Intrigues and Sorcery. The Shadow over Rhudaur Part II. by Northern_Kingdom_Writers
Chapter 1. The Female Peregrine and the Red Bear
Carn Dum, Kingdom of Angmar. TA 1347, October 18. Late afternoon.
Written by Angmar
“Your Majesty?” a man inquired timidly as he tapped on the door again.
“Enter, Alassar… the door is not locked,” a male voice replied from the chamber beyond.
Alassar took a deep breath and opened the door. He was not quite sure why the king always had this effect on him, for His Majesty was seldom angry. There was a certain quality about the man, though, that always kept Alassar’s nerves just past the edge of mild apprehension.
He found the king where he expected to find him – sitting in his great ebony chair at the head of his council table. The one window facing north, which was not covered with heavy drapes, let in the late afternoon light. Other than that dim light, the room’s only illumination was a candle burning in a silver holder in the center of the table.
When the king had arrived an hour before, Alassar had been in the audience room, listening to the complaints of two barons. A minor disagreement over a boundary line had escalated until the two men were on the verge of a blood feud. Announcing the return of the king, a distant trumpet sounded. With a great feeling of relief, Alassar had politely dismissed the men, advising that they settle the matter peacefully between themselves before the king’s intervention was warranted.
The king looked up into the other man’s face. As usual, Alassar’s gaze was first drawn to the ring that the king wore on his right forefinger. Then he looked into the king’s eyes, which seemed to flicker in a pale gray light. The king was smiling kindly at him, and Alassar shook away the feeling of anxiety that had threatened to settle upon his mind.
“Welcome back, Your Majesty,” Alassar bowed. “I trust the journey went well with no disruptions?”
The king inclined his head politely. “‘Tis amazing, Alassar, that your spies and agents have not brought you word already. Are they sleeping?”
“What do you mean, Your Majesty?” Alassar gulped nervously, hoping the king would not notice the tremble in his voice. Obviously something had happened at Broggha’s camp. Alassar cursed his spies for their failure to deliver him the information.
The king’s eyes were mesmerizing, and sometimes Alassar imagined that he could see lights, a pale flickering glow, deep within the king’s eyes. “A trick of the light,” he reasoned with himself.
“Sit down, Alassar,” the king said. “While we enjoy a draught, I will inform you of the news which your spies have failed to give you. Mulled wine?”
“Aye, Your Majesty, that would go well to ward against the chill of the afternoon. I know that Broggha’s entourage is but a few miles from Cameth Brin, but that is common knowledge. Has some stroke of ill fortune occurred?” Alassar noticed how chill the room had grown, and his shoulders shook inside his fur-trimmed robe. Perhaps some change in the weather was imminent?
One of the king’s quiet, polite servants soon brought wine for both of them. It was unusual the way that the servants of His Majesty always seemed to know his wishes before he even asked. Nothing in Carn Dum, though, was quite the way it was in other places.
“Shortly after we left Morva Torch, an assassination attempt was made on Broggha’s life. This was kept secret. The man survived.”
“Who would dare do such a thing?”
“One of his mistresses.”
“That is unthinkable!” Alassar exclaimed. “What was her motive for this crime?”
“Apparently there was none on her part,” the king laughed, that hollow mockery of humor that made Alassar uncomfortable.
“Then why did she do it?” Alassar queried.
“The woman was the unwilling accomplice of a witch.”
Alassar gripped the table. “Who has such power to use another in the working of magic?” His mind screamed at him, “Besides you, Your Majesty!”
“Have you been able to discover his identity?” Alassar knew the king was amused and toying with him.
“The would-be murderer was no man.”
“A woman?” Alassar felt faint. How did the king know such things when his own spies had reported nothing to him of the event?
“Aye… a woman. Have you ever noticed, Alassar, my good steward, how the female peregrine is far more powerful and eager than her mate and undertakes the hunt with far more vigor and finesse? It is never wise to underestimate the power of a woman.”
“Aye, Your Majesty. Certainly the abilities of the female peregrine are well known. But what has that to do with this situation?”
