5. Chapter 5
Dol Amroth March 3021
Leaving had been the hardest thing that he had ever done. Even leading out a company of his father’s troops to face the hordes of Mordor, knowing that he could not show a moment’s fear or hesitation, had not prepared him for this awful wretchedness. He had only had the strength to come away at all because staying any longer made the agony worse, for her and him. They had sat on the seat in the garden and talked for what seemed like hours, but he knew that it was no good. Whatever she felt in her heart; in her mind she was just not free.
Amroth dragged his eyes away from the sea and turned back to his father. “She is wasting her life away.”
“My son, you cannot build happiness on another’s pain and grief.”
Why was his father always so damn right! “I told Devoran that I would wait for her.”
A sympathetic hand landed on his shoulder. “Amroth, it could be a very long time.”
Throwing off his father’s well meant concern, and needing to be alone, Amroth strode to the door, grabbed the handle and wrenched the heavy wood towards him. Just about to dive out into the passageway, he stopped, and turned back to his father, voice breaking with emotion. “I want no other!”
The door slammed shut. Imrahil stared at it for a moment before moving over to the place in front of the window so recently vacated by his son. Rarely had he seen Amroth show such passion and had no doubt the lad meant what he said. His two youngest shared many traits, and as Lothíriel had given her heart completely and forever, Amroth would have done the same.
But the old man could live for years. Imrahil rubbed his chin; there must be some way of sorting a solution. He would think on it.
Morthond Vale March FA1
Devoran stared down the valley. She felt numb. So numb that not a tear had flowed the past three days. Loneliness and despair had brought her to the viewpoint by the walled garden at every opportunity. Looking south and imagining where he would be on the road brought her some comfort. But she knew that by now he’d be home. Perhaps looking up at the mountains wondering what she was doing.
As if in sympathy, a heavy body leant against her legs. Devoran put her hand down to Drummer, fondling him gratefully; he always knew when she was upset. “I haven’t talked to you about it, have I, Drummer? I want to, but I know I will cry.”
When she felt Drummer’s wet tongue on trembling fingers, any resolve to be strong crumbled. Devoran sank onto the grass and leant back against the boulder. She put her arms around his neck laying her head against his soft fur, the tears already starting to trickle down her cheeks. Within moments sobs shook her in great wracking waves. Drummer whined anxiously, swivelling his head to try and lick her face. Devoran cuddled him tighter pouring her grief into his warm body until finally, exhausted by the outpouring of misery, she took deep gulping breaths.
Quivering and weak, she wiped her face with the back of her hand. A good job there was no one around to see her. Or Drummer, because she’d made a large wet patch on his fur. Sniffing, she smoothed her hand over it. “I am sorry, Drummer, I have spoiled your nice coat. Will you let me brush it? My Prince told you that you must.”
Even thinking about the fun they’d had threatened to start her off again, but determinedly she took a steadying breath. If she spoke about it, perhaps the pain would ease. “You don’t mind listening do you, Drummer? There is no one else.”
Drummer answered her with another lick, happier now that she had stopped crying. Devoran sighed. Where should she begin? At the important bit, she supposed.
“I love him, Drummer. Did you guess?” Drummer cocked his head to one side. Ears pricked, waiting for more.
“Yes, of course you did.” She sighed; only now could she admit the truth to herself. “But did you realise that I loved him from the start? I loved him, Drummer, from the moment he grinned and bowed to that sweet little girl.
“I knew why he had come here, Drummer.” A bleak lump rose in her throat, catching her breath. Never had she expected it, but the moment she’d opened the door she had known. “Some things just feel so right, don’t they? Even though I knew it could never be. That’s why I tried not to be alone with him at first. But of course, that was not fair. I love him, Drummer and I have sent him away.”
Devoran bit her lip hard to stop the tears as a picture of Amroth’s face appeared clearly in her mind. She gulped, determined to remember the pleasurable bits. “It was fun when we bathed you. There were soapsuds everywhere. He did not look much like a prince, did he, Drummer, with soapsuds in his hair?
“I gave in when I saw him chopping wood. I knew I would say no. I had to, but I couldn’t make him wait.” She supposed she’d been putting it off ever since he had arrived, not wanting to face a desolate future when it could have been so different. But at least she had wonderful memories to fall back on.
“I will always remember him laughing at me. He did not need to chop wood, Drummer, he has muscles aplenty. His skin is smooth and tanned, and you know, Drummer, I did like looking. He has a scar right along his side. And black hair, not too much, just a little, running down the middle of his chest and that lovely flat brown stomach. It gave me shivers, seeing him without his shirt. Should a maid feel like that? Should she pretend that she does not?” A hand flew to her face, feeling the heat at the mere thought.
