Two days passed slowly and with bitterness since that fateful day that strife broke out between Faramir, Éowyn and Beregond. During that time, the servants had watched their lord growing more sorrowful and barely eating anything anymore, whereas Lady Éowyn had remained locked in her room and not wishing to talk to anyone. As for Captain Beregond, he was hardly ever seen, and some soldiers were actually getting concerned that something had happened to him. And yet, whenever they would ask Captain Damrod for any news of him, he would only answer vaguely that Beregond had other business to attend to and he couldn't take up his duties just yet, not much more than Beregond himself let him know anyway.
Indeed, Beregond had hardly been idle for the last couple of days. He had already told Bergil to watch over Ulfast while he tried to find whatever evidence he could lay his hands upon. He had already searched the rubble of the boulder that had almost fallen on him, now swept aside in a corner; it was there that he discovered some small metallic shards. Beregond hadn't been absolutely sure, but he had guessed they could belong to a weapon. All the same, he had figured he should also ask someone who could tell him for certain.
That was where he was heading now, so early at dawn, since Bergil had warned him that Ulfast was, for the time being, in his room. Beregond didn't wish to come across the Black Númenórean and risk making him suspicious.
The blacksmith had already started work, just like Beregond had thought. The large man, however, was quite surprised to see the captain at his forgery at this time of day.
"'Morning, Captain Beregond. What can I do for you? Does your armour need any patching up?"
"No, not today, Faleth. This time I need your expert opinion on something."
"Of course, sir. What would you like to know?" asked Faleth, intrigued.
"What can you tell me about these?" asked Beregond, emptying on the table nearby the pouch in which he kept the shards.
The giant of a man picked two of the pieces in his thick hand and examined them closely.
"Well," he finally said smiling, "they are parts of a sword. Their cutting edge shows that clearly."
"Sword?" replied Beregond. "Not knife or arrow?"
"The metal is too thick for the weapons you suggest," Faleth corrected him. Still keeping the two pieces in his hand, he went up to his anvil and let them drop on it.
"Moreover, the pieces aren't part of just any sword," he added, "but one of mine."
"You are sure of this?" asked Beregond in surprise at how quickly Faleth had reached to such a conclusion.
"The clang of the shards was unmistakable. That's how all the swords I make for your men sound because of the special alloy I use. Begging your pardon, Captain, but… where did you find the pieces?"
"On the ground, near the arch where that big boulder fell two days ago. They were among the rubble."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Faleth in wonder. "Could you wait for a moment, sir?"
The blacksmith went to the inner room, only to reappear soon afterwards carrying a sword. When he put it on the table, Beregond saw with surprise that its blade was chipped off in several places. Meanwhile, Faleth worked swiftly and added the broken pieces on the chipped sides of the sword. They matched perfectly.
"Do you know whose sword this is?" asked Beregond, hardly concealing his excitement.
"I certainly do. I gave that to the foreigner – Ulfast, right? – about a month ago. He came here the day before yesterday and asked me to repair it. I remember it well because he was the first one in a long time to ask of me that kind of work. I would have done that errand sooner, but…"
Beregond regarded the blacksmith, surprised that he had stopped the narrative.
"I'm sorry, sir. I just realised that I meant to speak with you about that matter the very same day, but it slipped my mind."
The captain smiled as he watched the burly man actually blush.
"Better late than never, as I always say," he said kindly. "What did you want to tell me?"
"Well, Captain," continued Faleth, encouraged by Beregond's calmness, "When I asked the foreigner how he managed to break such a strong sword in such a way, he just said that he accidentally dropped it on the ground while guarding on the walls, something that had me thinking. You see, sir, if the sword was dropped the way he claimed he did, then the blade wouldn't have gotten such extended damage on both sides. And the tip of the blade is slightly bent as well."
"Meaning that…?" started Beregond.
"That he certainly didn't just drop it."
The captain looked at the sword thoughtfully for a few moments, and then an idea occurred to on him.
"Do you have a spare sword which I can use, Faleth?"
"Of course, sir, you're in my forgery!" exclaimed the blacksmith and handed Beregond another sword that happened to be nearby. "Why do you want it, though?"
"I want to test a theory of mine. Can I go to the back yard?"
