their ears, followed by some cruel laughter.
Trumodir peers at the scrum of rangers and Orcs and picks out an Orc at the edge to vent her fury on. Trumodir's axe falls from above, gleaming in the torchlight. There is a sickening thud, and one of the Orcs falls with cloven head.
Bialver, taking advantage of the Orcs’ distraction, lunges forward to grab one by the collar. One of the Orcs attacking the Rangers hears a bellowing roar and looks over just in time to see Bialver grab him the throat. The Beorning slams the Orc against one of the bridge supports before throwing it over the railing. The Orc gives a scream that is quickly swallowed by the thunder and rain.

Miriaden nocks another arrow and looks at the enemies left. She takes aim at the largest archer and releases. Her arrow flies true and buries itself in the throat of her target. The Orc collapses clutching at its throat, black blood running from its mouth.
Maegdin pulls his sword from the Orc he just killed and turns to the remaining melee fighter. He slams his shield into the side of the Orc before hamstringing it with a quick blow to the knee.
Eskild pulls another arrow and aims it at one of the archers. The adrenaline of the battle has at least masked his fear. The arrow strikes the Orc with such force as it pierces its eye that it drives straight through its skull and continues over the barricade. A harsh laugh is suddenly cut off with a gurgle as the first Orc collapses back behind the barricade.

As the remaining archer sees his fellows fall, he gives a yelp and shoots an arrow wildly before turning to leap back down over the barricade. The shot flies harmlessly off the bridge while the remaining fighter climbs to one knee. With a snarl, it slashes at Trumodir with its black scimitar. The blade finds purchase on her thigh and tears open an ugly gash. Trumodir gives a roar of pain and steps back to recover her focus

The final archer never makes it over the barricade, as Mallenor's arrow buries itself in its back. It tumbles backwards and lands sprawling on this side of the barricade. Meanwhile, Gaellant relieves the final Orc of its head with a quick swipe of his sword while Bregor picks his bow back up. Some of the braver Trestlebridge guards come out onto the bridge, led by Trotter.
Maegdin and the other Rangers lean heavily on their swords and bows during this lull, while the guards give the company an appreciative look as they see the carnage on the bridge.

Miriaden quickly moves around to gather arrows during the lull, filling her own quiver and handing some arrows to each of the other archers.
Bialver looks at his kinswoman with concern, and hands her the little flask that never leaves his belt unless it's being drunk from
Trumodir pulls some unguent from a pocket and applies it to the gash with good effect; she looks about to see if anyone else needs to use some.

Eskild feels through his quiver for the arrows he has left. Glancing behind and seeing Trotter and some of the other guard, he goes back to join them standing slightly behind Trotter. "For Trestlebridge. And everyone who died 'cause of the Orcs."
Bialver crosses his arms and glares at the guards. 'Heed the son of Egon when he speaks,' he growls. 'While you hung back, townsmen, he leapt into the fray and did a man's work this day.' He leans over and whispers to Trumodir, 'Or a bear's.'
Trumodir nods vigorously while taking a swig from the flask that Bialver had given her; she was feeling much better and ready to hew a few more heads from their owners.

Trotter gives the boy an appreciative clap on the shoulder. Before he can respond to Bialver, though, the great voice is raised in command again, and all the remaining Orcs clamber over the barricade. As a dozen enemies leap into view, a couple of the guards bolt back to the end of the bridge. Trotter and one other stand firm, though their faces blench a bit.
As five of the Orcs give a yell and charge the Men, a final enemy climbs over the barricade: a huge Orc, almost man-high, clad in black iron mail and wielding a two-handed mattock. He raises the weapon over his head and shouts a command in Orkish before leaping down and following his troops into the fray.

Minabel gasps. She steadily takes an arrow from her quiver and nocks it. "Make this one count," she tells herself, and lets the arrow fly at the massive Orc. While the shot flies true, the warchief sees her aiming, and steps aside as the arrow leaves the string. He watches it fly past and land in the barricade before turning back to the company with a wicked laugh.
Trumodir has her eye on the Orc nearest to her and lunges at it with her axe. The axe bites deep, hewing the arm from the Orc. As it stands there gaping, blood pouring from the stump, her backstroke removes its head. She gives a roar of mixed triumph and rage.
Bialver charges forward to take a swing at the great orc, roaring a wordless challenge. The warchief meets Bialver's stroke with his own, catching the club on the haft of his axe. The Orc pushes the club away and snarls something at Bialver before spitting in his face.

Miriaden nocks an arrow and takes aim at the warchief also, letting fly after taking careful aim. As the warchief winds up to take a swing at Bialver, Miriaden's arrow slams into his shoulder, finding a weak point in his armour. The Orc staggers for a moment before looking down at the arrow, grimacing, and yanking it back out with a bellow. He breaks it in one huge fist and throws it down before hefting his axe again.
Maegdin lifts his bow as the Orcs come over the barricade. He takes a shot at one of the archers, but the shot flies wide. The Ranger curses to himself.
Eskild sobers up quickly upon seeing the Orc warchief. He draws his bow and aims for one of the archers. His arrow falls just short of its target, burying itself in an archer's foot. The Orc gives a yell of pain before breaking off the arrow and pulling its foot off the shaft.

The warchief shouts a command, and the archers fire a volley while he and his other fighters beat on the line of the Rangers and the Beornings. The chief's hammer slams into Bialver's stomach, knocking the wind from the man, even through the mail. Meanwhile, a volley of arrows lands throughout the company, one driving through the eye of the guardsman, another landing in Trotter's shoulder, while others pepper the Rangers in leg and shoulder. Maegdin and Bregor barely get their shields up in time to meet the melee fighters, but Gaellant is driven to the ground as two Orcs fall on him with their hammers. The Orcs give a yell of triumph and press their advantage.

Trotter falls to his knee as the arrow strikes him, leaning on his spear and breathing heavily.
Mallennor and Bregor both gives shouts of shock and anger as they see Gaellant borne down by the enemies. Mallennor looses an arrow at the archers, which flies wild, but Bregor sweeps out with his sword and bites deep into the chest of one of his foes, which falls in a heap. Meanwhile, Gaellant clambers to his knees as his fellows drive his foes away from him.

Minabel spots a particularly arrogant looking melee Orc and decides that he is within range. She grabs an arrow from her quiver and hopes that this one lands true. Mina's arrow shoots over the shoulders of the Rangers before burying itself in the haft of the Orc's hammer as it lifts it to strike at the Men. The Orc looks surprised for a moment before continuing with the blow.
Trumodir looks for the most vulnerable Orc, hoping to reduce the total number in the battle; she rushes forward, axe above her head. The Beorning's aim is true, as her axe buries itself in the chest of the very Orc Minabel had just shot at. He crumples to the ground.
Bialver manages to roll to his knees and grabs at the legs of a passing Orc, hoping to trip it and bring it down within range of the club he has somehow found again. He trips the Orc, but the foe manages to just barely roll out of the path of his club.

Miriaden nocks two arrows this time, aiming into the group of Orc archers. Lining up her shot, she really hopes both shots land well. The attempt is partially successful: while one arrow shoots wild, the other finds purchase in the chest of one of the archers, who falls dead.
Maegdin takes a swipe at one of the foes in front of him, but the Orc parries the stroke aside and aims a blow at the Ranger.
Eskild is enraged upon seeing Trotter fall even if not fatally. He draws his sword and rushes the nearest Orc slashing aggressively.

The nearest Orc to Eskild is, in fact, the warchief. As the foe is intent on beating the Beornings into a pulp, the Breelander's charge catches it by surprise, and the young man lands a solid strike to its thigh, punching through the meat of the leg and opening a nasty gash. The Orc bellows with pain and turns to look at the Man who attacked him. He swings his hammer in an arc, catching Eskild square in the breadbasket. The man is thrown back a couple of feet, landing heavily on the ground, the wind knocked out of him.

Meanwhile, the archers take aim and fire on the company. Several arrows fly wild, but one bites into Miriaden's arm and Minabel's thigh. Miriaden's wound begins to burn like fire, and a numbing pain starts to spread out from the wound. She lets out a cry as the arrow sinks into her arm. As soon as it begins to burn and go numb, she drops her bow, pulling out a sword with her good arm.
Maegdin catches a hammer-blow on his shield, but the other Orc lands another blow on his shield, which cracks audibly as the Ranger is driven back a few paces.

Trotter climbs unsteadily to his feet, eyes wide with terror as he watches the onslaught of the Orcs. He backs away slowly, fear plain in his face.
As Maegdin is driven back, his fellows give a shout and press the attack. Mallennor looses a final arrow at the archers, which strikes true, sticking in the eye of an Orc. Meanwhile, Bregor and Naellant push back against the fighters, swiping an Orc's hand from its wrist in the process.

Minabel takes aim at the closest enemy and silently prays to whoever is listening that her arrow finds its mark. As the Orc looks down at its bleeding stump, its shock is suddenly ended as Minabel's arrow slams into its throat.
Trumodir summons up what force she has and lunges toward the Orc nearest to her, blindly swinging her axe with as much force as she can. The warchief bats Trumodir's strike away almost effortlessly, actually knocking the axe from her grip in the process.
Bialver struggles to his feet, panting heavily. He draws a dagger with a carved beehive for a pommel, and slashes at the back of the great Orc's knee. The Beorning's strike drives home, piercing the sinews behind its knee. The warchief gives a roar of anger and pain as he falls to one knee, his leg no longer able to support his weight.

Miriaden steps forward towards the nearest Orc, swinging her sword in an arc at his midsection in the hopes of cutting his belly. Her vision is beginning to cloud, but she doesn't stop trying! Even with her senses beginning to cloud from the poison of the Orc-arrow, Miriaden's stroke finds purchase, slashing open the armour of the single remaining fighter and opening a nasty gash across its chest. It remains standing, though.
Miriaden looked satisfied as her blade found her mark, but her knees gave out beneath her as the Orc poison spread through her body. She blinked slowly and reached over to pull the poisoned arrow from her arm and drop it to the ground. She finally crumples to the ground, unconscious.
Eskild somehow manages to stagger to his feet after spending several moments lying flat on his back unable to breathe. He can feel his entire body shaking, and his breathing is still labored. He takes his sword and goes to stap it in the war chief's foot. The strike fails to land, instead driving into the floorboards near the warchief's foot.

The warchief leans on his hammer and pulls himself to his feet. He snarls and swipes at Eskild with his claws, but the Man is just out of his reach.
The archers release another volley, several of which slam into the Rangers' shield. One, however, lands in Bregor's shoulder, which begins to burn with a blazing pain. Meanwhile, the remaining fighter gives a weak swipe with his hammer, which fails to connect with anyone.

As Trotter continues to watch the fight, something seems to harden in him, and he gives himself a shake. With a shout of 'For Trestlebridge!' he charges up behind the Rangers and drives his spearhead through the chest of their foe, who collapses weakly.
Bregor falls to his knees as the poison begins to burn in his veins. Meanwhile, Mallennor and Naellant draw their swords, give a shout of "Flame, light! Flee, night!' and charge the archers. Their foes are caught by surprise, and two of them fall to their blades.

Minabel draws her arrow back to her cheek and takes careful aim at the warchief. As the Orc takes a step towards Eskild and reaches out with its claws to tear out the Man's throat, the arrow punches straight through his mail and buries itself to the fletching in the Orc's belly. It staggers back against the railing, a look of shock on his face before it pitches over the railing and into the cold stream far below. The archers give a yell as they see their leader and the rest of their fellows fall and turn to flee.

Eskild closes his eyes expecting the worst and is surprised to see the remaining Orcs flee. Though he's still not feeling well enough to do anything besides stand there, a small wave of satisfaction spreads across his face.
Trumodir feels herself gaining strength as she sees the Orcs being routed; she leaps into the fray, right into the middle of where the archers are turning to run.
Trumodir's charge bears down one of the archers, giving Naellant an easy opening to relieve it of its head. Meanwhile, Maegdin draws a knife from his boot and throws it towards the Orc, smiling as it strikes home in the second archer. Mallennor drives his sword through the back of the last one. Finally, the bridge falls silent, save for the drumming of the rain and the rumble of the thunder.


Chapter 18: Bleakrift

Maegdin and Candaith sit near the fire in the predawn dark, speaking in low tones and making plans for the coming assault. From time to time, they pause and listen, hands straying to their sword-hilts, before they begin to speak again.
Miriaden was crouched a little ways up the hill, keeping watch with a grim look on her face. She was in earshot of the group, though hidden among some shrubbery.
Ortrun lies curled up on the ground, her staff clutched in her sleeping hand as her breath comes long and even. Harris was tied up on his perch a short distance away, remaining silent and occasionally letting out a soft chirp. The weight of what she had learned, of the foul creatures that were traversing her home, had hit her deeply. For now, though, sleep provided a welcome respite.

Trumodir strolls back into camp looking pleased with herself; she had a good night hunting Orcs and Wargs with Bialver and Eskild, and their ranks have been thinned considerably
Bialver grins at his companions, and a hundred yards from the campsite begins to move with exaggerated caution
Eskild returns to camp with Trumodir and Bialver also carrying some small game to bring back to the rest of the group.
Bialver creeps silently in behind Eskild, sure that the Rangers have heard him anyway.
Maegdin speaks softly to Candaith. 'If we can draw them out, the task will be-' He pauses suddenly and leaps to his feet, clasping the hilt of his sword as he hears footsteps approaching. He cocks his head for a moment and then smiles, sitting back down by the fire. 'Welcome back, friends,' he says in a soft voice, so as not to wake Ortrun and Minabel.

Eskild proudly holds up a few dead rabbits and birds to show Maegdin and Candaith.
Bialver is carrying 4 very large and mangy warg trails. He looks at the sleeping form of Minabel and chuckles
Miriaden 's hand went to her bow at the sound of footsteps, but in seeing the Beornings and Eskild she relaxed. Somewhat.
Ortrun reflexively curls a little tighter, a line appearing between her eyebrows as the sound of footsteps begins to pervade. Her chest began to rise and fall slightly faster as she nears wakefulness.
Candaith waves his hand at the fire. 'Take a seat,' he says. 'We have much to discuss, and to do. If you don't mind, could you cook a couple of those up for us?' He directs this last at Eskild.

Miriaden returns to the camp, taking a spot near the fire, though she remains standing. She looked restless and anxious, eyes constantly searching the area around them.
Eskild sits down by the fire and draws his hunting knife. "I don't mind at all." He proceeds to start skinning one of the rabbits.
Bialver trades glances with Trumodir, and digs in his pack
Bialver mutters and starts taking things out of his pack, clearly hunting for something
Maegdin nods and smiles slightly as Eskild gets to work and as Miriaden rejoins them. 'Best wake up Ortrun and Mina,' he says. 'They'll need to know, even if they don't join us.'
Trumodir gives Maegdin a piercing look. "Know what?" she asks.
Maegdin gives Trumodir a questioning look. 'What we plan for today, of course,' he says. 'And you lot should also be told what we found at the summit of Weathertop.'

Bialver pulls out a short coil of rope, a whetstone wrapped in an oily rag, a curiously carved box, some socks with a ripe odour that could kill a goblin at 20 paces, a battered flint-and-tin, and finally a couple of extremely battered honeycakes, which he hands to his kinswoman.
Eskild sets down the first skinned rabbit and sets to work on a second.
Miriaden 's jaw sets and she steps over to Ortrun, crouching to squeeze her shoulder to wake her. "Time to get up," she murmurs to the Eglan.
Trumodir gives Bialver a look of disgust and hands the honeycakes back, pulling out some fresher ones from her own pack.
Bialver shrugs and moves everything but one honey cake back into his pack

Ortrun gasps, her entire body locking as Annie gripped her shoulder. She reflexively begins to bring her staff around, but relaxes when a semi-familiar face comes into view. She shakes her head briskly and sits up, muttering, “Morning,” in a voice thick with the residue of sleep.
Maegdin covers his nose with his mouth as the odour from Bialver's pack hits him. 'Either get rid of those things or wash them,' he says in disgust. As he goes to wake Minabel, she rolls over and starts coughing from the stink. 'What is that horrid smell?' she says groggily, waving her hand in front of her face.
Eskild buries his nose into his kerchief to guard against the smell but still makes a screwed up face in disgust. "That smells rotten" he mutters.
Miriaden's nose twitches from the smell and she rises, taking a few steps back.
Maegdin glances at Minabel with a look of pity. 'I think something crawled in Bialver's pack and died,' he says.
Minabel sniffs primly and walks as far away from the Beorning as she can, sitting herself next to Miriaden as she begins combing her hair.

Ortrun's face begins screwing tighter and tighter as she realizes belatedly that the cloying taste in her mouth was in fact a thick smell, and an unpleasant one at that. Pinpointing the location of said scent by the way everyone was leaning away, she unties Harris and pulls off his hood. She points at Bialver, clicks her tongue twice, then whistles sharply and drops her hand. Harris takes off with a loud, LOUD screech, beating his wings hard and fishing the offending sock out of Bialver’s things. The hawk, who luckily cannot smell very well, flies off with the object somewhere well out of eyesight.
Bialver stares in outrage and the swiftly disappearing bird. "My SOCK!!!" he cries.
Minabel gives a slight smile as the bird flies off with the offending sock, before saying 'I can simply make you another couple of pairs, had I the yarn.'

Candaith shakes his head at the antics of the others and says, 'We found somewhat at the top of the hill which has given me great cause for concern. It is our suspicion that the lights I saw the other night were caused when Gandalf the Grey drove off some of the servants of the Enemy. Maegdin says that some of you know of them already, but I will not say their name here. However, their presence has made your errand to Rivendell more urgent. You must ride with all haste. However, I would still beg your help in ridding these hills of the Orcs, should you be willing to wait one day ere you depart.'

Miriaden looks incredibly relieved at the demise of the sock, but quickly turns her attention back to their task at hand. "I will aid as best I can." She says to the other Ranger.
Trumodir smiles at Candaith's request, happy at the thought of having more time to finish ridding the area of Orcs
Bialver shrugs resignedly, and carefully lays the remaining sock on the very top of the pack, then ties it shut.
Eskild hides a smile and tries to look unusually fascinated by the rabbit in his hands as he finishes skinning it. "I'd be happy to end the lives of some more miserable Orcs."
Harris remains gone for approximately a minute, before a dark speck begins lazily circling down. Ortrun whistles slowly, holding out her arm, and the bird lights down, decidedly without the sock. His mistress feeds him a sizable piece of meat for his valiant deed.

Miriaden frowns over to Bialver and narrows her eyes some. "This is hardly the time for antics." She says lowly, looking annoyed. "If you knew what was out there.." She presses her lips together and turns on her heel, heading back up the hill a little.
Bialver mutters "that's a terrible thing to say to someone who's just lost a sock"
Trumodir looks quizzically at Miri, and then at Mat and Candaith, wondering what they're all so concerned about; a few Orcs and Wargs don't seem to be worth the level of stress they're showing.

Maegdin laughs at the others before growing serious. 'Then, if we are in agreement, we should eat and then leave soon. We should strike the Orcs while the sun is high. Here is what we propose: the lot of you hide near the entrance to their camp amid the rocks and underbrush while Candaith and I go in and rile the Orcs up. With luck, they'll give chase, and you can take them at unawares.
Minabel shudders and sighs. 'I don't think I'll go,' she says. 'Our fight with the Orcs in Trestlebridge was dangerous enough, and I don't think I can stand seeing them again.'
Ortrun smiles, taking a certain amount of satisfaction from the idea of purging such a number of those horrid beasts from her home. "I will do that," she agrees firmly, before casting a disdainful glance at Minabel.

Miriaden leaned against the nearby tree, already stringing her bow.
Candaith speaks up. 'The problem with these Orcs is that they are in an entrenched position, and that they are led by a warchief. They give him what little respect their kind can muster, which means that he must be strong and brutal indeed.' He nods at Minabel, clearly concerned for the girl being out in such dangerous country.
Eskild starts roasting the rabbits over the fire while the rest of the group discusses the plan.
Trumodir springs up and looks like she's about to dash off without the others to draw the Orcs out all by herself.
Bialver nods at Tru and Esk before he turns to the rangers. "Just tell me if there's anything I'm NOT to kill" he says jauntily

Eskild meets Bialver's glance. "Course I en't backing from a fight."
Maegdin gestures to the others. 'Please, sit down,' he says. 'We need to eat first, and then we set out. On foot, we should arrive in late morning. If the weather holds, we'll have clear sun, which will discomfit the Orcs and serve to our advantage.'

Miriaden set to work, soaking her arrowheads in oil and making sure her weapons were sharpened and ready. When satisfied, she returns silently to the fire, standing nearby.
Ortrun takes a piece of coney once the creature had finished cooking. She tears away strips of the meat, chewing them with relish while attempting not to wolf the entire thing down. Harris squawks softly, and she reaches up a hand to absently stroke his plumage. He couldn’t eat any more; they still had work to do.
Trumodir sits down again, a bit away from the others so she doesn't have to contemplate the carcasses of the poor rabbits they're eating.
Eskild cuts off a strip of cooked coney and chews on it with relish.
Bialver washes down his honeycake with water from a nearly-empty skin, which he then shakes, frowning thoughtfully.
Ortrun finishes her hasty breakfast and levers herself to her feet, stretching out her back and legs.
Miriaden takes a portion of the roasted coney and eats quickly. She shifts her weight to her other foot, then back again.

The Rangers take some of the coney and eat in silence for a few moments. Finally, Candaith asks, 'Do any of you have questions about your part in our expedition?'
Ortrun tilts her head. "We purge Orcs, and ensure we do not get captured or perish," she says, stating the obvious.
Maegdin chuckes slightly as he finishes his meal. 'I suppose that is the task at hand,' he says, shaking his head. He stands and picks up his bow and shield. 'Then, let us tarry no longer.' He looks over at Minabel. 'Be careful while we are gone,' he says, concern evident in his voice.
Bialver says "Ambush Orcs, kill Orcs, kill more Orcs? May we skin them?"
Trumodir looks up. "That would take too long", she says
Candaith gives Bialver a look as he stands up. 'Why would you want to?' he asks. He looks about as he picks up his bow and quiver. 'If you are ready to depart, then let us leave.'
Bialver mutters something about socks, then grins at Tru and Esk and straps on his weapons.
Miriaden frowns at the idea of skinning Orcs and just shook her head trying not to look sick. "Let's just go." She mutters.

Ortrun twirls her staff once with a low hum, then slings it on her back and allows Harris to climb on her shoulder. "Let us depart."
Eskild slides his knife back into its sheath and stands up stretching. "Ready."
Trumodir leaps up again, hoping that there will be no further delay.
Minabel looks around at the others as they prepare to leave. 'You be careful yourselves,' she says. 'I will do what I can to have food ready when you return.' Candaith nods and turns away, heading off to the north at a good pace.
Bialver whistles softly and his mare trots up. He whispers to her and points to Mina, then starts off after the rangers

Maegdin and Candaith lead the company north along the Weatherway for some miles before turning west and fording the stream the others crossed on their way to Weathertop. As they come up the slope, Candaith pauses and points to a path which leads north into a defile among the hills. 'That way lies Bleakrift, where the Orcs have made their camp,' he says as the others come around him.
The day has dawned clear and bright, with only a few high thin clouds which do nothing to dim the sun's light. Maegdin looks up and smiles. 'Good fortune for us,' he says. 'The Orcs will wither under this sun, and under our arrows.'
Miriaden had taken up the rear, head on a swivel as they made their way north. She smirks just a little, ready to rid the lands of this filth.

Ortrun's eyes harden with a fierce excitement as they grow close. She had long been unable to take care of the creatures, avoiding them unless absolutely necessary, but now she could exact revenge. Harris picks up on her tenseness and poofs out his feathers, swelling to twice his size.
Eskild gains a slight bounce to his step looking forward to the fight and somewhat oblivious to the real threat of the Orcs.
Trumodir runs her thumb along the side of the edge of her axe, assuring herself of its sharpness. She hewed a number of heads from Orcs the day before and had hoped that her blade hadn't become too dull.
Candaith nods in agreement with Maegdin. 'That they shall,' he says. He edges his way around the out-thrust cliff and looks up the defile. The way seems clear, though strewn with fallen boulders, stunted trees, and writhen bushes. 'Come with me, and go softly.'

The company makes their way up the defile, though Bialver and Ortrun stumble on some loose stones, letting out muffled curses which Miriaden attempts to shush too loudly. Candaith whirls and gives them all a glare and holds up his hand to stop them. 'Very well,' he says. 'Since it seems you cannot move quietly, take up positions here among the stones and bushes. Maegdin and I will go forward and draw as many Orcs out as we can. Be ready for quick action when you hear us come.' With that, he gestures to Maegdin, who gives the others a sympathetic look, and sets off further along the path.
Ortrun grumbles under her breath, shooting a dirty glance at Bialver as if the stones were completely his fault. Nonetheless, she squats down and lays her staff across her lap, remaining in a light 'ready' position.
Eskild makes a sad disappointed puppy face after Maegdin and Candaith as he secretly hoped to be part of the ambush.
Bialver looks carefully at the scrub and boulders, tracing out the paths a fleeing Orc might take. He crouches down carefully between two bushes and nocks his bow.
Miriaden frowns and clamps her jaw shut, pulling her bow from her shoulder and sparking a small lantern to light, setting it next to her. Taking an arrow from her quiver, she takes up a sturdy position and is ready to light the arrow at the right moment.
Trumodir crouches, completely still, and ready to pounce at the first sign of an Orc

Suddenly, raucous noise breaks out perhaps 200 yards ahead of the company, though out of sight due to bends in the path. Sounds of stones clattering against wood, the racket of sword beaten against shield, and shouts of 'Gurth an Glamhoth!' and 'For Arnor!' are quickly drowned out by loud shouts in Orkish. The stamp of booted feet comes quickly down the path, with the shouts growing louder.

Ortrun immediately clicks her tongue, pointing to a large rock. Harris reacts instantly, flying up to perch on top. She readies her staff, raising her free hand with her eyes locked on her faithful bird and lets out a sharp whistle, letting it draw out until the Orcs came into eyeshot.
Bialver carefully looks at the hiding places of the others, then loosens his dagger in its sheath and his club from his belt, pick up his bow again, and grins fiercely
Eskild nocks an arrow and waits excitedly for the Orcs to come within range.

Maegdin and Candaith suddenly appear around the last turn of the path, running as fast as they can as they unsling their bows from their backs. Before they've gone fifty paces from the last turn, eight Orcs come into view, screaming and shouting as they chase the Rangers. When they draw level with the rest of the group, Candaith and Maegdin suddenly stop, turn, string their bows, and nock arrows in one swift motion. They give a glance to each other, smile wickedly, and loose in unison, crying 'Gurth an Glamhoth!'
Miriaden tilts her bow, lighting the already nocked arrow before she lifts it to take aim. She waits until her kinsman come into view and fires at the largest Orc.
Eskild looses an arrow at the nearest Orc firing in between the two rangers.
Trumodir leaps from cover with her axe held over her head with both hands, the better to bring it down on the head of the nearest Orc. She lets out a terrifying roar as she rushes forward into the fray.
Ortrun grins, and drops her arm, letting the note of her whistle rise and cut off. Harris launches himself from the rock like a feathery comet, attacking the Orc closest to Ortrun, diving and scratching and pecking at the beast’s face. She grips her staff with both hands, darting away from her hiding-place towards the Orc her bird was preoccupying.
Bialver waits till an Orc is nearly past him, with another close behind, then swings forward, around, and back, trying to get both skulls

The Orcs pause just for a moment as their prey suddenly turns and attacks. However, three of them fall with arrows in eye or throat. While Miriaden's arrow flies harmlessly past the ear of one of them, Trumodir's axe cleaves its head in two. Bialver's club brains one of his Orcs, but his fellow ducks just in time to avoid the return swing. With a screech, the hawk falls out of the sky like a bolt of lightning, clawing both eyes from an unlucky Orc. As the beast raises its hands to bat the bird away from its mangled face, Ortrun's staff whistles down on its neck. There is a wet snap, and the Orc crumples to the ground. Six of the Orcs have fallen in the space of an instant, and the remaining two stare in horror and wheel around, running screaming.


