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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:16 am 
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Minas Ithil

Aldamir felt a familiar restlessness grip him in the wake of Galreth’s departure. The man’s tidings had not come as a surprise. Aldamir had known how inevitable it was. Rank, title and wealth alone would assure interest in the heir of Edellond. A lineage traceable to the great Hyarmendacil himself, no less. So many of his father’s court jockeyed for position in these uncertain times. Any move that might assure their fortunes, one way or the other, would be carefully weighed. Moreover, Amarwen herself was particularly fair. Eyes were drawn to her, he well knew, and for good reason. Yet Amarwen was vulnerable despite her many advantages.

It was impossible to sit still and so the prince paced his chambers. A habit, he knew, he shared with Edhellond’s heir. He had tried to push her from his thoughts in the aftermath of her departure but even now he felt her absence. Her laugher as bright as the sun itself. The way her eyes would glow when something amused or intrigued her. As if lit from within. The sound of her voice. Her warmth at his side. All those hours wasted and now she was gone.

There was so much Aldamir regretted of their time. In a way, their entire relationship was founded on regret. He regretted the circumstances that forced her into their betrothal. He regretted the way in which she was treated, without dignity nor honour. He regretted the necessity of their separation. And now, she faced it all over again with someone else. Did she know? Would she be trapped again with nowhere and no one to turn to?

Amarwen had concealed as best she could just how profoundly she did not wish to become his wife on the day of their betrothal. More prisoner than bride, as he had been all too aware. How she had trembled at his side and the way she had looked up at him with those wide, grey eyes of hers. He had found a way, gently, to prove to her that he was not her jailer. Another may not be inclined to patience or kindness. A man who would not cherish her formidable wit and spirit.

Yet Aldamir could not take to horse and warn her. Nor could he attempt to win her back to his side. He could do nothing to protect her beyond sending one man. Galreth was more than capable, he knew. He’d not have sent the man otherwise and yet it seemed patently inadequate. It grieved him and not only because he loved her still. That she should endure such a fate again was, to him, wrong. He had to do something to spare her the fate she had faced with him.


Quote:
Ami,

Moves are afoot to see you betrothed once more. To whom, alas, I do not know.

You are a strong, loyal daughter of Edhellond. Yet, I urge you, Ami: do not agree to anything if your heart should speak against it. Do not allow your hand to be forced into another’s as it was into mine. You came to love me well, but I would not have you endure such a fate anew.

There are few in my father’s court that I trust with you. Too many who do not or will not see beyond what you are to who you are. But I hold to what I told you on the day you left Osgiliath, Ami. Should someone make your heart soar, you have my blessings. If he should cause you harm or pain, I will be your justice. And if it should pass that we find each other again, I will rejoice.

Galreth you may rely upon, should you have the need. He will protect you. My brother and I will protect and shelter you, if it should come to that. You can also plead to the King. My father remains very fond of you and in any case, I will ensure your petition is heard if that is what you must do.

Be vigilant. Be safe.

Al




If Amarwen’s parents were concealing their plans from her once more, the letter Aldamir had written would cause considerable strife. Perhaps the Lady of Edhellond would move to have him sanctioned for meddling in affairs that were no longer his concern. He sensed she would be right to do so and still, Amarwen had to be warned. He owed her that much, at the very least. That course of action decided, the prince set about packing.

Come the morning, he had his letter on its way south with Galreth as Aldamir set out north for Osgiliath. Though it was hardly the season for travel, there was a certain Lord of Edhellond that Aldamir very much wished to have a frank conversation with.


Edhellond – The Inn

Master Navigator Darion, the officer Silas had left in command, scowled at the overcrowded dining room. Sailors shuffled about, still rubbing sleep from their eyes for it had been a late night and still the Navigator had them up at the crack of that icy, frozen dawn.

Daraes shifted his weight, reluctant to approach the irritable commanding officer, yet the longer he left it the worse it would become. He was reasonably sure Halvarin had not returned to the inn despite his earlier assurances he would do so. Errand, indeed! Grumbling to himself at his misfortune, Daraes started the laborious task of pushing through the press towards his commanding officer.

”What do you mean he isn’t here?” he heard the Navigator snap. The man Darion addressed was several ranks above Daraes and yet he hunched his shoulders at the Master Navigator’s tone as if he were a green recruit. Darion’s temper could have that effect.

”Where is he?” Darion demanded of the unfortunate crewmate.

”Excuse me, Sir?”
Daraes ventured and the Master Navigator turned his glowering visage in the junior officer’s direction. Daraes swallowed his tongue and would have recoiled if the crowded dining room had offered the luxury of space to do so.

”SPEAK!” the Navigator bellowed, notoriously impatient at the best of times. Daraes tried to comply but his words were a jumble. Each syllable tripped over the next no matter how he tried. Master Darion offered him a disparaging shake of his head turned his taciturn attention back to the more senior officer.

”His orders were to report at dawn,” the Master Navigator barked, jabbing a finger into the unfortunate man’s chest, ”Where is he?”

The other man’s jaw began to work on Darion’s unanswerable questions. ”We did a headcount last night as ordered, Sir. No one was missing then!”

”Headcount,”
Darion scoffed, his dangerous contempt clear. ”So help me, if my navigator was left out overnight because you can’t count, I’ll have your hide myself.”

“He wasn’t,”
the hapless officer blurted. ”We’ll find him, Sir.”

Darion’s mouth twisted into a grimace but he said nothing further. Shortly thereafter, Daraes found himself face to face with the officer the Master Navigator had been castigating.

”Get your flea-bitten carcass out there and find that son of a blackguard!”

Had Daraes not ducked, he would have earned a clip on his ear as well. He heard the unmistakeable crack of the other man’s knuckles as he moved past and heaved a sigh. The morning would be miserably frigid, if Daraes was not mistaken, and he had absolutely no notion of where Halvarin’s errand might have taken him.

Or if he had an errand at all, for that matter. The ensign struggled out of the crowded dining room and made for the door only to find it barred by the very guard he had encountered the night before.

”You again,” the man said, mildly bored as he eyed Daraes.

”Did anyone come in last night? Late?”
Daraes asked. The guard shrugged a very powerful, impressive set of shoulders but did not deign to offer more than that.

Daraes swallowed. ”Was anyone left out last night?”

“Are you questioning how I do my job?”
the guard growled, his boredom shifting into something altogether too dangerous for the ensign’s appetite.

Daraeas shook his head in an energetic and emphatic denial. He did not want a clip on the ears from this man. He looked like he could take Daraes’ head off if so inclined.

”We’re missing one of our crew. He hasn’t reported in,”
he clarified and the guard’s interest lapsed back into boredom.

He shrugged. ”I’m not your nursemaid. He’ll show up. No one was left out last night.”

“No one?”


The guard sighed as he lifted his eyes to the rafters overhead. ”If I have to repeat myself...”

Daraes scuttled back for good measure. ”No, no. I’ll take you at your word.” The guard’s mouth twisted at that but the Ensign hurried on. ”I need to find him. I have orders.”

“From?”
the guard asked, a hand moving to his sword. The man really did not like repeating himself and Daraes recalled their exchange from the previous evening.

”Not the King,” he sighed as the guard’s hand came to rest on the pommel of his sword. It was a short one, designed for use at close quarters. Indoors. Like the common room he stood in now.

”Then you’ll be doing your search in here, boy, and nowhere else,” the guard declared and that was that.

A morning of knocking on the doors of irritable people who wanted to be left to warmth of their beds. And for all of that, no Halvarin of Pelargir.


Edhellond – Elven Quarter


A tickle of sensation down her spine woke Amarwen. Her limbs were languid and warm and a smile came to her as she felt the gentle tickle of Halvarin’s beard against the bare skin of her back.

”You’re awake. I know you are. I felt your breathing change,” Halvarin declared and Amarwen felt the pleasant weight and warmth of him settle atop her. His arms scooped her under and pressed her to him. His skin against hers. It was a joy unlike anything else she had known.

”I am surprised you are awake at all,” she remarked as he nibbled the back of her shoulder. ”Perhaps I did not walk you nearly as thoroughly as I thought last night.”

Halvarin chuckled against her shoulder. Walk, from this moment on, would always have another meaning. A private, shared meaning.

”I slept the sleep of the dead, Ami. You were most thorough,” he answered, his voice glowing with satisfaction. ”But you should know nothing will ever be enough.”

“Glutton,”
she countered as he shifted his weight slightly. Senses shivering and skittering, Halvarin pushed back Amarwen’s thick hair to rain kisses onto her face. She circled him into her arms, cradling him tenderly.

”My beloved,
” she murmured against his ear as she smoothed his hair and they caught their breath.

Halvarin shifted reluctantly and she felt him withdraw from within her. Amarwen could not help the mournful sound that accompanied this and Halvarin gathered her into his arms. They were quiet for a long while, both reluctant to bring this magical sojourn to an end and both aware that it could not last forever.

”Would that I could stay,” Halvarin whispered as he stroked her hair.

Amarwen sighed. ”Would that this was your home.”

“In time,”
he said and she closed her eyes. For in time was not this time.

”What will you tell Darion?”

“I have not the faintest notion,”
Halvarin admitted as his hands moved lower. ”Darion has not occupied my thoughts of late.

She drew in a deep breath for the longer they dallied, the worse Darion’s displeasure would be. She moved so that she could peer down into Halvarin's somewhat amused face.

”What?” she prompted as his gaze wandered from her face to other locations.

”I could tell him I went on a walk,” Halvarin suggested. ”It would not be a lie, entirely.”

A throaty laugh came from Amarwen at the suggestion. ”You’d best not be leering as you are now, though, or the game will be up.”

Halvarin stretched beneath her unapologetically and then heaved a sigh. She watched his chest ripple as it expanded and shrank again.

”I do not know when I will be able to return, Ami,” he admitted, circling one of her wrists with a thumb and finger.

”You will need care in selecting your next assignment,” Amarwen said and Halvarin nodded, his study of her wrist uninterrupted.

”Easier said than done at my rank.”

“But not if you sat for and won Navigator Prime.”


Halvarin’s eyes swept her own as his brows lifted. ”That is several years yet, Ami.”

“In several years, who knows where the Guild will be? I think it unlikely they’ll be running classes and exams in the midst of a war.”


Halvarin hesitated. “There are only five each year, Ami. And there are at least twenty candidates between me and Navigator Prime.”

