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Duty Bound  by Bodkin

Duty Bound 3

The Best-Laid Plans


The sun blazed down on the White City, reflecting blindingly from every surface, heating the stone until it was too hot to touch.  At night, when the breeze from the mountain might have been expected to cool everything down a little, the buildings had radiated heat, so that nowhere in the city – short of the dank cellars excavated from the bedrock itself – was anything approaching cool.  Even at the highest part of the Citadel, where the wind usually found any crack to suck out the warmth from the splendid buildings, it was stifling.  Emeldís found herself resenting those who were able to escape the city and seek refuge somewhere less suffocating.

She had become some kind of freak, too, she fumed.  Denethor inspected her with an almost proprietorial interest, as if she had something he wanted and he wished to keep her under his eye.  Boromir, on the other hand, seemed almost afraid of her.  He returned to the city rather less frequently than he had before their trip to Dol Amroth, and, when he did, seemed reluctant to spend more than the minimum of time in her company.  He refused even to argue with her, instead giving in to even the most ridiculous demands in the interests of keeping her happy. 

As her pregnancy began to swell her figure, convention required that she should withdraw from public life – and, instead, she was left confined to the stuffy house to become increasingly fretful over minor details.  The midwife had told her she was being foolish … well, as close as a midwife could come to telling the Steward’s daughter-in-law any such thing.  Even Ioreth, who was notably outspoken, was unlikely to be quite as down-to-earth with Emeldís as she would be with another expectant mother. 

She had said that Emeldís would be better with more to occupy her mind – and suggested that she should spend time with other young mothers and mothers-to-be so that she might learn more of how to care for a child, but what was the point of that?  Emeldís already knew more about the arrival and care of infants than she wanted to acknowledge – and she knew full-well that this child would not be abandoned to the unpractised hand of its mother, but would instead be given over to nurses and governesses and – if, please the Valar, it was a boy – arms-masters and lore-masters, spending only a limited amount of time with the woman who had brought it to the world.

‘You are young and healthy,’ Ioreth said cheerfully.  ‘There is no reason why you should fret so!  Eat well, get plenty of rest – and make them wait on you!  You will have enough to do once the child is born.’  She felt the child kick vigorously against the hand pressing on the swollen belly.  ‘He is an active one!’ she exclaimed approvingly.  ‘He will be like his father, I daresay.  You will never know what he will be up to next.  Why, I remember, when Lady Finduilas was carrying Lord Faramir …’

‘What caused Lord Boromir’s mother to die so young?’ Emeldís interrupted.  She had heard enough of Ioreth’s reminiscences to be able to quote them word for word and had no desire to have this one repeated to her.

The healer suddenly looked rather older – and her mouth pinched, as if reminded of something that left a bitter taste.  ‘We are not immortal,’ she said more sharply than customarily.  ‘And it is not given to us to decide when our time has come.  The Lady Finduilas …’ she paused reflectively and shook her head, ‘was never going to make old bones.  Too fair, she was, too much of a treasure.’

‘Did she die in childbirth?’ Emeldís was uninterested in the midwife’s sentimental view of Denethor’s wife.

‘They say that, I know,’ Ioreth conceded.  ‘But it was not so.’

‘Did she kill herself?’

Ioreth’s eyes flashed.  ‘She would not have done any such thing,’ she snapped.  ‘She loved her husband and she loved her sons – she would never have chosen to leave them.  She was a daughter of Dol Amroth – and no coward!’

‘Then what?’

The midwife looked at her.  Surely, Boromir’s wife had a right to know the truth, especially as she was driving herself increasingly frantic with worry about her chances of surviving the birth of this child.  ‘She had a growth,’ she muttered.  ‘Inside her – there was nothing we could do apart from keep her comfortable.’  Her eyes held Emeldís’s.  ‘It is not generally known,’ she said.  ‘Lord Denethor has always wanted her memory to be left … pure.’

