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2
The Old Prince

Adrahil’s condition was first mentioned in Isabeau’s “Kin-strife”. Liahan appears with her generous consent.

Several people pointed out – rightfully – that I have given Faramir’s degree of relation to Morwen mistakenly. To my defence, in Hungary, she would be called his niece (we don’t have the same terms, it seems) and that was what mislead me. I will try to correct it, as soon as I find a way to keep Faramir’s dilemma nevertheless. :)


~~~

CHAPTER TWO – THE OLD PRINCE

Prince Adrahil, widely respected monarch of Dol Amroth – in fact, the only independent monarch with a demesne of his own within the borders of Gondor – was not a young man anymore. Although near eighty years did not count as an extremely high age among the nobles of Dúnadan descent (not to mention the thin trail of Elven blood in his veins) he showed every one of those seventy-nine years.

Part of the reason for his aging was his fragile health: he had caught one of those recurring Southern fevers in his youth and had suffered from it all his life, his condition slowly but gradually worsening with advanced age. The other reason was the loss of his beloved wife but a few years earlier – a loss that had turned the Prince’s hair to pure silver within a few moons.

As the years flew by, Adrahil had become less and less fond of travelling on water, and thus he had rather taken the stresses and strains of the long ride across Lebennin and Lossarnach upon himself instead of boarding one of Dol Amroth’s famous swanships. Besides, that way he could join with the escort of several other noblemen, which not only offered a safe travel but also the opportunity to discuss the affairs of the realm before the Council and to get support for his suggestions, in case he would be opposed by the Steward; that sometimes happened. Adrahil and Denethor had mutual respect for each other, but that did not mean they would never disagree. And when they disagreed, it was always a tough fight, as they were both shrewd, strong-willed and well-informed men.

At the moment, though, the Council lay still several days before them, and the Prince felt great relief when they finally reached the townhouse of his family, up in the sixth circle of Minas Tirith. He had only taken a small escort with him: a group of six Swan Knights; his eldest daughter, the Lady Ivriniel, who wanted to see her nephews; Ornendil, his old weapons master, who had assigned himself as the Prince’s chief bodyguard ever since Andrahar had taken over his duties among the Swan Knights; Mánion, a young healer in his mid-twenties, who belonged to the folk of the Eredrim, like the Lady Olwen had; and a young page of a mere ten summers by the name of Liahan – an orphan of a noble but penniless family, whom Imrahil had taken under his wings.

‘Twas a time-honoured custom among the Princes of Dol Amroth to take such children into foster care, and Liahan proved to be a worthy choice. He was a quiet, sharp-witted, well-mannered child, quick to learn and eager to please, but he did not back off when confronted by bigger, stronger boys, either. He had done well in the three years he had spent in Dol Amroth, and thus Prince Adrahil decided that he had earned a short leave – and the chance to see Minas Tirith.

Even if the Lady Ivriniel spoiled him rotten during their journey.

Although, if any one was in peril to be spoiled, it was not Liahan who knew his place within the court all too well, but young Prince Elphir, the current Heir of Dol Amroth, Adrahil thought, amused. Of the so far three sons of Imrahil, Elphir, the firstborn, had always been his aunt’s favourite, and while his tutors were every bit as stern to him as it was needed for a future monarch to learn his lessons in proper time, Ivriniel often complained that the boy was too earnest for his mere nine years already and needed a little more pampering. Which she had done in abundance during the long journey, embarrassing the self-conscious Elphir to death and spoiling Liahan thoroughly in the process, too.

One good thing had come out of Ivriniel’s efforts, though. Elphir and Liahan had become friends, which, the Prince thought, might prove a life-saving factor later on, once they had both grown into warrior age.

A small noise woke him from his pondering. Someone was knocking on the door. The Prince gestured to Liahan to answer it, and the young page obeyed – blushing profoundly when he found a girl on the other side of the threshold. A very pretty, dark-haired girl, whose rich attire revealed her noble origins. Yet the Prince’s eyes lay on the lanky youngling behind the girl; a youngling also way too serious for his age, in the customary dark clothes of the Steward’s family and with the clear, grey eyes of a dreamer.

