The King's drunken growl
roared in my ears as I stormed down the corridor to my room, slamming
the heavy wooden door behind me. For a moment in my rage I contemplated
bolting it shut, then decided that no matter the circumstances, I would
never hold myself captive within my own home. I did want to throw
something, however, but as I quickly turned, my eyes scouring every
surface, nothing seemed appropriate. Then I saw my desk. The ink pot.
From within the fury, my more calm self knew I would regret this, but
emotions won. It went flying through the room and shattered. Inky
rivulets slowly coursed down the surface, joining small shards of glass
on the floor, the juxtaposition of clear and black capturing my
attention. Despite the thick walls of Meduseld, no doubt someone would
be along soon, having heard the slammed door. Though my hasty exits from
the dinner board were more common than not, many in the Golden Hall
shared my displeasure of the King's activities. Displeasure which verged
In that moment I decided that as soon as I was of
age, only a half-year from then, I would leave him. I had been riding
with the marshals of the Mark for a couple of years, spending as much
time with them as I could to stay away from my liege. That evening, I
began making plans. Over the next months, I had to take my older
sisters into confidence, and though they were loath for me to leave,
they concurred that for all concerned, it was probably the only course
On the eve of my turning eighteen, I stood at the board
and calmly told my father, the King, that I would be leaving for Gondor
in the morn. He grew livid, his face red with fury and the several
tankards of ale he had drunk rapidly through the short dinner. He made
as though to strike me, but I caught his hand.
'This is not
behaviour which suits a King of the Mark, Father,' I said through
clenched teeth, then released him. Still furious, he waved at the guards
to escort me from the room while he added to his already full platter. I
knew from the looks on their faces that they did not wish to follow his
commands, and I left so quickly that they did not need to take me by
In the morning, with my squire Fultwine, I began the
journey south to Mundburg, to serve the Steward Turgon, if he would have
Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take
the measure of two things: what's said and what's
~Beowulf, translation by Seamus
Most of the contents of my basket had scattered on the
ground, soon to be crushed by horses' feet or stolen by quick-fingered
boys. 'Swine's swill, Morwen!' I swore at myself under my breath as I
began scurrying to salvage what I could, and it took me a moment to look
up and see what it was that I had collided with to cause my
recently-bartered goods to fall to the stoneway.
I caught my
breath. It was a "him," not an "it." And he was clad
in the livery of Minas Tirith.
Green-hazel eyes met mine as he
crouched down, joining me as I now attempted very quickly to retrieve my
foodstuffs and make as dignified of a departure as I could. I lowered my
gaze back to the ground and said hurriedly, 'You may leave me to this.
It is nothing.'
Our hands brushed as he returned a rogue yam to
my basket, and I bit down on my lower lip to try and stop a shudder of
delight. He continued to rescue my acquisitions, even as he spoke in a
surprisingly melodious baritone, 'Ah, but it is I who managed to run
into you, and for that, my assistance is yours until your belongings
have been saved.'
I chanced another fleeting look at his face,
and saw that he had surprisingly long dark gold hair with a few strands
of grey, though his beard was a reddish colour. He looked
Hastily reverting my eyes back to my basket, I replied, 'Thank you, my
lord. I have close enough to what I should have to be able to return
home without reprimand.'
I made a last glance around me, then
He still stood there. Apparently, he was not aware
that his fellows were watching him, grins on their patrol-weary faces,
and I was embarrassed for him. I was certainly abashed and I wished for
him to go and join his comrades.
'May I be so bold as to ask your
name, she of the heavy basket?'
I stood as regally as I could,
given the circumstances, the familiar noises and scents of the
marketplace giving me security. I had listened carefully this time, and
knew that I heard the slightest undercurrent of an accent to his voice
as he asked the question. Intrigued, I answered.
As he smiled, I brazenly asked, 'And you,
Ranger of Ithilien?'
He stared almost confusedly for a few
moments, then ran his hand through his straight hair.
