Secret Agent Bronwyn reporting for duty, SIR! or Paperback Strider
If passerbys thought the riders looked strange, they said nothing. If vendors in small towns thought the group… unusual, they said nothing. If bandits or thieves thought to waylay them, they thought again quickly.
Four fully armed Elves and a Woman with a guitar and knives. Riding south.
“I am stupid. Apparently, I am the stupidest woman in all of Middle Earth.” Bronwyn stopped her mount at the top of a small rise, a slight breeze blowing through her hair. “I am stupid and it is hotter than hell.”
“You are not stupid. Please do not say that again. And what is ‘hell’?” Haldir rode up alongside her, his mount pulling, yearning to break free and gallop hard. The wind blew harder and his long hair fluttered gently.
She took a deep breath as the two looked towards the walled city that lay before them. They were soon joined by the Haldir’s brothers and friend. The five looked down at the town.
“Is this it?” Heridil asked quietly.
“No, it is still a day and half out. Baraer?”
Bronwyn took a deep breath, her hand going to the small of her back. Although it was not possible to see the changes of her body through her leggings and tunic, she and Haldir well knew that her waist was thickening and her belly was hardening. Her temper had been unusually short as of late, especially upon finding out from Galadriel, how long a typical Elven pregnancy lasted.
“One year? I could expect to pregnant one year? Holy Mary! I thought nine months was bad!” Maybe she would be lucky. Maybe the Valar would be kind and allow her a human woman’s time and not… a year.
Oh, who was she kidding? The Valar stuck it to her every chance they got! They seem to go to great lengths and took endless joy to make her life as convoluted and chaotic as possible.
On the other hand, they gave her Haldir to clear paths and decipher things for her. He, who untangled knots, solved problems, and kept villains at bay. He, who planned and thought things through from all sides. He, who rescued her from ‘lions’ and held her close at night, massaging the knots from the day’s ride from her back. It was exasperating and comforting at the same time.
It was a double edged sword. She often wondered who wielded who.
“We could go on. There is still daylight left and we could make better time. Possibly make it to the next town.” Orophin’s voice was hopeful. Of the three brothers, he hated travel the most and deeply desired to return to the Golden Woods. He simply wanted this task to be over and done with, the sooner, the better.
“No.” Haldir’s head was shaking, as was Rumil’s. “Bronwyn has spent two days in the saddle and her back aches.” He saw a grateful look pass across her face and she gave him a wan smile. “We will find rooms here tonight.” He reached over and took her hand, squeezing it gently.
Morning sickness had finally left Haldir behind, but Bronwyn’s changing body and hormones were slowing her down. She was napping still on a regular basis and her back hurt almost constantly. Being in the saddle for ten days hadn’t helped.
“Where are we going and why again? And why wasn’t I in on the meeting?”
“The King sent us on a small errand… a fact finding mission, if you will. And you were taking a nap.” Rumil stated matter of factly.
Some small errand, Haldir thought, yanking on his braid. He would have preferred that Bronwyn not know and stayed behind. Of course, she found out and no amount of begging, pleading, or demanding could persuade her not to join them.
“Why are we going to Mansfield? And be totally honest. I can’t help unless you are completely up front with me.”
Heridil and Orophin exchanged glances. This was not going to be pretty. Haldir took a deep breath.
“When Aragorn assumed the crown of Gondor and defeated Sauron, it became quite clear that Denethor, his steward, had not been well for a long time.”
“Denethor was madder that a rabid coon! Totally insane.” she mumbled.
“I do not understand what ‘madder than a rabid coon’ means, but yes, he was completely insane!” He took her reins from her and pulled Sea Spray closer to his own mount. “Please do not interrupt.”
“When Aragorn took control, he sent messages to all the mayors, heads of the subordinate governments, asking for their records – population, tax, income, business, any poll that had been done for the past five years. Apparently, Denethor had not done a complete census in years and Aragorn simply wanted to see to his people’s needs and take into consideration of who needed what.”
“Several governing bodies asked for time. They have since provided the necessary information. Except Mansfield.”
“Aragorn sent a second messenger. He was strung out for a week before strange things began to happen to him.”
“Strange things? What sort of strange things?”
