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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 13th, 2018, 10:21 pm 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Vilmaith found herself returing to the barracks to find the commander of the Rhovanion Royal Guard waiting for her. She hesitated for a moment, then walked in. When the commander looked around at her, she hesitantly asked,

”Sir?”


”There seemed to be some troubles at the palace overnight, and some of the shieldmaidens tried to sack the Mariners Guildhouse? I spoke with Vidnavi and Vilna about it, then discharged them to carry duty at the Palace with Helda, who I gave charge of overseeing the well-being of Lady Amarwen for us.”

The commander said after a sigh. He walked around in a circle thinking before again looking at Vilmaith. His eyes held hers as he said,

”Why this move on the guildhouse happened I can’t say, and the others did not let on. I doubt you know as you were not with them. As you know, many, especially the mariners, already despise us Rhovanions for our heritage, and it being part of Prince Eldacar’s. They seem to think we will diminish their high blood and standing, yet the darkening of their hearts will lead them to their doom. But right now, we need to be careful, and ever vigilant. We know they don’t want us here. Making trouble such as this, especially with the mariners, will not be easily forgotten.”

There was a long silence, as if both the commander and Vilmaith knew that the days ahead would be filled with grief. Vilmaith waited for his decision of her lapse of duty. When the commander finally broke the silence, he said something unlooked for…

”You, Vilmaith, has always been looked to as the leader of the six shieldmaidens of Eldacar. But after this strange and difficult evening and morning, there will be some changes. What has passed will not be a concern of yours any longer.”

“Am I losing my position over this sir?”


The commander offered his hand and Vilmaith looked at it for a moment before reaching for his wrist. He then held her wrist and he shook her arm once. He then said,

”Yes, for now, but you will not lose rank…”

A sigh escaped from Vilmaith, and she looked away to the door. The commander got her to look back, saying,

”I understand you have taken a venture into east city not long ago?”

“Yes sir. I was…”


The commander’s hand went up to cut her off. He didn’t want to know the details. He said,

”You will need to go there again today. Take Rhinnin with you. We are going to need eyes and ears over there. Also, you will need to watch the coming and going of ships and of high ranking guildsmen. Being Rhovanion, you may run in to trouble, but I know you two can take care of yourselves.”


“If you are sending me into the heart of the den of wolves sir, do not send Rhinnin too.”


The commander looked at her in a way that she knew that he would not change his mind. He continued,

“Rhinnin goes. One always needs to watch their back. I trust you in this, but I can give her lead if you wish.”

“No, I will find her, and we will go. How will our absence be explained?”

“I will take care of that.”


Vilmaith turned to go. Why would they be sent to the east of the city as civilians? Nothing good could come of it. It doesn’t seem to her they would be doing much while there, but the commander was rarely wrong in his instincts. He wanted to learn what he could now in case it would be needed later. She sighed and went to find Rhinnin…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Halvarin had settled with the innkeeper, and he had little more to do than to go down and await passage south. He could do nothing but make things worse for Amarwen. As much as he considered taking up Lord Therald on his offer, he could not counter his father Lord Calamir. His standing in the Guild, his training as a Navigator, his future depended on his father. Why he took a swing at him, he now did not know. What he did know was it felt good. The years of frustration that had slowly built up in his life found its way into his fist at that moment. Now that it had discharged, nothing has changed. He was still an Ensign, studying and hoping to become a junior navigator. He still had feeling for his childhood friend Amarwen, but knew she was out of reach as she was betrothed to royalty. He hoped she would persevere, and that she could find a way to be happy. For him, he would always remember their time at the library.

With a nod, he turned to leave the inn, his duffle bag slung over his shoulder. But he didn’t get far. Vinyarion came running up, saying,

”Halvarin! I thought you would be here! I don't know what all happened, but please do not give up hope!”

“Hope? My friend, I do hope. I hope beyond all hope. But I can see the reality here. Amarwen’s path and mine go separate ways this day.”


Halvarin went to pass by Vinyarion, but the prince’s arm stopped him. He said,

”Look, things are in quite a state of flux in the palace. Maybe stay over here a few days and give things some thought.”

Halvarin shrugged as he re-adjusted his bag. He said,

”I’m afraid I’m broke, and I don't know if a few days will not change anything.”

“Well, you are in luck my friend. I had a rare winning night and managed to relieve some Rhovanions in the North Quarter of some coin in a game of Tonk. Consider this a down payment on what I owe you.”


Vinyarion handed a couple gold coins over to Halvarin. He looked at them and said,

”These are tens! You know I haven’t really been keeping track…. Were you card slipping again?”

Vinyarion laughed. He said,

”No, it was actually a fair win. I would have been in deep if I had lost. But it worked in my favour for a change. Come, have a beer with me. The next passage out to Minas Anor is the night run.”

Halvarin shrugged and dropped his bag. He could use a beer whether he stayed or left that night.

~ ~ ~


Last edited by Hanasian on July 1st, 2018, 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 14th, 2018, 2:30 am 
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"Mother!"

Farien slowed as her youngest son's voice rang off the marble floor in pursuit of her. Brow furrowed at the strident note in Aldamir's voice, the crown princess turned about. Sure enough, there he was, striding towards her at a rapid clip with something folded in hand. He clutched it tightly, she noted with a brief flick of her eyes. Farien composed herself as her son hastened towards her.

"Has there not been enough excitement in these halls for a time?" she inquired, her mild tone belying the rebuke that lay in her words.

Of her sons, Aldamir was not disposed to such vocal displays. Something, clearly, had gotten under his very thick skin. He glanced up and down the hall and then nodded to the palace library.

"A word, Mother, if you please."

If she pleased! Farien hoisted a displeased brow at her youngest child. Nevertheless, she glided towards the open doors with her son at her heels.

"Whatever can be the meaning of-" Farien turned to find Aldamir had thrust a sheaf of thick parchment at her. "This." she finished softly, accepted it from his hands and glanced to the doors.

This was scarcely any more private than the hall he had just chased her from. Anyone could barrel through the palace library doors and there were any number of staff likely to be tending the collection the palace maintained separate to that of the city as a whole. Her son nodded to the paper she now held and so she trained her study upon it. Immediately, Farien saw the King's crest. Her attention flicked to the bottom where a heavy seal of scarlet wax had been affixed. Signed and sealed by the king himself, she noted, and read what the king had set his hand to.

Her stomach curdled. How? How had the naif accomplished this?

"What is the meaning of this nonsense?" Farien coolly inquired,

Aldamir nodded to the parchment, "I have said, from the outset, that the realm gains nothing by taking a bride by force. It is beneath us. I will not be party to it," Aldamir offered her one of his own quietly solemn smiles, "And the King agrees."

The King, Farien fumed, was a doddering fool nine hours out of ten each day. How had that wide-eyed lamb turned a prince of the realm to her bidding? The question infuriated Farien but she also felt the rise of grudging admiration. In the space of one morning, little Amarwen of Edhellond had twice proved more than capable of navigating court to her advantage. Through her own son, Amarwen had been able to reach past her to the king himself. Again Farien smoothed over her composure.

"Have you conveyed the glad tidings to the girl?"

"Not as of yet. The Lady is indisposed."

"Indisposed?"
Farien inquired mildly, "Not mysteriously absent, yet again."

"No."

"For the child has a curious habit of vanishing into thin air."


Aldamir's jaw clenched at Farien's statement, "The assault upon Lady Amarwen was hardly her-"

Her son's response trailed off as Farien offered him a knowing smile, "Was not that incident that I referred to, son."

Despite the sweetly mild tone of her words, mother and son exchanged a terse gaze before Aldamir averted his eyes.

"I am sure you know what you are doing," Farien continued calmly, "Yet I offer you counsel all the same: do not be taken in by her, son. She is delightful, I know, but she is not nearly so helpless as might otherwise seem."

"I very much hope so, Mother,"
Aldamir replied stiffly, inclined his head formally, and took his leave. At the door, however, her son turned back to address her, "The Lady has a most interesting companion. A young woman with an unusual name."

Farien pushed out a breath, disinterested now that she knew Aldamir did not reference the young Ensign.

