On The Road [open]


On The Road [open]

Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

09 Sep 2014, 01:32 #1

It was a strange thing, to live alone and free. She could come and go as she chose, could wake when she chose (though she got up early anyway because it was smart and because she'd been doing it for thousands of years)--could do, in fact, almost anything she wanted. There was no one to give her orders. Of course, she was still hunted. The Moringothonna wouldn't stop until she was dead or all of them were, not after what they thought she'd done. (She wished she had helped Lord Glorfindel escape. She should have.) Entering towns was odd as well, though she did it less. Almost no one assessed her for weaknesses and in the larger towns, there was...not trust, exactly, but an easy and automatic expectation that she was going to be polite despite the fact that she'd never met those people before and had no connections to them. All this she'd had for more than a year, and it was still extraordinary to her.

Now Halhigil was in Rohan, chasing a Moringothonna feud. The people best at destroying the Moringothonna were the Moringothonna themselves--the destruction of Hatalmo attested to that well enough. She wanted as complete a package as possible to give to whomever it was she was going to trade information with. A list of who would be likely to believe in an attack from who and retaliate would be needful. The ways she could gather information were limited--there was no way for her to gain an insiders' perspective; the word was out by now, and to enter any camp would get her re-captured and tortured, perhaps to death, perhaps not, depending on whether they counted her infiltration as spying for the enemy or not. (They likely would, which was cold comfort. The prospect of being forced back into service was only slightly less unpleasant than the prospect of being cut up and eaten by rats.) But what she could see from the outside could build her a good enough picture, since for her the signs of a Moringothonna skirmish were plain to read. It seemed, though, that the leads she was following pointed to a conflict that had quickly blown over. Disappointing.

Rochal had thrown a shoe a mile past. It was her fault--she was so shy of towns that she'd put off visiting a farrier longer than she ought. He didn't seem seriously hurt and wasn't favoring his leg overmuch, but it could have been worse, and that would have been her fault, too. It was a lucky thing, and a luckier one that there was a town not far down the road. She walked now, leading him by the reins, and as she walked, she sang. Simply because she could, and it was a beautiful day in early autumn. That too was strange, but she liked it.

Then she heard the other traveler. Just the one of them, coming up around the bend in front of her. Halhigil broke off abruptly. To speak to others was a risk, but being unfriendly was more of one. In this region people greeted each other on the roads. So she slowed her step to a more humanlike pace and raised a hand in greeting. "A good afternoon to you."

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Joined: 08 Jul 2014, 02:20

16 Sep 2014, 23:19 #2

It was always slim pickings in the Mark.

It didn’t seem to be because the people were any more canny or suspicious than anywhere else—people were people wherever you went, and people, as a rule, were either stupid or oblivious or a fatal mix of the two—but Ugurz had had very little luck snagging food of any better quality than old sheep too slow to keep up with the rest of the herd. That was to be expected. Winter was just around the corner and there were few itinerants to pick from on the roads, less in the inns of whatever towns he passed, and over the weeks he’d gotten increasingly less discriminating, less focused on the game of wearing them down until they all but led him out by the hand so he could dispatch them in a cozy, quiet little corner of a field.

There was money in his purse from a gambling pot won at an inn of no particular repute, but it seemed the heft of his funds was inversely proportional to the lack in his stomach; he needed to feed very soon, or he’d be driven to imprudent measures and the last thing he wanted was for his baser instincts to get the better of him and end up with half a town chasing him down for execution while he was too enervated by starvation to do much more than hiss menacingly in their general direction. That had, in fact, happened once, but Southrons were about as dumb as Northmen, and they died quicker. He’d been lucky so far that all of his indiscretions had been relegated to distant memory, but he was well aware of the possibility that one wrong move and all of the scattered remnants of the Noldor he’d cut his teeth (quite literally) on would have him at the top of a to-murder list.

The road beneath his feet was dusty and unsettlingly cold. In his haste to find another inn by which he might try his luck on new, neutral turf, he’d broken his own no-flying rule and had spent the better part of the day watching the path from the sky. By the time the temperature began to taper downwards, he’d spied a rider on the road and swept himself back to the ground, his heart palpitating wildly in his chest. The smell of sweat on the horse was all but unmistakable. A tired traveler was a traveler with no energy to put towards a complex front or critical thought: this one was all but in the bag as long as he kept it together long enough to establish himself. For a brief moment, as he considered the possibility that mounting an attack from behind might answer his needs in a less risky way, he went perfectly still.

