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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 6th, 2018, 9:51 am 
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The hour was late when Amarwen entered the palace kitchens. She hoped they might be something like the kitchens of her mother’s hall. There, in moments of restlessness such as this, the kitchen had been something of a refuge. Warm and inviting. The palace kitchens of Osgiliath were certainly warm but the vast grandeur of them lent an imposing air. She stared at the cavernous space and wondered if it might not be better to seek diversion elsewhere.

As she considered this, the staff of the kitchen continued on unperturbed by her arrival. She doubted they had even noted her presence until she heard a voice call her name. To her immense surprise, she saw none other than the King himself approach. Unprepared for such a meeting, Amarwen sank into the deepest curtsy she could. So deep she was practically sitting on the stone floor underfoot.

”Enough with such nonsense,” the king declared, startling Amarwen so much that she broke protocol entirely to peer up at the realm’s monarch with wide eyed dismay. ”On your feet, young lady,” Valacar gestured impatiently at her, ”Let’s get a proper look at you.”

Realising her lapse, Amarwen dropped her eyes and rose. She continued to stare at the floor, hands clasped before her. Valacar grew weary of waiting for he reached out to grasp her chin. She was surprised at how firm his fingers were for one so advanced in age as he. She swallowed as he tipped her face into view.

”Have you something to hide?”

She did indeed but Amarwen did not want the King to know about any of it. She willed her eyes to remain steady as they locked with the aged king’s. There was no hint of blue nor green. They were like steel, polished and still sharp. As abruptly as Valacar had grasped her chin did he release it.

”Yes, I see now,” he muttered to himself cryptically. ”The lad is consistent.”

With no further explanation, the king turned from her. She watched him walk away several steps only to pause and peer back at her. ”Somewhere better to be at this hour, m’Lady?”

“Of course not,”
Amarwen muttered as she hastened to his shoulder. She hovered, careful to remain behind the King.

Valacar said nothing as he made his way carefully through the kitchen. He settled at the end of a long and battered table. Once seated, he picked up a strange piece of food. She’d not seen it’s like before. It was roughly spherical, its skin pitted. He’d peeled it partially already and it was the most extraordinary colour. Ruddy, like the sunset. The king resumed peeling it, wedging a finger or thumb under the skin and prising it back to reveal the soft flesh of the remarkable fruit.

”You have my grandson all in a lather,” he said as he peeled. His eyes cut sideways at her briefly.

”With respect, Sire, I do not believe that is so.”

“You scarcely know him,”
Valacar let the statement dangle. ”I am told he gifted you with a horse today?”

“Oh no, Sire! Not at all! A temporary arrangement, I believe...”
Her reply faded as she realised the king was looking at her again.

”That is not what the Master of the Royal Stables believes and he is rarely mistaken.”

Amarwen blinked rapidly, baffled by such largesse. It was not as if Aldamir had to win her hand. ”Why would he do such a thing?”

Valacar glanced at her sidelong. ”I can’t imagine,” he replied, his manner inexplicably wry as he finished peeling the fruit. He set it down and picked up a cloth to dry fingers made sticky by the fruit. The king pushed a breath through his nose at her statement and picked up a knife. He began to separate out lobes of fruit into delicate segments. Amarwen could not help but watch them fall, one by one.

”Forgive me my ignorance, Sire, but what is that?” she asked.

”An orange,” he replied and Amarwen frowned.

”Orange is a colour...and a fruit?”

“It has another name, I am certain, at its origin. Grown far to the south, around Umbar. Conditions further north are too cold for the trees to fruit, or so I am told.”
Having finished sectioning the orange, the king laid down the knife and dried his hands again. The king pushed the plate of segmented fruit towards her.

”What does it taste like? Is it sweet?”

“Depends on the orange, I have found.”


He nodded at her, still drying off his hands and so she picked up the smallest segment and hesitantly placed it in her mouth. The king watched as she chewed it and when her eyes widened, he offered her his first smile of their exchange. He popped an orange segment into his own mouth.

”Shall we speak frankly?” he asked. ”I confess that I was surprised Edhellond had reversed a policy of non-involvement that has served it well. Edhellond ‘s prosperity lies in no small part from its arms’ length from the politics that beset the rest of the realm and yet here you sit, betrothed to my grandson and eating oranges in my kitchen.”

“These are strange and testing times, your Majesty.”

“And so, I ask you plainly...is it possible for love to spring from such inauspicious beginnings?”


Amarwen stared at Valacar. ”I would think there are more pressing concerns. Does it matter one way or the other?”

“It does,”
he answered. ”Certainly for Aldamir. For you also, I suspect.”

”The heart is a complicated creature. Who amongst us can say where our hearts will lead us?” Amarwen found the king was studied her with a familiar intensity that she had observed in Aldamir. She inclined her head to him.

”Who indeed,” the monarch mused.

When she looked up again, the king was smiling. He turned away briefly to beckon one of the staff to him. ”Fetch another orange. This young lady has earned her own.”

“Thank you, Sire,”
she said and Valacar leaned towards her.

”I believe Farien chose wisely in selecting you, my Lady,” he murmured and patted her hand gently. Then he set to showing her how to peel an orange without a knife. A sticky, messy affair, but perversely enjoyable. By the time she quit the palace kitchens, Amarwen found herself smiling. Still, she was certain there had been more to her exchange with the king than she understood.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 10th, 2018, 5:44 pm 
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By nightfall the docks were ablaze with guild ships. Nearly half the ships they had in port!

Rie-Zunic did not stop there either. Days following brought one break out of anarchy after another. It was all out war. Soon the crown would have no way to deny what was happening. They would be forced to take action.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 11th, 2018, 7:10 am 
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Aldamir arrived in Minas Anor, and he soon found his brother with his son Vinyarion. They were at the sixth level talking on a bench. Aldamir looked around and sat down with them. He said,

“We have an active incursion building right under us. The Mariners Guild always opposed father, but they had always stopped short of outright rebellion.”

“Where did you come by this information?”


Ornedil asked. Aldamir said,

”From what I believe is a reliable source. Vinyarion then said,

”It seems to be a common view among the Rhovanions in Osgiliath.”

Both his father and his uncle looked at him. Vinyarion looked back at them both and said,

”I’ve been listening while in the north quarter gambling. It has been a suspicion of theirs for a while now.”

Ornedil nodded before asking,

“We have Rhovanion suspicions and word from a reliable source. But do we have any hard evidence?”[/i]

Ornedil looked at Aldamir, then to Vinyarion. They were silent as they had no proof. Vinyarion made an observation,

“No. There was the shieldmaidens attacking the guildhouse a while back.”

“And unfortunately I heard rumour as I left that there was some stealth attack on some guildsmen.”


Ornedil nodded.

“See, it is the wild northmen causing troubles with the Mariners Guild. At least that is the word getting out there. If we come out with these claims of the Guild planning a coup, it will only look like we’re trying to oppose them. We must be wary and ready to act, but we can’t go to father or grandfather with this now. Now little brother, get yourself back to Osgiliath and attend to matters of your house!”

Aldamir sighed. He looked at Vinyarion and said,

”And you son, get back to Pelargir and get back to study!”

