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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 19th, 2018, 11:15 pm 
Warden of the Knight
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Almara trapsed hastily through the cold night and finally made it home. She could smell the smoke of Rie-Zunic’s fire before she entered. A blast of warm air hit as she opened the door, slid quietly in, and latched it behind her.

“What in middle earth took you so long!?” Rie-Zunic’s voice startled her, even though she knew he would not yet be sleeping.

“I... had some unexpected turns in my journey,” Almara answered softly, sliding across the floor and sinking into Rie’s open arms. He kissed her gently on the head as she began a lengthy explication of what all had transpired.

Rie-Zunic was admittedly skeptical. “I don’t like it... there are too many unknowns.” He glanced down at Almara’s stomach as he still held her in his arms. “But... for the sake of our child, if you think Aldamir can be trusted...” he paused. It almost seemed to pain him to say it. “I will agree. But I am not rejoining the military,” he was quick to add.

“I don’t think he would ask it,” Almara replied. “At least not the main branch. If anything, perhaps a special service that answers only to him. He seems to understand the need to act beyond that which his Grandfather is willing to do.”

“Good,” Rie-Zunic stated with the first hint of satisfaction he had displayed all night. “Then perhaps there is hope for Gondor yet.” He sighed and kissed Almara again, then led her to the bed. “We should sleep. When time comes we will return to the palace together.”

The two retired fpr the night and were soon fast asleep in each others arms. Morning would find them still intertwined in the now cool room.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 21st, 2018, 10:51 pm 
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Palace - Osgiliath

Helda’s boots made quite the racket as she stomped the snow from them. The sound bounced of the palace walls. Those passing frowned at her. She disregarded it all because this day was a day that she was not going to be pushed back. She was done waiting. Done hoping.

Boots cleared, the Shieldmaiden set off oblivious to the muddy tracks she left behind her. The morning was still young but the palace was bustling. Braziers thickly smoked in the larger spaces, struggling valiantly to throw back a chill was seeping and creeping through the stones of the palace day and night.

This was not her first winter in Osgiliath, but it would be her last if she failed. Enough was enough. Eldacar’s decision to disperse them had come as a bitter blow to morale. The failure to call them back was further salt to their wounds. And now, tidings from Rhovanion itself.

The victories of the great Gondorian King Romendacil II were fading inexorably. Reports of increased Easterling incursions had reached her and yet Gondor stood preoccupied with its own incessant squabbling. If she was not of use here, nor wanted, Helda was determined to return to Rhovanian where the promise of a welcome and a purpose yet survived. The tall woman’s fiery braids swung as she strode along, sharply moving to avoid a scurrying servant on some pointless errand from time to time.

Another corner brought Helda to an abrupt stop. She swiftly backed up, watching all the while those she saw ahead. They did not seem to notice her and so Helda settled in to observe. Lady Amarwen was the very image of what anyone might imagine of a princess of the realm. Clad in luxuriant silk velvet the colour of spring lilacs, black hair bound in strands of pearls, Prince Aldamir’s betrothed graciously smiled at the two men that stood with her. Helda narrowed her eyes as she tried to read the other woman. Calm, measured, pleasant. Hands clasped before her, head elegantly tilted just so.

Helda turned her attention to the men. One she recognised as Lord Calimir. He wore his usual reptilian smile and his formal Guild garb. At his elbow was another Helda did not recognise. His hawkish features were only emphasised by the way he slicked back his hair. Also in formal Guild uniform, Helda immediately perceived a distasteful arrogance to him. Particularly as he stared at Lady Amarwen.

As she studied the exchange before her, Helda attempted to recall the connection between the two she recognised. It was difficult to keep track of who knew whom when it came to these Gondorians. There was something of a family connection, she thought, between Lady Amarwen and Lord Calimir but the nature of it eluded Helda in the moment. As she grasped for it, the gathering disbanded.

The younger man extended his hand towards Amarwen and Helda’s eyes narrowed as she discerned a brief hesitation on the Lady’s behalf. Her frown grew into a scowl as she watched the younger Guild officer bend over her hand and lingered as improperly as his gaze had. Amarwen whipped her hand away, her smile fixed in place. Lord Calimir and his obnoxious companion strode off without so much as a backwards glance. Amarwen, however, transformed. She scrubbed her hand on her skirts and stared, fixedly, at the departing men. In anyone else, Helda would have interpreted that as the look of someone intending to do serious harm. A prelude to a brawl.

The Shieldmaiden started forward once she was certain the two officers had left. Still, Amarwen glared with ominous ferocity after them as Helda approached.

”Who you fixing to kill?” Helda inquired.

A set of large, grey eyes swung immediately to Helda’s face. “No one,” Amarwen replied far too hastily. Helda offered her a dubious expression that Amarwen elected to ignore. ”Have you spoken with the Prince today?”

The metal torcs in Helda’s braids clattered as she shook her head emphatically. Amarwen released her skirts and to hold of Helda’s forearm. ”With me, then.”

”Why?” Helda asked as the noblewoman set off, her arm still in Amarwen’s grip.

”Not here,” Amarwen muttered.

It would have been an easy thing to elude her grasp but Helda grudgingly allowed herself to be towed along. As she did so, she considered just how much had changed in the young noblewoman. Had she not seen for herself the depth of this woman’s initial despair and trepidation, it would be difficult to credit now.

Helda was pulled into Amarwen’s apartments and then deeper still into the bedchamber. The very place Helda had encountered a desperate young woman determined to escape by any means. The bedding was where it belonged this time. Aside from that and the curtains changed for something heavier, the room was otherwise as Helda recalled from the last time she had stood in this place.

Amarwen sealed the doors and moved next to the balcony doors.

”Seen anyone lurking outside there,” Helda was prompted ask, recalling a certain discouraging night she'd spent in the palace grounds some months ago. Rhinnin and the others still thought Helda had been imagining things and she’d since given up trying to prove otherwise.

Amarwen’s dark head shook from side to side as she tugged on the doors. ”Should I of?”

“Probably not,”
Helda muttered, unwilling to be drawn further on that sore subject. ”What is this about?”

Amarwen turned from the locked balcony doors and considered Helda soberly. ”We need your help,” she began and from there set out a decidedly ambitious plan that held no small degree of appeal to Helda. It was bold, decisive, and months overdue.

She tried to quash any zeal she felt and offered Amarwen an ambivalent shrug. ”It’s too late...We’re scattered to the four winds. And,” Helda crossed her arms. ”The Crown Prince has made it clear that our assistance is no longer welcomed in this realm.”

“Al only discovered what had come to pass yesterday and he is as appalled as I. We’re determined to remedy it and we need as much help as we can lay our hands on to do so.”

“As does Rhovanion,”
Helda replied. ”Whilst the Crown panders to a Guild that seeks only its downfall, the Easterlings are again on the move. I would think that any realm might unite before a mutual foe...but we both know that this Gondor will not.”

“Helda-“

“Why should I throw my lot in with a doomed nation that despises me?”

“Because leaving now only widens loathsome divisions we both lament.”


Helda made a show of studying her fingernails and Amarwen pressed closer. ”If we abandon that which joined our peoples together, do we not give our foes precisely that which they desire?”

