6. Chapter 6
Dol Amroth June FA01
Amroth ducked under the low doorway and blinked, his eyes adjusting to the gloom after the bright light outside. He started to methodically search the crowd but could distinguish no one familiar amongst the press of bodies. Every crew that visited Dol Amroth used the tavern and he by no way knew them all.
“Amroth! Over here!”
Swinging around, he caught the glint of a raised tankard and began the risky task of pushing through the drinkers. Some were sitting on the upturned barrels that served as seats, others leant against the thick trunks that supported the roof – a mix of seasoned sailors with leathery skin and braided hair, and fresh-faced boys trying to ape their elders, in dress and drinking capacity. Generally they were good-natured, but Amroth knew from experience that a glut of ale could make them tetchy and quarrelsome. However, he managed to reach the corner with no more than a few ripe curses battering him. Oríon shoved a mug in his hand before he had even sat down.
With a grateful sigh Amroth took a deep refreshing swig. It had been a long hot day and no other place had ale as good as The Crooked Capstan, well worth the walk down to the port and the risk of a bar-room brawl. Wiping the foam from his lips with the back of his hand, he realised Oríon was not alone. Amroth grinned at his brother. “I wondered where you had disappeared to, the table will be empty tonight.”
“The ale won over supper.” Erchi raised his mug. “And I am sure the cook will find us something later. Anyway, we deserve this after the trials of the last week.”
Trials? Amroth didn’t agree with that, for him matching the horses to the knights had been enjoyable. Without answering he took another swig, giving Erchi the chance to continue.
“What are you going to do with yourself now?”
Seeing the speculative look on his brother’s face, Amroth tried to hide the turmoil within. Erchi no doubt guessed the horses had kept his mind from other matters. But now Haleth and Harken had returned to Rohan, life would go quiet again, and his indecision would surface. Should he ride back up to the Vale to see Devoran? Disquiet had grown on him since he had come back with the horses. And promising to return in a year did not mean he couldn’t go back on a visit beforehand. But if he did, would he ever have the strength to leave again? And what implications would that have on his duties here.
“Amroth! More ale!” Oríon picked up the jug. By the look of his red cheeks, and his unusually dishevelled appearance, he must have already had more than a few. Pushing thoughts of Devoran away knowing he would not be good company otherwise, Amroth downed what was left in his mug and held it out for a refill. Not quite a full measure, and immediately Erchi waved his arm towards the bar, bellowing.
“More Ale! There are thirsty men over here!”
But Moreth, the landlord’s daughter, was already threading her way through the noisy throng. Guffaws of laughter erupted as a brave sailor slid an arm around her waist. Raising the jug out of the way, her elbow connected with his ribs, tipping him off the barrel and sending him sprawling into a tangle of feet. He’d have more than sore ribs by the time he got up. Moreth ignored the uproar and slipped sideways to end up at their table.
“She’s saving herself for me!” Erchi reached out his hand to grab her as she set the jug down.
“Touch me and you’ll get the same treatment, lord. And don’t you forget it!” With a flick of her hips she avoided his grasp, her bright dress disappearing back amongst the crowd before Erchi could answer. More laughter followed her progress as those who were strangers to the tavern thought to nab a cuddle or a kiss. Tall and strong, Moreth stood no nonsense, and it was a brave or a foolish man who tried to lay their hands on her.
“One barmaid who won’t have you,” Amroth ragged his brother.
Erchi winked at him. “It’s just for show. She’ll come around.”
“I doubt it,” Oríon smirked, refilling the mugs. “She’s sweet on the mate of The Flying Dolphin. I see her waving him off when I pass the Master my letters to Luineth. They go to Pelargir on a regular run.”
“Are you still writing to that girl!” Erchi gasped in astonishment, shaking his head. “I don’t know what’s the matter with the pair of you. Amroth’s barely with us, his head is up a mountain most of the time. And you’re writing love letters. It beggars belief.”
Amroth said nothing, he’d heard it many times these past weeks, but Oríon glared at Erchi over the foamy top of his ale. “We don’t all just want a roll in the hay.”
