I don't care where you live; you cannot know what rain sounds like until you have come to Minas Tirith. It batters against the stone walls and the windows like a hail of pebbles, rattling the rooftops with an insistent roar. It gathers into streams and goes whispering through the old gutters, rising and pooling in the cracks between the flagstones—there is no earth into which it can sink. After a rainfall, the City can stay grey and damp for days on end, like a sodden garment left out in the sun.
There were murmurs of the lingering threat in the East, a Captains' council, and the man who had come to Minas Tirith claiming kingship. Depending upon where you worked and the sharpness of your ears, you might have had any number of rumors and speculations from which to choose. I heard some of the younger surgeons talking about a lull, perhaps a lasting peace. Ioreth would tell anyone whom she presumed would listen (that is, anyone within earshot) about the new King and the strength of his line, the power of his summonings. Most of the soldiers and riders and guardsmen in the City had drawn themselves back into their own private knots, speaking of the prospect for a new battle, guessing at the numbers of men that could be mustered and the strength remaining within Mordor. The mood seemed to go from grim to hopeful to grim again in the space of a few moments, and so when the rain began, the less confident took it as a sign that things would not go well.
"None of them know what they're talking about," Fíriel said. She made a clucking noise with her tongue, a thing she had once told me she tried not to do, as it made her sound like an old wife.
"What do you think is going to happen?" I asked. As I still felt myself to be on uncertain ground with her after the exchange in the dispensary, I refrained from mentioning the cluck.
"I don't know. I don't see any use in trying to guess at such things."
"Well, you must—at least a small bit. Everyone does."
She was quiet for a moment and she closed her eyes. I listened to the assault of water on the high roofs above us. The grey storm clouds had none of the heavy malice that had accompanied the murk on that dawnless day of the Siege.
"I think that something has got to happen soon. Either we go out, or they come to us once more. Things cannot stay this way." She paused. "But Ioreth also tells me that this man—this king—is a healer, like us. And that is certainly encouraging." She smiled, but then she looked at me again and stopped. "Are you all right?"
"Yes. I'm just tired."
"As are we all," she sighed, and she reached over to straighten the cloth on my head. It had made itself crooked again.
* * *
The injured soldier's words would not leave me. They rung in my ears and turned in my stomach. I went to look for Valacar.
"Not here," Laeron told me when I asked him.
"Where is he? I'd like to speak with him."
"Meeting with the Warden, I believe. Look, what is this all about?"
"It—" I stopped and shook my head. I wanted to tell him. I wanted to tell someone. I now had secrets wrapped in secrets, and I could not tease out one piece without unraveling all of it at once. "I think—I think one of the men might be angry with him."
"Angry with him? Why?"
"I don't know. He seems a bit—" I touched a hand to my head. "Not all right."
"Did he say anything, that might…"
"He spoke to me, and he said…" I could feel the threads coming apart in my hands even as I went on. "He said that I did well to speak to those who would soon be no more."
Laeron folded his arms. "But isn't that what you were doing? Tending to the dying men?"
"Well, I was, but the way he said it, Laeron…"
"How did he say it, then?"
"He just sort of—he whispered it. In my ear. But before that, he clutched at me." I touched my arm. "Pulled me in. Trying to frighten me, I suppose."
"If he was trying to frighten you, why are you afraid for Valacar?" I opened my mouth, but Laeron continued: "Which of the men is this, anyway? Do you want someone to go and talk to him for you?"
"No. That's all right—"
"Because that's not a proper way to speak to a young lady, you know. And a healer, besides."
"It's all right, Laeron. Thank you." I turned to go, hiding a smile.
"Wait," he said. "Do you think you might—could you stay, for a while? I don't know when Valacar will be back, and I—well, I've never worked by myself before."
"Of course," I nodded. "Of course I'll stay."
* * *
That was the day I saw the slower-paid wages of the battle. The men with rotted wounds that had crept slowly up their arms and legs—bandages had to be peeled off, and blackness pared away so that the sickness would not take them whole.
I had learned, in my own strange way, to appreciate amputations—I suspect that many of us did. Certainly they were cleaner—if any surgery can truly be called cleaner than another—than the chest-wounds and the stomach-wounds. It was clear, most of the time: go through the flesh, then through the bone with the large saw, then the flesh again. Stitch it all closed, and you know that you are finished.
