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Withered Tree
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Epilogue: This is the Way

Barahir could never bear to watch another read his work.

Slowly he paced the chamber, tidied the desk, picked up scrolls and set them down again, worried his pen – all the while with his back to the old man, who sat in his chair and read. No sound came from him beyond a rustle now and again as, one by one, he set leaf after leaf upon each other.

“A fine account,” said his grandsire at last. “Very fine.”

Barahir turned. The Steward stacked the papers tidily between his gnarled old hands, hand that had wielded swords, signed warrants, written history.

“Of course,” Faramir said, “it cannot leave this room.”


The old man placed the papers down upon the desk. “Tell me, Barahir, what purpose does your history serve? What purpose, do you think, that any history serve?”

“’Tis a true account, sir—”

“True? And to what end?”

To that, Barahir had no answer. Helplessly, he held out his hands. The old man watched; fierce, judging, kindly.

“Look around you,” the Steward said. “Look at the records held here. Who comes to this room?”

“Only you and I, sir.” That was why they used it, for the peace.

“Only you and I. And what is there to draw men here, Barahir?” He gestured around them at the shelves and the scrolls that lay upon them. “What can be gleaned from all of this? The pay of the masons that built the White Tower? The cost of a loaf of bread in the days before the Kin-Strife? These may be truths, Barahir, but they are not history.”

Slowly, Barahir took up his papers. He held them lightly between both hands. Written now. Should it be unmade? Haltingly, but loyal, he said, “What would you have me do with it, sir? Ought I to cast it on the fire?”

“That would be a drastic measure.”

“Was I wrong to set it down?”

“I think not.”

“Then what is to be done with it?”

Again the old man gestured around them. “Let it be. Leave it. Leave them their kings and captains, the faithful and the faithless. Let them believe the old world burned and a new one rose from the ashes. Let it rest, Barahir. For now. Other men will want the tale – in time.”

And thus it was – although Barahir wondered, as he set a seal upon the work and consigned it to the shelf – what kind of men they would be, who did not desire heroes, who would see only the faults and flaws of others and not their virtue, as if this were some greater truth. For surely the way lies in between. Men are neither good nor evil, but are at once faithless and faithful, hopeless and hopeful, pitiless and pitiful.


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