Stewards of Gondor: Genverse Arc
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That Which Remains Us: 1. Ritual
This is nonsense. Open it, Faramir! Open the door. Now! he ordered himself, and it seemed that he must have obeyed, for of a sudden, the door, with the key still in it, swung open, and he was left empty-handed upon the threshold. Still, he did not move within immediately—because the lighting was so dim, he told himself, and winced for the lie. But after a few moments, he drew a deep breath and, as he stepped through the door frame, his spine stiffened reflexively, as it always had whenever he had entered the steward's domain.
And although it was dark within, he made his way across the floor to the shuttered windows without difficulty—Denethor had always been the most meticulous of men. Clutter was foreign to him, slovenliness anathema, and the squires who served him were wont to say that they could be left blindfolded in the room and yet carry out their duties without difficulty, so carefully was all ordered.
Nevertheless, Faramir felt an immense relief when his questing fingertips found the latches on the shutters. Bright morning sunlight spilled into the antechamber as he thrust them open, and then went on to open the second window as well, allowing fresh air to steal its way into the room. A moment he stood there, facing outwards, and he inhaled deeply, 'til his lungs were nigh to bursting it seemed. Slowly, then, Faramir turned, exhaling as he did so, and leaned back against the window sill as he let his gaze wander over the room, surveying its contents.
From the time that he had been a very small child, everything had remained exactly as it was today, with only two exceptions—a trunk that had appeared mysteriously one day, apparently having been moved from Denethor's sleeping quarters, and the steward himself. And now the Steward, to parse the difference finely, Faramir thought, grasping at words instinctively. Pushing away from the window, he moved slowly about the room, careful not to touch anything, until at last he stood before the clock that occupied the northwest corner.
A pendulum clock, carved with patterns of waves, inlaid with pearl dolphins about the face, it was clearly the work of Dol Amroth's craftsmen. It had been Finduilas's, and amid the somber simplicity of Denethor's possessions, it stood forth as an anomaly in more than one way. For the rest of Finduilas's things had been neatly stored away upon her death, saving for a very few items that Faramir had 'borrowed' for his own use and comfort. Faramir had never quite understood why his father had chosen to keep the clock when he had been so quick to rid himself of all other reminders of his dead wife. He had never had the temerity to ask his father about it, and if Boromir had ever learned Denethor's motives, his brother had not told him of them.
Valar, Boromir! Faramir bit his lip as he traced the curlicue patterns on the wood. He had very nearly had to risk a second rescue mission to recover some of his brother's personal effects, for true to form, Denethor had had servants begin cleaning out his elder son's chambers the day after the broken horn had been brought to Minas Tirith.
Fortunately, Faramir had found his way into his brother's rooms first, in time to tidy up what he could—not that there was much to tidy, as both men had inherited, through blood and lash, their father's predilection for orderly rooms. He had absconded with naught but the few personal letters that Boromir had kept in a drawer—safely tucked away where none but Faramir would know to find them.
One had been for him, and one had proved a set of instructions regarding the distribution of a few items that Boromir had wanted bestowed upon specific persons. Faramir had seen to all such orders quietly, and if ever Denethor had known of his activities, he had said nothing. One letter only had concerned their father, and Faramir had lied shamelessly in delivering it, saying that Boromir had left it with him long ago, to be given in the event of his death. He had been nearly certain that the steward had not believed him, but Denethor had taken the letter without comment, leaving Faramir to wonder at his strange good fortune.
But a few short months it had been since irrefutable proof of Boromir's death had come south with Peregrin Took. And but six days later, my father slew himself, Faramir thought, and made himself repeat it. Six days, and a few more months, and once again I must bury my family—lay to rest all that remains. The time had passed when he could not even articulate that within his own thoughts, yet he still felt cold inside whenever he did so. Cold... it has always been cold between my father and me. Perhaps he thought the fire might change that in the end, but it has not. That chill lives in me now—such a legacy you left me, Father!
Clenching his teeth, Faramir turned away from the clock and made dutifully for the desk. He had come here because he had, at last, no excuse to avoid the inevitable sorting through and packaging of a life—Aragorn was crowned, Minas Tirith had begun to recover a certain stability, such that it no longer needed Faramir's undivided attention to function. Indeed, Aragorn had fairly ordered him to take the day off and see to any business that he might have left undone due to the exigencies of command. Whether that meant that the king knew of Denethor's sealed quarters, Faramir knew not, but he had told no one of his intentions, and he hoped that no one would come in search of him.
All through the morning, he whittled away at the neat stacks of paper, moving from drawer to drawer, emptying small boxes. From the desk, he moved about the room to sort through the books. Most of them were histories or political accounts, and as such would be useful to someone, surely. Aragorn, perhaps, might find them helpful, especially since many were, upon inspection, annotated in Denethor's carefully-wrought script. The furniture Faramir planned to be rid of, as it ill-suited his tastes, being made of dark wood, and the carpet would be given away or put in some little-used room of the Citadel.
