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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 25th, 2018, 12:58 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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Decent hours indeed… but it wasn’t all the time he got to see Osgiliath. Let alone the Great Library. He laughed at her words.

”Well, I do hope they are of much interest to you. I think when we compete again…. “

Halvarin turned his head and looked over to Amarwen. He paused a step so he could watch her walk. She could move her dress in subtle ways that Halvarin appreciated. She was to him his best friend, one he had known the longest, though she was likely destined to become a royal’s wife, he wondered if they would be able to hold to their friendship after she joins the Royal Court. The thought irked him. The thought of his father and Princess Farien weighed in on his mind.

He quickly took the extra step to get beside her just as she was turning to see what he was doing. She didn’t have to say it… her smirk at him told him she knew exactly what he was up to. He quickly continued the conversation…

”I know not when I will be in Edhellond again. Hopefully soon, but with studies and all…”

Lord Therald approached and Halvarin nodded and stood. Therald said,

”Of course I would find you both together. Halvarin, would you like to help me out with something? There is a ship that will be arriving at the east quay that has someone on it. I would like a friendly face of suitable rank meet them. They are to be brought to the palace to meed Prince Eldacar. Can I trust you to go and meet them and bring them there?”

Halvarin swallowed, for it was not often that Lord Therald would ask him to do something, let alone meet someone he deemed important. Amarwen smiled and was going to ask, but Therald said to his daughter,

”You dear Amarwen, will need to attend court promptly. There are some who desire your company. Now move along.”

Halvarin and Amarwen hardly had time to say their goodbyes as Amarwen set off. Therald stepped over to Halvarin and said,

”His name is Erlech. He will have his daughter Liswyn with them. See to it they are well entertained, then bring them to the palace in time for the dinner. He is a chief designer of ships, and I want him to meet Eldacar.”

Halvarin gave Therald a nod. He knew it was a ploy to keep him busy and to get him away from his daughter, but he was in no position to say otherwise. Having come at the behest of Prince Vinyarion, he had little reason to be there other than to see his father. He had seen enough of him that morning, and Vinyarion was off on other pursuits. Halvarin didn’t realise that one of the young prince’s pursuits was the Lady Amarwen.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: February 27th, 2018, 11:58 pm 
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It was nighttime when Almara slipped past the men at the front of the mercenary camp. Those that still remained had sworn unyielding fealty to the guildsman and their cause to preserve the pureness of the Gondorian bloodlines.

With a hooded robe, Almara walked down back allies, slunk through the shadows, and even crossed over a few rooftops. Soon she came to a quaint little home in the side of the city wall. She didn't even bother to knock on the door. In hindsight, she guessed, such a courtesy may have been in order. The cold steel of a blade was felt at her throat.

"Rie, it's me," Almara announced in a hushed and shaking voice.

Rie-Zunic immediately pulled his blade away from her and struck a match. His eyes peered into hers as she removed the hood from her head. "You could get yourself killed doing stuff like that," he scolded. "Especially in tense political trouble as we have these days."

"My apologies," Almara said sincerely, stepping forward and looking into his eyes as she wrapped her arms around him. "Rie, I came to-"

"You shouldn't be here," Rie-Zunic interrupted. "What if the guildsman find out? You could be in danger."

"They already know about us, Rie," Almara said, her eyes begging his parson.

"You told them?" Rie-Zunic asked.

"No!" Almara insisted. She hung her head, knowing that her show at the party was no doubt how Girdean had discovered them and her connected to the orphanage. "They saw us dancing... They put the pieces together. They want me to recruit you."

Rie-Zunic shook his head. "I don't like the way this is going. I'm pulling you out."

Almara smiled and leaned closer, until her lips were resting within a fraction of an opinion inch away from Rie-Zunic's. "That's sweet." She smiled. "It's good to know that you still are concerned about my well being. I'm fine, though. I promi-"

Silence filled the room as Rie-Zunic pressed his lips against Almara's. Only the heavy release of Almara's breath could be heard in the darkness. The moment, long and tender, at last came to an end and Rie-Zunic whispered. "Don't go back. Stay here with me."

"Rie, if I don't go back... All I've gained will be lost. I have their trust. What's more.." Almara diverted her eyes. "I'm not sure that the guildsman don't have the better stance on the issue at hand."

Rie-Zunic released Almara from his arm and stepped back. "You can't be serious..."

"Rie, I'm loyal to the king, and so are they," Almara insisted. "But if we pollute our blood with forigners our quality of life... Our future will diminish as a people." Almara fiddled in her cloak and pulled out several papers. She lit a match and lit Rie-Zunic's lantern that set on his desk. "There is more." She handed him the papers.

Rie-Zunic stepped closer to the lantern. She frowned as he read, then shook his head. "These are forgeries," he insisted. "This cannot be."

"I stopped by the orphanage, Rie," Almara told him. "They told me you were brought from Pelargirim." She motioned with her hand. "Keep reading."

A breathless expression was left on Rie-Zunic's face as he read the next page. It was not his ancestry this time, it was Almara's. She was the daughter of the King... The illegitimate daughter by a servant, but a daughter none the less.

"How could they have come up with this information?" Rie-Zunic demanded. "You told me you had looked and you were unable to find your parents."

"Yes... But I never had access to any of the genealogy in the king's house," Almara explained. "Even if I had I would not have ventured to look. Never would I have assumed-"

"So here you are," Rie-Zunic spoke with indignation. "A daughter of the king himself, young half sister to Aldamir, and yet you side with the traitors? And me? Me.... I'm the unwanted son of Pelargirim guildsman who are too proud to follow a ruler who sways from their own liking." He shook his head and walked towards the door. He opened it and motioned for Almara to leave. "I fear this Conversation is over... And our second chance at a life together."

Almara shook her head and backed away from the door. "No," she insisted as tears began to streak her cheeks. "I won't go... We can still have a life together, Rie. We can have a life, one our king, and support the purity of our bloodlines all at the same time!"

"You need to go," was all Rie-Zunic said.

Almara shook her head violently l, trying to control her sobs. "I won't. You will have to force me out. I won't go."

Rie-Zunic stepped towards her to do just as she suggested would be necessary, but as he did Almara threw herself into him and wrapped her arms around him. She sobbed uncontrollably and clung to him, and in the wake of her sorrow and his own , all he could do is hold her in his arms.

Last edited by Jax Nova on March 2nd, 2018, 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 1st, 2018, 9:33 pm 
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Court? What possible business was left to be done at court, Amarwen wondered as she was escorted along by attendants who had met her at her arrival. If there was any business to be conducted, mother would never consent to Amarwen conducting it without her father's presence. In fact, her mother had been quite clear on that the morning they set out for Osgiliath.

Yet here she was all the same. Inconvenienced to no particular degree at having her time with Halvarin so curtailed, Amarwen only distantly paid attention to her surrounds. One hall in the palace complex was much like the others. Marble and stone, polished. High ceilings. Torches and palace guards that stared straight ahead as if their necks were fused in place. She tried to catch their eye but they wouldn't have it. As for her escort, the woman was friendly enough but thoroughly business-like. After the courtesies had passed, she had said little beyond encouraging Amarwen to hurry when she thought that she had fallen behind.

It was quite different to her halls at Edhellond. There would be no sliding over the marble floors or down banisters just for fun. No sneaking into the kitchens for some freshly baked bread straight from the oven and still steaming. Dull, dull...Amarwen slowed as she peered through a door and into a vast room lined with books. It was not the Great Library of Osgiliath, to be sure, but this was easily twice the size of the library at home.

"Come along now, my Lady. We mustn't be late!"

Admonished, Amarwen turned away with a sigh and hurried after her escort grumbling to herself as she passed a palace guard at the door. She did not catch his faint smile in her wake.

A short while later, after what seemed to be an interminable rush down countless halls and around many corners, Amarwen found herself crossing the threshold of a room. It was a sitting room and those with it, all finely dressed women of the court of varying ages, paused in whatever they had been doing to study her.

"Lady Alaya will see to you now," said the woman that had hurried her here.

As she spoke, a stern woman of middle years and with kind eyes set her needlepoint aside and rose to her feet. She subjected Amarwen to a keen stare that took in every fault. Of that Amarwen was certain of. Then she nodded to Amarwen's escort.

"Thank you, Mistress Gerthuda," she said.

Mistress Gerthuda sketched a curtsy and withdrew, closing the double doors of the sitting room after her. Amarwen considered the room of strangers, including Lady Alaya. All curiously watched her. Some she had seen at the tourney only yesterday.

"Lady Amarwen of Edhellond," intoned Alaya, "Welcome."

Amarwen studied the room and concluded that these had to be ladies in waiting. What business had she with Princess Farien's ladies in waiting? Lady Alaya drew breath to speak on but one of the internal doors behind her burst open to reveal Prince Vinyarion. He beamed at Amarwen and shot forward, past Lady Alaya who turned upon the prince a disapproving countenance.

"I was so excited when Grandmoth-"

"Your Highness!"
Lady Alaya sternly declared, her voice like the crack of a whip.

Vinyarion offered Amarwen a rakish grin as he drew close and turned about to bow to the older woman, "May I not call in on my beloved Grandmother," he asked, mock injured.

If Vinyarion was calling in on his grandmother, Amarwen thought it likely because he had still to raise the coin needed to pay off his gambling debts. A doting grandson was not what she thought the spoiled Prince beside her was and she lifted her eyes to the ceiling with a shake of her head. At this, one of the young woman seated nearby quietly chuckled and Amarwen looked aside to share a smile with her.

"Are you still here," Princess Farien dryly inquired as she came into the sitting room.

