21. Revelation Part 1
Revelation Part I
Minas Tirith FA 18
'This should fit.' Eldarion held out a dull brown tunic before throwing it onto the bed.
'Dearth!' Elfwine let out the expletive, and dropped the tunic in disgust. A large stain marred one side of the decrepit woollen garment. 'Where did you find that? It stinks. I thought all the orcs had fled Gondor.'
'It's mine, but I think it got covered in boar dung,' Eldarion said laughing. 'I wore it last time I went hunting in Ithilien.'
'Then I suggest you wear it now and find me something else. I know we need to go in disguise, but no one will come near me if I wear that.'
Eldarion looked back up from his rummage in the wardrobe and raised a disdainful eyebrow. 'Who do you want to come near you? Are you hoping to attract a buxom barmaid?'
'No, but I want to be able to buy a jug of ale without scattering all the other customers.'
'It will have to be this then.' He chucked over a screwed-up bundle of grey wool which Elfwine caught with one hand.
Giving it the sniff test, Elfwine chuckled. 'It smells a lot better, anyway.' He shook it out, relieved to see no stains on it, just a few holes near the hem. 'Have you got mice?'
'No,' Eldarion pulled out another tunic, this time plain brown, and held it against himself. 'But I remember Menelwë's pup taking a fancy to it.'
'Oh, I wondered what the hairs were, so I am going to have to wear a dog's bed.'
'Don't be so fussy,' Eldarion said. 'And you can't wear those shiny boots, anyone can see the quality in them.' He threw over a rough linen shirt and a pair of scuffed boots, which landed on Elfwine's lap.
'Ouch!' Glaring at his friend, Elfwine pushed the boots to the floor before shrugging off his shirt and tunic. He quickly donned the stuff Eldarion had found. When he wriggled into the boots, they pinched a bit, but he did want to visit the fair without guards, so it was worth a bit of discomfort.
'Why don't you cut the toes if they're too tight,' Eldarion suggested, seeing him wince. 'I won't be ever wearing them again. And it will look the part. The scruffier we look, the less we'll have to pay for anything. As soon as they see a noble the stallholders put the price up.'
Elfwine took out his knife and sawed at the hard leather. 'I hope you are going to be able to get us out without being seen after all this effort.'
Eldarion tapped his nose. 'Why do you think I moved into this room last year? I got entirely fed up not being able to go anywhere without a clutch of guards with me.'
'One of the disadvantages of our position, as my father likes to tell me. But he didn't have it so bad at my age. Although he says they never gave him any peace after he was made king, not until I was born anyhow.'
Eldarion pulled his tunic over his head and grimaced. 'Yes, I could have done with brothers rather than sisters. It would have made a lot of difference.'
'Probably,' Elfwine agreed. 'But I still don't see how we are going to get out undetected with the guards everywhere. What's the difference with this room?'
'Ah...you shall see.' As soon as he had finished dressing, Eldarion held the wardrobe door open wide, pushed aside the clothes, and waved his hand invitingly. 'Come into the closet said the spider to the fly.'
Intrigued, Elfwine bounded over and peered into the dark hole Eldarion had opened up. A secret passage! He couldn't believe it. 'Well, I hope Shelob hasn't left any relations around.'
Eldarion laughed. 'I don't think so. Wait until I get a candle.'
Moments later Elfwine followed him down the hidden passage, the flickering light of the candle showing smooth stone walls marked in places with detailed drawings depicting men fleeing from a great wave, and ships tossing on a stormy sea. Farther on there were likenesses of people, elves and men, warriors with long spears and heavy looking shields. 'You say Faramir told you about it.'
'One night when he had too much wine. It happens rarely, but when it does he comes out with all sorts of things.'
'So, it was his room?'
'Yes, and he found the passage by accident. Evidently the back of the closet had been boarded up in the past, but when searching for a kitten one day he discovered it was hollow behind. He told no-one and his father never found out. He said he'd often come and go this way when he wanted to be alone.'
