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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: November 28th, 2019, 12:35 am 
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Elsewhere in the Palace - Late Evening

Amarwen slipped into the darkened ante-chamber and closed the door behind her. She leaned against it. On the other side of the door, the wider palace was a hive of activity despite the late hour. Quite places such as the one she had located would become scarcer still as the palace scrambled to satisfy itself that the city was safe.

Rubbing at her arm, Amarwen peeled herself from the door and edged into the room further. A window on the far side admitted faint torchlight from somewhere beyond. Likely, a room on the other side of what she guessed was a small garden square. There were many such squares throughout the palace. She went to the window to listen. Through darkened branches that waved gently in the summer night’s breeze, she glimpsed an open window on the other side. The room was brightly lit, the window thrown open. She could not see anyone moving in it. The source of light confirmed, she listened intently. No voices...the small garden courts had a habit of scooping up sound and amplifying it.

Satisfied, she drew back from the window and found her way in halflight to a couch. Amarwen winced as she sat, the movement reminding her that she had not escaped the day’s events unscathed. Battered body and soul, it seemed to her. She scooped up a fall of thick hair and tucked it behind her ear. What she needed to do was gather herself. She told herself to focus on her breathing. One breath in. One breath out. Yet she could feel her breathing begin to quiver. Clamping down on this only made it worse and a soft sob gulped out of her. Then another. She stuffed her face into her hands.

Now, surely now, they had to come together. They had to prove themselves unbowed, unshaken, undaunted. They had to steady the course. They could not blink. Not now. And surely, her place was at Aldamir’s side. She had thought that when trouble came, as they both knew it would, that he would turn to her. That they would comfort each other in the hard times ahead.

Surely the prince had to know that sending her away would not keep her safe. No matter where she was, her fate was bound to the realm’s. It was all of a piece...Aldamir was no fool. Sending her away for her safety made no sense at all to her. Why, the journey itself was fraught with peril. So if it was not her safety, why then did Aldamir wish her gone? Doubt whispered answers to her.

Amarwen considered how things had been over these past months. The passing of the King had affected Aldamir deeply. He had grown solemn, quiet, frequently introspective. Not distant. Not entirely...but different. Distracted. There was no denying it. She’d thought that he would find his way through his grief but perhaps she had been mistaken. Perhaps this change was not grief but something else. A dawning realisation that he did not want her by his side, perhaps? A slow discovery that whatever their happiness had been, it was not love and that it had passed.

Was that why, she wondered, he so carefully steered their conversation away from their future of late. Aldamir had become loathe to even brush past the matter. It was almost conspicuous. Where had she gone wrong? She had tried, hadn’t she? She had worked so hard to put her broken heart back together. To trust another with it. To believe. To earn his faith and regard. To fail, now, again....why did she continue to fail? What was so terribly wrong with her? Perhaps it was her fate to live a solitary life. The notion made her quail. It seemed so terribly lonely to take such a path. To have no one to turn to. No one to share with.

Amarwen had lowered her hands in the time her thoughts ran. She smoothed her skirts and took in another deep breath as she straightened her spine and lifted her chin. No, she told herself. That would not be her fate. It was not how she was made. And if the Prince thought he could so easily dispense with her, then Aldamir was mistaken. He may not be prepared to fight for their future but she most certainly would. She knew exactly what she needed to do. She rose, carefully, from the couch and then then froze.

Movement. Beyond the window. Someone was in the court yard. Trying to move with stealth. In rush...Amarwen frowned, debating whether to move to the window for a better look or the door. As she decided on the door, a dark shape eased up over the window sill.

”OI! Stop!” came the strident call of what she presumed was a palace guard.

The man, definitely a man, in the window swore under his breath and dropped into the ante-chamber with a pained grunt as he met with the floor.

”Oi!” the guard shouted and Amarwen looked to the window across the way. Sure enough, a palace guard was in the process of climbing through it and into the small courtyard garden.

Still swearing to himself, the man in the room with her tried to scuttle out of view against the wall. As the guard examined the garden beyond and rattled at doors and windows, Amarwen narrowed her eyes. That hushed voice was familiar. Very familiar.

”Hal?” she whispered into the darkened ante-chamber and the swearing stopped suddenly.

Amarwen swore herself and moved quickly to the window. The guard heard her movement and hastened towards it. She was already scowling when she reached it and simply deepened the expression for the guard that bore down on the window.

”Well?” Amarwen inquired, her tone icy as a mountain pass.

The guard recoiled from the window she stood in, mouth slightly ajar and blinking as he tried to make sense of what he saw.

”What is the meaning of this?” she demanded, channelling what she hoped was the necessary imperiousness to send this guard on his way.

“Your pardon, Lady. I-I”

“Where is your post? Is this it?”
Amarwen pressed.

She saw the man swallow and sensed victory was hers. The guard lowered his eyes and shook his head.

”No, Ma’am.”

“Then I suggest you cease this racket and return to your post at once!”

“Yes, Ma’am,”
he replied and looked up past his brows, ”You haven’t seen an intruder come this way?”

she replied in what she hoped was a withering tone, ”I have not.”

The guard’s eyes dropped and he shuffled his weight from side to side. ”Very good, Ma’am.”

Amarwen remained at the window to watch the guard. He made his way back to the other window, looked about hard in the hopes of catching sight of his quarry, and then climbed back through it. Once she was satisfied, she turned from the window to where she could make out a deeper darkness in the gloom.

”Have you quite lost your mind?” she inquired, vastly irritated. ”If you’re discovered here, you will be arrested.”

“I know,”
the shadow replied, somewhat sheepishly.

Amarwen planted her hands on her hips. ”And there will be precisely nothing I can do about it.”

“I know!”

“Then why are you here?”

“There was the city...I saw what happened today. I was there.”

Amarwen sucked in a breath. ”Never mind the palace guards, Hal. The Guild! If they find you here!” She shook her head from side to side. ”Valar only knows what they’d do to you.”

“Beyond the palace walls, they say you’re dead!”

She paused at that and her brows rose. ”They are clearly mistaken.”

Halvarin returned. Amarwen raked her fingers through her hair and turned away from the window as Halvarin asked softly, ”And the Prince?”

“Very much alive,”
she replied, unable to keep the anger from her voice entirely. Why was Aldamir doing this to her?

”Why, then, do you weep?” Amarwen went very still at the question and Halvarin stepped closer. ”Ami?”

She shook her head and edged away. ”You can’t be here, Hal. Not this night. Certainly not at this hour. Kerina must be worried sick for you! Alone in a strange city that is in uproar.”

“Kerina is not here...I do not expect to see her upon my return to Pelargir.”

Any number of cruel and uncharitable replies rose to Amarwen’s mind but the sadness in Halvarin’s voice gave her pause. She just did not have the heart for it. She sighed, ”In any case, you now know the rumours are false. You must leave before you are caught.”

Halvarin was close enough for her to make out the outline of his features. He studied what he could see of her own face. Dangerous, she thought to herself, if he knew her as well as she once thought he did.

”Why are you hiding in here, Ami?” he asked, perceiving just why she might be in a dark room all on her own.

She considered Halvarin for a moment and then caught herself. He did not care for her any more. Not in that way. There was no harm to be done in speaking this truth to this man. ”I am to be sent away,” she muttered. ”Back to Edhellond.”

Halvarin breathed.

Amarwen shook her head. ”Soon...I know no more than that.”

“But...surely the Prince will-“
Halvarin broke off when he caught the bitter half smile that flittered across her face.

”Oh,” he said quietly as he understood whose doing this was.

”For my safety, he says.” Her tone made it clear just what she thought of that.

”Perhaps he is-“

Amarwen declared. ”Just....don’t, Hal.” She turned her back and put some distance between herself and Halvarin.

Halvarin proceeded in any case. ”You’re barely on your feet now. If they’d used something a little more accurate, the rumours could very well have been true. Aldamir has a point.”

“If they’re bold enough to attempt an assassination of the royal family in broad daylight at the annual tourney, Hal, then safety no longer exists in this kingdom. Not here. Not in Edhellond. Not anywhere. Scattering like startled pigeons now will only ensure that it does not soon return!”

Her stomach was rolling again and the room had grown unsteady around her. Halvarin caught Amarwen's elbow and steered her back to the couch. She put her elbows on her knees and her head in her hands as Halvarin settled carefully beside her.

”Why is it,” she whispered through her fingers, ”That when it comes to setting the course of my life, the hand upon the wheel is never my own?”

She felt the gentle, hesitant weight of Halvarin's arm curve around her back. Bold, perhaps, but not inappropriate. Nor unwelcome if she was honest with herself but it would not do to be discovered like this. The scandal and gossip it would cause did not bear thinking about. After a long moment, too long, Amarwen shifted and Halvarin’s arm dropped away.

”I should go,” he said quietly and she nodded.

”How will you get out?”

“Same way I got in.”

“And just how was that, now that you mention it?”

he replied and she saw the corners of his mouth lift in a faint smile. ”Bar that one, sticky guard, I was almost completely unseen.”

Amarwen lifted a brow at Halvarin’s claim. ”You’re a navigator, Hal, not a scout.”

“I’m talented,”
he replied and she knew what he was doing. Hal was seeking to cheer her up. He could be such a clown when he thought the occasion called for it. Amarwen mustered a faint smile of her own and Halvarin nodded, satisfied.

”Remember, Ami,” he said as he moved to the window, ”There was once a time when returning to Edhellond was one of your dearest wishes.”

she agreed and watched Halvarin slip out of the window. She waited until she was sure he had gotten away before she turned for the door.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 1st, 2019, 5:51 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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In Aldamir’s mind, the attack was expected eventually but he didn’t expect it to come so soon and so close to home. It appeared by the dead assassins that this was some fringe group that was more radical than the Mariner’s Guild. He had guessed there was some in-fighting going on among the southern clans, but never thought there would be an attach this far north… in the heart of Gondor!

He went to the healers where there were a few others. It had been too close! A coup of this magnitude had to of been planned for some time. Why was there no word from their agents? It was possible they had concentrated on the Mariners Guild and Castamir? These assassins were radicals, and something told Aldamir they have their roots in a more rogue element of the Mariners Guild. There was going to have to be some major changes on how they conduct themselves.

He cringed when Almara checked on his wound. He brightened as he looked upon his granddaughter. It was good to see the three of them. When Rie Zunic asked if he had any thoughts, Aldamir nodded. It was something he had been thinking about since the attack happened.

”Yes”. Aldamir said. ”I have several thoughts. One big one is we have been too lax in thinking a move was afoot. We’ve been watching the guild, but it seems there are factions within the guild, and even some that operate outside its code of conduct. This move was too bold for the Mariners Guild.”

He looked over at the young granddaughter and to Almara. “I take it you are not in want of anything?”

Before anyone could answer, a soldier came into the infirmary and walked over to Aldamir. He said ”King Eldacar has called a meeting of the most urgency. It will require your attendance m’lord, as well as yours sir.” He gave Rie Zunic a nod before he stood at attention. Aldamir threw off the blanket and stood up. “Well, let us not keep my father waiting. I’ll come back to see you again Almara.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and gave the baby his finger to hold for a moment before he turned to go.

When they arrived in the King’s private dining room, he was grim and in thought. He quickly listed measures that were to be taken, including a sweep of East Osgiliath of any and all mariners be they guilds man or no. It would cripple commerce for a time, but he had to make sure where loyalties lay. “Rie Zunic, I give you command of this. Take what resources you need excepting the Rhovanions. Treat them with respect, but be firm. So many assassins could not have gotten here and in position without help.”

Rie was dismissed to discuss with commanders the most likely places to look. It would not be easy. Eldacar waved Aldamir over for a private word. "Son, many things have changed with this attack. We will need to make some hard decisions…”

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 1st, 2019, 5:52 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Seeing Amarwen had given him some relief in knowing she was all right. There was nothing he could do to change what was happening around him. He did know that anyone looking suspicious would be likely questioned. And there would be blame aplenty put on the guild. He had to be careful…

The streets were crawling with soldiers and Halvarin took refuge in East Osgiliath where he would be able to find some refuge. There was a slight bit of safety there on the old quarter by the quay, but any Mariners Guild people would be looked for and it was likely a matter of time before Eldacar ordered a sweep. Halvarin was thankful he paid attention to the marine courses of his training. It was something Michas excelled in. He was grateful to his old friend as well.

