The Waning Days of King Valacar
Page 17 of 23

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 16th, 2018, 10:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The door opened and closed to the small room. It stank... terribly. There was no light, hardly any air movement, and cold stone walls. Under the city were old abandoned sewers. Rie-Zunic walked in, not even bothering with a candle or torch. He knew the place well enough. It wasn’t until he heard a voice in the room with him that he wished he had brought a light.

“Fancy meeting you here.”

It took him all of three seconds to realize who it was.

“Almara!? How did you-“

“Rie, really...” she scowled in the darkness... he could feel t. “As if I would ever forget this place.” Three soft footfalls sounded in the room and Rie-Zunic felt Almara’s hand on his shoulder. “You smell of smoke.”


Almara could tell by his inflection that he was grinning.

“You realize they already suspect it was you?”

“I knew that would be the case,” Rie-Zunic admitted. “But I will do what I must to protect Gondor. If they will not act, or allow me to act, then I am left with no recourse. I am sworn to protect our people.”

“I know.” Almara’s voice was strangely understanding. “The longer this madness drags on... the more I have come to understand where you have been coming from all these years.”

“Then will you help me?” Rie-Zunic requested.

“Rie...” Almara spoke with unexpected turmoil in her voice. “Have I ever not? Even if you acted against my own conscience... I would still follow you, if not at least from a distance.” She laughed softly. “It seems I do so dread being confined to any given commitment.”

Almara scoffed at her own words, then leaned forward and kissed Rie-Zunic on the cheek.

“What’s troubling you?” Rie-Zunic questioned.

“I was worried about you,” she admitted. She sighed and a glimpse of her rough demeanor resurfaced. “I cannot believe you quit and then... went and burnt down the guild house! Rie, what were you thinking? It’s bad enough being on the guild hit list, but now you will be hunted by the crown as well! I don’t-“

As her words became more aggravated they halted with a flustered exhale as she felt Rie-Zunic’s lips brush against her own. It was not a passionate kiss of new love, but a long tender exchange of old love. True love.

Almara tucked her arms to Rie-Zunic’s chest, laying her head on his shoulder as the kiss gave way to his arms enveloping her.

“I thought I had lost you,” she muttered, barely above a whisper. “I heard that the man who started the fire never made it out.”

“But you knew it was false,” Rie-Zunic comforted. “Elsewise you would not be here.”

“I hoped,” Almara corrected. “But I have learned not to trust in hope.”

“Trust,” was all Rie-Zunic spoke in response.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 17th, 2018, 12:50 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Minas Anor

Ornedil considered the matter for a moment and then shook his head, decision made.

"Vinyarion remain where he is to see the night out," the prince declared, reasonably certain that his brother would have decided thusly. Aldamir would take a dim view of special considerations being meted out to his son after what could only be described as an unseemly disturbance of the peace. "My nephew will find it difficult to accrue further gambling debt from within a cell."

Prince Ornedil settled back into his seat and made a mental note to follow up on his nephew once he was released the following morning. Aldamir was at his wit's end with the lad. It was time for him to have a long discussion with Vinyarion.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 22nd, 2018, 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The breeze from the river rippled at Amarwen’s dress and he shivered slightly as they kissed. The pause came, and he renewed it with a little more passion. It was not the wisest thing to do while they were alone, but Aldamir took her in and seemed to lose himself. Maybe it was the way she said ‘My Prince’ that reached something. Maybe the sound of her voice.

When they again opened their eyes, Amarwen licked her lips slightly and Aldamir took a deep breath. He wanted more of that. But all good things come to those who wait, and this night had been quite enjoyable.

”You will join me in riding tomorrow morn m’lady?”

“Yes, I would like to get out of the city even for a little while.”

When the time came, Aldamir walked Amarwen to her chamber, and gave her a bow as she went in. Maybe this betrothal will be more than an alliance by marriage…

~ ~ ~
The cell was cold and Halvarin didn’t like being there. This cocky prince friend of his really stuffed things up. They were fortunate that Michas sat between them. The should have not gotten into that fight. Michas did finally scoot over to Halvarin.

”I don’t know who this woman is, but you know better than to get involved with the high born…. That includes princes…”

Michas looked over at Vinyarion who didn’t make as sound. He went to sleep. It appeared they were in for the night, and Halvarin lay on his back and sighed. He mumbled something about letters and pondered Amarwen as high princess of Gondor, and sighed. She would technically be Vinyarion’s step-mother. The thought of it made Halvarin cringe. Michas was right. He couldn’t wait until morning. He was cutting his leave short and would head back to Pelargir on the first available transport.

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 23rd, 2018, 1:46 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Rie-Zunic and Almara parted ways early that morning. It was still dark out. Almara would have to wash up before returning to her duties at the palace. As she bathed, however, something worse that the smell of the sewers ate at her. How was she to juggle three allegiances? Even if one, or maybe even two of them, were false. She was bidden to remain and feign service to the guild, she was hired by the crown, and her heart was loyal to Rie-Zunic whom both the guild and the crown now hunted. She was good at keeping a secret, but the stress of all these factors pulled at her seams like a weight on an old rope. She felt her wits beginning to fray.

All the same, Almara would do what she could. Any information that might prompt the crown to act, she would pass on as Rie-Zunic had requested, to Amarwen, and thus to Aldamir.

She would gather what she could from the guildsmen, informing him of everything she learned, and then secretly support him and his vigilantly behavior from the shadows.

It all weighed heavy on her mind as she prepared for the day. To top it all off, in order to remain in good standing, and seem loyal, to the guild... she needed to begin dropping hints to Aldamir that she was his daughter.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 23rd, 2018, 3:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

As Amarwen prepared herself to go to bed, she caught by chance her reflection. Grey eyes stared back at her, infuriatingly bewildered. She scowled at her reflection because the night had been a good one all told. A good one! A heat she could not deny had kindled.

If not upon Aldamir’s balcony as he drew her into his embrace then certainly at her door as they bade each other a restful night. He had reached for her, a hunger in his eyes, and she had kissed him with the same passion that he had shown her upon his balcony. Then, the sharp tug upon the laces he had fastened earlier. A necessary thing, he had told her as her eyes had widened, if she did not wish to spend the night trapped within the heavy velvet that encased her. Still, there had been a glint in his eyes. A hunger of sorts. And something had washed through her. A promise, if she perceived correctly the way he had smiled at her over his shoulder upon his retreat.

