The prince of Ithilien watched out of an open window as the rain lashed through what, till that morning, had been a serene view of pretty dwellings nestled among the lush gardens and verdant forests of his fair land under a canopy of blue skies and wispy white clouds. A few flashes of brilliance across a fast greying sky and a few loud rumbles were all the warning that had been presented before the fine picture was transformed into a mass of black foliage and dark skies barely visible through an unending grey sheet of water.
Stray drops of furious, unremitting rain hit his face as he watched silently and unseeingly, his mind pre-occupied with the whiff of wet mud and grass that always sparked in him memories of days long past. As with all memories after a passage of time, they tended to be fond ones so that he stood with his hands clasped behind his back, a smile curving his lips absently. He had been watching the rain in its attempt to convert the garden of Gondor into the sea of Gondor for a while now, but the dreariness induced by the scene outside had been momentarily alleviated by thoughts of laughter and happiness. It was a while before he felt a sense of boredom descend upon him. Memories were nice but one could not live in them forever, he decided, as he felt a restlessness overtake him.
It was an unusual state for him to be in, with a land to govern and a beautiful wife and a loved son to dote on. But his wife was away visiting her kin, and as with each such occasion, now too her absence gnawed at him annoyingly. The weather forced him to work indoors, but all his paperwork had been methodically completed with characteristic care and diligence, and now he had nothing to do, except, he decided, to devote the time on his hands to his son.
Elboron however, when he found him in his mother’s room, seemed to have no trouble keeping himself occupied. His grey eyes were intently focused on a large expanse of thick, blue cloth tied to a long stick.
“Your mother may not like that,” he said mildly.
“I need a banner,” came the solemn reply, “For the men from Dol Amroth. They have come to help us fight. But it is too large, so perhaps, it can be their tent.”
“Ah,” Faramir stared at the cloak with interest, yet another item on this dreary afternoon that could rake up fond memories. It was strange, he felt, that on a day as dank as this he could look back on his past and find so much to smile upon.
He had quite simply been bored. And for one of his disposition it was not a comfortable mood to be in for it was one he was unaccustomed to. After all, his days were normally fairly busy. There were lessons, archery, swordsmanship, riding - everything the younger son of a steward of Gondor should learn in those times. And if the son had a seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge in all its forms, where remained the scope to be bored? Any other rainy afternoon, when it was rendered impossible to use the archery courts or practice swordplay outside, would have been spent poring over some interesting text or the other from the vast libraries that Minas Tirith housed. That vast store of written wonders was a never-ending source of ways to counter ennui.
But on that one rainy day, even the thought of those large, musty rooms was not enough to rid him of a general lack of enthusiasm. He found himself standing at a window idly watching the raindrops fall silently on the expanse of water that would normally serve for a makeshift arena. It had drizzled all through the last week, but on that day the skies seemed to have opened up over Minas Tirith lavishing her with all their bounty. All that could be seen outside was rain. The city streets were deserted as the citizenry had fled indoors from the cold deluge.
He was pulled out of his reverie by the sound of something falling and an angry voice muttering words that he had learnt only very recently and still not picked the courage, nor found the opportunity to use. He smiled as another muffled oath reached his ears. If he was feeling frustrated by the weather, his elder brother Boromir was probably feeling much worse. He had been home all week, confined indoors and barred from any martial pastime by an injured wrist, sustained during one of the many skirmishes his troop had been involved in. For someone who considered such activity as much more than a pastime, it was an intolerable state of affairs. It was to great rejoicing that the wrist had been pronounced healed the evening before, and Boromir had looked forward to the prospect of picking up his weapons again. The rain had ruined it all.
His brother entered the room, his expression moody and wrathful, softening just the slightest bit when he saw him by the window.
“What are you doing?”
“Watching the rain.”
“Have you not see enough of it all this week?” the latent irritation with the weather outside was beginning to seep out slowly, “I thought perhaps you might be reading.”
He had been, but the words that normally leapt lovingly out of the pages had today stayed stubbornly there, and refused to captivate his mind.
“I had hoped we could spar together today,” Boromir sighed.
“So had I.”
“Then we must find something else to do,” his brother declared firmly.
He did not feel like doing anything other than watch the rain. It had an entrancing quality as it fell rhythmically, one that helped him think.
“Do you remember when mother died and father had all her things given away or burnt?” Boromir asked suddenly, and the rain lost its entrancing quality and became a grey, depressing object.
