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[Index]

1

Fornost, T.A. 4th Gwaeron, 1964

“Marahil of Tintehlë is here, my lord King.”

Arvedui of Arthedain glanced at the Man coming towards the fire where he sat. “I am glad to see you, Cousin!”

“And I you, my Lord Kinsman. ‘Tis a foul night.” The newcomer was shedding his wet cloak as he spoke. A page took it away to be dried, and at the King’s gesture, sat in another chair.

“Thank you for coming. How is your family?”

“Well enough, and occupied with both boat-building and readying for sowing early crops, as usual. My oldest brother and his wife will become parents next month.”

“Yet you are still unwed, I believe?”

Marahil shrugged. “I have found no one to capture my heart, and you know that we do not often seek to wed early.”

“Indeed, you have time. Is not your steading growing crowded?”

“Ah, have my father and uncles’ complaints reached this far?”

“I have a letter from Minas Tirith to give you, and I ask your pardon for not giving it to you earlier.”

“A letter? I know no one there! And it isn’t as if you haven’t been busy!”

“No, merely taking up the kingship, and pressing my claim to the throne of Gondor, that’s all. At any rate, however belated, here it is. I confess I’m curious myself.”

Marahil broke open the seal and unfolded the parchment, angling it to get better light from the nearest lamp. “By the Valar!” he said in astonishment, looking up after rereading it. “’Tis from my kinsman and namesake in Minas Tirith. I had almost forgotten that we have kin there, for they never come North, and we as rarely go South.”

“And what does he want?”

For answer, Marahil read it aloud:


“To Marahil son of Marholt Tintehlë of Amon Meneliltor, Arthedain, from Marahil Lord Tintehlë, House of Tintehlë, Sixth Circle, Minas Tirith, Gondor: Greetings!

“Kinsman, I know of you, although you do not know me. We are distantly related.

Having now no living heir of my own, due to the death of my grandson Maredor, I live alone .

“Will you not come visit me? If we suit, I will adopt you as my heir, and you will have my all, save for what I settle upon my sister’s granddaughter Muiridwen.

“Know that you will find a sum of money deposited ready for you at a branch of my bankers, Fiardin, Felanath & Thrisk, in Tharbad sufficient for your expenses each way.

You have only to go and come, with no obligation on your part, although I will hope that you will spend some time with me before your return home. You need not send a
message, merely come.

“You will be welcome, and well come.”



“Well! Quite an offer!” said the King.

“He must be mad!”

“Or desperate. I doubt not that he is being pressured to find an heir, or create one.”

“But why me? We’ve never met!”

“He may have heard of you. Nay, don’t shake your head, cousin! Meseems one of my messengers mentioned that one of the Exalted lords there—unlike the rest—asked about his kin here, and told me we had a firm friend there at court. Your fame goes before you.”

“Fame!” chuckled Marahil. “I’m a plain Man, as well you know!”

“But you have how many sibs?”

“Eleven, all wedded and bedded and having babes of their own.”

“So your steading is quite crowded, is it not? I have often wondered if that accounted for your wandering.”

“I don’t know what my father would say!”

“No?”

Marahil laughed. “Well, probably what he’s said of each of my ventures—‘Fly, my falcon! We have not the cloud-dancer falcons as our sigil for no reason!’”

“Then?”

“Have I not a duty here?” he asked more seriously.

“This is a fine opportunity for you. And I think that perhaps it may be of value to my realm to continue to have a tie there. Let me state it formally: you have my permission to go.”

“Would they not wish me to swear to their ruler?”

“If you ever require it, I will release you from your oaths to me. I value your blade and your counsel, on the rare times you give it, but I have Dreamed of this conversation.”

“Oh.”

“At least consider it.”


Minas Tirith, 1st Hísimë 2604

Penrahil Maldréd leaned back in his chair as Marnendor Lord Tintehlë entered his office. After exchanging greetings, Marnendor took papers from a folder. “I wish you to see to this matter, if you will be so kind.”

The banker glanced over them, shot his old friend a sharp look, and went back to the beginning, reading more carefully. Some time later he sat back and stared at his visitor.

“What, no comments?” Marnendor asked, an impish twinkle in his eyes.

