Life in the Mark III (Free RP)

Where now are the horse and rider? In here, probably.
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Thain of The Mark
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Posts: 1400
Joined: Tue May 19, 2020 10:44 pm

The wind is shifting, coming from the north now and carrying a chill.
The plains of Rohan are turning from green to yellow, grasses going dormant.
Everyone is beginning to dress a little more warmly, and the days have become short as the sun sets earlier and rises later.

It is time to begin bringing in the harvests, setting aside the last of the winter stores, and find company and comfort at the hearth.

You can tell (and continue) your story here.


The Mettarë edition of LitM is now open!
Life in the Mark III will ALSO remain open for non-Mettarë stories.



For reference, you can find the names and locations of towns/villages, farms, outposts, private estates/homesteads, and a list of residents in Edoras on this map.


If you are traveling across or through Rohan, please use Fields & Forests (Falling Into the Night) for your travel roleplay.
For shopping excursions, please visit the Riddermarket.
For internal character thoughts only, please utilize Meduseld Memoirs.
For all your letter/correspondence needs, please use the Riddermark Ærendgewrit.
To introduce your character and tell us about them without roleplaying their day-to-day life, please visit LeóÞ swá Worð (Hall of Rohirric Histories).


Thread Rules:
1. This is free RP. Assume that it is PRIVATE RP as well, unless someone states otherwise or you've been invited into a storyline.
2. Please take general OOC matters to the Golden Hall.
3. There may be occasional prompts by the threadrunner (using color #BF0080), but please feel free to ignore them if your RP has a specific storyline playing out. They will be suggestions only.
4. Please refrain from posting Cavalry-business RP here. That belongs in the Dragon Room or the Cavalry Courtyard, unless otherwise directed here by the Marshals.
5. All Plaza rules apply.

Previous Threads:
Life in the Mark
Life in the Mark II

Other Roleplay Threads:
...even Rohan had a Montage... (Open RP) (for post-fires character development)
Edoras Infirmary--After the Fires
Wæftfald and Hofhus (Show Ring and Stables)
The Eallníwe Inn
Throne Room - Ladies and Lunch
Cav RPG: Traitors at Helm's Deep! (The Game is Afoot!) - Non-Cavalry also welcome!
Last edited by Taeth-on-Hiatus on Sun Dec 13, 2020 2:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

Thain of The Mark
Points: 2 530 
Posts: 1400
Joined: Tue May 19, 2020 10:44 pm
Continuing Stories from Previous Thread...
(grouped with appropriate responses)
Éolath wrote: Mon Nov 09, 2020 12:17 am w/ Sigrid
Folca and Hild

Both pairs of eyes focused intently as Sigrid spoke confidently, and Folca blinked dumbfounded at the gentle squeeze she gave his hand. He continued to watch her in mute surprise as she fished around in the cup, then placed it in his hands. He met her eyes for a moment before obediently lifting the tea to his mouth and took a cautious sip. Hild, meanwhile, watched him like a hawk. He was not known for obeying anyone, especially when it came to medicine. Doubly so when the medicine did not involve a cup of ale or dram of whiskey.

“I feel that damnable bad, love,” he said softly to her as the healer stepped out. “And this doesn’t taste as bad as some healer’s brews.” Folca reached out a wan hand to his wife, and she took it then sat on the arm of his chair. “And … the wounds did look like bites of some sort. There were plenty of rats and mice in the shed last winter, it’s why we didn’t store the grain there, remember? I didn’t think much of it at the time, since they healed up without much trouble.”

Folca drank more of the pale tea, staring down into the cup even as Sigrid returned to their room. He suppressed a shiver as she placed the cloth over his forehead, closing his eyes as his headache slowly started to ebb. Her next question startled him, and he opened his eyes to stare at Hild. Hild, in turn, felt heat creeping into her cheeks and looked away. For a moment, the relationship between her and Éo was very clear in the shape of their faces and blushes.

“I haven’t felt like eating,” Folca said slowly, still watching Hild. “It takes too much energy. Hild--”

She patted his hand, then glanced sheepishly at the younger woman. “I … it’s complicated. I’ve had my hands full with the horses and the children, and butchering takes time. Even just a chicken is extra work that I rarely have time for. And…” she looked away, chewed on her lip. “I didn’t want to worry you, Folca, since I know how weary you’ve been. The swine are still in the woods down near the creek, and we’ve nearly ran out of the smoked meat you and Éo put in this spring. I’m no hunter,” she said, looking at Sigrid again, “and I can’t take the children with me to herd the pigs, it’s much too dangerous. So, I put a bit of ham in the pease when I remember or a bit of fish if I have time in the afternoons. The children love to play in the water, so I can sometimes get a couple of trout before their naps.”

She smiled slightly in the direction of the slumbering children. “I will probably need to transition Éo to more solid foods soon, I fear that I don’t provide enough milk for him anymore. So, long answer short,” her smile was unsure but very similar to her brother’s, “it’s both. I don’t have time to cook and I don’t have any to cook.”
Winddancer wrote: Mon Nov 09, 2020 9:21 pm With Hild and Folca

It wasn't until she had asked the question that she realised that it had perhaps been a bit too forward. But despite putting them both on the spot, it had been necessary. It was absolutely vital that they introduce more meat into their meals, the sooner the better. A tiny smile crinkled at the corner of her eyes at Hild's blushing cheeks and rambling answer, seeing the ressemblance to Éo in her. Even the brief thought of him was enough to make her stomach flip and she had to swallow the sudden tightness in her throat. For a brief second she longed to be back in his strong arms, to look up into his eyes and then kiss him.

But now was definitely not the time. Clearing her throat, she nodded slowly as Hild finished. "Well.. we will just have to help you build a storage of meat then. I am sure between me and Éo we can round up some of the pigs and chickens and get them prepped. That should be enough to last you through until Éo can return to help again. I know he needs to be at Helms Deep soon." The mere thought of not being with him cut deeply and for a second she could not speak as her throat seized up. Clearing it once more she managed to continue.

"I will need to get back to work as well, though mine is not as pressing as Éo's. So we will get you sorted before we go." She gave them both a look that almost dared them to try and argue with her. "There is no need to argue with me, I will not budge on this. Healers orders." While her voice sounded stern and resolute, there was a softness in her eyes as she gave them both another look.

Rising from her seat, she gathered her things back into her bags and headed for the door. As she opened it softly so as to not wake the little ones, she turned back towards them. "Get some rest, both of you. I will bring in some food for you in a while. Healers orders." Giving Hild a pointed look to make sure she knew she meant her too, she winked and left the room, softly closing the door behind her.

As soon as the door was closed, she let out a ragged breath, waiting to see if Hild was going to defy her orders and come storming out. It was one thing to be told you needed to eat more meat, but something completely different to be told to rest while a stranger had the run of your house.

Eldrith wrote: Thu Oct 29, 2020 1:59 am *There was not a flicker in her eyes as you slowly laid off your weapons until you were fully unarmed, or at least seemed to be. If there was anyone who full well knew how deceptive appearances could be, it had to be Eldrith. And yet.. she'd put herself in an extremely vulnerable position if she had realized you were armed still. Yet considering your words.. how could she have thought otherwise? Yet perhaps, despite the weapons she had felt safe, had counted on something more than Mordor still fighting within you.

As you offered back the toast, she leaned back slightly, allowing the last of the sun that lingered through dusk to caress her body in it's relaxation. There was a breath released and something of a smile as they sat together.* Where we go will depend on a lot of things. Your wishes. Decisions. I made.. a foolish mistake in the Campian but .. I believe.. that might be restored. I have had well near a decade in the mark.. and hopefully those years will count for something.
*Her voice was slow and easy, like it would be if she was leaning over the counter at the pub. A simple rhythm of confidence and comfort. You were right of the ease of that spell, yet it was no magic. It was the familiarity, the idea of being known, that was so seductive.

Nevertheless it was strange to go from such tension to seeming complete relaxation. Yet that was what was slowly spreading over the conversation. Her own words low.. easy, in the tone not of a bard but of friends offering quiet tales around the fire, when the fatigue after a fight settles in, the body is aching and the slow release of tension after battle is making itself known. That release.. that ease.. that fatigue.. would slide in slowly, naturally.

It would be hard to realize exactly when muscles relaxed or eyelids became more droopy. No, it was not magic. It was someone who knew her craft. A craft that went beyond the pub, and beyond the blade.*

There are options of course, for you as well.. choices you can make. Choices you want to make. But not tonight... It has been a long day.. for all of us. Especially if you've been on a chase...
Allacan ob Burzum wrote: Mon Nov 09, 2020 10:19 pm Allacan with Eldrith in a quiet part of Edoras.

The spell settled over her, or so she believed, or perhaps chose to believe; relaxation in the company of an ally, nay, a friend. She smiled and shook her head casually at her companion's words, and she seemed so like her old self for a moment, casually confident and at peace in the late evening sun. "Nay, freond, the truth is never a mistake. And it is not for us to restore ignorance and deceit; far better to let them rest where they will and learn to adapt." she lifted the cup to her lips and forced her mind away from the liquid and averting her eyes to where Eldrith's weapon was still hidden as she took another, intentionally long draught, swallowing it down before she could think on the taste too much. "As for my wishes, well..." her smile faded a touch, and she forced her will once more to focus on the light, the smile, the warmth and ponder not too long on matters of import and intrigue. Something shifted uncomfortably within her, but without anything malicious or threatening to focus upon it could only lie restless and unsettled.

She stretched then and smothered a yawn - the sun setting often had that effect on tired people, nothing abnormal in that - and re-settled herself lying on her side, her head propped against one arm and her body now supine rather than sitting. Again, the creature coiled and squirmed, but she allowed it to drop her gaze over Eldrith in a calculating fashion, recognising no significant advantage to the other woman's position that could not yet be easily over-balanced by the right twisting manoeuvre.
"Wishes are so often irrelevant, in the grand scheme of things. As is hope, and courage. At the end of the day what difference does it make if you die fleeing or die making your last stand; you die all the same."

Her mind followed the assessment of her companion, trying to remain focussed on it and not acknowledging the slowing of her breath, the quietening of her heart, the lowering of her lids. She was forcefully, actively unaware as the muscles in her body eased and telling herself it was a ploy to make the other woman think she was unarmed and weak, to make her show her hand. Both gaze and thought stayed so solidly intent on the simplicity of watching for Eldrith's tell that she was unaware of the moment the cup slipped out of her hand.
"And if you are lucky, your death will be the end, and that will be that" her words were slurred now, and had lost their cunning eloquence. Finally she slumped, limp and unfeeling to the floor as the world swam and sank away.

As her vision finally dimmed to darkness, she allowed herself one tiny, infinitesimal shred of humanity, honestly wishing only to leave Eldrith unburdened of guilt as the shadows rose up to claim her. As she exhaled her last waking breath, she allowed them to form the whispered words
"Thank you".

Mercy was her mistake.

As her eyes finally closed and her head dropped, her body limp and unmoving, breath so shallow as to almost not be breathing; something inhuman, amorphous, malicious. It took a few moments for the corruption to recognise what had happened to its host, and longer still to connect the dots between the desperate request and the offered drink, and the host's reckless acceptance of it.

But finally realisation landed and it recognised not just the agent that had neutralised its host, but also the willingness with which she had succumbed to its wiles; the betrayal of the self once again more vile and bitter than any action given by another.
'I gave you life' it whispered in sibilant tones in the deep recesses of her unconscious mind. 'I reformed you and reforged you into a being more powerful than you could have ever hoped to be'

('I didn't want you' a tiny voice answered, but went unheeded)

It raged within her form, and in much the same manner as it had forced blood through veins and air into lungs all those long years ago, it rent its unnatural black magic on her body again now, forcing muscles into action and form into movement

The eyes snapped open and her body bolted upright, throwing itself at Eldrith with a hissing snarl. Where moments ago flesh had been flush with life, now the greyness of death hung oddly over her complexion. Both iris and whites of the eyes had gone; spheres of jet black emptiness stared out of her skull now, evil as cold fingers grasped for Eldrith's throat with inhuman speed. The breath that was exhaled from its mouth was misting with cold and stank with the stench of death and decay. Like a creature of nightmares it clawed for a moment at Eldrith and then... faltered.

The eyes blinked and were blue for a moment, the breath no longer like frosted ice in the air, and Allacan's expression was simultaneously horror, remorse, fear and... rebellion.
"Run Eldrith!" She gasped as though with great effort. "Please... run... I can't..." and with another blink the colour was gone, the blackness of corruption returned, and with another hiss the beast that had possessed Allacan threw itself once again at the ex-pubmistress...

Taethowen wrote: Sun Nov 08, 2020 3:21 am

Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras
"He wasn't a good person. And I knew it."

Lail's words almost made Taeth flinch again, though it sounded like her friend's relationship had ended far worse than hers with Frost. At first, she hadn't want to think that it had ended. But... he'd not contacted her since. He'd said he wished they'd had more time. He'd said goodbye, even if he hadn't given her a chance to say it herself, and she kind of hated him a little for it at times. Even as much as she missed him.

Taeth slowly sipped at the mead as Lail continued to speak. She picked at the food a little as she pondered the things her friend said, wondering if there was truly anything she could contribute other than a comforting ear.

