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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 3rd, 2015, 5:59 am 
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Lynne straightened Morrigan’s blankets and secretly peeked at the blonde, who was poking at her breakfast with her fork. She might be a few years older than Lynne, but her countenance was not one of a lively young woman, blessed with a position like hers. Instead her complexion was pale and there were dark rings under her eyes like she had not slept.
All knew the sickly disposition of the Lady Morrigan, but Lynne couldn’t help but wonder how she got so unwell.

When Morrigan looked up and caught her gaze, Lynne quickly turned away while a brush crept up her cheeks. She opened the damask curtains, letting sunshine into the room. For a moment, she stared at the view. The white plastered houses shone like pearls in the sunlight, the only green patches were the fields outside the city, where hundreds of slaves busied about their work.

“You must eat, Milady,” she smiled upon turning to the bed again. Morrigan had not taken one bite of food. “You must regain your strength for the celebration of tonight.”

Dread gnawed at her stomach as she spoke of that evening. She usually enjoyed watching the splendour and listening to the music as she served the guests. But now she suspected that the evening might turn out differently. He would make sure of that. After all, it had happened before.

Lynne picked up a worn gown and draped it over her arm. She would bring that to the laundry later.

“Are you looking forward to tonight?”

-------------------------------------------


The sky was coloured grey and heavy laden with black clouds. The air however was still and soundless, just as the deserted marshlands that surrounded Beör. The sight filled him with dread and the thin air made it hard to breath. He was surrounded by companions; other rangers, but they were faceless and Beör didn’t recognise them. He made his way as quick as possible through the wasteland, careful to avoid the swamps. The purpose of his mission gave him strength and energy to go on, even though they had travelled for days and there had been no sight of the creature Gollum.

Suddenly, the ground seem to give away underneath Beör’s feet. When he looked down he noticed how he was ankle-deep in a marsh and quickly sinking in deeper. No matter with how much force he tried to kick his legs, they didn't move. He wanted to scream out for the others, scream out for help but only low gurgling sound escaped his troat. His companions appeared out of nowhere and were standing in a semi-circle around the bog, which had reached Beör's chest. He reached out his arms to them, so they could pull him out, but they did nothing and watched with lifeless eyes how he disappeared in the marsh. Helplessness and fear paralyzed him. Water muffled his ears and Beör took a deep breath when steadily his mouth, nose and eyes disappeared beneath the surface. He squeezed his eyes shut, so that he would not see the lights. His lungs burnt because of the lack of oxygen. Then there was darkness...

He lay on a cold and hard surface. Everything hurt. Beör pushed himself on his knees and looked around him but there was only darkness, a pitch-black darkness where his eyes could not get used to. His heart almost skipped a beat when iron fingers grasped his arm and his mind was clouded with despair.

"What were you looking for?" A high-pitched voice whispered in his ear, but he could not see its owner. "Where is it? " The grasp tightened and this time Beör managed to whisper: "Nothing."

He heard a cry in the darkness, quite nearby that iced his blood. Luthien. Her cry was desperate, filled with pain and fear. "I know nothing," he called out, desperate to be convincing. But the cold voice only laughed mirthlessly. Another voice cried out his name. Arawen. He had never heard Arawen as scared as she sounded now. Beör tried to break free from the iron grasp to save her from whatever they were doing to her but he didn't succeed. So he crumbled to the floor, trying to block out the cries of Luthien and Arawen who cried out for him in agony.

Beör!

Beör woke up with a gasp. Cold sweat trickled down his neck and he felt as if he was recovering from a heavy fever. He searched for the source of the voice and saw Arawen standing near the bars of the cell. She was alright, Beör realised with relief. She was unharmed. "Arawen" he breathed, still catching his breath. He sat up and listened to what she said although the words only slowly sank in.

"Let's hope so, for if he doesn't we will both starve within a fortnight with this ration."
Beör sighed and looked up at Arawen. "Have you about the plan I proposed? "


----------------------------


Rhys had not slept a wink that night. It wasn’t the prison that unsettled him; he was used to confined spaces with no comfort. It was the quietness that kept him from sleeping. The bustle in the barracks had at first been loud and overwhelming, but he had grown used to it and eventually he found it comforting to fall asleep with the sound footsteps, voices or even fighting.

So that’s why when Luthien called out, he was still wide awake, even though Urúvion’s presence had gone unnoticed by him. He did not stand by Luthien’s side like she asked to, but remained seated on the floor, leaning into the wall with one leg pulled up to his chest and the other stretched out in front of him.
Rhys looked at Urúvion without fear this time. For this man had already taken away everything he had and destined him for the worst fate possible. What was there left to be scared of?

“This is the man behind the curtain, Luthien,” Rhys said quietly. “He is the man who decides about life and death on a whim. Who has the power to control every life in this city and takes pleasure from exploiting others, even children.”

Rhys was silent and thought of Nadyah. A child who’d been left to fend for herself after her mother had died. She should never have been in this place which terrified her. He had promised to protect her. For a moment Rhys wondered if Morrigan had taken his advice. If she had taken Nadyah and left. Was that perhaps why he was here?

“This power makes him think he’s God,” Rhys continued. It felt good to speak these words, even though they were only a small act of defiance. “But in reality he’s only a puppet in a much larger game. He has a master as well.”

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 8th, 2015, 5:48 pm 
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At the mention of the evening celebrations that were to come, Morrigan looked up abruptly. Her features contorted very slightly as if she was in pain. Thinking about tonight, all she felt was dread. Uruvion had something planned, but she didn't know exactly what it was. Knowing him as she did, it would be some elaborate plan designed to inflict as much hurt and misery as possible. She looked over to the doors of her tall, carved wardrobe, outside which hung her new gown. It had been presented to her last night. It was the most luxuriously crafted thing she had ever seen, yet it brought her no joy to look upon it. It may as well have been her own funeral robes. She looked away quickly and tried her best to smooth out the expression on her face, so as not to worry Lynne.

"Of course, I'm looking forward to it very much," she replied in a faltering tone, although she had wanted to sound light hearted and carefree. She turned her attention back to her breakfast, which so far she had just pushed about with a fork. She had no appetite. This made her feel immensely guilty; the slaves toiling in the fields this morning would die for a meal such as this. Not for the first time, Morrigan wished that Uruvion had never taken her from the slave barracks, wished that he had never found her. Starving to death seemed a bearable alternative to meeting whatever terrible revenge Uruvion had planned for her. "It's sure to be quite a memorable celebration," she continued, her voice growing even weaker.

She put down her fork, giving up all attempts to try and persuade herself to eat. She set aside the breakfast tray and slowly got out of bed. Shivering, she looked around for her shawl. She couldn't remember where she'd left it. Although it was a sunny day, she was still prone to sudden chills. Deciding that it didn't matter, Morrigan walked over to her dressing table and sat before the mirror, settling herself down on the padded chair. She observed her reflection and noted the dark circles beneath her eyes, indicating her sleeplessness. Once again, Morrigan remembered Arawen and the way Uruvion had looked at her. No wonder he felt so ready to potentially get rid of Morrigan, when he had a replacement lined up already.

"Might you brush my hair, Lynne?" Morrigan said quietly. She always found this soothing, and she was in particular need of relaxation. She picked up the nearest hairbrush and smiled faintly at Lynne in the mirror.

~~~

Arawen moved so that she was sitting nearer to Beor as he woke up. It looked as if he'd had a bad dream. She remained silent, watching him steadily. Her silence was not the sign of any indifference on her part; just the opposite, in fact. She felt that her calmness could help Beor see that everything would be alright, that there was no need for panic. She touched his shoulder gently whilst he caught his breath; at the same time, she listened out for any footsteps along the cell block. She would never have said so, but she was very hungry indeed. One piece of bread a day divided between the two of them wasn't nearly enough to sustain them properly.

Arawen flinched when Beor brought up his plan again. She had hoped that he wouldn't mention it again, but here he was doing so. "I have thought about it, Beor," she responded coolly. "And I don't agree to it." She said no more for now, removing her hand from his shoulder. She knew Beor too well to have any hope that her blunt rejection of his idea would put him off. And so, after a few moments' pause, she continued. "Don't you see that it's a bad idea? It's counterproductive. It'll hurt you, Beor. I don't care about myself. But I care about you and your emotional wellbeing. Do you think I want to see you spiral into darkness again?" She frowned and resolutely stared at her feet. "It's too much of a risk. And not a risk I want to take."

