Xandilif walked through the streets of Minas Tirith with less than her normal strut. Her shoulder ached beneath her light Hauberk, though truly not as much as it should have. She was impressed despite herself with the healing skills of both Calidis and Eduwiges. As always, she thought, Xanderian collects the cream of the crop.
She had dropped her damaged armor off for smithing and had started renewing her contacts with the soldiers and craftsmen who made their living in the endless wartime of the White City. A quick whisper informed her that the Hounds of Anarion had indeed returned to the city, but thus far had not been seen on the Way of Soldiers. When they did reappear, she had some questions for Gareth Steelheart, and not all of them would be pleasant.
The Champion of the Azure Faithful moved through an inner gate on the second tier and finally spied them. Nethrida and Addiela were out in front of the Splintered Shield, standing in the flower bed like a pair of drunken camp followers.
She strode up and stared up at them. 'They are gonna fine ya, ya stand up there too long. Disturbing the Public Deportment, they call it'
Nethrida, looking more and more at home in Guardsman armor, the azure and crimson badge of the Household Guard of the Princess Lothiriel prominent on her tabard, rolled her eyes in resignation. 'I know... It made for a nice little distraction... Or... So I thought.'
Addiela, dressed in the graceful winged robes found in every shop in Dol Amroth didn’t look at Lif or even seem to hear her, she just stared off into the distance
Shrugging, the Champion hooked a thumb back at the tavern doors. 'The Shield's a good choice....but Horseimp is still off with the pink feckin' ponies? Ya gonna get her down from there before some brown nosing provost tosses in gaol for the night'
Nethrida sighed, 'The times have been rough…Addie? Addie, you should come down from there.”
The blonde woman just continued to watch the sky, her gaze fixed on something far away.
Xandilif whistled shrilly, causing several passersbys to turn, but then hurry on again noting the insignias worn by both Xandilif and Nethrida…civilians did not question soldiers in Minas Tirith.
Addiela finally looked back over her shoulder, down towards Lif. "The cry of one that has had many battles, many losses, few to call friend.. and yet, is in more danger than she knows. Where I stand matters not, the very ground my feet are on is cursed as are those near me. A watcher am I, a watcher of misfortune and death…"
The elleth slapped her forehead in exasperation. 'It is my damn fate ta be surrounded by fecking lunatics...ya try gettin her drunk yet?'
The Gondorian woman shook her head and spoke in the slow, patient, tense tone that indicated she had been at this for awhile. “Lif is right, Addie, they'll fine you if you stand over there... C'mon... Come down. 'Addie come on... Let's go for a walk... I know a few good places...'
Addiela gingerly started to step down, but instead of coming down toward Neth, she paused in the azaleas and looked toward Lif. "Temptress with an apple in her hand.. Tell me, do you realize what monster stands before you? Did you feed her or awaken her? Or was she already?"
Xandilif sighs. 'Ya ain’t no monster, ya silly little bitch..and if you are honestly takin on that anything that has happened is because a you, you got quite the high opinion of yourself for a half washed stablewhore. Now get outta the flowerbeds.”
The woman quirked a brow toward Lif and tilted her head to the side. However rather than the indignant outburst the Champion was expecting, she laughed.
This unnerved Xandilif more then anything else she had done. 'C'mon....ya need a drink...or four'
Nethrida shook her head again strernly '... You know she doesnt drink, Lif...'
Nodding, the Banshee started toward the open tavern door. 'Exactly...now is a perfect time ta start. 'C'mon...my shoulder hurts like the back half of a caveclaw and I gotta ride for Rivendell tomorrow dawn'' (to see why, see The End of A Dream: Part the First)
Smiling a bit Nethrida attempted to pull Addie down from the flowerbed, and then hugged her tightly, which the normally austere, aloof woman surprisingly allowed.
Xandilif just stared. “Ohhhkkaaayyy…now she is really starting to creep me out. Damn...look at her...we outta find her a couple swains like this while we got the chance”
Nethrida took a step back from the hug and sighed, glaring at Xandilif for a moment. "Come now, Addie... Snap out of it, things will... Turn out okay" She tried to smile a bit again…it didn’t work well.
Addiela didn’t even look back to glare at Lif at her comment, she just tilted her head.
Xandilif spat. 'The Hamster would be pleased ta know he takes a dive and Addie’s brain pops apart like a damn cuckoo clock in an orc cave.'
Addiela's gaze had remained distant, but when Lif spoke those words, her head slowly turned toward the elf and there was a flash of fire in her eyes.
