Lady From Beyond the Sea - Chapter 16 -- Edoras
Author's note: Sorry I have been taking so long in between chapters, I am in the middle of finals. As soon as they are over, I'll try to get a lot of chapters out, but then over the summer I will only have access to a computer on weekends, so there will be at least a week between chapters. Also I had a request that I post a character list at the beginning, so I will, though I won't include Tolkien's characters, except for the one that I manipulated the most. (Besides Legolas)
Zandra: a.k.a. 'An'ra - She has water power, which includes weather power. She is slowly regaining her memory of who and what she is.
Tinania: a.k.a. 'Nania - Zandra's eldest sister, she became something (we don't know what yet) and went away. She has fire power.
Jaessa: a.k.a. Dessa - Zandra's other sister, described as sweet, and calm. She has earth power, which includes plants.
Zandra's Mother: associated with stars
Zandra's Father: associated with shadows
Dyryn: Zandra once thought she loved him, but he tricked her and imprisoned her in Dol Guldur He had a ring, and became a wraith.
And here are the addresses of the other chapters:
Recap: "I see a great smoke," said Legolas, "What may that be?"
"Battle and war!" said Gandalf, "Ride on!"
They rode on through sunset, and slow dusk, and gathering night. When at last they halted and dismounted Zandra was stiff and wary. She was nearly recovered from the effects of her wound, but long hours in the saddle still took their toll. Gandalf allowed only a few hours of rest; as soon as the moon rose they went on once more.
Hours passed and still they rode on. Zandra saw Gimli nod and nearly fall from his seat, but Gandalf clutched him and shook him awake. She would have been amused had she not been fully absorbed in staying upright herself. The miles went by. The waxing moon sank into the cloudy West.
Slowly in the East the dark faded to a cold grey. Red shafts of light leapt above the black walls of the Emyn Muil. Dawn came clear and bright; a wind swept across their path, rushing through the bent grasses. Following the winding way up the green shoulders of the hills, they came at last to the gates of Edoras.
There sat many men in bright mail, who sprang at once to their feet and barred the way with spears. "Stay, strangers here unknown!" they cried in the tongue of the Riddermark. They demanded the names and errands of the strangers. Zandra marveled at their rudeness, surely they had not treated strangers so when she had last been here?
"Why do you speak in a tongue few strangers understand?" she asked coldly in their tongue, "It is common courtesy to speak in the Common Tongue when speaking to strangers."
"It is the will of Theoden King that none should enter his gates, save those who know our tongue and are our friends," replied one of the guards in a tone matching her own. "Who are you that come thus strangely clad, riding horses like to our own? Speak now and be swift!"
"Indeed these horses are your own horses that we ride," said Aragorn, forestalling Zandra's swift retort, "As you well knew ere you asked, I guess. But seldom does a thief ride home to the stable. Here are Hasufel and Arod, that Eomer lent to us, only two days ago. We bring them back now, even as we promised him. Has not Eomer then returned and given warning of our coming?"
A troubled look came into the guard's eyes. "Of Eomer I have naught to say," he answered, and foreboding entered Zandra's heart. What was wrong? What had happened to Eomer? "If what you tell me is the truth, then doubtless Theoden will have heard of it. Maybe your coming was not wholly unlooked for. It is but two nights ago that Wormtongue came to us and said that by the will of Theoden no stranger should pass these gates."
Wormtongue. Zandra grimaced. That snake had kept Theoden from lending her aid in her search for Gandalf. The mere thought of him left a foul taste in her mouth. The one time she had met him in her true form his disgusting glances had made her skin crawl.
"Wormtongue?" said Gandalf, looking sharply at the guard. "Say no more! My errand is not to Wormtongue, but to the lord of the Mark himself. I am in haste. Will you not go of send to say we are come?" His eyes glinted under his deep brows as he bent his gaze upon the man.
