Fairer Than Ivory, Silver, or Pearls
Playlist Navigation Bar
Cursed Queen of Angmar, The: 10. Herumor
With the Queen's chambers damaged, and a baby on the way, it was decided that Ariashal would move into the King's rooms. Like her own, this room was an octagon, and it too had the magic protections inlaid in the floor. These too were of precious metals, but there were also jewels set into them, sparkling in the soft blue light shed by the silver sconces.
His bed was hung with heavy black velvet drapes. It was so dark inside that no light penetrated; it was like being in a cave. It was also higher than her own bed. A footstool was brought so that she could manage to get on and off without injury.
There were several other rooms in his suite. Adzuphel took the time to show them to her, so that she would not feel quite so uncomfortable. One was a small council room, where meetings, either late or emergency, could take place. He pointed out the massive doors that led to the King's magic study, but she would not go any nearer to them than she must. Instead he led her back to the largest door in the suite.
"This is his library, and I daresay it ranks amongst the finest in all of Middle-Earth. Here are housed the rarest of manuscripts. In here are the tomes of magic, books that some men think exist only in legend. There are ancient scrolls in here, too, some even written in the language of the Valar themselves, and many fine, painted books. His Majesty loves books, madame. He has agents hunting the world over for volumes to add to his collection. I believe he has even negotiated with dragons for some of the rarest ones."
"But I thought you said that he did not deal with the dragons."
Adzuphel laughed. "When it comes to books, madame, the King will deal with the Elves themselves. Books, and anything from Numenor."
"Numenor? Numenor drowned ages ago!"
"Aye, indeed. These tapestries, much of the King's regalia, many books--are from Numenor. So is much of the jewelry he has given you. He has a great passion for things Numenorean. Sometimes, when his--brethren visit, they spend the entire time speaking nothing but that long- dead tongue."
"The black robes? Have they been visiting?"
Adzuphel shifted uneasily. "Well, my Queen, truth to tell, there have always been visits. Even now one is staying here in Carn Dum."
"Which one?" she demanded, her heart pounding. "Khamul?"
"Oh, no. He almost never visits. No, this one is called Herumor. He is one of the ones who speaks Numenorean."
"How long has he been here?"
"I would not leave until I was certain that there was someone else to watch you."
She spun around. The King stood in the door, his massive frame blocking the entrance.
"My Lord! You startled me. I did not hear you."
He came to her. "I have known Herumor for a very long time. Adzuphel is a good man, but he is no sorcerer. Herumor is a competent one. I would not leave you vulnerable to any attack while I was away, and I trusted Herumor to protect you."
"I see," she said, relieved. "Where is he? I would like to thank him."
"He will be down later. You will meet then. I trust that you find my rooms to your liking?"
"Very much so."
"Good. You may use the library, if you wish. There are a few volumes in Westron and Sindarin. I do not know what you will make of them, but looking will do no harm."
He kissed her hand. "I had best leave you now, that you may continue your move."
She watched the bodyguards surround him outside the door. Permission to use a magic library was not something she had ever expected to receive in her lifetime, and now that she had it, she did not know what to do. Best to leave it alone, and finish settling in.
She finally met Herumor that evening, when he was invited to eat with them.
He was tall, though not as tall as the King. He had a slight accent, which she could not quite place, and a rather archaic inflection that made the simplest sentence sound grand. He was unfailingly polite, and it seemed to her that this was a natural part of his character, not something done merely to impress her. From his conversation she gathered that he had learned spell casting from the King. That he was in awe of his master's abilities was undeniable. Small wonder, then, that he had been asked to watch the castle.
After he left Ariashal sorted out her feelings about him. Obviously the King thought him trustworthy. He did not frighten her, he treated her with respect, he had the confidence of the King. She decided that she would get to know him better, and that he could stay.
When she informed the king of her decision, he agreed that she could speak with Herumor again, and that if she felt sufficiently comfortable with him around, he would come and stay whenever the King had to leave her behind. It was a relief, somehow, to know that there was another around who could wield magic, even if he was one of the black robes.
Months crawled by. It seemed as if the winter storms would never end; they wanted vengeance for being held in check. Ariashal settled into the King's chambers as best she could, although they were considerably darker than she preferred, and she was more than a little uneasy about her pregnancy with the magic study nearby. For her benefit the King cast an impressive spell over the door to the study. White flames flickered along the edges of the doors, inscribing strange symbols across the doors themselves. Satisfied that nothing would attack from the study, she was finally able to relax.
Nights were much the same as before. He was still attentive with her, despite the pregnancy. They must be careful of the child, so he was extremely gentle with her, treating her as though she were made of glass. Gone were the days of straddling him while he carried her to the wall, or of clutching the curtains while he took her from behind. She missed the wild, frenetic nights, and longed for when they could resume.
Usually he spent the better part of the night reading, often in the library. He did not need much sleep; he usually rested for a few hours, then was ready to work again, as refreshed as if he had spent the entire night asleep. Ariashal suspected that he slept next to her more from a desire to keep her safe than from any real need for rest. Indeed, whenever he did wish to rest, it was during the brightest part of the day. He would retreat into the black sanctuary of the bed, draw the curtains, and sleep. Ariashal never disturbed these rests, for although she longed to watch over him she knew he would find her presence intrusive. Instead she waited outside, sewing, embroidering elegant golden patterns onto her shifts, hoping that the runes could keep the curse away.
Other times she would awaken during the night to find him examining some odd piece of metal or stone. He never used more than the dim blue light of the magic sconces, which only made the room feel that much colder. Occasionally she would call to him, to remind him that it was late, and he would best be in bed. Usually he gave a noncommital answer, never looking away from his work. Oft times she would go to him, gently massage his shoulders and back. Sometimes he reached back and held her hand, sometimes he murmured thanks, sometimes he did not seem to be aware of her at all.
Of late he had been poring over astrological charts and maps, plotting points and making notations in a strange script. The child was not due for at least seven weeks; perhaps he was trying to find the most advantageous day for her to be brought to bed. She rubbed her distended belly and hoped all would go well.
The onset of the winter storms meant the beginning of what Adzuphel referred to as ‘party season'. Two or three times a week there was a gathering of some sort at the castle. Usually there were feasts, with music and dancing. Sometimes there were simple plays, and there were a few individuals who performed such feats as juggling or acrobatics.
Ariashal, robed in magnificent velvet and fur gowns, sat alongside the King while the diversions played out before them. She knew that much of this was for her; the King merely tolerated it. He preferred gatherings where he could observe the behavior of his more powerful lords and commanders. On such occasions he wandered about the room, Ariashal at his side, exchanging a few words here and there with the guests, all of whom treated the King with a mixture of reverence, awe, and fear.
It was at one of these that someone asked the King when there would be a day of reckoning.
"Soon," said the King, and the man departed.
"What does that mean?" she asked.
"A few times a year we hold the executions and trials by combat in the arena. We are overdue for such a day, and there are some who are growing restless. While I will not be ruled by a mob, the people need their entertainment."
"Do you go to them?"
"I must," he said. "I sit in judgement, and must see that the sentences are carried out."
"Then perhaps you should hold one of these--days of reckoning."
"Would it please you to see it?"
"It would please me to see you sit in judgement."
"Very well. We shall hold one by the end of the week."
Ariashal thought about the upcoming display of justice for most of the remainder of the evening. Both in Rhudaur and when living with the Hill folk, she had seen her share of violence. People were killed daily; her own husband had been killed in a drunken duel during a feast. This Day of Reckoning promised to be a relief from the raw anarchy she had witnessed.
Playlist Navigation Bar