As I said in the story description, this is a fragment. It may be incorporated later into some longer story, but for now I hope you'll enjoy it as it is. It takes place after the events of Dol Amroth Yule, when Imrahil returns home to pass judgement on the pirates and first learns about Brandmir.
26 February, 3020-
“The Prince will see you now,” the Prince’s secretary said to Andrahar and his ward, before departing out the door and down the hall. The Armsmaster laid a comforting hand upon Brand’s shoulder and urged him into the room.
“He won’t bite you,” Brand had been assured by his mentor, but the boy was not so sure about that. The only other time he had ever seen Prince Imrahil, the day of the hanging, the man had terrified him. Robed in somber midnight blue, the crown gleaming upon his head, his pale, handsome face had been utterly expressionless as he watched the pirates die. Even his own son’s pleas to save the woman Veleda had gone unanswered, save for one grim, slow shake of the head, before he had coldly sent her to the gallows with the rest of them. Whereupon Prince Erchirion had stormed down to his ship and sailed away, while the Prince had watched the rest of the hangings to the very end, seemingly unmoved.
No, the Prince’s notice was not something Brand craved. But he had it now; though he kept his own eyes cast down, he could feel Imrahil’s gaze upon him as they crossed the floor to the desk near the window. When they stood before him, the Prince said in a surprisingly mild tone, “Please leave us, Andra. I will be speaking with you later.” With a last, reassuring squeeze of Brand’s shoulder, the Armsmaster departed without another word.
There was the noise of the door closing, then a long moment’s silence. At last, the Prince spoke again, still in that mild voice. “Look up, lad. Your father never had any trouble looking me in the eye.”
That brought Brand’s head up in a hurry, and he stared at the man, curiosity and trepidation both warring within him.
“My father, my lord?”
“Indeed.” The supreme power in Dol Amroth gestured gracefully. “Come around here so that I may look at you more closely.” Brand hesitated, unable to bring himself to do so, and the Prince’s eyebrow flew up in surprise. “Do I frighten you, Brandmir? You have no reason to fear me, I assure you.”
Brand kept his chin up. “You hung all those people, my lord prince. I watched you do it.”
Comprehension came over the handsome face, as well as sadness. “Ah. I see. Were you supposed to be at the hanging?”
“The Captain did not say I couldn’t. My friends from the palace were there. Why did you do it? Couldn’t you have just sent them back home? Or put them in prison?” He blanched after the fact at the disrespectful and accusatory nature of his questions, which had just slipped out that way, but the Prince seemed unoffended.
“I hung them because they were pirates who had raided three of my villages, and killed and wounded my people, who had committed no offense against them,” he explained. “I did not want to kill them, the Valar know there has been death enough this last year, but as Prince, I often have to do things I do not want to do. Had I not passed judgment upon them, then other pirates would have thought they could plunder my coasts at will.”
Brand thought about that for a moment. “But you hung a woman too, sir!”
“No, I hung another pirate. She participated in the raid on Lithabad. Were you at the dinner at Mettarë?” Brand nodded. “Then you know that she tried to kill my family. Despite her beauty, in the end she was nothing but a pirate and assassin.”
Another moment’s silence from the boy, as he pondered things once more. “Lady Hethlin stopped her,” he finally informed the Prince with some hesitancy. “I saw her do it. She jumped up on the table and caught her skirt on fire from the candles, and she was cursing the whole time. Then she jumped on Veleda and hit her.”
The corner of the Prince’s mouth curled up slightly. “Do you like Lady Hethlin?”
Brand nodded. “I do. She’s very nice. And very pretty.”
And at that, the Prince’s face lit up with a smile that changed everything, that made the fearsome monarch almost unimaginable as the same man. “Do you know,” he said in a confiding manner, “that most people don’t even notice that she’s pretty? You are a very perceptive young man.”
Brand thought about admitting that he knew the Prince was in love with Lady Hethlin, then thought better of it. Andrahar had told him to tell no one, and he supposed that should include the Prince himself, lest his guardian get into trouble for revealing personal secrets. But his earlier fear of the man was subsiding. Prince Imrahil actually seemed a rather nice person.
“Has Prince Erchirion returned yet, my lord?” the boy asked, and the prince’s look of sorrow returned.
“No, he has not, and I do not expect him to for some time. He was rather…attached to Veleda, which of course had been her intention. She was a scheming, poisonous woman, and her sole intention was to cause as much harm to the royal house of Dol Amroth as she could. But I can live with Erchirion being at odds with me, for had I released her, she would have cleaved unto him, then killed him.”
“How do you know that, sir?”
“I dreamt it,” came the quiet reply. Brand sucked in a breath. “Do you not have the wave dream as well? Andrahar told me that you do. It is how he knew that you were my kin.”
