We were all up well before dawn the next morning, and Tuor, Tamperion, Caic and I helped with shuttering the windows and securing the doors of what would soon be my home as well as hers. The Lord-Captain had said he would leave a small party of soldiers behind, sending a relief party upon our return, to help in readying the camp for the workmen who would begin on the Prince’s new home. This camp would be upon our site, but later moved to that of the new city, when things had progressed that far.
It was a cheerful party that set off soon after breaking our fast, undeterred by a slight drizzle. Silma’s face was bright, although she often checked the oiled-cloth coverings of the harp-case slung from her pommel, on the side opposite her satchel. For my part, I found myself humming the duet we had sung the night before; I knew that I would never forget that feast before our doors!
We rode in a larger party than we had come, and the second day reached Osgiliath late in the afternoon. Tamperion had sent a pigeon the day before, so a large flat-bottomed boat was waiting to ferry us across—with a sizable party of soldiers to make sure that we were not subject to any unexpected attack.
The Knight-Captain in charge of the escort saluted the Lord Captain, and said, “King Elessar’s compliments, and he would be grateful if you, Prince Legolas, Prince Dalfinor, Lady Cormallen, and Master Tuor would join him at the Citadel for the day-meal.”
Tamperion left us as soon as we dismounted at the stables on the First Circle, to report to Lord Húrin at the House of Keys; and when we reached the Sixth Circle, Rhylla and Caic hurried ahead of us, cautioned by me not to tell anyone our news. “For,” I said sternly, “Lady Silwen and Lord Gimli have the right to know first.”
Silma shrugged as they hurried away. “It’ll be out of them in the first minute,” she predicted.
“I told them not to —” I began.
She laughed. “’Tis human nature to want to share good news!”
“Dwarven nature too,” I admitted. “But I wanted to tell Gimli myself.”
She smiled again, then sighed.
“What troubles you?” I asked.
“I am not certain how Silwen will feel about it,” she said. “I would not hurt her feelings for the world, nor lose her friendship.”
“Nor would I,” I assured her. “She will ever be welcome, for her devotion to you.”
We escorted Akesh and Rhûk to the Houses of Healing, where she introduced them to Master Kinfinning, and we took our leave, promising to visit on the morrow.
Moments later, we approached our door, which swung open. All the household was in the hallway, beaming and clapping and calling out their congratulations—except for Gimli and Lady Silwen, conspicuous by their absence.
Silma fastened a steely gaze upon Rhylla, who hung her head, but Caic said boldly, “My lady, we didn’t say a word—they already knew!”
“And how did they find out?” I inquired.
“Tamperion might’ve dropped a hint in one of 'is messages,” Rhylla said defensively. “'E meant no 'arm, Lord Dalf, truly!”
“Where are they?” Silma asked.
“Lord Gimli was summoned to the Citadel an hour ago, and Lady Silwen is in the parlor,” Samno told us.
“Then if you will excuse me,” she began, and I added, “Excuse us,” as I took her arm and we turned towards the parlor.
She tapped lightly, and we went in.
It was very pleasant to know that all the staff were so pleased, but I was more concerned with the reactions of Gimli and Silwen, who were noticeably not at the front door to greet us when we arrived. Gimli was already at the Citadel, Samno said, and Lady Silwen was in the parlor. Dalf came with me, although once he held the door open for me, I went ahead of him.
“I hope—” I began, before I was swept up in a warm hug.
“Is it true? Are you betrothed at last?” my mother-in-love asked.
“We are,” said Dalf; all the breath was being squeezed out of me by her embrace.
“Do you mind?” I asked anxiously.
“Mind? No! I’m thrilled! I could not be happier for you or myself,” she declared happily.
“For…yourself, my lady?” asked Dalf, sounding as confused as I felt relieved.
“Certainly! I look forward to at least one grandchild to dandle,” she said. “Dalf—may I call you that?”
“Of course, my lady,” he said, looking dazed.
“If you will call me Bein-Nana, as Silma does—if you don’t mind adopting me, that is?”
“Right gladly,” he assured her.
I let out a breath I hadn’t known I was holding, and she embraced and whispered something to him that made him grin before taking my arm.
“Now stop fretting that I am upset with you—and don’t deny that you have been, Little One,” she said briskly. “Sit down and tell me all about it—or as much as you can in five minutes, for you must go ready yourselves to have the day-meal with the King at the Citadel.”