Haldir’s smile was grim. “His horse was stricken with colic and died. He was robbed. The room he was renting at the boarding house was ransacked and burned. He was attacked by street thugs twice before leaving on foot.”
“Aragorn sent a third messenger before the wedding. This one was made of sterner stuff, a member of Gondor’s calvary.”
“He has never returned.”
The five started slowly towards the walled city. “So you and Aragorn think that maybe the mayor of Mansfield is cooking the books?”
Haldir’s look said it all.
“Alright, I will rephrase it. Aragon thinks something is afoot and that perhaps the mayor has a good thing going and doesn’t want to share the wealth.”
Now, four pairs of disgruntled Elven eyes looked at her. She tried a third time.
“Aragorn is of the mindset that the Mayor is keeping the money for himself and that he doesn’t want the King to know how well is doing financially?”
“Yes.” the quartet of Elven voices answered.
“Oh look!” she cried out joyfully. “A copse of trees!” Two pair of grey, one pair of green, and one pair of dark blue eyes searched the skies in consternation as she slid from her horse and ran into the trees and underbrush. Haldir motioned for the others to come down from their mounts and gather, waiting patiently for her.
“What is this? A board meeting?” She exited the wooded area, pulling on her leggings. She would not be wearing them much longer. Already her knife belt was on its least hole.
Heridil nudged Orophin. “Do you think we will ever understand half of what she says?”
Haldir’s youngest brother pursed his lips and shook his head no. “Does it matter? Once we do, she only spits out more.”
Haldir motioned her to them and handed her a venison strip. He had discovered that if he wanted to speak without being interrupted, it was best to put food in her mouth.
“I think it would be prudent to separate. We are close to Mansfield and four Elves and a Woman traveling together will cause too many to think on it. The four of us – ” he motioned to his brothers and Heridil, “- we will cause a stir, regardless so we might as well stay together. However you, -” he pointed to Bronwyn, “- would do better on your own.”
“What?” “Are you nuts?” “Sweet Elbereth, brother…” all three Elves burst out at the same time. Only Bronwyn seemed non-plussed and nodded at her husband.
“Boys, hush!” she admonished. All three bickering Elves snapped their mouths shut and looked at her as if she were deranged. “Haldir is right.”
Haldir smiled. For all her protestations, Bronwyn was not stupid. Once he moved forward, gave her reasons, explained certain things, she caught on quickly. He had been shocked the evening before when he had whispered his plans and thoughts to her as she cuddled in his arms atop his horse that she not only understood and accepted his plan, she even had suggested a few things. He now considered her a most sneaky ally.
“The last thing we want is to cause a commotion, cause anyone to remember us. People are going to remember four Elves traveling, but at this time, with so many of the Mirkwood Elves roaming and exploring, it won’t be remarked that much on.”
“However, if Bronwyn is seen with the lot of us, that will remembered and talked about. We are too close to Mansfield to hope we can move together without being fodder for conversation overly much. This will be our practice, what Baraermin calls a ‘dry run’ for Mansfield. Here is the plan…”
Here comes trouble, walking down your street
Here comes trouble, and I’ll get ready, soon we’re gonna meet
Here comes trouble, I’ll com knocking down that door
You’ll soon see what I’ve been waiting for
Here comes trouble
The so-called dry run had been a rousing success and it worked well the next evening in the next town, so implementing the plan as they entered Mansfield two days later was simple.
The city was large, a sprawling sea-town with a large wharf and waterfront. Unlike the other towns, it was not walled, so they decided leaving in a hurry, if necessary, would be easy. The group separated far outside of town, Bronwyn approaching from the land locked side and the Elves entering from the coastline. The way they moved, no one would be able to say for certain if they had come by boat or if they had rode in on their mounts.
“I cannot believe you are abandoning Bronwyn to the fates alone, Haldir!” Orophin whispered angrily as they approached the bustling harbor. “Melkor’s chains, brother! She carries your child!”
“I am not abandoning her. Do not ever make that accusation again!” Haldir yanked angrily on his braid. “She has just entered the city. So far, no one has accosted her.”
“But still-” Orophin was in an argumentative mood.
