Legacy Prequel - The Ranger & The Shieldmaiden

Discussion in 'The Glittering Caves' started by Elora, Jul 25, 2016.

  1. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    EPILOGUE


    IV, 44 - Pelargir


    In the bright sunlight, Naiore pushed back her cowl, turned her back and spread her arms. A trick, Hanasian wondered, and if so how might she accomplish it?

    ”Hold!” Hanasian barked, eyes locked on the Elf that stood upon the docks, ”She must answer for her crimes and for that we need her-“

    The first arrow was launched before he even finished his command and he knew, without needing to look, who was responsible for it. Videgavia’s arrow was the pebble before the avalanche and soon the air was thick with them. There was no shortage of men in the Black Company that wanted Naiore Dannan dead. Few, though, had a seam of vengeance that ran as deep and dark as Videgavia’s. He’d been a broken man since the day they’d found Freja and Berendil, dead.

    Naiore Dannan was malicious and cruel but even so, Hanasian felt uneasy at attacking her whilst her back was turned. Freja, he could guess, would not have any such compunction but he knew Berendil would be equally hesitant. Despite the fact that they’d have no measure of honour from the Elf now on her knees.

    Arrows spent at last, many of them littered the docks or floated in the waters of the Anduin. As for Naiore Dannan, she bristled with them and yet somehow she was still on her knees. Her arms had fallen to her sides and she was otherwise still. Cautiously, Hanasian issued a second order to his now shamefaced men. They remained concealed as he broke cover and cautiously approached the Elf.

    As he neared, he was struck at how fair she was despite her treacherous heart. It was impossible not to notice, even though she was grievously wounded. He could see she felt pain. The bloody red tips of arrows protruded, here and there, from her chest and stomach. How, Hanasian wondered, was the Elf still alive? Some sort of foul trickery on her part? And why did she look so…relieved?

    ”Ware,” she whispered and he did not understand until the first wave hit him like a blow to the stomach.

    Emotion as strong as any flooding sea spilled out of her, like a wall that had been breached. Oceans of torment, pain, sorrow, despair, loneliness and, unbelievably, love. By the time Hanasian’s head cleared, he was lying on the ground. So too were men and the Elf. By the third such wave, he had learned how to withstand it. Hanasian understood, then, for each and every act Naiore Dannan had committed, she had paid a vicious price which she had locked within her across the centuries of her life. The walls she had built to hold it all in and retain her sanity failed as she died.

    There was an image of an Elf lodged in his head and Hanasian did not know who it was. Without understanding why, he asked Naiore as he tried to pull himself together.

    ”Celebrimbor,” she whispered, weakening fast as she lost blood.

    She did not beg nor whimper and at the last, there on the sun-drenched docks of Pelargir, Naiore smiled at the very last. Once her spirit had fled her body, he found it surprisingly difficult to believe she had been responsible for so much suffering. Even in death, pierced and bloodied, she was beautiful.

    It was done…the Company’s primary purpose fulfilled and so many avenged. Berendil and Freja sprang to his mind’s eye. He saw them seated together in the corner of the Prancing Pony Inn, eyes only for each other in a secret exchange that had the both of them smiling. Berendil whispered something into Freja’s ear, her brows climbed and then she tipped back her head to issue a throaty laugh that Berendil seemed to lap up…and then his eyes drifted past to where Hanasian stood at the bar, caught his attention and nodded, quiet and certain, before he returned his gaze to the woman at his side. And then that image was gone, replaced by the sight of their lifeless bodies. Over forty years had passed since that awful discovery and yet Hanasian recalled it as if it had only been yesterday.

    He heard a boot scuff behind him and turned his head to see Videgavia approach.

    ”It’s not enough,” Videgavia declared, voice gaunt and haunted, dark eyes locked on the dead Elf.

    ”If you look to death to avenge Freja, it never will be.”

    Videgavia brought his despairing black eyes to Hanasian, ”What then?”

    “Celebrate her in life,”
    Hanasian answered, for Freja had always been full of that until suddenly, jarringly, she wasn’t.

    Videgavia stared at him and then turned away. Still a broken man Videgavia remained and Hanasian thought he always would be until he forgave himself. He did not know what had passed between Videgavia and Freja before her death, but whatever it was gnawed at the Daleman. Hanasian returned to his study of the fallen Elf. She would have to be buried, unmarked and unnamed, for he did not wish to create a place that would draw darkness nor a beacon for those who would despoil her remains.

    He kneeled to relieve Naiore of the most beautiful sword he had ever seen. It would serve as proof when it came time to make his report. He turned the sword over in his hands and sure enough, there was Celebrimbor’s mark. It was a masterpiece, a rare and incredibly valuable artefact. She had born it throughout her life, from the moment Celebrimbor had given it to her through the Second Age, the Siege of Mordor, through the War of the Ring and now here it was in his hands.

    He shivered as he stared at it, recalling Freja’s chilling description of it, and decided that he would keep it if he were permitted even if he was not sure why. For Hanasian had no way of knowing that in just a year’s time he would encounter someone that would take this sword and his heart as her own. Rosmarin she would be called then, but he had looked for her before many years ago when she had been but a child named Erían of Cardolan. The sort of woman that Berendil, were he alive still, would have been proud to serve.
     
  2. Elora

    Elora Dreamweaver

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    That evening Hanasian sat at the small table in his room at Pelargir and drew out a binder he had carried with him for over forty years. He stared at the cover of it as he had before and then he did something he had not done since first he had found it by a stream near Archet. Carefully, he cracked the cover open and caught his breath at what he saw. Drawing after drawing of Rohan’s most revered and accomplished Shieldmaiden was set down with such skill it almost seemed as though she’d roll right off them and into this very room. And demand to know what he was staring at, most likely.