“Rhovanion does not need Gondor to throw the Easterlings back,”
Helda declared, an innate pride ringing in her reply.

Amarwen nodded slowly, “How many Rhovanion lives might be saved if we cleave together? How many will be lost facing a foe alone?”

Helda scowled and Amarwen drew herself up. ”We both could do with all the assistance we can get. The task ahead of us was already immense and now, combined...”

The noblewoman sighed sadly and her eyes dropped to the floor. She shook her head. ”The choice must be yours, Helda. I will leave you to make your decision.”

The shieldmaiden’s jaw clenched as Amarwen moved past her for the bedchamber doors. As she opened them, Helda muttered through her teeth, ”I’m in.”

She turned about and found Amarwen watching her. ”I’ll see if anyone else wants in...those that are left at any rate.”

Helda nodded sharply and set off at a rapid clip, mind already wheeling through who she knew and how she could get word to them. At her back, Amarwen let her weight rest against the doorframe. Rhûn on the move? She supposed it held a certain grim logic. They will surely have noticed the widening divisions within their old foe and would seek to exploit any perceived weakness.

As she examined this, a dreadful thought occurred to her. Might the Guild seek to use the Easterlings to sap and weaken their strength? Convenient scapegoats that could spare the Guild from recrimination by Gondorians. Convenient tools that would prove with each incursion, each injury and each death, the weakness of the current rulers of Gondor. Amarwen went for nearest map she knew of.

She drew it from a pile she kept beside her crowded desk, spread it out upon the floor and sank to her hands and knees to study it. Where might the supply lines run if the Guild were sponsoring the Easterlings? And then, shameful as this notion was, might they use this to reveal the Guild for what they really were? Turn it against them to sway sentiment against the Master of Ships? And how might they secure the sort of evidence to prevent him, and his odious offspring, from slithering away? Her skin crawled as she thought of the loathsome young man with Halvarin’s father this morning. She'd rather die than suffer his attentions.

With this in the back of her mind, along with all the other things she'd scraped from her earlier encounter with Lord Calimir, Amarwen scrutinised the map before her.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 24th, 2018, 3:47 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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The realm was crumbling, and the only one who could do anything about was his grandfather. But he doesn’t have the mettle to see it through. Aldamir hated opposing his father, but his policy of appeasement of the Mariners was doing nothing but speeding the eventual downfall of the proper royal line of Gondor, and possibly of Gondor itself.

After leaving his grandfather’s chamber and having short words with his father there, he sent out messengers to both the Rhovanion contingents in hopes they could be located in this foul weather. He had ordered those who were making their way west to turn and march to Minas Ithil. It would remain to be seen if they would obey an order issued on his authority. If he was going to Minas Ithil this day, he was going to start building his defences that would be needed to defend Gondor in the coming civil war.

When he went back to his study, he paused as he saw the approach of someone. It was Helda, one of the few Rhovanions still in Osgiliath. Her look was determined, and Aldamir did not step out and stop her. He was fairly sure she had just come from Amarwen’s chambers. He stepped back out after Helda was well down the corridor, and he went to Amarwen’s door.

”Ami… it’s me.” he said as he tapped lightly. When she opened the door he quickly stepped in. ”Eldacar has me leaving for Minas Ithil this night. I’m going to set out but will pause in East Osgiliath and spend the night at the inn by the Bridge. You and your servants are coming with me. I know this is short notice, but the sooner we get out of this accursed city the better.”

He paused and took her hands in his as he looked into her eyes. ”My love, as of right now, I am of the belief that we are at war with the Mariners Guild. How this will shake out for you and me, for the royal line, or Ithilien or Anorien or Edhellond, I cannot say.” he ran his hand against her cheek. ”For now, we go to Minas Ithil and we fortify Ithilien. We will have to send word to Almara. I have already sent messages to my brother in Minas Anor, and to the Rhovanions who were sent away. I still have to meet with the few Rhovanions still here.”

He gave her a hug and then asked, ”I saw Helda the shieldmaiden moving swiftly out of the corridor. Did she come see you, and can we depend on her?”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 25th, 2018, 6:30 am 
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Eldacar was unsurprised to find his son’s chambers empty. A short distance later, he could hear Aldamir’s voice as he laid out a grim tale for the woman he was to marry. He slipped through her doors to find Aldamir tenderly holding his betrothed.

”Good,” Eldacar said, startling the pair such that they sprang apart.

Aldamir squared his shoulders as Amarwen sank into a deep curtsy.

”Father, I will not -“ Eldacar waved a hand at his son and addressed Amarwen in his stead.

”There is no cause for formalities here, my Lady.”

Hesitantly, Amarwen rose and Eldacar was struck by how very young she was and yet his son clearly had come to rely upon this woman immensely. She kept her eyes trained on the floor as protocol demanded of her. Anyone, himself included, might consider her little more than an innocent lamb. But behind her he saw the corner of a map laid out on the floor. Rhûn, if he did not miss his guess.

”The tidings concerning the Easterling push – legitimate or not?” Eldacar inquired, his gaze intently locked on the woman before him.

Amarwen swallowed but her voice was surprisingly steady. ”I would not put it past the Guild to sow false information. To provoke intemperate action amongst the Rhovanians or, at the least, draw them off to further weaken our position. The notion that they might use the Easterlings is also not unlikely, insofar as I have been able to glean.”

The Crown Prince lifted a brow at this and exchanged a steady look with Aldamir for a long moment. ”My son believes that dispersing the Rhovanians is a miscalculation.”

“I concur with Prince Aldamir’s assessment. Morale amongst the only loyal force we might have called upon has deteriorated. A good number of them are of a mind to return to their homes where they can be certain of both welcome and purpose.”

“Helda?”
Aldamir inquired and Amarwen shook her head at him.

”No, my prince. Helda has agreed to lend aid. How many are of the same mind is uncertain.”

Eldacar nodded to himself. ”And so you ready yourselves to take action into your own hands.”

At this Aldamir drew closer to Amarwen and slid a hand under her elbow. ”The realm will fall without it, Father.”

The Crown Prince washed a hand over his face before he gestured to a nearby chair. ”Might I, my Lady?”

“Of course,”
Amarwen hurried to reply.

She exchanged an uncertain glace with Aldamir as he eased into the seat with a sigh.

”Which inn do you intend to repair to this night?” Eldacar inquired. The wary glance his son shot him prompted him to add. ”I heard it all, Aldamir.”

“Father-“
Aldamir began once more.

Eldacar waved him off. ”Please, son. Which inn?”

“The Bridge.”


He nodded at that and gestured at the empty seats across from him. Aldamir and Amarwen were soon seated.

”I cannot leave Lady Amarwen behind,” Aldamir said blankly and Amarwen looked to him sharply before her gaze bounced to him.

”Nor should you. Lord Calimir has returned and with him, Castimir’s eldest son. The palace is no longer the haven your parents, dear lady, might hope for.”

Now it was Aldamir looking sharply at him. Amarwen, he noted, let her gaze sink. ”I encountered them this morning,” she whispered, clearly perturbed by this. Her eyes rose to Aldamir and he watched his son reach to curve a hand to her cheek.