I had never seen Laeron work before. He was different. When the scalpel was in his hand, all the fidgeting and the nervous shifting subsided. Even his voice took on a slightly different pitch, as if he was no longer searching for the direction in which his words would go. He would do the final inspections and pronouncements before we began: right arm below the elbow, left leg below the knee. Right leg, above the knee.
These men would be all right, I thought. Their wounds would heal. They would live. And maybe Laeron was right about my worries: perhaps it was nothing. It all sounded so silly and formless, anyway, when I had tried to put it all into words. Perhaps everything would be fine.
We did four or five operations in a row. My arms and hands ached. I stood at the washbasin and scrubbed blood from beneath my fingernails. Laeron sat in the chair against the wall, his head tilted back.
"I don't like the way they move them in and out," he said.
"What?" I shook water from my hands.
"They just bring them in one at a time, and then they get taken away when it's done. I suppose it makes me feel like a butcher."
"Well, you're a fine butcher, then."
He smiled, and then he cleared his throat. "The Warden once told me that they used to do it all out in the open, out on the north ward. That might have been better, I guess. Just leave them lying in one place."
"Why did they change it?"
"Probably because…well, it would have been hard on the others. The screaming, I suppose. The sight of everything. So now we work in these little rooms, when we are able."
There was a pause, and I listened through the silence.
"It's still raining," I said.
He closed his eyes, and then he nodded. "It must be dreadful on the lower circles." He was quiet, and then he opened his eyes and stared at me.
"It doesn't make any sense."
"Why would one of the men take up a grudge against a healer?"
I shook my head. "He might…perhaps he might not understand everything. So—perhaps the men we worked on today might be angry at us, for a little while. We took something from them, after all."
I shook the water from my hands; I did not dry them on the front of my smock because the cloth was already too filthy from the day's work. Laeron got up and walked over to the washstand, splashing water up to his forearms.
"What happened?" he asked. He turned around to look at me, and when I was silent he stared back into the basin. "I'm not stupid, believe it or not."
"You what? Can't quite trust me, I suppose?" He was scrubbing very hard, one finger at a time, as all the surgeons did.
"Because I trust you," he said. "And Valacar," he added quietly, with a little snort. "Even though he never tells me anything."
I went and stood next to him, and he still did not look at me.
"It's not a choice of mine, Laeron. Whether or not I—but I do trust you."
He sighed, and he did not speak again until he was finished washing his hands.
"Whatever it is, it must be nothing, indeed, compared to—well, compared to everything else." He shook his head.
"Most things are."
* * *
Because there was no one else to remove them, we gathered the soiled towels into baskets and carried them to the laundry. In the corridor next to the north ward we passed Elloth, who gave us a nod.
When she was gone, Laeron glared at me suddenly.
"And did you tell Valacar that I liked Elloth?"
"No." He continued to stare at me over the pile of bloody cloths. "Maybe. I don't remember."
"Because I don't, you know."
"Probably too good for me, anyway," he muttered.
"No!" I said, laughing for what felt like the first time in days. "More the opposite, I should think."
Laeron blushed the same shade as the towels, and then he mumbled something I could not make out.
We were silent as we walked past the north ward. The men were still clustered everywhere, standing in the aisles and resting against the walls, voices raised to compete with the added murmur of the rain. The wounded soldier was standing by an entryway on the opposite side of the room. I tried to look away, but before I could he caught my eye and held it. I started, and stared down into my basket.
"Are you all right?" Laeron asked me.
"Fine," I murmured. My stomach hurt. "I'm just fine."
* * *
For once, the thick steam of the laundry room felt good. We set down our towels, and then I pulled my smock over my head and set it on the pile. For all the hours I had spent stripping pieces of mail and armor from dead and wounded men, I was still convinced that a dirty smock was the heaviest garment in the world.
Laeron watched me and wiped his brow, raked a hand through his hair. He looked around at the huge tubs and wringers with mild curiosity.
"Never been here before, then?" I asked him.
"I have, but not for years." He leaned one shoulder against the pale wall and rubbed his eyes. Then he laughed.
"Is something funny?"
"I was—no, I was just thinking. I heard something strange, today."
