21. Chapter 21
The day got off to a slow start, particularly for Rin and Loch. In both instances, the use of miruvor ensured they were recovered and on their feet reasonably quickly. Farbarad convinced Molguv to spare some of his personal supply to ensure the man giving the bride away would be functional and ready on time. Rin was assisted by Legolas, remorseful on Gimli's behalf. The Queen's garden was readied and the kitchens buzzed with the preparations for the feast. Grey rangers, knights and healers saw to straightening out their garb so that they could look in and present their best wishes. The men of the Black Company polished, trimmed and cleaned. But, that was not all. Those around the bride and groom found themselves hard pressed to keep their respective charges from sneaking away to find the other throughout the day and especially the night.
For Hanasian and Rin, the eve of the wedding was a restless one. Minds were filled with racing thoughts. Hearts were racing in anticipation. Some of this nervous energy was burnt off when each saw to packing for the time they would spend together after the wedding, just for them. Rin had no idea where that would be. Hanasian was determined to keep that entirely to himself until the final moment. Added to all of this was the stunning revelation of something Aragorn had hinted at in Umbar. Rin's dowry was revealed by the king to each in turn, and each had stared at him with a poleaxed expression. It was land, a significant tract, that had once belonged to Rin's ancestors when Cardolan had been a realm proper.
Located near the elvish haven of Harlond, between the Blue Mountains and coast, it had been abandoned prior to the fall of Amon Sul in III - 1409. It's proximity to the elvish haven ensured the land did not fall entirely under the sway of the desolation Sauron sent through the realm. Gardens were long gone, and perhaps one building yet remained if the survey of the site ten years prior remained accurate. But, it was well stocked with woods and game, a gentle land that offered a home should Hanasian and Rin chose to make of it one. For Hanasian, it was the means to realise his dreams for their lives together. For Rin, who had last had a home when she was five years old, it was utterly overwhelming. Oblivious to all of these hopes, thoughts, dreams, ideas and plans, the moon serenely sailed full and high over scattered silver clouds that night and the dawn that followed was clear and bright.
Bells tolled joyfully through the city that morning. Hanasian woke, feeling curiously calm despite the momentous day before him. Rin woke to find herself surrounded by a particularly formidable ring of handmaidens who hauled her away to be scrubbed and polished and scented to within an inch of her life. At the inn, there was the usual last minute flurry to ensure all was ready, all were accounted for and all got themselves to the Queen's garden prior to midday. Loch was dispatched, pulling at his stiffened collar uncomfortably, to the royal apartments to await his sister. The others moved through the garden finding a long carpet of soft petals that led to the graceful spread of garlanded elm boughs.
Hanasian took his position beneath the elm, flanked by Frea and Folca who stood this day as his cousins. Arwen had selected a particularly fair and private location within her garden, which had flourished under her care and burgeoned in the full flush of summer. A brook nearby laughed as it danced over smoothed stones, and the breeze made the leaves shimmer in the light and sighed through the air. By design, few would attend the ceremony. Apart from the Black Company, only the king and queen would be present. The Black Company formed up an honour guard, pairing off along the petal carpet, and Hanasian had nothing left to do but wait for his bride.
His gaze wandered through the garden, over the grass and brook and plants, up into the endless blue of the sky. Down again, to the gleaming polish of his boots. He tugged absently at his jacket, straightening out creases no one else could see, his hand automatically drifted to the space the hilt of his sword usually occupied. When it closed on thin air, he realised he was fidgeting. A glance sideways to Frea confirmed this had been noticed by his cousins and amused them. Frea squeezed his biceps consolingly. Hanasian took a deep breath, expanding the silvery blue of his jacket, and cleared his throat. Watching further away, Aragorn smiled quietly at his queen. He had walked the Paths of the Dead with the groom, and a great deal more besides, but never had he seen Hanasian looking quite so anxious and filled with expectation and working so hard to seem steady and calm. It conveyed in a way no words could just how much his friend was yearning for his bride. For all of his anxiety, never had Hanasian seemed so contented.
Loch knocked on the door he had been instructed to knock on and heard his sister bid him enter. He felt curiously nervous as well, finally facing the moment when he would set her hand in another's and with that act, release her to this stage of her life. His sister stood with her back to him, wrestling with a circlet that refused to stay in place. Loch's thoughts stalled as he set eyes on her.
"Can you help me with this, Loch? I can't quite reach," she asked, peering intently at her reflection in the mirror.
