Kin-Strife

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Re: Kin-Strife

Postby elora » Sun Jul 22, 2018 4:56 am

Minas Anor – June 1444


As mayhem broke out around the square, Halvarin and a couple of the men who had tried to fight their way through to Amarwen at the house during the arrests moved as fast as they could. The crowd between them and the scaffolding was dense and it took time they could not spare to reach her now. When he saw the executioner raise his axe to take the swing, Halvarin cried out in horror and despair for it seemed that his wife would be beheaded before his very eyes.

An arrow loosed from the wall of the next level struck the executioner in the neck and he fell backwards. His axe slipped from his dying grip. This emboldened the crowd and some tried to force their way up to rescue Amarwen. The remaining guard managed to keep them at bay.

When Michas led a force down from the second level, some of the soldiers of the first level chose to fight them. Most, though, soon surrendered their arms. They had no appetite for a battle such as this, against their fellow kinsmen. Back at the square, Sarael found a way to winnow through the press and up to the scaffold itself. She was first to Amarwen’s side and ferocious in fending off any that sought to do her mistress harm. Halvarin and the men with him were not far behind and as they lay Amarwen down on the scaffolding, it was apparent her life was in danger from more than an axe to her neck.

When he saw Michas, Halvarin cried out ”Michas! To me!”

Michas turned and waved his men forward before he turned and came to the scaffolding. Halvarin grasped his wrist and Michas did likewise as he said, ”This will be a memorable day in Gondor, my friend!”

”I wish I shared your optimism. It may well be the end of Gondor as we know it!”
Halvarin replied and looked over to where Sarael kneeled by Amarwen’s side. ”Do we hold the Healing House?” he asked, expecting the answer to confirm his worst fears.

Michas, however nodded. ”We hold all the levels above.”

“Then I place you in overall command here. I recommend that you attempt to root out any Castamirians who remain… those Black Scouts in particular, before they go to ground once more. And reinforce the gates, for I believe our victory will soon be tested in all out assault. Siege comes and we must be ready for it.”


There was so much more to do and say but when Halvarin turned back to glance to Sarael he took in the grief upon her face. No time! No time!

”I need to tend to my wife.”

“Go!”
Michas urged him, ”Leave this to me! Go!”

Michas waved to a unit commander to reinforce the gates as Halvarin rushed to where Amarwen lay. She was so very pale and ghostly. He beckoned to two soldiers that were nearby.”You two, help me!”

Halvarin removed his cloak and spread it out beside Amarwen, ”Lay her upon it for she must go up to the Healers!”

The two soldiers lifted her between them. As they shifted her over to lay her atop Halvarin’s cloak, he chided them anxiously, ”Gently does it!”

Together, they stood and lifted Amarwen upon Halvarin’s cloak. It was then an arrow came from above, shot from afar. It narrowly missed Halvarin and Amarwen both. The fletching feathers cut through the sleeve of Sarael’s dress and her forearm started to bleed. Halvarin pointed up in the direction the arrow had come and already soldiers were running to the area on the fourth level. Halvarin motioned the soldiers to move, and two more joined to clear a way to the rampart up to the higher levels.

”Sarael, come! Amarwen has need of you and you need seeing to yourself!” Halvarin declared and they made their way up the rampart towards the Healing House.

They moved as fast as caution permitted and in due time were escorted to a room in the far corner of the sprawling House. An elderly woman was soon on hand, springing almost from nowhere, and looked Amarwen over with an experienced eye. A wave of her arm brought yet more to tend Amarwen. These women brought with them warm water.

”We will tend her but you must wait outside!” the old woman declared, imperious in her domain.

Halvarin reluctantly did as asked, but Sarael stood her ground, ”I am here to see to this woman. The fact that I too am wounded will have me stay here by her side. You cannot expel someone who needs attending.”

The healer peered impatiently at Sarael and saw she was in need of attention but she could not afford to have any underfoot that were not required.

”If you care for this woman, you will fetch me some hot water, quickly!”

Sarael left the room and went in search of hot water but if the healer thought it would keep Sarael out of her way, she was wrong. Two servants carrying steaming pots of water followed her back to where Amarwen lay for Sarael knew that Amarwen held the key knowledge in raising the resistance. She would not leave her side now even if she desperately tried to piece together all she could of what Amarwen had told her of. So much information shared, discussed and picked over, but not once had Amarwen divulged her true identity. What else, Sarael wondered, had her mistress kept from her?


~ ~ ~


Minas Ithil – June 1444

Aldamir tried to take in all the reports the runners were bringing him. Osgiliath was secured, and Vinyarion prepared its defence even as he sent a regiment east to assure the road to Minas Ithil was clear for them to move their forces as needed. He also freed up the Gondorians so they could move toward Minas Anor where things were not nearly so settled.