"I was looking in on Lord Tarnion's son—he took a spear to the side while he was on the walls, you see. He was running a fever this morning and Tarnion came to visit. The man's been in a bad way ever since they brought his son back up from the fighting. And the son was sleeping well, but Tarnion was terribly nervous. He reminded me," Laeron paused, then gave a rueful little grin, "well, of me, I suppose. Kept walking to and fro, wouldn't be quiet. I tried to get him to leave, but he just kept talking to me, joking with me—trying to make himself feel better, I'd wager.
"And he asked me how I liked working here. And I said, well enough, but that it was hard work. Then he gave me an odd sort of smile, and clasped me on the shoulder, and said, 'That Aradîr's not giving you too much trouble, then, now is he?' And I said no, he was a good master for the Houses. And then Lord Tarnion just sort of laughed, and said how funny he thought it was that he had been made Master in the first place. I asked him why that was, and then he laughed again (I was afraid he would wake his son) and said that he had heard that Lord Aradîr was wont to dislike fellows like me."
"Fellows like you?" I asked.
Laeron nodded. "He looked to be in a bad way. And he kept calling me 'lad,' as well. 'You greycoats, lad,' he said, 'with those soft hands of yours. You did not hear this from me, lad, but he had some terrible trouble some years back.' And then he asked me if I had ever seen Lord Aradîr's wife, and I said that I didn't think I had. And he just said, 'Well, she's a pretty one, if ever there was.' And then he gave that odd sort of smile again, and he did this."
Laeron held up his left hand, and with his right thumb and forefinger he pressed one of the fingers on his left. It was the finger on which our men and women are accustomed to wearing their wedding rings.
"Well, that's odd," I murmured.
"Aye," Laeron nodded.
"How is his son faring?" I asked as we left the laundry.
"Oh… Well…he's gone, actually. He died earlier this afternoon." He shrugged, and scuffed at the floor with the toe of his shoe. "And a strong one, too. We all thought that he would make it."
* * *
In the corridor, Beren was talking to Elloth. He looked up and smiled when he saw us.
"There you are," he said.
"Here I am," I shrugged. "Beren, this is Laeron," I said, gesturing towards him. "He's a surgeon."
"Just an apprentice," Laeron said. He smiled at Beren and then glanced at Elloth, who looked at me with her eyebrows raised.
"But a very good one," I said. "And Beren is with the City infantry." The two young men shook hands. Laeron was all height and angles next to Beren, who stood firmly planted, one foot slightly forward.
"The surgeons here do excellent work," he said.
"Well, we—we certainly try, I suppose. Thank you." Laeron passed a hand through his hair again. We were both still slightly damp from the air of the laundry, and Beren's clothes were dark with water—he had probably just come in from the outside. "And the same may be said of the soldiers here."
"Yes. Lovely work," Elloth smiled.
"Thank you," Beren chuckled. "We try, as well."
"Well," Elloth intoned, as if she were singing the opening note of a song, "I should return to the dispensary, now." Her gaze went from Beren to me, and back again. "Perhaps you should come too, Laeron," she said with an indulgent little grin in my direction, which I pretended to ignore.
"Oh—well, ah—all right then," said Laeron, looking at each of us in turn. The calm young surgeon was fading away, and the nervous lad returning in his place.
"Quite," Elloth nodded approvingly. "Good even—it was very nice to speak with you, Beren."
"And with you."
"And what were you talking to Elloth about?" I asked Beren after they had left.
"I simply asked her if she had seen you."
"She also remarked that you were a good healer, but a very poor player of cards."
Under my breath, I muttered something uncharitable.
"What was that?"
"Nothing," I said. Then I smiled. "But she thinks you do lovely work." I made two broad, violent slashes with an invisible sword. "Just…lovely." I stabbed for emphasis.
"Well," he mused, one hand on his chin. "She is very pretty." He dropped the last word to a half-whisper and leaned towards me.
I had no reply to make to that, save to put my right elbow into his ribs.
"Hi!" he laughed. "None of that, now." He shifted his weight away from me, and when he caught his balance once more he had slipped an arm about my waist. "I've already been wounded once in this war."
He was warm against me, and I did not meet his eyes. We were alone in the hallway.
"And might you be, again?" I asked after several moments.
"Perhaps." He drew a slow breath. "That's not for me to say."
"Then what say the others?"
He was silent, and then I heard him clear his throat. "That Gondor is not yet safe."
