12. Chapter 12
Devoran saw the gulls first. Way above the city they made lazy circles, effortlessly, spiralling higher and higher, until, reaching some unidentified limit, they tipped their wings and tumbled down out of sight. Next the flag appeared against the afternoon haze, as yet only a dark smudge with its devices hidden. But if she needed to be reminded of the renowned Swan-ship that graced it, she only had to turn her eyes to the man riding next to her – Amroth had one embroidered on his tunic.
Blue and silver had fluttered over the imposing ramparts of Dol Amroth for more than a thousand years; she could even remember the names of some of the princes. But the well-meaning history lessons Amroth had regaled her with during the last week, intended to pass the time as well to give her an insight into her future home, had increased rather than eased her fears. During the slow journey, as he had told her all he could about his family and their way of doing things, so she would not feel overwhelmed, the reality of the total change to her life had gradually stolen over her. Her dreams had been of marrying Amroth, the man. The lovely laughing boy she had fallen for outside the city gates all those months ago. But by doing so she would be the wife of a prince, and part of an ancient lineage. Made more terrifying by the fact that she would be arriving travel-worn and in borrowed clothes. Somehow she had to get through her first proper meeting with Prince Imrahil wearing a shirt donated by Haldor’s daughter and a pair of breeches that had belonged to his son. Her own riding clothes, blood splattered and torn, were only fit for the ragbag.
“Don’t be nervous. Everyone is looking forward to you arriving and you will soon feel at home.” Amroth broke into her reverie. She glanced up and he smiled reassuringly.
Did her nerves show so much? Devoran made an effort to smile back, in spite of the butterflies in her stomach. “Amroth, could we stop somewhere. Perhaps I should get changed into one of my dresses and ride on the wagon.” Not that the dresses were at all smart, only being her everyday wear, but one was reasonably clean. She looked down at her soiled breeches, horse riding tended to make one grubby. And she would not feel comfortable meeting Prince Imrahil in trousers. “I have been wearing these clothes for days.”
Amroth cocked his head to one side, critically studying her. “And very nice they look too; I have been admiring them for days.” His eyes twinkled wickedly. “Or perhaps I have been admiring the one who’s wearing them.”
The familiar heat flushed her cheeks. Irritated that she had no control over her response to him, and the slightest tease provoked a blush, Devoran wiped a hand across her hot face and made no answer. He looked so elegant and handsome, didn’t he realise how she felt …
“Devoran, stop worrying. Erchi will have explained everything. Besides, when I dispatched a soldier last night with a message to say what time we would be arriving, I also suggested that we enter by the side door and you be allowed to go straight to your chamber to bathe and rest. I will introduce you to the family before the evening meal.”
Oh! He had thought! “Does that include your father?”
Amroth laughed, amused by her worries. “I hope so. Although he would probably prefer to meet you as you are. It would keep with our new tradition.”
“What tradition? Don’t tell me there is another. My head is spinning with them.”
“Sorry, have I plagued you with custom and ritual. But you will like this one, I have just thought of it.”
“Go on then, tell me.” She couldn’t resist him when he grinned at her. She loved the way the corners of his eyes crinkled when something amused him.
“Well, Elphir …” Amroth stopped, his face clouding suddenly.
“What is it?”
He shook his head. “No, it’s not appropriate. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“Why isn’t it appropriate? You were grinning about it just now.”
“Devoran, I don’t want to cause you upset. You have been so strong over what happened in the mountains, I had forgotten for a moment what a fearful time you had…”
Strong! She wouldn’t call herself strong. Numbed was a better word. Together with the horror of losing all her family, the assault on her had been pushed into a corner of her mind she resisted visiting. And if she did close her eyes and glimpse that hideous pock-marked face looming over her, she had learnt to hurl it aside and replace it with a vision of Amroth’s fine sculpted features. But it was no laughing boy who had ruthlessly nailed her assailant to the ground, or who had pronounced a death sentence. Did it bother her? No, far from it. She felt safe.
“Ana says that you are sleeping well.”
Still with her own thoughts, his remark made her jump. Devoran realised that Amroth was searching her face for any kind of torment. Had they all been expecting her to crumble into a pitiful heap? She wouldn’t. The all-devouring maw of war had taken her family, as it had many others, but she had made herself a vow – she intended to survive. But it came as no surprise to her that Ana had reported back, not being at all fooled by the excuse of crowded rest-houses to explain the maid’s presence in her room every night, whilst her husband shared with the men. Most of the landlords would have pushed their other guests out to the stables to accommodate a Prince of Dol Amroth and his party. So very different from when she had travelled the road with Alhael.
