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Marpol the Builder
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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30
Arrival & a Mishap

All was quiet during my watch and indeed the night; I woke Alta two hours before dawn and went back to sleep. We parted from the two Rangers after breaking our fast. Eldien presented me with a letter to some of the Council of Elders. I thanked him and asked where they would be.

“Gwaeroval knows, and will take you hither soon,” he said.

Bidding them farewell after packing up, we greeted Gwaeroval and mounted as before. “The fish was wonderful, Gwaeroval,” Alta said.

:You are welcome. It made a nice change for me as well. Thorenhen, where do you wish to go now?: :

To my relief, his lazy spiral upward was not upsetting my stomach; mayhap I was growing accustomed to this mode of travel! :Where do you think would be best?:

::Will you trust me? I would go North. There are two places you should go first.: :

:I would be a fool not to heed your counsel.:

He was amused, but did not comment, merely flew onward, northwesterly, alternately soaring and beating his great wings. Below us, the land unfurled like a great coverlet, and I marveled at its hugeness, even as I pondered historic changes.

We landed on the northern shore of a golden-brown river at noon, so that he might drink and we might have a morsel and stretch our legs. Alta had baked meatpies the night before. I took a bite, and she burst out laughing at my expression.

“What is this?” I demanded.

“A pie. What did you expect?”

“A meat pie! This is filled with fish!”

A dark brow arched. “You dislike my cooking?”

“Nay, I like it well!” I assured her. “’Tis just I expected venison or rabbit; my mouth was ready for some kind of meat, so I was a bit…surprised.”

“Well, I didn’t want to waste what was left over,” she said reasonably.

I took another bite. Now that I knew what it was, I concentrated on its texture and flavour. “Delicious!” I said sincerely.

“Ah, well, they say that hunger makes the best seasoning,” she remarked. “We have some berries, too, and a bit of cheese. What river is that?”

::Do you know, Thorenhen?: :

“From its colour, and from the maps I’ve seen, is it the Baranduin?” I asked.

::It is. The Hobbits call it the Brandywine, or simply The River, since it’s the only one they know.: :

“Is that where Captain Meriadoc gets his family name?” Alta asked.

“Probably. Will we see their land?” I felt excited too.

::Your pardon, but no. I intend to go straight to our destination, so we will bypass it. No, we are in Arthedain, and go further north and a bit east.: :

It was mid-afternoon when he began to circle and descend. At first, I wondered why, but then I realized that we were approaching yet another ruined tower and cleverly disguised group of low buildings scattered among trees and shrubs in the most northern of a small chain of low hills. Alta gestured to a small herd of cattle fleeing into a grove by a stream in one ravine.

As he backwinged to land beside the largest “hill,” I saw that it was a turf-covered hall with few noticeable windows, and a path wound around its base, ending in a sunken ramp. ::Come out, folk of the Dúnedain and the House of the Eagles’ Flight! I, Gwaeroval of the Eagles, bring guests you will want to welcome!: :

I slid down and turned to help Alta dismount, who immediately straightened her skirts and smoothed her hair. Turning toward the hall, I almost started; three green-cloaked and hooded figures stood gazing at us where I would have sworn there was no cover to have hidden them seconds before.

I bowed. “The day’s greeting. I am Marpol Thorenhen of Gondor, and this is Mistress Altáriël Nénharma, my betrothed. We seek the Captains of the Council. I bring word from Feren (1) Eldien Foros.”

“And how do you know aught of him?” asked the one on the left.

“We left him and his grandson this morning at Lond Daer,” I replied. “He gave me a letter.”

Silence—except for a sneeze to my right, and a glimpse of movement in my side vision. Without conscious thought, I put out my hand—and caught a small arrow, tip first. The head punched through my palm, but I managed not to cry out, then or when I drew it out.

A child screamed, and suddenly we were surrounded by a crowd of people, all talking loudly at once.

::This is most unseemly! Thoronhen, are you hurt?: :

Alta’s knife was in one hand, the other trying to open my bloodied fist clenched on the arrow, as she divided her attention between trying to get between them and me, and attempting to see the extent of my injury. My other hand was on my knife-hilt; I willed myself to let go and open it in sign of peace. There were far too many to fight, even had I wished to do so.

“QUIET!” bellowed a deep voice.

It was instantly obeyed, and all three of the figures pushed back their hoods. The one to the right was glaring at the Eagle. “Would you kindly release my great-grandson?”