“Because of my dream?” The boy remembered how shocked the Armsmaster had looked when Brand had told him of the contents of his dream. There had obviously been some significance to the captain besides the frightening nature of the dream’s subject, and now at last he understood what it was.
“Yes. Many of my house are dreamers. My father had the gift, and your uncle does as well. Your father did not ever exhibit it to the best of my knowledge, but he apparently passed it on to you.”
“My uncle? My father? Then you do know who my father is, my lord? You said so earlier.”
“Indeed I did, and indeed I do.” The prince rose to his feet, and came around the desk. Today he was not wearing court robes, but a fine white shirt, a beautiful dark blue brocade tunic and breeches and boots. He moved with the economical grace of a master swordsman. Brand almost took a step back, but stiffened his resolve and stood his ground. Prince Imrahil reached out a hand, took his chin gently and turned his face into the light.
“Boromir son of Denethor, first-born heir to the house of Hurin, Captain-General of Gondor and Warden of the White Tower was your father.”
Brand blinked, astounded. I always knew my father could have been a lord, but never dreamed to look so high! The Steward’s son himself! The great general…
“No wonder I always liked soldiers so much and didn’t want to be a tanner!” The first thing that came to his mind blurted out before he could stop himself. But the prince laughed, and it was a merry laugh.
“No wonder at all!”
“Are you sure of this, my lord?”
The lord of Dol Amroth released his chin and cupped the side of his face gently. “As sure as we can be. Your mother says that she slept with Lord Boromir, and in fact had a true token that she gave to you. The timing is exactly right-he was on his way to visit us for Mettarë when you were conceived. You dream the wave dream. And your face is Boromir’s face when he was your age. The kinship is unmistakable. The moment you walked in my door, I knew that Andra was right.”
“Did you think he might be wrong, sir?”
“I thought that he might be indulging in wishful thinking,” Prince Imrahil said bluntly, dropping his hand. “He loved Boromir dearly, as indeed did we all, but they were particularly close. This last year has been hard upon him, and I would have preferred to keep him by my side, but he insisted upon returning to Dol Amroth to oversee things here. So I thought it a bit…convenient… when I returned home to find that he had discovered a child of Boromir’s in my absence. Particularly as he had not written to inform me immediately.”
Brand gave the prince a apprehensive look. “Is Captain Andrahar in trouble?” Imrahil regarded him gravely in turn for a moment.
“It worries you, that he might be in trouble upon your account?” When the boy nodded, he smiled and shook his head. “No, for I understand what Andra was doing. He simply wanted to keep you to himself for a while. He knew that as soon as he revealed you to me, I would write to your Uncle Faramir and tell him of your existence. And that your Uncle Faramir might very well want you to come and live with him.”
Brand gulped. “The Prince of Ithilien?”
“The very same. The King will be interested in you as well, as he was a friend of your father’s.” The boy’s face paled at this, and Imrahil, seeing it, took one quick stride to a nearby chair and shoved it towards him.
“Sit, lad! Are you well?” Brand sank into the chair as directed, his hands clenching the arms.
“Aye, my lord. It’s just that I’m not used to this! My stepfather never wanted me, not as a son. When the captain took me away, I was happy because he wanted me. And he’s been so very kind that I have nothing to complain of, and nothing I lack. Now you say that my uncle is a prince, and he might want me to live with him! And that the King might wish to meet me! It’s all a bit much!”
“I can see where it might be,” the prince agreed soothingly. “Your situation at present is somewhat…delicate, Brandmir. You and your Uncle Faramir are currently the only two male heirs of the House of Hurin. Faramir had a cousin, a son of his father’s sister. He was a good warrior and a steady captain, a great help to your father in fact, but he had no male heirs, only daughters and he died at Osgiliath. And the other children of Denethor’s sisters were all female.” The prince cocked his hip up onto the desk and continued with a smile.
“Now Faramir is still a young man and a healthy one, and he is betrothed to the Lady Éowyn of Rohan. They will wed later this year, and I think it not too unlikely that they should be able to produce heirs in short order. At which point, you will be free to pursue whatever career strikes your fancy.”
“However, if something were to happen to Faramir before he sired male heirs or if he sired only daughters, then things would become very…interesting. I would imagine that Denethor’s sisters might invoke the old Numenorean custom of succession for their daughters’ sons, or Faramir himself for his daughters. But there would also be those who would say that the son of Boromir the Fair, even the illegitimate son, as first-born son of the first-born son would have a claim to the princedom.”
“Me, sir?” Brand’s eyes were huge. The prince nodded, almost sadly it seemed.
“You indeed. I am hoping that nothing ever happens to Faramir and that he is able to put his house back on a sound footing dynastically, but life can be composed of strange chances, and it does not do to take anything for granted. So for now, you will continue to be taught the things that are needful for a young nobleman to know; which are, after all, very much like those that a Swan Knight needs to know. When Faramir secures his succession, you may then decide to do whatever you wish with your life. But until then, you are insurance. And it is a thankless task before you, Brandmir, to train for a position which if all goes well you will never achieve-and should strive to never desire.”
