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Travellers' Tales ~ Gondor

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Jano View Drop Down
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alias author Jan Hawke

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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Travellers' Tales ~ Gondor
    Posted: 12 Apr 2010 at 10:37pm
 Travellers' Tales
This is a thread for fan-fiction that is place-specific
Please feel free to post one-off stories, or instalments of longer tales, where the action mostly takes place here in Gondor ('The Questers' Tales' that start this thread are part of a 'road trip' story that roam across the lands of Middle Earth in the 3rd age)
If your story continues in another forum, please include a link so people can find the next part! Wink) 
It took Éowyn a little while to get used to her fellow travellers, not least because Jano in particular seemed to doubt that she should be with them at all, and asked a lot of questions as to whether her elder brother Éomer had agreed to her leaving Edoras. In this Éowyn had not been entirely truthful having merely left a note for him, as she knew he would not have thought it a good idea for her to be travelling with Elves, however noble of mien or knowledgeable about fabled herbs that a mad old woman had said would cure their uncle. Fin was her ally though and seemed to understand why she needed to help search for the strange plant that Jano told them was rare and had links with the lost land of Númenor. As they passed into Gondor through the Blackroot Pass and thence along the River Blackroot that the two Elves referred to as the Morthond she increasingly began to feel as though she was journeying through legends for the lands were cursed – everyone knew that and Fin in particular was most interested in the mythical tale of the Black Stone of Erech and the Oath-breakers who were cursed forevermore to roam those bleak hills by one of the first Kings of Gondor, Isildur.

As they descended the Blackroot Vale Fin had asked her about the stories and that was strange too for when she talked of Isildur making the King of Erech swear on the Black Stone which was said to have fallen from heaven, to fight against Mordor with his army, the Elf-lord had laughed and said that sounded a lot like Isildur. He kept on chuckling a little all the way down the mountainside, his lovely warm deep voice seeming to drive the shadows back a little, although the maid of Rohan could not help feeling a little strange at his attitude, almost as though he had known the story already, or at least knew more of Isildur than she did. As they made camp that night by the river she approached Jano whilst Fin was off looking for kindling. Jano seemed to be in a more thoughtful mood now and she nodded at the young mortal’s question.
Jano… you know when I was talking of the Black Stone and of Isildur earlier?”  The dark-haired elleth looked at her calmly, half-knowing what was likely to come next. Fin kept laughing, well he was amused I could see that  – did I say something wrong?”  Jano had smiled and shook her head.

“Pay him no mind Éowyn – he was not laughing at you at all. Only at old soldier’s memories.”
“But it was the strangest thing… When I was saying about the broken Oath, he said something… as though he knew Isildur? But that was thousands of years ago…? What?!!”
This was intolerable – now Jano was laughing too, albeit kindly.

“Ah Éowyn – I am sorry and I sympathise believe me. The Eldar are hard folks to know sometimes, even for me as I was mortal-raised and have only lived a few years with my true kin.”  She paused, knowing that some mortals knew little of Elves and did not want to make the lady feel uneasy.
“He did not know Isildur himself, but the other Lords of Imladris did and they are his old friends and so, I expect he knows a lot about that war as Elrond and Erestor were both there at the Siege of Barad-Dûr and fought alongside Isildur and his father and brother too. The Elves fought under the High King Gil-galad and Elrond in particular would have known the mortal Kings of Arnor and Gondor well for he was close kin… to Gil-galad and was his Herald.”  
She stopped herself saying about how he was also kin to the mortal kings. That might have been too much for the child, for she was looking open-mouthed at her now. Instead she explained a little about
Fin has heard a lot about Isildur down the years. He is very old Éowyn. He lived in the First Age and fought in the ancient wars in Beleriand – have you ever heard tell of them… tales of Bëor and Beren, Húrin and his son the great hero Túrin Turambar? The forefathers of the Édain and the first Kings of Númenor?”   

Éowyn’s blue eyes were wide now and she nodded almost against her own credulity. Jano carried on more gently, omitting the more unbelievable elements of Fin’s story but still leaving enough so Éowyn could comprehend it more fully and still be comfortable around him.
Fin was a great warrior, a hero, in those days and fought against our ancient and most powerful Foeman. He… had to leave Middle Earth for a long time but he came back to us a little over two thousand years ago and he fought with the last of the Kings of Arnor against the evil Witchking of Angmar. He is much, much older than he looks in other words, but he is a good and kind person and I think that is because of his great age. He has known so much of life and of war and he knows and loves goodness and honour. We are lucky we can call him our friend do you not think?”
She smiled quietly at Éowyn who was looking at her in amazement still and laughed softly.
“And to save you asking I am only two hundred and fifty years old and have fought in no wars, nor am I a hero or likely to be one. Only a Bard, which is why I know these things, but have not lived through them as
Fin has. If I told you we had Elves even more ancient than he in Imladris would that help? The Eldar are immortal – well as much as it matters, though we can die if wounded badly, or even of grief if it is deep enough.” 

“Take no notice of her Éowyn! Jano is a fine Bard and I have heard her tell tales and sing of times long ages ago as though she had been stood there in the midst of it!” He was laughing again and had only heard the last part of Jano’s talk. Throwing the kindling he had collected onto the hearthstones they had set out, he sat down and sighed ruefully “But she is right about my being hideously old and also that I am not the eldest of the Eldar in Imladris – why… I can think of at least two… No! Maybe three…!”  Grinning hugely, he gave Jano a friendly punch on the arm and then they both started laughing so much that Éowyn could not help but join in and after that the evening passed easily with Jano and Fin both telling funny stories and songs to dispel the gloom of the brooding Vale.

Another week or so saw them at the end of the river Ringló and their first sight of the Bay of Belfalas as they descended from the northern hill country of the Dor-en-Ernil, the ‘Land of the Prince’.
“Let us stay here on the outskirts of this woodland tonight.”  Both Éowyn and Fin jumped at little at the sound of the Bard’s voice for Jano had been silent since they set off that morning. She smiled a little guiltily at them for she knew she had been a poor companion that day.
“This is an ancient place that knew the Green Elves and their fair port of Edhellond, as well as the men of Westernesse who built  Dol Amroth which is only about 30 miles south of here – we should easily make it there by nightfall tomorrow – also the Édain used timber from this place to build their sea-city so I would like to travel through the woods in daylight as we may find kingsfoil here… although I cannot say so for certain my lady.” 

Fin had also been thoughtful that day, though not as silent as Jano, and was wondering what would transpire for all of them on the morrow. His elusive pearl, Éowyn’s mythical herb and Jano’s past which he was growing more and more fascinated with. Her mentioning Edhellond nudged this to the fore and after they had eaten he looked at her sitting quiet in the firelight and asked her to tell the story of Amroth and Nimrodel. She looked at him and shook her head. He was determined however as he thought she needed to talk a little at least.
“Well if you will not then perhaps I should take a turn at story telling for Éowyn’s sake, since it is a tale of great love though tragic!” He smiled at the mortal lady for whom he had taken a great paternal liking and proceeded to tell a grossly romantic version of the tale of the King of Lórinand (as Lothlórien was then known) and the beautiful Silvan maiden Nimrodel and how they vowed to take ship from Edhellond into the West, as the forests between the Anduin and the Misty Mountains were ablaze and Lórinand was threatened by both Dol Guldur and Durin’s Bane.
“It is said that Amroth so wanted to be with his love he forsook the Ship at the last and dived into the sea, trying to swim back to shore, where he still hoped that Nimrodel would join him at last. But what became of them both nobody really knows, though there are some tales that say that Nimrodel, coming far too late despaired of her lover and instead took a mortal as her husband and became the mother of the line of Princes in Dol Amroth – is that not so Jano?”  He had been looking at the elleth for some time and getting a little irritated at her silly sulking so he was not surprised that she reacted badly to his question which he knew was falsely based, but also that it would provoke some reaction from her at last. He was right. She threw him a furious look, her eyes like a storm across the fire. He met her gaze steadily, knowing she would have to reply eventually.

Why did he keep jibing away at her? She knew he was trying to help her but really he should have known better from all she had told him of her mortal family in Eregion. Knowing this time he would not rest until she answered, she sighed and spoke softly to them both, eyes staring into the flames.
“That part is not true. Imrazôr, the first Lord of these lands did not come to Belfalas for some years after Edhellond had been mostly abandoned, though there were still Eldar dwelling here. It was not Nimrodel he wed, but perhaps one of her handmaidens who still lingered in these woods… Her name was Mithrellas and she bore him a son, Galador who became the first Prince of Dol Amroth.”
She started to get up, intending to walk away for a while to calm down, but now Éowyn’s interest was taken up too.
“I have heard this too! That the Princes of Dol Amroth have fairy blood… I mean Elvish heritage…” she blushed hoping she had not caused offence.

