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Old 08-22-2003, 08:18 AM   #161
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril

Diorwyn rubbed her sore fingertips with a sigh. The past two days had been the busiest she had experienced since coming to the White City. She had prepared gowns for the wedding and various festivities while they were still in Dol Amroth, but since the invitation to a masked ball had come unexpectedly, she had needed to improvise costumes for the Princesses at least. And she couldn’t say “no” to the others who had asked for her assistance as well.

Gwinniel had not been able to help, for her seamstresses were equally busy sewing costumes for the ladies of Minas Tirith. Fortunately, several of the maids could ply needles well enough for the plain seams, so that she could concentrate on the delicate details. Tessa’s costume looked very nice, but she was proudest of the butterfly dress for Finduilas. Gauzy, colourful fabrics fluttered as wings without hindering her movements.

Unfortunately, she had been so busy that she had not been able to talk to her friends in the city about the rumours that were becoming increasingly persistent. She debated with herself over the respective merits of finally getting some rest after very short nights, or seeing the ball and especially the costumed guests there. Professional curiosity got the better of her, and she decided to take a peek from one of the adjacent rooms before going to sleep. Throwing a light cloak over her simple dress, she walked to the ballroom.
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Old 08-22-2003, 12:26 PM   #162
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"And we shall see tonight who is exactly whom," her mother finished as the three stepped out from the carriage. Alethea nodded to her in childish obedience, in her head she wondered why she did it but it was instinct to agree with every thing her mother said concerning Umbar. Everything. So the three walked to the Ballroom, her mother in front and her sister at her side.

Her sister looked stunning tonight and she pondered the thought of whether bride to be could match her magnificence. She didn’t doubt it, but she kept silent. As they approached the door they placed the elaborate masques on delicately. Alethea’s was the same deep red and white of her dress, except the plumage was laced with tiny coloured jewels which mad the masques sparkle when the light hit it right. Her eyes were swept with the same red hue of her dress, but her speckled brown eyes seemed to be oyt of lace with her attire.

As the three entered the glorious Ballroom a few heads turned in their direction, obviously to applaud Dryea’s beauty with their inquisitive eyes. Their mother turned and walked to her acquaintances with a brief goodbye to her daughters. And so Alethea, seeing Adrama at the other end of the Ballroom made her way to her. She set off passing through several groups of people commenting on others.

“…yes she is beautiful isn’t she…”

“….but what about her sister?….”

“…a fake! Well I never…”

She continued to walk through them, till someone caught her wrist and pulled her, she turned round with a shock but was only greeted by Dryea.

“Oh….”

“Remember what mother said,” she whispered quietly to Alethea, “remember your job, don’t you dare let that pathetic friend of yours get in the way.” Alethea twisted her wrist from her grip, her eyes stared violently at her sister. Why did she do this? She loved her sister and hated her at the same time. Dryea seemed to have not let go of the fact Alethea sold her out to their mother, and in reality Alethea had not forgiven herself for the act.

The last thing she wanted to do was upset Dryea but somewhere inside of her she knew she was right and her sister wrong. They were lying and it was wrong and she wanted to fight it but the love she held for her mother and sister was too much too over come, although she felt as though she was nearly there the way Dryea was acting.

“And you remember too!” she hissed back, “I think Rhir might be here tonight, maybe I’ll ask him for a dance!” She smiled sarcastically at her and continued on her way to Adrama. In truth she had no intention of dancing with Rhir, she had simply said it to spite her sister. She knew her mother would be far more outraged if Dryea danced with him then if she did. And she knew Dryea knew it as well.

[ September 05, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 08-22-2003, 04:57 PM   #163
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Sting

Meirelle hustled around in the kitchen, preparing the dainties that were to be set aside on tables at the ball. She set a plate stacked with iced cakes upon a serving tray and went back to fetch a blue plate with pastries set in a circular pattern on it. Picking up the tray, Meirelle threaded her way through the dense crowd of cooks and servants in the kitchen to get towards the door that led out so she could take the dainties to the ball.

When Meirelle stepped into the hall, she drew in a sharp breath. It was decorated even more lavishly than it had been at the welcoming dinner. Ladies in breathtakingly beautiful dresses with elaborate masks glided by to chat with each other, leaving the scent of perfume in their wake. Men in rich suits strode about, looking for the lady they desired to dance with. Meirelle searched for the tables designated for dainties and finally spotted them, against the far wall.

Making her way across the hall proved more difficult than Meirelle thought. Men and ladies swept by without a care for the dainties on the tray, and Meirelle nearly dropped them more than once. When she finally reached the tables, she sighed in relief and set the tray down. She emptied it and picked it up. As she turned to go back to the kitchen, Meirelle bumped a lady in a particularly beautiful cream-coloured dress and dropped the tray with a startling clang. She gasped and grabbed the lady's arm, steadying her.

"I am so sorry, m'lady! Are you all right?" she asked, mortified. The woman regained her cool composure and replied, "I am fine, lass. Be more careful the next time you are carrying a tray, though, and you won't make a fool of yourself in dignified public." With that, she walked haughtily off, her dress rustling. Meirelle mumbled, "Yes, m'lady," and knelt down the retrieve the tray, cheeks burning. She stepped back through the crowd briskly, eyes down, until she got out of the hall. As she strode back to the kitchen, Meirelle burned over the upset tray. "Be more careful and you won't make a fool of yourself," she mimicked the woman. "Be more kindly and you won't make a beast of yourself, is what I should have said," she muttered.
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Old 08-22-2003, 08:06 PM   #164
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Adrama stood, trying to hide the glittering coldness in her eyes as she watched Finduilas and Denethor, or rather just Finduilas. Adrama knew she wouldn't be able to look at Denethor without the few nearby her seeing just how she felt. Murmurs came to her ears. "Isn't Finduilas beautiful?" "Absolutely lovely!" "The perfect bride for Denethor." Adrama tried to ignore these, yet one comment was impossible to pretend she hadn't heard. "Do you remember when there were rumors that another girl would marry Denethor... yes, can you imagine? That would have been so terrible for Denethor. No, I believe she wanted to marry him because of his high position. Everyone would have been perfectly miserable if she had become his bride. Except her, of course, the little hag. As long as she got what she wanted, she wouldn't have cared what everyone else felt. Yes, I know what people are saying abuot the Lady Finduilas, but I don't agree. If anyone is related to some evil person it would be the first girl."

Adrama's back stiffened, color came to her cheeks, and her hands clenched tightly at her sides. She felt a hand gently touch her shoulder for a moment and she saw her mother looking with kindly concern at her. For the rest of the evening Pelien did not exchange a single word with the one who had made that comment, who, fortunately, wasn't known to their family.

Pelien drew Adrama away from the main section of the people gathered and looked into the dark eyes that were seeking to find something else to look at. "Adrama, this must be very hard for you," Pelien said with a little sigh. "Please, love, you mustn't listen to anything people say. You must realize that if Finduilas were turned away and Adrama married Denethor, that such terrible things would be said about them, too. People who say things like that are merely trying to fit in with the others and find fault in everything."

Tears brimmed up in the dark eyes and, as they were in an area with many people, the young woman simply took her mother's hands and kissed her cheek. "I love you so much, Mother," she said.

Her mother blushed a little and pretended in vain not to have heard, and they rejoined the crowd. For the first time Adrama summoned up enough courage to look at Denethor. With a shock she realized, though she would nevr have admitted it, that she didn't really love Denethor anymore. The only reason she hated Finduilas was because she had taken what should have been Adrama's. Because she was supposed to hate her...? Adrama wasn't very sure about that.

"Adrama, would you like to dance?"

Adrama's turned her head and saw that the speaker of those words had been Pelien. Not sure what her mother meant, she replied in a hesitant voice, "I think it might enjoy that." Her mother made no reply, but her eyes shifted from Adrama's face to something else. Adrama turned, following the direction of her mother's gaze, and found herself looking at Addruran. She smield a little. "Just like old times," she said, and moved off in that direction. Standing by the table where Addruran was surveying the room, a voice beside her spoke unexpectedly, startling her.

"Hello, Adrama."

"Alethea, how wonderful to see you again!" Adrama said with a laugh. "Of course I should have known you'd be here. I was just..." She trailed off and her eyes wandered to Finduilas.

"Watching Finduilas, I suppose?"

"Well, yes, actually," Adrama said with a little sigh. "I suppose she does look rather beautiful tonight. She must be very happy to be Denethor's bride."

Alethea was silent. Words didn't often ease bitterness. "I saw you watching the two of them just a few minutes ago," she said, cleverly changing the subject without appearing to. "You looked absolutely ghastly for a few moments. What happened?"

"Oh..." Adrama paused, trying to hide her confusion. She didn't feel like confiding in Alethea just yet. "Er... my corset was too tight."

"So your mother took you aside and comforted you about it, and you were exceedingly glad over that? Not to mention that you hadn't noticed it before, especially when climbing in and out of your carriage."

Adrama laughed lightly. "You're very sharp, Alethea." A teasing smile came to her face. "Were you, by any chance, spying on me?" There was a little silence, then Adrama spoke again. "If you want the truth, some woman or other made a nasty comment about 'the first girl who was going to marry Denethor.'"

"Some people can be so spiteful."

"And mocking! If we ever get to meet each other in private again without all these ears listening in, I'll tell you about my mother's tea party. There were some perfect examples of mockery there." Adrama's eyes scanned the room, searching for Tessa. "Finduilas' sister did give me a rather friendly look, though. She might be a good friend, except for two points: she was making fun of my mother, and she's Finduilas' sister." Adrama could not explain why she felt guilty after proclaiming the second reason.

A hand touched her shoulder, and she turned to face Addruran, smiling up at him. "Will you dance?" he asked.

"I suppose that would be very pleasant," said Adrama. "Just like old times?" She turned back to Alethea. "I hope you don't mind," she said. "A new dance is just beginning, and afterwards I'll return."

"Please, go," Alethea said. "It might do you some good, Adrama." With a playful smile, she leaned over and whispered secretly. "Perhaps I should loosen your corset for you first?"

Adrama gave her a withering look, then laughed loudly, taking Addruran's hand and walking out to the dance floor with him. The music began to play, and the two of them began to dance. Adrama wondered if her mother and father would dance at all. They never seem to do things like that anymore, she thought. Really, I hope Mother realizes that dancing is a very noble thing to do.

"I noticed you looking very sick just a few minutes ago," Addruran commented.

"Yes, everyone does seem to be noticing that," Adrama said, feeling rather annoyed. How many other people would comment on that before the evening was over? Deciding immediately to skip the story about the corset, she simply said, "Someone said something rather rude about me, without knowing I was there. It was just rather a blow against my pride, that's all."

As they continued to dance, they came alongside of Finduilas and Denethor for a few moments. Adrama made a point of looking exceedingly happy and ignored them. That will show him that I'm not sorry at all that he's marrying that hag, Adrama thought with some satisfaction. The feeling of happiness wasn't all pretend. It was nice to be talking casually with Addruran again. Smiling fondly, she brought to mind the time when they had both been children and, at one party, they had danced together and everyone had watched them with laughter and applause. "A perfect match," everyone had said. Adrama didn't like to think of that. Everyone seemed to want to spoil the friendship the two of them had.

The dance soon ended, and Adrama bid farewell to Addruran and went to rejoin Alethea once again. The dance had left her flushed and looking very beautiful, and Pelien, standing a little ways off, couldn't help but smile proudly as she watched her daughter. Adrama and Alethea went to where they could sit down and began their conversation once again.

[ August 22, 2003: Message edited by: Nurumaiel ]
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Old 08-23-2003, 05:56 AM   #165
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Silmaril

Averyll was about to speak when Vieana noticed a group of Finduilas' Dol Amroth guard standing by one of the doors leading out onto the balconies. "What do you suppose they are up to?" Vieana asked Averyll and Tessa who seemed to have the same question burning inside them once Vieana had brought it to their attention.

Their leader soon found them and bowed. "You dont suppose something has happened do you?" Averyll asked. "I hope not!" exclaimed Tessa who inheritantly looked in Finduilas direction. "I should find out, they know me. Those guards used to be under the command of my husband, excuse me." Vieana slowly made her way over to the men who all in turn bowed at her.

"What are you all standing around looking like someone is going to be assasinated?" Vieana asked frontly, which sent a small wave of shock between the guards. "Nothing Lady Vieana, well not intentionally anyhow. We have heard more and more tales about the Princess, snide comments from the Minas Tirith Guards." The first guard remarked darkly.

"Really." Vieana said raising an eyebrow. "So, it is now that you all are happy to reveal that there have been tales told. It is just so lucky for you that we already know and are attempting to fix them before any of our reputations are damaged." She said putting her hands on her hips. "You of all Naian, should know better. What would Dardanir say if he knew what you were up to. Is it not some sort of treason to keep this kind of knowledge to yourselves?"

"No Lady, not really, you see, you ladies, well, you are sensitive..."

"Rubbish." snorted Vieana. "I think im going to have to write Captain Dardanir and tell him of this situation. You must be at peace with Minas Tirith, do you understand? Do you know what it would mean for us to get off side with them? It would be close to Civil War." Vieana exaggerated this just a little, but to some affect as the guard bowed his head.

Vieana felt slightly bad for this. And in her kindest tone spoke "Now, please come in wont you? You are as welcome as we are here. You are the royal guard. See here, you may make up for you mistake by dancing with me."

"Would that really be appropriate Lady Vieana?" Naian asked. "Dont be so silly!" said Vieana and she brought the group of guards into the ballroom and danced one dance with each of them before leaving them to the Minas Tirith court and retiring to a chair by the side of the room.
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Old 08-23-2003, 08:22 PM   #166
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Eckthlion spent the better part of the next hour mingling with his guests and listening to their small talk, joining in where appropriate and sharing some minor confidences of his own. It was a game. An old game that he'd learned to play when still a youth. It was also a skill that was necessary for anyone who wanted to do a good job with the Stewardship of Gondor. Now and again, amidst all the trivial gossip, he picked up an essential nugget of information.

Tonight Eckthelion could sense a tendril of unrest underlying the polite conversations that swirled about the hall, a slight indication of ongoing tension and unease. But why this anxiety was there, or what was its precise origin, he had not been able to determine. He made a mental note to speak later with his daughter Tiriel and see if she'd heard of anything unusual going on. Or perhaps he should consider apporaching a trusted servant in Finduilas' own entourage. It never ceased to amaze him how the court women, with their tangled webs of gossip and intrigue, were often the first to pick up on some subtle change in opinion or to pass along rumors that were later determined to be true.

Eckthelion leaned against one of the collonades and shifted his gaze uneasily about the hall. Where had Siriel disappeared to? How like his eldest daughter to disregard her familial duties and fail to show herself on such a crucial occasion! She'd grown from a headstrong child into a headstrong woman, and as yet had shown no indication of settling down and finding herself a husband. He had pushed a whole string of suitors towards his daugher in her younger years, but had given up on that. She had her own ideas on what was right and wrong, and was seemingly impermeable to his influence. Eckthelion sighed ruefully, reflecting that he would never understand her.

