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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:42 am 
Hobbit
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Osgiliath – March 1439

Michas leaned against the sturdy stone wall to oversee the wagon being unladen. Dry goods such as flour had been in short supply in the city and so the building these sacks were being stored in was one of the more formidable ones. All the harder to steal from or destroy. The men under his interim command toiled, carrying each within whilst the driver busied himself with the two horses that had brought his wagon to the city. Two horses. Flour could be heavy, yes, but not two horses heavy. Not for a wagon like that. And so Michas watched and waited, Halvarin’s letter burning a hole in his pocket all the while.

Halvarin’s missive had only arrived the day before and no word, not a one, from Mere-Lillith. Lillith. Her name was Lillith now.

”Big fire, don’t you know,” the driver drawled in his southern accent, ”Near burned Harlond down, it did.”

Well then, no guessing what Lillith had been up to. Michas shook his head from side to side at the tidings.

”Bad?” he asked, eyeing the men unloading the flour.

Only the bottom row of sacks to go now and that wagon tray floor was higher than it should be. Hence the two horses.

”For sailors,” the driver answered and Michas’ stomach knotted.

He looked sharply at the driver who shrugged as he fed carrots to his horses, ”How many were lost?”

“Oh…twenty, give or take, per ship – four lost in total and another three vessels damaged,”
the driver answered, dusting off his hands on his breeches, ”Where might I stable overnight?”

“The Stag’s Lament,”
Michas replied as the final sacks were unloaded, ”Two blocks further in.”

“Obliged,”
replied the driver as he climbed back up to the wagon bench.

He nodded to Michas, flicked his reins and pulled his two horses about. The wagon bounced over the city’s cobbled streets, not slipping nor sliding nearly as much as it should. Eighty sailors dead. Hopefully Halvarin was not amongst them, but identifying burned men was a tricky business. Michas wiped the cold film of sweat that beaded his brow at the thought. Lillith had been determined to keep Halvarin clear of this but what if he had perished in a fire of her making? At her hand? He shook his head to clear his thoughts for there would be no way to know for now and he had other things to see to – like the new agents that had just been transported to the Stag’s Lament. Hopefully they’d have the sense to remain in the stables until nightfall. Hopefully.

”For the last damn time, we stay here,” Amarwen snapped, growling through her teeth at her three fellow companions.

”Who put you in charge? You’re new here just like-“

The woman of middle years cut off mid sentence as her eyes rolled back and she sagged towards to pressed earth of the stable floor. Amarwen nodded her thanks at the other woman responsible for this reprieve, turned her back and headed off to find enough hay to conceal herself. She located this at the rear of the stables and she was not alone for long for there were few other places available.

”Sorry ‘bout that,” said the younger woman currently pressing her elbows into Amarwen’s ribs, ”Sera’s new - don’t know what’s what, yet.”

“Who brought her in?”
Amarwen replied, shifting away from the woman’s sharp elbow only to find she was jammed against the wooden slats that comprised the stable’s exterior walls.

”Me,” the woman beside her admitted, somewhat embarrassed, ”I’m-“

“You’re Parin. That’s your name here. And he’s…Jere.”

“What about Sera?”

“She already has a name. It’s new. She can keep it.”


The man she’d just renamed as Jere spoke up for the first time, ”And what’s yours?”

“Lilleth,”
Amarwen sighed, closing her eyes for a moment.

”You been here before, Lilleth?” Parin asked.

”Yes.”

“What’s it like?”


Amarwen let that go unanswered for it did not matter what Osgiliath was like.

“How long are we going to wait here?” Jere asked.

”Until the local contact reaches out. His name is Michas.”

“But how does he know where we are?”


Amarwen sighed again, for the question only revealed just how inexperienced they all were, ”Silence.”

She closed her eyes again and settled in to doze, which she did so fitfully until Michas strode into the stables very late in the afternoon.

”You’d better still be here,” he growled, clearly impatient and beside her Amarwen could feel the others tense.

”We are, Michas,” Amarwen muttered, hoping her inexperienced companions at least recalled the name she had supplied earlier.

”Lillith?”

“You don’t want to spook these ones,”
she warned and set about wriggling her way free of her cramped position to stand.

Michas studied her openly for a moment and she knew she had took a fright. She was still in her rags and the bouncing ride back to Osgiliath had not been enough to dislodge all the ash and smoke. She’d not bathed nor even combed her hair for over a week and she was reasonably certain that she had a liberal dusting of flour. For all of that, Michas’ only response was to lift one brow.

”I hear congratulations are in order,” he observed as the others managed to climb to their feet.

”You heard?”

“Quite the feat, that, and all on your own too.”


There was something flat, something amiss to Michas’ voice but she could not place it.

”Not entirely, in the end,” she said and then set about introducing the other three.

Michas eyed her for a moment and then turned himself to issuing their instructions. Amarwen drew back, listening to him deploy them about the city. He had jobs lined up already, and even places of residence. It was, she was happy to say, an impressive development and any hesitations she might have had about Michas filling Belas’ position seemed unfounded now. Soon enough her three wagon mates were on their way, Parin the only one to look back and wave at her.

Amarwen waited until they were gone before she spoke again, ”They’re green, Michas.”

“I’ll deal with it…just as you dealt with those men you roasted alive,”
he returned, turning about to face her again.

He folded his arms across his chest and Amarwen braced herself for what she about to say, ”This is war, Michas. People die.”

He offered her a cool smile, ”But you…you’re no soldier, Lilleth, are you?”

“You have no idea what I am.”

“Probably,”
he conceded, ”But a solider knows another soldier. And, frankly, I didn’t think you had it in you. I stand corrected.”

“It had to be done,”
she ground out, ” I’d expect a soldier to understand that.”

But Michas did not blink. He just stared at her until she could not stop herself from asking the one question she had tried to avoid.

”How many?”

“Sure you want to know?”

“No.”


He paused at that, weighing it up, ”Twenty.”

Amarwen felt as though the ground had been swept out from under her. Twenty?

”Per ship…and four were lost,” Michas continued.

A poker of ice speared through her, driving the air out of her lungs. Eighty men? Eighty?! Stars above, that was a massacre! Her stomach heaved and Amarwen lifted her hand to her mouth.

”But this is war…and it had to be done. Right, Lillith?”

Amarwen turned away to blot Michas from her sight but she could not stop her ears.

”Did you see Halvarin, Lillith?

The question spun her about again and she gasped, “Halvarin went to Minas Anor.”

Michas just looked at her. And looked at her.

And then she was running, running, running as wave after bilious wave washed through her. It was enough to drive her to her hands and knees, retching miserably. Halvarin was in the Harlond? Halvarin was on the ships? No, oh please, no… Anything but that.

Michas said nothing to her as he walked out into the dusk and how she reached her quarters, how she pressed through the ensuing days and nights, was lost to her. She was in a fog, lost as it were at sea and unable to find her way past the jagged shoals that were her nightmares. They woke her, screaming, night after night and on this night they drove her to Halvarin’s office.

She unlocked his door as she had before with a key she’d found in the librarian’s quarters. Stood to reason that the librarian would have the keys to the various rooms under his or her roof. Once within, though, Amarwen did not bother to lock the door again. She went instead to Halvarin’s cot, knelt by its edge and buried her face in its bedding. It held his scent still as grief rolled through her but that changed as his blankets became damp with her tears. She’d killed him. It didn’t matter that she did not know how the toll could have been so high. She’d killed him and now something was broken in her. Perhaps it had been since that final day at home. Perhaps it had come later, but whenever it had occurred she no longer recognised who she was now.

Amarwen was still in that fog when she heard footfall outside her door the following evening. She pulled open the door to find Michas in the hall. A muscle in his jaw feathered as their eyes met and then he jerked his head down the hall.

”Come with me.”

“Whatever you have to say can be said here,”
she answered, grip on the door tightening.

”It can’t,” he replied tersely and turned away.

Without being sure why, Amarwen found herself following him through the library down a familiar path. She knew where they were headed before they got there for she had spent a week, longer maybe, tormenting herself with this.

”No,” Amarwen said, coming to a halt.

Michas only looked back over his shoulder before entering Halvarin’s office and then she heard the sound of voices. Discussion. Voices! Two! Amarwen all but tripped in her haste to gain the door and sure enough there he was. Halvarin leaned against his desk, travel stained uniform and all. He’d not even taken the time to discard his jacket. Whatever he had been discussing with Michas came to a halt as Amarwen clutched at the doorframe. Halvarin brought his eyes to hers for a long moment and had she not had a grip on the door her knees would have buckled.

His brow furrowed and then his eyes shifted as Michas cleared his throat, shifting his weight from side to side for a moment.

Alive! He was alive! She was still a monster, yes, but Halvarin was alive!

”Close the door,” Halvarin bade and she did so, leaning against it in a bid to claw back a shred of sanity.

Michas launched on a brief report on Osgiliath. He covered both the city’s official doings and its less official activities.

”Nearly completed remanned,” he continued and nodded to a journal that rested on Halvarin’s desk, ”And that’s been updated too, but damned if I could find out what was happening with the sewer rats.”

Halvarin nodded, ”They’re an unruly mob, those rat catchers.”

Michas ruefully smiled and rubbed a hand over his hair.

”And I’m sorry to do this to you, Michas, but I need to you head south again. Southern Ithilien, to be exact.”

Michas’ brows lifted, ”Developments?”

“Our king has drawn a defensive line well to the south, leaving much of Gondor itself to rot…but he seems to have overlooked Ithilien.”

“Seems to,”
Michas echoed, ”Beggars belief, that.”

“My thoughts exactly,”
Halvarin said, ”I’d be interested to know one way or the other, as would Eldacar…is that right?”

Finally his eyes returned to her and in that time Amarwen had managed to pick herself up off the door and find a chair. Her head lifted at the question to find Halvarin considering her and Amarwen nodded.

”Yes.”

“I’ll leave dusk tomorrow,"
Michas supplied, "A small party, I think. Easier to slip past the Easterlings that way.”

And then both men were gazing at her, impassive. Amarwen swallowed against a dry throat.

”And what of you,” Halvarin inquired, his tone cautious.

Under their scrutiny, Amarwen found her hand lifting to her hair. It tumbled, untended, in loose waves around her face and down to the middle of her back.

”I have nothing of note.”

“Come now, I saw you at the Harlond, Lilleth. How did you get out?”

“There is a loose…faction there, not one of mine. They were drawn to the-“

“Moths to the flames,”
Halvarin said cooly and Amarwen closed her eyes.

She knew she should hold her ground. This had been in planning for months. It had been of sound tactical merit.

”I tried to minimise the casualties,” she blurted out.

”You failed,” Michas observed and Amarwen shot to her feet.

”How was I to know that the deployment had been moved up? Those ships should have had skeleton crews for another week!”

Her response was met with silence and she turned away, mopping a hand over her face, ”I did not choose this. None of us did. Not those men. Not you. That choice was made for us- by Casta-“

“ENOUGH!”
Halvarin shouted, his fist colliding with his desk and causing her to jump.

She turned about to see he was on his feet now, ”Eighty seven men burned to death. Not because of Castamir but because of pitch, and fire, and you! Stars below us, Amarwen, do you think I do not understand why you hate Castamir so? And yet, for all of that, do you think your father and mother would understand what you have done?”

Neither Amarwen nor Halvarin realised that Michas’ face had drained of colour.

”Do you imagine that I am proud of this, Halvarin?’ she returned, ”Do you think I wanted this? Do you believe that I am at peace with this? With any of it?”

“You had a choice and you made it.”

“I HAD A JOB AND I DID IT!”
she shouted back and then all her anger leaked out of her into the floor.

She sank to her knees following it, whispering, ”And I will never forgive myself for it…but loathe it as I do, I would do it again. For it had to be done.”

Halvarin stared at her, expression bleak, and shook his head, ”Are river ships truly so important? Has it come to so small a thing as that?”

Amarwen sat back over her heels, ”First we draw him out…”

Michas, recovering from his shock at what had been inadvertently revealed, asked, ”And then?”

She swallowed again, for if she divulged this she was divulging a significant part of Eldacar’s strategy. It could be treason.

”Then strike him where it really hurts – his deep water fleets.”

“Madness,”
Halvarin snapped, impatient, ”Setting Umbar aside, you’ll not even get into Pelargir.”

“We now have means to infiltrate Pelargir.”


Both men stared at her, flummoxed and then Halvarin shook his head slowly, ”No. No. No. This is lunacy.”

“This. Is. War.”

“But you do not have to fight it like this! Is it true that we’re stealing food and destroying storage facilities in famine afflicted regions?”

“NO!”
Amarwen returned, appalled and stung. Was that truly what he thought of her? ”Why would you say that?”

“Because that is what the Guild understands!”

“That you believe their self serving words gives me pause to wonder, Halvarin!”

“Oh, so you question my loyalties? Is that what we’ve come to now?”


Amarwen drew herself up, ”I have nothing further to say.”

“Then I think you should leave,”
Halvarin replied and so she did so, breaking into a run as soon as she reached the hall outside.

As soon as the door shut again, Halvarin’s shoulders sagged and his head bowed.

”I’m…I’m sorry you had to see that, Michas,” he said after a while.

Michas rubbed a hand over his head again, ”Is that…that’s really her?”

Halvarin’s eyes closed at the question and Michas pressed on, ”Your Amarwen of Edholland?”

All those years confiding in each other as recruits, Michas knew exactly what Amarwen of Edholland meant to Halvarin. She was all Halvarin could talk about each time he returned to training. Amarwen said this and Amarwen did that. Given that Amarwen had killed over eighty men in one attack, Michas had a hard time believing that Amarwen was a delicate maid with a keen love for Elvish poetry but he could certainly believe she was who he had said she was. It explained everything, every damn thing, that had been going on at Osgiliath of late and he was embarrassed he hadn’t put it together before now.

Halvarin looked up at him, haunted, ”Please, Michas, don’t turn her in.”

Michas shook his head from side to side, ”I thought she died. She'd be the most wanted criminal in Gondor and Harad alike were she not dead.”

“In way, perhaps she did,”
Halvarin sighed, eyes on the floor again, ”Though perhaps that is unfair.”

Michas shrugged, ”You wouldn’t be the first. I…ah…may have told her that you’d been lost in the fire.”

Halvarin’s head bounced up at that and Michas held his hands up, ”I didn’t know! Really, I didn’t…you might have been and you mightn’t have been…and I was worried. I was upset and I didn’t know she was...”

He sighed at his own words, ”I sound just like her. She didn’t know the deployments had been moved up…”

There was silence between the two men for a while before Michas spoke again, ”Look…I hate to agree with her but we are at war and war is terrible. It’s messy. Mistakes are made. We both know that…and it’s not as though she is capering gleefully on their graves, is it? And whilst I share your concerns at the overall strategy…I…Look, I’ll head out tomorrow. All things considered, we can hope that they really have overlooked southern Ithilien because if they have then maybe this madness just might work, right?”

And with that Michas was gone.

Come the following morning, Halvarin found himself pacing the hall outside the door of Amarwen’s quarters. She was nowhere to be found in the library for he’d searched it thoroughly and now here he was. Back and forth he paced before he resolved to knock but there was no answer. He pressed his ear to her door and then, frowning, he drew back and kicked the door open. It gave easily, probably why the last librarian had not been able to find refuge here during the city’s sack.

The bed was unslept in and the room was empty save for a single sheaf of parchment left on the table.

”I’m sorry,” it read, ”For everything.”

And he knew, then, that she had gone. Amarwen had fled Osgiliath and to do what he could not begin to guess.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 6:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:43 am 
Hobbit
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Days turned to weeks and weeks to months. Winter melted into Spring rains and summer descended, hard and heavy. And then the harvest came and froze as winter pursued it and now it was summer again. In all that time, Halvarin had no word from Amarwen. He leaned back in his chair, shirt sleeves rolled to his elbows as another hot blast of air was pushed through his window from the baking stone beyond. The hair at his temples was damp with sweat that beaded his brow. He reached for something that sat on his desk. An unremarkable, entirely ordinary length of simple twine.

Its ends had frayed now, a result of his habit of winding it around his fingers. A strange habit, if one did not know who the twine had belonged to. He’d found it in her rooms, the only trace Amarwen had left of herself. Halvarin had pulled the librarian’s quarters apart looking for some hint of where she might have gone or whether she would be back. All he had to show of it was the twine he wrapped around his fingers and his memories. He’d told her leave and she’d met him at his word. A year and a half ago. As for where she had gone since, well he wagered that he could guess at least in part. Amarwen had been a very busy woman if he was not mistaken.

Gathered in a folio he kept under lock and key in his desk were all the reports he had received that he believed referenced her. Not by name, of course. She was adept at avoiding detection and discovery. The first was dated three months after she had left Osgiliath. In that time, the Guild had apprehended a small band of Harlond locals and convicted them for the fire. Never mind that they’d not had a hand in the conflagration at all. Justice had to be seen to be delivered. The people were watching, nervous, aware that their King had largely forgotten them. They needed to see that order was still holding.

And that was when Amarwen had struck, or so Halvarin believed, for on the eve of their very public executions the five guilty arsonists vanished right from under their jailor’s noses. The youngest was a lad, ten years old. It was a very public embarrassment. The King and his proxy could not be trusted to maintain law and order. But more to the point, it ensured that five innocent people were not executed for Amarwen’s actions. He just knew she’d be involved. He knew it…even if Michas swore he’d heard nothing, not so much as a whisper through the network.

After the disappearance of the Harlond Five, rumours crackled through the populace. The Guild’s response was an inevitable one. Desperate to claw back order, they intensified their focus on it and the blunt instrument of law became a weapon wielded clumsily. Blind eyes were no longer turned. Understanding and discretion melted away. The Guild’s popularity plummeted alarmingly and then Amarwen struck again. She waited until the prisons were fit to bursting with people arrested for petty infractions. After summer passed and the harvest approached it became clear that if they did not release prisoners there would be no harvest gathered. Then, with a delicious sense of timing, she struck.

Reports rolled in across late summer and autumn, sometimes two or three a day, of prisons that had been raided. The only prisoners Amarwen left behind were what were considered hardened criminals. She had, it seemed, no use for murderers and rapists. The petty thieves, the public drunks and those late with their taxes, however, scarpered into freedom…but again Osgiliath remained untouched. Michas assured him that there was no move to replicate what was unfolding across Gondor.

Then, come the winter, reports started to arrive of the populace turning against the Guild. Guildsmen were turned away from inns and taverns. Merchants refused to trade with them. And there were reports that some were attacked by bandits on the road. They were no longer safe in Gondor. The mood had shifted to an angry, disillusioned populace. Thus, the reports of riots in Minas Anor were unsurprising as this was a key Guild location. It took the City Watch four days to break up the siege that had isolated the Guild to the sixth tier of the city. After that, it was now a standing order that any Guild Officer travelling in Gondor is escorted by an armed guard.

Momentum continued to build right up to Spring and then something extraordinary happened. Michas received a strange message that he brought to Halvarin and together the two men discovered a massive cache of weapons. It would have taken years to stockpile them and finally Halvarin realised why Amarwen had wanted Osgiliath so quiet. Osgiliath was to be the staging point for Eldacar’s army. Osgiliath held the king’s armoury.

But since that message, and it was not even in her hand so it may not have come from her at all, any trace of Amarwen had evaporated. Halvarin could find no sense of her in the reports he continued to receive…and it was entirely possible that she lay in a shallow grave somewhere. Possible, but unlikely he thought. He considered the twine wrapped around his finger, sighed, and then reached for the tall pottery jug of water gathering condensation on his desk.

Movement in his doorway flickered at the edges of his vision and Halvarin froze when he realised who stood there.

”Where is she,” Beregon demanded without preamble.

”Between us, you are the more likely to know,” he answered, resuming his reach for the water, ”She quit Osgiliath well over a year ago.”

Beregon’s jaw tensed and then he nodded curtly, ”Michas said as much.”

Halvarin finished pouring out his water but leaned back in his chair without touching it, ”How is it that you do not know where she is?”

The other man scowled at the question, resenting it, but shook his head, ”Haven’t heard from her since last summer.”

“The Harlond Five?”


Beregon nodded once, ”Told her she was a fool for that stunt, for what it was worth. Last I saw, she had that boy travelling with her.”

“But what about the prison breaks and riots? Weren’t they her?“

“If they were she was acting on her own,”
Beregon glanced to the window and door, ”There was something off about her when I saw her last. She was… I think I think she’s gone rogue.”

Despite the heat, Halvarin felt a chill skate through him. If she had turned her back on Castamir and Eldacar both then it was only a matter of time before one or the other caught up with her.

Beregon pushed on, ”I’d hoped to find her tucked away here.”

“And should you find her?”
Halvarin warily asked, his fist now closed about her twine.

”I want to bring her back in. Bring her back to us,” Halvarin’s eyes narrowed at the reply and Beregon added, ”If I wanted her dead, I would have reported my concerns to Eldacar! I’ve kept it quiet. I don’t know how long that can continue and once the King starts asking questions…”

“What do you want me to do?”

“If you see her,”
Halvarin snorted at the unlikelihood of that, ”Or you hear from her, tell her to check in. Just check in. She’ll be safe if she does.”

“What if she wants to retire? Have you considered that?”

“Just…tell her.”

“You realise that I am likely one of the last people she will want to speak to.”

“Then she is a dead woman…and I know what you think about that,”
Beregon replied bluntly, turned on his heel and quit his office.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:43 am 
Hobbit
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Osgiliath – Midsummer 1440


How was it, Halvarin wondered, that Beregon did not know where Amarwen was? Would she have split away to act on her own, sundering herself from those she had worked so closely with? And there were the spectre of the less scrupulous radical factions springing up across the realm…was she involved with that? Halvarin wrapped the twine around his fingers, as was his habit now, and looked to the door of his office in the passing hope that he’d see her standing there. But his door was empty and so Halvarin wiped his brow and turned to read the latest reports arrived from the Guild.

There was little in them about the troubles and of that, nothing that seemed to suggest Amarwen was involved. Halvarin frowned at them, aware that he had a great many other things to attend to not least of which was keeping Osgiliath’s role within the rebellion from prying eyes. As badly as he wished he could quit Osgiliath and set out to find Amarwen, he knew he could not and so he pushed everything that she meant to him back once more. Well over a year had passed since that disaster at the Harlond, and the last time he had seen or spoken with her. She would turn up, he told himself, for she was clever and brave and she had to. The idea of world in which she was not present was a notion he could not abide. He would watch for her always, waiting, hoping for her return.

As the sweat started to bead on his forehead again, Halvarin’s thought moved to how time had burned away. If he thought as a Guildsman, he had languished in his assigned post in Osgiliath overlong, exiled from the sea and all that occurred in the south. Still, Halvarin counted himself fortunate to have such an assignment. He looked again at Michas’ reports on the activity in Ithilien. Considering that the Haradian wars continued as Castamir pushed his fleets ever farther south, the eyes of the usurper had not long rested on the north after the burning of the ships.

Last year, when Michas had taken a small band south through Ithilien, he returned to report that fortresses were indeed being built. They were north near the place where the Emyn Arnen reached southeast toward the Ephel Duath. It was precisely the place for fortifications from both a tactical and strategic sense, closing the gap on the map he had studied a year ago at Minas Anor’s Guildhouse.

Michas naturally had set a watch and the local Rangers were more than willing to report the progress of their construction. There was no love for Castamir in Ithilien and Halvarin was aware a path had been established that allowed free movement past the strongholds unseen. He looked again at the latest reports and still there was no mention of Ithilien. This was encouraging, he thought as he made some notations on his own map and then frowned as the nub of an idea nudged his thoughts. He reached for his flagon of water but it was empty. As if his mind was read, a light tap on the door was heard and Halvarin looked up.

”Come in Lady Railan,” he said, adding the honourific for the way it made the young woman smile with quiet pride and delight.

She bore a large pitcher of water which she set on Halvarin’s desk before she curtsied to him, ”Water, m’Lord, drawn from the well on the lowest level of this building. It is clean and cool, and quite refreshing.”

He studied her for a moment before nodding, and she filled his flagon and handed it to him.

”Thank you Railan. I take it you are no longer cold?”

“No m’Lord. This summer heat has finally driven the chill from me.”


Halvarin sipped the cool water and closed his eyes as his hands wrapped around the cool flagon.

”M’lord, is all well?”

Halvarin shook his head slightly as the sweat on his brow seemed chill, ”Yes… yes Railan. I was thinking of the day I found you this winter past.”

Railan shivered at the statement and moved around the desk, shy and cautious. She lifted the hem of her apron and dabbed Halvarin’s forehead and neck, relieving it of sweat.