~~~

Ururvion rolled his eyes and smiled cruelly at Rhys. "Oh, how I've missed your sharp wit, Rhys," he drawled sarcastically. "You really are very entertaining. Perhaps I should have kept you as my court jester." He was pretending not to care about Rhys' insults, but it was obvious that the words had bothered him. His dark eyes were flickering dangerously, and one of his hands kept twitching in irritation. It seemed that he had decided not to lash out, because he was saving Rhys to be part of a greater plan. With a forced smile, he turned to Luthien, who was still hovering by the bars.

"And your name would be?" he asked her.

Luthien shrugged her shoulders. "Why bother with me, if you're so grand and important?" she said, taking a step back. She averted her gaze, not wanting to meet Uruvion's eyes. There was something unsettling about them.

"Oh believe me, I've asked myself that same question. But you two are unfortunately necessary to me," Uruvion said smoothly. "You see, I intend to throw a party tonight. And I seem to be short of a few guests. I've been wondering - how am I to solve this problem? A quiet party is a dull thing indeed. I like my celebrations to be eventful. And I believe that this one will be, if all goes well." He smiled darkly. "So - I'll be needing your name, so I can give you an invitation."

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 9th, 2015, 6:35 pm 
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Lynne watched how Morrigan shuffled to her dressing table and watched her shiver. Her shoulders were slumped forwards, her back bent as if she carried the weight of the world on her shoulder. Lynne felt a pang of pity in her stomach for the woman, who was obviously not only unwell, but also very unhappy. Quickly, she tossed the worn gown in the laundry basket and opened the large wooden door of the wardrobe and fetched a woollen shawl from the lower shelf.

“Here you are, Milady” she said, while draping the knitted fabric around Morrigan’s shoulders. She took the hairbrush in her left hand and started to brush the golden strands of hair. While slowly brushing Morrigan’s hair, Lynne’s eyes wandered from the beautifully decorated frame to her own reflection in the mirror. It had been a while since she had looked at herself like that, other than a stolen glance in the window. Lynne found that she looked older than she remembered and to her dismay that even more freckles marked her pale skin.

She concentrated again at the task at hand, glad that she could spend more time upstairs. The work in the kitchens was heavy and tiring, so whenever she could get away from it and spend time in the grand rooms, Lynne seized the opportunity. It was not that she hated the work she had to do. Someone had to do it. There were those who were rich and possessed power, who could decide their own fate and that of others. And there were those who weren’t given these privileges and had to work for it. It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t fair, but that was how Lynne knew the world worked.

She put the brush back on the nightstand and her slender finger parted Morrigan’s hair in thee. “Would you like me to braid your hair, Milady? I can braid in a string of pearls if you like.” She smiled and glanced at the new gown Lady Morrigan was going to wear that evening. “You will look breath taking. All eyes in the room will be fixed on your Ladyship.”

Lynne looked into the mirror again, but this time searched for Morrigan’s eyes. She weighed her words and hesitated, unsure if she was too forward if she spoke up. But when something was on Lynne’s mind, it was hard for her not to speak of it. “When I go down I shall ask for the physician to look in on you this morning. I.. I think he can help you.”

------------------------------------------

Beör tried to catch Arawen’s gaze as she spoke. The trembling in his limbs slowly subsided and he tried to focus on the problem at hand, instead of horrifying visions of his nightmare.
“But we have to get out of here, rather sooner than later. You know him, Arawen. He could already let Luthien be killed.” Beör hardly recognised his own voice as he spoke. The words were desperate and full of fear. It sounded like someone who was broken, grasping at straws. That couldn’t be him. He had vowed to hold on to his dignity and the last bit of honour he had left. So he took a deep breath to calm down. When he spoke again his voice was indeed calm, but there was still something feeble in his tone, like something was broken inside him.

“Look around you,” he said gesturing to the small cell that held them captive. “Darkness is already upon us. Sometimes, there is space for a small ray of sunshine, but it’s weak and fades soon.” He clasped one hand around Arawen, hoping that by holding her, some of her strength was passed on to him.

“We cannot stand in the sun. Not here, in this place, with him. But you can exert some kind of power over him, Arawen. He said so himself. He won’t leave you in here. But, I know that even for you, he won’t show mercy for me. He will let me rot in here for another fifteen years. Until you have forgotten about me and I have forgotten about the colour of the sky and the touch of the sun. Until I have gone mad or become a ghost.”

There would be no escaping this fate, Beör knew that from experience. Only a short while, after Arawen had left the cell block and after that horrible night, despair had taken the better of him. He was driven out of his mind by the painful recollections of the past and the dark prospect of his future that he had decided to take control for once. He wanted to end his life. But in the final moments when he nearly believed that he had succeeded, his escape attempt was thwarted by Urúvion’s underlings.

Beör finally looked at Arawen and let go of her hand, which he had squeezed so hard, that he was surprised that she had not pulled away from his grasp. “Our only hope is that you get out of here and find Luthien. Together, I am sure you might figure something out.” The ranger bit lip. He didn’t want to admit out loud what a relief it was that she was there with him. With her gone, who knew what for evil plans Urúvion had in store for him. It would mean that he had remain in here with no one to help him to keep the demons at bay.

------------------------------------------------

Rhys was taken aback by Urúvion’s silence. The fact that this man allowed himself to be taunted without lashing out and retaliating meant that he was up to something. The look in his was calculating, like a predator that was creeping up to his prey, not giving the fatal blow until it knew that its victim had let its guard down.

“What do you mean, ‘we are invited’?” Rhys demanded. He got to his feet and tried to ignore the hollow feeling in his stomach, as he advanced to the bars. Whatever game this man had in mind, he would not be playing it. There was nothing left to coerce him with, so Rhys would simply not comply.
He spit on the floor, near Urúvion’s feet and looked at him, challenging. “Not for anything in the world will I attend some kind of celebration of your name.”

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Children, rejoice, rejoice..

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 19th, 2015, 12:42 pm 
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Morrigan drew the shawl further about her shoulders and smiled gratefully at Lynne. She concentrated on the gentle strokes of the brush Lynne ran through her hair, taking comfort in her ministrations. Morrigan would never say so to Lynne, not wanting her to pity her, but this was the only part of the day that she looked forward to. Her servant's calm company had a soothing effect on her. She wished that she could bring herself to confide in her; it would be nice to have a friend. After all, Rhys was locked up and there was no knowing if she would ever see him again. But she didn't want to burden Lynne with her troubles.

“Would you like me to braid your hair, Milady? I can braid in a string of pearls if you like. You will look breath taking. All eyes in the room will be fixed on your Ladyship.”

Morrigan nodded to Lynne's question and suggestion. She wanted to make sure that she would be looking at her best tonight. She could imagine the kind of finery and jewels Uruvion would heap upon Arawen. It was as if he was pitting them against each other in some kind of twisted contest. She reached out to open one of the drawers of her dressing table and gingerly took out a box of pearls for her hair. "I will wear my pearl drop earrings tonight, also," she said quietly. She leaned back against the chair and closed her eyes, exhausted by the effort.

“When I go down I shall ask for the physician to look in on you this morning. I.. I think he can help you.”

Morrigan opened her eyes, startled. She shouldn't have been surprised that Lynne commented upon her ill health; after all, she was paler than usual and had even lost a little weight. But Morrigan had wanted to carry on with the pretence that all was well. Morrigan's shoulders shrank beneath her shawl, and her gaze dropped to her lap. "Very well," she responded after a few moments' pause, her voice barely audible. "If I am to make an appearance at the celebrations tonight I shall need all the help I can get..." She didn't know if Lynne could hear her. She covered her eyes with one weak hand and fought against the urge to give in to despair.

~~~

Unable to stand Beor's melancholy any longer, Arawen leaned forward and enfolded him in her arms. She embraced him tightly, wishing that this sense of doom would go away. "Stop it," she whispered in Beor's ear. "Stop it. We're not leaving this place without you. Neither I or Luthien would ever leave you behind." She rested her brow against Beor's and kept her eyes tightly shut. She longed for this dark cell to have vanished when she opened her eyes again, but she knew it would remain just the same. They couldn't go on like this, though. They had to fight back against whatever fate Uruvion had in store for them both.

"Nothing and no one will make me abandon you. We all leave here together, or not at all. I promise." She pulled back and looked fiercely into Beor's eyes. "Believe me, Beor. Hold onto that promise. I will have to leave this cell, but when I do, don't let yourself give in. That's what he wants. He wants you to lose all hope for yourself. Don't do that." She took a deep breath and took both his hands in hers. She held on for a while before letting go and getting to her feet. "We'll do what you said, Beor. We'll bring Uruvion to us. But we'll do it my way."

Steeling herself, she clenched her fists and stood still for a moment or so. Then, without warning, she launched herself against one of the hard stone walls, smashing her arm painfully in the process. Arawen had taught herself to show no response to pain over the years, but for the guards' benefit, she let out a blood curdling shriek. She fell to the floor and clasped her arm like a broken wing. She looked up at Beor through strands of long dark hair and nodded at him.

