25. Death of a Prince
"There aren't as many fires now," Ornendil said, watching Osgiliath from Ceure's window. "I think the city's starting to quiet down."
"Your father's men have all gone to the mountains by now," Ceure said. "They'll start making trouble for Castamir soon enough."
"They'll go to Rhovanion," Ornendil said. "Father used to live there when he was a child. Grandmother was one of their people. That's why this happened. That's why Castamir wanted him gone."
Apparently that the blood of 'lesser men' flowed in Eldacar's veins was the reason for his deposition, but Ceure personally thought that he was a far braver man than Castamir – pure Numenorean blood or no – could ever be.
"He'll come back," Ceure said. "He'll come back for you."
"The people of Rhovanion didn't want him to be king in the first place," Ornendil said. "They'll be glad to have him back, but they won't see a reason to fight Castamir."
"Not even to save you?"
Ornendil shook his head. "Family means everything to them, but they wouldn't see the point in a suicide mission. And the other tribes wouldn't rally around them just to save me."
"I'm sorry," Ceure said. She felt responsible somehow. Sauron didn't help Castamir rise, she reminded herself. It's not my fault.
"I wish there was something I could do," Ornendil said.
Someone knocked on the door.
It better not be Castamir, Ceure thought as she hurried to answer it.
It was Castamir, along with a host of soldiers.
"Thank you for taking such good care of the young prince," the usurper said, "but I'm afraid I need him."
"What for?" Ceure demanded.
"I cannot have Eldacar's eldest son alive and well in Osgiliath. He might become the focal point for the rebels' hopes."
Alive and well… "You're going to kill him!" Ceure gasped.
"Yes," Castamir said. "Execute, actually. Now get out of my way."
"No! I won't let you!"
Castamir snapped his fingers and two guards rushed forward to seize Ceure. Castamir himself grabbed the prince, who offered no resistance.
"The tribes wouldn't rally to save me," Ornendil said as he passed Ceure, "but they love vengeance."
"Would you like to come see the execution?" Castamir asked.
"Get out of my house!" Ceure snarled.
She watched it from her balcony. They were just tiny ants, but Ceure imagined she could see the blood spilling from Ornendil's severed neck and into the cold stone.
The tribes wouldn't rally to save me, but they love vengeance… Perhaps there was something Ceure could do after all.
She left the next day at dawn on her magical horse. She didn't stop for anything. The horse vaulted over checkpoints, and she plunged through streams. Past Minas Anor, out of Gondor entirely, and into the Brown Lands.
The lands deserved their names. The vegetation was sparse and small, and for the most part the soil was bare and cracked. It was a dry desert. And an empty desert as well.
Ceure rode for days, and then finally she saw bright flags and huge white tents. The Northmen were famed nomads, and they made camp with style.
"Halt!" a Northman ordered as Ceure got closer.
Her horse thrashed as she reined it in suddenly. "I've got news for Eldacar, if he's here," Ceure said.
The Northman's eyes narrowed. "What is it?" he asked.
"Regarding his son."
"Watch her," the Northman ordered a comrade before hurrying off into the sea of tents.
"Don't try anything," the second guard warned.
"I won't," Ceure said. She slid down from the horse and stretched her legs. She'd spent far too long on horseback.
"You come from Osgiliath?" a man asked as he and the Northman returned. This was Eldacar; Numenor was evident in his face. Ceure pitied him. He was a king from the days of Gondor's glory, doomed to live in the days of its fading.
"Yes," she said. "I rode day and night to get here."
"And you have news about Ornendil?" Eldacar asked. His face was worn with grief, and he looked to be expecting more. He wasn't going to be disappointed.
"I'm afraid Castamir had him executed not five days ago," Ceure said.
Eldacar closed his eyes. "I thought as much," he said at last.
"Executed?" one of the Northmen – he looked like the chief - hissed. "He dared to execute a child? And of the king no less?"
"Castamir is a butcher, plain and simple," Eldacar said. "That's what I've been trying to tell you all along!"
"He killed your son," the chief said. There was a fierce gleam in his eyes. "He dared to spill the blood of Vinitharya and Vidumavi!"
"Myself and my mother," Eldacar explained to Ceure. "This could be it," he murmured. "They'll help me now. I just wish it didn't have to come at so high a price."
"This is an intolerable insult," the chief said. "Send for messengers!" he barked at other Northmen. "Send them to every tribe in the area. We shall avenge Vinitharya's son! We make war on the usurper!"
Eldacar smiled, but it faded quickly. "I have my army now," he whispered. "I only wished I had my son."
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.