64. Chapter 64
Hanasian looked out from the door of their house to watch the sun set. The kitchen behind him, the ocean in its burnished glory, and yet his eyes were drawn not to the western horizon but his eldest son. Hanavia was silhouetted in the changeable light, off towards the stables where he had room to work on his sword practice. The boy had more training with more styles of sword and knife use from all over Middle Earth than most, but he preferred this spot and avoided the training area established years ago by Rangers and Company alike. Caeros had taken the lad in early. The boy had his mother's curiosity and none of her aversion. Hanavia had watched Caeros work with his mother and, like night followed sunset, the boy had want to learn as well.
Rin had not been well pleased to discover her son learning, in secret, from Caeros. Not at all. Hanasian could still recall that day. Yet, to Hanavia's credit he also had his mother's steadfast will and it did not crumble in the face of her rare but incandescent displeasure. Nor was Caeros cowed, but that was unsurprising. Caeros had been unflapped in the face of the Lady of Cardolan from the outset. So, the lessons continued but with one mandatory modification – training swords only…unless Hanavia wanted to be responsible for his mother exacting from Caeros whichever injury she had to heal in him.
Thankfully, most of Hanavia's mishaps had nothing to do with training. Still, the boy had shown discipline to persist through the years. He had abided by his mother's limits on weaponry and duration and timing of training without exception. Hanasian had suspected his son had been a little too compliant and made inquiries of his own only to discover there were no secret sessions with forbidden weapons. For all of those limits, though, Hanasian could see for himself how smoothly his son moved. It would be time to squire him soon. And that, Hanasian knew, would be a difficult subject to broach. It had not gone well the last time. The concept of squiring baffled and perplexed Rin no end. Hanasian could not help but smile to himself as he watched his son in the distance. One well intentioned and noble family from Gondor had once made the error of sending a messenger with an offer to squire the young Prince of Cardolan some years ago. The poor fellow had barely left with his hide intact after presenting the offer to the Lady of Cardolan. Farbarad had snuck him out one of the windows to hasten his departure.
Hanavia was quite good with sword and knife by now, and was fair with a bow. He was well versed in writing and history. In this he followed in his father's steps and indeed took his study with Hanasian seriously. He had his mother's healing gifts, though the extent of those remained to be seen. Rin had no intention of exposing her son to the full travails of healing in the way she had been. Still, she gave him a carefully considered diet of lore from Edain and Eldar sources – a program she spent many long hours in the night reviewing on the basis of his progression by her side. A scholar, a healer, a warrior. Was this who his son was?
Hanasian wondered as he watched Hanavia dance in calculated movement with his sword in the setting sun. It would be worthy to arrange for him to study and learn from those who remained in Rivendell. Hanasian believed the Sons of Elrond still dwelt there still, even if so few of the first-born remained. Even if they did not, Hanavia would delight in Rivendell's lore. The chance to join the Eldar there was quickly passing and would never ever come again. Hanavia was growing fast too. But how to brooch the subject with Rosmarin? Hanavia would be gone for years and Rin…Rin found the idea of sending any child away an anathema. He drew deeply on his long pipe and let the smoke seep out of him in a slow breath. His thoughts tumbled around his head just as slender arms slid around him from behind.
He felt his wife press against his back. He felt their child shift in her belly and then she pressed her face against his shoulder. Hanasian turned and kissed her before turning again to watch Hanavia.
"I will take Hanavia with me when I go to Bree. I think he would like that, and I need to have words with our boy."
"Words?" Rin asked as she slipped around to stand beside him in the doorway. Somewhere in the house the twins were at war with Elian. It sounded like Elian was winning.
"About his future I suppose," Hanasian replied and took up one of Rin's hands in his own, "He is fast growing and his interests seem to lie as much in lore and healing as they do weaponry. He has grown up surrounded by Rangers and the Company: Easterling, Haradian, and Dunlanding.
"I would see him learn from the Eldar while he yet may, before they all depart. I know it must be his choice, but we must not hinder him. Neither of us."
Rin was quiet, saying not a word beside him. Hanasian struggled to retain his composure. Surrendering his eldest child, for years at a time, was not easy for him either. He held his emotions in check though and wondered when the storm beside him would break. Instead, he saw the sunset illuminate a single tear as it tracked down her cheek. A diamond. Rin nodded just once, ever so slightly, reclaimed her hand and withdrew into the house. She agreed with him! She agreed with him? Relieved, astonished and puzzled, Hanasian followed his wife into their house.
