11. Chapter 11
July FA 1
Cirlion – Ered Nimrais.
The cart travelled slowly. The farmer, a big taciturn man with a bulbous nose, was on his way to collect a sow he had bought in the village the day before. Although glad the man had arrived at an opportune moment, Amroth rued that he had not been a bit earlier and thus spared Devoran a distressing ordeal. On the seat next to the farmer was a large wooden club; he looked well capable of using it.
‘Can’t say I’m not glad you be cleaning up the roads’ had been his only remark on seeing the two bodies and the one cowed prisoner. But in spite of the lack of words, he waited patiently when they loaded up Drummer, not making much comment on his transport being commandeered to carry a dog. And Devoran! Any thought Amroth had of an intimate conversation with her disappeared when she insisted on travelling in the cart. She spent the whole journey cradling Drummer’s head.
He had sent two soldiers back to the village to make preparations for their arrival, so it didn’t surprise him that a chattering group clustered outside the inn. Amongst them, Amroth saw Ana and the landlord waiting. The cart drew up in front of the door and Ana immediately hurried forward, a large blanket in her hands.
“Oh, my lady, your poor face. You come with me, there is someone waiting to tend to you.” Ana reached up and took Devoran’s hand, helping her down. Devoran moved stiffly, obviously in pain, and Ana wrapped the blanket right around her, hiding her from prying eyes.
“I can’t leave Drummer,” Devoran protested, resisting Ana’s efforts to lead her inside. “He needs stitching and…”
“You go with your maid, my lady,” Handor intervened. “Mistress Guleth will put you right, and then see to your dog. It is lucky she was still here.”
“Take him around to the stables,” Handor told the farmer. “And then come and drink a mug of ale until you can have your cart back.”
“Amroth…” Devoran still did not want to leave, her eyes held mute appeal.
He knew what she wanted. “Don’t worry; I’ll make sure he is comfortable.”
She flashed him a grateful smile before Ana hastened her through the door.
“That’s right, lord.” Handor said, enjoying organising everything. “Get him around the back. Mistress Guleth will come out as soon as she’s fixed up the lady. She’s good with animals as well as people.”
Amroth followed the cart round to the rear of the inn. He found a sizable yard running along the length of the building with many stables and outhouses, perhaps a throwback to Gondor’s glorious past when travelling was commonplace. Amroth slid down from his horse gratefully. Still not noon, but already the day felt old.
The farmer pulled the cart into the yard and ambled off for his ale. Amroth handed Aero over to his squire, and the soldiers buzzed around, trying to find space for all the horses, leaving him alone with Drummer. Mistress Guleth? That name tugged at his memory. He hoped the healer could take some of Devoran’s pain away, at least the physical side of it. The other, only time would lessen. He couldn’t imagine how bereft she must be feeling: all her family gone and chased out of her home. Which was why Drummer had to recover, she needed to keep something precious from her old life.
Amroth leant over the side of the cart looking down at Drummer. The dog was quiet and still, but didn’t seem in any distress, breathing evenly. If animals were ill they usually lay silently in a corner until they got better, or else…. gave up. “You’d better make it, Drummer, or I’ll have no chance with her.” The end of Drummer’s tail thumped on the wood at the sound of Amroth’s voice. A good sign, surely?
The yard cleared as the horses were settled in their stables, but Amroth noticed that there were two left tied up at the far end. Well packed, looking ready to make a journey. One was a big sturdy cob, piebald, with heavily feathered legs, as many bred in the country areas of Gondor. It was the other that grabbed his attention – a clean-limbed grey mare. Not big, but obviously hailing from Rohan. Now what was a horse like that doing here?
“Mistress Guleth will be out soon, lord.” Handor crossed the yard towards him, a reassuring smile on his face. “Sounds as if Lady Devoran is not actually injured, except for the nasty bruise on her face, but she is sore and aching. The wife’s filling the tub, and with all the herbs going in it, she’s likely to be feeling a lot better soon. Funny goings on, but no doubt the lady had her reasons.”
Handor paused, waiting for Amroth to elaborate, but as he said nothing, carried on. “One good thing has come out of all this – hopefully folks will be able to travel safely now. Everyone will be real glad you…”
“Handor, who is Mistress Guleth?” Amroth had something else on his mind.