~~~

Uruvion observed Rhys in disgust, stepping back from where he had spat on the floor. "I think you'll find that you won't have any choice about whether you attend or not," he said simply. "You both will be sent for in due course. In the meantime, I suggest you both try to improve your manners."

"You're going to force us to attend a party?" Luthien said, frowning. "Why?"

"That's not for you to concern yourself with," Uruvion replied with a smug shrug of his shoulders. He appeared ready to say more, but he was distracted by a sudden noise. It appeared to be coming from the other end of the cell block: a scream. Ururvion flinched, as if he recognized the sound. Luthien felt her heart leap wildly in her chest, and she drew closer to the cell bars in alarm. What if the person screaming was Arawen? What if Ururvion's guards were hurting her?

Uruvion took his leave abruptly, appearing just as concerned as Luthien. Luthien watched in astonishment, shaken by their host's sudden arrival and departure. "What on earth is happening here?" she whispered to herself.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 23rd, 2015, 2:21 pm 
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Beör froze as Arawen embraced him tightly. Their sudden close proximity, her arms holding him as if she expected him to fall over any moment, the touch of her brow to his. It all startled Beör. He hadn't been so close to anyone, let alone held with such affection for a very very long time. In fact, Beör even believed that the last time had probably been when he had just been a child.

He had tried to play along with his older nephews. They sneaked into the barn of their farmhouse and chose the fastest horses to ride after night fall. They didn't allow Beör to come unless he was able to mount the most spirited stallion. He had been a small lad at the time and never rode a horse before, but with a lot of determination and resourcefulness he found a way to mount the impatient animal, which his uncle had already saddled for a journey. One moment of triumph Beör thought he had mastered the black horse, but the horse's temper was fierce and it didn't recognise its rider. It pranced, one, two, three times and Beör fell. His aunt had embraced him, tried to dry his tears when she concluded after inspecting his right arm that it was broken. She had been more furious with his nephews than she had ever been. And it was last time someone held him in a loving embrace.

When the embrace became familiar to Beör his muscles slowly relaxed and slowly his arms wrapped around Arawen's small frame. Her body warmed his and he even felt more hopeful. But that could also be because of what she said. He wanted to hold her like this forever.

"You'll find a way to come back," he whispered. "I know you do. I pray you do. I won't survive here alone." He didn't say it and perhaps Beör didn't even know it yet, but the truth that was that he could not survive without her.

Before he knew what was going on, Arawen let go of him and crashed into the wall. Beör yelled in shock, but Arawen's bloodcurdling shriek was even louder. She crumbled to the floor and clutched her arm with a grimace on her face. She looked like a young, frail bird who tried to fly out of the nest, but had fallen down and injured itself.

Beör sank on his knees next to her and her name was on his lips in a worried whisper. He couldn't bear seeing her like this, broken and in pain. He hardly heard the thundering footsteps down the cell block and when Beör looked up at Urúvion his face was distorted with guilt and despair.

"Arawen.." he uttered again at a loss for other words. He suddenly remembered that a part had to be played in order for Arawen to escape their prison. "I don't know what happened," Beör said with trembling voice. He didn't have to make an effort of looking bewildered and confused, because that was how he was actually feeling. The confusion of abrupt their moment of hope and affection ended, the guilt that only her pain could secure a safe passage out and the dread that he now had to send her away with that monster made him look as if he was about to loose his mind. There was a wild gleam in his eyes, but when he spoke again he sounded helpless. "Her arm, it's hurt."

-------------------------------------------

Rhys watched in disbelief how Urúvion stormed off to another part of the cell block. He edged back to the other side of the cell and shook his head. "This man is insane," he uttered incredulous. "Our lives depend on the whims of a madman!" He leaned against the wall and ran a hand through his hair. Lashing out to Urúvion did make him feel better, but it had not chased that eery feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"I won't be his puppet, whatever his power or influence. I am sure that if he drags us to some kind of party, I cannot vouch for myself."

But he could as well be speaking to a brick wall. Luthien was still standing at the bars of the cell, craning her neck in the direction of where the scream had come from. A far-off look was in her eyes.

"Luthien," Rhys asked, wondering whether he could wake her from the thoughts that seemed to keep her in trance. "Do you know that woman? The woman who screamed? "

---------------------------------

Lynne nodded and took the pearl strings that Morrigan handed to her. For a moment she looked at it, marvelling at the glimmering white rounds. The most beautiful and valuable of pearls originated from salt waters. How she knew this or who told her that, Lynne didn't remember.

Her hands wove an intricate pattern with strands of hair and pearls. It was going to look beautiful. Lynne smiled. She took pleasure from creating something beautiful and making others happy. But for now the Lady Morrigan looked deeply unhappy. She bound the end of the braid with a band while a thoughtful look spread over her face.

All her own troubles were forgotten as she focused on her mistress. Something was the matter, there was Lynne sure of. But Lady Morrigan would never speak to her about it, even if she could help her. Let alone could she ask about it. It was not her place to know or talk about such things. Perhaps it had to do with her absence of a few days ago, when the steward of the house had told Lynne that she was not needed upstairs. The steward was a fearsome man so Lynne hadn't dared to probe further, but the lack of explanation had troubled her. Even when Morrigan was ill, she had been allowed to tend to her.

Lynne brushed off her hands on her apron and this time purposely looked in the mirror at Morrigan when she spoke. "If you don't need me for anything else Milady, I will go down."

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Children, rejoice, rejoice..

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: August 31st, 2015, 1:13 pm 
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Luthien slowly turned around and walked away from the bars of the cell. Her expression was distant and confused. She heard Rhys's question, though; she just dreaded to reply to it. She did not want to utter what she knew in her heart to be true. She did know the woman who screamed. She was sure it must have been Arawen. Luthien had never before heard Arawen in such pain, and it was frightening to her. What was being done to her here? "Yes," she eventually replied, walking towards Rhys. Her feet felt heavy, as if she was trudging through thick snow. "I think so. Arawen. The friend that I told you about."

She leaned against one of the cell walls and folded her arms tightly. "That man seemed to know her as well," she continued. Her brow was marked with a puzzled frown. "How? How could that be?" she wondered aloud. She didn't expect Rhys to be able to give her an answer. The situation was a mystery. Trying not to let herself panic, she looked Rhys in the eye and forced a smile. "At least I know that she's alive," she said firmly. "I know that much."

However, she remained clueless as to what Beor's current whereabouts might be. Arawen was only at the other end of the cell block, but was Beor there with her? What had happened to him? Even if he was still alive, would he be able to cope with being thrown back into prison again? Luthien feared for his state of mind. "Curse this place," Luthien suddenly exclaimed bitterly. She thought of Uruvion, who was in control of all of them, of whether they lived or died. "What does that man want with us anyway? What are we to him?"

~~~

"No," Morrigan said abruptly. Her voice came out sharper than she'd meant it to. She rushed to explain herself, not wanting Lynne to think that she was telling her off. "What I mean is... no. Please don't go just yet." Her grey eyes filled with tears. Now Lynne would know that something was wrong, the very thing that Morrigan had wanted to prevent. But she hadn't been able to let her go away. She needed her company. She needed a friend. But would Lynne turn her face away if she knew the real truth of what was going on? She might be too afraid of the consequences of displeasing Uruvion, if she became privy to Morrigan's secrets. There was only one way for Morrigan to know. She took a deep breath.

"Would you sit with me for a while?" she said quietly. "I don't want to keep you from your duties downstairs, but... I need to tell someone this." She kept her eyes fixed on Lynne's reflection. A few tears trickled down her face, but she felt too tired to wipe them away. "Things are not well between Lord Uruvion and I." There, she had said it. "I have angered him and he will not forgive me. These celebrations tonight may be my last chance to prove that I am not as undutiful as he now believes me to be. I must look beautiful, I must behave as perfectly as a queen, and I must not be ill." She was hurrying her words now, wanting to blurt everything out before she changed her mind. "I don't know what to do. I'm sure there will be another woman present tonight and she is everything that I am not. Don't mistake me - I'm not envious. But I am afraid. If I displease his lordship in any way - he will kill me."

She had voiced her greatest fear. Now came the terrible wait to see how Lynne would react to the worst words any servant could hear from their mistress.

