Parchment Top Image

Akallabeth in August
Horizontal Rule

Yet such was the cunning of his mind and mouth, and the strength of his hidden will, that ere three years had passed he had become closest to the secret counsels of the King; for flattery sweet as honey was ever on his tongue, and knowledge he had of many things yet unrevealed to Men.

The Last Temptation by Fireworks

“Send danger from the east unto the west, so honor cross it from the north to south.”
-William Shakespeare

Horizontal Rule

Erulaitalë, as such, had ceased to exist. Ar-Pharazôn had neglected the offer of prayers to Ilúvatar a long time ago, and some of the Faithful--and Anárion had even heard it of some of the King's Men--claimed that was why the seasons were turning and the rains were not tempered on their behalf any more; the heat was too hot; the cold was too cold; and crops were dying, as were those who tended them.

Tonight's festival was, therefore, a lie. It was not even held in Armenelos! There would be no Meneltarma! What were they even celebrating? But Rómenna had been the first port to welcome the King as the Great Conqueror of Middle-earth, and the celebrations had been so magnificent for the occasion that, in his elated state, the King had promised the people that all festivals would be held in Rómenna that year, for their pride and trouble.

Erulaitalë. Midsummer, they called it now, after the fashion of the colonies; though, from what he had heard, their own version bore little resemblance to the celebrations--the real festivities--held in Middle-earth. Still, the family of the Lord of Andúnië could not be seen not to attend, for all the mockery of the situation. At least this year they could stay at their grandfather's house and pretend they were on holiday; that might soften the sting of ignoring the real Three Blessings as they were intended to be.

Anárion surveyed his reflection in the mirror. The white garb made sharp contrast with the dark of his hair and made his eyes look washed out and pale, but he would have worn no other color this day. He wondered how long it would be before the wearing of white for Midsummer was banned as well, and what would his grandfather's policy about that be. It was tiring, pondering every choice so carefully between what was right and what was necessary. Feeling guilt for wishing that those days would end during his lifetime, knowing that he should not wish for more or less than had been allotted him, he turned to leave, when he came face to face with his brother as they both tried to open the door.

"Well, that was a struggle," Isildur said as he came in, brushing past Anárion to sit on the windowsill. After surveying him a moment, he said, "You look well. Rómenna's sun has given you a most becoming tan. I look like a pale sheet with a crown of iron on top."

Anárion let out a laugh. "If you do look like that, then I must look a shrimp with a sheet."

Both brothers let their mirth get the better of them, joking like they did when they were young; but, after a while, silence settled between them again, and Anárion moved to sit beside his brother.

"Will we all meet afterwards at Grandfather's, for the blessing?" Anárion asked. After it became apparent that the Kings would not honor Eru again, the lord of Andúnië had determined that his family should not be deprived of the chance to know where their loyalties lay. For as long as Anárion could remember, they had met after the harvest celebrations for a minute of silence which they called the blessing.

Isildur nodded. "Though, I think, they want to meet at your house this time."

"My house? There is barely room for both of us together in that room!"

"But Grandmother wants to see it, and it is more private and secluded than Atarinya's ship, or Grandfather's house."

That was true, embarrassing as it was to let anyone in his family see where he lived.

"Maybe Father should consider purchasing some land here," he said, wryly.

"He may purchase some from you, but the King would wonder why he wants it."

"Why, so he does not have to come to my house but his own."

"It is not so very bad, Anar. Be proud of what you have wrought for yourself. I am."

"For which I thank you, heartily, brother, but it is really nothing, and certainly nothing for which to be proud."

He felt Isildur's keen eyes on his and could not make himself look back to meet that gaze. Lately, when they were together, he felt himself examined, and it was difficult to know whether he passed the test. Or what test he was taking. At length, Isildur must have looked away, for the heat he was feeling suddenly subsided.

"We will leave when the bell next tolls," Isildur said, casually. "I must admit to be quite impatient!" That was followed by a gleeful laugh and rubbing of hands that alarmed him.

"Have a care, Isildur," he cried, grasping his brother's hands in an attempt to stop them. "Sauron is a viper. There is nothing so remarkably grand about his person except for the fact of his being here at all when, a few months past, he had styled himself Lord of Men and the King's greatest foe."

