17. No Memories of Faces from the Past?
Golwen looked at the purse lying between the furs. He cast a quick look at the men before him. He knew of Aduiar of Harondor, of course, by name if not by looks; he kept a close eye on any report filed about Calembel. The other two he had not heard of – and where was Aduiar's servant? The old one, not this new young one that looked like he had been in a fight. Targon. That was the name. The one that, according to all reports, never left Aduiar's side for long. The more evil-minded joked that they were old lovers.
These new men were not citizens of Calembel. Of that he was certain. And now the furs and the purse. Golwen had seen bribes before. Taken some, when the occasion warranted it. But he had not heard that Aduiar was in the habit of offering them. Was he tiring of his small town and aimed for better prospects and richer pickings? Or was this a test of his own loyalties? He fingered the purse. There was no reaction he could read from any of the men.
Only three coins? He could not feel anything else. That was a meagre bribe. Aduiar was watching him.
"Open it," he said. "Then decide what you will do."
Three coins, just as he had felt. Two of them were common enough; half-crowns, one old with the Steward's mark. It must have been made in Denethor's time, before the war – enough of them were still in use. The other showed the head of the King, or what he assumed was the King's portrait – he had himself never seen the King's face. Well, soon enough he would. The coin was worn on one side, nearly too worn to see the sign engraved there: the Eye. His fingers found the third coin, smaller than the first two. He brought it out to look at it.
There, in his hand, lay the Horse.
He looked up. He, like all the Faithful, knew that sign.
"What is this?" he whispered.
"I think you know," Aduiar replied. The Mayor turned to the man at the door.
"It is clear," the man said. "None are outside."
"Perhaps you should do the honours." Aduiar sat back, as if he were to watch some play.
The man nodded. "I am Húrin," he said. "A captain of the Northern Dúnedain. The young man here is Bergil, son of Beregond who saved the Steward's life ten years ago." He hesitated for a moment. "We have come because of a letter you sent to the innkeeper in Calembel. Ingold showed it to me no more than ten days ago."
"It was not the only one," Golwen said. He recognised the names.
"It was the only one that reached us," the man – Húrin – said. "But when we heard, we came. We will need your help."
He waited for Húrin to continue. The ranger quickly explained the situation and what they needed to do, and know.
"It will look suspicious if I keep you here too long," Golwen said when Húrin finished. "And unfortunately I do not know of the passage you speak of, Master Bergil. I suggest that you go to see for yourself while I provide what information I have to Húrin and Mayor Aduiar. It will save us time, and you might be able to move unnoticed on your own. You should know your way around well enough to be mistaken for one of the servants."
"Your counsel is wise, Golwen," Aduiar said. "Bergil, if anyone asks, tell them I sent you to the Houses of Healing for some remedy or other. Let it be one for headaches; you could use one, so it will not be wholly wasted should a guard accompany you there."
Bergil nodded. "Yes." He left the room.
It took him some time to get his bearings. Bergil had not been often in this part of the Citadel as a child, and the changes were many, though small: the hangings on the walls that he remembered were taken down, and new put up in their place. New statues added, and the old moved around. He followed the stairs down the tower, winding round and round. Once he turned the corner onto a new floor and almost took the wrong turn. There stood the statue of Anarion that belonged outside the Hall. Already! He needed to find the door that would take him outside. But then he realised that it could not be the Hall: there were no guards and he had still not reached the ground. It was the statue that had been moved.
He walked on. Down the last swirl of steps and past the conference chambers. On one of the walls he saw a tapestry from the South. It showed no images, but strange patterns swirled and whirled in many colours. It was as if it caught the eye and would not let go. Despite the urgency of his errand, Bergil stopped before it, fascinated by the play of forms and lines and colours.
Before he could move on, he heard a sound. More than one: footsteps and a voice. They came towards him, and the corridor was narrow. No doors close by that he could slip through. No niches he could hide in. He tried to remember the etiquette Aduiar had tried to teach him that he might play his role more confidently. What was the most important? Never turn away from those of high rank. Keep your head down and do not look them in the eye unless ordered to, but never show your back whatever you may do. Time to put it to the test.
Whoever came, they were right around the corner, coming from the Hall. More than two, but how many he could not tell. He pressed his back to the wall beside the tapestry and lowered his head in what he hoped was a suitably humble pose. Pay no attention to the lowly servant-boy, he prayed. Just walk on past.
