Format: short story
Genre: drama, angst, hurt/comfort
Warnings: attempted sexual assault, derogatory language, violence.
Characters:Aragorn, OMCS, OFC
Creator's Notes; Events follow those in “A Blustery Day” but the story can be read alone. Mistress Andreth is introduced in "Clean Linen."
Summary: Thorongil heeds a plea for help.
Thorongil was thankful that his part in training the recruits was almost over. Next week, they would leave to join the companies they were assigned to. Some he would be glad to see the back of like Haldad, who did nothing but complain, and Beregar the son of a minor lord who was always trying to get special treatment.
Others, he had grown quite fond of and had been pleased when Galador had asked to join his troop. The lad, who had been so hopeless to begin with, was now a competent soldier and well liked by Thorongil's men who had worked so hard to train him.
This afternoon, he was drilling his men on the parade ground. The recruits had been given a free afternoon. Thorongil smiled inwardly as he watched the men march in perfect formation. They were due to parade before the Steward next week and he wanted them to be at their best. He glanced across to the corner of the parade ground where Ornedil, a lumbering young fellow with the mind of a child, liked to watch the soldiers drilling and copy their moves with his wooden sword. For once, Ornedil was nowhere to be seen. Thorongil hoped the lad was not unwell. He made a mental note to try and find out what had happened to him after the drill. It was most unlike him not to be watching.
The soldiers drew their swords in perfect formation then marched around the square.
“Well done, men!” cried Thorongil.
Just then, Ornedil appeared from around a corner and almost collided with the Captain.”Careful, lad,” Thorongil chided gently. “You know you can watch but you mustn't interrupt what we are doing. You could get hurt.”
Ornedil was trembling and looked as if he were about to burst into tears.”What's wrong, lad?” Thorongil asked more kindly.
“He said he'd hurt my Mother if I told.”
“Who said they would hurt your Mother?” Thorongil gestured to the men to continue and moved to one side with Ornedil.
“Beregar is hurting Mistress Andreth,” Ornedil said in a loud whisper. “I said I'd fetch you and he said he'd hurt my Mother if I did and I don't want him to hurt her, but Mistress Andreth is nice. I don't want him to hurt her either.” Ornedil burst into tears.
Pausing only to call, “Ragnor, come with me!” to his lieutenant, Thorongil sprinted towards the washerwoman's house which was situated at the corner of the barracks.
“Please don't tell Beregar I told!” pleaded Ornedil who followed them.
Thorongil tried the door to Andreth's house and found it unlatched. Inside her child was crying loudly in her cot. It was most unlike Andreth to neglect the little girl whom she doted upon.
Thorongil stood and listened intently trying to make out sounds other than the child's cries. He heard a cry of “No!” coming from the far side of the room followed by a male voice saying, “Quiet, you slut!”
As well as washing and mending the soldiers' clothing, Andreth also was in charge of the bedding in the barracks. She usually washed Thorongil's sheets too, though he lived in his own small house. The clean sheets were kept in a large closet on the far side of the room. Thorongil flung open the closet door to reveal Beregar restraining a struggling Andreth against a pile of sheets. With one hand, he was trying to lift her shirts while with the other he was trying to unlace her bodice.
“What is the meaning of this, Beregar?” roared Thorongil.
“I just wanted a little kiss and the whore turned nasty on me,” said Beregar.
“He asked me for some clean sheets,” said Andreth. She was ashen-faced and shaking like a leaf as she tried to smooth down her clothing. “I opened the closet to get them and he pushed me inside. Ornedil saw but he threatened him if he fetched help.”
“The slut is lying,” said Beregar. “What bitch wouldn't want a bit of fun with the son of a lord?”
Thorongil could restrain himself no longer. He punched Beregar in the face, sending him sprawling on the floor. His knuckles hurt but it was well worth it. “How dare you speak to a lady like that!” he snapped.
“She's no lady, she's a washerwoman,” said Beregar.
Thorongil gestured to Ragnor. “Lock him up until we can take him to be judged by the Lord Steward. I imagine he will be flogged and dismissed in disgrace.”
“You can't do that,” said Beregar. “My father won't permit it.”
“We will see what the Lord Steward says about that,” said Thorongil. “Ragnor, take him away before I am tempted to hit him again. Tell the men we will resume drill in an hour. Take Ornedil with you and find him some task to do.”
“Will he hurt my mother?” asked Ornedil still looking worried.
“I shall take good care he does not,” said Thorongil.
“What you did today was very brave, Ornedil,” said Andreth managing a weak smile at the lad. “I know how hard it was for you.”
“You are a nice lady,” said Ornedil.
Ragnor dragged Beregar away and Ornedil trailed after them leaving Thorongil alone with Andreth. The young woman picked up her still crying child to soothe her.
“I am so sorry,” said Thorongil. “I promised you my men would respect you and now this. I understand if you wish to leave. I will see you are supported.”
“Your men have always treated me with respect,” said Andreth, sinking down on to a chair. “I imagine you choose them with care. The recruits were different, some of them have been wolf whistling at me and making indecent suggestions. I thought it was just talk, though, until today. Praise the Valar that Ornedil was hanging around asking if I had any tasks for him while he watched the soldiers parade.”
“Would you like me to take you to the Houses of Healing?” asked Thorongil. “Some of the women there are experienced in helping women abused by men.”
Andreth shook her head. “You arrived before he could harm me. I am untouched thanks to you. I just wish I could stop shaking.”
“I might be able to help. May I heat some water on your stove?”
Andreth nodded and rocked her child in her shaking arms. The little girl was still whimpering.
Thorongil heated some water then took some herbs from inside a pouch he kept within his tunic. He cast them into the bowl and at once a living freshness filled the air. He held the bowl in front of Andreth's face and told her to breathe deeply. Gradually, her trembling ceased and her colour returned. The little girl ceased to whimper.
“What is that?” asked Andreth after some time had passed. "It eases my heart and makes the air feel fresher."
“An old remedy of my people,” said Thorongil. “They call it kingsfoil. I will leave the bowl on the table. Then I must rejoin my men and see how Ornedil is faring. Will you be alright, Mistress? You must not hesitate to send for me if you need my help.”
“I shall have to be. I cannot expect the Lord Steward to give me a bodyguard. I expect Ornedil will be back soon offering to help.”
A sudden thought came to Thorongil. Ornedil lived with his widowed mother in a wretched hovel in the first circle. He knew she eked out a miserable living taking in washing and mending. “What if I were to ask Ornedil and his mother to come and be your helpers?” he asked. “Ornedil could sleep at the barracks while his mother shared the house with you. I would see they were paid fairly.”
Andreth smiled, the smile reaching her eyes for the first time that day. “I should like that and I would feel safe. Ornedil is already an excellent assistant and he deserves a reward for saving me today.”
“I shall visit her this very evening,” said Thorongil. “Ornedil might have the mind of a child, but he has the heart of a hero.”