"I'm glad you came home as well." Taeth's smile was genuine. In the wake of... everything, if she hadn't had a single familiar face left to her, she wasn't sure how she would have survived returning to Edoras after the last few harrowing weeks. Culfinwen had disappeared just after the Summer Festival, and Taeth was sure she had a life of her own, but Thali... Taeth wasn't sure what to make of her sudden silence.

"It's good to have a place that you can call your own, whether it's a permanent place, or just in passing. And I'm glad you've found that you want the Mark to be home again."

Taeth's smile faded away then, and in her time on the road recently, she'd come to some realizations about herself. About some of the choices she'd made since returning to the Mark.

"Like you, I spent quite some time away," Taeth said. "Though it wasn't intentional... at least at first. And when I returned, it was mostly with the intent if finding out what was going on with my husband, because he hadn't responded to my letters in more than a few years. And I had some unfinished business with the Cavalry as well, because I wasn't sure if I'd actually left on good terms or just... disappeared.

"But then I ran into you, and Culfy, and Thali... and I thought maybe, just maybe, it was time to come home. But the longer I'm here, the more of a stranger I feel. The days aren't becoming easier, they're becoming harder. I think I changed more than I realized while I was away. Perhaps too much for the Mark to ever really be home again, and my feet are itching to wander again, and... with Frost's departure, and then learning of my family's deaths... it just doesn't seem like there's anything here for me anymore..."

Taeth sighed again. She was tired of being this weary--emotionally, anyway. She felt numb more often than not, and when she wasn't numb, all she wanted to do was cry.

"I came back to Rohan to settle a few lingering matters, but somehow I found myself trying to wedge myself back into the shape of my old life, but it doesn't fit anymore. So I don't know that I have any words of wisdom to offer you about settling back in. In truth, I envy that you only have some days where you feel like a stranger. All my days are like that right now."
Lailyn wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 4:34 am Lailyn, Taethowen’s house
Questions brimmed in the back of her mind about Taethowen’s time away. There seemed to be much hidden in her words, a thing Lailyn was all too familiar with, this skirting around details she’d rather not delve into too deeply. What happened to make her feel this way, even before Taethowen’s recent losses, of which there were many? It was enough to make anyone crumble.

“I’m sorry you feel this way...I wish there was some way I could help.” Lailyn frowned, hoping she hadn’t made Taeth feel worse with her words. Yes, each day had certainly gotten easier but there was so much she breezed over in her effort to remain optimistic. Perhaps she shouldn’t have tried to make everything sound fine.

“I think it would be hard under any circumstances to take up your old life again,” she offered her understanding in a soft voice. “And given...everything that’s happened just recently, I imagine that does not make it any easier.” She attempted an encouraging smile. “That's why I haven't tried. I've just distanced myself from the past as best I can to start over.” Her thoughts flickered to everything mounting up that she hadn't dealt with yet, from her cousin's obvious problems to the dishonor she felt for leaving the Cavalry among other things. She could only ignore these things for so long.

“I don’t know that I can offer you any advice, either. Only this.” She leaned forward and met Taethowen’s gaze with a solemn expression and lowered her voice. “Don’t let yourself feel beholden to your past. I think you should follow wherever your heart leads you. Not back to your old life or to what anyone else expects of you. At least...that is all I’ve tried to do.” Her shoulders relaxed as she sat back again but her brow remained furrowed. She didn’t know if it was the right thing to say but it was all she could give besides a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen.

“Forgive me if this is too forward...you may be a Marshal now,” she tipped her head in respectful acknowledgement, ”but in the end, you have only yourself to answer to. This is your life to choose, Taethowen, no one else’s.” If it was seen as faithless to the Cavalry to tell a Marshal this, so be it, it was her honest opinion and she was no longer bound to them by any oath after all.

Eléowyn wrote: Mon Nov 09, 2020 3:28 pm South bank of the Snowbourn: NPC Beda

Beda stood as if rooted to the ground. Hunger, exhaustion, and grief were taking their toll and she felt paralysed, unable to make any sort of decision. The roaring of the river only added to her confusion, and she barely took note when Calimir said he was going down the path and leaving Huthatch behind for her.

The burden of responsibility at last steeled her for what she must do. Mam was counting on her, she was now head of the family and had to do whatever she must to find her siblings. Nuthatch stood by, lazily chomping on grass and low-hanging leaves. Beda had never ridden on her own, and she was not about to start now, going down what could be a treacherous path to the pool below. She made sure the reins were secured to a branch, placed her lips on the horse's velvety muzzle and gave a kiss of gratitude for carrying her thus far.

The path was not so difficult after all, and Beda was able to easily navigate over the small stones and tree roots and mud slicks. At last she was at the bottom, where she joined the others at pool's edge.

"What is it?" she demanded. "What is it that you see? Do not try to hide it from me. It is better to know than to guess."
Aodh Hammerhelm wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 12:26 pm South bank of the Snowbourn, down river of Edoras: NPC ~ Bambu, clansman of Kalumba

Bambu quickened his pace as the girl he thought of as Rustman-daughter made her way down the path to the pool. He was not in time to stay Beda’s anguished shout, but he placed a hand on the lass’s shoulder as her plaintive cry was lost in the din of the rapids.

"Be strong, nkozasana, Bambu go look-see," he said dropping into a hunker that placed his eyes square with the girl's. "Maybe nothing… I go see!"

It was not nothing, he thought, fixing Calimir and Sighard with an anxious look. No, not nothing - something! His quivering nostrils were filled with the smell of death. If the Old Ones were kind, the scent would not lead him to members of the girl's clan.

The Dunlending tucked his loin cloth firmly about his upper legs and waist and crawled into the tangled vegetation. The Forgoils believed Wildmen were born with the skin of forest pigs. That was not true, of course, but the boar-fat smeared on Bambu's body, to stave of sunburn and the night's chill, had hardened. And glad he was of this veneered armour now, for sharp sticks and jagged debris sought his naked skin eagerly.

The smell of putrefaction grew stronger as he edged carefully on into the wall of flood wrack. A sigh of relief escaped his lips as he took hold of a pale thin limb. The foot of the dead thing was cloven and horny, not soft and five toed. The Wildman peered into the gloom beyond the decaying lamb. When he was satisfied that no children lay caught within the flotsam, he began the difficult business of exiting rear first.

“Dead sheep!” he said as he emerged onto the strand. “No nganis! What we do now? Entwash not far. Bambu know river from Tub Race. Below pool there wide slow water, and old big house were Forgoils cut trees for timber long ago. There islands after – three islands – then big beach before Snow River go into Entwash. After that no crossing to other bank for many miles!

What we do now..? ”

The Wildman stood considering his companions and the options open to them. In truth he held no hope that the missing children would be found, dead or alive. If the river had taken the nganis they were beyond help… The chance that the small ones had wandered on alone as far as the Entwash was also slim. Still, he owed it to Rustman’s ngani (and the stern, tall Forgoil!) to keep up the search.

“We not look far bank yet,” Bambu said at last. “Wildman think this: him and tall Forgoil go down river, to islands and Entwash. Bambu can swim and search islands, Forgoil can look for signs on track to Entwash.

Nkozasana Beda and Stonehouse fellow go back to were baby found. Cross river and look on far shore. Maybe signs there? Go careful and look… Bambu and Forgoil find you later.”

Turning his attention to Sighard, the Wildman pointed into the tumbled wreckage. “You get cloths out? If, yes… show Rustman-daughter before we go…”
Taethowen wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 7:48 pm
Image
Sighard
Eastmark Dryhtguma
Image

Traveling along the Snowbourn, away from Edoras


Sighard waited silently, observing the pool, until Calimir came up beside him. Then Bambu began to shout instructions. He spotted the tree the Dunlending pointed out, and carefully guided Háwena through the water to the tree. It was a bit of a stretch to retrieve the bits of cloth--blue and yellow scraps, nearly torn to shreds by their journey through the waters--but he managed.

When he returned to the pool's bank, Bambu had come down and Beda was there as well. Sighard watched as Bambu braved the waters himself, and soon came back shouting, "Dead sheep!"

Sighard listened as Bambu proposed the next steps to take, and while he didn't relish the thought of dealing with the Dunlending on his own, it was clear that the party needed to split up. There was simply too much ground to cover, too many things that might have happened and led the children in different directions.

He could see a hint of what he was beginning to suspect in the Dunlending's eyes--that the children were lost, for good. Whether the river had taken them or not, there were too many perils out here in the plains, especially at night, that could have overtaken them. But now was not the time to bring up such woe in front of Beda.

"You get cloths out?" Bambu's voice intruded on his thoughts. "If yes... show Rustman-daughter before we go..."

Silently, Sighard dismounted Háwena and held out the shredded blue and yellow fabric to Beda. "Do you recognize any of this?" he asked.
Calimir wrote: Fri Nov 13, 2020 5:01 pm Looking for the missing children, south bank of the river Snowbourn:

Cal' breathed a sigh of relief when Bambu reappeared and told them it was a dead sheep in the bush and smashed trees.

He thought the Wild Man's idea of splitting up was a good one. They could cover more ground, though he hoped him and Beda wouldn't stumble on a dead child.

The lad from Gondor watched his friend as Sighard showed her the bits of blue and yellow cloth. Cal' was pleased that they were all getting along at last. He was ready for whatever was decided. They would make their move depending on what Beda said.

Thain of The Mark
Points: 2 530 
Posts: 1400
Joined: Tue May 19, 2020 10:44 pm

Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

Though the ache in her heart was deep and unwavering, and Taeth knew it would be for quite some time because that was the nature of grief, Lail's words were a comfort to her. Between Trewyn's wisdom and Lail's, Taeth knew she was going to have to come to some decisions soon. To follow her heart... right now, she wasn't sure where her heart would lead. It was in too much turmoil yet. But she knew that her life, as it was in this moment without making any decisions, was not taking the shape of something she wanted.

She just had no idea what to do about it.

As the firelight and candlelight flickered through the room, Taeth gave Lail a sad smile. She reached over to take her friend's hand for a moment. "You are right. Unfortunately, in recent years, as much as I've tried to become strong, I've also allowed myself to try to bear anything and everything life has thrown at me, rather than choosing which paths I want to take.

"For now, I am oath-bound to the Cavarly, and an oath-breaker I will not become. And either way, I need not leave the current issues within it unattended were I to step away."

And in some ways, planning for the tasks ahead made her current grief a little easier to bear. It would help distract her from the loss of her family, and neither would it be filled with reminders of Frost. He would have never been able to be by her side at the Hornburg, and as she'd never been there herself, there wouldn't be any unexpected memories to stumble across.

Taeth picked up her fork again. But before she took her next bite, she spoke once more. "Tell me about your travels," she requested. "It seems that we were away for much of the same period of time. Where did you go? What did you see?"

Had they ever nearly crossed paths? Taeth wondered. It would be a shame if they had come close and yet missed the opportunity to be traveling companions at all.

@Lailyn

Knight of The Mark
Points: 584 
Posts: 269
Joined: Thu May 14, 2020 5:03 pm
South bank of the Snowbourn: NPC Beda

Had the river suddenly become wilder? The sound seemed to be deafening, and the voices of her companions were muted, as if coming from behind a wall. Beda's legs began to feel like Mam's elderberry jam, all wiggly and soft. She had not noticed earlier how unseasonably warm the sun felt.

The words being spoken were now all but indistinguishable to her, but she clearly saw the scrap of cloth being shown to her. The emptiness in her belly, the weariness, the grief, and shock were finally too much for her. Her hands scrabbled at the air as she tried to reach for the cloth before her body fell limp onto the cold, hard ground.


@Calimir @Taethowen @Aodh Hammerhelm

Horse Trainer of The Mark
Points: 256 
Posts: 128
Joined: Mon May 18, 2020 1:15 am
w/ Sigrid

“I can’t ask you to -” Hild started to protest despite the order not to argue. It was one thing to have a healer treat Folca, he was clearly ill, but another to accept the charity of a stranger. And yet, she could see the unbending resolution in Sigrid’s eyes. Equal parts of relief and rebellion stirred in her, resulting in an unusual speechlessness from her. She could voice no protest as the young woman turned from the room and shut the door behind her.

Instead, she shared a long look with her husband and they both sighed. “I...I could rest,” she said after a few minutes of silence. “Would you like me to help you lie down, or are you feeling better near the fire?”

Folca looked at her, too weary even to feel embarrassed over the healers words and Hild’s confession over their resources. “I never pass up a chance to hold you,” he replied quietly. He waited until she had an arm around him to stand, though his shivering had eased. The bed was cramped with the children in it, but there was something profoundly satisfying about cuddling around the tiny bodies and resting a hand on the waist of his wife.

Éolath
Caring for the horses did not take him long. Neither did the quick clean he gave the stalls before he stared around in bewilderment. It wasn’t like Hild to let the buckets go dry, or leave tools out. Concerned, he poked around the barn and outbuilding, his brow knitting into frown lines. Éo was collecting eggs into the tail of his shirt when he saw a puff of smoke rise up from the chimney and he turned towards the door.

At his distraction, a young rooster took the opportunity to peck him on the back of the leg, his comb raised aggressively. “Young buck,” Éo said reproachfully, rubbing the mark with his boot to ease the sting, “I won’t tolerate sass from you.” He glanced around the coop, noting that the number of cocks was much higher than his sister usually kept. One rooster was her rule, and he counted four. Well...he could do something about that, he thought, even as the little jerk attacked again with beating wings.

