9. Chapter 9
Hanasian emerged downstairs refreshed and seemed rather excited. He went to check with Captain Harlas and returned to find the company gathered for breakfast. Rin was there in her leathers, looking the most professional of soldiers. He did note that she had customised the nightdress into a soft underlining, with the gold trim showing at the sleeves and collar. Hanasian smiled slightly as did Rin in a private exchange marked by few. He then turned to speak,
"Company, the day has come. We will be setting out with the evening tide. The moon is waning and it will be dark when we round to open sea. Captain Harlas tells me the winds will be most favorable then, and the receding tides will help us along. Though the day will be calm and gray, and misty, he expects a storm the next day and wants to be out to sea and south by then.
"So, head out through the city, search and find any final supplies we can carry. We will meet at the quay before the skies start to darken. The animals will be loaded by then, and we'll board. I wish our time here wasn't coming to an end, and we were here on other business, but so it goes. Say your farewells to Mithlond and the northwest of Middle Earth, for I believe it will be long before we return. Now enjoy breakfast, smoke if you wish, but no ale or wine. I will see you at the quay."
Hanasian left for he was to have a last meet with Elladan. Rin thought of following him, but instead went a different way into the city. There were some herb and tool shops in the market she wanted to visit. Rin studied Hanasian for a long moment, smiling despite her resolve to maintain a professional façade. Thre was no hiding her heart in her expression. As he disappeared into Mithlond's streets, Loch sidled up next to her and elbowed her with a conspiratorial grin. Her musings sharply ended.
"What are you looking so happy about?," she asked.
"Nice uniform. Could ask you the same thing, but that would be purely rhetorical."
Rin blinked at her brother's choice of words. Since when had he started using rhetorical?
"Rhetorical? Have you been reading lately?" Rin's curiosity showed.
"Pfffft… who has time for such nonsense? Rin… you still got any coin left?"
"Ah, now it all becomes clear to me. I have a little. Why?"
"Why? Does it matter why? Really? Why? Why not, I ask."
"Oh, just take them. You're up to something. No trouble, you hear. You better show up tonight on time or you'll be considered a deserter or something and that will be a whole bag of trouble… where are you going?"
"Off to find no trouble, before you lecture this fine day away!" Loch waved his hand and jogged off with most of her remaining coin. She had just enough left to buy a sample of that miruvor Molguv had mentioned last night. Rin headed off with her own mission in mind. She was going to discover the secret of miruvor and any other secrets she might uncover in the library Videgavia had told her about.
The miruvor was not difficult to obtain. In fact, it was widely available, as were a fine array of devices for healers. Rin was soon in possession of a control sample of miruvor and several finely made and exceptionally sharp knives. She then made for the library Videgavia had mentioned last night. Rin had never seen so much knowledge crammed into one place. Her amazement showed clearly on her face. So many books and only one day. Was the famed library of Minas Tirith as large as this? Rin was soon lost in the shelves and pages.
Time flew past. Rin remained at her study throughout the day and her notes grew rapidly with observations, sketches, ideas and comments that she would later assimilate into something approaching a logical order. Rin was most of her way through a rare treatise on how broken bones may be repaired by a sufficiently gifted healer when someone cleared his throat behind her. It was Videgavia. He nodded to a high window. The unique amber light of sunset illuminated it. Rin's eyes widened and a curse she had acquired from Molguv tumbled out of her mouth as she frantically started gathering papers. Videgavia, smirking, assisted where he may.
"Have I missed it?"
"Am I late?"
And this after admonishing her brother to be on time. Loch would be unbearable! Rin took off at a run, Videgavia jogging behind. Leaves of paper floated in her wake. Videgavia harvested each to tuck into a growing sheaf beneath one arm. Back at the inn, Videgavia found himself further appropriated by the frantic healer as pack horse for the captain's gear. Her own she flung over both shoulders, an impressive array of satchels and packs filled with Eru only knew what, complete with the hilt of an elven sword bobbing at her left shoulder. The pair arrived at the quay with papers crammed every which way into Rin's packs until they fairly bristled. Videgavia was still carrying some under his arm. At a standstill, Rin relieved Videgavia of his remaining bundle and attempted to pack them as well. After a brief, snarling tussle with several of her packs, Rin opted for retreat and simply clasped them to her chest to prevent the building evening breeze from stealing them.
