Kin-Strife

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

  1. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


    “There’s no mess at all, your Grace.”


    “The caches of weapons?”


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



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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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



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


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


    The question made his jaw bunch, ”No.”


    “The matter is settled, then.”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    His statement drove Amarwen to her feet.


    ”Leave,” she declared.


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


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



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

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    “Does Eldacar know of this…dissent?”



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    He nodded as he looked about.


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


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


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


    ”I’d already gotten what I wanted.”


    “Which was?”


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

  3. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    “And when Castamir sends ships to retrieve them?”


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


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


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


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


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


    “Where will you go?”


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


    “Rhovanion?”


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


    “Does that worry you?”


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

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    “What are you doing, Ami?”


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


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


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


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

  5. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Edhellond - late Summer 1441



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


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


    “Both?”
    Amarwen frowned and Halvarin nodded.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    Amarwen said, ”As they do now?”


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


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


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

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



    Rhovanion ~ Late Summer 1441


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Edholland – late August/early September 1441



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


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


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


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


    ”Come,” he said kindly, ”Niece.”


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


    He must think her so foolish. A coward.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    “And if I relent?”


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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

    Elora Dreamweaver

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


    She sipped it delicately as Amarwen watched.


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


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


    ”Yes!”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


    “As do I, of course.”



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


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


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


    She closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath before she heard a faint tap at the doors she leaned against.


    ”Quickly,” Halvarin urged, ”Before I am seen.”


    Amarwen’s eyes widened as she cracked open her doors and sure enough, there he stood nervously looking up and down the corridor beyond. Just how he got into the family wing past the various guards was a mystery to her and when she asked, he shot her an incredulous look.


    ”Can I answer that on the side of the door the guards won’t skewer me upon?”


    A fair observation, she thought, as she widened the door for him to slip through. He pushed it shut again and gazed at her. Tired as she was, he was truly a sight for sore eyes, and without a further word she pressed against him to seek his lips. And so the days passed, one week turning into two and then three, all of it lost in a haze of heady emotion. Whilst Silares and his crew set about repairing the ship and negotiating re-supply, Halvarin and Amarwen bound themselves ever tighter together.
     
  9. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Nearly four weeks after they arrived in Edholland, trilling birdsong told Amarwen it was morning. It was a familiar sound, one that she had listened to for as long as she could recall. Then her eyes opened as she realised where she was. This was her bedroom. She was in her wide bed and beside her, propped up against pillows already, was Halvarin.


    ”This,” he observed as she rolled towards him, ”Is far more pleasant than the guest wing.”


    He sat at his ease, voice relaxed and calm.


    ”How long have you been awake?” she asked as she pushed herself upright.


    Halvarin smiled at the question and leaned in to kiss her before he answered, ”Long enough to scandalise the chamber maid.”


    Amarwen’s eyes flared immediately at that and she looked to the door as if she expected it to be broken down any moment by outraged retainers.


    ”These are your halls now, Ami. I doubt there is any who would question what you do within them. And I wasn’t serious about the chamber maid. No one has been to the door. I think they all know better than to try that, now.”


    She swatted at him for that but found herself smiling all the same. Amarwen shook her head at him, her loose hair shifting across her shoulders, and then leaned back against Halvarin. She pressed her ear against his bare chest and stilled, listening to his heart as her eyes wandered across the room. Despite the fact that she had been absent for so long, it had been maintained as if she might return at any moment. No patina of dust lay upon any surface she could see. There were no webs high in the corners of the roof and the floor and carpets were clean. Aside from where their clothing lay shed upon the floor.


    Until recently, Halvarin had never been permitted into the family wing much less her chambers. Mother and Father would never have stood for it for one moment. This had been her place and hers alone. It was here that Mother had tended to her when she was unwell. It was here that Father had read to her, or showed her his plans for a ship he was designing. Under this very bed she had hidden the books he had smuggled to her long after Mother had frowned on her pursuing her father’s craft.


    On a whim, Amarwen disentangled herself from Halvarin and then slid across him to peer over the side of the bed. She slid further forward again to look under it and sure enough, there they were. Several piles of books were there still.


    ”Not that I am complaining about the view,” Halvarin wryly said after a moment, ”But just what are you doing?”


    Her cheeks flushed as she plucked up the nearest book and then wriggled her way back onto the bed proper. Amarwen passed the book across to Halvarin and pushed back her hair into place as he studied the title. His brow furrowed and then he cracked it open.


    ”I thought so,” he said and lifted his gaze to hers, ”This book is from the Guild library in Minas Anor. I had to pay a hefty fine for its absence…despite assurances from your father that he had sent it back.”


    “Were those his exact words? Did he say he had returned it?”



    Halvarin’s frown deepened as he dredged his memory, ”He said he had sent it to its proper place.”


    Amarwen grinned, ”Just so happens that place is under my bed.”


    “What?”
    Halvarin squawked and then pushed past her to tumble out of the bed proper, ”There’s a good ten or so books here!”


    “I suppose you weren’t the only Guild student he was getting them from,”
    she observed.


    Halvarin rose from his crouch, baffled and all together distracting. He said something that Amarwen didn’t hear, her attention elsewhere until he plucked up a pillow and placed it in front of him.


    ”Oh,” she sighed, disappointed at the delicious view now obscured.


    ”I said, why would your father do this? You have a library! I’ve seen it myself. Downstairs, down in the-”


    “Yes, but I’d read them all…and whilst Mother was amenable to acquiring new titles, there were certain disciplines she did not want my interest further encouraged in.”


    “He smuggled them to you,”
    he surmised and Amarwen nodded.


    Halvarin sat on the bed beside her and picked up the book again. It was a treatise on the design of ocean faring ships over the years, from Numenor to roughly ten years ago. He flicked it open to see the notations he had made in the margins. Turning the pages, he stopped when he saw new notations. He read these and looked up to find Amarwen smiling.


    ”Well, your calculation was wrong,” she observed lifting her eyes from her correction to his eyes, ”And I am very sorry to hear about that fine. I shall repay you, of course, for that and everything else you have done.”


    He pressed a finger over her mouth, ”There is no debt. Not between us.”


