Peldirion

Anecdotes: Where We Are

The glow of a new dawn crept over the wooden beams of the ceiling. It was several minutes of staring up at the warm hues before Jade fully realized that she was awake. For a split second she thought she might have been back in Bree-land, with Drew’s arm draped over her, but then the strong arm reflexively pulled her closer and she remembered.

Turning her head she watched Hazim as he slept, his dark hair tossed over their pillows. For several minutes she listened to him breathing, as well as the occasional stirring of Rafi elsewhere in the room. Thoughts filtered through her mind as she savored the heat that seeped from Hazim’s skin into her own. Regret for the pained look on Drew’s face, for the anger on Sadie’s. She missed Dorsett, and Jo fiercely. And Drew. In truth the wondering had come often in the early hours of the day. Would she regret it someday? Leaving a loving husband, and a quiet, secure home? She thought of the few friends she had, and the small vineyard behind the house. Of the flower bushes that hid her failures.

Careful not to disturb her lover, Jade untangled herself from Hazim and the sheets. The room she and the two brothers shared was simple, and modest, and, most importantly, cheap. Cheap enough for them to live comfortably till they got their footing in the city.

Quick to wash and dress for work, Jade regarded herself in the mirror as the grey light of morning took on a dull, fiery hue that filled the room. Yes, there were things she missed. Selfish decisions that made her question herself. But then a warm sea breeze stole past the curtains to pull at the fabric of  her dress, tease through her hair, and blow away her doubts. Jade drew in a deep breath, and a confident, impish smirk curled up the corners of her mouth.

Turning back to the bed as the tall fighter stirred, Jade stooped to press a soft kiss to his neck. His smell and warmth was almost enough to make her stay, but she pulled herself away and fixed the blanked over Rafi before silently stealing out the door. The sounds of Dol Amroth filled her ears before she even reached the street, and beyond the arch of the exit the glimmer of the nearby sea reflected in her blue eyes. Yes, this was where she was supposed to be.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“You did what?!”

Feira winced as Nellie gaped in disapproval. “Please do not give me that look.”

“Oh, I will!” Nellie proclaimed huffily, tossing her brunette locks over her shoulder as the two maids browsed over the selection of fish at the docks. “I can’t believe you!”

Feira rolled her eyes and then gave the merchant a charming smile as she selected a fat salmon for purchase. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Uh, say yes? He’s gorgeous! And owns his own business, and is an actual gentleman,” Nellie griped, spelling it out for her friend with a hand set firmly on her hip. “You know, for as smart at you are, you can be an absolute idiot!”

“What? Because I know how to say ‘no’ to men and you don’t?” Feira retorted smoothly with no small amount of sass.

Nellie gasped in offense, but had no other response because, well, it was the truth. “That is not the point, missy, and you know it. Uugh, and I could have bought a new dress and gotten free treats, too,” she added with a pout as she watched her friend pay for the fish, and exchange knowing smirks with the grizzled but kindly-looking fisherman.

Fiera turned and motioned for Nellie to lead the way down the row of busy merchant stalls. “I am so sorry, Nells, that I am not getting married for your benefit,” she teased.

Nellie jutted out her lower lip in a disgruntled pout at Feira before checking her shopping list. “Why couldn’t you just do it for the money? And you know, since it’s so important, you could have at least tried to love him. You have to get over that silly sailor someday.”

Feira brushed golden strands of hair out of her eyes and cast a glance to the nearby sails at the docks. “Maybe, but Berest deserves someone who does love him, not someone who might.”

Exhaling a long-suffering sigh, Nellie hooked an arm with Feira’s and led her to another stall. “And maybe you’ll be an old maid and give all your pennies away to those little runts you tutor. Or, perhaps I should give that boy — Sully? Sally?”

“Master Sellion?”

“Yes!” Nellie snapped her fingers and pranced several steps. “Perhaps I should give him pointers on how to turn your head.”

Feira scowled at Nellie. “My students are not runts, Sellion and I are just friends, and you are impossible.”

Nellie giggled and squeezed Feira’s arm before dragging her another way, distracted by displays of Haradic jewelry. “I know!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The young recruit dashed in, so sure that his practice sword would find it’s mark. Peldirion had made the young man he sparred with work to get an opening, and waited as he took the bait. Then, without hesitation or mercy, batted away the driving wooden blade, and swung his free arm in to knock the man off of his feet.

“Good! Your form has improved,” he said, expression stern as he offered a hand down to his gasping opponent. “Faster on the draw, and if you get knocked down, roll with it. I may not deal the finishing blow, but your enemy will.”

The training room had filled with young guardsmen eager to serve a new Gondor, and they watched with rapt attention. The Lord Calaer’s morning training sessions were known for being brutal, but every young man at the garrison was up each morning, eager to learn and prove their worth. The fit private stood at attention despite his struggling to regain his breath.

Peldirion looked back to his audience and was about to select two men for the next demonstration when the sight of Halethon in the near hall caught his attention. “Captain Matteson! Run the men through their paces.” One of the officers off to the side strode in and barked to the room as the men began to pair up.

“Woe to the fool who dares attack Pelargir,” said Halethon with a smirk as his friend drew near.

Peldirion’s eyes narrowed to show his amusement and fit on his tunic as he joined him. “Let us hope these lads do not have to see war so close to home again,” he huffed in response as he held out a hand to accept the sealed scroll Halethon offered up to him. His friend turning his wheeled chair, the two began to slowly walk down the hall to the terrace that overlooked the courtyard of the garrison. “Do you know how she is this morning?”

“I did not hear much, but I think your beloved had her breakfast in bed.” There was silence for several seconds, and it prompted Halethon to look up and read Peldirion’s frown. “Pel, she is well,” he assured quietly. “Morning sickness is common.”

Peldirion grunted, and kept his focus on the letter that was suddenly vastly insignificant. “What do you think?”

Halethon’s gaze narrowed as he watched his friend. “I think a lot of things.”

“Do you think it is a boy?”

“Possibly.”

“… What if it is a girl?”

Halethon blinked, and suddenly leaned his head back as he laughed. “Then you will be hopelessly head over heels for two women! You’re going to be the most ridiculously adorable father. Seriously. I don’t know if your men will fear you less or more after!”

Peldirion’s hardened expression cracked faintly, and only Halethon could see just how soft of a look it really was. “You think so?”

“By Ulmo,” Halethon huffed with a grin. “If you start crying on me I swear I will punch you!”

“I never cry,” Peldirion retorted.