"Yes I will go," he said slowly. "But what names shall I report? And what shall I say of you? Old and weary you seem now, and yet you are fell and grim underneath, I deem."
"Well do you see and speak," said the wizard. "For I am Gandalf. I have returned. And behold! I too bring back a horse. Here is Shadowfax the Great, whom no other hand can tame. And here beside me is Aragorn son of Arathorn. Here also are Zandra, and Legolas the Elf, and Gimli the Dwarf, our comrades." Zandra saw him jump a little at her name, and wondered at it.
"Strange names you give indeed! But I will report them as you bid, and learn my master's will," said the guard. "Wait here a little while, and I will bring you such answer as seems good to him." He went swiftly away, leaving the strangers in the care of his comrades.
I wonder where he had heard my name. Zandra thought, It has been several years since I have used that name here, and surely no one connects me with the eagle! That thought was worrisome. She had instinctively tried to keep her talents from becoming common knowledge; one really did not know where enemies might be lurking. Her experience with Dyryn was a prime example.
Finally the guard returned. "Follow me!" he said, "Theoden gives you leave to enter; but any weapon you bear, be it only a staff, you must leave on the threshold. The door warden will keep them."
The dark gates were swung open. The travelers entered, leading their horses in file behind their guide. They followed a broad path, paved with hewn stones, no winding upward, now climbing in short flights of well-laid steps. Many houses and dark doors they passed.
"Zandra!" a youthful voice cried out.
Zandra whirled around in surprise at hearing her name. She spied a lad of about fourteen summers running between a row of houses. She smiled as recognition dawned.
"Gallin?" she cried incredulously, as the boy approached, waving his arms.
"I knew you were coming!" he said as he flung himself into her arms for a brief bruising hug, before pulling away and glancing about self-consciously. Zandra laughed at his expression of mingled joy and embarrassment. She reached out and ruffled his hair.
"What do you mean you knew I was coming?" she asked, "How?"
"I knew when I saw Serilla," Gallin said, as if the answer should be obvious.
"You recognized my horse?" she said, her surprise very much evident.
"Well, i was there when she was foaled," he said, lifting his head in a very superior way that caused Zandra to laugh out loud.
"Of course," she said eyes twinkling, "and the fact that you were no more than five makes no difference, I suppose?"
"No, why should it?" he said, his eyes wide, causing her to laugh aloud again.
"Are you going to introduce us to your friend?" Gandalf's voice said dryly. She turned to find her companions and guide standing behind her, watching in curiosity. She flushed at the impatience in Gandalf's gaze.
"I am sorry Gandalf. This is Gallin, he and I became good friends several years ago. Do you remember Aragorn?" she turned back to Gallin. "I am sorry, but we don't have time to talk right now. We are going to speak with King Theoden, but as soon as we are done there I will come and find you. Alright?"
The boy nodded, "I'll be in the stables," he paused, "Why don't I take Serilla and the others there now?" Zandra nodded, and Gallin whistled, and two other boys appeared, taking Arod and Hasufel. Gandalf whispered to Shadowfax, and he trotted regally before the boys.
Their guide pointed them to the crown of the hill, where stood majestically the hall of Theoden, son of Thengel, King of Rohan. "There are the doors," he said, " I must return now to my duty at the gate. Farewell!"
"Hail, comers from afar!" one of the guards before the door said as they approached. "I am Hama the Door warden of Theoden. Here I must bid you lay aside your weapons before you enter."
Zandra stepped forward, her expression grim. As she drew her twin blades and handed them to Hama, her displeasure was clearly written on her countenance. Her long knife followed.
Then Legolas gave into his hand his silver-hafted knife, his quiver, and his bow. "Keep these well," he said, "For they come from the Lady of Lothlorien."
Wonder came into the man's eyes, and he laid the weapons hastily by the wall, as if he feared to handle them. "No man will touch them, I promise you," he said.