"I offered this one a place at court. She seems most...loyal," he continued and this piqued Farien's interest anew.

"I will organise Amarwen's companions," she stated and Aldamir smiled at her.

"Do you not wish to know this young woman's name?" her son inquired.

"It hardly seems of relevance," Farien replied but then waved a hand at Aldamir, "Very well."

"Almara."


Farien was pleased to keep her reaction to herself. Disappointed, Aldamir took his leave proper. She could hear him whistling as he departed. Any notion of putting Amarwen firmly back in her place was overtaken with far more pressing concerns. Almara. Surely not. At least, not by mere happenstance. She needed to speak with Calimir at once. Neatly folding the king's missive, Farien set off once more.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 14th, 2018, 6:10 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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When Calamir left the palace, he walked over to the Mariners Guildhouse where he found Girdean out on the steps. There were a few men cleaning up. Calamir looked about and asked,

"I see the clean-up is going well."

"Yes sir. We have doubled the armed men inside the door. We dont want to appear like things are unsettled, but we will be ready should Rhovanions decide to try anything again."


Girdean said. Calamir looked around and nodded. He leaned to Girdean and said,

"Know that there is much afoot in this city. Send a horsed messenger to the Guildhouse in Minas Anor alerting them of our situation. Have them send a message to Castamir in Pelargir... follow me."

Calamir went inside, and he found a quill and ink at the front desk that hadn't been knocked over in the raid. Clean parchment was harder to find though. He picked up a torn sheet that had a boot print on it, and he wrote out quickly...

'Trouble with Rhovanions in Osgiliath. Guildhouse sacked. King Valacar indifferent. Situation uncertain. Calamir'

He waved it to get the ink to dry, and when it was safe to do so, he rolled it and sealed it with candle wax and his guild ring. He handed it to Girdean who flagged his adjutant. Girdean handed the scroll to him and said,

"Take this personally to Minas Anor with instruction that it get to Castamir with utmost haste. Tell the members at the Guildhouse there of our troubles. Go.!"

"Yes sir!"


With a salute, the young adjutant headed out as his cloak was thrown to him. He was soon riding out toward Minas Anor with speed.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 17th, 2018, 9:17 am 
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By the time evening cast its long shadows across the palace grounds, Almara had made up her mind.

"It's unwise," Rie-Zunic persuaded.

"I don't understand you!" Almara sighed. "When first we were together you thought me getting a position at the palace was the perfect idea. A newly wed couple serving king and country side by side. Isn't that what you said? And now-"

"This is completely-"

"Different," Almara finished for him. "Of course! Now you are telling me to be cautious of a crown that you have not only sworn your life to... But that you chose... over me!"

Now Almara was beyond flustered. She had still never let that go.

"I didn't-"

"You did!" Almara cut him off, tears now sliding down her cheeks.

"It's different now..." Rie-Zunic sighed, his demeanor unsettled and woefull.

"Different?" Almara swallowed hard, blinking back more tears. "Because I will be working as a lady in waiting instead of being along side you as a tracker in the military? You don't even work in the military any more! You're a... supervisor. A glorified baby sitter!"

Rie-Zunic fell silent at Almara's reproach. For the first time she could ever recall, a single tear escaped his steel wall of emotional fortitude. He hung his head and walked to the door. "It's different,"he repeated softly, Almara's diatribe quelled by his unusual show of emotion. "It's different because I no longer know... I no longer know if my dedication has been well placed, or I'll spent. I no longer trust the crown that I once served so ardently.... I no longer trust my own judgement."

With the speech knocked out of Almara, the door shut behind Rie-Zunic and the conversation ended. Still... she felt she was left with no choice. She would not stay caged up in Rie-Zunic's little hole in the wall. It was already driving her insane. She needed something... And it had to be something that would keep her away from Calamir's scrutinizing gaze.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 18th, 2018, 7:36 am 
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Farien strode through the Osgiliath Guildhouse with her head held high. She stopped for no man as she prowled the halls, no matter how men gawped at her presence. The Crown Princess needed no guidance either, for she had been walking these halls for many years now. Albeit, not quite as openly as this.

She found Calimir bent over a wide table on which were plans. Likely a ship being commissioned. She cared not that there were others with him, all high ranking officers in their own right. Their discussion faltered at her presence and Calimir straightened from his study. He turned about and then went very still.

The men with Calimir sketched hasty courtesies. Farien scarcely flicked an eye to them. She had come here to speak with one man and one man alone. He bore the weight of her scrutiny without so much as twitching. As much as this man was ambitious. As much as he relished power, she could still undo him. The Crown Princess allowed an icy smile to spread over her features. She would have him squirming by the time she was done with the treacherous wretch.

As tension mounted, Calimir’s companions made their excuses. They left, haste clattering their boots over the polished boards they trod upon. The door behind her closed forcefully and she knew that the Chapterhouse would be alive with speculation within the hour. She’d be long gone by then. This would be the last time she ever set foot in this viper’s nest.

”To what do I owe this,” Calimir paused for effect, ”Pleasure?”

“You disappoint me. I thought you a clever man,”
Farien returned.

Calimir smiled and turned back to the plans with a shrug. ”I have little time for wordgames.”

“Time enough for tawdry games, though,”
Farien countered, ”Almara.”

Again Calimir went very still for a moment. Then he wiped a hand over the plans to trace the sweep of the prow. ”You have met my most recent recruit.”

“Aldamir has,”
Farien replied. Her eyes narrowed when she heard Calimir’s chuckle.

”That is fortune unlooked for,” he remarked, well pleased.

”I will deal with her as I will deal with your son.”

Calimir’s chuckling came to an abrupt halt. He turned back to face her, open anger in his expression.

Farien continued. ”The sea is such a dangerous mistress to learn to master, is it not? Mishaps and misadventures are all too common at his age.”

“What will Edhellond make, do you think, of the unseemly truth that Aldamir fathered a child out of wedlock and left that child unclaimed?”

“Breathe so much as a word, Captain, and I will have your son’s neck snapped before the hour is out.”


They were, by now, almost toe to toe. Both breathed hard through their noses. Bitter anger coursed through their veins.

”The day will come when the realm perceives the truth,” Calimir said, eyes glittering, ”They will see the rot that corrupts the heart of this realm.”

Farien drew herself up. ”The day has come when I see you for what you are, Captain. Little wonder that your wife chose an early death over a lifetime with you.”

Calimir’s face went white with sudden rage and when his vision cleared, Farien had gone. The door swung wide in her wake.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was dusk and Amarwen stood, shoulders slumped, before a mirror. Maids pulled at the laces of her gown, stitching her firmly in place. She had not glanced at her reflection nor taken enough interest to attend to the selection. These young women had descended upon her as she woke just before dusk. She bore their attentions silently. Tugging, prodding, whispering and nudging. Hair to be tended. All of it mattered not. This was all a masquerade. The motions. It meant nothing beyond compliance with a capricious whim too cruel for Amarwen to dare flouting. And through compliance might safety be won for Halvarin.

Her eyes lifted to the polished glass that served as a mirror when tending paused. It would do, Amarwen thought to herself. Her hair was no longer roughened by sleep and her clothing was well tended and neat. It would do. She lowered her eyes once more and then closed them. What different did it make, in the end?

Then, the soft clearing of a throat. Amarwen's eyes lifted as the maidservants pulled back. In the mirror, behind her, she saw the Prince. The man that was to be her husband. He cleared his throat again and lowered his eyes once he caught her gaze.

"That will be all," Amarwen said softly, turning to face the prince. He stood in the doorway.

"I do not intend to intrude," he began.

"I have little to intrude upon in this place," Amarwen replied. Her eyes dropped to the side as she caught the note of bitter regret in her response. Aldamir bowed his head and he was silent for several heartbeats. Long enough to impel Amarwen to wonder whether she should seek his forgiveness for her forward answer.

"I know," Aldamir said quietly and looked up, past his dark brows, to meet her gaze. "I bear tidings I believe will be welcome. If you will permit?"

