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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 28th, 2018, 5:58 pm 
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Osgiliath


Amarwen’s fingers curled around the tiny slip of paper. She could feel its edges and folds as clearly as she could sense the weight of Almara’s expectant gaze and yet there was no opportunity to slip away. She was forced to wait, smiling and nodding like a simpleton until at last a break presented itself. It came in the form of an acquaintance, or so Amarwen presumed, that flagged the prince surreptitiously.

He murmured in her ear briefly and then he was gone. Amarwen turned towards Almara immediately only to find herself face to face Vinyarion. Past his shoulder she could see her friend glare impatiently at Aldamir’s son. So vexed that, were it possible, Vinyarion’s hair might begin to smoulder. Amarwen tucked the tiny slip of paper into the sleeve that encased her wrist and hooked her arm through Vinyarion’s. She steered him aside from the press as far as she might without drawing attention for she had pressing of her own to see to and just enough wine in her to see to it. She had to know.

“What did Hal say to you?”

The question was bold and it arrived unannounced. Vinyarion was noticeably startled. His eyes darted about surreptitiously before he gave his answer.

”Here? Now?” He shook his head from side to side. ”I don’t think it wise.”

“I must know! I cannot bear it!”

“You read his letter.”

“Please, Vinyarion. Did he say anything to you? Anything at all?”
Vinyarion’s lips pressed tighter together and so Amarwen leaned in, her eyes imploring, ”Is he coming back? Tell me that he is.”

Vinyarion’s resolute expression wavered and he pressed out a sigh, ”No…I do not think so.”

Amarwen recoiled at this, struck to the core, and shook her head from side to side. ”But why? He said…he said…”

Farien’s words of the morning cut back through her recollection. The princess’ implication had been clear. Men were liable to say just about anything in the heat of the moment if it got them what they wanted. But Halvarin was not like that. He just wasn’t.

She knew it and she gazed at Vinyarion with unshakeable certainty. ”You are mistaken.”

“I wish that were so,”
he replied. ”I tried to talk him around but his mind was set. He is gone and he will not return.”

Amarwen shook her head from side to side in a bid to block Vinyarion’s words out but it did not work for she heard him say, ”Pains me to say it, but I now think he had the right of it.”

“How can you say such a thing?”
Amarwen breathed through the pain that plunged through her.

Vinyarion’s gaze shifted from hers for a moment. ”Imagine what would happen if you threw my father over for the son of Lord Calimir. The consequences would be dire.”

Amarwen protested weakly, “But it wouldn’t be like that!”

“There are no secrets in this place and this brings me to my next point. I can no longer aid you as I have.”
Vinyarion returned her scrutiny steadily, unswayed. ”Nor would you wish me to, if you knew the truth.”

“Truth,”
Amarwen echoed, reeling and oblivious to all but what Vinyarion said to her.

His face was set in grim lines as he pushed on. ”The night Hal quit Osgiliath, he did so with a Shieldmaiden on his arm. I’ll admit I was surprised as Halvarin had not shown interest in blondes before.”

Aghast she turned her back only to find herself presented with a younger woman. She had dark hair that gently curled down her back and clear blue eyes. There was a faint spray of freckles across her fine nose and there was an open, charming smile on her face.

”Are you Halvarin’s friends? Is he here today too?” the younger woman asked and then giggled, ”Oh, my name is Lisawyn and congratulations! A prince, no less! How fortunate you are!”

Amarwen was spinning out of control. She could feel it. Faster and faster, as if she had somehow gone and thrown herself from a cliff. Any moment now, the ground would come rushing up. She knew it with a sick sense of certainty.

”How is it that you know Halvarin?” Vinyarion inquired.

Lisawyn turned her most dazzling smile loose on Vinyarion and curtsied prettily, ”He’s my friend! He showed me the city and even the Great Dome.”

“The Dome of Stars,”
Vinyarion corrected, for Amarwen felt sick to her stomach. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be, she told herself even as Lisawyn nodded happily at the prince.

”It was so pretty! The moon made it glitter as if it were fashioned from stardust!”

Vinyarion humoured Lisawyn with a patient smile that shifted when he met Amarwen’s gaze. It became knowing and so very sad. She pressed the back of her hand against her lips and swallowed whatever might otherwise come rushing out.

She had not noticed that the tiny slip of paper had fallen from her sleeve and that Almara had swooped in to collect it up again. Nor had she noticed Farien descend upon Almara and demand the note from her. Amarwen turned her back on Vinyarion and Lisawyn both, trembling.

Behind her, she heard Vinyarion ask Lisawyn, ”Would you like to see it again?”

“Oh yes!”