”I live because of you m’Lord, and I will be forever indebted to you. I remember when I awoke by that fire and saw you there. You told me strange stories of Harad, of the heat and the humidity and the tiny flies that bit you,” Railan’s voice was soft and she was, he knew, entirely too close but he had no desire to humiliate her and so Halvarin remained utterly still, ”Is the heat of this day much like that in Harad?”

“No, this is wonderful compared to the forests of rain in Harad. It’s much less steamy. The air does not feel as though it could crush you beneath its weight. This is perhaps more like their northern desert near Khand where I hear is much drier. I have not been there myself, but I have talked to some who have.”


Halvarin bit off, aware that he was rambling, and kept his eyes locked intently on the map before him. Railan stepped away and he dared glance up to find her staring off into the distance, her mind deep in thought. It occurred to him again, as it had the day he had found her, that perhaps there was a great deal more to this seemingly simply maid. One of Castamir’s, he wondered, or one of Eldacar’s or even, he had to allow, one of Amarwen’s now.

One of Railan’s hands rested on his desk and he picked this up in his own, breaking through her ruminations to offer her gentle words, ”I thank you Lady Railan for all you do here. You work tirelessly to keep this library clean and the books and parchments in order.”

Railan blushed at his praise and looked down to where her hand was in his, ”It is my honour to serve m’Lord. The wage you provide is most generous, but unnecessary, for I would serve freely.”

Her eyes, a deep glowing brown akin to her hair, lifted to his as he spoke, “You are the librarian of Osgiliath, the caretaker of all the knowledge that is housed within. The kingdom pays you to do this, not I. And to have found an unknown well in the depths, I see you have been doing much exploring in this place. Again, I thank you.”

Halvarin stood as he spoke, shifting his tone to a more formal one, and released her hand. Railan held his eyes for a moment before she hung her head, cheeks colouring, and inwardly Halvarin cursed himself. He reached out to gently lift her chin so that Railan again met his gaze.

”Know Lady Railan that owe me naught. You need not call me lord, for I am not. I call you lady because you are. You are wise beyond your years, and other than your predecessor, I could not think of anyone else better to entrust this precious library to. I think your predecessor, who first restored this place to order would appreciate all the care you take with the wealth within these walls. It has passed to you, and should you feel the need to go, it will be a better place from all you have done and pass onto to another.”

Railan swallowed at this and looked away for Halvarin’s eyes changed, as ever they did when he spoke of her predecessor. She had found little of this mysterious librarian save from what the collection could tell. The only titles arranged as carefully the seafaring collection were the collections on ship building and Elvish poetry.

”Will you tell me of my predecessor?” she asked and, as per usual whenever the topic had arisen, Halvarin sighed at the question.

The way his eyes softened whenever he spoke of this predecessor told Railan that the previous librarian had been a woman of great importance to Halvarin. A mysterious woman she felt more than a little envious of as she watched Halvarin withdraw into his thoughts.

What could he say about her, he wondered. Tell her about Lilith the smuggler? He could not tell her of Lady Amarwen. No, only Lilith the librarian could he speak of. His thoughts bounced about and Halvarin was relieved when Michas strode into his office.

”Excuse me, Lord Commander,” his use of Halvarin’s formal title undoing everything he had just told Railan, ”I have matters of import to discuss with you.”

Halvarin waved him in and looked back to find Railan had removed herself safely to the other side of his desk again, ”Another day perhaps. Thank you for the cool water m’lady.”

He gave her a nod, hoping his dismissal was gentle enough. Railan curtsied to both men and quit his study without further word or delay, expression unreadable. Michas followed her and closed the door behind her.

Immediately Halvarin asked, ”Have you found more weapons?”

“No,”
Michas replied as he returned to Halvarin’s desk.

He pulled papers from his vest and laid one upon the desk, ”A crude yet detailed map of the Castamir’s defences in Ithilien. The east track is also masked, which we have used to avoid detection when passing by. Our scouts have been able to push south to the Poros, where the next stronghold is. Between there and the two forts near the road at Emyn Arnen, there is nothing.”

“Has anyone else been sighted using that trail,”
Halvarin inquired and Michas shook his head.

Well, Halvarin thought to himself, if Amarwen was pushing south on her own she’d take care to go unobserved by everyone. Still, it had been worth a try. Halvarin studied the crude map and made some additional notations on his desk map.

Once he was satisfied it was updated, he asked Michas, ”What else do you have?”

“A message came from Vilmaith in Rhovanion. She was the one we extracted not long after you were appointed Lord Commander.”

“I recall. What does she say?”

”We shall return, she has written atop a note signed by… Vinitharya. He says they had been granted leave by the King of Rhovanion to raise an army. With those that escaped Gondor and those willing to join from the Rhovanions, they will work to gain strength. But, the might needed to challenge Castamir is such that Eldacar’s return will be some years away yet.”


Michas handed that parchment to Halvarin who quickly folded it up and put it inside his vest. The two men exchanged glances, both aware that tidings of this delay could not be more widely spread. In fact, it was almost best that these tidings never arrived from the north for the many years they would have to endure yet would be hard, dark years.

The weeks passed under the heavy yoke of summer’s heat. The city well had gone briny but the well under the library building continued to provide good water still. Halvarin ordered it to be used to supply water to the people of the city, and its distribution went smoothly for the most part. If there were any who still feared the Lord Commander served only Castamir, their doubts were dampened by this benevolence and his general handling of the city’s public administration.

Michas was now firmly in charge of the City Watch and the Anorien Guard, whose ranks now clearly supported the return of Eldacar. As for the sprinkling of those within the ranks devoutly loyal to Castamir, a series of unfortunate happenings unfolded. Accidents in training or simple disappearances. In general, the morale of the city started to lift. Normalacy began to return and with that, so did people. Osgiliath’s collection of quiet, empty houses began to diminish.

When the rains came in September, there was for a day dancing in the streets. Halvarin saw the joy on the faces of a people that had suffered, their hope renewed by the cool autumn rains. The day the rain started was the day a messenger came from Minas Anor.

”I seek Halvarin, Lord Commander of Osgiliath, in the name of King Castamir,” he said to the guards at the gate.

The men there moved the broken timbers they used and pointed him towards the still cracked Dome of Stars. Once he had ridden through, the men of the gate considered each other in silence, faces grim.

The messenger rode forth through the streets toward the library. He came to the wide square in front of it and found the way forward blocked with people celebrating the rain. There was laughter and singing, children ran through the legs of adults gaily, but Halvarin marked the man ahorse, clad in Castamir’s uniform, and so he made his way out of the crowd to approach him.

”Do you seek the commander of the City?” Halvarin asked, heart sinking as the messenger nodded.

”I am he, Halvarin, Commander of Osgiliath,” he admitted and with that the messenger dismounted to hand a thick bundle bound and bearing two seals: that of Gondor and that of his Guild.

”May we find somewhere out of this rain, Lord Commander?” the man inquired as Halvarin took all this in and so he nodded and beckoned the man to follow.

They went up the stairs and into the library, pushing just past the doors.

Once within, the messenger said, ”I am to wait until you have read these, and take any replies back with haste.”

“I understand,”
Halvarin murmured as he broke open the binding and read the letter.

With it was another sealed parchment with his orders and he looked up at the messenger, ”I will write up my reply in short order. Until then, you may rest here or if you will, join the revelry without.”

The messenger peered back out into the rain at that and then selected a chair just inside the doors, his preference clear.

Halvarin pushed his hand through his wet hair, rain dripping onto the marble floor he stood on, and made for his office. He had known, of course, that new orders could arrive at any time and so the fact that they were here now was simply the way of things.

Once in his office, he read them again to be sure he understood matters clearly and found that he was to report to the Guildhouse in Pelargir at his earliest convenience. He was also to settle his affairs and name his replacement as commander, suggesting that this was another permanent assignment and he would not soon be returning to Osgiliath. His time as Lord Commander had come to an end.

Halvarin wasted no time penning his reply. He named Michas as his replacement, and would set out on the riverboat Fury as soon as the river flows increased from this rain. He would estimate it would three days, but if they could leave sooner, they would. Before the hour was done, the messenger set out back to Minas Tirith, and Halvarin sent word to the captain of the Fury informing him that he would have a passenger aboard. Then Halvarin wasted no time to clear his desk of his belongings. His folio of reports and maps and a scrap of waterstained golden velvet he had managed to acquire were all tucked away but the twine he placed in his pocket. Next, he set to packing a large sack of the things he would not need before he left.

A faint noise in the hall outside his door drew his attention and Halvarin turned about.

"Are you leaving m’Lord?”

Railan stood there, dripping wet and a forlorn look in her eyes.

He nodded, ”I have just received new orders. Michas will be Lord Commander of Osgiliath now.”

She gazed him steadily for a long moment and looked down. He was, then, reminded of the bitter tale of Erendis and Tar-Aldarion.

Railan swallowed thickly before she raised her head again, ”When do you leave m’Lord?”

“Dawn, two days hence. Earlier if the river rises sooner,”
he replied.

Railan looked at him, taking this in, and turned without further word to walk back out into the rain. Halvarin stood at the door and watched her for a moment, but it would be no kindness to comfort her. He was a mariner, and the only other love his heart had room for was given to another, and so Halvarin soon returned to clearing his quarters.

Having set as much in order as he could, eve of his departure fast arrived. Michas had arranged a small gathering to say farewell. It was Halvarin’s hope that Michas would be left to his own devices here in Osgiliath as he had been. Castamir seemed unlikely to shift his focus from the south, and Halvarin and Michas spent the evening in deep talk over their flagons of ale. Osgiliath had secured a brewer again and it would be something Halvarin would miss, he was sure, wherever he was bound to after Pelargir.

Finally, the hour had come and Michas gathered their small band together.

”It has been an honour to serve with you again Halvarin,” he said and men banged their flagons upon the table in agreement, ” Until the next time we meet, may the road be fair and the seas safe.”

It was late indeed before they all left and when they had Halvarin wandered up to the Dome. There the moonlight cast wavering shadows through the cracks. The pause in the rain and the break in the clouds had set a chill over the city. Autumn had arrived and he was reminded of the night he had spoken with Amarwen here. There had been so much he had wished to say to then but his sense of duty had restrained him. If he had taken her into his arms then, kissed her and proclaimed his love for her, what might have been different? Had he that moment again, he would not hesitate.

”Oh my lady, where are you now?” he murmured to himself, ”Is it too late for us? Was it always too late? Was I a fool to think there could be a time for us?”

He sighed and with a last look at the dome, turned and went to his quarters for the last time. And there he dreamed of black hair flying in the wind as she smiled back at him through it. They stood under the sun on the rolling deck of a ship she had made, a ship he guided through the oncoming swell. Over the sound of the sea, the wind and the gulls, she laughed with glorious abandon as she stretched out her arms to the wind filled sheets and wide blue sky over head.

Halvarin was a changed man after his time in Osgiliath. He knew this as he sat aboard the Fury bound for Pelargir and his next assignment. The ship stopped in Harlond long enough to pick up two passengers. One was the messenger who had come to Osgiliath only days before. When he saw Halvarin, he came over and handed him a sealed parchment. It was his assignment in Pelargir…. He was promoted to Executive Officer and assigned to a new ship under Captain Silares.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 8:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:44 am 
Hobbit
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Umbar – Summer 1441


Shore leave, Halvarin thought to himself as he shouldered through the press of Umbar’s crowded streets, was either too long or not long enough. He had pushed up from the inn’s and taverns that lined the docks shortly after dawn, nursing a fine pounding headache thanks to Captain Silare’s fondness for brandy. In doing so, he had forgotten momentarily, the heaving bedlam that was the marketplace he was trying to cross. As such, Halvarin was surrounded by a dizzying blend of shouting voices and conflicting smells. He had enough wit, just, to keep a firm hand on the coin that remained in the pouch at his belt. He also managed to avoid colliding with the women swathed in indigo linen so fine that they seemed to float, only their eyes visible. Would not do to be robbed by a footpad or stand accused of dishonouring one of the locals with an errant elbow or foot.

After what seemed like an hour, Halvarin at last gained the cooler side of the market place. Here, the buildings offered respite from the still rising sun’s dominion. Long shadows reached out and many had taken advantage of this. They sat at their ease, talking quietly amongst themselves and eying the passing crush. None of them cast him a second glance, what with his Guild jacket unbuttoned and swinging wide, for Umbar was one of the few remaining places that a Guildsman could openly go about his business.

Halvarin straightened up, tugged his jacket back into order and wondered which direction his rooms were in next. Curse Silares and his bottomless bottle of brandy, Halvarin thought to himself. Recognising something as familiar, he set out towards this landmark with fresh purpose. Rounding a corner away from the market, he nodded to himself. Yes, definitely headed in the right direction for a clean bed and some blessed water, he thought precisely as a woman wrapped in indigo stumbled out of an alley and into him hard enough to unsteady him on his feet.

He caught her only by accident, throwing his arms out as she toppled backwards into him. It was then he realised that someone was sprinting down the alley, a diminishing dark shadow Halvarin had no chance of apprehending. The woman groaned in soft pain, her hand pressed hard to her torso. Blood bubbled through her fingers, Halvarin saw, his alarm rising.

”You’ve been knifed,” he exclaimed, startled at so brazen an act of violence.

”Fine…I’m fine,” she panted through her knees buckled despite her assurances.

Halvarin frowned at her accent. Though she was dressed as a woman of Harad, her speech was that of a land far to the north.

”You’re most certainly not,” he said firmly, bracing her with his own body as blood trickled over the back of her hand, ”This needs to be seen to. Now.”

“I…have to…go…somewhere,”
she answered, voice growing faint now, and then she was limp and sagging in his arms.

In the year Halvarin had spent serving as Executive Officer of Silares’ crew, he’d spent precious little of that time ashore. He did not know Umbar well and so Halvarin did what seemed most sensible. He gathered the woman up and carried her to the rooms he had taken the day prior. There, he knew she would be safe and if necessary, he could fetch one of the Guild healers.

The woman did not stir on the way back and so she could not answer any of Halvarin’s growing list of questions. Why was a woman of Gondor dressed as a woman of Harad? What had she been doing in that alley? Why had that man stabbed her and who was he? Where might he be? Did she have family here in Umbar? Would they be looking for her? Where might he send word?

An hour later, as Halvarin set to cutting through the linen wrappings, he realised just who was slumped on his bed. He stared down at Amarwen’s face, pale under a sheen of sweat, for a long stricken moment and then pushed on until he found where she had been knifed. It was low, dangerously low to the left side of her abdomen. If the knife had nicked her gut, he knew there was little that could be done. He’d seen men scream and sob in agony from such mortal wounds. As for fetching a Guild healer, that was out of the question too.

Gently, he probed the soft skin to see if the wound could be closed. Amarwen sucked in a sharp, pained breath at this and her eyes popped open to stare at the ceiling. Halvarin froze as her eyes rolled but she seemed to force herself to wakefulness a second time.

”This will have to be stitched,” he said as her gaze came to his at last.

She stared at him for a long time, jaw clenched against the pain and nodded.

”I’m no healer,” he warned, ”Do you know of any?”

A terse shake of her head at that, breathing hard through her nose to manage the pain. Her pupils were huge and her eyes were glassy. They rolled again but she forced herself back to say just one word to him.

”Surprise,” she said faintly, offered him an askew grin, and slumped back.

And that was all she said for a long while indeed. Halvarin stared at her, shook his head and set to work. As he did so, he reflected on the fact that his shore leave which had seemed too long was now far too short. What was she doing in Umbar? How had she even gotten here? How was she going to get out again? Chest rising and falling evenly, she was unable to answer his growing list of questions and so Halvarin lifted over her the thin, clean sheets he had hoped to find refuge in over and settled back into his chair to brood.

It had been morning, Amarwen thought to herself, only a few minutes ago. Hadn’t it? She stared up at the shafts of sunlight that shot through the air above. They had a ruddy, burnished quality that spoke of late afternoon. She frowned at this and then turned her head towards the sound of soft, rhythmic breathing in the corner of this unfamiliar room.

Halvarin leaned against the wall, legs stretched out and her blood dried over the front of his shirt. Of all people, she thought to herself as she took him in. His skin was tanned in a way that would never occur at Osgiliath. He had been a-sea, she concluded, likely serving in Castamir’s relentless push to expand his dominion south.

He shifted in his sleep and murmured something she did not catch as her eyes returned to him. He looked so…peaceful. A strand of dark hair he’d not had time to trim since coming ashore fell over his face. The urge to smooth it back was palpable but…but what good would that do, she thought to herself with a sigh as she closed her eyes.

He’d bandaged her from hip to ribs and dressed her in what appeared to be a man’s long tunic. Hopefully, not his only clean tunic, she thought as she stiffly rolled to her side and caught her breath. A surge of sharp pain washed through her and she panted her way through it. Once it passed, Amarwen set to rolling herself out of bed as quietly as she could.

Of course, tightly bandaged as she was, her efforts to do so quietly were not quiet at all. Instead of rolling off the bed and onto her feet, Amarwen instead rolled off the bed and onto the floor. Halvarin started awake as she thudded to the floorboards, chair creaking as he gained his feet. She groaned into the floor in a combination of pain and injured pride.

”Leaving so soon,” Halvarin chided as he crouched beside her, ”And without even saying goodbye.”

For all of that, Amarwen felt his hands close around her. Halvarin lifted her back into bed carefully, setting her there so she could sit up and tucking in the covers around her.

”You look better, marginally, and so we,” he declared as he tucked in the covers around her, ”Are going to have a little chat, my Lady.”

Amarwen swallowed at his tone, and tried to slide back into the bed she’d only just attempted to escape, ”I…I’m tired. I need to rest.”

Halvarin fixed her with a steady gaze, the grey blue seas of his eyes not for a moment affected, and then sat on the edge of the bed, ”Well then, you will answer my questions directly which will make for a refreshing change, don’t you think?”

Again Amarwen swallowed as she shook her head from side to side and he reached forward to tuck a strand of her black hair behind an ear.

”Let’s start with something simple,” he said, tone conversational, ”Why were you stabbed?”

Simple he said, Amarwen thought to herself as he watched her steadily. No games.

”Negotiations broke down. He did not appreciate the terms I offered,” she answered.

Halvarin cocked a brow at that, not even bothering to ask the next question.

Amarwen answered it anyway, ”He’ll not be back to finish what he started. Assassins never kill anyone unless there’s profit to be had and he clearly did want my coin.”

“Assassins?”
Halvarin said sharply.

”If I could do it without them, I would,” she answered, ”I’ve tried that and I’ve failed and so here we are. Negotiations, clearly, must continue.”

“You’re going to negotiate further with the man that knifed you?!”

“Of course not,”
she chided, shaking her head at him, ”There’s at least three more Houses to try. Possibly five, but I can’t be certain about the last two.”

Amarwen laced her fingers together in her lap and watched Halvarin rub at his face, ”You look tired.“

“And you look stabbed,”
he snapped from behind his hands, “I’ve a good mind, my Lady, to return you to Dol Amroth.”

“And just how would you accomplish that?”

“I have a very spacious trunk in my cabin that would serve.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”


Halvarin lowered his hands to study her closely, ”Wouldn’t I?”

He meant it, she saw, and fell silent. They eyed each other for a long moment before Halvarin drew breath and shook himself from his thoughts.

”And so this is where you’ve been all this time,” he said, gesturing at the room around them, ”Beregon sought me out almost a year now, looking for you. Said you’d gone rogue. I didn’t want to believe him, of course, because I didn’t want to think you could be so…reckless.”

“Reckless!”
Amarwen echoed, stung, ”I was doing well enough before you showed up.”

”There are men here, Amarwen, who will not hesitate to turn you in,”
he said in a low, pointed voice, ”My father is here!”

“I know,”
she replied, ”I’ve seen him.”

At this Halvarin stilled for he had not yet called upon his father. Truth be told, he’d been putting that off, and the cool note to Amarwen’s voice sent a shiver down his spine.

”The assassains,” he said quietly, ”Are they…are they for my father?”

Amarwen considered him for a moment and then averted her eyes, her voice soft and sad when she answered, ”You really do think me a monster. No wonder, then, that you asked me to leave.”

“My office, Amarwen, not the city at large!”
Halvarin protested, leaning forward to place a hand over her own, ”And I longed for your return.”

Her eyes lifted to his when he ran his knuckles gently down her cheek, ”Can we start again?”

She nodded and he breathed out a sigh that could be weariness or relief, before Halvarin quietly asked, ”Why are you in Umbar?”

Amarwen stared down at where his hand sat still over her own.

”If we continue to bathe our hands in the blood of our own, what will be left of us? she answered solemnly, ”The usurper must die. He will not surrender the throne whilst he draws breath.”

“But even if you succeed-“

“I will succeed,”
Amarwen returned quietly and Halvarin withdrew his hand from hers, troubled as he looked away to gather his thoughts.

”Have you considered the aftermath of the Harlond,” he asked as he stared at the door.

Amarwen flinched, as if struck, and she lowered her eyes to her lap again.

”Do not think I have forgotten,” her voice was strained, ”I see them. I hear their screams still.”

Halvarin sighed, ”I know you did not mean for so many to perish.”

“They’re dead all the same,”
Amarwen replied.

”Is that what this is? Atonement of sorts?”

At his stricken question, her eyes swung back to find Halvarin gazing at her. There was so much to read in his eyes. Anguish. Dismay. Fear.

“You said there was a better way to fight this war. That the way in which we waged it was a choice.”

Halvarin leaned forward wrap both his hands over hers, ”The Guild will raise another in his stead. They will fall upon those left behind, like hammer to anvil. If you do this thing, it will be our undoing.”

Amarwen studied him for a long moment. The mark, her mother had told her, of a wise ruler was a one who could listen to counsel even if it were unpalatable. Her father put in plainer terms, only a fool ignores the wisdom of others. But if not this, then what was she to do? Wait for yet another army to be raised? That would take years, even if Eldacar had begun already and last she had heard he had been stalled. By the time his army reached them, if indeed one ever did, Gondor would be broken beyond repair.

She had laboured for four years and yet she was no closer than the day she rode through the gates of Minas Anor. She could still smell the goats in the back of the cart, picked up on the way from Dol Amroth, just as she could hear the crows picking at the two gibbets suspended high on the walls. Eldacar’s soiled banned suspended from the base of one and Edholland’s from the base of the other. A shudder skated down her spine and Amarwen drew a deep, shaking breath as a familiar aching chill set in despite the heat of a summer’s night in Umbar. At that, Halvarin’s fingers tightened around her own.

”Ami, do not do this. I beg of you,” he said solemnly and her eyes dropped to his hands wrapped around her own.

”What must I do, then?” her voice urgent, ”How long must my people wait?”

Halvarin raised her hand to his lips and gently kissed her knuckles, ”I do not know, for I too have been far from Gondor this year gone. But what I can tell you is that we will prevail. These dark times will pass.”

“How is it that you are so certain?”
she asked, puzzled as Halvarin moved his hand to cup her cheek gently.

”You have been so long, adrift at sea,” he murmured, ”Let me bring you to shore again.”

And then slowly, gently, he leaned forward to press his lips to her own.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 6:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:45 am 
Hobbit
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1441 Third Age – Summer, Umbar


This very moment was one Halvarin had pondered for so long over the years. He had come to wonder if ever it would arrive. Time and again it had played through his mind’s eye. What he might do or say. How she might respond. Never had he considered that it would unfold during the midst of a rampaging hangover during shore leave in Umbar whilst Amarwen was seriously injured. Yet, here they were.

He gazed at her intently as his finger began to trace the curve of her face before he returned his lips to hers, and this embrace went deeper than the one before it. Somehow, despite all that had befallen between them, they were finding their way towards each other still. Certainly, from the way Amarwen responded, he was confident that she was feeling something for him too. Her breathing grew faster… or could that be because she was in pain? As he wondered, Halvarin felt her slip away and he leaned back to watch her.

Amarwen’s eyes remained closed and when he stroked her thick, black hair she rolled onto her right side and settled. Asleep, he marvelled, and he gently shifted the sheet to inspect her bandages. All was securely in place and she had not bled through it. Given the amount of blood she had already lost, he was relieved to find the bleeding had at last stopped.

Halvarin’s eyes wandered over the gentle slope of her belly and his hands rose with them pausing at the base of her ribs. He studied the rise and fall of her breathing and somehow Amarwen must have sensed his scrutiny, for she murmured something so softly he did not catch it. Halvarin returned the sheet to cover her and then he lay down beside her. He formed himself to her back and carefully draped his arm over her flank.

Then he whispered an admission, ”I have longed for this moment for many years now.”

Beyond that, Halvarin was unsure what more he might say and in any case Amarwen likely didn’t hear him anyway. He pulled close, certain to do nothing that might cause her discomfort and then buried his face in the thick drifts of her hair at the nape of her neck. Halvarin drew her scent into him and it was not long before he too was soundly asleep. When he woke next, Amarwen still slept.