For one instant, he considered the possibility that something might have happened to Siriel. Some unknown enemy had encountered her and was intent on bringing her serious harm. He quickly pushed that thought aside. For all her stubborness, Siriel had always been able to handle herself with assurance and was careful not to take on risks that were too great. No, most likely the girl had gone her own way for some personal reason and might still arrive late at the ball. He went over to the dining table, picked up a glass of wine, and began to search for a member of Finduilas' personal entourage to have a word with them and see what he could discover.

[ August 26, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-24-2003, 02:06 PM   #167
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The young man smiled at her, eyebrows raised. Exasperated, Tessa turned around. She was fed up with so-called-gentleman following her everywhere, flirting and just being annoying. Instead, she leaned against a marble pillar and let her eyes fly around the room.

Vieana was dancing with a guard. A crowd of women were standing together, talking. Two debutants, maiden of barely fifteen, were giggeling in a corner. Adrama and that other lady, Dreya´s sister...Alethea, that was her name! The two looked close, like true friends. Tessa moved nearer to them, casually smiling at people as she went. Adrama was smiling that bitter-sweet smile Tessa had noticed before. Her eyes were red-rimmed, and her cheeks seemed to glitter. Had she been crying? Tessa couldn´t imagine why, but maybe it was because of the tightness of those dratted corsets.... Adrama looked over. Tessa smiled at her, then walked away, looking for Averyll or Elen.

She found Averyll, flirting with a guard carelessly. She seemed not to sad about an oppertunity to dissapear,and followed Tessa back to their table.

“Averyll, I´ve been thinking. It stinks. Lady of Dol Amroth, I´m sure indeed! Neither of us have ever heard of them, and believe me, we should know. They weren´t at court, not even Vieana´s sisters ever mentioned them...”

“But what if they´ve been living here for a long time?” Averyll objected. “What if they came from Dol Amroth but moved here? That does happen, you know. I don´t know, Tessa. For all we know, they could be totally clean.”

Tessa sighed. Averyll was right, for all they knew it could all be true. But I know more! I know there´s more, I can feel it! And Tessa´s feelings were usually right...
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Old 08-24-2003, 02:42 PM   #168
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sophia's post

Síriel leaned against the wall as the darkness began to grow heavier in the street where she waited. Where was Thenidir? What was keeping him? She shivered, Denethor’s masquerade would be in full swing by now and she was missing it. Shrinking closer to the wall Síriel dodged out of the way of a passing man. The streets were suddenly foreign to her, filled with rushing strangers, more dirty and ragged than the daytime shoppers.

A large man jostled her with his elbow and Síriel gasped as her head hit the stone wall of the building behind her. Without stopping to apologize, he hurried off through the alleys. What was she doing here? She, a lady, daughter of the Ruling Steward, here in a dark street in the evening? Thenidir should never have brought her here. A smile played across Síriel’s lips as she thought of how she would make him sorry… the handsome Thenidir, begging for mercy from Lady Síriel. How delicious.

Síriel’s delightful vision of teasing Thenidir dissolved suddenly with the mention of her father’s name. She jerked her head upright, scanning the knots of hurrying people in the street. Of course, anyone could have mentioned Eckthelion in the square, but what if it were someone she knew? She moved cautiously a little further into the dark street.

Two dark figures stood there, whispering together. Síriel froze, a chill running down her spine. What if they were plotting against her father… she slunk closer to the wall, listening hard. “The couriers… new messages…” Síriel thought the voice was male, but she couldn’t tell. A scrap of paper passed between the speaker and the second figure. The second figure nodded, its hood pulled well over its face, hiding the eyes. Síriel crept a little closer.

“Unsuspecting… as soon as you get them… will be pleased.” A stone clattered across the stone pavement, causing all three to glance up, startled. Síriel caught a glimpse of a pale face inside one of the shadowy figure’s hoods before they turned away and disappeared into the street.

Thenidir’s hand came down hard on her shoulder, and Síriel jumped and spun around. Stifling a cry she faked a lighthearted laugh. “Oh, Thenidir… is the carriage ready?” He gestured to the waiting coach just up the street, the horses stamping impatiently and the driver watching her with an amused look on his coarse face. “Yes, we should go now.” She smiled up at him, pushing him gently toward the carriage with one hand. Something was gleaming in the lamplight where the two whisperers had stood, and Síriel bent and snatched it up as soon as Thenidir’s back was turned.

Inside the carriage, Síriel listened to Thenidir’s apology halfheartedly, quite without the enjoyment she had earlier anticipated. She was staring at her lap, where a broken cord with a bit of wax seal still clinging to it nestled. The seal was almost certainly her father’s, though it was torn almost beyond recognition. Her heart pounded, what could all this mean? She had to get back and talk to her father immediately. Turning to Thenidir she asked, “can’t the driver go any faster?” Thenidir looked at her oddly, leaning forward to whisper to the driver through the curtains.
“You do hate to miss a party, don’t you?” he asked, with a wink.

“Oh yes,” Síriel said, “it would be a shame to get there too late…”
*******************************

[ September 02, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-25-2003, 04:57 PM   #169
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The night before the Masque

Dryea had remained in solitary confinement within the walls of her chambers for the remainder of the evening and the morning before the masque. She let her fabulous amber hair fall limp without attention and she didn't change from her limp silk nightdress and evening robe. Moping around the house, throwing things every now and then, the servants stayed well out of her way.

She thought incessantly about what her mother had said concerning her duty to Umbar and the interruption Rhir was causing. Despite what her sister and mother probably thought, she was shamed. Dryea had indeed neglected thought of the glory owed to her people in lieu of her passion for Rhir. It was child's play and she knew it. Picking up the vase nearest her she hurled it at Elendil's head as he loomed above her from his place over the powder room: a sissy place for a king of men.

"That will be quite enough my Lady," scolded Yetri, bustling past her to pick up the shards. "It's not the cleaning up that vexes me, it's the thought of hurting your fiar self. I for one would like to see that sorry excuse of a government buried in the salty dirt of this country with the likes of you on the throne!" Dryea smiled as the old maid scooped up the pieces and shuffled down the hallway mumbling to herself about the disreputability of the Gondorians and they're silly traditions.

Even though the old maid had put her in fairly lighter spirits, she was still upset about the problem of Rhir. She gasped suddenly at thinking of Rhir as a "problem". But as she thought at length she realized he was. He had caused a disturbance in the peace of their family. He had side-tracked her from her goal of conquer! And worst of all he had seduced her! Dryea Morthaniawen!! This time one of the windows shattered as the candelabra was flung through it's ebony pane.

Furious, she picked up the front of her robe so that she might run to her own office; the one behind the tapestry that no one knew of. Punching in the block that would open the door she rushed in, pulling down books in a mad frenzy. Finally she found the one she wanted. Chortling wickedly she placed it on the podium beside her worktable. "Hmm…" she muttered to herself. "Interesting ingredients." An evil smile spread across her face as she ground a fine powder in her mortar before mixing it with a liquid that was soon conformed to a thick substance. Dryea rechecked the directions then dropped the charcoal colored block into the large pot that was boiling over the fire.

After a few minutes she ladled a small portion out of the cauldron and into a phial. Into this she dropped a second powder that hardened the compound within. She had to smash the vial to get it out. Then, placing it carefully in her mortar so that it didn't touch her skin she began to grind until the powder seemed to be no more than miniscule pieces of dust. For protection she slipped a glove on her left hand before taking a pinch of the poison and placing it into the compartment on her ruby ring. She shut it with a smirk and tossed the rest into the fire which exploded with a snap.

"'Dissolved instantly in wine'," she read, washing her hands thoroughly in the washbasin. "'Once it is consumed, the victim will experience the normal syndromes of wine. However, as the usual hangover progresses, the poison will work away at the victim's stomach until it not longer produces the digestive fluids' whatever those are," said Dryea, baffled at the words the anatomist had written, "'the body needs to break down the components of food. Not eight hours after consumption,'" she smiled cruelly as she read the last, satisfying words, "'the victim will die.'"


The Masque

The dress she had chosen for the ball was the deepest rose-wine shade she could find. The sleeves were of a gossamer gold fabric that hugged her arms making it appear as though her skin were itself gilded. Garnet stones were sewn into lengths of ribbon that were woven around her arms and neck. Waves of lustrous golden cloth cascaded down the skirt and a low cut neckline gave the finishing touch to the most exotic and originally designed costume in Arda.

The final accessory was the mask. A masterpiece if she'd ever seen one. Adorned with jewels from southern mines, it cost just as much as the dress. A fine gold powder gilded the cheeks and brow. It was cut away just above the nose to reveal Dryea's own illustrious lips painted in a berry-wine color. Rich rose petals, also from southern beauties, garlanded the top of the mask, adding to its exotic flavor.

When the eldest daughter of Ruiel Morthaniawen stood before her full-length mirror this evening, she didn't beam because she was unquestionably attractive, she smiled because of the ring that lingered on her middle finger that would solve all the problems between her mother and herself. If there had ever been a time when she could have been called wholly immoral, it was now.

"Ready ma'am?" asked Rhe tentatively, head looking down at the hem of her mistress's dress. Dryea didn't answer right away. Instead she took one long look in her mirror, summoning the strength she'd need to go through with her wicked exploit. This would be the breaking of her and she knew it. Once this went through, her heart would be so callous that Ar-Pharazon himself would have been proud to call her wife.

"I'm ready Rheaite," she said indifferently. "Since I must be."

The procession into the hall was classic. Every eye turned to see the bold lady who challenged the attention deservéd to Finduilas, and every eye was pleased—except of course for Denethor's. Even Dryea admitted uncaringly that the Steward-to-be could not be drawn away from his sunny princess. The rose had mentally scoffed at Finduilas's brightly colored costume, dismissing it as being a whimsical frivolity fit for the nursery's children. When asked, though, she would state that it was an ingenious costume and that many an ensemble was put to shame. Bof!

“Remember what mother said,” Dryea whispered quietly to Alethea before she went off to entertain the circle of single noblemen, “remember your job, don’t you dare let that pathetic friend of yours get in the way.”

“And you remember too!” Adrama hissed back, “I think Rhir might be here tonight, maybe I’ll ask him for a dance!” Dryea smiled inwardly at the mention of his name, but stalked away all the same, glaring at her sister before being swept away into her first dance.

Since masks hid the face of every guest here tonight, even the shyest lad was bold enough to dance with either of the gorgeous duo: Dryea or Siriel. At masques, these two women could relate. After the first twenty or so minutes both were exhausted and men clung to them like prayers to a priest. Though Lady Morthaniawen hadn't yet spotted Siriel, she was sure the young lady was enjoying the same sort of company.

"Dryea!" a familiar voice called, midway through a quaint step with what appeared to be a sword? (Some costumes were really quite ridiculous). The Lady excused herself from her partner and turned to see Rhir. This time her heart didn't jump and a sick evil feeling blanketed her like tar as she felt the ring on her finger.

"Why Rhircyn Isindil as I live and breath what brings you down to the level of madness such as this?" The nobleman was at her side in seconds bending down to steal a kiss. Dryea let him but her mind didn't race with desire.

"Won't you dance with me?" he asked with a bow. Offering him her hand, the couple joined in with the other dancers and Dryea didn't care if her mother saw for after this evening, Ruiel would certainly look at her eldest daughter under a different light.
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Old 08-26-2003, 11:58 AM   #170
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Eckthelion's eye methodically swept the ballroom as the Steward weighed and measured the attributes of each member of Finduilas's circle. He was wary of approaching one of the fine ladies who'd accompanied the bride to court. Concerned with pleasing the ruler of Gondor, they'd pick and choose what to reveal, glossing over any unpleasantness. Nor would he gain much insight from questioning the younger servants. Either they'd be overawed by his presence or offer him a laundry list of complaints and rumors with no indication of what was important and what was not. No, he needed to speak with an older member of the household, someone whom Finduilas trusted, a woman with a level head but one who wasn't afraid to voice her concerns.

Eckthelion sauntered over to a side gallery that jutted out from the main hall just off the area where the buffet was set up. Although secluded, it afforded a direct view of the ballroom floor. A cluster of servants had gathered there, eating and chatting and hanging over the balustrade as they gazed out at the dancers. Eckthelion's attention was immediately caught by an unfamiliar figure with dark hair that had only two or three grey tresses interspersed. The woman wore a gown in immaculate taste, suggesting she had some standing among the servants as well as more than the usual share of common sense. He struggled to put a name to the face and mentally scanned the list of retainers whom Finduilas had brought with her until he reached a match.

Ah,....this was Diorwyn the seamstress. She'd left behind a family to come serve her mistress for one last time. What most intrigued Eckthelion was the woman's dark and observent eyes, which seemed to drink in her surroundings, missing very little of importance.

After a few initial titters and giggles on the part of several young maids at the Steward's approach, the crowd of servants respectfully drew back, leaving Eckthelion free to walk forward to the chair where Diorwyn was seated. As the seamstress began to rise in respectful greeting, he cautioned her to sit down again, and drew their two chairs close together to be able to talk without interference.

"Mistress Diorwyn, let me congratulate you. You've outdone yourself with the butterfly gown for the Lady Finduilas. It shows off her gentleness and her high spirits just as my son would want."

Much to Eckthelion's relief, Diorwyn responded with quiet assurance and gave no indication of being overawed. Determined to plunge ahead with his questioning and find some explanation for the unease he sensed in the hall, the Steward reached over and gently lifted up Diorwyn's hand into his own, "It must not be an easy thing for Finduilas to leave the city where she grew up and the sea which she loves with all her heart. Nor can it be easy for those who came with her. But tell me, have the people of Minas Tirith made you feel welcome? Have the ladies at court extended their hand in friendship? I am truly concerned about this for I wish Denethor's bride to be happy."

Diorwyn shifted uneasily in her seat uncertain where to begin and wondering whether or not she should speak the truth. Sensing her discomfort, Eckthelion gently sqeezed the hand of the seamstress to encourage her to continue, "Come now, if there is a problem, it's best to discuss it. I spend from morning till night dealing with the problems of the citizens of Gondor. I have heard all manner of complaints and concerns. Nothing you say could possibly surprise me....."

[ August 27, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-26-2003, 02:16 PM   #171
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Diorwyn took a deep breath; after the first shock of being approached and spoken to by the Steward of Minas Tirith, the ruler of all Gondor, had subsided, she realized that this was an opportunity to take action. She hesitated in order to choose her words wisely, then said, “Sir, the hospitality of your house has been all that we could imagine, and indeed were the people of your city friendly to us upon our arrival.”

Ecthelion noticed her reluctance to continue and encouraged her, “There is more than that; speak openly!”

The seamstress sighed inwardly; she had been married long enough to know that she would have to explain clearly to this man what most women would have felt intuitively. Few men could sense the emotional undercurrents that a woman picked up by osmosis, so to say. However, the Steward looked astute and shrewd; he seemed to be a good judge of people, she thought. Suddenly she was glad to be able to entrust her cares to someone who was both wise and mighty enough to do something about them.

“There have been rumours spreading in the past days,” she continued. “We have heard them only indirectly, and no one seems to know where they started or who is the source. They concern Finduilas…” So she told him all that the various ladies and maids had found out, as well as the information she had heard from her friends in the White City. She saw his eyes widen ever so slightly and the muscles of his jaws tighten as he heard the slanderous gossip which had spread throughout the city unchecked.