    Distantly, Amarwen heard the book snap shut and fall to the floor as Halvarin’s mouth found hers. They fell back across the bed together, limbs already entwining. Halvarin groaned, feeling himself stiffen. He slipped a hand over her skin to reach down. She was swollen and slick with need. Then came a crisp, frustratingly inconvenient knock at the door.


    They both froze and the knock sounded again. Scrambling apart, Halvarin dove for the wardrobe with a hurried oath and threw whatever first came to hand at Amarwen. She stared at it, puzzled, but he shot her a warning glance before he sealed himself within. Amarwen struggled into what was a great cloak, pulling the front together as she tried to push back her rumpled hair into something approximating order. Catching her reflection a mirror as she went for the door, Amarwen froze in dismay. There was no way she looked even remotely prepared to answer the door and yet the knock came a third time. Harder and impatient. A final wrestle with her hair only meant the great cloak sagged open revealing, well, everything. Squeaking in dismay, Amarwen wrenched it closed again and pulled the door open to scowl out into the corridor.


    Silares had his hand raised to knock a fourth time and he blinked at her rumpled, flushed appearances.


    ”I presume he is within?’ the Captain said without disassembly, looking past Amarwen to the bedroom over her shoulder.


    Amarwen opened her mouth to answer as Silares’ shook his head, ”I can see his boots from here…niece.”


    “And what of it?”
    she inquired, peevish in her squirming embarrassment.


    ”Tidings from Pelargir. Halvarin is to report to Lord Hurian on the double,” Silares said, returning his eyes to her again, ”Perhaps it is best he does not do so alone.”


    Before she could inquire why, Silares had turned on his heel and strode off. Puzzled, Amarwen closed her door with a soft click of the latch as Halvarin poked his head out from her wardrobe.


    ”Trouble?” he asked as she turned about, frowning.


    ”We are to report to Hurian’s study immediately,” she said softly.


    ”Says who?”


    “Your captain,”
    Amarwen answered and Halvarin straightened with alacrity.


    ”Then so it shall be,” he replied, all hesitation gone from him.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2017
  10. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Well within the hour they reported to Hurian’s study. Within they found the current Lord and Lady of Edholland along with Silares. All expressions were solemn, a fact they both noted with an exchanged gaze. The tension in the study was as thick as clotted cream.


    ”What is it?’ Amarwen asked as she came forward, ”Have we been betrayed?”


    “This matter concerns Halvarin,”
    Silares said and she blinked before she turned to allow Halvarin pass ahead of her.


    Amarwen followed, close at his shoulder as Halvarin took up position before Hurian’s desk. He spread his feet as if he stood a rolling, bucking deck.


    ”Perhaps this is best said whilst you are seated,” Hurian observed, Thera coming to stand by her husband’s shoulder.


    Amarwen watched her hand fall to Hurian’s shoulder and lightly squeeze. Encouragement and comfort. Succour. What was unfolding, she wondered as Halvarin squared his own shoulders.


    ”I would prefer to stand, my lord, if it is all the same to you.”


    Hurian inclined his head and drew a deep breath, steeling himself. In this time, the worst had occurred to Amarwen. Guild operatives had set upon them in Umbar, marking them together for the first time. Had Halvarin been declared a traitor? Was a price upon his head? Were they hunting for him even now?


    Her hand sought his to wind tightly about it and his fingers, strong, gave her own a light squeeze as Hurian spoke.


    ”Tidings from Pelargir arrived this morning. There was an assassination some weeks ago. I regret to say that your father, along with the Master Navigator, were slain in the street.”


    A chill swept through Amarwen at the words, taking with it all the colour of her face. Halvarin rocked on his heels, as if buffeting a physical blow.


    ”I am sorry,” Silares said into the gaping silence.


    Halvarin head bowed and his hand fell from Amarwen’s. She considered reaching for it again. She considered wrapping her arms around him and holding him close. She considered asking Hurian how it was they knew these tidings to be true and not some calculated ruse. But before she could do any of that Halvarin shifted and turned slightly towards her.


    ”Did you know? Was this your doing?” he asked in a low, strained voice curling with pain.


    Amarwen shook her head, anguished, ”Upon my honour, my love, I thought your father was in Umbar still.”


    He eyed her solemnly for a moment and then turned back to Hurian, ”How is it that these tidings have been verified?”


    At that Hurian pulled up the parchment itself and turned it about for inspection. The seals, of Gondor and the Mariner’s Guild both, were impeccable. She scanned it as did Halvarin and then, with a low sound from deep in his throat, Halvarin turned and quit the study.


    Startled and worried, Amarwen made to go after him but Silares checked her.


    He shook his head at her, ”Give him time, lass.”


    Stung, Amarwen shook his hand from her arm, ”I had nothing to do with this! Nothing!”


    “Vengeance burns hot and deep even in the most innocent of souls,”
    Hurian said and she whipped about, furious now.


    ”Nothing” she spat, seething, ”Could impel me to bring the very sorrow I know only too well to the man I love above all else!”


    Hurian’s eyes widened at her fury and when Amarwen made to go after Halvarin again no one stood in her way. She went first to her chambers only he was not there. Nor was he in his own chambers in the guest wing. She combed the gardens next and then the grove of willow down by the river. Still no sign of Halvarin. Returning to the gardens, Amarwen began to call his name but her voice only echoed back at her. She ran up to the place her mother had been buried but he was not there either and a sudden fear gripped her that he had, disgusted and anguished, quit Edholland. And then she saw him, nearly frantic by now, a lonely figure down on the shore far below.
     
  11. Elora

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    Amarwen scrambled down the steep slope, slipping and sliding heedless of the way her hands were scuffed and rubbed raw by the rapidly passing dirt and stones. She landed heavily with a grunt, picked herself up from the thick sand she fell into and laboured through to where Halvarin wandered along the waterline.


    She screamed his name but the morning onshore breeze threw it useless back in her face. Amarwen struggled closer, pushing through the thick, heavy sand towards him. She screamed his name again and this time Halvarin must have caught something of her presence for he turned about towards her. Despite this, he remained where he was, unmoving and so she pushed onwards until she gained the firmer, wetter sand upon which he stood. Her lungs were burning for air such had been her desperation and haste and the wind whipped her hair towards the steep cliffs she had all but tumbled down.