"She's here," Loch called from the deck as she finally jogged up the gang plank. As she boarded, he looked to the sky and then looked back at her. His meaning was plain and it set Rin muttering in a way that made her brother grin victoriously.
"Wonderful," Wulgof said with a sarcastic drawl as she reached the deck. Frea muttered something to his twin.
The company had assembling on the deck to await their captain. Rin fell into line, papers still clutched to her chest as she stared overhead at the cloth of the vast sails and the leagues of rope that ran like webs in every direction. The sails were being hoisted and the setting sun remade them in bronze and gold. A flag, black with a white tree and seven white stars, fluttered bravely overhead. The sun had sunk beneath the clouds that had been gathering since the night before. Its rays set the cloudy ceiling and watery floor of the Gulf of Lune ablaze. Fidelity's crew swarmed everywhere over the boat in final checks and preparations for departure. Below, the squeal of a horse still unsettled from its stowing could be heard through the timbers of the deck.
Hanasian appeared on the quay, walking side by side with an Elf that Rin thought she recognised. In the soft light, it was hard to be certain, but she as studied further she realised she was correct. She had seen his face before… and his boots. They had seemed very large to her at the time, given her vantage. Hanasian and Elladan made their farewells and Elladan glanced up to the deck of the ship as his friend boarded. His gaze found Rin's and he smiled, inclining his head gracefully by way of acknowledgement. Yes, she'd seen him before with the blue flowers. She smiled in return, transported to that golden morning all of a sudden. To those around her, Rin looked like she had been regurgitated by a book and was particularly pleased by that fact judging by the beatific smile on her face. The moment ended when Rin had to stamp a booted foot down on an errant page of notes, and then another.
While Rin seemed utterly at home on the ship, Loch had started to feel the gentle swaying of the deck and was suddenly gripped by uncertainty. He glanced at his sister. There was the tell tale light of exhilaration in her eyes and it made them dance and sparkle. The idea of putting to sea made her heart dance even if she had no clear understanding of why that was. Mecarnil glanced sidelong at Loch and then back to Rin. The sea had always called to Numenor and it beckoned her now.
Hanasian cast his eyes over the assembled company. Every member was accounted for and stood at the ready. He looked over to where Captain Harlas stood on the forecastle of the ship and nodded. Harlas emitted a series of unusual whistles, which appeared to be commands that his crew responded to.
The anchor had already been raised. The signal had the gangplank stowed and the remaining lines that connected them to Mithlond released. The wind grabbed them and pushed them forward, slowly at first and then with gathering speed. A small number of elves, Elladan and Cirdan included, stood on the quay and lifted their hand in silent farewell. Some of the Company and crew responded in kind. The shouts of sailors to each other diminished as their ship pressed forward.
The company fell out and Mithlond fell behind as the ship pushed for the mouth of the harbour and open sea. It seemed as though they were flying into the very sun itself to Rin. Loch seemed unsteady as he walked below deck. He was looking pale and slightly green. Rin picked up the escaped piece of paper beneath her foot and fell into step. Hanasian followed, having collected his gear from Videgavia.
"You've been busy," he observed from behind her. Her pack looked set to explode. He fervently hoped she hadn't decided to take a few with her. That would be difficult to explain.
"There were so many books, Hanasian! I couldn't read all of them… but I think I cracked miruvor…. I'll have to trial it to know, and then there was this book on bones and another one on distillation of plants and I think I may have found a way to make our blood unpalatable to all those insects in Harad, which will prevent a host of illnesses…"
"She better not be bunking with us! She talks too much," Wulgof shouted from ahead.