”I will not allow them to take you, my love,” his words earnest as only Aldamir could make them. The tenderness Eldacar saw in his son’s gesture only made what he had to ask next all the more difficult.

”My Lady, are you aware of recent developments concerning your appointed counsel?”

Aldamir’s touch lingered, smoothing Amarwen’s ebony hair for a moment. It dropped away and Amarwen returned her attention to him. There was no doubt in her expression.

”Forgive me, your Highness, but are you aware that your wife has been aware of Almara’s identity from the outset?”

Eldacar leaned forward, weight rested on one knee. ”You are certain of this, Lady Amarwen.”

Aldamir’s betrothed inclined her head. ”I am.”

The Crown Prince dropped his gaze from hers for a moment and looked up to his son. ”You see, now, why it is that I must not be seen to be moving overtly against the Guild.”

Aldamir leaned back and wiped a hand over his lower face. ”You placate them for Mother’s sake?”

“Castimir is, if nothing else, ambitious. He is prone to overestimating his strength and underestimating his weaknesses. Or so I hope. Meanwhile, you and your brother enjoy a certain latitude that I cannot exploit.”

“You set a trail of breadcrumbs,”
Amarwen said slowly and Eldacar nodded.

”I cannot be seen to support you, son. Indeed, it would be best if we continue to appear to be at odds,” Eldacar’s gaze shifted to Amarwen and a faint smile curled the corners of his mouth. ”But keep this one close indeed, my boy.”

“I intend to, Father,”
Aldamir replied solemnly.

With a nod, Eldacar rose to his feet. ”Well then, I leave you to your preparations.”

Amarwen rose with Aldamir and watched the Crown Prince take his leave. After a moment, Aldamir turned back to Amarwen. ”The Bridge Inn.”

“I will be there come dusk, my love,”
she answered and the prince drew her mouth to his in an embrace that was lingering. Nodding to himself, Aldamir agreed and took his leave and Amarwen set immediately to packing, aware that it would not take her long. Much of her courtly garb could be left behind for it would be of little use to her at military garrison. She retrieved the clothing she had brought with her from Edhellond, serviceable and in good repair even if it wasn’t as fine as the stuff Farien had insisted it be replaced with. As for her servant, Amarwen would have to leave the woman behind temporarily in the hopes that the woman could pass on to Helda and Almara both their meeting place for the night.

Once that was done, she swathed herself against the chill that would await her and hurried to the stables. Thankfully, her trusted servant had sent word to ready her horse. The gelding Aldamir had gifted her with was waiting. Amarwen was travelling light so as to avoid raising suspicion. Her maid would follow once she had satisfied her instructions, with Amarwen’s possessions in tow.

”Riding alone, my Lady?” the Stablemaster inquired as he directed a concerned glance to the open stable doors. ”The ice is treacherous.”

Before she could answer, Helda emerged. She had a horse in hand and she too was swathed for travel. ”I will accompany the Lady.”

Without further ado, they were off. ’You trust that maidservant of yours?” Helda inquired.

“Yes,” Amarwen replied and watched the Shieldmaiden’s hooded head nod.

”I hope you’re right,” she muttered and little else was said as they wound through the city streets.

Despite the mantle of snow obscuring all in sight, Helda had no difficulty navigating to the Bridge Inn in East Osgiliath. It was still light when they arrived. The Shieldmaiden sent her in to secure lodgings whilst she saw to their horses. Amarwen was pleased to do so for the frigid air had permeated its way through the layers she had wrapped herself in. Her teeth were chattering as she pushed through the squealing door and into a wall of damp, steaming heat.

By the time Amarwen had peeled off her layers her face was flushed and she shouldered her way through the press for the bar and innkeep. It was hard work, she found, for no one scurried out of her way and sometimes she was met with an answering shoulder or worse, an elbow.

”With me,” a voice growled and a hand seized her forearm to pluck her out from between two inn patrons ill inclined to move out of the way.

Vinyarion shook his head at her. ”Have you never been to an inn before?”

“No,”
she replied, uncomfortable as his eyes boggled.

”Not ever?” Vinyarion pressed, astonished.

Amarwen plucked her arm from his grip. ”What are you doing here?”

“About to ask you the same thing,”
he replied and then leant in, ”You’ve not reconsidered, have you?”

“You’re supposed to be at the palace, Vin,”
Helda declared as she appeared, towering over most of the press.

”Just as well I’m not. You can’t send her into places like this alone.”

“I was doing just-“
Amarwen began but Helda nodded as she surveyed the common room.

”Fair point. You got rooms?”

“Wasn’t planning on sharing them,”
he grumbled.

“Plans change,” Helda replied flatly and nodded to Amarwen, ”Keys.”

Sighing, Vinyarion fished out a key and slapped it into the Shieldmaiden’s waiting hand. ”Anyone else arriving?”

Helda grinned openly and Vinyarion groaned, ”This is going to cost a fortune.”

Before Amarwen could say anything about a war chest, Helda had plucked her up and was dragging her back through the common room. Before long, Amarwen found herself thrust into a small room.

”Stay in here,” the Shieldmaiden declared and with that, withdrew.

Amarwen heard the lock rattle as it was secured and the receding sound of the Shieldmaiden’s boots. She tested the door for good measure and found it locked. Through the floorboards she could hear the chatter from the common room below. There was no hearth to speak off but there was a small lantern in the room. On the narrow bed, a few blankets she did not much like the look of.

Her life, Amarwen thought, had turned a corner. She swallowed as she sank into one of the two rickety chairs and waited for Aldamir and Almara and whoever else Helda had managed to round up.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 25th, 2018, 7:21 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Halvarin sat down with the bundle of letters that Amarwen had sent to him at the Guildhouse of Pelargir. He was a bit annoyed that he wasn’t told earlier of their arrival, but then he didn’t spend much time there except for his work and study. He had only written her one letter since leaving Osgiliath, and he trusted Vinyarion to deliver it. He was never sure she got it or not as she had not written back. Now he finds several. He looked through them in search of the oldest one. Since she had written so much, and he had not written, he could understand why the tone of the letters became increasingly forelorn. His eyes wet as he read each letter he had.

Halvarin sat back and thought of the day he left Osgiliath. Did he abandon her? He had only did his duty with Lisswyn. Was he set up? Why did he not write more even if he had no reply from Amarwen to his one letter. Halvarin put his head in his hands and sighed. How was he to respond to her letters? Had he really abandoned her to the teeth of the crown?

He worried that as he was writing his journal, she was sending letters begging for word from him. Halvarin’s eyes watered as he read another letter. He then got his writing utensils out and got his journal, and he started to pen a letter……
Quote:
My dear friend Amarwen,

’It was only now, the first day of this year of 1431, that I received four of your letters. The distress I read tears at my heart and brings me grief to learn of your distress. Never was it my intention to cause so much grief. But now that I look back on it, I was a fool to run. I should have stood my ground against my father and against Princess Farien and their intimidation and threats. Now I fear I have abandoned you to your fate. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.

