Title: The Lady of Gondor Ch 14
Summary: The deeds of Mellamir, sister of Boromir and Faramir, before and during the War of the Ring. Novel-length.
Word Count: 4055 + Notes
Rating: Teen (for violence)
Timeline: Mid-Third Age and Late Third Age (bookverse)
-------3018; Edoras and Minas Tirith
Mellamir was standing somewhere high -- she wasn't sure where, but probably some sort of a tower -- looking out over the field. Suddenly the field sped past her, turning into hills, woods, then more hills, and rocky cliffs. Up over the cliffs until at last she saw a circle of black boulders in the distance, approaching fast. Now she was through them, looking out over a barren wasteland, solid sheets of exposed rock and scorched plains (or at least they would be plains, if they still had grass), and trees rotting on their sides, torn up roots and all.
Straight ahead was a great tower, shimmering black, shooting straight out of the ground through the clouds. And then Mellamir heard popping sounds, saw bright streaks of light through a window. Heard screams. Suddenly she was flying, shooting through the clouds herself. And before she knew what had happened Mellamir felt solid rock under her feet. She looked around and noticed a bunched man pacing across the floor. He turned in the moonlight. Mellamir caught a raggly gray beard and a most distinctive nose. She heard footsteps behind her and ran over to the hunched man.
"Gandalf! Watch out! Gandalf!"
And then she heard another voice behind her. "Mellamir! Wake up."
Slowly the black tower faded away. Mellamir's fists unclenched, and she felt the rich blankets under her arms. Warily she opened her eyes and saw Éowyn standing over her, concerned.
"A dream?" Éowyn asked.
By the second hour Mellamir was dressed and packed, her horse saddled, and she stood waiting outside the king's quarters. Not long after, he and Wormtongue came out to go down to breakfast.
"Good morning, my lord," she said, ignoring the surprised look on Theoden's case and the annoyed one on Wormtongue's. "I wonder if I might have a moment of your time."
"Good morning, Mellamir," Théoden replied, wiping the sleep from his eyes. "Of course, go on."
She looked uneasily over at Gríma but decided she did not have time to waste. After a moment she continued, "I must return to Minas Tirith. Immediately."
A look of panic quickly spread across Wormtongue's face; Théoden was much slower to react. He yawned, then asked, sleepily, "Leave us? But why?"
"Only for a little while," she reassured him. "I had a vision last night about Gandalf. He's in trouble, or will be soon enough."
"That is grave news," Théoden answered, "but two tragedies will not make one right. The road is dangerous. You could be ambushed by orcs, or --"
"Or I could stay here and do nothing," Mellamir interrupted, "and Gandalf could die, and this great business of his could fail. Who knows what the end-price would be?"
"Lady Mellamir," Wormtongue interjected, "your brother Faramir specifically asked you to stay here, where you are safe. If you would but write a letter --"
"No, Master Wormtongue," Mellamir replied. "Gandalf would never listen to a letter."
"As you wish," Théoden said at last. "It is not to my liking, but you are not our prisoner. I will not keep you here against your will, though I had hoped you would respect your brother's wishes. But I won't have you riding across the whole country completely unprotected. Neither would have your father nor your brothers in these times, as you well know, and if you were harmed while under my watch, the repercussions would extend beyond just you and I. I insist you take a guard."
Mellamir opened her mouth to protest, then closed it again. She did not have the time to argue the point, and Théoden was right; her own father would have demanded no less. She bowed her head, then replied, "Éomer, then."
When Éomer came down to breakfast half an hour later Mellamir tossed him an apple, turned him right around, and marched him back upstairs. "We are going on a little trip," she informed him. Éomer looked at her, a surprised but not altogether displeased expression on his face, and Mellamir answered his unvoiced question, "To Minas Tirith. I've had a vision, and I must warn Gandalf immediately."
