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Homecoming

This story was written in answer to several prompts for B2MeM 2011. The prompts are at the beginning of each section.


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Day 28: Gondor
Today's Challenge:

There was no avoiding it; the letter had to be composed...

Andrahar was a horrible correspondent. Oh, he could and did write reports, concise, emotionless reports with just the right amount of detail and he could write them swiftly and well. But letters? The only person he had ever corresponded with for any length of time was Imrahil, during the time the Prince had been on his punitive sea duty when the two of them were young. Andrahar had also exchanged the odd note with Boromir over the years; carefully casual and detached, lest it fall into the wrong hands. But that year in his youth was the only long correspondence he’d ever indulged in and he knew how badly his end of things had been done, for he still had every one of Imrahil’s vivid, compelling letters in a trunk in his home. His personal letters tended to sound like reports as well, despite his efforts to the contrary. Contemplating his current situation, he thought that actually might be a good thing. It might make the writing somewhat easier if he thought of it as just another report. For there was no avoiding it; he would not have Imrahil hear of this second-hand, the letter had to be composed…

My lord prince,

I write to you to inform you of certain events that took place this past Mettarë. I am aware that Prince Elphir has also written to you upon this matter, and our letters will come to you at the same time, but I wanted to give you my impressions as I fear that Elphir might be too kind on my account due to long association and familial fondness.

In the matter of the pirates I made two grievous errors and both of them involved Esquire Hethlin. In the first, I failed her as her teacher and in the second I failed your family in a way which I find totally unacceptable.

The first happened during the pursuit and apprehension of the pirates in the coastal village of Lithabad. I included Esquire Hethlin in the party because of her archery ability, which I thought would be useful and so she proved to be. She accounted for at least eight pirates as they tried to escape. It happened that Lord Gildor was abroad on the sea that night, saw the pirate ship make landfall and came ashore himself with his crew to help the villagers. His help was in fact the reason that more of the villagers were not slain-though we knew the Sangahyando was coming to in to attack, we had too far to ride to intercept the pirates before they attacked the village.

Knowing that Lord Gildor would insist upon a translator as he always does when dealing with me, I sent Esquire Hethlin to him to serve as such and with a message which I will own was rude. I was annoyed he’d gotten there before us and as you know, Gildor can annoy me by simply walking into a room. She amended it to a much more courteous one and thanked him in your name. I struck her in the face for countermanding my orders. My action was inexcusable. I came to realize this over the next couple of days and eventually submitted myself in judgment to Elphir and my peers. They have removed me from command of the Swan Knights until such time as you confirm or change that judgment. Peloren currently holds that office as well as that of Horsemaster. I am still Armsmaster, though I deem that it might be best to remove me from that office as well. I am hardly what I would call a good example at present.

The Foam-flyer and the Ancalimë were able to apprehend the pirate vessel, capture its crew and take it as a prize back to Dol Amroth. There was a woman among the crew, a Khandian woman naming herself Veleda, who claimed to be a captive and prize of the captain‘s. She feigned joy at her “rescue”, told all sorts of tales about the privation she’d endured and attached herself to Erchirion. As she was an extremely beautiful woman, he was only too ready to comfort her.

This was my second failing, Imrahil. I took the woman at her word and never searched or questioned her. She was sent off to the women of the castle for succor and Erchirion invited her to the Mettarë festivities that evening, which she agreed to attend. It was when she was standing within arm’s reach of Erchirion, Elphir and Amrothos, close to where Esquire Hethlin was sitting, that the esquire realized she had heard Veleda’s voice the previous evening, commanding some of the pirates and that she had shot and injured her, thinking her but another pirate. She was able to discern that Veleda was wearing a concealed wrist-sheath and fearing that the Khandian meant some mischief, leapt the table and attacked her. There was some confusion, but when all was over and Veleda subdued, it was discovered that she did carry the wound Hethlin had given her and that she indeed had a poisoned blade upon her, which she had almost used upon Hethlin and your sons.

Elphir has said that he intends to summon you home to pass judgment upon the pirates, as some of them are apparently of noble families in Harad. While I know that you have good reasons for wishing to remain in Minas Tirith, I think it best that you not only judge the pirates but me as well, for clarity eludes me and I no longer seem to possess proper judgment of my own.