Jano gave in and flopped back down, casting one more accusing look at Fin and then looking more patiently at Éowyn.
“My mortal mother, Jaenarra, she who raised me as her own, and her first husband were both descended from the royal house. Erlrohil, her husband was the grandson of a Prince and my mother’s lineage could be traced to the house a few generations earlier… She and I lived in Dol Amroth for two years – she came home to die in fact.”  
She had not told
Fin of this nor did she intend to in full now. Only her beloved Silen knew it all and that was how it was staying.
“Because of Erlrohil, who was the cousin and best friend of the then Prince’s father we were given apartments in the Keep. So I knew the Prince quite well and it is true – you can see it in their faces to this day I would think – just traces of Eldar beauty, the way they carry themselves, speak. Eldar blood is there in their veins, dilute or no. But they were all mortal – even Galador. And no. I do not know what became of Mithrellas after her husband and son died. Nobody does.”  
And that was really enough.
Jano said goodnight to them both and spent the rest of the night a little way off, sitting on a rock gazing through the sparse trees, across the mouth of the river Ringló and out into the Bay, where once elven ships had set sail for Aman, where no mortal could set foot, not even one who was a half-elven prince and the son of a full-blood elleth…

Éowyn trailed disconsolately after Jano and Fin through the stone streets of Dol Amroth, down to the quayside again, feeling really homesick and unhappy. They had spent the previous day, following ancient trails through the woods that stretched from the Ringló to Dol Amroth, but Jano had seen no trace of kingsfoil even when they had found some old broken-down stone buildings in a small clearing, which both Fin and Jano seemed certain were old enough to have been built by the old people of Westernesse. At least Jano and Fin were on friendly terms again. She was fairly sure they had spoken long into the night after she had gone to sleep. Odd how they could both go so long without sleeping. Jano had said they did sleep, but it was different to how mortals did it. Well she was certainly learning a lot on this journey even if she had not found any kingsfoil. Jano was fairly sure they would be more likely to find the plant closer to Minas Tirith where they were headed next, after they had finished their business here in Dol Amroth. Yesterday they had arrived in the city as the sun went down and so they had found lodgings in an Inn near the Northern Gate.

So now it was Fin’s turn to follow his quest for a beautiful pearl of great antiquity and legend. He and Jano had asked around in the tavern bar of their lodgings last night and although they got some stares, the people here in this city-port seemed much less curious about the Elves than she and her people had been in Edoras. This morning though she had soon found out why. There were people from all over Middle Earth here, even some dwarves and men from many, many lands. Some of those were even more exotic than the Elves, for their skin was dark and oiled, gleaming in the sun. And though you would hardly call them numerous, they had seen a few Elves in the streets too. Fin said they were mostly from the Falas far to the north, another Elven port called the Grey Havens or Mithlond. They looked more like Jano than Fin. Mostly dark-haired and nowhere near as tall as Fin. But then nobody looked like him. She knew he thought she was like a little girl and when Jano had explained how old he was she realised why he thought of her in that way. He was as far above her as the stars, but she could not help looking at him sometimes and wondering if she would ever find a man to love who was as handsome or as tall. Even Éomer or Théodred would look a little puny beside him and they were both much admired by the other young women in Edoras. Maybe she would see the Prince of Dol Amroth here – Jano had said you could still see they had Eldar blood…

As they walked down the little hill to the harbour, some of the tradespeople were showing interest in them and it became apparent that Fin’s and Jano’s enquiries had been noted well by some of the people in the tavern and they had spread the news through the city of the great Elf-lord and his search for a pearl. Jano took what she said was a short cut just past the Seaward Tower, turning into a narrow little alley and they could see the harbour at the far end. About halfway down there was a little shop selling bows and archer’s accoutrements, and both Elves briefly looked at the owner who was sat on a stool outside, fixing some flights onto some arrows, but were more interested in reaching their goal and strode on just as the stunned fletcher managed to blurt out to Éowyn, who was about to follow them
“Wait! Milord! Milady! Oh please wait my little Lady!”  He was standing now and actually put his hands on Éowyn. She must have looked shocked at his presumption and he hastily let her go, but carried on, words stumbling out of his mouth in his haste to keep her attention.
“Oh my word! Please milady! Ask the Elf-lord to come back! Please! I have something that may aid their quest!”
Somehow she knew the man was genuine and not just trying to fleece strangers to the city.

Fin! Jano! Come back! This man may be able to help us!” 

Sighing heavily Fin turned around and saw who Éowyn was talking to – apparently just the little man from the bowman’s outfitters. He looked askance at Jano, eyebrows raised and she laughed and shook her head.
“Another little surprise from our guardian Vala do you think? Come on then!”
They walked back up the alley and listened patiently to the owner as he told them of his black arrows, so fine and true, that would find any target…

… And then they were on their way back to the harbour in possession of a dozen fine black arrows safely purchased and sitting happily in Jano’s quiver. Well she did need some more anyway, so if nothing else they had some quality ammunition to hunt with. He was starting to wonder how far they would get here now though. Maybe they would have better luck in Lossarnach, which was their next destination on the way to Minas Tirith.

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2010 at 10:38pm
Jano was quiet on the morning they left Dol Amroth, thinking as she had been almost since they had left Edoras of the time she had spent there around two hundred years before when she was in her fiftieth year and at last fully grown to mortal eyes at least. The people of Dol Amroth had all seen her as a beautiful girl just grown to womanhood and most had assumed she was her mortal mother's grandchild. They had not disillusioned most people in this respect as it was pointless to some extent, since her mother was so ill by then and did not go into society much, and when she did it was only with very close old friends and relatives, one of whom was their cousin through her mother's first husband Erlrohil who had been the first cousin and best friend of the Prince of Dol Amroth. He had died, but his son had spent happy times visiting with Jaenarra and her new family in Ithilien in his youth with his parents and had looked forward to their coming when Jaenarra had written to him, asking if she and Jano could stay indefinitely in the sea-fortress city after her second husband Aldred had died.


This period of Jano's life held some hard memories and not all because of her mother effectively going home to her birthplace to die slowly of grief and in pain from the ravages of old age, unable to walk far or at all or to work on her exquisite embroidery for which she had always been famous. The Prince had received them with every kindness but even he had been shaken at the sight of Jano whom he remembered as a little girl of perhaps six or seven years old. He too had at first thought her to be Jaenarra's grandchild - that she was Jano's own child in fact. The reason for this was simple and, by then for Jano, distressing. In fact she and the Prince were of an age - both fifty years old and Jano had really been thirteen years old when he had last seen her. Even then Jaenarra had begun to 'hide' her daughter's true heritage as an Elf, immortal and almost forty years on she had all the appearance of youth, because she was very young indeed for one of the Eldar.


Glorfindel was also fairly quiet as they left the city, disappointed that they had had no luck with his personal quest for the pearl. And since the night they had camped by the mouth of the Ringló and had come close to arguing, he understood a little more of what Jano's life had been when she had lived with mortals. So for her sake and because Éowyn spirits too were low, he did his best to be cheerful and to make the two females talk a little too as they made their way across the gentler, greener country of the southern part of the Land of the Prince. Still close to the sea, both Elves could smell it in the air and on the higher downlands they would still catch glimpses of the Bay of Belfalas and of the great Isle of Tolfalas standing proud before the Ethir Anduin. They detoured briefly onto a high promontory on the coast so Éowyn could see the Isle and the delta better for she had grown excited as he and Jano had admired the seabirds rising on the air, just a little too far for her mortals eyes to take in properly. He had caught Jano looking gently at him as they all watched the lovely sight and knew she was remembering his description of the Lonely Isle in the far off west. He gave her a little smile and nodded. It was alike in a way. But the light here was different. Heavier and less charged with life force. Not as free and airy. She would know for herself one day.


In a land where the Eldar were rarely seen and not a part of daily life it had been 'simpler' to let Jano pass for a mortal, though a remarkably pretty and clever little one, by concealing her ears, wearing her hair down or tied back to cover them. Close family and friends knew the truth, but even those, as with the Prince, did not really take it in whilst Jano remained so small, growing so slowly into her adult form by mortal standards. Wanting to protect their lovely elfling, Jaenarra and Aldred took more and more pains as their little family grew up to keep Jano looking as 'normal' as the rest of them, with all three of her younger brothers 'overtaking' her in terms of growth when they were children.


