59. Chapter 59
Dinner with the king was the last thing Rin wanted. What she wanted was to leave, immediately and never return. But Hanasian would have none of it and so to dinner they went.
"I do not know what offence Edoras has given you, my lady," Eomer said to her at the close of the evening, "But whatever it is, I am determined to make amends. Peace between our realms assures prosperity for both our peoples."
"I was not aware we were at war, your majesty," Rin replied flatly and Eomer lifted a brow at her.
"No? Are you so certain of that?" he replied.
The hour was late by the time Hanasian and Rin had returned to their rooms. No sooner were the doors closed did Rin turn to Hanasian and plead with him.
"We have to leave. Now."
"Now? It's the middle of the night. We just got here!"
"Please, Hanasian, we must."
"For the final time, Rosmarin, we are staying and that is an end to it!"
"You don't understand!"
Hanasian sank onto the bed and started tugging at his boots, "Open your eyes, woman! You have a king out there intent on forming some sort of understanding with a neighbouring realm. He has welcomed us into his hall as honoured guests! What do you think he'd make of the fact that it's head fled from his city in the dead of night, mere hours after arrival and minutes after an evening meal with him? You don't have a Prefect to do this for you any more, Rin. Tell me, what don't I understand?"
Hanasian let his boot fall to the floor with a thud. Rin sat before the dresser. There was a lot he didn't understand. Hanasian didn't understand about Brienne and what the woman did to those who left town in a hurry owing her money. Worse yet, Hanasian did not understand about Treagon. To be fair, he couldn't. Some things he was better not knowing, for all their safety. Rin ran the comb through her hair, expression glum.
"You're tired. It's been a long day. Things will look better in the morning. They usually do. You'll see I'm right," Hanasian said and started on his other boot.
The following morning, over breakfast, they were informed that the festival was being opened today and that they were invited as guests of honour to attend.
"That is not a good idea," Rin said as soon as the man had left.
"Nonsense. It is a perfectly fine idea," Hanasian replied.
Rin shook her head stubbornly. The crowds would pose a nightmare. Anyone could be in them. A master poisoner, for example.
"Just think of all the cheese," Farbarad told her with a grin and she scowled at the Ranger.
"It's a very bad idea," Rin insisted while Hanasian calmly poured out a second cup of tea.
"You needn't worry about your little secret coming out. Eomer clearly is fond of you, though why is a mystery to me as you've not been particularly charming to him. You're kin to the most powerful monarch in all the lands, who happens to be a potent ally of Eomer and a long standing friend. In any case, I suspect Eomer already knows."
"Knows what?" Videgavia inquired as he strode in.
The Daleman cut an immediate line to the breakfast table.
"About Rin's last visit to Meduseld," Farbarad replied.
"Oh, that," Vid grunted as he loaded up a plate, "Well if that's true, there's a number of Company men that will be badly out of pocket."
"Wagering already are they?"
Videgavia nodded and began running through the various odds doing the rounds about various outcomes of their time in Edoras. Prison, pardoned, on the run. Rin noted none of them included dead and buried. And just like that the discussion, if that was what you could call it, was over. They were going to the festival.
It turned out to be a warm day with a large crowd. The crown prince of Rohan gleefully informed Rin that they had come to see her. The idea, frankly, nauseated Rin. Her best chance of surviving was to keep a low profile. Instead, she sat under a canopy with the royal family of Rohan and a sea of faces to keep an eye on.
"Relax, lassie. He won't arrest you here, in front of everyone," Farbarad whispered into her ear.
"I wish he would," she muttered, for in prison she might stand a better chance. It was harder than people thought to reach prisoners.
"If it is so unbearable, why do you not just tell him?"
Rin shook her head. Like Hanasian, Farbarad did not understand. The only one that did was hundreds of leagues away to the south. If Loch could see her now he'd be beside himself. Still, at least he was safely out of this for once. If only she hadn't thrown her lot in with Treagon. It was all her own doing, this. She'd been a girl at the time and she'd had her reasons. Six months with the assassin had taught her more of herbs and surgically precise knife work than she had ever had before. Even the healers in Minas Tirith whispered about Treagon's infamous guide to plants. The copy, forbidden of course, stashed away in the shelves in her study was worth a small fortune as well as a good decade in jail. The risk, she had thought, was worth it. The skills she had learnt had saved lives. Company lives, civilian lives. That necromancer in Harad, with his unholy craft, would be terrorising people still were it not for her decision twenty years ago. Rin had never imagined, however, how hard it would be to leave the assassin's service. Twenty years later, she was still struggling free of his malicious coils.
"At the least, try to look like you're enjoying yourself," Farbarad suggested.
Rin swallowed a sharp retort and turned her attention from the swirling crowd to the events immediately before them. The festival had been opened with a pronouncement from Eomer and now the competitors were gathering. Some were even looking in her direction.
"Fine," Rin muttered and strode forward to meet them.
The sooner she was down in the crowd, the better as far as she was concerned. Hanasian watched his wife move off and waved one a Ranger after her. The Ranger, a man named Caeros, nodded calmly and set off.
"She has Elian with her. You don't think she'd actually run now," Farbarad asked and Hanasian shrugged.
"I'm not sure what I think," he answered and then looked down at his son.
Hanavia was bored. He sat on the wooden platform, legs crossed and shoulders slumped. His father ruffled his soft dark curls and Hanavia looked up at him, mutiny and injury competing for position on his small, cherubic face.
"Would you like to look at the stables," Hanasian asked and watched his son's face brighten immeasurably.
"Off we go then, boy."
Farbarad watched Hanasian lift the boy onto his shoulders and set off for the nearest set of stables. In place like Edoras, there was no small number to choose from. The Ranger paused. Caeros was one of the most promising of the new Rangers. The Company were about. Eomer's men and those of the Marshals were about. Edoras was not like Minas Tirith. But then, if something happened and he wasn't there as he was supposed to be, as he had sworn to be…At times like this he found he missed Mecarnil sharply. The Ranger sighed and headed off after Caeros.
As soon as Rin was down at everyone else's level she felt marginally safer. People milled about, laughing gaily, sampling the competitor's wares. She could hear Eomer's booming laugh somewhere. She'd seen Elfwine wink at her outrageously as their paths crossed. Then someone loomed at her shoulder. A side ways glance at him and Rin very nearly swore.
"Really? What does he think I'll do with our daughter in my arms?" she demanded of Caeros.
