13. Chapter 13
“There is no doubt you have made an effort, Lothíriel, which of course has had repercussions in the attention you receive. That, I agree, has provoked a certain jealousy. But if you would only join in with their gossip, the ladies would welcome you into their circle. Your disinterest makes you appear aloof; add that to the fact they have to defer to your rank, and it’s no wonder they whisper behind their hands.”
“Tinusel! You never give up.” Lothíriel shook her head in exasperation. “You browbeat me into appearing for the court functions, scheme with my maid to dress me in what you consider suitable attire…oh don’t look so innocent.” Lothíriel chuckled. “I know what you have been up to! And now you tell me the ladies of the court will be …are … jealous of me, and I have to join in with their gossip to make them like me.”
“Hmm... I do sound as though I am contradicting myself, my dear.” Tinusel fanned herself with a fern she had filched earlier from a large arrangement of greenery the housekeeper had placed on a side table. Lothíriel put her hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter as almost without thinking her elderly friend, not content with the cooling properties of the frond, dipped her fingers inside the vase and proceeded to pat the water over her cheeks. A drop ran down her chin and fell onto her muslin blouse. She swiped at it irritably. “But you don’t have to try to attract suitors, they appear from nowhere. The ladies would not mind if you played coy, or if you were swollen with pride, they could handle that. Indifference worries them.”
“Oh, for goodness sake!” But Lothíriel grinned indulgently. She might have no interest in attracting suitors, but she did appreciate Tinusel’s friendship and wry way of looking at things.
“I thought I had convinced you that not all men are like that serpent fellow… what’s his name… Umbar?”
“Umar,” Lothíriel corrected her.
“That’s it! Sergion says he’s mad, reckons he’s got the pox…”
“Tinusel!” Lothíriel gasped. “I can’t believe Sergion told you that.”
“Well, he did. I knew his mother.”
Lothíriel stared at her; sometimes she just couldn’t follow her reasoning. “What’s that got to do with it?”
Tinusel frowned. “I am not sure, but it must be significant, and anyway I thought we had agreed that men could be pleasant company. You cannot deny that you have enjoyed the last few months since I took you under my wing.”
Lothíriel raised her eyebrows. “And introduced me to every man going!” She dropped a hand onto a thin muslin-clad shoulder. “But I agree you have helped me to bury the awful memories. I do realise that not all men are like him, and there are one or two I have enjoyed dancing with but…” she stopped, not wanting to voice her thoughts.
“But what, dear?”
“With that out there I see no point in even discussing suitors, or worrying about whether I evoke jealousy.” Lothíriel waved her hand towards the window. “That’s what should be bothering the ladies of the court, Tinusel. Not who dances with whom. Can’t they see it?”
Tinusel tightened her lips. “They can see it, Lothíriel. The same as we all can see it. But how do you expect us ladies to deal with it? We are helpless, and it is easier to pretend it is not there. Better, some think, to ignore what is happening and carry on our lives than to give way to despair.”
Shrugging her shoulders, Lothíriel turned impatiently to the window. She pushed open the casement and stared out towards the east. Away in the distance the thick plume of smoke from Mount Doom puffed into a clear sky. These last weeks no one could have failed to notice the increase in the belching filth that at times spread over the top of the Ephel Dúath to blanket Ithilien with a black mantle of fear. As she watched, a tongue of flame erupted from the cone, as though someone had thrown a handful of dry kindling onto a fire, and the area around the top of the mountain disappeared in a haze of burning ash. She shivered. It had been happening more and more, as though the mountain was getting ready for some cataclysmic event. How could the nobles of the city ignore this warning, carry on with their idle chit chat, giving flirtation a more important role than defence? She heard the chair scrape behind her and felt a hand on her arm.
“I am sorry, my dear. I have spent so long these last months trying to put the smile back on your face, but you are right; ignoring what is happening will not make it go away. And you have your brother to worry about, as well as your cousins.”
Lothíriel dropped her eyes from the sky to the foot of the Ephel Dúath – Osgiliath, the vanguard of their defences. She could just see the tall towers protruding from the afternoon haze. Somewhere below them Erchirion would be on duty. Suddenly a tremor of unease shot through her, and for a moment, even though the distance was far too great, she was sure she could see a dark cloud floating low over the ruined city, and above it something black circled menacingly.