She had to move, Amarwen thought, before she humiliated herself further. The doors were right there. Right in front of her. With supreme will that was fast fading, Amarwen pushed herself around further until she saw Aldamir. He stood at his ease, a smile on his face at something his elder brother had said. He absently tucked some of his hair behind his ear and then shifted as he noticed her study. Aldamir gazed back at her and then stretched his arm out to beckon her closer.

Her hand slid over Aldamir’s arm as she took up her place. How could she have been so blind and foolish? So willful? So certain that everything her parents had counselled over the years was wrong. She had thrown herself at Halvarin and now...this. She had a job to do. A role to play. And whilst she played it, the rest of the ruin of her life could wait until she had to stomach to deal with it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 28th, 2018, 11:05 pm 
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”It saddens me to carry these tidings on such an occasion,” observed the Prince of Dol Amroth.

Therald nodded absently, ”Had to be done. I would rather know than not.”

He looked to where his daughter stood at Prince Aldamir’s side. Prince Elarin’s tidings changed a great deal. He had hoped to stay on another week to ensure that Amarwen settled securely into her new life. It had been such a rocky start, in part by design, and it troubled him to leave so swiftly. Yet, it could not be helped. Rarely did her mother take ill and never so ill as to disrupt the administration of Edhellond.

His gaze shifted to another younger woman, Amarwen’s new friend. She wouldn’t be entirely alone, he thought to himself. Amarwen would form more friendships. She would pull her feet under her, he knew, for she was her mother’s daughter. There was little she could not do once she set her mind to it and it seemed to him that she had resigned herself to the life that waited. Alenna’s need of him was the greater. Therald resolved to return to Edhellond and turned back to the Prince of Dol Amroth.

”Thank you for bringing this to me, your Grace.”

Elarin nodded, ”You are more than welcome to return with us.”

“I have my own ship,”
Therald replied with a grateful smile and Elarin nodded again, the matter concluded.

The Prince of Dol Amroth turned his own practised gaze onto the court at large. He had spent far more time following the doings of this place than Therald had.

”I can stay on in your place, if that would ease your mind.”

Their families were so close that Amarwen had named Elarin uncle, much to the bemusement of his elder brother Carlin who was her only uncle. She saw far more of Elarin than she did of his brother for unlike Carlin, Elarin did not ply the open sea. But then Therald paused, for there would be a reason Elarin perceived the need for someone to stay on and watch. What was it that he saw to prompt such an offer.

”It would,” Therald agreed and then, in a lower voice, ”If you deem it necessary.”

“I do,”
Elarin affirmed and caught Therald’s worried eye. He surveyed the court again and turned towards Therald. ”There are a good number here who deem this a farce. Of them, a smaller number yet who take umbrage at this.”

“Not a one of them with the courage to speak their minds honestly,”
Therald returned with some ire.

”That is not their natures and well you know it.”

Therald glared at the assembled court. How they glittered in their silks and jewels, their armour and shields.

”Let them mutter into their cups, then,” he declared, ”It is all they know to do. A good number, as you say, would scarcely recognise their own lands so long have they lingered here, draining the court’s largesse dry.”

”I doubt any will be willing to lift a hand yet, but the King will pass. I suspect the winds will change when he does. Their hesitancy will vanish.”


Elarin turned to face Therald closely and met him eye to eye, ”I am aware of what has prompted you to this course of action. You want your daughter and Edhellond protected.”

“Aye,”
Therald returned, uncertain as to whether he had achieved any of that. If the throne should ever fall into Castamir’s greedy hands, his ire for those that had rebuffed him would prove swift and hard.

”I will remain for as long as I can, then, and mark the shoals before the storm closes in,” replied the Prince of Dol Amroth.

Therald nodded and turned back to where he had last seen his daughter. She stood by Aldamir, her polite expression easily mistaken for wrapt attention if one did not know her well. It was one he had seen Alenna wear more than once, entertaining traders and merchants and visiting nobles as they passed through their halls.

With Elarin here, watching over her, he felt a measure of reassurance. Elarin understood this court far better than he and he need not question the Prince’s motives. He had loved Amarwen as if she were his own. Her first steps had been taken in his kitchens. It had been Elarin who introduced her to Second Age Elvish poetry – one of her chief loves.

”I will see her safe, Therald,” the Prince affirmed, ”Go to your wife.”

“Edhellond will not forget this, your Grace,”
Therald replied quietly, ”I will leave tomorrow.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Helda declared flatly, ”These people do not know how to do anything properly. No mead has been shared. This is not a betrothal!”

“Horse sale, more like,”
Vilna agreed, ”Right down to the signing of a bill of sale. I wonder when they will inspect her teeth.”

“They read out her bloodline. Perhaps they will dispense with the teeth,”
Vidnavi suggested.

”Bah,” Helda replied, not in the least amused, ”There are surely better uses of our time than this.”

