Kin-Strife

Discussion in 'The Glittering Caves' started by Elora, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    That the office door was locked troubled Halvarin. He was puzzling over it as he unlocked it with his own set of keys and stopped, aghast at what he found. Sarael lay beneath Mardil on the floor, surround by a pool of congealing blood. Sarael laboured for breath and he knelt to roll Mardil off her. Halvarin lifted her out of the blood and eased her on his desk.

    Sarael grabbed at Halvarin as he set her down, her speech rasped.

    ”The baby… it comes… he knows…”

    Halvarin brought water to her from a nearby jug. Sarael took it from him, drinking deeply and wincing as she did so. He could see livid marks appearing on her neck. The shape of a man’s fingers.

    ”What happened here?” he asked solemnly as he went to lock the door once more.

    Sarael coughed and drank again, ”Merece sent me to find you and Mardil attacked me. You have been discovered. Mardil said I was the first to be arrested.“

    “I’ll take you back to the house-”
    Halvarin replied and assisted Sarael to her feet for she was still unsteady after the assault she had fought off.

    They got a few steps closer to the door when it was kicked in. Two men rushed forward brandishing bared swords. When they saw Mardil dead on the floor, one moved toward Halvarin and Sarael. Halvarin let Sarael’s legs slip to the floor and he grabbed and threw his knife, hitting the man in the neck. Blood spewed out as he gurgled, gripping at the knife in his throat. The other man paused and crouched defensively. Halvarin noted the pin he had, and remembered where he saw it before. Black Scouts!

    Sarael stepped back and leaned against Halvarin’s desk as the Castamirian spoke.

    ”Halvarin, you are hereby relieved of your command, and are under arrest for sedition, and for murder of two of the King’s men…”

    Halvarin dived down to Mardil when he heard the sound of a sword meeting flesh. The blade punched through and out the man’s front. Halvarin jumped back up having retrieved the knife pulled from Mardil’s side.

    Sarael called out, ”Michas!”

    “Come, we have no time!”
     
  2. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Michas waved for Halvarin and Sarael to leave as two more men watched outside the door. Halvarin passed Sarael the knife he had retrieved, then picked up his knife and the sword that the Black Scout had dropped. He helped Sarael to the door as she was still trying to breath. In the hall, Michas offered a scant report of the rapidly unfolding situation.

    ”We have been compromised, at last. The Usurper's loyalists rise. You and your family are in grave peril!”

    As they moved along the hall, some men came down from the direction of Halvarin’s house. They paused upon sighting Michas and Halvarin both. They were out of breath and flushed, as if they had sprinted.

    One said, ”We tried to reach to your house, Lord Commander, but there were too many. We fought them but could not get through. They’ve taken your wife!”

    This hit Halvarin like a physical blow. The dread he felt tasted of old iron, thick on his tongue.

    “Mindacil! Did they take him?” Sarael asked as Halvarin tried to push past the soldiers.

    He paused when more soldiers came, one carrying Mindacil, ”This one is clever. He found his way out unnoticed.”

    Halvarin wrapped his arms around his son and held him close, breathing him in, as Sarael plucked at his sleeve.

    ”Merece! She sent me to you because she thought the baby comes,” she said in a low, urgent voice.

    Overhearing this, Michas blanched and he looked to the officer that had found Halvarin’s son. Halvarin kissed the young boy, who whilst relieved to be in his father’s arms, was clearly frightened by what he had observed unfold. With great difficulty, he passed Mindacil to Sarael. The boy went to her gladly, for she was another friendly, loved face amongst so many grim men. She smoothed his dark hair and Halvarin wiped his hands over his face. That Amarwen had been taken, possibly in labour, was enough to make him shake.

    ”They couldn’t have taken her far!” he said. ”Let’s go!”

    The officer shook his head. ”We can’t get back there. Their numbers are yet too many, and ours too few.”

    Michas met his old friend’s anguished gaze. ”The city erupts and chaos will soon reign in the streets. The moment has come when each man of Gondor must choose with who they stand. Come Halvarin, the men who stand for the return of Eldacar need their leadership! The Castamirians are not so many in Minas Anor that the city will fall. And it would seem that those Black Scouts were not all dealt with.”

    The sound of clashing steel was drawing steadily closer and Halvarin knew they could not hold there for long. He and his family had been targeted, but it seemed Mardil had set things in motion. Plans meticulously crafted and laid in preparation for just this moment. They retreated down the causeway to a part of the city that Michas’s men had secured.
     

  3. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    ”WHERE IS MY SON?!”