Amarwen inclined her head and the prince came forward. He began to speak of his meeting with the King and the new accord struck. When the telling was done, Amarwen's head spun.

Out of nowhere it came. When all was ash and she was certain that she had been discovered to Halvarin’s certain ruin, hope arose anew. Aldamir had gone to the king. The King! And he had won her freedom. She would be able to go home again. And Halvarin! The tears on her face were stiff as she felt herself smile.

'Thank you! Thank you, my lord!" she said, over and over again as she bent over the prince's hands and kissed them in abundant gratitude.

Oh, just wait until Halvarin heard! She could not wait to tell him. Her toes wriggled within her silk slippers in anticipation. How happy he would be and, now after all that had come to pass, they could plan their lives together. Halvarin would have to finish his studies, of course, but after that…

Amarwen smiled into Aldamir's face, truly grateful for what he had done. A weight was lifted from her shoulders. It was just a matter of time and she would walk out here and into the rest of her life.

"Now, if I may, might I escort you to dinner?"

The question surprised her but Amarwen nodded. The Prince's tiding had brought her great ease indeed. He held his arm out towards her and she set her own hand upon it.

"Has your friend, Almara, called in on you again?" Aldamir inquired.

Amarwen shook her head, "No, m'Lord. I expect she has rather better things to do than wait on me to wake."

"I...I hope I have not overstepped my bounds, m'Lady, but I offered her a position earlier today,"
Aldamir sounded hesitant and Amarwen looked aside to where he walked.

"I promise you, m'Lord, if I should hear from Almara I will have you informed."

He nodded at that, thoughts elsewhere and then brought his gaze to her own, "I would be so grateful."

Amarwen inclined her head and the thought that occured to her made her faintly smile. "It would seem, then, that we are on somewhat equal footing."

"Yes,"
he returned, smiling a little himself. They went the rest of the way in companionable silence.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 19th, 2018, 8:46 pm 
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Therald sat in the study as night drew in. It was warm there. A comforting space within which to allow his thoughts to turn. The rooms that he had taken in Osgiliath were very still and quiet now that Amarwen was not within them. Over the years, the sound of his daughter as she went about her day had become second nature to him. She hummed to herself. Her laughter. The sound of her running as she was chased out of the kitchens. Her questions, so many questions, on all manner of things. Such a curious, swift mind.

He drew back on his pipe and stared at his boots. His feet were propped onto a chair, ankles crossed. Therald pushed the blue smoke out and raked his fingers through his hair. A rap at the door intruded over his ruminations and Therald climbed to his feet to answer it. He was surprised to find Calimir standing on the doorstep.

”How’s the nose?” Therald asked as he stood to one side.

”Wouldn’t you like to know,” Calimir muttered as he stepped past him.

Therald closed the door after the man. ”I would.”

Calimir grunted at this and followed the Lord of Edhellond along. He settled into an armchair and set to work on his own pipe.

”How fares your daughter?” Calimir inquired as Therald lowered himself back into his own chair.

”Badly shaken,” he admitted and Calimir nodded.

”Quite the ordeal she’s had. What are you going to do about it?”

Therald shook his head from side to side for he did not know. He leaned back in his chair with a troubled sigh and fidgeted with his pipe. There was no assurance Amarwen would be any the safer in Edhellond than Osgiliath.

”I cannot yet say,” he murmured, troubled.

”It seems an awful lot of trouble, Therald, and for what?”

Therald looked to where Calimir sat and was reminded of younger days. They’d studied together, had been fast friends. That friendship had grown strained of late but Calimir seemed genuinely concerned. Therald was not sure what to trust to now: the years of friendship with this man or his recent political manouverings that came at the expense of Therald’s own family.

”How can you ask me that? Cobas Haven was only three months ago!”

Calimir pushed out a heavy sigh, ”As I said at the time, it was a simple misunderstanding that got out of hand! You can't truly think the Master of Ships would bother to take Edhellond by force.”

Therald's reply came flat and staunch. ”No sooner had we declined his offer for our daughter do we find his ships blockading our harbour. Bodies washed ashore!”

“Sea faring is a dangerous business, Therald. Men drown from time to time. Unfortunate as that is, it is no indication of malicious intent.”
Calimir pushed out a lungful of smoke. ”You declined his negotiations and the matter was concluded civilly.”

“His agents attempted to steal my daughter only last night!”
Therald exclaimed, baffled by his old friend’s sustained and wilful blindness. ”Nothing you might say will sway me.”

Therald watched his friend from beneath lowered brows. Calimir fell to silence for a time and then he sighed as he broke the quiet tension. ”I did not come here to change your mind.”

His tone was heavy and filled with reluctance. ”And what I am about to say changes not a thing. I think your daughter’s proud lineage and potential is squandered here in Osgiliath and in doing so, a great disservice is done to the realm.”

Therald felt his teeth grind against the stem of his pipe as Calimir pressed out another heavy sigh. ”Be that as it may, there is a matter that warrants discussion between us. As…friends and fathers both.”

“Go on,”
Therald pushed as Calimir fell back into his ruminations. He plucked his pipe from his mouth and studied it for a moment.

”It is possible,” Calimir reluctantly said, ”That the rumours concerning our children are more than mere idle speculation.”

Therald pushed himself upright in his chair, ”Impossible.”

Calimir threw him a strange look, shook his head, and pressed on.

”This has come to the attention of the Crown Princess. Halvarin stands to lose more than his reputation and prospects. The consequences could be most dire.” Calimir leaned forward and Therald could see genuine fear in his old friend’s eyes. ”I have warned him but the boy will not listen to me.”

That too held a note of truth for Therald. He recalled well how unreasonable he had been at Halvarin’s age when his eye fell and lingered on a certain noblewoman. Their marriage had caused no end of woe and yet he had been doggedly persistent in his younger years. Nothing could have dissuaded him then or now and it seemed very much as if history repeated itself.

”What would you have me do,” Therald asked quietly.

”I think it likely that both our children will suffer of this if it is not stopped. Guide her away from this madness and I will attempt to do the same for my son. I think it best that any communication between them cease.”

Therald closed his eyes for he knew how much Amarwen treasured her correspondence. She would fly down the stairs at home, eyes twinkling with delight every time a letter from Halvarin arrived. Then she would disappear for hours to craft and hone a reply. This would be a heavy blow for her after so many years. He nodded reluctantly.

”Of course,” he said and took in the relief he saw on his friend’s face. It put paid to any notion that Calimir felt nothing for his son. Therald thought that the love he bore for his only child was likely hidden deep. Tucked away where none might take it, or even see it.

In this they were two very different men.

”This could just be yet more speculation, Calimir, but I will do what is necessary to bring it to an end.”

“Thank you,”
Calimir sighed and pushed to his feet.

”It’s late. Why not stay for dinner?” Therald offered as he rose from his chair.

Calimir shook his head. “I thank you, but I have still more to see to. Another time, perhaps.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 20th, 2018, 8:03 pm 
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Almanac spent the remainder of her time in angst. She had no idea where Rie-Zunic had gone. Perhaps back to another set of reports in the palace? He hadn’t said.

Unfortunately Rie-Zunic had not gone back to his station. He would not see the efforts of Aldamir, nor the good will of the king. He had made his way downtown to a tavern. A tavern he spent a good deal of his younger years around. His first job was a kitchen boy at that tavern.

He walked in, no military garb upon him. He looked so strange in plain clothes that the owner hardly recognized him.

“Zuni? Is that you?” The man chuckled. “Well by you dress and your face I would think you had been fired!”

“Worse,” Rie-Zunic said. “I was promoted.” The man gave him an odd look, but filled a cup of his usual. “Make it a double,” Rie-Zunic requested.

The man looked back with a subtle nods. “A double it is.”


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 21st, 2018, 8:31 pm 
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Farien found Amarwen standing at Aldamir’s shoulder. Her laughter was bright and when she tipped her head back in her merriment, magnificent ebony hair swayed from side to side. Those she stood with wore dazzled smiles. Aldamir most of all, particularly when the young woman reached out absently to lightly touch his arm. As for Almara, Farien had yet to sight the woman.