Immediately, all rushed to their feet to curtsy for this was the woman who would be their Queen in due course. Amarwen joined them seamlessly, sinking low and then rising again. Vinyarion, on his feet to take in the view, sighed happily.

"I do so enjoy that," he sighed, quiet enough for Amarwen to catch. He flicked her a wicked grin as she gained her feet and she was pleased that her gown did not sweep as lowly as it had last night. Once she was at her full height again, Vinyarion gently nudged her with his elbow. Conspiratorial.

Princess Farien ignored her grandson's behaviour and extended an arm towards Amarwen. She came forward and curtsied again, kissing the Princess' outstretched fingers as she did so. Lady Alaya nodded, satisfied at this faultless display of courtesy and Princess Farien smiled at the woman.

"Does it surprise you that the Lady of Edhellond has educated her scion and heir so well, Alaya?" Princess Farien inquired.

Amarwen bowed her head and studiously studied the finely woven carpet beneath their feet. Whatever this was about, she was content to wait.

"Education or no, she joined her line with that of a common born man," Alaya replied matter-of-factly, "There is nothing that can be done about it."

There was no anger or malice in Alaya's answer but still it was hard for Amarwen to not feel stung. The scandal caused by her mother's marriage had unfolded years before Amarwen's birth and yet still it echoed on. Her father, whilst not of noble descent, was a good, decent and kind man. As keenly intelligent as any in this room. Why, he was one of their most gifted shipwrights in generations! And if her mother deemed him suitable, what business was it of any of these harpies?

"Not easily is the bloodline of Hyardemacil quenched," Princess Farien countered and then reached out to lift Amarwen's head up, "As you can well see."

It was as if they were inspecting a prize mare for sale and she was not horseflesh. Still, Amarwen strove to keep herself still and her expression schooled.

"It is as you say, your Highness," Lady Alaya intoned and though Amarwen did not look at her, for she'd lose her temper if she did, she could hear the reluctance in the woman's voice.

The woman stepped away and with a clap of her hands roused the other ladies-in-waiting who had witnessed this humiliation to depart with her. Only then did Princess Farien withdraw her fingers from under Amarwen's chin

"Must I go too, Grandmother," inquired Vinyarion and Amarwen's cheeks flooded with shame that he had seen this too.

"What Amarwen and I must discuss is not for your ears either," Princess Farien replied and stepped out to bid her grandson farewell.

Tears prickled the back of Amarwen's eyes. Behind her, she heard the doors click as they were closed and then there was a long moment of silence.

"Beastly as that was, I promise it gets better from here, my dear."

Farien's rich skirts of finely woven linen whispered as she left the door.

"I cried for weeks on end when I was wed," she said softly as she reached Amarwen once more, "My life as I knew it was over. All my hopes and dreams crushed...and I was left to make my way to an understanding on my own. Such a fate, though, will not be yours, Lady Amarwen."

"I don't understand,"
Amarwen said though that was not entirely true - more, that she did not wish to understand.

Princess Farien smiled at her and gathered one of her hands in her own. This she patted, "Your mother wed for love and your father is a better man than most. Still, it is a dangerous to set the course of your people and your House on something as fickle and uncertain as love."

Amarwen frowned for her mother had chosen well and the people of Edhellond had not suffered for it. Their lands prospered! Her mother had not been reckless.

"Love waxes and wanes, like the moon," Princess Farien said as she led Amarwen out of the sitting room and into her inner chambers, "It is too unreliable to guide something as important as marriage. Marriages must endure where love passes like the seasons. If I had known that, perhaps I would not have been quite so distraught."

Again the Princess smiled at her, "Two heirs is my advice, for two are always better than one. The sooner that is done, the sooner your life is your own again."

And at that Amarwen's blood ran cold. Heirs. Princess Farien was talking to her about heirs. She could no longer pretend she did not understand. She had been free last night but across the course of the day something had shifted.

"Prince Aldamir already has an heir," Amarwen observed, striving to keep her voice steady.

Princess Farien nodded, "Dear as the boy is, Vinyarion is more of his uncle...if you take my meaning," she returned, "Though Aldamir refuses to be swayed by the rumours even to this day. My son is staunchly loyal. Provide him heirs he knows, beyond all doubt, to be his own, then he will stand by you come what may. In that, he is his father's son."

Amarwen's head spun. Had Princess Farien told her that Vinyarion was not Aldamir's son? Had she suggested that Ornedil was not Eldacar's? And this, this is what her mother and father would thrust her into? She did not want this! She wanted to go home. That was her place. She had so much still to learn, yes, but Edhellond were her people. She wanted to return to them, to her halls, to the willow trees that grew on the bank of the streams emptying into the bay. To the sandy shore where she could run and dance under sun or moon. To the wide waters and the horizon beyond.

"It is a lot to take in, I know, but I think you will be happy here," Princess Farien told her, "Pelargir is not so very far away. So often are the men of the Guild found here, drawn to the Great Library."

What did that mean? Did...did Princess Farien know about Halvarin? No, she couldn't for there was nothing to know. Amarwen was certain of that. She had been so very careful. Halvarin was her friend. Her dearest, oldest friend. A friend that she had caught with his eyes upon her...but that was only natural. And undeniably pleasant. Still he was just playing with her. They teased each other. Made each other laugh.

"Lady Alaya will see you settled in your apartments," Princess Farien said, "Arrangements will be made so that you want for nothing, of course. You are to become a princess of the realm."

"What...what of my family?"
Amarwen asked when she realised she was not leaving this place.

How could he have sent her off like this without so much as a word of farewell?

"You will see your father this evening, of course, when he arrives for dinner. And you may write to your family and friends as freely as you wish. You are not our prisoner," Princess Farien said though it very much felt like she was.

If they put her in a tower, why she'd climb right out of it like the princesses she had read of as a child and run like the wind.

Princess Farien rose to her feet, "Take the afternoon to gather yourself. As grim as this must seem, your life is only now beginning."

Again the princess held out her arm and once more Amarwen remembered herself to sink down and kiss her fingers. She turned away from Amarwen as she rose to her feet and opened the doors again. Lady Alaya was already waiting, hands clasped before her.

"Is it arranged?" the Princess inquired and Lady Alaya inclined her head.

"As instructed, your Highness. Lady Amarwen's possessions will shortly be retrieved. Once they are to hand, the rest will be seen to."

"Very good,"
Princess Farien said and turned to beckon Amarwen forward, "I shall leave you in Lady Almaya's very capable hands."

And just like that it was done. Lady Almaya nodded and turned away and short of sitting down on the floor and howling, or fleeing down the corridors once outside in the hope she could find her way out again, Amarwen had little recourse but to follow. Lady Almaya set a more reasonable pace when compared with Mistress Gerthuda. Bewildered and dismayed, Amarwen was grateful the woman did not try to make small talk. She had little polite to say as it was, particularly to this woman, though why her remarks stung so deeply puzzled Amarwen. What did it matter? Almaya's opinion was only that and nothing more.

Eventually they came to a set of apartments. Almaya led her into them and they were pleasant. Lovely, in fact, with sweeping rooms and beautiful furnishings. Already her trunk sat by the door. Almaya took note of it as she threw open all the inner doors. A bedroom, a study, quarters for her own attendants, a vast wardrobe, even a bathroom with a gleaming copper tub. Several windows looked out at the river beyond.

"Two maids will be assigned to you," Lady Almaya said as she moved about, "And on the morrow seamstresses."

"I have my own clothes,"
Amarwen pointedly observed but Almaya shook her head firmly.

"They remain in Edhellond where they belong," she sniffed and then sternly eyed Amarwen as rebellion rose within her, "Are you risen so far in station now that you claim to know better than our future Queen?"

Amarwen closed her mouth with an audible click. She needed allies in this place. Farien just might be one of them. Perhaps. Almaya, most certainly, was not. It was clear the woman with kind eyes did not approve of her.

"You will be summonsed for dinner at the suitable hour. Tardiness is ill advised," Almaya finished and, with a final sniff, left Amarwen in what she had been told was not a prison.

The door closed with a click and as soon as it has, a sob shook loose of Amarwen as she took in her strange surrounds. Not this. She did not want this. She pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes and went to one of the windows that looked out onto the river. The glass was fixed. The window did not open. She went to another and another. They were all the same. Fine. She'd smash them when the time came. Tears of fury streamed down her face as she stalked into the bedroom, violently wrenched the cover from the bed and started stripping it of bedding. Sheets first, and then the dresses in the trunk. How could her father do this? How could this be happening?

She was knotting the spare bedding she had found to the stuff she had removed from the bed when she heard someone come into the sitting room. The maids? Amarwen had been so upset that she had not thought of them. She started furiously stuffing her handiwork under the bed before it was discovered.

"Halloo?" a woman called but it was not a maid. Soon enough Helda appeared and then frowned to find Amarwen half way under the bed, "What are you doing?"

Helda brightened, "Is there something under there? A fiend?"

She dove in from the other side as Amarwen tried to extricate herself and soon was out again, Amarwen's rope of knotted sheets in one fist. Helda frowned at what she held, perplexed, and then looked up to take in Amarwen's tear stained face. The shieldmain stared at her and then her blue eyes widened.

"Ooooh," Helda breathed as she assembled it all together. She'd come to congratulate Amarwen on her success. She'd only half been joking when she suggested that Amarwen might wriggle out of what was clearly an unpleasant betrothal by supplanting the unfortunate wretch with a prince. Only now did she realise that the prince had been the very unfortunate wretch Amarwen was so reluctant to wed.

Still, something puzzled Helda for Aldamir was no unfortunate wretch, "That is no bad thing at all!"