Unabashed, Erchi grinned at both of them. “Well, there’s ample hay around now Amroth’s loaded us up with all those horses. And plenty of willing girls if you know where to look.” He took a mighty swig of ale and stretched out his legs in contentment.
Amroth started chuckling, Erchi saw life very simply and you couldn’t be morose with him around. Oríon joined in, before returning to his ale, drinking in thoughtful silence for a moment. But then a smile crossed his face and he slapped Amroth on the arm.
“It’s not only you with your head up a mountain. Devoran made an impression on young Alphros as well.”
“Oh?” Amroth paused, the mug halfway to his mouth. He didn’t really want to discuss her in front of his scornful brother. But Oríon was unlikely to shut up.
“He was in the library this morning, struggling with his numbers.”
“Poor lad!” Erchi butted in. “Making him have lessons on such a fine day.”
Oríon ignored him. “I gave him some help, and he showed me a drawing he had done. The mountains were in the background, I recognised those.” He laughed. “But he had to explain what the things were that looked like blobs with four sticks poking out. I don’t think he’ll make an artist.”
Amroth had gone stiff, his senses on alert. “And what were they?”
“Lions and bears. Evidently Devoran told him they were dangerous in the winter.”
Slowly, Amroth put his mug down on the table. His stomach churned. “She is so vulnerable anyway, but in the winter the threat is worse.”
“And not only lions and bears, I imagine.” Erchi’s face turned thoughtful. “Do they have any kind of stockade up there, Amroth?”
Amroth stared at him, apprehension growing “Yes, although she tends to leave the gates open. Why are you asking?”
“Elphir said there are reports from Lamedon of a group of brigands on the prowl in the mountains. It has just struck me that it’s possible they might move on into the Vale. Not such rich pickings, but easier, maybe.”
“Brigands!” Amroth echoed. In spite of the sultry heat his insides turned to ice as a wave of fear washed over him. Why had he ever heeded her pragmatism and come away. “I’m going up there,” he announced quietly. “She needs help, and there is no way I am going to let her live through another winter with just two old servants and her father the way he is. She has no protection other than her dog.” But he knew he couldn’t dwell there for any length of time without talk. “I’ll have to take someone with me to uphold convention, a companion for her, willing to stay for a time. But …”
“But what, Amroth?” Oríon interrupted. “If you are determined to go back up there, why don’t you marry her? They get married up in the Vale, don’t they?”
“You’d better, Amroth.” Erchi started a deep chuckle. “I can’t see a trio of companions being of use if you are incarcerated up a bleak mountain with that lovely girl through the long winter months.”
Amroth had stopped listening. Marry her! Why not? What a fool he’d been! He could go up to the Vale, marry her, stay a month or two before coming back for a few weeks and then return for the winter. If she was his wife he could make sure she had all she needed, and leave some men for protection. He would have to persuade his father, but something could be sorted out. He didn’t have to personally command his Company all the time, as long as he was around for part of the year. There was no threat of war at the moment. Yes, his mind was made up.
“You are right, Oríon. The best thing would be for me to marry her. Now I have finished with the horses, there is nothing to stop me. It takes me less than three days to get to the Blackroot. I can share my time between there and here until she’s able to live in Dol Amroth.”
“Well, little brother.” Erchi put his hand up for another jug, his face a mask of wry amusement. “We must drink to your nuptials. I am looking forward to the trip.”
“You don’t think I am letting you get married without me there, do you? And I will speak up to our father.”
That warmed him. Erchi might bluster and tease, but he had a good heart. And they had got on better together since he had come back from Rohan. Which Amroth was glad about. “I’ll talk to Father in the morning.”
Halfway down the next jug, with plans whirling around his head, Amroth jumped as Oríon suddenly slammed his tankard down on the table and leaped to his feet. He swayed for a moment and then fell forward, hands landing on the table and knocking over his tankard. Luckily most of the ale had been drunk.
“Let me tell you,” he proclaimed loud enough for all those around them to hear, “that letters do not warm a man’s bed.”
“Only if you set fire to them,” a rough voice came from the next table, where a group of sailors were playing dice.