They all went in different directions.



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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 12th, 2018, 5:01 am 
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Mettarë

Winter lay thick over Osgiliath. The entire city was determined to mark the High Season with joy made sharper and sweeter by the anguish and sorrow that had gone before it. The fire that had sprung up in the city’s harbour had left a pall that had taken months to fade. In that time, the hostility in the streets towards Rhovanians flared for they were widely held accountable for setting so many ships and men ablaze with burning oil. Many Rhovanians fled, returning to their ancestral lands unable or unwilling to endure the palpable resentment.

The Guild, predictably, were swift to claim recompense from the crown. Then word came from Amarwen’s father that the Guild had commissioned from him new ocean going vessels with deep draughts entirely unsuited for plying the Anduin. It all but confirmed a horrid suspicion that the Guild had staged the attacked upon itself. Setting aside the horrific human toll, if true it was a masterful tactical stroke. The attack had inflamed suspicions towards Rhovanions, drained the crown’s coffers, and now fattened the fleet of the Master of Ships. Worse yet was how brazen Lord Castimir was. He made no attempt to conceal the fact that the realm’s gold would not restore the river vessels destroyed by fire yet little could be done to halt him. Whoever was behind the attack in truth, they had weakened the crown and it would take time to recover and restore faith. Time they may not have, for the king’s vigour was improving.

Autumn rains had washed the sickly charnel stench away and the annual tithe came and went. The nation’s coffers were in sore need, having paid out so much to the Guild and the families of those men lost in the fire. Another attack such as the one that had taken place would come close to draining the treasury, particularly when a number of usually prosperous territories had inexplicably bad seasons. So bad as to be unable to meet their full tithe, if at all. There was little doubt in Aldamir’s mind that the tithe contributions found their way further south, trickling in the coffers of a would be king who waited in the shadows, growing fatter day by day. Again, there was no proof to be had.

In these troubling times Amarwen saw little of Almara. Brief visits only, with increasing absences between. And what time they did have left Amarwen with the distinct sense that Almara was keeping something from her. What, she could not say, but it worried her for she knew so little, in truth, about Almara. Though she searched for some way to amend that, the opportunity never seemed to arrive.

And so, perhaps it was inevitable that Amarwen increasingly turned to Aldamir. By the close of autumn a day did not pass without them speaking. As the city healed from the violence that had marred the warmer months, so too did her heart. Piece by aching piece she reassembled it, though it had to be said that Aldamir certainly knew how to make such a gruelling task easier. The prince had a way of making her feel like she was the most important thing in the world to him. His strong jaw and chiselled features certainly helped too, as did the way he made her laugh.

She felt whole once more. Her feelings for Aldamir had grown. She had come to care deeply for the man she was to wed. Perhaps she had even come to love him. She wasn't sure, for it felt so very different. It was not as strong as the way she felt about Halvarin and that worried her. Happiness would never be hers if Halvarin was indeed the love of her life. For the love of her life was a lie. A cruel and heartless trick. The pieces of her heart did not fit together the way they once had. Lessons learned that she could not forget. She was different now. Changed. She had found a resilience within her that she had not realised existed. She was scarred, but so much stronger for this.

And so now here she was in the great hall, nearly six months to the day since she had first stood here to meet her fate. The flowers were gone, replaced with holly carefully wrapped around her circlet to tame the points of the dark, glossy leaves. Her golden silk had given way to a velvet that was so blue as to be almost black in places. At her hips the same girdle of fat, vibrant rubies - Aldamir's gift to her. And around her now, as before, people watched and whispered. Scrutinised. Let them, she thought to herself as they milled about. She held her chin high as the heralds announced the arrival of the royal family.

Aldamir smiled at her upon his arrival in such a way as to make her heart expand under her ribs. This had been happening for some time now. She had always felt that draw, right at the outset, but something had shifted in her on the day they had both tumbled on an icy garden path towards the end of autumn. A passing fugue she thought, until it happened again. And again. And now, here. As she swept into a courtesy befitting her rank, she knew what she would have to do by night’s close.

”My Prince,” she murmured, head inclined as he collected her hand and lifted it to his lips. Her use of the endearment had not escaped Aldamir's notice.

His eyes locked on hers in such a way as to heat her cheeks. She saw from the way his eyes shone, his spirits were as high as her own. The season, Mettarë, always seemed to bring out this in her. Of all nights of the year, perhaps this was the one to bring the happiness she feared eternally elusive. He adjusted the way he held her hand and they fell into step side by side, her arm looped through his comfortably. ”I hope I have not kept you waiting overlong.”

“I kept myself entertained,”
she replied.

Aldamir chuckled knowingly.”Of that I have little doubt.”

Before the night was done, she would tell him what she had learned in the hour she had spent in the hall prior to his arrival. They would discuss in the privacy of his rooms all she had heard and observed. Who was in attendance and who was not. Who she had spoken to and what had been divulged. All the wiles and skills her mother had spent years instructing her in for Edhellond's trade negotiations had been reshaped into something else in the time she had been at court. But all that would come later, after the guests had departed.

As of now, she had the feast to enjoy. Amarwen unlinked her arm to fetch two glasses from a passing tray. She passed one to Aldamir whose gaze lingered upon her still.

”You are enchanting,” he declared as she sipped at her wine. It had been steeped in spice and warmed. Simply glorious. She tasted orange, of course. For the aged King who so loved them.

Amarwen arched a brow at Aldamir. ”Am I mistaken, or has his Highness declared me a witch?”

“There is but one way to settle this,”
he replied, drawing so close that she had to tilt her head back.

Like her, seasonal holly was woven with his circlet and his fine coat was of the same velvet as her gown. She felt his hand slip around her waist to settle into the curve of her back and his mouth tasted of mulled wine. There was no hint of artifice or performance in this and by the time it had ended, her heart racing.

”Will you dance with me this night?” Aldamir murmured, lips brushing her ear.

”Yes,” she answered in turn. ”That and...more.”

His response to that was to lightly nip her ear before he drew back to drain his wine. She followed suit and soon they were amid the other dancers in a glittering hall.

Amongst those watching was Lord Calimir. He had not arrived alone for the evening’s festivities. At his side stood the eldest son of the Master of Ships. Both sipped at goblets of mulled wine and both studied Amarwen of Edhellond. She was difficult to miss amongst the dancers.

”She’s very pale,” the younger man observed, nonplussed.

Calimir, aware of the fellow’s preferences, checked an impatient sigh. ”The likelihood of finding the attributes you best prefer in a suitable match are scant to say the least.”

Castimir’s son grunted at that and took a healthy swig of his wine. He watched for a while longer, eyes glittering as he studied the young woman in question. Though the half breed prince she was presently shackled to held her close to him, it was not difficult to appreciate her charms. Particularly when she tipped her head back to laugh.

”She’ll serve, I suppose,” the young man allowed, his reticence abundantly clear.

”You’ll be hard pressed to find another of such impeccable lineage,” Calimir pressed.

“I said she’ll serve,” the younger man tersely replied and took another swing at his wine to drain it. "They’re much the same once the lights are out in any case.”

