|Celandine's Chronicle (celandineb) wrote in cels_fic_haven,|
@ 2007-08-08 14:36:00
The mood at the Council meeting the next morning was somber. Denethor had left word for the Steward regarding Herion's and Adrahil's reports of raids, and that was the first order of business when they convened.
"We need more information," said Ecthelion, frowning. "Adrahil?"
"Just now I can tell you no more than I told your son last night," said the Prince of Dol Amroth. "The Corsairs first appeared only a few weeks ago, and thus far have raided my shores only twice, to my knowledge. I left instructions with my steward Vardil that he should inquire to determine what has been observed: how many ships have been seen, where and when, and any other information that might be useful. He was to send whatever he learned north as soon as possible, and I hope to receive his message within a few days, a week at most."
"Very good. Herion, what from you?"
"I made similar arrangements with my son Golasgil," Herion told the Lord Steward, "before I left, since I was sure you would wish to have the fullest news possible. I expect to hear from him before mettarë."
"Good. Until we know the nature and numbers of our enemy, we cannot decide how to respond to him. Let us set the particulars aside, then, until either Herion or Adrahil receives further information to bring before the Council. At least this unusually late winter will permit rapid travel for the messengers. As well as for our tax collectors. My lords, what have you to report? If we are to see fighting to the south once again, we will need to find a means to pay for it."
Denethor listened to each lord speak in turn and jotted down their accounts in the fishhook scribble that he would decipher later if his father's secretary was unable to do so. Galdor had been struck down by some fever – though the physician said he should recover quickly – and rather than use a man with no experience, Denethor preferred to take the notes himself. He found his thoughts drifting off in anticipation of that evening's engagement, and wrenched them back only when the Steward's foot nudged his ankle under the table. It had been another good harvest, and Denethor saw the stern lines of Ecthelion's face soften beneath his greying beard as he listened to the favorable reports. At least there is something good to come from today's meeting.
They paused when the sun was high overhead for a hasty meal, then reconvened. Towards midafternoon their number was increased when Thorongil came in to deliver the most recent news from Ithilien. Denethor had to admit that the man was a good speaker, conveying the dry data of numbers of men on duty, frequency and severity of skirmishes with the enemy, resources used, and all the rest in such a way that even the warm afternoon sun slanting in the windows brought only a few yawns to the assembled. For himself, he set down his pen – Thorongil would have provided all the information in his written reports – and let his thoughts stray briefly. He was called back to attention when Duinhavel of Morthond called on his fellows to join him in commending Thorongil's successes in command, citing the low injury rate among his men and the high number of Orcs they had encountered.
Around the table, heads nodded vigorously, and a hum of approval seconded Duinhavel. Denethor was thankful for the excuse of making note of the fact to keep his head bent and his mouth closed. He glanced up to see Thorongil bowing thanks to the assembled lords. Catching the Steward's eye, Denethor nodded toward the timepiece on the mantle over the fireplace. It was nearly time to adjourn; he had to go inspect the Guards of the Citadel, and others too had duties to fulfil yet before evening.
"Thank you, my lords, for your presence this day," said Ecthelion. "We shall meet again tomorrow at the third hour after sunrise. Adrahil, Herion – should you receive word from your messengers tonight, send to me at once. The Council is adjourned."
Tapping the ink-covered sheets together into a neat stack and stowing them safely in the oaken cabinet that stood in one corner, Denethor heard Thorongil accepting congratulations from the several lords as they departed. He busied himself with wiping his pens and securing the stopper on the ink-bottle.
His efforts at delay were wasted, however, for Thorongil had been detained by Ecthelion himself, who was speaking to him of the needs of his company for additional monies. As if they all did not. Had the Steward but chosen a man of means to captain that band, he would not need to provide so much support himself.
Dryly, he congratulated Thorongil on his commendation before making his escape to the corridor. He clattered hastily down the stone stairs and out into the courtyard.
His hands shook less this evening than last as he readied himself to dine with Dol Amroth. In deep green velvet embroidered with silver along the neck he walked down through the tunnel to the sixth circle and was greeted with great cordiality by the prince and his daughter. With an effort Denethor prevented himself from fixing his attention on Finduilas to the exclusion of her father, rather keeping the conversation on topics in which they could all take part.