Faleth showed him the way, and Beregond then asked him to stay back. As soon as the blacksmith did that, Beregond smote the sword tip down on the ground with as much strength as he had. After several such strokes the captain had managed to make a rather long and somewhat deep trench in front of him. Satisfied, he stopped to catch his breath and wipe away the sweat that covered his face; then went back to Faleth, holding up the sword.
"The damage is almost identical," said the large man.
"Exactly," said Beregond. "Faleth, I want you to do me a most important favour. Keep both the swords somewhere safe and should Ulfast come, give him another one. I do not think he will understand – or mind – the difference."
"As you wish, Captain."
"Good. By the way… if need be, will you be able to tell Lord Faramir exactly what you told me about Ulfast's sword?"
"It would be my pleasure, sir."
"Thank you," said Beregond, smiling. He was about to leave when he remembered himself. "And Faleth?"
"If anyone asks, I was never here."
"My lips are sealed, sir."
Beregond's smile broadened and, saying again his thanks to the blacksmith, he left.
So far Beregond had managed to reconstruct in his mind's eye how Ulfast detached the great rock from the rest of the arch. Since the Black Númenórean had joined the rest of the soldiers, he had also taken up the same duties, which meant standing guard at night as well. Now Beregond knew that Ulfast had stood guard at that particular spot above the arch the night before the inspection, because he himself had placed him there. While on that duty, Ulfast had surely found the chance to smite the boulder with his sword and loosen it enough from its place before any of the other guards noticed him or heard him. As to how he had succeeded in breaking it off at the right moment even though he was underneath the arch, it was a case of taking advantage of the commotion that was happening during the hour of the inspection. Spears and all kinds of weapons were easily accessed, because they were always taken out from the weaponry to be polished on that day. After grabbing a long spear, he could easily use it to knock the boulder off while everyone was still too busy to watch him. Then it was just a matter of dropping the spear immediately and rushing to the captain's 'aid'.
Nevertheless, Beregond's search was far from over, because now more questions needed to be answered. It was clear now that Ulfast wasn't a defector; but was he under someone's service and went through all this plotting, or did he work alone? The latter option seemed more likely, because all the time he had lived in the fortress Ulfast didn't leave the place, nor did he seem to have any means to speak with any accomplice. But another, more important question, lingered in Beregond's mind: what was Ulfast's motive in all this?
Beregond hoped that he would be able to find the clues to these answers in Ulfast's room. But in order to search the quarters undisturbed, he had to make sure that the Black Númenórean stayed out of them long enough. He had already come up with an idea that he knew would keep Ulfast distracted, whether he'd like it or not.
But first, he had to see Lady Éowyn. He went up the stairs to the inner halls quickly, heading for her room, and knocked with hesitation, since he didn't know what kind of reaction he would trigger in the fair woman for disturbing her.
"Who is it?" asked Éowyn from within, not opening the door.
The tone of her voice was so soft and yet so heartbreaking that the captain couldn't help but sigh sorrowfully.
"It is I, Captain Beregond, my lady. May I speak with you for a moment?"
"I think I have found a solution to our problem."
Only then did the door unlock, so that Beregond pushed it slightly open and slowly entered inside. As soon as he had passed the door, the woman closed it forcefully and locked it again. The man regarded her at this action and he was saddened to see her tear-reddened eyes and her pale face.
"Yes, I have not slept much for the past two days," she answered to his look. "But let us not talk about this now. You said that you know how to deal with Ulfast?"
"Indeed I said that, my lady. I have found evidence that points to him as the culprit for the 'accident'. However I need to go into his room and search it in case I can come up with another proof just as solid. That is why I came here."
"You want my master key," said Éowyn, understanding.
"Yes, my lady," answered the captain, nodding. "I know that Faramir had one and gave you an extra so you can both have access to all the rooms. He told me some time ago."
Éowyn smiled bitterly.
"When he still trusted you?"
Beregond bowed his head sadly, thus unconsciously giving his answer to the fair woman.
"I am aware that I ask you to give me something that was entrusted to you for safe keeping; yet, believe me, my lady, I would not have done that unless I knew it was absolutely necessary."
Éowyn never answered, but she went instead to her study, where a small box lay. She opened it to take something out from there and then turned to Beregond. Taking his hand, she placed in it a large metal key.
"Go now with my blessing. I dearly hope you will find the answers you are looking for."
"Thank you, my lady," replied Beregond, touched by her strength. Bowing with utmost respect, he unlocked the door and went to find Damrod.