And when you do, know that I have made a third error, though this one does not involve Hethlin. I have not told you of a boy that I found in Pelargir when we were passing through the city on our way back to Dol Amroth. The lad was a stable-boy in the Vine and Sheaf. Rahur tried to savage him after escaping from one of Peloren’s assistants and threw himself upon the pitchfork the boy had put up to keep himself from being killed. Rahur had to be put down and Cuilast saw to the boy’s injuries. I put the lad up in my room at the inn that night, since Cuilast said that he should not be moved. After an interview with the lad’s stepfather that evening, I determined it would be better for the boy to go with us to Dol Amroth than remain in the man’s custody and bought him out from the apprenticeship his stepfather had signed him to. In the middle of the night the boy woke, even as you often do, from what could only be the wave dream. Questioning the chief hostler earlier, the man had told me this boy, Brandmir, was a bastard whose mother had worked in the Drunkard’s Dream as a prostitute before leaving the trade and marrying a carter. Brandmir also had a token belonging to one of the men his mother thought might have fathered him-it was one of the handkerchiefs Princess Nimrien had sewn for Boromir and Faramir as Mettarë presents.

Having questioned the mother at length, I discovered that the date of the boy’s conception coincided with one of Boromir’s journeys to Dol Amroth many years ago. The boy also bears a marked likeness to him. Others than myself have remarked upon this, including Elphir, who believes my supposition that he is Boromir’s bastard to be true.

I have not told Brandmir my belief about his parentage, for he has had much adjustment to do in his new life, and I wanted him to deal with that first. Also it is not my place to make the determination that he is actually family, it is yours. I did not write to you of this earlier because frankly, I enjoyed the boy’s company and found it a comfort and thought there would be time enough to deal with his possible heritage later. But I was in error in this as well-my pleasure aside, you should have known of my suspicions as quickly as possible so that you could, if you thought best, relay them to Faramir. I am sure that he will want to see the lad eventually.

This is the recounting of my recent faults in brief. Should you indeed decide to return to Dol Amroth to pass judgment upon the pirates, I stand ready to account for them in more detail as you demand.

In your service,

Andrahar



Day 30: Grey Havens
Today's Challenge:

"You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right."
--Maya Angelou

Write a story or poem, or create a piece of art on the theme of leaving or returning home.

Imrahil pulled the hood of his cloak closer about his face and heard the crackle of ice upon it. He sighed. The lights of Dol Amroth showed but dimly through the rain and sleet and there were only two miles to go. It was well after dark. He’d made a decision to press on at the ten mile mark, though there was a decent inn on the highway there. The sense of urgency that had driven him since receiving Elphir’s and Andrahar’s and Amrothos’ letters had not ceased. He and his escort had made good time on this journey despite the thoroughly wretched weather and he had conceived of a profound desire to sleep in his own bed this night.

“It’s good to be back, isn’t it, sir?” Esteven asked, trotting at his right hand.

“It certainly is,” he responded, realizing with a sudden shock that he’d not seen Dol Amroth since riding to Minas Tirith for the siege. He’d seen Lorien and Rohan and a host of other places, but not home. And this wasn’t the homecoming he’d envisaged, sneaking back into the city in the dead of night like some sort of thief. No, he’d wanted it in daylight, where he could see his city and his people and they could see him. And he hadn’t wanted it for some time yet. He was still not sure of his heart or his loins where Hethlin was concerned.

But what was one to do when one’s oldest son wrote a letter that said You are needed, the political situation demands it, and one’s sworn brother wrote a letter saying I’ve been slapping your lady-love around and I nearly got your whole family killed and by the way, I grabbed up one of Boromir’s bastards on my way home and one’s youngest son wrote a letter saying It was actually a very interesting poison and would have killed us instantly and relatively painlessly with lots of incomprehensible gibberish you didn’t understand about that, only to finish with You need to come home, they’ve all gone mad here?

What one did was go to the King and the Steward and beg leave to go, despite the fact that one was still needed in Minas Tirith. Having heard the details about the pirate attack they’d been understanding, agreeing that it was a delicate matter and best handled by Imrahil, whom the Haradrim knew well. He’d not told Aragorn or Faramir about the boy-he wanted to see the lad for himself before raising hopes on that account. And he’d not told either of them about Andrahar either-it was Dol Amroth business and he was conflicted himself on that account. It seemed he’d set his friend up for failure, by not speaking up when Aragorn insisted that Hethlin go to Dol Amroth in the first place and then by abandoning Andrahar to train her alone because of his inability to control his loins or feelings. We are what our childhood makes us and Andrahar is still a child of Harad, where women simply don’t ever fight. And he has had to wrestle with that all alone, while still grieving for Boromir. Once again, I’ve done him a disservice.