“And none of them have the experience you do now, Hal. The Guild’s rules say that and Guild member may apply to sit at any time. I know. Father has a copy in his study.”

“And you, I suppose, know them by heart,”
Halvarin replied.

Amarwen nodded. ”If you win Nav Prime, Hal, you will have your pick of assignments. You could stay well clear of the mess the Guild is making in Pelargir, for one. For the other, you could even determine when you came back here. Imagine, Hal, being able to pick your assignments!”

Such was her animation that Halvarin’s eyes had begin to wander again.

”You are very difficult to argue with,”
Halvarin murmured, his eyes tracking each movement. He blinked, gathering his scattered thoughts. ”I would need to study, Ami. Hard. I’d not likely be back here before summer for that is when the exams for these positions are held.”

“I will miss you horribly. But maybe, by summer, when you make Nav Prime-“

“If,”
Halvarin countered.

”When,”
Amarwen reiterated firmly, her confidence in him absolute, ”I should have worked Amme around sufficiently to broach a certain betrothal.”

“Is six months long enough?”

“I am very convincing and we already have Adda’s support. You taking Nav Prime several years early can only assist.”


Halvarin’s eyes had widened but before he could ask just what Amarwen’s father knew, a knock sounded at the door.

”My Lady Amarwen?”


She twisted atop Halvarin to look at the door. They were not in any state to receive visitors. Halvarin squirmed beneath her. Dislodged, Amarwen fell sideways into the matrass with a soft oomph as the air left her lungs all at once.

”Don’t come in,” she gasped as Halvarin hopped frantically about the room trying to get his pants on.

”Of course not, Lady,” came the voice. ”The city remains closed, Lady. Word of your safe harbour has been sent to your halls so that they do not fret needlessly. Must word be sent elsewhere concerning your betrothed?”

Halvarin straightened, his breeched pulled as far up as one calf, and looked to where Amarwen had clutched bedding to her. They traded a shrug and Halvarin cleared his throat. ”The inn, please. To Master Navigator Darion.”

“Very good.”


With that, the voice at the door fell silent. Halvarin hastened to it and applied his ear. ”Gone.”

Amarwen answered with a wide, broad smile. She let the covers go and held her arms out to Halvarin. He kicked off his breeched and raced for the bed with a whoop. Laughing at their sudden good fortune, the two rolled together on the bed until their limbs were tangled and they were slightly breathless.

”Six months is a long time. You could forget me,”
Amarwen said, peering up into Halvarin’s face with half a smile.

”Never,” he replied with half a grin of his own. ”But you can’t be too careful.”

Chuckling, he lowered his face to her throat and kissed her collarbone.


Edhellond – The Inn


The Master Navigator pushed back a curtain to watch the Elf through a common room window. It was unnerving, almost, to watch how the Elf did not so much as sink into the snow piled thickly without. He did not have a cloak and wore the lightest of clothing. As if it were a summer day and not the inside of a blizzard. Muttering to himself, Darion let the curtain fall back into place. If the city was still closed down, it meant work on the ship would be stopped. Wood was difficult to work with once it froze. Did strange things to the sap, too.

They’d be stuck in this over crowded inn for days it seemed. Longer still for the repairs to be finished and on their way again. Silas would be fit to be tied at the delay yet there was nothing for it. But, with the ship in dry dock, they’d have to find some means to adjust their present accommodations. The inn was badly crowded and trouble was only two days off, if that. There was an alternative to the inn...but that would mean placing his officers, including that lout of a student of his, under the same roof as the young lady that student needed to keep well clear of.

Scowling, Darion wondered when and how he’d be able to get a request off to the Lady of Edhellend for guest quarters. Sooner would be better. And as for that boy being in the Elvish Quarter, of all places, well he’d have some questions to answer.

_________________
R'AMEN


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:17 am 
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Pelagir

Calamir came to the chambers of Castamir with several parchments in his hand. ”M’lord, we can’t hold back this rebellion. We have to be ready to act. I have reliable reports that we would have a good following amongst the younger officers in the northern armies should Eldacar is challenged.” he said and held out the parchments. Castamir took hold of them and read through them briefly.

”Have we subdued the factions under my leadership? I am the only one who had a blood claim to the crown. If we throw our backing into this rebellion it must succeed.” Castamir said.

Calamir nodded ”Yes, which is why this early insurrection that seems to be erupting on its own since Eldacar seized the throne from his father is a little worrisome.”

Calamir set the parchments down before Castamir and as the Lord of the Mariners looked them over, Calamir pointed out his findings as he spoke.

"You see here we have some good support with the junior officers in the Gondorian army. It seems the fact the assumed king is not truly Gondorian has struck a chord with a lot of them all across Gondor.”

Castamir nodded. “This is good. Maybe we passively allow these riots to continue… anywhere except Pelargir of course.” Calamir didn’t respond.

As Castamir looked at the next parchment, Calamir said, ”Where we are weakest are in remote Calenardhon and east of the river in Ithilien. But I think we need to stratagise our control of the coast”

Castamir poured a couple glasses of wine and offered one to Calamir. They walked over to a table map and Calamir marked out where they were strongest. He then held out two parchments to Castamir and said, ”Which brings us to the two biggest ports outside Pelagir… Edhellond and Dol Amroth…”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:20 am 
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Pelagir

Castimir had barely sipped at his wine before his question was to hand. ”What is your assessment of the western lands?”

Matters were complex in the western lands. Beyond the Anduin, the disposition of the lands and suitably for conquest became increasingly fraught.

Despite this, Halvarin’s father remained confident. ”Easily taken once Minas Anor is ours, Lord.”

Castimir looked to the map more closely. The vast coastline was impossible to take, much less hold and defend. The population was so thinly spread out it was almost not worth it for no significant opposition could be raised once they held Minas Anor. The Master of Ships, however, was of no mind to settle for half of Gondor’s land. He wanted it all, as soon as possible.

”Perhaps we should move on Dol Amroth. We take that and the western provinces will capitulate, one by one,” Castimir mused.

Calimir shook his head. ”It’s walls are such that we would have to lay siege. It would take months...Edhellond, however-

“Edhellond,”
Castimir snarled, his wrath swift and dark. ”I will wipe from the map!”

Calimir knew the Master of Ships well enough to understand the source of his fury. Edhellond had delivered a stunning insult when it rebuffed the Master of Ship’s proposal of an alliance and instead betrothed their daughter to the son of Castimir’s rival. Yet, for all of this, Therald’s long standing as senior officer in the Guild coupled with Edhellond’s advantageous trade relationships ensured that many of Castimir’s allies regarded the rebellious Edhellond highly. As they prepared to move against Eldacar, they could not afford to sap their supporters.

Moreover, his agents informed him that despite the failed betrothal, Edhellond continued to be highly regarded in Eldacar’s court. A move against Edhellond was a declaration of war that they were not ready to make.

“What defenses have Edhellond in place?” Castimir asked, warming to the idea of action. Eager to settle the matter of his injured pride.

Calimir had known that Edhellond would not escape unscathed when they betrothed their daughter to Aldamir. He had warned Therald of precisely this when last they had spoken, some years ago now, in Osgiliath.

Still, Castimir’s question was one the advisor was reluctant to answer. Once he admitted that Edhellond had little more beyond a sea chain, Castimir would launch a coastal assault in months. As soon as the Spring thaw looked to be underway, if not sooner.

Instead, the advisor asked, “Are you ready, then, to declare war upon the false king? And what of our allies? How many can we lose at the outset of war if we move against Edhellond in such a way?”

Castimir’s mouth twisted as if he tasted something unpleasant. Calimir pressed, ”Lord?”

“I want Edhellond on its knees,”
the Master of Ships hissed, his fury redoubling.

His advisor inclined his head calmly. ”You will have it, Lord. You can shore up your alliances and seize Edhellond without having to land a single pair of boots on their coast.”

Thus the plan to sap Edhellond and Dol Amroth’s strength through piracy was born. It was deviously simple. Pelargir would point to the piracy it authored along the southern coast of Gondor as still more proof of Eldacar’s failing grasp on power. Edhellond and Dol Amroth could not sustain such loses indefinitely. Nor could Eldacar hope to get any sizable intervention through Pelargir and out to assist the beleaguered cities. All the while, Castimir would grow fat on the stolen gains of piracy and draw ever closer to seizing the control he would need to assert his dominance across the vast expanse of Gondor for generations to come.

”Edhellond, and all she has, will be yours Lord. And through Edhellond you will secure the throne for yourself and your line to follow. My word upon it.”

”How long has it been since you last visited Edhellond?”
the Master of Ships inquired.

”Too long, Lord,” Calimir replied, smiling. ”A matter I intend to rectify.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:24 am 
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Pelargir - Two days after the storm

When Captain Silas finally made Pelargir, he was met at the quay by Calamir. "A hard voyage I see." Calamir quipped as Silas disembarked.

"Indeed... barely made Edhellond."
Silas replied. "That boy of yours is quite the capable navigator. I think Dorian was even impressed some. Likely to sign off on him once thay get back here to Pelargir."

"That's reassuring to hear. Thank you for keeping an eye out for him."

"Aye... the boy need little watching. He has a sense about things, and I dare say that includes the current politics of Gondor?"
Silas said which gave Calamir pause.

As the longshoremen immediately went to work to relieve the ship of it's precious timber, Chief Advisor Calamir invited the captain to the The Wet Wench Tavern, a popular watering hole for crewmen. It was not often officers, let alone those of high rank would be seen in there, but it was quite cold and Calamir for reasons not widely known knew their fireplace was centrally located and the ring gave off good heat.

"I have a need to accompany you on your return to Edhellond, and I hate to say it will be sooner rather than later."
Calamir said they parted momentarily. Silas went to the bar and Calamir took a seat by the fire. Silas soon joined him with two tankards of a local Pelargirian light ale.

"Well you know I have need to get back to my ship. Need to be a gettin' this scowl back there. It will be good for you to get back on the water again, even if it is just a bay-run." Silas let out before sipping his tankard.

He then looked with a squint to Calamir and he added, "This has to do with politics I can tell. The Port of Edhellond is a grand asset. I'm hopin' ye not be upsetting the balance there."

Calamir sipped his tankard and looked to Silas, "The balance is well and truly upset. It was upset the day King Valacar took himself a northwoman to wife and she spawned the half-breed that sits on Gondor's throne. The Guild has been trying to regain 'balance' since then."

