|The Waning Days of King Valacar
|Page 23 of 24|
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ January 12th, 2020, 2:51 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Pelagir – Early Winter
Calimir, chief advisor and Halvarin’s father, dismissed his latest visitor. The hour was late, but not so late that he could not inform the Master of Ships. Castimir’s most senior and trusted advisor, though, was in no particular hurry. He rose, joints popping, and went in search of a particular dossier. It was fat with all manner of papers already. Drawings that he hastily skipped over given the subject was someone he still thought of as a girl many years younger. Reports of her health records and the various examinations she had undergone during her time betrothed to a prince. Perfect health, no defects.
His recently dismissed guest had confirmed for him that the young woman now released from her betrothal some months ago now was not with child. An interesting outcome from the summer’s assassination attempt, in many ways, and yet it begat yet more questions. It was well established that the prince had taken her into his bed over a year ago. More than enough time to conceive. Given Aldamir had already sired one child out of wedlock, Calimir thought that care to avoid a repeat could explain it. His most recent guest speculated that the prince had tired of his young bride to be. The Master of Edhellond's Merchant’s Guild had described a proud, temperamental, wilful girl in wont of a firm hand. Wearisome, perhaps, for a prince many years her senior. Yet this was at odds with other reports that described Aldamir treatment of Amarwen as tender. That of a man smitten despite the circumstances that had foisted her upon him.
More likely by Calimir's estimation was the notion that circumstances had simply been against them. It took time and diligence to sire a child. Diligence Aldamir may have had. Time, however, was another thing entirely. Reports from Minas Ithil, where the couple had spent most of their time, indicated that Aldamir struggled with increasing committments and demands. Entire nights spent in his office whilst the woman he was to sire a child upon occupied an empty bed. A week could pass, apparently. And again, their age difference. Aldamir was a good deal older. Less vital, perhaps, than a younger man more of his intended’s age.
Halvarin's father was inclined to set aside suggestions that Edhellond’s heir was barren. Tidings that she remained uncorrupted served his purposes well. If she’d grown fat with that half-breed’s child, then the Master of Ships would have little use for her. Calimir added a few notations to his dossier. Untainted though she may still be, Amarwen of Edhellond would require significant correction if she was to serve the purpose in mind for her.
A more willing bride would be ideal, but there were so few marriageable women of suitable lineage within Gondor. If the Master of Ships was to assure his line, he would require a legitimate grandson within the year of rising to the throne. Both his sons had proven themselves potent. Once they’d broken her of her wilful inclinations, a task not beyond them by any measure, Castimir would have his grandson within a year. And if she survived the delivery, perhaps he’d have another within the next two.
He turned next to the letter that had sat on his desk for weeks now. More than once he had read Farien’s desperate note. The Queen had every reason to be fearful. Two years she had squandered and now it was simply too late. Much had shifted in the wake of the Palace’s decision to end the betrothal. Any arrangement the Queen might seek to reach no longer served them any advantage.
I do so enjoy receiving your letters. I fear you may not enjoy my reply.
You had two years to deliver Amarwen of Edhellond to us and you failed.
We would rather see Edhellond continue to prosper and trade undisrupted. Whether we will bend them to our will or break them, Amarwen is no longer yours to deliver but our to take.
And so, dear Queen, I urge you to enjoy what remains to you. For there will be no agreement concerning yourself, nor your tainted offspring.
|Author:||Hanasian [ January 25th, 2020, 11:11 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Aldamir has spent a lot of time brooding over the events that led to the breaking of the betrothal after Amarwen left for Edhellond. He felt that even though the betrothal was arranged, he found that his love for her had grown, so when the betrothal was ended, he could feel the hurt inside. What was worse was seeing the hurt on Amarwen’s face. The parting was painful for them both.
In the moths afterward, Aldamir worked on preparations of defences and mapping probable defensive lines should open warfare break out. The trouble he determined would be trying to determine how strong their forces are when it wasn’t exactly clear who exactly could be counted on for support. Aldamir threw himself into tending to his father’s business and spending as much time as he could in Minas Ithil. He tried to put Amarwen as far out of his mind as he could…. But he would read her letter at times, usually late at night when he couldn’t sleep… He finally picked up his quill and started to write a letter back…
My Lady Amarwen of Edhellond,
It is way past due that I write back to you, as it had been some time since I received your letter. When my brother said he had received a letter from you and asked if I had corresponded with you did I realise I was trying to hide from the fact of the circumstances that separated us. As much as I wished events would have been different and would have been able to call you wife, know that I had no part in the decision of my father. Yes, it has taken me some time to get past the hurt, but mostly I feared the hurt it caused you. Know that though these paths that we had to take were not of our choosing, but ones we were forced to take, I will likely ponder that which could have been. There will always be a part of me that holds to you and know that forever will I consider you as a close friend.
My brother tells me that you have decided to take a strong role in Edhellond and you have grave concerns and have made plans for the defence of the city. I wish I could say that my father would defend in force any incursion that may be made against Edhellond but our assessment of strength that can be reliably depended upon in the southern provinces would severely affect the King’s ability to intervene. The highlanders of Ringlo are steadfastly loyal to the King as is the vast but sparsely populated western province of Calenardhon. Most of the King’s strength rests with Anorien and Ithilien, but there too there is division. The sly words of Castamir seems to have their believers most everywhere which could fracture units along political lines. Yet your words do bring some hope as it is clear there remains division within the Mariners Guild as well. It is good to hear of Halvarin though I know his father is known to be, if not yet, an open supporter of Castamir.
Alas, the dark clouds gather on the horizon and already blow over Gondor with Umbar and Pelargir already openly rebelling against the King. There has been reports of incidents in south Ithilien with men of South Gondor and Umbar, and Though Castamir has yet to signal his intentions, I fear that it is only a matter of time. He is a sly manipulator, and with these incidents and the attacks that happened in Osgiliath, he has moved to be more aggressive to appeal to the more radical Numenorean purists. I fear open war is coming, and sooner than looked for, and we are woefully unprepared.
I fear for you and Edhellond, but I do not think Castamir would move with force to seize Edhellond. Be wary of other means Amarwen… of covert infiltration and men within the army choosing to support Castamir. I fear also the integrity of Gondor Post. It is why I send this to you with utmost speed by my personal courier. Be well my lady, and may hope in a new spring for Gondor come without war, and hasten the day when we meet again.
Aldamir set his quill down and read the letter before sealing it in a sturdy envelope and summoning his courier. When he arrived at Aldamir’s door, he was let in and Aldamir held up the parchment. ”Galreth, this is for Lady Amarwen of Edhellond and no other. Ride with haste forthwith and take the roads less travelled. When you arrive in Edhellond, remain to serve Lady Amarwen and follow her orders as if they were mine.” Aldamir went to his desk and quickly penned a note…
Lady Amarwen, this messenger Galreth has been a loyal servant of mine for years uncounted. He was not in Osgiliath or Minas Ithil the years you were here as he held a field command in southern Ithilien. Know that I have given him orders to serve you and to so your bidding, even if that has you send him right back to me. May he serve you well.
He rolled it and tied it to the envelope and handed it to Galreth. ”Go now and prepare for your journey.”
“Yes m’lord. I will depart Minas Ithil before first light.” Galreth said as he took the sealed envelope from Aldamir and took his leave.
This night would not offer any rest though, for shortly thereafter a messenger came from his brother in Minas Anor. Pounding on Aldamir’s door until it was opened, the messenger stepped in and said, “M’lord, news came that Commander Elgord of Lossarnach has been assassinated. Fears the army of Lossarnach will soon fall into open conflict between the King’s loyalists of Elgord and seditious elements that wish Castamir be throned.” Aldamir took a breath and nodded… so it begins…
The messenger went on to say, “Prince Ornendil has ordered a review of any commanders in the Anorien Army who have expressed views critical of the northmen or appraising the Ships Guild. They will be reminded of their oath to Gondor and its rightful king. He suggests you do the same here in Ithilien.”
Aldamir nodded and had already taken steps with a couple suspect commanders. They were sent to command in the north and east where they had to work with the Rhovanions and confront the Easterlings should theytry and make a move. It was for all intents and purposes a form of exile. But Aldamir was fortunate as most of Ithilien’s army … at least the commanders…remained steadfastly loyal to the King.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ January 26th, 2020, 2:09 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Edhellond – Mid Winter 1432
Amarwen sat in her family’s library and watched the rain sheet down through the large windows that lined one wall. Within it was cosy and warm. A stark contrast to the sodden winter without. Mettarë, fast approaching, was one of her most favourite times of the year but this one would be strange. Her father had already sent word that he would remain in Osgiliath despite the court moving now into recess for the season. He said too many nobles had fled this year to their homes instead of staying on. The glittering banquet hall of the palace would see too few revellers.
