Minas Tirith

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

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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.))

Tears and Sympathy

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Having been less eager to see an afternoon meeting end than his peers, Peldirion strode under stone arches, not caring to admire the architecture. It was just stone, after all. Stone that may soon break under the enemy’s hand. Consumed by the records he needed to search for in the archives, the unmistakable sound of a woman weeping reached his ear.

Peldirion hesitated at the sound, but continued on. Such a terrible sound, and one that drained his patience rather than fueling his sympathy as he knew it should. Several paces away he stopped. Sighing heavily as he was struck by his conscience, the man turned and marched reluctantly up the steps in search of the weeper, prepared to promptly depart if the woman had a poor excuse for wasting precious water.

Huddled in a corner, sitting beside a large, empty canvas sack, the woman’s face was hidden in her hands. In her grey tunic she was actually rather difficult to spot against the sooty stone, and Peldirion nearly missed her. To her credit, she was crying rather quietly, but the marble corridors had a strange way of carrying sound.

Halting to tower over her (though it was not his intent to do so), Peldirion’s brows drew together in a frown as he recognized her cowl. “Cold stone offers little comfort, Sister,” he said quietly. While as stern as ever, his voice was not unkind.

Feira hiccuped in surprise, and immediately swiped at her face. “Oh! …h-hello!” she said with forced cheer, smiling through her obvious tears and stopped up nose. “How do you do, Captain?”

Peldirion peered down at her, his dark eyes narrowed. “I am as well as one can be… though I am not so sure you can claim as much. What has a Sister of Emeleth in tears and hiding in a corner?” he asked, careful to not let his voice project too much. Had the woman been a complete stranger he could make sure she wasn’t injured and depart, but unfortunately he knew the young woman, and more unfortunately he felt a little bad for her. Reaching a hand beneath his breastplate Peldirion drew out a handkerchief and tossed it down to her.

Feira’s fine, slender fingers took up the kerchief and she dabbed at her eyes and delicately blew her nose before rising. “Oh, I… it’s nothing. I succumbed for a moment to a bout of self-indulgence, that’s all.”

Peldirion grunted as if a dry chuckle might have nearly escaped him. “Miss Feira, I hardly call a bout of tears self-indulgence. Are you… sure it is nothing?” He fixed his dark gaze on her and arched a brow, clearly not convinced.

Feira finally met Peldirion’s eyes for a long moment, clearly struggling over whether to share her burden or keep it to herself. Her pretty face wracked with guilt, her eyes begged for understanding.

Women, he thought rather grudgingly. Peldirion sighed, not quite in defeat, and glanced behind him. “Why don’t we remove outselves from this echo chamber, hmm?” he asked, the glint in his eyes and tone of his voice far warmer than his still-stern expression as he offered her his arm. He really was trying.

“…s-surely you haven’t the time…”

“Only till I am called to keep the enemy back from breaching the walls, dear lady,” he responded mildly. Or if you refuse my offer again. The sound of crying was like nails on slate.

Feira considered Peldirion for a moment, then stooped to collect her bag and stepped towards him. She did not take his arm, and instead folded the great sack over her arm. “…where do you suggest?”

Letting his arm fall to his side, Peldirion motioned further up. “Few soldiers man the wall on this level, and Minas Tirith is fond of putting benches just about anywhere,” he commented cooly. Clasping his hands behind his back he began to ascend the remaining steps.

Finding the landing unoccupied, and a bench equally so, he waited till she sat before taking a seat on the opposite end. Feira looked out over the landscape; what little could be seen in the struggling light. “It is so changed…” she murmured quietly, her brow creased.

Peldirion nodded slowly. “The consequences of war. When was the last time you saw it?”

The young woman blanched, realizing now that she had spoken aloud. “I… I was here three years ago,” she replied haltingly.

The man cast a sidelong glance at her. “Three years can be a long time. You said before you were originally from here, yes?”

“…yes.”

Peldirion adjusted the collar of his cloak as he observed the view with a neutral air. “Was it the changes that brought tears to your eyes?”

Feira pressed her lips together, her eyes on the stone below their feet. “No. That… will never change.”

He did not look to her as if to afford her some bit of privacy. By the Valar, don’t start crying again. “What will?”

The young woman let out a long breath. “There’s someone I wronged. I saw him today and… asked his forgiveness. He wouldn’t.” She lowered her chin. “I don’t know why I’m telling you this. I… there’s no one here I can talk to.”

Lucky me. Peldirion sat quiet for a moment before slowly nodding once. “I take it becoming a Sister means a great deal of sacrifice and acquired humility,” he said in a practical tone. “If you have asked for forgiveness, then you have done your part. Being unable to forgive is not your burden to bear.”

Feira released a soft, tight laugh. “…you are very wise. That is just what Sister Arcanis said. And she is easily three times your age.” Despite her attempted humor, he sensed that her wound ran deep.

Peldirion turned his gaze to her, and studied her quietly. It was strange to him. Even in armour one could figure out what kind of man wore it, but her drab robe and cowl made attempting to assess her a frustrating feat. “Learning from one’s mistakes is part of wisdom, as is the pain along the way. I do not know what you did to this man, and it’s not really my buisness to pry it from you, but in my experience you can either learn from it and move on, or dwell on it and allow it to define you.”

Stifling tears, she nodded. “Oh,” she said thickly, “I should be so very wise by now.” She smiled, pained, out over the scorched fields of Pelennor.

Peldirion grunted. You’ll be an ass if she cries now and you walk away. “How old are you, Miss Feira?”