Calamir took another sip before he went on. "You know there will come a time when you and all the linewalkers of the Guild will have to declare a side, and you know who I suggest you support a fellow Numenorean Mariner."

Silas took a long drink before he looked back to Calamr, "I be sailin' ships for the king of Gondor no matter who he is. I be takin' ya to Edhellond under the flag of Gondor. We can be set to 'ere mid mornin'. I expect to see you there."

With that, Silas downwd his tankard and set it on the table with a somewhat loug bang before getting up and walking out.

= = = = = = =

Edhellond - Two weeks later

Halvarin had not had a chance to leave ship after he was able to return after the storm. He also kept well quiet about his betrothal to Amarwen, though many, Darion included, notices that Halvarin was much lighter in his step.

Darion had basically chained him to the ship ashHe was put in command of the refitting. The repairs were well and truely delayed. But when the scowl sailed back onto Edhellond It was Halvarin that was on deck of the recently refloated ship. When Silas guided his ship to the quay, he saw as did Calamir, Halvarin standing and giving orders to the work crew.

Halvarin was in there helping as well. Hoping to gain some good grace from Darion to at least be able to see Amarwen again before they left port. What he wasn't expecting was his father to be accompanying him.

"Sir, the ship is nearing completion." Halvarin said to Silas as the two Guild officers approached. 'Sir!" he said and saluted as he looked to his father.

Calamir saluted back and turned to Silas. "It appears things are in good order despite the setback by the weather. Tonight I will require the accompaniment of my son at a meeting with House Edhellond."

Silas shrugged and looked over to the approaching Darion. "It will be up to Master Navigator Darion as Halvarin and the ship is still under his command."

Darion could see he was walking into something but he didn't hesitate. "Chief Advisor Calamir. Captain Silas." he said as he walked up. Calamir repeated his request and Darion readily agreed. He was also quite keen to return command of the ship to Silas.

"It seems your presence here was not unlooked for Chief Advisor. There have been some rumblings around the city about a possible visit from the Guild, even of Castamir himself. I am sure you will be welcomed warmly sir if you call on House Edhellond."

Calamir smirked. He was sure there were spies in Pelargir. "Have word sent to the Lady of Edhellond that I request a meeting. I wish Lord Therald were here but I did not have swift travel to Osgiliath to meet with him."

Ensign Daraes was summoned to go announce the arrival of Captain Silas and Chief Advisor Calamir. Not being totally unexpected, a small dinner was already planned to be set the evening one of the Guild representatives arrived. LAdy Alenna would likely be quite relieved to find it was Calamir, not Castamir, who arrived.

The dinner was planned with the three officers of the guild, And Halvarin would attend at his father's request. Lady Alenna would be accompanied by her senior advisors and Lady Amarwen.

Halvarin listen to the talk, and being able to go to the House of Edhellond would give him a chance to formally see Amarwen again. But he knew that his father's request for him to attend was more for political show. Calamir knew that Halvarin was friendly with House Edhellond from their history. He wanted Halvarin there in his dress blues being very much a guildsman. Calamir considered it political training for his son who he knew was one of what he called a 'linewalker'. Like a pawn in a game of chess, Halvarin was to be a face of the united guild front.

Halvarin knew that from the state of the ship's repair that they would be underway to Pelargir in two days at most. He also had to prepare to talk with his father....


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:32 am 
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I" want you on your best behaviour tonight. No outbursts, no disappearances, no arguments...and leave that son of his alone!”

“Amme!”
Amarwen protested.

Lady Alenna remained staunch. “I mean it! His father’s alliances make any further friendship impossible!”

“Halvarin is not his father, Amme!”

“I will not have this conversation with you again, Amarwen. By your own contention, you claim you are an adult. Well then, act like one!”

Amarwen turned away from her mother at this. They both wore silk in Edhellond’s colours. A calculated decision. Firelight from the nearby hearth flickered over Amarwen’s golden skirts. Hair was left free, a thick, shining curtain that fell to her hips in a smooth tide of night. Her mother’s, by comparison had been caught up. The location of their dinner for the evening had also been calculated.

”Hal is my oldest friend,” she said softly. So much more than that but it was all she could divulge.

“I know,” Alenna sighed. She drew closer to set a hand on Amarwen’s shoulders. ”It is hard. It is unfair. But you know how precarious Edhellond’s position is. We must dine with our enemies but we cannot risk forgetting who they really are. Halvarin is a good lad. He has a good heart. But his father is the chief advisor to the Master of Ships. We cannot forget this. We have not that luxury.”

Before Amarwen could reply, though, the dining room door opened. ”Lady,” their Chamberlain said, ”The guests have arrived. Shall I show them through?”

“Yes,” Alenna said, smoothing her crimson skirts. She looked to her daughter briefly. ”Tonight must be flawless, Amarwen.”

She nodded her understanding and shortly thereafter, the four Guild officers were ushered into the smaller, more intimate dining room.

”Gentlemen, a pleasure to see you all. Captain Silas, congratulations are in order,” Lady Alenna said with a flawless smile. ”Your crew are to be commended.”

Next, the Lady of Edhellond turned to Calimir. ”Chief Advisor, it has been too long has it not?”

“It has,”
he replied. ”And I am sorry for my absence. Sorry, too, to have missed Therald. How is he?”

“As busy as you, I suspect,”
Alenna replied.

”I imagine he has his work cut out for him at court,” Castimir replied.

Through all of this, Amarwen had remained quiet. Her hands clasped before her and her eyes politely diverted.

”And Lady Amarwen. What a pleasure it is to find you safely returned to Edhellond,” Calimir said and at that Amarwen had no choice but to respond.

”Thank you,” she said and curtsied with smooth polish and grace. She rose and dared look up to where Halvarin stood, hands at his back. Briefly their eyes met but no more than that.

”Wine?” Lady Alenna inquired and with that, the evening was underway.

”What a relief it must be to be home once more,”
Calimir said, wine glass in hand.

”I love Edhellond. It is my home,” Amarwen answered and threw back a mouthful of wine. Just the sight of this man made her skin crawl.

”I imagine you love it dearly.”

“As I do Gondor, Chief Advisor.”

“Yes,”
he said. ”So do we all. To Gondor! Long may she shine, Beacon of the West!”

Teeth set, Amarwen, had no choice but to follow Calimir’s toast. Once that was done, Calimir continued on. ”Though, I am sure it has to be quite the adjustment to make, my dear. Edhellond is a long way from the cut and thrust of court. How have you been settling in?”

“Well enough, I should think,”
Amarwen did not dare look to Halvarin for if she did she’d smirk and that would never do. ”My father’s absence means I have more than enough to occupy my time.”

“I imagine so. Ship wrights can be fractious lot. I believe I have you to thank for keeping them to task through the storms,”
Captain Silas observed, interjecting himself in such a way that she could have kissed the man.

Amarwen inclined her head, ”I only hope their work meets with your satisfaction, Captain.”

“I will review it on the morrow. I assure you, you will know if it falls short,”
Silas replied dryly.

At this juncture, the dining room doors open and through it came their dinner. Heads turned, drawn by the delicious smell that filled the smaller space. In this moment, Amarwen instead looked to Halvarin. It was the first opportunity she’d had to do this since he had arrived. Darion had made sure he had remained aship and her off it for weeks. Though she was not aware of this, her gaze softened and the hint of a smile appeared on her lips. Then it was over and they were moving for their seats.

Alenna was seated at the head of the table and Amarwen at its foot. Halvarin had attentively pulled out Amarwen’s chair and for that, earned a little nod from his father and a frown from the master navigator. Halvarin took a chair beside his father, Silas and Darion sat along the other side.

”Lovely,” Silas said as he breathed in the scent of the food before them. A pie of golden pastry and luscious fish, vegetables roasted and glazed, a loaf of fresh crusty bread baked that very morning and a bright yellow slab of freshly churned butter. It was mouth watering if relatively simple fare.

”Lady Alenna, I hope you will allow an old friend this: but how goes Edhellond?” Calimir inquired.

Quite well. We remain prosperous and for that, we are grateful.”

“I saw guards at port. Are you expecting difficulties?”
Calimir pressed.

“These are uncertain times,”
Amarwen said in answer.

“A costly defence,” Calimir observed. ”I wonder if there might be other arrangements less burdensome?”

“Perhaps,”
Alenna cautiously agreed.

Amarwen stabbed a glazed carrot with some force. Other arrangements indeed. Less burdensome ones? An alliance, perchance, and bought with what exactly? Or who, more like. It was all so familiar and infuriating. As for her mother, instead of rejecting this out of hand she left the door partially open! Well, Amarwen would see about that, wouldn’t she?

She reached for her wine and took a sip, then another and then a third. Then she set her glass down. Amarwen smiled down the table to where Calimir sat. ”Do tell us, Master Calimir, how fares our good Queen? Is she well?”

Silas guffawed audibly but he was the only one who found it amusing. Amarwen did not dare look to Halvarin. Darion pinched the bridge of his nose, as if pained. Her mother sent a black, dire glare down the table to her daughter. Calimir, however, lost none of his composure.

”Well enough, I am sure. I have not heard otherwise,” he answered. ”It has been some time since I ventured to Osgiliath.”

Amarwen was not prepared to let the man off so easily. ”And tell me, what of the Guild’s investigation into the violence at Osgiliath? Is has been half a year and I have not heard a word!”

“Amarwen!”
her mother objected.

”No, no, good Lady. Be at peace. That beastly incident requires a response and your daughter is well within her rights to demand one. It is a marvel you were not seriously injured, Lady Amarwen. And yes, we have investigated.”

“And?”
Amarwen pressed.

”Those responsible for it have been dealt with. Most importantly, I think, is this: you were not the target of it, Lady Amarwen. I hope that will bring you a measure of comfort?”

It didn’t. Not really. Amarwen sat back in her chair, unwilling to say that she was satisfied.

”That is good to know,” her mother said. ”Edhellond is ill prepared to contend with assassins.”

“Nor will you have to, Lady. My word upon that,”
Calimir replied and looked back down the table to where Amarwen sat. ”No one will be shooting horses out from under you again.”

“Well, hurrah for that,”
she remarked, reaching for her wine. Silas grinned and Calimir turned back to Lady Alenna.

”We should discuss further the matter of Edhellond’s defences, Lady. I may be able to assist.”

