23. Revelation Part III
My apologies for the incredible time this has taken to post, family traumas have focused my mind on real life. LBJ
Revelation Part III
The sound of a dispute outside the door jerked him awake. Elfwine struggled to his feet; he recognised that voice – they would soon be out of here.
'I tell you only one belongs to you,' Elfwine heard the guard say. 'The other two must be our riff-raff.'
'Let me look and we can resolve the argument.' A bit more grumbling came from the guard but the authoritative tone settled the matter and keys grated in the lock.
Eldarion stretched. 'Good, I'm starving. And that sounds like Éomund, so maybe we'll get away with this without causing too much bother.'
Elfwine wasn't so sure; he couldn't believe Éomund had come on his own initiative. The door swung open and the space was filled with over six foot of gleaming Rohirrim warrior. Éomund, proud of his position in the Royal Guard, always looked immaculate, his hauberk burnished to a deep sheen. He cast his eyes around the cell, brows rising in amusement when he saw the Prince of Gondor looking sheepishly at him.
'Yep, two are mine. I'll advance them the money to pay the fine, but be assured they will be taken to task. Extra duties and short rations until they've paid it off.' The wry grin showed that Éomund was enjoying this.
'And him, lord.' Elfwine butted in quickly, indicating Halmir.
'I can...' Halmir started to protest, but Elfwine dug him in the ribs to shut him up. He had no doubt that it wouldn't be so easy to get out if you hadn't a member of the Riddermark's Royal Guard on your side.
Éomund frowned, but catching Elfwine's eye he nodded abruptly. 'Very well. I'll take responsibility for all three of them.'
It felt good to be back out in the sunshine. With a wink, Éomund told them to stay put and strode over to the Gondorian captain. More negotiations took place and they heard him bemoaning the behaviour of errant stable-hands. But they kept away – Halmir silent and red-faced as it started to dawn on him that he really might be in the company of two princes, Elfwine and Eldarion hanging their heads, happy for the guard captain to think they spent their life shovelling dung if it meant their misdemeanour would cause no embarrassment to their fathers.
Agreement reached, Éomund handed over a fistful of coins and, after a few more words marched back towards the three released prisoners. 'Right, get moving,' he barked, jerking his head in the direction of the gates.
Playing their part they hurried ahead of him towards the entrance to the City, not saying anything until they were past the guards and crossing the square. It was so crowded that they made little progress until Éomund shouldered his way through, clearing a path for them. The high-handed behaviour provoked a few irritated comments, quickly smothered when those responsible set eyes on Éomund's large frame and distinctive uniform.
'Thank you,' Elfwine said when the crowd thinned and he could walk by Éomund's side. 'Did Ceolwen go straight to you, or did she find Eóthain?'
'She did indeed find my venerable captain, who I might say laughed like a drain and sent me. He rightly thought that it would be remarked upon if the commander of Rohan's Royal Guard bothered to walk down to the Pelennor for the sake of a couple of lowly stable hands. Even now the Gondorian captain couldn't understand why I didn't let you rot for a day or two. I had to say that you had a canny way with fractious animals to explain my presence.'
Elfwine smiled. 'Thanks again. I shall owe you a few mugs of ale.'
Éomund cocked a brow. 'Don't forget the fine. You will owe Eóthain for that... which reminds me...' He turned his head to look at Halmir. 'Who's your friend? I don't recognise him.'
His name's Halmir, and he's not from the Riddermark. I am going to take him to my room to clean up.' Elfwine dropped his voice, 'Look, Éomund, I need to talk to my father urgently. Could you let me know as soon as he's finished his meeting with Elessar.'
Éomund grinned. 'Want to tell him about your little escapade before anyone else does, I suppose.'
Elfwine didn't contradict him: he wanted to avoid any rumours flying around. 'And where's my mother?'
'Gone to visit her family and not expected back until supper, so you're safe there.'
'Did Déor go with her?' Elfwine hoped he had, it would be easier if this could be sorted out before Halmir came across him, but his mother didn't really need her captain's escort to go to the family house on the Sixth Level. Luckily though, Éomund told him that Déor had gone, and what's more he had taken Byrde and Caedda with him – Byrde being friendly with Devoran and Caedda wanting to spend time with Eldir, Elphir's youngest son.
Conversation stopped as they took one of the steep stairs that provided a short cut to the upper levels of the City. After a long climb that led them through the smelly back alleys, the path eventually wound its way past the wall surrounding the gardens of the Healing Houses, from where a profusion of herbs scented the air with their aromatic oils. Elfwine sniffed them appreciatively; so far the day had been full of more noisome smells.
'Are we going back the way we came in?' Eldarion said when he found his breath. 'If we go through the tunnel the guards will surely recognise us.'
