Ready, Aim, Loose

Joined: July 28th, 2014, 3:34 am

July 31st, 2014, 2:04 am #1

Eight! Halhigil sprinted through the forest, nocking an arrow as she did. There were eight hunters on her tail, all on horseback. That was unprecedented--a capture mission for a deserter required at the most three hunters. This many was more than overcompensation, it was absurd. One such as her was not nearly so valuable as to merit all of them. She spun and let fly, then turned back without waiting to see if her arrow had met its mark. A pained grunt let her know that some harm had been done, but there was no way to tell if the injury was serious or not. She needed to find some form of high ground, or at least get deeper into the forest, where the trees were close together. It would force them to choose between slowing and dismounting, both of which were good for her.

Halhigil had camped near a village of men, hoping that she could sell meat and furs for some coin. There were things she needed that she could not make--new arrowheads, a new bowstring, new boots--and as long as she made no trouble and took care to walk like one of them, they cheated her only a little and forgot her as soon as she was a few days gone. The ground she'd chosen to lay her campsite on was well-worn by human hunters, and good enough for a fight if all the participants were afoot, but the horses gave her enemies a massive advantage. She'd had no choice but to run when they came. None of them looked like what they were. Only one who knew the Moringothonna would be able to see past the plain clothing and the soft movements and see the hands ready for knives and the way their eyes sorted those around them between threat and not-threat. That, too, was odd. Most hunters did not bother to hide themselves. After all, the only person who would see them was their escaped quarry, who knew well what they were.

Abruptly, she remembered the children she had seen playing in the village square when she passed through it the day before, and felt her blood run colder. Of course. They weren't here only for her. The Moringothonna were nothing if not efficient. This was a "recruiting" party, of the type who disguised themselves as ordinary travelers to lull their targets' parents into complacence. They'd likely been ordered to capture her as well if the opportunity were to present itself, and it had. She nocked another arrow and shot again. This time she caught a horse in the chest. It squealed and fell, crushing the leg of its rider.

Her breath was coming harder now, her legs were slowing. The breakneck pace was not one she could maintain for very long. The lead she had gained by being able to turn among the trees much faster was running out. Halhigil summoned what energy she had left and forced herself to move faster for just a little while more. On either side of her, the hunters were gaining. Inexplicably, the trees thinned. Had she somehow turned around? No, it was just a clearing in precisely the worst place in the forest for a clearing to be. Curse her luck thrice over.

Though she tried, before she could make it to the other side she was cut off by one of the hunters. Halhigil ducked under the arc of the elleth's sword, only to have to twist the other way when a man struck at her. She wasn't quite fast enough. A thin line of pain burned down her ribs. From behind her, someone grabbed at her hair. There were no spikes braided in to stop them; they tangled their fingers in it and yanked her head back. She dropped her bow and clawed backwards. One of her thumbs found an eye socket. With a curse, her assailant released her. Halhigil drew her knives. She was outnumbered, surrounded, and winded from attempting to outrace the horses. The chances that she would escape were slim.

That didn't, however, mean she wasn't going to try. She slashed at the legs of the nearest horse.

image credit alagon
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: June 24th, 2014, 2:33 am

August 2nd, 2014, 3:13 am #2

Perhaps Death rode a pale horse, but Vendetta preferred bays.

Atop a behemoth blood bay with mane and tail the color of tar, Tinemel tore through the woods having finally come upon the right moment to strike. Distracted as the horsemen were by their quarry, the furthermost rider barely turned his head to stare in shock as Efenréðe barreled into the smaller sorrel, pummeling both mount and rider beneath hooves the size of supper plates. Dying shrieks of the sorrel pierced the muted sounds of the prior scuffle, his rider failing to wiggle out beneath his felled mount before a heavy hoof found his head with grievous intention. Clearly not even just a bold charger but a proper trained war horse. Every inch of rippling muscle and hot flesh as much a warrior as the soldier astride him.

A strange shift almost always occurred when hunters become the hunted, that flurry of disbelief followed by a renewed vigor in their attack to return as the position of aggressor. Six and a half (that half being the one already wounded by an arrow) should have easily overwhelmed the single rider — even with a hellish horse that shied away from nothing and sought blood with the eagerness of a ravenous hound. Their lack of armor and the element of surprise paid off greatly in her favor, making it almost no fun. Almost. Although a porcelain mask might have showed more emotion, Tinemel reveled in the slaughter of would-be child thieves.