There were many times when Jano's appearing to be much younger than she truly was had caused arguments and distress with her brothers - with the eldest of the boys especially, as he found having a 'little' sister who was actually two years older than him tearing strips off him or teasing him in front of his sixteen year old friends truly mortifying. Also having his 'kid' sister being able to run nearly as fast as he when he was twice her size and being far better with a bow than he could ever hope to be was also rather hard to bear, though he loved Jano dearly. Silly things in themselves, but Jano knew full well how much she embarassed her family at times, and worried the life out of her mother for most of it. As she got older it was worse if anything and by the time they went to Dol Amroth she seriously doubted the effectiveness of concealing how she was 'different' from her mortal family. As Jano now knew, any elf could never have taken her as being anything other than an elf, but it seemed mortals were not quite so observant, or perhaps were too ignorant of the Eldar in general to notice. The deception she had been caught up in was easy enough to carry off on the surface, but had resulted in a serious breach with her middle brother's family about fifteen years earlier, and although fences were mended with him, his wife and most of his children had been estranged from him as a result. Whilst Jano was in Dol Amroth, even the Prince had been shocked at first  to realise that his cousin, looking like a young woman of barely eighteen was in fact the same age as he - in mortal terms a middle-aged woman.


They had discussed taking ship for the Pelargir and coming to Minas Tirith from the Anduin but Jano had said that perhaps they might find some kingsfoil in Lebennin and anyway come to Lossarnach in only a little longer time, where she was most confident of finding the elusive herb as Lossarnach was famous for its flowers. Éowyn too was keen to go overland, concerned that the horses might not like that kind of transportation - Fin guessed she might not be too keen on taking ship herself, but he smiled kindly at her comments and kept his thoughts to himself. There was another reason however, that intrigued him as the mortal noble told them that her uncle King Théoden was the son of Morwen of Lossarnach.


Because of her mother's enfeebled state and not wanting to distress her unduly, in Dol Amroth Jano simply had not bothered to correct anyone who assumed she was Jaenarra's grandchild, but when her mother died and she returned to Ithilien, after she had recovered from the loss a little, she had abandoned her imposed habit of hiding her ears and let people see who she really was. It had cost her some friendships, but those perhaps were not worth the keeping and had anyway started to become strained, as people she had grown up with were suddenly becoming old and withered whilst she still looked so young. With her brothers, especially her youngest brother's family, things were much easier as they knew her so well and accepted her for what she was, for a time at least... Until it became too painful for all of them and then she had had to leave them all. But she could not stop loving them, or mourning for her parents and her brothers, knowing they were lost to her forever until the world's unmaking.


There was much to learn of mortals he reflected. Fin had had some experience of them long years ago of course, two thousand years or more. He had known 'good' and 'evil' mortals and could understand how some Eldar found little difference between the two states. But then could not the same be said of Elves? They had had their share of individuals who had caused untold damage and wreaked such evil on their kin that had cursed them and their people down the Ages. Maeglin. Éol his father too. Fëanor himself. They had not set out to be or to do evil he was sure of that, but there was some flaw in their nature or in what had happened to them that caused such a change and set them down a path to cruelty and damnation. And it was the same with mortals, but it seemed to take less time and again, that too was understandable of course. Fin knew that once the evil king of Angmar had been a great and strong man, a prince of Númenor and yet he had succumbed to ambition, pride and... fear. That was something that Jano had touched upon. The Secondborn were afraid of all kinds of things and death of course was something they did not like to think of, for they did not know where they would go. Even for the Eldar, knowing what their fate would be, still held to life if they could. He knew this. He had not expected a second chance so soon because of the Oath...


Fin and Jano had decided to travel overland to Minas Tirith, much to her relief for she knew they would find no kingsfoil on the sea, although Jano had said that the Pelargir was the most ancient of the settlements in Gondor that the Men of Westernesse had founded. Maybe they could go there if they found no kingsfoil in Lossarnach or in Minas Tirith? She dared not ask that for Jano was still brooding over something and was silent for a long time as they left the sea-city. Fin seemed a little thoughtful too but soon he was talking of all kinds of things, admiring the countryside and insisting they go a little out of their way to get a better view of Tolfalas and the delta of the Anduin. She was glad he had been so insistent for it was a wonderful sight - never had she seen so many birds that flew so gracefully. Fin also seemed very interested when she told him her uncle's mother Morwen had been the daughter of the Lord of Lossarnach.
"Her nephew, my Lord's cousin Forlong is Lord there now I believe, but I have never met him and I do not know if he was ever visited Rohan, or if my Lord knows him well except through letters perhaps."

"Would you like to go to Lord Forlong then and see if he can aid us in our quest - your quest?" 

As usual Fin's voice was kind and she blushed a little.
"I would not be so presumptuous and anyway I doubt he would be much help unless kingsfoil is used for culinary purposes,"  Éowyn  giggled a little
"Apparently he is very fond of his food and grows fatter by the day! Well that is what the herald say anyway." She turned in her saddle and called out to Jano

"Can you use kingsfoil... athelas I mean to cook with Jano?"

She laughed a little. "Nay my lady! Like I said it has very few useful properties except in perhaps clearing the head when you have a headache and even then willowbark is more effective at reducing the pain and quicker too. It has a pleasant smell when used in infusions or perhaps extracts too although mayhap that would have to be diluted. It does revive you and lifts the spirits if your mind is tired and suffering... my mother sometimes... she used it occasionally for that purpose." Not that it had done her much good in her last days, but at least it had kept her feeling too oppressed from the pain and weariness of living for a little while...


They reached the river Gilrain in a few days and on crossing it were in the Lebennin. Rich in rivers, this land was even greener than the Dor-en-Ernil they had left behind them and their horses all seemed to take heart and feel more like cantering as they passed through fairly flat lands but with the White Mountains always looming to the north east. They were lovely, gleaming in the sunlight and she was almost sorry see them end as they caught sight of the last of the range, Mount Mindolluin, but this meant they were close to Lossarnach and the great White City. Jano was back to her normal self and had sung for them whenever they camped now or told stories of the Eldar in ancient times. Éowyn was spellbound as she was taken to lands that no longer existed and heard of folk long gone, either to the mysterious Halls of Mandos or to an immortal life in the fabled Blessed Lands. The Lay of Beren and Lúthien in particular caught her imagination and Jano's voice in the sing-song chanting of ann-thannath seemingly brought the woods of ancient Doriath and the darkness of Angband to life for her. How brave Lúthien Tinuviel and Beren had been fighting against a terrible foe and bringing the Silmarils back to the light. Most of all though she had been delighted with the thought that one of the holy jewels now shone down on them all as Fin showed her the star of Eärendil, shining so brightly in the night sky.


They all were enchanted with Lossarnach but still no kingsfoil. Jano said she was not sure if it bloomed in this season but described how it looked for her and Fin as there were so many flowers here it would be almost impossible to find what they sought - bunches of tiny white star-shaped flowers and a spindly green stalk with lots of thin little green leaves with rounded tips radiating off it like spokes on a minute wheel. But they found none at all. She did however spot some dark mushrooms and dismounted to collect them, thinking that perhaps they could cook them for supper. They smelt wonderful as well - like pure mountain air.
However Jano ruled out eating them
"I know a little of mushrooms, enough to know that these are not the type you eat. We'll keep them anyway as they may have some medicinal properties and we might be able to trade them for some athelas in Minas Tirith"

Éowyn nodded her agreement, although she thought anything that smelt so lovely could not be poisonous, but she trusted Jano and knew that it was dangerous to assume that all mushrooms were edible.


"The city has changed a lot since I was last here..." 
Jano sighed at the signs of increased military activity that had been visible even before they entered the Tower of Guard.
"... but at least the Houses of Healing are still in the Sixth Circle. If we cannot find athelas... kingsfoil in the marketplace then that is the place we need to go to."

Again she and Fin had not attempted to hide their appearance, and although they attracted a few more glances than in Dol Amroth this was possibly more because Éowyn was with them than because they were Eldar. They did indeed make an odd group. For the most part they saw men and some women of military bearing in the streets but few mounted as they were. There was an undercurrent of purpose and duty and only the housewives and younger children seemed to stand around talking and looking at them a little curiously now and again as they entered the markets of the Second Circle.