    ”Why are you here?’ he asked, expression unreadable and the wind making his words reach her easily, ”You hated my father.”


    Difficult as his face was to read, his voice broke her heart and she did not keep that from her face.


    ”I hated what he did,” she said and he shook his head at her.


    ”Do not cozen me with half truths,” he replied and stepped back sharply as she made to close the gap between them.


    Amarwen lifted her hand towards him, reaching and then stared at it. Slowly, it returned to her side and she looked out to the waves. The tide was still retracting into the bay, yet to reach its nadir before swelling back to shore for the afternoon. When she looked again to Halvarin he too was gazing at the horizon, his expression forlorn and lost. She ached to take him into her arms but did not yet dare to.


    ”You would have the truth?” she asked and he closed his eyes, sighed and then nodded.


    Amarwen bowed her head and studied the shore. Small, rounded pebbles were drying in the sun and she could see half buried shells peeking up from the sand. She drew a deep breath and tried to centre her thoughts.


    ”I do not sorrow for your father’s death but nor am I glad for it. If I sorrow at anything, then it is the anguish and pain you now feel,” she looked up to find his eyes resting upon her, ”For I know what it is to grieve such a loss. I know too well…and I would sooner die myself than wish that upon you, my darling.”


    Halvarin stared at her, his eyes of grey and blue as intense and focused as a storm. If he did not believe her, then all they had together would be lost. She knew that and it made her stomach churn with fear. And then, with a wild sound, he stumbled forwards into her arms and she wrapped them tightly around him. Amarwen drew him close, squeezing him against her. His face was buried in the place her neck met with her shoulders and he was shaking. And still she held him to her, stroking his back and shoulders as grief coursed through the man she loved.
     
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  12. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    1441 – Edhellond’s shore ~ Autumn



    Holding to Amarwen, torn between being bitter and relieved she was there, Halvarin slowly felt the swirling torrent of burning pain reduce. Yes, Merece was Eldacar’s leader of Gondor's rebellion, but with the growing discontent with Castamir’s rule, other splinter groups outside the known resistance were beginning to gain strength. He remembered that being the case in the north in Osgiliath and Minas Anor. As much as the resistance wished to have a united front against Castamir, the rogue elements were becoming increasingly bold and he knew it was not fair to hold her to blame for this.


    Finally he pulled back, lifted his head to meet Amarwen’s tearful, wide eyes. She was deeply injured, he saw, by a fear he had set within her.


    Halvarin cupped her face within his hands, holding it before his eyes, ”I do not blame you Ami and I sorrow at my unkind words. I love you and hope you might forgive my harshness. I am torn in many directions right now.”


    He drew a shaking breath, ”I loved Father and yet I also loathed him. I do not think my feelings for my father are like those you have for your mother.”


    Halvarin kissed her cheek before turning to watch the sea as the waves pushed at their feet. He felt her arm wind around him, pulling him against her hip. His father was dead and the numbness he felt seemed to have blunted his feelings. He should be sad and angry about this. His father had been the central fixture in his life. All the years through the schooling, Halvarin wanted to be just like him. But Halvarin found himself thinking of his mother.


    His arm wrapped around her, pulling Amarwen close. ”I barely knew my mother, but now, at this time, I find myself thinking of her.”


    “Will you tell me of your mother? Of what you remember? I do not remember her at all,“
    Amarwen answered and Halvarin slid his hand from her hip and up her back.


    He looked to where she stood beside him, , ”I am glad you are here with me now, my love. And yes… I will talk of my mother, and of my father.”


    He turned to look out over the waters that cast small whitecaps as he remembered back as far as he could. After a few moments of silence but for the rhythm of the breaking waves, he started to speak.


    ”I think I was five. That is my last memory of Mother. She had fallen ill with a fever a few weeks after my father returned from a voyage away south. I remember seeing her laying there in bed, her dark hair all combed and shining. I remember her hair, for I must have snuggled in it a lot when I was little.”


    At this Halvarin paused to consider Amarwen’s dark hair whipping back, unbound and free. He took Amarwen’s hand into his and kissed it before looking out to sea again.


    ”Father did not want me to see her there that day, for he feared that his only child would fall ill just as Mother had. But he was called away by his Captain for a time, and I slipped in and climbed onto the bed with her. She opened her eyes and smiled at me when I jostled her and she put her arm around me and held my hand. I hugged her, for I had missed her so, and she ran her fingers through my hair as I started to cry. I knew my mother was going to die, and as much I wanted to somehow prevent it, she reassured me that all would be well. She died later that day.”


    Halvarin unknowingly had let go of Amarwen’s hand, and he held her waist and patted her softly.


    ”Father was solemn for some weeks and I did not see him much. He blamed himself for bringing back some malaise from Far Harad, I now think. It was a few weeks after her death that he took time to be with me. We spent most of the day together and he told me the story of this voyage.”


    Halvarin sighed at that dark time, taking pause before he continued on, ”He became grim, and to this very day, I do not believe he ever forgave himself for Mother’s death. Later, when in the Guild school, I researched that voyage and found the Captain’s logs in the archives. I should not bore you with talk of the man who had been responsible for the death of your mother. I am sorry Ami.”


    “No Halvarin, I wish to know. For were it not for that man and that woman, you would not be standing beside me now. Tell me what you found of that voyage?”



    Halvarin turned to Amarwen and said, ”I will tell of it, love, for in a way it is part of my grieving. I had not properly grieved for my mother, and my father’s grief drew him deeply within himself, a strong wall around him. He was ever so…distant with me after Mother died.”


    He brushed a lock of Amarwen’s hair from her face and smiled sadly. Despite with the pain of his father’s death, he felt her love wrapping around him even now and so he kissed her, soft and tenderly.


    “Will you walk with me, Ami? “
     
  13. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Amarwen gave him a gentle smile and she took his arm, tucking his hand against her in the crook of her elbow, as they set off down the wet sand. Their footprints marked their passage, glistening. In that moment, Amarwen lit Halvarin’s world and though so much rushed through his mind, she was as to him his anchor and safe harbour. woman he would marry and he wished to do it as soon as they might. He broke their silence, though, with other thoughts.


