12. Family Affairs
"What will you tell the council?" The question hung in the air like an accusation, and the steward might have taken it as one but that Imrahil was far too astute a politician to risk such during so delicate a meeting. Subtle as he could be, Denethor knew that his brother-in-law reserved such direct and uncompromising questions for those moments that he deemed too important to subject to possible misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the steward felt a certain displeasure stir in him as he met Imrahil's gaze and read how much lay yet concealed behind those veiled grey eyes. For I know well what that mask conceals, he thought wryly. Never hunt two lead hounds together, so Father would always say. And yet we have no choice, Imrahil and I! he reminded himself, even as the prince lowered his eyes. Though exquisitely polite, Imrahil's every move and inflection, from the moment that he had been escorted into the steward's study, bespoke a restrained hostility and wariness. Others, unable to see beyond the drapery and masks of Gondor's highest lords, might have been fooled by the intricate dance that steward and prince performed. To Denethor's shrewd eyes, however, his brother-in-law's caution and dislike were transparent, and he doubted not that his own mood was readily apparent to Imrahil. For the moment, though, there were more pressing concerns at hand, for Dol Amroth's prince had only just learned of Osgiliath's fall. And so they waltzed on, for that was how the game was played in Minas Tirith.
"The council must know of the full extent of our losses, of course," Denethor replied coolly after a moment's pause. "And though I would not speak overmuch of the Shadow Riders, they make such a tale that it would be better to tell it in full rather than allow speculation to run rampant."
"Shadow Riders," Imrahil mused, shaking his head and shooting a swift, probing glance in Denethor's direction ere he continued, "Dol Amroth shall, of course, assist in any way required. The Swan Knights' numbers shall soon be strengthened: Taurandol has compressed the squires' training schedule by a few months. That should aid us somewhat, and I can strip Dol Amroth's defenses to the bare minimum when the call comes without unduly risking the city." Which claim depended upon a far looser interpretation of "unduly" than either Denethor or Imrahil might prefer, but as was too often the case of late, there was no real choice. Should Minas Tirith fall, Dol Amroth would be no haven as Mordor's forces swung south through Gondor's coastlands ere turning northwest towards Rohan.
"Dol Amroth has always served faithfully," Denethor observed by way of oblique acceptance of the offer. Imrahil merely inclined his head, clearly reading in that comment his lord's unwillingness to thank him outright, and the steward suppressed a burst of irritation with the other. "Nevertheless, faithful service shall not avail us in the end," Denethor continued, stalking to the window that looked out over the Pelennor. "We have fought too long, and lost too much, and to defy the Dark Lord is to sentence us all to death." And although this was hardly news to those who breathed the rarefied air of Gondor's aristocratic heights, he felt Imrahil's hawk-eyed stare, and smiled thinly to himself. The Lord of Minas Tirith did not make a habit of avoiding the unpleasant; nonetheless, he had been raised in a fighting tradition, and there were certain truths which, though evident, were only rarely spoken aloud. This was one of them, and he could sense his brother-in-law fighting the automatic surge of fearful disapproval that welled up in him. Turning slowly back to face the prince, Denethor met Imrahil's gaze, idly sparring with the other for a moment. After but a short while, Imrahil withdrew, pointedly, and Denethor felt his lips twitch slightly in bitter amusement. "You wonder that I should speak of the fall of Gondor," he stated flatly.
"The steward must always give thought to the worst," the prince demurred.
"But he must not always give the worst a voice. Is that not so, Imrahil?" Denethor pressed, stating the implied criticism.
"It is not my place to censor your speech, my lord," the other replied, and though the evasion was perfectly executed, the glitter of anger in the other's eyes at having been forced to this position was all too evident.
"Nay, it is not. And if I cannot speak openly of such matters with the Prince of Dol Amroth, then we are in fetters already. But let us not tarry over trifles," Denethor waved a hand to dismiss the entire match. "Distasteful though it be, such is the knowledge that rules all our decisions. The question is whether that knowledge permits us to consider even a fool's hope."
"My lord?" Imrahil asked, frowning slightly.
"Have you spoken yet with either of my sons?"
"Faramir and I conversed for a short while as we made our way up through the levels," the prince replied, but did not volunteer the details of that conversation.
"I see," the steward paused. "What said he of our situation?"