Although Jano had been born in the White City, she had never really lived there and in fact had seldom visited it even. It had had bad associations for her mother as her first husband had been killed in one of the city's many battles and she had only returned once when Jano was still a baby to take her to the Healers. Jano had been old enough to recall the events of that time and although she had not been ill in any way, she had been caught up in her mother's fears for her strange elfling child. It had not been a happy time. The only other times she had been in Minas Tirith was long after her mortal family had passed on, and then it was only a handful of occasions when she'd had need of things like saddlery or weapons that she could not make herself or trade for in other places nearer to her old home in the woodlands and caves of Ithilien. But now there was a palpable feel of being at war, almost under siege in the air here and she felt ill at ease anyway in the stone cityscape.

"Come, mellyn nín let us break our fast here before we begin to search these stalls for healing herbs and pearls. I have a fancy for something hot with wings!"
Fin nodded in the direction where the splendid aroma of spit-roast poultry wafted and the two females smiled at him. He had been grumbling about cold food for days since they had seen little game as they came closer to the great city and its little satellite towns.  

The two Elves let Éowyn make the purchase of hot steaming chicken breasts in soft bread rolls and some drumsticks, whilst they settled the horses and sat on the steps of a little fountain. As they waited for the young woman to come back Fin looked at Jano carefully and finally spoke his anxieties for he was worried about her again. They had not spoken of her previous life in Gondor again since the night before Dol Amroth and he knew that her memories were not all good. In fact they were anything but happy for the most part, aside from her family whom she had dearly loved.
"We do not have to stay here inside the city if it pains you muin? That little Inn we passed just after sunrise would serve us well enough until our business here is done - we only need a day or two here anyway I expect and it is only a short ride there and back?"

He smiled gently at her, not pressing her but letting her know she did not have to stay if the memories were too bitter to bear. Jano turned to him and grinned readily enough, but he could see she was on edge still. 
"I am well enough Fin - if we stay in the City we will hear more and maybe find help with our quests if we stay in one of the taverns or Inns - there is one over there I think..."
She pointed over to a slightly shabbier area of the market, which was also not too crowded. There was a sign with an ill-painted hand on it and underneath the legend 'The Fallen Soldier' pointing down a dingy alleyway.
'... but it does not look too popular with the locals somehow and the ale smells stale from here..." she laughed "... so maybe not that one! But here is Éowyn with our breakfast!"
Éowyn handed the fresh steaming roast chicken rolls around and, having just caught the tail end of Jano's summation of the attractions of The Fallen Soldier laughed,
"I just asked the stall holder about that place whilst I was waiting for the food - he says it's a 'real low dive' whatever that means! Apparently there's a much better place to stay in the next Circle up - 'The Black Swan'? He said that was where all the 'quality' went to anyway. They do have a funny way of talking around here!" she giggled, feeling happy to be in a busy marketplace again.

Though Fin was relishing his chicken, he had been listening to Jano and Éowyn avidly and laughed heartily at the Rohir's comments on the local patois.
"Well I suspect that 'quality' refers to my two fine Ladies and so I must defer to your good taste in hostelries. I think Asfaloth agrees with you on 'The Fallen Soldier' at least - see how he shakes his head at the musty smells!" And indeed the elf-horse who was tethered nearest to the ill-smelling alley was tossing his head around and flaring his nostrils fussily rather more than usual. Fin grinned at them both "So 'The Black Swan' it is then! Let us go there next and get settled in and wash the dust of the road away. Then we can come back here and carry on our scouring of the market until supper time!"



Éowyn was playing with her food in the dining room, feeling very disheartened. They had split up in the marketplace when they returned there after settling themselves and their horses into the fine bedrooms and stable block. At least 'The Black Swan' was very comfortable and welcoming but after plodding around the market with Jano for the greater part of the day, it had been a huge disappointment for her and she was further than ever from finding her kingsfoil - most people had not even known the name let alone the plant. Jano did not seem too dispirited and had said that she had not seriously expected to find any kingsfoil in the markets anyway - the Houses of Healing was the place they were to go to tomorrow. Éowyn hoped she was right - it did make sense of course - anything with a medicinal value would surely be found there.

Jano was feeling a little better for two good tasty meals and a very well appointed room, but she too was dreading the next day. Although there was a slight chance that they might find some athelas in the Sixth Circle she was not too hopeful of finding any there either - with no king in Gondor now, athelas was just a mild euphoric if that and had no real medicinal value, but she had told Éowyn that enough and now she had no heart to keep pressing the point. It was just something the young noblewoman had to hear from the Healers herself.

She caught Fin looking at her again and smiled gently at him. He too had not had much luck, although he had found pearls enough as there were many jewellery stalls in the market and more serious jewellery shops in the Third Circle. He had visited all of them and not found what he sought, or any word of where it might be found. Jano had been thinking about other places where they might have more luck and so she decided that now might be a good time to mention this before the group got even more despondent.
"Depending on how Éowyn and I get on in the Sixth Circle tomorrow I have been thinking that maybe we have been looking in the wrong places? Perhaps there is a better place to look for our kingsfoil and pearls?" 
Éowyn, who had given up even playing with her food, now looked at the elleth with a little more hope in her blue eyes. Jano patted her hand and went on,
"We should go to the Pelargir I think. That was the first place the old Númenoreans settled on the Anduin and in Gondor too, so we will find old buildings aplenty there where kingsfoil might grow still and of course as it is also a port and far more commercial than Dol Amroth... there might also be something for Fin to work with there as well? What do you both think?"

Both Maid and Ellon nodded their assent, but before either could speak a tall, dark-haired soldier, who had seemingly been sitting in the booth behind them, came over to their table and bowed politely to them. Jano and Fin both looked up at him curiously as he introduced himself.
"Forgive the intrusion my Lord, my Ladies, but I could not help overhearing that you were planning to go to the Pelargir soon?"

 The man's cheeks were red with embarrassment but Fin recognised a certain look in his grey eyes and looked at Jano significantly.
"We were starting to consider that as our next destination yes. I take it you have some interests there?"
"To be truthful I am not sure my Lord, but I cannot go there myself at this time and I need help and from skilled people such as yourself and perhaps this Lady..." He looked at Jano and so they assumed he needed assistance from the Eldar. Again he blushed and went on
"I am Beregond, a Guard of the Citadel - may I join you for a while as I think we may be able to help each other?"

The man pulled over a stool and sitting down, still speaking principally to Fin and the reason for this swiftly become clear. Beregond began to speak of siege weapons, trebuchets to be precise and their use in Minas Tirith his eyes glinting with enthusiasm as he told them his plans…
“I have been having dreams recently, but this is also an old tale amongst soldiers of Gondor, of a stone, as black as obsidian, with almost magical properties that was used by the old warriors of Westernesse. It is said that when these stones are thrown with force - so by a catapult such as our trebuchets maybe – they burst on contact with the ground and then splinter into sharp points, hundreds of them!”

“I saw something like that used once in a siege – long, long ago. By the men of Westernesse, but in the north – In Arnor.”
Fin’s face was thoughtful now as he cast his memory back.
“But I know nothing of where the stones they used came from.”
Beregond grinned and went on.
“Well I have dreamed of that! I do not know where the place is where these stones are to be found, but I do know that it was one of great antiquity – there were tumbledown ruins that could only have been built by the Men of Númenor... and then…”  he turned to Jano, his eyes bright now with enthusiasm “… I heard Lady Janowyn here speak of maybe finding kingsfoil in the Pelargir where the Númenoreans first settled here in Gondor and… well!” he laughed “Maybe that is the place! Right under my nose here in Gondor! Like I was saying, I cannot leave the City at this time, but as you are going to the Pelargir anyway – whether or not your business with the Healers goes well, then perhaps we can help each other out?”

Fin laughed too and looked at Jano and Éowyn speculatively.
“Well my Ladies? What do you think? Like Jano was saying we can set off for the Pelargir after you have seen the Healers tomorrow and if they are of no help, then we have three things to look for – my pearl and Beregond’s black stone too!" He turned back to the soldier, "If we do find some there Beregond we can bring them back here for you – or carry on the search elsewhere until we find some samples for you?”

Beregond looked anxiously at Éowyn and Jano who both smiled and nodded at him.
“Done then!”
In turn the soldier smiled happily back at them all “And now the least I can do for your kindness is to buy you all a drink! What is your pleasure!”

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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alias author Jan Hawke

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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2010 at 10:39pm
They made a sad, quiet party riding down the South Road from Minas Tirith to the Pelargir, though the way itself had plenty of interest in the number of travellers they encountered. For the most part these were merchants and tradespeople on their way to the White City, Lossarnach, Northern Ithilien or Anorien or some of the other smaller townships and settlements scattered in the vicinity of the far western reach of the White Mountains, though Osgiliath had fewer people heading there since that way had smaller craft and ferries carrying people on the Great River to the Citadel of the Stars. Jano herself had little to say of this part of Gondor once they had forded the River Erui as she had not had much reason to visit the north westerly shores of the Anduin. She had always lived closer to Osgiliath and the Emyn Arnen and had little reason to go farther downriver than there. So this part of southern Lebennin was new to her as well as the Pelargir itself, though she had once or twice been to the crossways at nearby Poros. That more exotic mercantile settlement lay to the east and south and had a famous borderland marketplace where Gondor and Harad met in a querulous peace that the mortals perpetuated for the sake of the trading of goods and materials that each culture craved from the other.