They rounded the corner. Four men, two of them guards and the other two… tall, dark-haired, but their shoulders were bowed and their hair had streaks of grey. One older and one younger. Bergil chanced a quick look up from underneath his hair, and quickly looked down and bowed and held his breath. He knew that face. Worn and pale it was, not unlike the memories of the last days he had seen him.
Do no know me, he fervently wished. Or was it Remember me! Do you not know my face? He did not even know himself. He thought that he could feel the other's eyes burn through his years and leave his soul naked and exposed, his secrets bared and his disguise torn away.
"No, uncle," the lord Faramir said. "I have not been told. I was only ordered to clean out all prisons above the fourth level and to have guards in all of them."
They passed by, the guards following each step they took. Bergil could hear the last words before they passed out of hearing:
"The dungeons here are the most secure."
He had not known him. Bergil sank to the floor, not sure, even now, if he was relieved or not. Relieved, he berated himself. You are relieved. Why should he recognise the face of a boy ten years grown? A boy whose only merit was to be his father's son, and the friend of the perian? No. No reason, and that was a good thing, he tried to convince himself.
He rested his head against the wall. The headache pounded worse than in many days and the stone was cool. A cooler draft brushed down his head, easing the tension behind his temples.
He got to his feet. He was closer to the north door than he had thought. Quickly he walked the last length, and found the door open and unguarded. Servants were passing from the butteries below to the kitchens beside the Merethond, and Bergil was able to blend with them down the last stairs underground.
Once down in the rooms underneath the Tower, he found it. The entrance was hidden by a statue so old and worn that it was hard to say whom it was supposed to be. He remembered it now; he remembered the day he had found it. It was just as it was now; an empty corridor that seemingly had no other purpose than to take one from one buttery to another. It was the statue that had caught his interest that day, so old, with nothing that told him whom it was supposed to be.
Bergil listened. No sound of footsteps here; the servants were busy elsewhere. He peeked around one corner. Empty. Around the other. Empty there too. Working fast in case someone should come, he checked if the statue indeed was in the right place and the entrance was there still.
It was. And there were no signs that anyone had been there in a long, long time. A thick layer of dust covered the floor inside. He was careful not to disturb it, just in case, and hurried back. If anyone knew about the passage, it was not guarded from inside the Citadel.
They needed some good news, but good news, it seemed, was rare.
"What do you know?" Húrin asked when Golwen once again could only reply: "I do not know" to his questions.
"Little, it would seem," the clerk answered. "Most of the plans for the celebrations are being kept secret. I know that they will start tomorrow at noon, or around that time, with a procession through the City. All representatives have been given places along the route, and none are permitted to leave until they have passed inside the Citadel. The Citizens have also been allotted places, and must keep in their allotted space until the guards give them leave to go. For those that are not given places within the walls, but for some reason want to see, they are allowed to stand outside the Gates, along the road. The lord of Isengard will meet the King and his escort outside the City. They will wait on the Eastern Road a mile or so outside the walls. From there the procession will start, but that is all we know."
"Where will the King be? First or last?" Húrin would know.
"I would guess somewhere in the middle," Aduiar offered. "There he will be easier to guard."
"You are probably right," Golwen said. "I also think that the lord of Isengard will be close to him. Outside the Citadel, the Steward will meet them. To welcome them inside and, to use the words of the messenger 'express the gratitude of the people of Gondor for the protection of their lands by the Great Lord, and for His hospitality to their king'."
"Hospitality?" Húrin could hardly believe what he heard. He knew the Enemy would twist the truth, but… hospitality?
"So the message read. I think not even the Steward knows much more. The servants prepare for a feast, but beyond that... The people will be shown demonstrations of the Enemy's might. Both on the second and the third day the people will be assembled, or as many as can be safely gathered, for such demonstrations, and as well the nobles and the great ones will have additional entertainments each day. But what part the King will play is not clear."
"Very well," Aduiar said. "We will find out soon enough, I fear, but we will not be able to do anything during the public displays; it matters not whether we know their plans for that. What we most dearly need to find out is where they will hold him the rest of the time. Your guess is as good as ours, perhaps better."