“This dabbler… this witch… is a predator… I know that… and I sense the males around her are far weaker.”
“Then you know her identity?” Alassar asked, amazed.
“Maybe,” the king laughed.
Tanoth Brin, Kingdom of Rhudaur, October 19, 1347. Morning
Written by Angmar
October nineteen dawned fair and bright as a horn announced the approach of Jarl Broggha’s contingent into the outskirts of the town of Tanoth Brin. The standard bearer, mounted on one of the better horses, proudly carried the banner of Broggha. The Jarl was pleased with the banner which he himself had designed – a great red bear on a field of blue. Broggha smiled and waved to the cheering throngs that had poured into the hamlet to see what would probably be the only real source of entertainment until the Yule feast.
Behind the Jarl marched his men and their captains, rough-looking Hillmen, many of them clad in the rough clothing of peasants. Others wore the distinctive garb of the mountaineer – fur caps upon their heads, fur cloaks over leather tunics and breeches, many cross-gartered to the knee. Though their apparel was not rich, their spears and other weaponry were sharp, brightly polished and gleaming.
Kinsmen, supporters, well-wishers, the curious, and those who wished to make an impression on the new power in the north grew hoarse with the constant cheering, while the naysayers and headshakers remained silent, grimly observing. Broggha and his guard were halfway through the village when an unknown man in the crowd raised the cry, “Hail to the Red Bear! Long live King Broggha!” The supporters of King Tarnendur were momentarily too shocked to counter this effrontery. Soon, though, they found their voices and shouted, “Rally behind the rightful King!”
No one was ever sure who struck the first blow, whether it was a hillman or a man loyal to the king, but soon fists landed in faces, heads were cracked, noses bloodied, as a small riot erupted along one section of the parade route and spread into the intersecting village streets. The king’s guardsmen tried to contain the chaos away from the main rode through the town. They were successful, for the long line of baggage trains and small herds of cattle and sheep passed peacefully by the center of rioting. Making up the rear of the procession was what passed for Broggha’s cavalry – fifty men with spears and lances, mounted on shaggy, winter-coated horses.
During the scuffle, a few of the king’s men were injured – minor injuries for the main part, although a few teeth were knocked out, and one guard suffered a leg wound from a long knife. Much damage, however, was done to the pride of the king’s guard, when some of the hillmen’s women threw rotten fruit and decaying vegetables in their faces. Only a few were arrested, however, on the charges of drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
By the time the tumult was over, the Jarl was nearing the eastern edge of the village. Soon he and his guards were through the hamlet and on the way to Broggha’s new estate on the eastern edge of the town. Griss moved his horse up beside Broggha and grinned.
“My lord” – Griss had taken to calling him by that title, for it seemed appropriate – “the commotion was well-timed. The old fool on the throne should have something to worry about now.”
“Good work, Captain Griss! Soon he should have even more to worry about than that! I look forward to the feast tonight!” Broggha kicked his spurs into the side of his horse and trotted to see his new holdings.
Tanoth Brin, Yozaneth’s house by the Market Place, midday of October 19, 1347
Written by Gordis
The Princess Gimilbeth, eldest daughter of the King Tarnendur, rested her still-aching head against the cool glass, and stared into the murky mirror, once belonging to Yozaneth, as she sought to repair the damage caused by her crying bout.
The shock of seeing Broggha alive and well with her own eyes proved too much for her. Of course, she had heard reports of Broggha’s march to Cameth Brin, she had seen the letter he had sent to the King but four days ago, but still she hoped against all hope that all this might have been fake, with Broggha dead and some other of his cut-throats striving to take his place.
But this morning she had wrapped herself in an inconspicuous hooded cloak and, flanked by two disguised knights and a page, she rode to Tanoth Brin where she watched the procession. She was hiding in the former Yozaneth’s house, whose upper floor had a good view onto the market place. Broggha was there at the head of the procession, beaming in triumph, as large as life, red-haired and brightly clad – unmistakable.