The boy shook his head fervently. “You needn’t worry about that sir-I don’t want to be a prince! I might have to do what you had to do the other day! And besides, Captain Andrahar says that bastards do not rule, they serve.” Imrahil gave him a thoughtful look.
“Captain Andrahar’s perspective upon the subject is certainly born of experience. You are a wise lad, as well as perceptive. Though as a leader of men in war, you might also find yourself confronted with difficult choices.”
“I just wanted to be a Swan Knight sir, not a leader.”
“Swan Knights by their very nature are leaders, Brandmir. We have a saying in Dol Amroth-‘A Swan Knight from the ranks is a captain in other company.’ I have heard good things of you, from both Andrahar and your instructors. I think that you could lead men when you are older.”
Brand ducked his head at that, and his cheeks turned distinctly red. Prince Imrahil chuckled.
“Your Uncle Faramir used to get red in the face whenever someone would pay him a complement. He still does at times, though not to such a great degree.”
“What about my father?” The question came softly.
“Boromir? No, not as a rule. Boromir always had a good opinion of himself, and was willing to accept praise. And there were many who were willing to give it.” The prince slid off of the desk.
“Come, Brandmir, I want to show you something. I think that you will enjoy it.” He reached over and took up an object from off the desk. Brand saw that it was a silver hand mirror, of the sort that ladies used. It seemed an odd sort of thing to carry about with one, but it wasn’t his place to comment. Prince Imrahil gestured to the door with his unencumbered hand. “Come,” he said again.
Brand hastened to follow the prince. They passed out of the room, and down several long halls to another hall Brand had never been in before. This one ran along the outside of the building, for there were windows all along one side. Upon the other wall were many paintings hung.
Since coming to Dol Amroth, Brand had learned about paintings. There were many limners in the city, and many works graced the castle. But these were different. Rank upon rank they frowned or smiled down upon the viewer from within gilded frames, past princes and princesses of Dol Amroth. The older ones looked stiff and grim-Brand liked the more recent paintings better. Prince Imrahil seemed to as well, hurrying past them while pausing only to give a historical note or two for most of them.
“These are my father and mother, Adrahil and Olwen,” he said finally, stopping before a painting of a wise-looking man, and a woman with kind eyes. “They are your great-grandparents.” The boy studied them curiously.
“He looks very clever.”
“Oh, he was. The most clever man in Gondor, many thought. He was ill as a young man, so he never achieved his white belt,” here the prince gestured to his own waist, “but the wise soldier listened when he spoke. He knew a great deal about a great many things. He and Mother loved each other very much.” His smile, as he regarded the woman in the painting, looked very much like hers, Brand thought. It deepened when he moved to the next painting.
“And this of course is me, and my lady Nimrien. She is the one who made the handkerchief you carry. The official portrait is usually not done until the Prince takes up the scepter, but Father insisted that we do a painting earlier.” The smile vanished, and he sighed softly. “Father was foresighted too, you see. I think that he knew that Nimrien would not live to see that day.”
Brand thought the Princess Nimrien to be a very beautiful lady. He liked her wavy hair and grey eyes that were almost purple, and the smile that was kind, like Princess Olwen’s. The prince was younger in the picture, and much happier looking. Brand wondered if that happy look would return, should Lady Hethlin agree to his suit, and if her picture would hang here too, but he did not ask these things, and with a last, loving look at his lady, the lord of Dol Amroth moved down the line.
“I think that you can guess who these rascals are,” he said of a picture of four children of varying ages posed together, the youngest girl about eight, the oldest boy a slim, serious twenty.
“That’s Princess Lothiriel, and Prince Amrothos and Prince Elphir. And Prince Erchirion without a beard!”
“Yes, even ‘Chiron was unable to produce a beard at that age, though he was very proud of the odd hair or two that he could grow.” The prince’s face grew somber for a moment, as he thought about his distant and distanced second son, then he shook himself.
“But here, at last, is what I really brought you to see.” Another painting hung beside that of the Prince’s children. Two young men, or rather a young man and a boy, in rich dark clothes. The older one looked to be in his late teens or early twenties; the younger in the colty gawkiness of early adolescence. The younger was seated in a chair, with a book in his lap, a finger stuck into it, marking the place. His expression was grave for one so young. The older stood behind the chair, hand resting casually upon the shoulder of the younger, a wide, white smile upon his face. “Your Uncle Faramir,” Prince Imrahil said, indicating the serious younger boy. “And this is your father,” with a gesture to the elder.
Brand studied the painted face intently, searching for some hint of what his father had been, while the prince continued to speak.