“I think anyone would sleep well after the long days in the saddle. But you are right: now Drummer is making such good progress, my dreams are untroubled. You came in time, Amroth. I hang on to that thought. Dwelling on what would have happened otherwise will only cause a canker to grow in my mind. I don’t want that. I will not follow my mother into despair.” Seeing the concern still on his face, Devoran quirked her lips, “Now had I been expected to ride through that tunnel, I might have had trouble sleeping.”
Amroth stared at her for a moment. But she gave him a big smile, which banished his serious look and encouraged a burst of soft laughter.
She laughed with him. “Well, are you going to tell me this new tradition that amused you so?”
He grinned, and edged Aero a little closer to Lady. “I was going to make some sort of joke about the Princes of Dol Amroth arriving in the nick of time, sword in hand. I think I told you that Elphir rescued Meren from corsair raiders.”
“You did, when we were on the island.” Yes, she could see the similarity.
“Ah, but did I also say that she arrived at the palace looking less than perfectly groomed. And my father got quite a shock.”
“Because she looked a mess?” Fancy telling her that. She would have to put a dress on.
“More that Elphir announced he was marrying her in front of a gawking crowd.”
“Really! Your father had no idea before?”
“Was he mad?”
“You should have seen his face. But he covered it well. And of course Meren is perfect for Elphir.” Amroth raised a wry brow. “Although she brought nothing other than herself.”
“I see. So your father will have to rely on Erchi to make a good match.”
Amroth burst out laughing, sucking in air as he tried to control his mirth. “I think he will wait a long time for that. Erchi will probably turn up with a tavern wench on his arm.”
Yes, she had not missed him eying Handor’s daughter. “Your father must be grateful that your sister married so well.”
“Devoran,” the serious look came back. “Put aside any lingering uncertainties that your detestable cousin left behind. My father would prefer his children to be happy. The dark years taught us all to value the joy of life. I am not saying a tavern wench would be welcomed, but Belfalas does very well. Its prosperity does not depend on the scions of its ruling family sacrificing themselves to political or monetary alliances. And after all, my father’s relationship with Calaerdis is hardly conventional. But if you still doubt, I will tell you that you come from a brave and noble line, and that is more important to my family than all the goods and chattels you could ever bring.”
Devoran said nothing for a moment; she could feel his eyes on her. “In that case,” she said at last, deciding to let her fears go, “I will ride through the gates with my head held high, and ignore the looks we are bound to get from every passing citizen wondering who it is their prince has brought home.”
Amroth chuckled at that. “They won’t be wondering, all will know exactly. Every one of Erchi’s soldiers will have a relative they will have told. Nothing is secret in Dol Amroth.”
Devoran closed her eyes. What was the use of sneaking into the palace by the side door if she had to run the gauntlet of a line of inquisitive onlookers?
“Devoran, are you still hot?”
Hot? Her eyes flew open at the strange change of subject. “No, not really, the wind has freshened. It’s much pleasanter the nearer we get to the sea.”
“There is usually an onshore breeze in the afternoon along the coast,” he agreed. “And since it is getting cooler, I have an idea that will make you much less anxious. We will stop for a moment.” Amroth put up his hand. The soldiers behind him turned their horses and moved out of the way so the wagon could come to a halt gradually. Amroth beckoned to his squire, calling the lad forward to give him some instructions. The change of pace, and the sound of voices, woke Drummer; he immediately got up from where he had been dozing on a blanket in the back of the open wagon, looking around to see what was going on.
“You stay there, Drummer,” Devoran called to him. He had walked quite a way today and she was worried he would overdo it. The first few days his broken ribs had caused him a lot of pain, but he seemed to gain strength hourly. Drummer wagged his tail at the sound of her voice, but made no move to get down. Devoran thought he liked being able to view the surrounding countryside from his high perch. She waited, wondering what Amroth had in mind. His squire had gone off to delve into a bag on one of the pack animals.
Devoran stared at the rich blue velvet cloak Amroth held out to her. “It will cover all of you. And bearable, I think, now the temperature has dropped a bit.”
“Oh, what a good idea. You will feel much better wearing that, my lady, with everyone looking at you.”