He turned away to drop his glass on a passing tray and shouldered past Calimir to depart. Lord Calimir, though lingered. Unwise as it was to permit Castimir’s son to wander Osgiliath’s streets alone, he was troubled. He had watched her grow with his son, from early childhood on. Amarwen’s father was one of his oldest friends. The life that awaited her was not going to be a pleasant one. There’d be no dancing nor courting. She’d be married and pressed into service before her feet so much as hit the ground and after that there would be no turning back.

But, should she prove her worth swiftly, perhaps he could persuade Castimir to allow her some small kindnesses. The unpleasant reality was that they were reduced to such measures by the wilful and reckless decision of the elderly man that was presently nodding off scarcely an hour into his arrival. Had Valacar selected a suitable Queen they would not be at this pass. Distasteful as he found it, there was naught that could now be done. What approached was an inevitable as the coming dawn. All that remained to be determined was how difficult the transition would be. If Gondor had to be torn asunder to save it from its present decline, then so be it.

At least his own son was well clear of it now. Not once had Halvarin attempted to make contact with Amarwen. Aside from two letters in quick succession, both destroyed unopened, Amarwen had abandoned her own attempts at correspondence. Just as well. The fact that Halvarin happened to be Calimir's son would not purchase the lad any protection should the Master of Ships perceive him to be an interloping rival. Castimir was ruthless when it came to opposition of any sort. He would crush Halvarin if that is what it took to obtain that which the Master of Ships desired: an established dynasty of High Numénorean bloodline that would ensure that the throne, once seized, would remain in the hands of his heirs for generations to come.

Halvarin's survival, his future, depended on him keeping well out of it. In time, Calimir hoped that his son would come to understand, if not forgive him, for he was well aware that his role in attempting to abduct Amarwen months ago remained an open wound between them. As for the child he had watched grow up beside his own son, her fate was perforce a different one. Not one of her choosing but that was the lot of the High Born. Lord Calimir sighed and, with a shake of his head, turned to follow Castimir’s son from the hall.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 16th, 2018, 12:08 am 
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Much had transpired since Rie-Zunic and Almara had waged war on the guild. Some of their efforts seemed fruitful, while others seemed to backfire. It was those set backs that led Rie-Zunic to the argument the two now found themselves in.

“It is the only way!” Rie-Zunic insisted.

“It’s murder!” Almara countered vehemently.

“Not in war time,” Rie-Zunic snapped back. “If we burn their ships, the crown replaces them! We ruin their supplies, but they ship in more! There is only one thing they can not so easily replace... their lives.”

Almara shook her head. “Rie... I feel this is a line we can not cross. If we are caught-“

“We won’t be.”

“You don’t know that.”

Rie-Zunic let a scrutinizing gaze settle on Almara. “It’s not like you haven’t killed men before.”

“Here and there, when necessary,” Almara defended herself. “But what you are talking about... it’s too much.”

“I thought you said you were with me,” Rie-Zunic challenged. “That we were together for good this time.”

Almara sighed and hung her head. She gazed down at her latest addition to her attire. A gold band with a small diamond adorned her finger. She let her hand settle on her stomach, not considering her actions. She hadn’t told Rie-Zunic...

“Almara?” Rie-Zunic pressed her.

Almara cleared her mind and walked over to him, placing a hand on his chest. “I’m with you. For better or for worse.” She leaned forwards and kissed his lips in the darkness of their hideout, and prayed they would all live to see these dark times as a thing of the past.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 20th, 2018, 10:16 pm 
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After arriving in Pelargir, Halvarin would work from early morning to nearly dark on his navigational studies at the Acadamy. He tried to ignore the talk of unrest in the north caused by the uncultured Rhovanions and wanted nothing to do with the debate other than saying he had met a few Rhivanions and they weren’t any worse than the Haradians the Mariners preferred. It was pointed out to him the difference was the Mariners did not accept Haradians as equals as the Valacarian Gondoorians did with the Rhovanions. They certainly didn’t marry them, let alone royally marry them. The Mariners were more than happy to use them as house servants, concubines, and train them in their own segregated military units, but not integrate them. The centuries-long practice of the Numenoreans, then the Gondorian Mariners, of using and discarding Haradrim women had led to a class of mixed-race. Shunned by both the Haradians, they tend to live in Umbar and Pelargir and ports in between serving the Gondorians who see little difference between them and the pure Haradrim.

The woman Kerina had Haradian blood in her. The strain was distant, going back generations, and the mixed-race woman back then bore a girl with a Gondorian father, and the pattern repeated. Kerina wasn’t sure how many generations it had been, and she looked every bit as much Gondorian as Halvarin. The only clue anyone would suspect was her dark wavy hair and her skin’s ability to darken in the sun. At 5’7” and about ten stone, Kerina was a beautiful woman. She served as a House servant to the Master Navigator and made money on the side at the markets with hand made clothing and jewelry. She never had an opportunity to learn the scripts or to write, so she took to Halvarin’s willingness to teach her gladly.

Halvarin would go to the market district and would meet Kerina there when she was closing her tent. He would walk with her while she shopped for supplies and would spend the evenings with her teaching her how to read and write. She also would watch him as he studied start charts. Kerina was always fascinated by the stars. For him, Kerina helped drive thoughts of Amarwen from his mind, and he spent less time writing to her in his journal. So, it was that Halvarin found himself living with Kerina, not staying at the academy.

This routine went on through the months of Cermië and Urimë, at which time Halvarin was assigned to a ship as Navagator Trainee. They were to set sail on the last day of Urimë, and the night before, Halvarin spent the evening and with Kerina. This night, Halvarin gave her supplies of parchment, in, and quill, and gave her instructions on what to work on. As he wouldn’t be there to explain word structure, she would work on the calligraphy. Her knowledge of the letters had become quite good, and she could practice writing them while he was gone.

When Halvarin set out, they would be going up the coast toward Harlond, and Halvarin had to mark points along the way and check coastal maps. When he pointed out errors, some were obvious to the Master Navigator as the maps given to Halvarin were dated ones. He got points for spotting these points. It was when he called out a shoal that caught the Master Navigator by surprise. It was something they didn’t have on their latest charts. The master navigator looked and checked the maps twice. He then looked to Halvarin and asked,

”How did you see that lad?”

“The sunlight. The waters were slightly less blue.”


The master Navigator nodded his head and set his hand on Halvarin’s shoulder.

”You have a good eye and sense of the sea young Halvarin. I won’t be watching the rest of the voyage. I’ll take the maps, and I want you to map it as you see it.”

The rest of the voyage to Harlond went smooth, with Halvarin mapping the shore. When they set anchor in the Elven port, his work was reviewed and Halvarin was given clearance to the next step. He would navigate the ship back to Pelargir. It was the last day if the month of Ivanneth when they arrived in Pelargir, having struggled against contrary winds coming down the coast. When they came to the quay, Halvarin saw that Kerina was waiting for him. He disembarked from the ship and into her arms, and they went to her place for the night.