"Scarcely a wordit has been long since I have seen him, and there remains much that I would learn of him outside of matters of war. I gleaned that somewhat ill had befallen, but I knew not what until I learned of Osgiliath, my lord steward."
Interesting, Denethor mused silently, feeling suspicion rear its head by habit as he considered the motives behind his younger son's silence on such matters. I would have thought Faramir would speak of the rhyme, for he has always confided in his uncle when the opportunity arose. But that would need to wait for a time, for if Faramir had been discreet in the matter of his dreams, Denethor, much though he might prefer to keep Imrahil at a distinct distance, could not afford to leave Imrahil in ignorance. "Then let me acquaint you with your nephew's latest composition." And, stalking to his bureau, the steward picked up a paper from the top of a stack and held it out for Imrahil. The Prince of Dol Amroth hesitated a telling moment before crossing the room to take the sheet out of his brother-in-law's hand. Flicking a wary look at Denethor, Imrahil turned his attention to the staves written thereupon, and his grey eyes narrowed as he read the first couplets.
"When did he dream this?" Imrahil asked, continuing to scan the lines.
"The night of the battle for Osgiliath's bridge. I would say it were naught but his own imaginings, cast into verse by a literary mind, but that he knows naught of Imladris, and the tale of Isildur's death is a secret lost to time. Still, it might mean little enough, but Boromir dreamt it as well," Denethor replied, watching as Imrahil's brows shot up in surprise at that revelation. Surprise quickly gave way to consideration, and after but a short pause, Imrahil sighed.
"I doubt not that Boromir would find this place," he said absently, seeming to evince a sort of resigned compassion on his elder nephew's behalf. "Imladris! We know not whether 'tis inhabited still, nor even its precise location. Faramir shall have a hard journey if he wishes to solve this riddle!" Denethor was silent in the face of that comment, and as Imrahil was engrossed in a third reading, the Prince of Dol Amroth did not immediately realize the import of that pregnant pause. But as the silence stretched out, the prince frowned slightly, casting a questioning glance at his liege-lord. And then his expression grew very still, as incredulity and unwelcome suspicion warred with each other in a battle fought openly in gleaming eyes. Imrahil's sharp gaze thrust hard against the veils that Denethor maintained, and the two men strove against each other for a time. But although Imrahil was a canny opponent and a practiced courtier, Denethor had not mastered a palantír without learning to conceal his mind from undesired scrutiny. Moreover, he was the steward, and the prince was only too painfully aware of that fact. Nevertheless, the Swan Lord held his ground long past the point of respectful courtesyquite long enough to realize that his was a doomed effort. His lips thinned as he pressed them tightly together, and Denethor saw the frustration in his eyes ere he made himself break off. Imrahil stood silently, gazing down at the floor for several moments ere he finally spoke. "You cannot tell me that you would seriously consider sending Boromiryour heir and Captain-Generalon this errand! My lord," he added as if in afterthought, but nothing that the prince did was ever done as an afterthought, and Denethor put a hand to his hip, letting his fingers drum upon the hilt of a dagger.
"My thoughts are my own to spin, Imrahil, and I share them at my own discretion," said he, driving home the implicationthat Imrahil had best mind his tongue if he wished to remain in his lord's confidencewith his pointed emphasis on that last phrase. The prince merely spread his hands slightly and gave a minute bow of apology, but the other's back was tense and what he offered was barest courtesy by anyone's standards. For a fulminating moment, the two lords were silent and the air between them seemed to crackle with unspoken resentment. Finally, though, Denethor grunted and folded his arms over his chest as he leaned back to perch on the edge of his desk. That seemed to open the space a bit, and some of that tension eased as the steward continued on in a less chill tone, "Think not that I consider such matters lightly. Boromir shall be needed here, of that there is no question. And I would far rather dispense with Faramir's services than with his,"which comment clearly did not sit well with Imrahil, Denethor noted"but there are other matters which force me to pose the question of whether I can afford Boromir's absence."
"May I ask what they are, my lord steward? For else I confess myself amazed, for so uncertain a task is surely the province of those who bear not the weight of a city upon their backs already," Imrahil replied.
"You think Boromir unequal to the task, do you?" the steward probed, sensing the other's reservations.
"I think that Boromir has a good heart, and would gladly do anything for the sake of Gondor, but he will know where his duty lies."
"And though your words are cautious and would seem praise to the untutored ear, I perceive readily enough that they are but a cover for your uneasiness. You never trusted him quite so well as you trusted Faramir, I think."