He remembered she had been very ill when he had last seen her, and they had all been very unhappy, his father most of all. Not outwardly, but they had known it all the same. It had taken him a while to associate his father’s increased grimness with that event. To him, the grimness had seemed present always. He had not, then, seen its connection to his father’s desire to push away anything that might remind him of Finduilas.
“Yes,” he said slowly. He had begun to understand much of late, but none of that could help him see where this talk was heading.
“I managed to save a box containing a few items.”
“A box? Where? What was in it?”
“I pulled it out of her room before they came to clear it away. It was all I could pick up.”
“What is in it?”
“A few books and a cloak. Not many things, it is a very small wooden box.”
“Why did you not tell me of this earlier?” he was a little puzzled. It was unlike Boromir to keep secrets. Intrigue was something his brother had yet to master. And he found he was feeling a little hurt too.
“I was going to,” Boromir would not look at him, “You were very young then, and I was afraid you might not understand.”
He never did find out why Boromir had not told him until that day, leaving him to wonder if he had merely wished to cling to his little treasure alone awhile before he would have to share it.
“I meant to tell you before I left, but there was little time. You were nowhere to be seen all day!”
“I was at my lessons. Father told me not to get underfoot while you were readying to depart.”
“I did write a letter about it though, and handed it to Ingold to give to you.”
“A letter? To Ingold? Why?”
“In case, I – they were many in number and we were few, and I wondered if I may not return. We had not had the time for a proper parting, I thought the letter would redress that.”
He glanced up sharply at that but Boromir was still not looking at him. He was looking out of the window, his face hidden by the strands of dark hair that the breeze flitted through.
“Is it in your room?” he thought he would have noticed it if it had been.
“No. I did not want anyone to know of it. Do you know of the unused rooms in the north wing? It is in the last one. The one that is farthest away. They were rarely frequented then.”
“The rooms in the north wing?” he asked, a little slowly.
“Yes,” Boromir’s voice was beginning to display hints of impatience again, as he turned away from the window.
“But they are to be cleared, are they not, because the rainwater has seeped through the old stonework? And that will not serve well for a wooden box containing books and clothes.”
“Yes. I want to move it to my chambers before they start,” Boromir said testily, flexing his healed wrist, ‘But I need your help to do that,” an admission that from him, even if true was still fairly surprising.
“Then we should move it now, while father is busy.”
“Where is he?”
“In the tower. He will not be down for a while yet, but when he does come I fear his mood may not be a happy one.”
“It is the rain. It affects everyone.”
“Perhaps. Or, perhaps he has other matters weighty of consideration.”
That wing had lain unused for years. The citadel was large but the inhabitants not enough to utilize its full capacity. The size was more a measure of planning in the city’s defense, than of utility. They found it easily, a dusty old wooden box, with rusted metal handles and hinges. Faramir had wanted to open it then and there, but knew it would be unwise, so they had picked it up carefully each holding a handle, and brought it down quietly.
They opened it in the confines of Boromir’s rooms, and the contents were examined individually with care and more depth of feeling than either wished to display. It contained, as Boromir had said, a few books and a cloak. The books were old, and showed signs of having been through much use. They had seemingly been loved greatly and oft read. All afternoon, each book was handled gently, the yellowed pages carefully and painstakingly scanned by hungry eyes for a long-forgotten writing, that when found brought both sadness and joy. And then, the soft blue cloth they had found lying atop them was picked up gently, for each remembered it very well as they fingered the stars on its hem. They could have passed hours and hours in encountering the past, but it had to remain a short-lived experience, for neither wished for the items to be seen by one who thought them destroyed. They had to plan on secreting away their hoard.
The empty box was stashed under the bed, to be got rid of later. There were many they knew who could do with relatively dry firewood that day. The books they carried to Faramir’s room, where they could remain unobtrusive in the presence of so many of their ilk. The cloak they left in Boromir’s room, unable to decide what to do with it.
“I hope a few drops of rain have not prevented my sons from spending a fruitful day at their duties,” the voice may have been low and the tone soft, but the words carried with them all the qualities of a whipcord striking air, to the two conspirators as they exited Faramir’s room after stacking the books among his own.
“No, Father,” Boromir replied stiffly and truthfully, for he had finished what work he had in the morning, and Faramir nodded expressionlessly along with the statement. Denethor stopped and looked at them, his stern expression unchanged, and then returning the nod, swept past them silently.
