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Oct 24 2013, 5:57pm
Hi everyone, we've finally reached double digits - Part 10 is here! Enjoy!
LOTR fan fiction: The Witch of Angmar - Part #10
The Witch of Angmar
Legacy of the Fellowship
The Chieftain of Farnost
The pale morning light filtered in through the high window, rousing Rose from a deep sleep. She sat up in bed, for a moment trying to recall where she was and how she had come to be there. Then everything rushed back.
The city glowing at sunset. The approaching darkness.
The goblins. Salrean and Ethorn shouting at her and Peri to run.
The Gates of Farnost booming shut behind them.
The screams. The Darkness.
Rose shuddered and climbed out of bed, her feet slapping on to the cold flagstone floor. Her clothes were where she had left them the night before, hung over the back of the large wooden chair near the door. The chair, like everything else in the room was huge – nothing here was hobbit-size. Rose felt a pang of longing for her own bedroom back in her parents’ hobbit hole. Everything belonged to her there – and she belonged to it. This room felt cold and strange in comparison.
She dressed quickly and let herself out into the corridor beyond. Like her room, the hall was lofty with grey-stone walls and a dark flagstone floor. Rose made her way along it, towards an open door at the end. She walked through into a small room dominated by a large worn table. Peri sat at one end, perched on a chair four sizes too big for him. He was digging into a huge plate of fried eggs and bacon. An enormous basket of fresh bread sat before him.
“Good morning Rose,” Peri tore off a chunk of bread and stuffed it into his mouth. “Take a seat. There’s plenty more where this came from. This is my second plate.”
Rose climbed up onto the chair next to him, her stomach growling at the sight of his breakfast. It reminded her that after all the excitement, they had not eaten the night before.
At that moment, a harried-looking woman, dressed in a grey work-shift, apron and head-dress bustled out of a side door. She carried a plate of bacon and eggs.
“Here you are,” the woman slammed the plate down in front of Rose. “Eat up before it gets cold.”
“Thank you.” Rose did not need to be told twice. She and Peri ate in silence, exchanging glances as they did so. Once her plate was wiped clean, Rose took a gulp of water from a wooden cup and wiped her mouth on a rough grey napkin.
“‘Tis such a colourless place this,” she observed. “Everything is grey – even the table cloths.”
“The food’s excellent though,” Peri sat back in his chair and sighed contentedly. “That’s the best breakfast I’ve had in years.”
“So this is where Salrean grew up,” Rose mused, glancing round at the featureless grey walls. “No wonder she smiles so rarely.”
As if hearing her name, a familiar figure appeared in the doorway.
“Salrean!” Peri called out cheerfully. “Good morning.”
Following their encounter with the goblins the previous night, Salrean appeared remarkably well. A cut to her forehead, which had been neatly sewn, was the only sign that she had been in a fight. This morning, Salrean was dressed differently than usual. Unlike the leathers and heavy cloak she usually wore, she was dressed in grey leggings, long boots and a long white tunic belted at the waist. Her long, dark hair had been washed and fell in glistening waves about her shoulders. For the first time, Rose realised that Salrean was actually quite beautiful.
Despite herself, Rose felt a stab of jealousy.
Rose the Fair, she thought bitterly. Oh how I wish I was. Salrean, on the other hand, did not seem to be aware of her beauty.
“Good morning Rose and Peri,” Salrean greeted them with an enigmatic smile. “I didn’t thank you both properly last night – for sending the guards back to help us. Without them, Ethorn and I would have been overcome.”
“Our pleasure,” Peri beamed, in a remarkably good mood this morning. “We couldn’t just leave you out there, could we?”
Salrean’s smile widened before her gaze settled on the remnants of their breakfast.
“If you have finished eating, my father would like to meet you,” she said. “When you are ready we will go to him.”
Rose noticed the change that came over the ranger’s face when she mentioned her father – a seriousness which made her appear older and harsher. For a moment, it dimmed her quiet beauty.
Rose, for one, was not looking forward to meeting Rendur of Farnost. After Barandur and Ethorn’s reactions whenever the Chieftain was mentioned, she imagined the worst. Yet, they were now his guests and could put it off no longer.
The hobbits followed Salrean through a network of grey stone hallways. After a while, they climbed a wide set of stairs, before passing between two massive oak doors, flanked by guards dressed in leather and iron armour.
Beyond, they stepped into a cavernous, echoing hall.
Rose paused on the threshold, gazing up at the high spider-vaulted ceiling. It was made of the same dull stone that was found everywhere here. Two rows of massive veined marble columns ran either-side of a white and black tiled floor. High above, small stained-glass windows let in a watery stream of light that illuminated the ceiling and little else.
“Come,” Salrean murmured, taking the lead. “He waits.”
Torches, hanging from chains on the wall, guttered as they passed, sending shadows across the columns. The hobbits moved like ghosts; the only sound was the whisper of Salrean’s hunting boots on the worn stone.
At the end of the hall, they approached a man seated in an ornate iron chair.
“Father,” Salrean bowed. “We have come.”
“Good,” the man rose to his feet, his dark, predatory gaze sweeping from his daughter, to her two charges. Rose bowed clumsily and Peri followed suit. There was something about his manner that made Rose want to cower.
The man before them was tall and broad shouldered, his size accentuated by the huge fur cloak he wore about his shoulders. He wore black fitting leathers underneath; the clothing of a warrior, rather than a man of his age and station. A mane of iron-grey hair rippled over his shoulders and down his back. The only sign of wealth, besides the plush cloak, were the heavy gem-encrusted rings that decorated his broad hands, flickering in the guttering torchlight.
Yet, it was his face that frightened Rose. It sagged downwards in a disapproving expression. He had a heavy brow, black, glittering eyes, a large nose and a thin mouth. There was no hint of softness in that face – none at all. Rose could not imagine him as a father, or a husband.
