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Pawns and Symbols
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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1
Part 1

Disclaimer: The overall settings belong to the great professor Tolkien and are taken from “The Lord of the Rings”. The specific settings of Dol Amroth (like background facts and other extensions) belong to the Dol Amroth RPG-site. More about it can be found here:
http://www.dol-amroth.de/roleplay/dol_amroth.htm

Master Andrahar is an OC of Isabeau of Greenlea and was used with her generous consent. The same is true for the Lady Tirathiel. All other unknown characters belong to me.

Author's notes:
This is a story of Andrahar of Harad and Melpomaen of Fortir, who is an original character of mine, born from the insane urge to write the famous Figwit as a non-Elven character - well, not entirely. According to the RPG-site, Fortir is the most northern town of Dor-en-Ernil, between Spathlin and Ethring at the river Ringló. I chose it for its relative closeness of the Elven city and haven, Edhellond.

The time is the year 2971 of the Third Age, a few moons after the 16-year-old Imrahil has returned from his first visit in Harad - in the company of a young Haradrim about his own age. These are Isabeau's settings, so I shall not go into any detail here.

In my imagination, Harad is a land that we would call "oriental" as opposed to our Western culture. Thus I gave Andrahar a somewhat "oriental" mannerism, but that is only my approach on things.

My heartfelt thanks go to Isabeau for beta reading. :)


~~~

ONE


Ever since he had set foot in Dol Amroth, the Elf had fascinated him. 'Twas a rather... morbid fascination, certainly, for he hated Elves – during the short years of his youth that he actually did spend in his father's house, he was taught to despise them and to never trust them. Besides, Master Melpomaen was not even a true Elf, though he certainly looked like one... well, more or less. Rumours told about him ran from a Silvan mother to an Avarin grandfather (Andrahar had made it his duty to learn all that was there to know about these deceptive creatures), yet no-one seemed to actually know aught for certain.

Well, Prince Adrahil most likely did, but Andrahar wanted not to bother him with any questions. He called himself fortunate that the Prince tolerated him at all. When Imrahil brought him back from Harad, the Lord Adrahil was less than pleased to take a savage, unwashed and under-educated half-breed into his noble and refined house, and made no secret of his displeasure. Yet Imrahil put his foot down with his customary stubbornness and threatened to leave Dol Amroth for good, unless his newly-won friend would be allowed to stay.

The Ruling Prince knew his only son all too well, and he also knew that this was no idle threat. Thus he gave in with clenched teeth and ordered that "the wild youngling" be properly washed, groomed and clothed before brought back into his and his wife's presence again. For his part, Andrahar endured the humiliating process with equally clenched teeth, for Imrahil's sake who had not only saved his life when death seemed to be inevitable, but had also given him something he had never had before: friendship. Imrahil watched his "taming" with an infuriating grin, then, when he judged his appearance "acceptable", as he put it, dragged Andrahar with him, along endless corridors and stairways, to officially introduce him to the princely family.

The throne room surprised Andrahar greatly. It was huge, airily elegant and flooded with sunlight through the tall, narrow windows, yet it lacked the colourful decoration and golden pomp that even the modestly rich noble houses possessed. Instead of the ornamental wall paintings, beautifully-woven cloths hung on the walls, and the returning pattern of both the tapestries and the masterfully-shaped silver and alabaster lamps was that of the swan.

Of course, Imrahil had already told him long tales about the importance of the swan symbol for his family, but he never thought it would be this central for their lives. It was only a sea bird, after all – yet apparently not so for the Princes of Dol Amroth. Blue and silver and white... and swans in every size and shape could be seen everywhere, from the heavy velvet curtains, now pulled aside to let in the golden light of the mid-afternoon sun, through the wondrous, circular pattern of the marble-paved floor down to the embroidery on the people's clothes. Even on the simple tunic the chambermaid had selected for him to wear in the presence of the Prince and his family.

Twenty-four slender columns framed the great hall, carved in the shape of trees of white marble, dividing it into a main room and two narrow side corridors where the servants were waiting for their orders and the princely guard kept cautious eyes on everything. On the opposite end of the hall, where it formed a beautiful apsis, there was a dais in the form of a half-circle, and six broad, flat steps led up to it. Upon that dais stood the twin thrones of the Prince and the Princess of Dol Amroth, and on both sides of them the other members of the family stood.

Prince Adrahil looked even more stern and displeased than in the courtyard while greeting his son, but Andrahar was not one to be easily frightened. Still, he knew he should not make an enemy of Imrahil's father if he wanted to remain here with his only friend - and he wanted that more than anything in his whole life. Thus he offered the Prince the greatest courtesy known in his former home: he knelt and touched his brow to the marble floor before the Prince's feet.

