Xandilif the Banshee, Champion of Dol Amroth had been in Bree nearly three hours now and was reaching a breaking point. She had come with one purpose and one purpose alone...to speak to her sister Xanderian before confronting Cyndwin of the Westfold about her disappearance. It wasn't going well, it wasn't going well at all.
She had tried the Pony, which had been empty save for Nob wandering aimlessly, then the Library where Rian could often be found, which had been even more empty and also covered in dust, then the Auction House which had been quite busy, but still no sign of the Huntress.
Xandilif did not deal well with frustration, it made her even more short tempered than normal.
Finally she opted to return to the Pony for a drink, shouldering open the door to find a crowd had gathered. Almost relieved to see the rough, snowflecked crowd, she walked into the middle of the Pony and raised her voice. The general tavern buzz immediately died down. "OI! If anyone here points me towards the rock Xanderian the Monk is hiding under, I'll buy em a grog!"
The buzz returned without missing a beat.
In one corner however, Bild Son of Bourr blinked and turned to his friend Addie in concern. Did the loud elf mention Xanderian?
Addie gave Bild the 'I'm not speaking up' look before whispering, "I think I would like to just.. go.."
The dwarf murmured back, "Probably sound..."
Xandilif kept her voice raised and tried again. "Neither she or that little Edoras whore she travels with can hide for long...you'll be doing us both a favor if ya fess up..."
Addie shuddered, still whispering. 'Would you like to walk with me, Bild?"
The Longbeard looked torn, but opted for what he hoped would help Addie. "Aye, I'll escort you! Where are you going to?"
Addie looked relieved as the dwarf gathered his things. "Ah, just to the Combe gate.."
Xandilif sighed, giving up and muttering to herself. "This place gets worse every time...bunch of damn farmers..."
Blida tugged on his hat and gloves quickly. "Lead the way!" he chimed brightly, but Addie was looking to the bar counter, knowing she left her book and paper there. Swallowing hard, she quickly hurried past the armored elf to get them, hoping to stay unnoticed.
Just as Xandilif was about to order grog and settle in for a long binge, she watched the fair haired woman snatch the stuff up and hurry back to the dwarf, who clearly didn't quite understand the need for stealth and was standing there gawking before the two rushed out the side door of the Pony.
As they clattered down the stone steps, Addie noticed Bild's curious expression and shook her head, "She is only here to harm her sister.. who I have become friends with. Bloodshed would probably occur were the two to meet.."
The dwarf knit his brows sympathetically. "Oh... How terrible..."
Just then the Banshee kicked the front door open, bellowing into the night. "I SEEN YA RUN, HORSEWOMAN! It won't do ya no good...and I just want ta ask a damn question.'
Addie ignored the shout from the other side of the Pony as she reached into her bag and pulled a cloak on before tucking the book and paper away."Thank you for everything tonight, Bild.."
"There ya are..." The voice made them both freeze and as they looked down the short flight of steps to the horses...there was Xandilif the Banshee, smiling. The torch light reflected dully off her armor and the strangely carved hilt of the Greatsword across her back.
Addie sighed, "Oh to the stars!!"
The Elleth bowed, still smiling as if she were a cat with a mouthful of canary. "Hail, Daughter of the Mark..and you, Longbeard"
Blid blinked down at Xandilif, unsure what to do as Addie gasped indignantly, 'How do you know who I am?! I mean..What makes you think that?"
Xandilif shrugged and put one booted foot up on the stairs with a metallic thump. 'I don't know ya from fecking Glorfindel's cousin twice removed, girlie...but ya got the look of the Rohirrim all over ya. Deny it if ya want...but ya got the Monk's stink all over ya and you are just her type...I need words with my sister."
Blid looked back and forth from Xandilif to Addie with some astonishment, he had never heard an elf speak like this. Yet he stayed silent as Addie said "Well.. clearly I am not your sister.. and I can assure you that I have not seen her tonight." As soon as she said it she knew the mistake she had made from speaking in anger but she couldn't bring the words back.
Xandilif's unnerving smile grew wider, more wolfen. "Ain't seen her TONIGHT, eh?....When ya see her last?"