“It was your idea to sneak in,”
Vilna observed.

”Was my idea to get some of that roast chicken,” Helda corrected and Vindavi favoured her with a briefly injured glance.

”And you ate all of it.”

“Precisely,”
Helda agreed, her smile flashing, ”I’ll wager there’s more to be had. Hungry?”

She unfolded her long frame from its seat to stand and her companions followed suit, Vilna grumbling as was her custom.

”I have lost my appetite,” she complained as she followed Helda and Vidnavi out. Instead of slipping by the guards as they had on the way in, the three shieldmaidens sauntered out now.

Helda grinned at the nearest man who frowned at her with increasing intensity. Orders had been clear that all Rhovanions were to absent themselves from official proceedings. Aside from the royal ones...such as Eldacar, his sons and his grandson.

”I just don’t see how this changes anything,” Vidnavi observed as they traced a path through the halls, ”Vinyarion’s mother was a proper Gondorian and he came out blonder than Rhinnin.”

“The prince is aware,”
Helda replied as they turned a corner for the kitchens, ”This is his mother’s doing and he has little liking for it.”

Vilna’s brows lifted for she had seen the way the prince had looked at Amarwen both during the tourney and when he had set eyes on her as she entered court. She glanced to Vidnavi, who was thinking the same thing as she and shook her head. It never did to criticise Aldamir in Helda’s hearing. She would not stand for it, unless she was the one doing the complaining.

A shout echoed down the hall after them and the three women paused. They turned about to see the Captain of the Palace Guards himself, his expression one of thunder. The shieldmaidens did not have to waste time consulting one another. They were immediately of the same mind and all three women took off at a full sprint. Unlike the Captain, they weren’t wearing ceremonial armour and soon they were all outside in the afternoon sun, laughing.

”There will be hell to pay once Varagan hears,” Vilna observed as Vidnavi’s chuckling died away.

Helda shrugged, ”Worth it. He can’t demote me any further than he already has.”

Vilna looked to Vidnavi, both of whom hadn’t made something of a career of flouting orders. The two women sighed, for they did have something to lose.

”I suppose we’ll pull guard duty,” Vidnavi reasoned and Vilna nodded glumly.

”Might as well get on with it,” she returned and with a wave the two women set off for their posts. If they were there, waiting attentively in place to satisfy their duty guarding Aldamir’s bride, Varagan’s ire might be blunted.

Helda ambled through Osgiliath’s streets on her own as a consequence. She took her time but for once got up to no mischief on her way back to barracks. There she found Rhinnin solidly ignoring Vilmaith.

”What’s this?” Helda asked as soon as she set eyes on the two women. She unhooked her weapons belt and let its weight drop onto her bunk. Rhinnin looked up only briefly but Helda sucked in a breath all the same.

”Who did that?” she demanded, scowling.

Vilmaith turned on her, ”Varagan will deal with it.”

Suspicious, Helda sank onto the edge of her bunk as Rhinnin lowered her head. ”Back from the palace?” Rhinnin asked.

Helda grunted agreement, ”Vilna and Vidnavi are there still.”

“How was it?”

“Absurd,”
Helda declared with a shake of her head and then set to pulling her boots off. ”Vidnavi and I have decided to train her.”

“I do not think the prince will thank you for that,”
Vilmaith observed and Helda sighed.

”Vilna said the same but it needs doing. They’re a pack of wolves.”

Rhinnin nodded silently and Vilmaith rubbed at her head, thinking. ”We’re already in it deep enough with Varagan as it is. Best to get Aldamir’s agreement, I think.”

“Fine,”
Helda sighed as she tugged the second boot off, ”I’ll ask tonight when I return.”

The tall shieldmaiden shoved her weapons belt out of the way to stretch out on her bunk. She folded her arms behind her head and stared at the ceiling.

”What is Varagan after you for?” she asked as Vilmaith realised she had a question of her own.

”How is it that you know the ceremony was absurd? Our orders were clear.”

Helda’s smirk was immediate, ”Not clear enough, evidently.”

She rolled to her side, presenting her back to Vilmaith and Rhinnin both and closed her eyes as Vilmaith resumed muttering direly to herself.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 31st, 2018, 8:10 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Aldamir could see that Lady Amarwen was upset and barely holding on. He knew not of the talk Amarwen had with his son and the daughter of the shipwright, but going by Lady Amarwen’s demeanour, it could not have been pleasing for her to hear. He knew this day had to be the hardest for her.

They walked about a little longer talking as the patrons started to thin, and Aldamir made the call that the Lady needed to rest. The bell sounded indicating King Valacar and Prince Eldacar were going to retire. Aldamir signalled for Almara to walk Lady Amarwen to her chambers. Aldamir saw his mother move toward them, and he was quick to intercept her.

