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Pitfalls of the Palantir  by Haleth

The Scene According to Ethirwen

Night had fallen once more. The boat was anchored near the western shore and the watch had been set. Most of the crew had again made camp on the shore. The red and orange lights of their fires danced in the darkness.

Ethriwen stood beside Inglor on the deck of the boat. "And so for the men of Dorwinion, the harvest feast has always been sweet and yet sorrowful," she said, finishing yet another of the legends of the area. Her throat as dry and her voice tired from speaking for so long. "They are thankful for the food but they mourn their loss of freedom."

Inglor absently studied the stars. It took him some time to realize that Ethirwen had finished her tale.

"That is very interesting," he said softly. "Are there any other legends?"

Ethirwen was torn between the desire to slap him for not paying complete attention to her and the need to smile and do as he had asked. Her voice was a problem as she was not certain she could talk for another half hour. The sun had set. It was time to put her plan of seduction into practice.

"There is one legend..." she said in a very low voice meant for Inglor’s ears alone. In Ethirwen’s mind, he would to lean closer to hear her.  She would move imperceptibly nearly to him and bush against him ever so gently. She had used this trick to good effect many times before. The effect was always the same.  The man would become distracted and Ethirwen could easily convince him to do her bidding.

"Only one tale left?" Inglor asked, turning towards her but shifting away at the same time.

It took Ethirwen a fraction of a second to realize that her opening tactic had, for the first time in her experience, failed.

"There is more than one," she said in a more normal but somewhat strained voice. "This particular story involves my family."

He waited for the to continue, his face a mask of polite but distant interest.

Ethirwen studied the blue eyes and the fair face and found her thoughts becoming jumbled and confused. She mentally shook herself and regrouped.

"There's something I'd like you to see," she whispered. She had only used this line one time before.  It had worked wonders on Orolondė. The usually collected merchant had jumped to his own conclusions about what 'what' was and had been quite easily manipulated from there. He never had seemed to notice that Ethirwen had not, in fact, shown him anything.

Inglor was another matter entirely.  He simply stood there, heart-breakingly beautiful and only vaguely interested. In fact, he did not even seem to be looking at Ethirwen directly. He was watching the rowers' benches over her shoulder.

"It's in my cabin," she said, hoping he would understand the remark was an invitation.

Inglor's attention drifted back to her but otherwise he did not move a muscle.  He was content to watch her with infinite if distracted patience.

"Oh," he eventually said, effectively throwing the ball back into Ethirwen's court.

"I suppose I should get it," she said slowly and stepped closer to him. "Only..."

He refused to pick up on her increasingly unsubtle hints. Again he sidestepped her and looked at over her shoulder. Ethirwen silently fumed at Inglor's continued lapses of attention. No man ever paid her less than one hundred percent attention. Annoyance was quickly replaced by a steely resolve to bend him to her will. The first thing she would do would be to wipe that expression of detachment from his face.

"Only?" he finally asked, as if prompted.

"Only I don't want to reveal it outside of my cabin," Ethirwen said after pondering her response.

There was a dull thud and a muffled curse from the oarsmen's area behind her.

"Lead on," Inglor said smoothly indicating that Ethirwen should precede him.

Pleased that her charms seemed to be working again, Ethirwen swept towards her cabin. She allowed herself a quick smirk of triumph in the darkness. She was more than confident that she could easily seduce the elf once she had him alone.


The Same Scene According to Inglor

Crouching in the shadows, Haleth led Orolondė to the rower's area. They crept forward until they were three rows from the back. This was the last row where Haleth felt comfortable that a stray beam of light from the lantern on the stern would not reveal them to Ethirwen. She could see the couple standing by the side of the boat, Ethirwen's graceful form leaning towards Inglor, who, as always, seemed to glow in the starlight. The woman's voice murmured in the soft darkness.

"Inglor," Haleth whispered. She hoped that he would hear her. "I'm in the rowers seats. Give me a signal if you can hear me. " Inglor made a small waving motion without looking in her direction. "I've got someone with me," she added.

"What did you say?" Orolondė demanded in a loud whisper.

Haleth immediately hushed him. "They'll hear us," she whispered to him.

"I doubt Ethirwen heard you," Inglor's voice said in Haleth's mind. She noted that he sounded vaguely amused and wondered what he and Ethirwen had been discussing. "But she is bound to notice if your new companion insists upon being so noisy."

Orolondė glared at Haleth and then turned his murderous attention back towards Inglor and Ethirwen.

"He'll be quiet for now," Haleth breathed the forms of the words.

"The Lady Ethirwen had been telling me some of the stories of Dorwinion," Inglor's voice again chimed in her head. "They are very interesting."

"You'll have to tell me later," Haleth breathed. The murmurring of Ethirwen's voice had stopped.

"I think she's finished," Haleth breathed.

"So she is," observed Inglor.

"I think she's expecting you to say something," Haleth prompted him.

