Author: Isabeau of Greenlea PM
A prequel to Captain My Captain. Prince Imrahil's sometimes contentious courtship with the Lady Nimrien. After a really, really long silence, Chapter 13 is up. And you thought this was a dead fic...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Boromir & Faramir - Chapters: 13 - Words: 59,894 - Reviews: 138 - Favs: 50 - Follows: 20 - Updated: 06-03-07 - Published: 02-08-03 - id: 1226911
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In the end, Andrahar did not hold the threatened early morning arms practice, and Imrahil did not sleep in. Both men woke before dawn, snatched a quick breakfast of meat rolls and fruit on their feet, then busied themselves with the myriad details of getting the Prince's entourage back on the road. They were not alone in their efforts; the courtyards and halls of the King's House were filled with scampering esquires and attendants, servants grunting under the weight of trunks and bundles, and bellowing captains and chamberlains. Imrahil even saw Lord Khuzayam's dog Siyesha coupled on a leash with another, darker hound, in the charge of one of the silent, robed desert men being led away somewhere, presumably to their carriage.
By the time the sun had peeped over the horizon, all was in readiness. Adrahil, Nimrien, Finduilas and Boromir made their way out to the carriage. Finduilas was carrying a half-asleep Faramir, while Boromir querulously knuckled sleep from his eyes. Denethor was with them. There was an air of repressed concern about him as he wished his wife farewell that made Imrahil think that perhaps he was worried about her as well, and was hoping that some time spent in her childhood home might improve her physical condition and state of mind.
"Enjoy your holiday, my lady," he told her quietly, "but not too much, I pray you. For you have a home in Minas Tirith as well, and I will be missing you."
"I will not forget," she promised and the two embraced. Denethor kissed his wife's lips and his younger son's brow. Finduilas turned to enter the carriage and he turned away, only to come face-to-face with Imrahil. What would he do if I were to embrace him in fine, brotherly, Dol Amroth fashion? the Heir wondered impishly, not that he had any real inclination to do so. The Steward studied him for a long moment before he spoke, and once again Imrahil had the feeling that his status had changed in Denethor's reckoning.
"I re-read the treaty last night, Imrahil. It was even more impressive upon a second reading. You seem to have inherited some of your father's talent for diplomacy. I will bear that in mind against Gondor's future need."
"Beginner's luck," Imrahil answered blithely, "but I thank you, my lord." He was well aware that he had just received as fulsome a compliment as he ever would from the Steward, and was downplaying the moment because Denethor looked almost uncomfortable. Besides, as far as Imrahil was concerned, it was the truth. Fortune had been with him in that the peace faction's desires had coincided so neatly with Gondor's, and he felt that he had merely been the instrument of that fortune-though he did give himself credit for persistence in the matter of discovering the custom of the Speaker.
"Father." Boromir was tugging at of Denethor's elbow. The Steward looked down, frowning slightly, only to be confronted with a pair of upheld arms. The frown vanished, to be replaced by a smile of surprising warmth, and Denethor stooped to hug his oldest son.
"You will remember that you gave your word about the pony, Boromir."
"A lord's word is the most important thing he possesses."
"And you will look after your mother and your little brother in my absence?"
"Very well, then. Enjoy your time at the seashore. I look forward to hearing all about it when you return." He kissed his eldest son's brow and helped hand him up into the carriage, then turned to where his father-in-law stood. Adrahil did not possess Imrahil's reservations-he embraced his son-in-law as a matter of fact, and murmured something into his ear which Imrahil did not catch, but which caused the Steward to make a brief bark of laughter. Upon his release, Denethor looked at his family by marriage, his eyes passing over Andrahar with no acknowledgement.
"Until the autumn then, my lord prince. I will see you at Council," he said, addressing Adrahil; then with a curt nod, turned upon his heel and strode off to his own contingent of soldiers.
Andrahar, watching him go, murmured, "'Tis a shame your original plan for me to escort Lord Denethor back to Minas Tirith was rendered unnecessary by the peace treaty, my lord prince. That was a journey I was truly looking forward to," and he turned his most limpid gaze upon Adrahil. Imrahil blinked. He still did not know what had passed between Andrahar and his father during their private discussion, but this was the first time he'd ever seen his oath-brother joke, however mildly, with his father.