”Mother, not tonight. Give my betrothed rest from your meddling!”

“Things need to be tended to, and I am unsure of this Amara she has as counsel.”


Farien tried to step around her son, but she was met by her other son Ornendil. He said,

”I’m standing with my brother and his betrothed. It is done, and there is nothing more you need to do.”

Farien paused and looked at her eldest. She stood tall and said to him,

”You, son, have sent away three fair ladies of Gondor. Amarwen would have been a fourth. Yet your brother accepts two. It is you that will be king, and it is you who will need an heir.”

“Yes mother, and that is why you will now let rest Aldamir and Lady Amarwen.”


He turned to Aldamir and said,

”Brother, go to your betrothed. You will have no troubles here.”

Ornendil then stared down his mother, and when finally she blinked. She said,

”You know the troubles that would happen if you marry that Rhovanion princess?”

“Yes mother, that is why I have not married her. And I have not married any of your hand-picked Gondorians either. If I marry, it will be the daughter of Castamir. I guess you haven’t been able to arrange that with your Master Guildsman yet?”


Farien was taken aback. Ornendil knew of her and Calamir, and she didn’t know how to respond. Ornendil then said,

”Go to father, and let things be.”

Farien could see that she was not going to prevail here, and so gathered her skirts and turned and left. Ornendil let out a breath and searched out a glass of wine and downed it. Standing up to mother was no small feat. To do so and have her relent was rare indeed. It was unfortunate that he had to use what he knew, but from what he knew of Lady Amarwen, it was time to play his hand.

~ ~

Aldamir stepped out of sight but stood close enough to hear the exchange. He owed his big brother big for this, and his suspicions were confirmed. He went to call on Amarwen, but when he arrived at her door, he could hear Amarwen and Almara talking. He stepped back and would watch to make sure they were not interrupted.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 6th, 2018, 4:24 pm 
Warden of the Knight
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“I am uncertain what all the man, Girdean may have heard, but I know he bribed a guard. The man is vile and can not be trusted.” Almara seemed to spit the name from her mouth. “I wish I knew what his play was.”

“How can we know?” Amarwen stated more than asked. “Between the guildsmen and Farien... it seems we have ascended into a den of lions.”

Almara smirked. “I always did like hunting.”

Her coy expression vanished, however, seeing Amarwen’s failing demeanor. “It’s not that simple.” She almost whispered. “Their reach is too far for us to counter. If it is true that Farien is un league with the guildsmen in some way... what can we do?”

Almara wasn’t sure, if she were honest, but she decided a fully honest answer was not nearly encouraging enough. “We can still fight back. To preserve ourselves and what we love. We just have to be smart.”


______


Elsewhere in the castle, Rie-Zunic was giving his reports to the caprain of the guard.

“They are perhaps the most lacking reports I have ever received...” the said from beneath a harsh brow. “But since they are your last... I will let it slide. I’ve taken note of your drop in performance and ypur stated preference to be out in the field. Perhaps this promotion was not a good fit for you. As a... disciplinary action for missing your shift the other day, I am demoting you to your previous rank. You are back on the task of spying out the guildsmen and discovering their plots.”

Rie-Zunic did well to contain his excitement. A simple, “Yes, sir. Understood, sir,” was all he offered in response.

The captain of the guard looked at him for a long moment then released him. “You are free to go.”

“Thanknyou, sir,” Rie-Zunic replied with a bow and took his leave.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 6th, 2018, 5:23 pm 
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Fight back...Almara’s eyes rested upon Amarwen, gauging her response. Protect that which she loved. Be smart. Through through the rapidly thickening fog of her anguish, Amarwen felt something stir.

”Perhaps it is time to return to Lord Calimir’s service ostensibly, if you can bear it for a while.”

“They will not welcome me back,”
Almara countered but Amarwen was not done.

”I should think they will be most pleased with your progress.”

“I aided in your escape.”


Amarwen shook her head. ”Or, you remained with me, not letting me out of your sight. Better yet, you insinuated yourself into my trusted counsel and my trust.”

Almara eyed her somewhat crestfallen, ”Is that how you think of me?”

Inwardly cursing at her clumsiness, Amarwen reached for Almara’s hand and squeezed it even as Almara diverted her gaze. ”You are my friend. There are none I would dare trust with this task than you. I do not say that lightly.”

She felt Almara’s fingers press against her hand in response and her gaze returned to Amarwen’s, ”And what of you here?”

What of her indeed? Amarwen swallowed at the question. ”As you do out there, I shall do in here.”

“How?”
Almara pressed and glanced to the chambers around them, ”You are to all intents and purposes a prisoner, under constant watch.”

Amarwen closed her eyes and added, ”I must make peace with Farien.”

“No!”

