7. Interlude with Elf Lords
The obligations of his office found Faramir at the ruins of Osgilith for most of the day, and he was unable to respond to the King's summons as quickly as Hiranion and Terisda. So the Steward did not learn of the fate of his kinsman Hirgon until late in the afternoon, well after Hiranion and Terisda had retreated from the King's presence. He was almost as upset at not being there to support the two in their grief as he was at the death of Hirgon. The King of the Rohirrim snorted. "I would have given a great deal not to be present. I am not the best at comforting widows."
"Indeed," murmured Elladan from a corner, "none would mistake that as one of your stronger skills."
Eomer shot a nasty glare at the Elf, who gave no indication of noticing the other's ire. King Elessar smirked slightly, but was all seriousness when he spoke to Faramir. "What know you of Hiranion?"
The Stewart paused over his reply, and his response indicated he understood why it was the King asked such a pointed question. "Terisda does seem wary of him, although in truth I understand it not. He is an honorable man."
"The fears a woman harbors may be far different from those of a man," mused the King. "Where are his lands?"
"With Hirgon gone he holds a large track in North Ithilien, although parts of it incorporate the Dead Marshes and the Nindalf. I don't doubt he'll find some clever way to make use of them."
"Apart from Ithilien."
"He has holdings near the Anduin in divers places. He received no land when his father died, of course, but there was some money and he invested it in docks and quays along the river-ways. He runs a large commercial center in Anfalas, which is where he makes his home."
"A merchant, in other words," said Eomer. He regarded the Steward sourly, although his eyes gleamed with humor. "How close a kinsman is this? I would rather not have my sister marrying into a family of beancounters."
Faramir replied in a like manner, but there was a serious undercurrent to his words. "A second son must do what he must do, and a nation needs merchants as much as it needs soldiers, Eomer."
"And he brought his own soldiers and fought well before the Black Gate," mused the King. "Is there more?" he demanded of his Steward.
Faramir shrugged. "He was also a suitor for Terisda's hand, but I cannot say I've ever discerned regret in him that Hirgon was the one who won her. He has since married, so do not expect a solution there."
"What of her father's line?"
"The Houses of North Ithilien were decimated, and there are not many left Terisda may claim close kinship with. She had a brother who sometimes rode with Boromir's forces on sorties, but he was lost in the retreat across the Anduin. As is custom, her father's lands then fell to her husband, although since Orcs held the deed at the time it was moot. Apart from Hiranion, I suppose the next closest kin she has is myself. We share a common forefather some ten or so Stewards ago."
"I am in two minds as to what I should do. If she is with child, and bears a son, then she is well provided for. If not--"
"I would do much for love of you, Aragorn," responded Rohan's King sourly, "but if you expect me to wed that harpy I will have to draw the line."
Faramir regarded Eomer with bafflement. "She is obviously one who would have no hesitation in slaying the messenger for the ill tidings he bears," supplied Elrohir. "Our noble King of the Mark barely escaped with his life."
At that Faramir smiled. "Yes, she's ferocious when roused. Actually, she's ferocious most of the time. She was such a quiet thing when we were younger, but once they were wed Hirgon gave her her head and she just --" He made an expansive movement with his hands, as if uncertain of the words.
"'Exploded'?" offered Eomer dryly.
"'Blossomed'?" suggested both of the Elf lords at the same time. They grinned at each other as Eomer rolled his eyes. "Ah, me," said Elladan lightly. "You mortals, so afraid of a tiny thing like that just because she has a tongue!"
"I would have an easier decision what to do about her if I had more exact information." The King's gaze went to the Elf lords, both of whom gazed back at him with faintly quizzical expressions. "You are not going to help me, are you?"
"With--?" queried Elladan, all innocence, although Elrohir's efforts to appear equally guileless were somewhat less effective.
The King directed a scowl that would have shriveled any courtier it intersected, but the Elf lords appeared unaffected. "If you two are to be of no help as counselors, then I wish you would make yourselves useful and go to Lorien. The Fellowship is getting restless. The Hobbits want to return to their Shire, and Legolas is longing for the green things he can smell across the Anduin," here he turned toward the far wall, "are you not, Legolas?"
"Your tracking skills are fading, Aragorn," said Gimli from his station in the shadows. "Legolas left some few minutes ago."
"He is always slipping off, that one," observed Elladan. "He does not have the advantage of being raised in Rivendell, and so has little tolerance for walls and buildings."
"And even within, he hears the gulls," added Elrohir. "Whether they are crying or not, he hears them."
"The city is a cage for him," Elladan agreed. "Elves do not like cages, nor do they like it when other things are caged. It is their nature to try to set imprisoned creatures free. Raised by our kind as you were, I would think you would be in sympathy with that, Estel."
"He lacks proper appreciation for the masonry work to be found in Minas Tirith," grumbled Gimli, a little crossly. "If he would but pay attention to me when I try to tell him how to distinguish good stone from bad, he would be better occupied here!"
For some reason that brought laughter from Elladan, and Elrohir smiled slyly. The King, however, gazed thoughtfully at the twins and was soon lost in a contemplative silence.
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