“He said he would wait. Do you think he will? He even said he would stay here with me.” Drummer sat back on his haunches and lifted a leg to scratch his ear, looking as sceptical as she had when Amroth had said those things. Her laugh sounded hollow even to her ears. “Good to dream, Drummer, but princes have responsibilities. He has troops to command and horses to train. And I couldn’t let him leave all that he has known to dwell in a far-flung vale with a girl from the mountains. He lives in a palace, Drummer, and he loves the sea. He’d soon get fed up so far away from it.” Swallowing down her despair, she reached out a hand and scratched Drummer’s ear for him.
“It was silly for him to say that, Drummer. But kind, because he is nice and kind.”
Devoran stared down the valley, whispering into the air, “Which is why I love him.”
Desolation hit her like blow. She was sure now that if he returned, she’d never have the strength to send him away. Not expecting his love at the start, the power of it had shaken the foundations of her ties to her father. “He said he would come back for me, come back one year from today. Do you think he will? It is a very long time.”
Too long! So much could happen. No enchanted ending certain for her.
Devoran shivered, wrapping her arms around herself as she struggled to her feet. A sharp wind had got up whilst she had been talking to Drummer, now dark clouds marched up from the coast smothering the sun with their anger. She felt stiff and cold.
“Do you think it would have been better if he had not hugged me? I think it is going to be even harder now, because hugs are wonderful. He wrapped his strong arms around me and I liked it very much.”
Thinking about Amroth’s arms around her only made the lead in her stomach heavier. She needed to put the pain away and remember the good bits. The best thing to do would be to walk back to the house passed the wood pile and imagine she could see him there laughing at her. If she did that every day, and also came here and looked towards Dol Amroth, it would give some joy to her life.
“Come on, Drummer, a storm is on its way. And I’d better go and make sure Father eats something, he’s gone off his food again since Amroth left.”
Not being able to resist, she took once last look down the valley. Immediately her attention was caught by a smudge of colour against the greying landscape. Two figures on horseback were coming up the track to the house. She stared for a moment and then with a jolt recognised the piebald mare. …Oh no! Not today! She couldn’t bear it. Devoran rushed back up the path towards the house, hardly having time to glance at the woodpile. She’d have to wash her face and lock Drummer in the stables before her cousin got here. Alhael disliked dogs, and Drummer hated him, taking every opportunity to nip at his fat ankles.
The bolt slammed home on the stable door; Devoran ignored the indignant howling. She shot into the house passed an astonished Ashild, straight to her room. Minutes later, with cold water splashed on her face, a brush run through her hair, and a clean shawl around her shoulders, she pulled open the big outer door. Ashild must have spotted Alhael coming because she had disappeared into the depths of the kitchen.
Alhael had his eyes on her as he rode across the courtyard, but he said nothing. He waited for his servant to dismount before he heaved himself to the ground, shoving the reins into the unfortunate man’s hands without a word. The pig! He treated all those beneath him with rudeness and distain. Her aunt had been a lovely lady, how did Alhael grow up to be so horrible. Perhaps because his father had died when he was young, but that was no real excuse.
Guessing from the scowl on his face that he had heard about Amroth being here, she prepared for the censure. The news would have travelled across the valley like a summer blaze. But she would not let him intimidate her, and took a step towards him, intending to be polite.
“Good afternoon, Cousin.”
He launched straight in, not bothering with a greeting. “That depraved prince was here, you need not deny it.”
“I have no intention of denying it.” Devoran snapped, already stung by his tone. “I now have mended fences, newly turned earth and salted meat.”
He chose to ignore this, not surprisingly as he did nothing himself to help her. “Why was he here?”
“Prince Amrothos had been hunting and brought the villagers a boar.”
“There was only one thing he was hunting, Devoran. And we are all aware was that was.”
Anger kindled, but she spoke sweetly. “He came with his men. My father welcomed them and opened his home to them. Do you think he abused that trust?”
“Did he sleep in the house?” Alhael’s eyes narrowed and she had the distinct feeling he wanted to think she had behaved badly. Devoran willed herself to keep hold of her temper; he always brought out the worst in her.
“He was given the best guestroom. He is a Prince of the Realm, should he have slept in the barn?”
His face turned puce at the veiled reprimand and he caught her arm. “You!” he spat out furiously, “have disgraced our name.”
Devoran pulled her arm away, a scornful laugh on her lips. “Luckily, my name is not your name, and my name has never been disgraced!”
