7. Chapter 6
Having noted his aptitudes, Captian Angon had assigned my father to a unit of scouts whose often dangerous task it was to track and locate orc bands and spy out the movements of the enemy in the wild country. Despite his youth he soon earned the respect of his more seasoned brothers, fighting fiercely in his first real combat with the enemy a week after he had joined them. He was good with the bow, and had a hunter's patience, being able to remain quiet and still for long periods waiting in ambush or attempting to evade the enemy whenever the tables turned. They often roamed high up on the moors and even into Angmar at times. Only small groups of two or three were sent on these missions, travelling by night for the most part, and occasionally they did not return. My father proved especially adept at this sort of work, for what he lacked in the strength and power of his fallen brother he more than made up for in cunning and speed of thought. The tales he brought back from the north were never good though, the King Of Angmar grew in strength and where once a small host might have held the day there were now stone fortifications and towers, and an enemy mustering in much greater numbers than they had ever seen before.
The next winter was a cruel one, and for three months the snows kept the soldiers in their barracks and the orcs in their dens, and the North Marches Of Rhudaur had a brief respite. With spring however came news of the death of the King, Eldaer had finally succumbed. I do not know how well he would have been mourned in our house, I am sure my grandfather held him responsible in some measure both for the lack of preparedness that had cost him his lands and the life of one son, and the ill fated adventure that had cost him another.
So Prince Elion became King Elion, and was crowned at Lastbridge with great ceremony, and Ulfraer came down with a retinue from High Burgh to swear his allegiance and fealty, as far as it went. He then went on a grand tour of his new realm, or what remained of it first south to Watersmeet in the Angle, then to the Elfford, then up the North Road to Bearcliffe. What reception he would have received had he made it as far as High Burgh or Northford I cannot say, but the weather had been foul for days and he ate something that disagreed with him and fell ill and decided to call a halt and return home. So began his inauspicious reign, whilst he had been a passable leader of men under arms he did not have the patience or temper required for statecraft, and was likely ill advised to boot by the likes of Barachon.
Another hard winter followed, and then a fine spring. Galdirion the scout was now an experienced soldier, tempered by the great hardships he continually endured in the wilds. The regard that had grown between him and Faelneth soon blossomed into love, for the time they had together was always short, and as it is in time of war they never knew whether each parting might be their last. Branniel, seeing how much happiness and surcease it brought her son, and knowing the girl's better qualities only too well eventually softened her opposition to the match, but I suspect still secretly hoped to claim a Dunedain maid for him eventually. My grandfather had no such misgivings, and teased the pair of them mercilessly and often laid plots with them against Branniel in order that they might steal some time alone together. He knew only too well how precious and shortlived their happiness might be.
Later that year though he had cause to rue that leniency, and Branniel certainly did. Faelneth came to them in trepidation one day in late summer and admitted to them that she was now with child. There was much fury, dismay and debate in the house, and many tears were shed. Branniel at first was all for sending her back to her people in the Shaws, but Carandir would not hear of it and gradually began to win her round, the baby was his blood regardless and he thought well of the girl anyway. When my father next returned from duty he completed the task of changing his mother's heart, crying out with surprise and delight when he heard the news and immediately proposing that they be wed. After that she grudgingly admitted defeat and gave them her blessing, and they were quickly married by Lord Beldir in a simple ceremony at the Keep, accompanied by a small group of comrades and friends.
So the heir of one of the Kingdom's oldest families, who could trace their line back unbroken to one of the faithful of Westernesse who came out of the storm in one of Isildur's ships, was wed to a penniless wench. But in truth he was no longer an heir to much, and she was far more than a wench, and I arrived, in rude health and bawling at the top of my voice seven months later. They named me Esteldir, a sign of hope in difficult times, and my own story is begun at last.
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