“Cease! Do you trust me?” He took in his youngest brother’s gaze. “Then do so and trust her as well. We will take a room across from where she takes hers. Do not worry…” he threw his hand up to his brother, “… I will be with her, but the innkeeper will remember four Elves, not three and not an Elf and a Woman.” The crowds, smells, and sights got heavy. “Khila amin!”
Bronwyn came upon a sentry right off the bat. She was wearing a yellow short sleeved dress, with a full skirt that left would have left her calves bare had she not been wearing boots. The sentry looked up at her appreciatively and she granted him her most angelic smile.
“Good morrow, miss.”
“And good morrow to you, kind sir. Pray, tell me where an honest woman with some musical talent could possible get or trade a good, quiet, clean room with a stable close by for my Sweetness here.” She patted Sea Spray fondly.
“Well,” the young man stroked his chin in thought, “there be my place…” he quirked an eyebrow.
“Oh, naughty child!” she turned on every wile, every charm she had. “Nay, nay! I expect my lover on one of yonder ships in the next few days and wanted to surprise him.”
The sentry shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. Disappointed in his ill-luck, maybe, but he did NOT want to take on a sea-hardened sailor, no matter how pretty a piece she was. He pointed towards the middle of town. “The docks be dangerous, harsh, but towards the Mayor’s residence, there be many inns with pub rooms willing to trade, if’n yer good.”
“Oh, I am very good”
The sentry nodded. ‘Who would care how good she be if’n she shows that much leg without a boot!‘ he thought quietly. Still there was something about her…
“Listen,” he motioned her closely to him and he looked up into fiery brown eyes. “go to The Wandering Sailor,” he pointed with his chin, “it is down that ways a bit. Ask for Meg or Rory. They be the owners. You be tellin’ them that John Sentry sent ye.” He clasped at her saddle. “An’ be doin’ yerself a favor. If’n ye play, make sure that ye stuff some o’yer coin in a hidden place. Don’t want the taxiser tuh take it all.”
But he had turned her loose and smacked Sea Spray on the rump to move her on.
The Taxiser? Who and what the hell was a taxiser?
She found The Wandering Sailor easily enough, across the way from the Buxom Wench and the Happy Knight. The inn was on a bustling street, among many others, which was good. Her eyes never stopped roaming, took in all there was to take in. She noticed several armed men walking with a purpose, looking at everyone.
Looking at her.
She tied her mount to the post in front, and taking her pack from the saddle, went inside.
It was dark, quiet. It was not quite lunch time and there was no one inside yet. She took in the large man behind the bar, drying and putting away glasses. He had hands the size of hammers.
“Good day to you, sir.” She strode up to the barman, smile wide.
“Good day tuh ye, as well, miss.” He never looked up from his drying. “Wot kin I doh fer ye this fine day? Would yew like an ale? A meat pie? Me wife makes the best meat pie in these parts.”
“Ah. That sounds like a winner to me!” Bronwyn pulled up to the bar, and dropped her bags on the floor with a loud thud. “Perhaps, while I am relishing the fine food your wife obviously prepares,” she motioned to his expanded belly, “perhaps you and I could have a chat about a room and work out some… trade.”
“There be no whores here, ma’am.” A woman, larger than the barkeep, came from what was obviously the kitchens, hands on both hips. Her eyes squinted in the darkness at the small woman in the bright dress. “I run a clean establishment!”
“Me? Whore? Great Iluvatar! My husband would shoot me! No! No! You misunderstand. I am a musician.” She motioned to her guitar strapped on her back. “I am waiting for my husband. He should be pulling ashore any day and I hoped to surprise him. I don’t have much gold and I hoped to take a room in trade.” The barkeep had gone and come back with a platter of food. It was steaming and smelled delicious. Bronwyn sunk her fork in and upon putting it to her mouth, rolled her eyes in delight.
“This is wonderful! I fair swear it would rival anything I ate in the White City during Ellesar’s wedding to the Evenstar!” She dug her fork back into the meat pie and began to devour it.
“Yew were there?” The barkeep – Rory – leaned closer. “Yew were in t’ White City durin’ the wedding?”
“Ye saw t’King? His Elven wife? Is she truly beautiful?”
The innkeeper and his wife peppered her with questions that she truthfully and not-so -truthfully answered. Before she knew it, the pie was gone and she licked her fingers, grinning. These two were eating out of her hands
“So ye wish tuh trade? Trade wot?”