Almost immediately, the sparkling smile that lit Amarwen’s features faded at Farien’s arrival. It confirmed for her that little wretch was perfectly aware of the mischief she had wrought this day.

”I wonder if I might steal her away from you,” Farien said, smiling blandly. The younger woman bit her lower lip, apprehensive, as Aldamir inclined his head.

”Do not lose her, Mother.”

Farien’s smile widened as she tucked Amarwen’s hand into her arm, ”I do not intend to.”

The further away they drew from the gathering the more anxious Amarwen grew.

”You have had quite the day,” Farien said, breaking the ominous silence, ”Quite the little victory.”

“I did not send your son to the King! I swear it!”


Farien inclined her head and released Amarwen’s hand, ”That may be true. My son is a persistently good man.”

“It is true! Please, your Highness, please! Please do not hurt him!”


The princess regarded her her with immediate distaste. ”Oh child, you cannot say that you were not fairly warned. I have been patient. This business grieves me, but I will not be tested.”

“The King’s dispensation was not my doing!”

“Continuing to align yourself with those known to be hostile to the crown most certainly is! Did you think I would not know who this Almara is? What she is?”


At that, Amarwen’s jaw dropped slightly. Her confusion remained. In fact, it only redoubled. Farien would not be gulled.

”Do you see these men?” Farien pointed to the palace guards that Amarwen had not noticed until now. They stood before the garden wall at regular intervals. Each stared ahead, as if they could not see or hear what unfolded under their noses. ”How many are their number, Lady Amarwen?”

Amarwen looked up and down the wall. ”M-Many.”

“Indeed,”
Farien said cooly, ”And of the two of us, whom do you think they serve?”

Amarwen bowed her head, ”Y-you.”

“Do not make a foe of me, Amarwen. It is not in the lease wise. Particularly when you have so very much to lose.”


She did have a great deal to lose. Amarwen was all too aware of that and so she followed her education over the years and sank into a deep curtsy. She bowed her head before the princess and in the folds of her pooled skirts, her fingernails bit into her palms.

”Wh…what is your will, your Highness?”

”Do you recall our first discussion?”
Farien replied, gesturing that Amarwen could rise from her display of submission.

Amarwen cringed inwardly, for it was not an exchange she’d soon forget, and she nodded. It took every measure of her composure not to scream and launch herself at this woman. Obedience. This woman required obedience above all else.

”Then you already know what must be done.”

“With respect, your Highness, what of the King’s-“

“You were always free to go, Amarwen,”
Farien cut in, ”You would not enjoy overmuch what would happen if you should leave before your work is done.”

The princess stepped forward and adjusted the neckline of her gown so that it was wider across the span of Amarwen’s shoulders. ”If it is any comfort to you, child, Aldamir is kind, with a generous heart. This needn’t be the loathsome chore you make of it.”

The princess glided away and Amarwen doubled over in her wake. Her skin crawled, pebbled with goose-flesh, and her stomach heaved. The urge to empty it was strong. She hunched her shoulders instinctively as she straightened again, a hand held over her mouth. She came eye to eye with one of the guards. He stared blankly as if he did not see her. Her gaze jumped to the next guard and the next one. All down the wall.

One foot out of line, the merest hint that she was not complying with her bidding and Farien could unleash any number of sanctions. Upon her. Upon Halvarin. Upon Almara now. Even Edhellond…Her relief, nay delight at Aldamir’s earlier tidings seemed facile now. So foolish. She was still in the very same web, only now it was somehow even stickier than before.

Amarwen drew in a deep breath and held it. She released it to take another. Piece by piece, she reassembled her composure until her face was smooth. Her hands opened and closed at her sides as she steeled herself. Then she turned about and returned to the gathering. Questions would be asked if she did not.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 23rd, 2018, 7:34 am 
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Halvarin and Vinyarion were a few tankards when Halvarin said,

”I thought Amarwen and I would be together all through life. I thought this was as natural as rain when I thought about it as a child. Now…. “

Halvarin drained his tankard and set it down. He went on,

”Now… she is to be wed to your father, and I know she will be kept far away from me. If I give you a letter, can you see she gets it?”

“I will my friend. Better yet, let me take you through the palace to her chambers unseen and you can deliver it yourself.”


Halvarin spun his fingers around to get another round, then he looked at Vinyarion and said,

”You would have a way around things. As much as I would love to see her again one last time, I know that I would want to see her again after that, and yet again. Right now, I have our time here together, and I will hold that time we had in the library dear. I am going to Minas Anor on the midnight run. That is why my bag is stowed there by the door. I wrote this earlier today, I would like for her to get it.”

Halvarin handed Vinyarion a folded and sealed parchment which he stowed inside his vest. When the fresh tankards came, Halvarin settled his account with one of the coins Vinyarion had given him. He barely noticed the two women who walked in and stood at the bar near them. Vinyarion was about to say something to them when Halvarin gave him a slight slap to his chest with the back of his hand. The bartender paused when he looked up and saw Vilmaith and Rhinnin standing there, but his eyes shifted to Halvarin. He was met by a stern glare, and Vinyarion too looked at him before turning his eyes to Vilmaith. Rhinnin looked over to see Halvarin, and he gave her a slight smile and a nod as Vilmaith ordered two tankards. The bartender looked again to Halvarin before silently nodding as he and served the two women their ales. Vilmaith stepped over to Vinyarion and said to him,

”Do you ever sleep Vinyarion of Osgiliath?”

“I could ask you the same thing Vilmaith of Rhovania.”


Halvarin paused for a moment, meeting Rhinnin’s gaze. He then said,

”Good to see you again Lady Rhinnin.”

Then he turned and went to hoist his bag up over his shoulder. Vilmaith turned and looked at Rhinnin who was watching Halvarin leave, and she said to Vinyarion,

”Does the mariner have their typical mind of hatred for Rhovanions?”

Rhinnin shook her head and said,

“No, he is not like that!” We…”

”… I don’t think he prefers blondes.”


Vinyarion cut in. Rhinnin looked hard at both Vinyarion and Vilmaith before she walked away. She followed Halvarin out the door and called out to him,

”Where do you go so swiftly Halvarin of Pelargir?”

“I must catch ship to Minas Anor.”
Halvarin said over his shoulder without breaking his stride. "Though your presence is convincing, I cannot stay in this city any longer.”

Rhinnin caught up to him as he headed for the stair from the bridge, and asked,

”Can I accompany you to the ship?”

“If you wish, though you do know it is a less than friendly place for a Rhovanion to be, especially so late at night.”


Halvarin turned and started down the stairs while Rhinnin paused, she then quickly trotted down and kept pace with him. She said,

”Does it not cause you any concern what the other mariners may think seeing this Rhovanion walk with you to see you off?”

Halvarin would be lying if that thought had not crossed his mind, but he had pushed it aside quickly. He answered,

” My father cares about such things, but I do not. I care not what he or others with his like mind think. I will accompany any who I wish to accompany, and they give the same consideration…”

Except for royalty. He was doing well to have a friend in Vinyarion. But he knew that Amarwen was now above him, in a new life in the royal halls, to be wed to a royal prince. Halvarin paused at the flat that was halfway down the long stair to the quays. He looked at Rhinnin and said,

”Know that it means a lot to me that you wish to see me off. That you would do so in such a place at such a time speaks highly of you and your character. Had things been different, maybe we would have gotten to know each other better. But know that the time we shared with our talks over ales and during our walks I will remember.”

They stood silently there for a moment before the sound of the bell from the ship signalled for everyone to get aboard. Halvarin looked at Rhinnin, then turned his sights west to the palace and he sighed. He set off down the steps, and Rhinnin hurried to catch up with him. When they reached the quay street, Halvarin could feel eyes on him. He looked about and saw the glares from officer and stevedore alike. It was as if every eye was the eyes of his father, and Halvarin knew that many here of high rank were his father’s friends. He considered shunning Rhinnin in their presence, but instead he took her hand. He said in a low voice as he leaned toward her,

”You, Lady Rhinnin have walked with me into a den of fell beasts. After I board ship, you make your way back up on to the bridge. Wait there until my ship passes, and when it is clear, I will look for you. Extinguish one of the lamps along the rail, and I will know you are safe. Promise me you will do this!”

