Home » Fiction

Forging Old Links Into New (G) Print

Written by Eschscholzia

17 May 2019 | 4475 words

Title: Forging Old Links Into New
Author: Eschscholzia
Rating: G
Pairing(s): Faramir & Éowyn
Warnings: canon-typical racism

When the Gondorians attempt to resettle the old lands west of the Ered Nimrais after the Ring War, they run into a clash of cultures with the Dunlendings. Faramir is sent to negotiate a compromise with Éowyn’s help. But how does one determine the facts on the land of people without written history? This story placed second in the Teitho Picture Challenge IV 2019.


Faramir studied the drawing in front of him. Round heads on triangular bodies marched across the piece of parchment. They seemed hurried; some were bent over, others swooped like they were flying.

“Tell me about your picture.”

Elboron beamed, his stick of charcoal still clutched in his left hand. “It’s the procession of nobles at the parade.”

Faramir sat back in his chair; now he had a frame of reference. The annual opening of the Council of Thanes had been the week before. As much as Elessar disliked the pageantry, he agreed with Faramir’s suggestion that traditions be kept up. It was important to show that the King respected customs established in his absence to pacify those who were still skeptical in their support of the newly restored monarchy.

“Here’s King Elessar.” Elboron pointed to a scribbled head. “You can see his crown.”

Faramir pointed to the scowling figure at the head of the line. “Is this me?” He already knew the answer; it was his job as Steward to clear a path for the king.

“Yes, Ada.”

Did he really look like that? Did Elboron think he scowled all the time? What was it that Éowyn called it, his “Steward Face?” “It’s a very nice picture,” Faramir declared. “You will make a good scribe someday.”

The mid-morning bell rang in the courtyard. Faramir sighed. Speaking of the Council of Thanes… He stood up. Carefully handing the parchment scrap back to Elboron, he smiled at his son. “I must go to a Council meeting now, even. Why don’t you go see if your mother needs any help?”

Elboron skipped off, humming a children’s tune. Faramir let himself out the entrance, feeling his smile slip into “Steward Face” as he crossed the courtyard to the Council Hall. The scrap of tune stuck in his head, merrily playing over and over again like the crank of a hurdy-gurdy. He shook his head to clear it. He needed to focus on the agenda. But the Rohirric tune that Éowyn taught Elboron was stuck. He smiled to think that he himself had only a child’s understanding of Rohirric yet; the words went with a circle game where children held hands and others tried to break through the line.

Faramir greeted the other Council members who were there already and stood by his seat next to the head of the table. A few more trickled in as he looked over his notes.

“Good morning everyone.”

Faramir’s head snapped up. Elessar stood at the doorway. How did he move so quietly? It upset the seneschal that Elessar eschewed protocol and didn’t like to be announced, except on the most formal occasions. Or perhaps the seneschal was just like everyone else and found it unnerving when the King snuck up on him. Perhaps he could tie a bell around Elessar’s neck like Éowyn’s cat.

Elessar took his seat, and the company sat after him.

“First on the agenda, Old Business,” Faramir read. “Repairs to the ring wall. The Joint Committee of the Dwarven Stoneworkers and the Guild of Masons reports that they have finished sorting the stone that can be reused as facing versus filler. Reconstruction currently focuses on the east side of the Rammas Echor.”

The meeting rolled on, as the Council settled various matters and heard committee reports.

“Moving on to New Business,” Faramir continued. “We have a petition from Lord Traston regarding Dunlending incursions.”

Elessar straightened up at that. “Incursions?”

Lord Traston lifted his chin. All the better to look down his nose, Faramir decided.

Traston leaned forward, earnestly. “In my position as Marchwarden of the Enedwaith, it is my duty to protect the lands of the Gondorian settlers. Lately, the Dunlendings have been crossing the Isen and dismantling fences. They also drive their herds across the fields of the settlers’ farms. We have lost many hundreds of castars’ worth of grain to trampling and grazing.”

Elessar sighed, and rubbed his hand across his face. Faramir’s thoughts echoed Elessar’s face. We have enough troubles on our borders, without troubles within.