The girl gave a quick nod.  She did not know why it made her feel better to know that her predecessor had not died carrying the Steward’s child, but it did.  ‘I will say nothing,’ she said.  After all, who was there she could tell?  It was not as if she had any friends here in whom she could confide if she wanted.  It seemed bizarre that the Steward would rather people suspected him of having driven his wife to her death than admit the truth, but, if that was the way he wanted it …  ‘Not even to my husband.’


Summer in Gondor was usually hot, Boromir thought jadedly, unless you had the fortunate chance to spend it in the mountains or by the sea, but this was getting ridiculous.  The barns on the Pelennor were filled to bursting point, the grape harvest weighed down the vines and still the sun blazed over the plain, turning the broad Anduin to molten copper as it finally condescended to drop into the west – and it really was time for the fires of summer to subside to the crisp freshness of autumn.

He released his troop to the care of his young lieutenant and rode slowly into the city.  This time last year he would have suggested that the lad join him for a refreshing mug of ale before making his way up to the Steward’s house, giving himself a chance to make the mental adjustment from rough soldier to Denethor’s heir, but now – well – at least he had grown wiser than to present himself to his wife smelling of the tavern.    

Boromir sighed as he reluctantly handed his horse over to the grooms, but putting his return off would not make matters better.  Emeldís would have already been informed of his arrival – and any delay would only make her more awkward-tempered than ever.

Anyone would think that she blamed him for her condition!  First he had been wrong for not getting her pregnant – and now anyone would think he was Morgoth incarnate for expecting her to carry his child.

For all the sympathy that was coming in his direction, most of those who knew of her mood seemed to agree with her, too.  Even Faramir seemed to think the whole situation was side-splittingly funny, and he could usually be depended upon to support his brother against all comers.  While their father had raised his eyebrows and suggested that Boromir could make an effort.  An effort!  What did the Steward think his son was doing?

She was in tears.  Again.  It seemed that she was always either angry or weeping – sometimes both at the same time – and he was not, he freely admitted, good with women who were in either state.  The shutters of their rooms were half-open, striving to keep out the sun whilst admitting any stray breeze.  Emeldís had shed her gown and was clad in nothing but her shift, her feet bare on the stone flags and her hair screwed up and pinned on the top of her head.  She still looked hot and uncomfortable and as if she did not know how to support the increasingly distended belly.

‘What is the matter?’ he asked cautiously, approaching her rather as if she were a rabid bear that might turn and bite.

‘Nothing,’ she sniffed.

‘Then why …?’ he let the subject drop.  ‘How are you?’  He reached out a tentative hand towards her, unsure how she would respond to the advance.  She seemed, this time at least, almost pathetically grateful for his touch – and his sympathy was aroused for her, so that he stepped forward and embraced her gently.

Emeldís rested her head on his shoulder briefly before pulling back.  ‘It is too hot,’ she said.

Her eyes were dark and shadowed, he realised.  ‘You have not been sleeping.’  His sword-calloused fingers brushed her cheek gently.  ‘You need your rest, Emeldís.’

‘I feel even worse when I am in bed – as if I am about to suffocate in feathers.’

It was true, Boromir thought.  All the furnishings were rich and soft, buried in padding and swathed in velvet.  ‘You need a camp chair,’ he observed, ‘such as soldiers use.’  He smiled.  ‘And a hammock.  You would enjoy resting in a hammock while the breeze cooled you.’  She looked at him in incomprehension.  ‘My mother used to have one,’ he mused, ‘that she set up in her private garden – I wonder what became of it?’  He continued to soothe her as if she were a nervous filly and she relaxed into him, apparently relieved to be able to release her anxieties.  ‘I am sure it will not have been thrown away.  Nothing is ever thrown away here – I daresay we could find Eärnur’s coronation robes if we put our minds to it – so the hammock should not be a challenge.’

Her hand came up tentatively to rest on his tunic.  He was hot and sweaty – and would have appreciated shedding his own excess clothing, but he did not want to shatter this moment of cautious affection.  ‘I am sorry to leave you on your own so much,’ he offered.

‘It is your duty,’ she said.

‘Would you like me to fetch your mother to the city?  You are alone too much.’

‘She would not come.’  Emeldís sounded quite calm about it.  Not even, he thought, as if she resented her mother’s dereliction – which was pretty remarkable, considering how upset she could get if he spent overlong at the tavern with his officers.