Blood was drawn, both his and his dinner’s, but he managed to prevail without breaking any eggs. Triumphantly, and sucking on his wounded hand, he pushed into the kitchen with his prizes. “Hild, I- oh,” his grin was sudden and bright. “Sigrid. Are you cooking? I smell …” he sniffed even as his stomach growled “pease. I brought in some eggs, I guess Hild forgot to gather them this morning. And this little bastard,” he held up the rooster, “pecked me. I showed him what happens to idiot chickens, and anyway, she has too many roosters in the coop. So, I figured I’d bring him on in. He’s young, so he won’t need stewing but I could put some coals in the bread oven and ...but you’re cooking. I’ll, uhm, well…”

He looked around in consternation. He couldn’t just put the rooster on the counter, Hild would kill him. But he couldn’t put the eggs down without either putting the rooster down or getting blood on his shirt. He fidgeted. “Uhm...can you get me the egg basket? I don’t want to make a mess. And did you see Folca? I haven’t seen the children, they must be napping. Should I bring in more wood? I can after I finish dressing this evil little monster…” He trailed off, realizing he was rambling again and grinned.

Ancalagon
Ancalagon
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With Hild, Folca and Éo

Her heart thudded loudly in her chest, counting out the seconds as she waited for Hild to burst through the door and give her a telling off. But it did not happen. While she could hear some shuffling around and murmured talking, no one ripped the door open. She closed her eyes for a brief second and thanked the Valar, knowing that both of them needed this rest. But just because she knew what they needed, did not always mean people listened.

Re-positioning her heavy saddlebags in her hand, she smiled and left the room behind as she made her way back to the kitchen, her discerning eyes quickly taking it all in. Her heart ached for the family, seeing where Hild had to prioritise and what was left untended. With a small determined nod to herself, she unburdened herself by hanging the saddlebags on a chair and managed to find an apron hanging off a hook in the corner. She quickly tied it on before she headed over to stir the pease, brows furrowing at the lack of meat in it.

About to go in search for some ham or bacon to add to it, she startled as Éo suddenly appeared in the door, her mouth dropping open as she saw him trying to hold on to a shirt full of eggs as well as a rooster, while bleeding. To be fair, she recovered quickly, letting out a soft laugh at the image he made, though her heart swelled even more. Grinning still she quickly found a basket and began plucking them from his shirt a few at a time. She also found a basket to set the chicken in before she gave him a look.

"Alright Mister, go wash that hand so I can have a look at it!" While her voice was stern, her eyes were full of love and she quickly gave him a kiss before she ushered him back out before she turned to eye the rooster. "Not much meat on that one.."

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Sighard
Eastmark Dryhtguma
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Traveling along the Snowbourn, away from Edoras


Sighard lunged to catch Beda as she collapsed, but he didn't reach her in time to completely break her fall. He was, at least, able to keep her from hitting her head on the way down, though. They were too far out from Edoras to get to a healer quickly if need be.

He swore under his breath as he slid an arm under her shoulders, then her knees, all while contending with the muddy bank. Eventually, he hefted her up, but their combined weight made him sink a couple inches into the mud. Every step he took was a fight against the sucking mire.

"Calimir!" he barked, though from exertion rather than anger. "Will you fetch Háwena and lead her out of the mud?"

Sighard found a grassy spot on the bank under the shade of a tree and gently laid Beda down. Clearly, she'd recognized the scraps of cloth, but she'd been showing an inner strength until this point that he hadn't expected her to faint from shock.

But maybe it wasn't completely shock, he realized. She'd appeared scattered enough that he wondered if she'd eaten at all that day, or even the night before if she'd been busy with the apparent fires in Edoras.

"Cal!" he barked again. "Check my saddlebags. There should be some dried meat and fruit still in them."

But now all they could do was wait for Beda to wake. He looked around for Bambu, then, not sure if the Dunlending had seen what happened.

@Calimir @Aodh Hammerhelm @Eléowyn

The Thrush
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Lailyn at @Taethowen's house
Lailyn squeezed Taeth’s hand when she took hold of it and the corner of her lip curled up slightly. “I would never expect you to break an oath,” she affirmed with a dip of her chin. “You should know I am glad the Westmark is in your hands if I have not had a chance to tell you before. But whenever the time comes that you are ready for something else, you will have my full support and understanding."

She took a moment to eat some food but stopped when Taeth asked of her travels. How much there was to say of the years she’d been gone. “I’ve travelled too far and too long to be able to tell you all…I hardly know where to begin.” Lifting the mead to her lips for another sip, she considered where to start, then drew in a deep breath before beginning. “I guess I last saw you before I resigned and left for Gondor...

“I travelled, sort of wandering, from Minas Tirith to Anfalas. Eventually, I lingered for a while in Dol Amroth. It was so different from home, I hoped it might help me...recover…” Her voice grew soft. The time she spent there was a distant memory made hazy by sleepless nights interrupted with nightmares of the battlefield and terrors about what fate befell those she’d left behind. Though it was beautiful, she did not find the sea soothing; it was vast and powerful and when storms raged, it seemed it would simply swallow up everything in its path.

“I was not wholly myself then,” she admitted tentatively but did not, could not, elaborate. For a moment, she was lost in the shadowed memory of it. Countless days had been spent idly and she had lived as if in a fog, removed from herself and yet unable to feel a connection to anything or anyone else.

Lifting her chin, her voice brightened as she continued speaking. “I moved on to Lossarnach where I worked for a lovely family on their farm. That was when I received word that my mother was ill. Luckily, I came home in time to say goodbye…” She sighed as the loss weighed on her again. At least her mother’s passing had been peaceful, which could not be said of the rest of her family, and that was what brought her the greatest comfort.

“Anyway, I didn’t stay long. I visited my aunt and helped with her beekeeping...and I decided I might try my hand at it.” She smiled faintly. “I left again in search of new seeds to bring back and plant to get different honey, something unique. I meant to go all the way to Dale but I never made it and...my time in Lake-town is not really worth dwelling on…” Her brow furrowed but she waved her hand as if she could casually cast it aside. It was getting easier to forget but she was still too ashamed to tell anyone especially someone who had been married.

“I make it sound as if it was all bad but it really wasn’t. I enjoyed meeting new people. Almost all of them were wonderful with interesting stories to tell…” This time, she managed a more genuine smile as she focused on the better experiences she had.

“Tell me...where have you been?” She could not hide the eagerness in her voice or expression; hearing other people’s stories had been the best part of travelling but she was finding plenty of them near at hand here a home, too. “I did not know you’d become a Marshal before until I came back. You must have made quite an impression to be promoted again.”

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Looking for the missing children, south bank of the river Snowbourn:
@Aodh Hammerhelm @Eléowyn @Taethowen

The lad from Gondor had been staring at the bits of cloth Bambu and Sighard had found in the trees and smashed bushes. Out the corner of his eye he saw Beda fall but he was too late to catch her. Luckily the tall man of Rohan stopped her banging her head.

Cal' nodded at Sighard and hurried over to the man's horse. He was a bit nervous. The cavalry charger was a good deal larger than Nuthatch, and in all the excitement he had forgotten name of Sighard's horse.

"Easy, there's a good horse," he said as he took the steed's reins and led it out of the mud to drier ground. He tied the horse to a slim tree and got the saddle bag down. He moved back to Sighard and his fallen friend.

"Is she all right?" he asked Sighard, looking concerned at Beda's pale face. "Bambu! Have you got any water and a clean cloth?"
man of gondor < Image > heart of rohan

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With Allacan in a quiet corner of the Mark

In one instant, thoughts went through her as the body changed, at the speed of an out of control fire. Once a fool, twice a fool it seemed. She had tried once before to spare a life. Mathen Norse on the coldness of the mountainside.. she'd used sedation instead of poison. It had succeeded then, only for another.. entity to take over, though one that had been held with the sword the bounty hunter carried. Now.. it had been hiding or held within the very flesh she'd laid dormant. And sleep had allowed it to overman it. The plan had been simple. She would not end a life, nor would she allow a threat against her homeland to stand. She knew the power of a woman like you, and if corrupted... it could swallow whole the life she had built, not just for herself, but the life that others had built around her. She could not have ignored it. Sleep had been her solution, and then hopefully the short journey to the Marshall's court to allow them, not just to pass judgement, but to tend to a comrade, while she slipped back into obscurity. Felling a Marshall with a sword.. was noteworthy.. with a drink? She'd had more than one passed out in her pub over time. Rare, but not unheard of.

And now the life she'd tried to spare was searing through with rage and hatred, like coal shot through a mountain, like a wrong thread in the warp spoiling the entire weft and pulling it out of tension and bunched and useless..

"Run.."

Running meant turning her back on the .. thing.. that took over. It meant releasing it into Meduseld. She had to. She must. NOT running meant a confrontation she couldn't afford. Attention she couldn't afford and yet... Allacan had shed all her blades.. and Eldrith had been.. very attentive to see when the brew took effect. It was.. a fraction of a second in which she jolted up, a half turn.. and then a swift change of direction.
Did she run? No.. but you'd find the heel of her boot on the last knife you'd shed.

"I'm claiming her back."

It was said with quiet determination. Her right hand was ready to draw but she had not yet. Foolish, who and what you were.. spoke of your skill. The fact that you had held a ruse for as many years.. spoke of your skill. And she did NOT want to draw steel. Not again. Not ever again. But the alternative of running from what she unleashed was.. impossible. The thing.. that had clawed it's way to the surface was a perversion of what Allacan was. But only unconsciousness had allowed it control. Which meant control could be.. regained, with time. And if not... Bema forbid she'd let the abomination loose.

@Allacan ob Burzum
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Kill-Stealing Skirt Wench
When others ride out to win renown, let me chosen to tend the house.

Thain of The Mark
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Sighard
Eastmark Dryhtguma
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Traveling along the Snowbourn, away from Edoras


"Is she all right?" Calimir asked as Sighard took the saddlebag from him.

"I don't know," Sighard answered. "She just passed out. Do you know if she's eaten today? Or... slept last night? If she was involved with fighting the fires at all, then she might just be exhausted."

As Calimir asked Bambu about water and a clean cloth, Sighard dumped out the contents of his saddlebag. There were the packets of dried meat and fruit, but they wouldn't be of any use until Beda was awake. He grabbed the small med kit that every Cavalry member carried, and while he didn't think anything in it would help rouse Beda, he did find strips of clean bandages.

"Here, I have cloth," Sighard said to Calimir. "What do you want it for, though?"

@Aodh Hammerhelm @Calimir @Eléowyn

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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

"I hope I can help the Westmark get back on their feet again," Taeth confessed, though she smiled at Lail's words of support. "I'm still... sorting out everything that has been going on at the Hornburg and it's... concerning.

"But that's definitely not an appropriate conversation for tonight," she said, pouring each of them another cup of mead while Lailyn began to talk of her travels.

Taeth took the opportunity to eat more of her own food while Lail spoke. Minas Tirith to Anfalas was quite a stretch of distance, and Dol Amroth... Taeth had thought about traveling there at one point, but she'd never made it there.

When Lail spoke of not being wholly herself, Taeth's heart ached. She knew that unease full well: she was, in many ways, still dealing it, and perhaps that was part of why she'd made rash, impulsive decisions lately that she never would have a decade ago.

"Oh Lail..." Taeth whispered when she heard of Lail's mother's death. "It is good you got to say goodbye."

Taeth hadn't been able to make amends with her own mother before she died, and that was a burden she would carry for the rest of her life. She'd thought there was time... she'd never guessed that the lack of replies to letters was because her family had died.

She noticed Lail's slight hesitance when her friend mentioned Lake-town, and Taeth wondered what might have happened there, but didn't want to turn the conversation quite so serious again so soon.

"Working with your hands does have a way of settling your mind, doesn't it?" Taeth murmured. "I hope you find your beekeeping to be as soothing as my stitchery, though I've had woeful little time for it in recent weeks."

Lail's melancholy seemed to fade away as she asked after Taeth's travels, and commented on her reinstated Cavalry rank. Taeth swallowed her bite of food, took another sip of mead, and thought of where she should start.

"While our journeys seem to have some similarities, the beginnings of them are quite different," she said softly. "I... do not recall if we saw each other after the Southern Storm campaign in Gondor. But when I returned, I brought an adopted son back with me. The reason I left the Mark again a few years later was because distant kin of his contacted me, and wanted to raise him as their own.

"So I took him back... and on the way home, I fell ill. I nearly died. The fever... messed with my head. For several weeks, I had no idea who I was. My recovery was long, and by the time I was physically capable of leaving the healer's care, I felt quite beholden to them. I ended up remaining in Gondor for a few years, doing seamstress work to pay off my debt at the healing house and then working a little while longer to make some money to take care of myself before I returned to the Mark..."

Taeth paused for another sip of mead, and wondered now at the strange strings of fate that were working in her life.

"I made a bit of a name for myself in Gondor as a seamstress, though not with my true name. But I did some work for some noble houses, and I came across some lovely, lovely fabric. However, I'd inadvertantly offended some of the more... prestigious tailors in Gondor, because I was an unknown who randomly appeared and stole some of their best clientele. And I wanted that fabric, but I quickly found I was going to have my own source for it... and so I traveled to Umbar."