“Horse shit.” Halethon swatted at Peldirion’s arm before turning to wheel himself away. “You’ll do great. Now stop grumping all over the place. We have work to do.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A log in the fire popped, sending a shower of sparks up into the wide chimney. A thick quilt draped over her, a steaming mug of cider rested on the end table, and Fletch slept, snoring softly on Eruviel’s bare feet. It took her a good while to fully concentrate on her studies. The common room of her little home in Durrow still echoed with the memory of laughter, and smelled of beef stew, buttered rolls, and winterberry pie. Even the feel of his final parting kiss lingered, warming her fair cheeks.

But soon enough Eruviel’s emerald gaze was fixed on the old tome as she studied her brother’s notes by fire and candlelight. There was nothing new for her to find, but still she read, possibly to glean what knowledge she lacked, and also out of hope that she could find something else to help the young girl.

She found it again. The recounting of similar cases. And if she thought about it, even from across Ruby Lake, she could faintly sense it. She had not told Eirikr, but it frightened her at first, the fear in Jaemy’s eyes when their hands first touched. The young girl’s pained, confused cries. At the same time that it broke her heart, a fury like blinding fire burned in her veins towards the people that had harmed the child. But she was with Varidia, and in truth, Eruviel could think of no better place for Jaemy’s sake. Both for herself and for her guardian.

Sighing softly, Eruviel closed the tome. One hand tracing over the intricate designs in the leather cover, her other reached to first take up the letter from Idlric, and then the hot mug to sip from. The warmth seeped through her, and the Elf settled further beneath the massive blanket. As prepared as she worked to be for the worst, Eruviel knew that the poor girl was getting the best medicine and magic she could. The logs in the fireplace popped again, and Eruviel watched the flames dance in the hearth. Very few things… if anything in the world were as powerful as true kindness and love freely given. Perhaps they were meant to rescue the young one. Then again, perhaps Varidia and even Durrow were simply the Hunter’s tools to guide Jaemy to an understanding that she could, indeed, save herself.

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Anecdotes: Everything We Love

It had been a morning packed with deliveries for twitterpated lovers and husbands that had forgotten. Ahiga’s hidden purse was twice as fat as usual. As much as he hated being at the beck and call for people who couldn’t just deliver worthless parcels and drivel themselves, he would not complain about the extra coin he raked in on these silly little holidays.

Sitting on a stone banister, the young man shoved his hair out of his eyes and took a bite of the steaming potato that was his lunch. He watched the Bree-landers below scurry to and fro with more haste than usual, buying overpriced candies, gaudy jewelry, and every passably limp flower in sight. It seemed foolish to him. A waste of resources on a day fabricated to boost the egos of the insignificant and lie about emotions that were good for nothing. 

Scoffing, he hopped down from his perch and shoved a hand into his pocket. Their happy chatter was beginning to piss him off. He’d go… to the garden. Yes, the garden. And even if he wasn’t there, at least Ahiga’d get some damned peace and quiet.

—–

By the time he reached the top of the fourth flight of stairs, Peldirion had a newfound respect for the servants. Careful not to jostle the tea, he bore the tray arrayed with steaming plates of flat cakes, fruit, eggs and Valar knew what else was hidden beneath the silver dome (though it smelled suspiciously of toast and bacon).

Then there was the envelope. His surprise that he’d worked on for two months. That alone tempted him to leave the food and sprint down the private hall to wake her. But the tall, proud man walked calmly and with purpose, dismissing the attending servant before he quietly slipped into the suite.

The grand room was still, the only light coming from the hearth that added to a pale, pre-dawn glow from the windows. Resting the aromatic tray on the bench at the foot of the bed he walked around to her side. 

How soundly she slept. A part of him pulled away, not wishing to disturb his slumbering wife. Lalaith. Everything he loved, good that he did not deserve, yet there she was. Peldirion swallowed hard, the swelling of adoration in his chest not fading as he brushed back a soft curl of black hair and stopped to kiss her cheek. 

“Rise and shine, my love.”

Be So Cruel

“Still working?”

Peldirion did not look up from his writing. “I am always working,” he responded mildly.

Lothiel watched him from the door of his study, her presence an affront to the privacy of the entire house. “Not always. I saw you on a walk with Halethon earlier. It is kind of you to look after him.”

“He is my friend, Miss Lothiel. Such loyalty is not uncommon.” Peldirion’s dark gaze lifted from his papers, giving her a harsh, pointed look.

The woman shrugged off the look, and stepped inside the room. “He deserves the best, of course, for giving so much in the name of our freedom.”

“I will extend your compliments to him, then, as well as your sudden adoption of patriotism.” As she casually glanced about, Peldirion noted how carefully she had prepared herself. Everything was meant to appeal to him, from the simple, flattering cut of her dress, the color, and the way she stood to encourage any gaze that found her to wander. Then there was the lack of customary blood red on her lips,  and the way her dark blonde hair, woven in an intricate braid, caught the light. Things he pined for ten years ago and would have had him sweeping her off her feet. Things on her that, since then, had repulsed him.

“Do not make fun. War will make patriots of us all. But not you… You’re a hero for saving him.”

Sighing heavily, Peldirion closed his ledger with a definitive thud. “What do you want, Lothiel?”

She drifted in like an independent breeze, toying with the sash of her dress. “I want to know why I am being forced to leave.”

“You know why,” he replied, as if softly reprimanding a child. “You are a widow, and it is improper that you remain here.”

She was suddenly beside him, leaning against the straight edge of the heavy desk. “It doesn’t have to be,” she said quietly. “This is my home, Peldirion. I am meant to be here. And we…”

He had to give her credit for the effort. She was a lovely woman, to be sure, but it took every effor to not to berate her and have her sent from his sight. “We what, Miss Lothiel? Whatever we once had is long dead.”

A hurt expression masked her frustration. “Is it? I am still me, Peldirion. You would leave me destitute, and alone? Surely you would not be so cruel as to abandon your brother’s wife… a woman who loves you, to the world?”

Pushing back his chair, Peldirion rose to his feet. He did not touch her, but he hovered, ever so close,  dark blue eyes capturing Lothiel’s as he peered down at her. She responded just as he expected, her breath catching, and heat flooding her cheeks. “My dear lady, I do not believe you ever loved me, and if I were to pursue my brother’s wife if would be Adrovorn’s.”

Lothiel started out of the trace he had held her in, and scoffed. “That northern witch?”

“She outshines you in every way,” he replied coolly, ever so carefully tucking a stray strand of hair behind her ear. “She is not a parvenu, and holds her own land and titles by right. But I doubt my station and accomplishments would be enough to even tempt her.”

