63. Chapter 63
The corporal set the heavy tome onto it and moved back several steps so that Rin could leaf through the pages. Each was crowded with a small, neat script and Hanasian heard his wife suck in a breath as she read, flicking back and forth and then glancing over to the piles she had made.
"Where did you find this," Hanasian asked as his wife read.
"I found it a week ago when I was helping the Lady Rose here. It fell out of a desk we were moving."
"Do you know what it is?" Hanasian continued, studying the young corporeal. He had a hint of the North in him.
Dorne shook his head, "Oh no. I didn't read it. It's all numbers anyway. Makes no sense. But when I saw that the Princess was gathering records, I thought it might be needed."
The Princess, fortunately for Dorne, had darted away to one of her piles of paper and was too busy ratting through it to notice the title or take offence. Hanasian clapped a hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"You've done well, Corporal," he said and Dorne brightened, "Now get out of here before she realises what you just called her."
Dorne hurried out, trying to figure out what he had said that might be offensive as he went. No sooner had he reached the hall was he summonsed back. He peeked through the door to find his commander's sister was looking straight at him. She had a way of seeing clear through to a man's spine and she was doing it now.
"Corporal, have my brother bring my Rangers and Captain Videgavia here," she said and he nodded, anxious to be away. Then she smiled at him and turned back to the library. Dazzled, the corporal was finally released.
Inside the library Rin drew a deep breath and considered her husband.
"You have it?" he asked and she nodded.
Videgavia was the first to arrive. He stalked through the library doors, considered the two people inside and asked, "Now what?"
The Rangers were next and while Videgavia perched on a stone windowsill, they lined the walls. Loch was the last to arrive, looking harried.
"How bad is it?" he asked, the question falling out of his mouth as soon as he saw his sister's expression.
"According to Voromir's own records, and reports from various individuals, the people of this land have been extorted for years. Decades," Hanasian stated and looked to his wife.
"A false tithe – applied to the people instead of their lord and at rates far exceeding that which their lord owed," Rin said, "Over the previous three or so years I have been tithed, the rate has been a constant five percent. Here, it has been eleven percent for two years and fifteen for a third. I can only presume the sharp increase was necessary to fund certain clandestine, treasonous activities such as recruiting criminals from far afield to engage in various activities."
"You have proof of this?" Farbarad pressed and Rin nodded.
"What now, then?" Videgavia asked.
"I need to get word of this back to Faramir, and fast. Not only that, we will need a larger ship – one capable of the voyage north. Perhaps I will be able to win some relief for the people here. Whatever the case, the extortion will cease."
Men nodded, murmuring amongst themselves until Hanasian held up a hand, "But that is not all. Voromir could not have collected this false tithe alone. Those that assisted him are complicit now."
"It explains why no one wants to talk about Voromir," Loch said and then he scowled, "Odds are that most of the officers of his troops here would have been either directly involved or aware of it. Kick backs, favours…an ugly business."
"We have to bring this to a close, once and for all. The people here must see that a change has come. Things will not be as they once were. And for that, Loch, you will need more men," Hanasian said.
"Already arranged," Videgavia announced, "With your leave, Doc, I'll establish a permanent staging post here in the south much as we have in the north. That will supply your Steward with additional, reliable, troops and give the Company the scope to recruit out of Minas Tirith to replenish ranks."
"You'll need a commanding officer here," Hanasian said and Videgavia smiled.
"I have one."
Loch muttered at his boots while Rin assembled everything in her head, "Right, then. That's that. Vid, I'll need a detachment to take that river-runner back to Minas Tirith with my message for Faramir. They can fetch back the larger ship and Loch's missing sergeant. He'll need the man now more than ever.
"Loch, you will need to secure Voromir's officers for further questioning. There is no telling how the ranks will react to that. It could be ugly. Farabarad, we'll need provisions for the voyage north. Edhellond could do with the income, I suspect. I made certain undertakings along those lines to the tavern-keeper. I believe you'll find him amenable."
"And the officers? Who will interrogate them?" Farbarad asked warily, expecting her to announce something risky and foolish – such as questioning them herself.
Rin smiled coldly at that, "Oh…I'm sure I can induce a certain Easterling we all know to assist."
What followed proved to be watershed for that part of Southern Gondor. It took time and care to root out those involved in the false tithe and the more people they found, the more they uncovered by way of additional crimes. Smuggling, it emerged, was another significant arm of Voromir's activities. In that he was carrying on a long established family tradition that seemed to stretch all the way back to when his forefathers had first decided to establish their halls. Gradually, the people of Edhellond came to understand that the ways of the past were done. Their new Lady succeeded in winning relief for them and set about making much needed improvements.