The pomp of Osgiliath was a far cry when compared to Edhellond. There would be no velvet gowns, bejewelled diadems or princes to grandly sweep her about the great halls of a palace. There were no courtiers ever watching and gossiping here. She could wander into the cellars for a bottle of wine if she wished and no one would think twice of it. Still, though she was content to mark the season in her home, her father’s absence was not the only change.
Prior to her betrothal, Halvarin and his father had seen out each year at Edhellond. Amarwen did not particularly care overmuch for Lord Calimir. He could stay in Pelargir for as long as he wished, with her blessing. Halvarin, though, she keenly missed. It felt strange to be at home without him at this time of year. Yet, if he had gained Pelargir by now he would have to remain there for a time. Amarwen chaffed at this. Patience and discretion her father counselled. How much longer would they have to wait?
”There you are!”
She turned her attention from the rainy day to the library door and found their chamberlain approaching.
”Your mother asks for you to attend her at once, my Lady.”
Puzzled, Amarwen threw back the blanket that lay over her lap to stand. ”What now?”
”A man has arrived for you,” the chamberlain paused. ”He claims to be sent by Prince Aldamir.”
Amarwen fell into step after the chamberlain and followed him from the library. ”Does he have a name?”
“None that I am aware of.”
Amarwen arrived at her mother’s study perplexed. Within, a man she did not recognise straightened his spine at her appearance. He lowered his head respectfully and endured her scrutiny without complaint. Baffled, Amarwen looked next to where her mother sat. Lady Alenna was at her desk, hands clasped upon its polished surface. She arched her dark brows at her daughter.
”This man says he is at your service,” the Lady of Edhellond said by way of beginning. ”He has a message for you and you alone.”
Amarwen’s astonishment was evident. Her mouth dropped open for a moment and then she looked back to where the man in question. He was travel stained. A long journey at a difficult time of year. She suspected the straight line of his shoulders belied his weariness.
”My lady,” he said quietly, eyes lowered. ”I am here at Prince Aldamir’s behest. If I may,” the man continued and slowly reached into his sodden cloak to draw out a tightly folded wad of paper.
”I hope this will suffice?” He extended the square of paper towards her.
Lady Alenna clucked her tongue in disapproval as Amarwen edged cautiously closer. The man remained utterly still, surrendering the note to her possession and then lowering his outstretched arm. He was quite tall, she noticed. Whip lean too. A dangerous man if he wished to be. She edged away, out of reach, and unfolded the note. Reading it swiftly, Amarwen transferred it to her mother and canted her head to one side to study the man anew.
”Galreth,” she said and his eyes flicked up to hold her own. Steady. Calm. He nodded at his name. ”You must be cold and weary,” she said. He paused and then nodded again. ”Then please, take your rest, with our gratitude.”
Galreth’s gaze slipped from Amarwen to her mother. Well aware of her mother’s disposition, Amarwen waited for his attention to return to hers.
”If you are certain, my Lady?”
“Oh I am,” Amarwen replied. The man inclined his head gratefully. He reached under his cloak a second time and withdrew a package sealed with red wax. Aldamir’s hand was upon it. His duty completed, Galreth promptly took his leave.
The door had barely closed before her mother voiced her objections. ”We have no assurance that man is who he claims to be. He could be anyone! He could have waylaid this Galreth and supplanted him!”
“And that is why we will keep him here until we know one way or the other,” Amarwen answered and arched a brow of her own. ”I know how you watch our guests, Amme.”
“I do no such thing of the sort!”
Amarwen lifted her eyes to the ceiling at that. ”Mother, you forget who writes the agreements and contracts you negotiate. I know the concessions you obtain.”
“True all the same,” Amarwen replied, undaunted by her mother’s protest.
The Lady of Edhellond sighed as she considered her only child and heir. ”Increasingly, I find myself regretting the decision to send you to court, child.”
Amarwen smiled sweetly at her mother and made for her own quarters to read Aldamir’s letter in privacy. His words made her heart ache in more ways than one. His anguish and remorse were palpable and there was little she could do or say to ease it. His assessment of Gondor's state was dire. They were on their own. She supposed she had known Eldacar would be reluctant to weaken his northern strength around key installations such as Minas Anor and Osgiliath. Nor could he risk precipitating war by moving troops in any number around. If the Guild did not pick them off on their way through Pelargir and sap the King’s strength, they would point to the movement as an escalation in hostilities.
Essentially, Aldamir confirmed that the King was all but a hostage now. Fenced into the north of his realm whilst the southern provinces rebelled. She wondered who he feared might seek to infiltrate them and when it came to Galreth she was uncertain what to do with him. The Prince had sent him to her for a reason for Aldamir was a man who did not act on impulse. It seemed that he hoped she would find some other purpose beyond sending the man back to him. A protector, she wondered?
Tucking the letter into her bodice, Amarwen padded downstairs to their guest quarters. She knocked on the door that she knew Aldamir’s man to be behind and waited. The door opened to reveal Galreth in his shirt sleeves, a towel thrown around his shoulders. The hair around his face was damp and he surveyed her with some weariness.
”I apologise for the intrusion,” Amarwen began as the man raked fingers through his hair and straightened.
”I am at your service, m’Lady,” he replied.
”I have but a question.” Galreth nodded and so she asked him, ”Have you any experience with birds?”
He blinked, clearly anticipating a different inquiry. ”Falconry is a sport I leave to my betters, my Lady.”
Amarwen shook her head impatiently for she needed no further instruction in falconry. ”Messages, Galreth!”
He nodded his understanding. “We used ravens in South Ithilien. They are cunning, difficult to train at times, but the best.”
“We have hawks. Will they suffice?” Galreth shook his head at the question and so Amarwen sighed. ”Then the best we have at hand are pigeons, I fear.”
Galreth lifted a shoulder under his towel in half a shrug. ”Ravens are better.”
Amarwen nodded at this thoughtfully and hastened from his door without further explanation. Galreth peered after her for a long moment and then withdrew back into his assigned rooms.
Up in her room at Amarwen’s own desk, she wrote to Aldamir.
I bear you no ill will. We are caught in a web far bigger than our own wishes. It seems to me that we should be grateful for what we had. So many in similar straits are not so fortunate as we were. And though this is not what we wished for, we have a friendship that would otherwise never have come to pass.
I thank you for sending Galreth to me. It is kind of you to do so when you are beset by so much strife. I will keep him as close to hand as circumstances permit. As caution will be required in our future correspondence, I intend to send him to fetch suitably trained ravens for we have no such here at Edhellond.
My father remains in Osgiliath. He may be relied upon, my Prince, to serve loyally and honestly. We will continue our vigilance.
May the coming season of renewal bring you hope, my Prince, and some measure of healing and peace.
Joyous Yestarë to you.
P.S – I have it on solid authority that Pelagir and Umbar conspire to restrict supply to the northern provinces. To us the Guild extends a more temperate hand. It would impolitic for them to do otherwise, given their connection to the assassination attempt. They allow our ships to pass unhindered and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. The Anduin must be held, my Prince, lest Castimir starve the northern provinces out. The civil unrest in the southern provinces must be contained lest it spread.
Ultimately, Amarwen's letter went with Galreth within a week.
|Author:||Hanasian [ January 26th, 2020, 6:13 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Halvarin’s voyage was fraught with delays from the time they arrived in Lond Dear. They spent longer than anticipated getting the timber downriver, and once they had arrived back in Lond Dear, the logistics of making a flotilla of the logs that would withstand a coastal voyage took much longer than anticipated as well.
“Ye be long in returning young Halvarin. Dorian said when they returned. Silas quickly went to confer with Cailanore at the tavern. ”Aye, we’re well behind schedule. Now I don’t mind a port of call but I can surely say this one wore out what allure it had a month or more ago. You have put us into the storm season, so getting the timber south will be hazardous in the best conditions.”
“Yes, I know.” Cailanore said as he sipped his ale. "And I have some things I will need to attend to here so I won’t be going back to Pelargir with you. I’ll trust Therald will keep my pay in trust for when I do return.” he said as he drained his tankard. “Oh yes, Silas, I won’t be charging him the extra. See to it you get these logs back.”
“Aye we will. And we’ll be off tomorrow.” Silas said as he got up, leaving half his Lond Dear Draught behind. He stood up and called out. ”Drink up men and get back to the ship. We have an early day tomorrow!” There was little grumbling except from those who had gone upriver. They weren’t sick of the local brew yet.
The next day they set out and secured their flotilla of timber and made their way out and down the coast, hoping they would not get dashed into shore or have to cut their precious cargo free in high seas.
The ship made slow progress with contrary weather and little wind and a lot of fog. When they rounded the cape of Anfalas, it was just in time as a severe gale came up and pummelled the western shore. Had they left a day later they would have surely been caught out in the middle of it. As it turned out, they managed to ride out the southern edge of the storm without losing their load. They only suffered damages to the main sail and mast which made their progress from there even slower.