~~~

A guard struggled with the keys to unlock the door before Uruvion burst into the cell. He appeared horrified to see Arawen collapsed on the floor in such pain. "How can you not know?" he shouted at Beor. "You've been in this wretched cell with her the entire time! How can you not know how she came to have such an injury?" He looked closely at Arawen as if inspecting a priceless treasure, the value of which he was keen not to lose. He was obviously checking to see if her beauty was in any way marred. He appeared relieved when he saw that she was only injured, that she would recover, and that her looks would remain intact.

He now offered Arawen his hand. "Come with me, you will go to the hospital wing," he insisted. Arawen looked up at him with obvious hatred. But when she spoke, her tone was calm.

"If needs must," she said blankly. She let Ururvion help her to her feet. She looked back at Beor whilst Uruvion was busy issuing orders to the guards. A tiny smile flickered over her features. She hoped that Beor would remember her promise: they would leave here together, or not at all.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: September 4th, 2015, 6:21 am 
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A blush crept up Lynne's cheeks once again when Morrigan told her not to go. She had often felt cursed with how easy it was to read her. Someone once told her face was like an open book, her thoughts and feelings written over her features, spilling that what she sometimes liked to keep hidden. It was probably the reason why she didn't actually speak that much about herself or her secrets.
However, when she heard Lady Morrigan's rushed explanation her blush quickly vanished and her freckled face even paled a little upon hearing the story.

Lynne pulled a small, wooden stool that stood underneath the windowsill closer to Morrigan's dressing table. She sat close her mistress but slightly lower, her head reaching Morrigan's shoulder, but this didn't prevent her from noticing her tears and grief. The redhaired girl stretched out her hand tentatively and then lay it on Morrigan's shoulder, gently stroking her back. She didn't know if what she did was out of line, but all she wanted was to comfort the woman next to her and this was the way she herself hoped to be comforted when she was hurt or in pain. The lady didn't shrug of her hand at least and Lynne even believed that her sobs became less frequent.

"Sssssh," she whispered. "It will all be alright. It won't be that bad." But how could she promise that? Lady Morrigan's story had left a hollow feeling in her stomach; she was scared as well. She had known the reputation of the master of the household, yet she had not known the depths of his ruthlessness and cruelty. What if that man was a friend of his? What would they do to her if she kept refusing him what he wanted? She was not a lady in this house. Stop thinking like this. Stop it. she told herself.

Her hand continued the same calming pattern while she wondered how she could give a sensible advice to her mistress. She however had always tried to hide from the preying eyes of such men, while she now had to offer advice on how to remain in their favour. She tried to wrap her mind around how such men of power could be pleased but the most answers sickened her. But then a thought suddenly sprang to mind. It occurred to her that whenever she tried to ward off unwanted advances, it never stopped. Her resistance seemed to increase their thrill of the chase.

"If I may say something," she started hesitantly, unsure how to explain an idea that could either work or have a disastrous result. "Perhaps your Ladyship should not try to get in Lord Urúvion's favour. Perhaps you ought to keep him at a distance with a bearing of pride and coolness. You are after all his fiancee, his Lady." Words spilled out quicker and quicker, as if by talking faster Lynne could diminish the feeling she was a fool for saying this. Lady Morrigan was not someone who quickly reprimanded her, but what if she thought her to be presumptuous or took offense? "Show him you're independent and fearless," she continued quickly. "He will respect you for it. The master is a proud and powerful man, such men value courage and strength."

Lynne's voice faltered and she took a few deep breaths. She did not look up at Morrigan, instead her grey eyes focused on the floor. From the pocket of her apron she took a white piece of cloth. Its corners were ragged and there were no colourful embroideries sewed on it, but still Lynne quietly offered it to Morrigan, her hand still on her mistress's shoulder, while she couldn't shrug off the feeling of utter powerlessness.

---------------------------

Beör remained kneeling on the stone floor long after Arawen had gone. He had looked in her eyes, at her silhouette until she had disappeared. When he finally realised he was alone in the cell, he lay down next to the spot where Arawen had lain moments ago. He closed his eyes and let the tiles cool his skin. He tried to focus on all kinds of little things; the steady beating of his heart, the cold spreading through his limbs, an unevenness in the wall of which Beör wondered if it was possibly caused after the impact. He had to focus on something real, something other than his thoughts or he would go mad.

He tried to shut out the images of Urúvion sliding his arm around Arawen when he took her away, how he embraced her and toyed with her hair. With all these little gestures Urúvion undoubtedly meant to torment him. The man somehow always knew how to hit him..

When Beör's eyelids grew heavy, he quickly sat up and rubbed his eyes. He drew his knees to his chest and leaned back into the wall. No matter how unbearable his unstoppable train of thoughts was, it was worse to return to the dark realm of his nightmares. So he did where he was good at; counting the stones in his cell, making up stories, thinking of escape routes and imagining to be somewhere else. Anything to keep his mind occupied and distracted, until Arawen came back.

-------------------------

"Don't say that," Rhys spoke softly. He beckoned Luthien to come and sit down. "It's no use to wonder about things we cannot know. I mean, I was just doing my job, minding my own business one day and the other I am here; a prisoner with no trial, but condemned to death."

He remembered the frustration he had felt when he had just been locked up here. How he kept pacing up and down, not accustomed being confined to such a small space. There was still blood on his knuckles from where his fist had hit the wall. But he realised now that getting worked up about it only made things worse. It could drive a man insane.

He glanced up at girl, at the blonde's pale face. Her frail posture reminded him of Morrigan, but with that and her colour of hair and eyes the resemblances ended. Luthien seemed to radiate a sort of strength, a fierceness that was alien to Morrigan. Every instinct of Luthien said that she had to fight and resist, while Morrigan accepted and reconciled with her fate.

"I cannot believe that this is how it will end. I have to believe in something extraordinary, in something good. You are good, Luthien." Rhys smiled. "And tonight might be an opportunity. A chance given to us." Rhys' eyes lit up. Perhaps this was the opportunity he had been waiting for. If they could come up with a series of plans and alternatives...

"What do you think? "

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: September 17th, 2015, 5:08 pm 
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Morrigan silently took the piece of cloth that Lynne offered and used it to dry her eyes. She had begun to calm down as Lynne stroked her back. It was comforting beyond words to feel as if she had a friend. Since she had been separated from Rhys, she had felt lonelier than ever. What would become of him? Uruvion had only to give the orders for his execution, and it would all be over for him. But it seemed that Uruvion was delaying that order, for reasons unknown to Morrigan. There was a pause in her train of thought before she realized that she could use Lynne's advice to save not only herself, but Rhys too. There was no hope for Rhys if she died before she could procure a pardon for him.

"You're right," she whispered. "A strong, courageous woman..." she conjured the memory of Arawen in her mind, an image of pride and fearlessness. "...that's what he wants." It was a dangerous idea, to be sure - if it backfired then her fate was sealed. But she at least had to try. Better by far that she took the chance instead of cowering away like a frightened mouse. She turned slowly in her seat to look at Lynne. With a tremulous but resolute smile, she folded the other woman's hands gently over the cloth she had lent her.

"Thank you," she said. "Yours are wise words. Unlike me, you think clearly in an unhappy situation." She said nothing of how perilous Lynne's plan was; they both knew what a risk Morrigan would be taking. "I'm grateful to you, Lynne. I mean it." Her grey eyes, still filled with tears, shone also with earnestness. If she could find a way to repay Lynne for her help, then she would do it. It was more than likely that Lynne had problems of her own. After all, she was a foreigner here, just like Morrigan. Lynne was a servant, and all servants were replaceable if they proved displeasing in any way.

"Next time I see his Lordship," she continued, "I shall follow the example of the lady he so favours. Perhaps then he will look upon me with better favour." Her voice shook slightly, but she held her chin high. "If he should make me his wife... maybe then I shall finally be safe." A strange glint was clear in her eyes. "There could be a way for us all to be safe."