    He had known, of course, that Berendil had been an artist but Hanasian was astonished by the skill of Berendil’s work. This amazement deepened when he took note of the dates of each drawing. Berendil had done most of them whilst in service to the Black Company, separated by many leagues and a good more from the woman he drew aside from the final three. The final three, though, were dated on the very same day and these were by far the most poignant. The day the Moricarni had taken them. One was an image of the day Berendil hoped to wed Freja. Hanasian had recognized the pendant around her throat when they’d found them. Sunset’s failing light had caught it and made it gleam, as if some spark of her spirit lingered yet still waiting even as they’d bled out on the ground before their very eyes. They’d died never to know the joy of the day Berendil had drawn.

    Hanasian shook his head, blinked rapidly as tears threatened to escape him and turned over to the final drawing and froze. It was the only one Berendil had titled. One word: Beloved. It was the most extraordinary of them all for it revealed exactly how Berendil had seen Freja. He had not been distracted by her reputation or her formidable pride for one moment. Rather, Berendil had seen past the myth and legend, past the spears and shield, to the woman beyond it all. In this final drawing, he had captured ephemeral beauty, vulnerability and intimacy. He had poured all his love, all his yearning and all his desire into it.

    She was seated on the ground, weight resting on one hip and one outstretched arm, ahead of Berendil. Her long legs were coiled to one side and she was looking to the ground her hand rested upon. Her hair had been freed and Berendil had captured both the way it waved and the way sunlight fired within it. That was astounding enough but Berendil had not stopped there. There, on the page Hanasian was staring at as if transfixed, was a sight in exquisite detail that few men are privileged to see - the intricate markings upon her back. They flowed up her spine and along her shoulders in a magnificent sweep that he knew he should not see at all and yet could not tear his eyes from.

    After a long moment, Hanasian drew in a shaking breath and closed the binding as he bowed his head. What to do with these drawings, he wondered as he splayed his fingers over the worn leather cover. If they ever fell into the hands of Freja’s Order they’d be destroyed. Hanasian knew that much, particularly the last. Yet no one that Hanasian knew of had made such an intimate study of a Shieldmaiden. These insular proud women were as mysterious as they were accomplished to outsiders. They did not write books or keep histories and the lays they sang shifted and changed over the years, adding details and dropping others. Mutable, friable, save for the history they wore on their backs unseen and private. Berendil’s drawings were not only beautiful, they were rare and valuable for the insight they offered. And…if Freja had consented to them, who was he to gainsay her on such matters. He could hear her grumbling about the presumption of Rangers even now.

    ”Very well,” he murmured as he patted the cover, ”I will keep them safe.”

    A couple of weeks later, Hanasian found himself standing by a meticulously maintained barrow outside the walls of Edoras. A riot of flowers waved and nodded in the afternoon breeze, all different colours. The stones that sealed the doomed lovers within had been beautifully carved since last he had seen them. That, he guessed, had been the gift of a city who would never forget the Shieldmaidens that rode to their defense. A fine horse of proud bearing bedecked with a garland of roses around its graceful neck. The Ranger of Cardolan and the Shieldmaiden of Rohan, never again to be sundered by war. Just a month they had together…were they together now, wherever mortal men went after death?

    ”It is finally done,” Hanasian murmured to them and a weight seemed to lift from his shoulders with those words, ”Savo hîdh nen gurth.”

    The afternoon wind picking through the barrows plucked at his cloak and sent it snapping at his heels. Restless, ill inclined to remain still, pulling him away as if there were better things to be doing. Reminded him strongly of Freja, it did.

    ”Cap?”

    Hanasian turned his head to find Foldine standing a respectful distance away, the grimace on his face testament to how uncomfortable he was about intruding. Hanasian approached him and the Rohirrim inclined his head.

    ”It’s Vid,” Foldine reluctantly reported and Hanasian sighed.

    ”How bad this time?” he asked and Foldine pushed a hand through his hair.

    ”Arrested, pending surety.”

    Hanasian swore at that and Foldine grinned briefly, his eyes tracking past to the barrow Hanasian had just quit before he fell into step beside his Captain.

    ”Oh, I think she’d say a good deal more than that,” he observed.

    Hanasian grunted, ”Like as not. And were she still here, we’d not be contending with this.”

    “You know what she would do, were she here?”
    Foldine asked and then launched on a description that was as devious and bold as it was ingenious.

    But only Freja could pull it off for the Daleman in question would not brook such an action from anyone else. Videgavia had never dared make his true feelings known to her and suffered for it, immensely. Berendil, meanwhile, had done all in his power to ensure she knew how he felt and had died for it.

    ”Never fall in love, Foldine,” Hanasian mused darkly, ”That’s the only way to live.”

    “Aye, Cap,”
    Foldine agreed with a quiet smile as they passed through Edoras’ gates.

    And it was precisely that smile that Foldine wore when a certain thief hurtled through the trees outside of Tharbad to bounce right off the very man who had just made such a statement a year later. The widening of eyes as Hanasian and Rosmarin first beheld each other told all Foldine needed to know. But Foldine was too experienced a campaigner to point this out to his Captain.

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

    Long was Naiore's time in the Halls of Mandos. By mortal count, it was many thousands of years before she emerged into the gardens of Lorien and there reunited with her beloved Celebrimbor. And in that time, through all that time, the mortal woman that had dared defy Naiore rode in the Eternal Hunt, laughing and singing and feasting with her sisters and the man she so loved. And though he was not of their kin, the Ranger of Cardolan was accorded an honoured place in his own right.

    TRANSLATION:


    Savo hîdh nen gurth [Dorathien Sindarin] = Have peace in death
     

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