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  1. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
    Elder of Imladris
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    Sep 2004
    #201

    Eärcúlinta
    Why won't this Nightmare End?


    Under different circumstances, in a normal area like a park or a living room, Eärcúlinta would've happily agreed to the 'alliance'; freely conspiring against both parents to create a charade for the ages.

    This was not normal circumstances. A crazy cross-dressing elf, sitting on his bed, mocking his mother, throwing out his crutch, wanting to 'pet his turtle', in his bedroom of all places? With one leg disabled, he could not do anything about it utter than shout ignored protestations. A spike of pain ran through his injured leg as she "patted" her injured foot. Eärcúlinta gritted his teeth, not sure whether it was due to the verbal sarcastic haughty barrage or the raw tendrils of pain he still experienced from his leg.

    Fëapoldië represented the word 'unbearable'. From the way she intruded upon his privacy, to callously undermine and demean his mother and himself, it seemed she thought him as no more than a pet rock. To even think that he was the type of elf to wantonly fall in love with any shapely face and glossy hair showed her complete and utter delusion. Without her wealth, what person in their right mind would court such a selfish personality? Fëapoldië's mention of her lover went over the raven-headed elf's head, as Eärcúlinta focused more on glaring a hole through her skull; even as she gyrated in his room and bed.


    Something completely unexpected happened. Utter shock prevented him to dodge, as his cheeks suddenly reddened and warmed as Fëapoldië suddenly moved closer.

    She cupped his face.... touched him like he was her... her toy!

    "Y-you!" he squeaked in shock. Whie the red-haired brat explained her plan, a rising torrent of thoughts bombarded his head. Like a kettle underneath an open flame, Eärcúlinta felt his face grow hotter and hotter. His hands clenched into fists, as he could feel his anger rising like a torrent of boiling water.

    Once she released her grasp and bounced on his bed, Eärcúlinta instinctively unclenched his right hand, forming a tight open hand. Just as she was about to collide onto the bed, he threw his right hand as quickly as across as he could, attempting to slap the taste out of Fëapoldië's mouth.

    Whether or not he hit, Eärcúlinta would then shout, "don't you dare touch me! I'll do whatever is necessary to get you out of my bed and out of my life!"





  2. The Last Chapter

    A Note to the Constant Reader:


    This is truly the end of Flight to Rivendell; Calselda's journey will
    conclude in the upcoming and long-awaited Revenge of Rhudaur RPG.
    The next post I'll write here will be for The Bite of Winter so
    Veowyn, Moriel, and I can begin the quest to save Beren's life
    before the Hill Watch/Pirate RPG starts in the Bree area.

    If you're wondering about the Dunlending battle at Rivendell
    mentioned by Mara the Seer, please keep in mind that it was a
    Host of Imladris RPG nine years ago.
    I decided to tie that story to the Coven's history
    and the Revenge of Rhudaur RPG.
    You can read of the witches' old plan HERE and the links to the Imladris army RPs.
    I aim to continue the Invisible Hands private RP of mine, greatly expanding
    Aura Camlost's role as one of the principal archenemies of Eriador, in the months to come.

    Some of the Dwarves listed below I ran out of time to use
    so they will appear prominently in Revenge of Rhudaur.
    What Ellindale and her companions will discover in the Trollshaws
    related to the Prophecy of the Emerald Queen
    will be covered at the end of Revenge of Rhudaur.

    This private RP is set
    before and during the events of
    Revenge of Rhudaur RPG


    - Source Image: Janet Montgomery -


    "The name Calselda's father gave
    her was
    Raul
    íra, which means Lionsong in the
    the High Speech of the Noldor."
    ~ Aimira Mordagnir - a sage of Oiolossë

    and the mother of
    Tavari, Arasoron, and Aigronding, c. Fourth Age 3194,
    from The House of Itanoeva: A Family History

    "Seldom is any tale told of deeds of lust among them. /
    The Eldar.... Some fell into pride, and self-will."
    ~ Tolkien, from Morgoth's Ring: The Later Quenta Silmarillion/Notes

    Themes (Roar)
    HERE , (Radioactive) HERE,
    and (Once Upon a Dream) HERE



    - (Source: Elle Fanning,
    HERE) -

    Dramatis Personae

    Calselda Dimrel / Raulira Mordagnir ~ An elf-girl, Aigronding's illegitimate daughter. Elmarya's best friend.

    Elmarya Ancalënóna ~ An elf-girl. Telkelion's daughter, Calselda's best friend.

    Anne Crown, called Melimakris ("Faircleaver," Sindarin) ~ A mortal Elf-friend and Nathan's wife.
    A bookseller and Hill Watcher. Accompanying the elven girls to Imladris.

    Nathan Crown ~ A mortal. Anne's husband. A ranch foreman and Hill Watcher. Accompanying the elven girls to Imladris.

    Matt Rogers ~ A Hobbit Bounder of Michel Delving and retired globetrotter.
    Friend of Aigronding and Telkelion. Accompanying the elven girls to Imladris.

    Tourmaline Haylock ~ Matt's cousin, A Hobbit Bounder.
    Accompanying the elven girls to Imladris.

    Gilnir, called The Oarman once upon a time in Noonvale - An elven frontiersman.
    Rilya's husband. Fostered Calselda for Roina.

    Rilya ~ An elf-woman, a healer.
    Gilnir's wife and Edan's daughter. Fostered Calselda for Roina.

    Gilnir ~ An Elf woodsman, Rilya's husband. Fostered Calselda for Roina.

    Edan Amrun ~ A High Elf. Rilya's father. A close friend of Roina and Aigronding.

    Annamiri - A Tar-Turwen healer of Adab Nestad. Aewruca's instructor.

    Lhaindir - An Elf-boy, Edan's apprentice.

    Aewrusca - An Elf-girl, a healer and Annamiri's apprentice.

    Aigronding Mordagnir ~ A High Elf nobleman counted among the
    Wise and the Tar-Taidron of the Halcyon Guard.
    Roina's lover and Calselda's father.

    Roina Nilthoron ~ A High Elf lady and construction magnate for Rivendell
    and the Halcyon Guard, counted among the Wise.
    Aigronding's lover and Calselda's mother.

    Telkelion Hender ~ The Arhesto of the Lindon Guard
    and the chief physician of Círdan's court. Elmarya's father. Searching for his daughter.

    Ellindale
    ~ The wife of Telkelion and the mother of Elmarya, translating a curious document in Harlindon.

    Girion Coruben ~ An elven jack-of-all-trades. Accompanying Telkelion in pursuit of Elmarya.

    Aileen Camlost ~ A young Morgul sorceress.
    Beren's eldest daughter and the Princess of Rhudaur.

    Silvanas Olcha ~ A Fallohide Hobbit carpenter. Almandine's husband.

    Almandine Olcha ~ A Fallohide Hobbit seamstress. Silvanas' wife.

    Sphene Olcha ~ A Fallohide Hobbit healer. The daughter of Silvanas and Almandine.

    Ennis ~ A wealthy Stoor riverboat merchant.

    Voldar Goldenheart ~ A Firebeard Dwarf of Harlindon, a forger of weapons
    who sells his arms to Elves and Rangers.
    Gretchen's husband. Tanla's father.

    Gretchen Doveheart ~ A Firebeard Dwarf lass of Harlindon, a shoemaker.
    Voldar's wife and Tanla's mother.

    Waylon Ironheart ~ Voldar's brother, a dwarven
    blacksmith of Harlindon. Edith's husband.

    Edith Drakesoul ~ A surly, adventurous Blacklock Dwarf-lass from the Orocarni Mountains.
    Waylon's wife. The forger of Melimakris, the scimitar of Anne Crown.

    Tallis Owlfriend
    - A young dwarven sage of the Harlindon Mountains. The son of Edith and Waylon.

    Mara - A mysterious seer.

    Chapter Six: Moments of Revelation


    - Source Image: Elle Fanning -

    THE
    LONE LANDS

    "Please don't run!" pleaded the stranger, desperately calling out to Anne and Nathan. She had this kind of musical, richly accented voice unheard in the Bree-land. Anne reluctantly gave pause and tenderly held her husband's hand, bringing him to a sudden halt as well. "You follow my lead, right?" she whispered smilingly, noticing his dubious look. When he nodded at her, they allowed the foreigner to approach closer.

    "I am Mara, a seer of Dunland," she introduced herself.

    "Dunland?" Anne asked, widening her vibrant blue eyes. "Varda's stars, I'm surprised you haven't tried to murder us by now."

    The woman tensed up, anger lighting her narrowing green eyes, but she relaxed moments later. "There's some good in this world," she said quietly but forcefully, "and I plan to ruin those who deny peace."

    "Fair enough," said Anne, feeling her cheeks warming, embarrassed by her unjust presumption. "Might I ask why you are clothed so elegantly though? The Dunlendings are not a civilized people. I hope you don't mind me saying so."

    "My father was a Ranger of the North who married a tribal woman named Baraschain
    . When her society fell into evil he brought me to Lossarnach, a fiefdom of Gondor, and I was fostered there among his southern kin. It's from there I've come to warn Lord Elrond and the Dunedain of an attack I've foreseen."

    Anne said nothing. She studied Mara intently as she would some shred of evidence beneath the magnifying glass Amelia Sugarplum had given the Hillwatch inspector for casework. "Are you telling us you've come north to find help against some kind of attack the Dunlendings are planning?"

    Mara took a deep breath and expelled it heavily. "Not only the Dunlendings, I'm afraid. They have very powerful friends now..."

    *

    "What are these?" Calselda Mordagnir asked as she studied a couple tubular, honey-gold vegetables. Matt Rogers and his cousin, Tourmaline Haylock, bought them at the Ye Olde Market market on Bree-hill to eat at camp.

    "Taters!" he exclaimed, still assembling his ingredients for supper. The party already had dinner but the hobbits insisted they stop again for the last meal of the day. Weirdly, the terms dinner and supper were not synonymous for halflings of the Shire and Bree. "Po-tay-toes. You boil them -"

    "Mash them," added Toumaline around a mouthful of carrot.

    "And stick them in a stew like Matt's making," Elmarya put in, slowly roasting Silverbell marshmallows from Bree-town.

    "Are they better than asparagus?" wondered Calselda. She licked her lips, recalling the delightful taste of the bacon-wrapped vegetables Nathan lightly sauteed in butter and flavored with lemon zest the night before they left Archet.

    "Absoutely not," Elmarya answered decidedly.

    "It's debatable," Tourmaline challenged just as sharply, tossing back her yellow hair.

    "Hey, we've got company." Matt pointed out the tall, elegant woman who was walking to the fog-enshrouded camp with Anne and Nathan. "I hope there's enough food left," Matt commented, looking around frantically. "Hey, where's the watermelon?"

    "You ate it all for second breakfast, jeez," Tourmaline sulked and thrust out her bottom lip petulantly.

    "Well, you helped," snapped Matt. "I didn't enjoy it myself...though I'm sure I could have."

    "If y'all keep eating like this we're going to starve before we even get to Rivendell,"
    Nathan remarked with an amused shake of his head. He introduced both the Hobbits and Elf-girls to Mara of Dunland, a queenly woman he and his wife invited to camp.

    "You are graced with such immaculate beauty! I would have mistaken you for an Elf-maiden were it not for your ears which are not pointed as mine,"
    Calselda complimented the prophet. When Mara touched her hand softly in a familar way, Calselda searched her memory with an intense deliberation hoping to find some recollection of meeting her but, alas, the Elf-girl could find no remembrance of the refined lady. She, Rilya, and Gilnir had so few visitors in the Hills of Twilight. She glanced at her sentient wolfhound, Polodren, but he was staring at Mara just as curiously as his mistress. "Anne and Nathan tell us you're travelling to Rivendell. We'd be honored if you join our party. Elmarya wishes to serve with the guards of the valley and I wish most ardently to see my father for the first time. The Hobbits and the Crowns are protecting us on our journey. What business do you have in Imladris, if you do not mind me asking, Mara?"

    Her warm smile transformed silkily into a cold frown. "I must warn Elrond Half-Elven and Arwen Evenstar of a battle waged on their borders soon. Dunlendings, savages of the southern wilds, are mounting their second siege of Imladris. They assaulted the valley years ago but the Elves defeated the barbarians. Now they're emboldened to try again, supported by mages of Rhudaur." She calmly paused when Elmarya let out a gasp of fear. Even Nathan seemed distrubed, chugging a fermented cider made of Archet blue apples. Most Bree-landers were wary of unusual folk like Rangers of the North and ancient tales of Cardolan's war with the witchcraft of Rhudaur still frightened villagers of the modern era. "Many witches of bygone days fled the Angle and hid amongst their kin in Dunland," continued Mara . "Some remain living - gifted with long life like many servants of Mordor such as the Mouth of Sauron. Many descendants have inherited Morgul power and have grown strong in the ways of sorcery; many skills have been taught to some of the Dunlendings themselves in exchange for safety amongst the tribes. The Coven isn't as threatening as it was when it last engaged the Weather Hills and Rivendell but the arcane practitioners are still a deadly menace to be feared. That's why it's imperative I must speak with Elrond, his daughter, and their ruling circle."

    "I am told my father is a great warrior," Calselda spoke reverently of Aigronding. "Is he a witchslayer?" Anne had told her about mages, fell mortals who were given or inherited fearsome unholy power from demons. They mastered the dark knowledge for their own wicked designs for Sauron's greater glory.

    "Aigronding killed dozens a long time ago." Anne stroked one of her brown curls thoughtfully. "I suppose their suviving leader is still alive and wants revenge for Rhudaur. Whoever commands the sorcerers might have aimed to murder your father by sending the Dunlendings years ago but that plan was foiled. Perhaps now is a better time for barbarian and witch alike..."

