He knew how unusual it was, to be taking the South Road. The regular path was much more predictable, with towns regularly spaced along the northern side of the White Mountains, well accustomed to hosting travellers. But the south way seemed more adventurous, and Mírra even seemed excited at the prospect of striking camp, instead of lodging at the formal resting places for Royal parties.
Although, it was to see a certain place on the southern route that was first in Eldarion’s mind, even if he did not admit it aloud.
As he returned to the table, his eyes went to the same map that had been open all afternoon and evening, the one with Erech at the center.
He wondered about the shadow-men, if the tales were true. He wondered if the stone really was as round as a globe, and if it had come indeed from Númenor, from the sky as was passed down in the tales.
At length he closed the book of maps, and set it aside, collecting the miscellaneous papers into their leather folders. The quill pen he set back on its wooden rest, and he stoppered the ink bottle.
Eldarion turned down the lamp-lights, leaving only the torches burning on the walls. He took a brief glance at the study that had been his alone for the last few months. It was strange, thinking of it as his space.
Though he was perfectly well aware of the late hour, he had no desire to go to his chambers yet.
Occasionally a guard nodded in respect as he passed them by, but for the most part the city was quiet after nightfall. Eldarion enjoyed the quiet. Walking through the Citadel, he realised how cool the nights still were, even with the new days of spring.
He found himself heading towards the centre of the Citadel, and whether it was subconscious or no, his path took him to the garden of the White Tree.
Upon arriving, he found he was not alone.
“You do not wish to retire early either, I see,” said the Queen as she saw her son enter.
If Eldarion was surprised to see his mother, he did not show it, but calmly smiled as he sat down amiably beside her on the bench. Arwen was wrapped comfortably in a heavy mantle, warm against the cool evening air.
“What is it about preparing for a journey that keeps me from being able to relax?”
“Things look well, then?”
Eldarion nodded. “They do. If the weather remains fine for the next week, I think it will be safe to depart.”
“Mírra has talked to me of almost nothing else lately, she is quite anxious to see the rest of the country.”
“Oh?” Eldarion lifted an eyebrow. “She has not seemed interested in the planning of it, although I have often invited her to contribute.”
“I think it is not the planning, but the doing that most interests your sister.” Arwen shrugged a little. “But she knows you are capable. She trusts you.”
Eldarion accepted this with a nod, and folded his arms as he settled back.
Arwen glanced sidelong at her son. He was so like his father, so very like him; already as tall as Aragorn, perhaps even a few inches taller. Even more pronounced was the air of contemplation that hung about the prince as he prepared to travel.
Mother and son both turned dark grey eyes to the tree in front of them, watching it glow softly with silver light. It was indeed quiet in the Citadel, even peaceful. Arwen slipped an arm though Eldarion’s. If contemplation was in order, then two would certainly be better than one.
“I am glad to have your company, ion nîn,” Arwen said with a calm smile.
As warm days of spring arrived, so did the day of departure. Mírra’s belongings were already set, and she lingered for a few moments in her chambers, caught up in small details at the last minute.
She still had done nothing to tidy her hair, and rushed to find something on her dresser that would do.
Pausing in the middle of the room, she caught her reflection in the full-length mirror. Suddenly she wondered why she had been rushing so much.
She had let her hair become even longer, and though it could still be just as difficult to contain, somehow she did not mind the lingering untidiness anymore. The young woman she saw in the mirror did not seem to mind it either, and let her dark hair fall over her shoulders, over her equally dark, sable-black cloak. How finely dressed she was.
Mírra smiled, to herself. Her mother was right; clothes were simply clothes, hair was simply hair. No matter where she would journey, none of those things needed to be important.
Just then there was a knock at the door, a reminder.
“I’ll be right there, I’m almost ready.”
Just before she made ready to leave, Mírra crossed to her dressing table and took up a leather tie. In a brief moment her hair was secured in a queue behind her head. It was not exactly sleek, or particularly tidy, but practical enough for a long day of riding.
“This is who you are, what are you afraid of?” She told the mirror as she turned.
As she took up her gloves, she caught another glimpse of her reflection.
Before she left, she saw her reflection smile back, a faint blush of pink on her cheeks.
Brennan gathered with Eldarion and Mírra and the remainder of their escort near the city gates, as the stable hands made ready the horses.
“Ah, hello my speedy friend,” Mírra greeted her horse, a black mare.
“Are you sure you would not like a different horse?” Eldarion asked his sister, a little bemused.
“No, I am happy with this one. She will take me swiftly across country,” the princess replied as she stroked the horse’s dark mane.
“Fast is not always best, you know.”
“It suits me just fine, thank you,” came the slightly haughty response.
Just then Lúthea arrived with Arwen, to say her goodbyes. Eldarion leaned down to hug his littler sister.