Adrahil seemed to realize the significance as well. "Yes, I can see that you are prostrate with disappointment, Andra!" he replied with a wry smile; then, clapping his adopted son on the back said, "Come, gentlemen, let's be off."
He started with Nimrien towards the carriage, and Andrahar moved in turn towards where his and Imrahil's horses were being held by a couple of esquires. Imrahil was starting to follow Andrahar when his eye was caught by a couple of dark-robed figures, one very small, coming out into the courtyard, and he walked over to them instead.
"Peace be upon you, Prince Imrahil," said Lord Khuzayam in Westron.
"And upon you and yours, my lord," the Heir responded in Haradric, looking down at little A'isha with a smile. The pearl he had given her had been removed from its earring setting and placed upon a thin golden chain. It hung, glowing, upon her forehead above the veil.
"Is that your lady, my lord?" she asked softly, pointing towards where Adrahil and Nimrien stood watching them curiously.
"Not yet. But I hope that she will become my lady."
"She is very fair of face."
"I think so."
"And is she learned as well? My lord said she was."
"She is indeed. Learned and wise. She speaks and reads five languages. This peace treaty would not have taken place without her help."
A'isha's small veiled face turned up towards her husband then. "I think that I should like to be learned and wise, husband."
Khuzayam smiled down at her indulgently. "It is not the custom among our folk, sand-swift."
Little dark brows drew down. "It has all been about custom, these days here in Gondor! I tire of custom!"
The desert lord chuckled. "Look what you have wrought, my lord prince! My tent shall know contentment no more, thanks to the ideas you've put in my wife's head!"
"I apologize for causing you a civil war, my lord Khuzayam," Imrahil said with a smile. "But did you not say that the best women are the hardest to woo? Does it also not follow that they might be the hardest to live with? But the most worthwhile, nonetheless?"
"Indeed. There is wisdom in your words, wisdom beyond your age," Khuzayam declared. He added magnanimously, a twinkle in his pitch-black eyes, "I shall forgive you the dissent you have sown in my household and wish you a safe and pleasant journey home."
Imrahil laughed and bowed, first to him, then to A'isha. "A safe journey to you as well, my lord and lady. And many, many years in which your dissent may flourish!" Khuzayam laughed out loud, though A'isha looked puzzled. Then Imrahil left them to rejoin his family.
Traveling with small children, Imrahil discovered on the return to Dol Amroth, tended to slow things down more than a little bit. The halts to attend to matters of elimination alone made the journey a start-stop sort of affair. Though the lady who was Faramir's nurse was accompanying them with her charge in a second carriage, Boromir's tutor had indeed been dismissed for his failure to supervise the Heir properly. The nurse had once been his nurse as well, but Boromir felt himself to have grown above her authority. Despite his affection for his younger brother, he would not obediently remain in the second carriage, which he referred to disdainfully as the "baby carriage". He wanted to ride with his grandfather and mother and Nimrien. And he was a child with a considerable fund of energy. More than once, Imrahil wished his brother-in-law had settled upon some other sort of punishment for the boy than denying him his pony-Boromir could have been learning to ride the animal upon the way and it would have hopefully worn him out. As it was, he was running Finduilas ragged with his continual demands for entertainment-until Andrahar took him in hand.
The young captain agreed to teach the boy some basic rudiments of swordplay in the evening, but insisted that he be properly conditioned to do so. So Boromir found himself running upon the grassy verge of the road once a day, trying to keep up with the carriage, while Andrahar kept pace beside him on his war-horse. Needless to say, the carriage moved ahead of him, but Andrahar always stayed near his charge, and would pull Boromir up on the back of his war-horse to catch up when the exercise was done, which served as something of a reward for the boy's endeavors.
"Why do I have to run?" he'd protested gaspingly one day to Andrahar while jogging along. "What does that have to do with swordplay?"
"It gives you the wind to do it," came the calm reply. "All the esquires at Dol Amroth run. All these men here did their time as well, and still do on occasion. And in sand, which is far more difficult than what you are doing! But if you would rather stay in the carriage and work upon your lessons or learn to play chess, by all means go do so. Perhaps your mother or Lady Nimrien might even teach you needlework to pass the time. My day is full enough already that I do not have to make it more so by teaching a whining, unappreciative child."