    "I will defend him," Calselda said resolutely, her blue eyes twinkling like Nielluin's sapphire gleam.

    "You're just a kid,"
    Nathan disagreed, furrowing his brow.

    "She's fought before," shot Elmarya.

    "We'll discuss this matter later on," said Anne curtly.

    "She ain't gonna change her mind,"
    Matt chuckled with a toothpick between his lips, lounging on his bedroll with arms crossed behind his head. "The lass has that ole Mordagnir pomposity!" he declared with such forthright conviction even Elmarya and Tourmaline giggled.

    "Of course however," Anne replied through pealing golden laughter, "she isn't going to war without her parents' approval. Anyways. We need sleep. At first light we'll ride to The Forsaken Inn. Some Rangers or Halcyon Guards would be happy to serve as an armed escort for our trek towards Rivendell. This road is beset with danger and we'll edge near a troll-infested forest on our way. I haven't been this far from the Bree-land in a while but I know from experience that the more help we have out here in the Lone Lands, the better chance we've got staying alive."

    As they rested, Nathan gave his wife a loving smile, softly brushing aside an errant wisp of hair off her forehead. "You've got a hunch, babe." It was a statement, not a question. She kissed his hand. "I do, love. Mara has given us a pretty convincing explanation but something's off about her."

    "Can we trust this seer?"

    "Yes, we can. I have this sixth sense about folks, you know, but I don't think she plans to hurt us."
    She wriggled closer and rolled onto her back with small, joyful noises as her husband snaked his arm around her slim waist. "Funny...I've got this weird feeling that..."

    "You've known her for a while?"

    "No, more like...I'll know her for a long time to come."
    ​*

    Epilogue

    THE
    FORSAKEN INN




    - Image Source: Nick Zano -

    "But the folk of Maeglin were drawn up in the same place,

    and sable was their harness, and they bore no sign or emblem,
    but their round caps of steel were covered with moleskin,
    and they fought with axes two-headed like mattocks. There Maeglin
    prince of Gondolin gathered many arriors of dark countenance and
    lowering gaze about him, and a ruddy glow shone upon their faces and
    gleamed about the polished surfaces of their accoutrement."
    - Tolkien, from The Book of Lost Tales II: The Fall of Gondolin
    "I don't know if the Road has ever been measured in miles
    beyond the Forsaken Inn, a day's journey east of Bree."
    - Strider, The Fellowship of the Ring: A Knife in the Dark

    "The Mole was a rough Noldorin Elf with an aloof demeanor and acted more like the humans he associated with
    more than a man of the Firstborn but he was a family friend and had treated the little girl kindly;
    she had taken a quick liking to him. Hatholdir, his lord, was taking some time away from the mainland and didn't
    need his bodyguard on the island which few people of Middle-earth dared to assail. He had allowed Astaro abroad
    for a short while. Beren had found him at The Forsaken Inn on his way to Rivendell; Camlost was on his way
    to warn Aigronding about Aura. Astaro had risked his life to help him rescue his daughter."
    - from Castles in the Sky, my upcoming thread in The Cottage of Lost Play

    Astaro was so captivated by the mysterious woman's regal bearing, he remained silent even

    for moments after she emotionally met his stare. "Are you lost, maiden?" he asked, holstering his
    weapons immediately. Somehow he had this distinctive feeling she was a harmless voyager.
    The Woman in Green stood rooted to the spot in the blood-stained room, slipping a large
    diamond key into a satchel as she looked at Astaro with a grief-stricken expression.
    - from How to Re-Civilize a Barbarian

    (Cassie, out of character): "Its an interesting question whether Astaro is just
    a nice guy advocating for justice for all free folk. Lol.

    Only he happens to work for someone who's actually
    done everything that people say he has lol."

    (Me, out of character): "Astaro is a nice bad boy who serves a sick,
    twisted rich person. He's like Han Solo working for Jabba the Hutt."

    "Kuruni: Witch, with a note: 'of the good magic.' "
    - Tolkien, from the Book of Lost Tales II: Appendix

    Astaro Torech handed Tindall two Bree-town silver coins for seeing to his horse. "Perhaps you could afford a month's supply of soap with that," wryly suggested the lone Mole. The elderly ostler often smelled like manure; whether or not this was due to his proximity to the beasts he cared for or if the reeking scent was his natural body odor, no one knew with any certainty.

    Tindall, usually a genial fellow, shook his fist at the Elf. "Gettin' real sick of your lot! Moles always got somethin' rude to say."

    "You should be thanking me," said Astaro with mock indignation. "I am helping, not insulting. There is no way you will catch the interest of rich, old Dale ladies passing through smelling like a donkey, sir."

    Tindall glared at him balefully but surprised the Mole when he suddenly made a wheezing laugh, slapping his knobby knees.

    Astaro, grinning, patted him on the back and crossed the short distance to the creaking floorboards of the inn's front porch. Backlit by the warm glow of the sunbeams streaming through the inn's glassless windows, Astaro sauntered toward the bar. Alerted by the musical jangle of the Elf's silver spurs, Amdir paused from working on his liquor display. He groaned deeply when he saw Hatholdir's bodyguard approaching the great oaken counter.

    "Can you ever say hello when you see me?"
    Astaro snapped at him moodily.

    "Can't you ever behave yourself here?"
    Amdir shot back, twisting his meaty hands around his dingy apron in annoyance.

    "I just walked in, not nearly enough time to cause a commotion. I'm afraid Hatholdir or Erfaron excell at that sort of thing instead. Me?"
    He shrugged his broad shoulders nonchalantly. "I like to make a ruckus at my leisure and I usually abstain from violence until after I eat my breakfast." Astaro chuckled after he said that; sometimes he amused even himself. People had asked him before Do you ever hear yourself talk? Of course he did and Astaro found himself quite entertaining. "I will be nice to you if you be nice to me. Let's practice." Astaro cheerfully smiled. "Hi, I hope you're day is going well!"

    "I think it just got worse,"
    Amdir gloomily responded, staring dismally at at the shelved bottles of ale, no doubt wishing he could have a drink.

    Astaro sneered at him. "You are not cooperating."

    "I always have a problem with Moles. You're a surly bunch. I won't forget what Erfaron did to that poor Dwarf."


    "Well, at least he had a bath; the little fellow might have waited until it rained otherwise,"
    predicted Astaro dryly.

    "The whole place got wet!"

    "Why do you have a problem with Erfaron whenever he makes a mess? You do that plenty often yourself."
    Astaro pointed at the holes in the inn's ceiling which was no good for business during spring showers.

    "What do you want to eat?" Amdir, seething, said through his clenched teeth. It hadn't been ten minutes but he was already fed up with the sarcastic fast-talking Elf.

    "Ah, ordering a meal, I was wondering if we'd ever get there,"
    Astaro commented with a sardonic air. "Chicken pot pie and a basket of fruit - fresh, mind you, none of those wormy apples you gave me the last time. A bottle of Skylord Cider, too; I hear it tastes like cotton candy."

    "We don't have anymore. Limited Supply, I'm afraid. First come, first served."

    Astaro pointed a finger at him with a menacing countenance. "I know you're hiding the Good Stuff somewhere. Don't make me get up and find it again."

    Amdir slammed down a bottle of the blue cider moments later and walked into the kitchen, grumbling. He reluctantly left the smirking Elf alone at the bar, fearing what he'd do to guests undersupervised. Most of the scars on his stern face were garnered by intervening in disputes Hatholdir, Erfaron, and Astaro had either viciously started or boldly finished.

    Astaro fanned himself with his black cowboy hat, cooling the summer heat from his tanned skin. While he waited for his food, he asked several customers if they had seen a beautiful elven woman travelling the Road. "Her eyes are as blue as summer skies," Astaro huskily mentioned with poetic flare, alluding to Veowyn Girarion, the lost love of his life, who seemed to be as elusive as Luthien Tinuviel. He frowned with a melancholy nod of his head, when they told him no. Perhaps I'll find her someday, he confidently assured himself with silent thought. Astaro could have told some of his closest friends of the young wild Elf-girl from Mirkwood he met briefly centuries ago. He could have spoke of his endless quest to discover her whereabouts, too, but he assumed they would call him a romantic fool so he asked journeying strangers instead.

    "You're a hard man to find, Torech."

    Astaro, sipping the contents of his tart drink, turned to face an unshaven mortal who had a dusky complexion. He leaned against the bar, a big hand resting on the pommel of his longsword.

    "I go where I please whenever I can,"
    said Astaro amiably with a glacial stare, "and have only one man to answer to."

    "Makes it hard for folks like me to track ya."


    Astaro tensed up though he remained seated very still like an indolent lion of the Rhunish savannahs. "Bounty hunter? I expect I may have broken some laws someplace down the Greenway," Astaro admitted casually, spreading his hands with an indifferent manner.

    Scruffy said nothing but his dark irises glinted with malice.

    Astaro sighed dramatically. "Look..." He got up and folded his muscled arms. "Is this about the boy in the South Downs?" The teenage human had been one of the Molehunters who pursued Hatholdir's subjects. Usually they were Elves but sometimes they hired sellswords to stalk Moles. Astaro had to protect himself, his king, and their friends.

    Scruffy's hand shook around the hilt of his weapon.

    "Ah. Related?"

    "His uncle."

    "Well. I'd like to give you an apology, sir,"
    said the Mole gravely. He took a long pull of his drink but he didn't let go of the bottle. He felt enraged. Astaro was sick of this nonesense, shielding himself and loved ones from the butchery of unforgiving people who couldn't get over something that happened eons before he was even born. "I'm sorry I had to defend myself against an unwarranted assault. I'm sorry that your nephew was brainwashed and was dumb enough to set aflame the camp I shared with some Hillmen you even call neighbors." His impassioned voice gained more strength as he inched forward until he stood a hand's breadth away from the vengeful Molehunter. "I'm sorry I tracked him down like a fox and scourged him as slowly as I did before I hanged the lad from a juniper tree." Astaro made a thin smile, brown eyes glinting brightly. "I hope this admission is sufficient. It's the thought that counts, you know."

    Scruffy started tugging the blade out of its scabbard but went down quick when Astaro harshly clubbed his jaw with the bottle. Several pubgoers - Hillmen, no doubt Molehunter pals Scruffy brought to the fight - stormed from their seats, hollering obscenities.

    Ignorning Amdir's strident protests as the innkeeper emerged from the kitchen with Astaro's meal, the Elf slid across the barcounter with elvish grace and a lopsided grin. Holding onto his beloved high-crowned felt hat, allowing the momentum of his slide to carry him over, he narrowly avoided a flurry of crossbow bolts. "You will never take me alive!" Astaro shouted pugnaciously, restraining a gale of laughter. It was a recurring cheesy line spoken by slick outlaws and charming antiheroes in penny dreadfuls which Miranda Lynn Clementine wrote. Snickering, he turned sideways to thwack Erfaron or Hatholdir on the arm comradely but alas neither of his fellow Moles were with him of course.

    Astaro removed the long daggers Sangwen poisoned from the silver velvet lining of his black dustercoat. He scrambled frantically toward the wall and flattened his back against it. Beads of sweat rolled down his spine and cheeks. A Mole travelling alone was dangerous. He was good at defending himself, of course, but Astaro knew he wasn't invincible and that without Hatholdir, Erfaron, and Hrango to back him up there was a risk he could be laid low....but today was not that day.

    Astaro blinked hearing the yells of triumph dissolving quickly into gurgling cries of pain. He wondered who was bailing him out of trouble this time. Hrango and Hatholdir would have left messages for him in Bree if they decided to have gone prospecting again on the mainland. Erfaron had remarked in his last letter he was serving the Halcyon Guard in the Angle which was days from here; there was a possiblity though his assignments had brought him far from the dreary forests and castled hills of that land.

    Astaro cautiously peeked over the bar...and jolted, mouth agape. Beren Camlost and his younger sister Bridgit moved fluidly in the sunshine, slashing down the Molehunters with vicious stabs and brutal sweeps of their bear-like claws. Tharmaras Isilherven - the father of Aigronding's daughter-in-law - and his son, Garavan who was Bridgit's husband, gallantly entered the fray along side Khallador Galerida, a Ranger and distant cousin of the Camlosts.

    "Yep, I think we're done here,"
    Bridgit surmised blithely with a giggle. Her fearsome claws and silken patches of tawny fur vanished, as she looked at the mangled pieces of Molehunters strewn across the bloodied floor.

    "Not quite, I believe we came here for some food,"
    Garavan disagreed, already moving toward the flabbergasted innkeeper with a merry smile. "Roasted pheasant, please, and tomato basil soup if you have it," requested the affable Elf in Breelander clothes. The yellow-haired gentleman handed Amdir a labradorite gemstone which beautifully flashed with iridescent color.



    "Peachy bread pudding with caramel sauce as usual,"
    said soft-spoken Khallador, doffing his cockel hat. "It's the only reason I come here, you know."


    "I must say I favor Emory's garlic herbed potatoes best,"
    Tharmaras remarked. Lindon's most devastatingly handsome Elf-lord took a seat at a rickety wooden table. He started polishing his sickle-shaped sword, a falcata of sad ancient history, which was slicked redly with Molehunter blood. He muttered to himself, confidently assuming Erfaron would thank him for something finally. "Ah, you sell cookies now, I see," Tharmaras observed, looking at the menu. "Are those arranged in decorative packaging?"

    Astaro choked back his laughter although Bridgit delightfully released hers. Tharmaras was out of his element here in the wild, always the center of hilarity in the frontier. "This is The Forsaken Inn, mellon," he said with a rueful shake of his head, "not the five-star inn of Cardhon Oaritsi!"