Gwaeroval opened one of his talons, and a little boy, mayhap five or six years old, ran sobbing to the grizzled old man, who scooped him up as a young woman hurried to unclasp a small bow from his hand

The other Man, with snow-white hair and beard, asked, “And what recompense do you require for this, stranger?”

“Peace, Alta,” I said softly, and with more volume, “If by recompense you mean revenge, Ioron (2), then I reply that I require nothing, Were he an adult, I might suggest we submit to law, or, depending upon the customs of your people, a ritual engagement. But I do not fight a child; it would be simple murder. For merely a scratch? No. Besides, no guest-right had been offered nor accepted.”

The even older woman asked, “Are you badly hurt?”

“I have taken worse hurts on the training-field,” I said truthfully.

Alta had sheathed her knife and finally wrestled my hand open, tucking the arrow under one arm, and examining the wound between swabbing it with a cloth from her pouch. “It’ll need a couple of stitches, and it’s his dominant hand.”

“Show me,” commanded the old woman, coming forward. “She’s right. Very well, Thoronhen of Gondor, we accord you guest-right this night, and you may come within.”

I bowed. “My sword is yours and your family’s this night, until the end of tomorrow’s dawn,” I said formally in Adûnaic.

“Well, a lettered Southern barbarian,” she commented. “You too are welcome, Herdis (3) Altáriël,” she added, and led us down the ramp and through a door covered with vines. “Celebriel, prepare rooms for them.”

“Yes, Ioreth,” the young woman with the bow said promptly.

It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the change in lighting, but presently I was seated in a comfortable padded chair by a broad hearth, my hand being competently cleansed, stitched, anointed with some green herbal ointment, and bandaged by the old woman aided by a younger one, while Alta stirred something in a small pot over some coals raked to one side of the blaze after a low-voiced conversation with the younger woman. She strained and poured the liquid into a wooden cup, which she brought me. “Willowbark tea. It will help the ache. Don’t spill it and don’t leave any.”

I drank it resignedly, unable to restrain a face at the bitter taste.

The old woman’s eyes twinkled and she tapped my knee with her finger. “All Men are like little boys, wanting doses to be sweet.”

“Waste of good honey, no doubt,” I said, straight-faced.

“In some cases. Rodwenna, give this warrior a minch of honey in his tea,” she directed, and the slender girl complied. “I am Ioreth Perelindrë, a Healer here. What is your name, warrior? I want all your names, mind—and I shall know if you leave any out.”

“He should rest,” Alta said.

“Plenty of time for that,” she replied, unperturbed. Her deep-set grey eyes gazed at me compellingly, and I wondered if this was one who still wielded Mannish magic.

“I have nothing to hide,” I replied readily. “I am Marpol Vittrubula; my mother was seduced into a false marriage, and my father, Hirluin the Fair of Pinnath Gelin, set her aside when he saw a chance to make a wealthier one which gained him a title and fortune, so at his behest I am deemed by many a bastard. It was said of me until recently that I was his father’s get, but that was not true. I was a captain of the Shield & Hammer Company of the guard in Minas Tirith until I was discharged two months ago. My mates nicknamed me Thorenhen after a couple of archery competitions in which I was lucky.

“King Elessar, who tells me that we are distant cousins, asked me to become his Gwaron-i-Menon to assist in knitting the two realms together into one. A while later he decreed that I would be the new head of House Tintehlë, a defunct title, mostly so that the nobles would give me more credence—although it seems that I am, in fact, descended from them through both my parents.”

“Those are all your names?” she asked.

Alta poked me with a finger. “He’s too modest, my lady. His captains tell me that the folk of Dol Amroth call him Dock-floater, after a floating pier he designed and built for them. Both the Drúedain and the Dunlendings name him Way-giver, and the former also call him the Land-finder, for because of his counsel, our Lord King has given them Taur Drúadain for their own and the Rohirrim hunt them no more. Lord Gwaeroval has said that he is connected to the House of the Eagle, although I know not how, and because of his kinship with the King, Lord Elrond has named him kinsman and elf-friend.”

“And you as well,” I said, flushing.

“Only because I am with you,” she retorted.

“And why are you here, Marpol Tintehlë?” asked the older of the two Men, coming in with his companion.

“I mean no discourtesy, but you know our names and we do not as yet know yours, Ioryn,” I said as civilly as I could to the two Elders.

“He’s right,” said the youngest of the three with amusement. He was the white-bearded one who was the boy’s grandsire. “I am Alardil, one of the four Dirgon Faradrim (4) as Eldien is; my province is centered here. May I present Ioreth Perelindrë, who is both a seer and a loremistress, as well as thane of the village and a member, as all three of us are, of the Council.”

