You Live Your Life in the Shadow of the Mountain: 13. A Question of Honour

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13. A Question of Honour

 

Eäzinya shut the bedroom door behind her and went straight to the table in the corner of the room, turning her back on Sidaizon as she unpinned and combed her hair and cleaned her teeth.  The whole process took much longer than usual.  Sidaizon, standing at the side of the bed, watched but did not speak.  She could be the one to break the prickling silence, in her own time.

"I'm going to wash," she finally said.

"Shall I come with you?"

"No," was the curt reply.

Without looking at him, she skirted along the wall to the door, which she once again shut at her back.  Sidaizon sat down heavily on the edge of the bed.  Now he could add Eäzinya's anger to the growing list of things that had gone wrong over the past few days, and the run of bad luck showed no signs of relenting.  Amárië had not spoken to him since he took Saminda, Márathul had no doubt lost a great deal of respect for him as a father, and Eäzinya blamed him for the situation with Tarmanaz, who was still as contrary as ever.  Only Nautalya remained faithfully in his favour.  "Although," he muttered to himself, "that can always change..."

Through the wall, he could hear the sputtering and splashing of the pump as Eäzinya washed.  As with her hair-combing and teeth-cleaning, the running of the water dragged on.  She took even longer to return to the bedroom, refusing to look at Sidaizon when she did.  She turned her back on him as she had done before, slid out of her clothes as quickly as possible, and climbed into bed without a word.

"Sinya..."

"Good night," she answered, her tone wooden and flat.

Sidaizon lay down alongside her, wrapping his arm around her waist.  "Sinya, if you're upset..."

She ignored his question.  "Aren't you going to wash before bed?"

"I just came from the bath house."

"Yes, and then you walked home, down the dirt roads.  Your feet will be dirty."

"Fine," he allowed.  "I'll wash after."

"After what?" she asked pointedly.

"That's not what I..."  With a sigh that bordered on a groan, rolled away from Eäzinya to lie on his back.  "I meant after we talk about this.  Why you're so upset."

"I'm upset because your son is now one of the King's Hands.  Should I not be upset?  Should I be happy for him?  I'm sorry, Sidaizon, but no.  I'd rather see him as a convert in some heretic temple than as one of those monsters."

"They're not monsters, Eäzinya, they're-"

"They are monsters," she spat.

"They enforce the law."

"They twist the law and hurt innocent people!  I hate them, and I will not live with one of them in my house!  I hate them!"

The way she spoke, the razor-sharp edge on her voice, made Sidaizon shiver; her cold fury clenched his veins like fingers of ice.  She had never before sounded like this.  She had never spoken of anyone or anything with such concentrated bitterness.

"Why do you hate them?" he asked.

For a long and tense moment, Eäzinya did not answer.  She took a breath, slowly, and rubbed at her eyes.  "They killed my sister," she murmured.

Sidaizon hissed as her words struck him.  "They..."

"Killed her.  She died.  It was their fault."

"I... I never knew you had a sister."

"I did.  I haven't thought about her in years.  I try not to.  But then last night when you told me about... them... and now Tarmanaz..."  She rubbed her eyes again, sniffling, and exhaled a shaky breath.

Uncertainly, Sidaizon wrapped both arms around her to pull her close and kiss her hair.  Eäzinya had a sister.  In over one hundred years of marriage, she had never mentioned any such thing, nor had her parents hinted at this apparent family secret.  "Tell me what happened."

"It was a long time ago," she said.

"Tell me?"

Eäzinya sighed, a pained and hesitant sound, but she began to tell the tale.  "I was only five then.  My sister - Valima - was out on her own.  I forget why.  Maybe to buy something for my mother from the market for supper.  She was just older than Nautalya: twenty-one years old.  But my father let her go out to the market alone because he thought the city was safe and nobody would bother a little girl.  So on that day she went out and when she was on her way home she walked past a group of the King's Hands.  They asked her where she was going and what she was doing and why she, a girl, was out by herself.  They asked why she wasn't at home with her mother like a good girl should be.  And they asked why she hadn't covered her hair.  Why she ran around like a wild animal with her hair loose down her back."