And was it grief for Boromir that had caused Andrahar to fasten upon this lad, wishful thinking creating a connection where none existed? That was the most troubling thing about the whole matter, though it seemed that no true harm had been done, there being no declaration to the boy or anyone else yet. But there was the potential for great harm to the lad. If Andrahar chose to adopt him regardless, then well and good. The lad could do no better than Andra for a father. But if his regard for the lad lessened if the connection to Boromir was disproved, what then? The boy was at a sensitive age and needed careful handling.

If he proved in fact to be Boromir’s son, that brought its own set of problems, but they were joyous ones and ones Imrahil was only too willing to solve. We must not overburden the lad with our expectations and I must see about some sort of portion for him.

The sleet stopped suddenly and the wind shifted southwest. A faint drizzle misted the escort instead, welcome relief by comparison. Esteven looked at his liege.

“I think it just got warmer!”

Imrahil grinned. “Of course. I’m home.”

They arrived at the gates of Dol Amroth, darkly gleaming in the light of the sputtering torches, but a short time later. Esteven rode forward.

“Open for the Lord of Belfalas, Prince Imrahil the Fair!” he called out. A hubbub broke out among the guards on the gate.

“You will be punished for that ‘the Fair’ business, just so you know,” the Prince muttered to his captain when he returned to the escort. “I hate that and you know it.” Esteven grinned back at him.

“But you’re pretty and you’re just to boot, so it suits you, my lord!” he protested.

“I’m telling Andra on you.”

“Ouch!”

“Ouch indeed. There will be much ouch in your future.”

The gates creaked open slowly. The gate-guard was there to meet them as they rode in.

“Sergeant Brethil,” Imrahil greeted the commander. “How do you, sir?”

“Feel like the day’s dawned already, now you’re here, my lord. Welcome home!”

“Thank you. How is that lovely wife of yours?”

“Expecting another, my lord.”

Imrahil blinked. “What is that, number six?”

“Seven, my lord,” Brethil said with pardonable pride.

Good man! And good lady too, I should say!” Chuckles ran around the guard. Imrahil fished in his purse for some coin and leaned down to hand it to the man.

“For the name-day feast.”

Brethil saluted. “Thank you, my lord.”

“How are the roads?”

“A bit slick in the steeper parts, my lord. You might need to dismount in places. They’re sanding now, but they’ve not got them all done yet. The docks road is the best.”

“Thank you, Sergeant.”

“My pleasure, my lord.”

The escort moved off and the gate closed behind them. Brethil gestured to two of his men.

“Go to the Chief Constable and give him my compliments,” he told the first, “and you-turn out those off-duty laggards of ours in the tavern,” he said to the second. “Get the word out, quick and quiet. The Prince is home and that man doesn’t deserve to come home to no welcome!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Imrahil was no fool. When he was met with a cheering crowd at the upper end of the docks district, he knew just how it had happened.

“I should take that money back from Brethil,” he muttered under his breath. Esteven heard and laughed. But Imrahil was touched as well. It was a nasty night and those who waited for him could just as well have stayed inside their warm taverns and homes.

Making the best of things, he threw back his hood and slowed his escort to a crawl, to better greet his people. “Imrahil! Imrahil! Imrahil!” the chant arose, from sailors and soldiers and merchants, from whores and housewives. Lights were kindled in the houses all along the road he traveled, the light seeming to go before him as he rode to the castle. The throng swelled as folk from other streets got the word and joined the crowd. Though there were no flowers at this time of year, women waved ribbons and scarves from the upper windows and there were torches and lanterns a-plenty. It was as warm and festive a scene as could be imagined for a cold, rainy, winter’s night.

The Prince leaned down from his horse to take hands, to greet and once, to take up a fretful baby at it‘s mother’s behest. The weariness of the ride had left him. An actor told me once that he fed off the crowd and so I have found it to be as well. A Prince is succored or scorned by his people. There was no scorn to be found here this night and a very great deal of love.

At the gates of the castle he turned Caerith around to address the crowd. He raised his hand and all fell silent.