Éowyn was finding it hard to remain hopeful about finding her kingsfoil now, although Jano tried to reassure her that the likelihood of finding the plant in this area by the River Anduin was as good, or perhaps better than any other place in Gondor, since it had been the longest settled by the Númenoreans. But what would happen if they could not find the plant here either? It seemed to the young noblewoman that they were running out of places to look here in the old south kingdom and that might mean she would need to travel far to the north to where the old kingdom of Arnor had been. Jano had not mentioned that much, although she said that she knew of places where kingsfoil could be found there. Éowyn could sense that Jano knew something more about athelas than she was telling her - Fin too come to that, but Jano was certainly adamant that the plant was of no use whatsoever unless it could be 'blessed' in some way by a king of the lost line of Númenor and Elendil. And that was impossible for there were no kings left? That was what Jano said at least and Éowyn could tell she was truthful in that at least, but sometimes she had caught Fin's eye when they talked of the old kings and she was certain he was not so sure they had disappeared altogether.


As they drew closer to the Great River they had indeed spotted older dilapidated buildings and outright ruins which looked to be of great enough antiquity and they had detoured to search every one for the elusive plant and for the strange black stones that Beregond wished to experiment with. All to no avail however. The Rohir maiden's heart was heavy the day they finally sighted the Great River, for here were newer buildings and she wondered if this was indeed the end of her search for this rare herb in the southlands. As they came down to where the River Sirith met the foreshore of the Anduin, Fin began to take more interest and began to ask questions as to the whereabouts of warehouses trading in jewels as well as spices and herbals. Maybe if he had luck with his search for his elusive pearl it would bring her quest good fortune also...


Fin was not too happy with the look of this port. Dol Amroth had reminded him a little of Mithlond, but this one was definitely one for the merchants and he disliked the appraising glances he got from the people he was making enquiries of, though they were mostly respectful enough. More than most Eldar he was fairly tolerant of mortals, but he did not relish being looked at in terms of how much profit he might bring to someone, or cross-questioned sometimes without any attempt at subtlety, as to how much he might pay for information that might not be of any use at all. In fact he was close to losing his temper before the afternoon was halfway over and nodded with some relief as Jano suggested looking in the older, less bustling parts of the docks where they might also have a chance of looking for athelas and Beregond's stones, whilst he questioned the more well-established and hopefully more reputable jewel traders...


"... I don't know Jano - I think I am wasting my time here - yours and Éowyn's too!"  He slammed the door of the last warehouse on the quayside shut behind him. That scheming scribe was lucky he had not done worse than pinned him against the wall and shouted at him for a minute or so for his impudence!
"What are you looking at?"  His brow furrowed as he saw Jano was boosting Éowyn up a mossy wall that looked as though it had a broken down building inside.
"Trying to see if there's a doorway farther around I hope!" Jano was smiling at him as Éowyn pushed off the palm of her hand and pulled herself into a leaning position over the crumbling wall.

"Yes there is! Not too far away around the corn... Oooo!"  The Rohir slithered back down the wall abruptly and both Elves had to reach out to stop her falling backwards.

"There was a man in there! With a spade!"  she was laughing at herself now, "He waved at me and beckoned for me to come in!"

"Was he now?" Fin found a foothold and scaled the wall rather more elegantly than Éowyn, had a swift look and jumped back down again smiling
"He's on his way to the doorway - let us go and meet him!"


Angbor was almost at the gate when the young fair-haired woman came through the doorway with... two Elves? How extraordinary! And perhaps fortuitous too!

"How d'ye do good people!" He smiled at the three of them and introduced himself "I am Angbor the Lord of Lamedon! What brings you here good folk? A well-born lass from Rohan if I am any judge and two of the Eldar - a stranger set of companions as ever I saw or I'm an Oliphaunt!"

Jano burst out laughing and held out her right hand in the way of mortals in the southlands and the man reached out and shook her hand enthusiastically.
"Then Oliphaunts must be even stranger animals than I have been led to believe!" 

Still laughing she introduced them all to Angbor and in no time at all he was leading them all around the overgrown ruins of an old warehouse that had once housed medicines, herbs and spices from all over Arda including Númenor so he told them. When told he was most interested in Éowyn's search for kingsfoil and she began to take heart as he seemed to know a good deal about the plant...


"Well this place may well have some kingsfoil or athelas as the Eldar name it  growing wild - indeed I cannot think of anywhere more likely, although I have not seen any growing here, but then I have only been here twice before in different seasons. Have a look around by all means! This place belongs to no one now."

"What are you searching for then, if you do not mind my asking my Lord Angbor?"  Fin had taken a shine to the ebullient nobleman. Angbor laughed heartily.
"Well you have told me of your search easily enough so I will not fault you for asking and perhaps you and the gentle Lady Janowyn may be able to assist me my Lord, for I too am searching for a fabled plant that is rooted in antiquity and hails from the sacred lands of your people to the far West of the Belegaer! I search for a seedling of the most rare and beautiful Nimneldor tree!"


Jano and Fin both listened carefully to Angbor as he explained his recent passion for things botanical and how he had embarked on his search for a white tree of legend that perhaps might heal the symbol of the King, the withered White Tree of Minas Tirith, that had been brought forth from a fruit of Nimloth and brought from Númenor by Isildur himself.
"As I said this is the third time I have been to this place but still I have had no luck. But at least I have met you all here and to my mind this is an omen for the Eldar are rarely seen in Gondor these days and for someone to be asking for athelas is in itself remarkable, for as you say my Lady Éowyn, few know of its medicinal properties in these dark days! As for your stones... well I know a little of that, being a soldier myself, but I have never seen them hereabouts to tell you the truth. I am moving on to Osgiliath by boat tomorrow myself... "
He paused a moment looking thunderstruck.
"Would you all care to accompany me there? It strikes me that there is some kind of fate at work here that brings so many people here seeking such strange objects at one time - that has to be an omen of some kind does it not?"


Fin looked at Jano and Éowyn and raised his eyebrows at Angbor's reckoning and offer. Both ladies smiled and nodded, although Éowyn looked a little dubious about the boat again.
"As you say - it is indeed more than co-incidence and yes I think it might be a good thing to travel together for a time at least my Lord..." he smiled at Angbor  " and if we are to do so perhaps you should call me Fin and the ladies simply Jano and Éowyn, if we may call you Angbor?
They all laughed at that.
"Well let us all look for black stones, white tree saplings and tiny white weeds whilst we are hereabouts! Pearls too if you please! And tomorrow we sail for Osgiliath!"




At dawn the next day Angbor was waiting for them all by the quayside with a cheery smile. His boat, which was really more of a flat-bottomed raft with a sail and oars, was just big enough to accommodate them, the four horses and the crew of two silent Gondorians who would take them to both banks of the ruined city.
"Good morning my friends! I trust you all enjoy boats for the wind is with us and we will come to the Citadel of the Stars in good time - well before midday with any luck!" 

"Well that is all to the good Angbor!" Fin smiled broadly at their new friend,
"With two shores to search any saving in time will help our various searches."

He was in a good humour on his own behalf, but exchanged worried glances with Jano for they knew that Éowyn was not looking forward to the journey and was standing by the horses looking pale and glum and shivering in the cold wind that was blowing up the Anduin from the ocean. Angbor caught their concern and spoke quietly to Fin as the boatmen cast off and the boat moved swiftly into mid-channel where white-capped waves were much in evidence, as the strong winds warred with the flow of the Great River which was still tidal here.


"If our young lady suffers from the motion of the boat on the river I have some arrowroot and lovage in solution for her to take to ease the sickness. I am prone to it myself I confess, although I have grown accustomed to heavier seas out in Belfalas and beyond over the years!"
Angbor smiled at Jano who came to join them momentarily, having guessed the subject of their conversation. 
"From my early experiences I know it is not pleasant to bear, and with this wind it will make the river pretty rough for all our speed - I confess I carry my medicine with me whenever I go any distance by boat for just such a purpose!" 