"From what I have learned, I think they will move him around. All the prisons – and it feels like more are made each day – close to the Citadel have been emptied, the prisoners either released as a show of the Enemy's mercy, or moved to prisons elsewhere. And the guard at each is doubled."
"Mercy," Húrin grumbled under his breath, but he said no more of it. Raising his voice, he turned to the problem at hand. "They do not want anyone to be able to guess where he is held." More bad news. They did not have enough men to strike at several prisons at once. "We need a way to find out, we cannot search them all, and if we fail but once, I doubt we will have a second chance."
"They might try to throw us off the scent," Aduiar said. "But that is a game I am even more used to than are they. Damrod spoke of a new prison within the Citadel itself, what do you know about it?"
"It lies deep beneath the ground. One door leads in and out; the stairs down are close to the old quarters of the Guard. The soldiers still use the hall for their meals, and gather there when they are off guard," Golwen answered.
"They will use that one," Aduiar said.
"How do you know?" Húrin asked. "And if you know, why have you not told us before?"
"I have surmised, nothing more," the Mayor answered. "And that took time. I needed to know more before I could conclude, but I am quite certain.
"The lord of Isengard wishes to throw any that might wish to rescue the King off the scent of his plan. And so he needs to confuse all, and keep all guessing. Still, it cannot be denied that the new dungeons are better suited for his purposes than any other prison. He will want the King close, easy to fetch, and they will not want to move him much outside unless he is purposely shown off to the people. For that, Isengard must keep the King in the Citadel."
"Your reasoning is sound, so far," Golwen said. "But the prison on the sixth circle will serve him as well as the new for that purpose: the King was held there ten years ago. And the new prison is not finished: many of the cells lack doors, or locks."
Aduiar inched his head in recognition of his words.
"That is a concern, but Isengard need only one cell to hold the King. And one prisoner, chained and guarded, could be held even without doors for a few days. It would be more secure than the prison outside, with the only way out through the house of the guards, and being within the Citadel itself.
"Besides," Aduiar continued. "Were would one put something one wished to hide?"
"Somewhere none will of think to search," Húrin answered. He shrugged. "It is common sense."
"Yes. That is what anyone would do," said Aduiar. "But it is far better to put it in clear sight, for there few will think to look for it. It is too obvious to consider."
"So: the new dungeons," Golwen said.
"The new dungeons."
"Right, so that is our best guess," Húrin said. "Will you be able to confirm that for us, Golwen? If we are wrong…"
"Not until they are here," Golwen answered. "I am sorry that I cannot do better than that. The…"
"Someone is coming," Húrin cut him off. "I hear footsteps outside." The ranger had not strayed far from the door during their conversation, ever listening for movement outside. Golwen quickly hid the coins.
"These pelts are of very fine quality," he began in a voice much louder than needed. Aduiar raised an eyebrow at what he deemed too crude a ruse, but Golwen ignored him and continued in the same, loud voice. "I am sure that the Steward will be delighted at the gift."
There was a knock on the door. Golwen called for whomever it was to enter, and Húrin stood to one side, the epitome of a dutiful guard.
The door opened to reveal Bergil. He was slightly out of breath, and in his hand he held some kind of plant. Behind him stood one of the guards, one of the dark-skinned Southrons.
"Ah, Bergil," Aduiar called. "You are late returning; I feared you had gotten yourself lost."
"Do you know this boy?" the Southron asked.
"It is my new servant. Not as good as my old one yet, but he is learning."
"I found him skulking in the corridors outside the conference-rooms on the south-side," the guard said. "He claimed you had sent him to the Houses of Healing, but he was far from that place."
"My apologies," Aduiar said. "I did indeed send him, but I forgot that he is new and has not accompanied me here before. He must have gotten lost; the Citadel is very confusing for those that do not know their way around."
"And your name?" the guard asked.
"I am Aduiar of Harondor," the answer came. "The Mayor of Calembel."
The guard bowed. A Mayor had standing.
"I regret any inconvenience this may have caused," he said. Aduiar waved him off.
"I will instruct my servant better in the future," he said in return. "I commend you for your diligence and sharp eyes."
The guard bowed again and withdrew. They said nothing until Húrin confirmed that he had gone.
"I am sorry," Bergil said. "I had no way of avoiding him."
"What is that?" Húrin asked. He pointed to the plant Bergil held.
