7. Different Perspectives
Fana awoke in the dark, but something told her that it was close to dawn and she should be up. She stretched out a hand and found the space next to her empty and cool, though she could still feel the dent in the mattress where Dirlayn had slept. The clanking of milk pails rang up from the kitchen. Across the landing, the door of the other bedroom opened with a creak and Déoric's uncle Himlebed's footsteps plodded down the stair. Fana pulled up her knees and twisted the blanket around her wrists. She ran it past her face until she came to a patch that still smelled of Déoric and then breathed in his scent. With every passing week, it became harder to find.
She lay like this for a little longer before she slowly slid out of her warm nest and set her naked feet on the wooden floor. The room was colder than she had expected, and for a while she sat on the edge of the bed with the blanket around her shoulders. A spot halfway down her left leg began to itch and she scratched it. Her probing fingertips could make out a row of three tiny flat bulges. Fana sighed. Bed bugs again. She'd believed they'd got rid of them. The thought of these little brown creatures crawling up her legs in her sleep to feed on her blood turned her stomach.
Carefully so as not to stub her toes, she padded over to the window and opened the shutters to let in what little light there was, sufficient to get washed and dressed. Then she went down. An empty bowl with traces of porridge stood at Déoric's place. Himlebed's place, that was. Dirlayn came in from the kitchen with a loaf on a wooden board.
"Oh, here you are, my dear," she said. "Did you sleep well?"
"Not quite," replied Fana. "I lay awake for some time in the middle of the night, and I think that's why I slept in."
"Never mind, dear," said Dirlayn. She cut off a thin slice of bread and spread it with butter and honey, just the way Fana liked it. Fana allowed herself to be served and gratefully sank her teeth into the bread. The smell of fresh milk from her cup was delicious; it no longer made her feel queasy as it had during the early weeks of being with child. Dirlayn did not sit down; instead she picked up her coat from the hook by the door.
"Listen, Fana," she said, "I'm in a hurry. I'm needed at the infirmary. Himlebed has forgotten to take something for his midday meal. Would you be so good as to take him a bite up to the Hall?"
"Of course," said Fana and scratched her leg again. "I'll do it right away when I'm finished here."
"Thanks, dear. Have a good day."
Dirlayn put on her coat and slipped out the door. A gust of wind blew in a handful of crumpled brown leaves. Fana finished her breakfast at leisure and tidied away all traces of it in the kitchen. Then she swathed a slab of bread and a chunk of cheese in an oil cloth, put them into her basket together with two apples and a flagon of ale, and wrapped herself up in her big woollen scarf.
Outside, the wind caught her hair and lifted it up in a playful toss. It was fresh, but not unduly cold, and it smelled of autumn, of shorter days and smoky fires and fields lying bare. Fana breathed in this melancholy scent that brought up images of her childhood. One year, she must have been about eight or nine, Déoric, Niarl and Halol had roasted potatoes in a bonfire just outside the city and when she had come up to join them they had showered her with a basketful of dead willow leaves. But she had got her own back, later that day, when they were sitting by the river splashing their feet and she had sneaked up behind them and run off with their boots.
By the time Fana arrived at the Golden Hall, a fine haze of a rain had picked up and gave her face a second wash. She hastened up the stair and was glad to get under cover. A fire was burning in the Hall, sending licking tongues of light up the columns and banners. At the far end she saw the king speaking to some of his advisors. She scurried along the wall behind the pillars and remained largely unnoticed; only Léofred saw her and gave her a friendly nod.
In the scribe's room, she found Himlebed and Brecc busy at work. Déoric's Gondorian uncle was a tall and skinny man with angular features who wore his dark hair and grizzled beard neatly cropped. He greeted Fana and thanked her courteously for bringing his meal. Brecc gave her a shy smile. He was copying a list from a wax tablet onto parchment with ink. Fana watched how his quill scratched each letter, stroke after careful stroke, with his lips pressed together and his eyebrows pulled down.
"What's this?" she asked and pointed at a sheet that was covered in strangely interwoven lines. They criss-crossed the page and seemed to form some sort of pattern, but several lines were smudged and others had been abandoned in mid-stroke.
Brecc snatched the parchment from her and hid it under a pile of documents. Without a word, he continued with his task. Himlebed looked up and smiled.
"Oh, this is a little whim that Brecc has taken a fancy to. He is trying to make knot patterns."
"What, like the wood carvings on the front of the Hall? I thought it looked a bit like that. But that's not the way to do them. He'll need to do a grid of dots first."