The man shrugged and after a tense moment Rin heaved a pained sigh, "Oh, fine. Just…keep out of my way!"
"As my lady wishes," he intoned with a smug grin.
"I am not yours," she growled, turned and nearly collided with a competitor who was hovering.
"Oh! Oh! My pardon, your highness," the matronly woman bubbled and, over her shoulder, Rin saw Wulgof smirking at her. Rin narrowed her eyes at him and his smirk grew. He then began to saunter onto the next stall and she realised then what the brigand's game was. Revenge for the incident at the gate yesterday.
"Please, there's no need to stand on ceremony," Rin said in a voice straining for patience.
"Oh! Are you," the woman glanced to where Wulgof had been standing and found it empty, "Are you certain?"
"Yes," Rin bit off.
"My name is Rosmarin."
The woman seemed uncomfortable and wrestled with herself a moment before she recovered, "Very good, Princess Rosmarin."
Behind her, Rin heard Caeros make a queer noise. It sounded like a cross between a cough, a guffaw and a giggle. Rin's teeth ground.
"May I say that is a lovely colour? So summery and cheery, and it lights your eyes if I can be so bold. Just look at your bonny wee lass. Isn't she precious?"
The woman had the ability to talk faster than a stampeding herd of cattle and soon Rin was enveloped. She was drawn in whether she wanted to be or not, surrounded by competitors vying for attention. Some heaped praise upon sleeping Elian's head. Others remarked upon Rin's dress. Rin had never seen it before that morning. She'd certainly not packed a dress the colour of burnt oranges. Had the rest of her garb not been curiously missing or travel stained, she'd not have worn it. Every comment on it only reminded Rin that she was going to have to have a firm talk with Slippery once she got home. Provided she survived Edoras.
Caeros trailed along after her as she was drawn on from one competitor to the next. There, amongst so many happy faces and on a glorious late spring day, Rin felt something of her tension slip despite herself. Bright, hard, yellow crumbly morsels or soft, nutty creamy white pillows. There were even brown and blue marvels. Never had she seen so much cheese and they all wanted her to try some. For free! If Loch had of been here, he'd be absolutely stupefied. Rin was amazed to find that she was enjoying herself. Perhaps, Rin thought as she walked, Treagon wasn't in Edoras any more. Twenty years was a long time and his profession was a dangerous one. The man could be dead. He had not been young when Rin had met him. Rin wandered along. Loch always said she was a pessimist. Perhaps he was right.
"My lady, a small token for you," Caeros said and she turned as he stretched out his hand.
In his palm lay a pearly white bloom that made her blood freeze.
"Who gave that to you," she whispered, staring at the snowdrop.
"A man, elderly I think."
"Is something amiss?"
Caeros studied her a moment and nodded, his hand closed around the snowdrop, "Bright blue eyes, seamed face, townsman clothing, worn but neat. A thick grey beard, neatly trimmed, and a yellow-"
Rin whirled and dove into the throngs. Here. He wasn't dead, he was alive, he was here and he knew she was too. She ignored Caeros' cry behind her and pushed harder into the crowds. Dread twisted her stomach. If he found her with Elian…She needed to find Wulgof, or better yet all of the Dirty Three. Vid would do nicely as well. Wooden stands had been erected to offer seats for those weary of walking. She slid between a set, heart thudding painfully in her ribs. Had she been so foolish to think he was dead, or that the crowd would protect her? What if he went after Hanasian and their son? His terms had been clear. Cross his path again and his amnesty would cease. Speak of him and his amnesty would cease. She had honoured that, in every way, until now. Rin knew she was shaking.
"Rin? Is that you?"
In the tight space it was difficult to turn. Rin shrank down and angled about to find none other than Hanasian's sister edging her way in from the other side of the stands.
"What are you doing in here?" Halcwyn asked upon reaching her.
Rin eyed her a moment and then confessed, "Hiding."
"From what, or who?"
"It's difficult to explain," Rin muttered and glanced back out at the crowd.
"Who is this?" Halcwyn asked, peering at the infant in Rin's arms.
"My daughter, Elian," came the distracted reply as Rin scoured the passing faces. He could be anywhere and she was wearing orange, for pity's sake!
"A daughter? Oh! How I wished for a daughter! She's beautiful," Halcwyn said and then, "Did you have two daughters, or a second son?"
The question came like a blow to the stomach and it dragged Rin's head about to stare at Halcwyn, haunted.
"You don't know," Rin whispered, stricken and reeling.
Rin stared down at Elian as Halcwyn asked, "What? What do I not know, Rin?"
Something thunked into the wooden stand frame behind them and Halcwyn's eyes widened.
"That- that's a throwing star! Someone just threw a throwing star! At your head! What is happening, Rin! You must tell me!"
If Rin was struggling to pull herself together, the sight of the jagged weapon embedded into wood, a lock of her hair woven through it, served to focus her thoughts. She counted the points. Nine showing and three sunk into the stand. Khandese. There was only one assassin using Khandese throwing stars on this side of the Misty Mountains. If she remained here, she would lose Elian and he'd take Halcwyn as well. All she had was her earlier plan. It was all she had.
"Listen. Halcwyn, do you remember Bree? Do you remember an Easterling, a Southron and a Dunlender? Do you remember the Captain, a Daleman?"
Halcwyn nodded, staring at the throwing star, "They're not easily forgotten."
"I need you to take Elian and seek them out."
"What about the Rangers? They're yours, aren't they? I've seen them about."
Rin shook her head emphatically, "No…not them. Seek out Vid, or any of the Dirty Three. All of them would be best. When you find them, tell them that Molguv has won. They will ask you questions and you are to answer them as directly as you can."
"Rin, none of this makes any sense."
"I know…if we're lucky, I'll be able to explain later. Now go."
"What about you?"
"Don't worry about me. I have Rangers," Rin muttered, passed Elian across to her aunt and began prodding at Halcwyn to urge her forward.
Utterly baffled and dismayed, Halcwyn wriggled out from between the stands first and Rin emerged after her.
"Remember what I said," Rin told her and turned away.
Halcwyn clutched Elian closer to her and watched her brother's wife press into the crowd. She peered back down between the stands. The throwing star was still there with its pale blonde lock held prisoner. A commotion in the crowd dragged Halcwyn's head around. One of Rin's Rangers had found her. The man was not in the least happy. Halcwyn had no idea what Rin said to him but the man jerked back and shook his head emphatically. Rin seized him and dragged him towards a pair of guards. Now was no time to stand idly, Halcwyn told herself, turned and set out looking for the men Rin had told her to find. It should not be terribly difficult to find foreigners in Edoras. She found the Southron first. He was the easiest to locate because of his remarkable size.