The threat of needlework and the insult both served to shut Boromir up in a hurry, and to give the boy credit, other than the muted groan he gave when a longer distance was assigned him later in their journey, he said no more about it. Andrahar for his part was as good as his word, and in the evenings would take the time to give the boy an hour's practice in swordplay, giving him basic positions and stances to practice with a wooden sword cut down to suitable size.
"And see that you practice throughout the day," the young captain said, "For I shall know if you do not."
"When am I supposed to do that? I can't have the sword in the carriage, Mother said so."
Andrahar shrugged bonelessly. "That is not my problem. If you are serious about this, you will find a way."
And Boromir did. The first thing upon rising, and during the hour's long stop for lunch at midday, he could be found practicing, and during every shorter break besides. This served to do much to quench some of his boundless energy and kept him out of his mother's hair besides.
"Valar bless you, Andra!" Finduilas told him the third day of Boromir's new regimen. Though Boromir did still spend the better part of his day in the carriage, he was much quieter and more biddable than he'd been before the sword lessons had started. More often than not, he would nap in the afternoon. Finduilas was very much enjoying the chance to spend time undisturbed with Nimrien and her father. The captain had cocked an eyebrow at her.
"The Valar do not know me, my lady." But he'd given her one of his rare, warm smiles as an acknowledgement.
Imrahil was also part of the tacit conspiracy to remove stress and strain from his sister, though he hoped to help himself a bit as well while he did so. He had not missed Nimrien's approval of his fatherly ability, so in the hopes of engendering further fond feelings towards himself, he would take Faramir up now and again. It was, he proclaimed virtuously, purely to give the nurse some rest. He was not sure if Nimrien believed him or not; but if she didn't, she was too polite to express her doubts aloud.
Faramir was, for the most part, easy to deal with. He was a very quiet child, unlike his ebullient brother, and for some reason he liked Imrahil. He was most content to ride for an hour or more, set before Imrahil upon his saddle and looking curiously about at the farms and towns they passed through. Sometimes he would point at something and Imrahil would supply the appropriate descriptive word, but more often than not he was silent and would usually fall asleep after a while, lulled by the rocking motion of the horse.
The first time Imrahil had ridden with him, he had returned to his mother a bit sunburned in the face, which had gotten Imrahil the rough side of his sister's tongue. After that, the young Prince was careful not to ride with Faramir in the heat of the day, and to shade him from the sun as best he could. His affection for the little boy grew with their increased interaction and he was able to contemplate his own future children with a little more confidence than he had been able to in the past. Adrahil, he had felt, had been an excellent example of a father, albeit a bit overprotective at times, but Imrahil feared that his own scapegrace past would give him overmuch sympathy towards childish pranks to be a good authority figure. The Steward of Gondor definitely was his superior there, he decided.
One night, when they were halfway to Dol Amroth, Imrahil received a pleasant surprise. They had actually been able to stop in an inn for the evening, with the company camped outside, and the nanny had used the excuse of plentiful hot water supplied by the inn staff to give both of her charges, who'd been cat-bathed the last couple of nights while in camp, a thorough cleaning. Boromir had stood upon his more mature masculine dignity and refused to have her in the room while he performed his ablutions, but an inspection afterwards, and some additional scrubbing behind the ears declared him sufficiently clean. Faramir had made no such protest, and had splashed and burbled in the tub most happily under the nanny's supervision.
Afterwards, Boromir sat close by the fire in the private parlor hired by the Prince, drying his hair before bed and reading over his lessons with his mother's help. Adrahil, Nimrien and Imrahil sat nearby while Andrahar leaned against the wall nearest the door. A knock sounded, and the nurse stuck her head in the door, jumping a bit when she saw Andrahar, who courteously opened it the rest of the way for her.
"Faramir wants to say good-night, my lady," she said to Finduilas, indicating the clean, sleepy toddler nestled in her arms. She carried him over to Finduilas, and Faramir reached his arms out to his mother. The nurse handed him down to her.
"'Night, Mama," he said, and Finduilas hugged him, dropping a kiss upon his head.
