Many Guises and Many Names
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The Commander of Gondor: 9. Thy Brother's Wife
The White City was celebrating Yule. That morning, Quillion had arrived at Thorongil's office carefully lugging a wooden crate filled with several fabric wrapped packages. The first he presented to Thorongil. It was a painted, clay statue of an animal, which the boy proudly proclaimed was Dagor. The commander complimented the young artist and displayed the statue on his desk. Another package revealed a bright red knitted muffler from Quillion's mother. He laid a similar package on Fallon's empty desk. Wishing him a happy Yule, Thorongil sent his squire home to spend the day with his mother, his crate refilled with a myriad of small parcels.
Gandalf was in the city, arriving the day before from Lothlorien, and Thorongil had spent most of the night talking with him. The fire burned low and the candles guttered as the two old friends spent the night hours speaking of those held dear by both. The commander now sat at his desk, comfortably tired, sipping tea, with a packet of Arwen's letters to be read, messages from Elrond, Gilraen, Elrohir, and Elladan, and a thick missive from Halbarad. Arwen had also sent a fine pair of doe-skin gloves, the embroidered cuffs reaching half way to his elbows. He was pondering what Elvish wisdom she had used to get the fit so perfect when the door opened quietly. Fallon slowly came in and slumped at his desk across from Thorongil without a word.
"What's wrong?" Thorongil did not need any special ability to divine his captain was greatly troubled. The man looked as if he were in great pain.
"My brother and my father are breakfasting with Finduilas and Imrahil. We all were to---it was especially planned, but I received an early message delivered by one of those blasted blue guards of the prince's saying I wasn't to attend----'regrets but perhaps another time'---as if I was a casual acquaintance and not part of the Steward's household!" Fallon was confused and growing irritated. "What could it mean?"
"Mostly likely nothing," Thorongil said reassuringly. "I'm sure your father expected your company there and the Prince was unaware." Fallon brooded silently at his desk as the hours ticked away. Although he tried most of the day, Thorongil could not arouse Fallon from his strange mood, nor could he forget Imrahil's words on the terrace.
That evening every window of the Citadel blazed golden for the Yule Night party. The Minas Tirith court and the nobles from the surrounding provinces arrived dressed in all their finery. Musicians and entertainers made ready to delight the gentry. The cooks had been preparing for days and the banquet tables held buffets to tempt the palate with every dish from savory to spicy sweet.
Thorongil, handsome in his dress uniform, stood in a corner talking with Gandalf when the Dol Amroth group came in. Finduilas was lovely in deep red. The commander immediately saw pain and confusion in her eyes as he raised her hand to his lips and introduced her to the wizard. She looked away quickly and answered his questions woodenly. Her gaze downcast, she meekly followed her brother away to greet the Steward and Denethor as soon as they entered the room. Later, Thorongil saw her laughing with Fallon, but the sound was brittle and she turned her head away as the captain tried to steal a kiss.
The evening wore on and Thorongil found himself in a deserted alcove, avoiding Larietas, one of the court ladies who had whispered earlier that she knew just what Yule present she would love from him. He was considering retiring from the field before the lady found him again when Finduilas, distraught, found him there.
"Thorongil, you must help me! I am so unhappy!" She leaned against him and began to sob bitterly.
"Lady, you'll make yourself unwell. You cannot show a tear-stained face to the party. Tell me what is wrong." He gave her a handkerchief, poured her a glass of wine from a carafe on a side table, and waited until she was calm enough to speak.
"They are making me wed----" Her words were interrupted by her brother's sudden appearance in the doorway. He sternly eyed the couple, strode to Finduilas, and placed her arm through his.
"Come, Finduilas. I saw you steal in here. It is not proper to be alone with an unmarried soldier," said Imrahil, with an unreadable look to Thorongil. "Ecthelion is about to make the announcement and we need to be at his side." The Prince guided her out firmly.
With a sinking heart, the commander suspected Finduilas' sentence would not have ended with Fallon's name. He needed to find his subaltern quickly and leave the palace. Thorongil re-entered the grand hall and tried to push through the crush. Ecthelion, flanked by his sons, stood on the dais with the prince and Finduilas, waiting for the room to quiet. The Steward began his speech before Thorongil could reach Fallon.
"It gives me great pleasure this night to announce Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth will more firmly cement our friendship. The princess Finduilas has gladly accepted my son's suit." Fallon was beaming, oblivious to what was actually occurring. "Raise your glasses to the betrothal of Finduilas and Denethor. They will marry a year hence." Applause and shouts of congratulations filled the room, but there was silence in Thorongil's mind as he watched his captain, his friend, destroyed before his eyes.
Thorongil thanked the Valar Ecthelion did not allow side arms of any kind at these functions. Fallon stood dazed, the remnants of the smile still on his face. He stared at his brother a moment and looked down at his hand that was clasped in Denethor's as if it were attached to another man's arm. Then he stepped back from the group and off the dais. Thorongil moved through the crowd and followed him out a side door to the corridor. There, Fallon was leaning heavily against the wall, his head back and eyes shut.
"Fallon," Thorongil said quietly as he came up to him.
"That was what she has been trying to tell me." He began laughing and it was an ugly, disjointed sound. "What a fool I must have looked!"
"Are you alright?" Fallon's laughter took on a hysterical note.
"No!" Fallon turned to him and Thorongil saw the unshed tears glitter in his blue eyes. ""No, I'm not! I've been betrayed by my father and my brother. I'll never be alright again." Desperation choked his friend's voice. Fallon paused, fighting to keep control of his emotions. "I'm going to my quarters. Go back to the party." Fallon stepped away from Thorongil down the corridor; he stopped and turned back. "Never, never will we talk of this," he said in deadly earnest. Thorongil looked on helplessly as Fallon walked out alone into the bleak December night.
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