19 September 2011 | 56124 words | Work in Progress
A/N: This series is mostly one-shots or two-shots from Eldarion’s point of view, or the point of view of Faramir’s children, set later in the same Desperate Hours AU as the rest of my stories.
Eldarion and the Spirits
“Fairy tales don’t tell children dragons exist, children already know dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children dragons can be killed.”
Eldarion was a brave boy. He knew it was so because his adar, Aragorn, called Elessar Telcontar, told him he was. His Ada told Eldarion how brave he was when the young Prince smiled through his fright as they walked through their city of Minas Tirith, despite the crowds pressed around them. Aragorn called his son brave as well when Eldarion did not run from the large hounds, Wreck and Ruin, which were his father’s gift from Éomer King of Rohan.
His naneth, Arwen the Queen, also said he was brave, although the way she said “brave,” it did not always sound like a good thing. Naneth said he was brave when he climbed the white tree in the court yard so high up that Faramir had to help him figure out how to get down. She called him brave when Eldarion offered to protect Naneth from her angry seamstress with his wooden sword. She called her son brave when he told Faramir and Éowyn they should have another child for him to play with. Eldarion rather thought Naneth had been proud of him that day.
Eldarion knew he was brave, but when night fell in Minas Tirith, he felt very afraid. Sometimes spirits walked through the old halls of his home in the citadel, and these spirits were not always happy. His nurse did not see the spirits, and thought he was only raising a fuss to get his way. Eldarion thought that accusation unfair, as he hardly ever behaved so. Faramir had warned him it was not the best tactic for “successfully achieving his objectives.” Adar, Naneth, Faramir and Éowyn all agreed that it was best to face one’s fears. So Eldarion had decided tonight he would follow the spirits, and see where they went, because if he knew where they slept during the day, he might be less afraid.
He had not told Naneth or Adar of the spirits, because Nurse told him they were not real, and that his parents would only think him a naughty boy. Besides, Eldarion had a plan.
So, when a weeping lady ghost appeared in his room that night, surrounded by guard ghosts, and walked out his door, Eldarion followed, as quietly as he could. He followed the the spirits into one of the secret passageways that his Adar told him riddled their city, and out the other end where it emerged in the garden of the Houses of Healing, on the sixth level of Minas Tirith. The lady spirit was now distraught, kneeling in the courtyard and keening. The guard ghosts looked sad too, but one of them touched the lady’s shoulder, and spoke to her softly. The lady nodded stiffly, as if she was made out of wood, and slowly arose to her feet, and walked toward the Houses of Healing. All but two of her guards followed, and those two bent as if picking up a heavy object, and then walked as if carrying something back through the tunnel.
Eldarion could not decide whom to follow. He was just determining to follow the guards, as he was more likely to be caught by some well-meaning but probably not sympathetic adult in the House, when a familiar and much-loved voice commented.
“They were very clear tonight, were they not?”
“Fara!” The young prince exclaimed, surprised but happy to see his Father’s Steward. “You can see them too? Nurse told me I made them up!”
Faramir smiled sadly, white teeth flashing in the darkness, and offered Eldarion a biscuit, and a sip of tea from his flask, explaining “Nay, ‘Darion. They are real enough, but few can see them. The lady was the wife of a young Prince also named Faramir, who was badly hurt in a long-ago battle. That Faramir was your many-times great grandmother Firiel’s youngest brother. He died of his wounds, and his men brought his body back to his wife. She never married again, for her grief was too great. She was a dutiful healer despite her grief, and saved many men the night her husband died, who would otherwise have perished of their injuries.”
“Oh.” Eldarion commented thoughtfully. “I thought they were trying to scare me, and meant to follow them, to see where they go.”
“They come and go by some will of their own, dear Prince.” Faramir related. “This is the anniversary of that long-ago battle where the lady’s Prince fell, so she comes and goes always on this night, but also on some others. These spirits have no physical place where they rest, and most will not even see you. They only act out a moment of great emotional importance during their lives, and fade again.”
“Most shall not see me? Then some do?” Eldarion commented, munching on another biscuit.
Faramir’s face darkened. “Aye, some do. If any seek to talk to you or grab you, call out for your Adar and Naneth. I do not believe a spirit could harm you, but they should not behave so familiarly with one still living.”
“Wouldn’t such behavior be cowardly, though?” Eldarion asked, accepting another sip of tea.
