King's Folk, The
15. The Rose of the South
hills threaded with little silvery streams, dotted
with stands of trees and occasional outcroppings of
the rust red stone that had given the region its name
'Carnarthon' the Red Land.
Beomann had never been south of the Road before but
he knew this country from his grandfather's tales. The
Butterburs' original home had been somewhere near
here. A fine big farm, Grandad had said, outside a
village called Upwood and not far from the King's city
And here was Sudbury, rising from the lowlands
around it, and it was very different from
Wutherington. Not only was it immediately obvious that
a city had once stood here but you might even say it
still did - after a fashion.
"I must admit this looks more promising." Gil
"Certainly plenty to work with." Belegon agreed.
The ancient city of Cardol towered above them like
a mountain seven terraces high, each encircled by a
massive wall of rose red stone with broken gables and
domes showing above them between the leafy boughs of
evergreen trees. At the very top the ruinous stump of
a great tower, rising two or three stories above the
citadel wall, was silhouetted against the pale winter
A moat fed by five streams encircled the city with
a great earthen rampart rising above it crowned by the
first circuit wall, built of man sized blocks fitted
almost seamlessly together and interupted at regular
intervals by semicircular bastions, still sharp edged
and unweathered dispite centuries of neglect.
The company circled the city southward until they
came to the Greenway, the old, overgrown North-South
road. The stone bridge that had once crossed the moat
to the Great South Gate was broken, the missing center
span replaced by a rather makeshift arrangement of
wood and rope.
Beomann looked at it so dubiously that Dan had to
fight back a smile. "Don't worry, it's stronger than
it looks." he promised.
"I certainly hope so!" the Bree Man answered,
But although the bridge quivered alarmingly under
hoof, hold it did and the company passed safely
between the great guard towers and under a broad
arched span into the weedy remains of an open square,
the broad avenues running out of it on either side
overshadowed by tall evergreen trees, their branches
tangling together overhead to turn them into green
shadowed tunnels. Belegon led the party up the east
road. Looking from side to side Beomann saw roofless
facades with blindly gaping windows between the
massive tree trunks. Side streets opened off the main
avenue at regular intervals, those on one side sloping
down to the outer wall, and on the other up to the
second circuit wall. Every so often the avenue would
open up into a square decorated with the remains of
fountains and statues or pass through patches of
overgrown greenery that had once been parks or
"The outer shells of the buildings are intact for
the most part, except where we've taken stone for the
nearer holdings," Belegon told Gil and Aranel, "though
the interiors were gutted by fire and pillage and
time. Yet a few score Dwarf masons could doubtless put
the stonework to right in short order and our own
carpenters rebuild floors and roofs."
"But who will live here?" Gil demanded.
"The Gondorim perhaps, many of them are townsfolk
and would doubtless prefer it to farming." Belegon
"They can't be enough to fill all the seven
circles." Gil retorted, apparently determined raise
every possible objection.
"Belegon doesn't have to restore all the levels,"
his sister pointed out. "He can start with the citadel
and work his way down as the population grows.
"Really, Gilya, there's no need to be so contrary!"
"You're just determined not to like the idea aren't
you?" said Beomann.
"It strikes me as impractical and a waste of the
few resources we have." Gil snapped, then smiled
apologetically at the Bree Man. "But I have my orders
and will obey them, if not happily."
They wound their way up the seven levels to the
high citadel and found its great gate court all but
buried under the remains of the toppled tower. The
damage was worse here than in the lower circles, the
great halls and lesser buildings had not only been
gutted by fire but their walls partially pulled down.
The very pavements had been dug up and tiny fragments
were all that was left of the statues and fountains
that had once adorned the seat of the Kings of
The whole party stood silent under the gate for a
long moment, looking at the wreckage.
"This will take more than a little work by
stonemasons and carpenters." Gil observed at last.
"The Dunlendings were very thorough." Belegon
"I hope they left at least one clear spot where we
may camp the night." Aranel said practically.
Beomann climbed up to the battlemented walk over
the gate and looked down at the ruined city. The ruddy
stone of which it had been built glowed in the light
of the setting sun, and Beomann felt his eyes sting.
"It must have been very beautiful once."
"It was indeed." Gilvagor agreed quietly: "Beril en
Harmen, the Rose of the South it was called in the Old
Days, the pride and delight of the Southern Kingdom."
Beomann turned to look at the Ranger, magically
materialized next to him. The finely modeled,
aristocratic features beneath their scrub of beard and
thatch of unkempt hair looked sad and wistful, like
one remembering lost splendors.
"Why are you so set against rebuilding it?" Beomann
"Because I do not think it can be done." Gil
answered. "The past cannot be called up again, and we
Dunedain and our cities belong to the past. Our time
"How can you say that when you're still here?"
Beomann demanded almost angrily. "Without you there
wouldn't be a Bree or a Shire or villages along the
Brandywine, nor towns in the Angle. There'd be nothing
but Wild from the Blue Mountains to the Misties, and
it all full of Orcs and Wargs and Bad Men from what
Gil smiled a little, but still sadly. "Thank you.
Yes we have saved that much, but much has been lost
and still more will be. The last of the High Elves are
preparing to leave Middle Earth and with them will go
many old friends and kin dear to us."
He was silent a moment, and when he continued he
seemed to be speaking to himself rather than Beomann,
perhaps even to have forgotten the Bree Man was there
to hear. "I didn't expect to have to deal with any of
this. I thought - we all thought - we marched North to
our deaths whether the Ringbearer succeeded or no." a
faint, wry grimace. "It's almost embarrassing to find
oneself still alive after having resolved to die nobly
in defense of the West."
Another brief silence, then very quietly: "And I am
tired, so tired. Rebuilding the holdings and the Line
is almost more than I can face. I have not the
strength or the courage to remake a realm." a sigh. "I
wish Aragorn would come home."
Beomann, appalled, pitying and desperately
embarrassed, found himself remembering the time, nigh
on two years ago, when his parents had left him in
sole charge of the Pony for a whole three weeks while
they went to help Aunt Alison after half the
Forsaken's roof had been blown off in an autumn storm
and Bannock laid up with a broken leg. How
overburdened he'd felt and how glad he'd been when his
parents had finally come home and taken the load off
his shoulders! Gil was much older of course, but then
he'd had a kingdom and a war left on his hands not
just an inn, anyway he seemed to be feeling much the
same now as Beomann had then. He tried to find
something to say.
"But you're not alone anymore," he managed at last,
"We Bree Folk will help, and the Hobbits of the Shire
and all the other villagers and townsmen. We can show
you how to farm and keep shops and all the rest just
like you asked. And the Dwarves will help with the
building and the folk from down South too." he ran out
of breath and inspiration at about the same time and
looked nervously at Gil to see what effect he'd had.
The Ranger stared at him in open surprise, he
really had forgotten Beomann was there. Then he
smiled. "Thank you, it's ungrateful of me to talk so
but my spirits have been flat on the ground ever since
our victory and I don't know why, nor how to raise
Beomann didn't know either, but he found himself
wondering rather resentfully why Strider - the King -
was still lallygagging in the South with so much
trouble here in the North that needed fixing. High time he
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