A Matter of Trust
For the past two hours Boromir had used the finest Gondorian wine to relax his brother but one glance at Faramir and Boromir could only shake his head in defeat. The moment they entered the Tower of Ecthelion Faramir's demeanor resembled a condemned man going to his execution.
"Remind me why I sacrificed my birthday present on you?"
"Was not the company reward enough brother," Faramir answered somberly. He stared up at the tall marble statues of ancient kings of Gondor wishing those days would return. Of late, the tower only held bad memories for him. Most of the confrontations he and his father had took place within these hallowed walls.
"If my Lords have need of me." A door warden bowed, waiting instructions.
"The steward and the lords of Gondor?" Boromir asked, inquiring information on his father and the councils' location.
"Lord Denethor remains with Prince Imrahil, behind closed doors in the conference chambers. The Lords Angbor, Hirluin, Golasgil, and Arthôn have gathered inside the Great Hall of Feast."
The captain general nodded pleased with the answer. With the fiefdom lords stuffing themselves, making bargains and talking politics, Boromir planned to avoid the building as long as possible. Legally, he had the perfect excuse. Captains of the White Tower were obligated to report to the steward upon entrance inside the city.
"When the Lord of the city returns, inform Lord Denethor I await his presence in the Tower Hall," Boromir replied, sweeping past the door wardens as he made the trek through the large room. The heavy doors closed behind him, shutting out the citadel's outdoor activity.
He placed his hand on the steward's chair and stared up at the dais of steps and the long abandon throne. Though his father believed differently, Boromir saw no reason why the House of Hurin could not claim the throne of Gondor. He turned back around to find his brother staring at him.
"Your eyes accuse me harshly, brother," he replied, wishing Faramir's ability to read him wasn't so strong. When Faramir straightened, Boromir caught a glimpse of silver shinning around his brother's neck. Curious, he stepped down the steps and approached his brother. "What is that you wear around your neck?"
Faramir's hand moved to his neck. "It…it is a gift,"
"A gift?" Boromir inquired suspiciously. He opened his brother's tunic, exposing a silver necklace. Examining the jewelry, Boromir lifted it between his finger and thumb amazed at the superior quality. "This an unique gift, little brother. Mithril. Who gave you such a prize?"
His brother lowered his head, refusing to answer.
"What is this?" he asked, lifting his brother's chin forcing Faramir to look at him. "Never have we kept secrets from one another. What has changed that you no longer confide in my counsel?"
"It is a long story."
"And I am bored, enlighten me."
"Several weeks past, my men discovered an unconscious dwarf, badly injured and severely dehydrated. Though I believed the dwarf would die, I could not leave him. I carried him to Henneth Annûn where he slowly recovered. The dwarf lived, and as a token of thanks, gave me this," Faramir said, touching the necklace. "He claimed Narvi created the necklace with Mithril from within Dwarrowdelf."
"Narvi? Dwarrowdelf? You speak in riddles."
"Narvi? Surely, Boromir you have heard of the great dwarf craftsman from Dwarrowdelf." When Boromir shook his head, baffled at the foreign name, Faramir heaved a frustrated sigh. "Khazad-dum? The mines of Moria?"
Boromir's eyes narrowed, unimpressed with the history of the Dwarves. "I care not for dwarves, their mines, or foolish folk lore," he said, troubled by his brother's revelation. How could his brother have been so stupid as to risk his life over a trespasser? Did Faramir even care? He angrily grabbed the younger man and jerked him forward. "You allowed a stranger, a dwarf no less, to enter and leave Gondor unmolested. Have you no reasoning for the danger you placed yourself? If he had harmed you, I would have…"
"Trust me, brother. He was no threat," Faramir whispered, reassuring his older sibling. The anger and fear slowly left Boromir's eyes. "And I could no more harm another being without cause. Doing so would make us no better than Sauron."
"What if Father had learned of this?"
"He does not know."
"We will speak no more of this, Faramir," Boromir said, releasing his brother. "Least you risk Father's wrath and…"
"Must you always attempt to hide your brother's weaknesses from me?" A familiar, yet irritated voice asked from behind them.
"Father," Boromir replied humbly. Respectfully he lowered himself to one knee and bowed his head as Denethor and Imrahil emerged from the shadows.
"Arise, my son," Denethor stated, stretching out his hand in an upward motion. Angered by the conversation he had witnessed, he turned his fury on his youngest. "Rebellion is on traitorous lips, and my own son encourages those not loyal to Gondor to enter our realm and take it from us."
"Tis only a dwarf, Father," Boromir said defending his brother.
"A dwarf, that we know, Boromir," Denethor retorted, keeping his eyes on Faramir. "What other creatures have you allowed to walk freely through our lands? Elves? Istars?" At the mention of Istars the steward's eyes widened. "Ah, I detect Mithrandir's hand in this plot against me."
"Defend not the bringer of doom, Faramir. The gray pilgrim seeks to dethrone me, and I will not permit him to take Gondor from me." Denethor cupped the young man's chin, squeezing it gently. "Mithrandir fills your head with tales of lore and places afar. Trust not his words, my son, they will lead you astray." He released his hold and turned to Boromir. "You are your brother's keeper, are you not?"
"I am not a child, Father," Faramir angrily replied. "Long has it been since anyone watched my steps. Years has it been since I was last reprimanded for childish….."
"Years, my son?" Denethor asked, amused at his youngest's unusual display of defiance. "Perhaps you have forgotten the incident with the dog and Lord Meneldil five months ago? I assure you, he has not forgotten, nor does he permit me to forget."
