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Or Perchance, When the Last Little Star  by Larner


            As she entered the Citadel with her arm on that of Lord Bard of Dale, Lynessë was met by the Seneschal.  “Mistress Lynessë, there are guests from Pinnath Gelin.”

            Her flush from her morning ride left her. 

            Bard examined her with concern.  “This is unwelcome news?” he asked.

            “If it is who I fear has come, it is not so much unwelcome as most likely awkward,” she answered quietly.  

            “But you said that you have lived most recently in Pinnath Gelin, did you not?  Then you would know----”  He paused, and his face grew more sympathetic.  “Ah, I see.  Then your parents are--difficult?”

            “Not my adar, actually.  However, Naneth is quite a different matter.  It is not so much that she is difficult as it is that she is--intrusive.”

            “I appear to have been fortunate with my own parents, then,” he said, obviously amused.  “Ah, well, as I am to attend Lord Denethor’s Council meeting in an hour’s time I will leave you to deal with the arrival of whoever it is that has come.”

            He was bowing deeply as Endorë of Pinnath Gelin appeared, hurrying to greet her daughter.  “Oh, but Lynessë, my beloved, darling child--how wonderful to see you!  How long it has been since you left us!  Are you well?  Are you happy here?  All speak well of you, by the way--I am so very proud!”  At that point she stopped, her attention arrested by the sight of a man leaning over her daughter’s hand.  Her eyes lit further.  “And who is this?”

            Embarrassed, Lynessë made introductions:  “Naneth, Lord Bard son of Brand of Dale.  He is here in the Citadel with a trade delegation.  Lord Bard, my mother, Endorë of Pinnath Gelin, sister to the lord of Pinnath Gelin.  And my adar--where is he?”

            “He is with your uncle accepting the welcome of our party to the Citadel, chick.  Lord Bard--and where is Dale?”

            Bard gave Lynessë a swift glance before returning his attention to her mother.  “Dale is a very small land far to the north, far east of the valley of the Anduin.  We lie in the folds of the roots of the Lonely Mountain.  We boast mostly artisans and farmers.  It was suggested by Gandalf the Grey and by his companion that we seek a trade agreement with Gondor, so a party was sent to do just that.”

            “Gandalf the Grey?”

            “I am told that he is known here as Mithrandir rather than as Gandalf, which is how most to the north address him.”

            “I see,” Endorë said, obviously not impressed by the mention of the itinerant Wizard.  “Then you are here to represent your Guild of Merchants, then?”

            “My cousin Blyn is here to represent our merchants, Mistress.  I am here more on behalf of my father, as King of Dale.”

            Endorë’s attitude changed markedly with this, and both her expression and her voice became far more respectful.  “Oh, I see, my Lord Bard!  And your father is the King for your people?  How wonderful!  And you were recommended to us by Mithrandir?”

            “Now that our lands are well recovered from the depredations of Smaug and our fortunes restored and even improved upon, we have need of good trading partnerships, Mistress Endorë.  I grieve that I must take my leave of you,” he added as the bell tolled the third hour, “but I promised Lord Denethor and my cousin I would attend today’s Council meeting, and I must ready myself.  Ladies....”  And with a graceful flourish he turned and retreated.

            Endorë, Lynessë noted with dismay, was watching after him with her eyes bright with her own imaginings--not a good sign when dealing with her mother, in the younger woman’s experience.

            “A King’s son,” Endorë was murmuring half under her breath.

            “Nana, please do not think of it!” Lynessë protested, knowing it was already too late for that.

            “What do you know of his kingdom?” her mother asked as Lynessë began determinedly walking toward the stairs to the upper level, the older woman hurrying to keep up.

            “Very small land in the midst of several other small lands, from what he has told me.  Now, how did you get here?”

            “We came with your uncle, of course.  There is the spring tournament approaching, and your cousin wished to see her betrothed take part in it, for of course Lord Hirluin has been invited to compete.  Has a similar invitation been made to Lord Bard, do you know?”

            “Naneth, how on earth could you expect me to know----  Oh, Lord Húrin!”  She paused there near the foot of the stairs to the upper level to allow the Steward’s nephew to complete his descent.

            His eyes brightened at the sight of her.  “Ah--Mistress Lynessë, you have returned!  Cireth had told me you had gone riding.”

            “Oh, yes--I have only now returned.  You wished to speak with me?”

