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A Family Affair
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Winter, 1422, Pelargir

For Marta's birthday - you wanted Kin-strife, you've got it.


The door to the study flew open, banging shut as in stalked the Lord of Pelargir, mood black as a crow. Vorondur went straight to the table, where lay a map of Gondor. Pelargir gleamed upon it, picked out in green and gold-leaf ink; leagues distant lay Osgiliath, stark black and white and surrounded by a thin rim of silver, like the intimation of a wall. As if even here, the city made ghostly warning and refusal.

He heard the door handle click, knew who it must be even before he heard the softness of the step, the rustle of a costly silk gown. His eldest daughter, and the jewel of all his treasury, laid her hands upon his back and her chin upon his shoulder. He sighed.

"Do not seek to cozen me," he growled.

"Father," Sorrían murmured, "hear me…"

"He pushes too hard!" Vorondur snapped preemptively. "He seeks to humble me in my own home, before my own council!"

"He does as you hoped he would: hounds the pretender, gathers allies into a great pack," she replied. "He is strong-willed—he will serve our cause well."

"He wants me kneeling to him, daughter," he said. Sorrían sighed, and she turned him gently to her then.

"Yes," she said frankly. "He wants you kneeling to him. He wants you at his side, first among equals. And you should do it, Father."

"Should I?"

"Aye. For you bound me to him for that very reason." And before he could say aught, she turned slightly, standing in profile to him, and she smoothed her gown over her belly… over the slightest bulge he had not noticed hitherto. Vorondur sucked in a breath, and his daughter nodded. "Yes. Your grandchild, sir—may it please the Valar, a fine son to follow us. A son to inherit a throne, if you will bow to Castamir; if not…"

If not, if he strove with Castamir directly for the throne, if he took a wife to stand in place of his late lady once he held the crown, and made his own heir, then there would be no need for this one. Rival lines, however close, were trouble when succession was still unstable, still likely open to contest—must be got rid of, in the end, if there was to be peace…

And Castamir is a strong-willed man.

Women who were with child were said often to glow, and Vorondur fancied he could see a faintly silver cast, like an aura, about his daughter, brightest where that new life grew in her—a bar like that other silver circle.

He could still do it—hold his ground, push back, aim for the heights himself, and knock that ban aside, as he would do the other.

But he knew his choice was made already—had been from the moment Sorrían had shown him, and with a sigh, he opened his arms, beckoning her to him. She came gladly, and he held her for a time, rocking her slightly, as he had when she had been a small girl. Her fate, to be a lass—she would have made a fine lad and so he kissed her cheek and then her brow.

"I will kneel to him," he told her, and when she smiled, continued, cautionary warning: "But my darling, this is now your wager. You rise and fall with him—our house rises and falls with you and your children now. Therefore, keep the leash tight—or if he cannot be well-leashed, then see to the matter yourself once it is safe. For he is a strong-willed man, and if he cannot be controlled in the end…"

She gazed at him, and raised her chin, hand going once more and protectively this time to her belly. "I know, Father," she replied, steel in her voice now. "Fear not—for though he be my lord, I am Necessity's mistress!"


Author's Notes: Borrowing names and filling out a scenario implied in my story, A Very Rain of Sparrows.


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