From the corner of my eye I could see that the
other Rangers had given up on their comrade in arms and were moving on
to their intended destination, an often-visited public house a few roads
I tore my gaze away from him and looked down the busy
cobbled way. 'You shall lose your fellows in a moment. I do thank you
for your aid. You have been most generous in your attentions, but you
will want to join the other Rangers.' I pointed to the group, their
swords and quivers making them stand out among the more commonly-dressed
citizens of Lossarnach.
He nodded slowly, then said, as though it
would matter to me, 'I do not care for ale. But their company is indeed
welcome.' Then he looked keenly at me. 'I am most pleased to have made
your acquaintance, Morwen.'
He took my left hand, and kissed
There was nothing I could say in response, and so I stood,
I watched him break into a jog to reach the other Rangers,
and almost dropped my basket for a second time that day.
The seasons continued on, as they always did; autumn,
through mild winter, to oppressively warm spring. I grew a little older,
and I thought of the odd red-bearded Ranger on occasion. I experienced
some of the pleasures that life had to offer, though I was always
careful. I did not think much of the future yet, as I was only partway
through my nineteenth year, but my father had a constant eye out for a
beneficial match for me. Or for himself. Sometimes it was hard to tell
the difference. Other corps of the defenders of Gondor came through our
area to the southwest of Minas Tirith, but I didn't see the older
foreigner in their ranks.
I knew the qualities which I possessed
that were most of value: beauty (quite accidental) and common sense
(another stroke of luck). I could not feign naivete that I did not have,
but neither was I overly optimistic. So, in short, I carried on as I
always had. The eldest of four siblings, my hands were never lacking in
responsible pursuits, yet my mother also suggested that I try and use my
looks to secure some appearances at the lower levels of the court in the
White City. Father was a respected merchant, after all, and he was able
to send some strategic correspondence to the right people which did
indeed allow us entry to some of the occasional dances held in Minas
And I, well, I was not so indifferent as not to glean a
fair amount of satisfaction from the attentions I did receive at these
events. 'Some hold out for love,' my father would whisper as we
dutifully followed the choreographed dance set out for us in the
hierarchy of such a regimented and insular society, holding stalwartly
onto tradition. 'The wise hold out for diamonds.'
He would wink,
and I would smirk, and ask as I always did, 'So what do you hold out in
I hated asking the question, but it was as old a
ritual as we had. I knew the answer, which bruised my heart every time I
he ard it, because somehow even from early youth I knew that I would be
denied the inexplicably profound, complex, and yet tantalizingly
unattainable simple joy that he and my mother shared.
daughter, I hold both.'
I resented them for it, even as I was
literally swept away in his strong arms, the fruits of his labours
clothing me in an almond-brown dress, the better to set off my
Which I invariably closed.
I found myself again in the streets of
Lossarnach. Now that I was serving as the captain of our group of
archers, I had been dispensed to this region for training for the next
several months. Despite myself, I looked for the keen-eyed Morwen. She
was not there, of course. Neither her nor her basket of yams.
entourage was in need of winter clothing, and from my predecessor, I
knew of a particular woolen merchant who would do well by us, given the
need to stretch funds as far as they could. Though we all wore vambraces
bearing the white tree, we were many, and in several companies.
Especially in more rustic areas away from the White City, coin and purse
spoke much more loudly than livery depicting a dead plant in Minas
As nonchalantly as I could, I dispensed with Tarangil
and Dallben. Under normal circumstances they were very persuasive
escorts, and, if I were true to myself, the two whose company I truly
enjoyed beyond the usual banter. With a bit of coaxing, however, I sent
them on their way to one of the more often-frequented public houses,
knowing that they would not be lacking for entertainment.
