By Kielle (email@example.com)
Summary: Sometimes the king's son is not the best man for the throne... A tale of ancient Gondor, featuring Hyarmendacil and his great-grandson Minalcar.
Disclaimer: All characters belong to JRR Tolkien, though he never did much with 'em.
Gratuitous Plug: The Dunadan Project
Archival: Just ask.
Feedback: Yes please!
Author's Note: What can I say? I'm really getting into these ancient kings. This story is set about 2,000 years before the events in "Lord Of The Rings." I cannot quite confirm that these brothers were twins, but several signs point to yes, so I'm going with it.
Geeky In-Joke Alert: There's a line in here about "kinslaying and usurping." This is meant to be rather hideously ironic, as both happened about two generations later as a direct result of a well-intentioned deed during this king's reign, but that's a story for another day...
Osgiliath -- T.A. 1142
"What do you see?"
Bemused, Narmacil twisted to glance over his shoulder. The sea wind from the river swept long black locks into his eyes -- the far-seeing grey eyes that marked him as a man of the royal house of Elendil. "In the city? Or beyond?"
"I asked you a question, boy."
Narmacil repressed a sigh and turned back to rest his elbows on the marble balustrade. He was hardly a "boy," but one does not argue with one's grandfather. "I see rooftops, and streets, and the harbor. People and goods and ships. I see Osgiliath. Nothing is amiss."
"As usual, Narma, you have no imagination," Calmacil joked, shoving his brother aside to claim his exact spot on the railing despite the fact that there was plenty of room along the scenic balcony. "Anyone can see houses and people. That is not what he is asking."
"Then what am I asking?" King Hyarmendacil replied evenly, from where he occupied a comfortable reclining chair.
Calmacil winked at his brother and stepped aside with a dramatic gesture, as if to present the city like a gift between the pair of them. The similarity between the two was uncanny, and no wonder -- Narmacil was eldest and heir only by a matter of minutes.
"What do I see? Peace and prosperity. Gondor is the finest land in all of Arda, and Osgiliath is the jewel in the winged crown. You would have us appreciate what you fought to achieve, arataro, and we most assuredly do. As does every citizen under your reign, from our father your heir to the slightest street-urchin in the streets of Umbar."
"You're laying it on a little thick," Narmacil muttered.
"You're just bitter that your answer was so dull," Calmacil murmured back.
Their grandfather snorted at them both. For grown men in their prime, the twins still acted at times like the children he'd first held in his arms eighty-four years before. Twins in the line of kings! At first this had seemed an ill sign, a portent of civil strife, but the unrest had died as they'd grown into good-natured men with more interest in sailing and song than in succession.
And therein lay the true problem.
For now, however, Hyarmendacil merely shook his head and kept his thoughts to himself. "Flattery may be dangerous to a young man, but it never harmed an old one. Get along, both of you. Your father wished to speak with you when you were released from my audience. You are dismissed."
He waved imperiously, and with identical polite bows (and a quizzical exchanged glance) Narmacil and Calmacil made their exit.
For a few moments the king simply enjoyed the quiet -- the soft shifting sussuration of the busy city below, punctuated occasionally by a vendor's shout or the cry of a gull overhead against the cloudless blue. His city. His peace. Calmacil had been right in that, at least. Hyarmendacil could no longer remember the faces of the men who'd fallen the early wars of his reign. He could barely even recall the face of his own father...
Grimly, the king folded aside a blanket and stood, moving stiffly to the rail himself. There he braced himself on arms that had once cut a bloody swathe through the Easterling horde -- long ago, so very long ago -- and he gazed out at his city. At rooftops and streets and the harbor. At peace and prosperity.
"What do you see?" he abruptly asked once more, quiet but clear.
"Me?" His page glanced up from where he was reading, cross-legged and unobtrusive in a stone alcove to the rear of the balcony. Even as he spoke, however, he was setting the book aside and uncoiling to his feet, quick to answer his lord's summons.
"Yes, you," Hyarmendacil replied as the boy joined him at the railing. He only came up to the king's shoulder, but sixteen years was nothing to Numenorean blood -- the lad had plenty of time left to grow into his full height.
To his credit, the boy did not waste his time asking questions like "why." He simply regarded the view, long and hard, in all directions of the compass. For at least a minute he was silent, brow furrowed in thought.
"I see our warships in harbor, moored and used for storage," he said at last, hesitantly. "I see less Easterling traders in our market squares than last year, and even less than the year before. I see nothing to the south...no patrols set out and no reports come from the border, because we no longer consider Umbar a threat."
He cast a fearless look up at Hyarmendacil, his far-seeing grey eyes serious. "And I see that this peace will not last until I am on the throne."
The king was still gazing at the setting sun, but he nodded thoughtfully. "Your father and uncle are good men, but they know nothing of war except what they read in books. And my son, your grandfather, is little better. My Atanatar is a fine diplomat, yes...but someday diplomacy will not be enough."
His hands curled hard around the cold marble, his knuckles gnarling and his face drawn with frustration. "And they do not see this! I could tell them, but if they do not see..." He sighed, and for a moment his age weighed so obviously upon him that the boy hastened to offer support. It was not accepted, but the attempt was acknowledged with a gentle pat on the shoulder.
"You see, Minalcar," Hyarmendacil said quietly, urgently. His hand tightened on silk cloth and youth-narrow bone. "Son of my son of my son -- and yet there is more of myself in you than in any other of our line. You are my hope. I know I ask much of you, at your age, but my time is ebbing low..."
His great-grandson nodded stoutly, looking far more adult than his years. "I will not fail you, my lord, nor will I let Gondor rot from within. Whatever it takes, I will do this--"
"No! No blood," Hyarmendacil barked, and his grip was suddenly iron. "Not within these halls. Not within this family. Ever. The house of Elendil is as much a part of Gondor as the sea and stone. We are not kinslayers...nor are we usurpers."
Minalcar gaped briefly, his eyes wide, and the king was gratified to see that the idea had never even crossed his mind. "I would not...arataro, I would never! I would swear this on the Tree itself if you ask me..."
"No need. You are my true heir. Your word is enough." Hyarmendacil let go of the boy's shoulder and gently touched his cheek instead -- and for a moment, regarding that sincere grey gaze, he recalled his own father's face. Only for a moment. Then it was gone, and the years closed hard around him again like a stone weight, mercilessly bowing his shoulders, blurring his sight, weakening his hands. So little time left, and so much to be done...
But as he finally accepted Minalcar's support and drew himself up to face the evening audience, he felt that perhaps, just perhaps, there was yet hope for his city. His kingdom. His people.
Though it would be a long time coming.
"Born in the last years of Hyarmendacil's long reign, Minalcar became active in matters political and military, to the extent that, not long after his uncle Narmacil became King, he handed effective control of the South-kingdom to his nephew. Minalcar took up the challenge, and managed to rebuild some of the power that Gondor had lost in the reigns of his grandfather Atanatar and uncle Narmacil. After Narmacil's heirless death, and a brief reign by his own father Calmacil, Minalcar finally ascended the throne to take up the true Kingship of Gondor, to be known to history by the name Rómendacil II."
-- from The Annals Of Arda