"But if she was only twenty-one..." Sidaizon began.

"She was only twenty-one.  Still a girl.  Why would she pin up her hair and wear a woman's veil if she was only a little girl?  And she tried to tell them that.  But they said she looked older, she must have been almost thirty because she was so tall.  I remember she was almost as tall as my mother even at her age.  But if she was almost thirty and walking around the city by herself with her hair loose then she must be a dirty slut.  So they called her a slut and a whore and said she was under arrest.  They would take her back to their prison and cut off all her hair so the whole city would know what kind of woman she was."

"And they..."

Eäzinya shook her head.  "No.  She tried to run away, but one of them had his hand on her shoulder.  He tore her dress trying to keep hold of her and ripped it all down the front.  Then of course they knew she was a whore, wearing a ripped dress and showing her bare skin like that.  But she managed to run away.  She ran as fast as she could down a busy street, and because she was smaller than they were, she could duck around all the people and run faster than they could.  She ran until she found a courtyard with a goat house, and hid under the straw.  She stayed there until it was dark.  They never found her, thank Manwë."

"How did they find her later to arrest her?" Sidaizon asked.

"They never did.  She never saw them again"

"But you said-"

"I said they killed her.  And they did.  They caused her death.  Because of them, she died.  She came home late that night covered in dirt with straw in her hair and a dress ripped down the front, crying that the King's Hands had been after her.  What do you think everyone, all the neighbours, thought of her after that?  As far as they cared, the King's Hands were right.  She was a whore.  So her life was ruined and my family was shamed.  My father decided the only way to save our reputation would be to get her married as soon as possible.  As soon as the law said she was old enough, the day after her twenty-second birthday, she was married.  I never saw her again.  Nobody talked about her.  I only learned she died when I asked my mother if she could come to my wedding.  Then my mother told me Valima was dead."

Releasing a long, slow breath, Sidaizon closed his eyes.  His head reeled from Eäzinya's story.  A lost sister: a little girl as good as murdered in the name of the law, thrown into a hasty marriage for the sake of family honour, hidden away as a dark secret through no fault of her own.  The thought of it made him sick to his stomach.  A bitter taste of bile rose up into his throat.  "Why did you never tell me this before?" he whispered to Eäzinya's hair.

He tightened his embrace, pulling her more snugly against his body, but he could feel resistance as he did.  Subtly but firmly, Eäzinya was shrugging away from his touch.  "What should I have said?" she asked.  "There's nothing.  It's over.  Valima is dead."

"How did she die?

"I don't know.  My mother only said that she had died, not how or even when.  Maybe she died having a baby.  Maybe she just willed herself to die from shame.  I told you, I don't like to think about it.  She's dead and there's nothing I can do.  Better to just forget. "

"Now that's not right.  You shouldn't forget your own sister simply because the memory is painful."  Again, he tried to pull her close, but this time she resisted with all her strength.

"No!" she snapped, breaking away to sit upright on the bed.  "I don't want to talk about this, Sidaizon!  I don't want to think about it!  I just want to forget everything and go to sleep."

"And Tarmanaz?" Sidaizon asked.

"Him, too."

"You'll try to forget about him and not think of what he's done because you don't agree with it?"

"I can think what I want!  He was only thinking of himself when he chose to join those stupid, cruel animals, so why shouldn't I do the same?"  She lay back down, as far from Sidaizon on the mattress as she could manage, with her face hidden in her pillow.  The curve of her back rose and fell with each furious breath.

"Eäzinya..."

Her shoulders tensed, but she said nothing, and did not move.

"I'm sorry to hear about your sister.  Valima.  It's a terrible thing that happened to her, and the men responsible should have been punished long ago."  He paused, watching for any response from Eäzinya, but she did not even falter in her breathing.  Biting back a sigh, he continued.  "I know you're angry, and hurt.  But you can't hate Tarmanaz for the actions of another, especially for something that happened when you were a child.