By the afternoon, Faramir had worked his way into his father's sleeping chambers, and had carefully noted which books could be kept, which could be donated to the librarians, and which might be of more use to others. Denethor, Faramir discovered, had surprisingly similar tastes to his own in many areas.
Or mayhap I ought not to be surprised—we rarely needed to explain our references to each other on the occasions when we debated something other than my failings, Faramir thought, setting aside a copy of Mardil Voronwë's The Tribes of Rhûn. He paused by the chess set, pondered the dilemma of White, and moved a castle. Black countered with the queen capturing a knight. It was a very handsome set, but Faramir preferred the one he and Boromir had always used. Maybe Húrin would appreciate it, though.
If, that is, it ought not to go to another, Faramir thought and frowned. He had as yet found nothing resembling a will, which struck him as odd, for Denethor was not the sort of man to leave such matters unattended. Most men raised to war made certain that someone knew of their wishes ere they left home, and Denethor had had more than enough time to put his final wishes on paper.
So where was it, then? Faramir was guiltily aware that in earlier refusing to search out his father's will, he might well have left something important undone—something that might affect Gondor. Yet he could not fathom his father writing critical instructions into such a document, since he had never told anyone where he kept it. Or if he kept one. As surely he must have! Faramir frowned, surveying Denethor's bedroom once again. He had looked in each drawer, each chest, and in any cranny he could find without success. With a sigh, he left the chess board and returned to the outer chamber.
I must have missed it in amongst all the other papers, he thought, as he stared at the desk...and then put his head in his hands, giving an exasperated sigh. The trunk! There it sat in its corner, just as it always had, and the only reason Faramir could think of to excuse his oversight was that no one, not even Boromir, had ever been told what was in that trunk. Denethor had never mentioned it, never remarked upon it, and perhaps his ghost kept watch on his quarters, for Faramir had habitually by-passed it as being none of his concern.
"But you are no longer here to rap my knuckles or box my ears, Father," he murmured, approaching and kneeling down before the trunk. "The dead have enough secrets, after all."
It was locked, of course, but Faramir fished about in a pocket and drew forth a set of keys that he had taken from the desk. One of them clearly was meant to open a room somewhere in the Citadel—possibly the high chamber where once the palantír had sat—and a second had opened a small box that had proved to hold letters exchanged between Rohan and Gondor in the past five years. Thus, the third must be for the trunk. Faramir inserted it into the keyhole and gave a twist.
Nothing. The key did not budge, and would not, despite a few well-chosen words and several further attempts. Perplexed, the Steward of Gondor sank back on his haunches, considering the problem. No one had found any keys in the study, or else Húrin would have told him. And he had found nothing in his father's suite other than the keys in the desk. After several more minutes spent in silent contemplation, Faramir sighed and reached for the narrow blade he kept in a sheath strapped to his wrist. Damrod insisted that this was an easy skill to learn, after all....
Well, Damrod would doubtless be less than pleased with my craftsmanship, Faramir thought at last, grimacing as he peered critically at the scratches on his blade ere he resheathed it. He was fairly certain that the locking mechanism would not function properly after this, but that could be repaired later. With a feeling of great trepidation, the Steward of Gondor raised the lid to peek inside... and his jaw dropped slightly.
Staring in amazement, Faramir reached inside and hesitantly touched the folded piece of paper that lay on top. "To My Father" read the address, and Faramir felt his heart contract painfully as he recognized the handwriting. Boromir's letter! And beneath the letter, the shards of the horn of the stewards. Valar.... A moment he lingered over the cloven horn, and then his fingers wandered over to a pair of small, enameled boxes. Beside them lay a set of intricately knotted ropes.
This is a Númenor Star, he realized, picking up one of the knots, identifying it almost instantly. And this... this is an Albatross Loop... and what are these? Setting the ropes aside for the moment, he opened the enameled boxes to find in one a set of rings, neither of which he recognized, and in the other, a very ornately worked hair-clasp. Silver and blue—this must have been Mother's! Faramir realized. And indeed, although he had never seen the hair clasp before, he recognized the shawl laid under the boxes as having once belonged to Finduilas. Almost reverently, he lifted the garment out of the trunk, letting the soft-spun blue wool slide through his fingers to pool in his lap. Boromir's letter and Mother's shawl... bits and pieces left behind. And when he locked that lid, did Father intend to remember them... or forget them?
Carefully refolding the garment, he laid it to one side and peered back into the box to find that moving the shawl had uncovered one last item: a plain, unadorned book. Frowning, he freed it from its nest amid the other tokens, turning it in his hands. There was nothing on the cover to denote its contents, and it was a small volume, slender and unremarkable. 'Twas not Boromir's, that I know. I wonder, was this Mother's, then? Something that she wrote or sketched in? Or mayhap it belonged to the owners of the rings? Rising, Faramir wandered over to the window in search of better light. Opening it, he found but a single line upon the first page:
In Denethor's hand was that unbalanced linnod written, which was enough to send an unpleasant ripple of shock through Faramir. She who seeks the seabirds? Mother? Pursing his lips slightly in perplexed concentration, Faramir turned the page and began to read....
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