anghraine: luke bowing his head over vader's corpse; text: prayer for the dead (luke grieving [prayer for the dead])
[personal profile] anghraine
Basically, it's a compressed, talky version of the stuff that I was thinking through with my Lothíriel fic all those years ago. This isn't that, I just got to thinking about it when I came across a random reference, and considering where my Lothíriel might have gotten all those seditious ideas from. :)

title: princes of the city
fanverse: canon, more or less

The Lady Ivriniel did not like the King. She did not pretend otherwise—to anything but grudging acknowledgment of his accomplishments, and would have considered it a deplorable weakness of character to let anyone think she approved of this upstart from the North. She only just refrained from muttering usurper under her breath every time his names were mentioned, and that—her kin suspected—sprang more from consideration for her sister-son than actual civility.

She said as much to her brother. “I would not trouble Faramir. He is delicate, you know.”

“He is nothing of the kind,” said the Prince of Dol Amroth. “He witnessed—”

“I am sure he was quite overset, after everything.” One careless gesture of her hand managed to encompass the entire battle of the Pelennor, the Steward’s madness and death, the management of the City and the overthrow of the Dark Lord. “He nearly died.”

“And he lives because the king healed him.

Lady Ivriniel pressed her lips together. “We are all grateful, I am sure—as we would be to any healer who saved a kinsman’s life. It happens quite often, after all. Such a demanding profession it must be!”

“No other healer could have saved his life, Ivriniel.”

“Perhaps so.” She snipped vengefully at a bush she was pruning. They were alone together in Finduilas’ gardens, carefully maintained in the years after her death. During the Steward’s first, most profound grief, it had been Ivriniel who took command of her sister’s garden and her sister’s sons, occupying all their minds with the care of the flowers and herbs that Finduilas had loved. Denethor had been grateful—he never again entered the gardens, but it pleased him, in his way, to know that they were as his wife had left them. Ivriniel had many greater duties in Minas Tirith, but she never neglected the gardens.

Right now, she knelt on the ground, her dark plait wound about her head, and her face and hands smeared with dirt. Prince Imrahil stood tall and straight beside her, his fine linen tunic spotless, and felt somehow less dignified than his sister. It was, he suspected, the fate of all younger brothers.

“Perhaps,” she said again. “They say he is a very great healer. It is a pity, then, that he should waste his abilities on governance, then—is it not?”

“He has a rightful claim, Ivriniel, and—”

“Bah! One rejected a thousand years ago,” said Ivriniel. “And the heirs of Isildur haven’t had a realm to call their own since Arvedui’s time. If our poor father could see us kneeling to a vagabond foreigner …” She clucked over the rosemary.

“Father would be considerably more distressed to see his daughter accused of treason,” Imrahil said bluntly. “Though perhaps not so much as Faramir would be to do the accusing.”

Ivriniel dropped her scissors. Without bothering to recover them, she lifted her head, pale eyes fixed on his face. “Treason! Nonsense. How much of the queen’s wine did you drink last night?”

“None,” said Imrahil. His mouth was set in grim lines. “Have a care, sister. Do you think anyone who doubted the legitimacy of Denethor’s rule as you have doubted Elessar’s would have found a comfortable home in the City? It would not have been tolerated for an instant, and he was not King.”

“As good as,” she muttered, turning back towards to the rosemary.

He seized her shoulder, more in anxiety than exasperation. “This is not a time for family loyalties to cloud your judgment. Yes, Denethor was as high and mighty as any king in any other land, but—he would have told you himself—not in Gondor. Whatever else he may have thought or done, Denethor would never have laid claim to all the rights and dignities of a King of Gondor. And he had nine hundred years of unquestioned authority behind him. Elessar is the first heir of Isildur to ever rule in Gondor, and aspires to more than the Húrinionath ever did. Do you not understand? Denethor did not have to care who he antagonized. Elessar’s position is very different.”

Ivriniel’s grey eyes widened a little, then narrowed in thought. Imrahil released his hold on her, took a breath.

“If your resentment, Ivriniel, planted any seeds in the minds of those who might actually turn against the King—well. We would hate to hear your name bandied about by such men.”

“I do not expect I would care for it myself,” Ivriniel said. She gathered up her scissors and studied the rosemary. “So you think it will happen?”

