Argaladiel (aka Notes From A 400lb Nuzgûl)
2. cutscene 1
"Ah, so you have awoken," came a voice from nearby. Female. Crisp with disapproval and irritation. Familiar. He cracked an eye open.
Standing by the side of the bed, clad in breeches and shirt, was the strange woman from who-knew-where that had caught his eye at the council. She was looking at him as though he'd done something supremely stupid purposefully to annoy her. He could dimly remember a similar look from his mother, when he had broken something valuable or precious to her through being too boisterous in play. He wondered what he had done to annoy this woman.
"I have no idea what you were thinking of last night," she said, the disapproval still crackling in her voice, "or where your wits got to. What in the names of all the Valar posessed you to get involved in a drinking contest with Lord Elrond's two sons?"
She had brought him a mug as she was berating him. By this time he was aware that not only was his head aching, but his mouth felt as though something uncleanly had urinated in it. His vision was blurred and his eyes felt gummed together. Rather than make the effort to try and watch what the woman was doing, he took a sip of what was in the mug. Water, it seemed. Certainly it felt wonderful as it slid down his throat, almost soothing.
The woman had continued talking, as he drank, although it sounded as though she was doing something else while she was talking. "Thank all the powers that it was only Merry and Pippin who decided to get involved in the whole business as well. Frodo and Sam are busy dealing with those two now."
He heard her return to his bedside, and he gasped when she started stroking at his face with a damp cloth. It felt wonderful - until she had started her ministrations, he had not realised that his skin felt as though it were crawling.
"Close your eyes," she said, as she started to work around them. Her touch was gentle, the cloth was cool, and he could not stop himself from sighing once again. He felt the coolness of the water trickling over his skin as she rinsed off his eyes, and reflected that at least this woman seemed to know what she was doing.
The sudden, stinging slap to his right cheek came as a surprise, therefore. As did the one to the left, delivered a second later. Between the two of them, the ringing in his head re-started, leaving him dazed and pained.
"That is to teach you not to be so stupid!" came the woman's voice. "You are leaving this place in two weeks and the Fellowship needs a warrior, not a sot! I shall be part of the company, and I swear to you that if I find your nose in a wineskin even *once* on the journey, Boromir of Gondor, I shall geld you myself. Now get up!"
He found himself scrambling out of the bed, wincing at the pain in his head, while part of his mind wondered why he was letting this woman order him about in this way. Most of his mind, however, was remembering a commander he'd served under while he was serving his apprenticeship in the troops of Gondor, as a lad of sixteen. That commander had been similarly brusque, as well as having a similar lack of respect for the mautitudinal agonies of the drunken. He had just about cleared the covers off himself, when he remembered, or rather realised, that he was naked beneath them. He stopped, abruptly.
"Oh, get out of bed, man. Who do you think poured you into it last night?" The voice of the woman was caustic. "Last night, and every night since the council, I have been sitting up, listening to you whinge about Eldarion's ancestry while you drink yourself into a stupor. And every night, I try to get you to go to bed before you disgrace yourself again."
He winced. Not merely at the fact that her voice was setting off the headache from his hangover, but also from the implication that not once had this woman been successful at what she set out to do. He looked over at her. She was glaring at him with a look which reminded him very much of the way that his father looked when the Steward had been brought news of some piece of unwitting incompetence. The thought occurred to him that this was probably a look that his brother was very much familiar with, a thought which made him respect Faramir all the more. Her eyes, he realised, were of the same cold grey as his father's, while her dark hair and pale skin made her the spitting image of most of the Dúnadan-blood noblewomen of Gondor. Her figure was also reminiscent of the noblewomen of his homeland: tall and elegant, although her broad shoulders would be counted a flaw among the fashionable butterflies of the court. She was very tall for a woman, tall even for a man. He suspected that were he to stand before her, she would be looking him in the eye. She was strong too, he realised, as the burning heat of his cheeks made him aware of the power she had put behind her two blows.
She had turned away briefly, and pulled out some clothes from the tangle on the floor. "Here," she said, throwing the clothes toward him, "put these on." He caught them almost absently, recognising them as his second-best breeches and shirt. Both were stained and filthy.
"I cannot wear these," he said, nose wrinkling in disgust.
"Why not?" she asked, her voice flat with disapproval. "You have been wearing them for the past two days." The look she turned on him this time was angry, a cold fury which seemed to flay the flesh from his bones. "Do you think it gives me any joy seeing the sole other representative of my race in this place looking as though he has been dragged face-down through a hog wallow? Do you think anyone else enjoys it?"
He found himself hanging his head. If what the woman was saying was true, he had been disgracing himself most thoroughly, and he could understand her disgust. The thought of what would be said in Gondor, should news of this get out, was mortifying.