It didn't take him long, for the second captain was at the training facility, observing the young trainees at work. Beregond confided in him his wish for all the soldiers to go for drills, something to which Damrod agreed on at once and, after saluting the first captain, he went to announce the order to the soldiers. Beregond smiled to himself, satisfied with how things worked out for the time being. Now that he had ensured that Ulfast would be away, he would be able to enter the room and search it at his leisure.
Everything went according to plan. As soon as Ulfast left with the rest of the soldiers on drills, Beregond used Éowyn's master key to enter into the Black Númenórean's room.
But, no matter how hard he looked, there was nothing that could help the guard in his investigation. He saw on a chair the clothes in which Ulfast had arrived at the fortress and, upon examining them thoroughly, he deduced that at least part of Ulfast's story was true. He had indeed wandered far and wide in the wild for a very long time, for they were quite weather-beaten and even torn in places.
Leaving the clothes on the chair once more, Beregond headed for the study. He was surprised to find the place upset and papers scattered on and by the desk; and was that the smell of something burning that was in the air? He looked everywhere, and he finally found in a basket what Ulfast had been up to.
"Well, well," he murmured. "What were you trying to dispose of?"
Most of the papers in the basket were already consumed by the fire that Ulfast had set on them, nevertheless some pieces were still intact. Beregond carefully picked up one such piece and looked at it closely. It was one of the papers that Ulfast had first used as he was compiling the false note to place inside Beregond's room – the handwriting was the same beyond any doubt. Beregond picked up two more such papers and, after placing them inside his tunic, where he still held the forged letter, he sat on a chair and waited. The last rays of the sun had disappeared only a few moments ago, so he knew that it wouldn't be long before Ulfast came back from the drills.
The first stars had lit when the soldiers returned to the fortress, and they all wished to return to their dormitories, for they felt exhausted. All except one that is, because Ulfast wished to do one last thing before retiring to his own chambers.
Faramir was sitting on his chair in the Great Hall when the Númenórean found him. The prince's sorrowful expression was most pleasing to the wicked man's soul; but his face hardly revealed anything like that as he approached Faramir.
"Greetings, my lord. Is something wrong?"
Faramir didn't bother to answer. He wished to be left alone with his thoughts, not engage himself in meaningless conversation. Ulfast, however, wasn't willing to give up on him so easily.
"Oh!" he exclaimed, feigning sudden realisation. "I understand. It is not easy to deal with such betrayal, especially from someone so close as your wife and friend."
"Since you understand that, you can let me be," said Faramir, sighing.
"On the contrary, my lord," replied Ulfast in a seemingly caring tone. "At times like these, one needs the company of somebody whom he trusts. Do you not want to talk about the injustice that was done to you?"
"What more is there to talk about? Everything I knew and loved has come to naught!" exclaimed the prince, exasperated. "How did it come down to this?"
"How indeed?" said Ulfast darkly. "Who can tell when it first started or for how long this thing has been happening? The false words of love and friendship, caressing your ears and deafening you from the truth, while the betrayal recurred time and again behind your back; they were probably even laughing at your ignorance, despite the fact that you were prepared to give your own life for them! Who knows, if they were together long enough, they may even have more reason to laugh at you!"
"What?!" exclaimed Faramir dumbfounded, trying to understand what was the Númenórean saying. His mind drifted to Éowyn; and at that very moment the thought struck him.
"No… not the child… it cannot be…" he murmured with difficulty past the lump that had formed in his throat. He hid his face in his hands, this realisation proving too much for him.
"Why not?" insisted Ulfast mercilessly. "Tell me one good reason it cannot be so! Everything else you believed in has proved false!"
Faramir now was starting to tremble violently, unable control himself much longer.
Ulfast locked his gaze on Faramir's form. "My lord…"
"I SAID GET OUT!!!" shouted the prince at the top of his lungs, his voice breaking. He kept glaring at Ulfast until finally the Black Númenórean left, shutting the door behind him.
Only then did Faramir indulge himself and wept bitterly.
Ulfast stood by the door and heard the sobs, a slight sneer appearing on his lips as his plan was finally fulfilled. It seemed that he could actually taste its success, for it was only a matter of time before the prince ordered for Beregond and Éowyn to be ousted from the fortress and the realm of Ithilien. Then he, still manipulating Faramir, would gain the power he had lusted for all this time. Feeling utterly pleased, he headed for his room, wishing to get some rest after such a gratifying day.