            “I had intended to ask you to ride out with me this morning, but at the last moment word came of the arrival of the ship from Pelargir, and so my Lord Uncle has had me busy meeting with Lord Hirluin and Lord Elstror on their arrival.  I fear you shall need to go to greet them properly as soon as you are suitably attired.”

            She nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes, I see.  Then I had best hurry to change.  But tomorrow perhaps we can ride out together, if there is time?”

            He smiled.  “It would be my pleasure, Lynessë.”

            “It will also, I hope, give us time to confer about the Mistress of the Stillroom.”

            He gave a small, almost tired laugh.  “Yes, if you wish.”  He turned to Endorë and reached to take her hand.  “I pray your pardon, Mistress Endorë, that I must leave my greeting to you for the last, but I have but little time before the meeting of the Council and have yet to fetch certain reports that must be shared with the others.  But it is a great pleasure to greet you.  And I understand you will be attending the spring tournament?  Then it would be my great honor if you could gift me with your favor for it.”

            Lynessë had seldom seen her mother at a loss for words, and the spectacle, she decided, was well worth watching.  “Why--why, I would be most delighted to do so!” she at last managed to assure him.

            “Then I will fight the better for it, Mistress, knowing I fight as your champion,” he said gallantly, bowing over her hand.  She was flushing like a maid, and her daughter thought her mother appeared remarkably young and attractive at the moment.

            “And what events will you compete in?” Lynessë stayed him to ask.

            “Swordsmanship and javelins from horseback,” he said, smiling at her.  “I do not know if Faramir will be able to leave his post long enough to attend, after all.  And if Boromir does not return in time from Rohan then there must be someone to attend to uphold the family honor!  And your husband, Mistress Endorë--as I recall he was a master with the thrown dirk.  Could he be prevailed upon, do you think, to enter that competition?”  Then as the bell tolled indicating the half hour he straightened.  “Please to excuse me,” he said.  “It would not do to be late today.  Mistresses....”  His bow was particularly courtly, and in return Endorë sank into a most graceful courtesy as he turned to hasten on his way.

            Endorë looked after him as she rose to her feet again.  “He is a most charming soul,” she said, her eyes particularly bright.

            “I must also make haste,” Lynessë sighed, then turned to lead the way up the stairs.

            “I thought you were to have quarters in the Steward’s own wing?”

            “There were actually three suites from which I might make my selection,” Lynessë explained over her shoulder.  “I preferred this one.”

            “This Cireth----” her mother panted as Lynessë reached the top of the flight.

            “My lady’s maid.  I was allowed to choose from among the younger girls, and she is proving very suitable.”

            It was swiftly plain, however, that Endorë questioned that evaluation as Cireth held open the doors to admit them.  “Young--very young,” she commented quietly as she entered the sitting room. 

            Her daughter shot her a glare indicating she should be careful what she said as she introduced the older woman to the young maid.  “Naneth, this is Cireth, whose family has served the Citadel for more generations than I can count.  Cireth is one of the most talented individuals I have yet found to dress my hair.  My mother, Endorë, sister of Lord Elstror of Pinnath Gelin.”

            Cireth bobbed a curtsey, turning to Lynessë.  “Welcome, Mistress Endorë.  If you please, mistress, Lord Húrin was here to speak with you, and left this message for you.”  She drew from beneath her apron a folded missive and gave it into Lynessë’s hands.  “And I have a bath drawn for you and your gown set out, as you shall need to greet Lords Hirluin and Elstror, or at least their ladies.  If you will hurry I shall have time to set your hair in order.”

            Well, Lynessë thought as she hurried to her chamber to divest herself of her riding habit, her mother could find little if anything to complain about concerning Cireth’s competence as a lady’s maid.  All indeed was in order, and Cireth was already taking the discarded riding garb to the airing cupboard to be brushed and hung over pleasantly scented steam to freshen it even as Lynessë was entering the bath.  When she emerged a quarter of a mark later she found Endorë comfortably seated with a cup of sweetly scented herbal drink in hand and a plate of small cakes beside her, watching Cireth as she straightened cushions, a dusting cloth caught under her arm. 

            “I looked about a small amount, my chick,” Endorë said, setting her cup down on the small tray.  “And I must say that the apartment does appear to be beautifully kept.”