Halvarin weighed out everything. With the Mariner’s Guild noticeably absent at the tournament, they would be the first to be blamed. But Halvarin knew Castamir well enough to know he would not act in such a way. He remembered some at the academy who were quite adamant in their racism against Valacar for allowing his son to take a Rhovanion wife. They faulted Castamir for not being more assertive.. more vocal… and they tried to recruit him….

“Soldiers on the move!” went out a cry at the tavern. Halvarin grabbed his hat and headed out the back. Heading east out if the city by various means was his best option right now. He would have to live rough for a time…

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 1st, 2019, 5:21 pm 
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The Palace

Amarwen lingered until she was certain as she could be that Halvarin had made a clean departure. She stepped out of the dark ante-chamber and into the bright halls. The sudden change in lighting blinded her vision momentarily and given how unsteady she felt, Amarwen deemed it wiser to remain where she was until her sight cleared. People continued to come and go, hurrying after any number of errands and tasks. The long day had produced an even longer night.

”Lady Amarwen!” She blinked to find one of Eldacar’s personal guards approaching her. ”I am relieved to have found you.”

That the King had been searching for her concerned Amarwen immediately. It called for some explanation, but what could she say. That she had argued with his son? Or that she had met in secret with someone who had no business being in the city, much less the palace? No, the truth would never serve.

”I find the night air clears my mind,” she said to the man. It sounded feeble even to her own ears and she could see he was studying her intently.

”The King has summonsed you. The matter is urgent,” the man said as he scrutinised her. His brows drew together as he came to a conclusion. ”However I think it wiser that you seek your rest. The hour is late and the King will understand.”

“Who else has been summonsed,”
Amarwen asked.

”Prince Aldamir and a former palace officer – Rie Zunic is his name, I believe.”

Eldacar was not who she had intended to seek but given circumstances, he would do. Amarwen nodded as her decision was made. ”I will attend the King at once.”

Though Eldacar’s personal guard seemed to disagree, he fell in beside her and soon enough Amarwen was ushered through the doors to find Eldacar and Aldamir both in a grim discussion that broke off at her arrival.

”Good,” the King said as the doors were closed behind her. ”Best you hear this from me, I think.”

Aldamir had risen slowly to his feet. His expression was almost unreadable but his eyes. Oh his eyes. Such pain and anguish. Surely she had not wounded him so deeply, she thought. She swallowed as the King gestured her forwards.

”Come, take a seat, Lady Amarwen,” he said. Uncertainly, almost reluctantly, she obeyed the King’s bidding.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

East Osgiliath

In East Osgiliath, Vinyarion stood outside the Guild House with a small contingent of Rhovanians. He peered at the door. Barricaded, he was almost sure of it. He looked to those that had accompanied him.

”Better you should remain out here,” he said.

”Sir,” protested one of the Rhovanians but at that moment, Vinyarion spotted a familiar figure trying to slink past.

”Hal!” the young Prince called and the heavily swathed figure seemed to shrink in on itself before turning about. Sure enough, looking rather haunted and hunted, Halvarin peered out at him unhappily.

”That settles it,” Vinyarion declared and turned back to his Rhovanian detail. ”After what’s happened to date, they will not dare touch a hair on my royal head in their own house. Hal will make sure of it.”

Though this did not satisfy his guards, Vinyarion stepped forward and held an arm out to Halvarin to summon him closer.

”I am as pleased as I am surprised to find you here, Hal,” Vinyarion said as they climbed the steps to the wide, heavy oak doors of the Guild House.

”What’s going on?” Halvarin asked in a low voice. Vinyarion dug into his belt and produced a folded slip of paper that he passed to Halvarin.

”Need to find these men, if they’re to be found here.” He lifted a hand, formed a fist and pounded on the reinforced doors.

Halvarin scanned the paper and saw a list of names. And the King’s own signature at the bottom of the page. He frowned, for the men listed there were all officers of middle to senior rank in the Guild. And all of them, insofar as he knew, were men loyal to the crown. Several, in fact, he knew to be colleagues and even friends of Amarwen’s father.

”You’ve got the wrong men here,” Halvarin said as Vinyarion pounded again.

He bellowed through the door that they were to open it in the name of the crown. Once he did that, he shot Halvarin a look.

”I hope not. Grandfather’s counting on them.”

One door swung open and a burly man who looked more than a little weary peered out at the two young men on the step and the Rhovanian contingent waiting on the street. Torchlight flickered on their weapons.

”There are no assassins here,” the Guild sergeant declared. ”But if you want to waste your time turning out our cupboards and beds again, far be it from me to stop you.”

“I am here on urgent business,”
Vinyarion declared, snatching the paper back from Halvarin’s grip.

The sergeant grunted at that and allowed both the young prince and Halvarin through the door. It squealed on its hinges as it was sealed shut.

”What business, then,” the veteran demanded, arms crossing over his burly chest. If Halvarin was not mistaken, this was the sergeant that Michas had spent half a year cursing. A formidable soldier, hard in training recruits.

”The Crown has need of Guild men.”

The sergeant squinted at him, his scepticism apparent. ”I doubt you’ll find volunteers tripping over themselves. Not after tonight.”

”I should think the opportunity to distance itself from the day’s villainous events is one the Guild would jump at,” Vinyarion countered. The prince waved his piece of paper. ”If these men be here, please gather them so that I may speak with them.” Vinyarion passed the paper back to Halvarin for safe keeping. ”I shall await them in the private officer’s mess.”

Vinyarion nodded at Halvarin and set off, hands clasped behind his back, for the private officers mess. Halvarin knew that under ordinary circumstances, neither he nor Vinyarion would be permitted anywhere near the hallowed private officer’s mess. But these were not ordinary circumstances.

The sergeant appraised Halvain, clearly interested in the names on the list he held. ”You know these...volunteers?”

Halvarin admitted and the sergeant heaved a pained sigh.

”Come on then, let’s get this over with.”

All in all, of the eleven names on the King’s list, only two could be located in the Guildhouse that night. A captain and a commanding officer arrived, agitated. Certain, Halvarin thought, that they were about to be arrested. Hoping to avoid such a fate himself, Halvarin was eager to quit the mess as soon as he could. Vinyarion, though, had other thoughts.

The young prince called after him and Halvarin swung about, the list of names still in his hand. ”My name is not listed,” he protested.

Vinyarion appraised him. ”It should be. Stay.”

Halvarin collapsed into a nearby chair with an unhappy sigh and Vinyarion turned back to the two senior Guild officers rousted, unwillingly, from their beds.

”The Crown has a commission for you. A quick, quiet run to Edhellond. Under a guild flag.”

Halvarin went very still at that. He considered what Amarwen had told him and weighed the probabilities.

”To what end?” the Captain queried.

”We’d rather not say,” Vinyarion hedged.

Halvarin watched the captain consider his colleague. The commanding officer rubbed at his whiskered jaw and the captain shook his head. ”I’ll not put my men, my ship, at risk without knowing the reason for it.”

Vinyarion chose his words carefully. ”Lady Amarwen is going home.”

The commanding officer stared at Vinyarion and then barked an incredulous laugh. ”Now? You want us to run a girl home to visit her parents now?”

From where he sat, Halvarin could see Vinyarion was grinding his teeth. The prince then looked to where Halvarin sat for a hard moment. ”This cannot leave this room. By royal decree, the betrothal has ended.”

There was silence in the private officer’s mess as this was digested. The captain rubbed his hands over his face as he weighed it up. ”When are we to leave?”

“As soon as you can clear the city’s docks. A couple of days, I should think. Certainly within the week.”

“How many will she travel with?”

“A large force will be conspicuous. It is vital that the Lady evades the notice of those that wish the Crown ill.”

“The wolves will be kept at bay whilst the Lady is under my care,”
the Captain said and Vinyarion nodded.

”You will be well paid for your service,” Vinyarion said. ”The palace will provide further detail to you come the morning.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Palace

As Eldacar set out his decree, Amarwen’s head swum. Everything seemed to slow down. Time itself shrank to a crawl. She could hear the dull thud of her heart stretching out. The sound of her breathing. Her capacity for speech withered. All she could do was look to Aldamir with a wordless plea to speak out against this. Yet every protest he made was met with staunch opposition. This was not a discussion. The King had already made his decision. The papers were already signed. They sat on the table nearby.

”I know this must be a hard burden to shoulder, son. But I can see no better option. It is all I can do to assure Edhellond’s future in these uncertain times.”

Amarwen’s eyes swung away and settled on the floor. Her breath caught in her throat and lodged there. Thankfully, her head was bowed when the King transferred his attention to her. She could find nothing to say.

”Lady Amarwen. Tell me you understand.”

She understood very well indeed. It was over and that was all there was to it. She felt numb but she knew it would not last.

The King accepted her silence and pushed on. The arrangements he had made for her voyage home. The matter of compensation, three times her dowry and far more generous than the terms of the betrothal agreement. Assurances that this was no censure, repudiation or punishment directed at her. That the Crown valued the loyalty of such a treasured ally and that it was why the King had reached his decision. If she heard it described as difficult one more time, Amarwen thought she just might scream. Distantly, she heard the bells ring the midnight hour.

”May I take my leave, Sire?” she said, her voice hoarse.

"Of course,” Eldacar replied, his expression not without remorse or kindness.

Amarwen withdrew from the formal chambers and gained the hall beyond. Her grip on her composure was evaporating with each step. She walked, almost as if she were asleep, to her chambers. All the belongings she had brought with her for the visit to Osgiliath had been placed in Aldamir’s chambers.

She did not even have a nightdress with her in her own chambers. Not that it mattered. Amarwen sank onto one of the couches in the parlour and curled into a ball.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 11th, 2019, 12:19 am 
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Osgiliath - Amarwen's Departure

Her heartache, when it arrived, was both familiar and new. Familiar, for this was not the first time a sweep of ink on a royal decree had swept her life and all she knew of it away. That this should happen again particularly haunted Amarwen. She had worked so hard to rebuild herself and to find the courage to even love again. To reshape her life into one that was of royal duty and service to the realm at large rather than the relatively narrow scope of her own people. So much work. Exhausting and gruelling at times, consigned now to the pages of the past. Jarring.

But this heartache was also new in how Amarwen responded to it. Bitter experience warned her against fighting what was inevitable. She could never ask Aldamir to set her before his duty to his realm. He would never forgive her for doing so and she would never forgive him if he chose her. It was his deep sense of honour and his profound dedication to his nation that she loved in him. Frankly, a prince of realm that chose her over his people was a man unworthy. Surrender was not in Amarwen’s nature and yet, that was the only course available to her now.

In the time it took to get her on her way, Amarwen’s mind turned to what lay ahead. There was much she was unsure of. She did not know if she could just fall back into her life at Edhellond. Nor was she certain she would be allowed to. The prospect of yet another betrothal made her ill to her stomach and yet it was not out of the question.

Nor did Amarwen know her mother would respond to the King’s decision. Amarwen thought it unlikely Lady Alenna of Edhellond would rethink her fealty to Eldacar for to do so would be to repudiate their own lineage along with the laws of secession as set out under the Line of Kings. Still, Amarwen thought it unlikely that the assurances and compensation the Palace had offered would soften her mother’s displeasure.

Perhaps, though, another betrothal might not be possible. The court would wonder at why her betrothal had come to so sudden an end. She could hear the rumours and gossip even now. Enough, certainly, to give any other noble house pause. Enough, even, to give the Master of Ships pause? If so, he would not come to Edhellond for her. No, when the Master of Ships came to Edhellond, he’d come for them all. It was the one thing Amarwen was certain of for Eldacar’s decision all but confirmed that war was now inevitable. Less certain, by a great margin, was how Edhellond would defend itself.

The palace staff set about packing her up and getting her out of the royal apartments without delay. In all that time she did not see Aldamir nor did she hear from him. His elder brother, Ornedil, stopped in the once to explore whether she might be willing to continue the work she had begun with Aldamir. She’d yet to decide on that and the Crown Prince had been willing to allow her time to consider.

