8. Chapter 8
They rode toward the havens through the sunny day, and it seemed appropriate that as they neared the port, storm clouds built over the Tower Hills. The sound of thunder in the warm air echoed down past them and pushed ever darkening clouds towards the west. Manwe's breath kept then just barely at bay, not letting the rains fall on the party, but it helped stir and build the storms evermore. It was not long after reaching Mithlond and their horses were tended and they were put up in a small inn that the rain and lightning and thunder enclosed them. Hanasian had set out for the quay to see about the ship that was to bear them south. As it turned out, it had just arrived the night before. They would have three days before they were ready to set out. It was not long before a soaked Hanasian returned to the inn. Unlike Bree where the mood was relaxed and jovial, here it was quiet. The sombre resignation of the elves remaining in Middle Earth seemed to keep a damper on much jocularity. The Easterling, Haradian, and Dunlanding were outright spooked by it and were quite uncomfortable. The rest seemed to take it all in.
Loch was in awe of the place, and Rin seemed to be deep in thought but relaxed. Few of the Teleri and Noldorin remained in Mithlond, yet Rin was struck by a realisation that she had seen elves before. The memory of blue flowers, beautiful to see and bitter to taste, shimmered in her thoughts along with the faces of two elves that had joined her that day. It was a rare memory from her early childhood, its joy undiminished by the sorrow of the later years. She had thought them exceptionally pretty men as a small child. As an adult, that concept amused her. As they settled into their lodgings for the night, Rin permitted herself to study the Company. There were still faces that seemed new to her, unknown, but she knew she had preparations for each. She might not know all their names, but she knew their habits by now. Each had his own particular rhythm. Each were in good health. Careful observation of their patterns now would assist her to serve them well as healer. She knew she still had a lot to prove. Rin hoped she did not have too many opportunities to achieve that. She would not wish harm or misadventure to befall those men in her charge simply to acquit herself well to others.
Hanasian took the opportunity to say a couple things.
"Company listen up! We are here as guests of the elves and the Shipwright Cirdan. We'll have a few days here, as the ship's captain tells me they will be ready to sail on the morning of the fourth day if favourable winds are forthcoming. So relax and enjoy the place, use the time to build readiness, and have a good mind for our mission when we set out. I myself have a lot of things I need to see to. I will see you all in the morning."
He then walked off, and back out the door where only the dripping of the rain could be heard under the now mostly clear skies. He hoped Rin would follow, and they could take some time to be alone. Rin let some moments pass before she followed him out. When she joined him, Hanasian was watching the now clear skies.
"Am I disturbing you," she asked as the door closed behind her. Hanasian turned and reached for her. She came to him willingly.
"Would you like to see the sea," he asked her by way of response.
Her answer was to take his hand and tow him forward. He easily observed her eagerness to do exactly that. Mithlond was not a large place and they soon came the water's edge. The pale stone, shaped by elven hands and will, gleamed in a fashion that seemed otherworldly and fey to Rin. The water was calm, a rippled mirror to the night sky in all its glory.
"Oh, Hanasian," she exclaimed, entranced. She drifted ahead of him, speechless, to stand at the edge. She danced a few steps upon the stone cusp and then turned to look at Hanasian.
"This place is a wonder," she breathed, smiling beneath the moonlight. It made her heart sing. He made her heart sing. She felt suffused with a rare, serene joy that threatened to overflow her boundaries.
"Is Imladris like this," she asked, curious about the place he had spent his childhood in.
"In a fashion, Rosmarin. Mithlond is a place of the Teleri. Imladris is of the Noldorin and Sindarin peoples. They are kindred, but not the same." Hanasian could see her thoughts flickering in the depths of her eyes. Her mouth opened for another question and he placed a finger over her lips with a faint smile.
"Now is no time for a history lesson, love," he assured her.
"What is it time for then," she asked against his finger.
"Us," he replied.
Hanasian took her hand and led her along the shore. The pale stones gave way to a pine forest that hugged the coast. Pine needles carpeted the ground in a soft embrace and a breeze from the ocean rippled through the boughs above to make them sigh over head. It was a quiet place, filled with the music of sea and wind and trees and soon, them. Cirdan knew enough to not follow the lovers into the trees. He turned away from the water's edge.
"Welcome, Daughter of Elendil," he murmured softly. How well he recalled that mighty mortal spirit. It was not difficult to see echoes and sparks of it even now, in his descendants. This Company of Arnor would prove interesting, Cirdan mused. Mortals usually did.
Back at the inn, Molguv, Khule and Wulgof were in a heated speculation conducted very quietly lest others, Loch in particular, overhear.
"I say you're crazy. There is no way she's royal. She's a thief," Wulgof persisted.
"Clearly, you've never heard of taxes," Khule replied dryly.
"Well if she is, she's my pet queen and I claim the reward for locating her," Molguv stated. That only sparked further debate.
"You would be wise to watch your tongues," Berlas observed. All three men flinched, having not noticed the Ithilien Ranger's arrival.
"Talk like this can loose a man's head from his shoulders, particularly if he is found supporting a rival for a contested throne," Berlas finished.
"Ah look at you! You, Frea, Folca, Videgavia, you all look like you've discovered that all the pipe-weed has vanished. This is not nearly as grim as you believe. Think, man! There will be a reward for finding her, and we'd have our very own pet monarch… that's got to be an advantage over the other units. Think of the food we'd get rationed to us, amongst other things!" Molguv's exhortations demonstrated that the Haradian clearly had been thinking about this carefully. All he saw was up. Videgavia slapped the Haradian on the back of his bald head.
"Nothing good comes from politics," he said dourly. "Why would she stay with us anyway? And who wants to be caught in the middle of a civil war? With the captain and the other recruit pretty much out of action."