"It is if you do not wish it!"
Amarwen shouted, leapt across the stripped bed and snatched her rope of sheets from Helda's grip.

She bundled them up and held them against her chest. Helda would have to prise them from her cold, dead arms if she wanted them back.

"Who would not wish that?" Helda asked, "He's a Prince. The best of them, in fact. I can vouch for him."

Helda, who had been so appalled at the notion of a forced marriage was now swayed. Amarwen drew in a shuddering breath for it was all too much. She sat heavily on the floor. Awkward now, Helda shifted her weight as she took this all in.

"You're're not going to kill him, are you?" she asked, for this young woman seemed distraught and furious enough to do anything. Uncomfortable as it would be, given the debt Helda owed Amarwen, she could not shirk her duty to Aldamir.

In answer to Helda's question, Amarwen bowed over to bury her face in the sheets she had knotted together and wept.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 11th, 2018, 8:34 am 
Dunedain Ranger of Arnor
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It was sort of like an exile to Halvarin. Sure, he was in the quays of Osgiliath, but it was obvious that they were in ill repair. The great building of the river port of Osgiliath was done hundreds of years ago under King Hyarmendacil I, and only necessary repairs had been done since. The shipping infrastructure of Osgiliath was crumbling, and more and more, ships tended to stop in Harlond near Minas Anor.

Halvarin walked the street along the quay and stopped to look at the charred ruins of a building. It had only burnt recently, for the smell of wet charred wood filled the air. When the dock master came by, Halvarin asked,

”When will the Marias be coming into port? I am to meet some dignitaries.”

“Ah, it will be noonday if these southerlies keep up. But they usually drop off in late morning, so I will say early afternoon. Dignataries you say?”

Halvarin nodded.

”Yes, Elrech of Pelargir, a highly esteemed designer of ships. He has come with his daughter to meet with the King and Prince this evening. He will likely wish to see your facilities here, such as they are. Is there anywhere respectable around here to get something to eat or drink, or does one have to head over the bridge?”

The dock master looked at the charred ruins and said,

”It was a shame what the northmen did to Jarod’s place. It was rough but the service and food was alright.”

“The Northmen burned the place down?”

The dockmaster nodded.

”That’s the word. Right after some unruly Rhovanions showed up here one evening, the place went up in flames the next day. I suggest you go up to the Bridge End. It’s clean and proper and you can see the quay, though I think their prices are a bit high.”

He pointed up the stairs and to the taller structures on the east side of the river near where the bridge ends and the road curves northeast to make its way to Minas Ithil. Halvarin nodded and thanked the dockmaster and set out to the stairs that went up to the bridge. It was a definite climb, and by the time he reached the road, he stopped and looked around at the city. But for the small cluster of well kept buildings by the end of the bridge, East Osgiliath looked grim and run down. He walked over to the Bridge Inn and found it rather quiet. He took a seat where he could overlook the river and would see the Marias arriving. When he turned his head, he saw a young maid coming toward him. She paused and curtsied and said,

”Hello, I am Nadia and I will be serving you today sir.”

She had a smile and a happy demeanour, so Halvarin smiled back. He said,

”Good morning Nadia. I will have some hot black tea and some bread, butter, and cheese.”

Nadia gave him a curtsy and turned and was gone. Halvarin would ask her when she returned about reserving a good table with a view for the afternoon. The place was impressive if a bit out of place on the east side of the river, but his charges would likely be in want of refreshment.

When the afternoon had come, so did the clouds. The ship was sighted, and the flags went up by the dock. Halvarin finished her latest cup of tea and gave Nadia a fair tip to keep the nice corner table with the view for when he returned. He also requested a room for Erlech and Liswyn for them to clean up in before going to the Royal Banquet.

As the Marias slid slowly toward the dock, Halvarin stood at rest nearby. He would present himself in all his Naval demeanour, and hoped the afternoon passed quickly and they got to the Palace at the right time. He was sure Lord Therald would meet them outside, at which point Halvarin would be freed of his duty. When the ship was tied and the gangplank was secured, He could see a man in dress blues coming with a beautiful young woman with long dark hair that curled lazily about her shoulders. Standing still and watching them, when they both had set foot on the dock, Halvarin straightened and gave the man a salute. He then said,

”Lord Erlech of Pelargir. I am Halvarin of the Mariner’s Guild. I am here on behalf of Lord Therald of Edhellond.”

“Very good. Halvarin, meet my daughter Liswyn.”

Erlech said as Liswyn curtsied and offered a hand to Halvarin as she smiled, and her blue-grey eyes beamed. Halvarin gave her a bow and took her hand and lightly kissed the back of it. He looked back up to her and gave her a nod. Erlech watched the exchange and nodded in satisfaction. He said,

”You appear to be a fine officer Halvarin. Therald seemed to have chosen wisely. Now, I take it Therald had you see to our accommodation?”

“Yes sir, the Bridge Inn, right up there. Have a room reserved for you.”

Erlech looked up to the inn and grunted. He said,

”That will be good enough for my daughter. Take her up there and see to her needs. I am going to take a walk around down here with the captain of the Marias and the dockmaster.”

“Yes, sir.”

Halvarin said as Liswyn turned to him and smiled. Erlech looked Halvarin in the eye and said,

”I’ll be up in time to get ready to go meet Tharald. I am sure Liswyn will prefer to spend the afternoon being escorted by a fine Guildman instead of looking at ships and quays with her father.”

Erlech gave Liswyn a hug and a quick kiss and gave Halvarin a nod before turning to meet the captain of the Marias. Halvarin turned to Liswyn and said,

”Well, m’lady, we can climb those stairs, or we can walk through the city and around to the inn.”

“Lets climb the stairs. I want to go stand out on the bridge!”

Liswyn said. Halvarin nodded and Liswyn took his arm and they set off for the stairs. Erlech watched them go before he met the captain. When the dockmaster came over, Erlech said,

”Now that my daughter is sorted, let’s go get a drink. Where is the place the sailors go?”

“The Old Tavern by the north quay, let’s go.”

Liswyn was showing Halvarin how fit she was as she stepped swiftly up the stairs. Halvarin drew on all his training to keep up with the young lady. When they go to the top, they walked to the center of the bridge. Liswyn looked south down the river, then crossed to look north. Lookeing around the city to the west she said,

”I always wanted to see Osgiliath. I heard they have a wonderful library. The city is beautiful!”

Halvarin stood beside her and pointed to the great Dome of the Stars.

”The library is located there.”

Liswyn looked and took a breath. She looked to Halvarin and asked,

Can you take me there?”

Halvarin looked at her and said,

”You will be at the royal palace this evening. It is not far from there. And one cannot completely grasp its beauty until the stars are out. But we can go there now if you wish.”

Liswyn looked at Halvarin for a moment then to the Dome. She then said,

”No, I need to rest and clean up after that ship voyage. Let’s go to the inn.”

Halvarin nodded and they set of back to the east side.

”Maybe you take me tonight.”

Halvarin nodded, hoping he would be relieved of this duty by then. But something told him Tharald had other plans.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 13th, 2018, 3:48 am 
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The Palace - Osgiliath

Amarwen waited a good half hour after Helda slipped away. Once the Shieldmaiden reported as she was bound to do so or the two maids arrived, Amarwen's opportunity would vanish like smoke on the wind. She was not going to sit here and howl, waiting for someone to intervene! If one thing was jarringly clear to her, there was only one person she could rely upon now: herself.

She dried her tears, splashed water on her face. Then she peeked out of the doors. No guards yet. This was better and better. Drawing a deep breath, Amarwen slipped through the doors of the apartment and into the hall proper. She'd not been ordered to remain in her assigned rooms. Nor had she been told she might wander. Whatever the case, she was committed now, come what may. One chance. Only problem was that the palace was strange to her. She had never been here before last night and she'd failed to take enough heed of her path today. Compelled, Amarwen turned left and hurried along before someone saw her.

She was almost running before she knew it and she had always been able to run quickly. She slowed, for running would only draw unwanted attention. Difficult as it was, and it was difficult, Amarwen forced herself to walk. She turned a corner, selecting that by random and saw one of the palace guards. He stared straight ahead. An encouraging sign, for if she was not meant to be here he'd be glaring at her right this moment.

Drawing another deep breath, she continued on, head held high as she laboured to control her expression. The guard must not see that she is distressed or anxious or anything that might give him pause. She passed him by and kept on walking, waiting for him to hail her. He did not and by the time she reached the next corner, Amarwen dared release her pent breath.

She just might succeed!

Hall after hall, guard after guard, corner after corner. She was lost and the daylight was escaping her but she could not turn back now. As she searched for a way out of the palace, a thought snaked through the turmoil of her mind. Once she found her way out, then what? Father would be ropable, she thought. The royal court could very well take offense. But these thoughts only spurred a deeper anger in Amarwen. Let them! What was occurring was outrageous and neither the royal court or her parents would be able to satisfy anyone that it was appropriate. She had tried to reason with them. She had been calm and patient and had set out more than one very sound argument for not proceeding with this. If they were offended by her actions then it was by their own doing and she would not apologise for it! No, they would seek her forgiveness for their callous transgressions.

Nor would not return to her father or Edhellond. No, she would…go to Pelargir! Ha! And she knew how she would get there too. Halvarin would take her if she asked him. She knew this. He'd be as horrified as she and she knew that if she asked him for help he would aid her. He would not turn his back on her, nor send her back. He would stand by her, steadfast and loyal as was his nature. He was her dearest friend. He was the only person she could trust and rely upon now, painful as that was to realise that aside from Halvarin she was alone.