    "What's wrong with you people!"
    bellowed Amdir, waving at his fearful janitorial staff to clean up the mess and dispose of the corpses. "Y'all just strut in here-"

    "I do not strut,"
    Garavan protested.

    "You don't, sweetheart, but I do,"
    said Bridgit, her gleaming red lips curving into a wide brilliant smile.

    "- and kill people then sit down to eat like nothing happened!"
    Amdir continued to harangue them.

    "Really, you should be used to this sort of thing by now,"
    Bridgit said, twirling one of her honey-blonde curls around a finger as she studied the menu taken from Tharmaras without asking. She ignored his displeased expression with the slightest hint of an impish grin; seriously, the woman knew she was bad and she loved it. "If you're not, well, we are. For us, it's a Tuesday, no biggie."

    "It's not your place!" grumbled Amdir.

    "I'm grateful you arrived,"
    said Astaro, "though I probably could have handled this single-handedly."

    Bridgit rolled her blue eyes, snorting laughter
    . "Why do we have to keep saving your arse, Torech?" she asked in a dull monotone, crossing her legs as she turned to face him moodily.

    "Because I can't keep my mouth shut?" answered Astaro sunnily, flashing a roguish grin which melted every woman's heart except her own.

    "I hate Moles,"
    stated Amdir clearly although his voice had dropped an octave, walking back to the kitchen, but he smiled wanly at Beren who offered him several gold marks of the Bree-land.

    "Sorry for the mess, mate," he said with a chipper tone despite the sadness in his green eyes. He was unshaven and seemed melancholy, not his usual joyful self. "That's for the cleaning, the burying, the food, and the pleasure of doing business with ya gain, hoss. Oh...." He gave him another handful of the glittering coins. "Do something about that roof. C'mon, man-" he slapped Amdir on his back, winking "- fix this place up. What do you do with all the money ya get?"

    "Whenever I patch up the inn, y'all tear it down!"
    Amdir shot back, stuffing his trouser pockets with the coins and entered the kitchen once he angrily shoved the door open.

    "I'm surprised you are so generous with funds, Bear,"
    said Astaro, sitting on the reverse side of a chair at the table Tharmaras had chosen which the others had flocked to. "When this Elf-lord finally bankrupts himself with his expensive cleansing supplies and fragrant products, he will beg you for money."

    "Oh, stop,"
    Tharmaras laughed good-naturedly.

    Bridgit joined the fun and mocked her father-in-law's mellow voice obnoxiously, whirling her arms with desperate motions. "Beren, I have emptied Seagrove's coffers and I cannot pay my property tax! I have no place to live!"

    "Stop," Tharmaras insisted amiably although his blue eyes were glowing coldly now.

    "I bought too much Gondorian cologne,"
    Beren half-heartedly joked, "and there was that mithril amethyst necklace for Nariel..."

    Tharmaras tightened his jaw, blushing, as everyone belted out laughter so loud Nariel herself might have heard it in Lindon. "Enough. Seriously."

    Astaro, relentless, kept going. "Travelling around Middle-earth with a clawfoot tub in a covered wagon the size of an oliphaunt. Maeglin's steel gate! You're definitely her match, gwador. She's the only other friend I know who tramps about with a fancy sink."

    "She's probably just courting him to use his wagon so she doesn't have to make Erfaron or Aranadhel drag her luggage to Hildorien and back again,"
    mused Khallador, chortling around the stem of the long pipe he lighted.

    "Long journeys into perilous realms is no excuse for bad hygiene,"
    Tharmaras said acidly with a gimlet stare. "Admit it, Bridgie, you are thankful I was well stocked with soap and bottled water during this trip. You've been moderately washed and smelling like flowers instead of sweat and your own filth, much to your comfort...and ours."

    "If she's not thankful, I am, Ada," said Garavan, holding his father's shoulder anxiously, unnoticing his wife's displeasure for Tharmaras' caustic lecture.

    "Anyways,"
    drawled Tharmaras, looking arrogantly victorioius, "how about a change of conversation? What are you doing out here, Astaro?"

    "I could ask you all the same thing."


    "You first,"
    Beren implored. "our story is longer."

    "And more exciting,"
    Khallador mumbled and blew smoke-rings through the air.

    "Wait a second," Astaro said, snatching his new drink out of a server's hand as their meals were brought from the kitchen. "What do you mean more exciting? I have led a storied existence!"

    "Don't flatter yourself," Bridgit replied in monotone, helping herself to a drumstick of Garavan's roast pheasant. "You serve a megalomaniac who's more obsessed with looking good than doing good and let's you off his leash whenever he doesn't need to go anywhere to watch his back. Boring, sorry." She smiled condescendingly at him. "That's why you're here, right? Because Hatholdir is safe on the island?"

    Astaro said nothing, just like a Mole. He wasn't only rankled by Beren's outspoken sister but didn't want to speak of Sangwen, his elven lover. She was a slave on Tol Noldare for whom he made occasional forays into dangerous corners of Eriador in search of poisonous flowers. Her true name was Edlothia however Hatholdir changed it to haughtily symbolize his ownership of her. Astaro couldn't remain on the island for too long too frequently or Hatholdir would discover his torrid assignations with his most prized poisoner and talented brewmistress. Astaro still yearned to reunite with Veowyn someday; until then, he enjoyed the soul-stirring passion shared with the blonde elleth with the startling blue eyes.

    There was a chance Astaro could have rescued the thralls Hatholdir purchased from the Umbarians, thus saving Edlothia from bondage, but it anguished him to forswear his allegiance and sully his friendship with Hatholdir. Hrango and Erfaron would probably find themselves embroiled in the civil war his trespass would engender with Lindon; they might be killed or would avenge Hatholdir by killing Astaro. So he said nothing...he had no choice. No one but Moles were permitted to visit or live on Tol Noldare; no one knew of the small population of slaves Hatholdir had based there and Astaro preferred to keep their existence a secret even from Erfaron. He was cool-tempered but the High Elf had more honor than the Mole King, that was for certain...there was no telling who he would tell if determined to bring an end to Hatholdir's slavery of Elves and Men.

    "Sooo about that long story," said Khallador and leaned back in his chair, nursing his beer, allowing someone else to debrief Astaro.

    "When I returned to Bree following the debacle at
    Angmar you may have heard about, Miranda told me she was pregnant," Beren explained. He didn't speak for half a minute, drinking Archet Acerglyn - a maple mead - from his lebethron tankard. Perhaps he was trying to get a grip on his emotions; Astaro didn't fail to notice how whitened his knuckles turned while Camlost firmly held the cup's handle. "I was finally ready to put down roots and would help raise our child. She wanted me to be sure that marriage wasn't just something I promised in the heat of the moment. So I came to Lindon, figuring I'd ask Tharmaras if he could take me to the Wethrin Isles so I can spend some time with Bridgit and Garavan; I hoped the solitude of Mel Lona could give me the peace of mind I needed to make this irrevocable decision, giving up adventuring for her."

    "And womanizing," Bridgit put in snarkily although she fondly smiled at him. Little sisters had to playfully rib their big brothers occasionally; she didn't get to see him often so she was, of course, trying to get in her digs as much as possible.

    "Anyways," Beren said through a fit of genuine laughter. "Tharmaras needed some time to think about his relationship with Nariel, too, so he staid with us for the autumn and winter."

    "I was also ashamed I couldn't tell her where I was going,"
    Tharmaras admitted with a brittle voice, miserably staring at his potatoes.
    Valion Mordagnir didn't want anyone on the mainland to know he lived on Mel Lona with his family, fearing Aigronding would leave Rivendell and forsake his heraldship.

    "So you two are ready to give the attention your women deserve?"
    assumed Astaro, accepting a slice of peachy bread from Khallador.

    "Well, yes, but..."
    Beren's words trailed off weakly. Knitting his brow, he glanced at Tharmaras who frowned rather gravely.

    Astaro washed his dessert down with the cider and grinned at Beren. "What's so embarrassing? I'm breathless with anticipation."

    "Not embarrassing...just unexpected. I met my daughter on Mel Lona."

    "You have a kid?
    I expect you have little ones in every town from Bree to Khand!"

    "She's a witch."


    Astaro barked out a laugh. "That doesn't surprise me either. So this child of yours is Kuruni?" Kuruni was a Sindarin name Elves had given good magic-users since the days of the Numenorean enchanters to signify their allegiance to the Free Peoples and not Sauron whom Morgul sorcerers of Rhudaur and Umbar served.

    "No, she is a Morgul adept but has my goodness,"
    told Beren clearly with a flinty gaze; it was obvious he cared for his daughter strongly. "although the lass, a young girl of eleven, inherited her
    mother's dark power which she has mastered potently. When I fought along side the rebels of the East, I fancied a freedom fighter and eventually married her. Tharmaras and Tarias discovered her ture name was Aura and that she was the Princess of Rhudaur, the Witchqueen of its Coven. She's descended from Cynwrig who was an evil lord of the Hillmen of Eriador. Not all of of his sorcerers perished centuries ago; plenty of them fled to Dunland where their kin lived. The Archmagus himself still lives and he commanded Aura to seduce me."

    "She fell for him instead,"
    said Tharmaras more to himself than anyone else, looking extremely puzzled. "Such a strange thing that someone so hateful could love so much."

    "When I realized her identity I broke it off with her, the whole thing. I forsook my vows. As you can imagine-"
    Beren huffed out a bitter laugh "- she didn't like that. Aura put me under a love spell and took me to Mordor once she had wounded Tharmaras and Tarias. One of the Blue Wizards, Pallando, who was one of our insurgent leaders came to my rescue in the Ash Mountains. He shattered the enchantment but I couldn't bring myself to hurt Aura since I still cared for her. The Istar nearly killed the witch but she magically fled from his wrath...and now I know why."

    "She feared for her unborn child's life," guessed Astaro correctly. "You didn't know she was pregnant."

    "I supposed she would have if given the opportunity. She was in such haste to reach Mordor and needed to protect herself from the wizard. It just never came up and I never knew where Aura had gone nor the place where the Coven had centered itself until recently."


    "So this girl of yours was searching for you?"

    "She and
    her mother were looking for a rebellious witch of the Coven in the Bree-land. It was there that my daughter felt my presence; although I was already gone some trace of my essence still lingered. Aileen extended her awareness of it toward Lindon and contacted me using a magical talent she calls astral projection. Aileen warned me of the Coven's meddling in the Angmar affair, its allegiance with the Umbarians, and their ties with the Dunlendings. Aileen doesn't know much of her mother's dealings with the Corsairs or Jadis but she is privy to Aura's plan to assault Rivendell with the savages, mages, and trolls." Beren gritted his teeth, his green irises flaming in anger. "Aileen tells me she's abused for not comforming to the Coven's ideals. Aura has forced our child against her will to attack the Rohirrim and the Rangers of the North. I have to save my daughter from her mother's monstrous evil."

    "That's why my wife, father, and I have come along with him,"
    said Garavan.

    "You are helping, too?" Astaro asked Khallador.

    "Yes. She's family and were it not for Aileen, Aura would have killed me at Annuminas. That's where I first met her a few days ago before Beren met me in Bree, coming from the islands."

    Astaro nodded his head quietly, trying to maintain his composure.
    He had met a mysterious woman named Aileen in the Trollshaws shortly before he met Veowyn many centuries ago. The Moleguard had this uncanny feeling they could be the same person. The thought bewildered him. The Aileen he knew had been an adult woman, not a child. I'm foolish Astaro mused silently. Aileen is a common name among mortals.

    "You're good in a fight, buddy,"
    said Beren, slapping Astaro on his back. "We could use you."

    "I would be honored to accompany you and your family," Astaro fervently replied, clasping Beren's forearm. "As you know, I promised your ancestor - Veren - that I would protect and serve his descendants if necessary. Hatholdir doesn't need me right now, my friend, but you do."

    "I hope we don't need you for too long," Garavan said worriedly, pushing fingertips over his tidy golden hair, "or Hatholdir might be upset." They all knew Hatholdir was a jealous king. If his chief servants like Astaro tarried far from home longer than anticipated, he usually considered it derelection of duty and dispatched searches to locate the offender. That was never a good thing...

    Astaro waved his hand dismissively with a smug grin. "Do not worry about me, Isilherven, I will clear the valley's borders of those fiends in a day or two," bragged the Elf, already fitting on his cowboy hat as he rose up. "Finish your meals. I will be outside." He sauntered onto the front porch...and seized the railing's edge to keep himself from falling.

    *
    "Are we there yet?" griped Matt Rogers, falling asleep on his pony.

    "Matty, you know as well as I do we're a few yards away,"
    Anne Crown responded saucily to the saddlesore halfling. She steered her black thoroughbred stallion - Nightrunner - off the Road, leading the party on a dirt pathway toward the inn. "You might be the size of a ten-year-old but you're really a grown man. Quit whining. You'll get your bed soon enough, so hush!" The inn was just a day's ride from Bree but the Hobbits had been travelling all the way from the Shire nearly for the last few days, driven impetuously by the urgent demand of Calselda and Elmarya.

    "Look, Astaro and Beren are here," said Telkelion's daughter, pointing out the Elf and Man standing on the porch of The Forsaken Inn. Astaro clenched the balustrade, eyebrows raised and mouth agape, staring wide-eyed at Mara.

    "Do you two know each other?" Nathan asked the seer. She gave an imperceptible nod, shutting her green eyes for a moment, saying nothing.

    "Fancy seeing y'all here same time as us,"
    Beren said with a small laugh, exchanging hugs with the Crowns and the Hobbits. The Isilhervens and Khallador had also emerged from the inn. The Ranger gave Mara a scrutinizing look, perhaps because she was so finely attired and since she was one of two strangers in the party of close friends.