Still mute, Loch propelled himself forward and set the circlet in place. It was so delicate, silver leaves winding around scatters of pearls or sapphires that glowed against the smoothness of her hair. It fell simply, a wealth of gold that spilled down to her hips like a molten river. Silk net, worked with silver roses around the edges, floated down from the circlet.
"The top layer, Loch. Can you lift it up and forward over my face?"
"A moment, just a moment," he finally said, picked up her hand and turned her around to face him.
She wore little adornment. A pearl hung suspended in the hollow of her throat. A belt of sapphires circled her hips. Hanasian's betrothal ring gleamed on her hand. Nor was the gown ornate. It's silk fell like water over her to pool on the floor, an extraordinary play of creamy lustre, pale blue or lavender according the fall of the fabric and the angle of the light. It somehow made her skin glow, her eyes luminous as deep meres found hidden high in mountains. To Loch, she seemed an otherworldly creature. There was no hint of the urchin, the waif or the thief. She looked as regal as her heritage. Then, she smiled and she was the sister he could recognise. Her eyes shimmered, tears unshed as they always were. She had not wept since that terrible day in Dunland, not for joy or sorrow. Loch pressed a gentle kiss on one cheek and then the other. Then, he lowered the veil over her head and led her to the man he knew would love and care for her in a way no other could best.
Wulgof and Videgavia stood at the head of the column. Sharp eyed Videgavia was the first to spot the approach of Loch and his sister, Rin appearing to glide through the garden. This produced a cascade of reactions, as men straightened their stance. As they passed, each man fell in behind until at last, Loch stood with Rin before Hanasian with the Black Company arrayed in silence around them. Loch placed his hand over Rin's, it had started to quiver as soon as she had sighted Hanasian. He studied his Captain's face and with solemn deliberation, Loch transferred Rin's hand to Hanasian's. He stepped away with a truly splendid grin in place. The bride and groom turned to face each other, hands clasped. Her face obscured by the veil, he was left with the sound of her voice as she spoke his name and invoked her vows to him.
Rings were exchanged, hand bound ritually and the bond sanctified. Then, at last, Hanasian lifted back the silk net to reveal the face of his wife. His eyes shone clear, untroubled silver. Rin soaked in the sight him, felt her heart thud in her ribs. This man was the pillar that held her sky aloft and her earth securely beneath her feet. He was her light, her love, her husband and all of this she allowed to be revealed in her face. Hanasian lifted his hands to gently cup her upturned face, and bent to press his lips to hers. He closed his arms around her and swept her up, kissing her deeply as he lifted her from the ground and turned about, silk and netting drifting around him with the scent of her hair and skin. She clung to him as fiercely as he did her, drinking in the man that made impossible dreams alive and real and theirs. Suspended in that moment, the world and all its many opportunities and paths unfurled around them.
"Beloved," she whispered when he set her down again, his brow still pressed to hers, "You are my joy."
The joy he had never felt before Tharbad had filled Hanasian to no end. Now to see Rosmarin so beautiful, he could hardly breath. As if in a dream that had come true and was reality, Hanasian could barely hold his joy. He forgot all sense of custom and manners, and swept his bride up in joy and kissed her, drifting around and around as he did so. It was a moment that would be forever impressed into his mind, and he clung to her and held her close... they were one!
Hanasian kissed her again after hearing her words, but he could not say a word, his smile burned into his face. Nothing else mattered! Cheers went up from the others in attendance but all Hanasian heard was Rin's words: "You are my joy!"
Joy... this was what it was! Hanasian was filled to overflowing with it! With the grant of land, Hanasian wanted to have the home Rin dreamed of built there, but for now, a small old cabin occupied the bluff overlooking it. That all would have to wait for later days, whenever they may be. Right now it was time to celebrate!
The reception was held in one of the palace ballrooms, with guests from all over the Kingdom attending. Hanasian didn't think himself so popular, and credited his lovely wife, the Royal Queen of Cardolan for being the main attraction. But it was people who he had met in the campaigns in the east and south that were there. How the King passes word was beyond Hanasian's comprehension, but it likely had to do with his foresight and the seeing stone. There was Kozz, who had become the King's Prefect of Khand. And Darus of Dale, and several of his kin from the north who had rode the Paths of the Dead in the war. With the guests came also the security, which was seen to by Faramir's House Guard. The Steward and the Lady Eowyn were there with the King & Queen, and a band of musicians who swore they never ever played together before this night had gathered and were playing beautiful music. It was a magical time! Hanasian even looked about the faces to see if an old man was attending. No, Gandalf the wizard was not there, but the air was filled with such joy that Hanasian just had to check.
