Fairer Sex, The: 4. Chapter Three: Turnabout

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools

4. Chapter Three: Turnabout


Something was wrong.



Arwen did not know what exactly prompted this feeling of
dread but she could not ignore it. With everything in readiness for the
celebration of the treaty, Arwen had taken a moment to visit Eldarion in the
nursery. Once the festivities were set in motion, her presence would be required
for most of the night at the side of the king so while there was a moment to
spare, she was eager to spend some time with her son. Ioreth was as alway, close
at hand when Arwen was not, ensuring the crowned prince of Gondor was never
alone, though the nurse did not spoil him. There was no one else in the whole of
Gondor whom Arwen had complete confidence in the care of her son, then Ioreth.


Arwen had been sitting in her chair, feeding Eldarion his milk
when she was struck by a sensation that immediately raised alarm through her
soul. It passed over her like a shadow and froze her heart in her chest. The
hand holding Eldarion’s bottle dropped a little, slipping the teat from the
child’s mouth. Eldarion expressed himself with a small gurgle of protest. Ioreth
who was changing the baby’s sheets in the crib reacted to the sound by lifting
her gaze towards the queen and was just as disconcerted by the vacant expression
on Arwen’s face.


"My lady," Ioreth called out. "What is the matter?"


Arwen blinked, remembering herself. She swallowed thickly but
was unable to dispel the uneasiness that settled over in the last few minutes.


"I do not know," Arwen said quietly, her face showing clearly
how disturbed she was. "Something ill swept over me. It was most
distressing."


In the time that Ioreth had come to be in the service of the
queen as the royal nurse to the crowned prince, she had learnt one thing about
elvish senses and that was never to distrust them. Arwen’s connection to her
child and her husband was defined by her ability to tell by sense alone, if they
were well or unwell. It was not merely a gift of her elven heritage to have such
heightened senses but her emotional bonds to her family.


"Are you alright?" Ioreth asked her with concern.


"Yes," Arwen nodded slowly. "I am well but I fear something has
happened."


She rose out of her chair and crossed the floor to Ioreth. "I
must go to Estel," Arwen replied hastily as she handed Ioreth the babe in her
arms. "I must see for myself if he is well."


"I am certain that he is," Ioreth insisted, unable to believe
that anything could befall the king within the walls of his Citadel. "No danger
can penetrate him here."


"I was once stolen from these very walls," Arwen retorted,
recounting all too well how the dark elf Eol had stolen her out of her home
during the first week of Eldarion’s life. "After that, I refuse to believe that
any place can truly be called impenetrable. I must go see him."


"Of course my lady," the nurse answered, feeling a little of
Arwen's anxiety transposed upon her heart as she took Eldarion in her arms. The
queen was seldom wrong and if she was fearful then Ioreth knew with utter
confidence that it was for good reason.


"Thank you," Arwen replied before striding towards the door.
She had almost slipped past Ioreth’s sight when suddenly she halted in her steps
and looked over her shoulder at the old woman. "Ioreth, remain here and do not
let the prince out of your keeping."


"I would die before I let anything harm him," Ioreth stated
with such steel in her voice that Arwen knew she meant it.


Arwen offered Ioreth a slight nod expressing her unspoken
appreciation before leaving the nursery behind her. She made her way quickly to
the great hall, telling herself that this was nothing but foolishness; she was
basing too much on a simple feeling. If she had been fully human, she would
accepted that argument as being sound but she was not human, she was an
elf. Perhaps she had chosen to live as mortal but she was still a daughter of
the Eldar, descended from the elves of Doriath and it was her birthright that
she be blessed with their keen senses, senses that were almost as important to
her as sight or smell. Something was amiss; she could feel in her bones.


The question that disturbed most of all however, was whether or
not she was too late to stop it.


It did not take her long to reach the large doors that barred
the Great Hall from the rest of the palace. Two sentries were in position
outside and as Arwen proceeded with every intention of passing them, she was
suddenly astonished by the fact that they had quickly moved to obstruct her
progress.


"I am sorry your highness," the guard said with apology etched
upon his face, clearly unhappy by the duty he was forced to undertake at this
moment. "We cannot allow you to pass."


"I have no time for nonsense," she declared sharply. "I will
see the king."


"No," the guard stood his ground, his spear and that of his
companion, created an effective obstruction before her. "We have been ordered by
the king not to let anyone interrupt him during the signing of the treaty."


"I do not care!" Arwen snapped. "I will see him now. You will
let me pass immediately!"


"We cannot disobey the king’s orders," the man answered
sincerely. "He ordered us not to let anyone interrupt him."


"I am his queen," Arwen returned imperiously, "he will have
your heads for this insult upon me. He has never barred me from his presence for
longer than before either of you have lived. He will be furious if you do not
let me see him."


"My lady," the guard tried to reason with her, "we have our
orders."


"Then you will tell him that I am here and wish to see him,"
Arwen said in a low voice, her temper barely restrained, "immediately."


Perhaps shaken by the intensity of her words or the possibility
that the king would want to see the queen, the guard decided that it could not
hurt to confirm that the orders he had received from King Elessar included Queen
Arwen. After all, she was right about never being barred from the king’s
presence for any reason since Aragorn Elessar had taken up residence here. The
guard himself had felt some reservation when the orders were first given but it
was not his lot to question the king in any shape or form.


