56. Certain Rash Words
The celebrations surrounding Aragorn's and Arwen's wedding went on for several days and nights. In the end even Gimli was inclined to agree that it was one swell party.
On the eleventh of July we were invited to have dinner with the King and Queen. We: that was the fellowship, Éomer, Éowyn, Faramir, Prince Imrahil and his lady, Lord Elrond, his sons, Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel.
That's what Kings and Queens call a small, intimate dinner party. Only twenty-two persons.
I guess I will never get used to the standards of Gondorian or Rohirric nobility. But I won't complain. I was invited and I was allowed to sit with Éomer.
During the last few days, I had been so irritated at the way things between us were not going anywhere at all that I had for a time entertained the thought that perhaps it was, after all, only a passing fancy.
Those thoughts had lasted approximately two seconds into the evening. While the others had gathered around Arwen under the White Tree, listening to a song from Valinor, Éomer had led me to the Embrasure. I was leaning against the smooth white stone of the wall that still held the heat of the waning summer's day, looking straight ahead so I would not experience the feeling of vertigo I got from looking straight down from heights of more than a few feet. Éomer stood as close to me as was possible without catching either Sam's or the Lady Míriël's attention. I felt his strong, muscular body against my left side, and my heart galloped away like a wild horse. I could not help but inhale the spicy scent of him, this strange mixture of some kind of spicy, herbal perfume or powder he was fond of, along with the deeply male scent of his body, a small whiff of horse and leather. And as I did so, my stomach lurched wildly with desire.
If you want to say in German that you can't stand someone, you say "ich kann ihn nicht riechen", that is more or less "I can't stand his smell". And here I was reacting to someone's personal scent just as strongly as this expression implies, only in the opposite direction. I felt positively high on Éomer.
I had never realized just how important your personal smell is back on earth, where everyone takes pains not to have any personal fragrance at all. I am not talking about the way we stank on our quest, when we could not wash at all for days, though you get used even to that kind of stink. No, what I am talking about is the subtle presence of a personal smell of your body when you have only an ewer of hot water a day to wash, and a bath only once a week. It's not a stink; it's not gross. But it's always there. You get so that you associate his or her personal fragrance as much with the respective person as the colour of their hair or eyes.
Éomer's smell made me lose my mind.
Oh, Gods, how I wanted to…
And then he had the nerve to inhale deeply and whisper to me in this dark voice like velvet and mead, "What is this perfume you wear? It makes my head spin, my Lady, this mixture of spices and flowers that clings to your steps."
I was wearing as much perfume as he did. A spot of perfume that had worn off completely during the heat of the day. Could he read my mind or did he delight in the perfume of my very body as much as I did in his?
I released a shuddering breath.
How about we do it here and now?
I contented myself with a shaky reply. "So do you, my lord."
Enough to rip off your clothes this very minute or throw me down the Embrasure, driven into insanity by sexual frustration…
When a rough voice interrupted our shared sighs, I did not know if I wanted to strangle Gimli or thank him for preventing a scandal.
"What's so interesting down there that you keep staring into the air for half an hour?" the dwarf asked.
We turned around, Éomer conveniently forgetting to remove his arm and thus coming to hug me against him. Oh, bliss! Oh, sweet torture!
"It was not half an hour," Éomer said. Gimli grinned pertly up at us. I bet this was Sam's idea. Grrr…
Éomer's gaze drifted back to the fountain and the White Tree.
Galadriel sat next to Arwen and was singing with her to a melody the young queen was strumming on her silver lap harp. It was a lilting happy tune sang in Quenya, as far as I could tell. Aragorn curled his hand around the slender stem of the tree in a gesture that was almost a caress, while his eyes filled with love at the sight of his wife playing and singing under the drifting white and pink petals of the new White Tree.
The others were sitting and lying about on the lawn, dreaming away or lost in admiration of the two women.
It was as if an impressionist painting had come alive, filled with warmth, music and the sweet fragrance of blossoms and summer sun. Golden hair mingled with almost black tresses, piercing turquoise met a softer silver gaze as they sang together, Galadriel's voice a cool, clear alto, and Arwen's an unexpected light, pure soprano. Galadriel held the high beauty of heaven, Arwen the sweetness of a fleeting summer evening. Each woman was beyond beautiful in her own, special way. Here for once were elvish and mortal beauty joined in harmony.
