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Friend or foe?

Tags: Brihtwine,  Immin,  Theoden

Short Summary: Brihtwine tries to count stars, and a cloaked stranger lessons two Sperewigends on the unwisdom of making blind assumptions.
Date (real-life): 2010-09-07
Scene Location: Rohan: Tiar Forod crossroads
Date (in-game): November 3050
Time of Day: Night
Tiar Forod crossroads
Clouds scutter across the Autumn sky...
The wind blows in from the plains, chilling you.
*************** You are unable to see the moon above. ****************

A crossroads makes its mark here in the northern reaches of the Mark. Two roads meet, mate, then go their ways: north to south, east to west. Night offers no hint of each trail's final destination, and the horizon is anonymous in the dark. Straight and slim each path travels, carved by the passage of horses and wheels.

Obvious exits:
North leads to Tiar Forod, East of Fangorn.
East leads to Towards the Wold.
West leads to Tiar Forod, near Fangorn.

Real time is: Tue Sep 07 14:39:00 2010 - Rohan weather is: Cloudy
Elendor time is: Nighttime <00:57:00 > on Hevensday of November 17, 3050
The Moon is: full

A chill wind blows across the Wold, and the night is at its deepest. Above, in the velvet blackness, tiny pinpricks of stars glint through torn gaps in the clouds, and a fickle moon slides in and out of view, casting a wan light on the lands below. The star-glint is mirrored from below by myriad sparkles where the frost has settled on leaf, twig or hoof-churned hollow. All is crisp and sharp-edged.

It is amidst this frost-rimed landscape that a camp of men is set. Tents cluster round a central fire; beyond them horses huff and stamp, sending up silvered puffs into the waiting dark. The sperewigend Brihtwine has been tending the fire, but now he rises to stand at the camp's perimeter and gaze upwards into the speckled sky, one arm resting companionably on the neck of the dun stallion Siglaf. "I wonder how many there are?" he murmurs thoughtfully.

From nearby, a voice calls in return, "The Men of Gondor have probably counted and named them all. I know not their tongue, but it probably has such a word for such a number." Stepping out of the darkness, Immin appears, bearing a spear as it is his turn to watch.

"There are a score of a score of scores, and that many, and more. The men of Gondor say that they were put there by the Great Powers, like Bema, but they have other names. They call it infinity, endless." The last words come in both the tongue of the Mark and the tongue of the Stoningland. Out of the darkness appears a tall figure, cloak-wrapped against the chill. He has appeared, it seems, out of nowhere; no guard has sounded an alarm. His features are shrouded by the cowl of his fur-lined cloak, save for the bright glitter of his eyes as they reflect the firelight.

Perhaps Brihtwine had not been expecting an answer, for his cheeks, already ruddy with cold, grow more rosy yet. "Many more than an eored, for certain," he responds in turn to the first speaker. "I know little of Gondor, but ... an eored of eoreds?" His brows are furrowed in thought.

The second explanation, when it comes, furrows them further. "Endless," the young Sperewigend repeats, hesitantly as he struggles with the concept. "Infi-" He stumbles over the foreign word and then voices awkward thought: "But grain we count, orcs we can count ..." Taken up with the puzzle, he does not fully survey his comrades.

Immin nods at the newcomer, trusting the command of his own tongue to identify this apparent stranger. To Brihtwine, he remarks, "Think of the grasses of the Mark that are beyond reckoning."

Brihtwine's expression is still abstracted. "I know how many haystacks a field would make. So if I knew how many stalks in a stack ..." The look of concentration lapses and he admits, ruefully, "I would still be counting them as a greybeard. But the Mark has bounds. Rivers, mountains. It is not .. endless." He flaps an arm.

The dun stallion flicks his ears at the young man and moves a little way off, hooves crunching on crisp grasses.

Immin shrugs more and smiles in the dark. "Have we met yet? I cannot be sure in this darkness? I am Immin son of Eadwine from the Westfold."

"Endless. One can count the spears sent to battle. One can count the men that live, the men that fall. One might, I suppose, be able to count the grains of every field in the Mark, or the wide world beyond. But to count the stars is to count the drops of water in the sea." The cloak-shrouded stranger's voice is some muffled by a scarf, the ends of which flutter from out the cloak. The glitter, as if star-touched.