"I don't know; it grew outside a window. I was too far from the Houses of Healing and I did not think he would believe I was that lost. I needed something to show for having been there."
"Ivy? The Southron guards do not know much of healing plants." Húrin shook his head. "You were lucky."
"Yes," Bergil said. "And doubly so: I found the passage. It is unguarded and unblocked, at least from this side. I did not venture inside to check the other side."
"Why not?" Aduiar asked. "It will do us little good if we are trapped inside."
"No one has trod there in many years," Bergil answered. "I did not want to disturb the dust, and it would take too long. Echil and Bádon can check from the other side with much less risk."
"If they find it." Aduiar looked at Bergil for a moment, then he turned to Golwen. "We can do nothing more here. Is there some way for you to let us know if our guess is correct?"
"I have quarters here at the Citadel and have been ordered to stay at hand throughout the celebrations. All who work here have. We will not be allowed outside except for official errands, but Damrod knows what to look for. I will let you know."
"Good," Húrin said. "We spoke to Damrod ere we came here. We will speak to him again later today, I think."
"Then we should get back. Éomer king will be anxious to hear the news."
"He really has come?" Golwen asked. "I did not quite believe it, even with the sign. Then I am hopeful." He smiled and took out the purse he had hid. "This might be safer with you. I hope the Horse is as strong as the rumours tell."
"I do not think we have seen his strength yet," Aduiar said. He bowed to Golwen, and they left.
The walk back they spent in silence. Even Bergil had not seen so many people in the City, and the press of the crowd only grew. Húrin, tall as any Dúnedain, could not open a path with ease. The people of Gondor were Dúnedain too. It was Aduiar's title that made the crowd part, but it left Húrin with a bitter taste in his mouth to call it out, just so that they could reach the house.
It was Ingold that greeted them at the door; Éomer had taken Aduiar's advice and was sleeping.
They let him sleep. Borondir and Bragloth had not returned yet, and neither had Fastred; there was no need to disturb the king's rest. Húrin sent Bergil to rest as well. He had seen the younger man rub his temples in a way he knew meant headache. He did not like that Bergil still was plagued with them. He should have recovered from the hit by now. Hopefully it just took longer because Bergil had not been given enough rest when the hurt was new.
Ingold took it on himself to prepare a meal for all of them and busied himself in the kitchen. Soon enough he was cutting and cleaning and cooking and boiling and baking. Húrin half-heartedly asked if he would have some help, but Ingold said no.
"I am not nice to work with when I cook," he said. "It is better for us both that I do it alone. Then I don't have to explain, then show, and then do everything myself anew when you fail to cut the vegetables to my liking. It would save me time and effort to just do it myself."
Húrin was not about to argue himself into more work. He left the kitchen and found Aduiar sitting by one of the windows.
"Sometimes," the mayor said, "I find myself missing my first home. One day I hope to return there, if only for a time. To see the sights that I now only remember as something from a dream. The sounds and smells. The taste of the food; none have ever managed to match the spices of the dishes there. Not even my mother could with the food grown here. Or maybe she did not want to. I was not yet seven when I learned not to ask. I was ten before I realised that it made her sad, and then I wished I had not asked even once."
Húrin said nothing. He watched the mayor. There was little in his face or bearing that suggested that he was not a Man of Gondor, but he remembered Damrod's outburst: halfblood. Aduiar had not flinched at the word, nor commented on it. At the time Húrin had not thought that he had cared, or even heard the other man. Perhaps he had been wrong.
Aduiar was staring out of the window.
"When I was twelve I understood that it was a lot more complicated than the simple 'sad' of my younger years." He did not look at Húrin, but he did gesture for him to sit down with him. "The other children had begun to shun me. I came home one day with a black eye, but worse was the ache in my chest that I did not understand. Periar they had called me, and I did not understand why.
"My mother said that I was old enough, and told me of my father. Of her own captivity, and of the man that had come to save her. Her, and all the other captives. I remembered my father only as a man with a dark beard that smiled at me, and laughed, and threw me into the air. I still remember the mixture of joy and fear, the exhilaration of flying and falling, and being safely caught.
"That day, when I was twelve years old, I stopped asking about my father. For a long time I hated him; I heard the hurt in my mother's voice and I had become old enough to understand." He paused and his eyes narrowed. "It was for her sake that I joined the Faithful, but I no longer hate my father." He turned to meet Húrin's eyes.