“You’ve succeeded in rendering me speechless, ‘Nendor. This—this is an extraordinary document you ask me to consider!”

“Not really.”

“What on earth caused you to write it?”

The twinkle vanished. “There’s plague coming, Penrahil,” he said seriously. “It has already devastated the North, and it will sweep through Gondor as well.”

“But we have the finest Healers here!”

“They cannot always defeat death. Besides, I have Foreseen my home left derelict, my gardens overgrown with weeds, the gate choked with ivy. As you know, I have no heir save one granddaughter, and she is wed to Anfalas. Mayhap she will be safer there than in this city. There is no hope of an heir there—they’ve had no living children in seven years. But I have also Seen that an heir will come, when the King returns—“

“A feeble hope, surely!”

“But possible, and that kind of vision has never played me false. Therefore, I intend to set things in train for him so far as I can. I trust you more than anyone I know, so I wish your bank to oversee it.”

“You have always overseen your own affairs,” he said numbly.

“It gave me something to do. At any rate, I’ve had some success over the years, and why should it all go to waste? The title must lapse for a time—I am resigned to that.”

“You can send for none of your Northern kin?”

He shook his head. “All are gone, swept away by those endless wars between the three factions seeking to govern Arnor. No, I cannot look in that direction. Thus I wish to set up this trust.”

“I scarcely know what to say.” Already he felt a deep sense of grief at this loss.

“Say that your firm will administer the trust, collecting my rents and investing as I have stipulated, holding all in readiness for my heir, whenever he comes.”

“Of course I say so! You are my oldest and best friend!”

That friend cleared his throat. “Wait until you hear one more thing before you agree, for you may not want to after all.”

“Why would I not?”

“I’ve thought about this long and hard, Penrahil. And knowing Men as I do, and Foreseeing many changes as I do—for a Shadow of Evil is arising in the East, and will grow powerful ere it is defeated and the King return—well, it occurred to me that we cannot fully control the future, devise how we may. I believe that you are the soul of honour, and I have never known you to break your word.”

“Thank you,” the banker muttered.

“But who knows what strains and misfortunes may befall your descendants, long after you and I are gone—for I believe it will be some centuries yet before this trust will end—and possibly sway them from the stainless standard you have ever upheld?”

Penrahil Maldréd forced himself to sit and think about this carefully before he replied. “I must admit the possibility, little as I relish it,” he said at last.

“You are always cautious and conservative.”

“And you are often rash and unorthodox!”

“As you have so often pointed out,” agreed Marnendor unrepentantly. “You should be glad I am finally taking your lectures to heart, after all these years.”

Penrahil regarded him. “You never use that tone unless you are about to shock me.”

“Reread the final page.”

His friend read aloud: “'In the necessity of keeping my monies and properties intact for my heir, I do instruct that there be three further conditions of this Trust:

“'Firstly, that these arrangements may only be changed by the Approval and Signature of one of my House;

“'Secondly, failing that Condition being met, the Signature of the reigning Steward and Two herein named, being, Elladan and Elrohir Elrondion.

“'Thirdly, that the accounts of the Trust be open to their inspection upon their demand, and if found to be amiss in any particular, they are to have its entire contents to the last tin-piece and inch of land, goods and other
property, with what legal recompense they may demand, to the full extent of the holdings of the Bank and personal holdings of those administering said Trust, and to take their Revenge upon the Bodies of those thieves and
miscreants who would so dishonor themselves and the memory of their ancestor who accepted these provisions.—'“



He tapped the pages on the edge of his desk. “Have you lost your mind altogether? Is this even legal?”

“Actually, yes. I checked.” Lord Tintehlë was watching him intently.

“I’ve watched you hatch some crazy notions over the years, but this-- I think you’ve outsmarted yourself this time! What is to prevent these two—I assume they are related, since they share the same surname, however unfamiliar it is—from trumping up some lie, in order to enrich themselves at your expense and my family’s? And how do you know that they will survive this plague you so dread? How could they yet be alive if it takes more than two centuries for your heir to be born? This is madness and delusion!”

“Not really. As I said, I’ve thought about it for a long time.”

“That’s what you always say!”

