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The Last Yule in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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18
Day 18 - The Lord's Bailiff

For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.

Rating: General, for this part.

Author’s note: The names Emerië and Emerwen are from “The Unfinished Tales”. Look up “Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife” for background.


~~~

Day Eighteen – The Lord’s Bailiff

As many other minor nobles in Gondor, Peredur, Lord Orchald’s bailiff, lived outside the town, in a well-made house at the centre of Emerië Manor, the ancient home of his family. The place had been named by his late mother, the Lady Emerwen, who had had an unhealthy interest for Númenórean history, particularly for the most difficult and narrow-minded heroines of it, whom she had apparently considered a role model – with less than pleasant consequences.

In addition to the Lord’s house, which was built of stone, there were various other buildings, such as storehouses, guest houses, workshops, stables, servants’ houses and a free-standing kitchen. There were also enclosures for animals, grain stores and a training area for the soldiers that Lord Orchald had to send to the aid of Gondor’s army in the times of need.

Aside from the Castle in town, Emerië Manor was the other centre of Lord Orchald’s power, and it was from here that he carried out some of his many duties to the Steward – with the increasing help of his bailiff. As a leader in war, Lord Orchald was responsible for the raising, equipping and training of the local army (small as if was in these times), which was drawn from among the lesser nobles and upper ranks of the peasantry in the lands that belonged him. As his training ground at the Castle was too small for troop movements, the old Lord often rode out to Emerië Manor to oversee that training that was led by the much younger Peredur on the daily basis.

Peredur also covered for Lord Orchald in overseeing the building and maintenance of roads, bridges and fortifications. He had ministered the King’s laws in Lord Orchald’s name and enforced the King’s justice, as they said, even though Gondor had not had a King for centuries. (Nor did they need one, in Peredur’s opinion. He was perfectly content with how the Stewards had ruled.) He also oversaw the work of Wella, the tax collector, to make sure that the King’s and the Lord’s taxes were paid on time.

All those offices made Peredur the second most important man in the entire area, right after Lord Orchald; and, to tell the truth, he enjoyed his own importance quite a bit. When not carrying out these duties, he often amused himself by hunting in the Lord’s woods nearby, or was entertained in his hall by Rhysiart, the wandering minstrel. Or he gave feasts for his neighbours, arranging some entertainment for the younger people, like an archery contest, a horse-race or some other popular sport.

On occasion, Lord Orchald stayed at the manor with his son, young Lord Herumor, which Peredur and his wife found a good thing, as the young Lord was still unwed, and they had a lovely daughter who needed a suitable husband. So far, their efforts had not brought any fruit, although it seemed to Peredur that Lord Orchald would welcome such an alliance between their respectable families. No wonder; Peredur’s bloodline was almost as ancient as the Lord’s itself, and Innogen was a beautiful and quick-witted girl, with the most excellent manners. It would have been a perfect match – if only Herumor could see the advantages of it.

All those activities were performed during the milder seasons, though. Emerië Manor was fairly quiet in winter – more so as Peredur’s second-born had been away to esquire training in Prince Adrahil’s court in Dol Amroth. Well, that and the fact that the Lady Emerwen, Peredur’s haughty and pompous mother had died at the beginning of summer, which had more to do with the peaceful quiet in the manor than young Elendur’s absence.

And that very same fact gave Peredur the chance to finally do something he had been planning for a long time. Something he felt he had to do, yet he had not dared to give it a try as long as his mother was still alive. The Lady Emerwen had been a woman of very strong opinions – which meant that no-one else was allowed to have any opinions, unless they matched hers.

“Do you believe he will come?” asked his wife, the lovely Lady Iorwen. “He is said to be a very proud man.”

“He agreed to pay us a visit when I asked him in the Town Hall last week,” replied Peredur with a shrug. “I do think he will come. If for naught else then to see the place where he was born. I would do it if I was him.”

“I do wonder though whether you are as alike in the inside as you are by looks,” said Lady Iorwen thoughtfully. Their daughter, not minder lovely than her mother, grinned suddenly.

“Let us hope he is a bit less stubborn than Father,” she said, “or else we shall never see him face to face.”

Peredur gave him a stern look. One that would make his soldiers quiver with fear.

“More respect towards your sire, young lady,” he said, but his eyes were twinkling. Innogen seemed not the bit intimidated. She just laughed quietly.

In this very moment the old Tevyth, the seneschal of their house, entered the hall.

“My Lord, a man named Odhrain wishes to see you,” he said. “He says you are expecting him,” he added a bit doubtfully. Peredur nodded.

“I am. Lead him in, please.”

Tevyth bowed and opened the door to let in a tall, dark-haired, grey-eyed man who had the same hawkish face as Peredur himself. The man was wearing a long-sleeved, black velvet tunic, lined with fur, and breeches, and a sleeveless, belted surcoat of fine wool, and above it a hooded mantle, fastened on his shoulder with a decorative silver clasp. On his feet were boots with high tops of soft leather. He looked every bit the nobleman he was – by all but the letter of the law.

