Weaving Peace by Certh

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Story Notes:

Sequel to Under Trees of Gold

Weaving Peace

Part III of the series titled After the Rain

Author's Note: As visual interpretation is very important in bringing written word to life, I have created a Pinterest board for that very purpose. It features illustrations of characters and places, done by me and others, as well as other titbits that relate to After the Rain. Updated periodically, the board can be found here.

Chapter 1

The temporary barrier that served as a crude gate to the City Wall of Minas Tirith loomed before them just as the sky began to darken. Passing within and following the winding main street to the upper levels, Idrin felt a small smile tug at the corners of her mouth. The Steward's House and her chamber awaited above, and the prospect of rest and the comfort of indoors were quite inviting.

While wounded men and healers made their way to the Houses of Healing upon reaching the sixth level, the young woman gave her gelding's reins to a waiting stablehand, spoke a few words to one of the soldiers flanking the wains from Cormallen, and turned to ascend the sloping tunnel that led to the Citadel.

Her chambermaid, who had preceded her to the Steward's House, was quick to draw a hot bath, and after a long soak, Idrin descended to the ground floor. She found Faramir in the study that had been Denethor's, poring over sheets of parchment in the light of an oil-lamp and a brazier set between the desk and the closed window.

He looked up when she walked in, and his eyes glinted. "Idrin, come, sit."

The young woman drew a chair from beside the great bookcase.

"How are things in Ithilien?" asked Faramir as she settled near him.

"The soldiers who went into Mordor have returned; they have scourged the north of the Black Land," replied Idrin. "The wounded have been healed, and the King Elessar means to return to Minas Tirith when the month is done." She peered at him. "Is all here in order?"

"It is," answered Faramir. "The last wagonload of provisions came today from Ringló Vale. I have had the King's House opened after I received your letter yesterday, and Raenith and her maids have begun work there. Laidhril and her domestics are tidying the other lodgings in the Citadel; and aunt Rillien, Elphir and Lothíriel should arrive by midday tomorrow."

The young woman frowned. "The Lady Ivriniel?"

"She took a chill and has yet to recover," answered Faramir. "Alphros was taken ill, as well, so Castiel will remain in Dol Amroth also."¹ He paused for a moment. "You will oversee the preparations?"

Idrin gave a nod. "I will."

The furrow creasing the Steward's brow smoothed and his eyes fell on the empty plate and cup on his desk. He looked up quickly. "Have you eaten? Shall I send for supper?"

The young woman shook her head. "No," she said. "I have a mind to go to the townhouse and see my sisters-by-marriage."

A small smile touched Faramir's lips. "Orien was rather impressed by the Lady Éowyn."

Idrin laughed. "I do not doubt it." Meeting a woman with such skill in battle, one who had slain so great a foe, would indeed have stricken awe in her brother's young daughter who loved tales of valour so much. "The Lady Éowyn's arm has mended?"

"It has, yet she dwells in the Houses of Healing still," returned Faramir. "Herblore has becharmed her in earnest, and I hear the herb-master is delighted to share his knowledge."

The young woman chuckled and, after a moment of quiet, rose to her feet. "You have work, and I should go before it grows truly dark."

Outside, the lamps were lit, brightening the indigo-blue dusk as the last streak of dull orange faded from the skyline. The weather was cool, but when she opened the door to the townhouse, she smelled logs burning and felt the warmth of fire.

Damhir's wife was sitting in the drawing-room, one hand on her round belly as she watched Arvinion's young daughter dragging a thick string on the floor for a small cat to chase. The raven-haired girl beamed up at Idrin when she caught sight of her.

"Aunt Idrin!"

"Hello, little one." The young woman greeted her niece fondly before turning to Gladhwen. "How are you, sister?"

The older woman shifted the cushion behind her back and rested her hand on her belly once more. "The babe has grown stronger since last we wrote to one another."