"What would you do to make it so, then?" I was not sure if I should lean in closer to him, or if I should pluck his hand away altogether. "Would you attack, or defend?"
"I would do whatever was commanded of me. Of my company."
"And if that choice was yours?" I shifted my weight but stayed as I was.
"It would not be. Ever."
"Does it bother you?"
"Does what bother me?"
"Never to have a choice."
I could feel him shrug.
"It was my choice to be a soldier. I knew I would have to follow orders. And what sort of a question is that? You do whatever your Warden asks of you, don't you?"
"The orders I follow would never kill me," I said, and regretted it immediately. I was always saying regrettable things to this young man, it seemed.
He was silent for a moment, and then he sighed. "Well, I don't know what to tell you, then." I looked up at him to find him staring at me. "I have to trust my captains."
He stepped back from me. "And yet…" he shook his head. "I feel as though there is something they aren't telling us. Something we're not privy to."
I snorted. "I feel the same way."
"Oh?" He raised his eyebrows. "About what?"
His response was simply to continue looking at me. One day, I thought for no reason in particular. One day I will be able to stare down this man, and he will be sorry indeed. I had seen him as he was that day in the south ward, dressed in his mail, blade at his side, blood running bright trails down his face. But as he was now, I could not imagine him in battle, could not imagine him moving to kill. But then, there was probably very much I could not imagine about him. Very much that I did not know.
"Well, that is the way of things, I suppose. We see naught but our own skirmishes." He paused, and his expression was pointed. "And what about that other fellow, then? What were you talking with him about?"
"Oh? Laeron? I was aiding him at the surgery."
"Do you do that very often?"
"Sometimes. He's in love with Elloth, you know."
"Yes." I grimaced—another regrettable thing. "But pretend I didn't say that. I'm supposed to be good at keeping secrets."
"So am I."
I looked at him, and then I reached for his hand. I wanted to hold something that was not dying or dead.
"What would you do, Beren, if…suppose your friend was wounded near to death."
"My friends were wounded." He closed his fingers around mine and I thought of Tarondor. "They are." He paused. "I would stay with him, if I could. That's what I would want. If it were me."
"Aye." I swallowed. "That's well."
"That's what anyone would do, I should think." With his other hand he reached up and put two fingers beneath my chin. "Here, now—why all these questions? I never ask you anything."
"I worry." I smiled. "Ask me anything."
"Fine, then. Which circle are you from?"
"And how long have you lived there?"
"All my life."
"And why are you a healer?"
"Because my mother is one. And my grandmother was a healer, too. And most likely her mother, as well."
"You have it in the blood, then."
I shrugged, shifting away from his fingers. "I have it in my line. I could never be sure about the blood."
"Well," he said, moving his thumb slowly against my palm, "I am from the Third Circle, and my father is also a soldier. And his brothers, and my brother. So I suppose that that is in my blood, as well. Or my line."
Suddenly I felt a dropping sort of feeling in my stomach.
"Beren, am I going to see you again?" I blurted.
He stared at me. "What do you mean?"
"What do you think I mean? We only chance upon each other's paths, now and again. Or maybe I find myself looking out for you, I—I don't know." I was pressing his hand more tightly. "And suppose that something does happen, and that you are sent away, and—"
"I'll come and find you."
"And there are a great many—well, many of the people I meet, I never see again. I have grown accustomed to that. And I've not known you for very long at all. But we're friends, I suppose, and—" I was thinking that I liked the way he stood and the way he listened. I even thought that I liked that odd barking sort of way that he laughed at times.
"I'll find you," he said.
"I promise." He reached up with his free hand once more, and touched the backs of his fingers to my face. "I'm glad it was you, you know."
"When, ah—with Tar'. I'm glad it was you."
At the noise of footsteps, we dropped one another's hands. He took a step back from me, just as a black-clad aide walked by. The man glanced at us as he passed.
The next time that Beren looked at me, his face was blank.
"Promise," he repeated. And when he left me this time he did not say goodbye.
* * *
And for some reason I was missing my father. This was something that seldom happened, and when it did, I found myself picking at the pain, worrying it like you might worry an aching tooth, seeing how long it could last.