I have been writing you in my journal. I will send the pages with this letter in hopes you will read them. Know that you will always be my friend and first love no matter what may come. And what comes I fear will be much grief and tumult for you and I, and for everyone in Gondor.’


Halvarin wasn’t satisfied with what he wrote. It seemed to stiff, too cold. It was like he was making excuses for his actions. He sighed. Nothing he could write would counter what he had read in her letters. He grabbed his journal and looked through the pages. He tore out the ones he wrote to Amarwen going back to when he arrived in Pelargir last summer and he read them. He had forgotten to date them.

Quote:
~ Journal ~

Dearest Amarwen,
I arrived in Pelargir with a week remaining of my leave. I spent it teaching someone I met on the ship how to read and write. Her name is Kerina and she is a house servant of the City Commander. it seemed there was little opportunities for someone to learn the arts of linguistics in Pelargir.

Dearest Amarwen,
The last couple months I have been on the sea. Not far from the shores of these lands, but I went to the north to the Elvenhaven and returned navigating the ship. It was quite exciting to get high marks on the voyage. I was advanced in my studies, and started making maritime charts. Upon our return to Pelargir, we heard of the loss of a ship on high seas to the south. I lost a friend from my early days at the Mariners Guild. Some of the senior officers suspected foul play with some cargo.

Dearest Amarwen,
By now you are likely well ingrained in all the palace intrigue, and I hope it is all treating you as best as can be expected. Aldamir is a good man, probably one of the best of the line. His son and my classmate Vinyarion is a bit reckless, but he always means well. The rumours that circulate down here are that the Northmen are stirring up troubles against the Mariners. I grieve for what I see in my mind of what is coming. I hope you are, and you remain safe in the hands of the crown.
It can’t go without mention that I have moved out of the Guild quarters and am living with Kerina. She has become quite the learned student of the written word! I know this may come as hard news, but I could see no hope for us after your betrothal. You are a princess of the realm, and I a Navagator of ships. Know that I will always be your friend should you wish it, and I will always hold you close to my heart, no matter what life brings


Halvarin stopped and readied the letter. He could never be sure if they would be warmly received, or even if they would get to Amarwen. He bundled up the letter with the pages of his journal and wrapped them in an oilskin. He needed to find someone loyal. Someone he could trust with this. He sat and thought about who he could get to courier it to Osgiliath and hand deliver it to Amarwen….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was in the Khandese enclave of Pelargir that Halvarin found someone. At least he trusted the word of a protégé of his. An ensign had given him a name of a Gondorian soldier, and said he liked this place. The nomadic traders of the east had not yet turned completely away from Gondor, and still traded with merchants in Pelargir. It was in the old market quarter that a couple streets were occupied by the mysterious eastern nomads. Their teas and coffees were superb, and their dancers were enchanting. It was at a café called The Oasis Nights that Halvaring and Ensign Dalior found themselves. It was not long before a hardened soldier was found, clad in Gondorian soldier leathers and robes of the east.

Halvarin leaned to Dalior and asked, ”So you say this guy can be trusted?” Dailor said, ”Yes. He’s my brother Daeros.”
Halvarin paused. He said, ”I’ll pay him half to courier this package to one Lady Amarwen who resides in Osgiliath. I’ll pay the other half with proof of delivery.” It was a considerable sum Halvarin was parting with to do this, but his dear friend Amarwen was worth every coin. With a few words, the deal was made. Daeros would leave north on the first ship to Harlond in the morning.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 26th, 2018, 12:20 am 
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1431 - Yestarë

The Bridge Inn - East Osgiliath


Amarwen was at the narrow window, peeking past the curtains and through the dust upon the glass, at the scene beyond the inn. Night swiftly approached. The daylight hours were short at this time of year. She wasn’t sure if she should be worried yet or not for Aldamir had yet to arrive. Despite that, her gut felt heavy with foreboding all the same. At her back, across the other side of the room, the lock rattled.

She flinched and spun about, window forgotten, as the lock clicked. The hinges squealed and then she saw Vinyarion slide through. He nodded to her and locked the door once more.

”Your father-“

“Helda watches for him below,”
Vinyarion replied. He pocketed the key. ”We....we need to speak m’Lady.”

Amarwen lifted a brow but Aldamir’s son ignored that. He took a seat and propped a foot on one knee. ”Right, firstly Lisawyn.” Vinyarion watched her roll of her eyes and then turn back to the window. He ignored both to press on. ”There’s absolutely nothing to it.”

“I know.”
Amarwen replied, her voice flat with what she hoped was disinterest.

Vinyarion’s chair creaked. ”What do you mean that you know? You wouldn’t let me get a word in sideways when I tried to set the record straight.”

Amarwen lifted a shoulder. ”It was not difficult to make my own inquiries. What you described to me, Lisawyn and the Shieldmaiden called Rhinnin, never happened.”

“Lisawyn was not my doing. As for Rhinnin,”
Vinyarion shook his head. ”I thought it a kindness at the time. False hope is cruel.”

He could not see her bitter, brief smile. His efforts to cure her had utterly failed. She had spent months soaked in futile hope that only Halvarin’s monolithic rejection had managed to break, day by unanswered day. Amarwen leaned against the window sill, her attention turned inwards.

Vinyarion continued, “I misled you. I was wrong and I unreservedly apologise.” Time must have drifted for Vinyarion prompted her. ”Surely, you’ve something to say.”

She shook her head. ”No.”

“Nothing?”
Vinyarion prodded. ”Nothing at all?”

“No.”


He let out a gusty sigh and reflected, ”You know, I think I prefer Hal’s reaction. He gave me a black eye and had us arrested.”

Dubious, Amarwen thought, for that implied that Halvarin gave a damn and she knew all too well he did not. ”I do not see how any of this is germane to the business at hand.”

“My point, m’Lady, is that Hal is trustworthy and we are in very sore need of such men. Particularly those within the Guild.”


Trustworthy? She shook her head slightly as she considered the ways in which he had betrayed her. Then again, perhaps from Vinyarion's perspective, Halvarin's conduct might indeed be viewed as the act of a man that could be relied upon. A man who would place his fealty to his king above, say, those he professed to love.

“Hal is privy to information of immense value through his father.” Vinyarion added and rapped the knuckles of one hand on the table. ”I intend to propose to my father that we cultivate networks within the Guild. Father relies upon your counsel. He will look to you when the matter arises. I need your support.”

She pressed out a sigh and turned to face Vinyarion. ”The Guild is notoriously difficult to penetrate, even were we to obtain willing assistance.”

“That is why we must start as soon as we can,”
he replied. ”If we are to repel the Guild's incursions, we need to be able to do more than merely react after the fact.”

The risk of discovery was high, Amarwen thought. What the Guild might do should they uncover the efforts made to infiltrate their number were sobering. And she was uncertain if Halvarin would be remotely interested. He had severed all ties and wanted nothing to do with her. Still, she perceived that Vinyarion had a salient point. Indeed, she had argued precisely that position with Aldamir only last night. They had to take the initiative to prevail and they could not hope to do that fumbling about in the dark.

”I will consider it,” she cautiously replied and Vinyarion smiled as he stood.