Lothiel blinked in surprise. She probably only carried a promissory note. She drew a breath to speak in her defense, but had no chance to as he continued. “No, I have made other arrangements for my marriage. You can assure my mother of that. You will leave this house, as is proper, and stay with your family. The arrangements have been made and your dowry has been returned to your father.”

Her control snapped, and Lothiel recoiled a step from him. “How dare you do so without my consent!” she shouted.

“I do not need your consent.”

“So what? You think being Vice Consul gives you the right to –”

“Miss Lothiel, it gives me every right, though I do not need its position to give me authority in such matters,” said Peldirion calmly, stepping forward as he motioned to the office door.

Herded out from behind the desk, Lothiel scrambled for a response, advancing back to him as she gazed up with a sorrowful expression. “Is this how it ends, then? You banishing me because you cannot find it in your heart to forgive?!”

He caught her hands as they reached for him, and trapped her with a gaze that made her pull back. He did not let her. So many hateful, perfectly crafted words rose in his mind, and he wanted, more than almost anything, to destroy her. Lothiel struggled only for a second and was caught completely by surprise when he lifted one of her hands up to his lips.

“There is something….”Peldirion began, his breath warm against the skin of her knuckles. He hesitated, allowing a tormented shadow to pass over his hardened features. It was almost cruel… No, it was, and it was perfect. 

“What?” she breathed in response, hope kindling in her eyes.

Lowering her hand, Peldirion kept the other as he slowly escorted her to the door of his office. “Go to your father’s. For now. In about a month I will be hosting a gala here, and as of yet do not have anyone in the city to accompany me.” He stopped at the door, gently releasing her before offering a small bow. “There are some important people you should meet. It would… mean a great deal to me if you would attend.”

“I… I would be honored to, my lord,” she said quietly, triumphantly, caught hook, line, and sinker as she curtsied.

The smile lines that tugged at the corners of his eyes were genuine. “Splendid. Till then, Lady Lothiel.”

Our Son

Belegorn lounged back in his seat along the wall in the main council chamber. All the paperwork had been signed by the proper parties, notarized, and the older man gave a sigh of relief as he watched his only remaining son deal with the noblemen in his stead.

No more games aside from those he chose, no more weighing the balance of power that had scattered like leaves since the corsairs had attacked the city. His things at the estate were packed, and his wife was in an enraged tizzy, trying to undo what could not be undone. Life was good.

One of the lords shouted, and Belegorn did not need to look up to know that it was Lord Bentley. Peldirion would have his hands full with that one, but he worried little. He had had his doubts, but his son handled the bickering and power plays better than anticipated. Though Belegorn had often caught him lost in thought since returning home hale and mostly whole, a new energy drove the boy. He worked every waking hour, and his new steward worked when he slept.

Before returning from Minas Tirith and calling the meeting, Peldirion had already made deals and new alliances with the lords overseeing the rebuilding, and the great harbor, bringing them into the fold. One way or another he had ensured that all the other lords had no choice but to cooperate. One by one he played them, and most of them knew it. Thirty of the fourty-seven main houses were now in the young Captain’s camp, as well as nineteen of the lesser houses who supported the others. Belegorn chuckled lowly as the more agreeable lords suddenly found courage to stand up to the few who could care less if the city united. On top of that, half of the houses were indebted to the young man for either giving the sons they pretended not to want honorable deaths, or returned them to their families alive and (mostly) whole.

Peldirion was in the middle of listening to one of the lords empty threats when Gwaeldis stepped in a side entrance. She slammed the door shut, and a number if the nobles shot the stocky woman mixed looks, but the new Lord Calaer did not do so much as acknowledge her presence.

“Hello, wife.”

Gwaeldis stopped beside him, glaring, and sniffed with a superior lift of her chin. “Call me that again, and I will divorce you.”

“Oh, come now, dear. You know you never would.”

“I may try my luck. You cannot seriously be going through with this!” Her face turned red, though not so quite as red as when her son had destroyed years of her plotting the day he had returned home. By Emeleth, he loved that boy.

Belegorn smiled pleasantly up at her. “I already have. It is done.”

“You… You traitor! How could you do this to me?! I had plans –”

“Poorly made plans,” replied the old lord calmly as he looked back to the meeting still taking place.

Your son will ruin everything!”

Our son will remake this House that you were slowly tearing apart. I must say though, wife, that I am impressed how tactfully you stole my barge from me. Is Lord Obrech enjoying it?”

Too flustered, she sat with an attempt at elegance in the chair next to him. “Lothiel wishes to speak with your son when he is done here.”

Belegorn grunted. “You mean you and her have arranged to corner him?”

Gwaeldis huffed, feigning offense. “So how long do we have? Surely the ungrateful boy will leave us destitute.”

“You do not deserve my son,” replied Belegorn, chuckling. “He and I have it all arranged. The villa north of the city is ours, and on top of keeping it fully staffed we will be receiving a biannual allowance for expenditure.”

“An… an allowance?!” she shrieked. The lords looked to her again, and Belegorn could have sworn he’d seen a smirk flicker across his son’s face.

“It is called retirement, Gwaeldy. It will be a nice change of pace for us.”

She trembled like an angry hen fluffing up her feathers. How he loved pissing her off.

“Now, kiss me, wife, and run along home to get your things packed. We start moving tomorrow.”

Her eyes that he had at one time likened to that of a gentle doe fixed on him as if willing him to burst into flames. The former Lady of House Calaer, her reputation having slowly fallen into ruin, dared not refuse Belegorn before nearly every noble of the city. Gwaeldis pecked a quick, proud kiss against his lips, and pivoted to scuttle from the chamber.

Anecdotes: What We’ve Done

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Twenty-three men. A hundred and four had joined him at Minas Tirith, and now twenty-three was all that remained of the 6th, excluding Peldirion. By now they had gone to set up camp, but he remained, an unmoving remnant before the fresh graves that had joined the pillar standing in memory of his brother and friends.

You are in good company.

He had put the halberd back in it’s resting place, and only memory told him that the stained silk ribbon tied at it’s neck had once been emerald green. The elf had been right. He had fought harder with it in his hands, and more than once the long weapon had saved his life. Now he returned it, one of the many burdens he had bore now lifted.

It had begun with Halethon, then with Lalaith, and now the last ten years and past two months came slowly crashing down on him. She had made it so much more difficult to keep it all in. Little by little his Arien had pieced him back together. Every soft touch and tender word was salve to an open wound, and suddenly he could grieve. It hurt far worse than Peldirion had ever anticipated, the ache tearing through his chest as the miles between them grew. Hot tears poured down his face in the dark, and he did not move as Ferris stopped several paces behind him.

“He’ll take care of them.”

Peldirion slowly nodded. Yes, they were in far better hands now.

“S-Sir?”