When he finally relented and disappeared into the hall to
inform Aragorn that she was here to see him, Arwen felt her heart pounding in
her chest. She could not believe that such orders would include her, without
good reason. Nothing had transpired this last day warranted such action. Or had
it? She was forced to ask herself the question when she considered his orders
more deeply. Her instinct for danger had brought her here. Was this part of
it?


She had little time to debate the matter further for the guard
return and gestured to his companion to widen the door so that she could
pass.


"The king bids you to enter my lady," he answered contritely,
wearing an expression of obvious concern about how this would effect his future
in the palace.


Arwen said nothing as she entered, even though she knew she was
within her rights to be smug. However, she could not be so self-assured when it
felt as if she were skirting the periphery of disaster.


Upon entering the hall, she saw the king and the rest of their
friends seated around the table that had been placed there for the purpose of
signing the treaty. Everyone appeared well enough, except the general
Castigliari who had a strange glimmer in his eyes that could have been
anxiousness. The others however, seemed relaxed and comfortable as if nothing
troubled them. Yet as she advanced further toward them, her senses screamed
alert with each step she took.


"Undomiel," Aragorn spoke when she neared him enough. "I had
thought you would respect my desire not to be interrupted. I gave those orders
to my guards for a reason."


Arwen was stunned by his words and noted that the others were
staring at her with just as much disapproval. She tried not to show how shaken
she was by this because these were men that she considered more than just
friends but almost like family. Legolas’ gaze was indifferent as he stared at
her wearing an aloof mask. However, it was Aragorn’s expression that unsettled
her most. It was devoid of the warmth that she had known since the moment of
their first meeting. Whenever she came into his presence, she would see a
sparkle of joy in his eyes told her without doubt she was nothing less than
wonderful to him. Now his eyes glared at her as if she was a stranger who meant
nothing.


"Even for me Estel?" She asked after composing herself.


"Especially you," he said sternly, "because you are my wife and
my queen."


"I thought I was more your love then any of those things," she
returned, trying to understand what had happened. She gazed briefly at Ulfrain
and saw no answers there, merely derisive amusement.


"Of course you are," he replied automatically however he said
them without any true affection but rather an uncomfortable statement of fact.
"However, love does not alter the fact that it is time you knew your place. When
I issue orders that I am not to be interrupted, I expect that they are followed,
even by you."


"As it the place of any queen to obey," Legolas added.


Arwen stared at him in disbelief. This was the elf that only a
night ago had argued at the barbarism of treating women like chattel. Legolas’
words as much as Aragorn’s was sending her carefully erected composure spiraling
towards panic.


"What has happened to all of you?" She suddenly demanded unable
to bear this any further. "What have you done to them?" She aimed that
accusation in Ulfrain’s direction.


"My lady," Aragorn said sharply bringing her gaze back to him,
"you forget yourself. You will not speak to my guests in this manner. Nothing
has happened to any of us, save that we have been intruded upon by a wife who
does not know her place."


"Estel please," Arwen went to him and placed her hand her hand
upon his face, "whatever has made you like this, you can fight it. You have the
strongest will of any creature I have ever known, you can defeat this thing that
has imprisoned your mind."


Aragorn’s eyes widened a second before he shifted his gaze
towards his companion at the table. For a brief second, no one responded at all
to Arwen’s plea. She was about to speak further when they suddenly shattered the
silence of the great hall with riotous laughter. The only one, who did not
engage in this amusement was Castigliari but it did not matter, the sound was
almost painful in her ears for all the malice behind it. It was not the laughter
of amusement but derision.


"Oh Undomiel," Aragorn replied after he composed himself. "You
do have a vivid imagination. Tell me Legolas, is this the way with all elven
females?"


Legolas smiled and raised his eyes briefly to Arwen, a gleam of
dislike surfacing briefly in his eyes before the cold mask fell over him again,
"not usually but then Arwen had always been filled with self importance."


"Aragorn, please!" Arwen tried desperately to reach him, her
heart filling with indescribable fear because the situation was worse than she
possibly imagined. Something had taken over Estel’s mind and for the king to be
someone else’s creature was a terrifying thing indeed. "Let me help you. Your
mind is not your own. You would not behave the way you have, if it were."


She dropped to her knees before him, taking his hand in her own
and holding it against her cheek, hoping perhaps the physical contact might help
him break through this enchantment for she could think of no other name for this
malaise that had taken his mind. She gazed at his face, desperately searching
for any signs of the gentle man who had made love to her the night before and
felt anguish when she could see no trace of him.


"Get to your feet," Aragorn’s voice was hard as flint. "You are
making a spectacle of yourself, madam."



Arwen swallowed thickly, her heart plunging to the depths
knowing that wherever Estel was, she could not longer reach him. She stood up
shakily and took a step behind her before whirling around to face Ulfrain, her
eyes no longer filled with anguish but rather fury.


"I will not allow you to gain control of Middle earth in this
manner. This is your doing, I am certain of it. What sits in the throne of
Gondor is no longer my husband, he is your creature and until a way is found to
lift this terrible veil from the eyes of those present here, I will see to it
that they will not be of use to you."