It was the eve of Mettarë when Captain Silas said ”Junior navigator Halvarin. What is your report?” He looked over at Darion who took a big breath as he wrote. He was leaving it in Halvarin’s able hands. Halvarin checked his charts then stepped out of the bridgehouse to check his star chart. The skies were clear, and a chill breeze was building from the north. ”Contrary winds once again.” He said to himself. There was the smell of ice in the breeze and he looked around some more and noted the clouds to the north and the intermittent illumination of lightning. He took a deep breath and went back in the bridgehouse.
Sir.. he said, his face strained. ”we are now passing the shoals of Anfalas as we make our way east across the mouth of the Bay of Befalas. Winds are northerly and rising, and I think that storm we missed is turning south driven anew by hard icy winds from the far north. The high mountains of will buffer a lot of it but I fear with our crippled sales we could be damaged even more.” Darion nodded his head silently but it didn’t go unnoticed by Silas. After a moment Silas gave Halvarin a nod. ”Very well lad. We will steer north and make for Edhellond to ride out this storm and make some repairs. Set a new course then Take watch.”
Halvarin nodded and went to give new coordinates and the sails they had were turned to try and make way into the bay. It was nightfall of Mettarë by the time they limped int the port of Edhellond.
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ January 26th, 2020, 9:42 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Edhellond – Yestarë 1433
Amarwen paused in the early morning hours, roused from any hope of a quiet start to the first day of the year dashed. She peered at the reason they were scurrying about so early on Yestarë. A ship had put in, under a Guild flag, very late on Mettarë. The precarious lean of its main mast was clearly evident despite the dim morning light. Edhellond prided itself on its reputation as a safe harbour. Not once had it lost a ship. If it lost one now, and a Guild vessel at that, their trade relations with the Guild would be strained. That would bode poorly for those north of Pelargir. If the Guild elected to extend their embargo to Edhellond ships, they’d not be able to continue to supply Harlond, Minas Anor and anywhere further north up the Anduin.
Given the lean of the mast Amarwen studied, she deduced it would have to come out entirely. Cracked, if she was not mistaken, or in very real danger of becoming so. That meant dry docks. Would not do for the ship to founder and the vessel looked as though it had sustained a battering. It sat heavily in the water too. The crunch of the harbour master’s boots on the frosted ground drew her attention to his approach.
”Assemble a team,” Amarwen said and the man nodded brusquely.
”Done and done, m’Lady. They’re aboard now.” The harbour master turned to look briefly to his office. ”The Captain awaits you to discuss arrangements.”
“His name?” Amarwen asked.
Amarwen studied the ship anew. Somewhere on that vessel was Halvarin. Six months and now he was here again. She’d have to be careful, though. Discrete, as her father advised. Nodding, she took her leave from the harbour master and made for his office. It was a modest building of wood that occupied a position that offered a clear and unimpeded view of their harbour and the stretch of water past the headlands beyond it. As she walked, wet snow began to fall. It was sticky stuff that would not last long. Amarwen hunched her shoulders, grateful that she’d thought to bring her gloves and scarf with her when setting out.
It was a relief to make the harbour master’s office. It was here he and his clerk dealt with the operations of a busy mercantile port. It was a simple structure, divided into two rooms. The first was the domain of the clerk. It held a desk that was neatly ordered. One wall was lined with wooden shelves, precisely divided and each one labelled for what was to be placed where. Amarwen had learned not to tamper with their clerk’s methods for organising his reports, forms and records. Her father had expressly warned her against it before setting out, well aware she had several ideas of her own as to how they could consolidate if not eradicate the endless shuffling of paper.
It was this room she slipped into first, for the harbour master’s office sat behind it at the rear of the building. Her efforts to keep the chill of the morning out were hampered when her scarf caught on the door frame. Frustrated, Amarwen hissed an Elvish curse as she pulled it free and firmly closed the door.
It was relatively warmer within despite the draught that arrived with her thanks to a small brazier. Amarwen pulled the scarf off as she turned around and it was then she saw one of the chairs was occupied. Master Navigator Darion rose to his feet and nodded to her.
”Is that you, Therald?” Silas asked as he pulled open the door to the harbour master’s office.
”Not quite,” Darion remarked, folding his arms over his chest.
Captain Silas considered Amarwen for a moment. ”I’m late enough as it is. All I need is some sail cloth and rope and we’ll be on our way.”
Amarwen lifted a brow at that. ”You do not need to be a shipwright to see that mast of yours is cracked, Captain. It will have to come out.”
“If it were cracked, I’d know it,” Silas declared, suspicious that the young heir to Edhellond was contriving reasons to delay them, or more specifically a certain junior navigator, in port. ”Where’s your father?”
“My father is in Osgiliath and I am his proxy. Further, the Harbour Master is agreed with me. Your ship sits too low in the water with its current cargo. It’ll have to come out. Once that’s done, dry docks until such time as the repairs are made.”
”That will take weeks,” Silas objected.
Amarwen nodded. ”Of course, if you wished, we could transfer the cargo to an alternate ship whilst we repair your own. By the time you returned from Pelargir, the repairs would mostly be done.”
Silas weighed this up, reluctant to leave his beloved ship. He looked to where Darion stood. The Master Navigator scratched at his jaw. ”I could remain to keep an eye on work, Silas.”
The Captain grunted at this, well aware that if Darion remained then so too would his student. He turned back to find Amarwen of Edhellond patiently waiting for a reply. Her expression was smooth, professional. Determined. If she was her father’s proxy, she could technically detain his ship.
”What’s it to be, Captain: stay or go?” she asked.
”If a new ship can be provisioned and the cargo transferred, I will be on my way on the morrow.”
Amarwen nodded her agreement. ”Done and done, Captain.”
She waited until the two men had taken their leave of the harbour master’s office before she let the excitement bubbling within her free. A faint whoop was all Silas and Darion heard.
”Your ship will not be the only thing I keep an eye on,” Darion remarked. ”I’ve no intention of wasting the time and effort I have invested in the lad.”
“I do not think he intends to squander it. Halvarin’s proven himself diligent and sensible. He’s worked hard, Darion, without any of the typical mooning about you might expect to find.”
“At sea, yes. At port and idle?” The Master Navigator shook his head slowly. ”I’ll do my best to keep the boy busy...”
“And I’ll do my best to return within the fortnight,” Silas replied.
By the time they gained their wounded ship, work was already underway to unload the timber in its hull. Fortunately for him, Halvarin had remained at his post to oversee the delicate operation instead of wandering into Edhellond in the hopes of encountering a certain young lady. He scrutinised the swing of the current batch of timber aloft. Should the present breeze kick up into something more, it would become too dangerous to continue, delaying them further.
At Silas’ nod, Darion moved towards his student to apprise him of their arrangements. The student was carefully considered in his response. He nodded calmly at all the appropriate junctures and when Darion dismissed him to gather their belongings, he proceeded at a seemly rate below deck. That said, Silas heard the young man’s boots clatter as he shot down the stairs below deck and along the passage to the cabins. The Captain shook his head for Darion would have his work cut out for him if he did not miss his guess.
|Author:||Hanasian [ February 8th, 2020, 12:40 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Edhellond – Yestarë 1433
Their port of call for now was Edhellond. Darion was Keeping a list of duties for Halvarin along with studies, but truth be told, he knew he would make Navigator well before his class due to his varied experiences he’s already had. He also knew he would want to at least get some free time to seek out the Lady Amarwen. Still, there was much to do to get the ship back in first-line condition and there were long hours needed. Preparations for the dry-docking of the ship had to be made and quickly with accommodation made for the crew. Halvarin as part of his duties saw to it that an old inn was sequestered by the Crown for the billeting of the crew. It was an account he would bill to his father as surely Lord Calamir would not deny his contribution to the Kingdom of Gondor. Halvarin was also fairly good at forging his father’s signature…
When the morning came for the ship to be lifted, Darion considered excusing Halvarin from his duties for the day. Afterall, he had done most of the work overseeing the ship’s timely preparation for repair. Darion also knew that Lady Amarwen was foremost on his mind after his duties, and he had been steady at it and staying aboard ship through this time. He had proven his dedication and kept his focus on his work, which was more than Darion could say about himself at that age. Also, the weather was going to be a rare calm day if cold. A light dusting of fresh snow had made everything white, but the sun was rising, and it wasn’t quite freezing so it was very soggy and the sound of dripping water could be heard.
“Halvarin my lad, you have done exemplary in your abilities of navigation. I have marked you highly, and I see also you show some leadership skills watching over the ship these last several days.” Darion said as he walked with Halvarin on the ship. The hoists were getting put in place by the shipyard crew and Darion and Halvarin observed the progress for a moment.
“Thank you sir. I wish to do my best for the Crown.” Halvarin said. Darion nodded. He wasn’t political and it was good to see young Halvarin wasn’t technically political either. Yet his closeness to the daughter of the House of Edhellond made him more political than he may realise. Darion went on, ”You have earned a day for yourself. Now disembark and go. If you haven’t sorted yourself any accommodation then do so, and report back to the dry-dock at first light tomorrow.”
