Brushing off the last of the dried leaves, Eruviel’s pale hand lingered on the cold stone. “They are all here?”
Standing several yards behind her, Peldirion nodded. “Most of them. There were a few that were never found, and a few who’s bodies were asked for by their families. Everyone listed there is here, though.”
Her fingers slowly traced the smooth curve of the lettering. With honor we place this stone in remembrance of those who gave their lives in defense of Gondor. Heavy-hearted, we lay to rest those of the Dreadward Tribunal who are listed below. Adrovorn Calaer of Pelargir, Mirthrost of Minas Tirith, Rhuniki of Ered Luin . . . . And so the list continued.
“Mother refused to let them put down ‘Aranduin’.”
Eruviel’s mouth curved up with a small, sad smile. “He never wanted to be buried under a rock.”
Peldirion chuffed out an amused breath. “I assume he would have preferred something grand that included fire.”
Wiping at her eyes, Eruviel nodded. “He wouldn’t care now, though.”
A silence settled in, and Eruviel traced her fingers over his name again. “Thank you. Thank you for letting me come back,” she whispered as more tears came.
“Nothing. I am just mumbling,” she said in a more audible tone. It was the last piece. It’s been about a year since we last spoke. You were right, you know. Though, you usually were. I would have missed so much if I had stayed . . . .
More silence passed. “He spoke well of you.”
Rising to her feet, Eruviel took a deep breath. Her hand falling away from the stone, she pulled his halberd out of it’s resting place in the polished foundation. “I’d hope he would have,” she responded with a soft chuckle.
His brows furrowed, Peldirion gave her a confused look. “What are you doing?”
Approaching the young captain, Eruviel set the spiked end in the ground before him. “Take it.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head. “I cannot wield my brother’s weapon.”
The stern man stood a little straighter as the Elf’s voice grew uncommonly serious. “As his widow, I am giving this to you. You have his ring, now take his weapon. Adrovorn hated waste. If you cannot wield it, find someone worthy of it.”
He seemed suddenly unsure in her presence as her unblinking gaze fixed on him. Taking a deep breath, he finally accepted the halberd. “It’s heavy.”
A small smile sparked back to life at the corners of her mouth. “It’s the weight of responsibility.”
A light chuckle escaped him. “Hell, you sound like him.”
“Like-minds,” she added with a kind smile. Then she smelled it . . . felt it . . . . Putting her hand on Peldirion’s arm, Eruviel looked around.
Peldirion tensed, and followed her gaze. “What is it?”
“Smoke.” Eruviel pointed to where fresh wisps of smoke rose in the distance.
Giving a displeased grunt, Peldirion marched over to his horse and stepped up into the saddle. “The carravan. We need to go.”
Already in motion, Eruviel gave the grave one last, fond smile before hopping up onto her own horse. “I’m not fully recovered yet, or I’d suggest we check it out ourselves.”
Nodding curtly, Peldirion wheeled his steed around. “Then to Arnach. We will see if they have news before we get your friends. I’d like to see if they are as good in a fight as you say.”
~ ~ ~ * * * ~ ~ ~
“I am early. You merely needed me sooner, sir.”
Turning a corner, Peldirion led Halethon down a long corridor. “Mind being my orderly till the end of the week?”
“You’re demoting me?”
The men exchanged amused glances, and descended down a dimly lit stair. “Think of it as a vacation.”
Halethon snorted. “Thanks a lot. The men won’t say it, but they miss you on the field.”
Peldirion grunted. “Then I won’t say that it’s good to be missed.”
“You leave, and they suddenly realize how much easier everything was with you keeping it a well-oiled machine.”
Motioning to another set of stairs, Peldirion clasped his hands behind his back. “They should remain a well-oiled machine with me gone.”
“Oh, they do,” said Halethon grimly, “but it’s rough when your temporary replacement wants to make it into his own, less efficient machine.”
“That should make things much smoother when I return.”
“Will you, sir?” asked Halethon as if the prospect had weighed upon him.
“I will perish if I am kept in this tomb much longer.”
“It is such a lovely tomb, though.” Halethon smirked as Peldirion shot him an unamused glance. “Speaking of tombs, this place might as well be one. This the dungeon?”
Peldirion nodded. “He’s just up here.”
The main dungeon lined with cells was a dim space, lit only by lanterns on the center posts. It was clean, though. Cleaner even than it had been before Peldirion’s arrival.
“You mean to postpone the trial, then?” asked Halethon quietly.
“I do,” said Peldirion with a curt nod. “With the reinforcements only four days away, that means Laergultor, much to his delight, actually, will be tried by his countrymen. It also means I don’t have to put up with another inquisition by the Wayfarers.”
A chuckle from Halethon echoed down the hall. “What, you don’t like them, sir?”
“I like some of them. The Rohir, and the Dalish man in particular. I would make them officer’s in a heartbeat if they were in our army. I thank the Valar some of the others aren’t soldiers. I don’t have time for troops that can’t take orders. It’s a wonder more of them haven’t died.”
Halethon’s retort was cut short when Peldirion turned to stand before a particular cell. “So, this is the corsair.” Nodding to the furious-looking man, Halethon greeted him in his own tongue. He had not yet finished the greeting when the corsair lept to his feet and began shouting. “He . . . says you are men of dishonor. He was promised his freedom in exchange for information.”
Peldirion smirked, and stepped closer to the bars. “Tell him he will get his freedom.”
Halethon motioned to the corsair, and the two exchanged a few short words. “He wonders why he should believe you now.”
“Tell him I never gave my word to free him to begin with. I am offering him a new deal.”
Halethon arched a brow, and relayed the message to the Haradrim. The prisoner seemed surprised, but still distrustful. “He wants to know the deal first, before he says anything.”
“Tell him I want him to stand trial,” Peldirion said, looking the corsair in the eyes, “as a witness against the old man, Laergultor. I want him to tell what he told us earlier on the road, and anything else he man know about the unfortunate situation.”
Nodding, Halethon spoke to the corsair for a moment, and exchanged a short conversation. Frowning, the prisoner’s shoulder’s relaxed, and he nodded, looking right back at Peldirion. “He says you surprise him. Did you intend for this by bringing him here?”
“He says ‘yes. If you will give him his freedom, he will stand as witness.”
“There is more, though. Once freed, he will not rejoin his countrymen in the fight. He will be given enough provisions to get him as far south as the first Haradic city. Tell him that if I ever see him again, his life is forfeit.”
Looking back to the corsair, Halethon once again translated. The Hardrim smirked, and offered Peldirion a slight bow. “He said he looks forward to not disappointing you.”