The Dunlending needn't have worried on that score. The majority of the company were to bunk in a long space below deck that was strung up with hammocks. They would share the space with crew. Captain Harlas of course had his own cabin and there was one other, allocated to the Company's Captain and their healer. It was to this that Rin went.
"I think I'll test my first batch on Wulgof," she muttered as she walked into the cabin and stowed her gear. She had no time for much else, though, as Hanasian summonsed them all to the mess and gave them the run down on how things would be ordered on the ship. There were, after all, two Captains now. There was to be no drunkenness, no brawling or disorderly conduct, no pranks, no disobedience of a direct order from either captain. There would be rations of food and potable water. There would be training and there would be preparation for how the company would function in the field with a non soldier in their midst.
The clouds that had gathered through the day closed in behind the ship that night and seemed to give chase. The cabin allocated to them had windows that opened to the aft of the ship. She pushed them open, allowing storm tossed air in, to watch the flickering of lighting on their tail. The waves of the sea were capped in white foam that seemed to glow in the darkness. Rin heard Hanasian duck through the door behind her and she turned to face him. Yes, exhilarating, she mused.
"Anyone ill yet," she asked. Hanasian nodded, ruefully.
"Frea, Wulgof, Khule, Loch…" he listed.
Rin left her study of the storm that chased them and retrieved a kit she had prepared back in Bree.
"Time to earn my keep," she said. She pressed a kiss to his lips, drinking him in, and set about her duties. Hanasian had no idea what time it was when she returned. He barely stirred as she settled in beside him. It was late, perhaps so late that it was morning. She was deeply asleep next to him when dawn woke Hanasian. Usually an early riser, Rin showed no sign of wakefulness. Hanasian disentangled himself from her and rose. He splashed water on his face and then opened the cabin windows to study the northern horizon. Sunlight stretched out, alighting on the sea and settling it to dazzle like diamonds.
Hanasian turned back to the bed. All that could be seen of Rin was one bare feminine foot and a long fall of pale hair. He ran a finger down her foot and she wriggled her toes.
"That had better be you, love, and not some stowaway mouse," she said, face first in the pillow.
"Is it morning already?" she asked.
"It is, sweet one."
"Then I must be up."
Hanasian left her yawning and stretching and headed for the mess. Some of Rin's charges sat there, looking tender, but up and about and apparently considering food. Rin arrived, dressed in her uniform and braiding her hair as she went. She cast an assessing eye over Frea, Molguv and Loch and then at the food before them.
"Do you honestly think it's worth it? It's only going to come back up again," she asked them. The trio eyed their plates blearily. Rin collected them and headed for the galley. She returned with bowls of something far kinder to their stomachs than what they had initially selected.
"Soup for breakfast," Frea objected, half heartedly.
"Less sharp edges. Easier on you both ways, down and up," she assured him. The Rohirim sighed and collected his spoon.
"You're enjoying this," he accused, catching her expression. He was partially correct, but she was also pleased to see them well enough to be at the table.
"If you can pick a fight, you must be recovering," she said as Folca joined them. He shot her an apologetic grimace on behalf of his twin. She turned away for her own breakfast, grinning all the wider as she caught Hanasian's eye. He could see that Rin was fully enjoying her solid stomach on the rocking ship. Loch didn't seem to like it much, but was determined to master the seasickness, with or without Rin's potions. The rest tried to take it in stride, but some gave in to accepting Rin's concoctions, Wulgof first and foremost. He could not get the feel of the sea to settle. Frea was bad at first, but eventually mastered it. His brother didn't have any trouble at all.
That is, until three days in when Captain Harlas tried to skirt the edge of a storm that grew out of the west. Then Folca let it all out over the side. Sounded and looked like death would be a welcome rest for him at that point, but when he was done, he acted as if nothing happened. Videgavia was as quiet and stoic as ever, though Hanasian thought he may have succumbed in the wee hours of the morning when he suddenly "volunteered" to go topside and "keep watch". For the most part the days passed without event but for the banter between the men. Mecarnil, Folca, and Videgavia kept the training and workouts going, and most took it in stride. It helped keep their mind off their troubles with the movement.