“Why do you think such horrible rumours would be told about such a wonderful person as Finduilas?” he asked with repressed anger.

Thoughtfully, she replied, “She cannot have made personal enemies. The question is, who would profit from her ruin? The motive could be jealousy, but there must be more to it than that alone. She would not be the only one to suffer – your family and rulership would be brought into discredit as well. Who are your enemies, Steward?”

********************************************

child's post

Eckthelion attempted to maintain an impassive expression while listening to Diorwyn's recitation of the rumors she and the others had heard since their arrival in Minas Tirth. Despite his efforts to conceal his emotions, he felt his fists clench tightly at his side as he bit down on his lip and struggled to stiffle an angry rebuttal.

Instinct told him that this was no mere campaign intended to discredit Denethor's bride-to-be. He would not have been shocked if some women at court had mistaken Finduilas's soft-spoken nature for pride or, rebuffed in their own attempts to latch onto his son for their daughters, had jeeringly taunted the bride for supposed deficiencies in personality, character or dress.

But these rumors were something quite different. Their very nature and purpose suggested an intent more pernicious and far-reaching than mere idle chatter stemming from personal pique or disappointment. It was true that the ridiculous intimation Finduilas and her family were not from Dol Amroth could be easily remedied by having the leaders from that city address the court as to their association with the bride. Several of these gentlemen were expected to arrive for the actual betroval party and wedding. He would have them speak quickly and forcefully to dispel that charge.

No, what bothered him profoundly was the baseless assertion that Finduilas and her folk were descended from some mythical ancestor who had sided with Ar-pharazon in his war of rebellion, worshipping Melkor and carrying out the dictates of Sauron. Baseless, but difficult to disprove without a lengthy inquiry setting out the family's geneology in intimate detail.

The Steward's breath came in short, jagged gasps as he grasped the clever implications behind that groundless assertion. He himself was engaged in a struggle against Sauron and his agents of evil, a struggle that threatened to erupt a thousandfold and drag the entire realm of Gondor down to doom. These rumors that were apparently flooding through the streets of his beloved city suggested that the Steward himself was a fool or a traitor for aligning his family with someone who was herself tainted with the blood of the enemy.

This was more than idle gossip. Whoever was behind such pointed lies had a purpose and a meaning in what they were doing. And that purpose was no less than treason.

He looked down at Diorwyn barely hearing the actual words she was saying, then quickly gathered his wits and responded, "My enemies? Not my enemies, but rather the enemies of Gondor. Only such would spread words like these. But let me think on this well and ponder what must be done."

He rose from his chair and stepped back a few paces, nodding his head in Diorwyn's direction. "You have done this realm a service I will not forget. It is possible that I will call upon you again at some point in the near future. But, for now, please continue to listen and learn. Should you hear anything more of interest, do not hesitate to approach me directly. I will tell the guards that you are to be let through immediately."

With this, Eckthelion turned and strode away, deeply perplexed and wishing that Gandalf and Thorongil were here at court that he might review the matter with them. But, one way or another, he vowed to leave no stone unturned until he discovered who was behind these treasonous lies.

[ August 30, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 08-27-2003, 10:38 AM   #172
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Pelien watched tenderly as Adrama danced with Addruran. Of course, she would have preferred seeing her daughter floating across the floor in the arms of Denethor; however, even though she would not have wholeheartedly condoned a romantic relationship between the two, she couldn’t help admitting to herself that Adrama and Addruran complimented one another well. Her daughter appeared comfortable in the young man’s embrace and the color had returned to her cheeks which was an improvement of her earlier state when Denethor and Finduilas were announced. Pelien had worried about her daughter’s reaction to the couple. She wasn’t pleased with the current situation anymore than Adrama was, but she wasn’t going to cry about it, and she hoped Adrama would keep her emotions intact.

Sador gently took his wife’s hand and lead her around the grand hall. The couple stopped and spoke with several of the men in Sador’s company and their wives who all had one thing on their minds and lips…Finduilas. Pelien nodded pleasantly as the other women whispered about the real identity of the future Steward’s bride-to-be.

More and more she felt like the situation was getting out of hand. If Denethor didn’t find out soon, it would be too late because either the couple would be married or the Steward’s name would be marred, and since she wanted to replace the princess with her own darling daughter, Pelien would not stand having the Steward’s House brought into it.

The music ended and the guests stopped their petty conversations long enough to applaud the couples on the dance floor. Pelien eyed Denethor taking Finduilas off the floor and onto the terrace. Perfect… she thought as she drained her glass.

“Sador, dear, I need some fresh air.” Sador nodded and politely excused them from the current couple. Pelien thrust her empty wine glass into the hands of a passing servant and began walking toward the terrace while her husband brought up the rear. She hadn’t meant to leave Sador behind, but she was on a mission. It was time for Denethor to find out about what was being said about his precious bride, and the wine she’d been drinking had taken the edge off enough to give her the boldness she needed.

As she reached the outside door, Pelien turned impatiently and sent a look to her dawdling husband that made him walk faster. “Look, dear, Denethor and his new bride are over there…we should greet them.” Pelien’s voice was as sweet as honey and just as thick. Sador replied with a sidelong glance before he took her hand and walked over to the Steward’s son.

“Sador, it’s good to see you.” Denethor reached out and gave Sador a firm handshake. “Lady Pelien…” Pelien gracefully held out her hand for the Steward’s son to kiss. “You look…lovely this evening. I believe you have already met Finduilas.” Here, Finduilas smiled sweetly and held her out her hand, but Pelien just looked at it without moving, so Sador took the princess’ hand and slightly bowed making some kind of compliment that Pelien would not allow herself to hear.

While the men complimented one another on this and that and how great the ball was, Pelien never took her eyes from Finduilas. The princess appeared somewhat uncomfortable under the gaze of the snake…dressed woman. I’m on to you, Princess, and soon your fiancé will be too, Pelien thought as a slow sly smile swept across her face. She was only waiting for the right moment to strike.

The conversation moved to politics, as it often did, and they spoke generally about the goings on in Umbar. “Umbar…That’s where Ar-Pharazon captured Sauron, is it not?” The men turned to Pelien with confused expressions not exactly sure where the woman was going with this. The older woman leaned forward with a pseudo smile intact. “Finduilas, you should know that…he is your most famous ancestor.”

The trio gasped, and Sador grabbed Pelien’s arm, but she pulled it loose and tried to continue. “That’s absurd! What are you talking about, Pelien?” Denethor’s brows were furrowed and his head was tipped to one side as he took a step in front of Finduilas.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard. The entire court is raving about it. Well, I’m sure she’d kept it from you, Lord Denethor. However I know she’s known about the talk or she wouldn’t have sent her little ladies to my home to confront me.” Pelien stood firm and never took her hateful gaze from Finduilas except when she spoke directly to the Steward’s son, then she softened her expression to sympathy. He would know now that his precious princess was really trash, and he would send her out with the garbage.

[ August 30, 2003: Message edited by: alaklondewen ]
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Old 08-27-2003, 12:22 PM   #173
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“Finduilas, you should know that…he is your most famous ancestor.”

Finduilas stared at the woman. Her eyes were glittering with such malcious hate! She was looking triumphant, and yet there was a silent bitterness somewhere around her mouth. Where did this hate come from, this bitterness. When I see her, I see my own mother. The realization hit Finduilas with a shock. Eaten up by ambition and her small, pitiful goals. Her mother had been like this, and Pelien was not different. Finduilas was about to say something when Denethor spoke up. His voice was shaking with authority, disbelief and anger.

“How dare you say such a thing? Lady Pelien, you were always a respectable member of this court, and I had thought you –and your family- were true nobles. But apperantly you are not. Finduilas of Dol Amroth is my chosen bride, for one thing, for another there is no way she could not be of the Ancient Family of Dol Amroth. Do you think the Steward of Gondor would not be aware of who his son and heir was about to marry. Do you really think such a thing could happen in this family? If you do, I must pity you and laugh at you., Lady Pelien. Are you aware of what disgusting lies you are spitting here?”

Finduilas felt a rush of pride and affection at this speach. She gratefully squeezed Denethor´s hand and smiled at him. “Dear, I´m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding. Your father wanted you to join him, why don´t you... I´ll have a nice chat with Lay Pelien here.” Denethor nodded. She quickly mouthed a “Sorry” at him, then turned to Pelien, smiling. Denethor and Sador´s footsteps dissapeared. She was alone. Finduilas felt nervous. She was a kind nature of person, and now she was greeted by such unexpected coldness, such outreagous lies. She knew, her only strength was the truth, and her innosence. She had not done anything, at least not conciously, that could have angered Pelien. Pelien knew this.

“Lady Pelien, I will not offer you a denial about your tales. I´m sure you know for yourself how silly and impossible they are. What I do want to know is this: Why do you hate me this much? For hate me you must, if you risk the stewards´ -and his son´s- anger, to ruin my reputation here. Why?”

*********
Alaklondewen´s Post
It took all the strength she had for Pelien to keep her jaw clinched and her emotions intact. Denethor had not responded the way she had expected. He wasn’t supposed to turn on Pelien…he was supposed to turn on Finduilas. Her face had grown hot, but she refused to let her expression soften. The words of the Steward’s son rolled around in her head until she was almost sick. I thought you were true nobles…I pity you and laugh at you, Lady Pelien… This wasn’t right, and where were the men going? Pelien suddenly found herself face to face with the young bride, so soft and sweet. The older woman was so angry, partly at herself if she would have admitted it, that she could have spit on Finduilas in her rage.

“Lady Pelien, I will not offer you a denial about your tales. I´m sure you know for yourself how silly and impossible they are. What I do want to know is this: Why do you hate me this much? For hate me you must, if you risk the stewards´ -and his son´s- anger, to ruin my reputation here. Why?” Finduilas’ eyes were filled with kindness and sympathy.

Pelien opened her mouth to respond but immediately closed it. Finduilas should not be so calm…her secret was just released into the ear of her future husband. The Princess should be shouting and throwing a fit, giving Pelien the advantage of keeping her cool. Pelien was unsure how to handle the situation into which she’d stepped. Doubt had slowly crept into her mind. Had she made a mistake? What about the young ladies of Dol Amroth confronting her in her own home? Yes, that had to be the key…it had to be.
“How very wise of you, Princess, to send the men away. You do have something to hide, or you would never have sent your little mascots to my home.” Pelien felt as though she was regaining control of the situation, and her voice was calm and collected. “You had certainly heard the rumors flying around the court and you couldn’t confront me on your own. Of course you thought of me, I’m one of the most influential women in this city, and if information is what you wanted you came to the right person. But I wasn’t going to play your game…we told them nothing! I’m on to you, Finduilas.”
“Pelien, I truly haven’t the slightest idea of what you are talking about.” Finduilas looked as though she was holding back laughter. “What mascots?…what are you talking about?”

Pelien rolled her eyes upward. “Don’t pretend with me…you know you sent your little ladies-in-waiting to mock me in my home!” Her voice had steadily started to rise, but she caught hold of herself, and after a short pause she continued in a cool, steady tone. “I didn’t fall for it then, and I won’t fall for it now.”

**********
Manardariel´s post
“Don’t pretend with me…you know you sent your little ladies-in-waiting to mock me in my home!" Pelien sayed, sounding agrivated.

This time, Finduilas smiled openly. “My ladies in waiting? I´m so sorry they bothered you. Don´t be mad at those girls, they just didn´t have the education you, or your charming daughter have. Adrama, is it not? She´s very beautiful. Denethor speaks most highly of her.”

Finduilas was most aware of the effect that praise of their daughters have on most women. And really, Finduilas couldn´t help notice the affectionate gleam the wisked through Pelien eyes at her daughter´s name. But her face became cold and stern as ever.

“You really think you can charm me, yes? I know it worked with most of the court, but you aren´t fooling me. You are NOT from Dol Amroth, and I know it. Your husband still believes you, but his mind will change. And then, my dear...”

“...Denethor will marry Adrama?” Finduilas suggested with an air of innocence. Of course. It made perfect, diabolical sense. The whole court had heard these outrageous lies, but Pelien was the only one to confront her with them. Why? Because she would benefit from it. The other ladies didn´t care, as long as there was enough to chat about. But Pelien had a cause she had devoted herself to- her daughter´s fate, and her happiness. And in Pelien´s laguage, this was equivalent with a marriage with Gondor´s future steward. Finduilas had been in the way, so why not get rid of her, was it even by sprouting these tales?! Yes, it all made sense.

“Ah yes,” Finduilas said softly. “That is the answer then. You do not think of the security of Gondor. You are not concerned with the reputation of the House of Stewards. No, you fight for a more important cause: your daughter.” Pelien opened her mouth, but closed it again. Finduilas chose her words well. Strangely, she felt affection towards Pelien. She would fight like a lioness for Adrama´s sake, and in Finduilas eyes that was the proof she wasn´t to be pitied. On the contrary. “Pelien, I will tell you this. My own mother is not unlike you... you wish the security of us, your daughters, and our happiness. In your case, this afforded distroying a woman you did not know. In mine, it afforded bribing a young sea captain into a marriage he did not want. You both will pay this price for us. And you say you love us, say you only do this for our own good...”

Finduilas felt an unexplainable sadness. She did not know where it came from, or why her heart was aching so badly. But she knew it was.

“Lady Pelien, you were right in one thing. I am not who they told you I was. But nevertheless, I remain myself. I am Finduilas of Dol Amroth. Now, let us go in. A splendid fête, is it not?”

As she walked inside, she heard a long pause, then footsteps. Pelien was behind her.

[ September 01, 2003: Message edited by: Manardariel ]
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Old 08-27-2003, 12:30 PM   #174
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Siriel rushes in and tells her father what she saw.
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Old 08-28-2003, 09:28 AM   #175
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Elen stood sipping her drink slowly. She was confused about the Morthaniawen’s. She couldn’t tell if they were from Dol Amroth or not. After she had finished drinking she walked around the large room, looking at everyone’s dresses, and costumes. She smiled when she saw the Lady Pelien. A snake was a very fitting costume for her. After their little tea party I doubt she holds us in a high regard, Elen thought walking past her.

After circling the whole room twice, Elen got bored, and sat down. She watched the people dancing, and smiled when she saw Vienna dancing with a guard. Soon a young man came and asked her for a dance. She accepted and they went and danced. Eleniel hadn’t danced in a while but it was fun. After the dance was over she left to find Averyll or Tessa. Finally she spotted them at their table. She adjusted her corset for what seemed like the fiftieth time that night and headed toward them.

“Hello.” Elen said sitting down. She looked at Averyll and Tessa. Averyll seemed to be all right but Tessa had an odd look on her face. Something was bothering her, and Eleniel knew what.

“The Morthaniawen’s?” Elen asked looking at Tessa.

“Yes. I don’t get it. None of us have heard of them, its just odd.” Tessa said seeming totally confused. Elen knew exactly what she meant.

“There are many reason to believe they aren’t from Dol Amroth but there are also many reason’s why the could be. It just doesn’t make sense”. Elen paused.

“But, if they weren’t from Dol Amroth, than where are they from?”Now Elen was really confused. Where could they be from?

