The Waning Days of King Valacar
Page 16 of 21

Author:  Elora Starsong [ August 29th, 2018, 7:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar


The Crown Prince turned at the sound of his father's voice. He had been set to follow the Captain of the Guard out at the time but clearly, his father had other notions in mind.

That had been nearly an hour ago now and in that time, Valacar's thoughts had veered and turned, weaving through the recent events and business of the court. Ultimately, it seemed to centre on one particular matter at hand: the betrothal. It would seem his youngest son had been at it again. A second visit to his grandfather in almost as many days. The first saw Aldamir receive Valacar's dispensation to dissolve his betrothal without prejudice. How sorely Farien had been vexed to discover Aldamir had not only sought but obtained it. Though, now as then, Eldacar was hard pressed to conceive what sanctions they might dare against Edhellond should the betrothal not proceed to its natural conclusion.

Bold, they said Castimir was, still he cleaved to the shadows yet. Castimir's strength was consolidating in the southern reaches of the realm. If they did not hold what remained in the north, and Edhellond and Dol Amroth were essential for that, Gondor was as good as lost to the pretender already.

And now Aldamir had been at it again. Oh, Farien would be fit to be tied when she discovered what their youngest son had accomplished. Still, Aldamir actions this day had smoothed the way for his father. It would prove much easier to hold his wife at bay from Aldamir's betrothed now he had the King's declarations in hand. Farien would not be best pleased to be pushed aside in such a fashion but her grip had to be loosened. For everyone's sake.

On the other hand, Eldacar thought as he made the final turn, that Aldamir was so actively seeking to protect and care for the Lady Amarwen was an encouraging indication. Perhaps Aldamir was warming to the notion, to the Lady Amarwen. Perhaps. As for the Lady herself, she remained something of an enigma. She seemed to have gained some influence with his younger son. That spoke well for her. It was time he spoke with her, eye to eye, and that time was now.

As expected, Eldacar found Amarwen's chambers unguarded. He'd had word from Elarin that his man was in place but the Crown Prince could not see this Viper. That was the point, though. The Shieldmaidens assigned to Amarwen's detail had been stood down. No one openly watched the main doors and the Crown Prince found them open. Within, seated with her back to the door, was the Lady herself. Her posture was hunched, weariness evident in her posture. Amarwen's shoulders were hunched, her head bowed, and she was rubbing the bridge of her nose. Lost in her thoughts.

Though her door was open, Eldacar paused.

"Lady Amarwen," he said, his voice carefully modulated. Amarwen's posture rippled as she discovered that she was not alone. The young woman rose to her feet and she turned to present him with a wary expression. She took his presence in and sank immediately into the precisely correct courtesy.

"Your Highness," she murmured as she rose to her full height. "An unexpected honour."

"I am pleased to have found you,"
Eldacar said and glanced through the inner doors of her bed chamber to the balcony beyond. It was late. Twilight was well upon them. When his gaze returned to Amarwen, he found her cheeks had flushed and she was wincing.

"I did not know he was there, your Highness. A likely tale, I know, but true all the same. It will not happen again. I swear it."

"What will not?"
Eldacar asked, intrigued, and her downcast eyes bounced up.

He smiled as she tried to find a way of extricating herself from her own trap. With a wave of his hand he set it to one side. "If I am not intruding, I had hoped we might speak."

Amarwen was at a loss. That much was clear from the way she hesitated.

"As you wish," she finally said and he wondered where she had simply been unable to find a suitable way to decline his request.

He inclined his head and gestured at the lounge she had been seated on. "Please, if at all possible, be at your ease. This," the Crown Prince paused, "This is not an official interview."

And so it began. Eldacar crossed the threshold and closed the doors. It did not take very long. Less than an hour, yet by the time Eldacar left again, he did so with a faint smile on his face. Next, Farien...and by the time he was done Amarwen's retinue will have considerably shrunk: one secretary, her counsel and two maids.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ August 30th, 2018, 3:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Osgiliath Guild House

Calimir stroked his chin thoughtfully at Girdean's report. His adjutant was a man efficient, if not miserly, with his words.

"She has since returned to the palace, as bidden," Girdean concluded.

If his adjutant's assessment proved accurate, Almara would serve as a useful wedge. Then again, Girdean seemed to have something of a blindspot when it came to women. He routinely underestimated them. Calimir was not nearly so assured that Almara would swallow that which Girdean had fed her. Still, Almara's very presence at the palace would suit him well.

"Continue as planned," Calimir instructed.

Girdean accepted this with the nod, "As for the other: the mongrel prince has been sighted today, fawning once again over Edhellond's scion. These displays curdle more than a few stomachs within the court and the barracks alike. Outrage grows apace."

"Fan those embers slowly, Girdean."

"We nearly had her before. A more concerted push would see it done. Eldacar is complacent now the betrothal is done. He stood her guards down. Harondar, Anfalas and Lebanin are neatly lined in a row. They stand at the ready."

Calimir, though, shook his head from side to side. "It is not enough. Not nearly enough. The fool girl jumped through a window and into the Anduin at night. She risked death over disobeying her parents."

"If Edhellond will never willingly capitulate to Lord Castimir, perhaps we should seize that which is required."

Calimir replied with a slow smile, "But this is not the time for it." With those words he came to a decision. "Our strategy concerning the succession warrants review. Further orders will come. Until then, continue your present course with one exception: make no move to secure Amarwen of Edhellond."

Girdean blinked at this. "If we give up on that, it will be twenty years before another suitable match comes of age."

"I made no mention of giving up. Focus your efforts on the orphan. Keeping her in check will require more than you perhaps anticipate."

The adjutant grunted his acknowledgement and turned to the final matter. ”Princess Farien is rumoured to have fallen out of favour. The ladies in waiting she assigned to Edhellond’s heir have been dismissed, save the Secretary. Further, she is not to cross paths with Lady Amarwen. This was done on instruction of the King himself.”

Calimir’s brows rose and he made no effort to keep his interest or surprise from his expression. ”Any speculation on the reason for this?”

Girdean shook his head in reply. ”All that is known is that the King acted upon his grandson’s request.”

