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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 2nd, 2018, 8:06 pm 
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Rie-Zunic scowled, winced, and then gave a long hard glare before answering the Captain of the Palace Guard. Then, he almost had to stifle a chuckle, but his face returned to serious and perturbed in one second flat.

“Why?” He finally responded. “We serve a code, a law, and a crown!” He raised his voice firmly but did not yell. “When did the crown become above that code and law that we are sworn to uphold? Maidens being kidnapped and held in the palace against their will? Unable to leave and forced into a marriage they themselves are unaproving of?” He shook his head slowly and cpntinued. “Sir, I have dedicated my life to this cause, and now I fear it has taken more than it has given. I never asked for my recent promotion. I didn’t want it. Instead of being out there, figuring out what these...” he paused and motioned towards the guildsman present. “These traitorous sea rats are planong against our kingdom... I am stuck doing paperwork! All to satisfy the bureaucracy and politics! I should be out there stopping the plotting of the guildsman, where I am needed.”

He eyed his captain for two seconds, then added. “Sir...”

————



Almara, still spinning in her thoughts, left Amarwen to prepare herself. She didn’t feel like fixing herself up, but she knew Farien’s gaze would be heavy upon her. She fixed herself as beat she could and waited. The time grew near, and the gloom in Amarwen’s quarters hung like thick fog.

Almara stepped cautiously up to the Lady and said in a subdued voice, “The time has come, I’m afraid.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 2nd, 2018, 9:38 pm 
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What this officer needed, the Captain inwardly reflected, was yet more time in the cells. Time he did not have. Aware of listening ears, including the impudent Rohovanian wench at his back who didn't know when to keep her mouth shut, the Captain stepped closer. His voice naturally was strident and he made no effort to remedy that now.

"The only prisoners at the palace are the brigands and blackguards arrested awaiting trial for their crimes. I can assure you, there are no maidens amongst their number. I have it from the King himself that half of what you said is untrue. Had you reported for duty, you too would know." The Captain's grim expression remained unswayed as his officer scowled dubiously at him. After a long and silent tussle of wills, the Captain pitched his voice in a low growl for Rie-Zunic alone. "If it is the sea rats you would put a stop to, then have a care mouthing their filthy lies lest you be mistaken for one of their number."

He spun on one heel and strode from the cell, leaving the door wide. After a delay, he heard his officer bestir himself and after a brief pause at the door to allow the man's eyes to adjust to brutally bright sunlight, the two men set off side by side. The Captain was silent for quite a measure and Rie-Zunic had the good sense not to disrupt his reverie. Once they were a good few blocks from the guild watch-house, the Captain pressed out a rumbling growl of a sigh.

"Your paperwork is appalling in any case." He grimaced at his observation and eyed Rie-Zunic. He was sweating but, then, that is what rum does to a man. The Captain diverted his gaze once more. "These sea rats do need an end put to them."

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Rie-Zunic's head lift as he caught scent of an opportunity. "Not today," the Captain growled. "Today we have other business. Tomorrow, once the dust has settled...perhaps."

"What is today's business?"

"Trooping of the Guard for one. The court is in full session for the betrothal at noon."


Rie-Zunic squinted up at the sun to gauge the hour and the Captain scowled. "Under no circumstances will you stand before the court stinking of rum!"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Therald paused just inside the door of the antechamber his daughter waited in. It was a vast and imposing space that dwarfed her and the woman she waited with. Her companion looked vaguely familiar to him but he could not place her. Amarwen's eyes were closed and she was seated. Her shoulders slumped despite the way in which her face glowed. His daughter had always been beautiful to his eye. In truth, he doted upon her. Today, though, she was extraordinary to behold. A girl no longer, for around her head was a garland of delicate, snowy flowers. They were so white against her ebony hair that they seemed luminescent.

He felt proud, sad and nostalgic all at once. A strong desire for the days when she was so small that he could scoop her up into his arms assailed him. How she had laughed when he had done that, her generous delight tumbling about without restraint. Undimmed by the trammels of the world beyond their warm, happy halls. His daughter was no longer a child. She was a woman grown, of rank and title. With that came responsibilities that he could not protect nor hide from her.

”Amarwen.”

Her eyes swept open at the sound of her name but her expression remained unreadable. This unsettled him for always had he been able to perceive his only child’s mind.

She stood and the sunlight admitted by the tall windows illuminated her silk gown. It’s burnished golden hue was one of Edhellond’s colours and it suited her well. Slung around her hips was a girdle of fat, gleaming rubies. Orbs of living fire rippled as she walked. A handsome gift that was worth a fortune, Therald thought, and cleverly done for Aldamir’s generous gesture was very clear. Any woman who wore this was more precious still that the wealth that encircled her. If he was not mistaken, the Prince had wed the woman that had last wore that girdle. A declaration for all to see that this was no pretense, no ruse the court.

”As bright and fair as the stars above, you are,” Therald told Amarwen and then watched her shake her head in repudiation. Her hair swayed like a midnight tide with the motion. He looked to her companion, who retained her position and studied their exchange with open curiosity. When she noticed his regard, she turned away slightly but he had the sense that she was still listening. A new friend, he wondered. He hoped so, for her life here would be very lonely indeed otherwise.

Therald gathered his daughter’s hands between his. ”On this day, daughter, you serve Edhellond and the great realm of Gondor both. In doing so, you bring a measure of healing to our people and renewed faith.”

He released his daughter’s hands to grip her shoulders for he knew just how heavy a burden had been set upon them of late.

”Your lineage extends beyond Hyarmendacil to Vëantur, faithful Captain of Numenor’s ships,” he told her solemnly and then leaned in to gently kiss her cheek. ”Your forefathers served our people faithfully, as do you now. They sacrificed much,” Therald paused, ”As you do now. Daughter, you make us all so very proud.”