Who'd have thought Faramir would be so devious. But Elfwine was not surprised he'd kept the passage secret from his father, from what he'd heard about Denethor he couldn't blame Faramir from wanting to escape sometimes. 'Did he say who had done the drawings?'
'He thought they were ages old, and likes to think Anorian drew them when Minas Tirith was still Minas Anor. But who knows?'
How ancient everything was here. Elfwine had thought Meduseld old until he came to Gondor. But Gondor's history made him think the Riddermark had only been created yesterday. 'Where do we come out? Will we still have to get past the guards at the tunnel? And if we cross the open space anywhere near the fountain we'll be seen '
'Wait and see,' Eldarion smirked. 'As long as you're not squeamish.'
The passage went on for ages, but just as Elfwine was going to ask how much further they had to go they came to a heavy wooden door.
'Keep quiet,' Eldarion warned. 'There might be servants around.'
'Fengel's guts!' Elfwine exclaimed when Eldarion prised the door open. 'It smells like a midden.'
'It is,' Eldarion told him, 'but follow me and you'll be all right.'
He didn't believe he was doing this. Elfwine balanced precariously on a stone ledge mere feet above the stinking pit. He might as well have worn his own clothes: they would have been unrecognisable at the end of this lot.
At last, he stepped onto a wide stone slab and Eldarion opened another door – he'd never been so thankful for anything as when they emerged into the fresh air. But where were they? Getting his bearings he realised they'd come out right next to one of the guesthouses built against the Citadel wall. But they were the wrong side. 'We're still in the Citadel,' Elfwine hissed under his breath. 'What good is that?'
'Patience.' Eldarion reached a hand up to a crack in the stonework and pulled himself onto the guesthouse roof. 'Come on, it's easy.'
Almost before Elfwine could join him, Eldarion had disappeared over the wall. When Elfwine looked over he saw he had jumped a few feet onto the roof of the stables. Yep, worth the effort as minutes later they were walking jauntily down the road into the city.
There were plenty of people about, but none gave them a second glance. Once they reached the lower levels, the street filled even more, and they had to weave their way through a throng of happy revellers, who were mostly strolling down towards the square. The main celebration wasn't starting for a couple of days, but it seemed everyone had already got going on the merrymaking, as stalls, storytellers and mummers had set up on every bit of free space. On another occasion they might have lingered, or at least visited one of the many taverns that lurked in the side streets, but not today. Today the fair beckoned with its mix of bawdy and unsavoury entertainment. Who knew how long it would be before they were missed, they needed to make the most of every moment of freedom.
'Out my way, lad!' Elfwine swivelled around about to remonstrate, but the man, who had a large sack over his shoulder, elbowed him out of the way, and Eldarion grabbed his arm.
'Down here!' He pulled him towards some steps. Old and worn they descended steeply, bringing them out into the main square in a few minutes.
A constant stream of people were going in and out of the gates and Elfwine kept his head down when he saw blond heads amongst the dark, although his own dark hair gave him the advantage of melting into the general populace. And once out onto the Pelennor, where what seemed like hundreds of colourful tents had been erected, he relaxed, thinking any of his kinsmen enjoying the fair were probably too good-natured to split on him. Even if they did recognise him.
But there were plenty of Gondorian guards around. They saw one pair collar a pickpocket, dragging him towards the lockup that had been erected against the city wall. 'Are the guards likely to recognise you?' he asked Eldarion.
'Shouldn't think so. They're not from one of the companies who are barracked in the Citadel.' Eldarion grinned. 'What say we grab a mug of ale before we see what else is on offer?'
'Lead me to it.' Elfwine looked around and spotted a tent where a few barrels had been turned upside down to form seats. 'Over there looks promising.'
The ale looked good, a nice frothy head, but Eldarion took a swig and coughed. 'Grief, it's as rough as a boar's hide.'
'You must be used to finer brew; this would be good stuff in the Mark.' Elfwine took a great swig. Having falsely maligned the Riddermark's brewers, he just managed not to cough himself. 'It puts hairs on your chest, as Eóthain would say.'