Her breathing was strong, deep and calm. She was resting well, even if upon further inspection he could see that at some point during the night the bleeding had resumed. Still, it was not as bad as he feared it might have been and she needed to rest if she was to heal. Halvarin resolved to let her sleep, and carefully eased himself up and off the bed.

What now, he wondered as he considered that his shore leave would conclude tomorrow. Halvarin knew he could not leave Amarwen. Not here. Not now. Not like this. They would have need of food soon, but what if she left whilst he was gone? He sat there and watched her sleep for a while longer, pondering his options before setting out on a foray back to the markets he had crossed yesterday morning in a haze.

The markets proved fruitful with a clearer head as he soon returned with oranges, some bread and cheese. He wasn’t sure what the smoked meat was, but he was given a sample and deemed it safe. He also was not too sure about the salve he’d purchased from a bronze-skinned merchant hailing from Khand. If Haradians were mysterious, the people of Khand were even more so. Still, the merchant had seemed confident when he questioned her that the salve would assist in fending off infection. Between that and a supply of proper bandages, Halvarin was hopeful that Amarwen might recover swiftly… provided she was where he had left her.

Halvarin returned as swiftly as he could and was relieved to find that Amarwen still slept. It seemed likely to him that she had not slept properly for some time. How could she, alone in a place such as this? He moved as quietly as he could to avoid disturbing her as he prepared the meal. As he broke up the fresh bread, though, Halvarin heard something that made him look towards to bed and sure enough Amarwen was stirring. Probably awakened by the scent of food. She struggled to sit, as determinedly independent as ever he had known her to be. Still, she did not push him away when he went to ease her up and soon she was seated on the bedside.

Black hair tumbled around her face and she pushed it away, blinking drowsily, ”How long was I asleep?”

Her sleepiness vanished like smoke on the wind when she glanced down at her side and grimaced.

”It is the next morning,” Halvarin answered,”You fell asleep here yesterday afternoon. And no, you are not going anywhere now.”

He could see that she was bleeding now through the bandage and now the sheet she had tucked around her for propriety. Her attention swung up at his stern tone, grey eyes wide but he would brook no argument on this. Not when she was in this state.

”I will need to tend that. But, perhaps you might wish to eat something before I irritate it.”

Her expression of protest faded swiftly as she peered past Halvarin to the food on the table. Amarwen gave him a small smile as she nodded and Halvarin brought the food to where she was perched on the side of the bed. That she ate as if ravenous despite her current state only confirmed just how dire her plight had been in Umbar. Little sleep, inadequate food…he suspected she had poor shelter indeed and lived a precarious life in this city. That she had somehow managed to navigate all the challenges entailed in that for a year now was remarkable indeed.

Halvarin kept his thoughts to himself as she sated her hunger and it was not long before he could see that a full belly had relaxed Amarwen. It was time to tend that wound.

”Now, if you will, I need to take a look at that wound now,” he said and Amarwen eyed him sidelong as he stood to return what was left of lunch to the table.

When Halvarin turned around to the bed again, the sheet had dropped and she was wearing little more than her hair and a mischievous smile that grew when she noted his evident and abundant distraction. He raked his fingers through his own hair in a bid to reassert control over his thoughts. Then he drew a deep breath, stepped forward to kneel before her.

She watched him steadily, enjoying the effects of her game, as he set to removing the old bandage. Halvarin refused to look up into her face, or anywhere else but the bandages, but still the tension mounted.

”Were you not wounded so,” he said in a low voice, ”I would not hesitate.”

Amarwen maintained her silence and as Halvarin did not dare meet her eyes he could only sense her response. It seemed to him that her smile grew and this told much indeed. He paused, almost tempted to pull her lips to his again, but he could not fail in caring for her and so he steeled himself and continued on. Once the bandage was removed, he bathed the wound with cool, clean water. Then came the salve, at which Amarwen flinched and once that was done he bandaged her properly this time.

”You are healing well,” he told her, ”But you must not strain yourself. It could inflame very easily yet.”

“Yes Captain,”
Amarwen quipped, even offering a playful salute when he looked up briefly at her tone.

She thought she was funny, evidently, given the way in which amusement shimmered in her eyes but Halvarin was not moved. This was no laughing matter and so, with a shake of his head, he finished bandaging and rose to his feet.

”As pleasing you are presently,” he said next as he looked about, ”You will need something to wear. Your clothes are too bloody and conspicuous. But I have a threadbare tunic and breeches with only a few holes that you may have.”

Halvarin set about digging them out of his pack, needing to do something to distract himself from the fact that Amarwen sat before him, wearing only her freshly applied bandage. He set the clothing over a chair and was unable to stop himself from returning his eyes to her. She lifted her chin and met his gaze squarely. A challenge and an invitation and a dare. If they weren’t in Umbar right at this moment, Halvarin knew she’d be irresistible. He’d not be able to hold himself back and just why he had done so Osgiliath he still did not understand.

He shook his head in regret and forced himself to start gathering his belongings. Tomorrow he was due to report aboard and Halvarin had yet to determine what he should do. He wasn’t going to leave Amarwen again. He loved her. He knew that now even if he’d not yet found a way to tell her. As for Amarwen, she carefully stood and began to pull on the breeches he had set out. Her movements were tentative and so she was heeding his warning to avoid straining herself. Independent though she was, she had never been so overly proud as to ignore sound advice.

His breeches fit her well, he found, and Halvarin knew he would never look quite as good in them as she did. As for his tunic, it draped nicely over her but he knew she would need more than that to cover her. He drew his knife and cut off the lower part of the tunic she had been wearing the day before. He cut away the lower section that was torn and stained with blood. It would keep her head and shoulders covered, concealing her from obvious sight. Now all he needed was way for them to get out of Umbar unnoticed but Halvarin was not given much time to think about it.

An unusual sound outside his door had him reaching for his knife again. Both he and Amarwen flinched when the door suddenly splintered and purely on instinct Halvarin threw his knife. It caught a man rushing through the ruined door in the neck and he fell back, gurgling into another at his back. Halvarin leapt towards them both as another knife flew past him to catch the second man in the flank. Amarwen had, evidently, located where he had set the knives he’d found on her yesterday and given the angle she was at behind him, it was a sound throw indeed.

The second man doubled over in time for Halvarin to kick him in the face. He retrieved his knife from the gurgling man’s neck, giving his attire a good look. Then he stood and turned to find Amarwen was already advancing towards the door.

”There may be more!”Halvarin cried as he pushed himself in front of her.

He heard her puff out an irritated sigh that he ignored as he peered out into the hall. There was no one coming up the stairs he found and as there was no longer a door to shut, Amarwen had already worked out what Halvarin was going to say. She lifted a brow at him, he nodded, and they were on their way out of there without a further word being said.

Moving as fast as stealth and care permitted, Halvarin hoped that his bandaging would hold up for if her wound re-opened, they would be lost. They walked steadily through the markets taking a twisted route through lanes and alleys, using the crowds of people as cover. Amarwen’s hand on his arm grew tighter and tighter but she gave no other sign of her increasing pain and fatigue. Meanwhile, Halvarin knew there was only one way out of Umbar but he had no idea how he would get her aboard any ship at anchor here.

In time, he knew they needed to stop and rest. Amarwen dropped her hold on his arm and leaned against the wall, breathing rapidly in a bid to master her pain.

”Those men, I thought they were associates of yours trying to finish the job,” he said and Amarwen was too busy to do more than stare with some irritation down at her boots as Halvarin continued, ”But they had a mariners guild pin on their lapels. It is possible that you have been identified and if you have…we are in deep trouble if the Guild think you are alive and in Umbar.”

He looked at Amarwen deep in the eyes and could see she was in sharp pain. Her jaw was set against it and colour had washed out of her face. Halvarin’s thoughts turned furiously as he sought a solution. They could not remain in Umbar. Already they had remained here, resting in this place for too long. And in testament to that, a man walked around the corner and almost right into them.

He looked at Halvarin and said, ”You are a hard man to find my friend.”

“Silares!”
Halvarin answered, startled. If Silares was looking for him, if the Guild had identified Amarwen…

Silares looked next to Amarwen as Halvarin set his hand on his knife. It would be a cruel task to kill his captain, a good man and indeed a friend.

”It is good to see you alive, my Lady,” Silares next offered and Halvarin’s hand froze.

He knew who she was? Amarwen’s eyes widened and she was gathering herself to flee. In her present state, it would likely be the last thing she did.

”You know?” Halvarin asked, voice strained.

“I suspected,” Silares answered, ”I never believed the daughter of the Lord of Edholland would founder at sea. I knew your father, m’Lady.”

Amarwen blinked as Silares continued, ”Not well, granted, but well enough to know how proud he was of his mariner daughter. We served together for a time, years ago.”

All Amarwen could do was stare at him, startled, and then Halvarin watched her eyes shift to him. She was deeply unsettled but Silares was not finished.

”Many within the Guild were embittered by your father’s fate. He was a good man. A brilliant shipwright and his only failing, if that, was to adhere to the man he had sworn his fealty to. And when I heard from Halvarin of your mother’s fate.”

Amarwen’s gaze snapped back to Silares now. Was she angry with Silares or was she sharing in the bitterness evident in his captain’s statement? Halvarin could not tell.

”I say to you now, m’Lady, that you know my allegiance. Our next port of call is, of all places, Edholland. We leave with the morning tide on the morrow. Will you come?”

Halvarin considered Silares warily. This could very well be a trap. Silares could easily turn Amarwen over the Guild or, better yet, quietly with her once out at sea. Silares was a good man, but he had always seemed aligned to others of the Guild that supported Castamir. He wasn’t sure about what his gut was telling him and he looked to Amarwen. She had not fled yet but still, she seemed reluctant.

”I think this may well be our only way out of here,” Halvarin said quietly.

It was a gamble, he knew, to trust Silares…and if his captain even though Amarwen had something to do with the Harlond fires… Halvarin swallowed in a dry throat. He either knifed Silares here and now and they tried to find their way out of Umbar by other means, or they trusted Silares. He looked at Amarwen, trying to gauge her thoughts on this. If Silares was sincere, they could get out of Umbar easily. If not they were both as good as dead.

Silares said impatiently, ”There is no time to delay. You need to decide now. If you choose against it, whilst I wish you both well I will be forced to list Halvarin as absent without leave. Once the ship departs, he will become a deserter. But if you come with me, we can get you safely to Edholland and no one will be any the wiser.”

Silares peered about, nervous at how long this had taken, ”What does my Executive Officer and the Lady of Edholland say?”

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 7:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 4th, 2017, 2:45 am 
Hobbit
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If this was a trap, then they were already dead. Amarwen knew this as cold sweat trickled over the clammy skin of her spine. Before she could say anything, though, other matters intruded. A fat thick drop of blood splattered onto the cobble stones they stood on. Both Halvarin and Silares glanced down for the first time, their widened eyes confirming it was as bad as it felt.

”The Lady is injured,” Halvarin said, sliding a hand under her elbow to steady her for good measure.

Silares’ eyes narrowed as he lifted them again to Halvarin, ”Badly?”

“Stabbed,”
Halvarin replied, terse with concern, at which his captain gaped for a moment, ”And so we accept your generous offer.”

“Stabbed,”
Silares echoed looking hard at her now.

”Just the once,” Amarwen offered as another thick spatter found the cobblestones, ”And they missed all the important parts. More of a glancing blow, really.”

Silares slid his hand under her other elbow without delay and suspended between both men, she hobbled forward between them without anything further being said. The matter was decided.

Encumbered as they were, the going was slow and by the time they were aboard, Amarwen close to losing consciousness. Lost in a thick fog, she distantly realised she was below decks and staring up at the ceiling whilst Silares issued a terse order for someone to fetch the ship’s healer. Soon enough a man came barrelling in, wiping his hands on a cloth even as he quickly scanned her.

”What’s this?”

“Knifed, low left belly,”
Halvarin reported at his shoulder, ”I did what I could to stitch it yesterday but they may have since burst.”

“You should have called me yesterday,”
the healer said brusquely, flicking up the hem of her tunic to reveal the blood soaked bandages, ”Any fever or swelling?”

“No,”
Halvarin answered and after that Amarwen had no idea who said what next for her eyes rolled back in her head.

When they opened again, she was exactly where she had last known herself to be. Flat on her back staring up at someone else’s ceiling. Again. This was getting to be a habit. A habit she needed to change, Amarwen thought, just as Halvarin’s face slid into view. Then again, she amended, perhaps she shouldn’t be too hasty. She found herself admiring his features, from windswept eyes to the firm line of his jaw and those lips. Yes, she could put up with this a little longer.

”A glancing blow?” Halvarin inquired with a shake of his head, ”How are you feeling?”

“Never better.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

“Only you seem to think so,”
Amarwen replied and Halvarin hoisted a brow at her.

”Only I know you as I do,” he returned and pressed the back of his hand to her cheek to assure himself that she was not fevered.

Amarwen, for her part, did not argue for what Halvarin had said was quite true. Aside from the Prince of Dol Amroth, a long standing family friend she considered more an uncle, Halvarin was the only one left who knew her for her. For the person she was before this dreadful war. For the person she may yet be once it had ended. He scanned her face intently and then shifted his hand to stroke hair back from her face.

”Rest, Ami. Gather your strength. Tomorrow we will be underway.”

“You trust him then?”

“You do not?”
Halvarin asked, his fingers trailing along her jaw in a distracting manner that set butterflies alight deep within.

”I trust you,” she answered, ”I always have.”

Halvarin’s smile was so bright that it stole her breath away.

”Then sleep, Ami. No harm will come to you here,” he said, lowering his mouth to hers.

Amarwen unfolded herself in his embrace in a way that was new to them both.

His lips brushed her ears gently, ”Sleep, my love. Sleep.”

Such was the power of his call that she felt herself sliding once more, her fingers tightening where they had entwined with Halvarin’s. My love…he had called her…

When Amarwen woke for the third time that day, it was evening. The lanterns were lit in the cabin, swaying with the motion of the ship. She heard the water sucking and slapping at the other side of the hull. Her senses felt sharper and clearer. Cleaner. Her thoughts were focussed again. She felt…stronger, despite the precarious nature of her position. For all she knew, the Guild were massing on the dock ready to swoop. Or he’d just dispose of her body once at sea.

If there was something to be pleased about, it was that she had little of any use to offer up upon interrogation. Nearly two years out of Eldacar’s formal ranks, Amarwen had no idea who was where or what was planned. For once, she was not an interrogation risk.

”You’re smiling,” Halvarin said from the cabin door as he slipped through.

”I don’t know anything,” Amarwen replied, turning her head to watch him approach, ”Who does this cabin belong to?”

“It is mine,”
Halvarin answered, surprising her, ”And far as the crew is concerned, you are Silares’ niece taken unwell. And so, I am sleeping out there with the rest of them.”

“Come the morrow, I’ll be on my feet again.”

”You’re no more a healer than I,”
Halvarin continued, ”Would you like to know what someone who knows what they’re talking about has to say?”

Amarwen surveyed Halvarin’s expression and came to a swift conclusion ”Not particularly.”

“You’re to remain abed for at least a week. Walking short circuits once a day, and never unaccompanied.”

“That’s not nearly as dire as you would have me believe.”

“Amarwen,”
he warned and she sighed.

”I will abide, of course, by such counsel…provided I am able to choose my company,” she answered and smiled up at him in the way she knew would win a smile in return.

Amarwen watched the corner of his mouth twitch and then Halvarin grinned despite himself. In that moment, they were their old selves. He the serious one and her always looking for something to get them laughing over.

Halvarin sat on the edge of the bed, his bed, and wound his fingers through hers, ”After dinner, I will be happy to walk the deck under the stars with you. If you’ve the stomach for it.”

“The rations cannot be that bad. We’re at port,”
she countered and his smile shifted.

”Did I forget to mention Silares will be joining us for dinner? He is quite eager to speak with you further.”

“Tonight?”
she protested and Halvarin nodded.

This is how Amarwen found herself tucked in at a table facing the incisive questions of a senior Guild officer later that evening. As she expected, there were few stones Silares left unturned. From how she effected her flight from Edholland to her presence in Umbar. Later still, Amarwen found herself above decks under the spread of the night sky. The lights of the port city winked and flickered across the waters and the heat of the day had yet to dissipate. Still, Halvarin’s warmth at her shoulder was welcome.

He allowed her silence as they slowly walked the perimeter of the boat. First to the prow, pointed to the sea in readiness for the morning’s tide and then along the starboard rails to the stern. Here it was quieter and Amarwen leaned against the rail to study the spread of the port on either side.

”All these years,” Halvarin observed quietly, ”And not once have we shared the same deck.”

Amarwen nodded, looking aside to where Halvarin had come to rest. There was a mild evening breeze tossing his hair about and she reached out to smooth a strand of it away from his face. He turned his head to her at this, expression lost in the shadow of the night.

”Shall I count the stars for you,” he asked and she smiled at that memory.

Even so, Amarwen shook her head, ”There are other ways we might pass the restless hours.”

His arm slipped carefully around her lower back to rest his hand on her right hip, ”Impropriety with the captain’s niece? An officer of my rank has far more sense than that.”

“His niece,”
Amarwen sighed as she leaned her head against Halvarin’s shoulder, ”How long is it to Edholland? A month?”

“If the winds and currents are mostly favourable,”
he replied, resting his cheek atop her head, ”And we escape the storms. But look at it this way, ample time to recover.”

She closed her eyes and allowed herself to sink against Halvarin. His arm nestled into the small of her back, his hand cupping the curve of her hip. If she turned her head just slightly her lips would brush the sensitive skin of his throat. So close, so near, and was this not how it always was for them? These feelings had stirred years ago, before this strife, but ever circumstances seemed to interfere. His long absences as he studied. The relentless eye of her mother, sternly watching. Always calling her back each time they managed to find a way slip out of the hall and into the waiting night.

”Mother told me that there would be three mistresses in your life: the sea, the Guild and your wife,” Amarwen said softly, ”In that order. She had a different match in mind for me.”

“Who?”

“I never troubled myself to find out. I knew my own mind and heart,”
she said, ”No matter who he might be, he could never be you.”

Halvarin swallowed at that, unable to find words but his arm around her tightened, turning them towards each other. Her hands curved up over his back, lifting past his shoulder blades towards the powerful spread of his shoulders.

”Impropriety,” Amarwen warned as he tipped his face towards hers.

”Be damned,” Halvarin whispered in voice hoarse but succinct a mere moment before his lips met with hers.

Everything beyond the fire of his embrace dropped away. The city and its twinkling lights. The lapping waters of the port. The sway and creak of the ship. Even the pain of her injury, reduced to a dull but regular throb faded. In time, her senses returned and Amarwen found herself standing with her arms around Halvarin and his around her. Their brows rested against each other and they were both breathing rapidly.

”What part of don’t strain yourself was unclear,” asked a voice from the shadows, ”I thought I made myself clear. Did I not make myself clear? And the Captain’s niece! Scandalous!”

And so began their voyage. They left on with the first tide of the morning, well before dawn, and struck out towards the western horizon. From there they would swing north and east again, aiming for the coastal notch that was Edholland. Once the ship was underway, Halvarin’s time was busy. As Executive Officer, he had a ship bearing some two hundred souls to keep afloat. Amarwen, meanwhile, rarely found herself alone. If the ship’s ascerbic healer was not watching her, SIlares or his crew was. Still, she had never before had the chance to observe Halvarin ply his craft as a Navigator and officer and so she took any opportunity she could to tuck herself out of the crew’s way and watch.

When she was not biding her time or soaking in Halvarin at work, Amarwen set herself to charming the ship’s healer. From the outset he proved prickly and distant, refusing to let himself be drawn. But of all the crew, he was the highest risk. She knew he did not believe her to be Silares’ niece and she could not fault him for that given she’d shown up in Umbar, stabbed. The man gave away no sign that he knew who she was, but he knew who she wasn’t. Last thing she needed was for him to start speculating to the others about who she might be. Or why she was there.

Fortunately, charm was one skill that Amarwen was not short on. Raised and educated in a noble household, and without recourse to physical strength, charm was Amarwen’s principal weapon. She had charmed her way into and out of any number of situations but the ship’s healer proved difficult. Two weeks in, though, one of his crew mates divulged his weakness.

”Pipeweed,” the old sailor said, ”More valuable than gold right now and he can’t get enough of it.”

Amarwen bestowed one of her best smiles upon the man and then waggled her fingers at him, ”Well, that being the case, I’d like our wager settled in pipeweed.”

Watching all this from the helm atop the forecastle, Silares shook his head and considered his Executive Officer standing beside him.

”If they realise she lives, they will come for her as they did the others. She is too potent a symbol. You father could not shield you even if he wished to.”

“I know,”
Halvarin sighed, sweeping his hair out of his face.

”You have a fine career ahead of you, Halvarin.”

“I cannot leave her. I will not,”
Halvarin answered firmly.

Silares nodded to himself, unsurprised, ”Where will you go?”

“That depends, I suspect, on what we find once we make port.”


Silares grunted at this and then rose onto his toes, ”No gambling on this ship!”

“We’re not,”
Amarwen called back, turning about to look up at them with her hair whipping around on the breeze.

She smiled sweetly, ”I would never do that, Uncle.”

Silares pressed out a sigh and returned his attention to the horizon ahead. They would reach Edholland in fifteen more days.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 5th, 2017, 5:43 pm 
Hobbit
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Out at Sea – 1441


Favourable winds and calm seas held for another five days and during this time Halvarin and Amarwen stood at the bow of the ship each night to watch the stars. There they spoke quietly with each other about the day, the sea, the night or the day ahead. They smiled at shared thoughts and from time to time their hands would brush. Momentary, incidental contact but it was all they could risk. Even in the small hours of the night there would be someone watching. Such was life aboard a ship such as this one. Vast as it was, there was no privacy.

Still, Halvarin was grateful for the time he had with Amarwen for it seemed to him that they fell swiftly back into their old easy way with the other. They had long been friends, perhaps even the closest of friends and to rediscover that was a joy in and of itself. For all of that, Halvarin found himself increasingly preoccupied with what might have been had civil war not erupted. Would they have ever come together had it not happened? It seemed unlikely, given what Amarwen had disclosed of her mother’s thoughts on the matter. Or perhaps it would not have mattered for Amarwen had always been inclined to follow her own path. In any case, it was a moot point. Not in the face of what had happened…what they were returning to face at Edholland.

On the fifth night, a stiff westerly suddenly came on. With it the high clouds quickly covered the stars. The clouds grew low and the rains fell hard through the early morning. As they were then making their way north toward Edholland, they were buffeted by hard waves portside. The heaving of the ship made it hard to stand, but the veteran seamen took it all in stride. Halvarin worried more for Amarwen, injured as she was and constrained below deck where the hurling of the ship would be that much more worse. Better that than being swept away.

”Easy there lass,” the healer said as Amarwen was thrown against the doorway beam.

She held to it fast, waiting for the pitch of the ship to settle momentarily. Those moments came faster and faster and were shorter and shorter. It meant the storm was getting worse, not better. Still, she was the Lady of Edolland, not that the ship’s healer could know that. No, she was the niece of Captain Silares and the niece of Captain Silares could handle herself in a storm.

”I’ll be fine,” Amarwen insisted as she clung to the door frame.

”You’re healing well but that will be undone if you re-open that wound.”

“Perhaps if I smoke some of that pipeweed I won for you, I’d be steadier on my feet,”
Amarwen quipped back.

”Maybe,” he allowed, eying her carefully and noting the greenish hue he saw, ”Then again, maybe not.”

Below deck, the heaving of the ship was that much more difficult to contend with. Enclosed, close air was soupy and objects rattled about, inclined to slam into you at the worst possible moment. Where she wanted to be was on deck, watching waves break over the ship’s bow instead of below deck with little to centre her eye on. No horizon at all. The healer’s smirk continued and Amarwen turned away just as the first galling surge hit her.

She doubled over a chair just as her stomach emptied itself into, thankfully, a heavy pitcher that had once held water and not all over the floor. Fortunately, there was little to be had in her stomach and she slid off the chair with a miserable groan. The healer, observing all of this, said nothing at all as he handed her one of his cloths. She had no idea where he kept them all but the man was never without them. Amarwen wiped her mouth and then accepted his next gift. As she washed out her mouth, the healer finally lit his pipe and took a long draw on it.

Then, remarkably, the man passed it to her. Amarwen stared at it for a moment and looked back to the healer. He shrugged and so she looked back at the pipe. She’d seen it done many a time, of course, though never by herself. Ladies did not smoke pipes, her mother had told her when she asked about it once as a child. Aware that the healer was watching and waiting. Amarwen put the pipe to her lips and took an experimental draw. Her first impulse was to cough but this, she guessed, was not the point and so she repressed that response and held the smoke in.