'Let them recognise us,' Elfwine answered, pulling a disgusted face. 'The word will get out anyway and there's no way I am going back through that midden.'
'Midden?' Éomund exclaimed. 'Just tell me exactly you got out undetected.'
'I won't if you don't mind,' Eldarion said. 'I might want to use it again and if you don't know then you can't tell anybody.'
'Well, if you do, I hope you can extract yourself from any trouble you get in,' Éomund's only comment to the heir of Gondor on this.
They were recognised of course as Éomund ushered them past the gatehouse, but the Gondorian guards were too well trained to display any astonishment at seeing two princes in such a disreputable state – they saluted, wooden faced. Elfwine bit back a laugh as he caught sight of Halmir's expression. No disbelief now, he looked at them in bemused wonder.
Halmir's amazement lasted until Elfwine ushered him into his quarters and closed the door on the long marble corridor. The bewildered lad looked around the sumptuous room with unveiled awe. Stunned into silence, he stood awkwardly in the middle of the room not knowing what to do. Elfwine refrained from commenting on his discomfiture and tried put him at his ease. 'Have a wash, I'll order some food. But I must get out of these filthy clothes first.' He started stripping off his tunic.
'My horse!' Halmir protested as Elfwine shoved him towards the ewer and basin.
'Your horse will be well looked after, do you really doubt it?'
'No, lord.' Halmir shook his head, almost standing to attention. 'But all I possess is in my saddlebags, I need to go and get them.'
'I'll send for your bags. It would be best if we spoke to my father as soon as possible, preferably before Déor returns from escorting my mother.' He wanted to ensure there was no chance of Halmir bumping into Déor before they had found out the truth. Somehow, in spite of the show of respect, he had the feeling Halmir processed a quick temper and was likely to accuse first and look at the evidence later.
It took a jug of ale, a leg of chicken and a hunk of bread and cheese before Halmir relaxed and spoke to him normally again. Elfwine found out about the vineyard where he lived and how he seemed to have been born knowing how to deal with horses, his only tuition coming from an aged stable-hand in charge of the cart-horses. One thing he did pick up upon was the anger Halmir directed at his mother, even more than towards Déor. It became obvious that, above anything else, her behaviour, however long ago, had truly distressed him. But that was understandable – to suddenly find out that she had kept the truth of his ancestry from him and that he had a totally different father than he had grown up believing, would shock most. Especially if that father had abandoned you and just received news by letter. But Elfwine still found it difficult to believe Déor would do that. He studied Halmir's features, the lad certainly had a familiar look, but he couldn't quite see Déor in him. Surely there must be a different explanation than the one Halmir had construed.
The saddlebags arrived and with them a report that – Greywing had settled well and was contently pulling at her hay net – Déor had not yet returned – and Éomer King was still closeted with Elessar. Reassurance about his horse pleased Halmir, but as time progressed he noticeably started to tense, eventually beginning to pace around the room.
'You're making me tired,' Elfwine complained. 'Sit down. You pacing about like that will not make anything happen sooner.'
'Your father could be talking to the king all night. Perhaps I should just go and waylay Lord Déor. I still think I'll be fobbed off. They are bound to stick together. All the lords do.'
'No,' Elfwine said quickly ignoring the vague insult. 'Father would never do that. He will eat supper with my mother so he shouldn't be long ....' As he said it there was a swift rap on hard wood just before the door flew open with a resounding judder.
'What's this I hear about you destroying market stalls and landing up in a cell?' The King of Rohan could not be mistaken, even casually dressed his commanding presence dominated the large room. Halmir came to a halt and stood rigid, mouth open.
'Father!' Elfwine jumped to his feet. But he saw that in spite of the gruff voice his father's eyes were twinkling. That didn't surprise him, neither of his parents fussed too much as long as he was safe.
Halmir hadn't moved, but as the King of Rohan's eyes landed on him he bowed his head.
'Another troublemaker, I imagine.' Éomer looked him up and down. Frowning, he turned abruptly to his son. 'Who's this?'
'This is Halmir, Father. I met him down on the Pelennor, but I need to talk to you urgently, before...'
But Elfwine was suddenly aware that his father wasn't listening, instead he had a hungry gaze fixed on Halmir. 'Where are you from, boy?'
Halmir flashed a swift glance at Elfwine before he pulled himself as tall as he could and answered in a firm voice. 'I'm from Lamedon, Sire. My family have a vineyard there.'
It was as if his father had turned to stone, and it seemed that long minutes elapsed before he let out a ragged breath.
'Sire...' Halmir faltered for a moment under Éomer's penetrating gaze, but then he drew himself up again and looked the King of Rohan straight in the eye. 'Sire, Prince Elfwine promised to speak to you, but since you are here now it might be best if I tell my story direct. My family had no dealings with the Rohirrim after my mother returned from the war, but un-heralded, one of your lords, Déor, visited us some years ago...'