    A thick oak door, reinforced with blackened, rusty metal bolts, slammed into place. She was sealed into a tiny cell that was dark and persistently cold, despite the season outside. Amarwen prowled, frantic with fear. Where was Mindacil? He’d winkled away in the chaos. Where was Halvarin? Had they snared him as well? She’d let the household go, declaring the risk they were all in. Some had spat in her face but so many more had remained. Doughty. Determined not to run like scared rats. Had one of them gotten Mindacil to safety? Had they slipped free?

    She rubbed at her lower back. It was stubbornly aching. Michas would know what to do. She knew that. They’d been over it so many times. Firstly, they needed to secure the positions along the river. Then word had to be gotten south to Pelargir – otherwise her uncle and Silares would not know to put out for sea and the positions she had established there would not be hardened for combat. She meant to take out as much of the Usurper’s powerful navy as she could. That son of a misbegotten troll would not have the river either. Not this time.

    Then there was Osgiliath. Had the advance forces landed there yet? She hoped so, for they’d need to secure that to launch on the rest of the realm. Most of her plans had not factored on being so swiftly arrested. She hoped she had told enough to others to counteract this development. Michas and Halvarin would know what to do here. Vinyarion and his father were poised in Osgiliath and Minas Ithil respectively. She had done everything she had to do. All she needed to do now is remain calm and deliver the child she carried before they broke her. For they would. She knew that for a certainty.

    Where was Mindacil? She had meant to have him well clear of Minas Anor at this juncture. Safely in Sarael’s keeping, for there were few others she would entrust with such an undertaking, and on his way out of this. Not Edhellond, of course, for that is the first place they would go once they broke her. No, Calambel – a sleepy little hamlet where a woman travelling with a young boy might be taken in. Halvarin and she had discussed it at length and were agreed. He’d see it done, if he still had his freedom and Sarael had hers.

    Out, beyond the heavy door of her little cell, Amarwen could hear commotion. Shouting, cursing. Someone was fighting against their arrest. She heard the din pick up in cells around her. Like a pack of dogs, baying, they were. It made her shudder but soon she threw her voice in with theirs.

    ”WHERE IS MY SON? WHERE IS MY SON?”
     
  4. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    The cells were packed and still more were flooding in. There was fighting in the streets. Brawls and riots for the most, yet between that and the arrest of the Lord Commander’s household, there was scarcely room to swing a cat. That one of the prisoner’s was a heavily pregnant woman was the least of his concerns. Rather, he was preoccupied with keeping the walls and gates of the prison intact. There had been several attempts on both once the sun set and it was not yet midnight.

    Pushing out a sigh, the man responsible for the prison looked up when his door opened. He saw, immediately, two men. Both were Black Scouts and he pushed to his feet and hoped his distaste was not immediately apparent. They entered, cold eyes flicked this way and that, before settling on him.

    ”Keys,” one said, voice dull with disinterest. His fingers fumbled to free them from his belt. They jangled as he handed them across his desk to the man that had demanded them.

    ”Out,” said the other, similarly apathetic, and he scurried out of the door, eager to quit his office and put distance between himself and the Black Scouts.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    He shuffled the keys one by one until he found the one he was after. He fit it to the lock and turned it. A metallic squeal as he pulled the door open. The only light there was came from the guttering torches outside the cell. It revealed a stone floor strewn with rotting straw. There was movement in the deeper shadows and then a voice.

    ”WHERE IS MY SON?”

    Correct cell confirmed, he stood aside to clear the door. A pause, for the woman within was not a fool. Once caution was served, he saw the hem of her skirts and then the prisoner herself. Her expression could be described in one word: murderous. Though she was heavy with child, he felt his hand fall to the hilt of his sword. Her eyes fell to the pin he wore.

    He said nothing as he jerked his head to the hall. Eying him as if he were a snake ready to strike, the prisoner eased out of the cell. Once there he watched her mark out the various points of entry. She stiffed as he took her elbow in a firm grip and hauled her along to the office they had appropriated. He pushed her into it and sealed the door after him.

    ”Mistress Merece, you look as though you would appreciate a chair.”

    “I want nothing from the likes of you,”
    the prisoner returned, her tone haughty as any princess.

    ”Not even an update on the whereabouts of your son?”

    Her chin lowered a little and he saw her hands curl and uncurl at her sides.

    ”I wish I could tell you, put your mind to ease. We will continue to search for him. Couldn’t have a boy of such tender years wandering the now dangerous streets. We’re looking for your husband too, as it so happens. The charges against him are egregious. What sort of man lets his wife bear the brunt of justice meant for him? His very pregnant wife. How far along are you?”