”I ask for nothing more, m’Lady.” Amarwen inclined her head and turned to take in the room.

”Why would you take a room such as this over the palace?” she asked, genuinely curious.

”Privacy,” VInyarion immediately replied. ”Something I am given to understand you now appreciate is in short supply at the palace.”

His tone made her cheeks warm and Vinyarion cleared his throat. ”Forgive me if I pry...but...is it...true?”

“What have you heard?”
she hedged, wary.

Aldamir’s son raked his fingers through his hair, a habit he shared with his father. ”It is said that what began as a political expediency, an unwelcome one at that, has become something far more. Have you come to love my father?”

His hesitant tone drew her brows together. Vinyarion considered her for a moment and shook his head. ”I should not have asked. It isn’t my place.”

He turned away from her but Amarwen came forward to set a hand on his arm. ”Certainly, I doubted whether I would ever find it within myself again. I did not think it possible and yet it is. I love him. I would not be here, now, if I did not.”

Vinyarion locked eyes with her own for a moment and her hand dropped from his arm. ”Does Hal know?”

Amarwen drew back, dismayed by Vinyarion’s fixation on this matter. She wished to forget it ever happened and he insisted on throwing it in her face.

”He does not care,” she answered and looked away from Vinyarion’s growing frown. ”Let it rest, please. We must all of us look to the future.”

He nodded slowly, still thinking. ”I should get below. Keep an eye on Helda, if nothing else. Do you know who else is joining us?”

“Helda did not say which of her people she expected. Almara and her husband, I hope. Your father, of course, and my maidservant.”

“Counsel and maidservant? You’ve a lot to learn about ordinary life, m’Lady.”


Amarwen planted her hands on her hips. ”Says a prince of the realm!”

Vinyarion waved her declaration off. ”Whatever the case, we’ll need more rooms, if they can be had at this hour.”

He disappeared, muttering about servants, and locked the door once more. Amarwen stared after him for a long moment and then rubbed at her arms. She did not know why she felt the need to protect the man that had hurt her so badly. A man that had discarded her as though she meant nothing to him. Despite all of that, she wanted Halvarin kept out of what was coming insofar as was possible.

”I will not answer betrayal with betrayal,” she murmured to herself with a nod.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2019, 9:09 pm 
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It was late when Almara and Rie-Zunic received the message from Amarwen and Aldamir. They hurried to prepare their things and made haste to the inn where they were all to gather.

"You are certain that Aldamir can be trusted?" Rie-Zunic asked.

"Quite, Rie," Almara consoled. "Quite certain. I have seen his actions as of late. I trust him. More so I trust Amarwen. She would not lead us astray."

Rie-Zunic nodded, shaking off his last feelings of uncertainty and grabbing his pack of supplies. Neither of them carried much, a simple traveler's pack and their weapons. They were bundled in warm winter clothes and ready for a long journey.

When they made it to the inn they glanced around at the patrons. They were not sure exactly who was to meet them. They ordered a drink and sat down while the crowds around them bustled. It was then that they saw Vinyarion, who paid them attention. He approached with a subtle nod and directed them up the stairs.

"The Lady Amarwen is waiting for you." He handed them a key and nodded. "I have further business down here, but feel free to continue to your room anytime. Amarwen is in the room right across the hall."

Rie-Zunic and Almara took a moment to finish their drinks, then headed to the rooms. Before entering their own, they knocked softly on the door across the hall.

"Amarwen?" Almara spoke in hushed tones. "It's Almara."


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 8th, 2019, 7:26 am 
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Vilna was marching rear-guard and she paused when she saw someone approaching from behind. ”Hold!” she called out in the snowy grey of the plains. The Rhovanions stopped and quickly made a circular shieldwall.

”Halt, who approaches!” Vilna called out. The rider pulled up when they realised he was almost upon them. [i]”Rhovanions?” the rider called out. ”I have a message from Prince Aldamir!” He dismounted and held out a rolled parchment. Vilna took it and turned and gave it to a big guy who was their commander. He unrolled it and the fortune of the weather was the skies parted just enough to allow moonlight to illuminate the writing if only for a moment.

”We have been ordered to Minas Ithil to the east! Turnabout! Vidnavi, rearguard!” he shouted as the skies closed and the snow flurries flew about them. It was a welcome turn of events for the contingent, as it was not on the far reaches of the realm of Gondor. “May this be a sign we are needed.” Vilna said as they set out the way they came. At least they has the horse’s tracks to follow as the snow had tapered back to a light flurrie and it was still visible.

~ ~

Near Minas Ithil, Rhinnin and Vilmaith along with the other Rhovanions approached the city. They were tired and cold, but it warmed them with good cheer when they were received by Mablung, the officer in charge of the watch of Minas Ithil. Later the same night, a swift messenger from Osgiliath to expect more Rhovanions, and some from the royal house as well.

”Hail and well met!” Mablung called out in the muffled snow-covered night. The skies had cleared and the air was chill with biting cold. The gate of the city opened and several guards ran out in heavy cover that helped them blend into the snow and bushes. The old guard ws relieved and they formed up ranks behind the Rhovanions as they marched back into the city.

Just inside the gate a watchfire burned, and Mablung said, ”Please gather and warm yourself while we find quarters for you.” There was much activity in the city. It was almost as if a siege was expected. “The Rhovanion Royal Guard thanks you very much. I am Vilmaith, lieutenant-commander, and this is Rovadnik, commander. His knowledge of Westron is broken and he tends to leave the talking to me.” She looked around and motioned to Mablung to come aside with her.

”There is much stirring under the surface in Gondor. I must know that we are in the best possible place to serve our king and prince. Of late, decisions seem to be wayward and abrupt and often contradictory.” She looked to the dark haired soldier of Ithilien. ”I need to know that you and this city stands for Valacar and the succession of Eldacar to the throne of Gondor.”

Vilmaith was concerned…. Worried that her Prince Vinitharya had lost his way after returning to Gondor.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 8:40 pm 
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The Bridge Inn

The crack that appeared at the door Almara spoke through soon widened to admit Rie-Zunic and Almara into the room. Relief washed through Amarwen as she peered down the empty hall and then locked the door again.

"I am so pleased you are here," she declared with no small degree of feeling.

Rie-Zunic hung back as the two women briefly embraced. "You have quarters?" Amarwen immediately asked.

Over Almara's shoulder, Rie-Zunic nodded. "Across the hall," he replied. A quick glance about took in the room they were in. "Where is the prince?"

"Yet to arrive,"
Amarwen replied. Almara's brows lifted askance and Amarwen hastened to add, "He will be here. I know it."

"He had already departed the palace,"
Almara said. "At least, that is what your maid told us."

Amarwen frowned as Rie-Zunic shifted his weight.

"Strange," she murmured. "Perhaps he has been delayed."

She was discomfited, however, for she could not imagine what might have detained Aldamir. Amarwen drifted to the window to peer out. Evening had fallen and through the dusty glass she could see the glimmer of lanterns along the street.

Rie-Zunic directed a meaningful look at Almara. "Perhaps there has been a change of plans," he suggested in an ominious voice.