This time, Calimir’s smile was broad. He chuckled to himself, relishing the possibility that Farien just might desperate enough to reconsider distancing herself. If the rumours were true, Farien would have need of allies. Allies she will not find within the palace itself. They had leverage he had previously thought expended and with Halvarin safely out of the way, Calimir had no reason to hold his hand.

”I will leave for Pelargir at once,” Calimir declared.

Castimir would agree with him, he was certain: it was time to start reeling Farien in, closing the net around her. As for Edhellond, so very far away, would discover the tidings entirely too late to do anything about it. Done would be done and in the end, they'd know it was right. At least, Therald would. His old friend had ever been a practical man and that had not changed over the intervening years.

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 2nd, 2018, 9:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

From a rooftop vantage point Rie-Zunic watched as the guildsmen unloaded a suspicious box of cargo. The dock inspections went as would be typical. The man peeked into the first row of boxes to clarify the cargo was indeed as stated on the manifest. The few boxes stacked under the back row, however, never got touched. It was those boxes, Rie-Zunic noticed, the men carried with a different stride. The weight in them was significantly different. Different enough that it showed when they hoisted the crates from one location to another.

The manifest said they brought fine linens, clothes, and silk. Simply a profit voyage it would seem on the surface. Rie-Zunic didn't buy it. Once the crates were loaded where they belonged and the dock workers on the way to the tavern, he sneaked down among them. He quickly went to work, making way towards the few boxes in the back as subtly as he could. He used his dagger to pry the corner of the lid up, just enough to look in. As he suspected... weapons and armor. Not just any weapons and armor, but they bore the emblem of the guild. They were not to sell. They were for use by the guild members. There were enough weapons to outfit a small regiment.

He quickly stacked the boxes back, the grace of the valar shining down upon him as he somehow managed the whole thing without being spotted! He hurried back to the castle and once again made his plea to the captain of the guard.

"Weapons!" he repeated himself. "Illegal weapons, and not for resale!"

"I understand!" the man replied in a firm but hushed tone. "Watch where they take them. Once they store them, we will know where they hold their supplies. When the King gives authorization we can confiscate the entire lot of them at once."

"And when will that be?" Rie-Zunic asked.

The captain of the guard sighed, rubbing his forehead. "I don't know. I can't say anything beyond the authority given, and as of now I do not have authority to allow you to engage the guildsmen."

"Even if it means letting them strike first?" Rie-Zunic asked.

"Even if it means that... yes," he answered bluntly. "I can only do what I am given permission to do. I am as you are. A man subject to a master."

Those words rang in Rie-Zunic's ears like never they had before. "A man subject to a master." Now, that mastery threatened to endanger his own people, his own country! Furthermore, the woman he loved was caught in a precarious spot, smack dab in the middle of it all!

Rie-Zunic let a steeled expression overtake his face as he stepped towards the captain of the guard and drew his sword. "A man subject to a master..." he repeated the mans words in a low and threatening tone. "I will be no more."

The captain of the guard fumbled to his right, circling around Rie-Zunic and towards the door. "Rie-Zunic! Think about what you are doing."

"I have thought about it," Rie-Zunic assured him, letting the man circle around behind him. Then, with his next sentence he lay his sword down on the man's desk. "I am resigning from the royal military. I am afraid the politics have rid my position of any worth to my country." He loosed the strap on his breastplate and let it fall to the floor with a clamor that echoed through the room. Next came his belt, and all his military paraphernalia came crashing down to the floor, along with his entire career.

"If you do this," the captain of the guard admonished him. "You can not undo it. Think about this! I understand your frustration... even share them! But if we are to act outside the orders of our King, how are we any different than they?"

"Because we fight for the well-being of others," Rie-Zunic growled in a harsh tone. "Not our own personal gain."

With not another word Rie-Zunic walked past the man and left the room.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 4th, 2018, 6:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The Anduin - on route to Edhellond

The voyage south from Osgiliath had been uneventful thus far. They had cleared the Harlond without incident and were now well on their way to Pelargir. Therald hoped the Master of Ships would not bother with the vessel but Castamir was known for his capricious pride. That Edhellond had thrown over Castimir to betroth its heir to the son of his rival might well prove enough to provoke the Master of Ships into a display of power and force to assuage his adherents. Nothing too provocative as, say, assaulting Edhellond proper or burning its fleet and fields. An assault upon himself, Lord Consort of Edhellond, was another matter entirely.

The Master Shipwright sat in his cabin as the afternoon waned into dusk. Therald was anxious to return to his wife. Alenna so rarely took ill and it troubled him that she had done so now. Foul play, he could not help but wonder. Would the Master of Ships be so bold as to remove the current Lady of Edhellond, foisting Amarwen into her mother’s role before her time? Weakening them? He could not dismiss it and his thoughts seethed with question as to how Castimir might have accomplished it. Poison. That would suggest traitors within the household itself. And then, of course, his lingering concern for his daughter.

Amarwen had seen him off, bestowing into his care a letter for her mother. He stared at it now. It sat on his desk, sealed. Something had been very wrong with Amarwen. She had been forlorn and lost, like a bird fallen from the nest. And the wine. How she had smelled of wine. Loathe to argue with her upon their parting, for he did not know when he’d next set eyes upon his only child, he had not pressed her on it. Still, he knew his only child well.

Ordinarily, he would not intrude upon her correspondence with her mother but these were not ordinary times. Far from them. With a sigh, he reached for the letter and broke the seal, muttering an apology to his wife and his daughter both. Alenna would understand, he thought. His wife would likely do as he was now. As Therald read what Amarwen had set down, he felt his heart constrict.

Carefully he refolded the letter and set it back upon his desk. Therald scrubbed his hands over his face and stretched out on the bed affixed to the cabin wall. As he stared up at the deck overhead, he wondered whether they had done the right thing. He rolled to his side and an uncomfortable thought struck him. Many years ago, when he had dared court Alenna, he had discovered that the woman he had come to yearn for was expected to wed amongst the nobility.