"I said not so!" Imrahil replied with quiet forcefulness.
"Nay, but you need not say it. 'Tis evident, my lord prince," Denethor responded, his voice hard.
"Boromir is a willful man, and even I rarely question his judgment when it touches upon strategy and tactics. He has ever been eager to serve Gondor's needs, and he is a man of honor, as I would expect him to be given his heritage," Imrahil insisted. "But his training and temperament are not given to questions of this sort," and here, the prince held up the paper once more. "You are well-acquainted with the riddling words of loremasters, my lord, and have in the past admitted that Curunír's counsels were occasionally unfathomable ere the moment that saw them borne out and justified in full. And yet you would send Boromir to face an Elf-lord? As his father, you know his mettle better than I, but even I know that he is not the most patient of men in matters philosophical in matters of faith, when there is naught to guide him but words. You know this, Denethor," Imrahil pressed, for once abandoning formality to speak the steward's name. "You have said as much in the past, and yet you still would send him north? Why?"
"For the very reason that you name: we face an Elf-lord, presumably, and possibly also a wizard. Mithrandir came ever from the north, and he has much to do with Elves. Much to do, but little to tell of them. Faramir I do not trust not to fall under their spell. There is such a thing as too much knowledge," Denethor retorted, shaking his head. "Too much time spent dreaming of the past, and not enough in the present!"
"I should not call nineteen years in Ithilien conducive to idealism of the sort that you speak of, my lord," Imrahil replied skeptically. "Moreover, you are not one to have raised a fool. If nothing else, Boromir would never allow his younger brother to blind himself to Gondor's needs."
Denethor grunted, letting his eyes wander over the prince, committing to memory the details of the other's posture, his expression, the tone of his voice. Clever, Imrahil! You think to turn me back now by praise, but we both know that tactic well. Better for the prince's obvious cause if he had simply remained silent, but that that recourse was denied him. As the ranking councilor of the realm, come to make a formal report to his lord and discuss such matters as needed to be aired first without a larger audience, it was Imrahil's duty to make known his own position. Else, he likely would have said little and tried by other means to influence the steward's decision. But in matters of Gondor's safety, Denethor's mind was not often swayed, and there was but one other whom he trusted to make judgments in such matters. That person was not Faramir, nor was it necessarily Imrahil, and so, despite the clear disadvantages of sending his heir abroad at a time like this, Boromir remained a ready tool, and the preferred one. However, he felt no need to share such thoughts with his brother-in-law, and so said merely, "Your opinion is noted, and I shall consider it. But the matter remains yet undecided. The tale of Isildur's death was never known in full in the South, and perhaps not even in the North that is lost. Nevertheless, there may lie answers in the little-read lore of our land, and mayhap they shall prove useful in deciding which of my sons is sent. I should not let it concern you further, my lord prince." Denethor finished, and smiled slightly as his brother-in-law retreated before that obvious dismissal.
"If there is naught else, then, my lord steward, I will retire for a time," Imrahil replied, folding the paper and handing it back to Denethor. The steward accepted it and set it back upon its proper stack, and he nodded.
"Do so. I shall send my esquire to fetch you later for dinner."
"Thank you. Good day, my lord," Imrahil bowed, every inch the gentleman, and then turned precisely on his heel and left, quietly shutting the door behind him. Denethor sighed softly, and for one unguarded moment, his frustration showed. Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth was a fine dancer, after all, and even the most stoic of leads may grow weary after awhile. Despite the tension, a perfect gentleman in the end. That does not bode well! Denethor shook his head, debating the wisdom of another trial before the palantír. Granted Mardil's Books had many a rare text, if only one knew how to find them, but the Seeing Stones had many virtues. Sometimes it was not the present that they showed, after all, and after many long years of probing the secrets of that globe, the steward had begun to be able to control its visions of the past. But with Imrahil about, and on his best behavior already .
A fine dancer indeed. How fortunate, that we both learned early to waltz! With a slight smile, the steward left his study and headed down the corridors of the Citadel. Until he was certain he would have no more meetings with the prince, it was best not to tempt fate. Mardil's Books required no effort of will-power on his part, and if the information was there, then it might be more certain than the palantír's ambiguous visions.