“Oh!” Lothíriel clutched at the sill to steady herself.
“What is it? Lothíriel, what is it? You have gone white.”
“I don’t know. I felt a terrible evil presence, as though we were being attacked even as we stand safe behind the high walls of Minas Tirith.”
2 weeks later
“Haradrim? Haradrim joined the orcs against us?” Lothíriel gasped, her innards twisting as all the memories came flooding back.
Sergion nodded. “Our forces were outnumbered, for as well as the Haradrim, Mordor has allied itself with the Easterlings. But it was not by numbers they were defeated, Boromir says that they felt a power that they had never experienced before. Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came a madness filled foe and defender alike, and horse and man gave way and fled. Only a remnant of our eastern force came back, destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath. Boromir, Faramir and Erchirion were among them.”
“Thank the Valar they are safe.” Lothíriel sat down heavily on a chair. “But for how long?”
“Well, demolishing the bridge halted Mordor's offensive for the time being,” Sergion replied. “Gondor now possesses the West of Osgiliath and Mordor the East. But this lull is probably due to the fact that the assault was mostly a probe of our defenses, rather than an all out attack. The situation is dire; if they come in such force again we may not be able to hold them.We cannot match their strength of arms, so some other way must be found.”
Lothíriel looked up sharply, meeting Sergion’s eyes. “I have heard something about a dream. There are whispers everywhere, but it sounds so unlike Boromir. Faramir, yes, I can believe he would take notice of a dream, but Boromir?”
“It’s true. They have not divulged the contents to anybody other than their father, but servants have ears. The brothers hold the dream to be of great importance and between them they have managed to convince him it has some deep meaning,” Sergion confirmed. “Which is why Denethor has arranged a full meeting of the elders and also called your father for counsel.”
Lothíriel got up and walked to the window, trying to digest what Sergion had told her. The attack had started that very day she had gazed out this same window at the eruption from Mount Doom. She had felt the hostility then, but only later learned of the attack. Mordor’s assault had made her conversation with Tinusel pointless: there had been no dancing since. No one could deny the terrible threat any longer. But a dream? Her two normally forthright cousins were suggesting Gondor’s defense should be trusted to a dream?
Her father’s skepticism was apparent when he arrived a couple of days later. He rushed in covered in dust, having ridden fast from Dol Amroth in answer to Dentethor’s summons. Lothíriel felt a surge of love towards him; it was not often she saw him less than perfectly groomed. He stopped long enough to change his outer clothing, but then hurried off for the meeting, shaking his head in answer to her question about what was going on.
“I only know, Lothíriel, that Boromir and Faramir have shared a dream. According to the message from Denethor, one that seems to have a hidden meaning. Quite frankly I have never credited either with the gift of foresight, but,” he ruffled her hair,” perhaps it does run in the family.”
However, when hours later he joined her and Sergion in the garden, he appeared much more thoughtful, sitting down and taking a cup of tea with barely a word. “Well,” Lothíriel said, eager to know what had happened. “Is it to be kept a secret?”
“I can tell you, but it is not for general consumption, and I would not like it to go any further. But it strikes me, Lothíriel you may be able to shed some light, what with all the reading you do.” Imrahil drained his cup and passed it for a refill. Seemingly unaware of the two people hanging on to his words, he took a few sips before he spoke. “Faramir had the dream first; it came to him in a troubled sleep on the eve of the sudden assault, and many times since. But the strange thing is that Boromir also had exactly the same dream.” He put the cup to his lips but the rim stayed just touching his mouth – poised in thought.
“Go on!” Lothíriel could hardly contain her impatience.
“What? Oh yes, I was trying to work it out.” Imrahil gulped the tea and put the cup down. He leant forward in his chair. “See what you two make of it – both my nephews said that in their dream the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it they heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That Doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand.
Sergion drew his eyes together in a frown, “That’s it? That’s all there was?”