He grinned widely at her approach and his attention drifted down to the child in Halcwyn's arms. His smile faltered then.
Anxious, Halcwyn said, "Rin told me to tell you that you've won your wager."
"Hunh?" he asked, frowning and then straightening from the wall he was leaning against.
Halcwyn heard the man shout something and then the Easterling came trotting around the corner.
"Please, Lady Halcwyn, I don't mean to alarm you," he said.
"Alarm me! Someone just tried to kill my brother's wife with a throwing star right in front of my eyes!"
"How many points did it have," the Easterling asked her and Halcwyn blinked at him in confusion.
"How many," Khule tried again and then thought better of it, "No, never mind. Show me. That will be best."
"No, she told me to find you and tell you that Molguv had won his wager. She said nothing about-"
"And then what did she do," the Haradian asked intently.
"Well…then…then she…let one her Rangers find her. They argued, I think and last I saw she was dragging him towards a pair of guards."
"She's desperate, Khule," Molguv stated and the Easterling nodded.
"A throwing star….we can guess who that means. Explains why she's desperate enough to have herself arrested."
"Arrested!" Halcwyn exclaimed but Khule did not answer her.
Instead, he issued a set of complex instructions to the Southron. Molguv nodded and was soon gone. Only then did Khule turn his attention back to Haclwyn.
"Now, Lady Halcwyn, let's get you and the little one somewhere safe and quiet, shall we?"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the twenty or so years since Rin had last been in Edoras' prison, conditions had really improved. For starters, the straw on the floor looked like it was changed at least once a month. The cell door clanged behind her and Rin considered her cell with a critical eye. She would have preferred solid stone walls and thick wooden doors. Instead, she had a steel pen sealed in by thick bars. They'd placed her away from the other cells, all the way down the end, in deference to her rank. Aside from the straw, there was a rickety wooden crate that served as a seat or a bed. Her heart was still racing as she settled down on the wooden crate. Had Halcwyn found them? Would she be safe in here? If not, at least he'd only find her.
Rin watched the sun move over the floor. It was early afternoon. By mid afternoon she heard boots. Several pairs, all moving at a fair clip. Rin lifted her head to see her husband come into view. His expression was thunderous.
"Have you," he demanded through the bars, "Completely lost your mind?"
"Where is Hanavia?"
"Never you mind where he is! Is what Caeros said true? Did you have yourself arrested?"
"WHY?" Hanasian shouted, voice echoing through the prison. Behind him, Farbarad and Caeros shifted their weight uneasily.
"It was necessary."
"Necessary?" Hanasian repeated, incredulous, and at that point Rin's temper snapped.
She was on her feet and at the bars before she knew it and soon her voice was the one echoing through the prison, "This was all your idea, Hanasian! Face my past, confront my demons, it will all work out for the better. Well, here we are then. Is it? Is it BETTER?"
Hanasian stared at her through the bars and stepped back. She watched him turn his back and walk out. Rin lowered her head.
"Do you even know what you're doing, lassie?" Farbarad asked quietly and Rin shook her head.
"I'm not sure, anymore," she whispered and turned away from the bars.
Miserable, frightened, Rin spent the rest of the afternoon trying to unravel her life. Evening came and the guards started to hand out rations. They placed hers against the bars so that she could reach through and eat. Rin had no interest in food and so there it remained for her second visitor. He arrived some hours later. Rin had no appetite for further argument either. She had drawn her knees up and her head rested upon them. Her visitor stood there a moment in silence and then let something metallic fall to the stone floor.
"Would someone care to enlighten me," Eomer grimly asked as the throwing star wobbled on the stones before coming to rest.
Rin did not move. Eomer considered the uneaten meal on a tin plate nearby and then the woman in the cell.
"My guards tell me that you have confessed to a crime committed twenty years ago."
"Does that crime have anything to do with that throwing star?"
Rin did not answer and, with her head resting on her knees, did not see Eomer's expression become stoney.
"Guard! The door!" he shouted and that brought Rin's head up.
Sure enough, a guard hurried with keys to unlock the cell. Rin moved backwards to flatten herself into the furtherest corner.
"Lady Rosmarin, with me!" Eomer commanded and Rin refused to budge.
Defying a king was far less dangerous than venturing out of her cell but Eomer would have none of it. His guards hesitated, reluctant to set hands on her and so Eomer himself strode forward and pulled her out of her corner.
"I think I'd like a few words with you," he told her and whisked her out of her cell. She couldn't even grab for the bars to prevent it.
Eomer took her by paths and tunnels she had never seen before and soon they were in the heart of Meduseld. It was precisely where she did not want to be. Eomer hauled her unceremoniously into a room that was not empty. Hanasian was there, Farbarad and Videgavia as well. All three looked absolutely ropable, arms crossed and expressions remote and closed. The door slammed and Rin heard it being barred from the outside. Only then did Eomer release her.
"Start," he barked at her as he selected a position. Rin noted that each man occupied a wall. She circled about, surrounded.
"NOW!" Eomer thundered.
"Get me out of here. Now. Put me back in that cell this instant."
Eomer considered her a moment and then looked over to where Hanasian stood.
"Is she usually so…" the king searched for a word that he did not need to find.
"Yes," Hanasian replied emphatically.
"Heed me well, Lady of Cardolan. You are in my land, under my roof. When I ask you a question, you are best served by answering it. Do we understand one another?"
Rin eyed Eomer and barely nodded.
"Start, at the beginning."
"Once upon a time, we were poor and desperate," Rin snapped at him sarcastically and the king pounced.
"So, you did not do it alone then."
Rin looked away, mind turning furiously. Farbarad was shaking his head at her but no one was surprised when she turned back a moment later and emphatically declared, "I did it alone."
"All the way up the northern escarpment, on your own," Eomer inquired, incredulous and Rin lifted her chin.
"You wanted answers, Sire."
"That I did. Very well…you did it on your own. Why?"
"As I said. Desperate."
Eomer frowned and then shifted tack to keep her unbalanced, "What has that got to do with today's events."
He watched her jaw tense and again she said nothing.
