Stewards of Gondor: Genverse Arc
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Father and Sons: 11. ...What Deeds May Come
"None yet, my lord prince," the other replied. "Forlong is not due to arrive 'til tomorrow morning, and the others will come after him."
"And what of the steward's sons?" the prince of Dol Amroth asked.
"They arrived three days ago, or at least the lord Faramir did. Lord Boromir came the day after, and both are to remain here for a time, sire."
"Good," Imrahil murmured, well-pleased indeed, and clapped the man on the shoulder. "My thanks, captain."
"Of course, sire! You are quite welcome."
Having learned what he wished to know for the moment, Imrahil began the hike up into the city and as he walked he went over in his mind the likely points of discussion that would occupy the council. Anticipation being one of his many virtues, the prince had already a good idea as to who would bring up certain issues, who was most likely to support what views, and accordingly, he had formulated his own responses to fit a variety of scenarios. What concerned him now was how the steward would react to his words, for though Denethor was the epitome of cold calculation, Imrahil knew too well that his brother-in-law was not above petty power plays. Indeed, it had been that very habit which had led to the rift between Imrahil and Denethor, and the prince had been very careful since then to say and do nothing further to rouse the steward's ire. Unfortunately, my presence may be enough to accomplish that! That was why he had sent a herald to warn Minas Tirith to expect him early, for it would be better to make a trial of the steward's good will with respect to himself in relative privacy, where other councilors were not present to see it.
For if it goes ill, then I shall have to tread very carefully indeed! I-- "Uncle!" Imrahil prided himself on his uncanny ability to know precisely who and what occupied the space surrounding him at any given moment. Thus his startled reaction to the hail was both unexpected and embarrassing, but he quickly identified the caller and offered a smile.
"Faramir!" he said, allowing his relief to color his tone as his nephew shoved away from the wall he had been leaning against. Clearly the younger man had come to wait, and Imrahil shook his head for the other's patience. "I had thought to meet you later, but well met indeed!" The young man approached with the quick grace of a cat and Imrahil laid his hands on his nephews shoulders and kissed his brow in greeting. But afterward he did not release him, holding him at arm's length to study him carefully. Faramir had always been a slender child, and he had grown into a lanky youth before he left for Ithilien. Since then, he had filled out nicely though he would never have his brother's raw strength. But what he had was quite sufficient, and Imrahil was more interested in what lay within, knowing well the reasons for Faramir's flight to Ithilien and the war front. And what he saw now in those grey eyes filled him at once with both pity and pride and fear. Faramir gazed back steadily, and Imrahil knew he must quickly but carefully turn the other's attention aside, ere Faramir's intuition could discern his disquiet. Giving a soft and utterly untranslatable grunt, Imrahil said, "Once I watched you grow in inches every time I saw you. And though that time is well past, still I may say: you have grown, Faramir." Alas that some of that growth is in weeds. There is something brittle to his composuresomething brooding. What is this fear that I sense in him?
"It is good to see you again, Uncle," Faramir replied smoothly, but by the flicker in his nephews eyes, Imrahil gathered that the other was not unaware of the trend of his thoughts. And if he can read me, then so also can Denethor. Imrahil was not best pleased by the prospect of a week or more in his brother-in-laws company, but such feelings had no place in Gondors politics at a time like this. So, rather than berate himself for the lapse, the Prince of Dol Amroth thanked the Valar that it was Faramir that he stood before, and resolved to be more careful. It would not do for Denethor to know all that I think of him, after all! For quite apart from the way that the steward had treated FinduilasThough in honesty, he grew to be a husband to her after a time, but by then the damage had been done!Imrahil was disgusted by the way that he treated his sons. Especially Faramir! The Prince of Dol Amroth had been born to a rank scarcely less high than Denethor's, and the title was no empty one. His holdings were vast and so far south that he ruled almost as a king in his own right, and so he knew how heavy lay the mantel of sovereignty on mortal shoulders. It aged a man, and the people for whom a prince lived (and for whom he might well die one day in the not too distant future) competed ever with those who stood nearest the heart. Imrahil had seen his parents struggle through their marriage when the needs of Dol Amroth tore them ever apart, and as the years grew darker, he and his wife had also known their share of strain and sorrow. But we fought for what we had, and for what we would have, and she is with me still: every morning we face together, and if she cries sometimes at night, well so also do I, when no other can see. Denethor, on the other hand .