Aldamir's boots marked a swift tattoo over the polished marble of the palace floors. His expression was thunderous, eyes flashing with dire anger as he strode. Helda raced to keep up with him despite her long legs. How could they, he fumed. He had given Amarwen his solemn word and hours later they had foresworn him. What hope now did he have of forming any semblance of an accord with Amarwen? She would go into this marriage loathing him, and for good reason. No good could come of this and the potential for great pain and strife staggered him.

But, as he approached the apartments Amarwen had been assigned to, he saw the doors hung loose. Frowning, Aldamir pressed forward to open one of the two doors. The parlour within was devoid of life and with a glance to Helda sent the Shieldmaiden back in to investigate further. It was not long before she heard him call back to him.


Breach of protocol though it was, Aldamir followed Helda within and found the Shieldmaiden standing in the bedroom. On the floor was a pile of sheets all knotted together. The bed had been stripped. It was just as Helda had reported, not that he had doubted her tidings. Aldamir wiped a hand over his face.

"She has fled," Helda surmised, Aldamir's thoughts precisely.

Amarwen was so distraught and fearful that she had run. He lowered his hand as he shook his head.

"Endeavour to locate her - discretely - before anyone else learns of this."

"She will not return with me willingly, Sire,"
Helda warned.

"Give her my word, such that it now is," he said with distinct bitterness, "That I will not let this stand!"

Helda sighed at this, dubious for Amarwen had not seemed particularly inclined to reason. Why, when Helda pointed out that the knotted sheets would tear and she'd be dashed on the stones below, Amarwen had responded direly: better dead than this!

The Shieldmaiden asked, "And you?"

"I needs must speak with my parents and see this madness brought to a stop,"
he growled, turned on one heel and set off to do precisely that.

"Sire…if she will not heed me…" Aldamir paused at the implicit question and sighed sorrowfully.

He turned back to consider Helda, "She must be stopped, Helda, but go gently. Please."

"I will do what I can,"
the Shieldmaid replied.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 13th, 2018, 1:19 pm 
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That morning Almara woke to find the warmth of Rie-Zunic's arm's had left her. Sometime early in the morning. He must have slipped out. She knew where he would be. At work. He was always at work. She thought of following, chasing him down, or finding out where he was stationed that day. She decided against it. Sooner or later he would come home. That was a surety.

She looked around the house. It was cluttered with, yet with few items. The items needed a home, she thought. A place to call their own. So she busied herself with cleaning the place up and fixing a meal. Anything to keep her occupied. Else-wise she would go mad with the wait.

Elsewhere Rie-Zunic was on duty in the palace when he noticed Aldamir walk out of a chamber with a Shieldmaiden. "You," Aldamir called to him. "You are of a high rank in the royal guard. I have need of aid, but it must be done discretely."

"Of course," Rie-Zunic agreed. "What is your order?"

"The young women, Amarwen, has fled her chamber. I will see to the mix up being sorted out that brought her here, but in the meantime she must be retrieved. Go with this woman and find her. Please, bring her back quietly."

"Right away sire," Rie-Zunic agreed.

He and the shieldmaiden strolled off at a hurried pace down the halls. "Why did she flee?" Rie-Zunic asked.

"They were going to force her to be married," the woman responded. "To Aldamir."

Rie-Zunic only scowled, considering the information as they went about their task.



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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 1:42 am 
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Helda strode off with the officer Prince Aldamir had dispatched to search with her. The palace complex was vast and there was no telling just how much of a lead Amarwen had on them.

”If we are to find her, you must be able to recognise her,” Helda said, preparing to describe one errant Lady Amarwen of Edhellond, ”She has-

“Ï will recognise her,”
the officer cut in and before Helda she could challenge the officer’s over-confidence, he continued, ”The lady attended last night’s feast.”

Immediately the Shieldmaiden grinned for Rhinnin had told her all about last night’s feast and one Amarwen of Edhellond – the perfect weapon to deploy against the guard in the watch tower.

Helda nodded knowingly, ”We must split up – I will take the royal quarters and you the gardens.”

“And if she is found?”
the officer queried.

Helda shrugged a moment, tempted to say it was best to sit on the young woman for she had a clear talent for slipping away. But sitting on a member of the aristocracy, particularly an overwrought and very angry member of the aristocracy, was not likely to be discrete either.

” Inform her that the Prince is working even now to put this right and she is best served to return to her lodgings as he does so.”

Rie-Zunic nodded tersely. In this time, they had reaching the other end of the hall. Helda nodded to the officer and turned right, towards the royal accommodations, leaving Rie-Zunic with the hall to the left and beyond that, after a few turns, the palace grounds and gardens.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Aldamir seethed as he prowled the halls of his family’s apartments. The day had started so sweetly. A delightful morning and then Vinyarion with his gambling debts and now this! What could have possessed his parents to take this path? Shaking his head, he swung around a corner only to find Amarwen’s father coming along in the other direction. The man looked worried and distracted and it took him a moment to realise he was not alone anymore. Therald’s head swung up and he swiftly took in Aldamir’s forbidding expression.

The prince began without hesitation, eyes narrowing, ”I had considered you a man of honour, Lord Therald. A man who loved his only child. Only now do I perceive your ambition!”

Lord Therald lifted a hand to his face but let it drop again, ”If it is ambitious to want to protect your people and your daughter, then yes Prince Aldamir. I am ambitious.”

Aldamir frowned, ”I do not understand. Speak plainly, Therald.”

“Shortly after Amarwen came of age, the Master of Ships has sought her for marriage to one of his sons. As his power and influence has grown so too has his boldness.”

”Refuse him!” Aldamir returned.

Therald’s jaw knotted, ”We have, sire. Repeatedly…and in doing so we have earned his enmity. His overtures became demands and now they are threats – threats a mercantile port such as Edhellond is ill-equipped to defend against.”

And there it was, laid out now. Unless they surrendered their daughter to the Master of Ships or found a suitably powerful alternative able and willing to withstand Castimir’s vengeance, Edhellond was dangerously vulnerable. It was far enough away that the Master of Ships could raze it if he so wished. If he so dared. And he would dare unless Edhellond had a sufficiently powerful alliance to protect them, for if he gained Amarwen of Edhellond he further enhanced his legitimacy.

Therald shook his head from side to side, ”Even here in Osgiliath, Castimir’s agents are moving. Yesterday, one was so bold as to approach my daughter directly and this morning, in the guild halls of Osgiliath itself… I saw little recourse but to advance the signing of contracts – both for Amarwen’s sake and that of Edhellond.”

“I see that we are caught fast in a web not of our own making,”
Aldamir observed wearily.

Therald was quiet for a few moments and then swallowed, ”Sire, if it is your will then Edhellond will release you from the contract. Perhaps we could send Amarwen north, far from his grasp.”

Whilst that might save Amarwen, it would do little to protect the people of Edhellond. A powerful alliance with the crown would make Edhellond a target that the Master of Ships might think carefully about before reprisals.

”The contract will stand,” Aldamir said reluctantly for anything less would see either Edhellond attacked or Amarwen drawn into the cruel machinations of the Master of Ships. He could not countenance either and he added, ”I will see to it that sufficient protections are set in place at Edhellond to further discourage the Master of Ships.”

“A chain across the harbour,”
Therald suggested immediately and Aldamir nodded.

”A start, certainly…and as for your daughter…she should learn of this not from me but from you. Perhaps, once she is informed, she will come to see this in a different light.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The gardens! She was finally outside but by daylight the gardens looked quite different to what she recalled from last night. Amarwen remembered a fountain clearly but just now she could see several depending on which direction she looked. There was a spot where there was a gap in the hedges. She had slipped through it only last night with Rhinnin. Unguarded too. If only she could locate it now!

Once through the hedge, she’d make for the docks and hopefully stow onto the boat Halvarin had taken up from Pelargir. He’d told her its name this morning at the library. She could do this. She could really do this. It was terrifying and just a little exhilarating. Amarwen hurried around a trellis thick with trailing rose only to spot a guard hurrying along on the other side. This man did not look like the others she had seen. He was clearly looking for someone. His head turned this way and that restlessly and a moment later he had seen her.


She had not come so far to give up now, though. Amarwen turned and then ran, as fleet footed as ever she had been, in the opposite direction. No matter that she lost a shoe and her hair was now little more than two messy braids bumping down her back as she ran. She was not going to surrender so easily.

Amarwen didn’t dare look back to see if he gained on her. That would cost her precious time. She weaved around fountains and trees and right through one bed of tulips only to find herself face to breathless face with the man she was trying elude. A man who had a better grasp of the garden’s topography than she did. Clear grey eyes wide, Amarwen reeled backwards but he was too quick for her and his hand closed on her forearm.

”Wait!” he panted but panic and outrage made Amarwen try to wrench herself from his grip, ”I mean you no harm, m’lady!”

Still struggling against his grip, Amarwen retorted sharply, ”Then you will unhand me and escort me to the docks at once!”

He wouldn’t, she knew, for his uniform marked him one of the palace guards. His grip on her arm only proved her point. But was there any harm in trying for all she could rely on now was an unreasonable measure of good luck. The man’s hold on her arm loosened a measure. It was firm still and she could not break it but it was kinder.

Hope lit in her expression as she looked into his face. Please. Please. Please.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 10:13 am 
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"Please, just hear me out," Rie-Zunic requested, his tone serious, yet somewhat sympathetic to her cause. "Aldamir's himself was not even informed of this turn of events! He only discovered what had been done just this morning. He sent me to look for you, bearing his word that he will set this right."

Rie-Zunic, glanced around them, then back to the lady. The gardens were vacant, gladly, as subtly was one of Aldamir's requests. More so he loosened his grip, but kept sure that it would not fail.