With a clap at the end of the band's number, a tall man with a distinct limp stepped up and rang his wine glass. Hanasian hadn't seen him there as yet, but if a smile could come over his already smiling face, it would have. Massuil one of the Dunedain Rangers of the war, started to speak.
"I've known Hanasian since our first days as Rangers, when we rode under the command of Elendur and Arkaeth before the war. We shared our first sorrows at Raven Falls in Rhuadur, and our early joys at Imladris. We watched over the Shire in the shadows, and were scattered at Sarn Ford by the Nazgul. We heard our Chieftain's call and rode south under the command of Halbarad. From Dunharrow we walked the Paths of the Dead with our Chieftain and King, and we battled together in the war with memories too many to and many too dark to recall here. I just want to say that I was proud to serve with Hanasian, and knew that with him near, my back was secure. I tried to do the same for him. But I have to say that when word came that he was to marry, I was overjoyed! For I thought he would wile away his days with that quill and parchments while out in this world on his campaigns. Anyway, I'm getting long and seemingly losing my way here, so I will toast to the lady Rosmarin, who has put a gleam in Hanasian's eyes which never was there before! To your lifetimes of happiness and joy together!"
The rise of agreements and tinking of glasses and applause erupted, and with his arm around Rin, he watched Massuil limp off the stage. Their eyes met across the room, and Hanasian lifted his glass to him, and Massuil did likewise. None save Rin and any of the company or Rangers who had seen it knew that words were passed with the movement of fingers around the glasses. They would catch up later on.
The music began again and Hanasian turned to Rin and asked, "Lady Rosmarin, may I have this dance?"
Rin smiled and they twirled out onto the floor, her dress floating after her. Hanasian looked only at her for the whole dance, watching her eyes and enjoying the glow about her face. Happiness like this was unthinkable even a short tim ago, but now, it would never leave him.
Even as the song ended, Hanasian and Rin continued to dance. It wasn't until Loch got up on stage and rang his glass and said…
"I would like to say a few things here.…"
The floor was cleared and eyes, many of them very important and highly ranked, settled on him. It was then Loch realised that his words might not seem half as polished as that ranger who spoke before. Loch ran a self conscious hand through his hair and cleared his throat.
"I'm the first to say that I am not an educated man. My words will seem simple, but they are honest."
Loch paused then, bracing himself.
"Things were hard for Rin and me a long time.I won't put a pretty face on it. It was bad, sometimes real bad. We didn't have much, apart from each other. Sometimes that was all we had. Somehow, it was enough to get us by.
"Today I gave the most precious thing I ever had to somebody else. I didn't do it lightly or because I had to. The thing is, he's the only man I ever met that seemed worth it. She ain't never been so happy, so filled with light before. We haven't had a whole lot to be truly happy about. But, my sister is, because of Hanasian. He's the best man I know, and he's married the best person I know.
"A toast, for Hanasian, who has the most valuable thing I ever done had and will now have to keep her occupied! I got my money on four children, Rin. Don't let me down. I put a whole month's pay on it!"
Laughter rippled throughout the crowd. Glasses and tankards were drained and the music began again. Massuil edged towards Hanasian and after a more personable introduction, Rin left the two Rangers catch up, nibbling Hanasian's ear before she moved off with a twinkle in her eye and a whisper of silk. She edged between the tables and guests, chatting here and there. All the while she was astonished at the people in the ballroom. She had no idea who most of them were. Gimli and Legolas stood across the room, chatting amicably with the king and queen. Faramir stood, clearly enjoying the company of a fair haired woman who must surely be Eowyn. Molguv demanded a dance with his "pet queen", who then handed her onto Khule, who handed her onto Loch. Rin begged off a fourth dance, pleading the need for refreshment. Hanasian and Massuil were still in deep conversation.
"It is good to see so many of my kin from the north make this journey, and on such short notice too." Hanasian said to Massuil
"It wasn't all that short. Word at Bree was that you had eyes for a wild beauty, and so we started preparing then. We just didn't know where we would be going. Then word came from Aragorn in the way he does it, and we set out, much older and less fit than we were on our ride back in the war. I myself was glad to be able to still be able to ride."
Hanasian looked down and saw a fine polished cane in his hand, and he was leaning on it rather heavily. Hanasian asked, "How goes that wounded knee? You walked off the pain after pulling that orc-arrow out of it at Pelennor."
"Not so well really. It seems to grow more an inconvenience as the years go by. Sure, it wasn't poisoned, and it was not much of a wound at the time, but it seems to nag me," Massuil said, he went on, "You know I would be with you every step of the way if not for this."