Marnendor smiled, the old mischievous smile that had so often overruled his more sober friend’s qualms about some proposed escapade, but then it turned sad. “How I have always benefited from our exchanges! Most of the time, I’ll admit now, I hadn’t thought about my notions all that long; I’m more on instinct and emotion than bloodless analysis. Yet you must admit, I have had a flare for choosing winning strategies. This one is the best.”

“And you always say that! But you haven’t come up with good answers for my objections.”

“Very well. I’m going to shock you, I’m afraid.”

“Bosh!”

“I can’t shock you?”

“You always shock me, Marnendor, you thrive on it. We both expect it. But go ahead. Successfully refute my objections!”

“All right. They will not pillage my holdings nor your family’s unfairly, for the simple reason that they have no interest whatsoever in doing so.”

“I have never known you to be credulous. Ridiculously generous, but not soft-headed.” The banker pointed a long forefinger at him. “You cannot convince me that any Man cannot be tempted with a large sum, and yours is very large. If we continued your present path, even by a simple calculation, even taking account of unforeseen market fluctuations, some radical, by—say—three centuries from now, it would be one of the largest fortunes in Gondor.”

“But they are not Men. That is why I can say it so certainly, and why I know that they will not die of the Plague. They are the twin sons of Lord Elrond of Rivendell, my friend, and as you know, Elves are immortal.”

Elves?”

“Yes. Well, strictly speaking, they are Halfelven, but counted as Elves or they would not be several thousand years old.”

“There haven’t been Elves in Gondor in an Age!”

“Well, perhaps not right here in Minas Tirith, but in their long and dedicated pursuit of orcs, those hunts have carried them over the edges of our borders on occasion. I’ve known them for years, and done them a few favours. In fact, I can say with some pride and truth that I’m one of the few Men of Gondor who has guested at Rivendell more than once. And they have agreed. Not eagerly, I grant you, but once they give their word, you may be sure that they will keep it. In fact, I think they might enjoy wreaking revenge upon someone who deserves it. After all, they’ve had plenty of practice in doing so. You might want to mention that to your sons, to pass along. Elrohir in particular will enjoy suddenly inquiring now and again. Elladan is more…patient. However, whichever one appears I cannot say, because they are identical.”

“I would have to agree and witness their signatures for it to be legal.”

“They are waiting outside this moment. All you need do is agree, I shall summon them, you may witness, we all sign, and it’s done.”

After a long pause, Marnendor added quietly, “If it is too much, Penrahil, too much of an offense, then I shall withdraw from your bank and take this elsewhere. I am resolved upon this, whoever does it for me, although I would much rather it be your firm than anyone else’s. It is your decision.”

“You are as stubborn as—as a Dwarf! Let us hope that your heir is more amenable to sanity and caution than you are! Elves!”

Marnendor smiled. “Let him be a Man of courage, honour and wit is all I pray for, and with a kind heart as well. Let us also hope that he will be friends with his banker as we are.”

For once, though, Penrahil had the last word, as his friend beckoned in two tall figures hooded and cloaked, muttering, “I shall instruct my heirs to be sure to expect the unexpected.”


Rivendell, 30th Narbeleth, 2840

Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, holder of Vilya the Blue Ring, scowled at his twin sons. “I am overly weary of the two of you coming back from your hunts so badly injured I almost despair of saving you yet again!”

Elrohir’s glare reflected his own. “Do you forbid us going, my lord father?”

“No, I merely ask you not to be so reckless every time you do! And I shall forbid it and lay a geas upon you if this does not stop! You have brains enough to kill orcs without nearly losing your lives, would you but use them!”

“We’d go anyway,” Elladan muttered, but it was half-hearted. “Have we your leave to go, Ada?”

“You do,” was the gritted response. They bowed in unison, and strode off to their own rooms.

Throwing himself onto a sofa, Elrohir said grumpily, “Orcs need killing, and we do it well! We are not elflings, after all, to be chidden and chastised.”

Elladan stood at the table, aimlessly turning over papers and scrolls. “Mayhap we could go visit Arwen and our grandparents in Lórien.”

“She too is not happy with us right now,” Elrohir reminded him. “Do you wish to hear her lecturing us? I don’t!”

“She might have gotten over her pique by now. You know she doesn’t hold grudges.” Elladan picked out a particular parchment and bent his head to peruse it. “Her last letter hints of loneliness, especially since Aragorn does not write to her.”