And now she was here. The boat rocked in the river’s current, still moored. The Captain, a man called Kertigan who said he had met her when she was still a child, had swiftly tucked her below decks to a small cabin that was windowless. Apologetically, he’d told her that they could not risk any from the shore noting her presence on deck or through a window and hence this small cabin was to be her home until they effected a transfer to an ocean going vessel. And so here she was to remain at all times. Apologies made, Kertigan was soon away again for they were to set out and there was much yet to be done. He closed the cabin door behind him gently and she was alone.

It was a strange sensation, this aloneness. Since arriving in Osgiliath two years ago, Amarwen had not been alone since. Every deed, every word had been watched until now it wasn’t. No guards or Rhovanians. No ladies in waiting. No friendly face to turn to. Alone. With a sigh, she let the small leather bag she had brought with her drop by her feet.

In this small cabin there were two narrow beds, each anchored to a wall. On the third, a modest desk similarly affixed and a chair. Her hands curled and uncurled at her sides. Two years ago she had earnestly yearned for just this. Freedom, she’d thought of it at the time, to return to the life and all that went with it that she really wanted. But that life was also gone. Instead of freedom, Amarwen felt empty and restless.

Overhead she could hear the crew moving about in their final preparations. Crew she would not meet until they were at sea. Footsteps passed this way and that. Some feet were bare whilst others wore boots. The officers she had yet to meet, she presumed. Pushing out a sorrowful sigh, Amarwen picked up her leather bag and dropped it onto one of the bunks. She pulled from it the clothing she had brought to get her through her voyage: a few shifts, an extra dress, a woollen shawl should the nights turn cold as they often did on open water. It was all simple and serviceable stuff, much like the one she wore now. All her court garb had been packed away, along with the casks of gold, somewhere on this boat. Edhellond would find a use for the gold. The fine court garb she suspected would prove less useful

If the Guild were to intercept them, they’d find themselves with a fat goose in hand once they discovered that gold. The Palace’s calculation on the worth of her life: two years to be precise. Weighed, measured, paid for in full and then set aside. Discarded, not unkindly and yet there it was.

Once she had hung the clothing from a peg designed, she thought, to bear Guild coats and jackets, Amarwen returned to the rest of her meagre possessions. A comb and small hand mirror along with her writing roll and correspondence box were set on the desk, claiming most of the available space once this was done.

It was better than a cell. Still, the prospect of being confined here for days on end did daunt her. She did not even have a book to read to pass the time. A serious oversight given the tedious hours that stretched ahead of her. To lose herself in the exquisite beauty that was Second Age Noldorin poetry was, it seemed, too much to hope for. The city’s library held the largest collection to be had. Amarwen tipped head back to consider the activity above deck. Might the Captain agree to a brief delay so that she might remedy this oversight? Unlikely, she thought. And if he did, she doubted that she’d get far from the docks before she was turned around and returned to the boat she stood on. Just as she had not forgotten her various attempts to escape her fate two years ago, nor had the Palace.

She raked her fingers through her hair. The action dislodged several strands from the heavy, thick braid she had wound it into earlier in the day. She paid them little heed, for what did it matter now? And just as that thought crossed her mind, she heard the door open behind her. Amarwen turned, expecting to find Captain Kertigan. Instead, Aldamir stood before her.

”Al,” she breathed, her voice strained by emotion swelling within her. Remembering her station belatedly, Amarwen curtsied and bowed her head.

Aldamir had stepped into the cabin and softly closed the door. Her breathing quickened before she knew it and a wild, sudden hope broke free. It whispered that the prince was here to tell her that the King had changed his mind. That this was all a bad dream from which she would wake. The Prince’s sombre expression soon had this errant hope in embers as she gazed at him.

Another love lost.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 15th, 2019, 5:59 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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With the ship ready to leave Osgiliath, Halvarin stayed with the Captain Kertigan as he would be the navigator to Pelargir. The ship’s navigator Halvarin had identified as one who had expressed radical views when in one of the classes in Pelargir. The day before departure Vinyarion and Halvarin sat down with the captain to go over some matters. The main one was how they would get an ocean-going vessel to move the Lady and her servants onward to Edhellond. The captain was assuring that it would be seen to and the need for secrecy was clear.

Overall, Captain Kertigan’s crew was quite loyal, and the reasons why he had not have been assigned to a sea-going vessel with his hours and experience was likely due to his political views. Halvarin was satisfied with the men on the ship, but he did have concern for one of the officers. Halvarin mentioned it to Vinyarion, and the two met with Captain Kertigan away from the ship. Halvarin wasted no time voicing his concerns.

“Captain, your navigator, newly assigned?”
“Yes, only weeks ago.” The captain answered. Halvarin took a deep breath.
“He was in one of my classes in Pelargir. I don’t think he will keep secrecy of the guest on board.” He said.
“Oh? What do you know”
“He had some… shall we say… divergent views… from not only the Crown of Gondor but from the Mariners Guild as well.”

Halvarin suspected the man may have been a part of the network that tried to kill the royals, Amarwen included.

“I see…” the captain said as he put his hand on his chin. “He is the only one of my officers not tenured. The others, and the chief, have been with me for years. My good navigator took an ocean-going assignment.”

Vinyarion listened to the two talk, and he finally joined in… “May I make a suggestion?”

Vinyarion’s suggestion was to tamper with the navigator’s food that night. He was in no condition to see to his duties the next morning, and the captain agreed to appoint Halvarin as his temporary. Halvarin went to and remained in the ship’s bridge, going over the charts for the River Anduin. He tried to take little notice of the arrival of Lady Amarwen on board with her belongings, but the news that the betrothal was off with Prince Aldamir had Halvarin thinking…. Remembering…

Their departure would be with the tides at the mouth of the river as the flows have been diminished with the lack of rain. Halvarin would be tested on his river knowledge for he had only studied the Anduin and had a run to Minas Tirith in his Ensign days. He would remain in the bridge until they leave Osgiliath.

Aldamir had avoided seeing Lady Amarwen in the day after the king’s decree. He didn’t know what to say to her. He felt deep feeling for her, yet his deep regret to have her feet knocked from her so suddenly… He remained secluded and tending to matters of their military strengths. He hoped their few remaining connections within the Guild would prove worthy in this endeavour to get Lady Amarwen safely home.

When official word game from the Guild from Minas Anor that they were guaranteed safe passage under the Gondorian and the Guild flags, Aldamir relaxed some at the news. As the day dawned, Aldamir got up and quietly made his way to East Osgiliath with only Rhinnin and his Gondorian door guard. He came to the ship as it was making final preparations to leave. His arrival caused a concerned face to spread over Captain Kertigan’s face. Their window to leave was a short one that depended on leaving at just the right time in the tide cycle. Yet he was the prince.

“State ye business Prince of Gondor, we must leave ere the ninth hour strikes.” Captain Kertigan called out.

“I am calling on one who has passage. I must speak to them.” He eyed the captain, not wanting to announce who is aboard his ship. Captain Kertigan ceded but as the gangplank was again placed, he said as he saluted the Prince on his deck. “Time is short. Flows are low and we need to leave with the receding tides.”

Aldamir nodded and was escorted down to where Lady Amarwen was quartered. The captain knocked and cracked the door open. “M’Lady, Lord Aldamir, Prince of Gondor wishes a brief audience with you.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 16th, 2019, 4:09 am 
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Voyage to Edhellond

Prince Aldamir remained but briefly onboard before he was away again. With that, anchor was at last struck and the final lines mooring them to Osgiliath’s dock fell away. The boat pulled free, bourne on a sluggish current slowly from the realm’s capital and the crew were left to wonder at what transpired between the prince and their solitary passenger. Amarwen, for her part, said nothing. She remained in her cabin, sealed away, taking little food or drink.

Gradually, though, as they pressed steadily south, their solitary passenger began to rally. She started to eat and took water. All through the hours she could be heard pacing about her lonely cabin. Nothing to be done for that as Kertigan was determined to have no one sight her from the river banks. They passed through Harlond and then their pace quickened as the river’s depth increased. On to Pelargir they sped and through that too. And all the while, working feverishly on his charts of currents, tides and prevailing winds, Halvarin calculated and chartered what was a most perilous point of transfer.

The young navigator was not in the least surprised that only smugglers dared such a feat. The Bay of Belfalas was notorious for its capricious currents. As for the isle of Tol Falas, which was to screen their transfer to a suitable ocean sloop from prying eyes ashore, it was known to be a place that offered neither safe harbor nor succour. Kertigan had assured him that their sloop would be waiting for them, provided he could steer their river boat through the Anduin estuary and the river mouth, across the bay and hook around Tol Falas. A river boat was not designed to withstand such demands and risk, should he miscalculate, that they would drown, Amarwen with them, haunted Halvarin.

He worked feverishly, convinced that Kertigan and his commanding officer, Lannilear surely had to be smugglers themselves. How else could they be so calm, and so assured that the task they had set him could be done? Yet, through Halvarin’s skill and diligence coupled with the knowledge and experience of his command, the transfer was made without loss or incident. He remained in the bridge, explaining the route that would take them beyond the horizon next as Amarwen climbed aboard. She blinked, dazzled by direct sunlight she had not seen for a week.

The rigging creaked overhead as mariner’s scampered along, freeing the great sails that would carry her home. Ordinarily, Amarwen loved to sail yet she could find no joy in this moment. Only relief, that they had made it this far. That she would once again feel fresh air upon her skin and the sunlight that presently warmed her head. She drew a deep breath of salty air. It felt...clean. Whole. Perhaps she would be too, one day.

”Lady,” Lannilear said at her shoulder. Amarwen turned at the Commanding Officer’s voice followed him below deck, unaware that from the bridge Halvarin watched. The senior officer led her to the cabin that was to be hers next. They’d chosen for her a starboard room that was bright and airy. Wide, with windows lining two of the four walls.

”This, I hope, will be more comfortable, Lady Amarwen. You are, of course, now free to go where you will, as you wish.”

“Thank you,”
she said quietly, so relieved by what she saw that she was almost to the point of tears.

”Summer storms notwithstanding, the worst is behind us,” Lannilear continued. ”I estimate that we’ll gain Edhellond within two weeks, should the weather hold.”

Amarwen nodded and swallowed the lump forming in her throat. ”And might I ask, the navigator responsible for delivering us so safely?”

“Not our usual man, but highly commended. Knows the Edhellond run like the back of his hand and vouched for by Prince Vinyarion himself.”

“I’d like to thank him, if that is possible.”

“Of course, Lady. I’ll send him down just as soon as he’s free.”

Lannilear watched their forlorn charge nod at that. With daughters of his own, he could not help but be moved at the lady’s plight. She was, to him, so very young to be caught up in the ruthless machinations of court. Pondering this, the officer took his leave and Amarwen set to work settling in.

That did not take long at all and so she went to the windows over the bed and pushed them open. She could see the stern deck below and beyond that, the wake of their progress foaming as they pushed deeper into the ocean. Amarwen folded her arms over the sill, rested her chin upon them and discovered that she had dozed off when a knock at her cabin door woke her.

She rubbed at her face as she scrambled off the bed and hurried to the door to pull it open. There, considering her warily, was Halvarin. She stared at him, startled to discover his presence.

”Officer Lannilear said you wished to see me,” Halvarin offered by way of explanation.

Recovering her wits somewhat, Amarwen pulled back and Halvarin stepped into the open door way. He leaned against the frame and folded his arms over his chest. The talented navigator who knew the Edhellond run like the back of his hand. Amarwen shook her head at the dullness of her wits. She should have known, just as she should have seen the end of her betrothal approaching. For his part, Halvarin studied her with no small degree of concern. She turned away from his scrutiny as he asked, ”How are you holding up?”

“How do you think,”
she replied, and regretted it immediately. She shook her head at herself again and considered Halvarin apologetically. ”I am not the best company.”

Halvarin agreed. ”Of course not.”

She peered at him, still astonished by this twist of events. There was a strange irony to it. Halvarin had escorted her to her betrothal and now he was escorting her out of it. She did not know what to say.

“This is Vin’s design, Ami, and not mine,” Halvarin said, reading the thrust of her thoughts.

