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Moth's Journal

23nd Ringare

I cannot sleep, though I am tired, tired beyond belief. And I hurt deeply, both inside and out. Yet I have no idea which pains me more. I am so stupid, so damned, damned stupid. I should KNOW by now that theoretically perfect ideas rarely work when put into practice. It was one of the first principles Elbrian taught me, and I have forgotten it so soon. I could have killed Erethor, I certainly came close to killing myself in the process. Maybe I should have succeeded, it would have saved them further stupidity on my part. Elbrian told me that too, never to play with fire unless you expect to be burned.

So much has happened today. Scarce seems like it could all fit in.

I have learned much more today. I have learned of deceit within the justice system, the justice system of which Hadrell unceasingly sang praises. The magistrate that had come to preside over the trial happened to be the uncle of one of the miscreants we had brought in. Much to my disgust I had fallen heavily asleep last night, and was woken to be told that we were required for the trial. So we were escorted outside to where the other participants and the village elders were waiting. I noticed with some surprise that Grandmother was amongst them. The trial began with the rogues trying to make light of their evil deed. I recall they said they would have returned to rescue Delnenn.

Lies.

Delnenn spoke next. And finally our turn, To my surprise, Erethor let me speak our case. I can usually speak well. I thought I did. Yet Erethor and Hadrell seemed greatly displeased with me, I don’t understand why, I was simply relating what had happened, what I had seen. Erethor WAS heavy handed with the rogues and I don’t blame him. But I can’t believe they don’t remember Delnenn telling us of his gambling debts. They seem so insistent it wasn’t so. And then Delnenn leapt towards me and shouted out that he had hired us as mercenaries to kill the villains……

I remember Grandmother’s voice in my head, telling us to make for the safety of the hall. I tried to persuade Hadrell and Erethor, but Hadrell would have none of it. And then, as swift as the fury at my telling him to move became apparent, so did a look of bewilderment and he paused, looked at me puzzled and we retreated to the peace of the hall. Grandmother, bless her, then fell into a purely distractive frenzy which served to throw the court into upheaval.

And it was there that Hadrell, looking at me with utmost shock and disgust, pointed an accusing finger at me. And words fell from his lips…..and my secret betrayed….

"You’re a girl!" Those words, echoing around in my head over and over, words I have been waiting to hear for so many years, dreading them…..Years of my life falling before me, like a clay shell, broken, the pieces of my disguise, my protection falling to the floor. "You’re a girl!". Words filled with disgust at my deceit, the horror of not having noticed before….."You’re a girl!" But no time for explanations, just the coldness in his eyes. There is no forgetting a look like that. Nor the way it pierced me deeply, cruelly. All this secrecy and for what, broken friendships so recently forged. But I thank whatever gods were watching over us at that time, for Erethor hadn’t heard his accusation – it would have made our arguing Hadrell down the escape route and away from justice a far harder task, of that I am sure. For at that moment, my dear, beloved brother showed up to point us to an escape route and to inform us of the crooked magistrate.

We spent what seemed like forever arguing with Hadrell, and at one point I thought we had lost Erethor to Hadrell’s argument for justice. Yet many lives would be lost if we stayed to hang as we surely would. Both Erethor and I knew that were this the case, there would almost certainly be uprising and much bloodshed between my people and his. Strange, that we agreed so firmly on this, when once, not so long ago, our people were at war with each other. So on the basis of this argument, and swearing a solemn oath that justice WOULD prevail somehow, someday, we eventually managed to talk the Dwarf into the cavern below. Gethyn promised he would try to meet us at the other end of the tunnels with our horses and any items left behind. Straight on, he said.

So we went, running from the crooked law, all the while the words "You’re a girl!" repeating themselves over and over. I think Hadrell made some comments, tried to inform Erethor of my deceit. This time, however, Erethor was showing signs of discomfort at being underground away from his beloved horse, and the comments were quite lost on him. So we wandered through the passages and still the words ran through my head. I could feel Hadrell’s eyes, still cold, on me – at some point, when I can’t remember, he told me my grandmother had been the one to betray my secret. But why here? Why now? Why, when I needed the trust of my companions so badly?

And then the spider. Big, frightening to behold, and unrelenting. Erethor seemed to freeze, he would not move to help Hadrell, who had deemed that this would be a worthy battle. I have never seen Erethor like this before, he is usually a brave and fearless warrior, possibly a little reckless, but never rooted to the spot unable to fight. I did what little I could, but it seemed my spells were useless, perhaps due to the words "You’re a girl!" still reeling through my head. All I did, it seemed, was light up the cavern with sparks. Worse still, at one point one of my spells backfired, and gave me an angry electrical slap – it hurt a great deal.

Hadrell took the beast on single-handedly. And fought ferociously – maybe I wasn’t the only one working through Grandmother’s revelation – and valiantly, ‘til the creature fell dead. I felt ashamed then, at some of the thoughts I’d had of him earlier. If I were a bard, I would have written a song for his heroic battle. Except, of course, that he might have wished to sing it himself.