He did not respond.

“Camp has been set up, Sir.”

Still, the young man got nothing but silence.

“I… W-Would — Should I bring your effects here for you?”

It wasn’t the same. Not without Halethon, but he kept telling himself that the boy would learn, and Halethon would return. “No,” he said, his low voice unwaivering, not bothering to wipe his eyes. “Bring food for you and I to my tent. We have work that needs done.”

Hands clasped firmly behind his back, the Captain pivoted on his heel and marched away, mounds of fresh earth marking the graves watching him as he walked away.

Six more months. Only six more months….

 

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She’d left first, shaking bits of spring grass from her short hair that was in desperate need of a trim. Strolling around the block had proven to be just enough time for Jade’s companion to depart, and she pocketed the little pouch of silver as she slipped back into the dimly-lit garden. Ignoring the patch of disturbed grass in a shadowy corner, Jade strolled over to the side where the stone wall was coated with vines boasting of little white flowers.

It smelled better than she had remembered. Stretching out on the low stone wall, Jade cushioned her hands beneath her head, and let the sweet smell of vanilla roll over her. It was funny, people and what they would do. Had it really been a year? He’d prevented her from falling, propelling her towards a silly supper party where she’d found ghosts, and trouble, and somehow her heart. They had shared a small smile at the funeral, and perhaps that was all that was really needed.

Utterly ridiculous.

Smirking, she pulled the thin gold chain she wore up and over her head. Carefully extracting the ring from it’s hold, she slipped the gold band onto her finger and studied it on her hand in the lamp-light. How difficult the farmer made things. How strange, how much she like it. Work had began to loose it’s luster because of him. Her regular customers became unsatisfying, and instead of indulging in the occasional tryst, she had to tell them one by one (with a foreign sense of relief and girlish anticipation), that things had to end.

Sighing, Jade sat up and carefully uprooted a small sprout of the sweet-smelling vine to take with her. She’d be staying at the Mantle tonight. She didn’t want to be, but told herself to enjoy it while it lasted.

 

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Fletch lounged on the bed, head resting on his paws as he watched Eruviel put away her things. Aside from the travel pack and old quiver full of new arrows she’d bought from a vendor she didn’t know, the room felt strange. Everything was tidied and in it’s proper place. The bed was made, downy pillows neatly piled at the head of the bed, her weapons hung from pegs on the wall aside from her bow that lay unstrung on the bench by the foot-board, and a fistful of flowers and grass (courtesy of Eboric) filled the little vase sitting on her mantle.

Removing the blue agate pendant from where it hung around her neck, she carefully laid it to rest in the crystal box on her nightstand. Raenarcam and Kemendin both insisting anything of sentiment be left behind, she gladly replaced nearly all of her gear, and remembering the memory she had witnessed, Eruviel replaced the rest as well, just to be safe. Bow from Milloth, swords from Rainion, bracers from Raen, daggers from Myrthrost, shirt from Esgaroth….

Her door locked just in case Eboric woke and decided to try and wander into her room, she sat on the rug in her skin, Fletch hopping down to stretch out beside her. Raen had cut her hair. All the lovely silver strands. Eruviel was not willing to make such a sacrifice. With care she wove her long, soft waves up into a tight bun that would be out of sight and out of mind.

“You be good, all right? No running about Durrow causing trouble while I’m away,” she muttered softly, scratching the growing pup behind his ears.

Fletch made a soft grumble in understanding. Licking her hand, he rolled over onto his side to beg for more pets.

 

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“Good evening… May I help you?” Having only just gotten home after putting in extra hours, Feira looked out into the waning evening light at the man who stood on the stoop.

His face paled for a moment, looking at her as if he was seeing a ghost. A minute passed before the middle-aged man cleared his throat. “You’ve grown up. I didn’t — That is… Is Torrin home?” He fidgeted, trying hard not to look anxious. The edges of his eyes looked blood-shot, and something about him, perhaps the smell of burnt, syrupy smoke that lingered about him or the strangely familiar crook of the bridge of his nose, made her feel uneasy.

Sorry, Faerie. Been a long day. If anyone comes by asking for me, I’m not home.

“I — I’m sorry, sir, but he is not,” she replied, careful not to move to block his view as he peered past her into the small house. “I can tell him you called though, mister….”

The man swallowed, and Feira resisted squirming under his gaze as he eyed her. “Just tell him a friend stopped by, and that we’ll come collecting in two months.”

Feira nodded, the stiffness that gripped her joints aiding her in not closing the door too fast. She waited, clinging to the door handle as she listened to the man’s retreating footsteps. Then she remembered to breathe. Sinking down in the corner behind the door, Feira pressed a trembling hand to her mouth to keep back the rising panic. Amber eyes lifted from the dark floor to the ceiling beneath where her brother slept.

What have you done?

New Plans

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The Houses of Healing was as busy as when the army had left. Navigating the halls with a relative familiarity, Peldirion folded the note back up and slipped it safely into the pocket of his tunic.

”Halethon needs to see you.”

He had been sorely disappointed, though not all that surprised, to find his room empty when he had returned from dealing with the twins. Of all the times for them to start a fight…. Peldirion shook his head, and he distracted his thoughts of Halethon with imagining her name filling the blank space below the beautiful script. The way her dark hair tumbled over her shoulders, how years of stress fled before her touch….

And then he was there. Peldirion stared at the offending door for a moment before pushing it open, not bothering to knock. Halethon lay on a bed in the corner across from him, eyes closed and brow furrowed as he focused.

“Still working at trying to move?”

Halethon started, his head jerking back a little as Peldirion’s low voice broke his concentration. “I’ll get it one of these days,” he said quietly. The younger man glanced at Peldirion’s face, then his arm. “Glad to see you’re still in once piece.”

“‘Bout as glad as I am to still be in one,” Peldirion responded, pulling up a chair as he took note of Halethon’s tired features. “You sleep?”

“Hardly. Was getting worried that you wouldn’t…”

Peldirion grunted and adjusted the sling that held his right arm.

Halethon craned his neck to get a better look at the man. Peldirion moved his chair closer. “I’m… I apologize for what I said before.”

“What part?” He didn’t mean for it to sound as harsh as it did, but he wasn’t all that sorry.

Halethon frowned and looked down over his immobile form. “When… For saying it’s a good thing you don’t have any more brothers left for this one to sleep with.”

Peldirion studied the young man, his dark blue eyes nearly black. “You will never compare her to Lothiel. Unless it is to praise her, you will not. Not ever, do you understand me?” There was no warmth in his voice, and he was not sure what angered him more; the fact that someone would stoop so low as to compare Lalaith to Lothiel, or that it had been Halethon who’d said it.

