6. B2MeM Day 21: East-West
"Gazing eastward will not get us there any faster, Vinyarion."
To his right, his grandson lowered his head, gripped the railing tighter. Below them, life in Osgiliath went on despite the siege, but for how long? Riots had broken out in clusters over the past week. One of the granaries was raided and more grain was spoiled and lost in the confusion than was taken for food. Meanwhile, the eastern side of the city stood deceptively close, taunting him, mocking him for his lack of foresight.
"We're at a standstill, aren't we?"
"Stalemate," Vinyarion said. "Castamir controls the waterways and has the city surrounded. We are shut in. Short of flying--"
Eldacar laughed at that, which brought a peculiar look, very close to a glare, from his grandson. He never said it-- he knew it would anger him-- but Vinyarion reminded him so much of himself. At this point, when time was running out, he regretted all those years he had spent trying to change that out of him.
"Well," he finally said, anticipating Vinyarion's failure to be amused, "since flying is out of the question under the circumstances, we'll have to devise a different plan."
"I asked Father to let me attempt the swim--"
"Out of the question."
"Have you a better plan?" Vinyarion asked, turning toward him with the impetus he himself would have used to fight back, if he were not so tired.
"I have no plan."
"That settles it, then."
For a moment, Eldacar knew not what to say. A swim to the eastern side was not only impossible, but suicidal. Why would Vinyarion wish to attempt it? After all the years of disagreements and quarrels, would he risk his life in such a foolish way, for him? Was he, too, growing desperate at their predicament?
"Suppose you were to make it to the eastern shore alive," Eldacar began, hoping for a different approach, aware that Vinyarion could decide to make the swim any time without permission, and suddenly very afraid of it, "which is unlikely given the ships and guards at the bridge... Suppose you were to do it, what then?"
"To Rhovanion, where else?"
"Rhovanion. Always Rhovanion," he said, trying to cover a chuckle and not succeeding. "I have spent all of my life trying to flee from it and now, toward the end of my days, I have no other choice but to return?"
Vinyarion remained silent, eyes fixed on the opposite shore where the main stores of food the city possessed were housed, as if willing it to give him a way.
"Do you mean to say," he began with a tentative voice, "that you are as prejudiced as Castamir?"
"Castamir cares not for the Northmen, they are merely his chance to seize the power that has eluded him. Which also means that he cares not for bloodlines. Nor for all these foolish Dunedain; to be honest, I am not so sure that I do."
To his right, Vinyarion snorted, looked down at the water where they could see the shadows of the big fish swimming by.
"It's a mess, to be sure, but we are in the right," Vinyarion said. "I can see how difficult it will be ruling those who have rebelled against you, but the responsibility is yours to rule-- the right-- not Castamir's. He should not seize by force--"
"Vinya, were you truly fond of your hair color?"
"What?" Vinyarion asked, turning his back on the railing with a bit of a frustrated kick that made him look, again, like a young boy.
"That year of the picnic, when the girls were putting together teathricals and announced you couldn't play Beren because your hair was too light--"
"What has that to do with anything? Have you listened to a word I've said?"
"Well, yes! Though you sent me to wash and scrub it until my fingers hurt, as if that would change anything."
"Yes," Eldacar said, remembering. "I can see now that was a useless course of action."
"Useless?" Vinyarion asked with a bitter laugh. "You cannot know what that did to me back then. I couldn't see why it would anger you so; after all, I got my red hair from you..."
That was true, and an awful inheritance to pass down to such a smart, lively, interesting boy. A red-haired Dunadan, just like himself. What kind of future would he have? Would he have to wrest everything out of life, just like he'd had to do? Yet, now that he was older, and at the brink of death, he realized that it was not so much that others had trouble accepting him-- the trouble was with himself.
Turning back from the eastern side and gazing in toward the city center, he felt so very weary of everything. What was there to fight for if people had ousted him? Why should he care to return to power? For what? He could not even repair what should have been a friendship with his grandson, the one most like him.
"My blood started this war," he said, with a sigh, "and it is my blood that will end it."
The startled response from Vinyarion, however, gave him pause; the utter bewilderment of his glance, the way his body tensed for that awful moment of realization.
"My trying to swim to the other side should not bother you, then," he said with a low, rueful snort. "Your blood runs through my veins, after all."
The horror that gripped him at those words could not be too soon forgotten.
"Never say that again," he finally said, when he could.
Vinyarion simply looked down at his shoes, shuffled a foot. "Let us hope, then, that you are not proven right."
As he watched his only grandson walk away, the one who should have inherited a throne, if he still had one, Eldacar cursed his father, yet again.