[ August 30, 2003: Message edited by: elven maiden Earwen ]
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Old 08-28-2003, 10:29 AM   #176
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Sador didn't really enjoy these things. It was far too huge for him. But he was a respected man, it was therefore appropriate for him to be there.

He took his wife's hand and led her through the grand hall. I'm a man, I should do that sort of stuff, he thought while stopping. "Hi there," Sador said, greeting a man. There was a polite reply before Sador and Pelien started walking again. Not too soon though, they stopped, Sador knew a lot of people.


“Sador, dear, I need some fresh air.” Pelien handed her empty wine glass over to a servant before heading for the terrace. Sador followed. She gave him a 'faster, please' look. Sador took the hint immediately.

“Look, dear, Denethor and his new bride are over there…we should greet them.” Peleien nodded against the coming Steward and Finduilas.

“Sador, it’s good to see you.” Denethor shook Sador's hand. What a polite boy, Sador thought while taking his hand gently.

“You look…lovely this evening. I believe you have already met Finduilas.” Denethor said, while kissing his wife's hand. Sador gave a bow, "A pleasure," he said.

"A splendid ball!" Sador lied afterwards. Denethor smiled looking really proud, but humble. "The guests are greater," Denethor replied. Sador noticed that his wife couldn take her eyes of Finduilas. What's wrong? he thought. Ever since the luncheon he reminded himeself, but his thoughts were interrupted by a political discussion who had appeared quite suddenly Sador thought.

“Umbar…That’s where Ar-Pharazon captured Sauron, is it not?” Pelien said. Sador hesitated. “Finduilas, you should know that…he is your most famous ancestor.” she continued in a proud voice.

Where was this going? He grabbed his rude wife's arm.

“That’s absurd! What are you talking about, Pelien?” Denethor cried out. He stepped in front of Finduilas.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t heard. The entire court is raving about it. Well, I’m sure she’d kept it from you, Lord Denethor. However I know she’s known about the talk or she wouldn’t have sent her little ladies to my home to confront me.”


“How dare you say such a thing? Lady Pelien, you were always a respectable member of this court, and I had thought you –and your family- were true nobles. But apperantly you are not. Finduilas of Dol Amroth is my chosen bride, for one thing, for another there is no way she could not be of the Ancient Family of Dol Amroth. Do you think the Steward of Gondor would not be aware of who his son and heir was about to marry. Do you really think such a thing could happen in this family? If you do, I must pity you and laugh at you., Lady Pelien. Are you aware of what disgusting lies you are spitting here?”

Sador didn't listen anymore. He couldn't. He was too stunned by his wife's sudden 'attack'. Where did she have these accusations from?

“Dear, I´m sure this is some kind of misunderstanding. Your father wanted you to join him, why don´t you... I´ll have a nice chat with Lay Pelien here.” Denethor gave a nod.

Sador took his gaze of his wife. How surprising, he thought while following Denethor.

[ September 11, 2003: Message edited by: Novnarwen ]
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Old 08-29-2003, 05:50 AM   #177
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Eckthelion was in the midst of a pleasant conversation with several elderly advisors when a loud crash was heard. His own eyes, and those of most others in the room, were instantly drawn across the ballroom. An elegant vase with fine sprigs of flowers displayed on a table near the entryway had collapsed on the floor and lay shattered in a thousand pieces.

The reason for this mishap was all too obvious. Siriel was picking herself up off the floor and sprinting forward clutching a small scrap of a broken dispatch in her clenched hand.

Eckthelion's eyes widened with disapproval as he took in

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Old 08-30-2003, 09:04 AM   #178
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Orofaniel's post:

After the little conversation with the servant, Betuli had tried to keep a low profile. She didn't want to do anything 'wrong' or something that could be misunderstood. She hadn't seen the servant since and didn't really want to either. Even though, it was obvious that the servant knew something that they could use.

It had become an unplesant situation, Betuli thought. She didn't like it, in fact, she didn't like it at all. She just wanted....She just wanted to see her dear Lady, Finduilas, happy. How can some people even think of ruining that? The thought made her angry and very sad, indeed.

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Old 08-30-2003, 01:55 PM   #179
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The song ended and Rhir escorted Dryea off the floor and got them both a glass of wine. The lights were being relit to accommodate to the growing darkness outside. Her hands shook as she watched Rhir sip idly from his cup. No, she thought. It's too early. He'll be having more wine tonight anyway.

"A masquerade is the most enjoyable sort of social, don't you think?" he asked watching all the costumes.

"Oh yes," Dryea agreed mildly. "I especially like Finduilas's costume." She nodded in the princess's direction. She was glad to see that Rhir only glanced her way before surveying the rest of the people's finery.

"Which is your favorite costume?" she asked plainly, hoping he'd drop his interest in the costumes and speak more directly with her. They only had a few more hours together before—well, a few more hours and it was beginning to rend at her heart.

"Yours," he said, turning to look at her own ensemble. "Definitely." Dryea studied his face: so full of love and adoration. His features were so handsome and soft. She was breaking. "Let's walk outside," he said offering her his arm. She only nodded, afraid that in speaking she'd choke. Why was she being so delicate? She had to get a hold on herself.

The moonlight streamed across the terrace alighting the flowers and footpaths that ran off into the secluded parts of the garden. Rhir chose one of these footpaths and the two walked quietly to a bench shrouded by a rose hedge.

"Your brothers and sisters," he whispered pointing at the flowers. Dryea smiled, she couldn't help it. He was so simple and so pure! "Um, Dryea," he stammered, motioning for her to sit on the bench. "I wanted to ask you something." She leaned back on the bench in a comfortable position, hoping that it would help Rhir relax a bit. She didn't want to deal with an awkward man right now. It seemed to work. He took a deep breath and sat on the bench beside her.

"Dryea," he began again, confidently. "How do you feel about us?" She laughed and leaned up next to him.

"What do you mean?" He looked away.

"I mean, do—" Then he turned and wrapped his arms around her, their faces so close they barely touched as he whispered.

"I love you, Dryea. I really do. I love you so much and I don't know what I'd do without you." The tears formed in her eyes but she held them back. "And I want to know if you love me too, because if you do," he stammered. "If you do, then—" She couldn't do it. She gave in. She collapsed into his arms, laying her head on his chest, letting him hold her and keep her safe beside him.

"Oh I do Rhir! I love you!" Pulling back, his face beaming, he slid off the bench, kneeling on one knee.

"Then," he pulled a beautiful gold ring adorned with a small ruby rose from within his coat pocket and held it before her. "Will you marry me?" Frozen inside, her ambivalent emotions of devotion to him and devotion to Umbar raging within her. What could she do? She had a duty to fulfill! She'd sworn so long ago that she would uphold her family's goal of conquest over the Gondorian peoples who robbed them of their land and rights. It had been a pledge, a vow made all those years ago of dedication unbreakable by anything!

But as Rhir knelt before her, all that sense of honor died within and she only saw him. His blue eyes of passion and devoted love. Her heart conquered her mind then in that moment and her hands reached for the ring as Rhir slipped it on her finger.

"Yes," she said. "Oh yes! I'll marry you Rhir!" She threw his arms around his neck and kissed him all over. Then Rhir kissed her long and hard on her lips and she seemed to melt.

"I love you," he whispered, "forever." Then they stood. "I must go," Dryea said, apologetically. "I'm supposed to be with mother when we meet Finduilas." He nodded.

"I'll find you then." Then he moved away into the shadows up towards the house. Once she was sure he had gone inside she collapsed on the bench and sobbed, wishing her life away.

She stayed like that for ten minutes before regaining her composure. Knowing for sure she had soiled her cosmetics and probably wrinkled her dress she snuck around to a side door of the citadel and made her way up to one of the smaller powder rooms that would certainly be empty. Once there she freshened up quickly until she looked just as she did when the masque had started. When she was sure no one was nearby, she emerged, ready to go downstairs.

She had reached the top of her stairs when her mother came rushing up. "You!" she hissed as she saw Dryea. Ruiel's hand shot down to Dryea's left and pulled it up so that she saw the ring. Her daughter waited in terror for her mother's wrath.

"I thought I heard you two in the gardens! You have destroyed all glory for yourself now! Your folly has cost us, Dryea. I should send you back now for trial. You disgraceful wretch!" She stepped back to look at her daughter in full light. "I am disgusted!" Dryea lashed back.

"I haven't done a thing! This will uphold our innocence! My marrying Rhir no one will ever suspect we're Umbarians! We'll be safe—"

"By Eru you are not marrying Rhircyn Isindil," she whispered furiously, "and I will do whatever it takes to keep you two apart." With that she turned on her heel and returned to the hall leaving Dryea fuming in rage.

Collecting her emotions and hiding them carefully, she made her way down the hall to enter the great room from a different entrance than her mother. Ruiel was right. Dryea had been foolish and she knew it. There was nothing she could do to get out of the vow she had made to Umbar. She had condemned herself from any hope of a happy future. Everything she did had to be of benefit to the retake of Gondor. There was no such person as Dryea Morthaniawen. She was simply a playing piece in Umbar's chess game. She had no say in what she got or deserved. Whatever Umbar saw fit through her mother's guidance, is what she received.

There was only one way she could go to regain her mother's respect. There was only one path she could take to fix all the mess she had caused. Her heart had been ripped out and torn apart as she thought of this. All her love for Rhir was sucked up in the vacuum of what was expected of Dryea to do. She would never love again and her life from here out would be an austere misery.

The great room was in a resplendent mood when she entered. The dancers were making a large loop around the floor while the orchestra played a traditional Gondorian Waltz. Dryea's eyes swept the room looking for Rhir. She found him speaking with a group of students near the mid-left of the room. Walking majestically through the very center of the room, her face a mask of levity and light-heartedness, she shook hands with all her friends and acquaintances asking them politely of their health and if they were enjoying themselves. Finally she got to Rhir who introduced her to his friends as the future Mrs. Rhircyn Isindil.

"Oh my!" exclaimed Elena who rushed up behind her, Emilia close behind. "How wonderful!" Dryea summoned a smile of pure ecstasy as she embraced her friends.

"We're so happy for you dear!" said Emilia. The two left Dryea and Rhir to dance as Elena was caught up by her scholarly friends and Emilia by her many admirers.

As the couple spun around the floor, Dryea caught sight of her sister and mother speaking at the banquet table. Alethea cast a loathing eye towards her sister before turning back to her conversation.

"I'm thirsty," Dryea confessed after the fourth dance.

"Of course." Rhir and Dryea joined the other guests at the banquet table where they sat down to a wonderful feast of fowl dressed in exotic fruits and herbs from the southern parts of Arda to match the colorful tastes of the masque.

Rhir was about to pour himself more wine from the pitcher when Dryea opened her ring. She tugged at the tablecloth so that the glass tipped her way before a drop fell. She caught it just as it rolled off the table, emptying the near-invisible contents into the bottom.

"Oh I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed, setting it back on the table. Rhir shrugged it off with a smile, absorbed in the love he felt for his new fiancé, and filled his cup, unaware of the poison within.

She was almost through her third course when Alethea came by asking for a word with her older sister. Dryea no long felt things since Rhir drank of his intoxicated wine so she stood pleasantly and followed her sister out of the great hall to a secluded room. Once inside, Alethea turned on her sister, ranting of her betrayal.

"And I was beginning to feel guilty about mentioning Rhir!" she finished. Dyrea narrowed her eyes and in a slow, meaningful tone began to tell Alethea just what she thought.

"You don't know anything you silly pathetic little girl. You have no idea what I've had to deal with. I've had to give up everything I've ever hoped for, for Umbar and its Corsairs! There is no Dryea Morthaniawen. I am just an instrument of war, a tool that the corsairs can use to regain Gondor for themselves. Do you have any idea of this burden's weight upon my shoulders? NO! So the next time you want to take up mother's side and decide to chastise me, remember that I rise way above you! You will never measure up to me and without me, our whole plan would fall apart." She stopped to look disgustedly at her sister. "Now get back to your playing!" Picking up her skirts, and wiping the glare off her face, Dryea left her sister shocked, and joined the people again after being retained from the festivity for the third time that evening.

"What was that about love?" asked Rhir as he nodded to the servants to take their plates away.

"She wanted to congratulate me on our engagement," Dryea said pleasantly.

"How nice," he commented. Dryea took her seat and began to nibble on her dessert as the music reached the crescendo in its aria and Denethor and Finduilas spun around the dance floor in their perfect love.

[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: maikafanawen ]
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Old 09-01-2003, 06:18 AM   #180
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"And I was beginning to feel guilty about mentioning Rhir!" she finished. Dyrea narrowed her eyes and in a slow, meaningful tone began to tell Alethea just what she thought.

"You don't know anything you silly pathetic little girl. You have no idea what I've had to deal with. I've had to give up everything I've ever hoped for, for Umbar and its Corsairs! There is no Dryea Morthaniawen. I am just an instrument of war, a tool that the Corsairs can use to regain Gondor for themselves. Do you have any idea of this burden's weight upon my shoulders? NO! So the next time you want to take up mother's side and decide to chastise me, remember that I rise way above you! You will never measure up to me and without me, our whole plan would fall apart." She stopped to look disgustedly at Alethea. "Now get back to your playing!" And then she left, but before she did Alethea managed to cry.

“I would never want to measure up to you!” she was not concerned if anyone heard, it didn’t matter as long as Dryea heard. Alethea collapsed back into the nearest chair; she was in shock. What was happening? Rhir had proposed to her sister, and ordinarily she would have been pleased. But of late it seemed that if she could find anyway to spite Dryea she would be open to it. It wasn’t that she was envious of her. No. Alethea meant it when she said she would never want to measure up to Dryea. Alethea hated some things about Dryea, and hate was such a strong word. And against her sister! She hated the way she blamed the way she was on The Corsairs. It was their fault but Dryea had a mind of her own.

She hated her pride, the way that Dryea made her feel insignificant next to her radiant self, the way she would always make her feel guilty no matter who’s fault it was. She even made her feel guilty now, after all she had said to her Alethea felt at fault. Alethea buried her head in her hands. She did not know what to think of the situation. Her sister hated her, her mother seemed some how to resent or disregard her existence. But then she always had done and that had made no difference to Alethea. And far more significant than her own distress was war. War that was unavoidable and war that was being aided by her own family, her own blood.

There was no need for it, the Corsairs were too proud, just like Dryea. Too proud and stubborn for their own good. And Alethea hated being one. She loathed being connected with them and she always had, just now that odium felt stronger. Stronger than anything she had ever deemed. Alethea raised her face from her hands fumbled with the feathers on her dress thoughtfully. Slowly she rose and looked into the mirror on the dressing table.

“I hate what I am!” she whispered into the dimly lit mirror, “I hate it,” she said a little louder banging her fist on the table hard. Tears formed in her eyes but they was quickly swept away with her hand and looked into the mirror again.

“ I think she is false!" she said it boldly and flatly, "this whole act she is putting on! Who does it fool? Her sweet smile, the air of innocence about her, even her beauty. She has fooled many of them, 'she is the perfect bride!' they all say over their over filled wine glasses and their overfilled heads. I don't know who she thinks she is fooling, but it is not I."

She glared into the mirror and she could reprimand her self for her vindictive words about Finduilas because of what lies she was being pressured to sow. She did not even know the woman, she was even worse than those in the court. But of these words concerning Dryea, they were all true. She would not punish herself for thinking the truth.