”I am sorry to continue to cause you trouble,” Amarwen said to that and Halvarin sighed for it was not at all what he had intended.

He unfolded his arms to stuff his hands in his pockets. ” it true, then? Is it really over?”

she replied heavily and diverted her eyes. ”What of it, Hal?”

For his part, Halvarin shrugged. ”I’m...sorry. I really am, Ami.”

She threw him a hard look, filled with doubt. ”It brings me no pleasure to see you like this,” he told her plainly. Amarwen considered that for a moment and he could not tell if she believed him or not.

”What are you going to do now?” he asked

“What can I do?” Amarwen replied, throwing an arm up to punctuate the question. She began to pace, restless. ”Edhellond is no safer and the realm is even further divided than ever before. I have failed. Utterly.”

Halvarin remained where he was and watched her pass to and fro. Agitated. Worried. And so very sad.

”This will pass, Ami,” he said quietly. ”All storms do.”

She paused her pacing and turned to search his face for something. Desperate for an answer. He had none he could give her and Amarwen sank to the edge of the bed with a profound sigh. Her head bowed and the ocean breeze admitted by the windows open behind her tossed strands of black hair about.

She had, Halvarin thought to himself, been allowed to ruminate for far too long. Cooped up in that cabin with nothing do and no one to talk to. The captain’s lifting of restrictions would, Halvarin thought, help. And so could he.

”Do you remember how we used to play cards,” he asked. Amarwen nodded and so he continued, ”I’ve got a deck with me somewhere, I think. It will help pass the time.”

She lifted her head to reveal a wary expression that he caught and so he added. ”Unless you’d rather stare at your walls?”

Amarwen weighed that up and then nodded. ”Thank you.”

”Least I can do,” he said and rose to his feet. ”I’ll come by later, if you’re still up. And try to eat something tomorrow. Everything is harder on an empty stomach.”

With that, Halvarin withdrew and closed the cabin door after him. Safely on the other side of it, he paused, mind wheeling. Michas, were he here, would be warning Halvarin off. But...what was he to do? Simply stand by at such a time? What sort of friend would do that? And despite all that had come to pass, surely they were still that. Still friends.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 17th, 2019, 2:02 am 
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Arrival at Edhellond

True to his word, Halvarin returned later in the evening with a battered deck of cards in hand as he would do so for the rest of their voyage. Their games were quiet at first. Amarwen felt no need to speak or explain. She was so tired of thinking of what had happened. Halvarin, for his part, demanded nothing from her. It was not long, however, before the patterns of their long friendship emerged and Amarwen soon found herself keenly aware of how much had missed their friendship. Gone now was the need to keep her distance. There was no one watching and she was no longer betrothed. The shackles fell away, one by one and Amarwen found herself looking forward to their games. Sometimes they would set down the cards and simply talk. This too was a rediscovery of the past. Whatever the case, Amarwen found herself feeling immeasureably better as the days passed.

Her friendship with Halvarin was not the only thing Amarwen rediscovered. She had quite forgotten the exhilaration and freedom that came with sailing. The wonder that was the vast and powerful ocean they plied. The sheer pleasure of sun on her face, wind in her hair and an endless horizon spreading into the distance. Out here it was as if the troubles and strife that had ruled her existence these past two years did not exist. Or, rather, did not matter. A weight she had forgotten she carried started to slip from her shoulders. Alliances and the political necessities that had hung over her head for many months evaporated. It seemed a long time to her since she had been so free and out here, almost anything seemed possible.

She saw a great many marvels. From water spouts that twisted far aloft to powerful leviathans and playful creatures that sported in the wake of their ship. Halvarin told her that mariners, at times, mistook these creatures for mermaids. Amarwen was not sure whether to believe him or not. It would come soon enough. Colour returned to her face and she found easier and easier to smile. All these things pulled her out of her own thoughts but they could not make her immune to the sorrow that was still lodged within her. Amarwen was well aware that eventually, they would return to land. She did her best to not dwell on the inevitable but as the days drew down, one week into the next, the reality that awaited her loomed.

Amarwen did not know the reception she would find. Her mother had been the principal architect of her betrothal and the reasons for this had not changed. If anything, the peril faced by Edhellond was sharper still as indeed it was for all of Gondor.

"Are you worried?" Halvarin asked as he picked up his hand of newly dealt cards. "We will dock tomorrow evening at the latest."

She shook herself from her thoughts at this. There was little to be gained by denying it. She was worried, about a great many things. Instead, Amarwen studied Halvarin from across the table they sat it in her cabin.

"I know that I may not have said this at first, but I am glad you are here."

Halvarin smiled to himself and looked up from his cards. "Apologies, Ami, but I doubt I am able to sufficiently shield you from your mother’s wrath."

Amarwen sighed, a rueful smile of her own appearing. "But even Amme must realise that done is done."

"Will it be as simple as that?"

Studying her own cards, Amarwen shook her head in response. Her mother was not one to take disappointments lying down. "The compensation may soften her displeasure somewhat."

"It is a sizeable sum."

"Two years of my life, weighed, measured and accounted for,"
she said. "If I have my way, to be invested directly into preparing Edhellond's defences."

"And will you have your way?"
Halvarin inquired as he selected a card to set down.

"Edhellond is too vulnerable. We will not weather what is to come through alliances, treaties and trade."

She played a card of her own as Halvarin studied her. "Or betrothals," he observed archly.

Amarwen nodded. "Exactly."

"You mean to stay in Edhellond, then?"

"Come what may,"
Amarwen replied emphatically for she was done with betrothals. She was done with arrangements that meant politics came before all else. She was done with having such decisions made for her. Above all, she wanted to be loved for herself and if she could find that, then she would die alone.

They played a fast round, Halvarin winning the hand and so dealing the next with a widely satisfied grin in place.

"And what of your future plans," Amarwen inquired. Her question knocked the grin off his face.

"I'm going to do my best to land a position on an ocean going voyage. Something for at least three months."

"Long enough for the heat to die down?"

he said with an emphatic nod and so they played on, late into the night.

As Halvarin predicted, they gained Edhellond mid afternoon of the following day. Amarwen stood, watching the crew secure their ship. The sound of a gangplank thudded onto the stones of the dock. Her stomach was knotted and when she heard knuckles knock on her open door, she could not help but flinch.

She turned to find Halvarin waiting. "The Captain will escort you."

"And you?"

"I'm to assist Lannilear with unloading."

She nodded, reluctantly bent to pick up the small leather bag she had with her and walked forward. At the door she paused and rose on her toes to coyly kiss Halvarin's cheek. "Thank you, Hal. I mean it, perhaps more than you can know."

Astonished, Halvarin's eyes widened but he said nothing as she lightly squeezed his forearm. With that, Amarwen climbed to the deck where she joined the Captainand set off for her ancestral halls. And whatever uncertainty awaited her there.

Captain Kertigan was gone for two hours before he returned to ship. He strode onboard and summoned his two officers to him. "Edhellond has doubled the Palace's reward and offered to refit or make good on any running repairs this old sloop requires. No dock fees, free lodgings and board for the crew."

Lannilear issued a low, appreciative whistle and Halvarin said, with no small relief. "It went well!"

Kertigan nodded, "It's been some time since we've had such a generous welcome and I intend to make the most of it. You two are expected to join me up at the hall. They're particularly keen to meet you, young man."

"Best polish those boots of yours, Hal"
the Commanding Officer quipped with a smile. He set off with a whistle, keen to get off ship and up to the promised accommodations at the halls. Halvarin peered up at the sprawling expanse and wondered just how warm his welcome would be once they realised who he was. His answer came soon enough when he found himself walking into Edhellond's Great Hall with his captain and commanding officer.

Amarwen sidled up to Halvarin's elbow after the introductions were made. Lady Alenna and Lord Therald seemed to take his presence in their stride. He wondered at that as Amarwen murmured into his ear, "I've found you an assignment. Six months. Will that serve?"

"Six months!"

Amarwen nodded, "Long enough, yes?"

"I suppose so,"
he said slowly as his thoughts turned. Amarwen smiled up at him, pleased to have found a suitable arrangement. He asked "When does it leave?"

"In a week, from Edhellond, under the command of Captain Silas,"
she said. The bell rang for the first course and Amarwen pulled away from him to take her seat.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 28th, 2019, 10:46 pm 
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Three days after arriving home, Amarwen found herself with a quiet moment to herself. Edhellond’s response to her return had been nothing short of exuberant. Their people did not yet grasp the growing peril that had sent her back to them. That said, it had been pleasant. She had missed her parents and her friends. She had missed her old haunts and pursuits. She had missed, most keenly of all, Halvarin.

She drew a deep breath and drew out a fresh sheet of parchment. She dipped a new quill into her ink and began to write.

My prince,

I am safely returned to Edhellond. The officers and crew selected for the task proved both skilful and loyal. Evidence, perhaps, that not all in the Guild are party to the present treason underway.

My parents have accepted the King’s decision. I expect my mother will write to your father advising this. Edhellond will remain loyal. No surprises there, I should hope. My people are glad to have me back. They do not yet understand what this will mean.

I cannot deny that it has been pleasant, as you suggested. There is a freedom to be had here that I did not, perhaps, fully appreciate before. Our attentions turn, now, to the defences Edhellond will require to weather the coming storm. It is a difficult landscape to defend. Any force that lands elsewhere and marches in will find us all too easy to pick off. That will have to be addressed.

I think Halvarin will continue to aid us. As the Guild gathers momentum, his insights will only increase in value. I am not confident his father will be inclined to protect him should his support for your father be revealed. Care must be taken that he is not discovered. I could not forgive myself if he came to harm as a result of aiding us.

As for me, I have considered your brother’s request carefully. I am uncertain how I might be of further use in Edhellond. I will do what I can, as I can, should that meet with your approval.

She paused there to review. It read well enough as it was yet there was something more Amarwen felt she needed add. Even if she was not sure it was wise to do so.

I know that none of this is your doing. Just as it is not mine. That which thrust us together now sunders us. Ironic, is it not?

Though there is much I regret, what remains unchanged is this: you were kind, gracious and generous to me. You allowed me into your life and into your heart and you did not have to do that.

Irrespective of what comes next, I will never forget this. You gave me joy. I will treasure what we had, brief though it proved to be.

I remain at your service, my prince, and that of your father.

Long may King Eldacar reign.


Just as she set her quill down, Amarwen heard her mother calling for her.

”Ami...I hope you are not moping in there!” the Lady of Edhellond admonished as she cracked open the door to her daughter’s bedchambers.

Amarwen rose to her feet and turned to face her mother. ”And what would be gained in that, Amme?”

her mother replied as she pulled her daughter into her arms. Amarwen allowed her mother to hold her closely and smooth her hair. ”How are you holding up?”

“I have missed you,”
Amarwen answered and her mother drew back.

Lady Alenna’s eyes were bright as she studied her daughter. ”I am so very proud of you.”

“Even though I have failed?”
Amarwen returned.

The Lady of Edhellond kissed her brow. ”I will not have such talk under my roof! You have served our people faithfully and well and I will not hear otherwise.” Alenna linked her arm through her daughter’s. ”Now...what are your plans for the day, daughter?”

“Well, since moping is out of the question...”
Amarwen replied with half a smile.

”It is market day, or have you forgotten?” Lady Alenna said as she towed her daughter forward, arm in arm. ”And it has been too long since last I ventured to it with my daughter.”

Thus Amarwen’s letter did not get immediately sent. It sat on the desk in her rooms awaiting its author’s in turn. In doing so, Lord Therald gained an appreciation of his daughter’s frame of mind for he too visited her rooms only to discover what Amarwen had written. The realisation that Halvarin, however, was involved in supporting the crown came as a true surprise. Considering his father’s disposition, the Lord of Edhellond was both impressed and concerned. For his daughter was correct. Halvarin’s father would not protect his son should the truth come out.

Thus, Halvarin acquired himself a benevolent guardian without even becoming aware of it. Therald could not match Calamir’s scope of influence but he was a senior member of the Guild in his own right. Even those loyal to Eldacar’s rivals came to him when they wanted a vessel built. There was much the Lord of Edhellond could do to shield Halvarin and he resolved to do so. For it was not the first time Therald had found himself acting in a paternal fashion in a way Halvarin’s father could or would not over the years.