She inclined her head regally, and I rose to bow as Alta curtseyed.

“And this is Adar Quincel, a former member of the Faradrim, now head of the very small monastery in the village.”

Adar,,” I said, repeating my bow.

“Lord Marpol,” he said softly. Was there hurt in his eyes?

I stared at him as he pulled at the lobe of one ear. Suddenly a memory surfaced:

I sat on the frosty ground, trying not to weep. My eyes were already swollen from crying, and the desolate shore barely mirrored my own grief. How could it be so sunny on such a bleak and awful day?

A hand touched my shoulder as a large Man in a worn green cloak patched wth brown hunkered down next to me. “Ah, lad, I heard in the village. I’m sorry for your mother’s death.”

“I can’t find any flowers,” I choked out. “
Naneth, wanted to see some so much—but Father broke all her pot-plants, and it’s so early and cold, I can’t find so much as a petal! He won’t even give her a proper funeral! He’s given orders to the servants to hurry her into the ground like—like so much trash! And he’s sending me away from Hirgon, too! I’m to leave at dawn for the army. How can I learn aught there?”

A muscular arm went around my shoulders, holding me against a solid shoulder. “I thought as much. Your mother was a gentle lady whose devotion was great for Yavanna; I brought this for you.” From under his cloak with his other hand, he took a small cluster of white flowers amongst green leaves. “This is
simbelmynë, prized by the Rohirrim and planted on their tomb-mounds, and these leaves are athelas. Do you remember what I told you about it last year?”

“That even though folk around here think it just a weed, ‘tis in reality a great healing herb, and to always keep some by me.” Even as miserable as I was, I could not resist asking, “How is it that this flower blooms now?”

“I protected it from the cold as well as I could, and the warmth of my body helped it bloom. Fold the leaves around the blossoms, and no one will notice—or care—about a weed. Place them in her hands, and keep four leaves to lighten your heart with memories of her love for you. She rests in Nandos’ halls now, free and happy. Now, lad, we haven’t much time. I must leave on a long journey —“

“Take me with you, please!” I begged. “I’ll keep up, I’ll do just what you say, I’ll be good!”

His grip tightened. With his other hand, he pulled at his earlobe. “Ah, I wish I could! But I have my duties, and soon you will have yours. And your father has a long arm,”

“I hate him!”

“Do not! Hate only hurts the hater, not what—or who—is hated. I promise you, he will reap his own reward in time. The Valar see what goes on, and act when the time is right. Leave it to Them. He may still change for the good, or perform some good and important act that no one else can.

“Now, listen to me! You are the son of my heart, and I am proud of you. Were we in the North, even young as you are, you would be granted a Ranger’s star. Remember all that I have taught you, and always look for teachers wherever you are; you will find them in surprising places if you are open to seeing them. Befriend others. Know that you have it in you to do good and great things that will help others. And know this: we shall meet again, in another place. It will be a long time, lad, but we will see each other again. I promise it.”

I had believed the absolute certainty in his voice and eyes, wiped my face, and nodded. “I won’t forget,” I had promised as well.

“See that you don’t,” he said huskily. “Eru Creator and the Valar blesss, guard and guide thee, son of my heart. Farewell until our next meeting.” Again, a hug, and then he was striding away, one hand already moving up to pull at that ear as he disappeared.


Now I searched his face intently. “Blackbird?”

He threw back his head and laughed exultantly before he pulled me into a rough embrace. “I told you he’d know me!” he cried joyously.

I was grinning, hugging him and thumping his back, then stood slightly away, my unbandaged hand on his arm. “Alta, this is the father of my heart, one of my earliest mentors when I was a boy. He brought flowers for my mother’s grave, the day before I was sent to the army, the last day of my childhood.” I was unashamed of the tears of joy on my face. This was a fine day, whatever happened!

She smiled and curtseyed deeply. “I am honoured, Adar Quincel.”

“And I am happy to know my new foster-daughter; I know he has chosen wisely.”

Perelindrë and Alardil were also smiling, moving to embrace me. “Now we can unreservedly greet and claim you as one of our own. We’ve been keeping track of you ever since that long-ago day, as well as we could from a distance.”

“But why?” I asked.

Alta added, “Your pardon, but where is it that we are, Elders?”

