Summary: On loving the enemy among friends and family.
Characters/Pairing: Brand, Esteven, OFC
Warnings: Mature concepts
Book/Source: LOTR, Best-loved Sons 'verse
Disclaimer: I'm neither JRRT nor making money off this. Isabeau, I hope you'll like these - Merry Christmas, slightly belated. Thanks for letting me play in your sandbox again, and let me know if any of the characters got singed here.
Notes: All prompts, plus one because I needed an extra sunlight drabble to close; hand-counted. Isabeau's Esteven has a Dúnadan grandmother, and otherwise all his relatives are Dol Amroth Haradrim. He is the second ever man of Haradric ancestry to make it into the Swan Knights' ranks, after her OMC Andrahar. Brand is Andrahar's ward, and Boromir's bastard son. Story takes place a month after Confirmation.
The Spring Evenday dawned clear and calm: above the city the Swan pennant hung limp. Everything was still, save the waves, and, in one sun-washed home, a young boy, who squirmed in his seat.
“Sword-practice comes later,” the tutor reprimanded. “Kindly attend to your studies!”
“I am sorry, sir,” the lad apologized, staring down at the black script that cut across the page. “'Tis just that I... I do not understand this.”
“Then devote more time to your letters,” the tutor said reasonably. “Continue reading.”
Haltingly, the boy obeyed, and read out: “'The Southron kings... sla-u-slaughtered themselves with fire for the Enemy...'”
After the tutor left, Brand wandered outside, head awhirl. He'd lived five months in Dol Amroth, only one knowing his father's name. And now... this.
He didn't want to believe such about Haradrim. In Pelargir, in Dol Amroth, they were many – they'd never seemed likely to torch themselves for Sauron.
But he especially didn't want to believe it, because if he did, then he had to ask: Does the Captain hold to such acts? It felt like betrayal even to wonder; Brand couldn't fathom asking him, yet...
Whom could he ask? For he needed to know. But whom to trust?
Brand was still upon the stoop when a shadow fell over him; looking up, he saw a Swan Knight in plain garb standing there.
“Brandmir,” Esteven, greeted him. “How goes it?” Brand shrugged, reluctant to speak. “Is something wrong?” And when he hesitated: “Have you spoken with the Captain?”
“I can't.” Esteven raised a brow.
“Is he the problem?”
“Not the Captain, exactly – something my tutor said,” he admitted. “About Haradrim.”
“We don't eat children.”
“A guess.” Esteven shrugged: “If you're troubled, 'twas likely nonsense.”
Likely. Brand licked his lips. “Would you ever burn yourself for the Dark Lord?”
Esteven's face darkened so, that Brand cringed. “I'm sorry,” he apologized. “I shouldn't repeat insulting...”
The young captain lifted a forestalling hand. “No fear, lad,” he assured. “'Tis only that since Pelennor, you are not alone in wondering.”
“Oh.” Brand paused. “Is it true, what my tutor said?”
Esteven looked up at the westering sun. “'Tis the Evenday, and I have obligations,” he sighed, but then gave Brand a wry smile and said, “I am over-young, and neither priest nor sage, but since I'm not a captain today, and you're wanting tutors, I can try to be a teacher.”
So Brand found himself following along, as Esteven wended down toward South Docks. “I'm at liberty for the holiday,” he explained. “Debts must repaid, but I'll see the Captain later.”
“You owe him money?”
“Better than that,” Esteven answered. “Debt, like Fire, means many things.”
“Do people burn themselves for debt?” Brand asked.
“No.” Esteven dashed that hope. “Fire binds, but what goes whole to the Fire can only be a gift.”
“But... to the Enemy?”
“Even as Dúnedain honor the World-breakers.”
Which disturbing point Brand hadn't considered before. Still: “Would you... gift yourself?”
“I don't love God that much.”
When Brand gaped, Esteven smiled. “'Tis true – none of us can. So a-lehani hold, though the Khan's Children hold otherwise.”
“A moment,” Esteven excused himself. For by the scent of hot iron, the smithy lay before them.
Entering, Esteven called: “A, sharuthathones!” The smith turned, exclaiming gladly, and conversation ensued, ere Esteven gave him a well-stuffed purse. Then bowing deeply, he gestured to Brand: “Na'an khuran Brandan hinalatilo.”
The smith looked, then grinned. “Ahnakuyota Khura – between gods, blessing, for you're good blessing to the Captain, well-named one!”
“You'll not gainsay Bhirunar so,” Esteven teased gently. Brand just blushed deeper.
At the shrine, Brand hovered uncertainly, as Esteven knelt before a god-lamp, taking a pen and potshard from the altar.
“What're you doing?” Brand asked.
“Recanting my vows.”
“To spite pride, which would owe nothing. Thus we all owe God for rebinding us.”
“I tell this year's debts.”
Brand eyed the shard skeptically. “How?”
“I'm not such a debtor!” But by the twinkle in his eye, Esteven was teasing again. “In answer, there's a prayer for that. We name but our greatest debts.”
Once finished, Esteven placed the shard in an urn. “Now – to your question.”
Candlelight: The light of failing years
“If I err, someone can save me,” Esteven said, gesturing at shrine-keepers assisting those who couldn't write. “All Children of the Fire hold that to die by Fire for God – to be living flame – comes only as a God-gift of loving-courage to those in their candlelight years.”
“Then... nobody kills his family alongside himself?”
Esteven grimaced, but acknowledged: “I don't say everyone who's done it had the gift: zeal misleads. Hence a-lehani say we're too weak for such gifts.”
“But the Khan's Children hold otherwise?”
“They believe God-the-Giver gives us insight.”
So and so. Brand breathed deeply. “Is Andrahar a-lehani?”
“Ah.” Esteven gazed awhile into the god-lamp. Then: “I cannot speak for him in that matter. But trust me: you'll not lose him to that end, nor should you fear such for yourself.”
Brand bit his lip. “But how can you know, if it's not dishonorable for Haradrim?”
“Because every act has bounds: he can't meet the strictures to burn. He's too well-bound here, for one,” Esteven replied, chucking Brand under the chin. Brand flushed hotly; Esteven chuckled. “Firebrand! God gives us bonds – trust us to honor them. Now – to work! I only pray your swordmaster's better than your tutor!”
Sunlight: Sunset Dues
The Evenday waned. In halls, men stood silently for Númenor, and in South Docks, looked hopefully toward Renewal's rebinding; between two worlds a man and boy walked home together, while below the keep, a husband and wife gave each other glad dues.
“Thank God for making such debts!” Esteven gasped, and was kissed silent.
“You repaid ours to your Captain?” Anaišar asked later. “For bringing you home whole from war?”
“Honored it. I can't repay him.”
“But his lad's troubles today...?”
“I'll speak to Andrahar of them – tomorrow,” Esteven promised. “For since I'm home, I've dues still to pay tonight...”
Moonlight: Moonlighting: “'Tis only that since Pelennor, you are not alone in wondering”: refer-back of sorts to False Fire.
Torchlight: Firebrand: A, sharuthathones: May there be peace between us!
Na'an khuran Brandan hinalatilo: I'm watching over [honorific] Brand.
Ahnakuyota Khura: Lord Torch
Sunlight: Sunset Dues: “Renewal”: For Want of Roses.