Moonrise over Gondor brought a ghostly beauty to the White City, its pale stones illuminated to a milky radiancea radiance shot through with red and orange and even green or blue where the lamps shed their light out upon the streets. Boromir let his eyes wander over the marvel, but though he appreciated the sight, he had not come to idle away the hour in aesthetic contemplation: as he strode through the gardens, he sought one familiar figure among the sleeping blooms and hedges. He would always come here, he thought as he searched the small, green-grown 'court yards' of the gardens of the Seventh Circle. At least I need not fear interrupting anyone! For these gardens were reserved for the guests who stayed in the Citadel, and were intended to be a haven, a place where a man might come to think and to escape the tension of the day. As such and despite the numerous sheltered areas, it was woe to the esquire or lordling who thought to keep a tryst herein the world of Minas Tirith's aristocracy, that was why the gardens of the Sixth Circle existed, and everyone knew it. And although once or twice, Boromir had ventured into the concealing vistas of the Sixth Circle on just such business, he tended to avoid them at all other times. And of course Imrahil would have no reason to abandon the Seventh Circle for the Sixth, being safely and (for the most part) happily married. So where is he? Valar curse it all, Uncle, elvish blood or no, must you flaunt it with your disappearances? Boromir demanded silently, frowning as he considered whether to try the arcade of plum trees or to continue searching through the many private spaces that the hedges created.
"You seem preoccupied." Boromir bit back on an exclamation as he whirled to discover his uncle standing not far away, and in the moonlight, his smile did not go unnoticed. Boromir sighed softly and eased his left hand back away from the dagger he kept strapped at an angle at the small of his back. His uncle noticed, however, and added, "And nervous, if I may say so."
"My apologies, uncle, I am not accustomed to being surprised. Whence came you?" Boromir asked, frowning as he glanced over Imrahil's shoulder at the hedge row. He had just looked there, after all, and seen no one .
"Two rows back," the prince gestured behind himself, and Boromir grunted. "What brings you in search of me?"
"Questions," Boromir replied with a thin smile. "Questions I cannot answer."
"I see. Come then," Imrahil beckoned, turning back into the maze-like corridors of vegetation. The Prince of Dol Amroth moved quickly, clearly having some specific place in mind, and Boromir followed along without trying to guess whither his uncle led. At length, they came to a wall, and Imrahil followed it until it curved to bend west. There, at the juncture of south and west, there stood a low, stony bench, and the hedges and flowers formed an effective screen. Imrahil did not sit but went to lay his hands flat upon the railing as he gazed south. I might have known! Boromir thought, smiling ruefully as he shook his head and came to join his uncle. Imrahil looked ever south to the sea in time of trouble, to the waves and the soothing lap of water that he missed whenever he came to stay in Minas Tirith. That interview with Father must have been worse than we guessed, Faramir and I! For although the brothers had spent an enjoyable two hours with their uncle, neither of them had been unaware of Imrahil's initial sharp scrutiny of them, nor insensitive to the aura of tension that whispered like an undertone throughout their conversation. All this despite the prince's seeming good humor, and that to Boromir did not speak well of the meeting between Denethor and Imrahil.
And what might they have discussed that would set him on edge so? Boromir could think of but one subject that would inspire such unease, and so he asked, "What think you of the rhyme of Imladris, Uncle?"
"Such dreams do not lend themselves to easy evaluation, I fear," Imrahil replied.
"True enough. What, then, is your evaluation, however difficult?" Boromir prodded, refusing to let his uncle wriggle clear of a response this early in the game.
Imrahil gave a soft snort and a minute shake of his head, but after a moment's pause, he answered, "That Gondor must send to Imladris for counsel, for too much is lost to us for us to interpret it ourselves."
"Faramir spent long hours searching for a key to the rhyme, but he found nothing but worse anxiety over it," Boromir brooded, and felt his uncle's eyes upon him of a sudden.
"And what of yourself, Boromir? The steward tells me you have both dreamt these staves. What make you of them?"
"I? Nothing, save that one of us must away to Elrond's doorstep, there to beg his help," the younger man replied, his tone taut and Imrahil heard the unhappy emphasis on the word 'beg.' Boromir was not one to ask lightly for help in any affair, and indeed, Imrahil had wondered at his nephew's willingness to seek his aid this evening, even in matters as yet undeclared.
"At least we may receive an answer," Imrahil replied. "Such dreams are seldom wrong, and since someone must go, it may be that even an Elf-lord will speak plainly enough that we children of late times shall understand him." Boromir made a somewhat disgruntled noise at that, and Imrahil quirked a brow. "That prospect displeases you?"