Rhinnin looked at Halvarin and could see he was really concerned for her safety. She pressed closer to him as they approached the ship he was to board. When they arrived that the gangway, Halvarin dropped his bag and turned to Rhinnin. He held her hands and said,

”Well…. I guess this is goodbye…”

Rhinnin drew him to her in an embrace, and with a gentle, friendly kiss, they parted as the bell rang signalling the ship’s departure. The dockmaster signalled for the ship to depart, and as he signalled for the ropes to be uncinched, Halvarin lifted his bag and stepped up to the deck. The gangplank was removed, and the river current started taking the ship away. Halvarin looked back and saw Rhinnin wave, and he waved in kind. His face though was grim. As much as he wished it was Amarwen seeing him off, or better yet, departing with him, he could see clearly that their paths departed at this fork, and he could see not how they would ever have another moment alone together.

Halvarin looked back at the quays, and he could see Rhinnin walking along with the ship until she came to the stair, and as she started up to the bridge, he lost sight of her. He didn’t realise the ship’s captain had come up beside him.

”Fraternising with foreigners are ye laddy? Does yer father know?”

“If he doesn’t already, he will soon I’m sure.”


Halvarin said without looking. The captain was silent for a time, then said,

”Time is coming when all of Gondor will be tested. May she survive.”

He then walked away. Halvarin pondered the meaning of what he said, and he understood. As the ship passed under the great bridge, Halvarin turned his eyes up to it, and he watched as they went down river. Just as he started to worry, he saw one of the lamps go out. Rhinnin would be all right. He then looked to the Palace as it started to grow distant. He said to himself,

”Fare thee well Lady Amarwen, my friend of old and lady of my heart.”

He sighed, hoping that one day they would meet again.


~ ~ ~


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 23rd, 2018, 8:15 am 
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The shift in Amarwen’s demeanour was palpable. The light in her eyes had been doused and though she smiled and nodded and offered polite conversation, it seemed to Aldamir that her spirt had been snuffed out. It troubled him such that he sought his mother out, going so far as to pull her aside from a conversation she was conducting with one of the nobles.

”You are too hard on her,” he said urgently in her ear.

His mother shook him off and plumped her skirts, ”I don’t know what you refer to.”

Aldamir felt his jaw tense. He locked his eyes with his mother’s and then nodded to where Amarwen stood. The young woman was a consummate performer. She knew how to dazzle and charm. He had left her in the company of his elder brother and he knew very well indeed how best to draw a woman out. He could see Ornedil try to engage Amarwen but, despite his efforts and her skill, he failed.

”I told you not to lose her, Mother. I did not know I had to request that you did not break her.”

Princess Farien pressed out a sigh and turned back to consider him, ”Untempered steel lacks the required strength. Amarwen has not the benefit of long years to prepare for what awaits her as a princess of the realm.”

“Her education is hardly deficient!”

“True,”
his mother inclined her head, ”But she is accustomed to a great deal more latitude and freedom. She lacks discipline.”

“You yourself counselled a gentle approach. And, in the end, what was the harm aside from a few trampled tulip beds?”


Again Farien sighed. She glanced over her shoulder briefly and pulled Aldamir even further away.

”Lady Amarwen was, I regret to say, involved in an unsanctioned entanglement.”

Aldamir stared at his mother, shocked by her statement. ”With whom?”

“It matters not. As is so often the case, the match is unsuitable for a number of very sound reasons.”

“It has ended?”

“Yes,”
his mother assured him.

Aldamir turned away. He lifted a hand to his jaw and closed his eyes. ”When?”

“Recently.”


He shook his head, ”I can’t. It is too cruel, Mother.”

“You underestimate her,”
Farien observed as she came to his elbow, ”This ridiculous dalliance is a further impediment but not an insurmountable one. The girl is steel, Aldamir!”

“She will hate me.”

“If she hates anyone, it will assuredly be me,”
Farien said and Aldamir stared down at his mother, astonished. ”Whilst I am the storm to test her mettle, you must be her safe harbour. Show her kindness and compassion where I cannot and she will come to love you for it.”

“You would have me protect her from you?”
he asked pointedly.

Farien smiled at her son. ”Is that not what you do now?”

Aldamir drew up to Amarwen’s elbow awash with his thoughts. He recalled all to clearly just how passionate a young heart was. In his own youth, hollowed out and numb following the loss of his first wife in childbirth, it had struck him out of the blue. A woman named Almara, who arrived as swiftly and inexplicably as she had left. Almara had saved his spirit from crumbling. He could not imagine what he would have done if he had of been wrenched from her arms and thrust headlong into another’s.

He supposed that he should not be surprised to discover Amarwen had prior involvements. She was beautiful and if she had drawn his eye then it stood to reason that she would have drawn the eyes of others. He was strongly tempted to dissolve the betrothal and set her free even now but what predicament would that leave her in? The Master of Ships had proved himself greedy to secure her for his own ends and Aldamir knew she’d find no compassion, no safe harbour there.

The only thing stronger than Castamir’s ambition was, in Aldamir’s opinion, his cruelty. She would be poorly used and cast aside. Yet, even if he was able to strengthen Edhellond such that Amarwen did not fall into Castamir’s hands, what was she left with if he dissolved the betrothal? Dispatched home, likely in no small degree of disgrace.

”You are quiet, my Lord.”

Aldamir blinked and realised that he stood with Amarwen alone. He had not realised their companions had drifted away. Amarwen studied his expression and then lowered her eyes as she sank into a curtsy before him.

”I have displeased you,” she said and her voice thrummed with dismay.

Regret washed through him for she must have perceived something of his concern. He reached down to lift her to her feet once more. Her dark head remained bowed until he cupped her hand between his own. Hesitantly, Amarwen looked up and he was certain to gentle his expression in readiness.

”No, my Lady. Never that,” he murmured and lifted her hand to his lips. The bell rang to announce the King's departure he lowered her hand and tucked it into his arm. ”If I might be so honoured.”

“You are too kind,”
she replied and he led her to wish the ageing king a restful slumber.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 26th, 2018, 8:07 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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At the Bridge Inn, Vinyarion and Vilmaith had a few tankards when Vinyarion said,

”I need to go to the palace and deliver this letter.”

He pulled out the parchment and looked at it. Vilmaith asked,

”Who is it for?”

“Lady Amarwen of Edhellond.”


Vinyarion replied as he secured it back inside his vest. Vilmaith took a drink of her ale and said,

”Yes, the lady that went missing at the palace, setting off a full alert of the Royal Guard.”

Vinyarion shrugged and nodded. He said,

”I don’t know what all set that off, being I was out and about when it all happened. I do want to get this to her as soon as I can, and I think I’m just drunk enough to do so.”

Vilmaith smirked. It would be interesting to see how the young prince of Gondor is able to get in to the palace, let alone in to the chambers of Lady Amarwen unseen. Knowing that it was Helda, Vilna, and Vidnavi assigned to the palace to watch Amarwen, it would be a good test of their ability. Seeing that she and Rhinnin had been exiled to the east of the city by the commander, Vilmaith was all for this test. She said,

”May I assist you in this in any way?”

“I was just about to ask.”


Vinyarion said as he finished his tankard. Vilmaith did likewise and they were soon off across the bridge. Coming to the palace, Vinyarion led Vilmaith down into a cellar, and just inside by the stair, he felt along the stones. When one moved inward, he stepped in and Vilmaith followed. He pushed the stone back in place and they made their way up a narrow stair in the blackness. The air was still and had a dry, dusty smell to it. The stone muffled everything, and only their breaths and footsteps could be heard. When they reached the end, Vinyarion pushed up on the wooden ceiling, and with a slight crack, it opened. They climbed out into a dimly lit room and Vinyarion closed the door in the floor.

”Welcome to my room in the palace.”

Vilmaith looked around and went and had a peek out the window. She said,

”Other than the scandal that would ensue should I be caught in here, how does this get your letter to the Lady of Edhellond?”