Hanasian paused and said, "It isn't so glamorous to be living on this side, you know. I just never felt I would fit in anywhere after the war, so I stayed and I serve, and do what our Chieftain asks."
Hanasian gave Massuil a deep stare as if to read him, but the visions were all jumbled and distorted. Hanasian smiled and shook Massuil's hand.
"Brother of the paths, you do not stand alone. We are bound by that which few have served. And there are evermore few of us. Take pride in that which you have served, and may you find peace this day."
Rin found herself faced by three men she didn't know, but Hanasian did. They were polite, personable and curious about how she and Hanasian had met. They explained a little of how they knew Hanasian, and assured Rin that if ever she had need of their assistance it would be forthcoming. Rin had a sense that she was rapidly acquiring family, of a sort. There was her brother, and now there was her husband. There was her distant cousin and of course there was the Company. And now, there was this fellowship of rangers that Hanasian was part of that seemed to close in around her as well. It was a strange, warm sensation that lingered with her after they parted ways.
"He's always had an eye for the beauty of this world, and a taste for challenge. For all the maids of Imladris that looked wistfully in his direction, it's easy to see why this one finally captured his mind and heart,"
"Come then, let us go congratulate him. I suspect we may need some haste, given the task set before them by the bride's brother."
"Task? That would not be how I would describe it," replied one of his fellows and Massuil was joined by three Grey rangers intent on congratulating the groom on his nuptials. As other Dunedain closed in, Hanasian's quiet discussion with Massuil concluded. They were all smiles as they gathered, talking and listening to the tales each had to say of themselves since their parting of ways.
To Rin's great shock, Voromir glided towards her. Or, she thought, slithered. The man bowed and mouthed empty words of courtesy. At the sight of this, several guests felt themselves tense. Mecarnil, Aragorn, Faramir and Imrahil all watched avidly. Rin was holding a glass, and she had that look she acquired when she was contemplating how to bring somebody down a peg or five. It was clear, as they watched her study the contents of her glass and then Voromir, she was considering something generally frowned upon in courtly circles. Aragorn caught her eye and raised a cautionary brow. She sighed, smiled blandly at Voromir and then threw back the contents of her glass when he moved away.
"There, you'll make a diplomat out of her yet," Imrahil observed dryly.
Eventually Hanasian left the other Dunedain to talk among themselves about this and that in the north. Hanasian slipped up by his lovely bride. He whispered in her ear, a lazy smile flickering over his face and colour rising to her cheeks as she laughed. From his smile, and her response, there were no prizes for guessing what Hanasian was suggesting.
"I want you so badly," he murmured as they swayed together, lost in the wonder of the other. The merriment drew on, the sun sank and the king and queen withdrew. This, then, marked a change in tempo. With the withdrawal of the king and queen, the nobles politely withdrew and those that remained would do so until the bride and groom departed.
"I say Ithilien,"
"And I say they'll make for Tolfalas," Anwar insisted.
"I say it's none of our business where they go and what they get up to," Mecarnil insisted for propriety's sake and was ignored as speculation moved on to how long it would take for the news that the Company healer was with child to arrive.
Below, on the sixth tier, Cullith straightened and peered upwards at the palace. His niece was married, to a man she had chosen, a man that had proven himself to be of fine measure. He looked down at the figure sprawled unmoving at his feet. The last assassin, he hoped. His wedding gift would be that she would have the freedom to chose her husband. Cullith shucked off his spattered shirt and dropped it by the assassin's body. He started rifling through the assassin's meagre possessions in the lean to, looking for a fresh shirt that he ducked into.
So weary of this deadly ambition, Cullith washed a hand over his face. His beard had grown ragged and unkempt, such little time to see to it with the madness of Silver Fox unleashed. Then he sat and waited for the assassin's employer to convey the good news that it was all now pointless. His niece was married, the horse had bolted, and to hell with their offensive, foolish concepts of protecting the integrity of Cardolan's bloodline. Cullith smiled at the irony of the day. It had been precisely this issue that had shattered Arnor so long ago when the youngest of Earendur's three sons insisted on a bride who was not of pure Dunedain stock. Now, the scion of the second son had chosen again, according to her heart and mind and only to that. A fitting answer to the blind pride of her ancestor, and her father.
The sound of boots outside the ill fitted door brought Cullith to his feet, his ironic smile of victory still on his face as a man pushed into the small space.
"Greetings to you, country man, on this joyous day. I hope that you will spread the glad tidings far and wide, for Erían has wed."
"A man of her choosing."