It was the night after the storm that Hanasian found Loch and Rin sitting topside under the stars. It sort of surprised him, and he hoped the two may be breaking the chill that came over Loch when he discovered his sister's true origins. While Hanasian didn't know if they had further broached that matter, he was pleased to see them talking together. Hanasian didn't want to intrude, but he was seen by both, and so he that he asked to join them.
"A nice night to watch the stars. So many more of them when out to sea," Hanasian said to them. Loch didn't say anything, but he stood to go when Hanasian motioned him to stay.
"Please stay Loch. I wish to talk to you both. It concerns what lies ahead of us."
Loch sat back down on the deck, and Hanasian squatted down before them.
"I don't know what sort of death and hardship you may have witnessed in your days. Know that when we go into battle, there will be death and hardship. The others are veterans of war and insurrections, and have long since managed to deal with the demons that come with it. But every one of them has had their first kill in battle, and every one of them have lost good friends and comrades.
"Most don't intend to get close to another, but it happens none-the-less. When it comes, the death of a close mate in arms, it is at that moment that you find what you're made of and if you have the stomach for it. It's when the demons come. We will face these demons in the days coming."
"Do you have such demons Hanasian?" Loch asked, seeming intrigued by it all.
Rin remained silent. She stared at the hilt of the blade Hanasian had given to her at Bree. It sat in one hand, and her free hand wove the ends of her braid through her fingers as her mind worked. She looked at Hanasian when he spoke again after a bit of a pause.
"Yes, I have them. I remember the first day each one came to reside with me too. The first time someone I knew and was dear to me fell, it still comes to me sometimes in my dreams. It was my first commander when I first started riding as a Ranger before the war. His name was Elendur. He had lived through so many close scrapes with death, some with my father. He had been wounded many times, but he always seemed to manage to beat it. When it came it was sudden and in surprise. Should have never happened. But it did..."
Loch was going to say something, but Rin placed a cautionary hand on his forearm and forestalled him as she studied Hanasian's expression. This tale was not yet done, she sensed. After another pause, Hanasian continued on.
"We were flushing out some stray raiding orcs in the Ettenmoors. We had wiped out a camp of theirs and were feeling pretty good. There had been no more orc spoor and we stopped at some falls to refresh and set camp. Nobody saw it coming.
"Arlinas, our watch at the top of the falls was taken by surprise. Hit by three arrows, he silently fell to the pool below. Elendur saw him fall and turned to look, and he too was felled by three arrows. He crashed into me and said only one word... 'Damn' and was dead. The rest of us scrambled and was soon ready, but the attackers never were seen."
He coughed and his hand lifted for a second.
"The demon of my lost mentor climbed on my back then and there. It was only a short time later that my first kill in battle came to me, and another demon joined the first. It was not until the great war that I lost another commander. His name was Halbarad, slain on the Pelonner Fields outside Minas Tirith.
"This was a little more expected, but hurt no less. He was a serious man with a dour hand, and great were his deeds though few were ever spoken of or found their way into song. Ever having the trust of our Chieftain, he was often left in command of the northern Rangers when our Chieftain was away. No less was his death remembered than that of the King of Rohan, but he would have preferred it be seen as nothing more than the deaths of many soldiers who fell that day. Such was his nature. Sadly.
"He never returned to the north to his wife and son and daughter. Others in the Grey Company were either slain or wounded, or suffered wound that could not be seen. And several men of this company that had marched and fell under its banner, some close and some only newly recruited, each and every one had a tale of life to tell.
"But I have tried to remember them, each and every one, and tell about them in my writings. It is the demons of war and death that come to me, and through my pen I tell of them, and I have learned to live with them, and they did not master me. I have to hope that for you two, when the time comes, they do not master you, that you find ways to turn them."