Halvarin on the outside remained stoic as he listened to Darion, but inside his guts jumped. He had a day to find Lady Amarwen and to spend time with her. It was something he had buried in his mind “Yes sir, tomorrow morning.” Halvarin said and gave the Master Navigator and officer in charge a salute. He went to his quarters and loaded his duffle bag and slung it over his back and disembarked the ship. He immediately started walking through the slush and water toward the inn he had sequestered where he stowed his bag in his room and cleaned up. He put on his best dress blues before walking out to make his way to House Edhellond.
When he arrived at the door, the house servant answered. Halvarin gave her a smile. “I am calling on Lady Amarwen, is she free to talk?”
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ February 8th, 2020, 3:20 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Edhellond - 1433
Amarwen’s initial excitement upon Yestarë had met with the stark and immovable realities of her situation in the days since. All the reasons that Halvarin might reconsider had landed in Amarwen’s thoughts. She had grown up with the knowledge that she was expected to marry and produce heirs. Halvarin had not. They had hardly discussed the matter and for all she knew, perhaps he did not wish to marry at all. Perhaps he had no desire to take on the various responsibilities that came with being the Lord of Edhellond. All of that, before the politics of their parents were considered. Theirs was a long and difficult road ahead and it all might yet come undone despite their efforts.
Halvarin’s father cast a prominent and long shadow. One her mother could not and would not set aside. The Lady of Edhellond would not countenance anything that might call into question their fealty. Amarwen did not know where she stood with Halvarin and was utterly unsure what she might do about any of it. Nor was she certain she was ready to find out and yet he was at her door.
”Very dashing too, m’Lady, in his best blues,” said the servant that had informed her of Halvarin’s arrival.
Amarwen released the hair she had been trying to pull back. It fell in a heavy, thick stream down her back. She shook her head at herself. Nothing she might wear could protect her from her fears. Nor could she send him away.
”He is in the sitting room?” she asked the maid who stood behind her.
The woman nodded. ”Perhaps some hot chocolate?”
Amarwen nodded and returned her scrutiny to her reflection. She gathered her hair up and brought it forward over her shoulder. She sighed at what she saw and pushed back to stand. ”I suppose that will have to do,” she said, unconvinced.
Her palms were slick and her mouth dry as she left her rooms and made for the sitting room. It was a less formal setting than the great hall or their dining room. Indeed, they’d passed many hours in this place together as children and Amarwen found Halvarin reacquainting himself with the books that sat in one of the shelves by the fireplace. Though his back was to her, she saw that he did indeed cut a fine figure as she paused in the door.
Her heart leapt into her throat and Amarwen closed her eyes to make a heartfelt wish that she dared not utter. Then, she crossed the threshold and settled the fall of her skirts. The firelight nearby picked out the steely blue thread that had been woven through the dusky rose of her kirtle. It created a subtle sheen. A log popped in the hearth. Amarwen flinched as Halvarin turned about. It was then their eyes met.
They stood like that for a long moment, gazing at each other. Yearning mixed with trepidation. Distantly, Amarwen heard the approach of footsteps. She moved aside as Marece, their cook’s wife, appeared with a tray in hand. Halvarin recovered himself by falling into an all too familiar stance. He clasped his hands at his back, straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin.
”Hot chocolate,” the middle aged woman announced into the tense silence. She smiled warmly at Amarwen as she set the tray on the low table that sat between the fireplace and the couches. ”And some of those little seed cakes that I know you must still enjoy.”
She dusted her hands on her apron as she studied them. Half a knowing smile appeared before Marece was on her way once more. She slipped out past Amarwen with a wink that drew her about, and closed the sitting room door with a click. She turned back to face Halvarin.
”My mother is on her way to Dol Amroth. I do not expect her return until tomorrow, at the earliest.” Halvarin nodded at that and Amarwen found herself smoothing her skirts again. It was a nervous habit. ”You look well. Are you well?”
“I am,” he answered quietly. ”Are you?”
Amarwen nodded, unwilling to trust herself further. So many questions writhed and she did not know if she was ready for any to escape her just yet. Not until she knew what the answers might be. Instead, she gestured to the heavy earthen mugs that steamed upon the tray. At this, both edged forward to claim a mug. Amarwen seated herself self consciously. She could feel her cheeks heat and she wrapped her hands around her pottery mug and blew across the surface to cool it slightly.
Halvarin sipped at his and so they sat there in silence until Amarwen managed to gather her courage somewhere towards the bottom of her hot chocolate.
”Six months is a long time. Time enough for hearts to cool and minds to change.”
Halvarin leaned forward to return his mug to the tray and shifted so that he sat, facing her. One arm rested along the arm of the couch and the other along its back, extended towards her. The firelight glinted in his eyes but she could not discern his thoughts.
“It is,” Halvarin agreed. ”Has yours?”
Amarwen drew a breath to steel herself. Though she felt quite unprepared, she knew it was time to be honest. ”No, and I doubt that it ever will." Slowly she looked up and into Halvarin's eyes. Still, she could not read his thoughts. "And you?”
|Author:||Hanasian [ February 8th, 2020, 11:28 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
”No.” Halvarin answered without hesitation. His eyes softened as he looked into hers. He took a deep breath, for he had missed her badly… he missed looking into her eyes and seeing them looking at him. He said, “M’lady, of that which we spoke of, my mind will never change.”
He picked up his mug and drained the last of the drink thick with chocolate. He moved slightly closer to Amarwen as he set it back down. reached out to take her hand as he said,. ”Know that what we spoke of remains foremost in my mind. Though I have been six months away, I wavered not in my dedication to our future. If the seas break the land, or the mountains fall into fields of rubble, I will traverse it all to take your hand…. Even if Gondor itself falls into ruin around us.”
Halvarin left no doubt how he felt about Amarwen, and his eyes hoped she could see that. It appeared she softened her questioning gaze as he spoke, and Halvarin moved closer and leaned in and gave her a soft, light kiss….
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ February 8th, 2020, 11:52 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Tempting, oh so tempting to lose herself in this moment. Amarwen had done it before, beneath the Dome of Stars, and what had followed had left her on her knees. But still, she was badly tempted. She did not understand how he did this to her but she could not deny that he did. She pressed herself against him and her embrace tightened. She was still that starstruck girl and then, she was not. For the pain she had endured over the course of the previous years could not help but leave her changed. Different.
She pulled Halvarin’s weight with her as she leaned back upon the couch. His gaze filled her with a need that she struggled against. A treacherous thought beckoned at the back of her mind. What do you wait for, it taunted. You are free now. Unencumbered. Released. And yet, if she wished to build a future that could endure with this man, there were matters to consider.
”You would take on all that accompanies the mantle of Lord of Edhellond?” she asked, adrift in the heat of his gaze.
Halvarin nodded solemnly and then a smile flickered to life. Amarwen’s back arched as he lowered his head to kiss her jaw. ”If you would have me,” he whispered against the delicate skin of her throat.
”Ours will be a long and difficult road,” Amarwen gasped, long dark lashes fluttering as Halvarin pressed himself against her.
”A worthy one,” he countered. ”There is no other I would seek. No other I desire.”
Her eyes flared open and Halvarin felt her still beneath him. He lifted his head to peer at her. Amarwen set a gentle hand against his cheek. There was nothing but earnest, heartfelt tenderness in his gaze. In truth, she had seen it before and held it at arm’s length as protocol and good sense required of her. At the inn at the Harlond and again, within the Palace the very night she learned she was to be dispatched. It was then she perceived something of the road Halvarin had walked to reach his moment. The knowledge humbled her.
”I was betrothed, against my desire or will, to a good man. But you, Halvarin, I choose before all good men. I bind myself to thee, come what may, and I will hold true to you and you alone.”
Halvarin’s eyes widened as he whispered, ”Truly?”
Amarwen answered by pulling his lips to hers and there was nothing gentle in it.
|Author:||Hanasian [ April 4th, 2020, 3:21 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Halvarin bit at Amarwen's lips as she pressed her lips to his. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close to him. The intensity of the moment filled him with deep love for this woman and friend, even more so than all the days apart.
When they finally paused in their passionate embrace, Halvarin slid his hands up to her shoulders and looked deep in her eyes. "Though the road before will be fraught with obsticles, none will ever have me stray from the day we would be together...." he said.
With the way Gondor was going, Halvarin knew they had little time, and that they would not be safe to proclaim their love publicly. But he knew they would be short on time while they both were here in Edhellond. They would have to plan on how to make their future, but right now as not that time.
He thought about saying something more, but he could not. Sitting there with Amarwen so close... feeling the warmth of her body and the silkiness of her lips, Halvarin could only take a deep breath before he leaned to her and kissed her again...
