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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 9th, 2019, 8:15 pm 
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As Rie-Zunic searched around the area in a most casual manner, he kept his eyes and ears open. Hoping to gather bits and pieces of anything that might prove useful to their quest. He visited the local inns, but avoided Guild Chapterhouse as had been instructed. Though he benoanithat need, he consented to the decision.

Almara, quite some distance away, sat waiting. She loathed the idea of being left behind, but she knew the reasoning was logical. It would be to dangerous for her to travel with them in her current condition. She was left with Aldamir, and she longed to ask him of her mother... but ahe didn’t. There was still an awkward space between them. A space she just didn’t seem able to breach.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 24th, 2019, 8:17 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Halvarin had spent much time listening as he lingered about the Guildhouse of Pelagir. The politics were thick in the talk, and Halvarin was uneasy with it as he didn’t feel like he adhered to the thought that seemed to permeate the Guild. Still, he was put in charge of the first course of Navigation for the incoming class of the year.

“Welcome class of 1431. I’m not going to stand here and say all the usual stuff about how great it is that you have chosen the field of navigation to guide the King’s ships. I will say that it is good to see so many interested in the stars and the art of navigation.”

Halvarin set into the first course of Navigation, adding his own thoughts as he went. He thought it good to be able to teach young mariners. When the war came, they would be the ones to carry on the strength that is Gondor on the seas of the world. The days and weeks and months ahead were filled with more of the same, and the news from the north was never good. When it came toward the end of the term, Halvarin had some leave. On the same day, he received a letter from a runner he had employed to take his other letter to Osgiliath. He said,

”I was given this by Prince Vinyarion and was to deliver it personally to you.” Halvarin nodded and gave his courier a silver coin. “You stay close. I may need your services in the days ahead.” He said. The courier nodded and left. Halvarin opened the satchel and found a letter penned in Amarwen’s hand. He read it, then read it again before walking out to the quay. The rumours he had been hearing were true, and the Guild was undermining the crown of Gondor for their own purposes! Amarwen wanted to talk, and he was willing to listen. He had just enough days to himself to get things in order and to catch a ship north. His schedule was cleared, and he bade Kerina farewell as he boarded the ship. He would get to Harlond late due to heavy flows of the Anduin and contrary winds.

The last day aboard had Halvarin tense. He had left Osgiliath quickly and not in the best way. He missed Amarwen, but nearly a year had passed, and he had not been too vigilant in writing her, even if she had written him repeatedly. If only he had gotten her letters when they arrived. His pondering of these things came to an end when the ship cast the rope to the quay a Harlond.

He knew Amarwen wanted to meet, but Halvarin seemed nervous and hesitant to seek her out. Maybe he was too late? No, this was more than their relationship, it had to do with Gondor. Halvarin straightened his uniform and walked off the ship. He knew where the Evenstar Inn was. It was a place where high folk went, the captains and marshals and dignitaries stayed there. He considered going to the Quay Tavern instead. But there he too would be out of place, officers didn’t go there. He walked slowly through the streets of Harlond, and entering the Evenstar Inn, he signed in and went to the common room. He stood and gazed around the place, finding Amarwen with a dignified soldier of Gondor. He froze for a moment taking in her beauty, and he started walking toward her when her eyes found his looking at her. He came to the table where she sat and he bowed and said in a somewhat formal voice, even if it was shaking a little, ”Lady Amarwen, it is good to see you again.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Minas Ithil

Aldamir was out looking over the land to the east. He could tell that trouble would one day come to Gondor from there. But right now, it was south to the sea that troubles came. He paused and saw Almara standing by the wall down several paces. He had been quite distant to her even after claiming her as his own. He knew it was not fair to her, and he approached slowly and bowed.

”Lady Almara, it is good to see you out .I am afraid I have not called upon you in all this time. I would like to request your presence for dinner this night. I think it is long past due, and we have much to talk about. Would this meet with your approval?” He eyed her briefly and bowed.


Last edited by Hanasian on July 11th, 2019, 2:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 24th, 2019, 6:22 pm 
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Rie-Zunic meandered inconspicuously about, looking for any signs or clues of the guild activity. He had worn ragged clothes. The clothes of a traveler, not of a military man. If anyone saw him, they would assume him to be a drifter. So he hoped.

Meanwhile, Almara was out for some fredh air. Regardless of what the weather might be, she could only stand to be cooped up inside for so long. She almost withdrew when she saw Aldamir. So many questions she had, yet she feared to ask. She wanted to know her father better, but that too seemed a task better left alone at times.

When he came her way, she took a shallow breath and gave a polite greeting.

Tgen, at his sudden request, she paused. “I... would be obliged to accept. I would agree, overdue... yes,” she admitted, then cringed at her own words and how they might be taken. “I understand, all is very busy. Truth be told, I’ve been hoping you would call on me... and... that you would not.” She closed her eyes and bit her tongue. “I’m rambling now.” She curtsied and smiled politely. “I would be honored to accept your invitation.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 3rd, 2019, 11:26 pm 
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Three days spent in Harlond had been productive. Guile, charm, diplomacy and tact had yielded dividends. A nudge here, a suggestion there would ensure the Guild would have their hands full with squabbling rivals a while longer yet. Time they sorely needed as the rightful crown scrambled to ready themselves.

It would not last, Amarwen well knew. This tactic would ultimately fail and when it did, the war would begin proper. She did not know how long she could make the gambit endure. After three days she knew the grim tidings she would bear to Aldamir upon her return. War was all but certain now. While she had successfully fed the rivalries within the Guild to keep them burning hot, one thing was clear to her. All rivals within the Guild held a unified view that anyone other than Eldacar was a suitable heir to Valacar's throne. Any optimism she may have had that a war over succession might be avoided had been thoroughly doused.

Rie-Zunic's reconnaissance about Harlond proper had been of similiar use to their ends. He had evidence now of what they had long suspected. The Guild had employed any number of tactics to sap the crown's strength. Their powerful trade and mercantile connections were turning away. Rie had seen the shipments arrive, the goods unloaded. Scant vessels were permitted further north. There was no shortage, as the Guild had protested.

The coming war would be fought on many fronts, not least within the minds and bellies of Gondor's people. All of this meant that it was vital to possess information on what was happening within the Guild itself. Their time had been put to excellent use and yet, when it came to the central reason for their presence in Harlond, they had failed. Three days, and no sign or word from Halvarin himself.