But no. This meal was practically a guarantee; he didn’t need to bother with sneaking up like a starving, mange-ravaged jackal. He shifted again, caught a breeze and soundlessly dipped sideways, reassuming the road from the opposite direction so it would look like he was only another passer on the road, his black eyes gleaming and rimmed with the desperation of hunger as his shape resolved itself into the man’s form again. His legs carried him on, a mechanical movement, his mind completely blank with adrenaline.

“Ho there! Well met!” he called as soon as his quarry was visible, deciding that he immediately liked both things about her that he could see: she was small, and very obviously an Elf. What one was doing so far away from her cool white palaces or deep, safe forests was beyond him, but he kept it to himself and slowly closed the distance, his pack slung over one shoulder and a wide, open grin splitting his lips. A single traveler with a useless horse who was also an Elf. Well, his day had just improved immeasurably. “You’re the first soul I’ve seen for hours, it’s a right wasteland out there. Poor nag looks ready to keel over. It’s a shame, you’ve got a ways ahead of you to the next town.”
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

17 Sep 2014, 23:39 #3

Oh, hells. She'd wanted to speed him in his way, not beckon him over for a chat. Had she been too friendly? No, she was cold even when she didn't want to be. It seemed she'd stumbled upon a naturally gregarious Man. Or one with designs. He seemed alone, but he could have some very quiet friends waiting up the road, ready to slit her throat and take her valuables and her horse. Halhigil cursed inwardly and loosened her grip on Rochal's bridle. If she had to fight, she didn't want to be tangled up in his tack. She resisted the urge to put a hand on her knife. It would be read as a threat even if he was friendly (for want of a better word), and if he were hotblooded he might attack her for it, and then she would have to kill him. And she did not want to kill him unless she absolutely had to. There'd been enough of that in her life.

Perhaps he would get bored and go away.

Perhaps Rochal would sprout wings and fly her to the next town.

She stepped casually back as he came closer, unwilling to be within arm's reach. He was taller than her, which was not often seen in these parts, and much bulkier. Though she was strong he was almost certainly stronger. Best to make sure that he couldn't grab her, because if he did she would likely lose the fight. And besides that, she did not like his smile. Though perhaps that was only because it had been a very long time since anyone had smiled at her genuinely. When he called her horse a nag, she bristled irrationally. True, he was only a horse, but she'd formed a sentimental attachment to the beast. She suppressed the feeling and said, "Well. That, I suppose, is what happens when you buy cheap." Her tone didn't sound precisely friendly, but it wasn't precisely unfriendly, either.

"I'm well used to walking," she added, "I can do it by sunset still."

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Joined: 08 Jul 2014, 02:20

04 Oct 2014, 01:35 #4

Despite the chilly reception, Ugurz was unfazed. Most of the footsore travelers he tended to pass between pit stops out of Harad tended to regard everyone, regardless of their standing, with suspicion—even the most well-behaved, blue-blooded Noldo got a crook-eyed look-over when there was nothing around for miles but brown, rotting verdure and enough dirt roads to shake a stick at and all that stood between you and your welfare was whatever was sharp and pointy that you'd brought along expressly for that purpose. And this one, she seemed to have plenty of that, even if she was reluctant to establish the threat.

"Can't be helped," he said, cocking his head to look at her at a fresh angle and shrugging. Elves were always so attached to their beasts of burden. That was one thing the orcs got right; horses were too dumb and volatile to be used as anything but food, and wargs were only good if you got a smart one who knew better than to try to fight its way up the chain of command by eating a potential rider. He was pretty sure if he made a move the thing would balk and go running in the opposite direction as soon as she let go of the lead. And, well, if he couldn't get the rider, maybe the horse would be a good snack to tide him over, though by the rapid fluttering of his pulse he was fair certain he would lose his Eru-damned mind if there wasn't any more progress made in the next five minutes.