Cullith watched the man's face twist into a silent snarl and then he was away. Rin's uncle glanced at the corpse.
"Politics. Ever a nasty business," he said and departed himself, for it would not do to be caught within the walls of this city just yet.
The thoughts of the dead assassin's employer silently raged as he made his way to his home. Erían had turned away from them, turned away from her people, betrayed them all and in doing so proven their deepest fears that she was not fit to rule despite her royal lineage and the sanctity of her Numenorean blood. It was time to find another, just as Silver Fox had suggested...and perhaps there was the answer too. There would be much to discuss this night, for it was no easy task to unmake a queen and create a king.
And yet, perhaps all they needed to do was wait. If she were unfit to rule, she remained of pure lineage. Perhaps, if they were clever enough, they could secure a suitable heir. The throne could skip a generation. It would be a difficult feat, for the heir could not possibly be sired by her husband. It had been Earendur's youngest son's deathly fascination with a woman of unsuitable heritage that had fractured Arnor and given rise to the disaster of Angband. No, they'd not repeat that error after so much blood was spent in preserving the lineage through all that followed. A difficult feat, and one that may require noisome deeds to achieve, but if it produced a suitable heir for Cardolan...and what mercy could one turned traitor against her realm and people and history expect? Much to discuss this night indeed.
It was Anras who came over to a few of the Company men, Khule, Wulgof, Molguv, and Videgavia and whispered to them the planned honeymoon. Most had no idea where it was, but the those from Gondor did, and smiled. It would remain a secret from all the rest of the Company, particularly Mecarnil, Farbarad, and Loch. Lord Faramir had made personal arrangements for the couple, and his ferry awaited them on the Anduin. But even those of Gondor did not know the whole of it, only a general idea.
The evening grew late. Hanasian retrieved a suitably personal favour from his wife and let it fly toward the single men gathered. The rush of hands seemed to miss it, and before it hit the floor and was forever sullied, a hand intercepted it. A young Gondorian Knight of the house of Imrahil lifted it up, and his eyes immediately set toward Nimawyn, a fair young maiden in the service of Lady Eowyn. When it came time for Rosmarin to toss her flowers, it was Nimawyn who easily out-leapt the other ladies in waiting to take it. Surely there was something in the air between these two!
Hanasian was all smiles as they walked away down toward the landing where the Queen's own coach awaited them. With the proud horses, they would be taken to the ferry in all ceremony and circumstance. There they would board the Steward's ferry, and on the other side be met by the Lady Eowyn's personal coach. Then it was south journey south for their time alone, no distractions. They would spend a few weeks in the privacy of Henneth Annun, behind the falls of the Windows of the West.
It didn't take Hanasian long after they left the White City to make good on his promise to his wife in the ballroom. It fell to a red-faced driver to interrupt them to let them know they were at the river. Rin emerged, straightening her dress, but her hair remained entangled. Hanasian was all smiles behind her again, and trying to straighten his own attire. They behaved themselves on the ferry, and shortly after boarding the coach and setting out, they fell asleep in each other's arms.
It seemed quite awhile before they arrived near Henneth Annun. They would have to walk a ways and Rin didn't want to ruin her dress. Hanasian offered a cunning alternative, to peel it from her there and then, and that caused Rin to blush. She decided to leave the gown on, just in case. Hanasian followed her along the trail, smiling in the night. They managed the narrow track well, and though a slip here and a pause there slowed them, they soon came to where they would pass under the falls. They worked their way in, and Hanasian was quite enamoured with the effect produced by the tiny droplets of spray from the falls upon his bride. The silk became almost translucent. But looking at the old cave, the Steward and the Lady left nothing untouched. A beautiful setting was prepared for them overlooking the Window of the West, and they were here alone. They would enjoy each other's company so much over the coming weeks.
Back at Minas Tirith, the company was given leave for a month. But even though they were on leave, it was asked they all check in at morning call, and they had a place in the city set aside for them in the soldier's ward.
Their pay was distributed, and Videgavia hoped they would stay out of trouble for the most part while on his watch. Farbarad and Mecarnil finally had a moment to try and relax, though it seemed much still lingered on their minds. They headed off together. Khule, Loch, Morcal, Wulgof, and Molguv all headed back to the Silver Bark. The rest scattered about alone, or in pairs to find their own place to relax and unwind.
Hamoor observed the men arrive at the Silver Bark, and whispered to the young serving wench twins Brenae and Dawnae that they should continue seducing the young kid. Oganyan would take care of Morcal, and he would later sit down with the Easterling, Southron, and Dunlending for a chat.
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.