“Yes,” Imrahil answered. “But it is taken very seriously. The fact that Boromir backs his brother is seen as significant. He is normally the pragmatic one. All Denethor would say about it is that Imladris is the elvish name for Rivendell, where dwells Elrond Halfelven. It lies way beyond Rohan, a hidden valley, somewhere in the Misty Mountains. A long and perilous journey. But Gondor is in such a grim situation, the chances of keeping the Dark Lord at bay look bleak, so it has been decided that either Faramir or Boromir will undertake the journey. Denethor will give his decision as to which of his sons will travel to Rivendell at this evening’s meal.” Imrahil turned to his silent daughter, “You are expected to attend, Lothíriel.”
Lothíriel looked up at the sound of her name; she had been searching her memory for clues to the meaning of the rhyme. “The Sword that was broken must be Elendil’s sword. That is not too difficult. And I agree that Imladris is Rivendell, the references appear in many an old tome. But Isildur’s Bane, what is that? Isilidur was supposed to have been killed by an arrow in an ambush, wasn’t he? How would an arrow help? And a Halfling is surely some creature from a children’s tale.”
Imrahil shook his head. “I do not know the answers, but something tells me Denethor knows more than he is saying. But he is giving nothing away, and I feel he has changed lately, although I cannot put my finger on what is different about him.”
Hurrying, to keep up with her father’s long strides, Lothíriel wondered why her uncle had requested her presence. If it were only to be family at the dinner she would have understood, but knowing a good sprinkling of Gondor’s statesmen were attending she felt it strange. True, over the last months, encouraged by Tinusel as well as her uncle, she had started to take her rightful place in the hierarchy of Gondor. However, she did not normally get called for such occasions as this. But racking her brain gave no answers, and her father shrugged dismissively – Denethor’s way of doing things had always exasperated him.
Entering the ante chamber off the main hall where they would be eating, she saw that her suspicions had been correct: she was the only woman present. But since she had met all the old men during her time in Minas Tirith, and her cousins welcomed her with obvious pleasure, she did not feel too uncomfortable. Unfortunately she had no time to talk to them because her uncle followed moments behind her. Straight away she saw what her father meant about Denethor – since she had last seen her uncle a few weeks ago, his face had thinned; in fact he looked quite gaunt and when she made her curtsey the wild glitter in his eyes unnerved her. He stared hard for a moment before speaking. “I thought you would like to be present, Lothíriel, to hear how one of my sons will have to ride into great peril to try and save us.”
His tone of voice startled her, never before had he spoken to her with barely veiled hostility. Her father caught it too, because he took her arm and saw her to her seat, whispering in her ear. “Not himself, as I said.”
Lothíriel sat down, shaken. From then on her uncle ignored her, but Faramir gave her a wink from across the table and Boromir grinned, which lightened her spirits. But all the same, as her father was in conversation with Lord Húrin, and talking with the rather deaf Lord Raglan on her other side, proved wearing, she was glad when plates of smoked fish were brought in to claim everyone’s attention. The meal progressed slowly: Boromir and Faramir spent most of the time with their heads together, chuckling sometimes, at others looking serious. Lothíriel noticed her uncle’s eyes upon them: even his blatant preference for his eldest could not cleave a gulf between the brothers. She sighed, wishing she were somewhere else other than this stuffy chamber piled with food: fish; a cheese mould; a dish of lettuce and nuts which was followed by roast saddle of lamb. She could barely eat any more but then great dishes of raspberries were brought in, but just as she put the spoon to her mouth Denethor stood up.
He wore his customary black, and against it his stretched skin looked as pale as ivory. Hollow cheeks caused the bones of his face to stand out in sharp relief and his dark eyes glistened deep in their sockets. To Lothíriel, it looked as if some spark of avarice lurked there; a quiver of unease shot through her, it was as though she was seeing not her uncle, but a crumbling shell of a once great man.
Reluctantly, all around the table, spoons were put down. The raspberries, luscious and tempting, little by little stained the neglected cream pink. Only Lord Raglan continued eating, but Denethor’s long finger tapped admonition until he too realised the Steward was about to speak.