He well recalled the cold, remote reception her father had meet him with. Amarwen’s maternal grandfather, had not been well pleased to have before him a newly minted Shipwright of meagre birth. There had been ominious and discouraging talk of contracts, alliances and trade. He recalled how his elder brother, Carlin, declared him a fool to even bother.

'She's beyond the reach of men such as you and I," Carlin had declared with a dubious shake of his shaggy head. Very nearly, his brother had been proven correct.

That, of course, was a different time. Edhellond’s peace had not been imperilled as it was now. But though times were different, he recalled well the sorrow he had felt when it had seemed his hopes would founder. He considered Amarwen’s distress at learning the betrothal was to proceed. Never had he seen her quite as distraught.

But what was he to do about it? If not Aldamir, then who? Certainly, Halvarin was not an option.

It was not that the lad was unworthy. Simply, despite his best efforts, Halvarin could never bring Amarwen happiness. The fact remained, come what may, that Halvarin was a Navigator and men such as those, like Captains, spent a goodly portion of their lives at sea. Far from the shores their families waited upon, hoping that they would safely return to port. Many such mariners did not marry, choosing a solitary life. Those that did, like Halvarin’s father had, often had sad and sorry tales to tell when it came to their families.

The sea would ever be Halvarin’s first mistress and that was no life for Amarwen. She did not yet understand just how powerful the call of the open horizon could be. He hoped that Calimir was mistaken but if he was not, then they had failed to guide their daughter from her present grief. He daren't wonder at how deep that sorrow would be.

It echoed in the letter she had written to her mother. Obedience. Grim resignation to a fate she had no desire for. Amarwen was strong, he knew. Very much of her mother in that regard. Still, his heart ached for her.

The Lord of Edhellond knew it would difficult to sleep that night. But there was nothing else to be done for it.

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 6th, 2018, 11:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Rie-Zunic headed back to his house. It was a bittersweet feeling, realizing he was now free from the dedication that had held him down his entire adult life. It was a frightening thought, that now he had no "direction." At the same time, it was intensely liberating! He never realized what a weight his position int he royal military had placed on him. What stress it had caused him all these years. Now, being free from that weight, he felt as though he could fly! Fly he would. Down the streets and to his house. On the wall hung a set of tools he had not used for a great many years. Tools of an unbound swordsman. No royal emblem decorated the hilt of the sword, no rank designations on the light leather armor, and there was no tel-tail signs of the palace blacksmiths in the crafting of the arrow heads to his simple wooden bow.

Rie-Zunic took the items from their display. He dawned a dingy poncho, the color of a heavy fog, which had a low hanging hood that covered most of his face. Under it was strapped the stone gray leather armor. Enough to protect from a few strikes, but light enough to move freely in. Far lighter than the royal armor he was used to wearing. It felt almost like he was wearing no armor at all.

Next, the quiver of arrows was slung over his back and fastened in place on the armor with leather straps. The quiver, the arrows, and the bow itself were all a dim color, like murky water that had been stirred with mud. The boots, gloves, belt, and sword sheath were colored to match. The sword itself was a dull, unpolished gray. The blade, the handle and all.

The outfit had been his "Knight in training" outfit when first he had competed for a chance to enter into the royal military.

Rie-Zunic took one last look around his house. It was a home provided by the palace. With the vanishing of his job, so his domicile washed away as well. Ironically, there was nothing else in it that he wished to take with him, save his money and a satchel of supplies. He would have no need for anything else. Where he was going next, he would need nothing but skill, weapons, and luck.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 8th, 2018, 12:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Halvarin stayed at the Inn until more people started to arrive. By lunch time he left, to walk around the White City. He took up residence at the White Tree Inn for a week. This would be the first time he had been there. A young maid came by and he ordered tea. It wasn’t long before she was off her morning shift, and she came and sat with Halvarin with her lunch and tea. Halvarin didn’t mind the company. Her reddish-brown hair and freckles augmented her features, and though she seemed young, she seemed to know her way around an inn. She had been at the old tavern on the quays when it burned down. Halvarin didn’t know it was one of the first acts his father Calamir set into motion after his arrival. He had it burned down for serving Rhovanions.

Their time talking passed when she got up and said,

“I do have to get to the markets.”

“I will walk with you if you don’t mind. I’m not doing anything with my day.”

Nadia blushed slightly as she looked down. She knew the Mariners were charmers for a day. Knowing that, she looked back at him and said,

“I wouldn’t mind company.”

Halvarin got up and together they walked out to go to the street markets. Having someone to talk to helped him not dwell on his longing for Amarwen.


As the sun was setting Vidnavi in full battle gear stood in the street staring at the Mariner’s Guild building. Earlier after they were dismissed, She and Vilna went to the training ground in full battle dress and sparred using full weaponry. They did not hold back. It was as if the two felt the same thing… had the same concerns. The connections between the twins were strong, but Vilna seemed to have a different mind from Vidnavi. Vilna walked up to stand by her sister, but she had shed her gear and was wearing her dark green tunic and black breeches.

“They will never allow Vinitharya to rule Gondor Vilna. They won’t.”

Vilna looked to the guild-house and said,

“They will stand for Gondor, and Eldacar is the rightful heir. They will bluster against our blood, but would they let it destroy this kingdom? I don’t know sister.”

Vilna put her hand on Vidnavi’s shoulder and said,

“Come, get out of your gear and let’s go to the north quarter and drink ales with our own. We are rostered off until morning.”

She left Vidnavi standing there, but soon the desire to get drunk took hold and she went to change.


When evening came, Aldamir had a small table set on the balcony of the reading room. He had yet to ask for the presence of Lady Amarwen, but should she refuse, he would dine alone. He was going to send word to her but thought he would attend to this himself. He set out for her chambers and he tapped on the door.

It was good to see that guards were no longer needed, and he considered Lady Almara as Lady Amarwen’s counsel. The days now called for protocol to be set aside on some occasions. This was one of them. He tapped on her door. Amarwen’s voice came from the other side but didn’t open. Her voice said quietly,


“It’s Aldamir. I was going to ask if…”

The lock clicked and the door creaked opened. Amarwen was wearing only her silk underdress. Aldamir paused before saying,

”You would like to dine with me this night?”