The intensity seemed to build, and his hands drifted over her dress as he felt himself getting aroused. He was aware they could be walked in on at any moment but right now he didn't think about that. He intensified his kiss as his hand drifted to the side of her breast...”I want you Amarwen… ”he gasped as his breaths grew heavier…
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ April 4th, 2020, 9:02 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Amidst her elation and the building heat, Amarwen's mind lurched to what lay ahead. It did so haltingly for Halvarin was intent on other, more immediate concerns. He drew her closer into his embrace with growing ardour that she could not help but return. So much so that they spilled from the couch to the floor. Amarwen found herself peering down at Halvarin from her position atop him. He offered her a faint, crooked grin as he wove fingers into the hair at the nape of her neck. She kissed him despite the faint sense that if she did not pull back, the household staff would shortly be placed in a rather difficult position. The sitting room door had no lock on it and Marece, or indeed any number of their retainers, could walk in at any moment.
"Not here," she gasped against Halvarin's lips. She kissed him again for good measure, well aware at the passion she was stoking.
"Where, then?" he returned as he released her mouth. Where, indeed? Somewhere discreet that was not the family's bedrooms. If she took him there, their collective gooses would be assuredly cooked irrespective of where her mother was at this time. Nor the guest quarters for Halvarin had not arrived with anything that might suggest he was seeking accommodations. That was far too obvious and little better than whisking him up the stairs to her own rooms.
"I have an idea," she murmured, eyes closed as he nibbled at her ear lobe.
Reluctantly, his arms eased around her and Amarwen stood. Halvarin came to his own feet, shifting his weight awkwardly. She did her best to brush the creases of her kirtle out and smooth her hair on her way to the door. This she cracked to peer into the hall beyond. It was empty. Their luck held. She allowed the door to close and looked back to where Halvarin was trying to restore himself to order. He was fumbling with the brass buttons of his jacket, his dark hair rumpled by her fingers.
Once he had a passable semblance of order, provided one did not look too closely, he looked up to where Amarwen stood at the door. Halvarin hoisted his brow precisely as Amarwen heard the sound of footsteps. Their fortune was coming to a swift end. Amarwen nodded, rolled her shoulders and opened the door.
"Now, Master Halvarin, my father left for you a number of papers he would have you take for him to Pelargir." Amarwen's tone was almost brusque. "If you would be so kind?"
"Of course, m'Lady," came his reply at her shoulder. Amarwen stepped out into the hall and smiled at Marece as Halvarin joined her.
Marece was an observant woman. Her eyes swiftly bounced from one face to the next. Amarwen smoothed her features further and set off at a steady, smooth pace down the hall. None of that, however, could disguise the flush of her cheeks nor the brightness of her eyes. Halvarin followed, hands clasped at his back. He nodded politely to Marece as he passed.
Marece said not a thing as she crossed her arms. She remained where she was, a few steps from the sitting room door, and watched the young couple move down the hall. As soon as they had gone around the corner and were lost from view, the cook's wife continued to the sitting room. The seed cakes were untouched. One mug sat on the tray and another lay on the thick carpet, resting on its side. With a shake of her head and a sketch of a smile, Marece gathered up the fallen mug and added it to the tray she lifted.
In her father's study, Amarwen lingered at the door and waited for pursuit. She heard movement in the hall. Marece, if she did not miss her guess. Marece could be a stern mistress if she had a mind to be.
Further into her father's study, Halvarin looked about with faint curiosity. There were the usual models of ships, plans and maps and rows upon rows of books. Several lengths of wood that Amarwen's father had been studying for various properties before his departure for Edhellond. He turned back to where Amarwen stood at the door.
"Are there any papers?" he inquired, dubiously.
Amarwen lifted one arm to make a vague and non committal gesture in his direction. "I'm sure I can find some in here."
Satisfied that either their ruse had worked or Marece was not inclined to intervene, Amarwen closed the door and locked it with the key her father had left in her keeping. She turned, then, with a very particular smile that she saw echoed in Halvarin's expression. He lifted his arms towards her and she came to him.
"I need you, Hal," Amarwen said as his arms folded around her. "I..." Her courage wavered then as the enormity of what she was about to say loomed. The secret she had carried for so long. Once freed from the heavy shrouds she had lain over it, it would not be put away again.
Gently, as if he sensed her need for reassurance, Halvarin cupped her face between his hands and sweetly kissed her. It worked.
"I love you," she admitted as she looked into his eyes. Brass buttons slipped in her fingers as she began undoing his jacket again. She peeled back the fine wool of his uniform jacket, her eyes never wavering from Halvarin's. "I have loved you for years. Even when it was foolish and reckless of me to do so."
Halvarin's hands claimed her own restless ones. He stilled them in the warmth of his strong grip and pressed them against his chest. She could feel the thrum of his heart as he lifted a hand to her cheek. She pressed into the tender caress and his hand moved to brush her unbound hair back from her cheek. Her eyes briefly closed, dark lashes fluttering.
"I cannot stop, Hal," she murmured as his fingers trailed across her cheek to her jaw. Her eyes opened again to find his own afire with emotion and hunger. A palpable need she felt within her own blood. "I will not stop."
|Author:||Hanasian [ April 4th, 2020, 11:46 pm ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Thinki g Amarwen was going to turn this into business had tempered Halvarin as they stoically walked to her father’s study. It was an interesting place. He couldn’t remember ever being in there, but he was guessing he would one day be standing there before this desk as Lord Therald sat behind it. Asking to be betrothed to one’s daughter would be a hard ask, especially since Halvarin was a rising young star in the Mariner’s Guild.
Halvarin took a breath of relief when he saw that Amarwen used it to get them somewhere secure. He wrapped her in his arms, and when she expressed her love for him, he held her a little tighter. “I think I have been in love with you since we were kids. I mean…” Halvarin paused for words… but he could only look into her eyes as he felt her pressed up against him. “I…I love you too Amarwen…I always will…”
Foolish and reckless… yes… it always was since they had come to adulthood. Halvarin knew that he needed to be successful to ever be in line for Amarwen’s hand. But that was before everything in Gondor changed. The unrest and the fact he was a Mariner and she was of House Edhellond had made the divide even greater. Yet in a sense, it may have helped bridge the abyss as well….
”Amarwen… “ he gasped as he kissed her deeply. There was no stopping this. In his and her minds they were betrothed to each other… His hands caressed her as they lost themselves into the passion of the moment….
... Halvarin wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he rolled to his side and opened his eyes. Amarwen and he were still close together and he kissed her shoulder as he shifted to lean his chest to her back. He reached a hand up to brush a damp lock of hair, from her cheek before he kissed it. “I… do you think anybody heard... do you think we were missed?”
~ ~ ~
In Osgiliath, reports of rioting in Lebannin and parts of Lossarnarch reached King Eldacar. He would call a council of his nobles and commanders to get a briefing on the severity of the situation and what they could ostensibly do about it. The authorities loyal to the crown were increasingly being infiltrated by Castamirian spies and operatives, and this undermining was making it hard to know who to trust.
In Pelargir, the same reports came to Castamir. As Eldacar frowned, Castamir smirked. He didn't want things to get too far out of hand just yet, but his own agents who had a part in bringing the rebellious factions to the table could not get all the minor radacals to tow the line.
The rioting was at some places staged so the agents of Castamir could eliminate the more extreme of his rivals. It worked brilliantly!Many were slain by Castamir's own agent, and some slain by the loyal Gondor Constabulary. Some were arrested for sedition... it wasn't a perfect way to go about it but it was effective. Castamir called a council of his highest officers...
"Our flank to the west remains a sticking point. It seems we cannot sway either Dol Amroth or Edhellond to fully commit to our cause. So we will have to count on our stealth. Several agents have been dispatched to both cities." They were Gondorians that resided and are known in the two cities, though their loyalties are assumed to be with the crown. But they had sworn fealty to the true Numenorean king... Castamir..."
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ April 5th, 2020, 2:16 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
1433 – Dol Amroth
The keep that the Swan Prince of Dol Amroth called home was far more exposed than the halls constructed at Edhellond. It stood, proud and vigilant against the powerful onshore winds that buffeted the southern coast in winter. The Lady of Edhellond stood at the windows, watching sleet billow through the grey skies beyond. The sea was a choppy expanse, like shards of slate grinding against the other, as far as the eye could see. Darker clouds huddled over the horizon. Unless the winds turned, the weather would turn worse still before it improved.
Fortunately, the fireplaces were in full roar. Despite the wintry season, it was warm within. They were far more fortunate than poor Captain Silas, who by Alenna’s measure, was likely closing on the Anduin delta about now. It would be a rough and fraught crossing with so heavy a cargo in the belly of his ship. Risk to life and limb aside, if they failed to make port on time, the penalties would make a significant dent in Edhellond’s wealth. Such were the fortunes of trade, as Alenna well knew. Ordinarily, she could be confident that they’d shake it off soon enough. Now, though, with the Guild behaving as it was within the market, she wondered at how they might recoup so significant a loss.
It was just one of a growing number of concerns that kept Alenna awake at night. At her back, Prince Elarin sat with a leg propped on one knee. He shuffled the papers they had been discussing from hand to hand, reviewing the contents of each.