The dock was overhauled, storage buildings erected, a permanent market established and a school. Negotiations were opened that would bring trade to Edhellond. There was even talk of a healer coming, they had heard, once he could be brought down out of the North. Videgavia was reasonably confident that Bells would do well down south. He had a contingent of Company men to see to here as well as the local people and Rin's assessment of his skills suggested he was sound enough to deal with most things. What he couldn't manage could be sent to Minas Tirith.
A steady stream of reports started to flow back to Faramir in Minas Tirith. And, while Faramir had indeed provided a ship for them, it did not go north for a good while. There was much to be done there and even if Hanasian and Rin could leave it, circumstances interceded. Their third and fourth child arrived, both at the same time and this time without incident, and Elian was suddenly the sole daughter in a sea of sons. It took four years to return to Cardolan and when they did, they found that the land had flourished there as well.
Surprisingly, Videgavia thought, most of the Company were still there. Certainly the Cats were, and Berlas and Hamoor. Most of the Easterlings had stayed behind with Loch, along with Wulgof and Molguv. Khule, however, had elected to come north. Videgavia suspected it had something to do with the twins. Now two years old, the two lads and the silver haired veteran were often seen in each other's company. The Company were not alone. The complement of Rangers had expanded, which was just as well given that the Lady of Cardolan was expecting once again. What had surprised them, though, was something else entirely.
People had started to return to Cardolan. Farms were springing up, hamlets forming. The land was returning to life, a new Spring, and they welcomed the return of their Lord and Lady gladly. North and South, then, people prospered and flourished, nurtured and protected. On a bright autumn afternoon, Hanavia and his two brothers swooped through a drift of fallen leaves while Elian wove the dark hair of her younger sister, the youngest of them all, into a braid that would last all of five minutes once Adanel tired of sitting still and rushed after her elder brothers.
Rin laced her fingers over her stomach and stared up at the branches that swayed overhead. Hanasian was stretched beneath her, one of his hands resting on her swelling belly.
"Really, I think we should stop after this one,"
"Yes. We'll run out of Rangers. And room in the house."
Rin winced at a second lusty kick, "Having a large family was your idea, as I recall."
"Yes, and it's one of my finest ideas yet,"
"Hanavia, put your brothers down! On their feet," Rin called sternly and then, "If I have to get up and come over there, no one will be pleased – least of all me."
A short while later, Rin was on her feet and descending in maternal wrath upon their brood. Hanavia was eleven now and due for squiring, Hanasian thought as he watched his eldest son. He resolved to discuss a placement at Fornost with Rin again and soon. It was a prickly subject for Rin, who clung to her family with understandable fierceness after losing so much of it. Somewhere close, but not too close, Hanasian thought for then it would not be too much of a wrench for son or his mother.
Elian was all sweetness and innocence, though from the way Hanavia kept glancing at her, it seemed likely that she was the instigator of whatever had transpired. Even though he was nearly two years older than her, Elian had Hanavia wrapped around her fingers. Adanel was three years of age and clung to her mother's skirt while voicing her discontent. Meanwhile the twins, both aged six and sharing their mother's pale hair, were maintaining a brave, united front. They had looked suitably abashed before their mother even arrived to pull them into order, though the way they kept nudging each other and giggling ruined the effect.
While Rin crouched to convene a maternal court, Hanasian shook his head. In his darkest of moments he could not have conceived of this. Even in the early years of their marriage it had seemed uncertain. But now he beheld a beautiful family, one he had fashioned with the woman he loved above and beyond all else. One of his making. There had been times when he had wondered what he was fighting for and whether it had been worth it. Now he knew.
Justice dispensed, Rin climbed to her feet again and rubbed at her back. In another four months, they would welcome their seventh child. She turned towards where he lay, smiling to herself and shaking her head. The starving, waifish thief he had quite literally collided with was now in the prime of her years. She still had sticky fingers and a nose for mayhem, but she had come into her own proper now. He had never met her birth father, but he could see an echo of his pride faintly in how she carried herself.
She had become one of Aragorn's staunchest supporters and the same could be said of his son and heir, Eldarion. There was no question of needing a Prefect now. She capably and ably dealt with Cardolan and Edhellond in her own right. She had settled into her own skin, as Farbarad put it. Only a fool would cross her path with ill-will now. Between her consolidated position and rank at court, the wealth she had carefully built through canny trade, and those who served as Rangers or members of the Company, Rosmarin of Cardolan was a force to contend with.
She settled down beside him on the grass again and fondly muttered, "Monsters."
Hanasian levered himself up onto his elbows to kiss his wife, "Our monsters."
She smiled down at him, eyes intently gazing into his own, calm and untroubled, "Yes indeed, my love."
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.