Therald lowered his hands from Amarwen’s shoulders and studied her for a moment. She studied him in return and then her eyes closed. He kissed her other cheek and the trumpets pealed. This was their summons to court and all that awaited. Amarwen turned to the other woman and though she said nothing, he could not help but notice some sort of unspoken exchange that was too swift for him to follow.

”Come, we cannot tarry,” he said and Amarwen turned back and pressed out a solemn breath.

"Yes, Adda."

Her sorrow was difficult to miss for it thrummed, alive, in her voice.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 7th, 2018, 7:10 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Aldamir was deep in thought as he and his brother walked to court. He would be happy with Lady Amarwen as his wife, but he vowed to himself that though they would be betrothed, she would have to agree to marry him. If that took weeks, months, or even years, he would not press her. He wondered if it time she would come to love him. It was to be, he had to show himself worthy of her.

When they entered court, Aldamir looked around at those gathered. There were so many in the galleries! Common folk were invited to this ceremony. The Royal Guard of Valacar and Eldacar were there in force in their ceremonial attire, grandiose, yet ready. Noted were the absence of most of Eldacar’s Rhovanion Guard. Only the ranking officer stood with his Gondorian counterpart, and one guard stood to the side of the court floor. A sweep of his eyes across the court saw a good representation of the northern provinces. Ithilien and the city of Minas Ithil, Anorien and the city of Minas Anor, and some few nobles from the fortress cities of far west of Calenardhon. The high prince and princess, son and daughter of the Lord and Lady of Lossarnarch attended with several nobles, and a large contingent from Dol Amroth rode in to attend.

But it was those who he did not see that he noted the most. Lebennin, Anfalas, and Harondor only had their representatives of the King’s Court in attendance. Only some few of the rugged highlanders from a Lord’s house of Befalas had come to join the representative of that province. The presence of the Mariners Guild was noticeable in who was not there, namely Calamir. The ranking officer in attendance was Girdean and his adjutant, with two junior officers from Minas Anor. Aldamir could see the kingdom fracturing before his eyes, and if this betrothal did anything to counter that, it meant that Edhellond, and likely its close relationship with Dol Amroth, gave the royal family strength in part of the south, and that may be enough to prevent secession.

Aldamir then looked up to the throne, and he found his grandfather was looking directly at him. As he held the King’s gaze, a vision came to him. He saw himself on that very throne, and his son Vinyarion after him. He looked over to his brother, and Ornendil gave him a nod and a smile. What of his brother? He was heir apparent. How could he become king? He shook his head as he recalled Ornendil’s words of his own dream. Aldamir took a deep breath realising that none of this mattered. This marriage would mean nothing in the royal procession of Gondor, only a public bond of alliance for Edhellond in hopes Gondor could come to their aid should the southern provinces try and isolate and maybe occupy the city. Aldamir broke the gaze with his grandfather, and now saw the deep pondering worry on his father’s face. All Aldamir could think of was how all this was affecting Amarwen’s life.

Then his eyes met his mother Farien’s. She stared at him like a hawk, and Aldamir felt a chill run through him. This day was really hers. There was not one thing that she had not worked to put in place this day. Aldamir was all too familiar with the ways of court. When he betrothed Annalina so long ago, little thought was given to the fact he was going to marry the love of his life. She was a daughter of a high-born family in Minas Anor, and was someone who he had met and got to know while young. It was one of the reasons he considered how Lady Amarwen felt now. He swallowed as he considered what he could do to ease Lady Amarwen’s first steps in to the royal court. His mind thought of many things, but would she even be interested? He would give her the attention she deserved, and maybe she would take interest in him.

The music had played in a slow melody and filled the court as more people came in. The din of voices was suddenly hushed when a trumpet sounded announcing the arrival of Lady Amarwen of Edhellond. Aldamir turned to face the archway and when he saw her, he was stunned at her beauty. He stood a little taller as he watched her approach, and when her eyes met his, he gave her a soft smile.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 7th, 2018, 7:50 am 
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Amarwen feared that she would not be able to move her feet from the threshold to the court. Did they know, she wondered, as her eyes bounced across all she saw. So many faces looked back at her. So many in one place. More than she had ever faced at once before now. And there, smiling at her expectantly, the man she was to wed. Not Halvarin but she could not weep nor rail at that. Not here. Not now.

For the nation’s capital watched and none more closely than the representatives of the Mariner’s Guild. She would not be the wedge they would use to widen the cracks of the realm. She would not be their instrument. She would never be that. But, could she be a Prince’s wife and mother to his heirs?

She did not know how. Only that she must. For if she did not, if she failed to produce heirs, if he turned her away, if she failed to please Aldamir the ruin that could follow did not bear contemplation. For the present, she focused on picking her feet up so that her father did not have to drag her bodily across the court. She had to bend so that she did not break.

The gathered throngs peered down at her as they progressed. In this time, the court herald read out her lineage for in this place very little was known of Edhellond's noble house. The names and titles of her forebears bounced and echoed off those assembled and behind her the doors to the court closed with a sonorous thud. She could not help but turn and she saw, gathered before the doubled doors, stern guards. There would be no passing them, she knew.

”So comes Lady Amarwen, scion of Edhellond and lineage unbroken, to court. A petition to join her to Prince Aldamir is before the court. Whomsoever would gainsay this should come hence and speak unto the King himself!”

A murmuring arose as her father escorted her to Aldamir’s side. The prince gave no response and she was grateful for that. She did not know what might escape her at this moment. His silence was a refuge that surrounded her as her father removed himself. It all moved rather quickly, she thought, once it became clear no one would openly oppose the match.

Amarwen watched her father take up an ornate quill made all of gold. It scratched its way across the fibrous parchment, sealing her fate. He turned once it was done and passed the quill to the Crown Prince who followed suit. Eldacar bent over the parchment and set the quill in swift motion. Her heart pounded in her ears so loudly it was a wonder no one heard. No one did, for Aldamir was impassive beside her.