“I must,”
Amarwen replied, opening her eyes. ”She is the mother of the man I am to wed.”

The man she was to wed. Not Halvarin. That much was clear to her now. Tears threatened to break free as she considered Almara. ”We hunt, Almara."

Still Almara hesitated, uncertain as she considered Amarwen's troubled demeanour. "I will consider it. Something like this warrants careful thought."

"Of course,"
Amarwen agreed.

The two women embraced and Almara slipped out of Amarwen’s rooms to find the hall quiet. Aldamir had left.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Another late night spent on the balcony. Amarwen stared at the lights on the river. Inside her rooms, now quiet and empty, sat dinner. It was untouched. She had no appetite for it. At this hour last night, Vinyarion had delivered Halvarin’s message. It had been brief, unexpected, and distant. As if he wrote to an acquaintance. She had spent a sleepless night fretting over what it might mean.

She had her answer now.

A glass of wine was in her hand. She’d had what would probably be considered too many such glasses since returning to her rooms. Two bottles, Amarwen guessed, and still no closer to understanding why or how it had come to this. So much of what she had learned today was wildly out of Halvarin’s character. His remote farewell, his sudden departure without warning or explanation, and his dalliances with others. There was only one possible answer for all of it: Halvarin had set her aside and moved on with his life.

Tears welled anew she considered this. She’d given up wiping them away hours ago just as she’d given up trying to assuage the searing ache within her soul. It was over and pretending otherwise would only do more harm. Amarwen turned from her study of the Anduin beyond the palace walls and retreated to the desk in her bed chamber. She set her glass of wine down and pulled a sheet of fresh parchment towards her. Irrespective of what Almara decided, and the task was no small one, she had two letters to write.

Quote:
Dear Halvarin,

I hope your return to Pelargir was uneventful and your studies proceed smoothly. In fact, I am certain your studies are going well. You are a talented mariner who applies himself with diligence to every task. As I have said before, I am confident that your career will unfold in glorious fashion. You needn’t fear for your prospects.

Vinyarion has delivered your message faithfully. I do not understand why you have done this. I wish with all my heart that this is not so. Yet, I know that I am obliged to honour your decision.

Though I grieve that your future does not lie with me, you have my blessings to live a full and joyous life. I will not spite you your happiness. I hope that you prosper. Should our paths cross again, and I hope that they will, know that you have a friend in me still.

I love you. I always will.

May Lord Ulmo smile upon your voyages, Halvarin.

Amarwen”


Her hand shook by the end, her signature unsteadily wobbling over the page at the bottom. Amarwen set the quill down and read through what she had written. The ink was smudged by her tears in some places, but she had not the strength to start again. And she feared that she might give in to the impulses warring within her to either beg him to reconsider, to ask him for another chance to fix whatever it was she had done wrong, or to demand better of him. It was over, but the need to protect him was not. This letter would certainly be read by Farien. The first salvo in her campaign to establish something of a peace with Aldamir’s mother.

She set her letter to Halvarin aside so that the ink could dry and started on the next one.

Quote:
Beloved Mother,

I hope that by the time this find you, you will have recovered from this wretched illness. Father made all haste to your side as soon as he heard. Perhaps his return will speed your recovery. I know how you miss him when he is away.

As Father is sure to report, I have been betrothed to Prince Aldamir. The contracts were signed today before the full court. There was no dissent raised, though it would optimistic if not naïve to conclude there is no opposition to the match.

Though my introduction to Osgiliath was unsettled to say the least, I am most assuredly safe here. My door is guarded night and day and scarcely a moment goes by when I am unaccompanied. Princess Farien keeps a very close eye on me and I have learned a number of lessons, important ones, that will help assure my continued safety.

As for the betrothal itself, Prince Aldamir has proven himself kind and gentle. His treatment of me has been honourable and generous. Though he is still very much a stranger to me, I have come to accept my obligations to our people and the wider realm.

I shall not disgrace Edhellond, nor you Amme, by failing in that duty. It is an honour to serve as you have always instructed me, and I will do so to the best of my abilities. I have a great deal to learn of court life, but I am determined to best it. I hope that I can do you and Edhellond proud.

I miss you and Adda both. I will write as often as I can.

Your loving daughter and obedient servant,

Amarwen

P.S. – If you have not already done so, might it be possible to have my bow sent? I should very much like to resume my daily practice.

Ami


She set down the quill a second time, reached for her glass and drained it. It was done. She had resigned herself, in writing, to her fate. Now to have her heart and mind fall into line. She would have to be ruthless with herself if she was to accomplish such a feat. She would have to dedicate herself to it.

Her father was due to embark for Edhellond not long after dawn. The letter to her mother she would send with him, for Amarwen would see her father off. The letter for Halvarin, however, she would have her Secretary see to along with Halvarin's books. That way, she could be certain that the letter would find its way into Farien's hands - hopefully for the desired effect.