Vinyarion went to the door and put an ear to it, then made sure it was locked, then turned and said,

”It just so happens that Lady Amarwen’s chambers are just up one level and around a bit.”

“Right. So how do you intend to get from here to there unnoticed?”


Vinyarion grinned. He said,

”I’ve been climbing these walls since I was a little kid.”

Vilmaith smiled and nodded. He was in his home, and there was not likely a stone in this city Vinyarion hadn’t touched. It was like the tracks and trails of Rhovanion which she learned as a child and could walk in the pitch of a black night.

Vilmaith found Vinyarion standing before her when she came back from her thoughts. He said,

”We will wait for a time in case Lady Amarwen is not in her chambers.”

Vilmaith didn’t let the invitation pass. She pressed herself to Vinyarion and kissed him, and he wrapped her up in his arms and returned the passion.

It was some time later in the depth of the morning when Vinyarion pushed open the balcony doors and stepped out to the railing. Vilmaith wrapped herself in the linen sheet and followed him out. She watched as he jumped up on the rail and started climbing up the stone. His hands found the depressions and his toes dug into the smallest cracks in the stone work. Soon he was at the railing of the room above his, and he then climbed to the side and got ahold if the railing of Amarwen’s room. He lifted himself over and as his feet came to rest on the stone, Amarwen was standing there just outside the balcony doors. He spoke even as she jumped at his quick and partially clothed appearance…

”M’lady, pardon my intrusion and my appearance. I bring you some mail. It could not wait for the usual deliveries.”

He handed Amarwen the folded parchment, and as she looked at it, he said,

”I promised Halvarin I would deliver it personally. Now that I have, I shall be going…”

“Wait… Halvarin? Where is he?”


Amarwen said as she looked over to Vinyarion climbing over the railing. He took a breath and pointed south down the river.

”He’s on that ship returning south.”

Amarwen turned and looked, and she could see the dim lantern in the distance that marked the ship Halvarin was on. When she turned back, Vinyarion was gone. She looked down over the railing and saw nothing but caught some movement under the railing next to hers. She sighed and went back inside her room to read the parchment by the light of a candle…

’Dearest Amarwen, my friend of old and the brightest star of stars in my life. As much as I would wish to hold to the stars that I see, and walk this path of life with you, it appears that the trail has split, and you are taken the way of royalty, and I to the sea. Know that wherever my path takes me, I will look for the day when I will see you again. Until then, be well dear Amarwen, and know that wherever I am, I will look to the moon when I think of you and will know that you look upon the same moon, and I will remember the Library.’



At that moment, Halvarin looked one last time back to the palace before the ship rounded the curve in the river and Osgiliath was lost from sight. Halvarin sighed and looked for the moon, but the clouds had closed in and the mist was closing on the river. He sat down on the deack and leaned against the bridge wall, and was soon asleep.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 26th, 2018, 7:56 pm 
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The night wore onward, sleepless as it were. Almara still knew not where Rie-Zunic had gone. She was left with little recourse, but to show up at the palace the next morning and report for duty as the handmaiden of the Lady Amarwen. So she did.

She strolled through the halls of the palace, not shyly, but feigning that she knew not the way well. Still that small voice in her head warned that her previous role in the lady’s disappearance may be discovered if she but took one wrong move. She located a guard first, asking of Rie-Zunic. It was the first time in fifteen years she had heard of him not reporting for duty.

She quelled her concern, thanked the guard, and moved onwards. Coming upon Aldamir in the halls she slowed her pace. Her mind flashed back to their last encounter. He knew something of her past... she could tell it when he looked at her. He remembered her mother. Did she dare ask him? Did he know, by chance, that she was his daughter? Strange emotions bubbled up inside her. Things she knew not. Even when she had know , and had been near the man, she had not felt this way. Now, looking in his eyes for that brief second it struck her. “Father...” she mouthed the word inaudibly and finished the thought in her head. “I have a... father...”

She blinked back her emotions as Aldamir spoke. “Almara! I am glad to see you here. I take it you have come to accept my offer? Lady Amarwen truly needs a friend she can trust. Someone she knows.”


“I-I have... yes,” Almara replies. More times were her words than most she had spoken, even in her youth.

Aldamir pauses at her demeanor, though only for a moment. “Very good,” he smiled. “Three doors down, to the end of the hall, one right, the second left, and again to the end of the hall. Tell them I sent you. They will furnish you with all you need.”


————————


The early morning found Rie-Zunic still at his table. Though he had indulged, he clearly still had... most of his wits about him. It was then that a quildsman strode past. His memories of their part in all this filtered into his already angered mind that swarmed with emotions. He blamed Almara... mostly. He never could think straight when that woman was on his mind!

He thought to let the guildsman go, but last second he reached out and snatched the man’s wrist. It was almost an involuntary action. Perhaps the rum?

“See here!” The man objected, wrenching his arm from Rie-Zunic’s grip. “What’s the meaning of this...” he eyed Rie-Zunic up and down. “You castle rat?” He scoffed.

“Half drunk I could make you swallow those words backwards...” Rie-Zunic spike threateningly, then smirked. “And I’m only a third drunk.”

“Drunk is drunk,” The man moved to walk around. “Now get out of my way!”

In an instant Rie-Zuni snapped a hand to the back of the man’s shirt collar and slammed him flat-backed on to the table. “Tell me what you people are planning!” Tie-Zunic screamed, spit peppering the guildsman’s face. “I know you are planning something against the crown. What is it?”

After the pain subsided from the back of the man’s head who was slammed onto the table, he growled under his breath and punched Rie-Zunic in the chest. “Get off me you drunk fool!”

The fight that followed proved Roe-Zunic’s words true. The guildsman was no match for him. Unfortunately the guildsman has friends. Several friends.

The fight finally ended with Rie-Zunic being held behind bars in a guild prison down by the docks.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 26th, 2018, 9:13 pm 
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Sleep was all but impossible for Amarwen. Her thoughts churned as restlessly as her stomach as the evening’s events tumbled through her mind repeatedly. The spectre of freedom yanked away. Halvarin, bowing before an inescapable fate and stepping back. He was gone and she could not blame him. Exhaustion prevailed in the hour before dawn and crushed her within its stifling arms. She jolted awake at the sound of her bedroom doors opening and blinked against the harsh morning light. Someone was moving around her room and she could hear voices coming through the bedroom. Disorientated, Amarwen found it difficult to stir herself from the ball she had curled up in atop bed covers.

Slowly, her eyes focused in time to catch Princess Farien standing beside the bed. In her hand was Halvarin’s message and when she lifted her eyes from the page she read, Amarwen saw victory in the woman’s regard.

”The Library,” Farien murmured. She folded the message in her fingers and Amarwen wondered if she’d ever see it again. The Princess’ piercing eyes lingered on Amarwen. ”I imagine he told you that he loved you, only to vanish as quickly as he might.” She turned away from Amarwen, the letter still in hand.

”As I said at the outset, love is unreliable and inconstant. It is no foundation upon which to build a future.” The Princess walked away from the bed upon which Amarwen sat, hunched over in sorrow. Casually, she flicked the letter to the hearth she passed and paused in the doorway. ”Come, child. You've no time to lay abed this day.”

Under Farien’s ruthless scrutiny, Amarwen forced herself to stand. She followed the Princess through the doors and into the parlour where she found a number of other women had assembled. Their quiet chatter stilled and Amarwen felt the weight of their study settle upon her. She had not yet bathed and still wore her clothing from last night. It was badly rumpled, her hair was tangled from tossing and turning and she knew they would see the evidence of grief upon her face. With the barest of pauses, Farien set about announcing each woman. All had a function. Her wardrobe, her schedule, her meetings, her correspondence, her instruction…and all were certain to be conveying everything they observed to the woman announcing them now. With the exception of one name. Amarwen’s head lifted at the sound of Almara’s name. She caught sight of Almara peeking around another woman’s shoulder.

”You may decide what function Almara shall serve. If you can or will not, one will be found for her.”