He gave her a sheepish smile as he stood there.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 8th, 2018, 1:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

In truth, Amarwen likely would have dined with the devil at that particular juncture. Anything to escape another long night alone in her chambers. Her attempts to keep herself distracted had come to an end and the enormity of another lonely night was almost more than she could bear. And now, here was Aldamir. Not the devil, she thought. She hoped, for this was the man she was to wed.

As he smiled at her bashfully, she found herself struck by a sudden realisation. Not once had she thought of how Aldamir might view this betrothal. She did not know if he were glad of it, opposed to it, resigned to it. She’d not once bothered to stop and wonder before now, so absorbed in her own misery she had been.

Into the sudden silence that sprung up, Aldamir added, ”Of course, if you prefer not-“

“If you would consent to wait a moment, your Highness,”
Amarwen bestirred herself to say, glancing down as she shifted to keep the door between them. She was hardly clad to go anywhere or see anyone just at the moment.

”Of course,” he replied and she caught a hint of a gleam in his eyes as they travelled down. Slowly. So very slowly.

Only fair, she supposed, since she had blundered like a fool into his bath.

”I shan’t be long,” she assured him, already turning away from the door she left ajar.

Aldamir paused and cleared his throat, ”I’ll...wait here.”

“People will notice you lurking at my door,”
she called back, almost at the doors to her bed chamber. ”Come within. Might as well be hanged for a sheep than a lamb.”

As she closed her bedroom doors she saw Aldamir pour himself through the outer doors. He seemed...nervous. A man, rather than a prince. She turned to her wardrobe and wondered what might be appropriate.

”Who will join us?” she called out to Aldamir.

”Just us,” he replied at which her brows lifted. What was she supposed to wear?

Try as she might, Amarwen was not sure whether she had chosen correctly. The black velvet was stark, perhaps too much with her hair added in. She added a delicate torc of silver ivory. It sat at the base of her throat and its matching girdle dipped low on her hips to relieve the obsidian. Certainly, it seemed to fit with the silver sheen of the velvet and her skin. And, these were the colours of the Crown – silver and black. The widely scooped neckline suggested that she really should do something with her hair but the prince was waiting and her maids had retired for the evening. As it was, she’d have to ask Aldamir to tighten her laces so her dress did not slip from her shoulders entirely. She ran a comb through her loose hair, steadied herself and opened the inner doors.

”I apologise for the delay,” she said as she emerged.

Aldamir had been slouching against her doors, humming to himself to pass the time. He straightened now, eyes locked on her. Amarwen lowered her gaze and turned about.

”I am dreadfully sorry, but I have need of your help,” she said as she swept the heavy weight of her hair aside to reveal the lacings of her gown.

She could not see Aldamir swallow as he studied the curve of her presented back. He peeled himself from the door and approached. The laces were soft, woven silk. Delicate in his hands and yet, surprisingly strong.

”Tell me if I pull too tightly.”

“Of course,”
she murmured, a faint blush coming to her cheeks.

It was not long before all was secured and Aldamir stepped away, ”It is done.”

“My thanks,”
Amarwen replied and allowed her hair to swing back into place.

She turned to face him, hands clasped before her, ”Thank you for waiting, your Highness.”

Amarwen meant it too and Aldamir gave her the beginnings of a smile. He reached to smooth a strand of her hair behind her ear. Then he offered his arm to her. She slid her hand under his arm and allowed him to tuck it against him. It was only a short distance they walked for Aldamir led her to his reading room balcony. Though she had not been able to study the spines of the books within, she was struck by the sheer volume of them.

The table was already set. Candles gleamed, buffeted every now and again by the night’s breeze. She took it in all in silence, circling the table to peer past the balcony’s balustrade to the palace gardens beyond. Another realisation struck her. The princes’ rooms were not very far from her own. She turned her head to stare at her own balcony. The lamps of her bedroom illuminated it clearly. Had he observed her last night, grieving for what could never be? It was a sobering thought.

”What do you think?” Aldamir asked from behind her.

”It’s lovely,” she replied as she turned about to face him again.

His smile was a boyish one, inordinately pleased, and he turned to the table. ”Wine?”

Amarwen nodded as she looked back to her balcony. This was such a private, intimate setting. She heard the sound of wine being poured and turned her study to Aldamir. His back was to her and she could not make out his expression. There was so much she did not know of him.

”Are we really on our own tonight?” she asked.

Aldamir smiled over his shoulder, ”I promise to be on my very best behaviour.”

”When are you not?”
she replied, trying to break a sudden tension that she sensed between them.

He lifted a brow as he returned with the glasses. ”Do you issue a challenge, m’Lady?”

Amarwen accepted her wine, her eyes locked in his for a long moment. She blinked and answered frankly, ”I think it fair to say, I have not the faintest idea what I am doing.”

Aldamir paused at that and then chuckled as he took a sip of his wine. He lifted his gaze from her and shook his head slightly.

”That would make the two of us,” he observed dryly and Amarwen felt one of the many knots of tension in her shoulders begin to unfurl.

She sipped at her wine cautiously and when she looked up again, she saw Aldamir studying her.

"What is it that you prefer to read, Al," she asked, tilting her head to one side. She swept a brief glance past his shoulder to the nearest of many shelves and then back to him to await his answer.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 8th, 2018, 7:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Minas Anor - White Tree Tavern

Halvarin was pleasant company for the day, Nadia thought, when he was actually present in the here and now. More than once, the Mariner started saying something that trailed off. And then there was that distant look in his eye. He’d be just staring off, nodding absently at whatever she might be saying and then he’d heave a sigh and blink. Startled. As if he’d quite forgotten where he was. And her. Something clearly preoccupied him. Or, she thought, more like someone. He was so tangled and confused that it was a wonder he didn’t trip over his own feet. Something of a forlorn puppy.

Still, he carried the things she purchased at market without complaint. Just having him at her shoulder made some of the negotiations easier. Halvarin didn’t complain, either, when she said that she wanted to go here, and then there, and then do something else. So, all in all, Nadia considered herself fortunate to have his company for the day. Especially when a would be cut purse reconsidered advancing on her when he saw Halvarin round the corner and catch her up.

