35. Let there be light
Let there be Light
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. The Bible – Genesis1.3
Aragorn studied the document in front of him again and sighed.
"What troubles you, mellon nîn?" asked Faramir who was working alongside his friend in the King's study.
"It is this land dispute I am required to judge," Aragorn explained. "Under Númenorean law a female heir could inherit, but in this case, a distant male kinsman disputes her right. Elendil always intended the laws of Númenor to apply to Gondor, I believe, but in practise, the female line was often excluded. However, I know the Stewardship was passed down through the female line at least once, when a Ruling Steward died childless."
"I fear the lords of Gondor have often interpreted the law as it best suited them," Faramir said wryly. "The original laws as laid down by Elendil should still be in the archives, though. No doubt well hidden away, given the matter became somewhat controversial after Arvedui's claim to the throne was rejected.
"The archivist should know where the scroll is," said Aragorn. "I ordered an inventory soon after I was crowned. Let us see if this matter can be quickly settled without needing to re-examine the laws of inheritance."
King and Steward made their way to the archives. To their dismay, the archivist was not there. A hesitant young clerk explained that his master would not be back until the afternoon and he was minding the archives until then.
"Do you know where the scrolls are kept that date from the reign of Elendil?" Faramir enquired. "We can find the information we seek ourselves."
"They are all in an anteroom at the back," said the young man. He lit a candle from the lamp upon his desk and led the way to a small windowless room, which was packed with ancient documents. It was sparsely furnished with a table and a single chair. The young man hovered, looking as if he would rather be elsewhere.
"You can leave us now," said Aragorn. "It might take some time to find what we are seeking."
"Thank you, sire," said the man. "I am supposed to be at a meeting with the archivist and the scribes in the library. I will need to leave the candle with you." He hesitated slightly.
"We will be careful not to set anything alight, Faramir reassured him.
The young man hurried off leaving the King and Steward alone to peruse the documents.
"I told Arwen I might be working at lunchtime today," said the King. "We can dine later after we have found the scroll."
Faramir held the candle while the King spread several of the documents on the table and studied them. They mainly seemed to be accounts of the voyage from Númenor and ancient battles written in the ancient Adunaic tongue, Faramir found them fascinating, but they were not what Aragorn required.
After half an hour or so of fruitless searching Faramir noticed there were some more scrolls behind the massive oak door. "Shall I just close the door for a moment to retrieve these?" he asked.
"Very well, it should not take a moment," said Aragorn. He pushed the massive oak door shut. It closed with a resounding thud. A draught caught the candle in Faramir's hand. The flame flared up then it spluttered and died leaving the room in total darkness.
"Where are you, ion nîn?" called Aragorn.
"Over here," Faramir tried to feel his way towards his lord. Both former Rangers had excellent night vision, but this blackness was different from that in the open countryside, where leaves stirred, night birds called, clouds scudded, and stars formed a guide on all but the cloudiest nights. He cautiously felt his way towards the King, following the sound of his somewhat ragged breathing. Aragorn had never liked enclosed spaces or total darkness and his fear had intensified during his captivity at the hands of the rebel lords who had sought to overthrow his rule.
The Steward found Aragorn by almost falling over him in the blackness. He bit back a cry as he stubbed his toe painfully. Faramir gripped Aragorn's arm and felt his lord was trembling. "I had better keep hold of your arm to avoid bumping in to each other," he said, hoping the contact might comfort his friend.
"Thank you." Aragorn relaxed slightly.
"Let us find the door and get out of here," said Faramir. The two friends cautiously felt around the small room, brushing against crumbling ancient parchments.
"It is here!" Aragorn exclaimed when his hand felt solid wood. "Valar be praised!" He turned the knob only to find it refused to yield to his touch." It is locked from the other side!" he exclaimed, trying to keep the rising panic from his voice.
"The archivist will return soon and will free us." Faramir tried to sound reassuring.
"Will he even know we are here? His assistant may not have thought to mention it," said Aragorn grimly. "It is little use shouting for help as the walls and door are too thick for anyone to hear us."