“We are grateful for your efforts on our behalf to expand the breadbasket of Gondor, Lord Traston,” Elessar said finally.

Lord Traston simpered.

“I am concerned though,” he continued. Lord Traston pursed his lips. “I thought we had received a promise from the Dunlending Chiefs at the end of the War that they would not cause further troubles.”

“We did.” Lord Traston rolled his eyes. “But what is the word of a Dunlending worth?”

“Has anyone tried talking with them?” Faramir asked.

“They say the land south of the Isen is their hunting grounds, that it belongs to them.” It was one of the barons from the Ered Nimrais fiefs. Subordinate in rank to Traston, he was a quiet fellow who rarely spoke in the Council. Faramir did not know much about him; a third son who unexpectedly inherited as a result of the war.

“Where are their cities?” Lord Traston interrupted. “Where are their land patents? What crops have they sown?” He held up his hands, questioning. “We need the army to enforce order!”

Elessar pursed his lips. “Traston, I understand how upsetting this must be for our settlers, to see their recent hard work come to naught.”

Lord Traston sat back in his chair, wearing the smile of the victor.

“…but I think we must have a further investigation before we commit to pacifying them through force.”

The smile fell off Traston’s face.

“To that end,” Elessar continued, “I will send my Steward, Faramir, with a company of soldiers to investigate the matter. ”

Faramir held his face steady. In his mind he calculated distances. How long would take to reach Adorn and the Greenway? At least the winter was past and the roads were open now.

When the meeting was over, Faramir stood to gather his papers. Elessar reached a hand out.

“Sire?” Faramir asked.

“I have faith in your ability to investigate the Dunlending situation, Faramir. I just wish I could accompany you.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Elessar’s eyes glinted. “You should take your lady wife along. You’ll need a translator.”

Faramir grinned. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

Éowyn was quite surprised to hear that the King was sending them on a working holiday to Rohan. She immediately began packing. Faramir let himself out to start his investigation where he always started: in the Archives. The Under Chief Archivist rushed forward to greet him when he arrived, wringing his hands.

“Prince Faramir! If only you had sent word of your coming, we could have pulled folios for you!” The man looked like he lived in fear of the Chief Archivist finding out Faramir had caught him unprepared, which was entirely possible.

“Peace, Nivrostion.” Faramir gave him his most winning smile, and held his palms up, placating the poor frazzled man. “I did not have time. I am only lately given a task by our King. I need to find out what items you hold about the history of relations between Gondor and the Dunlendings. Particularly, I am interested in treaties or land grants or their land tenure.”

Nivrostion wrung his mouth. “But the Gwathuirim have no system of writing. They won’t have any correspondence or history. They don’t even have bards.”

Faramir nodded. “What can you provide in any case? Do you have any copies of treaties? Land grants?”

“I will send Perfseronel with whatever we have.”

“Thank you, Nivrostion.” Faramir dipped his head in the deference due to a fellow scholar, but not so much as to diminish the precedence of a Steward. He turned and left the anteroom through the familiar arch. His footsteps echoed on the marble in the hallway leading to his favorite carrel. It was tucked one hallway down and half a flight up in the outer wall, with a window whose glass was curved with age but undimmed; perfect for a student who wanted quiet for reading and good light.

He took out a quill and parchment for notetaking from the little box on the desk. He sat drumming his fingers on the table for a few minutes, then stood to browse a nearby shelf. It was an uncustomarily long time before Perfseronel arrived. Faramir’s heart sank as he noticed her hands held only a few bound folios and a scroll. He took the top few from her arms, setting them at his place.

“This is all we could find, My Lord.” She put the remaining books on the table and stepped back. She looked down at the floor, then back up, as if too disappointed to meet his eyes. “There were more papers before… the War.” She paused, and then her words tumbled out. “They are in our catalogues, but they were lost in a ceiling failure during the Siege. Rain damage.”

“I suppose it can’t be helped. Thank you, Perfseronel.”