“Since I left you, I have been to places too terrible to speak of and places lovely beyond imagining. I have met the foulest and fairest of beings. But I have never found a place I love more than this one or any people better than those I rule. Thank you for your lovely welcome! Go home now, and get warm! The next decent day we have, if it should ever come,” and there was scattered laughter from the crowd at this, for truly the winter had been one of the worst in recent memory, “there will be a feast day, on me!” Cheers arose again. “My seneschal will be posting my court schedule within the next two days.” Imrahil raised his hand once more and once again, silence fell.

“I am fortunate that I was one of the ones lucky enough to come home. Valar bless those who were not, and keep them close. Thank you again, and a good night to you!”

Another cheer arose and then, laughing and singing, the crowd began to disperse. Imrahil and the escort passed through the arch and then there were suddenly hostlers to take Caerith and Mariel with a hot brandy posset and his sons to embrace. In next to no time, he was seated in a blissfully hot bath with a hot meal to hand and soon after that , was dry and warm in his own bed, the bed he’d once shared with Nimrien and hoped one day to share with another. He looked about at all his favorite books and things, just as he had left them a world ago, and sighed in contentment. There was but one fly in the ointment.

“Where is Andra?” he had asked Elphir.

“He’s with the boy, at his house,” had come the response.

“Send him to me in the morning, alone, when I wake.”

“Yes, Father.”


Day Nineteen: Rivendell
Today's Challenge:

"Every parting is a form of death, as every reunion is a type of heaven."
--Tryon Edwards.
Write a story or create a piece of artwork centered on meetings or reunions.


Andrahar tapped on the door, and at the muffled “Come in!”, opened it and stepped inside. The Prince’s bedroom was awash with late morning sunlight. Imrahil himself was still in bed despite the lateness of the hour, looking very warm and comfortable, a breakfast tray across his lap.

“Ah! There you are, Andra! Would you care to have breakfast with me?”

“It’s nigh on lunchtime, Imri.”

The Prince glanced at the windows. “Why so it is! I got in late last night. It was a totally miserable ride and I decided to sleep in.” He reached up and rang the bell. A maid opened the door almost instantaneously.

“What is your will, my lord?”

“Have they got you sitting out there waiting, Gwilileth?” he asked her. The maid nodded.

“Well, enough of that! I’m sure you have better things to do! I’m not sick! Go fetch some lunch for Captain Andrahar and bring it up here, then you’re dismissed and can report back to the housekeeper.”

“Yes, my lord!” She departed.

“Gracious, all the fuss people are making! I should stay away for a year more often!” The Prince gestured to a small side table.

“Pull that over to the bed and get a chair for yourself.” Andrahar did as he was commanded but did not seat himself just yet He regarded his liege covertly.

Imri looks good, he thought to himself. A little weather-burned from the journey, but on the whole, hale and very much his old self. He’s been keeping himself in trim, that much is obvious. How much of that was Imrahil’s dedication to his martial training and how much a desire to impress Hethlin, Andrahar did not know and would not ask.

“So now, Andra, report. Tell me about these failures of yours. And don’t bother with the head-chopping business.” Andrahar froze, for he’d just begun to go to his knees. “I begin to see why Fin used to get provoked with you. That is just like the first really good joke a twelve-year-old hears and then repeats over and over. It loses its effect after the first couple of times. I’m not a khan, to chop off your head because you’ve besmirched what I fondly consider my honor. This is Gondor-you don’t get off that easily. Talk to me! And sit down!”

“Which of my failures would you care to address first, Imrahil?” Andrahar said in formal fashion, dropping into his chair. There had been genuine ire in his Prince’s voice and even he did not push Imrahil past a certain point.

“We’ll start with Hethlin. Why did you strike her?”

“I was angry with her presumption, as I wrote you in my letter.”

“Was that the only reason? Is she the only one you’ve struck of late? Or have you changed your training methods to include slapping all the esquires around now?”

“Brandmir asked me that same question, when he heard that I’d struck Hethlin. He’d been beaten himself, you see, by his stepfather.”

“We’ll leave Brandmir for later, but what did you answer him?”

“That I usually only slapped rumps with the flat of a sword in training, to get attention and correct. He then asked if it was right to strike her even though she was a woman and if I could hit her in the face because she was a woman. I said no, that you only struck someone in the face if you were challenging them.”

“Were you in fact challenging her?” Imrahil’s voice was gentler now.

“I didn’t think of it in that way at the time, but she might have. I thought that she might actually draw on me for a moment there.”