She had happened upon them by chance, rumor on the wind of children going missing and strangers passing through simultaneously, and the hunt had been afoot for the past few days. Even Tinimel would not set to slaughtering without certainty that they were the deserving target of her wrath. Patience was key, and it was one of her few virtues. Tinemel knew this song and dance like the Yule-time celebratory ones of old. Their name and creed continued to be a mystery to her, but she knew their deeds which violated what little left of her morals remained intact. For that, they would die.

Passing centuries made identifying them easier. More so, a wolf in sheep's clothing could identify another similar masquerader perhaps better than most. She saw death in the way they moved with a hunter’s grace and killer’s gaze upon the world like how a hungry fox searches chicken coup for the fattest hen. Tinemel observed her mannerisms in them and who knew better how to hunt a wolf than another wolf.

A blade sough to disarm her in a very literal sense while the other hand parried a block from a different foe with her sword. The ghost of a smirk haunted her lips as the blade ripped the sleeve of her tunic only to clang against black metal previously hidden to the eye. She did love that party trick. Her attacker’s confusion lasted only a moment for in the next a viridian lacquered arrow tore through his throat. Illusion of the lone rider broken by a dying grunt. Utilizing the half-second of surprise bought by the unexpected arrow, Tinimel buried half her blade into the chest of her enemy, unsheathing it from his sternum, she whipped back the sword behind her to catch a blow intended to behead her. Another viridian arrow lodged itself in the would-be beheader in her temple. A third flew, felling another from the shadows of the surrounding foliage.

One sought to escape in the heat of the moment while his fellows lay dying or dead in the clearing and their riderless horses fled into the depths of the forest. An arrow lodged from their initial prey lodged in his side, not a fatal wound but a debilitating one with the addition of a wound to his side courtesy of Tinimel. Efenréðe rocked back onto his powerful hind in a half-rear, lusting after the escapee’s mare after having dominated the lesser stallions ridden by the hunters. His just reward for a job well done. A simple overlook on the Moringothonnian's part. What had it mattered before that his mare was in heat? Tinimel glanced down at the hunting party’s prey. Seeing two birds to be killed with one stone, she swung a long leg over the saddle and dismounted in one smooth movement.

”Tulu.” Fetch.

Bellowing his excitement at the releasing command, Efenréðe surged forward, leaping over the corpses of horse and hunter. In past days, Tinimel would never have bred a horse with such a violent streak, but his nature suited her needs, and his intelligence impressed her as far as these newer Aged horses went. She might as well let him enjoy the plunder of their conquest like any other invading force. More importantly, as the mare’s high-pitched whinnying and rider’s shrieks indicated his overtaking of the pair, it sent a message that there would be little use in running from her. Pale eyes flickered over the recipient of the poignant message. Left corner of her lips pulling into a knowing smirk that held no warmth.

Now for the fun part.

From the shadows of the woods, a silvery blonde slipped into the clearing with viridian arrows tucked into quiver at her hip, and a chocolate-colored gelding plodding behind her. Eyes flickered briefly to the she-elf who’d nearly lost her life before setting about picking over the corpses for anything of worth. She cheerily hummed a drinking song, occasionally breaking into the lyrics about busty women and headache-filled mornings. Beyond the simple glance, Tinimel's companion paid her no further attention. There were more interesting things to attend to for the moment.

“Usually they’re only ever after children…” Tinimel drawled, examining the corpses as well, finding one was not quite dead. A booted heel pressed down on the throat, not breaking eye contact with the dying elf until the life completely slipped away from his eyes. She knelt down besides him, turning his head in her hands to examine his ears. Pulling a hunting knife from it’s home on her belt, she sliced off the top of the left ear first, then the right, with quick motions of someone with years of practice. Taking a moment to examine the symmetry, she nodded in approval at her work. Prefect every time. “So why were they after you?” A soft ‘thud’ as the head dropped back to the earth accented her question. Pale eyes focused on her now instead of the corpse, but there seemed no difference in the way she viewed either.
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: July 28th, 2014, 3:34 am

August 5th, 2014, 3:31 am #3

One moment, she was desperately fighting a losing battle. The next, she...wasn't. It all happened very fast. Her rescuer, if the elleth on the bay warhorse could be called that, was swift and vicious; her companion sniping from somewhere in the trees was the same. Halhigil was soon left completely sidelined, within the battle but not a part of it. She drew herself inward, making herself as small a target as possible, and waited. It wasn't a long wait.