As she sat there with Rie reviewing the preparations made for their return to Minas Ithil the following morning, Amarwen was restless. She could not decide whether she was disappointed or relieved that Halvarin had elected to stay away. So many would be unable to escape the coming turmoil but Halvarin just might. He remained his own man. He could take ship and fly ahead of the storm out of harm. Take Kerina with him and anyone else that had the good sense to flee whilst they could. She was considering how best to suggest that to Halvarin without pricking his pride when she saw him moving through the common room towards their table.

In his uniform he cut quite the figure. An Ensign no longer if she understand the insignia upon his jacket, but an Officer proper. More than a few tracked his path curiously, noting where he had stopped. Amarwen stared up at Halvarin as he offered his greetings, her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth. His face, fair and almost painful to regard. His sea swept eyes washed over her. He was nervous. Striving for calm steadiness. Or was he? A painful year of distance and estrangement left her uncertain that she understood anything about her dearest, oldest friend. Her first love. Not for the first time she cursed the fates that had sundered them.

Halvarin's gaze bounced from her to Rie-Zunic and back again. The silence stretched uncomfortably. Rie-Zunic cleared his throat, his elbow nudging Amarwen slightly. It was enough to shake her back to the proper forms. She smiled as best she could through her uncertainty and gestured at a chair.

"It is good to see you, Halvarin. Please, sit."

Halvarin blinked, as if he doubted the veracity of her statement, and folded into a chair.

"Wine or ale?" Rie-Zunic asked in a bid to further ease the awkward tension.

"Pardon?" Halvarin asked, as if he had not heard the question.

"Wine or-"

"Ale,"
Amarwen said. "Hal prefers ale to wine...unless, that too has changed?"

And there it was. The sharp edge in her words made her wince. She had not asked Halvarin here to castigate him. Amarwen bowed her head, wincing with irritation at her wording.

"Ale, please," Halvarin said, his tone subdued and soft. Amarwen looked up through her lashes and saw pain and regret as he regarded her.

"Ale it is," Rie-Zunic replied wryly, and rose to see to it.

His brief departure from the table returned silence. Amarwen studied Halvarin carefully, lowering her eyes whenever his wandered from a study of the room to her.

"This is a busy place," Halvarin commented.

Amarwen nodded, "Trade is still good here. The same cannot be said up-river."

At her remark, Halvarin's eyes swung to hers. She glanced down as she reached for a half full glass of wine. "How was your journey?"

"Smooth enough...though the spring melt made going slower than usual. I thought I might miss you."


Rie-Zunic's return prevented Amarwen from inquiring further. She could not discern whether Halvarin was pleased to have arrived in time. He was as circumspect and careful as she. A strange, stiff dance of pauses and uncertainty. So different to how it had always been between them. Her fault, she thought, for had she not set in motion that which had brought them to the Dome of Stars that night, none of this would be so fraught now.

One tankard was set down but Rie-Zunic did not seat himself.

"Are you not joining us?" Amarwen inquired and Rie-Zunic shook his head emphatically.

"If we are to set out on the morrow, I have matters to see to. After that, an early night. We've a long ride ahead of us."

"Oh,"
Amarwen said, nonplussed. A faint smile showed on the face of Almara's husband as he took stock of the situation before him.

"In any case," he continued, rocking onto his heels and forward again, "You're hardly in need of a chaperone, are you?"

"No!"
Halvarin and Amarwen intoned in unison. Rie-Zunic's smile became knowing and then he rubbed at his jaw.

"As I thought," he replied, nodded and made for the door.

Both Amarwen and Halvarin watched Rie-Zunic's departure, both taken aback at the prospect before them now. They were both in the deep end and floundering. As the door closed on Rie's heels, Amarwen swallowed. Halvarin straightened in his chair and downed a healthy draught of the ale Rie had delivered. He set his tankard down and slowly lifted his eyes to her own.

They stared at each other, forlorn. Halvarin pressed out a troubled sigh and Amarwen had to look away sharply.

"Now what?" Halvarin quietly pressed.

"I did not think you come," Amarwen muttered in reply. She snatched up her glass and drank, frowning. "You ought not of."

"What?"
Halvarin peered at her, astonished. "My presence is your doing!"

Amarwen took another irritated drink of wine. "You've demonstrated that you're quite accomplished in ignoring my wishes."

"I did not know you had written! Tell me you understand that, Ami!"


This was not what she wished to do. There was nothing to be gained by picking over the bones of their past, save further grief.

She drained her glass and set it down with a weary sigh. " I do understand," she said softly, staring at the grain of the wooden table between them. "And despite it all, you are here."

Amarwen braced herself to meet Halvarin's gaze. She saw anguish and regret there. But stronger yet was a determination. This man, she knew, was one of the most determined people she had ever encountered. In this, Halvarin shared much with Aldamir. The prince, too, was a man whose steadfast spirit burned fiercely within him.

Halvarin leaned forward, expression earnest. "What, Ami? Are you in trouble?"

His eyes were wide with sincere concern. The longer she gazed into them the worse her heart ached. Despite her attempts, she had not inured herself to him. She felt tears prickle her eyes and she blinked rapidly to hold them back.

"Not here," she replied softly, a quick glance at the busy common room. "At the back of the inn you will find a door, unlocked. Wait ten minutes, finish your ale, then come find me in my room."

Amarwen pressed four fingers upon the table between them. The forth room was hers. Halvarin nodded his understanding and Amarwen rose to her feet. Halvarin followed, as protocol dictated, and she extended her hand as their respective stations required. Halvarin held her fingers gently in his own and bowed over them.

"It has been a pleasure," he said, his warm breath whispering over the back of her hand.

"Indeed it has, Master Halvarin. Do convey my regards to your esteemed father."

"I shall,"
Halvarin acknowledged and Amarwen withdrew her hand, lifted her chin, and traced a path through the common room for her room to await him. She kept her pace smooth, graceful and unhurried until she was safely behind the door of her room. Once there she paced her room in a bid to calm herself. She ran through the purpose of this meeting. She was here at Aldamir's request. A request the prince would likely never have made if he knew of the full extent of the history she shared with Halvarin. A history that had just unleashed a storm of emotion she wished she could somehow master.

After what seemed like an hour, she heard a soft tap at her door. Amarwen hastened to admit Halvarin, peering up and down the hall to ensure none had marked his presence. She closed the door, locked it and turned to find Halvarin studying the room with some curiosity.

"Does Aldamir know?" Halvarin asked as he looked about, turning this way and that until he faced her.

"This meeting was arranged at his request," she replied and Halvarin nodded slowly.

"But does he know?" he persisted.

Amarwen studied him for a moment and then looked aside. "No," she admitted. "I saw little purpose in that."

"Is he good to you?"


She walked past him to a sideboard for a bottle wine already opened and began to pour two glasses.

"Ami?"

