15. Chapter 15
In Dol Amroth
It is early morning and the hall is nigh abandoned. Most of the lords and ladies that revelled here the night before are abed, leaving none but servants and guards behind. Two of those guards, wearing the livery of the Prince, pass through here on occassion, or at least stick there heads into the door. But the only real activity is the servants, some cleaning and polishing the floors and walls. The two chandeliers are lowered to the floor, some five or six serving people replacing the melted candles.
In one corner the minstrels that played the night previous are milling about, some holding instruments, others just lounging about. Leaning against one of the pillars and conversing with them is a curly-haired young man whose dress and bearing leave no doubt as to his nobility. Their conversation is just wrapping up, the noble flashing a pearly smile at the group, "I look forward to it. Masters..." This last address must be his farewell, for he draws himself up from the pillars, inclines his head politely to them, and turns to leave.
It is early morning, but at least one lady is abroad in the halls of the palace. Tathar Draudagnir Nimothan looks into the harpers' hall and glances around at each face there - clearly, she is looking for someone.
The Girithlin is on a collision course, but at the last moment he draws himself aside, away from the lady's path. He drops in a courtly bow to the lady, the motion thoughtless, habitual, but graceful nonetheless. Still, he cannot quite help raising his eyes, even in mid-bow, to inspect the fair creature to whom he bows. He arches a brow, straightening rather quickly, "Coz? Valar be praised -- you are alive. I had feared..." he gives a brief shake of his curly head, "No, it matters not. My dear lady, will you oblige me so far as to tell me what you know of my sister? I understand it that you and she where in Caldur when... " A flash of his throat and tightening of his jaw are all that speak to the 'when'.
Tathar is turning away - her quarry not here - when Gwaithmir stops her. Her mouth pinches together, pain in her eyes, and she reaches a hand out to him. "I - Gwaithmir, I am more sorry than I can say. I should have guarded her more carefully." She looks around, then draws him towards a small alcove with a bench, sitting down and clasping her hands together, and looking at them fixedly.
Gwaithmir does not exactly take her hand, rather offering his arm for her to ignore, take, or lean upon as she chooses. He follows her toward the alcove, also taking a surreptious glance about. Once within the (relative) shelter, Gwaithmir places himself such that he shields Tathar from the view of any entering the hall. The lady's movements, every turn of her countenance, are followed with a keen and intense eye; after a moment of observing her discomfort, Gwaithmir reaches down to secure her anxious hands with one of his own.
""Do not apologize, lady! It was no fault of your own, I am sure. Can you tell me of what happened? If it causes you pain we need not speak of it, or not now." His voice is gentle, its tones pure, pronunciation perfect.
Tathar clasps his hand with her own; it is warm and comforting. "I did not know she had come with us," she tells him, still looking at her hands and now his. "Perhaps you know that Sir Gwendion requested I go, to aid the quartermaster?" A swift glance upward, and her gaze drops once more. "I discovered her presence only after we had landed and then it seemed safer to keep her with the healers than to send her back to sea on one of the ships."
She stops and swallows hard. "And we needed her, I will not hide it. It was terrible, Gwaithmir." Grey eyes that are swimming with tears that do not fall lift to meet his gaze. "More terrible than any war with - " she nods eastward " - could be. Then... we had been using the river, for water and for washing. I suppose she thought it safe. I - I did not think to warn her not to go alone. I should have! For that is when it happened. She had gone to wash some rags for bandages, and was coming back when the Southrons took her. They found the basket in the path. And Squire Menelglir saw them. I know that he fought valiantly, to try and save her, but there were three and he was alone. As it was, he killed one." Tathar's voice is quivering before she is done, but she doesn't weep.
Throughout, Gwaithmir merely clasps Tathar's hand tightly and listens in silence. At the end of he swallows hard, his eerie blue-grey eyes shining with tears unshed; his emotion is enough that his complexion grows somewhat blotchy. He parts his lips to speak but only a pained sigh is released. His spare hand is brought up and pressed against the back of Tathar's head, Gwaithmir leaning over her to lay a light kiss against her brow.
Upon rising he seems to have regained his voice. "You are safe now, and need fear nothing. My sister -- may the Valar protect her! -- is in Iluvatar's hands now. Yet, mayhap her captors will prove reasonable. We've gold enough to outweigh my fair lady sister." He reaches now into his bosom to extract a kerchief, blazoned with the arms of Girithlin, which he passes to Tathar. "Come, lady, dry your eyes. It breaks my heart to see you anguished. Break your fast with me, I beg you, and mayhap we can devise some fitting gift for the squire Menelglir. For his valiant efforts in the Lady Farielle's defense he deserves some reward."
Tathar closes her eyes as he touches his lips to her forehead, and a single tear slips down her cheek. Silently, she takes the handkerchief, drying eyes and face with it. "I hope it may prove so," she whispers. "Others have been ransomed home again..." She manages a smile, rising to go and eat with him, and her voice is almost conversational as she says, "Lominzil does not think so, I fear. He is half-crazed with grief, and blames Menelglir for not doing more. And himself for being yet trapped in the keep, I think."
Gwaithmir hesitates slightly at this mention of his younger brother. "I should speak to him, then. I fear that, in my own grief, I have forgotten his. Between Farielle's capitivity and Eruigil's...I did not think that it were possible to endure such pain and yet live. We are more resilient creatures than I guessed, it seems." His arm is once again offered to Tathar along with a smile, pleasing but rather wan. "Let us go to our meal and be wretched in silence, since the rules of good society dictate that we so do. Yet let me say to you, my lady, before we leave this privacy, that if ever you wish to sorrow in the company of another, I am at your beck and call."
"I do understand," Tathar says quietly. "You can endure. Thank you, Cousin."
"And I will say the same to you." A smile is offered him in return before they leave. "Do speak with Lomin. I am afraid he will do something rash, and leave your parents grieving for three of their children."
At this Gwaithmir grins, "I will knock him on the head myself, if I must. Now is not the time for rashness, or your fear may well prove a prophecy. Shall we?" He tilts his head toward the door, eyes taking on a glassy sheen, a wall to hide his true emotions from all but his nearest friends and particularly keen observers.
"Thank you." Tathar's smile - now public - is gracious; her hand on his arm. She walks with him to the door, and towards breakfast.