    Again her hands curled and uncurled. The prisoner said nothing.

    ”I’d say eight…if not nine months. Has the babe dropped yet?” Still no response. ”Matters not. All I need do is wait. Until it comes. Until you find yourself alone, in the darkness. Screaming.”

    The prisoner lifted her chin again and his fellow Black Scout turned away with a shrug.

    ”Presuming you both survive, the whelp with you, I will take it too. I will take everything, Mistress Marece. Where is your husband?”

    The prisoner sucked in a deep breath and hissed, ”Go to hell.”

    “I rather think it will come to you and in short order too. Enjoy.”


    The initial questioning concluded, he returned the prisoner to her dark cell, careful to secure the door. This was one prisoner that could not be permitted to escape.
     

  5. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    The Viper kept his position without breaking cover. Inwardly, though, he was railing like a common sailor. This was all kinds of a mess. He’d had a deal with Aldamir’s woman to take out every last Black Scout. A deal he had clearly failed to deliver on and near as he could tell the consequences of that failure were dire. Heads would roll. Most likely his and he had an attachment to his own head. What a mess. But, then, given the unrest in the streets…If he fed the right people the truth – that a heavily pregnant woman was held prisoner, to be interrogated mercilessly…that her son was missing…why, it was a perfect outrage. How better to illustrate the cruelty to those as yet undecided.

    And so that meant she had to remain where she was for now. Wouldn’t do to pull her out until the entire city was frothing at the mouth, baying for blood. Aldamir would understand and she’d long know what she was getting herself into.

    As the Viper scurried along in the darkness, Amarwen realised that the ache of her lower back was something else entirely. Labour had begun. She hoped she could endure it without giving the animals that held her the satisfaction of her screams.
     
  6. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    The early dawn light was still grainy as the wetnurse was escorted into the prison. Flanked by two men, both bearing the fearsome emblem of the Black Scouts, she pulled her shawl tighter over her shoulders. She ached in trembling silence for the babe that should be tucked in her arms. The babe she had buried only the day before. A fugue, they say, but she knew otherwise. The land itself sickened and the most vulnerable bore the brunt, as always. Such talk was treason and so she did not voice it.

    The two men walked in silence, oblivious to the cries of those in the cells. She could hear the sound of beatings. Cries of pains. Curses and pleads. Groans. The door they led her to was silent. The air here was still, as if all locked away in this area held their collective breath. Keys jangled and then hinges squealed.

    There, on the rotting straw, lay a woman. She was white as a sheet, exhausted. Not entirely conscious. The wetnurse recognised, at once, that the woman had recently given birth. Alone, in the darkness, in this cell. She’d been unable to cut the cord. She’d torn at her skirts for something to wrap the newborn in and she clutched it to her in arms ferociously tight.

    ”Take it,” said one of the Black Scouts and pushed her forward. The scent of blood hung in the air.

    The wetnurse came forward and wondered where the woman might lie. Without alternate bedding or fresh straw, the risk of infection or dreadful bleeding was very high. The woman’s eyes rolled and fluttered open as she knelt by her.

    ”No,” she whispered in a desiccated voice and she realised there was not even water in this forsaken place.

    ”Take it,” came the order anew, ”Or we will dash its brains out now and be done with it.”

    Tears came to the woman’s eyes as she looked up into her face.

    ”I will care for it,” she said as she prized the infant’s tiny body away. It stirred, puckered its mouth and gave a quivering, pitiful wail.

    ”Please,” said the woman, pleading and she nodded understanding. She would not have been able to determine whether the child was a boy or girl in the uncertain light.

    Pulling the rough, hasty swaddling aside, the wetnurse checked. ”A girl.”

    “Alenna,”
    the woman said, ”Alenna.”

    She slumped back, weakened and the wet nurse climbed to her feet. The child wailed still, hungry and cold. The wetnurse responded without thinking. She tucked the girl, Alenna, under her shawl and shifted until she felt the infant latch. Strong. Alenna was strong. Once she was cleaned up and properly swaddled, Alenna was likely to flourish where her own babe foundered. Her own babe had never suckled as lustily as this.

    ”I’m sorry,” she said as she was pulled roughly back out of the cell.

    The hinges squealed again as the door was sealed. More jangling keys. The Black Scouts started off and it seemed as though they had forgotten her.

    ”Sirs,” she called after them and they turned back. ”What would you have me do?”

    They exchanged a look, ”Return here every day, in this hour.”