Wandering the inner convoluted paths of Lossarnach, I shook my
head, marveling at the years of serving with Ecthelion which now
brought me to this place. He was only a few years my senior, and since
my arrival on a blustery day nearly two decades ago, he had become a
trusted companion and confidant. The line of Stewards remained strong
and powerful, Turgon an honourable man worthy of serving, the realm
worth protecting. It was not that I wished for ill to come to Rohan, nor
her borders breached, but as long as my father continued to be held in
the sway of his vices, he and the marshals would remain at odds. Thanks
to my father, the prior generations of stability were quickly
I had sworn, time and time again, that I would never
return to my homeland. The words that I had uttered to Turgon, in fact,
often came to me as I paced on long marches: Here do I swear fealty
and service to Gondor, and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to
speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need
or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour
henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world
end. So say I, Prince Thengel son of King Fengel of Rohan. Yet, for
some reason I could not fathom, both Turgon and Ecthelion seemed to
think that when it came to it, I would in fact leave Gondor, forswear my
oath and take my place as King of Rohan. My words of denial met on deaf
ears, year after year. And so, I found myself a captain, chasing down
I had now lived in Gondor and her surrounds for nigh on
seventeen years. While I had gained the respect of those with whom I
served, I knew that they still found me different. I was more direct in
my speech, though I had picked up on and then adopted many of their
word-plays and subtleties in commentary. I now spoke Westron almost
without accent, though on those rare occasions when I did hear Rohirric
around me, my head snapped in that direction. Usually I managed to
recover myself quickly enough, but the instinct was still there, and I
Gondor suited me. It was a land of rules, of
understandings, both explicit and implicit, and I knew them all. Valour
and integrity checked me, and in this I did not find myself lacking. I
was skilled enough with sword and bow, and showed promise in regards to
being the kind of leader of men whom they willingly will follow, and
moved rapidly through the ranks to be a captain. On occasion there were
comments made about my heritage, that I was a "Ranger Prince,"
but I dissuaded such talk. One particularly dismal night spent in the
pouring rain while on patrol near the Anduin, Tarangil asked, 'So! When
will you go to reclaim your throne - before or after you turn to rust
with the rest of us?'
I had found myself in particularly dark
humour, both with the weather and because I honestly had not wanted to
confront such a topic. Thankfully my wits rescued me from what would
certainly have been a rather unpleasant interchange.
'There is a
saying in Rohan,' I said, surprised by myself, as I usually tried to
suppress all references of my former home. '"You will know the
harvest by the birds."'
Tarangil looked puzzled. Shaking my
head to rid myself temporarily of the water that had clustered in my
eyebrows and beard, I smiled.
'Until there is a sign, my friend,
Rohan is as far away to me as the isles on the Western Sea to whom we
turn and reverence at evening meals. If you are trying to rid yourself
of my company, you had best speak to Turgon, for I am rather content
He shook his head, and despite the constant downpour,
there was a hint of mirth in his eyes.
'Thengel,' he said quite
seriously. 'You are mad.'
I had shrugged, and kept
'You do not know the madness that I left,' I said
quietly, under my breath.
For a fleeting moment, however, I
thought perhaps that he had a point.
Brought back to the present,
I continued to walk. The sounds of children playing in the streets
sounded melodious to my ears, the sun shone, and birds sang. My feet
felt secure on the road. I was smugly content in my adopted land, which
led to the inevitable.
Moments later, I bashed my head against a
rather low-hanging awning. Stumbling backward, by instinct I both rubbed
above my eyebrow and swore something most foul in Rohirric. The children
stopped their playing, stared at me, then resumed their activities. For
a moment I stood, dazed, then with a start realised that I was at the
doorfront of the wool merchant that I was supposed to find. I shook my
head, then immediately wished that I hadn't.
I readjusted my
leather vest and ran my fingers through my hair and tried to look as
presentable as possible, having just collided with a building. There was
a rather ostentatious brass knocker on the door, which I held and then
solidly knocked three times, as brazenly as seemed warranted. Then I
stood back, and rubbed the growing knot on my forehead.
answered the door, and I caught my breath. She could have been the
bright-eyed Morwen's twin, yet far younger. For a split second I
wondered if all those in Lossarnach looked like her, but then I came to
my senses. The youngling stood, unblinking and unafraid.
help you sir?' she asked.