“Alethea?” Alethea jumped and spun round to the door. It was Adrama. “I thought you were in here, where is Dryea?”

“She has gone back to the ballroom…..” Alethea replied airily wiping a few more tears from her eyes. What she would do to tell her friend all that she was going through, but she cold not do that. “And I am going back now….” Alethea left the room with Adrama and the two headed back to the masquerade.

[ September 01, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 09-01-2003, 11:44 AM   #181
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“But, if they weren’t from Dol Amroth, then where are they from?” asked Elen, looking at Tessa.

Averyll knit her brows and looked across the room to where she had seen Lady Dryea earlier, standing with her sister. Now, that was an interesting question. If Tessa had never heard of them and Vieana’s six gossipy sisters had never even mentioned them, then there was definitely a problem. Never one to look for trouble where there was none, Averyll found herself bothered by the question. What troubled her even more was the fact that she had heard the Morthaniawen name before arriving in Minas Tirith. When she had first been introduced to the ladies Morthaniawen at the welcoming ball, she had been struck with a twinge of recognition but, unable to pin it down, she had let it go. Now the question gnawed at her. Where had she encountered the name before? She couldn’t remember how or where, but had a feeling it had something to do with her late husband. Perhaps he had owed them money.

Tessa shrugged in answer to Elen’s question. “That’s root of the problem, isn’t it?” she replied. “If we knew that, I have a feeling we would know a lot more about what is happening around here.” It was then that Tessa noticed Averyll’s puzzled expression. “What’s wrong?”

Averyll shook her head. “I’m not sure.” Having come to the Masquerade as a Shepherdess, she shifted her shepherd’s crook into her other hand. “I just wish I had sense enough to have picked a costume that didn’t have any props to carry.”

The others laughed, but Elen continued to look troubled. “For a second there, you looked like you might know something we don’t about the Morthaniawens,” she said rather stubbornly.

Again, Averyll shook her head. “No, honestly, I don’t. It’s just…” She looked again in the direction of Lady Dryea, who was now dancing with one of the Minas Tirith courtiers. “It’s just that I know that name from somewhere.”

“Where?” asked Tessa.

“I don’t know. That’s the problem.” Followed by her two friends, Averyll stepped back into an alcove, where the three of them put their heads close together. Averyll’s voice was barely audible above the music. “As you probably know,” she said quietly. “My late husband was something of a scoundrel.”

Tessa and Elen both nodded, making sympathetic noises in their throats. They were very familiar with the unfortunate circumstances of Averyll‘s marriage and subsequent widowhood.

“After he was lost at sea, I was put in the situation of settling his affairs. In doing so, I encountered any number of people, both respectable and otherwise, to whom he owed money or satisfaction of some kind. I think I encountered the Morthaniawen name there. I just can’t remember the circumstances.”

Tessa and Elen both nodded, but Tessa looked frustrated. “I wish you could remember something,” she sighed. “It could be important.”

Averyll shrugged helplessly. “It could be, but it could just as well be nothing.” She looked out again across the dance floor, this time catching sight of Vieana on the arm of yet another of the Dol Amroth guards. “I wonder what our Vieana has managed to find out from the guards,” she commented, following Vieana with her eyes.
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Old 09-01-2003, 01:07 PM   #182
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Elena walked through the hall with her friends, after she and Emilia had admired Dryea’s ring. Engaged to Rhir? Elena hadn’t been expecting that to happen – Dryea was never open about her feelings for him.

There was a strange atmosphere in the room that night. While the majority carried on dancing, and drinking, and sharing idle gossip with their friends and acquaintances, a few seemed strangely distracted. Emilia had disappeared somewhere – Dryea and Alethea too, were nowhere to be seen. Finduilas, who had been the centre of attention only an hour before, had vanished into the sea of butterflies and birds. Pelien, always anxious to make her presence known, was certainly not in the room.

Looking around the room for these people, Elena saw no sign of them anywhere. Leaving her friends abruptly, she left the room, pushing her way past all the feathers and finery to find herself in the refreshingly cool air of the night.

Stepping quietly across the terrace, she heard voices carry across the air. Both were familiar – it was undoubtedly Pelien and Finduilas. But why would the two of them be talking?

“Lady Pelien, you were right in one thing. I am not who they told you I was. But nevertheless, I remain myself. I am Finduilas of Dol Amroth. Now, let us go in. A splendid fête, is it not?”

Finduilas walked past Elena, who was standing in the shadows, her eyes widening at this. Pelien had confronted Finduilas with the rumours? And clearly…Finduilas had denied it. Behind Finduilas walked a visibly shaken Pelien, all her usual air of confidence gone from her.

Finduilas gone, Elena stepped out as Pelien went by, touching her by the arm. Pelien let out a small gasp, before realising who it was.

“Lady Pelien, what has happened? You spoke to Finduilas, I see that, but what did she say?” Elena looked into Pelien’s eyes, searching for a response. Had the rumours been just that, rumours? Were they really all lies?
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Old 09-01-2003, 02:28 PM   #183
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Emilia hated to miss even a second of such a wonderful ball by doing something as trivial as getting her breath back, but it was unavoidable. She hadn't sat down for hours, between being whisked around the dancefloor and... well, being whisked around the dancefloor!

She smiled smugly to herself as she thought of the amount of young men she had danced with- more than anyone else, she was sure!

Sadly the one man who she did not seem to have danced with was Thenidir. In fact she had not seen him all evening. It was a great pity because while he might be a horrible young man, he would look very well dressed up. Once more Emilia gazed around to look for him, and was gratified to spot him. It appeared he had just entered. Almost as if he had felt her eyes on him, he looked up, smiled and bowed his head. Emilia nodded gravely in return, not allowing him to see that she was pleased. However inside she felt happiness explode like warmth. Perhaps she wuld do as her mother had wanted- and indeed follow her own dearest wishes- and become betrothed this season? True Thenidir did not offer as much power as Emilia could wish, but a good soldier had many oppurtunities to advance.

Emilia was involved in many pleasant imaginings for the fture when a voice split her thoughts.

"You don't know anything you silly pathetic little girl!"

Turning, Emilia saw a door behind her that was not quite closed. Heavy brocade covered the wall, and part of it had caught in the doorway, leaving a sliver of light between the door and the frame. Eagerly Emilia edged closer. There was something familiar about the voice, but she had no idea who it was.

"...ever hoped for, for Umbar and its Corsairs! There is no Dryea Morthaniawen. I am just an instrument of war, a tool that the corsairs can use to regain Gondor for themselves. Do you have any idea of this burden's weight upon my shoulders? NO! So the next time you want to take up mother's side and decide to chastise me, remember that I rise way above you! You will never measure up to me and without me, our whole plan would fall apart."

Emilia felt criously unreal, as if everything was happening in a dream. The voice was Dryea's, but subtley changed. There was a hard edge that Emilia had never heard before, and even a hint of an accent in the most impassioned parts of speech. Head spinning, Emilia only just had enough presence of mind to pull herself away from the door at the sound of rustling skirts drawing near to it.

Quickly she left the ballroom, entering the cool corridor and leaning inelegantly on a pillar helped to clear her head. Dryea was a traitor, a spy! It seemed incredible, more incredible than Finduilas' descent. Suddenly Emilia's mouth felt dry. If Dryea was nt from Dol Amroth, she could not know whether Finduilas was or not. Finduilas was probably all she claimed to be! Emilia felt faint and was glad of the pillar's support.

She had come so close to throwing her chance for success away on an imposter. She still hadn't introduced herself to Finduilas, the future wife of the future steward! She had been manipulated. White hot anger coursed through her veins at the thought of what Dryea could have done to her.

Thoughts swam confusedly in her head, but then all at once they condensed into just one thought. Now, after so long, she had power. Unbelievable power. She could make herself invaluable to the steward with this. Not only had she heard Dryea confess, she had heard a huge argument with her sister! That could be exploited, certainly.

Pleasant plans once again filled her head, and excitedly she returned to the ballroom. Ecthelion was not there, but she saw the Lady Tiriel standing beside the dancefloor.
"My lady" Emilia said, curtseying hurriedly. Ignoring propriety she continued with a rush. "Please my lady I must talk with your father. It is imperative to Gondor's safety. Please, will you take me to him?"

[ September 02, 2003: Message edited by: Lyra Greenleaf ]

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Old 09-03-2003, 06:24 PM   #184
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As she followed Finduilas back toward the door and the masquerade Pelien felt as though she’d been slapped in the face. Her feelings and her ego were incredibly bruised, and she walked with her eyes to the floor while the previous conversation whirled through her mind. Her humiliation had fully let the doubt that was only a seed earlier grow until it was thriving. She’d made a serious mistake and had done something that was completely out of her character. What caused her to go to such extreme measures? Finduilas was right…Pelien had acted purely out of love for her daughter, and she hadn’t cared who she hurt to bring about Adrama’s best interests.

A soft touch to her arm startled Pelien out of her thoughts, and she looked up to see the young Elena whose eyes were wide as the looked into the older woman’s face. Pelien’s eyes were on the verge of watering, but she swallowed and held herself together.

“Lady Pelien, what has happened? You spoke to Finduilas, I see that, but what did she say?” The girl’s concern filled her face.

Pelien remained silent for several moments not knowing how she should reply. No one needed to know what she’d been through, yet somewhere deep inside she wanted to tell Elena everything and cry on her shoulder. Pelien took and deep breath while straightening her shoulders and raising her chin bringing back the proud demeanor that held her together.

“You are right, Elena. I did speak with her…and Denethor before.” Pelien’s eyes unconsciously moved away from Elena’s trying to hide their shame. “I think we’ve made a mistake. I shouldn’t have said anything, but everyone in the court is talking and I just couldn’t let her get away any longer.” The woman spoke quickly trying to rationalize her actions, and then she continued in a soft voice. “I made a mistake, and now I have to make it right.”

Elena reached out and laid her hand on Pelien’s arm in an almost affectionate manner, and somehow it comforted the older woman. “I am sorry, Elena, but I must go.” With that Pelien hurried back to the ball.

[ September 04, 2003: Message edited by: alaklondewen ]
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Old 09-04-2003, 12:49 AM   #185
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Eckthelion watched as the excitement and bustle of the evening slowly played itself out. Empty wineglasses, half eaten platters of meats and sweet delicacies, and a few gentlemen who appeared to be definitely tipsy....it was all that remained of the earlier gaiety and high spirits.

The hands on the clock showed close to midnight as many of the guests gathered up their wraps and bags preparing to leave. Eckthelion forced himself to stay inside the hall and put on a gracious air until the very end of the evening. Yet all the joy had long since departed.

Diorwyn's somber words and Siriel's wild accusations had driven away whatever comfort or relaxation he'd taken from the night. At the last minute, just as he was about to retire from the hall and return to his chambers, Tiriel came bounding up to him, planting a kiss on his cheek.

"Father, my friend Emilia has something she wishes to tell you, something important."

Eckthelion leaned over and sighed, smiling down at his daughter and laughing. "For you Tiriel,....anything. I'll gladly speak with this friend of yours, but just not tonight. Too much has happened, and my head is pounding. Perhaps, she could come to my office tomorrow, once we've all had the luxury of a good night's sleep."

Eckthelion turned to face Emilia, "I'll tell the guards to let you through. Just come in the side entrance next to the rose garden."

With that, Eckthelion bowed formally to the two women and made his way out the hall and along the corridor to the family's private wing.

[ September 05, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 09-04-2003, 08:22 PM   #186
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The evening was coming to a close and the band was playing their last piece before all the guests retired. Dryea and Rhir were making their final circle around the dance floor and Alethea and Ruiel had turned in long before and only a few people were left. Finally the music stopped. Lord Isindil offered his arm to his lady and escorted her to the carriage that waited to take the Morthaniawens home. They stopped at the second flight of steps outside the front door.

"I won't sleep at all tonight," he confessed looking at the ring on her finger. "I'm simply to ecstatic." Dryea smiled and moved her hand so that she might see the rose. So much had happened that evening and only one for the good but even that was short lived. Rhir cupped her chin in his hand and kissed her. "Goodnight," he said. She watched painfully as he walked back up the stairs to the house. She would never see him again.

It was as though a gnarled hand had set its grip on her stomach and was squeezing with all its wicked might. He turned at the top and blew her a kiss. Then he opened the front door and was gone: out of view and out of life. It was the worst experience she'd ever had. Over and over the same question ran through her mind. Why? Why must it be so? And the same answer would accompany: because she'd win her mother's trust, respect and appreciation. It was necessary.

All the vibrant beauty that was once so evident in her face was gone now. Her heart was stone and no emotions lingered in her pretty head. It was all an act from here on out. She'd have to force all the wittiness and charm now. Nothing would be genuine. Nothing would be true.

The ride home went very quickly and it seemed like moments before they were home. Without a word to her mother or sister she mounted the stair cases to her room and shut herself inside, locking the door before turning and walking to her wall-size window that overlooked the East side of the house's garden. The last of her emotions bottled inside exploded. Silent tears streamed down her face and her chin quivered. Then her knees gave out and she collapsed on the window seat in heaving sobs.

"No!" she shouted into the pillow, her tears mixing with spit. "Oh Eru...." She ripped at her hair, pulling it down around her shoulders and then raking her fingers through it so it hung very limp to her back. Then she discarded her dress. The bath was full of steaming water so she slipped in for a moment or so to wash off all the glitter and cosmetics. She was still crying and she felt terrible. When she reached up for the soap, she realized her ring was still on and she began sobbing even harder.

Dryea got out of the tub and wrapped herself in a robe as she stood dripping wet and crying in the middle of her room. She didn't care anymore about anything. To hell with the corsairs and their mission! She had made a mistake falling in love with Rhir. She had paid for it. It had destroyed her.

The ring she kept on her finger as she dried herself and put on a nightdress. Then, still crying to herself she slipped into her bed and under the covers. She knew she wouldn't sleep. Things of the night seldom do. And that's what she was: a shadow. The woman felt neither living nor dead. She just was.

* * * * *

Rhircyn Isindil hummed to himself and walked with a slight hop to his step as he made his way to the corridor where his family was staying. He opened the door and laid his gloves and cane on the chair by the door. It had been a marvelous night. He undressed and bathed and dressed again before getting in bed.

By one he was asleep and dreaming contentedly of Dryea.

At around two fifty he woke. Something was wrong. He couldn't breathe! There was something inside his stomach....something moving and eating. A searing pain stabbed like a knife in his side, then again in his back. He convulsed suddenly, his chest shooting into the air and his back arching over the bed. Then another stab of pain made him curl into a ball. In another minute he was exhausted and the pain had ceased.

He sat up and groped for a glass of water that sat by his bed taking a sip then splashing it in his face. All the pain was gone except for a slight cramp in his back from the seizure. Confused at what had happened, he smoothed out the covers and punched his pillow back into a fluffy state. Then he lied down again peacefully. In ten seconds he breathed his last and was no more.

