“Lord Faramir can show you the shelves with the early Third Age histories. Indeed, he knows this library better than most of the clerks do,” the old loremaster said.
Gandalf bowed. “Thank you, Master Eradan. You are ever helpful to a fellow scholar.” Young Faramir looked up at them, bouncing slightly on his heels as he waited. The top of his head barely reached the wizard’s belt, and perched on his silky hair was a tiny version of a scholar’s cap. Gandalf leaned down to speak with him. “Now if you will be so kind as to lead the way, Lord Faramir?”
The boy pointed down the aisle. “We must go through Poetry and Ballistics to get to the lower archive.”
“That sounds like a highly dangerous course, but I have great faith in my guide,” the wizard said as he hurried after him. Faramir walked quickly, almost at a trot, and at times he bounded ahead then circled back to wait for his companion.
“Master Eradan lives here with the books,” the lad told him in a loud whisper. “He has a chamber with a bed and a chest for his clothes.”
“And you would like to live here some day?”
Faramir nodded. “No one would cover the lamps at night, and I could read for as long as I wished.”
“You remind me of a member of my order, a most worthy wizard named Radagast. He lives at Rhosgobel in the far North. His chosen study is the lore of beasts and birds, so his tower is home to all manner of creatures. Once when I came to visit him, he had been sitting for days without moving except to unroll a scroll or turn the pages of a book. I recall that he was trying to learn what chickens write when they scratch in the dirt. Anyway, he had been sitting still for so long that when he rose to greet me, a sparrow’s nest slid from his hat and acorns came pouring from the sleeves of his robe. Though he was most apologetic, the squirrels were furious.”
Young Faramir giggled. “I want to be a wizard when I am older. I will travel to the North, and all the birds and beasts will live in my house.”
Now it was Gandalf’s turn to laugh. “Be careful what you wish for. A wizard’s life is lonely and dangerous, even for a kindhearted fellow like Radagast. Besides, your father and brother will need your help here in Minas Tirith.”
They passed through an arched doorway that led to a winding set of stairs.
“Master Eradan says that no one but my father reads the scrolls in the lower archive. He says that my father would make a fine loremaster.” Even in the gloomy stairwell, the grey eyes shone in the boy’s upturned face.
“Indeed, he would,” Gandalf replied. Alas that in these times of war the choice was never his to make. As Faramir skipped down the steps ahead of him, he wondered why the Lord Denethor was interested in the ancient chronicles. Badly faded and written in an older form of Sindarin, the scrolls were not easy to read.
A small lamp flickered near the foot of the stairs. In its bobbing light, they saw the dim outlines of a long, low-ceilinged chamber. Gandalf picked up the lamp and fussed with the wick until the flame flared then subsided to a steady light. Rows of tall wooden shelves loomed out of the shadows, and the air was heavy with the rich smell of parchment and the fume of mineral pigments and glue.
“It smells like words here,” Faramir told him, and the darkness of the archive seemed to lessen at the sound of his voice.
They found the rolls that listed the contents of the archive. “Let us start with ‘An Account of the Disaster of the Gladden Fields as Writ by Estelmo’,” Gandalf said.
“He was Elendur’s squire,” Faramir chirped.
“Yes, he was.” Gandalf could not help smiling. “I can see that you pay close heed to your lessons. The rollbook says that Estelmo’s account is kept on the north wall, in the second set of shelves to the west.”
Faramir held the light as the wizard glanced along the shelves. “This is the right place; where is the scroll?” Gandalf muttered under his breath.
“Maybe it was lost,” the boy said with a worried glance at the ranks of shelves that marched off into the shadows.
Gandalf shook his head. “No, I have learned that things are rarely lost. They are merely waiting to be found by the one with the patience or the good luck to find them.” Though there are some things that were better never found, he added to himself. After lighting several more lamps, he began to work his way along the shelf, lifting up each wooden scroll case and leather-bound book, while Faramir bounded off to search the neighboring shelves. The archive fell silent except for the dry scrape of the wizard’s boots and the patter of Faramir’s footsteps. Twice, the lamps burned low, and Gandalf had to lengthen the wicks, and his back began to ache from crouching down to search the bottom shelves.
Suddenly, a high-pitched cry rang out. The wizard leapt to his feet and ran toward the sound, staff raised in his hand.
“I found it! I found it!” His face alight, Faramir staggered toward him, a long scroll case balanced in his arms.
It has been far too long since I spent any time around children, Gandalf told himself as he hurried forward to take the case before the lad fell over. A small metal plate on the lid was engraved with the words “North, 2nd West, 3rd Down, Vol. XXIV, Account of the Gladden Fields.” He set the wooden case on a table and unfastened the lid. Inside, a scroll lay nestled in a soft tangle of embroidered cloth. “You have saved me a great deal of work, Faramir. How did you find it way over here, in the middle of the Second Age?”
“All the other scrolls on the shelf were covered with dust,” Faramir told him. “This one was not, so I deemed it was misplaced.”
The wizard placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder and could feel the warmth and the tremulous spirit, as quick as the flutter of wings, that were bound in his flesh. “You are your father’s son—nothing escapes your glance.”
Faramir smiled up at him. The scholar’s cap had slid forward until it nearly covered his eyes. “It was waiting for me to find it.”top