"What can I do?" The question came out before he even realised that he was asking it. It brought the attention of the woman fully to focus on him. For a moment, it looked as though she was going to snap at him again, flay him once more with the coldness of those stone-grey eyes, but she looked away, turning back to the tangled jumble of his clothes upon the floor.
"What you can start by doing," she said, her voice quieter, lower in pitch, "is getting out of bed, going to the bathing room, and having a wash. I shall look about and see whether you have any clothes fit to wear."
He looked over at the bathing room, then at the woman, who appeared to have focussed her attention entirely on a bundle of clothing in the other direction. Deciding that it was wiser to sieze the opportunity than to question it, he struggled out of the bed, made his way to the bathing room, and closed the door.
Once the door to the bathing room had closed, the woman looked up from what she was doing. Quickly, she made her way to the other door, opening it to let in the Lady Arwen.
"He is believing me," the woman said in elvish. "I think your mind tricks worked their spell. Well done!" The lady of Imladris smiled, a rather wicked smile that put the woman before her in mind of the two sons of Lord Elrond.
"Dúnwen, this is your scheme. All I was required to do was to duplicate a few memories. You shall have the harder task - that of preventing him from seeking refuge in the wineskin from those matters which trouble him. It will not be easy." The Evenstar of the Elven peoples, and the woman known as the Dúnwen were busy stripping the sheets from the bed as they spoke, the Sindarin phrases passing between the two of them easily. Once the bed was stripped, the scattered and stained clothing was collected from the floor. The various linens were cast into a large basket, save only for a single pair of linen breeches (which bore the marks of much mending) as well as a linen shirt (which looked similarly battered).
Arwen cocked her head in the direction of the bathing room. "From the sounds in there, he may nearly have finished. I shall leave now."
"Go," agreed the woman. "Tell the hobbits to keep away for a day or so."
He emerged from the bathing chamber, a towel looped around his waist, to find the woman occupied in replacing the sheets on the bed. His oldest and most comfortable shirt and breeches (mercifully clean) lay on a chair near to the door of the bathing room. He looked over at the woman.
"My thanks for your aid, lady," he said to her. This caused her to look up at him. Her eyebrows raised, yet she seemed unimpressed.
"I do not do this for your sake," she told him. "I do it for my own. Do you have any idea how annoying it is to have all the Elves looking at me with pity in their eyes, for being part of a race which is considered weak and foolish? Especially when you are doing what appears to be your best to live up to the stereotype."
He found himself embarassed again. He could not help but wonder about the reason that this woman was inside his chambers. Had he ... coerced her there, while he was not himself? Ordinarily, he was not a man to take a woman by force. Yet he knew that, ordinarily, he was not a one to return repeatedly to drink as a method of solving problems. It seemed almost as though another force were influencing him. He lowered his eyes, noticing as he did so that the towel around his waist was slipping. Quickly, he snatched up the shirt and breeches, and slipped back into the bathing room.
Once fully clad, he was able to exit the bathing room with a semblance of calm. He noted that while he'd been dressing himself, the woman had finished making the bed. His other clothes were all gone. So were his boots, his mail, and his weapons. He had only the shirt and breeches he stood in. Oh, and the headache. That was still his, still a band of sharp pain behind his eyes. Without thinking, he made for the decanter of wine which sat upon the sideboard. A glass of wine would soothe his headache, enable him to think clearly. Strangely enough, the woman made no effort to stop him, despite her dire threats earlier. Instead, she merely watched as he poured himself a cupful of the wine from the decanter and tossed it back.
He realised that she'd come into the bathing room with him, and that she was stroking his hair back from his face as he puked up his guts. Once he had brought everything up (he thought possibly everything he had eaten since he had departed Gondor, from the length and fury of the spasms which gripped him), she wordlessly handed him another mug of water.
"You may wish to reconsider before drinking any more wine," she told him, after he'd taken a few sips. "You are starting to reach the point where your body will not accept such things."
He looked up at her. Her face was bland, matter-of-fact, her grey eyes meeting his honestly. He looked down again.
"What would you know of such things?" he asked, voice harsh with suspicion and with pain. The headache was still bothering him.
The woman turned away again. "What I know, I know from long observation of those Men who drink to excess. I know that if a Man drinks enough, often enough, the wine turns to poison," she told him, bluntly. "You are poisoning yourself. I have seen enough death to know that a death from rotting of the liver is both long and painful." He heard her turn back toward him. "I know that I see a good man before me," she said, her voice full of suppressed emotion, "one who does not deserve a long, painful death."
He looked up at her. Her eyes were bright with tears, although her face carried mixed exasperation and anger. It occurred to him that this woman was angry as much for him as at him. It was an unusual thought.
"A good man, Lady?" he asked, surprised at the edge of bitterness in his voice. "Ah, but a Man of no further use to his people. For there is an heir of Kings now, or had you not heard this? What use an heir of Stewards, when the Heir of Kings walks the world?"