She pressed into the White Tree Inn with Halvarin at her heels and gestured at the bar. ”Just set them down there, if you will.”

Once he had done that, Nadia felt compelled to acknowledge him for the assistance, albeit absent minded, he had rendered during the day. She turned on Halvarin one of her bright work smiles and, judging by faint lift of his dark brows, it must have been bright enough to penetrate the fog he seemed wrapped in.

”Tell you what,” she said and gestured in the general direction of the tables, ”Dinner is on the house. Payment for services rendered.”

Halvarin’s head swung to consider the common room. Business was picking up towards evening but there was still a fair selection to be had. She watched him rub the back of his neck dubiously and then he shook his head.

”Kind of you, Nadia, but I’m no fit company,” he said in a low voice. Halvarin shot her a self conscious smile and then his eyes dropped away from her own. ”Think I’ll just eat in my room.”

“You’ll go hungry then,”
she answered, ”We don’t serve food to the rooms.”

He heaved a sigh and she gave him a little push towards the tables. She watched his shoulders droop with defeat and Nadia planted a fist on one hip as she watched Halvarin slink through the common room. Whoever this woman was, and she was almost certain it was a woman, she had really done a number on him. Not that it was her concern. With a shake of her head, Nadia filled a tankard of ale and took it over to where Halvarin sat. He eyed it as if she had set a snake before him, wary and cautious.

”I think you could do with it,” she told him firmly and swung off to tend to the other patrons who were still waiting for their ales.

Business picked up and Nadia got busy. They were short handed. She tried to keep an eye on Halvarin but little seemed to change. He sat alone, in his own world, staring at the tankard. But then, she noticed that he had company. Two men, both in uniform, had joined him and so Nadia stopped worrying about Halvarin and got down to work.

”You are difficult man to find,” Vinyarion informed Halvarin. Michas half rose from his seat, straining to make eye contact with the tavern’s staff. If they had any.

”Not nearly as difficult as it is to get an ale,” Michas muttered and sank again into his chair.

Halvarin nudged the tankard of ale Nadia had left with him towards his friend. ”Here,” he said flatly, ”Compliments of the house.”

Michas’ winced as he sipped ale that was not only flat but unpleasantly warm. ”Why don’t we go somewhere with better service? Or even some staff?”

“I’ve already paid for my room here,”
Halvarin replied in a monotone.

Struck by Halvarin’s manner, Michas peered at him and then considered Vinyarion across the table. ”This is what you dragged me from the Harlond for?”

Vinyarion eyeballed Halvarin and wondered how best to begin. Perhaps, it was best to say nothing. He’d already done enough damage by meddling as it was.

”What news from Osgiliath?” Halvarin asked, putting paid to any notions of discete silence.

Vinyarion winced at the question and raked his fingers through his hair. ”The betrothal was yesterday.”

Halvarin seemed to fold back in on himself and Michas did not fail to notice this. He swung his attention between his two friends, trying to puzzle it out.

”What happened yesterday?” he asked.

Halvarin just shook his head, refusing to reply and so that left Vinyarion. In a low voice, ”My father was betrothed. To Amarwen of Edhellond.”

Michas shrugged at first but there was something familiar about that name. ”Ami...the girl from Edhellond.... she’s Lady Amarwen? That’s who you’ve been talking about all this time?”

Vinyarion waved at him to be silent but Michas had warmed to the topic. The idea that Halvarin had been pursuing a member of the aristocracy all this time astounded him. Took no small degree of confidence for ordinary folk to set their sights on the nobility. He wouldn’t dream of it, himself.

“You’re ambitious, Hal,” he said wryly, ”I’ll give you that.”

Halvarin shook his head at the statement and brushed it aside with a question for Vinyarion. ”How is she?”

Vinyarion shifted in his seat uncomfortably and Halvarin asked it again. ”Vin! How is she?”

“Look, Hal, let me make one thing clear at the outset: I really was only trying to help. And it’s not my fault. I didn’t arrange the betrothal and I wasn’t the one that took off with only a letter left behind.”

“Did you deliver it?”

Vinyarion replied. ” And the next day, told me that you were through and it’s cruel to feed someone false hope. So, I didn’t when she asked me if I thought you would come back.”

Halvarin shot to his feet, fists clenched at his sides and Vinyarion defensively dug in. ”And I didn’t have a clue about Lisawyn, Hal! You kept that all to yourself. It wasn’t until later that I realised what said to Ami and I was all suggestion on her part and nothing by way of fact. But by then it was too late. I tried to set things straight with Ami later, but you can't get a word in edgewise when she's upset!”

And that, Michas would later come to reflect, was when things really went wrong.

He reached this conclusion whilst seated on the floor of a stone cell, considering his boots. Morning was still some time off. Near as he could tell, Halvarin and Vinyarion were both awake. He doubted any of them would get much sleep. Not with the rats and all. Tense silence squatted in the cell. Halvarin lay on his side facing one wall, Vinyarion the same on the other. Both had used their jackets as pillows and Michas sat in the middle of them.

A mess, from start to finish, is how he thought of it. This is why ordinary men did not play in the waters of the aristocracy, for one. Arranged marriages, contracts, trade and alliances were powerful forces to contend with. Halvarin was always headed for heartbreak when it came to this woman. That’s how Michas saw it. The only sensible thing his friend had done was to cut his losses as he had. Any reasonable man would have done the same. And Vinyarion...well, true he had fumbled it at end, but the young princeling had a point. The furore that would be kicked up if this woman threw over a member of the royal family for a commoner was the sort of thing that could prove dangerous.

Wasn’t like they’d just wave them off into the sunset together, was it? And then there was his own predicament. Stuck in a cell, all because of this betrothal. Michas heaved a sigh as he plucked a shaft of straw from his pants and looked over to where Vinyarion lay.

”Your uncle going to show his face any time soon?”

Vinyarion heaved a sigh at that and said to the stones he faced, ”I was only trying to help.”

“Well you can stop,”
Halvarin snapped to his own stones from the other side of the cell. ”Because now she hates me! Your work is done.”

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 9th, 2018, 6:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

“When can we use them?” a man’s voice asked. “I’m tired of all this sneaing around and waiting!”

