A Pair of Heroes

Xanderian perched on a rooftop near the West gate of Bree, well hidden from casual observers even had one glanced up during their busy day. She was carefully fixing the fletching of a handful of arrows. After the rich purple feathers were complete and straightened again, she began doctoring the gleaming arrowheads to her own somewhat eccentric and questionable specifications. As she worked, whispering ingredients to herself, she gazed out into the distance along the East Road, her keen eyesight allowing her to make out even the shadowy edges of the Old Forest if not beyond. Her eye fell on wagons and oxcarts, walkers and riders, and she could not help but wonder who among the bustle were innocent travelers, and who servants of the enemy, or worse. The quiet and bucolic innocence of Breeland often drew those who had grown tired of war…as well as those who wished to find a way to use such a haven for their own ends…or put it all to the torch. Once years ago she considered herself a protector of this place, arrogantly styling herself and her friends Fillegedhiel and Cyndwin “The Sisterhood of the Pony”. Then she wished never to see Bree again after bearing scorn and loss and ultimately failure and abandonment. Now, perhaps she was somewhere in between, but even so she longed to be away from here and the memories it held.

She paused in her work and closed her eyes for a moment, pulling a wineskin of grog out of her knapsack and carefully setting it down on the wall just as she heard the creak and scrape of metal on stone behind her. Her sister Xandilif sat heavily on the edge beside her, stripping off her war gauntlets, cursing under her breath and taking up the skin. After a long drink the elf sighed, running a hand through her roughly cropped hair, just as black as her sister’s but where Xanderian’s hair was like a wave of silk, her’s was like the bristles of a bottle brush.

After Xanderian carefully ran the edge over a small whetstone she dipped an arrow head into a small bottle. She whispered to herself “Trollblood” then blew on it as the sticky liquid dried slighty. While it was still a bit damp, she carefully rolled the razor sharp point in in a black, flaky power, whispering, “Old Barrow-earth, but not TOO old…”. Setting it aside, she picked up another arrow and began the process again, still refraining from actually looking at her sister. “You can’t run from her forever, she can feel you. Eventually she will just wait silently in a tree and drop upon you from above. Calidis will settle this out with you, and she is NOT going away, whatever you may have once thought. Where I am, she will be and I hope you have come to terms with that.”

Lif sighed and took another sip, rinsing her mouth with it then spitting it down into the street, soaking an oblivious halfling’s hat as he walked past then looked up at the sky. “Yeah, I got that, I do Lethril…she and I will parlay soon enough and settle this out but me beefing with your wife is the least of our problems. Ain’t like we are gonna throw hands or nuthin….but it seems we are stuck in the middle yet again.”

Xan nodded, her mood softening slightly as Xandilif used her girlhood name…and said the word "wife". Carefully she gathered the dozen arrows she had finished and slipping them into her belt quiver, each in its proper place, then drew out of her knapsack a small jar labeled “Wyrmspit”. “So it seems, Gawad….a slowly boiling, rapidly evolving civil war in Angmar with all sides wishing our demise as a pleasant bonus.”

‎”Yeah and they are all Angmarim asshats, only difference is who they want ta present our heads to after they get done.” Xandilif took another sip as she watched her younger sister soak small strips of cloth inscribed with mystic sigils in the fiery red liquid filling the jar, then delicately wrap the cloth around arrowheads. Once each was bound, she them covered them in a soft white powder to dampen them until the right moment. “The Guild of the Unsealed is splitting between the new blood, those who serve Sauron, and the old Infernus who are trying to bring back good old fashioned Morgoth worship. That of course is if we can believe that bastard Desad and what he told you.”

Xanderian carefully set each arrow in her back quiver, nodding. “He must be taken with the grain of salt, but he had no reason to lie that I could see…save of course that he is a pathological liar. However, he clearly expects us to do something to undermine the Infernus and forestall the Dagor Dagorath they seem to long for, while clearing the way for himself, his monstrous protege Drasia and the rest of his faction to dominate the Unsealed, and possibly all of Middle Earth in their Master Sauron’s name. Beyond that, he dropped weighty hints that the Guild of the Unexpected is rousing itself, smelling the bloodbath to come and longing for it’s former power. Things just grow more and more dangerous, it seems.”

Lif sighed and took another sip. “Yeah and he figures that it is a good bet we will side with him against the Infernus because we went up against Aganalu, Matron of the Infernus once already to stop her from possessing Finchley, and would do so again…especially since Gwindeth confirmed to me and Finch that Aganalu is still out there, banished but not destroyed,  and is waiting for another body to try this shite all over again. I wish it was easier to make a damn necromancer stay dead.”