“Nay, dear one. I do not know everything of ghosts, and ones that behave in such an untoward fashion should be brought to the attention of the King, immediately. He has dominion here over the living and the dead, and has the power to tell them to return from whence they came.” Faramir met his young friend’s eyes. “Promise me you will call out, should you be so approached by one of the spirits. I assure you should be doing your Adar a favor, in the unlikely event that you should be addressed by a spirit.”
“I promise.” Eldarion agreed solemnly. “Why are you out here so late this night, Fara?”
“I have … a standing engagement, so to speak, with your dead ancestor’s Steward’s ghost. His name was Pelendur. He seems to confuse me with the poor dead Prince Faramir who was the husband of the weeping lady spirit. Every year on this night since I was younger than you are now, Pelendur’s spirit would come to me, wherever I was in the city, and give me a message intended for that Prince.” Faramir explained, taking off his dark cloak to wrap it around Eldarion.
Eldarion considered that as he accepted the cloak. “Should we go get Ada?” He asked.
“I do not think it needful. I have seen this spirit every year of my life, even in the wilds of Ithilien, and he has never offered me harm.” Faramir answered. “Would you wait here with me, and see, or shall I take you back to your chamber?
“I shall stay, Fara. If you are here, I can bear being scared.” Eldarion answered, taking his protector’s hand as a tall, lordly ghost appeared, dressed as Faramir sometimes did for formal council meetings and great feasts, only somehow even more splendidly.
“Prince Faramir!” The lordly ghost scolded, “Why did you follow your father and brother? Now Gondor’s throne shall be empty, oh why did you not stay!”
Faramir squeezed Eldarion’s hand. “Peace, Lord Pelendur.” He soothed the ghost, in much the same voice that he had used to explain to Eldarion how he might safely climb down the white tree. “It is many ages past that sad night when your Princes died. I am not your Prince, but the current Steward. Now a King of Ondoher’s line again rules in Gondor, and all is at peace. Do you be at peace as well.”
The ghost looked somewhat startled for a moment, then seemed to notice Eldarion. The young Prince bravely resisted the urge to shrink against Faramir’s side, and met the ghost’s stare. Thinking what his Adar and Naneth would say to such a troubled spirit, Eldarion summoned his courage and spoke. “I am sorry for your loss, Lord Steward. You did your job well, and now should rest.”
The ghost seemed to pause to consider this. “You are not my poor ill-fated Prince.” The ghost concluded at length, his attention turning back to the current Steward. Faramir pulled Eldarion behind him, feeling he was probably being excessively cautious. But this Faramir had never managed, before, to get through to Pelendur’s ghost that he was not that long-dead prince. The spirit had always accused Faramir of lying when Faramir tried to explain he was Pelendur’s descendant, not the King Ondoher’s younger son. Faramir did not know what might happen next.
“Do not be afraid for your little brother.” The ghost said. “I mean no harm to any of King Ondoher’s descendants. I need not linger here, anymore, I think. I thank you both for your kindness and honesty this night.”
“You are welcome.” Eldarion replied back, having been drilled in basic courtesy as soon as he could speak. Faramir seemed almost in shock, so Eldarion squeezed his friend’s hand back, to give him strength, as the spirit disappeared in front of them.
Faramir shook his head, murmuring “well, that was unexpected.” The Steward’s attention turned back to the little Prince, and his expression softened. “I think it was good you followed the weeping lady tonight, Prince Eldarion. Perhaps Lord Pelendur can rest in peace now, and not walk Minas Tirith in the night.”
Eldarion grinned, pleased. Praise from Faramir was not rare, but it always made him feel good.
“Come, little one. We should get you back to your room ‘ere you are reported as missing, and the guard sent out.” Faramir instructed, offering the small boy his hand.
“Too late.” The deep, gravelly voice of Captain Magordan, commander of the King’s Guard, commented levelly. “I noticed Prince Eldarion vanishing into one of the passage ways, and decided to follow.” The Captain explained. Kneeling down to speak to Eldarion, Magordan appealed “Please, my Prince, if you have cause in the future to follow anyone whom you believe might be a threat to you, take an adult with you, eh?”
Eldarion winced, for this was a Rule, and he had not thought he was breaking any, since Nurse said the ghosts only existed in his own mind.