”Well done lass,” the healer said encouragingly, ”Now hand it back.”

He quickly reclaimed the pipe back and drew in the idle smoke that was floating out of the bowl. Pipeweed was too expensive to let idle smoke go to waste. Oddly, it did seem to settle her stomach which was empty now in any case. Amarwen said nothing further and the healer was soon called away so that she was left there to cling to whatever was sturdy enough to remain in one fixed place.

For three days they had to steer west-northwest to meet the waves. Halvarin was on nearly constant duty, taking time to eat some dry bread and cheese. He had little rest, and it was only when the helmsman sent word that they needed to steer north did he break his vigil. All this time he had not been able to see Amarwen, nor could she come up to the bridge, but that the passing of the storm did not mean that his work was done. Now he had to keep their battered ship safe and so he had little time for anything else.

The helmsman was only slowly able to turn north. The condition of the sails was poor, and they couldn’t risk raising them in the gale. Silares was silent as he pondered their fate. The navigator, helmsman, and his second in command said if they went much farther, they would be in danger of running into the shoals that reached out from the Cape of Andrast.

It was Calidas, the young navigator had spotted the danger, and Halvarin confirmed it. They would have to take the chance now steering due north into the Bay of Befalas. Though the worst of the storm had passed, the seas were rough and the steady gale and damage to the masts made their attempt hard. With the diminishing contrary winds, they were able to make better time north, but both Halvarin and the navigator could see they would have to steer back to the east, for when land was sighted, they were south of the mouth of the River Lefnui.

As the sun rose clear and the winds had calmed, it was decided they would weigh anchor and undertake repairs before continuing on along the coast to Edholland. A small party was formed go ashore to see if the local farmers were friendly to the Mariners, for they needed food supply. Halvarin took ten men on the row boat and made for a small village by the river’s mouth. Fortunately, it was market day and the people all had come out after the days of rain and wind, and were quite friendly with their unintended visitors. After making sure all was well, Halvarin walked to the point and climbed a rock and looked out to the ship. He raised two small flags in his hands, and in a series of waves, passed on the message that all was well and to send the rest of the boats. Three other boats came ashore and Halvarin was surprised to see that Amarwen had been permitted to come ashore in one of them. He hoped they would have a chance to slip away together, even if it was only for a short time.

Halvarin signaled that all were ashore safely and the message returned to them was they would have to remain there for a day while the sails and mast were repaired. Silares planned on being ready to set sail by noon the next day if the weather held. There was a list of essential supplies Halvarin was to secure and so he came down from the rock to organize the landing party. They needed to convince the vendors to sell most of their goods to them, disrupting the town’s usual trading. For that, Halvarin would have to pay them well. Two of the town elders approached. These were the men he had spoken with earlier upon his landing and so he hoped could persuade them now that trade would be beneficial.

Halvarin had secured the best deal he could, with the demand of the goods at the market up, the price was high. Still sufficient food was secured, along with some good rope and tools. With that done, he sought out Amarwen who had wandered off in the markets. It was possible that she might have taken flight, for they were back in Gondor and he knew she would want to get away as soon as she could. Still, they were far from any sizeable settlement here and Edholland was still a long way by land. In time he found her at a market stall, examining the tunics set out there.

”You could use a new tunic,” he said, ”That old one of mine is pretty threadbare. At least you need a cloak.”

“This one is quite nice, but he wants a lot for it,”
she remarked

Halvarin looked at the merchant and saw the fingers the man held up. He shook his head at the man and considered the stalls further down.

”Let’s go down here. There are better wares than this,” he said and together they turned to walk away.

The merchant called out a lower price and at this Halvarin and Amarwen paused. They didn’t turn back though, unspoken agreement ensuring they were of the same mind. When the third offer came, lowest yet, Amarwen turned about and Halvarin followed her back to the tunic that had caught her eye. Her fingers danced over the fine stitching along the collar and sleeves and then she felt the softness of the warm golden green material.

Halvarin said,”We’ll take it… if you throw in that used grey-green cloak.”

The merchant drew breath to argue as Halvarin let another silver coin fall into his outstretched hand. Argument vanished and just like that Amarwen had both a tunic and a cloak that didn’t look like she’d scrounged them together. They even matched his worn breeches that she wore. Unexpected that, but not unwelcome.

”Now to find a somewhere to change,” Amarwen said with a small, shy smile.

Halvarin looked around, There is a stable over there. I don’t think the horses will mind.”

The two hurried over and found the stable empty. They were out of sight from everyone, and no sooner had they slipped within did Halvarin wrap Amarwen in his arms and kissed her soundly. As much as Halvarin desired her, the risk that they might be seen continued. Not to mention that she might reinjure herself. Amarwen moved away from him to change into her new tunic and paused, examining her belly.

”It’s healing well,” she observed at which point Halvarin’s head bounced up.

Their eyes met and his restraint crumbled as she held her arms out to him. He rushed into Amarwen’s embrace and they sank together into the straw of the stall.

Halvarin dozed, Amarwen warmly tucked into his arms and as drowsy he was, but he stirred when he heard voices outside the stables. Amarwen sat up, struggled to get her new tunic on, and threw the cloak over her instead. But the voiced faded, leaving them both staring at each other wide eyed. She pressed the back of her hand to her mouth to repress a bubble of laughter at their predicament and Halvarin grinned at her. It was time to return to their crew but even so he drew her lips to his for a final kiss. There was no knowing when next he might be able to draw her in like this.

Finally presentable again, they slipped cautiously out of the stables and walked swiftly back through the markets for the shore.

”Halvarin!” Calidas said, ”We couldn’t find you. Captain says the repairs have gone well enough that we will be able to leave at first light of the morn. We’ll be able to make proper repairs in Edholland.”

“That is good Calidas. If we are finished here, we should leave these people in peace and get back to the ship.”


Calidas nodded and set about readying the boats.

Halvarin watched him for a while, thinking to himself until Amarwen came to stand beside him, ”He reminds you of yourself doesn’t he?”

Halvarin nodded and looked to her. The afternoon sun made her dark hair shine. He wanted to reach out and stroke it, aware of just how soft it was.

”Let’s get back out there,” he sighed, for this interlude was fast coming to an end.

Once they were back, Amarwen was again the Captain’s niece and Halvarin didn’t know how much he could bear it. Why hadn’t they just walked out of the stables in the other direction, he wondered. They would be fugitives and he a deserter. Even if they never found out who Amarwen was, they’d hunt him down. What if he resigned his commission and resigned from the Guild? He would be free of this burden. They could go where they wished and do as they pleased…but Amarwen would never turn her back on her people.

There was just the one path – end the reign of Castamir and return Eldacar to the throne once more. Then, only then, could they be free.

That evening, the stars were out and he found Amarwen in their usual position at the prow. He remained apart, hands safely held behind his back. If he felt her soft warmth now there was no telling what he might do. All sorts of notions popped into his mind’s eye at the thought of he might do and what she might do. These he shoved aside before he was overtaken by it.

”We will be in Edholland soon. Seven days or so, depending on how our repairs hold.”

Amarwen nodded at this, turning her head in the direction she knew the shore to be. The prospect of returning there again weighed heavily on them both, he knew. They each had their nightmares of this place. The coming days would be hard and yet Amarwen turned her gaze to his and held it. There was something about the way she looked at him that reminded him again of their too brief encounter in the stables earlier that day.

As if she knew the thrust of his thoughts Amarwen smiled and he found himself responding in kind. That moment, brief as it was, belonged to them and them alone. Something they could hold to in what lay ahead. As he gazed at her he found himself wondering how it had ever happened. Had it been, instead, the wandering of his very fervent wishes when it came to this woman? Amarwen shifted and raised a hand towards him. He found it impossible to shy away from her touch. If anything, Halvarin leaned into her but she did not touch him at all.

Careful and precise, Amarwen drew something out from the collar of his shirt and held it up between her thumb and fingers. A stick of straw twirled about before his eyes, proof that it had been no dream at all. He stared at it a moment and then at the face of the woman that held it aloft. Her silver eyes were wide, gleaming in the starlight and the emerging moon. Knowing. He reached out to pluck the straw free and his hand curled around it.

”We will always have this,” she said.

Halvarin nodded, the edges of the straw sticking into his palms, ”But the road ahead is long.”

“We are equal to it,”
Amarwen replied, her fingers trailing over the back of the hand he held the straw in.

Her touch ignited tiny flames but he kept his hand where it was by his side. Sensing his struggle, Amarwen inclined her head and retreated. He watched her pick her way over the deck, around and under the various and many obstacles of a ship like this. She nodded at the sailors she passed, careful to keep out from underfoot and then paused at the entrance to below decks. Here she turned to look back at him for a long moment and then she was gone.

The next day Halvarin saw little of Amarwen and she was not at the prow that night, nor the next. As they approached Edholland she withdrew into herself, eschewing as much company as she could. She said nothing unless asked a direct question and sought to swiftly bring any discussion to a close or at least a point that she could withdraw from. She did not laugh nor entertain herself. Most often he caught her standing at the portside rail, staring at the coast. Wrestling with herself, most likely. Her silence spoke volumes to Halvarin for he knew it for what it was.

It was the evening they approached Edholland that was the hardest. Amarwen had sealed herself away in the cabin that Silares had made hers for this voyage. As for Halvarin, he lay in his swaying bunk sleepless, haunted by the events of that terrible day.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


Last edited by Elora Starsong on November 6th, 2017, 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 6th, 2017, 5:02 am 
Hobbit
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Edholland – 1441


This was her home, or at least had been until four years ago. She had wandered this place, frolicked on these sands and explored these waters as a child. Before the world at large existed or mattered. Laughing, often with the man above deck now, guiding their ship into dock with Silares. She could hear Halvarin calling out a firm, steady stream of orders to those scurrying about above deck. Below, out in the main area where the bunks were suspended, the rest of the crew were busy readying their belongings. She could hear their talk of what they might do once they were off ship, their mood ebullient. Quite the contrast to her own.

Last night, over dinner, Silares had laid out what would follow today. It truth it was no surprise but still she had hoped that somehow they could slink unobtrusively into port. That was not going to happen, of course. This was a Guild ship, a large ocean going vessel. They’d all be out to watch them come in to dock and there would be a delegation from none other than the current Lord of Edholland.

After the welcome, and depending on the stature of those arrived, her father would have offered them lodgings in the hall. This is what Silares intended to accomplish now. He said it would be suspicious, perhaps even an insult, to refuse the Lord of Edholland’s hospitality. What was more, he asserted that it was more than likely that she would recognised if they remained in Edholland itself. That Amarwen already knew, owing to her earlier return to Edholland to speak with Beregon a year or so ago. Getting in and out had been fraught with difficulty.

She flinched as the ship gave a final lurch, shuddering as it settled into position when the anchors caught far below. She looked down to her hand and saw it shake. The quivering refused to stop despite how she stared at. Amarwen curled her fingers into a tight fist.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Beregon saw that the Guild ship had already dropped anchor in the harbour when he rode into the township of Edholland. It was one of their larger vessels, designed to plough great distances far from the shore. Two hundred men, easily, all of them Mariner’s Guild. The ship had taken quite the battering in the vicious storms that had sprung nearly two weeks ago now. It must have caught them in it, and the fact that it was still afloat was testament to the skill of those shepherding the vessel through it. They’d be here for supply and repair, he guessed. As he rode down towards the dock with the Steward of Lord Hurian, he could see a little dingy strike out for the shore. No officers in that crew, they’d be looking for supplies and materiel.

The Steward pushed ahead, anxious to locate the captain and extend the invitation he had been dispatched to offer. They turned to ride along the dock and dismounted before Edholland’s largest inn. The Steward hastened inside, leaving the horses for Beregon to manage. By the time he gained the inn, the Steward had already rushed up the stairs to seek out the captain and so Beregon leaned against the wall to study the harbour through the window.

He returned his attention to the ship, wondering at how it’s generous belly might be put to use. Beregon knew Lord Hurian was optimistic of securing a lucrative arrangement to resupply Castamir’s big ships. If he succeeded, Edholland would prosper but Beregon could see still more potential. All that materiel in one place, some of it could be easily diverted off to the rebellion. Weapons, in particular. It was difficult to gather enough, harder still to dispatch them north. Beregon was of a mind to leave the arming of Eldacar’s Rhovanion forces to Eldacar. They’d need weapons of their own here in Gondor once battle proper was joined. And if they were careful and clever in what they skimmed off, then this arrangement could be quite beneficial indeed.

In time, the Steward clattered down the stairs again. His face was flushed with excitement and in his wake came the Captain and his Executive Officer. The Captain, a silver haired veteran of the sea was speaking as he followed the Steward down the stairs.

”-apologise for my niece. She is not usually so intransigent,” he said.

”You have my word, Captain Silares that your niece will be quite comfortable once she is settled. And it is not so very far a distance to travel.”

The Executive Officer paused to turn and look back up the stairs. Beregon did not catch his face but the man’s dark hair and posture spoke of a much younger man than he had expected for an Executive Officer.

”Perhaps I should-“ the officer said, hesitant but the Captain grabbed the man before he could return back upstairs.

”I dare say all your niece desires is a warm bed that does not move and a warm bath,” the Steward added, ”After how many weeks of rattling around in your midst?”

“Six,”
Silares said and the Steward nodded knowingly.

”Ah, six weeks. I have a daughter of my own. Trust me, Silares, if there is one thing I have learned it is how to soothe a troubled young lady.”

Silares reached up to pull his frowning officer back around and Beregon pushed himself upright when he realised just who he was. Halvarin shot Silares a dark scowl. Then, with an unhappy sigh, Halvarin alighted the final step and raked his eyes across the inn’s common room to settle on Beregon. By that time, Beregon had recovered from his surprise enough to claw together his composure. Lord Hurian’s Man at Arms had no cause to be gawping at Guild officers he had never met. Halvarin’s scrutiny took in everything, from the uniform he wore as one of Hurian’s men to the weapons he bore.

Reluctantly, Beregon diverted his attention to the Steward approaching him.

”Ride ahead and inform Lord Hurian that Captain Silares is travelling with his niece. Accommodations will be required. Perhaps in the family wing, away from the men to be housed in the guest wing. Of course, I shall defer on that to the judgement of the Captain and Lady Thera.”

Halvarin’s jaw knotted at that but Silares nodded, ”Of course. Most wise.”

Beregon hoisted a brow, ”And what is the young lady’s name? I am sure to be asked.”

“Marece,”
Halvarin said and Beregon rocked back on his heels.

Marece, two years vanished without so much as a word, arrives on a Guild ship up from Umbar. Halvarin scrutinised Beregon carefully and so he nodded, just the once.

”Very good,” he said, turned himself about and set off to execute his instructions.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


They rounded the final curve of the road up from Edholland to where the stone halls of her ancestral seat sprawled along the crest of a ridge that extended all the way to the coast. Snapping over the rooves were two banners. One she did not recognise and she dismissed out of hand but the other…The other was Castamir’s and the sudden rise of gorge threatened to unseat her from her saddle unless she looked away and mastered herself.

So many happy years here, memories of a time of peace and happiness and love. They all seemed to belong to someone else now, so distant did they feel. Where had they buried her mother, she wondered. What of the household retainers that had risen up in their final defence? Amarwen sucked in a shaking breath and tightened her grip on her reins. Ahead, Halvarin and Silares both looked back to her but her head was bowed and her hair formed a thick curtain around her face.

”Not far now,” the Steward said kindly and she screwed her eyes shut to block him and the rest of this out. She wanted to scream and rage and sob but she could not.

For why would Silares’ niece do any of these things?

Waiting before the house were the Lord and Lady of Edholland themselves with a small retinue of their armed men. These came forward to steady their horses and Amarwen was the last to dismount. She slid to the ground and lingered, pressing her face into the shoulder of the mare that had carried her this final distance until Halvarin came to lead her out. He was careful, of course, to avoid any obvious display of improper affection and Amarwen’s head hung. She watched her feet move, almost of their own accord, as he brought her to where Silares exchanged greetings with their hosts.

She was being welcomed as guest into her own halls, into the place her mother and countless others had been slaughtered. The place where she too would have died.

”And this, is my niece. She has had a trying voyage. Not so difficult, though, that she has forgotten her manners,” Silares said.

Amarwen sank into a curtsey more as a refuge than a courtesy for it spared her need to meet anyone’s eyes. Her heart was in her throat and she felt like it would leap out of her mouth any moment now. She felt hot and cold all at once and strange things were happening to the things she heard. The stones, they called to her in whispers and shrieks and someone, presumably the Lord of Edholland, was saying something that sounded like gibberish against the din.

”Be welcome within these halls. They are yours before they are mine.”

No, not gibberish but guest-rites. Just like the ones her mother had issued so many times over the years to the man that had killed her.

Then they were walking through the vast front doors, still chased with carvings of stags leaping. Just inside the entrance was the Great Hall and her legs turned to jelly for this was the place Mother had been slaughtered before her very eyes. Had she known what her fate would be as she went to it? Had she gone on despite knowing that? She was sweating and great fat tears sprang into her eyes and occluded her sight. Amarwen turned about, ready to flee again. Her mother’s final words etched forever into her mind. Everything was bright, so very bright and then suddenly Beregon came into view as he ran through the entrance towards her.

”RUN!” she screamed as her legs gave way beneath her, ”RUN!”


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Amarwen sat, silent and brooding, under a blanket that had been wrapped around her shoulders. Her skin was icy despite the summer heat and even now, her teeth chattered.

Silares leaned forward, elbows on his knees and studied the carpet, ”In retrospect, perhaps I should have said something sooner.”

Halvarin shook his head, silent for the moment, ”I doubt she would have believed you if you had.”

His Captain pushed out a breath and rubbed a hand over his face, ”That day…it must have been…”

“Grotesque,”
Halvarin quietly observed.

”And you? This can’t be easy for you either.”

At that Halvarin swallowed and turned his head away. His fists tightened on the arms of the chair he sat in until they creaked and he sprang up from his seat to go to Amarwen. She barely seemed to acknowledge his presence at first, save from the way her eyes flicked and then closed as he laid a tender hand against her cheek.

Silares had seen his fair share of men in shock. It was sadly all too common for good men to fall to pieces in the aftermath of a particularly savage battle. But battle was one thing, wholesale slaughter in your own home was quite the other. There was one school of thought that held that Amarwen’s mother should have known better. Castamir had never garnered a reputation for mercy and by the time his men stood in her hall, she should have surrendered her pride to protect her only heir and bend her knee. Valar knew, more than a few had done exactly that including the current Lord and Lady of Edholland. But flowing their veins was not the blood of Hyarmendacil. If a descendant of the royal line bowed knee to Castamir, additional legitimacy was added to his claim on the throne. And all the royal blood, save Lady Merarwyn of Edholland and the Crown Prince had fled Gondor.

Silares could not guess the decision he would have made in Lady Merawyn’s stead. In fact, he was relieved he did not have to. Politics had never been to his liking and whilst he had grown fond of Edholland’s true heir, it still wasn’t to his taste. As he pondered this, the current Lord of Edholland strode into his study.

Lord Hurian settled himself behind the desk and spread his hands upon its surface.

”For the avoidance of doubt, neither my lady nor I are particularly interested in who sits the throne at any given time."

Silares’ did not stir for this did not surprise him overmuch and Amarwen merely stared into empty air, clearly somewhere else.

”What we seek, above all, is peace. And so, Merarwyn’s treasury was secured for your use as soon as we discovered that you lived and we will not stand in your way should you seek to reclaim your ancestral seat.”

Silares looked over to where Amarwen sat but it was clear she was not taking any of this in.

”How was it, your Grace, that you discovered Lady Amarwen lived?” Halvarin asked in her stead.

”The Prince of Dol Amroth,” Hurian supplied without disassembly, ”A short distance from Edholland if you wish to verify. I believe the Prince is a long standing family friend.”

Halvarin nodded at this and cast an almost forlorn look to Silares.

“With respect, Lord Hurian, it is not yet clear that Lady Amarwen has any intention at this time to return to her ancestral seat,” Silares answered, hoping that he spoke truly.

Hurian’s gaze shifted to Amarwen for a moment, keen at first and then softening, ”Whatever her intentions may be, she will be safe within her halls. Of this I can assure you.”

“Where is my mother?”


All three men blinked at this sudden question from Amarwen. It burst from her, like a creature seeking release.

”Where is she?”

There was a fell, grim tone to her voice and her eyes were suddenly steady.

”We set her to rest by her favourite tree. Do you recall it, your Grace?”

Slowly Amarwen nodded, ”The big one. There is a bench beneath it. She liked to read there, where she could see and hear the sea.”

“That’s the one,”
Hurian said.

”I want to go there. Now.”

“It’s almost dark.”

“Now.”



~ ~ ~ ~ ~


This had always been a beautiful place. It looked down over the Bay of Belfalas and on a very clear night you could even see the lights of Dol Amroth. It was here that her father had wooed her mother all those years ago. He had been so bold and so determined to win her hand even though her mother was of noble birth and he was not. It was here that her mother had told her of this, laughing softly to herself at some thing Father had done to win her heart and hand. She had set him tests, telling him that her father would not bother to hear his suit unless he succeeded and yet, when he had accomplished each task and Mother could think of no more, Father had been flabbergasted to discover her father had not the faintest idea who he was.

Father’s account was, perforce, different. He spoke of this place as the location where he had fallen under the spell of a powerful sea witch. He had been helpless before her and she had plied her craft with clever skill to bind him to her and this place. Either way, they had loved each other here, even though others said they should not have. So why was it that she felt not the slightest trace of them now?

Twilight lay thick around them and by now the moon was half full. It shone upon the waters below, marking out line after line in the ruffled bay. In addition to her mother’s grave a shrine had been established. Small remembrances had been left in the tree. A wooden peg. A ribbon of gold. A flower faded by the sun and tattered by the wind.

Over head the leaves sighed in the breeze and Amarwen looked up, hoping to catch some message. There was nothing there. Her mother was gone. Far from this place if what they said was true. Father held his doubts on that but Mother had not entered an opinion save that Amarwen would have to make her own mind up when the time came.

She sat over her heels and watched a ship track steadily towards Dol Amroth. At that angle, they would need to recalculate their approach or so she thought. Behind her, a little way back was Halvarin and he was talking to someone.

”-answers Halvarin and you know it. She can’t just disappear for two years without giving an account for herself.”

“Not now, Beregon.”

“Why not now? It’s just us and she’s just sitting there, staring into nothing.”


Halvarin pressed out a heavy breath, ”She is sitting by her mother’s grave for the first time, mourning her death.”

“Her mother’s-“
Beregon broke off and wiped a hand over his face, ”Her mother? Is that…just what are you saying?”

“I’m saying that you can afford her a little time. She’s not going anywhere any time soon.”

“And when you say she…you mean…”
Halvarin waited Beregon out, ”Amarwen of Edolland? Merece is Amarawen of Edholland!”

“Obviously,”
Halvarin replied, ”Unless there is anyone else buried up there by that tree?”

“How long have you known?”
Beregon demanded.

”We met when we were five,” Halvarin ground out, ”So always. How is it you haven’t put it together?”

“Well, who else knows?”

“Michas, Belas, Silares, the current Lord and Lady of Edholland…maybe the ships’ Healer. Can’t be sure on that last one.”

“The Lord and Lady of Edholland?”
Beregon repeated and shook his head.

He looked up to where Amarwen was a dark shape against the stars and then back to Halvarin, ”Is she here to reclaim her ancestral seat?”

“Amarwen is here because she got stabbed trying to assassinate Castamir and Edholland was, all things considered, the safest port.”

“Well of course. I mean, now that you say that it seems so obvious. Of course she was…wait, are you serious? About all of it? The Lord and Lady of Edholland too?”


Cursing, Beregon darted away and off into the night, in a rush to do something. Once the rebel had moved off, Halvarin slowly headed up to slope to where Amarawen sat back over her heels.

He set a hand on her shoulder and she drew in a deep breath as he crouched beside her.

”She’s not here, Hal,” Amarwen said, ”I cannot feel nor hear her. She has left.”

Halvarin reached out an arm to curve around her shoulders and she leaned her head against him.

”But you are here,” he said, his voice a rumble in the darkness, ”You remain.”

“Yes,”
she said, shifting to turn her face to his.

”What would she want you to do now?”

Moonlight illuminated half his face, dredging free a memory for her, ”Sometimes I fear I will lose everything, every moment of happiness or joy to those final, dreadful days. If that happens, what will be left when all of this is over?”

“Would you hold onto that?”
he asked and she nodded.

Halvarin took her hand in his and slowly rose to his feet, ”Then come, my Lady.”

Amarwen allowed him to tow her down from the tree and into the gardens proper.