The King observed from upon high. She could not bring herself to meet the aged monarch’s still keen gaze. Trembling crept over her. It came in waves and she strove to still herself once more.

The Crown Prince straightened and set down the quill. The court scribe lifted the large sheet of parchment and slowly turned about so that all could note its ornate lithography. Then, once that was done, he bore it up the steps to where the King sat. It did not take very long at all to affix the King’s seal, confirming royal assent for the match. Aldamir stirred as the scribe held the finished document aloft for all to see.

”Hear ye, hear ye! On this day is royal assent bestowed upon the betrothal of Aldamir, Prince Royal of Gondor and third in line to the throne, to Lady Amarwen of Edhellond.”

The herald’s voice rang through the court as those assembled raised their voices in thunderous approval. All save the delegation of relatively junior officers from the Mariner’s Guild who had attended the proceeding. She had heard the dull rumour of their relentless murmuring throughout proceedings and their acknowledgement now was scant to say the best. Halvarin’s father, the most senior Guild officer present in Osgiliath, was notable for his absence.

The Prince turned towards her and she prepared herself to meet his eyes. Until now, she had only ever looked at Aldamir in passing. She had not noticed how steely his eyes were, as if polished. Very much like his mother’s, though not cold. He was handsome in a regal fashion. Proud, patrician and strong. She felt that she had been laid bare before him. As she searched his face, she wondered at what the Prince saw in return.

All she had yearned for over the years, vanished like smoke on the wind. Her feet were now set on a path she could not shy from. For Edhellond. For Gondor. For all those she cared for.

The Prince brought her lips to his own and as he did so Amarwen felt herself tense. She could not risk recoiling from him in so public a setting. Such a humiliation would be unthinkable and yet this was a moment she had been dreading. Aldamir was gentle and tender and the sensation that washed through Amarwen stunned her. He tasted of cinnamon and when it was done, she found herself staring up at Aldamir. Confused, she wondered why it had not been awful.

Aldamir cupped a hand to her cheek and his eyes warmed as he gazed down at her. Relief? Her trembling returned and the Prince’s arm slid under her own. His lips brushed against her ear and he murmured something she could not discern through the pounding of her pulse. Her heart raced so fast she thought it might burst. She felt hot and cold all at once.

From a great distance, almost as if she hovered high above near the richly embellished ceiling of the court, she watched Aldamir’s father approach. Eldacar bore a slender circlet, the delicate sweep richly filigreed. Aldamir’s aid alone allowed her to sink before his father with some measure of grace. He was the only thing that kept her upon her feet.

The garland was removed from her head and the circlet set in its place. It felt cold and strange. With that, it was done. The Prince guided Amarwen to her feet once more. The court spun as Aldamir turned them about to acknowledge those that had gathered to mark the occasion. He was sure and steady, whereas she felt as though she was fast unravelling.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 7th, 2018, 11:27 am 
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Rie-Zunic surrender his will, yet again, to duty. With hopes of once more being out on the case of The guildsman, he resigned himself away tonine last day in the palace. He bathed, changed, and dawned his best armor. It had been so long... though not so long, yet the armor felt cumbersome upon his shoulders. A strange sensation. He clumbered out the door and hurried fast away to the position assigned to him.

Rie-Zunic arrived only moments before Amarwen entered for the ceremony. She seemed, as she had that night in his home, resigned to her fate. The captain of tje guard said she was no prisoner. Perhaps not be chain or cell, but something held her here against her will. Others might miss it, but knowing what he knew... it was dreadfully obvious.

Then his eyes saw Almara, hair done in soft curls that flowed over her right shoulder and down her chest. He eyes were bright, but he knew her well enough to know that look. It was a look of joy that she dawned in the worst of occasions. A facade. She stood as Arwen’s council, comfortably in the background a distance away. She wore a simple dress of bright red that shimmered to pink at a twist of her hips. This too, Rie-Zunic knew, was not the lovely gown it appeared to be. Almara wore bright colors, often times, like mourners wore black.

At that the ceremony started and pulled Rie-Zunic’s attention away, thpugh it frequently drifted back. Almara caught his gaze, finally noticing him at his station as her keen eyes scanned the surroundings for all details, signs of trouble, or any noteworthy observations. Her face revealed her concern. He knew she must have been wondering where he had been. How they last parted... it grieved him, but he knew not how correct the situation.


Once again, he focused his mind on his task, though he was more distracted than usual. Before he knew it the ceremony was over.

As Aldamir and Amarwen turned to face the crowds, Almara could see the pain in Amarwen’s eyes. She hopped, for her sale, that others would mistake it for nerves.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 8th, 2018, 8:35 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Aldimir could feel the Lady Amarwen quiver as they kissed, and he tried to stay resolute while the ceremony went on. But he knew that when it was done, they would have to attend the reception and socialize and were expected to be happy. But he would break the traditional ways, and instead turned and quietly spoke in Amarwen’s ear,

”If it pleases m’lady, would you care to take a walk with me? I would like to talk with you without prying ears all about.”

With a nod she assented, and Aldamir waved his hand and made some finger movements to his personal guards and they sent word out to clear the specified route he signalled. He spoke loudly for all to hear,

”Please everyone, eat, drink, and have merriment. The Lady Amarwen and I will join you in short order. But first, I wish to walk with my betrothed in peace for but a short time.”

He turned back and momentarily paused at his mother’s glare before taking Lady Amarwen’s arm and walking her out through to the courtyard. He hoped some time away and the outside air would help Lady Amarwen cope with the activities of the day. She let his arm go and she took hold of the stone wall that overlooked the garden, and he could see she was breathing deeply. He stood next to her and said,

”There is little that can prepare one for a life in the royal court, and I can see that your heart belongs to another, as my heart belonged to another. Know this Lady Amarwen, and these words I speak only to you and no other, and I expect they will not be repeated to no other by you. I will not hold you to this binding if you wish not to be my wife. But we will have to walk the charade for the eyes and ears of others in these times in hope our union gives them hope.”