"That is very interesting. Are there any other legends?" Haleth experienced the extremely odd sensation of hearing Inglor's words in her mind as well as with her ears. A powerful wave of vertigo rushed over her senses and she had to clutch both her head and stomach to not be immediately sick.

"Stop that!" she breathed at Inglor.

"Stop what?" Orolondė asked. Haleth immediately shushed him.

"You can hear me?" Inglor asked in her mind. He seemed pleasantly surprised.

"Of course I can hear you," she whispered.

"I know you can hear me," whispered Orolondė, "But you shushed me for no reason." Haleth shushed him again.

"Just speak with your mind," Inglor told her. "It will avoid misunderstandings."

"I think I am going to be sick," Haleth groaned silently.

"There is one legend," Ethirwen's voice was on the very edge of Haleth's hearing. Haleth saw Ethirwen take a half step closer to Inglor, who immediately sidestepped and turned to look directly at Haleth and Orolondė.

"It will pass quickly," Inglor's mind spoke directly to Haleth's. "Who is your new companion?"

"His name is Orolondė, He is a merchant of Lake Town," Haleth told him as the nausea began to recede. "He's been staying in the hold. He's in love with Ethirwen."

"I'll kill that elf," Orolondė whispered viciously under his breath.

"He doesn't like you very much," she added to Inglor.

"Only one tale left?" Inglor asked Ethirwen, too distracted by his silent conversation with Haleth to pay much attention to the raven-haired beauty before him.

"There is more than one left," Ethirwen's voice sounded forced. "This particular story involves my family."

"How can he want to murder me when we have not even been introduced?" Inglor asked Haleth.

"Do elves consider it bad manners to kill someone without a proper introduction?" Haleth asked.

This was met with a dry chuckle. "You are feeling better," came the thought.

"There's something I'd like you to see," Ethirwen said to Inglor.

Orolondė gasped so loudly that Haleth was certain Ethirwen had heard him. She placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. A steady, dull, scraping sound came from the merchant's direction. With a start Haleth realized that it was his teeth grinding together.

"It's in my cabin," whispered Ethirwen

"What is that noise?" Inglor's voice was in her mind again.

"I believe that Orolondė is coming to the realization that Ethirwen is not as he believed," Haleth answered. Inglor's response could only be described as a mental snort, which surprised Haleth to no end. There was no time to consider her suspicions of Inglor, though, as Orolondė's muscles tightened under her hand.

"Oh," Inglor said vacantly to Ethirwen when he finally noticed the pause in their conversation.

"Either that or he's getting ready to kill you," Haleth added to Inglor.

"I suppose I should get it," Ethirwen said slowly as she stepped closer to Inglor. "Only..."

Inglor sidestepped Ethirwen again and looked directly at Haleth. Even with her distance from him Haleth could see his eyes glittering in the star light.

"Are you in danger?" came the calm question. Haleth was surprised by the strength of the feeling underlying the query. Inglor noticed her reaction and immediately drew back as though she had seen something that she should not have.

"No," Haleth answered Inglor, pretending that she had not noticed anything unusual. "But Orolondė is in danger of revealing us."

"Only?" Inglor asked Ethirwen aloud.

"Only I don't want to reveal it outside of my cabin," Ethirwen answered in a conspiratorial whisper.

Haleth gripped Orolondė's shoulder with more force to remind him of their current situation. Instead of an outburst he settled for a muffled curse.

"You better get her away from here," Haleth though to Inglor. "I don't think Orolondė will keep quiet much longer."

"Lead on," Inglor said to Ethirwen.

Haleth watched Ethirwen sweep past her hiding spot. The woman wore a smug, over-confident smirk. She was unhappy to know that Orolondė had seen that particular expression. It would likely kill any of his precious, lingering illusions about Ethirwen's true personality.

"I think we should follow them," Orolondė said with quiet determination once the other couple had disappeared below deck.

He stalked towards the door without saying a word. Haleth trailed after him treading lightly on the boards of the deck, uncertain of what to say or if comfort would be welcome.

"You have nothing to fear from Inglor," she finally said with some hesitation.

Orolondė appeared to not hear her. He went without pause directly to the closed door of Ethirwen's cabin and leaned on the oak panel.

"Can you hear anything?" Haleth asked, not unkindly.

"No," he answered. "You seem to have better hearing than me. You try."

Haleth placed her ear firmly against the door.

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

Inglor was being very careful to keep himself between Ethirwen and the door. His fear of Haleth being discovered outside of the hold and put off the ship had made him decide to accept Ethirwen’s invitation to her cabin. While the situation was potentially educational, it was also potentially dangerous. He would use the earliest opportunity to leave and escort Haleth back to the hold.  Once there, he intended to spend the rest of the voyage in the hold with her.

Ethirwen's cabin was slightly larger than his. There was a small, round window and the bed was slightly wider. If she could have seen the room, Haleth would have thought that it looked as though Ethirwen had been expecting company. A gentle breeze ruffled the delicate curtain that screened the small window. The bed was covered in a soft, delicate cloth.