Amarwen kept pouring. She passed one to Halvarin and took the second for herself.

"How am I to answer, Hal, and to what end?" She shook her head. The action set her heavy, long hair swaying at her back. "In any case, we have other matters to discuss."

Halvarin pressed out a sigh at this and Amarwen settled into a chair by the flickering hearth. Halvarin seated himself. "By all accounts, the situation is dire," he observed.

Amarwen sipped at her wine, thinking. "War is all but certain now. The succession will certainly be contested. All that remains unanswered is by whom, and when."

"There any number of contenders,"
Halvarin observed and Amarwen nodded. "Are you encouraging rivals?" Halvarin asked quietly and Amarwen regarded him at length. "There are...whispers. Rumours."

Amarwen inclined her head ever so slightly. Almost, but not quite confirmation. She drew a deep breath set out all that had come to light over the past six months.

"The princes of the realm ready a defence. That defence relies increasingly on information from within the Guild itself. Vinyarion's recall to Osgiliath has seen what little we had come to a stand still."

"They kept Vin at a distance in any case,"
Halvarin said and she nodded.

"We need someone better placed than Vin could ever be. One of their own, well connected, trusted." They had drained their glasses in this time and Amarwen leaned forward, her elbows on her knees."We need you, Hal."

"Me?"
came Halvarin's incredulous reply. "They tell me less than Vin!"

"You are your father's son, though,"
Amarwen countered, triggering a scowl from Halvarin. It was a vexed subject, as she well knew and what she was about to say next would not endear her to him either. "And then there is Kerina to consider."

Halvarin went very still. "What about Kerina?"

She closed her eyes and sighed. "It is known that you have a personal, close connection to someone deep in the household of the Lord Commander of Pelargir."

"Have you been sniffing around after-"

"No!"
Amarwen replied, her eyes opening as she turned to face Halvarin. He was sternly protective. Once upon a time for her but now for another. "Vin told his father before I ever learned of her and Aldamir is no fool, Hal. He came to me, asking after you and Kerina both. I told him the truth: that we had grown estranged and no longer spoke."

"And then my letter arrived."


Amarwen nodded and slumped back into her chair, saddened and weary both. "And so here we are," she muttered. "I am to ask you to help us, Halvarin. But in truth...If you had any sense, you'd take Kerina and flee while you still can."

Kerina...the woman he had rejected her for. Amarwen swallowed sharply at the sense of humiliation that stirred in her. It had taken her a long time to rebuild her broken heart. She could not allow it to shatter now.

"And what of you?" Halvarin asked, his tone urgent. Amarwen clenched her jaw and considered the hands she had clasped in her lap. A sense of loyalty drove that question from Halvarin but he could not tarry for her. Just as he had not a year ago.

"My fate is bound to that of Gondor herself. I will know peace if Gondor knows peace. If Gondor knows war..."

Halvarin stared at her in dismay. "Do you hear yourself?"

"You cannot begin to know how I have laboured to reconcile myself to the lot cast for me,"
she replied, pain leaking through her words. Amarwen shook her head sharply, willing it away. "You, Halvarin, need not share my fate. You have a freedom I will never know. I beg of you, use your freedom while still you can."

Pleading with him had brought her nearer. Within touch if either dared chance it. Amarwen tucked a thick fall of raven hair behind her ear and sank to her knees between the hearth and Halvarin's chair. Her grey eyes were wide and trained on his own.

"Please Hal...If some of Gondor's best somehow escape...is that not something to be hoped for when peace is all but lost? Will you not give me that to hold to in the darkness that comes?"

She appreciated what it was she asked of him...yet, she knew he could do it for he had done it before. Halvarin had unbound his life from her own. All he needed now was a firm nudge and he'd be free forever and spared further grief. And though it would mean she would never see him again, it was as her mother had said. To love someone truly is to let them go. Tears rose again, shimmering in the dancing light.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 6th, 2019, 10:53 am 
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Rie-Zunic saw to the preparations, his mind weighing heavily with the state of things. Fictions were high. He would rather be in all out war than a muddled state such as this where there were only questions and no clear answers. He scolded himself for saying as much, however, thinking of Almara and their child. He sighed. Oh how becoming a parent could change a soul...

He finished his things and settled into his lonely bed. He slept, but not well. When morning came he was up early to see that everything was squared away for their journey.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 20th, 2019, 10:26 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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“Very well. My personal guard will escort you to my chambers when you are ready.” He bade Almara a good

Aldamir knew it was long overdue, but he wanted to talk and answer any questions Almara may have. As he had his private dining room prepared for that evening, Aldamir considered his memories of the maidservant that was Almara’s mother and the time they had together. Aldamir was in grief with the passing of his wife after Vinyarion was born, and Mira was there. She had worked his chambers for a few years as a young maidservant, and she could see the pain he was in.

Their affair was short but intense, and when Aldamir received orders to go to Calenardhon, he said a final farewell to Mira. He never saw her again.

“Almara, it is good you have come back into my life. I only wish it was in better times and in better circumstances.” Aldimar said as he escorted her to the table in his private study. “Lady Amarwen has advocated heartily for you, and in this I agree. In a … new… Gondor, the blood of many will be accepted. Be they Dunedain of the west, Northman of Rhovanion, or that of what is referred to as ‘lesser’ men.”

As the food and fresh springwater was brought to the small table, he asked, “Is there anything you and your child are in need of?” He knew what they needed was stablilty, and that appeared to be falling into the abyss in Gondor these dark days.

~ ~ ~

Seeing Amarwen was something that he had thought he had shielded himself from, expecting business. But he watched his shield crumble even as he walked in and the Gondorian soldier accompanied her. So many memories come flooding back… His talk with Amarwen drew the pain out of his heart, for he hoped it did not die with this cursed war within Gondor. He went silent for a moment even as he reached out and took Amarwen’s hand. He finally looked up and into her eyes.

”I, or anyone else will be fleeing Gondor. I hear what you ask and though I feel it to be the true path for Gondor, I cannot simply throw aside the path I have taken.”

He turned and paced as he stared at the floor. ” I cannot flee for you Ami. With Kerina or naught. I pledged my life to Gondor, and I will do what I can to uphold her greatness. But if you ask me whether I stand with the thoughts of my father or that of the Guild, I cannot say. What seemed right to me only recently seemed to have crashed down along with the pillars of our land.”

He paused his steps, and seeing there was nobody around but he and Amarwen, he gazed at her and took a breath. She was beautiful and full of passion for our land, and Halvarin knew her heart wished that things were not as they had come to be. His too felt that way. He turned and stepped up to Amarwen and took her hands in his.