Éomer chuckled to himself at that. He didn't put much trust in dreams and visions -- most Rohirrim didn't -- but if Mellamir wanted to return to Minas Tirith, a dream was as good an excuse to visit the White City as any. And this trip meant the better part of a month, much of that time by themselves on the road, in which to better acquaint himself with the Lady of Gondor. So he shook his head, but he also went upstairs and packed.
The morning they set out was miserable. Whereas Mellamir had dreamed of a slow, gentle rain, the waking world was much more cruel. The wind on the plains forced the drives of rain down on the travellers, quickly soaking through their cloaks and painfully striking their faces. Yet Mellamir pressed on, pulling her hood close around her person. The road was muddy and they often had to dismount and lead their horses across beams of wood that had been laid across where the road flooded.
Yet they were lucky, for besides the miserable rain the journey was not particularly eventful; Théoden's worries had been in vain. Nothing as sinister as a mountain cat, to say nothing of wargs or orcs, bothered Éomer and Mellamir until at last they reached Minas Tirith. When the gates did not open immediately Mellamir rode forward and announced to the gatekeeper above, "In the name of Mellamir, daughter of the Steward, open!"
At that the gates opened slowly, revealing her brother Faramir sitting on his horse. He rode out, no sign of a smile on his face. "I told you not to come."
"Where's Gandalf?" Mellamir asked urgently. "I must speak to him immediately."
The look on his face changed from annoyance to concern. "Not here," he said, dismounting. "He hasn't been in Minas Tirith for several months, not since early spring. Why do you ask? Is something wrong?"
"I had a vision," Mellamir replied. She nodded at Faramir's horse, still blocking their way into the city. "Why can't we come in? And why are you home? What's the matter, Faramir?"
"Not come in?" he said as he led his horse to the side, out of the way. He smiled gently, but he couldn't hide the look of concern in his eyes. "Minas Tirith is still your home, at least according to Father. I had just hoped you would choose to stay away, like I asked you to. I did
have my reasons, you know. As to why I am home -- Boromir and I dreamt the same dream, and Father has called a council to discuss it. You might be interested in it, actually. I should be there myself, but the other captains sent me to come and greet you."
"Why are we standing here, then?" Mellamir asked. "Let's go."
Denethor, Boromir, and nine old men with long gray beards sat in a room high in Ecthelion, several stories above the throne room, around an old oak table in cushioned oak chairs. Even in the full heat of summer this stone tower stayed frigidly cold, and as the room's one fireplace stood empty the captains sat up straight more from chill than attention to their lord and steward. Windows were cut through the marble walls looking out to the Seventh Circle far below, and between these windows embroidered battle standards hung, relics from ages long past; but besides that the room was quite bare. All those present stared at the two empty chairs to Denethor's right.
A knock came at the door. "Come in," Denethor bellowed, and Mellamir and Faramir entered. Faramir had of course invited Éomer to the council, but Éomer had excused himself, claiming that he was hungry and exhausted. In truth, he knew this was Gondor's business, not Rohan's, and he had not wanted to intrude; yet the hunger and exhaustion were not entirely feigned, as Mellamir had forced him to ride hard that last night with little rest.
None of them, though, noticed the lord of Rohan's absence. Mellamir's eyes rested on her father who seemed much older than she remembered. That was understandable, she supposed, since she had not seen him in over fifteen years, but he seemed to have aged more than that. -Foolishness
, she told herself, of course a father seems nearly immortal in the eyes of his thirteen-year-old daughter. He seemed unmoved by her presence, but she excused that as well; Denethor had never displayed his affection in public. She could not ignore, however, the weariness in his eyes or his face which looked chaffed from the wind, though it was sallow, as if he hadn't seen the sun in uncounted weeks. When she entered he had been gazing at the ceiling, like he was thinking about some treasure he had hidden high up in the tower.