Hanasian stood and stretched his legs.
"My apologies, I am rambling on too much. It's not all it seems. That encounter at Tharbad was only a brief taste of what it's like. What I witnessed there of you both gives me hope that you both will do well when faced with a hair's moment of decision. All I want is for you to be ready for what is to come. I just don't know how to say it."
He turned and looked out toward the west. The wind was steady in his face, and it was then Captain Harlas approached.
"Looks like you get your wish Captain Hanasian. The winds are contrary to getting the ship far enough west to catch the current south. The storm pushed bach toward the shore that I had to work not to run aground on the shoals off the cape. But me crew and some help from your lads... especially you young master Loch, that kept us out.
"But we will have to port at Pelargir for one of the sails suffered and is in need repair. If the current winds continue, we should make port in about four days, no more than six in the worst of conditions."
"Can't say I'm sorry Captain Harlas. I was hoping to stop even for a short time in Pelargir," Hanasian replied, seeming satisfied with this turn of events.
He would have to hope for Strider being at the usual place. If not, he hoped word would reach him by other means concerning the woman nearby.
Loch looked surprised he had been singled out by the captain of the ship. He didn't know he was helping anchor the line, he was just hanging on tight while his stomach turned itself inside out. The captain walked off, inviting Loch to come with him. Loch was quickly up to walk beside him.
"Lad, you ever consider life as a seaman?" Captain Harlas asked him. Loch seemed surprised at the question. The captain went on, "I just ask because you seemed to have a knack for doing the right thing."
Loch paused then said, "Well, I signed on with the Company of Arnor, and without them I would never have been on this ship, so no I hadn't. I didn't know what I was doing, I was just sick."
Harlas nodded and said, "Well of course, but the way you did it spoke much. Should you ever tire of battle in lands far and wide, you come see me in Pelargir. We'll likely port there, and you will see and enjoy the Passage Tavern. I'm sure the company will like the place. It's a blending of cultures from the north and south, east and west. Which, I must say lad, makes it rather odd, but quite dynamic. Anyway, you will find me there, or you can leave word for me there. Give my offer a consider when your commission ends."
Loch didn't know what to think of all that. He enjoyed the company, but he would likely enjoy the seas if he could get his stomach right. Still, he felt that he was a company man, even if they called him boy.
"I will, but it may be some years off. Thank you Captain Harlas!"
The captain nodded and went to his quarters. Loch thought about doing the same… well, at least find his bunk. The gentle rocking of the ship was making him queasy
Hanasian leaned on the deck-rail, quiet again and lost in his thoughts. Rin came to stand beside him. He turned to her and ran his hand past her ear and brushed her hair with his fingers.
"Do well healer" he said, and kissed her lips. "I feel time will come when your skill will be tested."
Rin wrapped an arm around him. Hanasian knew she would doo well, for he was amazed at how she handled herself at Tharbad. It surprised many, and the men in the company had made this clear. It was those who had not witnessed that clash that had their questions.
"I will do what I can" she said, "I do not fear battle, and though I have demons of my own from childhood, they will not have the best of me come what may."
"I know you will Rosmarin. In battle and in diplomacy."
'Great…' she thought. 'Here comes more of this heir to the throne of Cardolan crap.' She braced for it.
"Diplomacy?" she said in that sarcastic way of hers.
It made Hanasian smirk. The woman in his arms was a direct woman who was more than inclined to say what was on her mind than dissemble it. Her sarcasm was her brand of diplomacy. Still, he knew she would have a difficult road ahead and this stilled his mirth.
Hanasian kissed her hair and said, "I know you wish that none of this had come to light. Mecarnil is a good and honorable man, and he only wants what is best for the Kingdom. I have no doubt in his loyalty to the King, but he holds dear his oaths of service Cardolan.