I sighed deeply, wishing I had the talent to paint once more. My sigh was echoed by Éomer and Gimli. I turned my head and smiled at Éomer. He looked into my eyes, and once again we were lost in one another. I felt my body tighten with desire, and for me the most beautiful sight on the Place of the Fountain today was neither elvish nor mortal queen, but a man with golden and dun hair curling down to his shoulder, a soft, well-kept beard and deep, dark eyes with amber flecks. I felt Éomer's hold around my waist tighten.
I felt like shouting for joy. He's really feeling the same! He's really, truly in love with me!
"Now, master dwarf, there is an issue between us that is still unresolved," Éomer said sternly, looking down at the dwarf. "Gimli, son of Glóin, do you have your axe ready?"
Gimli tilted his head back and glared at Éomer, but the corners of his mouth were quivering with laughter. "Nay, my lord," he replied. "But I can speedily fetch it, if there be need of it."
"You shall be the judge of that," Éomer answered. "But to the matter at hand," he nodded at the elvish and the mortal queen under the White Tree, "there are certain rash words concerning the Lady in the Wood that lie still between us. And now I have seen her with my own eyes."
"Well, lord," Gimli said, his voice grim, his hands at his hips. "And what say you now?"
"Alas," replied Éomer in a grave voice. "I will not say that she is the fairest lady that lives."
"Then I must go for my axe," Gimli retorted, frowning at Éomer.
Éomer grinned at the dwarf, undaunted by that threat. "But first I will plead this excuse," Éomer went on. "Had I seen her in any other company, I would have said all that you could wish. But alas! Here I stand and see before me the Lady Galadriel and the Queen Arwen Evenstar, and lo! Another beauty fills my heart, and I hope it will fill it every day of my life, to my very last breath. And I am ready to do battle on my own part with any who deny me."
With that Éomer very decisively turned his back on both elvish and mortal beauty and proceeded to kiss me!
At first it was only a soft, warm stroking of lips against lips, but quickly the kiss deepened, and we were drinking each other's desire, the headiest of all wines. We were interrupted by a loud cough. Éomer turned around again, never letting go of me.
There was a very red faced dwarf facing us.
Éomer looked at Gimli with an amused expression on his face. "Well, Gimli, son of Glóin, how are things between us now, shall I call for my sword?"
Gimli shook his head and bowed very low. "Nay, you are excused for my part, lord," he said and smiled at me. "Here you could have chosen the beauty of the Evening or the beauty of the Morning, such as I have done. And I could not have faulted you for choosing the Evenstar over the Dawn. But you choose neither, and instead you reach for the light of Day. May it always be with you, I pray. For the light I have chosen, I fear, will soon pass away."
The evening passed all too soon, filled as it was with delicious food, song and laughter. As the dinner party broke into bits of three or four, sitting and talking or enjoying a walk in the moonlight, I would have liked to sneak away to have a moment or two alone with Éomer.
He had gone out alone "to get some fresh air", giving me one of his special looks as he passed me by. But when I tried to follow him as unobtrusively as possible, I found myself cornered by Éowyn.
I pressed my lips together tightly and tried valiantly to fight down my impatience to get out of the dining hall and to Éomer.
"We have to talk," Éowyn said, drawing me off into a nearby library.
"What about?" I asked apprehensively. I had grown wary of that glint in Éowyn's eyes.
"My brother," she replied. I hung my head and moaned.
"I thought we had already talked about your brother," I told her. "I would rather go and talk to your brother, if you don't mind."
"And what about?" Éowyn demanded. "Have you told him about your background yet?"
I felt my shoulders slump. When and how should I have told Éomer about all of that? We were almost never allowed to be alone! And my tale was truly not one for public consumption!
"When should I have done that?" I asked wearily. "During a long night's drunken celebration? Or with twenty other people within earshot?"
"He has talked to Aragorn and the Prince Imrahil about you," Éowyn explained.
I stared at her. Her explanation did not mean anything to me.
Éowyn sighed. "He wants Aragorn to elevate you to peerage, to make you a high lady of Gondor, so that you might be if not exactly the best match he could make, at least acceptable to the nobles of Rohan."