Now-riderless horses fled past her and into the forest. One of the hunters followed the horses, bleeding and half out of his saddle. The great warhorse chased after him--the mare was in heat, it seemed. That would certainly hurt. His rider's smirked at her as a scream rose. The message was clear: You may have managed to outpace these nags, but try that trick with me and you will be sorry.

Halhigil warily eyed the elleth's companion as she emerged from the trees. From the few shots she had seen, she was better than she was. But, it seemed, she was uninteresting to her. That was good. She had no desire to be on the wrong end of one of those green arrows. Slowly, she knelt to pick up her bow, eyes flicking between the archer and the rider--and saw the first one began to cut the ears from the corpses. She'd heard of this. Word had spread, about the mysterious hunter who cut their soldiers down and mutilated the corpses.

So this was her. Briefly, Halhigil wondered why the ears, then turned her mind to more important things. This elleth hated them--all well and good. This elleth and her singing friend had just killed six of them, and while that had saved her life, she was unsure how they would react if they knew she was a deserter. The fact she was a former Moringothonna might mean nothing at all to them. She couldn't run from them, not when the brown-haired one had that monster of a stallion. An outright lie would do her no good; she could never think of good ones quickly enough. But telling only part of the truth could work.

"I ruined an important plan of theirs," she said carefully, "They do not take such things lightly. Why were you hunting them?" Perhaps they had taken a child from her long ago, or killed someone close to her. It could be both, that wasn't uncommon. It never crossed Halhigil's mind that an elf might be doing this for human children.

image credit alagon
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: June 24th, 2014, 2:33 am

August 14th, 2014, 9:45 pm #4

For a long moment, she said nothing. Simply stared. Taking her sweet, sweet time in assessing the validity of the quarry's statement. Pale eyes never wavered, not to blink, not to flicker elsewhere even for a heartbeat. It was a predatory stare, more animalistic than elvish. There was an emptiness to the stare, but it was far from blank. Contemplation lingered there. Tinemel hadn’t decided if she wasn’t going to kill the silvery haired elf. Being the enemy of her enemy did not necessarily make for a friend.

A plan of theirs…there was a flicker of something then, a dark and terrible flicker but not directed at her. Rumors had reached her. Whispers of a kidnapping that mattered to her especially. Not that she could know, of course. No, but Tinimel made no effort to clarify that the ever so slight murderous look was not for her. Instead, she rose slowly and over to the next body. There had been a time killing bothered her. Even in that damned battle, she’d felt something like disgust at having to kill orcs and traitorous easterlings. Now, well…Tin did feel something, but it was far from disgust. She could not deny there was pleasure in it for her now.

Careful long fingers moved aside the strands of tawny hair away from the dead elf's right ear. Those same fingers traced along the curve. Jealousy. So much jealousy. Morgoth’s servants had taken her ears. An attempt to break her, she supposed with hindsight. It had no worked. It only seemed fair to return the favor. However, before taking this particular set, Tin saw fit the answer the question posed to her.

“Well…” She responded slowly, tasting the word as if it were a piece sampled from a succulent dish. “I suppose everyone needs a hobby. Living forever can grow so dull,” A flick of her wrist sent the knife through the cartilage and flesh of the ear, severing the top curve from the lobe. The response dripped of nonchalance, which would have come off as showboating if not for the fact she and her companion committed a slaughtering of the would-be kidnappers. “And I like killing them.” An added afterthought as she slowly moved down the line, taking their ears and casually throwing them into a pile.

At the last body, Tinemel paused. “How funny it is, I do not even know their name…” She gracefully dropped to a knee, played with the ear about to be cut. “I imagine you know that and much more.” Tin took the final set of ears, tossing them in the pile, and stood at the center of the bodies, again the contemplative look crossing her features. “And you are going to tell me everything you know.” It was not a request. Of course, she could run. That was always an option. It would be a stupid one, but it was there to take.

“But first, should I hang the bodies naked from the trees or dismember them then organize the bits into piles? It is difficult to remain creative over the decades,” A hand rested on her hip, her chin slightly turned towards her conversation partner, but her eyes remained on the bodies.
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: July 28th, 2014, 3:34 am

August 21st, 2014, 7:15 pm #5

If she was to live, she would have to tread lightly. That was a predator's stare. She very carefully did not meet it--better not to challenge. Briefly, she contemplated looting the arrows, and decided it was also better not to compete with the blonde archer.