Amarwen let the curtain drop with an emphatic shake of her head. "No. We have the imprimatur of the Crown Prince."

She turned about to two surprised faces and offered them a faint smile. "Yes, I felt much the same when it arrived earlier today."

Rie-Zunic stepped forward, "You heard this from Eldacar himself?"

Amarwen nodded slowly. "Yes. But do not think that this heralds a change in official strategy. What we do must remain hidden from view. Particularly that of the Guild. They must think that the teeth and claws of the Crown have been pulled."

"Whilst we sharpen the sting in our tail,"
Almara said. "But how is that to be done without the Guild's notice. They have eyes everywhere."

"Distraction,"
Amarwen said and offered a somewhat crafty smile. "Would be a terrible shame if, for instance, the consolidated bloc supporting the Master of Ships proved somewhat...unreliable."

"How?"
Rie-Zunic challenged.

"Not all the southern lords have unified behind that upstart and the Master of Ships is not the only possible contender," Amarwen replied. "Castimir is going to find his hands very full holding on to that which he believes he has. And while he shores up his own foundations, we shall be busy."

"That's a very long game,"
Almara stated. "And if one of these rivals polish Castimir off, we're still in the same predicament. The only thing that will have changed is the identity of the challenger."

"We will have bought ourselves time, however, to withstand any possible challenge. Time we badly need. And perhaps the south will lose its appetite once they see how grim an undertaking it is."


Both Almara and Rie-Zunic seemed unconvinced and Amarwen had not even broached the tidings concerning Rhûn. Nor did she, for a knock at the door proved to be Prince Vinyarion.

"He's here," he said. "Time to get started."

The three of them hurried after Vinyarion. They followed the youngest prince of the realm down the hall, down the stairs and turned to the back of the inn. Vinyarion led them into what appeared to be a dining room. It was occupied with a good number of Rhovanions already. Amarwen could hear Helda somewhere in that mix of Rhovanion chatter but not see her. Some had yet to divest themselves of their cloaks. Others leaned at their ease. Those nearby peered at her with open curiosity as she wove through, searching for Aldamir. She saw him at last deep in conversation with a hulking Rhovanion. The imposing man nudged the prince and it was then that his gaze swept up and to her.

Aldamir rose to his feet with an earnest smile and she hastened to his side.

"Now we can begin," he murmured, his lips brushing her ear lightly as his hand came to rest on the small of her back.

"Friends," he said in a louder voice to quell the chatter. There was some loud thumping which proved to be the butt of one of Helda's spears thudding into the floorboards. Aldamir nodded to the flame haired woman.

"Tonight we gather in defence of that we all love: our land, our people and our king. The task before us is immense. We cannot hope to discuss it in full in one evening. What we can do, though, is make a start."

Making a start, though, was no small task either. It took hours to arrange and the discussion that followed were robust and at times veered into Rhovanion when tempers flared. Still, Aldamir proved himself able to lead them to a common consensus. A contingent of Rhovanions would venture towards Rhûn to explore the rumoured activities of the Easterlings. Whilst there, they would establish a clear communication channel between Minas Ithil, Osgiliath and Rhovanion. Prince Vinyarion would remain in Osgiliath, eyes and ears for his father and his grandfather. Aldamir would head up operations in Minas Ithil, working in concert with his brother Ornedil at Minas Anor.

Vinyarion raised the notion of infiltrating the Guild, with reluctant and qualified support from Amarwen. However, Aldamir concluded that they were not yet ready for such an ambitious undertaking. Much to Amarwen's relief, the prince deemed that could not be explored unless an opportunity presented itself. As none had, it was put to one side. Amarwen agreed to cultivate understanding of possible rivals to Castamir within the southern provinces. The notion of pitting rivals against one another so as to weaken them all held some appeal and her family's connections seemed most suited to such a task.

As for Rie-Zunic and Almara, the decision was theirs entirely. They could remain in Osgiliath to work with Vinyarion or accompany Aldamir to Minas Ithil to continue on from there as they saw fit. It was a long road from Osgiliath to Minas Ithil at a particularly inhospitable time of year. Though Aldamir made no mention of the fact that Almara was with child, it seemed likely to Amarwen that he was taking that into consideration. The gathering concluded with the couple agreeing to consider it and advise Aldamir directly by the morning.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 9th, 2019, 9:05 pm 
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The meeting was enough to make Almara's head spin. "All that?" she thought to herself. "Just to... start things off." There was one thing, however, that she had seen that warmed her heart. Rie-Zunic. He was more himself than she had seen him since the tournament, which now seemed so long ago. He had found his purpose yet again, and in support of his people. It was the people of Gondor that Rie-Zunic truly loved. He was loyal to the crown, tied to his country with honor... but the people were where his heart lay.

Almara and Amarwen said a short farewell as everyone drew to a close for the meeting. Aldamir, though it still held an awkward sense about it, also bid them farewell. Almara couldn't get past the thought that here, her own father, was steps away from her. There was a longing inside her to speak to him of the mater, but she quelled any desires. She knew he was a busy man and now was not the time.

The door to the couple's room closed behind them and Almara walked over to sit on the bed. "What are you thinking?" she asked Rie-Zunic as he came to join her. "Shall we stay? I know you wish to do all you can to slow the power grabbing of the guild."

"I do," Rie-Zunic confirmed. "And I believe I could do that best from Osgiliath."

Almara sighed and gave an understanding nod. Her visit with her father would have to wait until this term saw itself through. Or so it would seem.

"However," Rie-Zunic continued. "I saw your eyes when you looked at Aldamir." Almara scowled and gave him a questioning glance. "The longing."

"Longing? Rie, what are you-"

"Almara," Rie-Zunic cut her off. "Our entire childhood you spoke of how you wished you knew who your parents were. How you wish you could remember more of your mother. This man is your father, and he could answer many of your questions. I dare say you wish to have a relationship with him as well. I can see it. I am not that blind."

"I don't know... do you think he would take me as a daughter?" Almara asked hesitantly. "It's so very... strange. For everyone."

"It is," Rie-Zunic agreed. "But, it is what it is. If you want to stay close to your family, then that is what we will do." Rie-Zunic smiled, then added. "Besides... I don't feel like delivering our child in the sewers where we were hiding out, nor by myself. Amarwen has become a good friend to you, and you will need her companionship."

All Almara could do was smile. She hugged her husband tightly, kissed him, and snuggled into his arms.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 15th, 2019, 8:37 am 
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When Halvarin awoke, it was to Kerina’s kiss. He sat up as she said, ”I will be working the Guildhouse today. Apparently there is some big gathering of senior members.” Halvarin nodded and he got up to dress. “I think I’ll be in attendance. Not sure. I’ll head to the Guildhouse and find out.” He stepped behind Kerina and kissed her neck. ”You know we can’t communicate there.” he said as he straightened up and stretched. It would be an interesting meeting to attend, but it likely would be quite political. Halvarin knew that in these days it would be good to keep ears open to what is happening, for his dear friend and love is tied up tight with what happens with the royal line and the realm. He now wondered if he had a clean dress uniform.