Imrahil blinked. “I beg your pardon?”

“You would not be here, telling me to hold my tongue—and you eight years my junior!—if you did not have more serious fears. You think there will be a plot against the King’s life? That I might be named in it? Or take part in it?”

“Yes—yes—and no,” he said. “I did not question your character, Ivriniel, only your common sense.”

She sniffed. “You are hardly one to be speaking of that.—When?”

“Not now,” he said, more soberly. “Not this year, or next, with the last terrors and triumphs of the war still fresh in our memories, and easily called to mind. But it will happen. Perhaps there will be poor harvests—or a new, unpopular war—or a quarrel between a Dúnadan of Gondor and one of the North. Who knows? There is always something.”

“Faramir would not—”

“Faramir has bound his fortunes with the King, for good or ill,” said Imrahil. “And even today, I do not doubt that there are those who feel the loss of his dignities more than he does himself—who resent that he, who was to be Lord of the City, now bows to a man who never set foot in Gondor until he came to claim it.”

“Well, one could hardly feel it less than Faramir does,” Ivriniel said tartly, and returned to her pruning. “Although I would wager all of Belfalas that Elessar did come here before, under another name.”

Imrahil drew back, startled. “You are thinking of a particular name? Or—”

“Thorongil,” she said. “You were only a boy—you never met him. Did you even hear of him?”

“Of course I heard of Thorongil! The bards sang for months of his raid on Umbar!” For a moment, his voice was boyishly excited. Then, recovering his customary gravity, he said, “Thorongil was Aragorn?”

“I stayed with Finduilas all that year. I spoke to him thirty times if I did once.” Her lips tightened. “I knew King Elessar for Thorongil the moment I saw him. It was he who came to Gondor all those years ago and served Lord Ecthelion. He pretended to be a common sellsword, but anyone with eyes could see that he came of high Númenórean stock. He and Denethor might have been brothers. And Ecthelion loved him, above all others.”

Imrahil gave her a shrewd look. “Even Denethor?”

“Even Denethor,” said Ivriniel. “And nobody knew who Thorongil was, or whence he came—only that he was a Dúnadan beloved of the Steward, and looked like Denethor. Many thought he must be Ecthelion’s son in truth, a bastard honoured above the heir to the Stewardship. Lady Míriel never saw him without looking like she might murder him in his sleep.”

“I can imagine,” said Imrahil. It had been years since Imrahil encountered Denethor’s oldest sister, but he did not suppose that Lady Míriel was less proud and irascible now than he remembered her, or that she had ever been. “No doubt Aragorn—King Elessar—meant only to acquaint himself with his realm, and serve his people before ruling over us.”

Ivriniel shrugged. “No doubt. That did not make it any less unpleasant. Some even suggested that Boromir—well, they said many things. He changed our lives for the worse even then.”

“No doubt it was an awkward situation, but in a few years, Denethor was Lord of Gondor and Thorongil was gone,” said Imrahil. “And it is hardly a change for the worse! We are free from the threat of the Dark Lord, forever, when we would have all been slain or enslaved, and there will never again be such a war against such an enemy. Gondor is about to rise to greatness such as has not been seen for generations of Men—have you not seen it? Elessar shall restore all the glory, and majesty, and prosperity of the realms of Elendil, without diminishing the traditions of our day. Elendil’s steward was a chamberlain of no great birth, but our sister’s son leads the High Council and sits in the hall of the Kings! Do you think it was for nothing that Elessar returned the White Rod to Faramir and confirmed his station forever? From where do you think he means to rule?”

Ivriniel, visibly taken aback—as much by her brother’s enthusiasm as his conviction—said, “Minas Tirith, of course.” She paused to consider. “Well, perhaps he intends to rebuild Osgiliath. It is of no consequence to me.”

“It should be,” said Imrahil. “Have I not said that he intends to restore Elendil’s realm? The King’s heart lies with the North-kingdom, the land of his fathers. It is Annúminas that shall be rebuilt, and the seat of the Kings.”

“Annúminas!” Finally, Ivriniel rose to her feet, as outraged at the prospect of Elessar slighting Gondor as she had been at him claiming it. “There is nothing in Arnor but ruins and ghosts—and halflings, I suppose. Is Gondor to rot when he is done with us?”

Imrahil just looked at her. “Gondor has a Steward.”
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