“Oh,” Handor stopped mid-sentence and happily followed Amroth’s rude change of subject.
“She’s our healer. Lives a few valleys along, past the river, but comes here on market days. That’s once a month,” he clarified, “and she usually stays overnight, as it’s a fair distance.”
“Skilled, is she?”
“None better around here, except for her mother. But she doesn’t do much now, leaves it to the young one. Trained in the big City, Mistress Guleth did. Worked throughout the war, and treated all the nobles. Which is how she got that horse.”
“Ah…” Amroth nodded. As he had suspected! “I thought I recognised the breeding.”
Handor dropped his voice, a bit awestruck. “Saw to the King of Rohan himself, and he was so pleased he gave her the horse to help in her work. He must be a generous man, but then you’ll probably know him.”
“I do, and he is,” Amroth agreed. “Mistress Guleth appears to be well thought of everywhere.”
“A nicer lady you couldn’t wish to meet,” the landlord confirmed. “It’s sad she lost her husband, but still, she’s got a fine son. That makes up a bit.”
“A son?” Amroth echoed, surprised.
“Never saw his father, of course.” Handor’s face saddened. “Faeldor was killed in that terrible battle. Lots were lost from around here. And, like him, there are many who died without knowing their offspring.”
The sound of a door opening and closing stopped their conversation. Handor swivelled around. “Ah, here is Mistress Guleth now.”
Amroth followed his gaze, full of expectation. He was not disappointed. Walking towards them was the woman who had shared Éomer’s bed in Cormallen. She looked as pretty as when he had first set eyes on her in the royal tent. Her light-brown hair was plaited around her head, and her skin glowed with health. She wore a grey tabard over a plain blue riding skirt, and soft leather boots. All good quality, but serviceable. In her hand was a large, colourful bag.
Amroth stood up straight and nodded to her. “Mistress Guleth, we meet again.”
Her brow furrowed as she tried to place him. With a glance at Drummer, she put the bag down on the end of the cart.
“Amrothos of Dol Amroth,” he introduced himself. “We met in Cormallen, when you treated my friend’s shoulder injury.”
“Oh, yes. I remember, lord.” Only a slight staining of her cheeks revealed her embarrassment. Her voice was cool and controlled. “It is good to meet you again.”
“Didn’t I say she treated all the high-ups,” Handor beamed. “Since you’ve met, I’ll be getting back inside. The wife might want a hand.”
“How is Lady Devoran,” Amroth asked, wanting to put her at her ease.
“Worried about her dog, though I promised to treat him without delay.” Then she smiled. “I also promised to tell you, lord, that she would like to talk to you very soon. But that won’t be yet, because I gave her something to help her sleep.”
Amroth frowned. “Is she in much pain?”
“A little.” Guleth replied. “She is not badly injured, but is bruised from where she fell from the horse. On top of that she is naturally shocked and exhausted by her ordeal. A few hours’ sleep and the medicine I have given her will make her feel a lot better. And if when she wakes you can tell her the dog is out of danger, she will recover more quickly.” She smiled again. “So I had better take a look at my next patient.”
“Yes, we must waste no further time.” Amroth quickly undid the catches that secured the side of the cart and let the wooden planks down slowly so not to disturb Drummer too much.
Guleth first ran her eyes over Drummer, and then spoke softly to him. He opened an eye and stared balefully at her. “Animals are difficult to treat because they do not know you are trying to help them. He will not like it if I hurt him anymore.”
“Drummer is quite intelligent. I will tell him.”
Guleth showed her scepticism with a flash of her eyes, but Amroth spoke reassuringly to Drummer. “The lady is going to help you Drummer, let her check your wound.”
Drummer’s tail thumped again and he only started slightly when Guleth gently parted the fur over the puncture wound. She tenderly felt the flesh around it. “I think it was a thin knife and it hit the shoulder blade, so it is not deep. Some powdered herbs packed in to dry it and stop infection, and a stitch to hold it together, if he will let me, are all that is needed. I will put something on to deaden the skin for a few minutes. I don’t want to get bitten.”
“I will hold his head, but I don’t think he will attempt to bite you.”
Guleth worked quickly and efficiently, relaxing when Drummer showed no signs of objecting, maybe too exhausted and hurt to care.
