A year later……………………
Halmed , Chief Steward of Gondor was not happy.
He had woken up that morning with a million unfinished tasks on his mind and now at midday, less than half of them had been done. In two weeks time Gondor would be celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the end of the War of the Rings. Each year it was the Steward’s job to ensure that all went smoothly and he didn’t see it getting any easier. The wiry 64 year old quickly climbed the stairs that would lead to his destination. He turned the corner and heard a familiar feminine voice coming from one of the rooms. Halmed knew if he looked in he would see a certain young woman teaching history to a large group of children. He quickened his pace, hoping it would take him past the open door before she noticed him. He passed the doorway and was silently congratulating himself on his successful feat when he heard a voice behind him.
“Father.” He jumped guiltily and turned to face his daughter Faerla, a tall slim young lady with waist long light brown hair and lovely bluish gray eyes. Her features were not stunning but her delightful smile made many look at her more than once. She smiled at her father.
“Father are you avoiding me?”
“No! I… was just passing by,” he explained lamely. Faerla glanced at the sheaf of papers clasped in his right hand and understanding dawned. “Let me guess. A lot of work needs to be done in so little time, right?”
“Right,” agreed her father wearily. Faerla smiled encouragingly at Halmed.
“Don’t worry about it father, I’m confident that you will get everything ready before the big day.”
“Let’s hope your confidence is not misplaced,” said Halmed dryly.
Faerla shook her head. “Let me not keep you father. I’ll see you at supper.” She turned to go when Halmed called her. “By the way do you know where the King is? I have been looking for him since morning.” Halmed noticed his daughter’s face reddened at the name of the king and stared at her, he was even more stunned when she stumbled over her reply.
“I…he… might be in the Court of the Fountain. I have… to go.” Faerla left.
Halmed stood in the same spot for a few seconds puzzling over his daughter’s attitude. He shook his head and moved on, later he would seek her out and find out what was wrong.
It took a while but Halmed eventually reached the Court of the Fountain and sure enough King Andaran, son of Late King Elessar and Queen Arwen of Gondor, was there.
Andaran was sitting on a wooden bench beneath the White Tree. He appeared to be studying some papers on his lap. Halmed wasn’t surprised, Andaran preferred working outside, he said the fresh air and sunlight helped him think.
As Halmed approached, the king spoke without looking up. “I was hoping you wouldn’t find me this quickly.”
“Sorry to disappoint you sire but you did insist I keep you up to date with the preparations,” said Halmed cheerfully.
Andaran sighed as he looked up. “What was I thinking?”
“Not much apparently,” answered Halmed. Andaran laughed.
“Halmed, you are good for the soul.’
“I try my best sire,” said Halmed as the king stood up.
“How are the preparations coming along?” asked Andaran. Halmed handed him the papers he had come with and began to give a summary of its contents as the king quickly read them.
Halmed , son of Princess Eowyn and Lord Faramir had come to Minas Tirith when he was ten years old to be a squire to King Elessar. He had met 15 year old Andaran and they quickly became close friends, but while Halmed looked every inch a 64 year old man, Andaran looked like a young man barely out of his teens.
Andaran’s seemingly youthful appearance and his pointed ears were evidence of his elven heritage. With raven coloured wavy shoulder length hair, deep blue eyes, a dark neatly trimmed moustache and a finely chiseled jaw; it was difficult for the ladies of the court to stop staring any time he was around them.
It was also difficult to believe he was still a bachelor.
That thought crossed Halmed’s mind as he waited for the king to speak.
Andaran glanced at his old friend. “I can hear you thinking Halmed and I know it has nothing to do with what I am holding. What is it?”
Halmed hesitated then answered. “It’s not important.”
“Halmed,” said Andaran , his tone indicating he didn’t believe the steward.
“Alright, it’s about your partner for the festivities, you have not chosen any one yet.”
Andaran winced. “Oh that.” Halmed nodded.