Devoran groaned. So Ana thought many eyes would be on her. They should have arrived after dark.
Ana was already dismounting. “Why don’t I brush your hair out, my lady? It will look more attractive than that braid.”
Devoran had to admit she felt better with her hair tied loosely at the nape of her neck. It was so thick and unruly, it never stayed neatly in a plait anyway, tendrils escaping however tightly it was wound. And Ana took such trouble, arranging the cloak to fall elegantly over Lady’s back, showing off the silver swan-ship.
“Happier?” Amroth asked when Ana had finished.
Devoran nodded, fingering the soft material. “It’s your dress one.”
“I thought we would be getting married in Edoras, which is why I brought it.”
Their wedding! That unleashed another worry: she would need a wedding dress. But no time to think about that now because Amroth called for everyone to get back on their horses. She knew he wanted to get home.
The cacophony of barking and growling alerted Imrahil to their arrival. He moved quickly to the window that overlooked the gate, in time to see the tops of two heads. One black, one…. bright chestnut. He must remember not to mention ginger.
Ah, there was the source of the upset – a stranger had entered well defended territory. A large black and brown dog sat on a wagon, his head in the air, lip curling at the few local mongrels still snapping at the wheels. The guards chased them back out of the gate and Imrahil chuckled at the dog’s proud demeanour. I’m going into the palace and you’re not – was written all over him. And it looked as though the animal had recovered. Good news all round, from what Erchi had told him.
Imrahil turned back from the window. “I am not happy about letting Lady Devoran slip in by the side door unannounced. I feel I should be there to greet her properly.”
Calaerdis put her book down and got up. She walked over to him, slid her arms around his waist and dropped her head on his chest. Imrahil sighed and inhaled her spicy perfume, enjoying the contact. He murmured into her hair, “Don’t you agree?”
“Normally, yes. And I know you want to show how welcome she is here. But I think it will be better if she has time to compose herself and clean up after the long journey. She will understandably be a little nervous of meeting you.”
Imrahil frowned. “I am not an ogre.”
She looked up, her eyes sparking amusement. “No, but you are the Lord of Dol Amroth, and most would prefer to be looking their best when they meet you.”
“Hmm…perhaps. But she will soon find out I am as normal as everyone else.”
“I am sure she will after living here for a few months.” Calaerdis chuckled, her laugh rich and throaty. “Have you found a date for the wedding, yet? It is one of the first things Amroth will want to know.”
“Do you think so?” Reluctantly, Imrahil eased her away from him and went over to his desk. He started leafing through the papers littered on it. “I had the tidal predictions here somewhere.”
After a few frustrating minutes, a slim arm reached across. “Is this them?” Calaerdis plucked the sheet of calculations from beneath a report on the progress of the new warehouse being built on the quay.
“Yes. Thank you.” Imrahil flashed her a wry smile and ran his eyes down the figures. “Now, I marked a provisional date. Let me see. Ah, yes, the fifteenth of October. It’s not perfect, but they will have time to get to the island.”
“Is that the only suitable date?”
“No, but I don’t want it later in the month because Éomer and Lothíriel will wish to get back before the bad weather. That’s assuming they can come. And not much earlier than that because I feel Lady Devoran will want some time to recover from her grief.”
“And the attack on her,” Calaerdis added. “We don’t know how it has affected her.”
“True. Although Erchirion thinks she has coped remarkably well.”
“Do you think…” but Calaerdis’ words were cut short as there was a brief knock on the door before it flew open.
Imrahil had only seen that particular mixture of joy and relief on his son’s face once before – when they had found Lothíriel in the wilds after she’d been missing for a week. It warmed his heart to see it again now. “Welcome back, Amroth. A good journey?”
“Hot and slow, but better than rain, I suppose.” Amroth bowed to his father and smiled a greeting to Calaerdis.
“And is Lady Devoran well?” Imrahil asked.
“Tired and saddle-sore. But remarkably buoyant. Her main concern seems to be her lack of clothes.”
Calaerdis nodded. “I can understand that. From what we have heard, Amroth, she has lost virtually everything. Her home included. She will be feeling extremely vulnerable, even if she is hiding it.”
“I know,” Amroth agreed. “And she does veil her concerns. I think we ought to get married soon; it will give her a better sense of belonging here.”