There was only one way this could end well for all of them: to see Uruvion dead.

~~~

"I am thinking," Luthien said, wearing a wide smile, "that I like the way your mind works, Rhys!" Her hope had come rushing back to her as if it had never left, even briefly. She reached out and slapped Rhys heartily on his shoulder. "This man, this lord, whoever he is - whatever power he has, has made him over confident. He clearly believes that all the rules of this game can only be of his making." She laughed exuberantly, before muffling the sound with her hands in case any of the guards should hear. They couldn't allow their captors to see them so cheerful and hopeful. "We must take great care not to let anyone see that we still have hope," she said, her thoughts moving fast. "I wonder if Arawen and Beor will be at this so called party? If only we had a way of communicating with them!" She frowned slightly. "Do you know of anyone who might help us, Rhys? Anyone outside the cells, in the court?" It was a long shot, but it didn't hurt to ask.

"Anyone?" she repeated. "Anyone at all?"

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: September 26th, 2015, 8:18 pm 
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A small smile appeared on Lynne's flustered face. Her grey eyes looked up at Morrigan's pretty face and then at her hand that was folded over her handkerchief. Morrigan's grateful words gave her a warm, glowing feeling that chased away her fear. People weren't often grateful to her and it made her feel just a little proud and.. like she could belong somewhere.

There could be a way for us all to be safe.

Lynne stared at her hands when Lady Morrigan said these words. All of us. Did her Ladyship imply her safety as well? She tucked the handkerchief away in the pocket of her apron and thought about the words she'd heard. Lynne never really considered the concept of safety. It was something alien to her, like a luxury good she couldn't afford. She wasn't in danger or anything but she never knew what the next day would bring.

Serving at the court if Urúvion meant being surrounded by men of power and influence. And even though, she lived and worked in this great house, she would never consider this to be her home. She was not free of fear here. There was no one who would stand up for her. She remembered the little, blonde girl, who worked in the kitchen as well, who she hadn't seen in days, yet no one but her seemed be concerned about her disappearance or even miss the girl.

The redhead finally looked up at Morrigan. Her lip trembled slightly and there was a quiver in her voice. "How?" she blurted out. "How could that be possible?"

Startled by her own outcry, he covered her mouth with her hands. She knew that whatever the answer was to this question, it wasn't something that could be said out loud or heard by anyone. The answer was something dark. It was trouble. Heavy footsteps passed that passed Morrigan's door made Lynne jump up. She had probably lingered far too long here. They would wonder downstairs where she had been.

"I am sorry Milady. I should be getting on."

---------------

"Stop! You don't understand," Rhys quickly said upon seeing Luthien's hopeful glance directed at him. He needed to explain before she put all her faith in him. "I am a stranger here, just like you. I don't know anyone. I was dragged to this place about two weeks ago by-" Rhys stopped mid-sentence, his explanation immediately forgotten. Of course, he knew someone. Someone who was perhaps not on his side, but nor was she on Urúvion's.

"I might know someone," Rhys said slowly. A tender smile appeared on his face when he recalled their first meeting. It was a happy moment, that soon proved to be the start of those dreadful events that brought him here.

Rhys's smile faded as he continued. "But she wouldn't be able to help us. Life here has crumbled her self-worth and diminished her courage. Either she has accepted her golden cage and she won't go against Urúvion any longer or she gathered all her courage and used the escape route I told her about."

The young man was silent once more. He'd prayed that she and the girl got away. But he feared the worst. If Urúvion's beautiful fiancee just disappeared, he wouldn't have been here, that he knew for sure. He would probably have died a slow and painful death to satisfy Urúvion's wrath. No, Morrigan must still be here.

Rhys wiped beads of sweat from his forehead with his hand. The morning would soon be turning in midday judging from the temperature in the cell block. The heat was oppressing.

"So, all we need to do is find a way to escape the attention of a hall full of people and a hand full of guards, find your friends, get rid of these.." Rhys glared at the shackles on his wrists and ankles. "And find our way to the sewer." He rolled his eyes and smiled again. "Easy. "

-----------------------

Lynne gazed over the dark waters of the Lake Nurnen. She had never seen such a big body of water before. Even though she was standing quite far away she could clearly see the ripples on the water. The well she was standing next to was near to the house of Urúvion, master of the city, which lay on a plateau looking out over the fields and the desert valley. Lynne loved to watch the circles on the big blue surface expand until they reached the creeks that fed the green lush bushes and crops. She had known only sand, dust and harsh desert winds in a place where she came from and where she had always been regarded as a stranger. There was a faint yell from the courtyard of the house, which made Lynn jump and she quickly took the handles of the two buckets and hurried back.

...

The Steward of the house was a man with a presence, that made most of the servants and slaves fall silent when he strode through the kitchen or the hallways. There were whispers that he always had the listening ear of the master, which only reinforced his image of influence and power. And indeed, there had been quite a few who had dared to challenge the Steward and were not seen again. Many of these tales had not been told to Lynn yet, when she was summoned to the Steward's office during her first week. Still his cold stare and the strange smile on his thin lips made Lynn tremble. This was not a man to trifle with. He assessed her boldly from head to toe as he circled around her.

"I see they gave you something decent to wear. I presume they showed you your quarters?" he spoke smoothly in the Black Adûnaic. It was the tongue of those in power; of those who had fallen into darkness. But Lynne understood the harsh sounds and she nodded her head. The Steward took a step closer before scrutinizing her again carefully. When he raised Lynne's chin, forcing her to look up, she tried her best not to flinch. All she wanted was to run away, far away from this man and his cold staring eyes, but she sensed that was unwise. So, she stood perfectly still, hardly moving an eyelash when his thumb moved over her cheek and tried to wipe out the red marks on her skin. Lynne surpressed the urge to cast her eyes to the heavens. Inwardly she wondered why none of these fools had ever seen freckles before.

"Good," the Steward murmured, obviously a bit pleased. "You'll have to do." He walked back to the large wooden table, stacked with papers, that filled half of the room and sat down behind it. "The master requested a new servant for the Lady Morrigan. You will attend to her each morning and night and will do everything she requires you to do."

The Steward studied a roll of parchment and waved impatiently with his hand to dismiss Lynne. When she was about to close the door of the study behind her, Lynne heard him say in a bored tone: "Remember, the welfare of Lady Morrigan reflects on your work. The master will be watching."
And with those foreboding words still in her ears, Lynne closed the door.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: October 15th, 2015, 10:09 am 
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Morrigan, too, was startled when she heard footsteps pass her door. Expecting Uruvion to burst into the room at any moment, her skin blanched with shock. However, the footsteps soon faded out of hearing, and it appeared that she and Lynne were safe for now. Morrigan took a long inhalation of breath and steadied her trembling hands against the dressing table. With great effort she rose from the comfort of her padded chair and drew her shawl further around her shoulders. She smiled at Lynne, hoping to reassure her that all was well. "No, please don't leave just yet," she said. "It's all right, I promise. I know that you will be expected downstairs, so when you go you may tell them that I needed extra assistance today."

With careful steps, she crossed the room towards her bed. Outside the wardrobe hung her new gown, shimmering as the light caught it. Morrigan unhooked it from the hanger and arranged the dress on the bed. She felt like throwing the thing into a heap in a corner, but she couldn't damage the delicate beading. She needed to look flawless tonight. She sat down and looked at the garment, thinking. So much depended on this evening's celebrations. She had to make sure that Uruvion would marry her. It was strange, how clearly she saw it all now.

"I won't put you in any peril, Lynne," Morrigan said quietly. "That you can be sure of. I won't endanger you by telling you what I mean to do. But you have my word that when I have done it, you will be safe." If Uruvion should die, as his wife, his power and authority would be left in Morrigan's hands: the power to free Rhys, the power to free everyone. Her hands were trembling. Could she really do it? She had loved Uruvion once, fool that she had been. But she had been blind to who he really was, and what he was capable of. He would not hesitate to put her to death if she displeased him enough. With these thoughts, Morrigan bit down on her bottom lip, so hard that she drew blood. She flinched with pain, her whole body beginning to shake. She slowly raised her hand to touch her mouth, her complexion turning ashen as she saw the blood on her fingertips.

The reality of her plan hit her harder than ever. She looked over at Lynne, tears beginning to well in her eyes. "You may go," she whispered. "I'm sorry for delaying you."

~~~

"Who is she, then?" Luthien asked Rhys instantly. She needed to know more. Rhys may have spoken of this woman as one who could not help them, but Luthien was not so sure. She was never one to give up hope, even the smallest sign of it. After all, she had placed her hope with people who had once seemed past saving: Beor and Arawen. She could not let herself believe that the darkness of Mordor had destroyed them both. And she would not let Rhys believe that this woman he spoke so tenderly of was past saving either. "We cannot do this alone, Rhys," Luthien continued. "Whoever she is, we need her help. Plots forged behind bars are all very well, but we need someone on the outside, someone with the resources to aid us."

She took Rhys's hand and looked at him intently. "You care for her, I can see it," she said. "Just a few words and a smile were enough to tell me that. There is someone here that I care for, too." She thought of Beor, of all that they had been through together. She realized now that his escape had awakened him to his old feelings for Arawen. It was hard to accept that, after all she'd hoped. But she couldn't change the past. If Beor's heart lay with Arawen, then so be it. Luthien could still care about him - nothing could change that. "This gives us strength," she said. "Something to fight for. So you can't give up on this woman. Believe that she can be saved, and she will believe it, too."