Feira blinked, caught off guard. “…twenty?”

“Then you have seven more years of misery till you are as wise as I.” He fell quiet for a moment before continuing. He had his own bitterness, some that he quite happily held on to. What could this poor, weepy thing have done? Refused marriage or ruined a family arrangement? Gods, he was glad he was a man. “I’m not very good at encouragement. Some things cannot be atoned for, but I cannot see you asking for forgiveness and not mean it. You have taken responsibility for your side of whatever the matter was and that is all that can be asked for.”

Feira’s lips quirked in amusement at Peldirion’s first words. She sobered and nodded slowly. “My mind knows your words to be true. …my heart on the other hand.” She takes a deep breath. “If it were anyone else, anyone else, I think I might… let go the forgiving once I have asked for it. But… there has been no one I esteem more in my life.”

Peldirion gave her a thoughtful look. “Have you ever thought that those you hold in high esteem may be flawed persons like everyone else?”

Her brows quirked. “Well… yes, of course everyone has a flaw or two.” She seemed to be speaking in general, however.

Peldirion’s expression turns exceptionally serious, and he forced back all the memories of times he’d apologized for things that were never his fault. “Then perhaps this man needs time before realizing he should be the one asking for your forgiveness.”

The woman watched him for a long moment, as if wishing to argue. But slowly, she considered his words. He remained silent, letting his words carry their own weight (though his dark look and low voice probably helped).

Feira’s brow eased after a time. “May I ask you something?”

“You may.”

“Why do you always look so severe?” she asked with a small smile.

Peldirion’s eyes narrow as they might if he had smiled. It was not a question he had expected, but it not surprise him. “For many reasons, Miss Feira. Time has seen me become the armour I wear, and only in the company of a few does the thought of not donning it occur to me.”

Feira’s smile blossomed further. She turned her eyes out upon the Pelennor again. “Ah, but your actions belie your frown, Captain. You are a gentle heart.”

I’ll be damned if I am, he thought rather defiantly. Just a few weak spots. Peldirion considered her for a moment before looking out to roofs of the lower circle that peeked over the railing. “Tell my secret and I will see to it that your mentor makes your training miserable.”

The young woman released a bubbling giggle, but it is quickly stifled.

Peldirion’s mouth twitched at her giggle, and he slowly rose to his feet. “If you do not wish for an escort back to the Houses I should be on my way.” So much female emotion. He was probably allergic.

“I can find my way. …thank you, Captain.”

Stepping back, he offered her a gentlemanly bow. “It was the least I could do, Sister. Do try and enjoy the rest of your day.”

 

(Thank you to Feygil for RPing as ‘Feira’ (Lalaith)! Post taken from in-game RP, and has been edited for tense and exposition.)

Waiting on the War

The thud of the heavy door echoed as it closed behind him. Making his way into the guest suite, Peldirion shed his weapons and cloak in the entry, not bothering to put them on the rack that stood not four feet to his left.

“You’re back.”

“And you’re still here.”

“Yes, sir,” said Halethon as he rose to his feet. “A second lesson?”

Peldirion set into working at the buckles on his arm guards. “No, this was sparing with another knight. A rather talented one, too.”

Halethon did not bother to hide his amusement as he walked over to help his lord with his armour. “As talented as your ‘cousin’, cousin?”

“An entirely different set of skills, I assure you,” Peldirion grunted, shooting the man a dark look.

“It’s not like you.”

“What isn — Augh! Dammit, man!” he cursed as Hailthorn removed his leather vest with a rough tug.

“Hmm, mace?” asked Halethon, undaunted by Peldirion’s withering glance.

Peldirion merely grunted again as the man inspected his back.

“Impressive. That was a well-aimed shot. Seems things they say about the Swan Knights are true.”

Walking away, Peldirion shrugged and stretched his sore, muscled back as he made for the pitcher of water on the table. “I’ve had worse. He’s a good lad, and a good fighter. We’ll be sparing often. Does no good to twiddle our thumbs as we wait.”

Halethon huffed, and shot him a wry smile. “Speaking of twiddling thumbs….”

Peldirion glared over the rim of his glass.

“I’m just saying,” he said, holding his hands up in surrender.

“I know it’s been a while. Don’t read too much into it.”

Halethon chuffed out a breath as he went to pick up Peldirion’s scattered things. “Too late for that.”

A gleam in his dark eyes, Peldirion kicked off his boots and refilled his water glass. “It pleases her to do as she wishes, and it pleases me to let her. There are no strings, thank the Valar. She and I are merely crossing paths.”

Sighing, Halethon shook his head. “You know best, sir.”

Plucking a towel from the back of a chair, Peldirion threw a fur cloak over his bare shoulders. “Don’t give me that look.”

“Your brother taught me well. Just do me a favor, and don’t get yourself into trouble? You have plenty of time for that after the war.”

Peldirion shook his head. “I haven’t let a woman cause me trouble since I cracked Megorin’s jaw those years ago. I have no time for such things now.”

Halethon fixed him with another look. “You told me to hold you accountable in all things,” he said quietly, suddenly not the man’s subordinate, but his equal.

“It is private, and will remain so,” Peldirion replied with a firm, unwavering tone. “What goes on does not, and will not interfere with my duties. And since she is not the fire to refine my soul, I am going to go bathe, and wait on the war that has tempered it.”

Exchanging looks, Halethon nodded, satisfied, and Peldirion nodded out of respect for the man before disappearing through the door.