"You know you will have to face the reality of this. Know that I will be evermore in love with you Rosmarin, ever and always. We will deal with this together. When we get to Pelargir, I want you to come with me to meet a friend of mine. I think you will like him. His name is Strider…"
"An unusual name, but I will be only too happy to meet any friend of yours, Hanasian," Her lips made the words automatically as her mind reeled.
Ever and always, he had said. What notion had she of such a thing? The only constant person in her life had been her brother. Hanasian's words created a future to live for. First he had given her a path from a dissolute life to something with meaning and now this. It stunned her. She'd never had anything so precious before and he had just given it her, just like that. Rin gripped the rail of the ship, pressing her fingers against the weathered grain of the timber. Her vision blurred, and her breath hitched softly. It made Hanasian glance at her and he saw the bright glitter of tears in her eyes.
"What is running through that busy mind of yours," he asked gently. Rin blinked and tried to restore her equilibrium. At her current rate, she'd start swooning and that would be utterly unseemly for a healer of a military unit.
"You do not know what you have done," she whispered back and reached to caress his cheek. "You do not know what you have given to me, Hanasian. Ever and always? Oh my love! Truly?"
The wonder in her expression rivalled the stars for brightness. The ship and those on it fell away in that moment that stretched around them. Her arms tightened around him and he pressed his palm over her heart. He gazed at her a long moment, smiled tenderly and kissed her again.
"Truly," he whispered to her.
"Together. We will work this out together. Ever and always," she echoed.
Mecarnil, nearby and maintaining his watch over his rediscovered charge, breathed a deep sigh of relief and pleasure that was marked by a sailor who stood coiling a line beneath the main mast. Rin had been steadfastly stonewalling Mecarnil since they boarded. He'd tried to reason with her but she would have none of it. The case was clear to him.
The realm was poised on a state of high alert with the rebellion in the south. If word came of a potential rival for a northern throne hiding in Pelagir, they would react swiftly to eliminate the threat in their midst. And word would come. The Company knew who she was, the crew of the Fidelity had surely heard of their discussions and speculations and there were few women who looked like Rin. She'd be identified quickly once they made port, located and that pretty head of hers whisked from her shoulders before she could utter the words to renounce the throne.
In the end, Mecarnil had turned to Loch for guidance. Her brother had shown a devious streak in his counsel.
"If you drag her before the king it won't go well. She wouldn't go quietly. No good asking me to talk her round either. She's an expert at ignoring me, has been for years now. But I reckon I know who might be able to handle her: the captain. He has cards up his sleeves we lack. One, he's her commanding officer and two… he's her… well you know how it is between them."
Mecarnil had taken up Loch's advice shortly before the storm broke. He'd taken the opportunity whilst Rin was training and found that his captain and friend had been remarkably open to the idea of assisting. Mecarnil had to hand it to Hanasian. When it came to handling the headstrong, stubborn woman he certainly had a way about it. Strider she would go to see. Aragorn, High King of the Reunited Realm… well he'd heard how hospitable she had been when caught near Tharbad. Half starved, half frozen, suffering exposure and a fever, she had been a formidable creature then despite her terror of the men she found herself surrounded by.
Yes, Mecarnil was pleased and relieved and he wandered below deck to thank a pale looking Loch. Her brother had, once again, likely kept his sister alive. For services to the crown of Cardolan, no monarch had ever stood in such debt as Rin did to Loch in Mecarnil's estimation. It was for this reason that Mecarnil had been forging a growing alliance with the young man.
Their voyage carried them south and then east as they approached the Bay of Belfalas. The weather steadily warmed. Drills continued and Loch tested his hand at the spear. Rin did not, only confirming in Frea's estimation that she was a liability to them all. Hanasian watched his Company take shape in this time. Loch was proving to be naturally gifted as a soldier. Years of fighting a way through the world were being honed. He suspected the young man was not without his own battle experience. Rin demonstrated that she had means of protecting herself. Yes, the pair of them had likely been confronted before with the need to fight for their survival against some foe or the other. Dunland was not an easy place to live. Rin proved better with a knife than most of the men, and Loch hinted that she was better again with a bow. The sword was something she had to persist with, but with her effort she was rewarded and it finally started to move as an extension of her arm. The Company started to consider how to operate with her in their midst. It was all falling into place.