* * * * *

Dryea was still awake when this happened and was holding her nocturnal dial up to the star. It was three a.m. Rhir was dead. She waited for the sobs to come. They didn't. Her days with a human heart were over. She tossed her dial out the window. She didn't know why but it seemed like a good thing to do. She didn't want it. She didn't care. Dryea finally slipped into bed around four thirty and slept until ten, awaking only when Rheaite came running into her room in hysterics.

"Rhir! Oh Dryea Rhir! He's—he's—" she collapsed into a sobbing mess. "He's dead my Lady." Dryea turned over in bed away from the light that streamed in through the window as the sun rose. A few tears slid silently down her face. She didn't know what she had expected. Perhaps that the poison wouldn't work? No....she knew it would. The tears were an act. She'd have to wear black today. Dryea didn't want to get up. She decided to stay in bed until her mother came to see her.

[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: maikafanawen ]
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Old 09-05-2003, 01:10 AM   #187
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Vieana had spent most of the rest of the night with the Dol Amroth guards, finding out as much as she could about what was going on. And as The Dol Amroth guards had no leader in the city, Vieana felt, as wife of the captain Dardanir who was the High Guard's son, she felt as though it was her duty to know at least what was happening.

Both guards Naian and Hiruil had escorted her back to the place where the Dol Amroth ladies were staying much later as they had satyed and talked and Vieana had wrote to her husband and told him not to worry.

Many candles were already out when Vieana went inside. Placing her swan mask on the solid oak sideboard she reached for a candlestick and lit it. Vieana quietly then tried to walk up the stairs to find the other girls had gone to sleep. She went to find Tessa, Averyll and Elen who were all surprised when she woke them. "come into the sitting room" she had told every single one.


"What is so important it could not wait till the morning?" Tessa asked when she was given a cup of tea by Lessawen, who had stayed at home during the whole affair. "You know, I probably saved us all from a nasty scene tonight." Vieana started. "Nasty scene? You were dancing!" Elen cried.

"The Dol Amroth guards had heard the tales being told about dear Finduilas. They were getting very angry. I had to say that i already knew about them for the guard Naian to tell me anything." Vieana paused and sipped her tea.

"Which was?" inquired Averyll from her left side. "Oh! yes, It seems that the Minas Tirith guards are loosing faith in the steward's son. They are making snide comments to the Dol Amroth guards on numerous occasions i understand. It was getting ot the stage that i think a fight might break out. I heard this as well when i was returning to the barraks with the Dol Amroth guards for further telling."


Vieana hesitated as though she were about to relive a nightmare. "One of the passing Minas Tirith guards (not seeing me ofcourse) said in passing "Next thing you know, corsairs will be running the place! With one wed to the steward's heir." I was about to speak up when one of the other guards yelled at the Minas Tirith guard. (Who saw me) and replied, "Is that another of your pirates of Dol Amroth eh?"

Vieana shuddered. "Naian started at him. "Ill have you know this is the lady Vieana, she is the daughter in law of the Dol Amroth general. My lord were to hear of this insult against his wife..." I stopped him from saying anymore. Can you imagine it? Me a corsair! Why, i dont even know how to wield a blade!"

She was quite upset now. "Then i wrote to Dardanir, asking advice, and i told him not to worry. I know Dardanir and he knows i can handly diplomacy myself. I expect an answer any day henceforth." She replied and looked at the other ladies waiting for their comments.
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Old 09-05-2003, 10:27 AM   #188
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When Vieana woke her, Tessa had been sleepy eyed and grouchy. But as the woman launched into her report, Tessa felt herself waking up. Her hands shook with anger she she got up from her chair and walked to the window.

“You have GOT to be kidding me. That´s what they said?! But- but- scum! Dirtbags! Rotten, disgusting dirtbags. How can they dare to even think such a thing?!”

Tessa´s eyes filled with tears, tears of anger, frustration and doubt. She felt hot, bitter hate fill through her. It was not fair. None of them had really wanted to come here, Finduilas least of all. And now they were here, trying to cope- but no one seemed to acknowledge that. No one bothered. And Tessa knew they wouldn´t, ever, unless something outrageous happened. If the ladies had decided to hate them, there was nothing Tessa, or Averyll, or Vieana could do about it. Their hands were bound.

“But who would say such a thing?”

Tessa looked up. Elen had posed the question, innocently an confused. But the question really was: who was interested in weakening Finduilas? Someone interested in weaking the steward-to-be! It it Tessa with a shock. Suddenly, it all became painfully clear. As if someone had pulled a curtain away from her eyes, she suddenly understood. This was not about idle rumors, about tooth-picking. This was about big politics, about the kind of thing that effected everyone in Gondor, from Lady Pelien to the fishers in Dol Amroth.

“Girls,” Tessa said, trying to calm herself. “Girls, this is big. For all we know, these rumors are something that is supposed to weaken Finduilas. But by weakening her, they also weaken Denethor. And who would be interested in weakening the steward-to-be? None of the ladies among this court, I´m sure....It´s someone who would desire a weak steward....and a weak nation.”

“You don´t think it could be.....?,”Vieana asked, paling. “You´re not thinking of the corsairs, are you?”

“I am.” Tessa replied. Corsairs. Scenes were playing in Tessa´s mind, tales of attacs on ships and villages at Lasgalen. For all her life, the only thing that had scared her, or her father, were corsair attacs. Don´t go into the city at night. The corsairs could get you. That´s what people had told her. She´d have thought Minas Tirith was safer than Dol Amroth. Well she´d been wrong. This was not right, this was not true. Why was she stranded in world politics? she had come here in search for freedom, and now this.

“But what do we know? We´re just guessing here, we have no proof. And besides, who could it be? It´s not lile a bunch of corsairs could be kicking around with out anyone noticing it. That´s not going to help us at all.” Averyll had said what they all were thinking secretly. Tessa felt the strength, the exitement drown out of her again. She was tired, very tired. She wanted to sleep, she wanted to cuddle in Finduilas arms and hear the crying of the gulls. She wanted to go home

“This is too big for me. Good night, girls.”

She went upstairs, cuddling in her blankets. She could tell her sister was still awake, and so, without saying a words, she crept in her arms, and felt her sister rock her to sleep.

Finduilas lay awake, Tessa snoring peacefully in her arms. She could not sleep. Very gently, she kissed her siter on the forehead, then got put of bed. She walked to balcony, staring outside, looking at the moon. She knew she was not the only one who could not sleep tonight.

[ September 07, 2003: Message edited by: Manardariel ]
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Old 09-05-2003, 12:35 PM   #189
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Alethea rose from her bed slowly, her hair fell idly to her waist and her speckled eyes glistened with tears. Her cheeks and pillows were damp from the salty tears she had cried during the night, they flowed as if they had a mind of their own and she could not stop them. Her night had been a restless one and she had drifted in and out of dreaming frequently plagued by the thoughts of her sister, mother, the Corsairs and Rhir. She walked to the large curtains and drew them, the sun immersed the room in warm forgiving light and the tears that still lingered on Alethea’s cheeks shimmered in the rays.

She sat herself down on the windowsill and looked out over the front gates. It was rather late and the early morning dew was grasping on to the blades of grass on the front grounds. The fog hung lightly in the air now and allowed the main gate to be obscured from her view slightly, but she did not miss the messenger who entered the gate. Her eyes followed him carefully as he drew closer to the main door; he was from Minas Tirith. Probably for another guest she assured herself; maybe a wedding invitation or another Ball.

Alethea eyed the messenger as he dismounted his horse and was met in halfway to the door by Rheaite. They conversed for a while and then she covered her mouth with her hand as if in shock. The messenger nodded and mounted the horse again and he was off leaving Rhe by herself. Slowly she made her way back inside. Alethea frowned; she had received some sort of grievous news; that was established by the expression upon her face. But what I wonder?

Alethea’s bare feet softly hit the floor and she found a sudden haste inside of her, she quickly threw he dressing gown over her nightclothes and pulled open her door. She ran down the dim corridor and to a small set of stairs. She had already missed Rhe but Meirelle was at the bottom of the stairs. Her expression was blank until she saw Alethea running down the stairs towards her.

“Alethea!” She called.

“Meirelle, what is it. What news did that messenger bring?”

Alethea was only halfway down the stairs when Meirelle told her, “It is Rhircyn Isindil, he is…dead…”, Alethea stopped; a look of disbelief took over her.

“No…” Alethea whispered confused, “no….” this time she need the banister for support, she reached out and caught it. Tears formed in her eyes again and she shook her head staring at the now blurry carpet.

“Are…do you?” Stuttered Meirelle, she was at a loss of what to do. But it Alethea shook her head.

“You can go….” She managed to say as her grip tightened on the banister. Meirelle did not question her again, but left her in the shadowy hall. When she had gone Alethea slid slowly to the floor, she wrapped her arms around her bent knees and her head leaned against the banister pole. Tears started to flow again, they were slow but persistent and though she tried hard to put them at bay she was unable. He had died? But how and what of Dryea? And now the guilt flooded in again; that guilt of her hatred for Dryea.

Don’t really hate her; she is my sister. And what a thing to happen to Rhir! All that I have put her through; my petty moaning and arguments with her. All that she has had to cope with, and now this.

Her tears still flowed, and even if she did not know it she was lying to herself. She still hated Dryea and everything she stood for; and she did not regret the arguments they had. For they were the opener to her. Even if she would not admit it. Even if she cried and cried in pity for her sister, and no matter how much she told herself those things deep inside she was glad Rhir had died. It is a horrific thing to think and that is why Alethea tried to subdue it, but in the back of her mind as she sat on the stair she could not help thinking: Serves her right!

[ September 06, 2003: Message edited by: Arien ]
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Old 09-05-2003, 07:46 PM   #190
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Once Tessa had left the room to go to her sister and a re-invigorating sleep, Averyll, Vieana, and Elen found themselves alone in Tessa’s room. They shared a stunned silence, each of them thinking how futile and silly their little counter-campaign of rumors had been in the face of what was truly afoot. It was the political equivalent of tossing a glass of water on a forest fire. Corsairs! Of course.

Averyll shook her head and buried her face in her hands. Reading her thoughts, Vieana reached over and stroked Averyll’s chestnut hair.

“We can’t stop fighting now,” she said softly. “We have to help Finduilas even more now than ever.”

Averyll nodded. “We must support Finduilas and the steward at all costs. But how?” She raised her head and looked from Elen to Vieana.

Vieana shook her head, equally at a loss for ideas.

“But, Averyll,” said Elen suddenly, her eyes lighting up with hope. “What was it you said at the ball? Something about the Morthaniawens. Did you remember what it was? That could be of great help!”

Her face fell again as Averyll slowly shook her head. “No,” Averyll said softly. “It occurred to me as I was getting ready for bed that I was mistaken. The name was something that sounded like Morthaniawen, but it was another name entirely. Worthanifen, or something like that. He was a rather foppish tailor to whom my husband owed a good deal of money. Unfortunately, he can’t be of any help to us. At least not unless the Corsairs need an over-priced suit of clothes.”

The three ladies once again fell into silence. Finally, Averyll rose and, smoothing the skirt of her dressing gown with her palms, smiled at the other two.

“Well, I guess there’s nothing else we can do tonight,” she said. “I vote that we follow Tessa’s lead and go back to our beds. We’ll be able to think so much more clearly with a little sleep to our bodies.”

“So true!” sighed Vieana. “We can all sleep on the problem and put our heads together again at breakfast.”

“I think so, too,” agreed Elen.

"Perhaps we could send a message to Eckthelion in the morning, placing ourselves at his disposal," suggested Averyll. "At the very least, we should explain what we know, what we suspect, and even what we have done, folly as it turned out to be. He may think us silly and empty-headed, but even he must realize that we are not entirely without our usefulness."

Vieana and Elen each nodded, and Elen stifled a yawn. "Perhaps you're right," Elen said quietly. "But let's think about it in the morning, okay? I'm so tired that at the moment I'm afraid I have no usefulness left at all!"

Averyll and Vieana both laughed, but, then Vieana yawned, followed immediately by a monstrously unladylike yawn from Averyll. With that, the three of them decided that it was indeed time to go back to bed and, for Averyll at least, a very fitful sleep.

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Old 09-05-2003, 08:11 PM   #191
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Ruiel sat quietly in the dawn grey that sat over Minas Tirith. The Steward's Citadel rose like a white spike, reaching into the sky and stained a delicate pink by the rising sun. Dawn was calm, undisturbed and unhurried. It was a stark contrast to the women and household of the Morthaniawen's.

The masquerade had been one of the most ignominious events Ruiel had ever attended in her long career as a spy. At first it started well enough. Some of the young fools of Dol Amroth were confused and had started to doubt whether Morthaniawen hailed from Dol Amroth. That presented no overt difficulty for Ruiel.

In fact, Ruiel had settled in Dol Amroth many years ago, just after her husband had met his demise, all in readiness for moving close to Minas Tirith. A mere check of court annals of the Prince of Dol Amroth would show that Morthaniawen rose to prominence. It was on that strength that their relocation to Minas Tirith was achieved.

Long years cozening inept Gondorian Lords and Ladies were under Ruiel's belt. Let the young ladies wonder. Should they ask, their ignorance would only further cast doubt on their own claims of legitimacy. At any rate, by the time they checked the annals at Dol Amroth, Ruiel would be done here in Minas Tirith and it would be a moot point. Who would listen to what they had to say at that time even had the public records not reflected what they had.

Ruiel was permitted a brief sense of superior satisfaction that her long, steady progress through Gondor's nobility had produced that fruit. It was not all for nothing after all, those dull, stupefying engagements spent with witless soft-bellied far from noble men and women. However, her sense of achievement was resoundingly crushed by the scene in the garden between Dryea and Rhir.

Ruiel had come close to all her work being torn down. She had come close to killing Rhir there... she did not know exactly what she would have done to Dryea. The depth of her daughter’s wanton, reckless betrayal had been breathtaking and for a moment, a slim moment, Ruiel had lost all restraint. Such a scene would only have brought further ruin. It was a mercy that she had been able to turn away from both daughter and Rhir before she did anything that would be too scandalous to recover from.

As if that was not enough though, word was spreading of a public quarrel between Dryea and Alethea. The carriage ride back to their manor that night had been frosty. Both daughters had been remote, sullen and out of sorts. Ruiel herself had been beside herself with rage. It had been an effort to walk into the manor without word to either Dryea or Alethea.

Ruiel had left both daughters to their own devices, unable at that moment to look at either one of them. Their behaviour, spitting and quarrelling, was reprehensible. Dryea's behaviour was worse. Rannë had wisely left her mistress to her thoughts. She had seen Ruiel in such a state before. A husband had died of it.

The night passed all too quickly for Ruiel. The damage of the quarrel she could only guess at, for she did not know what had been said nor who had heard it. All she could do was assume the worst, and the worst did not bear thinking of. Her mind raced as she sat in her chair, chin on one hand and other hand stroking the ornate gold hilt of her dagger.

It was in the earliest of hours that commotion flared once again within the Morthaniawen. Ruiel heard a soft tap at her door. Only one would dare to knock.

"Come, Rannë," she said flatly, not turning from her contemplation of the window and fireplace as Rannë entered.

"Malady, I have news... terrible news," Rannë said in a voice that carried the unrest of her tidings. Ruiel turned her head slightly, presenting the regal profile of her face.