"It seems to me an odd twist of fate that we who endure the east wind and daily battle the servants of the Unnamed should ask help of Elves. Their lands lie behind Gondor's shield, and they care little for Middle-earth, it seems. Each year they flee over the waters, and even those who remain will not treat with us. Why should they aid us now? And what could they possibly have to offer? What can words do for us here?"
"They may do much," Imrahil replied. "It is true that the time of the Eldar draws to a close, but though they go no longer to war, still, they are a wise people. Deeper than all other races do they see, and one does not reject an Elf's freely offered advice out of hand. Remember also the words of the rhyme: Seek for the Sword that was Broken! If it be reforged, then mayhap we shall not fight alone. But all such speculation is futile. We shall have our answers only when we find Imladris." The prince paused, gazing out over the darkened plains. As he stared, he considered his elder nephew in silence, trying to discern the other's purposes. And he found himself thinking that perhaps he was far too like Denethor for his own good at times. For sometimes we forget to take at face value what is offered us! Boromir is not Faramir, after all and I am glad of that, for already I tire of guarding my speech! And so, "What troubles you, Boromir?"
"Any number of things," the other shook his head, pausing slightly ere he continued, "Never have I claimed to understand such dreams as my brother has, and I have never desired his gift. If gift it is indeed," he added darkly ere he hurried on. "It sits ill with me to place so much faith in a rhyme, though my heart tells me I may not ignore it and urges me onward. Mayhap Faramir, out of long familiarity with his dreams, is less opposed to the notion, but almost I wish I had never dreamt it. We argued over who would go, you know," Boromir said, turning a painfully wry look upon his uncle.
"Dreams are a very personal matter, even when they touch on things larger than ourselves. 'Tis not unusual to feel proprietary, I suppose. Possessive. Jealous, even, and to quarrel over meaning," Imrahil replied.
"Mayhap, but I like it not nonetheless," Boromir responded. "Even now, I cannot be certain that we do not work at cross-purposes. He knows something and yet he will not speak of it!" he brooded. Imrahil raised a hand to stroke his chin, considering the other's mood. Knowing how close Faramir and Boromir were, he could well understand Boromir's unhappiness over such an argument, and his concern over his brother's unwillingness to share his secret. There were ways, Imrahil thought, in which Boromir could be quite the innocent, particularly in matters concerning honesty among confederates. It was ironic, if not contradictory, for if he and Faramir had always been thick as thieves, Imrahil knew well that Boromir refused to share all with his father in matters personal. Moreover, a good captain naturally learned to keep confidences close. Nevertheless, there was in Boromir a tendency to seek absolute trust, at least from those whom he would befriend. But few were willing to extend such trust on a moment's notice. And when they do not. Imrahil grimaced inwardly. Once rebuffed, Boromir rarely made a second offer, unless some extraordinary reason pushed him to try again.
I wonder, has he truly anyone other than Faramir? Imrahil wondered, struck by that insight. Certainly, Boromir's occasional romantic interests were unfulfilling in that respect, else he would by now have pushed his father into accepting his choice of wife. Imrahil did not delude himself that Boromir considered him a friend. He was his uncle, someone to whom Boromir could turn for advice on the rare occasions when he felt a need to ask it someone for Faramir to look to, and perhaps that was almost more important to Boromir than any other consideration, given Faramir's strained relationship with their father. If he felt now upset over Faramir's reticence, that might hold more significance than the casual observer would imagine. Not that they have never fought before all brothers dobut not to the point that Boromir has ever come to me for advice about it. "I would not worry, Boromir. When he is ready, and he feels he has something to say, then he will tell you." A soft harrumph! greeted that assurance, but Imrahil thought he felt some of the other's tension drain away. "In the mean time, consider: Faramir has more familiarity with such prophetic dreams, but it means only that he is more accustomed to being alone in them. To share one, even with you, is likely unsettling and confusing. As if the rhyme itself were not confusion enough! And there is still Mordor to face and Gondor to think of, and riddles are unwelcome at such times."
"I had not thought of that," Boromir allowed quietly. "'Tis true, he was always careful when he chose to reveal a dream, for he knew that his gift made me uneasy at times. Sometimes I wonder if my own dream was not unintended. You know how it happened, do you not?"