For as long as Halmed could remember, at every festival or ball Andaran always had a partner. Andaran always dreaded such occasions because his date would spend most of the day staring at him, which made him very uncomfortable.
“Well Daran, have you thought of someone yet?” asked Halmed.
Andaran appeared uncomfortable as he answered, “I did think of someone.”
Halmed looked interested. “Who?”
“I asked Faerla… and she said no.”
Halmed didn’t speak for some seconds. “Sire if I may ask when did you approach her?”
The question puzzled the king. “This morning.”
“Hmmm,” was all Halmed said, now he knew the reason for Faerla’s odd behaviour earlier. Halmed noticed the king’s expression and tried to explain.
“It’s nothing to worry about sire, I met her on the way here and she acted a bit strange when I asked her where you are.”
Andaran grimaced. “Forgive me old friend but I didn’t think asking her such a question would embarrass her. Why is she upset?”
“Sire, I have no idea.”
Andaran shrugged. “Maybe she has a lot on her mind.” Halmed decided to change the topic because for some inexplicable reason it was making him uncomfortable.
“So who else would you like to ask?”
The king looked thoughtful. “I’d prefer if it was someone new.”
Halmed smiled knowingly. “We wouldn’t want a repeat of the Sleira saga.”
Andaran glared at his friend. “Please don’t remind me.”
About 16 years ago Andaran had gone to 3 different occasions with a certain young lady called Sleira. The king had preferred her company because she was easy to talk to and did not hang on every word he said. He unfortunately thought at the time that Sleira realized that they were just friends.
He was wrong.
By the time he had asked her out for the third occasion, there were rumours (which she eagerly spread) that soon she would be Queen Sleira. It put Andaran in a very delicate position and he had to take care in explaining to the young lady that she had assumed wrongly.
“I remember that you had trouble sleeping until she was safely married,” said Halmed mischievously.
“Thank you for having fun at my expense,” said Andaran with a straight face but his eyes were filled with laughter.
“Now back to the matter at hand. I thought you might need some help, so I prepared a list of all the young ladies in the court.”
Andaran murmured his approval as he took the list from Halmed’s hand.
“That’s thoughtful of you Halmed but I’ll leave the choosing with you.” He picked up the papers that were on his lap. “Romer just sent these border reports and I am yet to finish reading them.”
Romer was Halmed’s first son and a captain of the Gondor border guards. He sent weekly reports and letters to the king and his family.
“Things seem rather quiet down there,” Halmed paused “any word from Loran?”
Andaran nodded. “He sends his greetings but says he won’t be back any time soon.”
“He’s been gone for 5 months, he needs some rest,” complained Halmed.
“Have no fear; Loran will rest when the time comes. He knows what he’s doing.”
I hope so thought the steward as he noticed the lengthening shadows.
“Sire, if you would excuse me I have some tasks that must be seen to.”
Andaran nodded. “You may go Halmed, I will see you at supper and please ensure that you have some rest, I will never be able to explain to your daughter if you suddenly collapsed while performing your duties.”
The steward smiled tiredly. “I’ll try sire.” Halmed left as the king turned back to the pile of papers before him.
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Faerla packed the last sheet of paper she found and looked at the empty classroom which a short while ago had been filled with children. She sighed tiredly as she leaned against a table. She was exhausted and there was no chance of even having a short rest. From here she had to go to the kitchen and find out if the much needed supplies had arrived, then send the items to different locations within the stronghold.
It wasn’t her job, but with the up coming festivities keeping everyone busy, Faerla volunteered to help wherever she could. Now she wondered wryly if that had been a wise thing to do. As she tried to rub the kinks from her neck, her thoughts drifted to Andaran.
Faerla felt her face burn with embarrassment as she recalled what had occurred much earlier in the day.
The children were still having their breakfast, giving her enough time to arrange the chairs in the pattern she desired. She stood up from her work to see the king silently watching her from the doorway. She was so startled she stammered as she hastily curtsied. “G…Good morning your highness.”