The woman sighed, no point in backing down now. "She is expecting you.. and looks for you to come"
The Elleth nodded. "I should fecking well hope so...I told her we got business to deal with." Her voice dropped suddenly. "She alright?"
Addie seemed to be very confused at the question of concern coming from the elf and answered slowly, suspecting a trap. After all, hadn't Xandarian said her sister was a devil? "Aye.. as well as she can be.."
Xandilif went up one step. '"Can be? She hurt again?'
"I would say only at your distrust of her.." Addie didn't shy away from the elf, her posture remaining tall and proud.
The champion laughed suddenly, harsh and raucous. "Awwww...poor little Monk. You are damn right I don't trust her to make sense of all that nonsense with the Shieldstrumpet. First she thinks with nothing but her heart, then when she finishes that she thinks with nothing but her nethers. Fecking result is the same and she runs herself into trouble every damn time. Be it no-account Rangers or runaway Gondorians or starry-eyed Horsemistresses. She woos em, she beds em and they break her.
Addie was mostly in shock at all of that phrasing and did not quite know how to respond beyond staring open mouthed much the way Bild was.
Fortunately Xandilif was continuing. "She ain't in no position to decide if the Shieldstrumpet is tellin' the truth or no cause she loves her...and if she ain't tellin' the truth then we got to find out what her game is..and if she IS, then Rian and her whole little pack are in a fecking lot of trouble and could get them all killed."
Finally catching up, Addie tried to sound sensible. "Trouble or not.. it is her life to live and her mistakes to make, though she has assured me that this Cyndwin is indeed telling the truth.. Seeking to control her is only going to drive her further away from you." Addie then seemed concerned. "What is this last part you speak of? Killed?"
Xandilif snorted. "You don't play with magics like this and get away clean...and I come all the way here from the Black Land to sort her the hell out and for my considerable trouble I get lip from a bunch a farmer's and yet another Riddermark cutie on the run!"
The dwarf just continued to stare dumbfounded but Addie was visibly angry at that last jab and her eyes flared, "You assume much that you do not know.."
The Elleth, tilted her head. "Easy there darling...Not like I insulted yer horse or nothing. Keep yer secrets, I don't give a barrel of orc piss if ya call yourself a Rohan girl or a Breelander or a fecking halfling. . I just want my sister. IF Cyndwin is telling the truth about disappearing out of Angmar in a blue cloud of something or other, then this is bad, bad news and is not just your average Xanderian nonsense. It's a question that will need answering.'
Addie was still trying to approach this strange elf sensibly, "Then how about you try speaking to her civilly and you both working to solve the problem?'
Xandilif spat on the cobblestones. "By Sauron's short hairs....Ya every tried to TALK to my sister? She is all goddamn riddles and sighs."
Addie nodded, undeterred, "Aye, I have.. She has always been kind to me."
The Elleth shook her head."Yeah, likely even when she shouldn't have been...she is all about being kind until ya get yourself killed beside her or she has ta put an arrow in your eye and then she cries over your grave and kills half the bloody world. Remember that when she cuddles up ta ya next time."
Addie saw red, "Having a friend to mourn over your grave is better than having no one.. /You/ remember that..I am leaving. Will you come with me, Bild?"
The dwarf lingered just a moment to study the Elf's face, then trotted after Addie as she stalked into Bree.
Xandilif smirked after them..."Gosh, I might weep now. Next time you see her, you tell her to answer me and we will sort this out...And say hello to your horse for me, Rohan girl."
Addie bristled at that, but did not turn as she and the dwarf hurried away.
Dejectedly, Xandilif went back around to the front of the Pony and shouldered the door open. She gazed slowly around the room....and smiled. Not her sister but the next best thing came in while she was jawing with Horsegirl and her little shadow.
At the noise Cyndwin looked up and slowly rose from her meal to approach the hearth. She had been forewarned, Barliman had warned her the banshee had arrived and was making a scene.
Xandilif watched the blonde woman, breathed in deep and raised her voice to make sure the entire room could hear. "This place stinks of Rohan trash.....and now I see why. So what have you done with Rian...eaten her whole?"
Cyndwin met the elven woman's gaze "How can you smell anything, reeking of the fens of Mordor? Have you giving up bathing entirely"?
Xandilif tilted her head slowly....flexing her right hand while Cyndwin gulped but held her ground..