Realising now was not the time to push the issue, Khule, Mulgov and Wulgof chose silence. They had plenty of time on the ship to arrange suitable wagering arrangements, and to further establish themselves into advantageous positions. Berlas and Videgavia, confident foolish and dangerous talk had been silenced, rejoined the twins from Rohan.
"She's trouble," Frea said. Loch was trying his best to engage an elf in conversation on the other side of the inn, so Frea added,"He might be alright, but can't see any good coming from her."
Videgavia said nothing at that, but Berlas had a sardonic smile.
"Spoken like a true Rohirrim… Lucky for us all that Eowyn Dernhelm didn't let such opinion hold her back," Berlas pointed out. Frea grunted at that, nonplussed. Videgavia wasn't entirely pleased either. This evening was forcing him to talk.
"She's not cost us any lives yet, but has saved a couple. Could be your hide she saves next," Videgavia said.
All those words took some effort. Videgavia lifted a tankard to his mouth and slaked his thirst, clamping his lips shut.
"Well and good, Videgavia," Folca replied. "But that doesn't change how distracted the cap is. We know what that means. And tell me our foes won't immediately spot her and see her as the weakness in our defences. If we're not spending all our time sorting out this Cardolan business, we'll have our hands full keeping her in one piece every engagement."
A deflated Loch joined them, slumping into a seat and crossing his arms over his chest.
"These Elves sure are a strange lot," he dejectedly observed before he noted how the talk around him had hushed. Loch rolled his eyes.
"You're all griping about Rin. I know you are," Loch said. "It's no secret. You're not going to listen to what I have to say, which is only fair I suppose."
"We don't have a problem with Rin necessarily," Berlas said. Loch shrugged the comment off.
"No, but you wonder who she really is. Or you wonder whether she's really up to the task. Or both. Nothing I say will change what you think. I'm not going to waste my breath trying. In the end, though, she'll show you. She usually does, whether you like it or not."
Loch drained his ale and shook his head, feeling suddenly tired. The talk about his sister, the prospect of deploying and all that came with it was overwhelming. As he stretched out, he wondered if he'd still have a sister when he woke up. It was far from a comforting thought.
Between the boughs of trees, Rin and Hanasian stared up at the moon peeking back at them. Rin's head was propped on Hanasian's chest and his heart drummed steadily in one ear. She felt like she was floating. Her fingers played a strand of his dark hair, winding it around them.
"We should go back. It's late," Hanasian said reluctantly.
"Hum," she absently replied, thinking again.
"Unless of course you've already wandered off," he remarked. Rin stirred and pressed a kiss to his lips.
"You know, I think I have seen elves before… once… a long time ago," she said. Hanasian closed his eyes. So it had come to this already. He tightened his arms around her.
"Blue flowers," he asked. He felt Rin shift against him in surprise.
"Well, yes… but how did you know that? Have I been talking in my sleep?"
"No matter what, I love you Rosmarin."
"As I love you, Hanasian. You're starting to worry me now. What is happening?"
With a deep sigh, Hanasian sat up.
"Elladan told me of the day that they met you," he said gently. He could see her frown faintly in the moonlight.
"Elladan and Elrohir, sons of Elrond. They found you. You gave them flowers. You were but a child at that time. You tried to eat one."
The sons of Elrond had been sent to find that poor lost girl, in Mecarnil's tale. Loch's statement from the night before haunted her then: 'She could have survived. We did.' A cascade of realisations made the night lurch around her. Hanasian was still there when the sensation passed. He was holding her, comforting her. She was breathing hard, fear, shock, sorrow, confusion swirling. Rin buried her face against him and clung fiercely. He felt her quivering, shaking against him.
She whispered, "How much more can they take? My brother, my parents, my home, my name – but not you. Please tell me not you!"
The rhythmic stroking of Hanasian's fingers in her hair ceased and he pulled her back to cradle her stricken face between his palms.
"Not me… you cannot lose what is part of you," he urgently said. Her eyes swept over his face.
"You are part of me… so is Loch and my- his -my parents," she said, drawing a measure of strength from that certain truth. He could feel her quivering diminish and he pressed a soft kiss to her brow.
"Now what, Hanasian?" Her question was a good one. The path ahead was anything but certain, but it could only be taken one step at a time, he knew.
"Now we return to the inn. Tomorrow, love, we will speak with Mecarnil."
Rin nodded and closed another fierce embrace around him. Then, slowly, they traced the path back to the inn. They arrived late, with most of the Company turned in for the night. Videgavia was still up, though. He watched Hanasian and Rin return, clinging to each other as though they were weathering a storm. Rin's face was wan and her eyes glittered with unshed tears. Hanasian too had the grim look of a man preparing for battle. He noted Videgavia's study and flashed a brief signal to him. It was clear the truth had caught up with them both. Videgavia nodded at his captain's instructions. Safely back at the inn, after the lights had been doused, Hanasian felt Rin unleash her sorrow. The tears came in her sleep.
Rin was up and pacing like a restless cat, back and forth, when Hanasian woke the following morning. He watched her prowl back and forth, with a mind that had to be careening over a thousand things all at once.
"Did I wake you," she asked, pausing her relentless patrol.
"How long have you been up," he asked in return, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed.
"It's the same damn dream! Days now… I can't stand it any more."
"Get dressed then," he replied. "We'll start with Mecarnil."
"I'm going to sort this mess out once and for all," she declared as she threw on the rest of her uniform and tugged on her boots. Rin shot out of the room like a cannonball.
"How do you propose to do that," Hanasian asked as he trotted warily along in her wake.
"Common sense… something lordlings seem to lack if my father is any indication," she growled. Mecarnil, was, of course up. Videgavia had paid him a visit the night before. He turned as Rin darted into the common room like an arrow… an angry arrow, he noted. Hanasian followed, somewhat perplexed himself.