There were days when Imrahil was convinced that his brother-in-law was beyond anything so human as care or concern for another. He is as a man possessed. A man possessed by this, Imrahil mused, and waved a mental hand about at the ramparts and high-built homes and towers by which he and Faramir passed as they climbed ever upwards. A man possessed by the shadow of the past made physical, wrought into this fair bauble of a city and by the ruins that lie along Anduin. What affection the steward had had, he had spent already on Finduilas and on Boromir, and it seemed that he had none left for Faramir. Or rather, that he would not have any for him, for fear that such affection might distract him from other tasks and callings. And so he spends what energy he has resenting him rather than rejoicing to have such a son, Imrahil thought grimly. The long years in Ithilien had taught the younger of the steward's sons to stand tall and alone in the face of adversity, but it had not cured him of his desire to please his father. The prince rather doubted that anything ever would, and much though he longed to tell his nephew to leave off hoping, he could not. To do so might spare Faramir much anguish, but Imrahil knew that it would do him violence as well, and in the worst possible way. And so rather than inquire about Denethor, he said only, "It has been too long. How have your fared?"
"All things considered, not badly. For soldiers of Ithilien, only to live is accounted a triumph," Faramir responded, and for all his light tone, Imrahil knew he was deadly serious. Any warrior could say the same, in truth, for the Enemy's troops grew ever fiercer, ever bolder, and companies stretched too far and thin bled themselves white trying to stem the tide.
"And how is Boromir? Is he about?"
"He fares well enough, though I fear I know not where he might be. I have not seen him since early this morning. 'Tis likely he has some errand to perform for Father, for he seemed rather preoccupied," the other said, and Imrahil frowned inwardly, hearing the worry that gave the lie to that otherwise neutral assessment. I miss something here. What has happened of late in this city? But much though he longed to ask, the streets of Gondor, broad and public, were no place to hold a serious discussion, and so he filed his questions away for a more opportune hour.
"I am glad to hear it, then," he replied instead. "We must find time to speak later, you and Boromir and I, for there is much to tell of each other, I doubt not. War is not everything, after all. Have I told you about that roan that threw your cousin last spring? No? I never saw a more ill-tempered beast and thought he might have to go to the knackers, but then again, you know Cirthon prides himself on his horsemanship ." Faramir listened as his uncle spun the tale, and Imrahil was pleased to note that he at least knew still how to laugh. And apparently, he also knew how to tell his own tales, for when Imrahil had finished, Faramir recounted some of the more entertaining moments of duty in Ithilien. Of inconsequential things they spoke, each knowing quite well that the other held more important matters from him, but they smiled nonetheless and ignored that knowledge. For that was the way of things among the high of the land, even between family long missed.
"Valar curse it all!" The muttered curse fell heavy into the still, musty air, and Boromir stared up at the ladder that led to the upper shelves. Why it should be that the book he wanted would be stored on the topmost row, he had no idea, but he suspected fate of taking a perverse pleasure in his discomfiture. Deciphering the codex of works was task enough, he grumbled to himself as he began the climb. What cross-eyed old fool decided on this filing system? 'Tis a marvel a man can find anything at all in here! He reached the end of the ladder and ran a sleeve over the bindings of the nearest volumes to clear away enough of the dust to read the titles without squinting. Then he perched there, translating furiously whenever possible as he brushed at his arm and dust motes drifted down towards the floor below. Now do I wish I had Faramir here. I speak well enough, but this this is arcane! I am not even certain what dialect this is, though it seems clearly Sindarin almost. At last, however, he located the book he thought he needed, pulled it carefully from its place, and descended with as much speed as he dared. In the middle of the room there was a table with chairs, and someone had thoughtfully left paper and ink for the use of whomever might come to do research here, in the steward's private collection.