It shocked him to hear the words out in the open like that, to hear himself confessing his pain in front of this woman. This woman, who, he seemed to remember, had spoken in the council to the Man, Eldarion, with some authority. Her garb at the council had been that of a Ranger, he remembered.
Her hand came out, gripped his chin, forced his eyes upward to meet hers. "Fear not, son of Denethor. The House of Elendil has always a use for the House of Mardil. You shall not be discarded by them. Do not take upon yourself decisions which are not yours to make."
At the last words, a smile transformed her face, softening the harsh lines and angles of it. He tried to make sense of her words, tried to focus past the pain in his head. Yet he could not. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and gasped at the pain which racked him. "If you would aid me at all, Lady," he said, gasping still around the stabbing hurt of the hangover, "I would that you could do something for the throbbing in my skull."
This caused her to smile again, as she helped him out of the bathing room into the main room, lying him down upon the bed once again. Then she moved about the room, going to the fire, building it up and heating some water in a kettle. He lay upon the bed, listening to the quiet sounds of her movement. It was long since he had been cared for in this manner by anyone. He could hear the sounds of water being poured onto herbs, smell the fragrance of something unexpected. A fragrance like summer, like springtime. She brought him the draught she had prepared.
"Be careful, 'tis still hot," she warned him, placing the mug on the table beside the bed. He could smell the fragrance of it. Already, he felt as though the pain in his head was easing, as muscles in which he had not been aware of tension slowly relaxed. The pain in his heart, also, appeared to be easing as well.
"What is it?" he asked, sipping cautiously, curious to know what the plant was that could bring such a beautiful scent to the room, and such relief just through its fragrance.
"Athelas and willowbark. Together with rest, they should clear the pain from your head, and allow your mind to function clearly. You will not be leaving these chambers, Lord Boromir, while the poison of the wine leaches from your system."
The look she gave him was stern. Part of him wished to argue, yet as he drained the draught, and the tension slowly leached from his body, all he became aware of was the overwhelming need to sleep. He slept.
Argaladiel watched him sleep. The whole trick had taken swift and careful planning. Fortunately, the Lady Undomiel had been able to confirm her own suspicion that the behaviour of the Man was unusual, even for him. By the end of the third night of such behaviour, she had gained the willing assistance of Arwen in her plans. By the end of the fourth, Arwen had convinced her father of the need for action in this case.
It had been Lord Elrond's suggestion that they work on the Man's memories and play with his perception of the amount of time which had elapsed. Certainly, once he had accepted the drugged wine the previous night, it had been easy enough for Arwen to play with his memory. The stronger-than-normal hangover headache was Lord Elrond's contribution to the whole process. The emetic in the wine in the decanter had been her own touch.
Now came the more difficult part of the task: taking the stubborn Gondorian through the healing process, and getting past his resentment of her own ancestry. He would not easily come to accept her as an equal, she knew, far less a superior and his rightful queen. It also came to her that her concealment of her identity from him thus far would come as a blow, and would speak eloquently of her own mistrust. Yet at the time of the council, it had seemed wise to conceal who she was, to keep her secret that much longer. Those who needed to know her identity already knew it. Those of the Fellowship who knew her already had accepted her presence in their band. There had only been this Man of Gondor, this unknown quantity in the council.
"Ada, you knew what you were doing," she murmured, very quietly. "I should never have interfered in your plans."
"It is good to hear you admit such, daughter," came the quiet voice of her foster-father over her shoulder. She looked around, and smiled at the tall Peredhel behind her. "Does he sleep?"
"Aye. He sleeps. Hopefully in sleep and in dreams, he will heal enough to face the situation without need of such assistance as he has been using." She looked upon the face of the sleeping Man, feeling the stirring of her heart. The pain that had been in his voice when he had spoken of the desolation within him had touched something within her. He was young, for a man of the Dúnedain, scarce forty years old. Fully young enough to be her child, and yet there was something within him that caught at her attention.
The Lord of Rivendell watched her, as she gently stroked at the hair and face of the Man before her. The gesture was motherly enough, and certainly his foster-daughter had proven her skill as a mother many years previously. Yet the one who lay on the bed was no child, and had no ties of blood bound them. Elrond Half-Elven wondered yet again whether the mistake had been one which he and Gilraen had co-operated in nearly seventy years earlier, when they had chosen to make the young girl that Argaladiel had been aware of who she was, and what her role would be. Possibly in urging her to marry young for dynastic reasons, they had ignored the fire that burned within her, that fire of passion which had burned so strongly in both of her parents.