"Undomiel!" Aragorn shouted and forced her attention back to
him, away from Ulfrain whose only reaction to her declaration was a triumphant
sneer.


"You are unwell," he stated firmly, "I think perhaps it is best
that you retire to our chambers so I can deal with you when time permits. In
your current state, I think perhaps that it is best that you forgo the
festivities this evening. Faramir, Legolas, I would ask you to escort her to our
chambers and ensure that she remains there."


Faramir and Legolas stood up from their places at the table and
immediately took flanking positions on either side of Arwen.



"As you will Aragorn," Faramir replied graciously.


"We will see the lady to her chambers, rest assured," Legolas
added, wrapping his fist around her arm.


"Unhand me!" Arwen demanded but his grip was iron.


"Do make this any harder for yourself then it must be
Evenstar," Legolas warned as he started to pull her away from Aragorn’s
presence.


"I will not let you do this!" Arwen hissed at Ulfrain as her
two trusted friends pulled her away from the table.


Ulfrain spoke for the first time and he did so with a clear
smile on his face, "it is already done."


As Arwen was forced out of the great hall, with Aragorn
watching her departure dispassionately and the others seeming just as oblivious
to her predicament, she feared that Ulfrain could be right.


***********


 


"This is madness!" Castigliari exclaimed once the queen had
been removed from the room.


"I do not see how you can say that after what you just
witnessed," Ulfrain said with a satisfied look upon his face. Akallabeth’s plan
was transpiring far better than anything he might have imagined. When she had
first proposed it, he had been skeptical. However, seeing it at work had altered
his opinion considerably. The others at the table were seemingly oblivious to
everything that had transpired before them, able to act only when the play
required them to. Nothing would escape their lips that were not sanctioned by
the puppet master who held their strings.



"She knows!" Castigliari declared, unable to hold back any
longer the storm of frantic thoughts that had been coursing through his mind
when he had first learnt the truth about this entire charade of a treaty. "She
will not simply remain in her chambers quietly and allow you to steal her
husband’s kingdom. She is an elf! They have special senses."


"Yes that is true," Akallabeth appeared out of the shadows,
where she had remained discretely hidden. "She did know. Damn elvish
perception. It took most of my efforts to mask my presence from her, I could not
shield him as well."


"If she escapes the Citadel to report what she knows, we will
have the entire army of Gondor thirsty for our blood!" Castigliari cried out.
"Ulfrain, I have fought for our people longer than you have been alive and what
you are doing is wrong! It can only end for us in disaster."


"I thought you said you had him under control," Akallabeth
looked at Ulfrain with clear disapproval as she approached Aragorn who was
seated listless on his throne, making no reaction to anything being said.


"I do," Ulfrain snapped and stared at Castigliari, "it is for
our people that I am doing this. If not, we would have to bow down before the
Westernesse like defeated animals! Is that what you want?"


"No!" The general demanded, "I do not want that. I want our
people to endure more than anything but the time for war is over. We can neither
afford to wage or sustain ourselves while doing it! We do not have the power of
Mordor behind us any longer and our people are suffering. All they know how to
do is war! I believed in this alliance, Ulfrain! Times change and we must change
with it."


"We will be in a better position to change when we are in
control," Ulfrain retorted. "I will not have these Gondorians tell us how we
should our rule own lands. I will not let them tame us in one of their
provinces!"


"That would never have happened!" Castigliari declared and
surprised himself by how much he believed it.


"Are you so sure?" Ulfrain countered his argument with just as
much intensity. "Can you be truly certain that they would not have use their
offering aid to hold us to ransom?"


As much as the Easterling general wanted to deny it, he could
not commit himself to doing so with complete sincerity. He did have
doubts. There was a part of him that wish to die like a warrior, not the
defeated supplicant of a foreign power. However, as a general who had waged
countless battles in his time, he also knew which fights could not be won and he
had to accept that this time they were defeated.


"You know I cannot," he turned away as Ulfrain came towards
him.


"You have been my friend and that of my father’s Castigliari,"
Ulfrain said sincerely. "What I have done will ensure that we will survive and
also remain ourselves. I never did this with any thought other then that of our
people."


"You bargain with a creature of darkness," Castigliari threw
gaze at Akallabeth who was watching the proceedings with bored impatience. "I
hope you do not damn our people as well as yourself in this agreement."


Ulfrain swallowed thickly and replied, "I suspect it may be too
late for me but it will not be for the Haradrim. I need to know that you will
stand by me in this."


Castigliari took a deep breath and wrestled with his emotions.
Against his better judgement, he knew what he had to do and realized at that
instant that he was just as damned as Ulfrain. "I will help you in whatever way
I can."


"Thank you old friend," Ulfrain patted him on the shoulder, "I
knew I could trust you."


"My trust is the least of your problems," Castigliari raised
his eyes to Akallabeth. "The she elf knows that there is something wrong with
her husband and she is warrior trained. She will attempt to leave the Citadel to
get word to the rest of Gondor’s military that the king has been enchanted."


"No she will not," Akallabeth said coldly and regarded Aragorn
with a little smile. The king was motionless in his chair, staring blankly into
empty space as she leaned close to his ear and spoke in soft, dulcet ones.