”Every time we stole away, we sought this place,” he said as he led her along a curving path.

”And each time we found it, my mother and never my father would come calling me back,” she recalled.

Halvarin turned to smile at her, ”Except for that one time she did not. Do you remember?”

“Yes,”
Amarwen answered for that had been the time Halvarin had almost snapped the laces of her green silk gown.

It had happened just before the outbreak of war proper and they had been so young, headstrong and reckless. So sure that reason would prevail. Too young to pledge their troth, certainly but not so young as to not be swept up in the fire. Halvarin located the statue of some predecessor of hers and then pulled her into his arms.

”I love you, Amarwen of Edholland. I have for years now.”

“And I love you, Halvarin of Pelargir. Now kiss me. I don’t recall this much talking.”

“Yes, your Grace,”
Halvarin murmured, pushing her back against the statute’s plinth and pressing her between the stone and himself.

There were no laces to contend with this time and his hand lifted to sink in the wealth and weight of thick hair. He pulled gently down, tipping her mouth to his as she wound herself around him.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 8th, 2017, 1:56 am 
Hobbit
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Edholland ~ Late Summer 1441

Halvarin’s eyes closed as he kissed her, drinking deeply from her lips. Feeling safety in these familiar gardens, he let his hands slide over Amarwen’s back to her hips and squeezed as she intensified the passion of their embrace. The grass nearby would be softer than the straw in that stable, he thought in a heated daze, and Halvarin lifted her as she wrapped her legs about him. He held Amarwen close as he moved around the statue and up over the stone edge of the path. Setting her to her feet, she grabbed his tunic and pulled him forward as she fell back onto the grass as they entangled themselves into one.

Halvarin and Amarwen awoke in the chill night as heavy dew blew in from the sea. The half-revealed moon had sunk low and Halvarin, pulling Amarwen up after him. He looked about as she re-ordered herself,and followed suit. Then he slid his arms about her waist and pressed his forehead to hers.

”Do not allow those final dreadful days hold victory over our lives, my love. We work together for a common cause and may soon we achieve that which we strive for,” he told her, hoping she heard and took from this the hope they all so desperately needed, ”Are you ready to return to your halls, Amarwen? It must be hard to return to this place.”

“More difficult than I ever imagined,”
she said as she looked up the path towards her home.

She started to walk away but Halvarin held her hand still and she paused to look back, ”You are not alone, my love. I will resign my commission and resign from the Guild so that I do not have to leave you here when the ship sails away.”

Amarwen turned back to him proper at that, ”Do not be so hasty, Halvarin. You are needed inside the Guild. There is time before the ship is ready to leave, and that time we will use well… for us, and to plan. Now come, we should return. I am sure we have been missed."

Halvarin took her arm in his and they slowly walked back toward the Great Halls of Edholland… Amarwen’s halls. But before they could enter, Halvarin turned to kiss her swiftly on her brow.

He whispered, ”There is something further I need to speak with you about. I was going to do it in Osgiliath, but you had disappeared before I could. It concerns information I had received back then… about what the Guild knew of the rebellion. It is delicate, requires privacy.”

Amarwen paused and considered Halvarin for a moment, ”There is much to discuss of our work going forward.”

She turned back to the door and took a breath in a bid to steady herself. It was only a little less hard entering these halls a second time.


Pelargir ~ Late Summer 1441

Two similar figures, wearing dark cloaks and their faces smeared with charred wood lurked in shadows of an alley. They watched across the street at an inn where a dancer from Harad performed. They observed several Guild officers enter and so they were content to waited. Any one of them would make a good target, and to kill them in one of the few strongholds for Castamir in Gondor only made it sweeter still.

When the entertainment ended and the people were left, they spotted three who walked away without care. At their ease. The Master of the Mariners Guild and the Chief Navigator walked slowly back toward the guild-house with the Commander of Pelargir. As they walked the streets, they spoke about the evening and what they needed to do the next morning, and how to get some decent wine from the north. They did not see the shadowy figures flowing out from the alley they had passed. Silent and deadly, knives slit two throats and the men fell gurgling in the street as the City Commander drew his own knife.

The assassins shouted as they ran off, ”Long Live King Eldacar!"

As the City Commander threw his knife at them, they turned down an alley but the commander was sure he saw one stumble and the other grab them before they vanished. He flagged down two passing guards and as they arrived they saw that both the Guild Master and Master Navigator were dead. The guards drew their short swords and the Commander went to the alley where the assassins disappeared.

He had truly hit one of them as the blood splatter started and the drops turned into the alley. There was no sign of his knife, so it likely stayed in the one he hit. As they followed the blood trail, they found a knife but it was not his. Further still they found a pool of blood and what looked like part of a bloody cloak. They could not have gotten too far! He searched to the end of an alley and found some guards looking around at the other end. The trail of blood had vanished.

The commander back-tracked to see if there was something he missed. No, the blood just trickled to nothing as it reached the far end and a fulsome investigation would not be possible until daylight. The city commander set the city guard sweep the old quarter in hope more could be found. He also sent word to the Guild House that two senior members had been slain.

This word would not reach Halvarin in Edholland for several days that both his father and the Navigator from whom he learned so much, were dead.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 8th, 2017, 8:56 pm 
Hobbit
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Edholland – 1441


Beregon raked his fingers through his hair and then, irritated, dropped his hand away. He needed to be calm. He needed his wits about him. Tugging at his hair would only convey just how worried and scattered he was and that would never do. He strode through the halls for the library, noting by habit where the household’s staff and retainers were. Almost at the library doors he heard voices from within. A man and a woman spoke quietly with one another. Too quiet for him to be able to make out what was being said but as feminine laughter flowed out to where he stood, Beregon scowled. He had hoped to not have to deal with Halvarin in addition to Mare-Amarwen today.

Before he knew it, his hand was reaching for his hair again. Beregon snatched it away and then pushed into the library. It was not large when compared with those found in cities such as Minas Anor, Pelargir or Osgiliath. A single large room formed the totality of Edholland’s library. Its walls were lined with books that, even in diminished number, must have cost a very pretty penny indeed to acquire. This was all in keeping with everything he knew of the House Stag.

Descendants of Hyarmendacil, and so within the royal circle of Houses, this House was wealthy in a way lesser Houses only dreamed of. Wealthy enough to distance themselves from royal affairs until recent years and focus on trade. Their alliances were well documented, Dol Amroth prominent amongst them. Lady Amarwen was currently the sole heir and thus this was House Stag’s weakness. Until she provided children of her own, the House could be snuffed out as a candle might be. And in that respect, Eldacar’s decision to appoint her head of his rebellion within Gondor was a curious one. Better to appoint someone a little more disposable, given the bloody swathe Castamir had cut through royal descendants.

Still, appoint her Eldacar had and now that Beregon knew who, or rather what she was, he could also understand it. Of any currently still in Gondor, only Amarwen of Edholland could be depended upon to never turn on the king. Not only was she kin, she would never support the man responsible for murdering her parents. Frankly, Beregon thought as he considered Amarwen at the far end of the library, it was embarrassing that he hadn’t put it together earlier.

It wasn’t that midnight hair of hers or the clear grey eyes she possessed. A great many in Gondor had similar features. Nor was it that she was, objectively, beautiful to behold. He’d seen as many beautiful commoners as he had ugly nobles. Rather, it was that air of command she had. She could hide it well, but he had seen her use it. Like countless heirs before her, Lady Amarwen would have been raised from birth on all matters associated with her future position – including all she might need to know should her people and land require her protection. Amarwen had been trained in how make of herself both a sword and shield.

The Lady of Edholland was seated at a table, leaning back in her chair and relaxed as she smiled up at Halvarin. The Guild officer sat, back to the door and facing Amarwen, upon the table. His legs swung idly to and fro and he leaned towards her, speaking quietly. Merriment shone in Amarwen’s eyes as she shook her head slowly at whatever he was saying. Whilst Beregon wore his uniform as Hurian’s Man at Arms, both Halvarin and Amarwen looked to be entirely at their ease. Halvarin had abandoned his Guild coat and his shirt sleeves were rolled up. Amarwen, meanwhile, had availed herself of her wardrobe. Nothing formal, but certainly a better standard of clothing he had ever seen her in before now. Not a patch nor frayed hem or hole was in sight in her red kirtle trimmed with gold.

There was a great deal to be gleaned from this tableaux, from the way in which the pair responded and interacted with other. He had suspected it before now. Michas had suspected it years ago in Osgiliath but now there was little doubt at all. Beregon cleared his throat as he neared and saw her eyes flick to his impatiently as if she had already marked his presence and did not overly much care. Halvarin, though, slid off the table he had perched upon and turned about to regard him.

”What now?” Beregon inquired, deciding to take the bit between his teeth.

Amarwen’s brows lifted at the question, ”I was hoping you might tell me. Have you, or have you not, been leading this year past?”

“I have,”
he affirmed, ”But I presume you are here to reclaim it.”

“Well, now,”
she replied smoothly, glancing aside to where Halvarin stood, ”That all depends on how much of a mess it is.”

“There’s no mess at all, your Grace.”

“The caches of weapons?”

“Secure and growing, though not as fast as I would like.”


Amarwen drummed her fingers on the table for a moment, ”And what tidings from Rhovanion? Hal, here, has informed me that an army is being raised.”

“If you were a diligent student of your family history, my Lady, you would be aware that raising armies takes time. Particularly when assembling them from a loosely organised people.”


She pressed out a sigh at that and Beregon tried to regain the upper hand, ”Just what are you going to do with that Guild ship in your harbour?”

Amarwen shrugged, ”Lord Hurian is eager to secure an arrangement that would behove Edholland’s coffers quite well.”

“You will to not only trade with Castamir, you are prepared to equip and supply him?!”
Beregon asked, astonished at what he was hearing.

”The problem, Beregon, is that you only see and hear that which confirms conclusions you have already reached,” she sighed, ”Edholland will re-supply select ships, those either already sympathetic to Eldacar’s cause or those we are likely to sway. And if Edholland’s coffers grow fat with coin Castamir can not use for other purposes, so much the better.”

He blinked at her, ”You mean to steal Castamir’s fleet from under him.”

“Naturally,”
Amarwen answered as he had just asked whether the sun rose in the east, ”Eldacar will need both ocean and river vessels for the Anduin cannot again be allowed to divide his forces as it did before.”

“You don’t have the reach within the Guild.”


Amarwen smiled at Beregon’s statement, ”You are mistaken.”

“One Guild officer is not enough, no matter how satisfactorily he may warm your bed.”


As soon as he said it, Beregon regretted it. Halvarin bristled immediately but Amarwen merely sat back and considered him. A small smile played over her lips.

”This one Guild Officer has done far more than many for our cause,” she said softly, brushing her fingers against the back of Halvarin’s hand, ”Have you anything else to offer, Beregon?”

The question made his jaw bunch, ”No.”

“The matter is settled, then.”

“No, it most certainly is not,”
Beregon returned, ”Do you know how many people have tried, and failed, to infiltrate the Guild? What you propose now is a complete reversal of-”

”Do you know which of our people were compromised, aside from yourself? Do you know who the traitor is?”

“No,”
he ground out through his teeth, aware that she was firing questions to throw him off balance.

”Two years and not even that,” Amarwen shook her head at him.

”Be that as it may, your Grace, my point stands. For instance, how can you be sure that only sympathetic ships are re-supplied from Edholland. What is to stop Lord Hurian from seeking to expand further?”

“The same thing that prevented him from using my mother’s treasury,”
Amarwen answered, ”Lord Hurian desires peace and he is clever enough to know that he will not have it until the king is returned to his throne.”

Beregon switched tactics again, ”Presume, then, that you succeed. Then what? Turn the Guild upon itself and destroy it?”

“The Guild will destroy itself on its current path. I need not lift a finger to bring that to pass,”
she said with a toss of her head, ” Gondor needs the Guild if Eldacar is to return. It cannot be done without them. They brought us Castamir and they will take him down once more.”

“They turned their back on your father and slaughtered your mother,”
he decried, his words jarring and harsh perforce.

His statement drove Amarwen to her feet.

”Leave,” she declared.

Beregon sketched a mocking bow, ”As you so command, your Grace.”


“If it is command you seek then consider this your instruction: relay this change of strategy, inform them of my return to Gondor and above all, make no effort to interfere with Guild officers unless it has been sanctioned by me.”


As he rose, Beregon eyed Amarwen and in return she lifted her chin. Remote. His jaw ground all the way to the library door and beyond.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Amarwen spread her fingers over the table, her weight resting on her hands and bowed her head as she expelled a breath, ”Why is it that I allow that man to infuriate me so?”

Halvarin set his fingers to running down from her shoulder to her wrist, ”He antagonises you.”

“I know,”
she sighed and straightened again, ”He always has, from the outset. Our cause would be better served if we could manage to set such differences aside…but ever he doubts, challenges and condescends. If I was a diligent student of my family’s history?”

She broke off and turned about, her frustration bubbling up anew. It made her restless and so she began to pace towards a window and then turning back to where Halvarin stood, quietly observing.

”He resents your position, Ami,” Halvarin said plainly and Amarwen nodded.

”Belas said as much,” she acknowledged, her expression shifting as she sifted back through her recollections, ”And I try to ignore his jibes, to lead as Mother did, but the stronger I become the harder he seems to kick.”

“Remove him, then,”
Halvarin suggested and she sighed.

”Objectionable as Beregon is, he serves a purpose too. He knows his value a little too well, methinks, but I cannot let that obscure his uses. I must, instead, focus on the needs of my people and Gondor.”

“Does Eldacar know of this…dissent?”


Amarwen shook her head, ”Our petty squabbles are the least of his many concerns. It is I he has appointed and it falls to me to resolve this.”

“But if this is how Beregon has been from the outset, that would suggest the issue is intransigent.”

“I will find a way,”
Amarwen replied, determined and then looked back to the window, ”Look at us, scheming away a perfectly lovely summer’s day. Our time is so short before the ship will be ready to leave.”

“Two weeks, Silares said this morning,”
Halvarin said, walking to where she stood staring out the window, ”Regretting your earlier counsel, my love? I would resign my commission in a heartbeat.”

She wound her arm around his waist, pulled herself to him and rested her head against his shoulder, ”I must put our cause before my own desires.”

“I do not know how I will bear being parted from you,”
Halvarin said, his voice soft with sadness.

Amarwen looked up at this and lifted a hand to cup his cheek, ”Nor I, my love, but let us not lose this day to the sorrows that lie ahead. There is still the afternoon to be had, and I have an idea…if your own duties do not require you elsewhere.”

Halvarin shook his head as he grinned down her, ”Shore leave, Silares said, so lead on my Lady. Lead on.”

They quit the library for the kitchens where Amarwen scooped up a basket that had clearly not just appeared out of thin air. She smiled knowingly at Halvarin as he eyed it, for indeed she had set this in motion well before now. Basket in hand, Amarwen led Halvarin out of the halls entirely down the slope away to where one of the two rivers flowed towards their confluence.

”You have been very busy indeed,” Halvarin observed, watching the basket that swung easily from Amarwen’s hand.

He reached for it again but she skipped away, laughing softly. She turned her face up to the sun, drew in a deep breath and then sighted her gaze on their destination. Then she cast Halvarin a mischievous look and darted off down the hill. A glance over her shoulder confirmed that he had set off in pursuit after her and with a wild whoop she put on speed, only slowing when the murmuring of the willow trees could be heard.

”Do you know this place?” she asked, slightly winded as Halvarin pulled up by her side and snatched the basket from her.

He nodded as he looked about.

”Indeed, I do,” he said and threw her a grin, ”And I’ll throw mud at you now as I did then if I am so minded.”

“And I will happily call for the guards this time and enjoying watching them haul you off,”
she returned.

”I still don’t know why you didn’t last time,” Halvarin confessed and Amarwen shrugged.

”I’d already gotten what I wanted.”

“Which was?”

“To infuriate you,”
she laughed and set off towards the willows.

With a shake of his head, Halvarin followed and they were soon within the trees. Here, the willows held dominion over light and water both. Their long limbs flowed down into the river and made the sunlight dance and shift over the bank. Green became emerald, grey became silver and ebony and brown was transformed into rust and gold. This had been the place that, many years ago, their friendship had first begun. It was little changed since that time and yet as Halvarin moved ahead of her through the shifting light and shadows, he was certainly a child no longer.

She had not known very much of him at all that first day, save that she thought him rude like most boys were. Somehow, she had known without instruction just how to get under his skin and she had set about doing exactly that without compunction as she followed him throughout the day right to this very point and their muddy confrontation. But somewhere along the way her determination to irritate Halvarin had faded into something that was more of a game and throwing mud…well it just so happened that throwing mud was one of her most favourite things to do aside from climbing trees and reading. Whilst Halvarin had been expressing his utmost frustration at her through fistfuls of flung mud, Amarwen had been having the most fun she had had for days.

Halvarin headed along the bank in search of a suitable place to sit and Amarwen followed him past many of the trees she had liked to climb down here where the household retainers and her Mother could not see. It just so happened that her most favourite of all sat across the water on the bank opposing the position Halvarin had selected. As he set down the basket, Amarwen gazed across to the stately willow. It’s branches seemed so slender and tangled now that she could scarcely imagine being small and light enough to slip between them, and yet she had.

”What do you see,” Halvarin asked, setting out the basket’s provender on the ground around his knees.

Amarwen pointed across the ruffled waters of the river, now so high as to reach the banks and running swiftly as the tide pushed in.

”That was my favourite tree to climb,” she said as he turned to see what she pointed out, ”I’d sneak down here and climb in it for hours until someone was sent to retrieve me.”

“I can’t imagine your mother would be overly pleased by that,”
Halvarin observed and Amarwen smiled at the memory as her arm lowered.

”No, she feared that I would fall into the water and be swept away. When I heard them calling, I would hurry out of the tree so I would not be found in it.”

“But you would have had to swim across to return to your home,”
Halvarin observed and Amarwen nodded, her smile growing.

”And so, when I was returned home dripping and sodden, whoever had been sent to fetch me said that I had been playing on the strand or some such.”

“It does not surprise me in the least that you had the retainers wrapped around your fingers,”
he said and then indicated the food set out, ”Why, just look at this! A veritable feast.”

“I know,”
Amarwen said as she joined Halvarin upon the grass, ”Let’s not put it waste!”

Soaking in each other and their idyllic surrounds, Amarwen and Halvarin’s conversation ranged widely. Sometimes it was serious, sometimes wry and one or the other was often heard laughing. But, belly’s full and hunger sated, a languorous drowsiness fell over them and so Amarwen found herself seated, leaning back on her hands with Halvarin’s head in her lap. He was quiet, eyes closed and limbs still. Dappled sunlight shifted over his peaceful face and it was almost like he was sleeping but every so often a brow would twitch at his thoughts and so she knew he was not.

Inevitably, her thoughts turned to his departure. Where he would be bound next and for how long was something neither of them knew. Silares had been keeping out of their way since arriving three days ago. That could not endure, though, for tonight the Lord and Lady of Edholland was hosting a dinner for the officers and crew. In the Great Hall. She had yet to venture into that place but she would have to tonight, for she was still Silares’ niece as far as the rest of the crew was concerned.

Amarwen drew in a deep breath and released it as she wondered how she might accomplish this. Halvarin shifted in her lap and she looked down to find he was studying her.

”What is it?” he asked but she shook her head at the question.

She did not wish to darken this moment with him, ”A passing thought.”

Halvarin’s sceptical expression told her he did not believe her but he offered no argument beyond that.

”Do you think you will be able to sway Silares,” he instead asked, revealing something of his own thoughts, ”He has ever been loath to involve himself in politics.”

“I do not intend to ask him to change that,”
Amarwen answered, ”The river boats, we will need those willing to fight for Eldacar. The ocean ships, however…it is enough that they are denied to Castamir when he has need of them. If the usurper were to be able to land men behind Eldacar’s lines…”

“But how, Ami? I tell you this, Silares will not destroy his own ship.”

“Silares may well know of those willing to fight. And he will surely know those who, like him, are reluctant to get involved. For those men, I will ask that they put to sea when the moment arrives. No more than that.”

“And when Castamir sends ships to retrieve them?”

“I would hope they would be able to elude such pursuit but if not, if their hands are forced,”
Amarwen replied, ”It will be up to the Captain to decide what to do.”

“I have yet to encounter a Captain that will not defend his ship and crew to his last breath,”
Halvarin observed.

”Nor I,” she agreed and swept some of Halvarin’s dark hair from his brow, ”Truly, I would be content if they were able to remove themselves. That, in itself, would be enough.”

Halvarin was silent for a heartbeat as he weighed this and then shifted his tack, ”And what of you, love. Will you remain here once I am gone?”

Amarwen shook her head, ”No. It is safe enough within the halls but if I were recognised in Edholland? And, in any case, the less time spent in Beregon’s close proximity the better.”

“Where will you go?”

“Minas Anor springs to mind…or perhaps a return to Osgiliath.”

“Rhovanion?”

“I would be of little use there,”
Amarwen replied and then ruefully smiled, ”Though I expect the king would be more than a little anxious for an accounting of myself. Particularly once he receives Beregon’s report on matters.”

“Does that worry you?”

“Not as much as it should, Mother would say,”
Amarwen returned and then smiled down at Halvarin, ”There will be time, when all this is done, to pour over who was responsible for which mistake. None of us will have clear ledgers, myself included. But would I not spend this time now worrying about that.”

Halvarin reached up, then, to stroke her cheek and Amarwen’s eyes closed at the tender caress. She would long for such simple things in a matter of weeks…and tonight she would have to pretend as though he didn’t matter at all. At that thought she baulked, refusal welling through so thoroughly that she flinched. Her eyes popped open to look down at Halvarin again. How was she to pretend that this man did not matter? She couldn’t. She simply could not. And then, another thought, wild and sudden, popped into her mind. It made her heart speed. Could she be so daring? Would he think it reckless or improper? Would he be offended?

”Amarwen, say something,” Halvarin said, lifting his head from her lap and rolling onto his side and then to his knees.

She scrabbled to her feet, her hands clutching over the ruby linen of her skirts. Could she do this thing? Now? Here? Should she wait? If she waited and he did not return, then what?

”Amarwen,” Halvarin pressed, perturbed by this sudden shift.

She turned back to find he had risen and was frowning at her, worried.

Amarwen stepped towards Halvarin, her heart in her throat. She could scarcely believe what she was about to do. It felt…right. As if they had always been moving to this very point and so she reached for Halvarin’s hands and clasped them between her own. They were warm and strong and she felt his fingers curl around hers.

”I remember the day I first realised that I loved you,” she said, his expression shifting from concern to surprise.

”When?” Halvarin asked, shyness creeping into his voice that made her heart surge with sudden warmth.

She tightened her hands around his, anchoring them to this moment by the river beneath the willows, ”We had built model ships and there was a wager over whose was the better.”

“I recall,”
Halvarin said, being to laugh, ”You marched off down to the shore, tucked up your skirts and waded right in so adamant that yours would best mine.”

“Well, I was the ship wright’s daughter and you were…how did I say it…just a navigator.”

“Who had a good two years of instruction under his belt whilst you had your books and your father’s tales. You never lacked for confidence, though.”

“No…and so there we were, up to our hips in the sea and my dress ruined for which I would earn an earful for later that evening, and we set our models upon the water and mine sank like a stone whilst yours just bobbed along. And you laughed so hard that I thought you were going to fall into the water.”

“You scowled at me so fiercely I thought you’d push me in,”
Halvarin observed, chortling now, ”And then, in a high temper, you took off with your chin held high and left me there. Hardly what I would call a moment of sudden affection, amusing as it was.”

“You were laughing so hard that I am not surprised that you missed it. I rushed off because I realised that I loved your laughter more than I wanted to win. And that night, as you basked in your victory, I was baffled as to why that was.”

“I thought you were quiet because you were sulking.”

“Well, that too. Stung pride is stung pride…it wasn’t until after you had left to return to your studies that I realised what had happened. That moment, the sea washing around us and you laughing at the sun and waves as if it was the best moment of your life…that was when I realised that I loved you.”


Halvarin’s chortling faded gently and he lifted his hands to bring hers to his lips, ”You kept that to yourself for years.”

“Yes,”
she said, nodding, ”Though not well enough to deceive my mother. Nor well enough to stop entirely from slipping away with you. I was never dallying with you, Halvarin…and I can no longer bear the idea of hiding what it is that you mean to me.”

Halvarin’s mouth opened to say something that fell quiet when he realised that Amarwen was kneeling before him.

”You are my love,” she whispered, ”So much more than a body to warm my bed.”

“I know,”
he returned but Amarwen was not finished.

”I…I…” she pulled back, searching for precisely the perfect words.