"I can hate Tarmanaz for his own actions."

"That's... true," Sidaizon allowed, "but I think you're being too quick to condemn him."

"He was quick enough to join the King's Hands.  However quick he is in his actions, I can be just as quick to judge him for them."

"Then perhaps if he's equally quick to show remorse for what he's done, you will be able to find time to forgive him."

"No," she said coldly.  "I don't think I will."

"Eäzinya, you're being unreasonable.  When Tarmanaz joined the Hands, he had no idea his decision would hurt you so deeply.  You should at least give him a chance to make amends."

"He knew I hated them."

"Everyone hates them.  How could he have known that your hatred was anything more than the standard loathing everyone feels for corrupt, power-mad law enforcement?  I had no idea.  You never so much as hinted at it to me, so how should Tarmanaz, who is as empathetically perceptive as a sack of rocks, be able to guess?  He did this to upset me, not you."

"And in the end he upset me, not you."  Eäzinya turned over to finally look at Sidaizon.  She was no longer weeping; instead, her face had gone hard and her eyes viciously bright.  "He's a selfish boy caught up in revenge, and he didn't even stop to think how what he did might affect his family.  He didn't consider me, so I won't consider him.  I want him out of this house.  He can stay until he's given a place in the fortress with those other thugs, but after that, I don't want to see him.  He made his choice.  He can live with it.  I won't."

~

"It was your idea," Tarmanaz started.  He sat in bed with his arms folded across his chest, staring smugly up at Sidaizon as he spoke.  "I never would have done it if not for you, so you have only yourself to blame, Atar."  Snorting, he flopped down and rolled over with the blankets pulled up to cover his ears.

Sidaizon gave him a light kick on the bottom.  "Up.  Out of bed."

"Why?  So you can lecture me face to face?  No.  It's easier to not listen to you lying down."

"No, Tarmanaz," Sidaizon answered.  "It's your fault I've been thrown out of my own bed, so therefore it's only fitting that you should be the one to sleep on the floor.  Up.  Out.  Now."

Tarmanaz's confusion only made it easier to prod him off the mattress.  "What do you mean, you..."  He slid onto the floor with a thud, and Sidaizon quickly lay down to take his place.

"Good night, boys."

"You're sleeping out here?" Márathul asked.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"We'll talk about it in the morning."

Márathul made a sound as if he were being strangled.   "Oh, right.  Of course.  Morning."

Scowling, Sidaizon rolled over to look at his sons.  "Would you rather I keep you up all night discussing this, and none of us sleeps?"

Tarmanaz and Márathul exchanged a glance.  "Yes," they both answered.

"Oh for..."  With a quick curse under his breath, Sidaizon sat back up to stare at the two of them.  "Fine.  Fine, we will have a nice talk, right now."

"Good," said Tarmanaz.  He shuffled up onto Márathul's bed, pushing him aside.  "Move over."

"No!" Márathul replied.  "You heard Attu; you're on the floor!"

"I'm not sleeping on the stupid floor.  Move over!"

Márathul, no match for Tarmanaz in terms of strength, grudgingly slid over to the edge of the mattress.  "I get the pillow," he muttered.

"Did Amma toss you out?" Tarmanaz asked Sidaizon.  "Why?"

Sidaizon shook his head.  "That's the later part of the story: my part.  If we're staying up all night to discuss this, I insist we start from the beginning.  That's your part of the story, Tarmanaz.  Please enlighten us as to why you decided to join the King's Hands."

The same smug grin as he had been wearing before crossed Tarmanaz's face.  "It was your idea."

"I don't recall ever expressing such an idea to you, but do continue."

"Last night," Tarmanaz explained.  "You came home with that token telling us how the King's Hands tried to recruit you, and said it was based only on how you looked.  Then this morning I thought, well, people are always saying how much I look like you.  So I thought that if they want you they should want me too, right?  And they did.  Accepted me the moment I walked through their door.  So here I am."