The next day was quiet. Hanasian prepared to go to Bree for his usual ride. Every six or so weeks he went there to see if any messages had been received for him, and to collect and give news. He usually did it alone, but on occasion early on he and Rin would enjoy some time together. In recent years, Hanavia had started to accompany them. Newer still, he took Elian along as well. She would chatter all the way about who she would see and ribbons and the like, much to Hanavia's chagrin. Thus, when Elian saw her father preparing, she instantly flew into preparations of her own, quivering with excitement at the prospect. Right on cue, Hanavia began to protest the impending presence of his exciteable sister. In the middle of it all stood Rin and she was no help whatsoever. She simply folded her arms over her growing belly, cocked an eyebrow and gave Hanasian a look he was well acquainted with. He had first seen her deploy it in Company days. It was a combination of I told you so, are you insane, this is your problem not mine, and this should be good. It meant that while she had no intention of helping him, she had every intention of staying about to watch the show.
It all came to a head in the sitting room where Elian and Hanavia were hurriedly dragging out what they would take with them. Hanavia had a small pack. Elian…suffice it say she had more than her elder brother. Hanasian strode with a small pack of his own slung over one shoulder just in time to hear Elian instruct her brother to go fetch her other things. Hanavia's retort made his mother, perched in a ringside arm chair with that look on her face, chortle. Hanasian heaved a sigh.
"I cannot take you along this day Elian, but I promise this. Next time, I will take you alone."
This, naturally, prompted a flood of outraged tears. While Elian might have her mother's appearance, in many respected their daughter was quite different. Elian, for example, wore her heart on her sleeve. Rin shook her head and then rose with a dramatic groan to her feet and rubbed at her back for show. Elian's sniffling faded a little.
"The twins have been very quiet, Elian. Don't you think?" Rin inquired midly.
Elian's face contorted from outrage to horror. The twins had been launching assaults on their elder sister's room an they had been dragging little Adanel along with them and Adanel got into everything! If they were quiet, it could only mean one thing and one thing alone. Elian flew off to eject the mauranders from her bedroom and left Hanasian to embrace his wife and take his leave. By the time the horses were saddled and they were ready, Rin stood in a small crowd of children. All lifted their hands in farewell and watched as Hanasian and Hanavia rode over the rise and out of sight. The sound of the twin's laughter over some mischief or other floated along in their wake.
The ride to Bree started out silently, for the boy knew that something was different this time.
After a few miles, Hanasian broke the silence.
"We will go to Bree, but we will make for The Prancing Pony at first. Instead we go to the North Gate Inn where I hope to meet an old friend. You were only a lad when last you saw Elladan."
I remember Elladan. Bright eyes filled with wisdom, yet a sense of sadness in them," Hanavia said as he recalled.
Hanasian answered, "There is always a touch of sadness in the eyes of those Eldar that remain. It is said that will not leave them until they quit these lands and seek the West. There are few who now remain here, by necessity and even by choice. I do not think it will be long before there will be no Eldar to be found by men."
"It is sad to think of, isn't it Adda," Hanavia said thoughtfully.
They rode along over the pathways that weaved through Ered Luin, and finally coming down to the north bank of the Baranduin they camped by the river. The water was running fast and clear, and Hanavia had some luck catching three fish. Hanasian didn't catch any, and took a close look at the fly bait his son was using.
"What gave you the idea of making this?"
Hanavia answered, "It was Khule's idea…. Well not his idea, rather, but his suggestion led me to come up with the idea."
Hanavia tossed the line in the river in a side pool that had a slight eddy current. Immediately a large trout moved toward it. But the old fish paused to study it. Hanavia tried to try coax the fish to bite.
Hanasian watched as Hanavia continued, "He told me to watch the skeeters on the top of the water and how they moved. When a fish took one, I got the idea to make some bait that looked like them."
"Doesn't seem to interest that fellow, but no matter. We have enough for a fine meal and should never take more than we need," Hanasian said as he stood to set a fire.