She looked around as if not wanting anyone to over hear. Only one man had come into the pub and in truth, the place did not look like it was ever that busy.
“I play. In fact, I play well. I will entertain your guests from after dinner to closing, in exchange for a clean room, non – alcoholic beverages and a place to board my horse.”
The couple exchanged glances.
“‘ow d’ we know yer good and worth the trade?” Lunch should have well been underway, but still there was only one patron. Bronwyn looked around at the quiet pub. The street outside was bustling and she could hear raucous laughter from the surrounding buildings.
“Give me a place to stow my gear and five minutes to change and I’ll show you on the house, for free, here at lunch what I can do!”
Rory and Meg looked at each, shrewd gleams in their eyes. With a “Follow me.” Meg led Bronwyn up the stairs.
The harbor of the coastal town was filthy, nasty. The people were furtive and garbage lay in the streets. Haldir and the others roamed idly for almost an hour, ducking chamber pots being emptied from upper stories, taking in the sights, taking in the sentries, the guards, before he seem to make a beeline towards the center of town. The four Elves garnered more than their fair share of attention, just as Haldir had suspected. As they got closer, they saw more and more boarding houses, more and more drinking establishments, although they seem to be cleaner and not as dangerous as the ones on the wharf. They entered a busy street, and Haldir pointed with his chin to the a building with sign stating “The Wandering Sailor.” It was packed, men standing outside, trying to get in.
And the music coming out…
“She is in there.” he stated in Sindarian. He looked across the street to the Buxom Wench. “I will get us rooms here.” He slid down, grabbing his saddle roll. “Heridil, find where Sea Spray is stabled. Put our mounts there as well and then go to Bronwyn. Orophin and Rumil will meet you.” The Brothers Lorien slid from their mounts as well and grabbed their things. “I, however, have other business to attend to.” And he went into the inn to purchase a room for several nights and to find out where the mayor, or whomever was in charge, could be found.
A Master of Music
Came with intent
To give me a lesson
On my instrument
I thanked him for nothing
And bid him begone
For my little fiddle
Must not be played on
My thing is my own
And I keep it so still
All the young lasses
Can do what they will…
The three Elves stood in the back of the pub, holding their ales. Heridil’s mouth was the most gaped. They whispered in Sindarian.
“I saw her for two days, but not like this…”
If Orophin’s eyebrows could have leapt from his forehead, they would have. “Haldir would give birth a cave troll if he saw her. Is she not supposed to be pregnant?”
“What is that is she singing?” Heridil could hardly believe his ears. “It sounds like she is singing ‘Nazgul in the Sky with Diamonds’. “
“Or the one before!” Orophin whispered. “I could have sworn it sounded like she was singing ‘Saruman’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ “
Rumil just drank his ale, “I think these men are to drunk to care! I think she looks good!” He was admiring the view and the faith his eldest brother had in the woman standing on the back table. ” Personally, I liked ‘Orc on the Run.”
Bronwyn had changed quickly into a green, low-cut dress. It was sleeveless and she had tiny white blouse under the top, it’s sleeves pulled over her shoulders, baring them, her breasts shoved waaaay up. She had hitched up the skirt, attaching it at her hip, exposing white petticoat ruffles and a goodly portion of leg. Her guitar was out and she was singing some of the most… bawdy songs… the Elves ever heard. And limericks set to music… oh Sweet Elbereth, someone please forgive her…
Oh! cabin boy, Oh! cabin boy, You dirty little nipper You lined your ass With broken glass And circumcised the skipper.
Oh, great howls for that!
Heridil choked on his ale and Orophin pounded his back for several minutes.
“Iluvatar’s Balls! She could teach Glorfindel a thing or two!” The three Elves acknowledged Haldir’s presence as he signaled the bartender for a pint. “We have a room that faces this inn. Are the horses stabled and fed?”
The three nodded, none taking their eyes off Bronwyn. Rumil leaned over to whisper in Haldir’s ear. “Your other business? It is taken care of?”