"I do not follow you. How the dream happened?" Imrahil asked.
"Yes. 'Twas after we made our way back to the camp. We had managed to swim to shore after the bridge collapsed, but the current swept us a good distance downstream, and Faramir nearly drowned. By the time we reached the encampment, we were both weary, but I could not sleep, and so went to make a check of the perimeter. When at last I returned to my tent, I found Faramir asleep on my cot!" Imrahil blinked, and Boromir chuckled softly. "I let him stay, since I was tired myself and he looked exhausted. But I wonder I have heard it said that a husband and wife share the same dreams at times, because they touch. I have wondered whether 'twas not Faramir's dream that spilled over on toor rather, intome by accident."
"Hmm ." Imrahil turned that confession over in his mind, sorting through the possible implications. At length, he said slowly, "I cannot speak for others, but I can remember but few instances when Narendis and I shared a dream, and usually there were significant differences between our visions. To me, that would seem to say that you were meant to have it as well as Faramir, but I suppose you could be right. What if it is but a a derivative dream?" he asked, curious to learn his nephew's response.
"What if it is?" Boromir paused a moment, then shrugged. "It matters not in the end, for I have had this dream, and now I cannot be rid of it. The which being true, I would not be rid of it either, I suppose; I would see this through, if father will permit me!" A pause. "Know you aught of the steward's mind in this matter?"
"The steward keeps his own counsel, and I can say no more than that," Imrahil replied, wishing that he knew even less than he did.
Boromir, however, did not seem surprised, for he knew his father's ways, and let drop that subject to ask, "What of yourself, Uncle? Have your dreams spoken to you of late?"
"I am not the prophet in this family, if that is what you mean to ask after," Imrahil replied. Although the prince had much elven blood in his veins, he dreamt true only rarely, and usually they were not prophetic dreams, but simply visions of what had been. Cities I have seen that vanished with the First Age, and faces of Elves and Men long dead. Gondolin before its destruction, and Daeron's mad eyes. Now that he thought of it, though, he had had several such dreams as he had traveled north to Minas Tirith, and he wondered at the coincidence. Moreover, although he usually knew intuitively the identity of the faces that passed through his mind, of late he had dreamt of faces without names. Less remote, they were, and he was quite certain that they were mortal, but he could not have named them. Númenorean they seemed, and ever there remained one who hovered on the edge of his dream-vision, a shadow that hid its light, and who yet seemed to beckon Imrahil after him. Who is he? the prince wondered, and yet had no answer. There is something common in this, I can feel it: some common element that runs through my nephews' dream and my own. But I cannot fathom the connection yet! "Strange times, these are, and none of us are untouched by the events of this Age. Change is in the winds, and not only the Elves feel it."
"Change or an ending?" Boromir asked. With that, he sighed softly and said, "Thank you Uncle. I shall take my leave of you now. Good night!"
"Pleasant dreams, Boromir," Imrahil replied pointedly.
"Valar willing!" the other tossed back and strode away, leaving Imrahil to his own thoughts. This grows more complicated than I had foreseen, the prince thought. He was uncomfortably aware that some of Denethor's accusations might have been closer to true than he was willing to admit. Perhaps I am just as blind in my way to Boromir's merits as Denethor is to Faramir's; the difference is that I do not despise Boromir for his differences. But if I would do him and this realm justice, then I must admit that he, too, has grown since last we spoke, for I would not have thought him willing to entertain such doubts, or to share them. He would go, and I doubt not that he will press his father as hard as he dares, should Denethor give him the chance. With a sigh, the Swan-lord turned his eyes heavenward, to the moon that had just passed its zenith. It grows late. Tomorrow comes early, and with it, another conference with my dear brother-in-law! He shook his head. I wonder if he has found aught to guide him in this? Or will he simply listen to his prejudices? Valar, if there were but a way to sway him but he knows me too well. All I can do is make the best case I can for Faramir, and hope that Denethor does not let his dislike dictate his choice! So resolved, Imrahil turned and began to make his way out of the gardens. The Tower of Ecthelion rose high above him, and the prince frowned at the flickering greenish light that spilled out from one of the high rooms. What is that? But even as he stared, it died away, leaving only a dim, flickering red-yellow light behind. Clearly, someone had a candle near a window, but that other light .