“Handor said you have a son,” Amroth said conversationally, “are you happy leaving him?”
Guleth looked straight into his eyes, needle in one hand, thread in the other. “It is only when I come to Cirlion that I stay the night. Otherwise I go out for just a couple of days a week. And he is with my brother’s family, so is quite happy.”
“You live with you brother?”
“I have no wish to marry again, my work and my son are enough.”
“And the healing earns you a good living,” Amroth suggested
Guleth shook her head. “I only take a little, and only from those who can afford it. A healing gift cannot be counted in coin. Luckily I have no need. My family own a large vineyard, and our wine is very popular at the new court. The Queen and her ladies prefer it to some of the heavy reds that are made in other parts of Gondor. My brother has put more land into cultivation.”
“Your brother is happy with you travelling the roads on your own?”
“Not on my own.” She smiled, looking down towards the horses. “You have made them safer, but not many would challenge Hirt.”
She was right there – a thickset, powerful looking man, with enormous arms and shoulders, was leaning against the wall waiting for her to finish. “You have a nice horse; I imagine Éomer gave her to you.”
“Yes, he did.” She didn’t look up, but tied the thread and patted Drummer gently on the head. When she put the needle down and started to run her hands over Drummer’s chest, the dog twitched, obviously feeling pain. Guleth stopped, her hand going back to Drummer’s head. “I guess the lady he married was your sister.”
“Are they happy?” She still didn’t look at him.
A small smile appeared. “I’m glad.”
Amroth deduced that was all she was going to say, because she stood up straight and spoke briskly. “I think the wound will not give him much trouble. The inside of his mouth is still a reasonable colour, so he has not lost much blood, but he has a couple of broken ribs. They are the source of his pain and will take time to heal. I will give you something to put on his food, but if he has to travel he will need to go in a wagon.”
She went to her bag and brought out an oilskin packet, and a little jar. “There is honey and marigold for his wound. And some herbs, valerian mostly, but also mountain flowers I have found to be potent. Put a pinch on his food for the next week. It will help with the pain, and keep him quiet.”
Amroth took them and tucked them inside his tunic. “Thank you. Lady Devoran will be grateful. I must pay you.”
Guleth shook her head. “There is no need. I have been glad to assist, and will feel happier travelling the roads.”
“Are you sure?”
“If you wish, leave something with the landlord, there are often those that need aid. He is a good man.”
“I will do that,” Amroth confirmed.
Guleth picked up her bag. “Now I must go. I wish to get home by supper time.”
Amroth inclined his head. “It has been a pleasure meeting you again, Mistress Guleth.”
She nodded and turned to go.
“Shall I remember you to Éomer, when I see him?” Amroth asked as she moved away.
Guleth stopped and looked back, her eyes unfathomable. “Some memories, lord, are best left undisturbed.” Then she walked quickly towards her horse. The man, Hirt, took the bag from her and tied it behind the saddle. He helped her mount and then took hold of the cob’s reins. Amroth saw a large club hanging from his pommel. He hoped the roads were now clear and it wouldn’t be needed.
They moved off just as Erchi and the rest of the soldiers arrived, meeting in the entrance to the yard. There was a bit of a commotion for a moment, but the soldiers moved aside and Guleth and Hirt disappeared from view. Erchi rode right up to the cart and slid wearily down from his horse, handing the reins over to a waiting soldier.
“Who was that?” He jerked his head in the direction of the gate.
“The local healer. She has made Devoran more comfortable and stitched Drummer’s wound.” Amroth felt disinclined to say any more. It was obvious Guleth was respected around here, and one thoughtless word from Erchi could destroy her reputation. She didn’t deserve that.
But Erchi just nodded, he clearly hadn’t recognised her. “I need to get cleaned up.”
“What did you do?”
“Strung them up. All three. Not right by the road, didn’t want to upset the travellers, but near enough to give warning to others who might try the same thing.”
“Good thinking. I don’t see we had any alternative but to dispose of them.” Amroth examined his grimy hands, a product of days of travelling. “I need to wash up, too, but I have to get Drummer settled somewhere so the farmer can have his cart back.”
Erchi slapped him on the back. “Well, I leave you to it. I’ve done my bit.”
