Another day of negotiations had come to a close. Prince Arnuzîr inclined his head in the slightest of bows. “Until we meet again,” he said in heavily-accented Westron. The white scars of battle were stark against his swarthy face.
Faramir returned the slight bow, the courtesy of one prince to another. “Until we meet again,” he replied, also using the Common Speech. Not surprisingly, neither Arnuzîr nor his Men knew how to speak Sindarin. They had travelled from Ûrîzâyan which lay to the east of Umbar. Among themselves, they spoke a strange tongue that seemed descended from long-dead Adunaic, the language of ancient Numenor, The prince had promised Faramir that he would write down some phrases along with their translations before he left.
While the two ranking officials exchanged their courtesies, Arnuzîr’s nephew traded icy glares with the Steward’s aide-de-camp, Hirluin. How hard it is to put aside a lifetime of enmity, Faramir thought. To look at your old foe without sighting down the shaft of an arrow.
The emissary and his party withdrew to their quarters in the Citadel. After a hasty meal, Faramir walked across the courtyard to the Steward’s house. With little surprise, he noted that the number of guards on the doors had been doubled. Lieutenant Hirluin was not the only one who viewed their guests with distrust.
In the study, the servants had already lit the braziers, and the tall wooden shutters had been closed against the night air. Hirluin soon arrived, bearing a satchel of missives and reports. A servant brought them tea and cakes to eat while they worked.
The letter from Eowyn he put it aside to read later. Eomer King had asked for the honor of his company for Yule, but the negotiations with Prince Arnuzîr had required that the Steward remain in the City.
His aide handed him a dispatch that bore the royal seal stamped in red wax. Elessar King had sent word of the campaign in the South. When the dispatch was written, Elessar’s ships had just reached the port of Pelargir. More than one Southron kingdom had refused to submit to Gondor’s lordship, and Elessar had finally been forced to move against Umbar, the largest of the renegades. Despite the destruction of much of their fleet, the Corsairs had continued to ravage the coast, and Elessar hoped to quickly subdue them before more lives were lost. Since Prince Arnuzîr’s homeland lay on the eastern border of Umbar, his people would face the wrath of the Corsairs for making peace with Gondor.
“Who could have foreseen it? That one day we would greet these old foes as our allies,” Faramir said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Only a few months past, you and I waited in ambush for the Haradrim and shot them down as they fled. Prince Arnuzîr and his Men have little reason to love us.”
“Nor we them, Captain,” Hirluin replied, his fair face reddening with anger. “If not for Prince Imrahil, the Southrons would have slaughtered you as you lay wounded on the battlefield.”
“The Haradrim suffered greatly under the Nameless, and they paid him a tribute in blood and treasure. Many were driven by fear to rally to his banner. I cannot deny there are evil Men among them, but that does not mean that all are bad-hearted. Now that they are free from Mordor’s sway, we must give them the chance to show their true quality.”
“I mean no disrespect, sir, yet the very sight of them troubles me. I deem you were safer on campaign in Ithilien, surrounded by your own Men. There, at least, we knew foe from friend.”
“No doubt Prince Arnuzîr and his Men feel much the same way. It is no small thing to put aside the past, but we must try to for the sake of both our peoples.”
“I will do my best, lord,” Hirluin said with a doubtful look.
“I can ask no more of any Man,” Faramir replied, grateful that his aide was as honest as he was loyal. "Did Lord Hurin send a report?"
The lieutenant drew a scroll from the satchel and handed it to Faramir.
More stonemasons had arrived from the southern fiefs to aid in repairing the damage from the Seige. However, the work on the Rammas Echor had halted due to a lack of supplies. Faramir sighed to himself as he read. The lack of supplies was an ever-present problem, from lime for mortar to grain for the horses. The Enemy’s armies had destroyed whatever lay in their path—fishing boats, farmsteads, and workshops. Lord Hurin also reported that a sentry had been murdered while patrolling the outer defenses. His body was found near the end of a pipe that carried waste water away from the City. His slayer remained unknown.
“Do you know if this Man was quarrelsome or rash in his deeds?” Faramir asked the lieutenant.
“His commanding officer says he was well-liked by all and will be sorely missed, Captain. The Man was not robbed--a bag of silver pennies was found, along with his sword and other arms.”
A strange matter, Faramir thought, but then his aide handed him the next report and he turned his mind to the merchants’ complaints.
Shortly before midnight, they finally read the last report. With a bow, the lieutenant bade him good night and left.