He could see her hands tense their grip on the stone as he spoke. He looked at the side of her face and said,

”I wish to know you Lady Amarwen. I would like to know that which brings you joy and happiness, and I would like to help ease your sorrow if it within my power.”

He slowly and gently set his hand upon hers, expecting her to pull it away.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 8th, 2018, 9:36 am 
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Freedom. It was there for the taking. She could almost taste it, so tantalisingly close was it. But, she knew it to be little more than an illusion. A dangerous one at that. She could hope for herself or she could hope for those she cared for. She could not have both but the temptation to try all the same almost broke her. Amarwen bowed her head and her hair tumbled forward. But she did not remove her hand from under Aldamir's.

She looked up to where Aldamir stood at her side, ”I can do better, Sire. Please-”

Words failed her as she thought of all the ways in which his mother might respond. Aldamir stared down at her. ”What is it you would have of me, Lady?”

She wanted her people safe from any number of sanctions brought upon them for her errant heart. She did not want her House shamed. She wanted Halvarin and indeed Almara spared the Princess’ wrath. And the only way she could accomplish any of that was to wed this man. This Prince.

”Please, do not send me away,” she whispered.

Aldamir turned towards her, his hand still upon her own. His fingers gently squeezed and then he picked her hand up and set it against his heart. Amarwen swallowed as she felt a steady beat beneath her palm. Firm. Solid. Rhythmic.

He was so close that she had to tip her head back to meet his eyes. ”Time. I ask for time, your Highness. Is that…is that too much to ask?”

She felt his chest expand as Aldamir drew a breath to give answer.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Back at court, Princess Farien gave off glaring after her youngest son to turn her displeasure upon her husband. ”That wasn’t so hard, was it?” Farien murmured to Eldacar. ”The sky did not fall. The earth did not split open beneath our feet. Life, as we know it, has not ended.”

“Yet,”
Eldacar murmured as he scanned the court. Lord Therald appeared somewhat taken aback as he peered in the direction Aldamir had whisked his daughter off in. Near to his shoulder, the sizeable delegation from Dol Amroth had pulled up. Prince Elarin of Dol Amroth himself was in attendance, a rare honour for the Prince did not often attend court at Osgiliath. Elarin murmured into Therald’s ear and what the elder statesman said was impossible to discern from Eldacar's present vantage. Judging from the Lord of Edhellond's face, the tidings from Dol Amroth were not glad ones. Eldacar knew all too well just how closely allied Dol Amroth and Edhellond were. So strong that when Amarwen's mother had defied convention to wed a commoner and kicked off quite the scandal that rippled through Gondor's nobility, a much younger Prince Elarin had petitioned in support of the match in person. Had it not been for his intervention, the proposed match would not have gained assent. Elarin had risked much to tip the scales in young Lady Alenna's favour and gained little.

And now here he was again, another match before the court. Elarin's presence was a tangible boost for the betrothal just declared. Or was it, judging by the concerned expressions worn by Therald and Elarin both at this time?

Across the court, the group from Harondar had joined with that sent by Osgiliath’s Guild Chapter House. Which prompted Eldacar to ask a pointed question of his own. ”Just where is Lord Calimir this day?”

Farien drew herself up with a sniff, ”I neither know nor care, Husband.”

“Slipped your leash, has he?”
Eldacar answered. ”Careless. For already trouble brews.”

“Trouble brews with or without that wretched man,”
Farien countered and then scowled, ”What keeps that son of yours? This absence grows more unseemly with each passing moment!”

“Al will be along presently,”
Ornedil drawled, ”Worrying after him has never sped his return before now, Mother.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Watching all of this from a high and distant vantage were three Shieldmaidens that had, despite instructions to absent themselves for proceedings, decided that they wanted to see them for themselves. Helda leant back in her seat, one foot propped on the knee of another long leg. Her boot bounced idly as she gnawed on a drumstick of roasted chicken.

”A nest of vipers,” Vilna muttered from where she sat. The blonde shieldmaiden lent forward, her elbows on her knees.

Vidnavi had her eye on something else. ”How much do you think that ruby girdle could buy?”

“Aside from the woman wearing it?”
Vilna inquired dryly, with some distaste. Gondorians thought they could buy the world if they had but enough coin, she thought to herself.

Helda grimaced at Vilna's statement. ”That is not right.”

“I know!”
Vilna replied with still more feeling and Helda looked at the blonde Rohvanion.

”She has not agreed to sell herself and nor has the prince attempted to purchase her.”

Vilna harrumphed at that and Vidnavi murmured, ”Well, that’s good, I suppose.”

The two other shieldmaidens studied Vidnavi who was still gazing at the scene below. She nodded to it. ”As the prince’s bride is a very furious woman, I’d say he’d made an exceptionally poor bargain.”

Vilna scowled, ”Ugh. There is little worse than an aristocrat in a temper.”

Helda canted her head to one side. ”I think we should train her.”

Vindavi blinked at Helda, ”I do not think the Prince will thank you for arming his bride.”

“If the Prince is foolish enough to invite her wrath
and place himself within her reach, on his head be it.”

“Nobles are dangerous enough as it is,”
Vilna objected, ”And that one has already proven troublesome. Training her will only make our lot harder still.”

Helda shook her head. ”If she can fend for herself, the Guild will not find her so easy a mark. And,” she added as Vilna made to reply, ”If we’re training her, she won’t have the time to get into further mischief.”

Vilna did not look particularly convinced but Vidnavi seemed to be listening. She chewed this over for a moment. ”I do not think a sword would be suitable. Nor an axe, for that matter.”

Vilna snorted at this assessment for the notion of that noblewoman wielding either weapon was farcical. ”What does that leave? Are you suggesting we train her to use a table knife? Or perhaps a shield and spear!

”We’ll never make of her a Shieldmaiden.” Helda smirked at her own words, ”Though the look on Farien’s face would be almost worth the attempt.”

