Playlist Navigation Bar
Stone Gods: 3. The Theory of Everything
A sense of shame, at first. He had the distinct impression that he was playing the part of the nasty little boy peeking into a forbidden room. He almost gave up halfway through the first letter. Perhaps it was only the overriding reminder that he had made his own bed and must perforce lie on it, coming to him in a voice suspiciously like Eldarion’s, which forced him to go on. Then a real, earthy interest in the matters spoken of - why, there was enough material for a book on almost anything about the last years of the Third Age in here! - took over, and he quickly immersed himself in them.
Slowly, his awe grew at the power that leapt off the pages, of words replete with the sheer force of their writers' personalities. Arwen in particular had possessed the gift of writing letters. She had only to touch upon a mood, an event, a single scene, for it to rush into sense and colour. Aragorn's letters were considerably fewer, and often longer. As with his speech, there was a laconic brevity to his tone, and his wit was sharp, but never ungentlemanly. To Barahir it seemed even more wondrous that he could feel the growth of the man from year to year, in his words. The young swain gave way to a dark, brooding warrior, who in turn mellowed into a man of an uplifting strength of spirit and mind, by the last surpassing even hers. He revealed something of his mind in every line - the despondency of dark times, the smouldering impatience of the days of the Shire watch, the amused frustration of years of fruitless treaties, and above all, the profound affection that marked every mention of home. Where I may rest, for a while. In a while. Where Mother rests. Where I may see our children. Where you are.
She wrote in Sindarin, snatches of Quenya bubbling up now and then, like songs hummed under her breath. He wrote to her in every language he knew, often many in the same letter, especially in the hopeless confusion of the war years. He might start in Sindarin, flow into Westron, break into a difficult word of old Adûnaic that had no equivalent in elven tongues, and take his leave in Quenya, all in the same unwavering straight hand.
Barahir lapped it all up, drinking in each language with almost unthinking felicity. There was no doubt about it. He had learnt more in his sixty years than most men did in a lifetime. He was like a chameleon, shifting the shapes of his mind from idiom to idiom. Now man, now elf, now soldier, now seafarer. Sometimes he thought he had lived more lifetimes than most men. There were wheels that whirred in his large mind. They were powerful, and constantly moving.
Three months passed in his research, months that chipped away at his confidence and filled him with a growing dread. What could be enough for Aragorn and Arwen?
Not a mere song, a gest of their deeds. This was more. It required more. This tale was not about deeds. Consequently, it could never be a documentary account of their life. This much he knew now. It would have to surpass that to be a fitting tribute. And a fitting tribute to such two could, he began to think, only be that mightiest work of all - a treatise on the very essence of love, with them as proof, its living truth. Was this not what poets and minstrels, writers through the ages had attempted to capture and failed? Everything they had tried before - rhyme, metaphor, exaggeration, understatement. But Barahir would try through clear prose, free of poesy and undue fancy.Barahir would find reason, method, order to the secrets of the mortal heart.
'Clear, hard-headed exposition,' he noted to himself. 'After all, someone will have to do it at some time, and past three ages of the world and two of the mightiest shadows ever thrown back seems as good a time as any.
Will do it. Must.
I can. Know it. Somewhere close lurks the moment of light.'
It had taken him two weeks to read through all the letters twice and make his preliminary notes. He also began visiting. He spoke to their daughters, Eldarion's younger sisters. The oldest was deeply ensconced in the intrigues of Haradrim politics, as became the Dowager Empress of that realm, but the other two were close at hand in Minas Tirith. Alassë, the youngest, had laughed and cried and given him her blessing, plunging obligingly into her girlhood memories, bringing out snippets and knicknacks of this and that, items of little importance but great interest, exhibiting her mother's powers of memory and description in full. The other princess Isilmë swore at him and told him to expect nothing from her before proceeding to charm him completely in an engaging and enlightening discussion of elven love and courtship. Barahir always liked women to think before they spoke, and the quicker the better. In his student years, he had stayed awake night after night constructing his defenses against the next day's arguments with Calwen.
He was often invited to spend evenings at the Tower, and this he accepted, grateful for the company of at least two people who had been so close to his subjects. More than hearing their stories, which was a rare occurrence anyway, it was their questions that made Barahir seek them out.
"What is your first memory of them?" he had asked Eldarion early on.
And Eldarion had asked him, "Of what use will that be to you? What is your first memory of them?"
He spoke with his father, who was respectful and disapproving at once. Elboron was growing old; his sons were efficiently taking over more and more of his work, as he had himself once done with Faramir, but his eye was keen as ever. He had looked long and silently at Barahir when he told him of his work. Then he smiled and said, "If it makes you happy to do so, son, then I am certain the King and Queen would have approved."
"It is hardly a matter of my happiness, Sire," said Barahir, somewhat stiffly. "Say rather that it is something that must - or should - be done, and I am doing it."
Elboron smiled and said nothing, but watched his son all through dinner and was troubled at his lack of peace.
You were right in refusing him first, Eldarion, he thought silently. He has not yet found his peace.
Playlist Navigation Bar