"Do not defy me, my lady," he warned her, "Why was it that a Khandese star thrown at you?"
A third time she said nothing. Khandese, Videgavia thought, and then asked what was for him and the woman in the room a rhetorical question"Who owns it, Doc?"
Rin turned to look at the Daleman and said in a low voice "You know who owns it as well as I do."
Rin looked up at the ceiling and then at the door bolted from outside.
"Treagon," she whispered at the door and expected to see it come flying off its hinges.
"Treagon?" Eomer exclaimed, "That cur is here?"
"He's always been here," she snapped, still watching the door.
"Impossible," and Rin whirled, her temper fraying dangerously a second time that day.
"Is that so? Your court, Sire, has been shaped by him like a gardener tends a flower bed. Directly or indirectly, Treagon's stamp is all over it. And why not? Minas Tirith is too risky, the north too raw and unformed, but your court…well yours was reshaping, decimated by war."
"What interest would an assassin have in Edoras," Eomer asked, shaken.
"Profit! Gold!" Rin answered impatiently, "He's no idealogue!"
She turned back for the door. She was certain he'd come through that. Meduseld's ceiling was too solid.
"And how do you know this?"
Rin did not answer but Farbarad did, "She was his apprentice, for a time."
Of the four men in the room, only Eomer was surprised by that and it showed. This woman, straw caught in her dress and hair, a mother to two children…kin to the most powerful king in all the lands and a dear friend…she had stolen from him and worked for the most dangerous assassin to walk the lands.
"Why would Treagon want cheese?" Eomer asked, baffled.
"He didn't! I needed the cheese to sell it so that I could buy my way out from underneath him. It didn't work. The job was rigged, a death sentence. Probably his doing. Tried to put the damn cheese back, but that didn't work either, and in the end had to skip, fast, owing a sizeable debt to him.
"You really do not want me under your roof, Sire. Put me back into the cells. Best that I am there when he comes for me."
Hanasian stirred but Eomer forestalled him, "Of course I won't put her out to be picked off, Hanasian."
But just what he would do Eomer did not say. Instead, he strode to the door, knocked on it and was let out. It closed after him with a thud that wasn't nearly reassuring enough. That door was not enough to stop Treagon. For starters, it bolted on the outside!
"That won't stop him," Rin whispered, staring at the door.
"Now what?" Farbarad asked.
"We wait," Vid replied and there was silence a moment before Hanasian very quietly asked a question.
"Is there anything else, Rosmarin, that you care to inform me of?"
She could hear he was angry and she'd had about enough of angry men. But there was something else in his voice as well.
"Are the children safe?" she asked, eyes still on the door.
When no one answered she turned her back to it, "I'm not saying another word until someone tells me that."
"They're safe. Halcwyn is with them…and the Dirty Three…and twenty Rangers," Farbarad said and Rin nodded at him.
"Well…at least I managed to get that right today," she said and turned about to watch the door.
"Rosmarin," Hanasian warned and Rin sighed.
"Fine…Anything else? Aside from this. I was here two years…so, let's see. There was a robbery of several barrels of mead, one crate of wool, five bolts of fabric. Most of the food we, I mean I ate. Oh…and I think I left town owing money to the owner of brothel. She's not pleasant, but compared to Treagon…"
Rin's voice trailed off.
"For two years, that's not much," Vid observed and Rin shrugged.
"We – I mean I had other things to do while here. I wasn't a full time thief."
"You were not here on your own."
"Loch stays out of this. You bring him into it and I will never forgive you. He's out, he's clear and he stays that way."
A silence fell on the room and Rin did not take her eyes off the door for a moment. She was still watching when Eomer reappeared. He considered her a moment and then looked past her to Hanasian.
"I've moved your family to somewhere more secure."
"That won't work. He knows Meduseld like the back of his hand," Rin sighed, shaking her head as the futility of it all gnawed at her.
"I'll be the judge of that, my lady," Eomer replied crisply.
"My thanks," Hanasian replied solemnly.
"As for you," Eomer directed at Rin, "I've come to a decision."
"I know. I know. I presume the laws have not changed since I was here last. So, take the left hand," Rin said.
"Tempting, but no. I'll not destroy the most gifted healer our lands know lightly. But still, there is a price you will pay."
Rin considered the king warily.
"You, my dear, are going to help me catch a killer."
"Can't be done," Rin told him and he smiled at her coldly.
"It can and it will. Now, will you accompany me willingly or will you force me to drag you along?"
It was late before Hanasian pushed through a new set of doors. The hall outside was thick with men watching. Inside, a single candle was alight. Elian and Hanavia were sleeping and Halcwyn was unfolding herself from a chair she had dozed off in. She rose and crossed to embrace her brother.
"Hanasian! What is happening?" she asked him as he stepped back and he shook his head wearily.
"I'm not sure I know any more now than I did before," he answered and washed his hands over his face, "It was a mistake to come here."
Halcwyn watched him cross to the cradle that held his daughter.
"Where is Rosmarin?" Halcwyn asked.
"With the king," Hanasian replied, tenderly brushing pale hair from Elian's brow.
He crossed to where Hanavia was bundled up, dark curls on the pillow, and sat on the edge of his son's bed.
Halcwyn hesitated before her next question. Her brother was so very sad, she saw.
"Where is your other child?" she asked and he lifted his face to hers.
Halcwyn's fingers pressed against her mouth and she whispered, "Oh! Oh no!"
Hanasian sighed and hid his face from her, stroked his son's hair, "There was nothing anyone could do. I was too late."
She heard his voice crack and she went to him, "Tell me. Tell me everything, brother."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Eomer was convinced he would prevail but Rin just could not see it. No matter how well the King thought he knew his men and his city, Treagon knew both better. He over a richly detailed map of Edoras, deep in thought.
"That," Rin said as she pointed at one of the poorest areas of the city, "Is all wrong."
"Know it well, do you?" Eomer asked, eyes gleaming.
"Better than you," she returned, "I've lived there! Have you?"
Eomer picked up a stylus, dipped it in blue ink and passed it to her with a simple answer, "No."
She had stared at his outstretched hand for a moment. He was sending men in there and they'd be going in blind. Even if they knew where they were going, it would still not end well. Places like that ate men like that alive. She sighed, took the stylus and started on the map. While she worked, he bombarded her with questions. How best to get in. How best to move around.
"It's getting out that you need to worry about," she muttered.
"So, tell me about that too," he answered and provided a fresh sheet of thick paper.