“Amon Thoron, the Eagle’s Hill, and one of our havens,” Perelindrë answered. “I suppose you might as well call me aunt, Marpol; almost everyone here does, even though we’re all cousins to some degree. There have been visions and prophecies, and those aren’t always as clear to interpretation as one would like. “

Tîrada (4), Perel, should we not allow them to rest before you begin interrogating them?” asked Rodwenna.

“Oh, I daresay they are made of sterner stuff after what was only a trifling mishap,” she said. Rodwenna, Alardil and Blackbird stared at her, and she sighed. “You young ones have no stamina,” she grumbled, and they all laughed. Evidently this was an oft-voiced complaint. “Very well, child, take them to their chambers. We’ll meet again at the day-meal.”

Rodwenna led us up a narrow, curving stair to a passage lit by a glassed window set in the ceiling. I stopped short to gaze at it in delight. A neat contrivance made it possible to fasten a sliding shutter over it on the inside. “Look, Alta! A roof-window!”

“Does it leak?” she asked practically.

“Nay,” answered Rodwenna. “There’s a bank above it; the light is directed by means of a mirror. ‘Twas a contrivance of the Dwarves to get light deep into their mines and holds that we adapted.”

I was calculating the mathematics necessary to create the correct angles, wondering if there was a mechanism for shifting the mirror over the course of a day, when my betrothed seized me firmly by the elbow and towed me after our guide.

“Will this suit, my lord Marpol?” Rodwenna asked diffidently, pausing beside an open door.

Celebriel bustled out, the keys at her waist jingling. “Right in here,” she said briskly. “How is your hand?”

“Fine,” I lied, ignoring its throbbing. The chamber was a nice one, with a vase of flowers on a chest near the bed, and a small window, its shutter and casement open to the breeze. “This seems very pleasant.”

“Your pack is by the bed,” she said.

“I can unpack it while you rest,” Alta said. “Why don’t you lie down, and I’ll come back once I’ve seen my room.”

“I can do it myself,” I demurred.

“And risk pulling those stitches? I’ll do it. I hope we aren’t causing too much extra work, Mistresses.”

“Oh, no, we keep a couple of guest rooms always ready for visitors.”

“Yours is just along this way, Herdis.”

“Please, call me Alta.”

Their voices receded, and I swung my pack onto the bed. Opening it was awkward, given my bandaged hand. I wondered, as I had before, if Healers purposely used so many bandages to render tasks more difficult when it came to hand or arm injuries.

Alta came back before I even began swearing at my clumsiness, and took it away from me. “My room’s the same as yours, very nice,” she said. “My lor—Marpol, please lie down for a while.”

“I don’t want to lie down,” I protested, and gave myself the lie with a sudden yawn. “Did you put something in that drink?” I asked suspiciously.

She smiled. “You need to rest. Besides, you have a great deal to think about, finding so many unknown kin, and planning out what we’re going to do next. Let me help you off with your boots. Take off your tunic.”

A moment later, she leaned over me, drawing up a light blanket. I said, “I’ll be good and sleep—if you will give me a kiss.”

She brushed my cheek with her lips, but I snaked my arms around her waist and drew her down, capturing her mouth. To my joy, she kissed back, before firmly pushing herself upright. “What if someone had looked in the door?” She was pink-cheeked.

“They’d applaud my good taste,” I replied. “We are betrothed, after all. Or you could close the door.”

“I will—when I leave, which will be now.” But first she bent and kissed me again. “Rest!”

“Easy for you to say, now that my heart is racing,” I mock-growled, and she quitted the room with a laugh.

~~~

1) Feren – sing. of Feryth, one Ranger.

2) Ioryn (S. “Elders”) [sing. male ioren]; [fem. ioreth, pl. iorith]. Councils of ioryn advise the leaders of the Heren a Govannas in Faradrim Forod (S. “Order and Fellowship of the Rangers of the North”), and elect the thanes and elders of the havens, the hidden villages and training centers of the Dúnedain of the North.

3) Herdis (S. “mistress”) – and herder (S. “master”), terms of respect among the Rangers of the North.

4) Dirgon Faradrim (S. “Ranger-Captain” [pl. Dirgonath Faradrim]), never used where non-members could hear. Four at a time; all must have earned their star, with at least one heir to the chieftainship, so experienced leadership is available in case of tragedy. Each Dirgon is assigned responsibility for 1-3 havens and a “province,” an arbitrarily bounded area of the north, and has a council of ioryn (S. “Elders”) to advise them and act as a check on their power. Rank is roughly determined by seniority. Usually 6 of them; at least 4 are Dúnedain, and at least 1 is a member of the royal family.

5) Tîrada (S.) – paternal aunt, sister of father


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