Amroth stretched, feeling better after a meal, a scrub and a change of clothes. The soldiers were still partaking of the landlord’s good ale in the bar. They deserved it, and any other time he would have joined them, but the quiet of the snug suited his mood. Erchi had gone off to lie down, no doubt already snoring. Amroth wished he could do the same – it had been an arduous few days – but he had too much on his mind. Devoran evidently wanted to talk to him, but what did she want to say?
He hoped she would not mind him leaving Drummer with his squire keeping watch. Justified, he thought, after the dog had managed a small meal – some mutton filched from Handor – and settled down to sleep in the tack room. Whatever Guleth had prescribed to put on the dog’s food had worked, and Drummer appeared much more comfortable. Perhaps she had given Devoran the same stuff, as Ana said she was still sleeping deeply.
He wanted her to get some rest, but conversely begrudged every moment she stayed asleep while he paced about waiting to talk to her. With a resigned sigh, Amroth sat down again, thinking that maybe he should doze himself when he had the opportunity, and it would pass the time. No chance! Thoughts charged around his head and after a few minutes he stood up, too tense to rest in spite of the sultry afternoon. Maybe he should check on Drummer?
But at that moment there was a knock on the door.
“Oh, there you are, lord. Lady Devoran would like to talk to you.”
At last! Amroth tried not to show his eagerness. After all, he might be disappointed.
“But don’t keep her long, she needs rest.”
Ana had got all officious suddenly, her new role perhaps. “Where is she, Ana?”
“Waiting in the private parlour, lord.”
“So she’s up and dressed?” That must mean she was feeling better.
Ana frowned. “I tried to make her stay in bed, but she insists she’s fine. Although she’s covered in bruises and still in a bit of pain. But Mistress Guleth left some medicine, and some salve for her sores.”
Amroth was already stepping past Ana and heading out of the door. “I’ll talk to her and try and persuade her to lie down again,” he flung over his shoulder. But not before he had found out a few things! Whatever she had to say, he couldn’t wait another moment to hear it. A few steps later he slowed his pace. It would be stupid to overwhelm her, after all she had been through. He must go careful. Amroth tapped softly on the door of the small parlour Handor kept for ladies, but hearing no response, pushed it open.
A table stood between them, which stopped him doing anything other than stare at her. Devoran stood by the window, gazing out onto the village square. The sun gleamed on her hair, turning it a wonderful fiery red. She turned slowly as he entered, greeting him with a hesitant smile. But those lovely honey eyes were troubled and guarded.
“Drummer is recovering. He has eaten some food and his tail is wagging.” Better get that in right away.
Her smile widened slightly. “Thank you. I am sorry to have put you to all this trouble.”
It sounded as though she were speaking to a stranger, was that what she thought of him now? He let out a breath, still staring at her, for once in his life unsure what to say.
Devoran bit her lip, dropping her eyes from the intenseness of his scrutiny. “I suppose you are going to tell me what a fool I have been.”
The bruise was livid on her cheek, and the flesh he could see on her arms covered in splodges of some brown ointment. Wearing a simple green linen dress with a shawl around her shoulders, presumably to try and cover the mess on her arms as the room was warm, she looked vulnerable and defenceless. Amroth wanted to wrap his arms around her and take all the hurt away – nothing had changed in that from the first moment he had met her. Sensitive to her distress, he let his words come out quietly.
“I understand why you ran from Alhael, Devoran. But why did you not come to Dol Amroth? Why attempt to get to Minas Tirith on your own? Did you not trust me to help you?”
Her chin slid down to her chest, and she swallowed, hands playing nervously with the folds of her skirt. “I am sorry.”
“Sorry?” Lead pooled in his stomach. “You don’t want to marry me?”
Her head flew up, eyes wide with denial. “No! I never said that. But Alhael told me that your father would not allow it. He said I wouldn’t be welcome because I had nothing to bring.”
“I should have killed him,” Amroth spat through his teeth. He flashed his eyes closed, deliberately calming himself. Damn! He couldn’t talk to her with a table between them.
Amroth pushed around the table past a heavy chair, knocking his thigh painfully. Rooted to her spot, she waited for him to reach her, following every movement with her eyes. By the time he got there, her bosom was rising and falling rapidly, her face flushed with colour. He put one hand on her shoulder, the other he used to lift her chin, wanting to see her thoughts clearly, wanting to be sure. “Devoran, when I came and visited you before, I asked you to marry me. Did you really think I did that without my father’s blessing?”