Rin sighed. Did he really want her to map the best routes to conduct a raid on one of the poorest, most desperate, parts of the city? His gaze did not waiver and so, with no great hope that any of it would avail them, she set to work. It took some time to craft something that the men, none of whom had ventured into this blight of a place, could comprehend. Once they had it, Eomer sent them off and then turned to interrogating Rin over the ways in which Treagon had pruned and shaped his court.
This he kept up until dawn, at which point, he finally permitted her to sit. No sooner had she sat did her fatigue claim her. The king watched her head sag until it rested upon the table. He shook his head, bemused. She had lived in his city, right under his nose, for two years. By her own admission, she had worked in his household twice: once in the laundry and once in the kitchen. Desperate, she had said and he believed her. Eomer rubbed at his jaw. Only a desperate soul would break into Meduseld, from the northern escarpment. Only a desperate soul would take up with Treagon. He had no idea how she had managed to slip out of the city. He'd closed it tighter than a drum when the theft had been discovered. Aragorn had been there. They had been so close to finding her, twenty years ago. Why had she not sought help, he wondered. He heard countless petitions each day. Why had she not come to him, back then? Why had she gone to a killer instead of a king? Eomer thought he might never have his answers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Caeros's breath came in shallow, painful bursts. His ribs, he guessed, as he looked down at the ground. At his feet, a man lay unmoving. He still wore his townsman garb. Caeros painfully crouched and pulled the dark cloth that concealed his face away. He revealed an aging visage, seamed and lined by the years, eyes wide, staring, unblinking. The earth beneath was greedily soaking up his blood. The most feared assassin East and West, Caeros thought. It felt strange to be staring at his body. A master of poisons, Caeros had striven to ensure his blades did not land. His ribs were broken and he was dazed from a brutal knock to his head, but, it seemed, he had defeated this demon of a man. His first encounter in Cardolan's service. Caeros smiled, revealing bloodied teeth, and sat down to enjoy the moment. Just wait until he told the boys back home, he thought. He got the Lady of Cardolan arrested and he had…Caeros' eyes rolled back in his head before he could finish the thought.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In her dream, Farbarad was shaking her, trying to wake her, except he was a wolf. How his teeth did not break her skin she did not know and did not find out for Rin woke proper, dazed, disorientated in an unfamiliar place. Someone leant over her and she shrank back until she realised it was Eomer. He peered at her a moment.
"Quickly. I think we have him," the king said and towed her up to her feet. He pulled her along after him, led her outside into the early morning. It was still cool and the air cleared the tangles of sleep from her thoughts.
There was a small circle of men. Caeros was the only Ranger amongst them. He leant heavily on one of Eomer's guards. He noticed her sharpening gaze and shook his head at her.
"There…is that him?" Eomer asked and Rin pulled her eyes from the obviously injured Ranger to the body on the ground, convinced already of her answer.
What she saw shocked her. She stared and her skin prickled from head to toe. Could it be? She knelt, ignored the blood as only a warrior or healer could, and probed the cooling flesh around the edges of his face. She felt his nose and chin and then she looked up to where Caeros stood.
"How?" she asked and he sketched a faint smile at her, smug.
"Well. Is it him?" Eomer asked and Rin slowly stood, blood and dirt added to the straw already stuck to her bright skirts.
She scrubbed her hands on her dress, took a deep breath and nodded, "It is."
"You are certain?"
"That man, Eomer King, was Treagon. He is dead," she said, surprised to find herself shaking. Was it really over?
"Then I consider this matter closed, Lady," He held her in his gaze a moment, "Assist the lady and her Ranger to their quarters. Send for the house physician."
"No need, Sire," Caeros wheezed, "Just a few ribs and loose teeth."
Rin felt a shudder skate down her spine. It was really over. She turned and advanced on Caeros.
"Oh no, my lady," he said, "There's no-"
"Need…yes…I heard…I've cracked a few ribs myself, so don't bother. Guards, set him down."
"The house physician-"
"Is a fine physician, I am sure, but no healer. Hold still."
The result of her work was evident in the relief on Caeros' face. The men around, king included, watched on curiously. Aside from Eomer, none had seen a healer at work. Eomer had watched Aragorn tend his sister but this was different again. Rin sat back over her heels and nodded so that the guards to help Caeros to his feet. Eomer watched Rin's head bow and stepped in to steady her as she stood. This time she did not resist or fight but instead leaned in.
"I hope, now, we understand one another, you and I," he said to her quietly and she considered him solemnly before she nodded. Eomer's expression warmed, "I am pleased to finally meet you, Rosmarin of Cardolan."
Farbarad pushed the doors open with his foot and ushered Rin through, his grip tight on her to prevent her from stumbling. She was rumpled, ragged, there was dirt and blood on her skirt and straw from the cells still clung to her hair and clothing. She was also abominably tired.
Hanasian turned from the window, where he had been watching the morning and brooding, to face them.
"He's dead," Farbarad said as he walked Rin over to the bed.
She fell onto it with a groan and curled up into a ball. Farbarad pulled her shoes off and tossed them to one side.
"The assassin?" Hanasian asked, not moving from the window, and Farbarad nodded.
"Caeros took him as he was closing in on us here. He did not emerge unscathed, and so," Farbarad gestured at the curled form on the bed.
Hanasian nodded and slowly said, "Excellent. So now all that remains is to pay off a debt to a brothel."
It was clear, Farbarad thought, that the man was still angry. He could well understand why that was. But it was also clear that Rin genuinely feared Treagon and the consequences that might befall those she loved if she spoke of him. Farbarad's jaw bunched as he chose his words. He recalled the coded maps in Hanasian's study and what Rin had said of them.
"Can you say that there is nothing you have held back, for fear of the repercussions that might unfold if you spoke?"
Hanasian turned back to the window. Farbarad sighed.
"You can go, Wolf," Hanasian said.
"Caeros was injured," Farbarad replied.
"His ribs were the worst of it."
"You're missing the point. Rin healed him. Remember what she did for Morcal? Cracked ribs, and this is the condition she is in? She's still not eating, Hanasian, and a good many other things besides."
"I know. She is my wife, Farbarad. Do not overstep your place!"
"I know you're angry with her. I know you're worried. You have every right to be. Just…"
"Just what?" Hanasian asked sharply, spinning about.
Farbarad shook his head and looked away. The man looked helpless.