"Right, I've about enough of this Cardolan nonsense- what are you DOING!?"
Mecarnil glanced up from the knee he had bent, startled by her response.
"Up! Quick, before anyone sees you!" Rin did her best to physically pull Mecarnil back to his feet by his sleeve. She glanced about the common room as she did so.
"This is nonsense! A big, messy, pointless pile of nonsense all kicked up by that fool…what is this?"
Mecarnil was holding out a worn leather pouch.
"They are yours now, Lady Ería- I mean Rin," Mecarnil hastily amended at her thunderous expression. Rin picked up the pouch like it was a poisonous snake. She upended it onto the closest table. A mithril ring rolled out first, sapphire flashing in the morning light. Folded vellum landed on the table with a slap. Rin picked up the ring and turned it over in her hand.
"Well that explains it," she said, recognising the rose from her dreams. "This isn't mine. It belongs to the king, not me. He's the rightful ruler." Rin dropped the ring back into the pouch, Mecarnil's jaw slightly ajar.
"I think I need a drink," he hoarsely murmured. Hanasian, watching closely, could sympathise. Neither Ranger was sure what to make of what seemed to be afoot in the common room. Rin turned her attention next to the vellum. She opened it up and read quickly. If she was angry before, she became truly incensed as she read.
"Have you read this?" she demanded of them both.
Mecarnil said that he had. Hanasian had not. Rin thrust the vellum at him. Hanasian's eyebrows rose as he read the contents of Bereth's claim to the High King. What had been set down on the vellum was ambitious, and had all the potential to trigger an outbreak in hostilities in the north once again. In particularly, Hanasian stumbled over the last piece of Bereth's petition to Aragorn. Bereth had actually offered his infant daughter for a politically arranged marriage to strengthen his claim on the throne. State marriages were not unusual, but to arrange one for an infant was frankly nauseating. Hanasian closed the vellum and handed it back to Rin without a word to say.
"That man… he… he," she was speechless.
"He had a rightful claim," Mecarnil said heavily. It left a nasty taste to do so, but it had to be said.
"Rightful is NOT RIGHT! Anyone knows that! If a farmer from Rohan knew that, what is Bereth's excuse?" she demanded, shaking the vellum in her grip as if she would tear it to pieces at any moment.
"Nonetheless, Rosmarin, the petition is legal and it now falls to you, as Bereth's heir, to settle it," Hanasian said, intervening. Rin stared at Hanasian a moment, expression softening as an idea materialised.
"Settle it? FINE!" Rin marched to the hearth and flung the vellum onto the fire. She stood there to watch it blacken and curl.
"Settled," she announced after several moments, dusted off her hands and turned back to face Hanasian and Mecarnil. Both men stared at her.
"There is no petition. Cardolan has a king. Cardolan is reunited with the north, the way it should have been were it not for petty, squabbling princes like Bereth and his ilk. No petition now exists and we can just get on with our lives. Back to normal, back to work."
"Did she just abdicate… just like that," Mecarnil asked.
"I think you have to take the throne to abdicate," Hanasian dryly observed. He could see what she was trying to do. She was trying to do what she thought was right and she was trying to minimise the changes the truth had made to her life. Rin was fighting to preserve her very identity. Still, it would not be as simple as that. Regardless of what she wanted, the fact was that she was hereditary ruler of a realm uncrowned and rediscovered. Her very existence would require the king's attention. He would, most likely concur with her intentions but it would need to be done in accordance with law and custom if reunification had a chance of sticking over the long term. Without that, she and her heirs would continue to be a loose end, a thorn in the side of the orderly succession of thrones. Such loose ends cause trouble and unrest. This had to be dealt with properly. All this Hanasian said. Rin heard him out, chin stubbornly raised and arms crossed beneath her breasts. When he had finished speaking, she pounced with a challenge.
"As far as the king is concerned, there is no surviving heir, no loose ends. This heir has been lost for over thirty years and it's in everyone's best interests if it stays that way."
Mecarnil made an exasperated sound before he turned away. Hanasian shook his head. It would take time to her see that she could not hide. At the top of the stairs, though, Videgavia smiled. Through unorthodox measures, a civil war was being averted and an old folly corrected. He didn't envy Mecarnil or Hanasian, but he was really warming to their healer. Provided they could convince her to deal with the king, this had every likelihood of resolving itself calmly and without blood shed.
"Do you have any idea what you are doing," Hanasian asked her and watched Rin openly smile at the question.
"No, not a clue. And that is precisely my point! Even if, and it is a big if, the grounds for the claim are valid, I'm not someone you'd want ruling a land. Cardolan has had enough strife. Let her rest, I say. Give her peace. Now who's hungry? Is breakfast ready yet?"
Loch shouldered past Videgavia and thumped down the stairs, throwing off the Ranger's attempt to slow his arrival in the common room. He reached the bottom of the stairs and looked at the three already there. It had been a long, painful night and it showed. Mecarnil and Hanasian were both met with the flat flick of his brown eyes before they settled on the woman that had, until recently, been his sister. There was an ache inside of him at the sight of her now, standing there. But, blood was blood and nothing he felt or said or did would change that reality. Just as his mixed blood had earned him a lifetime of rejection, hers would take her onto a life far better than any he may have been able to provide to her. Painful as it was, if he stepped back now this would be easier for her.
"Loch," she said, stepping towards him.
"Pleased to meet you," he replied as neutrally as he could, voice roughed with pain. He clenched his jaw and pushed out of the door to the too bright streets outside. Rin stood, stunned, in the middle of the common room for a moment. It felt like he'd just thrown her to the ground again. To be treated like a stranger by her own brother...Rin's head bowed and her hands slowly curled into fists at her sides.