“This is… almost frightening,” murmured Innogen, looking from her father to her uncle and then back again.

“Nay,” said Peredur quietly. “Frightening is the fact that we have waited for more than fifty years to arrange this get-together. I wish I had been man enough to disregard my mother’s opinion and done this a long time ago.” He turned to the visitor and added with a somewhat embarrassed smile. “I would like to welcome you in our home… brother.”

Odhrain looked at him with narrowed eyes. “I hope you understand, my Lord, that I am having slight… difficulties with getting used to that particular title.”

Lady Iorwen and her daughter exchanged amused looks. Stubborn, Innogen mouthed soundlessly.

“No-one could blame you for that,” said Peredur, still a little embarrassed, “after how you have been treated by our father. I hope, though, that in time we may find away to get to know each other better.”

Odhrain was clearly still suspicious. “Why this sudden interest for me?” he asked. “Even considering your lady mother’s disapproval, you could have approached me in town without her knowledge. Yet you never did. Why now?”

“My mother was not the only obstacle,” admitted Peredur. “Alas, my late brother used to have the same disposition, and our sister is not very different in mind. Lady Iorwen has been the only one to encourage me to make this step.”

“Mayhap my judgement had been influenced by the people of Lossarnach,” added his wife with twinkling eyes. “The Lady Emerwen was most displeased how much of the barbaric customs of the Old Folk have poisoned my thoughts.”

“Apparently, the blood of Westernesse runs thin in all of us,” commented Innogen in a half-hearted imitation of utter shock. “Even in Father. What a shame!”

“I care not,” declared Peredur. “If the future Prince of Dol Amroth can call one of the Haradrim his brother, I certainly can do so with someone who actually does share the same blood with me.”

“Moreso now that you only have Belthil to nag you about it, and she is safely off to Belfalas, terrorising her own family,” said the Lady Iorwen dryly.

Then she, too, turned to Odhrain and said. “I, too, regret that we have waited for so long to do that which should have been done years ago. The truth is, we all feared the Lady Emerwen’s poisoned tongue and foul moods. Living under the same roof with her was not easy, at the best of times. I hope, though, that it is not too late already, for I would like to know you better as well… and our children could use an uncle.”

She was so charming that – like many other people – Odhrain could not resist her. He bowed gallantly and kissed her hand.

“I shall try my best, Lady Iorwen,” he said. “Yet you must understand that I have never had a family of my own. And I am not very good with children… everyone in the Warehouse could tell you that.”

“We are not that small anymore that you could frighten us too much,” grinned Innogen. “Well, save from Númendil, that is. But even he is old enough to begin his esquire training in Dol Amroth next year, and there he would be frightened worse, I deem.”

Odhrain raised an eyebrow. “Is he now? Then he can call himself very fortunate. The court of Prince Adrahil’s is said to be the finest in the entire Gondor, and his weapons masters are among the best.”

“Have you ever been to Dol Amroth?” asked Peredur, for the longing in his half-brother’s voice was obvious.

Odhrain shook his head. “I have never got any further than Minas Tirith,” he said regretfully.

“Would you like to?” asked Peredur. “Would you like to see the Sea, just once?”

“Of course I would,” Odhrain shrugged. “But I have work to do here. A lot of work. I cannot afford travelling around at my leisure.” Not like you – the unspoken comment was very clear.

“Alas, neither can I,” said Peredur. “Lord Orchald is an old man, and though his hand is still steady with the sword, there are many tasks I must do for him. The numbers of those are increasing each year. Which is why I wanted to ask you if you would be willing to accompany my children on their journey to Dol Amroth.”

Me?” Odhrain was not sure he had heard correctly. Peredur shrugged.

“Well, I cannot go. My brother would usually do it, but he is dead. You are our closest kin here – and you are an experienced man. I do not want to send Innogen and Númendil with only servants and guards to escort them.”

“You would trust me with the safety of your children?” Odhrain still could not quite believe it. Peredur raised an eyebrow in eerily the same manner as the other man had done before.

“Are you telling me that you are not trustworthy?”

“Of course not,” snapped Odhrain. “’Tis just… unexpected.”

Peredur nodded, smiling. “I know. I also know that it is a little… selfish to ask a favour from you, after we all have ignored you for half a century. But I had to make a start somewhere, and this is as good an opportunity as any.”

Which was absolutely true, of course.

“You two can discuss the details later,” Lady Iorwen interfered. “Right now, we need to sit down to supper, or else it will go wrong. You do not want to waste a perfectly good supper, do you?”

They did not. And thus the family walked over to the feasting hall, talking a completely bewildered Odhrain with them.

~~~

Note: This request saved Odhrain’s life, as he was in Dol Amroth with Peredur’s children when Halabor was destroyed. Peredur, his wife and their entire household were slain. More about the fate of his children will be mentioned after the story of Day 24.

Next update: December 19.


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