A faint rustle and a quickly stifled noise drew their attention, and they saw Orien sucking on a fingertip. She narrowed her eyes at the half-grown cat darting a paw at the string abandoned beside her and reached to it. The animal protested as it was brought on its side but was soon purring contentedly when the girl began to stroke its short fur.

Idrin's lips curled, and she went to crouch by the pair, scratching the tan-and-white tabby under the chin. "He has grown more affectionate after his visit to Lebennin, it seems."

The cat got to its feet, rubbed against her palm and leapt into her lap. Orien giggled.

"My lady Idrin, welcome. Will you be staying for supper?"

The greeting came from the grey-haired housekeeper, entering the drawing-room moments after Arvinion's wife.

Idrin gathered the cat in her arms and rose. "Yes, Nathes, I will."

* * *

It was soon after break of dawn five days later when all bells in the High City began to ring. Their tolling penetrated even the thick walls of the King's House in the Citadel, and speaking with the cook in the kitchens, Idrin paused for an instant and listened. Then, with a last word, she turned and went from the room. She halted in the entrance hall, rearranging her hair and smoothing her dress, and hurried outside.

Movement coming from the Steward's House caught her eye as she was crossing the Court of the Fountain, and she checked her footsteps at the sound of Faramir's voice. The Prince Imrahil's wife went with him, tall and graceful.

"Good-morrow, dear." The Princess's cool grey eyes found Idrin, and she accosted her gently.

"Good-morning, Lady Rillien," returned the young woman, her gaze shifting to the Steward's House once more. The Prince Imrahil's firstborn son followed the others slowly, escorting his sister in the absence of his wife. Idrin acknowledged them as they approached, and all made their way to the lower levels, two guards bringing up the rear.

Beyond the gate to the fifth circle, four men in the livery of the tree-and-stars awaited, bearing a casket of black wood between them, and followed the small procession. The tall Lord Húrin of the Keys was by the barrier that led out to the Pelennor Fields, with several men-at-arms about him. They moved the heavy structure to let them pass, and then they were out on the open plain, and a host of people was already arrayed on either side of the fallen Gate. The Marshal Elfhelm and the Lady Éowyn stood apart from the crowd, and the company from the Citadel made towards them.

Faramir greeted the pair, and then turned to Éowyn. "You have been acquainted with my uncle's family, dear lady, but have yet to meet my cousin Idrin of whom I have also spoken."

The White Lady of Rohan peered at the young woman before her for a long moment. "We crossed paths but briefly before; I recall now," she said slowly. "In the Houses of Healing, and later in the stables, when I went to exercise Windfola, though I did not know who you were and did not recognise you then."

Idrin made to reply, but a loud child's voice cut her off.

"They are coming!"

The young woman looked to the East and saw the glint of sunlight on helm and spearhead and the cloud of dust kicked up by many feet. The host advanced and all talk ceased.

Thus the army of the West returned to Minas Tirith, and Aragorn Elessar was crowned king before the Great Wall. Amid music and singing he was escorted into the Guarded City, the press of people all about boisterous in their rejoicing.

Idrin saw the Princess Rillien, Elphir and Lothíriel still waiting where they stood, even after Faramir had spoken a few quiet words into his aunt's ear and gone with the king. The women's eyes gleamed as the Prince of Dol Amroth came striding towards them, his younger sons at his heels. Not far from them, Idrin spied Éowyn embracing her brother, and the young woman then shifted her gaze to the host, her eyes searching. Soon joined by her sisters-by-marriage, she found her brothers and finally followed the sea of people into the City and up the winding streets.

The crowd dispersed upon nearing the Citadel. Soon about the new king remained no more than four dozen individuals: those who had set out with him from Rivendell, and the sons of Elrond, Faramir and Éomer and Éowyn, Idrin's own kin, Imrahil and his family, Húrin the Tall and the host's chief Captains, and great lords from every corner of Gondor. Elessar sat on his throne, and manservants brought refreshments, and when the Hall quieted, the Gondorians made ready to be presented to the King. The sun was already well above the mountains by that moment, and thus Idrin took her leave, making for the Steward's House to change her garb before descending to the sixth circle and the Houses of Healing.