“Ah, women-talk,” he grinned. “If you will excuse me, ladies, I will go bathe.”
She glanced at the time-candle and jumped up. “Sweet Valar! Look at the time! Hurry, Little One, and tell me later.”
I gave her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek and hurried upstairs, where Rhylla, Rose, and Lily already had a bath drawn for me and two gowns laid out for my choosing.
An hour later, the two of us made our way up to the Citadel, where we were met at the door by Lord Faramir, who bowed over Silma’s hand, grinning. “My lady, Prince Dalfinor, I am so pleased to be able to wish you joy! Ėowyn will be delighted as well, especially in the hope that we may sometimes have you as neighbors. Come within!”
He escorted us to the Royal Wing, to a small dining-room where grey-liveried servants were giving the table and a nearby serving-table final touches; I noticed several dishes on metal stands, with candles burning beneath them, keeping shallow pans of water hot under the food, and smiled.
King Elessar, entering with Gimli, Legolas, and Tuor, noticed. “A Dwarven invention, Dalf?”
“Nay, my lord, one of Jehan Clerk’s,” I said, bowing to him. “Your pardon, but I need to speak with my kinsman for a moment, privily.”
Gimli led me into an alcove. “What is it, lad?”
I curtseyed to the King and tried to listen to what Legolas was saying as Dalf and Gimli went aside. Then Gimli let out a bellow in Khuzdul and I flinched. He pushed past Tuor and Faramir, crying, “Is this true?”
Suddenly angry with both of them for this public display, I glared at him and raised my chin. “It is, Gimli Glóin’s Son,” I replied. My truculent tone added, And what are you going to do about it?
He laughed, saw that my glare had intensified—I was trying unobtrusively and ineffectually to free my hand—and sobered. Bowing, waving his hand before his knees, he said, “May Aulë and Yavanna bless your union with strong axes, much wealth, and many daughters,” in Khuzdul slow enough for me to understand. His deep-set eyes were filled with joy—in fact, to my astonishment, they were suffused with tears. Very slowly and softly, he added, “My lady, I have known for a long time that you are The One for him, and I rejoice that he will not journey through his life alone. My cousin is the finest Dwarf I have ever known, of any age, and I honour him as much as I love him, and as I will you, his wife.”
My own eyes filled with tears. With Gimli’s approval, surely some of the Dweorg would not ostracize my Dalf? I put my other hand on his, and leaned forward to kiss his cheek.
“What could possibly cause a lady of such refinement to lose her senses?” murmured Legolas.
“I can even forgive thick-headed Elves tonight,” Gimli said. “My cousin and Lady Cormallen are to be wed!”
To my relief, I saw no shadow of dismay on any face, only pleasure. Dalf was now holding one of my hands, and Gimli the other. Servants began to hand out goblets of wine (and a large tankard of ale for the Dwarven Ambassador).
“To Lindasilma Kuranya, Lady Cormallen, Orcsbane’s wielder, Healer, Loremistress, slayer of orcs, may she ever live in strength and joy, a boon to three peoples,” he boomed.
No forge-fire could possibly be as hot as my face felt!
The King raised his goblet. “To Prince Dalfinor Redglass, craft-master, inventor, warrior, diplomat, and path-maker for his people, may he ever live in joy and strength, his beard growing ever longer!”
Dalf waited until they drank and we sat before asking boldly, “I wonder, Your Majesty--“
“Please, Dalf, I am Strider tonight, or simply Aragorn,” the King interrupted.
“That’s too bad, because I was hoping the King would agree to marry us.”
Aragorn’s surprised delight lit up his face. “I should be honoured.”
“But Dalf,” I blurted, “we didn’t discuss this!”
“I thought it would please you,” he protested.
“It does, but I hoped that Lord Gimli would do it,” I said, feeling my face flame as everyone looked at us.
“I?” gasped Gimli. “You really want me to do it?”
“What an excellent idea,” Legolas observed.
Gimli simply gaped at him, and I saw Aragorn stifle a grin at his speechlessness. The Elf kept his calm expression, but I was beginning to realize how much he enjoyed teasing his Dwarven friend; his eyes sparkled as he said, “Let both Aragorn and Gimli do it, and then no one of either Kindred can say you are not fittingly, thoroughly wed. My cousin will be a fine spouse for you, Dalfinor.”