“Another time, Chief Advisor.”

“Yes, another time,”
Darion remarked. ”Any more of this and I will lose my appetite entirely!”

Amarwen’s appetite had already gone. She leaned back in her chair with her wine glass and her mother sent her a warning look. Silence from hence forth. Fine, Amarwen thought to herself. She could be seen but not heard with the best of them. Halvarin was seated to her right. She couldn’t look at him directly. She slipped off a slipper and extended her leg to brush her foot against his leg. Halvarin inhaled a pea at that and burst into a fit of coughing.

She withdrew her foot, waited for it pass. Sipped at her wine. Pushed some food about her plate. Once it had, Amarwen extended her foot again. Halvarin was ready for it this time. No coughing. Provocatively, she ran her foot up to his knee and back again. His grip on his cutlery tightened and Amarwen smiled into her wine. A little higher this time. Higher again until she felt his hand catch her ankle.

Halvarin reached for his wine and smiled as he took a sip. Just one tug and she’d be pulled out of her chair and under the table. His fingers tightened and then shifted. He stroked the sensitive skin of her ankle. As he did this, Amarwen studied the table. No one, so far, seemed to have noticed. Amarwen picked up her glass and drained it. Her throat was suddenly dry.

Halvarin’s grip shifted again. Carefully, he moved her foot until it was pressed elsewhere. She knew an immediate flood of warmth through her. To have him so close but unattainable. She wriggled her toes.

”Amarwen, sit up straight!” said her mother from the head of the table. ”You know what I think about slouching at the table.”

Halvarin released his grip and Amarwen’s foot dropped to the floor. She slid it back into her slipper and pushed herself upright.

”Master Calimir, are you aware this boy of yours will be put forward for Navigator Prime?” Silas asked.

”Well of course. It is what navigators do, I am told.”

“Darion is putting him forward the exams this year,”
Silas said.

Immediately, Amarwen was re-engaged in the dinner conversation. Her mother’s attention had also been piqued.

”That seems early, doesn’t it?”
she commented, looking at Halvarin with what Amarwen hoped were new eyes. Curious ones. Speculative ones.

”It is,”
Darion replied. ”And he’ll have to work hard to get it.”

“I will,”
Halvarin said, one of the first things he had said all evening.

”And you’ll get it,”
Amarwen said. ”I know you will.”

“Thank you,”
Halvarin said, smiling at her.

”He’ll have to,” Silas added. ”He won’t get another run at it for years if he misses this one.”

“How proud you must be, Calimir,”
Lady Alenna said.

”I will be, when he gets it,” the Chief Advisor answered.

”It’ll be hard graft,” Darion said. ”You’ll be land bound for months, boy, nose in your books and nowhere else.”

Halvarin nodded at this. ”I think I’m ready, Sir.”

“Best give the boy some leave, then before it begins. What is it, two days before we’re out again?”
Silas asked.

Darion lifted a shoulder. ”I surrendered command hours ago. If you say it is two days, that is what it is.”

“Very well...two days shore leave. Use it wisely, lad, because it will be some time before the next break,”
Silas said and already ideas were popping into Amarwen’s head.

Two days. Why, they could ride down the coast some. She was due to look in on the smaller settlements, see how they had fared in the recent storms. Make arrangements for the inevitable repairs that would be required. Two days...Amarwen sighed happily at the notion from the foot of the table.

”If I’ve two days, perhaps we speak tomorrow, Lady Alenna. Discuss further these matters before us,” Calimir suggested.

Amarwen watched her mother incline her head in agreement and that was that. Dinner was concluded. They rose from their seats and bid their leave. After waving them off and closing the doors, Alenna turned to her only child.

”We will discuss this evening, Amarwen. Do not, for an instant, think I will allow this to go unmarked. Calimir is not a man to be provoked! What has gotten into you!”

“Calimir was behind my disappearance at Osgiliath, Amme! Were it not for the intervention of others, I would be in Pelagir now, shackled to one of Castimir’s odious sons. We’d be traitors to the realm by default. Me, you, Adda, our people!”

“Nonsense! The men responsible for that were-“

“Disposable. Just like the men he says they held to account for the botched assassination last summer.”

“No,”
Alenna shook her head. ”What you allege would require that man to have a reach far greater, far deeper into the realm than he possibly could have.”

“Influence as far and deep, say, as the Queen?”


The slap that followed blinded Amarwen momentarily. She was caught completely offguard. ”That is treason!” her mother hissed at her, incandescent with anger. ”I will not have it spoken in my halls!”

“But-“

“Upstairs now and out of my sight!”


Shocked, Amarwen stumbled up the stairs somewhat dazed and locked her doors behind her. Her cheek burned and her stomach churned. Miserable, all Amarwen could do was hope that come the morrow, she and Halvarin could escape. If only for a little while.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:35 am 
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Walking out of the dining room, Halvarin did his best to keep a smirk off his face. He rather quite enjoyed Amarwen handing his father a bit more than he wished to chew. Calamir, Silas, and Darion were all silent, only exchanging pleasentries with the servants as they went to the door.

It wasn't until they were outside before any of them spoke. It was Halvarin... "The food was quite good I have to say." Darion chuckled slightly. "Indeed it was." he let out. He had spoken only a bit more than Halvarin did, preferring to keep busy with the fine meal.

"Halvarin, you had nothing to say to the affront the young woman of Edhellond let out."
Calamir said with a sidelong glance.

"I had nothing to add, sir, besides you told me to keep quiet and observe. It was exactly what I did." Halvarin replied not bothering to look over to his father.

Calamir took a deep breath and said to Darion and Silas. "I will be reporting to the ship ere first light to review the work. Halvarin will walk me through. Any leave scheduled for Halvarin will be afterward, in case any rework needs to be done. Right now, Halvarin and I will be parting ways with you. Thank you for your attendance at the dinner."

Halverin could tell his father was not happy and he pointed down another street that led away from the quay. Halvarin sighed knowing that getting any more time to spend with his beloved was hanging by a thread. Calamir and Halvarin walked silently down the street, avoiding the puddles and the piles of slush.

"I know you wish leave, and I know you will be likely seeing your old friend in House Edhellond. I will allow it if you can find out what allies House Edhellond has that gives them such boldness.”

“I will not do your bidding father. If it is an order by the Guild, I would have to think long and hard whether to resign my commission.”
Halvarin shot back. Calamir shook his head. ”I know you will not do that son. Making Navigator Prime is quite the honor in the Guild, and you would be doing Gondor proud.”

“Gondor you say?”
Halvarin cut in. ”All I do… what I strive for… is for the glory of Gondor, not the glory of the Mariners Guild. Is it not in the charter of the Mariners Guild that it swears fealty to the King of Gondor?”

Castamir sighed. He wasn’t having much success on this junket to Edhellond so far. ”Then for Gondor you can keep your eyes and ears open for any outside influences that are finding their way to the ears of House Edhellond… that includes the younger lady of the house. You will do this. Give me your answer tomorrow.Now come on. You need to report in to your quarters. You have an inspection to prepare for in the morn.”

When Halvarin got to his room he immediately got out of his dress blues and sat on the bed. What was becoming of Gondor? The sparring between House Edhellond and the Mariners Guild cannot have a good end. And here he and Amarwen were, betrothed lovers who have been stood on opposite sides of the divide. But Halvarin admired his love. She had convictions. He had a position in a Guild that seemed more and more to be subverted by seditionist thinking. Still, he would remain and he would do what he could from the inside, but he could never be a part of any open denunciation against the King of Gondor. He lay down but his sleep through the night was broken.

The next day Halvarin reported early to the ship. Captain Silas was already there doing his own inspection. ”Ah Halvarin. The ship appears in good order, and your leadership is noted in getting it back as close to schedule as possible.”

“I’m sure the Chief Advisor will find fault in something.”
Halvarin said as he took a board and parchment to check off. He got there just in time. Calamir approached. Once he was on board and the formal saluting was done, Calamir made quick work of the inspection. He then asked Captain Silas. ”Captain, is everything to your liking?”

“Yes Chief Advisor. Exceptional.”
Silas said giving Halvarin a quick wink as Calamir looked at the parchment. Calamir nodded and looked to Halvarin. ”Have you made a decision on the work I have asked you to do?”

Halvarin looked down at his boots and said not too loudly. ”Yes, I am at your service Chief Advisor.” Halvarin looked up at Calamir grimly as he spoke, putting emphasis on his father’s title. Calamir may have noted it or may not. It was then agreed that Halvarin would have the rest of the day from noon to the dawn roll call on deck in two days time for leave. Halvarin knew he would have to give his father some news. He would worry about that when the time came. Right now, he would have a day and a half to spend with Amarwen…


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:40 am 
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A cold, clear day dawned and Amarwen was down at the harbourmaster’s office early. The sun made the quay glitter but she had no eye for its beauty. She busied herself with the day’s papers. There were no reports of incoming ships. Only a few setting out. No contracts to scrutinise. She reviewed the few reports, bills of transport, and found nothing remarkable or out of place. It was swift work and it should have put a spring in her step but instead, Amarwen was deflated.

”Didn’t expect to find you here, Lady,”
the Harbourmaster remarked upon his arrival. She looked up in some surprise for she had not marked his presence until he had spoken. Her thoughts were scattered elsewhere.

She hastened to her feet and moved out of the Harbourmaster’s chair. As she did this, the man gathered the papers she had been working through.

”Anything of note?” he inquired.

Amarwen shook head in reply and when the man heard nothing he looked up, askance. In that time, she had moved to the window of his office and she stared through it, as if looking at something a great distance away.

”Can I assist with something, Lady?” he asked, puzzled by her silence. In his experience, Amarwen had never been short of something to say before now.

She glanced over her shoulder briefly. ”I’ll get out of your way, Harbourmaster, and let you get on with your day.”

He inclined his head and watched Amarwen depart his office. Puzzled, he seated himself at his desk and pondered the unusual exchange. Then he set to work reviewing the forward projections he had plotted for the coming spring. Based on the contracts locked in, it looked to be a relatively tight season. But, compared to what he heard from other ports, he knew it could be much worse. Perhaps this is what preoccupied his visitor.