"Oh, you fool," she snarled. Rin pushed the door open so hard that it crashed against the wall. She startled an Elf, who took one look at her and then pointed in the direction of the last mortal he had seen. Rin took off after Loch at a run.
"Get back here, Lochared," she shouted at his back.
Hanasian was silent as the two stormed out.
"This is going to be a long day," Mecarnil observed behind him.
Loch heard her running after him. He had no interest in a confrontation with Rin. The night had been hard enough. He had hoped to slip out of the inn before the others, to walk and clear his mind and steel himself for what he believed was the best thing to do. This was Rin's chance for a life so much better than the one Loch could have imagined for her. He'd not have her hold herself back and sacrifice that opportunity on some misguided sense of familial obligation, especially since it was clear now that they were not blood. He did not have a sister. That though jarred through him and left him feeling hollow. No, he could not face Rin now. Not yet. She was calling after him, pursuing him with the single minded intensity that he knew lay at the heart of her character. He had to lose her.
Loch pressed into the quay, slipping between those there. Men and elves, it was a busy place with a ship to ready for voyage. Loch had no idea how he would withstand that voyage with Rin. Perhaps he could numb himself sufficiently before they boarded. Loch had no idea how to achieve that, but it was the only hope he had. He slipped through people until one of the crew spotted him, or rather spotted his broad shoulders. Years of heavy labour had ensured Loch was a strong man.
"Hie, you there! Yes you, solider! Might ye give us some aid?" a sailor called from the deck.
Loch glanced up and saw they were hauling cargo. He climbed the gangplank and was lost in a knot of sailors by the time Rin made it to the quay. She looked wildly about, this way and that. From his vantage on deck, Loch could see the stricken expression on her face. Her face, so different to his own. They had explained the differences between them away over the years. At first, he had thought she took more after their, or his, father. But when they got to Rohan, it was clear that wasn't true.
Loch had asked her about it once, and she'd dismissed it out of hand. Lots of siblings didn't look like each other, she had assured him with that sweet smile of hers. They had no way of explaining how she came to be in his family aside from the usual way and those who could have told them were long passed. That had been that. Until now. All of them seemed certain that Mecarnil was correct. Even Hanasian, apparently. Loch felt like a fool. He hauled on the line, losing himself in the exertion of the work. When he next looked to the quay, Rin was gone. He heard the shout to pull and he pulled again.
So many faces, none of them Loch's, flowed past her. Rin wanted to shout, howl and break something all at once. Instead, she reigned herself in. Some of the faces seemed curious. Some seemed surprised, genuinely puzzled or perturbed. Rin lifted a shaking hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. She was a member of the Company of Arnor. She needed to comport herself with whatever scrap of dignity was left to her after her headlong sprint through Mithlond's streets.
At the inn, the rest of the Company had been drawn downstairs by the commotion that unfolded in the common room. They were silent at first, but their heads and eyes started turning to Hanasian and Mecarnil. It was Khule who broke the silence.
"Well…. I can see why Arnor fragmented and disintegrated… "
"Up yours" Mecarnil retorted, obviously distressed and in no mood for it.
"He does kinda have a point," Berlas interjected followed by murmured agreement from most of the others.
Hanasian took control of the moment and said,
"That may be all fine and dandy, but for the most part, it all adds up to petty squabbles among comrades but for the enormity of what has been discovered with Rin. Still, in the end, there is really no solid claim, and even less so considering how the person at the heart of it seems to feel about it. Mecarnil, you may be the only one here who really gives a shit about it, being you were close in on it, and being Cardolanian Dunedain and all. But me, I'm likely as mixed blood as the rest of these guys. Having a strong Arthedainian heritage but being half Rohirrim, and there is more than enough survived writings that suggest that I have a bit of Lossoth blood.
"So I really don't care to see this cause any undue grief to anyone. I do have a vested interest, for as you all have obviously observed I am in love with Rosemarin. I don't know anything about claims to ancient thrones and if she's heir to Cardolan under a different name. To me she is Rosemarin, and will be. It is the person that her lot in life has made, not some ill-conceived desire of her natural father. Now, it will all be heard out in the King's Court when we see him, whether our relationship can continue from there remains to be seen, but until then, we all have a duty to said king. Now, everyone eat breakfast! We have a long and busy day ahead. "
They were mercifully silent from that point on. In that silence over breakfast, many of their number realised that they had become the crew that sat together in Minas Tirith not all that long ago, before Frea and some of the company rode north, and before they rode west toward Tharbad. But everyone felt the absence of their two newest acquisitions. It was not surprising that Loch had been absorbed into the Company. However Rin had been taken in, despite everything, also. Almost to a man, this Company had accepted both as their own. Hanasian finished his breakfast first, and stood up. He said loudly.
"Commander is done, you're done. Now get out there and make preparations to leave. See the animals are tended and all necessary supplies are stowed in the ship. Khule, Wulgof, Molguv, you three get down to the docks and get the stuff loaded.
"Frea, Folca, Berlas, you two go scavenge this port for anything that will be useful and can be easily acquired for our journey. See if you can find any of that elven waybread ...lembas... for us to take along. It tastes like dry leaves sometimes when its all you can get, but it is sweet and has invigorating properties, and doesn't add too much weight and take up too much space.
"Vid, you and I will go visit the loremasters of the library. I want to find anything they have about the lands south. I doubt it will have much, but one never knows what the immortals have learned. I also want to find out any and all information on Cardolan and the line as I can. The King may want to know when we see him. I'm hoping Rin will see the wisdom of talking this through with him.