“You shall remember everything you see on your way?” Lúthea asked him. “Promise to tell me all?”
“We shall,” Mírra replied.
Arwen kissed Eldarion on the cheek, and held him at arm’s length for a moment. “Watch out for your sister?”
“Of course, naneth,” he smiled.
Goodbyes said, the riders mounted, and waved.
Mírra looked up over her head as they passed through the great gate, watching the city fall behind them. She could feel her heart beating unexpectedly quickly, suddenly feeling a rush of exhilaration.
“What direction now, Eldarion?”
The prince sat up tall in his saddle and motioned with a straight wave of his arm.
“Let us go south.”
The beginning of their journey was favoured with bright skies and warm sunshine. It had not rained for weeks, and only recently melted snow had dampened the ground. Green grass was everywhere, and the trees proudly displayed fresh new leaves.
Though some formality was kept by the small escort, with one or two men carrying simple banners of the White Tree, an air of relaxed calm settled over the group as they rode. The prince and princess most often stayed side by side, and although Mírra seemed eager to keep up a fast pace, she contributed to steady conversation whenever possible.
“Spring truly is the best time to ride. I am now so glad we did not go all this way in the snow.”
“I agree with you easily on that count,” replied Eldarion. “I hope that Edoras will appeal to you, when we arrive.”
“It appeals to me already – Rohan is a country of horse-lords, is it not?” Mírra winked.
“How could I forget?”
“But I still do not understand how we are different from the Rohirrim. We share such close borders with them, and Arnor too, yet they are not of our descent?” Mírra wrinkled her nose in puzzlement.
“Did you not learn this by now?” Eldarion said in surprise.
“That is easy for you to say, it is your job to know these things.”
“And how, pray tell, should that make it easier to remember?”
Mírra clucked her tongue once in mock exasperation at her brother, and turned to their companion.
“Perhaps you can enlighten me then, since he is unwilling?”
Brennan shook his head in a smile before replying.
“It is not entirely true that Gondor and Rohan are not of the same descent,” he said evenly, “Éorl was of Rhóvanion, but of Eldacar’s line, so there is some common blood between us.”
Mírra did not seem assuaged. “But Rhóvanion is far north, nowhere near the borders of Rohan.”
“Éorl and his folk came from there in aid to Gondor,” Eldarion added. “Not very long ago in history, if I recall my dates correctly.”
“Yes, it has been little more than five centuries,” Brennan interjected. “At that time Gondor was invaded by Easterlings, and also Orcs out of the Misty Mountains. Éorl came to Gondor’s aid, and in gratitude his people were granted the plains of Calenardhon.”
Mírra began to work this out in her head. “The region between Anduin… and the Isen?”
“Exactly,” smiled Eldarion. “You might just be a student yet, Mírra.”
“Ah, I think I will leave that to you and Lúthea, if you please.”
The princess took a firmer hold of the reins in her hand, taking a moment to scout out the countryside around them. They had moved into a more open section, with trees distributed fairly sparsely near the road.
Eldarion saw his sister’s heightened observation, as she separated herself slightly from the party.
“Do you see something?”
“No…” she replied, “only that large oak, that is a nice distance away, for two horses to race to?”
Eldarion raised an eyebrow. “It could be…”
“Come on, just once? After that I promise to fall in with the party.”
The prince, despite all his attempts at formality, could not resist the challenge. Soon the two horses galloped swiftly away, their riders laughing on the wind.
Brennan chuckled to himself, as the pair of them took off.
“And we haven’t even made it to Edoras yet.”
After a little more than a week of riding, they at last arrived at Calembel upon Ciril. Though the settlement was little more than a watch tower, many folk now lived below the hill, near the river.
Some eager faces appeared from houses to observe their arrival; they were not an imposing group by any means, yet still easily identifiable by the silver and sable dress of the Royal City.
On the second morning, their last morning there, Eldarion woke early, just before the rise of the sun. He did not truly need to be up for another hour or more, but his mind would not seem to let him rest. There were only two days of riding left for their journey, but he did not think he would truly relax until they reached Edoras.
Dressing warmly against the cool morning air, Eldarion stepped out to the long walkway that joined the two parapets of the watch tower.
One there, he saw his sister had also risen to watch the sun rise. Mírra was sitting at the top the staircase leading down from the walkway. She sat on the top step with her knees tucked up, her cloak wrapped comfortably around her entire body.
There was a touch of fatigue around her eyes, but she was noticeably content and calm as she looked out at the early morning sky.
“I’m glad I’m not the only one who was eager to start the day,” Eldarion called out as he joined his sister on the steps.
Mírra’s mouth curled in a half-smile.
“I could not miss the sun, with such a view.” She gave a nod to the countryside before them. “You’re right, you really can see both river crossings.”
The town was situated below them, closer to the water, but from the elevated position on the hill, the tower at Calembel indeed offered an excellent view of the river Ciril as it flowed to meet Ringló.