Out of the Harbour Master’s office, Amarwen saw the Chief Advisor stride off Silas’ ship. For a moment she considered calling on one of the guards to detain him. Possibly throw him into the harbour. Her hands curled and uncurled and all that while, Calimir continued on untroubled by any impediment she might contrive to throw in his way. She glanced up to what she guessed his destination was. An early start to his discussions with her mother. Unconsciously, her fingers rose to the cheek her mother had struck last night.

Never before had her mother struck her in such a fashion. It still shocked Amarwen now. It made her want to weep. Blinking rapidly against tears that threatened to form, she drew in a deep, shaking breath and pushed it out again.

”Ami?”

Amarwen turned back to the quay to find Halvarin headed towards her. Gone was his uniform and the urge to run to him and seek his comfort pushed her forwards a few steps before she managed to rein herself back in. Now, here on the docks, was no time for such a display.

”You’re up and about early,”
Halvarin observed as he closed the distance and then he hesitated. ”What’s wrong?”

Amarwen shook her head at his question, her throat closed in around the answer. His pack was still slung over his shoulder and so she grabbed his hand and set off, towing him after her.

”Where are we going?” he asked.

”I have to get out of here, Hal,” she said, her voice quivering.

Halvarin pulled out of her grasp and fell into step beside her. He glanced at the guards they passed.

”How, exactly?” he asked.

Amarwen said nothing. She strode on in determined silence, straight to the dock stables and immediately set about saddling a horse. Halvarin peered about, baffled and concerned.

“Ami, we can’t just ride out of Edhellond. I mean, people are going to notice. I’m reasonably sure your mother is going to have a-“

He broke off when Amarwen burst into tears. Astonished, he hastened to where she stood, clutching a saddle blanket in her hands and choking the life out of it.

”What’s going on?” Halvarin asked quietly.

”We just have to go. Please, Hal. Please!” Her eyes, bright with tears, shone within the stable’s sunlight. He’d seen that imploring look before. At Harlond, when she begged him to quit Gondor and leave her behind. Tenderly, he did now what he could not do then. He pulled Amarwen into his arms and held her.

”Alright then. Let’s get you out of here. Just for a little while,” he said, stroking hair that she had tightly braided for the day. Amarwen sniffled at that and in a few moments had gathered herself. She stepped back, lifted a hand to his jaw that she had to snatch back when someone entered the stables.

”Lady, are you in here? Something you need?”

“Two horses,”
she answered as the groom came into view. He nodded to her politely and turned a curious gaze to Halvarin. ”I need to see to our crofters. I have been too long at port. This officer, kindly, has agreed to act as my escort.”

The groom nodded slowly, taking this in. ”How long do you expect to be away?”

Amarwen drew in a deep breath. ”It all depends on what I find. A day, at least.”

“Very good, Lady. Two horses and provisions. You will be on your way within the hour. Shall I send word to your halls?”


She shook her head sharply. ”No need. I have seen to that already.”

And indeed she had for her mother was re-reading the brief note Amarwen had left before setting out.


Quote:
Crofters. Storm damage inspection. Not home for dinner. Will send word if further delayed.

A




Lady Alenna pushed it away and regarded her guest. ”Yes, Calimir. It is difficult to be without Therald. My daughter has returned to us rather changed. I scarcely recognise who she is, at times.”

“I imagine that is to be expected, Alenna. The experience she has endured must have been a humiliating, and at times frightening, one.”

“You are generous to be so understanding. I assure you, however, that she will offer you a full and proper apology for her disgraceful conduct last night.”

“Well, the least of our concerns when all is said and done, Alenna. Shall we turn to more pressing matters?”

“Of course, Calimir.”


Whilst her mother danced with devil, Amarwen and Halvarin rode out of Edhellond without delay. She drew in a deep, clear breath. Then she looked to where Halvarin rode beside her. Freedom. It was a heady feeling to be out, in the open, with the man she loved and no one watching. No one lurking.

Catching her gaze, Halvarin looked back to her with a tentative smile of his own. ”Care to race?”

“To where?”
she asked and he nodded to a gently rise in the path they had taken towards the coast. ”The prize?”

“Guess,”
Halvarin answered, a wicked glint of anticipation beginning to emerge. ”We have unfinished business to see to, you and I.”

Before he could ask if she was ready, Amarwen applied her heels to her mount and was off.

”Hey!” Halvarin called after her, amusement in his voice. ”Cheating!”

She laughed at his protest and in the end she didn’t care who won. To be out here, right now, under the sun with Halvarin, was all the prize she needed and still more. The weight in her shoulders had begun to unknit. They had the whole day ahead of them. A night too. Likely back the next day but they needn’t hurry. The crofters were not too far away from Edhellond. Two hours ride, a sedate one at that. They had all the time in the world, it seemed to Amarwen and she was determined to put it to good use because it would be a long time before they would have another opportunity like this.

The lovers dallied, winding this way and that, exploring the coast and at one point, pausing in the sedge that waved in the coastal breeze. Despite these abundant delays, they gained the first hamlet by midday. As expected, there were roofs to thatch. The grainary in particular would require attention before the next harvest. It was pleasant to be amongst these people. They cared not for the politics of Gondor and were so pleased to have Edhellond’s attention and aid. From there, Amarwen pushed on to the next hamlet and a third.

The same sort of damage. Wood, straw and slate. Not a hint of trouble or dissent. Happy faces, red cheeks. Smiling and waving. A perfect reminder for Amarwen why it was so important to protect these people. Come the late afternoon, her heart was full once more.

”Pleasant as this is, love, I’m looking forward to getting out of the saddle,” Halvarin observed.

”Sailor,” she teased him.

”Tis true! I am...still, how many more will we be visiting.”

“We’ve seen them all,”
Amarwen replied, smiling to herself. ”Leaving us the night and all the rest of tomorrow to ourselves. To do with as we see fit.”

Halvarin nodded at this and glanced up to the sky. It remained clear and, judging by the way the wind was picking up with the onset of dusk, it would be a cold night ahead.

”Have you somewhere in mind for this evening?”

“Perhaps,”
she said, smiling over her shoulder at him. ”There is a place I have wanted to show you for some time now.”

“One of your secret places?”

“Just so,”
she nodded and that is how Halvarin came to be staring at the interior of a sandstone cave by flickering firelight.

”This is quite the little haven you’ve established for yourself,” he observed, noting the carpets and other comforts set about the cave. A low bed, heaped with furs. A proper hearth, in which they had set the fire by which they stood. Enough kindling and firewood to last for days, if necessary. A rough, sturdy looking table and chair. Candles, in various stages of use, none of which they had yet lit.

”I cannot claim all the credit. Much of this was my grandfather’s doing. He valued his solitude highly. But, those cushions are my addition. As are the books over there.” Amarwen answered. ”Tell me, beloved. Do you like it?” she asked, shyly.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:42 am 
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The day’s ride was for the most part business for Amarwen, but their fun moments between stops were an unexpected joy. Riding free, smiling, just enjoying being together! One thing Halvarin noticed with the cool wind in their faces was how red Amarwen’s cheek was… one of them. Halvarin could tell something had happened with Amarwen especially the way she wanted to get away. It was something he would have to ask about when he told her about what his father expected of him.

But now Halvarin was excited to see what Amarwen was being so secretive about. She had that look in her eyes that could both excite and at the same time worry him. When she walked him to the cave, he took pause as he looked around.

“I love this! You have never shown me this before…I’m glad you are now…” Halvarin said as they entered this beautiful hideaway. He looked around in amazement before turning back to Amarwen and drawing her close. He looked into her eyes and he smiled softly, glad they had this time together.

”As lovely as it is, it does look like it may not of had anyone visit here recently. I uh… should stoke that waning fire and get some heat in here.”

There was an ample stock of firewood, both large and small logs along with some split kindling. Halvarin wasn’t sure what provisions were stored there, but it really didn’t play on his mind for long. They would be there a day, and he was only really hungry for Amarwen. As he got the wood set in the hearth, he saw that Amarwen had quietly disappeared. She had gone to change out of her riding clothes.

Getting the fire ablaze in the hearth didn’t take too long as there was still ample embers and a couple ends of logs still burning. Obviously Amarwen had somehow sent word to have this fire lit earlier in the day and Halvarin sat by it as he waited for Amarwen to emerge.

He wasn’t sure what she had planned at all other than showing her this wonderful place. He knew they would have to talk about what his father wanted him to do, and he would have to ask about her cheek, but for now Halvarin didn’t want to kill the mood during this precious time they had together. Maybe sometime before they leave they could talk about and come up with some sort of half-truth deception he could use for his father’s benefit.

He could feel the warmth of the building fire now and he pulled off his boots and let his feet take in the warmth. When he looked up, he opened his eyes wide as he stood up. “Amarwen… you look stunning….” He stepped over to stand in front of her and he set his hands on her hips as he looked her in the eyes. With a deep breath he said, “Thank you…” and leaned to take her lips to his.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Minas Ithil

Aldamir stood and looked off toward Osgiliath as the snow fell around him. Michas came out to meet him, still in his full winter gear since he had just arrived from the watch to the south.

“M’lord, what troubles?” Michas asked. Aldamir held a parchment out from his father King Eldacar. “My father doesn’t understand. There can be no appeasement of the Guild! He has sent the whole of the Rhovanion Guard to me with an order to send them to the northeast watch against the Easterlings. It is paramount to banishment to be reduced from the Royal Guard to Minas Ithil to me my guard, let alone. Be sent to garrison the furthest outposts.”

Michas shifted. “The whole garrison of Rhovanion Guard? Allow them to serve me if you do not keep them. I can send the 4th Ithilien Guard out there to relieve the 2nd. This is no time to be sending elite soldiers off into the wilderness.” Aldamir looked again at the parchment. “I put my father off by saying I will make the necessary adjustments weather permitting. He will likely see through that. I was never as good as my brother with this bureaucratic non-speak. It will give us time.”

Aldamir walked along the snowy rim and looked south. “Michas, There is an emergency in southern Ithilien. You will put that in your report to me tonight. I will assign to you half the Rhovanion Guard. You get the 4th ready to move as well. The 2nd has been out there since summer waned. They need a break. That way, when notice comes from Eldacar reasserting his wishes, I will tell him that they were needed elsewhere.”

Michas noded. ”I will get into it right away m’lord. The 1st’s recon rangers have reported a buildup at the Poros and fear an attack is imminent. It will be to you in writing before daylight again finds us.”