    She frowned, not understanding, but they did not deign to explain it. And so a day passed and she did return. She was again taken to the cell and once there she was to feed Alenna as her mother was forced to watch on. It was then that she grasped the monstrosity of what was occurring. The cruelty of stealing a newborn child from a mother’s arms and forcing her to watch it being nurtured by its thief. And, as the days passed and Alenna’s mother did not seem to be recovering, she realised that the woman was slowly dying. For they had not changed the straw.

    Yet, she feared for her own life and that of tiny Alenna. The men that had forced her into this had threated to murder the infant. And so the wetnurse said nothing as her misgivings mounted, day by day and in a week, on a glorious summer day, a public trial was held right before the gallows.

    She was shocked to see Alenna’s mother pulled out, so weakened that she could barely stand and blinking at the bright sunlight. Those watching, and there were a great many gathered, murmured at the sight before them. Her skin had greyed as infection claimed her.

    ”Mistress Marece, you stand charged with High Treason, conspiracy to commit High Treason and other foul acts against His Royal Highness, King Castimir, First of His Name. How answer you?”

    The voice that rang out was powerful and compelling. As the charges were read out, the wetnurse glanced down to the infant sleeping in her arms. She was sweetly oblivious. The wetnurse heard a faint sound and she looked up to the find the authorities leaning, in all their finery, towards the accused.

    ”What? What did she say? Speak up or hold your tongue!”

    “WHERE ARE MY BABIES?!”


    It burst out of Alenna’s mother like a summer storm and the force of it made her sag over the rough wooden stall she had been placed in. The wetnurse watched her struggle to push herself upright. The sun, when it hit her eyes, revealed a fevered glint.

    ”If you will not answer the charges, you will found guilty and hanged!”

    The crowd murmured ominously and the wetnurse tightened her arms around Alenna, shivering.
     
  7. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    The Viper darted through the press drawn by this terrible spectacle. Proving her aristocratic heritage, Aldamir’s woman was putting on a fine show. A little too fine, he thought, but he didn’t have time to worry about that. The crowd was on the cusp. Just a bit of a nudge and it would spill over. A word here and there, and he was in a hurry, as he was aware that there were others here hell bent on retrieving Aldamir’s woman come what may.

    ”Poor wretch! She’s dead on her feet. How can they be so cruel,” he said in a solicitous tone.

    At that a tall man whirled, his eyes alight with fury. The Viper recognised the man he’d released from cells in The Harlond, along with the Rhovanion, some months ago now. The husband of Aldamir’s woman, if he wasn’t mistaken. A navigator…senior…couldn’t place his name as he danced out of fellow’s grip and smack into another’s. He was caught fast and Halvarin, yes he had the name now, surged forward. He gathered a fist full of the Viper’s tunic and hauled him forward.

    ”Now, now, we’re all on the same side here,” the Viper said.

    ”I know this one,” said another, ”He serves only himself.”

    “I know who he is, Michas,”
    Halvarin growled and the Viper was pleased to see a familiar woman reach up to touch his arm.

    ”We may have need of him yet, m’Lord,” Sarael said.
     
  8. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    ”- the charges, you will be found guilty and hanged!”

    Amarwen could feel herself spinning. Sometimes she could hold herself upright and sometimes she was falling. And the bleeding, it had not stopped. Something was very wrong but it didn’t matter. So long as Alenna, Mindacil and Halvarin were safe and everyone knew what to do, it really didn’t matter any more. Her task was done. The end was nigh and the prospect of laying down the enormous weight was undeniably appealing. She wished she could see them again. She wished she could hold them again. She wished she could see the day the rightful King returned and sat his throne.

    She pushed back from the rickety stall front she was leaning against and narrowly caught herself on the rear barrier. If she was going to die here, then she would die for who she was. She would die for the truth.

    ”I will give you your answer,” she said, her voice faint but picking up strength. She had no need to hold anything back in reserve now.

    Amarwen tipped her face up to the bright blue sky. The sun made her fevered flesh shiver but she threw her arms out.

    ”My father was captured with Crown Prince Ornedil. He surrendered under the terms of ransom and for that he was tortured to his death. But that was not enough. No. For his remains were carted about and hung from gibbets for all to see the crows make sport of.”

    She lowered her arms. ”My mother was slaughtered before my eyes because she would not bend knee to a false and cruel king. I am not guilty of High Treason for CASTAMIR IS NO KING!

    "I am the voice in your heads demanding to know when is enough enough. I am the thorn in your despicable side. I am but one set of many hands that will tear you down from your stolen seats. My name is Amarwen of Edhellond and you will answer me this: WHERE ARE MY BABIES?!