How he had gained entry was a secret he hoped he would never have to tell, for if fortune were kind, he would be in and out with no one the wiser for his activities. For although Faramir was quite correct to say that the steward their father would not give his permission for any to search Mardil's Books, Boromir was wise in the ways of warfare. If a frontal assault would not yield the coveted benediction, then there were still guile and cunning to fall back upon. So, rather than disturb Denethor, who was hard at work preparing for the council, Boromir had risen early and made his unnoticed way to the library. Beyond the honeycombed delving, there was a passage, and that passage led to an isolated chamber guarded by the senior librarians. Pale-faced and somber, they reminded Boromir of embalmers, and doubtless their severe and disapproving eyes would intimidate most men into leaving. But the confrontation with the librarians was where the aforementioned guile and cunning came into play. Thus, when one had glided forward to frown at him and ask, "Mayhap the young lord is lost?" Boromir had had his response ready.
"Would that I were, but I have an errand to pursue here." Grey brows had shot up in surprise, and thin lips had pursed thoughtfully as the man had stared at him, considering this unprecedented turn of affairs. They knew who he was, of course, for no one who lived or worked in the upper circles did not recognize the steward and his family. Likely, they knew Faramir even better, for his brother was one of the library's more frequent visitors whenever he returned home. But never had Denethor permitted either son access to the library's sanctum sanctorum, and the chief librarian had been clearly taken aback. And while the man had stood there in silence, trying to digest this, Boromir had sighed loudly and suggested, as if with impatience, "Send for my father if you must, but be swift, I beg, for the morning wears away and I shall need the time! I am not my brother, after all!" For if Faramir was well known here for his scholarly pursuits, Boromir was famous for his avoidance of the library save when duty required him to research some position or policy. Thus if he had come to the keepers of Mardil's Books, he must have a reason for being there other than his own volition, which shrank from the prospect of pouring over ancient texts. And since only one person could compel another to come and do research in the collection of the stewards, then it must logically be the case that Denethor had sent his reluctant elder son to them .
And so here he was, searching through the pages of "Quenta Aranorion"which he hoped was indeed the History of Arnor, as the Sindarin subtitle listed in the codex was conveniently missing from the cover of the bookand cursing the obscure minds of loremasters. As far as any knew, Imladris was no part of Arnor, so why it should be that a reference to it would be listed in a history of the fallen North Kingdom, Boromir had no idea. Doubtless there was a tangled web of tortured logic to it somewhere, but he wasted no efforts trying to reconstruct it, preferring to concentrate on the task at hand. Based on Faramir's reluctant advice yesterday, he had already gone through four or five volumes pertaining to the end of the Second Age, and he had followed the paper trail to this point out of desperation. Most of the works had some reference to Elrond's retreat, and even to the founding of Imladris, but none of the scribes had seen fit, apparently, to include a location for the vale, which struck Boromir as a deliberate omission. Many, indeed, referred to some other work which concerned itself with the elvish haven, but inevitably, a search through the codex revealed that Mardil and his heirs had not seen fit to collect that particular work. Curse the lot of you, what sought you to protect? Boromir wondered furiously, flipping through several pages of genealogical charts. All well and good that somewhere, the cadet branches of Arvedui's royal house were listed, but he could do without them at the moment.
For despite the fact that it was highly unlikely that Denethor's chores would lead him to this place, Boromir could not shake the fear of discovery. What he would do, should any surprise him, he could not predict even to himself. It would be beneath his dignity to hide, but his traitor memory kept reminding him of his own childhood exploits exploits that had often ended with he and Faramir huddled in some dark corner, waiting for their father's temper to cool. The Rise of Angmar The Wargs of Eriador The Tale of the Noble Line of Arvedui The Laws of Inheritance in Arnor . Boromir skimmed with nearly reckless haste, eyes devouring the lines of neat elvish script, and despite his impatience, he was fairly impressed that his translating skills were up to the task, since the dialect differed in significant ways from the one he was most comfortable using. The Fall of Cardolan in the Wake of the Civil Strife The Collapse of Rhudaur: A Treatise on the Corruptive Influence of the Kingdom of Angmar The Disposition of the North Kingdom According to the Decree of Aranarth Why is it that these headings are so bloody long? With a sigh, he paged ahead, pausing but once to look at a mapNo help there, of course!and was about to flip to the next section when he saw it.
