Argaladiel (aka Notes From A 400lb Nuzgûl)
5. New Direction Part 2
It surprised her, that she should come to such an opinion. After all, she had grown up around warriors of both elven and Dúnedain peoples. She had become used to evaluating the prowess of Men and elves in battle, had almost forgotten how graceful the drills could look.
This Man had reminded her. So she watched, noting his style, catching the minor imperfections in his patterns, watching the look of concentration on his face as he appeared to lose himself in the routine. It was with annoyance that she heard the voice of Arador behind her.
'Ah, there you are!'
'What is it?' she asked, turning to face the young Man.
Arador's face was neutral. Almost studiously so. 'You wanted the reports from the patrols downriver as soon as they arrived,' he reminded her.
She looked at her son, knowing that this neutral tone of voice and matching facial expression were things that he had picked up from his father. When Halbarad used them, it meant that she was being headstrong over a minor matter, one that she would do better to leave alone. However, when their son used his father's neutral voice and face on his mother, it was an indication that her stubborn and opinionated second child did not approve of his mother's behaviour. It was a look that Arador had been wearing much of late. Ever since the council, in fact. Ever since he had become aware of the existence of the Man from Gondor.
She looked over at her son. He had the look of the line about him - the high-bridged nose, the high cheekbones, the grey eyes, and above all, the slight curl in those otherwise straight black locks of hair. He would be a good leader, when his time came to be Chieftain. But at this present, he was not. That was her role. It might be that it was time for him to be reminded of this again.
'If you would say something, Arador, then have done and say it,' she said, somewhere between exasperation and weariness. The request appeared to take the young man by surprise.
‘The word from the patrols is -’
‘No,’ she interrupted him. 'Never mind the patrols for now. It isn't what you came over here to talk with me about anyway. What do you want to say about the son of Denethor?'
She felt the brief, cold satisfaction of knowing that she had made her too-clever son flinch. For a while, neither spoke.
'I worry for you, Mother,' Arador replied, after a pause wherein he had sought for the right words. 'I worry that you seem fascinated by this Man. I worry that he appears to be fascinated with you. You are still wed to my father, after all.'
Argaladiel closed her eyes. 'Your father would understand, I think,' was all she said. Arador looked at her, his scepticism evident in his face.
'How can you be so sure?' he asked.
He was startled by the force and the fury in the look he received from his mother. 'Your father would understand, because for the past twenty years he has been involved in just such a relationship with another woman at the Angle.'
The look on her son's face confirmed that he had been aware of the actions of his father, probably for any time these past twenty years. He hadn't expected her to be aware of them, though. There was an almost bitter satisfaction in knowing that she had managed to surprise this young man who thought he knew so much about herself and her doings. She wondered what the stories were that he was telling himself to justify what had happened. Time enough for the truth to come out, she supposed.
'Your father and I wed when we were both only twenty years old. It was a marriage of convenience, of politics. We love each other enough that we have been able to remain friends, but we have never been 'in love'. I had thought you aware of this.'
Her voice was weary. She was so tired of the endless dance that she and her son had become involved in. His ambition warred with his sense, leading him to forever butt against her, as though the position of Chieftain were one she could relinquish at will. Challenge after challenge she had withstood, from the day when he had come to manhood and surprised her by advising her that now that he was grown, she could step down from her position ruling the Dúnedain.
Her refusal to relinquish her birthright had shocked him. She had been able to see this in his face. Once again, she wondered who it had been who had first proposed the idea to him. She had sought the name, the face of the voice behind her son's ardent refusal to yield on the issue, sought it for more years than she could count. Still she had no idea who it might be.
Arador's voice, when it came, startled her out of her fruitless reflections. 'I had known that this was the case for my father. How could I not? I had not realised that such was the case for yourself also. I apologise for my words."
He sounded humbled. Compassionate. She looked up at her son, saw the understanding in his eyes. A small smile came to her lips. Yes, she had done the right thing when she had argued so very hard against Gilraen's strong-willed determination that her grandchildren would be married as soon as might be fitting. She knew that Arador's wife, Gilwen, was the love of his heart, as her son-in-law Thorondor was the love of Armirwen's. It had been the right thing to do. She reached over to her son, enfolded him within her arms. For a moment, he resisted the embrace, but then relented, and embraced her in turn.
