1. The Silence of Things
"In Dwimordene's answer to the Denethor Poetry writing challenge, That Which Remains Us, Faramir has a ring of keys:
[The chest] 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.
So, the question remains - what does the third key in the set open?"
Dedication: For Una McCormack, newly dissertated. Congratulations!
In the Shire, it might have been called a mathom–an odd end, a bit of that or this with an old tale and a history of changing hands. Aye, no History had it, only history–only a continual passing from one hand to the next over the long years. Carried in pockets, belt pouches, wallets, on rings, necklaces, or a bit of cord, the key was unremarkable. It had stayed with men most of the time; only on a few occasions had it been entrusted to women, who soon enough returned it to the men who owned it. It had been dropped in the mud, had fallen onto the streets of Minas Tirith, and had eight times been forgotten in one mess hall or another. Miraculously, it had always been found and returned to its keeper. Once, it had been melted and recast after an unfortunate encounter with a dagger; once, a smith had repaired it when its owner had mistaken it for one of its brethren and thereby snapped off a tooth extracting it from a chest. After that, its owner at the time had scratched his name onto the handle, to distinguish it from its fellows and avoid a night spent in another's chair. It had seen Ithilien from its masters' pockets, and Poros, Cair Andros, Dol Amroth, and most of Minas Tirith. Pelargir it had seen, and if ever there had been a spectator at war, the key would have been one had it been given to brass to see.
After death on the docks at Umbar, up the Anduin by ship in an envelope it had gone–enshrouded within a carefully scripted letter, carried by courier, and thence into the hands of its new owner. Had there but been secrets to reveal, it would have helped to reveal them to its new master. But it opened a door to naught of import, and it had gone thence to a key ring, which stayed for long in a dark pocket. Occasionally, its new owner would return to that room, and then it would find employment for a little while, but never for long nor with any frequency. And there came a time when its master took it from his pocket and cast it into a drawer, and there it remained. There was no one else to claim it; it passed to no other's keeping, only sat in the cedar-scented darkness alone with the envelope and the letter that had carried it homeward to Minas Tirith. Time passed, and the scratch of quill-tipped pens upon the surface above marked the days that stretched into years. Muffled voices told of great events, and tragedy as well, as the years grew darker, more desperate. But it had no part in any of it. Could brass but hear, it might have learned much of the failing of hope.
Upon a time, the drawer opened, and a hand sought it, took it at last from its coffin, and placed it upon a new ring, with a few others. Thence to the pocket, to ring slightly against mail hidden beneath cloth, until at last its master paused and drew it forth. A room long unused stood silent behind the door that swung noiselessly open, and the master entered, walking its confines. The key hung loosely in his hand the while, and then it was done, that strange and grimly silent ritual. The door was locked once more, and the key returned at length to its place in the drawer along with its brethren. Save one: one key was taken, leaving three behind, and the letter and envelope that long had kept it company were removed. And then there was darkness for long, and not even the cedar could mask the faint scent of ash. Could brass but taste, it might have known the bitterness of a fruitless spring.
Forgotten, the key lay waiting until one day, there came the sound of bustle and hustle, of things being emptied, moved. Books landed heavy upon the desk, reverberating through the wood, and the scuff of boots on stone was faintly audible. Drawers slid open and shut, papers rustled, and at long last, light spilled in, illuminating the shallow drawer. A hand, callused from sword and pen, took the key ring, and the key chimed sweetly against its fellows. A moment it hung in midair, and then it was plunged deep into a pocket, as its new master continued his business. The deeds of that day are elsewhere told, but if brass could remember, it might have remembered being fitted to the wrong lock once before, and been grateful to the smiths who had done their work so well to repair it.
But that was not the end, for that night, when a prince sought a king's company, the key was there to hear the tale of Thorongil and Denethor. An old tale, and not unknown in part to one Prince of Ithilien, but never before heard in full and from his father's rival. Never before heard, for Faramir would not hear it–had not wanted to hear it–but all mortal things end, including fear. Grief and anger must have their day, and confusion as well... and regret, that it was always and ever too late between father and son. Could brass but feel, it might have known pain.
Late it was when all had been said and settled, and afterthought arrangements made about books left behind. Late it was when the key on its ring with its fellows was drawn forth and given into the keeping of the Lord of the City—the first in many years to call Isildur forefather. One key for the high chamber of hollowed stone, one retained by the prince, and that last and seemingly least delivered into hands that, curious, turned it over and about in the lamplight after Faramir had gone...
... and noted the shallow lines upon the handle—marks made long ago by one of many masters, marks that faintly signed the quarters:
The letter groupings fit the Tengwar. Unfortunately, I can't make the actual Tengwar images work right now.
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.