Vidnavi guffawed and Helda pushed on, ”To us was the Lady’s protection given after the Palace Guard fell flat on its face. They will be watching, hoping for a lapse, and there are only the three of us. We cannot be everywhere, all of the time. However, we most certainly can teach her how to defend herself.”

Vidnavi slowly nodded. Vilna, though, shook her head. ”Who do you think they will blame when blood is drawn?”

Helda replied, ”Vidnavi and I have broad enough shoulders should that come to pass.”

Vilna frowned at the other two. ”Precious Numenorean blood at that. You heard that list of fancy names they read out. Do not come moping to me when the other boot drops.”

Helda transferred her drumstick to her other hand and began to lick the chicken grease from her fingers. ”We’ve weathered worse before.”

Vidnavi nodded and told Vilna, ”If you should change your mind, we’d welcome your assistance.”

“Unlikely,”
Vilna muttered as she crossed her arms. Helda and Vidnavi grinned at each other, their decision made.

”What of the other one. In the red dress?” Vilna asked.

”The pink one,” Helda replied.

”No, red. See?” Vilna pointed to a woman that was in a red and a pink dress at the same time.

Vidnavi rolled her eyes at this exchange. ”Be surprised if she needs training. That’s one of the mercenaries from the tourney, remember?”

Both Helda and Vilna squinted down at Almara. ”No,” Helda said after a moment, ”Is it? I can’t recall after that knock to the head. Mercenary, eh?”

“Almost certain of it,”
Vidnavi replied.

”Bears watching,” Vilna declared and her two companions nodded agreement. Then Helda smiled.

”And another reason to train the Lady in fending for herself. Never know where the next knife will come from in this place.”

"She's right, Vilna,"
Vidnavi observed.

"That'll be the day," Vilna replied, unswayed.


Last edited by Elora Starsong on July 9th, 2018, 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 9th, 2018, 8:11 pm 
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As a free moment presented itself, Almara turned her eyes back upon Rie-Zunic. She wished to go to him. To ask him where he had been. He could tell, too.

“To scold me, no doubt,” he thought to himself.

With that very thought Almara could see his facial expression shift. She scowled with confusion. What was he thinking? He had been not at all himself as of late.

Then her attention shifted as an abrasive voice echoed in the background. A voice she knew to be Princess Farien’s. For whatever reason this woman had an ill wish towards Almara. Did she know who her mother was? No matters. She would not engage Rie-Zunic while the princess was watching.

Then she spotted another man she knew. Girdean was there. How she wishes he had not been. She was glad, however, that it was not Calamir himself. She maneuvered herself arpund so a large group of people sat between her and Girdean. It was foolish to think he would not have already seen her, but hoped all the same.

As Almara watched Girdean moved slowly through the crowds. It may have been inconspicuous enough to avoid detection to most, but not for her eyes. It was obvious. He was trying to slip away from the gathering. Not moments after Aldamir and Amarwen took their leave no less, and heading in the same general direction.

“What does he honestly think he is going to do?” Almara whispered audibly. She moved about cautiously to keep her eyes on him.

As Girdean slipped into a hall, seemingly unnoticed, she listened. Twelve steps down he took a doorway. It sounded to be on the left of the hall. She peeked down the hall, and as opportunity presented itself she followed him swiftly, but with soft footfalls. She herd voices in the room beyond.

“For your silence,” came Girdean’s voice.

“Always a pleasure to be silent,” a gondorian gave reply with a smug tone, and she heard the sound of coins dropping into a pocket.

After the sound of another door, Almara knew she could follow no further. Onlynone man had left. The other remained in the room.

Unbeknownst to Aldamir and Amarwen, Girdean was trying his beat to position himself on an upper balcony where he could listen to their conversations. He had been tasked with spying out the situation and bringing word back to Calamir of the official happenings.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 11th, 2018, 10:14 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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The depth of Amarwen’s eyes drew Aldamir in as she looked at him and spoke. He took a second-deep breath as he swallowed, still holding her hand to him.

”M’lady, rest easy knowing that all the time you wish is yours. Also know that it would be an honour to have you as wife should you wish it in time. I will not send you away, now or ever.”

He said gently as he held her eyes. He nodded slightly as he watched the slightest of breeze make a loose lock of her hair dance by her cheek. He looked around quickly before looking back to Amarwen. His other hand reached over and gently brushed the wayward lock from her cheek, slipping it behind her ear. He then gently drew her to him, and she freely came to rest against him as he wrapped his arms around her. After a long moment of silence as he breathed in the scent of her hair, he said,

”When m’lady is ready, we will return to court, where we will cross this day’s desert of formality to find our rest on the other side. Know that I will call upon you each day, for being in your presence seems to lift my spirit. I thank you much for that.”

They remained there for a little longer with only the breeze breaking the silence.

~ ~ ~

In the Mariners Guildhouse, Calamir stood on the balcony that overlooked the Anduin river and the great bridge sipping his wine. A officer approached him silently from behind, dressed in black unlike the midnight blue of the Guild uniform. If he was trying to approach unnoticed, it was to no avail. Calamir spoke as if he knew who it was.

”Is everyone in place?”

“Yes. Girdean and a few junior officers are in attendance.”


The man said. Calamir sipped his wine as he leaned on the stone rail. He said without turning,

”Good. I think time will be on our side. What of Almara and the soldier she spoke of?”

“The woman is established as Lady Amarwen’s counsel. As for the soldier, he was in lock-up in the east Osgiliath watch house. The royal palace commander himself came for him”


Calamir took a breath and nodded. Another sip of his wine accompanied the silence for a long moment before the man spoke,

”There is another thing sir. One of Eldacar’s Rhovanion shieldmaidens is in the east Osgiliath watch house as well.”

“Nobody came for her?”


Calamir asked, finally turning around. The man shook his head and said,

”Not that I heard.”

Calamir finished his wine and said,

”Thank you for your report.”