Apparently, this was a somewhat unfamiliar greeting for the people of Dol Amroth, at least according to the gasps and murmurs that arose all around him. Imrahil gave him a slight nudge with a booted foot and Andrahar rose, facing the family of his friend warily, but determined to look as refined as he was able to manage.

On the Prince's left (Imrahil later explained him that having one's life-mate on the heart-side was an Elvish tradition that his family kept since the days of Galador, the First Prince) the Lady Olwen sat, as soft and calm as her husband was hard and irritated. Unlike her husband and her son, who both had the chiseled features, bluish-black hair and sea-grey eyes of true Númenórean heritage, her face was oval-shaped and her hair and her eyes were dark brown. Andrahar remembered Imrahil having mentioned that his mother was not a Dúnadan but came from the natives of Dor-en-Ernil, called the Eredrim, that had already been there before the foundation of Gondor.

She wore a long gown in Dol Amroth blue under her loose silver-hued overtunic that had very wide arms that swept the floor as she was sitting with her hands folded on her lap. Her hair was twisted into a loose knot, tucked neatly under a blue velvet cap, richly embroidered with a flower-pattern in silver, but what little could be seen of it, was interwoven with white threads. Though eight years younger than her husband, coming from a lesser race made her show signs of aging already.

On the side of the Princess a slender young woman stood, similarly dressed, only her long hair flowing unbraided and unadorned down her back. It reached below her knee, as far as Andrahar could guess. She had the raven hair of the Prince but the soft features and dark brown eyes of Lady Olwen, so she could only be Imrahil's sister. As sweet and gentle as she might have looked, somehow Andrahar had the feeling that it would not be a good thing to raise her ire and decided to be careful around her.

Another black-haired but grey-eyed woman, this one considerably older as the barely noticeable hardness in her noble features revealed, stood on the Prince's right. She was dressed like the Princess, yet without the rich embroidery that adorned the Lady Olwen's clothes. There was no silver yet in her hair, but her eyes were like pieces of ice and her lips pressed together to a thin line. Andrahar needed no help to recognize the Lady Tirathiel, based on Imrahil's hair-rising tales about her, though he had always suspected that his friend...had coloured the bare facts a little .

Nevertheless, there was no way he could have mistaken the Iron Lady of Dol Amroth for someone else. Those icy eyes measured him with open suspicion, and he knew it would not be easy to win the Lady's support. For support he needed if he wanted to dwell under the Prince's roof, unless he wanted Imrahil to leave Dol Amroth out of sheer stubbornness - which he did not. 'Twas bad enough that he had no true home himself, he did not want Imrahil to share his fate.

"Welcome to Dol Amroth," the Prince finally said in an almost civil manner. "Since my son forgot to tell us your name, mayhap you will do the courtesy yourself?"

"I am called Andrahar, my Lord," he answered, thankful for his swarthy skin that hid the blush he felt heating his face. The Prince raised an elegant eyebrow.

"Are you called so or is it your true name?" he asked. Andrahar suppressed the anger raising all too quickly in him. This was too much like an interrogation for his comfort.

"It is my name, my Lord," he answered with as much politeness as he could master. The Prince nodded; apparently, the answer satisfied him.

"Which House are you from?" he continued questioning. "For your name indicates that you must have at least some Númenórean blood in you, even though your looks tell otherwise."

Andrahar clenched his teeth in despair. He had hoped this question would come later on, when he already made an acceptable impression on the Prince. Revealing that he was an outcast bastard son might make his stay in Dol Amroth a very short one. But lying to the Prince was out of the question. He needed to prove trustworthy, so that he would be allowed to stay close to Imrahil – he simply could not begin his life here with a lie.

"If I had a House, my Lord," he replied in as even a voice as he could, "I would not be here, asking for a place to live in."

To his surprise, the Prince seemed undisturbed by this revelation. He only nodded his understanding and went on with his questions.

"Then we have to find something for you to do to make yourself useful," the Lord Adrahil said. "You are good with weapons, I presume. Young men of Umbar and Harad usually are."

"So I am, my Lord," Andrahar replied, somewhat more confident now. "With swords and knives and daggers and bows and scimitars... you name them and I shall wield them. I have had to defend myself since I was very young."

"You still are very young, Andrahar of Harad," the Prince replied mildly. "As for your swordsmanship, I will be the judge of how good you really are. Besides, I have enough good soldiers in Dol Amroth, I have no true need for one hot-headed youngling who probably would never follow orders properly."