So, with slightly more ethereal speed than he knew would be prudent, he crossed the space he'd put between them, making to companionably walk abreast of her. "Walking's all I ever see elves do nowadays, wouldn't catch a high-bred Sinda lady inconveniencing a horse by making it carry her." He laughed, big, booming noises that sent a flock of birds out of a nearby tree, very, very conscious of her heart beating in her chest. "But you won't find better at the next place, if your cow keels over and dies on the way. Why are you out so far, anyway?" he led in, grinning, the sharp points of the top row of his teeth visible under the line of his lips. Most of the time he was able to pass them off as an obscure beauty ritual from the east, but somehow he knew she'd know better—and part of him wanted her to know she was being scouted as a threat. "Mirkwood's clear that way. Unless you're one of Cirdan's folk? Haven't seen a Teler this far inland in centuries."
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

04 Oct 2014, 19:55 #5

"I suppose not," she said coolly. She wished he would go away. She did not like the way he looked at her; she did not like the way he spoke. Quite suddenly, he was beside her, too fast for any Man to have moved. Rochal shied, though he recovered quickly, as any well-trained Moringothonna steed would. She went rigid all over. She had been wrong. He was not human at all, nor Elf, nor anything she had seen before. And this made his attempts at friendliness all the more sinister.

Halhigil snorted faintly. "I, high-bred? You have quite the opinion of fisherwomen." She was stalling, hoping to keep him talking while she pieced together what he was. Almost certainly something out of the East. A long time ago, Hatalmo had played host to a band of orcs and wargs, and it had been hell to handle horses near them. He was clearly neither, but the signs were the same.

She saw the points of his teeth in another of those too-friendly smiles, and this time she did put a hand to her knife. Somehow she doubted she would have seen that if he had not allowed it. Which likely meant he did not mean her to survive this. She had killed people who had seen through her cover. "I think it is none of your business from where I coming or to where I am going," she said. Now she would have to kill him. Whether he was working for the Moringothonna or simply wanted the sport, she had no idea, but in any case, the why mattered little just now. She had to act swiftly. "And I think you do not care."

Simultaneously, she let her horse go and drew the knife at her hip. He bolted. As she feinted at the creature's gut, she flicked her wrist knife into her now-free hand and slashed down, aiming for the great vein in his thigh.




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Joined: 08 Jul 2014, 02:20

07 Nov 2014, 23:47 #6

Well, finally. Ugurz was of the opinion that inciting an Elf to violence was a sport second only to killing them. And while Sinda were largely useless wastes of space that hadn't been smart enough to follow the Huntsman to that place over the sea that had, too, once been his mother's birthright, they were no less difficult to cadge into a fight. The impulse he could see waiting in her arms, in the tense grip of the weapon he could not see from his current vantage point, stirred his blood, made him forget the ache in his belly for the briefest of moments.

But it returned presently, and, motivated by hunger—the best motivator of all—he dipped out of the way, his eyes ever fixed on her weapon, well aware that the size disparity between them favored a fight that prioritized low targets and whatever acrobatic maneuvers she had at her disposal. His size was always a boon in scuffles of lesser quality: tavern brawls, street fights with cuckolded husbands, fighting off collectors when he couldn't be assed to pay off any debts he'd incurred in any given town he'd stopped at, monetary or otherwise. Still, that wouldn't do here. She was small and sprightly and fast, and he wanted nothing more than to seize her arm and snap it between his thumbs like tinder, but getting close again would put him in range of that dinner knife in her hand, and he was not of a mind to do that anytime soon.

So he vaulted to the other side of her horse, taking the free side of his lead in hand as if to calm the horse and grinning again. There would be no offensive efforts launched just yet; he wanted her to know he was playing with her, that even in his all-consuming hunger, he was a hair faster than she was.

"Well now, fie on you, my lady!" he sneered, patting one massive hand on the horse's shoulder, though he was rather conscious of it trying to bite him, which would do nothing for his mood. "Look, you've gone and scared your poor nag."
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

25 Nov 2014, 02:58 #7

So swiftly she didn't see it, he dodged her strike. But instead of striking back at her, as she expected, as she braced for, he jumped to the other side of the horse.

He was playing with her.

She had to be very careful, or this game would end as he wanted it to, with her death. Immediately, Halhigil gave Rochal up for lost. There was no time for sentiment; she could always get another horse. The problem now was that it was in between her and her enemy. There were very few options open to her. With his speed, she doubted that she could shoot him, and to try would be to waste valuable time. So what, then, could she do?

Goading him would not work; she did not know him or his masters, and she was no silvertongue anyway. But stall him she should--if he wanted to draw this out, let him. All the better for her. It would give her more time. "You are slow, spawn of Mordor, if you still think me a Sinda maid. Or do you believe all daughters of Lindon travel alone through human lands on stolen warhorses?" The objective was to keep him talking. Keep him focused on the fun of toying with his prey before he moved in for the kill.