‘Why not?’ It was odd, now he came to think of it, that he had never seen his wife’s mother.

‘She does not leave her home.’  Emeldís smiled wryly.  ‘She has not left her tower since I was a small child – she will not do so now.’

‘Will you not tell me more?’ She shifted uncomfortably, but did not speak.  ‘I could find out, you know.’

‘And if I asked you not to?’  She did not sound as if she believed he would respect her silence.

He raised her chin and met her eyes searchingly.  It did not appear to be causing her any pain – peculiar though it was, he could leave her this privacy.  ‘You realise my father will know all about it,’ he commented.

‘I doubt it mattered to him,’ she said.  ‘My mother has produced nine healthy children – that is more important than her self-imposed isolation.’

‘Priorities,’ he observed.  He slid a hand over her swollen belly, feeling the kick of his child against his palm.  What kind of father would he make, he wondered?  More like his uncle than his father, he hoped.  Denethor was – had been since Finduilas’s death – a rather distant parent: one who was difficult to please and rarely thought to offer approbation.  Imrahil, on the other hand, was part of his children’s lives, loved and loving.

‘You need a bath,’ Emeldís remarked.  ‘Cool water, good soap and fresh clothing.’

‘I do,’ he agreed, then hesitated, glancing at his wife from the corner of his eyes.  ‘Join me,’ he invited.  ‘We can cool off together.’

She paused only briefly, before putting her hand in his.  ‘Why not?’ she said.


Almiriel looked from the window of the carriage that was carrying her up from Harlond to the Citadel.  The streets were almost empty and even the market place dozed in the unseasonably warm afternoon.  The houses opening onto the street had dampened sheets hanging over the doors and windows in an effort to keep the heat outside, but here and there were tight-shuttered windows and sealed doors.  She did not blame those who could leave the city for having done so.  Even in the brief time since she had left the river, she could feel sweat prickling between her shoulder blades as they travelled through the uncomfortably steamy streets.

‘A girl needs women around her at a time like this,’ she said.  ‘Family – who can assure her that the outcome will be happy and well worth the trials.  Healers are all very well, but they seem to spend all their time warning you of what can go amiss.  Since Emeldís’s mother will not come …’

‘And you cannot resist babies,’ Imrahil remarked with amused resignation.

‘That, too,’ Almiriel dimpled.

‘We shall be lucky to escape this without another child.’

‘A sister for Lothíriel would be nice,’ his wife said hopefully.

‘She has three brothers to twist round her little finger,’ Lothíriel’s father said firmly.  ‘She does not need competition.’

Almiriel sighed dramatically.  ‘I shall just have to content myself with becoming a great-aunt, then,’ she said, settling back against the cushioned seat as the carriage carried them to the upper levels of the city.

Emeldís was, she thought, when the girl hugged her in greeting, looking a great deal happier than she had when she had arrived in Dol Amroth.  And she mentioned Boromir frequently enough in her conversation for Almiriel to hope that that tentative relationship between them had become rather more established.  She had always felt that Boromir would make an excellent family man, for he was, after all, a loving older brother and indulgent cousin – although he did his best to keep the softness concealed behind a rough exterior.

 It had been unfortunate that his mother had died when he and Faramir were so young, for it had left them both with a certain amount of awkwardness around girls – one that Boromir had, she believed, overcome in dealing with tavern wenches, although that was not exactly guaranteed to promote a happy marriage – and seeing Emeldís smile made his aunt feel that, perhaps, he had at last started looking on his wife as more than an imposition. 

‘You are looking well,’ she approved.  ‘Just as you should at this stage.’  She leaned back and smiled approvingly at the girl.  ‘And how is my nephew coping with the idea of becoming a father?’

Emeldís giggled, Almiriel noted with delight, she actually giggled and leaned forward to murmur in the princess’s ear.  ‘He talks to him,’ she confided, ‘and he likes to rest with his hand on my belly singing to the baby songs that he said his mother used to sing to Faramir.’