“He doesn’t write to anyone, being so busy as a mercenary Captain for Ecthelion in Minas Tirith. I miss them both.”

A silence ensured, until Elrohir sat up. “Why not visit him? It’s been too long since we’ve seen him, and we could take messages from Ada, Arwen, Halbarad and the rest of his Dúnedain kin to him.”

“Grand idea, El! Set the Southern Dúnedain in an uproar when they have not seen Elves in their city in yení! Ada wouldn’t thank us for that, much less Aragorn himself. After all, he’s calling himself Thorongil, just to avoid having them think him ready to make his claim.”

“I didn’t mean to present ourselves at their front gates, hat in hand, asking to be taken to him!” Elrohir protested.

“And how else could we enter? There is only the one gate; ‘tis a fortress city, you know!”

“Wouldn’t it be kind of us to show them any weakness, that there might be another way?”

Elladan sighed. “I can see you are bent upon mischief, no matter what we do.”

“You could remain behind.”

“And let you get into trouble alone? I think not!”

“Not to mention your own restlessness,” his brother said acutely. “But you know I’m right, El. After all, if they put all their trust on that one gate, they may very well overlook a defense that might be overcome from the back.”

“They are backed up against a mountain!”

“Still….have we maps?”

“Ancient ones.” There was the sound of pages being flicked over. “How would we find Aragorn?”

“Does he not say where he lodges in the Citadel in one of his letters?”

“Aye, but he will not welcome us come to stir up trouble. What if we are seen by Men?”

“If we are muffled up in hooded cloaks, we might pass as Men. We did before.”

“Let us sleep upon it, gwanur.”


The next morning, Elrohir emerged from his room to find his brother already up and dressed, rummaging in the cubby-holes of a desk in the outer room. “What are you doing?” he yawned.

“I had a dream three times last night. Do you remember Marnendil Tintehlë?”

“That Dúnedan who helped us out of a few spots of bother a few years ago? What of him?”

“It was about two centuries ago. Ah, here it is; I thought we kept that letter.” Elladan took out a parchment and blew dust from it before carefully opening it. “He’s the one who came up with a clever way to keep his bankers from taking all his money once he was dead until his new heir is given his title.”

Elrohir, always slower to waken in the morning than his sib, threw him a baffled look. “I remember it vaguely, but what’s your point? Why do we care about Mannish bankers and their accounts?”

“We agreed to a provision of a trust he set up to safeguard his assets, that without an heir, the bankers could not use his monies unless they had the signature of the Steward and two Elves, to wit, us. But we’ve never checked to be sure that they are adhering to their end of the bargain.”

“Another reason to go!”

“Since I know I cannot dissuade you, at least let us make sure that we do someone some good.”

The twins grinned at each other, and after Elrohir dressed, went off to break their fast and make some plans.


The Man known to Gondorians as Thorongil was reading and smoking in his room one evening when a tap on his door heralded the entrance of two tall cloaked figures. A heartbeat later, he was standing, pipe and book replaced by his drawn sword as they cast back their hoods and revealed familiar faces. He stared. “Elladan! Elrohir! How did you get here?”

“Over the back of the mountain,” Elrohir replied. “Luckily, it’s raining and we had ropes, but anyone determined could possibly do it. You might want to mention that to the Steward.”

“Perhaps I should have asked why you are here.”

“Why would we not want to visit our little brother?” Elladan asked innocently.

They watched as Aragorn sifted through the facts of their being there. “So Ada is upset with you for being reckless and too often injured, Arwen is annoyed because you are worrying him, and yet you cannot simply stay quietly at Imladris. I suppose I should thank you for not marching up to the Great Gates and asking for me. What’s the bet?”

“Bet?”

“What is the wager that led to your scaling the mountain and finding me, and with whom did you make it?” he asked patiently.

“Lindir.”

“Oh, wonderful! You made a bet with a harper who will inevitably put it into a song!”

“Ah, but he has agreed that if he loses, he will write any lyrics in Quenya, so no Man will ever know.”

“Then he will write it in Sindarin—you know he has little Westron—so still no Man will ever know.”

“Unless they too speak it.”