Rendur of Farnost was as cold and hard as the grey stone walls that surrounded him.
“So these are the halflings,” The Chieftain rumbled, his gaze spearing Rose, “and one of them is a female.”
“Hobbits father,” Salrean corrected him.
“I know what they’re called,” Rendur snapped, “but halflings are what they are. What are your names?”
“I’m Pericles Took,” Peri spoke up, his voice echoing timidly in the empty hall.
“And I’m Rose Fairbairn,” Rose added.
“Which of you had custody of the Red Book?” Rendur demanded.
Rose stared back at him, cowed by his aggressive manner. “I did,” she replied. “My father looked after the book – it was handed down through my family from Samwise the Great.”
“Samwise Gamgee,” Rendur’s mouth curved. “You carry his blood?”
Rendur glanced then at his daughter, who stood silently in the shadows, waiting to be addressed.
“And it was you, Salrean, who let the book be stolen,” he rumbled. “Why did you not take it as soon as you learnt of its whereabouts?”
“It was not mine to take, father,” Salrean replied stiffly. “I thought I had time.”
“And you were wrong,” Rendur shot back. “Your miscalculation has cost us something of great value. Now Morwyn has it. If she discovers its secrets, we are all doomed. If this comes to pass, you will carry the blame.”
Salrean glared at her father a moment, before dropping her gaze to the floor. Watching her, Rose felt a stab of anger at Rendur’s harsh treatment of his own flesh and blood. Her father would never have treated her thus.
“It’s not her fault,” Rose spoke up, her voice quivering slightly. “It’s mine. I tried to stop the thief but I was not strong enough.”
The Chieftain of Farnost glared back at her, his dark eyes glittering.
“Why are you here?” he growled eventually. “You come empty-handed, without the Red Book. What do hope to achieve, here in the north?”
“I asked them to come,” Salrean replied. Her voice was cold, showing no sign that her father’s harsh words had wounded.
“I didn’t ask you,” Rendur snarled. “Speak, halfling.”
“The man who took the Book, killed my father,” Rose lifted her chin. “I want vengeance, and will help your cause in any way I can.”
Rendur of Farnost laughed at that, the sound rolling like a drum in the emptiness.
“One small female hobbit,” he mocked, “I’m sure Morwyn’s servant fears you.”
Rose felt her face go hot. Although this man was frightening, his rudeness was now starting to anger her.
“Father,” Salrean’s voice was sharp. “The fact that these hobbits are here, so far from home, should humble you. They have both shown endurance and courage on the journey here. They want to help. We should let them.”
Rendur glanced back at his daughter, his craggy face impassive. For a moment, Rose thought he would rebuke her once more, but this time he looked thoughtful.
“Indeed,” he said slowly, “they might be of assistance.”
With that, Rendur of Farnost stepped off the dais, which did not make him any less imposing to the hobbits.
“Come. Follow me – all of you.”
Rendur crossed the shadowy hall, in long strides, his magnificent fur cloak billowing out behind him. Salrean and the hobbits fell in quickly behind him. They followed the city’s chieftain across the floor to a doorway. Rose had not noticed the entrance before, for this side of the great hall was cloaked in shadow. Rendur strode through the doorway and disappeared.
They followed him into a dimly lit chamber, illuminated only by two torches. The room was windowless and smelt of damp. It was empty save for a stone plinth in the centre. Upon the plinth stood a large black stone bowl.
Rendur strode up to the plinth and halted before it. Salrean and the hobbits stopped a few feet away, looking on silently as he unfastened his heavy cloak and cast it aside. He looked younger, and more dangerous without the cloak. His arms were bare, save for silver, inscribed arm-rings which glinted in the torchlight.
The Chieftain of Farnost stepped forward so that he was standing over the bowl. Then, he looked down at its contents, his severe face giving nothing away.
Rose looked on, confused.
“What’s he doing?” she whispered to Salrean.
“My father’s a seer, like Barandur,” Salrean whispered back. “He…”
“So the halflings have met Barandur have they?” Rendur’s cold voice interrupted them. “What did he have to tell you?”
“Little,” Salrean replied. “I’m afraid he spoke in riddles that I had trouble deciphering. He warned of doom and against travelling to Angmar. Yet, he did tell us of a secret way in to Carn Dûm.”
“He did?” Rendur replied, his eyes gleaming. “I will hear of this later, daughter.”
Salrean nodded. “Of course.”
Rendur’s gaze then shifted to Rose. “Yes, I am a seer – but not the same as Barandur. We are of the same breed but as different as an ocean is to a mountain stream. His powers of far-sight are weak compared to mine.”
That’s odd, Rose thought, for that’s not what I have heard. Your own daughter told me otherwise. However, Rose did not voice her opinion.
“Barandur uses runes,” Rendur’s mouth twisted. “Like a common fortune-teller who travels from village to village, warning of failed crops and pestilence – but I use the Waters of Skellith.” He motioned to the large vessel before him.
“Come forth female halfling,” Rendur’s gaze did not move from Rose’s face. “For an accurate reading, the Waters require your assistance.”
Rose hesitated. She glanced across at Peri, who had not spoken since they entered the chamber. He returned her gaze nervously, his earlier good cheer gone. Then, Rose looked across at Salrean. The ranger was frowning.
“Father,” Salrean began. “Is this necessary?”
“Silence daughter!” Rendur boomed, beckoning Rose forward with a ringed finger. “Do not question what you cannot possibly understand.”
Rose stared back into his dark eyes; they were as hypnotic and terrifying as the low, powerful timbre of his voice. Such a man was born to rule and impossible to resist.
Slowly, she walked towards him.
'All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'