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Old 09-05-2003, 08:11 PM   #191
Shade of Carn Dūm
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Kalrienmar
Posts: 402
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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. Rannė 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, Rannė," she said flatly, not turning from her contemplation of the window and fireplace as Rannė entered.

"Malady, I have news... terrible news," Rannė 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," Rannė 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 Rannė's tidings. Her lips curved slowly into a smile.

"My Lady?" Rannė'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. Rannė, 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 Rannė. 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, Rannė 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 Rannė tidying.

"I will take my breakfast here, Rannė," Ruiel announced. Rannė 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? Rannė 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.
Characters: Rosmarin: Lady of Cardolan; Lochared: Vagabond of Dunland; Simra: Daughter of Khand; Naiore: Lady of the Sweet Swan; Menecin: Bard of the Singing Seas; Vanwe: Lost Maiden; Ronnan: Lord of Thieves; and, Uien of the Twilight
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