Lofty Tales

by raenarcam

(Having introduced one of Raen’s Gondorians and one of her Dalelanders I thought it was only fair to introduce her first Rohir. Introducing Frimwulf, Sæwine’s Son, who was very nice and eventually died)

Highly recommended listening: The Shins, Young Pilgrims

In the early morning hours the wind rushed cool above the high towers of the city and had she been a bird she might have coursed between spires in the golden first rays of the sun. And amid those towers was light and color and the blue of the sky covered the world like a dome and covered even these fine white peaks. From outside of the walls it must have looked a fine stone edifice, kept safe from the fears of the world by those very walls which rose up and up until their peak at the citadel and up to those walls were the green grasses of the fields, the farms that kept the people fed, the soft earth that sloped eventually down into rivers and up to the mountains against which this fine city of towers had been built. Had she been a bird she might have soared from the cool heights of mountain peaks to the river and then onward further, to the far south with its deserts and its great monstrous animals.

But she was not a bird, and she walked not in the sunlight but in the still shadowed avenues and concourses of the lower circle of Minas Tirith. It had been Minas Tirith since before she had been born, Halgruith had told her about Osgiliath and its fall, and the fall of Minas Ithil. The servants of the dark one had taken over the other tower, he had said, so this was left to guard it. He had then wandered off for a week which had been entirely pleasant. She fixed her hood and sidestepped a few old men taking an early morning walk through the reeking streets.

Summer was no good for this city, not the lower levels of it where laborers and their families crammed in to old stone houses, some built even up to the walls themselves. Here the butchers slaughtered cows in the open air and tanners poured caustic liquids into the open gutters that had been designed for a garrison town and not a capital city. White stone the city had in abundance but down here even so long after the kinstrife it was like the people remained refugees waiting yet to find some better place. Or so she thought, perhaps this was how all men lived when they found a place with thick enough walls and the promise of safety.

Despite herself she began to long for the woods again. Four hundred years old and Raenarcam could yet say, with confidence, she had never seen anything so unpleasant as the two children prying a bone from the remains of a donkey that had been pushed aside, discussing in excited voices the potential of carving dice from it. She gave a little sniff and kept walking

“Back by first light indeed, Frimwulf, Sæwine’s Son,” she scoffed under her breath and took a turn down a narrower alley. Here the light was nearly completely gone, the upper levels of the buildings jutted over the way, taking the light with them. She suspected she had reached the right place when she spotted a doorway and a woman with exposed breasts chatting to a very interested young man. She slipped by them into a dim hallway and then into a larger room like a tavern room with the same tables and benches about the edge. The only difference really was the substantially larger number of women than usual. And perhaps those women’s lack of clothing. She really couldn’t say.

This was absolutely typical. They had a schedule, a book to fetch and then leaving, that had been the plan. But she had what she needed copied down and he was not ready to go. He was still going to have to get their bags, there were horses to get ready…

Finally she spotted him, a head taller and a good deal blonder than the men around him Frimwulf stood out as much as any man of Rohan stood out anywhere. He had the profound jaw and massive shoulders of a professional soldier and the bearing of a man deeply interested in conversation with some willowy, dark haired beauty with her hair all down around her shoulders and dark khol about her eyes. She supposed Frimwulf was handsome, he reminded her of the first time she’d ever seen any of the men of Rohan, Eorl’s people all spread out over the once empty plains, and on a horse he looked as masterful as any of the men of the old stories who had come to the aid of the elves over the years. He seemed to have, himself, stepped out from the midst of a story.

“It’s not so bad as all that,” he was saying, massive hand held over the woman’s. “You just need to go and talk to them, they’ll take you back. A year or so, it’s just a little pause in your life. You go and you say you’ve made a mistake and you’ll be back to farming and-”

“Frimwulf,” Raenarcam snapped, rather more loudly than she intended, but it was a loud room.

He looked up, blinking, so did the woman and with her head turned up Raenarcam could see her makeup was streaked. “That time already, Æðelflæd?” He asked and when she gave an irritable nod he helped the weeping prostitute up and wrapped her up in a great hug. “Now listen to me, you go home and you tell your Ma you didn’t mean any harm by what you said. You’re her daughter, she’ll love you no matter what.” When he released the woman she hurried past, rubbing under her nose with the back of her hand, and Raenarcam gave the large man a suspicious look.

“Well?”

“She was just missing home, away from a farm down by the river, told her she’d be happiest getting back to it. Think she will too.” He nodded, hands at his waist, looking proud of himself in his rough woolen tunic, a bit of blond beard fighting its way along his chin. “It’s not daylight already is it?” He asked and when he nodded he clapped her heavily on the back so hard she nearly lost the air in her chest. “Can’t see shit down here. Let’s get along then! Where are we going exactly?”

Extricating herself from the brothel with the massive man in tow she consulted her notebook. As soon as her eyes were down to it “It should be just past one of the bridges in Osgiliath I think. Toward the north… Did you really spend all night talking that prostitute out of prostitution?”

“Well not all night. Played a bit of dice, talked to another woman about baking, had a great idea for folding lard up into bread I’m going to give a try next time we’re settled in somewhere with a big communal oven.”

“Oh. Oh good. You’re going to be ready for a long ride today then? Not too tired?”

“Yeah! Of course! Bit of fresh air and sunshine’ll do me good! Don’t you worry Æðelflæd, I’ll be right as rain once we’re out of this city!”

“I’ve no doubt.” They walked up the cobbled street, gradually waking up as the golden light finally reached the windows of these narrow houses. She had tried for the last four months they’d been together to get him to attempt to pronounce her actual name, an endeavor he had given up on within the first hour they’d been on the road. If he hadn’t been so obscenely pleasant she might have been suspicious the name he’d settled on was an insult. Instead she wasn’t really sure what to make of it but she wondered if it had just been the first name he’d thought of at the moment.

When they returned to the inn he promptly fell asleep, but she had come to expect that and spent one last day in the dusty archives of Minas Tirith. Shadowy it might have been, but at least it didn’t reek of filth as much as it had on the lower levels. So that was largely an improvement.

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