Now, with a calmer voice he made his final request. "Please, return to your chamber, only long enough that Prince Aldamir has a chance to right this wrong. He would not have you treated this way, m'lady. He was quite upset when he discovered what had taken place."

He looked Amarwen steady in the eyes, awaiting her response.

Last edited by Jax Nova on March 18th, 2018, 12:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 15th, 2018, 5:05 pm 
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Tendrils of black hair had come loose from her braids. A breeze pushed one across her face. He was taking her back. Hope became ashes on Amarwen's tongue and after a long moment, her eyes closed over tears she would not have him see. Not with her dignity in tatters. Her head wilted and her shoulders slumped. He was taking her back.

When she did not speak further, the officer shifted his weight.

"What say you, Lady Amarwen," he prompted, the concern in his voice only making it somehow worse.

Everyone was concerned. Everyone was dismayed. Everyone, even Aldamir, according to the officer that had apprehended her. And yet no one, it seemed, could do anything! Impotent fury whipped through Amarwen, making her shiver with it.

"Do as you must," she said, head still bowed and eyes closed, her voice flat to her own ears.

With those words, the guard set into motion. He guided her back to where she had lost a shoe. Amarwen shoved her foot back into it, listless, and then was led back towards the palace itself. She felt small and wretched.

Helda pushed out of the palace to see Rie-Zunic drawing up. He had found Amarwen but the state the young woman was in was troubling. She was dishevelled, braids ragged and unwound and her gown was crumpled, hem stained with mud. Had she been running through garden beds, the Shieldmaiden wondered. Worst of all was the terrible expression on Amarwen's face. It was devoid of all animation. Amarwen stared blankly, as if she heeded nothing. Still, Rie-Zunic had a precautionary hand under her elbow.

"No one saw us," he supplied as Helda's scrutiny transferred to him, "The Lady has returned of her own volition."

He was not, she saw, particularly well pleased but it did not appear that there had been a scuffle.

Helda nodded to him, "I will see Lady Amarwen to her rooms."

The muscles in Rie-Zunic's jaw feathered momentarily before he transferred Amarwen to Helda's keeping. In doing so, Amarwen seemed to draw even further into herself if such a thing was possible. Wretched as it was, duty was duty. And the Prince was setting this to rights. Helda towed Amarwen way and soon the two women were lost to sight within the palace. But not before Amarwen looked back to where Rie-Zunic stood, her clear grey eyes filled with despair haunting in one so very young.

Last edited by Elora Starsong on March 17th, 2018, 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 17th, 2018, 7:44 am 
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When Halvarin and Liswyn arrived at the Bridge Inn, the lady went to the bar and sat up on a stool and ordered a glass of wine. The barmaid looked to Halvarin and he gave a nod to serve her the good vintage. Liswyn smiled and said,

”Have a drink with me, Halvarin of Pelargir.”

Halvarin nodded and ordered an ale. When it was set before him, Liswyn had drained her glass and was ordering another. Halvarin looked at her and said,

”M’lady, the day is young. One should pace themselves for this day will reach well into the night.”

“I just wanted to warm my insides after such a long journey, and the wine tasted so good!”

She replied. Halvarin sipped his ale slightly before asking,

”How old are you Lady Liswyn?”

“I turned nineteen last week. I’m still celebrating!”

Halvarin took a breath and looked around. It was going to be a long afternoon, and Halvarin had to find a way to not have to carry Liswyn over his shoulder to the palace. He sipped his ale and asked,

”Do you like to dance m’lady?”

“Oh yes!”

She replied as she looked to Halvarin. He looked back and said,

”There will be dancing tonight at the palace. You will be presented to the King of Gondor and his son and his sons. Present yourself well m’lady, and maybe a dance with the great grandson of the King will come.”

Halvarin knew he was playing on Vinyarion’s seeming incessant desire for women in hopes to deflect this young woman’s growing desires for him. He said,

”Maybe taking a rest before we go to the Palace will be in order?”

Liswyn smiled at Halvarin and said as she took his hand. She said in a quieter voice,

”There will be plenty of time for resting. Like I said, I’m celebrating my birthday, and I am most impressed by the gifts daddy got for me here.”

She ran her fingers up Halvarin’s arm and Halvarin took a couple swigs of his ale. He was unsure what her father would think of her behaviour, and he was equally unsure what Lord Therald had in mind. When Liswyn was given a fresh bottle of wine, she came over to Halvarin and said,

”Do take me to our room kind sir.”

It wasn’t ‘their’ room. It was hers and her father’s. But Liswyn thought otherwise and insisted Halvarin tend to her every need. By the time her father arrived at the inn, it was nearly time to go to the palace. He saw his daughter in an elegant light blue silk gown with a lace trim. Erlech dug around in his trunk and found his dress blues from his days in the Gondorian Navy. He said to Halvarin,

”I’m glad you kept my daughter occupied this afternoon. She can be a hand full. Will you be escorting her to the banquet?”

Halvarin didn’t say anything but Liswyn was on his arm almost before her father stopped talking. As far as Halvarin knew, he was to meet them and see that they get to the palace in time for the banquet. He still held hope to be dismissed from this duty when they arrive, but it appeared more and more unlikely when Liswyn said,

”Halvarin is a most handsome escort, and he has offered to take me on a tour of the Great Library!”

Halvarin sighed. Yes, he did say he would, and she hadn’t forgotten. He gave a nod to Erlech, and then made the most of an opportunity when Erlech asked Liswyn about her day and they went to sit together. Halvarin said,

”I will go see to the acquisition of a coach to take us to the palace.”

Erlech gave a nod and Halvarin quickly stepped out the door. He took a breath and headed down to the bar. Nadia the barmaid was just getting ready to go off duty, and he went and thanked her for making the arrangements for the room. Fortunately, he didn’t have to arrange for the coach, as it had already arrived. Lord Therald had seen to it, and Halvarin would let the driver enjoy his ale before he went to get Liswyn and Erlech.

When he did finally return to the room, Erlech and Liswyn were ready to go, and Liswyn took an arm of her father and of Halvarin, smiling as they walked out to the front to the coach. The driver helped Liswyn in, and Erlech got in beside her. The driver started to close the door when Liswyn protested,

”What about my escort Halvarin?”

The driver looked at his orders, and looked at Halvarin and back to his passengers,

”I only have a manifest for two. I am sorry.”

Halvarin nodded to the driver, feeling somewhat relieved that he didn’t have to go with them. He said to Erlech,

”It is all right. I will meet you there.”

The driver gave Halvarin something to read, and Halvarin made his mark on it. It was in Lord Therald’s hand, and he was relieved of his duties to Erlech and Liswyn. The coach was soon on its way, and Halvarin stood by the road as he watched it cross the bridge. Beinghe had no duty now, and he wasn’t even sure if he was invited to the palace this night, he pondered what he would do. He would eventually go to the palace and seek out Amarwen, but right now, he considered going back to the bar at the inn and truly relax. He paused when he saw a solitary figure walking across the bridge toward him. It was one of Eldacar’s shieldmaidens. Halvarin lingered until she drew close enough to identify. She saw Halvarin and said,

”Well met, sailor of Gondor!”

Halvarin was still in his working blues and probably looked a bit worn out from the day. He gave the shieldmaiden a nod as he said,

”Well met lady of Rhovanion.”

Halvarin had not seen any Rhovanions before, and he tried not to look so intrigued by her. She stopped in front of him and said,

”Tell me sailor, where does a tired soldier who stood guard all day go here to get a drink?”

“I was just going in here for an ale. Would you like to join me?”

Halvarin said, not realising he was stepping across some unwritten boundary in many Gondorian’s eyes. Rhinnin was quick to remind him.

”I thought the seafarers of Gondor despised we Rhovanions.”

“Many do, including my own father. Me not so much. I have a mixed opinion as I only wish to see that which makes and keeps Gondor strong. I myself have seen no ill come from King Valacar’s union with a Rhovanion princess.”[/i]

Halvarin looked at the blonde shieldmaiden and said,

”I am Halvarin of Pelargir, Ensign in the navy and studying navigation.”

Rhinnin smiled as Halvarin offered her a slight bow of honour. She said,

”I am Rhinnin of Rhovania, shieldmaiden of the Royal Rhovanion Guard of Eldacar.”

[i]“It is an honour to meet you m’lady. Would you be open to me buying you a drink of your choice?”

Rhinnin smiled coyly and took a deep breath. She remembered the first time her shield-sisters ventured across the bridge. Vilmaith ended up in bed with a barmaid. She would not lose her head on this excursion as Vilmaith did. She looked to Halvarin and said,

”I would normally decline, but in this instance I accept. You have been the most polite Gondorian I have yet met, and to think you are a Naval Officer.”

Halvarin smiled and laughed a little at her words. He felt at ease talking with her, which was quite a change compared with the day in the presence of Liswyn. The two walked to the Bridge Inn and they went to the bar. It was somewhat busy, and they stood and waited for a time. When the bartended walked past him without looking for the fourth time, Halvarin reached out and grabbed his arm,

”Excuse me sir, my friend and I would like to order a couple ales.”

The bartender looked at Rhinnin and said to Halvarin,

”We don’t serve her kind here.”

Halvarin paused for a moment as he was confronted with this blatant racism. When the bartender tried to move on, Halvarin again grabbed him and pulled him back. A couple mugs fell from the shelf behind the bar and made a rattling noise that drew a few people’s attention. Halvarin had pulled the bartender close to his face as he grabbed his tunic front. He said to him,

”Do you serve my kind here?”

The bartender nodded quickly, and Halvarin realising that he was starting to draw attention, let go of the bartender’s tunic and straightened it. He said,

”Good, because I’m twice as thirst as I was. I’ll have two full tankards if you please.”