Princess Farien would indeed be pleased enough to smile when she read the letter and tucked it back into the books to send it on its way. What Amarwen had not considered, for she was not aware of the arrangement between her father and Halvarin’s, was Lord Calimir. He took one look at the handwriting, more than familiar with it over the long years of correspondence between his son and Therald’s daughter and tossed the letter into his morning fire without so much as reading it.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 9th, 2018, 6:57 pm 
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Almara was uncertain at best, of Amarwen’s new plan. She couldn’t go back! There was simply no way they would believe her... at least, it was unlikely. She was a good liar, but still. She groaned audibly as she walked down the halls to leave the castle. It was bad enough having Amarwen ask it of her. She hated to let the Lady Amarwen down. Now her own mind was questioning its own objections!

“Rie...” she muttered. “Rie-Zunic will convince me of the folly of such a plan.”

“Excuse me?” a voice startled her from a side passage off the main hall. It was a guard. “Rie-Zunic?” He questioned. “I believe he was demoted, ma’am. Sent back to do field work.”

“Demoted?” Almara questioned, and suddenly her mind swam with possibilities. Had they suspected his shenanigans concerning his “rescue” of Amarwen? If ao, was she next? Perhaps a move back towards the guildsman would be a smart manuver.

“Something about missing work, and being drunk... an attack on a guild officer and... something else,” the guard interupted her concentration. “Some sort of investigation? I don’t know.”

Almara simply nodded and walked on. Rie-Zunic had never told her about being drunk and him attacking a guild officer!

She headed straight back to Rie-Zunic’s house, but to her displeasure he was not there, so she settled in to wait.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 16th, 2018, 10:16 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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The morning light found Halvarin still at the Quay Tavern waking up at the table he passed out at the night before. His half-finished ale sat there in the flagon, flat and stale with a few flies floating dead on its surface. He downed it anyway. The only thing on his mind was how he left Amarwen to fend for herself in Osgiliath. He was a gutless wretch. He would order another ale if someone was around to get him one.

”Sorry sir, only tea served until the noon hour.”

the young lass working morning shift said when Halvarin lifted his empty flagon to as she passed. Halvarin threw it at her and stood up, stepping toward the door. Then the floor tilted, and he went forward flat on his face. When he opened his eyes, he found a fine pair of leather boots standing in front of him. It was .

”Ensign, get to your feet!”

The voice echoed through Halvarin’s head even as he stood up and wobbled.

”What is your posting Ensign?”

Halvarin blinked and mumbled,

”Naval Acadamy Perlargir, Navagation. I am on leave sir.”

He could see that the man was quite a high-ranking officer, a marine. He said,

”It is most unbecoming of an officer of the Guild to behave such, no matter where he is. Now attend to yourself and make yourself presentable as an officer of Gondor.”

Halvarin was not going to wait around. He made his way out the door and there in the bright sun tried to remember where his hostel was. He definitely considered himself lucky to get off so easily.

The rest and the fresh water on him washed the filth away, but it did little to relieve the pain inside him. He could only think of Amarwen. He looked over to his writing kit, and he sat down and inked his quill and began to write…

‘Dearest Amarwen,
My heart hurts so much. Was I right in leaving you to your fate? Could I have done more? I do not know for I am so confused. I can only say again that my love for you will always burn, and …’


He paused and ran his hand through his hair. He had no words to write. He had no way of getting his words to her. He set his quill down and went to find some water to clean up. When he came back refreshed, he took the parchment and let it burn in the fire. He said to himself,

”How do I get word to Amarwen?”

He pondered that for several moments before setting out for Minas Anor. He needed to get away from the docks of Harlond.

~ ~ ~

Aldamir did not sleep well. His mind was filled with thoughts of the previous day and all that had occurred. It was somewhere in the depths of night he must have slipped into an uneasy state of sleep. He awoke early and went to find his brother. He found him on the grand balcony looking east over the river. He said as he walked out to join him,

”Brother, I will need your help.”

“There will be naught I can do, for I am off to Minas Anor today.”


Ornendil replied. He went on,

” I thought I would take a last look at this view of Osgiliath before I left. Come walk with me little brother. You can carry one of my bags.”

They went back in and they each lifted a duffle and set out to the royal stables. Ornendil listened to Aldamir’s concerns about their mother as he secured his duffles to his horse, and as he mounted up he said to Aldamir,

”Brother, these times are uncertain at best, and Gondor rests on a knife-edge and could fall either way, or be cut down the middle. I fear the third, for neither the Mariners or the Northmen will have strength to overthrow the other, and there will be no middle way. There is little I can do this day for you or anyone else in the royal court. Grandfather holds this country together, and just barely. The Mariners will not challenge him, but they will challenge father. Keep good people around you brother, for times will darken, and soon.”