    "We're escorting the girls to Rivendell,"
    Anne explained, gesturing toward the Elves. "Elmarya you know but her friend, Calselda Dimrell, is Aigronding's daughter...we think. If we're correct, she's a Mordagnir."

    Beren gawked at the tall elven blonde speechlessly for half a minute before rolling a palm over his raven hair, sighing heavily. "Man, I got to sit down for this one." He sat on an aged wooden bench but the old thing immediately broke under his arse. As Beren rubbed his injured backside, Calselda gave an account of her journey. Distracted by the astonishing arrival of Mordagnir's illegitmate daughter who no one knew existed, Astaro led Mara around the back of the inn.

    *
    "You must be the woman I met in the Trollshaws once upon a time and a witch like I had thought." It was a statement, not a question. "Your memory has haunted my thoughts for too many seasons," he softly mentioned behind her, nervously fiddling with the brim of his hat. "I have often wondered when I might see you again...in some way. If you need my help, just ask me and I will serve you well."

    The mage turned around to regard him solemnly. "You may act tough, Astaro Torech, but you are one of the sweetest men I have ever known," complimented the good witch, hugging him with an almost daughterly affection. "Did you find the blue-eyed Elf-girl like I told you?"

    "Yes but she left Rivendell shortly after we met," he said despondently. "I have searched for her but to no avail."

    "You will discover Veowyn's whereabouts soon, possibly,"
    she responded with a voice so quietly spoken the Elf had to ask her twice to repeat herself.

    Astaro pursed his lips, holding the witch's lissome arms. "I need answers from you badly -"

    She pressed her fingertips against his mouth, quickly preventing him from speaking her name. "Call me Mara."

    "The Sorrowful Woman of the Sea?"
    Astaro translated the Dunlendish word into the Common Speech.

    "It's important you do so,"
    she immediately explained, not bothering to divulge why she had picked such a pecuilar monicker for her travels, "or I will not be able to change the grim events of the next few days. It is imperative that I keep my identity a secret for a little while, please."

    "Very well,"
    Astaro reluctantly agreed but he insisted the witch tell him what she was up to. Mara, as he feared, only gave him the abridged version of her journey. "So you're going to Rivendell with my friends to stop the witches and their allies from besieging it?" Astaro said summarized.

    "That is correct. I have mastered a magical skill known as
    wenanmancy. I am able to foresee many possible futures at once." Mara shuddered. "If Aura Camlost, the Witch Queen and Beren's former wife, triumphs then Eriador will fall to the Enemy," she said, her voice as cool as Forochel ice. "We must not allow this to happen."

    "What must I do?" Astaro asked readily, sweeping his arms graciously wide.

    Mara laid hands on his chest, the emerald of her Elf-friend ring brilliantly catching the light of the risen sun. "You must work with a half-elf Ranger, Moriel, to protect a child at Ost-Carloth. The citadel is located in the high moor of Rivendell. Get the lass inside the fortress. She has a very special task."

    "Killing the Witch Queen,"
    uttered Astaro, leaning his brow against hers as he tried to console her with tender rubs of both hands.

    "I have concluded there is no other way to end this fight, that no one but her is powerful enough to contest Aura's tyrrany,"
    Mara whispered, weeping already. "A greater tragedy than Aileen's must be averted or this world will be mired in brutality which it has never experienced before." She grasped him more tightly. Her green eyes glistened with hot tears as she miserably gazed at Beren whose brawny arms were reassuringly looped over the shoulders of the Elven women as they walked toward their horses. "I have foreseen the worst future for too long. A little girl who will not destroy her evil mother, a heroic, loving father who would sacrifice his life to protect hers. The mother lived, the father died, and Middle-earth suffered. The devastated child, wracked by guilt, growing up in Lindon, the last bastion of freedom in Eriador. Always striving to guard Arda from its most dangerous threat which she chose not to crush in her youth but always failing, always ignoring the root of the great problem....but no more. The path is ciruclar and destructive, burning hope away over and over. I have decided how to avoid that awful misfortune and make things the way they ought to be, not just for the girl's sake but for every good soul's. I cannot do it alone though..."

    She uplifted her wet face, clutching the sides of his neck with a desperate look. She did not ask for his help directly but he sensed she wanted to so Astaro kissed her forehead, swearing a wordless vow of unflagging devotion. For the moment, he was no longer Hatholdir's soldier...he was hers. Mara felt a small measure of peace
    as he brushed aside errant wisps of ebony hair stirring about her somber hooded face in the summer breeze.


    *

    RHUDAUR / THE ANGLE
    TROLLSHAWS


    "The Wood-elves...were very fond of wine."
    ~ Tolkien, The Hobbit: Barrels out of Bond

    The Silvan Elves were hardy and valiant...also
    they were independent...Silvan folk were rude and rustic...

    ~ Tolkien, from Unfinished Tales

    "Not far ahead were dreary hills, rising higher and higher,
    dark with trees. On some of them were old castles with an
    evil look, as if they had been built by wicked people."
    - Tolkien, from The Hobbit: Roast Mutton


    "Authil."


    Taurina Ithildinloch
    ordered Robert Evinwing to give her his report of the night's watch.

    "Perimeter scouting suggests there's nothing volatile in the area," he replied, taking a seat on the red Crystalpool rattan chair across from Taurina's, "except for a drove of wild swine."

    "What in Angband is going on?" Taurina swore under her breath. She took an urgent sip of her Mirkwood Elderflower wine and massaged her temples, trying to mitigate the pain of her worsening headache. Ever since
    Emerald Heights she had scoured the Trollshaws with the Halcyon Guard, Rangers of the North, and some companies of the Lindonese forces on loan from Lord Cirdan. She yet to find the giants which definitely had entered the gloomy towered forest. "How can a group of giants evade notice?"

    "Perhaps by magic?"
    he wagered.

    Taurina's silver hair whipped radiantly backward as she tilted her head to the rear with bursting laughter. "Evil Giants aren't Morgul Casters, Rob. They're deadly brutes but incapable of using sorcery."

    "I didn't suggest the
    Giants were using it," Robert said cryptically.

    Taurina blinked at him, taking a long taste of her drink, and regarded him thoughtfully in silence for several moments before answering the Gryphon's Claw. "You believe they were protected by the concealing sorcery of the Coven?"

    "The Angle is
    Rhudaur, yes?"

    "That is correct and Rivendell itself lies near it but the sorcerers are dead. They died a long time ago. I think you're being very superstitious, Bree-lander."

    A muscle tensed in the mercenary captain's jaw. He remained calm when he replied to her, accepting a tankard of melomel - an apple honey mead from Archet - which his quiet servant, Milneth, had prepared for him. "They lived here for a time and many of them were killed by the Elves and Dunedain but most of the Coven's mages faded into obscurity. I've heard Gandalf the Grey say the number of Sauron's most sinister agents are growing daily. Do you not think some of them may be witches who have inherited or studied the dark arts of Morgul?" Robert peered keenly at her as he drank his mead, ignoring her disapproval; speaking the demon's name was frowned upon usually in the company of Elvenkind but Robert didn't seem to care. "Bree-landers are usually considered to be country bumpkins compared to the civilized folk of Gondor but we are not stupid and know a thing or two about history, Taurina. It is said that the Messenger of Sauron became enamoured of evil knowledge and has learned great sorcery. You don't think others have done the same or have lived as long as he has? Will you truly ignore the messages we've been sent regarding
    Aura, the Marsh Witch?"

    "Thranduil's damned elk,"
    Taurina groaned, sliding fingertips through her bright hair in utter grief. "I hate it when you humans make sense."

    Aewrusca hurried randomly into the tent with the exuberance of a frightened squirrel pursued by a hungry wolf. The cutesy energetic Elf-girl was now a healer for the Host of Rivendell. She hoped military service would enable her to evade math homework and permit Aewrusca more time with her crush, Edan Amrun's page. Lhaindir was a brainy noble boy her age who knew every verse of the Lay of Leithian so well he could recite each canto backwards, it made her swoon.

    Elves were customarily reckoned to be graceful beings but there was, as they said in Bree, always a few bad apples spoiling the whole barrell; like Lord Salgant of Gondolin, Aewrusca lacked the flawlessness of Elvenhood. The klutsy Elf-girl tripped over her own feet and fell with a cry. One of her slender arms whirled, knocking over a gilded lampstand, while the other simultaneously swatted lemon loaf off Milneth's pewter tray.

    "I was really looking forward to eating that," said Robert, said unhappily, watching Liberty - his green Mirkwood riverhound - devouring the sun-shiney sweetbread, swishing her long furry tail with excited movements. He waved at Milneth to right the lampstand and arched a brow, giving Aewrusca a gimlet stare, expecting an explanation for her unexpected presence.

    "Just what are you doing?"
    Taurina hissed, hauling Aewrusca up, tightly gripping her arm. "Martial discussions are no place for a child." She was getting sick of so many pages and squires in the host. Most of the highborn teenagers were immature and Taurina had to wait an infuriating amount of time before the young elves of Rivendell and Tol Noldare became serious leaders. Now that healers Aewrusca's age were being sent to tend warriors in the field, Taurina's frustration had deepened considerably. Anyone can improve their behavior and make a difference but it didn't happen fast; it irritated her very much.

    Aewrusca
    made a small sound of discomfort, impelling Taurina to remove her fierce hold on the child. She felt a pang of guilt, noticing how mousy she appeared, withering beneath the authil's venomous stare. "Well, speak. You came here for a reason, didn't you?" Taurina remarked firmly. She would treat everyone the same way, including the children and she hoped her own acerbic nature would inspire them to toughen their own hearts. Middle-earth was a dangerous place. "You should be with Edan Amrun and Tavari Mordagnir. Did the taidron and Arahiril send you here?" Tavari's duties as Arahiril had been keeping her busy since
    Lord Elrond had commanded Aigronding, her brother and the Halcyon commander, to take a leave of absence.

    "Yes, they they wanted me to give a message," said Aewrusca, sobered by the authil's sternness. "Edan and Tavari encountered a caravan of Harlindon Dwarves fleeing an enemy force here in the forest. The stunted ones require aid to rescue their captured armorers from their powerful captors. Edan and Tavari fear they are either outnumbered or outmatched, perhaps both, and ask for your company here at the encampment to aid them. They're riding to Minas Baul."

    "A powerful enemy? What danger are they facing? A horde of trolls, I expect."

    "No,"
    Aewrusca said flatly. She trembled like a shaken tree bearing the onslaught of a Belfalas hurricane. "Sorcerers and Dunlending braves, authil."

    Taurina stood rigidly, her spine tingling with icy dread as she shared a look with Robert and Milneth. She knew viscerally somehow that nothing in their lives would ever be the same again.

    "Lhaindir and my friend, Dineth,are with their guards!"
    Aewrusca blurted, tears spilling from her big blue eyes, when none of the adults said anything. She latched onto Taurina, circling her waist tightly. "Will you not ride out to meet them?"

    Taurina rolled her palm over the Elf-girl's long brown curls, a rare gesture of affection. "Of course, dear."

    She asked Robert to ready his men and to tell Caranfindel to muster the elven troops. Time seemed to slow around Taurina, strands of silver streaming aloft in the summer wind, as she walked from her tent and whistled for her horse. She asked Camando to ride ahead of her as part of a group acting as advance scouts.

    A slow feral smile widened her lush red mouth. Taurina had never battled a witch before. This was going to be interesting.


    - Source Image: Asa Butterfield -

    THE END


    THE JOURNEYS OF CALSELDA AND HER COMPANIONS
    WILL INTERSECT WITH THE TRAVELS OF MANY
    CHARACTERS - MINE AND OTHER MEMBERS' -
    IN THE REVENGE OF RHUDAUR RPG,
    COMING TO ERIADOR THIS SUMMER!

    I know how important this RPG is to several people
    - Ercassie, Moriel, and Nolewen just to name a few - so I look forward
    to GM'ing it. Revenge of Rhudaur is as important to me as Ages of Arda. Seriously.
    I care about it that much. The RPG is critically important to all of our characters;
    its events, although not yet written, has affected the lives of our
    beloved creations for the last three years and will continue to shape
    their destinies as time goes on. It'll be my deepest,
    satisfying pleasure to forge its story with you all.




    - Source Image: Eva Green -


    Last edited by Beren Camlost; 29/May/2017 at 07:34 AM. Reason: Typos and phrasing
    "I curse the fading of the light."
    - The Beast

  3. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
    Elder of Imladris
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    Sep 2004
    #203
    Menelote
    Alqualondë, Years of the Trees
    Water and Ice


    Lunchtime in school typically occurred in the waning hours of Telperion, in the 6th or 7th hour or so. Today, Menelote's mother made her roast fish, with crispy skin yet perfectly cooked, and packed the small juicy delicacy with various fruits and vegetables in a small wooden box. The black-haired child thus experienced the early hours of her second day at school, with a constant reminder of what awaited her stomach by lunchtime.

    She was dressed in a light blue one-piece feathery dress, such as the fashion for Teleri girls at the time, with a light blue sash binding the dress to her waist, allowing the bottom of the dress to expand and flutter with the wind as she ran. Barefoot, Menelote was, allowing her to be quicker and more nimble than those with shoes. Though she longed to discard said dress, her parents told her that such an act would prove too distracting for the other students and teachers to learn and instill Menelote the knowledge of Arda, passed down from the Valar and their forebearers.

    Most of her classes were outside, where they learned such information as the language of the Teleri, and the early history of their origins. Then came storytime, where the teacher told the story of The Three Elves, in which the big bad Melkor threatened to blow apart their homes through dissonant singing. At this point, Menelote struggled to barely contain her laughter, and looked around for the reaction of others. Many of the other elf children were rapt with terrified attention. Then Menelote looked for a spot of white hair, to which her sniggers and smile ended, and a narrowed glare replaced her features. For Menellótë, the person the teacher often confused the black-haired elf with, was not terrified nor amused.