The rising sun cast a soft, rose-orange glow throughout the sky, highlighting the clouds that hung low on the horizon.
“The clouds make the sunrise so lovely.”
“Yes…” said Eldarion slowly. “As long as they do not bring rain with them.”
“That would be unpleasant to ride in, I think.”
“Aha, so your enthusiasm for the outdoors is not boundless, after all,” he teased. In return he received a hard elbow to the arm.
“I am most definitely enjoying myself,” she grinned. “I am so glad we came this way.”
“I am, too.”
“Will we make it to Erech by tomorrow?” Mírra asked her brother.
“Most likely. We will certainly be at Edoras by the third night, barring any bad weather.’
“It is just as well we are leaving so early today then, to get a good start for the last leg.”
Almost involuntarily, Mírra yawned deeply. She blinked quickly a few times, shaking herself into alertness.
“Well. We should make ready to leave then, if we have such a long ride ahead of us.”
“Oh, there is no need yet. Stay for the moment.” Eldarion held out a hand just as Mírra began to rise, but she settled back down again. “Really, I don’t think I’ve paid attention to enough sunrises lately.”
He rested an elbow on his knee, holding his chin on one hand. As they watched, the sky brightened noticeably.
Eldarion absentmindedly scratched his cheek. He had not shaved since they’d left home, as often happened when he travelled. Somehow he had become accustomed to it, though it was for practicality more than anything else.
He suddenly caught Mírra looking at him with a wry smile. “What, what are you looking at?”
“Nothing,” she replied, eyes sparkling, “You just look different with a beard, that’s all.”
“No. You look more like father.”
The ride towards Erech was fairly uneventful. It was only as they went through the pass of Tarlang’s Neck that the terrain became steeper and rockier, but on the second day it again became green and temperate. That night they again struck camp near the mountains, just before coming to the hill of Erech.
The third morning dawned with a dim, grey light. More clouds had drifted in overnight, and where there should have been sunrise there was now only haze.
As the final day of their journey began, there was a mixture of calm relief and excitement amongst the small company, and all rose early. Only Eldarion remained quiet, as they saddled the horses and made ready to leave.
Brennan knew of the prince’s interest in the nearby site, but was cautious in raising discussion of it. It was unspoken, yet understood, that the morning would bring a visit to Erech.
As they rode to the hill, Mírra observed her brother’s expression, but she could not read it. He seemed more intent than she had ever seen him, but only as if masking thoughts he was afraid to let surface.
The hill was high indeed, rounding up out of the ground, a precursor to the mountains nearby.
The prince dismounted, leaving the company to wait below. Mírra and Brennan approached also on foot, but kept their distance.
“Isildur’s stone,” Brennan observed quietly, with a nod in its direction.
Unearthly it did seem, impossibly round, and as tall as a grown man were it not sunk part way into the ground.
But there were no shadows here, only green grass that rippled in the wind, only silent sky. There was no mystery in such an open place.
Mírra watched Eldarion put a hand out to the stone’s surface. Its texture seemed like granite, and yet darker than anything she had seen. The prince seemed transfixed by it, until he let go, and stood back. She could not help but approach him then, her voice soft.
“What is it, Eldarion? You look strange.”
He turned away from the stone and took a deep breath in pause, raising his hand briefly to his forehead.
“I cannot explain it, but now I do not know why I wanted to be here so much.”
Eldarion went a few paces down the hill, taking in the sight of the town below. His expression was unreadable but for the knot in his brow, and his dark eyes were doubtful.
“I do not know anymore, what I expected to find here.”
Mírra stepped forward to go near him once again, but something in his posture made her hold back for a moment.
The wind was beginning to pick up again, blowing cool air in her ears. What should have been blue sky was covered in clouds that were still light, but threatened to darken. She thought she felt a speck of water land on her cheek, but none followed it.
She pulled her hood up over her ears and went to lay a hand on her brother’s arm.
“Eldarion…” He did not turn immediately, still distracted by his contemplation. The wind blew strands of dark hair over his face. “Should we not depart?”
He regarded her for a moment, and gave a nod in assent. They made their way back to the horses, a pall of something uncomfortable having descended on their company.
“The rain is coming heavier, we will not be able to avoid it,” Eldarion called out. A gust of wind came up just then, so that they had to keep hold of their cloaks.
“You’re not suggesting we should go back to Erech?” Mírra asked. “It has been open country for the last ten miles, we will fare no better if we do.”
Mírra shivered. Although she had found little to complain about until now, the weather was certainly not on their side.
Brennan brought his horse around to come closer to the prince and princess.
“No, I would not advise that. But the Morthond is very near. If we can cross now, then the mountains may shelter us for the rest of the ride.”