Halethon nodded quickly, his face twisting with regret. “Yes, sir. I understand. I regretted it as soon as I’d said it. Never again. I’m… There is no excuse. I’m sorry.”

A minute passed by in silence. “How were you while I was away?”

Again Halethon’s features twisted. “I don’t… I don’t want to talk about it.”

There was something about that look that pulled at Peldirion’s core. A memory of despair, and after half a lifetime as friends, he understood that fleeting expression.

“You give up on me, and I’ll bring you back and beat you senseless,” said Peldirion gruffly.

Halethon squeezed his eyes shut and nodded. “It felt easier to give up,” he said weakly. “The thought of living life like this….”

“You can’t give up. After everything… You held me up for years. It’s about time I return the favor. I have new plans for you, and those plans won’t be any good without a right-hand man.”

“Well, if I can at least get full use of my arms back…”

“Full use?” Peldirion said, interrupting as he sat up in his seat.

A grin suddenly spread across Halethon’s face, it’s light banishing the gloom that had filled the room moments before. “It’s so faint I sometimes wonder if I’m imagining it. They pinch me though, the healers. Every time they come in they test and I can tell, all the way to my finger tips.”

Relief washed over Peldirion like a wave, and for a moment he wondered if he would start crying. So many bloody emotions in one day would surely be the death of him. “What do they say?”

Halethon rolled his head as if he might have shrugged his shoulders. “It will be a lot of work.”

“We expected that, though. It’s never stopped us before.”

“You can’t work with me all the time, Peldirion. If you do, you won’t have daylight to do anything else.”

Peldirion sniffed and a wry smile lit his features. “You let me worry about that. Ferris will be running my errands from now on so that will help.”

Halethon’s eyebrows rose. “Ferris? Don’t tell him that it might suit him better than a shield, but…” His voice trailed off and an amused smirk replaced the look of confusion. “Did he see…?”

“There was nothing to see,” said Peldirion briskly, shooting Halethon a half-hearted warning glance. “But, yes. Ferris has been, to some extent, assimilated into our little council.

“And what of these new plans? How are you going to get by with a cripple as your right hand?”

Peldirion grinned, and leaned forward to rest his good elbow on his knee. “Where should I start?”

What Happened That Day

“C’mon, Hale! You’re falling behind!”

Halethon made a face and smacked his eight year old legs against the flanks of his pony. “Only ’cause you’re going too fast!”

“Well,” started Peldirion, slowing, Halethon was sure, merely to patronize his distant cousin, “when you lead, you can set the pace.”

“But you ALWAYS lead! And we always go play at the old ruins,” Halethon grumbled.

“Oh, don’t pout like a girl,” Peldirion jabbed. “It’s our castle!” he exclaimed, stretching his lanky, twelve year old arms out wide as if to embrace the shoreline, and the broken spire rising from beyond the next hill. “Adrovorn said he will convince father to buy it for me whenever he comes home.”

Halethon looked over to his dark-haired cousin, and grinned. “You couldn’t make him let you go with?”

It was Peldirion’s turn to pout. “No. And Lothiel says he’ll probably find a tribe of wild people, marry a savage girl, and never come home.”

“Lothiel’s stupid,” said Halethon flatly.

Peldirion reached over to punch him on the arm. “Shut up!”

The two boys rode in silence till they crested the hill nearest their ruined destination. “Did you mean it?” asked Halethon suddenly.

Peldirion frowned. “Mean what?”

Idiot. “About it being our castle?”

“Shit. Of course I did!”

“Ass. Don’t say ‘shit’.”

“Shit, shit, shit. And don’t call me that, or it’s just my castle,” said Peldirion without a scrap of conviction.

Halethon smirked. “You’d be bored without me, admit it. And I always kill more orcs than you.”

Peldirion huffed. “I’m starting page work soon. We won’t be able to do this much.”

“Can I go with you?”

“What?”

“I wanna go with you,” said Halethon with a stubborn set to his jaw. “You’re older so you can get started first, but… if it’s our castle, and we have to kill all the orcs in it first, I can’t be in someone else’s army.”

A grin spread across Peldirion’s face. “You won’t be. I promise.”

Relief spread across Halethon’s face, and he drew his wooden sword from his belt. “Last one to kill the fat orc gives up his lunch!” the boy cried, spurring his pony forward into a run, his imagination bringing shadowy beasts to life beneath the ruined arches. “For the King!”

“For the King!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A surging wave of silver and blue, they thundered out of the broken gate. How great they seemed in that moment after a day of darkness; a vanguard of Gondorian might and resolve. Halethon rode closely behind Peldirion as their contingent of Pelargir soldiers took the Swan Knight’s right flank. Their numbers melded with those of the Rohirrim, and the sea and the earth smashed into the lines of the enemy, their wave and zeal neither cresting nor falling.

His heart pounded in his chest to the drumming of his horse’s hooves. They could win! A brother to his left, a Rohir to his right, and Peldirion charging ahead of him, halberd gleaming in the morning light he knew. Drive them to the river! Excitement coursed through Halethon. This was the Gondor he dreamt of! This was the Gondor Peldirion talked about and aimed for. Mighty men fighting along side their allies, spurred on by the rising sun to retake their lands for the glory of their people. It was idealistic at best, and in the past months something of dreams, but now… NOW.

Peldirion shouted a command and the line of mounted Pelargir soldiers turned in a practiced formation, sweeping a few Rohirrim along with them to devour a line of orcs so that the Prince’s knights would not be hindered from that flank. They all followed him, their swords raising as his did, and half of the hope and fear in their hearts came from him as well. They were unwanted sons, either though scandal, found to be of little worth to other commanders, or simply too far down the line of succession. Granted by the unfortunate end of Peldirion’s eldest brother he had found them, or they had begged him for a chance, one chance to prove their worth and be more than the lot in life that had been cast for them.

On and on they fought, till suddenly new drums pounded the ground of the battlefield. Mûmakil. Enormous beasts, they ran into the frey, crushing and throwing dozens with every stride. What was an ordered assault turned into a chaotic tide of men fleeing from the Mûmakil’s paths and attacking groups of orcs. Wheeling his mount to one side, Halethon was nearly thrown from his horse as a soldier crashed into him. Fresh fear gripped his throat as one of the giant animals tore through a line of Rohirrim and Swan Knights.

What hope had built in him slowly began to turn. He didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t! Turning back around Halethon went in search of Peldirion but, instead of seeing his Captain, an orc dove over the head of Halethon’s horse, and tackled him to the ground. His leg caught for a moment in the stirrup, and something pulled, sending hot pain up his leg, but there was no crack, and no time to think on it. His foot falling free and horse bolting away, Halethon grappled with the snarling creature.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“The river! Black sails!”