She'd been such a fool, and even now she was seeing the repercussions of that foolishness. Taeth looked down, biting her lip, and blinking her eyes against their tell-tale burning. She was so Bema-damned tired of crying these days.

"That was where I met Frost," Taeth confessed. "I was young and foolish, and thought that because I'd been a Marshal, been a pæthfindian, and knew how to make a good barter, that I could easily find someone to supply me with Haradrim silk regularly.

"But I didn't prepare. I thought I would just be able to hire a translator, and make a deal in the market. I should have known better, and I was in far over my head. I nearly got myself sold as a slave to a pleasure house. But..."

Taeth hesitated here again, still not sure of how the actions taken that day would play out in the future. Were playing out, even now. She finally looked back up at Lail, tears shimmering in her eyes.

"Frost isn't a good person, either," she whispered a bit brokenly. "But for some reason, he saved me that day. Likely because he thought he could get something out of it, and there was... a draw between us, even then. But I... was still married at that point, though my relationship with my husband was already starting to crumble, so... I ran away."

These days, Taeth wasn't sure what she regretted more--going to Gondor to give her son back to his family, going to Umbar in the first place, or running away from Frost that day. She'd never expected to see him again after that. But when he'd shown up in front of her at the summer festival... oh, she'd been foolish indeed.

"Well," she sniffed a little and put on a brave face again, "since I didn't get any Haradrim silk, I decided I would venture to other less dangerous parts of Middle-earth and see what textiles I could procure. I traveled north, made a brief visit to Mirkwood, and also Lake-town and Dale, though I don't know if we would have been there at the same times. I passed by Imladris, though I can't say I really visited it, and stopped in Bree. I didn't make it to the Shire or further west, but it was so fascinating to get to know different locals and learn about the textiles they create."

Taeth took a deep breath then, feeling an odd, empty relief, but it made meeting Lail's eyes a bit easier. "I'm sorry, all of that might be a bit burdensome for you. But I've not really had... anyone to talk to since I returned."

"Oh!" She remembered something, then, that she'd meant to ask earlier, when Lail brought up beekeeping. "We're running low on beeswax for waxing threads at Awesnis. You wouldn't happen to have any extra on hand? Eldreda--my cousin--or I can even melt and filter it ourselves."

@Lailyn

Dúnadan
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Looking for the children, by the Snowborne River

"I'm not sure if Beda has eaten today," the lad from Gondor said to the tall man of Rohan (Sighard). "But I do know she was up all night. She was there by the Inn when the fires started, and she was out searching for her family. Sheemie found her by the healers' tents outside the city at day break, I think. And of course then there was all the hullaballo with Bambu and baby Leo. She rode straight to the hill with me to make sure the baby was safe and..."

Cal' suddenly became aware that his mouth was running away from him. He was talking like his friend, Beda, did - word after word non-stop. His voice was getting shrill too with each word. He swallowed twice and looked Sighard in the eye.

"I'm going to soak the cloth and wipe her face... That might bring her round? We can also wet her lips... Bambu! Have you got clean drinking water, friend?"
man of gondor < Image > heart of rohan

The Thrush
The Thrush
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Lailyn at @Taethowen's house
The hint of trouble in the Westmark was another piece of unpleasant news. Fortunately, Taethowen was respectfully tight-lipped much to Lail’s relief. The last thing she wanted was to get more involved in Cavalry affairs than she was already. But she felt deeply involved listening to Taethowen’s story and couldn’t believe all the trials the woman had been through.

The mention of the Southern Storm campaign sent a flicker of guilt and she shook her head slightly at Taeth. They would not have seen each other then; Lailyn had already resigned before everyone else rode to Gondor’s aid. While they fought, she hid away from it all. And meanwhile Taethowen had found and lost another family member and gotten exactly what Lailyn wished for; to forget. The reality that memories could be lost was not something she ever considered. The very idea of it was terrifying.

She had slowly eaten some food while Taeth talked but when she heard Umbar and Frost, she stopped suddenly, surprised. They had met before in Umbar of all places...but that alone did not make him a bad person and Lailyn wondered again what happened... and Taethowen’s next words struck her. A draw between us...still married… were the words that set her stomach twisting with their familiarity and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat.

To her relief, Taeth continued and Lailyn relaxed once more. It seemed they had been to some of the same places though their paths had not crossed. She was glad to hear that at least Taeth’s time in the north sounded less exciting than her own; almost as if their luck were reversed. Not that it had anything to do with luck in Lail’s case, but rather her choices. She had noticed the other woman’s eyes had filled with tears that she somehow held back as if all this heartbreak were normal and even went so far as to ask for beeswax.

“Of course you may have all the beeswax you need!” Lailyn smiled, grateful for the moment to talk about something easy and familiar, to feel useful. “I could have brought some with me tonight if I had known but I can come back tomorrow.”

Her smile faded as quickly as it grew though and despite the free-flowing mead, her mood sobered as she gave Taeth a solemn look. “It is not a burden,” she assured her before her voice softened. “It could never be a burden to listen to a friend. You’ve been through so much...to be honest, I don’t know how you are still going.

“I know we are not as close as Thali and you, or Culfy and I were…” Thinking of Culfinwen brought another sting of regret that she lost touch with her dear friend. “But I’m glad you feel like you can talk to me. I am always willing to listen.” She paused. “And there are many things I have not told anyone, either,” she whispered. She felt tears burning her eyes and bubbling up in the back of her throat. Helpless to stop them, they burst forth and streamed down her face.

“It seems to me you have made all the right choices. Something I wish I could say of myself.” All the terrible guilt that seemed to be gnawing away at her since coming home became too much to hold in amid the heartbreak she felt for Taethowen. She finally found some of the words to touch the surface of everything she feared to bring to light.

“I was so exhausted just after the Northern Winds Campaign, I didn’t know how to go on,” she confessed, suddenly glad for the tears that blurred her vision so she could not see Taethowen’s reaction. ”All I wanted was to forget the battle and bloodshed and now I see that’s not something I should ever wish for. I ran from everything. When I resigned from the Cavalry, I left in shame. My cousin injured his leg in the Southern Storm and I wasn’t there for him. He’s never been the same since. When my mother died I thought I could outrun grief and I don’t know what mess I left behind in Lake-town. I don’t think I want to.” She lifted a hand and wiped the tears from her face but it didn’t stem the flow.

“This man in Lake-town…” She couldn’t even bring herself to say his name. Drawing in a nervous breath, she looked away, unable to face the judgment she expected to see. To hide her face in shadow and shame. “He was married,” she whispered three words weighed down with so much. “I’ve made so many mistakes and let people down...I just want to do something good.”

Her hands were clasped in tight fists now having given up all efforts to dry her face. With the confession she dreaded spoken at last, the tears ebbed and she felt a tiny wave of relief edged with wariness. She planted her feet flat on the floor, ready to get up and leave should she be judged with what she deserved.

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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

"It might be best if you take the beeswax straight to the shop," Taeth smiled back at Lail, though the smile was tinged with sadness. "I'm not sure how much I'll be around the house before I have to leave for the Hornburg, and even that will be within the next day or so."

Taeth bit her lip and gave a short, melancholy laugh as Lailyn commented that she didn't know how Taeth was still going. She wasn't sure herself, in all honesty. Probably for the same reason that she'd, unconsciously, fought so hard to live when she'd been ill in Gondor. Some part of her, even if she couldn't completely fathom it right now, must believe that there was something still ahead for her that would be good.

But Lail continued speaking, and Taeth's brow furrowed with worry as her friend burst into tears. As she confessed the things weighing on her heart, Taeth stood and moved around the table to sit next to Lailyn. When she was finished speaking, Taeth wrapped her arms around Lail's shoulders, and just hugged her for a minute.

When she pulled back, Taeth reached up and started wiping the tears from Lail's face.

"I may have made choices that seem right when you look at them from the outside," Taeth said softly, "but after the things I've experienced, I think many of them were wrong now. But first, I want to ask you about this man in Lake-town, because I think there's a fundamental difference with what happened between you and him, and what happened with me and Frost.

"Frost knew I was married. Even back in Umbar. He didn't care. And even here in Edoras..." Taeth hesitated a moment, hoping that what she was about to say wouldn't push Lail away, or make her think lesser of Taeth, but she felt it needed to be said, because Lail was hurting. "I was still married, when Frost and I had our.. encounter here. Because I decided I didn't care anymore. It wasn't until after the fires, until after I was a Marshal again, that I requested the King grant me a dissolution of marriage with my husband, and it wasn't because of Frost. It was because I realized I didn't owe anything to a man who left without a word."

Taeth's hand dropped away from Lail's face, waiting to see her friend's reaction to that, and to the rest of what she had to say.

"This Lake-town man... he knew he was married. But, based on your reaction, he didn't tell you." Taeth felt a knot of anger shaping in her stomach, that someone had dared to take advantage of sweet, trusting Lail like this, but she ignored it for now, keeping her focus on her friend. "While his wife may have been hurt by his actions, and you may have been a part of that, you are just as much a victim as she was. This was not a mistake you made. He was a predator."

Taeth sighed then, knowing that when a person had been hurt--betrayed--like that, it was hard to truly accept what other people said about them when it was impossible to believe good things about themselves, and yet she truly hoped that Lail would hear her next words.

"I see goodness in everything that you do," Taeth said. "It's impossible to be human and not make mistakes somewhere along the way, and not everyone is capable of handling the brutality and hardship of battle, and there is no shame in that. But when you do something that truly is shameful, the only way to conquer that shame is to face the consequences and then move on."

And for the matter of Lailyn's cousin... Taeth truly hoped that it could be resolved, even if it took time. Because she knew now the ache of unresolved differences with no hope of reconciliation. Death was rather final, after all. Especially when four years had passed.

"It's not too late to at least try to make amends with your cousin. Your relationship may not be the same as it was before, but you can try."

@Lailyn

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South bank of the Snowbourn, down river of Edoras: NPCs ~ Bambu, clansman of Kalumba

The Wildman slipped a skin from his shoulder and handed it to the Stonehouse-man (Calimir).

“Good water to drink and wash with,” he said to his companions. “But maybe Rustman-daughter’s search is over? Bambu no help here… You have horses, both of you… Forgoil-warrior (Sighard) can ride on when nkozasana wakes?”

Bambu rooted around in his pack and produced a large shell from its confines. “This conch, make big noise. Rustman left it by river in summertime. Bambu go down river to log camp and islands. He search there and cross over to north. If he find signs, of nganis, he blow big-big! You listen for his signal. He call you soon-soon.”

The Dunlending bowed to the two men, touched Beda gently on the forehead, then hurried up the path that led away from the pool.


--

Four leagues downriver of Edoras: NPC ~Bran Wænnfót

Bran moved with stealth and confidence through the Darkling Wood. This was his special space, a world suspended between dusk and daybreak, a place that was always twilight. Shunning pathways he flitted quietly under leaf and shade, the dead weight of the girl, Lida, cradled in his wiry arms.

Voices drifted across the water from the Snowbourn's southern bank. Searchers were come, as he knew they would. The youth heard in their speech shock, frustration and anger, and he grinned as an icy thrill spread from his chest, through his torso and into his groin.

He was the hunted, and he was going to lead the hunters a right trig dance. If only I could do magik, instead of magic! he thought.

”Don’t be a cove,” the silky, warm voice he’d first heard in early spring whispered in his head. “Patience! Sleight of hand and a simple twist of fate, that will do you for now.

But hurry!

Slow and steady wins the race, that’s what the turtle - gadz rot his soul - loves to quoth. A dash of speed is what you need now though, son. Those busy bodies won’t be long in crossing to snoop around on this side of the river.”

Eager to please his unseen tutor, Bran picked up his pace. The snatches of conversation faded as he moved upstream, and were lost entirely when he reached the place where he'd found his captive. The lad crept on toward the river crossing, shielded now by a whispering wall of reed and river grass.

He halted above the tide-line left by the flood on the sandy shore and lowered Lida, none to gently, into the thick vegetation at the edge of the strand. He trampled rush and reed under his leather-shod feet and dropped down beside the girl in a clumsy sprawl. "Wakey-wakey!" Bran cooed, slipping on his uncle’s boots. “We’ve places to go, sweet Lida, and many things to see.”

He had to stand the girl up and support her, his hand firm upon her frail shoulder. He steered her out across the strand, then north away from the ford. A footpath led away from the river, skirting the dark wood it meandered through knee-high sedge. The ground here was boggy underfoot. When the child faltered, Bran prodded her lightly in the ribs, and he drew her to him when her feet left the path.

The mead gave way to higher ground, the sloping hillside below the hut of Symond the fisher, now deceased. Bran led the way now, tugging Lida by the hand, as he broke into a sprint.


---
@Calimir @Eléowyn @Taethowen
- he hath not forgotten Image the face of his fathers -

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Lailyn at Taethowen’s house
Taethowen’s embrace was warm, welcome and needed. Not only did it provide the comfort of a friend’s arms around her but also the notion of acceptance of everything she had said and done when she expected an entirely different reaction. She returned the gesture and hoped it might offer something soothing in return. Listening to Taeth, she knew she was right but it was hard to come by these things herself.

It felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders and her weeping ebbed until Taeth said, "I see goodness in everything that you do.” The words made her feel good and terrible all at once and a fresh set of tears fell glistening on her face. Had she faced the consequences already? Her fingers traced the scar on her palm as she considered. Maybe she had.

“I know,” she whispered when she collected herself enough to speak again. “I won’t give up on my cousin. I’ll do whatever it takes to help him.” At least that was one thing she was sure of and it helped buoy her spirits. She drew in a breath to calm herself and wiped her face once more, beginning to feel she might be past the worst of it now.

“You’re right...it is not the same at all.” She reached out and gave Taeth a gentle squeeze on the arm as she managed a small smile to let her know she did not judge the other woman’s decisions. “You both knew what you were doing...and your husband has been gone for a long time. I can hardly find any fault with moving on after so many years.”

She sighed before continuing. “But I am at fault. I may not have known but I should have,” she spoke harshly, shaking her head at herself. “All the signs were there, I was just too foolish to see. I never should have trusted him.” She lifted her chin and there was a glint of intensity in her eyes. “But I don’t want to be a victim, Taeth, that’s letting him win. And he doesn’t deserve that.”

With that declaration and some of her worries eased, she sat up a little straighter and studied her friend, who had been separated from her by years and miles and somehow Lailyn felt closer to her now than she ever had before. She reached out and took Taeth’s hand.

“Thank you for listening...but I should be the one comforting you after everything you told me...You seemed so happy that night of the festival with Frost and I’m sorry that he left when it sounds like you may have needed him most.” Lailyn frowned, wondering exactly what went wrong in a short span of time. “I don’t know what happened and you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I just hope you find that happiness again someday whether it’s with or without him. I think you can and I believe that you will even though it may not seem like it right now. It’s there just waiting for you. And I will be here whenever you need me," she promised earnestly, hoping Taeth would see or feel even the smallest sliver of hope Lailyn felt for her friend.

@Taethowen

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Looking for the missing children, south bank of the river Snowbourn:

@Aodh Hammerhelm @Eléowyn @Taethowen

Calimir uncorked the water skin as he watched Bambu walk away. "Be careful!" the lad from Gondor called to the Wildman. Why had he said this? The weather was good and they were near Edoras. Why did he feel nervous?

Cal' wet the cloth Sighard had given him and gently moistened Beda's lips. It wouldn't do to pour water into her mouth, he wanted to wake her not drown her. The lad blushed at this thought and began wiping his friend's forehead with the cloth.

"Come back to us. Come back to us, Beda," he whispered to her, wishing he had a Ranger with him or the herb craft of the Dúnedain in his hands.
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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

Taeth had tensed a little when Lailyn's arms slipped around her, but she forced herself to relax, and then their conversation continued and Taeth didn't have time to consider her brief discomfort. It wasn't anything to do with Lail, though, of that she was certain.

She listened to Lail's words, returned her smile as Lail said she understood about moving on, but her frown returned as she heard her friend say things like should have known and that's letting him win.

Taeth bit her lip as Lail brought up Frost again, unsure of how much she wanted to delve into that at the moment, but she did want to make sure Lail was going to be all right. Not just in this moment, but in the long run.

"There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that someone wronged you," Taeth spoke, in reference to Lail's comment that she didn't want to be a victim. "Being a victim, for a moment in time, is not an issue. But no, you shouldn't stay there. And as for should have knowns...

"I could probably say the same thing about me and Frost. I should have known. But there were things he said, told me, that made me hope, and perhaps... if some other things had played out differently, we would have had a chance. But we can't beat ourselves up about it. What's done is done."

Taeth gave a sigh then, one that she hoped would help lighten the load of sadness on her shoulders, but it didn't, and she once again found her gaze wandering to the dark, shadowed corner where the creature had appeared to call Frost away from her side. That was not something she would burden Lail with, for it would likely be too much for someone who had found the battlefield to be too heavy. But if she were honest, things had not gone well since the Campian.

"I was happy, that night," Taeth spoke softly, wistfully. "But Frost had been hurt at the Campian, and then... so many things happened. He'd... caused a bit of mischief, in Edoras, a day or two beforehand, and someone tried to confront him about it. He and I fought, and while... we made up, the fires happened and then my Cavalry duties became much more than expected and... I don't know. Things just got so off track.

"I... Taeth hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to say. "Remember when I said I lost some of my memories, for a while? The truth is, I still have some issues. Sometimes I forget things, especially if I've been under a lot of strain, and... it feels like something happened. The night of the fires--after the fires, really--but I can't remember. And Frost and I never got a chance to actually talk after that. We didn't even really get a chance to be alone before he was called away."

She swallowed hard, taking a deep breath as she blinked back Bema-damned tears again. "I'd hoped... even when we inevitably parted, that we'd at least keep in touch. But he left me no way to reach him, and he hasn't written, and I know that it would probably be wise to just... live my life now. And at some point, I will. I know I'll be ready for that again.

"I've known him for less than fortnight, all told," her voice finally broke, and she reached up to rub her chest as though her heart actually ached. "It frustrates me that I let him get under my skin like this. I should have known better."

@Lailyn

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Lailyn at Taethowen’s house
Lailyn studied Taethowen as the woman’s eyes seemed to take on a faraway look, her mind briefly somewhere else, another time or place perhaps. The troubled expression hinted there was something she was holding back. Being too familiar with these moments herself of late, she did not interrupt nor ask what it was, but merely listened with patience and an open heart and mind.

Here she sat, again finding herself beside someone with a broken heart, echoing a portion of her own pain and Lailyn took it all in with what calm understanding she could offer. She hated these stories for existing, each one she heard tore at her heart but she hoped she might help repair theirs at least a little by listening. Taeth had been through so much, she knew one night and one conversation could not heal all her hurts but she gave what she had in hopes of starting.

“You’re right,” she said softly in a conciliatory tone. “What’s done is done and we cannot change it. We can only move forward and see if there is something to learn in all this. I don't know what that is yet myself, but,” she sighed, “I hope I figure it out and I hope you do, too. It's so much easier to see our mistakes in hindsight than while we're busy making them the moment. You couldn’t have known then how it would turn out.” Though the words were clearly meant for Taethowen, she felt them burrow within her and set something free for she could not have known, either.

"Someone told me recently... Not to let these things change who we are." She paused for a moment, letting Shadowfox’s words settle, hoping they might help Taethowen the way they helped her. A faint smile appeared on her face with the thought of their brave kindness and wisdom that still echoed in her heart long after her conversation with her newfound friend.

"I know I'll never quite be the person I was before but I don't want to let one experience cloud my future. I'm determined to do just that. I don’t know about you but I followed my heart and I suppose I cannot be sorry for that even if it led me astray." Already, she felt a little stronger, a little less weighed down as if she just realised this truth as she said it out loud. Her posture straightened and she seemed to sit further up in her chair.

"I hope if you decide the same - not to let any of these things have a hold over you, that you will move on. I truly think you have a bright future ahead of you even though things seem bleak now. You are a Marshal after all and a renowned seamstress…” At this, her smile widened, thinking of the jealous seamstresses Taeth had mentioned in Gondor.

“And I think there is nothing you cannot do.” Looking her in the eyes, Lailyn hoped to convey the confidence she felt in her honest words of encouragement. “I hope if you remember nothing else of this night, that you will at least remember that."

@Taethowen

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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

Taeth sat silently as Lail spoke, breathing slowly and steadily and letting tears fall if they came. Eventually, she lowered her hand from heart, clasping her hands in her lap as she leaned wearily against the edge of the table.

"Honestly, I suspected from the start that Frost and I might only have a fling," she whispered. "But that first night... as we started to get to know each other just a little, I realized he was someone I actually wanted to get to know. More than anything, I think I feel robbed of that chance. Like something wonderful was almost within my grasp and then it was whisked away.

"But I do worry that I was on the verge of... letting those things change who I am, although for the last ten years I feel I've been struggling to find who I am again, after the illness. And honestly, those last moments with Frost... if he'd asked me to drop everything and go away with him... I think I would have. Even if it had made me an oathbreaker. But even as much as the thought frightens me, I don't know if I would have regretted making that decision. I do, almost, not regret having the choice given to me, if that makes sense."

Taeth looked back up at Lailyn then, smiled slightly, and reached over to grasp her friend's hand again. "I will move on. As much as I hope that maybe Frost and I will cross paths again one day, for I suspect that he'll always hold some small corner of my heart, if I find another who makes my heart pound just as fiercely as he did, I won't let them escape this time."

But when Lail looked her straight in the eyes, and declared that she thought Taethowen could do anything, she nearly burst into tears again. There'd been few people in her life, ever, who'd said that to her. Many had told her she could do better or be better but not do anything.

She didn't know how to believe that about herself. But she wanted to.

"I will remember," Taeth swore, then reached up and wiped away her tears, and gently tucked her heartache aside for a little while. It was still there, still present, but she didn't want to let it mar this entire evening.

"We've barely touched the food you brought, which is a shame!" She pulled her own plate across from the other side of the table, and refilled their cups of mead again. "Come, let's eat, and tell me what's been happening in Edoras the last few weeks while I've been traveling."

@Lailyn

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Looking for the missing children, south bank of the river Snowbourn:

@Aodh Hammerhelm @Taethowen and @Eléowyn

The wet cloth and water on his friend's face and lips made no difference and the lad from Gondor started to feel a little panicky. STOP IT! he said to himself. What was wrong with him? First he was warning Bambu to be careful and now his own heart was full of fear and worry. He wet the cloth again and wiped Beda's face with it again carefully.

Maybe it was time to take his friend to the healers? Nuthatch wasn't to far away. He could ask Sighard to wacth over Beda while he fetched the horse, or he could carry Beda up the pathway. He bent his head closer to Beda's and called her name a few more times.

"I think one of us should take her back to Edoras," he said to Sighard when his friend failed to respond. "I'm happy to go, you know the land around here better than me, so it makes sense for you to help Bambu with the search."

Cal' wet the cloth again and waited for the tall man of Rohan to reply.
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Traveling along the Snowbourn, away from Edoras



Sighard felt a knot twist in his gut when Calimir suggested that he stay behind with Bambu, while Cal' took Beda back to Edoras. It was one thing to work with the Dunlending in a group. It seemed to temper both of them. But Bambu had shown an innate distrust of Rohirrim so far, for not unfathomable reasons, and Sighard doubted the two of them alone would end well.

"I don't know the land well here," Sighard said honestly. "I'm stationed with the Eastmark eored and rarely make it this far west myself. And... I don't think Bambu likes me. If it were just he and I left to continue the search, I'm not sure it would progress far."

Bambu and I would probably end up killing each other, Sighard thought to himself. Calimar seems to have some of Bambu's trust, at least. That'd be better for the children in the long run.

"I will take her back to Edoras," Sighard decided, hoping Calimir would go along with it. "I was supposed to check in at the Dragon Room today anyway, and I'm overdue for that."


@Calimir @Eléowyn @Aodh Hammerhelm ((OOC - I'm going to be away from the Plaza for a bit soon, at least a few weeks, maybe a little longer. I don't want to hold up Eleowyn's storyline with my absence, so if I can pull Sighard out now that would be ideal.))

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@Taethowen & @Calimir OOC: (That seems like a good plan, Taeth. Cal and Bambu can continue things. I'll consult with @Eléowyn to see how much leeway they have. I'm sure she won't mind you godmoding Beda back to Edoras? )
- he hath not forgotten Image the face of his fathers -

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Lailyn, Taethowen’s house
The evening had turned out quite different to what she’d been expecting though she did not mind. Lailyn’s letter hinted that everything was not quite as rosy as she made it out to be but Taethowen’s own letter conveyed so little of all she had to cope with. Her own confessions surprised her; she had never intended to share some of the things that troubled her but now that she had, she felt it might be easier to turn over a new leaf. If Taethowen could say the same, then the night was well-spent.

“Good. I am glad you will remember it and if you need a reminder, you need only to ask me.” She felt her own eyes moisten upon seeing Taethowen’s tears and she squeezed the other woman’s hand. Then she leaned back and smiled.

“I do think we’ve both shed enough tears for one night, don’t you?” she asked before eating some more food, feeling her appetite return in plenty. A comfortable silence descended as they both ate, lost in their own thoughts or merely trying to enjoy the food.

“What has been happening in Edoras…” Mulling this over a moment, she sipped her newly refilled glass. “What has not been happening might be a better question,” she joked.

“I’m not sure you were still here but a few horses managed to roam loose around the market and cause quite a stir…” She told the story as best she could, including her worry over nothing, the horse’s visits to numerous shops and the wreckage left behind at Siltan Bur. "But in the end all was well though I hate to think the tongue lashing the poor stablehand may have suffered,” she concluded with a wrinkled nose at her final thought.

“Otherwise…” She shrugged and stifled a yawn, hoping she was not being rude. “Things have quieted down some as I’ve been settling in and I hope it stays that way. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had rather enough excitement for a while.”
@Taethowen

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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

Taeth squeezed Lail's hand back, and did her best to return her friend's smile. "I think I've shed enough tears for a lifetime," Taeth answered, before returning to her food and drink.

Lail truly was a gifted cook, and though they ate mostly in silence, Taeth couldn't help but remark on the flavors every so often. Soon, they were dishing up the apple crisp, and Taeth retrieved the cream from the larder, pouring a drizzle of it over hers before offering it to Lail.

