"Hmm? Oh! I'm sorry!" Lisette looked up guiltily, and tried to appear contrite. Collecting herself as best she could, she continued. "My apologies, lady Mírwen. If you would perhaps repeat what you've just said, I would more than happy to do your bidding."
Mírwen sighed in an exasperated manner, and shook her head. "Thankfully, this is not a difficult task, even for your wandering mind," she said, eventually smiling. "Simply fetch me my book from that insolent brother of mine, and give him a swift kick for neglecting to return it to me. Be sure to hurry, for he is expected at a council soon."
"Yes, my lady." With that, Lisette scurried out of the room. It was not until the door was shut behind her that she realized exactly what she'd been sent out to do. She had to fetch something from lady Mírwen's brother. Denethor. The man she'd been hoping to avoid for at least a week, lest he question her further on the Tree Incident. Resigning herself to her misfortune, she walked to Denethor's room with her shoulders slumped, and knocked on the door.
Absent-mindedly, she shuffled her feet as she waited for him to appear. Minutes passed. She was almost tempted to look at her watch, before she remembered that she no longer had one. What could be taking him so long? she wondered. It was not as though she looked forward to this meeting, but waiting certainly did nothing to soothe her frazzled nerves.
"Who is it?!"
Lisette jumped back in surprise at the sound of Denethor's angry voice. Looking up, she blinked and stared at him with widened eyes. Although he was frowning, his features seemed almost softer, somehow. His eyes, normally piercing and focused, no longer held that intimidating edge to them. And was it just her imagination, or was his hair... slightly ruffled? Not to imply that the Denethor, son of Ecthelion, did not look presentable at the moment, but it was clear that his appearance was not as immaculate as it usually was.
"My lord?" she inquired lightly.
"Ah. It's you," he remarked as he recognized her. "So, I take it Mírwen has sent you on a direly urgent errand that simply could not wait until a later hour?"
"I did not mean to disturb you, my lord. I should have known you'd be busy preparing for that council today," said Lisette, fiddling nervously with her hair. "But lady Mírwen asked that I find you before you left."
Lisette's head jerked up at the question, and she looked at Denethor again. There was something resembling genuine confusion in his eyes, though he quickly masked it.
"Yes...?" she offered tentatively as she took a closer look at him. Ruffled hair, an almost relaxed demeanor... Could it be--? No. It was unheard of that Denethor could possibly forget about a council. His punctuality was well-known amongst the people in the city - legendary even. Lisette could recall several occasions when his sister even teased him about it. It was far more likely that he was just tired - too much work, probably.
"Do you not remember it, my lord?" she asked lightly.
"Of course I do," he responded almost immediately, but the brief pause before his answer told her everything she needed to know. But before she could feel smug for actually catching Denethor off-guard, he spoke again, having recovered his composure. "I was merely surprised that you would know of it. At any rate, it matters not." He paused as he regarded her carefully. "What is it that Mírwen would ask of me?"
"The lady Mírwen requests that you return her book today, if possible," answered Lisette. Wow. Fast recovery. Impressive.
"Ah, yes, of course." He nodded and stepped back, holding the door open. "Come in."
The room was unusually quiet and dark. Looking around, Lisette's eyes were immediately drawn to the impressive bookshelf on her left. She sighed wistfully. It wasn't fair. If only she could read them! She had spent years learning the ancient English language that she expected these people to speak, only to find that with a few exceptions, no one actually used this language much. Not in Gondor, anyway. From what Lisette could tell, the Rohirrim were the only ones who spoke the language. At least, that was what she assumed given that everyone thought she came from Rohan.
"I see you are fond of books, Nellas."
"Aye, though I can only read and write in Rohirric," she replied, surprised by the observation. Since when did he care about my interests? she wondered.
"Hmm. I recently acquired a rare book of Rohirric verses. Not many of them are ever recorded, but this touches a topic close to their hearts, and was written by a young bard. Would you be interested in this?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Me? Do you mean it?"
"I do not particularly care for the writing in the book," he replied, waving her question off. "As long as father does not find out about this, I see no harm in it."
Lisette hesitated. She hadn't lived her entire life under a stone, and she knew to beware of anything that was too good to be true. Caveat Emptor, as the ancient cultures liked to say, she mused idly. But does this really count, if I'm not technically buying anything? Letting her eyes roam over the books on the shelf, she tried to search for a more appropriate Latin term.
"I must say, Nellas," said Denethor suddenly, interrupting her thoughts. "I did not believe Mírwen when she commented on your often-absent mind... but now I am beginning to think that I was perhaps too hasty in that judgment."
Lisette tried her best not to look offended. What? Absent-minded! It's hardly my fault that I need to keep track of a research paper on top of this thankless job. She almost pouted. Well, Mírwen can think what she wants, she thought indignantly. At least Denethor doesn't think I'm a complete air-head. She paused, blinking as the last thought registered in her mind. Was that a compliment? From Denethor? Quickly shaking her head, she dismissed the thought.
"Well? Does the book interest you?" asked Denethor, who looked somewhat amused.
"Yes." She decided that a one-word answer would suffice. Brevity is the soul of wit, and all that... Not that I care much about appearing witty, she added silently.
Pleased with her response, Denethor promptly handed her the two books and ushered her out of the room. Almost in a daze, she headed back to Mírwen's room. She tried her best not to think about the book she was just given, knowing that she would be unable to concentrate on work for the rest of the day if she did.
"Nellas! Why were you delayed for so long?"
Lisette stopped dead in her tracks, and stared ahead. "My lady? You were waiting for me?"
"Of course! I would not have sent you so early in the morning if the book was of no importance to me, now would I?"
"I'm sorry," she said. An awkward pause. "What is this book about?" she finally asked, letting curiosity get the better of her.
For a few moments, Mírwen was unable to come up with an answer. "Plants," she finally said, looking a bit embarrassed.
How exciting, thought Lisette wryly.
"But never mind that, my dear Nellas. Denethor did not make this difficult for you, did he? I know that he can be troublesome when he is woken from his sleep."
"Oh, not at all, my lady," protested Lisette. "After all, he was already awake - no doubt preparing for the council."
Mírwen raised an eyebrow at her response, but was content to let the subject drop, for which Lisette was very grateful. She wasn't sure why she felt compelled to defend Denethor, but it seemed only appropriate, after his show of generosity. The rest of the day passed uneventfully, and although Lisette was preoccupied with thoughts of her new book, she completed her duties competently.
By the time she arrived in her room at the end of the day, she was brimming with excitement. This is going to be great! Not only will I be able to report on the cultures of Gondor, I'll be able to report on Rohirric culture as well! She was sure to find insightful poetry on their culture, their customs, and even their everyday lives!
With trembling fingers, she opened the book. Her jaw dropped. An entire book of poetry dedicated to... horses?!
To Be Continued...
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.