A Morning Star ~ Chapter 9 of 18 - Rohan
Chapter 2: The Road West
Chapter 3: Questions and Answers
Chapter 4: The End of a Quest
Chapter 5: A New Home
Chapter 6: Decisions
Chapter 7: The Battle of Ridden
Chapter 8: A War Ends and a Journey Begins
Chapter 9: Rohan
Recap: Ariya devised a treaty with the Northern Tribes that prevented a second battle, and the refugees were able to return to their homes. A few months later, King Renya died, likely poisoned by his son. Ariya has fled Ridden after Duran told her that the new king will soon attempt to take her life. Even more importantly, Ariya has learned the answer to one of her questions: she will be judged among mortal men.
It had been many months since Ariya left Duran alone to care for the people of Ridden. After a few initial weeks of hard riding, she slowed her pace and aimlessly wandered south. She did not know what her final destination would be, but she recalled the journey to Gondor many years before and remembered the roads she had traveled. Once again, she had avoided Rivendell, but she had stayed with the elves of Lórien for a short while.
She now found herself in a beautiful countryside, with rolling hills and tall mountains in the distance. She recognized the land as eastern Rohan, and as it grew dark she began to look for a place to camp for the night.
Suddenly she heard a shout from the far side of a nearby hill. She spurred her horse and the stallion quickly galloped to the top of the hill. Looking down, she could see two people sitting in a wooden cart, pulled by a single horse. It was difficult to see in the fading sunlight, but Ariya soon realized that the people were being attacked. Several men were looting the cart and the drivers shouted for them to leave.
Ariya drew her bow, and while fitting an arrow to the string, she rode toward the cart. As she drew near, she realized that the people were not being attacked by men at all, but by orcs. With that, she loosed the arrow, hitting an orc in the center of his chest. She was able to fire a few more arrows before reaching the cart. Before the orcs had a chance to attack her horse as well, she quickly dismounted and drew her sword. The two remaining orcs ran toward her, wielding large, crude swords. She fought with them for a moment, the shiny blade of Cul-Rômen clashing against the dull orc-blades. It was not long before she slew them both, beheading one and running her sword through the gut of the other.
Wiping her blade clean with her cloak, she approached the cart and saw two young boys, one about eight years old, the other about thirteen. "Are you all right?" she asked as she sheathed her sword.
"We're fine," the older one said, his eyes wide. They were obviously in awe at seeing a female elf slaughter five orcs before their very eyes.
In an attempt to take the boys' minds off the gruesome scene they had just witnessed, Ariya said, "My name is Ariya Alayah. And before you ask any questions, I'm only a half-elf; I've lived among men for the past six or seven years."
"I am Lamir, son of Édren," the older boy replied. "And this is my brother Halamir." Halamir smiled at her, dark curls of hair almost reaching his eyes. The boys looked very much alike, and Ariya could see that they would grow to become very handsome men.
"Where do you two live?" she asked. "It is rather late for you to be out and about, especially since it appears that orcs have taken to raiding eastern Rohan."
"We live in Durlow, a village not far from here. We were returning from the marketplace in another village and left later than we planned. May I ask where you are from?" Lamir asked hopefully. "I have never seen an elf before, or even a half-elf."
"I once lived far to the north; I am now just a wanderer in these parts."
Lamir pondered her answer for a moment. "If you like," he said, "you can come home with us and spend the night."
"Yes," Halamir added. "And our family would never believe us if we told them a girl half-elf saved our lives from orcs!"
"Very well," Ariya said with a laugh.
During the raid the orcs had scattered many of the boys' goods in the grass, so before they left Ariya began to gather the items and return them to the cart. The boys soon joined her, and she noticed that Lamir had to climb out of the cart rather awkwardly and once he reached the ground he walked with a limp. Concerned, Ariya said, "Lamir, I thought that you were not hurt."
"I am not, my lady. I was born lame," he replied.