I blinked. 'Yes, young maid. I am here
to find a wool-merchant who has done a great service to the defenders of
Gondor, located at this residence, I believe.'
She continued to
stare, so I continued to babble.
'The captain who served before
me had been here many times, and now that he has retired to his family,
I am here in his place, and hope that I may do business
Relinquishing her gaze, she turned and yelled behind her,
'There is a man here from the white palace who needs to speak with
I chuckled. Palace, indeed!
She turned back around, and with great aplomb, lowered her hand
and head and said, 'Please come in.'
I raised an eyebrow, but
entered nonetheless. I had never had such an entreaty for entry, and
certainly not by one who could not have been more than nine years old. I
carefully eyed the doorframe, and ducked slightly to ensure that I
returned to my barracks with only one memento of the day's activities.
She escorted me down a short wooden corridor and was about to turn me
down another when I heard the rustle of skirts and an oddly familiar
voice say, 'Ask him i f he would like some brandy, Brianna.'
small hand tugged at mine, and before she could get the words out, I
shook my head in the negative to the already-asked question.
'Please thank your host, but I am not in need of
The child, Brianna, apparently, looked
'But you must be thirsty!'
intently at me as a slight shiver ran down my spine in anticipation of
the approach of the other speaker.
'Brianna, why- '
without moving, I knew it was her. I turned nonetheless. Morwen stood in
the doorway at the foot of some stairs, her face slowly losing
She had forgotten my name. I was a fool
to have continued to entertain the hope that she might have been as
affected by our initial meeting as I had. I was too old, and now the
headache that had been building since I ran into their storefront came
raging forth. I looked at the young girl who had bid me
'Brianna, is it?' I queried.
She nodded, then
grinned, a wide mouth full of teeth now exposed.
'I think I will
accept your kind offer of brandy after all.'
There was no further
for her smile to go, and yet it did. She was gone in an
'Thengel, how did you
Now it was my turn to lose face. She had remembered my
name. I was still a fool. I was still too old.
'Are you here to
Just at that moment, when I was ready to explain
that yes, indeed, I was there to purchase several hundred yards of their
densest cloth to be made into cloaks for the long-suffering archers of
one of the companies of the Rangers, her father came bursting into the
In a few steps he was standing purposefully before me,
pumping my hand, then saying that I must have heard about him from the
captain of the archers who always came there to buy his cloth (the best
in all of Gondor, always had been, I was very wise to visit him
I nodded. Then Brianna reappeared, and I gratefully accepted the small
glass, raised it to Morwen's father, and drained the contents.
hour or so later when I left the home of Briagond, leagues of cloth were
scheduled to be sent to the seamstresses at Minas Tirith, Brianna was
loath to see me leave, and my injury now throbbed, but at least Morwen
saw me to the door.
Feeling as though perhaps not all hope was
lost in getting to spend more time with her, I said, 'There is yet
another insufferable gathering on the Great Lawn at the eastern side of
the Third Level in a fortnight. Would it be agreeable to you if we went
together? I could arrange to have you taken there.'
searchingly at me, and paused.
Nicely done. I could have
beaten myself. You sound like one of the pompous lords you try to
avoid when in councils.
'Yes,' she replied. 'As long as the
company is not insufferable.'
I was about to say something when
she continued, 'You had best put some chilled water or herbs to that
knot. It will be sore for days by the look of it.'
I opened my
mouth to thank her.
'Thengel is not a name heard in this area.
You speak like one of Gondor, but that is not your heritage, is
I shut my mouth, then slowly shook my head.
raised her left hand and with a gentle thumb, caressed the large bump
above my eyebrow.
'I look forward to seeing you again. You are
Then she was gone. The door was shut, my head
ached, and my heart sang.
Thengel's quote is from Return of the King,
"Minas Tirith," and are the words that Denethor bids Pippin
say back to him as he pledges himself to Gondor.
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