Taeth laughed softly as Lail told her about the horses loose in the Riddermarket. "I was gone by the time that happened," she answered. "I definitely would have heard of the fuss. Poor Elarith, though! I hope Slitan Bur was not too badly damaged."

Taeth noticed Lail stifling a yawn and found herself fighting back her own as well. "I have certainly had enough excitement, but since I am in the Cavalry, I doubt I will get much a reprieve.

"It is getting late, though, and I'm sure you have a busy day ahead of you tomorrow," Taeth said as they finished up the apple crisp. "And hopefully my cousin will be coming home from the shop soon, and I'm sure she'll be tired. Please, don't feel that you need to stay overlong simply to keep me company."

@Lailyn

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Lailyn, Taethowen’s house
“Yes, I imagine you have many more things on your mind as a Marshal than I do,” Lailyn mused though really had no idea as she’d heard no whisper of the traitors or trouble in the Westmark. Even if she had, there was nothing she could do but the news of her old eored would certainly trouble her. “But I hope things settle down soon for your sake.”

Their plates were emptied (or nearly so) and the night was winding down; darkness had fallen outside while they shared their stories and shed their tears. When Taethowen mentioned a busy day, Lailyn smiled and shrugged. “Well I suppose I am only as busy as I choose to be now that I’m in charge of my own business. I admit I am afraid the whole thing will fail and fall apart in front of me so I’m doing everything I can to keep myself afloat,” she said with a laugh although her fears were entirely serious and all too real. “If you ever have any business advice, it would be more than welcome!”

With that, she stood, tucked her chair in and began to help tidy up after their meal. “Taeth, you should know I never mind company but I don’t want to keep you knowing you have another journey to prepare for. Please keep the leftover food for yourself and Eldreda,” she gestured at what was left and took up the empty basket to take home.

After setting the basket down and donning her cloak, she turned to Taeth and held out her arms for an embrace. “Thank you for agreeing to meet me tonight. I hope it might have brought you some solace...I know it has for me. You can trust I will not tell a soul what you have told me. Anytime you are back in Edoras, please stop by my house whenever you like. And please be careful on your journey and remember what I told you.” Lailyn settled her gaze on Taethowen’s and gave her a meaningful look, hoping to assure her of everything that had been said and shared that night, hoping that they would both be alright.

After she left and bade Taethowen goodnight, she took her time ambling home through the city letting her thoughts settle over everything that had been said. She passed a house with candlelight glowing in the windows where a warm fire on the hearth allowed her to glimpse a family gathered together. A woman sat with a child on her knee and a man strummed a tune on a stringed instrument. A pang of loneliness spread through her as she paused to observe the happy scene and remember how many nights she had spent like that herself as a child. Not wanting to be caught staring or leering into a stranger’s home, she moved on past shuttered shops and the Golden Hall and onto New Town.

The house was quiet and empty when she returned and she paused for a moment in the doorway to stare into the darkness. Silver moonlight cast her shadow across the floor and she wondered then where the line between solitude and loneliness was drawn and if it was as blurred as the questions in her heart about what was right and wrong, good or bad. Once, these things had been clear to her as night and day. How much easier life had been with the clarity of her youth when she thought she had all the answers.

@Taethowen

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Taethowen's House, Auld Town, Edoras

"I will be happy to give you any business advice you might need, though I'm not sure how much of it will translate from dressmaking to beekeeping!" Taeth smiled understandingly. She'd had the advantage of learning to run her family estate before even attempting to run a business, but she didn't know if Lailyn had any such experience in her past. "Mostly, it's all about taking calculated risks."

Though I seem to be failing miserably at calculated risks in my personal life these days, she thought to herself, ducking her head to hide the pain that thought brought her as Lail stood and began tidying up from the meal.

"Thank you," Taeth said when Lail told her to keep the rest of the food. "I'm sure Eldreda will appreciate it. I'm not sure if she's had a chance to have a bite to eat yet this evening. I'll get all your dishes cleaned up tomorrow, and you can pick them up from Eldreda at the shop whenever's convenient for you."

At the door, Taeth let herself sink into Lail's embrace one more time. "I'm glad we were able to visit this evening, and I hope to be able to visit you at your house soon. I can't wait to see it."

When they pulled back, Taeth smiled and nodded at Lailyn's admonishment. "I will remember, I promise."

"Westu hal," Taeth said as Lailyn stepped out the door and into the dark streets. "Until we meet again."

Taeth latched the door, then leaned her head against it with a sigh. She was heart-weary and mind-weary, but not quite in the same way as she had been the last time she bid farewell to someone in this house. After a moment, she stepped away from the door, finished putting aside a plate of food for Eldreda, and then found places for the rest of the food in the larder and the cellar.

Then, she retrieved her journal as had long been her nightly routine, sat back down at the table, and began to record the happenings of the day. As the firelight flickered, her thoughts flowed freely from her mind to her pages, and in a little while she found that while this house did not feel quite like a true home for her, it was still a place where she could find comfort, regardless of the heartaches that had happened there.

She was interrupted a short while later when Eldreda came in.

"You're still up?" Eldreda commented as she hung her cloak on the hook by the door, then sat down across from Taeth with a weary sigh. "Did you have a good dinner with your friend?"

"I did," Taeth smiled, then pushed the plate of food she'd made for Eldreda across the table to her. "Lailyn is quite an excellent cook, though she made more than enough for the two of us. I set some aside for you, plus there's more in the larder and the cellar."

Eldreda's stomach grumbled audibly, and the two cousins laughed softly. Taeth watched as Eldreda began to eat, and then she closed her journal and set it aside before taking a deep breath.

"There are... some things I need to tell you, before I head to the Hornburg," Taeth spoke, her voice hesitant. "And possibly you've heard some of the story already, because of everything that happened during the Summer Festival, but I think you should hear it from me, either way.

"Six years ago... I went to Umbar to try and get my hands on some Haradrim silk..."

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A Family Emergency
@Taethowen

Ceadda had barely managed to finish the letter to his mother, already at least ten days old since the ink had dried, when Trewyn was already on her feet and up the stairs leaving her son blinking.

"Ma?"

"Go get the cart hitched up Ceadda!" Came her voice from her room and Ceadda took a deep breath only to find Trewyn standing at the stop of the stairs looking at him as if she had managed to hear that deep breath of a sigh. He threw up his hands and went to do as he was told, he knew that his mother had a soft spot for Taethowen, treating her like a daughter there was no arguing with her when one of her children by blood or otherwise needed help. Taethowen for her part had said that he should provide funds for his mothers journey from the estates accounts.

Outside Ceadda saw the girls and sent them inside knowing his mother would have instructions for them. He knew he would need to make sure the girls were fed since his mother would be gone. They ran inside leaving Ceadda to hitch up a horse to the cart. He also pulled some money for his mother knowing for purchasing supplies on the trip and marking it in the ledger.

Inside Trewyn had stuffed a pack with a few changes of clothing and a cloak and herbs to keep Taethowen comfortable during the trip back, the herbs were most of their supply for the winter as one never knew what wounds could happen while on an estate so far from any town or healer. Trewyn knew that it was a ten days hard drive to get from the estate to Helms Deep where the Second Marshall was and that it would be a much longer journey back as she would need to take a gentler pace to make sure she didn't injure Taethowen further. The older woman worried she did not like that she had added if she recovered fully at all. She rushed down the stairs to see the girls looking up at her wide eyed.

"Girls. I need you to be in charge of feeding the livestock, you know how to feed the chickens and the pigs, your brother will take care of the horses, and you'll need to help him with cleaning. Lady Taethowen has been injured and needs to be brought home. Your brother is in charge, he will feed you and make sure you are all right." Trewyn said crouching down to look at the girls holding their hands as they looked worried but nodded their eyes wide and their lips tightly shut similar to how their mother sometimes looked when she was worried. She smiled at them and gave them each a kiss and hugged them tight. "I need you to fetch me some blankets so that I can make sure Lady Taethowen is comfortable on the trip home."

"Yes Mama." They chimed and headed off to do as she had asked, leaving their mother to pull food from their pantry, they did not have much so she would have to purchase replacements for that food when she was on her way back as the trip would take at just less than 2 fortnights there and back. She left the bread she'd baked taking cram and hard cheese and dried meats and fruits. She'd have to purchase flour and perhaps some lard and fruit to replace the cram on the journey home where. "Girls you remember how to make bread yes?" She asked, they weren't terribly good at making bread but they'd started at least making edible loaves though they were not pretty and often were heavy.

"Yes mama! Do we get to make bread?"

"Yes sweethearts, Ceadda will help as we don't have a lot of extra flour so you can't waste too much." She said and the girls nodded as they helped their mother carry out the bag of clothing and food and water. Ceadda had the horse hitched to the cart and he'd loaded the back of it with a bundle of straw to make a makeshift bed for the Second Marshall. He gave his mother a small pouch of coins knowing it should be enough to get food for the journey back since he doubted her mother would stop on the way to Helms Deep, as well as to buy supplies that would be needed to replace the stores that he knew she'd just mostly emptied knowing full well how long she'd be away. She smiled at him a hand on his cheek.

"I'm proud of you Ceadda you are a good man. Take care of your sisters, they're in charge of baking but do watch them so they don't waste too much." She said. "I will be back as soon as I can." Ceadda nodded.

"Take care mother." He said and Trewyn packed the bags she'd brought onto the cart before climbing up into the driving seat and heading off. The girls as they had months before chased her along until their legs grew tired waving until they had to turn back. Trewyn waved a final farewell from the crest of a hill before disappearing over it towards Helms Deep.

***

Trewyn was exhausted as was the horse she figured she would arrive at Helms Deep late that evening as the sun was setting. It had been eleven days since she'd set off, and it would be another half day of pushing the poor horse as hard as she dared, for fear of foddering the poor beast. Once she arrived she hoped that the members of the cavalry would let them both rest for a day or two so they would have an easier journey back home. She was into the canyon that lead to the impressive keep. She gave a sad and tired smile worried what she would find as there was no way to get further news of Taethowens condition since the letter that had arrived at the estate, perhaps Ceadda had new word she hoped if there was new word it was good that Taethowen was regaining some strength.

As the sun was beginning to creep lower into the west leaving the sky stained red, a sign that Trewyn took as a good omen as she finally caught sight of Helm's Dike. It would not be long before she was in the Keep itself, a place where she had never been before, and she hoped to never need to be here again. Especially if it was to collect someone she loved being injured. She hoped that the Second Marshall had managed to inform those that were in charge of the gates that she was expecting Trewyn and her cart knowing that often soldiers could be very protective of strong holds and letting people that generally were not meant to be there in after dark. Yes she could sleep outside the hold if need be, she had supplies for it but it would be far more comfortable for her and her horse if they could be put up properly for the night.

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Helm's Deep Infirmary
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It was late one day, nearly three weeks after both Taeth's arrival at the Hornburg and her subsequent, literal back-stabbing when Trewyn arrived. The Second Marshal had left word that she was expecting a guest and provided her name and description, but was unsure of the date of her arrival.

Taethowen had just finished another bowl of stew--these days, it seemed that her diet was endless amounts of beef and liver, at the order of the hæland--when an exhausted and slightly frazzled-looking Trewyn was led into the infirmary.

Taeth leaned back against the stack of pillows behind her, and gave Trewyn a weak smile. She was pale, but not as much as she had been a fortnight ago, and her right arm was bound up in a sling because in the good moments, she kept forgetting she'd been stabbed in the back and hurting herself over and over again.

As Trewyn walked over, Taeth handed her empty bowl over to the hæland's assistant, then called the hælend over.

"Trewyn, this is Hælend Aelfgifu," Taethowen introduced the two women. "She can update you on what exactly my condition is. To be honest, my memory of the event is a little fuzzy, and healing and its mysteries are not my skill beyond basic first aid."


(OOC - Aelfgifu is an NPC that can be godmodded for this.)

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A Family Emergency
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She was happy to be allowed in and once the horse was stabled and fed and rubbed down she headed to see Trewyn being led along by a very helpful rider, though they weren't really able to tell her much about the Second Marshall. They didn't seem to know too much just that she ahd survived not one but two murder attempts and Trewyn just about went full mother bear. She only managed to calm down when she saw Taethowen pale and looking weak compared to the last time she'd seen the Second marshal. Trewyn looked over Hælend Aelfgifu her eyes slightly narrow as if questioning how well she was taking care of her 'adopted daughter'. "It is good to meet you Hælend," she said with a small smile, reminding herself that this was the healer that had likely saved Taethowen and not her attacker. She looked at Taethowen and shook her finger at her. "You rest while I find out what I need to do to keep you in one piece and on the mend." She said and the Hælend looked at her as if she had just shushed King Theoden himself the way she was talking to Taethowen.

"You know she's-"

"Very injured, yes." Trewyn said crossing her arms slightly as if to say the discussion about who Taethowen was was over. "I've brought Yarrow, Nettle, and some oak from my own stores on the estate." She said and the Hælend blinked and nodded.

"Alright that is ah- that's an excellent bunch of herbs for what has happened." She said with a nod and motioned for the woman that had gone from frazzled to calm and fairly in control despite the dark circles under her eyes. They spoke softly for several minutes away from Taethowen discussing the location of the wound what it would mean for Taethowen and what she should be careful for especially since Taethowen had already torn her stitches once. "Now... you will be resting before you try to set off back to Taethowens estate?" At this Trewyn nodded.