At the order (it could be called nothing else), she only nodded. Some things she needn't divulge. Information was, after all, the only thing she had to bargain for sanctuary with, and this elleth hardly had need of everything. What was necessary, she would give, but no more. When the elleth spoke of what she should do with the bodies, as if it were a game, she was surprised to find that her skin did not crawl. Many of her former comrades were less than respectful with the bodies of their victims--but this was different. A punishment for those who deserved it. Halhigil's lip curled slightly. "Cut them up. Let there be nothing fit to bury." There was little emotion in her voice, but a hard look had come into her eyes.

That done with, she launched into her explanation. "They're called the Moringothonna and they work to ready the world for their lord's return. This band is--was--kidnappers, sent out to take the next generation of soldiers, though for what faction I don't know. I cannot say if they've taken any children yet. If they have, since they're empty-handed, there must be a temporary base camp somewhere, guarded by a few of their comrades." She had been held in a place such as that for a few days. The security had been minimal, she now realized, though as a terrified child it had seemed insurmountable.

Of course, the more children there were, the more guards there would be, but there would likely be no more than three or four Moringothonna and a dozen children. Larger parties attracted too much attention; larger groups were too much trouble to transport. "Easy prey, if they can be found and drawn off." Of course, they would not hesitate to use the children as hostages--as yet untested and untrained, the poor things would not be viewed as particularly valuable. One more crime to lay at the Moringothonna's feet.

Halhigil, of course, would be following their trail backwards as best she could. Three against one were not good odds, and if there were children and she was successful, she would be highly noticeable and vulnerable until she got them all back to their parents--but she could not do otherwise. What the other did was her own affair.

image credit alagon
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: June 24th, 2014, 2:33 am

September 20th, 2014, 8:37 am #6

Ah, but it was a game. The Moringothonna started it by attempting to abduct children of friends, causing the death of a friend in the process, but she intended to finish it. Whether or not the group knew they played mattered very little to her. Tinemel had always possessed a knack for strategic games, the sort that were played over long spans of time and required ungodly levels of patience. Something needed to feed her cruelty, that gaping hole in her chest torn into her by the torture of Angband. There had not been a choice in its creation, but Tin would control how she satisfied that need and upon whom her rage fell upon. Most of the time. Everyone made mistakes.

She listened to the explanation while carefully cutting the bodies into pieces with swift strokes after letting Hunalal pick through their clothing to her satisfaction. Kidnappers. That much she knew, although not having known for whom or why. There was little pleasure in knowing the name, but it did give her some. Names meant little, of course, they could change – much like her own had over the years. And then there were days she did not know any of her names. Those were bad days. The sort of days mistakes were made and regrets formed. Today was not one of those days, however.

“Moringothonna. A pretentious name,” Tinemel mused aloud, grunting slightly as a bone proved difficult to cut through but yielded to her in the next moment. The silvery blonde cracked what must have been a joke given the tone in a long dead dialect of a more recently dead language, and Tin cracked a smile of broken glass but did not so much as look over at her companion. “Drawn off? Hm,” She looked almost amused in a she-wolf sort of humor, keeping the depths of what turned the suggestion into a jest to herself. The blonde seemed to understand though, a careening laugh followed then slowly languished into a chuckle. “They’ve already taken children.”

Tinemel set about making piles of the body parts, forming a circle of the piles, not seeming to notice the coat of blood and guts the process caused to cover her. “You will come with us.” A startled grunt from the blonde preceded a quick conversation in the long dead dialect. An argument over some hot debate that eventually Tinemel won. “My friend thinks we should kill you, but I think that would be a waste.” From the back of her throat, something that could have been a laugh but also perhaps a barked growl sounded. “And I am supposedly the unsocial one.”
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: July 28th, 2014, 3:34 am

September 23rd, 2014, 11:37 pm #7

So there were already victims. It made her stomach clench, to think of it. They would be very young, and very fragile, in the manner of Men. The weaker ones were probably close to death already. That decided her course. Or it would decide her course, if these two let her go. The language they were using wasn't one she understood (she spoke only Sindarin and enough Westron to get by). At the moment they could be saying anything. Just because they had saved her life did not make them her friends or even her allies. The elleth had made her grudge clear; it had nothing to do with Halhigil herself. They might very well come to the conclusion that she was another foe.

Although, it seemed, they had decided in her favor. She could hardly blame the blonde one for thinking it safer to kill her. She was skilled enough to anger the Moringothonna--anyone would be right to consider her dangerous. "Well, I am glad of that," she said quietly. While she would have to watch her back until their ways parted, the words made her slightly less on edge. Slightly.