    At first there was silence. As if the crowd had sucked back like the low tide. And then it surged, roaring. She felt her knees fail her as she sank into the makeshift stall. All she could smell was blood. Her own. But it mattered not for Minas Anor was finally stirred to life.
     
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  9. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    ”Eldacar is King! Down with the usurper!”

    Someone in the crowd cried out after hearing Amarwen’s words! A din of yeas raised through the crowd. Then someone yelled out,

    ”That Rhovanion half-breed is no king of Numenorean Gondor! Long live King Castamir!”

    A somewhat lesser din of yeas went up with a jeer of boos… the air was filled with such intensity and the soldiers were looking uneasy. The kingdom was dividing ….

    ”Amarwen of Edhellond!”

    The voice boomed out across the square, bouncing off people and the stones alike as the guards attempted to quell the crowd’s disorder.

    ”Stripped of your titles and land, your once proud House denounced. Already you have been tried and guilty you have been found of High Treason most foul!”

    The jeering from the crowd intensified and it was this that restored Amarwen to her senses. She clung to the stall around her as her strength ebbed, ever weaker.

    ”You were sentenced in accordance with the laws of our realm to die for your crimes. And, as you are clearly alive still, that sentence will be carried out today, forthwith!”

    Amarwen lifted her head barely and made out men, all in uniform, hurrying towards her. Their faces were grim and in their eyes death. They made considerable haste, gripping their weapons as they crossed the space. Elsewhere, to the side, some of the crowd broke through the cordon. There were cries of anger and pain and then the thrum of an arrow. A man fell to the stones, an arrow protruding from his neck.

    This alerted the crowd to the previously unknown presence of archers from upon high. Amarwen lowered her head again. Of course the Black Scouts would have prepared for unrest. It was not long after that before the stall she clung to was pulled from her grip. Weakened, she fell to her knees between the men crowding around her. They pulled her up and bound her elbows behind her.

    ”Recant your treachery and mercy will be granted. Our sovereign lord, Castamir, King of Gondor is compassionate. He wishes this, our realm, to be healed. Set aside your treason, Amarwen of Edhellond, and your life will be yours. You will, once again, hold your children in your arms. By the grace of Castimir, Saviour of Gondor.”
     
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  10. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Still her head was bowed and her eyes closed. The crowd had quietened to a murmur again although there were fitful outcries. She heard a man shout that she should save herself. Of course, the offer was not a genuine one. Amarwen knew that. As soon as she recanted, betrayed her people and her king and House and her husband, they would very quickly and quietly end her life. Out of sight. An accident. A sickness brought on poison. Anything to ensure she did not ever rise again to cause them so much woe. And they did not even know what she had been doing.

    The laughter that bubbled out shocked even her. They were going to execute her without even knowing the full extent of her supposed treachery. The laughter kept coming from her, increasing in strength as the men around her clenched their fists. She forced it to stop and lifted her head.

    ”Castamir the Defiler! Usurper! Murd-“

    The blow came from beyond her range of sight. She sagged sideways, ears ringing and blood filling her mouth. This she spat out as she was hauled up by the ropes. The sunlight transformed the blood into a spray of rubies that glittered. Amarwen was dragged to her feet.

    ”So be it.”

    Again, her senses swum. The guards pulled her across to the scaffold. She could not climb the rough wooden steps and so they thrust her up it. Then she was forced to kneel before a stone. She had just enough time to take in the executioner. His black hood concealed his face but she caught the cold gleam of his eyes and his sword. It was large, very sharp.

    Another twang of a bow and this time a woman fell through the cordon. The arrow, this time, had found her thigh and she shrieked with agony. Through her doubling vision, Amarwen saw the faces of the crowd. They blurred, angry, frightened. Men, women, children. Aghast. Vengeful.

    ”Amarwen of Edhellond, set aside your pride and your folly. Renounce your-“

    “NEVER!”
    Amarwen screamed, ”RISE! ELDACAR COMES! FIGHT!”

    A knee to her back slammed her forwards. She hit the executioner’s block hard enough to drive the air from her. Her body, struggling to heal from delivering her daughter only days ago, was awash with fire. Amarwen lost consciousness as her hair was roughly pulled aside. Her entire body went slack. She did not hear the mighty howl of the crowd and she did not see how they surged the already overtaxed guards maintaining the cordon. She did not see how so many of them cast their weapons down or instead, turned them on their fellows. She did not know of the melee, vicious and sudden, that broke out on the scaffold behind her.

    The square devolved into a rapid, ferocious riot.
     
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