“That might be true, Amroth, but you must not rush her.” Imrahil felt he might need to curb Amroth’s enthusiasm. “She will need time to grieve properly. However, I did give the date some thought as messages will need to be sent to Edoras in plenty of time.” He picked up the tidal predictions and determined the date he had chosen. “October the fifteenth if you think that is not too soon for her. Otherwise it will need to be the spring.”
Amroth’s look of horror got Imrahil chuckling. His son’s unusual, and entirely voluntary, celibacy since meeting his lady had not gone unnoticed, and spending the last week or more in such close proximity would be starting to tell. “I agree it would be better in the autumn, Amroth. But you need to get Lady Devoran’s agreement.”
“It is going to be strange for her until we are married. More than a guest, but not really part of the family. The sooner we wed, the sooner she can settle.”
“Well, if she agrees we will decide on the fifteenth. I will also need to write to Aragorn in good time. With Duinhir not six months dead, it will have to be a family wedding, but I am sure he will want to be here in an informal capacity.”
Amroth wrinkled his nose. “Informal for him just means half of Gondor’s Royal Guard, poor man.”
“True,” Imrahil agreed. “Oh, by the way, I have already sent an initial letter about Lady Devoran’s inheritance.”
“You have, Father? You think he can overturn it?” Amroth grimaced. “I would love to see that crud Alhael thrown out.”
“Except for Belfalas, and now Ithilien, all land is only held by its lords in trust to the crown. Whatever gift ceded long ago can, I imagine, be rescinded. If Aragorn wills it, then I’m sure the clever scribes and archivists in the White City will find a way to dislodge Alhael within the law. But I imagine she will have to petition the king in person at court and recount the cousin’s actions towards her. ”
“That will be better after we are married when I have the right to support her,” Amroth mused.” Do you think there is a good chance?”
“A fair one.”
“Good! He deserves to spend the rest of his life shovelling dung.”
“Tell me, Amroth.” Imrahil looked straight into his eyes. “Erchi gave me a full account, why didn’t you run your sword through the sod?”
Amroth pursed his lips, his brow furrowing. “Killing in a battle is one thing, but,” he shrugged … “a defenceless man grovelling at my feet … I had time to think. I prefer your way. It was different with the felons, they actually attacked her.”
Imrahil nodded. “I am glad you saw it that way. Let us hope he gets his retribution. And I am looking forward to meeting Lady Devoran tonight.”
“Hisael is caring for her. So she is in good hands.” Amroth stretched, and yawned. “I am going to get cleaned up.” He inclined his head. “I will see you later, Father, Calaerdis.” He turned and put his hand on the door handle to go.
“Amroth.” Imrahil called him back. “It concerns me slightly that Lady Devoran had been so staunch up to now. I feel she might have been keeping in her grief, and the anguish of the attack. Plus, she will be feeling nervous about her reception here and girding herself for that. Sometimes it is easier to hold on when things are tough, than when the ordeal is over. You may find, Amroth, that once she has met everybody and feels safe, she will let go. Be prepared for that.”
Amroth nodded. “I will be alert to it.”
Devoran swished the water with her toes. Warm and fragrant, it took away all her aches. The third time she had bathed in this large tub, but never in her wildest dreams had she imagined the room would one day be hers. She listened to Hisael going through the wardrobe. Princess Lothiriel’s wardrobe. Could she really wear her clothes?
“I’ve found just the very thing for tonight, Lady Devoran.” Hisael popped her head around the screen. “There are a couple of silks that have never been worn. Princess Lothíriel wasn’t keen on the delicate ones, but they will suit you. One is a lovely deep bronze with long sleeves that will cover the remains of those bites. It could have been made for you, how lucky you are of similar size.”
That would be good; the blemishes were fading, but still showed. “Are you sure I can wear it, Hisael?”
“Of course you can, clothes are always passed down. You won’t be able to wear the blue and silver until you are wed, but …”
“Oh!” Devoran interrupted. “I arrived in Prince Amrothos’ cloak. Should I not have done that?”
Hisael chuckled. “That was a special circumstance, nobody is going to mind.”
But someone would have noticed. Had she made an error? No, Amroth had thought it was appropriate.
“Don’t look so worried, my lady. I was born in the Palace; I know all its ways. I will not let you make a mistake.”
“Thank you, Hisael. You are very kind. And so was Ana, especially as she had only just got married. It was all such a rush when we got here. I didn’t have time to thank her properly.”