"Yes," she asked, wondering what news could be so terrible. Were her expectations of the worst now to be borne out in fact?

"Rhir is dead," Rannë whispered brokenly. It took Ruiel by surprise and she was silent. Out of the depths of disaster could good tidings come. An elegant brow rose gracefully as she considered the boon in Rannë's tidings. Her lips curved slowly into a smile.

"My Lady?" Rannë's confusion was evident in her question. Ruiel stood, unfolding from her chair.

"Fetch my robe," she commanded as she shook her hair back. It was still in its thick braid of rich, old russet and hung heavily down her back. Rannë, bewildered, returned with the heavily embroidered robe and held the indigo velvet out for Ruiel to don. She did so, smoothing out the folds of the skirt as the last buttons were fastened.

"Thank you Rannë. We have much work to do today. Be sure that you are at my ready when word comes. Time is of the essence." Ruiel spoke crisply, re-energised now. Behind her, Rannë bobbed a curtsy, horrified and frightened at Ruiel's inhuman manner.

"M'Lady," she said mechanically as Ruiel swept from her chambers. The Lady Morthaniawen, Head of her House and the most experienced and senior spy of Umbar, glided towards her daughters' chambers serenely with her hands gracefully clasped before her. She arrived at Dryea's chamber to find Rheaite standing helpless by Dryea's bed.

Tears marked the maid's face and Dryea lay motionless in bed, facing the other wall.

"You know then" Ruiel said succinctly. Rheaite lowered her head, shoulders shaking.

"Yes, mother, I know," Dryea hissed from the bed. Such depth of hatred and loss was in her voice. Ruiel noted it dispassionately.

"Indeed you do. You know what it is to serve something higher than your heart's call. You know what has to be done and you know now that you have the strength to see it done. You know."

Dryea was silent. Ruiel stood there a moment longer, carried back to the time following her husband's death. Dryea would move past this. She had already done so in killing him. There was no doubt in Ruiel's mind about how Rhir had died. She knew her daughter.

"Umbar will not forget your service, daughter," Ruiel said. Dryea remained silent, shaking beneath the covers. There was nothing more to say. Words meant little, and well Ruiel knew it. She herself was pleased Rhir was dead. She motioned for Rheaite to follow her as she left her daughter's chambers. The maid trailed as Ruiel stepped out the door.

"See that she is dressed and has eaten. She must be able to rise if the day calls for it. We cannot falter now."

Rheaite could only mutely nod; tear stained face stunned, as she heard her instructions. That done, Ruiel nodded, turned and made her path to Alethea's chambers. There she found Meirelle in attendance. An air of shock hung over the pair, which Ruiel noted along with the fact that her daughters had recruited close assistance from the staff. She'd have to remember to deal with both Rheaite and Meirelle if certain eventualities came to pass.

Ruiel swept into Alethea's rooms, Meirelle dropping a curtsy and Alethea spinning about, face glistening with tears and eyes bright with something else. Guilt perhaps, Ruiel wondered at her daughter.

"I see you too have heard of the night's events," Ruiel said. Alethea nodded, bottom lip trembling with tears withheld as she beheld her mother's smooth countenance. Ruiel appeared undisturbed. Indeed, she seemed vibrant and she was. There was much to do to redeem matters disrupted by the Masque. Already one hurdle had fallen neatly into death. However, Alethea was forced to wonder who had brought that hurdle to topple... Dryea or her mother?

"I expect you to be ready to aid me today. After the debacle of the evening, we have much to do. Report to me after breakfast in my office. There is the matter of your disagreement with your sister to discuss."

Alethea's face blanched of any little colour that remained and her eyes slid a little. Ruiel noted it in an instant and took a step forward.

"Mark me well daughter, you will report to me immediately after breakfast at which point you will fully disclose what was said last night. Think not to mislead me, Alethea. Things shall not go so well with you.

Better I learn the truth from you than some witless gossip of Minas Tirith. Am I understood?"

Alethea nodded slowly as Ruiel sent her a glare rich with maternal disapproval. Alethea understood all too well. Her mother could have murdered Rhir and was threatening her. Others knew too much and there was Adrama. Perhaps there was a way out of this nightmare. Oh yes, Alethea understood all too well.

Ruiel spun on one heel and departed. She walked into her office to find Rannë tidying.

"I will take my breakfast here, Rannë," Ruiel announced. Rannë turned to look at her mistress. Yes, she was pleased at Rhir's death. Was there any compassion left in her? Had Umbar taken even that? Rannë curtsied deeply and left for the kitchens.

Dawn may have been untroubled by the cares of Mortal Men, but House Morthaniawen was not so fortunately distant from such woes this day.
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Old 09-06-2003, 11:30 AM   #192
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Eckthelion's breakfast tray lay untouched on the small table where the guard had placed it earlier that morning. The Steward had been at his desk for only an hour but already his day was clouded with confusion. A hundred competing problems vied in his mind, each demanding an immediate answer if the security of Gondor was to be safeguarded and maintained.

Despite his earlier assurance to Diorwyn that nothing she could say would shock him, he found himself wondering just how accurate that statement was. The events of last night's party had shaken him to the core. Diorwyn's foreboding words suggested that something sinister was afoot, some danger to his beloved city that he had totally failed to detect and forestall. He cursed himself for having been so preoccupied with managing the defense of the frontiers and the details of Denethor's wedding that he had totally neglected to search for the vipers within his own court.

And now, this morning, came the equally disturbing news of the death of Rhircyn Isindil, the young man he'd seen twirling about the dancefloor very alive and vibrant in the company of one of the younger court women. A stubborn bell sounded in Eckthelion's head that in some form or fashion these events were all connected. But exactly how that could be or who was manipulating the strings, the Steward had no idea.

Eckthelion's reflections were abruptly interrupted by the sentry standing guard who knocked and came inside with an announcement.

"Sir, there's a gentleman here to see you. He says he's just arrived back in Minas Tirith after many months away."

Eckthelion shook his head, "I've no time for visitors today, not unless it's that young girl I promised my daughter I'd speak to.

The door in back of the guard suddenly pushed opened a few inches as a tall figure clad in grey robes slipped his head inside and peered around the room. The old man stepped in, straightened up to his full height, and chuckled broadly, "What kind of welcome is this? No time for visitors? But at least time for a friend, I hope. But then you knew I was coming. Thorongil sent the dispatch through several days ago."

Eckthelion stared, his face full of pleasant surprise, and immediately darted forward to greet his tall guest, "Gandalf, I've heard nothing about your arrival, but I am pleased beyond all measure. We've strange doings at court, things that suggest the enemy has dared to put his foot inside my beloved city, and I could surely use your judgment, to say nothing of the fact that I wish to hear everything as to how Thorongil and his men have fared."

For the next hour, the two men exchanged confidences. After listening to Gandalf's news about the troops, the Steward outlined all the happenings from last night's party and his fears that worse was yet to come. At the end, he leaned back in his chair and turned towards Gandalf, "I have always valued your counsel. Can you give me no words of advice? No hints as to how we may best proceed to deal with this mysterious viper?"

"Words of advice? How can I give you words of advice when you have failed to listen to the words that come from those who love you the most? Why do you believe what Diorwyn says yet immediately suggest that your own daughter was merely vying for attention? Do you have so little faith in your own family?"

Gandalf scowled and shook his head staring down at Eckthelion. The Steward took in the old man's words and then averted his face, refusing to look Gandalf directly in the eyes. Then he walked over to the window and started idly outside. When Eckthelion spoke again, it was with a tone both thoughtful and humbled, "Perhaps, you're right. I'm hard on Siriel. It's always been that way. She's a stubborn one, and I thought this was just another ploy to win my approval."

"I do not think so, Steward," Gandalf replied in a soft voice. "I have seen the girl. She loves you greatly and would not see harm come to her family or her people."

"Even aside from that, there is the matter of this dispatch that was sent to you announcing my arrival. You should have gotten that three days ago. That is disturbing."

Eckthelion walked over to a side shelf and began rummaging through a pile of dispatches that had just come in this morning. Then he pulled something out of the pile and waved the packet in Gandalf's face, "Three days ago, you say? Think again, here it is just this morning...."

The men's eyes met with the unspoken realization that someone within Eckthelion's entourage was indeed tampering with the deliveries. Yet a close scrutiny of the document failed to turned up anything unusual. It seemed to be sealed and closed in the customary way.

"I must go now," Gandalf indicated. "I will be in Minas Tirith for at least a week. You may reach me at the usual place. But what will you do about this?" Gandalf queried, pointing towards the late dispatch.

"I will do what I should have done last night when my daughter first brought this news to me. I'll begin a quiet investigation to try and find out what's gone wrong, enlisting others I can trust."

Gandalf nodded his agreement and then left the room. It was only a moment or two later when there was another knock on the door, this one small and timid. Eckthelion looked up and smiled, sensing it was the friend of Tiriel's whom she'd mentioned to him last night. This at least should be an easy problem to deal with, he reassued himself.
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Old 09-07-2003, 06:09 PM   #193
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Sting

Emilia stared at the door for nearly five minutes before she got up the courage to knock. This wasn't like her- such timidity showed weakness that she hadn't known she contained. But then she had never really spoken to the Steward before. She had been introduced by her father, presented as all high born young women were. He had smiled and asked a few questions, and she had smiled and answered quietly. This meeting might not be based on equality of place, but her news gave her a power that for this one moment in time nearly equalled his.

It was what she had always dreamed of, though she had imagined a more orthodox way of getting it- important marriage. Yet despite this, she was struck with syptoms of nerves and an uncomfortable feeling. She did not fool herself that it was compassion for her former friend, although the news of Rhir's death had jolted her. Dryea deserved no sympathy after what she had done. She had almost ruined any chance of Emilia gaining her aspirations.

The sudden reappearance of outrage gave Emilia the momentum she needed to make the all important contact with the door. The noise echoed painfully in her head. She wondered if everyone else heard it as loudly as she had.

"Come in" came the command from inside, and Emilia did as she was bidden. Once inside the room, and standing in front of the Steward, all Emilia's tremblings came back to her and her thoughts crystallised into one: This was the most important moment of her life.

"Yes? I understand you wish to talk to me?" Ecthelion asked gently, and Emilia saw that he expected- who knew what? Something of far less import than what it was. Patronage, perhaps, for a child. Maybe his attendance at a party. Desperately Emilia wondered how to start what she wanted to say.

"My Lord" she said, and curtseyed, buying time.
"Yes?" The Steward repeated.
"My Lord, I have to tell you that Gondor is in very grave danger" Emilia blurted out, then cursed herself. Quickly she raced on with the story, trying to prove that she could back up her flimsy opening statement with fact.

At the end of her tale then Steward gazed at the wall, his face set in concentration. Emilia waited impatiently for him to speak.
"So there are spies, and they are the Morthaniawens" he finally mused, as though to himself. "That explains..." He trailed of, obviously remembering anomolous details, knowledge that the Corsairs should not have got access to- but even in his abstracted state knowing not to speak of secrets before Emilia.

Finally he regarded her gravely.
"This is a strong allegation" he began. "I believe you, although there is no proof. For all I know for sure you could be the agent of Umbar, directing suspicion on the innocent. But I believe you. Your father is a good man- perhaps more to the point your mother is a good woman. A strong woman," he added with a smile. "Your family has lived in Gondor for generations, while the Morthaniawens are newcomers. This does not constitute proof, but it shows likelihood. Furthermore there is a ring of truth about you, and about what you say."

His gaze became even sterner.
"But this is a delicate situation. We have nothing fixed against the Morthaniawens and a case of your word against theirs would be damaging. They might manage to make it look as though you are mistaken. Anyway, getting them to leave is not enough. We need to disrupt the whole of the Corsairs' infrastructure in Gondor, not just remove it's figurehead. I am telling you this for one reason: You must not say anything to anyone of this. Do not write to your parents, do not let it slip to your friends. You do not seem empty headed enough to go running to the Morthaniawens themselves, accusing them. Whatever you do, do not confide it to your maid. I want you to understand that I am extremely grateful for this information, and I'm sure it will be vital, but that does not give you lisence to do as you like. If you keep quiet I'm sure Gondor will thank you for generations."

Emilia curtseyed again, lowering her head.
"Yes my lord" she answered, then turned and left. She now faced a dilemma. It made sense to obey the Steward's instructions, and yet how could she not tell such a piece of gossip? She sighed deeply. It was a thorny problem indeed. It was so hard to serve one's realm.
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Old 09-08-2003, 02:36 PM   #194
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Sting

Eckthelion watched as Emilia walked purposefully down the corridor and vanished from sight. Now, he had his likely culprit and could start keeping a close eye on what Lady Rueil and her daughters were doing as well as trying to ferret out the network of contacts and helpers that had enabled them to maintain their cover and ferret out information.

He could certainly think of a reason to have the family ejected from Minas Tirith and the court itself, but that would be truly foolish. Tipping his hand to the spies from Umbar in any form or fashion would only give them advance warning, a chance to shield all their other contacts. If truth be told, he was even more interested in uncovering that network of contacts than in eliminating the folk at the head of the chain. The Corsairs could always chose to send out another agent, but they would be powerless to function or accomplish anything if the underlying structure of support had been destroyed.

It was with this thought in mind that he sat down at his desk and ordered his affairs for the morning. First, there was a note to several of his most trusted men to keep a close eye on the family itself, trailing them about wherever they went. That was easy enough to accomplish. It was the second goal that was more challenging...ferretting out the agents who were intercepting the dispatches and using that link to uncover the entire network of corruption and intrigue.

He sat and thought for several minutes, and then took out a sheaf of paper from his desk, scrawling out a note:

Diorwyn,

You lately did me a service for which I am much obliged. Additional problems have come to my attention along the same lines that we discussed last night.

I have great need of someone to gather information among the members of my immediate entourage, focusing on those soldiers who are part of my guard and occupy the nearby garrison. It is clear that one or more of these agents are intercepting dispatches, reading them, and then sending them on so that no hint of this tampering can be readily detected.

I have already alerted my most trusted men to assist me in the hunt for these individuals. But I fear that whoever is doing this will be extremely careful not to reveal themselves to another man. I am also thinking they may be less alert and careful in regards to a woman, whom they would never suspect.

I would be most grateful if you could suggest the names of several individuals in whom you have complete trust who could help to gather this information. Discreetly feel them out to see if they have an interest in helping Gondor in this manner.

You may visit me personally in my office or send for my private courier who will relay your note back to me. If you feel this is too dangerous for yourself or those whom you know, I will certainly understand. But the safety of Gondor, and indeed of all the free peoples, may be at stake so I take the liberty of making this request to you.

Respectfully,

Eckthelion, Steward of Gondor


"Guard, I need you. This message must be delivered this morning. Track down the woman wherever she may be. Speed is of the essence. And, under no circumstances, are you to let this note fall into other hands."

[ September 09, 2003: Message edited by: Child of the 7th Age ]
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Old 09-08-2003, 08:22 PM   #195
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Sting

Pelien rose before the world was lit by the sun after tossing and turning without sleep all night. The carriage ride from the palace the previous evening had been solemn. Sador had remained quiet apparently not wanting to argue in front of Adrama, and Pelien refused to beg for the man’s attention. She had too much pride for a degrading action like that. When they reached their apartments, Sador had gone immediately inside and went to bed, while Pelien sat for quite some time in the parlor mulling the evening’s events over in her mind.