Chapter 18, part 2

Maegdin and Candaith gives laughs of triumph and charge eagerly after the retreating Orcs. Candaith glances over his shoulder. 'Come!' he cries. 'The game is afoot!'
Miriaden nocks another arrow, taking aim at the nearest Orc fleeing, careful to not hit any of their company.
Trumodir lets out a loud roar which causes all hearers to quail; her eyes are afire with blood lust and she trembles with eagerness for battle
Harris arcs up, diving for another Orc with a frenzied scree after leaving the first Orc's face blinded and bloody.
Bialver gives a great bellow and rushes off after the Rangers. Unfortunately, he stumbles over the body of one of the Orcs and cracks his head against a stone. He gives a loud groan and rolls on his back, holding his head.
Eskild feels courage swell in his chest and races after the Orcs and draws another arrow, firing at one of the fleeing enemies.
As Eskild and Miriaden loose their arrows, the Orcs manage to round the corner in the path, and the arrows bury themselves in the hillside. The hawk wings off after them, and the company can hear an Orc shouting and the hawk screeching as the two bat and swipe at each other. The Rangers and Trumodir quickly follow the Orcs up the path.

Eskild quickly notices that his new bear dad isn't with the rest of the group and trips ungracefully over his own feet while looking over his shoulder. He spots the Beorning lying the ground and breaks from the group to check on him.
Miriaden mutters a curse under her breath and hops down from her place on the rock, pausing for a moment by Bialver, looking to him, then Esk, then pursuing the other rangers, nocking an arrow while she moves.
Eskild tries to pick up Bialver first like a backpack, then by dragging one arm, and grimly realizes that Beornings weigh a lot.

Ortrun hares after the two Orcs, running in a bit of an arc to the side in order to avoid any more arrows the Rangers may try and shoot. She whistles loudly, trying to call Harris back to her while she brings her staff up to bear.
As the pursuers round the bend, they see the path runs for perhaps a furlong with a few slight bends before it stops at a rough palisade thrown across the path. The two survivors have made it perhaps halfway, and their shouts and cries have alerted the rest of the camp. Another four archers stand in a gap in the palisade, stringing their short bows. From within the camp, more shouts can be heard, as well as yelled orders in Orkish.

Miriaden finds a nook that offers a little more protection than the path and lifts her bow as she sees the Orc archers. She takes aim and fires at the one that is stringing his bow fastest.
Ortrun skids to a stop as she sees the wall of new enemies, but her first and foremost concern is her bird. Her eyes dart around, wildly undecided whether she should keep running or retreat, before another cry from Harris causes her to keep running. “Harris!!” she yells, emitting another piercing whistle. She seems fiercely bent on reaching the two surviving Orcs.
Maegdin and Candaith slow as they catch sight of the archers in the gate. They pause as they come within the range of their longbows, nock, aim, and fire, Candaith at the archers and Maegdin at the fleeing survivors.

Maegdin and Miriaden's arrows both miss their marks, his flying wide and hers falling short. Candaith's, however, buries itself in the throat of one of the archers, who falls to the ground. As the arrows wing through the air, the Orcs take aim and fire. All three shots fall short. Harris gives a screech and wings back towards Ortrun.

Eskild finally settles on rolling Bialver off into some tall grass where he hopefully won't be too obvious from the road.
Trumodir puts on a burst of speed and runs past the rangers, intent on reaching the two fleeing Orcs before they get to the palisade
Ortrun gasps in relief, immediately wheeling around and running for cover with Harris close in pursuit. She huddles behind a large rock, her bird fluttering down on her shoulder while the pair avoids any arrow fire.
One of the arrows fired by the archers flies toward Trumodir, but her charge is so fierce that it strikes the ground 20 paces behind her.

Eskild gives a final heave to roll Bialver onto his back. He then slips off his neckerchief and leaves it next to the Beorning. Satisfied with his handiwork, Eskild jogs back along the path to rejoin his comrades and possibly save them all from imminent death.
Ortrun hazards a glance over the top of the rock, seeing one of the Orc archers go down with an arrow shaft in its throat. Taking that opening, she starts off in a low sprint to attack, hoping the beasts would be distracted by the Rangers and not her. Harris, needless to say, takes off from her shoulder and wheels around the other side, trying to distract attention from his mistress.
Eskild slows momentarily in shock at strength of the Orcs before steeling himself and quickening his pace into an all out sprint to catch up with Ortrun and Trumodir.
Candaith smiles grimly as his arrow fells the Orc, and he draws another from his quiver. He looses, and then curses as the shaft vanishes over through the gap in the palisade.

Trumodir raises her battle axe in a mighty swing and arcs as wide as she can, attempting to fell both the fleeing Orcs at once. The two Orcs look over their shoulders just in time to see Trumodir swing her axe. They yelp and dive forwards, the axe swiping through empty air.
As their foes finally come within range of their shortbows, the Orcs loose arrows. All of them fly wide or fall short, with one of the arrows actually piercing the back of the hand of one of the fleeing orcs.
As the archers loose, four more Orcs come out of the camp, shouting and waving axes and swords. They charge forwards at the company.

Miriaden nocks and fires another arrow at the archers as they loose, a grim look finding her features as even more Orcs pour forth from the camp. Her arrow, once again, falls short of its target, caught by a sudden gust of wind out of the north.
Maegdin scowls as he sees the new foes swarm out of the camp. He draws his last arrow and takes aim at one of the Orcs Trumodir has tried to relieve of their heads. He releases his arrow, which flies true and buries itself in the back of one of the Orcs just climbing to their feet. He gurgles and tumbles back down the slope as the Ranger draws his sword and charges.
Ortrun draws closer to the palisade, abruptly angling herself to run parallel to the wall. Seeing the four Orcs come charging out, she immediately lunges towards one of them, bringing her staff around like a bat. The staff slams into the face of the nearest Orc, which stumbles back, dropping his sword and clutching at his shattered nose. Black blood begins to pour down his face.

Eskild draws his sword and stabs at the bloodied face of the Orc Ortrun just attacked. His sword drives into the Orc's mouth. The yells of pain cease as the blade emerges from the back of the Orc's head, as it slumps into a heap on the ground.
Candaith quickly fires one last arrow before he casts aside his bow, draws his sword and dagger, and rushes forward to meet the enemies head-on. The arrow flies wide in his haste to join the fray. He scowls and rushes forward anyway, though.

Trumodir rushes up to the last Orc who is desperately trying to reach the safety of the palisade and swings viciously at him. The axe falls from above like a bolt of thunder, cleaving the Orc's head in two.
Seeing two of their fellows fall in quick succession, the Orcs give a roar of anger and press the attack. The archers loose arrows at Candaith, Maegdin, and Eskild, while the fighters charge Trumodir and Ortrun. The Beorning manages to parry one attack and dodge the other, but the third Orc's axe bites deep into Ortrun's bicep. Meanwhile, the Rangers and Eskild are all struck with arrows, the Breelander in the thigh and the Rangers in the shoulder.

Maegdin and Eskild cry out as the arrows strike, but Candaith staggers as he is struck. He is slow to climb back to his feet, and seems to be having difficulty keeping his eyes focused. Eskild staggers for a few paces from the pain and struggles to even handle his sword. He falls back slightly still unused to the harsh realities of battle.

Miriaden nocks an arrow and fires at one of the closer three orcs charging towards them. She releases and reaches back for another arrow the moment the first leaves the string. But, she misjudges the Orcs' speed, and her arrow arcs harmless past her target.
Maegdin grimaces with pain and snaps the shaft off the arrow sticking in his shoulder. He raises his shield and aims a strike at the Orc who attacked Ortrun, trying to interpose himself between the enemy and his fellows. He stumbles slightly as he moves forward and his blow is easily parried by the Orc, who grins wickedly and spits something at him in Orkish.
Ortrun grits her teeth, her entire arm stained red at this point. Freckles standing out stark against her pale skin, her breathing was coming light and shallow, until finally she breaks out of her shock when Maegdin leaps to protect her. With a cry borne from both anger and desperation, she hefts her staff with one hand, wheeling it like a club as she aims towards the Orc’s head. Maegdin barely ducks out of the way as the Eglan's staff-strike flies wild, nearly braining the Ranger instead of the Orc.

Eskild gains some level of composure and rushes the nearest Orc, swinging his sword wildly. The youth's sudden rage surprises the Orcs, especially when his swing hews an Orc's arm off at the elbow.
Candaith staggers a little, clutching at his arrow wound with one hand while moving forward, sword raised in his good hand. The Ranger aims a strike at the Orc Eskild just relieved of a hand. The Orc is plainly in shock, as it fails to raise its axe to block the blow, which pierces its chest. The Orc collapses, a bloody froth pouring from the wound. Candaith grins weakly.

Trumodir quickly scans the scene to find the most likely victim. An Orc is leering at her as he runs toward her. She raises her battleaxe and gives out a bloodcurdling roar. The Orc's leer quickly disappears as he sees Trumodir rush towards him, bloodlust in her eyes. He barely manages to bat away her strikes as he backs towards the gate, terror plain on his face. It's obvious he didn't expect such resistance.
The Orc-archers fire another volley into the fray, aiming at those who seem to be the real threats. However, Trumodir's charge seems to have discomfited them as well, as their arrows fly harmlessly past her, Eskild, and Candaith. Meanwhile, the Orc she was charging aims a blow at her, but she parries it effortlessly and comes on. Maegdin takes the last Orc's sword-strike on shield. Suddenly, a bellowing shout in Orkish cuts through the din as the Orc-chieftain finally joins the fray. Almost man-high, he charges out, pushing one of his archers out of the way as he raises his mace to attack the berserker.

Miriaden nocked and drew back, about to fire on some random Orc, but as the Chieftain comes charging out, she adjusts her aim and fires at the Orc Chief. Her arrow slams home, but it barely seems to slow Uzorr. He gives a yell of pain as he yanks the arrow from his side and licks his blood from the arrowhead. He points at Miriaden and shouts, 'You'll pay for that, you little filth! I'll make your death slow!' With that, he changes course and aims for Miriaden.
Maegdin gives an exasperated sigh as the war-chief shows himself. 'These things are never easy, are they?' he shouts to Candaith as he lashes out again at the Orc in front of him. His sword is met by the Orc's scimitar with a clang of metal. The two foes stand locked for a long moment, both pushing at the other, before the Orc aims a kick at the Ranger's groin. Maegdin yelps and jumps back, barely avoiding the iron-shod foot.

Minabel pants as she runs towards the battle cries, crying out every few steps as the stones bruise her feet.
Ortrun grips her staff a little tighter, anxiety written on her face after her first attempt had nearly killed Maegdin. When the chieftain runs out, she goes a considerable shade whiter, her arm still throbbing with waves of pain. Returning her attention to the Orc threatening her and the Ranger, she takes the opening from Maegdin to bring her staff in a vicious overhand stroke. The strike actually does connect with the Orc, though only with his foot. He gives a yelp of surprise and jumps back, clearly favoring his foot. He glares daggers at the woman.

Eskild gives Candaith a quick glance before darting around to the back of the Orc. The sense of rage has dulled the pain in his body for the time being, and he goes to stab the Orc chieftain in the leg. Uzorr gives a sudden bellow of pain and stumbles as Eskild's sword cuts deep into the meat of his calf. He recovers and glares at the youth. 'I'm going to enjoy gutting you, you little pig!' He wheels around to face Eskild.
Candaith reels for a moment and grasps at his head, his eyes swimming. He leans heavily on his sword and pants, unable to do anything more than remain upright.
Trumodir is now behind the Orc captain and to one side. She rushes down the slope at him with great speed, roaring as she comes. As Uzorr turns towards Eskild and raises his mace for a blow, he catches sight of Trumodir charging. Before he has time to react, however, her axe falls down upon his helm, cleaving the black iron with a sparking CRACK before splitting his head like a melon and burying itself deep in his chest.
The remaining Orcs cry out in shock as they watch the berserker drop their chieftain. The archers gibber and wail, throwing away their bows and running down the path, away from their camp. The two remaining fighters, though, seem to be made of sterner stuff. They roar with rage and strike out at Maegdin and Trumodir.
Maegdin manages to get his shield up in time to meet the strike aimed at his head. He shoves the Orc back, who loses his footing and falls onto his arse. Trumodir, however, is not so lucky. She feels a sudden pain in her right arm, followed by a burning fire as the Orc gives a bloodthirsty yell.

Miriaden grins in satisfaction as the chieftain perishes in a bloody mess. She nocks another arrow and takes aim at the Orc attacking Trumodir. The Orc has little chance to enjoy his bloodlust, as Miriaden's arrow drives straight into his eye and out the back of his head. He collapses, roughly dragging his blade out of Trumodir's arm as he falls.
Maegdin is only vaguely aware of what's going on behind him, but he is keenly aware of the Orc lying on the ground before him. He smiles grimly and swings his sword down towards his foe. The sword falls on the Orc's neck as he attempts to stand up, and his head goes rolling down the hill after his fellows.
Ortrun drops to her knees, clutching at her arm and letting out a low keen of pain as the adrenaline begins trickling out of her system. Harris flutters down next to her, beak and talons bloodied as he warbles softly. Ortrun takes one look at the decapitated Orc in front of her and rocks back and forth, biting her lip so hard she nearly draws blood as she takes deep, shaking breaths.
Minabel arrives at the scene just then and sees the decapitated Orc. She lets out a shriek and backs away. Then she sees Ortrun and goes to her side. "Are you badly hurt? Was anyone else hurt?"

Eskild is splattered in blood from the Orc chieftain, and it takes a moment to realize that there are still more Orcs. He draws his bow, wincing slightly from the pain of the arrow still embedded in his flesh, and nocks two arrows. He takes aim at one of the fleeing Orcs. Both of Eskild's arrows go wild. The Orcs look over their shoulders and pick up the pace.
Candaith drops his sword as he sits down. He pulls a dagger from his boot and wipes it with a clean cloth. He grimaces and begins to cut his arrow-wound open so that he can work the arrowhead out.

Miriaden nocks two arrows, taking aim at the fleeing Orcs. She murmurs a quick prayer that she can stop them from running for help. One of the Orcs stumbles and falls, lying still with a grey-feathered arrow sticking in his back. The other two continue to leg it. They are almost out of sight.
Maegdin takes aim at the retreating Orcs, but then curses softly as his arrow falls short. He looks down and catches sight of what Candaith is doing. 'Wait, cousin!' he says. 'Let me. You'll open a vein with your digging.'

Minabel looks around at all of her injured companions and begins to cry. After a few minutes, she goes off to look for herbs to make healing packs to apply to the group's injuries.
Candaith grimaces and hands the knife to Maegdin, who quickly and deftly cuts the wound open and pulls the arrow out with a swift motion. He eyes the wound with concern. Candaith mutters, 'I have marigold and goatweed in my pouch. Bind them against it until we can return to camp.' The Ranger lays back on the ground, plainly exhausted.
Eskild collapses on the ground and drops his bow beside him. An arrow is sticking out awkwardly from just below the armpit.
Trumodir comes over to Eskild and looks at him with concern. "Can anyone help the boy with this arrow? I've got some herbs to pack the wound once the arrow's out"

Maegdin works his wounded arm and grunts. He quickly wraps his wound in linen before attending to Candaith. He glances up as he chews the herbs to make a simple poultice. As he spits it into a bandage, he says, 'Miriaden, Minabel! Help them. I've my hands full here.'
Ortrun manages to shoot a glare at Mina when she breaks out in tears, although it appears the woman is close herself. Her arm was soaked with blood, and she holds it tightly to her chest as she struggles to her feet. Leaning against her staff for support, she staggers over to Eskild. "Can help..." she manages through gritted teeth.
Minabel begins boiling water in a little kettle she finds in a pack and puts the herbs she collected from around the camp into the water to boil. A few minutes later, the water is ready for the bandages to be soaked in it. Having soaked several bandages, she begins applying them to Candaith's wounds and Ortrun's.
Eskild only manages to stare dumbly, his body completely engulfed in a tidal wave of exhaustion and pain. Even voices sound distant while the blood is still pounding in his ears.
Candaith notices the fire and scowls. He half-sits up and says, 'Put that out! Fix us up enough so that we can move, and then we need to get back to my camp.' He lays back down as he says this last.

Minabel tries to get Ortrun to sit down so she can bandage her.
Maegdin finishes binding the slapdash poultice to Candaith's wound. 'Rest for now while we tend to the others,' he says.
Miriaden curses under her breath as the Orcs vanish into the hills. She heads towards the others, frowning at the injuries. "We need to move. Those Orcs will return with friends and we cannot be here when that happens."

Ortrun scowls tightly at Minabel, shrugging her arm away as she glances upwards at Trumodir. "Boy's...worse to...get arrow out..?" she asks.
Maegdin walks over to Trumodir. 'Let me see your wound. I need to check for poison. All too often, the Orcs add little surprises to their blades.' He kicks the body of the Orc-chieftain as he does.
Trumodir shrugs as she says, “The boy needs that arrow out of him”
Minabel turns her mouth into a scowl and backs away from Ortrun. "Very well, where is the boy? I will attend to his injuries". She locates Eskild and begins swabbing his wound.
Maegdin scowls at Trumodir. 'And I need to make sure you're not going to collapse on the way back. It will be trouble enough lugging Bialver back without you keeling over as well.'

Minabel turns to Miriaden. "Do you have anything to remove this arrow? I do not have knowledge for that, only swabbing wounds and administering medicine."
Miriaden kneels next to Mina, looking over the arrow and the wound. She nodded to Mina, then sighed. "Its barbed, which means we cannot pull it out without causing more damage. Damned Orcs..." She mutters. "We will have to push it through."
Minabel pales. "You will have to pull it. I do not have the nerve to do it. I will hold him down."

Ortrun grimaces up at Minabel and Annie. "Can help...pull..." she murmurs, holding up her good hand. "Or I...can hold 'im down. Either."
Miriaden nods, gesturing to Esk's shoulders. "Hold him down, I will push it through. She looks at Esk with an apologetic look. "This is really going to hurt..." She grips the shaft of the arrow and breaks off the fletching. "I'm going to count to 3, then push." She lies. She only counts to 2 and then pushes hard, the arrow sliding around and along his ribs before the arrowhead comes out the other side where she can pull it through.
Ortrun leans hard against Eskild, bracing one forearm on his shoulder near his injury.
Eskild screams bloody murder from the pain and jerks instinctively before passing out.
Minabel sees the arrow come out the other side of Eskild's body and faints. She comes to thirty seconds later and blushes from embarrassment.

Maegdin shakes his head at Trumodir's intransigence, and grabs her arm, pulling the torn edges of her clothing away from the wound. He inspects it for a moment and sighs. 'It is poisoned. Let me see to it so that it doesn't spread.'
Trumodir heaves a sigh of relief, thankful that the arrow is out
Miriaden has done this so many times she lost count and is generally unaffected by this all. She tosses the arrow aside and reaches into her pack for bandages to press against the wound.
Ortrun falls back from the boy, wincing at his screams before, mercifully, he falls into unconsciousness. She clenches her jaw and focuses tightly on Annie's ministrations.
Maegdin makes up another quick poultice and binds it against the wound. 'Keep that there until we get back to camp and can treat it properly. This should help draw out some of the poison.' He stands and looks at the others. 'Are the rest of you ready to depart? We cannot linger here, or those Orcs will get their courage up and come back, probably with friends.'

Miriaden wraps the bandages around Esk's wounds as best she can and reaches down to pull the unconscious lad upwards. Looking to Mina, she says, "Help me carry him."
Ortrun levers herself to her feet, dragging her gaze dully to Maegdin. "Bialver," she says hoarsely. "We will need him. Annie and Minabel have...Eskild."
Minabel shrieks. "Me, carry a grown man. Oh, alright. If someone else joins us, I can manage it."
Maegdin sighs as he looks around. 'What a sorry lot we are,' he says wryly. He walks over and helps Candaith to his feet. 'You and Trumodir will have to support each other on the way back,' he says apologetically. 'It looks like I'll have to carry Bialver.' He pauses for a moment and rifles through Uzorr's belt-pouch and pockets, tucking a piece of parchment into his own pouch.
Minabel struggles under the weight of Eskild. "Someone grab his legs. He is very heavy and I am not wearing the right shoes."

Maegdin shakes his head at Minabel as the group sets off. 'You'll have to get yourself a proper pair of boots if you want to continue with us,' he says as he gives Trumodir and Candaith a hand as they head towards where they stowed Bialver. 'And you'll need to lose the dress. You'll stick out like a redbird in winter in that getup.'
Miriaden shoots Mina a little glare. "Why are you in a dress and slippers, again?" She murmurs, unable to imagine tromping through the wilds in such a garment.
Eskild starts to come to though he can't do much more than blink for the moment.
Ortrun snarls at Minabel, but makes her way over to Eskild. Kneeling down, she places the lad's feet on either shoulder, and locks her staff across her shoulders and behind her neck. Threading her arms over her weapon to keep it steady, she pushes herself up and tries to ignore the new flood of warmth down her arm. "Let's...go..." she grunts.
Miriaden supports as much of Esk's weight as she can, sparing Mina and Ort as much as possible. She breaks out in a sweat from the effort but will manage until they get back to camp.
Trumodir trudges along, trying to hold Candaith up beside her. Although the wound is painful she grits her teeth and ignores it, just glad that the company came out on top of that encounter without any immediate deaths.

Maegdin grunts with exertion as he slings Bialver's body over his shoulders. The Beorning stirs slightly and mutters something in Valish, but it's too quiet to make out. 'Oh, shut up, you great lump,' Maegdin grumbles. 'I can't believe you did this to yourself. And to me.' He follows after the rest of the company until they finally return to the camp just as the sun touches the western ridges. He collapses in exhaustion and lays down, panting.
Miriaden gently sets Eskild down near the fire, checking his bandages with a frown. She was not much of a healer.
Minabel sits down next to Eskild and begins to bathe her feet in a stream near the camp.
Eskild is feeling slightly more conscious and aware of his surroundings, though he's still exhausted and finds that sleep comes rather easily.
Ortrun helps set Eskild down, then promptly collapses from a combination of blood loss and exhaustion. Harris cries out and launches into the air, spiraling away from the members of the beleaguered camp.


Well-Known Member
This is very intriguing. Can new people join? Is previous RP experience required?


Chapter 19: To the Forsaken Inn

The morning after the battle in the Orc-camp dawns clear and bright. Most of the company are still rolled in their blankets, sleeping heavily from weariness. Maegdin sits bare-chested by the fire, working a needle and thread through the tear in his jerkin. His shoulder is bound with linen, and he moves stiffly. Candaith turns over in his sleep and groans.

Bialver begins to stir, wondering what happened, and why his head feels like a battered pumpkin.
Minabel reluctantly rolls out of her bed and walks over to Ortrun and proceeds to check her bandage. Satisfied that the wound looks clean and that there is no odor, she wraps it around in a sweet mixture of herbs and honey.
Trumodir peers over at Bialver and seeing his eyes open, mutters "Doing alright, cousin? You had me right worried there"
Maegdin looks up as the others begin to stir. He sets his shirt aside as Bialver wakes. He kneels down next to the man. 'Do you remember where we are, friend?' He nods to Trumodir. 'He's had us all worried.'
Bialver's eyes slowly open. "Did the other guy look worse, after we were finished?" he whispers

Candaith groans again and sits up. He smiles weakly at Bialver's jest. 'That he certainly did.' The Ranger is looking much better than yesterday as he climbs out of his bedroll and sets some water to boiling.
Bialver pries his eyes fully open, wincing at the light. He sniffs the air and answers Maegdin. "Lone Lands? Near...a swamp? A marsh?"
Minabel takes a few pieces of boar jerky out of her pack and begins to nibble at a corner, wrapping her blanket tightly around herself.
Trumodir pulls a twisted root out of her pocket and begins making shavings of it with her knife. She turns to Bialver and says, "I'm making you a compress for that huge bump on your head."
Bialver sniffs again "A....river? North-north-west?"
Maegdin gives Bialver an odd look. 'The Midgewater Marshes are some miles to the west, but you're right enough.' He claps him on the shoulder and goes back to mending his clothes. 'Eat what you have,' he says. 'I don't think any us are in the mood for making breakfast, not after yesterday.'

Minabel smashes a mosquito that has landed on her neck. "I would believe there is a slimy marsh near here. All of these nasty bugs!"
Bialver tentatively reaches a hand up to his head, and gives a most un-beorning-like squeak of pain.
Ortrun lay on her side, wounded arm draped awkwardly over her stomach. She had tossed and turned for a long while, lightheaded yet unable to slip fully into slumber. Finally, she had managed a fleeting rest, eyes screwed shut, although Minabel’s approach was enough to wake her. “Harris…” she croaked, looking around for her bird as lucidity began to trickle in.
Bialver sits up, groaning, locates his pack, and begins digging in it. He pulls out a very clean, but sorely abused-looking pair of socks, which he lays ostentatiously aside. The next things out is a leaf-wrapped...pile of honeycake crumbs.
Minabel looks towards Ortrun. "Are you looking for your bird? I think I smell him. Anyway, he left droppings all over Brianne's saddle."

Candaith pulls some dried herbs from his pouch and crumbles them into his mug. After pouring boiling water on them, he sips at the brew, grimacing as he does. He chews on a piece of hard biscuit as he looks around at the others. 'I never properly thanked you for your help, friends. I know that you need to be on your way, but your aid has helped set my mind at ease.'
Trumodir pulls out a whole honeycake from her pack and hands it quietly to Bialver
Bialver chokes on his crumbs, trying not to let Mina see him laughing.
Bialver mushes the crumbs together and re-wraps them, then accepts the whole honeycake from his kinswoman with a look of gratitude.

Ortrun manages to nod to Minabel, rubbing her head and blinking a few times. “Aye…he’s safe? Good, good…don’t know what I would do without him.” She reaches for her satchel, pulling out some dried meat and nibbling on the corner, slowly looking at the others around the fire. “Annie…and Eskild…where are they?” Her eyes light on Bialver. “And you’re awake now…”
Maegdin finishes his last stitch and puts away his needle and thread. He looks over at Ortrun as he slips his jerkin back on. 'She left at first light with him. He is hurt badly enough that we thought it good for him to get out of the wilderness as soon as possible. She's taken him to the Forsaken Inn, which is where we will be bound once you are ready to leave.'

Bialver mutters ''I was hoping it was a bad dream.'' He clutches his head and squeaks again.
Minabel smiles. "Finally, an inn. The first thing I am going to do is draw myself a nice hot bath."
Trumodir turns to Ortrun and offers her some honeycake, having seen that her provisions were so poor.
Ortrun takes the honeycake with a reluctant nod of thanks, peering at the strange food before taking a hesitant bite. A smile immediately spreads across her face as she makes short work of it.
Bialver brightens "An inn? Do they have an oven?"
Trumodir looks over at Maegdin. "Isn't it quite a distance to the inn?" she asks
Bialver sniffs the air again and mutters to Trumodir "Sage… yarrow… grey devil-may-care…. If only there are bees, there'll be good herb-honey"

Maegdin pulls a piece of hardtack from his pack and chews before answering. 'It's perhaps half a day's journey to the inn from here, but Miriaden and I both thought it best that we get at least one night of rest before we set out on the Road. Even if it is at such a place as the Forsaken Inn.' He shakes his head.
Trumodir nods back to Bialver, adding "I'm not willing to look for honey with so many Orcs in the area."
Bialver's shoulders slump.
Candaith chuckles softly. 'Steer clear of the ale, if you know what's good for you. And don't look too closely at the stew, either.' He sips his tea and grimaces again. 'Still, four walls and most of a roof are better than being out here in the hills, especially for one with a wound like that boy had.'
Minabel turns to Maegdin, "Why do they call it the Forsaken Inn? Does it not receive supplies from Bree? Do they not have decent fare? Is it not a respectable establishment?"
Bialver mutters, mostly to himself "Maybe they have cider."
Trumodir asks Candaith, "You sure you'll be all right with that wound?"