She placed one hand on her chest, and bowed. The edges of her sleeves were rolled back, but still had not escaped a few ink blots. Faramir smiled to himself. Lost in her work, like him. The Senior Archivist for the Outer Reaches turned and left. Faramir sighed. Let’s see what I can learn.

There wasn’t much to learn. There was one book written by an adventurer who sang the praises of fishing in the floodplains of the Gwathló and camping in the foothills of the Misty Mountains with the Dunlendings. He reported, in somewhat archaic language, that the Gwathuirim were sheep and goat herders who lived in tents, moving with the seasons and the forage. He spoke of their fierce and noble spirit, the joy of never being tied to one place, setting portents from the stars, and the noble character that could be built through suffering the plagues of summer midges in the marshes.

The adventurer also mentioned their gratitude to King Eärnil for freeing them from the tyranny of the Wainriders. “Our whole land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over us,” the adventurer reported the Gwathuirim to have said. Faramir supposed the records written at the time of Eärnil were the ones ruined in the summer rains after the Siege. He copied what he notes he could onto a new parchment, then sanded it and rolled it up to take with him. He stacked the folios neatly in size order for the staff to reshelve later, carefully aligning their edges with the corner of the desk.

~~~000~~~

Lothíriel was waiting on the steps of Meduseld when they arrived. She offered the cup of welcome to Faramir and Éowyn in turn, with halting Rohirric.

Éowyn smiled. “Well done sister,” she said.

I have been practicing with the tutor,” Lothíriel replied, slowly.

Elboron peaked out shyly from behind Éowyn’s skirts, then smiled when he saw his uncle. Éomer scooped up his sister-son, swinging him around in a circle as Elboron shrieked in delight.

“I must admit, I was surprised to receive your letter announcing your visit and explaining its purpose,” Éomer said to Faramir later during the welcome feast. “We have not had trouble with the Dunlendings since the War.”

“Lord Traston and the other settlers are convinced that the Dunlendings are naught but unruly folk,” Faramir sighed, staring into his cup. He swirled the amber beverage. If only there were mead that excellent in Ithilien. He made a note to ask Éowyn whether their bees needed different fodder.

Éowyn grinned at her brother. “Some say the Rohirrim are an unruly folk.”

“But there is no love lost between them and the Dunlendings,” Éomer replied.

At that moment, the court skald Haramund was announced. He bowed to the head table, and then began his performance. He began by reciting a humorous poem about a dwarf and a runaway sheep that had the hall in stitches. Faramir cursed his limited understanding; Éowyn could only whisper so many of the jokes to him through her tears of laughter.

After finishing to an appreciative audience, the skald’s apprentice Thusnelda stepped forward. She handed the skald his lyre, and produced a bone flute from her pocket. Haramund strummed a chord, then began a plaintive melody in the language of Rohan, accompanied by the apprentice on the refrains. Faramir did not understand much of it; the vowels sounded different from what he was used to. During an instrumental duet between the flute and lyre, Éowyn leaned over.

“You’re not bad at Rohirric. It’s just an ancient form of our language.”

A flush of relief spread through Faramir.

“They’re singing of Eorl and the Fields of Celebrant. This is how we know our history; who needs written books and lonely reading in cells when we can hear it together in such an entertainment for all?

She had a point. Faramir still preferred his solitude, although the cozy glow of the fire cast a warmth across the enthralled company.

~~~000~~~

Faramir and Éowyn and their party stayed two days at Edoras, and then set forth under the ringing of the hunting horns. The sun was bright and the skies clear as they set their faces into the winds blowing through the gap. Elboron stayed behind for a visit with his cousins. They reached Helm’s Deep with ease, where they were welcomed by Hulda and Erkenbrand.

They only spent one night at Helm’s Deep. Erkenbrand gave them a small detachment of riders as local scouts, to help locate the Dunlending camps. After leaving the fortress, a two-day’s journey brought them to the Fords of Isen. Faramir stood back while Éowyn knelt at the foot of the cairn marking where Théodred fell. Finally, she stood, somewhat unevenly. She wiped her eyes on the shoulder of her blouse, and returned to the group. Faramir gently squeezed her arm, and she smiled at him. They remounted and continued on.