That hit home. The coward! Without another word, he stalked past her into the house.
“Do not upset Father!” She called angrily after him. The man was impossible! If he had given her any help after her father had taken ill, she might have respected him, but now she owed him nothing. And if her great-grandfather had not been so narrow-minded as to entail the house to nearest male heirs regardless of other claims, she would not have to put up with him at all.
Upset, she wanted some solace, and went around to the woodpile. Amroth was there of course, laughing and grinning at her, just as she knew he would be. Whatever her cousin said, she would hang on to that.
Moments later she heard Alhael yelling for his horse. It sounded as though he was not even going to stop for refreshment. Ill mannered toad! With any luck he would get soaked before he reached home. She hurried back to the courtyard.
He swung around at the sound of her footsteps, and glared at her. “Your father is as deluded as you! That prince has only one thing on his mind, Devoran, and don’t you forget it!”
Alhael dragged at his poor horse’s reins struggling to get a foot in the stirrups. He hauled himself into the saddle and kicked the mare viciously and headed her for the gate, leaving his servant to follow as best he might.
Whatever had happened in there? Devoran stared after her cousin for only a moment before hurrying into the house. She met Ashild coming out of the kitchen.
“Is my father all right, Ashild?”
“I don’t know, my lady. I heard him shouting, but I kept out of the way.”
Shouting! Her father hadn’t shouted for months! Devoran ran along the passage, but when she got to the hall she slowed. Thankfully her father was in his usual position, looking out of the window. Hearing her, he turned and she caught her breath. He had a strange look on his face. A triumphant look.
“Are you all right, Father? Can I fetch you something?” She went over and put her hands on his shoulders.
He took her hand and pulled her around so that he could look into her eyes. He looked alive, more alive than she had seen him for months. A slow smile crossed his face. “The Prince, Devoran, he came for you.”
Devoran froze. She had said nothing. “He came for the hunting, Father. Why should he come for me?”
“Because you are beautiful. Beautiful like your mother. He asked me if he could court you for a wife.”
Heart hammering, Devoran stared at him. Amroth had not told her that. “What did you say to him, Father? What did you tell him?”
But she was already losing him. “Alhael didn’t believe me, but I remember.” His face saddened and his voice dropped so low she could scarcely hear, but he squeezed hard on her fingers. “I am sorry, Devoran, I am in your way.”
“No, you are not. Do not be silly, Father.” She knelt down hugging into him. He felt so thin and fragile, and he had been such a strong man. But the light had gone again, and tears glistened in his eyes. Devoran stayed there until her knees were stiff, but he never said anything else. Somehow she must try and make him eat. Drummer padded across the flags towards her, Bregil must have let him out. Getting up, she ruffled his ears, but turned back quickly hearing a harsh gurgle.
“Father, what is it?” He’d slumped forward, and Devoran just caught him before he fell out of the chair. She tried to heave him back into his seat, but he was so heavy in spite of his thinness. Breathing hard, she managed to prop him up. She was so desperately afraid of what had happened to him that her hands trembled as she pushed aside his hair. One of his eyes twitched the other looked dead. And his face! What had happened to his face! The left side sagged and drooped. He’d had some kind of seizure.
“Ashild! Bregil!” She called frantically for help. They would have to send for the wise-woman. Her father’s hand clutched at her skirt, he was mumbling incoherently with dribble coming from his lips. “Ashild!” she called again. There was no way she could get him to bed on her own. Whimpering in distress at what was happening, Drummer rubbed against her legs.
“Oh, Drummer,” she whispered through her tears. “I think Father is really gone this time. Gone where I cannot reach him.”A great surge of loneliness and fright overwhelmed her for a moment. “They have all gone now; it really is just you and me, Drummer. Just you and me, in this accursed vale.”
Lower Morthond May FA1
He’d been a fool to come up here, but unable to resist. Better to have waited for the horses at home, not ridden to meet them. Being this near had started an unrelenting urge to cross the river and take the track that led to the Blackroot. And a night spent tossing and turning in indecision on the hard ground had left him irritable and stiff. The truth was that whatever he tried to do to distract himself, nothing worked. His mind kept straying back to Devoran and what he could do to resolve the situation. He could be there in a few hours, but what would it change?
“I can hear horses, lord.”
Startled out of his reverie, Amroth heard the rumble of many hooves, but still a way off. Too late now to even think about riding up the Vale, and his duties would keep him busy for many weeks. He realised Gidon had his eyes on him speculatively. No hiding his feelings from his Captain, he needed to concentrate on the job in hand.