Slowly, never taking her eyes from him, she moved, circling around so that the horse was less of a barrier between them. Then she lunged suddenly. Rochal kicked, as she'd known he would; she ducked under his hooves and sliced forward, aiming at his gut. Immediately after completing her strike, she danced back out of reach.

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Joined: 08 Jul 2014, 02:20

07 Dec 2014, 22:32 #8

If Ugurz had any self-admitted faults, it was that he did so like to hear himself talk. The invitation to do so was well-received, though part of him acknowledged it was a subtle (and tasteless—by Morgoth, how the Eldar liked to default to such boring offense tactics when backed into corners) bid for more time; he licked his lips and loosened his grip on the halter, more immediately concerned about the wildcard the horse was than the maid, who would need to take at least three running steps to clear the obstacle of her mount if she retaliated. The kind of time that would take was enough of a safety buffer for his own peace of mind.

He gasped then, looking to the horse as if sharing the comment for its entertainment. "Spawn of Morgoth, she says! I'm but a simple footsore traveler trying to lighten the burden of the road with a little friendly conversation, lady," he protested, weakly feigning scandalized, one wind-chapped and callused hand over his chest, a gesture he had observed out of the highborn women of the East. It was a struggle to contain the pulse of interest that had welled up at her latest revelation, but he doubted he'd get anything more about it if he pressed, considering she was very visibly about to try to stick her knife into his heart. Still, a pretty little wandering Elf, out alone on a stolen horse? Ugurz wasn't sure he could believe that, and yet, it was, for all intents and purposes, the truth. The horse was obviously not as warm to her as the mounts of the Eluwaith and the Galadhrim he had seen.

The controlled pace at which she approached him around the horse supported his theory she was about to try again. Despite the gnawing hunger rubbing the tender insides of his stomach raw, the thought that she was an Elf so far removed from the rest of her kin that she apparently thought nothing of stealing a very valuable horse had made him a little less keen to eat her—he had always been a fan of finding corruption, even in its smallest increments, in the strangest places, and the tantalizing bits of the story she'd given him pressed him towards drawing it out even further. The horse would be adequate enough to tide him over until the next town.

He was prepared for her attack; he was not prepared for the horse's. In dodging hers, he reeled back into the beast's direct line and there was a flash of white over his vision and then he felt himself teeter backwards, one hoof making impact dead center of his solar plexus. He wheezed once, barely conscious of the papercut she'd given him through the topmost layer of his hide until the faint splash of red drew his attention belatedly downwards, the smell of blood reawakening the animal hunger that had been so far content to take a temporary back seat to the interview. Despite himself, he forced it down again: the allure of pressing her for information had momentarily superseded his hunger.

"S'no business of mine if you got this cow on loan," he coughed sparsely, a failed attempt at a laugh, quickly unfurling his wings and kicking off the ground to hover about ten feet overhead, just enough to keep himself immediately out of range of her sword. "Alright, alright, you win. Put that thing away before you cut yourself."
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Joined: 28 Jul 2014, 03:34

26 Dec 2014, 21:24 #9

Rochal kicked, as she'd planned. As she hadn't planned, his hooves took the creature in the stomach, while her knife did little damage, and--

The thing rose up on wings.

Wings. Shock doused her, and she swore blisteringly under her breath as she moved back, knives up again. What was he? She'd thought him some kind of man-thing, modified more physically than mentally. Clearly, she'd been wrong, and the danger was even greater than she'd thought. This compounded his advantages over her by ten. If he could fly half as swiftly as he could run, then--

It was not true that there was no way for her to kill him. There was always a way to kill anything. It was, however, certainly possible that there was no way to kill him without being killed in return. The only way she would be able to cut him truly, not just that little slice she'd given him, was to allow him within grappling reach. Or biting reach, if he used those teeth like a warg would.

Well, she'd been under no illusions that her life was safe before. This was simply flashier than a band of Moringothonna soldiers.

And he was talking, still. Strange. At least it seemed she'd been correct that he liked to talk. This nonsense about her having won, however, what was that about? More trickery, no doubt, but strangely clumsy. Or perhaps the clumsiness was a shell disguising another plan. She'd met many who pretended to weakness or stupidity and then swept in while their opponents were well and truly sure there was no real threat at hand.

However, at the moment, she could think of no better option than to keep engaging. "No," said Halhigil. "I am to trust you not to swoop down and rip out my throat? No. What do you want?"

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