Halethon cut down an evil man and turned to look to the river. He had lost him in the chaos. Many of his comrades had been found alive and dead, but not Peldirion. Not anywhere. At the cry that there were ships, he stopped dead in his tracks. What now? Before they might have won by sacrificing every man, but with the aid of Corsairs, how could they ever hope to drive them back?

Pelargir. What had they done to her? To their castle? Anger ignited, mixing with the despair that washed over him. Where was Peldirion? At least they could die together, brothers hewing apart the monsters that more than likely saw to the ruin of what was left of their fair city, and with it, years of dreaming. So many dreams, all burning and drowning in blood.

His knees found the earth, sinking into the dark mud as pain clawed through the muscles of his left leg. So many. Emeleth… Valar… Is this what will become of us? Hailthon wavered, swaying. Soaked in sweat, rainwater, and blood he waited for a passing orc to finish him as black sails filled his vision.

“Get up!”

Halethon blinked, the words distant, echoing in his ears. “Wha –”

Air suddenly rushed back into his lungs as strong hands drug him to his feet. “Get up! Halethon?!”

He blinked, staring in disbelief at Peldirion and maybe two dozen of Pelargir soldiers. By the gods, he looks like death.“S-Sir?”

Peldirion smiled… no, grinned at him. A bright, engulfing expression he had not seen in years. “Don’t give up on me! Halethon, stand up! The king is here!”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It was a battle to rival all others, and none would match it. At least he hoped not. He didn’t understand it, how the Captain could keep going. He had stayed up when the others slept, fought in the worst of, and Halethon could not remember the last time he had seen him eat.

They had fought for the majority of the daylight hours, the sun and brilliant hope brought by the return of the king fueling them. For the first time in hours, it seemed, Halethon stood still in the strange silence and observed the fields. A great wind had swept the rain clouds away, and standing next to the fallen body of a Mûmakil, the man suddenly felt so small. What was he compared to the mighty men that inspired their armies to victory? Against all odds they had somehow won, and it was on the wings of the gods that each new hope arrived.

He was tired. So tired. Sword dragging in his hand, Halethon turned to watch his comrades sweep across the field in search of brothers and friends. One picked a Swan Knight out of the mud, another wept as he embraced a Pelargir soldier long thought lost. Yes, he felt small. Small, and proud to be here among the victorious dead, and triumphant living.

Catching sight of Peldirion, Halethon raised a hand and started towards him. Peldirion rose to his feet, looking over his men with pride. But turning his gaze to Halethon he stopped. Something was wrong.

Fatigue slowing his limbs, he frowned. What was he shouting about? Peldirion had picked up his halberd and was now rushing towards him. Why are you running? What is wrong?

A shot of searing pain like fire exploded though his back. Halethon stumbled, barely aware of the arrows that suddenly flew past him. The world turned red, and he looked down to see a black spear tip protruding from his chest. How had that gotten there? And why… why can’t I move my arms? Breathing became a struggle, and the ground rushed up to meet him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“What is going on?”

“Don’t worry about it. Close your eyes.”

“Why are you carrying me –”

“I said don’t worry about it. Just relax.”

“Peldirion…”

“Yes?”

“Why can’t I feel anything?”

Silence.

“Tell me.”

“Later. For now just rest. We are almost there.”

“I feel cold.”

“A few minutes more, and I’ll get you warmed up.”

“Your eyes…”

“What about them?”

“You never cry. Tell me, damn you.”

“Not now. Not here. I said rest.”

“Is that an order?”

“… yes.”

“Is it bad?”

More silence.

“Don’t lie to me.”

“Just… hold on. We’re almost there.”

Fires That Temper the Soul

lotropeldirion

Ducking his head, Peldirion felt his bones quake as a foul voice ripped through the air. Gritting his teeth as he heard Grond being pulled back for a third swing he caught sight of a few of the men cower then move to flee. Growling, he snatched the first man by the arm and threw him back in line. “Hold!” he bellowed, bashing the cross guard of his sword against his shield as the others fell back into formation. You will not die with your backs to the enemy! The thuderous crash sounded behind him, and Peldirion turned to face the gate. It creaked, groaned… and fell with a deafening clatter.

Here they come.

Orcs clambered into the gaping wound, flinging themselves through the gap, flooding into the courtyard, driven mad to fight. A line turned and charged at the cluster of Pelargir soldiers, raising sword, mace, crossbow, and club. Some of the men of other companies and provinces, overtaken by the dread of the Captain of the Nazgul, turned and fled. “Cowards,” Peldirion muttered, thankful for the sounds and smells of death and fire that ignited his blood. Adjusting his grip on his sword, Peldirion gave a shout, and he, along with several dozen Pelargir soldiers, rushed forward to meet the advancing enemy.

The orcs were mad, fighting even as they died, clinging and tripping up men as they trod over them. A young man, little more than a page, shrieked and fell, kicking at the mouth of a slavering, bleeding orc. Forming a line, the soldiers pressed against the orcs that crashed against their bright shields like black waves. Halethon, fighting to Peldirion’s right, drove back a screeching orc, and the two men served as an anchor to the thin wall of soldiers.

Behind the first line of orcs rose a mountain range. Or so it seemed. Cave trolls, five, eight, perhaps more, thundered through the gate. Some of them did not stop, bowling through the lines like boulders, into the fires beyond. One ugly lout fixed his only good eye upon Peldirion and roared, charging. Wrenching his sword out of an orc, Peldirion turned in time to see the troll face him. Caught up in the rush of battle, he roared back, his voice deep and filled with fury. He dodged past a group of fighters, and ran to meet his foe.

Already, men were dragging bodies back out of the clash to the shadowed edges of the courtyard. Some begged for their mothers, others screamed in agony, dying. The troll raised a spiked club the size of a horse and swung, intent on crushing his prey like a bug. Diving within the reach of the troll, Peldirion sliced out to drag his sword across the creature’s gut. The troll screamed, enraged, though not much slowed, as thick greenish blood oozed from his glutted belly. He flailed his club side to side, sweeping at the bug which dared to bite back. Either too focused on slaying the beast, or blinded by the blood that dripped down his visor, one could not be sure, but as he swung his sword again the the club crashed into Peldirion’s shield, throwing him back like a rag doll.

Time, and light, and gravity seem to shift. The red burning flames took on a cool blue cast, and shadows and light leapt out in contrast. Around the perimeter of the courtyard, a grey shadow flited in and out, hovering over fallen men.