“Exactly right!” Wobbling slightly, but managing to stand up straight he pointed to the man, beaming agreement. “So I am going to do something about it!” By the time the laughter had stopped Oríon had somehow scrambled on top of his seat, holding precariously to a timber. “I’m taking a boat to Pelargir, right now!” he shouted over the hubbub. “I need a crew to pull strong and fast. Who’s with me?”
“I’ll be happy to take your coin, young lord,” the same voice came again. “But if you leave now with the tide on the ebb we’ll as like end up in Langstrand.”
Good-natured laughter erupted, but the reason was lost on Oríon. He swayed, his eyes rolling, it looked as though the ale had finished him. Amroth stood up to catch him, but too late. The barrel tipped, and he toppled backward, right on top of Erchi.
Oomph! “Damn it!” They both went over in a heap, knocking into the table next to them and sending the dice flying.
“Oy! I was winning,” an indignant voice shouted. Amroth shot around, not to pick up his brother but to offer apologies to the sailors and buy them a jug before mayhem ensued. Luckily they went for the ale and not him. Swearing fluently, the wind knocked out of him, Erchi heaved Orion up and propped him on the seat with his back against the pillar. But he slumped forward, eyes closed and muttering incoherencies.
Erchi put out an arm to hold him up. “We’ll have to carry him or find a cart. The sun must have got the pair of you!”
Surprisingly though, as he must have had a massive headache, Oríon left for Pelargir first thing the next morning, as a passenger on The Flying Dolphin. Presumably to deliverer the next letter in person. Later, as Amroth knocked on the door to his father’s study in some trepidation, he hoped both he and his friend would get the response they wanted.
Imrahil listened to Amroth’s request in silence; he had been expecting something, the only surprise being Erchi coming to support his brother. As Amroth came to an end, his mind busied itself with the ramifications of his youngest son spending a greater part of the year away from Dol Amroth. He had given thought to it when Amroth had come back at first, but decided that his fun-loving son would never be happy incarcerated at the top of a mountain, even with a pretty girl. But it was becoming obvious that he would never be happy living apart from her. And from the steely glint in Amroth’s eyes it appeared as if he was going to have to agree to the scheme. He remembered that look from Elphir. A glance across to Calaerdis, whose offer to leave had been waved away by Amroth, gave him no help. Her fine features were expressionless.
“I agree she should not be up there without protection, Amroth. But are you sure that Devoran would be happy with you going backwards and forwards? And what about her father? What would he think about you marrying her?”
“I spoke to him as much as I was able. He definitely understood me and gave me his blessing. But if Devoran decides not to marry me, I will stay for a while anyway and organise some security for her. She shouldn’t be alone.” His chin went up, unwavering.
Imrahil nodded, glad to see the determination and concern. “I am not against you marrying her, Amroth. I told you that at the start. But a hole in the corner affair is not what I had in mind for you. For any of my children.”
“But there is no other way,” Amroth retorted. “If she came here it would turn into a big wedding, and I doubt she’d leave her father long enough for that.”
No,” Imrahil conceded, his thoughts in disorder. But suddenly they sorted themselves out. “Rohan. You could take her to Edoras and Éomer could marry you. With Erchi and Lothíriel there, that at least would seem less furtive than a hasty marriage in a mountain village.”
Light leapt to Amroth’s eyes. “I would much prefer that. If I can persuade her, that is.”
“Persuade her!” Erchi scoffed from the window seat. “Throw her over your saddle and ignore any protestations.” He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “But you’ll probably go down on your knees and beg.”
Imrahil laughed. “I admit to being with you there, Erchirion. I don’t like to think of one of my sons on their knees to anyone.”
“A woman does like to be asked,” Calaerdis’s soft voice broke in, “but I would definitely avoid the knees, Amroth. Very off-putting to have a man grovelling at one’s feet.”
They all laughed. Imrahil caught her eye. Maddening woman! Good job he hadn’t been temped to try that. Calaerdis was the Lady of Dol Amroth in all but name, one would think she would be keen to regularise her position. But perhaps her attraction was that she behaved a little unconventionally. She must have guessed his thoughts because her lips twitched and she drew her gaze away to look at Amroth. He smiled at her.
“I have asked her once, and had circumstances been different she would have agreed. I know it is what she wants.”