The pint arrived just in time for Haldir to snort in it. “I found the so-called ‘mayor’. I have to make an appointment with his secretary to make an appointment. That clerk was not in today.” He took a deep swig from the mug and scowled. This was not the sweet mead of Lothlórien or Imladris. Melkor’s Chains, even Thranduil’s swill was better than this! “We shall see. If that does not work, I will take matters into my own hands.”
Bronwyn had burst out with another bawdy limerick.
There was a young lady of Bicester Who was nicer by far than her sister: The sister would giggle And wiggle and jiggle, But this one would come if you kissed her.
This time, Heridil pounded on Orophin’s back. Haldir’s nose went deeper in the foamy broth of his tankard. “Most definitely teach Glorfindel a thing or two!”
A clamor arose from the crowd. “More! More! Sweet Morgan! More!”
Bronwyn had slung her guitar across her back and had jumped from the table. “Fifteen minutes, my loves!” She had in her hand a large bowl, filled with coins and she made her way slowly through the crowd towards the bar. She came to rest next to Heridil, not acknowledging any of the Elves, setting the bowl before her. “Rory. What cool juices do you have?”
The bartender – Rory – handed up a bright yellow citrusy drink. “Are yew sure yew don’ wanna cold pint?”
“Nay. Just keep me in this or water.” She took a deep drink and allowed her eyes to fall on the tall Elves. “Gentlemen. You venture far from home.” No one would know they knew each other, much less that she was married to the tall, broad one.
“We are just seeing the sights. Wander some before returning to the Wood.” Haldir purposely spoke haltingly, as if having difficulty with the Common Tongue. “You are an interesting sight. You are…?”
She downed the beverage and belched in a most unladylike manner. She set her glass down and stuck out her hand in greeting. “I am Morgan. Morgan la Fay. Pleased to meet you.” She was suddenly knocked over and into Haldir’s arms.
A tall, rangy man wearing a sword picked up her bowl and dumped it in a bag attached to his belt. His cohort, not as tall, but wide and similarly armed, motioned to Rory, who proceeded to hand over money from his own tin.
“Excuse me, but that is mine, you pitiful excuse for an Orc.” Bronwyn made a grab for her bowl and the bag. Greasy, meaty hands grabbed her wrists.
“Ah, ye be new here. That be right fine.” The man leered at her, blackened teeth framed in an unshaven face, showing in a filthy row. “Rory, I be shocked y’didn’t tell her ‘bout taxes.”
“I ‘aven’t ‘ad a chance. Jist hired ‘er a few ‘ours ago. Turn ‘er loose. She no’ know.” Rory shook his head to Bronwyn, a silent plea for her to stop struggling. The man’s cohort was laughing. The stench of unwashed sweat rolled from their bodies.
“Ah. A new one, eh? Perhaps, ye should allow her a break.” The man returned his gaze to Bronwyn, his eyes never raising above her chest. “I could… tell ‘er whot she need t’know.” He never released her wrists.
“You can tell me what I need to know right now, right here.” Bronwyn’s breath was short, panted. She was furious! “What gives you the right to steal my earnings in broad daylight?”
Both men were laughing loudly at her now, causing the noise and conversation level of the entire room to drop considerably. All eyes were on the three combatants. All, but the two men, realized they were surround by four armed Elves.
“I be the Taxiser, lovely. Y’work an’ I make sure y’ pay yer taxes. We haf tuh keep the King and his pretty takin’ care of.” Bronwyn’s eyes had narrowed into slits.
“Taxes, I understand. But you took every dime I made. That is not right!”
“Well, wot about wot ye’ve ‘idden in yer blouse? I be thinkin’ I might be wantin’ a piece o’…” He found an Elven sword blade at his throat. Watery hazel eyes slid over and up into a dark blue storm.
“I suggest you turn her loose.”
The Taxiser dropped her wrists and she stepped back, rubbing them.
“Mind yer own business, Elf. We don’t like trouble makers ‘ere.”
Haldir ignored him, his eyes on Bronwyn. “Miss… Morgan. Are you alright?” He took in her demeanor, her furious look, her hands to her wrists,
“I am fine.” She snatched her now empty bowl and headed back to the table that she had commandeered. Haldir resheathed his sword, as did the other three. The unkempt man and his partner drew themselves up and attempted to stare down the Elf.
“Ye haf no business tuh interfere!”