The thud of heavy crates being stacked was heard and and a sighed in the foreground.

“All in good time.” It was Girdean’s voice. “For now we gain strength while that of the crown waxes feeble. I have given account to our leadership of the wrestlesnes growing in the ranks, and they assure me it will be well worth lur patience. Victory grows closer. Best we let it grow as close as it will before we put our lives on the line for it.”

A hushed ripple of approving murmurs echoed through the guild storehouse. It made sense when one put it like that.

Another crate was stacked and two more men entered the basement. One man stood, stretching his aching back.

“I don’t know about you, but I agree with Girdean. I don’t want to put my life on the line any more than I have to.”

“Well said my-“

And that is where their words stalled and hearts beat fast.

“How unfortunate,” a voice from the dark corner called out in a sinister tone.

Seconds later the statement was followed by a solid black arrow that pearced the neares guildsman in the chest. He fell to his knees with a whine, blood soaking his shirt.

“Attack!” Girdean yelled out the order just as a second arrow struck the next man.

The corner was only fifteen feet away, and they could hear him notching another arrow. Yet, tey heaitated, fear of the unknown. They could see nothing in the pitch black corner.

The man with the lamp was thrust out front by the others who finally drew their swords, but that very moment he fell with an arrow through his throat.

The other two charged blindly in and with a clash of blades, a swipe, and groans of pain, Girdean heard two bodies fall to the floor.

“Men?” He called out from the stairs. He backed up slowly, yanking the door shut and locking it. “Hurry, bring torches and bowmen!”

Backup was there, almost as he spoke it. Cautiously they opened the door back up and charged in. Only to find the room entirely empty.

“That’s impossible!” Guarded insisted, half raged and half terrified. Things were not supposed to go like this! They were not supposed to escalate this early on!

“Sir, you are positive the attacker was still in the basement?”

“It is a basement! “ Girdean reminded him. “There is only one way in and one way out!”

He glared at the dead bodies on the floor, then, all the sudden he heard the cries from the floors above.


He ran up the stairs to a room full of smoke. The fire was to high, fueled by tar and lamp oil. They had no further recourse but to evacuate and watch the building burn.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 12th, 2018, 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The Palace - Osgiliath

The Viper paused and canted his head. It was soft, almost not there. Quiet voices from the prince’s balcony. One moment settled in for a quiet night and then his charge’s rooms were silent and empty. No cause for alarm now that he knew where she had gone. His charge was in no need of rescue. He returned his attention to the Rhovanions. Three attempted to test his skill and thus far he had managed to outwit the women. They were canny and determined. Particularly the tall one with hair of burning flame. He doubted they posed any harm, for he’d heard their muttering. This was all about their need to establish that they were the superior protection. For their own satisfaction, having been replaced.

Prince Elarin had been quite specific in his instructions. He was not to spill blood or reveal his presence to Aldamir’s woman, unless her life required it. The Viper was confident it would not come to that. If it did, it meant that he had already failed in his preparation and vigilance. One the few things the Viper did not do was fail. He’d done that just once, when this Age of Men was yet young. The consequences had been dire. They lingered with him still. He curled a hand into a loose fist and then smiled when he saw what the red haired Rhovanion was trying to do.

Clever, he thought, even as he took counter measures. Not quite clever enough yet but give her time...there were few things more potent that a determined mortal. Perhaps it would be wise to seek this woman out. She seemed to be the ring leader.

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 13th, 2018, 10:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Rie-Zunic evacuated the building with all the "other guildsmen" who scurried out amidst coughs and shouts. The smoke had stung their eyes, but the loss had stung their pride. Voices were raised, and blood boiled. Not only from the flame.

"I want this entire section of the town searched!" Girdean demanded, turning to his men as the veins protruded on the sides of his neck.

"But sir!" one man protested. "What can we do? The fiend is no doubt long gone!"

Girdean sent an icy glare stabbing daggers into the man. If he had turned such a glare on the fire, so the man felt, it might have stayed the flames. "Search! If you find the intruder, drag him back to the docks... alive. If you do not find him," he gave a long pause and glanced back at the burning building as the city officials could be heard shouting in the distance. "If you do not find him..." again he paused and grit his teeth. "Just go!"

The city officials were quick approaching. They assessed the situation quickly. There was little to nothing to be done about the burning building. They commenced to be sure everyone was out, then grilled Girdean about the details. A happening that urked him almost as much as having lost the intruder.

Rie-Zunic funneled out of the street with the rest of the guildsmen, searching for himself, as it were.

"Let's fan out," one man said. "We better at least make an effort. I haven't seen him this mad in a long time."

"Go in groups of two," another officer instructed.

Rie-Zunic quickly paired up with a man. A man of his choosing. He was weathered member, but not a high ranking man. He looked half-hearted in his attempt to carry out Girdean's orders. As they spread, Rie-Zunic's hunch proved factual.

"This is ridiculous," the man stated flatly. "There is no way we are going to find the man! He is probably half way across the city by now."

"You never know," Rie-Zunic came back, his tone probably sounding more ominous than he intended. "He may be closer than you think."

His companion looked at him with a questioning gaze, but moved onward. Rie-Zunic kept the man looking as long as he possibly could, dragging him further and further away from the presence of all Guild establishments. When at last the man insisted on caving in, Rie-Zunic initiated the next part of his plan.

"I simply can't go any further," the man insisted. "I'm tired, hungry, and too far away from my station! It's nearly three in the morning!"

"Well, if you insist," Rie-Zunic gave in. "At least you can tell them you came closer to capturing the intruder than any of your comrades." Rie-Zunic smirked.

"What?" the man queried with knit brow. "What do you mean?"

"Well," Rie-Zunic said with a malicious glint in his eye. "It seems the intruder is standing right in front of you." With that, his fist met the man's face. In an instant the man was down on the ground and Rie-Zunic had him in a choke hold. He drug him back into a dark alley and put a knife to his throat. "Now," Rie-Zunic continued. "You are going to tell me everything you know about the guild plot against the throne. Where are their weapons? When and where do they plan on attacking first? How many men do they have? Any detail you can possibly conjure up that may save your life."