“They’ll have a scout out in front in case of anyone on the road; send someone to meet him, will you.” Amroth jerked his head back over his shoulder. “We will wait for them in that hollow.”
Gidon nodded and dispatched a soldier. Amroth wheeled Aero and trotted back down the road to a clearing that dug into the hillside: sweet grass, and a stream. They might like to camp here, although it would drive him mad sleeping so close to the way up to the Vale.
The rumble grew, echoing around the surrounding hills. The Rohan scout appeared riding with the Dol Amroth soldier. They joined the party waiting by the stream. Now Amroth looked in anticipation to what would be coming around the bend. All the other horses Éomer had sent had been for the common soldiers, this would be the first consignment since the war specifically for the Swan-knights. But even expecting them, the sight took his breath away – two Lords of Rohan, their braids swinging as they rode, spear tips fired by the westering sun. Matched grey horses, roped in pairs, outriders keeping them in line. All travelling as one, at a very fast trot.
A hand went up when the leading Rider saw them, and gradually the column slowed to a walk. It was Haleth. Amroth recognised him, and the other man, Harken, having met them both in Edoras. Seeing they were slowing, he eased Aero out into the road. Haleth came to a halt in front of him, nodding a respectful greeting, before the bearded lips broke into a grin.
“Couldn’t wait to see what Éomer King has sent you, or are they sending princes out on escort duty now?”
Amroth laughed, running his eyes over the line of magnificent animals. “A bit of both, but I felt like a few days away from the stone. We can camp here, or there’s a place a few leagues down the road.”
Haleth had a quick word with Harken, who nodded. “We’ve done well today, we will stop here. It will give you a chance to have a look at them.”
When Amroth woke the next morning only a faint hint of light penetrated the canvas. He lay for a moment aware that he’d only had a short sleep – what with sitting up late around the fire and then restless hours before he’d eventually dropped off. But although his head felt thick, he was unable to lie still any longer and cursing his failings he pulled on a tunic and went outside.
A guard looked up, surprise on his face. The horses were still dozing, only one pulling at the dew-laden grass. Amroth waved his hand and trudged through the wet towards the road. He didn’t feel like even talking, all night unease had been growing on him, a feeling that something was wrong up there. Probably his imagination, but anyway, he crossed over to the other side of the road and stared up the vale. Not that he could see much: wisps of mist curled up the sides like smoke from a thousand fires. But she would send word, wouldn’t she, if she had problems. He’d told her to. Made her promise to write if she needed help. Surely that cousin would send a message if she asked, he had dealings with merchants in the city.
Haleth was holding up a tea kettle and beckoning. With a last look up to the Vale, he crossed back over the road. For the time being his duty was at home. No decisions to make, they had been made for him.
Morthond Vale May FA1
Devoran eased her father back down against the pillows and took a damp cloth to wipe his face. He snatched at a breath, the thick humours invading his body gurgling their displeasure at the effort. The coughing fit over for a moment, his chest still rasped, but she saw he had fallen into an uneasy sleep. The last dose of tincture must have worked – for a while.
She needed to stretch. She needed to sleep. But not yet! Ashild wouldn’t be ready to relieve her. Although it must be near dawn, and the woman from the village who came to help would be getting up. Devoran put down the cloth and the bowl and picked up her woollen shawl. Wrapping it tightly around her shoulders she went to the window and twitched the heavy curtain aside quietly. A grey landscape. The floor of the vale was dark and hidden. Swirls of mist curled up the valley sides like wisps from many campfires. Somewhere down there people would be waking to start their day, whilst she had been up all night. She shivered in spite of the shawl: spring came late to the high valleys, and the stone house could be cold. Hurriedly she let the curtain go, keeping the dawn at bay for a while. She’d forgotten the fire during that last bout of coughing.
Only a few logs left in the basket, but they’d keep a flame until Bregil brought some more when he got up. Devoran picked up a chump of wood, but it remained hovering over the glowing embers as a vision of Amroth rocked her. She saw him clearly, holding out his hand to her, a soft smile on his face. But as she reached towards him he faded, getting fainter and fainter until he disappeared.
“No…no don’t go,” she whispered. But too late! She’d been too tired to visit the woodpile these last weeks, and now he had gone.
To be continued.
Devoran- G Lord Duinhir’s Daughter.
Ashild - G Housekeeper to Lord Duinhir.
Bregil- G General Servant, Ashild’s husband.
Alhael- G Devoran’s cousin. Son of Duinhir’s elder sister.
Gidon – G Amroth’s captain
Haleth – Rider of the Golden Hall
Harken – R Rider of the Golden Hall
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.