”Well, Alenna? Three offers, all of which are more than suitable,” he stated. "The offers are...well more generous than I had dared hope for."
Alenna sighed at the window and Elarin paused at her reticence. This woman had not hesitated to broker a match between her daughter and a prince of realm but now he sensed a strange reluctance.
”Have you reconsidered?” Elarin inquired.
The Lady of Edhellond shook her head from side to side. She gave no remark and so Prince Elarin considered the three letters. ”Those guards you've retained...expensive, I gather?”
Alenna grimaced as she turned from the windows. ”Doubly so while the Guild strangles trade. Yet they are all that stand between a withdrawal and a route should the Guild again turn their sights upon us.”
“When they turn their sights upon us, I should think. These three,” Elarin nodded to the papers in hand, ”Each come with an something approaching a standing army. Precisely the kind of alliance we need, frankly.”
Nodding, Alenna pressed out a sigh. ”Unfortunately, I have since given my daughter my word that I would not decide her path for her again.”
Elarin’s astonishment was apparent and Alenna went on to add, ”After the business in Osgiliath, I was in an impossible position. It was that or open warfare within my own halls.”
The Prince of Dol Amroth considered his peer for a long moment and then set the papers down. ”Then all of this is for naught.”
“Not necessarily,” Alenna replied. Elarin looked up sharply at her tone.
Alenna came forward and seated herself nearby. ”I will not again force my daughter’s hand. If she should choose, however...”
”Do you think it likely your daughter would be amenable to another match?”
“I do not see why not, provided we are subtle enough. If she sees my hand in this...well, Amarwen is no fool.”
Prince Elarin nodded slowly. ”And so we arrive at my role in this.”
“Perhaps you might consider a summer ball, Elarin.”
The Prince of Dol Amroth tilted his head to one side. ”Of course, it is entirely possible that despite everything, these suitors will fail to catch her eye.”
“One battle at a time, if you please,” Alenna replied and Elarin nodded.
”A summer ball. Let us hope the Guild allows us that much time,” the Prince of Dol Amroth returned.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Blissfully unaware of the arrangements her mother had set in motion, Amarwen lazed in Halvarin’s arms.
”For now,” she sleepily answered, ”We have Merece’s forbearance.”
Halvarin answered that by pressing into her back. She felt him push his face into her hair and breathe deeply. His knees were tucked into her own and his feet toyed lazily with hers. They dozed intermittently, until Amarwen noticed the angle of watery light that peeked through the thick curtains against her father’s window. At least an hour, if not more, had passed. Even if Marece was unaware, which was possible, she would come looking for them soon enough.
”How much leave do you have?” Amarwen asked.
”I am to report tomorrow morning, at first light.”
She sighed at that. So soon and yet they would have to waste what precious time they still had hiding what was between them.
”It is moments like these that I wish I was someone, anyone, else,” she admitted as Halvarin stirred at her back. He started to sit up and so she followed suit.
”We both know this will be difficult,” he said as he reached for his shirt.
”I know,” Amarwen replied. She drew her knees up and rested her chin atop them to watch Halvarin dress.
He dropped his rumpled shirt over his head and padded over to where she had dropped the rest of his uniform. As Halvarin prepared himself to leave, Amarwen’s thoughts ran to what would lay ahead of them. Secrecy. Trysts such as this, snatched and stolen as and when they could be. Never enough of them. Always too long between them. So much uncertainty too, that any of what they hoped for would come to pass. They could do everything and still more and have it all come to naught.
Halvarin stuffed his feet into his boots and set about tucking in his shirt.
”This will only work if you dress as well, Ami,” he prompted with half a smile. ”Though, you are quite fetching clothed entirely in your hair.”
Amarwen poked her tongue out at him and reached for her shift. By the time he had laced his boots, Amarwen was waiting for him to lace her kirtle. He set to work, nibbling at her neck intermittently.
”You are hatching a plan,” he said, pausing his lacing of her kirtle.
”I do have an idea,” Amarwen replied, evasive. ”But you may not like it over much.”
“Now I simply have to hear it. Out with it.”
“What if... we...plight our troth?”
“Well, that’s the general idea, Amarwen,” Halvarin replied and returned to lacing her kirtle.
She rolled her eyes. ”I mean tonight.”
Halvarin blew out a sceptical breath. ”Impossible.”
“What if it is possible?”
“Tonight, in secret?” he repeated as he tied off her laces. ”Who in their right mind would agree to do that for us?”
She smiled at the question. ”Someone who cares not a fig for Gondor’s politics.”
Halvarin blinked, ”Such a person exists in Gondor?” At Amarwen’s nod, he stuffed his hands into his pocket. ”Very well, then. I’ll bite. How?”
“The Elvish quarter,” Amarwen said and Halvarin stared at her for a moment. ”At dusk. Can you do that? Will you? Is it too soon? Too much-“
Halvarin answered by pulling her to him and kissing her soundly. Then he released her and did his jacket up for the third time in one day. Astonished, Amarwen simply stood there, staring at him. She almost could not believe that after everything, this was really happening.
”So...papers?” he asked.
”Papers,” she repeated and darted behind her father’s desk to rifle through the drawers. She found several half started drafts of letters that her father had set aside, reluctant to waste the paper. These she plucked out and folded up for Halvarin. He took them in hand and pulled her fingers to his lips.
”Elvish quarter at dusk. I will be there,” he said over her hand.
She nodded, tugged on his hand to bring him to her and with a final kiss, they set off for the door. This Amarwen unlocked and peered into the hall. It was still without and Amarwen could smell that dinner was underway in the kitchen. Dinner she’d miss. She nodded, looked to Halvarin and drew a deep breath before she stepped out and into the hall.
”I appreciate the time you have taken out of your busy schedule,” she said as they walked to the main door. ”Please inform Darian that I will provide him with a report on the repairs by midday tomorrow.”
“Of course,” Halvarin said as he reached for his marine grade winter cloak.
”Please pass my regards to your parents,” he said as he fastened the cloak at his neck.
”They will be sorry to have missed you. Good day, Master Halvarin.”
Halvarin formally nodded to her as their stations required. ”And to you, Lady Amarwen.”
He slipped through the door and into the building afternoon wind. By dusk it would be snowing proper as the temperature continued to plummet. But not even a blizzard, rare as they were in Edhellond, would stop Amarwen. She leaned against the doors, heart racing and mind aflutter. And then, she espied Marece. The middle aged woman surveyed her with a practised eye.
”Just what are you up to this time?” the cook’s wife asked.
Amarwen smiled sweetly at the woman. ”Not a thing!”
Marece lifted her eyes at the answer, nonplussed. ”That will be the day,” she grumbled but there was no ire in it. Amarwen took the stairs to her rooms two at a time. She had a lot to do if everything was to go as she planned.
|Author:||Hanasian [ April 19th, 2020, 6:57 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Halvarin got back to his quartered room with a bit of a spring in his step. When he found an Ensign there waiting for him…
”Good evening sir. I have a message for you from our captain. He requests that you to report aboard.” Halvarin sighed. There was nothing good that could come from this. He either had his day’s leave cancelled or something. “I was not to report until first light tomorrow. Master Navigator Darion who I’m a direct understudy had given me clearance until the morn. What has changed?” Halvarin asked. The Ensign shrugged. “I don’t know. My orders come from Captain Silas sir.”
There was silence for a moment between the young officers, until Halvarin said in a somewhat commanding voice, “Ensign … Daraes…” The Ensign straightened. Halvarin wasn’t much further in rank as he but he did have one star so he did outrank him. ”Would it be an issue if it took you some few more hours to find me? I have pressing business to attend to this night, and it cannot wait. If I could ask you go to the common room or take a long walk and bide your time, I will return and seek you out as soon as I have tended to my affairs.”
Ensign Daraes shifted on his feet. Halvarin considered having him come along and bear witness. But he didn’t want to surprise Amarwen with having another mariner know of the betrothal. ”I will put in good word for you to both Captain Silas and Master Navigator Darion.” Ensign Daraes fidgeted slightly as he looked to Halvarin’s solid eyes. ”I…. I think I can do that sir...” he said. Halvarin smiled and said. “Good…. I will meet you when I finish my business.”
With that, Daraes left Halvarin's room and Halvarin looked over his attire. He cleaned off some lint he found before donning his winter overcloak again. The uniform he had on would have to do as it was the best he had. The thought of getting betrothed to Amarwen had Halvarin floating! He had to put the thought of Gondor out of mind right now. He was nervous when he set out for the Elven Quarter.