The fish were soon smoking over the small fire Hanasian had made, and he and Hanavia ate them slowly, savouring every, sweet, juicy bite. By the time they were finished, the sun had vanished and the sky was a deep blue field for the first stars appeared. Hanasian discussed the coming weather with Hanavia, what it might be and how he might sense it himself. In any case, whatever the future held, the night was sure to be clear. As ever, Hanavia proved a hungry student and this pleased Hanasian. Not only did he take in knowledge eagerly, it seemed he always wanted to learn more. Rin was that way too. Voracious minds the both of them…cost him a small fortune in books.
As they lay by the fading embers of the fire and watched the stars, Hanavia asked, "Do you think she is watching us now?"
"Are you referring to Lady Varda Elbereth? I believe she is," Hanasian replied.
Hanavia had selected a star and was staring at it. He said, "I find it hard to believe anyone could watch so many at one time, but if each star is an eye, it could possibly be done."
A streak quickly traced across the sky where they were both looking before fading away.
Hanasian said, "That seemed as if she winked at you."
This seemed to puzzle his son and so, after a moment, Hanasian added, "At least I like to think so."
Hanavia took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "And that is another of many reasons why I need to go to Rivendell. Time is short and the lore and memories of the Eldar are fast disappearing."
Hanasian sat up. Yes, he had planned to ask Hanavia about this very thing but how did the lad know. Did he have his mother's sixth sense, or had he overheard one of the many discussions between his parents on the matter. Hanavia said nothing further and simply gazed untroubled at the night sky. Hanasian lay back down again and decided to discuss the matter with Elladan, should he find him as he hoped he might.
It wasn't until they passed Sarn Ford and had come to the rocky passage of Andrath in the South Downs that they left the road to the east. Climbing through the rocks, they came to a narrow break in the rocks that led to a place where the rock overhung the bottom. It was one of many places the Rangers had used in the years past to watch the Greenway, for here at the top of the rocky escarpment, they could see far to the south down the Greenway. The men of Cardolan and those left after Cardolan was extinguished by war and disease had used this place. Here they could rest easy out of sight, and was the appointed place they were to meet Elladan. If the Elf was about.
It wasn't long before Elladan arrived, as Hanasian had hoped he would, but he did come alone. Whoever travelled with him hung back, though, and only Elladan approached . The greetings were swift and talk turned swiftly to the matter of Hanavia.
Elladan seemed grim for a time but then offered encouragement.
"Few of us linger in Imladris and its halls echo with emptiness. Most have now sailed west, yet, the Keeper of Records remains. Though wise, his mind is strange and he tends to talk to himself. Even as the time of the Eldar is now fleeting, soon he will no longer remain. Who could be trusted as a Keeper of Records? It is doubtful that sons of Men will long hold them dear, for the generations pass too quickly. Yet I think it would be worth to teach those young men of high esteem what we can in the time that yet remains."
Elladan turned to face young Hanavia squarely, Therefore I offer to you Hanavia, son of Hanasian and Rosmarin, Prince of Cardolan, to be my squire, and to study with not only the Keeper, but with me. What say you?"
Hanavia smiled, "I would gladly accept, should my mother and father agree."
Hanasian nodded, "Indeed. Though it has been discussed, my wife and I have not agreed when this might occur. Still, Rin knows as I do that time is fleeting and this opportunity fast wanes even as we stand here. I have business in Bree, but as soon as I finish, I will return. Accompany us if you will."
Elladan shook his head, saying, "Nay, I go not to Bree and have not been there in many seasons. I will ride to your home and speak with the Lady of Cardolan. I will meet you there."
Hanasian and Hanavia looked at each other, and without words, they nodded to each other.
Hanasian then said, "Well, my business is routine. Collect and give news, fetch the things I have been aske to bring back with me. Bree is nothing Hanavia has not seen already. Perhaps it might be best if he accompanies you Elladan? Give you a chance to become acquainted."
Elladan gave brief thought and nodded. Hanavia was overjoyed. As much as he enjoyed the time with his father, he had always enjoyed Elladan's company when he was young. This would be his first chance to have time alone with him. And, it would give him a chance to bid his family farewell.
Hanasian said, "Tell Rin I will arrive home no more than two days after you get there."
The night was spent peacefully as Elladan sat up high and watched. In the morning, Hanavia and Elladan set out south while Hanasian set out north. He would be in Bree that night.