“Counsel!”
Amarawen said swiftly. Almara’s brows climbed and Amarwen turned to the Princess. ”I must have counsel, must I not, your Highness?”

Farien’s jaw shifted at the question and Amarwen thought the Princess would gainsay her.

Instead, Farien inclined her head slightly. ”Counsel it is,” she said stiffly, glancing the once at Almara and then scanning the assembled ladies-in-waiting. ”The formal betrothal ceremony is to commence at midday and,” Farien paused to glance disparaging at the state Amarwen was in, ”There is much to do to ensure all is ready.”

“Yes, your Highness,”
the room dutifully murmured with the exception of two. Amarwen and Almara were still. They did not move at this announcement as they shared a long look with each other. Then Amarwen closed her eyes for she would not weep before an audience.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 29th, 2018, 10:35 pm 
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Almara sighed inwardly at the state Amarwen was in. She had never had many whom she could call her friend, but Amarwen seemed one she could say as much of. It pained her to know all the poor girl had gone through. Princess Farien seemed the crux of much trouble, Almara thought. She kept all her thinkings to herself, however.

After a moment she moved over to Amarwen's side, the poor girl fighting back tears as the ladies in waiting moved swiftly about.

Her hair was attacked, almost literally. Her wardrobe was scrutinized and replaced. Her face was cleaned and powdered. Everything, without so much as a word.

Finally Almara thought it enough. "If counsel is to be my function, then might I make a suggestion?"

Farien glanced at her with narrow eyes, but did not object.

"If the betrothal is to be at midday, certainly the ladies in waiting can handle the preparations. It will only take a few hours for Amarwen herself to get ready. Let the young woman have her morning to collect her thoughts. It would be quite unbecoming for a display at the ceremony."

Almara thought to buy Amarwen a few hours of peace before such a traumatic event. Maybe even a chance to speak in private. Whether Farien would agree or not, that remained to be seen.

______

Meanwhile, downtown near the docks, Rie-Zunic felt the effects of the alcohol leaving him. He had enough sense to know where he was and what he had done. It was a small sense of pride knowing that they had thrown him in a cell only by him leaving five of them in the healers tent for mending.

It seemed they were going to ignore him. There was no sign that anyone hardly acknowledged he was there.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: June 30th, 2018, 11:25 pm 
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Amarwen felt the weight of tension in the parlour triple. She kept her head bowed and her eyes closed but she could not help but lean towards her only friend in this forsaken place. Almara was so much braver than she. Their shoulders nudged as Farien drew a deep breath.

What Amarwen could not know is that the Princess looked to the doorway where not one but two Shieldmaiden’s stood. Helda and Vilna peered back at the Princess, transfixed by this tussle of wills. Satisfied that there would be no opportunity to abscond, the Princess nodded tersely.

”On your head be it,” Farien declared in a clipped, icy tone and swept from the room.

The parlour filled with the whispering of skirts as the ladies-in-waiting followed their true mistress. In this susurration, Amarwen’s hand connected with Almara’s until Almara shook it free and crossed to close the doors with a murmur that elicited a chuckle from the two shieldmaidens on the other side of it.

”What a troll!” Almara observed as the doors clicked shut.

Amarwen sank to the floor and covered her face with her hands. That could not blot out the nightmare she found herself in. It took time to first coax Amarwen from the floor and into a chair and still more to elicit a response beyond a wretched sob into her hands. Early though the hour was, Almara availed herself of the decanter of liquor she found. Between that and her determination, it all came tumbling out until there was nothing left to say.

Almara frowned as she tried to make sense of it, ”But what of the King’s dispensation?”

“What of it?”
Amarwen echoed bitterly, ”It means nothing. If I leave too early… though Halvarin has returned to Pelargir, her arm is long.”

“That’s despicable!”


Amarwen nodded unhappily. She stared at the bottom of the glass in her hand. She felt…numb. It would not last.

”I know it is for the best that he has gone,” she said quietly and squeezed her eyes shut. She could not go on. Halvarin’s letter held a finality to it. Though the princess had destroyed it, his words lingered in her mind. Regret. Remorse. Resignation. Her head started to pound and Amarwen lifted a hand to rub at her brow.

She opened her eyes and lifted her head to study Almara. Her friend was quiet, lost in her own thoughts.

”The Princess is not well pleased about your presence,” she said softly.

Almara tossed her hair and archly observed, ”I hadn’t noticed.”

“She is a dangerous woman, Almara. She knows you.”


Almara drained her own glass and met Amarwen’s gaze, ”Well?”

“This is a perilous place,”
Amarwen replied, ”And if the Princess’ wrath brought harm to you-“

Almara held her hand up, ”I know how to look after myself. I’ve been doing it for quite some time.”

She spoke with such confidence. It was stark contrast to the whining and snivelling Amarwen had been indulging in. She studied her friend and then sighed.

”I wish I had your courage,” Amarwen quietly observed.

”Are you going through with this?” Almara inquired, diverting the discussion deftly.

Amarwen’s gaze dropped at the question and she looked over to the flowered garland that had been left behind. Her stomach felt like she had just swallowed a stone.

”It is my duty to Edhellond and all those dear to me,” her voice was grim, ”I can bend before the coming storm or allow it to break me.”

Amarwen pushed to her feet as she clawed her resolve back together again, ”I will do this. I must.”

The two women embraced. ”If you mean to stay on, I know the Prince will be well pleased,” Amarwen said.

Again, Almara was distracted. Amarwen asked, ”How selfish of me….is something amiss, Almara?”

“No…well, I hope not,”
Almara was uncharacteristically uncertain and then she sighed, ”Will you need assistance to prepare?” Almara inquired.

Amarwen shook her head. ”In some small respects, I too am able to look after myself.”

Almara eyed her and then shook her head. ”Please, tell me that you’re going to wash that ghastly powder from your face!”

Amarwen felt a small smile fight its way through and she was sorely tempted to embrace Almara again. As awful as this is, their paths would not have crossed otherwise.

”You have been a better friend than I deserve,” Amarwen said and she went in search of a washcloth.

She found it and a mirror at the same time. Just as Almara said, between the layers of powder and the jagged streaks of her tears, the effect truly was horrid. Amarwen swore at her reflection and set to work. For she would not give Farien any excuse to descend upon Almara for her own failings.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The Captain of the Palace Guards listened to the echo his boots made as he strode through the dockside watch-house. Most of the cells were empty and he was in no particular hurry. Uncharacteristic as this lapse was, it had cost the Captain dearly for the Guild knew how to drive a bargain. Of the three men arrested for the attack upon Lady Amarwen and her companion, he now only held one in custody at the Palace.

He had been sorely inclined to leave Rie-Zunic where he presently was, occupying a Guild cell and wallowing in the reek of countless smugglers and insubordinate sailors before him. But, of course, that could not be. Not on day such as this, the palace all in a buzz for the midday ceremony. There were troops to prepare for the occasion and he could not manage it without all of his senior officers. And so, the Captain of the Guard came to the cell that held the one senior officer that had not reported for duty.

First time, yes, but Rie-Zunic had chosen a very poor time to begin. Ever taciturn, the Captain's displeasure was evident in his expression as he traded a glare with his senior officer. Then he fitted an iron key to the lock. The door emitted an eye-watering high pitched squeal. Never failed to make his teeth grind but for a man with a thumping hangover, it would be head splitting. Rie-Zunic's wince was some consolation...but it would not be enough. Not by a long shot.

"Tell me why I should not demote you," the Captain growled at Rie-Zunic.


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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: July 1st, 2018, 7:57 am 
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After Rhinnin watched Halvarin’s ship sail out of sight, she loitered on the bridge for a time before heading back to the Bridge Inn in hopes to meet. Thinking all would be well, she was met by the bartender again not willing to serve her. Said something about her not having a ranking northern wench lover or a half-breed royal with her to force service. Rhinnin wanted to be reasonable, but when some other guildsmen drinking there joined in with the taunts, she cracked. Jumping over the bar and smashing the bartender’s head into the bar before putting him in a headlock while demanding an ale was not the smartest move. When the guildsmen got up to set things right for their bartender, Rhinnin broke a clay tankard over one of their heads and proceeded to down another full tankard that was left at the bar at the first sign of trouble. She gave as good as she got before the City Guard rushed in. They took her attention for a moment, and everything went black with pain and the shattering of a bottle.