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: October 27th, 2015, 7:20 pm 
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When Morrigan rose, Lynne got up as well and picked up the laundry basket, but she did not leave. Still, she couldn't help thinking about the pile of work that was still waiting for her. The preparations for the banquet were in full progress and on all accounts it would be a long and stressful evening and it being laundry day tomorrow the new day would start again before dawn.

With the basket resting on her hip, she watched quietly how Morrigan smoothed the dress. Lynne noticed how the Lady's hands trembled and her ghostly pale face and sighed. The redhead set the laundry basket back on the floor again and hurried to the bedside, where the breakfast tray still stood untouched. She was about to pick up the tray when Lady Morrigan spoke again.

I won't put you in any peril, Lynne. That you can be sure of. I won't endanger you by telling you what I mean to do. But you have my word that when I have done it, you will be safe.

Only then the words all seemed to fall into place, like the pieces of a wooden jigsaw puzzle the children on the streets played with; their meaning suddenly clear as day. Lynne's hands slipped from the tray on the night blue satin bed sheets, their task momentarily forgotten. She wasn't sure what had shocked her more: the sudden fierceness Lady Morrigan displayed or her horrifying plan. All of us can be safe she had said. The only way Lady Morrigan thought this was possible was if the man she held responsible for all of this would be gone: Master Urúvion. Slowly Lynne looked up at her mistress who stood on the other side of the bed, trembling and blood trickling down her lip. By the sight of the scarlet liquid on Morrigan's ashen face she regained feeling in her legs. She lifted her skirts and rushed to her Lady's side.

Silently she took Morrigan by the arm and gently pulled her to a comfortable arm chair and sat her down. She turned and picked up the breakfast tray. Her quivering hands made the china rattle and accidentally knock over the porcelain cup of coffee. Lynne's cheeks flushed as she placed the tray on nearest table.
"Milady, I implore you," she said in a soft but persistent tone. "Do not pursue this idea. It's a plan that cannot work." Lynne bit her lip and explored Morrigan's face. How could she convince her that her cause was hopeless and that she would only put her own life in peril? She rubbed her hands over rough fabric of her skirts, like she usually did when she tried to calm herself.

"Please, don't do it. You won't succeed." Lynne's voice trembled this time and when she continued she spoke so soft that it nearly inaudible. "You are still foreign to this land, not familiar with its customs. There will always be a Master. If Master Urúvion died," There was a high pitch in Lynne's voice when she pronounced that last word. "There will always be someone to take his place. It's like fighting a sea-serpent with its many heads. Whenever one is cut off, another one grows back."

Lynne took a few deep breaths and tried to regain her composure. She wasn't sure why but she felt responsible for this girl whom she brought breakfast every day and helped to dress. Perhaps it was because they were both in a difficult situations or did not belong here. But even though Lady Morrigan had shown great trust by confiding in her, their connection could never be an equal one. Still, Lynn always enjoyed to be in her company and sometimes she just imagined they could be friends.

"I'm sorry, Milady," she said almost soundlessly. "I cannot let anything to happen to you."


----


Beör walked up and down his cell, his hand brushing over the sandstone wall. He didn't know how often he had paced up and down the tiny cell or how long it had been since Arawen had been taken away. It seemed an eternity. One, two, three steps. His shoulder already grazed the opposite wall and he turned to walk back. He used to do this a lot in his old cell, to clear his mind from worry or fear. By mindlessness and forgetting himself he had been able to survive the dark hours and endlessly days. But it didn't work, not now; his mind was racing. Beör abruptly stopped pacing and leaned into the wall. His hands were clenched into fists and his jaw was set tightly as he couldn't chase the thoughts out of his head.

Young, fair-haired Luthien brought to death, scared and all alone. Her lifeless body on the sand with her kind smile still on her face. Arawen trapped by Urúvion. The dark glint in his eyes as he had his way with her.
The ranger pressed his eyes shut and let the back of his head collide with the wall. Perhaps pain could rid him of his demons.

It was in that moment that Beör realised he could not do what he had promised; stay put until Arawen had found a way to escape. She was the one who once had awakened the darkness inside him and she was the one that could keep it at bay. The solitude and the confinement made that darkness grow, tormenting him and slowly driving him mad. He couldn't remain here, purposeless, waiting. Now he had walked under the starless sky as a free man, it was impossible to resign to such a lonely and terrible fate. The spark of hope Luthien had kindled had not yet faded and driven out the inertia that once possessed him. Remaining in this cell under lock and key was the worst thing that could happen to him, a fate worse then death. He was convinced that whatever happened to him, Urúvion wouldn't hurt one hair on Arawen's head. She was too precious to him.

Beör ran a hand through his long tangled hair. Since he had been washed at the infirmary it was softer and cleaner than it had been in years. He wasn't sure how many days he had been unconscious, but he had awoken revived, while only days before he had been near to death. Beör studied his clean skin with a frown; the wound on his arm had been carefully dressed and even the dirt had been scraped from under his fingernails. Why would they have gone through such pains? If Urúvion had just left him, he would have been dead and he would have had Arawen for himself.

Beör turned towards the bars of his cell and rested his head against iron. All these questions gave him a headache; it was hard to think. The walls were closing in on him. All he knew was that he had to get away. He took a few steps away from the bars and then crashed his shoulder into them with force. The dull ringing of the bars echoed through the cellblock as Beör collided with them again. He gritted his teeth and flung himself against the bars again. Urúvion thought he could just put him away in this cell forever. But Beör would stir enough trouble that would force Urúvion to deal with him.


-----------


"Haven't you heard a word I said?" Rhys asked with a frown, even though his tone was not unkind. His eyes went from Luthien's hands that were clasped around his to her blue gaze. Her strength made him smile, even if her stubbornness seemed misplaced. How could she talk of things where she had no knowledge of?

"She cannot help us," he continued evenly. "As to who she is, she is the woman who literally dragged me into all of this."

She had looked breathtaking, like a princess with golden locks and gems in her hair. But she had also looked uncomfortable, afraid even, probably because of being in the company of so many slaves or perhaps it had been the nature of her assignment.

Rhys rubbed his bearded cheek thoughtfully and sighed. "But she is also the fiancée of Urúvion and he has her in her power. Believing in someone has little use then, if her life depends on the whims of a maniac. Still, you're right that we need someone to help us. But I am afraid that's a luxury we can't afford. We will need to improvise." Rhys laughed. "Luckily, that's what I do best."

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: November 13th, 2015, 5:37 pm 
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Night had fallen, and every torch lining the way to Uruvion's chambers was lit. Arawen moved slowly, still adjusting to the weight of her new gown, but also reluctant to present herself to Uruvion. He had sent a servant with the message that she was to go to him before the celebrations officially begun. With Beor locked behind bars and completely at Uruvion's mercy, there had been no way for Arawen to refuse without facing serious consequences. It nettled her pride to bow to such obedience, but she had no other option. Outwardly, she faced the world with her usual calm and frosty veneer, but inside, her anger blazed with the fire of an inferno. She endlessly imagined seeing Uruvion's blood on her hands, beholding his lifeless body lying at her feet.

The guards at the door uncrossed their fierce spears and opened the doors. Beyond lay opulently decorated walls glowing with firelight, and floors carpeted by intricately woven images, each individual thread glittering. There was no sign of Uruvion as yet. Knowing that he would want her to feel put at a disadvantage, Arawen went forward into the golden abyss with her head held high. The doors were shut firmly behind her, and her stomach plummeted despite herself. What was he planning? "Where are you?" she called, her voice ringing clear and cold.

After a few minutes, which lasted an abnormally long time, a door on the other side of the room quietly clicked open. Uruvion came forth, clad in black velvet and golden brocade, a dark smile on his lips. "Hello, Arawen," he said. "Here you are. How very prompt of you to respond so quickly to my message." He spoke as if she had paid him some kind of compliment. Arawen stared at him wordlessly, feeling choked by the magnificent collar of diamonds and rubies clasped around her neck - another of his numerous gifts. "You look splendid, by the way," Uruvion continued. "I knew that gown would suit you."

He had sent her a gown of heavy red silk, as dark as dried blood and edged at the neck, sleeves and train with iridescent embroidery which shimmered like the plumage of a peacock. Arawen shrugged, unimpressed. "It's a dress," she spoke impassively. "Now get to the point. Why am I here?"

"You're here so that you may accompany me to the feast, of course," Uruvion replied, not so much as blinking at Arawen's bluntness. "On my arm - so that I may show you to the world."

"You court isn't 'the world', Uruvion," Arawen replied, struggling to control her hatred. "It's a fabrication. Built up to pay tribute to your arrogance. Besides, why bring me? What about that girl, the one you're supposed to be marrying? What about her?" She despised the idea of being paraded before Morrigan like a trophy. How filled with spite Uruvion must be to arrange such a spectacle. He was smiling now, visibly satisfied with his plan.