"Go, Wolf," Hanasian said, "There is nothing more to be done here today."
"Aye," Farbarad softly said and turned for the door.
Once it had clicked shut, Hanasian considered his wife. She had not moved from where Farbarad had set her down. Slowly, he approached her. She did not stir and he did not expect her to. That she was so fatigued was concerning. He began peeling her soiled dress from her. He tossed that to one side and then set about tucking her within the sheets. He sat beside her, ran his fingers through her hair to pluck out more straw and untangle the worst of the knots. As he did so, Farbarad's words and Halcwyn's ran through his mind.
Hanasian sighed heavily, ""Why are you so reckless with yourself? Why must you run into the path of catastrophe? Every time you do this, you leave me to pick up the pieces.""
It tumbled out of him, a torrent that had been building for months. He was shaking as a hand squeezed his shoulder. He glanced up to find his sister there.
"Only now can you heal, brother," she said softly.
"Heal? How does one heal from such a loss?" Hanasian wondered as a father's grief yawned around him, "As reckless as Rosmarin is, as much as I feel it rising within me, I cannot blame her for being herself."
"Then you should not," his sister replied and stepped closer to her brother to comfort him.
Hanasian kissed his wife's cheek on the cheek, brushed a finger down the panes of her face, traced the delicate lines that he so loved.
"Rest now dear heart. Sleep deeply and may your mind fill with pleasant dreams"
Rin's sole response was to breathe deeper, an encouraging sign. Hanasian stood and took his sister's hand.
"Come, let us walk in the sunlight, as once we did when we were children in Rivendell."
The two left Rin sleeping soundly. Hanasian saw Farbarad sitting directly across the hall from the door he was gently closing behind him. The Ranger was twirling a twig in his hand. Hanasian recognised the gesture. Farbarad had a habit of twirling or stroking things when he was thinking. It was a habit he shared with the woman sleeping on the other side of the door. He looked up from the idly spinning twig to Hanasian and Halcwyn and then slowly unfolded his long frame to stand.
Hanasian said, "I have much to discuss with you, but it can wait until tonight. I know you've had no rest this past night. I can ask someone else to stand watch so you can remedy that."
"No," Farbarad reflexively answered, "I'll watch and make sure Rin isn't bothered, even by me. I do not sleep well in daylight hours anyway."
While his response was no surprise to Hanasian, Farbarad betrayed his weariness by stretching. He barely suppressed a yawn. The Ranger's sense of duty, the oath he had sworn decades ago, was keeping him on his feet. Like as not it had kept him on his feet through the long years Rosmarin was lost to the world she had been born into. Farbarad would not stand down now.
Hanasian told him, "I wish Rin to sleep her fill and not be disturbed unless King Eomer himself comes calling. Understand?"
"Not even you?" Farbarad muttered and Hanasian hesitated, squinted at him for a brief moment before turning away to go.
Farbarad said nothing further, expression carefully blank now. He offered a belated nod of acknowledgement that he would do as bidden. Hanasian felt his sister's hand curve around his own and together they walked down the hallway to the front courtyard.
Outside, the festival was in full swing and the spirit of Edoras matched it. Lively bustle, bright colour, laughter and music eddied up and down the slopes around Meduseld. They would not find anywhere that was quieter than there where the banners flew, so they just walked around the perimeter of the golden hall in silence. Their circuit brought them to a stone bench that faced out over the Mounds of the Kings below. It was even quieter there, for it was a sombre place.
"I wish we were still children playing in Imladris. That time seems so long ago, more than the years that have passed," came Halcwyn's wistful words.
"Yes, I can see those days if I look hard through the fog of years. All the study we did there. I remember the scents in spring," Hanasian said remembering. They sat silent for a time, and when it was broken by Halcwyn it was done so reluctantly, with trepidation.
"I need to know something my brother. Has King Eomer spoken to you of anything that befell in the western lands?"
"No, he has not. With all that has happened, there has been little opportunity for private discussion of any sort," Hanasian sighed as he reviewed the events of the previous hours. His wife had excelled her demonstration of disdain for anything approaching diplomacy.
I will need to speak with him soon, in hopes of preventing a major incident between two, no three realms," Hanasian replied.
Halcwyn hesitated for a moment, then said, [I]"If all the trouble could end here and now, I would be pleased. But troubles do not. The solution of one seems to bring another or many. It is why I have come to see the King. It is about a matter that I am told you were involved in."
Hanasian was silent for a moment, suspicions rapidly forming, "Sister, I am weary and have not slept. I have no need of further riddles. Please, speak plainly to me. What troubles you?"
Halcwyn turned her face to look out over the vista before them. When she spoke, it was in a halting whisper, "I killed her."
"Killed who?" Hanasian exclaimed in initial surprise but then a dark thought filled him with sudden gloom and he guessed, "Karlina…"
He drew a deep breath and pushed it slowly out again. Then he turned his sister to face him and saw the bright shine of tears in her eyes.
"Why? How? Please dear sister, tell me all of it!"
Halcwyn gasped several times before she could speak but even so, her voice was dull and broken.
"I had a dream. Father came to me and told me that I needed to ride. The next day I did so. As it grew toward evening, I met two men who said they had been in your company. They told me that I would find one who had caused much grief to you and your family riding southeast. They described her clearly and said you wanted to kill them. I felt as though I was still in the dream. All I could do was nod and they left. I rode home but the next day I rode out early and at speed.
"I came across a woman riding hard, northeast. She stopped when I hailed her and we talked. I knew as soon as I saw her that it was her. She was exactly as they had described. I killed her, as soon as I was sure it was her. No thought, no feeling, no remorse.
"It was as I rode home that I began to realise what I had done. As though the world had started to fall upon me. I could no longer sleep. I could no longer talk to my husband. I could no longer feel. What have I done?"
Halcwyn took a breath and hugged her brother. He felt her tremble.
He said, "I could tell you that you should not have done this, or gotten yourself drawn so deeply into my troubles. Yet I too yearned to do what you did at first. I began to know my captor in the short time our paths crossed. I suspect I received much better treatment because she was among the conspirators.
"Her name was Karlina and she hailed from Gondor. She claimed I had met her mother once and she believed I was her father. It wasn't so, for I did not know her mother in that manner. She had fallen in with some who desired to force Rosmarin to turn to their favour. They sought to use me as a lever to that end and Karlina saw this as a way to find me.
