Shards of Time
1. Chapter One
Dead letters! does it not sound like dead men?
- Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener
You built your prison cell yourself
then schemed and dreamed of open skies.
Princess! The river holds the trout;
so does the world take care of me.
And if you do not choose to see
that what we are, we choose to be,
it’s hard, but it is all one to me.
The rule is cruel, but there’s no doubt
I’ll dream tonight of storms at sea…
Be sure your sins will find you out.
- Neil Gaiman, The Kindly Ones
Outside his window, the sparrows chattered ceaselessly. They were one of the reasons why he felt, in some insubstantial way, that April was the most pointless month. It came with showers and suns, shifting fogs like tides and green shoots pouring forth from the unkind mysteries stirring in the black cauldrons of the earth. And the sparrows sung constantly to each other, full of puffed chests and stolen trophies. He had seen the birds. He had watched them carefully once, until they had yielded the whole of their usefulness, and then he had stopped. Now he found them merely annoying, and the single notes of their sharp songs hung uncomfortably in the pale Spring air.
He looked at his writing desk, where the stack of parchment stood, neatly arranged, his box of rosewood for quills laid beside it with crisp precision, his little books carefully piled, the inkwell freshly uncovered. He had assigned himself a monumental task, and performed it in shadow. There was a peculiar satisfaction to it, like the proud stoop, the smug calluses, of a master craftsman. It was vanity, until consumed by the unadorned fire of his practicality.
He had to write and he had, so far, written about much. Eldarion, who now sat, grave and righteous, upon the throne, had once said of him, and to him, that he had literary pretensions. His liege lord might have been accurate; he might even have been right. It was true that he could often be found with one of many small leather-bound books protruding from a pocket, a quill and portable inkwell perennially at the ready.
He made a vague expression of displeasure. The little books were useless now. Those trusty tools had not managed to pry open this trick box. He distinctly remembered his first encounter with one such box; it was garishly painted, and it had been given to him by his grandsire, the Prince Faramir, who had possibly thought young Barahir would find it intriguing. Barahir had looked at it for a moment, then pressed the opening mechanism, which was disguised but not absent, and had encountered nothing more than a lid and a seemingly impenetrable cube. He had borne his unadorned expression back then, the one that was as revealing as a mask. It had not changed when he learned, upon asking, that there was no purpose to the box – it had not been made to keep things in or, indeed, anything else. He carefully kept it, though, as a reminder of sorts, even though it was useless, much like the birds. That perhaps accounted for his irritation – it seemed right that things should either have a purpose or, if they were unproductive, they should be unobtrusive.
He opened the rosewood box and snatched up a quill in his deft fingers, as though if by the feline sharpness of the gesture he’d be able to dismiss those nonsensical thoughts of birds and boxes from his well-ordered mind. He valued precision of thought and method. There was method even in his cautious daubing of the quill’s tip in the black ink, like a beak piercing an eye of midnight. He pressed quill to parchment with the care of a man walking on thin ice, and then he halted. Maybe that made him peculiarly unsuitable for his subject matter, that orderliness? Like a careful gardener of raked paths and symmetrical flowerbeds in a briars-covered marsh, a great twisted tree like a mountain in its midst. A great dollop of ink swelled upon the parchment like a black wave in the snapping cold wind of time before he pressed on, as resolute as his dry caution would allow.
The Tale of the Lady Éowyn Wraithslayer, he wrote, and then he went back and crossed out the last word, inking The White Lady of Rohan instead. For all the literary pretensions his King had endowed him with, he preferred his prose sober; he found that words were like charcoal pencils, and risked being worn pointless. And he found flowery prose almost indecent, somehow, like a pile of over-ripe, sickly-sweet fruit on the brink of decay. True, there were now two occurrences of the word “lady” in his tentative title, but he would correct that soon. He always took great care to correct things.
Théodwyn, he began, his quill scratching over the parchment like a bone-blade sliding over ice, was the sister of Théoden, King of Rohan, called Théoden Ednew in the lore of that country, and she was much beloved by her brother. In the year 2989 of the Third Age, she wedded the chief Marshal of the Mark, Éomund of Eastfold. In the fullness of time, she bore him a son, Éomer, and a daughter, Éowyn. Now Éomund was a rider valiant and bold, like his fathers before him, but he was wont to be overly rash in his pursuits, and such a rashness he bequeathed to his daughter— He halted. There was truth in this, of course, but he was not certain it was the truth he was trying to impart. He carefully set the quill down, wiping the end on a scrap of parchment. What was the purpose of this? What was the intention? Was it about courage, or selfishness, or some nebulous mix, or even about anything? He did not know, and he hated not knowing, like the trick box, like the muddled things that lived in the edges, far away from any lights of revelation. He did not burn, but somewhere in him there was the shimmering speck of some holy conviction.
Outside, the birds were noisier than ever. He frowned unconsciously at the window and got up hastily. He carefully restored the things on the desk to their original places, the wheels of his mind spinning methodically all the while. It might help to seek some advice; it might help him determine what elusive truth he should write. He cast one last look at his desk and stalked out of the room.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.