No-one noticed its arrival.  Dock workers and porters do not usually trouble healers with their ailments – and the absence of a few daily-paid labourers made little difference to the efficient running of the city.  By the time the authorities had begun to puzzle over the high number of unexplained deaths, it was too late to keep the infection out.

People thought little of it – a feverish child, an elder who could not keep steady on his feet, a headache, a raging thirst.  The weather was, after all, hotter than it should be.  Too much sun could be blamed for a multitude of niggling discomforts.  It was not until those whose work kept the city running could not lift their heads from the pillow that alarm bells began to ring.

Sickness crept up the circles of the city – and as it reached the houses of those who could demand the attention of the master healers, people began to panic.

Those who could packed up their healthy families and headed out to their country estates.  Those with less wealth sent wives and children to impose on the rural cousins they usually patronised for the simplicity of their lives.  The rest – remained.  What else could they do?

‘They are closing the gates between the levels,’ Imrahil said.  He smiled wryly.  ‘It is to be hoped that the food stores hold out, because soon only those with an official pass will be able to move around the city at all.’

Almiriel pulled a face.  ‘I am glad we left the children in Dol Amroth.  I know Ivriniel will take good care of them.’

‘One blessing,’ Imrahil agreed.  ‘On the other hand, Denethor has decided to cancel all meetings of the Council until the crisis has passed.  He will be ruling by edict.’

His wife winced.  ‘Not such a good thing,’ she said.  ‘I hope I value your brother-in-law as I ought, but he is far too convinced he knows what is best for everyone.  He needs a healthy dose of humility every now and then.’  She looked over the peaceful garden.  ‘How is he planning to keep his thumb on all that is happening if the city is sealed?’

Imrahil shrugged.  ‘He seems convinced that he can,’ he said.  ‘I did not argue – there is little I can do to move him when he is in this mood and I had no desire to give him an excuse to let me know who holds the power in Minas Tirith.’

He took Almiriel’s hand.  ‘You should be safe enough here,’ he said.

She narrowed her eyes at him.  ‘I should?’ she asked.  ‘What about you?’

‘Someone needs to take charge in the city,’ he said.  ‘Ensure that nothing gets out of hand.  Supervise the guard and liaise with the healers.’

‘That is why Denethor has aides,’ she told him firmly.  ‘It should not be your task.’

Imrahil squeezed her fingers.  ‘I would send you home if I could,’ he sighed. ‘But you should be safe enough up here in the Citadel.’

‘I am not leaving you here without me.’  Almiriel looked at their twined fingers.  ‘And Emeldís needs support.’  She looked up at her husband.  ‘You cannot let other people do what you will not do yourself, can you?  Sit back and enjoy the comforts of your position without carrying its burdens?’

He raised their hands and pressed a kiss to her fingers.  ‘Speaks the woman who left her children to come and encourage Boromir’s wife through her babe’s arrival.  No, my heart.  I cannot ask others to risk a danger that I will not accept for myself.’  He held her hand against his lips.  ‘I will not return until I am sure the danger is past,’ he said.

‘Look after yourself.’ Almiriel turned her fingers to cup his cheek.  ‘I shall be very cross with you if you allow yourself to succumb to this wretched illness.’

He smiled.  ‘I shall keep that in mind at all times,’ he promised.


Boromir curbed his temper with difficulty. 

The guard standing defiantly beyond the closed gates of the city held firm.  It was never a good idea to refuse the Steward’s heir – not just because of his position of authority, but because he was, and always had been, remarkably reluctant to give up an idea once he got it in his head.  However, orders were orders.

‘Why am I being prevented from entering?’ the young captain demanded.

‘There is sickness in the city, my lord,’ the grey-haired guard repeated solidly.  ‘And no-one is allowed in or out.’

‘I am not no-one!’ Boromir growled.

‘No, my lord,’ the guard agreed.  ‘You are the Steward’s heir.  And you will remain outside the walls.’

It was impossible to properly intimidate someone who had known you since you were a child, Boromir thought with irritation.  He clenched his fists to restrain his urge to grab the old warrior by the tunic and haul him bodily out of the way.