"We'll meet back here just before sunset. If any of you see Rin and Loch, remind them they have duties to the company and that their attendance is required. NOW GO! "
Hanasian had enough of the laxity that had overtaken them. It was one thing to be relaxed when not heading toward battle but a supposed time of rest. It is quite another when one was setting out for battle. He had to put the screws of discipline down on them, and that meant everyone. He would have to keep himself and Rin on top of it as well. From now on, it would be as if the enemy combatants were right next to them. It would be tough to do while on board the ship, but the time here he would do what he could.
The others emptied out quickly. They didn't like to stick around when the cap started barking orders. Best get the job done. And that is what they did. Hanasian and Videgavia were the only ones remaining and soon they headed out as well.
"Standing around gawking when there's work to be done," remarked a familiar voice. Rin lowered her hand and glanced over to Frea. He stood with his arms crossed and clear disapproval on his face. She'd seen that expression before. He wore it a lot around her. Frea strode over to where she stood and examined her critically. She probably looked like she'd been dragged backwards out of a hedge. Another black mark for him to chalk up against her name.
"Have you oiled your gear," he demanded after his inspection. The fact that she had no idea what he was talking about was clear in her face. Frea shook his head in contempt.
"All this salt," he said, gesturing to the air around him. "What do you think you'll have left at the end of the voyage? That sword will be useless, and anything leather will be all dried and cracked and weakened."
Frea launched into a dressing down about the folly of ignorance and poor preparation. Rin said nothing, jaw locked tight, and stared straight ahead. He circled her as he spoke.
"Well, what have you to say for yourself?" he finished with, bristling in front of her. They were roughly of the same height, so their gazes locked and sizzled with mutual anger.
"Who appointed you captain, Frea? " she replied. They stood that way, toe to toe for a long moment before Frea snarled and pulled away.
Rin swallowed hard at his back and braced herself for his next onslaught. A few weeks ago, she would have curled up into a ball and hoped a soldier like Frea would not glance sideways at her. Instead, Frea simply moved off and Rin was left with a spinning head, knotted stomach and troubled heart on the crowded dock. Loch was still nowhere to be seen. Rin trudged back to the inn, deflated and worried. She used the coppers she had gotten from the Hobbiton deal to purchase oil and a suitable cloth on her way. When she got to the inn, she found everyone had scattered.
Rin collected up the gear in Hanasian's room, hers and his. Metal and steel all had to be oiled, according to Frea's patronising lecture. One of the soldiers, a man she had yet to put a name to, saw her at work. He wasted no time gathering up all the other gear he could find. Oiling was a wretched chore ill-liked by all and often avoided. Soon, she was barricaded by a wall of leather, boots, bags, uniforms, sheaths, and steel blades of all descriptions. She thanked her stars that the saddles and tack were still with the horses.
For all of the miserableness, the oiling was a repetitive action and it was somewhat soothing. It allowed her to sort through her tangled thoughts. There was no way she was going to go before the king with some fanciful half baked claim of a man she had never met. No way. There was no way she was going to give up on Loch either. She hadn't spent all of her life putting up with him to give up on him now, the idiot. And, most of all, there was no way she was going to cost a single man in the Company his life.
The dirty three set out toward the docks, and Wulgov managed to pick up some supplies of miruvore along with a couple packs of lembas. It seemed the elven merchants knew the mortals would be in the market for some of their wares. They paused when they thought the saw Loch. It was then one of the shiphands spotted them and called for further assistance.
"It seems Loch knew our orders before we did. I'm sure the cap would have sent him with us anyway. Let's go." Khule said as they sauntered down to start work.
They would let Loch take his first load and be below decks before they arrived. They would act like they were there all along. That was how things would go as a general rule for their Company. When Loch discovered their arrival, he found them full of talk about how Rin had burnt her one ticket to freedom and how Loch needed to talk her out of throwing their fortune away. The more the trio chattered, something dawned on Loch that made him uneasy. He had become exactly the very thing he loathed. He had turned his back on his family due to blood, just like his extended family had turned their backs on them due to blood. As children, they had sought them out in Dunland and Rohan. As children, they had been turned away as either having too much of Rohan or Dunland in them. This realisation was a sobering thought for Loch.
Videgavia and Hanasian found the library where ancient parchments in good condition were kept. The loremasters didn't seem to have much on the three smaller kingdoms which they said were kept in Fornost, and what survived, in Imladris. They did have extensive records of the time of the fall, being the sons of Arveduil came there with all who could be saved from the fall of Fornost. But little of the past records could be brought out before fleeing, and most were likely destroyed. They were about to give up when a fair voice was heard from the door way…
"Hanasian my friend, it has been long. "
Hanasian turned to see the face of Elladan.
"Mae govannen Elladan! Too many years have passed, though but a few to your reckoning. Tell me of your father and brother? I have seen your sister only recently," Hanasian said surprised to see him. Elladan said,
"Though years to me are like seasons, they have begun to grow wearisome. I have come to see about departing for the undying lands. That land calls me ever louder, but part of my heart wishes to remain. Yet all I see is the fading glory of once was. Yet my brother remains, and the day of decision for us both grows ever closer. Tell me my friend, is what I hear true? Have you indeed found the heir of Cardolan? I would wish to see her full grown."
"It is alleged that a member of our company, our healer Rosmarin, is this heir. At least Mecarnil holds it to be true. Maybe you could see for yourself. I tell you this though, she has only recently discovered this identity and she is greatly troubled to find her world come tumbling down around her. Come to the Last Inn at sunset. If she has chosen to remain part of my Company you will find her there. Otherwise, you may happen across her, for she is out and about, last seen pursuing her brother Loch," Hanasian said.
Elladan nodded, detecting the concern in his friend's response. The elf considered his words and after several moments produced a map from his store and passed it to Hanasian. Then, without further word, Elladan left both Rangers to their study.