And so we found ourselves at another crossroads. This time lost. Eventually I stripped my gloves and after fumbling around on the floor and walls with my bare hands, I envisioned my brother, smiling, but not before I caught a glimpse of the spider’s hungry mate. I warned the other two that there may be another hungrier and angrier spider in the caverns, Hadrell, I think, merely smiled at the thought. Of Erethor’s reaction, I am uncertain, he holds back his feelings as if he has none at times. I know there have been situations that have warranted words, angry ones at that, yet he has had none.

So to my foolish behaviour that has left me badly wounded. I only had good intenti…but no, that is no excuse, it has been overused time and time again by others – I SHOULD have known better. We made our way into a cavern, Erethor tumbling headlong into sticky vile webs. Hadrell moved towards the opposite wall where another figure was squirming in yet more web. So this was the spider’s lair. I tried to cut Erethor out, there was no way he could escape from it himself. But he was struggling too much for me to cut away at the threads safely, and then I thought of how quickly cobwebs burned……

Suffice it to say, somehow, I do not know how, he is relatively unscathed, and I, well, I have fared badly, very badly indeed. It would have been worse too, had not Hadrell come to my aid. I do not care to write any more about it. I have however, and this pained me also, for it is my admitting I was wrong, apologised to Erethor for my stupidity. I don’t know if it means anything to him, he almost certainly has no idea how hard it is for me to swallow my own pride.

We have now acquired a new companion, cut from the web, an Elf. Her name, I dare not spell it, means "Young Yet Old". She knows Erethor too, I believe. I think he guided her once. She continued to patch up my wounds, knowing a little first aid. She was looking for herbs, or fungi in the caves, so she said. I do know, though, that her slender fingers and gentle touch caused little more pain as she tended my burns. And it hurt so, it was no small mercy.

I think she is supposed to come with us, for I have been given four doses of the herb, not three, and Grandmother would not have given excess without reason. The spider cavern yielded wealth too, if I recall rightly, although the pain of my wounds was, by then, eating into my reason further still. And the Elf knew the route out…..

And then pain and the words still swirling round in my head, "You’re a girl!" and then more pain, nothing was making sense to me any more except the pain and the words.

Both Hadrell and Erethor offered to help me. I refused. But with each step I could hear those words again, "You’re a girl!" , and with each step, the pain became stronger.

I managed to struggle down some of the tunnel without assistance, for although I appreciated Erethor’s offer to carry me, a part of me recoiled at the thought that my true nature may be discovered, despite Hadrell’s revelation. Old and deeply ingrained habits die hard. I compromised in the end and agreed that I would ask for help if I needed it, and it was well that I did. The wounds I had taken were a lot worse than I had first thought, and I fell, hurting myself further. Accept help when it is offered and you need it. Another of Elbrian’s lessons. So I was carried the rest of the distance.

I dimly recall, as I was lifted up, that there was a discussion between Hadrell and Erethor, involving "her", "no, him", "no, HER". And I figured that there would be much explaining to be done later. I dimly recall words about having long discussions, too.

We reached the exit without encountering any more spiders though, and found firelight burning at the end. I was set down on the ground, I remember the sudden sharp shock. And then Erethor, the quiet and stealthy ranger, found his horse, or more accurately, his horse found him, causing him to start back and fall over. Sometimes, I truly appreciate that animal, he has an almost human quality. I swear he was laughing…..

Gethyn had lit a fire and was cooking, while waiting for our arrival. True to his word, he had brought the horses, and our items. Neither Hadrell or Erethor had cause to admonish him, I presume he had collected all they needed. He had even set up the tent for us. I realised then, how much he meant to me and I to him. I had to let him know the truth.

I can speak eloquently when I desire. This was no such occasion. With the constant sting of my burns, and the knowledge that I have lied to almost all I have loved throughout my life, the words came with great difficulty. And he looked at me unbelieving, before fainting. I asked him to speak to Grandmother about it some time, when he came round. Perhaps he will. Perhaps not. Whether I am brother or sister to him, my love for him has not changed. I hope he understands that, or if not now, then someday.

And although I wanted to lie down and lose my pain in sweet sleep, I knew I dare not leave my explanations any longer. I spoke to Hadrell a while about my upbringing, about how the great deceit had come about, and the reason for it. That I was destined for something important.

He listened to my words intently. I would like to think perhaps he understood my plight. Erethor, as usual, made no comment.

Except one. To a question Hadrell asked me when I was done. "Will you still travel with us?" Before I could even open my mouth in reply, he had given the answer as a yes that gave me no choice. In answer to my protestations that it was my question to answer, he simply and sternly replied that we were on the King’s business.

That may be his reasoning. Not mine. I will not break the rules, I will do as the King bids, that is the way. But first and foremost, I travel out of love and respect for a good man who asked me to do this, the honouring of which means more than royal orders. It was a dying wish.

Odd that dying wishes have held such great power over me throughout my life.

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