Andrahar paled considerably under the guise of his dark skin, for this could mean that the Prince would deny him a stay under his roof. But Adrahil continued.

"You speak Westron well. Almost as if it could be your mother tongue. Can you also speak the native tongue of the Haradrim?"

"All sixteen dialects of it," Andrahar replied without thinking. "My f... the Lord in whose house I lived as a child had connections as far down as Far Harad. He often had visitors who spoke strange tongues, and they demanded to be spoken to in their own fashion, so we all had to learn every single one."

"Sixteen dialects," the Lady Tirathiel murmured, speaking for the first time. "We only know of seven or eight of them, my Lord..."

"Indeed," Adrahil said, "and 'twould be useful to study the rest of them, would it not? That can be arranged, I hope. Can you write, Andrahar?"

"Of course," Andrahar felt a little insulted. "I know the letters that are used in Westron and the symbols for Haradric... well, that of the speech which is used in noble houses. Most of the dialects do not even use any written form."

Surprisingly, the Prince smiled at him. It was a somewhat cold smile, but a smile nevertheless, and it even showed something akin to acceptance.

"Well then," Adrahil said, "I believe you have just made yourself a very valuable member of my court. I shall allow you to rest today and get familiar with the castle, but tomorrow you will report to my head scribe in the library and work with him on a book about Haradric languages for the next year or so."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Andrahar had always been good in mapping his surroundings and find back every way he had ever gone - in fact, his life often depended on this very useful ability. Of course, Dol Amroth Castle (or the Swanburg, as it often was called) was a lot more confusing place as a noble house in Umbar, but still way less of a maze than any Haradric bazaar. So it only took him the afternoon and the early evening to get his bearings, and he had no difficulties in finding his way to the library in the next morning.

It made things easier, certainly, that he was given the esquire's room next to Imrahil's chambers, for thus he only had to walk to the end of the corridor and climb the winding stone staircase to the upper level of the main building, right above the princely wing. There he gave the heavy wooden door a sharp knock and entered, without waiting for an invitation.

The scent of old leather, ink and parchment greeted him, and he made a wry face, books never being of much interest to him. And books there were, by the gods, more than any person could ever hope to read. Narrow rooms with high ceilings, framed by stuffed shelves, followed each other, their endless rows broken only by the tall windows and the small riding desks before them. Other desks, these tall and narrow with tilted surfaces, stood here and there - he knew that these were writing desks, the scribes of Dol Amroth obviously preferred writing in Elf-fashion, standing.

A tall, dark-haired man with a pale face and narrow shoulders stood at one of these desks and looked up at his arrival, putting down the quill pen at once. His eyes were dark, too, and his features seemed somehow... familiar, which was impossible, since Andrahar had never seen anyone from the Prince's people before.

"Master Andrahar?" the scribe asked in a soft voice that had a slight accent in it, even though he spoke Westron flawlessly. At Andrahar's nod he continued. "Prince Adrahil let me know that you would be aiding me in learning more about the Haradric tongues. Is this correct?"

"If you are his head scribe, then yea, it is," Andrahar answered with a shrug. The scribe looked at him in unsmiling amusement.

"That I am, indeed. Head scribe Melpomaen my name is."

Andrahar gave him a suspicious look. The ears were certainly not pointed enough, and his eyes were dark, too, yet... "Are you an Elf?" he blurted out.

The scribe tilted his head on the side and seemed even more amused, though he still smiled not. Not even with his eyes. "Would it be a problem if I were?" he asked seriously. Andrahar shrugged.

"Elves are deceptive and untrustworthy. Everyone knows that."

"I would reconsider saying such things in this house," Melpomaen warned him, obviously not insulted at all. "Prince Adrahil is an Elf-friend, and so are his whole family... not to mention that they all have Elven blood in their veins. Not too much, certainly, but it runs deep. Deep enough for the Elf-Lord of Edhellond to allow them to visit his house."

Andrahar frowned. The scribe certainly had an Elven name, yet he spoke not like an Elf – well, as he would expect an Elf to speak, anyway. "Are you an Elf, then?" he pressed further.

The amusement fled from the scribe's manner. "Not entirely," he answered flatly. "Not enough for them to accept me."

Andrahar gave him another suspicious look. And at the second sight he all of a sudden realized why Melpomaen seemed so familiar to him. He had already seen a face very much like the scribe's the day before.

"You are related to the Lady Olwen, are you not?" he said. "Are you her younger brother?"

For the first time, the scribe smiled. It was a tight little smile, yet a true one, nevertheless.

"Nay," he replied in obvious amusement. "I am her great-uncle."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

TBC

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