 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: December 31st, 2019, 8:17 pm 
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As soon as Silas put in, he sought out the Lord of Edhellond and found the man down on Edhellond’s quay, squinting at a smaller ship of the sort many smuggler’s preferred. Swift and agile in the water, designed for stealth before anything else.

”An entire shipment of timber, Therald, for the right price,” the Captain declared, at which the Lord of Edhellond turned about and offered Silas a broad grin.

The two mariner’s clasped forearms and Therald gave off his study to eye Silas’ larger vessel. ”Are you planning on getting it north or south?”

Silas answered and watched Therald’s reaction closely. ”It’s plentiful and easy to get. Unlike the north.”

The Lord of Edhellond nodded, rubbing at the back of his neck. ”For delivery to Pelargir?”

“Of course!”
Silas answered.

”You’re sure you can’t go north? Harder to get, I know, but it is better suited to the task at hand.”

“Riskier too. I refuse to put in along Cardolan. That land is near constantly at war.”

“I’ll make it worth your while. And there is another matter. I’d like you to take on a student navigator.”

Silas’ eyes narrowed. ”I determine my crew, Therald.”

“I know, Silas. I know...but he’s talented and a hard working lad.”

“What’s his name?”


“Calimir’s boy?”
Silas exclaimed. ”Well, I’ll leave that in my navigator’s hands. If Darion does not agree, then so be it. No matter how much gold you throw at me, Shipwright.”

Whilst Captain Silas was negotiating with the Lord of Edhellond, Master Navigator Darion was strolling at his leisure along one of Edhellond’s graceful avenues. It ran alongside the river Morthond and bore the all the hallmarks of the Elven haven that Edhellond was. Amongst those around him, he espied a Guild jacket ahead and so made for it. Darion found himself approaching a young man and with him, if he was not mistaken, was the young heir of the Lady of Edhellond. The pair were thick as thieves and it looked, Darion thought, altogether too familiar. Particularly when the young man briefly placed his in the small of the noblewoman’s back.

Darion loudly cleared his throat and the pair turned about. The young man straightened immediately, his relaxed and open expression swiftly shifted into something more neutral. The young noblewoman, however, tipped her head to one side and studied Darion with open curiosity.

”And who, good sir, might you be?” she asked at which Darion executed a respectful bow.

”Master Navigator Darion at your service, my Lady.”

she replied thoughtfully and then her expression cleared. ”You’re Silas’ man.”

“I am,”
the Master Navigator concurred, smiling politely. ”I wonder if I might have a word with your companion?”

He watched the graceful incline of her head to his request. The Master Navigator waited until the young woman had pulled away and turned her back. Hands clasped at his back, Darion then levelled a withering gaze on the young guild officer still standing before him.

”Do you have any notion of who she is?” he barked.

At this, the young man swallowed. ”Lady Amarwen of Edhellond, Sir.”

“Betrothed, no less, to a prince of Gondor!”

“With respect, Sir, no longer.”

Darion peered at the young officer and then looked to where the Lady in question stood. It was hard to imagine what would possess the Palace to end such a desirable arrangement. He returned his attention to the young man. ”Your name and rank?”

“Halvarin of Pelargir, Sir. Student Navigator, Class Two.”

Darion thought the name faintly familiar but he spent far too much at sea to follow which student belonged to which master. Instead, still sceptical of the boy’s account, he asked, ”And how does a student come to be wrapped up in all of this?”

“I served under Captain Kertigan to return the Lady to her home.”

“That rogue!”
Darion remarked, astonished, quite familiar with that name. ”What could possess them to dispatch the Lady home under the care of a known smuggler?”

“There was an attempt made on her life, Sir.”
Halvarin reported. ”Not three weeks ago in Osgiliath.”

”Who would do such a thing?”

“A faction of the Guild.”

Darion scowled at this, suspicion increasing. ”If that is the case, where did you transfer: Harlond or Pelargir?”

“Tol Falas, Sir.”

Darion shook his head in disbelief. ”Which Master Navigator arranged that ruse?”

“Ah...There was no master navigator.”

No matter how Darion scrutinised the student navigator, he saw no hint of deception. Again, he looked to where Lady Amawen stood. ”Hers is a dangerous world! You’re better served to steer clear of such undercurrents.”

With that, Darion took his leave for tidings of this sort warranted immediate reporting no matter how distasteful the Master Navigator found political intrigue. Hefound Silas finishing up with the Lord of Edhellond.

Darion politely waited for his opportunity to arise and it did so once the Lord of Edhellond took his leave. The Master Navigator’s report was blunt. ”There was an assassination attempt on the royal family.”

“I know,”
Silas replied. ”Fool of a thing to try and fortunately, unsuccessful. How’d you learn of it?”

“A student navigator,”
Darion answered.

Silas nodded. ”Halvarin, the Lord of Edhellond vouches for him and his remarkable tale. What do you make of the boy?”

Darion rocked on his heels as he considered Silas’ crafty expression. ”If he can manage a Tol Falas transfer without a Master’s oversight, then I’d say he is a talented lad.”

“Talented enough to take on?”
Silas pressed.

At this, the Master Navigator paused. He’d not taken on a student for some time. They invariably got underfoot and most of them disappointed. Reading his officer’s expression, Silas drew shoulder to shoulder with the man. ”The boy is in a spot of bother for his recent services to the Palace. And Therald will make it worth our while.”

The Master Navigator rubbed at his face. That Halvarin was in trouble was precisely why he’d advised the boy as he had.

”Very well,” Darion growled and eyed his captain. ”But nothing the Lord of Edhellond can do will make court intrigue and politics worth my while. I want no hand in such nonsense!”

“We’d be better served if more in our Guild saw it as such. As for this, a simple voyage for timber that we deliver to Pelargir for a very handsome sum.”

Still discomforted, Darion grunted. ”South again? Simple enough.”

Silas shook his head and the Master Navigator cursed. ”Whatever he’s paying, Therald can go triple it.”

At that, Silas laughed heartily. His amusement boomed over Edhellond’s quay and followed Darion as he made for his cabin to rifle through his maps in search of one suitable for their next voyage. He pulled it out, scowled at the various notations he had made many years ago, and set to work charting a course to the last known stands of forest accessible from the coast. Provided Rhuadar had not burnt it all in the incessant wars that plagued the northern realm.

So it was that Halvarin got his berth, under a stern yet accomplished Master Navigator, and his way back to Pelargir all at once.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2020, 10:24 pm 
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Returning to Edhellond was something Halvarin wasn’t expecting to do. He had essentially gone off the grid during his two-week leave, and he didn’t make it back to Pelegar in time. He was fortunate that he got an assignment with Captain Silas here in Edhellond that would be able to give him a cover story… Still, he remained around the quay seeing to repairs and refitting, keeping a low profile.
It was good to get some time to walk around Edhellond, and it got even better when he found Amarwen in the gardens alone. “M’lady, would it be out of bounds if I asked to walk with you?” A smile he saw, and she stood and came to stand beside him. They walked slowly through the gardens enjoying the sun and a moment of peace like days of old when they came upon the Guild’s Master Navigator… Darion.

… Once Darion and Halvarin finished their talk, Darion walked off toward the quay, He turned to Amarwen as she again came up beside him. “What did he wish to speak to you about?” she asked as they watched him walk into the distance. Halvarin took a breath and said, “Wondering why I’m walking with you and staying out of undercurrents.” She could tell there was more than what he said, but Halvarin shrugged and said. ”It will be revealed in short order, but it will have to be someone other than me to reveal it. All I can say is something is afoot with my posting.”

They continued to walk for some time, Halvarin keeping his distance under watchful eyes. Conversation tended to some lighter thing, but eventually it came to the future of Gondor, and in so, their paths. ”One thing Darion did say was it was best to stay away from political intrigues. I tend to agree. I wish that which is best for Gondor, and right now the pressure is on for the Guild to oppose Eldacar Be there extreme factions such that led to the attacks in Osgiliath, so too are there who will hold to their allegiance to the rightful king of Gondor no matter what his lineage be.”

For Amarwen her life had been engulfed in the political ebbs and flows of the monarchy. The ending of her betrothal was only the latest. Halvarin somehow felt that too soon the walls of what was normal in Gondor would come crashing down upon them. They continued their walk for a few more yards, but a servant of the house came walking up with a swift stride. “Lady Amarwen, your presence is requested. An unofficial banquet is to be planned before Captain Silas leaves.”

Halvarin sighed. “I guess our talk will have to wait a little longer. I should get back to the ship even though my presence here is now known.” He took Amarwen’s hands and he bowed before they each went their separate ways. Halvarin paused after a few steps and looked back. He smiled slightly as he watched Amarwen go out of sight before turning and making his way back to ship.

When he got there, he found both Silas and Darion standing on the bridge talking. When Silas saw him approach he waved his arm and said, ”Ahoy Lad, get aboard and come see us.” he said. Halvarin could see the hawk’s eyes of Darion upon him. Halvarin scrambled to come to the captains quarters where the three of them sat down with the maps Darion had. ”Captain Silas speaks very highly of you young Halvarin. It is by his request and who your father is that I will do this for you. I written a dispatch that will be sent to Pelargir excusing your absence due to as I said… special circumstances… and that you are continuing your training under me for the next several months. With the chaos in the Guild in Pelargir, it will be put into your record, so you remain unblemished. But we will not allow anything like this to happen ever again.” Darion said with authority as he stared down at Halvarin. ”Also, as I have seen, it appears you are in some sort of good standing with the House of Edhellond…”

After an uncomfortably long pause, Darion looked to Silas who said, ”That being said, there is to be no mention of the activities we will set out to do. We will be going to a troubled land for timber, so your fighting skills will need to be good and on high alert. Now, not a word leaves this cabin. Are we clear?” Halvarin nodded and took a breath. He knew a banquet was coming, and he hoped no talk would come of their impending voyage. He hoped any questions would be answered by the captain and the master navigator.

When Darion stood, he said, “Now that we have this out of the way, you need some dress befitting a junior officer, not a seaman. I should be able to sort something out for you. For now, study these maps and make your predicted routes.”

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2020, 11:27 pm 
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Amarwen wandered the gardens again. Sunset painted the western sky. Already a few stars glimmered overhead, promise of what would follow once twilight ended and night fell. A warm breeze rolled up to where she stood from the ocean below. It curled against her cheek and lifted her hair which she had let down for the evening’s events. Emerald silk flattened against her legs and fanned out behind her. It was the gown she had intended to wear weeks ago at Osgiliath’s Loëndë ball. Intricate golden vines twisted across her hem and along the lines of her bodice. Cut for the court, it left her shoulders entirely bare. There was a delicate wrap but it was not needed here, along the Belfalas coast, during the summer months.

Inside, the great hall glittered. Ablaze and prepared for the feast her mother held this night. The kitchen had been preparing for days. Guests would be arriving. Prominent individuals from Edhellond. Any Elves so inclined to venture, for an evening, into mortal pursuits as they awaited ship to their own distant shores. Kertigan and Silas and their respective officers. The wine and ale would flow to mark her return to Edhellond, honour those responsible for it and farewell Silas and his crew on their voyage north.

Her mother would be there, dressed in all her finery, her father on her arm. Halvarin would be there too, she’d learned. The last time she’d see him for six months. Longer, likely, given he’d put in at Pelargir upon return. She did not know if she’d see him again. Silas had agreed to adjust his logs so that Halvarin’s absence would be largely concealed. This spared Halvarin a number of pressing questions as to where he had been and with whom. Amarwen was relieved, of course...but six months now seemed a very long time indeed.

The time she had spent with Halvarin had reminded her, sharply, of all she had missed. Of just how much he meant to her. However, a simple and inescapable truth remained. Halvarin simply did not see her as anything other than a friend. She would be foolish to forget it.

She shook her head at herself just as Halvarin said, ”There you are!”

Amarwen closed her eyes momentarily before she turned to find him approaching. His boots had been polished, and his uniform clean and pressed. An officer’s uniform no less. He looked very fine indeed. He smiled at her warmly as he strode through the dusk to stand at her side.