They were betrothed. This...this could not be a betrayal. Not in the least for she was not being pulled in twain. Not at all. If anyone had been betrayed it had been her! She was not the fickle one. Halvarin had used and discarded her and done was done. She was not going to spend her life pining, piteously, for a man who did not want her. No. Not with so much at stake.

Amarwen completed her preparations and threw herself into bed to glare up at the canopy. Just how much more difficult was she going to make things for herself, she wondered. The more her heart tugged south, down the river after Halvarin, the more she wondered if she should return to Aldamir’s chambers. What gave her pause was the fear that the prince would turn her away. Such humiliation would be difficult to bear and so she remained where she was.

Torn between past and future, the shocking dream that spat Amarwen back out again should not have come as a surprise her. She slunk onto her balcony in search of cool air to cleanse her thoughts. For a while, she studied the lights upon the river until she realised what she was doing. Halvarin was not coming back. Amarwen turned her back on the Anduin and directed her study to the glimmering lights of the city. Immediately, she saw the Dome of Stars and with a groan, Amarwen retreated in defeat and returned to her bed.

She closed her eyes, fearful of what lay in wait for her. She saw a garden. It was new. Green but not established. She could see what it would become in time. Beautiful. Glorious. Yet, as she watched, the garden withered inexorably. Puzzled, she probed at the soil and found there was only a thin layer of loam. Underneath, adamant, was rock. Stiff. Unyielding. Inhospitable. Nothing could flourish nor endure in that, she realised. It was futile, no matter how she tended to it. Amarwen turned away from the failing garden to consider a sprawling tree. It towered atop a knoll, majestic in its stature. Its branches were strong, tested and true. Amarwen admired it from a distance and then she walked towards it.

As she ran her hand over bark and gazed up at the light falling through its branches, she woke to a new morning. The maids were already at work, bustling around her chambers in preparation for the day. As they determined what she was to wear, Amarwen sipped at the tea that had arrived with breakfast and considered what she could recall of the tree. It meant something, she felt. The failing garden as well, but it would take time she could not spare to unravel it all.

Setting it aside, Amarwen sorted through the correspondence that had arrived for her. There was more than she had anticipated, most of it from people she did not know. Nobles she had not met, or if so only in passing at the betrothal. Not a single letter, however, from Almara and Amarwen wondered how she fared. Had it been an error to send Almara back out there? What if she was in trouble? These questions nagged at her as she dressed and as her hair was woven into a braid for the day, Amarwen resolved that she would seek Rie-Zunic out. He would know, she was certain, even if she was not sure what his connection to Almara was. Or if he would deign to answer her questions. Rie-Zunic seemed to have little time for her, Amarwen thought, but she had to try in any case.

There was a knock at her door and Amarwen rose to her feet and went out to her sitting room. This time, the prince would find her ready for him. She nodded to her maid and the door was opened.

Author:  Jax Nova [ September 24th, 2018, 10:12 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Almara knocked gently on the door, and Amarwen’s voice bid her enter. She sounded pleased, almost... happy, yet troubles underneath. Upon entering Amarwen’s face revealed that she was expecting someone else, but it quickly changed to a pleased look.

“I’m so glad to see you,” Amarwen greeted her. “I had begun to wonder of your safety.”

“It is good to see you well, also,” Almara stated, though her tone revealed her hurried state. She paused, though. Adopting a more personable tone. “You seem well. Almost happy... but as if something troubles you.”

“It’s nothing,” Amarwen insisted. “Just dreams.” She smiled and slid the thought to the background. “You have news?”

“I can not say where I received this... nor should you.” Almara slipped a paper into her hand. It had every bit of information that Rie-Zunic had been able to force out of his prisoner. Everything other than locations of goods and supplies. Those, Rie-Zunic knew, would not be utilized. He would do that himself.

Amarwen glanced over the writings. Her eyes swelled with fear and her mind flashed back to her dream. The man spoke of plans for open war in the streets... could it?

“Where dis you-“

“I can not say,” Almara reminded. “There is much that need be done. Do you have need of me here, or should I return to the task at hand?”

“Nothing has transpired here that I am unable to cope with,” Amarwen spoke with underlying emotions that Almara could not read. “If this information is indeed true, you are needed elsewhere far more.”

Almara dipped her head, then clasped Amarwen’s shoulders and gave her an unexpected hug. “Be safe,” Almar whispered, trying not to let her concern filter into her words and trouble Amarwen’s mind.

They bid one another farewell and Almara took her leave. Just as she was leaving, Aldamir came walking down the hall. He paused, only for a split second.

Almara’s godmother at the orphanage had told her what they knew of her mother. Which wasn’t much. She did know that the woman had few possessions. She often wore the same outfit many days in a row. Especially one in particular. Almara had duplicated that outfit, and now wore it.

By his reaction, she knew Aldamir must have recognized it. As she walked on past him with a respectful bow and greeting, a small click was heard. The clink of a hair pin on the floor. Her mother’s hairpin. It pained her to part with it. She had very little left of her mother.

Aldamir stopped, retracing his steps to find the pin as his ears detected the sound. He gazed at it with a curious and nostalgic expression. He glanced to call after Almara and return it to her, but she was nowhere to he seen.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 26th, 2018, 9:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

When the cell doors opened, the three walked out with stern looks on their faces. Had any one of then would have said anything, it was likely the fists would come out and they would be right back in again. When they were signing out and getting their personal gear, the guard said to Vinyarion,

“Not you. You have to wait here. There is someone that want’s to see you.”

The guard looked at Michas and Halvarin and said,

“You two can go.”

Michas and Halvarin looked over to Vinyarion and with a nod, they both turned and got out of the watchhouse before the guard changed his mind.

”What do you think that is about?”

Michas asked. Halvarin shrugged and said,

”Probably some royal pardon or something. All I know is it won't be extended to us. C‘mon, lets go get some breakfast.”

The two went back to the White Tree Inn where they found a decent breakfast served up by Nadia. The two talked of their paths in the Guild, and Michas made the announcement that he would be going to the Marines.