Later that day, Halvarin arrived at the Guildhouse, and the word was that Castamir, the Lord Master of Ships, would be there to address the Guild. There will be much ill talk of the Rhovanions and some tough talk about the current regime. He himself remained non-committal, knowing what was being said would have consequences on those in Osgiliath.

By the time the speeches were done and the social began, Halvarin could tell that there would be an attempt to gain the crown. The trouble was there were factions, and as much as several of the senior Guildsmen agreed that Eldacar was not a suitable king due to his blood, they did not all agree that it should be Castamir who gains the crown. The only trouble was he had a claim due to his bloodline.

Much of the talk seemed to be of who people supported. Halvarin wisely walked a neutral line, saying he would serve Gondor and the reigning king. When the question came whether he would support Eldacar, he just raised his eyebrow and said nothing. Fortunately, he was not the only one who had such leanings.

He and Kerina had kept things distant at the Guild-house, and so when Halvarin set his empty wineglass on a passing tray and took a fresh one, Kerina paused and looked at him. He met her eyes but for a moment before she turned and walked on. He took a deep breath and followed her out of the room. When they were safely away, Halvarin reached out and took her hand. ”We have much to talk of after this is done.” He kissed the back of her hand and turned and walked back into the room with a flagon of water.

The evening would go on well into the night. HAlvarin was on his way out when one of the door wardens said, “You are Halvarin son of Calimir? I have a bundle for you” He reached under the large wooden counter and pulled out several letters bundled together and handed them to him. Halvarin sighed as he took them. He could see the writing on one and knew it was Amarwen’s “I was having them sent to your room, but was informed you weren’t there anymore, so I just kept them here until I saw you next. Have a good evening sir.”

It was early morning when Halvarin returned to Kerina’s place. Being staff, she would have to clean up before she returned, and Halvarin picked up the bundle of letters and looked at them, nit unbinding them. There would only be pain in them. He just wasn’t ready right then to read them. He set them over on a shelf with the other letters, and he took his journal and wrote some notes in it. He then looked over at the fresh collection of unread letters, and then to the parchments on a shelf and pondered writing Amarwen another letter. He would have to read hers first.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 19th, 2019, 2:09 am 
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Amarwen sat in a different room to the one she had waited in before. This one was ever so slightly larger with a wider bed. Her belongings sat in the corner next to what she presumed Aldamir had brought with him. Her maid bustled about, muttering to herself as she inspected the room. It wasn’t to her standards.

”Tch – look at this dust!” she admonished, inspecting a finger she had run along the sill.

”It’s just for one night,” Amarwen replied as the woman shook her head. Her maid sighed as she cleaned her finger off and turned to consider Amarwen.

”Shall there be anything further, m’lady?”

It was Amarwen’s turn to shake her head. ”I will see you come the morning. We’ve a long journey ahead of us.”

“I shall pray the weather is kind to us,”
her maid replied. ”An early start, I presume?”

“I should think so.”

“Very good, m’lady,”
the woman replied, inclined her head and hastened from the room.

Amarwen studied the door a moment before she picked up a comb from the table and commenced the task of pulling snarls from her hair. Her mind swum and churned with all the day had held. There was a nagging sense that it was all too much. Overwhelming, very nearly. She felt it lapping, dangerously close to pulling her under. Her mind shied away to something else: Vinyarion.

He had remained below with his father, lingering at Aldamir’s request after the meeting was disbanded. She considered her own exchanges with Aldamir’s son. The matter of Halvarin had been put safely away, she thought. Provided he maintained the silence that had so crushed her over the preceeding six months, he would remain outside the scope of work before them now. That was cleaner. Safer. Nothing further to discuss.

Or so she hoped. Her ruminations were disrupted when her comb became painfully caught in a stubborn knot. She winced as she tugged at it and at that moment Aldamir returned to the room. Cursing under her breath, Amarwen pulled the comb free as Aldamir secured the lock.

He crossed the room and sank onto the bed with a weary sigh. ”And so it begins.”

Passing her comb through her thick lengths a final time. Amarwen rose and turned to find the prince staring at the floorboards. His expression was thoughtful.

”Regrets already?” she asked as she approached.

Aldamir’s eyes bounced from the floor to hers for a moment and then he bent to unlace his boots. ”The task is immense and not without its risks.”

“Agreed,”
Amarwen replied as she knelt to work on the other boot. ”But what is the alternative, my love?”

Aldamir grunted noncommittedly and pulled one boot free. ”No plan survives first contact with reality.”

He pulled the other boot free and let it drop. Amarwen moved so that she knelt on the bed at his back. Her hands came to rest on Aldamir’s shoulders and she could feel the tension held in his muscles. They were knotted and she began kneading them. The prince sighed once more and leaned back into her.

”All is in place with Vinyarion?” she asked after a long moment.

Aldamir nodded, eyes closed. ”I broached the subject of Almara.”

“How did he respond?”

“As I expected,”
Aldamir replied.

”Surprised?”

“Stunned,”
he clarified.

”Difficult as that must have been, it was necessary,” Amarwen counselled, hands kneading some measure of softness back into Aldamir’s shoulders. ”He had to hear it from you, particularly as he is to remain in the palace. It is not the sort of thing to learn of by rumour.”

“No,”
Aldamir agreed and after a period of silence inquired. ”How is it that you were aware of Mother’s knowledge?”

“Your mother strenuously objected to my choice of counsel from the outset. I could not fathom just why she would be so opposed, until recently.”


Aldamir reached up to still her hands and turned about to consider her. ”Do you believe it was chance alone that brought you and Almara together?”

“Yes,”
Amarwen affirmed. ”Had I not slipped away for the archery, we would never have met. There was no artifice in that and Almara has proven herself a dear friend many times over since.”

Relief showed in Aldamir’s expression as he nodded. Amarwen lifted his hand to kiss his knuckles lightly. ”Selfish as this may be of me, I hope that she elects to join us.”

Aldamir smiled as he bent forward to kiss her brow. ”As do I.” He smoothed her loose hair with a gentle caress. ”It’s late. You should rest while we still have a bed.”

Amarwen nodded and scrambled under the covers. Aldamir stood to unhitch his belt. He freed a longknife from it. This he dropped onto the bed before crossing to place his belt on the table.

”Do you expect trouble?” Amarwen asked, eyes on the knife.

“No,” he replied as he crouched by their gear. ”But I will take no chances all the same.”

He searched through it to draw out a sheaf of papers and a writing roll. Then Aldamir settled into a chair.

”Are you coming to bed?”

“Soon,”
he said, unfurling the writing kit. Aldamir glanced across and smiled at her. ”I will not be long.”

Amarwen sank down in the unfamiliar bed, covers clutched in hand. She listened to the sound of papers being shuffled as she considered the ceiling rafters. She looked across to the table to where Aldamir sat. He was bent over a report of some sort that he scrutinised. Amarwen shifted and tried to make herself comfortable. Then came the sound of writing. She felt asleep to the whisper of Aldamir’s quill moving rapidly over parchment and had no notion of when the prince joined her.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 20th, 2019, 8:46 pm 
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The next morning Rie-Zunic and Almara wokr early. They gathered their few belongings and stepped outof their room. Uncertain when Aldamir and Amarwen would be ready to leave, they headed to the main room of the building. They both got a small meal and a drink, then found a seat at one of the tables.