The Champion sneered. "Well well well, the Shieldstrumpet is feeling tough since she is wearing grown up boots now?"
Cyndwin's face quirked, torn between anger and laughter. She paused a long moment and then threw her arms around Xandilif in a tight hug, regardless of the danger. "It's so good to see you!"
Xandilif nearly choked...That was the one thing she hadn't expected, as Cyndwin continued talking, still embracing her. "You were worried for your sister, and I honor that - I never wished to cause her any pain!"
The Elleth pushed her away "By Elbereth's knickers, the Monk has infected you as well..you go around hugging orcs now too, you little ninny?" Xandilif paused...her head tilting much like her sister.
Cyndwin laughed happily at the similarity. "Are you comparing yourself....? but come, I have a drink waiting for you!"
Rather then following, Xandilif hooked her by the front of her armor for a moment and looking her up and down...then she grumbled. "Well you don't look tainted at least..."
Cyndwin shrugged "I feel..fine, for what it's worth!"
Recovering herself, Xandilif sneered. "C'mon..admit it..ya disappeared for a year just because ya wanted to play Hide the Lance with a few garrisons of sellswords without Rian slowing you down...ain't that right? I doubt Rian would care much more than me who you let punch ya up the whiskers...but the Horselords are weird about that...like they are about who knocks their horses up."
Cyndwin shook her head, but more in amusement than in anger "Do you KNOW your sister at all? Even if *could* have left her alone, she would have found me..."
Xandilif paused."Yeah...that is a point...no way some two bit Riddermark slut could have hidden from the Monk"
Cyndwin was no longer smiling, her face had coloring a bit
Feeling the shift, Xandilif leaned in and continued, applying more pressure. "Ya know that story you told her is about as silly as me saying I found the ring of the enemy in a fleabitten goblin cave"
Cyndwin clenched her fists, anger finally rising. ''And yet, whatever you may say, however you hide your love for your sister in vulgarities, the Rohirrim do not lie! Act, if you accuse me of such, or be silent!"'
The champion poked her hard in the breastplate, knocking her back a step. Her voice was a mocking whine. "Fine then...tell me your little fantasy, Cyndwin. How exactly did you lose an entire fecking year?"
The Shieldmaiden was not backing down, or giving Lif the satisfaction. "You know the tale, since you fling it in my face, Banshee! Why should I repeat it to your scoffing?"'
The Elleth whispered, even more mockingly. "Just say it...I wanna know if you can still keep the lie straight without Rian here wringing her hands and patting your backside."
Cyndwin crossed her arms, lip jutting stubbornly "I will NOT, under compulsion - believe or not as you wish, but if you believe anything in this Middle-Earth, believe your sister is dearer to me than any treasure and never would I leave her alone if I had any choice."
Xandilif frowned, her tone changing again, groweing more serious. "This is no fecking game, Cyndwin...Lethril is not playing at lovematches in the stable. You don't get what you have done to her."
"Do you not think I do?? I know all too well!"' Cyndwin poked her hard in the chest in return to emphasize her words, but Xandilif did not move. She just sighed.
"Compared to this last year, the decade after Gemniphred died was a fecking walk along the garden."
Cyndwin sighed in turn, anger draining a bit at the name of the long dead Ranger. "I know I have hurt her, or she has BEEN hurt, but it was none of my intention.."
The Elleth caught the girl's chin with one gauntleted hand, staring into her eyes. "Are you sure of that, Shieldmaiden....REALLY sure? She wouldn't say a word to me...but I felt her...She nearly died three times, at least....One time I am still not sure why she didn't...and no quiet time with Mandos for the little idiot...when she dies now, it is over. Are you SURE?"
Cyndwin didn't respond, simply looked back into Lif's eyes, letting her read her answer there.
The two stood immobile for what seemed like forever, then Xandilif dropped her hand and looked down. "I don't know which of you idiots is more pitiful...
Her voice tinged with relief and unshed tears, Cyndwin whispered, '"If we are, we are so together...just as should be..."'
Xandilif spat to break the moment..."Where is that fecking drink you promised me, I am as dry as Galadriel tongue kissing a Wraith."
Cyndwin laughed and the two sat to discuss blue gems and lost years as the Pony went back to its normal business.