I had a few bits of happiness in the back of my mind, but I had to be careful with these, because they became ugly if I held them for too long or turned them the wrong way. I had memories, from when I was very small, of being lifted into the air and tossed until I shrieked with laughter. I had loved him then because he threw me higher and held me more tightly than anyone else did. And I was his lovely girl and his splendid girl, or at least that was what he whispered in my ear when he had caught me in my descent.
And always that sharp, sickly sweetness on his breath. Years later, when an inebriated young nobleman was brought to the wards (You'll keep this quiet, please; his father is rather important) I caught the same scent in his exhalation and was struck with the sudden and giddy recollection of flight.
* * *
I took my supper quickly, by myself, as had become my habit. I picked at my bread and cheese and realized that all of the days were running together in my mind. And now the rain was the only thing in the world—when had it not been raining? I thought of the way the dried blood came away from my hands in the water of the washbasin. Éowyn and the perian, the eastern river company, the books in Lord Aradîr's offices. I thought especially of the way that the points of Beren's worn knuckles had felt as they brushed against my cheek. That was a good thing, I thought, because it seemed to be mine and I could hold on to it for myself. Not like all of the other things, which kept slipping away from me, rearranging themselves in my thoughts.
Laeron came into the kitchens and sat down across from me.
"He's not back."
"Valacar," he said softly. "He's not returned. No one's seen him."
"Not that I've spoken to. He was supposed to be back."
I had my elbow on the table, and I rested my forehead against my hand and did not say anything.
"So what's happened, then?" I could hear him shift in his chair. "What is it that's so bad I can't know about it?"
"It's not so bad," I whispered. He was staring at me. I took a drink of water before going on. "A few days ago, Laeron, when you were abed with fever. I was…they had just put the rationing in place. And one of the men they brought in, he—well, he was good as gutted, Laeron, but he was breathing. Dying." I took another drink. "And…" I looked down at the table. "Valacar asked me to leave, and I think…" I looked back up at Laeron and made a small motion with my right hand.
Laeron laughed a little when I was finished.
"I don't think he would do that."
I was quiet, and his face changed.
"That's a stupid thing to do," Laeron said. His voice had dropped nearly to a whisper, but it was the sharpest I had ever heard him speak.
"Well, it isn't Canon," I offered.
"It isn't Canon, and it's stupid." His fist connected with the tabletop on the final word. "Did you know he was going to?"
"Laeron, if you had seen—"
"Did you know?"
I was silent again.
"Well, did you say anything to him? Before, I mean?"
"No. Of course not." It had never occurred to me. I was only a girl.
"And so now you think he's—he's got trouble for it?"
"Perhaps. He was—they might have wanted him to be the next Warden."
"There's—" Laeron traced a nervous pattern on the table with one fingertip. "There's things that happen, I suppose. When you feel too much. Or not enough."
"When who feels too much?"
He shrugged. "Everyone. At least, that's always what my mother said." He made an end to the pattern. "Stupid," he repeated.
"Laeron, we…that sort of thing happens all the time, you know. But just with the poppy, and no one—"
"I know. I know, but that's different, it's different, when…" His voice sounded strained, and he trailed off. "I don't like it."
"Neither do I."
He stood up. "Well, I don't—" He looked around. "I've been put on the evening-shift, as well."
"I've not. I can go and have a check about the wards…then maybe the out-buildings."
"All right," he sighed. "Will you come back and talk to me, if you have the chance?"
"And Laeron?" I asked. "You'll keep this close, won't you?"
"Yes," he said, rubbing his hand over his eyes. "Yes. What else am I supposed to do, after all?"
* * *
Most days I could cut across the gardens, and also any number of those small courtyards of which the builders of our City seemed to be so fond, tucked like stone pockets between buildings and alleyways. But when it was raining I stayed beneath the eaves and overhangs that lined the outside walls; there were few things more miserable than going around in wet shoes.
I made my way around the wards, and a knot of dread began to grow in my throat and my stomach once more. I was not accustomed to being alone in this way. There had always been someone to fall back to: the Warden, or my mother, or Fíriel. Now I seemed to have only myself to rely on—except for perhaps Laeron, but he knew no more than I did. Less than I did.
I remembered his fist on the table—stupid.
And what did you think he would say? I asked myself. Perhaps it should have been a relief, but it felt simply like one more thread to add to the tangle of things.