“Good morning Faerla, I’m sorry, didn’t mean to scare you.”
“That’s alright sire,” said Faerla “I’m quite alright.”
Andaran looked around as he walked in. “The little ones are still at breakfast I see. What’s today’s lesson?”
“History of Gondor with emphasis on the War of the Ring.”
“Are you sure they need that lesson? After all they must hear enough of the tale in the multiple ballads that tell of it?” Andaran said jokingly.
Faerla smiled. “True sire, but ballads always omit other important details.”
Andaran folded his arms and raised one exquisitely shaped eyebrow. “Like?”
Faerla answered encouraged by the king’s amused expression. “Like the dates, the exact number of troops on either side of the conflict and the troop movements.”
“Which the students might find dreadfully boring,” concluded the king.
“I’m afraid that can’t be helped sire,” she paused. “Do you need my father sire?”
Andaran shook his head. “No, actually I’m hiding from him so I can do some work. I thought the Court of Fountains would be a good place to stay,” he paused taking a deep breath.
“Actually I came to look for you.”
Faerla felt her heart beat quicken and prayed her face was not red. “Me?” she asked with a calm she did not feel.
“Yes…in 2 weeks time the balls and dinners will start and I need a partner. Would you do me the honour of filling that position for the duration of the period?”
Faerla was silent for so long that Andaran looked worried. “Faerla….”he began.
“I can’t!” Interrupted Faerla, startling Andaran with her vehement reply.
“I’m sorry,” she continued in a softer tone “I…..I have to…. I mean…” she stumbled over her words as she felt her face flush with embarrassment.
“It’s alright,” said Andaran “I understand, think nothing of it. Silly of me to assume that s a pretty girl like you hasn’t already got a partner for the festivities. It was wrong of me.”
Faerla had felt terrible when she turned him down but his apologies made her feel worse.
She quickly shook her head. “No, no sire it’s not like that…it’s just that….,’she couldn’t bring herself to say it. “I’m sorry.” She finished lamely.
Andaran smiled reassuringly at her. “Don’t apologize. Well I must leave now. Till later Faerla.”
She had to restrain herself from running after him and telling him she would accept.
Faerla had refused because of one very simple fact. She was in love with him.
She saw how the other ladies of the court gazed at him and she knew how uncomfortable it made him, thus his reason for asking her to be his partner was obvious.
He assumed that she was safe, that she saw him as a close friend of the family and nothing more. Faerla knew that if she got closer to the king he would realize how she really felt, and because there was no sign of him feeling the same way, she was afraid his gentle but painful rejection would break her heart.
She smiled bitterly. To be so near and yet so far.
Faerla pushed the distressing thoughts to the back of her mind. She had work to do and standing there thinking won’t get it done.
The young teacher quietly left the empty classroom.
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Southwest of Mordor, a heavy grey mist hung over the great ocean from which the River Anduin was fed. Many fishermen who were brave enough to live by the shore would look at the sky and nod knowingly. A storm is coming, they would say, tie your boats up and hope for the best.
But on a certain beach which had long ago been abandoned by human inhabitants because of marauding wild men and orcs, a huge white wolf was the only creature to witness a wondrous sight.
From out of the mists emerged a long graceful white ship. I t glided silently towards the beach then halted as it dropped anchor a good distance from the shoreline to prevent it from been breached. A boat was set over the side and a fair number of elves climbed into it after a dark brown horse was lowered gently into it.
It was not long before the boat reached the shore. Quietly the occupants climbed out. The first elf looked around, missing nothing his gaze finally settled on the wolf which had tried to hide itself. The animal tensed, unsure of what this human sized form presented. For a long moment the wolf’s gaze was held by the elf’s, it felt reassurance radiating from the two legged being before it yawned tiredly and padded softly into the nearby forest.
“See anything Clithar?” asked Erlon as he helped Ty’lana get Maethor out of the boat.