"Yet none of this excuses her for her part in all of this, in all that followed. This matter still remains shrouded even now. I suspect King Eomer wishes to speak with me of a matter he has yet to disclose. I fear it has to do with Karlina, whose body may lie in state here."
"I have come to confess my crime to the King. I will put myself in his hands," Halcwyn said.
Hanasian wrapped his arm around her shoulders and they sat quietly for some time before he whispered to her, "All these long years I had wished that you had been spared our father's curse. He was, for the most part, a good man who did bad things. Too many times I have found myself wondering he would do. For the most part, I have done the opposite. But there have been times…"
He sighed and then looked deeply into Halcwyn's eyes, "This will not bring to ruin you my sister. You are our mother's daughter. Permit me to speak to the King on your behalf."
"No, I cannot hide behind you brother! I will find no peace in that!"
Hanasian hushed her and earnestly said, "To kill a person is to take all that they have and all that they will ever be away. But that is not all that is taken. It changes something in you. You can never go back. You can only learn to live with it. I wish I could say more of comfort dear sister."
They were silent for a moment, both looking down at the stones below their feet. Hanasian squeezed her hand and whispered, "We will go to the King together."
Halcwyn hesitated and fighting back tears she said, "You are burdened already with troubles. You need see to mine."
Hanasian was about to speak when a voice in the shadow of the hall behind them said, "What troubles you Lady Halcwyn?"
A cloaked man approached and looked out over the tombs of his ancestors as he threw back his hood. Startled, Halcwyn lurched to her feet and swiftly jerked a curtsy.
Hanasian bowed silently but King Eomer did not look away from the mounds below.
"You may speak freely, Halcwyn, daughter of Forcwyn of the Westmarch of my realm."
The King was usually polite in his words, but stern in their meaning. These were nothing short of a command for her to speak. Hanasian had heard the tone only hours earlier. His wife had chosen to defy him. He watched his sister now, wondering what she would choose. Halcwyn hesitated and looked to her brother to find him expressionless.
Eomer then turned to her and said, "Look not to your brother! The Ranger from the North will not speak in your stead. You will remain silent, my old friend."
Halcwyn knew her doom was upon her, "Sire, I have come to place myself before your mercy."
Unsurprised, King Eomer asked, "What can you tell me of thithes woman who rests here? That is why you have come, is it not?"
Halcwyn paused, wondering how he would know this already. Perhaps he had overheard her speaking with her brother.
"I think… I'm not sure…" she stammered uncertainly.
Eomer then pressed, "You know of whom I speak?"
Hanasian broke his silence then, "She is Karlina, one of the party that kidnapped me from my home just before my daughters were born."
Eomer issued him a stern look and gestured the man to silence. He turned back to Halcwyn, who stood miserably by her brother's side, and asked again.
"You know this woman?"
Halcwyn was silent at first, then, "No… yes… I don't know…"
"A strange answer. Let me refresh your memory. Both of you, come."
Eomer took several steps but neither Hanasian or Halcwyn followed. Eomer turned back as two guards stepped forth, "We are going now. The manner is, of course, of your choosing."
Hanasian nodded and took Halcwyn's hand as they followed the king, the two guards in their wake.
Coming to the morgue, the body of Karlina was uncovered. Hanasian saw the woman who had been a part of his abduction and all the sorrow that had followed and his blood started to seethe. It was with difficulty that he kept himself in check. Halcwyn cringed and turned her face away.
She nodded, "I killed her."
"You did?" Eomer asked yet it sounded more like a statement, "The incisions are well placed. At first thought she may have been attacked from behind, but upon closer inspection it was clear she had been taken head on. I was certain that you would recognise her."
"Her death that is the reason that I have come. I place myself at your mercy and will abide by whatever my King deems just."
Halcwyn bowed as she spoke and Hanasian sighed. Eomer's forehead crinkled in deep thought. He considered Hanasian at length.
"Hanasian, you seem to be at the centre of much troubles. First all that has happened across the night and now this, with your sister."
He didn't wait for Hanasian to answer and instead turned to the Ranger's sister.
"Know that you have placed me in a difficult situation. There is some question as to her identity. You cannot say who she was, but your brother can."
He looked over at Hanasian and asked of all that had happened. Hanasian told him all of the time of his capture. Eomer listened to the sorrowful tale. It explained a great deal, he thought. A great deal indeed.
After further consideration he said, "You speak of it much as my captain did when he brought her body here. He suspected you had done this."
Hanasian nodded solemnly, "Good men died, my home attacked, my son terrified and my wife heavily with child. I would have, there were many times I could have. I could have, and should have let her drown. And when I learnt the fate of my daughters…"
"Yet you did not. Instead, you saved her so she could be slain by your sister? It makes no sense."
Eomer rubbed his temples and then rubbed at his chin with his thumb as he thought. He finally said, " There is much to decide in this matter.
"First, there was some doubt that this occurred within Rohan's borders. Considering the circumstances surrounding the woman, I cannot rightly say that this was not warranted.
"However, my captain said she had claimed she was a citizen of Gondor. Word has been sent, and should word come back that identifies her as such, then my hand will be forced. It may not fall to me to determine your fate Lady Halcwyn.
"You have yet to be charged with anything. Nor can I permit you to go free. Until this matter is closed, you will required to remain here as my guest, confined to the hall."
Hanasian turned to her and said, "You are not being sent to the cells, yet you will not be free."
Halcwyn curtsied to the king, saying, "You are most merciful my King!"
The two guards appeared beside Halcwyn, and they escorted her to her room, which would serve as an informal cell. Once they had gone, Hanasian turned to the King and found the man studying him.
"I could have closed this issue by simply locking her up in the deep until word arrives. And that is what I fear may yet occur… dependant on what, if any word should return."
"Aye, I thank you, my Lord. It is a fine line that you walk."
"It was all I could do for the sister of a comrade of the Great War. However, if things were like this in the realm of Gondor, would Aragorn do anything different? I cannot say. For now, this is a matter to be dealt with in Rohan."
Eomer replied with a heavy sigh.
Hanasian nodded, "I am sorry that our time here has been so. I fear there will never be a time of peace, whether it is a cheese festival in Rohan or the Mid-Summer markets in Bree. Even at home something will undoubtedly raise its head. There seems to be very little, if any, rest."