"You mean to go after them?" Halhigil asked. "If you do, we must go as soon as possible. And I'll need a horse." There were plenty of them in the woods. Likely they would be hard to find, but she knew enough about horses to take one in hand as long as it wasn't galloping away from her at full speed. And she was gentler by far than their former masters. If the two ellyn allowed her time, she could catch one.

image credit alagon
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: June 24th, 2014, 2:33 am

November 28th, 2014, 12:29 pm #8

For a long breath of a moment, Tinemel did not respond to anything – not the question, not the decree for haste and certainly not the need of a horse. No, instead, she studied her artwork composed of corpses with all the gravity of a master sculptor. Drying blood coated her hands; a few dripping streaks decorated her sharp cheekbones like war paint. Butchery was a messy business, but Tin had grown used to it over the centuries.

She inched one of the severed heads into place with the steel tipped toe of her boot, taking pleasure in utter perfection of the symmetry thusly created. A messy business, indeed, but that did not mean it could not be beautiful. And as they say, beauty was in the eye of the beholder, and the lightless, pale eyes did find beauty in the mutilated corpses. It was her message to these Moringothonna, as striking as tengwar script in her opinion, that they might be demons, but even demons had nightmares that haunted them.

“I mean to hunt them,” Tin shared at last, finally pleased with the end result of her art project. She glanced about her in a searching manner, finally giving up and giving a sharp whistle. In the next moment, the stallion returned, herding the current object of his aggression affections with her dead rider crushed against her back. There was something particularly jarring about the angle of his neck and head, near twisted all the way around. “How did you manage that, hmm?” She questioned the horse, patting his sweaty neck and pulling off the mangled kidnapper. The addition ruined her art, but she’d make due. Laziness didn’t suit her so she couldn’t just dump the body.

The little mare danced nervously at the stallions side, but she seemed unharmed by his advances. “You can have the mare,” Marillel declared, while butchering her last rider – taking as much care as with the original bodies. “Rushing the hunt is ill advised. If I think you’re on the verge of a decision that will endanger me or my companion, I’ll slit your throat. There is a method to hunting your friends.” Mar swung up into the saddle, viewing the scene she’d made as if seeing it for the first time. “Come. The hunt begins properly now.”

The blonde released a hoot of shrill excitement before swinging up on her own mount, laughing in between words of the dead language again. Marillel remained silent, but a slow smile spread. She did like the hunt, lived for it even.
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: July 28th, 2014, 3:34 am

January 4th, 2015, 4:57 pm #9

Hunt? There was little difference to her, but she nodded her assent. What reason was there to argue, after all? Whatever the name, the end would be the same. Or she hoped that it would--from what she had seen, these two were more than a match for any of her old comrades, but the Moringothonna were always full of surprises. There was no room for overconfidence.

The mare seemed tractable enough, and stayed still as Halhigil adjusted the stirrups and looked her over. She didn't seem to be hard-mouthed or too scarred; apart from that, she knew nothing of horses and had no way to tell if anything else was wrong with the beast. Likely not. Recruiters were more careful with their beasts. They had more need to be inconspicuous, after all. She patted the mare's neck gently and mounted.

At the elleth's words, she felt a brief, bitter desire to laugh. The idea that she--she--would need an education in how to hunt the Moringothonna held a certain kind of twisted humor. Well, let her think and say what she would. It hardly mattered. And as for slitting her throat--well, she had no wish to die, and the threat made her cautious, but the idea did not frighten her terribly. "Understood."

And so they hunted. Six days, seven nights. Tense, the lot of it. (But better, still, than bedding down beside Crithon or Raithedis or any of the others she'd once been forced to fight beside.) At last, just before noon on the seventh day, they came upon them. Or rather, they came upon one of their outer watchmen in the forest. They'd had to dismount and lead the horses--even the little mare couldn't maneuver with a rider on her back this far from the road, yet they could not be left behind and would be needed to carry the children. Those who still lived, that was. (If they were fast enough--and she hoped that they had been--none should have succumbed, but there was no telling until they had them free.)

Halhigil saw the flicker of movement and dodged just an arrow whistled past her head. A second later, and it would have been in her eye. Swiftly, she pulled her bow from her back and nocked an arrow. Her enemy was--there. She let fly, and heard it hit home. He--she saw, now, that it was an ellon--toppled out of the brush, her arrow in his gut. Still alive, and therefore still dangerous, but not for long.

"We are close," she said. Her tone was no different than it might have been if she were saying it will rain soon or it is time to move.

image credit alagon
Quote
Like
Share