Hanasian opened the map to discover it described the lands of Eriador in rich detail. It showed features and borders and structures from all through the years of the realm. There were even notes made by the sons of Elrond of their observations through the years. It was the map of the search they had undertaken on Aragorn's behalf to locate Cardolan's missing heir. It included details such as locations of farms they had visited, and one marked with a rose far to the south. Both Videgavia and Hanasian studied it intently.
Hanasian pulled out his journal and looked back to near the beginning. His crude drawing had the destroyed farm located roughly where it was on Elladan's map. More proof, and now when Rin and/or Loch pin-points their farm, it will be settled. Any lingering doubt in either Ranger dissipated and Hanasian began to wonder what the King would say or do. Knowing some of his Court, it could be a dicey situation. Hanasian hoped that when they met it would be away from Minas Tirith and in secret. Hopefully they would port in Pelargir, but the possibility they go directly to Umbar or beyond remained. It all depended on the winds and seas. Hanasian knew he would have to get word to Aragorn somehow and set out with a head filled with such thoughts.
Videgavia, fascinated at the lore in the library, stayed when Hanasian left. He wanted to read some of the recent Westron writings he found. He was interested in that which involved the passage of men westward. He knew these writings were of recent scholars who thought it necessary to write in a common language as opposed to the Elven scripts.
Hanasian made his way toward the docks, and looked down the street to where the ship rested. Several men worked frantically to load supply. It appeared that more miruvore was in the cargo than the manifest called for, thanks to Mulgov and Khule. He could see them, along with Mulgov lifting heavy items up the gangplank. Loch stood on-board, taking all that was handed him. Those men will be tired this night, Hanasian thought with relief. It will be a good thing, keep them quiet and less likely to get involved in any mischief. There was enough trouble afoot as it was. Hanasian continued to search, unable to find any sign of a fair headed mortal woman who was heir to a northern throne. Hanasian sighed as he turned about searching for some trace of her. What he did see was the Captain of the ship coming up his way. This , at least, would be a good opportunity. As he approached, Hanasian stepped out and said,
"Again well met Captain Harlas of the good ship Fidelity! May I buy you some mead and we have a talk?"
"Of course Captain Hanasian of the Company of Arnor. I was just heading in here for an afternoon drink," Harlas replied and the two Captains disappeared into a doorway.
Hanasian said to Harlas, "We both know our orders, but if it would not be too much for me to say, I will be most happy if we should find the way slow going and we have to port in Pelargir."
"You know Captain," Harlas replied, "I cannot predict the seas or winds anymore than you. Manwe and Ulmo tend to conspire together or against each other as each see fit. Very unpredictable."
"Yes it is. A good captain of the seas knows this and does his best to work through it. I'm sure you will get us to where we are to go in good order. You have a good day Captain."
Harlas fiddled with his cup and said just before Hanasian was to go out.
"Look west Captain, and if there is cloud, then we will set out tomorrow night. If not, then the morning after. I think the conditions will be of benefit to us both. Let your men know the new timetable. The tides will be favourable."
Hanasian nodded and left. Fate will play its hand. After checking on the men at the dock briefly, he headed for the inn.
Rin set down the cloth and flexed her hands. Her fingers ached from the day of polishing and rubbing. The oil seemed to have seeped into her skin. Still, all the gear and all the weapons she had found or had been found for her had been treated. It had taken all day, but it was done. It still wouldn't be enough for the Frea's of the world, she mused, still bruised from their dockside clash of the morning. Men started to filter back to the inn, nodding as they passed her. Mecarnil paused, surprised to find her simply waiting, and then started for her. Rin wearily watched him approach. He wore the expression of a man that wanted to urgently speak with her. She could guess what it was about. Rin had no stomach for further confrontation and began to entertain various escape options, including the window at her back. Loch's arrival saved her.
"Rin? Can we, ah, talk... front?" Loch asked.
"Yes," came her answer. Rin stood so suddenly that her chair was nearly upended behind her. She stretched, side stepped Mecarnil and followed her brother back outside, leaving a table heaped with the Company's gear.
"No, you look, Loch. I don't know what sort of nonsense you've cooked up for me today. You better be paying attention now, Lochared, or I'll box your ears until you do. It doesn't matter what or whose blood runs through our veins. Not one whit!
"All those years we spent together, all the rough times because of the way ignorant people treated you on the basis of your blood. I really thought you knew better. You're my brother, Loch. You were my brother yesterday, you're my brother today and you'll be my brother tomorrow no matter what you or anyone else has to say about it. It's as simple as that and don't you be standing there and thinking that I'm going to tolerate you telling me any different, Lochared. Don't you dare!"
"You done yet?" Loch asked when he was able to get a word in edgewise. Rin pushed out a long breath and nodded. She eyed him warily, ready for further argument. Instead, Loch wrapped his arms around his sister.
"I'm sorry, Rin. I was wrong and I'm sorry." Loch picked her up and hugged her tightly.
In the street, Hanasian paused at the sight of them. The fact that Rin was even there came as a relief to him. The fact that she appeared to somehow have reconciled with her brother, by blood or fostering, was further salve for Hanasian's troubled mind.
"Come on, we both need to wash up," Rin said to Loch. He shot a bashful grin at her, nodded, and they both headed back inside. She had expected to find some gear left, hers and Hanasian's. However, it was missing. She found it had been replaced in their room. The simple thoughtfulness made her smile. Relieved to find that the oil did indeed wash off, Rin returned downstairs to discover that Hanasian had arrived and was revising their departure orders.
"I hope you're ready! Our timing has changed. Dependant on weather, we head out either tomorrow night or the night after. I'll have your reports now."
Rin and Loch glanced at each other at this new development: reports. Rin caught a smugly victorious glance from Frea as they took their seats. Frea had warned her and he had expected her pride to get the better of her judgement after their confrontation. he already knew her to be stubborn. They went around the table, each reporting back on their progress for the day. At the end of each report, Hanasian nodded. Loch, she discovered, had been loading cargo all day with his usual three friends. Frea gave his report, outlining the supplies rounded up. So it went on until it was her turn.