    ”Father was an Executive Officer then, and the script in the log was in his hand. Each entry was initialled by the captain and some entries had additions added in the captain’s rough script. On this voyage they had sailed far down the coast of Far Harad to where the land started to curve to the southeast. I have not gone so far on my voyages yet.”


    A quick glance to Amarwen confirmed she was listening intently and so Halvarin continued his account, ”In the Guild, there were rumours of old that a great inland sea lingered far to the east, and to sail there one had to venture quite far to the south to round a cape. None had been so bold to try this voyage after three expeditions that launched from Umbar hundreds of years ago never returned. No sign of had ever been found of them south along the Haradian coast, but on this voyage, the Captain pushed them to their limits, going farther south than any who had returned before.”


    Halvarin glanced back to see their prints lazily claimed by a wave of the sea. He went on speaking, for he had read and memorized this log, and logs of other voyages that his father had been on.


    ”Where the coast turned eastward, they were forced to put ashore at a great sandy beach that reached out from the thick dark green of tall hardwood trees and thick low vegetation. The air was hot and humid and changed little from day to night; except for the savage rays of the sun did not bear down on them in the morning and the torrential rains did not fall on them in the afternoons.


    “The nights brought swarms of midges and flies thirsty for a man’s blood. After several days of the rains and with clever use of some of the broad leaves of a species of ground vegetation, enough water was collected to make the return journey possible. For food, they had collected a strange stonefruit they had found. When a hearty sailor volunteered to try eating it, and he did not fall over dead or get sick, was it deemed safe enough for the men. They dug up several small plants of this to take back to Umbar for the scholars to study and attempt to propagate.”



    Halvarin paused, withdrawing into thought. After a time, Amarwen rubbed his arm and prompted him with a question.


    ”And what of your father’s return him to you and your mother?”


    Halvarin nodded, ”On the return voyage, several of the crew, including the Navigator, fell ill with fever. But they could not trace the cause back to the fruit, or the water. One man got sick while the next man did not. Some became very ill while others only showed slight fever. When they arrived in Umbar, Father had the sweats and chills both and he believed that this is why Mother fell ill for that occurred not long after his return.”


    “And was it?”
    Amarwen asked, fascinated.


    He went quiet and watched their feet as they stepped.


    Pausing, he turned to Amarwen and took both her hands into his, ”The men were studied, and also some of the midges that had come north on the ship. It was found that some of the midges carried a fever that the spread through their bites. Some men are more resistant to it, others less so. And the number of bites would vary, so the sickness was not uniform across all the crew aboard on the ship. As for Mother, her fever was caused by something else. She would have died whether Father returned or not.”


    Halvarin shrugged, not sure where his thoughts were taking him. He looked at Amarwen and embraced her even as a wave pushed past their feet. The tide was turning but he was not yet inclined to move. He gazed deeply into her deep grey eyes.


    ”My dear love, this day is the first among the many days of our lives. I wish to marry you as soon as we can and I would like you to accompany me to Pelargir as my wife.”


    Amarwen’s eyes widened at that but Halvarin was not to be discouraged, ”There is much for me to do there, with my father’s estate to settle and the Guild convocations that must surely follow. I must, of course, appear and I would not be parted from you, Ami. Not for all the world.”


    ”Pelargir is the seat of Castamir’s power in Gondor,” Amarwen observed quietly and Halvarin nodded.


    ”And Umbar is more perilous still, yet you ventured there,” he countered, ”This…this is a change to embed ourselves within the heart of the Guild. From there we can seek out any who are not ardent supporters of the usurper.”


    “If you were discovered,”
    Amarwen persisted, ”They would be ruthless, Halvarin. Me they expect to betray them but you…”


    “I know it will be dangerous. Not least because those that slew my father and my mentor, Chief Navigator Damius, might well look to take me next. But still, it is what must be done, Ami. We must sieze this and turn it to our favour. Come, there us much to do. Let us return to your Halls!”



    Halvarin paused as he listened to himself. He was like his father, wanting to turn ill news and grief into drive and victory. Somehow, this nauseated Halvarin as he considered the thought. He looked at Amarwen, beautifully aglow in the morning light and sighed. From the time he was five and his mother died, Halvarin had worked to live up to his father’s expectations. It was only when the events in Edholland that had cracked this fortress he had been in, and as those foundations had weakened and crumbled before him, Halvarin struggled with the thought of having to face his father as one of the Eldacarian resistance. That day would now never come, and he was his own man now. In some ways, then, he felt truly adrift. Like a sail that had been cut free of the mast.


    There was nobody now to live up to, aside from the woman who stood with him before he waves. With Amarwen as his wife, what might he not achieve? Together, they could strive to bring down the brutal usurper and return the king to his rightful throne. They could unite Gondor once more. They would have to be discrete and careful, yes, for the road ahead of them was narrow and riven with peril. If they should but slip…still, if they should not… Halvarin pulled Amarwen to him hard and kissed her passionately. Momentarily surprised, he felt her soon unwind. Her body was so soft against his own and yet beneath that was a strength few could rival.


    ”Come,” he said, brow pressed to her own and her taste thick on his lips, ”We have a wedding to plan.”
     
  14. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    1441 – Edhellond, Autumn



    ”So soon,” Lady Thera exclaimed, surprised and somewhat taken aback.


    Thera drew closer to whisper in Amarwen’s ear, ”And at such a time as this?”


    Amarwen nodded, for she understood exactly what Thera referred to. A wedding overshadowed by such a loss. Still, it was what Halvarin wanted and how could she refuse him at such a time.


    ”It is what he wishes,” Amarwen replied and Thera paused, studying her.


    ”And you?’ she asked gently, ”What is it that you want?”


    “I want the man I love to find a way to heal. I want to see him smile. I wish to return him some joy.”


    “A beacon upon the shore, as it were,”
    Thera said and Amarwen nodded.


    ”That, yes, and more still.”


    “Very well, let it be so.”


    “It must be small, though,”
    Amarwen insisted, ”No elaborate ceremonies.”


    Thera’s brows shot up, ”Are you certain? Such a day comes but once, Amarwen.”


    “I come to this not as Amarwen of Edholland. A fuss would appear unseemly to Silares’ crew.”


    “Once done, it cannot be done again,”
    Thera warned and Amarwen nodded.