“You all know why we are here. I have to give you my decision as to which of my sons undertakes the perilous journey to Rivendell to seek counsel with Elrond Halfelven. Suffice to say that were Gondor not in direst need we would not be talking of anyone travelling into such danger. But Mordor has unmasked its strength, and it is more than we feared. Our friends in Rohan report massive groups of orcs travelling through their land, Easterlings have marched from beyond the Sea of Rhûn, and no longer can we hope the Haradrim will resist his call – legions of scarlet clad men joined the attack on Osgiliath.”
Lothíriel felt the blood drain from her face as his eyes landed on her. Malevolent. Accusing. No mistake now, she knew what had upset him. But how could he blame her? Why did her uncle blame her? Her father had told her that Denethor had given up the idea of using her to placate the Prince of Harad, but now it looked as though he might have not. Feeling the eyes of the room on her, she immediately looked across to Faramir. Her cousin gave her a reassuring smile; Denethor slid his eyes between them and carried on speaking.
“I have considered the arguments: Faramir claims the right to go because he first had the dream and argues that Boromir should be left in command of our forces. Boromir on the other hand, as eldest son, claims the quest is his. Being hardy and enduring in all things he wishes to take on this task. It is true he is a mighty commander and would be missed, but for the present Mordor has withdrawn far from the river. So, I charge my second son, Faramir, with our defence, and appoint Erchirion of Dol Amroth as his second-in-command. Boromir, Captain-General of Gondor will travel to Rivendell, and in him will we trust our fate.”
“No!” Lothíriel almost screamed out the word, rising to her feet. “Boromir must not go, let Faramir.”
Denethor’s pale face blanched white. “How dare you question my decision…”
“I beg you, Uncle…do not let Boromir go. I see only…”
“Silence!” Denethor shouted, spittle forming on his lips. “If you had been willing to do your duty to Gondor, we would have allies in our need.”
“Uncle, that’s not fair…”
“Silence! I said. Now go. You have said enough.”
Lothíriel stared at her uncle; he seemed a different person from the perceptive man who had urged her to put away her fears. She opened her mouth, but a hand on her arm and her father’s soft voice stopped her. “Not now, Lothíriel. Go, we will talk later.”
Swallowing, and with heat flooding her cheeks, she sketched a curtsy and with as much grace as she could muster left the chamber.
Sitting gazing out into the darkening night when her father came, Lothíriel jumped up. The hour alone had mixed guilt, anger and anguish into a maelstrom. “I am sorry, Father. But I saw such an awful thing.”
Imrahil took hold of her shoulders dropping a kiss on her brow. “I realise that, my love, but it would have been far better for you to have kept it to yourself. Denethor is extremely angry, and I am afraid you are to go home.”
Lothíriel gasped; to be sent home in disgrace would be dreadful. But the vision still burned bright in her. She clutched at her father’s arm, pleading into his sympathetic eyes. “Father, you must speak to my uncle. Or better, let me tell him of my vision. I saw Boromir wizened and twisted, his hands like claws reaching out to take something … I could not see what, but then the image changed and I saw him falling: down; down; through white, foaming water…”
“Hush …hush, Lothíriel.” He smoothed a long strand of hair back from her face, his grey eyes soft with understanding. “Whatever you saw will make no difference. I suspect that Denethor has a fair idea of what it was, and for some reason he does not want others to learn of it. Which is why he wants you out of here. Also I am convinced that all along he wanted Boromir to go because he believes he has the answer to the riddle in the dream, and trusts Boromir rather than Faramir to act as he would himself.”
Lothíriel burst into tears, sobbing against her father’s hard chest. The last time she had seen something so vivid she had ignored it. As a result six of their knights had been killed and she had lost Amaurea. What use her visions if no one would listen to the warnings?
Aldburg – The Riddermark
The children clustered around Edyth, rapt attention on a dozen faces. Éomer marvelled how she managed to interest them on so hot a morning, he remembered lessons as an interference to his riding, but she had the knack. Félewyn, too young to take much interest in writing, played with some counters at her feet, piling the wooden discs on top of each other until they fell in a clatter on the floor. But Éomund, like the others, painstakingly scratched letters into the rough wax tablet laid across his lap. Not that the lad could see any need to learn to write in an unfamiliar language, or learn to speak it, but Éomer had convinced him by the simple means of telling him he would not be allowed to train as a warrior otherwise.
