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Tambaro took a deep breath and walked up the steps of the great House of Malréd, knocking upon the massive door. It was opened by a thin youth in new-looking livery, and he walked past him with far more composure than he actually felt.

“Where is Harrin?” he asked, looking in vain for the buhdelier he had known all his life.

“Not ‘ere right now, ser. May I ‘elp you? Call Lady Malréd? ‘Is lordship’s from ‘ome.”

Tambaro had counted on his being at the bank that bore the family name. Taking a deep breath, he said, “You need not disturb her,” and made sure that the youth —had he even been born the last time Tambaro had left that place? —clearly saw the signet ring he had carried hidden for so long, slipping it on his finger as he walked down the hall. Here was the door to the small reception room, and here, just before it, was an alcove centered on a fine tapestry of their arms—he reached his hand, held so that the intaglio matrix was pressed against the almost invisible triggers carved in the design on the wall framing it. There was a click, and part of the wall slid aside, showing the door into the Lesser Treasury. He ducked under the tapestry and stepped inside, closing the door on the footman’s bleating. Instantly forgetting about the youth, he reached for a lamp, left exactly where he remembered, and the firestarter next to it as well. In seconds, he had lit another as well, and was striding briskly across the chamber to a particular chest. Again, he used the signet to open it, and lifted out what he sought: a sword in its tooled leather sheath.

Carefully propping it against the wall, he delved again into the chest, almost not noticing the flame’s flickering as the door opened silently behind him.

A familiar voice said, “The day’s greeting to you.”

Whirling, he beheld a Man almost his mirror image, only older and greyer, but with the same prominent nose, and eyes slightly lighter than his own slate-grey ones. In one hand, the older Man gripped a sword-stick, holding the wooden shaft in his left hand, the ivory grip of the blade in his right. Absently Tambaro calculated the moves it would take to disarm him, and was horrified by the thought.

“That boy said you were not here,” he was startled into saying, and instantly cursed himself.

“You threw young Bili into quite a dilemma.” The older Man’s voice was neutral.

“Unintentionally. I expected to see Harrin. The day’s greeting to you as well.” He was mildly surprised to see his own sword drawn, and slid it into its scabbard as he bowed. “Sorry. Habit.”

“Understandable.” Malloth Malréd transformed his weapon back into its more harmless guise as a cane and set it aside, walking two steps. To Tambaro’s relief, he showed no sign of a limp or the ravages of age, other than a deepening of facial lines and the grey in his hair, although he didn’t seem as tall; with a sense of mild shock, he realized that he was now a few inches taller than his father.

Tambaro glanced away, then irresistibly back, as the other did the same, “Did you find what you seek?” Malloth inquired.

“I did. Thank you. Harrin keeps this in excellent order. I was surprised not to see him.”

“He’s been given permission by your mother to attend his youngest’s lying-in with his first grandchild.”

Tambaro asked in a more normal tone, “Suli is wedded and having a child?”

“Her husband died at the Morrannan.”

“Many good Men died that day. The fighting was fierce,” he said absently.

“Yet you did well, I hear,” Malloth said. Was that pride he heard?

“You knew where I was?”

“Of course. You had not been gone from us a week before Captain-General Boromir told me. I have followed your career with interest since then, Tambaro. It pleased me to know that you used that old nickname for the toy I carved you.”

“You carved that?”


“I always thought that Harrin had. I’m surprised that you did not call me by my name just now.”

“No, I felt I should respect your wish to make your own way, as you have, under the name you chose and have made your own. A captain, awarded four commendations for bravery and with the right to wear three medals for your service to our country—you deserve that. Your mother is very proud of you, although she’s not in charity with me at the moment.”

Tambaro could feel himself flushing like a boy, looked down at his hands, and felt some tension go out of his shoulders. “Why is Naneth (1) upset?” he asked.

“Because I didn’t tell her the name you’ve been using until last night, although I had assured her repeatedly that you were doing well. I did not tell her before because I thought she could not have resisted going to you.”

Tambaro nodded with a fleeting grin. “No more she could. But she is well?”

“Very well. As is your sister-in-love, although we lost your brother six years ago. You have a nephew. And you?” he asked carefully.

“I am well, too.” He added suddenly, “I’ve left the army.”

“After eighteen years, no doubt a change is welcome.”

“I have no complaints about Shield and Hammer Company, but the Guard will no doubt be lessened now that the war is over, so it seemed a good time, and I was offered a position with a friend.”

“The new Warden of Roads?”