“You will get the chance, I’m sure.” Hisael paused, her breath catching. “I am glad you got on.”
Devoran got up, took the drying cloth Hisael handed her, and stepped out of the bath. Something in the maid’s voice had brought back an odd conversation she’d had with Ana at the wedding.
“Hisael, Ana seems to think that I influenced her decision to marry Caedor in some way. But I know not how. She mentioned it when I was here before, and made a reference on the journey home.”
Hisael handed her a robe, her eyes shielded.
Devoran slipped her arms in; how soft and rich it was. She waited for Hisael to say something, but the maid remained silent. “Whatever it is, Hisael, I would like to know.” Hisael sighed. Devoran kept her eyes on her, and she nodded, looking to have come to a decision.
“Ana is an orphan. Her father was one of Prince Amrothos’ soldiers. During that great battle he went to the Prince’s aid when he was injured, and then was killed fighting next to him. When Prince Amrothos came home he was very kind to Ana. Please be assured, my lady, he has never been more than kind, but she was young and impressionable. He taught her to ride so that she could accompany Princess Lothíriel to Edoras and also let her borrow a horse to visit her relatives along the coast.” Hisael sighed. “Ana became friendly with Caedor when they went to Rohan, but I do not think that she could get the Prince off her mind. When he met you at the wedding and it was obvious to us all how he felt about you, she realised that she was being silly. Now I am sure she is very happy. Her husband is a good man with prospects.”
That explained it! Poor Ana. But she and Caedor had seemed very happy. Devoran smiled. “Thank you, I am glad that you told me. It is understandable, the Prince is very kind. But Hisael, what do you mean about you all realising what he felt about me at the wedding?”
Hisael chuckled. “Lady Devoran, the Palace is like one big family, not much is private. First of all, one of the footmen told us that he spent the whole evening with you. Then the next day you went out in his boat. My brother was on the gate when you came back, he said that you were both holding on to master Alphros and giving him swings. The three of you were soaking wet and laughing. Then, of course, there was your bath.”
“My bath?” said Devoran, totally confounded.
“Yes, you can imagine how busy we were, with the King and Queen, and all those lords and ladies calling for hot water. But he came and said that you were the most important and if necessary he would carry it himself.”
Devoran did not quite know what to say, so said nothing. Hisael didn’t notice anyway, chattering on as she pulled out a chair.
“When he said you needed a bath the next night as he was introducing you to the King, well, I just had to come and look.”
Devoran sat down where Hisael directed her to have her hair dried. She rather felt that since she had entered through the Palace gates and had been delivered into the maid’s care, everything had been taken out of her hands anyway. In some ways it was quite a relief. Hisael picked up a comb and carried on.
“Nobody was surprised when he took off to visit you. Then we were all so sad, but you did the right thing.”
Devoran started at that, and the comb jagged painfully. “I did the right thing?”
“Yes, my nephew is one of his soldiers, he went with him. He told us about your poor father. It would not have worked, you would always have regretted it if you had left him alone. Prince Amrothos has not been himself all summer, but these things often resolve. I am sorry that you have lost your father, Lady Devoran, and had such an awful time, but I hope you being happy will help to make up for it.”
“Thank you, Hisael, I am sure that I shall be very happy,” Devoran replied, trying not to show the shock of having her life on public view.
“Perhaps you’d like to have a little rest whilst you hair dries, my lady. There is plenty of time before dinner.”
“Yes, I would.” Devoran stood up, looking at the big bed. Such a lovely room, with a wonderful view out to the islands. She smiled to herself. From a day on the island she had ended up here. Then she caught sight of the open wardrobe. All those clothes! “Did Princess Lothíriel take anything with her to Rohan?”
Hisael laughed. “Quite a bit. A lot of these were her mother’s. Ceremonial outfits, mostly. They are too big for Princess Meren, so you will be able to wear them when you are a princess.”
“A princess?” Devoran exclaimed open mouthed.
“Yes. Surely you realised?”
She nodded. She had realised that, but had pushed it aside with all the others things that crowded her mind.
“Now your children, they will not be titled. It is only Prince Elphir’s who will be princes and princesses. Yours will be just lords and ladies.”
“I am sure they will be very happy with that,” Devoran answered, feeling slightly stunned. She sat down on the bed, hoping that if she closed her eyes, Hisael would stop. Soon she had to be dressed and ready to meet Amroth’s family, and needed to compose herself.