"I oiled the gear," she reported. It seemed insignificant, in comparison to what others had said, but it was all she had.
"Just hers," Frea muttered quietly to Folca.
"All of it?" Hanasian asked, catching the comment and pursuing it further.
"Yes, excluding the saddles and tack. That was still with the horses."
Frea's triumph seemed to diminish and Loch's cleared his throat. Rin caught him nodding at Frea, as if he was telling the other that he had been proven correct in something. It was baffling conduct, to say the least, to the woman observing this.
"Good. Keep yourselves in line tonight. Remember who we are and where we are. You know what I expect of you." Hanasian glanced at the door as if he expected someone to arrive.
"Thanks Rin. Dog of a job. Surprised you have fingers left," Khule said quietly to her. She showed her hands and wiggled her fingers, unwilling to make any comment until she got to the bottom of some things. Hanasian and Mecarnil moved away to another table and spread a map over its surface. Rin watched Mecarnil bend over it and trace parts of it with a finger. He was speaking to Hanasian, but she couldn't determine what was being said. At tap at her shoulder brought Rin's attention to Videgavia. He had also collected Loch and he beckoned the pair of them to join Hanasian and Mecarnil. All three Rangers sat around the table and considered the two that stood before them a moment.
"Loch, can you recall where your home was in Dunland?" Hanasian asked and the siblings traded gazes. Rin firmly shook her head at her brother. Loch hesitated, then finally shrugged and nodded at his captain.
"Sure," he replied, scanning the map. There were notations all over it, in a script he could not understand. The place was already marked with a rose. He tapped it with his index finger several times.
"There… on the southern cusp of the Misty's," he said, glancing up at Hanasian. Mecarnil nodded and sat back, relieved to have not been mistaken in broaching this entire difficult matter.
"Rin, you'd better sit down," Hanasian advised, "Our thanks, Loch."
Loch nodded and took himself to be dismissed. Mecarnil leant forward after Loch had found a seat next to Khule. He considered the woman seated across the table. Her arms were crossed again and her expression was sealed off, remote and guarded.
"Rosmarin, I understand your reluctance. All is ask is that you consider the wisest course. No one will force you to accept a throne or pursue a claim you do not chose to. But neither can you hide. If you want to resolve this, and I believe that you do, you need to do it properly," Mecarnil urged.
"How can I resolve what does not exist? You're asking the impossible of me. I have nothing further to say on the matter."
Mecarnil stared at her hard and looked to press the matter further. Hanasian intervened, giving Mecarnil a signal that made the man sit back and reconsider. Rin watched the Ranger push back from the table and depart. Would be as simple as this, she wondered. Her eyes found Hanasian after a moment. It seemed like a lifetime had passed since she seen properly. Something within her eased.
"Rin, I wasn't sure if I'd see you here tonight," Hanasian said to her.
"Where else would I go, Hanasian? I've made my choice. First in Bree and again this morning. I'm not changing my mind, love." She couldn't help the stubborn note to her reply. Still, she offered a heartfelt smile to him.
Hanasian collected her hand a pressed a kiss against her fingers. It was at that point that Elladan walked into the common room. He saw Hanasian sitting with a woman that stole the Elf's breath; such was her resemblance to her mother. Elladan leant by the door and watched in his quiet way. It was her, fully grown, hale and well and every inch as fair and beautiful as her doomed mother. To see her now, after all that had befallen, was a rare delight. Elladan had seen much woe, hardship and sorrow befall elves and men alike over his long years. He felt a sense of peace slip over this unfinished strand.
Elladan said nothing of this. He sent a quick flick of his fingers to Hanasian and then swiftly melted away into the night. Hanasian knew there was no doubt. Still, he thought about how to approach the King. It would be a delicate balancing act for him in this. He wasn't sure who all saw the elf come and go, but it appeared that Rin didn't. Elladan could be stealthy even when not trying.
All that had to be pushed aside for now though. Should they come to Pelargir, then much will be worked out. Should they go afield, then it would be much longer before it was resolved. Until then, it was secondary to their preparations. He stood up and said to all,
"Company, attend me well. You've all had a long day and it was great to see you all tend to your duties despite the difficulties some of you faced. As I've said to most of you before, but will repeat it for our newest members... not everyone in this company will, or has to like everyone else. But even so, they need to know you have their back in the fight and likewise they have yours.
"There can be no doubt in any one member's minds about this. The Rohirrim hates the Dunlandings who hates the Dunedan who hate the Easterlings who hate the Northmen, and they all hate the Haradrim. It doesn't mean a thing. We're all Company members who have signed on to do a job. Like any family there will be squabbles, but it cannot, and will not interfere with unit cohesion."
Hanasian paused to slap the pipe from Khule's mouth as he started to light up.
"I didn't give you permission to smoke. You Khule, of all, should know!"
"Sorry... thought.." Khule mumbled in apologetic, chastened surprise.
Hanasian continued, "I'll replace your load with some of mine after we're done here. Now, I will want solid attention at these meetings from now until we're done and coming back. I want you all to be ready and alert. I want you all to come out of this alive."
He walked around the room a bit, all silent and watching.
"Since I can't say where we will set foot on land again after leaving here, I can't say what we will need and don't need. We had stocked pretty well in Bree, and got some additional supply from the hobbits, but if there is anything else we can acquire and fit aboard ship, let us do so.
"Rin, make sure you scour this place for its medical supplies and wisdom. One cannot be too ready. Now, let us have some dinner and rest. We'll be up at sunrise."