'Well, I suppose it's not so bad when you get used to it.' Eldarion drained the mug and stood up. 'Come on, what shall we see first? I heard there's a lion-tamer somewhere.'
Elfwine grinned. 'I would have thought you'd give that a miss.'
'I might wheedle a go, try and get my own back.'
But the owner of the mangy lion wouldn't hear of it, telling them to shove off out of his way. Their disguises certainly appeared to be working, as Elfwine thought no one had ever spoken quite so harshly to him, or sworn quite so vehemently. They spent a half hour watching cock fighting – an area had been marked out by crates behind one of the stalls. They jostled for space at the front with a crowd of ale-breathed, scruffy men who betted heavily on the outcome of each fight, but then made a quick exit when a brawl started over an accusation of cheating. However, they avoided the bear baiting, neither liking to see an animal so abused. Cocks were different: they fought all the time anyway.
Feeling hungry they left the rougher part of the fairground to seek out something tasty. Weaving their way through a horde of people watching a troupe of acrobats, they saw a queue at a pie-stall. Those served were coming away munching and smiling, so they joined the end of the line. The pies, dished up by a jolly fellow who looked as if he lived on his wares, were certainly good – golden pastry stuffed with pigeon, walnuts and fruit. Elfwine swallowed the last mouthful and wiped his sleeve across his face. 'Another mug of ale to wash it down, I think.'
This time they made a better choice and sat with foaming tankards watching the hubbub going on around them. Eldarion stared at one of the stilt walkers in amazement – the man was dancing to the tune of Maid of Gondor, a popular ballad. 'You remember when we tried stilt walking?'
Elfwine laughed. 'You fell off and hit Elboron over, right into that muddy pool and...' he stopped, not believing what he had seen out of the corner of his eye. The ale went down on the table with a thump and he clutched at Eldarion's arm. 'Look over there!'
'Damnation!' Eldarion jumped to his feet. Two girls were sauntering past, their attention focused on the stilt-walker; one had black hair, the other blond. Elfwine would recognise Ceolwen anywhere, and his cousin Elenna, although he had never seen her wearing a flouncy homespun dress before. He knew they were friends, drawn together over the years by similar wayward personalities and their love of riding, but he had never expected them to get up to a lark like this.
Eldarion got there before him; grabbing Elenna's shoulder, he spun her round. 'What do you think you are up to? Are you mad coming here!'
Elenna's black eyes blazed as she raked them up and down, taking in the shabby clothes worn by the heir to Gondor. 'I could ask the same of you, but I won't. Because unlike you, Eldarion, I mind my own business and don't go around telling others how to behave.'
'Don't be ridiculous,' Eldarion shot back. 'It's a lot different for men coming down here than it is for highborn ladies. Anything could happen to you.'
'Men, I don't see any men,' Elenna jeered, 'only a couple of boys who as likely couldn't find helms big enough to fit their swollen heads.'
'Now listen here...'
Elfwine left them to it, and took Ceolwen's hand. She looked very different than usual, wearing a slightly gaudy dress not at all to his liking. She normally wore riding clothes, although when she did dress up her style was tasteful and attractive. But he knew better than to remonstrate with her when she'd done no different than him. 'How did you get out without being seen? We had to go via a midden.'
Ceolwen broke into laughter and made a play of sniffing his tunic. He didn't mind, having her close was a pleasure to be enjoyed. One that happened infrequently. 'Smell anything?'
'You'll pass, there's nothing except a bit of mustiness.'
'Well, it wasn't very pleasant, but worth it to get away.'
'We fared better saying we were going shopping, although we never said where.' A wicked grin flashed across her pretty face. 'I can tell you don't like my maid's best dress, but I can't say I'm keen on your rigout either. Although I suppose we won't stand out, there are many like us around.'
'Somehow you still don't look like a servant.' It must be something to do with the way she held herself, and Elfwine made a mental note to try and appear more subservient himself to aid his disguise. 'But Eldarion was right: you do have to be a bit careful. There are a lot of roughnecks around, many the worse for drink.'