"Things do have a way of changing, do they not?"

Anárion became positively worried at that. "Isildur. Tell me not that you do not see the danger."

"It is precisely because I see the danger that I am curious. Or, should I say, the mystery? There may not be danger yet, only the potential for it."

"Why would that fool--" Anárion stopped himself before he became too carried away with name-calling. "Why bring him here at all? He is a dangerous man, even if he is not a danger to us yet."

"I have heard that he speaks very fairly and correctly."

"Flattery, you mean. Where did you hear this?"

"From our own Golaran. He said that the lord Sauron had been granted permission to begin a school for underprivileged young men who would, otherwise, find themselves in the streets."

"Then Golaran will have no need to become a pupil, for Atarinya always saw to it that he was well-instructed and well-paid."

"Perhaps that is why such conduct recommends itself to him, being used to it by our family. Do not be hard on poor Golaran; he would not know how to judge such a mighty person."

"Would you?" Anárion asked, almost a whisper. Isildur's face hardened at that, his jaw tensed.

"I may not study as much as you do, brother, but I am not a simpleton."

"I doubt that anything I have ever read would help me judge in such a matter. There are choices that are done only with the heart, from things you can only feel inside."

"Which is why I want to see him," Isildur said, relaxing, glancing outside at the courtyard of their maternal grandfather's home. "To know the truth for myself."

"What truth?"

"Of why this man is here." Used to Anárion's puzzled frown when a question plagued him, Isildur clasped his shoulder and said. "Surely it may be that this--his coming--will prove fateful for Númenor. But, just as surely, could his coming not be a sign that... that some things are at an end?"

Anárion did not have to think about it to know what his brother meant. He looked outside, where his Grandmother's lemon trees swayed by the breeze. No one was around.

"Would you trade one tyrant for another?" he asked. "A foreign tyrant"

"You misunderstand, brother," Isildur said, eyes bright and willing Anárion to look into them. "I am merely pointing out the convenience of his being here, and of his being a foe. Someone else could end what he begins."

"Or end himself."

"Or end himself, and us all, if that is the weaving decreed for us in the pattern. But, what is clear to me is that things cannot long continue as they are. I am more sheltered in Andúnië than you are here for all that I am supposed to rule one day, but I have eyes to see, and a heart to feel injustice. Pride is the downfall of men."

"And I beg you will remember that, brother, when we see him today, for he is fair on the eye--elvish, even--and that confuses people."

"Do you think me as shallow as that?"

"I am afraid, Isildur, even of my own reactions to him. I would stay as far from him as I could, just to make sure I am never deceived."

"But you say people can repent," Isildur asked, brow raised.

"Only after much suffering. And I hate to suffer."

Isildur answered his smile with one of his own. "We need to learn the truth for ourselves. All we know is what we have been told of Sauron, and who has told it but Pharazôn's men? Who knows but that we have been deceived in this also? Pharazôn could have lied to further his own purposes; we know him to be an expert at that."

Anárion shook his head, slowly. "You will see when you see him."

Horizontal Rule

Since there was no climbing atop the Meneltarma, the celebrations did not officially begin until later in the day. They walked to the feasting hall--one of the King's palaces in the city--in a procession that had become tradition for such occasions and found, as expected, the city in an uproar at the upcoming feasts and dances and at the chance to get a glimpse of the new Middle-earth vassal.

"They call him Vassal now. I thought he came here as a slave," said Elendil, glancing briefly at Anárion for confirmation.

"He came here a pledge for his good conduct," Anárion said. "Apparently, he is being rather well-behaved; might be promoted to ally next."

"Maybe in all but name," said Amandil. "Pharazôn is proud and would never acknowledge his dependence."

"Let us hope," said Elendil. Pinning his sons with a stern glance, he warned them to be ever watchful and, taking his wife's arm, moved into the palace, followed closely by his parents.

"What he meant was 'be careful,'" Amandil said before disappearing amid the crowd.

Isildur and Anárion were left at the entrance to the hall, wondering what, exactly, they were supposed to do now that they were there.

"It is rather difficult to have fun when one is supposed to be watchful and careful at the same time," Isildur said. Then, tugging at his sleeve, "Anar... Anar... Anárion!"