Aragorn stood a while hesitating. "It is not my will," he said, "to put aside my sword or to deliver Anduril into the hand of any other man."
"It is the will of Theoden," said Hama, placing his hand on the hilt of his own sword, "unless you would fight alone against all the men in Edoras."
"This is idle talk," said Gandalf, "Needless is Theoden's demand, but it is useless to refuse. A king will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom. Here is my sword, goodman Hama. Keep it well. Glamdring it is called, for the Elves made it long ago. Now let me pass. Come Aragorn!"
Slowly Aragorn unbuckled his belt and himself set his sword upright against the wall. "Here I set it," he said; "but I command you not to touch it, nor permit any other to lay hand on it. Here is the Blade that was Broken and has been made again. Death comes to any man that draws Elendil's sword save Elendil's heir."
The guard stepped back and looked with amazement on Aragorn. "It seems that you are come on the wings out of the forgotten days," he said, "It shall be, lord, as you command."
"Well," said Gimli, "if it has Anduril to keep it company, my axe may stay here too without shame;" and he laid it on the floor. "Now then, if all is as you wish, let us go and speak with your master."
The guard hesitated still. "Your staff," he said to Gandalf. "Forgive me, but that too must be left at the doors."
"Foolishness!" said Gandalf. "Prudence is one thing, but discourtesy is another. I am old. If I may not lean on my stick as I go, then I will sit out here, until it pleases Theoden to hobble out himself to speak with me."
Zandra laughed aloud at the image this conjured, and heard Aragorn's laughter echoing her own.
"Every man has something too dear to trust to another." he said through his laughter, "but would you part an old man from his support? Come, will you not let us enter?"
"The staff int the hands of a wizard may be more than a prop for age," said Hama. He looked hard at the ash staff on which Gandalf leaned. "Yet in doubt a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom. I believe you are friends, at least young Gallin has assured me that the Lady is so," he nodded towards Zandra. She shook her head in amusement, That boy, she thought, He needs to learn to keep his mouth shut.
"Yes, I think you have no evil purpose," Hama continued, "You may go in."
The five companions went forward, through the doors, and past the clear wood-fire burning upon the hearth in the midst of the hall. Legolas gazed about him, taking quick note of every detail. At the far end of the room, upon a dais was a great gilded chair. Upon it sat a man so bent with age he seemed almost a dwarf; behind him stood a woman clad in white, and at his feet sat a wizened figure of a man, with a pale wise face, and heavy lidded eyes. He put Legolas in mind of a snake.
He noticed the woman start in surprise, and then curiosity, as she became aware of the travelers. Legolas followed her gaze, and saw she was looking at Zandra. Zandra too noticed her gaze, and smiled and nodded in response, motioning her to be quiet.
So you know each other. Legolas thought, and turned his gaze back to the woman, who was now looking fixedly at her folded hands. From there he looked to the man who sat at the feet of the king.
The expression he saw there made his fingers itch for the knife that was no longer there. The snake's eyes were also fixed on Zandra, but the look in his eyes was far different from that of the Lady's.
With a great effort he restrained himself from leaping for the snake's throat, and became aware of the long silence that filled the hall. The old man had not moved in his chair.
At length Gandalf spoke, "Hail, Theoden son of Thengel! I have returned. For behold! The storm comes."
Slowly the old man rose to his feet, leaning heavily upon a short black staff with a handle of white bone; and now Legolas saw that, bent though he was, he was still tall, and must in his youth have been high and proud indeed.
"I greet you," he said, "and maybe you look for welcome. But truth to tell your welcome is doubtful here, Master Gandalf. You have ever been a herald of woe. Troubles follow you like crows, and ever the oftener the worse. Now with you come evils worse than before, as might be expected. Why should I welcome you, Gandalf Stormcrow? Tell me that." Slowly he sat down again in his chair.
A sense of outrage filled Legolas. How dared this man speak so of Mithrandir? But this outrage was as nothing compared to that which filled him as the snake spoke.