    ”I know. But this is a time of war and grief. We all must make sacrifices and this, compared to those made by too many others, is but a small thing.”


    And so it came to be. Amarwen of Edholland wed Halvarin of Pelargir in a small ceremony presided over by Lord Hurian and attended by Captain Silares and those retainers who had taken service under her mother’s rule over Edhellond. For all its lack of pomp and ceremony, crowds and cheering well wishers, it was all the more precious. For it was theirs and theirs alone. With vows of enduring fidelity, love and honour, they were joined as man and woman and the celebration rang on long into the evening, well past the time the groom and bride retired for the night.


    And, despite the emotional barrage she knew Halvarin to be enduring, not once did he falter nor hesitate. He stood straight and tall, unbowed and undiminished by the sorrow that lapped at all sides around him. She was so very proud of him. As it so happened, on the eve of their wedding a great storm rolled into the Bay of Belfas and pushed ashore. There was no rain in it and little wind, but the roiling and billowing clouds were illuminated by great snakes of brilliant lightening. Ever now and again, great cracks of rumbling thunder broke through the celebrations below.


    Amarwen was curled against Halvarin upon her balcony. The roof was sufficiently deep to protect them from the raw power of the storm. Pressed together in the evening warmth, they watched the display offered in the clouds. From time to time the lightening was so powerful it illuminated Edhellond and the bay below. Both were reluctant to speak and break the spell of that moment and yet, as the storm drew on tension mounted between them. Halvarin’s fingers plunged, stroked and wound through her hair, finger tips brushing the sensitive skin at the back of her neck. Each touch made her skin pebble and she shifted against him.


    ”You did me a great honour this day, Halvarin,” she murmured, touching her lips to his neck.


    He pressed her to him, hand shifting to encircle her and fingers now sliding down her flank, pausing over sweeps and curves.


    ”Did I now? he murmured, bringing his lips to hers to drink deeply.


    A crack of thunder rolled by hard on the heels of a snaking strike of lightening and yet it felt as nothing compared to this.


    ”Yes,” Amarwen returned as his fingers swept up again, her voice hoarse now.


    ”Say it,” he whispered, kissing her again, ”I want to hear you say it.”


    “Yes, husband,”
    she answered and he kissed her again, so fierce as to ignite a fire in her belly.


    ”I love you, Halvarin,” she added when she could and he nipped her lips before he pushed her head aside and nibbled on her earlobe.


    ”And I you, wife,” he whispered and she shivered at the need she heard in his voice.
     
  15. Elora

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    A week after their wedding they set forth for Pelargir and in that time, Halvarin had his duties to see to and Amarwen hers.


    Convincing Silares to lend them aid proved complex. Round and round they debated it, Silares questioning every last thing about her intentions. Despairing of meeting an arrangement, Amarwen resorted to any means she might use to manipulate Silares. His sense of remorse over her father’s fate proved a keen weapon indeed.


    Thus it came to be that Silares set down his cutlery at their evening meal and met her gaze squarely.


    ”Very well, your Grace, what would you ask of me?” he asked, eyeing her solemnly, ”I have seen you plucked safely from Umbar and even now I deliver you with your husband to Pelargir. I saw quite enough of our people’s blood split the last time!”


    “And I do not ask you to spill it again, Captain,”
    Amarwen pressed, looking across the table to where Halvarin sat.


    Caught between his captain and his new bride, she did not expect him to speak at all and yet he did.


    ”It is worth hearing, Captain.”


    “Aye?”
    Silares questioned, eyes narrowing and shifting back to her, ”Then speak plainly.”


    Amarwen did, for a short time of focused effort, selecting her words with care. Too aggressive and Silares would rebuff her. Too passive and he would balk at concerns over cowardice.


    When she was done, the captain was quiet as he weighed her words.


    ”You’ll speak for my men when the time comes?” he pressed and she nodded.


    ”The king will know of the aid rendered to his cousin in her time of need, Silares.”


    He shifted in his chair at that and toyed with what remained of the smoked, succulent trout upon his plate.


    ”I am but one ship,” he observed after a while, ”And you hardly achieve much by pushing us beyond the coming battle.”


    “Just the one, yes,”
    Amarwen answered carefully, ”But a Captain of your stature will know who is of a similar mind as you.”


    “Even if that’s half the Guild, which it isn’t, it won’t be enough.”


    “I know,”
    Amarwen returned, leaning back in her chair, ”But as my father would say, one thing at a time, eh?”


    “I will consider it,”
    Silares said and that was that. She could press no further.


    Back in their cabin later that evening, Amarwen pushed a comb through her hair ready to braid it for the night. Her thoughts were elsewhere, drifting over the various options she could use to organise the splinter cells that seemed to have profligated in her absence. The sound of voices beyond the door returned her attention to her surrounds and Halvarin soon pushed through, grinning at some exchange she had missed.


    ”What’s so funny?” she asked as he came through the door and Halvarin flushed at the question.


    He cleared his throat as he closed the door behind him and then came towards where she sat, ”Here, let me do that.”


    It was a diversion, of course, and Amarwen did not need to wonder overly long as to why Halvarin needed one. Sailors had a particular brand of humour and their Executive Officer was a newly wedded man. She surrendered the comb to him without further comment and he soon set to work. There were, she had discovered of late, few pleasures as wonderful as when Halvarin brushed her hair. Amarwen closed her eyes and surrendered herself to the even, steady strokes.


    After a time, eyes still closed, she asked, ”Do you think he will assent?”


    “Silares?”
    Halvarin inquired, ”Hard to say, my love. Until Umbar, I had him marked as a man loyal to Castamir.”


    “He’s certainly not a rabid Eldacar adherent,”
    Amarwen observed, opening her eyes to meet Halvarin’s in the mirror.


    ”No,” he agreed, lifting his grey and blue eyes from her hair to her reflection, ”More of a pragmatist, I think. He wants peace and stability.”


    “But he is trustworthy?”



    Halvarin nodded, ”I believe so, Ami.”


    Amarwen lifted her hand to his and wound her fingers through Halvarin’s, ”Then I must trust he sees reason.”