Ortrun glances at Maegdin. "Forsaken Inn or not, it is better than sleeping out in the open. No doubt other Orcs heard the battle; they will want to retaliate." Her gaze sweeps across the ridgeline of the camp, arm tightening against her as if invoking the name of Orcs was enough to summon them directly to the fire.
Minabel shudders at the mention of Orcs.
Bialver leans over to his Kinswoman and whispers ''What did I miss?''
Candaith nods at Trumodir. 'I've faced worse than this over the years. I'm already feeling mostly free of the poison. I expect one more day of rest should do it.'
Trumodir murmurs to Bialver, "You were the lucky one, not being part of that fight"
Bialver gives her an incredulous look
Trumodir adds, "it was a close thing….” Her voice trails off

Maegdin takes a drink from his waterskin. 'There seem to be as many opinions as to its name as there are people who've heard of it,' he says to Mina. 'Some say it's because it's the last inn east of Bree, some because Anlaf couldn't cook or brew if his life depended on it, and some because the place has an ill reputation.'
Bialver nods soberly
Minabel frowns. "An ill reputation?"
Maegdin chuckles. 'The place is tumbledown, literally. Last I was there, shingles were falling off the roof of the common room and the beer could be used to cure leather. Don't worry, though. We'll not be there long.'
Trumodir gives a quick glance over at Minabel.

Bialver swallows his last bite of honeycake, flourishes his clean socks as he stuffs them back into his pack, clambers groaning to his feet, and whistles for Utsending.
Ortrun gets to her feet, slowly shifting from one foot to the other to ease the cramps in her legs. Her gaze flits between everyone at the fire. "Who will I ride with?" she asks shortly before whistling for Harris.
Bialver looks at the others ''Whose turn is it? I've lost track.''
Trumodir looks over at the young woman and offers to have her ride with her on Marr
Maegdin flings his cloak over his shoulders and climbs to his feet. He calls to Randir, and the horse canters over to the Ranger. Maegdin saddles the horse and straps the bags to the saddle before climbing on. He looks around. 'If we are ready, let us go. I look forward to a bed, even if it is one of Anlaf's.'
Minabel turns to Ortrun and says, "I would let you ride with me, but Brianna's blanket matches my outfit, but not yours, so it would be kind of awkward. You understand."

Trumodir calls for Marr, leaps onto her back, and helps Ortrun up behind her while giving Minabel an exasperated look.
Candaith looks up at the others as they prepare to depart. 'Fare well, wherever your road takes you. Keep me informed of news, cousin.' He raises a hand in farewell.
Ortrun gives Minabel an odd sort of distasteful look, before turning to Trumodir and clambering up on the horse. She loops her good hand around Trumodir's waist, glancing up to see Harris circling above them. "Ready," she calls.
Maegdin nods at Candaith. 'Take care, cousin. Until we meet again.' With that, he turns his horse to the west and begins to lead the company over the hills and dales to the Forsaken Inn.

* * * * * * *

Maegdin makes his way into the common room of the Forsaken Inn, the rest of the company following him. The soft murmur of conversation from the few patrons pauses at the sight of so many travelers arriving at once. It picks up again as Maegdin makes his way over to Anlaf.
Minabel looks up at the hole in the ceiling. "Are we really going to stay here? If she were not already dead, mother would die of shame to see me in a place like this."
Greenstand is smoking by the fire as the party comes in. He watches them thoughtfully.
Maegdin crosses his arms and gives Anlaf a look. The innkeep looks up at the man with a scowl. 'Oh, it's you again,' he says. 'That friend o' yours dropped that boy off a couple of hours ago. Then she said she wanted to "take a look around," whatever that means. Damn fool woman. Didn't even pay me. Said you'd handle it.'
Ortrun smiles as she enters the inn, not unduly bothered by the hole in the roof or the stench of stale alcohol clinging to every beam. She levels her gaze on Minabel, saying curtly, "Be grateful you have a roof over your head, girl," before tramping up to the counter.

Maegdin sighs and shakes his head. He counts out twenty copper pennies and stacks them on the counter. 'This should be enough for rooms and meals for seven for one night, as well as clean linen for bandages?' Anlaf sweeps the coins into a pocket of his apron and gives a non-committal grunt. 'Pick whatever room you like. I'll have the girl bring you round some food and drink.'
Trumodir settles herself by one of the fireplaces and soon drifts into a mesmerized state, watching the flames dancing
Minabel shoots Ortrun a sour look. "You call that a roof?"
Bialver catches Grenstand looking at the group, and boldly crosses the room to slap a mug of cider down on the table before him
Ortrun glances over the kegs lining the wall, narrowing her eyes slightly. It seems she was well-attuned to what drinks were half-reasonable versus dish-water, as she elects to order nothing and instead sits by the fire. She glances up to see Harris perching on the edge of the roof, and clicks her tongue lightly to the bird. He soars down to perch next to her, cawing softly.

Greenstand is startled by Bialver, and realizes he's been staring. "Oh, I beg your pardon! I just noticed your group seems a little, ah, well-travelled. Have you by chance been to the ruins?"
Bialver looks at the man's bright garb and pointed hat in some bewilderment. ''Ruins?'' he asks.
Maegdin shakes his head at Anlaf's mood. 'Give me a cup of cider, Anlaf. I still don't trust your ale after last time.' Anlaf looks offended as he pours a glass. 'That was only that one batch! How was I supposed to know it had the mold on it? Besides, it cleaned your system right out, didn't it?'
Greenstand continues, "I saw some odd lights from the direction of Weathertop and came out to investigate, but I hadn't expected there to be so many Orcs. Goblins! And so near to Bree! What is this world coming to?"
Bialver nods vigorously. ''Orcs. Goblins. Cider you could clean your mail with. It's a hard life, on the road''
Maegdin takes his glass with a scowl, not responding to the innkeep, who continues to grumble to himself. Matt walks off and goes to join the rest of his group. He raises an eyebrow at the stranger's words, but says nothing. He takes a sip of the cider and sputters, coughing.

Minabel walks over to Anlaf, "One cider please. And do you have meat pie?"
Greenstand says, "I'd say that I prefer the Prancing Pony, but the innkeeper might mistake that for an order of stew."
Bialver glances at the Ranger. ''Is it better or worse than the ale?''
Minabel looks over to Greenstand. "I also prefer the Prancing Pony. That is a civilized inn. There is no hole in Butterbur's establishment."
Ortrun murmurs half to herself, "She does not want know what is in the meat pie..."
Minabel hears Ortrun's mumur. "Maybe it is hawk!" she says rather loudly.
Maegdin looks over at the stranger as Anlaf pours Mina a cup and yells to his daughter to get the guests some food. Matt shakes his head at Bialver. 'It's better, but that's not saying much.' He glances at the stranger. 'What makes you think we know anything about the ruins, friend? You'd be better off asking the Eglain about that. We're just passing through.'
Greenstand turns to Minabel. "True, though I heard there was some sort of commotion there not long ago."

Ortrun narrows her eyes at Minabel, pointedly pulling out a piece of meat and feeding it to Harris. "I did trade Anlaf a warg shank for some spare coin, once," she counters levelly.
Trumodir looks languidly at Greenstand, wondering if he is also a seasoned traveler, although his clothes look too fine and clean.
Greenstand answers Maegdin, "Just hopeful, I suppose. I haven't seen a lot of travelers through here, and even fewer that look like they may be able to handle Orcs."
Minabel walks over to Anlaf again. "Forget about the meat pie. Just a loaf of bread and some cream please."
Bialver leans over to Trumodir and gestures at the duded-up treasure-hunters. ''What kind of place *is* this?'' he mutters
Greenstand frowns. "I wonder if the orcs had anything to do with the strange lights. <sigh> The knot just gets harder and harder to unravel."

Ortrun remarks, "Careful with the bread, as well. They scrape the flour up from the floor if it spills."
Greenstand begins to smoke.
Minabel tries to keep from retching. "Is there anything in this place fit to eat?" she asks no one in particular.
Maegdin gives the man an appraising look. 'Well, I can't speak to any lights, but Ortrun here might be able to tell you something about some of the ruins. If she's willing, that is.' He pulls out a pipe of his own and begins to smoke, stretching his legs out under the table.

Anlaf continues to grumble. 'Dammit, girl!' he shouts. 'Where's their food?!' 'I'm coming, da!' she shouts back as she comes out of the larder with a stack of plates and bowls. She slams the tray down on the table among the company and brings over a suspicious-looking loaf of bread, a cheese that looks like it's been aged just a bit too long, and begins spooning out a watery stew with chunks of meat and vegetables boiled into non-description. 'Here,' she says. 'It's all we've got, so don't go asking for anything else.'

Greenstand turns to Ortrun in curiosity, and starts speaking a little more excitedly. "You know of the ruins in these parts? What tales do you know?"
Minabel takes another piece of boar jerky out of her pack lying next to her on the bench and proceeds to nibble at it.
Bialver eyes the cheese suspiciously.
Minabel waves the food in front of her away. "On second thought, I am not that hungry. I think this jerky should do it for me."
Maegdin chuckles at Bialver as he pops his pipe in his mouth. 'I think the mold is supposed to be on it, but I've never been brave enough to try it,' he says around the stem as he cuts himself a piece of bread. He sniffs at the stew and shrugs. 'I've had worse.'

Ortrun frowns up at the new arrival, quickly gauging his rather out-of-place attire and tone of voice. "Aye," she replies in a guarded tone. "I know of all the ruins around these parts. They are my livelihood. What interest do you have in them?" She twists around, casting an irritated glance at Minabel. "Show some manners, you are being very rude."
Trumodir continues to eye Greenstand and suddenly asks, "Where are you from, anyway?"
Greenstand turns back and forth between Ortrun and Trumodir, seemingly taken off guard by questions being turned back at him.
Minabel shoots another bad look at Ortrun. "Rude. I am a respectable woman, and this food is not edible. It is not fit for one who advertises that he has rooms to let to provide such fare for his guests. I am reporting this establishment to the proper authorities."
Greenstand stammers, first to one and then to the other, "Curiosity… Bree… helping a friend...."

Ortrun snaps out, “You are acting like a petulant child. Sit down and be grateful, instead of whining and wringing your hands while others fight battles on your behalf.” She scowls, a good deal of her foul mood stemming from her injury, as she turns back to the man. “I do not want any foreigners looting my ruins. My people are hard-pressed as it is without you scholars coming through.”
Trumodir turns toward Greenstand and asks, "What kind of help does your friend need?"
Greenstand takes a long draw on his pipe, and steadies himself. "To answer your question first," he says turning towards Trumodir, "I come from the Bree-lands. Just outside Combe, to be precise."
Minabel stammers. "I do not think you are being fair. I am here, am I not. You do not know how hard it has been for me to leave my home, most of my clothes, and my champion wolfhound Priscilla to come to this forsaken place and fight smelly Orcs."

Greenstand turns to Ortrun and continues, "A friend of mine was concerned about strange lights from Weathertop, and I volunteered to investigate." He adds sheepishly, "I admit that part of my reason for wanting to see the ruins is that I have always been a bit fascinated with ancient lore, and wanted an excuse to come visit the ruins close-up."
Bialver perks up at the word ''lore''
Greenstand adds, "I assure you, my interest is in lore and in the answer to riddles, not in goods and plunder."
Maegdin pushes away his mostly-empty stew bowl, looking a little green about the gills. 'Ortrun, be reasonable. The man clearly doesn't want to steal anything. What would be the harm in telling him a bit of what you know? Or sending him to the rest of your folk, if you're not willing.'

Ortrun scoffs harshly at Mina. "You didn't even fight, you burst into tears. You should have stayed at home." To Greenstand, she taps a finger on the wooden floor before fishing out another piece of meat and feeding it to Harris. Her head swivels between Matt and the newcomer, before replying, "I need your word that you will not strip any artifacts. My people will look quite unfavorably on you if they discover any of our heirlooms in your keeping."
Maegdin glares daggers at the back of Ortrun's head as she calls them "their" heirlooms, but says nothing, content to take sips of his cider. Very small sips.
Greenstand bows clumsily. "I give you my word that I will loot no ruins." He pauses, then adds, "You wouldn't consider charcoal rubbings to be 'looting', would you?"
Maegdin smiles over at the Breelander. 'Can't ask for better than that, can you, Ortrun? Now why don't you tell Mister.... you know, I don't think I caught your name, friend.'
Greenstand grins. "Gilbert Greenstand, at your service. Though most folks just call me Greenstand."

Ortrun frowns, rubbing absently at her arm before she replies tersely, "Very well. I suppose some rubbings cannot do any harm." She pauses, mulling over her next words before offering, "Go to Ost Guruth. Some of my kin are more learned in the tales. Seek out Frederic the Elder, he can guide you." As well as ensure that you are watched, she adds privately to herself.
Trumodir asks, "Do you have much experience in traveling in the wild? There are plenty of evil things in these hills"
Maegdin nods his head to Greenstand. 'Matt Westing, at your service.' He looks over at Ortrun. 'Oh, your folk are in Ost Guruth now? That's on our road, if I remember rightly. It's been a while since last I went hunting in these hills.'
Minabel yawns and makes her way to her room, ready for a good night's sleep.
Bialver nods off over his...ugh...cider

Ortrun inclines her head to Matt in reply. "Aye, we are. It would be a fine place to resupply. My people will offer you a fine price, and our wares are quality." She frowns, peering in her satchel. "I prepared for a four-day journey, and my supplies are near-exhausted."
Greenstand answers Trumodir, "I haven't traveled too far, but I've listened to quite a few tales of traveling, so I know some of what to expect. I do have a little experience protecting my farm from brigands and the like. Mainly I hit things with my staff and set them on fire."
Greenstand adds under his breath, "Which, in hindsight, isn't the best strategy when the you're fighting brigands who are already inside your wooden barn...."
Trumodir mutters, "Hmm, another staff wielder. Why do people put such trust in mere sticks?' thinking with relish of her own sturdy battle axe.
Maegdin raises an eyebrow at Greenstand's... unorthodox methods. 'Well, then. I've a suggestion: why don't you come with us as far as Ost Guruth? We're heading over the Last Bridge, but as Ortrun says, we'll have need of supplies. And besides, it's safer in a group out here in the wild.'
Trumodir nods in agreement, thinking the stranger would be easy prey if not in a group of experienced warriors like themselves.

Greenstand thinks for a moment, then nods. "That would be rather wise. Getting killed on the road would be a rather significant setback in the investigation."
Trumodir looks up quickly. "What investigation?" she asks."And what are you trying to help your friend with?"
Ortrun nods, agreeing with the others. "It would be good to have you along," she offers, dipping her head ever-so-slightly. Harris screeches lightly, before flapping up and spiraling out of the inn.
Trumodir adds, "But it's getting late, and we'll have many miles to talk once we leave this place."
Maegdin nods in agreement with Trumodir. 'That's true. I'm rather tired after our trek today. Do you have a horse?' he asks Greenstand.

Greenstand nods, "I do. I managed to save the poor beast, at least, when the rest of the farm went. Very well, I look forward to traveling with you folk and possibly even living another day!"
Maegdin nods to Greenstand as he stands up from the table. 'Be ready to head out tomorrow morning. Early. We have many miles to go. I'm glad to have you with us.'
Trumodir looks over at Bialver, who is slumped over in sleep. She gets up and shakes him harshly, saying, "Get up! This isn't your bed!"
Bialver opens his eyes just enough to stumble off to what he hopes is his room
Ortrun gets to her feet, dusting off the errant stalks of hay that clung to her clothes. "Well met, Greenstand," she replies with a trace more cordiality than she had offered the man before. "Well, I am going to retire for the evening." She bows her head and departs.
Maegdin nods to Ortrun. He bends over and picks up his pack. 'I'm going to check in on Eskild, and then I'm for bed as well.' He raises his hand in farewell and makes his way back further into the inn.

Greenstand looks up at the ceiling. "Hey, innkeeper, do you charge extra for rooms with a starry view?"
Anlaf glares at the man. 'Oh, you're one of those, huh? Mind your tongue, joker, or you can sleep in the stables.'

Greenstand asks innocently, "How's the roof on the stable?"
Trumodir stretches and lets out a big yawn. "Time for sleep!" she says, and stumps off to find a bed.
Anlaf looks over at him as he begins to clean up the dishes. 'Keep it up and you can find out for yourself,' he says. 'Damned jesters, thinking they're so damned funny. "Oh, what a nice view?" "I like to eat under the open air!" Bastards, all of you.' He grumbles as he cleans up.


Chapter 20: The Lonesome Road

Minabel stretches her arms and swings out of bed. Time to move on to a new dusty place.
Trumodir stretches out her muscles. It's time for adventure!
Maegdin makes his way up the stairs from his room, rubbing the small of his back and rolling his shoulders as he does. 'I swear, Anlaf stuffs the mattresses with potatoes,' he mutters as he sits down at a table. 'Anlaf! Could do with something to eat before we head out!' he calls.
Anlaf shouts back, 'Just a minute! Or you can make yourself useful and get it yourself! Damned Rangers...' he trails off as he heads off to the kitchen.
Trumodir rolls over on what is offered in place of a mattress and grumbles to herself as she stands up, looking around for her pack.
Greenstand stifles a groan as he enters the room. 'I think next time I visit here, I may just try the stable.'
Minabel puts on her dress and stuffs a tunic and pants into her pack. The Eglan girl assured her that she would be more comfortable in this dusty land wearing something different.
Bialver slowly pries his eyes open, and stares up at the holes in the ceiling.

Miriaden pushes open the door to the Forsaken Inn, her nose wrinkling a little at the smell. Some things never changed. Heading towards the hearth, she stops a waitress and orders a mug of coffee.
Greenstand heads over to the fire for a pipe or three to start the day.
Ortrun strides out, swinging her staff loosely in her hand before strapping it to her back. The barest of smirks crosses her face as she sees the discomfort written plainly on everyone’s faces. “I thought you folks were supposed to be accustomed to rough sleeping,” she comments, walking up to the dais and craning her neck to see out the hole in the roof.
Greenstand replies, "I'm used to sleeping out-of-doors, but no one warned me about these beds!"
Minabel wrinkles her nose as she enters the common room. Nothing like the smell of twenty dusty unwashed travelers in the morning.
Bialver hears Trumodir stirring about, and calls out in Valish, "Are we in a desert, a swamp, or a bog?"
Minabel sits at one of the empty tables far away from the others. "A cup of cider, a loaf of white bread and some cream and berries, please."
Trumodir hollers back at Bialver, "can't you smell where we are?"
Bialver sniffs deeply and replies "Someplace that needs cleaning?"

Maegdin shakes his head at Anlaf's grumbling. He looks over at Ortrun and shakes his head. 'I expect a mattress to be more comfortable than the ground, not less so.' He turns to Trumodir. 'Any change with Eskild, or is he still sleeping?'
Trumodir responds, "Still sleeping, poor boy, but sleep is oft the sign of healing." She adds, "at least he's no longer in such pain that sleep is impossible."
Anlaf stomps back out of the kitchen with a large pot of (rather thin) gruel. He thumps it down on the table and gestures to the bowls already laid out. 'This is what we have. Take it or leave it.' He looks over at Miriaden. 'And we ain't got none of that coffee stuff. We've got tea, and beer.'
Ortrun rolls her eyes at the steady stream of complaints. She thumps her staff twice on the wood, furrowing her brow when no response from above is forthcoming. She shoves alongside Annie, remarking sideways, "The beer is the safer bet. End of the day it tastes better, as well."
Greenstand asks, "Do you have anything I could take to my horse?"

Maegdin shakes his head and begins to spoon himself out a bowl of what can perhaps charitably be called porridge. He follows Anlaf's gaze to Annie. 'Ah, good, you're back. What news?'
Miriaden frowns a little at Anlaf and quips, "Somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed? Tea will be fine." She says gently. She yawns a little and looks at Otrun with a little smile. "I wouldn't trust the beer here… makes you see things." She whispers to the Eglan with a teasing smile.
Minabel looks at Greenstand and says, "Nothing here is fit for any living being. I would not give this bread to Brianna".
Anlaf grunts at Annie and hangs a kettle over the hearth. He looks to Greenstand. 'What, hay's not good enough for him? Then he can go browsing for all I care.'
Bialver decides that the path of least resistance is, if not advisable, at least the best available option, and pours himself half a mug of gruel, which he tops up with Anlaf's dreadful cider
Greenstand sighs. "I never really appreciated just how good the fare at the Comb and Wattle Inn was until now."

Miriaden looks over her shoulder before turning to face Matt. "The road itself should be clear enough, though there seems to be a few camps of the enemy forming amidst more of the ruins. We should avoid those, I think."
Ortrun arches a single brow. "I had my first mug of Anlaf's beer when I was twelve summers. I can still see the relics I search for perfectly well." She receives her mug and throws half of it back before slamming it down on the counter.
Minabel takes a sip of the cider and immediately begins to retch. She fights the urge to vomit and quietly spits out the mouthful of cider into her napkin.
Bialver stirs the gruel and cider together with his knife, closes hid eyes and drains the mug
Trumodir growls to herself, being affected by the bad mood of the others and pulling a honey cake from her pocket, she begins nibbling on it
Bialver shudders and fixes himself another mug
Minabel eyes Trumodir's honey cake longingly and then miserably begins to nibble at her stale bread.
Bialver gesture toward the fire "You could toast that" he tells Minabel.
Greenstand begins to seriously ponder heading out to the stable and trying out whether humans can digest hay.

Maegdin nods at Annie. 'Then we'd best stick to the Road, then. I intended as much, unless our guide has other ideas?' He gestures to Ortrun with his spoon before taking a taste of his porridge. He pauses, swallows, then pushes the bowl away slightly before taking a piece of hardtack from his bag. He sets about chewing it.
Miriaden gives Ortrun a little shrug and then waits for her to comment to Matt.
Minabel looks at Bialver, "Do you think that would kill it? I think something is alive on this piece of bread?
Bialver rolls his eyes and reminds his kinswoman, <V>"They don't like it when you kill and eat the waiters"
Trumodir shoots back, <V>"but they richly deserve it here, although I wouldn't eat their flesh."
Minabel impales her piece of bread on the end of her knife and roasts it on the fire near the table.
Bialver fixes himself a third mug of cider and gruel, pours it down his throat, and stomps outside to see to Utstending

Ortrun shakes her head brusquely. "The Road is there for a reason. Camps of half-orcs and red-furred Wargs roam these lands. I do not think we should risk another battle, especially with the boy wounded. We would seem easier prey." She tosses back the other half of her beer, and concludes, "The Road is the wisest choice."
Greenstand settles into another pipe and returns his attention to his new companions. "How far is it to this destination of ours?"
Maegdin nods to Ortrun as he finishes his piece of biscuit. He brushes crumbs off his hands, and stands up. 'Then we'd best be getting going. Finish your food, and get your horses ready. I'll go see to Eskild and getting him ready to travel.' With that, he heads back towards the rooms, leaving the others in the common room.
Miriaden quickly finishes her tea and takes the now empty cup back to Anlaf with a little smile. She hadn't even unpacked anything from her return so she had nothing to gather.

Trumodir starts for the door, saying to nobody in particular, "The air is more breathable outside"
Bialver slings his pack over his shoulder and strolls out into the morning air. He takes a deep breath and whistles for his mare, who presently comes trotting up, looking better fed and rested than all the company put together
Minabel follows the group outside and fetches Brianna from the stable
Greenstand looks through the ceiling. "Well, the weather seems rather nice outside. I may as well stretch my legs before we head out."
Trumodir comes back in to announce: "It's raining, better get our your hoods.”
Miriaden heads towards the door, already hooded and she chuckles at Tru. "Way ahead of you."
Trumodir smiles at Ortrun. She has been enjoying her company as they ride together, so she volunteers again to take her on Marr.

Maegdin makes his way out of the inn, supporting Eskild as he goes. The boy is bundled against the wet and cold, and looks somewhat pale.
Ortrun nods and strides over, clutching the back of the saddle and swinging up. Harris swoops down with a wet, flapping scree of discomfort, wobbling as he perches on his mistress's leg. Grimacing at the weather, Ortrun pulls what she can of her cloak over top him as a stream of water spills off.
Maegdin scowls as Eskild as he mutters something. 'That's nonsense, and I won't hear it. You're riding with Bialver, and that's final. It's either that, or I strap you over your saddle like a sack. Your choice.'
Greenstand frowns towards Maegdin and Eskild. "Will he be alright traveling in this weather?"
Miriaden takes her still saddled horse from the stable boy and leads her trusty steed back to the others before she swings up into the saddle.
Bialver winks at his kinswoman and greets Esk with a hearty "Hail, Hero! The wounds of an honorable battle make faint the hearts of maidens!" He asides to Trumodir, <V>’Whatever that means.’

Maegdin chuckles slightly at Bialver's words, as Eskild first deflates slightly, but then puffs up with pride. The Ranger helps the Breelander over to Bialver's horse and then helps him up into the saddle. 'Keep a close eye on him, and let Annie or me know if he seems unwell.'
Trumodir retorts, <V>"no maidens here, cousin!"
Greenstand notices the condition of the stable as he collects his horse Elmer. "It's a lucky thing there weren't any horse thieves about like there were over at the Pony the other night!"
Maegdin looks over at Ortrun, up behind Trumodir. 'You could ride Eskild's horse, if you like. Otherwise, we'll just have to tie his reins to one of our saddles.'
Bialver nods, and arranges his cloak so it covers Esk's head and shoulders.

Ortrun slides off Trumodir's horse, balancing Harris carefully on her arm as she walks over to Eskild's horse. Regarding the creature with extreme discomfort, she eventually clambers up and grips the reins, nudging it gently to pull up to the others.
Bialver asks Trumodir, <V> "She can ride? But why has she no horse?"
Maegdin nods as Ortrun climbs up on Eskild's horse. He calls over Randir and swings up into the saddle. 'Well, then. If we're all ready, let's be on our way. If we have fortune, we can make Ost Guruth before dark.' With that, he sets off down the Road at a canter.
Miriaden nudges her horse onward and takes up the rear of the group.
Minabel puts on her cloak and wraps it tightly around her body. She swings up on to her saddle and follows the others onto the road.
Greenstand dumps the ashes out of his pipe, stows it in his hat, and sets off following the others.
Bialver clucks to his mare, and she steps softly off, barely jogging the lad clinging tightly to Bialver's waist

The day's journey passes uneventfully, apart from the rain. As the sun goes down behind Weathertop, the company finally comes to Ost Guruth, a ruined fortress which commands a wide view over the Road.
Greenstand looks around at the walls of Ost Guruth. "Remarkable," he says to himself, "I had no idea there were places like this so near."
Maegdin turns to Ortrun. 'I think it's best if you go ahead of us. I know your folk are less than trusting of outsiders.'
Bialver sidles over to Greenspan and whispers "there's a wizard here. you know"
Trumodir also stares open-mouthed at the size of the ruin. Turning to Greenstand she mutters, "I've never seen anything like this before." She adds, "There must have been a great number of people who lived here when it was first built"

Ortrun’s face had grown more and more strained as they neared Ost Guruth, and at Matt’s words she positively winced. Sliding off her borrowed horse, she brings out Harris to rest on her shoulder as she pushes back her hood and strides in. Espying a white-haired figure in the center, she makes her way over and beckons the others.
Greenstand turns to Bialver wide-eyed. "A true wizard? Or do you merely mean some conjurer of cheap tricks?"
Minabel looks at the white-haired figure with suspicion
Maegdin climbs off his horse as they pass the gates of the fortress. Leading Randir by the reins, he walks over to the elder. He bows his head in respectful greeting.
Miriaden looks around the encampment, sliding off her own horse and leading it further in as she follows Ortrun.
Bialver gazes intently at Greenspan, and says in a dramatic voice "A great, great wizard. The equal of any you have ever heard of"
Trumodir keeps muttering, "and all of stone! And so huge!"
Bialver continues impressively "He speaks the tongues of all beasts....and they tell to him the news of all lands"

Ortrun dips her head respectfully to the white-haired man. “Elder Frederic,” she begins in a quick, humble tone. “I realize your beliefs about outsiders entering our home. Their errand is most dire, far beyond the threats we are accustomed to, and I have seen it with my own eyes. I have been guiding them through the lands, and now we are in need of supplies.”
Bialver says "So woe betide you if you are not what you seem. All things are open to him!"
Greenstand is overwhelmed at the thoughts of wizards and of great, stone fortresses as he follows the others. He automatically bows when brought to the elder, though his mind is elsewhere.
Bialver watches Greenstand and snickers
Trumodir gives her kinsman a look of disapproval

Frideric gives the strangers an appraising glance before looking back to Ortrun. He nods. 'I trust your judgement, Ortrun. In fact, I cannot say that I am completely surprised to see strangers here. One has already come while you've been away, and he's told me of strange doings both east and west.' He looks to the others. 'You are welcome here. We'll spare what we have to give, and speed you on your way. Whichever of you is the leader here may wish to speak to this stranger. Radagast, he said his name was.'
Maegdin bows his head gratefully to Frideric as the man speaks, but suddenly starts at the name. 'Radagast, you say? I hadn't heard he'd come west of the Mountains! Where is he?'
Trumodir gasps - "Radagast!” she exclaims. “So he is here? I would like to speak with him"
Ortrun frowns, the news of a second stranger causing her to twist and regard Maegdin with a suspicious glance. At his reaction to the name, her scowl deepens even further. "I would have words with you before we depart again," she hisses in a low voice.