    The white-haired child had the most unreadable plain look that Menelote could not decipher. At all. This but furthered her desire to investigate her supposed white-haired 'doppelganger' when she had time.

    So during lunchtime, instead of eating with the other elves, the black-haired child quietly followed Menellótë, who appeared to be carrying something,at a distance. Whenever the latter appeared to look behind her, Menelote darted at once behind a convenient tree, bush, or shrubbery to hide. Then Menelote would slowly peer from the tree, bush, or shrubbery to check if the white-haired one was still looking.

    Once it looked like the coast was clear, the chase continued until finally Menellótë stopped at a certain place and unveiled... canvas and a brush?

    After some time, the black-haired child's eyes widened in shock, then quickly narrowed in another glare. Was she being drawn?

    Her bare feet stomped on the ground, in a fit of anger, as the birds who had perched themselves to her hair when she hid behind a bush stayed and continued serenading to each other.

    She stomped until she was barely two feet away from Menellótë.

    "Oi! Look at me!" Menelote squeaked loudly to her...
    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 25/May/2017 at 04:43 AM.


  4. Ercassie's Avatar
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    #204

    Water and Ice - Part 1 (Semi-Private with RivvyElf)

    ’So I've always lived like this, keeping a comfortable distance.
    And up until now I have sworn to myself that I'm content with loneliness.
    Because none of it was ever worth the risk.
    Well you are the only exception ..


    (The Only Exception, Paramore)




    Menellótë Lindesûl
    Alqualondë, YT


    The world was ever escorted by music. The trick was to detect it. Whether it might emerge from the playful squalling of dare-diving gulls, or the gentle moan of a teasing wind that tore about the pearly spires of the sea city. There were some melodies of course which were impossible to ignore, for the best of reasons. Day began in the Tower of Windsong, same each day as that before it. Praise to the almighty Ulmo carried in the laughter of bronze bells. These threw themselves from suspension and swang back upon melodious return. One day not yet come, those same bells would warn all Alqualondë of an assault at the harbour. They would peel with grief and horror in the tears thereafter. This day though, they knew not yet of terror or such need. They sang, and knew, only of joy.

    Menellótë, stood on the street, glanced back her smooth neck over one shoulder as her parents commenced with their longstanding musical custom. Her sister, in their lead, then forced to mirror the reluctant gesture, calling for the younger to keep up. They must to school, and Minuelira was charged with ensuring that both girls managed this small feat. Still Menellótë was loath to further herself from the song of their loving nest.

    You do like school ?Minuelira prompted, suddenly expectant and growing increasingly more concerned at the responsive pause. Confused, she closed in on Menellótë, and took up her hand. “You would tell me, sister,” she supposed, dubious. “If you were unhappy ?Menellótë drank of her beloved and popular sister and was hard pressed to dismay her. “You must find, each day, a thing to look forward to experiencing,” was the adolescent’s advice. “If you can do that .. ?

    I can do that,Menellótë decided. She clamped her shoulder bag across her chest, with both arms crossed before it, like a shield or comforting toy. “I can learn of strange new things at school,” she smiled, carefully.

    Minuelira took a moment to convince herself of this response. Then came the summons of her fellow Madrigals, and she was away. “Be happy !” she threw out the counsel as a well-meant compensation, even as she flew, with arms outstretched like wings in greeting to her flock, her friends. Those girls were Minuelira’s cause for happiness, that she looked forward, always, to being a part of. The acapella choir garbed in uniform white lace. Acolytes of all sounds fair and lyrical that they might raise in wonder and in worship of their carefree world.

    Menellótë watched them, in silence, as their talent muted gently into memory. She sighed in relief of the escape from attention, rallied her resources and found her way to the school alone. She could take her time now and she made sure to manipulate her stride so that the slender silver ankle-chain with tiny bells gave her a smile to accompany their song the whole journey there.



    It was a thing of ease to seat herself down quietly amongst the throng of other children. She smoothed down her hand-me-down white frock and glanced about her as they went about being themselves. Young boys hurling makeshift nets at one another, all in play, naïve still to the life lessons they were evolving and the skills that one day would shape their lives, as their fathers before them. Girls threaded precious shells all in a line to conjure necklaces, and compared the silk kerchiefs they had embroidered. She knew by now the names of those girls which were spoken the most often. She could not have aligned them with their keepers though. For there was but a one who had stood out and caught her interest. A discharge of mirth blasting above the fray. That was her. That was Menelote.

    Dark hair, bright eyes, vivid and lively and there were all manner of adjectives that she might use to describe the strange girl. What was more difficult to seize was how she dared to pick up her skirts, race the boys, and win ! How she could question what every other soul took for granted. How in all the stars was she to sit still for more than a moment long enough to be considered properly ?

    It came to the point of their break from lessons, meant for the taking of refreshment. Menellótë had thoughts toward replenishing her energy and interest another way. She would have to forego her lunch this day but the sacrifice would hopefully be worth it. She had, after all, already made sacrifices. To rise with her mother and gather enough oysters to trade for a stretch of canvas from the sail-makers. Now fastened taut over a small frame of wooden border, it awaited a subject. The small wooden brush which yearned to dance it’s creation across that backdrop had been finished with the finest hair bristles. A small wooden box held four small glass bottles. These had been the craft of her summer, trading for eggs, herbs and spices from the market, so that she might blend the yolk with intriguing seasoning for the best colour combinations. She had pleased her mother with the thought that she enjoyed their time collecting oysters together. She had improved her swimming also. Her mother had confided in Menellótë's father that the girl 'seemed to be finding herself' after all. This confused their daughter, who had been going out of her way to subdue herself. Sacrifice. They loved her of course, unconditionally. But they did worry so. Her childhood was not as theirs had been and they knew not what would come of it all, except that her life would like not be similar to theirs either ..


    But now, for present, the strange girl put her mind to a girl just as strange, resolved to make her illustrated record of this oddity, of Menelote, for further research. Calmly, Menellótë rose from where the bulk of children frolicked. Slinging her shoulder bag provocatively, to suggest the meaning of it’s heft, she laid eyes about her target and held there just long enough to engage. Before setting out some steps. She paused there, and glanced over one shoulder. Then made off anew. And so the same, over and over. She had hopes that Menelote might make chase, but at no point did she see the other girl behind her. At no point did she cease her game though. She knew better.

    The last time that she turned around caused it to be the last time. Menellótë’s impossibly pale eyes widened to the point of moons that eclipsed her whole expression. The girl was there, impossible to ignore. Between the stomping charge, and the serenading birds that crowned her dark hair …. Her prey fell into an unexpected smile that she looked not to dissuade.

    I am looking at you,” she observed, at length and matter of fact, when the girl gave up no further demand. “I have been looking at you, wondering of you.” The pale-haired girl beheld the dark-haired girl more (more ?) intently, as though to make point. And they two were like day first meeting night. “I would draw your likeness ..” she presumed, softly, to test the opinion of her muse.
    Last edited by Ercassie; 18/Jul/2017 at 07:05 AM. Reason: icon

  5. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #205
    Menelote
    Alqualondë, Years of the Trees
    Water and Ice



    For a brief moment a victorious smirk appeared on Menelote's face, as she saw that finally her white-haired doppelganger expressed some emotion. She didn't know eyelids could appear that wide! The smirk quickly turned into a small frown, as the increased light coming from Menellótë's wide eyes strained the black-haired elf's eyes. Finally, after a minute or two, her eyes closed themselves and she shook her head, the birds departing from her head and flying elsewhere, still singing their song.

    Embarassed at losing the impromptu staring contest, Menelote gave a measured upward stare, her eyes inspecting the white-haired elf's likeness, as if she herself was also going to paint her likeness on the canvas. Menelote then locked eyes with her doppelganger again, as the latter finally spoke, making it known that she too wondered about the black-haired girl, and apparently wanted to draw her likeness.

    So the black-haired elf brought her index finger to rest at the bottom of her chin, her eyes narrowing in contemplation, as she considered her response, averting eye-gaze. She concentrated, thinking...

    Minutes passed.

    The birds returned to roost upon Menelote's hair.

    Then a small smile cracked and revealed itself on the black-haired elf's face, "Flattering, yes. But I shall permit you to draw my likeness on one condition," she responded, gesturing with the same hand the number '1',

    "that we be friends, forever and always."

    Menelote offered her hand in friendship, her twinkling eyes looking into Menellótë's own.


    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 31/May/2017 at 05:40 AM.


  6. Ercassie's Avatar
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    #206

    Water and Ice - Part 2 (Semi-Private with RivvyElf)

    I've been watching your world from afar
    I've been trying to be where you are
    And I've been secretly falling apart. Unseen
    To me, you're strange and you're beautiful ..


    (Strange and Beautiful, Aqualung)




    Menellótë Lindesûl
    Water and Ice
    Alqualondë, YT


    The stranger told a story first through the flicker of emotions. Menellótë calmly watched the evolution of the girl’s opinion unfold, before her very eyes. Now the dark-haired girl seemed to surrender her permission, which begged the question, how could she have honestly halted the artist ? Did she intend to hide forever in a shrubbery, camouflaged by songbirds ? The winged ones fled from the confrontation yet could not keep from spying out it’s conclusion. In truth, their presence made their hostess even more so of an inspiring muse. For the contrast between the scowling maiden and her obliviously carefree, feathered friends was begging to be etched to permanence. Would she dare to break Menellótë’s hand so that to conceive any illustrated image be too painful ? She might of course try .. Of all things, this girl did not seem alarmed by the frank confession.

    At some great length, Menellótë beheld the offered hand of Menelote. She appraised it’s intention, carefully, and somewhat dubious. She had not meant to flatter for it was not her way. The dark haired girl was smiling nonetheless. The pale haired girl marvelled at this fortuitous turn of events. Might be that she would come to learn something in school this day after all ..

    Friends,” she mirrored, softly. And then rolled her tongue about the foreign word a second time, though silent. Negotiations had begun. “I have never had a friend,” she confessed and wondered where they went from here.
    Last edited by Ercassie; 18/Jul/2017 at 07:05 AM. Reason: Icon

  7. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #207
    Menelote
    Alqualondë, Years of the Trees
    Water and Ice


    "Truly?" Menelote asked, her smile turning into a surprised expression, her mouth forming into an 'o'. She withdrew her outstretched hand, placing it underneath her chin as her face scrunched and formed into a quizzical expression. Perhaps her white-haired doppelganger did not yet know the meaning of the word 'friendship'. Still, she had to make sure!

    "Not even with the birds, the trees, the flowers?" she asked. The birds perched on Menelote stopped their serenading, and began tweeting and flying towards the sea-foam white hair of the other Menellótë. They would try to perch themselves on the latter elf, if Menellótë allowed.

    "What about the conches, the turtles, the sand, the earth? Or the sea of grassy plains when Laurelin shines brightest?" Menelote continued, naming off objects that she considered being friends with. The turtles seemed to be the most receptive, as both the sand and the earth seemed rather unresponsive when Menelote greeted them years ago when she first learned how to talk. The dark-haired elf pondered again, then pointed at the canvas.

    "If you were not friends with the canvas, would the canvas allow you to paint on her?" Menelote asked Menellótë, hoping the latter was not confused about the question... Because to be honest Menelote wasn't sure of the answer to such a philosophical question.

    Fearing that Menellótë would be bored or insulted by the current questions on friendship, Menelote haltingly waved her hands in front of her head and squeaked, "wait, wait. I know!"

    She pulled out her small wooden lunchbox.

    "Friendship is like sharing food and drink, at least that's what father told me," Menelote said, fidgeting with trying to open the box as she began showing a little nervousness, "...I don't think I have any drink though. But anyways, friends share their food."

    At this point, she opened the box, and turned it around to show her white-haired doppelganger, "I speared the little fish by myself. You can eat it!"

    A slight pause later, and Menelote cried, "Wait, wait!"

    "First, we should shake hands. It is a sign that we trust each other not to break each other's hands, or... I don't know exactly why. But Mother always said that elf friends first shook hands."

    With that, Menelote stretched her open hand towards Menellótë, as the dark-haired child smiled again, then frowned, "did I tell you why I wanted to be friends with you?"

    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 08/Jun/2017 at 08:37 AM.


  8. Ercassie's Avatar
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    #208

    All's not Fair in Love and War - Part 7 (Semi-private with RivvyElf)

    ’I got you, I got you on my mind
    And its time to make you see (what I want)
    So I'll just make this a little more obvious
    'Cause I get what I want and .. (you want to get with me)

    Don't think you know how far I'm gonna go
    Can't stop this feeling, you can’t run away
    Baby I'm what's on your mind
    You can't stop this feeling, there is no escape
    No sleep tonight;
    You won't get no sleep tonight ..’


    (No Sleep Tonight, The Faders)



    Fëapoldië Aiwenáriel
    at the House of Eärcúlinta
    Years of the Trees, Aman

    She bounced, once, on the bed, her bright hair brandished like an inferno quite ready to consume him in chaos. She bounced once. And then the strange boy’s palm impacted with her lower cheek. Fea’s face turned aside, from the shock, but that did not save the petals of her lips. The glancing blow summoned a sensation there, that carried all about the elleth’s jaw, as she had never known before. Her countenance recoiled into the comfort of a quick risen hand. Her own this time. And it was a short moment before she turned back to face him again.

    In that short moment, Linta unleashed his second assault. An eruption of frustration. Fea frowned, spat at the floor and rose up from where she had been sitting. Still her hand cradled the glowing portion of her face. And whether the blush there was come from injury or else from anger, it was certain not from shame. For she knew not what she might have done to deserve such a thing.