Vilmaith only paused long enough in Minas Ithil to receive instruction from Aldamir to keep her Rhovanions marching south through Ithilien, for word had come that a large Harondorian army was pushing up from the Poros Crossing. It was essential that they hold the east bank of the river, and so the relief of the outnumbered South Ithilien army was needed.

It seemed for the moment they had the element of surprise on the usurper, but he knew the onslaught would come soon. Even with the cities of Osgiliath, Minas Ithil, and Minas Anor secured, there was no time for celebration. The ballista forts were contested and the plans to have them secured or destroyed had run in to difficulty unforseen. Communications did not work as well as had been planned and already word had come from Ithilien that ships have been spotted making their way up river from Pelargir. Everything was happening so fast. And they were without Amarwen. Aldamir did not know where she was. There was talk that she had perished in the uprising of Minas Anor but he had heard that before. Should he wait? Should he press forward? Aldamir did not know and he could not shake the nagging doubt that he had erred in not bringing Amarwen with him when he had last quit Minas Anor.
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elora
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Re: Kin-Strife

Postby elora » Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:03 am

Minas Anor – June 1444


A day had passed and Minas Anor held on, barely. Already the Usurper’s fist was drawing around them and still Amarwen had not stirred. Halvarin had remained where he had been dispatched, just outside the chamber his wife had been set in. She was gripped with a terrible fever that would not break no matter how the healers struggled. An infection arising, he had heard the healer say, from the desperate conditions in which she had been forced to deliver their child. A son or daughter, alive or dead, he did not know. Sarael too remained. She held a dampened cloth to Amarwen’s brow in a desperate bid to hold the ferocious fever somewhat at bay.

He could hear the voices inside as they debated what to do and it occurred to him that perhaps not all the healers wanted Amarwen to survive. She had been identified not long after arriving and he’d been watching ever since for assassins. They’d not given up so easily now that she was revealed. Michas had come and gone in this time, always bearing questions. Questions, Halvarin guessed, that Michas did not wish to have to explain to him. Their exchanges had been brief and Michas had soon ducked away. But now he was coming again and the news, whatever it was, wasn’t good. It showed in his face as he approached Halvarin.

”No change?” Michas inquired and Halvarin shook his head.

Michas paused to try and peer into the room himself. ”She’s given us a lot,” he said, ”But what if it isn’t enough?”

Halvarin looked at his friend sharply, ”Do not give her up as dead yet!”

Water dripped as the cloth they held to her brow was dampened again. Amarwen’s skin was so hot it seemed to be sucking the water out as soon as the cloth was returned to her forehead.

Michas grimaced, ”The fever grows ever worse. There is no telling when or if it will break.”

Halvarin stared at him, haunted by recollections of men he had encountered. A virulent pestilence had once ripped through a crew with such severity that it had killed half of them. Of the survivors, a third were so addled that they could not even remember their own names. This is what Michas alluded to and Halvarin knew his concerns were valid.

”It won’t be like that,” he insisted as Sarael came to the door, drawn by their discussion.

Her arm had been bandaged and she had not left Amarwen’s side until now.

Michas’ expression was haunted, ”But something needs to be done before we lose this city and this war. We need what is in her head, Hal, and we need it now.”

“I know!”
Halvarin returned, his voice hoarse with grief and fatigue. He lifted his hands to his face and said into them, ”I do not know what to do.”

“I do,”
Sarael said and with that she walked off, leaving Michas and Halvarin staring after her.

”Great,” Michas said flatly and shook his head, dismissing Sarael’s abrupt departure, ”I’m going to send word to Aldamir. We need him here.”

Halvarin nodded, peering after Sarael, and Michas clapped him on the shoulder, ”And you need to sleep. You’re dead on your feet.”

“I’m not leaving.”

“Of course you’re not,”
Michas muttered, more to himself as he turned away, ”Why would you ever listen to me?”

Halvarin leaned against the wall to Amarwen’s room and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. A wave of fatigue washed over him and he pushed it away only to be buffeted by another. And then another. It was some time later when Halvarin woke to find himself rolled in a field swag. Michas and Sarael were crouched nearby, muttering over a pile of books but what drew Halvarin was the sound of another’s voice coming from his wife’s room. He pushed himself to his feet and peered through to find the room strangely empty of all save Amarwen and Aldamir.

The Crown Prince, leaned over the bed. His eyes were closed and his hand was pressed to Amarwen’s brow as he murmured in a low, almost singsong voice. Amarwen was very still, very pale, her skin slick with sweat. In the hall, Michas and Sarael’s discussion rolled on.

“I don’t see how any of this is of use to us,” Michas said, dejected. Halvarin turned to see his friend toss one of the books back onto the pile between him and Sarael.

Sarael pluck it up, almost protective ”Of course they are! The Lady was most insistent that I keep them close to hand and it is a rare stroke of fortune that someone thought to fetch them out when they fled the residence.”

It was then that Halvarin realised that they were debating Amarwen’s journals. That she kept them was no surprise to him. That she’d given them to Sarael to keep safe…that…stung. He said nothing of it as Michas flipped a journal open. His eyes devoured a page and then he leafed to another and another.