“She might feel happier going to Edoras if she could leave her father with someone other than two old servants.” Calaerdis continued. “Why don’t you consider arranging some help?”
“Yes, a good idea,” Amroth agreed. “Gidon got on well with Duinhir; I could leave him with a couple of men. That would relieve her servants of the heavy jobs.”
Imrahil had come to a few decisions. “That would do for your trip to Rohan, Amroth, but two old servants won’t be enough if you are going to be living there for more than a short time. We need to sort her out a housekeeper. Perhaps one of our wounded soldiers could go up there with his wife…”
“And if Duinhir got used to them, maybe Devoran would come down here for a few weeks every now and again. That’s an excellent idea, Father.”
“Yes. But Amroth, you must go up there and put this to her. You cannot load servants and housekeepers on her without her agreeing.”
“No, of course not. But it will be easier to sort out everything else once we are married. And I shall feel happier knowing she is going to be cared for, even if I am not always there. I can recruit any extra help needed from the village.”
Imrahil sighed. Amroth’s face looked brighter than it had for weeks. He seemed confident the girl would go with him. Not what he had planned for his youngest son, but he knew when to bow to fate. “I hope for your sake it works out as you wish.”
Calaerdis broke in again. “May I suggest you take a woman with you, Amroth. You cannot drag Lady Devoran though that mountain without a woman to attend to her. She will need a maid.”
Amroth’s brow furrowed. “It would have to be Ana, no other could cope with the riding. But she is newly married.”
“Then we must take her husband as well.” Erchi rubbed his hands gleefully. “I am looking forward to this. Amroth chasing a woman. Who’d have thought it?”
Morthond Vale July FA1
The villagers trudged up the track as one mass: best clothes; heads bowed; quiet and subdued. None of the laughing and chatter that was usual when they got together. Even the children walked quietly – hanging onto their mothers’ skirts, or keeping pace with their fathers, trying to look grown up.
With her grief numbed by exhaustion after the weeks of relentless nursing, Devoran felt sorry for them. Not only were they burying a much loved and respected lord, their new master was mistrusted at best and at the worst, despised. But she could do nothing to help them, and only hoped that when Alhael finally got his hands on his inheritance he would realise it would be in his best interest to gain their loyalty. He would be a fool if he didn’t appreciate that he would get more that way. As for herself – she would give thought to that after her father had been put in the ground.
Thathar and Bregil had dug the grave in the small plot behind the walled garden, next to her mother. They had insisted, Bregil puffing from his age, Thathar from his war wounds. But she hadn’t had the heart to stop them. She gripped her skirts tightly when the last piece of turf covered it over, willing herself not to cry. Refusing to break down in front of the villagers, or Alhael. Instead she held her head high and thanked everyone for coming, and brought out the last of the ham from Amroth’s boar with some goat cheese and bread and blackberry wine. However little she had, her father would have wanted that.
Only when they had all gone did she walk with Drummer to their boulder, to stand looking down the valley with the tears streaming down her face. She cried for her brothers, handsome and brave, who had left her with a smile and a promise to return. For her father, once so strong and caring, but whom despair had dried to a wasted husk. And her mother – she wanted to forgive her mother, but found it so hard. Her mother should never have left them. Their family had been torn apart, and the grief that should have bonded the survivors together, had caused her mother to destroy it utterly. Head in her hands, Devoran wept desperately for her lost life until finally no more tears would flow. Gulping to regain her composure, she stood facing the wind, letting it dry her face, determined not to wallow in misery any longer. There had been enough of that, now was the time to make plans for herself.
“What are we going to do, Drummer? My cousin will come back soon and I am not sure I can live with him. Or Corves. I don’t want to see them in my house. What shall I do?” Heavy steps took her back to the house past the wood-pile; she had been too busy and too tired to come here for weeks. Devoran screwed up her eyes and blinked – but nothing.
“He’s gone, Drummer. I didn’t come and he’s gone. It’s just you and me now.” She turned away, a great emptiness overwhelming her. Drummer whined and rubbed against her legs. “You miss him, don’t you, Drummer?” She stopped, thinking hard. Amroth had been so sincere. But words had blurred and memories faded during the weeks of unceasing toil. “Perhaps I ought to write to him, Drummer. He told me to if I was in trouble.” Her cousin would never take a letter, but there must be a way. “I could ask one of the villagers to take it to the market, Drummer. I am sure a merchant would pass it to a patrol. It would get to Dol Amroth eventually. But what shall I say?”