My heart fluttered madly. He was really, truly serious. He really meant to go through with what he had told me at the Field of Cormallen. He wanted me. For better or worse. Only I was worse, being no lady or princess of either Gondor or Rohan or any allied country. Or a virgin.
"Don't look that frightened," Éowyn ordered. "It would be a good idea, though I personally am in favour of an adoption. If it was not impossible because of Éomer being my brother, I would talk Faramir into adopting you myself. Oh, well. My brother will see to it that you acquire sufficient status so that he can marry you. But as he is getting really serious about it, you should tell him about yourself. My brother does not like it if things are being kept from him. He does not like lies and deceptions."
"I have not lied to him," I said in a very small voice.
"I know you have not," Éowyn agreed, her voice a little softer. "But in not telling him where you come from and how things are with you, he might think that you kept those things from him deliberately. He won't like that."
I sighed. "And when and how do you suggest I tell him?"
Éowyn shrugged. "I am not one for the dance with words. I prefer to dance with sharper blades. I only think you should not wait too long anymore. In a week we will leave for Edoras to bury my uncle. Éomer will be crowned and acclaimed as King of Rohan after the funeral and my betrothal will be announced. I don't think he will want to wait very much longer than this to settle the matter of his own heart."
That would be in a few weeks time. In a month, give or take a few days. I gulped. When and where should I find the opportunity to tell Éomer about where I came from and that I could only offer my love, but not my innocence? And how? How should I find words to tell the truth, which would not make him see me as a slut?
Especially with the memory of this royal wedding…
Arwen was the paradigm of innocence and virginity. She had remained untouched over the course of almost three thousand years! On earth that would equal the span of time between Zarathustra or Ramses III. and the day I had left Erlangen for a holiday jaunt in the Franconian hills. I had not managed keep my virginity intact for even twenty years.
And why did men put so much stock in virginity anyway? My first time had been not much fun either for me or my lover. Good times demand practice. But even thinking that made me feel vaguely immoral.
I sighed again. "Thank you for telling me, Éowyn."
"You are welcome, Lothíriel," the shield-maiden answered. "Now go and find my brother."
I nodded and walked to the door.
To strike the iron while the fire's hot…
Don't worry, Gandalf had told me.
I went out into the night in search of Éomer and the right words.
I don't know if I managed to find the right words. I did manage to pick the wrong time.
Perhaps there was no right time for this.
I found him at the Embrasure, looking out across the desolate, dry fields of the Pelennor towards the glistening floods of the Anduin. He turned when he heard my steps, and his eyes lit up so brightly that I noticed that even in the darkness of the night with the moon the only light.
"Éomer," I said. "We have to talk."
"Nothing would please me more, my lady, except perhaps to kiss your sweet lips," he answered.
At any other time, I think, I would have swooned with the romance of it. You always wait for a guy in real life to say something like that, but they never do. Now here I was on a moonlit night, with a wonderful man I had fallen in love with, and who had for some bizarre reason fallen in love with me, and he was telling me the most outrageously romantic things, and I could not enjoy it one little bit. Life is cruel.
I sighed. "Éomer, there are things about me that you need to know if there is ever going to be anything between us. Please, can we go somewhere and talk?"
His face fell. His eyes grew cool and apprehensive. "Of course, my lady. But are you sure that you want to be alone with me?"
"I do think that would be better," I replied.
"We can go up into one of the studies in the tower," he suggested. "At this time no one's there."
Éomer led the way; I followed, feeling sick with nerves.
A short time later, I found myself in a small, wedge shaped study above the quarters of the tower guards. Éomer had lit the fire and a few candles. The three straight walls of the room were lined with bookshelves. Apart from that the room boasted two small tables and four simple wooden chairs.
"What is it that you wish to tell me, my lady?" Éomer asked me from across the table.
I think I knew even then that this was the wrong approach. But it was too late to back off now.
Where to begin? In the end I simply blurted out my story. All of it.
"I was born in the year 1980 in Germany, in a town called Erlangen. My mother called me Lothíriel after a book that she loved. In that world it is a book of fairy tales. Tales about a world threatened by an evil enemy, a world where good may still triumph over evil. This world. This Middle-earth. Arda."
I paused. Éomer looked shocked. Right.