Bialver shrugs to Trumodir and sketches a pantomime of a pointy hat
Trumodir turns to Maegdin."So you know him too? He it was who sent me to the Western lands"
Greenstand stirs out of his ponderings at the exclamations. "Who is this Radagast?"
Frideric takes in the reactions with an inscrutible expression. 'He says he's a wizard,' he says to Greenstand. 'He's up in the tower,' he says to the others, pointing over his shoulder as he does. 'I trust Ortrun to show you where you can find beds and food. Let us know what you have need of, and we'll give it, if we can spare it.'
Miriaden smiles a little and chuckles. "Interesting..." She murmurs to herself.
Maegdin looks at Trumodir. 'I know him by name and reputation, but no more. I'd like to get his counsel on our errand, though.' He turns back to Ortrun. 'Of course,' he says. 'Though I think right now a fire, a roof, and some hot food wouldn't go amiss.'
Bialver rolls his eyes ecstatically at the mention of hot food

Ortrun shifts her jaw around in dissatisfaction, but turns back to Frideric and bows her head. "As you wish, Elder. I was not able to receive any wares on this trip, so I hope one of the other hunters can take my place while I lead this… group." Offering a tight smile to Frideric once more, she heads off in a good clip to one of the half-ruined buildings. "This way," she calls back.
Greenstand says, "I wonder if he's anything like Gandalf. I always loved listening to his tales whenever he'd pass through the Bree-lands."
Maegdin follows Ortrun, glancing over at Eskild from time to time. Meanwhile, Frideric watches the strange company head off into the settlement.
Bialver half supports and half carries Eskild, murmuring encouragement to him
Miriaden follows Bialver and Eskild, keeping her eyes on the lad.
Greenstand eagerly follows the others deeper into Ost Guruth. He asks Ortrun, "Who made these structures? The stonework is like to that around Bree, but I don't recognize the symbols carved into the stone."

Ortrun leads the company into an open space, one of its more attractive features being a sturdy roof. Cots and bedrolls were scattered about, and a hearty fire crackled in the middle. Ortrun kept her head down as she walked to the back, motioning briefly at some beds in the corner. "We'll take these," she orders, then glances at Greenstand impassively. "I do not know."
Maegdin lowers his hood and wrings out his cloak as the company finally comes under a roof.
Bialver lowers Eskild down onto a bed in what looks like the corner best protected from drafts.
Trumodir heads over to Eskild to look more closely at his wound and is happy to note that there is more color in his face than there was the day before.

Bialver looks innocently at the floor and says brightly "The stars have seven points. How charming!"
Maegdin glances over at Greenstand from where he is looking over Eskild. 'They were made by the Dúnedain, long ago.' He turns to Eskild. 'Thank you for speaking for us. Could you tell me where to find your healer? I want to have someone take a close look at Eskild to make sure he's healing properly, especially after being in the rain.'
Trumodir turns to Ortrun and asks if she can heat some water for an herbal tea to give to Eskild
Minabel walks around the ruins and finding the stables and seeing that there is already a horse tied up there, puts Brianna in a stall and walks back to the campfire where the others are gathered.
Miriaden heads over towards a cot, pulling her packs and weapons from her person and setting them down to claim a bed. She heads to the fire, pulling her wet cloak and hood off, wringing them out.

Bialver makes sure Eskild is comfortable, then comes out to take of Utsending’s tack and saddle, and gives her a good rubdown before he goes in search of food for himself
Trumodir follows Miri's example and claims a lower bunk for herself
Minabel lays down her sleeping bag next to the fire and puts her pack with the tunic and pants down at one end of the bag and lays down with her head on the pack. After a few minutes, she begins to drift off to sleep.
Greenstand pulls a leaf of paper and piece of charcoal from his pack. "The star indicates Men of Westernesse, clearly enough. But I was talking of the emblem upon the arches above." He begins sketching the strange device.

Ortrun nods, beckoning both Maegdin and Trumodir over to a woman making her rounds. "This is Strangsig, our healer," she introduces lightly, as the two women clasp each others' shoulders. "She will take care of Eskild." The blonde healer nods cordially enough, and points Trumodir to the corner. "Kettle's over there. I'll have a look at 'im if you wish. He looks rough."
Maegdin nods to Ortrun. 'My thanks.' He turns to Strangsig. 'As well he should. He caught an orc-arrow in his side not three days ago. He's lucky to be alive.'
Bialver peels off his mail, and spreads it out near the fire to dry. He takes a rucksack and, with a nod to the others, wanders out into the rain
The weather-beaten lines in the healer's face seem to deepen as she glances towards Eskild. "Orc-arrow, you say?" she almost squawks. "Why did you fools go and tangle with orcs? Nasty brutes, they are, he's lucky to have made it." She glances at Matt's garb with a jaundiced eye before going over to kneel next to the boy.

Maegdin takes the mistrustful look with a weary acceptance. 'I know that well. There was a group of them out in the Weather Hills. We put paid to them, though. They'll not be troubling any decent folk any more.'
Ortrun narrows her eyes before walking over to a bedroll and sitting cross-legged, feeding a ruffled and grumpy Harris some chunks of fresh meat. Meanwhile, Strangsig pauses long enough in her healing to look up at Matt. "Well, that's right good of you, at least," she mutters. "Orcs are nobody's friends here. What you were doing in the Weather Hills is none of my business, but I reckon y'should take it up either with Frideric or that stranger in the tower. Lot of meddling fools, strangers are. It'll be good if you don't bring any injuries back here." She sniffs and begins mixing a poultice.
Maegdin smiles slightly. 'I plan to go speak with your other visitor, just as soon as I've had a chance to sit, get warm, and have a pipe. You have my thanks for looking him over. We took care of him as well as we could, but this rain can't have done him any good.'

Ortrun scoffs, pulling away the boy's shirt and feeling his skin before daubing some thick paste on. "You're right 'bout that. He's all clammy, poor child. Need to be careful he doesn't catch a chill, or that could well be the death of him. Keep him still and warm for a good few days." She gets up, going to rifle through a chest for a roll of bandages. She glances to Annie. "Throw some stones in that kettle, wouldcha? They'll heat right up, I'll put them on the bandage."
Maegdin scowls slightly as he begins to pack his pipe. 'A few days, you say? I'm afraid we don't have that time to spare. If the weather clears, we need to set out again tomorrow.'

The healer sits straight up, jutting out her chin and jabbing a finger towards Maegdin. "You want this boy to live, you'll do nothing of the sort! He will die if you drag him back on a horse 'r otherwise, mark my words. If you are in such a hurry, leave him here." She rips off a length of bandage with unnecessary force and begins tying it around Eskild's torso.
Maegdin sighs as he lights his pipe. 'Let's leave that for tomorrow. For now, I want to go talk to Radagast. I'll be back to check on him soon. Thank you, again.' He turns and walks out of the sleeping area, puffing his pipe as he goes.
Strangsig squints, but eventually waves a hand. "Not a problem. I don't like you folk, but I can't let a boy die. That's just not right." She points at Ortrun, and says, "Talk to that addle-minded girl if y'need anything. She knows the camp well, but tell your folk to let the boy rest."


Interlude: An Exchange in Ost Guruth

Maegdin sits comfortably on his bedroll, a half-eaten bowl of stew on the ground next to him and a pipe in his mouth. He sits quietly tending to his sword, occasionally taking a glance over at Eskild.
Ortrun sat with her hands clasped in front of her, face tight with pain as the healer tended to her arm. Apparently, she trusted her own people's healing far over Minabel's attempts. She hisses a bit as Strangsig finished the bandage, the two exchanging quiet words otherwise. Occasionally both Eglain would glance to Matt, Ort with a surly expression especially.
Bialver wanders in out of the cold, a loaf of coarse bread in one hand, and a hunk of cheese in the other. He glances at Esk, then the others, shrugs, and hunkers down near the fire to toast the bread
Maegdin catches the Eglain out of the corner of his eye, but says nothing. He raises a hand in greeting to Bialver.
Bialver asks "How's he doing, then?"

Maegdin looks over at Bialver. He shrugs and says around his pipestem, 'He's sleeping, which is all for the best. I've not been able to take a closer look at him, because they glare daggers at me if I get close to him.' He gestures towards the Eglain women with his pipe.
Bialver gives a half-smile. "Best trust their healing, then"
The healer looks up, weather-beaten lines in her face appearing to sink even deeper when Bialver asks about the boy. "He's doing fine, if you all would let him rest for a week. See, his color is improving. You leave him be." She scowls, then turns back to Ortrun with an accusatory glare as if it was all the woman's fault. Ortrun half-scowls back, but seems to shrink a bit.
Bialver raises his eyebrows at the healer's brusqueness. He mutters just audibly "'course, we could have let him rest right where he fell with that Orc arrow in him."
Maegdin shakes his head and goes back to whetting his sword. 'I make no apologies. Our errand is urgent, and cannot wait. Would you have rather we left him in the wilderness, or at the Forsaken Inn?'

The healer brandishes a pot of salve at him, the only thing that happened to be in hand. "Aye! It may be the custom of your people to allow kinsmen to die pursuing an 'errand', that is your business. But here, we look after our own." She jams the salve back in a chest and glances at Ortrun. "You're done. Talk some sense into your fool...companions." An eyebrow goes up in suspicion before the healer strides off. Ortrun sighs and buries her face in her hands.
Bialver studies the ceiling
Maegdin sighs and continues to tend to his blade. 'The boy is of age, and under no bond to go further than he will.'
Bialver mentions quietly to the ceiling "and was mighty keen to come with us. 'stead o' staying home in Trestlebridge and cowering"

The healer completely ignores Matt, the only sign of her indignance being a sharp snort and flared nostrils. Ortrun half-growls, then gets to her feet and grabs her staff, walking over to Matt. "You're certainly helping," she says curtly.
Maegdin looks up, grey eyes betraying nothing of his thoughts. 'Beg pardon?'
Bialver finishes his half of the loaf and looks around for Trumodir, who is nowhere in sight.
Bialver slowly gets up and follows the Eglain over to Matt's bedroll, where she is currently standing, glaring down at the pretty-much unruffled Ranger.

Ortrun sits down, laying her staff across her lap, face tight with anger. "You ask for a guide through the Lone-lands. I do that. What was /not/ part of the deal was involving /more/ of your people. This 'Radagast' here! Disturbing the peace, /my/ people! And now your obstinate words and treatment of the boy are only serving to ostracize me from my people. Do you know how much I've risked? What game are you playing at?"
Bialver looks up at the name "Radagast" - a name well known to all Beornings. "Where is he, exactly?". he asks

Maegdin answers Bialver first, waving a hand towards the tower. 'In there, I believe. I've yet to speak to him. But he is not one of "my people," as you say,' he says, looking back to Ortrun. 'He has no master or folk, save for the birds and beasts. And my errand is no game, child. Things move in the North and the East which threaten all lands and folks. Set against that, the life of any one of us, even one so young or with so much promise as Eskild there, is as naught. If a defence is not set, the Shadow will fall on us all.'
Bialver mutters, "not to put to fine a point on the thing"

Ortrun snarls and brings her staff around in a short burst, aiming to crack it none-too-gently on his thigh. "Then your people are cruel and selfish. Taking whatever you want, not caring about the lives who follow you or the people you disturb." She mutters a curse, scooting back a foot or so. "How bad could this so-called Shadow be? We've been left in peace for this long."
Bialver straightens up, but doesn't look at the Eglan. He enunciates clearly "And if it's bad enough to blight all life east of the sea?"

Maegdin takes the blow without comment, but then lays aside his pipe and sword and stands to his full height, head and shoulders taller than the woman. 'And why do you think your people have been able to dwell so long in peace?' he asks softly. A stern edge begins to creep into his voice. 'Who built the ruins in which you shelter? Who made the things which you gather and sell for your food? By whose swords and blood are these lands, and all the North, kept safe? Peace, you say? You would know it little but for our vigil. What safety would there be, if the Dúnedain had all departed, or gone into the grave? I have walked the lands between the Mountains and the Sea for more years than you know, child. I have seen things to chill the heart of the stoutest warrior. The blood I have spilt from my veins is writ in the scars I bear. I have buried far more than my share of kith and kin. And I would do it all again, and gladly, if it meant but one more day of peace and freedom for simple folk. Do not speak to me of sacrifice or of loss.'

Bialver looks at Ortrun and shrugs with an I-tried-to-tell-you look on his face
Ortrun falls silent for a moment, clearly unprepared for his answer. "Well," she finally says, voice controlled but no more pleased, "clearly your people's vigil was not entirely successful." She gestures, almost mockingly, to the ruins surrounding them. "Perhaps give some thought to how people /want/ to live, rather than what /you/ believe is right for everyone."

Maegdin looks down at her, eyes hard as steel. 'And yet your people live in peace, though there are foes but a day's hard march from this place who would gladly lay your home in ruin and devour your folk, were you not ceaselessly defended. Folk may live as they will, so long as they do not serve the Enemy.' He settles himself back on his bedroll and takes up his sword, drawing the whetstone along the edge. 'Both you and Eskild may do as you will. We will continue our journey east, to the Hoarwell and beyond. Whether you come with us is your matter. I am no man's lord.'

Ortrun grits her teeth, turning to leave. "Kindly do not disrespect my people any more. Our lives are difficult enough as it is. Your problems and beliefs are not wanted here." She whirls around, stalking towards the entrance with the sharp rap of wood on stone.
Maegdin shakes his head as she walks away, but says nothing. The only sound is the soft scrape of the whetstone.


Chapter 21: A Rough Awakening

As the Eglain begin to stir on the second dawn since the company came to Ost Guruth, Maegdin sits thoughtfully on his bedroll, looking across the room at Eskild lying on his sickbed. The Ranger sighs and pulls out his pipe, lighting it with an ember from the fire.
Bialver wanders in out of the dawning light, a sack over his shoulder and a tired smile on his face. He sits down by his kinswoman's bedroll and stretches out his legs
Eskild moves slightly and takes in a sharp breath from the pain of his wound. The worst of a fever has passed, but he still feels weak and lethargic.
Miriaden sat at the fire, her sword laying across her lap as she slowly and rhythmically sharpens the blade. Her eyes remain fixed on her blade. Occasionally her eyes lift to regard the rest of their company with a thoughtful look.
Minabel opens her eyes and looks around at the others just beginning to stir from bed. As she slides out of her bedroll, she sees the neat bundle left next to her. She unwraps it and sees a tunic. With a sigh, she puts it on.
Trumodir rolls over at the sound of her kinsman and opens her eyes, looking quizzically at his sack and hoping he might have found a beehive with honey in it.

Bialver cuts his eyes sideways at the Breelander. "Not your colour?", he asks
Minabel looks at Bialver. "At least it is red, and it has a certain style to it, although kind of plain in cut."
Bialver turns away from Minabel's indignant glare and opens the sack to let Trumodir see the comb inside
Trumodir looks up at Mina as well, and smiles broadly at the change of outfit. "NOW she's being more realistic" she murmurs.
Ortrun had made herself scarce since the events of two nights ago, and the few times the Eglan was seen, she refused to meet their eyes and simply walked by, face tight with anger. Today, however, she stopped by the entrance to the healing building, leaning against the door and watching the group inside with slightly-less-angry expression. She didn't make any move to approach them yet.

Maegdin catches sight of Eskild's movement and puts his pipe away. He walks quickly across the room to the lad's bed. 'How are you feeling?' he asks as he lays a hand on his forehead. 'You've had us worried the last few days.'
Miriaden arches a brow as she overhears Mina's comments, murmuring something about how it isn't realistic enough. Her eyes follow Maegdin to Eskild's bedside, lowering her whetstone to watch the lad and Ranger.
Trumodir follows Maegdin, a motherly look of concern on her face.
Eskild turns his head slightly and slowly starts to take in the change of surroundings. "Like a tree fell on me. Where are we?"
Bialver pulls Hallam the Bard aside, and seems to be quizzing him intently
Trumodir calls back to the group, "Could someone put some water on the fire so I can make an infusion for the boy?"
Minabel nibbles a little bread she had in her pack and walks over to the Eglan girl who sold her the tunic. "Do you have a looking glass on you?" The Eglan girl shakes her head no and looks at Eskild, clearly more concerned with his condition than the Breelander’s question.
Bialver asks the Bard one more question, and trots off to the well for water

Maegdin smiles slightly at Eskild. 'We're in Ost Guruth, round about halfway between Weathertop and the Last Bridge. You've been in and out of wakefulness the last couple of days. Let me take a look at that wound of yours.' He moves to begin pulling off the boy's tunic and undershirt.
Bialver returns a short time later, with his waterskin full and dripping, and a leathern bucket of water sloshing by his side
Miriaden pulls a kettle from her pack and hands it to Bialver to fill with the water. "Here..." She says to him. "Fill this and lets get it on the fire."
Ortrun narrows her eyes as everyone clusters around the boy, fingers flexing around her quarterstaff. She glances at Harris, perched on her shoulder, and whistles softly. The bird takes off, gliding in a smooth line to land on one of the empty bunks, squawking softly as he peers at them all with a beady eye. Ortrun remains sullenly at the door, for now, simply watching.
Bialver nods his thanks to the Ranger and fills the kettle, but leaves her to position it on the coals
Miriaden crouches next to the fire, setting the kettle in its proper place in the fire. "Thank you." She murmurs up to him.
Maegdin catches sight of Ortrun over by the doors. 'Could you go or send for the healer?' he calls. 'I'd like to have another set of eyes take a look at him, and she's been quite concerned over him these last couple days.'

Eskild lets out a long breath. He doesn't try to fight Maegdin, though he can't offer much help either. The boy falls silent as he tries to discern reality from fevered delirium. The giant purple wolves definitely couldn't have been real.
Trumodir goes to her pack to search for a small jar of unguent that she guards carefully. "This will help his wounds to heal", she says to Maegdin as she brings it back, "and the infusion will help him to feel more comfortable."
Ortrun frowns, but gives him a single nod and walks over to Strangsig. Leaning in, the two women exchange a brief conversation, Ortrun appearing more and more irritated, before finally sighing and pointing towards Eskild. The healer eyes the Eglan once more with a jaundiced eye before walking over. "Let me see him!" she orders brusquely.
Trumodir adds, "I am known as a healer among my people, and this unguent is often used on wounds."
Bialver, hearing the sharpness in Trumodir's voice, comes over to stand behind her
Maegdin carefully unwinds the bandages from Eskild's chest and removes the now-soiled linen pads which had lain against the wound. While the bleeding has stopped, the wound is still red and inflamed. Overall, it seems much improved from even a couple of days ago.
Miriaden watches the kettle, and once it comes to a rolling boil, carefully pulls it from the campfire and brings it over to Tru. "For the tea…"

Maegdin steps back and lets the healer have her way with the patient. 'Well, it seems like Radagast was true to his word. It's good to have a wizard about, especially one so skilled in herblore and leechcraft.'
Trumodir looks at Miri thankfully and puts some leaves and other things into a small bowl, and pours the hot water over them. Then she positions the bowl so the aroma can waft up to Eskild's head and he can breath it in.
Miriaden gets out of the way, standing back to let the healers do their work.
Trumodir tells Maegdin "we often use this to relieve the stress that comes from the pains suffered in battle."
The healer glances up to Maegdin, sniffing once to acknowledge his point. "Brown-robed fellow? Aye, he's a strange one, but knows a thing or two." Her fingers lightly probe around the wound, before she snaps at Ortrun, "Clean bandages in the chest over yonder, and some of that poultice. Get moving!" Ort grumbles but moves off obediently, fetching and bringing the supplies.

Bialver watches the scene around Eskild for a moment, then goes to his pack and digs out a somewhat deflated purse, weighs it in his hands, and heads out the door in the direction of the few merchants doughty enough to trade here
Minabel watches the scene developing around Eskild as she eats an apple. Clearly her services are not needed.
Trumodir turns to the healer and says, "I'd be glad of the clean bandages but I'll be using this unguent and will not need your poultices"
Eskild sneezes from the steam, though his attention is snapped back to his injury when the healer starts poking at it. Much as he hates all the fussing, he can't find the strength to repel them.

Ortrun winces slightly, shaking her head at Trumodir from behind Strangsig's back as the squawky healer rounds on Trumodir. "Listen here, wild-lady! This boy's in this here camp, and he'll be tended to by a healer in this here camp. Which is me. You all brought him in a horrible state, so get! Let me do my work and save your unguents for when you're out and away from here."
Miriaden 's lips twitched a little as she tried to suppress her smile. Healers were very territorial in every culture, it seemed.
Maegdin looks over at Trumodir. 'Better to just let her have her way. She is right, after all.'
Eskild winces from the sound of the healer's raised voice and moves a couple inches towards the other side of the bed.
Trumodir growls deeply as her eyes narrow. "You touch him again and you won't like the result. I don't care where we are; he needs something you can't give him."

Strangsig stands slowly and deliberately, placing her hands on her hips as she stares Trumodir down. "Get away from my patient, wild-lady. Funny thing, it's been /my/ healing which is fixing him, /not/ yours. If you have a problem, you take it up with Frideric. But shove that unguent down your throat and let me use my methods which have worked since you could barely walk." She sniffs again and takes the new bandages, a certain measure of anger in her movements now. "Damned foreigners..." she mutters under her breath.
Trumodir growls more loudly as she puts her face right up to the healer's and says, slowly and clearly, "You have no idea how old I am, and you have no idea of the difference between your puny store of knowledge and mine. Back off before I get really angry!
Maegdin speaks to Strangsig as she begins to tend to Eskild. 'How soon do you think it will be before we can set back out on the road?' He quickly steps between her and Trumodir as the latter grows angry. 'Trumodir, please! Peace! We are their guests.'

Miriaden clears her throat gently and looks at Tru. "Tru, perhaps we should let the healer do her job in her own building. Save your healing agents for the wilds. We have a long journey ahead, yet."
Trumodir retorts to Matt, "We can solve that by leaving! I can tend to Esk better in the wild than this woman can tend to him here!"
Eskild winces as the pounding in his head only gets worse. "Stop...shouting..." His voice, however, is barely a hoarse whisper.
Minabel wrinkles her nose at all this drama playing out around her.

Strangsig had looked about ready to stab Trumodir through the eye with a needle, but at Matt and Annie's intervention, she backs down. Only a little, though. She moves around to Eskild, her husky voice unusually gentle as she tends to him. "Lie still now, boy, don't strain it. Still swollen, oh..." She glances up to Maegdin. "Depends. Being on a horse could tear his wound open again. If I stitch it, might last a little longer, but he'd be better walking. Look at how pale he is, his body's doing all it can to heal. Effort going into riding, traveling, or fighting could endanger his life. Weaken him."

Trumodir says, through gritted teeth, "I warn you, you're pushing me too far! You won't like it if I get much angrier!"
Maegdin takes a step closer to Trumodir and hisses at her under his breath. 'Calm yourself! You can take what care you wish when we set out once again, but while we are in this place, we have the duties of guests. They have given us no offence.'
Trumodir hisses back, "if that woman pokes him one more time I'll give her a poke she won't forget!"
Maegdin turns back to Strangsig. 'Then I suppose we can take a day or two of walking to give him further time to heal. I am sure our horses will be glad of the rest. Is there any way I could buy some of your unguent ere we go?
Trumodir gives Maegdin a sharp look and growls again.
Bialver strides through the door, and shouts to Trumodir "Cousin! good news!"
Strangsig arches a brow at Maegdin, but gives him a polite-enough nod. "You could," she replies, slightly mollified. "I trust you have supplies of your own for stitches, should he need them? Since you all are so set on leaving. Not that I'll complain." She shoots a dirty look at Trumodir.

Bialver, oblivious as always, bustles up to his kinswoman, babbling excitedly, half in Valish "Their bakstrofn here is not like that of the Landvættr and his húsfreyja, the water-spirit. But they will make us some honunghleifr!! Think of it! Out of the combs of skógarhunang I found in the night!!!"
Miriaden stares at Bialver, furrowing her brows as she tries to understand what in Middle Earth he just said.
Trumodir turns to Bialver with excitement in her eyes. His words seem to have distracted her from her confrontation with the healer.

Maegdin sighs and looks down at Eskild for a time. He then glances over at Miriaden. <S>'Well, cousin, what think you? Can we spare one more day here while the boy heals? The Wizard seemed to think it best to move as soon as we could, but more haste, less speed, as they say. If we linger another day, the lad will be that much readier to ride.'
Miriaden looked back to Maegdin and then to Eskild, lips pressing together before answering in a low voice. <S> "The boy needs to rest, but the more pressing need is to move. We could set out, though slowly. Cover some ground while letting him rest. Perhaps a waggon would be useful?"

Trumodir goes over to Bialver to get a look at the honey he had found. "I'd like a bit of that to make more unguent for Eskild" she says.
Bialver takes the other Beorning aside, talking and gesticulating excitedly. Is it possible that he has given the rangers a wink as he turns away?
Bialver opens his bag and sits down, pulling out combs of wild honey and holding them up for Trumodir's inspection
Eskild starts to sit up ignoring the burning pain in his side. His good arm is shaking from the effort of holding himself up.
Trumodir smiles broadly as she smells the honey. "Ah! from local herbs! and good comb as well! These will be very useful!"

Maegdin shakes his head at Miriaden's last suggestion. <S>'No. A waggon would only slow us down, especially after we cross the ford. As I imagine it would take two days of walking for him to be ready to ride, I think it better to stay one more night here. Perhaps Radagast can work his craft over him again. His wound is already far more healed than I would expect after less than a week.'
Trumodir perks up her ears at the sound of Radagast's name. "That would be much more helpful than this woman's poultices!" she says.
Miriaden nods a little to Maegdin, relenting easily enough. <S> "Alright. If anyone could help, he could. At least once we cross the river, we have the hope of elvish medicine as well. There must be one that can help him?"