The air was chilly in the corridor from the lack of the morning sun, and Pelien pulled her navy robe tighter as she silently roamed the home. The servants were already stirring and poor Rummel’s face revealed her surprise when she saw her mistress up so early.

“Good morning, Madame Pelien.” The girl hurriedly curtseyed and pulled her hair back out of her face. Rummel had apparently not been awake for very long and her appearance was less than ideal.

“Good morning.” Pelien’s voice was unmoved as she looked over the servant with a disapproving expression.

“What would you like for breakfast, Madame? I will get it started.” Rummel tied a white apron tightly around her waist and smoothed out the wrinkles.

“No, I’m not hungry. Go about your regular duties…I want to be left alone.” With that Pelien dismissed the relieved servant girl and continued on her way down the corridor, down the stairs, and into the parlor where her favorite chair waited.

The older woman contemplated the ramifications of her evening’s ‘performance’. She had worked so hard all of these years to keep her name and her family’s name respectable, and she was more than a little concerned about what the Steward’s family would think of her. The look on Denethor’s face was burned in her memory…he was disgusted with her. That would never do. Pelien would have to work hard to repair the damage, especially if the Steward’s son would ever rid himself of the pretty little princess, Adrama needed to be the replacement. Pelien knew in her heart Denethor was not going to disregard his new bride, but she just couldn’t admit defeat…even to herself.

Her lovely Adrama…Pelien loved her daughter dearly and she was unsure of what her reaction would be when she told her of the conversation she’d had with Denethor and Finduilas. Adrama had been particularly beautiful at the ball, and Pelien pictured her daughter floating across the floor in Addruran’s arms. She’d talk to her daughter about that boy and feel out what Adrama’s true feelings were. Adrama must not fall for his charms. Surely, Pelien thought. My daughter is smarter than that.

The sun slowly rose and its rays filtered in through the windows lighting the dark parlor. Sador could be heard moving around readying himself for the day’s duties, and soon he had descended the stairs and entered the kitchen where his usual breakfast waited. Pelien slipped up the stairs, not wanting any confrontation this morning, and back into her bedroom. There, she disrobed and drew a hot bath. Taking her time, she slowly washed herself wanting to take long enough that Sador would be gone when she was ready for breakfast. After several minutes, she heard the door close firmly and knew her husband had left for work.

Rummel came shortly afterwards to help Pelien dress. The older woman chose a dull gray dress with a high waist and long sleeves. It fit her mood nicely.

“Rummel, go down to the kitchen, prepare two vegetable omelets, and tell my daughter she is to meet me in the dining room in one half hour.” The servant nodded and curtseyed once more before she left the bedroom.

Pelien sauntered out to the balcony and took a deep breath stimulating her senses with the fresh morning air. She and Adrama would have much to talk about this morning, and she prayed all would go as planned. Pelien’s eyes wandered up to the white peaks of the citadel. They looked majestic in the sun’s light. Shaking her head slowly with shame, the older woman turned from the balcony’s rail and walked back indoors. Stopping once to gaze upon her reflection, Pelien straightened her back and lifted her chin showing the dignity and pride she carried as a shield, and then, she exited her bedroom and descended to the dining room.

The breakfast table was set with two place mats, cloth napkins, two empty rose tea cups, and a small vase with freshly cut flowers in the center of the table. It set the mood Pelien hoped to have… uplifting, yet intimate.

“Would you like a cup of tea, Madame?” Rummel’s voice broke through Pelien’s thoughts as the young girl pulled one of the high backed chairs away from the table for Pelien to sit.

“No. I want something stronger this morning…I’ll have a cup of coffee.” Pelien took the seat and scooted up to the table.

“I’ll take the cup of tea, Rummel…thank you.” Pelien’s head turned at the sound of her daughter’s voice. Adrama was standing in the doorway with a freshly scrubbed appearance. Her skin glowed like a sun-kissed peach, and Pelien smiled approvingly. “Good morning, Mother.” Adrama said lightly and seated herself across from Pelien. “You wanted to see me?”

“Yes…I thought we might discuss the evening’s events. Did you enjoy yourself?” As she spoke, Pelien properly unfolded her napkin and placed it across her lap.

“I had a lovely time…” Adrama paused to thank Rummel for the hot tea and then continued, “All the costumes were wonderful.”

“You enjoyed dancing with Addruran?” Pelien watched her daughter’s eyes widen a moment, but before Adrama could reply, Pelien went on. “You compliment one another well.” Pelien raised her coffee to her mouth while her eyes watched her daughter’s reaction.

[ September 09, 2003: Message edited by: alaklondewen ]
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Old 09-08-2003, 08:58 PM   #196
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Adrama smoothed down the skirt of the simple green dress she was wearing as she looked at her mother with no little concern. The latter did not look well. She was a strange pale color, and her voice didn't sound quite as strong as it usually did. "Are you feeling well, Mother?" Adram asked. "You look rather ill."

"I feel well," Pelien replied. "I have no illness that ails me, but I am burdened with thought." Adrama's eyebrows raised slightly. "I'll tell you about it later, dear," Pelien said in a firm voice, letting her daughter know that direction of conversation was over for the present. "But onto lighter matters... You and Addruran are quite a handsome couple. Have you ever considered marrying him."

Lifting up her tea cup, Adrama spoke in a cool voice, "No, I really haven't, Mother. You see, I don't love him." She sipped her tea and her mother did likewise, but Adrama noted that the drink in her mother's cup was coffee, and concern began building in her again.

"But surely you realize it is hopeless for you to marry Denethor now?"

"Hopeless? Oh, Mother." Adrama hesitated between putting her cup back down again and taking another drink. Now she wished she had taken coffee, as well. Was her mother becoming frightened by the idea of carrying on trying to bring Denethor away from Finduilas? Perhaps that was why she was so nervous. Adrama felt anger building up inside of her. Well, if she were to be left alone in her task of winning Denethor back somehow, then so be it. She spoke, trying to keep the anger out of her voice. "Mother, I love Denethor and I have no thoughts of marrying Addruran."

"But the two of you look so perfect for each other..."

"Mother!" Adrama cried, setting her cup down so forcefully on the table that it was a miracle it didn't break, though most of it splashed out over the side. Pelien called for Rummel, but when the girl arrived Adrama stopped her from cleaning the tea. "Please, Rummel, I'll take care of that. It's my own fault. But could you just refill my cup? And I think I might need something stronger. Coffee for me, too?"

"Yes, miss," Rummel said, taking the cup.

Adrama took up her napkin and began mopping up the tea with it. Her mother did nothing but sit in her chair, unmoving, watching her daughter. Rummel returned with the coffee and Adrama thanked her, taking the cup and giving the girl the tea-stained napkin to take away. Then she sighed and met her mother's eyes. "I'm sorry, Mother," she said. "I shouldn't have shouted so. But I will not marry Addruran, and if the one who can make me will be so wonderful that words cannot describe how wonderful. Now, Mother, if you don't mind me speaking to you in a rather rude way, the subject is closed."

Pelien did not protest, and Adrama, satisfied, turned her eyes towards the window, not noticing the faint look of triumph that passed over her mother's face. Little did the girl know that her mother had been putting on an act, knowing that Adrama would rebel against her 'wishes.'

Adrama thought of many things as she looked out the window, but her main thoughts were towards her mother's rather ill appearance. Was the giving up of Denethor the reason for her pale face? But why would that cause her to look that way. Her mother had never been one to be frightened of telling bad news to anyone. So was it really...? Adrama hesitated and glanced at her mother. There was but one way to find out, and that was to simply ask.

"Mother..."

"Yes, Adrama?" Pelien was looking into her coffee cup, but when her daughter spoke she looked up and met the dark eyes that looked thoughtfully into her own. Adrama noticed that her mother hadn't taken very much of her coffee yet, and that also bothered her. Surely she would have drained the cup already if she were feeling so bad.

"Mother, I'm going to ask you a rather odd question, and I want a truthful answer," Adrama said firmly, ignoring her mother's surprised look. "Have you given up making Denethor forget Finduilas, or is there another cause for your pale face and wearied eyes? And if there is another reason, I beg you to tell me now." There was a silence, and Pelien didn't answer. "I'm your daughter, and I feel that I have some right to be told things that are happening in this family," Adrama said, her face flushing. "Something terrible has happened, and I ask you to tell me what it is. If you will not tell me, I will demand it. Have you given up the fight?"

"No, of course not," Pelien said sharply. "I want you to marry Denethor more than I ever did, and I will not given up so easily."

"Then why do you say it is hopeless, and why do you try to convince me to marry Addruran?" Adrama felt like bursting into tears. She was so confused, so frustrated. She asked questions, but she did not get answers, and everything remained dark and mysterious to her. Everyone seemed to be gathered in their own little corners, talking and plotting together, while she stood alone in the center, her cries for help falling on deaf ears.

"I simply wish to know if you want to marry him, Adrama. I do think you look well together." Pelien's voice was so sweet, so kind, so fake. Adrama wanted to scream in frustration. What was being hidden from her? Why did her mother try to avoid answering the questions that really mattered. Why did she say words that fell upon her daughter without meaning, as though she had other purposes behind her excuses?

"Mother, tell me now!" she cried, her eyes beginning to dim with tears of vexation. "What has happened? Tell me, I beg you. I will not turn against you, if you are to blame for it. And if you are not to blame, then cease hiding the answers and tell me plainly." With trembling fingers, Adrama picked up her cup and consumed some of the coffee, hoping it would strengthen her. Passing a hand across her eyes to wipe the tears away, she stood up and went to the window, taking deep breaths of the fresh air. Oh, help me, she screamed in her thoughts. Life is becoming too hard. I need help.

Staring dully at her daughter's back, Pelien began to speak.

[ September 10, 2003: Message edited by: Nurumaiel ]
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Old 09-09-2003, 09:30 AM   #197
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Old 09-09-2003, 09:43 AM   #198
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Sador didn't forget his wife's sudden outburst, and he felt less comfortable spending some of his evening at the ball with Denethor. Trying to seem as nothing had happened, he jumped into conversations concerning politics, even though he wasn't in the mood for such.

As the evening wore of, he didn't get a single glimpse of his wife, Pelien. Sador wanted to talk to her, but he didn't get the chance.

__________________________________________________ ___________________

Sador undressed and got to bed quickly after the couple arrived their apartment. He felt a bit ashamed and empty, as if someone had sucked life out of him, and now all was a blur.
He decided not to bring up a coversation regarding tonight's events. It just wasn't the right time to sit down, having a long talk. It was far to late, and besides, he really needed to sort things out. He clearly understood his wife's intention. Or well, did he? Perhaps it was all about Adrama, and her wanting to get married to the coming Steward. How could he of all, be so naive. He was her father! But was Adrama's love for Denethor reason enough for Peleien to have an outburst at Finduilas. And was it even true, what Pelien had accused her for?

[ September 13, 2003: Message edited by: Novnarwen ]
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Old 09-10-2003, 04:20 PM   #199
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I am not homesick, Diorwyn told herself firmly, realizing as she did so that it was only half true. Yes, her mind and hands had been far too busy to allow her much time for pining, and the women with whom she had spent the past weeks had become friends. However, she was increasingly aware of the loneliness that she felt sitting among strangers at meals or alone in her bed at night. She was glad that her time in the White City was coming to an end soon and looked forward to the welcoming embraces of her husband and children.

While her fingers embroidered silver stars around the neckline of the deep blue cloak she was finishing, her thoughts came back to the princess. Would she experience homesickness in her new home? Would she find genuine friends among the women of Minas Tirith? Diorwyn fervently hoped that the love of her husband-to-be and their children would warm Finduilas within as this cloak would shield her outwardly from the cold and the winds of Gondor.

She secured the final stitches and shook out the folds of the soft, sturdy material. It had the colour of a deep summer night and would look queenly indeed on its wearer. Would her work last long enough to warm a daughter of Finduilas some day, she wondered. A sharp knock on the door brought her back to the present reality, and she arose quickly to answer. She was startled and somewhat alarmed to see a guard who bowed and handed her a missive.

Diorwyn read the message with furrowed brow, then asked the guard to wait while she answered. Hurriedly, she sat down at her table, turning the letter over to write a reply on the back.

Sir,

I am honoured to be the recipient of your trust. I agree that women may be able to find out information where men are otherwise on their guard. I will speak to some of our young women and ask them to contact you directly and discreetly.

The love that I and indeed all of her ladies bear for the princess Finduilas would be enough to insure our interest in helping you to ward off any danger to your realm. More than that, if Minas Tirith falls, what shall happen to Dol Amroth? There is greater danger in inaction than in any help we can give. I fervently hope that all traitors will be found out and stopped before they can harm Gondor.

With respectful greetings,
Diorwyn


As soon as she had given the message to the guard, she turned her steps to the quarters of the young women of Dol Amroth; she fervently hoped that the trust she placed in their willingness to help would not be disappointed.

[ September 11, 2003: Message edited by: Estelyn Telcontar ]
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Old 09-10-2003, 05:46 PM   #200
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Pipe

Dryea rose and dressed that morning with a drone aire about her. The people of the sixth and seventh circles would undoubtedly hear of the young nobleman's sudden and tragic death and would mourn alongside Dryea. "To think," they all would say, "They had only just been engaged."

The Lady Morthaniawen chose black. Her mother wouldn't have her looking so plain, but she refused to wear any color. Dryea argued that people would talk if she did but inside she knew she could not bring herself to don the merry hues of gold and the sultry shades of red like she'd used to. She even locked her jewelry box, enclosing the dear necklaces, and bangles within. The ring she kept on.

No one dared to speak to her or even look her direction the rest of the morning. She sat in the old room at the end of the West corridor all morning, gazing outside into the shadowed yard. Just watching. And wishing that somehow this was all a nightmare. A terrible, wicked, foul nightmare and any moment she'd awake to Rheaite drawing the drapes and admonishing her for sleeping in so.

It was not to be so and she stayed sitting like she was for a long time, wrapped in an old grey throw to keep out the chill that had settled permanently in her bones. She didn't have breakfast, and had ignored the tea Rheaite had set on the table nearby. Murder was an evil sport, she had decided, and if she had known its effect, she would have never made the poison.

Oh what madness had taken her mind that evening! What insanity had possessed her and caused her to destroy the flame of hope that she might have a life of her own away from the tediousness of all this plotting? She shook her head. What's done is done, and nothing shall be undone.

Dropping her throw, Dryea stood and left the room, making her way to her mother's study. She descended the stairs at a slow and deliberate pace making a hollow thumping noise every time her bare feet hit the stone steps. She reached the door and knocked.

"Come in," said Ruiel in her satirical voice. Dryea entered, an indifferent expression upon her face as her mind conformed to the tasks before her.

"What is there for us to do today Mother? What benefit might I be to the realm I serve?" She did a mock bow and grinned when her mother chuckled.

"Come to my arms daughter, for you are truly of Morthaniawen blood." They embraced. Their bond was renewed and Ruiel's daughter became her exact image of wickedness in mind—and soul.
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"They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say, 'Sh*t, it's raining!'" -- Ruby, Cold Mountain
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