Éomer held up his hand to stop him. 'There is no need to go on, I am well aware of Déor's visit to you ...'
Halmir gasped. 'Then you know he is my father, lord. Which is why I am here.' His mouth twisted grimly. 'I want to...'
'No,' Éomer barked out before he could continue. 'Explanations are due to you, but let me put one thing right straightaway. You have it wrong. Whatever you may think, Déor is not your father.'
'Then why did he ...'
'Not now!' Éomer stayed him with his hand again and took a deep breath. 'All will be revealed to you, I give you my word.'
Halmir started to protest. 'Not now!' a stern voice stopped him and he dropped his gaze, reluctantly nodding agreement.
Still with his eyes on Halmir, Éomer stretched out a hand to Elfwine. 'We need to go and talk, Son.'
Elfwine stared at him, before he swivelled attention to Halmir. His eyes flicked between them – a terrible suspicion causing his heart to hammer in his chest louder than a tattoo of drums. No! He couldn't believe it! But the likeness he saw belied any denial – the intense blue eyes, the shape of the lips. How could he have not noticed before? Familiar! He should think so. Blood rushed to his head making him dizzy and he was only dimly aware of his father grabbing his arm.
'Come. Now!' Éomer pushed Elfwine towards the door, glancing back over his shoulder. 'Halmir, you stay here for a while, I'll send someone to sit with you.'
The door slammed shut and Éomer rattled some orders to the guard patrolling the passageway, including one to fetch Éomund. Satisfied Halmir would be looked after, he propelled Elfwine towards his own quarters. Still in shock himself he couldn't imagine what his son was feeling, there was no doubt in his mind that Elfwine had realised – the look on his face told it all. How the hell had they met and why the heck hadn't he told the boy aeons ago? Lothíriel would have his hide, she'd advised him to admit to his indiscretions long before now. Why hadn't he? Because he knew his principled son wouldn't see having a bastard as a cause for pride, more a cause for shame.
'Father, I don't understand. Halmir thought ...' the tightness in Elfwine's voice betrayed his strain.
'Not here, Son. Wait.' A heavy silence descended as they turned into the private passageway that led to the generous quarters allocated to the King and Queen of Rohan. All that could be heard was the thud of boots on the cold stone as father and son marched along. The guard outside the dayroom snapped to attention, before stretching out an arm to open the door. Éomer nodded his thanks but didn't start any conversation: he needed his thoughts centred on what he was going to say to Elfwine. But of course there was only one thing to say, one thing to tell his son – the truth.
Éomer went straight to the small table and poured a generous glug of wine into a goblet. He thrust it at his son. 'Drink this.'
'I don't need...'
'Drink it!' Éomer ordered.
Scowling at him, Elfwine put the goblet to his lips. Éomer poured himself one and took a deep draft. More to get his thoughts in order than anything else. 'How did you meet Halmir?'
Elfwine struggled to answer, and Éomer knew he would prefer to ask the burning question in his mind, but after wrestling with himself for a moment Elfwine took another gulp of wine and answered. 'He was racing his mare on the Pelennor. Ceolwen and I went to watch, it being obvious his mare had Wingfoot's blood. A fight broke out when I punched a mouthy lout who insulted Ceolwen, Halmir joined in to help me. So did Eldarion. Some stalls got knocked over which was why we ended up in the lockup. That's when he told me about his suspicion that Déor was his father.'
Éomer nodded, 'Did the mare win?'
Elfwine's eyes narrowed at the irrelevant question. 'Yes, Halmir's an excellent horseman. But then he would be wouldn't he? My eyes weren't lying in there, were they, Father?'
Éomer dropped a heavy hand on his shoulder. 'No, Son, they weren't. Halmir had it nearly right, but," his grip tightened and he gnawed his lower lip. "Not Déor. He was only ...he made sure for me...." Éomer drew in a deep breath and his voice steadied. "I'm his father, not Déor.'
Elfwine twisted, shaking off his hand. Éomer caught the glisten of tears in his eyes and let him be to recover, but when Elfwine turned again he was blazing not weeping. 'I don't know what disgusts me more – that you abandoned a woman carrying your child, or that you have kept it hidden all these years. I couldn't believe that Déor would do that. But you! Never did I think...' Elfwine stopped, rubbing a hand across his eyes. 'What about my mother! What story will you tell her?'
'Your mother knows everything, Son. We have no secrets...'
'Then when were you going to tell me that I am not your first-born....' Elfwine eyes were full of accusation and pain. 'How could you let me find out like this!'
Éomer sighed. 'I apologise. That was a mistake, I freely admit it. I should have told you when you were old enough to understand, your mother wanted me to.'
'Then why didn't you?'