Fortunately, Faramir rescued him, modifying Magordan’s request. “The good Captain means that you should do so even if the threat may not exist, Eldarion.”
“Aye,” the Captain agreed, watchful eyes on the shadows as he accompanied the two Princes back to the citadel. “Ask Prince Faramir to accompany you, my Prince, as the Lord Steward is obviously quite accustomed to addressing that which may not exist.”
Faramir winced internally. Magordan was a good man, but he had a subtle and twisted sense of humor. The Steward of Gondor was wearily certain that he would be subjected to a string of ghost-themed jokes and pranks from the King’s Guards in the near future. Faramir considered protesting that he hadn’t even known Eldarion could see the spirits, let alone that the youngster could successfully escape his minders to follow them. Faramir kept silent, because he wasn’t sure those truths would assuage the Captain’s ire at seeing the crown prince confronted by a possible threat the former ranger could not see or hear, and therefore could not defend Eldarion from.
“I will.” Eldarion promised, hoping he would not get in any further trouble for this night’s adventure. He had only meant to learn where the ghosts came from, that he might not be so frightened of them in the future. Seeking to change the subject, one of the tactics he had learned from Faramir for evading dangerous conversations, the young Prince asked. “Could you see the spirits too, Captain Magordan?”
“I could not, your highness.” The Captain explained, with a brief considering look over the child’s head at Faramir. “I heard the lady’s sobs faintly, and some few words spoken by the last ghost.”
Faramir hid another wince. Eldarion had been impressed enough by the ghostly pageantry that he had not noticed the discrepancies in the ghost’s manner of address, but Magordan, who knew Aragorn’s lineage as well as any of the Dunedain who had followed the King from the north, might well have questions.
The party passed several other of the King’s guards, who seemed surprised to see the young Prince up at this late hour. None were alarmed, since the child seemed in good spirits and was accompanied by the Steward and Captain Magordan.
As the group approached the royal wing, a door flew open to reveal the King and his foster-brothers, all looking quite upset. “Eldarion!” Aragorn greeted his heir with relief. “Where on Arda did you disappear to? “
Eldarion, intimidated to see his normally calm Adar so flustered, looked to Faramir in mute appeal rather than answer. The Steward sighed, but valiantly attempted, “It is a long story, Aragorn. All is well, might it not wail ‘til morrow?”
Arwen, hearing her son’s voice, appeared in her dressing gown, sleep-tousled hair carelessly pulled back. “I think that may be best, Estel.” The Queen endorsed. “Come, ion-nin, let us get you back to bed.” She commanded softly.
Eldarion, recognizing a rescue when one came his way, quickly turned to follow his mother. His father stopped him on the way, and picked him up for a hug and quick kiss to his cheek.
“You smell of those caramel biscuits Faramir favors.” The King noted, sighing in resignation. “Arwen, make sure he cleans his teeth again before you lay him down.”
The Queen, accepting the nocturnal wanderings of her offspring more philosophically now that she knew he had not been unaccompanied, nodded and smiled.
Aragorn waved his Steward and the Captain of his guard to the sitting room, followed by the twins. “Would either of you care to explain?” The King asked, voice dangerously quiet.
Magordan told the King briefly how he had observed Eldarion disappearing into a tunnel, and had followed. “It was strange, Aragorn.” The Captain explained, addressing the King by name, as he had once been one of Aragorn’s mentors amongst the northern Rangers, and knew the King well. “Eldarion was following something, I could tell, but I couldn’t see anything, nor hear anything except the faint sounds of a woman crying. Faramir explained that he could see these spirits as well.”
Aragorn looked to his Steward in surprise. “My city is infested with ghosts, and I don’t find out until my son, barely past toddling, chooses to follow them one night?”
Faramir, looking slightly embarrassed, apologized. “I’m sorry, Estel. I would have mentioned it, but most people can’t see or hear them, and I … I learned not to bring it up at an early age. Having people treat you as if you are not quite sane becomes wearying, after awhile.”
Sympathetic to the subtext of his younger friend’s answer, Aragorn squeezed the Steward’s shoulder in support. “I imagine it does. Do either of you know how Eldarion got out of our rooms without anyone noticing in the first place?”
Magordan shook his head darkly, as Faramir coughed. “Ah, the window ledge between your rooms and your brothers’ library is rather wide, my King.”
Elladan’s eyes widened, and Elrohir shook his head. “Wide if you are a bird.” The older twin commented in asperity.