“Besides,” Elrohir said virtuously, “we have some business here. What can you tell us about the Maldréd family?’

“Maldréds? They own the biggest bank in Gondor. Why? Opening an account?” His quirked eyebrow showed how little likely he thought that to be.

“Are they honest?”

“As honest as any banker, I suppose. Why?”

“Have you heard us speak of the Tintehlë Trust?”

“No.”

They explained.


Acrusador, second cousin to Madriendor Maldréd, knocked softly on his kinsman’s office door. In answer to the call from within, he opened it and bowed two tall cloaked figures within. “My lord, these visitors say they have urgent business with you regarding the Tintehlë Trust.”

“What? There is no business to do with that!” said a second Man.

“Please, present these to us,” said one of the figures.

“That is my lord Madriendor, head of House and Bank Maldréd, and this is his son, Mallinadir,” said Acrusador.

“That will be all, Acrusador,” said the other.

With a bow, he left, closing the doors behind hm.

“Have you bewitched him?” demanded Madriendor angrily. “Who in the Void are you?”

“You need not worry about him; he’ll be back shortly,” said one.

The other added, “With the latest accounts of the Trust.”

“Which are none of your business!” snapped Mallinadir, beginning to rise. “Father, you should have them thrown out!”

“Not wise advice,” said one. They stood near each other but not side by side, the deep hoods shadowing their faces.

“Not wise at all,” agreed the other.

In one identical gesture they pushed back those cowls, revealing pale-skinned faces with chiseled features, grey eyes and dark hair—and delicately elongated ears.

Elves? Elves in Minas Tirith?” gasped Mallinadir. “But there haven’t been any here in—-in--“

“A long time, by your reckoning, we know,” said the one on the left. “Not so long by ours.”

“But we are here now,” added the other.

“Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are Elladan and Elrohir Elrondion, trustees of that trust. And we wish to see the records. Now.”

“It’s a private Trust,” Mallinadir protested.

“All bankers are the same,” sighed one of the Elves. “Refusing just from habit.”

“Or a guilty conscience,” added the other. “Do you have guilty consciences?”

“No!” said Madriendir. “Now see here, this is ridiculous! Lord Tintehlë’s been dead for two hundred years! And he was our ancestor’s dearest friend. Why should we defraud his estate?”

“Because it is so long, by your reckoning,” replied an Elf. “And you were not his dearest friend. You never knew him. So why would you not begin to think it less than honourable to raid his coffers, greedy as some Men are. After all, it’s just sitting there. Who is to know?”

“Which is, or course, why he asked us to be Trustees, and check occasionally. This is one of those occasions.”

Another knock, and the door opened to admit Acrusador, his arms filled with account books. Depositing them on a table, he went back to receive another armload, and then a third. Setting a parchment on top of the piles, he bowed. “These are all, my lords, with the latest totals.”

“Splendid, Acrusador. Thank you,” said an Elf.

“Aye. Well done. You may go,” added the other.

He bowed again and left, closing the door.

“So you have suborned my chief clerk—“ fumed the head of the bank.

“Nonsense. A brief spell that will soon wear off. He is not harmed in the least, and it saves us some time. Just forget we are here, and resume your meeting,”

Both Elves gestured, and the Men found themselves obeying, then falling silent as the visitors rapidly scanned the books and parchments.

A candle-mark later, they closed the last book. “On the whole, it seems that our friend chose wisely in his bankers.”

“But there is the little matter of your great-grandfather taking some about eighty years ago,”

Mallinadir glared. “If you understood what you read, then you know that it was returned, fully reimbursed, forty-six years ago.”

“That is not the point.”

“The money was taken, and it should not have been.” Both Elves stood up, and with the same fluid motion, drew two very long swords hanging at their sides. Their soft shoes left no sound on the carpeted floor as they stepped, one to each Man now rigid in his chair. A pricking sensation beneath each jaw told them how sharp those swords were.

“So you mean to murder us?” Mallinadir grated.

“Be quiet, Mal!” snapped his father. “Gentlebeings, I beg you, if you feel you have a grievance, then kill me and spare my son!”

“We said naught of killing—this time,” said one.

“Although that doesn’t mean we shall hold our hands another time,” added the other.