“Soldiering is my thing. I can’t deal with all the maths and studies of stars and the things. Battle tactics and strategies are where I excel. And sailing on a ship and being the muscle I can do.”

Halvarin nodded,

”It sounds like a good decision Michas. You were always good at tactics. I fear they will be of need sooner than expected.”

Michas nodded and agreed, saying.

"Dark times are coming, and I'm having a hard time knowing which way is th ebest for Gondor."

'Yes, there are many of the same mindset. Myself included."

They went quiet as they ponderfed their thoughts when Nadia came over and sat down with them. She smiled and said,

”You two going to hang around for tonight? I’m going to be playing music on stage.”

“No dear.”
Halvarin said.

”As soon as I’m done here, I’m heading to Harlond. I’ll be taking the first ship with room to Pelargir. I’ll spend the rest of my leave there. How about you Michas?”

“I may stay, but tomorrow I will head to Minas Ithil and will train with the Rangers.”

Nadia made a pouty face at the news.

“I’ll miss you Halvie.”

“I’ll miss you too Nadia.”

Halvarin said as another serving maid brought Michas and he their meals. The two ate in silence.

~ ~ ~

Aldamir didn’t sleep too well. He was restless thinking of the dinner with Amarwen and anticipating seeing her the next day. He had a feeling inside that was telling him he had developed feeling for her, and was hoping that their marriage would be more than a political one. When he did drift to sleep asleep, he fell into a broken but intense dream. It was a dream of worlds colliding and chaos, and things would not be as the were. The wounds of war would scar both he and Amarwen as deeds unthought of came from their hands. The future was as if a grey fog had settled over the land, and its uncertainty was the fullfillment of all that was taking place around them. But he could see Amarwen standing tall and proud in the mist, and he standing there with her and others. The war was coming.

Shaken, Aldamir got up and went to splash water on his face. He pondered what he could remember of the dream even as its visions faded in his mind. He shook it off, scattering it into the far reaches of his awakened mind and he readied for the day.

He was unsure what protocol he should use though. Ah wanted to go to Lady Amarwen’s room and call on her, but he didn’t want to be too forward. Not just yet. Instead he send word that he would be waiting in the Royal Stables. He would get the horses ready for their day.

~ ~ ~

The morning light found Vilna and Vidnavi waking up among bodies of other drunks in the tavern. They scraped themselves up and managed to awaken other Rhovanion Guards that they saw and they all got out of there. When they ended up finding their beds, it was way too late. No sooner did the lay down and doze off did the commander come in and blow a horn.

“Full equipment field drills were in store for this day! Be on the training grounds in full dree by the time I get there! Vilmaith and Rhinnin laughed at the pain that they could see in the twin’s heads from the horn-blast. Helda shrugged and took little notice as she prepared for the work out the day would bring.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 26th, 2018, 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

In Almara’s wake, Amarwen read again the paper she had slipped to her. The words, their import, still the same. Her relief and pleasure at finding Almara safe and well sank further. Surely the whole Guild, its entire apparatus stretched throughout Gondor’s wide lands, could not be involved. A splinter group, a deluded few. It had to be stopped, and quickly, but how?

This was so much bigger, than her and Almara. Was one thing to follow a trail within the court, daunting but still manageable. This, though….she shook her head slowly from side to side. They needed help but where to turn? Prince Elarin? Aldamir?

Amarwen washed a hand over her face as she considered how Aldamir might respond to this. He’d want to know how she came by it almost certainly now. What he might make of her actions she could not guess. It was possible that he’d be vastly unimpressed with the liberties she had taken upon herself. What was her role here beyond smiling and nodding and, at the appointed time, delivering heirs? She did not even know how to begin to broach this with the prince. As that dawned upon her, she heard a knock at her door.

Paper hastily tucked into her bodice, Amarwen smoothed her expression for the second time that morning and nodded for the door to be opened. Again, it was not Aldamir, but a liveried member of the palace staff. The discovery that the prince awaited her elsewhere, at the Royal Chambers, propelled Amarwen from her chambers with a haste similar to Almara’s.

Just where Almara was off to? When she might see or hear from her again? What she was going to do next? As she hurried through the palace for the Royal Stables, Amarwen tried to push all of that aside. In her haste, she very nearly shot past something intriguing. Amarwen slid to a halt, the stones of the path she walked skittering beneath her boots. She turned back with a frown, studied the scene and then looked all around her. Even into the sky. At this hour it was a clear, new blue. Then back to what seemed to be a spear cleaved in two. Both halves just lay there, on the ground. As if dropped. Or cast aside.

She bent to take a closer look. The haft of the spear was thick. Nearly as thick as her own wrist. Whatever had cut it had to have been not only very sharp but very heavy. And the spear had most definitely been cut and not snapped or sawn off. She could see that from the edges. Amarwen picked up the pointed end of the ruined spear carefully. The tip was keenly honed, wickedly sharp. She could find no flaw in the spear point, nor the way it was fastened to the spear shaft. Nothing to suggest just why this spear had been cleaved in two and discarded.

Amawen set the spear back down where she had found it and straightened. She was alone here but perhaps whoever had left it would return. And in any case, this was not her concern. She resumed her path and arrived at the Royal Stables to find Aldamir waiting upon her. She hoped she had not kept him waiting overlong but the prince seemed distracted. His hand was in his pocket and it was as though he was turning something over. She took a moment to compose herself. Amarwen straightened, smoothed skirts of lavender linen and pushed a braid woven with a thin strand of the same hue back to hang cleanly.

As she drew breath to greet Aldamir, the Master of the Royal Stables espied her.

”Lady Amarwen, pillion today?”

She turned in the direction of the man’s strong voice to find a tall, creamy gelding. The creature snorted and his coat shivered at the blanket that had just been laid over his back. From around the other side a man with silvered hair emerged, bushy brows raised expectantly.

”Ah…no, preferably not,” Amarwen replied. The Master glanced at her skirts pointedly and Amarwen squared her shoulders, ready to argue if need be. Aldamir’s intercession spared her that necessity.

”We ride cross country,” the prince declared simply, putting an end to all further debate.