Devoran pondered the next day on what to write; she could hardly ask to come to the Palace. The best thing to do would be to tell Amroth what had happened and let him decide if he wanted to do anything about it. Better than pushing herself forward, and she could stand her cousin for the time it took a letter to reach Amroth and a reply to come back. But just as she started to write, she heard Drummer barking. Now who was coming? Surely not Alhael. He would not be so unfeeling as to come back so soon. But by the time she got to the outer door the barking had changed to a furious growling. She heaved it open quickly.
Oh No! Drummer was attacking a pair of polished boots, Alhael’s piebald sidling around in panic. Getting the mare under control, Alhael raised his whip.
“No, Drummer! Down!” She yelled, rushing forward to grab the angry dog. “Don’t hit him, Alhael! I’ve got him,” she pleaded, seizing hold of Drummer’s scruff.
“Get him out of my sight, Devoran.” Alhael fumed.
“I wasn’t expecting you, or I would have locked him up. He’s only protecting me.”
“What’s going on, my lady? I heard Drummer…Oh…” Bregil stopped with a quick nod to Alhael.
“Take him to the stables, will you, Bregil, until Lord Alhael has gone.” Devoran passed over a still growling Drummer. “Make sure he can’t get out, and come back for the horse.”
“Don’t bother,” Alhael said. “I am not staying. I just came for a quick word.”
“Surely you will come in, Cousin, and take some wine.” Even he couldn’t be that rude as to tell her his plans in the courtyard!
“Oh, very well. But I will tie my horse outside.”
She took him through to the hall. No chair in the window now, she had moved that, not wanting to walk in and think her father still sitting there. Alhael put down his whip and gloves and took a goblet from her, sniffing it before he put it to his lips. Blackberry again, but what did he expect. It had been a long time since a carrier had brought a barrel of best red from the slopes of Lamedon.
He looked around the hall, gloating in the fading splendour of his inheritance, she imagined. But he didn’t speak until he had taken another sip, then his voice was flat and expressionless. “I shall be moving in very soon, there is no point in wasting time. I have my own servants so will not need Ashild and Bregil. They are too old to be much use.”
Devoran bit her tongue; they had no intention of staying anyway. “Oh, do not worry about them, Cousin. It is nice of you to be concerned, but they will be fine. They are moving in with their daughter.” He looked at her suspiciously, but she smiled sweetly. Did he really think she would not have ensured their future?
“You, Devoran, will have to move out of your room. My daughter will want it. Choose one at the back of the house; you will not need it for long.”
“Not need it for long?” She hoped she wouldn’t, but what did he mean.
“No, I will be making arrangements for you to be married. Fairly soon I should think.”
Devoran glared at him. “You will be making arrangements! I don’t think so, Cousin.”
He bristled, drawing himself up and looking down his nose, fleshy cheeks wobbling. “You forget who has control here. What do you think is going to happen to you otherwise?”
“Prince Amrothos!” His voice rose in a sneer. “Are you still living under that delusion?”
“I was writing to him as you arrived. Father told me the Prince spoke to him.”
“Your father, Devoran, didn’t know what day it was. Are you so naïve as to believe anything that womanising prince said? Men, Devoran, men like him will say anything to get what they want.”
Devoran clenched her fists, wanting to hit him. “He’s not like that!”
Alhael took a step forward and lifted her chin with his finger. “Let’s just assume for a moment that the Prince meant what he said, Devoran. You are a pretty young woman; I agree he could have got carried away.”
Devoran pulled from his grasp, how dare he even touch her!
With a twist of his lips he dropped his voice, sounding as if he were speaking to an ignorant child. “But what do you think that proud father of his would have said to his son wanting to marry a portionless girl from a mountain vale? Princes marry for status and land, Devoran, not for lust, or even love. Be assured that Prince Imrahil will have already sorted out a suitable wife for your handsome lover, and the sooner you realise that, the easier you will accept your fate.”