Aldamir swallowed and nodded. His brother was right. They had to do what they could now, and the sooner the better. He asked Ornendil,

”How does one determine who are these ‘good people’? My gut?”

“Yes, that is a big part. And as much as one wants to trust in family, I am afraid our mother has leanings to the Mariners. She is not good people. But Amarwen is good people, and I think you would be wise to hold her counsel with high regard.”


Ornendil replied. Aldamir nodded and said,

”Yes, she is quite wise, and I will do all I can to shield her from mother’s wiles. Farewell brother! Until we meet again!”

Ornendil gave him a nod and rode out toward the gates of the city for Minas Anor.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 16th, 2018, 5:42 pm 
Ent
Ent
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Location: The Forbidden Pool
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The Gardens - Osgiliath Palace


”Well now, what do we have here now?”

Amarwen didn’t realise she had company until that question was posed to her. She sat on a garden bench under a tree after what could only be described as a dismal morning. Her rooms were overrun with Farien’s creatures and the garden was her only remaining refuge on palace grounds.

Her father had quit the city without her and watching him set out had proven quite the wrench for she did not know when she would next see him. Or her mother. Perhaps never! Then her failed attempt to make peace with Aldamir’s mother. What a disaster that had been for Farien had no need to bother with peace. It did not matter to her one whit, something Amarwen had discovered too late.

Now, she found herself blinking at a woman of middle years that she did not recognise. Wallowing so deeply in her misery that she had failed to mark the woman until she had spoken. Whoever she was, she was well dressed and, unlike Amarwen, most probably had not spent the previous night trying to drown her grief in three bottles of wine. Or was it four? All on an empty stomach that churned uneasily.

She pushed to her feet and inclined her head respectfully to the other woman. ”I’m afraid you have the advantage of me.”

The woman smirked. ”Indeed. I am not to wed a half breed. Is that why you are so green around the gills?”

There was nothing to be gained by continuing this, though the notion of emptying her stomach on the hem of the woman’s finely woven linen gown held no small appeal.

Amarwen turned from her, ”If you will excuse me, I have business elsewhere.”

“Flat on your back, no doubt. It is a shame, when all is said and done, that Edhellond has grown so desperate as to make wh0res of its children. For that is what you now are.“


Stunned, Amarwen distantly wondered whether the woman meant that she was a child or...that other one. Was her jaw hanging open, Amarwen wondered? When it closed with an audible click, she knew that it had been. The woman tilted her head at Amarwen, awaiting some sort of response. So was Amarwen but she could not seem to shake herself from paralysing outrage. Her mind was frozen in a loop that she could not break: did she really say that? Did she really say that? Surely, not...but did she?

The woman drew breath to continue, assured of Amarwen's shocked silence.

”Have you considered, yet, your fate should you prove barren? The prince is a good deal older. Siring heirs may well be beyond him now but the blame will fall to you. Of course. For he is a prince, with at least one son to his credit. And you? You’re nobody, girl. A means to an end and a disposable one at that.”

Finally, Amarwen’s sluggish thoughts caught up with everything else that was happening.

”Just who do you think you are?” she demanded. Her voice held a ring of command, something her mother had spent some time instructing in her. Frankly, Amarwen was relieved she was able to call upon it now.

”Ah, the kitten has claws. Encouraging. You shall need them if you are to escape from this mire with your pretty head attached to that lovely neck."

“Are you hard of hearing or merely stupid? Your name! At once!”

“All in good time, kitten,”
the woman replied, unfazed, and then her expression transformed into a sunny smile that was jarring for its suddenness.

Amarwen blinked at her as she dropped into an adroit curtsy, ”Prince Elarin! Always a pleasure, your Grace.”

With that the woman sauntered off, head held high and entirely at her ease as she wandered the garden path. The Prince of Dol Amroth gained Amarwen’s side staring after her, puzzled.

”Just who is that, Ami,” he inquired.

Amarwen shook her head from side to side slowly, ”I do not know, Uncle...but I am certain she is a villain.”

“That’s quite a statement to make about someone you do not know. I would not be so hasty, were I you.”

“You did not hear what she said! She called me a-”
Amarwen broke off as her cheeks heated. She couldn’t bring herself to say it. And what if it was true? No one had ever spoken to her in such a fashion before and she was still reeling.

He tucked her hand under his arm and patted it, consoling. ”Best not to dwell on such unpleasantness. Have you seen the Prince today?”

“No,”
she sighed as they set off walking, ”But I have encountered his mother. She despises me.”

“I’d be very surprised, Ami, if that is true. I doubt Princess Farien has the either the time or need for such pursuits.”