The City Guard watch-house of East Osgiliath was a rough place. The Guild Officers had the Constable of east Osgiliath in their pocket, and that was where Rhinnin found herself waking up to the noise of boots. She was the only one arrested for the Bridge Inn disturbance and was hauled out unconscious. When she awoke with a bruised skull and a throbbing headache, she was surprised to see a Gondorian soldier, a senior officer at that, in the cell across the way. The boots were coming for him. Rhinnin sat up and watched as the door across the way squealed its displeasure at being opened. It was the Captain of the Palace Guard of Valacar! He well outranked the Captain of the Guard of Eldacar, whom her own commander reported to. Who was this man to receive such attention? She stood and went to the bars on her cell and watched and listened. As Rie-Zunic swallowed while pondering what to say, Rhinnin giggled slightly. The Hig Captain turned and looked sternly at her.

”What is it that is so amusing?”

He squinted his eyes and said thoughtfully,

”Aren’t you one of Prince Eldacar’s Rhovanion Guards?”

Rhinnin swallowed. She didn’t expect to be identified. She herself swallowed as he said,

”I’ll have words with Commander Beregos, and your commander Varagan when I get back to the palace. They will have to arrange your bail.”

Any chance of being sprung with the high-ranking Gondorian officer were dashed. Rhinnin would have to remain in the hands of these unfriendly jailors. The Captain turned back to Rie-Zunic and said,

”Well, do you have anything to say for yourself?”

He stared hard at Rie-Zunic, expecting an answer.


~ ~ ~ ~


Halvarin sat on the deck and eventually went to sleep leaning against the bridge wall. When he awoke, it was to the bell signalling they were coming into port. Morning light had come, and the low grey cloud let a slight misty drizzle loose in Harlond. Halvarin didn’t have to be back to Pelargir for another couple fortnights. It was time he had hoped to spend with Amarwen when he found she was in Osgiliath. But she was now out of reach. She was betrothed to the younger son of Eldacar, Prince of Gondor. He sighed as he stood and shouldered his duffle bag and disembarked.

He stood in the street by the quay and looked around. He had never really spent any time in Harlond before. A couple times as a boy he accompanied his father to Osgiliath, and they only spent a mere few hours here while cargo was unloaded and loaded. He went to the only place he remembered, The Quay Tavern. He had enough silver change from one of the gold coins Vinyarion had given him to buy some tea and a breakfast. Right now, he was going to lament having left Amarwen to her fate as a Princess of the Realm. What more could have he done? He would only be trouble for everyone there. His father he had a falling out with. Lord Therald he didn’t seem to impress, and he was sure he was in the sights of someone high in the Royal Palace. His suspicion was Lady Farien somehow knew of he and Amarwen’s relationship. She too likely knew that he was aware of her and his father’s trysts. No, he needed to leave, for staying would only incite trouble for everyone. He held on to the fine thread that was their friendship from the first time they met as children. But he could not see a future with her through the fog, mist and haze of the future, and so should he see her again one day, until then, he would write her. But he was given no doubt that she was of royalty, and he was to be a Mariner in Gondor’s Navy.


~ ~ ~ ~


Aldamir managed to get a little sleep, mainly from exhaustion. He knew clearly that he had little say in his, or more importantly, Amarwen’s future. Still he would try and do what he could to make her comfortable. He was just unsure how to go about it. Maybe if he can keep his mother out of the way by appeasing her, at the same time show compassion for the Lady Amarwen. No matter, there was no getting out of this for either of them.

When his brother Ornendil came to his chambers, Aldamir felt his nerves relax some. It did puzzle him that Lady Amarwen had been betrothed to him instead of his heir-apparent brother, and Aldamir wondered what plans their mother had for him. There was Lady Darias of Calenardhon, daughter of the ruling governer of the western province, but they are staunch supporters of Valacar and Eldacar, and their strategic position is quite far from the core of Gondor. There was Lady Mariastan of Anfalas, but again, they are quite far away and offered less strategic gains for Eldacar. Lady Emasian of Befalas was barely ten years of age, and Lady Serian of Lebannin was already betrothed to Cansilon, son of Castimir. Aldamir could not make sense of it, yet he was glad that Lady Amarwen of Edhellond was to be betrothed to him instead of his brother. His brother would care not for her thoughts and feelings and would only use her as a play thing. No, their mother has some secret plan for Ornendil. He should count it a blessing that he was to be betrothed to Lady Amarwen, even if her heart longs for another.

”Brother! It is good to see you here! You missed the tournament!”

“Yes, matters in Minas Anor kept me long. Besides, I didn’t wish to show my little brother up.”


They grasped each other’s wrists and after a shake, they embraced each other.

”This is a good betrothal my brother. Having the Lady of Edhellond will be a strength in bonding this kingdom together as one.”

“What of you my brother. What has mother planned for you? I have to say I am curious since the Lady of Edhellond has been sworn to me.”


Ornendil shook his head as he turned and walked around in a circle. He turned back to Aldamir and said,

”She has come up with something quite far-reaching. She has made a proposal for me to marry Lady Carina, Lord Castamir’s daughter.”

“Far-reaching? Nigh impossible! You know what the opinion they hold of anyone who has Rhovanion bloodlines in the royal family.”


Ornendil smiled. He laughed slightly and said,

”Yes, I know. It will likely never be agreed to.”

Ornendil’s smile slowly faded from his face and he looked solemnly to his brother. He took both of Aldamir’s hands and looked him in the eyes and said,

”It is why you need to take Lady Amarwen of Edhellond to be your wife, and you need to love and cherish her, and make things right in this kingdom. I had a dream just recently, and I fear it to be a vision given to me. I would die wifeless and childless, and you would become King of Gondor.”

“Nonsense…”


Aldamir said when Ornendil paused. But Ornendil did not waver from his serious stare. Aldamir’s smile of jest faded as Ornendil went on,

”I fear a pestilence will befall upon Gondor; one such that has never come before. I would not consider such a dream as more than that but for my waking in a sweat with my heart racing inside me. Brother, I wish to laugh it off like days of old when we shared stories in the dark, but I felt power in this dream, and cannot shake it off.”

Aldamir set his hand on his brother’s shoulder. He said,

”Your fears are justly counted brother. The pot simmers and the lid can barely hold it all in. There has been troubles here with the Rhovanions. Though they be our grandmother’s people, the bonding of our blood has caused much ill. I know that grandfather married our grandmother out of love from the heart, and not for some bonding of the alliance that Rómendacil II, our great grandfather, had forged. In so many ways I see that spirit in you my brother, and in my son Vinyarion. It was in me when I married my dear wife Annalina, the mother of my son. I loved her with all my heart, but she was taken from me soon after Vinyarion’s birth.”

Aldamir sighed as he and his brother held each other’s eyes in thought. Aldamir too thought of the days ahead. Fate had it that he would be betrothed to Lady Amarwen of Edhellond this day, and he would see it through, for it seemed to be the best fate for them both at this hour. He knew he could grow to love her, and maybe she could grow to love him in time. If this was likely the best path for them to take in these uncertain times, no one knew. But it was the path set before them both, here and now. Aldamir looked to his brother and said,

”I, like you my brother, cannot see the future. But all due concern is warranted in these times, be it by dream or observance. It is an honour that you stand with me this day, and when the day comes that we should wed, I will hope you will be standing with me that day as well.”

They both went silent as Aldamir prepared for the betrothal. Ornendil sent the servants away and he made sure his brother was ready on time. When the hour had come, Ornendil said to his little brother,

”Any lady of the realm would be filled with honour to be betrothed to you, Prince Aldamir of Gondor. Come, we should be there and waiting when Lady Amarwen enters the court.”

Aldamir took a deep breath and nodded. He walked out of his chambers with his brother beside him, bracing himself for this royal reception. He would be keen to note who attended this ceremony and who did not.


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