”This Gondor we so love and cherish… we do what we must for it. Our paths lead in different directions, and where the winds and currents take us from here, I know not. I will do as you ask Ami, and I will pass what I hear to you. If it helps Gondor in any way it will be worth it. But I cannot flee as you ask. This freedom you speak of that you say I have… it does not come to me for free. It may be as time goes by that we find ourselves standing on opposing sides. Know that you will always be a piece of my heart.”

He gave her hands a squeeze and held her eyes but for a moment. Any longer and he would waver. Too much longer and eyes would see and ears would hear. He turned and walked away, wanting to turn and look back, to turn and run to her and embrace her, to turn and run as far away as he could as she asked. But Halvarin strutted out as a Mariner of the realm, the pain in his heart gnawing at him with every step.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 25th, 2019, 3:15 am 
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1431 Nárië – On Route to Minas Ithil


Damn that man, Amarwen fumed inwardly. Her cowl was drawn up against the stiff breeze of the afternoon. It concealed her expression and the flash of ire in her eyes, trained as they were on the space between her mount’s ears.

Not far off came the sound of Rie-Zunic’s horse. They maintained a steady rate, unhurried and inconspicuous now that they had divested themselves of anything that might otherwise mark them for who they were. Pursuit from Hardlond had hardly been sticky that morning. A few beggars had established a desultory trail after them only to give up within arrowshot of the eastern gate. Fatter pickings on the dock, she had supposed, and since then they had encountered scarcely anyone.

Minas Ithil was several days off to the east. At least a week, if the weather held. Amarwen’s eyes flicked upwards to the sky briefly. A big if, she thought, before returning her gaze to her horse.

Damn Halvarin, she fumed again and noticed her teeth had started to grind. Rie-Zunic would read the tension in her shoulders and so she forced them to unwind as well. Why, she wondered, was the edge of her frustration so very sharp? Halvarin was not one to abandon a cause he thought important. Not even for common sense. The notion turned her expression bitter. Except, of course, when it came to what lay between them. That he had proved only too ready to throw over. When she considered what he had said of taking up arms against her...the leather of her gloves creaked as her grip on the reins tightened. Halvarin had spoken to her as if she were dead. A memory and nothing more.

Amarwen pushed out a sharp sigh and shook her fingers out even as her brow knitted closer still. Duty before all else. Before, even, himself. It would bring him such sorrow but not on her count. If she wondered still if he felt anything for her, she now had her answer. And why was she so disappointed? Once again, she had permitted Halvarin to twist her in knots and set her on her ear. When would she learn that lesson, she wondered.

Rie-Zunic reined in. ”This will do,” he stated.

Amarwen swung out of her saddle and led her horse after Rie-Zunic by way of answer.

The soldier selected a place of some cover. A cold camp, she presumed until she saw Rie-Zunic begin laying a fire. At that, Amarwen broke her silence for the first time that day.

“It won’t be that cold,” she observed.

The soldier shrugged as he inspected a dried stick. He set it down and eyed her briefly, "Tell me, did we fail at Harlond?"

Her brows lifted at the question but Rie-Zunic wasn't paying attention. He had returned to gathering firewordd.

"It played out much as I had anticipated," she replied.

The soldier softly grunted, sceptical. "You're sour as week old milk."

She levelled a withering glare at the man. He ignored that as well and so she turned her back and set to preparing the horses for the night.

Behind her, she heard the sound of steel striking flint and soon the faint pop of wood afire.

"You didn't do anything....unwise" Rie-Zunic asked. Amarwen whirled about scandalised, saddle in hand. Before she could retort, Rie-Zunic added, "It's my head on the block."

“What do you take me for?”
Amarwen demanded, her frustration and concern bubbling free.

Rie-Zunic lifted a shoulder at her ire and returned his attention to the fire. The hungry flames wavered, greedily licking the wood the soldier methodically added to it.

“I know my place," she replied, tone as icy as the white peaks they were riding for."Take care you do not forget your own."

Rie-Zunic flicked his gaze to her and then away again. Matter closed, she supposed, and finished her work readying the horses. She settled down on the other side of the blaze, grateful for its presence as night closed in. The solider passed her a battered metal mug. She wasn't sure what was in it but it was hot. The pair ate in silence, listening to the night closing around them. Without a word, Rie-Zunic rose a short while later and vanished beyond the glow of the fire.

Amarwen soon wrapped herself as best she could and lay down to sleep while she could. The fire was warm at her back and if she tucked herself into a ball, nothing was left exposed to the night. Still, her rest was thin as a summer breeze and all too soon Rie-Zunic was shaking her shoulder.

By the time dawn came and her watch was over, Amarwen's mind was no quieter. Tangle upon tangle snarled her thoughts and tugged at her mood. She could not get back to Minas Ithil soon enough.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 11th, 2019, 2:46 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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After Amarwen left, he remained and thought hard at what she had asked of him. Gondor was at a crossroads, and Halvarin wanted to do what was best for Gondor. In his heart, he knew what was right, and that was that Gondor stay united no matter what. Halvarin just had to find that way to keep the nation together…
As he walked the quays of Harlond, He came across some activity around the southern docks. Two ships were moored, and they were offloading cargo. Nothing seemed strange about that, but he noted it was not the Harlond dock workers doing it, but the ship’s crew. Something didn’t look right. He decided to walk up to one of the ships to talk with the executive officer.

”Ahoy… you know you could get the stevedores to do all this unloading and let your men enjoy some time at a tavern.”

Halvarin stood tall with his guild uniform and insignia, and the Exec gave him a salute and had him come aboard. Halvarin walked up the gangplank and shook his hand.
“Halvarin – Sea Navigator 1st class.”

“Covias, Executive Officer of the Riverwalker. Good meeting you sir.” the seaman answered. Halvarin watched as another crate was wheeled down a loading gangplank and he said, “Yes, was out for a walk and saw this hive of business going on. What is your payload?”

Covias shuffled his feet and gave Halvarin a look. “The Guild started shipping up armaments.” Halvarin paused at this, but quickly acted like he knew about it. “Ah yes… for the troubles out east.” He said giving Covias a knowing look. Halvarin did hear in Pelargir that there had been some skirmishes with Easterlings, but while in Osgiliath it didn’t seem a concern. This would be something the crown of Gondor should be made aware of, for it seemed too clandestine.

”I’ll get out of your way and so you can carry on.” Halvarin said as he left the ship. He walked around, noting the buildings that seemed to be used to store all these crates. By the end of the night, he had marked most of the places and he started to prepare a letter to Amarwen with the information encoded. Now all he had to do was find a way to get it to her safely.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 27th, 2019, 12:10 am 
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Osgiliath – 1432 Loëndë



Beyond the stables Amarwen stood within, the building din of the crowd washed about beneath the wide blue sky. So much had been fraught and uncertain in the lead up to this tourney. At least the weather had resolved in their favour, she thought. The wryness of it won something of a faint smile from her.