Not normal for a wheelwright’s son to learn, he knew. But with Edyth and Beorn as foster parents the children’s position had changed. And Bergit would have been pleased they were being educated. The familiar mixture of guilt and pain twisted his guts; it had not lessened over the months. In his dark moments the thought that the Valar had somehow punished him for his sins seemed very real, at other times he knew it foolish to even think it. More use to look for solutions to the growing troubles of the Mark, from the latest reports from Théodred it seemed they were beset on every side.
Éomer, deep in contemplation, jumped at the voice. He looked up to see one of the guards trying to get his attention. The man inclined his head slightly as soon as their eyes connected.
“A traveller seeks an audience and rest for his horse, which is lamed. He gives his name as Boromir of Gondor, son of the Steward. He is dressed richly, so with no reason to doubt his claim I have sent his horse to the stables, and he waits in the ante-chamber.”
“What! Boromir here?” Éomer pushed back from his desk and stood up, looking towards the door. Against the light he could see the outline of a tall man pacing to and fro. Not waiting for his guard to bring in his visitor, Éomer strode across the hall. At the sound of his footsteps Boromir turned. Éomer saw a fair-faced man, proud and keen eyed. Dark hair skimmed his shoulders, and a new growth of beard sprouted on a firm chin. It had been many years since he had seen the Steward’s son, but he recognised him instantly.
Boromir looked him up and down. “You were just a lad when I saw you last, but now you look like your father.”
Éomer laughed, holding out his hand in welcome. “So I have been told, and I remember you taking time with this lad, teaching him a parry and a thrust that got past even Théodred’s guard.”
“Ha! How is he? Still using that two handed swipe?”
“To great effect, and he needs to. He’s kept busy on our Western marches. But come,” Éomer slapped him on the shoulder, “you must be thirsty this hot day. Tell me your errand over some ale. And your escort, where are they?”
“I have none. This is a mission that requires stealth and secrecy, let us go and sit where we cannot be heard.”
“A Halfling you say?” Éomer racked his memory, but then saw that Edyth had finished her lesson, and the little group was breaking up. “One moment, Boromir, if you do not mind me asking my cousin, she knows more lore than most.” He called across the hall to Edyth, who nodded but made sure the children had tidied away their things before she came across. All except Félewyn and Éomund ran outside as soon as they were released, eager to get into the fresh air. Éomund had his eyes fixed on Boromir, taking in the burnished hauberk, vambraces and the heavy sword on his hip, but his sister stretched up her arms to Edyth, wanting to be picked up. Reassuring arms cuddled her close, and the little girl twisted a strand of Edyth’s blonde hair around her fingers burying her head into the only comfort she knew. A stranger was just too much.
Ever grateful for his cousin’s willingness to take on the two orphans, Éomer gave her a big smile. “Edyth, what do you know about Halflings?” he asked after he had introduced her to Boromir.
She looked pensively at him over the top of blonde pigtails. “Now you have got me thinking, Éomer. Not much. But I remember an old tale where it is said that far away, over many hills and across wide rivers, live the Halfling folk that dwell in holes in sand-dunes.”
Boromir nodded. “As much as we know in Gondor.”
“Are you from Gondor?” Éomund piped up. “I am learning to speak and write like the people in Gondor, but I would rather learn to fight with a sword.”
Boromir laughed and reached out pulling the boy to him. “You have to learn to do both. I remember not wanting to learn my lessons, but a warrior needs to be able to read messages and write orders.”
Éomund frowned, his smooth skin puckering across his forehead. “I suppose.” He didn’t sound convinced, but stretched his hand to feel the jewelled handle of Boromir’s sword, and then raised his gaze to the smiling grey eyes. “Have you cut off many orc heads? Éomer has cut off a lot, and when I am a warrior I am going to cut off every one I see.”
“Are you?” Boromir replied, grinning. “Then you will have to be strong. Let me feel your muscles.” He made a show of feeling the boy’s biceps, pursing his lips with admiration. “Very good! Now let us test the real strength of them; sit across the table from me.”
Éomund could hardly wait to comply. His eyes opening wide when Boromir put his elbow down on the wood in the traditional challenge, “Right, young man, put it there.”