"Aragorn, your wife intends on stealing your son with the aid
of her friends, the lady Eowyn and the lady Melia. She intends to spirit him
away to her father’s city, where he will be forever beyond your reach. She has
been planning this a long time Aragorn, since he was born and since she
discovered that she no longer wished to live among the race of men. She was
planning to leave tonight, while you were celebrating the signing of the treaty.
If you allow her to escape, you will never see your son again."


"No," Aragorn’s lips muttered as his expression shifted from
anguish to anger with each word that Akallabeth spoke. "I will not allow
it."


"Good," Akallabeth smiled, pleased that the potion she had
administered to all of them had worked so splendidly. His mind was open to
suggestion and it only required a skilled enchantress to plant the required
thoughts in his head. "You know what you must do. You must stop her. You must
have your guards confine her to her chambers and bring your son to you, beyond
her reach."


"Is that necessary?" Castigliari asked quietly, mesmerized as
well as appalled by Akallabeth’s powers all at once.


"Yes," Akallabeth nodded standing upright and pulling away from
the king, "she will be so busy trying to reach her son, she will have little
time to interfere in our plans. Whatever happens, the Evenstar cannot be allowed
to leave the Citadel to speak of what is transpiring here, her or her
companions. We will keep them like rats in a cage. By the time, she begins to
suspect what it is we are truly up to, it will be too late for her or for
Gondor."


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


At almost the same time elsewhere, Eowyn, Melia and Nunaur
returned to the palace before the festival celebrating the treaty was to
commence. It had been a beautiful day beyond the confines of Citadel’s imposing
walls and the party had been more than happy to escape it into the country
around Minas Tirith even for a few hours. The evening would promise nothing but
duty and tradition so it was a pleasing afternoon when the two women could shed
their noble titles to simply be themselves.


"You were most a pleasant company Nunaur," Eowyn remarked as
they left the royal stables and made their way across the courtyard. "You are
certainly a more agreeable march warden then Haldir."


"You have met Haldir of Lorien?" Nunaur asked somewhat
surprised and curious as to how the lady of Rohan would know of the march
warden."


"Well I met him when he was still Haldir of the Golden Wood,"
Eowyn answered, recalling with little fondness the encounter. It had been during
the quest where she had accompanied Arwen to the Blue Mountains. She had been
injured and they had paused at Lothlorien so that she could be tended to. Haldir
had called her impetuous when she was determined to be on her feet as soon as
possible, instead of lingering at Lothlorien in order to recover. Time had been
of the essence during that quest and Eowyn had no intention of being the reason
that it was wasted when the stakes had been so high.


"And you do not remember him fondly?" Nunaur guessed. He had
met Haldir on occasion and found the elf somewhat arrogant. Apparently, he was
not the only one who noticed this particular trait.


"Not really," Eowyn replied, remembering with some
embarrassment how she had told Haldir that if she were not a lady he would be on
the floor for his impertinence to her.


"Haldir can be difficult to tolerate," Melia agreed. "However,
one simply has to know how to deal with him."


"Well not all of us has a special way with understanding elves
that you do," Eowyn gave her a look of sarcasm.


Nunaur chuckled, having enjoyed the witty banter between both
women exchanged throughout most of the day. They were indeed spirited creatures
both of them although even Melia seemed temperate compared to the fierce flame
possessed by the Lady of Ithilien. Having met Eowyn, Nunaur could well imagine
her standing face to face with the Witch King of Angmar and slaying him in
battle. She certainly demanded respect, even from one who has lived as long as
he.


"We will have to hurry," Melia remarked as they neared the
entrance to the palace, "the celebration is due to commence shortly."


"As much at the occasion demands celebration, I think I have
had my fill of playing the cordial host to these Easterlings," Eowyn sighed.


"You do not like them?" Nunaur guessed by the frown upon her
face.


"It is not that I do not like them," she admitted, "it is their
ways seems rather barbaric. I never thought I would be consider myself fortunate
for being born a woman in Edoras, considering I had to sneak away to fight at
Pelennor disguised as one of the Rohirrim."


"The general seems tolerable enough," Melia remarked, unable to
deny that he reminded her a little of her father. "He appears open to new
ideas."


"Unlike Ulfrain," Eowyn snorted in dislike. "His arrogance
leaves a great deal to be desired. Offensive indeed!"


Eowyn of course referred to the remark Ulfrain had made about
how women handling weapons was offensive to him. Unfortunately, the demands of
diplomacy had kept Eowyn from making a rebuttal and inwardly she was still
seething about it.


They had entered the palace walls when suddenly, Nunaur had
paused in his steps beside them. The elf’s expression became one of dark concern
as he halted in the middle of the corridor leading deeper into the structure.


"Nunaur?" Melia stared at him in concern. "What is the
matter?"


"Something is wrong," the elven march warden replied, his eyes
searching for something neither of them could see.


"What do you mean?" Eowyn demanded.


"I sense danger," Nunaur replied appearing somewhat confused by
what his senses were telling him. "I sense it drawing near."


Eowyn felt terribly vulnerable as he made that statement, clad
in her riding clothes without the benefit of a weapon. With Nunaur in escort and
because the route taken during their ride was relatively safe, there was little
reason to be excessively armed. She could not imagine what danger there could be
but she had been in Arwen’s company long enough to know that the senses of elves
were not to be distrusted. Too many times before had that perception save their
lives before and Eowyn was not about to question it now.