"Ssh! What?" he asked back, only half-listening for an answer as he searched the crowd.

"She is not here," he heard Isildur say.

"Maybe you are right, but I see Emel--Who do you mean?"

Isildur turned him around to face him and began to straighten his shirt collar and smooth his hair where it had been tousled by the breeze. It made Anárion feel much like a boy, but Isildur held him by the shoulders and would not let him move without much awkwardness and ridicule.

"You are lying too much, lately, brother," he said, "to others, as well as to yourself. And, I suggest that if you wish to engage Elenwë for a dance, you better not think so much about it and set out to it; she is one of the most eligible ladies here tonight, not to mention one of the most beautiful, and is sure to have many invitations."

"Why are you telling me that?" Anárion asked, mussing his hair anew and surveying the room briefly before fixing eyes back on his brother.

Isildur only shrugged his shoulders and turned around. "I see Emeldil," he said and, with that, walked away, leaving Anárion to brave the crowd by himself.

Lips curled in annoyance at his brother, but he set out to try to spot Elenwë in the crowd after he had gone--if he had seen Emeldil, surely Elenwë could not be too far away?

Regardless of what Isildur thought, it was not out of selfishness that he wished to find her, only to make certain that she stayed away from trouble, and that trouble stayed away from her tonight. Court life, as he knew it, was something to be avoided rather than anticipated; although Elenwë was as used to it as he himself was, she could not know its subtleties and secrets, not as he had the occasion to do.

It was thus that he had decided he would be vigilant of her safety, and that of her family, as well as his own. There was good reason to entertain misgivings regarding tonight. Pharazôn would like to parade his majesty and power for his guest and there was no telling what form that particular display would take.

As he was about to give up on finding her inside the hall, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

"Your royal person is blocking the entrance, lord Anárion."

Eranion. It was hard to suppress a grin, or the snide remark that accompanied it.

"As is yours," he said as he turned, but the comment died on his lips when he saw Elenwë standing beside her brother. Her composed, almost stern face was indication enough that she had far from forgotten their argument from two days previous, but when he looked at her, she extended a flower garland, bidding him to lean forward so she could place it on his neck. That surprised him, and she noticed it, for she said, "Arguments between us are easy to come by, but this is tradition."

"I thank you," he said. "I--"

"No need to find anything to say; I am content knowing that you receive it."

"I will always receive anything you give me. I hope you will do the same."

That made her smile, a small and playful grin that made him smile with her. "Anything but an argument."

"What have you seen?" asked Eranion, nudging them both inside the hall. "We were here earlier but left when it began to get crowded and the King and Queen had not made an appearance. Do you suppose that we will all have to be officially presented before the King tonight?"

"I would not doubt it, though I wish we would not have to do it in front of Sauron."

Eranion frowned and whispered to him between clenched teeth, "I heard that we should not be surprised if the King seeks to ingratiate himself with the foreigner. What do you think he would do? I can think of a few things, none of them pleasant, nor desirable."

The glance they both gave Elenwë did nothing to appease Anárion's misgivings. That Eranion's thoughts were running along the same path as his own was indication enough of their fulfillment's feasibility, for, how does a King display wealth and munificence best than through riches and women? And, if it was true that Pharazôn's intent in bringing Sauron to Númenor had been, as was claimed, the ability to watch him closely, what better way to tie him to the land than through a Númenórean wife?

The thought of it gripped his heart as if with a cold hand, for Pharazôn had no daughters to give and, though there were other eligible kinswomen with closer ties to the King than Elenwë, none possessed the wealth nor the influence that Elenwë's family held in the island.

Halting their advance, he turned to face the siblings. If Eranion could read his thoughts, he gave no outward indication of it, but he nodded when their gazes met. Taking that as permission to proceed, he said, reaching out to seize Elenwë by the wrist lest she ran away before he had finished what he was about to say.

"This whole week might prove to be a trial of our patience and forbearance but, whatever betides, you must promise me that you will stay away from trouble. Both of you."

Eranion was exacting an equal promise from him, but Elenwë frowned, asking what he had meant, and whether he thought it likely for her to create trouble for him, when the trumpets blared, the doors opened, and the King's procession of esquires and pages and court ladies entered the room.