“Just a lone wolf,” answered the elf warrior “he wasn’t hungry, just curious, there will be no trouble from him.” Clithar turned to the Erlon.
“Where are we? Are you sure you got us to the right place?”
Erlon looked at the darkening sky. “I used a 4,000 year old map to get us here. The landmarks would definitely have changed but it’s the best I can do.”
Ty’lana nodded solemnly. Four millennia ago an elven harbour and outpost existed on this particular beach. It was apparent a lot had changed over the years.
“There is something else about this place that feels odd,” said Clithar.
“What?” asked Ty’lana. Clithar hesitated before answering.
“It….feels..diminished. Like a familiar force has left.”
Clithar’s uneasy words filled Ty’lana with dread. Erlon frowned darkly.
“I don’t like this. Ty’lana cannot stay here. We should try the shores of Eregion.”
Ty’lana shook her head . “That won’t be possible Uncle, the history books clearly indicate that the shores of Eregion were abandoned a long time ago. It will probably be a waste of time. Do not worry about me; all I need is a guide to Rivendell. There will be someone here to help me.”
Erlon looked ready to argue when Clithar spoke. “Erlon she’s right.” His face was grave.
“No one knows the current state of Eregion, the outpost that should have been here was only built about 4,000 years ago. Their must be someone around who can help her.”
“And who would that be Clithar?” snapped Erlon. “A few minutes ago you claimed that a familiar force has left this place. A child would know you speak of the elves that lived here long ago. Do you honestly expect me to leave her here alone!?”
Clithar wisely said nothing, an unreadable expression on his face.
Ty’lana gently laid a hand on her uncle’s arm. “Please, this is not the time or place for harsh words. There were enough of those during the voyage.” She turned to Clithar.
“Earlier on you said this place felt diminished.” The warrior nodded, as he broke eye contact with a furious Erlon to face her.
“Diminished not depleted or destroyed,” mused Ty’lana. She looked at the nearby forest.
“That means that something of the elves still remains.” She turned back to her uncle.
“Lord Erlon, I must start from here.” She said in a quiet but firm voice.
Erlon’s eyes were filled with pain. “Ty’lana…….”
“Your journey ends here uncle,” she interrupted gently. “I know you promised to get me to Rivendell, but this is far enough. You must turn back.”
Erlon refused to give up. “I can’t leave you…….”
“Please uncle!” cried Ty’lana , “don’t make this harder than it already is. You must go.”
For what seemed an eternity, the elf captain stood staring at his niece. Ty’lana could see the how much this journey had cost him; emotionally and physically. She was asking him to do an extremely hard thing, to walk away and leave his sister’s daughter on a strange and probably unsafe land. In the end he had no choice.
Erlon finally looked away. “Elsira, please forgive me,” he whispered in an empty voice.
He turned to his men who had waited by the boat with Clithar. They were all facing the sea, trying to give Erlon and Ty’lana as much privacy as possible.
“We’ll return to our ship,” he paused “this is where Princess Ty’lana will leave us.”
There was a slump to the shoulders of the captain as he turned back to his niece, he gently touched her face. “I feel like I have condemned my own flesh and blood to death.”
“Uncle, don’t say that you didn’t…………..”
“Yes I have,” he interrupted softly. “I cannot stay with you because of the oaths I made to our homeland but I swear; that as soon as I am able, I will return for you. Until then keep your sword sharp, your arrows true and your life safe.” He clasped her shoulders gently.
“Until we meet again.” With unshed tears in his eyes, Erlon walked back into the water and climbed into the boat. Ty’lana leaned against Maethor for support as the boat was pushed back into the water and the occupants rowed away.
With a heavy heart, Ty’lana forced herself to turn away and lead Maethor towards the forest. She was afraid that if she stayed a moment longer, her resolve would weaken.