‘How can I get a message to the Citadel?’ he demanded.

‘We can send a letter up for you, my lord.’  The guard was not unsympathetic.  He – like all the citizens of the city – knew that the young lord’s wife was heavy with their first child.  ‘But you would not want to risk taking the sickness up there, would you?’

Boromir drew a sharp breath.  ‘It is that bad?’ he asked. 

‘They are burying the dead in quicklime, my lord.’  The response was stoic.  ‘And fumigating the houses – but still it spreads.  The healers think we might not be rid of it until winter sets in.’

‘Which parts of the city are worst off?’

‘The First Circle, my lord, and much of the Second.’  The guard shifted from one foot to the other.  ‘Many from higher up in the city got out before it became too bad.  But it is patchy – there are some parts of the Fifth Circle where every street is affected.’

‘And we have to remain here helplessly and just let it kill our people?’

‘What can you do, my lord?’  The grey eyes held his and Boromir could not help but notice the man’s jaw working.  ‘Do you know a way to fight disease with swords and arrows?  For, if you do, I would be only too happy to volunteer for the battle.’

‘I am sorry, Thandún,’ Boromir said, subdued by the man’s obvious distress.

‘Stay clear of the city, my lord,’ the guard told him, swallowing.  ‘Gather your young warriors and take them back to Osgiliath – they will be safer there than they will here.’

Behind him a postern gate opened and the tall figure of Prince Imrahil stepped through, as fastidiously neat as if he was just off to attend a formal reception.  Thandún looked behind him accusingly.

‘Ah, there you are, Boromir,’ the Prince of Dol Amroth remarked, rather as if he had seen his nephew no more than a few hours before.  ‘Have you your men with you?’

‘Can you not see them at my shoulder?’

‘There is no need for sarcasm,’ Imrahil said calmly.  He narrowed his eyes to inspect the gathering of soldiers rather further back from the walls.  ‘I am glad to see that the patrols are keeping people well back.  We are quarantining those who are still healthy and trying to keep them clear of the sick – but we need more men to keep visitors from trying to approach the city.  Can you see to it, Boromir?  I cannot send people out – and I will not let people in.’

‘How is Emeldís?’ Boromir asked.  ‘And Father?’

‘As far as I know, there is no illness in the Citadel,’ Imrahil informed him.  ‘But is a more than a week since I have been there.’  Just for a moment his face looked grim.  ‘I am hoping,’ he said.  ‘I can do no more than that.’

His nephew looked at him in silence.  ‘I will ready letters and reports,’ he said.  ‘And do whatever I can do to help.’


Ioreth’s eyes met Almiriel’s.  There was little doubt.  The kitchenmaid had succumbed to the illness that was rife through the city – and she was very unwell indeed.  ‘Did you not think,’ Almiriel said with steely coldness as the cook squirmed, ‘that, since this sickness is considered serious enough to bar the gates, it might have been a good idea to send the girl to the healers as soon as she complained of feeling ill?’

‘But I am already so short-staffed!’ the cook protested.  ‘And these girls will use any excuse they can to avoid working.  I cannot let all of them skip off to the Houses of Healing at every opportunity!’

‘She and Lady Emeldís do not come into contact, my lady,’ Ioreth said hopefully.  ‘Perhaps no harm has been done.’

‘Who shares a room with the girl?’  Almiriel was much more familiar with the workings of a noble household than ever Ioreth could be. ‘And who does she count among her closest friends?’

The cook looked outraged.  It was none of his concern – provided the girls turned up on time and did as they were told, he had no interest in them. 

‘Send the housekeeper to me,’ the princess commanded.  ‘And do not speak to anyone else about this.  Not yet.’

He bowed stiffly, as offended as if she were the one at fault over this.

‘We need to check everyone,’ Almiriel sighed.  ‘And see that anyone who shows any sign of being unwell is moved out immediately.  We do not want Emeldís exposed to this.’