“That is precisely what I would suggest,” Eldarion added in agreement. “If it means we make camp there until tomorrow, and delay our arrival at Edoras, then so be it, but we must make it to the mountains.”
Brennan almost spoke again, but held back, still thinking on something.
“Does something concern you?” The prince asked him.
“It is only the matter of where to cross. We could ride north, closer to the Vale, or go slightly farther south.”
Eldarion considered their options.
“The southerly crossing would be farther out of the valley, and not as steep an access.” He saw Brennan nod. “I think I would prefer that, although it is perhaps five miles out of the way.”
The three of them were all squinting against the rain. Mírra raised the cuff of a sleeve to wipe her wet face.
“Well, we are certainly not getting drier, the longer we debate it,” she said firmly, trying not to let her discomfort show, though it was growing difficult.
Eldarion nodded to the two of them, and looked around to rally the rest of their small party.
“Right. The Morthond should not be far from here. I shall lead.”
They made as good time as could be expected, but the rain continued unabated. Although it was only midday, the sky was covered with unfriendly grey clouds, that only grew more unfriendly with each mile they gained.
“The sky seems to grow darker by the minute.” Mírra felt her cloak heavy on her shoulders, now soaked wet.
Eldarion remained austere. “If we can just make it past the river, then things will improve. Storms often pass quickly.”
“I hope so.”
As if to spite them, the quickest flash of white light spread across the horizon. It was followed by a low rumble, signifying that this storm had no intention of passing quickly.
Mírra’s shoulders sank, and she could not help letting her forehead fall into her gloved hand as she dipped her head. Would nothing go in their favour? Her horse, startled by the flash of lightning, shook its bridle awkwardly.
“I only wish right now we could be of this weather, Eldarion,” she said weakly, no longer able to hide the frustration in her voice.
“I know.” Surprisingly, his voice was gentle, and it made her turn. She began to realise then, how much must have been resting on his shoulders, for the last leg of their journey. “That is the only thought in my mind at present, but all that is left is for us to make it over this crossing, and then the mountains will shelter us.”
Mírra drew in a breath to steady herself, and wiped rain off her face again. “Alright.”
When they reached the crossing, it was apparent that the bridge itself had not been maintained in recent years. But although the railings looked shabby in places, there was nothing to suggest it was unsound.
The Morthond was deep and flowing fast, the water level already high from melted snow and the quickly falling rain.
“I shall cross last, after everyone else is safe on the other side,” Eldarion called out, his voice loud against the wind. Brennan and Mírra seemed to hesitate, but the prince remained firm. “Go now, the longer we wait, the worse this storm becomes.”
He kept his voice steady, not revealing the tension that filled him, the knot that formed tighter in his stomach with each flash of lightning that appeared in the sky. The rumbles of thunder were coming more quickly.
One of the Gondor guards in their escort crossed first, and it was evident that going one horse at a time was the best option. Brennan went next, and called for Mírra to follow as he reached the other side.
“Quickly, my lady!”
Mírra took a firmer grip on her reins, though her gloves were now wet and slick with rain. She brought her horse forward, but just as she approached the bridge, another burst of lightning flashed through the sky.
The black mare was startled even more by the brightness and the rumble that followed. Mírra tried to keep herself steady as the horse whinnied and shook.
“It’s alright, it’s just across the bridge, we can make it,” she whispered, half to herself, trying to calm both of them.
She steered the horse cautiously across the bridge, the hooves clopping loudly against the wet stone.
Brennan dismounted to assist the skittish animal, but not in time. As suddenly as the last one had come, another flash of lightning blazed through the horizon, causing the black mare to rear up on her hind legs.
Mírra hung on, but just barely, as the horse came back down. But when the thunder struck, louder and closer than before, the horse reared up again and whinnied, throwing the rider off her saddle.
Mírra was tossed aside over the railing, and she grabbed on, hardly processing in her mind what was happening.
Brennan immediately ran over, and met up with the princess just in time to catch hold of her arms. Mírra’s face was ashen, her eyes wide with disbelief.
But their gloves and clothes were wet, and neither could hold on tightly.
“NO!” Brennan yelled, just as Mírra’s grasp slipped… He leaned farther over the railing, holding her arms, her sleeves, anything he could get a hold of.
Eldarion, who in shock had seen his sister tumble from her horse, ran over to get to her, but in vain.
Mírra began to slip further down, as Brennan’s balance faltered. She screamed, as they both fell over the side, to the rushing water below.
Possessed by something, he knew not what, Eldarion leaped off the bridge, following his sister into the water of the Morthond.
As he surfaced he looked around, squinting against the wind and the rain.
He saw her, fifty feet away, bobbing desperately against the current.
“Mírra!” he shouted after her.
But soon she was pulled under yet again, and did not surface.
Looking out over the waves as he himself fought the current, Eldarion searched frantically for his sister, but she could not be found.
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.