"And how would you know that?" said Brecc with a sullen look.
"Because Déoric isn't the only one with an uncle who knows useful things. My mother's brother is a wood carver. He made the carvings over the door of the new infirmary. I've seen him plan his designs; you need a whole sheet full of dots, and then you connect them."
"There you go, Brecc," said Himlebed, "I told you there would be some kind of craft secret to it."
"I'll work it out somehow," he replied.
"Don't be silly," said Fana. "I'll speak to my uncle and I'm sure he'll be happy to show you. When Déoric comes back, you can impress him with your own artwork."
"Would you do that?"
"Of course, why not?"
Brecc's dour expression was supplanted by an eager look. Himlebed smiled at Fana.
"Thank you, Fana," he said. "If Brecc can get his patterns sorted, he'll maybe be able to free his mind again for his scribing tasks. He'd make a splendid apprentice if he wasn't thinking about knots all the time."
She left them to their inky pursuits and went back out. From the platform in front of the Hall she looked out over the city and the lands beyond. The rain had ceased and the building sheltered her from the wind. Down by the river, the willow trees dunked their last few fallow leaves into the water. Autumn had come late, but sudden. Damp, cool air was soaking the whole country with a vague yearning. And somewhere out there was her Déoric. Fana hugged her shoulders and pulled her scarf closer. It was nice for Brecc to take an interest in patterns, and she was sure he would work it out and do it very well. Déoric, of course, would consider it a waste of time, but then Déoric was a very special person indeed.
A merry fire crackled in the hearth and the table was set with steaming dishes. Éowyn, at last up and about again, came into the room and joined her husband. She began to eat with a hearty appetite and was halfway through her soup before she noticed Faramir's serious mien. She waited until the serving woman had left before she addressed him.
"You seem, troubled, my love. Will you tell me what worries you?"
Faramir lifted his eyes from his wine goblet and gave her a wan smile.
"Nothing very grave, dearest," he said. "But all those petty squabbles are beginning to wear me down. Now, here is Olcharad offended that he wasn't made a captain last week, and he no longer speaks to Cúmol on that account. Meanwhile, Cúmol's wife is spreading rumours that Serveren was only interested in Olcharad as long as he had a prospect of becoming captain this year and will break up the betrothal before long. I have spoken to both men this morning and persuaded them into a grudging reconciliation, but it disappoints me so to see people behave in such small-minded ways."
"People will do that kind of thing," said Éowyn. "Don't take it to heart too much. It must be the nature of Man."
Faramir shook his head and twisted the handle of his spoon between his fingers.
"I have been thinking about bees," he said. "You know, they way they all work together for the best of the hive. They have no selfish desires. All they want is for their hive to flourish, and hence they live in perfect harmony."
"Yes, Faramir, I'm sure bees do. But would it not strike you as odd to demand that people should behave like bees?"
He looked at her and gave a little laugh, followed by a heavy sigh.
"I used to think a ruler only had to be wise and just and then things would simply fall into place," he said. "But they don't. There are so many conflicting interests wherever I look. I have thought long and hard about this, and I believe what I must do is find in each case whatever cause of action will bring the most happiness to the most people. What do you think?"
Éowyn took at sip of wine and looked at him over the rim of the glass. Then she slowly shook her head.
"I don't think you've really thought this to the end, Faramir," she said. "Or, if you really mean it, then you'd have to start by inviting a few dozen people to come and live in this house with us. I would need to give away all my dresses but one. We wouldn't be drinking a bottle of wine between us, because the happiness would be spread about more if ten or twelve people could each have a sip. And imagine a man who has worked hard over many years and has with honest trading and prudent diligence acquired such wealth as to allow him to purchase a large and comfortable home for himself and his family. Would you force him to take in against his own wishes a dozen poor families, because they are living in crammed cottages and it would make them happy to move into such comfortable quarters?"
"I think you are taking this a bit too far now, Éowyn."
"Not at all. If you wanted to use that rule, you'd have to use it properly. But I don't think it could be used properly, because we don't have the same duty towards everybody. Our nearest and dearest are of greater concern to us than other people, and I think that is right. I certainly think you should care more for me than for the carpenter in the village or for a farmer in Lebennin. But our carpenter here should be of greater concern to you than a farmer somewhere else in the country, and to him in turn you have a greater duty than towards an Easterling or one of the Haradrim. It is a question of degree."
When he didn't reply immediately, another thought occurred to her and she saw no reason not to impart it straight away.