“So we suggest you keep in mind that we shall be back—“

“And you will not know when. It could be tomorrow, or next week—“

“Or in year, or six years from now—“

“Or one hundred and three. But you will not know ahead of time. It might be best if you pass this information down to your descendants, whom we may meet. And if we find any shortages, we shall do more than this….”


Once again, Aragorn’s foster brothers were in his rooms. “We came to say farewell for now,” Elladan told him. “And to take any messages you might have back with us.”

“I am surprised not to have heard of any Elf sightings,” Aragorn commented.

“You didn’t want any fuss, and we agreed,” said Elrohir. “Other than one piece of business at the Bank of Maldréd, you were the only reason we had for coming here.”

“And was your business successful?” the Man asked.

“Aye. Those beardless Men will be careful in future.”

“Maldréd and his son both are both bearded,” Aragorn objected.

Identical smiles lit their faces. “They were,” agreed Elladan cheerfully.

“They aren’t now,” Elrohir smiled.

“So you bullied them,” Aragorn stated.

“Bullied? No. Merely… persuaded.”

“To get the point across.”

“We had to, as part of our duty to safeguard his interests.”

“In complete secrecy. No one will connect us with you.”

Aragorn regarded them, shaking his head and finally smiled. “I confess, I have missed you both.”

They came over to give him a hug. “And we you, little brother. Ah, Estel, come home soon!”

“When I can, I shall. So you return North?”

“We go tonight.”


How the story of the visit paid by the Elvish trustees got out, Mallinadir was never certain, for to the end of his life, Acrusador could not speak of it—but some did know, for it was mentioned many years later in a bookshop on a different circle of the city. But that is another tale….


Minas Tirith, 8th Lótessë 3019

Malloth Maldréd, head of the largest bank in Gondor, looked up irritably from his papers when someone tapped at his door and his chief clerk came in. “I did not wish to be disturbed! Being at the Refuges has put us well behind!”

“I know that, my lord, but I thought you should be informed.”

“Of what?” He leaned back, reminding himself that he had chosen this Man in part because of his gift for gleaning important information, often earlier than others.

“This message has just come from Prince Steward Faramir’s office.” To his credit, the Man didn’t even stumble over the change in title as he laid it on the desk. “Is there an answer? His guard waits without.”

Malloth broke the seal and read it, his eyes widening before they narrowed in thought.
“I will be going out,” he announced. “Please bring my cloak and stick.”

“Shall I send for a chair?”

“No, I shall walk. Quickly!”


He strode up the last incline to the Citadel, reflecting absently on the many changes already manifesting in the city since the end of the war. Was the light truly brighter and clearer than it had been, or merely in contrast to the pervasive memory of the Shadow looming over them from the East for so long? Once again, he thanked the Valar that he had not been there during the Sunless Day, although even deep in the refuges they had felt it, and once again, he wondered if his son had survived. His best agents had only been able to confirm that he had fought in the Host of the West. Briefly and from habit, he reverenced the dead Tree in the Court, before asking a guard for the directions he sought, then walked briskly along the corridors towards the office suite.

To his surprise, no one was in the anteroom; there was not even any furniture in it! For a few seconds, he wondered if he’d been misdirected, but hearing a faint voice, ventured deeper in. Passing several empty rooms, he at last found a fairly modest office, this one furnished plainly yet well-arranged, clearly meant for working and not to impress.

The Man standing at the desk, glaring down at a dropped book, was tall and clearly of pure Dúnedain blood, with his grey eyes, chiseled features, and dark hair. He had shed his tunic in the warmth of the spring day, but Malloth could clearly see the bulk of bandages wound about his body under his shirt. Muscular forearms had been bared; there was an inkstain on the fingers of one hand.

The banker cleared his throat, and the Man looked up, automatically reaching for his tunic. “May I help you?” His voice was deep and courteous.

“I may be in the wrong place, and I regret disturbing you, ser,” Malloth said. “I am looking for the Warden of Roads.”

“Well, you’ve found him, such as I am. Be welcome, ser. I regret having no refreshments to offer you, but there is a chair—“ Hastily he cleared away some books, grunting slightly as he bent and lifted them to set on the desk. “I am not long in my duties, and have no staff as yet. Please forgive the mess. How may I help you?”