I left the wards and the main part of the Houses. I had no plans of what I should do, if I should do anything at all; but sometimes everything felt clearer to me when I was on my feet. The out-buildings, some offices and small houses and apartments, were clustered a short distance away from the eastern edges of the Houses. Night had fallen, and the City gleamed inexact and grey around me. The sound of the rain pounded in my ears, a dull constant roar.
I turned a corner, and suddenly I found myself very angry with Valacar. Why did he do the things that he did, I wondered, tell me the things that he told me? Couldn't he have told me to run along, there's a good girl, like any other surgeon would have? He should have left me stupid and unknowing and happy—or as happy as I could have been, at the time. I had things enough to trouble me.
More than enough—always more.
"Oh," I said. I had glanced over my shoulder, and someone was there.
Oh, what? he asked, and I stepped back. Stumbled back, felt a wall behind me. Too many walls in this city.
He was there in front of me, and I wanted to be somewhere else. Anywhere else, and quickly. In my mind I added and subtracted distances. It was a narrow side-street, nearly an alleyway. I could not remember which of his feet had taken the wound—it could have nearly healed by now.
You'll let me pass, please, I said.
I moved to the side, tried to get forward, looking for an opening or a slow point. I moved and he caught me by the arm, and this time he did not let go. My surprise turned to panic, and I could hear myself cry out in alarm against the rain and the hardness of his grip.
You'll be quiet, he said, and then the back of my head struck hard against the wall. Things seemed to bleed away from my mind for half of a moment, and when my sense returned there was only him. He was crushing against me and I could not breathe. Something sharp and cold at my throat. My mind was screaming inside of itself. Why didn't you look out? He was there. How long was he there?
You'll be quiet, he repeated. I could not breathe. There was no room for me. He was going to break my bones, snap my ribs into halves and pieces.
You shouldn't be by yourself tonight, he said. Why are you alone, then?
Wordless at last. Doesn't know everything, does she? You don't know anything, little one. Don't think you're better than I am.
Don't— I choked. His breath was slow and heavy, and I heard it and I could feel it against me.
You weren't there. You don't know what it is when they come pouring all about you, and everywhere is death. Too many, you see—everything is eating, with them. Eat you alive, if they could. They're all teeth. They're all blood and noise.
I made a sound in my throat. I was limp, I was sick with fear.
You see, he said, they came and they were everywhere and there was nothing else. We were the front lines. We were in front. We were put there. And so first it was for the captains—they were the ones who could kill us. We were marks on a map.
He pushed the carving knife a bit harder against the skin of my neck.
And then they came, and there was nothing else, there was nothing. And now it is for you—it is for you people to kill us, if you like. Kill us as if we were nothing, too.
Eastern river company, the captain had told me. I had thought them all lost. And then I understood: the little wooden men had had no balance to them because they were never meant to stand in the first place. Because they were corpses.
Not for you to say, he said. Not for you to do. Not for you.
He pressed me harder against the wall. He had taken the knife from my neck.
I could kill you right now, he said.
I closed my eyes. I could feel the metal slither lightly over my cheek, against my eyelids, barely touching. My face was wet. He had his hand in the folds of my skirts, and I heard myself make a sobbing noise.
Throw you on the fire. How would you like that, little one? Don't think that you know everything.
The inside of my chest was burning and I could not breathe.
I may not, though. I don't have to be like that.
His hand was in the folds of my skirts, and he moved again and I opened my eyes and closed them and everything was black and red. I tasted blood in my mouth. I could not breathe and at some moment he was so close against me that my spine was grating against stone. I fought him, then fought harder, but he was too heavy against me and then he had a hand against my neck and I could not breathe, and all the cries burned and died in my throat and anywhere else, I thought—anywhere else but—and he was killing me and I could not breathe—
When he was finished with me he moved back. Then he was standing over me, fixing his clothes. I was sobbing for air. He touched me with the toe of his boot. I could hear him breathing hard.
Well, don't cry, he whispered. That wasn't so bad.
I put my head against my knees and closed my eyes and waited. I was crumpled up in pain and too frightened to move. I did not know how long I stayed that way, but when I looked up again I was alone by the wall in the dark. The air was cool from the water. I leaned forward and retched, and my ribs were aching. The flagstones were damp and rough against the heels of my hands. Some part of my face was dripping blood.
I drank the air and I could not move for a very long time. When I got up, I thought I could still hear the rain falling.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.