            Lynessë caught the brief hint of delight at the compliment that Cireth swiftly schooled from her face, and was glad her mother had managed to praise the girl’s industry.  “Well, I fear I must borrow Cireth to help get the laces to my dress tied and my hair properly groomed.  If you will pardon me, please, Naneth?”  And as she returned to her own bedchamber, Cireth followed obediently.

            Soon she was back, and taking the book from her mother’s hand, Lynessë urged Endorë to her feet.  “Surely you will come with me as I greet my aunt and cousins in the Lord Steward’s name, will you not, Nana?  I am certain that as of now my uncle and Lord Hirluin will have joined Lord Denethor in the Council Chamber.”  She handed the book to Cireth, smiling her thanks, and led her mother away.

            “And what are you doing with a children’s book in your collection?” asked Endorë as her daughter led the way toward the back stair down into the cross-hall off of which the residential wings opened.

            “It was Faramir’s when he was a child.  He hoped I would enjoy it,” Lynessë answered, not wishing to let her mother know how she’d come to find it in the storage room.

            At that Endorë’s expression brightened.  The younger woman realized her mother was most pleased at the thought that a foreign prince and the Steward’s younger son both appeared to favor her daughter.  Well, let her entertain her fantasies, if only for the moment.  She hurried down the stair and toward the door to the guest wing, where the guards even now were opening the doors.

            It was at the moment they began to cross the hall that suddenly there could be heard the hurried, clipped tramp of riding boots and the clink of weapons from the back entrance into the Hall of Kings as a group of armed Men entered.  “I must hurry--Father will wish me to address the Council,” said a familiar voice, and all within the hallway were suddenly bowing to welcome the unheralded arrival of the Steward’s Heir as Boromir, Captain of Gondor’s armies and Warden of the White Tower, hurried toward the entrance to the Steward’s wing, followed by two of his captains.

            “Well,” Lynessë found herself saying to her mother as she watched Boromir absently salute the guards at the doors and disappear behind them with his companions, “it does appear that he has returned in time for the Spring Tournament!”

            She turned to see another party being led by the Housekeeper halted in the halls, all eyes turned toward the doors through which Boromir had passed.  This was comprised of a number of women and a youth, on whose arm walked a young lady whose beauty was as remarkable as her height.  In fact, Lynessë thought her quite the tallest woman she’d ever seen.  She frowned.  Was this the one of whom Húrin’s note had made mention, the Lady Aldúnieth, the one so many referred as the Lady Butterfly?  Seeing the acquisitive expression in the young woman’s eyes, Denethor’s chosen Chatelaine quickly decided that she did not believe she quite liked her.

            “Mistress Tindriel--I am newly come, and will gladly bring these to their quarters,” she said smoothly, hurrying forward to relieve the Housekeeper.  She turned to the party.  “My ladies, master, I am Mistress Lynessë, Lord Denethor’s Chatelaine.  And this is my mother, Mistress Endorë of Pinnath Gelin.  She, too, is newly come to Minas Tirith this day.  You, I understand, are Lady Elantiel from Amon Dîn in Anórien?”

            The oldest of the ladies, who was some thirty years at least older than Lynessë’s mother, nodded regally.  “My granddaughter, Aldúnieth, and her younger brother Rigil; their mother Faralieth, formerly of Bavarin in Lossarnach; and my late son’s wife Argent of Lebennin.  My older son Daerloth has gone with our Lord Denethor to the meeting of the Council.”

            There was a hint of reproof that Lynessë had not arrived in a more timely manner.  She gathered about her a cordiality she did not believe she actually felt, and inclined her head politely.  “I grieve that I was not within the Citadel for your arrival, but rejoice that I am now able to greet you.  If I might show you to the chambers prepared for you?”

            The Housekeeper murmured which rooms had been chosen for the party, and Lynessë nodded her understanding.  She acknowledged the woman’s curtsey, and turned to lead Lady Elantiel and her family toward the door to the guest wing, taking them to a suite of rooms at the far end of the hall, near the reception area where guests might mingle in the evening, or entertain others during their stay.  A senior maid awaited them, curtseying as she opened the doorway for them.

            Lady Elantiel entered first, examining the common room of the suite with a cool gaze, then nodding her approval.  She then beckoned Aldúnieth and her brother inside, followed by the two older women, and at last the three servitors who had accompanied them.  “Our guardsmen have already been shown to the barracks in the Sixth Circle,” she said.  “Yes, these will do.”