I was delighted that Legolas had said—again, and in such company!—that I was his cousin.
“Hmmm, a good thought, and the more amazing for its source,” said Gimli, recovering. “I too am honoured and pleased to accept, cousin. But who will stand with you?”
“That we must discuss,” Dalf said firmly.
It had seemed a brilliant idea to me to ask Aragorn to preside at our wedding—until Silma reacted with less enthusiasm than anyone else, saying, “But Dalf, we didn’t discuss this!”
“I thought it would please you,” I said in dismay. Aulë bless, I was so new at this betrothal affair, I had not thought we needed to discuss it! It shamed me that I had been so intent on my own way that I had begun the subject in company, especially when I saw how red her cheeks had become.
“It does, but I hoped that Lord Gimli would do it,” she almost whispered.
“I?” gasped Gimli. “You really want me to do it?”
“What an excellent idea,” Legolas observed.
Gimli simply gaped at him as he went on, “Let both Aragorn and Gimli do it, and then no one of either Kindred can say you are not fittingly, thoroughly wed. My cousin will be a fine spouse for you, Dalfinor.”
Gimli accepted, then, looking very pleased, and added, “But who will stand with you, cousin?”
“That we must discuss,” I said. I may have been a witling, but it would be as foolish to repeat a mistake in this as in a patterned piece.
Silma smiled at me, so I knew I had said the right thing.
“Let me know when you have set the day and time,” Aragorn said, “and any other details. This is a happier subject than I feared we might be discussing when we received word of your abduction, Silma.”
The conversation drifted to other subjects after our journey was recounted, and it was late when Gimli, Tuor, Legolas, Silma and I made our way down to the Sixth Circle; a door-warden was on duty to unbar the Gate between the Circles. Legolas and Gimli turned to go to the guesthouse, but Tuor hesitated, and of course my lady asked, “Where do you live, Master Tuor?”
“Down in the Third Circle,” he said. “I completely lost track of the time; I misdoubt that the lower Gates are locked tight.”
“Then come with us,” I said. “It may not be fancy, but Samno can find you a bed for the night, at least.”
“Th-thank you, Prince Dalfinor,” he said with a bow, obviously surprised.
“I wondered, Master Tuor, if you might let me know tomorrow when we can meet again about my inheritance,” Silma said. “Dalf and I need to have a clearer picture of what it entails, and about any taxes or regulations which must be dealt with as well.”
“I shall send a note to you, my lady, once I have reported to my superior,” he agreed.
We were passing along the street when a door banged open behind us, and we heard someone hurrying—and puffing—toward us. Instantly, as I turned, I was groping for my axe, which I had stupidly left at home, and trying to put myself in front of her—while she tried to put herself in front, as if she would defend me; I was pleased to note from the corner of my eye that Master Tuor had his hand on his belt-knife.
A very fat Man, almost as short as I, came to a halt, hitching up his elaborate robe. His red face was creased in a scowl. ”Tuor, you lazy scum!” he snarled between pants, pointing a pudgy finger. “How dare you be out this late! Do you think you can be strolling into the office on your own time, after gadding about half Gondor for so long?”
“But I was at the Citadel, dining with the King—“
“Don’t lie to me!” He raised his arm as if to hit him. “I won’t stand for it! You’ll have to pay all the expenses of your trip, you know, and your wages are docked for being absent! I’d never have assigned such a delicate matter to your blundering ineptitude if it could be helped, but I’m always too easy on you. You’ll have to earn back my regard, if that’s possible, given how stupid you are!”
Silma glided past me and put a hand on Tuor’s arm. “Master Tuor, ‘tis late—“
“Make sure you get rid of your doxy before coming in, and don’t be late!” snapped the Man, and stomped away, the words, “Consorting with low-life runagates!” floating after him just as Silma caught one of my arms, laying a finger across my lips, and Tuor grabbed the other. Nonetheless, I dragged them a couple of steps after him as she hissed at me, “Dalf, stop! Don’t say anything, for Aulë’s sake!”
I was almost panting myself with anger, but controlled my breathing better by the time the Man disappeared into a tall stone house. “How dare he speak so!” I raged.
“Who was that, Master Tuor?” Silma asked.