“Was that what you were hoping for then? To provoke her into drawing upon you so you could expel her with cause from the Swan Knights?”

“No.” That at least was easy enough to answer. “I would never do that. It would be dishonorable.”

“So you were angry with her because of her presumption. Which presumption? The one that caused her to change your message? Or her presumption for attracting my attention? Are you jealous of Hethlin, Andra?” Imrahil’s eyes bored into his, but Andrahar met them straightly. His liege lord and brother deserved nothing but the truth.

“Yes I am somewhat, Imrahil. She is too young for you, as I’ve already said. It’s a bit ridiculous. And I don’t know exactly how to…place her, I suppose. If she were just another esquire, I would know how to treat her. And if she were just your wife, I would know how to treat her in that instance. But this odd business of her possibly being a Swan Knight and your wife-I don’t know how to deal with that.”

The Prince was inexorable. “The same way you deal with me. There are times you have to deal with me as Prince to Commander and times you have to deal with me as Commander to Swan Knight. You can learn to wear the same two hats with Hethlin, should she in fact ever agree to wed me. Because I am not going to change my mind about her any time soon, Andra. And I will point out to you that I do not require your approval for my relationship with Hethlin any more than you asked my approval for your relationship with Boromir, where considerable political peril to me was involved. And that I have always been much more forthcoming about my relationships to you than you have to me.”

Andrahar had always known that Imrahil had been deeply hurt by his silence about Boromir, and that though the Prince had seemed to accept the reason for it, it was still hurt and that the choice could possibly come back to haunt him at a future date. That date seemed to have arrived.

“Imri, I never told you much about my other lovers because I thought you would be hurt to hear of them,” he said in as conciliatory a tone as he ever used. “I know that you were injured by my refusal to pursue matters with you further after that one time, but it would have served no purpose. It was never that you were not lovely, or that you could not have learned to be good in bed with a man in time. You were inventive and more than willing to try new things and would have put up with much to please me. It was that it was against your truer nature, it would have served no purpose but to give me pleasure and would have caused you no end of trouble had it been discovered, not to mention jeopardizing your dynasty. That would have been a poor repayment of your father’s trust and kindness, would it have not? As for Boromir, you know why I kept that secret from you and that it did in truth protect you when the time came. I will never regret that, other than the hurt that it did cause you.”

“Well, I regret it! I keep thinking that there was something I could have done to protect the two of you had I known you were together, had you just given me the chance, Andra, something I could have done to make matters turn out differently.”

“What, Imri? I can’t think of anything.”

The Prince gestured in frustration. “I do not know! But I sometimes feel that you do not trust me as I have ever trusted you.”

“I have never doubted that you are trustworthy, my lord! Never think that I do not trust you!”

Do you? Then why did you not tell me about Brandmir when you first found him? You have made a habit of keeping important information from me over the last few years, Andra, and I find it troubling.”

It would seem that I am digging myself in deeper and deeper here, the Armsmaster thought. He was spared having to answer immediately when a knock at the door signaled Gwilileth’s return. She carried his lunch and a teapot that was suspended over a candle to keep it warm. Setting the lunch out on the table, she dropped a curtsy first to Imrahil and then to him and departed.

“Thank you, Gwilileth,” the Prince called after her as the door closed. He held out his teacup to Andrahar. “Give me some of that, please, Andra-mine has gone cold.” Andrahar picked up the teapot and poured some into the Prince’s cup, then filled his own. He looked at his plate and stirred the food about a bit but could not stir up much enthusiasm for eating.

“Are we discussing Brandmir now, my lord?”

Imrahil curled his fingers appreciatively about his newly warmed cup. “No, we’ll stay with Hethlin for the nonce.”

“What else would you like to know about Hethlin, my lord?”

“Back on a formal footing are we, Andra? I want you to answer one question for me and I want you to answer it honestly and look me in the eye when you do it. Is Hethlin capable of becoming a Swan Knight?”

Andrahar did as he was bidden. “Yes, my lord, she is,” he said a bit heavily. “I told her originally that she was not strong enough. But she is getting stronger already and she‘s very fast. Her father gave her a good basic grounding with the sword-nothing too advanced or fancy, but nothing that needed to be undone. There’s nothing needs to be done with her riding either-Peloren says she’s top of her class on the basic things, though she still needs work on the lance. Her academics have given her trouble, but ‘Rothos has been helping her with that and she’s starting to catch up. She’s already got one of her two languages in any event. She’s truly better off at this point than most of the men-at-arms we promote to esquire. I put her into the regular class after the Mettarë incident and she is keeping up. Besides which, she‘s well-blooded and from what I can see has good battle instincts. She never loses her head.”