Jano returned Angbor's smile and shook her head with a little laugh.
"I think she has not travelled on boats of any size before, so it is mostly a fear of the unknown and a rather unthoughtful brother and cousin who have given her a very untruthful account of the difficulties of transporting horses by boat and ship - we talked a little last night and that is what concerns her the most. She is a true Rohir, always thinking of the horses first!"


They all joined Éowyn and their horses and indeed as they made progress upriver and she became accustomed to the chopping movement her face gradually regained some colour, once she saw that the horses were not too upset with the rocking of the vessel. Jano was stroking Filigod's dark nose and talking to her in a mixture of 'horsey sounds' and low, gentle Sindarin and smiled at Éowyn when the young girl laughed at her in delight for she was doing the same with her young horse Windfola. 

"It seems strange to hear an Elf use the same sounds to talk to their horses as we do at home, but I suppose they think our words are stranger than their whinnies and puffings!"
"Not so strange really muin nín - I was brought up by a man of Eastfold after all and he had me riding with him as soon as I could sit up unsupported. But the Eldar have much affinity for horses too. They are our friends after all! Aren't you Fili my love?!"

They both laughed as Asfaloth, wanting similar attention from Fin gave a shuddering sigh of irritation.

"The Eldar and Rohirrim understand and love our friends so it is no surprise that we 'speak' to them in a similar way - see Fin does the same and he has never been in Rohan, or Calenardhon as he would likely call it, before we met you!"

"Aye indeed!" Éowyn was giggling now as she began to relax and starting to enjoy her first boat trip. "I was forgetting you lived with mortals so long. Was it strange when you went to live with the Eldar at first?"


Jano paused a little before replying for the question was more complicated than Éowyn knew, though the elleth no longer held onto the pain that had afflicted her for most of her life, after her mortal family had all died and left her truly alone for well over a hundred years. She answered with a smile, though speaking softly for she knew Fin was listening now as well,

"A little strange yes, for I had only ever lived with mortals before. But for the most part I have lived far longer on my own and by the time I decided to seek my kindred I was half mad from grief and loneliness... so by the time I got to Imladris I was in such need of a people to belong to, and wanting to be part of a family again, it was not really strange so much as overwhelming that I could be with people who accepted me at long last."

Jano smiled gently as she remembered her first months in the Valley, making fast, close friends with her gwathels (sworn sisters) Feowen and Ann-thannath and most of all her dearest gwador (sworn brother) Laifana.
"I made many friends then and some became as close to me as my old family - and then I met my beloved who is the twin brother of one of my fellow Bards."

This time she smiled with real warmth as she thought of her beloved back in the Valley.

"His name is Silen - a true child of the Moon and we are betrothed. We will bond soon - not long after we return to Imladris I hope! And then I will have a huge family again, for he comes from a large extended family in Mirkwood - I am very happy in my new life now!"

She paused a moment then went on for she wanted to forestall too many questions. 

"I loved my mortal family very, very much... but living with them was not always easy for all that they loved me back as much, if not more than I loved them. That time is long over now, but still I remember them yet with love and respect, and honour them still, though they have long since passed on from this life."


Jano's voice had softened again and sounded a little sad so Éowyn simply nodded and smiled gently at the elleth as she saw that Fin, who was also listening had begun to pay pointed attention to Asfaloth again and so she knew that this was not a subject she should pursue further - for now at least. She had an inkling that Jano's allusion to her life not always being easy amongst mortals, or even with her family perhaps, had left deep marks on the elleth. Painful ones too. Looking at the Elf, both Elves, it was easy to forget how old they were at times. Jano seemed no more that few years older than she at most, and Fin, who had lived so much longer, did not seem so much older than Jano until you looked into his calm, wise eyes. 


But just because the Eldar lived so long did not mean their lives were happy necessarily Éowyn realised with a jolt. She thought of how it would be to lose your family and live and on and on, missing them and grieving for them for hundreds and hundreds of years. Forever perhaps. Maybe immortality was not as wonderful as she thought, as she regarded the prospect of mourning her own parents, whom she had loved so much, for as long as Jano had grieved for hers. She shook her fair head in horror and nuzzled her face into Windfola's neck for comfort. Perhaps being mortal was not a bad thing sometimes after all.


Her words had come as no surprise to him, but Fin again felt a pang of concern for Jano. She had agreed to come with him so willingly, trusting in the message sent by Aulë that she should. And yet Fin was beginning to wonder whether he should have been so unquestioning of the Vala's suggestion that Jano would find 'much future happiness and a way to say a fond farewell to her past' if she travelled with him. So far it seemed she had only had cause to remember past sadness, granted with some happy memories, but he knew she had re-opened old wounds several times now, just when she had found true happiness again with Silen. He just felt uneasy that she should have to endure old pain again, simply because she had agreed to help him...




"Ho! We are nearly there my friends!"

Angbor called them all forward as they rounded a bend in the river and got the first distant sight of the ruined city and bridge across the Anduin. Their hair was streaming past their faces, two fair, two dark now as the wind pushed the boat ever-faster towards the northern western bank of the old city. Fin and Éowyn left Jano and Angbor at the prow to gaze on the Pellennor with Minas Tirith dwarfed by Mount Mindolluin in the distance, impressed by the sight of the pride of Gondor. Angbor turned to the elleth a little puzzled that she did not do likewise.

" 'Tis a brave sight my Lady Jano - the White City under the mountain's shelter!"


She laughed softly and looked into the mortal's clear grey eyes and smiled as she recognised his Númenorean ancestry.
"Aye that it is, good Angbor, but I have seen it often enough in the past.... long past." she gave a little sigh and pushed on.

"I was born there two hundred and fifty or more years ago and I lived in Ithilien - the south for the most part - until about three years ago."

Her silver-blue eyes had a faraway look in them now as she looked upriver to Osgiliath.

"The Citadel of the Stars was ruined even then and its bridge broken... When I left Gondor for the north I did not think ever to return to the Southlands." 

She looked to her right bank and took in the Emyn Arnen and the Mountains of Shadow brooding in the far distance.

"I told myself I went north to seek out my true kin... but that was not the only reason of course. It is still fair to look on though is it not... Ithilien... if you can ignore the Morgul Vale and the filth that pours out of the Morgulduin into the Great River..."

She looked back at Angbor, her smile brittle now and her eyes bright with unshed tears.

"I lived there almost all my life and I truly loved it... but I was never safe there... not really. No matter how hard people... my family... tried to shield me. And then there was nothing left for me there except bitter memories of better times. I never thought I would come back - but now it looks as though that is the very place I must go... if only to search the eastern bank. But my heart tells me that we will have need to go further east still. We shall see."


"Ai Jano! We shall see - but you will not have to go there alone, if that indeed is the way we must seek."

Fin hand rested comfortingly on her slim shoulder. He had come back when his sharp ears had heard the heartache in her voice and stood beside her, looking at her face with concern. Jano nodded and a single tear escaped and then she smiled at him but did not speak. Again, as in Hollin, when they had spoken of Gondolin and his shaky memories of leaving the Hidden City, he wished he could hold her, but it was not fitting. Instead he contented himself with rubbing her shoulder and back gently, offering the consolation and empathy of a true friend.


For all his effusive good humour Angbor was a sensitive man and he listened kindly to the elleth's tale and then to the ellon's empathy, knowing it was best they comfort each other, for what mortal could properly understand the Eldar? Éowyn had also returned to the prow and Angbor turned his attention from the Elves to the young Rohir, telling her a little of the sad history of the once proud capital of the kingdom of Gondor.




And then they were landing and leading their mounts from the boat as the crew tied up for a few hours. It was still lacked a few hours to noon so they had plenty of time to look about for their sapling, herbs, stones and pearls but no sign of any of these were found. They instinctively split into pairs, Mortal and Eldar, Éowyn with Angbor who knew athelas as well as Jano, whom Fin would not leave for now as they searched closer to the river for signs of their talismans. They found nothing and met back at the boat a little after noon as agreed and they made the short journey across the river.


This side was even more deserted than the western side which had had a few soldiers on guard duty. The silence was eerie and this time, without needing to discuss it, they stayed together. Jano was feeling a little better for some quiet conversation with Fin and had been thinking of Osgiliath's history, so, thinking to make things seem a little more 'normal' she asked Angbor about the black stones that Beregond wanted them to look for.
"Is it possible that they are of the same stone that the palantíri were fashioned from Angbor? Beregond was fairly positive that they were black?"


"The seeing stones? It is possible I suppose Jano... although... were they not supposed to be unbreakable? It had crossed my mind too I must admit..."  His voice tailed off as Jano gave a little gasp of surprise and Fin abruptly held up his hand for quiet as the echo of the Lord's words faded, and another infinitely doleful sound came to them on the wind that was dying away now.