His studies took most of his time, but the excellent marks he got on the practical exam on the voyage advanced him ahead of most of the others in his class. So, on the 22nd of Ringarë, it was surprising that he turned down an advanced posting to a river ship that would be based in East Osgiliath. He instead waited and the last day of Ringarë, he took a posting on a coastal tug that was based in Pelargir. It was a lesser assignment but he had no desire to return north.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 21st, 2018, 7:01 am 
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Lord Therald considered the great hall of Edhellond. As it was every year for as long as he could recall, the entire staff and household in attendance were gathered. The air was an easy one, relaxed and full of good cheer, and there was good reason for it. After the tumult of the year prior, the past six months had proven peaceful. A return to earlier years, before the future of the realm was thrown into crisis and his only child approached marriageable age. Winter lay gently on the land here and their fires easily kept it at bay. Far to the north, was his daughter. Snowed in, by now, in the city that was now her home.

She'd be cold there, he knew. Amarwen had ever been a summer child. He could see her now in his mind's eye, gambolling on the sandy shores with the sun shining and gleaming upon her hair and skin. Free. Happy. Laughing. His attention wandered to an empty chair. Her chair. Amarwen loved Mettarë best of all the days of the the year. She loved the wrapping of gifts and she delighted in watching them revealed by their recipients. She loved to sing on the one occasion when it was not frowned upon for her to do so. She took particular joy into launching raids upon the kitchen for the one time of the year when they had chocolate. Oh, how she adored chocolate. So much so that she had made herself thoroughly sick upon it one year.

"Enough with your maudlin gusts," his wife murmured at his side. Alenna nodded to the vacant chair. "She writes each and every week, come what may."

"Pages and pages of words, and yet says little if anything at all,"
he replied.

Alenna drummed her fingers upon the table, "Yes, well, she's no fool. Her letters are read and she surely knows this."

He felt it happening again. This tension rising between them. It had been this way since he had returned from Osgiliath, filled with misgivings about what they had set in motion. Whilst Edhellond's interests had proven to be well served these past months, he was not nearly so sure about their daughter's. Each letter he read from her seemed to contain grim resignation and quiet desperation. Alenna told him he was imagining things but she had not seen Amarwen on the day of her betrothal. She had not been there to confront Amarwen's silent fury at what was unfolding around her. Alenna had not witnessed the unravelling of her daughter's hopes.

"I think we should visit her," he said.

"Yes, yes, just as soon as the weather permits. The mouth of the Anduin is impassable at this time of year."

Alenna, he knew, was at her wit's end with him and this topic both. She could be ruthless. Still, her reply struck him as cold.

"When all is said and done, do you not miss your own child?" he asked quietly.

At that his wife abruptly pushed out of her seat. "I am weary," she declared to the gathered assembly in the hall.

What she was, Therald thought to himself, was angry. With him. With what they had done. With herself. Too proud and stubborn to admit that perhaps it had been mistake. Which was not to say that they should have entertained Castimir's offer. Far from it. He watched his wife, the woman he loved so much as to flout custom, convention and the court, to wed, stalk from her own hall. How was it that she did not appreciate just how much they demanded of their only child, he wondered and not for the first time.

Therald slumped back in his chair with not one empty seat but two around the table now. The two most important women of his life absent. He sighed as he contemplated his collective failings and then the master of the kitchen caught his eye. The man, recently bereaved after a terrible wasting illness had claimed his wife Marece, nodded to him.

"Saved some chocolate for her, I did, Ser."

"That's kind of you. Can't say when as I can get it to her, though. Not a good time of year to travel so far."

"Rest easy, Ser. You will. I know you will,"
the elder man said. And even though he had laid his beloved wife to rest only four months ago, he still found it in him to smile at Mettarë. Therald lifted his goblet to the fellow in tribute.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 21st, 2018, 7:39 am 
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As the months went on, Aldamir saw Amarwen in a way he had not expected, and she became not only his betrothed but someone he could depend on in trying to uncover the intricacies of the Guild’s network. The networks they had seemed to have set up tended to pass gossip as well as weaponry, and the rogue elements that had limited success in searching and destroying many of these cells out made it harder to keep track of those that remained.

But things seemed to quiet as the weather turned through Autumn. Still Aldamir had started to stow away funds that would come to use when all came to a head. And he came to trust Amarwen more and more as the months went by. Their rides went long, and their archery practice was a highlight of every week. Alsamir was falling in love with his betrothed. But he worried she would be caught in the hammer blow that was surely going to come. He started pondering whether she would be safer in Edhellond. Maybe in time, but not yet. Aldamir would keep it in mind should thing become dangerous.

When the winter winds vane at the beginning of Ringarë, Aldamir spent more time inside with Amarwen, bringing her books from the library. For some reason, she was averse to going there herself. They would read stories together and enjoy their dinners together, and the Mettarë celebration and Yestarë festival was soon at hand….

Aldamir smiled as he danced with Amarwen at the Mettarë Festival. As usual it was a royal nest of intrigue and politics. But he ignored the Mariners, and the son of the Master Guildsman whose royal line has given prompt for many to call for him to be king.

”There are many an eye on you, and us this night. The Guild wants this betrothal to fail, and the fact we are making it work has them concerned.

He turned and spun Amarwen and drew her back. He asked,

”Have you seen your counsel… Amara of late? I think she knows more than she says.”

When the music paused, he took Amarwen’s hand and led her to the back where the wine barrels were. He picked a glass for each, and said.

“Walk with me out to the courtyard m’lady?”

He offered his free arm to her and se took it, and they slipped out from the court into the frigid clear moonlit night.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 22nd, 2018, 5:20 am 
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Clear of the festivities of the Great Hall, Aldamir and Amarwen walked at their ease towards the frozen courtyard.

”In truth,” Amarwen said as she watched how they walked in perfect unison, ”I do not see as much of Almara as I would wish.”

“Has she resigned her position?”
Aldamir inquired and Amarwen shook her head.

”Not so far as I am aware...and perhaps the demands I would make upon her time are simply unsustainable.”

“If you require additional counsel, you have but to say the word.”


Amarwen smiled up at Aldamir in reassurance. ”I know you would make arrangements, my prince, but there are some matters beyond even your influence.” She gathered his hand and brought it to her lips to softly kiss before she continued ”Almara is more to me than my counsel. I have you, of course, and there is Almara but after that...” She sighed, ”This is a difficult place in which to find those you can rely upon.”

“Are you lonely?”
Aldamir asked, steam rising from his question for now they were in the courtyard proper. At night, lit by the moon and stars and the light from the palace windows, the snow and ice glittered. It was a bewitching sight for all that it made her shiver. Never had Amarwen seen so much snow.

She turned about, taking in the sparkling courtyard around them and then returned her attention to Aldamir and his question. ”This is hardly the time to be discussing such things.” Amarwen lifted her arms to the sky and spun about as quickly as she dared on the icy ground under foot. The dark velvet of her skirts flared with the motion. ”It is Mettarë and there is so much snow!”

The delight she allowed into her reply mirrored in Aldamir’s face as he came forward. ”Careful, or you’ll tumble again,” he warned.

”If I recall correctly, was you that pulled me over. Not once have I lost my footing!”

“Give it time,”
he promised. ”We’re only half way through winter.”

“Is it like this every year?”
she asked, entranced.

Aldamir nodded, ”The charm wears thin.”