If Denethor was unmoved by Mellamir's presence, he was the only one. The captains were all amazed that this could be the same little girl who had left Minas Tirith with Gondor years ago. Even after more than a week on the road she appeared far more ladylike and noble than she ever had when she lived in Minas Tirith. She stood tall yet did not seem proud, and if her face was more tanned than they might have wished, her gentle smile eased any suspicions they might have harboured that life among the horse-lords would ruin her forever. At last Boromir spoke, and all those around re-focused their attention on the task at hand.
"Mellamir," Boromir said, "it is so wonderful to see you." He walked to the doorway and embraced his sister, then the three of them sat down. Denethor frowned at this public display of emotion, and Boromir smiled nervously at his father. "Shall I tell our dream?"
Denethor nodded curtly. "Now that we are all here, by all means."
Boromir looked at his sister for a moment, a sad look in his eyes, before he began. "The eastern sky grew dark, and I heard thunder in the distance; yet in the West a pale light shone, and a voice sounded, far-off but clear, telling me:
Seek for the Sword that was broken:
In Imladris it dwells.
There shall be counsels taken
Stronger than Morgul spells.
There shall be shown a token
That doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall awaken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand."*
"That's nothing but nonsense," one of the captains said curtly. "Isildur's Bane is all around us: Orc-arrows, to our left and to our right."
"Aye," another answered him, "but how does an arrow 'awaken,' that's what I want to know."
"And what's a Halfling?" a third asked. "Wizard's mischief, more than likely."
"Not wizard's mischief," Mellamir replied. "I can at least answer that. Gandalf told me about them, true, but I have also read of them in the ancient tales. I believe they are called the Periannath. The Rohan have legends that mention them by the name holbytlan, halfling, like the poem in my brother's dreams, but their tales do not record much of the people. They live in a land far away, though it is rumoured they answered to the kings."
"The dream at least is true," Faramir said, "for I dreamt it as well."
"Wizard's mischief, to listen to dreams," Denethor muttered under his breath. He looked down at the table but not before all present noticed the hatred that burned in his eyes. Faramir spoke first.
"Yet we were not the only ones to dream of late," he said. "Mellamir, will you tell us of your dream?"
"In truth," Mellamir replied, "I did have a vision several nights ago. I was looking out over the land from Edoras and suddenly I saw a tall black tower, and Gandalf was standing on top of it. He was in danger. I came here to warn him."
"Let the fool fend for himself," Denethor snapped.
Most of the men nodded in agreement, but Faramir met his father's eyes. "Our situation is desperate," he said. "Orcs pass Minas Morgul every day, and the black terror grows ever stronger. And now Gandalf is in danger, the lady Mellamir tells us. Be he fool or wise, you cannot deny that he is strong. Let us seek Imladris, if there we may find the wisdom needed to beat back this Morgul threat. But what is it? A strange word."
"Rivendell," Denethor answered. The captains looked at him in surprise, all wondering the same thing: where had their lord heard that strange name? "Simply because I value the worth of men," he replied, guessing their question, "I am not completely uneducated about distant lands. I once read of the Elves, when my brother was in Lothlórien. Rivendell is an Elvish city, far away in the West. It is said to be well-hidden, though I am certain a man could find it."
"Then let me go," Faramir replied. "I am the logical choice. Many say that I am not a soldier fit for Gondor. And while I would die for my country -- and perhaps will, someday soon, if I read the signs correctly -- my strength is in wisdom. If we are to seek for Imladris, and find counsel there, then the quest should be mine."
But Denethor simply laughed. "You are no soldier fit for Gondor, that is true enough. I do not doubt that you will die one day, more than likely by your own weapon as you stumble running from your foes. You do not love the sword for its sharpness nor the arrow for its swiftness, but only what they defend, in your mind: Elvish songs and foolish grey wizards. I have no need to send you far to the north to bring back word of our doom. Every time I look on you I see it, for you are all the evidence that I need to prove that the glory and blood of Westernesse is nearly spent."