Fin loosened his longsword in his saddle holster but did not unsheath it yet. Slowly he urged Asfaloth in the direction of the sobbing and the others followed him, wondering what they would find for so far they had not seen another living soul in this eldritch place of shadows. And so it was that they came across the extraordinary and pitiable creature who told them his name was Lump. Fin saw him first and though it was obvious the miserable wretch was no threat to them, he would not allow Jano or Angbor, who had some skill with healing, to go near him until he had made certain Lump had no weapon concealed.


"This is not the work of any soldier of Gondor surely Angbor?" Jano's eyes were wide with shock and anger at the cruel beating that had obviously been  inflicted on Lump as she took in the bruising and cuts to be found all over the trembling creature's pathetic body. She reached out to Lump's ankle and though her touch was gentle, he howled with agony as she felt the sores around the cruel shackle.

"Nay Jano - that I can vouch for at least! We keep no camp on this side of the river and anyway... if he was a prisoner of ours he would not be unattended here. No, he was not taken by any company of Gondor or of a Ranger of Ithilien, for they are garrisoned north of here now..."

Angbor did not need to add whose prisoner this unfortunate might have been.

"We cannot leave him here Fin!"
Jano was searching angrily through her bag for some thyme oil to clean the worst of the wounds and sores and looked at Fin anxiously.
"We must get this shackle off him as well! So rusty!"
She shuddered as she tested the clasp and red iron flakes came away and Lump whined in pain.

 "Do not fret Jano, we will do what we can to aid him. Stand back now and Angbor and I will see to removing this foul bond."
Fin steered her away, then he knelt and examined the shackle closely and looked at Lump doubtfully as he nodded to Angbor to hold the creature's leg still before he used his camp axe on the flaking metal.

"I never miss with a blade Lump, though this will most likely hurt from the blow. Are you ready?"

Lump screwed up his face and nodded as Fin took careful aim and then struck cleanly downwards.


Fin laughed as Lump gave an agonised shriek and then yelled his elation as the rusted metal shattered and fell away from him. He cried with relief as he patted a grinning Fin and Angbor on their shoulders and then sat still and kept mostly quiet as Jano cleaned up the worst of his open wounds.


"Well that is some justice done at least!" Angbor's face was kind as he watched Lump's grateful face.
"I think we will not have much more joy here today. Perhaps we should all go back to the boat before the light goes and then go down river a ways and maybe camp for the night on the side level with Emyn Arnen? - get past the Morgulduin at least!"
he looked at the others, including Lump, though in his case a little speculatively.

"Yes please!" Lump's voice was quite squeaky in a creaky kind of way - he hadn't been talking much recently...

"Well I guess that means sleeping on the east side tonight then!" Jano gave a resigned laugh. "And I'm going home again after all... perhaps even bound for the Black Lands?"


All of a sudden the most unlikely sound in the world interrupted them. A lark rising high, and singing sweet to them. She looked at Fin and he nodded his agreement. Neither of them smiled.

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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alias author Jan Hawke

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  Quote Jano Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Apr 2010 at 10:44pm
They were re-tracing their steps more or less and so Jano had little to do in leading them back to the Ephel Duath, other than to point out the two lesser peaks of the Cirith Caraes and set Filigod's path towards the distant peaks, that were about 15 miles south of the eastern end of the Morgul Vale. Something was nagging at her however and she mulled it over as they made their way across Gorgoroth once more. Finally she thought she had a grasp of it and turned to Fin, a little foolishly for the notion still seemed rather strange to her.

"Fin - I have the oddest feeling that we should not be leaving Mordor just now, but..." she trailed off unhappily as the Elf-lord turned patiently towards her.

"But you do not know why? Ai, Jano, I am being plagued with much the same thoughts too."
Fin smiled ruefully at her.
"However, in Osgiliath and in the Morgul Vale we were given a sign were we not - the lark's calling - as to which way we should go and this time we were not were we?"

The Elleth nodded slightly at him, but he could see she was not convinced by her little frown. "So we must do the best we can without a sign I fear. But it does make sense does it not? - having found those black stones to take them back to Beregond before we go too much farther into these Lands without another sign."


Jano nodded "It just seems too soon that is all - to be leaving here I mean."

"I agree, but I also feel that maybe Beregond might perhaps be able to help us find our next destination,n so let us go to him whilst we are still relatively close to Gondor's borders. We can come back here afterwards perhaps - if we have no other pointers at that stage."

"Yes, that is true and Beregond did say he might be able to aid us in our other tasks. Poor Éowyn - she does not like these Mountains at all and it looks as though we will have thick fog all the way too tonight. Still the Caraes are better than the Morgul Vale and I think we have worn out our protection in there - this part of the Pass is not quite so narrow as such - although it will be single file we can ride still and the walls are not quite as steep or as tall through this section. We will soon be on our way back to Osgiliath and thence to Minas Tirith. Perhaps we should stay there for a few days - I think we would all be glad of the rest..."

Glorfindel nodded in agreement as they ascended the first of the slopes of the Ephel Duath and their way back into Gondor.


Fin sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Lady as they safely descended the Ephel Duath. The spirits of the entire party rose as they emerged from the narrow gullies of the Cirith Caraes into a moonlit night over the valley of the Great River. The Elf-Lord laughed as Shadowfax almost sprang out of the ravine and Éowyn gave a great whoop of joy and relief and urged Windfola to follow the magnificent mearas as he raced down the scree slopes, half sliding, half-running down to the greenness of South Ithilien just a few thousand feet below.


Angbor grinned at the two Elves "Well my Lord, my Lady... I must follow at a slower pace I fear, for I am not so good a horse master, but I have no wish to detain you if you also need to speed your return into less darkened realms! I will join you at a safer pace as I have no wish to break my neck!"

Fin turned and smiled gently at Jano, who was looking longingly down the slopes at the noble Mearas and Rohir who had nearly reached the first of the spruces.

"Go Jano - I know you want to and really we should not leave Éowyn untended for too long for these lands are still too close to the Black Lands for my liking... We two old warriors will come down at a more regal pace so you need not worry for us!"
The elleth grinned at Fin and needed no more urging.

"Ah to be young again huh Fin? Although..."
Angbor laughed and shook his head as he watched Jano racing away from them on Filigod, her dark hair streaming out behind her as she took a slightly less perpendicular  path and moved her weight in the saddle to help her horse move more safely.
"... I suppose my Lady Jano is older than I by some decades at least, if not a century or two?"

Fin chuckled and nodded his head

"Ai Angbor! She is your senior in years by far, yet she is still very young in my eyes and would be counted so by most of our kindred. But I think she had to grow up a lot quicker than most Eldar would wish any child of theirs to... She was mortal-reared and that was very hard on her I think, though her family loved her well."


He sobered as they followed the two females down the mountain at a more sedate pace, watching the Silvan and her elven steed flowing like silk over the treacherous slopes. His blue eyes were fixed on Jano in admiration and a little sadness.

"She is so beautiful on that horse! Her stepfather was Rohir as well - he taught her well that much is sure, for she is the finest rider I have ever seen and my folk are no slouches when it comes to horsemanship...! See how she spares Fili - it is as though they move as one. One mind and body working together..."

"My Lord?"
Angbor looked at Fin with some curiosity, wondering if perhaps there was more between the Lord and Jano than he had thought. He had seen them together a lot over the past few days and knew they were firm friends and that Fin had had to comfort Jano as she travelled the lands of her birth. The mortal lord looked at Fin closely, wondering if there was more to it than that. Fin caught the meaning in his glance and shook his head slowly, though his colour rose very slightly.

"Nay Angbor... It is just that the more I know of her, the more I find to admire in her, but she is not for such as I. She has her Chosen back in Imladris and she loves him beyond words. I have no illusions at all that I could change her mind... and so I must not wish that I could. We are from different times you see. Far too much time - Ages - seperate us... too many memories and events."

His eyes were twinkling bright in moonlight now and he smiled again if a little ruefully. 

"But that does not mean I cannot take pleasure in her company and enjoy her friendship. That is prize enough for an old warrior - that and her high esteem!"

He laughed as he saw Jano reach the trees and Éowyn and Shadowfax waiting there. He could see the two women laughing and waving for them to hurry up.
"Well - I think we can risk a very little more speed now my friend! One thing I have learned in this long life... it never does to keep a lady waiting too long if you can help it at all! And these slopes are not quite so steep here!"