The Inn at Bree, the Prancing Pony, had seen plenty of business and yet it seemed to remain unchanged. Hanasian arrived shortly after dark to a crowded common room. Many of the usual faces were there, including a few of the younger Dunedain seated at a table that had become their regular meeting place. It was off to one side and out of way with an easy view of stairs and the door both. In fact, if he was not mistaken, it was almost in the same place where Aragorn observed four hobbits fresh out of the Shire so many years ago. Hanasian ordered tea while the two young Rangers drank ale.
Massuil, keeping his steady on these Rangers, puffed his pipe and said, "Mae govannen Hanasian. No news is good news, they say. Tell me you have no news."
Hanasian sipped his tea before saying, "No news. Mine is a life with a growing family. My eldest was with me but decided to turn back home to ride with Elladan."
Massuil nodded, aware of Hanasian's tidings. A Prince of Cardolan would again abide at Imladris, it seemed. This was worth knowing. A fresh platter of bread, butter, and cheese was set on the table and Hanasian wasted no time availing himself of it.
While he ate, Massuil said, "Ah, I like your place. I just don't travel too well anymore. This damn right leg has about given up. They say wounds may heal but their memories linger forevermore. Its been reminding me every time I ride and it has been getting harder to walk. But if I don't walk each day, it turns into a plank and I can't move. I see you have greyed some since last I saw you."
"Yes, some," Hanasian replied and made a note to mention it to his wife. She'd have a thing or two to say or do about Massuil's right leg, he fancied.
But he said nothing of it to Massuil and instead offered, "I'm only half Dunedain remember. I'm doing well to be in this good of shape this far along."
Massuil nodded and quipped, "Indeed. Must be that fair wife of yours keeping you young."
The two younger Rangers had paid no attention to any of this because there was food to be had on the platter. Massuil and Hanasian gave over to silence for a while lest the younger men ate it all. The cheese and bread was fresh, and Hanasian was reminded of who might enjoy the cheese in particular. Their children seemed to have inherited their mother's adoration for the stuff and it was novel to not have to fight to the death for it.
Hanasian lifted another piece of bread and topped it with some cheese, "My dear wife Rosmarin is the best thing to happen to me. May it be that everyone can find a true love such as I have. I try and keep myself whole for her and the children both, though at time I can feel the weather in my bones."
The mention of his wife's name had gotten the younger Ranger's attention at last. Rosmarin was not a common name yet, though a number of young girls now laid claim to it. If the elder Ranger sitting there with his tea talking of a wife named Rosmarin, that could only mean one thing. Both younger men glanced at each other.
One of the younger rangers, silent until now, said, "Speaking of weather, it will likely rain this night. I can feel it."
Both Massuil and Hanasian shook their heads and Massuil said, "No, not yet. Likely tomorrow, mid-day. Just a shower."
So the four rangers decided to see who would be closest: before midnight, first light, mid-day, or toward the next evening. A small wager was made and a round was shouted by the youngest of the rangers. They needed to impress the Lord of Cardolan if they had a chance of being considered and nowadays, competition was getting fiercer. The serving girl was near finished for the night but passed the order to the bar. They talked a bit before the ales were brought to them but both Hanasian and Massuil paused as the serving girl set the flagons down on the table. She gave a slight smile and turned and walked away.
Massuil asked, "Did she look familiar?"
"Dunedain," Hanasian said thoughtfully.
It was obvious that she had the eyes, but she looked as if a commoner of Bree. She was not known to him but he spent little time in Bree now…and Rin was chasing another set of hands, particularly with another child on the way.
He asked Massuil, "Have you seen her before?"
"Yes," Massuil answered, "She came from the south… Edholland I believe. Came with some of the King's ministers heading to Annuminas, but she remained here. I think she may have had a falling out with the lady she served. Now she is a barmaid of the Prancing Pony."
While Massuil spoke, Hanasian watched her as she talked to the bartender. Edholland might be a concern or not. A falling out with a noblewoman would, in Rin's estimation, only commend the lass further. He'd need to know more, though, before he made mention of her to his wife. Hanasian's attention wandered to man sitting at a table with a few other men. They all were talking, but he was not. Instead he watched. Hanasian knew the ploy well. Take up with some locals for a brew, and under the cover of your group, watch for whatever you were there to find. Or whoever. For Hanasian's part, he kept up the ruse of watching the young barmaid, but his attention was on the man. He leaned over to the young ranger next to him. His clean grey-green cloak had told Hanasian all he needed, but thought a test might not go astray tonight.