"That's not for you to worry about," he said. "All you have to do - is look beautiful. You shouldn't find that too difficult." He smirked. Arawen clenched her fists and looked away from him, sickened to her core.

~~~

The great hall was already full to the brim with Uruvion's courtiers. Even present were other lords of the city, invited at Uruvion's specific request. All had come to celebrate the announcement of Uruvion's up and coming marriage. But Uruvion had not yet shown himself. Instead, seated at the left of his empty seat at the high table on the dais, was Morrigan, entirely alone. She shone like an angel in her white gown embellished with crystals, her golden hair plaited with pearls and bound at the neck. Pearl drops danged from her ears, and ropes of pearls were draped around her neck. All eyes were indeed fixed on her, but tonight she had adopted a new manner, one that said she did not condescend to even notice this attention.

Inside one of the voluminous sleeves of her gown was hidden a tiny vial. She had stolen it from the infirmary earlier that day. This was the poisonous substance that she had planned to drop into Uruvion's wine. She had by no means forgetten Lynne's warning. "There will always be someone to take his place. It's like fighting a sea-serpent with its many heads. Whenever one is cut off, another one grows back." These words had filled Morrigan with despair. The truth of them was inescapable. If Uruvion died, no power would be left to Morrigan. Her marriage to him would be pointless. And yet, she found that it didn't matter anymore. If Uruvion died, her misery would be at an end. So she concealed the poison with a growing sense of dread, waiting and waiting for the moment when Uruvion walked in.

Time stretched on, and he failed to appear. Instead, the next people to come through the doors of the great hall were a ragged group of prisoners in chains: one young woman and two men - one of them Rhys. Morrigan stared at the group as they were led towards a platform in the far corner of the room. People started to gather round, pointing, making comments or even laughing.

"What's going on?" Morrigan whispered. She looked around for Lynne. "What on earth...?" She gazed at Rhys, her facade of majesty falling away piece by piece, replaced by anguish.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: November 28th, 2015, 8:25 am 
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Time suddenly seemed to fly now they tried to set up a plan. Rhys had tried to describe every angle of the great hall where he had been only briefly when Morrigan first brought him and the maze of corridors he ventured through afterwards. They had thought of ways how to come into contact with Morrigan and he had racked his brain on how they could escape unnoticed. It seemed like an impossible plan.

As time passed by the heat in the cell grew more oppressing and Rhys felt restless. They hadn't eaten or had anything to drink for more than a day. Perhaps it was Urúvion's intention to let them starve to death before night fall. Whatever omnious plan he had in store for them tonight, it seemed to Rhys that it was his very last chance to escape his dark fate.

When the guards appeared to shackle Luthien and his was world darkened when a dark hood was pulled over his head, he reached out and took Luthien's hand in his. He looked at her, but did not see her so he squeezed her hand.

"Don't worry," he said with more confidence than he felt. "We'll be alright."


------------------------------------------------------------------


Beör's shoulder scraped the wall as he was moved away from the cell block. He felt a sharp throbbing pain near his ribcage where the hilt of the guard's sword had hit him in the side. When two guards came to his cell, he had struggled but to no avail. The men had laughed coldly when they produced a pair of shackles, which they clasped around his ankles and wrists. Then everything became dark when a black hood of a rough cloth was pulled over his head.

The ranger faintly heard the sound of other footsteps over his own ragged breathing as he was dragged through unknown hallways. The rag over his head just muffled his cry when his bare toes knocked against the cold stone of a staircase. He was herded along, walking in a daze.
So this was how a man who was about to die felt.

Everything, his body and mind seemed to move in slow motion, but within him intense feelings battled for precedence; denial, because this could not be the end. He could not die in this place, hidden away somewhere in this dungeon, without saying a proper goodbye to the world. Guilt, for leaving the two persons he had come to love to their fate. He had failed Luthien by not protecting her, which had led to her death. And now he had sent Arawen into the arms of a monster. He felt anger, for if Arawen had not withheld him from dealing Urúvion that fatal blow that fateful day, Beör was convinced they could have escaped. And despite the darkest moments in the past when he had searched for a way to end his life, he now felt fear. His end would not be quick and it would not be clean. Urúvion would make sure he suffered. But however close he was to his death, his courage could not falter now or in that final moment.

Beör was too distracted by regulating the fast bouncing of his heart and steadying his trembling hands to notice that he was led up many stairs and through passages, that there was a soft buzzing sound, that slowly grew into murmuring voices and soft tones of instruments. Only upon hearing a heavy creacking of large wooden doors and being blinded by a bright light when the hood was pulled off, Beör's thoughts and even his breathing seemed to pause.

He lifted his arm to shield his eyes from light of countless of candles, while he was pushed to the front of the hall. Here, Beör quickly stepped back until his back was against the wall, as if to move further away from all these prying eyes. For the hall was filled with beautifully clothed people, clearly of Nurnean descent. There was food, music and laughter, things the ranger had not experienced for years and years. But he felt highly uncomfortable being surrounded by so many people. When his eyes had finally accustomed to the light, Beör noticed two other prisoners were standing at his side: a man and a girl with tangled blond hair and the brightest blue gaze.

How could she be here? Alive and well? Urúvion probably had not known of his and Arawen's attachment to the girl, for if he did he would have used it by now.

"Luthien?" he finally managed to stammer, still looking bewildered. His voice sounded strained, as if he hadn't used it for a long time. "I thought you were.." Tears were slipping down his face but Beör didn't notice it. He didn't took note of all those who stared at him or the jeering of some of the courtiers. He could only look at that young, innocent face. "I thought you were dead."


---------------------------------------------------------


Lynne had not felt so nervous in a long time as she did now. This was partly due to the scolding she had received after lingering upstairs for such a long time. But Lynne also felt like she had absorbed so many secrets in the past few hours that she was afraid it would all pour out of her if anyone would look too long at her.

Luckily, all the courtiers who were present at the banquet treated like she was air. Still, she knew all to well that at the night's close she would receive more attention. After a night of eating lavishly and drinking more than was good for them, men would slap the maids their behinds, pull them onto their laps or worse.

She carried a large, glass carafe with wine to replenish the more important guests, but she made sure to stay clear from the table from where those cold dark eyes followed her every step, that stare she had not been able to shrug off since that morning.

Lynne ascended the three steps up the dais where only Lady Morrigan was seated. She looked breathtaking, like a winter queen, robed in white and pearls pinned in her hair like a crown. There was no smile on her face, nor did she seem to notice the frequent glares in her direction. She seemed to emit a sort quiet strength and dignity that Lynne hadn't seen or felt before.

"Milady, do you wish for something to drink?" Lynne asked, standing only one step behind Morrigan. When her Lady turned around, Lynne saw how her facade of detachment crumbled and horror spread over her face. Almost instantly the redhead turned around herself to follow Morrigan's gaze and she immediately knew what had disturbed her Lady: a group of shackled prisoners stood huddled together near the dais. They looked wretched in their rags and Lynne suspected they hadn't eaten in days. She was vaguely aware of Morrigan's exclamation and the derisive laughter at the expense of these poor souls. But all Lynne felt was a deep sympathy for those unlucky ones of whom she was sure they did nothing to deserve such a fate.

She cast a quick glance at the herald who stood near the grand doors of the hall, but he didn't seem to be in the process of announcing the Master of the house any time soon, so she placed the carafe with wine on the table and took the ewer with water instead. With a decisive step she approached the group of prisoners. A young man looked around him curiously, but did not seem to feel uncomfortable, as if he had been here before. His eyes then grew wide and focused on the table behind her. A girl, perhaps of the same age as herself, who had turned to the third prisoner, a man with long blond hair, probably in his late forties, who looked like he was in shock.

"Here, drink something," she said, while pouring water in a metal cup. "It will take away your thirst and sooth your nerves."

Water had this powerful ability to sooth and calm down. At least for her it had. Lynne's grey eyes scanned every face once more but not in an impertinent way and her smile was disarming. All she could do was to show kindness now, in the hope it could undo the malicious treatment they were about to receive.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: February 11th, 2016, 9:14 pm 
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Morrigan quickly looked away from the group of prisoners, realizing that it would be just what Uruvion wanted - to see her in pain and distress. The regal mask dropped back over her features, and she straightened her back. She wouldn't let herself fall into his trap. Within one of the sleeves of her dress, her hand tightened over the vial of poison. Uruvion could triumph all he wanted - it would be over for him soon enough. Her hand was shaking now, but it was alright; nobody could see. She held her head high and looked straight ahead of her, feeling an odd surge of spirit.

A hush suddenly descended upon the hall as two figures appeared at the great doors. It was Uruvion, of course, with Arawen at his side, her hand resting atop his. They both looked magnificent, robed as grandly as if they were ruling monarchs. Morrigan looked on, appearing utterly unmoved as Uruvion led Arawen through the parting crowds towards the dais. Arawen's face was grim and cold. She allowed Uruvion to guide her into a seat at his right, before he settled into his own throne like chair.

The court watched, transfixed, before Uruvion waved a hand, indicating that they should continue as before. Chatter slowly filled the hall again, and Uruvion was served with a cup of wine. He glanced to his left, observing Morrigan's detached manner. Never before had she declined to greet him. She had not so much as looked at him so far. "Morrigan," Uruvion greeted her, taking in her queenly appearance. "You look... most lovely."

For a moment Morrigan was silent. Then she turned her head as if she had only just realized Uruvion was there. "My lord," she acknowledged him, without a word of thanks. Uruvion looked puzzled, but she only looked away again.

