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The Last Yule in Halabor
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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27
Day 24.4 - The Lady of Halabor

For disclaimer and further details see Part 1.

Rating: General, for this part.

Author’s note: the Halabor Advent Project ends here. Thanks to all who read and commented. Further Halabor stories may eventually follow – after I have finished “The Shoemaker’s Daughter”. Blessed Christmas/Yule/Winter Solstice to everyone!


~~~

Day Twenty-Four – The Lady of Halabor

After a short break and the proper refreshments, the guests indulged in round dances again, the musicians playing tirelessly one merry melody after another. Young Lord Herumor, however, joined the lady Erendis on the gallery, and whenever someone happened to glance up to them could see them in earnest conversation. Grave their faces were, much too grave indeed, considering that they were most likely discussing their shared future.

“My lady,” said Herumor, “I do believe that you have heard – just like everyone – that my father wants me wedded before the Spring Fair. And that he wants to announce my choice of a wife in this very night.”

Erendis nodded. “Indeed, it has been discussed in every manor since harvest time.”

“Then I can also assume that you know why I have hesitated to wed for this long,” continued the young knight.

“Everyone knows you have a mistress,” answered Erendis, “and that she is of common birth and therefore unsuitable to become your legally wedded wife. But I must tell you, my lord, if you are trying to find someone who would be willing to turn a blind eye on your… indulgences, I am the wrong choice,” she added with disarming openness. “I can live with my future husband wedding me for other reasons than for having fallen in love with me. However, I am not willing to share my spouse with a mistress.”

“You would not need to do so,” said Herumor, no less openly. “’Tis true that I had a mistress, one that meant a great deal to me. ‘Tis also true that my father made allowances to me in this matter – but only under the condition that I will part with her as soon as the time comes to get married according to my rank and status.” He paused, and sadness flickered across his face for a moment. “That time now has come. We have spoken our farewells two days ago. She will be no competition for my wife, ever. The only contact we shall have in the future will be on official business, and in the presence of others. That I can promise by my honour.”

“And that should be enough for any potential wife, as you are known as an honourable man,” said Erendis. “I would like to ask you a question, though, if you are willing to answer. May I?”

“Certainly, my lady,” replied Herumor, a little surprised. “I promise you an honest answer, as far as I have one.”

Erendis gave him a slight smile. “I have no doubt about that… assuming that this conversation is what I think it is, and that you do intend to propose marriage.”

“It is, my lady,” said Herumor without hesitation, “and I do indeed.”

“Well, then,” Erendis seemed a little uncomfortable continuing, but she did so nonetheless, “why would you choose me? Since we have just established, you are not looking for a wife who would overlook your other indulgences.”

Herumor thought about that for a moment. He did have an answer, of course, he just did not know how to phrase it.

“There are several reasons,” he finally said. “One of them is that I have known you since we were both children, and I have never felt aught but the utmost respect and admiration for you. You are wise and kind and trustworthy – and very beautiful. You would be a great asset for our House. Further, you know as well as I do that running a household like ours is a difficult task, one that I could not do alone. I need someone mature enough to help me shoulder this burden, and I know you have done the same for your mother for years. And finally – forgive me if it sounds a little harsh, but it is the truth – the other ladies are younger than you. They will have plenty of chances to find a suitable husband yet.”

“And you believe I have none?” asked Erendis softly.

“Most young men of suitable families are younger than you,” replied Herumor with an apologetic shrug. “They would look elsewhere.”

“Would you not be more fortunate with a younger wife as well?”

“I am looking for someone who would not only be my wife but also the Lady of Halabor,” said Herumor. “Someone who is level-headed, compassionate and yet strong enough to hold the reins firmly in hand when I am abroad. You are all those things – and more. This Castle has been without a proper lady for too long. I have no use for a young girl who would need years t o learn her future duties first.”

“Are you certain that you are seeking for a wife and not for a chatelaine?” there was a certain edge in Erendis’ voice.