The man whined, and out of his mouth spilled detail after detail. Now, it was only a matter of discerning which details were true, and which were lies.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 14th, 2018, 2:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

"He is a sorcerer," Rhinnin declared. "He must be!"

Helda, who was still glaring at the man Rhinnin had just named a sorcerer, gave no reply. Then, after a moment, she realised that glaring at someone in the dark was not likely to be very effective. To be stood down when they had performed so well was one thing. To fail in proving their superiority was just galling.

Vilmaith's jaw clicked as she yawned. As she considered the night beyond the palace grounds, something caught her eye. A great column of smoke lifted. A burning building, she thought. The woman elbowed Helda who squatted her aside. Rhinnin, though, had spotted what Vilmaith had.

"Looks like there is fun to be had elsewhere," she observed.

"Any thing else would be better than chasing our tails in the dark," Vilmaith replied and then eyed Helda, "And I thought this assignment was beneath your honour, or somesuch."

Rhinnin nodded as she caught up with Vilmaith's reasoning.

Helda pushed out a sigh at this.

"How is that one man-"

"If that indeed is what he is,"
Rhinnin cut in.

"One man," Helda continued on. "Is certainly not better than two Shieldmaidens. Or even one of us."

Vilmaith yawned again, "Tonight's showing would suggest that you are mista-"

She broke off as Helda thumped her arm sharply. Vilmaith rubbed the offended biceps and scowled at Helda.

"You two want to leave, fine," the tall woman snapped, flicking braids of fire over her shoulder for emphasis. "Tuck your tails between your legs and scurry off!"

Vilmaith and Rhinnin exchanged a brief look, shrugged, and turned heel to do exactly that. Helda muttered to herself as she turned back to the task at hand and then blinked. Amarwen's new protector had vanished. Again.

"Sorceror," Helda growled, unlimbered a spear, and set off in a low prowl.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 15th, 2018, 3:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Aldamir couldn’t take his eyes from Amarwen sitting across the table from him.

“I read a lot of tactics. Mostly of the battles that Gondor, but I have been intrigued with those of our kin in the north. We have been fortunate to gain much of their history in exchange for ours. I do hope there is a scribe that lived the tragedy that befell them ere twenty years ago.”

He sipped the wine and looked back to Amarwen,

”I take it you have become familiar with the Great Library here?”

The mention of the library seemed to wash Amarwen with a mix of sudden emotions and she didn’t reply right away. Aldamir knew better that to ask what was on her mind. Maybe they could go and browse the manuscripts sometime. He did know they had some Elvish poetry there and wondered if Amarwen had found it.

”I’ve been there a few times. One could get lost in its halls and shelves.”

Aldamir sipped his wine and noted the awkward silence between he and Amarwen. He could tell the Library had some meaning to her that she would not speak of.

”It will be worth going to sometime. I love that place. We could go now if you wanted to.”

He reached across the table and took her hand in his, and his fingers traced her fingers back to the palm of her hand.

~ ~ ~

In the North Quarter, Vilna and Vidnavi entered the North Star tavern. It was run by a Rhovanion merchant Rhovanion was the “official” language inside its doors. A cheer went up inside the place. Many of the Rhovanion Guard had gathered there and the ales were flowing freely. It didn’t take long for the twin sisters to try and out drink the other, and the question of who was better at throwing knives came up.

”My sister is better with her right hand, but I’m better with my left.”

In these subtle ways did the twins have their differences. Ans as the bets were placed, the sisters each threw a blade at a target on the far wall. It was a draw. Another tankard was schooned and again the sisters each threw. It was the same. After many many tankards, The sisters were still barely able to stand and throw, but they seemed to hit the target the same.

They leaned against each other as they poured beer at their mouths, getting more on themselves than in themselves. It was then it was called a draw and the place broke out in Rhovanion drinking songs woth more ale for everyone.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 15th, 2018, 5:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

How was it, Amarwen reflected, that life could be so sublimely cruel as this. As Aldamir’s touch lightly wandered her fingers, she wasn’t sure if she could do it. And she wasn’t sure if she could not, for clearly the prince wanted to go there. Badly. Now. Of all places, there. That one. If she could not muster a convincing response, then what? What could she do, but return to Edhellond under a cloud of failure and then what fate for her people?

The Master of Ships? She was still shaken that the blockade of Edhellond’s harbour had arisen all because her parents had rebuffed his overtures. Her mother refused to send her to wed Castimir’s son and men had died. Ordinary men. Sailors. With families all of their own who would never see them again. Her own travails seemed so very small when compared to that.

But as she screwed up her courage to confront the place where Halvarin had thrown aside the love she had offered him, another thought occurred to her. Inspiration came from the way in which Aldamir caressed her fingers. She allowed her hand to relax and then, after a moment, wove her fingers through his. Amarwen pulled the prince’s hand towards her, rising to bend over it. Her hair slid forward as she kissed the back his hand, eyes closed and then flaring open to gaze into his own. He seemed transfixed as she turned his hand over. Eyes still locked on his, Amarwen kissed his open palm.

Aldamir swallowed and it gave her hope that she just might have swayed him. Or at least, distracted him. She gazed up at him through her lashes.

”Perhaps another time, my prince, for so rarely do we enjoy moments such as these when we are alone – spared the scrutiny of others. And we have yet to eat.”

It was a dangerous thing, she knew, to say no to a prince. Bent over the table with his hand in her own, Amarwen watched Aldamir take her in.

”Your prince,” he murmured and she knew, then, that he had heard her. ”Already I regret giving you my word that I would be on my best behaviour,” Aldamir lamented.

Amarwen smiled at him, ”Have I been too bold, your Highness? If you prefer it, I shall behave.”

The smile Aldamir gave her was wry. He slipped his hand from hers to run his fingers along her cheek. The knock at his door prevented anything further for it was their meal. Amarwen sank into her seat as Aldamir rose and went for the door. And after that, it was surprising how easily time flowed. Freed of the shackles of protocol and the demands his position at court made of him, she found Aldamir to be warm and engaging. He bantered with her and laughed readily. Steadily, he melted her reserves. It was almost as if he knew she’d find it difficult to keep her distance. In this, he reminded her of his son, irrespective of the doubt Farien cast over Vinyarion’s true sire.