Suddenly the tension of the moment was interrupted by the
echoing sound of footsteps marching down the corridor. Nunaur’s gait seemed to
tense even further as if the danger was pressing up his spine. His hand dropped
to his hip, resting firmly upon the hilt of the elven blade waiting to be
unsheathed from its scabbard. Instinct and logic waged a desperate battle inside
the minds of Eowyn and Melia as they tried to think off all the reasons why
Nunaur could be wrong. In the end, simple memory won the day because during
their encounter with the Dark Elf Eol, both women had seen the fragility of the
palace’s supposedly invulnerable reputation.


However, what emerged from the corner of the corridor was not
some terrible creature of darkness but rather half a dozen palace guards. Their
gazes fixed firmly upon the two women as they approached and there was something
in their manner that immediately put Eowyn on guard, though she could not
understand why she should react to them with such caution. These were guards she
had seen at every visit she had made to the palace since becoming the Lady of
Ithilien. There was no reason to fear them and yet instincts made her wary
nonetheless. They came to a pause before her, their faces were stone as they
regarded Eowyn and Melia with eyes equally hard.


"Lady Melia, Lady Eowyn," the leader among them spoke. "We
regret to inform that you are to be taken into custody by the order of King
Elessar."


At first it did not register because it was simply too
incredible for her mind to accept.



"In custody?" Eowyn demanded. "For what reason?"


"We have not been told," the man answered, his expression
showing that he was just as bewildered by this orders but not enough to prevent
him from carrying them out. "Our orders are only to see to it that you are
brought into custody."


"This is outrageous!" Eowyn retorted as she saw the guards
making a move towards them. "I do not for one instant believe that the king
sanctioned this. I demand to see him! Better yet, I demand to see my husband,
the Steward of Gondor."


"Neither the king or the steward will see you my lady," the
guard answered. "It was Prince Faramir that issued the king’s
orders."


Eowyn was stunned into silence.


Behind her, Melia and Nunaur were similarly astonished by the
guard’s revelation. It was too incredible, all of it. To believe for an instant
that the Aragorn they knew would order their arrest without even revealing why
was impossible. However, it was no more improbable then believing Faramir would
issue orders for his wife’s incarceration. Yet here it was before them, an
impossibility about to become reality.


"I do not believe you," she whispered soft as she struggled to
regain her composure. Thoughts swirled in her head, memories of the husband she
loved more than anything, who had entered her life when she was of the belief
that she would never love again because of a broken heart. He had rekindled the
spirit inside her with his love, embraced the woman she was as something
amazing, not at all to be tamed but relished. To believe that he was capable of
this was impossible and Eowyn refused to believe it.


In fact, she would not.


The guard had stood close to her when he revealed his orders,
preparing to take her into his keeping even though he did not see any danger. It
would be his undoing. Moving with speed that was almost elvish in its execution,
Eowyn reached out and pulled away the sword at his hip. He reacted quickly but
she was faster and by the time, he understood what had happened, the man felt
the steel point of his sword against his throat.


"Withdraw," Eowyn ordered in a low voice.


"Do not be a fool my lady!" The guard tried to reason with her
as the other guards unsheathed their weapons. Nunaur had also reacted in kind,
offering support to Eowyn as he hurried to her side; his sword also unsheathed
and brandished.


"The rest of you will go back the way you came," Eowyn repeated
herself, pressing the blade harder against his throat. A little more effort and
she would break skin. "Withdraw or I will run this floor red with his
blood!"


For a moment, they hesitated, disbelieving that she would carry
out her threat, but when Eowyn jabbed her the sword a little more, drawing a cry
of pain from her victim, disbelief melted into understanding.


"There are five of us," one of them cried out as their captain
trembled beneath Eowyn’s blade. "You cannot hope to fight your way through all
of us."


"I stood before a creature that lived and breathed in Sauron’s
midst. Darkness followed its every step and in its wake it swept aside warriors
greater than any of you will ever hope to be with the power of its sorcery. I
killed this thing and sent it into the shadow realm when all others around me
had fallen, when even the King of the Mark lay at my feet. Do not presume that
because I am woman, I cannot fight and defeat each one of you. I have face far
eviler things then five guards who do not know when to retreat when it is in
their best interests to do so."


Her speech had the desired effect of shaking them and despite
the fact that they were five armed against two, they decided to heed her advice
and withdraw. Eowyn stood firm until they had disappeared down the hallway,
until Nunaur could no longer hear their footsteps. However, the departure was
temporary and no doubt, even as she and her companions stood their ground, the
soldiers would be returning soon enough and in greater numbers. When Eowyn
removed her sword, Nunaur slammed the hilt of his own against the back of their
prisoner’s neck, causing him to crumple to the floor in an unconscious heap and
saving them the trouble of worrying about a hostage as they decided what they
would do next.


"That was very impressive," Melia declared with unhidden
admiration.


"Thank you," Eowyn said with a little smile, "I did that rather
well, did I not."


"I would have withdrawn," Nunaur responded.


"We have to find Arwen," Eowyn declared striding down the
hallway.


"We should find Legolas," Melia replied. "Perhaps he can stop
this."



