62. Chapter 61
Another chime from the hour bell broke the sad thoughtful silence and Angon roused himself, for it was time for him to return to the library, where a small group of boys, the children of nobility, were to receive instruction on the history and land of Rhudaur. I returned with him and while he engaged them with a variety of wonderful tales that I was all too familiar with I roamed amongst the dusty shelves admiring the tremendous collection of books and documents there, some of them of great age. I carefully pulled one particular volume from its resting place and set it down on a lectern, opening the beautifully tooled black leather cover. The script was of a style I was unfamiliar with, and I could barely make out what was written there, but as far as I could make out it was a memoir of the wars at the end of the second age in Sindarin, by a man of high birth who had fought in them. Though the book was of tremendous antiquity I thought it could not possibly have been an original for that surely would have crumbled into dust, but a copy that had been made in a later time to preserve the work. I leafed carefully through it, trying to make sense of the words on many of the pages, but was disappointed to find I could only make out the text in snatches, which left me fascinated, intrigued and frustrated in equal part. I put it carefully back where I had found it and continued to browse until I found what appeared to be a study of the heraldry of Arnor, again very old, and full of beautifully rendered drawings of various devices on shields and banners. Some of the names of the families there were still vaguely familiar, some were not at all and must have been from other parts of the old kingdom. I spent a long while looking through it, until I found what I had barely dared hope would be in there, and my heart gave a little leap of joy. There on the page was the blue and white quartered design I remembered from my childhood and the text declaring it to belong to the house of Rushwater Vale in the Eastern Province. There also was the device of Idhrethil's forefathers in the neighbouring Brightwater Vale, and some other names that I only knew as places rather than the homes of the noble families that had once lived in them. Last of my line though I was, it made me feel like I was part of a much greater whole, and it pleased me that our family name had once meant something. I resolved to carry the device on my shield if the opportunity ever arose, for it was not customary in the ranks.
Angon completed his lessons, dismissed his pupils cheerfully and came over to join me. "They are beautiful are they not" he said smiling "I am content to see out my days in such esteemed company, for one would need several lifetimes to be able to read and take in all the knowledge that is held within this great chamber. There are volumes here so old I do not dare to open them for fear they would crumble into dust, and other works of incomparable beauty that could only have been made by elvish hands. Yet few if any visit any more, and fewer still actually choose to study what can be found here. The King used to come often to spend a few hours every week with me, to read and talk of old times, but his failing health now precludes it, as you could see the path to this door is far from straight and passes up and down many stairs. But I am content enough with my lot, I learn much of what passes in the court and wider world from Idhrethil, who is an avid student, and I earn my keep tutoring the sons of lordlings as you have just seen. Come, tell me what you have found, and let me show you yet more marvels".
I was more than willing to accept his invitation, and he was delighted to be able to share his knowledge and passion for the library with me, and we passed several happy hours exploring one wonderful book after another, most of them works from a far greater time than our own and full of forgotten knowledge. It still grieves me greatly that it is all gone now, and I have no doubt that some of what was kept there is now lost to the world forever. Though I have never been more than a humble soldier, I said my vows and pledged my service so that others might live in peace and enrich all our lives with their knowledge and wisdom.
That happiest of days began to fade into evening, and we eventually abandoned our exploration and retired to Angon's humble but comfortable apartments, where a servant received his instructions regarding the evening meal and I went to great lengths to make myself more presentable, somewhat to his amusement. It was with a flutter of trepidation that I answered the door to a light knock and admitted the Lady, who was now dressed in plain garments with her hair loose on her shoulders, and to my mind even more beautiful for it. She greeted me with a radiant smile and entered and we sat for a while making pleasant small talk while we waited for the meal to arrive. I have rarely felt happier, for a day that had started with a measure of trepidation had been unexpectedly and completely transformed into something wonderful.
We did not have long to wait, and the meal when it arrived was once again of a quality and variety that I had rarely enjoyed, and it clearly amused Idhrethil a little to hear me enthuse about it so until Angon quietly reminded her that I had very recently starved in the siege of Northford. She was naturally mortified, and I in turn mortified that she should be on my behalf, and not a little put out with Angon for his intervention. But the moment soon passed and the mood lightened once again as I talked about the books I had seen and especially at the mention of the book which included the devices of both our houses. She was familiar the book too and asked me if I knew Brightwater Vale, to which I was able to answer in the positive. Unlike me she had lived in the Vales until the age of five before the first attacks began, and had clear memories of the house and land there. I described the vale as it now was in detail, grown wild and unkempt, of the ruins of her family home, so similar to those of my own, and of the battles and skirmishes I had fought there. She sat next to me, listening intently with her face full of concern, dark eyes brimming with tears, and it was all I could do not to take her in my arms there and then. Angon too, who could remember all as it had been before the war with Angmar , also sat listening intently, quiet and thoughtful.
I asked Idhrethil if she had lived long in Northford after her family were forced to flee the Vales. "For a few years" she replied "but like many my family were impoverished without the income from their lands, and when I was eleven years old I was sent south to live with relatives here in Lastbridge, and my parents joined me a year later. But I will always be a child of the North, for like you that is where I belong". She continued, speaking of her early marriage to a much older Lord with holdings on the west bank of the river, a marriage that was expedient rather than loving, though she spoke of him kindly. He went north with the King as one of his personal guard, and fought at the battle of the northern plain and perished there, and she was left a widow at the tender age of nineteen. Her husband's estate passed to his brother by custom, leaving her empty handed, but in any event those lands were soon abandoned when their defence could no longer be guaranteed. Fortunately her husband had been close to the King and he took pity on her situation, giving her the position of Companion to the Princess, and it was the role she had fulfilled dutifully ever since. I asked her if she thought she would marry again, instantly regretting the foolish question as soon as I had uttered it, but she did not seem put out and replied that she would if the right man could be found. For the Princess would soon be married again, and would no longer have need for a companion.
"Now it is your turn" she said smiling, "tell me your tale, for our good friend Angon here has often mentioned you, and spoken of you with pride and love". So I began my tale with the story of my childhood, the death of my father and then my grandfather, and finally the murder of the rest of my family by Fodric, and my delivery to the keep into Angon's care as a castle rat. She knew of Fodric, saying that he was often at court these days, and that he was a vile at hateful man, always scheming and wheedling, and did not balk when I told her of my vow of revenge upon him. Angon too concurred. "He has risen high indeed from his days driving wagons for your father, and is all the worse for it. I for one hope you exact your due from him, but be very careful, for it will not be fair exchange to pay for his life with your own". I assured him that I had already weighed the matter carefully and would wait patiently until the opportunity arose, having been thwarted several times already. The mention of him sharpened the old hatred again, which had been blunted by more recent preoccupations, and I vowed yet again to avenge myself on him. I had killed an unarmed man of his ilk only a few days before, and knew I could do so again without the slightest compunction. I would just need the right circumstances and good fortune, and was sure they would come my way eventually.
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.