“I do not believe it. Just look! It is beautiful unlike anything I have ever seen!”

“I shall have to take your word for it,”
the prince murmured as he gathered her to him. ”I am altogether preoccupied with another beautiful creature.”

“Creature!”
Amarwen laughed and batted at his shoulder. Smiling, Aldamir brought his lips to hers and the cold did not bite so deeply. Their embrace lingered, intensifying, until the prince drew back. She could feel the rise and fall of his chest against her own. Rapid. With his arms tight about her, they started to gently sway and Amarwen tucked her head against his chest. What, she wondered, were they to do with this?

”Are you cold?” Aldamir inquired, his voice a deep rumble to her hearing.

”Not after that,” she answered, her arms looped around his waist. ”Did you mean what you said inside? About...” Amarwen hesitated, doubting herself.

“About what?” Aldamir pressed and she sighed against him, resigning herself to what was likely a foolhardly course.

”What did you mean when you said our betrothal was working?”

“Ah...so we have come to that,”
he remarked and stopped their swaying to look down at her. ”Would you truly know the answer?”

“Yes,”
Amarwen replied. He studied her for a moment and then fit his hand to the curve of her cheek. His expression was both tender and hungry and this time he made no attempt to curb his ardour as he kissed her again. Before she knew it, they were hastening through the palace halls. Aldamir pulled her along after him. Or perhaps she was the one to lead the way.

Whatever the case, they crashed through his doors together. Circlets rang as they were discarded on the floor along with everything else that stood between them. Never had she seen a man peel off his boots quite so swiftly. As for the lacings of her gown, Aldamir knew how to make short work of those too. After that, her sense of events grew hazy and blurred until she found herself staring at the fire roaring in the hearth of Aldamir’s bedroom.

It was the only source of light to be had and it cast shadows that flickered and danced on the walls and floor. She lay on her stomach and Aldamir was on his side, head propped on one hand and the other tracing a weaving path down her bared spine. His fingers moved slowly and then paused. Her eyes drifted shut.

”Do you sleep?” he whispered against her hair and skin.

She gave no answer to that and after a while, Aldamir’s fingers resumed their path down her spine. The fire crackled and between that, the warmth of Aldamir’s bed and his soothing hands, she was dreaming proper when he spoke again.

”Dream sweetly, my love,” he whispered, gently stroking the small of her back. He settled beside her and she knew no more.

When she woke the following morning, grey light was trying to peek past the heavy drapes of Aldamir’s bedroom windows. Amarwen was momentarily disorientated for this was not her bed but swiftly her memory of the evening returned. The feast. The courtyard. The man still lost in sleep at her side. She peeked at Aldamir shyly. He lay on his back, one arm thrown wide and the other curled under his head. His bare chest rose and fell evenly and his expression was almost boyish in his disarmed state. On the floor, scattered around the bedroom and out to the prince’s study was a trail of their clothing.

In the headboard was the knife he’d used to deal with her gown. Amarwen’s cheeks heated as it all came rushing back to her. She sat up and realised that she did not even have her shift on. The prince had been thorough, to say the least. Though, to be fair, so had she. Her attention returned to Aldamir as she examined her heart and she nodded.

Amarwen bent to press her lips to his shoulder. Her mouth trailed up and over his chest, towards his neck. She breathed in his woody scent and she heard him murmur as he stirred. His hand landed on her lower back and he gathered her to and then atop him.

Aldamir’s eyes opened slowly. ”Yes...it is a good morning.”

She smiled as she kissed him. ”The blessings of Yestarë upon you, my love.”

And it was at the height of these blessings she bestowed her upon the prince that they discovered that in their haste of the evening before, they’d neglected to close any of Aldamir’s doors. Rumour in the palace, particularly when the weather kept most at bay indoors, spread rapidly. Not that Aldamir or Amarwen cared overly much. They had other concerns.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 22nd, 2018, 9:25 pm 
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Rie-Zunic and Almara carried out one sabotage after another. It seemed to do little good in the grand scheme of things, but Almara knew it gave Rie-Zunic a clear concision. For that, she was glad. He was truly unbearable when he had a "moral weight" hanging about his neck. That, and she did like seeing him happy.

Her visits to the palace were few and far between for a while, but now that winter was upon them Rie-Zunic even admitted that their "duties" would slow down for a while. They would have to focus more on surviving. Staying warm, fed, clothed, etc... It would do her some good, Almara thought. Truth be told, she missed her time in the palace and she missed Amarwen. Besides Rie-Zunic, she had no one else. She couldn't even visit the orphanage any more. Now that the guild was sure she no longer played the part they intended her to do, they would be watching the establishment.

It was mid morning when Almara finished helping Rie-Zunic gather scraps of lumber from the shores of the river to haul back to their hideout and use for fire wood to keep warm during the nights. The days were not so bad, their lodging being underground it was more moderated. The nights got cold, though.

"That should be good," Rie-Zunic stated as he dropped the last armload of wood down in their large pile.

Almara smiled and gave him a gentle hug. "We'll keep warm enough." She flashed a coy smile.

"Indeed," Rie-Zunic replied, a smirk on his face as he slid an arm around her waist.

Almara sighed, feeling strangely accomplished after a hard morning of work. Just her and her husband, providing for their small family. For a second or two... maybe even three, it almost made her yearn for the domestic life. She exhaled heavily and then kissed Rie-Zunic.

"I thought I might visit the palace today," Almara informed him.

"Well, it would be a good day to take things easy," Rie-Zunic agreed.

The two bid each other farewell and Almara began the walk through the town to the palace.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 29th, 2018, 9:17 am 
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The blessing of Yestarë, year 1431 by the King’s Reckoning. It could not be more blessed than to awake in the arms of Amarwen. As the day grew light in its grey overcast of winter bringing with it a miserable mix of rain that had not quite turned to snow. Nothing was worse than icy rain. It got you wet. It got you cold and pierced the skin like a knife shard. The only advantage, if it could be called that, was it wasn’t as cold as previous days, but that just made the icy ground wet and slippery and muddy. There would be little outdoor activities this Yestarë.

Though it was obvious that Aldamir’s breakfast servant had seen he and Amarwen together, there seemed little had yet to come of it. Aldamir’s staff were quite loyal and he was quite thankful for that. But he knew that too soon word will get around. He returned to Amarwen who stood in the corner trying to get her dress to look reasonable before he escorted her back to her chambers. That was hard with all the cords cut, but she managed to get it respectable. Aldamir stuck his head out the door, and soon they went swiftly through the halls to come to Amarwen’s room. They did no tknow if they were seen or not, but it didn’t matter to Aldamir. He gave her a kiss, then a bow, and he said

”I shall leave you for a time m’lady so you can get yourself in order. I am not sorry about the dress, but we will have to see to a replacement. It has been a lovely Yestarë being in your presence Lady Amarwen.” He bowed again and turned to go.

Aldamir wasted no time after leaving Lady Amarwen’s door to track down his servants. Inquiring who had breakfast service duty that morning, he talked with them and was satisfied that their discretion was part of their loyalty to the royal house. He then went to find his advisors and find out what troubles had been stirred up overnight. One reported that the mood of the Rhovanions are they are being isolated from the Royal House and given the more mundane duties. Aldamir would make a point to meet with both King Valacar’s Counsel General, and also his father Eldacar’s Counsel General. He sent word via messengers to them both right away as he wanted to find out if there was a move from within to marginalize the Rhovanions.