The travelers hugged the north side of the road. Or rather, the path that was once the North Road had faded out, and disappeared into the grass and rocks of the Gap. Faramir found himself wondering what his brother had felt during the journey. Did he water his horse at the Fords? Did he hear the whistling sound through the Gap that sounded like so many indistinct voices, whispering, calling? Did he think that peak looked like a cone of sugar from the kitchens that they used to steal nips from as boys?

They broke for lunch under the shelter of a high rock cliff that extended outwards from the mountain. The cliff face was pecked with all sorts of drawings. Did Boromir see these drawings? Faramir brought out his notebook and a pencil from his saddlebag to sketch them. There was a procession of long ghostly figures, some of whom held swords, while others were shooting bows and arrows. Other portions of the display were mountain sheep and large cats, horned animals that might be elk or deer. There were clouds with raindrops falling. Through the middle of it all, a line zigged and zagged from top to bottom.

Éowyn approached as he worked on his sketch. “What do you suppose this means?” he mused to her. “It seems like something Elboron might draw.”

She leaned her head against his shoulder, contemplating it for a few moments. “I don’t know. I am sure the Dunlendings drew it. There are carvings all throughout the hills, if you know where to look.”

They set up a temporary camp on the northwest side of the Gap, in the plains halfway between the new settlements of Lord Traston’s people and where they supposed the Dunlendings were to be found. Their campsite was at the brink of the mountains’ toes as they sloped to the marshes. Erkenbrand’s scouts rode out with Faramir’s translator Amardil, looking for the camp.

Finally Amardil returned. “We have found their principal camp. The village elders will meet with you tomorrow.”

Faramir nodded. He supposed this was a waiting game as well as a fact-finding mission. “Éowyn, would you be willing to accompany Amardil and I? You are observant; I trust what your eyes and ears find out while we parley.”

The next morning Amardil led Faramir Éowyn with two of the Rohir scouts and two Gondorian soldiers up a deer track. They came to a flat place next to a stream and the shade of trees. Large tents stood a ways into the trees, with curls of smoke rising from cooking fires in the open places.

Amardil held his hand up. “This is where we dismount.”

Faramir, Éowyn, and Amardil approached the rest of the way on foot. The soldiers waited with the horses. Dogs barked as they approached the cluster of tents. Women openly stared at the party as they cooked over fires in pits dug in the ground. A woman whose shoulders were wrapped in a blue scarf with bells at the edges approached them. Her attitude was wary; Faramir was certain she would not hesitate to use her staff to roundly rout them at the earliest sign of trouble. She spoke tersely; Amardil replied in her language.

She seemed satisfied, and the three were ushered into the largest tent. There were no chairs; Amardil whispered they should take their seats on the ground. Faramir sank into a pile of cushions and rugs, all made of wool woven in ornate geometric patterns. The air smelled of smoke and lanolin. A group of five elders sat opposite them, three men and two women. In the center was one whom Faramir hoped was the leader; he seemed to have a fancier scarf than the others. Their faces were ruddy and windblown, evidence of a life outdoors. He idly wondered if what they could teach him about life under the stars to surprise his rangers.

One of the women called out in their language, and a young man came in bearing a tray. They were served mugs of fresh sheep’s milk. Creamy-thick, it tasted like sweetness and green grass. They sat for a long time, contemplating each other.

Finally the elder with the red scarf spoke. Amardil translated for him. “Why have you come to see us?

“The farmers have complained that you are dismantling their fences, and that your animals graze on their corn, and trample what is left.” Faramir held out his hands in friendly supplication.

A woman with a brown scarf draped on her shoulders spoke. “We measure our boundaries by the mountains, and the streams. The fences prevent us from reaching our pastures.”

“The Marchwarden of this region is threatening to send soldiers to prevent you from moving.”

Do you bring war with you?

Faramir gestured to Éowyn, next to him. “I bring my wife with me. Would a Gondorian bring his family to battle?” The pillows lurched precariously; he was rather sure that Éowyn had just stifled a laugh.