“My fate?” she whispered, not being able to say anything else. Alhael’s words had shocked her. What if they were true? Amroth had never mentioned his father’s wishes. Would Prince Imrahil have agreed with Amroth’s desires? Her stomach turned to lead when she recognised that it was quite likely the Lord of Dol Amroth had plans of his own for his son’s marriage.
Alhael must have realised he had got through, because he patted her shoulder, a smirk on his face. “Luckily I have friends who will relish an attractive young wife, and they will not worry too much if you are a little…. used, shall we say?” He looked her up and down with a malicious gleam. “It is lucky he left nothing behind.”
Her whole body trembled. Too upset to deny his spiteful accusations, she managed to put some defiance into her voice. “I do not wish to be married to one of your friends.”
“My dear, you have no choice. You are underage and have no way of supporting yourself. I have had this in mind for some time, it is the only way you can be of any use to me.”
“I would have thought I would be more use married to a prince,” she retorted, anger returning.
“No use at all! Even if you did manage to wheedle your way in that haughty family is not likely to have anything to do with the likes of me!” He leant closer and Devoran shivered with apprehension, seeing the avarice glittering in his eyes. “But you, my dear, can buy me a lot of credit with the right person. And that’s what you will do.”
She instinctively recoiled, which provoked an ironic laugh. “Nothing to say to that, have you?”
Devoran shook her head, unable to find any words. And with a nod Alhael drained his goblet and picked up his gloves. “Good, that is settled. I will move in next week. Make sure everything is ready.” Putting down his goblet he snatched his whip from the table and strode towards the door. But he stopped halfway, looking back at her, scowling. “Oh yes, I nearly forgot. The first thing I will do is string up that flea-bitten cur by his mangy neck.”
Hang Drummer! She’d run her father’s sword through him first! Devoran stared at the door after he had gone, not quite believing he had said those things. Marry to further his interests? Never! She had always thought him a mean, unpleasant man, but she had never expected him to be so vile.
Anger made her pace the room. Force her into marriage! Surely he couldn’t do that! But with his servants doing his bidding, who would stop him? And Drummer! He could order his men to kill Drummer! She would not risk that. Well, one thing was certain: when Alhael came back, she would not be here.
But where should she go? Not Dol Amroth until she was sure of her reception. Amongst the fury and the hurt Alhael had wormed a seed of doubt. Had Amroth’s love been an unattainable dream? Now she didn’t know what to do.
The rest of the day the letter remained unfinished as she mostly stared out of the window trying to sort her thoughts. Devoran went to bed full of uncertainty, awake until the early hours and then sleeping restlessly, disturbed by dreams of toads and frogs, one of which she was expected to marry. But only the right one would turn into a prince. She woke bleary eyed just as the first flush of dawn filtered into her window. But thankfully her mind was clear. Sometime in the night the King’s words had invaded her dreams – ever in need – a home for her.
She would not give up her freedom to Alhael, risk Drummer, or put Amroth in an embarrassing position with his father. She would go to Minas Tirith and seek the King’s protection. A letter could be sent to Dol Amroth easily from the Court. Amroth could choose with no pressure: either to come for her or to write back some platitude, an excuse why he couldn’t. If he didn’t want her anymore, then she wouldn’t give in to despair. She was young and healthy and had a new life before her.
Now she had to persuade Ashild and Bregil to leave, so she could fly herself, for she did not trust Alhael to wait a week. The swine must have been making plans all the time her father was ill. Hovering over his legacy like an ugly vulture.
To be continued.
Moreth - daughter of the landlord of The Crooked Capstan.
Oríon - Childhood friend of Amroth’s.
Calaerdis - Imrahil’s mistress
Gidon - Captain in Amroth’s Company
Devoran- G Lord Duinhir’s Daughter.
Thathar- G A Bowman from the Morthond Vale. Wounded badly on the Pelennor.
Ashild - G Housekeeper to Lord Duinhir.
Bregil- G General Servant, Ashild’s husband.
Alhael- G Devoran’s cousin. Son of Duinhir’s elder sister.
Corves- G Alhael’s wife.
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.