“When I was a child, I used a similar ledge between the nursery and my father’s sitting room to get about after hours.” Faramir explained.
“I’ve said it before, my Steward, and I’ll probably say it again. You must have been a terrifying child.” The King commented, running a hand tiredly through his hair. “Alright, so tomorrow I need to make it clear to my heir that he is not to leave our rooms by himself late at night, even if he is not doing so through the door.”
“It might be well to tell him he may wake you if he sees ghosts, Aragorn.” Faramir commented. “He did not think they were real, so he did not think he was in any danger. In truth, I do not think he was in danger from the spirits. Normally, they pass on about their business without taking note of the living.”
“That one certainly noted you.” Magordan observed, eye-balling the Steward keenly, as he explained to the King. “After Eldarion met up with Faramir, another ghost approached them, thinking our Faramir was Firiel’s younger brother who died in the battle against the wainriders.”
“A perhaps understandable mistake, as there are certain similarities.” Elrohir commented dryly, as Faramir rolled his eyes.
“The spirit of Lord Steward Pelendur has been unusually restless,” Faramir explained, “In our past conversations, he has told me he doubted the wisdom of his decision to deny Firiel’s claim to Gondor’s throne, fearing it brought the dark on more strongly. I had hoped after the Ring War to assure him that all was well, but this was the first year he listened. And ‘twas to Eldarion, not I.”
“I had read that spirits can see everything, and speak only the truth.” Captain Magordan put forth, still studying Faramir.
“Some spirits.” The Steward said carefully.
“No, that’s essentially the case with most ghosts.” Elladan disagreed, giving Faramir an odd look, for usually the Steward knew his facts backward and forward, however esoteric the subject. “Ghosts generally do not lie, and can see truths hidden from those living. However, the truth they see is not necessarily something that can be understood.”
Faramir shrugged and then tried to hide a yawn. “Perhaps you are right, Elladan. Its been years since I studied the matter, and that particular ghost has said any number of odd things to me over the years.” Turning to Aragorn, the Steward asked. “It is late, my King, and I am promised to meet with the representatives from Harad tomorrow. I will need my wits about me. May I be excused?”
Aragorn granted his permission, but added firmly “We will talk more of these spirits, and soon, Faramir.”
“Aye, Estel.” His Steward agreed, courteously bidding the company good night.
After his Steward had left, the King turned to his Captain of the Guards. “What troubles you still, old friend?” Aragorn asked.
“I am not troubled so much as confused.” Magordan clarified. “ I did not hear every word that was said, but from what I could tell, the Lord Pelendur’s ghost seemed convinced that Eldarion and Faramir were brothers, and both descendants of Ondoher.”
Aragorn raised an eyebrow, surprised. “Well, Eldarion certainly views Faramir as an older brother, at times. Perhaps that is why.” Noticing his twin brothers’ unspoken dialogue, Aragorn sighed in frustration. “What is it?”
“What is what, Estel?” Elrohir asked.
“What are you two saying to one another in twin twitter?” Their younger brother clarified, observing as always the twins’ annoyance at his name for their “secret language” of silent gestures with a certain satisfaction.
Elladan shook his head. “We are just agreeing that it is odd, Estel. We are wondering how it could be possible that Faramir be a descendant of your ancestor Ondoher, and we do not see how, as all of Ondoher’s descendants amongst the Dunedain saving you yourself have passed on, and he left none in Gondor.”
Aragorn sighed. “It is odd indeed. I will keep a careful eye on both of my young seers of ghosts, and shall question Faramir more closely when he is more relaxed.”
“You mean you shall get him drunk.” Elrohir criticized.
“Only if he isn’t forthcoming when he is sober.” The King defended. The twins laughed, and exited, fingers still flying at one another as they considered the night’s revelations.
Magordan chuckled, begging the King’s leave to depart after the twins, then turning back as a last thought occurred to him. “You know, Aragorn,” the King’s old mentor commented “I think that you deserve your son, and Faramir as well.”
The King raised a brow in surprise. “I am happy with them both, nocturnal wanderings after spirits aside, but I am not sure what you mean.”
“I knew you before you were fully grown.” The Guard Captain explained, “And you, as well, were a terrifying child.”
The King laughed as he bid his retainer good night, and considered how best to deal with his terrifying child, and the grown child of his old friend Finduilas.
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