The incident, as his father called it, had occurred on the sixth level during the spring festival. A large dog, Faramir had rescued and kept in the stables, held a strong dislike for the councilman. Meneldil constantly antagonized the animal, making several attempts to remove the dog while Faramir was in Ithilien, but the dog always found its way back to the stables to await Faramir's homecoming.
On that unforgettable day, Meneldil entered the stable unaware of Faramir's recent arrival. The instant Meneldil saw the young man, the dog snarled and then charged the councilman. In a panic, Meneldil tried to flee but stumbled into a stall and landed face first in a pile of horse manure.
The memory was still amusing but Faramir knew better than to voice it openly. "I apologized to Lord Meneldil, and gave the dog to Targon. He assured me that the dog will never cross paths with the councilman again."
"A worthwhile diplomatic solution, Faramir. Had you reached it sooner, the incident with Lord Meneldil never would have happened," Denethor was quick to mention. "Such inconsistency only proves your immaturity, my son."
"Father, I am well aware of Lord Meneldil's wounded pride, but I fail to understand how this one incident has condemned my abilities in your eyes."
"One incident?" Denethor taunted, smiling shrewdly. "Was it not you, Faramir who asked to journey with Mithrandir to the Misty Mountains?" Before Faramir could answer Denethor added, "If Mithrandir told you trees could talk, you would believe him."
Boromir snorted, laughing at the asinine remark.
"I find your humor severely lacking, Boromir," Denethor said, turning his anger on his eldest. "Perhaps after Sauron enters the city will you consider the seriousness of this situation."
"My apologies, Father. I meant no disrespect. Gondor's safety is always my first concern. Thus, the reason Faramir and I await your council. As well as Uncle Imrahil." Boromir pulled out the dagger and showed it to his father and uncle.
"Where did you get this?" Imrahil demanded, inspecting the weapon carefully. "This craftsmanship is unique, and has not been used in forty years."
"Where did you find this dagger?" Imrahil demanded, inspecting the weapon carefully. "The craftsmanship is unique. It has not been used in forty years."
Faramir quickly explained how he discovered the weapon and then made a foreboding conclusion. "I believe it was left as a message for…"
"The steward of Gondor…." Denethor interrupted, declaring in a foreboding voice. The steward turned his back to the trio and walked towards the throne. Slowly he lowered himself in the steward's seat, heaved a long exasperated sigh before he spoke. "Imrahil, no longer can we deny what we both fear. You, as well as I, know whom the dagger belongs."
Imrahil lowered his head. "Aye, it belongs to Brandir. It is as we feared. He lives."
Inside the royal bedchamber, the aging prince of Dol Amroth slept peacefully. Prince Adrahil II had fought numerous battles and faced many powerful enemies but the recent illness he was recovering had been his greatest foe. The fiefdom's respected healers had offered powerful remedies hoping they might restore their beloved monarch's health. After several attempts, the prince finally showed improvement.
Moonlight bathed the large bedchamber, giving off an eerie glow that illuminated the room for its elderly occupant. The open ceiling to floor windows allowed the silk curtains to flow carelessly on the gentle sea air breeze that freshened the room.
Guards posted outside his door, each trained to act upon the slightest sound that might cause their monarch harm stood at attention, unaware of the present danger lurking inside Prince Adrahil's chambers.
A lone shadow approached the large bed, silently he picked up a pillow, squeezed it tightly with both hands. "Your highness," he hissed, barely above a whisper. The instant the prince's eyes opened, the pillow was placed across the royal's face. "No, old one. You will not deny me my vengeance. Long have I waited, long have I tasted it. Now you shall be the first to know it."
Adrahil tried to scream but his attacker pressed the pillow harder into his face. In an egotistic move, the attacker deliberately shifted his movements to allow the prince to see his face.
"Yes, it is I, Brandir," the attacker identified himself after Adrahil's eyes widened in recognition. "Had you not interfered, Finduilas would be alive today. I blame you as much as I blame Denethor for her death. You denied Finduilas her happiness now I deny you your life."
Adrahil tried to scream but his attacker pressed the pillow harder into his face, cutting off his protest.
"She loved me, not him. Yet, you cared not. Finduilas was but a pawn to straightened your alliance between Ecthelion and Minas Tirith. Had she not gone to that cursed city, she would have been my wife, not Denethor's."
The struggles become less intense, growing weaker.
"Fear not, Denethor shall suffer worse…much worse." Brandir bent down, whispering close to the prince's ear. "I shall take from him as he took from me. Yes, old man, I know what the Steward of Gondor stole from me. I shall reclaim it as Finduilas would have wanted. Had you not meddled, had Denethor not interfered, your grandsons would not have suffered the loss of their mother."
Adrahil used the last of his remaining strength to push the pillow away.
Momentary stunned, Brandir shoved the pillow back in place and pushed down harder, leaving it there until he was certain the Prince of Dol Amroth was dead.
Gently placing the pillow underneath Adrahil's head, Brandir smiled down at his dead adversary. Shortly, the prince's body will be discovered, and from all appearances, Adrahil would have died peacefully in his sleep.
He turned, walked to where the secret compartment awaited him. Years ago, as a high-ranking member of the elite Swan Knights, Brandir had been privileged to the castle's many secrets. Those secrets had given him unrestricted access to places inside the castle unknown to most. As time passed, Brandir's name diminished in Dol Amroth and later forgotten. It was the only mistake Adrahil had made, a fatal one, just as Brandir had predicted.