When she returned to the Citadel, it was past evenfall and a blanket of darkness swathed the City. The young woman's gaze drifted from the lodgings of the Steward to the King's House, and after a brief pause she set off towards the latter.

She found the housekeeper in the passage that led to the kitchens. "Is all well, Raenith? Have all settled in comfortably?"

The wiry woman clasped her hands lightly. "They have," she answered. "The King Elessar presently sits at supper with the Lord Faramir, Prince Imrahil, King Éomer and Lord Húrin; and the Lady Éowyn has gone to visit with the Princess Rillien and Miss Lothíriel at their townhouse."²

Idrin gave a short absent nod. "It is a pity that there are no rooms on the ground floor for the Halflings – I have heard they prefer such," she said; "and the Elves would have liked a view of the gardens of the Houses of Healing."

Raenith looked at her for a long moment, silent. "You shouldn't burden yourself with these matters, lady," she spoke at last; "now the King is returned, he can see to the affairs of his house himself."

The young woman set back her shoulders, her lips pressing into a thin line for the most fleeting instant. "Since everything seems to be to the King's and his guests' satisfaction, I leave you to your work, Mistress Raenith." She turned on her heel sharply and walked away, while the housekeeper continued down the passage.

* * *

The hour after noon the following day found Idrin leaving the Houses of Healing and ascending the tunnel to the seventh circle. After a short stop at the Steward's House, the young woman made her way to the Citadel's library, looking about at the handful of domestics as she entered. The one nearest to her murmured a greeting when she walked farther within, but Idrin's eye fixed on the two familiar figures sorting books at a long table, their heads, raven and golden, close together.

"Would you not rather be outside in the sunlight?"

The women turned.

"There is not much more to be done, now that the bookcases have already been wiped and all wood is cleaned and polished, and the candleholders are burnished and the floors are scrubbed." Lothíriel smiled. "The books have been dusted and treated for red-rot; the only thing remaining is to replace them on their shelves. It is better to occupy time by helping here than by sitting idly at embroidery."

Éowyn put a light hand on a thick tome beside her. "For myself, I have been sitting idle for far too long," she said. She glanced down at the leather-bound volume beneath her fingers and her countenance softened. "You have a beautiful selection of books here."

Idrin observed the dark cover with its silvery Elvish script near the top. "You speak Sindarin?" Her voice held wonder and she felt her eyebrows lift.

Éowyn met her gaze. "I was taught it by my mother as a child, but I do not speak it well," she replied. "It has been many years since I had cause to practise the Elven-tongue, though I can understand the written word better than speech." She picked up the book, along with a pair of others, and moved from the table, studying the single letters borne on the bookcases behind her and the numbers on each shelf before setting the tomes in their assigned place.

Idrin mirrored her action, peering at books and replacing them on their shelves, but soon glanced at the White Lady again. "Boromir once told me that your people do not write books."

Éowyn paused in her work. "Indeed, we do not. My grandmother Morwen brought many tomes and scrolls with her from her homeland, but there are no libraries in the Mark such as you have here, only the collections of books in the King's house in Edoras and the Lord's house in Aldburg.³ The common folk cannot read or write, yet the Eorlingas have lived without books since the beginning of our race; knowledge and lore and wisdom are recorded and passed on to the younger generations in song and tale."

Lothíriel regarded the White Lady of Rohan briefly. "'Tis truly a great achievement to preserve a whole peoples' history and tradition thus," she said.

Near her, Idrin hummed softly to herself, absently picking up a book from the table.

"Should you not be resting?"

The hint of sudden reproof in Lothíriel's tone made her look up. Prince Imrahil's daughter was staring at her.