It seemed only moments before Hisael was shaking her awake. Then the dress – so beautiful she could hardly believe it. And her hair – it hadn’t shone like this since Hisael had done it before. The maid had even covered the last vestiges of the bruise on her face. However difficult she might find the evening ahead, she had the comfort she looked her best. Amroth must have thought so to, judging by his reaction when he came to escort her. His mouth opened, and he strode across the room arms outstretched.
“No, my lord! You must not touch.” Hisael shrieked, looking horrified, but then her lips twitched. “At least not until after supper or you will spoil all my good work.”
Amroth grinned and quickly put his hands behind his back, portraying innocence. “Hisael you should not make her look so lovely.”
As soon as they were outside the door, he tucked her arm in his and put his lips next to her ear, warm breath tingled on her cheek. “Devoran, I know that you are going to find everything very strange and I want you to promise me that if you have any problems, if you are unhappy, then you will tell me.”
She nodded and without warning Amroth pulled her into one of the embrasures that were spaced along the wide passage. It was an alcove with a seat where one could look out to sea. Carefully, he gathered her up in his arms, “I do not wish for you to go galloping off somewhere else.”
Lips lightly brushed across hers, setting her whole body shivering. Devoran sighed, snuggling against him as her worries disappeared. “Amroth, I am not going anywhere. I rather like it just where I am.”
“I hoped you would,” he whispered, nuzzling into her hair. “But unfortunately we must hurry; my father is impatient to meet you.” Amroth released her from his embrace and took hold of her hand, curling his strong fingers around hers. “Come on.”
But Devoran stayed where she was, not following him, her arm outstretched. “Amroth, what has happened to Drummer? Will I see him? Is he allowed in the palace?”
Amroth took a step backwards. Dropping his head, he kissed her right on her nose. “Drummer is fine. I have installed him in the room that houses my armour and weapons, which has given him superior status in the canine hierarchy around here. But,” he warned, “I draw the line at my bed – one paw and he’s out in the stable.” Grinning, he slipped his arm around her waist and gave her a reassuring hug. “He will be fine tonight and you will see him in the morning.”
“Oh, thank you.” Relieved, she let him lead her quickly along the passage and down the stairs. They stopped outside a pair of ornately carved double doors. A guard wearing blue and silver stood outside.
“Do not worry: I am not going to leave your side.” Amroth held her arm firmly. She was grateful: her legs felt like jelly. The guard opened the door and before she could prevaricate Amroth led her through into the ante-room.
Devoran had no time to take in any of the other occupants, because immediately Prince Imrahil advanced towards them and her vista was taken up by his upright figure, swathed in dark blue. She had of course met him briefly at the wedding – standing in line with a hundred other guests — and had thought him imposing. That impression had accounted for some of her nerves, but now she could only see kindness in his dark eyes.
The rest of the introductions passed by in a whirl, but already her racing heart had slowed. She could not doubt the genuine welcome she received. Alphros especially made no attempt to hide his pleasure at having her back.
He tugged at her arm when she was talking to his mother. “Will you sit next to me at dinner?”
“Alphros,” Meren admonished, “Devoran will not want to listen to your chatter on her first night here.”
He looked so crestfallen that Devoran weakened. “I am happy to listen to your chatter, Alphros, but I won’t have you sitting next to me unless you turn out your pockets first. I am taking no chances with creepy-crawly things.”
Laughter erupted round the room. Elphir ruffled his son’s black hair, reasonably tidy for once. “You behave yourself, young man; we don’t want to frighten Devoran away. I can’t imagine that Amroth would be able to find anyone else to have him.”
“I don’t doubt you’re right,” Erchi agreed. “And Devoran led him a fine dance. She kept running away from him. I’ve never seen my little brother in such a state.”
Amroth couldn’t argue with that, laughing he winked at her. Devoran’s cheeks went pink, and Meren touched her on the arm, very much amused. “You know, Devoran, if you are going to marry Amroth, it would be as well to learn not to blush.”
Devoran put her hand to her hot cheeks. But his father intervened, taking her arm and leading her aside for a moment. In spite of Devoran’s nerves Amroth knew his father would put her at her ease. She was doing so well and it had to be difficult.
“Talking of your wedding, my dear,” Imrahil smiled kindly at her, “I have discussed a date with Amroth, but don’t let him bully you. It will not take place until you are ready.”