They waited, tense and nervous with understandable reason until he left their line of sight, before returning to Boromir’s chamber to decide where to hide the cloak. As Boromir declared, their father must definitely not see that one thing, at all.
“That he can not. It is not here,” Faramir found himself stating calmly, as he entered through the doorway first.
“This is not the time for childish humour,” Boromir snapped back at him, as he followed him into the room, “I do not know how Father will feel about seeing us with it, and I have no desire to find out.”
“Boromir, it is not here. There is no cloak here. It has been removed.”
“He has found it,” Boromir managed to breathe out after a while.
“Did you not see his face and hear his voice?”
“He was as he always is.”
“But he may come across it if we do not find it first,” Faramir finished, pre-empting any possible discussion on his father’s mood. He had finished analyzing it himself eons ago and had no desire to repeat an exercise that left him feeling fairly unhappy on a day that seemed to bring out nothing but melancholy in everyone.
“And what is it you seek?” came the quiet voice of their uncle from Dol Amroth. He stood in the doorway, holding in his hands a folded cloth bundle, blue in colour. Seeing their eyes fall on it, he smiled at them, “I saw it lying atop the bed. I apologise for removing it awhile but it brings back many memories.”
“It was made specially for your mother,” he continued sifting the soft cloth through his fingers.
“In Dol Amroth,” Boromir stated.
The prince’s eyes arched up a little, “Nay, in Minas Tirith, or so I was told later. Seven women wrought it and dyed and stitched through a day and a night to prepare it, they said.”
“In Minas Tirith?” Boromir asked confused.
“Not in -?” Faramir’s eyes widened a little, “Father had it made?”
“He gave it to your mother while courting her,” Imrahil replied softly. It seemed he held a fine memory in place as he gently placed the cloak in Boromir’s hands, “She loved it very much, and treasured it well.”
It was a cherished statement. Finduilas’ unhappiness before her death had been no secret, but to her sons it felt as though their uncle had provided for them, as for him too, a memory of times that had been happier; a gentle reminder that perhaps, past events had not been all bad. It was soft and had been dyed deep until it was a rich midnight blue in colour. With stars sewn onto its hem, it would look just as the skies above Dol Amroth when Denethor had first met the woman he loved, by the sea, one summer long before.
“Then perhaps, she would have liked for you to have it,” Boromir suggested suddenly, watching the wistful expression on his kinsman’s face.
His uncle shook his head gently, smiling fondly and gratefully, “No, I feel she would have liked for you to gift it to one who will treasure it as she did.”
Suddenly the day no longer seemed as melancholy, and the rain no longer seemed grey and annoying. That night, after the rains had stopped, they had a view of a clear, clean sky, lit up by the light of innumerable stars.
Boromir had given him the mantle before departing for Imladris. He had hidden it away among his own clothes, not having it taken out until the windy day he spent with someone whom he felt deserved every treasure the world possessed. And many months later, on another rainy afternoon, the day he was told by her of the child they were to have soon, she in turn, had been enamoured by his tale of finding a treasure in a wooden box in a forgotten corner of the house. And on that day, she had decided that she would like for their child to gift it to one who would treasure it as she did, and as another had done so many years before. A woman she had not known except as someone else’s memory, but would always be grateful to for providing her with the one she treasured most of all.
“She will not mind much will she?” Elboron’s voice pulled him out of his reverie. He returned an inquiring glance at the uneasy grey eyes looking at him, “It has come to no harm. It is the only piece of blue cloth I could find, and I needed a flag. And it is old!” The boy had untied the makeshift banner turned tent, and now the folded mantle lay in his outstretched arms.
Faramir knelt before him and taking the proffered bundle from his son’s hands, brushed a stray lock of raven hair off his forehead, “Yes, it is very old, but it was a gift and your mother wishes to preserve it well.”
“For some day, it will be given to someone else, and it must be kept till then.”
The boy looked confused, and he realised his mind had been wandering and his words had reflected just that.
He had always wondered since the day he had first seen it after so many years to the day he had lent it to the lady who had later returned his declarations of love. What part did the cloak play as it aided in matters of the heart? He had seen enough of the world to know that fortune was a fickle companion, but here in this one matter, he often wondered whether she had aided him. Perhaps not, he decided, but what harm was there in having something to believe in, that a piece of cloth by its cherished presence could bring one such treasures as they desired, as it had done to his father and to himself? And what harm in leaving such a legacy to his son?
Some day, his son would find one worthy of the legacy, and that piece of cloth would witness him gain his heart’s desire as it had done twice earlier.