"In the world where I come from, marriage is not what it is here. Many people have relationships and children without being married at all."
"Why are you telling me this?" Éomer asked.
"Because you have to know where I come from, how I came to be here, my background. So you can know all of who I am," I explained.
"Don't I know who you really are?" Éomer asked again, his voice suddenly cold.
"Yes, and no. Look, it's difficult. Please, let me try and explain."
He nodded silently.
"My mother married only after I was already three years old. And she did not marry my father."
"Did he leave her? How could he!" Éomer's eyes started to blaze. I was almost glad that he would get angry on my behalf.
"No, I just told you. Where I come from, it is not as it is here. You don't have to marry. You can have children and live together without marriage. No one will look down upon a woman who is alone with a child. You marry for love, you marry for money, you marry for the same reasons as people marry here, but you don't have to. It's perfectly normal not to.
My mother –" I clenched my teeth. Why was this part still so difficult? After all, I had grown up with a loving step-father, who had done everything for me. Why did this still matter?
"I don't think she knew who my father actually was. She was seeing several men when I was conceived."
Éomer stared at me with horror in his eyes. "Your mother was a whore?"
I would not be ashamed for my mother.
I would not be ashamed for my mother!
Hell, I had spent years being ashamed and feeling that I had to excuse my mother's eccentric ways to my friends. I had spent years coming to terms with the fact that her refusal to bow to the morals and rules of society did not make her a slut, nor did my refusal to live the way she had lived make me a bad daughter. And after all, she had married and become the wife of a respected lawyer. And I knew that she loved my step-father very much, as he loved her. They were faithful to each other. They were devoted to each other. Their marriage was one of the few I had known back on earth that had been really working. Strange as that may sound.
"My mother was not a whore. She was a student at a good university and enjoying her freedom. Perhaps a little too much. But as I am glad to be alive, I don't blame her for not being cautious enough with her pill."
"Pill?" Éomer stared at me as if he was seeing someone he had never seen before.
Oh, this was going so wrong…
"A medication that keeps women from conceiving a child. So you can have sex without consequences. She did not take it regularly. I am the consequence. She did not mind. She was quite wealthy and independent. So she had me, and she said I was a dream come alive, and therefore she called me after a book that – in her opinion – was filled with dreams. But in Germany, at least at that time, it was not common practice to name children 'Lothíriel' or anything strange. So she had to go to court to be allowed to name me 'Lothíriel'. She had a very good lawyer."
Just get everything over with quickly. I went on hastily.
"Ahem. Someone to argue her position according to the laws of my country. Laws – lawyer. Well, the lawyer fell in love with my mother, they married. I grew up as his child. He's been my Dad in every way that really matters. I went to school and grew up. Now, there are more things than that which are different between here in the world where I grew up. We don't have kings or queens who rule our countries. Some countries still have them, but only as figureheads, for sentimental and representative reasons. But they don't have any political power anymore. I grew up in a world where almost everyone has to work for their living, even the heirs of what noble lords and ladies we had in earlier centuries, men and women alike. Women do whatever men can do, much as it is among the elves. I studied law in my hometown, to become a lawyer like my Dad, or perhaps a judge or a teacher of law."
I found that I could not look at Éomer. I had never felt ashamed that I had fallen in love, that I had made love. There was nothing to be ashamed about. I gulped and rushed on.
"When I was nineteen, I met a boy, a fellow student, and we fell in love, and we had sex. But then he got the opportunity to go to another, a better university and he moved away. Life went on, and when I was twenty-three, I met another man, a law student of my own age. I thought I was in love. He thought he was in love. It was nice enough for a time. But it wasn't enough. I did not really love. Not for keeps. So we broke it up and went our ways. In the summer 2004 I was studying for my final exams when I realized that –"
"You are a whore?" Éomer stared at me, his face, his eyes, cold and hostile.
I felt myself go cold. My voice was trembling a little, but at least it was still calm.
I was not crying, although I wanted to.
"I am most certainly not a whore. I told you that it's perfectly normal for a girl where I come from to have more than one lover before she finds the one to love for her lifetime and for marriage. I had two lovers. That's all. Where I come from, that's absolutely normal. That's even rather conservative. Now, shall I go on?"