Immin's question brings Brihtwine's head back round, contemplation of the heavens postponed. He glances at the spear-holder first, blue eyes surveying his fellow soldier guilelessly. "I have no memory of your face," he answers, then adds conscientiously, "though I have been known to forget things at times. "Brihtwine, Beorthulf's son. Of the Eastfold," he adds in afterthought.

The third man speaks again, and Brihtwine's cloudless gaze turns upon the unknown. "Is the Sea endless also?" The words are out before he has time to think, and are almost instantly followed by an apology. "Forgive me," he hesitates, noting the fur-lined cloak and cultured voice and settles hastily on "Lord" rather than goodman. "Such things should not concern a humble Sperewigend. Eobehrt would say ..." He catches himself and at last is blessedly silent.

Immin looks closely at the newcomer after Brihtwine has named him lord and too notes his finery showing even in the dark. "It is a dark night with no moon. I had best turn my eyes away from the fire before evil things pass in the shadows."

"Why shouldn't they concern a humble sperewigend?" asks the third man. "After all, he might one day become an Aethelwigend, and being able to count such large numbers, or conceive of them... is not a bad thing. And who is Eobehrt, and what would he say?" There is a deeper chuckle, a warming of the voice, and the glittering eyes fix on Immin. "Or thinbgs not so evil. You know that spies out of Dunland speak the tongue of the Mark too, and some spies out of the Black Land?"

Brihtwine flushes at the unknown man's probing question but then grins, the motion brightening his homely features. "He would say I should not waste my time with the many when I cannot hit even one target. He was my first Maegisterwigend," he adds more soberly.

The remainder of the speech passing between his comrades he does not comment on, save for a brief shiver, perhaps at the thought of evil knowing and voicing the tongue he loves.

"I judge not by speech alone. You came not from my area of watch, lord. I trust my fellows at the other guardposts around the camp." Immin holds his spear more firmly.

"They marked not my passage," chuckles the stranger. "I walked over the fields, quiet of foot, shadow-cloaked. I chose to reveal myself, and that is the reason why..." A soft laugh. "I trust in future you will ask the name of everyone, or at least the passwords."

"Lord?" Brihtwine's consternation could just possibly be due to the need to remember the current night's watchword. "Are you saying-" He breaks off, glancing from the unnamed one back to Immin. "Surely if Men of the Mark cannot put trust in each other, then we are utterly lost." As oft, his words are clumsily spoken, almost tumbling over each other in their haste to be heard, but they are no less heartfelt for that.

Immin nods heartily at Brihtwine's words.

"Men of the Mark should be able to trust each other. But they should also know for certain they are men of the Mark. After all, I could be just anyone, here, so near the borders, when agents of the Black Land are known to be nearby." The stranger chuckles softly. "Fortunately for your necks and lives, I am of the Mark."

Brihtwine throws Immin a worried glance, his brows raising as though in some unvoiced question. Nevertheless he takes a deep breath, and when he speaks it is clear that his words are addressed to both his companions. "My own name I have already given. These men know me - and know Siglaf yonder." He jerks his head to where the dun stallion huddles with the other horses. "And I have received one name in return." Here he inclines his head to Immin.

"As to the rest- Lord, your name and purpose here I do not know, and you tell us to be wary. Will you not tell us?" He glances back toward the fire, biting his lip as though debating whether he should fetch a superior.

"I was not asked." The stranger chuckles, then shakes back his hood. Even the starlight reveals his snow-white hair, glints off a clear gem that is set in a circlet upon his brow. "Though perhaps now my name is known without my giving it."

Immin bows his head quickly, but then calls out, "You have not passed me yet, my lord. If you do not give the password, your readmittance to the camp will be only on the word of my superior."

Brihtwine stares, aghast, as memories of Edoras at festival-time surface. Then slowly he drops to one knee. "Theoden King," he murmurs brokenly. "Forgive me my boldness. Surely you are here to see the Maegisterwigend. I- I will fetch him." Somewhat red about the face, the sperewigend who counts stars bows and flees the scene, leaving the unfortunate Immin to deal with matters as best he may.

Date added: 2010-09-09 06:46:57    Hits: 27
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