Faramir sat there quietly, looking down at the table, apparently very interested in the knot in the wood in front of him. Mellamir stared at him, saw his set jaw, waited for him to defend himself, but when after several seconds he said nothing she looked past him to the Steward, a fire in her eyes. "Father, how can you --"
"You have spent many years with the Rohirrim, Mellawen," Denethor interrupted, "away from your people, so I will excuse your indolence. I know your brother's uses, and they are few indeed."
The blood rushed to Mellawen's face, and she looked like she might argue with him. Boromir stood up quickly, knocking over his chair in his haste, a look of panic on his face. "Peace, sister," he said quickly, then looked over at Denethor. "I will find this Elvish city, if you will send me, Father. I am the older son. The responsibility is mine. Gondor will rise or fall on my word one day, the Valar willing." He looked down at his brother with pity and perhaps a bit of fear in his eyes, then said resignedly, "My task begins today."
The anger quickly melted away from Denethor's face as he smiled at Boromir. Now this was a son he could be proud of.
An hour later Boromir, Faramir, and Mellamir came out of Ecthelion's great doors and crossed the courtyard of the Seventh Circle to the lodging Boromir and Faramir shared. The afternoon sun shone down on them, a near-blinding white. "It will be nice to get out of the city," Boromir mused. "See a bit of the world."
"Yes, it would," Faramir answered in a chilling voice. Mellamir looked at him. This was not the brother she remembered; there was no sparkle in his eyes, no laugh in his voice. Faramir seemed fey, more Denethor's martyr than wizard's pupil. The three walked in silence across the courtyard and up the marble stairs to the third-floor lodging, saying no more.
Mellamir and Faramir began to help Boromir in his packing. he was to leave as soon as he was ready, with no going-off ceremony, no feast or dance, no fanfare of any kind. Gondor was preparing for war, yet the people could not know that their situation was so desperate that the Steward would send his favourite son the farthest reaches of Middle-earth. not yet.
At last Faramir asked the question weighing on his heart. "Why does he say those things to me, Boromir?" Faramir asked as he took a spare cloak out of Boromir's bureau and folded it. "I'm his son, you know." Mellamir, who had stayed in the other room gathering food for the beginning of her brother's journey, stopped her work and stood by the door and waited for her brother's answer.
"Yes, I know," Boromir said at last. "And I think he knows, too. But, Faramir -- you two just seem to upset each other, somehow."
"So now it's his fault?" Mellamir asked, coming into the room and sitting down on the bed. "Boromir, he practically called him Isildur's Bane!"
"I know, I know. But Mellamir, Faramir, understand -- Faramir, you remind him too much of himself," Boromir answered.
"What?" Faramir cried. "Me, like him? Why, we're nothing alike. Maybe if we had something in common he'd show me a bit of respect. A bit of love."
Boromir frowned. "He does
love you, Faramir," he said at last, then added, "Seriously," seeing the shocked look on his brother's face.
"Well, he's got a funny way of showing it," Faramir answered. "What was it he said the other day when I accidentally knocked over his wine? Oh, yes -- 'If Sauron had more oafs like you in his army, we just might win this war.'"
"He didn't mean that and you know it."
"Boromir," Mellamir asked, "how can you make excuses for him?"
"Mellamir," Boromir sighed, letting his frustration show a bit more than he intended, "you're not here every day like I am, you don't understand --"
"If he didn't mean it, then why did he say it?" Faramir interrupted. "All I did was spill a bit of wine. Why, if you
had spilled the wine... "
"But you're not me, and that's what makes the difference." Boromir sighed again. "You scare him, Faramir. As I said, you remind him too much of himself." Faramir started to laugh and Mellamir to protest, but Boromir shook his head seriously "No, wait. Just listen to me, both of you. I didn't say you were like him, Faramir; I said you reminded Father of himself, or perhaps of what he fears he could become. You're not the only one that loves libraries, you know; Father likes legends, too, but he thinks them childish. 'Stories for the babe, and a sword for the man,' as the saying goes. No, Grandfather taught him that stories are child's play, and when Father sees you still reading the old scrolls, it worries him. He thinks -- well, he's afraid you'll turn out like Arabôr. He keeps waiting for you to grow up and doesn't realize you already have. But if Denethor had had an older brother, if he hadn't been destined to be Steward from birth -- I think he could have turned out very much like you. And that scares him because he sees you growing into the man he might have become, but was always told was not as valuable as -- well, a man like me."