The Master nodded his understanding and Amarwen turned to offer Aldamir a grateful smile as she curtsied to him.

”Thank you, your Highness,” she said as she rose to her feet once more.

Aldamir inclined his head as he reached for her hand. His lips lightly grazed her knuckles before he turned to the gelding. ”Suitable, I hope?”

“A fine creature,”
Amarwen agreed.

Aldamir smiled to himself as he released her hand. He nodded, ”I had hoped you would like him.”

“What is his name?”
she asked.

The prince did not answer and she noticed his hand had returned to his pocket again. Amarwen went to the gelding, offering Aldamir the time he needed for whatever preoccupied him. She’d thought to save the apple that had come with breakfast and she offered this to the gelding. Four years old, she thought as he claimed it from her outstretched hand with relish. His ears flicked back and forth as he took in the movement around him. Men were coming out with saddles and blankets and so she stroked his long, arched neck and then stepped out of the way again.

As she returned to where Aldamir stood, she noticed that he had taken something out of his pockets. It appeared to be a hair pin, simple and pretty. It gleamed, catching the light within the stables as he rolled it in his fingers.

”That is lovely,” Amarwen observed and Aldamir looked up as if he had quite forgotten where he was.

”Yes,” he said as he put it back in his pocket and from the way his eyes seemed to focus, it seemed to her that the prince had made a decision.

”If there are other matters that demand your attention,” Amarwen began but the prince shook his head from side to side.

”Nothing more important than this,” he replied and offered her a warm smile, ”Forgive me, my Lady. I had a restless night.”

“As did I,”
Amarwen remarked and hoped fervently her cheeks would not flush.

”Well then, fresh open air is just what we both need,” Aldamir declared. Before long they were mounted and threading their way through the city streets for the gates and the wider horizon beyond.

Once free of the city, Amarwen urged her mount to increase speed until they were galloping. A little over a week ago she had been so excited to reach Osgiliath. Now, her blood thrilled at having left it behind. Just for a while. It was exhilarating to be free of buildings and streets and people. So many people teeming about, day and night. Amarwen drew in a deep breath. On the air she could smell grass. The scent of rain had lingered on. Glorious. Clean air, unspoiled by so many people leaving in the one place, filled her lungs

And the wide horizon beckoned to her. Just ride, it whispered, and leave all of this behind. Osgiliath, the corrupted court, the rising malaise of civil war, Halvarin’s cruel and callous betrayal. All the weighty expectation and demands. Just vanish into the horizon. The fantasy brought a smile to her that she could not swallow and then the sound of Aldamir’s approach. The prince had allowed her to ride ahead but now he was catching her up.

She reigned in slowly as he drew near. Falling into an easy walk, Amarwen tipped her face to the sun and drew in a deep breath. She could feel the weight of her hair sway across her back in its braid and the morning air had brought a glow to her cheeks. The prince cantered towards her and she shot him a heartfelt smile for despite everything, she felt restored in a way she could not define.

”This is perfect, Aldamir. Glorious. Thank you!” she said, smoothing rumpled linen skirts back into place.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Helda kept her head down as she readied her gear – what remained of it now that her favourite war spear lay in pieces back at the palace. She had others, of course, but that was beside the point. Whoever this new guardian was, whatever he was, he'd made it personal now.

She did not how the sorcerer had cut her spear in two. However it was, he’d regret it. And he’d buy her a new one. A better one. One with some of that fancy metal the Gondorians were always on about. And then he'd tell her how he'd done what he had done last night.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 26th, 2018, 11:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Minas Anor

Vinyarion sidled through the door the guard had pointed at to find his uncle enjoying breakfast. Almost immediately, his stomach growled and gurgled and the young princeling was reminded that after the altercation and arrest of last night, he had some missed dinner. And lunch in his search for Halvarin. He winced as he thought of his friend. So much for gratitude. Ornedil leaned back in his chair with a earthen mug in hand. Steam curled lazily as it rose. Aware of his uncle's scrutiny, Vinyarion straightened his back. A stick of straw promptly stabbed his ribs and he snatched a hand up to tug it free. Then his attention wandered back to the breakfast laid out before his uncle.

"Hungry?" Ornedil inquired at length.

Vinyarion swallowed, "I haven't eaten since yesterday morning."

"That's a long time,"
his uncle observed and Vinyarion nodded. "Pity there's not enough for the both of us."

A disconsolate sigh arose from Vinyarion as Ornedil waved him to a chair with a command. "Sit!"

He complied and averted his eyes from the toast his uncle was spreading creamy butter over. Nothing was said and a grim thought occurred to Vinyarion that his uncle was going to make him watch breakfast being eaten.

"What's to be done with you, eh?" Ornedil finally said. "Your father sends you back to your studies and within hours, you're brawling with fellow students in the streets of Minas Anor."

"That was not my fault!"
Vinyarion objected, aggrieved. "I didn't throw the first punch! I was only defending myself!"

"Poorly, judging by that black eye of yours. And the gambling debts? Are they someone else's doing too?"

"A string a bad luck,"
Vinyarion mumbled and, as a salve to his injured pride, "And I could have clobbered him but I didn't because he is my friend!"

Ornedil replied around a mouthful of tea that he swallowed. "Michas and....Calimir's son, Halvarin."

At that Vinyarion lifted a shoulder in an aggressive shrug he immediately regretted. He winced a second time as he rubbed at the protesting joint. Must have been the shoulder he landed upon when they were thrown out of the inn.

"What possible argument could there be between you and Lady Amarwen? What possible trespass could that fair and gentle maid have made against you?"

"Apart from not letting a man get a word in edgewise?"
Vinyarion returned with some ire. "That fair and gentle maid is-"

Ornedil's severe expression warned him just in time to bite off his sentence before he completed it. His uncle did it for him. "Is you father's bride."

"I know,"
Vinyarion muttered as he slumped back in his seat and ignored the ache of his abused shoulder. He crossed his arms over his chest and endured his uncle's loud tea sipping.

"You have been unsettled from the moment you arrived in Osgiliath. Is it, perchance, your father's betrothal that is the cause?"

It most certainly was, but Vinyarion wasn't going to admit to that. He maintained obdurate silence and stared at his dusty, scuffed boots.