”Your mother looks for you,” he said as he gazed upon the vista she had been ruminating over. The breeze ruffled Halvarin’s hair and the impulse to smooth it made her fingers curl against her palm.

”Beautiful,” he said of the view, mercifully unaware to her struggle beside him. By the time he turned his attention to her, she was safely gazing out at the horizon, hands clasped before her. Despite that, she could still see his sea-washed eyes gleam in the sunlight. Damn him, she thought to herself. It just was not fair. Silence stretched. She could feel the tension rising. Amarwen searched for something to safely break it.

”Darion seems a hard taskmaster,” she observed, for Halvarin had yet to divulge the full nature of his encounter with the man.

Halvarin nodded. ”Highly considered in his field. Rarely takes on students. I expect to learn a great deal, at land and sea.” He turned slightly towards her. ”And what will you do now?”

Amarwen considered those in attendance this night. Not all within Edhellond had been overly pleased by her return. She drew a deep breath and turned for the halls.

”Get this over with, for one,” she remarked as she set off.

Puzzled by her comment, Halvarin followed. He slowed, however, for it would not do for them to appear together. Once he gained the great hall himself, he found her again. She was stood with Commanding Officer Lannilear, politely listening to the tale the man regaled her with. A glass in hand and the luminous silk of her gown glowing, Amarwen was enchanting. More than a few eyes were drawn to her. Some appreciative. Some curious. Some speculative. Such were the guests, it was difficult to read them all, save Master Navigator Darion. He stood on the edges, doing his best to avoid conversation in general.

The sound of a light bell took all to their chairs around the long, vast table. Amarwen was seated with her parents at the head of the table, to her mother's left. Her father sat on Lady Alenna's right, in formal Guild uniform. A senior officer of impeccable standing, his jacket bore insignia of a like Halvarin had only seen matched by his own father. As for Amarwen, she wore a detached expression, as if she were elsewhere entirely. Halvarin had been seated between Darion and Lannilear. No matter how he tried, it was difficult to look past the man without his noticing. When the Master Navigator scowled at him, Halvarin gave off for it would not do to irritate the man unnecessarily.

At the head of the table, Amarwen’s mother rose to her feet and all discussion fell away.

”New beginnings amongst old friends,” Lady Alenna of Edhellond began, smiling graciously at all assembled. ”I thank you all for sharing this night with us. We are particularly grateful to have Captain Kertigan and his officers with us. I hope this humble repast goes some way to repay the debt we owe for the safe return of our beloved daughter.”

There was a pause as they all sipped from their glasses. Alenna pressed on. ”Of course, we are also gathered to wish Captain Silas a safe and successful voyage as he ventures north. May the skies be as clear as the waters.”

Another pause, and those few Elves that had attended looked to one another with concern.

”And lastly but by no means least, Edhellond too must look to its future. The peril that drove our decision to send our daughter to Osgiliath has not passed. We must set ourselves to prepare. Not for war, of course, but the defence of our people and our way of life, much envied and for good reason, throughout the realm.”

“Forgive me, Lady Alenna, but how can we hope to do that?”
countered the leader of Edhellond’s merchant guild. ”We are far from Osgiliath, we abandoned our policy of non-involvement and we now we lack a presence at court!”

“The King will not soon forget us,”
Lord Therald stated, still in his seat but eying their outspoken guest as if he considered getting out of it.

”With respect, Eldacar has cut Edhellond free. We are adrift and if we do not act, it is only a matter of time before we run aground. Much diminished are we from our ancestors of old. Our noble Eldar guests are too kind to say it, but it is true all the same. Our navy, the pride of Gondor, lies idle whilst Gondor’s foes mount. Perhaps, when the Master of Ships calls next, we should consider his offer more carefully.”

Beside Halvarin, he heard Darion mutter something that might have been a curse into his wine.

There was a loud thump as a fist collided with the table. Cutlery jumped such was the force, yet it came not from the Lord of Edhellond, nor indeed the Lady of Edhellond. Amarwen rose to her feet, furious. Gone was her indifference now.

“Verily, I sit before you noble sir,” Amarwen said, her sarcasm abundant despite her chill tone. Lannilear chuckled appreciatively as Amarwen stared at Merchant Guildmaster with steely resolve. ”At my mother’s board, in my mother’s halls, whilst you debate whom best I am to be bartered next!”

”Well said! Such comment is entirely unseemly”
Lannilear declared. On the other side of Halvarin, Darion grimaced. The Guild Master was not so easily silenced, however.

”If not now, then when? Are you, Lady Amarwen, now so mighty that the needs and concerns of Edhellond are beneath you? For we are no safer and you are not wed. Tell us, just what have you been doing these past two years? Why has the prince wearied of you already?”

More than a few were discomfited by the vile insinuation. Amarwen’s father shot to his feet, expression thunderous in a way Halvarin had not seen before now that his daughter’s honour had been impugned. Possibly. It was hard to know just what the Guild Master had meant. Lady Alenna looked sharply to her husband and wrapped a hand around her daughter’s wrist. A precautionary measure, given the proximity of cutlery and the long-knives that she had noted in Amarwen’s possessions recently.

”It simply will not do to quarrel now,” Lady Alenna said, her tone somewhat strained as she attempted to modulate her own ire. ”We are, all of us, friends. Let us dine as such.”

Lord Therald sank into his seat again, clearly wishing to do something else entirely. Amarwen, however remained on her feet. Unable to pull her daughter down without causing even more of a scene, Lady Alenna leant in to murmur in Amarwen’s ear. Whatever was said prompted action, even if it was not as her mother had hoped. Amarwen pushed back her chair and stalked out of the great hall in a cloud of furious, humiliated emerald silk. The door crashed shut after her with a resounding boom. Somewhat at a loss, Lady Alenna nodded to the waiting staff who came forward without delay.

Lannilear shook his head, again chuckling appreciatively. He nodded to Halvarin. ”And they say the Line of Anárion is fading.”

Dinner got underway with Amarwen’s conspicuous absence looming. Feigning sudden illness, the merchant guild’s outspoken leader took his leave before the end of the second course. A sensible precaution for Therald looked fit to be tied still. The Lord of Edhellond was not one to forgive such insults to those he loved easily.

Servants came and went, bearing food and wine. Conversations started up. Minstrels began to play. The mood lightened progressively. All this time, Amarwen stayed away. Her chair remained pushed out. A napkin crumpled and half a glass of wine was all that remained of her presence.

As dinner unfolded within, Amarwen again returned to the gardens where night had fallen proper. She’d liberated several bottles of expensive and powerful Cair Andros ale on her way out. These she carried with her as she stalked through the clear, moonlight night. Right to the end of the gardens she went, far from the halls at her back. Around the retreat her grandfather had built in his youth to where a thick swathe of pine trees stood. The breeze made them whisper, branches and needles swaying this way and that.

Feeling unsteady, Amarwen paused to set all but one bottle of expensive Cair Andros ale down. She uncorked the one she still held, took a deep draught of it, and listened. The whisper of the trees and the rhythmic crash of waves. No one was coming after her. Good, she thought to herself. Another swig and then another until she’d emptied the bottle.

With a curse, she cast it down and retrieved another. The discarded bottle rolled, gleaming in the moonlight. She kicked at it and started to sing an Elven lament that seemed entirely appropriate. Between tracts of verse, she paused to drink or kick at the bottle.

”Diminished!” she scoffed to herself in an abrupt switch to a new topic. ”We are, none of us, Elros Tar-Minyatur! These men, drunk on illusions of splendour long passed. How I hate them all!”

The vehemence of her words startled her. She glared at the trees. ”What will surely diminish us are those that would raise another to the throne! Such treason, such cruel villainy, will lessen us. And what will Gondor’s traditional foes make of us whilst we tear ourselves asunder?”

Amarwen stilled as a thought occurred to her. Moonlight gleamed off her hair and bare shoulders. ”Perhaps we deserve to fall. Perhaps it is time these men reap that which they sow.”

She eyed the half empty bottle in her hand and then let her arm drop. She was out here, on her own, ranting to herself. Hardly becoming conduct. Possibly, the beginnings of insanity. Her mother, she knew, would want to have stern words with her over her conduct tonight. Even those she had been far more measured than that horrid man warranted.

Perhaps she should stow away and go ashore far, far to the north. Make a new life for herself. Somehow. Or perhaps she should swallow her pride and go back inside. She’d made far more of a fool of herself than that toad ever could. She’d let him get the better of her and her pride and humiliated herself in the process.

And in any case, she needed to say goodbye to Halvarin. She did not know when Silas planned to set out and she may not get the chance tomorrow. Halvarin...she groaned softly. It wasn’t fair. Not any of it. Dear, sweet Halvarin, who looked far better in an officer’s uniform than he had any right to. Clever, kind, quick witted Halvarin who made her smile and laugh even when she did not wish to. Halvarin, who would never long for her. Halvarin, who wisely wished to be free of the very world she lived in. It was possible for Halvarin to be free of intrigue in a way she never could. For he was right. The time was fast approaching where there was no middle ground for Eldacar’s court. Either you were for him or you were not.

This issue would be forced and her fate was still bound to it for all that had changed in her life of late. There was no escaping it. Not for her. Yet still her heart yearned for it to be different. Tugging her in one direction no matter how foolhardy it was.

”Why,” she whispered as she tipped her head back to up to the stars above, ”Must I be my own worst enemy?”

They winked at her, indifferent to her question, and Amarwen lowered her head with a forlorn sigh. One more drink, for fortitude if nothing else.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 5th, 2020, 3:34 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Halvarin did his best not to let the Merchant’s words get under his skin. There was enough indignation from Amarwen’s parents, and both Darion and Silas gave him a glance to make sure he remained non-committal. When Amarwen stormed out, Halvarin of course wanted to go with her, but he knew that was impossible. He just sat back and sipped at the wine that was in his glass and listened mostly. Once the rude merchant left, things seemed to relax slightly at the table.

Halvarin was making the most of the faire before him though he remained polite. The talk of the north came and was one point where a couple of the elves spoke. One addressed Captain Silas and said, “It is an ill time for the lands of the Dunedain of the North. Ere twenty-three years ago did the Witch King drive on Cardolan and destroy that land. Though the armies of Carn Dum have since retreated back into the north, it is quite dangerous, and lawlessness is rampant. One best be ready to look only to themselves should they venture there.”

Captain Silas nodded to the Eldar guest and said if somewhat vaguely, “We are well aware of the troubles, and we will be fit to address what may come our way.” He looked to Therald and to another guest further down the table who kept a low profile. Halvarin listened and watched the body language and could gather enough that the man was somehow connected to this enterprising voyage for timber.

When talk turned to other matters, there still was some tensions at the table. Halvarin took an opportunity as the banquet was ending to excuse himself. From the table. Seeint the various attendants gathering in their circles to talk, he noted that by the front entrance to the room stood Lord Therald, Master Navigator Darion, Captain Silas, and the man that was never named. Halvarin paused for a moment to make himself familiar enough with the man before walking toward the kitchens….

The group of powerful men were talking of the upcoming voyage and the warning of the elves. Darion, and by extension Captain Silas were having second thoughts. But Therald was reassuring them as he introduced Cailanore. “We have assurances that our venture will be safe. Cailanore and I have had dealings with each other for some time now, and his presence in the lands of Cardolan and even as far up the river Mitheithel toward Rhuadur has been most beneficial to this business interest.” Therald paused and looked to the man from the north. He then added, “It would be wise to heed his advice when it comes to our venture, especially after arriving in Lond Dear.” The eyes of Silas and Darion turned to the man Therald spoke so highly of and they examined him closely.

Cailanore stood as tall as the men he was with, and rivalled that of most Gondorians. His eyes were a silvery blue-grey and his hair though long and dark like many of the Dunedain of Gondor. Where the difference showed itself was the somewhat tight natural curl of his hair, much like the trait of the Ettenmoor Hillmen. Cailanore’s Rhuadurian Dunedain bloodline was indeed mixed with Hillman blood for a hundred years before, the very last of the northern Dunedain finally fled Rhuadur to Arthedain and Cardolan. The incessant raids and attacks from the savage Hillmen who had seized the crown from the Dunedain some years before grew into an all-out ethnic cleansing of that land. Cailanore’s grandmother was captured and repeatedly raped while being kept as a slave by a Hillman general, but managed to get away alive one night when she slew him in his sleep. It was not long after she had come to Bree greatly weakened that Cailanore’s mother was born. They soon left Bree and settled in Cardolan near the city of Tharbad with other relatives that they had discovered.