Adrahil thanked his guest once again for the history of Gondor that he had sent earlier in the year. "Finduilas enjoyed reading it as well, did you not, my dear?"
"I did, very much. I believe you suggested that you might ask the man who wrote it – Golasgil, was that not his name? but a different man from the son of Herion of Anfalas, is he not? – to write an expanded version? That would be of great interest, I think. Or perhaps he might write histories of each district as supplements to it," said Finduilas, her grey eyes shining with keen appreciation.
"At least I will be certain to tell him of your admiration for his work, and enthusiasm for more. Golasgil is working now as an under-archivist in the Citadel; I thought it wise to retain his services against future need," Denethor said.
A servant appeared unobtrusively by the doorway. Adrahil said, "Ah, our meal is waiting. Come," and led them in to dine.
The supper conversation was restricted to light topics. Neither Adrahil nor Finduilas seemed inclined to reminisce about winter seasons past – Well, that is only to be expected, with their recent loss – and instead chatted amiably about history, progressing naturally from there to literature, to poetry, and finally to music.
"Do you sing or play, my lord?" asked Finduilas, leaning forward to pass a dish of candied ginger and other small sweetmeats to Denethor at the end of the meal. "I have never thought to ask you, since letters are hardly a way to convey musical tastes and preferences."
Denethor took a piece of ginger, but set it down on his plate in order to reply. "I do not sing, lady Finduilas; I fear I have rather a growling voice for song, and would bring little pleasure to my listeners. But I have been known to play the flute on occasion."
"The flute? How wonderful. Would you care to play for us this evening? I would enjoy singing to your accompaniment, if you are willing."
"I. . . would be willing," said Denethor, "if your father cares for such entertainments?" He looked at Adrahil.
His host's smile held a touch of sadness. "Certainly. Nimíril used to play the flute; one of her instruments is still here. I will have it brought for you."
The silver flute was cool in Denethor's fingers as he took it from the servant with appropriate reverence for its late owner. He blew experimentally and was delighted with the pure tones. "A beautiful instrument – I thank you for permitting me its use," he told Adrahil. "My lady, what do you wish to sing?"
"Do you know ‘The Man in the Moon Came Down Too Soon'?" asked Finduilas, and blushed. (1) "A child's song, to be sure, but it has always been one of my favorites."
"It has been long since I played that, but yes, I believe I remember the tune." Denethor lifted the flute and played the four introductory bars.
Finduilas began, "The Man in the Moon had silver shoon, / and his beard was of silver thread. . ." Her clear voice was more vibrant than a child's but the echoes of girlhood yet lingered in it.
Denethor kept his eyes on hers. She is still so young. He could not smile at some of the merrier lines while playing, but as she ended gleefully, ". . .An unwary guest on a lunatic quest / from the Mountains of the Moon!" he lowered the flute with a broad grin. Adrahil applauded. "Well done, both of you. A fine rendition. Do go on."
By mutual consent they continued to choose children's songs, ending the evening with "The Last Ship." (2)
"You would not need to refuse the Elves' invitation to travel West with them," said Denethor, low, as Finduilas led him out of the room to return the flute to its accustomed place. "Anyone who sees you can see you bear the blood of the Firstborn; your eyes reflect the stars."
She blushed, but said nothing, opening the case and holding it for him to nestle the flute on its cushion.
When he took leave from them, he bowed to Adrahil but took Finduilas's hand and bent to kiss it. Did I feel her tremble?
"Will you be at Forlong's ball in two days' time?" Adrahil asked.
"Of course," Denethor said. "And you?"
"Indeed we will. It was his first question to me yestereve, and he was most pressing," Adrahil replied.
"I look forward to seeing you then, my lord," said Finduilas. "I know that your responsibilities will keep you busy in the meantime. Perhaps, though, you might find time to visit again, before mettarë?"
"If you wish it, my lady, I will gladly come to see you – you need only send word. Thank you both for a delightful evening." Denethor bowed once more and departed.
It was with difficulty that he prevented himself from leaping along the streets. She wishes to speak to me before mettarë. Oh, that she may give the answer I long to hear!