As far as attacks on any Rhovanions or Mariners, they had seemed to have gone quiet. The weather likely made it harder to carry out such activities without being discovered. When he was fully briefed, he took counsel with his Counsel General and considered Gondor’s futiure in the year 1431.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 29th, 2018, 4:32 pm 
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Yestarë 1431 – Osgiliath Palace

Amarwen studied her reflection as she finished brushing out her hair. She had bathed and donned fresh clothing, a soft gown of finely woven lamb's wool dyed a warm shade of deep rose. Her maids had made no comment on the manner of her arrival, ruined gown and tangled hair in the company of the prince, but she had seen their exchanged glances all the same. Perhaps that was why she felt so fragile now. Despite all that had passed between herself and Aldamir, she felt now as though her heart were fashioned from glass. Certainly, the way in which she had to rush from the prince's chambers had been a jarring experience.

She had been at this point only once before. No sooner had she quit Halvarin at the Dome of Stars had he cast her aside with that Liaswyn. Fear gnawed at her that history would repeat itself. She'd had to hurry away before, scurrying like a furtive rat. Was it happening again? If so, what might she do about it? Aldamir was a prince of the realm and if he had already tired of her, there was little recourse available to her. He wouldn't do that to her, would he? She hadn't seen it coming the last time. A tear escaped down her cheek that she impatiently brushed aside when she heard a knock at her doors.

Amarwen hurried to them to discover Almara, cold and wet. She smiled at her, almost sheepishly, from the hall and Amarwen embraced her tightly.

”Come! Come! Sit by the fire and warm yourself. You must be chilled through. I am so pleased you are here. I have missed you.”

“And I you,”
Almara returned, chafing her gloved hands in front of a glorious fire. A fireplace, well stocked and tended. Alight day and night. What a luxury. Food would be abundant here too. And clothing. Almara studied the parlour surreptitiously as Amarwen settled in beside her. It was little changed in all these months. A blank canvas that Amarwen had largely hesitated to make her own. A conscious decision, Almara wondered.

”How are you getting along,” Almara inquired.

”Well enough,” Amarwen replied, determined to show a brave face to Almara, and nodded to her desk. ”There much I can occupy myself with.”

Amarwen’s desk was the one place that most certainly bore her stamp. It was covered in piles of books and parchment, letters and envelopes.

”Do you still write?” Almara asked, broaching what she knew to be a delicate subject. Since day of her betrothal, Amarwen had been reluctant to speak of Halvarin even though he seemed to loom over her.

”I am unable to stop, for all that he will not answer. And that is for the best, probably.” Amarwen watched the dancing flames for a long moment and then shook her head. ”But enough of that. I want to hear all about you.”

“I’m stalled,”
Almara replied. ”No matter what we do, they regroup and they will continue to do so until such time as the Crown takes a firm stance.”

“Evidence mounts,”
Amarwen glanced to her crowded desk, ”Aldamir perceives the need, as does his brother and father. They would act decisively, even now preparing for it. Yet, the King will not have the people panicked.”

“Perhaps they should panic. There will be blood spilled in the streets whether the King wills it or not if something is not done to curb the growing might of the Guild. The Master of Ships amasses his own navy!”

“I know,”
Amarwen sighed. ”Valacar is certain that reason and good hearts of men will prevail. I wish I shared his confidence. I think it far more likely that the hearts of good men are exploited or misled.”

“What of Farien? Where is she in this?”

"I hardly see the Princess, save in passing. For all my efforts, she is our ally by happenstance alone if at all.”


Almara must have warmed up for she started to unwind her scarf. As she peeled off her gloves another knock was sounded at the door. Almara rose with her but Amarwen shook her head. She didn’t want to lose her friend’s company so soon.

”You may enter,” Amarwen called as she waved Almara to sit again. She turned away to find Prince Vinyarion standing in her parlour. He looked…nervous. His eyes flittered, skittered, between Amarwen and Almara.

It had been some months since she had last seen Aldamir’s son. The manner of their parting had not been easy. He cleared his throat. His attention drifted to Almara and lingered momentarily. ”I wish to discuss a private matter.”

"There are no such matters between us.”
Amarwen felt a flash of irritation for Vinyarion’s presumption as she looked to Almara.

”It concerns a mutual friend.” Vinyarion pressed.

Amarwen lifted her chin, ”Anything you might say can be said in Almara’s hearing.”

Vinyarion muttered to himself as he turned to close the door behind him. When he turned about again, both Amarwen and Almara had drawn together. Two pairs of eyes were trained on him and so he just came out with it.

”I am worried for Hal.” Almara’s brows lifted but Amarwen remained silent. She watched, waiting him out. ”He is hardly seen at the Academy now.”

“He has abandoned his studies?”
Amarwen asked and Vinyarion shook his head.

”He excels, as per usual,” he answered with only a faint twinge of envy. ”He no longer resides at the Academy.”

Amarwen frowned and looked to Almara briefly. ”I do not think it was ever my place determine how he spends his days. Whatever your concerns are, I am unable to offer any assistance.”

Almara nodded and Vinyarion washed a hand over his face. ”He has taken up with a woman. She works for the Master Navigator. Michas told me that her name is Kerina, I think.”

Amarwen flinched, a flaw in her otherwise steely resolve. Vinyarion continued, ”He has turned down an opportunity that would have propelled his advancement for a backwater assignment down in Pelargir any sailor could do. To say the Guild was taken aback is to understate matters.”

Amarwen lowered her eyes. ”He must love her very much.”

”If that were true, he would have taken the better position if only to offer her a better life. His is squandering his talents and it does not bode well.”


Amarwen sat, head bowed and she clasped her hands in her lap. Almara leaned in to murmur something Vinyarion could not hear. Whatever it was prompted Amarwen to shake her head in faint negation. Then she murmured something in reply to her counsel.

”He has made his choice,” Almara said for her. ”The Lady and I hope it brings him that which he seeks.”

Vinyarion protested. ”Surely you see that we need loyal men like him in the higher ranks of the Guild, now more than ever!”

Amarwen lifted her eyes as she stood. ”How he lives is not for you, nor I, to determine. That is an end to it.”

Almara rose too, her expression as resolute as Amarwen’s and Vinyarion perceived that he had failed.

”You may have given up, my Lady, but I do not abandon my friends so lightly!” Amarwen seemed to rock on her heels at his condemnation but the prince cared not. Vinyarion gave them a stiff bow and took his leave.

The two women sat in silence and then Amarwen shook her head. She knew she shouldn’t care but she did. Kerina. Her replacement. That name was now lodged, like a thorn in her heart.

”At least we now know why he does not answer,” she said a small voice and Almara reached over to squeeze her hand. It was then she noticed a gleam on her friend’s fingers. ”Is that what I think it is?”

She referred to the ring upon Almara’s finger. Questions spilled. ”Who? When? How did you meet? Can I meet him? Do I know him?”

