Fairer Than Ivory, Silver, or Pearls
Playlist Navigation Bar
Cursed Queen of Angmar, The: 50. The Intentional Fallacy
“You are a much better patient than your husband.”
Ariashal smiled as Herumor carefully laid out the instruments for the afternoon’s medical treatments. The King was upstairs, consulting with Adzuphel about the new tower. “He does not seem to be too much trouble for you.”
“Ahh, but that is because you are here. When you were gone, it was another matter entirely.”
Gone. She would never forget her captivity, nor its aftermath. It had been nearly a week since Ferion’s attempt on her life. During that time she had done little more than rest while her husband and Herumor tended to her. Today she felt stronger, well enough to be restless. Rolling bandages for herself and the King was a good activity for her.
Today she also felt strong enough to question Herumor about the King. “Herumor,” she began, “how much trouble was the King?”
“Trouble? He was-–well--perhaps I should say that he was primarily concerned about you.”
The black figure stopped. “I fear I have already said too much. He was wounded, and I treated him.”
“Herumor, you are not being disloyal by speaking with me. I am his wife!”
“Aye, indeed. And were it not for you...” his voice trailed off.
“If it were not for me, what?” She set aside the roll of linen. “Herumor, what happened? How badly was he hurt?”
Herumor buried his head in his hands. After a moment he straightened up.
“I suppose you might as well know how grave his situation was. The elven arrows had managed, somehow, to break the spell that binds his will to his flesh. Once they had done so, he was no longer invincible. He was as vulnerable as any man.
“The spell, like his strength and his spirit, are bound into the ring. Once they stripped him of the ring, then it was only a matter of time. And the consequences of another claiming the ring would have been disastrous.”
“But you must have found him in time. Else--”
“Else he would not be here. Aye, Madame, that is correct. He was nigh dead when I carried him back here. And my troubles were only beginning, for I had to remove all the pieces of the elven arrows before he could recover.”
He took a long breath. “The arrows struck close to his heart and pierced his lung. One of them had shattered when it hit bone, and I had to cut the tiniest parts from his flesh. He lost much blood. I did all I could to help him, yet I was not at all certain that I had been successful. All I could do was tend to him.”
Something in his voice–a hesitation, perhaps, or a catch–told her that he was hiding things form her. Ariashal glanced at the table. There was no brandy in here; the King had feared imbibing it might harm her recovery. She would have to try a different approach if she were to succeed with Herumor.
“My lord,” she began, “you did much to help him, for without you he would have been lost.”
“Lost? Aye, Madame, you know not how true that is.”
He stopped. “I–I do not know what you understand of our nature. We cannot die, you see. Not easily, in any case. And I feared that he would fall into a living death. For without the ring, he would not recover; yet by his very nature, he would not die. He would merely exist, lying upon this bed, neither dead nor alive, unable to reach one or the other. It was the worst fate imaginable for him. And for us, too, Madame–Aye! I mean us, you and me, the others, even the very kingdom.
Angmar is young, and without the King would soon fall.
“Too often, Madame, I have seen what happens to a kingdom when a strong king is lost. Unless he be succeeded by another as strong, the kingdom grows weak. And if he is followed by a child, chaos oft ensues. With Imrahil as ruler, Angmar would not last long. The prince is too young to control the various factions and cabals which are only now coming into a true kingdom. Arthedain would strike, and soon enough would win. There would be little I could do, save plan an escape from ruin.
“The Kingdom of Angmar would be a shadow, a page in a history, perhaps, or the half-remembered rambles of a drunken bard. And the rest of us–you, me, the others–would be bereft of our true protector.
“So you must understand. I would have–nay, I did do everything I could to save him. And there was nothing, nothing at all, that I was not prepared to do if it became necessary.” He drew a long breath. “But you spared me that pain, Madame, when you returned the ring to Adzuphel. For no sooner did I slide the ring upon his finger than he began to recover. His heartbeat returned to normal, as did his breathing. And soon enough he was asking for you.”
“I–” she hesitated, finally managing to control her voice. “I thought him dead. I only gave the ring to Adzuphel because I thought you would know how best to dispense with it.” She laid another roll of linen on the table. “If I had known about his state, I would have tried to send it sooner.”
“It arrived in time, I assure you. And that you were with Ferion was an immense relief for both the King and myself.”
“What do you mean?”
Herumor closed the box. “The greatest fear he–nay, we-- all had was that you had been carried off by the Elves. The King, I know, was especially concerned. For he knew that Master Elrond would never permit you to go free, for all his talk of friendship to the children of Elros. Friendship! Ha! Only with those whom the master of Imladris chooses to bless with his favor. He had little enough friendship for us when the King sought his aid.
“Had the Elves been more than mere mercenaries for Ferion, it would have ignited a war between us. And a savage one it would be, for the King would stop at nothing to retrieve you.”
“I am very glad that it did not come to that! But I admit that there was a time when I thought I would be unable to possess the ring, let alone return it to you. Ferion had all of the King’s belongings in his room. The sword and armor were far too big for him, but the ring was not. Ferion tried to claim it, and when he placed it on his hand, he saw something which frightened him into throwing it away. That was when I was given it back.”
“Saw something, did he?” Herumor laughed icily. “ I am not surprised. He probably saw the men he had killed, all wanting revenge. It is something that can drive a man mad, seeing those he has slain stand before him. It is one of the dangers of walking in our world.”
“Are you troubled by them?”
“No, no longer. The King taught us how to drive them off, so that we would not be beset by them. It is one of the many things for which we are beholden to him. Ferion merely got that which he deserved.”
“Ferion threatened me,” Ariashal continued. “He threatened to take me as his wife, before deciding to give me to Cardolan. And he–he threatened to give me to his men, if I resisted.”