He seized Elenwë's wrist as they moved away to make room for the newcomers and leaned in to whisper in her ear, "There are things about these people that you do not know and that would chill your blood were you to hear of them. Trust me at least this once and stay away from anything that the King were likely to approve, and everything likely to kindle his wrath."

She seemed hurt, but nodded her promise to him without a word. He could see the puzzlement in that look and a slight widening of the eyes that told him he had frightened her. At the moment, he could not bring himself to regret it; this way, mayhap she would be more likely to listen to him.

Galdir, the King's herald, announced that all courtiers would be presented as groups of families and they were usually one of the first to come forward. Searching the crowd, he sought to find his father, but did not see him until Galdir announced, "The Lords of Andúnië!" and Amandil came forward, followed closely by his son. The herald slowly named them all, "The lord Amandil, eighteenth lord of Andunië, in direct descent from Silmariën, daughter to King Tar-Elendil. His wife, the lady Issilomë of Andúnië, daughter of Insilsar of Andunië. Their son, Elendil, heir of the lordship of Andunië and Captain of the ship Foamstar, of the tradesguild of Númenor. His wife, the lady Nessilenwë of Rómenna, daughter of Haldor of Rómenna. Their sons, Isildur, second in succession to the lordship of Andúnië, and captain of the unincorporated ship, Sea Star; and Anárion," and there was the slight hesitation that overcame all when they sought to put a name to his seemingly discordant occupations. Galdir cleared his throat, glanced up from the parchment from which he read to look at him--maybe hoping for clarification? But he gave him none, advancing, instead, to join his brother a few feet away from the King and his beautiful and sad Queen, Zimraphel. To the King's right, he did not look.

"Welcome, lords," Pharazôn said and, though he clasped not arms with Isildur and himself, he did so with his father and grandfather. Looking at him he said, "Anárion, what do you do these days, as my herald seems to be at a loss?"

"I build ships, my lord."

A puzzled brow rose on Pharazôn's face. "Are you working with the carpenters and builders?"

"No, my lord, I work with the engineers."

"I see. Have you studied with the guild and passed your test? I do not remember signing your license."

"I have, my lord, though I am working on my final project. I have not received accreditation yet."

"I will make sure you do," Pharazôn said, and turned to explain to Sauron how the guilds worked and how profitable for Númenor to be organized in this manner--a painful explanation that he had to hear because the King had not dismissed them. When he was done, he turned once more to Anárion and said, "Lad, then, what is your final project? Share it with us!"

Uncomfortably, he noticed that Sauron's eyes had fixed, with interest on him. The King's condescension and complete disregard of propriety and privacy disgusted him, but Sauron's invasion of it seemed completely unwarranted and unwanted under any circumstance. Trying to appear unruffled, he summoned a smile and, ignoring Sauron, looked at the King and said, "My lord will forgive me if I decline; I would not want the wrong ears to hear of my work before the guildmasters have had a chance to examine it first."

Pharazôn seemed taken aback but, when Sauron began to laugh, so did he. "You do not want someone else copying you! Good, good, Anárion. I shall personally make sure that your work is examined as soon as I hear word it is ready. You are both dismissed, enjoy the celebrations."

Anárion inclined his head and was forced to include Sauron in his bow, lest the man saw through his displeasure and began to harbor negative thoughts concerning him from the start.

As they withdrew to a corner to watch the rest of the proceedings, Isildur whispered to him, "That is what any hard-working man could wish: to have the King promise, within hearing of the guildmasters and patrons, that he will personally ensure you pass the test. What a start to anyone's career!" And he would have laughed to that, but the herald was calling Eralmir's name then, and he turned where he was to see how the King would receive Elenwë.

Eralmir's family was, at least, twice as large as his own, but their sires having passed out of the circles, Eralmir and his siblings had more preeminence within their own family circle than he himself had within his. Pharazôn, therefore, was bound to clasp arms with each of them, and the customary kiss of the hand for the lady of the house--Lalriel, Eralmir's wife and, he saw with dismay, one for Elenwë, also. At once, Anárion's eyes went to Sauron, who came forward and kissed both ladies as the King had done. From where he was, he could see the falter on Lalriel's step and the coldness in Elenwë's curtsey, but could not distinguish anything of note in Sauron's demeanor that bespoke his interest, nor disregard. It may have, simply, been too early to tell the King's intentions in the matter of his guest.

