It was a cold, late September afternoon, the hour that dusk was falling, and winter seemed finally to have found its teeth. But that didn’t seem to stop even the finickiest of old ladies for turning out for The Naming.
Two empty corpse-sized boxes were built and positioned on either side of the White Tree. Between them stood Denethor, the only surviving male member of the House of the Steward. And beside him stood Mellawyn, now Lady of Gondor. When her mother died, Mellawyn became The Lady, as the only surviving female of the House of the Steward. To the side stood Borlin and Farlin, last surviving members of the House of the Brother of the Steward. Borlin wore the mail of a page of the Tower Guard, and Farlin wore a tunic of gray wool, on which had been embroidered the emblem of the White Tree, and a band of silver and mithril over his long locks. Mellawyn wore a fine white dress, but no one could see it: by orders of the Healers, she was wrapped in a fur to protect her fragile lungs, and her father had ordered a cloak be made of the skin of a warg killed a few weeks earlier. Denethor himself wore the black garb of one in mourning, under his old raiment of the Tower Guard that he wore at all state functions.
This was in fact a private family ceremony, but it was also an event that interested the public. According to the custom of the land, a youth of the city took a stick and drew a circle roughly ten feet out from the white tree. The family stood in this circle alone, while the rest of the people stayed outside of it.
After a respectful period of silence the speaker, a man named Falastur stepped forward. He was short for a Gondorian at just over 5 feet, with deep long red hair slicked back with bear’s oil, and he wore a simple black cloak, a tunic similar to Faramir’s, and grey cotton pants. He looked directly at Denethor, then lowered his head and said, ‘With your leave, my liege.’ Denethor nodded, and the man stepped into the circle.
‘In the years of Ondoher descendant of the king Isildur, the king’s party was attacked by wild men, and the king and his two sons both died in the ensuing conflict. The crown then passed to Eärnil, captain of the Southern Army, and on his death to his son Eärnur. It was he who traveled with the elf-lord Glorfindel, and who would have smote our great enemy, the king of the Nazgûl if not for Master Glorfindel’s interfering. Eärnur and his company rode forth to Minas Ithil, that dark city, and–‘
‘Now the right high Falastur will tell us of the death of Eärnur, cousin, and the rise of the Stewards, of which of course Master Denethor is a descendant, and Miss Mellawyn as well.’ The voice echoed from the back of the crowd, and everyone turned around to see Ioreth, who worked in the Houses of Healing, talking to some woman they did not recognize as a native of Minas Tirith. Reluctantly they turned around to face Falastur, though they kept their ears trained on Ioreth.
Fifteen years ago, people politely said that she was beginning to get on in years. Now, the only honest way to describe Ioreth now would be as old. Her muscles were over-taught, and her skin hung in flaps under her chin and in other places, too, one would imagine, but she was well-covered in clothing even in the heat of summer. She and her widowed sister lived together in a house in the fifth circle, but Ioreth at least kept the low accent of those living in the First Circle. This made sense to those who knew her family: her father was a soldier who had proved valiant, and had as prize chosen to marry one of the ladies-in-waiting to the Wife of the Steward at that time, Mellaura’s mother, before she had died, and later she had tended to Mellaura herself. So Ioreth and her sister were recently sprung from those ranks completely devoid of class.
‘Lawd, but he likes to talk, don’t he, cousin. I think those men he’s naming didn’t take as long to live, as he does to talk of them. Well, you see that girl up there? Her name’s Mellawyn, and she’s Denethor’s daughter. And you see those boys there? Well, there blood’s good enough, I suppose, but there manners—did you know, that till now, they’d never stepped foot inside this city? Of all the—and they get to stand right up there up front in that High Circle, and me, who’s worked her whole life in the city, I’m stuck back here. Well, that’s gratitude!’
The people, knowing Ioreth might be ranting for quite some time, turned their attention back to the Speaker: ‘For we are gathered here today to honour the memory here of two of the House of the Steward, and to mourn their passing. For Mellaura, Wife of the Steward, has left our lord Denethor without an heir. How selfish of her to die without completing her one task! Why—‘
‘Well, I never! Cousin, don’t you go thinking that all of us in the City are as uncouth as all that! Now this man’s going telling nothing but falsehoods… Who has he talked to that gives him the right to say such things?’
‘Denethor, I suppose.’
‘And as if one unseemly death was not enough of a tragedy,’ the Speaker continued, ‘the lord’s brother died not defending country, as was his one duty, but instead ran from duty and honor, and alienated him from the Steward and his brother. Yet death found him anyway, not on the battlefield, but on a farm. Yet Calithor—‘
‘Kaänawe,’ someone muttered beneath their breath. It was Farlin. Denethor looked at him, in disbelief: ‘What did you say?’
‘My father’s name was Kaänawe.’