“Best for all, then, that he chose a different path. Had you been harmed in that way, there would be nothing left standing between here and the sea. The King would never have permitted such a crime to go unpunished. Nor--” he added, “would I. Nay, if the King were unable to avenge you, I would have led the army. And all our brethren would have rallied in your name. For you have become our Queen, much as he is our King and Captain. Even Khamul feels thus, though it is not in his nature to tell you so.
“Nay, Madame, you have come under the protection of the Nazgul, for good or ill. The King hopes that someday we may all rally beneath the banner of Angmar, and if we cannot fully sever our ties to Sauron, perhaps they can be weakened into nothingness. And you have become a rallying point for us all.”
“It was never my intent to be anything other than a Queen.”
“Intentions often matter for little in this world. My intentions for taking the ring were good, yet look at the pain it has caused me. The same holds true for many of us.
“Intentions, Madame, so often fall by the wayside. All one is left with is life, no matter how hopeless that sometimes seems to be.”
Ariashal set the last of her bandage rolls on the table. The conversation had tired her immensely; she needed to rest. Herumor sensed the change in her.
“You must needs sleep, Madame. This has been too much excitement for you, I fear. Return to your bed. I will go and see how the King fares.”
She bid him farewell, watching as he noiselessly mounted the stairs. Alone again, she settled onto the bed, drawing the sheet over her against the cool dampness of the stone room.
The King! Ariashal opened her eyes. She must have drifted off to sleep. “My lord?”
“Aye, tis me.” He knelt by her side. “Herumor has finished with me, and now tis time we tended you.”
Nodding, Ariashal sat up. The King offered his hand. She pulled herself to her feet and went to the table, where Herumor patiently waited.
“How are you?” she asked her husband.
“The wounds are healing nicely. Herumor claims that only the largest remain a concern, and I am inclined to agree. And even they have abated greatly.” He carefully helped her up onto the table. “And should you be similarly recovered, come morning we can take our leave of this place.”
Leave! Oh, yes, she wanted to leave; wanted, desperately, to go from this place and never return. She would see her children again, and her little carriage with its painted ceiling and velvet curtains. Leave? Never had a word sounded quite so delicious as leave.
“I want very much to leave here!”
“Aye, my Queen, so do we all. But all depends on you. Come, cousin,” he called to Herumor, “tis time to examine the Queen.”
Ariashal had taken to wearing simple robes that tied shut in front, so that the King could easily treat her wound. She quickly untied the laces, baring her stomach. The King deftly sliced the bandages, letting them fall onto the table.
For several moments he said nothing, a mere gentle tapping his only activity. “Tis healing well,” murmured the King. “It will still need treatment, but there is neither fester nor heat within. What think you, Herumor?”
“It is still deep, but it has closed cleanly. I think that the Queen should be well enough to travel.”
“Agreed! What think you, my Queen?”
“I think–I think that would be wonderful.”
“Splendid. Herumor, inform Adzuphel that we leave on the morrow. We will spend our last night here, and ride for Angmar in the morning.”
Herumor withdrew, permitting the King to bandage her alone. He slathered the wound with a soothing purple salve, careful not to get any on her clothes. Bandaging did not take too long, though to Ariashal it seemed an eternity as he unrolled the linen around her body. Finally he tied it off. “There. Allow me to help you.”
She let him guide her off the table, putting as little of her weight as possible on his arm. Knowing what she did of his injuries, she was unwilling to do anything which might have the slightest chance of harming him.
Herumor reappeared while the King was packing his box. “Adzuphel will ride for the camp. He will have the Queen’s carriage here in the morning, and the rest of the camp will be ready when we arrive.”
“Excellent.” The King locked the box with a simple spell. “What remains now is to decide what to do with you. I do not think it wise to let the people of Rhudaur know that there are two of us. They will be frightened enough as it is.”
“I have also considered this,” agreed Herumor. “Perhaps it will be best for you and the Queen to ride in her carriage, at least until we are well within Angmar. The children will ride with you.”
“Wisely said, though it might be best for the people to see that the princes live. Imrahil and Adrahil may ride their ponies, while the others stay with us.”
“Agreed. And I can take that yellow beast Tulkas of yours as a mount.”
“Tulkas?” asked Ariashal.
“Aye, Prince Imrahil named him,” explained Herumor. “Tis my fault, I suppose, for having him read so many things while he was convalescing. He chose Tulkas, for his color. I saw no harm in it.”
“Nay, and no harm be done by it,” agreed the King. “He–Tulkas-- is not all that bad. He is spirited, true, but no more so than any of the other horses we have had.”
“We have had some savages!”
The King laughed. “Aye, true enough. But this one is manageable, I assure you.”
Herumor snorted. “It will be good to have my own mount again. You and I differ somewhat, I fear, on the meaning of the word manageable.”
Ariashal thought immediately of Nardu, and could not quite stifle a giggle.
“Your Majesties.” Adzuphel waited upon the stairs.
“Greetings, my good man!” called the King. “I send you on a most pleasant journey.”
“Indeed.” He smiled at Ariashal. “It is good to see you up and about, Your Majesty. I must admit that there were many days when I feared for you.”
“I thank you,” she began. “But in truth, I must say that the news that we ride for home has been a greater balm for me than any other.”
“I should think so.” He turned to the King. “I have left food for you upstairs, enough for tonight and the morning. I shall be here with the carriage within an hour of sunrise.”
“Excellent well. Take care on your journey, my friend; for your wise counsel has been a boon to me for many years, and will be much needed in the days ahead.”
“Your Majesty is too kind. Farewell, then. I will see you on the morrow.”
Ariashal watched him ascend the stairs, his boots clicking on the stone. Home, they seemed to say; you are going home.
Playlist Navigation Bar