The man nodded and silently turned and left the room. Calamir turned again and looked out over toward East Osgiliath.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 13th, 2018, 7:59 am 
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Magnetic, compelling charm. That was the only way to describe how she felt. It was impossible to be unmoved by the Prince’s warm and generous spirit. That she felt so comforted and safe puzzled Amarwen and yet she did.

”I shall look forward to seeing you each day, your Highness,” she answered, unable to look away from his gaze. His brows lifted, surprised, and his smile revealed his pleasure.

”Please, no titles between us. Not when we are like this.” Aldamir looked about for a moment before his eyes returned to Amarwen’s, ”Alone.”

Yes, they were alone. For the very first time. It would not last. They would have to return to those waiting, watching.

”How shall I call you?”

Aldamir smiled at her question. ”My friends call me Al.”

“Is that what I am?”

“Only you can say,”
he returned and Amarwen nodded slowly.

”Very well, I think we should return to court. Get this over and done with,” she said.

Amarwen drew back from the Prince and they both drew in deep breaths, steeling themselves.

”What shall I call you?” Aldamir inquired as Amarwen turned away.

She pushed her hair back and looked at him over her shoulder with half a smile. ”You may refer to me as Lady Amarwen of Edhellond, Al.”

Aldamir's mirth was immediate and rich. He had a deep, rolling chuckle that made his eyes bright. ”Lady Amarwen of Edhellond-Al. Has a ring to it,” he nodded as he straightened his jacket and smoothed his hair. He held his arm out to Amarwen, ”Ready?”

She pressed out a deep sigh and then nodded. Aldamir tucked her hand into his arm, ”Then let’s have at this, Lady Amarwen of Edhellond-Al.”

“Please, just Ami,”
Amarwen added as they made to set off. Aldamir was still amused but that fell away swiftly but a moment later as he froze. His frame tensed and Amarwen looked to Aldamir to find the prince’s expression had lost its tender warmth. The polished steel of his eyes was wintry cold.

”Remain here,” he said in a low, urgent voice and then the Prince was gone.


Last edited by Elora Starsong on July 22nd, 2018, 7:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 15th, 2018, 1:09 pm 
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While the party drug onward, Almara moved swiftly through the crowd. She sidestepped the group talking by the door, skirted the dance floor, and made way for the entrance. When she arrived, however, Rie-Zunic was no longer there.

"Where in the blazes has he got to now?" she asked herself. "Typical... never there when you need him." She scowled and scanned the room. She saw him nowhere.

Rie-Zunic had stepped outside, being instructed to make routine walks around the halls and rooms beyond. He would only be gone for moments, but in those moments Almara would impatiently move on.

She tried to find another guard, explain the situation, and bring about some kind of action. The guard only looked at her like she was a mere handmaiden. Which she was... but since when did that mean she didn't now anything?!

Almara fumed, attempting keeping her emotions inside only served to force them to spill over through her eyes. The guard, catching her death glare shifted uneasily.

"If it concerns you that much, tell the Lady Farien," he pointed across the room to where the princess stood.

Almara wanted to slap the man, but instead she walked away, stifling her violent tendencies.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 21st, 2018, 10:48 pm 
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Aldamir took stealthy steps toward the sound he heard, pausing by the hedge. He looked back at Amarwen and silently waved his hand. She approached slowly and quietly as Aldamir turned slightly. When Amarwen came to stand behind him, she turned and looked at him. Aldamir whispered,

”There is someone lurking near. I know not who or what they heard, but now would be a good time to put on a public display for them. I am afraid it will be the first of many for it will be what is expected.”

He looked in to her eyes and smiled slightly. He said softly, though not as quiet as he spoke before,

”May I kiss you Ami… Lady Amarwen?”

Somehow the informal didn’t seem to fit in making such a request, especially with others watching and listening. His words did cause Amarwen to freeze, not sure whether to lean into Aldamir or turn and run. All she managed to do was to swallow and nod slightly, and Aldamir ran his hands beside her head and took her lips to his. For a brief moment, Aldamir lost the thought of it being a show when Amarwen did not take pause. To whoever was watching, this moment would leave no doubt that the betrothal was sincere. He lingered longer than he thought, and when they again looked in to each other’s eyes, he said,

”Come m’lady, we should return before more spies try and seek us out.”

He offered his arm, and Amarwen took it and they started to walk back toward court, feeling much more settled than when they left.


Inside, the conversations had bubbled in a varying din of voices, but things did start to quiet as Aldamir and Amarwen walked in.

~~ ~~



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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 22nd, 2018, 1:00 am 
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Amarwen lifted her chin and felt a smile stretch over her features. It would not reach her eyes, of course, but the vast majority of the court would not bother to check. It simply did not matter to them and she knew that. They would see her smile, how closely she stood beside the Prince and the colour that she knew to be still in her face from the gardens. She could still taste cinnamon upon her lips.

As if on cue, Eldacar lifted his voice so that it carried easily through those assembled, ”Your Majesty, your Highnesses, my lords and ladies and good gentlefolk all, let us with good cheer mark this day of hope and renewal for our peoples.”

The doors opened to admit a steady stream of attendants. They came in pairs, clad in the colours and livery of the royal House. One bore a wide, polished tray of goblets and their companion came bearing wine. Somewhere else, minstrels struck up. The stillness that had descended upon the court at their return was dispelled. Beside her, Aldamir shifted and it was only then that she realised that she clung tightly to his arm. Amarwen forced her hand from its pressing grip with a belated murmur of apology.

”Think nothing of it,” Aldamir replied as he reached for a goblet and then another. One he transferred to Amarwen with a nod and then offered his arm again, ”You needn’t fear losing me.”