The introductions continued and Anárion was somewhat relieved and able to watch with a certain degree of indifference. But, when all the nobles had been presented and the King rose to speak with Sauron at his right arm, he felt a quickening of his heart rate that he always felt just before his misgivings were proved true.

"...Conquerors we are! Conquerors of the world! And our wealth and wisdom will extend to all coasts and beyond, where there are men living in the darkness of ignorance. And, that the majesty of the Sea Kings be known unto all, I have brought Sauron here to bear witness of our power and the wealth and ease of our kingdom. As a token of my goodwill, I have offered him two coffers of silver and gold each, and a necklace of mithril from my mines in the Blue Mountains. And, today, I also offer him whatever woman he desires for his own." Pharazôn stretched his right arm to take Sauron's and clasped it in token of alliance, gesturing toward the hall with his left. "You will have all week to observe them as they join my celebrations, and you shall have your pick of the choicest maidens of Númenor. This honor is rarely bestowed upon any vassal."

Anárion thought he saw Sauron's smile tighten at that, but, otherwise, he seemed pleased and meek as ever. Anárion, on the other hand, felt to cry in rage at the King's insolence and daring in pretending to give away what had never been his. Some physical sign of his discomfort must have shown, for Isildur wrapped his left arm around his shoulders as if to restrain him, and he was in the act of shrugging it off when the King spoke again. "I will further honor the young men of some privileged families of the realm with the honor of presiding over a night of dancing with me, and choosing a Queen for the night to be their partner. The first of such shall be Isildur son of Elendil, a man both strong and wise!"

It was difficult to tell whether Isildur felt more astonished than he himself did, but when the horns and drums played once more, Isildur left his side to join the King at the dais.

"Tell us, who shall be your Queen tonight?"

Isildur's face would have seemed comical with its widened eyes and gaping mouth, or the way the eyes darted every which way trying to find a way out of the scrape he was in. The women in the room were in a flurry; cleavages were adjusted, makeup was checked, pearls and jewelry rearranged as they awaited Isildur's announcement that was, already, taking over-long.

When it finally came, Anárion's heart rose to his chest and plummeted down to the pit of his stomach.

"Elen--" someone's gasp blurred the sound of Isildur's words, but his heart knew what his brother had said before the herald announced it to the crowd.

"Elenwë, daughter of Erador, from the house of the lords of Rómenna."

Horizontal Rule

Anárion did not drink for pleasure. He disliked the tartness of wine and the mellow sweetness of ale, and despised the fools men became when they had had their fill of either; so, he decided that he needed not drink. He was considering to break his vow tonight.

Anger boiled through him so fast and so hot that, at times, he felt himself not angry at all. Mayhap it was not anger that he felt for, in his experience, it was difficult to experience the emotion without its having an object, and hard as he tried, he could not say who angered him, or why.

It was thus he sat outside, hidden where the light of the torches could not reach him in the balcony, far enough that the music from the hall was as faint as the murmur of the wind. Giving himself to extremes was wrong, and he knew it, but at times he was weak, and tonight he felt no wish to explore the whys and wherefores of it. When he heard footsteps approach, he sat as still as he could so as not to be discovered and disturbed, but the person advanced, nonetheless, and sat beside him.

"If you are going to hide, you should make it easier to be found."

He glanced at his grandfather, glared, looked away.

"If I did so," he said, knowing that by his speaking, Amandil had already won, "there would be little point." As there would be little point in playing immature now. "How did you find me?"

Amandil looked at him, smiled, looked away.

"I used to hide here, sometimes, when we were visitors and Inziladûn was alive. We came often, were at odds often, all of us. But, you know I like to do my thinking alone, and there is no better place here for that, as I am sure you have found."

Anárion looked from the stars to the ground and began to fiddle with a boot lace.

"I am surprised you are out here when you could be conducting observations in there."

A grunt. "No matter how close I come to their table, I am always too far!" Hearing himself sound like a boy, whining, he softened his tone, but the frown tightened around his eyes. "Dancing is about to begin and I could not well interrupt every one of her dances when I think it might breed trouble. Let us hope that Isildur's selfishness eases tonight and he does his duty by her, as he should."