Devoran glanced across to him. Amroth moved closer; twining his fingers in hers, he lowered his voice. “We will talk about it tomorrow. When you have rested properly and feel more at home.”
She nodded, looking a little relieved.
“Right,” Imrahil announced. “I think we will eat. And Alphros, any mischief and you will have me to deal with.”
His grandfather’s threat worked, because Alphros behaved impeccably, only plaguing Devoran with questions, mostly on the possibility of bears coming to the coast for the winter. Amroth watched her visibly relax as she chattered with the little boy, immersing herself in the close family life they shared. As the meal came to an end Alphros was sent off to bed. Amroth knew Devoran would be tired, but he wanted a few minutes alone with her. And he just had to tease; he loved to see her colour rise.
“Devoran, now that you are completely sure of my intentions will you come for a walk with me before you retire, or do I have to call for Hisael, my esquire and a whole Company of men?”
“If I were you, Devoran,” Elphir said in his dry way, “I would not even consider going at all.”
But she did, of course. Amroth led her across the courtyard and up to the top of the wall. The breeze had dropped, the evening was balmy and still. The tang of the sea mixed with the heady scent of the moonflowers, their trumpet blooms glowing bright white in the fading light. With her arm tucked in his, he could feel the warmth of her skin beneath the delicate silk dress, and relished the closeness. He had her home; he had her safe.
Past the lookout tower, they reached an unlit seat. Amroth guided her into the niche. “It is just out of sight of the guards.” Immediately he felt her tense, but squashing his amusement, he pulled her down by his side. “Devoran, it will be a while until our marriage. I want you to relax, have some fun and recover from the loss of your father. I have no intention of even thinking of forestalling our wedding night, and I want you to trust me.”
She had the grace to smile an apology, and snuggled against him. “I do. I shall always trust you, Amroth. But it has been a long and rather overwhelming day.”
“I know. I just wanted to sit with you for a while.” He laid one arm around her shoulders, twisting a length of her hair through his fingers. “Nothing more, just sit and enjoy the peace together.”
Neither of them said anything for a moment, but Amroth had the feeling she was working herself up to saying something. Mindful of his father’s warning, he waited for her to voice any fears. Then sensing some real anxiety he hugged her gently against him. “What is it? You have something on your mind, I can tell.”
Her words came out as a whisper. “Amroth, could you please arrange to sell Col.”
“Sell Col, but why? He will like being here and has already made friends on the journey.” What had brought that on?
She looked surprised. “Do horses make friends?”
“Of course they do, and sometimes enemies. But generally they like living together. Why do you wish to sell him, Devoran?”
“I need a wedding dress. And other clothes. I cannot keep wearing your sister’s.”
“Well, yes indeed, but there is no need to sell Col. We must have storerooms full of silks and satins, but if there is nothing you like a merchant will call. Calaerdis will help you; she has a knack for it.” Her demeanour stiffened, there was something bothering her. “Devoran, what is the matter? Please tell me.”
The troubled gaze dropped, eyes studying her lap. Nervous fingers played with the silk sleeve of her gown. “If my father were alive and in his right mind, he would have wished to pay for my wedding dress.”
Amroth’s heart lurched with both compassion and love as he realised pride stopped her wanting to take too much before she was his wife. He thought quickly. “Yes, he would, without a doubt. Let me think. It would be a shame to sell Col; he is a very nice horse, ideal for nervous riders. I know what we will do. Tomorrow we will go to the scribe. Col can be entered into the Palace ledger, and his value noted, just as we do if we buy a horse. There will be enough credit for your wedding dress and anything else you require.”
Her head shot up. “Are you sure?”
Damn right! He would prime the scribe first thing in the morning. “Yes, of course I am sure, and it is the best for Col. If you sell him, he may not go to a good master and he will be useful to us.”
“Thank you.” The smile returned to her face. “That eases a worry.”
Amroth pulled her head down on his shoulder and kissed deep into the glory of her hair. His father was right, as always. She must be hiding all sorts of things.
To be continued.
Original Characters in this chapter.
Devoran - daughter of Duinhir, Lord of Morthond.
Alhael - son of Duinhir’s elder sister. Devoran’s cousin.
Calaerdis - Imrahil’s mistress
Princess Meren - Elphir’s wife
Ana- G Junior maid in the Palace
Hisael- G Senior maid in the Palace. Once maid to Lothíriel
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.