"She's of an age with you and quite beautiful," Ornedil observed and Vinyarion's eyes swung up with some heat.

"It's not THAT!"



Ornedil studied him for a long moment and then inclined his head. "You can appreciate why I had to ask."

"Is that why Father sent me away?"

"Your father sent you away because he is at his wits end with you and you had clearly caused Lady Amarwen no small degree of distress."

"Not me, mostly,"
Vinyarion objected, "I was just the....messenger. And now I'm being shot for my services." He ruefully shook his head from side to side.

His uncle narrowed his eyes and then pushed half a plate of scrambled eggs towards Vinyarion. It was cold, but it was food, and he set to devouring it immediately. As he ate, Ornedil announced his decision. "It is long past time that I took a closer interest in your education."

"What's that mean?"
Vinyarion asked through a mouthful of eggs.

"Means you're staying here with me, for now, where I can keep an eye on you."

Vinyarion lifted a shoulder, the one he didn't land heavily on the night before, and continued wolfing down breakfast.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 29th, 2018, 3:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Seeing Amarwen free on the fields of Gondor lifted his heart. There was a certain glow she had once she was free of the confines of the city. Aldamir felt the weight lift from him as he watched Amarwen ride.

”Thank not me m’lady. You are free to ride the fields of Gondor as long as the line of Valacar reigns. You will not be as a bird caged only to be let out at the whim of others. Not if thy be my wife.”

He rode slowly beside her, watching her, even if his mind was divided in thought.

When Aldamir was younger, he was rather wayward. His son Vinyarion was much like him. He tried to remember the women he had been with in those young days before he married Vinyarion’s mother. It was all so mixed about in his head. His son Vinyarion followed too closely in his footsteps. These thoughts came to him due to a hairpin. A hairpin he recognised. A hairpin from a woman he made love to several years ago. A hairpin dropped by Almara, Lady Amarwen’s Counsel. He shook his head and cleared the thoughts. There would be much time later to investigate this. Right now, it had no place in his thoughts.

Yet here he was, intrigued and evermore infatuated with the Lady Amarwen, the woman who would be his wife. He felt his heart become drawn to her. It was rare for political betrothals to lead to a genuine feeling for the other. Yet Aldamir was feeling it inside him. He turned to Amarwen and said,

“If you don’t mind a longer ride, there is a place I could show you. It’s a grove of trees with a spring. Both we and the horses can refresh there before riding back. Come! It won’t take us long at a gentle gallop.”

He set off at a walk to the north with the Lady Amarwen beside him. He knew that they would not be back at their appointed time, but he didn’t care. This was enjoyable, and he wouldn’t have his days ruled by protocol. It was something he learned to do from Lady Amarwen’s spirit. They rode at a fair pace before Aldamir slowed, pointing at a patch of green in front of them. They started to walk their horses from there.

When they arrived at the grove, Aldamir dismounted and went to help Amarwen do the same.

“We have been lucky to avoid the rain, and I think the clouds may part for a time.”

The skies brightened as he removed a blanket that was secured to his horse, and he found a comfortable place under the trees. He had brought some fruits and vegetables, and a bottle of wine and some wooden cups.

”Let us dine again m’lady. We can talk freely away from prying ears.”

He opened the wine bottle and poured some in each cup, and offered one to Lady Amarwen.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ September 29th, 2018, 8:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Aldamir had gotten her talking too much once again, Amarwen reflected. She did not know how he accomplished it. She found herself studying him where he sat, at his ease. His expression was relaxed, his eyes more silver than green now. He had drawn a great deal out of her easily. Scarcely an hour had passed and she had told divulged all manner of information about herself.

She had told him about how, when restless, she would take a dinghy and explore the coastline around Edhellond. She had told him of the caves that, at low tide, were accessible but at high tide were assuredly not. A miscalculation she had made just the once and landed in a great deal of strife for failing to return home at the appointed hour. He knew of the willow trees that lined the banks of the river that emptied out into the sea and how she climbed them still, from time to time. She’d also described her friends to him, though not Halvarin.

Strange that she would disclose any of this to the prince. He would never meet these people, see those trees or explore that shore. This warrior prince had far more pressing concerns. Amarwen wondered if he thought her foolish. And why was it that she was so willing to disclose so much. Was it because she found that she enjoyed his attention? She liked the way his gaze settled on her as it was now as she told him of the time she had broken her arm and then set about lying as to how that had come to pass.

”I thought myself very convincing,” Amarwen mused and shook her head at her younger self.

“What did you say?” Aldamir asked, curious.

”Rather than tell Amme that I had waded across the river in a building tide to climb the willow trees she had forbade me from climbing, I told her I had fallen from my horse.”

The prince tilted his head to one side and Amarwen shrugged at him. ”Explained the broken arm. Not the sodden state of my clothing.”

Aldamir chuckled quietly, ”And so what did she do?”

”Not a lot, or so I thought at first. However, once my arm had started to heal and I surfaced,”
Amarwen winced at the recollection. ”I was forbidden to ride and sail both until I told the truth. The longest three months of my life passed.”

“It took you three months to confess?”
the prince exclaimed and Amarwen could not prevent the mischievous smile that came to her.

”It took me three months to infuriate Adda so much that he’d intervene to get me out from underfoot. My mother is not to be lightly crossed but nor is a shipwright in the midst of a substantial design project.”

“That is....devious!”

Amarwen amended and then smiled ruefully as she paused. She admitted, ”I do not know why I speak of such things. It must sound so very frivolous, your Highness.”

Amarwen dropped her eyes, keenly self conscious. Aldamir’s fingers lightly brushed her hand. His warm touch lingered and when she looked up she found the prince gazed at her intently.

”There is nothing frivolous about a happy childhood,” he quietly said and tenderly smoothed hair plucked free from her braid. ”You love your parents very much and they, I expect, dote upon you.”

Amarwen could feel tension building. They were very much alone here, out of sight and hearing of anyone. ”I have kept you overlong and you will have pressing duties to see to,” she said in a hurry.

"As I said before, none more pressing than you!"

She studied him through her lashes, "Nothing more pressing than the taking of a wife."

Aldamir shook his head at this. ”Nay, m’Lady.”