Fighting now to breathe as the wind had been knocked out of him, Peldirion lay stunned, sword arm unable to move from being pinned down by the body of a fallen orc. Gasping, he struggled for a moment before he could wrench his sword arm free. He rolled over onto his shield, chest heaving, and forced himself up to his knees. Yanking the helm from his head, he wiped at his eyes to clear them of the blood when the shadow caught his attention. A grey robe and veil formed a slender silhouette in the shadows, but the image seemed to flicker, as if insubstantial. He stared, still dazed. What tricks of light… she cannot be…. Cool grey light trailed after the ghostly form, as if pale little stars slowly gathered around her.

An orc some distance away had stopped, and paused in his horse eating when he realized something much more delicious was nearby. Manflesh– or more precisely, woman-flesh. The orc snarled and began to stalk over to the grey figure. The woman knelt, caressing the brow of a dying soldier. He stilled, breathing his last, and another star joined the constellation forming about her. She rose and moved to another fallen body, seemingly ignorant of the stalking orc. Wiping again at his eyes, a snarl curled the man’s lips as he caught sight of the orc. Ramming the helmet back onto his head, he snatched up his sword and charged at the fiend.

As Peldirion rose, the figure of the woman flickered out, disappearing. Flames and blood reddened, and time jerked back into full motion. The orc paused at the sight of the strange light-show happening with the slim figure in front of him. Before he could fully regain his senses, he was split straight onto Peldirion’s sword. It died with black blood gushing out of its chest. Nearly stumbling, Peldirion stared at the foul body hanging from his blade. How in the… What in the pit is going on?! Kicking it angrily away he looked around wildy in search of the vanished form. For a moment he saw it, a grey light in the corner of his vision. Whirling about as he hunted for the source of the light a hand grasped his elbow.

“Sir! Sir!” Halethon cried above the chaos, the fear on his face telling that he had seen his commander get tossed by the troll. “Are you all right?!”

Feeling life rush back into him as he fully regained his breath, Peldirion shook his head as the world ceased sounding so distant. “What? Yes. Yes, I’m all right!” He motioned to the wall with his sword. “I will gather the remaining men. See how the Swan Knights are faring up the-”

Suddenly, a blast of cold air and sheer dread blew through the Gate. No more orcs. No more trolls. Something worse. Through the archway rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, and those nearest the gate fled before him. Even on the opposite end of the great court did both men stumble away, whirling around to look to the terror beneath the gateway. But one approached the fallen man. The wizard that had ridden out with the Prince the day before now paced forward on his white steed to oppose the wraith.

As the two spoke and unbidden dread welled in his chest, the grey light flickered again, a few meters to Peldirions left. The man tore his eyes from the scene to look. Halethon saw nothing but the stand-off at the gate.

Lalaith, for surely it was her, knelt, bowed over a dying soldier, her hand raised as if against a great and terrible wind. The image of her even bent and flowed as a banner in a typhoon as she struggled. He did not understand, but a chill ran though his limbs as he saw her ghostly form in the midst of the bodies. She should not be here! Forcing his feet to move, Peldirion rushed towards her. The metal of his knee guards ground against the stone as he dropped to his knees beside her. Half blinded by blood, half by a wave of panic, he quickly brought his shield arm around her, guarding her from the sight of the Black Rider.

Her face blooming with recognition, she suddenly looked to the soldier she knelt over, opened her mouth to cry out….Then she was gone again. Peldirion gaped at the void between him and his shield. Forgetting the terrible conference across the court, frustration and rage began to shadow his features but stopped when he saw the soldier he knelt beside. It was a recruit from Imloth Melui. A man no older than Halethon that had driven Peldirion half mad before the Captain had allowed him to join his ranks. He was a good boy, a strong young man. He was dead. Peldirion’s shoulders sank, his head bowed, and a minute passed before he closed the lad’s eyes and rose once more to his feet.

Looking up, Peldirion saw the Black Rider lift his sword above his head, and flames ran down the blade. The wizard did not move. It was the strangest thing, in that moment, when the sound of a rooster heralded the dawn, and filled the dreadful silence with it’s crow. Peldirion could hear his heart beating in his ears. Horns.

Horns?

Out of the darkness beyond the walls sounded great horns. He knew that sound… It was Rohirrim!

“Lieutenant!” Peldirion boomed, regaining the mask of command as he stode back towards Halethon. “The Prince and his knights!” he called, reminding the man of his orders. Halethon, face alight from the sound of morning, quickly saluted and dashed for the stairs. Peldirion could feel the fire surge back to life in his veins. “There is a war to be won!”

 

(Thank you to Feygil, and Laerlin for plotting and RPing this with me! Taken from in game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

“Till I Wake.”

By the gods, his head hurt. Forcing his eyes open he stared at where his halberd lay embedded in one broken half of the low table. How had it gotten there? And why was the table broken? Blinking did not clear the haze in his vision, and a heavy sigh deflated his chest as he looked to his hands resting in his lap.

Where in the bloody realm was Halethon? The young man was supposed to be back, well, he did not rightly know what time it was, but he should have been back by now. Peldirion had paced half the previous night after his conversation with Laerlin. He should accept her help. Hell, he should have accepted Alduial’s help, but that would be him admitting he needed it. That it was all spiraling out of control.

Sliding off of the edge of the bed, the man tensed as his bare skin touched the cold stone floor. Blessed cold. Everything was too hot. The baths, his bed, everything. Wearing nothing but the towel around his waist he was still too warm. He was thirsty, and angry, and tired, and… So wonderfully cold.

His eyelids drooped shut as he slumped over to lay on the floor. It helped his headache at least, but as tired as Peldirion was he would not go back to sleep. He had tried, but the now cold sweat that covered his body, and the broken table stood as testament to how well that had worked. He did not want to watch Megorin die again, to see the life leave the traitor’s eyes, to see Adrovorn’s broken body in the fields of blood, or to see her betrayal over and over with no way to make it stop.

Peldirion’s eyes slowly opened once more and he watched the halberd from where he lay. He watched the stained, emerald green silk ribbon bound to the shaft sway lazily from a draft. He should have left it at his brother’s grave when she gave it to him. Damned Elf. He did not want the responsibility that came with wielding that weapon. He did not want to want the weight he felt it put on his shoulders. Laying there in just his skin he wondered if the weight would crush him, alone in a city he loathed simply because it caged him, away from his men and the sea….

The sound of hinges creaking reached his ears. No decency to oil the bloody hinges.

“… Sir?”

Peldirion turned his head to look to the door. “Where have you been?”

The hopeful smile on Halethon’s face melted away, and he closed the door behind him. “I was meeting with someone… How bad was it?”