Ioreth attempted to assume the calm usually displayed by experienced healers.  ‘Expectant mothers are not coping well with this ailment, my lady,’ she said. ‘The elderly tend to survive it – but children and young adults …’ She pinched her fingers together.  ‘Lord Boromir will never forgive us if …’ She stopped immediately as a footfall outside the door warned them of an arrival and she smiled cheerfully as Emeldís entered the room.

‘What is going on?’  She sounded sleepy and confused – and not a little cross.  A flush of colour streaked her cheekbones and her eyes, Almiriel thought in alarm, had a glitter to them that she did not like at all.  ‘There are people rushing around everywhere – and my maid does not come when I ring the bell.’

The healer reached up to feel the girl’s forehead, only to have her shy away impatiently.  ‘You look hot,’ she said. ‘Perhaps you should go and sit in the gardens with Lady Almiriel.’

Emeldís put a hand to her head as if to hold it steady and, as she opened her mouth to reply, her eyes suddenly rolled and she went limp. 

Ioreth clutched her desperately, breaking her fall, but able to do no more than lower her more slowly to the ground.  ‘She is burning up,’ the healer said.  ‘We must get her temperature down, if we can.’  She looked concernedly at Almiriel.  ‘This is not good – not good at all.’

Within no more than a few hours, the luxurious dwelling had become a pest-house.  Part of Almiriel wanted to summon Imrahil back – after all, what was the point in his continuing to stay away to keep them safe when they were so clearly nothing of the sort?  The only thing that stopped her was the hope that he was managing to keep well.  Denethor was closeted in his tower – he, at least seemed to be healthy – and she was left with the responsibility of looking after his daughter-in-law and unborn grandchild.

She gazed out at the lazy silver ribbon of the Anduin as it wound its way towards the sea and wished desperately that she was at home with her children.  But she was not – she was here in the White City and she had work to do.


Emeldís could feel great green beetles crawling over her skin, their feet scratching at her cringing flesh.  She fought them, kicking at the weight than held her pinned down, writhing away from the pain of the cold wing cases and biting at the invading pincers.

‘Her temperature is not coming down, my lady.’  Ioreth was exhausted.  She had not sat down for what felt like days – and she had not eaten for longer. 

‘The child is still moving,’ Almiriel said optimistically.  ‘Perhaps she is far enough along for it to survive even if she goes into labour.’

‘Perhaps,’ Ioreth agreed noncommittally.

Emeldís could smell fire: fire and burning flesh.  She panicked, choking on the screams that rose in her chest, panting desperately to catch a smoke-filled breath.  Her brother kicked at the door, wailing for their mother to come and save them, but, even as the blazing flowers of flame crumbled to ash and fell, the image faded.

She frowned and tasted the dryness of her mouth and smelled the freshness of cool water against her skin.  Emeldís blinked and moved a hand that felt as if it belonged to someone else until it caressed her grossly swollen belly.  For a moment, just a moment, the world came back into focus and then she jerked as a clenching pain seized her and everything inside her twisted.   She mewled, a haunting cry, like a screech owl floating on the breeze in the summer twilight.

‘Her waters have broken.’  Almiriel wanted to weep. 

‘It is probably as well,’ Ioreth said wearily.  ‘If she grows much weaker, she will not have the strength to help the child into the world.’

‘I doubt Boromir would want to have to choose between them.’

There was not likely to be a choice to be made – they both knew that.  Emeldís’s grip on life was diminishing with every passing hour, and the child would probably draw its first breath and its last within minutes of each other.

Dawn had sent its first ray of light into the big room when the child slithered into the world.  He was small.  Too small.  Almiriel did not need Ioreth to tell her that.  His cry was weak, like the squawk of a nestling bird, and he did not open his eyes.  She cleaned him and wrapped him and held him close to offer him the comfort of loving arms, but she could not stop the tears that flowed down her face to drip on his fluff of dark hair.

‘How is Emeldís?’ she asked.

Ioreth shook her head.  ‘Her pulse beats still,’ she said, ‘but barely.’

The Princess of Dol Amroth sat on the bed.  ‘Emeldís,’ she said commandingly.  ‘Emeldís.’

Dark lashed stirred briefly.

‘Emeldís.’ Almiriel would not relent.  ‘Greet your son.’