It hurt so much to hear him call me and my mother a whore. But what had I expected? Here, every girl who was not of low birth was a virgin until the first night of marriage. How should he, a man of a medieval society, be able to accept me, a woman with the experiences of growing up in a wealthy, industrialized country of the twenty-first century?
He nodded. But he was so cold and distant that I shivered involuntarily.
"Now. I had not felt good about my life for some time. Somehow I never felt that I belonged. I always felt… homeless. Without roots. Lonely. With no course for my life. I was studying for my final exams, and suddenly I realized that I hated what I was doing. I realized that I had no idea how I wanted my life to be. I realized that I had never taken the time to think about how I wanted my life to be. I realized that I needed time to think. I can think best when I'm alone, and outdoors, walking, hiking. So I packed my backpack and simply went on a holiday of hiking in a beautiful hill country close to the town where I grew up. One night, I met an old tramp on a hill, and we talked about my name, and I told him about the books I was named for, and he…"
I told Éomer everything. I did not try to make things sound prettier than they were. I had not left out that even in my own world, it was not normal not to know about one's father. I had not left out, how I had simply abandoned my studies more or less on a whim. I did not leave out Boromir. I did not leave out telling Éowyn and Faramir.
When I finally ended, my voice was hoarse.
The silence was thick in the room.
Éomer stared at me, visibly making an effort to gather his thoughts.
"You were right," he finally said. "I don't know you at all. Two lovers there, one lover here, and a whole life you never told me about. I don't know you at all."
I felt tears well up in my eyes. "But that's not true. You do know me. You only did not know about my mother and my father, and where I came from. You did know about who I am."
"And your father has nothing to do with who you are? Your lovers have nothing to do with who you are? Did you think you could seduce me? Did you think you could blackmail me? Did you think you could make me the laughing stock of all of Rohan and Gondor?" He was losing his cold distance. His eyes were blazing with fury. He was shouting by the time he reached the last question.
"No," I said in a trembling voice. "I thought that I had fallen in love for the first time in my life. That everything else had been only make-believe, but not real. Not real at all. I thought that I had found a home here, a place where I belong. I thought that I had found true friends who would love me for who I am and not for outward appearances."
"Being a slut or a virgin is hardly an 'outward appearance', now, is it?" Éomer asked.
"I have merely behaved the way I was raised."
"Like a slut. With no father to call her his own blood."
"My father is an honourable man. A wonderful father. And blood has nothing to do with that." I was getting mad.
But that had not been the point of this conversation. All of this had not been the point of this conversation at all.
"Éomer, don't you see that I simply behaved according to the rules of the society I grew up in? Where I grew up, virginity is no big deal. Most girls simply want to get rid of it quickly and have some fun. But that does not make them or me sluts or whores. If you are unfaithful or dishonest in your relationships, that makes you a slut. If you take money or other remuneration for sex, that makes you a whore. Falling in love twice, and being there for a man who needed me, that does not make me a slut or a whore. And you can't make me feel bad about it because it was not wrong. I did nothing wrong. The only thing I did wrong was not to tell you all of this when we first met. But tell me, would you have understood it any better if I had told you where I come from, and how I grew up weeks ago? And I did tell you everything before…"
"Before what?" Now he was cold again.
How could he do that, scream and shout one minute and be so cold and withdrawn the next? "Before you asked me…"
"Before I asked you what?"
How could he be so cruel? How could he not see past this overrated issue of a little piece of skin between my legs? Had I really kept so much from him that he had not known me at all?
"Before I asked you what?"
"Before you asked me to marry you," I said and glared at him. "I know you thought about that. You sister told me that you were considering this. And because I love you, I have told you everything there is to know about me. Now. Before you could ask. Or do anything else."
"Oh, thank you so much," he spat out. "After weeks and weeks!"
This was getting ridiculous.
"Would it have helped, if I had told you all that to begin with?" I asked again, feeling my lips trembling with tears of anger and horror.
Had I unknowingly destroyed anything that could be there between us by waiting too long to tell him?
"You told my sister," he hissed.
I closed my eyes.
"You told Faramir, for the Valar's sake!"
And Galadriel knows about it, too.
I felt my self-control slipping. Tears were running down my cheeks. But I had to finish this conversation.