She cocked an eyebrow impishly. 'Then I suggest you escort us, if you're that worried.'
Elfwine laughed and formally offered his arm. 'It will be my pleasure, my lady.'
'Oh, what a good idea,' Elenna butted in, having finished her argument with Eldarion. 'I want to go to the freak show, but Ceolwen didn't dare.'
Ceolwen sighed. 'It's not that I don't dare, I just dislike that sort of thing. Making fun of people has never appealed to me.'
'It's the only way they've got of earning a living,' Elenna argued.
'Maybe.' Ceolwen shook her head. 'But I'd rather do something else. There's some unofficial horse racing going on behind the stalls I would love to watch. It looked a bit rough down there, but now we have an escort... '
'Well, you go on and I'll meet you later,' Elenna said. 'I'm going to see the freak show. But don't worry, I'll find you afterwards.' She turned to go.
Elfwine opened his mouth to protest – his cousin really was a handful, and he ought to try and get her to see sense. But Eldarion stayed her with a hand on her shoulder. 'You'll not go on your own, even if I have to drag you kicking and screaming back to the city.'
Laughing, Elenna shook off his hand, tossing her head provocatively. 'That really will cause a stir, it would be better if you came with me.'
'Why should I, there are other things I prefer to see.' He appealed to Elfwine. 'You speak to her, she's your cousin.'
Since when had that made any difference to Elenna? Past experience made him think it was not even worth trying. Her next words confirmed his suspicion.
'Why should Elfwine tell me what to do? He's not supposed to be here either. In fact I bet a few members of his guard are already panicking.'
'They won't have missed us yet,' Eldarion told her, grinning at his friend.
Elenna's face lit at that. 'In that case you have plenty of time to do the things you want and still escort me to the Freak Show.' Looking up at Gondor's prince, honey-sweet, she fluttered her long black lashes. 'Please.'
Eldarion scowled at her, but then let out a long-suffering sigh. 'All right, I suppose you'll not give up. But stay close to me, there are some queer sorts that go to those places.'
He took her arm, and after a glance of triumph over her shoulder to Ceolwen, she skipped along beside him. A few yards further on Eldarion bent his head to catch something she was saying, laughing at whatever it was.
Elfwine watched them go off grinning to himself; they soon had forgotten their differences and looked very companionable. His amusement was not missed by Ceolwen and she tugged at his arm affectionately. 'What are you laughing about?'
'Those two. I have a bet with Eldarion that he will end up marrying her.'
'Really?' Ceolwen considered for a moment, her eyes following them. 'You might very well win: she has mentioned him quite a few times in the last couple of days. A bit disparagingly, perhaps, but I wonder if that's to cover up her real feelings.'
'It wouldn't surprise me; I've never known her admit to anything. But let's forget them for a while and go and find this horse racing you were on about.'
'It's down that way.' Ceolwen pointed to where the stalls thinned out a bit, the farthest part of the fairground from the city gates. They ambled in the general direction through the press of people, stopping to buy some sweetmeats at a colourful stall where the owner was stirring a bubbling pot of honey, butter and nuts, finding it difficult to keep up with demand.
But the delicacy made for sticky fingers, and there was no real way of dealing with them other than to keep popping them into one's mouth. Elfwine eventually wiped his down his tunic; he doubted Eldarion would ever wear it again anyway. But Ceolwen daintily sucked hers, grinning mischievously at him.
'We might as well make the most of this, once they find out you escaped you will be watched even closer.'
Elfwine rather hoped he could get back to the Citadel without anyone finding out. But, anyway, he doubted he would get into much trouble as long as he was safe. His father certainly understood how hard it was to be so restricted and did try to make his life as free as possible. Hence the days spent rafting down the river which he had enjoyed enormously.
Ceolwen pulled a face when he told her about them. 'I'm glad you had a good time, but wish I could do something like that. Remember that however constrained you are, it is no more than for me. Much less in fact because being a woman limits many things.'