The bartender hurried to the tap and Halvarin pulled out enough silver coin to pay for it and the broken mugs. He lay it on the bar and took the two tankards. He turned and said to Rhinnin,

“Come, let us go outside and sit. The air in here stinks.”

They found a table that overlooked the steps to the door and they sat. Halvarin slid a tankard to Rhinnin and said to her,

“I am sorry for this. I would not have gotten ales from him, but you said you were thirsty after your duty. Why do you come over here? I hear there are places much more friendly to Rhovanions in the North Quarter.”

Rhinnin shrugged as she took a drink of the fresh ale. She sat the tankard down and Halvarin smiled, looking at her foam lip. She wiped it and said,

”I don’t know. I just felt like seeing the east of the city. My shield sisters came over here our first day in the city and had quite the time. Guess I wanted to see it for myself. Had I mot crossed the bridge, I would not have met you, and I would not be drinking this ale right now.”

Halvarin shook his head. He didn’t like what he had just experienced, but hoped it was an isolated case. Little did he know what was coming.

Last edited by Hanasian on March 17th, 2018, 8:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 17th, 2018, 8:06 am 
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As her father spoke, solemn and sorrowful, Amarwen's thoughts spiralled. They spun about, increasing speed until she felt dizzy. Just as well, then, that she was seated as she presently was. Behind her, she could hear water being emptied in the copper tub. The two maids had arrived whilst she was trying to escape. They were diligently heating water. As if a warm bath could solve this, or the soft shawl that had been set over her shoulders for that matter. Temporary, they had said. This was being put to rights, she had been told. None of it was so. Not a word of it.

"Why has this been kept from me?" she asked in a voice that was dull and flat with anger, "Why was I allowed to think I had any choice in this matter? You allowed me to build hope for a future that you knew could never be!"

She drew in a shuddering breath as her words hung in the parlour.

"Ami…dearheart, it was not until I gained the Guild Hall this morning and saw what was afoot that I realised just how close to peril we were."

Her father leaned forward, hoping to catch her eye. Amarwen instead looked down to her lap. There, her fingers were white. She had wound the ends of the shawl around them so tightly that they had gone numb. Amarwen released her grip and watched the shawl unravel and blood return to her fingers. She repeated the process again, still in silence. His answers did little dull her anger and changed nothing. It was not fair, of course. It made her desperately sad but she knew where her obligation lay.

Sheltered though they were in Edhellond, so far removed, she still knew of the tensions simmering. She knew of the Master of Ships, growing fat with ambition as he waited, waited, waited. Castimir was a powerful foe. One so powerful that only the crown could now oppose him…and there were some who whispered that he was even too powerful for them.

The life she knew. The one she had dreamed and wondered and planned for was gone. She would not raise a family of her own in the halls of Edhellond, nor build a new fleet of merchant ships designed by her own hand. She would lose her home and all the friends she had there too. A steward would have to be appointed to Edhellond when she seceded her mother for Aldamir would certainly not settle there, so far from the royal court. And Halvarin…his father had not looked kindly upon their friendship of late and her marriage to Aldamir would likely prove the final straw.

She would lose everything and everyone she knew. The weight of it sat heavily on her shoulders. The wide world, with all of its bright potential, had folded in. It was suffocated her and made her stomach churn. Still, her duty was clear. In all matters, most especially this, she served her people first. Anything less was a betrayal of her people and the faith and fealty they placed in her and her mother. This, then, was the price to be paid for their protection…and how could she put her own hopes and desires ahead of their lives?

"Do you understand what I have said, Ami?" her father prompted.

Amarwen briefly looked up and saw his eyes bright with sorrow. It was too much to bear. She carried so much already that she could not add her father's remorse or grief.

"Yes," she replied as her eyes returned to her lap. Her fingers were white again.

Therald watched his daughter, wan and silent for a moment longer. His guilt, at keeping this from her, for perhaps contributing in ways he could not have of foreseen years ago when courting her mother, gnawed at him. Neither he nor Alenna could have known of the rise of the Master of Ships. Edhellond was largely independent, their royal descent lending them rank and wealthy enough to be free of the ever shifting tides of the royal court. His marriage to Alenna had shaken a number of alliances laid down over previous generations, but most had recovered. Those that had not were unfortunate but acceptable losses.

Until a year ago. He blamed himself, for he had been so proud of his daughter that he had spoken of her widely over the years. He had boasted of her attributes for there were so many. Perhaps if he had been more circumspect, particularly when in Guild Halls, but he had not been. He had basked in his pride and joy and now here they were.

The only thing that stood between the displeasure of the powerful Castimir and ruin for Edhellond was this final measure. That it came at so high a price pained Therald. Were there any other way he would leap at it in a heartbeat. He and Alenna had tossed and turned over this for months, wondering how much longer they could rebuff the Master of Ships. A foe too powerful for Edhellond to oppose and too abhorrent to appease.

He wanted to take his daughter into his arms and comfort her. He wanted to bring her home with him, for the halls would be far too silent and cold without her laughter ringing through them. None of this could be done.

"As soon as I return to Edhellond, I will have your most treasured possessions sent to you. Your books, your music, your lyre, your bow and quiver. In Osgiliath, just imagine what will be at your fingers. You could visit the Great Library each day if you so wished!"

Still his daughter was silent, head lowered as she struggled under the weight of what she must do. She had stopped trembling. Amarwen was strong, he knew. She had the same seam of steel running down her spine as her mother did. This was a grievous blow but she would recover, of that he was certain. When she was much younger, she would sneak off down to the river and climb amongst the willow trees despite being told not to. And, as children are wont to do, she would fall out of the trees.

Sometimes she would cry out, fear mostly aside from that one time she managed to break her arm. Her distress would never last long, though, and always she would climb back up into the tangled willows. Now, as then, Amarwen would pick herself up. Difficult as it was to be unable to spare her from this, he knew that she would not be broken by it.

Behind her chair, the two maids bowed their heads. The bath they had drawn was ready and pushing Amarwen any further would achieve little. Therald rose from his seat, came forward and kissed his daughter's lowered head.

"It has been a difficult day but they will not all be like this," he said, his words uncannily echoing those of Princess Farien.

But what did her father know of how difficult this was? He had been able to wed for love. Not duty. Not obligation. Not compunction. His marriage had been one of choice. Not duress. Bitterness welled up within her, bubbling through a thick mat of anger at what was and grief at what might have been. She pushed it down again, exhausted.

Only after the doors closed on her father's heels did Amarwen look up. She stared at the doors and then the parlour she was sitting in. The maids were waiting behind her. This, then, was to be her home now. A gilded cage. The trunk she had brought with her to Osgiliath had arrived, its contents already unpacked and stowed away. On the bed, remade from the ruin she had left it in, lay the gown she was to wear tonight. It was a thing of silver gossamer, the same colour as her eyes. Slowly, Amarwen gained her feet.

"When you are ready, my lady," said one of the maids softly.

Amarwen turned about and made for the copper tub. The maids, her maids now, fell in after her. They assisted her out of her muddy clothes and carefully smoothed out the snarls and tangles of her hair. They were gentle and she could not fault them for their ministrations yet it was as she had expected it. The warm, fragrant water did little alleviate her sorrow.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 18th, 2018, 1:23 pm 
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Rie-Zunic went about his duties that day, highly troubled by the activities as of late. He did not know the details of Amarwen's presence and why they held her. He wondered why such a thing would be done. All the same, he went about his daily duties.

When his duties we're ended, Rie-Zunic walked back to his small house. He opened the door, and almost reached for his sword. Everything was different! Someone had been in his house! Then he remembered, as Almara stepped into view.

Rie-Zunic sighed, "I thought you would be gone."

"And where am I to go?" She asked.

"Back to the guildsman," Rie-Zunic's words held a tone of mockery. Almara only glared at him. He looked back, "You can't stay here."

"I can't go back," Almara told him. "I might agree with their ideals that our blood should not be mixed with others... But if this escalates to violence... I can't be found fighting on the side opposite you."

"Are you telling me that they are planning something?" Rie-Zunic asked.

"Something..." Almara answered. "What, I am not sure..."

Last edited by Jax Nova on March 25th, 2018, 5:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 19th, 2018, 12:11 am 
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"I see no reason why this must proceed. Edhellond has long been an ally. Why is it that we require of them a daughter to protect their lands, a part of our realm, from the predation of a man known to covet the throne?"

Aldamir paused but he was unable to take stock of his father's response for Eldacar had yet to turn around. All he could see was the spread of his father's shoulders. Aldamir drew a breath, "It must seem a particularly cruel and capricious fate indeed to condemn a young woman standing upon the cusp of her life to wed a stranger old enough to be her father. We are better than this. I know we are. If we proceed with this arrangement, it will foment further unrest among our people."

His father's silence continued but he had said his piece as bluntly as he could. He watched his father warily, for under ordinary circumstances such impassioned pleas came from his elder brother. And rarely were they about affairs of state, for that matter.

"This is unfortunate," his father slowly replied, "I was not aware that Lady Amarwen was so strenuously opposed to the notion."

Strenuously opposed, Aldamir thought to himself with a shake of his head. According to Helda, a fully armed senior soldier had to capture the lady in the gardens. That was more than strenuous opposition to a notion by a great deal.

"I propose that we approach Lord Therald with an alternate offer. We should defend Edhellond irrespective and protect Lady Amarwen, of course, but to require marriage...I do not think it necessary or wise."