Eomer stared at the stones on the floor, and Hanasian could see the years in his face. He had become King of Rohan suddenly and he had ruled well since. But when it came to rest, there was none for a King and nor was there any for his wife, the Lady of Cardolan. He had hoped that freeing herself of the ghosts of her past would reduce the burden she carried on her shoulders. He had felt its weight gradually increasing, though she said nothing of it. So many secrets to lift, so many things to cram into that far too busy mind of hers. So many regrets and sorrows crowding her conscience.
Eomer's next question surprised Hanasian, as if the King guessed the direction of his thoughts.
"Rosmarin… she wasn't in Edoras alone, was she?"
All Hanasian could do was remain still and silent. His wife had striven to keep her brother free of events here, fiercely protective of him during the interrogation of the preceding evening. Such fire in her then, almost savage, the response of little girl, abandoned in a dark world with only her brother to lend her hope.
The King asked another question, "Who does she think she is protecting?"
Certainly not herself, Hanasian thought with considerable chagrin and exasperation. Was it too much to expect that once in a while she would not cast herself into the fire? Hanasian felt uneasy. It was not his place to answer these questions, but he answered anyway, "It would have to be her brother… or one whom she knows as her brother."
"He is not of Cardolan's royal lineage then. Who is he?" Eomer asked, determined to get at the truth.
Hanasian walked a few steps towards a stone pillar and stared at its base.
"Let me tell you something… as one friend to another, one who has shared battle with you, not as husband of the Lady of Cardolan, or a man answering the King of Rohan, or the Captain of the Black Company to the Commander of the Rohirrim…." he said
Eomer boots scuffed as he came to stand beside Hanasian.
Hanasian sensed the other man nod and he continued, "While my sister Halcwyn is so very much our mother's daughter, once in a while our father can emerge in her. So too in me. I know it well. And Rosmarin's foster brother is remarkably similar.
"I see him as my brother, in spirit and by marriage. Men like him are uncommon: at times reckless and at others, calculating."
"So who is he?" Eomer asked again.
Hanasian ran a finger over a seam in one of the pillar stones, "His name is Lochared. He is the Standardbearer in the Black Company, a free company presently commanded by the Northman Videgavia, and presently sworn to the service of Cardolan and King Aragorn.
"Presently, he is Steward, overseeing the lands that were recently allocated to my wife. A prefect of sorts, if you will, in the service of King Aragorn. You won't find a better scout, or dare I say, and officer in anyone's ranks. I'm unsure how he will perform as an administrator and may prefer one of your cells, should it come to it, after a while. Loch has a restless nature."
"I have no intention of locking him up. I have bigger issues to manage. For example, how was Treagon was able to live so long here without being noticed? How many apprentices did he recruit? What untimely deaths involved his hand and how many other attempts? Not to mention the necessity to keep the sister of a friend and comrade in arms under house arrest.
"I just wanted to know the truth of twenty years ago. Would that your wife could be fully truthful with me."
Hanasian slid his finger down the pillar but said nothing. Rosmarin might be honest with Eomer, if she trusted no harm would come from it. He was certainly not going to assure Eomer that his wife would trust the King of Rohan. Sometimes, he was not even certain she trusted him. They stared at the pillar in joint silence.
Hanasian finally stirred, "I must take my leave my friend. I need to talk with my sister, privately. Does Eomer, King of Rohan, give me leave to talk to his prisoner?"
"I do," Eomer said, still looking at the pillar. Hanasian bowed slightly and turned and walked away.
He was nearly to the door when Eomer said to him, "We will speak again, you and I. If the Lady of Cardolan agrees, I should like you both to join me at the table of the tasting as judges. I will allow your sister to sit with us as well. It will be a fine conclusion to this year's festival."
Hanasian turned to him and nodded. Rin would not be easily convinced to go, but if there was cheese to sample perhaps she would be amenable. At least as amenable as a bear cornered by wolves.
Hanasian wasted no time coming to the door of the room where his sister would abide until the King granted her release. He fervently hoped no word would come back from Gondor. The guards stepped to the side to let him pass. He tapped on the door and when she opened it he could see she had been weeping. Hanasian closed the door behind him and kissed her brow.
"Tell me again about how you got word and description of Karlina? Who were them men from the Company?"
"Our cousins, and also one other. He said he had been with the Company in he east."
Hanasian sighed, his suspicion was confirmed. Ever since Bear and Foldine had been healed by his wife, both men had been inclined to abandon their better judgement when it came to the woman they owed their lives to.
He said, "Frea, Folca, Fordwine. Rohirrim, each of them. But why did they call on you to be the assassin?"
"They didn't call on me. They just told me because it was a family matter. I asked for the necessary information and each knew they couldn't stop me," Halcwyn walked to the window and looked out to the day beyond, "You know I can't remain here, caged. It will drive me mad."
"Sister, you must, or more woe will find you. Eomer must wait for word for a time. I do not think it will be long," Hanasian said to her.
She turned her back on the window to look at him, "And if word comes? What then? Will I be sent to Gondor? Will I suffer a trial here? What I did I did for my family. I will not regret it."
Hanasian sighed, "You rest easy here for a week. If no word has come by then, I'll petition the King to set you free. But you have to rest easy until then."
He reached into his vest and removed a bound leather bundle that tossed on the bed.
"Some clean parchment, ink and quill. Do some writing. It helps, I find. I must go now, but be ready to attend the tasting tonight. The King will be sending word to you shortly."
Hanasian opened the door and was greeted by two spearheads. Once the guards saw it was him, they returned to their upright stance. Hanasian gave them a nod and hurried off.
He found Farbarad still sitting where he was before, still twirling a twig in his fingers.
Hanasian asked, "All is quiet?"
Farbarad nodded as he stood, dropping the twig, but not the brooding expression on his face.
Hanasian said, "You're excused. Try and get some rest."
Farbarad remained motionless as Hanasian entered the room. He sat on the edge of the bed by his sleeping wife and kissed her soft cheek once he uncovered it from beneath layers of long, pale hair. She was sprawled on her stomach across the bed.
He whispered, "If you feel up to it, we can sample cheese tonight."
Best to start with the positives, he had found. All he earned was a murmured exhortation too blurred by sleep to comprehend. If she was speaking Sindarin, she had agreed. If she was speaking Dunlendic then he had no idea what she had said. Whatever it was, she did not wake. He watched her long fingers twitch with some dream. Agile, graceful, strong fingers. Fingers that could do remarkable things of many varieties. He drew a deep breath. With his wife asleep still, he had much needed time to sit and think about a good many things.
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.