Malloth picked up the book on the floor and set it on the top of the pile, noting that it was titled A Gazeteer of Arthedain, Dunland & Eregion.

“Thank you for rescuing my Serrenion. I am a bit stiff as yet.”

“You were wounded in the fighting?”

“Aye. I was luckier than many better.”

Malloth was conscious of his heart’s thudding in his chest. “May I ask what company?”

“Shield and Hammer.”

“Mayhap you knew my son.”

“Please, sit. You have the advantage of me, ser; you know my name, but I don’t know yours.”

“My son does not use our family name. He prefers to be known as Tambaro.”

Marpol studied him thoughtfully before coming to a decision. “I do know him; he is my valued friend and comrade, or was when we served together for almost twenty years. Against his will, he was recently promoted to captain, and is a renowned archer. You have ample reason to be proud of your son.”

Malloth sat, drawing what seemed like his deepest breath in years as relief flooded through him. “His mother will rejoice to hear it.”

“As mine would have.”

“My thanks. We had been uncertain….I don’t know what he’s told you of our estrangement,” he said awkwardly.

The Warden of Roads waved it away. “He has not. I was not even certain of his family name, but it was obvious that he had been well brought up from the fine qualities he has ever shown. With all the many changes taking place, it may be that hearts are softened and grudges may be mended.”

“You are probably on good terms with your own father,” Malloth said, and was instantly taken aback by his intrusive comment.

Evidently, the wistfulness in his voice was heard. “My sire is dead. I am sure, if you would inquire of your son’s superiors at the barracks, that they could direct you to him. I have not seen him for some time.”

And I am loyal to my friend, so will not offer to be a go-between, lest you seek his harm. Malloth understood the unspoken message, and liked him for it.

“I thank you for relieving my mind, especially when I had not intended to mention any business but yours.”

The Warden’s glance had strayed to the books, but he looked up, interest caught. “My business?”

“I’ve been informed by Prince Steward Faramir that you have been ennobled by the King, that he has bestowed the title of Lord Tintehlë upon you.”

Marpol flushed. “He has, most unexpectedly, I believe in the hope that some of the more conservative members of the Council and administration will give me more credence when I request materials and cooperation for my task. I am not accustomed to it as yet.”

“What do you know of your title?”

The Warden blinked. “Merely that it is an old one that lapsed due to lack of heirs. Oh, and he said that the Crown would see to bestowing the lands and revenues upon me at some point.”

Malloth lifted his satchel of papers onto his lap and opened it, removing a large folder, and two pouches. “That is why I received a missive from the Prince Steward’s office, notifying me that the time has come for me to wind up the Tintehlë Trust established by your forebear. These papers are a list of your investments and properties, various pertinent documents and letters, and a copy of the Trust agreement itself. Here is a small advance on your account at my bank, unless you choose to withdraw it in favour of another banking house; I ask the courtesy of a few days to prepare a full accounting to facilitate that if it be your wish. And here are the keys to your townhouse and to some other properties here and in places outside the city and Gondor.”

Marpol asked, “I own a house?”

“Your House is in the Sixth Circle, but I fear you will find it in sad disarray. There was no provision for a caretaker; my ancestor locked it up at the death of Lord Marnendil Tintehlë during the Plague four hundred years ago; it was almost his last act before succumbing to the disease himself. They were devoted friends their lives long.”

The Warden looked dazed. “This is—astonishing, my lord!”

“I have no doubt it is well merited.” Malloth rose. “I shall leave you to your work, my lord, and look forward to future dealings. Thank you for your news of my son.” He bowed, as did the Warden, and took his leave.

Walking down to his office, he felt much…lighter, not only because the obligation had been discharged. He felt encouraged, he realized. If such a fine Man as the new Lord Tintehlë had such obvious affection and respect for his son, then perhaps they might find some common ground in the future, and cease to be strangers.

“The light is definitely brighter,” he said aloud.

A passing woman overheard and smiled at him. “’Tis that!”

He smiled back, and went up the steps to his front door. His wife should not wait another moment to have her anxiety relieved! He could go to the office later; paperwork would always wait.

It was time for other old accounts to come due, at long last.



~~~

Gwadur –Sindarin for “brother.”


[Index]

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