”It’s all in code,” he said declared, ”Useless unless she is able to unravel it. I don’t know it, you don’t know it. The prince doesn’t either.”

Aldamir, the man his wife had been set to marry before the outbreak of Gondor’s kinstrife, had read Amarwen’s journals before he had. That, too stung and Halvarin looked back to where Aldamir tried to coax Amarwen back to them.

”Maybe Halvarin can make sense of it,” Sarael said. She straightened from her crouch with a journal in hand and extended it towards him.

”Unlikely,” Michas muttered but then shrugged, ”Anything’s worth a shot now, though.”

Halvarin took the journal from Sarael and flipped it open to see the code for himself. It looked…Sarael and Michas both exchanged perplexed glances when Halvarin started to chuckle. He knew that code. Oh, Amarwen, he thought to himself. She had created all her journals and given them to Sarael, using a code that only he would know and understand.

”You magnificent woman,” he murmured as he scried what she had recorded in the hand they had used to communicate with each other, secretly, many years ago now. That she had used it at all was a declaration of such trust that it made his earlier thoughts shrink and vanish.

Pushing a rising sense of pride aside, Halvarin focused on what Amarwen had set down. In meticulous detail, she had recorded each property they had acquired over the years, its intended use and purpose. He saw Pelargir, Minas Anor, Harlond, Osgiliath. Farms, buildings, businesses, houses, warehouses, mills, some forest. He flipped a couple of pages. There he saw a list of names, partisans she had employed and embedded in their various businesses. A summary estimate of their strength in key locations. Recommended deployment lines to move them about along expected fronts. A few pages later, an account of the various defensive measures protecting a key supply cache along with a detailed inventory of its contents.

Halvarin closed the journal with a snap, ”Fetch me maps. I’ll start there.”

“You can read them?”
Sarael asked, flummoxed, ”I’ve lost count of the times I have tried and failed.”

“You and, upon a time, a portion of the royal family,”
Halvarin said archly but nodded, ”I can read them. She ensured it was so.”

At that, hope returned to Michas’ face. He grinned at Halvarin. ”I hope you don’t mind, Hal, but I love your wife.”

Michas set off with new purpose to hunt out maps and once he had them, Halvarin got to work transcribing the coded information in Amarwen’s journals to the maps. It took hours and he was bent over a table lit by a guttering candle before it was done. His back ached and his hand was cramped as he leaned back. Michas shuffled the maps back and forth.

”Manwe’s beard, Hal, just look at this,” he said in a hushed voice.

Halvarin rose to his feet and knuckled his back. He stretched, joints popped but still fatigue sat over him like a wet, heavy blanket.

“These are defensive positions,” Michas said, preoccupied with the maps before them, ”And these… offensive positions.”

“Presuming we have the numbers to occupy and hold them,”
Halvarin yawned widely, ”She has enlistment rolls that should give us a rough estimate. I’ll start on those soon.”

“It’s,”
Michas rubbed at his lower face and lifted his eyes to Halvarin, ”She’s mapped out a plan for the war. I’ll admit, over the years, I’ve found myself wondering if she was suitable for the position she had been placed in.”

“This speaks for itself,”
Halvarin replied and Michas nodded.

”Explains why she never deigned to answer beyond a roll of her eyes when the question arose.”

At the door a throat was cleared. Halvarin and Michas turned to find Aldamir there. The Prince was wan, wearied.

”The fever…it has broken,” he said, his voice quiet with relief, ”It has broken.”

Despite his exhaustion, Halvarin pushed past Aldamir to go to his wife’s side. She had yet to wake but she had moved and rolled to her side. On the narrow space left, Halvarin lay himself down and curved his body around that of his wife.

Amarwen smelt of the old, damp stones of the prison and blood. But she was alive and that was all that mattered in that moment.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


The wetnurse was terrified. If Alenna made a sound, they’d find them. And, now that Alenna’s mother was revealed to be a traitor, the fate of her infant daughter would not be merciful. Larial clung to child in her arms and prayed the infant would not wake. Alenna was, she had found, a good baby. She slept soundly. Fed regularly and well. A very good baby. But time drew close for the next feeding. Larial knew this for she ached with the need to suckle the child. It throbbed through her insistently. Alenna would soon stir at the smell the milk and then they would be discovered.

She could hear boots as men marched past, patrolling. Searching. Rooting out trouble. Anyone who didn’t belong. She’d taken refuge here in this cellar when it had become clear that Alenna’s mother was to be executed. Larial did not know what had happened aside from the fact that the violence that descended had been bloody, brutal and swift. She had peeked through the cellar doors to see if was safe to emerge only to find the square was filled with troops. She did not dare reveal her presence to ask whom they served. For even if they did not want Alena’s mother dead, they would want Alenna back. And Larial did not know if she could bear the loss of another baby.
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