He had thought her happy in her marriage, for the children had come soon enough. It was not until he had overheard an argument between Gilraen and her daughter about the marriage of the first of Gilraen's grandchildren that he had realised that a loveless marriage was even possible among Men, far less that one who he considered as much his own daughter as Arwen Undomiel had been forced into such. Now, looking at his foster-daughter as she stroked the hair of the man beside her, he realised that the long-banked embers of her own passions may well rise up to burn her badly.
"Let him sleep, Ada," Argaladiel whispered. "Let him sleep, and forget his pain."
The Lord of Imladris nodded, and laid a hand on the shoulder of the woman he thought of as a daughter. "You should sleep also, for you have gone long without true rest."
She nodded, and curled up in the chair beside the bed. The last thing she remembered before she fell into a deep sleep was the soft touch of her foster-father's hand against her forehead.
When Boromir awoke again, it was to find his headache gone, and the woman asleep in a chair beside the bed. He looked over at her. Some of her hair appeared to have escaped from the tight knot she habitually wore it in, and in it he could see traces of silver. She looked to be between thirty and forty years to his eyes (he raised the estimate upon noticing the faint traces of crows-feet near her eyes). From what he could remember of the council session (he had been so exhausted throughout it that he could barely recall that a decision had been reached regarding the destruction of the Ring of Power), she appeared to have been some kind of attendant or counsellor to the young man, Eldarion, who had been proclaimed to be of the line of Isildur.
He studied her face. In repose it seemed softer than it had been, more pliable. She was a woman who would never be called a beauty, for although her mouth was wide and sensual, the cheekbones high and elegant, and her eyes brilliant, this was all counteracted by a nose like the beak of a hawk, and a chin and jawline which added an air of stubbornness to her face. So, not beautiful, no. But definitely intriguing. He found himself wondering exactly who this woman was.
As he gazed upon her, she suddenly startled awake. She blinked at him a couple of times before rapidly becoming fully alert.
"My apologies," she said, seeming slightly embarrassed at having been found asleep. He found himself smiling.
"No matter," he replied. "I must own, however, that I find myself curious as to why you are remaining here?"
Her answering grin could best be described as wicked.
"Well," she said, "'tis my chamber, after all."
He was stunned by the statement. For several moments disbelief warred with mortification. Disbelief won.
"You lie!" he exclaimed, only to be met by those very calm, cold, grey eyes. The woman looked across at him as though daring him to repeat the words. He took another look around the room, his startled gaze picking up details he had missed previously. The fact that the woman was fully dressed, in clean clothes. The lack of the weapons rack that his own room (he now remembered) held. The difference in the quality of the light coming through the window. He was not in his own chambers.
He looked up at the woman, feeling his cheeks flush crimson as he did so. For him to be here... he must have disgraced himself more than he could possibly believe. Those cool grey eyes looked calmly upon him, although he fancied he beheld a hint of laughter.
"Do not worry," she said, quietly. "Nothing happened. My guess is that 'tis all the workings of coincidence. I suspect that my chambers here in Imladris appear to be just the right combination of turnings from the main chamber that your chambers in the Citadel in Minas Tirith would be from the main hall there. This would account for the fact that you kept turning up here blind drunk, in the middle of the night, and swearing about the fact that I was in your bed." There was an unashamed grin on her face as she reminded him of this. "You were very upset with your father, for some reason. Something about 'not being tricked into marriage either.'"
He groaned at that. He must certainly have been drunk, and he had offered this woman intolerable insult. The very fact that she appeared not to mind made things even worse. As did the fact that she appeared to be taking this calmly, and even appearing to be amused. He was not certain that he would ever be able to live this down. He got up out of the bed, determined to leave the room, and remove his unwelcome intrusion from this woman's chambers.
"Do not leave," she said, seeming to gauge his intent. "You have made enough of a drunken sot of yourself that Lord Elrond has asked me to ensure that you are sobered up, and that you are willing to remain sober. Else you can wait out the winter here in Imladris in wine-sodden misery, and make your drunken way to Gondor alone in the spring, if that is still your wish. Should you leave this room now, you shall be staying here the winter."
"What do you mean?" he asked, incredulous that this woman was basically handing him an ultimatum.
"I should have thought that obvious," she said, the acid leaching back into her voice. Once again, he could see that resemblance between her eyes and those of his father. "I told you earlier: the Fellowship requires that you be a warrior, not a sot. In this room, there is no longer any wine. Nor shall any be brought here. I have committed myself to leaching the wine from your system, to making you into a fit companion for the Ringbearer. You are of my race, you are my responsibility. The Lord Elrond agrees with me. I believe you able to do it, although I understand that a lot of the elves are betting heavily against it in the halls."
The revelations, one on another, were kindling his pride, inflaming his temper. He glared at the woman, who looked back at him, seemingly unimpressed.
"Would you lose them their coin, my lord?" The question was a spur, a prod on his pride. Intolerable, intolerable that these.. elves could sneer at him that way. He looked at the woman again, nodded once. She nodded back.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.