"That doesn't sound like what you told-" Márathul began, but a warning jab to the chest from Tarmanaz's elbow quieted him.

"Did you say something?" asked Tarmanaz.

"No."  Huffing, Márathul hoarded the pillow more toward his side of the mattress, shielding it from Tarmanaz with both arms.  "Just that you're stupider than a dog's dick."

"Boys-" Sidaizon began, but abandoned the reprimand immediately.  They were well past old enough to fight if they wanted, and his selfish side knew that any time they spent on baiting each other was less time spent on questioning him.  He settled back, folding his hands behind his head, and waited for the inevitable shoving match to end.  The rising noise of their quarrel rang through the room, culminating in the dull smack of Márathul's fist against Tarmanaz's cheek.

"You attacked me!" hollered Tarmanaz.  "You attacked one of the King's Hands!  I can throw you in prison for that!"

"You attacked me first!"

Sidaizon groaned.  "Boys, if you can't maim each other quietly, you're both sleeping outside!  Márathul, you're certainly behaving like a future Almatar by punching Tarmanaz in the face.  And Tarmanaz, by all means, call the Hands down here to arrest Márathul for fighting with you over a mattress.  I'm sure they'll appreciate your maturity.  Now for the love of Manwë, quiet down and go to sleep!"

Tarmanaz cast Márathul one final look of disgust before sliding down to the far end of the bed, out of hitting distance.  "Perhaps you should tell your side of the story, Attu.  Why Amma's making you sleep out here."

"Are you finished with your tale?" Sidaizon asked.

"Yes."

"That's all?  You went to their offices, based purely on some whim concocted after I offhandedly mentioned my experience last night, and now you've joined the Hands?"

"Yes."

Sidaizon looked to Márathul, hoping for any hint as to what he had been about to divulge that had started the fight, but Márathul held his jaw clenched shut as he glared in the direction of Tarmanaz.  "Máro?  Did you have something to add?"

"No," Márathul answered, hardly moving his mouth.  "I'm sure that's exactly what happened.  Manwë knows Tarmanaz never lies."

The full truth would have to wait for some other day.  "I see."

Tarmanaz, quick to let that topic fall, interrupted.  "That's my side finished.  Now yours.  Why is Amma upset with you?"

"Well," said Sidaizon, "the short answer is: because I defended your choice, however poorly thought out it may have been, and dared suggest that perhaps this was a good path for you to take."

That was clearly not the answer Tarmanaz had expected.  He leaned back, stunned into silence, and stared at Sidaizon as if waiting for some further condemning lecture.  "You... think..."

"Don't misunderstand: I'm not the least bit proud of you for how you did this and the shock you caused your mother.  I do think the end result is good, but the means left much to be desired.  You could have handled things better, Tarmanaz."

His expression did not change.  "So... are you angry or not?"

"No," Sidaizon answered, "I'm not angry.  Annoyed, a little, for your lack of common decency, but that's all."

For another long moment, Tarmanaz seemed unable to speak.  He shifted nervously and coughed, while his eyes darted back and forth between Sidaizon and the white uniform that now sat folded at the foot of his bed.  "I don't understand," he said.  "So you're... not angry that I joined the King's Hands."

Sidaizon nodded.  "That's correct.  To be honest, Tarmanaz, this is a path I would have even suggested for you years ago, had you ever shown the slightest interest in such a thing.  But I was always under the impression that you preferred breaking the law over enforcing it."

Tarmanaz's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, but he said nothing.

"Anyhow," Sidaizon continued.  "What bothers me about your actions today is that you chose to sneak away and enlist in secret rather than be honest with your family.  And the suddenness makes me wonder if this is something you truly want, or if you have just signed your life away to the service of the King in some misguided attempt at revenge on me for cutting your hair.  The Hands won't easily release you, Tarmanaz, so Manwë save you if you're not prepared to live with what you've done."

"I am," Tarmanaz quickly answered.  "This is what I want."