            “Then I will leave you in Mistress Lindien’s hands,” Lynessë said pleasantly.  “You have seen to it refreshments are laid ready for these?” she asked the maidservant.

            “Indeed,” the woman said.  “There are fruits and cheeses and flatbread upon the table here, my lady, and both wine and fine cider from the orchards of the Pelennor.  And if there is anything else you would have me obtain for you?”

            But Lady Elantiel was examining the bedchambers.  “Ah!  Here, Aldúnieth, my dearest jewel--this will suit you well.  Do you not agree?” she asked, beckoning her granddaughter to the chamber that ordinarily would have gone to the maiden’s parents.  Two much smaller chambers she indicated would be perfect for Rigil and Mistress Argent.  A chamber smaller than that she had chosen for Aldúnieth she said would be perfect for Lord Daerloth and Lady Faralieth, who did her best to hide her frustration that her daughter was better housed than she and her husband.  She herself took the largest of the chambers, and indicated that one maid should sleep in the closet attached to her room, and the other across the door in the room she’d chosen for Aldúnieth.  The male servant took the smallest of the bedchambers, ready to serve on Lord Daerloth, and it appeared that this group was settled.  Lynessë asked if they should prefer to eat in the common hall or in their rooms, and at last withdrew to hurry to the other end of the wing where she had a far more cordial meeting with her aunt and cousin.


            The Steward dined in the common dining hall that night with his guests, Lord Boromir on his right and Lord Bard on his left.  His smile seemed less sardonic to Lynessë than was usual with him, and several times she caught his subtle jests as they were delivered.  Lord Hirluin appeared glad to see Boromir returned, but the same was not true of many of the other younger lords who intended to take part in the Spring Tournament.  Lord Daerloth was congenial; his wife was pompous; his daughter kept leaning over to keep herself within Boromir’s view, so that he could admire her swan-like neck, from what Lynessë could tell; Rigil barely spoke at all, appearing abashed to be in such company.

            “And how went the campaign within Rohan?” asked Daerloth.

            Boromir paused in the lifting of his goblet.  “Well enough, my lord.  We managed to throw back the invaders, working side by side with Théoden and his son Théodred.  Most appear to have been Dunlendings, but others appear to have come from further north--their gear and their clothing was different.”

            Denethor was immediately alert.  “How so?” he asked.

            Boromir shrugged as he sipped from his goblet, then set it on the table.  “Many wore cloaks and heavy hauberks or long vests made of pelts of sheep and goats with the wool turned inwards, as if they came from far colder climes.  Many had heavy mittens and gauntlets of sheepskin, and their boots were much the same.  The work seemed very clumsy much of the time, but certainly effective against the cold.  And, yes, it was colder there near the Gap of Rohan than it is here, but not that much colder.  Mostly we were facing drizzling rain that appeared to seep into everything.”

            “Did you take any prisoners?” Denethor persisted.

            “Not many, for they proved fierce fighters who would not willingly accept defeat.  I believe that Théoden took two of them prisoner in the end, and I believe he set his young adviser, Gríma son of Gálmód, to question him.  Gálmód was himself half Dunlending, and his son knows more of the northern tongues than does anyone else within Edoras or Meduseld.  But their language is not any I have heard before.”

            “Not Adúnaic as it is spoken within Umbar?”

            “No, Father--most unlike the language of the Umbari.  Rather uncouth, really.”

            “Any common sigils among them?”

            Now Boromir shrugged uncomfortably.  “Wolfs’ heads, mostly.  And on a few a half moon and skull.”

            Lynessë could not tell whether the Lord Steward was relieved or disappointed by this news.  Many appeared disinterested in it, although Hirluin and Daerloth were sharing glances that indicated they found the information a matter for future thought and discussion.  Denethor, however, now whatever question he’d thought to answer for his own counsels apparently met, now considered his son.  “Well, at least you and Húrin will be able to uphold the family honor in the Spring Tournament, my son.  Faramir hopes to find his way to perhaps join us for at least a day or two’s attendance--perhaps the last two days while the archery contests are decided.  But there have been more assaults out of the Morgul Vale, so we are uncertain how long he might be able to leave his men there.  And you, my Lord Daerdion--are you looking forward to the tournament?” he continued politely but with the finest trace of satisfaction to his voice, or so it appeared to his Chatelaine.

            “I intend to do my best to make certain that I retain those spurs,” Daerdion said, “although I know your son at least will make me sweat heavily in the process.”