“Are you saying I am insignificant?”


Elarin chuckled at her question, ”In a place such as this, insignificance is quite the boon, dearheart. Now, with your father gone, I shall do my best to look in on you as often as I can.”

“How long will you be in the city?”

“A month, or nearabouts. Certainly long enough to see you properly settled here. I stopped by your rooms on my way, in point of fact, and learned that you did not eat yesterday.”

“I was not hungry.”

“Nor this morning.”

“I did not feel well.”

“Five bottles of wine, perhaps?”

“Three! Maybe four! Certainly not five. I am sure of it. Don’t believe a word those women tell you, Uncle. They cannot be trusted.”


He sighed at this and after a few steps offered counsel. ”You must take better care of yourself, Amarwen. This behaviour cannot continue. It must stop. As must this isolation you wrap yourself in. This is to be your home and you will need friends here.”

“I have friends!”

“One, your father said. Just the one and where is she today?”


Amarwen pressed out a heavy sigh, ”I hate it here.”

“Of course you do,”
he replied. ”You have your mother’s strong will, Ami. If you are determined to be miserable, you will be. And so it follows, if you resolve to be happy...”

She shook her head from side to side, adamant. “The court is rotten, almost to its very core. There is no happiness to be found in this place.”

“The prince cares for you. He is a good man. One you can rely upon, no? And he will defend your people come what may, will he not?"

“That is true.”

“His brother as well. The two princes are cut very much from the same cloth. Do not lose faith, Amarwen. Open your heart and you may be surprised at what you discover.”


He cupped her face between his hands and kissed her brow gently. ”Now, be a good girl and wash that stale wine away. And eat something!”

“Yes, Uncle.”


Elarin remained where he was to mark Amarwen’s return indoors. He was troubled, deeply so, by what he perceived for her behaviour was most out of character indeed. Something had wounded her spirit and stolen away her confidence. It clouded her judgement. Whatever had stricken her so, Elarin could do little to speed her recovery. The same, however, could not be said for her living circumstances.

Her apartments overflowing and under constant guard. To all intents and purposes, Amarwen was a prisoner here, scrutinised night and day. No one could endure imprisonment indefinitely. Amarwen, who had known a life of comparative freedom and privacy until know, was already wilting. It would break her spirit given enough time.

Yes, her safety was important but there were more subtle means to accomplish that should Eldacar agree to them. As for her overflowing staff, their ranks could easily be whittled down. Two maids, certainly. Her counsel, whoever this Almara was. She would be retained. A secretary to manage correspondence and Amarwen’s daily schedule. Perhaps a tutor from time to time on the finer points of royal protocol, though he could vouch for the thoroughness of Amarwen’s education himself as he’d had a hand in it. Few here in Osgiliath could claim tutors inclusive of the Eldar, willing to impart knowledge as they prepared to leave these mortal shores forever behind. Despite her relative youth, Amarwen possessed the sort of education few in the southern realms could match.

Elarin of Dol Amroth nodded to himself and set to work, seeking first Eldacar to deal with discrete security arrangements and then Farien to address the thinning of the overstuffed ranks. He’d always gotten on well with the future king and queen of Gondor and he saw no reason that would not continue.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Eldacar's Study - Osgiliath Palace

"You gave her cage a good rattle then?" the Crown Prince inquired.

"Thoroughly," the woman replied, considering what she had said in the gardens and the responses she had won. "We were alone. I pressed hard, as instructed."

"What, then, is your assessment?"


The woman paused at this, "The Lady is sorely aggrieved...but I do not think the source of this is your son. I provoked her on a number of vantages concerning Aldamir. Once she overcame her shock, I think she would have struck me had not Prince Elarin arrived."

Eldacar looked up sharply from the report he had been reviewing. "What did he hear?"

"Nothing of consequence. I do not believe he recognised me."


Eldacar frowned, deeming this unlikely. The Prince of Dol Amroth was a powerful man in his own right. His reach was vast, his influence subtle and his people numerous. If Elarin did not recognise the woman, he'd be working on uncovering her identity soon enough. He'd have to talk to the man about this, for the woman was too important to him to risk having her compromised.

He asked the woman, "What do you advise?"

"Amarwen is no rebel, your Highness. Her loyalty and fealty to the crown is genuine despite this unfortunate connection to Lord Calimir. Further, Edhellond is the key to Dol Amroth. Secure one and you will hold both."


Eldacar inclined his head and the woman perceived her dismissal. She was swift to exit his study and would soon vanish from the palace grounds entirely. As for drawing Amarwen in, that would prove difficult. Farien would have to be dealt with and he knew his wife had been particularly vexed by the younger woman. Two strong willed women, each opposed. Perhaps if he could find a way to keep them apart...


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