Barrage though it was, Amarwen felt relieved to feel herself smiling. Almara’s stomach growled loudly and Amarwen felt the urge to get out of her cloistered apartments. She reached for Almara’s hand and pulled them both to their feet.

”Come, you can tell me everything in the kitchens. I’m sure I can charm something delicious out of the Head Cook.” Amarwen waggled her brows at Almara in good natured mischief. "Only last week did I get my hands on four chocolate tarts, freshly made!"

The two women linked arms and set off together.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 30th, 2018, 10:27 am 
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Almara followed quietly, wondering where to begin with the answers to Amarwen’s questions. Her and Rie-Zunic had such a long history. Time would fail her to tell of their first courtship, engagement, and failed wedding. How they had remained close ever since, but seen both their lives as too independent to join in such a binding union.

The women walked into the kitchen and just as Amarwen had said, her charms seemed to offer her whatever she pleased. They retreated to a private corner of the large area and sat to talk while they ate.

Almara decided to start at the beginning. The very beginning. In brief, of course. She told how all those years ago she had met a young lad in the orphanage where she was raised. They became close, but soon after a noble family from the city adopted the boy. He still came to visit, but most of his days were consumed with training. His adoptive parents purposed him to be a soldier from day one. Just like his new father.

They grew, and in time Almara threw off the confines of the children’s home, setting out to be a tracker and mercenary for the crown. There, she was hited by a young captain. Rie-Zunic.

She told of their whirlwind romance, and it’s unfortunate end.

“I thought it was terrible when I heard he quit the military,” Almara admitted, bringing everything up to speed with current events. “But once he did... I saw the old Rie shine through again.” She smiled, seemingly smitten by a distant memory. “Like he was when we were kids.”

Almara chuckled. Half embarrassed. “When we started working so closely, things... escalated.” She gazed at the ring on her finger, but then a sad countenance befell her. “But lately... I’ve been worried.” She looked into Amarwen’s eyes. “He sees that our efforts do not succeed. He feels forced to take the next step.” She sighed. “Their supplies they can replace, he told me... but bodies they can not gain back so easily. He plans to attack, Amarwen. To start thinning their ranks.”

A tear slid down her cheek and Amarwen took her hand in a comforting manner. Her brow was knit. Thos was not typical behavior for Almara. “Rie-Zunic can handle himself well,” she offered. “I am sure he will be fine.”

“It’s not just the two of us anymore, Amarwen,” Almara confessed. “I’m pregnant... and I have not the heart to tell him.”

Amarwen’s eyes swelled with emotion. Excitement and sympathy painted her face. “Oh,Almara... but that’s wonderful! Isn’t it?”

Almara smiled and laughed softly, wiping away snow lingering tear. “It is! But... I am afraid that if I tell him he will see it as another obstacle. Something that hinders his mission.” She sighed and tried in some small measure to regain her composure. “I’m so sorry... I came to see how things fared woth you. Not to dump all my worries pn your shoulders. You have more than your share as it is.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: October 30th, 2018, 8:25 pm 
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Palace kitchens - Yestare 1431

Amarwen was struck by the strange parallels between Almara’s tale and her own. Only, Almara’s had a happier ending in that Rie-Zunic had not spurned her. Hope for such a reunion with Halvarin had turned to ashes over the months. He did not love her. But still, she felt somewhat comforted by the notion that perhaps her hopes had not been so foolishly naieve.

Of course, all of this was eclipsed by more immediate concerns. Almara with child, living who knew where in the city. If Rie-Zunic advanced in the way Almara had described, the full force of the Court would descend upon him. The two women sat, their shoulders pressed into each other, in silence. A plan coalesced in Amarwen’s mind. It was an uncertain thing that hinged on much beyond her control. But she could not send Almara back out into winter without trying something.

Amarwen toyed with the soft, supple wool of her gown as her plan coalesced. She looked sideways to where Almara sat and found her friend watching her.

”Out with it,” Almara instructed and Amarwen made her eyes widen.

”With what?” she returned, certain that Almara would scotch the notion as soon as she heard of it.

Almara, however, was not to be fooled. She lifted her eyes to the ceiling at Amarwen’s feeble attempt of disassembly and so Amarwen heaved a sigh. ”Most of my own worries are beyond my control…and I think I might be able to help…if you will-”

“Amarwen,”
Almara sighed, ”Tell me and have done with it.”

She swallowed at that and dove right in, ”What if…what if I could arrange for support from the Crown – for you and Rie-Zunic?”

Almara’s brows drew together for had not Amarwen just said any attempt at decisive action was futile unless the King changed his policy? Amarwen hurried on, her voice quiet to avoid being overheard. ”Aldamir builds a war chest. He chafes to be able to prevent the coming storm but his official, sanctioned options are constrained.”

“Rie has resigned his commission, “
Almara observed, perceiving that Amarwen just might be proposing that he returns to service. She was confident that Rie-Zunic would dismiss it out hand.

Amarwen leaned in, ”If he proceeds as you fear, it will end poorly. He is isolated and alone. Forgive me, he is but a gnat biting at the Guild’s rump. Moreover, should he be discovered, he will be tried as a criminal. The father of your child executed for a murderer!”

“He does not see it like that.”

“Rie-Zunic is not the Court,”
Amarwen countered. ”Theirs is the determination that will prevail. Almara, please, do not ask me to do nothing.”

“Can you be certain that the prince will agree?”

“No,”
Amarwen admitted, ”But I am certain that I will do my utmost to convince him to. I will vouch for you both. I think, I hope, that will carry some weight in his deliberations.”

As Almara weighed that up Amarwen posed a question of her own. ”Can you be certain Rie will agree?”

“No,”
Almara said, thoughtfully, ”Not unless I couch it as a gain, strategic or tactical.”

Amarwen nodded, her decision made, ”I will speak with Aldamir to plead the case. “

”What will you ask for?

”Aldamir’s aegis for you both, all that entails. Tacit, for now. Overt should something go awry and there is need to call upon his protection. Oh, and I will arrange for accommodations as well. Somewhere safe and warm for the little one.”

“That will draw attention we cannot afford,”
Almara warned but Amarwen smiled at her.

”You are my counsel. You are entitled to your own accommodations.”

“On palace grounds?”
Almara’s reluctance was clear.

”Elsewhere, if you wish. Though, that being the case we are better advised to attribute it to Aldamir’s well known largess. We can say that you’re the daughter of one of his loyal household staff or some such.” Amarwen conceded and added, confidently.”The Court will not look twice at it either way.”

Caught up in the excitement of her plan coming together, Amarwen did not notice Almara’s discomfiture. She smiled and reached for Almara’s hand. ”It will work, Almara. I can just feel it! By the morrow we will have our answer.”

“Tomorrow, then,”
Almara said, somewhat more reserved. Amarwen nodded brightly as she rose.

”I will seek the prince out at once,” she declared, kissed Almara’s cheek and hastened from the kitchens, a determined woman on a mission.