However, when he reached the door of his room and took out his key to unlock it, he was more than surprised to see that it wasn't locked. Grabbing a light from the corridor and entering quickly, he found himself facing a still sitting Beregond.
"You certainly took your time to come," said the captain dryly as he arose, his eyes looking hard at the Númenórean's.
Ulfast wasn't daunted at all at the man's deadly gaze. He simply grinned.
"And you surely make this easier for me," he replied. "I am sure the prince will be more than happy to drag you away from my chambers once I start calling for help."
"Pray, cry out," was Beregond's sarcastic answer, "I will be more than happy to show these to anyone who comes here." With a swift movement he took out from his tunic the incriminating papers. "You should not start any fires near a window, they are bound to die out before they actually burn anything."
If Ulfast was dismayed by Beregond's discovery, he certainly didn't show it, for his grin never left his face.
"I can always say that you planted these in my room to save your neck!"
"I can always compare these with any other random notes that you have written in the past. But I am far from finished: I know you used your sword to break the boulder off the main wall and so 'save' me; and I even have a witness to prove it! And even if all these are not enough to prove your guilt, they are still enough to question your credibility to my lord's eyes! Face it, Ulfast, there is no way out of this!"
Ulfast actually laughed.
"And what of it? What do you think you will gain after you show your proof? Do you really think that that fool, whom you call your lord, will actually believe you? Frankly, I do not think he is in the condition to listen to whatever you have to say ever again! Oh, do not worry; I did not hurt him, although I fear that the blighter thinks now that you are a traitor beyond any doubt. The last I saw of him he was weeping like a baby in the Great Hall. And you know what follows after such a heartbreak, do you not? Who knows, the noble prince probably will not bother to go through the judicial system of his fair realm and he will kill you personally."
The sudden flame of rage that was ignited inside Beregond's heart was so overwhelming that, before realising it, he had let out a terrible curse and jumped for Ulfast's throat. Such was his force that he threw Ulfast on the floor, knocking into every piece of furniture that stood nearby. Both still locked in fierce combat when Beregond finally got the upper hand and pinned Ulfast down and, though the Númenórean struggled to break himself free, the captain grabbed his hands, holding him fast. It was at that moment of wrestling that one of Ulfast's gloves slipped away from its place.
Beregond froze dumbfounded, looking upon the tattoo of a red eye in the back of Ulfast's fist.
"You!" he exclaimed angrily, finally realising who was, in fact, in front of him. Of course it could only be the dark-clad man who had held him captive only a few months ago in that forest! The voice, the sarcastic tone, the air of contempt, the tainted feeling that gnawed Beregond's heart; all started falling into place in the Gondorian's mind.
That minute of distraction nearly cost Beregond, for Ulfast took advantage of his surprise and grabbed him with both hands by his throat. But, before Ulfast managed a deadly grip, the captain had punched him in the face and rendered him unconscious.
It was then that Beregond heard hasty steps and talking some distance from the room. Guessing that it could be the guards that heard the commotion, he thought at first to wait for them and order them to take Ulfast away. But then it dawned on him that he had just attacked the Black Númenórean, when the latter was supposedly attacked only recently! If anything, this would only show further guilt before Beregond had even proved his innocence. So it was that, even though it was against his nature, Beregond quickly got out of the room and fled, before the guards saw him.
Soon enough, Beregond had found himself in his room. As soon as he had locked the door as well, he rested his back against it, breathing heavily and trying to calm himself. Now the riddle that Ulfast had been all this time was finally solved. Beregond couldn't understand how the fiend came to be here, yet it didn't matter anymore. Whether by chance or by purpose, Beregond was certain that he hadn't come to redeem himself and even his tale was false: another thing that proved that Faramir not only shouldn't trust the Black Númenórean, but should also make sure that he wouldn't be welcomed in any other realm of Middle-earth.
However, Beregond also realised that the most difficult part lay still ahead of him. He could try to find Faramir and tell him of all he knew, but would his friend listen to him? Ulfast's words still rang in the noble captain's memory: 'he thinks now that you are a traitor beyond any doubt… he will kill you personally'.
A sudden knock at his door made him almost jump with surprise and fright.
"Beregond, open up!"
The captain recognised that voice only too well, yet he didn’t open. He only faced the door shaken, trying to force his mind to figure out what to do next.
“Beregond, I said: open up!” cried Faramir again, even more sternly this time.
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.