Aldamir smiled slightly and reached for Michas' arm, they grasped each other and looked solemnly into each other’s eyes. Aldamir said as Michas turned to go, ”Give word that I would like to see the Rhovanion commanders in my chambers immediately. They have to be feeling hard done by with my father’s action. I want to reassure them. We are going to need them when the steel of Gondor starts to clash against each other.”

Michas paused and nodded. ”Consider it done m’lord.” he said before leaving. Aldamir then turned his gaze southwest. Wondering where his messenger was and if Lady Amarwen would get his letters.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:48 am 
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Edhellond

Though Amarwen knew she should not compare, there were times she could not help herself. Aldamir for all of his generosity and kindness had been somewhat reserved with her. Even in their most intimate moments. Halvarin, by contrast held nothing back from her. She did not have to guess at his thoughts or how he felt. Perhaps this was unfair. She had known Halvarin since they were both children. Decades compared years. Still, whatever the reason, she felt it was true all the same as he pulled her into his embrace. Her heart was fuller than she could ever recall it.

When Halvarin pulled back to look at her again, Amarwen said. ”I brought this with me, some years ago, in the hopes you might see it.”

“Osgiliath?” he answered, somewhat started. She smiled as she nodded.

”Better late than never.”

She referred to the gown she wore. It was nfashioned from a delicate elven silk the same colour as her eyes. The gown flowed in soft folds from her shoulders, bound by a black ribbon around her torso. It was this Halvarin’s attention was drawn to. She trailed a light touch along his jaw, a tender caress that swept his eyes up to her own.

”I need you,” he admitted, his voice strained somewhat.

”And I you,” she replied as she gazed into his eyes. ”You, Halvarin, and only you to the end of my days.”

Amarwen drew him to her and lifted her lips to his. Halvarin kissed her deeply, drank her in and then he swept her up and into his arms. To the low bed, heaped with furs. What followed brought tears to Amarwen’s eyes. Tears of joy for their reunion. Tears of sorrow for the years lost. Tears of hope for the life she hoped they would share. Each tear Halvarin kissed, gently brushing her cheek.

”What happened, Ami,” he said as they dozed in the aftermath. His fingers brushed over the cheek her mother had struck.

Amarwen’s eyes closed at the memory. ”My mother is frightened,” she said softly. ”And well she should be. The measures taken to assure Edhellond’s security are costly. The Guild has but to press its boot over our throats as they have others and we will wither. We are a long way from Osgiliath and there, I am saddened to say, the King is constrained in ways his rival is not.”

“She struck you,”
Halvarin asked, his voice very quiet.

”I...said many things last night that, upon reflection, I should not have. Your father is a powerful man, Hal. It was not wise of me to provoke him. Nor very kind of me. For, despite his flaws, he is your father and I love you very much and-“

Halvarin kissed her lips softly when he pulled back, he said, ”I nearly resigned my commission last night.”

Amarwen was so shocked she sat upright. Firelight bathed her skin for Halvarin had already dealt with the ribbon. He pulled her back down to the furs.

”Why would you do such a thing?” she asked.

”I did not..but...my father asked me to do something and....it seemed to me that the Guild served not Gondor but itself. It still seems that way to me.”

“Perhaps some within it do,”
Amarwen said. ”But not all. Gondor needs its navy, Halvarin. It needs good, loyal men such yourself.”

“And your father,” he said.

She nodded. ”Just so. It is not fair, I know, but imagine Gondor’s fate if all the good men of the Guild resigned their commissions.”

“I had not thought of it like that,”
he said.

”It is so easy for people like me to say such things. Harder still, I can only imagine, to hold your faith when it is so sorely abused,” Amarwen pulled his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles. ”What did your father ask?”

“He...wants to know who you have been communicating with beyond Edhellond. Outside influences, he called them.”


Amarwen’s brows lifted and she laughed briefly. ”Oh, I just bet he would! How infuriating it must be to be robbed of access to my correspondence.”

“He read your letters?”

“If not him, one of his agents certainly does. It is why I use the code we contrived as a folly when we were children. Of course, I have had, more than once, had to drop your father something to keep his belly fat with misinformation. I suppose he’s hungry again.”

She paused, thoughts turning and began to smile. ”What?” Halvarin asked, concerned.

Let’s serve him up one of his own. Edhellond trades with any number of Guild stalwarts. At least half of Castimir’s council, I should think.

“Is that wise?”
Halvarin breathed.

”I am confident your father’s agents have provided him with an accurate assessment of our trade partners. Let them eat their own before they come for the rest of us.”

“Who, then?”


Amarwen pondered briefly over who had been most difficult in negotiations. ”Ferdil, Lord if you please,” she rolled her eyes. ”Yes, that odious toad of a man will serve nicely.”

“Lord Ferdil it is, then,”
Halvarin said, pulling her into his arms and looping them around her.

”May they choke on each other,” Amarwen said into Halvarin’s chest.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Harlond


Galreth hunched his shoulders beneath his cloak and squinted along the quay. Only two more vessels headed south remained. He made for the first to find another was there before him.

”Edhellond at this time of year? Can’t say as I was planning it,” said the captain.

”I’ll make sure it’s worth your while. You know I always do, Baldir.”

“That you do, Therald. I’ll give you that, you hoary sea dog.”


Lord Therald himself, no less. Galreth could not help his smile. ”Room for one more passenger?" he asked as the two men sealed their compact.

The Lord of Edhellond looked to him, curious. ”What business brings you to Edhellond, if I may ask?” A clever man, Galreth knew, and observant. He’d marked the bulge his sword made beneath his cloak.

”Reporting for duty, Lord,” he said, not untrue. Edhellond had been hiring in guards for months now and he knew he fit that bill, if not in the way the Lord of Edhellond might think.

Therald nodded slowly as he scanned his face. ”Well then, I’m sure we can find a berth somewhere, can we not Baldir?”

“We’ll manage,”
the captain said, ”We always do.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:51 am 
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Amarwen’s Cave Retreat

Halvarin was silent after that discussion, He reclined with Amarwen laying against him, their bodies pressed together under the furs. He ran his fingers through her hair several times, feeling its softness and twirling a lock around his finger before letting it fall back to her shoulder. He then kissed her head and let his hand drift down her shoulder and arm to her hip as he said,

”As much as I wish not to dwell on the oncoming plight of our lands, it weighs heavily. But if I could trade it all for these moments with you, I would do it in an instant.” He looked to her as Amarwen lifted her gaze and he kissed her lips long and slow, nibbling at her lower lip a little as it ended. ”Thank you Amarwen for this…. For bringing me here to share this time we have ..”

The calm of the cave settled over them and, limbs entwined, they held to each other. They soon were asleep, and Halvarin only woke long enough to roll off of Amarwen and pull the furs back over them. He thought of getting up and putting another log on the fire, but as Amarwen sighed and rolled on her side facing away from him, he settled in behind her, pressing his body against hers and draping an arm over her side to tenderly cradle her to him.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:55 am 
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It was a lazy start to the day for them both. Lazing under the furs, sipping tea. Lounging against each other, reading books. Dozing indolently in each other’s arms. Stealing kisses and bestowing affections upon each other. If they had only themselves to consider, Halvarin and Amarwen might well have resolved to remain in that little cave. Yet, it would not endure long as a sanctuary if they did so. Edhellond needed Amarwen just as the Guild needed Halvarin.

Halvarin would have to report for duty before Silas’ ship left port with the early morning tide tomorrow. They squeezed what they could from their remaining time together but inevitably, both had to prepare for what lay ahead of them. Halvarin had months of study before him. Amarwen had months of dancing along Edhellond’s knife edge before her.

They bid a reluctant farewell to the cave and emerged into the late afternoon. Dusk was approaching and night would fall over them as they returned to Edhellond. Tucked into Halvarin’s pack was a small book of erotic Elvish writing. All in Quenyan, of course. The two lovers took tender leave of each other with heartfelt promises to cleave to each other, come what may.

Once within view of Edhellond, both fell reluctantly into their roles. Halvarin escorted Amarwen to the door of her halls and there, under the scrutiny of the chamberlain, bade her a polite farewell. Before the darkness swallowed him again, he turned and lifted a hand to her. Still on the steps, desperately wishing she could run after him, Amarwen lifted her own in response and then the night had him. She missed Halvarin already and she knew this ache would only grow worse. Still, it was worth it. Halvarin was worth it. Never had Amarwen been as resolved as she was now, which was just as well for she would need that resolve when she found her mother waiting for her in her rooms.

”How were the crofters,” the Lady of Edhellond inquired as soon as Amarwen stepped through her bedroom doors. ”Well, I take it?”

“Quite,”
Amarwen said after a brief delay. She had no appetite to deal with her mother just yet. ”Some damage to repair, of which the granary is the most pressing. Nothing untoward, though.”

“Aside from your escort,”
Alenna replied. ”Did you think I would not learn of it?”

“Not in the least,”
Amarwen rejoined. ”If you see fit to meet with his father, I will do as I see fit!”

Her mother arched a brow at her. ”If it is another argument you seek, you will have to find it elsewhere.” She clasped her hands in front her. ”Tonight, you will write a letter of formal apology to Calimir-“

“AMME!”

“Amarwen! I will not argue with you. This is not a discussion or a negotiation. You will write that letter tonight and that is an end to it!”

“And if I refuse?”

“Then you may as well surrender Edhellond to Castimir and be done with it.”


Amarwen blinked at this and her mother came forward to take her hands in her own. ”I know perfectly well what Calimir is up to, child. Despite our disagreements, I would sooner die than hand you over to the Master of Ships.”

Alenna watched her daughter frown. ”I do not understand why you flatter Calimir so diligently, Amme. He is not Edhellond’s ally.”

“And yet, Castimir would be upon us already without his intercession. We may know such an alliance is an impossibility. Calimir, however, cannot know. We lose him, Amarwen, and we lose Edhellond.”

“This will only delay the inevitable,”
Amarwen countered. ”He will see through this ruse in time.”

”Perhaps he will, but time is precisely what I require and Calimir will provide it to us. Write that letter, girl. And bathe. You reek of.....horse.”


Alenna took her leave with that and Amarwen was left with the unpleasant task of writing to Halvarin’s father an apology she did not owe the man at all.

It took her five attempts to write the following.


Quote:
Lord Calimir

I am dismayed you found dinner so unpleasant. I hope that you will allow us to repair Edhellond in your good graces on future occasions.