There, at the bottom of the page, it stood, and the lettering fairly leapt out at him as his eyes swept across the text: "And so it was agreed, by common consent, that Elrond Peredhel should hold in his keeping the heirlooms of the royal line, and that Imladris should shelter the Heirs of Isildur unto perpetuity, for the valley of the Elves, hidden in" Boromir paused in his recitation to turn the page. On the back lay a second map, though it was about as helpful as the first. It showed an area of Rhudaur that extended south to the edge of Eregion, north to the Ettenmoors, west to the Last Bridge, and east to the Misty Mountains, and Boromir saw nothing resembling 'Imladris' written anywhere on it. Turning back to the text, he read the following: "' spoke the Seer Malbeth in ancient times that the royal line of Arnor should at last face the darkness of Mordor, and be called to own the words and deeds of Isildur ' What!?" Disbelieving, Boromir turned back a page, re-read the passage about Elrond and Imladris, and then carefully turned the page again, being careful not to skip any. But no, the map was indeed drawn onto the back of that page, which meant that the tale ought to continue on that which faced it. But it did not. And upon closer inspection, Boromir, drawing a fingertip along the break in the pages, could feel the torn edges where someone-May the Valar condemn him!had ripped out the one page that he needed.
Boromir laid his head in his hands and listened to the brooding silence mock him while he waited for the initial spasm of outrage to subside. One single wretched page! And if that were not enough to prove that someoneor possibly a number of peoplesought to keep the location of Imladris secret, he knew not what might constitute further proof. Why, though? What care we for Elves? Granted, Boromir had never seen one, he knew them to be enemies of the Dark Lord. That alone was enough to guarantee them his good will, or at least his neutrality, with regards to their business. Evidently, however, Imladris and Master Elrond might have other secrets to hide that some unknown steward had deemed too dangerous to allow his heirs to stumble over. Faramir said Mithrandir warned him that some of the books and scrolls in this room contained dangerous knowledge. Is this what he meant, or am I foiled by a lot of silverfish? But the pests did not eat pages like that, and he had seen no evidence of their existence in this or any other book. Doubtless the librarians saw to it that Mardil's Books were protected from such things.
Raising his head, Boromir cast his glance round at the room, with its myriad volumes and scrolls stacked from floor to ceiling. He had gone to this book as a last resort, and though he could not help but think that somewhere in this collection, Imladris' secrets lay exposed, there for the taking, he knew not how to find that one book. Faramir might have had better luck in such an endeavor, but Boromir had just exhausted his resources. Short of beginning anew and going through every book on the shelves, he would not find what he sought. And I have not the time! I must have been in here for hours already. With a sigh, he bowed his head, staring at the map on the back of the page. Imladris must lie somewhere within that region, or why else would the map be there? Denethor's elder son hesitated a moment, wondering why that page had escaped destruction and then wondering whether anyone would miss it should it disappear as mysteriously as its neighbor. But then he sighed and reached for a sheet of paper and the pen. However much he detested research, he was not one to destroy or mutilate a thing of worth for no reason, and so he copied out the relevant portion of the text and noted the boundaries of the map, plus any changes in the landscape or names that caught his eye. It was little enough, but it was something, and Boromir resolved to check elsewhere for a more detailed map of that area in the main library. Closing the book, he tucked it under his left arm and hauled it back up the ladder to its place on the uppermost shelf.
Then, being careful to put all back in the order that he had found it, Boromir left Mardil's Books behind, nodding a brusque thanks to the librarians as he passed through their midst. Up the passageway he went, but when he reached the half-way point, he slowed, coming finally to a halt. What have I just done? he wondered of a sudden. What do I go to do now? His heart pounded in his chest, and though Boromir knew his father would not be pleased with him should he ever discover his illicit visit, there was no reason to suspect that Denethor would ever know of it. There lay upon him, it seemed, a fear that strained filial loyalty could not explain, and as he thought over the past few days, he realized that it had never truly left him. It was there, burned into him since Osgiliath it seemed, and he knew not why.