Shafts of sunlight illuminated the stables. Nobles and knights milled about in their preparations for the day. The clank of plate, the whinny and snuffing of horses and the scurrying of squires after their lords gave the stable a busy air. Amarwen was quite content for the nonce to let it pass her by. Few paid her any heed for now for she was not underfoot. That would change once she took to the field itself.

So much rode on this tourney. If she was not careful, the weight of it all might just wedge her beneath it. The mourning period for King Valacar was officially over. This tourney was the most significant of all the various events scheduled for the summer for it marked the opening of celebrations for King Eldacar.

As she observed the activity of the stables, she marked those who stood as quietly as she. Watching. Looking for any early sign of unrest. They were not obvious about it. If the Castmirians proved incapable of resisting the opportunity this tourney presented, she wondered if they could prove enough. Could anyone? The entire royal household on display in one form or another. A large milling, noisy crowd to conceal themselves in. Still, she did not think they were ready for such a bold and public move. Nor foolish enough to attempt it in any case. Not yet.

She shivered as gooseflesh rose on her arms and then pushed the thought away. Almara, were she here, would chide her for such dire ruminations. Little good came of them. She rubbed at her sleeves, rumpling the silk, just as Aldamir swung into view. This was a difficult event for him, she knew. The official mourning for his grandfather may have closed but Aldamir’s had not. Still, his smile was as warm as sunlight when their gazes met.

”I wondered where you had gotten to,” he observed, leaning against the open stall she stood in.

Amarwen arched a brow at him. ”I’ll not yield victory to you by forfeit, my prince.”

Aldamir chuckled to himself and then glanced briefly to the mounting yard beyond the open stable doors. ”Have you seen the course set?”

“I have,”
Amarwen confirmed placidly and then canted her head to one side. She watched Aldamir debate within himself for a moment and push closer into the stall.

”It is an ambitious course, Ami.”

She felt his fingers upon her cheek and Amarwen rose on her toes to kiss him.

”I will not invite more calamity than is strictly necessary,” she answered softly.

Aldamir gazed down at her a moment longer. ”You will not be dissuaded.”

Amarwen looked back at him steadily. Vitality, strength, and confidence above all else. That is what the people needed to see. The royal household had to be observed at this tourney, actively participating in it as they might any other year. Yet Aldamir’s protectiveness since his grandfather’s death had been growing. She sensed he’d be happier with her in the royal stand rather than preparing in the stables.

He pushed out a breath and Amarwen wrapped a hand around his forearm. Aldamir grimaced as he shook his head. He wanted to speak further, she thought. Very much so. Still, he swallowed whatever else he might say and kissed her brow. The trumpets pealed outside to announce the contest had begun. Both Amarwen and Aldamir joined the other rides in search of their mounts. The time for deliberation had passed.

One by one the riders took the field and tested themselves upon it. In these early stages, no one came out of their saddles although one horse did return to the yard limping. It all rested on speed and judgement and that demanded technique. Amarwen watched men, and it was mostly men, come and go. Some were cheerful, others not, depending on their results. The slowest three would be eliminated in this round.

As Amarwen waited for her turn, she studied the course and the crowd. It was only mid morning but the crowd was already substantial. The fear that the good people of Osgiliath would remain in their homes proved unfounded. A light morning breeze tugged a lock of hair free from her thick braid. She smoothed it back as she wondered whether Halvarin might be among the growing press.

It was anyone’s guess for communications between them had grown increasingly fraught since Valacar’s death. Even coded, they both feared compromise. Halvarin could not be discovered writing to her at all and she could not risk having anything she might divulge falling into the wrong hands.

Perhaps, with all the scrutiny they faced in Osgiliath during the summer calendar, it was best if he stayed away. Certainly, the Guild was notable for their absence. She could not see a Guild uniform in the press and their standard was not flying with the others. Halvarin would be hard pressed to justify his presence here despite the advances he had made in rank and position over the past year.

Another absence that weighed upon her was Almara’s. She understood, of course, why Almara had chosen to seek some measure of peace and refuge. Minas Ithil was no place in which to raise a child and the parcel of land Aldamir had settled her with offered her a sanctuary. In all that had followed since Almara had retreated with Rie-Zunic, Amarwen had felt her absence keenly. Perhaps that could be remedied with a visit on return to Minas Ithil presuming they were to return. It was entirely possible the King would deploy his son elsewhere now that the throne had passed to him proper.

Her attention swung back to the field. This time, she studied her competitors. Their speed, their skill, their strategy. The key, she thought, was to set a time somewhere in the middle. Not too slow as to risk elimination, but not too fast either. Just enough to remain safely in the contest. Then, once in the final rounds, set aside such restraint. Take the field, and the crowd, by surprise. That would have them roaring on their feet. Unless they were foolish enough to wager against her.

Aldamir took the field and completed it with expected ease. The warrior prince did not have the latitude that she did. They expected him to master such things and woe betide him if he did not. Of course, Aldamir did and returned to the mounting yard with a jaunty wave to those watching. Then it was her turn and she decided that she’d aim for something just a little slower than Aldamir. Just a little. That would set the stage nicely, she thought.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


”Who is that?” asked one of the onlookers near to Halvarin.

”Lady Amarwen of Edhellond,” said another. ”In her House colours too.”

”Riding to win, make no bones about it!”
observed a woman seated behind him

”She’ll throw the contest,” predicted a man further along.

Halvarin said nothing at all to those about him as Amarwen jogged her horse past them for the mounting yard. He’d do nothing to draw attention to himself. He watched her lift her arm to acknowledge the crowd as she passed and hoped his efforts at blending in would remain intact. Amarwen’s gaze passed over him and he thought it likely she was unaware of his presence.

Once she had passed, he heard a fellow remark, ”Still, given the odds, there’s a pretty sum to be made if she wins.”

“Fools coin, that,”
another woman said and people nodded sagely. Halvarin rose and began to edge out past the others.

He had his confirmation that Amarwen was in Osgiliath. Now he needed to make himself scarce before anyone spotted him. The Guild would have their informants here and it would not do for one to mark him.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


”Five coppers on Edhellond,” Helda declared and dropped the coins into a man’s outstretched hand.

”Are you sure?” he asked and Helda nodded. The wager placed, she ambled back to where Vilna stood a short distance away.

”You don’t have enough to waste,”” Vilna told her. ”She won’t win.”