Ethirwen lit the lamp, which was filled with fragrant oil. When that was done, she stood and watched Inglor expectantly.

"You were going to show me an artifact and tell me a legend about your family?" Inglor prompted her.

Ethirwen scowled at him, but he maintained a serene expression in the face of her obvious displeasure. Remaining tranquil was not nearly the challenge Ethirwen liked to think. Haleth had given him plenty of practice under far more trying circumstances. He was aware of his companion’s presence on the other side of the door.

"Would you please go back to the hold?" he spoke directly to Haleth's mind. "I would like to get out of here."

"Orolondė won't go," her voiceless words replied.

Inglor bit his bottom lip in consternation.

Meanwhile, Ethirwen was desperately trying to think of something to show Inglor in order to keep him in her cabin and give her more time to work her wiles upon him. The artifact, of course, had been imaginary. She could, however, take an old legend and rework it to her own ends.

She sat on the edge of the bed and patted the spot next to her. Inglor blinked once and remained standing.

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

"Hey!" the night watchman's voice rang in the corridor. "Who's there?"

"Run," Haleth whispered and, pushing Orolondė before her, they fled above deck. She dived beneath one of the rower's seats and hoped the Orolondė would follow her example. She heard rather than saw him crawling under another bench.

The night watchman stomped past, cursing under his breath. The man's grasp of the curse words of several languages impressed even Haleth, who had grown up in a country of seafarers. He passed by without seeing them. 

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

"What was that?" Inglor asked.

"What was what?" asked Ethirwen.

"That noise," he said. "Did you not hear shouting?"

"I'm sure it was nothing important," she said with false brightness.

Inglor sprang to the door and opened it, intending to make his escape. He was in time to see the night watchman's back moving up the hallway.

"Haleth?" he called with his mind.

"We're fine," came the quick reply.

"See?" Ethirwen said as she pulled Inglor back into her cabin and closed the door while he was distracted. "I'm certain that everything is under control." She tried to push Inglor onto the bed but he neatly slipped from her grasp.

"The story?" he asked. There was a slight edge in his voice.

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

"That was a bit too close," Haleth whispered once she had made her way to Orolondė's hiding spot. "We should go back to the hold."

"No," Orolondė's voice was a soft, menacing whisper. His jaw was set and his eyes gleamed fiercely in the starlight. Haleth thought of his earlier reactions towards Inglor. She doubted that Orolondė’s new knowledge of Ethirwen's true personality would make things less dangerous for the elf. It was unlikely that the merchant could harm Inglor, but he could cause a great deal of trouble, which was the last thing they needed.

"I am not going to walk up the hallway," Haleth said firmly.

"There's a window in her cabin," Orolondė said.

"What?" asked Haleth who was of the opinion that holes in boats were a bad thing.

"Come on," he said, leading the way to the side of the boat without looking to see if she followed. He leaned over the railing. Haleth, after checking the deck to be certain there was no one watching them, followed his example. There was indeed a small, round hole in the side of the ship.

"Can you hear anything?" Orolondė demanded.

They both stood stock still, barely breathing.

"Just the waves on the hull," Haleth admitted after straining her ears for several moments while keeping a careful eye for the watchman.

"Here," Orolondė whispered. "I have an idea."

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

"And when she grasped him, he turned into a lion," Ethirwen said, staring intently into Inglor's clear, blue eyes as she told her tale. She leaned forward slightly and breathed deeper, certain her charms were finally working. For once Inglor seemed to be listening very intently.

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

"Can you hear anything?" Orolondė demanded. He was holding Haleth by the ankles over the edge of the boat.

"Yes," she whispered. "She's still talking."

"As long as one of them is talking," Orolondė said grimly.

"This is ridiculous. Pull me up," Haleth said after several minutes of listening to Ethirwen's story which had been old when the hills were young. Haleth was beginning to get dizzy from the blood pooling in her head.

"Just keep listening," Orolondė growled.

Haleth was not in a position to argue.

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

"And finally he was changed into fire." Ethirwen rose from the bed and approached Inglor, who shrank against the door of the cabin.

"It burned her hand cruelly, but she refused to release him as he was her own true love." Ethirwen reached for Inglor, intending to hold him tightly to her.

Inglor cocked his head towards the window.

"Did you hear something?" he interrupted.

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

"You're going to have to lift me up," Haleth said.

"No," Orolondė insisted. "Are they still talking?"

"I can't tell," Haleth snapped. "My ears are ringing too much and I'm getting light headed. Pull me up before I pass out."

"Not yet," Orolondė protested.

"Now," she ordered. "I'll go back once I've recovered."

"Here! Who’re you and what're you doing?" The night watchman had returned.

Orolondė spun around guiltily. Haleth's ankles slipped out of his fingers. There was a quiet splash as she disappeared beneath the dark water's surface.

Author's notes. I always wondered why Inglor was so perpetually distracted. I think I now know part of the reason.

And yes, Ethirwen's story is indeed the tale of Tam Lin.

 

 





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