            “Then it will be a sweeter revenge when I take them back!” Boromir laughed, lifting his cup to toast his rival, who laughed in return.

            Daerdion then asked, “And you, Lord Bard--will you be attending the tournament?”

            But the Dalesman was shaking his head.  “I fear not,” he said.  “We are to return to our own lands next week, for our negotiations are now complete.  I regret that this must be in many ways, for it would be pleasant to take my father report of seeing first hand how mighty are the warriors of Gondor.  Although some of our allies from west of the Misty Mountains have assured him that indeed this is so, and that it is due in great part to the vigilance of your folk we do not find ourselves caught between the threat of both Dol Guldur and Mordor at the same time.”

            Again Lynessë noted a heightened interest on the part of Denethor.  “And what allies are there for the folk of Rhovanion from west of the Misty Mountains?” he asked, his courtesy doing a good deal to mask the hint of concern she was certain he felt.

            Bard sipped at his goblet before placing it carefully beside his plate, and when he spoke his words seemed to be carefully chosen, or at least so to Lynessë’s ears.  “And what can I say, my Lord Denethor?  The people Under the Mountain have kindred both north among the Iron Hills and west of the Misty Mountains near, I am told, the coasts of the Great Sea, and so by allying ourselves with our neighbors we share alliances with their far-flung kindred.  There is a thriving community far to the north and west known as Bree--Gandalf the Grey and the folk of the Mountain have assisted us to develop trading partnerships there.  And I understand there are other small communities hidden here and there, throughout the north and west, both great folk and small.  And Gandalf has ever spoken well of Gondor to us, when he comes among us.”

            “Gandalf?” asked Lynessë’s uncle Elstror of Pinnath Gelin.

            “Another of the names for Mithrandir,” Denethor supplied almost automatically.  “So, the Grey Pilgrim wanders both sides of the Misty Mountains, does he?”

            “Apparently.  And he is ever welcome in Dale as he is among our other friends and allies.  Certainly he is as highly honored by the folk of the Woodland Realm as he is under the Mountain.”

            Rigil suddenly asked, “Have you tournaments, there, there within your land?”

            Bard gave a slight shake of his head.  “No, for we have not that many who would take part in them, I fear.  We do have a loggers’ festival, however, once each summer; and a fair involving our woolworkers in the spring, shortly after sheep shearing and lambing is complete, where many show off the yarns and threads spun and fabrics woven throughout the winter.

            “But it is our wooden ware and our toys and musical instruments that we trade mostly with the west, for they have their own flocks and produce fine woolens in their own right.  There is a land near Bree that is said to be a producer of the best woolens in all the free lands, although I would match ours any day, of course.”

            “And what do you know of this land?” asked Elstror.

            “Very little--a farming people, mostly, or so Gandalf tells us.  The folk of the Iron Hills have traded with them for many years, passing through their lands on the journeys to see their kindred to the far west.  But they do not of their own initiative seek outside their own lands for goods.  The King under the Mountain visited their lands once, and thought little of them.  Yet many of those who helped restore the Kingdom speak highly of the industry of their people, although they admit they are an insular lot with little if any interest for outsiders.”

            “Have they a force of defense?”

            Bard shrugged.  “I know not.  I am told that there are some among them who use sling or bow, but that they have little use for weapons.  Lord Glóin is swift to praise their industry--and their food.  All praise the honey cakes of the Beornings; but he says that when it comes to taking a modest amount of food and making it not only palatable but a feast for the tongue one needs a Shireling.”

            “So they call themselves?” Elstror asked curiously.

            Bard shook his head.  “I know not what they call themselves, only how Lord Glóin and his fellows speak of them.  On the request of Lord Glóin and others we have created items for them, mostly but small things.  It would appear that the folk of the Mountain who travel through their land have found that to earn the good will of the people there it is mete to give out favors to their children.”  He took a bite of his venison.  “And you, my lord,” he said, after he’d swallowed his food, “tell me more of Pinnath Gelin.  What are your summers like there?”

            But Lynessë found herself wondering why these two peoples, both apparently living there at the foot of this mountain together, did not combine into one land.



            “Mistress,” said Cireth softly, tapping Lynessë’s shoulder, “I grieve to disturb you, but your mother has come.”

            Lynessë groaned, pulling the coverlet up over her face.  “What does she seek to do this morning, do you think?” she murmured.