"He could have, he would done so already," Eowyn retorted
as they took the servants corridors that veered them away from the main halls of
the palace. "Besides, if my husband can be made to issue such an order, then
there is no guarantee that Legolas is not affected in the same way."


"You cannot be certain of this," Melia countered, not wanting
to believe that Legolas could be party to this nightmare that was slowly
unfolding before them.


"I think she is right," Nunaur answered grimly. "I sensed
danger when we entered the palace but it was not the danger of those guards.
Something of great evil has cast its shadow upon us all. I can feel it all
around us. It may be unwise to attempt to reach Lord Legolas."


"Would it be any easier to reach Arwen?" The former Ranger
inquired.


Eowyn paused briefly as she turned to Melia, "if Aragorn made
such an order and Faramir ordered it, then reaching the Lord of Eden Ardhon will
not help us. We need to reach someone in authority and aside from the king and
the steward, that person is the Queen of Gondor. In any case, I do not believe
that Arwen would stand by and be party to this without good reason. I am hoping
she can explain some of this."


"It is a worthy course of action, my lady," Nunaur stared at
Melia.


"I agree," Melia nodded after considering Eowyn’s words
briefly. "However, we cannot remain out in the open like this. We have to reach
her quickly before the entire palace is roused and hunting for our blood."


"I hope it does not come to that," Eowyn replied as they
started moving again.


Melia hoped the same thing as well but after what they had just
been witnessed to, it did not seem likely.


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


"Your highness, what has happened?" Ioreth asked after Arwen
and she were left alone after Legolas and Faramir had left the royal
chambers.


Ioreth had remained in the nursery, listening closely with
rising disbelief as she heard Arwen arguing with the Prince of Ithilien and the
Lord of Eden Ardhon as Arwen was forced to remain inside the royal chambers with
armed guards outside her door ensuring she did not leave. Only after the nurse
had heard the door closing behind the two men did she emerge to find Arwen
standing in the center of the room, shaking with shock and anger.


"Something has happen to Estel," Arwen finally found her voice
to speak after seconds of silence. The queen was clearly distressed and
attempting to gain control of her anxious emotions. "The Easterlings have
bewitched him somehow."


"Bewitched him?" Ioreth exclaimed. "How so?"


"He is different," Arwen stammered, "cold. He stared at me like
I was a stranger, like I meant nothing to him. He would not let me see him and
rebuked me for not knowing my place. That is not my Estel!" There was an edge of
panic to the Evenstar’s voice that the old woman had never heard.


"Of course it is not," Ioreth hurried to the elven queen and
consoled her with a comforting embrace. "If you say that he is bewitched, then I
believe you. I heard Lord Legolas and Prince Faramir, I could not believe that
is was them speaking if I had not seen it for myself."


There was no doubt in Ioreth’s mind that the king was bewitched
as the queen claimed. Since the day she had been brought into this palace to
take on the role of nurse to the crown prince, one thing was evident to her and
to all those who lived within its walls, the king utterly adored his wife. It
was a love so powerful that it warmed the heart to see someone as brave and
noble could feel so much for one woman and seeing that same adoration in his
loves’ eyes reflected back was equally as satisfying. If even half of what Arwen
had said was true about Aragorn’s words to her in the great hall, then Ioreth
was more than convinced that he was under some spell because nothing could
compel him to speak to Arwen in that fashion.


"He has guards at the door," Arwen declared when she pulled
away from Ioreth’s arms. "Those who control him do not wish to me to leave and
they know I will try. Come, Ioreth, we do not have much time."


"What do you intend to do?" Ioreth asked as Arwen made her way
to the nursery.


"I will remain here in my chambers because I must know what it
is they plan to have him do," Arwen replied. "Estel and the leaders of Middle
earth have be cast under some form of enchantment by the Easterlings, the spell
must be broken. If they are allowed to leave Minas Tirith, the Easterlings will
have puppets in every realm in the western lands, at Dol Amroth, Rohan, Ithilien
even at Eden Ardhon."


"Then you must leave the Citadel," Ioreth said quickly, "you
must attempt to reach our war masters and tell them what transpires here."


"I cannot leave," Arwen paused at Eldarion’s crib. "They will
be expecting such a thing of me so it must be you."


"Me?" Ioreth’s eyes widened.


"Yes," Arwen answered, "it must be you because you must take my
son with you. I dare not risk his life by allowing him to remain within his
father’s reach, not when Estel’s mind is stolen. As it is, the enemy who was
committed this sorcery has a great deal of power with the king under his sway
and until we are able to convince others of what has happened, if that is even
possible, there is nothing that is beyond his reach."


Ioreth nodded in understanding, despite her fear to do what
Arwen asked. It was true. If Aragorn were indeed someone else’s creature,
through him, they would be able to accomplish anything because there was little
in Gondor that did not bend to the will of King Elessar. She cast her gaze at
the babe in his mother’s arms, the child that had become as dear to her as any
of her own children and knew that she would do anything to protect him.


"I will not let anything happen to him my lady," Ioreth said
firmly and meant it.


"Thank you," Arwen smiled, assured that if it were in her
power, Ioreth would keep Eldarion safe. However they had little time. If guards
were not yet posted to terrace and gardens outside the royal chambers, there
soon would be. Ioreth had to leave before they arrived. "Pack as little as you
can. You need to move swiftly."