Strangsig shushes Eskild, gently guiding him back down. "Now, lad, just rest. I'm a-taking a good care of ya." She glares at Trumodir, offering a rather impolite gesture with one hand before turning her attention back to Eskild. She daubs a bit more poultice on, avoiding the still-open portion of the wound, before bandaging it tightly.
Bialver drags his kinswoman to her feet "The býhúfr are quite close!! Come see! And we can visit Radagast of the fjölkyngisfólk on the way back!"
Bialver nearly lifts her off her feet as he drags her out the door
Trumodir follows her kinsman gladly; the further from that woman the better. She trusts that Radagast will take care of Eskild properly, and HE knows the healing properties of honey better than that woman who calls herself a healer.

Maegdin smiles slightly. 'I don't think such drastic measures will be necessary,' he says to Miriaden. 'I think another night of rest will do him, and all of us, good. We can set out rested and well-fed early in the morning. In the meantime, we should do what we can to aid our hosts.'
Miriaden nods to Maegdin. <S> "Shall I ask around to see how we might be able to do that, or is there something you already have in mind?"
Maegdin shakes his head. 'Ask around,' he says in Westron. 'I'm sure there are things that always need doing. Are there not?' He turns to Ortrun and Strangsig as he says this last.

Eskild reluctantly lies back down and without protest. "Radagast...what an odd name...who is he?"
Miriaden nods once more, looking to Ortrun and Strangsig.
Strangsig squints at Maegdin, but nods. "Aye, always lots to do. We all have our jobs. Ortrun here," she jabs a finger back at the woman, who bristles angrily, "was supposed to gather relics to sell. Now we may be short coin. I heal, Frideric oversees. We have hunters, cooks...there's never a shortage of jobs." She pauses, and asks, "Why you asking? Babbling away like that?"
Eskild furrows his brow in concentration. "Heard you all talk mention him a few times is all."
Maegdin lays a hand on Eskild's shoulder. 'He's a friend. That's all you need worry about now. You need your rest.' He looks up at Strangsig. 'Mayhap Annie and I could help your folk with the relics you've found thus far. We're both fairly knowledgeable about the old days; might be we could help you identify some of your finds so you could ask more for them.'
Minabel adds, "if you need anyone to sew clothes for your people, I can do that. It is the least I can do to thank your people for this... um, outfit."
Miriaden nods to Strangsig. "Yes, I'm sure we can help you with the relics."

Strangsig snorts. "That's Ortrun's job, talk to her. Way her face has been screwed up like she's eaten a rotted bog-frog, good luck." She gazes at Mina with a tad more affection. "Well dearie, you could help me cut some fabric for bandages, or go talk to the ladies across camp."
Minabel asks, "Do you have any silk? Silk bandages are the best."
Maegdin gives Ortrun a look. 'Well? What say you? Can you stomach my helping you, or should I go see if I can bring in any game?
Miriaden looks between Maegdin and Ortrun, not entirely sure what the source of the animosity was. She was unaware there had been any issues.
Strangsig snorts. "Silk? You mean that wavy stuff that come out of spiders' bee-hinds? That type is sticky." Ortrun, meanwhile, side-eyes Matt. "S'pose so. Long as you don't go on another rant about old vow writ into your veins or 'your' people's heirlooms. Ours now." Harris screeches in affirmation.

Eskild closes his eyes briefly silently cursing his injured condition.
Miriaden sighs a little as she gives Ortrun a look. Turning to Maegdin, she murmurs quietly. "Perhaps I will go ask around to see how we might help."
Maegdin glances at Miriaden. 'Maybe you should help her,' he says quietly. 'I think I'll go see if I can bring in some meat for the settlement. Or mayhap I could fletch arrows.'
Miriaden gives Maegdin an understanding nod, then looks at Ortrun. "Why don't you show me what you have currently?"
Ortrun glances at Annie, folding both hands over her staff and nodding slightly. "Fair enough. You two..." she wavers a finger between Matt and Annie, "Related? That means no rants from you, either. Still, could use the help. The ruins I found you at were the farthest afield I've had to go."

Maegdin smiles slightly at Ortrun and Miriaden before looking down at Eskild. 'Don't feel too bad, lad,' he says. 'A wound like that doesn't heal in a day. Get your rest and you'll be better prepared to travel on the morrow.'
Miriaden glanced to Maegdin before answering Ortrun. "We're cousins..." Close enough, anyways. "Do you have those relics with you, or here in Ost Guruth?" She asks Ortrun.
Maegdin gives Eskild one last look as he heads out into the camp in search of a task to keep him busy. He whistles softly as he goes.
Ortrun replies, "Some with me, but most in my corner of Ost Guruth. That's where I sort them until I sell. I live here."
Miriaden nods, unsurprised. She gestures toward the doorway and smiles. "Come, let's go have a look at what you have found. I am very curious." She waits for Ortrun to come along and then will follow her to her little corner.


Chapter 22: To the Bridge

Maegdin sits on his bedroll as Ost Guruth slowly begins to wake around him. He smokes his pipe thoughtfully and taps his fingers on the scabbard of his sword as he looks around the room.
Turodhor walks into the room, helm beneath his arm, but seeing that many are still asleep, stays quiet. He gives a nod of greeting to the man who has awoken on the bedroll
Trumodir yawns and stretches, feeling around for her pack.
Ortrun had slept somewhere else in the camp, presumably the place where she called home. However, when dawn broke, she walked back into the healing wing rather tight-lipped, silently taking a seat on an empty bedroll and fixing her gaze on the still-sleeping company.
Maegdin glances over at the man who entered the room, nodding his head slightly as he gives an appraising look.
Eskild lies awake in bed for a few moments before slowly sitting up. His injury, though still painful, is looking noticeably improved.
Minabel sighs as she rolls onto a sharp stick. Another night spent on the hard ground.

Bialver strolls back in, accompanied by a stranger—a tall woman who bears a striking resemblance to both him and Trumodir
Trumodir throws off her blanket, gets up and shuffles over to the fire, rummaging in her pack to get out a honey cake. She glances up at Bialver and is startled to see him with one of their kin.
Bialver calls ''Daughter of the Knurrebjorner! See who I have met in this far place?''
Trumodir leaps up with a look of joy and races over to the woman with Bialver. "Sister!" she cries.

Turodhor pauses closer to the party, before speaking with a clear southern accent. "I hope you have all rested well. Some of your injuries looked quite severe."
Ortrun arches a brow at the new arrival. "Who are you?" she asks bluntly. "You know this company?"
Turodhor gives a slight bow and nod of his head. "I am Turdhor, son of Turodhan, and I have lingered here for some time now. I noted when they had arrived."
Ortrun gets to her feet, switching her staff loosely to her right hand. "As of your business here?" she asks, walking a bit closer to assess this man.
Ortrun gets to her feet, switching her staff loosely to her right hand. "As of your business here?" she asks, walking a bit closer to assess this man.
Turodhor says, '"I wished to return to Dol Amroth, for dire news has reached me here in the North."'

Maegdin makes his way over to Eskild as the company begin to wake. 'How are you feeling, lad?' he says around the stem of his pipe. 'You're certainly looking better.' He glances over his shoulder at the southerner with an odd look, but says nothing for now.
Eskild gives a slight nod. "Improved, methinks. I could walk if I had a stick."
Trumodir almost shouts with excitement, "this is my sister!"
Bialver smiles at the two Daughters of Beorn embrace with cries of gladness
Maegdin smiles slightly as he hears the family reunion going on behind him. 'What about riding? So long as we took it easy, do you think you could sit a horse?'
Eskild says, 'Aye. My mare, Lark, she got a steady pace.'
Bialver says to Trumodir "You did not think I could find so many hives on my own, did you? One or two perhaps...but Langhár is mistress of all wildcraft!"
Trumodir takes Langhar aside and they speak quietly together out of the hearing of the others.
Maegdin nods and claps Eskild on the shoulder. 'All to the good. We'll set out as soon as we've had a chance to grab a bite.'

Maegdin makes his way over to Ortrun and the newcomer. He looks the man up and down. 'You seem rather far from home, friend,' he says. 'What brings you so far from the dwellings of most men?' He puffs on his pipe as he awaits an answer.
Turodhor gives a half smile, "Aye, I am far indeed. A quest has led me far into the north in pursuit of hope that one I hold dear is yet alive." He shrugs. "But perhaps it is vain and I better needed elsewhere."
Eskild takes a few staggering steps away from the bed. His legs feel rubbery from lack of use, and he starts to doubt his ability to ride long distance.
Ortrun glances sideways to Maegdin before returning her suspicious gaze to the newcomer. "You seem indifferent whether this person lives or dies," she comments brusquely. "Is your story a lie, or do you know any of these folk?" She gestures lightly behind her, before adding in the typical, distrustful manner of the Eglain, "Your curiosity seems hardly warranted."

Maegdin raises an eyebrow. 'Well, unless you're headed off into Wilderland, your best bet is to head west to Bree, then take the Greenway south. It'll still be a long and lonely road before you reach the homes of kindly folk.' He nods in agreement with Ortrun.
Trumodir comes up to Maegdin and says, "I must help my sister with a difficult task here before I can leave. I don't know how long I will be but if you must leave soon, I will catch up with you, if I know the path you plan to take. Bialver, will you be helping us with our task or going ahead with the company?"
Bialver notices that Eskild has gotten himself to his feet. He rummages in his bag to find the largest of the remaining honeycombs and brings it over to the youth
Bialver looks over his shoulder at his kinswomen and appears to consider

Turodhor brushes his beard with a hand, "No, I have not met before, but I am concerned for all fellow travelers on the road these days. We must stand together in dark times, for many of us are far from kin and hearth." He shrugs. "Aye, perhaps so, but I traveled West with dwarves and I seek out that pass over the mountains."
Ortrun harrumphs in impatience. "Your words are too fair, stranger," she says before letting out a sharp whistle. A deep auburn hawk flies in with a scree, perching on her shoulder. "Forgive me for not trusting in your kind intent."
Maegdin shrugs at the southron and turns to look at Trumodir. 'We'll be heading out soon, hopefully as soon as everyone's had a chance to eat. We make for the Last Bridge and then on into the Trollshaws. Simply follow the road, and you'll catch us up.'

Bialver turns his attention back to Eskild, and shoves a honeycomb that must weight almost a pound into his hands. He puts his hands on his hips and says ''You will eat this. All of it. Now. And you will wash it down with every drop of mead in my waterskin."
Eskild is surprised at having a honeycomb suddenly thrust upon him and nearly topples over from the suddenness of it all. He takes one very suspicious look at the honeycomb and then back at Bialver. Knowing better than to argue with papa bear, he starts to nibble on it and relishes the sweet taste.
Bialver crosses his arms and glares at the Trestlebridger
Eskild takes the hint and quickly stuffs his mouth full of honeycomb. It's a slight miracle he can still chew.
Bialver watches and nods, satisfied.

Trumodir nods and as she walks out with her sister, waves to the group and says, "wish us success; our task is not easy"
Minabel turns to look at Maegdin. "Last Bridge". That sounds ominous.

Turodhor opens his arms, "Aye, I perhaps so. Fair words are valued where I am from, as a remnant of happier times. Perhaps this is neither the time nor the place."
Eskild coughs out something indecipherable towards Tru.
Bialver waves to his two kinswomen and calls out something cheerful-sounding in Valish.
Minabel says, "Oh well. Makes no difference to me. I am already beyond the reach of civilization and a good fire and a good meat pie."
Ortrun shakes her head. "It is not. My kin have little memory of prosperity, and do not have the luxury of fair words." She points the butt of her staff towards Maegdin. "Matt is the head of this company. If you wish to follow, get his approval. I don't want any more trouble."

Maegdin looks back at the southron, considering. Finally, he nods. 'We're headed the same way, at least for a bit. It can't hurt to have more folks in our group. Might make the trolls think twice before trying to eat us.'
Minabel looks the stranger up and down with an approving look. "At least he has taste in clothes" she mumbles under her breath to Trumodir.
Maegdin glances sidelong at Ortrun. 'And what of yourself, Ortrun? I assume this is farewell, now you're back among your own folk. I'd like to settle debts ere we part.'

Turodhor laughs, "Aye! Make the trolls think twice indeed. If your friend here speaks truth, I shall lull them to sleep with my fair words. If not, my sword is at the service of yours and your company as long as our roads continue."
Miriaden returns to Ost Guruth and heads back to the barracks where they have been staying. She enters the doors, slipping off to the side to observe, seeing a new person speaking with Maegdin. She arches her brow a little, looking to Maegdin.
Bialver waits until Esk has finished half the comb, then hands him the waterskin, from which a sharp alcoholic tang emerges. 'Drink, Hero!'' he orders
Eskild raises his good arm to hide a gag as he chokes down the last of the honeycomb. His mouth feels tingly from the sweetness, and his hands and face are coated in already drying honey. The stickiness would be great for a lint roller and not much else.
Eskild gingerly takes the waterskin and starts chugging mead. It's more than he's used to, but the boy knows better than to complain or argue.
Eskild wipes his mouth with one arm as he finishes off the mead and succeeds in smearing some of the honey further across his face. He looks flushed, and his ears are starting to turn a vibrant shade of red. He takes a few staggering steps forward, though it's impossible to tell whether it's from the alcohol or his legs still being unsteady.

Ortrun glances at Maegdin, for once appearing a bit pained. "I'm...Frideric told me to continue with you," she grumbled. Holding up a warning hand, she adds, "I'm not pleased about it, but he thinks it wise, and I will not disobey him."
Maegdin gives Ortrun a look as he stands smoking for a long minute. Finally, he says, 'Very well, then. Get your things together, all of you.' He raises his voice at that last. 'We're heading out as soon as we get some food. I hope to make the Last Bridge before sundown.'
Turodhor grins, "Aye, it shall be good to be traveling once more. My belongings shall be gathered at once."

Maegdin knocks the dottle out of his pipe and looks at Ortrun. 'Can you leave word with one of your folk for that scholar we picked up in the Forsaken Inn? Tell him that if he decides to tag along behind us, that he should go with Trumodir?'
Bialver quickly loads up his pack, slings his bow over his shoulder, scoops up the bag in which he carried the honeycomb, and trots out the door
Eskild looks surprised to see a well dressed stranger in the company's midst. "And who are you?" He regards the stranger warily having never seen someone in such fine garb.
Turodhor eyes the boy and gives a warm smile, "I am Turodhor, son of Turodhan. And who might you be, young man?"
Eskild says, 'Eskild, son of Egon from Trestlebridge. You 'ave an odd name.'
Turodhor says, 'Well met, Eskild, son of Egon. It was only once that I set eyes upon Trestlebridge. And surely, it is one of the great wonders of the North.' He gives an almost embarrassed smile, "I was told my name was Sindarin."

Minabel says, 'Minabel, daughter of Bram and Mina-distinguished members of the Breeland farming community.' She curtsies politely.
Turodhor bows in return to the woman. "Well met indeed, Minabel. Bree to is a fine establishment. I dwelt for some time under the hospitality of Mr. Butterbur. Have you made his acquaintance?"
Eskild rounds on Ortrun. "Could your people loan me a staff? 'Fraid I en't walking so well as afore." He turns his attention back to Tur. "Calling my home a wonder could be too much. Deadman's Dike they say was a real wonder to see. Fore it was destroyed, course."
Minabel says, 'Please excuse my slovenly appearance, but I have not had a chance to properly set my hair, and no, I do not associate with people such as him. We are respectable folks.'

Miriaden finally approaches the group, though she doesn't interfere with the conversation. She glances to Eskild at his mention of Fornost, lips twitching a little in a smile.
Turodhor suppresses a smile, "Slovenly? We are on the road. For such a state, you are far from slovenly. Although I would hardly dare say Mr. Butterbur is not respectable! He is a fine man." He considers for a moment. "I have not heard of Deadman's Dike."
Ortrun nods once to Maegdin, and again to Eskild. "I will return shortly," she says, jogging out the door with Harris in tow.
Maegdin glances over at Turodhor and Eskild. 'He means Kings' Norbury,' he says before heading over to his bedroll and packing his things.
Minabel frowns. "He runs a tavern, and while his cider is well brewed, he is not well received among the important people in Bree since his profession is to run a tavern and all type of questionable folks stay at his inn.”

Miriaden clears her throat. "Some call it Fornost… the fields are filled with dead trees and barrows of those long dead." She dips her head. "I am Annie." She introduces herself.
Minabel turns her head to Miriaden at the mention of "Fornost". "Yes, my father mentioned that place. He read about it in a book."
Turodhor frowns in confusion, but nods, "Fornost! The old northern capitol? Long have songs been sung of it, but none have set eyes upon it in many a year. Well met, Annie." He bites his lip to keep quiet, "Well, as I am certainly one of those questionable folk, I shall take his company and your conversation as a great honor."
Eskild shrugs. Norbury sounds familiar, but Fornost is a new name for the place. "Ne'er been there. Folk say the dead from the battle still be restless and out to spirit away anyone who gets too close."
Turodhor turns to leave to gather his few belongings, "Aye, that may be the case." His voice saddens. "Perhaps it is for the better that I have not made it there." With that, he goes to get his things and returns shortly after with a pack.

Maegdin stands back up, hefting his pack over his shoulder and tucking his bedroll under his arm. 'We can trade travelers' tales on the road and in camp this evening. Get your things together, and meet me by the horses.' With that, he heads off into the encampment.
Ortrun returns to the healing barracks bearing a spare staff. She hands it off to Eskild with a brief nod, then reports to Maegdin, "Frideric knows. He will pass on the appearance of Greenstand to the camp. If he comes through, he'll know to find us." She abruptly turns on her heel, heading off towards the stables.
Eskild takes the staff with a wholehearted thanks. He leans heavily on it grateful to relieve some weight.
Miriaden already had her things packed on her horses and she would take up the rear of the group, once everyone headed out.
Eskild can only meander in a less than straight line towards the horses. He has no idea where his stuff went ever since he was taken delirious to the Forsaken Inn. It's only on faith that he believes his companions brought his horse.
Minabel saddles Brianna and swings on to her back. "I am ready to leave this dreary place." She waves goodbye to the Eglan girl who gave her the clothes.

Bialver strides up to the stables with the now full sack on his shoulder. He sets it down and saddles Utsending. He checks the saddle, girth, and tack, and straps the sack behind his saddle, then stows a few things in the mare's saddlebags.
Ortrun strides down the length of the stables, finally picking out the most docile mare she could find. Eyeing the beast uncomfortably, she nonetheless takes her by the reins and leads her towards the stairs.
Eskild hauls himself onto Lark who turns to look at him with her big, brown eyes. She doesn't mind that he's not sitting totally balanced or that the reins are looser than normal.
Turodhor mounts upon a perfectly normal and undistinguished horse
Miriaden mounts her trusty steed and waits patiently for the rest of the group to be ready.

Bialver swings into the saddle, then knees Utsending towards Turodhor's mount "Bialver Hunnangsbjorn, of the Vales" he says, with a slight bow.
Turodhor resettles his helmet upon his head and gives a broad smile, "Well met Bialver! Turodhor, son of Turodhan."
Maegdin saddles Randir with easy, practiced motions, quickly tying his packs and gear to the saddle. After the others have prepared their own mounts, he climbs in the saddle. 'Well, then. If we're all ready, let us away.' Raising a hand in farewell to Frideric and the other Eglain, he leads the company down the hill from the encampment and back to the Road. Turning east, he sets off at a steady pace, but not so fast or so hard that Eskild can't keep up.
Miriaden takes up the rear like usual, ensuring that nobody falls behind.

The day is blustery and chill as the company sets out on the road. Clouds scud eastward on a wind, threatening rain, though the threat remains distant as the day goes on. As the sun begins to set, the cloud break apart and the deep blue of evening spreads above the company. The Last Bridge comes into view at the bottom of a long slope as Matt leads the company towards it.

Turodhor pulls his cloak tighter around his shoulders as they ride along, humming a soft tune quietly to himself. He scans the landscape as he rides, searching for something
Miriaden pulled her hood over her head and her cloak around her a littler tighter as they road, the cold sinking into her bones. She is relieved to see the Last Bridge and sighs in relief.
Maegdin had spent the day hunched down against the wind, but he straightens as he catches sight of the Bridge. He glances back over his shoulder at the company, paying special attention to Eskild's condition.
Ortrun groans a bit as they ride. She did have her own mare now, but the fact remained that the Eglan hadn't ridden in years. Her legs were cramping up again, and she breathes an audible sigh of relief upon seeing the bridge. Harris squawks and flies off to perch on one of the crumbling pylons.
Eskild can certainly feel an ache in his muscles and leans against Lark's neck for support. The Last Bridge is only a vague memory from a story he heard about it being the easternmost edge of civilization. Beyond that was unknown and untamed wild lands. He manages to sit up a little to take in the view and realize that he's going off the figurative edge of his world.

Bialver looks at the landscape, having not raveled this way in some years. He takes a deep breath of the cool wind that flows from the Trollshaws.
Minabel looks disapprovingly at the broken down bridge in front of them. "Are we really going to cross that? What if it does not hold up under our combined weights?"
Turodhor studies the weather-worn insignia and statues. "The stonework appears to be of the men of Westernesse. I would not fear that it will fall. Their work will stand long after we are gone."
Bialver grins at Mina, showing a large number of teeth. '''Then you may ride first, to see if a troll will come from under the bridge, looking for his breakfast"

Maegdin glances over at Minabel. 'It was built to last,' he says simply. 'Let's go. We'll camp by the river tonight. Stay away from the trees as much as you can, and keep your ear out for heavy footsteps. We should be fine this close to the Road and the river, but no sense taking any needless risks.' He gives the spurs to Randir and leads the company over the bridge.
Miriaden nudges her horse to move, eyes roving as always to the shores of the river.
Ortrun nudges her horse forward, grimacing a bit as the mare's hoofbeats begin to clatter on the stone. Once more away from her homeland, she thought with a pang of regret.
Bialver dismounts as soon as they have crossed the bridge, and walks carefully down to the riverbank

Maegdin heads down the slope to the south of the Bridge, stopping before the water's edge. 'We'll be safe enough here tonight,' he says, swinging down from the saddle. 'From here on, things will be difficult until we reach the end of our road. Luckily, I know some safe places to camp. Hopefully the trolls haven't found them yet.' He sets to making a fire from fallen wood.
Turodhor dismounts and gathers wood from above the high-water line, bringing them over by the armfuls
Miriaden dismounted and patted her horse on the neck, murmuring something in Sindarin to her before the steed wanders off to munch on grass. Miriaden heads off in search of firewood.
Bialver looks carefully up and down the bank, especially under the bridge, before he unsaddles Utsending and lets her drink
Ortrun walks down to the very edge of the water, sitting down and pulling her knees up to her chest. She gazes at the hills of the Lone-lands lying just across the Hoarwell, an unreadable expression on her face.

Minabel slides off Brianna back and kneels by the water's edge. She slowly scoops up the water in her hands and splashes her face with it.
Eskild swings from the saddle and very nearly falls over. Lark gives a bemused snort before bending her head to pick for sparse grass. The boy limps over towards where Matt is making a fire wishing he could be more helpful and less of a burden.
Bialver makes a pile of saddle, saddlebags, tack, pack, and the precious bag of honeycakes, then heads in the opposite direction from the one Miriaden took, also in search of firewood
Trumodir gallops up as the black night settles in around the company, an even blacker look on her face. She dismounts in silence and unsaddles her horse, a wave of fierce anger and sadness emanating from her.
Turodhor pauses as the boy stumbles, "Lad, could ye get these into a more manageable size? Last thing we need 'ere is a bonfire from over-sized wood."
Trumodir wanders down to the water's edge away from the others and sits down, looking pensively at the water and the far shore.
Maegdin shakes his head at Turodhor's words. 'No. Just sit down, Eskild. You need to rest. We can handle the fire.' He gets his flint and tinder and sets about getting the wood ready.
Bialver returns with an armload of brushwood, and dumps it near the fire

Maegdin glances up at Bialver. 'Trumodir has found us, and she seems in a black mood. Go speak to her. You're her kinsman, and know her better than any of us.'
Eskild collapses to the ground, and the impact sends shockwaves of pain through his side. "I'll repay this kindness, Matt. My honour."
Bialver looks up and notices his Kinswoman sitting off by herself. He approaches her slowly, and softly says "Frændmær, it is not well with you."
Miriaden returns with an armful of firewood, setting them down near the fire.
Trumodir doesn't even look up as Bialver approaches, but continues to gaze at the water.
Bialver settles himself on the ground, but not too near, and gazes silently at the water

Maegdin quickly builds a fire and kindles it from his flint and steel. Before long, a merry blaze is going, driving back the encroaching darkness. He looks about at the stacked wood. 'This should be enough,' he says. 'We'll have to make do with what we have in our packs, though. No time for hunting.' He looks over at Miriaden. <S>'Ortrun seems to be taking the journey hard. See if you can comfort her. I'll take a look at Eskild and see how he's doing.'
Miriaden glances up to Maegdin, giving him a little nod. She adjusts her pack for a few minutes to make it look like he hadn't just directed her towards the Eglain, then heads over to Ortrun with a little smile. "How are you doing? Looks like you aren't so accustomed to riding." She chuckled casually.

Turodhor looks up in surprise as he hears the Sindarin and frowns. <S>”Only learned few words. How may I help?"
Eskild has a dour expression as he stares at the ground. Though there are thoughts of excitement and disbelief that he's now beyond his known world, those thoughts are clouded by the frustration of his injury.
Maegdin looks at Turodhor as he walks over to Eskild. 'You can take the first watch, if you'd like.' Kneeling by the Trestlebridger, he asks, 'How's the side, lad?'
Turodhor nods and turns away from the fire, moving farther uphill to where he could see in the trees. His hand rests casually on the hilt of his sword as he watches.

Trumodir sighs deeply and after a long silence finally whispers to Bialver, <V>"It was Ofolmoth...we had to execute justice upon him. His heart had been taken over by evil."
Trumodir adds, after another long pause, <V>"Say nothing to the others. This is an internal affair of our people."
Bialver sighs at his kinswoman's words. <V>"One half of my heart wishes we never, any of us, thought to leave the Vales."
Ortrun glances up at Annie. "I'm not," she says bitterly. "I just wanted to lead you folks across the Lone-lands without any trouble, then go back to my life. Apparently that was too much to ask for." She flicks a pebble across the water.
Miriaden was quiet for a moment before nodding. "I have gotten used to going from one place to another with no home or family to speak of. My kinsman and our camps are the closest I have." She was quiet, then adds, "Believe it or not, you get used to the traveling. And the adventure, even when you hate it. You will return to your life one day with great relief, then hate it."

Eskild says, 'Better. Whatever your friend did helped. Same time, it be hard not to think I'm just slowing you all down.'
Maegdin shakes his head at Eskild's words. 'Nonsense. We've made good time today, and from now on, caution is the byword until we reach the Ford.' He pulls a small flask from his belt pouch. 'Here. Take a mouthful of this. It'll help with the weariness, and I'll see about making you a willow bark tea for the pain.'

Bialver continues in a Valish so colloquial many of the Children of Beorn would be hard put to understand it "It is not a good world, and strong evil now walks in it. But you have done right, and Ofolmoth's spirit now walks with Beorn."
Bialver throws a few pebbles into the water, and after a time softly adds, in the most archaic and formal mode of Valish, "How may I serve you, frændkona?"
Trumodir turns to Bialver with a smile and says, "You already have."
Bialver nods and smiles. "There speaks my kinswoman, the Fyrirkona. The other half of my heart wishes the whole of our people might set forth from the Vales, and set this world to rights!"
Bialver grins "Would Sterkist not give half his hide to be here, adventuring?"

Eskild takes the flask and drinks slowly. "Here's to hoping we en't finding more orcs near."
Minabel nodded in response to Eskild's toast. "I am with that sentiment. To there being no orcs in our path through this wild place."
Maegdin takes the flask back and corks it with a chuckle. 'It's not orcs you need to worry about now. These hills aren't called the Trollshaws for no reason.' He settles himself by the fire after fishing out a small camp kettle from his saddlebags.
Eskild looks slightly alarmed. It was almost hard to believe that there were still real trolls, and if the stories were even half true, then the boy knew he didn't want to meet one. "Iffen you don't mind, Matt, just letting me rest would do a mountain of good for my side."
The Ranger smiles back at the young man. ‘Then take your rest. If you decide you need something for the pain, let me know.’ He settles back and looks across the river at the lands to their west as he packs and lights his pipe. He blows a smoke-ring, and it goes sailing up and over the river before fading away on the light breeze.