"I'm sorry, I did not know," Ariya said. "And please, you do not need to address me as `my lady.' `Ariya' will do nicely." She smiled to put him at ease and he returned her smile.
It was not long before all of the goods were secured in the cart. Ariya then rode along side the cart and followed them over the next hill into a small, unwalled village. They soon arrived at a rather large house on the far side of the village, and rode directly to a stable behind the house. Lamir led their horse to a stall and Halamir showed Ariya an empty stall where she could leave her own horse. They decided to unload the cart later, and once the horses were put away Halamir ran ahead to the house, Lamir and Ariya soon following him.
"Mother, Father!" Halamir yelled on entering the house. When Ariya reached the door, she saw several people gathered around a table, apparently just about to sit down for supper.
"Lamir, where have you been?" a man asked, rising from the table and walking over to meet the two boys.
"I'm sorry, Father. We were at the market longer than we anticipated, but we were able to make some very good bargains."
"I see," Lamir's father said. He was stern, but Ariya could see it was only because he was worried about his sons. "And who is your guest?"
"Father, this is Ariya Alayah; and Ariya, this is my father, Édren." Lamir then proceeded to explain how they met: "After the sun had fallen a band of five orcs attempted to steal our goods, but Ariya came to our rescue and killed them all."
"She used a sword and a bow!" Halamir added excitedly.
Ariya could see that Édren was rather surprised to see a female elf so well-armed, but she could also see that he was eternally grateful to her for saving the lives of his children. He promptly invited her to supper, and then introduced the people gathered around the table.
"This is my wife, Selleth," he began, putting his arm around his wife as she rose from the table and approached him. Next, he gestured to a man and a woman sitting at the table who both appeared to be about twenty years old. "This is my son, Beros, and his new wife Renna. And this," he said, pointing to a beautiful dark-haired girl a little older than Lamir, "is my daughter Nía." Ariya noticed that all of the children except for Beros had inherited their mother's dark hair, an unusual trait in the land of the horse-lords.
As they conversed during the meal, Ariya soon learned that the family farmed the land near their house. Édren's father originally farmed the land but had since passed on, and now the entire family helped manage the crops and the few animals. Édren was actually a soldier but seldom left Durlow, dividing his time between farming and managing the disputes in the village. She also learned that Beros and Renna lived with Édren and Selleth to help with the farm.
During the conversation Halamir was very restless, and soon began to ask Ariya questions about herself. She was reluctant to reveal many details, but she did say that she had fled from the north to escape a man who meant to kill her. Lamir asked where she had learned to fight so well, and she briefly told them about the battle of Ridden, although she downsized the importance of her own role in the battle. At one point, she mentioned that she had been a potter, and at this Lamir's eyes lit up.
"I had just begun an apprenticeship with a potter," he said. "But the old potter passed on a few weeks ago, and now there is no one left to run the shop or to train me." He looked up at her, and with a rather nervous smile, said, "Perhaps you could teach me?"
"Lamir!" Selleth quickly scolded her son. "We have only asked our guest to stay the night. We do not know whether she intends to stay in Durlow."
"It's all right," Ariya said. She thought about the possibility: surely Durlow was far enough away from Ridden that she could settle down without Denya's knowledge. If he could track her all the way to a small village in Rohan, then there was no place she could hide from him. The thought of staying in the quaint village and training an eager student in the skills of the art was very appealing.
However, the conversation soon turned to other matters. After the rest of the family had gone to bed, Ariya and Édren went outside to talk.
"I saw your reaction when Lamir mentioned the possibility of training him as an apprentice," he said. Ariya was surprised; she was normally better at hiding her emotions. "Lamir can do little on the farm; indeed, he requires a crutch to walk any sort of distance. We were planning to have him begin an apprenticeship in another craft soon; however, if you would like to stay and teach him, I will allow it."
Ariya was thrilled with the generous offer. Even though she had likely saved the boy's lives, or at the very least their possessions, she did not expect Édren to actually suggest that she stay.