“You took every bit of gold she made and was threatening a strip search of her. She was frightened, obviously did not want your… charming attentions…” with this, Haldir smiled a not-so-charming smile, “so at that point, it became my business.” He towered over the stinking man. “Where we come from, we treat our women with dignity and respect. Obviously, you did not receive that same lesson.”
At this point, the taxiser realized he was outnumbered and encircled by the Elves. Their prowess with weapons was renowned. His smile did not reach his eyes.
“Obviously, I ‘ave wot is due fer now. Yew-” he stuck a nasty finger in Haldir’s face, “-best not be meddlin’ in wot don’t concern ye!” He picked up Haldir’s tankard and took a deep swig, before spitting on Heridil’s boots and stalking out.
The Elves watched the two leave, Haldir’s eyes narrowed into slits.
“Ye’ve made an ugly enemy.” Rory was quietly replacing Haldir’s tankard of ale.
“He was ugly before he became my enemy.” Haldir’s voice was low. “What does he mean, taxiser?” His eyes never left Bronwyn – Morgan la Fay, what kind of name was that? – He picked up the tankard and immediately noticed this ale was better than what was originally served. His eyes shot a questioning look to the barkeep.
“Taxiser. Taxes. At least, that is wot the mayor calls ‘em.” His head raised as a cheer rose from the crowd. Bronwyn broke out with ‘The Pub with no beer.’ much to the amusement of her audience. “Legal robbin’ is wot it is. T’only reason any of us ‘ave anythin’ is if’n we ‘ide it.” He nodded to Bronwyn. “I’ve not ‘ad this much business in five years. She keeps this up, I’ll ‘ave tuh shut down the day after morrow tuh go buy more food an’ ale.” He tossed several more tankards on the bar, to the waiting barmaid. The music changed to an instrumental – Braw the Sailing Sea – before Rory returned to the Elves. “So, yew be wantin’ me tuh tell yew where ‘er room be?”
“Why would I want to know where her room is?”
The music moved to Greensleeves.
” ‘Cuz t’way yew took up fer her so fast. ‘Cuz t’way she looked at yew when yew come in. ‘Cuz t’ring on yer finger -” he pointed to Haldir’s left hand, “matches t’one on t’chain she wears. An’ by t’way, she’s carryin’. Me wife ‘ad seven. I kin tell.”
Haldir slammed the empty tankard down on the bar. “You see much, Bartender.”
“Look ‘ere,” another one went up to replace the empty mug, “I don’ know why yer ‘ere, or wot yer business is, but I ‘spect it’s important an’ I ‘spect yer from t’ new King. Word spread he be in wit’ like this wit’ t’ Elves.” He held up crossed fingers. “That ‘un-” he pointed to Bronwyn, “don’ realize she done saved me neck this month!” He looked up at Bronwyn. “An’ if’n I’m careful like, maybe next month tuh!” His gazed slid back to Haldir. “I be beholdin’ tuh’er! I’ll do wot I kin tuh keep an eye on ‘er, but yew do tuh! She be at the top, in t’back. Yer ale’s on me!” And with that, he left the confines of the bar, to help clear some tables.
“Is our cover blown?” Rumil watched the bartender, eyes narrowed in consternation.
“I do not think so. The Man sees much, but I believe he is on our side. Still, we will not bother with trusting him.” He took a deep breath, letting the ale sit. “Plans have changed. Rumil, instead of coming with me tomorrow, you and Orophin stay here, keep on eye on Baraer. Heridil, you scout the city. Find the easiest places to leave, the roads out, which ones are guarded the least.”
“But Haldir! That will leave you without backup!”
‘Me without backup or Baraermin without backup. Which would you prefer?” Haldir’s eyes bored into Orophin’s. “That pitiful excuse of a human might be back. I will not have her face him alone.”
You better watch your step
I mean it, you’re running out of time
You got a nasty streak,
And I’ve seen it, but it ain’t nothing next to mine
Here comes trouble
Haldir sat calmly in the chair, across from the desk of the man who fashioned himself mayor. His expression was cool, void of outward emotion. Two heavily muscled men stood behind him, out of his vision, but he knew they were there.
“Haldir… of Lothlórien?” Watery blue eyes flicked over the parchment unrolled in front of him.