”It’s an investment,”
Helda countered and grinned when Vilna lifted her eyes to the heavens.

”What she won’t do is throw the contest,” Rhinnin declared.

All three women nodded for all three knew there was little Amarwen enjoyed more than a contest. Aldamir’s betrothed had a competitive streak almost as wide as theirs.

”The prince will best her,” Vilna asserted and nodded at the others offering wagers. All the odds favoured Aldamir by a good margin.

”Maybe he’ll throw the contest,” Rhinnin suggested, grinning suggestively. ”Winning the lady’s favour.”

”He’ll best her fairly. Just you see.”
Vilna persisted, unwilling to be drawn

”He’d best get on with it, then,” Helda said.

“He’s letting her wear herself down,” Vilna replied but Helda was distracted by something else. A familiar face, even if he was out of his uniform. She frowned until Vilna exclaimed jubilantly.

”See, already she’s slowing!” the shieldmaiden declared.

”What?” Helda’s attention whipped back to the field.

”Marginally,” Rhinnin said, ”Tactics, most like.”

Helda pushed out a breath and when she looked back, the familiar man had vanished in the milling crowd.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 28th, 2019, 12:04 am 
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Almara and Rie-Zunic had settled in a remote area. It was tempting for them both to stay there and forget the troubles of the world around them. both knew, however, that it was not in their nature to do so.

"To be honest," Rie-Zunic commented. "I'm not sure what we are doing half the time."

Almara leaned into him and offered a gentle kiss. "Trying to make sense of life?"

Rie-Zunic nodded. "I'll give it more time." He smiled and returned the kiss.

They both sat in silence for a long moment before Almara looked back up at him. "We're going back to Minas Ithil aren't we?"

"No," Rie-Zunic said, even as he nodded yes. "I mean... I don't know."

"We should," Almara returned. "We came here to prepare a place for our new family, but if Gondor falls to pieces what good will this place do. We have this place ready. Everything is in order. Now all that remains is the future of Gondor."

Rie-Zunic nodded slowly, then stood. "I'll pack the supplies."

It wasn't long before the two were on their way. Soon they would be meeting with Aldamir and Amarwen to re-join the efforts to save the crown.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 3rd, 2019, 9:59 pm 
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Osgiliath

It was approaching midday and the tourney was crowded. The main ring, overlooked by the royal pavilion, was drawing a fair number. Within it, the opening rounds of combat between knights had begun. Elsewhere, the riding contest was approaching its zenith. A good number of watchers crowded close to watch the contest. Foot traffic between the two was growing heavier still. Helda sat at her ease, watching those passing with moderate interest whilst Rhinnin went in search of lunch. The shieldmaiden returned with two tankards and a nonplussed expression.

”Watered beer” she explained as she set the tankards down, ”Bread and cheese only.”

Helda’s frown was immediate, ”No ale nor meat?”

Rhinnin shook her head and slumped back in her chair. Helda peered into the nearest tankard and grimaced. Still, she lifted it for a drink. Her demeanour did not improve once she set it down again.

”Where’s Vilna,” Rhinnin asked and Helda lifted a shoulder in a shrug. She gestured over at the main ring where the distant sound of ringing plate could be heard intermittently.

Rhinnin shook her head at that and muttered, ”Like whacking a milk can, that. What is the point of it?”

Helda nodded and approximated Vilna’s voice, ”It’s a test of endurance and skill.”

This made Rhinnin’s eyes roll and for a time there was companionable silence as they watched the crowds throng past. ”Wish we could compete,” Rhinnin eventually disclosed, her voice almost wistful.

Helda pressed out a sigh at that and lifted the tankard by force of habit. Her regret was immediate once she tasted the thin, watered beer and she set it down with some irritation. ”Next year,” she growled and kicked at a clod of earth nearby.

”There won’t be a tourney next year,” Rhinnin said. Helda’s head bounced up. ”What?”

Rhinnin’s pale blonde braids spilled over her shoulder as she leaned towards Helda, ”Wedding,” she whispered.

”Next year?” Helda queried and Rhinnin nodded, confident. Helda leaned back, considering the matter further. ”Never been to a royal wedding,” she said, rubbing at her jaw in thought.

”Me either,” Rhinnin added and finally took a sip of her beer. ”Ach! This is awful!”

“I know,”
Helda commiserated but then brightened. ”When I collect my winnings, we'll find much better.”

The two shieldmaidens rose, abandoned their watered beer and set off ambling towards the riding course. The contest was well and truly away by now, with the thick crowd cheering in full voice. There was a festive air of excitement punctuated by gasps and notes of dismay as bold prowess transformed into either success or abject failure.

Helda and Rhinnin had made the outer edges of the gathered press when the Marshal announced the retirement of Lord Filismor due to injury. Disappointment sounded by those who had wagered on the noble soon was drowned out by excitement at the tidings that followed. The final round was announced, to be contested by Prince Aldamir and Lady Amarwen. A raucous cheer arose and Helda’s answering grin was wild and bright.

”I hope she takes it,” Rhinnin shouted into Helda’s ear as they shouldered forward for a better view.

”As do I,” Helda replied, laughing uproariously, ”I'll know no peace from Vilna if she doesn’t.”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Prince Aldamir had the advantage over her. He opted to ride first and so Amarwen found herself watching on. Her mouth was dry as the man she loved hurtled forward over a field now much churned and broken by the riders before. How he did not lose his seat nor injure his horse she did not know. Certainly, any notion that he’d cede her this race through his innate sense of chivalry was dealt a final blow. The smile he wore down the other end of the field as he turned, rose in his stirrups to offer her a courtesy was proof enough of that.

Around him sat the eliminated competitors. They leaned forward to congratulate him on what was a stunning ride. Amarwen’s eyes narrowed and her riding gloves creaked as her grip tightened.

”Right,” she muttered to herself and studied the course before her. Now was the moment. She'd been preparing for this for some time.

The sound of the crowd grew distant as she weighed up her approach. It all rested on the very nature of the pinion saddle she wore and the fact that Aldamir had not ridden pinion for a very long time, if at all. Half a smile played on her face as she adjusted her skirts. She could feel Aldamir’s attention on her from the other end of the field. She looked up from the course to meet his gaze and arched a brow at the prince. Amarwen tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear, adjusted her posture ever so slightly and set into motion.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


”Ilúvator’s beard!” swore a noble sitting ahorse near to Aldamir. ”Is that allowed?”

”There is no rule dictating the order or direction in which the course is to be run, m’lord,” countered the man’s squire.