It was a chilly walk through Edhellond as the wintery grasp was not letting go. The grey skies darkened with the unseen setting sun, and as he entered into the ornate part of the city, Halvarin realised he didn’t remember where Amarwen said to meet. Did she tell him? Was she there already? How would he find her? He decided to sepp inside a tea house where he could have a warm cup and keep watch on the main road into the quarter. Once he had some tea and sat by the window, Halvarin tried to remember if he and Amarwen even talked about where to meet on the Elven Quarter. It was dusk, fading into twilight of the night, and he was there …
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ September 17th, 2020, 3:01 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
Edhellond - 1433
A glance to the window confirmed for Amarwen that dusk had arrived. Nervous habit drove her to smooth the folds of her thick velvet skirts. If Halvarin was intercepted, she did not know what she would or could do about it. No one could know what she was doing. Certainly not her mother. If her mother discovered this, the reverberations of the scandal would extend to Osgiliath itself.
Gondor law was unambiguous on the subject of noble betrothals. If the match was not approved by the respective parents, the King’s approval was required. Amarwen not aware of any precedent for what she and Halvarin were embarking upon. There was no record of clandestine, unsanctioned betrothals that she could find. And she had looked for such accounts extensively over the various years in records at Edhellond and Osgiliath both. If that was not troubling enough, Halvarin was to the son of the Master of Ship’s chief advisor in villainy and treachery. Her actions tonight, if discovered, would throw Edhellond’s fealty to the crown into doubt. The shadow cast over Edhellond would prove difficult to lift.
Wretched politics, she lamented with a grimace as she paced. She had no desire to engage in deception and deceit and yet Amarwen could not perceive of any other way. She could not, would not, endure losing Halvarin again and that was precisely why she had to do this in this way right now.
Elven betrothals were quite different to those of her own people. Not even the King of Gondor could undo it or set it aside. Elven betrothals were binding. It would provide them both with much needed surety to hold to in the uncertainty that lay ahead of them. And should they be discovered, it would endure all that would unfold. Provided they survived to tell tale of it.
And so here she was, waiting in the Elvish quarter in a gown of ruby velvet, as dusk inexorably deepened into twilight. Hoping beyond hope that Halvarin would arrive. Uien, her tutor for many years, had assured her that few Mariners ventured into the Elvish quarter. Provided he made it that far, Uien’s people would easily identify Halvarin and escort him to her. Although, the spectre of Halvarin being shepherded to his fate, however gently, filled Amarwen with no small degree of dismay.
Amarwen halted her restless pacing immediately and turned to the door.
”The Mariner has arrived, my Lady,” said an Elf. ”Lady Uien will commence the final preparations, if you mean to proceed.”
What Amarwen had asked of Uien was no small thing. Though not bound by their laws, Uien had made her home in Edhellond years before Amarwen’s birth. If her mother discovered what they were doing, and Uien's role in it, then it was possible that her mother would seek to expel Uien. Expelling an Elf from an Elf Haven was not, generally, advisable. Or polite.
”Take me to him,” Amarwen asked, her voice shaking with no small trepidation. The Elf, one of her tutor’s retainers, inclined his fair head. He, like Uien herself, were of Finarfin’s people as Amarwen understood it.
She followed the Elf, kneading her hands before her. Distracted as she was, too late Amarwen wondered what she might do if the Mariner proved not to be Halvarin. The Elf had already opened the doors to where this man waited. He looked back at her, expectantly. Willing herself to calm, Amarwen forced her hands to still and squared her shoulder. She did not wear the wreath yet. She would tell this stranger the same story she had told her mother's household. A tale of looking in on her childhood tutor. At night in the midst of a snow storm. In any case, she did not answer to the Mariner’s Guild for where she went and what she did with her time. Nodding, as much to herself as the Elf, Amarwen crossed through the doors held open and released a breath she did not realise she had been holding when she saw Halvarin standing there.
”You came,” she said as they met. Halvarin claimed her hands in his own.
”Of course,” he replied softly, eyes locked on her own. They crinkled at the edges as he began to smile. ”And I would have done so, with or without an Elven escort.”
His smile softened his words but still Amarwen slightly winced. ”I could think of no other way to bring you the right place.”
“I know, Ami. Where are we?” Halvarin asked, looking about briefly.
”My tutor’s halls,” Amarwen replied and Halvarin’s eyes widened.
”Uien?” he breathed, recalling Amarwen’s various tales of her demanding Elvish tutor. To hear Amarwen tell of Uien, the Elf woman was akin to a fire breathing dragon.
”She will aid us, Hal,” Amarwen reassured him. In fact, when she had reluctantly divulged Halvarin’s identity to Uien, the Elvish woman had shaken her head in disbelief and muttered to herself in Sindarin too rapid for her former student to follow. But, Uien had not ejected her either so Amarwen was reasonably confident her tutor would help.
”I hope so,” Halvarin said, rubbing his thumbs across her knuckles, ”Because I have something of a problem.”
As Halvarin told her of the Ensign that had popped up out of nowhere with orders from Captain Silas, Amarwen’s suspicion flared.
”Have you ever seen him before?” she asked of Halvarin. He shook his head in response.
”In truth, Ami, there are so many ensigns that I cannot say with certainty whether he is or is not who he claims to be.”
“But Silas is some days out of port, Hal,” Amarwen pressed. "If his orders are from your Captain, what in Ulmo’s name has Daraes been doing with them these past few days? Why now? And what are you to do this night in the midst of a snow storm?”
“I do not know,” Halvarin sighed, ”But I cannot risk it. Orders are orders, Ami.”
Amarwen’s head dropped. ”It’s just I thought we’d have at least this night." Aware of and disliking the whining note of her reply, she added, "I do not trust this Daraes.”
“We are here now,” Halvarin pressed, tightening his hands around her own. This picked her head up and he leaned in closer again. "We have now, Ami.”
His eyes, so bright with hope and earnest love, cut through her hesitation. She felt immediate contrition. ”Forgive me, Hal. I’ve been too long at court.”
Halvarin responded by cupping her face between his hands and kissing her so soundly that Amarwen saw stars.
”Ah, and so this is the one.”
Halvarin’s eyes widened involuntarily as Uien came forward. He blinked, rapidly, and looked back to find Amarwen was pulling herself together rapidly.
”Lady Uien, this is Halvarin of Pelargir,” Amarwen said, stepping away slightly so that Uien could join them.
Uien studied Halvarin plainly. He was standing very straight and very proper. ”You,” Uien continued as she looked back to her former pupil, ”If I am not mistaken, are the reason my student was late, distracted or entirely absent from her studies on more than one occasion. And I am rarely mistaken.”
Amarwen had ceased her formal education some years ago but Uien spoke as if it were yesterday. Her cheeks heated as they would have if she had of been an errant pupil and Halvarin shifted his weight from foot to foot uncomfortably. He wasn't sure if Uien could breath fire and he wasn't keen on finding out. Her tutor considered Halvarin for one more moment before her attention settled on firmly Amarwen.
”You are resolved, Amarwen of Edhellond?” Uien asked with sudden gravity. ”This cannot be undone.”
Amarwen swallowed, robbed of speech until she tucked Halvarin’s arm into her own ”I am resolved, Lady Uien,” she managed, her voice quiet.
Uien nodded, long fair hair swayed as she looked to Halvarin. ”As am I, Lady.”
“Then, follow,” Uien replied.
Uien led them down a passage in silence and what followed seemed almost as a dream. Wreaths were placed upon their heads. Halvarin’s was woven of bright, glossy laurel leaves and her own was fashioned from snowy flowers. Just where they had found either she could not begin to guess given the frosty season without.
For all of its permanence, the Elvish betrothal proceedings were simple. Uien spoke in Sinadarin as she wound a silken cord around their conjoined hands. Her tutor listened to their vows in return. And it was done. Betrothed, no matter what came to pass. Amarwen felt dizzy again as she looked up into Halvarin’s eyes. Uien unwound the cord and stepped discretely away. Amarwen rose onto her toes to kiss Halvarin, tears of joy prickling her eyes.
”To you, Halvarin, I cleave,” she repeated for good measure as his arms circled her waist and held her close.
In that moment, she wished to lose herself with Halvarin, never let him go. Outside, the snow storm thickened still more. Rarely did snow fall in any great amount upon Edhellond. Certainly it had not within Amarwen’s life time, nor indeed her parents. Yet, from time to time, great winter storms blew in over Edhellond and covered it with deep snow. It had occurred in her grandfather’s life, roughly about the time her grandparents had become betrothed. A great fall that blanketed everything in splendorous white and brought everyone to a halt had fallen then and so it did now.
Daraes was hunkered over his tankard in the common room, awaiting Halvarin's return. The increasing wind had been making the building creak and shudder around him for so long now, that he paid it little mind. The locals were wrapped up well enough to winter in the White Mountains. It was cold, yes. Colder than he had anticipated, certainly, but not that bad. Still, when the main door of the inn banged open with a crash, Daraes jumped in his chair just like the rest of them.
A chill blast jetted into the room, making the locals grumble until the door was closed again. The newcomer Daraes thought to be one of the guards. Mercenaries, really, when all was said and done. The man was dusted in snow and pulled a scarf free of his mouth to address them.
"No one is to venture outside," the guard declared in a booming voice. "You are to shelter here until this storm passes. No exceptions."