“This was a happy time. Faramir came to us for a year, when Boromir went off to soldier in the field. Then Boromir was able to come for Mettarë that same year. I had them sit for the portrait because I did not know when I would have another chance to get the two of them together. As it was, I did not see the both of them again until my wife’s funeral five years later.”
“What was he like?” Brand asked softly.
Imrahil studied his nephew’s painted visage as well. “I have heard him called bold or rash or reckless. The first I deem true, the other two not. He was simply confident, most of the time. He had the gift of a good commander, the ability to make a decision and stick to it, not second-guessing himself. He trusted himself, and his men sensed that, so they trusted him as well. High-hearted he was, well-suited to be a soldier, and fortunate that his destiny coincided so well with his abilities and desires. But then, Boromir was always lucky.”
“Until he died,” his son murmured. The prince gave him a sharp look.
“Perhaps even then, for he died with honor.” Imrahil sighed. “I shall be years telling you what he was like, Brandmir, and you should also ask Andrahar who knew him well. For now-he was not overmuch fond of book-learning, a trait I have heard that his son also exhibits,” Brand ducked his head again, “but he was as shrewd in the council chamber as on the battlefield. He is the one person I’ve ever seen able to out-maneuver his father, the Steward Denethor. And that is saying a great deal about the caliber of his mind.” He handed the mirror to Brand. “Go on, take a look. I think you will see a resemblance.”
Brand did as he was bidden, alternately looking at his image in the mirror, and his father’s image on the wall. There was something to what the Prince said, he decided after some study, particularly when he smiled. His smile was definitely his father’s. He looked up to find Boromir’s uncle looking down at him with a sad smile of his own.
“There is one more portrait of him in Minas Tirith, in the Steward’s House. One day, when we go there, Andra or I will show it to you. He is older in that painting, a man full grown.”
“Do you think….do you think he would have liked me, sir?”
“I know that he would have.” There was no hesitation in the Prince’s response. “He would have been very pleased to discover he had such a son.”
Brand gave the ruler of Dol Amroth a doubtful look. “Most men are not pleased to discover they have fathered a bastard, sir.” The Prince’s hand settled gently onto his shoulder.
“Boromir was not most men, Brandmir. He was more open-minded than many. For instance-he knew that Hethlin was a woman, and yet he still allowed her to be a Ranger, because he knew she could do the work. He would have seen what a fine young man you were, and cherished you despite the circumstances of your begetting.”
“I really wish I could have met him, sir.”
“I wish that he could have been here to meet you as well, Brandmir.”
The boy looked up at that, for suddenly he could hear sorrow, deep and profound, in the Prince’s voice. “Sir…are you all right?”
Imrahil did not answer immediately, he merely looked searchingly at Brand for a long moment, as if committing his features to memory. “Never doubt that you are his son, lad,” he said softly at last, “for you are his very likeness. And you have my sister’s eyes.” He sighed and let his hand drop. “It was a year ago today, Brand, that he fell.”
Chilled, Brand looked back up at his father’s portrait, watching him smile down upon his son, then back down at his own feet, uncertain of what to say. Eventually, after a pause that was beginning to be uncomfortable, he asked, “Is there something I am supposed to do? I mean, today-is there some sort of ceremony?”
The Prince shook his head. “Nothing official-they may be doing something in Minas Tirith, the King and Faramir. We’ll have a bit of a memorial tonight at dinner, just the family.” He saw Brand’s dismayed look and smiled. “Just a toast to his memory and then everyone will share their stories of him. You’d like to hear those stories, wouldn’t you?” Brand nodded. “Then you’ll spend the night up here tonight. I suspect Andra is going to want some time alone this evening.”
“Yes, sir.” The Prince’s hand rose once more, to brush his cheek lightly as a butterfly.
“Come then. Enough heavy conversation for one day! There should be tea and cakes arriving in my office about now.”
And there were in fact tea and cakes waiting for them, and they chatted comfortably, for Brand’s fear of the Prince had vanished. He went to dinner that night at the castle and listened to all of the tales about the man he now knew as his father, and laughed at more than a few of them. Andrahar had little to say, other than the odd remark or two, and he drank rather a lot.
Later Brand went to bed in his room at the palace, as was the custom when duty took Andrahar away for the night, but sleep was hard to come by, for he had much to think about. So he was awake and looking out his window at the stars burning winter-bright overhead when a man came out of the palace and started across the courtyard, his breath fogging in the air. He was cloaked against the cold and carrying what looked like two wine bottles in his hand. Brand could not see his face. Tall and dark-haired like half the court, he could have been anyone-until a couple of the gate guards peeled off from their duty to accompany him, and by that Brand knew it was the Prince. He watched Imrahil stride through the gate and turn down the road that led to Andrahar’s house. Then Brand went back to bed, and this time was able to fall asleep almost at once.