Turodhor hums a slow soft tune to himself as he stands watch as a small smile plays across his face

Ortrun sighs, throwing another pebble with considerable force. "I don't want to hate it. I don't want adventure, I don't want to travel. I was /happy/. And then you lot traipse through and bring chaos with you. I should hate all of you."
Miriaden chuckles softly and nods. "Yes, I suppose you will hate us until we go, and then you will miss us and the meaning that we gave your life." She gives Ortrun a direct look. "Helping us is to help all the Free People. Don't forget that."
Ortrun snorts and fixes Miriaden with a level stare. "You really believe that, don't you?" she says incredulously. "That you all are sooo much better than me. What makes your purpose so superior? What right do you have to say that you're the one to add 'meaning' to my life?"
Miriaden was not daunted in the slightest by the Eglain woman. "Because I have a purpose beyond selling other's relics to line my own pocket. If saving Middle Earth isn't meaningful to you, go home and live out the remainder of your days… however many the Dark Lord chooses to give you before enslaving you and all those you care for." She says calmly before heading off to scout.


Chapter 23: Smells like Elves

Maegdin leans against the kerb of the Bridge as the sky finally begins to lighten in the east. He taps his fingers idly on his sword-hilt as he scans the trees, every now and then glancing back across the river at the empty lands still shrouded in night. He hums softly to himself.
Bialver is snoring up a storm in his blankets
Miriaden was fast asleep as the sun began to rise, not stirring at all yet.
Turodhor rises stiffly from the ground and blinks in the early morning light before rising and wrapping himself in his cloak

Ortrun lies on her side, breathing coming light and quiet. In sleep, she clutched her staff in both hands, and Harris was not too far away, hooded and tied to a makeshift perch.
Trumodir is apparently dreaming, grunting and snuffling although she is clearly still asleep
Eskild wakes up suddenly gasping and sweating. He shakes his head as the nightmare clears from his mind and realizes that for the first time, he isn't greeted by shooting pain in his side. He gingerly touches the healing wound which still hurts with pressure and looks red and puffy, but Radagast's magic has sped up the healing process considerably. The boy reaches for his new walking stick and hauls himself up. There's a brief moment of vertigo before he starts a slow march across the small camp. His legs ache and burn from the previous day's exertion.

Greenstand rides across the Last Bridge; his horse's hooves clacking gently on the old stones.
Bialver cracks an eye at the sound of the approaching horse. He slithers out of his blankets, club in hand - no time to string his bow.
Maegdin wheels about suddenly at the sound of hooves on the Bridge. He grabs his bow and kneels down, quickly stringing it and nocking an arrow. He hides in the shadows of the Bridge until he can get a clear view of the rider.
Minabel yawns and pulls the bear skin rug that she skinned off of a bear outside of Ost Guruth around herself. It is too early to rise.

Eskild also hears the horse and instinctively reaches for his bow only to grasp at air. Flustered, he pulls out his knife and holds it defensively.
Miriaden was instantly awake at the sound of hooves clattering on the road and in a moment, her knife was in her hand as she rolled up onto her knees, looking around for the source of the sound.
Trumodir opens an eye, apparently awakened by the sound of a horse on the bridge, and slowly begins to become aware of her surroundings. She looks over to where Eskild was sleeping, and finding him gone, sits up to look for him.
Minabel springs out of bed at the sound of the approaching hooves. Cold or not, she is not going to be caught in her bedroll if anyone attacks. She grabs her bow and arrows from next to her.
Ortrun doesn't wake at the horse hooves, but Harris certainly does. He lets out a loud scree, and Ortrun wakes with a jolt and scrambles to a sitting position, holding her staff out defensively as her mind struggles to reach lucidity.

Greenstand looks around at the land before him. "So these are the Trollshaws..." he mutters.
Maegdin relaxes and lets out a breath he had been holding as he catches sight of the rider's garb. He stands and walks forward onto the road. 'Glad to see you could catch us up, Master Greenstand,' he says softly. 'You're a braver man than I to ride the Road by night.'
Greenstand greets Maegdin. "It is good to see you as well! To be honest, I wasn't really thinking much of the journey other than that it had to be made if I was to join you fine folks again."
Miriaden exhales slowly and rises to her feet, pushing her knife back into its sheath before stretching her arms and rolling her shoulders. She eyes the newcomer curiously before wrapping her weapons belt around her waist and packing up her things.

Bialver chuckles at the sound of Greenspan's name, and lays down his club. He stands up, and with a loud yawn, sheds his mail (uncomfortable stuff to sleep in that it is) and quickly skins out of what little he's wearing beneath.
Turodhor turns to eye the newcomer and nods in greeting
Minabel too relaxes at seeing a familiar face.
Eskild still eyes the newcomer suspiciously, though he holds an intense curiosity for someone that's apparently known to Matt.
Bialver then trots down to the bank, and plunges into the water with a happy yelp
Turodhor sorts through his pack, pulling out some travel bread and chewing thoughtfully as he watches the dawn creep over the mountains. He salutes it and murmurs something quietly to himself

Maegdin smiles and claps Greenstand on the shoulder. 'It is best to travel with company through the Trollshaws. Come down to our camp and have a bite.' He picks up his bow and walks easily down the hill to the others.
Greenstand confides, "I had never been through the Lone Lands before, but I had at least seen them from the Bree side. These woods, though, are altogether new to me. For some reason, they strike me as rather different from the Chetwood back home."
Ortrun gets to her feet, walking over to Harris and sliding on her glove before untying the hawk. She walks a few yards away and fishes out some small pieces of coney from her bag, holding each one in her fingers and whistling. Evidently it was a short 'training routine' for the bird.
Trumodir goes down to the river to splash cold water on her face to wake up, having reassured herself that Eskild was all right, in fact, better than the day before since he hadn't needed help to get himself in an upright position and could walk by himself.
Greenstand follows Maegdin to the camp and lights a breakfast pipe.

Eskild relaxes as Greenstand approaches the group and sheathes his knife. He leans heavily against the staff and watches the stranger.
Bialver ducks and splashes and paddles in the river while the others wake up. Finally he emerges and shakes himself off before laying his mail by the fire to dry.
Minabel puts on her tunic and goes to the fire to check on her kettle and biscuits.
Greenstand greets the waking members in a friendly manner.
Miriaden smiles at Greenstand and welcomes him. "Hello again. Welcome to the Trollshaws." She finishes packing her belongings and ties the pack.

Maegdin settles himself by the fire and stretches out his hands to warm them. He glances around at the others. 'It's good you're already up,' he says as he pulls out some cured meat and an apple. 'I want to get an early start every day until we reach the Ford. The Trollshaws are well-named.' He takes a bite of his apple and chews thoughtfully.
Turodhor nods towards Minabel, "You have some forethought to think to bring a kettle."
Minabel answers "Yes, I packed a kettle, a hairbrush, and some cram before I left home. Everyone needs some comforts of home on the road."
Turodhor raises an eyebrow, "Cram, you say? But indeed, I suppose such comforts could be worthwhile."

Bialver dries himself off by the fire and reaches for his bag of honeycakes. As he sets a few by the fire to warm, he muses to Matt. "A funny tang to the water here. It's clean to drink, but old blood… blood shed by violence… haunts it away north"
Ortrun glances up as Harris flutters onto her forearm, walking back to the assembled camp. She takes down Harris's makeshift perch and puts it away in a saddlebag before sliding down to sit cross-legged. She pulls out a piece of jerky and munches on it.
Greenstand turns toward the river, half expecting to find it bright crimson. "How much blood would have to have been shed for it to be tasted all the way down here?"
Turodhor shifts his attention, "Can you tell how old it is or what might have had its blood spilled?"
Bialver turns his eyes to the dandy. "Nowt that you'd see," he says shortly

Maegdin gives Bialver a curious glance as he finishes his apple and tosses the core into the fire. 'Odd that you should say that. There was some violence done upstream, but that was in my grandfather's day. The Hoarwell flows down from the Ettenmoors, the troll-fells at the foot of the Misty Mountains.' He continues to look thoughtfully at the other man as he finishes eating.
Bialver leans close to his kinswoman and murmurs, <V> "More than one race, but not ours"
Ortrun glances at the water and takes one step away in response, frowning slightly. She bites off one more chunk of jerky before stuffing the pack away and shifting back and forth between either foot with a semblance of uneasiness.

Bialver shrugs dismissively "The water of the Langelfrsdalr is very clean. We grow up with its purity, and taste the difference elsewhere."
Trumodir offers some honeycake to Eskild, looking at him closely as he takes it, to see if he is having any trouble with his reflexes
Eskild nods to Tru and shifts his staff to his other hand before accepting the honeycakes. He chews with gusto and can't remember a time when he was as well-fed since joining with the Beornings.
Miriaden glances down to the river with a curious look, then up towards the road, then to where the sun was ever steadily climbing. Taking her pack, she heads towards her horse, tying her belongings to her horse.

Maegdin glances over at Annie, but only says, 'Well, that's neither here nor there. I don't know if any of you have traveled these woods before, but I need you to listen well. While we're here, stay on the road when at all possible. When we make camp, we will watch in pairs. At night, no one is to stray out of earshot of the camp. Do I make myself clear?'
Turodhor nods as he listens, "Aye, campaigning marching order it is."
Minabel nods. No need to tell her twice.
Ortrun glances to Matt and inclines her chin in understanding. "Trolls here, aye? Like those in the Harloeg?"
Greenstand nods slowly. "I hear and understand, but what is the danger? Are there brigands in these woods?"
Eskild gives Matt a stern nod in understanding.
Miriaden gives Maegdin a knowing look before nodding to Ortrun. "Aye, trolls." She grimaces a little and rolls a shoulder as though preparing for trouble.

Maegdin nods at Ortrun before glancing at Greenstand. 'Far worse than brigands. Trolls roam these hills, though they will rarely set foot south of the road. It is better to be cautious, however. I have no desire to end up in a cookpot.'
Ortrun grimaces and mutters to herself, "That is /not/ how I would like to go..." She urges Harris onto her shoulder and finishes packing things away.
Turodhor gives an uncomfortable shake of his head as hears that and loosens the sword in his scabbard.
Greenstand opens his eyes wide at that. "Trolls! Now those would be a sight to see! Er...though not too closely, of course, for the reasons you've alluded to."
Miriaden looks at Greenstand. "You will probably smell them long before you see them anyways."
Maegdin brushes himself off and stands up. 'There's no need to worry about them in the day. They only prowl at night. Hence why I want to get as many miles behind us while the Sun shines. Pack your things up and put out the fire. We leave as soon as we may.'

Eskild says, 'Trolls! I 'eard stories 'bout them. How they eat children who wander too far in the woods at night. Always thinked they were just stories to scare us. They're real!'
Turodhor says, 'Aye, they're real enough. They were seen in Osgilliath when it was retaken.'
Trumodir appears to be either uninterested in the conversation or have her mind on something else. The dream she was having when she awoke was still troubling her.
Ortrun secures the ties on her saddlebag and swings up onto her mare, the docile creature standing still as her inexperienced rider falters a bit. Still, it was a successful attempt. Ortrun takes up the reins with one hand and hesitantly pats the animal with the other, waiting for the rest of the company.
Minabel looks down the road as if she half expects a troll to come down it at that exact moment. "What do you suppose they look like? Probably big and ugly."

Miriaden mounts up into the saddle, her horse shifting a little as she settles in the saddle. Again, her eyes turned to watch the sun.
Turodhor swings up onto his horse and keeps the sword easy at hand
Eskild hobbles over to his mare and hauls himself into the saddle with a grunt.
Trumodir absentmindedly puts her gear on Marr and leaps onto her back, still troubled over her dream.
Greenstand answers, "They'll probably be the only things in these woods with more than one head." He turns to Maegdin, "Er...aren't they?"
Bialver goes down to the bank to fill his waterskin, whistles up Utsending and quickly saddles her.
Greenstand mounts up on his horse, which was never unpacked during the brief respite.

Maegdin finishes saddling Randir and securing his saddlebags. He looks over at Mina. 'That's a fair enough description of them. Hopefully, you won't have the chance to see for yourselves.' As he climbs in the saddle, he says to Greenstand, 'That kind tend to stick to the mountains. I've never seen on myself.'
Bialver mounts and knees the mare over to Trumodir and Marr
Minabel takes a bright red silk horse blanket from her bedroll and puts it on Brianna. She then puts her saddle on and swings gingerly up on Brianna's back. "Okay, I am ready to go."
Bialver unstoppers his waterskin and holds it out for the other Beorning to sniff. "Clean" he says "but...."

Maegdin turns his horse back up the slope to the Road. He glances back over his shoulder and sets out once he's sure the rest of them are following. All that day and the next, the company follows the Road as it climbs up and down over the hills of the Trollshaws. From time to time, they catch sight of evil-looking ruins on the heights, but they have no trouble as they make their way.

At around noon on the third day of their journey, the company comes down a long pine-clad slope. The noise of running water comes to their ears. When they come out of the last trees, which arch high over the Road like a tunnel, they see a swift-flowing river running noisily over stones and gravel. On the further bank, the road climbs steeply up in a switchback, heading towards the foothills of the mountains. As they look around, they see evidence of a recent flood: boulders and rocks tumbled around the ford, and even some large trees washed up high on the banks. Matt looks at the others. 'We can finally breathe easier. Just another few hours' journey over the moors, and we'll finally see the end of our road.'

Turodhor hunches his shoulders forward, "It will be good to be out of these hills."
Miriaden breaths a little sigh of relief, looking around curiously at the evidence of the flood.
Trumodir hums contentedly to herself. This region is more like her home in the Vales than any place they have yet been, and she is feeling quite light-hearted.
Ortrun nods in agreement. The trees were particularly close for her, used to wide, rolling crags as she was, and it was refreshing to hear that their travels were nearly over. "Where is the end of our road, precisely?"
Eskild gets steadily stronger each day of traveling and even manages to learn a few phrases in Valish courtesy of the Beornings. It's a relief to cross the ford and know that the long travel is soon at an end, though what end he can't tell.

Maegdin simply smiles enigmatically at Ortrun as he leads them up the path onto the high moors.
Bialver takes a taste of the water, dumps out his waterskins, and refills them
Ortrun growls lightly in frustration, giving her head a quick shake. She urges her mare forward, horse and rider picking through the debris and plodding up the massive hill.
Trumodir follows Bialver’s example and refills her waterskins
Miriaden doesn't need to urge her horse to keep going and she looks upwards and around, looking at the High Moors as they ride. Her own sense of anticipation was growing, and she couldn't keep the smile from her face.


Chapter 23, cont.

Maegdin barely has to direct Randir as they climb the hill and make their way over the moors. He hums softly to himself as the hours pass and their shadows stretch out before them. Finally, as the Sun touches the distant hills behind them, the company suddenly comes to the brink of a steep fall in the ground. Matt draws rein and calls to the others, 'Here we are at last!'

Far below them, they see a valley falling into shadow as the sun sets. The sound of rushing water comes up to them, as well as a dim gleam of foam and spume. As they look, lights are kindled on the far side of the valley.
Bialver looks curiously at the ranger "the Afdalrálfar..whose leader is called Half-Elven?", he asks
Eskild takes a deep breath. He tries to commit the scene to memory and thinks that no one in Trestlebridge will believe him about this land.
Turodhor lets out a long breath of relief, "I would not have made the journey without you. My thanks."
Ortrun glances to Matt with a sharply curious expression. "Where is 'here'? What is so special about..." Her voice trails off as she edges her mare a bit closer, trying to see for herself. She blinks once at the odd sight of...lights?
Trumodir now is smiling broadly as she looks out over the forested area below and hears the sound of rushing water and smells the scent of woodland plants.
Greenstand gazes into the valley, but find his eyes pulled upwards. "I thought the Weather Hills were quite large, but surely these are mountains indeed! What is this place, so close to their foot?"
Miriaden breaks into a wide grin as she sees the Vale laid out before them. As the setting sun cast a golden glow through the vale, the autumn colored trees nearly seemed ablaze. "Rivendell..."
Minabel breaks out in a wide grin for the first time since the group left the Prancing Pony to see lights in the valley below.

Maegdin looks at the others and nods at Bialver. 'Welcome, friends, to the valley of Imladris. In the Common Tongue, Rivendell. Home of Elrond Halfelven. Here we can set aside our cares and worries for a time. Come, follow me!' With that, he turns his horse along the brink of the valley until he comes to a steep path which winds its way down the slope.

Bialver knees his horse alongside Trumodir’s, watching her face as they ride down the road
Greenstand follows and relaxes even more as the feeling he sensed at the Ford returns stronger and more certain.
Turodhor pulls on his horse's reins as he ges a clearer view of the valley below. "Imladris," he says, and grows quiet.
Minabel is stricken with awe to see the elven buildings below them. "So beautiful," she coos.
Maegdin leads the company down the steep path. As he does, he takes a deep breath and sighs. The scent that comes wafting up to them is like none of them have ever smelt before, but the very touch of it seems to make their weariness fall away. Even their horses seem to step easier.

Bialver says to Trumodir, <V>"Whatever troubles your heart may find healing here, Kinswoman"
Eskild nearly falls off Lark and grabs at her mane to right himself. He's utterly speechless, and the very atmosphere makes his heart feel lighter than it has since his father's body was returned to him.
Turodhor rides in silence behind the others, with concern evident on his face
Ortrun glances around, awe stripping away the usually harsh and curt lines on the woman's face. "Rivendell..." she nearly whispers, craning her neck to get a better look. Harris screeches in delight, spiraling up from his mistress's shoulder to soar above the Valley.
Greenstand smokes contentedly as he rides. "To think, there is still such peace in the world..."
Trumodir smiles at her kinsman and resolves to follow his advice
Turodhor slips off his horse once they stop moving, but stays close to its side as he gazes around

Maegdin makes his way down to the bottom of the path. There, a bridge of stone without kerb or rail leaps across the stream in a single span. Matt climbs down from his horse and waits for the others to dismount as well before making his way towards the bridge.
Trumodir takes a deep breath and as she does, her troubled thoughts seem to fly away. The sound of water, the gentle breeze, produce a sense of deep contentment in her.
Minabel looks in wonder at her surroundings. "It is so beautiful," she says to no one in particular.
Greenstand absentmindedly hums a tune around the end of his pipe.
Ortrun turns in a slow circle, her usually dour expression stripped away by wonder. “So different…” she breathed, looking at the deluge of water thundering past, to the lush growth it allowed.
Bialver, trusting Utsending, rides across in a leisurely fashion. looking around in delight

Eskild dismounts on the near side of the bridge and leads Lark across. The place feels surreal and otherworldly as though this place doesn't exist in the realm of Middle-earth. Even his horse seems more relaxed by the atmosphere.
Bialver dismounts at the end of the bridge, but keeps his mare close. They exchange a silent look and the Beorning shrugs. The steed delicately paws the ground, but does not graze.
Greenstand says, "It's odd. We're so far from Bree, yet this feels so much more like coming home than the roads in Archet or Combe ever did."
Turodhor says, 'It seems to me as if we have stepped into a tale told of times long ago'
Trumodir asks Bialver in a low voice, "Did you cross the mountains here? I did, and the memory of it has strengthened me when things seemed dark."

Maegdin leads his horse carefully across the bridge, which is wet with spray from the river. As he sets foot on the other shore, several bonfires suddenly flare up among the trees and along the paths. At the same moment, the company hears a ringing sound of laughter come from the trees, which flows into a song:

'The Riders are scattered,
Their terror is broken!
Their pride has been shattered;
The Blade has awoken!
Though long under ashes
The fire has slumbered,
Forth it now flashes,
No more to be humbled!

'How come you now riding
So late in the gloaming?
You say, bearing tidings,
And long been a-roaming!
O! End now your travels
And cease from your weeping!
Your cares now unravel
And then come a-leaping
To tra-la-la-lally
Here down in the Valley!

‘O! Where are you going,
So late in returning?
The river is flowing,
The stars are all burning!
O! Whither so laden,
So sad and so dreary?
Here elf and elf-maiden
Now welcome the weary
With tra-la-la-lally
Here down in the Valley! Ha-ha!'

Bialver speaks quietly to his kinswoman. <V> ''There is no such mead here as we have by the Llangrfljót, but the wine of the Álfar is almost as good'. I tried it when I came through, following the same path from the Vales.''
Greenstand laughs, "Such voices! Could it be anything but elves?"
Turodhor shifts uneasily at the mention of the sword, but smiles beneath his beard
Eskild listens in awe and leans against his mare's neck for support. He moves to stand closer to Bialver.

Maegdin smiles broadly as with that last 'ha-ha!' a company of Elves step onto the path, some walking, some dancing, some leaping down from the trees. One of them, a tall elf with braids in his long black hair and a sapphire bound upon his brow, steps forward and spreads his hands in greeting. 'Welcome, weary wanderers, to Rivendell!' he says with a laugh and a bow. 'We've expected you for some days, and now, as fortune would have it, you come on Mereth en Iavas, the feast of the harvest. Come! Join the dancing and the feasting! I see care and worry graven on your faces, but leave them go and make merry with us!' He laughs brightly as he steps towards the company.

Minabel looks their host up and down and frowns. "His dress is nicer than mine," she whispers to Trumodir.
Trumodir smiles at Minabel and nods. "’Tis true", she agrees.
Bialver steps a careful half-pace behind the Trestlebridger, and puts one hand on his shoulder
Ortrun grips her staff out of instinct when the fires erupt all around them, followed by the singing that curled up into the night. She fixes the approaching party of elves with some disbelief, as if they were something out a fairy-tale.
Minabel admires an elven maid who stands near the elf who spoke. "They all have such lovely clothes. What civilization!"
Bialver looks gravely at the tall elf, then bows and names himself "Bialver Hunnangsbjorn of the Langelfrsdalr thanks you for your welcome''
Eskild stares wide eyed and dumb-founded. He's never seen an elf before, and the stories he's heard hardly do the creatures justice.

Taylarin smiles and makes her way towards the group, eyes shadowed by her hood. "Welcome to Imladris, mellyn. I am Taylarin." She dips her head lightly to the group, then smiles a little wider upon seeing a familiar face. <S> "Welcome back, Maegdin."
Greenstand examines the tall elf. "So youthful, and yet there's a depth in those eyes. I would love to hear such tales as he has undoubtedly been in!" he says under his breath. Aloud, he says, "Are you our host? You honor us greatly, my lord!"
Turodhor gives a partial bow, "Turdhor, son of Turodhan." He pauses for a moment and wrinkles his brow before speaking again in somewhat accented and stiff Sindarin. "<S> May the stars shine on our meeting."
Bialver pushes Eskild slightly forward and continues "This warrior is Eskild Orc-Slayer, son of Egon"
Maegdin smiles broadly as he lowers his hood. He steps forward and takes the hands of the elf. The two embrace and exchange kisses on the cheek. Matt steps back and says 'Nothing would please me more, Gilglir. The thought of the house of Elrond has buoyed my spirits for these long miles. But first, tell me: is Aragorn here?' He nods his head to Taylarin as she speaks to him.

Eryniell steps out from the party of elves, coming to a stop in front of the Company as her cobalt eyes glitter shrewdly. She dips her head to the group of beleaguered wanderers with barest hint of a smile. “I am Eryniell. Lay aside your cares a time, for it appears there have been many to plague your road.”
Gilglir nods at Maegdin's words, his face growing somewhat more grave. 'Yes, he is, but let us not speak of his errand, nor yours, for now.' Turning to the others, he gives them all a broad smile. 'Nay, nay, friends! We know all of your names! You have been watched since ever you crossed the Last Bridge, and your coming has been expected.'

Eskild makes an awkward bow and a sort of fishy expression
Ortrun blinks a few times, still held in some sort of rapture as she shakes her head in wonderment. Harris flies down, perching on her shoulder with a scree.
Bialver nods "We will welcome knowledge of our hosts names when they are pleased to say them"
Trumodir finds herself tongue-tied, as usual when she meets with an elf; she is happy to know that the elves already know of them all and she needn't say more.

Taylarin turns to regard Turodhor with a smile, then chuckles softly at Eskild. Her storm grey eyes fix on him for a moment before she comments softly and looks around at them all. "Find rest while you are able. Eat, drink, and sleep. You road only grows longer, I fear." She glances up to Gilglir for a moment, giving him a smile.
Minabel looks at Taylarin suspiciously, but then decides politeness is the best policy. "Minabel of Bree," she says pleasantly and gives a brief curtsy.

Maegdin noticeably relaxes at the confirmation that his chieftain is in the valley. He smiles back at the elf. 'Well, then, if someone will tend to our weary beasts, I, for one, would be more than glad to join you. For a time, at least. Elves may survive on song and laughter alone, but Men such as I must needs rest after such a journey as this.'
Bialver looks distinctly hopeful at the mention of sleep
Eryniell replies, "You shall all be safe within our borders. We will care for your horses, and rest will ease your spirits."
Greenstand laughs lightly, "This Man will try surviving on pipeweed and elven merriment for a while; and let sleep come take me if it can!"
Trumodir looks over at Eskild standing by Bialver and notes with satisfaction that he seems to have regained his color and even strength since they entered the valley.
The elf laughs again as several others come forward and take the horses' reins. 'They will be well-cared-for, have no fear! Now, come, friends!' With that, he heads off into the trees towards one of the fires.
Turodhor lets go of the horse and follows after the others, almost reluctantly, but wide eyed in awe
Ortrun straightens up a bit, unslinging her staff and allowing it to bear a little of her weight. She seemed distinctly uncomfortable with speaking as she lingered close to the others, unable to take her eyes off the elves.

Maegdin follows the Elves through the trees to the shores of a pond, where a bonfire blazes brightly, while scattered through the trees are a number of cook-fires, as well as trestle tables laden with roasted meats, grilled fish, cheeses, breads, and vegetables of all kinds, as well as wines and drink of every description.
Bialver looks longingly, and with some indecision between the food and the pond
Turodhor follows the others and pauses in surprise as they reach the bonfire glade, with its food and delights. He pauses, and after adjusting his sword, sits at a table near a small group of feasting elves
Trumodir sets herself down near one of the fires and signals to Eskild to join her.
Minabel looks at all of the fine food and her mouth begins to water. "My, these elves do set a lovely table."
Ortrun gasps at the sight of the tables simply overflowing with food, some of types she had never seen before. "Elves must be rich indeed..." she murmurs, walking over to a table. She seems almost unsure to take something, not knowing the etiquette of these folk.
Greenstand claps Bialver on the shoulder. "Why so hesitant, my friend? Our hosts have laid such a marvelous table, it would be the height of rudeness not to partake!" He laughs.
Eskild nods appreciatively to Trumodir and joins her, feeling still a bit wobbly on his feet.

Bialver seeing his kinswoman and their charge well settled, climbs a boulder overlooking the water, some distance from the tables.
Trumodir murmurs to Eskild, "Get yourself comfortable - I'll bring you some food." She rises and makes her way to the nearest table to fill up a plate for him.
Taylarin approached the group and spoke softly, giving them a gentle smile. "Please, take what you like. You must be hungry." She adds, "The grilled fish is particularly tasty."
Greenstand stops dancing to join the others at the table. "Do you think there will be songs about the Old Days?"
Bialver carefully folds his mail, and every stitch of clothing. A moment later his companions hear a loud whoop, and a giant splash as he cannonballs into the water

The elf turns to the travelers and, seeing their confusion and hesitation, laughs and gestures towards the tables. 'Come, friends! Be not shy! There is enough and to spare!' With that, he makes his own way to the tables and pours himself a goblet of wine and takes a slice of roast. Hearing the splash, he looks towards the pond and laughs once again.
Ortrun blinks lightly at Taylarin, then takes a plate and begins to heap food on it. Specifically the fresh fruits and vegetables; the Eglan was used to life in a dry, barren region. Fresh of anything was difficult to come by, and for the moment, she was in heaven.
Turodhor pours a goblet of wine and one for a neighbor before filling his plate with food. He still smiles and laughs at a nearby jest
Taylarin gives Ortrun a wide smile and an approving nod, then helps herself to a goblet of wine as she looks around to the others, ensuring they were also partaking.