As she hurried along, Almara looked around the kitchens. It was warm and much of the food Amarwen had been able to win lent itself to packing. A decent meal…that would surely soften Rie-Zunic’s inveterate suspicion, wouldn’t it? Long enough to get the important points out, or so she hoped. Almara rubbed at her temples. She could sense a collision coming. Prince Aldamir as their patron and protector. What tangled webs.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: November 6th, 2018, 4:36 pm 
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Yestarë 1431 ~ Pelargir

When the morning of Yestarë came, Halvarin woke up and leaned over and kissed Kerina. The evening of Mettarë was spent with some of her friends and some of his navigator classmates from the Acadamy.as they wandered about the old city. As they drank ales in the Yardarm tavern, Carstial, a first-year underclassman accepted to begin Navigator studies the new year, told Halvarin,

”Apparently, I have been assigned your old room. There is a pile of stuff of yours there. Would you like to come get it?” Halvarin nodded. He hadn’t ever really planned on moving out of the academy, but it just happened that he did start living with Kerina. He didn’t have a lot of things. ”I’ll be by tomorrow for the ship duty assignments and will clear my stuff out for you.” Halvarin was curious what was there, for he didn’t have much. With the Guild recruiting heavily now, Halvarin decided to jump at the next chance of an upward assignment when the Navigators Guild Commander offered him first choice of the openings. He accepted a post on the heavy river coastal cruiser Galliant. He was puzzled why a warship would be needed on the river, and it was sold to the crown that a small fleet was needed to counter any incursion of the Easterlings. It didn’t make sense to him, but they could be used as coastal raiders as well. So after Kerina made them tea, he came and stood behind her as she sat and he massaged her shoulders. He had yet to tell her the news he had gotten the last day of Ringarë.

”The day has come my dear Kerina. I have been given a new assignment as navigator of the ship The Galliant. It is a heavy river and coastal cruiser and for now bases out of Pelargir. If it remains so, I should be back every other evening.” Kerina smiled as she leaned back. She said, “I have to admit I have gotten used to you being around, and I will miss you on the days you will be away. But maybe we can see an eventual possibility to move from this city in this?”

Halvarin didn’t answer right away. He had no desire to go to Osgiliath, and Minas Anor seemed a sterile place with Harlond tending to be the seafaring slum of the White City. There was no port for Monas Ithil as they used East Osgiliath. As much as he wanted to stay in Pelargir, he knew it would not be. “Yes, possibly. I’ll know more after today. I’m going to the Guild House for the New Year Assignments and I’ll learn where The Galliant will be operating.”

Kerina nodded as she sipped her tea. “Yes, the Master Navigator said he would be away all day. I will be at his house most of the day anyway. I will await your news!” They finished their tea and the went and dressed and Kerina left for the Master Navigator’s house to tend to her duties, and Halvarin soon left for the Guildhouse.

~ ~

When Halvarin got to the Guild House, he met his new captain and the executive officer, and they spent tie getting to know each other. When they found out The Galliant was going to be based in Pelargir and would run supply upriver to Minas Anor and East Osgiliath, Halvarin sighed. He would have to make it a point to stay in East Osgiliath when he was there. Temptations to try and contact Amarwen would come, but he knew she was royally betrothed, and knew the risks involved. It was why he left in the first place.

When he finally got to his bunkroom, he met Carstial, and saw that with his few items, he had a bundle of letters. He looked at a few but didn’t open them, even if a longing in his heart was rekindled. He gathered everything up and left for a study room where he could read Amarwen's letters in private, and he would pen one of his own to take to Osgiliath when he goes.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: November 12th, 2018, 10:38 pm 
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Almara made her way out of the castle and back to the uncharming location that her and Rie-Zunic now called home. Rie-Zunic had spent the day scavenging for supplies, mostly firewood to keep them warm.

Rie-Zunic smiled as Almara entered and he moved forward to greet her with a kiss. “How do things go in the palace?”

“Well enough,” Almara gave answer. “In fact...” she spread open the cloth of food with a smile. “The trip proved to be quite good.”

“No one saw you?” Rie-Zunic asked, concern flashing theough his eyes.

“Rie,” Almara almost scolded. “I didn’t steal it. Amarwen and I ate while we visited. These are the leftovers.”

Rie-Zunic smiled, but at Almara, not the food. “She must be a good friend. I didn’t realize the two of you were so close.”

Almara returned the smile. “She is a ver dear friend. In fact... she is concerned for us.”

“That’s kind, but she need not be,” Rie-Zunic insistent. “Once winter is over, all will be on the mend and we can get back to our duties.”

“Actually...” Almara spoke cautiously as the two sat together to eat. Rie-Zunic paused as he chewed his bite of food, waiting knowingly for Almara to continue. “Amarwen has offered us a chance to rejoin the crown.”

“Almara I-“

“It’s not what you think Rie!” Almara was quick to interject. “Aldamir makes ready for war. We have been-“

“Aldamir is not the king.”

“Just hear me out,” Almara pleased. “We have been hindered at every turn. We meet more opposition than two can manage.”

“Which is why I plan on looking for new recruits first thing in early spring.”

“But it may be the crown will be doing the same by that time,” Almara offered. “We have a chance to make this winter a little easier on ourselves, and possibly a chance to be on the forefront of military action against the guild. With our testimony and what we know... if ever the decision for war hangs in the balance, we may be able to tip those scales.”

“It spunds good... in theory,” Rie-Zunic admitted. “But nothing ever works out as advertised.”

“Then in early spring, if there is no sign of action from the crown, we make back for our current plans. In the meantime... why not take advantage of the opportunity?”

Rie-Zunic sighed and rubbed a hand across his face. “You’re not one to seek the comforts of a home...” he looked up at Almara with prying eyes. “You have spent more winters on the streets than myself... by your own choice. What is it that you are not telling me?”

Almara shifted where she sat and her eyes drifted to her feet. “Rie... I- it’s... I’m pregnant, Rie.”

Rie-Zunic sat with eyes the size of saucers, mouth agape and mind reeling. For the longest time he said nothing at all. Almara was on the verge of tears when he finally spoke. “This changes everything,” he said with a sigh.

“Rie, please,” Almara started, unable to keep her emotions inside, the tears streaked down her cheeks.

In a moment Almara was halted of her tears and taken aback. Rie-Zunic reached out and took her hand. He said nothing, but pulled her over to him and sat her on his lap as he cradled her in his arms.

“You’re not upset?” Almara queried.

“I am... uneasy,” Rie-Zunic explained. “I’m not sure how to progress with our plans now. How long have you known?”

“About three months,” Almara answered timidly. “I didn’t tell you... because I thought you would see it as a set back. I didn’t think you wanted children.”

Rie-Zunic sighed yet again and rest his forehead on Almara’s shoulder. “I didn’t,” he confessed. “But not because I didn’t desire to be a father. I was afraid... afraid I would leave them like my parents left me. An orphan. Left to be raised by strangers who, despite how hard they tried and how well of a job they did... they could never really fill that void.”

Almara’s eyes softened and she leaned in to press her lips against Rie-Zunic’s. “Then let us take this winter to decide on pur future,” she proposed. “To be sure we know truly what it is we want for our new famiy.”

With a convincing, yet still hesitant nod, Rie-Zunic gave his silent approval. It would seem yet another chapter of his fastly changing life was about to come to a close.


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