The lands were given to us fifty generations ago, by your King Eärnil. The hill country is ours, and our summer pastures. The white wizard in the high tower affirmed his promise; what can you promise us?”

Faramir counted to ten in his mind, trying to think of a diplomatic answer. “My king has sent me to find a solution. The farmers and their lords have pieces of paper that they believe give them title to the land.”

Red Scarf held out a curious sash of string tied at his waist with cascades of other strings tied to it, knotted in places. “But we don’t need writing. We have our rock art, and our knot records. The agreement is recorded at the wall in the Saddle of the Mountains.”

Faramir picked up his knapsack. Drawing out the notebook, he flipped through pages of neat Tengwar until he found the sketch of the rock where they had eaten their noonday meal.

“Is this it? Tell me about the drawing,” Faramir requested.

The women leaned forward; the fringe of the brown scarf brushed his arm. She pointed to the battle scene. “That commemorates the battle of the chariots, many generations ago, as we told you. When the chariots came, we Hill People stood with the People of the Marsh and the Strawheads against them. The line represents the boundary of the Angren. We have lived for all these years in harmony with the People of the Marsh. The Strawheads, they do not respect us, but…” Brown Scarf’s voice trailed off as she shrugged.

The People of the Marsh moved away, but now the new people living at the Marsh do not respect the old understandings,” added the woman wearing the blue scarf. The bells on her fringe tinkled as she, dismissed the Gondorian settlers, too, with a wave of her hand.

Faramir blinked and counted to ten in his mind. What more could he say? “Thank you for your time,” he finally managed. “We will try to work out some common ground.”