But if this dread remained somewhat mysterious to him, he could at least answer his second question, and with a sigh, he began moving again. I go to find my brother, as I suppose I knew I must ere ever I thought it! For now I must decide: shall I tell Faramir of this, or not?
"Faramir!" Faramir paused, turning to see his brother striding quickly up to him.
"And where have you been all day? I had begun to think you had left the city again," Faramir replied, offering a half-smile to show that he meant no criticism. "Imrahil missed you earlier."
"Ah, so he has arrived safely," the other said, somewhat unnecessarily, and the younger man frowned slightly, wondering at that. Boromir usually did not waste words on the obvious. "I suppose he has gone to see Father, then?"
"Yes, though to my mind he did not look forward to the meeting," Faramir replied.
"'Tis the first time those two have been alone in a room together for some time now," Boromir reminded him. "I imagine it would be wise to avoid them both when the meeting ends."
"You may be right, though I think our uncle's temper shall run its course swiftly. He asked me to invite you to join us a little later on, before supper."
"Of course," Boromir replied, and Faramir sighed inwardly, knowing that yesterday's brief lapse aside, his brother knew quite well why Imrahil did not invite them to sup with him. I wonder, would Father dare to shut him out should their argument break loose again, whatever it is? 'Tis one thing to ignore a troublesome second son, but another, after all, to snub a prince of the realm and one's brother-in-law! But he put such thoughts swiftly from his mind, for they were truly none of his affair, and instead he cocked his head at his brother.
"What brought you to me, Boromir?" he asked after a moment's silence.
"Naught specific. I saw you and hailed you, that is all. Are you well?" The question caught him somewhat by surprise, and Faramir's sense of puzzlement deepened.
"Of course. Why should I not be?"
"You seem to me pensive," Boromir replied.
"Do I not always? From our earliest days you have teased me about that!" Faramir gave him a smile and an elbow to the ribs, wondering at his brother's strange mood.
"I do at that. I only that is," his brother paused awkwardly, lapsing into a rather anxious, dark silence, and Faramir felt himself tense before this unusual display of indecision. Boromir seemed to be groping for the right wordsor for any wordsas if he were uncertain what he himself thought. After a lengthy several moments, he glanced about to be certain no others were close enough to hear, and then tugged Faramir to a halt. Laying heavy hands on his shoulders, Boromir raked him over with troubled eyes, and Faramir felt his lips part slightly in worried astonishment at the other's grave look. Boromir noticed, and sighed softly, shaking his head. "I know not how to say this, so bear with me! Since the night we faced the Fell Riders and we shared that dream, I have been uneasy. I spoke harshly to you the other day in the Second Circle, and I should not have troubled you yesterday. But in me there is some some ."
"Fear?" Faramir suggested helpfully, perceiving suddenly his brother's trouble. For it does not come naturally to him to admit to any such 'weakness' as fear.
"Yes," the other replied in a low tone, folding his arms across his chest.
"There is no shame in that, you know," Faramir replied. "I feel it too, likely more often than do you. And you are right: since Osgiliath and the Shadow Riders, fear has come to roost in my heart, and I cannot seem to be rid of it."
"But you do not let it affect you so. I fear that this dread has colored my words and actions of late, and I let that spill onto you, as should not be. Mayhap if there were some useful task to perform here ."
"True. But we have sworn to wait and let our father pursue all useful tasks," Faramir responded with a wry smile, seeking to draw his brother out a bit from under the shadow. "Perhaps he, too, as you suggested, suffers under this malaise! At least it may drive him to search the harder for answers to our questions."
"Mmm yes." For some reason, that seemed actually to increase Boromir's discomfiture, and Faramir frowned. Something in his brother's manner drew his mind back to their childhood, to memories of laughter and boyhood pranks that went predictably awry, sometimes with fairly spectacular results.
"Boromir..." He cocked his head at him suspiciously. "Why is it that you seem to me guilty?" If he had hoped to receive a swift denial of any such condition, he was disappointed. Boromir simply gazed at him heavily, and Faramir scrubbed a hand over his face, wishing vainly that they had chosen some more private place to have this discussion than in a side-street, however quiet, of the Sixth Circle. "What have you done, since by your silence you seem to confess?"