Please accept our sincere apologies.

Amarwen of Edhellond



The temptation to underscore ‘sincere’ almost undid this attempt as it had the others. Her quill, though, remained away and so this was the note delivered to Calimir later that evening. The sarcasm laden through the text was immediately apparent. The Chief Advisor shook his head at it.

”You will learn to keep a civil tongue in your head,”
he remarked to himself. ”But if not, it is hardly of consequence, for your tongue is not what is required of you.”

One way or another, Amarwen of Edhellond would serve irrespective of what she thought on the matter. Her intransigence was of no accord whatsoever when all was said and done. He knew what the outcome would be. What Calimir could not ascertain, however, is the price to be paid for it. The Lady of Edhellond had been as diplomatic as her daughter had not but even so, Edhellond remained unsecured. It was time to increase the pressure. For too long had Edhellond escaped the consequences of their intractability.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Galreth’s plan was to keep as low a profile as he possibly could on the voyage to Edhellond. The Lord of Edhellond, however, had other ideas. They’d just passed Pelargir and Galreth had been in the process of feeding the ravens he was bring back to the Lady when her father found him.

”That,”
Therald said. ”Is a lot of birds.”

Wincing, Galreth turned to regard the man. ”I’m partial to ravens.”

“We all must have hobbies,”
Therald agreed, peering past Galreth at one such raven. ”Do they have names?”

“None they’re willing to share with me, Lord.”

Therald nodded and transferred his scrutiny of the raven to Galreth. ”How long do you think you’ll stay on in Edhellond?”

He shrugged at the question. ”I’m not sure yet. Will depend on the ale, I expect.”

At that, Therald smiled and the tension Galreth had sensed seemed to abate. ”We’ve yet to have a complaint,” the Lord of Edhellond replied and, with a nod, left Galreth to finish feeding his ravens.

He did so, unable to shake the sense that somehow, the Lord of Edhellond knew something. What, and more to the point, how he could not guess for he’d not crossed paths with the man before this ship. He was left with this unsettling thought for days until Therald provided the answer.

”You’re Aldamir’s man,”
he said plainly a week into the voyage. ”The Prince informed me himself.” Galreth’s jaw clenched. Aldamir would have his reasons for that but still, would have been nice to know. ”He also informed me that you carry a letter from the Prince to my daughter.”

“My orders, Lord, were quite clear.”

“I know,”
Therald acknowledged. They stood at the rail and the Lord of Edhellond was gazing at the far horizon. “This is a family matter, Galreth. My wife. My daughter. Whilst I agree with Aldamir, this is not his affair to involve himself in.”

Galreth hesitated, reluctant to contradict the Lord and doubly reluctant to set aside his own orders. Aldamir had been clear in his instructions. Perceiving his hesitation, Therald turned to regard Galreth squarely.

”You have been sent to serve and protect my daughter,” he said. Galreth nodded slowly and Therald pushed on. ”Bringing discord and strife to Edhellond will not serve Amarwen well. Nor Edhellond. Allow me to deal with this.”

“And if you should fail, Lord?”

“Then,”
Therald paused, ”I shall give her the prince’s letter myself. My word upon it.”

He spoke so solemnly and Therald of Edhellond was known to be a man of his word. Reputable. Staunch. Galreth reached into to pull the prince’s letter free. He passed it to the Lord of Edhellond with this, ”I am aware of its contents. Should you prove unable to satisfy your undertaking, I will see the prince’s orders carried out myself one way or the other.”

Therald nodded his understanding. ”Aldamir chose well in sending you, Galreth.”

The Lord of Edhellond took his leave with that and Galreth was left to contemplate the exchange at the rail. He wiped a hand over his face and hoped he had not made a miscalculation he would come to regret. Deeply did Aldamir care for this woman. If he failed in his duty, the Prince’s wrath would be stern.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 3:58 am 
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Minas Ithil

Aldamir stood before all of the Rhovanion guard, and though there was much anger and mistrust being spoken of in the ranks, Aldamir brought them to attention.

”Why have we been exiled” Vilmaith called out, stepping forward toward the Prince. His Gondorian bodyguard started to step forward to get in her way, but Aldamir stilled him.

” Let her, or any of these soldiers approach!” Aldamir called out. He gave the Gondorian a hard stare as he wanted to make sure there were no divisions among the loyal Gondorian and Rhovanion soldiers. Seeing the cohort of the Rhovanion Guard before him…. the commanders, unit leaders, and soldiers alike. Also stood there the Ithilien Guard, The City Guard, and the Order of Rangers of Ithilien. Though it was a cold evening and the snow flurries danced around them, Aldamir saw that now was the time to speak to them all…

”In fact, I will step down and be among you all.”
He said as he stepped around to stand with Vilmaith. He looked into her crystal blue eyes intently and though she had a hard stare, she did turn. Aldamir said “There will only be the highest respect given to all Rhovanions who serve King Eldacar! He will see the error in his desire to appease the Sea Guild. I know there will be no appeasing them, and a war will come. I will stand with you in battle and will either triumph or fall among you!”

He looked into their faces as the talking had ceased. Aldamir knew he had to own this moment and repair the damage that his father had caused in the Rhovanion’s faith in Vinitharya. ”Warriors of Rhovanion! Hear me! Vinitharya has not abandoned you or sent you to exile in the northeast! You will serve me proudly in his name! We have much to do, and the loyal soldiers of Gondor all are proud to stand with you! Serve me as you would serve Vinitharya! Eldacar! Our one and only King of Gondor, son of King Valacar of Gondor and Lady Vidumavi of Rhovania!”

A cheer went up from both Rhovanians and Gondorians, and Aldamir gripped arms with those around him. He would keep Vilna, Vidnavi, and Helga in Minas Ithil as part of his personal guard. Vilmaith would command the rest of the Rhovanion Guard and would go south with Michas and the Ithilien Rangers as far as the Poros River. All he had to do was to explain to his father why he had ordered his forces so…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Edhellond

Halvarin was aboard ship seeing to his duties and making sure they would be able to make way to Pelargir soon. As much as he wanted to again see Amarwen, there was no way he would get out from under Silas’s eye. What he did manage was a letter written in their code in case any unwanted eyes would intercept it…


Quote:
Beloved Ami,

As I prepare to depart for Pelargir, the joy that fills me knows no end. The time with you, however short, will hold and carry me until we again meet. When that may be, I know not, but my gut tells me that the road will be long and strewn with obstacles. Be well my love, and know that you are forever held in my heart come what may … for me, for you, and for Gondor.

Until we meet again…
Halvarin


Halvarin paid a young boy walking by the quay, maybe ten years of age… to personally deliver his letter to Lady Amarwen. The coin he gave seemed to light up the child, and how he would manage his task, Halvarin did not know. He just could not trust the official mail even in Edhellond and the delivery to Amarwen at House Edhellond.


When the chill early morning came, Halvarin was already on deck checking the windspeed and tides. The air was crisp and cold with a steady icy wind from the north but there was not a cloud to be seen. The puddles of snowmelt had a thin skim of ice over them, and Halbarin would check the street that ran along the quay with a glance as he worked. It was a warm feeling when he saw a cloaked woman push her hood back, revealing her long dark locks, and the young boy waving at him. Halvarin gave the young boy a slight salute, and turned his eyes again to Amarwen, her gloved hand clutching his letter.

His moment of seeing Amarwen was quickly dashed when Captain Silas came and stood next to him. Halvarin was just as quick to turn and give him a salute. ”Navaigator, report?” Silas said and Halvarin quite professionally nodded as he stood.

”The tide is high and set to recede, and the winds are as favourable as they will likely get. They are now light and from the north, so I recommend getting underway forthwith.”
Halvarin said as he again checked the sock on the quay and that on the mast.

The winds were steady if light, and Captain Silas nodded and said, ”Very well Navigator” Silas then turned to his executive officer and said, ”Let us cast off and depart for Pelargir. Make it so.” He then looked over to Calamir who was observing the whole exchange….

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Out to Sea

Once they had set off, Halvarin found his father standing nearby as he set course. Captain Silas Came to the bridge and the two immediately went into the captain’s quarters. When they emerged it was around noon, and Silas came over and said to Halvarin, ”Set course due south-southeast and plot our course to Pelargir in an arc from this point.” Halvarin hesitated only briefly before giving a nod to Silas.

”Aye aye sir…”
he said and turned again to the charts.. Silas had the Helmsman steer them south which was indeed taking advantage of the wind before it would shift. Halvarin had a course laid out quickly and would give directions to the Helmsman. In days they were on the furthest reach of the arc, and as they were correcting their turn, the watched called out, “Ship on the horizon!”

Silas let out a sigh and Calamir nodded with a neutral face. “Signal the ship. Once confirmed, drop sails.” Silas called out. The watchman nodded from the crows-nest and he pulled out two bright flags and started moving them about. He then watched for a return signal. When it came he called down, “Umbar Heavy”. Silas looked over to Calamir and squinted.

”It seems your estimation was correct Chief Advisor.”
Silas said. Calamir nodded. ”Once they are close enough, I will launch a dingy and visit our friends from the south. You need not worry about any of this Captain Silas. Your circuitous route was due to needing to shake down the repaired ship.”

Silas saluted the Chief Advisor and turned and went to his quarters. Calamir and two oars men went to board the Umbar ship manned mostly by Haradian-Numenorean mixed blood sailors. When he returned, the order was given to proceed to Pelargir.

Aboard the heavy ship were lightly armed soldiers… the Haradian Marines… who were fierce and ruthless, and the order was to land on the be aches along the Gondrian coast and raid the villages before retreating back to sea. A larger contingent was earmarked to land each side of Edhellond and one ship land nearer Dol Amroth to prevent a rapid response. With the information given to them by Calamir, they knew the best places to land and to attack…

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Pelargir


When their ship finally docked in Pelargir, Darion had Halvarin go immediately to the Guildhouse to prepare for his initial test. He already had the pre-approval of the Chief Advisor and Halvarin was given leave by Captain Silas with a letter of recommendation so all he would have to do to get Halvarin to make the rank of Navigator Prime was for him to carry out the steps necessary by the Guild. The first step is to take the test. All applicants usually fail it, but then they have a basis to know what to work on through the course. Darion wanted to get Halvarin started as soon as possible.