Eryniell walks around the edge of the feasting, filling a goblet of wine for herself. The elleth soon moves to stand near a tree, firelight blurring her form into flickering shadow as she quietly watches the group, sipping from her goblet with a light smile.
Maegdin smiles and helps himself to the banquet, setting himself on the grass and watching the Elves as they dance and sing and speak, laughing with voices gay and young.
Trumodir brings a plate full of vegetables and fruit back to Eskild, but noticing the disappointed look on his face, she says, "I'll bring you some meat'. Going back to the table, she watches to see what meat the elves are eating and puts some on a smaller plate for Eskild. She brings that back, along with a goblet of wine, and his face breaks out in a broad grin.
Greenstand grumbles contentedly. "I thought the Bree-lands had claim on the best boar anywhere, but this far surpasses anything I've ever tasted!"

Bialver sets his mail by the firs, and barefoot and coatless joins the others at the table. With his long reach, he has soon filled his plate with bread, mushrooms, berries and cheeses, and tucks in with a will
Ortrun takes a tentative bite out of each piece of food on her plate, although every time, she smiled with delight and wolfed it down. "It is all so fresh and alive here."
Trumodir was satisfied that Eskild was well content and gave her attention to making up a plate of food for herself, with special attention to the variety of berries on offer. She added a goodly amount of bread and sweet butter to go with them, and was delighted to find mead as one of the drinks available, so she helped herself to a large mug of that as well.
Bialver's nose twitches as Trumodir pours. "Mjød!" he exclaims

The tall elf who had first spoken to them makes his way over to the company, plate and goblet in hand. He sits down among them with a smile. 'One of you,' he nods to Bialver, 'reminded me that I have been uncivil. I know all of your names, but not all of you know mine!' He laughs lightly and bows his head towards the company. 'Gilglir Turhondion of the House of Finrod am I,' he says, laying a slender hand on his chest as he does. He gestures to some of the others around them. 'This is Taylarin Tirisindë, and Eryniel Celeblas, and Rombrennil, and Anhebir, and Glorielhen, and more beside.' The Elves bow their heads as they are named. 'It gives us great joy to welcome you to Imladris. It has been many a year since we welcomed so many strangers to Mereth en Iavas. Not since the days of Valandur can I remember a company such as yours.'

Bialver drains his goblet to their host "A fine table you set, Gilglir of the Afdalrálfar"
Turodhor says, 'Indeed, fairer than the fairest feast tables of the Prince are the tables of the Elves!' He pauses for a moment as if he might say something, but stops
Eskild begins to nod and rest his head on Trumodir's shoulder, being very full from all the food. Trumodir asks Gilglir, "Where are we to sleep? This young one needs a soft, warm bed, if one is available."

Bialver has just refilled his plate with food, and his goblet with mead, but he begins to stand at his Kinswoman's question
Greenstand perks up at "the days of Valandur." "What can you tell us of those days, Lord Gilglir?" he asks.

Maegdin looks up from his food as Trumodir speaks. He nods in agreement. 'I thank you for your welcome, old friend, but the lad isn't the only one in need of rest.' Gilglir smiles and nods as an elf-maiden comes over to the company. 'Please, any who wish for rest, follow Gilfiniel. She will show you to the rooms we have prepared for you.'
Minabel perks up at the mention of "rooms". It has been a long time since the company has seen proper accommodations.
Maegdin stands up and bows low to the Elves. 'I thank you, once again, for your hospitality. Till the morrow.' With that, he helps Eskild to his feet and the two follow the elleth as she leads them towards the House.
Taylarin smiles and dips her head to Maegdin. "Navaer," she says in her usual soft voice.

Bialver has not yet so much as slackened his pace as he fills his plate for the third...or is it fourth?...time. Some of the elves notice and laugh, but their laughter is so merry and kind that he drains his goblet to them before he digs in
Gilglir glances over at Turodhor as the others go to their rest. 'Please, friend, no lord am I. I am but a maker, nothing more. But what would you know of the days of Valandur?'
Taylarin takes a seat next to Gilglir, smiling as she silently drinks her wine.
Bialver rumbles contentedly "The Hvítaálfar of Gjádalr are things kind… but their cooks… their cooks are magnificent"
Greenstand laughs. "I have heard the name, but little more. What can you tell me of him and his time?"
Bialver slowly realizes the conversation has turned to something besides food and rest, and cocks an ear while he silently continues to feast

Gilglir smiles and takes a drink from his goblet. 'He was a wise king, and a just. Indeed, he put me in mind of Elendil, more than many of his kin have. He was well-spoken and fair of face and of spirit. We were grieved to hear that he fell in battle. His guard was assailed by Orcs down from the Hithaeglir as they rode south to the marriage of Atanatar, and he was struck down by a poisoned arrow.' The elf sighs and shakes his head, falling silent for a moment. 'But let us leave off such thoughts!' he says with a smile. 'Tell us of yourself! How comes a Gondorian so far from his home? One was a marvel, but two?' He laughs.

Turodhor pauses mid-bite as he hears word of Elendil. He tilts his head to listen more carefully, but then sets down the goblet and pauses. "Two, you say? Has the lord Boromir found his way here?" He straightens. "I set forth on quest with the leave of my liege, Prince Imrahil, but my quest is grim enough in daylight, and has no place in such joyous company and fine feasting."
Greenstand turns toward Turodhor with interest at mention of his mission.
Bialver hides his curiosity by ducking his head over his plate, but anyone who knew Beorning ways would notice the pricking up of his ears

Gilglir nods. 'Yes, he is here also,' he says simply. Glancing around at the others, he shakes his head. 'Why so dour, friends? Come, this is a time of gladness!' With that, he begins to sing, his rich voice forming a counterpoint to the pipes and harps playing at the other fires.
Turodhor sags back into the bench as if a great weight were lifted from his shoulders. "Aye, that is best news one could hear." He rolls his shoulders and drains the wine, turning to heed the music
As the Elf sings, even those who have no knowledge of Elvish feel themselves stirred by thoughts of the waves crashing on the sands beneath the stars. A keen longing for the Sea pulls at their hearts until the song ends.
'A Falas athan Gaer ‘Wathui!
A Dor ias Edhil dhorthar hi!
A Círbann - bar guren velui!
In felf na-falas dringar hi,
i mŷl ‘lain horthar; Orn lothui!
Adui hain palan-diron im
ir cenin Vengîl eriol
or gardh od Annûn annui,
fael or Eldamar-naur lachol,
a laeg or di, buig ar arui.
A Gîl i ‘wath no vroniol
úmarad fired le vi fuin!

Turodhor lets his gaze wander away as the song winds through his heart, yearning for the Sea, yet he knew the sea, and it meant many things to him, things of home and love, and sorrow
Ortrun fro a bit at Gilglir's song. She had heard tales of the Sea, but just like she had with the Elves, she didn't even know it existed. It was a far-off concept to her. But as Gilglir sang, she felt an odd yearning for it nonetheless.
Eryniell leans against the tree, eyes fixed on Gilglir as he sang. Her eyes closed for a moment as the Sea-longing called to her.
Bialver sated at last, leans back and lights his pipe.

Greenstand had never seen the sea before, but his mind was filled with images of endless waves with great boats upon them. He imagined them as something like rowboats, but with several decks and dozens or hundreds of oars.
Trumodir lets out a loud yawn and says, "I cannot keep my eyes open, and the stories you are singing are not part of my people's story. I must find a bed before I fall asleep right here." And with that she wanders off in the direction that Eskild had been led earlier.
Taylarin closed her eyes as Gilglir sang, letting the words wash over her as she thought of home and the sea. "It has been too long since I have been home."
Bialver listens to the two waterfalls, and seems to hear another sound… still a roar of water, but more rhythmic and somehow both wild and profound
Gilglir smiles again as he ends his song. 'Of course, friends! Come and go as you please!' He stands and goes to get more food and drink.
Greenstand is so enthralled by his surroundings that when weariness finally overtakes him, he passes seamlessly from waking to sleeping. For the rest of his life, he never could figure out how much of that night had been real and how much dream.

Gilglir looks over as he comes back to the company. A group of pipers are striking up a tune which stirs the blood and sets the limbs a-leaping. Laughing, he sets aside his food and drink and pulls Taylarin to her feet, leading her over to the ring of dancers which is beginning to form.
Turodhor considers for a moment and then drains his goblet, unbuckling helm and sword to lay them on the table, and moved to join the dance
Taylarin 's slender frame is lifted easily and she laughs, letting Gilglir lead her to the dance ring where she begins to spin and clap along with the music.

Ortrun glances up sharply, scooting a bit out of the way with plate balanced on her lap. She watches with a little smile as the elves begin dancing.
Eryniell chuckles, raising her goblet to the couple as she continues to watch the happy celebration of Mereth en Iavas. No doubt it would continue long into the night.


Chapter 24: Elrond's Request

The morning after the company's arrival dawns clear and bright. As they rouse from their slumber and make their way towards the feasting hall (guided by the residents of Rivendell), snatches of song come to their ears from the grounds. It seems that the Elves have yet to end their festival. This suspicion is confirmed as they enter the hall, as a feast is set out on the tables and there are many Elves laughing, singing, and speaking throughout the room.

Turodhor ambles into the hall, eyes widening in surprise. "It's a beautiful morning, but I had not realized that such festivities started so early."
Greenstand almost dances into the hall, humming a bit of one of the songs sung the previous evening.
Maegdin makes his way to the tables of food, exchanging greetings with some of the Elves as he does. He has changed his travel-worn leathers for a tunic of sky-blue, and it seems as though years of care have fallen from his shoulders in a single night. He serves himself a plate of food and makes his way to a quieter corner of the room, having caught sight of a few of his fellows.
Turodhor nods his head in greeting over his plate as others came in
Ortrun steps into the feast hall, glancing around somewhat nervously before catching sight of yet another spread of food. She cannot keep a gleam out of her eyes at the bounty, and breaks into a smile at the happiness that pervades the room. Filling up a plate with fresh fruits, she glances around the room, wondering briefly about Harris as she decides where to stand.

Eskild feels better rested than he's felt in years and walks with a noticeably lighter step. The food from the night before was filling, yet his hunger immediately returns upon seeing yet more food in the feasting hall. The music is nice, but it holds no meaning to his ears. He quickly loads a plate high with food like it's his last meal and joins his companions.
Bialver, still damp from a morning swim, squishes into the hall and heads unerringly towards the table, which he circles indecisively before filling a plate with several kinds of breads & cakes, and a healthy dose of butter
Greenstand lights a pipe and continues humming around the stem as he takes some breakfast and joins his companions.
Trumodir pauses just inside the door to stare in awe at the complex carvings and many intricate details of the room. Although she has been here before, when she first crossed the mountains, it has been a long while and she finds this hall truly awesome to behold.
Bialver takes his plate to a spot beside of the oven, and leans back contentedly.

Maegdin smiles as he ambles over to his company. 'Good morning, my friends!' he says brightly. 'I trust the hospitality of the Valley is to your liking?' He spears a sausage on the end of his fork and takes a bite.
Turodhor looks up from his plate, "Aye. Been a long time since I have seen such hospitality."
Ortrun chuckles, marveling at the Hall and at her food for a moment as her usually-curt demeanor lessens. "It is quite nice here. There seems to be no shortage of… anything."
Greenstand sighs, "I feel as if waking and sleeping are as one here, or so close as to not matter. No matter how long we tarry, leaving will come too soon, I fear."
Bialver pricks up an ear at his companions' conversation, then down at his plate. Sighing, he stands up to refill his plate and drifts over to the group.
Eskild swallows a large mouthful of food. "This place is paradise. I don't know if I'd want to leave."

Maegdin nods at the others' comments. 'I am glad to hear it,' he says. 'I have news for you. I've spoken to Aragorn and delivered the message I was told to bring. He told me that Lord Elrond wishes to speak to us, as soon as may be. So eat up. It's best not to keep an Elf-lord waiting, even one so kind as Elrond.'
Turodhor pauses in surprise and nearly chokes. "An Elf-Lord? Long have I dreamt of meeting such a personage." He scarfs down the rest of the food
Bialver looks up in surprise. ''The Half-Elven?" he asks. He swallows quick and adds "To all of us?"
Ortrun furrows her brow in confusion, clearly not sharing the awe of her companions. "Who is Elrond?"
Trumodir is lost in her own thoughts and doesn't hear what the others are discussing at the other end of the room.

Maegdin takes a bite of an egg and nods to Turodhor and Bialver. 'The very same,' he says. 'He is the master of this valley, and perhaps the greatest lore-master on this side of the Sea,' he says to Ortrun.
Turodhor considers, "They say the Prince Imrahil has elven blood in his veins. I wonder if this Elrond is like the prince'
Greenstand opens his eyes wide in amazement. "To talk lore with one who has actually lived so much of it would be a true wonder!" He pauses for a moment then adds a little sadly, "Though I suppose his summons means we will have little time for that."

Bialver elbows Eskild, almost making him drop his plate. "You will meet a great lord today, Eskild Orc-Slayer Egonson. Your children's children's children will boast of this day''
Eskild says, 'What does Elrond want with us?' He chokes slightly on his food. "No gal in Trestlebridge wants an adventurer, just farmers and shop keeps."
Bialver makes a rude noise. "Then you must catch the fancy of some shield-maiden in a great battle… or perhaps a great lady in some city we save from ruin''
Bialver looks over at Trumodir, trying to catch her eye

Ortrun nods a bit, still bemused but not overly concerned. Finishing up an apple, she glances to Greenstand. "Lived so much of it? What does that mean… he's a learned fellow, then?"
Greenstand turns to Ortrun. "Did you hear none of the songs last night? There was some mention of Elrond even in tales of Ages long past!"
Turodhor pauses before murmuring, "He marched with Gil-Galad and Elendil against the Black Gate at the end of the last age."
Maegdin eats in silence for a few moments, listening to his fellows with a slight smile on his face. 'What Master Greenstand means, dear Ortrun, is that Lord Elrond saw the fathers of my fathers sail off into the West, and saw them return on the wings of storm. He is older far than those ruins your clan calls home.'

Ortrun blinks, a bit of toast falling back onto her plate. "You mean...he was alive when people were using the old ruins? Where I collect all my relics from?" She glances between Matt and Greenstand, as if one of them was surely jesting.
Maegdin smiles at Ortrun. 'Even before that.' He waves a hand at the hall. 'This house itself is older than those ruins.'
Ortrun simply stares. Even after a good few seconds, all she can manage to do is stammer, ""
Trumodir perks up her ears at the mention of the hall and walks toward the others, hoping that Matt might have a tale of the building of it to share with them.

Maegdin finishes off his food before answering. 'He is an Elf,' he says simply.
Bialver nods in agreement "Wise and long-lived are the Alfar" he says. "And their cooks...." he looks admiringly at what little remains on his plate and falls silent
Greenstand adds excitedly, "Not just an Elf, but son of Earendil, and brother of the first King of Numenor!"
Ortrun swivels her head between all of them, feeling all of a sudden like a chastised pupil. She replies, a bit defensively, "I don't know what any of those words mean. I heard stories, but they were just myths."
Turodhor stands and straightens his tunic before putting a brave face on, "Aye. And so, by blood, he is rightfully my fullest lord, and of far-distant kinship."

Maegdin takes a drink of wine and nods at Greenstand. 'That he is indeed. So eat up. I'd like to hear what he has to say. The glades and streams of the valley are calling to me.'
Eskild scrapes the rest of his plate clean and glances between his empty plate and more food.
Greenstand nods emphatically at Ortrun's words. "Yes! A Myth he may be, but a Myth that is living and about to meet with us!"
Ortrun frowns, falling silent as she begins to eat a little quicker.

Bialver notices Eskild's concern and says reassuringly "The next meal will be as generous as this one, Warrior of Trestlebridge. You will not go hungry here"
Trumodir sidles up to Bialver and whispers, "what is the jist of the speech here? Do I understand that we called to see Lord Elrond?
Bialver lowers his voice to reply to his kinswoman. <V>"Aye, even the son of the star-sailor himself. He is said to be wise in all counsel, even for the spirit's perplexities"
Trumodir looks at Bialver with a thoughtful expression on her face
Greenstand is unable to contain himself, and bursts into song,
"Blessed be the Homely House/
Which joy to travellers doth bring!
The Lord Half-elven dwelleth there
and heart always is lightening!"

Maegdin smiles slightly at Greenstand's impromptu verse and then looks at the others. 'If you are ready, follow me. Stay close; the house can be confusing for newcomers.' With that, he heads out of the hall and makes his way through the winding halls and stairs to Elrond's study.
Turodhor follows along, eyes moving around to take in the sights until he enters the room
Bialver notices the glare Trumodir is giving him and mutters into silence

Maegdin knocks on a door seemingly no different from any of the others. 'Come in,' sounds from the other side, and the Ranger opens the door, revealing a beautiful study, the walls lined floor to ceiling with bookcases while high windows open to the south, looking over the rushing waters of the Bruinen. At the far end of the room, a man stands from behind a well-made desk of oak. At first glance, he appears no older than 20, but as the company draws near, they see the weight of years reflected in his eyes. 'Hail and well met,' Elrond says as he nods and smiles at the company. 'I bid you welcome, friends, to Imladris. I trust that my folk have made you welcome?'

Bialver 's jaw drops at the sight of the height of the bookshelves, and the innumerable volumes they contain
Eskild gives the bookshelves only a cursory glance. Being unable to read, books have never held much appeal. Instead, he finds himself awed by the elf-lord and instinctively kneels in reverence.
Greenstand turns several times, trying to take in all the books. At Elrond's words he turns and bows to the elven lord.
Turodhor bows before the Elf Lord, "Indeed, my Lord Elrond. It has surpassed all such hopes." He pauses for a moment, "And my blade and life are at your service, King's Kin."
Trumodir half-ducks behind one of the company who is standing in front of her, suddenly bashful and uncertain how to act.

Maegdin bows low in greeting. 'Most welcome, uncle,' he says, 'as I am sure you know well.' He smiles slightly as he straightens. 'Your house is, as ever, a rest to the weary and a balm to the heart.'
Ortrun swallows, losing her tongue when confronted with the almost-eerie Lord. She dips her head, hoping that was proper enough, and remains silent.
Bialver 's attention snaps to their host and he makes a low bow "Kind as summer are the Alfar of this valley"
Eskild rises hesitantly. "Your people, they be most welcoming, m'lord. ‘Tis an honor to be in their presence."
Bialver draws a deep breath, about to go into his “brave warrior of Trestlebridge” introduction, but Elrond gives him a smiling nod that completely takes the wind out of his sails.
Greenstand says, "The hospitality of your House far surpasses what I ever could have imagined."

Elrond smiles at each of them in turn. 'The path you took to my door has been perilous, and its dangers all too common in these dark days. I bid you take your ease here for as long as you wish.' The elf-lord's face grows somewhat more grave. 'However, there is a task which must be attended to, should you wish to aid us.'
Bialver goes to one knee "Bialver Hunnangsbjorn of the Vales is at your service, Lord." He gestures to Eskild and Trumodir "and his kith and kin."
Turodhor rises and nods, "Aye, it would be my honor, m'lord."
Maegdin meets Elrond's gaze steadily. 'Say on. If I be within my power, I shall do it, though I must soon be on my way.'
Greenstand bows again. "Gladly do I offer what little aid I can offer to the Lord of Rivendell!"
Bialver looks pleased with himself for his graceful speech, and tries not to ruin the effect by scratching anywhere indiscreet
Ortrun bows her head, her jawline tightening as she hides the dismay that crossed her face. "I go where I am bid," she replies.

Elrond settles himself back in his chair, gesturing to the others to be seated as well. 'Your company is not the only group of travelers to make their way along the East Road in recent days,' he says. 'Not more than a week ago, Aragorn and Glorfindel led a small group across the Ford. They, and others, must soon depart on an errand of the greatest urgency and secrecy. Before they can set out, though, their path must be made safe. They were pursued, almost to the gates of Imladris, by the Nine.'
Turodhor nods as he listens, attention graven across his face.
Maegdin blenches slightly, but sits tall as he listens. 'I knew that they pursued Gandalf, but I did not know that they broke off to follow Aragorn. What would you have of us?'
Eskild nods a bit listlessly. The names don't sound familiar nor does he want a long history lesson.
Bialver 's eyes widen. "The Nine" he mutters, mostly to himself. It is not exactly a question.
Greenstand asks, "Please, Lord, who or what are the Nine?"

Elrond gives Greenstand a long look before continuing. 'They are the Ringwraiths, the captains of Minas Morgul, and the most dreadful of Sauron's servants.' He turns back to Maegdin. 'When they sought to follow Aragorn's company across the Ford, the river rose at my command and swept them away. However, we have only accounted for eight of them. While the others have doubtless fled back to Mordor, shapeless and unclad, we have found no sign of the ninth. We must learn whither he has gone, and, more importantly, what his designs are. If you are willing, I would ask you to accompany one of my folk as he hunts for this evil in the Trollshaws.

Turodhor pales at the words, but nods, and clasps his fist across his heart. "Aye. The boldness of Gondor does not waver in the face of the most dread foe."
Greenstand's eyes open at the names mentioned, and his breath hisses sharply. He quickly masters himself, though, and puts on a determined look.
Ortrun glances at the fear so clearly painted across everyone's faces, and a worm of dread creeps through her belly as well. Numbly, she nods.
Eskild says, 'So, we looking for something with no shape. How we to find that?'

Elrond glances over at the door as a knock echoes through the room. 'Ah, there he is now,' he says. 'Come, Galgadron.' With that, the tall Elf who had greeted the party the night before steps into the room, a smile playing on his lips. 'Leave that to me, child,' he says to Eskild. Glancing over the company, he says, 'So, who among you will be joining me?'
Bialver stands and bows, hand to his heart "The courage of Beorn's Children does not fail in the face of evil"
Turodhor raises his chin defiantly, "I shall."
Trumodir nods vigorously but her voice has fled and she cannot answer with words
Eskild stands next to Bialver and tries to look courageous despite lingering doubts.

Maegdin sighs heavily and shakes his head. Looking at Elrond, he says, 'I fear that I cannot linger here to join the search. Aragorn has bidden me back to Esteldín. The rumours of Angmar trouble him, and he wishes all of our folk who can to return to the refuge.'
Bialver puts a steadying-- and very heavy-- paw on the youth's shoulder.
Greenstand 's voice cracks a little in a mixture of excitement and fear. "I am no hero of old tales, but what strength I have is yours."
Ortrun glances sharply to Matt at his declaration of leaving, and for a moment she appears unsure. She bites her lip, hard.
Bialver looks back and forth between the Elf and the Ranger, trying to figure out if he has just double-booked himself.

Greenstand looks up at the mention of Angmar, visibly torn. "Is there trouble in Angmar? Will the Bree-lands be safe?"
Maegdin looks at Greenstand and shakes his head. 'I can't say,' he says simply. 'But if our watch fails, then I fear for all the North.' Elrond and Gilglir gives the Man gentle smiles. 'I would not fear so much, Dúnadan,' Elrond says. 'Yours are not the only eyes which watch the North.'
Ortrun's gaze drops, but she finally decides, "I will go and search for this… Ringwraith." Her fingers tense around her staff, but she nods nonetheless.
Greenstand thinks for a moment. "I feel I should do SOMETHING to repay the kindness of the elves in some small way. But once our task here is complete, I hope I will be able to hurry home to stand against whatever evil stirs in the North."

Elrond looks at each of the others in turn. He smiles to them. 'Those of you who wish to join Gilglir in his task, meet him on the morrow's morning by the bridge. If there are any among you who do not wish to aid, you may remain here in the valley for as long as you wish. Go now, and let not your hearts be troubled for what may come.'
Turodhor gives a grim smile, "North. South. The Darkness besets us from all sides. I suppose I must lay aside my quest if such evil still lingers here."
Maegdin stands and bows again to Elrond. 'I do truly wish I could aid you, but my oaths of service must come before what my heart would bid. Thank you, once again, for the kindness of your house, uncle.' He turns and makes his way out of the study.
Turodhor bows low before Elrond before following Maegdin.

Bialver lingers a moment after the rest leave, holding Trumodir back with him. "Lord of Gjadalr, my Fraend-maer craves a word with you" he says diffidently
Trumodir begins diffidently, bowing her head as she speaks, "I...I had to execute my cousin. His heart had become dark and he had been killing innocent people. I have been having a dream every night since then.” She pauses, wondering if it is appropriate to go on

Elrond sits in silence as the two speak. As Trumodir falls silent, he says, 'It is always a grief when kin fall into the Shadow. I sorrow at your loss, but have this for your comfort: you have given him peace and stopped him from doing any further harm. But what of this dream?'

Bialver stands quietly behind his kinswoman, a solid presence, hoping he won't belch
Trumodir says on, “In my dream I am deep in the bowels of the earth. It is very hot. There are many Orcs all about me, horribly disfigured with a terrible disease. And instead of attacking them, I realize that I am one of them." She hangs her head in shame and tears well up in her eyes.
Elrond listens to the Beorning unburden herself, and then says, 'And what think you that this means?'
Trumodir stands in silence for a time, then softly says, "There is the same potential for evil in me as was in my cousin." She continues, "What will prevent me from falling into the darkness as he did?"
Bialver looks at the Elf-Lord with silent appeal.

Elrond nods as Trumodir states her interpretation and then sighs softly at her question. 'Advice is a dangerous gift, child, even from the wise to the wise. But, I will say this: trust in your friends. None among us can carry our burdens alone. The Music is sung in harmony, and it is only the Shadow that sings alone.'
Trumodir looks up into Elrond's face with a look of gratitude. His words were a balm to her troubled heart, and she knew she would ponder them long.
Bialver lets out a long breath he hadn't quite realized he was holding

Elrond gives them a slight smile. 'While you are in this house, mayhap you could have one of my folk tell you stories of the Elder Days. There was much darkness in those days, but still we stood and fought against the Shadow, even as we do now. If hope is what you need, ask to hear the tale of the Rising of the Star.'
Trumodir bows and thanks Elrond in a voice close to a whisper, then turns and slowly makes her way toward the door.
Bialver looks at her and adds cheerfully "I wonder what the Alfar eat between breakfast and lunch. Come, Cousin, let us go find out"
Trumodir turns to Bialver and gives him a broad smile. "That is an excellent plan, cousin, especially since I had no breakfast!"


Chapter 25: Where Now the Horse and the Rider?

Gilglir lounges on the branches of a tree by the bridge as the October sun shines brightly down into the valley. He sings softly to himself as he waits for the others to make their way to the appointed meeting-place.
Turodhor leads his horse to the bridge, with the traveling gear slung across his saddle bags
Bialver strolls up, Utsending behind him. He is wearing armor that none of the company has seem before
Trumodir canters up on her horse, Marr, arrayed in the outfit she wears when performing healing rituals. Since they will be searching for a Nazgûl it seemed to her that all the powers they can call to their aid will be needed.
Greenstand rides up wearing his traveling clothes, still humming bits of elvish songs.
Bialver says excitedly to Trumodir <V>,"Cousin, you will never guess who I have encountered here in this!"

