King's Folk, The
16. The Isle of The Prince
levels of Cardol and once outside its gates turned
southwest towards Tol Ernil, Belegon's home. The hills
became fewer and lower and the gound between them soft
and boggy. Occasional clumps of willow and alder
gradually thickened into a dense forest of knarled and
ancient trees with meres of still water gleaming
sullenly among their roots.
Belegon wended his way confidently over this
treacherous ground, the rest of the party strung out
single file behind him and Beomann was very careful to
follow exactly in Gil's tracks for he could see no
path at all.
Then suddenly from up ahead he heard the
unaccountable ring of hoof on stone and a moment or
two later Brandywine stepped from boggy earth lumpy
with roots onto a moss patched causway running arrow
straight deeper into the wood. Beomann looked his
astonishment at Dan who just grinned.
"Not much farther now."
Three miles later the trees suddenly gave way to a
broad, mirror smooth moat reflecting the red stone
walls of a castle with a long gabled roof and the
pinacle of a tower showing above them. Beomann's mouth
dropped open but before he could get any questions out
they had clattered across the moat and through the
tunnel-like arch of a massive gatehouse into a cobbled
The gabled roof belonged to a very high, very long
building of the now familiar red stone. The winter
bare boughs of a huge and ancient oak tree shaded the
flight steps leading up to the great door. The tower
beside the hall was linked to it by an arcaded gallery
raised high above the ground on stout stone piers, and
had ten rows of windows, some set with colored glass,
glittering in the sunlight.
No faces appeared at those windows nor did anybody
emerge from the open door of the hall. The whole place
was silent and empty as the Elven Princess' Castle in
the Tangled Wood. Then some Rangers came out of the
gatehouse to take the horses, Mortal Men not Elves,
and Beomann silently berated himself for being so
foolishly relieved. Maybe he *had* read to many old
stories, just as his Dad had always said.
Inside the long building seemed to be one gigantic
room. the sun came through big windows, so high up
they looked small, and reflected off the red stone
walls and vaulted ceiling causing them to glow with a
warm and rosy light that made the immense and empty
hall seem far less and forbidding than one might
The floor was paved with squares of black, white
and red marble. Four doors were spaced at regular
intervals down each long wall, with three huge cold
fireplaces set between them. A seventh fireplace,
larger than the others, was centered on the curved
wall behind the dais at the head of the hall with
three black banners hanging above it: one emblazoned
with an arc of seven stars above a single much larger
star of many points; a second with a crossed bow and
quiver beneath another many pointed star; and the
third, hanging between them, ensigned with a green oak
tree, a golden sun shining in its boughs, beneath an
arch of seven silver stars.
"Where is everybody?" Beomann whispered to Dan as
they followed Belegon and Gil up the length of the
"Hollin or the Enedwaith or on patrol." the young
Ranger answered, "they are as hard pressed here in the
South as we in the North."
"Though with a somewhat different set of problems."
said Belegon without turning his head. "Hollin is the
land between the Loudwater and the Mountains, Beomann,
and Enedwaith the country south of the Greyflood."
"But that's not our land is it?" the Bree Man asked
This time Belegon did look around with a smile.
"Exactly right. Old Cardolan was bounded by the Road
in the north, the Hoarwell in the east, the Brandywine
in the west and the Greyflood in the south. Hollin and
the Enedwaith have become lurking places for our
enemies and we have pursued them there."
By now they were climbing up the steps of the dais.
"The seven and one stars are the banner of the North
Kingdom," Belegon continued. "the bow and quiver is
the emblem of my House, the House of the Great Bow,
and there between them is the oak and sun of
Beomann craned his neck to look up at it. 'That's
*our* banner,' he thought with a surprising surge of
emotion, 'our kingdom and our own king, near at hand
in Sudbury not far off at Norbury like the High
Kings.' Then with a sudden fierce determination:
'Strider - the King - is right. It *can* be that way
again and it will be, we'll make it so.'