“Very well then. Had you been able to honestly tell me that she was not up to the work, then I would have sent her back to Aragorn with a flea in his ear and let her return to Ithilien to rejoin the Rangers.” Andrahar looked at his liege in surprise.

“Truly?”

“Truly. But since you cannot, then you must find a way to make this happen.”

“Because the King commands it?”

“Yes. Exactly. Because the King commands it and I am his vassal, whether that is the way you would have things or not.” Imrahil set down his cup, took up a piece of toast that was one of the few things left on the tray and ate it in several neat bites. When he had finished, he dabbed his lips with his napkin, cocked his head to one side and regarded Andrahar thoughtfully.

“I think I know why you struck Hethlin,” he said. “You said that you were angry with her and that was indeed the case. But you were not just angry because of her presumption about the message. You were also angry because you were frustrated with the problem of how to deal with her. And you were angry with Aragorn, because he’d stepped on your toes and given you the problem in the first place. And you were angry with me, because I’d left you to deal with the problem by yourself because of Hethlin. Not to mention being angry at Gildor out of long habit. A very great deal of anger there, Andra.”

“I told Brandmir that I had struck her because she had been right and I was wrong and I didn’t like that she was right.”

“I missed that one. So you were angry with yourself as well? I have to ask you if it is fair to punish Hethlin for all the other people you are angry with.”

“I had already come to that conclusion myself, Imri. I publicly apologized to Hethlin during the court where Elphir removed me from office.”

An eyebrow lifted. “You didn’t mention that in the letter.”

“I was trying to get the letter out the door.”

Imrahil’s laugh rang about the room. “Poor Andra! Forced to correspond! It must have been horrible for you.”

Andrahar gave his liege a glare. “There are those of us who are glib and witty, and those of us who think they are. I am neither. Are you satisfied where Hethlin is concerned?”

“Will you swear never to strike her again?”

“I have already sworn on my sword not to do so, to Brandmir.”

“Then I am satisfied and will not require another such oath from you. Now, as to the business with Veleda…you did indeed err, but no harm was done. Count yourself lucky and be more mindful in the future.”

Andrahar was aghast. “My lord! That is all you have to say? These are your children’s lives we are speaking of, as well as Hethlin’s! You cannot simply let this pass!”

“Back to me as khan are we, chopping heads again?” Imrahil sighed. “Honestly, Andra, what would you have me do? Drive you out of Dol Amroth over this? What purpose would that serve? Yes, you were lax, but I know why you were lax. You know Khandians better than most and know of their general contempt for their women. You’ve met Khandian women and you thought because of that that Veleda was no danger to anyone. Yes, you were wrong, but the young woman you were training saw the thing you needed to have seen, because despite the fact that you don’t want her here, you were training her to the very best of your ability. She saved the day and it is no different in my mind to someone overwhelming you and getting past your guard, only to be taken down by one of the other Knights. Everyone makes mistakes, Andra. Even you do. Learn from it and move beyond it.” Andrahar was not happy, that much was obvious, but he nodded a grudging acquiescence.

“Now as to Brandmir. Quite honestly, this matter troubles me Andra, and I will tell you why. I fear that you’ve taken the lad from his family because you were grieving and because he bore a resemblance to Boromir. That hardly seems fair to him. How will you feel about him should I rule that he is not part of the family?”

Andrahar’s eyebrow lifted. “Ah. I see that we are dealing with the fruits of my inadequate correspondence again here.” His voice was very dry. “You misunderstood me, Imri. I did not take the boy up because I thought he was Boromir’s son. That was not discovered until afterwards.”

Imrahil took up his napkin and began absently toying with it. “Indeed? Then how did matters fall out?”

“As I had told you, Rahur escaped into the barn where Brandmir and a friend of his, a younger, smaller lad were working. Brandmir intentionally provoked Rahur to draw him away from his friend, who was able to get to safety. In doing so, Rahur was killed and Brand injured. Since the responsibility for his injuries was mine, I took Brandmir in to Cuilast for care. It is true that there was something nagging at me about the boy, but I never thought that he looked like Boromir. He just reminded me of someone, but who it was I could not recollect.” Andrahar looked down at his lunch, shoved it around the plate for a moment, then discarded the idea of eating it yet again.