Taylarin nudges Suletal down the path to join the others, smiling softly at the others from beneath her hood.
Minabel prepares to meet the dreaded Nazgûl, a prospect both frightening and exciting to her. After all, the Nazgûl were reportedly once kings, and if anyone appreciates prominent people, it is Minabel.
Trumodir turns to Bialver and replies <V> ‘I cannot guess! Tell me!”
Minabel asks Taylarin, "Have you ever seen one of these dreaded beings?"
Taylarin looks at Mina and nods, her smile fading. "Yes… many long years ago, before we really knew what they were I tracked one."
Bialver is nearly jumping up and down with glee. <V> "Sterkist! My brother from the Vales! And he has helped me find some of my old armour. How it came to be in the hands of an Álfar smith, I will never know "
Trumodir looks at Bialver's armour with a careful eye. <V>"It looks sturdy enough", she offers.
Greenstand looks over at Bialver. "Your new armor suits you! Though I don't exactly know what sort of arms or armor will be effective against our foe."
Bialver is, in fact, quite a sight, clad in a miscellany of armour, from his badly battered Rohirric style helmet to a pair of boots that look like he must have won them in a dice game.

Gilglir leaps down out of the tree as the others come up, landing lightly on his feet and looking them over. His simple green and brown garments seem chosen to blend with the woods of the Trollshaws. He smiles slightly and says, 'Well met, friends. Let us not waste more time. If you are ready to depart, we should. It is best to hunt such creatures while the Sun shines.'
Trumodir continues in Valish, "And Sterkist: how came he here, and how does he fare?"
Bialver smiles. "I have hedged my bets as best I can."
Turodhor nods, "Aye, if they bear weapons of metal, armor shall serve a purpose against it."
Bialver answers his cousin softly. <V>"He is well. Grimbeorn finally gave him leave to travel, and he is all afire to adventure… as he always was"
Trumodir responds to Turodhor in the Common Speech, "and if their weapons are invisible perhaps my skills with the hidden realm can help"
Turodhor says, 'Aye, such is my hope.'

Taylarin is clad in grey as always, a silvery grey coat and hood clearly of elven make. She nods to Gilglir and says softly, her voice nearly a whisper. "What was reported on their activities?" She asks, trying to catch up on what she had missed.
Trumodir then turns to Bialver and says, <V> "If he wants adventure, why did he not come along with you then?"
Greenstand checks that he has his tinder box. "In old stories, evil beings fear light. Fire may serve us well."
Minabel fills her saddle bag with healing herbs. She may not be the best soldier, but she can at least brew healing teas and salves
Bialver drops his voice and switches back to the Beorning tongue. "He is on an errand, he says. He would not even open his word-hoard to share its purpose with me"

Gilglir looks on at the others' banter for a moment before answering Taylarin. 'We know little of what has come of the last one,' he says. 'Therefore, I thought it best to start our search at the Ford. Let us go, and I will see what I can see. I doubt not that the very stones cried out at their passing. Let us go.' He turns and makes his way over the bridge and begins to climb the paths out of the vale. As he does, a grey horse without bit, saddle, or bridle trots up and nuzzles at his shoulder. The Elf smiles, pats the horse on the neck, and then leaps on his back. He continues on the road up to the moors.
Bialver drops his voice and switches back to the Beorning tongue (V) "He is on an errand, he says. He would not even open his word-hoard to share its purpose with me"
Turodhor follows along behind the elf, eyes wide in surprise at the horse's approach
Taylarin nods to Gilglir and nudges Suletal to follow.
Greenstand prods Elmer into following the others.
Trumodir brings up the rear with Bialver, both of them still speaking in Valish about things back home
Minabel saddles Brianna and prepares to follow the others

Gilglir leads the company across the high moors and back down the steep slopes to the Ford as the Sun climbs up the sky behind them. By the time they come back to the Bruinen, it is time for the noon meal. Gilglir climbs down off Parrandir and lets the horse stray for grass. He settles himself on the bank of the river and begins setting out dried fruits, cheeses, and meats from his pack. 'Take your rest, friends, and eat and drink. There is no sense in letting your strength wane.'
Taylarin drew up behind Gilglir, her dark grey eyes surveying the Ford with a furrowed brow. Gently patting her mare on the side of her neck, she dismounts and digs in her satchel for her own rations.
Trumodir dismounts and removes Marr's bridle so she can browse more easily, and takes a seat by the water's edge.
Greenstand lights his pipe as he sits with the others for the meal.
Bialver digs in his saddlebags for the elvish bread and cakes he has carefully packed up, and offers what might be a biscuit to Trumodir
Gilglir looks around the ford as he takes his time eating and resting.
Taylarin eats slowly, her eyes roving over the far shore, ever the scout.
Across the ford, a long scree sounded before a dark russet bird swoops lazily over the water, broad wings stretched wide. Ortrun looks up and whistles from her lunch, and Harris flies down and lights on the tip of her staff. Smiling fondly at the bird, she goes back to eating.
Greenstand begins to smoke.

Gilglir brushes the crumbs off his legs as he finishes eating. He walks out into the midst of the Ford and begins looking intently at the ground. After a time, he makes his way over to the other bank and bends over, as if studying tracks.
Trumodir studies Gilglir's movements as she chews thoughtfully on her biscuit
Taylarin finished eating her own lunch and rises, beginning to pace along this shoreline in search of any sign they made it across the river.
Bialver gets up and walks along the bank, stretching his legs
Greenstand paces thoughtfully in the ford. "How long would the magic of the ford last? How far downriver would they have been carried?"
Gilglir begins to walk south along the riverbank, staring intently.

Taylarin glances up to Greenstand and shakes her head. "It is difficult to say on both accounts, I'm afraid." She turns her eyes back to the soft soil along the riverbank, continuing along further down the shore.
Ortrun sighs and heaves herself up, throwing her apple core away. She strolls down the river's edge, using the butt of her staff to poke the soil. She drags a long groove in the soil, furrowing her brow, but isn't quite sure what she is looking for.
Gilglir continues making his way down the bank of the river, eventually coming to a series of large rocks which jut out into the stream. He stands away from them, giving them a look of disgust. But his gaze turns to the west, looking back up into the tangled woods between the rivers. He sighs and turns back to the others, splashing his way across the ford.
Taylarin frowns and shakes her head, finding nothing. She lets out a faint sigh and turns, heading back to the others.
Bialver catches Trumodir's eye and gives a couple of sniffs

Gilglir calls to the others to come close. 'I have found sign of our quarry on the further bank. It seems that he hid himself on the southward shore until the company had passed, and then made his way back west along the road. I only hope that I shall be able to tell his trail from that of all of them.'
Greenstand asks, "Forgive my ignorance of such matters, but is there anything in particular we should be looking for?"
Ortrun hustles over, staff clacking a bit on loose river-stones as Harris caws and takes off again. "He? Where would he be going? And...why?"
Taylarin looks over to the far shore and nods to Gilglir. "At least we have a direction."
Gilglir shakes his head at Ortrun's question. 'I cannot say, which is what worries me. That he went west instead of south tells me that he intends to make trouble among the Trollshaws rather than returning to his master.' He glances at Greenstand, smiling slightly. 'I am afraid that the signs I am seeking cannot be seen with your eyes.'
Bialver furrows his brow "But.....what are they, under their cloaks?"
Greenstand reasons, "I don't think he could enter Rivendell, but neither can he leave his prey. Also, it would be very difficult for one person to watch both the Ford and the mountain pass out of Rivendell. Do they have any other allies in these parts? Or are there others they could recruit?"

Gilglir glances at Bialver as he comes over to pack up the remains of their lunch. 'Your eyes would see nothing under their robes. Though they still have their bodies, they have been drawn fully into the world of the Unseen.' He looks at Greenstand as he straightens and slings his pack over his shoulders. 'Even if all nine were gathered again, I think they would still hesitate before attacking the vale. But I fear that he will seek to enlist the aid of the trolls to watch the roads south and east. Come. Let us follow the road westward and see where the trail leads us.'

Bialver murmurs to his Kinswoman "What eyes do not see, other senses may detect..."
Taylarin furrows her brow as she looks across the river. Perhaps we can warn the others at Thorenhad."
Gilglir nods at Taylarin as they go their way. 'I believe that we must.'
Taylarin whistles and Suletal trots over to her, coming alongside the elleth for her to easily climb up.
Ortrun frowns, muttering an invective under her breath. She walks over to her borrowed mare and swings up with another muffled curse, glancing at the Elves.
Trumodir sends a silent signal to her horse, puts her bridle back on her, and mounts her, but continues to have a far-away look in her eyes, as if all her focus were elsewhere

Gilglir stops suddenly as they come to a cutting between tall banks. He turns Parrandir with a word and heads off into the woods to the north. 'His trail leads north into the hills! Follow me closely!'
Taylarinn draws up and turns Suletal around to follow Gilglir. "What is it?"
Ortrun pulls up her hose with a light growl, quickly wheeling her about sideways to follow Gilglir.
Gilglir makes his way through the wooded slopes, following a wide valley which angles to the northwest away from the road. His face is a mask of disgust and horror, but he bends nearly double next to Parrandir's neck as he scans the ground ahead of them.
Greenstand follows the others off the road, trying to maintain his courage as they draw ever nearer.

Gilglir looks back at Taylarin and speaks quickly to her in the elven-tongue, a look of concern on his face before he leans back down to look at the ground ahead of them.
Taylarin frowns a little, though much of it would be hidden by her hood. She murmurs softly in their own tongue back to him.
Gilglir nods back at Taylarin and says to the others, 'Remain close. I do not know what we will find ahead of us.' With that, he continues to lead the company to the northwest.
Taylarin nudges Suletal to a faster pace, passing Gilglir, though already pulling her bow from her back to string it.

Gilglir remains focused on the ground ahead of them, though none of the rest of them can see anything different about the track that he follows. As they continue riding to the northwest, he becomes more and more visibly concerned. He comes to a sudden stop, looking around before breathing a sigh of relief.
Ortrun glances around, clearly unnerved. "What are we even looking for?" she near-hisses.
Gilglir looks at the others. 'The trail breaks off and heads to the north here. This is good, for I was concerned for our folk who encamp near here. Come with me. The day is growing short, and we are close enough to safety to rest for the night. We will pick up the trail on the morrow.' With that, he leads them off to the northwest, climbing a small rise to a ruined keep.
Bialver watches the play of emotions across the faces of the fellowship, but can make nothing of it. He shrugs and remains silent, but makes sure his club is near his hand.

Trumodir glances over at Bialver and smiles at him as if to calm any concerns he may have
Greenstand brightens noticeably at the sight of the ruins. "So this was once part of Arnor, as well!"
Gilglir dismounts as he comes near the keep. As he does so, two Elves step out of the shadows, smiles dimly visible beneath their hoods. One of them replies to Greenstand, 'Yes, Thorenhad was once a fortress of Rhudaur, after that kingdom fell to the Hillmen. But now we hold it and keep a watch on the road. Be welcome to our camp this night.' They turn and lead the company into the keep
Bialver follows, looking around himself curiously
Gilglir smiles at the wardens, sharing soft words in Sindarin with them. He turns and beckons to the rest of the company, leading them to a fire where two tall Elves stand. To a casual eye, the two are indistinguishable from each other. Gilglir walks up and embraces the both of them. 'Mae govannen, Elladan, Elrohir,' he says. 'My apologies for this sudden intrusion.'
Ortrun hugs her staff closer to her as Harris flies up to perch on an outcropping of the ruined keep. She watches Gilglir and the two new elves with a resigned, yet still suspicious glare.

One of the twins smiles at the company. 'It is no intrusion at all, Gilglir. Father sent word that your company was setting out into the Trollshaws, so we expected you would come here eventually.' The other one gestures them to seats around the fire, saying, 'What news have you of your quarry?'
Greenstand bows toward the elves. "Thank you for your kind hospitality."
Trumodir gives each of them a long and curious look but says nothing
Bialver makes a low bow to first one elf, then the other

Gilglir accepts a seat with gratitude, leaning forward to warm his hands at the fire. 'His track has led from the Ford northwest almost to your doorstep,' he says wearily. 'It turns north and plunges into the deeper dales, which is where we are bound on the morrow.' He sighs and runs his hands through his hair. 'It is foul work tracking such a creature,' he says heavily.
Bialver catches sight of two dwarves in another part of the ruin and his eyebrows go up.
Trumodir sits down.
Greenstand examines some of the nearby stonework.

Ortrun drops to a sitting position, stretching out her aching legs as the fire begins to warms her face.
Elrohir (or is it Elladan?) nods at Gilglir's words. 'We have felt a sense of fading unease these last few days, but none among us can follow such a trail. If we could, we would have already scouted your way.' The other twin smiles at the Men. 'Please, make yourselves welcome. Rest where you will. Our camp is yours. We were just preparing the supper-meal, if you would like to join us?'
Greenstand answers, "Gladly!"
Ortrun manages a smile. "That would be much appreciated. It has been a long day, with little fruit for our labors."
Bialver smiles at the mention of a meal, and whistles to Utsending, whom he unsaddles, and sets free to graze
Bialver carefully piles his armor in a near the fires, and wanders over to speak to the dwarves
Trumodir is content to quietly absorb the sense of the group as she stares pensively at the fire.
Gilglir smiles at the mention of rest and food. 'More beautiful words were never spoken, mellyn nîn,' he says with a laugh. 'Give me a moment to see to the wards, and I will join you gladly.' He clambers to his feet again and walks back towards the entrance to the camp, singing softly as he goes.


Interlude: A Night in Thorenhad

Gilglir settles himself by the fire as he finishes his bowl of stew. He nods his thanks to the Elrondionath and sighs in contentment.
Taylarin was off to the side, conversing in low tones with an ellon. Finally she smiled a little at him and dipped her head, turning away to rejoin the group. She took a seat next to Gilglir and smiles at the others from beneath her hood.
Bialver is busily polishing his polishing his helm, fussing over the dents and hoping they won't rust
Greenstand lights his pipe and wanders around, examining the ruins and occasionally muttering to himself in wonder.
Trumodir looks around at the company and at the two sons of Elrond and sighs with contentment. How good it is to be on a mission with trustworthy people!
Minabel looks at the sons of Elrond and wonders if elves make good husbands. But she soon puts the thought out of her head. Who wants to marry someone prettier and better dressed than them?
Bialver gives his helm a last rub, and tucks the rag and grease-pot away.

Gilglir gives Trumodir and Bialver an enquiring look. After a while, he says, 'I hope you don't think me over-bold, friends, but I must ask. Your bearing and manner, not to mention your speech, puts me in mind of travelers' tales from over the Mountain. Are you folk of the Woodmen?'
Bialver nods to acknowledge their guide's question. "We are from the same part of the world, generally speaking, but not Kin"

Taylarin rises to her feet again, reaching around to her things to pull out a harp. She tunes it quickly and sets to playing softly.
Minabel sighs and decides what she would really want is some venison. She looks around to see if anyone else looks interested in hunting.
Trumodir turns to Gilglir and asks, "What tales have you heard, pray?"
Bialver continues "We are the Kin of Beorn, renowned of old." He lights his pipe, seeing that a tale might be in the offing.
Minabel goes only a few yards from camp and finds a clearing with some elk. She shoots one young buck and drags him back to camp for skinning and to make steaks.
Trumodir closes her eyes and visibly relaxes at the sound of the harp; it has been a long time since she has heard an instrument played so beautifully.

Gilglir nods at the Beornings' words. 'Ah, that I what I was going to ask next. Truth to tell, the only tales I have heard of your folk have been told by the renowned Master Baggins. It has been many a year since last I crossed the High Pass, so I have no tales of my own to tell. I was hoping you could share a story or two of your own.'
Minabel finishes skinning the buck and she begins to lay out strips of meat for drying in the hot sun.
Trumodir speaks slowly, "There is no place as beautiful nor as homely as our land in the Anduin Vales. There are few of us, but we are close and have many friends among the animals of the area."
Bialver muses and puffs his pipe "Old Beorn, the father of Grimbeorn, who is now master of the Vales, spoke of Hobbits...but I thought them just a story till I came to their lands...."
Greenstand looks over at the name of Baggins. "When I was a young boy I heard a hobbit by that name telling tales at the Prancing Pony. He was a wonderful storyteller. It was partly hearing those stories that inspired me to start studying old tales."

Trumodir continues, "We love the life of caring for the animals who live among us, and growing what we need for food and other necessities. But we are easily angered by injustice and by those who are dismissive of the animals whose language they cannot understand and so believe that the animals are dumb."
Bialver puts two and two together "Is *that* the trouble we follow? Something that started with The Hobbit and Dwarves Beorn had in his tales?"
Gilglir glances over at Greenstand with a smile. 'He dwells now in the House of Elrond. Seek him out when we return, if you wish. I am sure he will welcome news from the West, and he is always eager for new ears to hear his tales and poems.' He turns back to listen to Trumodir, though he shakes his head slightly at Bialver's words.
Greenstand smiles back at Gilglir. "I shall certainly do that, if it would not be imposing too much!"

Trumodir adds, "Although we prefer to keep to ourselves and have no desire for wandering nor for meeting new people, yet Radagast the Brown came to my father and begged him to send some of our kindred to help resist the evil that is growing elsewhere in Middle Earth. That is why I am here, so far from the home I love. My father must have thought that with my skills as a spaewife, I might be able to contribute some small part to the healing of wounds suffered."
Bialver takes the tall Elf's hint, and drops the subject of present troubles "But I have thought that it is curious, how much 'Beorn', is like to 'Bëor' in sound."
Taylarin chuckles softly, looking to Greenstand with an amused smile. In her gentle voice, she says, "I doubt he would consider it an imposition at all. I am certain young Bilbo will be quite excited at a new audience."

Bialver says, "The legends of how we came to The Vales are old, and only speak of great wanderings… as do the stories of Balan, who wandered, we are told beyond the Blue Mountains"
Trumodir continues, "And perhaps I can help in dealing with the unseen evils who work against us...I have some abilities in the way of second sight."
Greenstand listens intently as Bialver speaks.
Bialver nods in acknowledgment of his Kinswoman's offer. "But how we came to be so close to the Knowing Beasts of our home, the tales do not say much.…" He muses "Radagast the Rauðbrúnn is a master of all Beast Lore, but even he cannot answer such questions—or he will not, in the way of the Fjölkyngisfólk."
Gilglir cocks his head slightly at Trumodir's words. 'Spaewife? 'Tis a strange word. What does it mean? I have not studied the tongues of eastern Men. And the second sight, you say? I have not heard that it was known in Men outside of the Atani.'

Trumodir turns to Gilglir. "A spaewife is one who knows the secrets of the plants and their uses, and is held by her kinsmen and fellows as one with a listening ear and some store of wisdom to help in discernment. The gift of second sight I did not seek, but have often found it upon me in times when others need that sort of help."
Taylarin continued to play softly, though her storm grey eyes were fixed on Tru, studying her intently as she spoke of her gifts.
Bialver says with some gravity "The Knurrebjorner are a line of many Vísdómskona—their counsel has deep roots in the world"
Greenstand nods slowly. "It's good to have skills that will be of so much use. Sadly, my own talents in growing pipe-weed are somewhat less well-suited to our quest."

Gilglir gives Trumodir an intent look. 'Indeed? And what see you when you look upon this company?' As he says this, he lets fall one of the veils on his spirit. Those with vision in the Unseen would see a light like the sun flash from his eyes, while the others would see no more than a slight shimmer in the moonlight and firelight about him.
Minabel looks at the others in the company and wonders what she can contribute among such gifted companions. It is the first time since this trip began that she has doubted herself.
Trumodir give Gilglir a somewhat startled look of recognition, but says nothing, not having seen anything before like his spirit revealed now.
Taylarin lets the veil of her own countenance fall as well, though she would be only as the moon next to the sun while beside Gilglir. Her dark grey eyes would shimmer silver as she continues to look at Tru.

Trumodir sits somewhat abashed in the presence of the glory of the two elves.
Bialver murmurs to Trumodir. <V> "Do they test you, frændkona?"
Trumodir turns to Bialver and looks solemnly into his eyes, but doesn't respond.
Bialver scratches his head, and intently follows the glances that the two elves exchange
Gilglir smiles warmly at Trumodir as he hides his power once again. 'There is naught to be ashamed of, child. It is a rare gift among Men, and all too often claimed when it is not there, if tales be true. I only counsel you to be cautious when we finally come upon our prey.'
Taylarin frowns and adds softly. "Their true visage is much less… appealing...."
Bialver looks alarmed. "Will there be some threat to one with The Sight?" he asks
Trumodir looks thoughtfully at Gilglir and says, "Sometimes the things I see enrage me and I act without thought. That might be a problem in the face of great evil."

Gilglir shakes his head. 'No threat, but the man we hunt has great power in the Unseen. If you will heed me, I would not counsel any of you to stand against him directly. Not even you, melethril,' he says, looking up at Taylarin.
Trumodir looks confused. “I thought we were hunting for a Nazgûl, not a man? But are the Nazgûl men then?”
Taylarin looked down to GIlglir and shook her head. "I faced one alone once and fled, long ere I understood what they were. Now I know they are beyond my skill." She smiled faintly. "Will you take your own advice, melethron?"
Greenstand sits quietly, listening to the conversation unfold. As he looks around, he sees Bialver looking at his pipe, and offers him some pipe-weed from his pouch.
Bialver nods gratefully to the Gondorian, and fills his pipe

Gilglir shakes his head at Taylarin, smiling sadly. 'I cannot. Against one of them, I deem I can stand, though not against all of them together. They have no power over one who has seen the Trees.' He looks to Trumodir. 'He was a man once, long ago. Now, he is something both less and more.'
Greenstand takes a long pull on his pipe. "What should we do if we have no choice but to face him? Will fire help? Singing?" Greenstand tries to remember all the strange ways people had fought evil in old tales and songs.
Gilglir glances back at Greenstand. 'Should I fall, flee,' he says simply.
Minabel looks at Gilglir and wonders how a man can be both more and less than a man.
Taylarin presses her lips into a line, eyes settling on Gilglir. She finally sets the harp down with her things, searching through her pack for her rations.
Greenstand ponders, "Some black evil must have twisted these men to grant them power to stand up to even an Elf lord. Almost I feel I could pity them."
Trumodir turns, startled, to look at Greenstand.

Gilglir gives Greenstand a long look. 'They are to be pitied, but also to be feared. The gifts of Sauron give power, it is true, but at a great price.' He absently rubs his left hand as he speaks.
Bialver nods to Greenstand "A pleasant smoke, this" he he begins to say, but falls silent at his Cousin's look of alarm.
Taylarin looks at Greenstand, her expression unreadable. "They were deceived by Sauron, and in their greed and lust for power, fell to the Dark One's will." Her voice was low and pained.
Trumodir also speaks in response to Greenstand. "They are eating the fruit of the evil they have chosen, but they seek to make everyone to eat of that fruit as well." She adds, "At least that is my sense of it"
Bialver asks somberly "And they had no kin to free their spirits? Or did their kin fall with them?"
Greenstand nods. "Evil and worthy of fear, to be sure; and I do not mean to excuse their own choices. But ever it seems that an evil one's first and greatest victim is himself."
Trumodir nods in agreement

Gilglir shakes his head at Bialver. 'You cannot free one who does not wish freedom. They desired life unending, and they have been given it, after a fashion. So long as their Master endures, they cannot depart.'
Trumodir murmurs, "So that was the bait..."
Taylarin takes her parcel of rations and sits next to Gilglir, offering him a small loaf as she pulls her hood lower over her face.
Bialver looks up from poking at his pipe. "Their desire, granted, gave them no lasting reward, then."
Greenstand shudders. "I have no wish to hasten Death, but how much would one have to fear it to wish instead for eternal slavery?"
Trumodir interjects, "But a glorious death is a thing to be desired!"
Minabel nods in agreement, "Yes, why live beyond when your youth and beauty has faded. I would rather die young than fade into nothing."

Gilglir shakes his head at Greenstand. 'To that, the Elves have no answer. Indeed, there have been times I envy you children your gift.'
Bialver nods vigorously at Trumodir's interjection. "Glory before life, and honor before all, we say in The Vales"
Trumodir nods in agreement at his comment
Greenstand responds, "A glorious death can be good, but how much moreso a glorious life? I hope I will not shy away from Death when she comes for me, but neither will I rush into her arms while there is still work left to me."
Gilglir falls silent and leans forward slightly, listening with intent to the talk of the Men.
Bialver looks from one to the other of the elves, with their fair young faces and wise old eyes. "And what gift is that?” he asks
Minabel turns to Elladan. "Is it true that elves never age? If so, then you are truly blessed."

Taylarin peers around the rim of her hood to glance at Gilglir before looking to the fire, nibbling on her food.
Gilglir looks over at Bialver for a long moment. 'Death,' he says finally.
Minabel shudders at the word "death."
Bialver returns the Elf's solemn glance. "Death," he says flatly. It is not a question.
Minabel shivers for a moment.
Taylarin's eyes flick up to Bialver and murmurs softly. "Our fate is bound to the fate of Arda. We are ever tied to it until it ceases to be. You… are not."
Trumodir gazes steadily at the fire and murmurs softly to herself, apparently a chant of some sort which seems to be in keeping with the topic of death but leaves the hearer with a sense of peace.

Bialver furrows his brow "And should an elf meet death in battle, or by mischance, what then?" He seems to be speaking to himself as much as to Taylarin.
Trumodir then speaks so that the others can hear, "There is no fear in death, evil lies elsewhere, among those who seek to have their will over all."
Gilglir sighs softly and looks to Bialver. 'Then we depart to the Halls of Waiting, to be judged and, in time, to be reborn. There is no escape for us from the burden of the mounting centuries.'
Bialver stares into the fire, listening to his kinswoman's chant. Slowly his brow unfurrows, and he relights his pipe with an ember.
Taylarin's eyes hold Bialver's in her unwavering gaze. "We hold our memories from one lifetime to the next, ever bound to this world."

Bialver exhales slowly "That is two sorts of people who gain no happiness from cheating death, then."
Minabel looks at the others sadly. All this talk of death.
Trumodir turns to Bialver. "Cousin," she says, "the elves do not cheat death. They have not been given that gift"
Greenstand snorts a chuckle, "Some elves see Death as a gift and your bond to Arda as a burden. Perhaps these Nazgûl are a caution that our gifts are our own, and we should not envy too much those of other races."
Bialver nods aside to Trumodir "Then the wisdom of the children of the Heimdalr is wisdom indeed. A short life and merry one, if that is your fate, and let death be for good reason when it comes."
Gilglir laughs sadly. 'You think we cheat death? Nay. Our hunter may be slow-footed, but he will catch all of us in the end. And we know not what will come then, no more than you do.'
Trumodir takes in Bialver's words and turns to Greenstand. "You speak true, friend"
Bialver smiles "Why, I know what will come of my death. A story for the Children or Beorn to tell over mead—the story of Bialver the Far-Footer. So my Kin are served, what need I care?"

Gilglir looks to Greenstand. 'Would that more of your kin spoke as you do. Much evil might have been averted.' He stands. 'For now, though, let us leave such dark talk behind us. Our road calls to us early on the morrow. Go to your rest and have no fear this night.'
Taylarin finishes her meal and rises, dipping her head to the others. "If you will excuse me, I am going to go have a look around." She smiles at the others as though the topic of conversation had been about breakfast. "I will return by dawn." She glances to Gilglir at that last part.
Trumodir continues to stare into the fire, making no move to prepare for sleep
Bialver finishes his pipe, and claps Trumodir and Eskild on their shoulders. "We will live and die as fortune brings us, but we will do honour to our peoples, come what may, eh?"

Greenstand yawns. "This has given me much to think about. Thank you for your conversation, and good night!" He wraps himself in his blanket, neither too near nor too far from the fire, and muses himself to sleep.
Bialver goes off to check on Utsending one more time before he pillows his head on his pack and sinks into slumber
Gilglir smiles at Bialver. 'Indeed,' he says simply. He nods in farewell to Taylarin before walking over to the sons of Elrond and passing a few quiet words with them. Eventually, he retires to a bedroll for what is left of the night.