"I think he loved her, in his way. The only way he knew. He named me his heir, and took no other woman after her. That is what they have told me, that is why I will keep my name no matter what will happen.
"But for my mother's sake, I honour the man that saved her, even thought he must be long dead."
Húrin spoke, needing to have confirmed the nagging thought that had began to clamour in his mind. "Who was the man, the one that freed your mother?"
"Thorongil they called him. He was never seen in Gondor again."
Aduiar had turned back to the window. Húrin did not say a word in answer to his statement, but the mayor must have sensed something, perhaps he heard his deep intake of air, for he turned back.
"He is known to you, this man."
"Yes," Húrin said. "He lives. He has been to Gondor since. You will see him tomorrow."
"I see," said Aduiar. He gave a smile, wan and sad, and turned back to the window. "My mother would be glad, my father not. And I carry both their blood."
They did not speak again, but sat in silence as the hour passed and food was ready, and the king woke from his sleep, and all the others returned.
Mablung deemed it too dangerous for him to meet directly with Éomer king, so Damrod had been chosen to speak for the Faithful of the City. He had gone to speak with as many as he could, and the day was late when he at last returned to the house. Éomer had long been awake, and he had already spoken with the rest, but if he had made any plans, he had not told of them. He listened, but would neither accept nor reject the plans proposed.
"I would know what the Faithful say," was his explanation. "They know the City better than any of us. And Damrod and Mablung were under lord Faramir's command for many years. I would hear their thoughts on what he might be expected to do. He left the first letter to be found by Golwen; he might let something else slip that would help us. I am surprised that he has not already."
"Lord Faramir does not know," Bergil said.
"What do you mean? If anyone knows anything, it would be him," Ingold said.
"I saw him, in the Citadel. I could not avoid them, but he did not know me; he just walked past. He was talking with the Prince and I overheard."
"What did he say? And Imrahil, what of him? Do you think that he might have fallen?" Éomer had not had the chance to know Faramir as well as he had the Prince. For his sister's sake, he would honour the Steward, but Imrahil he knew, had fought with side by side.
"I do not know. It sounded as if he did, but that does not mean much; they would not have spoken words of rebellion in the corridors." Bergil tried to remember, what they had said, how they had sounded, but could not recall. "There were two guards with them."
"Guarding them, or guarding them against danger?" Húrin asked.
"The first, I think. They were just following them. They did not pay any attention to me, while that other guard did."
"Then we can learn little of their hearts from what they said." Much as Éomer would like to know, he put the question aside. "We must plan for only such help as we know we can receive."
Damrod could not tell them much more when he came, but he did report that all of the Faithful were willing to help in some way, should they need it.
"Some of the young men wish to fight," he said, "but they have no training, unless you count such fistfights that young men get into. If needed, they will be willing to stage an attack on one of the prisons, or start an uprising in the lower levels. There are also many that will open their homes to hide you, should you need it, and Mistress Herdis has begun gathering supplies that you might need, both healing herbs and food. Such as each can spare."
"That is good," Éomer said. "Such help will be most welcome. Now, Bergil has found the tunnel he remembered, and its entrance in the Citadel is unguarded. Bádon and Echil are outside the walls and will seek to find the entrance there. They will, if they can find it, see if it is blocked or guarded from the outside.
"I understood that both you and Mablung thought lord Aragorn will be held in the new dungeon in the Citadel?"
"That, or the prison right beside it. The Citadel will be considered harder to break into, and so I hope that they will choose it. For us it will be easier to gain entrance there, and since the passage we will use to escape the City is inside, it will be best. We will have to trust to luck, and that our enemies do not find the passage we made. I will take it upon myself to find out before we attempt anything."
"That is well," Éomer said.
Because they could not know where the king Elessar would be held, they made more than one plan that night. If he were held in the Citadel, they would make their way inside using the passage Damrod had helped make. It would take them to the dungeons without passing through the rest of the Citadel, but they would not use the same to escape. Those of the Faithful that were willing would begin an uprising in the lower levels of the City, to draw as many guards as possible away from the Citadel. If possible, they would also stage an attack on one of the prisons to further throw the enemy off the scent. The company would use that distraction to escape through Bergil's tunnel, if it proved to be open and unguarded. If it proved to be not, they would have to make new plans, but Éomer did not like Damrod's suggestion that they hide in the City.