Again he smiled at her and she felt herself responding to his warmth before she could think twice. When she discovered that, the moment had passed and already Aldamir was turning to someone that approached. The Prince did most of the talking, a welcome advent for she was scarcely able to string a coherent sentence together. Largely, all she did was smile and nod or nod and smile until it became a blur. A passing parade of faces, most of whom did not look too closely at all and just as well. Some faces she knew, such as her father and the Prince of Dol Amroth. Aldamir’s parents, his brother. Vinyarion and Almara, each peering at her strangely indeed.

Smile and nod. Nod and smile. All punctuated with a sip of wine that never seemed to run out. Just as well, for the muscles in her jaw and cheek had begun to ache as she smiled on. Sensing her fatigue, Aldamir soon guided Amarwen away from the press of well wishers and curious onlookers. They slipped into the dancers and after a moment, Amarwen pressed out a deep sigh. Habit took over and all she needed do is follow the Prince’s lead. All she need do is surrender and this day was a day for that. Her hopes and her dreams. Drained and wearied by the demands of the day, Amarwen leaned against Aldamir and the Prince was blessedly silent as he steered them about.

Watching all of this in a tight little knot were the representatives of Harondor, Anfalas and Lebanin.

”I remain unconvinced,” said the fellow from Anfalas

“The Prince was certainly well pleased enough to whisk her away as soon as he could. Edhellond's position is precarious and well they know it,” said Lebanin’s representative, waving a hand in the direction of Lord Therald.

Harondor’s man turned to Girdean, ”Kissing?”

“A passionate embrace,”
Girdean replied, gaze tracking the Prince and his promised bride. ”Enough to make a man wonder at what else had taken place.”

”There you have it, gents. Edhellond drops to her knees and not a moment too late,”
intoned Lebanin’s man and a low, knowing chuckle washed through his companions at the lurid implication.

Heads nodded and Anfalas pressed on, ”A matter of the heart or expediency or both, it changes nothing. The bloodlines of our people continue to be corrupted by the unworthy amongst us. It is intolerable. Offensive. It cannot be permitted to stand.”

Girdean watched those around him nod their heads, far enough into their cups as to lose caution.

”Gondor must be protected from the rapacious appetites of lesser men. They cannot be permitted to claim our throne, our lands or our women,” said Harondor’s man.

”And are you prepared to aid in setting this to rights,” Girdean asked, his attention switching now to Lebanin’s man. He found the fellow nodding. ”Then I take your leave, good sirs, for there is much to do.”

“Swiftly,”
said the man from Harondor, emboldened, ”Before all honour is beyond Edhellond’s recall.”

Girdean bowed, ”I shall do my best.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 23rd, 2018, 7:29 pm 
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Upon seeing Girdean return to the party, Almara kept a close eye on the man. Then, as she watched him, Aldamir and Amarwen returned at last. She thought to communicate to Amarwen what she had seen, but the formality of the situation offered no such opportunity. How she despised formalities! It looked as though she would be forced to grow accustomed to them, for there would be a great many.

Soon she observes Girdean speaking with other men, seeming to discuss something serious as they eyed the newly betrothed couple. When they began dispersing she noted exactly who left. They would all be reported to Amarwen, and thus to Aldamir.

As Almara’s patience wore thin she found a paper and searched until she spotted Rie-Zunic finally re-enter.

“Rie!” She called to him in hushed tones, taking care to be discreet. “Please, can you bring me an ink well and a quil?”

“A what?” He came back with raised brows. “What do you-“

“Just please bring them!” Almara did not let him finish his objection. “I know you have them to write your reports. I need to get a note to Amarwen.”

Rie-Zunic shrugged, reached in his pouch, and pulled out what she sought. He had been tasked with keeping strict records of the night, no dpubt a punishment the captain of the guard thought duely warranted.

“Just bring them back,” Rie-Zunic implored. “I still need those.”

Almara didn’t even leave his side. She turned her paper flat to the wall and wrote out a simple note explaining that Girdean had slipped away, then naming those who had been in the discussion with him.

“Thank you,” she spoke a quick and quite thanks, returned the quill and ink well, then hustled thrpugh the crowd in a graceful manner. At least, as graceful as she was able.

The formalities seemed never ending, and so she did not wait any longer. Seeing Amarwen’s wine glass was almost half empty, she took it on herself to take her a refill. She shuffled through the crowd with her full glass and stopped beside Amarwen with a gentle bow.

“My lady,” she offered her the cup, the note folded up under the base.

Amarwen blinked, as if coming too put of a daze. “Thank you,” she mumbled softly, her forced smile as convincing as ever.

Almara took the old glass from her, being sure Amarwen’s finger felt the paper under the fresh wine glass, then backed away and stood calmly to the side of the comotion.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 24th, 2018, 4:32 am 
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Vilmaith trudged for the watch-house in the city’s east. She’d had her fill of this unpleasant place already. Her patrol, all ten hours of it, had concluded and she’d had to do it on her own as Rhinnin had failed to report for duty. That she now knew why that was did nothing to improve Vilmaith’s outlook. Rhinnin who had failed to report for duty and yet somehow she was the one Varagan dressed down.

The officers she encountered were no less or more rude than the rest of the Eastern Osgiliath and soon enough, Vilmaith stood on the other side of bars. Rhinnin sat against the far wall, knees drawn to her chest and her head bowed. Vilmaith kicked the nearest bar to make it ring. At this, Rhinnin’s head lifted and Vilmaith’s eyes narrowed at what she saw. There, writ large on Rhinnin’s face, was all the evidence of a mighty brawl. Yet, it seemed all too fresh for something that would have happened in the small hours of the morning.

”What happened?” she barked.

Rhinnin shrugged, ill tempered. ”What’s it to you?”

“Night patrol on my own,”
Vilmaith snapped and Rhinnin’s head dropped again. As she shuffled through keys, Vilmaith continued voicing her displeasure. ”This is what happens when you chase after Mariners.”