“I had had the innkeeper send a message to Brand’s family, that they not worry about him. The boy’s stepfather showed up just as we were sitting down to dinner. Brandmir was sleeping off the poppy in my room upstairs. The man was unbelievable, Imri! Never once did he ask if Brand would be all right, ask to see him or express any concern for him whatsoever. No, it was all ’I’ve spent the tanner’s money on a new team and if Brand doesn’t show up for work tomorrow I’ll have to pay him back and what are you going to do about that?’ and ’We’re poor folk and can’t afford doctors to take care of him and besides, he’s probably just faking it anyway!’.” This when the lad’s got his side full of stitches! I had spoken to Brandmir earlier, before Cuilast put him under. He had said he wanted to be a Swan Knight. I remembered how the chief hostler had told me this man beat Brandmir regularly. I liked his spirit and a very little bit of Jacyn the Carter convinced me that the boy could hardly do worse at Dol Amroth! Fire knows I have money to spare and I rather thought that it might be nice to have the lad about my place.” This last was said much more softly. “I suppose grief might well have played a part in that. In any event, I paid off Brand’s apprentice contract and more or less bought him off the man. It was later that night that he woke up and described the dream he’d been having, which was the wave dream to the life. That was when he told me about his father’s token and showed me the handkerchief and I realized whose son he was.”

“And you are certain of this?”

“I am. Elphir believes it as well.”

“So you wrote to me. What if upon meeting him Faramir wants him?”

Andrahar sighed. “Then Brandmir will go to his uncle.”

“And what if Faramir and I decide that your supposition is incorrect and that we don’t want Brandmir told about this at all?”

“Then the boy is not told and stays with me, as my son. I’ve already done the legal work to make him my heir.” Imrahil gave his sworn brother a surprised look.

“That wasn’t necessary just yet, Andra. Faramir and I would have taken care of him if he is Boromir’s son.”

Andrahar shrugged. “Who else am I going to leave the money to? This suits me as well as anything. You need to see him, to make up your own mind.”

The Prince nodded, and set his tray aside on the bed. Sliding out from under the covers, he donned the gorgeous blue robe draped across the foot of the bed. “I intend to. But I don’t want to meet with the lad until after I’ve dealt with these pirates. I’m going to have to execute them all and you know how I hate that. I’d rather that were over before I talk to him. But I would like to get a look at him without being seen, before I meet with him if that‘s possible.” He looked down at Andrahar’s table. “Are you ever actually going to eat lunch?”

“You’ve not passed judgment yet.”

“I thought we’d discussed everything.”

“If you recollect, Elphir removed me as Commander until such time as you returned home.”

“Ah yes.” Imrahil moved over to his wardrobe and began rummaging through it. “I think we will leave that as it is for now. You need the extra time to deal with Hethlin and some spare time to spend with the boy. We will revisit it at Midsummer.”

“And Peloren stays as Commander?”

“No. Foaling season is upon us and Peloren is going to be very busy. Since I am here now, Elphir will command.”

“So you will be here until Midsummer?”

“At least. And perhaps beyond.”

“What about your difficulty with Hethlin? What if your liege lord summons you?”

Imrahil waved an arm draped with shirts. “I will deal with my difficulty. I should have done so from the start. It was wrong of me to leave you to deal with this alone, Andra, and for that I do most humbly apologize. I’ll just have to take long rides or long swims or something.”

“Make it long rides,” Andrahar suggested grimly and Imrahil laughed.

“I don’t know, that cold water can be very beneficial! As for Aragorn, short of an invasion or him being on his death-bed, he will just have to wait for a while. He has Faramir, after all. Faramir can deal with anything that might come up.”

The Prince studied two of the shirts on his arm, removed one, returned it to the wardrobe and selected another one. He then cast a glance at his dearest friend, still studying the table top. Moving quietly over, he draped a shirt-swathed arm across Andrahar’s shoulders from behind, as only he could do, and squeezed. No words were spoken, but the silent turning of badger head into the hollow of Imrahil’s neck told him that they were back on good terms. He held Andrahar for a long moment, then dropped a kiss on the top of his head and released him. Stepping back, he waved the arm full of white shirts at his friend.

“Which one do you think?” he asked brightly.

“Change your own damned nappies!” Andrahar growled, picking up his fork. “I’m eating lunch.”

[Index]

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