Daraes shot to his feet as the grumbling picked up. He approached the guard with a straight spine. The man weighed his uniform up and rolled a shoulder.
"Excuse me, sir," Daraes began.
"No exceptions," the guard growled.
"But I've ord-"
"No." the guard was leaning in, almost nose to nose with Daraes. "Exceptions."
The man adjusted his sword belt and grimaced, irritated by the need to repeat what were fairly clear instructions.
Daraes, however, was not easily intimidated. "On whose authority?"
By now, no one in the common room was grumbling. They were all watching the exchange between an apparently suicidal Ensign and an Edhellond guard.
The guard's lips twisted in a humorless smile. "Guess," he said, hooking his thumbs through his belt.
"My orders come from Captain Silas!" Daraes announced.
He looked about to his audience to find them shrugging and turning away. He looked back to the guard who was staring at him like he was the village idiot. "The Lady of Edhellond answers to the King. Is Captain Silas King of Gondor?"
Daraes flushed as he shook his head and the guard shouldered past him. "Then sit your boney rump down, boy. Or I'll do it for you."
With the ensign in his wake forgotten, the guard eased into a chair at the bar. A tall, foaming tankard of ale was before him in a thrice. "Impertinent pipsqueak. Those Guild rats are all the same nowadays," the barkeep said.
With the grunt, the guard took a long draft and wiped the foam from his beard with his arm. "Including the current Lord of Edhellond," he asked.
The barkeep flushed. "Of course not! Lord Therald is no fool. The rest of them..." The barkeep shook his head. "I'm not so sure of."
The guard took another swig. "Not my problem," he said, disinterested. It was an honest assessment. He was paid to keep the peace and the good people of Edhellond safe. Guild or not. Tiresome work, to be sure. Far too much talking and not nearly enough fighting, but honest work all the same. As long as his wages were paid, he was willing to do the work and that's about as much thought as he was prepared to put into his job.
"Very well, when last I saw her, my Prince. Though, I do not think she trusts me despite your commendation. Her mother certainly does not." Galreth answered. Prince Aldamir nodded quietly and for the moment Galreth hesitated on what was, he perceived, likely to be a delicate matter.
"You are aware, my Prince, that Edhellond is said to be receiving offers?"
This turned Aldamir's gaze from the fire he had been staring into. "Offers?"
A mistake, Galreth perceived, but too late now. He inclined his head. "For the Lady's hand."
Prince Aldamir stared at Galreth for a long, uncomfortable moment and then looked back to the fire. "Of course," he said, as if this was all unremarkable. "Do you know who?"
Galreth shifted his weight. "Rumours, Lord, and none I would consider credible."
Aldamir nodded slowly and after a period of silence, Galreth considered himself dismissed. At the door, however, the prince spoke.
"You will return to her, Galreth. Keep her safe."
"Of course, Lord."
Again Aldamir's head turned but this time his piercing gaze lanced Galreth's. And in that moment he saw that none of this was unremarkable. Not to this man.
"I will do everything in my power, Lord," he said solemnly. "It would be easier if she trusted me, of course."
"That is something you must earn, Galreth."
"Perhaps some further counsel from you, Lord, might assist."
Aldamir's smile was almost haunted. "If ever I could sway her, I fear those days are at an end."
"Lord," Galreth said, bowed deeply and withdrew. There was a great deal to make ready for his return to Edhellond and in any case, the company that might ease the prince was many leagues hence and utterly out of his reach.
As he set off for his lodgings, Galreth thanked Illuvator for making him a man of humble means. Though his life was hard, it was at least his own to spend as and where he chose.
|Author:||Elora Starsong [ September 17th, 2020, 3:05 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar|
The storm that hit the coastal provinces had been threatening for days but until that evening, stayed well north in the White Mountains plunging Calenardhon into a deep icy freeze. Blocked by the White Mountains, the chill air built up and though some pushed eastward toward Anórien, a southerly jet of warm air blew over the east and part of it was channelled north up the Anduin valley by the Ephel Dúath range. Where the two air masses collided were over Anórien and both Minas Anor and Osgiliath received copious amounts of snow. After a few days, the hard north winds had pushed westward out to sea, playing havoc with the port of Lond Dear and causing the River Isen to freeze over. With the icy air gathering moisture, it drew east hard and picked up more cold air escaping through the passes of the the White mountains to finally bring its chill to the southern coast of Gondor.
It was this night that it came suddenly and with fury! The fact Halvarin and Amarwen both had managed to get to the Elven Quarter with merely snow flurries dancing around them was sheer luck, for as the whiteout hit Edhellond, word immediately came that the city and all roads out were to be shut down. The wicked snow and winds carried with it the deep freeze, dropping temperatures swiftly making it dangerous to be out.
At the docks, the waves in the bay that were stirred were pushing out with the tide, but the storm surge would cause violent eddys and the return-flow would slam the ships back into the quay. Anyone who was still billeting onboard had been brought ashore and sent to the already overcrowded inn. The ship was due to be dry docked the next day, but this would likely set back the work on the ship by at least a day, if not several, or even weeks. That would not be known until such time the storm passed and the damages could be assessed.
Having the ship’s drydocking postponed wasn’t something Halvarin would have minded if it allowed him to stay in Edhellond where he would have more chances to see Amarwen, but being isolated in the Elven Quarter, he would not hear news of the delays until after the storm. Right now, the ceremony of betrothal was at hand. Halvarin was unaware of any particular ritual the elves required so he listened to Uien and followed Amarwen’s lead. The words Amarwen spoke… ’ To you, Halvarin, I cleave…’ filled Halvarin with such a warm, euphoric feeling he drew her closer, uncaring what Uien or anyone thought. ”To you, Amarwen of Edhellond, do I cleave!” Halvarin said as he gazed into her eyes….
Halvarin was not sure what all had happened, Uien waved some spice in the air and the flecks fell upon both he and Amarwen, and with that, Uien gave a bow to them both and she and the other elves in witness turned and walked out of the chamber where they had had gathered. Halvarin watched as they left, then he turned to Amarwen. “Ami… my betrothed…” Halvarin said softly as he reached out to brush her cheek. With the elves now gone, the two were left alone in the chamber. Though the betrothal was in secrecy, Halvarin felt it inside. As he looked into her eyes and a soft smile spread across his face. Unsure what a betrothal in the eyes of the firstborn meant, Halvarin was still excited! One day it would be official in the laws of Gondor.
Right now, the thought of being snowed in here with Amarwen meant they would have some more time together as it appeared they would be under the same roof overnight. Halvarin didn’t know much of Elvish customs, but he did wonder if there would be a chance to spend the night alone with Amarwen.
”Come my love, walk with me?” Halvarin asked as he turned and took her hand.
“A walk would be lovely, but a walk outside is not possible.” She answered. ”But a walk around this place would be nice.” Usually a ‘walk’ to Halvarin and Amarwen would be one out through gardens and trees on a mild day. What Halvarin really meant was he wanted them to go explore the great structure that was the pinnacle of the Elven Quarter in the City of Edhellond.
When they had gone to a large common area where the hearths blazed high, Halvarin sat with Amarwen. He still held her hand and Halvarin said, “Beloved, from this day forward I am wed to thee in my heart.” Truth be told, I have felt that way for some time. To cleave to one’s best friend is something not everyone can say they are able to do. Despite the times and the political turmoil around them both, this was a moment to cherish.
“M’lord, m’lady, the storm rages and the city has been shut down for the night. The storm will not likely pass until mid-morning.” Uien’s servant came to say. Halvarin nodded as did Amarwen. Halvarin wondered where they were to stay and if they would be allowed to sleep together. A betrothal is not a marriage, so he was unsure of how the elves viewed such things. His question was answered as soon as he thought it. "I am to escort you to each of your lodgings.” Halvarin would have to look to other cunning means to be able to hold Amarwen in his arms this night.
Both Halvarin and Amarwen followed her along a corridor where they each were given a separate room. ”The fires have been stoked and you both should be warm through the night.” the servant said. Halvarin and Amarwen thanked her for their kindness and the servant left. Before they entered their respective rooms, Halvarin stepped over to Amarwen and said rather sheepishly, ”I suppose this is goodnight.”
“Yes…” Amarwen said, and Halvarin reached out to set his hands n her hips and he leaned to kiss her long and slow. It lingered but when they broke, Halvarin gave Lady Amarwen a bow and they went into their respective rooms.
That was all show for the guard that stood his post in the hall. Once inside, Halvarin set to work on getting the lock open on the door between their rooms. Afraid it may be cursed by some Elven magic, he was surprised to find it a standard Gondorian door lock. It didn’t take long before he had it open…
”Beloved, lay with me… let us rest together.” he said as he approached her as she stood by the bed. He stepped before her and he leaned to kiss her long and slow. The storm would ravage outside, as the storm of the politics of Gondor would, but this night would be spent together in one bed, each holding the other in turn through the chill stormy night…
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