Tambaro hesitated, but it was public knowledge, and his father’s information sources had always been superb. He had just never thought the old Man would bother to track him after their bitter estrangement. “Aye. Marpol Vittribula—Lord Tintehlë--will do an excellent job.”

“I do not doubt it. So, you are now on his staff?’

“Yes, with two of our former mates, Captains Faldi Vorondor, his new Second, and Solarion Rihan. How do you know of the Warden?”

“Faramir informed me that the King had ennobled him, so that I might—”

“Wind up the famous Trust! Of course!”

“I gave him the relevant documents and keys only yesterday.”

Tambaro smiled. “He’s a good Man, and a good friend. So, he told you about me?”

“Only after I enquired, once I knew that you had been in the same company. He respects you, and made it clear that he would not spy on you.”

“We’ve saved each other’s lives more times than I can count.”

“I did not expect to see you here.”

“I did not come to thieve, sir, but to return a family artifact to its real owner.” He almost swore aloud; why should he sound so defensive?

“That thought never crossed my mind,” Malloth said. His voice rang with truth. “The sword-stick was only because the footman wasn’t sure who you were. So, I ask you again, ion nin(2): what do you seek?”

My son. He had never again expected to be called that, in that tone. Was there a yearning in his father’s eyes? Truth demanded truth in return. “You and Grandsire told me so many tales about the Tintehlës when I was a boy. As soon as I learned what his new title was, all I could think of was the one about the Elvish sword.”


“Nammasoron, the Eagle’s Claw. The blade Marpol bore in the army broke when he was wounded in the last battle, and belonged to the company besides; he would never think to keep it, so he does need one, and I could see no reason why he should not have this one. It was right where I thought it would be,” and he gestured to the sword now leaning against the wall. “Don’t you remember telling me about it, Ada(3), you and Daedadar(4) both, how it came from the Noldor forgemaster Súrion in the Second Age? We took it as security for a loan for Lord Thoronisar Tintehlë five hundred years ago.”

“Actually, four hundred and forty-eight years,” Malloth said. He came nearer. “’Tis long since I handled it.”

Tambaro unsheathed it, holding it across his palms, and together they bent their heads over the cirith(5) incised on the bluish blade beneath the sigil and the eagle’s head pommel-stone, spelling out the letters as he had done as a child. That inscription had been the earliest one he had learned in Sindarin.

“Having found it, what were you looking for?”

“Something to wrap it in.”

“Use this.” Malloth shook out a heavy green silk cloth from a shelf, and after a moment’s thought, fetched tasseled golden cords from a drawer. Together, they wrapped and tied it.

“I may have it?”

“You may have whatever you wish of me.”

He had convinced himself that there was no going back from that old quarrel, that their relationship had shattered more irrevocably than any sword—he used to liken it in his mind to Narsil, feeling that its shards were lodged in his heart forever.

Yet Narsil has been reforged, and is now the Flame of the West(6).

“Have you a fitting blade of your own?” his father said into the awkward silence between them.

“Despite all my fascination with swords as a boy, my best weapon is the bow, but aye, I have a good one, bought with my own money.”

“And what did you name your blade?” Humour lurked in his father’s eyes, a lighter grey than his own.

“Yaffle,” he admitted sheepishly, and his father laughed.

He had missed that sound—when had he last heard it?

Tambaro blurted, “Father, I did not steal that coin from your collection.”

He had refused to say that, or admit his guilt, when they had quarreled all those years ago. Bitterly hurt by the accusation, he had slammed out of his father’s study and the house, never, until now, returning.

But Malloth was nodding. “I know that, son. Three years after you left, we had occasion to shift my desk, and I found that it had rolled under the edge of the drawer. It was unfair of me to even suspect you, and I regret the tone I took with you that day. Being prickly has ever been one of my worst faults.”

“My friends have said more than once that I should have chosen ‘hedgehog’ for a use-name,” he found himself admitting over a lump in his throat.

Another awkward silence. He shifted his weight, and the end of the wrapped sword bumped gently against the edge of the table. “I should go.”

“Will you not—”

But they were interrupted by a sneeze, and both looked towards the entry. A small boy stood just within the door, which Malloth had neglected to close, with bright eyes fixed on them. He wiped his (large) nose on one sleeve, and bowed. “Your pardon, Daedadar, ser. I saw this door where there wasn’t one before, so I thought I’d see what’s inside.”

“Penardil, your curiosity could land you in serious trouble,” Malloth sighed with a shake of his head.