Imrahil was not accustomed to fear the unknown simply for its novelty, yet he felt a distinct uneasiness come to sit heavily upon him. For no reason that he could discern, something about that light inspired in him a sense of foreboding. As if with that light we signal our own downfall! He shook his head sharply. What nonsense is this, Imrahil? he berated himself as he took up his course once more. But that dread did not abandon him, and it was with a heavy heart that he went to his rest.
And while Imrahil walked back to the tower, Faramir swore to himself in the dim light as he rifled through papers. And veteran commander though he was, his heart was racing as he searched. It would be an exaggeration to say that Denethor would kill him if he caught him in his study, but that did not make Faramir feel any less as though he were engaged in a capital crime. The consequences were bad enough that they did not bear thinking on in any case, for the steward valued his privacy above all else save Gondor itself. Ordinarily, he would never have risked this, but unfortunately, Boromir's escapade in the library had proved 'inspiring' on more than one level, and so here he was, going through his father's meticulously kept papers like a thief. Not like a thief, Faramir, as one! He grit his teeth as he carefully moved on to the next chest of papers and scrolls. Getting in had been simple enough, once he knew that his father had gone up to his private study on the top floor of the Citadel. For his father's chambers were not far from Boromir's and the guards waited at the entry way to that entire wing of rooms. Only when one of those rooms was occupied did more sentries appear to guard the doors, for who indeed would have any business in this part of the tower save the lords of the city? There was no need for additional security when they were absent. And although Faramir would never have gone to see his father without a summons, he was a frequent guest in Boromir's quarters. It had been easy enough to pretend that he went to wait for his brother and then he had simply continued on to go to his father's chambers. From there, he had taken the connecting passageway that led straight to the steward's formal study, being careful to make as little noise as possible.
Coming to the bottom of the pile of papers, the steward's younger son let out a hissing exhalation. Another dead end! Am I wrong? he wondered. Surely his father would keep anything of great importance here, where he spent most of his time. Admittedly, though, Faramir had had very little evidence to base his conclusion uponnone, really, if he were honest. Only an intuition, for who else would wish to keep secrets about Imladris but Denethor? For I cannot see how this would qualify as dangerous knowledge. Books containing such knowledge were listed in a separate codex that the librarians kept in their possession at all times, unless someone with the steward's permission asked for it. As far as Faramir knew, only Mithrandir had obtained such permission, and that was the only reason that he knew of the existence of the 'closed codex.' So if Boromir had found that book by using the 'open codex,' then the book must not have any threatening information in it. And that brought Faramir back to his suspicion that it was his father who had the missing page, for Denethor had gone down to Mardil's Books since learning of the Rhyme of Imladris. Faramir had watched him go down that corridor, and though he could not ask the librarians to see the obligatory list of examined materials that every visitor to that collection had to fill out, he was certain that Denethor's list would have had Quenta Aranorian on it and .
The list! Faramir paused in the act of lifting the next lid, and it seemed his heartbeat tripped over itself. Boromir did not know about leaving a list! Worse, he doubted that the librarians would have told him to do so. They would assume that he knew about that requirement, for Denethor would have told him had he truly sent Boromir. If he had not turned one in, they doubtless expected that he would do so shortly. Likely, they assume that he simply forgot, for he was in there for quite some time Valar! Faramir took a swift look around the room, making certain that everything was as it had been, and then went swiftly to the door that let out onto the corridor. Pressing his ear against it, he listened intently while his thoughts raced. I have to find Boromir and warn him to turn that list in tomorrow morning, else I dare not guess what might happen! So long as they had the list, the librarians would say nothing, for such lists were for their private purposes, to help them maintain the collection. But if they have it not, and they mention the omission to Denethor . Nothing sounded in the hall, and as of yet, there was no sound from the stairwell either. Blowing out the candle and setting it back on its stand by the door, Faramir opened the door a crack and peered out. No one moved in the hallway, and so he opened the door just wide enough to slither through, shut it noiselessly, and then he strode swiftly down the hallway to his brother's rooms. Boromir's esquire stood at the door, which meant that his brother, fortunately, was within.
Relieved to find him so quickly, Faramir nodded to the esquire, knocked once and then entered before the boy could stop him. "Boromir! Do you remember the names of all the books that you" and he stopped dead as his brother stared speechless at him, dread in his eyes and Denethor turned to pin him under a black stare.
"Well how very interesting!" the steward murmured. "Come in, Faramir!" And when Faramir hesitated, his father's eyes narrowed. "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.