    But if Silares saw reason, he did not say so during the remainder of the voyage to Pelargir and so, as they prepared to dock, Amarwen had no idea what to expect. Would Silares turn on them? Would a splinter group of hardline rebels kill her husband? Would she be recognised here in the seat of Castamir’s power. Her mother and father had refused to bring her to this place, citing it as wild and unpredictable. She knew little of it, save the name of a few people that had come to her attention over the years. No way of knowing if they were alive still. Beregon had said he’d send word of her arrival to his contacts and that they would seek her out. Provided she kept out of the Guild’s campus in Pelargir and none of her father’s peers sought Halvarin out at his home, she should be relatively secure. More so than Umbar, certainly.


    A cry from above decks told her that the lines had been secured. Pelargir was a deep water port and the ship could, as a result, dock against its pier. Halvarin was soon within the cabin, searching her face.


    ”Ready, my darling wife?” he asked, excitement at being able to show her his childhood home winning through his Executive Officer’s reserve.


    Amarwen smiled for him and nodded, ”Of course, my love.”


    Still, her stomach churned as she followed him deck side to disembark.
     
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  16. Elora

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    Pelargir - Autumn 1441


    Disembarking in Pelargir felt surreal to Halvarin for not only was the only woman he had loved aside from his mother by his side, he did not have to consider what he might say to his father. No more would he find himself called to give account of his deeds. Explaining Amarwen was also a bitter draught avoided. But for all of that, introducing Amarwen as Mistress Marece to those that waited for them felt jarring. For her part, Amarwen smiled effortlessly as if Marece had always been her name and nothing else. Still Halvarin held fast to the hope that a day would come when he could declare her who and what she really was: Lady Amarwen of Edholland, descendant of King Hyardemacil.

    For now, there was a war to contend with and there much to do. Steeling himself with the same stoicism he perceived in his wife, he gave each who had gathered to greet him upon the docks with a steady nod and strode with Amarwen to the Guild House in Pelargir. Had her hand not trembled where it was tucked into his arm, he would never have known her to be nervous. He paused in the threshold to lift that hand to his lips but Amarwen was preoccupied, studying the thickness of the Guild House walls.

    ”Reinforced,” she observed quietly as his lips brushed her knuckles.

    ”Assuredly,” Halvarin answered as he tucked her hand into his elbow again and pressed forward. Trust his wife to be considering how the level the building they stood in around their very ears.

    The condolences of those within felt like a physical weight being set upon his shoulders. They were thick and heavy and Halvarin felt himself bow as they mounted over his head. He introduced his new wife again and again and most offered a polite greeting for her. However two remained somewhat aloof and sceptical. Halvarin marked their faces, suspecting the men knew Silares’ only niece had died as an infant.


    Trouble would follow if they pressed their inquiry. It would be wise to have them removed, so as to eliminate the risk they posed to the woman at his side. But it was also too early to press such tactics. Another assassination so quickly on the heels of the one that had claimed his father would intensify efforts to locate the partisans and in their discussions as they approached port, Amarwen had been clear. She wanted the assassinations to halt until she could restore order over the chaos the rebellion appeared to have fallen into. No matter, Halvarin thought to himself, he would remember who they are.


    The greetings and introductions done, Halvarin was soon seated with his bride at the table for a generous repast. If there was anything that Halvarin could have wished for, it was that Amarwen sat across from him so he could study her beauty at his leisure and admire her dress. She had chosen Guild colours today, notably that of the Navigator’s chapter. An artful choice even if she might find them personally repellent. Much as a soldier selected his armour and weapons for the battle ahead, so did he think Amarwen considered her own wardrobe.


    However, instead of being across the board Amarwen was seated at his elbow with her putative uncle, Captain Silares on the other side. Consequently, Halvarin’s hand returned repeatedly to her leg, creeping ever higher and sloping inward. If Amarwen noticed any of this under the table, her demeanour above it was serene. She smiled at all the right places, laughed politely and never too long, and not once did she question whatever was said around her.
     
  17. Elora

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    Mischevious as it was, Halvarin was somewhat discouraged by her lack of obvious response. She did not so much as flutter an eyelash out of order but when he made to remove his hand she smoothly grasped his wrist as if she were adjusting the napkin he had already dislodged to the floor. As she offered some smooth observation calculated to draw her current conversational partner into another lengthy diatribe, Amarwen drove his hand back into the place he had abandoned and held it there. Across the table, flattered at the attention such a young and beautiful woman plied the old sea dog with, her conversational partner set about on a discourse about why the records of tides were all, every last one of them, flawed. And then, only then, did Amarwen cast Halvarin a smile as she pushed at his hand. Then she cleared her throat, no doubt to cover some other utterance he might otherwise drive from her and lifted her wine to her lips.


    Their lunch was a fulsome one, featuring perfectly grilled fish that flaked succulently and shellfish baked in butter and spices to make the mouth water. Which his was already given what was underway under the table. Inevitably, though, their lunch passed and once that occurred a gathering of the Guild was called in the upper room. As much as he wished he could bring his wife with him, he knew such a thing would be impossible. The Guild held strong views about the role and place of women in their member’s lives. Theirs was to tend to shore and the hearth fire and raise the children, the next generation of Mariners. Never mind that Amarwen was as much a daughter of a Mariner as he was. Thus, reluctantly Halvarin bade Amarwen a good evening for it was likely that this meeting would stretch into the night.


    As he took his leave from her, he hoped she could do what she must with the time she now had. He had already urged to show restraint in seeking those responsible for his father and Master Damius’ assassination but Amarwen was a woman who knew her own mind. He had no way of knowing whether she would heed his counsel and so he had to trust to the wisdom he knew she possessed. She knew how preciously they were balanced here in Pelargir. One misstep, from either of them, would plunge them into ruin and sorrow.


    As Guild members assembled, Halvarin addressed the matters of his father’s estate. The legalities seemed endless, yet he knew it was all necessary. His father had been a wealthy man, and it emerged that he had interests in different businesses in many different places. Most of this was new to Halvarin but he soon apprehended that there were some interests he would want to keep just as they were for they were advantageous.


    He soon discerned that he would need a light touch at first to feel out the length and breadth of his father’s estate. Halvarin also perceived that he would need to reach each and every document he was asked to sign. For this was the only way to ensure it was he in control of the wealth and no other proxy or factor. When the last stack of parchment came to him, he read the first page. The barrister tried to get Halvarin to sign, but he paused as he read the second page.