The Champion smirked. “Yeah, Hawke DIED...people die. All the fecking time. That don’t make it your fault. But I swear by anything you want me to swear by, we will find the root of all this bullshit, pull it out and burn it. We will FIND whose fault it actually is...and I don’t care if it is Ol’ One Eye himself, he will feckin well answer to US…And we can’t do that if we got you staggering around making up bad poetry and standing in flowerbeds.
Nethrida nodded firmly, 'That's right. We'll have our vengeance.' Addiela covered her ears at hearing those words and collapsed in on herself, down to her knees. She shook her head in this new position and began to tremble with anger, drawing stares and whispers from the soldier’s drinking in front of the Shield.
Looking concerned, Xandilif whistled low. 'Elbereth's best knickers...maybe we outta take her up to the Houses of Healing and just leave her here? Plenty a soldiers up there whose mind's just snapped...it happens.'
Nethrida winced a little at the hard practicality of the Banshee’s words, unwilling to accept them, and took Addie’s arm. "Xandilif is right... We need your help. You've got to come back. If you give up now his passing will have been in vain. Don’t let it all be in vain. Channel that anger into finding the monsters behind all this."
Xandilif stepped closer to the two, her voice slipping down into a sharp whisper. “Besides all that...Addie, before all this happened, he was startin’ not to hate you, which is pretty good since he hated most everybody. Hamster, Hawke, Urchin, Gwaelion...whatever his name was or wasn’t, would NOT have wanted you to unravel over this shite...he really wouldn't. It is your damn choice...it is ALWAYS a choice. You can choose to become just another damn casualty...or you can choose to get straight and do your damn job. So are you with us, or are you just another person we have to mourn?'
Nodding vigorously Nethrida released her arm, 'That's right. If you crumble now then the Viper gets the last laugh. Are you sure you want to let someone like him win?'
Hearing Lif's words now brought tears to Addie's eyes, but at least she seemed like herself again in that moment, her gaze no longer distant. "I couldn't help him, I couldn't keep my promise to him that we wouldn't let harm come to him here... We all failed, I failed."
Xandilif looked up at the sky…'Yeah WE ALL failed...him included...Hawke kept too many secrets, Xan was too overconfident, I made bad assumptions, Eduwiges charged in half-cocked yet again, Calidis took too damn long to wake her silly ass up, Nethrida here was too nervous to do much and you saved the fecking horse before doing something useful...Even Gareth failed, he took a chance that failed and that has GOT to be chafing his arse....we ALL blew it'
Addie tried to stop shaking, “But we cannot make it right.. we cannot bring back the dead'
Nethrida’s voice went cold. 'No, we cannot. But we can avenge him.'
Leaning against the wall, Xandilif continued almost to herself., “Yeah we gotta avenge him….and ensure he rests. Black Numernoreans are Necromancers and we found no body...If we don’t get a hand on these bastards throats and squeeze, their plans for Gwaelion may not be done, and who knows what those may be...'
Addie and Nethrida both froze and stared at the elf, their faces growing pale. For a brief moment a look of utter dread crept onto Nethrida’s face, before it was replaced with steely determination. "We cannot allow that to pass."
Xandilif nodded and looked at Addie.” Damn right…Now get yerself sorted....Neth, me....Rian....people who give a damn about you, we can’t be weepin' over you when we got work to do'
As if snapping out of a trance Addiela looked toward Lif. She reached into the satchel at her side and brought out an apple. "I need you to promise me something." She held out the apple to Lif, "'If I turn on any of you…bring misfortune….Kill me if necessary.."
The elf took the apple and studied it, remembering the last apple the two had shared (see Unsoothed). She nodded as Nethrida watched. 'Agreed...if I see that YOU are the thing that caused a single one of my sister's tears by malice, Addiela of Rohan, I will gut you like a fish, and gut you slow, then leave you out to dry on a hillside in Golgoroth.'
Xandilif took a bite of the apple with a snap and passed it back to her.
Addiela unsheathed her dagger from under her sleeve and used it to prick her finger, adding her blood to the apple before putting it back in the satchel. "Bound by oath, bound by blood." She looked toward Neth as she resheathed the dagger. "You made a promise of such as well, in case Xandilif isn't there to fulfill her oath."
Nethrida nodded sternly. "And I'll hold to that promise. But I promise a swift end, if it ever came to that"
The blonde woman shook her head. 'If it ever came to that, why should I expect mercy? We offer none to our foes.'
Xandilif spat then stepped between them, her arms about their soldiers, guiding them to the tavern. 'I wasn’t plannin’ on given ya any mercy, Horseimp. Now let’s get a feckin’ drink.”
The three comrades walked into the Splintered Shield as the flags of Minas Tirith waved above them in the wind, a flock of silver birds swirling overhead...and dark eyes watching them from the shadows.