"She will have to dance with the King. And Sauron, too. You do not want to watch?"

Without intending to, he snapped his lace in two. "No."

"Why are you angry, Anárion?" Amandil asked. Anárion felt his grandfather's eyes on him, that look that demanded he look up, but he fought against it. "Are you in love with that girl?"

That made him look up. He did not have to think about his answer. "No. And it is not about love at all but duty, and friendship; you should know: you are the one that swore to her grandfather."

"Erassuil is the dearest friend I have ever had, and I would swear again were he alive to bleed with me. Your fierceness in wanting to keep her away from harm does not speak of friendship, or even duty. When anger clouds your eyes, there is always more, Anarinya."

That made him rise and, as forcefully as he could, he threw the lace away from him and turned on his grandfather. "Being wife to an unkonwn adversary from the East is not a fate that I would wish upon any Númenórean woman, much less her. She was a friend, a real friend to me for many years and, apart though we have drifted, her kindnesses to me are burned in the heart. I will not see her wed to Sauron for Isildur's selfishness."

As he stalked away, the wind carried to him a whisper of his grandfather's words, "Isildur's, or your own?"

Horizontal Rule

He was just beginning to feel some semblance of quiet to the throbbing in his head, when a knock at the door brought it back with violence. The force and character of the knock, its complete disregard of time and the implicit demand to be answered--he knew that knock, and it made him groan.

"Open the door now, I know you are awake!"

"Go away, Isildur, I have a headache."

"Of course you have a headache, and likely heartburn also; I shall make you tea."

"I already had tea."

"I will make you more. Come now, Anárion, open the door!"

Anárion rolled in bed, clutching the pillow tightly against his ears in a vain attempt to block his brother's noise away, but Isildur insisted and progressively became louder. With the prospect of having to deal with that racket all night, it was not long before Anárion relented. Partially opening the door, he peered outside to face his brother.

"I came home because I did not wish to talk to you," he said, digging a heel to his temple.

"I know," Isildur said, pushing hard on the door and letting himself in, "and Mother is going to notice it. This may be your home all year, but not this week. Go back, at least, before Mother throws a fit and blames me for driving you away."

"If you had not left as well, she may not have noticed."

"Everyone noticed you left!"

That made him panic for a moment, but he forced himself to remain calm and pursue his argument, since it was clear that argue they would.

"Everybody was too busy to notice I was gone. Believe me, I saw that much."

"Elenwë noticed."

That made him look up from the bed where he had thrown himself.

"Did she say anything?"

"She would not stop glancing about the room, looking for you."

"She could have been looking for anyone, for all you know. How could you do that to her?"

"I did nothing to her! Any other woman would have been pleased at the distinction."

Anárion rose, angered, and stroke with his hand on the table where Isildur sat crushing tea leaves.

"The distinction of being paraded as a prospective bride for Sauron's benefit?" he asked, regretting his outburst for his throbbing hand and Isildur's astonished look. "Undoubtedly, that is what Pharazôn is doing and idiotic men will put their love interests forward and the King will snatch one of them away," and he finished that with a snap of the fingers of his left hand, but then let himself drop on a chair across from Isildur and buried his head in his hands. "Why did you have to pick her?"

"I--am sorry; I did not know."

"I know. You were only thinking about yourself and how you did not want to give any eligible girl the wrong impression by choosing her to be your queen for the day."

Isildur stopped his crushing to run a hand through his hair, wiggled the stone he was using at him. "If the King picks other men's women for Sauron, he will become unpopular rather too quickly. Maybe I have protected Wen instead of hurting her."

Anárion lifted his head to look at his brother. "Are you willing to keep the pretense of interest in her permanently?"

"No. I have you for that. If you would stop arguing with her for two minutes together, you would be able to tell her how you feel and maybe she would believe you."

That made Anárion flinch. "You have no right to say that. No right! As if I would chose to argue with her rather than--" but he could not go on; he focused on the other half of Isildur's statement instead. "What do you mean tell her what I feel? There is nothing to tell that nobody else does not know."

"Right. Because everybody else has always known how much you love--"

"Stop right there," Anárion said, palms lifted and facing outwards, as he rose from the table. "I do love her, as much as you do, as her brothers do. How could we not, growing up together as we did? By the light of Elbereth, sometimes I feel like I know what she is thinking just by watching her tilt her head or blink her eyes twice."