    ”Just formalities?” Halvarin asked as he looked at the third page.


    The barrister nodded, ”Yes Master Halvarin.”


    He flippedto page four and five and after a brief look, set them down on the table, ”I understand, good sir, that you worked for my father for many years, yes?”


    The barrister nodded at this and Halvarin returned his attention to the document before pushing it towards his father’s servant.


    As he did so, he eyed the barrister sternly, ”And where does your service lie now that my father is dead?”


    “The Estate, Master,”
    the man replied.


    Halvarin nodded as he shuffled through the six pages again. He then picked up the parchments he had already signed and looked at the first one.


    This he held it out, ”I wish these two to be endorsed and sealed now.”


    “But Master, it would…”


    “Now!”
    Halvarin said with some force and the barrister swallowed before looked over to the senior Guildsmen watching on.


    The Master Captain, now acting head of the Guild, nodded before he approached to endorse the documents. The barrister also endorsed them and the three signatures were sealed. These Halvarin took to set on the corner of the table.


    ”I will take the keys as they have been released. The rest of these can also be endorsed and filed. The last I will hang onto for a while longer yet. It requires extensive review,” Halvarin declared, aware of who he wanted to read it before he set ink to the page, ”Now that I hold sole control of my father’s estate, it is now become my estate.”


    He studied the barrister who was attending all of this closely, “You, good sir, now work for me. Have word sent to all of the estate’s advisors and factors. I am sure you know who they are. I wish to meet with them at my house later this evening. And bid them to bring with them their current contracts.”


    “Of course, Master Halvarin,”
    the barrister intoned, bowing.


    ”You also, good sir. You also,” Halvarin pressed, at which the man swallowed before nodding.
     
  18. Elora

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    At that Halvarin dismissed the man and collected up the documents he had retained. Watching all of this was the Master Captain, who nodded thoughtfully at Halvarin once this was done.


    ”We now must attend to Guild business,” the man declared, ”With the merciless slaying of your esteemed father and the Master Navigator, it is incumbent upon us to recommend members to both the Guild Master and Master Navigator positions. These position can not be left vacant overlong, for both play a vital role in assuring the advice and direction of our liege’s naval stratagems.”


    Halvarin nodded, aware that each position reported not just to the Guild but the court itself.


    ”The recommendations by each Guild House will be put forth, and each will vote on the appointments. Let us begin,” the acting Master Captain declared, calling the meeting to order.


    Halvarin sat silent when his name was presented for Master Navigator. Surprising as this was, his nomination was seconded and a verbal vote affirmed him as the Pelargir Guild Chapter’s nominee. The Master Captain was put up as Guild Master and seconded soon thereafter. Halvarin put Captain Silares’s up for consideration, which was custom for any who still served on a ship as second in command. As he did so, he thought it unlikely that he would be determined Master Navigator. His time ashore, or ‘in port” at Osgiliath numbered two years. Still , the Guild Chapter of Osgiliath was now long abandoned following the city’s sack and downfall, and the Chapter in Minas Anor had few members remaining. The power, therefore, rested in the Chapters of Pelargir, Dol Amroth, and Umbar, with Umbar the strongest and where Castamir based himself from in the south.


    With business matters seen to, Halvarin excused himself and left to return to his family home. This was the house he had grown up in and when he arrived, the caretaker household that had remained in the wake of his father’s death stood in line to offer condolences and their resignations both as was custom. Halvarin accepted them all, and then promptly handed them back. The house and grounds were well cared for and he had no wish to review any of the immediate retainers just yet.


    He gave instruction to have a banquet set for his meeting with all the representatives of his business concerns that night, and whilst his staff set off to make arrangement at such short notice, Halvarin went to the study. He studied the books on the shelves and the charts on the walls and the portrait of his father and mother when they were married. He then sat in the chair and looked over the desk. He looked to the door way where he had peeked at his father whilst he worked and then set down all the papers he had brought with him from the Guildhouse on the desk that had, until now, been his father’s.


    Halvarin sat back in silence for a time as he figeted with the heavy iron keys. There was so much to do, starting with the relieving of the barrister and likely most of his father’s chief advisors after they give him their reports. He opened the safe that was behind three large volumes of historical studies of voyages, and secured his papers before walking out of the study in search of Amarwen. His purpose in this was twofold. Firstly, he ached for the simple comfort of her embrace. Also, he wanted her with him when he reviewed his concerns for Amarwen had been educated in the business of trade and politics both for Edhellond. Certainly, he considered well versed in whatever was required for his father’s estate.


    On his way to locate her, Halvarin found his way to the stately banquet room where the table was already being readied. There was a serving girl setting out glasses that gleamed, freshly polished. She edged back from her task and offered Halvarin a nervous curtsy. This he returned with an approving nod, producing a swift smile from the girl before she ducked her eyes. Halvarin then headed for the door, wondering what Amarwen had been up since he had seen her last.
     
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  19. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Pelargir - Autumn 1441


    At the sound of the door creaking open, Amarwen lifted her head and saw that this time it was Halvarin instead of the seneschal or chamberlain asking to see if they wanted still more iced orange tea. Without so much as a word, she raced towards him and wrapped her arms around Halvarin.

    ”What are you doing in here?” he asked once they had disentangled again.

    At this Silares grimaced, ”Unavoidable, I’m afraid. The household staff were only doing what they perceived as their duty.“

    Halvarin’s gaze bounced from Silares to the other man in the room, a silver haired, shaggy giant whose skin was bronzed and weathered. His face was only vaguely familiar and Halvarin frowned at this before he returned his attention to Amarwen. He found her staring at her feet, fidgeting with her skirts.

    ”Really, Hal, it’s not so very bad. I mean, they could have left us in the street,” she said.

    Halvarin reached out a hand to lift her eyes to his, gentle pressure under Amarwen’s chin, ”How long have you been waiting here in the ante-chamber?”

    “Not very long.”


    He arched a brow at her answer, recognising it for what it was.

    The other man stepped forward to declare, ”My niece is too kind. We’ve been here for hours.”