So everything had been in vain, both her spell and her pain! She was wrong in thinking that her spell had succeeded. The Dark Lord, the Lord of All, had cheated her. If she hadn’t relied on the magic so much, she would have tried more natural measures – at least she would have sent some well-paid assassins into Broggha’s camp. Now it was too late. If Broggha died now, his death would be immediately blamed on the King – with disastrous consequences.
She gazed in the mirror and touched her face with powder, then scowled and wiped it off. No, it was no good. She saw a tired woman clad in a simple, unflattering brown gown, whose eyes were too large for her drawn face. A woman who should have been Queen…
Gathering herself, she pulled the hood over her head, concealing her face, and descended the narrow stairs to the main room, where her faithful Gwindor and Elvegil waited, surrounded by a score of wary and frightened Yozaneth’s relatives. Without a word, she threw a gold coin to the head of the house, Yozaneth’s youngest son.
Their horses were tethered in a side street, guarded by a raggedly dressed page. The four riders rode slowly back to the King’s Road, picking the narrow side-passages and avoiding the crowded squares and main streets. The town seemed wild with ecstasy. Cheers for Broggha resounded painfully in their ears, large barrels of free ale were placed at every corner. Gimilbeth was amazed at how many in the Town below the Hill seemed to hate her father and her family and relish in their defeat.
Gimilbeth’s jaw tightened. She would have gladly killed them all with her own hands. Perhaps she could try to send them some plague later on, when Broggha was dealt with. Today the Hillman brigand had the upper hand, but another day would be hers. Until then she would lie low, and watch.
When the Gates of the Fortress of Cameth Brin finally clanged shut behind their backs, the four riders sighed in relief. They were home safely after the dangerous venture into the town below. The page took the horses to the stables, while Gimilbeth dismissed Gwindor and Elvegil and walked alone across the court to the palace, taking care to keep her face in the shadows of her hooded cloak.
The first person she met near the Palace was the Queen Eilinel herself, all flushed and sweaty from supervising the preparations for the evening feast. Smoked hams, white bread, crystallized honey, rashers of meat and various delicacies were being prepared for the delectation of Broggha and his companions, while the table was laid with white cloths and silver cutlery, as befitted an official evening feast.
The queen was of middling years – certainly much older in appearance than her relatively young age allowed; her dark hair was tightly pulled back in an unflattering fashion, with small strands struggling out and plastered to her sweaty forehead. She was dressed sedately in a brown gown. “Motherly” was the only word which could be used to describe her, thought Gimilbeth. “Mother-hen, indeed!”
Gimilbeth curtsied, keeping her head down. The queen nodded and rushed past in the direction of the dining hall, not recognizing her step-daughter in her dark cloak. Looking at her receding form, Gimilbeth noticed gravy spots on the Queen’s dress from her previous visit to the kitchen.
Gimilbeth shrugged. She always despised the way the Queen ran the household. All this meddling, running around and shouting at lowly servants led nowhere, making the maids arrogant and irresponsible. Gimilbeth herself never deigned to appear in the kitchens; she believed in cold, efficient housekeepers, seamless service and severe punishments of those who failed in their duty. The queen was so kind-hearted that no servant was really afraid of her, and once her back was turned, the maids lapsed into their lazy chatter as if they had not been reprimanded by Royalty a minute ago.
As Gimilbeth finally reached her rooms in the Palace, she smiled as the scent of crushed mint and lavender drifted towards her. Her maid Nimraen anticipated her needs so well… A hot bath and a herbal mask first, then some rest and then to battle, for that is what this evening reception was all about.
This story is a direct continuation of “The Shadow over Rhudaur. Part I “Runnings”. All canon characters, settings, conceptions and plotlines used in our story belong to JRR Tolkien and his heirs. We are only borrowing them for our own enjoyment – not for profit. We have used some wonderful ICE-MERP maps as well, so some non-canon names of places (i.e. Cameth Brin, Nothva Rhaglaw etc.) are borrowed from there.
We have made some original plans of places and buildings.
The roleplay this story is based upon is currently in progress at:
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