Herumor shook his head. “We already have a chatelaine, and she is very good at that which she does, as you know,” he answered. “She will be a great help for the lady of our House. But being that lady is a great responsibility, no less than ruling Halabor and the adjoining lands one day. My father has carried the burden for a long time. ‘Tis my turn now, and to be able to fulfil my duties properly, I need a lady on my side, just as my mother was standing on father’s side. Can I persuade you to be that lady, Erendis? What I can offer you is more a burden than a privilege, I know. Still, I would prefer to share that burden with you than with any of the other ladies here.”

“At least you are honest,” Erendis looked at him with a sad little smile. “Very well then; I accept. My father would do so in a moment anyway – he had been most anxious to finally get me married off for several years. I thank you though for leaving the choice to me.”

Herumor shrugged. “’Tis not a slave market. Both parties involved should have a say in the matter.”

“Should is the right word,” said Erendis dryly. “Usually, it works differently, though. Glad I am that I shall not have to brought to that market any longer.”

Herumor gave her an unexpected grin. “The only one to whom your beauty would be displayed again is me, lady. I consider that a privilege.”

Erendis blushed but could not help laughing.

“Now I see why you feel the need to marry a somewhat older woman,” she said. “You are still very much that reckless little boy I used to know. I see I shall have my work cut out for me to make you a proper and dignified lord.”

“Guilty as charged,” Herumor admitted a little sheepishly. “Shall we go down and make an announcement then?”

“I believe we should,” answered Erendis. “It seems that my parents have forgotten how to breathe for a while by now, and your lord father looks rather concerned, too. Does he fear that you might change your mind about getting married?”

Herumor laughed. “Nay, he knows I would never go back on my given word. I believe he fears that you might refuse my offer, though.”

“We should go down and put his mind at ease, then,” said Erendis, rising from her seat. “’Tis not a nice thing to torture our parents with uncertainty.”

“But it can be fun sometimes,” replied Herumor with a reckless grin, but he stood, too, and extended his hand to her, escorting her back to the great hall.

Lord Orchald and Erendis’ parents hurried over to them at once, of course.

“Well?” the Lord of Halabor asked. “Have the two of you reached an agreement?”

“We have,” said Erendis simply, leaving any further explanations to her future husband.

“The Lady Erendis agreed to become my wife,” added Herumor in obvious relief. “If Lord Malanthur and Lady Emeldir are not adverse, we can make and announcement, father.”

Erendis’ parents were far from being adverse. They could not been happier, in truth, as they had almost given up hope to get their older daughter married off properly. As Herumor had said, most potential suitors were either way too old or much too young for her. The other young ladies present were of a more suitable age for the young lords.

Thus Lord Orchald gave a sign to the musicians to finish the dance, and when everyone in the great hall became quiet again, he raised his voice to catch their attention.

“My friends, my honoured guests and those who have served our Houses faithfully, allow me to present you the future Lady of Halabor!”

The guests turned towards him in eager anticipation, and when Lord Orchald took the hand of the Lady Erendis, kissed her on the brow and called her his beloved daughter, people cheered and clapped their hands loudly and gleefully. And when young Lord Herumor stepped forth to kiss his bride for the first time before all eyes, there were whistles and calls of encouragement and much laughter.

And while the other young ladies – and their parents – might be disappointed, the servants of the Castle and the invited dignitaries of the townsfolk were most pleased. For it had been a long time since Halabor had had a lady, and all agreed that the Lady Erendis would fill that place wondrously well.

Thus passed the last Yule night ever celebrated in Halabor, and when the morning star shone up on the skies, the guests returned to their chambers in renewed hope and in a happier mood than they had had in a long time.

~The End – this time really~

~~~

Note: Herumor was slain in a fight with a raiding band of Hill men in early 3008, before he could actually have married Erendis. Lord Orchald died on the steps of his burning Castle, defending it – and his town – ‘til his last breath. His steward, Sador, and Mistress Gilmith escaped, but Gilmith dies shortly thereafter, not being able to get over the destruction of her home. The other noble families – save Peredur’s – were not harmed, fort he Orcs had been specifically sent to destroy Halabor, hoping so to open the way to Cair Andros. The Lords held out in their fortified manors, although they did send their children to supposedly safer places: to Minas Tirith, Forlong’s town in Lossarnach, Linhir, or other cities.


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