1. The Wizard and his Pupil
But while the father may not have been welcoming, his son was of different thought, as was evident by the gentle smile creasing his lips as he approached the figure in white, and fell in step with him.
“I was hearing from the sons of Elrond their tale of the grey company riding the paths of the dead,” the young man said to him without preamble, “The dead really did inhabit the Hill of Erech,” his voice took on a familiar wondering tone that the wizard had heard often, albeit this time one underlain with amusement, “It was something I heard often when young, but Boromir had managed to convince me that it was merely a tale told to scare the children.”
The wizard observed him contemplatively as he continued speaking in the thoughtful tone that had come be to be expected of him.
“And now I hear that not merely children did it seem to have scared. It a[[ears many a league from Morthond on was deserted for all not away at war seemed to have fled at the very news that the dead rode again, not even waiting to confirm it with their own eyes. They told me of how the men of Lamedon abandoned their battle against the forces of Umbar and Harad and fled at their approach. All save their Lord Angbor, who stood his ground.”
“A brave man I thought him, to stay on in a seemingly abandoned battlefield,” the steward said musingly, a distant wistful look on his face the only indication that his thoughts rested on a different matter, but a related one, “Though some may have called him foolhardy to do that.”
The wizard continued to listen in silence.
“But surely not in hindsight?” the young man’s eyes came to rest on the wizard’s face, as though seeking an answer to another question, a different one, one that remained unasked but not unheard.
“Not in hindsight,” the wizard agreed calmly, “Although, foolhardy may be too strong a word to use. There are occasions that demand steps others may deem such, but there are few men to rise to their worth. He would not be the only one such words could be said about.”
Grey eyes stared back appraisingly on an old friend, “Perhaps not,” came the amused reply, before the voice gave way to a slight heaviness, “But then is it not always easy to speak afterward? Is it not the words already uttered that give rise to doubt for who would know what the future would hold?”
“Who would indeed? Foresight is a gift not many are blessed with.”
“No, not many,” the steward agreed, “And nor is it always a gift.”
Then after a pause, came the question he had been expecting for many a day, “And had I had the foresight to heed your words better five months ago, would things have turned differently?”
It was not the usual tone he had heard many a time before from the same mouth, one accompanying questions on any subject, varying from tales of old to the stars that glittered in the night skies. This was not a voice of curiosity demanding an answer, but a bland one asking an unanswerable question that nevertheless insisted on being asked.
And so the wizard answered it with the only words possible, “That we will never know,” he said firmly.
“No, I thought not,” the young man agreed absently. Then turning towards the general rabble marking the preparations for departure he said, “There are many to part from today.”
“A loathsome task, my lord steward?”
There seemed to be the hint of a wistful smile in the perceptive reply, “It is a good thing, I suppose, that are at least some one knows one cares enough about to bid farewell to? Aye, it is still loathsome, but necessary.”
The young man nudged the gravel gently beneath his feet, before looking up at him, and speaking quietly but with sincerity, “I have not thanked you yet, it was remiss of me, but the opportunity never arose, for so much has happened in so little time.”
“Thank me? And for what would you want to do that?”
“You saved my life,” he replied simply, “And much has happened since then to make me thankful for that.”
The wizard shook his head gently and smiled deprecatingly, “If you must thank one for your life, thank Peregrin. I may have called him a fool of a Took sometimes, but not upon that occasion.”
“I would thank you both for that,” the steward replied seriously, “As I would thank you, Mithrandir, for all you have done over these years.”
“I have done little. You welcomed me to Minas Tirith and you sought knowledge. Who would grudge anyone that?”
“You would always be received in Minas Tirith, should you return. Though I fear that will not be so?”
He shook his head gently, watching the reaction on the grave face in front of him. The young man nodded sadly in response, looking very much like the solemn young child who had found in the rare visits of a stranger the source to so many of the answers he had wanted. Answers unforthcoming from others who while not strangers in relation, were as good as strangers in other matters. He was taller and older now, but still seemed to contain within him the child that saw much that others missed.
“A wizard’s pupil my father called me,” he was saying quietly, “But why would one such expend so much of his time on a steward’s younger son?”
He was as astute as his father had been. But then the wizard had expected no less from him. The former steward and his younger son had been alike in more ways than one, differing however where it mattered the most.
“It was not without reason that I did so,” he admitted.
“That is understandable. There lies a reason behind all actions, does there not?” the young man’s tone still held a touch of wistfulness to it, “My father saw you as the reason behind many of my actions, perhaps. Many of which he did not approve of.”
“And what did you see?”
The reply came without hesitation but in measured tones, “What did I see? I saw a teacher and a mentor, and more. I saw a friend.”
“Then I am glad to be counted as one.”
The solemn face broke out into a smile.
“You came but seldom,” he said the faintest hint of regret tingeing his calm voice. Behind them, in the distance, the knights had begun to line up.
The wizard smiled softly, and stepping forward, grasped the younger man by the shoulders, “But always when I was needed.”
“That I will not refute. Farewell then, my friend.”
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.