Hanasian and Rin continued to draw ever closer, letting each other past carefully guarded corners of memories and revelling in what they discovered of each other. Rin quizzed Hanasian about Strider, his friend, and Hanasian answered her truthfully. She never asked if he was the high king. He never mentioned it. It would go better if he did not. In that time, Rin discovered more of the previous owner of the sword she carried. She learnt of Simra and Naiore Dannan and understood why sometimes, at night, Hanasian spoke those names. It only heightened Rin's resolve to improve at swordplay. She would not become another demon to haunt the man she loved and she told him so.
All this brought them to their last night at sea. At some point in the following day, they would dock. It was none too soon for some. Rin thought she would miss this time. The days under the sun with the wind in her hair and her love by her side, or the nights, working and talking and discovering him and him her already sparkled with the sheen of memory that would endure for the rest of her days. The men had started to talk of inns they knew of at the port, and Loch was clearly absorbing all of this. Some were mindful of what had occurred at Pelagir before with the death of Simra, the fall of the Khand rebels and the final end of Naiore Dannan.
Rin sat at the prow of the ship, legs dangling through the rails and watching the water roll and split to either side as Fidelity cleaved through the Anduin. In the heat of a southern spring, she had abandoned her cloak and jacket and sat in her shirt sleeves. Cooling salty spray misted over her. Rin rested her head against a supporting timber post of the railing. Pelagir… they would set out to war from there. Pelagir… she would have to face who she was there but with Hanasian by her side no matter what, perhaps she could.
"Rin?" Rin opened her eyes and glanced up at Loch. She smiled and he sat as she closed her eyes again.
"Rin… I've been thinking…"
"I'm worried, Rin." That opened her eyes again. Loch was not one for worrying after things.
"Whatever about, Loch?"
"We'll reach Pelagir tomorrow, the others say."
"And you're worried about running out of tavern money?"
"No… I'm worried for you."
"Me? Loch, I have you and I have Hanasian and there is nothing to worry about because Hanasian has this friend called Strider and there's Mecarnil to consider. Really, I've been giving it a lot of thought. It should be fine…"
"You've been so busy thinking about that, I think you've forgotten something and I don't want it to come as a shock. Knowing you, you could throw yourself overboard if you don't prepare yourself."
"What? What could be more of a shock than has already happened?"
"Soldiers, Rin. Pelagir will be crawling with them. Are you ready for that?"
"Mmmmm, I thought so. I know you can do it, Rin. I do. Look how far you've come with us. You're arguing with Frea, arguing! You don't bat an eyelash at them any more. Not even Molguv and he frightened you the most, remember?"
"Well, just remember that all those other soldiers are probably no different to us… and we're a long way from those dogs that attacked us back at home. Worlds apart, Rin. You can see that now, can't you?"
"Good…I haven't upset you, have I?"
"Good…You can do it, Rin. I know you can. You're the bravest person I know."
Loch squeezed her shoulder. He had been doing that since they were kids. The gesture could mean lots of different things. This time it meant that everything would be fine. He stood again and ambled back for the mess. The last night meant that rations would be more generous than before.
Rin sat for a while longer, turning what Loch had said this way and that in her head. With a sigh, she got to her feet and went below to the cabin. Hanasian was there at the desk they had been sharing, writing. He looked up at her as she walked in, set down his quill and pushed back from the desk. Rin was wordless as she bent and wrapped her arms around him. He stood and she clung to him closer. Her skin was damp with spray and she smelt of the ocean.
"Something amiss," he asked after a moment.
"Ghosts, beloved… just wrestling old ghosts."
Ah, that he could understand...
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.