"They were designed to allow scholars peace in which to study," said Faramir. "It is a similar design to the bedrooms which are built with such thick walls that crying babies could not disturb the Ruling Stewards." He was aware he was babbling, but he wanted to distract Aragorn and if he were honest, himself, from the blackness which engulfed them both.
"I cannot breathe!" Aragorn exclaimed. He shuddered; feeling as if he were back in Devorin's bleak cellar.
"Easy, mellon nîn!" soothed Faramir. "It is only the darkness, which makes it seem so. Old manuscripts need to be stored where the ventilation is good. Come and sit down while we wait to be let out."
Unable to safely locate the single chair, in any case loth to release their hold on each other, King, and Steward sat on the floor. Faramir placed a protective arm around his lord's shoulders. Even he was starting to panic now. They could be trapped for a long time before anyone thought to look for them here. Wild thoughts flashed through his mind. What if they were never found until only their bones remained? "Try to rest," he counselled Aragorn. "If we shut our eyes we will not notice our surroundings." He softly started to sing a hymn to Elbereth, Lady Star Kindler, asking for her light to shine in this dark place. Aragorn's breathing grew calmer, soothed by the ancient melody.
Time passed. There was no way of telling how long they had been trapped or whether it was light or dark outside. Only the rumblings in their stomachs told them it was long past their usual mealtime. They dozed fitfully, a brief respite from their discomfort.
"I thought for a moment I was beside Arwen in my own bed," Aragorn sighed. "To think I have sometimes found my bedchamber too confining!"
"I dreamed I was riding through the forests of Ithilien with Éowyn," Faramir said. "She does not even expect me home for several days."
"Let us try to imagine we are riding through the countryside together," said Aragorn wistfully, "galloping our horses across a wide open field with the sun overhead and the wind in our hair. The birds are flying overhead and…" His voice trailed away.
The Steward started to sing again, this time a song about Eärendil the mariner.
Aragorn and Faramir grew ever more hungry, thirsty, cold and uncomfortable, all too aware they had nothing to cater for even their most basic needs. They huddled together for warmth, but had nothing else to sustain them. Faramir's throat grew too dry to sing. Aragorn's trembling increased as he struggled to contain his fear. Initially, he had joined in Faramir's song, but now he lapsed into morose silence, a deathly hush broken only by the sound of his and Faramir's breathing. He felt as if the darkness would swallow him and he would choke in its gaping maw. This dark chamber was too uncomfortably similar to the cellar where he had been imprisoned and tortured for his liking.
Sensing his lord's grim memories, Faramir's arm tightened around his shoulders, reassuring him that at least he was not alone here.
The hours passed, each more uncomfortable than the last.
Suddenly the door creaked before it was flung open. Arwen stood there, flanked by two guards. All bore lighted candles in their hands, the bright flames flickering in the darkness. Elbereth herself could not have looked fairer.
"Estel, I have found you at last! "The Queen exclaimed. Arwen placed her candle on the table and held out her hand to help her husband to his feet. "I have been so worried," she said in Quenya, so the guards would not overhear. "I could sense you were in distress and felt compelled to search this place."
Aragorn squeezed her hand gratefully; knowing that the bond they shared had brought her to his aid. He helped Faramir up. Both men were so cramped and cold that they struggled to stand.
"Come!" said Arwen. "It is past dinner time. A hot fire and a good meal await you both."
They gratefully followed her as she led them from their prison
An hour later Faramir and Aragorn's spirits were much restored after a hearty meal.
"We never did find the scroll we sought," Faramir said sadly.
"It will be better to draft a new inheritance law more fitting for the Fourth Age, methinks," said the King. "I have decided we should not rely on crumbling scrolls, though I shall have copies made to keep in the library."
"A wise suggestion," said Arwen, looking up from her sewing.
Logs crackled in the hearth and a farm fire blazed, its rosy glow illuminating the hearth, while on the table stood several candlesticks in which brightly lit candles burned.
"What a difference the candles make," mused Aragorn. "Strange to think how a mere stick of wax can change the feel of a room so much."
"We of all people should know the value of even one small light in the darkness," said the Queen smiling.
A/n This was originally written for the prompt "Candle" for the AA Group. It takes place soon after "A Time to Reap" before Aragorn has fully recovered from events in "Web of Treason."
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.