Disclaimer: I own nothing. Nada. I'm a broke college student. Leave me alone.

A/N: thank you to all my LOTRO kinnies who agreed to let me use their names as characters. This chapter is dedicated in particular to Jhoanred, for whom I produced this very quickly so that he would have something to anticipate coming back to whilst at Boot Camp.

Tales of the Middenvale

Part One

Nothing seemed amiss as the siblings took their places around the table in preparation for the morning meal. At least, that was how it seemed to Imrahil as he entered the room himself. "Good morning, children."

"Good morning, father," they responded in unison, making Imrahil smile as he took his seat at the head of the table. "I hope you all slept well."

"As well as one could with a young infant," Elphir responded, making his brother Erchirion snort in amusement. "Is there any other kind, brother?" At this, their brother Amrothos let out a chuckle and subsequently choked on the water he was trying to drink.

"Besides Amro, you mean?"

Imrahil chuckled at Elphir's answer, as did everyone else, but his smile quickly faded as he noticed that not everyone was at the table after all. "Amrothos?"

"Yes, father?" Amrothos replied absentmindedly, occupied with dabbing at his wet shirt with a napkin.

"Where's your sister?" Imrahil could be forgiven for not having seen the empty chair at first- Lothiriel usually sat beside Amrothos and Erchirion, at the far end from Imrahil, and could regularly be obstructed from the view for the simple fact that her brothers were all extremely tall.

"She isn't feeling well," Amrothos replied, still preoccupied with his shirt.

Erchirion raised an eyebrow. "What was it this time?"

"What do you mean?"

"Did someone pass or is someone going to pass, and is that what she dreamt about?" Erchirion appeared non-plussed and yet still managed to convey his worry. The others looked confused. "Nightmare?"

Erchirion's expression became a tad exasperated. "I cannot be the only one who heard her screaming last night."

"I woke her up," Amrothos reassured them. "She's fine."

Elphir lifted his glass and took a sip. "So?"

Amrothos' annoyance at the questioning finally showed through when he tossed his napkin into his plate and looked across the table at his brother. "So what?"

"You know what," Elphir told him. Amrothos sighed. "I have no idea. She refuses to talk about it."

Imrahil could hear the underlying tone is his son's voice. "But?" he prompted.

"But I would wager that it was the nightmare about Boromir's death, yet again," Amrothos told them as he leaned back in his chair. "She doesn't always see something new in each dream or nightmare, you know."

"I know."

"And you can't push her for answers on anything-"

"I know."

"Nor can you prompt her-"

"I KNOW!"

"Boys!" Imrahil's voice had enough edge to it that Amrothos and Elphir both ceased the argument and picked up their utensils to continue their breakfast.

"Thank you," Imrahil said with relief. He looked down the table to a safer source of conversation. "Aerlin?"

His daughter in law smiled at him. "Yes?"

Imrahil smiled back. "I heard from Master Arodlin yesterday. He told me that Alphros is doing quite well with his lessons."

The transformation was instant- both Elphir and his wife brightened up with smiles, and the conversation was safely turned in the direction of listening to Elphir and Aerlin extoll the accomplishments of their son and heir, Imrahil's only grandchild.

(At least, that's what the men thought. Aerlin had reason to suspect otherwise, but she decided to keep that to herself for the time being, until her suspicions could be confirmed.)

Although the circumstances of the morning were basically the same no matter where you went in Gondor, the individuality of each household could vary drastically. Such was the case in on the opposite side of the country from Dol Amroth. In this less formal and very domestic setting, the people who occupied the homesteads scattered around the small valley had already been awake a long time. Already they were awake, tending to household chores, seeing to the fields, caring for their farm animals…

… And, of the most importance, making sure their mounts were well exercised.

Keeping the horses ever-ready was not merely a compulsion brought on by the imminent threat of war, and these were no ordinary riders themselves. Some years before, when the shadow of the White Hand had fallen over Rohan, a group of its people had had no choice but to flee into the mountains and over the border. Since that time, they had existed tenuously along the mountain border between the two countries, keeping relatively to themselves, and like everyone else, waiting. Waiting impatiently, for the moment when they could return to their homes.

"Have the horses been watered and fed?"

"Yes Captain."

"Exercised?"

"Yes Captain."

"And the lookouts were all sent out-"

"On fresh horses? Yes." From above, a voice rang out, and, a few moments later, a face appeared to be matched to the voice. "Thank you, Bedwur. Go, get yourself fed."

"Thank you, my lady." The little boy, Bedwur, graced the woman with a wide smile before running back out the door. After the door had swung shut, the man sitting at the table turned his neck to look at his companion in silent question.

"You know they remember everything, husband," Leofcwyn responded, making her way down the rest of the stairs. "You shouldn't be so tense about it."

"We're fighting a war. I can't afford to take a break."

"Your job is why you need a break, Jhoanred," Leofcwyn sighed, taking the seat across the table and looking straight into her husband's eyes.

Jhoanred said nothing, instead shifting his gaze to look out the window. As always- though he almost never admitted to it- as always, his wife was usually right. He wondered still how exactly they had been thrown together.

Jhoanred's background was a far cry from his wife's. Whereas Leofcwyn had been raised as the oldest granddaughter of a rather prolific Rohirric marshal, Jhoanred had- actually, no one was quite sure about Jhoanred's background. It was generally known and accepted that his father, at least, was a Gondorian- his mother, however, was not. His mother was from Harad.

He could appear as a citizen of either country; he spoke the languages of both the lands, and well as the culture and customs. This was both to his advantage and disadvantage. He could not go openly into Harad without raising Gondorian suspicion, so he took another route- he went quietly, so that no one noticed. To the general Gondorian populace, Jhoanred appeared to be nothing more than a simple courier, whose services were employed mainly by the younger Dol Amrothian royals and the younger nobles of Lossarnach.

The reality was much different- Jhoanred was, effectively, a spy. Trusted implicitly by Amrothos and his sister, Jhoanred had become a liaison between the refugee community, Dol Amroth, and Lossarnach, to keep the settlement's existence quiet, and to help their main supporters keep up the appearance that nothing was out of place.

He had fought the Druedain to the north of Gondor; he still shuddered at the memory of the poison from the arrows making its way through his body. He had moved from Gondor to Rohan and back without being noticed by anyone, thereby providing valuable intelligence. He had gone beyond Enedwaith to the old kingdom of Arnor, where he and Amrothos had actively recruited a network of farmers and seemingly regular citizens as smugglers- although he wasn't entirely sure if any of the hobbits they were buying supplies from were fully aware of what was going on. And after them, it was back over Druedain lines… he shuddered again, causing Leofcwyn to reach across the table. "Peace, enough. You're alive." Pulling back, she switched back to business. "When do we leave?"

"Soon, I think." There was no question- where he went, Leofcwyn followed, if she chose to do so.

"Have you heard from her?"

"Nothing."

"Really?"

Jhoanred sighed. "I don't know."