"These past few days you have been dividing your time between the Houses of Healing and almost every building in the Citadel," she went on. "You need not oversee all, you know."

Idrin let out a sharp breath. "I have spent more than ten years helping my aunt run the household, giving instructions to cooks and manservants and maids, seeing to preparations for feasts and arranging housing for guests; this is my responsibility."

Lothíriel's lips twitched. "A new librarian will come tomorrow, and now the King Elessar is here, your duties will be made lighter," she said.

Idrin gazed at the younger woman without speaking and gave her head a weak shake, sighing. "Seeing to the everyday running of the Citadel has been my task for so long…" She tapped a finger against the table, the repeated sound chafing. "It will take some time to become accustomed to the changes that will come."

The sound of stumbling feet made her turn abruptly. Nearby, a maidservant regained her balance hastily, clutching an armful of yellowed rolls of parchment to her chest, her face colouring.

Idrin's eyes flashed and her nostril flared. "Be careful, Merilwen. Some of these scrolls are hundreds of years old."

Lothíriel and Éowyn stilled their fingers and stared at their companion, but across from them, the curly-haired girl's blush deepened at the sharp voice and she dropped her gaze. Gingerly, she rearranged her load and walked slowly towards a bookcase beside the eastern window.

As the hushed chatter of the domestics working in the library quieted into silence, Idrin exhaled and turned from the girl, almost meeting Éowyn's gaze before the White Lady looked beyond her. She followed her line of sight and saw Éothain standing a few feet away, his eyebrows drawn together into a slight frown.

His features smoothed after a moment and he straightened his posture. "Good-afternoon, Lady Idrin, Miss Lothíriel, cousin."

Éowyn looked at him with amusement. "Éothain, what brings you here?"

He turned to Idrin. "One of the healers at the Houses of Healing told me I would find you in this library."

The young woman regarded him. "I recall my brothers made mention of showing you the City, did they not?"

"They did, but I do not wish to intrude upon the time spent with their families," answered Éothain. "I've naught to do now, so I thought I might find other employment and help here." He looked around at the heavy bookcases.

"If that is your wish, certainly," returned Idrin. "And perhaps later we can walk about the city."

"Go now," said Lothíriel. "We've plenty of help at present and shall be done in a couple of hours or so."

Idrin hesitated and then let out a small breath. "Alright." She turned to Éothain. "Give me but a few moments to put these away and then we can be on our way." Glancing down at the books in front of her, she began carrying them to the bookcases, pausing briefly to consider their titles before placing them on the shelves. Her gaze lingered on the covers of the last volumes on the table and then slowly shifted to the topmost shelf of the nearest case. An instant of silent study later, the young woman's eyes found the tall ladder propped against the wood. "There." She lowered her gaze to the books once more but did not touch them, looking up at Lothíriel and Éowyn instead. "I shall come later, for a final circuit."

The Prince Imrahil's daughter sighed, shaking her head to herself and grinning faintly. "You need not."

Idrin offered a cursory upturn of lips and turned on her heel.

Chapter End Notes:

¹ The wife of Prince Imrahil and the wife of Elphir do not play part in Tolkien's legendarium and are not given names; naming them Rillien and Castiel respectively is my taking creative licence.

² JRR Tolkien adheres to the original definitions of peerage titles and forms of address in his works: one is not named a prince simply because he is a king's son, or a lord because his parents are people of high rank. The earliest interpretations of such appellations are more strictly defined, and my detailed study on the subject can be found here.

³ Meduseld was a building used for meetings and entertainments, not the place where the royal family of Rohan lived: 'We pass now to a dwelling of Men in an "heroic age" . . . In such a time private "chambers" played no part. Théoden probably had none, unless he had a sleeping "bower" in a separate small "outhouse". He received guests or emissaries, seated on the dais in his royal hall . . .' (The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Letter #210).

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