    She had only ever been herself ..

    That,” she decided. “Does not happen. E-ver.” And encroaching back upon the patient’s personal space, albeit quite more cautiously this time, Fea leant in as close as she dared to, and unleashed a high-pitched scream close to his face. Then she pooled into a puddle on the floor and retreated under his bed where she lay on the floor, her whole pulled underneath the shadow of his sleep cot.

    Slowly her tongue explored her own mouth, as though to check if he had truly ‘knocked the spit out of her mouth’ as he had first considered. Her open hands found the cold floor, and she bored a glare through the bed above her, that he might feel her resentment.

    I am not leaving until you apologise,” she warned him. “And if you think this be now awkward and uncomfortable, then let me tell you a lifetime of unhappy marriage which is where we’re headed would be far worse so. My mother will not approve my own choice in husband, until I at least consider what she thinks be a more ‘suitable’ alternative. So we can put up a charade of tolerance until we’re old enough to act without permission, or else we can openly rebel. I do not know about you but I don’t intend to have all my privileges revoked just because I find you an ill fit to all my wants and desires ..

    The flaming maiden ran her hand along her jawline, thoughtfully, with one hand, as she now traced the other along the underside of the bed on which he lay. “Nobody has ever, EVER dared laid hand on me afore,” she admitted. Her fingers tapped a throbbing confusion against the bed frame.

    I venture you be brave enough to take this path with me.” He might not see the elleth’s shrug, but even she was surprised by it. “So whenever we wish to be from them, or where e’er else we would, then we simply say we are to meet together. There we have our alibi, though that be all it is. They are happy in the delusion of our courtship, and we are happy to be anywhere but together in truth.

    She reached out one hand, selected from the floor one of those stones which she had thrown through his window before now (and wondered again at how it had come to be there). Idly she turned it over in both hands, before flinging it across the room. Like her only hope to get out of this horrific ‘union’.


    You are as strange as they say of you, Eärcúlinta,” she decided. Her blue eyes narrowed then as she recalled the graffiti she had observed scrawled across the city streets, on her journey here. “Ought we bring your sister into our confidence ?” she pondered aloud, without even allowing for his refusal. As though all this time she had been in fact musing to herself, or to a household pet. To a turtle. Hard-backed, soft bellied little turtle. Fea twirled one particularly long tendril of russet hair that presented itself to hand.

    She thought about climbing out from beneath his bed, to make sure he had not walked off without her say so. But there, she would have observed his difficulty in doing just that. His walking stick she had, after all, retired … A small smile kindled across her jaw as she imagined what shapes his face was pulling into even as she spoke to him. With a kick, she jarred one leg of the bed so that it moved, summoning his attention. His response.

    She rolled her tongue along the wall of pearl white teeth, and recalled that strange feeling once again. Not that she was unused to encouraging reactions out of others. But not that. Noone had ever .. that. With another unseen shrug, she wondered if it were at all possible, that she might even let herself like him.

    Just a little bit. Just enough to convince people that she did. Just enough. She pulled her hair more tightly than intended, and unleashed a tiny wince, before releasing it.
    Last edited by Ercassie; 18/Jul/2017 at 07:08 AM. Reason: icon

  9. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #209

    A Stroll on the Beach


    Eärcúlinta
    S.A 750
    Lindon
    Going Outside on the Beach



    He dipped his quill in the ink, affixing a period at the end of his journal entry. Unfortunately his grip was not precise enough, and even as his remaining left hand put pressure, the quill collapsed and broke, and what looked like a haphazard stroke across the page of his journal. The raven-haired elf sighed, as he dropped the pieces of the quill in a trash container next to his desk, then closed the journal entry with the same hand. He leaned back on his wooden chair, placing his hand to the back of his head, as he slowly exhaled a long breath, as if he had been holding it all day and night. He gazed to the ceiling, opened his mouth as if to ask for something, then shook his head. Eru did not usually grant requests for regrowing limbs, after all.

    At the very least he could practice his left-handed fencing literally without his right arm getting in the way. That was a positive, perhaps. He never was good wielding swords with his off-hand, and Faeleithel seemed to greatly enjoy reminding him during fencing spar. It did not help that she also used her off-hand whenever fencing with him.

    How in Arda did Ecthelion train all his Fountain Swordwielders to be that deadly?


    He rose from his chair, no longer covered in the uniform cloak with insignia signifying his rank of general, walking over to the open window on the side of his office. From it he had the perfect view of the sea, ever enveloping like a flexible giant fabric, as tiny crests ever rose and fell alongside the sandy beaches of Lindon. He would sometimes see elven couples at night, one holding a 'love-lantern' in one hand, the other clasped in their lover's grasp.

    Eärcúlinta would longingly look at the couple, as if he knew he would never be able to do such a thing again.

    The raven-haired elf looked up, smiling a little as tonight was cloudless. The moon shone brightly, its reflection creating a second moon on the waters. The stars in the entire sky were like a multitude of glimmering piercing the blanket of night, as if beyond its dark veil was everlasting light. There twinkling merrily was
    Eäraini's favorite star, or so he guessed. Maybe she was looking at it at the same time he was? Doubtful, but the thought granted lifted his spirits just a little. He wondered whether the letters were able to be sent to her, and if he would ever receive a reply.

    Before she left in the middle of the night, tensions between the two were escalating for what seemed to be the last thousand years or so, ever since he saved her from participating in the War of Wrath. He remembered the arguments, angry gestures towards each other, shouting that could be easily heard even through closed doors. There were even few points where he feared that Eäraini would reach a boiling point and strike him down, such was her wroth. The arguments were sometimes about the most trivial things, like perhaps polishing her armor a little more often. Then there were those other arguments. The ones about independence, of letting her be killed in the War of Wrath so long it as she could have had a chance to see her favorite star again, of not treating her like a child, and of Faeleithel.

    The so-called 'Fountain Girl' was another topic on its own. He did not want to dwell on what Eäraini spoke of her, for her daughter made sense in her reasoning. Faeleithel had ever been a thorn to both their sides, and for many years Eärcúlinta had to stay the strong temptation to gut her on the spot. Yet, at some point once he got a proper look into Faeleithel's eyes, he saw beneath the hate and wrath to find only sorrow and grief that all too often reminded him of himself. Faeleithel herself had suffered much loss, and would never experience many much of the same happiness other elves would experience in Middle-Earth. But to hear Eäraini 's ridiculous claim that Eärcúlinta would disown her and would rather have Faeleithel as his only daughter...


    He regretted his response, and that eve his daughter left.

    Eärcúlinta sighed again, rubbing his left hand on his temple in order to calm himself down. Hopefully walking outside along the coastline would do just that. Work stress had put a lot of pressure on his remaining shoulder literally and figuratively. Better do it while the moon was shining and the stars were twinkling.

    Needing no torch, he blew out the candles in the wall lanterns in his office one-by-one, walked down the stairs, and left the office building. He took his shoes off, leaving them and his general cloak in the building, as he walked barefoot outside, much like the days of his youth whenever he visited the hut of his grandparents.

    Soon he reached the coastline, hearing the sounds of waves greeting him, feeling the water through his toes when he walked closer to the sea. There he stood, closing his eyes, breathing the air, hearing the wind, the singing of night-gulls, and the continuing crashing of tiny waves along the coast. He released a long exhale, not departing his glance from the sea, his eyes still closed. But his voice issued forth, speaking to nobody in front of him,

    "I know you are there, though I do not see you," he spoke softly, yet somehow knowing every word of his was heard, "what do you desire of me?"

    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 15/Jun/2017 at 04:42 AM.


  10. Ercassie's Avatar
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    #210

    Water and Ice - Part 3 (Semi-Private with RivvyElf)

    Getting to know you, getting to know all about you
    When I am with you, getting to know what to say.
    Haven’t you noticed suddenly I’m bright and breezy
    because of all the beautiful and new
    things I’m learning about you day by day ?


    (Getting to Know You, The King and I)




    Menellótë Lindesûl
    Water and Ice
    Alqualondë, YT


    Surprise was not a reaction that startled her. Menellótë had evoked surprise in people before. What was different however was the contemplation. The intrigue. When she spoke, it was as though the other girl listened. Menelote even thought over what she heard. It did not tend to be that way with other people. They heard what the strange pale-haired elleth said and they recoiled, because it was not what they would have said. It was not what they expected to hear. It made them wish to be away .. where they did not have to worry that they did not understand. But they were both come to school, after all. And school ought to be an education. It was time for Menellote to put aside fears of things she did not understand.

    My sister has friends,” she allowed, carefully, drawing out thoughts like threads to examine them. Menelote had sparked her interest, as she might have imagined of such a subject. It was not so much that one of them taught the other, but that they rather muddled through the sense of things together. “Her friends all like the same, all dress the same, all do the same ..” the younger sister sighed. “Noone I have found counts things the same as I,” she clarified, or sought to, though she had never minded the honesty of the statement all too much. Neither could it be said that she minded the song birds who apparently now deemed her safe enough to perch upon. She extended one arm, and her shadow did likewise. The shadow girl had bird shadows upon her shadow arm. The shadow was the only one who Menellótë had ever felt attuned to. She glanced up now however, and saw a living shadow. Dark haired, wide eyed. Not demonstrating any wish to walk away.

    The two of them shared a name, more or less, at least in so far as their teacher would pronounce. “We are not so same, I think” she pondered, aloud but not dismayed. Menellote did not feel any less interested in Menelote, because of their differences. And if Menellote had considered the birds, the turtles or the trees at all, it was to observe the mystery of their world, beyond hers, that she might never fully comprehend. She was not a bird, nor a turtle nor a tree. She was however, a Menelote/Menellote ... so .. maybe ..

    The birds took to wing as she raised her arm, a flightless wing as it was. Sorrow to be so abandoned, glad to marvel at their movement, the young elleth paused, to examine now what was held up for her attention. Food. Food that Menelote had fished. Tentatively, she moved to accept the generous offering, and then hesitated. “Friends share,” she recounted quietly. “We share. I would like to learn how you catch fish”. She gathered forth her own small wooden box, although it held no substenance. “I gathered up oysters, to trade for the means to make my colours.” Excited, she held up her own offering, ready to offer a trade, of experiences. Though now Menelote had found a further rite of passage they might try.

    A vigilant hand found that of Menelote and pale eyes considered the risk of making such a contact between them. She doubted that this sort of negotiation could be retracted once it had been set. Once friends, they could never again be as strangers. The dark-haired girl queried if she had disclosed quite exactly why she wanted friendship. Menellote drew her hand briefly from their blend. Then glanced sidelong and decided that Menelote was no more a threat than she was, albeit for certain in alternate ways. “Tell me,” she invited the conversation, and the budding friendship, to continue. Curious and content all at once.
    Last edited by Ercassie; 18/Jul/2017 at 07:07 AM. Reason: icon !

  11. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
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    #211
    Menelote
    Alqualondë, Years of the Trees
    Water and Ice


    "I have seen you from afar. You are different from the others, and that is good, because my instinct says that together we can change the whole world," Menelote responded, giving a small pout as Menellótë no longer held her hand, but her face returning to a grin as she too withdrew her hand, "I want to be king, and I trust my instincts."

    Then the grin turned into a small smile, as Menelote's gaze softened,

    "But I cannot rule alone," she continued, "if we are friends, we can rule as equals; dual kings. I do not have a sister, nor siblings; I envy you a little. We can be different from them though. We can be sister kings!"

    "The way Valinor is now, they like elves not due to their actions, but due to their blood. But were the kings of the Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri born as such? No, they were chosen to lead. I think nowadays blood is being more favored than action."

    Menelote gave a loud sigh, and sorrowfully looked at the ground, the sound of birds a mere echo in the distance as she spoke,

    "Why must I live in Alqualondë, and not live in Taniquetil or Tirion? Why do we live separately if we are not wed? Why can't all the Valar favor us, equally?"

    Then the raven-haired elf's eyes brightened, as she turned her sparkling determined eyes back to Menellótë's, and declared,

    "If we become kings. Not queens, kings, then we can have every elf be treated through their actions, rather than their blood. We can trade our talents for others, like your oysters for paint, or your paint for my fish."

    "Speaking of that, I can teach you to catch fish. I use a spear instead of a fishing rod," Menelote, standing, walked a few steps backwards from Menellótë, turned to her side, and demonstrated. She twirled around an imaginary spear with one hand, and she jabbed downwards every so often with her right fist extended, and her left hand outstretched, palm up, in the opposite direction.

    "Quick little things, they are," Menelote said, then she stopped her little performance and turned back to face her white-haired counterpart with a smirk, "but I'm quicker."

    A moment later the raven-haired elf once again placed her fingers underneath her chin, as she asked, "what were we talking about again?"

    "Oh yes!" she said quickly, her eyes widening, "changing Valinor for the better. But baby steps first."

    The raven-haired elf once again extended a hand to Menellótë, "would you like to come fish with me in the next few days? I can teach you. My father has spare spears lying around."


  12. Ercassie's Avatar
    Arwen
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    #212

    Familiar Strangers - Part 1 (Semi-private with Rivvyelf)

    The scar I can't reverse
    When the more it heals the worse it hurts
    Made it through the maze to find my one in a million
    And now you're just a page torn from the story I'm building

    And all I gave you is gone, tumbled like it was stone
    Thought we built a dynasty that heaven couldn't shake
    Thought we built a dynasty like nothing ever made
    Thought we built a dynasty forever couldn't break up


    (Dynasty, Miia)





    Menellótë Silosse (remembering Sarnir Erondo)
    Leading to ..