“What will you have?”
she countered, bewildered. Was this what he had been pondering all morning? Was this what had kept him awake through the night? Had he reconsidered?

He made to speak but a fat drop of rain landed on his head. Frowning, Aldamir glanced up to receive three more upon his upturned face and just like that the downpour began. With no cloak to shelter under, Amarwen curled her shoulders and tucked her chin to her chest and soon she felt Aldamir’s frame nudge her own as he extended his cloak over her.

”Come,” he said and pulled them both to their feet. He made for the nearest tree. ”The best this grove has to offer,” he said, somewhat apologetic.

The prince closed his cloak around them and she found herself pressed against him. His warmth kept her shivering at bay and she felt his arms tighten around her. All she could hear was Aldamir’s heart, his steady breathing and the dripping of rain through the leaves of the grove. She rested her head against his chest and closed her eyes.

Author:  Hanasian [ September 30th, 2018, 11:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

There was no accounting for the weather, and they huddled close under the trees for some time. It was when the steady rain started to drip through the leaves that they started getting really wet. The horses didn’t seem to mind the rain though. They foraged lazily around the grove unaware of the two in the trees. Aldamir shook his head at not being prepared properly, but had they stayed to schedule, they would have been back before the rains started.

“I think we can wait it out. Hopefully it is only a passing shower.”

Aldamir didn’t mind holding Amarwen close. Maybe in the back of his mind he knew the possibility of rain would delay them. He found himself resting his head on hers, breathing in the scent of her hair, and he kissed her head gently. It was so serene there away from the city. He hoped this would last forever.

They shared another helping of wine, and finally Aldamir left his cloak around Amarwen and he got up to get his water bag. He filled it with the fresh spring water pushing up from underground, and he came back and sat down.

”The rain has tapered back to a drizzle. We should start thinking about heading back so we can return before dark.”

It really wasn’t an idea neither of them wished to consider. He lifted his mug of wine and said,

”Before we leave, Let’s talk about your archery skill. Lady Amarwen, word has it you are an exceptional archer. How would you fare with bow and arrow from horseback?”

He could see her riding skills were good, and though he didn’t himself see Amarwen shoot at the training ground before the tournament, he heard the talk among those who did.

”I must see how well you handle a bow and arrow. Maybe tomorrow?”

He proposed even as he heard some yelling. The sound was Rhovanion, and it drew closer. Coming over the rose was a formation of Rhovanion Guard being marched quick time by their commander running beside them. He could see a couple of the shieldmaidens among them, and they all looked like they were carrying full equipment and them some extra weight from the rain. When the commander saw the grove, he called back the pace to regular time, and they kept formation and marched ahead. When the commander saw the two horses he signalled a halt and they paused and stood in formation, ready to be drawn.

”Hail Commander!”

Prince Aldamir called out as he stood. The commander paused his step and signalled all to come to attention. Prince Aldamir of the Royal House as among them.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ October 1st, 2018, 1:18 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

The arrival of the Rhovanions spared Amarwen from answering beyond a nod of agreement for Aldamir was soon amongst the Rhovanions. Whatever ability Amarwen possessed with a bow would likely be negligible when set against the training and skill the prince and the warriors that stood amongst him possessed. For her, archery was a sport. For Aldamir, though, his training was for a greater purpose than amusement. This was a man who was expected to lay his life and that of others down in protection and service of a realm and all those that lived within it. People like her.

She stood back as the guard and Aldamir spoke, unable to follow the unfamiliar language of Rhovanion. It was, she thought as she listened, quite different to anything she had heard before. As she waited, she felt no few curious eyes flick towards her however none were so unwise to be caught staring. Realising that she was just standing there, Amarwen turned to pack up their belongings.

As she wrestled with a sodden blanket, her mind skipped and tumbled over their exchange. Just before the skies had opened, Aldamir had told her that he was not taking a wife at all. Further her mind skipped, to the failed garden of her dream and then, uncomfortably, to the exchange she’d had with that singularly awful woman the day before. The prince was a kind and gentle lord. Was his decision made to spare him from having to dispose of her should she prove barren?

The more she pondered it, the more likely it became.

”Need help with that?” Amarwen flinched, unaware that she had company, and blinked at Helda who nodded at the blanket in hand. ”Or do you enjoy throttling wet blankets?” the shieldmaiden finished.

“I was squeezing the water out,” Amarwen replied somewhat pointedly. Helda rolled her eyes at her and rightly so. Despite Amarwen’s best efforts, she had only managed to make the blanket drip. With a defeated sigh, she handed it across to the shieldmaiden who made very short work of it indeed.

”This looks like Aldamir’s,” Helda observed, assured as she turned for the horses.

”You know a great deal about the prince’s possessions,” Amarwen murmured and Helda threw what could only be described as a saucy grin over her shoulder.

”I’ve known his Highness for some time,” she replied as she made for his horse and set about stowing the blanket. ”And it is to you the prince has given his cloak.”

Amarwen followed the woman, at a loss as to what the prince's cloak had to do with anything. It had been raining and she had been without one. As simple as that, wasn't it? As she wondered, Amarwen looked to the Rhovanions Aldamir stood amidst. They were peered at her, curious, though their eyes snapped away as soon as they found she returned their study. Amarwen swung back to Helda. ”What does it signify if I wear his cloak?”

The shieldmaiden muttered something to herself in her own tongue and nodded over to the creamy gelding Amarwen had ridden to the grove. ”That also his doing?” Helda inquired, mildly.

”Yes,” Amarwen frowned at the gelding and then back to the shieldmaiden, ”What of it?”

Helda shot her a sideways look and then shook her head. ”You’ve truly no idea?”

“I might if you spoke plainly.”

The shieldmaiden rolled her eyes and turned, hands on her hip, to look past Amarwen to her peers. She made a rapid calculation before she settled on an answer.

”Not for me to say,” Helda declared and set about returning to her patrol.

Amarwen turned to call after her, ”Know anything about a spear, cleaved in two and left in the gardens this morning?”