A hint of a smile stretched the pale mouth and heavy lids raised to reveal eyes as dark as a sunless cavern.  ‘My son,’ she breathed.

Almiriel kissed the dark head and placed the bundle with her nephew’s wife.

‘My son,’ Emeldís repeated and closed her eyes again, letting go her remaining breath in a soft sigh.

The child protested, his squeal surprisingly loud in the silence of the room – and he relinquished his tentative hold on life, returning to the care of his mother. 


Boromir rode up through the silent streets, his face as shuttered as the houses, as frozen as the frosty day.  This was not the homecoming he had expected, for which he had hoped.  It had taken a month.  A month during which he had known that his wife and son would not care how long it took him to return.  The longest month of his life. 

Fewer had died, in the end, than the healers had expected – but that did not matter, because two of those who had been among the dead were his family.

Imrahil rode beside him, as silent as he was.  There was, after all, nothing to be said.

And the oddest thing was that everything looked exactly the same as it always had – but nothing would ever be the same again.

He had not wanted to marry Emeldís – he felt guilty now even thinking that – but he had learned to love her; learned to love the child she carried within her – and now they had both been taken from him.  His life would go on, exactly as it had before.  He would lead his troops and sit in Council with his father.  He would tease his brother and watch his cousins grow up – and she would not be there.  The child – the child he had never been able to greet, the child he had not named, the child he had never been able to present to the city as his son – the child would never be more than a memory of a faded hope.

He had promised to look after her – and he had failed. 

Imrahil placed a hand on his elbow.  They had arrived at the stables, he realised, and the groom was waiting to remove his horse.  He released a shaky breath that curled away like smoke into the chill air and dismounted, nodding at the man in silent acknowledgment.

‘I do not know if I can do this,’ he told his uncle.

The Prince of Dol Amroth looked leaner than usual, the lines on his face more deeply etched.  He had, of course, been no more generous to himself than to any other worried relative – and, when his wife had collapsed in the aftermath of Emeldís’s death, he had remained at his duty, growing only cooler and more distantly polite as he worried.  Almiriel had survived – if only barely – and only Imrahil, Boromir thought, would be more concerned about his nephew’s return home than for his own reunion with his much-loved wife.

‘Go ahead,’ Boromir said.  ‘Give me time.’

Imrahil shook his head.  ‘Almiriel needs to see you,’ he said simply.  ‘She will not be able to rest until she has spoken to you.’  His eyes asked for understanding.  ‘You can do nothing for Emeldís,’ he said, ‘but you can help your aunt – if you will.’

His nephew looked older – far older than he should at his age – and he gave a brief nod.  It was understandable that Imrahil should want him to get this over.  Once Almiriel had told him of his wife’s last hours, of the birth and death of his son, Imrahil would be able to take her home, in the hope that Dol Amroth’s mild climate and the presence of her children would coax her back to health.

By the time that, at last, he stood in the Silent Street, he found that he was beyond feeling anything.  No quicklime for these two – they had been embalmed, the likeness of their bodies preserved for all time, encased in stone, imprisoned in this cold place. 

‘I am sorry,’ Boromir whispered.  He had not been here since he had stood at his father’s side while his gentle, loving mother had been entombed here.  He had not thought to be back until it was his task to see that his father received the honour due to him.  It seemed wrong that this place was now to confine the slip of a girl who, little more than a year ago, had been brought to be his wife.  And the child …  His son should have lived to run free in the gardens of the Citadel, to ride over the Pelennor, to play in the sands of Dol Amroth – grown to be a true heir of his house, a son of the line of Mardil, holding Gondor staunchly against the shadow of Mordor.

But it was not to be.

‘I am sorry,’ he murmured again.

His throat hurt and his eyes burned.  There was nothing that he could do about it.  He reached out a hand to caress the indifferent stone that contained what remained of his happiness. 

Boromir looked round the mausoleum: a cold memorial to the past, a statement of power, like so much else in the city.  This was no place to remember them.  The Emeldís he knew – the child he did not – belonged in the living world.  And that was where he would remember them.  He would take them with him always.

He would not come here again.


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