Watching the play between man and boy, Éomer felt as if a great stone had lodged in his throat – just like Edwick, when Éomund concentrated the end of his tongue poked out between his lips. He looked a miniature version of his father.
Boromir did not let Éomund win, but he pretended he was having a hard time of it. “Those muscles are coming on well, when I come back you will have to try and get your revenge.”
“It would be better if I could practice with a sword all day and not go to lessons,” Éomund said, hope in his eyes.
Boromir reached out a huge calloused hand and ruffled the fair, silky locks. “It’s true that as well as lessons in reading and writing an aspiring warrior needs to build up his strength. Running and jumping will make him strong, as well as playing tag and …” Boromir sounded as though his list of games had dried up but help came quickly.
“And swimming in the stream.” Edyth interrupted. “Why don’t you go with the others, Éomund?”
Boromir nodded, catching her eye. “Swimming is especially good for strengthening arms.”
“Thank you,” Edyth said after Éomund had run out. “It is hard to make him play with the other boys.”
“His parents were killed by orcs,” Éomer said. “Edyth is doing a wonderful job, but he thinks of little else other than revenge.”
Boromir’s eyes darkened. “It is a sign of our times. Many children in Gondor have vengeance for a playmate when their games should be carefree and untroubled.”
At dawn the next morning Éomer stood in the courtyard, holding the reins of a dark grey gelding, whilst Boromir fixed his saddlebags. “He will see you right, and your mare will be here when you return.”
Happy with the straps, Boromir clasped Éomer’s arm. “Thank you for the loan of the horse, and the hospitality.”
Éomer moved closer to him. “Remember what I said last night: you will find the king changed. Be frugal in your speech when you get to Edoras, I do not trust that worm, Gríma. And I think it would be better if when you get to the Gap you ask Théodred to show you the way down over the mountains and the place where you can swim the river, rather than risk the Fords. Do not join the North-South Road until you are well past Isengard, but tell no one except Théodred of this plan. Only recently has Saruman revealed his true colours, proving to be a traitor and claiming lordship over the Mark, but he has ways of finding out things; ways I am only just beginning to suspect.”
Éomer stared down the road a long time after Boromir had left, watching the swish of the grey tail, and the broad back of the man of Gondor gently moving to the rhythm of his mount. If Steward Denethor had sent his eldest son, alone, to travel league upon league through unknown wild lands to seek an answer to a dream, then he must think there was little hope in halting the black shadow that threatened them all.
To be continued.
A/N As there are a large number of Original Characters in this story I thought it might be helpful to provide an Appendix at the end of each chapter. So from now on I will list them if they appear or are mentioned in the chapter. If I get time I will go back and do the previous chapters! LBJ
List of Original Characters appearing in this chapter:
Lady Tinusel - Hails from Lossarnach. Widowed, and was a friend of Lothíriel’s Great Aunt Morwen.
Sergion - Friend of Prince Imrahil’s. Was a Commander of Swan Knights but now the Captain of Lothíriel’s Guard. Injured when an attempt was made to kidnap Lothíriel.
Umar - Prince of Harad. Device – the Black Serpent on Scarlet. Obsessed with Lothíriel.
Lord Raglan - An ancient member of Denethor’s Council.
Amaurea(Dawn) - A Desert War-Mare. Given to Lothíriel by Umar. Killed in the kidnap attempt on Lothíriel.
Edyth- Cousin to Éomer, related through his father. Wife of Beorn, foster-mother to Éomund and Félewyn.
Beorn- A rider of the East-mark. Husband to Edyth and foster-father to Éomund and Félewyn.
Bergit - Daughter of the horse-breeder, Egbert. Raped by orcs when her family’s camp was attacked. Later married Edwick and bore him two children – Éomund and Félewyn. Started a relationship with Éomer after her husband was crippled. Killed by orcs in a raid on the village of Eastfeld.
Edwick - A wheelwright in Eastfeld. Husband to Bergit. Crippled in an accident and killed by orcs alongside his wife.
Éomund - The orphaned son of Bergit and Edwick – current age is 8.
Félewyn - The orphaned daughter of Bergit and Edwick – current age is 5.
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.