"Imladris lies near the Misty Mountains."
It took Faramir several seconds of staring to realize just what he was being told, and then he gaped at him. "You crept in to look at Mardil's Books?!"
Boromir winced. "Not so loudly!" he hissed, glancing around once more. Faramir caught his brother's arm in an iron grip and dragged him a little further up the street, further away from the main thoroughfare.
"What were you thinking, risking Denethor's ire like that?" he demanded once they had paused again. "And how did you gain entry in any case? The librarians know that none are to enter without the steward's express permission!"
"Nay, brother, they know that you are not to enter, for you have no such permission and likely never shall short of Father's death. But they know that I hate the library vaults and would not inquire of them without reason. What reasons I might have had, they were free to assume what they would. They chose to assume Denethor had sent me," Boromir corrected, and knew it was no excuse. Faramir bowed his head, dithering as he digested this, and Boromir sighed inaudibly. In truth, he believed that his attempt to find answers in spite of their father's interference was justified. But he still felt the bite of an uneasy conscience, and that was a rare enough feeling that, whatever his own beliefs, he felt he could not keep the secret to himself. But I should not have put this on Faramir either, he realized. Although his brother had as much stake in this errand as he did, he ought not to have involved the other in his own deceptive dealings. Should they ever face Denethor, Faramir would suffer if it somehow slipped out that he had known of Boromir's trespassing. Yet he does deserve to know and I would ask him if he remembers aught more of that long ago conversation with Mithrandir.
"At least you found its location," Faramir sighed just then, which startled Boromir greatly. The younger man greeted his surprise with a rueful half-smile that did nothing to brighten his eyes, and then asked, "Where exactly does it lie?"
"Would you believe that the rest of the sentence was missing?"
"Just so. Look," Boromir pulled the paper from his belt pouch and watched as Faramir unfolded it and read off what he had written there.
"It just ends?"
"The next page is missing entirely, and you begin to read about Malbeth the Seer if you continue on uninterrupted. Someone tore it out. More, most of the volumes that supposedly deal with Imladris refer to manuscripts that are not listed in the codex. Unless I missed them, which is possible. Whoever created that guide must have been half-blind or half-mad or a bit of both! It took me nearly an hour to learn how to use the wretched thing with any success!"
"Why that one page? Or were there others?"
"I know not if there were others, for I did not look. It was a clean tear, though, very close to the binding. Does it not strike you as odd that information concerning Imladris seems to be quite conveniently missing?"
"It does at that. How many volumes did you search?"
"I kept no count, but I should say a dozen or so that had anything to do with Imladris at all."
"Mmm no wonder you were gone so long!" Faramir frowned thoughtfully, and Boromir could see the gleam in his eyes as his brother mulled over this information.
"You said yesterday," Boromir reminded, "that Mithrandir, when he brought you into that chamber with him, would not allow you to look about on your own, for some of the books had dangerous information in them. Can you remember aught else he might have said on that topic? Did he mention Imladris?"
"Nay, he did not, or I would have remembered it, for I have racked my mind for days over this matter. I fear that unless I can manage my own visit to the steward's private collection, I cannot further any of your speculations. But clearly, Imladris must lie within the region of this map." Faramir folded the paper once more and handed it back. Boromir received it and replaced it in his belt pouch, watching his brother carefully. Something in his voice and manner roused instinct, and Boromir frowned.
"Are you certain? For it seems to me that you have some thoughts on this ."
"We all have our secrets, Boromir," Faramir replied, and gave him a rather tight smile. "This one I shall keep for a time, for I know not what to make of it, nor how best to deal with it. Mayhap by this evening, when we meet with our uncle, I shall be able to tell you, but not before then, certainly. Now, I must go, for Húrin asked me to meet him, and I would not be late. You will come, will you not?" Faramir caught his arm tightly, the pressure of his fingers causing Boromir's arm to tingle as he pressed against nerves.
"I shall. Give my greetings to Húrin."
"Until later, then," Faramir nodded, and so the brothers partedBoromir more thoughtfully, and Faramir with an air of driven preoccupation. And they knew not that above, in the Seventh Circle, they were being discussed
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