"The other thing is," she said, "how could you predict what would bring the most happiness to most people? And how could you measure it? Does each person just count for one, or would you also consider the extent of their happiness? Would you make one person unhappy, if it makes another one happy to the extreme? And what if that which would make people happy is unjust?"
"How could it be unjust, if it makes them happy?"
"Very easily! What if they were of a cruel disposition and found enjoyment in tormenting animals or, even worse, other people?"
"You are determined to find fault with my idea, aren't you?"
"No, Faramir. I am determined to make you think about it properly."
Faramir paused and then, suddenly, laughed.
"You know, Éowyn, I suspect you will turn out to be a better philosopher than I am."
The wolf trotted among the shadows between the tree trunks. He was a rather young wolf, who had barely seen two summers. His grey fur was long and shaggy, his paws tipped with white. It was a while since he had left his pack. He had seen light and darkness and light and darkness and light and darkness and light until he hardly remembered how long ago it was that he had been with his mother and siblings. There had been some purpose in his mind at that time, some urge to go and find other wolves, to find a mate, to form a new pack. But there had been no other wolves, only light and darkness and light and darkness and light and darkness. Hastily caught prey the few times he had been lucky, a pheasant, a rabbit. Water drunk from a stream or on one occasion from a clear, still pond. That was where he had seen the other wolf, the only one he had found, looking at him from the water. But he knew about these strange wolves in the water, he had seen them before. All one had to do was touch the water with a paw, and the other wolf would flee. This one fled, too. He drank, for he was thirsty, but he wished that just this once, the wolf in the water had stayed. There were no other wolves anywhere.
So here he was, one wolf on his own. Whenever the darkness came he curled up against the trunk of a tree or the side of a large boulder, but these were always cold and smelled strange, not like the warm, comfortable bodies of his brothers and sisters. There was no creature anywhere in this wood to greet him, or welcome him, or make him feel at home.
This time the light was all grey and water fell from the sky. It dripped from the branches of the trees and glistened on the ferns and the mossy rocks. It gave the wood a heavy smell. The wolf sat on his haunches for a while, unsure where to go next. His fur kept him warm and dry, but the greyness crept into his mind and made him feel cold from the inside. Cold and empty.
It was not his stomach that was empty. He had found the remains of a dead deer earlier and had devoured most of it without hesitation. The meat filled that spot inside him that felt the hunger, but the emptiness remained. It was a hunger he had never known before, a hunger for another warm body beside his own.
There was nothing else to do, so he moved on. Water, trees, stones, moss, this was the world. Cold. Silent. He could go anywhere. So he had nowhere to go. Silent. Cold. A world full of moss, stones, trees, and inside him, a hollow place.
When the twilight came, the trees ended. He stopped and looked. This was something he had not seen before. All his life, there had been trees. Now this. The land tilted downwards, naked under the sky. No trees, only grass. Empty. Cold. Silent. The wolf did not move. He looked.
Not everything in the naked land was grass. There were some stones. There were clumps of tall thistles. There was – a smell.
It was alien, unsmelled-of. It was a smell of blood, but mixed with it were others, strange ones, that fitted no animal that he knew. He was not hungry, so he had no wish to find any more carrion. The smell of blood was quite fresh. The animal could still be alive.
He was a wolf. He followed the smell. Out from the forest he came and, step by step, slowly wandered across the grass. Suddenly, the grass ended and the ground fell out of view. He looked over the edge. There was a steep slope and at the bottom of it lay sprawled out the thing he had smelled.
Not a wolf. Not any animal he had ever seen before. It was big, like one of the big deer, and it had three legs. The fur was very strange, all flat and odd colours, and left the face and the front paws naked. Even from a distance, it smelled of too many different things. He pawed at his nose in confusion.
From up here he couldn't tell whether the animal was dead or alive. He wasn't hungry. He could have walked away.
He didn't walk away. He stepped carefully over the edge and slid more than tread down the slope. Pebbles clattered ahead. At the bottom of the cliff, he came to a halt, panting. A few steps away lay the strange animal. The wolf yelped at the strength of the smell. The animal didn't move. The wolf crept closer.
The animal lay very still.
Slowly, very slowly he lowered his muzzle on the creature's chest and leaned his head against the strange fur. It was damp, but there was some warmth here and what was more, that familiar sound, du-dum, du-dum, du-dum, that he had heard so often when he had lain close to his brothers and sisters. The hollow place inside him welled up with a melted feeling. He snuggled against the creature's body and listened to the noise in its chest until he fell asleep.
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.