"Tell me son, what do you see here?" he asked.
The young ranger sat his flagon down and looked over at Massuil briefly before quickly looking over the room. It was only moments before he said, "The man at the end of the table by the bar doesn't fit in. He wants to, but doesn't. He also knows he's been seen."
Massuil grimaced at that, "Of course he does. You looked right at him! Work on seeing without looking. Look at the man at the next table but watch your target. You work on that."
The young ranger nodded and said, "Aye but he knew he was seen before I looked at him."
Hanasian nodded, "Then like as not he is working with someone else here. Your objective is to spot them now. Let this be a lesson to you young rangers. Even while enjoying a few ales, you are still on watch. Always. With the likeliness of any war slim, it is evermore imperative that the eyes of the King remain wide open."
The table was quiet for a time until the young ranger noted that the man had departed. A new watch was set then. Who left next, and in which order? They spent the rest of the evening talking quietly amongst themselves as the crowd thinned out.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
After leaving the inn, the man made haste north and spent most of the night skirting the Chetwood. He met a shadowy figure in the depths of the early morning. Whispers were traded and a coin fell into the man's hand. He quickly slipped off. The shadowy figure stood squinting southwards. He not obtained definite word. The man he had just paid was unclear as to who he was looking for. It was hard to give a description of Hanasian, though, being as he did not know exactly what the man looked like himself. He would have to chance going to The Prancing Pony himself and it would have be the next evening, before Hanasian could slip away again. He would have to do this himself.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The next morning was bright and clear and Hanasian was up early. He never slept very well without Rin beside him. As he lay awake in the early morning, he considered his habit of coming to Bree regularly. It had really become for the most part unnecessary, so he would make arrangements with Massuil that should anything arrive that was urgent for him to get, he could send a runner. He missed Rin and the children and though an inn is usually not quiet, it seemed to be now. Too quiet. There were no small feet running about, up to who knew what. Hanasian drifted into a light sleep as his thoughts turned to his children. The twins had better behaving.
Hanasian woke up a short time though to a song of a bird perched outside the window on a branch of an oak. The sky was barely beginning to blue in the east, but the scent of fresh bread was filling the air. He thought about their wager on rain last night and chuckled. He readied himself to go and when he got to the common room he was the only one there beside the elderly hobbit woman baking. Without word, she set a few slices of a fresh loaf and had butter, cheeses, nuts, and sliced fruit set out on a board.
"It's all we have at this early hour. The beans are still in the oven," she said.
Hanasian nodded, "My thanks. This is all I need."
He leaned against the bar and ate nearly everything that was on the board. He left the inn before anyone else arrived, went to the blacksmith and picked up a few items he had ordered on his last visit. As he looked about the smithy, a touch of sadness came over Hanasian as he remembered the Easterling Kholach and the Dale woman Tarina. He hadn't known either long, but it have been a difficult, dark time for himself and Rin. In fact, both had played vital roles in keeping his wife, and unborn son, alive. The couple had met in unlikely circumstance in Dale and they had loved each other. They died too young and senselessly.
Hanasian pushed the memories away and buried them safe, then packed his satchels. Next was a short visit to a shop across the way to check on something he had asked for some time ago and he was relieved it had, at last come! He added his packs to his horse, eager to start on his way home.
The day's pace was good, having cleared Andrath and cutting west to the Brandywine. He pressed on through the evening as he had made for the Sarn Ford. He set camp just south of there, where they had camped on watch of the Shire in the days leading up to the war. Laying under the open stars, he fell into a deep sleep and awoke startled in the pitch darkness of early dawn. There were no Black Riders coming to the ford this night but he could not shake the memory from him. Hanasian rose and readied himself, dried fruit and meats tossed down in hurried handfuls as he rode southwest along the river.
When he reached the foothills of Ered Luin a light rain fell and the peaks were shrouded in mist. But the trail was well known to him and he pushed through as far as he could. Hanasian found there was no option but to pass the night in a cave on the west side as the light failed. Even a well known trail could be treacherous and dangerous when it was wet and dark. The next morning he came riding toward home. He was glad beyond measure to be back.
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.