Even the faint moonlight could not hide his mortification as he said in a smothered voice, “Clomaddion Son of Clasmallion, my superior. I assure you, my lady, I do not carouse or consort in any way with—with—“
Silma patted his arm. “We know that,” she said comfortingly. “How early does he usually get to work? Dawn?”
He snorted. “Nay. I must be there before dawn, or his lickspittle will report me, but he doesn’t arrive until nearly noon. My lady, Prince Dalfinor, I hope you accept my profoundest apologies—“
Silma, to my surprise, began to chat of the grove at Cormallen, but I felt his fingers begin to relax before he took them from my arm as we walked on.
Samno swept him away almost as soon as we arrived, and I followed her into the library, taking her cloak from her shoulders.
She did not move. “There is nothing wrong with your kissing me on the nape of my neck,” she told me softly.
“Oh?” I kissed it, and felt her shiver. “Are you chilled?”
“Not at all.”
“It doesn’t feel chilled,” I said, testing with my lips.
“I find that exciting,” she said very low, turning in my arms.
“I’ll have to remember that.”
There was a very satisfying, but all too short interlude, before she bade me good night and rose from the sofa. “Dalf?”
“Did you mean it, when you said that we will be partners, neither one subservient to the other?”
“You don’t want to take my affairs, my business affairs, into your management?”
“I do not, unless you ask me for advice. The lands and money are yours, not mine.”
“I would prefer to think of them as ours.”
“Well, certainly, all of mine, such as they are, are yours as well, but I will not make monetary decisions for you!”
“Thank you. And thank you for not drubbing that fat fool tonight. It would have caused more problems for Tuor.”
“That was all that restrained me. I cannot understand why he allowed that oaf to treat him so!”
“You have never felt uncertain of your ability to make your way, have you?” she asked.
“'Make my way?’” I repeated.
“Survive. Manage to find shelter, food and clothing for yourself.”
“No, I don’t think I have,” I agreed after some thought.
“It has been very different for him, I wager,” she said.
“Tell me, please, for I may need to know what you read so easily.”
She sat down again, although in a chair and not beside me, which was probably as well. “I suspect that he was orphaned young, with no family. All that he has he has secured for himself, and to gain an education, even a small one, and procure a post in a department as important under Steward Denethor as that one, speaks to his determination and hard work. He has probably thought of nothing but his work for most of his life; most of the important positions have been awarded by rank instead of merit, something I am hoping Aragorn will change. That is why a petty bureaucrat like Clomaddion is able to act as he does. With disarray in the department, he has no doubt been promoted, and feels even more secure in his bullying than before.”
She nodded. “It is. But the Goldtrader was a bully, and so he encouraged that kind of behavior and politicking in his subordinates. Luckily, Tuor is young enough that there is hope for him—“
I sat back and stared at her. “Young? He’s an old dry stick, Silma.”
“That is more the impression his manner and style of dress creates than the reality,” she told me. “I would estimate him as in his late twenties or early thirties, although I will know for certain tomorrow.”
Her demure smile was spiced with mischief. “Aye. I know all the gossips in the Conclave Building!”
“So you are going to rescue him,” I said.
“Do you mind?” she asked a bit anxiously.
I laughed. “Not at all! There’s good in him, I can see. No matter how ineffectively, he was willing to try to protect you tonight, and he has been kind to Caic, in his way.”
“Do you think you could abide having him, well, around?” she asked.
“If you can get him to stop calling me Prince Dalfinor, I may be able to manage it.”
“And I’ll try to discuss things with you that concern us both before I announce them,” I promised as she rose again.
“So will I, my Dwarf,” she said, bending to kiss me.
“I merely thought, if Aragorn presided, no one here could fault you for wedding out of your Kindred,” I said, drawing her, unresisting, to sit on my knee.
“I know. I did know, but I wanted to ask Gimli. Do you think he was pleased?”
“If he wore a waistcoat with buttons as the Halflings do, they would have burst off it with pride,” I declared, and she laughed at the image. “I am pleased as well. This is a good solution, as Legolas said.”
“We must make decisions about our marriage soon,” she noted.
“Indeed we must!”
“Why not tonight?”
“Because I lack the endurance of Dwarves, and am weary, and you keep trying to distract me,” she said with a yawn.
I suppressed a yawn as well. “Then good night, dear my lady.”
“Good night, my Dwarf. Valar give you rest.”