"I have heard that Rohan is often closed to outsiders," Ariya said. "If I were to stay, would I need to petition the king?"
"No," Édren said. "I am in charge of the affairs of the village. You would need only my permission to stay here."
"And what of the pottery shop? Did the potter not have any family to take over it?"
"His family has no use for the shop and is willing to sell it," Édren answered. "I can loan you the money if you feel that you can make a profit and repay me."
She could not believe this fortunate turn of events. "I would love to stay in Durlow and train your son," she said.
Ariya accepted Édren's loan and she soon took over the pottery shop and began training Lamir as her apprentice. He was a slow learner but she was very patient. She loved the craft, and it was wonderful seeing Lamir experience the joy of forming a lump of clay into a beautiful yet practical piece of art.
Unlike the shop in Ridden, this shop did not have adjacent living quarters. Ariya thus lived with Lamir's family. She would often help Selleth prepare meals or help the other family members who were working the crops. They had a vast amount of land to care for, and even Nía and Renna worked alongside the men in the fields.
Once again, Ariya began to practice archery each morning before she went to the shop. After much begging from his son, Édren finally allowed her to train Lamir to use the bow as well. However, Ariya tried to practice her sword-fighting exercises when Lamir was not in sight, for she did not feel comfortable teaching such a young boy to use a weapon of war. The bow could at least be used for hunting.
As the years passed by Ariya soon began to feel that she was part of the family. She would occasionally help in the fields when there was little to do at the shop, and she began training Halamir to use a small bow when he turned twelve. She would often gossip about the events of the village with Nía and Selleth, and she even helped the midwife deliver Renna's first child.
Once the people of Durlow learned that she was a half-elf and had lived among men for several years, the thrill of having an elf maiden in the village quickly wore off. Ariya was pleased that the people soon treated her no differently than anyone else. Of course few knew that she was skilled in the weapons of war; otherwise, the villagers' perceptions would have been rather different. However, Ariya never did develop any close friendships outside of Édren's family.
Five years passed. Lamir was now eighteen, Halamir was thirteen, and Nía was betrothed to a handsome young tanner. Édren occasionally left home for a few days at a time, patrolling the lands near the village. Orc raids had increased in the area, but not so much that the people were in constant fear. The attacks were normally restricted to travelers; the orcs almost never attacked the villages. Ariya had repaid Édren's loan and Lamir was now nearly as skilled as his teacher in pottery. She would often let her apprentice run the shop alone for a day while she helped with crops. Lamir and Ariya had grown to be good friends, and she loved how Lamir was nearly always in a good mood. They often jested with each other while they were working.
One morning, while Ariya was busy kneading a lump of clay, Lamir entered the shop. He had skipped his morning archery practice and arrived at the shop later than normal. Ariya looked up to question him and saw that he had an unusually large smile on his face. She could not help but smile back.
"Lamir, why are you so joyful today?" she asked.
"I spoke with Lindë's father this morning," he said. Ariya smiled knowingly, thinking of the petite, golden-hair girl that Lamir had been spending much time with as of late. "He gave me permission to court her."
"That's wonderful!" she replied. She stood up, and after wiping her dirty hands on her apron she gave him a quick hug. As she returned to her seat, she said, "Did I ever tell you that `Lindë' is an Elvish word meaning `song'?" Ariya had always wondered why Lindë's parents had given her an Elvish name; she had yet to find a Rohirrim that could even speak Elvish.
"No," Lamir replied, "but it would certainly explain why she is as beautiful as an elf."
Ariya smiled and returned to her work. "You are hopeless, Lamir. Do you think that you could perhaps get some work done today, or is your head too far in the clouds?"
"You're just jealous," Lamir said jokingly, rummaging through their supply of paints and glazes.