They were travelling quickly now - eager to reach Osgiliath and hopefully use the little ferry there to get across the Anduin. Then it would only be a short time before they were in Minas Tirith again. The two mortals had snatched a few hours sleep as they made camp close to the Harad Road and just east of the Emyn Arnen. Now they were ready to complete the journey to the ruined city after a quick breakfast from Angbor's dried supplies.

"With luck we should make Osgiliath not long after noon - so supper at the Black Swan this evening with luck - or have we only enough funds for the Fallen Soldier Fin?"

Eowyn giggled, knowing that Jano was only jesting.
"Nay! - Asfaloth will punish Fin very thoroughly if we do not go to the Black Swan - their stables are much more to his liking! See! The horses have already decided where we are going!"

The Rohir nodded at Shadowfax who was himself almost nodding, tossing his noble head up and down.

Fin laughed as much as the others. "Ai -  the Black Swan it is then. My treasury can stand a little more battering I believe! Now hush - else we will talk the morning away and never get to the Tower of Guard before nightfall!"




With some relief Jano led Filigod onto the little ferry, following Éowyn, Windfola and Shadowfax. Osgiliath was silent on the eastern shore and they were the only people crossing the Anduin. Fin, Angbor and his pack horse bearing their prizes, the iron crown of Morgoth and the sample shards of the black stone for Beregond followed her on board the pontoon and the ferrymen cast off as soon as they had shut the gate after the noble Lords. The day was overcast, but there was little wind and that from the north, carrying the smell of marshes and the empty lands as they made their way across the relatively calm Great River.


In no time they reached the west bank and filed off onto the landing stage and made their way up the South Road and through the Rammas Echor onto the Pellennor. The sun was sinking fast as they finally got to the city, but they were soon outside the Black Swan and just in time to take the two last rooms. Angbor had left word for Beregond of their plans with the guards at the Great Gate and was in good spirits when Éowyn and Jano joined him and Fin in the common room after settling the horses into the stables. Shadowfax had been restive and so Éowyn had had to spend some time ensuring he was made properly comfortable and a proper mash of grains made up for him and their other horses. Jano had been at pains not to smile too much at the young Rohir's imperious orders to the ostlers, but had had to busy herself with Fili for some moments when Éowyn had got completely exasperated and ended up showing the poor blushing lads how to get the right measure and mix done correctly...


"Ah ladies!" The Lord of Lamedon beamed happily at them. "Just in time for we were just thinking of ordering our meal! With luck Beregond may be off duty this evening and can join us - but he will know where to find us tomorrow if not."




Jano and Éowyn were feeling famished and both made short work of washing and tidying themselves before returning to The Black Swan’s dining room and their supper. The party’s food soon arrived and just as they were thinking about a dessert (Jano’s sweet tooth needed assuaging after the strains of the past few days) the two ladies and Glorfindel were all delighted to see Beregond arrive and hurry over to their table, his face alight with enthusiasm.
“I could not believe it when you sent word of your return so soon! May I see the samples please?”
“By all means Beregond – I brought them with me hoping you could meet us this evening!” 

Fin smiled at the eagerness on the Guard’s face. He had not known too many mortals aside from the Dúnedain who came to Imladris occasionally, and had never been in a city of Men before. It seemed the behaviour of mortals here in Gondor was more animated than in the North, but then of course they lived here in far greater numbers, so he supposed that any differences between the kindreds were naturally magnified.


As he brought forth the samples and laid a few shards of the black stone on the table, his eyes caught Jano’s and once again realised that her past still lived with her. She did not guard her emotions as well as those of the Firstborn, or rather those who had always lived amongst their proper kindred. Like the three mortals at this table, she showed her feelings more readily than most Eldar. Both the happy and the sad. With her there was no holding back and so at times she seemed to glow in the joy of life like an elfling would have, though she was fully adult of course, and at others sore oppressed by the burden of living, almost to an unbearable level. Though the Eldar too experienced those same conditions, being immortal they had largely mastered their emotions in some measure as they aged. Not so quick to show their feelings so openly, though felt just as deeply no doubt. It was not quite so marked in her as in these mortals, but he cast his mind back to when she had arrived in Imladris a few years back and her general behaviour then had been almost as pronounced as Éowyn’s. Strange, but in an exotic way and very alluring too. So open and fresh – no wonder Silen was so captivated. Were she not already betrothed he would have felt her attraction too. He must stop thinking about this he scolded himself. They were friends and no more. And yet it was interesting how her upbringing had so marked her – sometimes she seemed almost mortal to him, if you could ignore her elven beauty, so perhaps that was not so strange after all. 

Jano was smiling broadly at Beregond as he looked at the samples. He reminded her a little of her youngest brother Jaenald, though he looked nothing like him except for his hair perhaps. Her mother had always said that she and Jae were almost like twins, though she was the elder by fifteen years. Their features were very similar as they both took after their mother whilst Ældohir and Erldred had looked more like their Rohir father. She had been better friends with him than her other brothers. They looked to be more of an age in size as well, though when Jae was younger Jano had loved to play the ‘big’ sister with him. After their parent’s deaths she had lived with him and his wife Imogen and in truth they and their six children were the family she had loved most and still did. All long dead of course now. But the pain of leaving them had lessened since she had met and fallen in love with Silen and as she watched Beregond’s face light up in pleasure as he examined the stones and tested the edges carefully, she recalled only the good times, when Jae and she had been so happy together in Ithilien in his rambling, loud, chaotic home. She felt Fin’s gaze on her again and looked at him questioningly, but he only smiled back at her warmly and gently, then spoke to Beregond once more. 

“So my friend – you think these are what you were seeking?”
“Indeed they are! And to think they were so near as well! My commanders will be well pleased with this news!”
He looked at the Elves and at Éowyn and Angbor gratefully.
“I have something for you as well – from our other great friend!”
His smile grew a little shy as he produced a fairly small round object from his own bag and presented it to Jano who sat nearest him. It was wrapped in soft felt and was quite heavy for its size.

Carefully she unwrapped it and then gasped as did Fin and Angbor.
“Is that what I think it is?” Angbor’s face was a picture of amazement
Éowyn’s was looking puzzled at the other’s elation.
“What? It is very pretty, but it’s just a polished stone isn’t it?”

Fin was shaking his head, almost disbelieving what he was seeing.
“It is much more than beautiful, it has great power… Jano cover it again please. These things should not idly be open to scrutiny…”
He looked at Beregond and asked what Angbor wanted to as well.
“And they are so rare too. Are you sure this is yours to give us my friend?”
Beregond nodded solemnly
“My Lord, the Great One assured me that there is no harm in the giving, and that none should notice its absence, for it is well hidden and the only one who knows of it will not have need of it for some time yet. Also that he would return it to its proper place as soon as your quest is done. You are right about its being kept in its coverings however – I was told to warn you of the dangers of leaving it exposed for any length of time.” 
“You may be easy on that point Beregond – we will keep it safe and covered at all times. May I Jano?”

Fin held out his hand for the palantír that Jano had already wrapped up and she handed it to him with some relief. He stowed it away in his saddlebag where Beregond’s shattered stone samples had been. She did not know too much about the ancient seeing stones of Westernesse, but Silen’s loremaster brother Galen had once told her about them and she had no doubt as to what a treasure Beregond had given them.

The Guard was anxious to be off and take the samples of the black stone to his commanders and so he left them with many thanks for their help. They were all silent for a while after he had gone but eventually they wanted some more to drink and Angbor went off to hail a steward.
“Where to next then Fin?”
Jano’s voice was still subdued as she began to realise just how serious this Quest was now they carried the iron crown of Morgoth and one of the seven palantíri. The elleth watched her Lord’s face carefully, knowing he was also surprised at the turn this Quest was taking.
“In truth I do not know Jano. We still seek my pearl, Éowyn’s athelas and Angbor’s nimneldor sapling… My heart tells me we will not find them in the Black Lands and yet I feel that our business there is not done yet…”
“We will not find athelas there - of that I am certain. I think it grows only where the men of Westernesse once lived of old and so apart from here in Gondor it is only found in Eriador – as for the sapling I have no idea where that might be found… Your pearl though… I have been thinking – is it possible that the Dwarves might have some knowledge of it? Did not they have gems that were like pearls at some time?”

Fin nodded slowly. That had occurred to him before as well.
“We could try in Erebor perhaps? They found the Arkenstone there and legend has it there were others, lesser but no less beautiful. Did I hear that you were on friendly terms with the Lady of Dale?”
“Enelya… yes I am! Shall we go to Erebor then?” She smiled happily at him
He grinned back at her
“Aye – ‘tis as good a place as any I expect!”

The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one
will do ~ Thomas Jefferson
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