She headed back to Taethowen and let her know the plan and that they would be here tonight and that they would see how the horse was doing in terms of traveling tomorrow after she'd pushed the horse as hard as she could to get here as fast as she could.

***

Once the horse was ready and the older woman and guest of Taethowen had stocks enough for the trip back, expecting to take about half as long again as she had when she came, she got the Hælend and the assistant to help get Taethowen comfortable settled into the cart with a bit of complaint from the Second Marshall simply because she was use to not being treated so delicately but both the Hælend and Trewyn agreed vehemently that she should just lay comfortably in the cart which had had the bale of straw broken down and the blankets laid out to make a comfortable bed for the wounded woman.

The journey itself was slow and careful, Trewyn was very aware of where the horse and cart were going so that she could avoid jarring her friend as they travelled back from Helms Deep to the estate. The trip was blessedly boring especially for the first several days, where the most exciting thing to happen was Trewyn applying a poultice to help speed the healing of the wound itself when she changed the dressing making sure it was healing properly and hopefully help it heal a little bit faster, and asking of Taeth wanted to stop in Edoras at all since Trewyn knew that was were she did have family even if they were busy at this time.

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Taethowen felt a little guilty for siccing Trewyn on the hæland, but at least the two women seemed to come to some sort of agreement before Trewyn returned to her side. They discussed travel plans--and honestly, Trewyn had arrived faster than Taeth expected, so it was understandable that the horse would need some time to recuperate--and Taeth mentioned that her trunk of belongings had arrived from Edoras in the time she was recuperating, and that her mare Gefyrst would also need to go back with them.

The return trip to the estate was an exercise in patience for Taethowen. As gentle as Trewyn tried to be with driving the cart, there was only so much jostling that could be avoided. Taeth spent most of the time alternating between bored out of her mind or fighting back waves of pain as the muscles in her back tensed, trying to brace against the movement, but instead pulling against the wound.

When they neared Edoras, and Trewyn asked if Taeth wanted to stop there, she shook her head. "Eldreda will only feel like she needs to drop everything and tend to me. It's enough that I asked her to uproot everything and come tend to the shop while I was occupied with my Cavalry duties. I don't want to disrupt her life again.

"I've written to her, after you arrived, and I've already posted my resignation to the First Marshal as well. I sent them off the day before we left the Hornburg."

The condition of the road began to deteriorate after they passed the stretch between Edoras and Aldburg. Taeth hadn't noticed as much when she'd traveled this way on horseback a mere two months before, but in a cart it was a completely different experience.

And while she was grateful for the unusually clear skies that this particular late autumn had provided for their travels, she couldn't help but worry about the lack of precipitation overall. They would need some heavy snowfall over the winter to make up for it, but that would mean spring flooding as well...

I'm already thinking like I'm managing the estate again, Taeth realized as they crested the final hill on the Great West Road before the turn off to Ærn Anhyrne. But is it what I want, or is it just a habit? I need to figure that out.

"I guess we're almost... home," Taethowen said when Trewyn stopped again to check on her, and give her a break from the cart's constant movement. The word home felt strange on her tongue, stranger even than it had the last time she was here. But for now, it was a place that was hers, regardless of anything else.

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A Family Emergency
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Trewyn helped Taeth sit up a little better as they took a break, she figured they were still a few days away from the estate, the roads were quite rough and she took the bit from the horses mouth to let it graze while she set up some food for Taeth as well as a cup of nettle tea to help with healing.

She sat beside her and chatted with her confirming that yes they were almost home. "I expect Ceadda will be quite happy to not be cooking and feeding the girls after the last... month." She said with a laugh. "I am not sure if I'm expecting them to be civilized or if they'll be a bunch of starved wild animals, running in the muck." She said with a chuckle eating a bit of cram offering Taethowen a bite as well, though she had given the Second Marshall the last bit of meat soup from the night before cold since she wasn't going to make a fire until they were stopped for the night. Mostly it was stock from her boiling some of the dried meat that she had brought, she had added nettle to it and a bit of other greens to give it some taste better than just boiled dried meat broth and it would have a bit more iron and fortifying properties.

She did think about how often Ceadda would manage to have bathed the girls, as much as she joked about them being in the much she knew that her son would do a good job of taking care of his sisters and that they would be well fed, perhaps bored of the same old meals, the girls might even have gotten quite good at making bread.

"Caught your breath Taeth?" She asked as she finished her small meal of cram and looked at her. When she got a nod Trewyn went and rebridled the horse and tied Taeths mare back to the cart they were well down the road to Ærn Anhyrne so the road was fairly rough for all of her care Trewyn couldn't do much other than make sure that Taeth had a goodly amount straw beneath her to give her a bit more cushioning from the hard jolts of the cart on the uneven ground.

***

It was three days later when finally they crested a hill and beyond it the manor house was visible below them. "We're almost there Taeth, we'll get you a nice warm bath and check your wound before getting you in a nice soft motionless bed." Trewyn said calmly and she had to keep herself from urging the horse faster knowing that would be too rough on Taeth, as it was the cart horse was pulling hard wanting to go faster to get to the stable and out of the harness.

"Well I am pleased to say that they have not burned the place down." Trewyn said with a chuckle knowing Taeth couldn't see the estate yet. "And there aren't animals everywhere. It looks as good as I left it so far." She hoped the little joke would make her smile. It didn't take long and she could see Ceadda, she assumed it was Ceadda and she could hear him yelling and from behind the house two blonde heads came running as the cart made its way towards the house.

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Taeth chuckled quietly at the thought of Sigerun and Estrun running wild on the estate. She'd practically done so herself a few times as a child. She took the cram that Trewyn offered, though her nose wrinkled in distate. Cold broth and nearly-tasteless travel bread. She couldn't wait to have a real meal again.

"Ceadda's got a good head on his shoulders," Taeth said. "It's why I hired him. But I'm sure you know that. You raised him, after all. But I'm certain he's kept the girls from going too crazy. If anything, they've driven him mad while you were gone!"

Her eyes turned a little sad, then. "It's what my younger siblings did many a time," she whispered.