There was little talking, both had many internal thoughts drifting about. They saw Vinyarion come down first. Almara, seeing him, for the first time stopped to consider that this man was her half brother. Perhaps it was the way he reacted when he saw her. It seemed... different. Had he been told? Almara wondered.

Rie-Zunic simply sat in silence, contemplating strategies and wondering what their next move would be.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 1st, 2019, 10:16 pm 
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Aldamir sat and thought for a moment before he started penning a letter to his father. Amarwen had gone to bed and he looked over to her for a moment before turning back to his parchment. He dipped his quill and started to write.

It was good that Vinyarion agreed to remain in Osgiliath in the Palace as an advisor to his grandfather. Eldacar had suggested this a couple of years back, but Aldamir opposed it then saying that Vinyarion needed to get out in the world and complete his studies. The time he had spent in Pelargir at the Mariners Guild studying would serve him well.

It was only now that Vinyarion had started taking things a bit more seriously. Maybe it was the enormity of the impending doom of these times that has finally taken root in the young man? Somehow, it seemed the last year saw him mature some and he has started to take life much more seriously. Aldamir felt that Vinyarion would come into his own in the turmoil that he foresaw coming in the next few years. They had a plan in place, but there was still so much to do, and so much to go wrong. He wrote in his flowing script…

Quote:
‘Dearest father, These days have us rest on a knife edge. It is why I have decided that my son Vinyarion would best serve as one of your advisors as you suggested ere two years ago. I think the young man had grown in spirit to match his stature in years, and I think he would be most useful to you to have close family by your side. Also, I fear that grandfather, our blessed King Valacar, is ailing and will pass the crown to you. I hope that Vinyarion will serve him for the rest of his days and will be a great service to you in these coming days.’


Aldamir sealed it and would give it to Vinyarion in the morning. He looked over to Amarwen and asked her, ”Will I be able to fulfil my duty to the rightful crown of Gondor?” He took her word as gold, for he felt so much he could trust her judgement, especially when he thought his own to be suspect at times. He got no answer as Amarwen was asleep, and he went and lay down beside her and joined her in dreams.

~ ~ ~

The next morning dawned clear and cold. The dusting of fresh snow overnight made for a blinding brightness over the quiet city. Aldamir got up and found Amarwen looking out the window. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her and kissed her neck. “It will be best we set out as soon as possible. The road up to Minas Ithil will be hard enough without foul weather to impede us.” They set to dress for the weather before having everything brought down from the room and going to have a meal.

~ ~ ~

Vinyarion had emerged early and had things prepared for those going to Minas Ithil. He looked over to Almara and gave her a nod before eyeing Rie Zunic. He was interrupted by Aldamir coming in with Amarwen. Aldamir went over to Vinyarion and handing him the sealed letter, he said, ”Deliver this to Eldacar at your first opportunity. You will be our Kings Man. Be wary of your messengers, and be wise in who you trust my son.”

He gave Vinyarion a handshake and a hug before turning to Amarwen. ”I am glad you are with me. I feel stronger for it.”

They went to have a quick meal before they all set out to the east. Vinyarion remained and saw them off before he headed back across the great bridge.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 5th, 2019, 11:59 pm 
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As the group set out Rie-Zunic walked close to Almara in a protective manner. Perhaps too protective for her liking, but it was flattering nonetheless. There was little discussion early on in their trip. Everyone seemed to be very preoccupied with their own internal turmoil.

The road was cold, snowy, and uninviting to say the least. Fortune seemed to smile upon them in the smallest form, however. Their journey would be without a hiccup.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 8th, 2019, 11:42 pm 
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1431 Nárië - Harlond


Ahead, Amarwen sighted Harlond for the first time. Her saddle creaked as she shifted in it, stomach flipping. She tightened her fingers around her reins and glanced to where Rie-Zunic rode in silence. She'd come to understand Almara's husband better over the past five months. His eyes flicked restlessly across the horizon ahead and then to her.

"Three nights."

Amarwen nodded at his statement. Three nights they would pass in the Harlond. Only three, for Rie was anxious to return to Almara. She well understood why. Underneath his bluff manner beat a warm heart, though he'd be mortified if he ever discovered that she was aware of it. She saw it in his manner with Almara. She was heavy with child and Rie was loathe to be away from her side overlong.

In truth, Amarwen was somewhat loathe herself to be away from Aldamir. This was the first time their paths had separated since they had set out for Minas Ithil all those months ago. It felt strange to not have Aldamir to look to. Necessity prevailed, however. Now that the passes were cleared, Aldamir expected reports from Rhovanion any day now. He was needed at Minas Ithil. Almara could not travel at this point and so she had remained with her father. Shieldmaidens were too conspicious in the Harlond. That left Amarwen with Rie.

Their brief was simple enough. Slip into the Harlond and take rooms at a particular inn. Wait there for no more than three nights. In that time, Rie was to sniff about to see what talk and movement was unfurling on the docks. Aldamir had instructed Rie to avoid the Guild Chapterhouse in Minas Anor at all costs. Rie wasn't entirely well pleased, but Amarwen was confident he would adhere to the Prince's instruction. She was to conduct several meetings herself. They were straightforward enough, nudging along rivals for the Master of Ships. She had a sense that Castimir was having a time of it when it came to putting down other pretenders. These meetings would serve to further inform the assessment she had assembled from Minas Ithil.

Rie Zunic and Amarwen rode into the Harlond proper by mid afternoon. Their arrival was largely unmarked and they made their way without incident to their planned destination. The Evenstar Inn was a well appointed establishment. Amarwen saw to unpacking the clothing she had brought with her for her meetings whilst Rie dealt with their horses. She was shaking out the final kirtle when she heard a knock at her door.

"Come," she called and Rie stepped through.

"Anything yet?"

Amarwen shook her head. "It's scarcely been an hour."

"How will you know whether he will come?"

"I don't."
Amarwen finished hanging the kirtle and closed the wardrobe doors.

"You worried?"

"No,"
Amarwen said. Just as she had come to understand Rie, he had come to understand her. He lifted a sceptical brow and then raked his fingers through his hair.

"I'm going to start looking around."

Amarwen watched his departure and then rubbed at her face. She looked around her room and quickly concluded that she'd probably drive herself to distraction just sitting in these four walls and waiting. Only time would tell if Halvarin was inclined to meet with her as she had asked. Her first official meeting was not until the following morning. She had days of travel to wash from her before then and so Amarwen set to that and penned a brief letter to Aldamir.

Quote:
My prince,

We gained the Harlond today without incident and secured rooms at the Evenstar. Three nights, as agreed, and then we will return.

I miss you already, my love.

~A


It would be the only written correspondence Amarwen would send whilst in the Harlond, arriving at Minas Ithil mere days before she and Rie would. Still, she hoped that it might ease Aldamir's mind. Evening was fast approaching now and so she ventured to the common room to secure a table for the evening meal. By nightfall, Amarwen was settled in with a glass of wine and a book, noting over it those that came and went and the talk around her.


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