But then, as she looked up into Halvarin’s eyes, she realised there only the honest words, ”You are my north star, Halvarin. I…I give you all that I am, my love. I give you all that I have and all that I might be.”

“What are you doing, Ami?”

“I am asking you for your hand, Halvarin,”
she answered and watched him blink at her.

”You already have my hand,” he said, misunderstanding her intent.

“Marry me,” Amarwen pressed, ”Please, my love? Marry me.”

On her knees before him, her red skirts pooled around her, she stared up into his face and hoped fervently that this would not end as badly as it might. Too soon? Too bold? She could not know for his expression was impossible to read.

_________________
Dancing 'twixt southern stars


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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 15th, 2017, 2:23 am 
Hobbit
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Edhellond - late Summer 1441


Halvarin was somewhat shocked and just a little amused to see the woman he loved on her knees in front of him. Amarwen had surprised him, which was not an unusual thing if he was honest with himself. As he looked down into her face he saw hope, yearning and no small degree of fear. As if she feared he would deny her. As if he could. His hands wrapped in hers, he gently flexed his strength to drawn Amarwen to her feet once more.

“Lady Amarwen of Edhellond, yes, I will wed thee! As I will wed the librarian Lilith, both Marece’s.”

“Both?”
Amarwen frowned and Halvarin nodded.

”Captain Silares’ niece and Eldacar’s appointed leader here in Gondor. All of them are woman I fell in love well before that day we were alone in your garden. Yet it was that day that I knew without a doubt that I loved thee.”

Amarwen was silent at Halvarin’s swift response and her clear grey eyes grew bright. As he pulled her to him and gently kisses her, Halvarin knew a joy he had not felt before even if he had dreamed of this moment well before they had first kissed. Yet, as the sweet embrace ended Halvarin became uneasy for the thought that this would never have come to pass had Gondor’s wicked strife not sprang up crossed his mind. Amarwen had already told him of her mother’s plans for her heir. Had civil war not come to Gondor things would be very different.

Unaware of Halvarin’s turn of thought, Amarwen slid from his arms and sank once more to the ground. She lay back to gaze up through the willow branches to the blue vault of the sky beyond.

”I love you Halvarin of Pelargir,” she said, her voice thrumming with emotion, “Tell me what you remember of that day?”

Looking down at her now, he could not doubt that her heart was wholly given to his. Her mother’s wishes she would have heeded for she was a dutiful daughter, but it would have been an unhappy match indeed. That this strife had spared her from that…prison…and brought her instead to him, he could not regret that. He would not.

Halvarin stretched out on his side, his arm propping his head up as he looked down Amarwen laying there. Her eyes moved to his, drinking him in for a long moment. When her eyes turned again from him to gaze at the sky, his eyes shifted and watched her breathe. He took a deep breath himself, only managing to return his eyes to hers as she shifted her gaze back to him. He reached his hand over and traced the curvature of her shoulder to her arm, pausing to feel the fine linen sleeve of her dress. He gazed at her for a long moment, soaking her in before he rolled to his back. Amarwen turned to her side to watch him, head propped on one hand as he studied the sky.

“That day in the garden… I remember so very much about that day... It was late summer but felt like early autumn, much like this day. The leaves of the oak trees that lined the side of the garden path had begun to burst into bright colours.

“There was a moment on that walk where you had gone ahead because I stopped to watch some ants that had made a trail across the path. I looked up as you turned to look back at me and you smiled. The sun picked its way through the oak leaves, causing their reds, oranges, yellows, and greens to glow. The breeze was cool and made the leaves flutter, and the dappled sunlight danced upon your hair and face and over your green silk dress.

“It was a moment, too fleeting, that I remember as if it was this day. It is a vision of you I hold dear, and one that has gone with me wherever I went from that day onward. I knew then I loved you, and wondered what it would be like to kiss you.”

“You did not wait overlong to find that out, if I recall correctly,”
Amarwen observed, a wry smile painting her face.

”If?” Halvarin mildly objected, ”I dare say you recall very well indeed, my love.”

He enjoyed the colour that warmed her cheeks but she did not deny it. As Halvarin studied her face for a moment, a breeze pushed a wayward lock of inky hair across her face. He brushed it back, fingers grazing the soft smooth contour of her cheek. At the touch, Amarwen leaned forward to kiss him gently on the cheek. She remained silent, waiting for him to speak on and he transferred his eyes from her hair her eyes and soaked in their beauty. Truly, it was as though stars had gathered there, silver and bright.

“Later that evening, at dinner, you wore your blue silk,” he continued and she smiled at that.

”Ah yes…the one with the silk underdress, all in white, with a sufficiently demure high collar and long sleeves.”

“Not sufficiently enough, for the underdress was quite fine. Almost sheer,”
Halvarin grinned at his reply.

”Why, whatever do you mean?” Amarwen replied, not in the least scandalised.

”We sat across from each other listening to our parents debate the days after King Valacar. I did not pay much overmuch heed to their words, for I wished only to gaze at you. We had to be formal and proper after our walk through the garden, but you would at times look at me and catch my eyes on you.”

Halvarin’s eyes swept slowly over Amarwen’s face and hair, and his fingers touched her temple and traced down her neck to her shoulder. They paused as his eyes watched them, and they continued down her arm, lingering as they passed by her breast.

Amarwen said, ”As they do now?”

Halvarin blinked and felt the warmth of his own cheeks as he blushed.

He smiled at Amarwen and nodded his agreement, ”Yes… my eyes would try to discreetly glimpse at your charms through that sheer silk as we sat across from each other. As my mind pondered how much I would like to lay with you, you would catch me watching you. When you did, you offered me a look that was both serious and playful, daring me to meet your eyes. It was that day I knew that I loved you with all my heart, and as the day ended, I hoped against all hope that I would be able to marry you.”

His hand returned to her cheek, gently touching it before he ran his fingers through her hair and kissed her again. He laid onto his back, and Amarwem threw her leg over him and lay her head on his chest as she pressed against him. They were silent as they stared at whatever had captured their vision, and with slow caresses of her back they lay quietly content, lovers entwined.

They must have fallen asleep, for Halvarin awoke with them still in the same position. Amarwen remained asleep resting her head on his chest, and he began to stroke her back again. A raindrop splashed him in the face as he looked up at the swaying branch of the nearby willow and he realized the sunny late summer day had changed to an early Autumn afternoon. The smell of rain was heavy in the air and the wind had gone from the gentle summer breezes to bursts of gusts that sent the early autumn leaves flying through the air. He nudged Amarwen who stretched and picked her head up, eyes blinking as she looked around.

Halvarin said, ”We should gather up our things and get back to the halls before…”

A seemingly slight flash lit around them and as Amarwen sat up, Halvarin stood as the crash of thunder rumbled over and around them. A few more drops of rain hit them and as Amarwen stood, they gathered their blanket and basket and started toward the Hall again. With a blinding flash of lightning that was immediately followed by a shattering crash of thunder, Halvarin paused to draw Amarwen to him as the skies opened up into a sudden downpour. Halvarin held Amarwen’s hand, and they set out from under the last willow tree to run back up the hill for the rear doors of the hall.

By the time they arrived under the eaves, they were soaked and dripping. Halvarin threw the blanket around Amarwen’s shoulders as the held close to each other outside the door. Amarwen’s wet hair stuck to her cheeks and shoulders, and Halvarin pushed his stringy wet hair back from his face. As the wind blew the rain hard under the eaves and onto them, Halvarin set to opening the door until Amarwen took his hand and pulled him back to her.

Letting the blanket fall, Halvarin let go of the basket and it fell away at their feet and they wrapped their arms around each other and kissed long and slow as the wind and waves of rain pelted them. There they remained holding each other until the storm passed.

Halvarin took a breath and said to her, ”Come, we must go in Amarwen. Know that I am here with you and for you. Together, let us make your mother proud!”

She hesitated a moment, loathe to end this moment. Then she pushed the door open and walked in ahead of Halvarin. He gathered up everything and followed not far behind her.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Rhovanion ~ Late Summer 1441

The training of the young and eager recruits had commenced,and Vilmaith could see promise in many of them. She was quick to identify leaders and she nourished them with more responsibility. Despite her desire to move on Castamir as soon as they could, she knew it would be some years yet before Eldacar deemed them strong enough. Deep down, she knew he was right. They had been routed five years ago under the might of the sea captains of the south and they would need much strength to carry the fight back to Gondor. More yet to see to Castamir’s illegitimate reign end.

Vilmaith sat by the cold spring that bubbled beneath a blanket of moss. Lifting the heavy moss from a corner of the small pool and folding it back, she lay down on her stomach and put her lips into the water to drink heartily. Memories of childhood and the fun she had with Rhinnin and the twins Vilna and Vidnavi flashed in her mind as she expected one of them to come up and push her head under the water as she drank. This had been one of their favourite places to play and for a moment she could hear them laughing and giggling. She raised herself up and looked around but only the sound of the wind and the leaves blowing from the trees came to her.

She sat back on her heels and thought about them now. The four had been inseparable as children and were competitive with each other and the boys in the battle games as they grew older. It was with proud honour they all had when they were accepted into Vinitharya, Eldacar’s Royal Rhovanion Guard that would accompany him to Osgiliath. It had been the last time they were in Rhovanion together. Now, Rhinnin was dead and Vilna and Vidnavi were missing. Many held they, too, were dead. Vilmaith had seen Rhinnin fall in battle on the morning the attack on Osgiliath started. She knew there was much death in war, but Rhinnin’s death had been the first awful time she had seen someone she knew and loved well fall. That awful sight had haunted her dreams ever since.

When Prince Ornendil and the Lord of Edhellond rallied soldiers for a counterattack to buy time for most of Eldacar’s army to get out of the city, Vilna and Vidnavi stepped forth to claim their place within the crown prince’s vanguard. Vilmaith begged release from Eldacar’s personal guard to join them, and he gave it reluctantly, for he knew how much love between the three had bonded them through life. Reunited with her sisters, they had pressed home their attack.

The memory made Vilmaith reach to her forehead near her temple to feel the scar and lump there. In the drive that pushed Castamir’s men back, she had been hit by falling stone when a projectile struck a building they were passing. She had fallen, the world spinning painfully only to later wake to find the usurper’s soldiers in the streets ahead of her position. They hewed at the dead and dying Rhovanions they found, and killed any they found alive. She never saw Vilna, Vidnavi, or Prince Ornendil again. It was fortunate for her that rubble loosened and slid atop her right then, for a soldier had spotted her. Once the grey dusty stone settled, nobody remained there. Vilmaith lay as still as she could, trying hard to breath yet trying not to make a sound or move. It wasn’t until that night that she thought it safe enough to try and dig herself out.

Four years had passed since that dreadful day of fear and bitter defeat. Two years had flowed past since she was in Osgiliath last. Since that time, only a few messages had come north since. They knew that Halvarin, the Guild Officer appointed as the city’s commander when she was there last, had named Michas, a commander from Ithilien that served under Aldamir as commander when he was given new orders. Hopefully the city remained in his hands, and the people of Gondor would turn against their brutal sea king.

Shaking her head, throbbing with remembered pain dredged loose by her memories, Vilmaith scooped up water and threw it into her face, then pushed her blonde locks back over her head. She lay the moss back over the spring, stood up and walked back to where the recruits trained. There was much to do if the hope that Eldacar would again march south to reclaim his rightful throne would come to pass.

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 15th, 2017, 5:02 am 
Hobbit
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Edholland – late August/early September 1441


How long had she been standing there? Amarwen did not know and could not be sure but she suspected it had been some time. On the other side of the doors she stared at was the Great Hall. Through the heavy wood she could hear the voices of those assembled within. The entire ship, from sailors to their officers had gathered at the invitation of Lord Hurian and Lady Thera. Laughter and the buzz of conversation reached her where she stood, smoothing the fall of her skirts over and over again. Amarwen closed her eyes and tried to muster the strength to go beyond the doors but she could not move her feet. Within…within that place her mother had been cut down before her very eyes and her feet felt as though they had fused with the stone underfoot.

Today was one of the happiest days of her life, for Halvarin had consented to marry her. And it was also one of the hardest. For Mother and Father were not here to see it. And she was to mark it in the very place her mother had been felled. Movement nearby opened Amarwen’s eyes in time to catch one of the kitchen staff bearing a tray of food for the Great Hall. The young woman, clad in Hurian’s colours, sent Amarwen a sympathetic glance as she passed. Still, even though many of her mother’s retainers remained around her and despite the fact that Halvarin awaited within, she could not find a way to bring herself forward.

As the young woman pressed into the Great Hall, the swell of sound washed over Amarwen like a wave. Voices, laughter, music and the clink of glasses. Then it was muted again and she was still there, trapped in the corridor. A fly in a spider’s web. She bowed her head and closed her eyes, the heavy glossy braid her hair had been woven into swinging forward from the top of her head. Defeat pulsed through her with every heart beat and her fingers again slipped over the gilded silk gown she wore. Amarwen fidgeted with the girdle of beaten copper slung around her hips. Would Halvarin understand? Could she, perhaps, find a way to get a message to him? Nothing unduly worrisome, of course. Just that she was taken ill. A headache. That always served well.

As she pondered this, the sound of the Great Hall swelled again. The woman from the kitchen, Amarwen presumed and did not lift her head until a hand slid under her elbow. She looked up into Silares’ face, surprised to find him there.

”Come,” he said kindly, ”Niece.”

“I don’t know if I can,”
she admitted, flushing as she did so.

He must think her so foolish. A coward.

Instead, Silares slipped his arm under hers proper, ”Of course you can. You are the descendant of kings. Better to ask what it is you cannot accomplish.”

As he spoke he led her forwards and she only realised this as he pressed the doors open. To abandon him now would only cause a scene and already she could see Lord Hurian turning towards her from within. His eyes knowing, his smile independent of that knowledge, he clapped his hands together and beckoned for a glass of wine.

”There she is, the lady of the moment,” he declared as a glass was pressed into her hand.

Silares fondly patted the arm that rested atop his, ”My sister will be so delighted when she learns.”

For all the world he sounded like a proud, indulgent uncle. A masterful act indeed.

It was, in a word, overwhelming as people came forward with well wishes. Amarwen found herself adrift in smiles and platitudes until finally Halvarin came to her aid. His arm replaced that of Silares and with well-placed responses he won them away. Gently, Halvarin enfolded her into his arms without a word. She went to his embrace willingly, seeking shelter and it was whilst she was there filling his arms that the next wave came.

”The Captain’s niece,” a junior officer enthused upon arrival, ”A fine catch indeed, Halvarin!”

“I am beyond fortunate Marece has agreed to join her life to mine,”
Halvarin said even as Amarwen pulled away from his embrace.

She caught the officer’s expression just in time to see his eyes rake across her neckline, ”Yes, you most certainly are!”

Amarwen stiffened at this enthusiastic assessment but the officer was oblivious, ”Congratulations, Marece. You have landed yourself a fine officer!”

Now that she could agree with and her eyes sought out Halvarin’s, ”I have indeed.”

Though she could not speak this she implored him to kiss her. Anything to conceal the way in which she churned. Answering this, Halvarin’s lips descended upon hers and Amarwen ignored the raucous cheer that went up, losing herself in the comfort of Halvarin’s embrace.

The evening progressed in a blur. Amarewen surrendered to it, seeking refuge in it the faces, the voices and the events speeding past her. Yet still she found herself standing and staring, fixedly, at a patch of flagstones. All the blood had been scrubbed away and yet still she could sense a lingering presence. The stone reached for her, whispering and calling. Around her people came and went, orbiting her or disregarding her as they wished until a hand in the small of her back caused a sudden response. Her hand tightened on the wine glass she held and it shattered under the pressure of her grip.

Amarwen drew in a shuddering breath as her eyes focused on a familiar face. The ships’ healer regard her steadily for a moment before he removed his hand from her back and began carefully plucking away shards of glass.

”I know who you are,” he said, his voice quiet and diffident.

Amarwen steeled herself belatedly to respond, ”I am Captain Silares’ nie-“

“You are Amarwen of Edhellond,”
the man pressed and shook his head the once at her, ”it is an insult to us both to pretend otherwise.”

Amarwen could hear Halvarin speaking to another elsewhere about various courses up and down the coast. She was alone in this.

”What do you want?” she asked, adding another name to a growing list of those she knew was aware of her identity.

”Nothing,” the healer said, his voice smooth, ”Far as I can see it, you’re just another caught up in this mess. If you don’t see fit to cause trouble, that’s enough for me.”

Amarwen’s eyes narrowed at that and she drew a deep breath, ”You stand on the very place my mother drew her final breath. Do not misspeak to me now!”

The healer blinked and she saw something approaching sorrow briefly in his gaze, ”I do not deceive you, your Grace.”

“And if I relent?”

“Then, I do you the courtesy of informing you now that I will report you. And there is something to be said for courtesy in these rough and ready times, no?”


Amarwen had nothing to say and as a tray swooped past the healer snatched up two tumblers of crystal, ”A toast, to honesty and fidelity.”

He passed a tumbler to her and swept down the contents of his own. Amarwen sipped at hers, blinking sudden tears that the fire in her throat brought to her eyes.

The healer lowered his empty glass to consider her anew, ”You are quite lovely, my lady. I would be grieved if my report brought you to the attention of current authorities.”

“I will bear that in mind,”
she replied and he smiled at her sorrowfully.

”You won’t, of course,” he sighed and then lifted his glass again as he looked at her, ”Long live the King.”

“Long live the King”
Amarwen reaffirmed and, with a final glance, the healer moved away from her.

She sensed that he knew as well as she that they were talking about two different kings. As Amarwen raised her head to search out Halvarin, the bell for dinner was rung and all assembled hastened to their places at the board.

Seated as she was with Silares on one side and Halvarin on the other, Amarwen was relatively buffered from talk during the courses. Across the table, most of the conversation was directed to Lord Hurian, Captain Silares and his Executive Officer. As one of only two women present, Amarwen knew her role as well as Lady Thera did. They were there to nod and smile politely at talk of politics, trade and what was to be done with the “wretched Haradians” that refused to bend knee to Castamir’s expeditionary forces.

Lady Thera was older than Amarwen, though certainly not old enough to be her mother. She handled herself with skill and aplomb, not once faltering. It was an impressive display, for most of the talk was dull and what was left was patronising to say the least. Not once did Lady Thera drop her graceful demeanour and Amarwen shifted in her seat, envying the woman’s fortitude and patience even as her own forebearance withered.

She did what she could to contain herself but her efforts seemed to fail for Halvarin noted her impatient fidgeting half way through the third course and wrapped a hand briefly around her own to still it. With a squeeze and lingering caress from his fingers, he withdrew his hand without once pausing in his critique of navigational theories.

Finally, the meal was done and Amarwen was free to stretch her legs and walk off her restlessness. Pacing about the hall, somewhat akin to a caged wolf, Lady Thera intercepted her on her fourth orbit. The woman linked her arm through Amarwen’s and drew her away.

Forced to slow, Amarwen settled back into the gliding serenity that Lady Thera maintained.

”How can you bear it?” she muttered out the side of her mouth.

”Bear what, my dear?” Thera inquired, reaching out for a glass of wine from a passing tray.

She sipped it delicately as Amarwen watched.

Shaking her head, Amarwen told her, ”You are so calm!”

“Am I, now?”
Lady Thera replied, sipping again.

”Yes!”

Amarwen watched Lady Thera cant a brow towards the ceiling as she lowered her glass and held it slightly towards her, ”Tell me, Marece, what do you see?”

Blinking, Amarwen almost replied that she saw a glass of wine but then she paused for the light of the hall skipped and shivered over the surface of the dark liquid.

”Why is that you shake?” she asked, surprised at the faint tremor she saw and lifting her attention to Thera again.

The elder woman smiled at the question and drew closer again to take Amarwen’s arm in hers, ”You return to find us squatting like cuckoos over the bones of your forebears, and you wonder at why I quiver?”

Amarwen was shocked by Thera’s blunt assessment and replied, ”If any should fear, it is I. You have but to whisper in the right ear and-“

“The same can be said of you,”
Thera replied, her gaze raking over the hall, ”You stand surrounded by as many allies as foes, in the seat of your ancestral power, in the very place your mother was felled. How terrible must be your grief? How deep your need for justice?”

“Lord Hurian said that we were allies. I mean to cleave to that.”


Thera’s smile was knowing, ”My lord husband is…an idealistic man. If anything is to be learned from these past four years, then it is that alliances and friendships wither like apples left too long in the sun.”

Amarwen fell silent at that for it was true. Brother had turned against brother. Her eyes sought out Halvarin. Sons had turned against fathers. Little was certain in these dark times save that there would be sorrow and treachery to come yet before this was done.

She pushed a breath out through her nose and returned her attention to Lady Thera, ”I wish that we met under better circumstances, Lady Thera. I wish that you had the chance to meet my mother.”

“As do I, of course.”


Amarwen nodded and placed her hand atop Thera’s forearm briefly. She could afford little more for Lady Thera was nobility and Marece was but the niece of a Captain. Still, the glancing touch brought Thera’s eyes to hers and that was what Amarwen wanted.

”One thing has not changed, from my mother’s time to mine: do right by my people and we will ever remain steadfast friends.”

Thera studied her for a moment and then nodded. There was no way to know whether the woman believed her or not but, as Lady Thera drew away to rejoin her husband, Amarwen could only hope she had laid the woman’s concerns to rest for now. As the evening drew on, she slowly found a way to build her armour against the memories of this place. The whispering of the stones faded, receding into the background far enough for Amarwen embrace the moment but when she finally leant against the doors of her chambers she was exhausted. Drained.

She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before she heard a faint tap at the doors she leaned against.

”Quickly,” Halvarin urged, ”Before I am seen.”

Amarwen’s eyes widened as she cracked open her doors and sure enough, there he stood nervously looking up and down the corridor beyond. Just how he got into the family wing past the various guards was a mystery to her and when she asked, he shot her an incredulous look.

”Can I answer that on the side of the door the guards won’t skewer me upon?”

A fair observation, she thought, as she widened the door for him to slip through. He pushed it shut again and gazed at her. Tired as she was, he was truly a sight for sore eyes, and without a further word she pressed against him to seek his lips. And so the days passed, one week turning into two and then three, all of it lost in a haze of heady emotion. Whilst Silares and his crew set about repairing the ship and negotiating re-supply, Halvarin and Amarwen bound themselves ever tighter together.

Nearly four weeks after they arrived in Edholland, trilling birdsong told Amarwen it was morning. It was a familiar sound, one that she had listened to for as long as she could recall. Then her eyes opened as she realised where she was. This was her bedroom. She was in her wide bed and beside her, propped up against pillows already, was Halvarin.

”This,” he observed as she rolled towards him, ”Is far more pleasant than the guest wing.”

He sat at his ease, voice relaxed and calm.

”How long have you been awake?” she asked as she pushed herself upright.

Halvarin smiled at the question and leaned in to kiss her before he answered, ”Long enough to scandalise the chamber maid.”

Amarwen’s eyes flared immediately at that and she looked to the door as if she expected it to be broken down any moment by outraged retainers.

”These are your halls now, Ami. I doubt there is any who would question what you do within them. And I wasn’t serious about the chamber maid. No one has been to the door. I think they all know better than to try that, now.”

She swatted at him for that but found herself smiling all the same. Amarwen shook her head at him, her loose hair shifting across her shoulders, and then leaned back against Halvarin. She pressed her ear against his bare chest and stilled, listening to his heart as her eyes wandered across the room. Despite the fact that she had been absent for so long, it had been maintained as if she might return at any moment. No patina of dust lay upon any surface she could see. There were no webs high in the corners of the roof and the floor and carpets were clean. Aside from where their clothing lay shed upon the floor.

Until recently, Halvarin had never been permitted into the family wing much less her chambers. Mother and Father would never have stood for it for one moment. This had been her place and hers alone. It was here that Mother had tended to her when she was unwell. It was here that Father had read to her, or showed her his plans for a ship he was designing. Under this very bed she had hidden the books he had smuggled to her long after Mother had frowned on her pursuing her father’s craft.

On a whim, Amarwen disentangled herself from Halvarin and then slid across him to peer over the side of the bed. She slid further forward again to look under it and sure enough, there they were. Several piles of books were there still.

”Not that I am complaining about the view,” Halvarin wryly said after a moment, ”But just what are you doing?”

Her cheeks flushed as she plucked up the nearest book and then wriggled her way back onto the bed proper. Amarwen passed the book across to Halvarin and pushed back her hair into place as he studied the title. His brow furrowed and then he cracked it open.

”I thought so,” he said and lifted his gaze to hers, ”This book is from the Guild library in Minas Anor. I had to pay a hefty fine for its absence…despite assurances from your father that he had sent it back.”

“Were those his exact words? Did he say he had returned it?”