“The… King sends you on this most urgent… errand. Aren’t you far from home?”
“I see. The two of you must be… close… for him to send an Elf.” It was said with a sneer, respect thinly veiled over a bigoted veneer.
“You could say I grew up with his bride. I have known the King since he was youngling.”
If Haldir’s smile frightened the man – Royce – he did not show it. And it should have! “I am sorry. You must tell the King that I cannot get my hands on the information he requests so quickly. Surely, he will understand this.”
“Nay.” Haldir’s voice never raised. “You have had more than six months to compile the information. This city, which is not the largest in the kingdom, is the only one having problems complying with the request. Surely you realize, as I am the fourth messenger Ellesar King has sent, how serious he is!”
The man behind the desk, rubbed his temples in vexation. This Elf was going to be difficult to dissuade and he did not dare make another messenger disappear. Perhaps… He shifted through the paperwork on his desk.
“Are you perchance, the Elf who accosted one of my men in the… oh where is it… The Wandering Sailor…yesterday afternoon?”
“If you are talking about the thief who robbed the singer there yesterday, then yes. That was I.”
The mayor signaled the two men, who came up on both sides and grasped the Elf by the arms. “Then I am sorry, but the man you accosted was my own Taxiser and by your own admission of guilt, I am forced to sentence you to four weeks in jail…” His eyes flew open at the sight of both of his strongest guardsmen go flying into opposing walls, both unconscious when they hit the floor. By the time he turned his attention back to the Elf, he was leaning over the desk and had the Man by the collar.
“You have left me sitting in this over-heated, smelly, pitiful excuse of a town for almost one week. You will have that information to me tomorrow. Be aware that I am not alone.” He slung Royce back into his chair. “Tomorrow.”
The next day, the mayor’s residence was locked tight. Haldir and Heridil looked closely at the building.
“He is there.” Heridil whispered. “I have not allowed this building from my sight.” He motioned to the tall trees surrounding the building. “There are no flets in them, but they are wonderful cover.”
“Bronwyn came with me late in the evening last night, before she fell asleep. She said her palms were on fire.”
Heridil nodded. “Aye. Something is there. Tonight?”
“Aye.” Haldir’s visage was grim. “And watch carefully. I am bringing Baraermin with me. I hate it, but she might be of some help.”
Early in the morning, under the cover of darkness, three misty-clothed Elves and a black clad woman circled the building. Bronwyn was scratching furiously at her palms.
“I don’t know what he hides, but there is much!” An empty dark satchel was slung over her shoulder. It matched the satchels carried by Orophin and Rumil. “Where are the guards?”
“According to Heridil, they should be along any min… ah. There!” They jerked back into the cover of the trees.
Sure enough, two men, armed with clubs and swords, made their way around the building. They watched, looked furtively, before making their way on around the building. The group slid from the trees.
“We have five minutes. Quickly!”
They hurried across the grass, to the tall bushes near the side door. It was locked. Orophin cursed quietly.
“Don’t tell me you thought they would leave it unlocked?” Bronwyn was messing with her hair. She pulled a pin from the curls and smiled wickedly. “My parents kept many rooms locked in our home. I always wondered why.” Quickly, she inserted the hairpin, and within a minute, they heard the click of the lock. They quietly filed in before the guards came back around.
The room was dark. Elvish eyes quickly became attuned, but one pair of fiery ones did not. She simply followed her palms.
Quietly, the foursome made their way through the complex. They met with several guards, all who went down quietly. Each one was bound and gagged and left in quiet, dark rooms.
Three floors up, she pointed to a door. “There.”
The oversized office was dark and Haldir lit a small light after making sure the door was carefully shut and the windows completely curtained. Bronwyn went straight for the desk.
It was locked. Out came the hairpin.
“Baraermin! When did you become adept in stealthy arts?”
“Since my parents locked me out of rooms.” The drawer slid open.
“Lovely. I am married to a future convict. Baraermin, I might remind you, we are slightly removed from the protective arm of Aragorn or Celeborn. I have no desire for my daughter to be born in a dank prison!”
Ledgers were coming out of the drawer, her hands roaming each one. “No. No. No…. wait… Haldir! Between you with your enhanced powers, your brothers, Heridil and me, do you think anyone will catch us?” Books began to disappear into her satchel. Her hairpin went into another drawer. “Do not worry. Your son will be born in a comfortable bed, most likely in White City!”