"Good night, little one," she said. Faramir then turned his attention to his brother, squirming out of her arms so that he could approach Boromir. Once more the arms went out.
"'Night, Boro." Boromir obligingly set his book aside to embrace his brother.
"Good night, Faramir." Once released, the little boy did not return to his nurse or mother as expected. Instead, he looked up at the table searchingly for a moment, then moved around it slowly, while all the adults present watched. The arms outstretched again.
Surprised and touched, Imrahil reached down and scooped him up, burying his nose in clean-scented child hair.
"Good night, Faramir."
"Tuck me?" came a muffled query.
"You want me to tuck you in?" Imrahil asked, surprised again.
The small head nodded. "Yes, you and Mama."
The Heir chuckled. "His Lordship has spoken! Coming, Fin?"
Finduilas smiled and laughed a little. "I suppose I must, if I am commanded! Boromir, continue with your lesson while I'm gone."
"Come up here to the table with Nimrien and me and we will help you, lad," Adrahil said and Boromir scrambled up to join them. The Prince then looked to the nurse.
"You come over here as well, lass, and have some of this mulled cider and some adult conversation. You've been a real soldier this journey." The young woman smiled and moved to sit at the table, her head bent a little shyly. Imrahil, Faramir still clasped in his arms, rose and took the little boy to his room, his sister at his side.
Faramir went into his bed easily enough. There were no protests, and almost immediately after receiving his good night kisses, the little boy fell asleep. His mother and uncle stood looking down at him for a while.
"I will have you know I did what I could to advance your suit while we were in Pelargir, brother," Finduilas said to Imrahil softly, her eyes twinkling. "Daunting though the task was, I endeavored to recollect what few good qualities you possess and speak to Nimrien of them."
Imrahil smiled ruefully, and spoke quietly in his turn. "I thank you for that, Fin. Do you think it made any impression upon her?"
"I do not think it was truly necessary. She is very much in love with you, Imri. If she has any reservations at this point, it is more about the position of Princess than about the man who is Prince."
"Nimrien would make an excellent Princess!"
"I think so as well. But I cannot fault her for not wanting to be the husband of one of Gondor's two most important lords. It is not all privilege and easy living, as some of these young women who've been chasing you seem to think. There are real responsibilities attached to the job."
The Heir gave his sister a penetrating look. "Speaking of which-is Denethor treating you well?" he asked. "Because if he is not, I can always ride up to Tirith and give him some instruction about the proper care and feeding of a Princess of Dol Amroth. You look entirely too thin and wan, Fin. Nimrien has been worried about you. It was why she came with us to Pelargir, to see you. Your letters had her very concerned."
Finduilas shrugged. "I have explained matters to Nimrien-to her satisfaction, I think. I will not deny that I was unhappy for a while. My confinement with Faramir was difficult, and the birth worse. My strength was a long time returning, and it frustrated me. Though Faramir was such a good, quiet baby once he had come, no trouble at all, and that helped great deal. I am sorry if I worried her. As for Denethor…" she gave her brother a look comprised of equal parts affection and annoyance. "You still refuse to give him any credit! He treats me well enough. It is just that…I miss the Sea. And Minas Tirith is so close to Mordor…it is as if I can feel the Enemy's malice beating upon us all the time."
Intrigued, Imrahil asked, "Do you really think you can?" His sister had never suffered the wave dream or anything resembling a precognitive episode, and had never expressed any desire to do so. Witnessing Imrahil's own life-threatening difficulties in his early twenties had ended any lingering desire or disappointment that the Dol Amroth gift had passed her by-as she had told him more than once.
"It may be naught but an odd fancy," Finduilas admitted. "But though I do not dream as you and Father do, Imri, I do feel things. And it is difficult sometimes, to act the confident Steward's Lady with that malevolence continually oppressing one. I think perhaps that Denethor feels it as well. He is so worried that he will make a mistake and doom us all."
"Why should he feel that it falls upon him to fight off our doom?" Imrahil was puzzled. "Things are somewhat more dire than they were in my childhood, it is true, but I would imagine that there have been ebbs and flows in the Enemy's activity before. We just signed a ten-year peace treaty with the Haradrim, for Valar's sake! Things are looking up!"