Aldamir leaned forward on the pommel of his saddle to watch closer. A pommel missing from Amarwen’s. Her pinion saddle allowed her to move in ways in which he could not. Her decision to take the course in reverse was much harder to ride given the angle at which her approach to the obstacles had to accomodate. They had not been set for approach in either direction...but she had the advantage of much better ground by avoiding the well worn and broken path they had all made. Those two factors together, with enough speed, just might see her prevail.

Still, for all of that cleverness, there was no denying the peril such a stratagem posed. For Amarwen had to use her weight in ways that at speed could prove terrible if her horse lost its footing or misjudged the angle of approach. He felt his stomach clench each time she leaned away from her horse. So far away she was almost hanging off its flank, anchored solely by one leg wrapped around that pinion saddle.

Still, for all the clenching of his stomach, she flew through the course true. He marked the elements of Rhovanion tactics that she had incorporated. Helda or Rhinnin, he surmised, with a faint grin. His shieldmaidens had been collaborating with his betrothed and for some time, it would seem.

Aldamir found himself standing in his stirrups as she neared the finish, unable to take his eyes off her.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


That she was still in her saddle was victory in itself to Amarwen, as she sighted the final obstacle to navigate. It had worked! She did not dare spare a moment to peer at the men watching at the end of the field. Amarwen folded herself forward to propel their speed. She was almost flat against the neck of her horse. The splendid horse Aldamir had gifted to her at the outset of their betrothal. The white gelding was in his element, for the creature revelled in such sports far more than she ever could. His stride saw them hurtle forward. It was only a short distance and yet time seemed to slow.

If she failed to navigate this pass, it could all come unstuck. All she could hear was the sound of his hooves digging into the earth, the beat of her heart and the bellow of his lungs as he stretched into the final obstacle. This would prove the most difficult of all as she was coming at it from the oblique angle. It had not been set for such an approach. Speed was the enemy of precision and yet she could not yield on either.

All of a sudden, they were through it and she was almost heady with relief. A wild whoop escaped her as they stretched for the final line. It was done. They had given it all and Amarwen allowed her eyes to travel from the flag that was falling to where Aldamir stood in his stirrups.

Something thick and dark flew across her vision. She heard a scream as she realised that a bolt protruded from Aldamir’s leg. Men were bellowing and she could hear the shrieking of the crowd. Without so much of a thought, she leaned so as to jump towards him from her saddle. Yet as she did so, her own horse stumbled inexplicably. She was thrown from her saddle and onto the ground, unaware that her gelding had been claimed by another crossbow bolt. All she could hear was screaming.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 11th, 2019, 8:40 am 
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Unlike Rhinnin, Helda, and Vilna, Vidnavi and Vilmaith were on duty at the tournament and tasked with security along with several of the Rhovanion and Gondorian men of Eldacar’s Royal Guard. Everything seemed to be in order and the sentiments of the rising tension in the land seemed to have taken a small step back. The air was still tense but there was a bit of calm in it.

“I tell you Vid, there is something afoot… I can feel it.” She watched the crowd intently. Vidnavi didn’t react as she greeted a fair looking Gondorian. She did take pause when he met her eyes briefly before walking into the tournament grounds. The eyes were vaguely familiar. She watched him walk into the crowd when Vilmaith nudged her. “Did you suspect something, or were you smitten?” she jibed. Vidnavi shook her head and went back to checking people. “Oh, it seemed he was familiar… you know, an angle of the face… the look of an eye, the feeling you get when you think you saw someone you know but it isn’t.” Vil nodded as she looked over those who they had passed already. ”I know what you’re saying. I didn’t feel anything with the guy you did, but there had been a couple others…"


Halvarin had managed to get upriver incognito dressed as a merchant of leathers. He had some good with him, but he didn’t plan on selling anything. Why he was there was his own reasons as he was quite aware that the Guild was boycotting this year’s tournament. What was more disconcerting was what he heard in the Pelargir Guildhouse. He couldn’t risk sending a message. He had to get to Osgiliath as soon as possible. He came into the place where he lived with Kerina and started packing up.

“Where are you going?” she asked. “North on business.” Halvarin replied. She got up and said, If you leave me again, I will not be here when you get back.” Halvarin paused and turned to Kerina and looked her in the face. He was torn at the moment but knew if he delayed there would be some incident in Osgiliath.

To Kerina, Halvarin had become ever more distant. Gone were the feelings that seemed to fill them in the days they had met. She was now quite fluent in the Westron scripts but evermore felt she was just some comfort woman to him. When Halvarin leaned down to her and kissed her gently, he looked her in the eyes and put his hand on her cheek and said, “Goodbye Kerina.” He then turned and left to find passage north. He never saw or heard from Kerina again.

The ride upriver was uneventful even if Halvarin had to avoid the officers. When he disembarked in Harlond nobody had recognised him. The rough beard he started to grow must have worked as no respectable guild member would have a beard if he was not at sea. He quickly made his way to Minas Anor and took pause there until he acquired a horse to ride the rest of the way to Osgiliath.

Arriving with so many others from the northern provinces into the city, Halvarin considered competing as an independent in the melee competition. But he also had some news he wanted to get to Amarwen. The problem was being able to catch a minute alone with her. He milled about before the tournament started, strolling the market stalls selling some leather armour to a northman who liked the gear he was wearing. He then went to the grounds to find out that Amarwen was competing! He couldn’t help but bet a fair sum on her. He would always place his money, and his trust on Amarwen. Knowing he wouldn’t be able to get word to her until after this competition, he had taken a seat among the merchant class looking discreet.

The intensity of the competition had the crowd’s undivided attention. Even some of the guards were watching intently as Amarwen rode the course the opposite way. Halvarin too was engrossed with watching his old friend riding so intensely to top Prince Aldamir. When he saw the movement in the corner of his eye of a man in a plain brown hooded cloak flip his fingers and start to move out of the seats, Halvarin broke his concentration on the tournament to get up and follow the man. When the man met another, who was in a brown cloak, they exchanged words and one started back into the stands. He ran right into Halvarin,

Their eyes met and Halvarin recognised them. The brief moment they stared at one another passed with the man in the cloak setting off his small wrist crossbow into Halvarin. The only thing that saved Halvarin was his quick reflexes as he heard the release. He twisted and the bolt caught his leather fest and only cut his side. Halvarin drew his knife as he moved and buried it in the chest of the attacker. The man fell backward as the blood ran out of him. Halvarin stepped quickly away, not wanting to be seen near the corpse, but his own blood was leaving a trail. He made his way down to the field level as a commotion erupted around the tournament grounds. Halvarin was too late!