“I’m not in enough trouble not to go with you and Daernaneth and Naneth to the Silver Sword for my party tonight, am I?” the child asked anxiously.

“I am not certain.”

“But shouldn’t I be there when you celebrate our kinsman’s visiting?” The boy looked up at him imploringly. “He is our kin, isn’t he?”

“This is your uncle Tambaro.”

“But I thought I only had one uncle, my namesake.” Penardil looked up at his grandfather’s tall guest and explained, “He’s been away, fighting in the war. He’s very brave and beloved, which is why I’m named for him. I hope he comes home, because I’ve never seen him in all my life, and I’m six years old today. I want to see his sword and bow and horse and uniform and show him my yaffle.”

Tambaro squatted to be on his level, carefully cradling the sword against his chest—and wondered how it would feel to hold the child instead. “You have a yaffle?”

Daeradar carved it for him when he was little and it’s in the nursery. I’m not allowed to play with it, but I talk to it sometimes. Is that your sword? Why is it wrapped up?”

“No, it belongs to my friend. Your daeradar has been taking care of it for him, and now I’m taking it to him.”

“Why haven’t I known you before? Are you my uncle’s brother?”

“He is your only uncle, Pen,” Malloth said.

“Then why is your name different?”

“Penardil! That is rude!”

“I had to use Tambaro, because there is only one Penardil at a time, and you have the use of that name now. It means the same thing yaffle does, a woodpecker.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you came today!” The boy hurled himself at Tambaro, who almost went over backwards, feeling a twinge from his partially-healed arm, but found his father had also bent down to brace them both into a sort of threefold hug.

Penardil wiggled, and they eased their hold on him. “Are you coming to the party? Please!”

“That might just get me out of trouble with your mother and Morchaint(7),” Malloth said under his breath, and Tambaro laughed as he stood up with his nephew in his arms; somehow his father was now holding the sword.

“I will try. It will depend on what I must do for my friend. What time?”

“The fifth hour, to accommodate Pen’s early bedtime. He has been ill with the yellow fever.”

“Pen, can you keep a secret?”

His eyes were wide with delight. “What about?”

“Don’t tell your naneth or daernaneth(8) that you have met me. I want to surprise them.”

“Thank you, Tam.”

He grinned at his father as he set Pen down. “Call it my part in helping you out of the kennel with Naneth!” He tousled Pen’s hair. “I will see you soon, Pen. Ada.”

“Don’t forget the sword,” Malloth said, and as he held it out to him, somehow it seemed natural to embrace. “Valar bless you!”

“Did you get presents for your birthday when you were a boy like me?” Penardil asked.


But his uncle was grinning. “Aye, I did, but I never got the sword I wanted.”

“I’d like a sword!”

“You’re young for that, and mayhap now you’ll grow up into a world where you won’t need one. But I know a fine tale about a famous sword, and I’ll tell it to you tonight.”

“I know the one about the Sword That Was Broken, Daeradar told me when I was little.”

“But it has a new ending,” he said.

“It does? How could it?”

“Because the very best, most important stories continue. I will tell you how it came to be reforged and renamed, and the great warrior who now has it.”

“But now your naneth will be looking for you. What do we say when we promise something?” Malloth asked, holding out his hand after Tam set the little boy down.

The little boy swung on his grandfather’s hand. “We say, ‘I give you my solemn oath as a Malréd, which is not lightly given, but by the Valar, I will keep it.’”

Tambaro said solemnly, “And by the Valar, I accept it. That was well done.”

Malloth said, “That is an apt tale for you to hear. Say goodbye for now to your uncle.”

“Goodbye, Uncle Tambaro.”

“Until tonight, Pen-who-shares-my-name.”

Penardil giggled and skipped out of the room, then popped back in. “I hear Daernaneth coming from upstairs!”

“Come back, my son.”

“I shall, Ada.”

As he strode out of the House—the home—he had avoided for so long, Tambaro knew he would grieve for his brother, but at the moment, he was thinking more about Narsil and exactly how he would tell the new ending. Perhaps his own tale in that House was not ended, after all.


1) Naneth --Sindarin for Mother.
2) ion nin (S.) --my son
3) Ada – Dad, Daddy
4) Daedadar (S.)– Grandfather
5) cirith --the flowing Sindarin script invented by the Elves.
6) the Flame of the West -- Aragorn's sword Andúril, the name given to Narsil after it was reforged.
7) Morchaint -- Tambaro's sister-in-love, widowed and Penardil's mother.
8) Daednaneth (S.) – Grandmother.


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