He tossed Khule's pipe back to him, fully loaded with Southfarthing Gold. Khule lit it up quickly. Most shuffled out to have a seat at a table that was set with a fine feast. They would be well fed when they left Mithlond. They were quiet for the most part, letting talk be about their readiness and what they would do through tomorrow. With the ship's hold quite full with supply for men and horse, there was not much more bulky items they could load.
Few lingered once the meal was done. All wanted rest after the intensity of the day's events. Rin came into the room to find Hanasian already there. He had stretched out over the bed. Hanasian watched her absently close the door. She seemed to have a full mind, with thoughts pondering this and that.
Hanasian stood and said to her, "Let the cares of the day fall away for a time. They will be there again."
He gave her a hug and let her rest against him. He then whispered to her, "I got something for you today."
There hanging by the wall was a flowing white silken layered chiffon night dress. Light lace with golden embroidery ringed the collar and sleeves, and also around the hem. He didn't know if she would like it. It looked like it may fit her when he got it, being for lithe elven woman. At a guess, Hanasian had thought their statures roughly the same but he couldn't be sure. Rin approached it slowly. He watched her take up the soft fabric between between her finger and thumb and gently stroke it. It was the most precious thing she had ever beheld, far too fine for her.
She whispered to him, "I am not a queen..."
"... and I don't wish to make you a queen..." Hanasian interjected,
"... you are Rin, the company healer, who also is a beautiful woman the company captain happens to be in love with. I got it for the woman I love, not for the Queen of Cardolan. You rest here and try and put to rest the thoughts of thrones. I will leave you for a moment, for I have to check on something downstairs."
Hanasian left the room in silence, and made his way to the proprietor. He settled the company account, and took a look around to make sure nobody was loitering about. They all had retired early. Hanasian nodded to himself and made his way back to the room.
Opening the door, he saw that the balcony doors were open. Out by the rail stood Rin silhouetted against the waning twilight, the nightdress fluttering around her in the soft breeze. Looking out over the bay, she appeared as if she were indeed an elven woman longing to sail west. To him, mortal or elf, noble or common, no woman was more beautiful. She turned to look at him as he shut the door. Though his gaze was on Rin, Hanasian couldn't help but notice the clouds building in the far west over the sea.
The wisping of the gown about her frame in gentle billows, dragged his attention back to the woman that stood there beneath moon and stars. She had let her hair let down to dance about her shoulders and face. She was ravishing! He walked up to her silently, and she said nothing. Royal queen or thieving orphan, she was the fairest woman he had ever beheld! His arms slid about her waist, drew her close and they kissed. Long and slow it went, and with each passing moment they became ever more intense. It was not long before he lifted her up and carried her to the bed.
Thoughts of the lowly ranger ravaging the Queen of Arnor fled far away. Passion built and his hands drifted all over her silken clad body. It seemed a moment before he was worked out of his clothes, and had clamped her thighs with his arms to taste her honeydew. Exploding and wiggling about, he slid over her and sank deep into her wetness. Surge after surge went through him.... wildly rolling and twisting and exploding, passion spilled over and flowed on and on until they both succumbed to sated exhaustion. The nightdress was torn and tattered in the intensity. Still, she looked evermore beautiful!
Never had Rin known known such finery as that Hanasian had gifted her with. Never had clothing met with such a wild, passionate end as the nightgown. Never had anyone given her anything, just because, for no real reason. She drifted on the soft silken wings of passion's aftermath into a deep sleep. She stirred not during the night for one reason. In Hanasian's sure embrace, she felt safer than she could recall feeling. It was a pleasure all of its own that she savoured.
The morning stole silently to their room. The doors remained open, forgotten in the heat the night before. What a scene the Elves of Mithlond must have enjoyed. Rin woke before Hanasian, mind clear at last of that infernal silver rose that had been plaguing her dreams of late. Their limbs were entangled still and he slept with a hand cupping one of her bare breasts. The next morning brought cooler temperatures and a light drizzle from the still grey. Dawn illuminated the room in a light made soft by the cover of cloud, brushing over Hanasian's naked form and permitting her a moment to soak in the sight of him.
In sleep, the cares of command faded from his face. It was a beautiful face, balanced strong features and lips that could make her heart take flight and her blood roar with fire. She let a finger trace the lines of his arm and then his chest. Down they wandered, tracing muscle and sinew. The strength of him, the scent of him, the feel of him. She was hungry for more of him. He stirred, perhaps sensing the growing heat of her blood as she explored him, and rolled to his back. His dark hair was spread over the pillows, no longer dampened by sweat. It could seem in sunlight to be strung with gold. In the softer light of the room, it was dark now.
So peaceful, so close, so vulnerable, so strong. He had said it would be a busy day today, the Company's business starting at dawn. A glance out the open doors told her she had time yet for business of their own. She shifted, mouth following her fingers over his skin. Down, down, down until her mouth found what she sought above all.
She felt him harden and then wake beneath her vengeance for the night before. His hands brushed the long fall of her hair aside. The sight of her made his hips surge against her mouth. She dallied with him a moment longer and then another until he moaned for mercy. She straddled him then, the silk nightdress mere tattered rags around her, and sank over him. His hands locked her in place, gripping her hips and urging her on.
This was furious, wild, unrestrained joy. He writhed beneath her, urging her harder and faster until freedom found them both. Waves of rolling pleasure pulsed through them until, at last, she fell forward to rest atop him. Beneath her hand, his heart gradually slowed from it's thrumming. His arms rose to circle her and she let her head rest over one shoulder, mouth to his ear.
"I love you, Hanasian, come what may," she whispered. No matter what their paths, that would not change. It was as impermeable as rising and setting of sun and moon. Even if duty forced him to set her aside at some point, she would love him still. The future was uncertain, as he had said that first night out from Bree, but his place in her heart and soul and mind was not.
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.