He stood from the cushions, a bit unsteadily. His foot had gone to sleep and was now stabbing with pins and needles. Éowyn held out her arm; he was grateful for her support. As they left, the young man who had brought them the refreshments earlier handed Éowyn a bundle wrapped in plane tree leaves. She accepted it with a bow and a smile that only Faramir knew was forced. When they returned to their camp, they discovered it was a log of fresh goat cheese.

~~~000~~~

In the solitude of his tent, Faramir put his head in his hands. How was he going to solve this? His intuition said that the Dunlendings spoke the truth. But how could he prove it in a way that would conclusively settle the matter with Lord Traston? He traced a circle in the fabric of the table covering. Elboron’s circle song popped into his head as his finger went round and round.

Faramir’s finger stopped. “Éowyn!”

She poked her head through the tent door. She held a bunch of herbs she had gathered for drying to take home.

“The song!”

She pursed her lips. “My love?”

“The song you taught Elboron. What’s it about?”

Her shoulders relaxed. She seemed less concerned at his sudden whim. “When we were little they said it was about the War of the Wainriders. But you never know where children’s songs come from.”

Faramir’s face stretched with a grin. “I have an idea. I’m going to need to send some of the scouts back to Edoras to borrow a bard.”

She rolled her eyes, but ducked back out to summon the scouts. In the end, three of Erkenbrand’s scouts were sent on the fastest horses with a letter for Lothíriel. Faramir announced the court session for ten days hence. He spent the time visiting the settlers, talking to them about their needs on the frontier and encouraging them that they were not forgotten by Minas Tirith. As he went, he sketched plats in his notebook of farms and roads, seeking passages between holdings that would allow the herds to pass.

The court session went just like any other court day session Faramir had held as Steward. That is, apart from being held in the far reaches of the Enedwaith, many days from the White City or Ithilien. The Dunlending elders were given a bench along the wall with the other claimants. Faramir carefully put Lord Traston on his left, on the other side of the room from the Dunlending representatives. After a few smaller cases, the last and most important matter of the land claims was left.

“Please bring forward my witness, Haramund, Éomers-skald,” Faramir instructed. The crowd parted to admit Haramund, followed by his apprentice Thusnelda.

The elder with the red scarf started. “What is the Strawhead doing here?” His eyes narrowed to scowling slits.

Faramir placed himself between them. “Peace, my friend. You will see.” Did he do the right thing to send for the skald? He had to hope. He turned to his wife, seated in her place of honor at his right hand.

“Éowyn, would you please sing the play-song for your brother’s skald?”

“Certainly, my lord,” she said with a smile. In a melodious alto, she began:

Dunlending and a Dunedan

A Rohir and a Dale Man

Wagons North

Wagons South

The circle holds!

Thusnelda hid her smile behind her hand. The skald smiled as well.

“Éowyn, could you please ask the skald if he is familiar with that song?” Faramir hoped this gambit played out.

Yes, my lord,” was the bard’s reply.

“And what is the song about?”

The founding of the Éothéod, sir. That is a small fragment of the larger song.

Faramir pressed onward. “There are more verses? But I only know that part.”

Éowyn’s eyebrows raised to her hairline. “I didn’t know that, either,” she mouthed.

“Does any of it involve the Dunlendings?” Faramir asked Haramund.

Certainly, my lord. They speak of the double envelopment at the final battle, and the heroic efforts of the allies.”

“Please favor us with that verse.”

Haramund strummed his lyre for a chord to place his key, and then proclaimed a new set of lines to a tune with which Faramir was familiar.

The skald paused as the last notes died away. His eyebrows were raised questioning. “Is that enough, my lord?

“Does any of it record promises made between the allies afterward?”

Yes,” Haramund said. “It concerns territory and plunder.”

“Can you sing that verse for us?”

Thusnelda took the turn this time, with a nod from her teacher. The melody chanted a list of rivers and mountains, from the marshes of Tharbad to the hills of the Misty Mountains.

Faramir brought out the drawings of the cliff; he asked Amardil to show it to them. “And this,” Faramir asked, ”does this agree with what she just said?”

The elders all agreed.

Faramir returned to his chair. “Then by the authority granted to me by Elessar, King of Gondor and Arnor, I make this decree.” He smirked a little when he thought of how Arnor finally existed again, here in the marshes. “Since the claim of the Dunlendings is supported by the Rohir, and since the Rohir have no benefit from the claim, and in fact, are frequently at odds with each other, we find that the Dunlendings are speaking the truth.”

Traston spluttered next to him while Amardil translated for the elders.

“On the other hand, we also find that the Dunlendings have created havoc by dismantling the rail fences. We enjoin them to stay to the roads, and we enjoin our settlers to not duly impede them on their seasonal transits.”

The elders whispered amongst themselves. “We can abide by this,” the one in the red scarf announced.

Faramir felt the weight of fifty generations on his shoulders; he hoped this settlement would hold as long as possible. It would take patience and understanding by all.

NB: Please do not distribute (by any means, including email) or repost this story (including translations) without the author's prior permission. [ more ]

Enjoyed this story? Then be sure to let the author know by posting a comment at http://www.faramirfiction.com/Fiction/forging-old-links-into-new. Positive feedback is what keeps authors writing more stories!



Thank the author

The following people read the story, enjoyed it, and would like to thank the author:

  [ what's this? ]

View all recent Thanks


1 Comment(s)


NB: Comments may contain spoilers!

what a delight to see this here…congrats

— sian22    23 May 2019, 17:04    #

Subscribe to comments | Get comments by email | View all recent comments


Comment

  Rules & Help

All fields except 'Web' are required.
Your email address will NOT be displayed publicly. It will only be sent to the author so she (he) can reply to your comment in private. If you want to keep track of comments on this article, you can subscribe to its comments feed.


About the Author


Eschscholzia

Hello! Welcome to my author page. I have been reading and enjoying fan fiction for many years, but only recently started writing it. I have other non-Faramir and non-Tolkien stories posted under the same user name at AO3 and Fanfiction.net. My Tumblr handle is “arizonapoppy.”

My writing style is short and slightly irreverent. I aspire to someday achieve writing something serious and long and angsty.

My Hogwarts House is Slytherin.

Filter

Hide | Show adult content

Adult content is shown. [what's this?]

Adult content is hidden.
NB: This site is still for adults only, even with the adult content filter on! [what's this?]

Translate

  • DE
  • ES
  • JP
  • FR
  • PT
  • KO
  • IT
  • RU
  • CN