"You speak justly, lord," he said, "It is not yet five days since the news came that Theodred your son was slain. And few men would be left to guard your walls if Eomer had been allowed to rule. And even now we learn from Gondor that the Dark Lord is stirring in the East. Such is the hour in which this wanderer chooses to return. Lathspell I name you, Ill-news; and ill news is an ill guest."
"You are held wise, my friend Wormtongue, and are doubtless a real support to your master," answered Gandalf in a soft voice. "Yet in two ways may a man come with evil tidings. He may be a worker of evil; or he may be such as leaves well alone, and comes only to bring aid in times of need."
"But there is a third kind," said Wormtongue; "the pickers of bones, carrion fowl that grow fat on war. What aid have you ever brought, Stormcrow? And what aid do you bring now? It was aid that was sought last time your minion was here, and to the wonder of all, when aid was denied, that feathered pest took Shadowfax. I guess that once more you will seek aid rather than render it. Do you bring men? Horses? Spears? That I would call aid; that is our present need. But who are these that follow at your tail? A wench, and three ragged wanderers in grey, and you yourself the most beggar like of the lot!"
"The courtesy of your hall is somewhat lessened of late Theoden, son of Thengel," said Gandalf, "The wise speak only of what they know, Grima son of Galmond. A witless worm have you become. Be silent, and keep your forked tongue behind your teeth. I have not passed through fire and death to bandy crooked words with a serving man till night falls."
He raised his staff. There was a roll of thunder. The sunlight was blotted out from the Eastern window; the whole hall became suddenly dark as night. Only Gandalf could be seen, standing white and tall.
In the gloom they heard the hiss of Wormtongue's voice: "Did I not counsel you, my lord, to forbid his staff? That fool, Hama, has betrayed us!" There was a flash of lightning, then all was silent. Wormtongue sprawled on his face.
Zandra looked in satisfaction as Wormtongue cowered on the hearth. It had been too much to try and resist. No doubt Gandalf would scold her later, but for now she was quite pleased with herself. It was very good to have the strength to do that again.
She watched as Gandalf led the king to the doors, and out into the day, Eowyn hovering nearby.
"Eowyn," she said quietly as the lady passed her, "Come with me. Leave him with Gandalf. He will take care of him."
"Go, Eowyn sister daughter!" said the old king. "The time for fear is past."
She turned and went slowly into the house, Zandra walking at her side. As they passed the doors she stopped and looked back. Sorrow filled Zandra's heart as Eowyn glanced gravely at the king with cool pity in her eyes. As a girl she had been bright and cheerful. Zandra mourned for the loss of that child, for now, though she was beautiful, she was as an ice maiden.
For a moment Eowyn stood still as stone, then turned swiftly and disappeared through the doors, but not before Zandra caught the expression in her eyes as she caught sight of Aragorn. Ruefully shaking her head, she followed after her.
"Eowyn!" she called to the white clad figure that was speeding down the hallway. Eowyn turned swiftly, and Zandra could tell that she had forgotten her presence.
"Is it really you, Delisa?" Eowyn asked, her voice unsure, but hopeful, a touch of the child she had been showing through.
"Yes, though my true name is Zandra,"she replied, apologetically, "I . . . well, . . . it was better at that time to use another name."
"But, . . . you haven't changed at all, . . . and it has been nine years," Eowyn said in confusion, "You aren't an Elf, but . . ."
"No, I'm not, . . . I am . . ." she paused, this was a painful topic. Maybe I should have stayed an eagle, she thought ruefully. " . . . something else." she finished, Though my ancestors were human. the thought came unbidden, throwing her into confusion.
"You have grown into quite the young lady," she said in a rush, both to change the topic, and to cover her confusion. "Quite different from the little scamp who was learning the sword from Master Frugmar." Eowyn laughed, and the two ladies fell to reminiscing.