“Faramir,” he said tenderly. “’Tis good to see you again, my boy. You have grown a great deal since last year.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Half an hour later, after Morwen had been sent to the chambers of the Lady Ivriniel to be reunited with Elphir, the Prince and his favourite grandson were sitting in the library of the townhouse. ‘Twas not much as libraries went, at least not while the family dwelt in Dol Amroth, but they kept calling it thusly nonetheless. They were having tea, served by the unobtrusive Liahan, and talked in great detail about the year that had just passed and about the one that was coming.

Needless to say that they were both more interested in the upcoming one – the one they will be allowed to spend together in Dol Amroth. Adrahil had been looking forward to this chance for years, but the Steward, loath to let his youngest go, had always found an excuse. Now, however, the Prince had put his foot down, and if Adrahil of Dol Amroth demanded something, not even the Lord Denethor would dare to disobey – unless he had a very good reason for doing so. Which, in this particular case, he had not.

“I fear I might have applied some undue pressure,” admitted the Prince ruefully. “Mentioning my fragile health and pondering about whether I would get another chance to have you with us for a year if I waited too long.”

Faramir’s eyes widened in alarm.

“Are you truly ill, Grandfather?” he asked, fearing the answer already. Adrahil laughed quietly.

“Nay, my boy; at least not any worse than I have been for quite some time by now. The truth is… I am old and tired. I want you with me as long as I can still enjoy your presence in Dol Amroth. But worry not; I shall be there for quite a few years yet.”

Faramir accepted the statement with a simple nod. He knew his grandsire would never lie to him, not even to spare his feelings. Besides, he was no longer considered a child – he would begin esquire training after his year in Dol Amroth, after all, and that was the first step for a boy of noble birth to become a man.

Still, he was thankful for the chance to stay with his mother’s people at the Sea for a year. Boromir had not been given the same chance, for he was the firstborn and thus the heir apparent for stewardship, therefore he had to begin preparing himself for his future task at a very young age. Faramir had been allowed to follow his interests a little longer: he had studied ancient lore with his tutors and been even given harp lessons. Sometimes being the second son did have its advantages.

Which meant not that his father would go easy on him, of course; quite the contrary. The Lord Denethor had made it abundantly clear that Faramir was to become the strongest pillar of his brother’s rule: someone who would always be ready to supply the knowledge in lore if needed; to give counsel in diplomatic matters – or wield his sword on his brother’s side, if naught else would help. ‘Twas something Faramir would be willing and content to do, and sometimes it saddened him that he was still too young to be of any help, for either his father or his brother. Sometimes he would wish he could make time flow faster, so that he could become that strong pillar earlier.

At other times, however, he yearned for the chance to be just the young boy he still was. To be allowed to enjoy his beloved books, to not be burdened with the concerns of the realm, to be simply loved and pampered, without demands he always felt a bit inadequate to match. Sometimes he envied Boromir; his easy confidence, the way he grew with their father’s demands, seemingly without effort; for the pride that shone in Denethor’s eyes when looking at his Heir.

On the other hand, how could their father not be proud of Boromir the Fair? He stood out from the young men of his age like a mighty young oak from mere saplings. Blooded in battle at the age of sixteen summers already, marvellous with the sword and invincible in any fight, not to mention shrewd and sharp-witted and easy-going… who could be better suited to make their father proud? Or take over the sceptre one day? Faramir, who had loved and admired his big brother for as long as he could remember, whole-heartedly agreed that no-one could fill Boromir’s place.

He certainly did not consider himself as a worthy substitute. His strengths lay elsewhere, and they both knew that. Boromir jokingly called him his ‘little scholar’, but that was a joke full of love and respect; not being a scholarly man himself (albeit forced through a proper education, of course), he admired Faramir’s easy way with old books and scrolls, his ever-growing knowledge, and made no secret of his pride in his younger brother.