Finduilas looked down at her son pensively for a moment, then back up at her brother. Her eyes were storm-dark and the look in them chilled Imrahil to his very marrow.
"I am not so sure of that, Imri. I think that we may be coming to the end of things. He will not wait much longer. You and Denethor and perhaps even my sons and yours will have to fight Him. I fear that it will come in our lifetimes."
"But you have nothing more than a feeling?"
"A very strong feeling, Imri. Have you truly felt nothing when you were in Minas Tirith?"
"No. Nothing like that. Nor has Father. Or if he has, he has not spoken to me of it."
"Then perhaps I am imagining things after all." Finduilas seemed rather distressed at this prospect. Imrahil thought he might understand why. If we do not feel as she does, and there is no basis for her feeling this way, does she fear going mad? Is this the reason for her recent despair?
"Or perhaps not," he said comfortingly. "My particular moonshine has turned out to have some basis in fact upon more than one occasion, as has Father's. We really don't know much about how the gift works, Fin. We don't pay enough attention to what's in the archives about it. It wasn't until I got so sick that we realized that it was possible to die from it, and that perhaps my great-great-uncle had. And I don't know if there's been anything written at all about the women in the family and what form the gift takes for them. Perhaps Nimrien can help us search the archives when we get home."
"If we could find out more about it, I would feel better," Finduilas admitted. "It would be good to know that it wasn't just a womanish fancy." Imrahil grinned at her.
"Don't take it the wrong way, but I'm hoping it is a womanish fancy, Sister. Because Dol Amroth is in trouble if you are right, and I am its best hope of defense."
"Stop it. Just stop it, Imri!" Though her voice was still low, so as not to disturb Faramir, his sister's sudden vehemence surprised him, and he stared at her. "I hate it when you talk that way! Are you fishing for compliments? It's ridiculous, and I'm sick of it! You are a Swan Knight, which is hardly the easiest thing in the world to be, and an excellent sea-captain to boot! And you just finished covering yourself in glory diplomatically down in Pelargir! This role you play, of the young wastrel lord, is wearing thin. Willyou please just admit that you're grown up? Because I need you to be grown up, I really do!" To his alarm, he saw that she was suddenly near tears, scrubbing at her eyes. He folded her into his arms.
"There, there, Fin! I promise-I'll be as grown up as you ever wanted! What is wrong? What can I do to help you?"
"It's nothing, it's nothing," she chanted softly against his neck. "I'm just tired, that's all. It will be so good to be home for a while! To see the Sea, I've missed it so…" She stood shuddering in his arms for some little while, while he stroked her hair and rubbed her back and shoulders and murmured words of love and encouragement. Eventually the shivering stopped, she sighed and mastering herself, stepped away. "Well, that's a start at least," she said, in a more normal voice, "on the grown-up part. Thank you, Imri."
"You are very welcome, Fin," he said, still troubled.
"Walk me to my room?" she asked, with a smile that was still slightly tremulous.
"Of course. I'll make your excuses, and see that Boromir gets to bed." He took her arm and escorted her from the boys' chamber.
"You can let him stay up a little later than usual, if you like," Finduilas said, with a touch of her old spirit as they went. "Perhaps he'll nap some tomorrow, if he does."
"I could take him out drinking and wenching. He'd sleep then, for sure. No, wait-no wastrel anymore!"
His sister actually chuckled. "And no Nimrien, either, if you did." He grimaced, and she chuckled again. "Just hold to your course, Brother. It wouldn't do for you to run upon the rocks at the very end of your voyage." They had reached her door, and she moved to step inside, but turned back even as she did so and kissed her brother's cheek. "I have faith in you, Imri-you're a canny sailor."
He bid her a good night, and went downstairs, still obscurely troubled. But he managed to hide his unease well enough that no one asked him any questions and, good to his word, he saw Boromir off to bed in due time.
That night he dreamed, as he had not dreamed in a long while. It was an innocuous-seeming dream, of his sister and what looked to be a five-year-old Faramir, on the ramparts of what looked to be Minas Tirith, watching some sea-gulls wheel about the Tower of Ecthelion. Like most of his dreams, the meaning was unclear-but an air of somber foreboding lay over the peaceful little scene.