Eldacar pressed out a sigh at this and turned to face his youngest son, "Vinyarion is your only child and your brother has yet to wed or produce an heir, legitimately or otherwise. The Master of Ships is a wolf in the shadows waiting for any opportunity. If the throne is to follow the Line of Kings, as it must to assure the prosperity of our realm, this vulnerability must be assuaged."

Aldamir stared at his father and then shook his head, "If Amarwen is taken to wife against her will, the Master of Ships will use that to incite unrest. It will make us more vulnerable. Even should her parents consent and approve the match, how is this any different to what Castimir himself attempts?"

"And so she must do so willingly," Eldacar ignored Aldamir's doubtful expression to add, "Or at least give the appearance thereof."

"Have we truly fallen so low as this?" Aldamir pressed and Eldacar turned for his desk.

Upon it, a countless number of reports of varying degrees of concern. His father, though Eldacar loved him, had created a disaster that even now Eldacar feared he could not bring to heel. Distasteful as this was, and it was most certainly that, if it secured the Line of Kings he was obligated to proceed or they would fall lower still.

"Desperate measures for desperate times, my son," Eldacar replied, wearied, washing a hand over his face, "I recommend that you ready yourself for the evening's commitments. There is a ranking officer up from Pelargir and he is to be presented with his daughter."

In silence, then, Aldamir stalked out of his father's study. He was as impotent as Amarwen was to stop this, yet it seemed monstrous to him to proceed. If Ornedil would but wed and produce heirs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Vinyarion bounded through the doors and into the parlour just in time to catch a maid drying her hands as she came from the bathroom.

"Oh!" the woman squeaked, startled and then recovered to curtsy. It was not this maid, or indeed any, he had come to find though. For once. "Your Highness," she said warily as she came to her feet again.

"Is she here?" Vinyarion asked at once.

"Whom do you seek?" the maid inquired but Vinyarion's impatience got the better of him and he pushed on to the doors he knew would lead into a private sitting room.

The maid shouted in alarm just as he pushed them open to discover that the layout of this apartment was quite different to his own. Or that of any of his other family. All he saw, properly, was a long dark fall of wet, black hair and the panicked expression of another maid waving her arms at him. There was a whole lot of other things to see too but he really did not have the opportunity to take those in and enjoy them, savour them properly a beautiful woman, discovered straight from her bath.

"You cannot go in there, your Highness!" said the maid he had just pushed past and the doors slammed shut for emphasis.

"I did not know -" Vinyarion paused as he heard what he was saying. He knew no one would believe him and so the sceptical, disapproving look on the maid's face came as no surprise. He amended his approach, "She's family, or soon to be in any case. Why, she might as well be my sister."

At that, from beyond the closed doors, he heard the faint sound of women disagreeing. Then they popped open and sure enough, Amarwen of Edhellond was there. Clothed, this time, a robe she had thrown over herself and her wet hair. Water still glistened on creamy skin...Vinyarion shook his head. Sister, he reminded himself. Or mother...was that how it worked?

"How is it that you know?" Amarwen demanded immediately.

Vinyarion shrugged, "Half the palace talks of it."

He squinted for if he was not very much mistaken, it looked like Amarwen was about to burst into tears, "I thought you'd be pleased."

"Pleased?" Amarwen's voice shook.

Vinyarion shrugged, "We didn't exactly get along very well, last night, and so that we are not to be..."

When she turned away her expression was so desperately sad that he began to think that perhaps, he shouldn't say that he was pleased he did not have to marry her. In his experience, women could get a little emotional when he pointed that out.

"Why have you come here?" Amarwen asked, her voice strained. "Does Halvarin know? Has he heard?"

"I do not know," Vinyarion replied. "Not seen Hal since....this morning."

At this Amarwen turned back and indeed, she had been weeping. Her tears turned her grey eyes silver and they shone brightly as she considered the two maids watching on. "Please, leave us."

"M'Lady, it is not proper-"

Amarwen swallowed thickly, "Prince Vinyarion is to be my kin. What manner of misconduct do you suggest I might engage in?"

Nothing that had not been tried in the past, Vinyarion wryly thought though he was wise enough to keep that to himself. Smiling, Vinyarion watched the two maids withdraw.

Once they had repaired to Amarwen's bedroom, he quietly observed, "I think I might enjoy having you here."

Amarwen ignored that entirely, "Your Highness, though we do not see eye to eye, I have something to ask of you."

She stepped closer to speak on and the scent of her freshly bathed skin enveloping him. It would have been distracting were it not for what she said. Vinyarion sobered immediately. It was risky. What she asked for, if was a whole mess of trouble of the like that made even him pause. But, Halvarin was his friend...and Amarwen, well he'd never been particularly good at saying no to a pretty face. He set out what he would do. The Dome of Stars was best. It was closest to the palace and at night, late enough, few traversed its halls. A fact he had exploited more than once for various assignations. He knew how to get in and out unobserved.

Risky as this was, it was also marvellous mischief...and if it went some way to easing his assorted gambling debts, then so much the better. First, he had to get word to Halvarin so that he got himself quietly to the Dome of Stars around midnight - alone. Most definitely alone. Next, he'd have to check on who was assigned the watch and see to it that their heads were turned. Then, the two maids. Risky, but not insurmountable and so he set off with a jaunty wave to Amarwen, whistling to himself.

Finding Halvarin was the first order of business and that proved difficult when one was avoiding various individuals intent on collecting their winnings. Finally he managed to track down his friend seated outside a tavern with one of his father's Shieldmaidens, of all people. Rhinnin offered him a broad smile. This was not ideal, but better Rhinnin than any of the others. Even Helda might baulk at this.

"What are you doing this evening, Hal?" he asked, sitting down without being invited.

Halvarin eyed him cautiously, "I am dicing nor playing cards with you."

"No plans?" he pressed and Halvarin sat back, looking very much like he had plans but was not inclined to divulge them.

"I have an idea!" Rhinnin piped up, eager to contribute.

Vinyarion waved that aside as he eyed his friend and Halvarin shrugged, "Nothing specific. Catch the sleep I missed last night, on your account?"

"I have an idea!" Rhinnin repeated, more forcefully this time.

"Dome of Stars," Vinyarion said and Rhinnin scowled, "There is nothing to do there!"

"I've already been today," Halvarin added to the Shieldmaiden's observation.

Vinyarion leaned in towards his friend, "You will want to return again. Alone, unmarked, just after midnight."

Halvarin frowned, "Vin, I have nothing to pay off your debts with, as I said before, and I-" Vinyarion leaned in closer to whisper a name that made Halvarin fall silent. As he leaned back again, Rhinnin muttered about young men and how rude they could be.

"Trust me, it is important, Hal. You want to go."

"Why?" he said, catching something in Vinyarion's tone, "Has something happened? Is she in some sort of trouble?"

"Just get yourself there," Vinyarion stated and leaned back in his chair to consider the two tankards on the table, "Say, there isn't a third one of those lurking, perchance?"

At the question, Rhinnin snatched up her tankard and held it possessively. Not that he was thirsty or foolhardy to wrestle a Shieldmaid for an ale, in any case. Halvarin was still preoccupied and so Vinyarion took a swig of his friend's ale and stood.

"No matter, things to do, people to see, very good friends counting on me," he said and set out once more. Next up, the guards...and just what he was going to use to turn their heads now that he was all out of coin. Better shifts sprang to mind for no one wanted to pull guard duty at night. He could sneak a few through his uncle, he knew. He and Ornedil got on like a house on fire and that had proved useful to him more than once. Tonight would be no different.

Last edited by Elora Starsong on March 19th, 2018, 11:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 19th, 2018, 11:34 pm 
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Helda paused, frowning at her unfamiliar surrounds. She rarely ventured into this part of the city, chiefly owing to its paucity of taverns and ale houses. That she was here now was not a happy circumstance.

Curse that officer, which street had he scurried down, the Shieldmaiden thought to herself. She'd already been down one, peering through windows as discretely as a tall Rhovanion armed to the teeth with fiery hair might manage. In retrospect, Helda considered, perhaps she should have divested herself of some of her armaments. She peered down the street she had just hurried out of and found that the householder that had discovered her peeking through his window had given up his pursuit. Or, perhaps he had gone back to marshal further assistance. Hard to know until she saw the torches and pitchforks and that was something that, oddly, she wanted to avoid.

The Shieldmaiden had not come for sport or her own personal amusement. Eying another street, she set off once more aware that nightfall was not long off. That might offer her cover but once darkness fell, curtains or shutters would be drawn and espying the officer Aldamir had tasked with locating Amarwen would prove nigh to impossible.

She skulked from house to house, garden to garden, pausing when she saw a familiar flash through the window. She drifted back surreptiously to check and to be sure, she saw the uniform of a royal guard. His back was to the window but she was reasonably sure it was him. As much as she could be without even having his name.

The Shieldmaiden gained the little path that led to the door, drew a breath and raised a fist gauntletted in leather, to knock. And she would have, had the door not been suddenly yanked open to reveal the pointiest end of a sword.

Helda smiled at it, "Nice work, though there is one small nick along the-"

Before Helda could finish her assessment of its well kept edge, she was pulled inside and the door slammed after her. As her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, the Shieldmaiden thought she heard movement from deeper in the house. Did the guard have family, she wondered?

"Why have you followed me home?" demanded the man she was wondering about.

"To talk," she answered and his sword, still drawn, tapped her weapons belt. Helda grimaced at a table and chairs, "What can I say? I like to be prepared."

"Take it off. Lay it on the table."

The guard's voice was flat and stoney. Helda chewed his words over, sighed, and set about unbuckling it as requested. Once she had done that, she set about unslinging her shield as well. That same sword appeared under her chin.