Halvarin for his part was glad to be back on land. He was privy to some of what all went on and why their route was extended, but he chose to act ignorant of the conversations going on around him. He also didn’t have any idea that Calamir had played his part in Castamir’s plan to raid the coasts. He settled into his room in the Guildhouse, where he would be at home through his accelerated studies. His mind held to Amarwen, but he knew he had to succeed here to expedite his possibility of seeing her again…


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: September 17th, 2020, 4:03 am 
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Edhellond to Dol Amroth – 1433 Loëndë


Amarwen stood before her family’s halls, watching final preparations underway. It seemed to her a lot of fuss for a ball at Dol Amroth. In truth, the entire affair did not sit well with her. She had seen the bodies ashore. The plumes of smoke of ships fired and drifting on the lonely waters. The Guild, it seemed to her, had already begun its war. It was no time for silks, jewels, fine wine and dancing. Already she resented the distraction this was and the time it would steal from her and she’d not even left yet.

The crunch of boots diverted her attention from the preparations to Galreth. Aldamir’s man had arrived with her father and together, they had been training the ravens he had brought with him. An intricate business, that was, for the birds were as obstinate as they were clever and it was very difficult to reason with them.

”Don’t tell me they’ve rousted you too for this nonsense,” she said as he approached.

Circumspect and careful as ever, Galreth inclined his head politely and greeted her properly. ”Lady,” he intoned and paused to watch the scene before them. ”I am to remain.”

“Good,
” Amarwen replied. ”At least some of our work will continue through this nonsense.” She pressed out another of the many sighs she had issued this day and shook her head from side to side. ”I will be back as soon as I am able.”

Galreth’s nod was his only answer. He turned his scrutiny to her briefly and then looked behind them to the front doors. His attention swivelled back to the wagons. Wagons! How much did they really need to bring with them for a ball in Dol Amroth? Amarwen issued another sigh for half of one wagon was loaded with chests of her clothing alone. Ridiculous.

”I’ve a good mind to stay myself,” she muttered, mutiny bubbling in her thoughts and not for the first time.

”Perhaps you should, Lady,” Galreth quietly intoned.

Amarwen looked to Aldamir’s man directly, one inky brow arched. ”Why? Is there word?”

Galreth shook his head impatiently. ”You’ve spoken with your father, Lady?”

“Frequently,”
Amarwen replied, bemused by the question. Something was afoot and she smelled a diversion. ”We share the same roof.”

Galreth grimaced, frustrated. ”Forgive me, Lady, but this is important. Has your father disclosed the prince’s wishes?”

Now she knew something was afoot. There were too many anomalies in this one morning already. ”Speak plainly, Galreth.”

“I would if I could,”
he replied, his tone regretful. ”If it is plain speech you would have, seek it from your father.”

“I will have it now, if it is all the same to you!”

Voices from within the halls reached out to where Amarwen stood with Galreth. Her parents. Galreth nodded to the wagons. ”One might think a ball at Dol Amroth were as important to Edhellond as, say, a ball at Osgiliath.”

Amarwen’s eyes widened as she grasped his meaning. Then she frowned, because it couldn’t be true. Not again, not after everything she had discussed and agreed upon with her parents.

”I am at your disposal, Lady, whatever your wishes might be,” Galreth earnestly said, inclined his head and was swiftly on his way again.

Breathless, Amarwen looked back to the wagons. Surely not. She drew in a shaking breath and pushed it out. She drew another, deeper this time, and held it.

”Isn’t this exciting,” her father said as he came to her side. ”It’s been years since Dol Amroth hosted a Loëndë ball.”

She didn’t hear him. Amarwen was lost in her own thoughts, wondering how she could have missed this again. All those hushed discussions between her parents. The weighted exchange of glances each time another pirate attack was reported. The pointed discussion of other members of the court and their doings over dinner. She knew how strained their finances were. It was why they could not afford to mount their own guard on the seas. And now, her mother’s reasoning in the treatment of Calimir made sense too. The time she needed was all to arrange another, more palatable alliance.

”Oh dear,” her mother declared as she studied the wagons. ”We cannot all ride together.”

“No time to rearrange them now, Alenna,”
her father replied with a glance to the sky. Laden wagons trundling to Dol Amroth would take most of the day. ”Ami, you can ride with-“

“I’ll ride alone,”
Amarwen declared, without looking at either of her parents. She strode towards a wagon and climbed up and into it.

”She knows,” Therald sighed, his daughter’s stiff posture radiating anger.

”She was bound to figure it out,”
Alenna pointedly observed and not for the first time. She lifted her chin, as determined as their daughter was. ”And in any case, we have kept our word. The decision will be hers and hers alone.”

Therald shook his head, unconvinced this would be enough for Amarwen. ”Well, we’ve most of the day to discuss this.”

“Amarwen is well aware of her responsibilities and her duty to Edhellond at this perilous time.”


The Lady of Edhellond swept forward towards the wagons.

”And if you’re wrong,” he countered after he’d settled in beside his wife.

Alenna offered him a taut, almost wintry smile. ”Well then, you’d best put your thinking cap on, my love. For, as I recall, it was you that wished to keep this matter quiet.”

“If we’d told her when you wished to, she’d not be sitting in that wagon over there now,”
Therald replied, mindful of Aldamir’s letter. ”She’d be in Osgiliath, pleading her case, instead.”

Alenna snorted at that. The issue of Prince Aldamir’s letter remained vexatious for the Lady of Edhellond. The Lord and Lady of Edhellond fell into their thoughts as the wagons set off.

The long, slow hours to Dol Amroth proved most illuminating for Amarwen. There is only so much time one can devote to brooding and inevitably, her mind turned to how she might extricate herself from the predicament that loomed closer with each league.

She considered discussing it with her parents. No matter who they allied with, there is no conceivable way that Pelargir would look benignly upon it. It could only serve to inflame Edhellond’s current difficulties, just as the last betrothal had. She suspected that was a risk they were prepared to take for there was no acceptable way to placate the Guild.

She considered telling her parents that she was, indeed, already betrothed. They could rant and rail but nothing could change that. It was as immutable as the Elves that had performed the rites. That would only place Halvarin and herself in peril and Halvarin would, she suspected, bear the brunt of it. They were not yet ready for that. She did not know if he had gained Navigator Prime and in doing so, the ability to lift somewhat the Guild’s suffocating net.

Amarwen considered slipping away from Dol Amroth or otherwise absenting herself by means of illness or even injury. A temporary reprieve, that, unless she fled Edhellond entirely. Abandoning her people was anathema to her.

No matter how she turned it about, compliance on her behalf seemed her only feasible option...to a point. She could not comply so far as to betroth herself to another. It would be illegal and bring upon Edhellond considerable shame and disrepute. Nor would she betray the man she so loved for expediency’s sake. Compliance was not obedience, however. She had learned that in her dealings with Gondor’s queen. Amarwen knew all too well how to comply without obeying. A fine line to tread but one she was experienced with.

She would attend the ball and whilst there, she would be charming and delightful. Still, by the time she was done with whomever they had roped in, not one would be willing to proceed. By the time they gained Dol Amroth, Amarwen’s frame of mind had shifted from dull shock and anger to anticipation.

Prince Elarin awaited in the forecourt to greet them. Amarwen waited, patient and calm, as he welcomed her parents. When it was her turn, she was perfectly polite and pleasant.

”Uncle,” she said, eyes lowered as she rose from her curtsy. Elarin took her hands in his and she looked up to offer him a bright smile.

”Lovelier by the day,” the Prince of Dol Amroth observed. ”Are you looking forward to the ball, my dear?”

”Oh yes,”
Amarwen replied. ”I can hardly wait!”

”Well then,”
Elarin declared as he released her hands. ”Let’s get you settled in, shall we?”

She watched Elarin guide her parents towards his doors. Her smile shifted, flickering for a devious moment. When they looked back, Amarwen’s expression was dutifully schooled. The brightness of her eyes and colour in her cheek might be considered the excitement of a young woman who had not had the opportunity to attend a ball for years. Her step was light and she flashed a smile at anyone they passed.

”Tomorrow, the last of our guests will arrive. I thought a dinner would assist in acquainting ourselves with friends, old and new, before the ball itself,” Elarin said.

“What a lovely idea,” Amarwen enthused. She had even more time to work her havoc on her unsuspecting mark.

That evening, before she repaired to her bed, Amarwen sat down to write another letter to Halvarin. She’d been writing regularly, telling him of events in Edhellond and her thoughts. Unlike her, Halvarin did not have the latitude to respond. His father, she was certain, would intercept anything he tried to send and besides that, he would be up to his ears with study. Exams would be soon, by her calculations, if not already upon him.


Quote:
Beloved Halvarin,

How I ache for you! My darling, I miss you so. How are you? Do you know, yet, what your results are? I am so very proud of you, no matter what. I know how hard you have worked and how difficult it has been. Still, I remain certain that it is the only way. For us and indeed the Guild if the Guild is to survive its present course.

I regret to say that the attacks have not abated. I do not know why, in retrospect, I thought they might. Hope, perhaps, that humanity and decency might find a way back in. I dream of their faces, Hal. Of those washed ashore. Each time one of our vessels sets out, I wonder how many of them will perish. It is a marvel to me that there are men willing to crew our ships still. Surely word must have spread of the carnage off our coast.

Another surprise. Your father has yet to make an appearance. I thought he might, by now, consider us sufficiently backed into a corner as to be more amenable. Evidently, so did my parents and indeed this is why I write, my love.

My beloved. My betrothed.

I write from Dol Amroth. There is to be a ball in a few days. That, in itself is remarkable. Aside from being ridiculously expensive affairs, the timing when set against the terrible toll of piracy off our coast is astonishing. Edhellond can scarcely afford to attend and yet here we are. Extraordinary, until the real reason is laid bare.

My parents have, once more, arranged to form an alliance through their preferred means: my hand. I suppose we cannot offer anything else of real value. They must be desperate to take this path again. Particularly after their undertaking to me.

I give you my solemn word, Hal. No matter what you might hear, I will not wed another. I will not be foresworn and, further, I will not imperil Edhellond further. No alliance is enough to protect us. If anything, it will only deepen the strife we are already in!

By the time we see each other again, I will see this impediment off. Edhellond will be no safer, but certainly no worse. I will remain true to you, to our future, and to Gondor.

We will find a way through these shoals.

I love you Hal.

A

P.S: as soon as you can get away, please come. I need you so.


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