“Bad,” Peldirion rumbled as he sat up to lean back against the bed. He licked his lips. “Water?”

Halethon squared his jaw, and nodded. Folding the open letter in his hand the younger man made his way around the broken table towards the other side of the room.

“What is the letter?”

“Good news.” Halethon glanced over his shoulder at the table, then his captain sitting on the floor.

“Well, out with it, then,” said Peldirion, grunting as he rose to his feet long enough to sit on the mattress.

“Later.”

“Now.”

Halethon pulled something out of his pocket, and a few moments later he was turning with a glass of water in his hand. “Later… sir. First, drink and get some sleep.”

Peldirion narrowed his eyes at his lieutenant as he accepted the glass. “No sleep. Not after that.”

Halethon met his look and shook his head. “You will sleep,” he said quietly. “No dreams. You have my word. Good news can wait till you wake.”

Looking to the glass in his hand Peldirion nodded once, and downed the water. He then lifted the empty vessel in a toast. “Till I wake.”

Questions and Faces

“You poor, suffering soul,” he joked. Then more seriously, “I only notice because I was there to see it. Complain all you want, you’re no less lovely because of it.” It was true, of course. Alduial’s formerly perfectly straight nose now boasted the smallest crook. So small he wagered that only those who had known about her injury noticed.

“Well that is very kind of you,” she replied, not insincerely and with a faint hint of flattery. “But all I wanted was to leave behind a perfectly beautiful corpse and I fear now it shall be unpleasantly flawed. It stings of course, having it taken away from you, control over your own destiny I mean.”

She pulled his hand from the water, running her fingers over it one more time before drying it off. “How are things with you? Now that we have thoroughly analyzed my predicament. You look… tired.”

His shoulders relaxed some as he let her work. “I haven’t been sleeping well. It is nothing unusual, though.”

“Well that will not do. How can you expect to defend me on the walls if you are tired?” Alduial asked, joking, gently setting his fingers on fresh splints. “I can give you a draught for it, but I take it this is some usual thing. Do you know the cause?”

Peldirion frowned and nodded. “I think so. It has been going off and on for several years. This last summer I hardly slept for three months.”

“So what is the cause? Speaking to me as both a healer and a friend of course,” she clarified.

The man’s usual stern expression slowly slid back into place as his eyes darted away. “It is all in my head, I think. You can say it was brought on by a number of things, loss being the chief among them.”

“You know I have been reading up on soldier’s heart recently,” she mused over his hand. “It is a fascinating condition whereby men, afflicted with great fear of battle develop physical symptoms as of the sick. Heart palpitations, insomnia, waking nightmares…” She trailed off thoughtfully.

“My Master, Master Nestin, believes the affliction is caused by a defect of spirit, simple cowardice. But I have been thinking… some men seem to be overwhelmed by similar symptoms even when they have never seen battle. So what if it is a blood disease, carried on families, spurred on by some unhappiness. Any unhappiness really.”

Defect of spirit, simple cowardice, unhappiness… Peldirion tensed, and grunted. “It is possible, I suppose.”

“I mean, we can certainly not discuss it if you prefer,” she said, idly, winding gauze over his fingers. “But I think you would prefer to sleep, would you not? I mean, is it only the insomnia or is there anything else?”

“How much longer till the hand is fully mended?” he asked, his tone quiet and careful as he ignored her question.

“A week until we can be sure there is no damage, you cannot rush these things. Do you have waking nightmares? Any trembling?” she inquired smoothly, keeping hold of his hand while she worked to prevent flight.

The muscles in his left forearm flexed for a moment as he resisted the sudden urge to wrench it away, and Peldirion gave his steady, bandaged hand a calculating look. “I can manage a week longer. When would be a good day for me to come back?”

“Peldirion,” she said in a soft, serious voice, making eye-contact with him. “Are you trying to run away from me without talking about your concerns?”

“No,” he said seriously as he looked back at her. “I’m going to walk away without talking about them.”

“You have acknowledged them already. That is the first step to getting help. And you do need help, whether you want it or not,” Alduial continued, holding fast to his wrist. “If you go into battle tired you will fall needlessly and what if the rest of us survive? Who will go back and save Pelargir?”

Her grip made his chest tighten, and suddenly it was not her eyes looking at him. He pulled back his arm as much as she would allow without tearing it from her grip. “If you all survive then Halethon will go back and do a good enough job of it.”

She kept hold of his wrist, an unusually intense look in her eyes. “And if you cannot hold the wall below what then? If fatigue gets the better of you and you falter what will become of Halethon and the rest?” She asked seriously, leaning over the table to keep hold of his arm. “What are you afraid of?”

Peldirion’s upper lip curled as he glared at her. At the faces that had replaced hers. Leave me! Not now. Not while I’m awake…. “I have managed before, I will again. Now if you will release me I will leave and let you go back to helping those who need it more.”

“I am just going to back to the lower ward and do you not think I would rather stay here where the air is warm a little longer,” she countered, still looking at him intently. “You must accept my aid now or I will haunt your steps like a ghost until you do.”

He looked back at her, showing no signs of relenting. “Then you will be in good company with the rest. I thank you for the offer,” he said carefully, attempting to reign himself in, “but I want… need no aid.”

She released his arm. “You are lying to me, clearly. And I do not care for it. Your hand will heal on its own but is your pride really worth this hovering unpleasantness?”

A brief look of relief escaped him as she let him go, and he pulled the hand back and out of her reach. The knot in his chest remained, however, even as the faces faded away. “The only unpleasantness, madam, is that you are pressuring me to speak about things I do not wish to.”

“I only want to help you, consider it repayment for the fighting lessons,” she replied, standing from her seat and examining him. “Return next week and I will see to the bandaging. You should think on it though…”

Rising to his feet, Peldirion nodded. “I will, though you have already helped me,” he said, lifting his bandaged left hand as he forced himself to take a calming breath. “I will be back in a week. I hope you find some time to rest as well.”

“The hand is my job, your head is more of a hobby,” she said, still eyeing him seriously. “There is no shame in being sick, no matter where it comes from, you know.”

Peldirion struggled to find the right words as a headache slowly came upon him.”I am not much of a hobbyist. Enjoy your day, Healer.” He gave her a curt bow and turned to leave… or maybe to flee, though he would never admit it. Her parting words fell on nearly deaf ears. He was tired… exhausted. The world was growing too warm, but if it was not her badgering here, it was Halethon’s concerned looks at the Guest House. No, he needed somewhere quiet, and cool where he could rest for an hour or two away from questions and faces.

(( Thank you to Raenarcam for Alduial! Conversation taken from RP and edited for tense and composition.))