She stabbed the cell lock with the key and yanked it. The door squealed and Rhinnin unfolded herself to stand, straw falling from her clothing. She shouldered through the door and past Vilmaith, striding for the door. Not in the least minded to let her off so lightly, Vilmaith took off in pursuit. She threw the ring of keys onto the desk of the watch-house warden and dove out the door after Rhinnin only to find the other shieldmaiden scowling about, suspicious.

”Where is everyone?” Rhinnin asked, her left eye clearly beginning to swell in the sunlight.

”Palace,” Vilmaith replied, a terse nod in the general direction of the royal grounds, ”Betrothal.”

“Aldamir’s?”
Rhinnin asked, mildly surprised and took in Vilmaith’s nod. ”Where’s Helda?” Rhinnin asked next, mindful of her colleague’s vehement misgivings.

”Palace,” Vilmaith repeated and Rhinnin chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. Vilmaith positioned herself in front of Rhinnin, ”Vinyarion told you not to pursue that Mariner.”

At the statement, Rhinnin eyes narrowed. Or, they would have had it been discernible through the swelling. Vilmaith could see the beginnings of not one but two black eyes. Rhinnin pushed past her with a quiet oath and set off once more.

”You’re going to have to account for this to someone,” Vilmaith pointed out as she caught with Rhinnin again.

”No one’s affair but my own,” Rhinnin replied.

If only that were the case though. No sooner had Rhinnin returned to barracks did she find herself hauled before Varagan. He took one look at her and set in. Unlike Vilmaith, Rhinnin could not avoid her commander’s interrogation. Vilmaith, who leaned in the corner, listened to the tale tumble out. Rhinnin scowled at her boots once it was done. Varagan and Vilmaith wore stoney expressions.

Varagan broke the edged silence, ”Heed Lord Calimir’s warning and stay clear of that Ensign.”

Vilmaith pushed off the wall, ”We can’t allow this to pass, Sir. We must send a message.”

“Planning on kissing a Mariner yourself, are you?”
Varagan growled.

”Not the point!” Vilmaith contested, her voice sharp.

"Dismissed!" Varagan returned, sharper still.

Rhinnin turned about, her gaze lowered, and slunk for the door. Seething, Vilmaith followed and once both shieldmaidens had quit his office, Varagan drew out a sheet of parchment and set down a brief report. He scanned through it when he was done, allowed the ink to dry and folded it over. Rhinnin should have chosen her sport a little more carefully, for Lord Calimir's sentiment regarding Rhovanion was no secret. Following his son into that part of a city at night and lingering with an intimate display was reckless. However, the fact that Lord Calimir felt emboldened enough to send instruction courtesy of the men he had dispatched to the Watch-House was troubling. Men openly wearing Guild uniforms.

This was the sort of trouble that Varagan knew Prince Aldamir would want to hear of.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 28th, 2018, 7:57 am 
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Pelargir

Castamir stood on the balcony of the Guildhouse in Pelargir. A gut feeling came over him that things in Osgiliath were not going well for his interests. His eldest son was away in Umbar seeing that the fleet was manned, and also to oversee the recruiting and training of Haradian mercenaries, and his younger son had set out for Minas Anor. Hoping that word would come from Calamir, Castamir plotted in his mind all that he had set up ready to put into motion. How long would King Valacar live? He was a hardy man with full Numenorean blood. His only weakness was for a blonde princess of Rhovanion.

A momentary chuckle escaped him at the thought that he was so opposed to the Rhovanions that King Valacar favoured even while he and the Mariners made use of the Haradian coastal tribes. They were most useful in fighting with the inland tribes which have been their rivals for uncounted years. With superior weapons and training, they made a good buffer force protecting their forestry logging and shipbuilding. The difference was they didn’t mingle the Haradian blood with their own. His thoughts were interrupted when his adjutant entered the room and said,

”Sir, a messenger has come from Osgiliath. He disembarked from a ship that had come from Minas Anor.”

“Yes, send him in.”


Castamir said, not turning to look. The messenger came in and stood nervously inside the door. Castamir turned and stepped in from the balcony, motioning to his adjutant to leave them in private. Castamir asked,

”What is your name and rank?”

“I am Berlian, Ensign First Class, adjutant to Lieutenant Commander Girdean, second to Calamir of the Royal Court.”


Castamir nodded and took the sealed parchment from the messenger. He read it and looked at the messenger,

”Uncertain? What does Calamir mean? And an open attack on the Guildhouse in the capital of Gondor? Do you have anything more to report?”

The messenger looked nervous and said,

”As instructed by Calamir, I have alerted the Guildhouse of Minas Anor. Also, I believe the Lady Amarwen of Edhellond will be betrothed to Prince Aldamir even though she made an attempt to flee the city.”

Castamir nodded. Everything will fall into place for his plans in time. He would just have to make some adjustments. He said to the messenger,

”Valacar is fading. I was hoping Calamir would be able to sway the old man, but it appears that his son has all but taken over the crown but in name. And it appears Edhellond are casting their lot with the succession of Eldacar as King. I will need Calamir to deal with them when the time comes, so I will have to be ready to recall him before things are set in motion. A day is coming when Gondor will again have a Sea-King on the throne, and we have to be ready for that day. Are you ready for that day Berlain?”

Unsure exactly what Castamir meant, but he nodded that he was ready. Castamir nodded and said,

”You are a good Mariner Berlain. Get some rest, for in the morn, you will return to Minas Anor with a message for my son, and one for Calamir in Osgiliath. You can go.”

Castamir walked back out on to the balcony and watched the river. He smiled slightly, for all the work he had done had sown the seeds of discontent with the Rhovanians, and his Mariners were solid in their backing of him. He knew he had to be careful, for he could not expedite the passing of Valacar. The old King likely knew that his son Eldacar was unpopular in Gondor and the maritime provinces would not accept him as King. He was hoping he would only have Dol Amroth to contend with, with Edhellond;s union with the Eldacarian line, he would have to depend on Calamir to bring take care of this city. He wen tto his desk and took up a quill and started to pen future orders for Calamir.


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