Ariya did not reply immediately. At his words, she had felt a sudden, unexpected pain in her heart. Indeed, she had felt rather hollow throughout the entire conversation. She turned and looked down at her clay, trying to convince herself that she truly was happy for her young apprentice. Suddenly she realized the source of her pain: during the past five years, hardly a day had gone by that she had not thought of Duran. I love him, she thought to herself, fighting back a sudden tear. Why had she not seen it before? Yes, there had been feelings between the two of them in Ridden, but mere feelings were far from true love. She wondered if Duran loved her as well, and she recalled his behavior the night that she left. She had always attributed his actions to his fear for her safety, but perhaps there was something else in his heart that she had not seen.
Lamir slowly turned and looked at his teacher when she remained silent. She was not aware of his stare, and from her eyes he suddenly realized what was troubling her. "You love someone yourself," he said in an uncharacteristically serious tone. "A man of Ridden?"
She looked up in surprise, for she had never even mentioned Duran's name to her apprentice. "How did you know?"
"I could see it in your eyes. Besides, it has been obvious for so long that you left a piece of your heart in Ridden. What else would cause you to do that besides the love of a man?"
Ariya was speechless. Who was this young man who could read her thoughts so well? She knew not how to answer him, and wishing that she could be alone to sort through her many emotions, she simply returned to kneading her clay.
Lamir could see that she did not wish to talk about her feelings and let her be. They spoke little for the rest of the day, but by the next day they both acted as if nothing had happened. Over the next several weeks, Lamir would occasionally talk to Ariya about his growing relationship with Lindë, but Ariya never said a word about her own feelings for Duran.
List of Names and Places through Chapter 9
- Ambilë: Ariya's mortal father. Chapter 1.
- Arelen: "Morning Star"; Ariya's Elvish name. Chapter 1.
- Ariya Alayah: Translated as "Morning Star" in an ancient tongue of men; the heroine of our story. Chapter 1.
- Beredhel: "Bold Elf"; Ariya's maternal grandfather. Chapter 1.
- Beros: Lamir's older brother. Chapter 9.
- Cul-Rômen: "Golden-Red Sunrise"; the name of Ariya's sword. Chapter 5.
- Deilen: Duran's brother. Chapter 5.
- Denya: Renya's only son; succeeded his father as King of Ridden. Chapter 6.
- Dunneth: The city-kingdom to which the refugees of Ridden fled. Chapter 6.
- Duran: Advisor to the king of Ridden. Chapter 3.
- Durlow: A small village in eastern Rohan. Chapter 8.
- Édren: Lamir's father; farmer and soldier of Rohan. Chapter 9.
- Eomas: The first city to be attacked by the Northern Tribes. Chapter 5.
- Halamir: Lamir's younger brother. Chapter 9.
- Isilmë: "Moonlight"; Ariya's maternal grandmother. Chapter 1.
- Kalen: A man from Dunneth; leader of a group of archers in the resistance against the Northern Tribes. Chapter 6.
- Lamir: Son of Édren; Ariya's apprentice in Rohan. Chapter 9.
- Land of the City-Kingdoms: A land northwest of Rivendell, consisting of several small cities of men, each ruled by their own king. Chapter 2.
- Lein: Ariya's half-brother, son of Ambilë; a smith in Ridden; killed in the Northern Tribe's invasion. Chapter 2.
- Lindë: Lamir's love interest. Chapter 9.
- Lómion: "Descendant of Dark"; maker of Ambilë's ring. Chapter 4.
- Melwen: "Kind Maiden"; Ariya's elven mother. Chapter 1.
- Nía: Lamir's sister. Chapter 9.
- Peramac "Perry" Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Tanagrim. Chapter 2.
- Renna: Beros's wife. Chapter 9.
- Renya: King of Ridden. Chapter 5.
- Ridden: A city in the land of the city-kingdoms. Chapter 2.
- Selleth: Lamir's mother. Chapter 9.
- Tanagrim Brandybuck: One of the hobbits who helped Ariya on the East Road; twin brother of Peramac. Chapter 2.