Halvarin’s frown deepened as he dredged his memory, ”He said he had sent it to its proper place.”

Amarwen grinned, ”Just so happens that place is under my bed.”

“What?”
Halvarin squawked and then pushed past her to tumble out of the bed proper, ”There’s a good ten or so books here!”

“I suppose you weren’t the only Guild student he was getting them from,”
she observed.

Halvarin rose from his crouch, baffled and all together distracting. He said something that Amarwen didn’t hear, her attention elsewhere until he plucked up a pillow and placed it in front of him.

”Oh,” she sighed, disappointed at the delicious view now obscured.

”I said, why would your father do this? You have a library! I’ve seen it myself. Downstairs, down in the-”

“Yes, but I’d read them all…and whilst Mother was amenable to acquiring new titles, there were certain disciplines she did not want my interest further encouraged in.”

“He smuggled them to you,”
he surmised and Amarwen nodded.

Halvarin sat on the bed beside her and picked up the book again. It was a treatise on the design of ocean faring ships over the years, from Numenor to roughly ten years ago. He flicked it open to see the notations he had made in the margins. Turning the pages, he stopped when he saw new notations. He read these and looked up to find Amarwen smiling.

”Well, your calculation was wrong,” she observed lifting her eyes from her correction to his eyes, ”And I am very sorry to hear about that fine. I shall repay you, of course, for that and everything else you have done.”

He pressed a finger over her mouth, ”There is no debt. Not between us.”

Distantly, Amarwen heard the book snap shut and fall to the floor as Halvarin’s mouth found hers. They fell back across the bed together, limbs already entwining. Halvarin groaned, feeling himself stiffen. He slipped a hand over her skin to reach down to find her swollen and slick with need. Then came a crisp, frustratingly inconvenient knock at the door.

They both froze and the knock sounded again. Scrambling apart, Halvarin dove for the wardrobe with a hurried oath and threw whatever first came to hand at Amarwen. She stared at it, puzzled, but he shot her a warning glance before he sealed himself within. Amarwen struggled into what was a great cloak, pulling the front together as she tried to push back her rumpled hair into something approximating order. Catching her reflection a mirror as she went for the door, Amarwen froze in dismay. There was no way she looked even remotely prepared to answer the door and yet the knock came a third time. Harder and impatient. A final wrestle with her hair only meant the great cloak sagged open revealing, well, everything. Squeaking in dismay, Amarwen wrenched it closed again and pulled the door open to scowl out into the corridor.

Silares had his hand raised to knock a fourth time and he blinked at her rumpled, flushed appearances.

”I presume he is within?’ the Captain said without disassembly, looking past Amarwen to the bedroom over her shoulder.

Amarwen opened her mouth to answer as Silares’ shook his head, ”I can see his boots from here…niece.”

“And what of it?”
she inquired, peevish in her squirming embarrassment.

”Tidings from Pelargir. Halvarin is to report to Lord Hurian on the double,” Silares said, returning his eyes to her again, ”Perhaps it is best he does not do so alone.”

Before she could inquire why, Silares had turned on his heel and strode off. Puzzled, Amarwen closed her door with a soft click of the latch as Halvarin poked his head out from her wardrobe.

”Trouble?” he asked as she turned about, frowning.

”We are to report to Hurian’s study immediately,” she said softly.

”Says who?”

“Your captain,”
Amarwen answered and Halvarin straightened with alacrity.

”Then so it shall be,” he replied, all hesitation gone from him.

Well within the hour they reported to Hurian’s study. Within they found the current Lord and Lady of Edholland along with Silares. All expressions were solemn, a fact they both noted with an exchanged gaze. The tension in the study was as thick as clotted cream.

”What is it?’ Amarwen asked as she came forward, ”Have we been betrayed?”

“This matter concerns Halvarin,”
Silares said and she blinked before she turned to allow Halvarin pass ahead of her.

Amarwen followed, close at his shoulder as Halvarin took up position before Hurian’s desk. He spread his feet as if he stood a rolling, bucking deck.

”Perhaps this is best said whilst you are seated,” Hurian observed, Thera coming to stand by her husband’s shoulder.

Amarwen watched her hand fall to Hurian’s shoulder and lightly squeeze. Encouragement and comfort. Succour. What was unfolding, she wondered as Halvarin squared his own shoulders.

”I would prefer to stand, my lord, if it is all the same to you.”

Hurian inclined his head and drew a deep breath, steeling himself. In this time, the worst had occurred to Amarwen. Guild operatives had set upon them in Umbar, marking them together for the first time. Had Halvarin been declared a traitor? Was a price upon his head? Were they hunting for him even now?

Her hand sought his to wind tightly about it and his fingers, strong, gave her own a light squeeze as Hurian spoke.

”Tidings from Pelargir arrived this morning. There was an assassination some weeks ago. I regret to say that your father, along with the Master Navigator, were slain in the street.”

A chill swept through Amarwen at the words, taking with it all the colour of her face. Halvarin rocked on his heels, as if buffeted by a physical blow.

”I am sorry,” Silares said into the gaping silence.

Halvarin head bowed and his hand fell from Amarwen’s. She considered reaching for it again. She considered wrapping her arms around him and holding him close. She considered asking Hurian how it was they knew these tidings to be true and not some calculated ruse. But before she could do any of that Halvarin shifted and turned slightly towards her.

”Did you know? Was this your doing?” he asked in a low, strained voice curling with pain.

Amarwen shook her head, anguished, ”Upon my honour, my love, I thought your father was in Umbar still.”

He eyed her solemnly for a moment and then turned back to Hurian, ”How is it that these tidings have been verified?”

At that Hurian pulled up the parchment itself and turned it about for inspection. The seals, of Gondor and the Mariner’s Guild both, were impeccable. She scanned it as did Halvarin and then, with a low sound from deep in his throat, Halvarin turned and quit the study.

Startled and worried, Amarwen made to go after him but Silares checked her.

He shook his head at her, ”Give him time, lass.”

Stung, Amarwen shook his hand from her arm, ”I had nothing to do with this! Nothing!”

“Vengeance burns hot and deep even in the most innocent of souls,”
Hurian said and she whipped about, furious now.

”Nothing” she spat, seething, ”Could impel me to bring the very sorrow I know too well to the man I love above all else!”

Hurian’s eyes widened at her fury and when Amarwen made to go after Halvarin again no one stood in her way. She went first to her chambers only he was not there. Nor was he in his own chambers in the guest wing. She combed the gardens next and then the grove of willows down by the river. Still no sign of Halvarin. Returning to the gardens, Amarwen began to call his name but her voice only echoed back at her. She ran up to the place her mother had been buried but he was not there either and a sudden fear gripped her that he had, disgusted and anguished, quit Edholland. And then she saw him, nearly frantic by now, a lonely figure down on the shore far below.

Amarwen scrambled down the steep slope, slipping and sliding heedless of the way her hands were scuffed and rubbed raw by the rapidly passing dirt and stones. She landed heavily with a grunt, picked herself up from the thick sand she fell into and laboured through to where Halvarin wandered along the waterline.

She screamed his name but the morning onshore breeze threw it useless back in her face. Amarwen struggled closer, pushing through the thick, heavy sand towards him. She screamed his name again and this time Halvarin must have caught something of her presence for he turned about towards her. Despite this, he remained where he was, unmoving and so she pushed onwards until she gained the firmer, wetter sand upon which he stood. Her lungs were burning for air such had been her desperation and haste and the wind whipped her hair towards the steep cliffs she had all but tumbled down.

”Why are you here?’ he asked, expression unreadable and the wind making his words reach her easily, ”You hated my father.”

Difficult as his face was to read, his voice broke her heart and she did not keep that from her face.

”I hated what he did,” she said and he shook his head at her.

”Do not cozen me with half truths,” he replied and stepped back sharply as she made to close the gap between them.

Amarwen lifted her hand towards him, reaching and then stared at it. Slowly, it returned to her side and she looked out to the waves. The tide was still retracting into the bay, yet to reach its nadir before swelling back to shore for the afternoon. When she looked again to Halvarin he too was gazing at the horizon, his expression forlorn and lost. She ached to take him into her arms but did not yet dare to.

”You would have the truth?” she asked and he closed his eyes, sighed and then nodded.

Amarwen bowed her head and studied the shore. Small, rounded pebbles were drying in the sun and she could see half buried shells peeking up from the sand. She drew a deep breath and tried to centre her thoughts.

”I do not sorrow for your father’s death but nor am I glad for it. If I sorrow at anything, then it is the anguish and pain you now feel,” she looked up to find his eyes resting upon her, ”For I know what it is to grieve such a loss. I know too well…and I would sooner die myself than wish that upon you, my darling.”

Halvarin stared at her, his eyes of grey and blue as intense and focused as a storm. If he did not believe her, then all they had together would be lost. She knew that and it made her stomach churn with fear. And then, with a wild sound, he stumbled forwards into her arms and she wrapped them tightly around him. Amarwen drew him close, squeezing him against her. His face was buried in the place her neck met with her shoulders and he was shaking. And still she held him to her, stroking his back and shoulders as grief coursed through the man she loved.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 16th, 2017, 2:50 am 
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1441 – Edhellond’s shore ~ Autumn



Holding to Amarwen, torn between being bitter and relieved she was there, Halvarin slowly felt the swirling torrent of burning pain reduce. Yes, Merece was Eldacar’s leader of Gondor's rebellion, but with the growing discontent with Castamir’s rule, other splinter groups outside the known resistance were beginning to gain strength. He remembered that being the case in the north in Osgiliath and Minas Anor. As much as the resistance wished to have a united front against Castamir, the rogue elements were becoming increasingly bold and he knew it was not fair to hold her to blame for this.


Finally he pulled back, lifted his head to meet Amarwen’s tearful, wide eyes. She was deeply injured, he saw, by a fear he had set within her.


Halvarin cupped her face within his hands, holding it before his eyes, ”I do not blame you Ami and I sorrow at my unkind words. I love you and hope you might forgive my harshness. I am torn in many directions right now.”


He drew a shaking breath, ”I loved Father and yet I also loathed him. I do not think my feelings for my father are like those you have for your mother.”


Halvarin kissed her cheek before turning to watch the sea as the waves pushed at their feet. He felt her arm wind around him, pulling him against her hip. His father was dead and the numbness he felt seemed to have blunted his feelings. He should be sad and angry about this. His father had been the central fixture in his life. All the years through the schooling, Halvarin wanted to be just like him. But Halvarin found himself thinking of his mother.


His arm wrapped around her, pulling Amarwen close. ”I barely knew my mother, but now, at this time, I find myself thinking of her.”


“Will you tell me of your mother? Of what you remember?  I do not remember her at all,“
Amarwen answered and Halvarin slid his hand from her hip and up her back.


He looked to where she stood beside him, , ”I am glad you are here with me now, my love. And yes… I will talk of my mother, and of my father.”


He turned to look out over the waters that cast small whitecaps as he remembered back as far as he could. After a few moments of silence but for the rhythm of the breaking waves, he started to speak.


”I think I was five. That is my last memory of Mother. She had fallen ill with a fever a few weeks after my father returned from a voyage away south. I remember seeing her laying there in bed, her dark hair all combed and shining. I remember her hair, for I must have snuggled in it a lot when I was little.”


At this Halvarin paused to consider Amarwen’s dark hair whipping back, unbound and free. He took Amarwen’s hand into his and kissed it before looking out to sea again.


”Father did not want me to see her there that day, for he feared that his only child would fall ill just as Mother had. But he was called away by his Captain for a time, and I slipped in and climbed onto the bed with her. She opened her eyes and smiled at me when I jostled her and she put her arm around me and held my hand. I hugged her, for I had missed her so, and she ran her fingers through my hair as I started to cry. I knew my mother was going to die, and as much I wanted to somehow prevent it, she reassured me that all would be well. She died later that day.”


Halvarin unknowingly had let go of Amarwen’s hand, and he held her waist and patted her softly.


”Father was solemn for some weeks and I did not see him much. He blamed himself for bringing back some malaise from Far Harad, I now think.  It was a few weeks after her death that he took time to be with me. We spent most of the day together and he told me the story of this voyage.”


Halvarin sighed at that dark time, taking pause before he continued on, ”He became grim, and to this very day, I do not believe he ever forgave himself for Mother’s death. Later, when in the Guild school, I researched that voyage and found the Captain’s logs in the archives. I should not bore you with talk of the man who had been responsible for the death of your mother. I am sorry Ami.”


“No Halvarin, I wish to know. For were it not for that man and that woman, you would not be standing beside me now. Tell me what you found of that voyage?”



Halvarin turned to Amarwen and said, ”I will tell of it, love, for in a way it is part of my grieving. I had not properly grieved for my mother, and my father’s grief drew him deeply within himself, a strong wall around him. He was ever so…distant with me after Mother died.”


He brushed a lock of Amarwen’s hair from her face and smiled sadly. Despite with the pain of his father’s death, he felt her love wrapping around him even now and so he kissed her, soft and tenderly.


“Will you walk with me, Ami? “

Amarwen gave him a gentle smile and she took his arm, tucking his hand against her in the crook of her elbow, as they set off down the wet sand. Their footprints marked their passage, glistening. In that moment, Amarwen lit Halvarin’s world and though so much rushed through his mind, she was as to him his anchor and safe harbour. woman he would marry and he wished to do it as soon as they might. He broke their silence, though, with other thoughts.

”Father was an Executive Officer then, and the script in the log was in his hand. Each entry was initialled by the captain and some entries had additions added in the captain’s rough script. On this voyage they had sailed far down the coast of Far Harad to where the land started to curve to the southeast. I have not gone so far on my voyages yet.”

A quick glance to Amarwen confirmed she was listening intently and so Halvarin continued his account, ”In the Guild, there were rumours of old that a great inland sea lingered far to the east, and to sail there one had to venture quite far to the south to round a cape. None had been so bold to try this voyage after three expeditions that launched from Umbar hundreds of years ago never returned. No sign of had ever been found of them south along the Haradian coast, but on this voyage, the Captain pushed them to their limits, going farther south than any who had returned before.”

Halvarin glanced back to see their prints lazily claimed by a wave of the sea. He went on speaking, for he had read and memorized this log, and logs of other voyages that his father had been on.

”Where the coast turned eastward, they were forced to put ashore at a great sandy beach that reached out from the thick dark green of tall hardwood trees and thick low vegetation. The air was hot and humid and changed little from day to night; except for the savage rays of the sun did not bear down on them in the morning and the torrential rains did not fall on them in the afternoons.

“The nights brought swarms of midges and flies thirsty for a man’s blood. After several days of the rains and with clever use of some of the broad leaves of a species of ground vegetation, enough water was collected to make the return journey possible. For food, they had collected a strange stonefruit they had found. When a hearty sailor volunteered to try eating it, and he did not fall over dead or get sick, was it deemed safe enough for the men. They dug up several small plants of this to take back to Umbar for the scholars to study and attempt to propagate.”


Halvarin paused, withdrawing into thought. After a time, Amarwen rubbed his arm and prompted him with a question.

”And what of your father’s return him to you and your mother?”

Halvarin nodded, ”On the return voyage, several of the crew, including the Navigator, fell ill with fever. But they could not trace the cause back to the fruit, or the water. One man got sick while the next man did not. Some became very ill while others only showed slight fever. When they arrived in Umbar, Father had the sweats and chills both and he believed that this is why Mother fell ill for that occurred not long after his return.”

“And was it?”
Amarwen asked, fascinated.

He went quiet and watched their feet as they stepped.

Pausing, he turned to Amarwen and took both her hands into his, ”The men were studied, and also some of the midges that had come north on the ship. It was found that some of the midges carried a fever that the spread through their bites. Some men are more resistant to it, others less so. And the number of bites would vary, so the sickness was not uniform across all the crew aboard on the ship. As for Mother, her fever was caused by something else. She would have died whether Father returned or not.”

Halvarin shrugged, not sure where his thoughts were taking him. He looked at Amarwen and embraced her even as a wave pushed past their feet. The tide was turning but he was not yet inclined to move. He gazed deeply into her deep grey eyes.

”My dear love, this day is the first among the many days of our lives. I wish to marry you as soon as we can and I would like you to accompany me to Pelargir as my wife.”

Amarwen’s eyes widened at that but Halvarin was not to be discouraged, ”There is much for me to do there, with my father’s estate to settle and the Guild convocations that must surely follow. I must, of course, appear and I would not be parted from you, Ami. Not for all the world.”

”Pelargir is the seat of Castamir’s power in Gondor,” Amarwen observed quietly and Halvarin nodded.

”And Umbar is more perilous still, yet you ventured there,” he countered, ”This…this is a change to embed ourselves within the heart of the Guild. From there we can seek out any who are not ardent supporters of the usurper.”

“If you were discovered,”
Amarwen persisted, ”They would be ruthless, Halvarin. Me they expect to betray them but you…”

“I know it will be dangerous. Not least because those that slew my father and my mentor, Chief Navigator Damius, might well look to take me next. But still, it is what must be done, Ami. We must sieze this and turn it to our favour. Come, there us much to do. Let us return to your Halls!”


Halvarin paused as he listened to himself. He was like his father, wanting to turn ill news and grief into drive and victory. Somehow, this nauseated Halvarin as he considered the thought. He looked at Amarwen, beautifully aglow in the morning light and sighed. From the time he was five and his mother died, Halvarin had worked to live up to his father’s expectations. It was only when the events in Edholland that had cracked this fortress he had been in, and as those foundations had weakened and crumbled before him, Halvarin struggled with the thought of having to face his father as one of the Eldacarian resistance. That day would now never come, and he was his own man now. In some ways, then, he felt truly adrift. Like a sail that had been cut free of the mast.

There was nobody now to live up to, aside from the woman who stood with him before he waves. With Amarwen as his wife, what might he not achieve? Together, they could strive to bring down the brutal usurper and return the king to his rightful throne. They could unite Gondor once more. They would have to be discrete and careful, yes, for the road ahead of them was narrow and riven with peril. If they should but slip…still, if they should not… Halvarin pulled Amarwen to him hard and kissed her passionately. Momentarily surprised, he felt her soon unwind. Her body was so soft against his own and yet beneath that was a strength few could rival.

”Come,” he said, brow pressed to her own and her taste thick on his lips, ”We have a wedding to plan.”

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 16th, 2017, 6:23 am 
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1441 – Edhellond, Autumn


”So soon,” Lady Thera exclaimed, surprised and somewhat taken aback.

Thera drew closer to whisper in Amarwen’s ear, ”And at such a time as this?”

Amarwen nodded, for she understood exactly what Thera referred to. A wedding overshadowed by such a loss. Still, it was what Halvarin wanted and how could she refuse him at such a time.

”It is what he wishes,” Amarwen replied and Thera paused, studying her.

”And you?’ she asked gently, ”What is it that you want?”

“I want the man I love to find a way to heal. I want to see him smile. I wish to return him some joy.”

“A beacon upon the shore, as it were,”
Thera said and Amarwen nodded.

”That, yes, and more still.”

“Very well, let it be so.”

“It must be small, though,”
Amarwen insisted, ”No elaborate ceremonies.”

Thera’s brows shot up, ”Are you certain? Such a day comes but once, Amarwen.”

“I come to this not as Amarwen of Edholland. A fuss would appear unseemly to Silares’ crew.”

“Once done, it cannot be done again,”
Thera warned and Amarwen nodded.

”I know. But this is a time of war and grief. We all must make sacrifices and this, compared to those made by too many others, is but a small thing.”

And so it came to be. Amarwen of Edholland wed Halvarin of Pelargir in a small ceremony presided over by Lord Hurian and attended by Captain Silares and those retainers who had taken service under her mother’s rule over Edhellond. For all its lack of pomp and ceremony, crowds and cheering well wishers, it was all the more precious. For it was theirs and theirs alone. With vows of enduring fidelity, love and honour, they were joined as man and woman and the celebration rang on long into the evening, well past the time the groom and bride retired for the night.

And, despite the emotional barrage she knew Halvarin to be enduring, not once did he falter nor hesitate. He stood straight and tall, unbowed and undiminished by the sorrow that lapped at all sides around him. She was so very proud of him. As it so happened, on the eve of their wedding a great storm rolled into the Bay of Belfas and pushed ashore. There was no rain in it and little wind, but the roiling and billowing clouds were illuminated by great snakes of brilliant lightening. Ever now and again, great cracks of rumbling thunder broke through the celebrations below.

Amarwen was curled against Halvarin upon her balcony. The roof was sufficiently deep to protect them from the raw power of the storm. Pressed together in the evening warmth, they watched the display offered in the clouds. From time to time the lightening was so powerful it illuminated Edhellond and the bay below. Both were reluctant to speak and break the spell of that moment and yet, as the storm drew on tension mounted between them. Halvarin’s fingers plunged, stroked and wound through her hair, finger tips brushing the sensitive skin at the back of her neck. Each touch made her skin pebble and she shifted against him.

”You did me a great honour this day, Halvarin,” she murmured, touching her lips to his neck.

He pressed her to him, hand shifting to encircle her and fingers now sliding down her flank, pausing over sweeps and curves.

”Did I now? he murmured, bringing his lips to hers to drink deeply.

A crack of thunder rolled by hard on the heels of a snaking strike of lightening and yet it felt as nothing compared to this.

”Yes,” Amarwen returned as his fingers swept up again, her voice hoarse now.

”Say it,” he whispered, kissing her again, ”I want to hear you say it.”

“Yes, husband,”
she answered and he kissed her again, so fierce as to ignite a fire in her belly.

”I love you, Halvarin,” she added when she could and he nipped her lips before he pushed her head aside and nibbled on her earlobe.

”And I you, wife,” he whispered and she shivered at the need she heard in his voice.

A week after their wedding they set forth for Pelargir and in that time, Halvarin had his duties to see to and Amarwen hers.

Convincing Silares to lend them aid proved complex. Round and round they debated it, Silares questioning every last thing about her intentions. Despairing of meeting an arrangement, Amarwen resorted to any means she might use to manipulate Silares. His sense of remorse over her father’s fate proved a keen weapon indeed.

Thus it came to be that Silares set down his cutlery at their evening meal and met her gaze squarely.

”Very well, your Grace, what would you ask of me?” he asked, eyeing her solemnly, ”I have seen you plucked safely from Umbar and even now I deliver you with your husband to Pelargir. I saw quite enough of our people’s blood split the last time!”

“And I do not ask you to spill it again, Captain,”
Amarwen pressed, looking across the table to where Halvarin sat.

Caught between his captain and his new bride, she did not expect him to speak at all and yet he did.

”It is worth hearing, Captain.”

“Aye?”
Silares questioned, eyes narrowing and shifting back to her, ”Then speak plainly.”

Amarwen did, for a short time of focused effort, selecting her words with care. Too aggressive and Silares would rebuff her. Too passive and he would balk at concerns over cowardice.

When she was done, the captain was quiet as he weighed her words.

”You’ll speak for my men when the time comes?” he pressed and she nodded.

”The king will know of the aid rendered to his cousin in her time of need, Silares.”

He shifted in his chair at that and toyed with what remained of the smoked, succulent trout upon his plate.

”I am but one ship,” he observed after a while, ”And you hardly achieve much by pushing us beyond the coming battle.”

“Just the one, yes,”
Amarwen answered carefully, ”But a Captain of your stature will know who is of a similar mind as you.”

“Even if that’s half the Guild, which it isn’t, it won’t be enough.”

“I know,”
Amarwen returned, leaning back in her chair, ”But as my father would say, one thing at a time, eh?”

“I will consider it,”
Silares said and that was that. She could press no further.

Back in their cabin later that evening, Amarwen pushed a comb through her hair ready to braid it for the night. Her thoughts were elsewhere, drifting over the various options she could use to organise the splinter cells that seemed to have profligated in her absence. The sound of voices beyond the door returned her attention to her surrounds and Halvarin soon pushed through, grinning at some exchange she had missed.

”What’s so funny?” she asked as he came through the door and Halvarin flushed at the question.

He cleared his throat as he closed the door behind him and then came towards where she sat, ”Here, let me do that.”

It was a diversion, of course, and Amarwen did not need to wonder overly long as to why Halvarin needed one. Sailors had a particular brand of humour and their Executive Officer was a newly wedded man. She surrendered the comb to him without further comment and he soon set to work. There were, she had discovered of late, few pleasures as wonderful as when Halvarin brushed her hair. Amarwen closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the even, steady strokes.

After a time, eyes still closed, she asked, ”Do you think he will assent?”

“Silares?”
Halvarin inquired, ”Hard to say, my love. Until Umbar, I had him marked as a man loyal to Castamir.”

“He’s certainly not a rabid Eldacar adherent,”
Amarwen observed, opening her eyes to meet Halvarin’s in the mirror.