"They will not give up seeking until they are certain that he has either left the City, or they have found him. If we cannot find a way out, and one that we would be able to use the same night, or at the latest the night after, it might be better not to attempt any rescue," he said.
"Húrin," Éomer said. "You know I do not wish to leave him, but consider: would it be better to rescue him, just for us all to be captured again soon after? If we do not have a way out of the City, then we will be caught. Do you think he could bear that?"
"Do you think he would bear that none even tried?"
Éomer could not answer. All answers were wrong.
Damrod spoke: "There are places along the wall where it might be possible to lower a man down. If we can hold the soldiers long enough for you to take the King down to the first circle, you can escape over the wall. We will need a larger rebellion, and plan where the fighting would be, but it can be done. You can use the streets where there is no fighting, and escape that way."
"If all else fails," Éomer said, "that might be our best option. But if we are to try, knowing that we will fail, then it would be better to attack in daylight, for all to see. Then some may take heart from our example, and that will be all that our deaths will secure."
"Our deaths, lord," Húrin said, "but not yours. If it be hopeless, I will not have you go with me. Only those that cannot bear to go back and not have tried, and have no other duties, should fight openly against the soldiers and the guards. I would rather go alone, but go I will. I cannot turn back now.
"But you, Lord of the Mark, have your people to serve, and you must not abandon them if defeat here is certain. That is a subject's privilege, not a lord's."
"Then let us find a way where it is not." Éomer would not despair before they had even begun. "Luck will be needed, but let us wait until we know for certain what road is open to us, before we choose the way of desperation. Bádon and Echil have used this day to search. If they have found what they seek, then we will decide on what plan to use."
It was decided that if their luck held, and already the first night they would be able to attempt the rescue, they would do it. But only if their best plan would work. They would only change to a more desperate action if there was no time left.
And with that they parted. Damrod went to speak further with the Faithful, and because the sun had not yet left, Borondir went with him. Éomer wondered if they would be able to send a message to Bádon and Echil before it set.
"I will go, lord," Bragloth said. "I should be able to reach them and get back before the Gates close. There are still some hours left of the day."
"Go. And make sure you return in time."
Bragloth nodded. Then he turned and left.
He managed to return just before the gates closed. Bádon and Echil were not to be found, but Bragloth guessed that they were still seeking the entrance of Bergil's tunnel. If they had not found it yet, they might have decided to use the night to search.
"They know we have little time," he said. "They know that we must find it quickly. They will be back to meet us by tomorrow."
"Let us hope they have found it by then," Éomer said.
"I do not like this plan," Fastred said. "I know it is late, but would it not have been easier to waylay the escort in the road, where we would be free to escape? Or at least not be trapped behind these walls?"
Fastred was right. Knowing what they now did, Éomer would have planned differently. Or he might have.
"We all assumed that he would already be in the City," Éomer said. "And we can do little about it now; we cannot leave tonight, and if we were to rescue him before he is taken into the City we would have had to do it tonight. Tomorrow will be too late, I fear. Had we had more time, I agree that it would have been simpler."
"No, I do not think it would have been."
Húrin stood by the window. Outside the sun had set and the twilight grown dark; soon the night would be upon them. Húrin was staring out on the fields below the City. The Pelennor should have been dark, but he could see hundreds of lights scattered across the fields, mirroring the lights that were lit above as if the field was not earth and grass, but a clear lake.
"A great army, or so it looks to be, has camped on the Pelennor," he said. "I do not think it would be any easier to sneak into it and out again undetected. In the open we would easily be surrounded and overwhelmed by their numbers. In closer quarters they would be more hindered than we."
Éomer joined him at the window. He wanted to see for himself, but the sight was not heartening.
"With an éored, or even only a half, we might have done it," he said. "But you are right, Húrin. Unless their numbers are smaller then their fires suggest, we would only get ourselves captured, I fear."
He sighed and turned away from the sight. Fastred nodded in acceptance, and the rest said nothing, trusting in their experience and knowledge.
"We can do little more tonight," Éomer said. "Let us all find our rest. Tomorrow will bring new counsel."
Periar – (Sindarin) half-blood