Helda froze, mid stride and then shook her head rapidly. She continued on, posture not nearly so tall, to slide into place. Amarwen’s brow furrowed at the discomfiture she saw on the shieldmaiden’s face. Those around her were peering at the spears Helda had at her back. They began nudging each other and continued doing so until their commander ordered them to form up again. He saluted smartly to Aldamir and ordered his unit on.

They moved as one, a remarkable feat given the size of the patrol and how heavy the going was after the rain. Aldamir studied their passage thoughtfully. His expression, she thought, was that of a man accustomed to preparing armies. Looking for weaknesses, gauging strengths, the prince’s gaze remained on Rhovanions almost until he had rejoined her.

”Not looking for us,” Amarwen inquired. Aldamir shook his head from side to side and transferred his attention back to her.

”Routine training,” he replied as he bent to collect up their belongings. ”There will be more such exercises in light of recent events.”

Recent events...her thoughts returned to the piece of paper tucked into her bodice still. She pulled it free as Aldamir set to packing up and turned it over in her fingers. As the prince returned, she held it out to him. His brows drew together as he took it from her outstretched fingers and unfolded it. The prince read swiftly and looked up to her sharply.

”I received it this morning,” she said without prompting.

”From whom?”

”A credible source,”
she replied and fervently hoped the prince would not press her to reveal still more. His gaze rested on her steadily for a long moment.

”A Guild garrison building was torched overnight,” he said. ”Neither witnesses nor survivors have been found. Yet you have this.”

He lifted the paper to wave at her.

”I trust this person implicitly, your Highness. If I break that trust, what then?”

Aldamir sighed at the question and then reconsidered the report. He rubbed at his jaw as his thoughts turned.

”I meant to give it to you earlier,” Amarwen said, ”But the opportunity did not present itself before now.”

The prince looked up at her and then shook his head. ”I am astonished that you have come by this at all.”

Amarwen spread her wet skirts as best she could to curtsy before his gaze. ”I serve, your Highness. A loyal and humble servant for as long as it so pleases the Crown.” She rose again, head bowed, ”I will understand if it be your will that I desist such...endeavours.”

“My will?”

“You are my Lord,”
she replied. ”I serve at your pleasure.”

Aldamir sighed. ”First you would have me take a wife, as if I were a thief in the night. Now, you would have me take your free will.”

His tone was aggrieved and when she looked up she saw he was genuinely perplexed. ”I will take nothing from you, m’Lady. Not your freedom nor your hand! If you would continue to serve in this capacity, then I welcome your contributions. I welcome anything you might offer, freely and gladly. It is a wife I desire, m'lady. Not a hostage nor a servant. Do you understand?”

She nodded and the prince wiped a hand over his face. He gestured to their horses. ”We should set about our return.”

With that they were soon mounted and on their way. Her thoughts continued to tumble about in her head as she urged her horse into a rolling walk after Aldamir. Ahead, he swayed in the saddle with the horse’s gait, displaying the easy grace of a natural horseman. Aldamir seemed to be in no particular hurry and they rode in silence for some time until the prince twisted back to where she rode slightly behind him and off to one side so as to avoid the clods of damp earth his horse kicked up.

Amarwen said nothing but the prince slowed so that he dropped back or she caught him up. She glanced surreptitiously towards him to find him watching her. Expectantly. He must have caught something in her expression.

”First Girdean and now this...Do you think it related?” Amarwen inquired.

”Little would surprise me when it comes to the Guild.”

Amarwen shook her head from side to side. Her father was a senior Guild officer and he was no traitor. Nor was her uncle, Captain Carlin. ”Surely not the entire Guild. A splinter group. It must be.”

Aldamir shook his head at that. ”Girdean is Lord Calimir’s adjutant. He does nothing without that man’s approval...and Calimir is well known to be a senior advisor to the Master of Ships. He quit Osgiliath yesterday, in point of fact, in quite a hurry to leave the city.”

If Calimir was involved in this, then what of Halvarin? He too had hurried out of Osgiliath. His behaviour was impossible to reconcile that with what she had come over all these years to know and love. Was it all political? Some means to gain leverage or otherwise undermine the throne. She could deny whatever they said, denounce it as a lie, but would ring hollow for Halvarin was in possession of intimate knowledge. It could be easily verified if not through Aldamir then certainly her maids that were privy to so much. The silver dress. She had to destroy it as soon as she could manage it. And she had another letter to write to Halvarin.

”-that there are loyal men still within the Mariner’s Guild, m’Lady. What is less certain is whether there are enough of them to prevail. I think not,” Aldamir sighed.

”Have them brought to trial,” Amarwen said, refocussing her thoughts on the matter to hand.

Aldamir grimaced at her statement. ”It may already be too late for that. Lord Castimir has powerful supporters. He easily holds the southern half of the realm in his grip by one way or another.”

“Then what?”
Amarwen asked, appalled at so bleak an assessment. ”Just wait for the inevitable to come to pass? No!”

“Many of his backers will not treat with my father,”
Aldamir replied, ”But that does not mean that we remain idle. If the Guild prepares to seize the throne, then it follows that we must prepare to defend both the throne and the people of Gondor.” There was another silence before the prince spoke again. ”I must speak with my brother.”

The prince looked to her intently, ”I regret that I must do so immediately. I anticipate that my absence will be short. Our plans...”

“Are easily resumed once circumstances permit. I will await your return, your Highness,”
Amarwen replied. Aldamir reached for her hand and brought it to his lips.

”Perhaps I shall endeavour, in your absence, to improve what meagre skill I possess with a bow.”

Aldamir repeated, incredulous. ”Helda thinks you should be trained. That you are vulnerable.”

“What do you think, your Highness? Am I vulnerable?”

He had still to let go of her hand and his thumb gently rubbed the fine bones and tendons under his touch. He threw her a knowing smile, unwilling to be caught so easily. And most certainly not between two women such as Helda and Amarwen. ”I think that Helda will not know what hit her.”

Amarwen returned a pleased smile, ”Rather, Helda will not even know that she has been struck.”

Aldamir's chuckle as rich and full. They rode on in companionable, easy silence, each glancing to the other as their thoughts ran. She could not sense whether the Prince's earlier chagrin with her had faded. Amarwen felt her shoulders tighten as the city walls came into view. No sooner were they back at the palace did Aldamir hasten on his way, apologising even as he took his leave. She took care to remain gracious, despite feeling somewhat akin to a drowned rat who smelt like wet horse.