No sooner than she said those words, both women were alerted to
a loud pounding against the door to the royal chamber. Arwen paled visibly and
bade Ioreth to remain silent as she went to investigate. She had hoped for more
time and her heart sank as the relentless pounding continued, indicating
whomever was on the other side had no patience to wait. Calming herself, Arwen
went towards the door, pausing first to retrieve Anduril that was hanging above
the fireplace. She hid the weapon behind her and continued forward to answer the
door once more.


When Arwen opened the door, she was not surprised to see the
guards waiting outside in the hall though she wished she had more time. There
were at least six of them waiting to be let in and Arwen suspected that the only
justification for such numbers if they were in anticipation of receiving a great
deal of trouble from her. There was only one thing that could bear that much
resistance from her in their eyes and that was if they threatened her child.


"What is it?" She demanded.


"The king wishes the crown prince brought to him my lady," the
guard responded. "Please let us in."


"He is not here," Arwen lied, aware that it was likely to do
any good but she had to try nevertheless. "He was taken into the gardens by the
Lady Ioreth."


The guard however was not so easily deceived and wanted proof.
"I would prefer to see the nursery for myself, my lady."


"I do not give you leave to enter the royal chambers guard,"
Arwen said haughtily, sounding every bit the indignant monarch when she
spoke.


"We have been given permission by the king," the guard repeated
himself. "Please allow us entry or we shall be forced to take more drastic
step."


"No," Arwen declared firmly.


Unfortunately, it appeared that they were more than willing to
carry out the king’s order and she was shoved away from the doorway when they
barged past the door, their numbers filling the room. The leader immediately
took steps towards the nursery but Arwen was far swifter than he to allow him to
enter. She barred his way with Anduril in her hand, her eyes gleaming with as
much menace as the blade itself.


"Over my dead body, will you take my son," she hissed, raising
the sword for them to see how determined she was on this point.


"Do not make this worse than it already is," the guard
beseeched her but he had also drawn his weapon.


"Your king has been bewitched and you are playing into the
hands of the enemy by obeying his demands. Do you not think it strange that you
are ordered to steal a babe from its mother?" Arwen declared, hoping to reach
them on some level.


"The king knows all about your plan to steal the prince away
from Minas Tirith," the guard retorted. "He knows that you plan to return to
your elven kinsmen and forsake Gondor!"


"What?" Arwen stared blankly at him.


The accusation took her by such surprise that her guard slipped
for an instant and her attacker closed in. The guard had no intention of hurting
her but he was intent on disarming her of the king’s sword. Unfortunately, Arwen
had been accustomed to swordplay an age longer than her opponent had and she
blocked his heavy swipe easily. However, the retaliatory strike brought the
other guards forward and Arwen realized in a split second of despair that she
would not be able to stop them all. She only hoped Ioreth had sense enough to
flee.


However, it appeared she was not about to face this battle
alone. Suddenly, without warning, Eowyn burst into the room, with Melia and
Nunaur following. Her friend assessed the situation immediately and when her
arrival deterred the attention of the guards from the queen, Eowyn raised her
sword to fight. Arwen had little time to watch Eowyn defend herself as the queen
blocked a powerful blow for the leader of the guards whom she had been battling.
Anduril clanged hard against his sword and though the weapon was heavier than
she was accustomed, she proved herself when he stumbled back from the ferocity
of her attack. She swung the blade over her head, putting all her strength into
it as she took advantage at his loss of balance He was barely capable of fending
off her blow, let alone take the offensive.



Arwen had no wish to hurt him and swung again with just as
much power behind her blade. Thanks to her elvish heritage, she had far more
endurance than as he staggered backwards; she searched for something she could
use to end their battle without actually taking his life. A heavy sculpture at
the corner of the room came into rich and Arwen grabbed it with one hand and
smashed the object against the side of his head when he was trying to come at
her again. The stone carving shattered in her hand, crumbling to the floor as
fragments and her opponent fell to the ground without a sound.


Letting out a sigh of relief, she looked up to see Eowyn
battling the other guards. It was the first time Arwen had ever seen Eowyn fight
another human being other than sparring with Melia. She had seen the Lady of
Ithilien battle cold drakes, slay a dragon and the foul remnants of Mirkwood’s
spiders but to see her fight an enemy armed with a sword was another thing
entirely. Arwen could not help but stare with some measure of awe because Eowyn
was amazingly fast. She was almost as fast as Estel and a part of Arwen was
almost curious to see how Eowyn would fare against her king in a contest of
swordplay.


Eowyn fought with cold ruthlessness. She did not strike blindly
and each blow against her opponent was made to count. She did not fight to kill
but to disable and though she did not resort to the clumsy solution that Arwen
had employed, she left her challengers with wounds to ensure they would not be
in any condition to offer pursuit but would eventually recover from.


Melia on the other hand, fought with whatever was at hand, in
this case the poker from the fireplace. The former ranger had enough agility and
skill with her hands to ensure that she was able to hold her own. Unlike Eowyn’s
calculated movements, Melia’s style of defense was spur of the moment and
intuitive, allowing her to take her opponent by surprise. What was left of the
guards, Nunaur was able to dispatch with the skill afforded to a denizen of
Mirkwood who had battled far dangerous things than Citadel guards in his
time.