    A meeting with Eärcúlinta
    On the Beach, Lindon
    750 SA approx



    The vast ocean was as much capricious as it was constant. Ever changing. Often churning. Elsewise lapping, like a satin blanket with a kitten’s tongue. The dazzling shore endured it’s unceasing attention whether their exchange was a velvet whisper, else a crashing battle of wills. This eve the walls of water but tickled the sand. Small stones shifted in the carry of the tide’s hem. And a lone figure made steps from sand to sea, enveloped slowly in the water which swallowed her pale form from sight.

    So long as she might and must, she would fulfil this honoured tradition. Silosse submerged, and a kingdom of unseen wonders stampeded her senses. There the elleth conducted her silent symphony of gesture, caught up in a dance where the strong current was her partner. Disengaged from the world as it was, beyond, she indulged, in a conversation of her own. But it was not the water she sought to share secrets with. There was but a one she found in reach within the roil and refreshing depths.

    The day that she had found his lifeless shell, he had been floating facedown in the harbour of Alqualondë. The tell-tale heads of arrows were burst through his back like barbed boils. His pale skin robbed of what small colour he had held in life. Without his unique family armour, absent of the mighty starblade sword, that tall, dark-haired Noldo might have been any Elf. There was naught to title him himself. Until she had dared to delve under the water for her own part.

    Then, with silver tentacles of tresses to assail her, Silosse had swum aneath and beheld her dear beloved husband. His stony expression spoke of a sudden and begrudging departure from this world. She had run one hand along his hard countenance, and found it unresponsive as his sculpting works had felt. They who had never livened. Their master had succumbed to their plight. And so she wept. Under the water, where she always went to cast forth tears. Where none might see. For her woe was her own, her feelings and her marriage to Sarnir no matter to anyone else. It was hers. Private. And so were these precious moments. He alone had ever seen her weep. Aneath the surface, where all emotions were tethered. Her business and no others.


    That fateful day in Alqualondë, Silosse had drawn the remnants of her husband from the clutch of Ulmo. Rain fell from the heavens and she felt it not. For she was that drenched from her swim and from her sorrow. There were no words to be made. Save for those others she had known to venture for that same beach, those others whose reunion might now assuage her grief. Her son .. she found no trace of. Though she strove amongst the known dead of the Noldor and the Falmari. The armour of both her husband and her son she discovered, discarded, though she could not reason why this might be so. For if such splendour might be scavenged, why then left in a small boatshed, as though it were scrap. And if worn at all, then why removed ? When the fine silver and blue, decked in that heraldic star .. it might have, should have saved the life of Sarnir.

    There was no one who might stifle the perplexions of the widow’s mind that sad, wet day. Her kin who had dwelt in the shore city had been boarded up in their bell tower, letting forth the roar to warn all those unwary, and rally defences to the water’s edge. They had seen naught. None of them knew naught. That is to say, they told her so, they told her naught.

    And her one friend in all that land, her childhood accomplice. The spear maiden had been found in a secluded passage, run through as though by one of the spears of her own fashion. At a time when Silosse believed her heart to be broke, it slipped further to shatters at that sorry reunion.

    One wet day. She had lost all that she had taken to her heart to care for. Her parents and sister she might never now be reaffirmed with, for the terror and troubles they had endured. Her husband, her friend removed of reach. And her son .. she knew not. She swore she never would cease seeking. For he might be the sole living soul who could console her with the truth, of his hand in her own, if naught else to be said might salve them.




    Silosse broke from her soundless refuge, her crown of silver a new pale glimmer for the blossoming moon to glint off watery reflection. For one moment she turned toward the endless horizon of dark deep and dauntless. Yearning grasped her hand, for all that was, for all that had been, for all that would never be again. There remained naught now for her in the West that she might claim. Sadness. Sorrow. Silence. But on the eastern shore, there dwelt yet hope, a slight and sneaking chance that she might yet know what remained. She might take that one remaining piece of her past into a new future. Into the West.

    Finding him was the difficulty. She had followed countless leads and rumours, half hoping that they would lead her to her lost Sarnirion. Half-hoping that all they said of him was meant of some other Elf. For the things they said … It was never her son at the end of each adventure. Tonight destiny teased her again. Though it was not her lost son who stood upon the beach, but the son of Menelote.


    Eärcúlinta, she recalled. His name was Eärcúlinta. And she would know him anywhere, so oft had she sought sanctuary in the memory of times spent with her friend, and her friend’s family. There was countless altered from the child she once knew to the grown Elf who stood afore her. Warrior. Veteran. Father ..

    It had scarce occurred to Silosse that her own son might be similarly altered from the romantic and lonely boy that she watched march off to war with his father .. so so long ago. Her child stood then on the cusp of adulthood, and since then, who knows what experiences had shaped him unto.

    It took the mother a great length of time to close the distance between her and Eärcúlinta. He acknowledged her and she marvelled. For focusing upon the one thing that assured her whom he was. Those eyes. Those same thoughtful and sad eyes. What have those eyes seen .. ?


    I have missed the seeing of you Eärcúlinta,” water fell away from the shimmering form that emerged of the water. No shoes anchored her feet, and the simple white dress which veiled her modesty achieved this goal ably, clinging only at her knees. Taking her time so that he may recognise the past standing before him. Silosse gradually gained focus and features as she made approach. “Though I believe you are missing something also ..” she did not look at the space where the Noldo’s arm should be. She knew his mind would go there first, and she would not encourage their wallowing together at his misery. He needed that not. “You are missing a child,” she corrected presumption of their subject.

    You know now what it is to be a parent,” the moon-maiden disclosed, with one finger risen to her lips, as though to suggest a conspiracy. She considered the height of him now they stood closer. The build of him. The eyes of him … “To crave of that soul that was sprung from your heart unto life,” she mentioned, apparently distracted. Yet not at all.

    Whether he dissected the desire from this statement was a thing she waited to observe. For she would have words with this familiar stranger. Upon many a subject she could broach with nobody else.

    You remember me” she expected, raising but a single silver eyebrow. Best to start slowly.
    Last edited by Ercassie; 01/Aug/2017 at 10:16 PM. Reason: tidying

  13. Rivvy Elf's Avatar
    Elder of Imladris
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    #213



    Slowpoke the Baby Turtle



    A small fingertip-like head protruded from a tiny glistening dark-green shell, as Slowpoke slowly turned his head to the left and right, checking if the scary red-haired monster was still there. Then suddenly, he heard a sharp shriek from upstairs. This scared the turtle, his tiny neck quivered in fear, as he hid within his shell again.

    He did not like strangers. Strangers wanted to pet his sensitive shell. But they poked and prodded too hard sometimes, so the baby turtle often hid. Once they left, Slowpoke would peek out to see the enclosed world around him. The brown sky, the blue barriers holding in his little lake that he enjoyed swimming in, the sand on the ground, and a grey rocky basin in the middle where he curled his tiny legs to sleep.

    His beady eyes widened, as the door opened and closed, and smelled a very familiar scent. Her favorite elf in the whole world was here again! His head, arms, legs, and tail popped out and crawled as fast as he could to greet her.



    ~~~



    Eärcúlinta
    The Monster Underneath His Bed
    Years of the Trees, Aman


    The scream seemingly shook the entire room, and Eärcúlinta, still blushing from the proximity, closed his eyes. The image, forever burned in his mind, of a fire-haired banshee with eyes and mouth wider than a maw, causing his own ears to ring from the screech. His face curled in disgust from smelling her breath, and leftover spit scattered everywhere on his face. When the raven-haired elf regained his bearings, he hurriedly wiped his face and lips, as if trying to rid poison from his skin.

    Then his eyes opened, and she was gone.

    But before Eärcúlinta could even fool himself to think the Aiwenare bachelorette fled, an angry muffled voice from was heard. She now literally became the monster underneath his bed. If he were calmer, he also would have heard the footsteps approaching the outside of his room.

    However, Eärcúlinta was not calm, even as Fëapoldië proposed a quite reasonable ruse to fool their parents.

    "You want me to apologize? I am surprised you still have suitors!" Eärcúlinta exclaimed, "and you already have a choice of husband? How depraved or foolish he must be..."

    He shook his head, wondering who in all of Valinor would ever willingly court such an intolerable elf!

    "I am your first then, to stand up to you?" Eärcúlinta asked, more to himself as he grimaced at the unsettling tap tap tap sound from the bed frame, "you associate yourself with cowards, womanizers, doormats, and fools."

    The raven-haired elf took a deep breath, as he groaned, lying on his bed. He slowly blinked, and mentally counted numbers and imagined happy thoughts. He considered the more reasonable part of Fëapoldië's proposition. That when their dates were arranged, they'd separate to their respective activities, and pretend to have enjoyed their make-believe date. A compromise, though Eärcúlinta knew they could not do such a thing all the time; that indeed he needed to spend time with an elf he could not stand! He wondered if he could somehow fix all of this, change it so he never attended Fëapoldië's party. Or before then, when he had the opportunity to court others, like the elf who lived on the slopes of Taniquetil.

    His thoughts were interrupted as a stone suddenly was thrown from underneath his bed, colliding against the wall with a thump. He heard Fëapoldië comment on how strange he was, which caused Eärcúlinta to roll his eyes. Then he heard her wince.

    "...are you okay?" Eärcúlinta asked, and felt a little guilt. Her face did look a little red, after all. Perhaps he should not have slapped her so hard, "I'm sorry for... you know."

    But before he could then respond to the question whether to include Menellinda in the ruse, the door opened.

    There the younger elf stood, face redder than an apple, carrying his walking stick.

    "y-y-you threw your walking stick outside again, brother," Menellinda stuttered nervously, as she placed it on the nearby wall. She looked around rapidly, trying not to look at the bed. She gave her brother a confused look, "where is Fëapoldië?"

    Then an alarmed look appeared on her face, as Menellinda pointed at him, "brother you idiot! You tried things too quickly!" she squeaked.

    "...huh?" Eärcúlinta asked, completely confused.

    "I heard you from the door. You two were talking about 'marriage', 'wants and desires', 'taking paths with the other', 'courtship', 'being each other's first'. I'm not st-stupid, brother!" Menellinda cried, as she quickly ran to the glass-less window, trying to jump up and see the outside of the house, "she *jump* leaped *jump* out *jump*, didn't she?" the raven-haired girl asked, "you must have scared her!"

    "No," Eärcúlinta responded calmly, very confused, "believe it or not she is underneath my bed." But he wondered why Fëapoldië had not immediately leaped out and did Fëapoldië-things.

    Then a cold realization hit him. The manuals that he had taken from his sister due to her being... too young for them, were also underneath his bed. If they were now in the redhead's hands...

    Last edited by Rivvy Elf; 01/Aug/2017 at 01:11 PM.


  14. Bite of Winter II: Aileen's Quest - Interlude of the Moles

    - This particular
    segment is Private -



    Source Images:
    Isabelle Fuhrman
    , Nick Zano,

    Sea Sunset


    "But the folk of Maeglin were drawn up in the same place,
    and sable was their harness, but their round caps of steel were covered with moleskin, and they fought with axes two-headed like mattocks. There Maeglin prince of Gondolin gathered many arriors of dark countenance and lowering gaze about him, and a ruddy glow shone upon their faces and
    gleamed about the polished surfaces of their accoutrement."

    - Tolkien, from
    The Book of Lost Tales II:
    The Fall of Gondolin


    "Then the warriors of the Mole being more
    numerous than those few of the Swan Wing, and loyal to their lord,
    came at Tuor, and there were great blows."

    - Tolkien, from The Book of Lost Tales II: The Fall of Gondolin

    "The sign of this people was the Stricken Anvil...
    and red gold and black iron was their delight."
    - Tolkien, from
    The Book of Lost Tales II:
    The Fall of Gondolin

    "Shields also they made displaying
    the tokens of many houses and kindreds
    that vied with one another."
    - Tolkien, from
    The Silmarillion:
    Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor



    - Source Image: Ian Bohen -


    Frery (January) 13th,
    Forlindon, 10 miles from Mithlond


    It was the kind of winter day which was gorgeously sunny but fearsomely cold and Hatholdir was complaining about it.

    "C
    írdan has a Ring of Power as Elrond bears so why doesn't he make this place warmer for Nienna's sake?" Hatholdir grumbled, painstakingly walking his horse toward the Grey Havens. The Dwarves had already cleared their own roads and were slowly ridding the elven paths of snow (purposely, Astaro assumed, just for the sake of habitual annoyance).

    "He gave Narya to Mithrandir centuries ago,"
    Astaro stated matter-of-factly, tipping the brim of his black cowboy hat lower to keep the bright sunlight out of his hazel eyes. "You would know that if you visited his court regularly, milord, and saw the Shipwright for yourself."

    "Whenever I approach his gates every guard forbids me entry."


    - I can not imagine why - mimed Hrango, a mute Elf, with a shrug of his broad shoulders. He smirked at Astaro who barely managed to restrain a chuckle.

    "Even if he did have Narya still,"
    continued Astaro, "its power is different than the magic of Vilya or Nenya. It does not preserve the natural beauty of the earth but moves hearts to courage."
    Astaro was close to his mother, a seer of the Tower of Snow, who married a Mole. By her tutelage he studied the lore of the world's ancient past.

    "Your mother will be upset you are coming back later than expected," Hatholdir reminded him fussily for the umpteenth time. "Her disappointment should encourage you to return swiftly. You may accompany Aileen as far as the Sea of Rh
    û
    n with Hrango then you both must immediately sail home from Lindon. I care for Beren Camlost's daughter, too however, I need you two by my side more than she does."

    "There is a Lindonese patrol ahead,"
    Astaro was quick to mention, hoping to distract Hatholdir's attention. A thin column of smoke rose into the cloudless azure sky above the forest.