After straightening the papers on the desk and stirring the coals in the brazier, Faramir sat down and opened Eowyn’s letter. The first part must have been written by the court scribe at Edoras, and the flowery greetings and list of the Steward’s titles covered nearly half the page. He quickly skimmed over the polite inquiries about his health until he reached the bottom of the page where a note was scrawled in Eowyn’s wild hand. Her news was of the harvest and the health of her horses. Despite the ravages of the War, she wrote, there would be enough hay to last the winter. To her joy, the ailing colt had recovered, so perhaps she was a healer after all. She grieved that he could not come to Edoras for the Yule, but next year, they would celebrate together in their new home. For awhile, he sat with her note in his hands, almost imagining he could smell the newly-cut hay. Then he carefully put the letter in the old writing desk. It was late, and he needed to rest.
Since his father’s death, Faramir had taken to sleeping in the study. The chambers reserved for the Steward and his family now seemed too desolate to bear. An alcove in the study held a simple camp bed curtained in plain linen. As his father grew older, Denethor had become more and more wakeful and had sometimes slept in the study rather than rouse the household in the early morning hours. Unlike the family’s chambers, this room held no grief for Faramir. The scrolls ordered with exacting care, breathing out the musky scents of parchment and leather, reminded him of the nights when he and his father had sat by the brazier, talking of history and herblore. Even the carpet with its faded colors was an oddly comforting sight.
Faramir pulled off his sword belt and boots, setting them within easy reach from the bed. He stripped down to his shirt and then, shivering, crawled between the coverlets. As the bed slowly grew warmer, he began to feel drowsy. With a sigh, he turned and drew the coverlets over his head, only then feeling the full measure of his weariness. Soon after, he sank under the black surface of sleep and lay unaware until a dream broke his slumber like a ripple on the surface of a lake.
This same dream had visited him for the past two nights. He stood in an archway, holding a lantern in one hand. Before him, shadow and light danced and swayed on a high stone ceiling, reflected from a vast expanse of water. He knew this place, the great cistern in the mountainside. Years ago, Denethor had sent his sons here to learn of their City’s defenses. The master stonemason had shown them the huge weights and pulleys that raised the floodgates, and then he and Boromir had scratched their names on the wall. Faramir wondered if their names were still there. You are asleep, he told himself, yet when he reached out a hand, he could feel the cold, rough surface of the rock.
“Hallo!” a child’s voice called. “Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!” The sound echoed from wall to wall, fading with each repetition.
He raised the lantern and shouted, “Boromir! Where are you?”
“Hallo, hallo, hallo” ran along the walls then subsided into silence. Then the light suddenly failed, and a strange dread weighed on his heart. He felt for the sides of the archway and his hands found nothing but cool, damp air. Something rustled and clicked in the darkness around him. Not something but somethings, for it was not one sound but many. The footsteps of small creatures? Or the scratching of dead branches against stone? The sense of foreboding grew, pressing against his heart until he could scarcely breathe. He forced himself to kneel and sweep his hands across the floor, yet his blind search found nothing. He crawled forward, reaching his hands out before each step. There must be a way out; he had only to find it. Around him, the darkness seethed with sound.
He nearly cried aloud with joy when his hand struck a stone wall and then the outline of a door. It ground slowly open as he put his full weight against it, then he stumbled through the doorway and into the Courtyard of the Fountain.
As he glanced around the courtyard, the relief at his escape swiftly changed to horror. With a choked cry, he broke into a run, racing past the banners that hung heavily in the dead air, past the unmoving guards clothed in silver and sable. He knelt by the silent fountain and gently lifted the broken sapling. The wondrous leaves of silver lay scattered on the pavement, and the young trunk had been wrenched from the earth then twisted until it split asunder. It needed no gardener to see that the White Tree was dead.
“Who would do such evil?” Faramir shouted, nearly mad with rage and grief. Then he woke to a light shining in his face.
Two guards stood over him with a lantern. “My lord, is aught amiss?” one of them asked as Hirluin dashed into the chamber, barefooted and sword in hand. He must have been sleeping fully clothed for only his boots were missing.
Faramir rose, drawing the coverlet around him like a cloak. “Nothing worse than an evil dream. I must have called out in my sleep,” he told them, feeling more than a little foolish. “Forgive me for raising an alarm when there is no cause. And for waking you from your sleep,” he added to Hirluin.
The two guards returned to their posts, and at Faramir’s urging, the lieutenant departed for his bed. For a long while afterward, Faramir lay awake, staring into the darkness as he pondered the strange dream.
Tolkien seems to have created only a few words of the Haradric language. Since Harad (like Gondor and Arnor) was settled by Numenoreans, it is not unreasonable to assume that later inhabitants came to speak a language which was descended from Adunaic (just as Westron was descended from Adunaic).
Would Eowyn have lived in Gondor or Rohan before her marriage? Looking at historical marriages between European royalty, practices varied widely. Sometimes the woman lived with her future in-laws for years before the wedding; sometimes, the bride and groom did not even meet until the ceremony. In extreme cases, the couple were married by proxy and met sometime after the marriage! My thought is that she lived in Minas Tirith before her marriage, but at the time of my story, she had gone to visit her brother (who was not yet married at the time).