“You never said, and Alhael...”
“Damn Alhael! What do you think I am doing here now?”
“I know what,” she flung back, turning her head away. “Ana told me.”
Of course. She would be fully informed of his plans to take her to Rohan. But what did she think? He waited.
“I am trying to explain why I was unsure,” she carried on, still looking away from him. “I didn’t feel I could arrive in Dol Amroth unannounced, especially after the things Alhael said. He made me doubt.”
Amroth ground his teeth, but said nothing, feeling it better to let her have her say.
“If Alhael hadn’t threatened Drummer I would have written to you and stayed at home. But I had to leave, so decided to go to Minas Tirith and write to you from there.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Then you could choose whether to come for me or not.” Devoran turned, looking out of the window, a hand wiped across her eyes.
He rubbed one hand over her back, trying to reassure. “Devoran, look at me.” Amroth put his hands on her shoulders and turned her round.
“Do you doubt me now?” He wanted to search her face for the answer.
But she couldn’t meet his gaze, only shaking her head silently and sniffing, her eyes wet with tears. “If I had been sure I wouldn’t have had to make that awful journey, Drummer wouldn’t be hurt and…”
Amroth shut her off by pulling her into his arms, only to curse himself when she winced as he crushed her against him. But she held on when he tried to pull back, burying her head in his chest. Her small sobs cut right to his heart. He should have written, should have returned earlier and saved her from a nightmarish time.
He smoothed his hand over her soft hair, and put his lips close to her ear. “Don’t cry. I am asking you now, with my father’s full permission.” The sobs slowed, and her body tensed. He waited until he knew he had her complete attention and she had stopped crying. “Please Devoran, will you marry me? I have been mad with worry these last few days, I love you so much.”
Devoran sniffed, and used a corner of the shawl to wipe her eyes. She looked up at him, lips trembling. “I have nothing, I bring nothing.”
“Devoran, listen to me – I want nothing but you. All that concerns me is whether you wish to marry me as much as I wish to marry you.”
“I want to marry you, Amroth, of course I do.” She finally lifted her lashes, looking him straight in the eye. “I have loved you from the very beginning…”
His heart started beating again. “That is all that matters.” Amroth held her gaze and slid one of his hands up her back under her glorious hair right to the nape of her neck. Her skin felt so soft and smooth. The other he moved to her cheek, his fingertips gently skimming over the ugly bruise until it reached her chin. He trailed his thumb along her lower lip tilting her face up towards him so that he could brush his lips across hers. Only gently, like an initial foray into the unknown. Deliciously, his venture induced a tremor through her whole body. A hot rush rocked him as she sagged against him, her soft curves pressing against his chest. Amroth groaned, and covered her mouth with his. But determined to master himself, he kissed her slowly, merely teasing at her lips, desperate to savour every sweet moment…
Suddenly she pulled herself away, looking up at him wide eyed and horrified. What had he done?
“Amroth, the tunnel! I do want to marry you, but please don’t make me ride through that fearsome tunnel.” A shudder ran through her. “It will be full of spiders.”
Amroth pulled her back against him and started laughing, trying to hold in his mirth and his happiness. He laughed silently, lips buried in her hair, before he controlled himself and got the words out. “We don’t have to go Rohan now. All that is past. We will get married in the Great Hall at Dol Amroth. It will be decked with flowers and you will be the most beautiful…”
“Amroth…I can’t. I lost all my good dresses and …”
“Devoran…shush. None of that matters. We will sort it all.”
To be continued.
Well, they are together. I suppose I could leave it there, but I imagine many of you would like to know how Devoran gets on in Dol Amroth, and what she and Lothíriel have to talk about when they meet at the wedding.
The final few chapters will be along in a few weeks time – my beta decided to go on holiday.
Have a lovely time, Lia.
Original Characters in this chapter.
Guleth - A young woman form Lamedon. Assisted in the healing houses during the war. Treated Éomer and ended up in his bed. For more of her story read Tide of Destiny – Chapters 21/22/23
Faeldor - Guleth’s husband. Died on the Pelennor.
Handor - Landlord of The Tickled Trout in Cirlion, Lamedon.
Ana - A Dol Amroth maid.
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.