~~~

"Beor!" Luthien exclaimed, watching Arawen from the platform where the three of them were huddled together, in chains. "What's Arawen doing up there, with him? What's been going on?" She was thrilled to see her friends again, of course, but there was no time for celebrating now. Their situation was looking very grave indeed. What were they doing here? What sort of sick game did Uruvion have planned? There could be no telling. The man was drinking wine from the finest of cups, his attention fixed on the beautiful golden haired woman at his side. Arawen, on his other side, was refusing to touch a single drop of water or crumb of food that was offered to her.

She looked away from the dais as a servant approached them with water. She was smiling. At first Luthien hesitated, wondering if it was some sort of trick, before she saw the kindness in the girl's eyes. This was a true act of empathy. Luthien looked longingly at the water, but nodded towards Beor and Rhys. "Let them drink first, please," she said; this was typical of her, wanting to see others looked after before herself.

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: February 29th, 2016, 7:35 pm 
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Breathe, just breathe. But the air seemed constricted, as if all those people in this hall had used up all of its oxygen. His grey eyes flashed from one face to another. Some still seemed to stare or laugh, but most of them had directed their attention to more important matters: the food on their golden platter, refilling their goblets with wine or the animated conversation with their neighbours.

Taking a few steps back, Beör leaned into the wall. He wanted to become invisible to all of them. The presence of so many made him gasp for air, he felt their stares burn his flesh. With eyes closed, Beör raised his left hand and rubbed his chest. His heart was thumping so wildly that it hurt. His right hand, which was shackled to his left, dangled uselessly underneath it.

He heard someone calling his name from far away. It was Luthien. Her voice was bright and clear, like the first announcement of spring after the darkest winter. He felt a hand on his arm and when he opened his eyes he looked into a pair of inquisitive grey eyes, that could match his in colour. A young woman with bright red, no almost orange hair was standing in front of him offering him water.

For a moment he just stared at her, not sure what she wanted. Solitude and captivity had almost made him forget about selflessness and kindness. He lowered his hands to take the cup in his hands. For a moment the thought that the cup contained something more than water crossed his mind, but then he decided that he didn't care and Beör drank eagerly. He thanked the girl quietly, but couldn't return her smile. She seemed to wear her smile with ease, even though she didn't come from here and worked among these people. She smiled, even when the doors of the hall opened and two majestic figures entered.

Urúvion and Arawen were robed in the finest linnen and most expensive silk. The jewelry she wore shone in the candlelight and Beör froze as he looked at her in awe. It was as if by some spell she had been transformed into queen. Her every move was graceful, her demeanour proud. She had never looked so beautiful. And he was holding her hand when they entered the hall, touched her elbow when he sat her down. Beör couldn't look at this, notice the glint in Urúvion's eyes when he looked at Arawen, the smug smile playing around the corners of his mouth. He had driven her in the arms of this monster and now there was no escape.

Abruptly, the Ranger turned around to face Luthien instead of the dais. "This must end, Luthien," he whispered to her. To his surprise his voice was calm, but inside he felt his calmness and hope crumble. "What are we to do?"

------------------

Unlike almost everyone in the hall, Rhys' eyes weren't drawn to Urúvion and his guest as they made their grand entrance. Rhys' stare was still fixed at Morrigan. No gems but treasures from the sea were entangled in her hair, but something more had changed. This was not the same girl as the one he had met at the barracks anymore. Her eyes were cold and hard like ice and her face void of emotions.

Rhys tore his gaze away from the dais and tried to block out all questions that concerned Morrigan. He had more pressing matters on his mind. Morrigan might not care for his or her own life, but he did.

His eyes narrowed as he scanned the hall, hardly recognizing it from the first time he'd been dragged in here. It now seemed like half a lifetime ago. The second time, he'd paid more attention. The two doorways behind the dais were used by the servants, that he knew. Then apart from the main entrance, there were two opposite doors on the flanks of the hall. Those would probably lead to the private quarters of Urúvion and his household. But which door would lead the quickest way to basement or better still the sewer? And how on earth would they get there unnoticed?

Suddenly, the door was hidden from his sight by a bush of auburn hair and a freckled face. A young woman was offering him water. Only then he seemed to become aware of her presence and her willingness to help them. And the last piece if the puzzle fell into its place.

Rhys took the cup with one hand and clasped his other around her wrist. Her eyes grew large in alarm.
"Do you know the way to the sewers?" Rhys hissed soundlessly. "Can you help us? "

-----------------

Lynne watched quietly how the man drank eagerly. He seemed the eldest of the three prisoners. She couldn't guess his age, but the lines in his face and streaks of grey hair betrayed years of worry and hardship. That somehow frightened her, even though her heart ached with pity.

A shiver went down her spine, when she heard the herald announce Lord Urúvion and the Lady Arawen and the scraping sound of the large doors opening. Her back was turned to them, her eyes still fixed on the prisoners and she couldn't help but wonder if the arrival of this Lady Arawen, the fears of Lady Morrigan and the presence of these foreign prisoner couldn't be all more than a coincidence. Experience had told her that there usually was no such thing as coincidence.

Lynne's gaze shifted and she looked at her mistress at the dais. She noticed her rigid posture, the far-off look in her eyes, her arms hidden in her sleeves and suddenly a ice cold chill washed over her like a tidal wave. Everything seemed to slow down to a heartbeat. Lynne's chest rose and fell slowly as she remembered that morning, when she had besieged her Lady not to do anything foolishly. Morrigan then had this determined look in her eyes. The same look was now written over Lady Morrigan's features: she would not rest before she had freed herself from Urúvion.

A hand clasped around her wrist and Lynne nearly dropped the jug with water.

"Do you know the way to the sewers? Can you help us?
"What?" she answered startled. Her eyes flashed to the dais and back to the young man who asked her for help.
"I..I don't know what you mean.."

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 Post subject: Re: Starless Night
PostPosted: March 29th, 2016, 1:47 pm 
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Uruvion had turned his attention back to Arawen, making a show of taking the woman's hand and looking into her eyes. Far from being jealous, this suited Morrigan perfectly. She felt a strange calmness, the like of which she had never experienced before. She was taking control of her own destiny for the first time. She didn't care about the consequences; she didn't care about anything but putting an end to her suffering. She had believed, all this time, that her spirit was broken, but now she knew different. Uruvion had beaten her, bullied her, terrified her - but he had not broken her.

Uruvion's goblet of wine sat unattended. Morrigan looked straight ahead, but quickly darted her eyes one way and then another to check that no servants were looking at her. No - their gazes were all cast down, as was fitting. They were probably all steeling themselves in case Uruvion had one of his infamous changes of temper. Very carefully, her hands still hidden in her sleeves, Morrigan opened the small vial of poison. There was not the slightest tremor in her hand as she quickly tipped the contents into the goblet.

There - it was done. Uruvion was still engrossed in conversation with Arawen. He had not seen a thing. Nor, to Morrigan's knowledge, had anyone else.

~~~

"Rhys!" Luthien blurted out, overwhelmed by sudden panic. She grabbed his arm and shook her head. "Be careful," she warned him hurriedly, "we don't know her, we don't know who she is." It was not like Luthien to be distrusting; usually she would be the first one to leap upon a plan. And true, she had seen the kindness in Lynne's eyes when she gave them the water; but the girl was visibly panicked now, as she should be. The punishment for being caught helping prisoners to escape was unthinkable, and she had every reason to be afraid.

"This room is filled with guards," she continued. "Look around you. We're unarmed, we have no way to defend ourselves. Don't involve this girl. She doesn't deserve to get dragged down with us." Lynne was probably just what she seemed: a completely innocent person. All the more reason not to involve her.

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