            “I know not, but she is rummaging through the cool storage now.  She came with pastries and other things from the larders.”

            “No!”  Throwing off the coverlet she whispered, “She did not bring with her any of the lime fruits, did she?”

            “Yes, Mistress, and stalks of celery and a small bunch of radishes.”

            Lynessë could feel herself paling as she reached for a robe to pull over her nightdress.  “She will be wanting to fix her special morning drink for me--it would be good if it were only the juice of the lime and honey—even with the addition of the celery; but with the radish it is awful!  She has it in her mind that it wakens the senses and sharpens the wit, and helps to avoid illness.  But how could she have found radish at this time of year?”

            “There is a farmer upon the Pelennor who has a great glass house in which he grows some vegetables throughout the year for the Citadel.”

            Lynessë nodded her understanding as she stood up and fastened the ties to the robe about her.  She had not thought about the presence of some foods that were out of season at meals, but now she understood.  She allowed Cireth to run a quick comb through her hair, then moved to the small kitchen area.  Sure enough, Endorë was busily squeezing crushed radish between folds of fine muslin to extract its juice, allowing the liquid to drip into a small flagon.

            “Ah, but there you are, my sweet one,” her mother greeted her.  “You appeared pale to me last night, and I thought to see you better this morning.  I should be finished shortly.  And I shall be certain to teach your maid how to prepare this herself that you not fail in health ere the full spring comes.”  So saying, she returned her attention to her task.

            Lynessë, greatly alarmed, did her best to indicate to Cireth that this was one lesson she would prefer the girl not take to heart, but was forced to abort her attempted signs when her mother turned to smile at her anew as she squeezed the last of the pulp from the cloth.  “You are so careful of me, Naneth,” she sighed, watching her mother stir the draught.

            “But, of course,” her mother answered.  “After all, you are the one child given me, and to me you shall ever be my beloved chick.  Now, here:  drink this!”  She picked up the flagon and pressed it into her daughter’s hands.

            Doing her best to hide her grimace of disgust, Lynessë reluctantly accepted the cup and gulped down the liquid as rapidly as possible.  Shuddering, she turned to Cireth, who had poured out a small tumbler of water and held it out.

            “I don’t know why you feel you must wash down the drink with water,” Endorë commented disapprovingly.  “I fear it will serve only to dilute the goodness to be obtained from the radishes.”

            “That is what I would wish,” muttered Lynessë, gladly surrendering the flagon for the tumbler.  Once she had cleared her mouth of the cloying taste of the radishes, she shook her head and straightened.  “I have done very well here, my lady mother, without the drink, you know.”

            “And then why are you so pale?” her mother demanded.

            “I am not pale, Nana!” Lynessë objected, but her mother was already pursuing other objectives.

            “And shall you ride out today with Lord Bard?” she asked, speaking over her daughter.

            “I am to ride out today with Lord Húrin.”

            “But my child----”

            This time, however, Endorë heeded her Lynessë’s indication of Cireth’s presence, realizing that this child might have a sense of responsibility to Lord Denethor’s nephew, and changed her attack.  “And perhaps young Rigil might join the two of you,” she suggested with a smile of enthusiasm her daughter knew was an indicator of her plotting.

            “He is very young, Naneth—much younger than I,” Lynessë reminded her.  “And it is young Mistress Aldúnieth that I suspect their grandmother wishes to see married first.”

            Endorë was now dividing the pastries she’d brought with her into two shares, and shrugged slightly as she contemplated the odd pastry she found she had left.  Lynessë removed it from her mother’s hand and pressed it upon her maid.  “Here, Cireth,” she said.  “Enjoy this, and then help me dress before making ready my riding dress for later.  I should be riding out with Lord Húrin late this morning.”

            Recognizing the dismissal, the maid curtseyed and went out.  Endorë watched after her with a slightly furrowed brow.  “You should not spoil her,” she commented.

            “And how is one pastry spoiling her, Naneth?  She is yet a growing girl, and needs her nourishment, as you told me when I was her age.  She works very hard to keep me comfortable, and I rejoice to reward her for her industry.”

            “I doubt that the servants of the Citadel are given short rations,” her mother noted with a sniff.

            “Nor are they; but neither are they fed heavily.”