"I had to," I tried to explain. "I owed that to Boromir, to tell his brother the truth about his death. And Éowyn, she will marry Faramir, for heaven's sake. Should I have told her to go away? And she is my friend!"
"That I can hardly believe. My sister is a maiden of virtue."
"And why should I be less virtuous only because I am not a virgin anymore?" I screamed at him.
"Because you did not tell me who you are!" he yelled back. "How can I ask you to marry me, if you have deceived me from the day we met? How can you be anything to me, if I never really knew you at all?"
He had risen to his feet and shoved back his chair so hard that it fell over with a loud clattering sound.
"But you do know me," I wailed.
I had the feeling that my world was falling apart under my hands. I was looking at Éomer with a strange, dazed feeling of disbelief. I had thought that he might be a little shocked or even angry, but I had not expected him to turn this into an issue of trust and honesty.
"You know everything I have done since I came to Middle-earth. Doesn't that count for something? You have spent so much time with me. Don't you feel you know me for myself? At least a little bit?"
"No," he shouted. "No! At the moment I don't think that I ever knew you at all."
"But how could I have told you all that? How was I to know you would even believe one word of what I said! You have to admit that apart from being contrary to your customs the story of my background sounds just a tack fantastic, doesn't it? AND WHY THE HELL SHOULD IT BE SO IMPORTANT IF I AM A VIRGIN OR NOT ANYWAY? AND ANYWAY; YOU NEVER ASKED!" I cried. How could this evening turn out this way, how could this evening, how could…
"But you told Faramir. You told my sister. And yes, IT DOES SOUND ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! AND IT IS IMPORTANT THAT YOU ARE A VIRGIN! BECAUSE I WON'T MARRY A LIAR AND A WHORE!"
I was trembling all over my body. My voice was shaking when I finally replied. "I am neither a liar nor a whore. And if you have not realized who I am during the last weeks, than I probably was mistaken in thinking that you might love me. And that I might love you."
"Yes," Éomer said. "You were mistaken. I was mistaken. Everything between us was and is a mistake. There can be nothing between us. Go and find yourself another 'lover' to deceive!
But – keep – the – hell – away – from – my – sister!"
I turned and ran.
And I kept running. I was crying as I ran.
Had I really lied to him? Had I really deceived him? Had I never shown him who I really am?
When I reached the stables, I had suddenly only one thought.
I have to get away from here as fast and as far away as possible.
I saddled Mithril and galloped down to the Great Gates before I had the time to think twice.
The guards at the Great Gates were surprised that I wanted to go for a ride in the middle of the night, but in the end they let me go.
I raced around the walls of Minas Tirith and to the southern gate of the Rammas Echor. Only when the Rammas Echor was already far behind me, and I was galloping westwards at the feet of the Ered Nimrais, I began to think where I could go from here.
Leaving so precipitously, I had taken neither food nor a cloak or a blanket with me.
And where could I go?
Éomer would tell everyone about… me.
That I had no father. That I was no virgin. That I was a liar.
Where could I go?
In the end I simply allowed Mithril to run as fast and as far as she wanted. And Mithril wanted to run! She had not liked being cooped up in the stable for such a long time, with only short rides in the near area of Minas Tirith during the last two weeks.
I was already halfway to Tarnost when I realized where I was going, and that I might still have a friend there who would perhaps not turn me away. A friend, and I felt hot with shame at the thought, whom I should have gone to weeks ago when I had not been able to deliver her letter to her husband because he had died on the Fields of the Pelennor.
I started crying again. How could I have not gone to Sorcha at once? How could I go to her now?
But I had nowhere else to go, and I could not bear to even think about how the others – Sam, for instance, or Míriël, or Arwen – how they would look at me and turn away, thinking that I had lied to them, too, and that I was not fit to keep their company, and so I kept going.
When Mithril finally slowed down around noon the following day, on the banks of the river Raín, I was so tired and exhausted that I simply slid down from Mithril's back and curled up on the spot in a clump of dry grass.
I felt like an empty, hollow shell with no sense of myself left at all. How could I fall asleep, knowing that he thought… Knowing that I would never…
My eyes closed, weighed down by sheer exhaustion, and I fell asleep with Mithril snorting comfortingly against my neck.
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.