A door tucked into a corner behind the dais led to
the wide arcaded passage between hall and tower. At
the end of it was a double door, made of some
red-golden metal brighter than copper, engraved with
the oak and sun. On the other side of that was a big
round room ringed by gleaming colums of dark grey
stone, huge arched windows filled with jewel toned
glass showing between them. A simple chair carved of
some red material stood on a small dais facing the
Tucked behind a pillar was yet another door, this
one opening onto a long stone stair spiraling around a
great center post and lit by small, deepset windows.
They passed one landing, shaped like a slice of pie
with a door opening off it, continued on to a second.
This door Belegon opened.
Beomann had time to notice no more than the room
was large and bright with sunlight before a small form
crying "Papa! Papa!" hurtled out of nowhere to throw
itself into Belegon's arms. Only to catch sight of
Aranel's children a second later and promptly wiggle
free. "Lalaith, Daeron!"
"My son Bellin," Belegon explained to Beoman as the
little boy happily greeted his cousins. Bellin seemed
astonishingly small to be his tall father's son, a
pretty child, like Aranel's two, with light brown hair
and big blue eyes. "And this is my wife, Finduilas."
Beomann found himself looking up at a beautiful
lady much taller than himself, though barely coming to
her husband's shoulder, with a coil of golden hair and
deep blue eyes. Silverlock was the only other fair
haired Ranger he had ever seen and he wondered if
they were related.(1)
"Beomann Butterbur of Bree," Belegon was telling
his wife, "who's taken service with us."
Finduilas smiled at him. "Welcome to Tol Ernil,
And he turned red to the ears and couldn't think of
a thing to say, though he did manage a bow. Mercifully
the lady then turned her attention to her kin and
Beomann was left free to look around.
It was another of those long, narrow Ranger rooms
but gently curved to fit into the round tower. The
outer wall was all big, peaked windows inset with the
by now familiar Ranger motifs of moons and suns and
stars, flowers and trees, ships and towers, in colored
glass. The deep sills under them were spread with
cushions of green and blue and scarlet making
comfortable window seats for a number of Women and
girls busily stitching away.
A spicy scent came from bowls of dried leaves and
flowers standing among the litter of cloth scraps and
spools of thread. Beomann realized they were making
herb-bags like the ones his mother used to repel
fleas, moths, and other pests. Such homely objects
seemed out of place here, surely folk living in
castles didn't have to worry about moth or bugs
getting into the flour?
He heard Lady Finduilas tell Belegon, "Aragorn has
sent another messenger." and turned.
"And what does our Lord and kinsman have to say to
us?" Gil asked, an unspoken 'what now?' very clear in
face and voice.
"Nothing. He is asking for tidings not sending
them." Finduilas replied. "It seems he has grown
impatient waiting for a reply to his last missive."
Gil snorted. "He has no idea what we are facing
here in the North."
"How can he when we have agreed not to trouble him
with it?" Finduilas asked reasonably. And Gil smiled
"I know, I'm not being fair to Aragorn. No doubt he
has troubles enough and to spare among the Gondorim,
which is why I can't understand this obsession of his
with rebuilding the ruined cities."
"That is exactly what he's asking about." said
Finduilas, and lifted her eyebrows questioningly.
Gil shrugged wearily. "We are agreed Minas Sul is a
hopeless case," a quick smile, "even Beomann here who
is wholeheartedly in favor of Aragorn's plan. Stone
has been carted away and the very foundations dug up,
there is nothing left to work with. Fornost and Cardol
are in different case. Only the citadels were
deliberately slighted, the lower circles are suffering
from the effects of pillage and time but our ancestors
built sound and they could be restored with sufficient
"Then let you tell Aragorn's messenger so." the
lady said briskly.
1. They're not. Finduilas is golden haired like most
of the House of Urin, descendants of Hador Goldenhead.
She is in fact the sister of Aranel's late husband Ingloron.
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