Xan raised an eyebrow, and took out some more fresh arrows. “From what you said, Gwindeth said that was YOUR choice…destroy Finchley and Aganalu both once and for all, or protect Finchley and therefore spare Aganalu a final death. Is she right? Did you consider the two options…and choose?” She paused, eyes meeting her sister’s, waiting.

Lif did not falter, her gaze steady and rock solid. “Yeah, I CHOSE. I was not gonna kill my Babygirl, nohow, don’t care why…if that was the only damn way to keep the world out of Aganalu and Morgoth’s mitts, they can have the whole stinking mess, I don’t fecking care. You follow?”

Xanderian nodded softly, carefully shaping  rough black clay around each new arrowhead, no longer looking at her sister, whispering "Caeryg Spleen" then looking back up. “Yes…I follow. Of course, you only had a choice because the Witchfire and Catalinna took advantage of the fact Finchley, against all odds, had fought Aganalu off. Catalinna destroyed the brand and drove the weakened shade of Aganalu out into the open for you to dispel. Moyna’s plan worked and her faith in Finchley proved wise…and if we believe Desad, he allowed it all to happen after having been tricked by the Infernus into destroying the Witches in the first place.”

Xandilif stretched her shoulders, casually slipping the sword SilverWand off her back and laying it across her lap. “Yeah, I know I owe Red, and however many grandmothers she got in her head now. Damned witches. Course Gwindeth don’t know that. As far as she is concerned, Aganalu was a servant of Morgoth, so she could be stopped by good Edain steel, steel Morgoth would remember well, the bastard. No witches required, but her vision is pretty damn narrow.”

Xanderian slipped the last few arrows into their places. “Narrow indeed…she truly confessed it was she who had hidden SilverWand for all those centuries, and allowed you to find it, to wrest it from the lich Agon?”

“Yeah, and that she knew Aganalu the Archbishop of Morgoth was living in Finchley when she saved her life out in Evendim. She says she hooked me and SilverWand up knowing that someday in the future I would come across Finch…but I think that is just blowing smoke.” Lif spat off the wall, narrowly missing a Bree Watcher. “Nothing like hindsight to allow somebody to claim prescience. I think she just got lucky…or there was something guiding our steps that was beyond her OR her precious Edain. Either way, it don’t matter…we are still here, with our balls in a vise and no clear road ahead. You do all the thinking, Rian…what do we do now, huh?”

Xanderian adjusted her hood and shrugged gently. “Good question, Banshee. I know that Catalinna is soon to journey with a man of Numenor called Cirvedui who appears to be wrapped in mystery and portents. Whether she does so by her own wish, or the desires of the Witchfire, is beyond me. Either way, I imagine our paths will cross again soon enough. I am sure both Captain Kraddock and Squad Leader Lyra will soon depart for Minas Tirith, leaving Mans, Kheledul and Garon Coinspinner as well as the fate of the criminal trade along the East Road problems to be dealt with somewhere in the future, no doubt by us. I would like to suggest that they are the problem of the Bree Watch or the Bounders but we both know they are hopelessly out of their depth, and the Rangers are by and large departed from these lands...but that is indeed for the future. For the moment, we rest, recover, then journey home now that we are reunited with Sister Addiela and Nethrida and Elsa. Hopefully Daedre, Eduwiges’ mother, is still where we left her and we can then turn ourselves to the question of my sweet lynx’s parentage and what evils may lurk therein.”

Lif snorted and slipped the massive sword back onto her back before pulling her gauntlets back on. “Yeah, and considering she is a lifelong thief and conwoman and founder of the Blood Eye, is it likely she is just sitting on the stoop at Tol Lochul like a pupply waiting for us to come home? OH yeah…I forgot, you told your pet Nimlindir to watch her….y’know, the lunatic. What could possibly go wrong with that?”

Xan just smiled and stood. “You are hardly in position to call anyone a lunatic, Banshee…now lets go find the others, and some supper before Finchley eats it all….whatever we should do will likely present itself soon enough, one way or another.” Xanderian stepped off the wall, vaulting gracefully from rooftop to rooftop to awning, finally flipping through the air and landing lightly on her feet, crouching in the center of the roadway.

Lif spat again watching her. “Yeah, sailors on the seas of fate, that’s us,” she muttered and jumped, dropping like a bomb directly into the roadway, landing on one knee with her gauntleted fist slamming into the ground, cracking a cobblestone.

Xandilif slowly rose from her landing, noting a Bree Watcher and several others staring at them in shock, as it appeared to the locals that it had been suddenly raining elves. The Champion rolled her shoulders and shrugged. “What the feck are YOU looking at..ain’t ya never seen a pair of heroes before?” She put her arm around her little sister’s shoulders, and the two slowly walked up towards the Prancing Pony.

The Watcher just shook his head in their wake and dispersed the startled crowd, muttering to himself. "Heroes? Menaces more like. If those are the only heroes we can manage, what must the villains be like?"