    "Dwarves, I hope,"
    muttered Hatholdir. There were plenty of people on the mainland of Middle-earth who wanted to kill Moles and quite a few of them, refugees of Gondolin, lived in the coastal realm.

    Astaro and Hrango accompanied Hatholdir deep into the pine woods. To their surprise it was not an elven patrol nor a Dwarven hunting party but a small troop of heavily-armed fur-clad humans which awaited them. Their tents were up and wolves were being roasted for lunch. Hatholdir noticed wooden warning signs nailed to surrounding conifers, a message from Dwarven trappers alerting their people and Elves alike that the hungry animals were stalking the woodland pathways. It must have been slim pickings for the beasts this cruel winter.

    Hatholdir smiled cheerfully at the Men and they waved cheerily back. They wished the Moles a happy new year and the Elves replied merrily in kind, using the Common Speech as they dismounted, having been invited to the meal.

    "I'll be happy when I catch myself a Mole,"
    said a stocky, bearded man. He sighed warily, taking off his coonskin cap to run a huge gloved palm over the silver threads streaking his unruly jet-black hair. "Been huntin' Moles up north but the blizzard got so dang bad we couldn't get through the Chetwood." he explained. "We heard some talk three of 'em might be headed back to Lindon real soon." He flashed a broad grin. "We're gonna wait for the Moles right here and jump 'em!"

    Astaro and Hrango said nothing, continuing to energetically eat the meat offered to them unless Hatholdir gave the order to attack.

    The Lord of the Moles, startled, coughed around his chewed food and accepted a hearty clap on the back from Hrango whose chocolate-brown eyes glittered with amusement. "I wish Erfaron was here," Hatholdir mused in thought a little sadly; these days his dear old friend missed the funniest moments the Mole trio experienced ashore. They needed more adventures together in the new year or drag Erfaron back to the island against his will, bound in a sack!

    Hatholdir
    swallowed the steaming beef then washed it down with heated blackberry melomel of Archet from a horn cup. "How do you know what they look like?"

    "They wear black clothes and got axes,"
    said the Molehunter, munching his seared food vigorously.

    "Like I do?" Hatholdir asked with a small innocent tone, widening his flaming blue eyes like a naughty child who knows he's truly guilty.

    "Yeah,"
    said the Molehunter, squinting at the High Elf suspiciously. "But that's just fortta-tose."

    "Fortuitous,"
    corrected Hatholdir gently. "Are you positively certain I'm not a Mole? As you pointed out before I wear black and have an axe."

    "They glare like the Devil!"
    shouted a rawboned Molehunter with a lot of missing teeth and no nose, probably Erfaron's handywork. "You could charm the One Ring off Sauron himself though with a smile like that, Mister Elf!"

    "I have a basilisk's stare, so I've been told,"
    admitted Hatholdir. He gave his best venemous snarl, pale cheeks reddening brightly, as he narrowed his glacial blue eyes coldly at the mercenaries.

    The bulky Molehunter gasped aloud, grabbing No Nose's bony limb in astonishment. "They got red faces like that!"

    "SURPRISE!"
    cried Hatholdir goofily but lost his mirth an instant later when they went for their weapons. He flung his arms high and demanded his friends do the same. "C'mon, let's honor the spirit of the season and discuss this without resorting to bloodshed," implored Hatholdir affably, surprising both Astaro and Hrango who were each going for concealed knives. "I happen to be a very rich Elf. I am sure I can pay everyone more than what was previously arranged. I consider myself foremost a businessman, not a killer." Astaro and Hrango shook their heads in exasperation. Hatholdir gave them a wink, smugly grinning, to assure them of his control of the situation.

    "I assume a Gondolin survivor with no love of Moles hired you all to kill us?" supposed Hatholdir. "I imagine it is a sniveling coward who doesn't like getting his own hands dirty."

    "Nenmor, elven crab fisher of Forlond,"
    answered Coonhat forthrightly. He kept his palm clutched tight around his broadsword's baskethilt.

    "You know him?"
    wondered Astaro.

    "I'm fairly certain I have a sordid history with every Elf who wants us dead,"
    guessed Hatholdir blithely. "I killed Nenmor's nephew, one of Tuor's guards in the Swan Wing, back in Gondolin. The boy tried to kill me so I had to defend myself, you must understand."

    "Of course,"
    Astaro fiercely replied. He was a young Mole who had not been raised in Gondolin but still he was forced, numerous times, to protect himself from those who would destroy him for his hated lineage.

    "His niece, the first Molehunter, stalked many us down and would have taken my head were it not for my wife - her own best friend - who guarded my life." Hatholdir's raven brows beetled together as he considered the situation grimly for a moment. "Nenmor is still holding a grudge and wants me murdered." He shot Coonhat a questioning look, asking how much he was worth.

    "Four hundred thousand gold sails,"
    said the sellsword, handing the crumpled contract over for the Moles to see.

    Hatholdir gasped...then he gritted his teeth, tearing the parchment in half. "Did
    Nenmor tell you who I am?" he demanded, throwing the shreds of paper into the campfire.

    "A M-molel-lord,"
    Coonhat stuttered, stumbling away, fearing the arrogant High Elf's sudden rage.

    "I AM THE HEIR OF PRINCE MAEGLIN, THE LORD OF THE MOLES!"
    Hatholdir yelled with hysterical stridency. He stared at the man through a scarlet haze clouding his smoking eyes until Hrango settled one mighty hand on his friend's shoulder soothingly.

    "His death should be worth at least five times that much,"
    said Astaro, likewise affronted, as Hatholdir gradually collected himself. "As they say in Bree, sir, you got suckered."

    "Only C
    írdan himself could afford as much besides myself and possibly Mordagnir," said Hatholdir, moleskin gloves laced behind back. "Sorry to disappoint you all," he said wryly, , "but I am a man of my word. Open an account at the Ravenwood Bank in Archet and I will compensate everyone for their trouble." Hatholdir's hard, glowing blue eyes gleamed like winter ice as he gave each man a handsome amount of money as a down payment. "Find others to serve and never stalk Moles again because my people will hunt you all to the edge of the earth and they will not let anyone die quickly."

    "I'm goan get outta this Molehuntin business fo sho!"
    declared No Nose to small grunts of approval. He latched onto Coonhat desperately. "Erfierang-"

    "Erfaron,"
    Astaro interrupted, correcting him properly, chuckling.

    "- said he was goan tear me apart real slow if I squared up with him again. If he hears I was goan kill the Lord of the Moles, Mr Lamp Eyes goan make me pay in spades! That Erfierang, why, he's meaner than an Orc and his bite's twice as bad as an adder's! HOLY COW!"

    "Don't I know it," said a barrel-chested Molehunter in a lame montone, looking pathetically at his left hand. Only two fingers were left on it, the pinky and thumb... No one could say Erfaron didn't have a sense of humor.


    "These Moles won't say nothin, I reckon, if we best light out of these here parts,"
    rumbled Coonhat finally, shaking Hatholdir's hand. "Thanks for the coin we get now. We'll need some of the money for a few nights at the Pony. It'll be a long ride back to Bree and we'll be travel-sore."

    The Moles continued their journey to the Grey Havens in silence. It was broken by Astaro, naturally.
    "We cannot allow Nenmor to continue hiring Molehunters."

    Hrango agreed as he struck the air with a big fist repeatedly, large nostrils flaring.

    "We will have a few drinks at Girion's inn and wait for my daughter's arrival."
    She was sailing into the bay aboard Halamorna, Hatholdir's flagship, to bring her father and his friends home. "I should have a talk with my little girl about the crab fisher..." Hatholdir smiled a devilish, conspiratorial grin at his chums. "Alagossel has been itching to prove her loyalty and usefulness for a long time..."

    *
    Frery (January) 15th,
    Forlindon, Port Forlond

    Nenmor zigzagged almost drunkenly along the gravel lane of his family's beach cottage. The snow was gone and the rain had fallen heavily for days, changing to sleet this very evening. The temperature was unbearably freezing and the howling wind shrieked like a cat from hell. Black roiling clouds filled the skies above Lindon, shielding
    rdan's beautiful land from the fair sparkle of the silver moon.

    The radiance of the crab fisher's green eyes faded. He was thinner than an Elf should be, having not eaten in days. When his grieving wife urged him, weeping, to take his supper his stomach violently rejected it. He walked from his business near the quays with a listless tread. Nenmor
    hardly spoke to anyone inside the seafood restaurant he owned today, his commands curtailed by long melancholy pauses and shrill wails of abject misery. His lieutenant managers, teary-eyed, begged him to just go home.

    His precious daughter he had been planning a wedding for was murdered recently. Her betrothed had been foully killed, too. The Lindon Guard suspected evil Dwarves from the East or brigands up from the Greenway were responsible for the heinous crime; unlike Rivendell and Lothl
    órien, Lindon was not hidden from people and had vulnerable open borders. Honestly, Nenmor did not care who the culprits were...he just wanted his little girl back.

    Fumbling with his keys, Nenmor slumped against the cherrywood door but to his shock it was unlocked and gave way. He fell inside with a grunt and called out for his woman, Menelhiril, but she did not answer. Odd, considering the cozy living room was already lighted for the night. Pursing his lips, Nenmor quietly pushed the door closed and limped to the kitchen, smelling dinner.

    His fear mounted, heart beating wildly, as he heard the familar hymn of the Moles on his wife's flute, harp, and violin upstairs. The mournful, darkly majestic music of The Mines of Maeglin which Salgant and Meril Duvain composed long ago was a particular favorite of the Moles. It haunted him ever since the Gates of Summer; it was the song he heard just before minions, allies of Maeglin's house, had launched their fateful attack on the beloved city.

    Nenmor desperately flung back the carved sliding door and choked back a scream. Hatholdir, Lord of the Moles, was sitting beside Menelhiril who sat at the candlelit dining table, already dead. The blonde elleth's bright, sightless grey eyes were still open and her full lips were parted stiffly in a rictus of pain and astonishment.

    His wife's killler filled a pewter cup with the blood flowing from her white throat. Hatholdir took a long, satisfying sip and pleasurably licked the ruby liquid from his mouth. The imposing noble, whose emblem in the Undying Lands was a bat before his tokens became a hammer and a mole in Gondolin, exuberantly mouthed "delicious!"

    Hatholdir's low, demented chuckling destroyed Nenmor's sanity. He charged at the Mole Lord, wringing the air with maddened gripping movements, but he staggered to the carpet with a voiceless cry of defeat. Nenmor cringed in a fetal position and wept bitterly.

    "You killed everyone I have loved,"
    he accused Hatholdir between sobs that wracked his scrawny frame.

    "They were hunted down as my people were!"
    Hatholdir triumphantly retorted. He swept at the tiny crimson rivulets streaming down his chin and sneered at Nenmor. "As the Umbarians say, quid pro quo, this for that." The symphony of the Moles became stronger and less dreary sounding, embodying the strength and malevolence of Maeglin's house. "The threat your family poised against mine has now ended and soon you will die as well."

    "Make this quick,"
    rasped Nenmor, ridding stinging tears with a firm brush of his sleeve. He turned to look behind him as he heard the kitchen door opening. Three mysterious figures in black - Moles, no doubt - entered the room, their faces concealed by Dwarven warmasks built of luminous red-gold. Three of them played Menelhiril's instruments, making no move to assail him.

    "It will not be me, I had my fun."
    Hatholdir chortled faintly with a sly grin. "This is a training excercise for a little Mole...Nam
    árie, mellon nin." Hatholdir lazily pointed at a Mole with the slight build of a female child standing between the man with a lean wiry build and the other who had a wide, hulking stature.

    The small girl tossed Menelhiril's violin aside. She took a misericorde of red-gold and black iron from her cloak, the weapon lambently glimmering with a vermillion luster. With her other hand, she ripped the warmask from her face. Alagossel, Hatholdir's pallid daughter perhaps no older than twelve summers, rushed forward with a cherubic smile that was somehow terrifying. With a resigned expression he didn't stop the brutal thrust of her short-bladed weapon she drove though the side of his neck.

    "You are not finished, my darling,"
    softly chided Hatholdir when she looked up at him adoringly; this was her first kill. "Erfaron will not believe how ruthless you have become without evidence," Hatholdir assumed. "Choose what you wish to show him."

    She did not hesitate. Alagossel gouged out Nenmor's eyes and severed his pointed ears.

    "Impressive,"
    uttered Hatholdir, caressing her cheek. "Most impressive, sweetling." He ordered Astaro and Hrango to burn the house, wanting this to look like a suicide; with the home destroyed and the elven bodies charred, no one would expect what had truly happened to the doomed couple. "We have to go," he murmured to Alagossel as the Moles put wood and cloth to the torches they removed from the wood-pannelled walls. He observed the Elf-girl's slender chest heaving with excitment as she looked haughtily over her writhing, mutilated prey. "Remember, for as long as you live, to always clean your blade."

    As her gaze matched his, she obediently tasted the scarlet juice slicking her dagger but the greedy thirst of the Mole Princess was not sated yet. Alagossel smoothly dropped to the floor and roughly yanked Nenmor's head back. She eagerly drank from the torrent spurting out of his wound, the guttering torchlight reflected as golden dancing specks in her pitiless ebony eyes.

    "Oh, my, you
    are Daddy's little monster," Hatholdir marvelled under his breath, rolling his palm over her silken onyx hair, as a tremendous surge of pride flowed through him.


    THE NEXT INSTALLMENT OF
    THE BITE OF WINTER WILL
    BE FEATURED IN
    CASTLES IN THE SKY
    WITHIN
    THE COTTAGE OF LOST PLAY'S
    WRITTEN ARTS FORA

    Last edited by Beren Camlost; 04/Oct/2017 at 06:07 AM.
    "I curse the fading of the light."
    - The Beast

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