Cailanore could see the reluctance in the faces of the seamen. He reached out and shook Darion and then Silas’s hands before he spoke in an accented Westron. “Gentlemen, it is good to make your acquaintance. I assure you the timber is of good quality and comes at a fair price. As far as security, I have that in hand. If all goes according to plan, the timber should be waiting for us at Lond Dear, and worst case, Tharbad. If that is the case I have river barges to use.” Therald looked back at Darion and Silas and raised an eyebrow. ”Aye. If the Lord of this house vouches for you, and my neck doesn’t tingle talkin’ to you, I am satisfied.” Silas nodded agreement and again shook Cailanore’s hand. When a server walked by with a tray with four freshly opened bottles of Cair Andros Ales, Therald relieved the woman of the burden and was somewhat curious why she came out of the kitchen with a half empty tray. He turned back to his guests as he had two bottles in each hand and handed them to Silas and Darion, and took one from his other hand and handed it to Cailanore. There was not much to celebrate, but Therald did hope that good relations with at least some men of the north would prevail in this business venture.

When Halvarin walked through the kitchen, he grabbed three bottles of the unopened ale from the tray, then paused and grabbed one more before walking out the back entrance. He knew Amarwen well enough to know where she would likely go after such an incident. As it turned out, he didn’t quite guess right but he could hear her in the distance talking. He moved slowly down the path as he got closer. When it seemed a pause came in her words to herself, Halvarin took a step out of the shadows and said, ”I deem you would be a formidable enemy indeed.”

He paused his step as she spun around. He could see the empty bottle and the one in her hand, and he held his arms out with two bottles in each and said, ”I thought you would like some spoils of this banquet you missed, and maybe some company…” he said as he stepped over toward a stone bench that sat under the pines. He sat the bottles down on it and took one and twisted the cork until it popped out of the bottle before turning to Amarwen. ”The politics of Gondor will have us all in the end. I barely contained myself at the words spoken toward you tonight mlady, as did many others.”

He took a step toward Amarwen, his eyes taking in the silvery light of the night that danced upon her. The shimmery curves of her dress clinging to her seemed to glint in the starlight, and the partial moon in the west added a somewhat yellow gleam to the land. Halvarin took a deep breath and knew he had to be very careful. Yet too many times he was careful in life, and it seemed things happened, either good or ill no matter. Halvarin closed the distance between them, and the neck of his full ale bottle tapped the near-empty one she held in her hand. His eyes looked into hers and he said in a light tone, ”I can leave you to talk with yourself, or I can remain and you can talk to me. I wish to know you’re your thoughts Amarwen of Edhellond….”

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 5th, 2020, 5:27 am 
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At first, Amarwen thought Halvarin had come to take her back inside. But, as he gazed into her eyes so very closely, she realised this was not the case. Before she did something entirely hasty, Amarwen sat herself on the stone bench.

”My thoughts?” she said, wondering where to begin. ”Amme is likely fit to be tied. I was...impolitic.” Amarwen sighed. ”His concerns are not entirely unjustified. I dare say many share them. And my conduct only likely served to create a sense that I was childish and temperamental. I fear I have become prideful.”

“I do not,”
Halvarin said, nudging her shoulder gently with his own. She smiled, grateful for his reply. ”What else, then? I know that cannot be all.”

Amarwen took a drink only to empty her bottle. Halvarin uncorked a new one and passed it to her. Their fingers brushed in the darkness and she felt a shock of sensation. He was seated right beside her. She sighed at the futility of that.

”I...think you are very fortunate to be able to sail away and leave such troubles behind you. The freedom that brings you. It must be,” Amarwen hesitated as she searched for the word. ”Wonderful.”

“It is,”
Halvarin agreed. ”But it can also be lonely. Dangerous too. Storms, rocks, shoals and reefs. Currents and winds that pull you apart, or worse, far astray. Or you are becalmed and running out of food and water. You miss home long before you put to shore. Particularly on the long voyages.”

“Six months seems very long,”
Amarwen admitted.

”Yes,” Halvarin agreed. ”But, I remain grateful to your father for arranging it.”

“What do you think you’ll do once you’re back to shore?”

Halvarin said. ”Provided we survive said perils, I will have enough voyage hours to attempt Navigator Prime exams. It will be early, by a year if not more. I think I can do it, though. And if I do, I will then largely have the pick of my voyages.”

Amarwen felt his knee bump against hers. An accidental brush that made her swallow. She drank more ale. And another draught. For courage.

” you think you might...come back here?” she asked, her words hesitant and soft.

”Of course I am,” Halvarin said easily. Without hesitation.

Amarwen peered at him. The moonlight made his eyes gleam. ”Why? Things aren’t going to be better any time soon.”

She watched Halvarin take a deep draught of ale. He seemed to draw a deep breath, as if bracing himself for something. Then, he shifted slightly to turn to her. ”Because you are here, Ami.”

Amarwen was astonished. She was convinced that she had just heard what she wished to hear. Or perhaps she was drunk. This was her third bottle of ale, on an empty stomach.

Taking in her surprise, Halvarin chuckled to himself. ”By Ulmo, I’ve done it. I’ve finally rendered her speechless.” He took her hand in his and lifted it to his mouth. The sensation of his breath, then his lips warm on her skin shook her from her thoughts.

” not understand,” Amarwen admitted.

The night breeze lifted her hair and Halvarin reached to tuck it, gently, behind her ear. ”I would not leave with misunderstanding between us. There have been enough of those,”

Carefully, slowly, he moved towards her until his face hovered before her own. He cupped his hands over her cheeks when she did not pull back and tenderly kissed her. Distantly, Amarwen heard the sound of the bottle she had been holding drop to the grass.

”Now, I think, that you might,” Halvarin said, his voice quiet and hopeful. ”There is more that I would say but now is not the time for it. It will not always be that way, I hope.”

All Amarwen could do was nod, her stomach a riot of butterflies. Halvarin smiled at this and held her to him. ”Wait for me,” he said after a long pause. ”Please?”

“I will,”
she said into his chest and when he pulled back, she smiled at him in a way he had not seen for far, far too long.

Halvarin kissed her again, stroked her cheek and then pulled himself back before he pressed too far. It was too soon for them both. Memories still raw. Amarwen caught his hand in hers and lifted it to her lips. Over head, the pine trees swayed back and forth.

”I will be here when you return,” Amarwen said softly.

And so was their parting. More than once was Halvarin tempted to turn and run back to her. More than once was Amarwen tempted to run after him. Instead, Halvarin hastened to his new post, dashing aboard under the watchful eye of Silas and Darion. The lateness of his arrival did not go unnoted.

Darion grunted to Silas. ”It’ll end badly for him.”

“Remember, though, what it is to be young?”

“Mercifully, no,”
Darion replied, emphatic. ”And praise the Valar for that!”

By the time Amarwen returned to her halls, cheeks flushed, she found the feast over and her father waiting for her in the kitchen. The Lord of Edhellond crossed his arms and nodded ,pointedly, at the bottles of ale she carried. Sheepish, Amarwen set them down.

Therald said, tone stern. ”I hope you have not done something you will come to regret.”

Amarwen flushed a deeper shade of pink. ”I assure you, I have not.” She did not add that she might well have if Halvarin had not taken the more honourable path.

Therald lifted his brows but his demeanour softened. ”Then to bed with you, my girl. We will speak of this later.”

“Yes, Adda,”
she answered, dutifully. Her father, not in the least swayed by this meek performance, shook his head at her. He waited for the sound of her climbing the stairs and then went to check the rear door. There was no one lingering. Not even a certain student navigator that had been conspicuously absent following dinner. Nodding to himself, he secured the door and sought his own bed.

Alenna was not asleep. ”Is she back?”

“She is,”
he confirmed as he sat and eased his boots off. ”Safely tucked into her own bed even now, if she has any of your good sense.”

“She doesn’t, Therald. We both saw that tonight!”

He chuckled at that and stretched out. ”Your temper, my flair. The best of us both, eh?” Therald rolled to curve himself against his wife. ”You know, I think we should give thought to Edhellond’s voice at court.”

“On the morrow,”
Alenna yawned. ”Along with a good number of other tasks.”

Soon the Lord and Lady of Edhellond were asleep. Amarwen, though, sat on the balcony of her bedroom. Below, the lights of the harbour bobbed on the water. Halvarin was there amongst them. Through her head, their encounter replayed. She looked at it from every angle, fearful that in some way she’d misunderstood. The heart could cast a powerful spell and hers was by no means unscarred. Yet, no matter how she examined it, she could find nothing to suggest she deceived herself. Smiling, Amarwen rose to her feet and padded back inside where at last, she had the good sense to tuck herself abed.

Silas put out on the first tide of the following morning with their guide aboard.

”Interesting night, that,” Cailanore observed to Silas. ”Spirited girl. Few like her remain to the north.”

“Jealously do her parents guard her,”
Silas said, noting the way Halvarin scowled at their passenger.

Cailanore chuckled, ”Oh, be assured, I want no such trouble for myself. But, I happen to know of others that may be. Isildur's line is in wont of-”

“Timber is what we’re after,”
Darion declared, taciturn, ”And that is all.”

“Duly noted,”
Cailanore replied, turning to take in the headlands passing them by even now.

Darion turned to his junior navigator next. ”And back to work, you.”

“Aye, Sir,”
Halvarin replied.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 11th, 2020, 9:15 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Out to Sea

Work for Halvarin was in the wheelhouse under the watchful eye of Darion who was quiet for the most part. That was a good thing as it meant Halvarin was doing things correctly. Their course took them out of the bay and they made a wide arc out to the west before turning north well away from the coast.

”You show good sense lad.”Darion said as he watched Halvarin plot the course. ”The sea is quite contrary with the chop.”With the prevailing winds wanting to push them toward the shore to the east, they had to turn west and gain distance a few times. The seas too were choppy, and so it would be over four weeks before they made their final turn to approach Lond Dear.

“Watch the shoals there.” Darion said as Silas watched. Halvarin had noted them and was sure he brought them around to the northwest to make their approach. But the haven was old… ancient some said, and its upkeep had been minimal. Captain Silas brought them in smoothly and they docked without troubles.

Lond Daer

“I don’t see any timber here.” Silas said as they tied off. Cailanore looked around and didn’t see who he was hoping. “We’ll hold here while I go find out what is happening.” He would disembark with Darion and Silas, with Halvarin remaining on board as officer in charge. He leaned against the rail as they walked down the quay.

Cailanore led them to a tavern called the Sea Spray and they went in. Seeing the bartender, he went up and asked for three ales, then asked where Dervha was. “Ah,” the bartender said as he grabbed a ragged parchment from under the bar. ”This may be for you…” Cailanore read the note and sighed.

”There has been some delays” Cailanore said. ” We’ll have to meet them in Tharbad.” Silas grunted as did Darion. ”I don’t think either of us will be making that journey.” Silas said as he looked at Darion. ”Maybe we send young Halvarin in command of some of the guys along with you.” Darion said to Cailanore.

”Very well if you require a presence, but this will be my expedition and he will be answerable to me. Make that clear to the lad.” Cailanore said. Silas nodded and agreed. They finished their ales and headed back to the ship.

Up the Greyflood

The next morning Captain Silas had Halvarin on deck with ten men which would make up his expeditionary force. Cailanore had thirty guys with him. They set out up-river on two large boats that day and soon disappeared in the grey mist of the day. Halvarin saw this as an extension of his voyage. Technically he was still on the water….

The days went by as they made slow progress against the strong downstream flow of the river. Halvarin talked with Cailanore and got to know some history of the northern Dunedain. Apparently lore had it that these lands were once filled with mighty trees that shrouded the river and gave it a greyish colour from the filtered sunlight through the branches. There was little evidence now of the great stands of forest except for an old charred stump here and there. Only cottonwood trees grew in places along the riverbanks, with most of the land north in Minhiriath and south in Enedwaith being wide fields of grassland.