"So what would you have him do, Boromir?" Mellamir asked, more softly this time. "Forget the scrolls and lay both hands to the sword? But he's not like you."
"So now I'm just a simple soldier, with no understanding of anything but orc-slaying?" Boromir asked, a hint of annoyance slipping into his voice.
Their conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. Boromir left to answer it. When he had left Faramir looked at his sister and smiled -- that smile was still there after all! -- and reached over for his sister's hand. "It's all right, Mellamir. I'm still here, deep inside. And Father, he's not so --" but he stopped short as Boromir re-entered. "What was that about?" Faramir asked.
"A boy from the armoury with my weapons," Boromir answered.
"Listen," Mellamir said, "I didn't mean what I said, not like it sounded at least --"
"I know," Boromir said, grinning at his sister.
"But, seriously," Faramir said a minute later, "if he can't love me for who I am --"
"He loves you, I think," Boromir answered. "How could he not? You're his son."
"Sometimes I wish I wasn't." Faramir looked at his brother, suddenly serious.
Boromir reached down and ruffled Faramir's hair, then grasped his shoulder. "I know," he said, and let go to finish packing. When they were done the three left the apartment and headed down toward the stables in the Fifth Circle. Boromir walked over to his horse Melonef and began brushing him in preparation for their journey as Mellamir secured his saddle-bags. Faramir leaned against the wall and watched. After several minutes he sighed loudly. "What am I going to do, Boromir? We can hardly stand each other, Father and I, when we have you to keep us apart. How are we ever going to get along without you."
"I do not know," Boromir replied, shaking his head. "But you'll manage. Just try to understand him, Faramir. Remember that he hates what you represent, but he doesn't hate you."
Faramir smiled sceptically over at his brother. "I wish I could believe that," he said.
"He is under a lot of stress, you know that," Boromir replied.
"Yes," Faramir agreed, "and it's only going to get worse."
"Faramir --" Mellamir began but Boromir waved her off.
"There's no help for that. All you can do is please yourself, I suppose." He patted Faramir on the back, then looked at his sister. He shuddered a moment, then said, "Osgiliath has fallen, sister."
Mellamir dropped the strap she had been tying and braced herself against the stable wall. "Osgiliath has -- what?"
"We were there," Boromir replied, busying himself with the task at hand and avoiding his sister's gaze, "Faramir and I, in the company that held the last bridge. Mordor is unleashed, and the orcs will soon cross the Anduin and make their way toward the Pelennor. They may grant us a year, two years, until their master is ready. But . . ."
Mellamir just nodded. The colour slowly returned to her face, and after a few moments she returned to the strap, anything to occupy her mind.
"But think, Faramir," Boromir said, chuckling to himself, "you won't have to worry about Father. He'll send you back out to Ithilien as soon as possible; he couldn't afford to keep you in the city, even if he wanted to. He needs you, whether he likes it or not."
Faramir grabbed a brush and helped his brother comb the horse, then fed the horse some carrot sticks while Boromir finished saddling him; Mellamir stood silently in the corner, deep in thought. Finally they left the stable and walked out to the near-deserted street.
Boromir mounted Melonef, then looked down at Faramir and Mellamir. He leaned over and placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Faramir, even if he can't love you, make sure that you always love him. Never stop; don't let him rob you of the right to love your father. That's the greatest gift you could ever give him -- and yourself." He gently kissed his hand and lowered it to his sister's cheek, then straightened up, kicked his heel against Melonef's leg, and rode out of Minas Tirith into the dying afternoon sun.
-------( Notes )