Relaxation lapped lazily within Amarwen. It couldn’t just be the wine, though surely that had helped. Particularly when Aldamir had brought up the Great Library. Still, that moment now lay behind them. Where she hoped it would remain. What lay ahead, she could not guess. A silence had settled over them. The prince seemed to be thinking. Mulling something over. Aldamir watched her so intently that she knew he had to be weighing something up. She saw grey and green in his eyes. A forest hue on a cloudy day.

They had finished their meals yet Aldamir did not seem inclined to hurry her away. Or, perhaps he had yet to find a way to politely send her off. Amarwen knew so little of him that she could not begin to guess.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 16th, 2018, 12:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The meal arrival broke a glass pane that seemed to have gotten in the way of the door. The sound of shattering Aldamir knew was inside his head. They silently ate, making small commentary on the faire on the table.

Aldamir pondered his thoughts as they ate. Had not all this palace intrigue been the catalyst of bringing Amarwen to Osgiliath, and he was not the second son of the heir of Gondor, He would be happy to have a woman such as Amarwen take interest in him. Whoever the man who has touched her deeply is, he is a very fortunate man indeed. He carefully watched her as she sipped more of her wine. Aldamir cleared his throat and said as he looked into Amarwen’s eyes.

”You know Lady Amarwen, it is my hope that this betrothal works between us, for I’m quite attracted to you. But what is more important to me is your happiness. Duty to the realm is one thing, but we need to keep something of ourselves aside. My grandfather told me that once.”

He was a perceptive man, and he didn’t want her to feel forced to do anything, hoping she would be contented with him and in her place at the palace.

”If there is anything you need or wish to have Lady Amarwen, you ask me.”

He stood up and walked over to her and took her hand as she stood. He added,

”If you wish, this dining arrangement is open for you any time you wish to do so. Come stand outside on the balcony with me for a time, and ask me what you will. My book is open to you m'lady.”

He looked down and bowed his head to her. He found himself becoming more and more attracted to her with each passing moment.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 16th, 2018, 1:48 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Frankly, Amarwen was surprised to learn that Aldamir wanted the betrothal to succeed. He had gone to the king twice to seek its end and Helda herself had assured her that the prince was as unhappy as she.

”You are too kind to say it,” Amarwen said with a rueful shake of her head, ”But I know that I have caused strife from the moment I arrived. For what it is worth, I am sorry for it.”

“Any strife is not of your making,”
Aldamir countered and then tilted his head to one side. ”Is it truly so difficult to believe that I am drawn to you?”

It was, for recent painful experience had battered her confidence. Amarwen averted her gaze as she wrenched her thoughts away from Halvarin with brutal, unforgiving force. They were upon the balcony now and Aldamir had released her hand. The warmth of his touch lingered. The prince, at his ease, leaned against the balustrade and considered the glimmering lights of the city. A breeze curled against her cheek and brushed over her shoulders. The wide neck of her gown left sensitive skin exposed and, this far inland and away from the moderating influence of the coast, Amarwen felt her skin prickle. It was not yet autumn yet she was cold.

”I wonder if I shall become accustomed to this place,” she said, her thoughts slipping from her even as she realised she had spoken. Her eyes widened at this discovery and the prince’s study swung from the city to rest upon her.

”In time,” he said, ”If you should remain long enough.” Aldamir shifted position, drawing closer to stand beside her. He made no move to put his arm around her and his warmth was welcome. ”I expect that Edhellond is quite different.”

Amarwen nodded for words could not begin to describe. She turned her head to his, ”Have you never been?”

“Alas, no,”
Aldamir replied.

”Well, you must! This city, whilst fair, is the child of man. Edhellond is...its...”

Amarwen broke off with a sigh and discovered Aldamir wore a nearly indulgent smile upon his face. ”Is that an invitation?”

She nodded, ”Edhellond would be honoured to receive you.”

Amarwen turned back to the night and studied the palace walls. They were well lit at this hour and she could see the movement of the guard atop them. Back and forth they went, and she recalled Farien’s threat. Or perhaps a warning, that there were many such men available to her should she have a mind to use them. The princess may no longer be able to interfere in her daily life, but this did not mean that the threat she posed was contained.

And then there was the man beside her. Aldamir had proven patient, kind and generous. Admittedly, she scarcely knew him but, then, just look at what had happened with Halvarin. She had known him most of her life. Her parents had said that this prince was a good man. So too did Elarin.

”What...what would my life here be like?” Amarwen asked and beside her, Aldamir shifted his weight from one foot to another. His hip gently pressed against her own. It was not intrusive.

”What would you want it to be like?” he countered adroitly and Amarwen sighed.

”I do not know yet how to answer that,” she replied. Amarwen lowered her eyes to the garden below as she picked through their conversation over dinner.

”Do you truly wish me to stay?” she asked and at that Aldamir’s fingers under her chin turned her eyes to his.

”I wish for you to be happy, m’Lady. Only you can know what might bring that to pass.”

She felt something within her coalesce. A decision. ”Yesterday, you told me that my heart belonged to another.”

“I well recall...and, might I add, he is a fortunate man.”

Aldamir’s fingers slipped away and Amarwen swallowed.”You are mistaken.”

The prince’s expression turned rueful. ”I think not.”

“I alone am my heart’s keeper,”
she persisted, and never mind that it was currently in a thousand broken shards and she had done an exceptionally poor job of keeping it safe. ”Yesterday, I gave my word before King and court, and I mean to keep it.”

“You are not obliged to keep an oath forced upon you.”

The prince sounded so resolute and remote. She was not sure if he would hear her, much less believe her.

“All the same, your Highness, I mean to see it through.” Amarwen clasped her hands before her and bowed her head, ”If...if you would still have me.”

Aldamir was very still for a moment and then his hands cupped her face and lifted her eyes to his.

” are certain?” he whispered.

Hesitant and shy, she lifted a hand to touch his jaw. "My prince."

Aldamir's pupils dilated and then he kissed her.

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