    Amarwen jerked her chin from his fingers and wheeled about, ”And what were they supposed to do, Carlin? They did not refuse us entry and suitably accommodated our undeclared arrival until the Master of this house returned. We could have left at any time and sought alternative arrangements. Any time!”

    The man she named as Carlin quirked a grey brow at Halvarin, ”Alternative arrangements. Do you hear what your bride says, lad?”

    Silares cleared his throat uncomfortably and Amarwen uttered an infuriated oath, her displeasure showing even as he turned her back to him. Her grey eyes snapped like the storm of their wedding night.

    ”Hours, Ami?” Halvarin asked gently and she pressed out an angry sigh as she gestured at a number of glasses that had accumulated over that time.

    ”We have wanted for nothing,” she assured him and then scowled over her shoulder, ”And my uncle has the disposition of a bear with a sore tooth. He is not your best guide.”

    “This from the girl that used to sit on my knee and laugh so hard at the faces I pulled that she cried,”
    Carlin informed Silares.

    Amarwen pressed out another breath, ”And he’s not happy about the fact that we wed without him.”

    “Oh, there’s a lot I’m not happy about. Let’s start at the beginning. What are you going to do to protect my only remaining blood?”


    Halvarin considered the man for a moment before asking Amarwen, ”I take it that this man is indeed your uncle?”

    Amarwen nodded at the question, ”My father’s elder brother.”

    He pressed out a sigh at this, gathered his thoughts and then moved past Amarwen towards Carlin.

    ”Your brother’s daughter is my rock. My anchor. My safe harbour. She is my sun, moon and stars. There is nothing I would not do to defend, honour and love her, for the rest of my days.”

    Carlin crossed his arms over his expansive chest and eyed Halvarin’s outstretched hand for a long moment before he considered Silares.

    ”Were it not for your current captain, lad, I’d have snapped you in twain.”

    “Uncle Bear!”
    Amarwen cried, appalled, at which Carlin lifted his eyes to the ceiling and unfolded his arms.

    ”And were it not for that woman behind you, I’d do it even now. But she says she loves you. She says she trusts you. Mark my words, boy, she best not be mistaken,” Carlin clasped Halvarin’s forearm with a grip that could, he was sure, crush a pirate’s skull.

    The matter, for now at least, put to rest Halvarin extricated himself and turned back to Amarwen.

    ”Come, my love, allow me to show your new home,” he said, holding out an arm that she rushed to and claimed.
     
  20. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    Silares and Carlin following them out of the ante-chamber, Halvarin took her throughout his home, telling her small stories of his memories about this and that. At every chance, he introduced her to his staff and retainers until he found himself declaring her his wife to all assembled in the kitchen.

    ”You are to consider her voice and mine as one,” he said, turning towards her to lift her knuckles to his lips, ”As I am your Master, my wife is your Mistress and I will not stand for anything less than fidelity and respect.”

    In that moment, Amarwen could not imagine her heart being fuller than it was right now. With so many demands upon him and no telling what his afternoon at the Guild House had entailed, he was so valiantly working to make this place, his home, hers. Amarwen threw a triumphant glance back to where her uncle watched on from the door, assessing all he saw. If he harboured any doubts about Halvarin, surely they had been put to rest now. His eyes met hers for a moment, he inclined his head, and pulled back. That, right there, was an admission that her choice in Halvarin had been the right one.

    ”Now, where are my wife’s belongings? We have a dinner to attend!” Halvarin declared, lifting her hand in his aloft.

    ”Already being moved to your chambers, Master,” his seneschal assured him, a diffident glance to Amarwen.

    ”Excellent,” Halvarin declared and whisked her off without further delay.

    Just as the elderly retainer had said, the one chest she had brought with her rested at the foot of a very large, very wide bed. Amarwen studied it as Halvarin secured the door behind her.

    ”That’s your bed?” she asked, astonished.

    Halvarin grinned as he nodded, ”Why, bigger than yours?”

    “By several yards,”
    she exclaimed, drawing nearer.

    ”Would that we had time for me to introduce you to it properly,” Halvarin lamented and Amarwen turned back to him.

    ”There is a dinner this evening?” she asked and he nodded, grimacing.

    ”I have asked all of my father’s advisors and factors to join me. His lead advisors and barristers will, I think, all require dismissal once their reports are to hand.”

    Amarwen hesitated at that, ”All of them at the same time?”

    Halvarin canted his head to the side and so she continued, ”It is akin to striking the head from a beast. How then will the beast’s limbs know what best to do next?”

    “They are my father’s creatures, Ami.”


    She nodded at that, thinking as she came forward to cup a hand to Halvarin’s cheek, ”And for the nonce they underestimate you as his son and heir. That can be used, Hal.”

    “Rather like your uncle?”
    he asked as he kissed the tip of her nose.

    Amarwen sighed at the question, ”Carlin…well, we all called him Bear for good reason. He means well, even if his technique-“

    “Includes mauling friend and foes alike?”

    “Leaves something to be desired,”
    she amended, ”He is bloody minded when it comes to his kin. No reasoning with him there, I am afraid.”

    “And so, the fact that he did not snap me in twain?”

    “A very encouraging sign, Hal,”
    she said, smiling as she reached up on her toes to kiss him softly, ”How much time do we have.”

    “Not much,”
    he admitted, ”We should ready ourselves.”

    “What part, if any, would you have me play,”
    Amarwen asked as she fell to her knees before the chest.

    ”I want you to observe them…and I have papers I would appreciate your review.”

    “Papers?”

    “Contracts and agreements. My father, as it turns out, was a very wealthy man.”


    Amarwen turned about on her knees to consider him, ”This comes as a surprise?”

    “Considerably!”


    She nodded thoughtfully at this and they set about their preparations and it was not long before Amarwen found herself seated at yet another long table. Unlike lunch, Halvarin sat a very long way down the end opposite her. She did her best to attend solicitously to the discussions going on around her but too often her attention was stolen by Halvarin. He leaned back in his chair, wine glass in hand, nodding or smiling at whatever was said but every so often she caught his eyes shifting to hers and when they did it was a wonder the centrepieces of fir and autumn leaves did not spark.

    ”Young love,” the barrister seated near her observed and Amarwen’s smile became fixed.

    Yes, he most definitely had to go.
     

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