'You have my blessing, should you wish it,' he whispered.
The embrace was held for another long moment. It was broken by Arador, who stepped backward. 'I would give you the report of the patrols, Chieftain,' he said, all business once again. She looked at him, her attention caught by the mode of address. He had never acknowledged her as such in all of his adult life. That her son should do so now was unusual, to say the least.
'There have been black robes and black horses found downstream of the Bruinen fords, where the Nine were swept away in the flood. There have been no signs of the Nine themselves, however. If it were not for the lore about the nature of such, it would appear that they had been destroyed utterly. As it is, it would seem that they have retreated.' The report was better than she had expected. She closed her eyes, and stood a while in thought.
'There is another matter requiring your attention, Chieftain.' Her eyes flashed open, and she directed a sharp look at her son. He was looking grim, decisive.
'Speak,' she instructed.
'There has been one within the community of the Dúnedain who has been fomenting rebellion against the Chieftain for the last thirty years. His name is Gorthad son of Barad.'
She gasped. Her son was naming one of her most trusted advisers, a man who had been as an uncle unto her. 'How know you of this treachery?' she asked, hoping against hope that it was mere rumour.
'It has been this man who has been encouraging me in my rebellion against you, my lord,' her son said. Shame and anger were both thickening his voice. 'The traitor Gorthad has been in the pay of Saruman for any time these past forty years. It has been at his prompting that I have been challenging your authority. It is on his instruction that I have been rebelling against your decisions. I beg no forgiveness for my actions, my lord. I was a fool.'
As he had been speaking, her son had knelt before her, laying his sword on the ground at her feet.
'What has caused your change of heart, my son?' she asked, unsure whether to believe this show of penitence. Unsure whether to trust to the words of her son, even though she had never mistrusted him before.
'I think I might know the answer to that,' came a voice from behind her. Boromir's voice. She whirled, to see the young Gondorian walking toward the two of them, wiping the sweat from his face with a towel as he did so. 'I could hear the two of you from where I was practicing,' he explained.
She looked at him, her gaze steady, although she wished that she knew how much of the conversation Boromir had overheard. 'Your counsel, son of Gondor?' she asked.
'I had thought that I had recognised one of the group of Rangers who visited when you were healing me, my lady, however, I could not remember the name, or where I had sighted the man. I asked your son for information. He was able to supply the man's name, and on hearing of it, I remembered where I had seen the man previously. It had been in the court of Rohan, where he had been in conference with one of Théoden King's advisers, a man by the name of Gríma son of Galmod.' The future Steward's testimony was succinct.
'You do not say how this indicated the man to be a traitor, Arandur. I would know more of this.'
'My lady.' Boromir inclined his head in a bow at the title. 'I spoke with the King's nephew, a man by the name of Éomer. He is one who is known to be loyal to the King personally, if not absolutely in agreement with current policy directions. He had long suspected the son of Galmod to be in the pay of Saruman, and gave a list of the names of his known associates. One of these was a man of Gondor who had been recently executed for spying.'
'An associate of an associate? Thin proof.'
'The executed man was one of my own troop. I caught him in conference with a captain of the orcs in Osgiliath itself.' The voice of the Gondorian was bitter, angry. 'When questioned, he stated that it was Saruman who had paid him, and that his instructions were to ensure that the entire troop was destroyed. I carried out the sentence of execution myself. This would be evidence enough, lady, for any court in Gondor. Further evidence is in the testimony of Mithrandir to the Council - the true alliegance of Saruman is to the Enemy.'
She stood there for a moment, not so much shocked, as resigned. Facets of stories, fragments of suspicions all fell into place, assembling into a picture which confirmed the truth of what was said. The absences of Gorthad, absences which he stated were for purposes of seeing to his estates. Yet his estates, from all reports, were poor. The money that had been flowing into the Angle from the south. The constant efforts of Gorthad to have resources concentrated on the Angle, and away from the Shire patrols - his arguments had been persuasive, but never convincing. The connection of all the various events was almost a shock. Almost, but not quite - the connections had been there, she had merely refused to acknowledge them. But now, there could be no denial.
'Bring the traitor to me,' she said, looking at Arador.
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.