"Do you want me unarmed or not?" she inquired testily, for unless a man had seen a Shieldmaiden fight in full blooded combat they would perhaps not grasp that a shield was not purely armour.

The officer stood back, sword still at the ready, and Helda resumed unarming herself. It took, in all, a good ten or so minutes but she liked to be thorough. It had been quite some time, months and months, since Helda had been freed of all weapons. She felt curiously light, or would have were it not for the disturbing thoughts on her mind. The officer took in her presence with a sigh. His sword scraped back into its sheath.

"Well," he pointedly inquired, arms crossed over his chest, "Talk."

The officer was silent, waiting her out. Now that she was here, she found it difficult to speak. Helda grumbled, "It would be easier if I had your name."


"What sort of name is-" Helda bit off her question as his expression darkened and changed tack, "I am-"

"I know who you are. I know what you are. Say what you have come to say, Shieldmaid Helda."

"What happened today was abhorrent," Helda replied and finally she saw a crack in Rie-Zunic's expression. It flickered for a moment before he sealed it up once more.

Rie-Zunic spoke, "She returned of her own volition."

"On the understanding that the marriage would called off," Helda countered.

Rie-Zunic went very still as he took in what she had said, "And it was called off."

Helda grimly shook her head from side to side. Braids the colour of fire swayed with the movement and her piercing blue eyes were locked on his. "Amarwen of Edhellond is to be wed to Prince Aldamir whether she wills it or not."

Movement from the corner of her eye drew Helda's attention aside to take in the appearance of the Pelargir mercenaries! Her reaction was instinctual as she recoiled. Not for the weapons she had piled on the table but for the shield. A Shieldmaiden always went for her shield first. The mercenary, however, did not move. She stared at Rie-Zunic for a moment, long enough for Helda to pluck up her shield and position it before her. Her head throbbed, reminding her precisely then of the incident only yesterday. She crouched, ready to spring into action but neither the mercenary nor Rie-Zunic moved. Which was odd, considering the officer had to be surprised to find a Pelargirian mercenary lurking in his home.

"What is this, Rie Zunic," the mercenary inquired and from behind her shield, Helda added, "That is what I wish to know!"

Last edited by Elora Starsong on March 25th, 2018, 6:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 20th, 2018, 8:31 am 
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Halvarin looked over as Vinyarion left. He could see the disturbed foam line in his tankard, so he looked to Rhinnin and said,

”He took a swig of this didn’t he.”

Rhinnin giggled slightly and sipped her own and nodded. Halvarin shrugged and said,

”Damn, That… was my friend Prince Vinyarion. I was hoping to see if that bartender would serve his kind, being he’s one quarter Rhovanion. Oh well, he likely didn’t have enough coin in his pocket for a half flagon.”

Halvarin downed a fair amount of his ale, and as he smiled at Rhinnin, he asked,

”So what is this idea you have?”

“Oh, I was going to challenge you and your friend to a drinking contest. If anything I would be able to get a few pints squeezed out of that bartender.”

Halvarin laughed. He then said,

”Well, it appears I need to be somewhere ere midnight comes, so that probably isn’t a really good idea. But if you wish to walk with me back west, I’ll buy you an ale at the West Bridge Tavern.”

Rhinnin swirled her ale in her tankard andsmiled as she watched it. She looked up to Halvarin and said,

”Well… as much as I want to walk around the east city, I’m thinking it would be best if I go with you m’lord.”

Halvarin finished his ale and shook his head before saying,

”I’m no lord m’lady, I’m just an Ensign 2nd class studying navigation.”

“And I’m no lady, I’m a 2nd level Shieldmaiden who was handpicked by Prince Eldacar.”

Halvarin stood up as Rhinnin finished her ale. She stood and Halvarin offered his arm as Rhinnin came around the table,

”Well 2nd level shieldmaiden, may this 2nd class Ensign escort you to our next stop?”

Halvarin chuckled and they set off toward the bridge. He considered it best that she not go carousing around on the east side.

Along their walk, Rhinnin and Halvarin talked of her home in the north and his home in the port city of Pelargir. They talked of the abrasive nature of the attitudes of many Gondorians of the Rhovanions, and the pride the Rhovanions held in serving a Prince of Gondor. Their talk over ales at the West Bridge Tavern came to the looming cloud that lingered over Gondor Halvarin said,

”My head says that this kingdom is strong, and I am a part of its great naval glory. But my gut, and my occasional dream, tells me that with this strength, comes destruction and darkness. I wish for peace with your people and mine Rhinnin of Rhovanion.”’

Rhinnin nodded and looked at her ale. The tensions between the Mariners and the Rhovanions were as plain as day at the tournament. She considered Halvarin as she finished her ale. As much as she would not mind spending more time with him, she knew he had eyes for another. She said to him,

”This has been wonderful, and the night has not gone as I had thought. I made a new friend tonight, a Mariners Guildsman no less. But I am done for the night, and I believe you need to get to this ‘Dome of the Stars’ that Vinyarion spoke of. May this night bless you Halvarin of Pelargir.”

She set her tankard down and gave him a quick bow and turned and walked away. Once outside and well away from the tavern, Rhinnin paused and turned and watched. It was not long before Halvarin left the tavern and made his way toward the royal quarter of the city. Rhinnin sighed and went back to her quarters.

Halvarin walked in to the Great Library and looked at the Dome of the Starts glistening under the clear night sky. Judging by the light patterns on the floor, he guessed he was there before midnight. He sat by the fountain and listened to its waters as he measured in his head the distance between star beams. He pondered everything he had seen and heard since coming to Osgiliath. In the two days, it seemed the world had changed. His best friend from childhood, one whom he loved, was out of reach for him. She was destined to be a royal wife, and he was destined to be the lover of a young daughter of a shipwright or a wayward guildsman in a tryst with a shieldmaiden. No, he would hold to hope ever fading, as the prospects for peace in Gondor seemed to fade.

His long pondering thoughts that were adrift as if on the sea was broken when he heard a sound at the doors….

 Post subject: Re: The Waning Days of King Valacar
PostPosted: March 20th, 2018, 8:26 pm 
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Amarwen’s heart was in her throat as she climbed the steps to the resplendent Dome of Stars. It was a magnificent sight indeed but she was too distracted to appreciate it properly. She wondered whether she had taken complete leave of her senses. A note slipped under her bedroom door and here she was.

Shadows loomed in the darkness. After a span, she pushed back her cowl. She did not want to look so much like a shadow herself that Halvarin couldn’t find her. Amarwen turned about, scanning the darkness herself. Nothing. Her cloak fell back to reveal her silver gown.

How long should she wait? What if Halvarin did not come? What if this was a trap for those seeking to sabotage the realm? She was playing into their hands if it was and yet here she was all the same. She had to speak to Halvarin. He had to hear this from her. In her mind ran what she had to say.

”Ami?” the darkness whispered and Amarwen turned to the sound of Halvarin’s voice.

A shadow detached itself from the others and hurried towards her. In the darkness, she could not see his face but down here they were too conspicuous. Vinyarion had her of an alcove upon the uppermost floor. So far up that their only witnesses would be the stars. She wove her fingers through Halvarin’s and led him to this place.

Moonlight streamed through the window as she turned to look up into Halvarin’s face. She was struck by the thought that this might be the last time she saw him. It brought tears to her eyes and made her heart ache with sorrow.

”Halvarin,” she said, voice quivering with her anguish.

He shifted closer to peer down at her, ”What is wrong?”

Amarwen’s eyes closed at the sound of his voice. Her marriage would likely make of them foes if Halvarin’s father had his way. She would never again hear him laugh, or make some private aside to her for them both to grin over. They would no longer wander the sandy shore, picking up shells and bits of oddly shaped sea timber that caught their attention. She opened her eyes, aware that she did not know how to do this, and began blindly.

”I am to remain in Osgiliath.”

She drew in a breath and tried to say it. That she was to marry a prince. The words were such that she could barely hold them in her mind, much less place them upon her tongue. Amarwen bowed her head as she turned from Halvarin to stare out of the window. Her eyes closed as tears threatened once more. Her hands tightened on the stone sill of the window and her words shook as they fell from her.

”I am to wed Aldamir.”

There was silence, broken only by the sound of their breathing. Halvarin stood beside her. Their shoulders nudged and she wanted, ever so much, to rest her head against his arm. She wanted to know what it felt like to take refuge in his arms.

”When,” his voice was husked with emotion and she shook her head.

”I do not know.”

“Is that what you want?”


Again there was silence between them and she felt his fingers wind through her own. They stood, shoulder to shoulder, and stared out at the night beyond. Then slowly, so very carefully, Halvarin raised her fingers to his lips. All that might have been swirled around them, pressing in close. He cradled her hand and breathed her in and Amarwen found her gazing at him, longing throbbing within her. The moonlight washed away the blue of his eyes and made them glitter.

Aware that she watched him, he pressed her fingers to his chest with one hand and reached with the other to cup her cheek. His touch was achingly gentle. The restraint she had drawn upon throughout the day was crumbling. Amarwen pressed her cheek into his tender caress. Her pulse was roaring in her ears but through the din she faintly heard herself whisper his name.

Her fingers spread wide over his chest and beneath her hand she could feel the powerful thud of his pounding heart.

She said, ”We may never again have this moment.”

Halvarin’s hands fell to her waist. They hovered there as she looked into his eyes. These were last few moments when her life was hers and hers alone. Not the Master of Ships, not her father’s nor Lord Canimir’s, not Aldamir’s or Edhellond’s or Gondor’s. If she was to endure through the long, lonely years that lay ahead of her now, let her have at least this one moment of joy to light them. She needed him to know that she loved him and that she always would.

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