"Because you do! Do you think I have ever noticed she blinks her eyes twice?"

"It was just a figure of speech, Isildur. I would protect her as fiercely as I would any of her brothers, and I know so would you."

"It is not the same; it will never be the same!" Isildur said, rising from the table and dropping the stone in his abruptness. "Be honest with yourself before it is too late, even if you will not be so with everybody else."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Just what you heard. You may blame me for my selfishness if she gets snatched away from you, but it will be no one's fault but your own."

"How so? I am not the one who parades her among a court of vultures."

you were so worried, you should not have left--who is selfish now?"

They both had risen and now they both sat back, despondent, fearful, of the future and, Anárion suspected, of each other. These were dangerous waters for them to navigate through; never had they not known what the other thought about something, and never had they pretended that they knew better, but they were doing so now. He had accused Isildur of selfishness and, in as many words, Isildur had accused him of dishonesty, an accusation that cut deeply because there were so many things that Anárion kept from Isildur, and from everybody else, and it made him feel tainted, even though he knew why it had to be so. But to presume that he knew his feelings on the matter of Elenwë better than Anárion himself did, to dare give him advice, was more than Anárion could bear to hear.

He lifted his head from the table to look at his brother, who was looking back, undecided between a glare or a look of pity.

"You are right."

"Of course," Isildur said. "You do lo--"

"I should not have left."

Isildur sighed, leaned on his forearms and pressed his forehead to Anárion's. "I know why you left; it would have been too painful to watch and not be able to intervene, do you think I do not know you? Worry not, you did not miss anything; Sauron seemed more interested in me than in her."

"What?" Anárion moved so abruptly that he bumped heads with Isildur and had to sink back onto the table, clutching his head to stop the fierce throbbing. "How so?"

"He asked all kinds of questions about Andúnië and our Grandfather, questions about our trade and our fields, the guilds that we belong to, why you chose to become an engineer and not follow the family trade, what degree of kinship we held with the King and Queen, why we had not manned any ship during the conquest..."

"What did you answer?"

"What I could. It was horrible being questioned in such a way, having to fight with this overwhelming urge to be unscrupulously truthful--"

"Say that again?"

"It was horrible--"

"No, no: an overwhelming urge to be truthful." Anárion rose from the table, walked to his small window that overlooked a small patch of a garden that he could not see in the darkness, turned back on his brother. "Was it different than any other conversation you may have had?"

Isildur bit his nail, a ridiculous habit for a grown man, but one that relieved his tension when his physical energy could find no other outlet. At last, he shook his head. "I wish it had been you and not me talking to him; you know what you are hoping to find best."

"I am not hoping to find anything in particular, only that--" and he let that trail for he did not quite know how to continue. "I am simply mistrustful of him. He styles himself the King of Men, yet suddenly is best friends with the man with the greater self-regard? I am missing something and, by the Valar, I am going to find it. What is his purpose in asking all those questions?"

Isildur shrugged his shoulders. "Get to know the enemy?"

"Do you think he would cause trouble for Atarinya Amandil?"

"How should I know? He seems so entirely harmless that I am forced to mistrust him; people are generally more nuanced."

"So you did not like him?"

Isildur let out a bitter laugh. "No, I did not, and for entirely selfish and immature reasons: He is richer than I, handsomer, the better speaker, and a superior dancer; not to mention that he possesses impeccable manners, will get a wife without having to go through the trouble of courting one, and is the owner of two coffers of gold and silver each."

"And a mithril necklace," added Anárion, ruefully, as he looked at his unadorned palms. The only jewelry he ever wore was his signet ring, and that was plain and understated. "So you could not find a legitimate reason to dislike him."

"None other than the fact that there was none. He was too careful to please everybody all throughout the evening, and never once volunteered any information about himself except when coaxed."

Anárion snorted. "Who coaxed him?"

Isildur looked away and coughed before he said, "Elenwë."

Horizontal Rule
Turn to the Previous Page Turn the Page Turn to the Next Page
Return to the Table of Contents
Leave a Comment
Horizontal Rule

Parchment Bottom Image