He also was told about the three kingdoms of Arnor and how they became estranged.... at least from Cailanore’s pooespective and those of some of the men with him. The tale of Rhuadur seemed to have several different angles depending on who was telling it. Halvarin took notes and if given a chance, would research the knowledge in Gondor of the Dunedain of the North.


He was glad when they finally arrived in Tharbad. Cailanore went to find his timber and Halvarin stayed at the Free Bird Inn near the southern end of the great bridge over the river. It seemed the men from the ship had been left to simmer. Halvarin used the time to make sure the boats were still docked, to explore the city, and stock supply for the journey back to Lond Daer. He spent some of the time to write a letter to Amarwen.

Dear Amarwen,

This voyage has been a long and tedious one, and it seems the good we were to get wasn’t as easily obtained as was presented. I am currently in a place called Tharbad with ten guys from the ship. Captain Silas and Master Navigator Darion remain in Lond Dear awaiting our return with the goods. We are hoping that Cailanore gets this supply in order soon. As this was expected to take six months and already it has been two, I am hoping that the rest of this voyage goes according to plan.

On the bright side I have learned some deep insights of our northern brethren. Their struggle has been hard, and as they face an evil king in the north, I fear Gondor faces this evil from within. I hope to learn more while I am here.

I miss you very much, and I will hope to see you again on my return.

In my thought always,

Once he wrote the letter, he decided to send it via the Gondor post station in Tharbad. He addressed it for Edhellond and trusted it to the realm to deliver. Whether it gets to Edhellond before he returns will be the test.

It would be another two weeks before Cailanore returned from upriver with flotillas of fine timber. Their work now commenced in getting it all downstream to Lond Dear now… no easy task.

"So what was the hold-up?" Halvarin asked. Cailanore answered, "It's pretty lawless up north. Spme bribes had to be paid, so the cost will be somewhat greater than the negotiated price."

"Well, you will have to take that up with Lord Therald for the excess."
Halvarin said. Cailanore grunted. That he would do..

It woul dbe another week before the floatillas of logs were ready to be barged down the river. The rains in the north made the flows higher and more dangerous, but they couldn't wait it out. The weather didn't appear to be changing any time soon

Last edited by Hanasian on January 26th, 2020, 3:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: January 11th, 2020, 10:54 pm 
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Location: The Forbidden Pool
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Life at Edhellond swiftly returned to normal once Silas and Kertigan departed on their respective ships. Lady Alenna ensured her daughter was far too busy to find any further trouble. Amarwen was swimming in work: contracts, agreements, bills of trade, correspondence and reports were all hers to attend to. Any concerns Amarwen may have had about growing bored soon evaporated.

The information her expanded duties brought to her allowed Amarwen to form an assessment regarding Edhellond. She had not appreciated just how wealthy their lands and people were before now. What Edhellond possessed in wealth, however, was contrasted by what it lacked by way of defences. Edhellond was a fat goose, able to be plucked by whomever wished to do so and this formed the backbone of most discussions with her parents as they ate their evening meal together.

Lady Alenna would not countenance the raising of walls or other robust defences. The Lady of Edhellond feared it would irrevocably change their identity and prosperity. Edhellond had been a haven long before their ancestors had put to shore. Peaceful place for the Eldar to await passage to their immortal shores. Her father, meanwhile, was quite pleased with the sea chain that had been installed during Amarwen’s absence. The notion of soliders on the graceful avenues of Edhellond was met with opposition from both her parents.

Yet, Amarwen was not one to readily accept defeat. She sought out those Eldar who were willing to speak with her. Each listened carefully and treated her with great kindness and regard. None, however, would agree to lend their support to her proposed plans to stiffen Edhellond’s defences. The affairs of mortal men, they each said in their own way, were not their province in which to interfere. Their gaze, Amarwen perceived, was already fixed far beyond mortal shores. They were even immune to any appeal she tried to make to their shared, if distant, heritage.

Those that could be persuaded to offer counsel recommended a slowness to war, noting the strife they had seen unfold in the northern realms. All well and good if the Master of Ships took similar counsel. Amarwen suspected he did no such thing.

Summer waned to autumn. The leaves of Edhellond’s trees and forests shifted to amber, then scarlet. All except the pines that stood at the end of their grounds. Amarwen frequently found herself seated on the stone bench, listening to the wind in their branches and thinking of the future. The people of Edhellond could be forgiven for thinking that the unease elsewhere in the realm simply did not exist. She knew, all too well, that it most certainly did.

In time, though, Amarwen pleaded her case so often that at last, a solution was reached. Thus, on an overcast day that saw most sheltering from the chill wind thrown ashore by the sea, Amarwen sat her desk to write another letter. She had yet to receive a reply from Aldamir and was not sure what, if anything, to make of that. It was possible her letter had gone awry. It was also possible that the prince, in a bid to make as clean a break as possible, had no intention of writing. After all, it was his brother that had come to her in those final days rather than Aldamir himself. Hence, Amarwen wrote to the Crown Prince.

Your Highness,

Having taken the time I required to reflect upon your request, I confirm that I am amenable to continuing my work. Since arrival at Edhellond, I have taken the liberty of reaching out to my network. I will continue to nurture my contacts in the hopes of shaking lose information that otherwise may be withheld from us. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that some of my contacts are even more inclined to disclose information to me now that I am cut loose, as it were, from the palace and royal family.

Upon arriving at Edhellond, I undertook a review of what defences we possess. I can confirm the sea chain your brother kindly provided is installed. Unless the Master of Ships intends to launch a flotilla of shallow bottomed skiffs, our bay can be closed against more powerful craft.

Of course, it is entirely possible that we face incursion from land rather than sea. That is where our defence grows more difficult. My mother will not countenance barricades, barbicans or walls. Nor ballista. She has, however, agreed to raise a modest force for the defence of Edhellond against any hostile action. It is my assessment that unless Castimir marches an entire army from Pelargir to Edhellond, we are likely to face a modest force that comes either overland or puts ashore along the coast and marches upon us.

I think it unlikely the Master of Ships will seek to raze Edhellond. We’re not significant enough to warrant it. Thus, in the event of an attack, we will repel as best we can and evacuate our people inland, to Calambel. Though small, it has the necessary fortifications if it should come to it.

Just at that moment, Amarwen heard her father’s voice downstairs. The front door banged, drowning out part of what the Lord of Edhellond said.

”-ness I tell you! What are they thinking in Osgiliath?”

Amarwen rose from herunfinished letter and hastened out of her rooms. Her father stood below, a piece of paper in hand. He looked up to where she stood and waved it at her. ”Do you know of this?”

“Of what, Adda?”
she replied as she rushed down stairs. Her mother emerged into the hall and the Lord of Edhellond thrust the paper he held towards his wife.

Amarwen gained the hall herself as her mother finished reading. Silently, the Lady of Edhellond shook her head in disbelief. ”This will not work the way they intend,” her mother stated.

”It will do is drive still more to Castimir’s banner,” her father stated. ”Lebennin will not stand for it, nor Harondor or South Ithilien!”

“Lebennin and Harondor are already in Castimir’s pocket,”
Amarwen said, still none the wiser as to what it was her parents discussed.

”Since when,” her mother asked, tone sharp.

Amarwen lifted a shoulder, ”At least two years, Amme. Possibly longer.”

“And how do you know this?”
her mother continued, stern.

Amarwen drew a breath to answer as carefully as she might but her father intervened. ”Given we placed her within the palace, we can hardly feign surprise now at what our daughter knows.”

Caught off guard, something that rarely happens as far as Amarwen was aware, her mother blinked rapidly.

”You said nothing of this to me,” she said to Amarwen.

”I had to presume everything I sent was read by someone not sympathetic to our cause.”

“There are traitors embedded within the Palace?”
Her mother was shocked. She looked to the paper she held in hand. ”I can only conclude that whomever advised the King on this is one such. If Eldacar continues down this path…”

Lady Alenna shook her head and finally passed the paper to Amarwen. She read it swiftly and with increasingly dismay. If implemented, this policy risked pushing those lands ambivalent to Eldacar and yet dependant on trade via the Anduin towards the Master of Ships. He would point to this as an example of incompetence, or worse yet indifference. Unfitness to rule. But, of those Eldacar might rely upon when it came to such matters, there were very few indeed.

South-Ithilien was hardly a significant presence at court. Belfalas deferred to Dol Amroth which remained determinedly uninvolved in such matters. Anfalas was even more remote than Edhellond and Andrast might as well have fallen off the coast and drifted out to sea as far as the court was concerned.

”Edhellond must have a voice at court,” Amarwen said. ”Without us, policies such as this will proliferate and Eldacar might as well abdicate for his rival.”

“That man, if elevated to the throne, will assuredly prove himself unfit,”
her father declared. ”The stories and tales I have heard,” he shook his head. ”Brilliant he may be. Bold. Of lineage untainted as they claim. But he is cruel beyond all expectation. He serves only himself with little thought for anyone or anything else.”

“An incompetent King or a tyrant,”
her mother sighed. ”Unlike tyranny, incompetence can be rectified. And if Edhellond’s voice at court achieves this, then so be it.”

Her father nodded and Amarwen sensed a decision had been reached. ”I will set out by week’s end.” He asked, ”Ami, could you assist me to discern who can be trusted?”

“Of course, Adda,”
she said. The air was so grim, she did not add that it would be only too easy to list those that could be relied upon in Osgilath. That list was alarmingly short.

Later, Amarwen returned to her desk and the unfinished letter upon it. She inked her quill and continued on.

In further news, my father will shortly set out for Osgiliath. I will provide him names of those I know can be relied upon. Please, your Highness, allow us to assist you at court. The advice your father receives regarding the coastal provinces is of poor quality. My father is a good man. You may rely upon him as, indeed, I have told him that he may rely upon you and your brother.

If there is anything further that I or my family may do to assist in these troubled times, you have but to ask.


Amarwen of Edhellond

Satisfied with that one, Amarwen selected a fresh sheet of paper and began a new letter.

Dearest Hal,

Unless I miss my mark, as I write this you will be about to set out for Pelargir if not already on your way. How I yearn to know all you have seen. I have a great number of questions and I hope to hear their answer from you soon.

I have missed you greatly. Despite how crowded my hours are, I find myself thinking of you. Wondering how you are.

I have not forgotten my promise to you. I will wait for you, Halvarin of Pelargir. And on that front, I have what I am bold enough to think might be glad tidings.

My parents have given me their word that I am not to be betrothed anew. There is, simply, nothing further to be gained from it. Father said something curious to me. He told me that I would have to be patient and that you would have to complete your studies. Do you think he suspects something?

If I am to know, I will have to ask him within the week for Adda is to leave for Osgiliath. The counsel the King receives for the coastal provinces is very poor. I rather suspect his courtiers seek to sabotage him. Eldacar’s council should, by rights, be able to stop such attempts. That it has not, or will not, bodes ill, I fear.

But enough of such troubles.

I hope to see you soon, Hal. But, not at the expense of your studies. I know I have proven a terrible disruption to them and I would not set you back again.

If I do not see you before Mettare, I wish you all the blessings of the season. May the coming year be kinder to us and Gondor both.



P.S: I do hope you’ve told no one else of our code, Hal. I trust you, of course. It is the rest of the Guild I doubt. Keep your head down. If you came to harm on my account, I simply would never forgive myself.

Amarwen’s letter arrived in Pelargir before Halvarin did. Michas, watching over his friend’s room in his absence, received it in Halvarin’s stead. He recognised the hand immediately for he had already espied the two bundles of similar letters, all bound in red string. All coded, with the exception of Halvarin’s name and the Guild House Barracks as an address. Kerina, he knew, did not write to Halvarin. She’d been quite cold about Halvarin when their paths had crossed, suggesting that she’d wearied of sharing him with another. And the hand was assuredly a woman’s.

Michas tucked the letter into his jacket, determined to have yet another word with his friend. Because if the author was who he suspected she was, Halvarin was once again headed for familiar trouble. Even if she was no longer betrothed to a prince.

Last edited by Elora Starsong on January 15th, 2020, 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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