Elfwine opened his mouth to say that of course there were things she would never be able to enjoy because women were vulnerable, but shut it quickly, thinking better of it. A sure way to start an argument. Instead he pointed to a gap between the stalls where he could see horses. 'We can cut through there.'
The temporary race track curved in an oval, its start and finish line nearest to some stalls selling food, tack and ale. Elfwine nearly did an about turn when he saw groups of loutish looking young men hanging around, not wanting to expose Ceolwen to any bad language or behaviour. But she scornfully rejected that idea saying that she was unlikely to come across anything she had not heard before, having been brought up in a fortress of fighting men.
'Stick close then,' Elfwine warned. 'And let's go down to where the horses are tethered.' It looked a bit clearer down there and he'd often found that non-riders and those who knew little about horses, liked to bet on them but preferred to keep well away.
A race was just about to start, and on their way to the horse-lines the pair, a bay and a roan, thundered past them. Neither horse would have got anywhere against one of the Riddermark's finest – showy, but not enough muscle to be really fast. He thought the roan looked the best; his choice confirmed when it crossed the line first. A great roar of approval went up, so it had likely drawn the heavier bets.
Ceolwen studied them critically as their owners rubbed them down. 'Any of ours could give those two a head start and still win.'
'More,' Elfwine said with a laugh, looking towards the line of horses. 'You're being generous. They all look local bred and I'll bet there's nothing that would get anywhere near one of ours, except perhaps that chestnut. But he's on the heavy side. Why don't we look at the rest and amuse ourselves by seeing if we can pick out the likely winners.'
But Ceolwen had stopped, her head on one side as though something unusual had caught her attention.
Elfwine followed her gaze. 'Eorl's bones! Where did she come from?' A grey mare was being led towards the horse-lines by a tall lad with a mass of dark-gold hair. He started conversing with a swarthy man who was holding on to the big chestnut gelding and even at this distance it was obvious they were setting up a race. One that seemed to be causing a lot of excitement and eager betting.
He stared at the lad and the mare. Of course he didn't know all of his kinsmen, but thought those here would be familiar to him. 'Who's that? I don't recognise him.'
Ceolwen shook her head. 'No, neither do I. He certainly never came with us. But I suppose he could have come with some of the Westfold men. Although something's strange. What do you think of the horse?'
'A beauty. Elegant but powerful. That mare definitely has a lot of Mearas blood.'
'Wingfoot's if I were to take a guess.'
Elfwine spent a few more moments looking. 'You're right. I won't argue about that. It shows in her shoulders, and the shape of her head.'
'But a horse from Wingfoot's line wouldn't come cheap,' Ceolwen pondered, still not moving. 'Surely he has to be a noble. So why don't we know him?' Elfwine caught her hand. 'No point in speculating, we'll go and find out.'
List of original characters appearing or mentioned in this chapter.
Menelwë Aragorn's eldest daughter.
Ceolwen Elfhelm's youngest daughter.
Elfwine – born FA1
Eldarion – born TA 3020
Elphir and Meren:
Alphros m – born 3017; Elphin m – born 3020 ; Eldir m – born FA4; plus one girl.
Erchirion and Inayah:
Two daughters and one son.
Amrothos and Devoran:
Elenna f – born FA2; Rosriel f – born FA5; Carafin m – born FA7 (became Lord of Morthond when Devoran was given her inheritance); Baranir m – born FA8; Lindis f born FA11 (married Déor and Byrde's son, Caedda)
Eóthain and Welwyn:
Leofcwen f – born Yule 3020 ; Eadrid m – born FA5; plus three more.
Déor and Byrde:
Caedda m – born FA6 (married Lindis; four children including Osmund)
Ealgyþe f born FA 27; Éadwig m born FA29; plus two more sons and one daughter.
Elfhelm and Wilflede
Bronwyn – f born 3019
Caedmon – m born 3021
Ceolwen – f born FA 3
Hrodgar – m born FA 5
Æbbe and Godric
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.