"Then I hope that's true.  And that you did give this more than a few hours' thought.  I only wish you would have told me, so we could have given your mother time to adjust to the idea; it'll be a long while before she'll forgive you for this shock."

"Well, I'm sorry for that..." muttered Tarmanaz.

"We'll work on this.  I'll help you try to persuade her to see your new position as a fine step forward.  Sound good?"

Tarmanaz lowered his head in a humbled nod.  "Good," he agreed.  He cleared his throat and shifted again before adding, in an almost inaudible voice, "Thank you, Attu."

"Alla, Yondya.  Now go to sleep.  I have to leave for the Lavazat at sunrise, and the stars only know how late it is."

Both Tarmanaz and Márathul lay down on the mattress without any further complaints, each occupying the barest minimum of an edge to keep as much space as possible between them.  They shifted and coughed, but neither spoke to the other, and neither rekindled the fight.  Eventually, the restlessness ceased and their breathing slowed, and they fell into sleep.

Sidaizon lay awake, staring up at the shadowy ceiling.  The story of Eäzinya's sister would not leave him.  It played out in his mind's eye as if he had watched the scene himself: the King's Hands, all tall and rough-looking men, surrounding a frightened young girl on the street.  Only in this vision, the girl was Nautalya.  Sidaizon's stomach twisted with a sickening sort of fear.  What would I do, he asked himself, if it truly were Nautalya there?  He would kill them.  That answer came quickly enough.  But no matter how hard he tried to imagine himself in the middle of the scene, cutting the throats of those men with a dagger, the vision would not change.  The Hands ripped off Nautalya's dress, and Sidaizon had no power to stop them.

What would I do, he then asked, if Nautalya came home as Eäzinya's sister did, weeping and dirty in a torn dress?  Of course her honour would be destroyed, and the family's with it, but terrible as that was he could not bring himself to agree with Eäzinya's father's decision to arrange an immediate marriage.  The thought of Nautalya married at twenty-two was more repulsive to him than any loss of honour.

I would move the family to Tirion, he decided.  We would start a new life.  It is cowardly to run away, but surely better to be a coward than abandon a child.

Satisfied, he closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but the scene with the Hands played again.  Over and over, a group of them, as many as a dozen, surrounded a girl on the street: sometimes Nautalya, and sometimes the faceless, unknown Valima.  One took her by the shoulder and ripped her dress; she turned and ran.  She fled down unfamiliar streets, or past the Lavazat, or past the bath house, each time trying to hide in a different place, until finally she found herself in Tirion.  The Hands still followed like wolves.  But in Tirion, the scene changed, and Tarmanaz appeared with a gleaming sword in his hand and a shield that shone with the brilliance of diamonds on his arm.  It was the dark-haired, Noldorin Tarmanaz that Sidaizon had seen in his vision on the night of the burial, but Tarmanaz all the same.  He raised his sword to strike down the Hands.  Their weapons clashed, and Sidaizon jumped in anticipation of the noise, startling himself awake.

He inhaled a quick breath and held it.  His heart raced and pounded in his throat.

What a strange dream...

Closing his eyes again, he forced himself to take long, slow breaths to calm his heart, mimicking the gentle rhythm of Tarmanaz and Márathul sleeping peacefully in the next bed.  It helped a little.  To his relief, though, the King's Hands no longer dominated his thoughts.  Instead, they had been replaced by the vision of Noldorin Tarmanaz with his bright sword.

Better.  He shifted into a more comfortable position on his side, and tried to find more restful sleep.  He would tell Eäzinya about the dream in the morning.  She always liked superstitious visions and omens.  This one clearly showed Tarmanaz rising above the corruption of the Hands to restore lawfulness, so perhaps she would accept it as a sign that she ought to forgive him.


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.

Story Information

Author: Darth Fingon

Status: General

Completion: Work in Progress

Era: 1st Age

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/20/11

Original Post: 02/07/09

Go to You Live Your Life in the Shadow of the Mountain overview

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