”No,” he agreed, lifting his grey and blue eyes from her hair to her reflection, ”More of a pragmatist, I think. He wants peace and stability.”

“But he is trustworthy?”


Halvarin nodded, ”I believe so, Ami.”

Amarwen lifted her hand to his and wound her fingers through Halvarin’s, ”Then I must trust he sees reason.”

But if Silares saw reason, he did not say so during the remainder of the voyage to Pelargir and so, as they prepared to dock, Amarwen had no idea what to expect. Would Silares turn on them? Would a splinter group of hardline rebels kill her husband? Would she be recognised here in the seat of Castamir’s power. Her mother and father had refused to bring her to this place, citing it as wild and unpredictable. She knew little of it, save the name of a few people that had come to her attention over the years. No way of knowing if they were alive still. Beregon had said he’d send word of her arrival to his contacts and that they would seek her out. Provided she kept out of the Guild’s campus in Pelargir and none of her father’s peers sought Halvarin out at his home, she should be relatively secure. More so than Umbar, certainly.

A cry from above decks told her that the lines had been secured. Pelargir was a deep water port and the ship could, as a result, dock against its pier. Halvarin was soon within the cabin, searching her face.

”Ready, my darling wife?” he asked, excitement at being able to show her his childhood home winning through his Executive Officer’s reserve.

Amarwen smiled for him and nodded, ”Of course, my love.”

Still, her stomach churned as she followed him deck side to disembark.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 17th, 2017, 4:38 am 
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Pelargir - Autumn 1441


Disembarking in Pelargir felt surreal to Halvarin for not only was the only woman he had loved aside from his mother by his side, he did not have to consider what he might say to his father. No more would he find himself called to give account of his deeds. Explaining Amarwen was also a bitter draught avoided. But for all of that, introducing Amarwen as Mistress Marece to those that waited for them felt jarring. For her part, Amarwen smiled effortlessly as if Marece had always been her name and nothing else. Still Halvarin held fast to the hope that a day would come when he could declare her who and what she really was: Lady Amarwen of Edholland, descendant of King Hyardemacil.

For now, there was a war to contend with and there much to do. Steeling himself with the same stoicism he perceived in his wife, he gave each who had gathered to greet him upon the docks with a steady nod and strode with Amarwen to the Guild House in Pelargir. Had her hand not trembled where it was tucked into his arm, he would never have known her to be nervous. He paused in the threshold to lift that hand to his lips but Amarwen was preoccupied, studying the thickness of the Guild House walls.

”Reinforced,” she observed quietly as his lips brushed her knuckles.

”Assuredly,” Halvarin answered as he tucked her hand into his elbow again and pressed forward.

The condolences of those within felt like a physical weight being set upon his shoulders. They were thick and heavy and Halvarin felt himself bow as they mounted over his head. He introduced his new wife again and again and most offered a polite greeting for her. However two remained somewhat aloof and sceptical. Halvarin marked their faces, suspecting the men knew Silares’ only niece had died as an infant.

Trouble would follow if they pressed their inquiry. It would be wise to have them removed, so as to eliminate the risk they posed to the woman at his side. But it was also too early to press such tactics. Another assassination so quickly on the heels of the one that had claimed his father would intensify efforts to locate the partisans and in their discussions as they approached port, Amarwen had been clear. She wanted the assassinations to halt until she could restore order over the chaos the rebellion appeared to have fallen into. No matter, Halvarin thought to himself, he would remember who they are.

The greetings and introductions done, Halvarin was soon seated with his bride at the table for a generous repast. If there was anything that Halvarin could have wished for, it was that Amarwen sat across from him so he could study her beauty at his leisure and admire her dress. She had chosen Guild colours today, notably that of the Navigator’s chapter. An artful choice even if she might find them personally repellent. Much as a soldier selected his armour and weapons for the battle ahead, so did he think Amarwen considered her own wardrobe.

However, instead of being across the board Amarwen was seated at his elbow with her putative uncle, Captain Silares on the other side. Consequently, Halvarin’s hand returned repeatedly to her leg, creeping ever higher and sloping inward. If Amarwen noticed any of this under the table, her demeanour above it was serene. She smiled at all the right places, laughed politely and never too long, and not once did she question whatever was said around her.

Mischevious as it was, Halvarin was somewhat discouraged by her lack of obvious response. She did not so much as flutter an eyelash out of order but when he made to remove his hand she smoothly grasped his wrist as if she were adjusting the napkin he had already dislodged to the floor. As she offered some smooth observation calculated to draw her current conversational partner into another lengthy diatribe, Amarwen drove his hand back into the place he had abandoned and held it there. Across the table, flattered at the attention such a young and beautiful woman plied the old sea dog with, her conversational partner set about on a discourse about why the records of tides were all, every last one of them, flawed. And then, only then, did Amarwen cast Halvarin a smile as she pushed at his hand. Then she cleared her throat, no doubt to cover some other utterance he might otherwise drive from her and lifted her wine to her lips.

Their lunch was a fulsome one, featuring perfectly grilled fish that flaked succulently and shellfish baked in butter and spices to make the mouth water. Which his was already given what was underway under the table. Inevitably, though, their lunch passed and once that occurred a gathering of the Guild was called in the upper room. As much as he wished he could bring his wife with him, he knew such a thing would be impossible. The Guild held strong views about the role and place of women in their member’s lives. Theirs was to tend to shore and the hearth fire and raise the children, the next generation of Mariners. Never mind that Amarwen was as much a daughter of a Mariner as he was. Thus, reluctantly Halvarin bade Amarwen a good evening for it was likely that this meeting would stretch into the night.

As he took his leave from her, he hoped she could do what she must with the time she now had. He had already urged to show restraint in seeking those responsible for his father and Master Damius’ assassination but Amarwen was a woman who knew her own mind. He had no way of knowing whether she would heed his counsel and so he had to trust to the wisdom he knew she possessed. She knew how preciously they were balanced here in Pelargir. One misstep, from either of them, would plunge them into ruin and sorrow.

As Guild members assembled, Halvarin addressed the matters of his father’s estate. The legalities seemed endless, yet he knew it was all necessary. His father had been a wealthy man, and it emerged that he had interests in different businesses in many different places. Most of this was new to Halvarin but he soon apprehended that there were some interests he would want to keep just as they were for they were advantageous.

He soon discerned that he would need a light touch at first to feel out the length and breadth of his father’s estate. Halvarin also perceived that he would need to reach each and every document he was asked to sign. For this was the only way to ensure it was he in control of the wealth and no other proxy or factor. When the last stack of parchment came to him, he read the first page. The barrister tried to get Halvarin to sign, but he paused as he read the second page.

”Just formalities?” Halvarin asked as he looked at the third page.

The barrister nodded, ”Yes Master Halvarin.”

He flippedto page four and five and after a brief look, set them down on the table, ”I understand, good sir, that you worked for my father for many years, yes?”

The barrister nodded at this and Halvarin returned his attention to the document before pushing it towards his father’s servant.

As he did so, he eyed the barrister sternly, ”And where does your service lie now that my father is dead?”

“The Estate, Master,”
the man replied.

Halvarin nodded as he shuffled through the six pages again. He then picked up the parchments he had already signed and looked at the first one.

This he held it out, ”I wish these two to be endorsed and sealed now.”

“But Master, it would…”

“Now!”
Halvarin said with some force and the barrister swallowed before looked over to the senior Guildsmen watching on.

The Master Captain, now acting head of the Guild, nodded before he approached to endorse the documents. The barrister also endorsed them and the three signatures were sealed. These Halvarin took to set on the corner of the table.

”I will take the keys as they have been released. The rest of these can also be endorsed and filed. The last I will hang onto for a while longer yet. It requires extensive review,” Halvarin declared, aware of who he wanted to read it before he set ink to the page, ”Now that I hold sole control of my father’s estate, it is now become my estate.”

He studied the barrister who was attending all of this closely, “You, good sir, now work for me. Have word sent to all of the estate’s advisors and factors. I am sure you know who they are. I wish to meet with them at my house later this evening. And bid them to bring with them their current contracts.”

“Of course, Master Halvarin,”
the barrister intoned, bowing.

”You also, good sir. You also,” Halvarin pressed, at which the man swallowed before nodding.

At that Halvarin dismissed the man and collected up the documents he had retained. Watching all of this was the Master Captain, who nodded thoughtfully at Halvarin once this was done.

”We now must attend to Guild business,” the man declared, ”With the merciless slaying of your esteemed father and the Master Navigator, it is incumbent upon us to recommend members to both the Guild Master and Master Navigator positions. These position can not be left vacant overlong, for both play a vital role in assuring the advice and direction of our liege’s naval stratagems.”

Halvarin nodded, aware that each position reported not just to the Guild but the court itself.

”The recommendations by each Guild House will be put forth, and each will vote on the appointments. Let us begin,” the acting Master Captain declared, calling the meeting to order.

Halvarin sat silent when his name was presented for Master Navigator. Surprising as this was, his nomination was seconded and a verbal vote affirmed him as the Pelargir Guild Chapter’s nominee. The Master Captain was put up as Guild Master and seconded soon thereafter. Halvarin put Captain Silares’s up for consideration, which was custom for any who still served on a ship as second in command. As he did so, he thought it unlikely that he would be determined Master Navigator. His time ashore, or ‘in port” at Osgiliath numbered two years. Still , the Guild Chapter of Osgiliath was now long abandoned following the city’s sack and downfall, and the Chapter in Minas Anor had few members remaining. The power, therefore, rested in the Chapters of Pelargir, Dol Amroth, and Umbar, with Umbar the strongest and where Castamir based himself from in the south.

With business matters seen to, Halvarin excused himself and left to return to his family home. This was the house he had grown up in and when he arrived, the caretaker household that had remained in the wake of his father’s death stood in line to offer condolences and their resignations both as was custom. Halvarin accepted them all, and then promptly handed them back. The house and grounds were well cared for and he had no wish to review any of the immediate retainers just yet.

He gave instruction to have a banquet set for his meeting with all the representatives of his business concerns that night, and whilst his staff set off to make arrangement at such short notice, Halvarin went to the study. He studied the books on the shelves and the charts on the walls and the portrait of his father and mother when they were married. He then sat in the chair and looked over the desk. He looked to the door way where he had peeked at his father whilst he worked and then set down all the papers he had brought with him from the Guildhouse on the desk that had, until now, been his father’s.

Halvarin sat back in silence for a time as he figeted with the heavy iron keys. There was so much to do, starting with the relieving of the barrister and likely most of his father’s chief advisors after they give him their reports. He opened the safe that was behind three large volumes of historical studies of voyages, and secured his papers before walking out of the study in search of Amarwen. His purpose in this was twofold. Firstly, he ached for the simple comfort of her embrace. Also, he wanted her with him when he reviewed his concerns for Amarwen had been educated in the business of trade and politics both for Edhellond. Certainly, he considered well versed in whatever was required for his father’s estate.

On his way to locate her, Halvarin found his way to the stately banquet room where the table was already being readied. There was a serving girl setting out glasses that gleamed, freshly polished. She edged back from her task and offered Halvarin a nervous curtsy. This he returned with an approving nod, producing a swift smile from the girl before she ducked her eyes. Halvarin then headed for the door, wondering what Amarwen had been up since he had seen her last.

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 Post subject: Re: Kin - Strife of Gondor: III 1436 onwards
PostPosted: November 17th, 2017, 7:54 am 
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Pelargir - Autumn 1441


At the sound of the door creaking open, Amarwen lifted her head and saw that this time it was Halvarin instead of the seneschal or chamberlain asking to see if they wanted still more iced orange tea. Without so much as a word, she raced towards him and wrapped her arms around Halvarin.

”What are you doing in here?” he asked once they had disentangled again.

At this Silares grimaced, ”Unavoidable, I’m afraid. The household staff were only doing what they perceived as their duty.“

Halvarin’s gaze bounced from Silares to the other man in the room, a silver haired, shaggy giant whose skin was bronzed and weathered. His face was only vaguely familiar and Halvarin frowned at this before he returned his attention to Amarwen. He found her staring at her feet, fidgeting with her skirts.

”Really, Hal, it’s not so very bad. I mean, they could have left us in the street,” she said.

Halvarin reached out a hand to lift her eyes to his, gentle pressure under Amarwen’s chin, ”How long have you been waiting here in the ante-chamber?”

“Not very long.”


He arched a brow at her answer, recognising it for what it was.

The other man stepped forward to declare, ”My niece is too kind. We’ve been here for hours.”

Amarwen jerked her chin from his fingers and wheeled about, ”And what were they supposed to do, Carlin? They did not refuse us entry and suitably accommodated our undeclared arrival until the Master of this house returned. We could have left at any time and sought alternative arrangements. Any time!”

The man she named as Carlin quirked a grey brow at Halvarin, ”Alternative arrangements. Do you hear what your bride says, lad?”

Silares cleared his throat uncomfortably and Amarwen uttered an infuriated oath, her displeasure showing even as he turned her back to him. Her grey eyes snapped like the storm of their wedding night.

”Hours, Ami?” Halvarin asked gently and she pressed out an angry sigh as she gestured at a number of glasses that had accumulated over that time.

”We have wanted for nothing,” she assured him and then scowled over her shoulder, ”And my uncle has the disposition of a bear with a sore tooth. He is not your best guide.”

“This from the girl that used to sit on my knee and laugh so hard at the faces I pulled that she cried,”
Carlin informed Silares.

Amarwen pressed out another breath, ”And he’s not happy about the fact that we wed without him.”

“Oh, there’s a lot I’m not happy about. Let’s start at the beginning. What are you going to do to protect my only remaining blood?”


Halvarin considered the man for a moment before asking Amarwen, ”I take it that this man is indeed your uncle?”

Amarwen nodded at the question, ”My father’s elder brother.”

He pressed out a sigh at this, gathered his thoughts and then moved past Amarwen towards Carlin.

”Your brother’s daughter is my rock. My anchor. My safe harbour. She is my sun, moon and stars. There is nothing I would not do to defend, honour and love her, for the rest of my days.”

Carlin crossed his arms over his expansive chest and eyed Halvarin’s outstretched hand for a long moment before he considered Silares.

”Were it not for your current captain, lad, I’d have snapped you in twain.”

“Uncle Bear!”
Amarwen cried, appalled, at which Carlin lifted his eyes to the ceiling and unfolded his arms.

”And were it not for that woman behind you, I’d do it even now. But she says she loves you. She says she trusts you. Mark my words, boy, she best not be mistaken,” Carlin clasped Halvarin’s forearm with a grip that could, he was sure, crush a pirate’s skull.

The matter, for now at least, put to rest Halvarin extricated himself and turned back to Amarwen.

”Come, my love, allow me to show your new home,” he said, holding out an arm that she rushed to and claimed.

Silares and Carlin following them out of the ante-chamber, Halvarin took her throughout his home, telling her small stories of his memories about this and that. At every chance, he introduced her to his staff and retainers until he found himself declaring her his wife to all assembled in the kitchen.

”You are to consider her voice and mine as one,” he said, turning towards her to lift her knuckles to his lips, ”As I am your Master, my wife is your Mistress and I will not stand for anything less than fidelity and respect.”

In that moment, Amarwen could not imagine her heart being fuller than it was right now. With so many demands upon him and no telling what his afternoon at the Guild House had entailed, he was so valiantly working to make this place, his home, hers. Amarwen threw a triumphant glance back to where her uncle watched on from the door, assessing all he saw. If he harboured any doubts about Halvarin, surely they had been put to rest now. His eyes met hers for a moment, he inclined his head, and pulled back. That, right there, was an admission that her choice in Halvarin had been the right one.

”Now, where are my wife’s belongings? We have a dinner to attend!” Halvarin declared, lifting her hand in his aloft.

”Already being moved to your chambers, Master” his seneschal assured him, a diffident glance to Amarwen.

”Excellent,” Halvarin declared and whisked her off without further delay.

Just as the elderly retainer had said, the one chest she had brought with her rested at the foot of a very large, very wide bed. Amarwen studied it as Halvarin secured the door behind her.

”That’s your bed?” she asked, astonished.

Halvarin grinned as he nodded, ”Why, bigger than yours?”

“By several yards,”
she exclaimed, drawing nearer.

”Would that we had time for me to introduce you to it properly,” Halvarin lamented and Amarwen turned back to him.

”There is a dinner this evening?” she asked and he nodded, grimacing.

”I have asked all of my father’s advisors and factors to join me. His lead advisors and barristers will, I think, all require dismissal once their reports are to hand.”

Amarwen hesitated at that, ”All of them at the same time?”

Halvarin canted his head to the side and so she continued, ”It is akin to striking the head from a beast. How then will the beast’s limbs know what best to do next?”

“They are my father’s creatures, Ami.”


She nodded at that, thinking as she came forward to cup a hand to Halvarin’s cheek, ”And for the nonce they underestimate you as his son and heir. That can be used, Hal.”

“Rather like your uncle?”
he asked as he kissed the tip of her nose.

Amarwen sighed at the question, ”Carlin…well, we all called him Bear for good reason. He means well, even if his technique-“

“Includes mauling friend and foes alike?”

“Leaves something to be desired,”
she amended, ”He is bloody minded when it comes to his kin. No reasoning with him there, I am afraid.”

“And so, the fact that he did not snap me in twain?”

“A very encouraging sign, Hal,”
she said, smiling as she reached up on her toes to kiss him softly, ”How much time do we have.”

“Not much,”
he admitted, ”We should ready ourselves.”

“What part, if any, would you have me play,”
Amarwen asked as she fell to her knees before the chest.

”I want you to observe them…and I have papers I would appreciate your review.”

“Papers?”

“Contracts and agreements. My father, as it turns out, was a very wealthy man.”


Amarwen turned about on her knees to consider him, ”This comes as a surprise?”

“Considerably!”


She nodded thoughtfully at this and they set about their preparations and it was not long before Amarwen found herself seated at yet another long table. Unlike lunch, Halvarin sat a very long way down the end opposite her. She did her best to attend solicitously to the discussions going on around her but too often her attention was stolen by Halvarin. He leaned back in his chair, wine glass in hand, nodding or smiling at whatever was said but every so often she caught his eyes shifting to hers and when they did it was a wonder the centrepieces of fir and autumn leaves did not spark.

”Young love,” the barrister seated near her observed and Amarwen’s smile became fixed.

Yes, he most definitely had to go.

After dinner they repaired to Halvarin’s study and it was here she was asked to review several documents Halvarin retrieved from the safe. Unlike the convivial atmosphere of dinner, the tension in the study was palpable. Leaning against Halvarin’s chair behind the desk, she reviewed each page carefully. The more they fidgeted, the more care she took but it was not all for show. The more she read the more she could appreciate the nature of her husband’s concerns. Clause after clause caught her eye as unsatisfactory, at best. After some time, Amarwen lowered the papers to set them on Halvarin’s desk and tightened her grip on the back of his chair.

”Well, Mistress, what say you?” prompted the nearest factor.

Amarwen arched a dark brow at the question and glanced down to where Halvarin sat. He leaned back in his chair, his fingers steepled together under his chin.

”I concur with my husband’s assessment,” she said, which brought the barrister up from his seat spluttering.

”These are but simple commercial-“

“Simple?”
Amarwen challenged, looking down to Halvarin who merely smiled.

”Why yes, Madam! Run of the mill.”

“That may well be if it was a mill in question, sir, but there is nothing about this that strikes me as simple.”


The barrister considered her for a moment and then redirected his entreaty to Halvarin, ”Your good wife means well Master, of that I am sure, but for men of the law this is a-“

“I would not be so ready to dismiss my good wife’s assessment were I you,”
Halvarin cautioned and then looked up to where Amarwen stood, ”What, if anything would you alter?”

Amarwen sniffed at the question and then reached across for the ink well on his desk, ”May I, husband?”

“Of course,”
he allowed, leaning back to enjoy the way their bodies brushed together.

She cleared her throat as she tapped off excess ink and began flipping through the pages, ”This, in its whole, is unacceptable. I have not once seen it’s like in any comparable agreement. As is this and this clause. Ugh! Whoever wrote that deserves a clip around the ears for good measure.”

As Amarwen spoke, she struck through entire paragraphs with a flick of the quill and once she had the most egregious terms dealt with, she worked her way back through the pages.

”Now, there are several that with varying degrees of modification could become… palatable.”

Dropping the quill back in its place, Amarwen straightened from her bend over the desk and settled her hair.

”And what, dear wife, could be said of the individual responsible for drafting such an agreement?”

“Shoddy work, at best. It is beyond me how this ever served your father’s interests well and I am certain it will work contrary to your own without marked modification.”

“Now, you see here, I served your father faithfully for many a year and with scarcely any decent instruction for he was so often asea,”
the pale faced barrister asserted.

”The principles of good legal practice scarcely require explicit client instruction, insofar as I am able to see,” Amarwen observed.

”I will not stand for this!” the barrister returned, outraged now and stamping his foot.

”How fortunate indeed, for it would appear that we have reached by mutual agreement a parting of ways,” Halvarin said.

Incensed, the man puffed up his chest and cast about the room for support only to find that each and every other advisor and factor had withdrawn into their respective shells. If they did not stare at the floor they avoided his gaze and so, with his pride in tatters, the barrister drew himself up and quit the study without further word.

Halvarin let the banging doors of the man’s departure echo back to them in the study. In this time, Amarwen had located the crystal decanter of his father’s favourite liquor and poured out careful measures. These she distributed between the men remaining, moving about the room in no particular order until all had a tumbler in hand. The last one she brought to Halvarin, setting the tray down on his desk.

Halvarin swirled the amber liquid around in his glass and lifted it solemnly, ”To new beginnings.”

This was echoed back at him and then, one by one his study emptied of factors and advisors eager to take their leave before they fell to the barrister’s fate. Halvarin saw them all to the door and then returned to find Amarwen seated at his desk. She kicked her feet back and forth.

”They are all terrified of you,” he declared as he leaned against the doors.

Amarwen shrugged at that, ”So long as they love you, darling, that’s all that matters.”

“Still intent on keeping them all?”

“I never said they should all stay,”
she countered, ”Just that their departure should not be all at once. What else have you in that safe?”

Halvarin shrugged, ”It’s open, you’re welcome to see for yourself.”

Grinning at him, she rose and skipped across the room to do exactly that, her skirts swishing. She found yet more papers, which she pulled out and swiftly sorted through until one caught her eye. This she held up and looked to where Halvarin had leaned against the desk.

”What’s this?”

“Remember I said there was something I had been meaning to tell you for some time?”
he answered.

Amarwen peeled open the worn sheet of parchment and then paused as a list a names appeared. She scanned through it, many of them familiar.

”Where did it come from?”

“The Guild,”
Halvarin answered, ”It’s two or so years old now. I received it upon summons to the Guild House in Minas Anor. In fact, I’d only just returned with it when you were…discovered in Osgiliath.”

“Belas and Beregon’s name is upon it,”
she mused, looking back to list.

”Yes, and for that reason I presumed the others were also rebels.”

“Not all,”
she said with a shake of her head, ”If this is two years old, then there are several names I do not recognise. They were not mine, I can tell you…though perhaps they were partisans. We seem to have a surfeit of those of late.”

“Speaking of, did you progress on that front this afternoon?”


Amarwen folded the list up again and returned it with the other papers to the safe as she shook her head, ”No, I heeded your counsel like the obedient wife I am and took myself immediately to my husband’s home where I waited upon his return.”

“Close it,”
Halvarin said, nodding to the safe and so she did so.

”I would like to read that list again, when I am better rested,” Amarwen said, ”There may well be patterns to the names identified.”

Halvarin held up a heavy ring of black iron keys, one in hand.

”Any time you so wish my love, now come here,” he said and she did so without delay.

She settled in beside him to lean against the desk and looped an arm around his waist.

”How went the afternoon’s business?” Amarwen asked, resting her head on Halvarin’s shoulder.

”Oh, the usual mundanities,” he replied and she peered up at him for she heard something in his voice.

Halvarin’s expression, though was clear and so she said, ”It must be so very overwhelming, my love.”

“In a way, yes. Until today, this was my father’s study.”

“He would not be so very well pleased to find me in it now,”
she observed and Halvarin smiled.

”No.”

“This house will, most likely, be full of memories Hal. Of your mother and father both.”

“True…but having you here at last, in the place I know of as home, well we can make memories of own as I have wished to do for so long now.”

“Oh?”
Amarwen asked and Halvarin shifted so that he was not beside her but in front her.

”Oh yes, Mistress Marece. So many ideas,” he told her, kissing her brow as his arms folded around her, ”But, you must be weary.”

“Not so tired as to forget what you started at lunch. Are you saying you mean not to finish that, husband?”

“Oh, not in your wildest dreams Ami,”
he answered and then his mouth and body was pressed against her own.

His hand returned and her eyes rolled as he picked up where he had left off.

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