She nodded when Trewyn asked if she'd caught her breath a few moments later, and while she hated being put back in the cart on the bed of straw, she reminded herself that it was almost over. Just a few more nights at most.
~~~
The next three days were excruciatingly slow. Taeth kept seeing familiar landmarks that made her think the journey was nearly finished, and if she'd been able to ride on horseback at a gallop, it would have been. But in the cart, moving almost as slowly as she walked--at least when she was in full health--it just made it all seem so very long.

When Trewyn mentioned a nice warm bath, though, and an actual bed, Taeth almost wept with relief, but she managed an amused bark of laughter as the woman said the estate seemed to still be in one piece.

A few moments later, Taeth could hear more voices than just Trewyn's, and when the cart came to a halt, she carefully scooted herself to the end of it and softly scratched Gefyrst's chin as she waited for help to climb down. She heard Trewyn greeting her children, and a moment later Ceadda and Trewyn appeared before her.

"Mistress Anhyrne," Ceadda greeted her with a nod which she returned, then he untied Gefyrst and led the mare away to the paddock. Trewyn moved to help her down from the cart, and almost as soon as her feet touched the ground, Sigerun and Estrun were there, wrapping their arms around her legs and chattering so excitedly that she couldn't catch a word they said. She managed to hide the painful pinch of her face as she was jostled once again, but still managed a smile to Trewyn.

When the girls finally quieted, Taeth spoke. "I will tell you all about what happened after I've rested," she reassured them.

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Private with @Taethowen

Trewyn shooed the girls away telling them they needed to help get a bath prepared for both Taethowen and herself having not had a decent bath since she'd left the estate almost a month ago and that they could ask their millions of questions tomorrow. Sigerun and Estrun ran off to do as asked it would take a bit to get the water ready but they'd do it as fast as they could. The large tub was partially filled with clean water while the hot water boiled over the fire that they had learned to keep going in the month that their mother had been gone.

It took them a while but eventually Trewyn had bathed, her hair washed and brushed and braided neatly and she was settled into the soft bed that had been hers the last time she had been at the estate. After her friend and adopted daughter was resting exhausted from the jostling and the long journey with less than amazing food she was happy to sink into the still warm water and give herself a quick bath scrubbing the grime from the long journey off of herself and changed into a clean dress tying her hair back and decided it was time to get back to life, and the first thing that she wanted was a nice fresh piece of bread and some decent food.

As she came down to the kitchen she was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by her daughters and Ceadda who had set out a small meal of bread and eggs and she couldn't help but hug and kiss her daughters they'd grown so much. She sat and talked with all three of them hearing what had happened on the farm since she was gone. Part of which Ceadda informed her was the girls having to get better at baking bread because they hated their own loaves so much at first which is why the bread was so good now.

Even though Taethowen was still very weak and in need of a long time to heal, Trewyn as happy and certain that all of them would make it through the winter even if it would be difficult at times, they were all together again.

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Returning to Edoras


Calimir seemed to be hesitant to answer, so eventually Sighard made the decision for himself. He retrieved his mare, Háwena, and mounted, then motioned for Cal' to help him get the still-unconscious Beda in front of him on the horse. Once she was situated where Sighard could keep her from slipping off and keep her head from being jostled around, he looked down at Cal' and Bambu.

"May Bema guide you to the children," he said, and then left.

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Who’s Your Daddy?
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She could feel her heartbeat slowing in her chest, she could feel an uneasy, quivering nervousness spread through he limbs. They felt heavy, as if they had been suddenly filled with sand. Her stomach felt like it wanted to do flips. Still, it was better than feeling like she was going to explode, like she wanted to claw her way out of her skin. She took a deep, deep breath and exhaled slowly as she listened to Kamion’s wisdom, taking the handkerchief he offered and dapping her eyes. She felt embarrassed still, but the feeling was buried deep and muffled at the moment. She was grateful for his words, they brought her a sense of comfort, a sense of place. He seemed trustworthy. She wanted to trust him, but the voice that told her it was foolish to simply jump out at him and ask him if he was her father was telling her she was again too eager to jump into an emotion. Shelving that debate in hallways of her mind, Walpurga began to focus on his eyes. They were old and wise, but at the same time, they were much younger than they seemed. There was kindness in them, pain, loss, elation, joy, pride, fear, anger. He was more than just a ridiculously handsome face she mused, bringing a ghost of a smile to her lips before it faded. The more she looked at his eyes, the more she could see the differences between their eyes. His were cobalt, lighter and my vibrant than hers. They were beautiful, but they weren’t hers. If only she had been able to really look at his eyes before deciding her declaration was a valid course of action. Walpurga rubbed the side of her nose absently, gently touching her eyelids.

The inn had started to pick up, a few more people had come in after her blubbering fit and the attention of all the patrons was now not solely focused on her. She still wanted to shrink away and hide in the nearest shadow. She wanted to cuddle with her little skunks and Brocktree. She longed to hear the little squeaks and yips of her furbabies. As she listened, her eyes wandered over the structure of the inn. It was a very lovely building, old but strong. The floor was well-worn but not ratty. The tables no longer shined, but they were a far cry from falling apart. There were aromatic wisps of smoke coming from the kitchen. Despite the fact that she was not hungry whatsoever, her stomach growled.

When Kamion began to tell her that her mother had been the one in the wrong, she felt an inclination to defend her. Despite her mother being a terrible person to her in the end, Walpurga felt like she needed to make sure Kamion knew she was not a horrible person. She had met horrible people and while her mother had her problems, she was still a decent person. Walpurga remained silent though. Kamion surely knew that a person is more than a single event, more than one person’s interpretation, more than one aspect of an emotion. When he said that he was proud of her though, she very noticeably blinked. Proud? Of her? He’d just met her. How can you be proud of me? You don’t know anything about me. I know everything there is to know about me and even I can’t be proud of myself.

Still, it was a nice feeling, having someone be proud of you. Walpurga hadn’t had that in some time, long enough to forget how good it feels for someone to tell you that you’ve done well.

He began then, to speak of his mother. Walpurga could not help but feel a pang of guilt. If she hadn’t… well, if she hadn’t done what she’d done he could have avoided having to think about her. Even though she felt closer to him now, she still wished he didn’t have to bring her up. Missing parents. It was hard, at times, for Walpurga not to believe that she had done something to make her father not want her, to upset him, disgust him, or drive him away. She knew it was ridiculous, but sometimes on cold, lonely nights when her thoughts drifted back and forth, she couldn’t stop herself from wandering. Did Kamion wander the same thing? Did he think he’d done something wrong to make his mother leave? Irrationally, she formed an image of his mother (or at least the Rohir’s interpretation of her) and wanted to throttle her. Missing parents. Even when they haven’t been around for decades, they still manage to cause hurricanes.

“What can I do, though? I don’t want to go back to Benton. I don’t want to stay here. I…” she sighed and grimaced. “I don’t really know much about the world outside. I know Gondor’s history, in theory at least, but I really don’t know anything about it. And… up north. Isn’t that where the elves live? I’ve… I’ve never met an elf before. It’s silly but I’ve wanted to meet one for so long. But…” her face darkened and instinctively, she looked behind her and around the common room at the inn, making sure no one was paying too much attention. “but what if I’m pursued? What if they Cavalry decides to hunt me know and drag me back and imprison me as a deserter? There’s this one Marshal… she seems unnaturally interested in me. If I were to disappear, I’m sure she would try and hunt me down. She makes me very uncomfortable.” The Rohir sighed again, feeling her skin crawl. “But I do want to leave, I do. I want to leave Rohan and see the wider world.

“Would you take me with you?” she asked.
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Who's Your Daddy?
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”Would you take me with you?

The question stunned Kamion. He didn’t know what he had expected, but it hadn’t been that. The Dúnadan strove to keep his face neutral, though surprise surely showed upon it. His initial impulse was to gently refuse- what business did he have shepherding a young woman he had just met through the wild? He was not overly concerned with the impropriety, for they could easily pass as father and daughter if needed (this idea popping into his head of its own accord, as if planning the journey without his leave), but the responsibility of caring for such a person, and further, what was there for her in the North? There he had kin and connections, but she? The more Kamion looked at Walpurga, however, the more he realized the truth of the desperation that must have pushed her to ask the question at all. She threw herself on his mercy and trust scarcely moments after their meeting- what kind of life had this girl endured that she could dare such a thing? She didn’t know him from Aelfric, and yet…

“I- Walpurga, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t. Leaving a military position is a serious thing. I don’t know all the intricacies of the Cavalry, and I don’t know if they’ll ever let you back if you leave now. That said, you can’t have been a member for long, and I’m sure it wouldn’t be the first time a recruit changed their mind. Leave a resignation note- shove it under their door if you need to, but I’d be willing to wager that’d head off any pursuers.” And what, Kamion considered silently to himself, was one recruit more or less in the grand scheme of the Cavalry? Clearly that didn’t need her that much, if they were willing to treat her so badly. “In the morning, I am bound north on an errand to my kin among the rangers there. I have business in Lindon also- yes, among the elves. Once finished, I’ll be passing back this way to return to Minas Tirith. The wider world isn’t going anywhere but if you want to see some of it, you are welcome to ride with me.”

The commitment had left his lips before he was conscious of having decided to offer it. Kamion drew a deep breath, and plunged on. “The road may not be easy, but I will make it as safe for you as I am able. If at any point you wish to part with me, you will be free to go. If you wish to stay in the north, I will wish you well. If you wish to return to Rohan, I will escort you back here on my way home. If you don’t know what you want by the time my commitments in the north are up… well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I promise, Walpurga, that I will not abandon you. I do not offer my companionship on a journey such as this lightly. If you are willing to put your trust in me, I will put mine in you- and so long as you’re willing to gather your share of firewood,” he added lightly with a smile, “I will help you in any way I can.” Kamion extended his arm across the table to Walpurga to seal the bargain.
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Riding from Edoras to Mundburg

She had packed the horse with enough supplies to keep her warm and well-fed from her home in Edoras and all the journey to Mundburg, Minas Tirith she reminded herself. A warm sleeping bag, extra woolen clothes, and plenty of dried fruit, nuts, bread, and lentils, all taken freely from the cavalry's store rooms in Edoras. She had bought enough food to take her to Mundburg and back again, with a few extra rations in case she met with a winter storm or some unexpected situation should delay her. She had felt giddy when the marshal accepted her request and what more, gave her full access to take what she needed of supplies, though she had kept her head and forced a few deep breaths to calm herself. Her feelings were mixed, excited, adventuress, scared, happy... she had not felt so confused and unclear about her own emotions in years. It was not a step but a full leap out of her own comfort zone. But it felt as the right thing to do, to take the opportunity to face her old grief, memories of battles and war, memories she had learned to live with in her own way. And it was an opportunity to go and learn, learn about the healing techniques of the healers of Gondor. She had heard them mentioned so many times lately, their praise spoken widely, that now she wanted to seek their apprenticeship, if only for a short while.

The last few items had been packed, her farewells said to husband and children remaining in Edoras (though the children had begged to join her), and Edoras with the bright Meduseld was slowly growing small behind her as she followed the ancient road towards Mundburg. Her excitement had clearly ran through to her horse, she was still getting to know her new mare, her old war horse Disa now a family horse more fit for a short slow walk then then long ride to Mundburg. The first kilometres had flown by as the horse, Lynet, stretched her legs and the hælend let the wind blow her headscarf and cloak, but eventually both Ama and Lynet had calmed somewhat and taken to a slower pace mindfull of the long days of riding ahead of them. If she kept the speed of the songs, her memory served her correctly, and nothing unexpected happen it would be a ride of 5 or 6 days.
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The words were out there, floating around like feathers dancing on the wind. Walpurga’s eyes seemed to go dull for a second. It took a moment to dawn on her what she had actually asked. The words were simple. ‘Would you take me with you?’ but the implications were enormous. Bigger than that, they were colossal. What had she done?! The shock and bewilderment that flashed over Kamion’s face for a moment brought her a moment of relief. At least she wasn’t the only one that was surprised by the words that had come out. She nearly smiled but realized the horrible position she had put this man in, this man that only ten minutes ago she suspected might have been her long absent father. This poor man was only coming into town to refuel and rest. He wasn’t looking for a ward, some needy girl and her cavalcade of baby animals. She huffed out a breath through her nose. She couldn’t believe herself. She was being so selfish!

And yet…

Showing his age through his wisdom, Kamion did not immediately tell her that she was an idiot or that he had no time for foolish girls he met randomly out on the country. He advised caution, he advised forethought. Some of the names of the places he mentioned she had read, the pronunciations where different but then again she’d never spoken ‘Lindon’ out loud so she never knew exactly how it was pronounced. He was not her father, but in the short ten minutes she knew he existed he helped her more than her father ever could have. Slow to speak but quick to react. She gulped down the bile that was building in the back of her throat. She felt cold and clammy. Yet his eyes reassured her. There was a warmth there, an understanding that she had not seen or felt in a very long time. Her heart ached, but finally she spoke.

“I understand. I, I do. I know that it’s impulsive, I know it’s not very well thought out and based on my current feelings. I’m,” she sighed in exasperation, “I’m not normally this impulsive. I think before act. I, I promise. I’m not a silly girl who is lead around by her passions.” There was a mix of anger and humor in her voice, neither reaching her face. She realized, for a moment, that she was defending herself against her mother again, a conversation she had played out over and over and over again in her mind. She clamped her mouth shut, her jaw clenching. She fumed. She was certain her face began to redden, but she prayed that Kamion didn’t know the reason. She breathed slowly and fiddled with the spoon on the table, tracing the line of the wood. “You’re right,” she said after a moment. “I know, I know. I went into this whole adventure thinking it would be like the stories I read. I was impulsive and silly. I know that what I’m asking is… extreme,” she laughed humorlessly. “and I know I’ve presented you with a horrible, impossible choice. I’m sorry.” Her eyes looked into his eyes, deep ocean blue meeting cobalt. She’d cried out all her tears earlier, but she felt as though another torrent could flood the world again. “I wish I could take this all back. I wish I hadn’t seen you this morning, I wish I hadn’t asked if you were my father, I wish I hadn’t asked if you would take me with you. But… but I can’t, and, and I want to leave. I want to get as far away from this place as I can. I think,” she looked back down at the spoon, “I think that I was bound to leave anyway, eventually. I think seeing you made me realize that I could leave, that I could escape this endless cycle of looking for something and only keeping counsel with myself. I’m not impulsive, I’m… scared. I’m scared of being my mother, I’m scared of turning out like all of them,” she waved her hand at the door, facing the ominous Dragon Room. “I want to be Walpurga. I don’t know who that is yet. But I want to find her. And I can’t find her here, not in a place where I am stifled and controlled. I want to touch the sky with a free hand. I want to breathe air that invigorates me, that doesn’t suffocate me. Will I find myself on the road north?” she dearly hoped so, even to see the great, vast lands of the north would be amazing “I don’t know. But know that if I don’t try, that I will never find out how I could be. Walpurga is waiting out there somewhere. I have to find her somehow. I have to. I will leave a note, telling them that I’m resigning immediately. I can do that much at least. I would be surprised if, when they read it, they even knew who I was but that’s neither here nor there.” She looked back up at Kamion and met his eyes with all the strength of will that she could manage. She inhaled deeply through her nose and tightened her fists. “And I promise, that I will not be a burden to you, that I will listen to you and I will do everything I can not to be a drain on your time. I don’t think I can repay the kindness you’ve shown me.” She laughed, finally cracking a small smile, “I assume you aren’t in the habit of taking in random passerbys, but I promise you I will do my best to repay you.”

The young Rohir reached across the table and took his proffered hand, large, calloused, and strong, in hers. “Thank you, Kamion. I owe you my life.” She then stood up, her legs a little unsteady. “Should I meet you here? I don’t have a lot of things to gather up. An hour? Just to make sure everything is taken care of and to make sure I don’t have any… loose ends that someone might try to follow.” A warmth spread through her bones. Hope?
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Tilion
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She set her hand in his, and he shook it firmly. Then he raised both his hands to stay her rush as she rose, shaking his head with a slight smile and rising with her. “I- we, that is- do not depart until morning. Take your time, and take tonight to be absolutely sure this is what you want.” Kamion nodded in the direction of the front door. “Meet me outside the stable at first light, prepared to travel. Try and get some good sleep tonight, the road can be rough and restless. And, Walpurga?” The corners of his eyes crinkled as his smile spread. “There’s nothing wrong with being a silly girl. Or with following your passions.” He watched her go, then sank slowly back into his seat with a long exhalation. Kamion put his face in his hands and rubbed it vigorously, and when he emerged, Bergljót had appeared at his side. “You look like you need another drink,” she said with sympathy, and reached out for his tankard. But Kamion put his hand on top of hers as she took hold of it, and shook his head. “No, thank you, I think this one’s enough for me for tonight. Would it be too much of a strain on your stores to ask you to double my order of provisions for tomorrow? I seem to have gained a companion.” The innkeeper’s eyebrows shot up and she stared openly. “That girl!? What-“ Kamion squeezed her fingers gently. “I’m sure I’ll have some stories for you when I pass back through. But for now, the provisions?” Bergljót huffed a bit, but nodded. “It’ll be no trouble.” The Dúnadan arose and kissed her wrinkled cheek. “You’re a queen among women, Bergljót. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Much as he had encouraged Walpurga to sleep well that night, Kamion could not follow his own advice. He fretted away the hours of darkness, wondering if he was doing the right thing, seated in a hard chair by the window of his room. His chin rested in his hand and he drummed has face with his fingertips as he gazed up at the moon. Over the years he had been escort to plenty of travelers and convoys, and even served as bodyguard to important persons on more than one occasion. And he had travelled extensively, alone and in company. And, he had spent plenty of time with young people, as teacher and mentor. But this, though it had elements of all these situations, was something different entirely. What did he know of shepherding a lost young woman on the road to finding herself? Everything he had said to Walpurga and the promises he had made to her were true, but Kamion was consumed by the responsibility he had thrust upon himself. It was true, what his father always said: no matter how old you get, you’re still just making it all up as you go along. Knowing that in the morning he would have to be ready for whatever was to come, Kamion allowed his anxieties to run their course, humming softly to himself some long-forgotten tune.

Clunk. The Dúnadan jerked awake, reaching up to rub his forehead where it had collided with the windowframe. He pushed the hair out of his eyes, and looked out the window as his mind emerged sluggishly from its dream. It had been a familiar dream, one that often presented itself when he had been worrying about something: soft and hazy, the dark interior of a home, and the faded outlines of a woman’s face. Impossibly beautiful, despite the curtain of time behind which it stood, and surrounded by heavy, waving curtains the deepest black hair. And the eyes, his eyes, bright as stars. Her mouth moved soundlessly, until she laughed, and then the sound was far away. Between his worries and the talk of absent parents with Walpurga, it was no surprise she had surfaced in his dreams. It was the only memory Kamion had of his mother, and he couldn’t even be sure it was a memory, rather than something his subconscious had pieced together from his father’s words and the old portrait he kept of her. Kamion’s lips tugged up at the thought of it- hardly a portrait, an inked sketch by a fellow ranger, but his father had kept it always. Considering the waning night outside, the Dúnadan shook off these sleepy thoughts and stood. It was time to move on.

Within the stable, all was quiet- except for Faran, who was already causing a racket with voice and hooves in his stall. “Pipe down,” Kamion admonished the gelding, shaking his head ruefully. “Do you want Erlinc to throw us out?” Faran swished his tail haughtily, and gave the wall one more spiteful kick with a rear hoof. Kamion laughed in spite of himself, and set about making ready. Once Faran was groomed and tacked and his stall mucked out, the Dúnadan fastened on the saddlebags of provisions and supplies, and allowed himself to wonder if Walpurga would appear. He was sure, really, that she would, but there was just a sliver of doubt- what if she had talked herself out of it? What if something had happened with the cavalry? Perhaps he ought to have set out the previous night after all. No- it was too late to question that decision now. Finally, Kamion buckled on his baldric, the great longsword slung across his back settling comfortably into place, and the big, rangy man led the big, rangy horse out of the stable. The very first hints of sunrise had begun to lighten the sky as they crossed the threshold and, looking out into the still-dark street, he saw emerging from silhouette the figure of a young woman, leading a pony. His face cracked into a broad grin.

“Ready to go?”


To be continued in Paths of Eriador as Estrenar
Evil is a lifestyle | she/her

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