            Certain that the girl was no longer able to overhear them, her mother sought to return to an earlier subject.  “There is nothing to be lost by looking at all the matches that are available to you here.  I am told that Anórien is a rich fiefdom, and Amon Dîn an important stronghold….”

            “And he is from a fiefdom that is filled with mindless individuals who believe that to relieve themselves in running water will somehow steal away their manhood,” Lynessë interrupted her.


            “I have seen it, Naneth, or I would never have believed it possible.  Now, I am not saying this is true of young Rigil, but I have been assured it is a common enough belief throughout Anórien.  Also, it is often invaded by those from Dunland who evade the patrols of Rohan, and has been entered from the east by Mordor’s folk.  I am told there are frequent raids on farms near the river, and that cattle and sheep are often stolen away, as well as great stores of grain.  Reports on this are brought ever to Lord Denethor’s attention, along with reports on thefts of horses from the Eastfold of Rohan.”

            “Lord Denethor speaks of this with you?”

            “I dine with him at least once a week, and often with what lords there are within the White City.  And as the mistress of his table, I hear the talk that goes on between those who are housed within the Citadel.”

            For the first time Lynessë noted true concern on her mother’s face.  Good, if it should deter the older woman from pressing Rigil of Amon Dîn upon her!  She was just glad that Fendril of Destrier was no longer in residence, or the chance was her mother would be beseeching her to look favorably upon him!


            Two hour later Lynessë managed to give her mother over into her aunt’s capable keeping, and saw to the day’s distress from the stillroom.  One of the women who helped there had asked for permission to make a common simple for a friend among the senior housemaids who was suffering from distress associated with her moon cycles, and the Mistress of the Stillroom had immediately raised a quarrel, insisting that it could possibly hurt any child she might be bearing.

            “But if she is having heavy bleeding already, it is obvious either she is not pregnant or has already lost whatever child she might possibly have conceived,” insisted the other woman.  “If you do not believe me, then ask any who work in the Houses of Healing!”

            The argument was escalating rapidly when Lynessë finally came between them.  “She is right, Mistress,” she said to the self-righteous woman who ordinarily ruled this portion of the Citadel.  “I have been so counseled by the healers who serve my uncle’s keep as well.  If her bleeding is particularly heavy at this time, she would do well with a simple that will help to fully expel the irritant within the womb that is causing this.  Otherwise it could cause festering and could cost her dearly—and even make it impossible for her to bear successfully in the future.  Or,” she added, noting the woman’s thin-lipped expression, “I could send her to the Houses of Healing to receive the very simple we can make as well here.”

            At last the Mistress gave way, but it was obviously with the greatest of reluctance.  Lynessë cautioned all who worked there to remember that many of the products of this room were dangerous to women who might have conceived and that they should not be dispensed lightly, and then found another project with which to distract the Mistress before finally fleeing the room in relief.

            She met Lord Húrin on the stairs up out of the Stillroom.  “Another quarrel today?” he greeted her.

            “Yes, as there seems to be more days than not,” she sighed, glancing briefly behind her.  “I think some days the very fumes of the place enflame the brain of the Mistress, who always foresees calamities, or so it appears.”

            “I came to see if you would be free to ride out with me this morning.”

            She smiled.  “Oh, I would be most glad to do so.  Anything to make myself unavailable for a time.”

            He laughed.  “I have felt much the same at times.  There is a small inn beyond the walls of the Pelennor leading toward Lossarnach where they serve a very good trout, and word has come to me that they had a fine catch during the early morning hours.  If you should care to dine there with me?”

            “Give me half a mark to ready myself—this dress is not conducive to riding astride,” she said.  “I will leave a message to our Lord Steward to let him know I will be gone through the early afternoon….”

            He shook his head.  “I’ve already let him know,” he assured her.  “And he agrees that getting away for much of the day will serve you well.  He sends word he hopes you enjoy the ride.  Shall I meet you at the front steps to the Citadel in half a mark?”

            When she came forth, however, she was met first by young Rigil of Amon Dîn.  “Mistress Lynessë!  Are you going forth to ride out upon the Pelennor, then?  Your mother indicated that perhaps you might, and that you might appreciate someone to attend upon you.”

            “I assure you, young Lord,” Húrin said as he emerged from the hallway to his office adjusting the lie of his cloak about his shoulder, “that Mistress Lynessë will be well attended.”