Rumil stood next to the door listening carefully. Orophin was down the hall, hovering in an alcove by the steps. So far, nothing but quiet, if you did not count the quiet argument between Haldir and Bronwyn.
“What are you taking?” Haldir had been watching carefully. She picked out ledgers, books, flipped through them quickly before shoving them in the satchel or discarding them.
“We were right. This son of a bitch is cooking the books.” She had started on the next drawer. “He is no better than John Longshanks…”
She shook her head with a sigh and continued to plunder the deep drawer. “One lousy bastard who was King of England.” She finished with the drawer and shut it quietly, turning her attention to the shelves behind her. “He over-taxed people. This so-called mayor and his cronies are wringing this town dry. At least, he is brainless and keeping record of it!” Her hands ran over the spines of the books on the shelf. She removed several and handed them to Haldir, who put them in his satchel. She had perused the entire shelf in minutes.
Haldir blew out the candle and wetting the wick with his fingertips, put the doused light in his satchel. The three quietly stole out of the room. They were met by Orophin in the shadowy hall.
“The mayor is up. He heads this way.” The three Elves clustered in front of Bronwyn. She tugged on Haldir’s arm.
“Please. Give me a turn.”
“Haldir, please. Give me a turn.” She could see his eyes glowing in the dark, narrowed in consternation. “Please.” He nodded quietly.
The mayor was slowly made his way up the stairs. She could hear his footsteps, a dim light in his hand. Quietly, music welled in her head – The Oak Tree – and she set the sound waves spinning in the air. As he came close to the top, she flung them at him. His head jerked up, and as he fell backwards, Orophin took the candle from his grasp, blowing it out. They gathered around the fallen body.
“Is he dead?” Rumil checked for a pulse and found the man’s to still be going strong. He signaled such to Haldir.
Haldir shook his head. “Nay. Question is, will he still be here when Aragorn arrives with his army to take this town back?”
“Don’t you think we need to get out of this armpit of the world first?” Bronwyn hissed. “We have better things to do at this time.” Quickly, the group made their way to the side door where they had entered, leaving the mayor where he lay, the doused candle near his unconscious body..
One at a time, they slid out into the protective bushes. ‘Stupid idiots, planting bushes by a door!’ Haldir thought, but he was grateful for the idiocy of Man. As the guards went by again, they quietly skimmed across the grass, to the street. Quickly, sticking to the shadows, they made their way to the stable where their horses and Heridil waited. He had gathered their gear, packed the horses. As they mounted up, the stable door flew open and Meg and Rory stood in front, barring their way. Rory went straight for Haldir, handing him several flagons. “There be wine and juices for yer lady. She don’ need to get dry.” He nodded to his wife, who has handing parcels to Rumil. “Women carryin’ need good food. Meg be makin’ sure of that. Yew got wot yew needed?”
Haldir nodded at the man. “Good. Yew tell the King t’truth! Tell him there be loyal people here fer him. Yew ever come this way agin, yew ‘ave a place ‘ere. If’n” he nodded towards Bronwyn, “Morgan’ll sing.” He stepped back and slapped His Arrogance on the rear. Bronwyn winked at Meg and followed her husband.
“Will they make it?” Meg asked her husband quietly.
“If’n they make out o’ town and kin get to tuh King, there be changes comin’. Comin’ soon, I hope.”
I was swingin’ on the swings when I was a little girl
Tryin’ to get a handle on the big, wide world
When I noticed all the grass in the cracks in the concrete
I said ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way around anything’
Life holds on, given the slightest chance
For the weak and strong
Life holds on
Beth Nielson Chapman
They made their way quietly as possible through the back alleys to the docks. The docks were always bustling, and by traveling loosely, no one paid much attention to them. By sunrise, they were on the hill far above the sea port, looking down. Bronwyn’s eyes were heavy and she stifled a yawn as Haldir pulled her from her horse, cradling her in his arms. There would be little rest between here and Minas Tirith. As he put his arms around her, he heard her whisper,
“That was fun. Can we do it again?”
Baraermin -My Fiery One
Khila amin – Follow me