How to answer that? But there was no hiding it. 'Because, if I am honest, I guessed how you would react and I didn't want to see the aversion in your eyes.'
Elfwine stared at him for a moment and then anger left him. 'Just tell me one thing, Father – that you haven't lied to me about Éomund. I don't think I could bear it if you had.'
Éomund? A t least he could quash that. 'No, I promise you, Éomund is not mine, His parents died in an orc attack. But they were special friends.' Éomer hesitated, but he had to say it. He owed it to his son to be open and true, and perhaps it would assuage the guilt he still carried. 'But Bergit became very dear to me, and we took comfort in each other after her husband was paralysed.'
'Comfort! Is that what you call it,' Elfwine flamed. 'I suppose you took comfort with Halmir's mother, too! Before you left her!'
The sanctimonious cub! Éomer only just hung on to his temper, trying to speak calmly. 'I did not leave her. She chose to go home and keep the fact she was carrying my child a secret from me. I did not find out until nine or ten years ago, and only then because your mother told me.'
'Mother told you. How could she know?'
'She had a vision, a very strong one.' Éomer sighed; what a damn mess he had made of this. 'Look, sit down and let me try and explain.' He waited and eventually Elfwine grudgingly sank into one of the padded chairs. Éomer took the other and pulled it around so that he could see his son's face. It took him another swig of wine before he could start. Fengel's guts – he was more nervous than before a battle. But hesitation meant more arrows would come your way.
'I had a relationship with Guleth at the end of the war when I met her in Cormallen. She was a sweet lady and I...I was very fond of her. But she chose to leave and go back to her family in Lamedon. Her decision not mine, I promise you. I had no idea she was with child. Her husband had died on the Pelennor and after your mother made her revelations we could only imagine that Guleth wanted everyone to think that Halmir had been conceived in wedlock. That turned out to be right, but back then we had to find out if it was true, so Déor went to Lamedon. At first Guleth would not admit to it and insisted that Halmir was her dead husband's child. But even when it became obvious she was hiding the truth she refused for Halmir to be told. In the end an agreement was reached that news would come to Edoras of his progress each year and he would be told of his heritage when he came of age if his mother had not found the courage to tell him before. Whether he came to Rohan, or not, would be up to him. I am assuming he must have harboured doubts about his parentage, and I suppose I can see how his suspicions would have fallen on Déor. But I don't understand why his mother let him continue with that idea.'
'From what he told me it seems that he was so angry that he left home before she could explain.' Elfwine stared icily at him. 'I think Halmir has a quick temper.'
'Elfwine, I understand your anger, but these things happen. They were dark times, and many did things that they might come to regret. Your mother understands this and has always been prepared for Halmir coming to the Riddermark.'
Elfwine stuck his chin up in that familiar challenging way he had. 'Do you regret what has happened, Father?'
Éomer shook his head, no point in hiding his feelings. 'Only that you found out in this way. If Halmir decides he wishes to live in the Riddermark then he will be treated as my son. It will not affect my love for you, the succession, or usurp your position in any way. I hope that you will find it in you to be friends with him. The shock for him may be greater than it is for you.'
Elfwine said nothing for a while and then he stood up, turning to the door. 'I need to think.'
'Why don't you go and talk to your mother. She sent word that she is staying with her father until after supper.'
Elfwine nodded. 'I might do that.'
The door shut behind him and Éomer let out a long, frustrated groan. What a mess, he had upset one son and now had to upset another. No point in putting it off.
To be continued.
List of original characters appearing or mentioned in this chapter.
Halmir Son of Guleth and Éomer.
Ceolwen Elfhelm's youngest daughter.
Éomund Son of Bergit, brought up by Éomer's cousin
Bergit Daughter of the horse-breeder, Egbert. Had an affair with Éomer before the
Déor Captain of Lothiriel's guard
Byrde Déor's wife, daughter of Hama.
Caedda Son on Déor and Byrde.
Elfwine – born FA1
Eldarion – born TA 3020
Elphir and Meren:
Alphros m – born 3017; Elphin m – born 3020 ; Eldir m – born FA4; plus one girl.
Erchirion and Inayah:
Two daughters and one son.
Amrothos and Devoran:
Elenna f – born FA2; Rosriel f – born FA5; Carafin m – born FA7 (became Lord of Morthond when Devoran was given her inheritance); Baranir m – born FA8; Lindis f born FA11 (married Déor and Byrde's son, Caedda)
Eóthain and Welwyn:
Leofcwen f – born Yule 3020 ; Eadrid m – born FA5; plus three more.
Déor and Byrde:
Caedda m – born FA6 (married Lindis; four children including Osmund)
Elfhelm and Wilflede
Bronwyn – f born 3019
Caedmon – m born 3021
Ceolwen – f born FA 3
Hrodgar – m born FA 5
Æbbe and Godric
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.