            The youth looked crestfallen.  “Oh, then I should remain here?  I’d so hoped to see something besides the inside of the Citadel during this visit.  My mother seems to keep me the closer to her, the more our grandmother seeks to manage the future for Aldúnieth.  Would you truly mind if I were to accompany the two of you away from the city?  My father already gave his blessing, and so Mother could not easily tell me no after that.”

            Lynessë could see the sympathy rising in her intended escort’s eyes, and could hardly say no herself, considering how her mother was seeking to rule her own fortunes.  She did her best not to give an audible sigh.  “If it pleases Lord Húrin,” she conceded.

            “If you will assist me to don my riding glove,” agreed the Warden of the Keys to the youth.  “That is one task that is suitably difficult for me to achieve on my own—to don my own glove.”

            It appeared that the youth had not realized this would be difficult for anyone, and he flushed as he agreed.  Soon enough the three of them were riding down through the city on their horses, the young man chattering away like any equally young maiden, as if with the enforced curb he must keep on his tongue when with his parents and grandmother now being lifted, the words stored up inside his heart must find release, like the air escaping from a bladder after it has been blown up to entertain a small child.  “I’ve only ridden upon the Pelennor when we’ve come to the city with my grandmother,” he confided as they rode.  “I’m hardly ever allowed to ride out upon my own.  My grandmother says it is undignified to race with the other youths my age.  Do you think that is so?  I don’t see that the rest consider it undignified—the sons of my father’s men at arms seem to admire those who will race with them, and look on me as if I were someone incapable of doing so.  I’m a good rider, so I should beat them all, if I were only given the chance, at least.”

            Lynessë and Húrin exchanged looks, and he spoke her heart also as he assured the young man, “Then we shall see to it that we share a gallop once we are outside the City, then.”

            By the time they were free of the main gate Lynessë was feeling famished, and was glad of an excuse to race across the White City’s townlands.  Húrin indicated the first landmark to make for, called for them to Go!, and the three of them were off.  Rigil was the first to come abreast of the agreed upon tree, but not by much of a lead.  His eyes were sparkling as he turned to await Lynessë’s arrival, and he fell in happily beside her as they continued on southwestward.  “Did you see that?” he enthused.  “I told you I was a good rider!”

            “That you are,” agreed Húrin.  “I must remember to tell of this to Leonid, who serves as my aide.  He is certain none can best me in a race, and now I must tell him that he is mistaken.”

            Rigil’s eyes were shining with pride at that, and they gladly let him ride ahead of them once Húrin was assured he knew their next immediate destination at the gate from the Pelennor.  “He is a goodly lad,” the man commented quietly to Lynessë as they rode.  “Too closely held by his family, I deem, and capable of much if he were only trusted to do anything of worth.”

            “Are there races held during the Spring Tournament?” she asked.  “He would do well in them, I think.  He needs to do more to build his reputation as one worthy of being followed if he is to one day be seen as a competent officer in his own right.”

            He nodded, watching after the younger man thoughtfully.  “I shall speak to his father, within my uncle’s presence, or that of Boromir, about allowing him to take part in the races and about the need to practice daily in arms before the contest.  The more he is seen by others doing well in riding or with arms, the better he will trust to his own capabilities when the day is come to take on the role of a man.”

            There were a number of younger men within the inn when they came to it, also lured from the city by word of a good catch at the Captain’s Table.  One approached Rigil and invited him to join them, and so Húrin and Lynessë were able to share a table with but one another, although by unspoken agreement both watched the younger men to see to it that no unseemliness should ensue.  Watching Rigil’s uncertainty fade away as he became more comfortable with these other youths so much closer to his own age, Lynessë noted, “It appears he can hold his own in conversation with such as these.”

            “Indeed,” her companion agreed, looking up to thank the woman who came from the bar with a glass of wine for each of them.  “Have you enough of the fish for the two of us?” he asked.  “And what comes with it?”

            Once the serving wench was gone, they returned their attention to Rigil.  Húrin watched the young man’s laughter and swift response to some witticism offered by one of his fellows, and said thoughtfully, “I do not understand those who feel they must press down their own progeny.  I fear had I Lady Elantiel for a granddame I should wish to flee her presence as often as possible.”

            Lynessë certainly agreed.  But as she sipped at her wine, she found herself thinking again of the Steward and his removal of that book from his son’s luggage so many years past.  I hope I never try to do similarly with my own children, she thought.

            But at that the serving maid arrived with their plates of trout, and her thoughts turned to other things.

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