2. The girl, bent over a weighty volume, jumped as the wizard laid a hand on her shoulder. "You're Chione, then?" he said softly. She stood up, scattering papers everywhere, and said confusedly "I'm sorry sir, I didn't see you come in." Gandalf studied her thoughtfully. It was seventeen years since Faramir had bought the baby from the gypsy woman, in which time the tiny child had become a young woman. Her hair, coaxed into a rough plait, was a startling red, and her face had a smear of dust from the books she had been sorting. She was also wearing what Gandalf recognised as glasses, although to most inhabitants of the middle earth they would have been a mystery. "Do you want me to go away?" she asked, preparing to move. "There's no need, I assure you," he replied, "in fact you may be able to help me. I'm told you know these archives better than most, I was wondering if you could help me find what I'm looking for." "Of course," she replied, "I've been trying to restore these shelves to order, but it's a lengthy task." Soon they were deep in work. Chione was not particularly curious, but had she not known that it would be rude, she would have asked him what the purpose of his researches were; several of the books he mentioned were obscure volumes known, she had thought, to herself alone. Lord Denethor himself had put her in charge of the archives of Gondor, and she was immensely proud of his trust, especially since for most of her life he had been oblivious of her existence. Danthorn, when he had learned of the death of Fandorin and her baby, had taken pains to conceal Chione's existence, afraid that Denethor might in his bitterness and loss, order her removal. As a result her position in the household had been rather ambiguous, although she might play with Boromir and Faramir, whom she looked upon as brothers, and even attend their lessons if she was good and quiet, she knew that their rank was higher than hers, and when they were called upon to attend banquets, she would take her meals in the kitchen or with Danthorn and his wife, who seemed like parents to her.

********************************************************************** Only when she was fifteen did Denethor recollect Chione's existence, and learning of her friendship with his sons, he became curious to know what had become of the tiny gypsy brat he had fostered on a whim. Chione had been led into his presence, attended by Danthorn and his wife. She had regarded Denethor levelly, without fear, and curtsied in the approved Gondor fashion. "My daughter," Denethor said, "you have grown beautiful." It was not true, but this did not concern him. Chione had bowed gravely and said nothing. Her eyes held a tantalising hint of laughter. Denethor was surprised, and somewhat disconcerted, to discover that the girl had a mind of her own. "You have dwelt in my household for fifteen years," he continued. "What now is your will? If you wish to leave, to seek a life of your own, I will present you with such goods and money as is fit." "If you wish to marry, that also could be arranged." Faramir, sitting near his father, had added mischievously. Chione had been relieved that Boromir was not here to hear this suggestion. He had gone out hunting, and had not been seen since breakfast. "If it please you, sir," Chione had replied, trying to ignore Faramir, "I wish above all else to remain here, and to remain unmarried." "Why?" Denethor had asked. "What ties bind you here?" "Perhaps to repay the debt I owe you, my lord. Also I wish to remain with Danthorn and Eméle, who are all the family I have ever known. Also this city, which I have learned to call my home." Denethor had laughed. "It seems I cannot marry you off, nor force you to leave! What shall I do with you then?" he had asked. "Put her in charge of the archives," said a voice from the doorway. "She is as clever as any of your staid archivists." Boromir had returned. He walked over to his father and embraced him. His dark hair was beaded with droplets of rain and his clothes travel stained. Denethor had embraced his son affectionately, but it took all Boromir's eloquence to persuade him that Chione was capable of the task. "She knows more about those books than anyone in Gondor," he had said. "Don't you Chione?" He added teasingly. Chione had lowered her eyes modestly and smiled, as befitted a poor orphan in the presence of her superiors. At last Denethor shrugged (if the steward of Gondor can be said to have shrugged) and given way. He could never refuse Boromir anything his heart was set on. "A wise decision, sir." Danthorn had said approvingly as Chione had curtsied and left, followed by Boromir and Faramir. "The problem is solved." Denethor had remembered the look that had come into Chione's eyes when Boromir had spoken. "Really?" he said dryly.

Gandalf worked long into the night. Chione, although ignorant that he was searching for information on the One Ring, remained with him, realising the importance of his quest. He did not speak to her as she searched silently for the books he required, and only after many fruitless hours did he break the silence. "Has anyone else besides you searched though these archives recently?" he asked. "I think Saruman, the wizard, came here once," she said. "I was sick when he came, so I did not see him. He left everything very neat." Gandalf smiled. "Yes, he would have done." Then Chione's hands closed over the vital book. Gandalf snatched it from her and began to read avidly. In a few minutes he had learned everything he needed to know. Chione marvelled inwardly at the speed with which he had read the huge page covered in tiny, almost illegible writing. He started up, pulling on his cloak as he did so. "Leave my apologies to Denethor," he said, "And thank you." He swept out, leaving a faint aroma of pipe weed behind him.

Chione did not expect anything to come of this encounter, but something did. A messenger, rather weary and travel stained, brought a package to her, several months after the wizard's visit, when she was practicing her archery with Faramir and Boromir. Danthorn had never allowed her to learn fencing, to her great regret, but she was permitted to attend their archery lessons, as this was considered a more appropriate pastime for a girl. Chione was rather irritated at having to stop, she loved the feeling of power and control archry gave her, but she sighed, and laid aside her bow. Faramir gave the messanger a handful of gold pieces, and he left, probably to find something to drink. Inside the package was a knife, rather battered looking, with a worn hilt. The blade, however, gleamed like silver. There was also a small shred of paper, on which was written a few words in elvish: " to Chione, in thanks. This knife will cut just once. Use it with discretion. You will learn how to use it. G." "Gandalf was always strange," Boromir said dismissively. Faramir said nothing, but looked thoughtful. Chione was silent as well. The knife lay cool and metallic in her hand, it fitted her grasp as if it had been forged for her. It was clearly valuable, although how she had no idea. Presently other things drove the gift from her mind. It lay unnoticed, wrapped in cloth at the bottom of Chione's chest of drawers, and waited.