There was a long pause. Something glittered on the Steward’s cheek. Was that a tear? This man who had not cried at his own wife’s passing, nor at the passing of his brother, was now crying at the mention of a name? But it appeared to be so.
‘Now that boy,’ Ioreth continued, ‘hain’t got no manners, what’s I can see, noways. They should keep folks out the circle don’t know when to be quiet.’
But Denethor just looked at Farlin, bent down, and kissed him on the top of his head. He then turned to Falastur and affirmed, ‘My brother’s name was Kaänawe.’
But Falastur did not know how to handle this news, never having heard the name before; it had been years since it had been uttered inside the city. So instead he moved ahead to the next part.
‘Yet, when a family member is lost, a family member is gained, so our sages say. Many times we can not see this right away: often it takes years for a marriage or birth to replace the ones lost. But today we have an immediate answer. In the circle here we have Borlin and Farlin, the two sons of Cal—Kaänawe. They lost both their parents in service to Gondor: their mother as their father served the Steward, and their father as he preserved the line of the Steward by saving the Steward’s daughter from certain death. As repayment in part the Steward—‘
But Denethor stepped forward, quite unexpectedly. He held up his hand for Falastur to be silent, and addressed the boys: ‘My sons, child of my brother, you are now as my own sons. Kneel.’ He drew out his sword that he always carried at his side, and touched it to Borlin.
‘You, Borlin, will now be known as Boromir. According to the customs of this city you are beyond the age of schooling, and it is now time for you to learn a trade. I therefore entrust you to the Guard of the Tower, where you will learn the art of war and service to your country.’
He then turned to Farlin. ‘But you, Farlin, for you the age of schooling is just to begin. You I will have trained in the arts of your people, and in the lore of those people who are around you, yet you do not see: the Elves, and the Tree-men, and the legendary Periath, and other wonders of fireside stories!’
And then, a most unexpected thing happened. Borlin and Farlin arose Boromir and Faramir, and took their places behind the Steward. But Mellawyn ran forward, and kneeled at his feet before he could walk away.
‘I too have a new name,’ she informed her father. ‘My name is Mellaura.’
A hush crept over the crowd, for a few seconds before a wave of whispers rushed through it. One voice was heard above all: ‘Now don’t that beat all. That pugnacious girl, she knows better than that. She knows her name, of all things, it’s been told her oft enough, I reckon…’
Denethor alone was silent. ‘Mellawyn, lone flesh of my flesh, all things I would give you that I could. But that is beyond even my power. The name Mellaura is—it is taken from us. But it is taken.’ A long pause. Then Faramir leaned forward and whispered something to his new father. ‘But Lara is not taken. That name you may have if you desire it.’ Suddenly a grin swept his face. ‘What’s more, I dub you Laramir. Yes, I know of your desire to learn Elvish. And where in all Gondor would I find a tutor for a young woman in such things? You and Faramir shall learn together, just as—just as Kaänawe and I did. I hope it turns out significantly better.’ He then turned to address the crowd. ‘Now, if there is nothing else—‘
‘There is, one last thing.’ And the man in the musty gray cloak and pointy hat, Mithrandir to the people of the city, stepped forward.
‘This is truly a unique day. The king has always wanted a son. But never in anyone’s wildest dreams, least of all mine,’ and at this he paused and looked, slightly amused, at Denethor, ‘never did he expect to find three sons in the same day. And such an occasion deserves a fitting celebration. Your lord Denethor has provided te best of the harvest in a feast, for all who will join him in welcoming these three new sons to his house. For my part, I have provided fireworks.’
The crowd erupted into a wild cheer, for even in these unlearned parts, Mithrandir’s fireworks were legendary. They made their way to the tables laid with fruit, loaves of bread, pies, and roasted meats. All, save Denethor and Laramir.
‘Mellawyn—excuse me, Laramir—I have a special gift for you.’ And he pulled out of his cloak, a lumpy velvet bag. Laramir opened it and brought out a pipe not unlike Boromir’s, but finer, a fine mahogany wood with a silver mouthpiece and intricately carved with letters of the Common Speech, but words no man of the West would recognize.
‘Gandalf, what’s a … mathom…?’
‘Shhh. Now is not the time for questions. This pipe was given to me by a fine old friend of mine, in a land far away. But you would laugh to see him, because he is shorter than your Falastur, yet twice as great, at least. And the leaf… well, that will take some explaining. Perhaps, some day. But before you are ready for that tale, you must learn many things, if you are indeed ever ready. Yet I see a spark in your eyes, Laramir—yes, though I laugh, that name suits you well, m’lady—a spark that says to me that someday you will know the truth. Hmmm, riddles and quandaries I never expected to find here. Oh well. Puzzles best left for the daylight. Run along, my girl, enjoy your party.’
As Mellawyn ran off to find her cousins, no, her brothers, Gandalf looked Denethor in the eye. ‘A word with you, if I may.’