The bolts were fired from several men in brown cloaks. Vidnavi grabbed one of the men after they tried to get close to Prince Vinyarion, and she had a bolt fired at her. Her chain mail turned the dart and she swung her sword to his neck. Wanting to kill him. Vilmaith spoke up quickly as she ran up. ”No! We need him alive!” Vidnavi paused, and the man pulled hie knife and slit his own throat. He crumpled before her into a burst of crimson around them. Vilmaith slapped Vid and pointed to Prince Aldamir. They ran to try and protect him as chaos started to ensue around the grounds. Vilmaith could only think that she had failed in her duties as the royal family was slain on her watch.

Halvarin found a dark corner in some buildings where he could rest and assess the wound he had suffered. He stripped away the leather vest armour and patted it for doing its job. He saw the deep cut between his ribs and realised it was more a bleeder than serious damage. He tore off part of his tunic and tied it around the wound to stem the bleeding. He put the vest back on and then set out to the grounds to see how many were killed. He could see Amarwen on the ground with her horse laying on its side kicking. He cursed and tried to run to her but he saw Prince Aldamir rush forth to her. He paused and saw the royal Guards moving with speed. He couldn’t risk stepping out there now. He could not get to Amarwen with what he heard. He then stepped back in the shadows and thought. This attack… it wasn’t the Guild! This was planend by someone else…..


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: August 14th, 2019, 7:06 am 
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Her ears were ringing so loudly that she could barely hear anything else when Amarwen came to. A dead weight pressed upon her but before she could make sense of it, the weight was eased back. Aldamir, she realised with no small degree of alarm. He was limp. Amarwen tried to rise but her stomach unleashed a wave of nausea that she almost lost control of.

At a great distance, she could hear shouting. Knights, guards, Shieldmaidens wavered in and out of view as Amarwen tried to compose herself. A second attempt allowed her to sit up. As she discovered she was upon the ground a gush of something warm seeped through her clothing. She turned her head towards it to find a knight withdrawing a sword crimson with fresh blood. Her horse, she realised with a startled cry.

Gorge rose in her throat as she looked to where she had last seen Aldamir. He lay nearby, eyes closed and a broken off quarrel protruding from his thigh. But before she could move in any direction, Helda imposed herself.

"Get them off the field now!" the imposing Shieldmaiden barked.

It was not long before Amarwen found herself seated on a bail of hay in the stables. She was staring at her gloves, now stiff with blood. Her stomach was still rolling uncertainly and her ears rang on. Guards and soldiers rushed about her. She did not know where Aldamir was. On the field? On his way to the palace? Somewhere in here? She rose unsteadily to her feet only to feel a firm hand on her shoulder.

The King, she realised with a start.

"What is she doing here still?" Eldacar barked, ill pleased and she did not know why. He looked back to her as if he were taking her measure. "Are you injured, my dear?"

Amarwen shook her head and then had to swallow hard against her bucking stomach. One of the nearby guards voiced his own assessment. "At the least, she's taken a hard fall and with little indeed to break it."

"Get her to the palace,"
Eldacar ordered and with that he strode off, snapping further orders as he went.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Panic surged through the crowd at the tourney. People scurried this way and that, desperate to get away from the violence. In the pandemonium a number of the conspirators sought to elude capture. The focus of the guards was on protecting the royal household and so by the time that was seen to, a number escaped. Those that did not took matters into their own hands to avoid interrogation. Thus, if those involved were to be brought to justice, the people of Osgiliath would have to turn them over.

Rumours raged almost immediately. Everything from who was responsible, some said the King himself, to the casualties of the assassination attempt. Aldamir was said to be dead. Amarwen too, caught in the cross fire. Some held that the Guild was responsible for this. Others insisted it was some other group, supported even by the Crown. In the resultant vacuum, nothing was too outlandish to be possible.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Evening saw Amarwen press cautiously through the doors of Aldamir's chambers. She'd been seen by one of the palace healers and by his own assessment her injuries were minor. Of course, he had recommended rest but in her estimation they always said such things. Healers were, she thought, conservative by nature.

She found Aldamir abed. He lay resting, eyes closed and quarrel removed. Yet, as she drew closer, his eyes flickered and opened.

"Al," she breathed, her voice shaking more than she wished it too. As she sat on the edge of his bed, the prince pushed himself upright and then pulled her into him.

She lay in his arms, eyes closed and breathed in this moment. It could have so easily be taken from them. By who and why? Not the Guild, she thought. The attack was far too clumsy to be their work...but, if not them then who? Certainly, she'd not seen it coming. Not so much as a whisper. Who could be so bold and reckless? How had she missed it?

As her thoughts turned, Aldamir stroked her hair.

"My love," she softly said into his shoulder and drew back. "How fare you?"

"Well enough. Bone and sinew both spared,"
Aldamir replied, his eyes intense as they peered into her own. "You?"

"A little bruising,"
she replied, perhaps a little to fast given the way Aldamir lifted a brow at her.

"I saw your fall, Ami."

"The benefit of youth,"
she shrugged, unwilling to divulge that her ears still rung and her nausea twisted. Nor that she was flouting strict instructions to stay abed herself.

Aldamir's brow furrowed and he stroked her cheek. "I feared the worst." A ripple of sorrow and fear flowed over his expression. "To lose you."

Words failed him and he pulled Amarwen to him again, his arms tight around her. His voice rumbled through his chest after a long pause. "Twice now death has stolen from me the woman I loved. I could not bear it again."

"You do not have to. I am here, in your arms."
A sigh gusted through him. Amarwen pulled back to meet his eyes. "Al?"

Again his brows furrowed and this time she saw sorrow. "I cannot keep you safe, Ami."

"I know this came from nowhere, Al. But we'll soon have the-"

"I cannot keep you safe."


Amarwen held her breath as it dawned upon her. She felt her eyes widen and she shook her head at the notion that circled within it. "My place is by your side, Al. We cannot allow them to divide us. We will be playing directly into their hands."

"Ami,"
Aldamir said softly, his eyes pleading with her own.

Again Amarwen shook her head. "No. I will not go."

"It will only be temporary."

"No, Al."


She could feel tears threaten. He had promised her that he would keep her by his side but now he was sending her away.

"Please Ami. Only until we can make it safe."

She'd come to Osgiliath expecting Aldamir to propose and now she was being sent away. Until it was safe but how long was that? Was it even possible, given the state of the realm? Amarwen pulled back and stood.

"Ami," Aldamir pressed, his own grief breaking through. She shook her head and turned away. He had promised. It was happening again. Amarwen pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. Humiliation, repudiation and pain washed through her.

Next she knew, her footsteps rang on the marble floors of the palace. Aldamir was sending her away. She wrapped her arms against her torso and bent her head to hide her anguish from the view of anyone that might pass her by.


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