Speaking softly to her horse, she guided him into the forest. She stopped a short distance into the forest; swaying slightly as an intense feeling of despair threatened to overwhelm her. More than ever she wanted to sink to the ground and grieve over her situation but at the back of her mind a small voice was warning her that now was not the time.
She must find a safe place and discover what had become of the elves, but the emotions of pain and despair were so strong. Why should she fight to live? She has been exiled, that was a death sentence.
In the end it was Maethor who saved her. The mearas butted her gently with his head as he snorted softly. Ty’lana found herself gently touching the horse’s head and apologizing for her moment of weakness. She took a deep breath to steady her nerves and looked around. The sun had set over 2 hours ago yet her keen elven sight could see much farther then a human. Of the wolf there was no sign, but Ty’lana was sure there were other creatures out there. She spread her feet apart to steady herself, cracked her knuckles and closed her eyes, then she cast her senses out like a fisherman casting his net on the sea.
Ty’lana saw the white wolf rejoining its pack, a brown owl slightly taking flight as it noticed a furry rodent trying to hide from it and a young deer running gracefully through the forest. She began to draw back when she sensed a sudden change, the deer had stopped running and was trembling with fear, the wolves had their teeth bared and their hackles raised, something had come to this part of the forest and it was not welcome.
Ty’lana tried to expand her senses and without warning saw the threat.
Orcs. She instantly recognized the misshapen and vile creatures from the sketches she had seen in the history books. These were the creatures of the night; they could not abide the sun, did not hesitate to kill and had an insatiable appetite for human and elven flesh.
She was relieved they were not heading towards her direction, she was about to withdraw and hide when she noticed something odd. The orcs were running on a well traveled track, they began to hide in the nearby trees and were soon out of sight.
It was obvious what they had in mind. They were planning an ambush.
But for who?
Ty’lana let her senses range further and saw 8 mounted riders on the same track. They were humans and would in a short time reach the area where the orcs lay in wait. As she hastily drew back, she felt a familiar presence but ignored it. There was no time; she had to warn the unsuspecting riders. She quickly climbed Maethor and moved through the forest, using the tracks she could see. Time and time again she cast out her senses to check her location. The presence of the orcs and the horsemen was getting stronger.
Soon she was certain she had reached the same track as the riders but in the opposite direction, continuing on the track would bring her face to face with the first rider.
Ty’lana spurred Maethor on, urging him to be faster. He responded enthusiastically, after a year on a ship with only brief exercises whenever they stopped for supplies, the mearas was only too eager to run. It wasn’t long before she saw the first rider. Gripping the horse firmly with her knees, she raised the bow and fired the first arrow. It emerged through the back of an orc where it stayed hidden behind a bush, the creature straightened up with a cry before it tumbled into the road, dead. Realizing they had been discovered the other orcs stood up to attack their prey. Ty’lana was relived that the rider quickly overcame his surprise and began to defend himself. As the other riders fought, Ty’lana quickly planted several arrows in the chests of the attacking orcs. The fight was quickly over with 2 wounded orcs running into the forest. Ty’lana put down her bow and turned to see the riders checking their wounded. Fortunately, the injuries were mild. A rider with a dark blue cloak moved his horse closer to the first rider. “We were lucky Loran, 17 dead orcs and we sustained only light injuries. It could have been worse.”
The lead rider nodded as he pulled back his hood. Ty’lana felt her breath catch. He was an elf! He had pale blonde hair, intense lavender blue eyes, a fine bone structure, a blonde moustache and a short beard. Probably half elf, but that did not matter maybe he could help her.
“Though I appreciate the help I would like to know who offered it.” This statement was directed at her. Ty’lana suddenly remembered she had not pulled back her hood.
She removed it and heard sounds of surprise from the men watching her. A look of shock appeared on Loran’s face.
“Suilad. My name is Ty’lana of Firlaya.”
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Hello everyone and Happy New Year. Hope this year is way better than the last one. Anyway hope u enjoy this one and I will try to be on time next time. SORRY!!!
Suilad is Sindarin for greeting.