She had only managed to wash that from her when she heard knocking at her door. This proved to be the prince. He had only stopped to throw on dry clothing and gather what he required for the short journey to Minas Anor. Aldamir tarried briefly to bid her farewell but he made sure that his parting left an impact on her. Again she felt something stirring in her but it was too soon. Her heart had deceived her before and she was not yet ready to trust it.

Amarwen set to tearing up her gown of silver silk. She did this methodically, stuffing the ruined rags into the hearth to burn. She stood back as the fire did its work. Silk charred and writhed in the heat. A tear tracked, unmarked, down her face in a slow path to her jaw. Then another. This one she wiped away and pressed out a solemn sigh. Halvarin had made his choice and now, so had she. She was bound to this path before her. More tightly with each passing day, it seemed from the leaning of her heart, which she did not trust in the least, to her dreams and her actions.

As she stared at the flames, Aldamir urged his mount from a trot to a canter along the short road to Minas Anor. It was late in the day but that could not be helped. Nor did he regret the time he had spent, for the peaceful serenity of the grove lingered with him still. He glanced over his shoulder to the city he left behind and then settled in for the journey ahead. The sooner he took counsel with Ornedil, the sooner he could return.

Author:  Jax Nova [ October 3rd, 2018, 9:20 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Almara had rejoined Rie-Zunic for the next leg of the man’s plan. “It’s simple,” he stated. “They need more supplies and more men in this coty to take it. They have laid much grpundwork, but not yet enough for victory. In order to get the rest of what they need conveniently, they need ships.”

“So we hit their ships?” Almara surmised.

Rie-Zunic held up a pointed metal spike, a leather funnel, a small pouch of lamp fuel, and a fire box.

“We burn them?” Almara continued the guess work.

“We find a weak spot in the hull, drive a hole in it, pour the lamp fuel in and light it on fire.”

“That requires us to inspect the entire hull of every ship...”

“From the water after dark,” Rie-Zunic substantiated. “It should be no problem. I know how well you swim.”

“Why not just set the fire atop the deck?” She wondered

“It’s easier to find, will be noticed quicker, and this easier to put out. Besides, this way we can set the stage, and burn multiple ships. Drive the hole, place the flamable liquid, and come back and set the fires once all the ships have been inspected. If we start fires more conspicuously we may only reach a few ships.”

“Very well...” Almara agreed. “We will do it your way.”

And off they went.

Author:  Elora Starsong [ October 4th, 2018, 5:30 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

Dear Halvarin

Amarwen’s quill hovered as she debated crossing the first word out. He was dear to her. Despite everything she knew. She sighed and decided to press on.

I scarcely know what to say. Or where to begin. It is as if I never knew you. As though I write to a stranger. And that makes no sense to me for we have known each other since we were children. Still, it is where I find myself now and there is nothing to be done for it.

I am not writing this to make your life difficult. I understand if you cannot talk to me again. If it is over, as you seem to think that it is, then I suppose that makes sense to you.

I write with what I hope is a simple request. Please do not tell your father what happened.

Not for my sake, of course. I know that I mightily overestimated my significance to you. In all that has come to pass, that much I understand. For what it is worth, I am sorry to have been so conceited to have thought I mattered to you. I will not burden you in that fashion again.

I ask this for Gondor, Hal. For surely, I cannot have mistaken how dearly you love our realm in addition to all else.

If we again meet, I will hold my tongue. All that was there, I will let pass. I ask that you do the same in the hope that it is not already too late.


It was very strange, Amarwen thought as she set her quill down, that in a city of so many people it was still possible to be lonely. This was for her a new and unwelcome feeling. At home, in Edhellond, she’d never felt so alone before. There she had been surrounded by family and friends, warmth and love and undeniable security. There was none of that in Osgiliath. Not yet.

Dusk pressed in around the palace and she had naught but the four walls of her chamber for company.

Author:  Hanasian [ October 6th, 2018, 9:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar

It was noon that day when Halvarin arrived in Harlond. He paid a dear price to get a place on the last ship out to Pelargir, using much of what Vinyarion had paid him back. It was a rare moment that Vinyarion would win, let alone he walking away from the games without betting it all back. Rarer still is to be in his presence when he had winning on him, and he willing to part with it in a repayment. He waved farewell to Michas as he boarded the ship, and he stood there by the rail until it cast off. He would be in Pelargir sometime in the night.

He stood there until the White City was lost to view. He had thought much that had transpired since coming north with Vinyarion. He dug in his satchel and retrieved his ink and quill, and found a parchment sheet. He would pen a letter to Amarwen… no, he would write to Amarwen as if he was telling her a story. He put the parchment back and pulled out a leather-bound book. He opened it to the first empty page, and he wrote the date at the top of the page.

My dear friend Amarwen,

Though events conspired against our love for each other, I still hold you highly as a friend. I felt deep remorse leaving Osgiliath without saying goodbye, but there were forces at play there that would have made any attempt for me to see you dangerous for us both. So it was that I ruminated in Minas Anor for a time. As I write this, I am on ship to Pelargir. I will write to you here, though these will never be sent to you. They are a comfort to me to write as if I was talking to you my oldest friend. And I will tell you all.

Halvarin paused when he heard some footsteps on the deck. He closed his journal and looked up.

”You are a writer?”

A woman, bundled in a heavy cloak stood before him. Halvarin stood up and said,

”Yes, I am. Halvarin is my name.”

“I am Kerina. Could you write something… a letter, for me? I never learned to write.”

Halvarin was intrigued. He said to her,

”If you tell me the words you want written, I can write them in the common language.”

She turned and looked back up river. They then looked at Halvarin and said,

”I will tell you the words. And I will pay you for your time. May I sit with you here?”

“Yes, by all means. Maybe we can talk about what you want written before we start. I don’t have a lot of parchment.”

It was late and they were approaching the quay in Pelargir by the time Halvarin had written the letter the woman wanted.

”Do you want to sign it? Tell me your name and I’ll show you how to sign your name.”

As the ship docked, the passengers disembarked, and Halvarin and Kerina walked off together.

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