When the battle was over and the guards were either subdued or
unconscious around them, the four combatants faced each other with a flurry of
questions.


"Arwen, what in the name of Manwe is going on?" Eowyn demanded.
When she had entered the queen’s chamber and saw the attack, she had not even
considered why, only that Arwen needed her help.


"They came to take Eldarion," Arwen explained breathlessly,
still a little stunned that things were unfolding as they were. "Something has
bewitched Estel. Not just him but all who were present at the signing."


"Then that explains why Lord Faramir would order his wife and
Lady Melia taken into custody," Nunaur shook his head in understanding.


"They are all affected by whatever spell the Easterlings has
wrought upon them," Arwen declared, unsurprised by this news since she
remembered how Faramir and Legolas had escorted her to her chambers. "The guard
told me that Estel believed I was going to steal Eldarion away from him and
return with him to Imladris. They had come to take him away from me."


"This may not be the best place for him," Eowyn replied. "If
what you say is true, if the king’s mind has been taken then Eldarion is a
powerful bargaining tool to use against you."



"Agreed," Melia added. "They would use your love for your
son to control you. That is probably why they had the king order your son
brought to him."


"Ioreth!" Arwen called out. "It is safe for you to show
yourself."


Ioreth appeared shortly after, her expression wrought with
worry as she held the infant prince in her arms. However, it dissipated
considerably when she saw that the queen was unhurt. It had been unnerving
indeed for her to remain hidden when she could only hear the sounds of swords
clashing beyond the walls of the nursery. Once Ioreth had joined them, Nunaur
prompted them to leave the royal chambers, taking flight into the gardens that
surrounded this section of the palace. Unfortunately, the safety it afforded
would only be fleeting. Once the guards were discovered, the alarm would be
raised throughout the Citadel.


"We must get Eldarion out of here," Arwen stated firmly, "we
must get to the war masters in the city."


Eowyn who was more familiar with the extent of the king’s hold
upon his kingdom was not convinced this would be any better for Eldarion.
"Arwen, I do not think that will be any safer. Even if you are able to reach his
counselors, they will have a difficult time of it being able to unseat Aragorn.
He is king. His word is law and nothing he has done so far has endangered Gondor
or its people Not yet at least."


"You cannot call our husbands behaviour as normal!" Arwen
countered.


"Evenstar," Nunaur interceded, understanding Eowyn’s point all
too well. "As distasteful as the Elfstone’s behaviour has been, he has not
endangered anyone and to them, he is perfectly within his rights to treat his
wife and his son as he chooses. We cannot guarantee Eldarion will be any safer
in Minas Tirith then he is here."


"You need to take him beyond Aragorn’s reach," Melia suggested.
"You need to take him out of Gondor."


"Out of Gondor?" Arwen gasped with shock but soon realized that
they were right. Eldarion was not safe and Estel was still king even if his mind
was bewitched. She thought deeply as to what needed to be done and came to a
solution far sooner than she would have liked, even though she did not like it
very much. Taking a deep breath, she steadied her uncertain nerves and revealed
to her friends, the only way she knew to protect her son.


"He must be taken to Lorien then," Arwen admitted reluctantly.
"To my grandsire, Celeborn."


"Yes," Eowyn nodded agreeing that this was a good choice,
"Celeborn would ensure no harm comes to Eldarion and not even the armies of
Gondor would dare attempt to intrude upon Mirkwood without regretting it
bitterly."


"It is a long journey," Melia added, "and one that could prove
useful because we need a wizard here to break this spell and Pallando still
dwells at Thranduil’s court. You can take Eldarion to Celeborn and send word to
Eryn Lasgalen that Pallando is needed in the White City."


"Not me," Arwen answered staring at her son a moment before
raising her eyes to the others. "Ioreth, you will take my son to Mirkwood and
Nunaur, you will go with her."


"I will not leave none of you here alone Evenstar," the march
warden stated vehemently


"You can and you will," Arwen said firmly, her voice commanded
the same obedience demanded of her grandmother Galadriel, rather than the Queen
of Gondor. "This task is far more important than the lives of three women. If
the Easterlings gain possession of my son, they could conceivably affect the
future of Middle earth for the next three centuries, do you understand? Through
his father and through him, they would have the power to spread darkness across
the land. We cannot let that happen and the only way to ensure that is for you
to do what I ask."


Nunaur’s debate with the decision could be seen clearly on his
face however, Arwen suspected that he would agree to her wishes. He was an elf
after all. He would yield to the logic of the situation.


"Alright," he finally agreed. "But what about you? What will
you gain by remaining?"


Arwen raised her eyes to Eowyn and Melia before answering,
"time."


Time to stop whatever the Easterlings were planning from taking
shape. If it was not already too late.



This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Scribe

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - Post-Ring War

Genre: Action

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 04/07/03

Original Post: 04/03/03

Go to Fairer Sex, The overview

Comments

No one has commented on this story yet. Be the first to comment!

Comments are hidden to prevent spoilers.
Click header to view comments

Talk to Scribe

If you are a HASA member, you must login to submit a comment.

We're sorry. Only HASA members may post comments. If you would like to speak with the author, please use the "Email Author" button in the Reader Toolbox. If you would like to join HASA, click here. Membership is free.

Reader Toolbox   Log in for more tools