Aye, they complemented each other nicely. Still, going to Dol Amroth for a year meant that Faramir would be allowed to be himself for a while. To be a child for one last time, unburdened and unconcerned among his younger cousins, to follow his interests with the help of his scholarly aunt, the lovely Lady Nimrien, or with Master Melpomaen, the Prince’s wise and knowledgeable librarian. To learn his way around ships and to get reacquaintanted with the Sea that his mother had loved so much. Dol Amroth had always been a place of undisturbed peace for him.

“Grandfather,” he said quietly, “I am glad that I can go with you. I have missed Dol Amroth very much.”

The old Prince gave him a fond smile, one that was meant for him alone.

“And we are glad to have you with us, my boy,” he answered. “Your uncle Imrahil is eager to see you again, and your aunt Nimrien cannot wait to peel you out of these dark clothes and clad you in proper Dol Amroth blue,” he laughed quietly. “She will, no doubt, have a whole new set of clothes made for you; so much you have grown recently. However, we shall not be returning to Dol Amroth at once.”

“We shall not?” Faramir’s eyes widened in excitement. The thought that he might get to see more of Gondor on their way was a very attractive one. “Where are we going first?”

“Have you ever been to Carvossonn, the chief city of Lossarnach?” asked the Prince.

Faramir shook his head.

“Nay; I have only ever been to Ethring and Dol Amroth,” he replied. “And to Pelargir, of course, when I was very little and mother was still with us.”

He regretted having said that when he saw the flicker of pain across Adrahil’s face. The untimely loss of the Lady Finduilas had hit them hard – all of them – and they usually avoided mentioning her. At least in the Steward’s house.

Adrahil, though, was not a man who would be ashamed by his own feelings.

“She loved the house in Pelargir,” he murmured, “despite the closeness of Umbar and the peril that came with that closeness. For it was also close to the Sea, and it eased her longing for home. Yet never doubt that she loved your father very much – or that she was loved just as much in turn. Denethor is a man who does not open his heart easily, not even to those who are dear to him. He might seem cold and distant, and sometimes he is much too hard to everyone. But he did love your mother; and he does love you as well, never doubt that.”

Faramir shrugged. “I know Father loves me,” he said. “He just loves Boromir more – can you blame him for that?”

“Nay, you are mistaken,” the old Prince said with emphasis; he did not want the boy to feel less worthy of their father’s love than his brother, even though Denethor, indeed, tended to be more… demonstrative in showing his fondness for his firstborn. “He loves both of you, each of you differently, according to your nature. That means not he loves you less. Your uncle Imrahil has three sons – do you believe he loves Elphir more than he loves Erchirion or Amrothos?”

“Uncle is… different,” answered Faramir carefully. Adrahil nodded.

“True enough. But he also had it easier than your father. He was never given the feeling that he would have to compete for the love of his father with a stranger.”

Faramir, who had heard whispered tales about the enmity between his father and the legendary Captain Thorongil, the one who had defeated the Pirates of Umbar, frowned.

“But that was long ago… before my birth, even,” he said.

“And yet the wounds are still hurting,” his grandsire said thoughtfully. “Ecthelion has planted a seed then, with the best intentions, no doubt, that can cause great harm yet in the future,” he stopped himself, realizing that he should not discuss such things with a half-grown youngling, and smiled at his grandson. “But let us not talk about such unpleasant things on such a fine day, my boy. You say you have not seen Lord Forlong’s town yet? Be glad then that we are going to visit that gorgeous place on our way home.”

“We are?” asked Faramir happily, forgetting about his father’s grief in the past. He had heard wondrous things about the ancient, walled town of Lord Forlong, and had been yearning to see its wonders with his own eyes for years.

His grandsire nodded and patted him on the arm.

“I have received an invitation from Lord Forlong to make our newest Swan Knight at his court,” he explained. “The request seemed… reasonable, as the young man who is to become a knight is Forlong’s kinsman, and as we are in the neighbourhood anyway. There is going to be a great tournament to honour the event – trust me, you will love it.”

And Faramir, who could already see with his mind’s eye the richly clad knights in their festive armours, with the ladies in their best attire, could hear the minstrels that could never be far from such festivities, nodded eagerly, with shining eyes, not doubting it for a moment.

~~~

Carvossonn is the slightly changed version of the Cornish place name Carvossow, which means "Fort With Walls". The reason for this choice will be clear a few parts later.


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