Chapter One: The Steward's Daughter
This is a Buffy/Lord of the Rings crossover, set during the Third Age of Middle-earth in Year 3005. Readers beware! This story will contain some rather dark and disturbing themes. Rated for language and graphic violence. Buffy and all related characters belong to Joss Whedon. All Lord of the Rings characters belong to J.R.R. Tolkien. The ones you never heard of belong to me.
Story starts near the end of the season 5 episode, Spiral
. A couple of lines of dialogue belong to Steven DeKnight.
Chapter One: The Steward’s Daughter
“Dawn!” shouted a horrified Buffy when she found that she could not follow her sister and Glory through the mystical barrier that Willow had put up. Apparently, the “door” had relocked itself after the hell-god passed through. Utterly terrified, she turned, running back into the dilapidated gas station, as the Knights of Byzantium engaged Glory in battle. The Slayer’s only thoughts were of saving Dawn.
“Willow!” she yelled to her friend, whose eyes had already gone black from the magicks she was conjuring. “Get it down! Now!”
As Willow uttered her spell, Buffy fled the building, hoping beyond hope that she would be able to get Dawn back from Glory.
Once outside, she stopped, totally shocked and dismayed by the morbid scene. The bodies of the knights littered the area. As she slowly moved forward, her eyes scanned the carnage for Dawn. She was nowhere to be found. Buffy was too late. Glory had escaped with her sister.
Time seemed to the Slayer to come to a standstill.. Her heart felt as though it had been ripped from her chest. Her pain was so great that no words could describe it. Tears welled in her eyes, as she looked upon the dead, whom Glory had managed to kill in mere seconds.
How could she defeat one with such strength? She couldn’t. She had failed. She had failed to protect Dawnie. Now, her sister would die and, most likely, so would her friends and countless others.
Buffy’s thoughts turned to her mom, whose loss she still mourned, and how she had failed in her promise to keep Dawn safe. It was over. No matter how hard she tried, life kept taking away those whom she dearly loved - first, Joyce, then Riley, and now Dawnie. There was nothing left.
In the span of seconds, her terror turned to grief, then to utter despair. The tears streamed down her face.
The rest of the Scoobies came scrambling out of the building, looking upon the scene in abject horror.
Whether they said anything or not, Buffy didn’t know. It seemed that her senses began to diminish - first her hearing, then her sight. Suddenly, it felt as though an invisible hand had grasped the top of her head, forcing her to the ground.
Consumed with despair, a voice then spoke in her mind, uttering only one word, “Remember!”
She became numb and lost all forms of consciousness…
Buffy had no idea how much time had passed when she began to come back to her senses. Oddly, she felt comfortable, relaxed even. She was in bed - that much she could tell. Though her eyes remained closed, she knew she was home, safe and sound. How else could she feel so at ease? The incident with Glory taking Dawn was only a nightmare, a horrible, terrible nightmare. Right now, her sister was probably sound asleep in the next room.
The Slayer rolled onto her side, none too eager to leave the comfort of her bed.
The door then opened. It had to be Dawn.
“Rise and shine, Miriel,” said a woman’s voice, cheerful in tone.Huh? Miriel?
thought Buffy, her sleepy eyes automatically darting open. Who the hell’s Miriel?
She could hear the woman’s shoes clunking across the floor behind her, followed by the sound of curtains opening, instantly filling the room with a grey light.
“Come on, dear. It’s nearly eight o’clock,” prompted the woman, giving the Slayer a gentle shake as she swiftly passed by. “Time to ready yourself for breakfast,” she added, as she pulled another set of curtains open.
Buffy rolled onto her back and slowly eased up against the headboard. Her eyes quickly surveyed the room, leaving her shocked by her newfound surroundings. The room was nothing like her
room. In fact, it was quite different. Not only was it much bigger, but it also had this whole water theme going on. Several large, elaborately framed paintings of various seascapes adorned the tall, white plaster walls.
Marble columns separated the sleeping area from the sitting area. Before the white marble fireplace were two blue, overstuffed chairs with matching ottomans. Over the mantle was a painting of an older man (maybe in his late fifties?) seated on a black stone chair flanked by two men, who looked to be in their mid to late twenties, and a girl, around Buffy’s age. All four had the same dark hair, deep grey eyes and ivory skin.
“Andreth,” Buffy found herself saying, as she crawled out of bed. “I had the strangest dream last night.”
That wasn’t her voice! That wasn’t her talking! What the hell was going on? The Slayer was beginning to panic. Willow! Giles! What’s happened to me?!
“Mmm,” the slightly distracted woman answered, disappearing through a door to the left.
Buffy continued. “I dreamt of these… people garbed in the strangest raiment.” She stepped over to the tall window. Glancing outside, she saw that the sun had not yet dissipated the mists that lingered over the city. She then turned, looking toward the empty doorway. “Andreth, have you ever heard the name Buffy?”
The woman came back into the room, pushing aside the strands of brown hair from her face that had escaped from the loosely bound knot at the back of her head. She gave the Slayer a peculiar look.
“Buffy?” Andreth repeated. She then laughed. “I cannot say that I have. Sounds rather queer to the ears, does it not?” she chuckled. Her amusement quickly turned to concern. She dashed to Buffy’s side. “Oh, dear, I hope you’re not coming down with some illness!” She placed her hand on the Slayer’s forehead, checking for fever.
“I’m not sick!” Buffy answered adamantly, pushing Andreth’s hand away.
“Did you eat sweets before bed?” queried the woman, raising a brow in suspicion. “That is never a good thing.”
Frustrated, the Slayer marched off toward the opened door. “I’m not ill! And I didn’t eat any sweets before bed. Why can you not just listen to me? I feel this is important, that it means something.”
“Oh, darling, do not take your dreams seriously. They are just that - dreams,” replied Andreth, following behind the Slayer.
Buffy stopped just inside the door of the bathroom. She was staring at the reflection in the mirror. She didn’t look like Buffy, but the girl in the painting over the fireplace. No one understands what I’m going through
, said a voice that was not hers.
Buffy soon discovered that her own voice, or thoughts as it were, were becoming subdued, overpowered by this girl’s thoughts, whose body in which she now found herself trapped. Gradually, her own thoughts, feelings and memories faded, only to be replaced by Miriel’s life experiences.
The woman stepped behind the tall, slender girl. She placed her hands on Miriel’s shoulders, watching her in the mirror. “I’m sorry, dear. Go on. Tell me about that dream you had.”
Miriel blinked her eyes. “I… I no longer remember it,” she answered softly.
Andreth rested her chin on the girl’s shoulder, and wrapped her arms affectionately around her waist. “Then it could not have been very important, could it?” She gave her a little squeeze. “Never you mind that, my dear. There are more pressing things at hand, such as your birthday. It’s only two days away.”
A smile came to Miriel’s face. “There will be lots
of presents, won’t there?” she asked with a twinge of hope in her voice.
“Indeed! It’s not everyday the Steward’s only daughter turns seventeen,” she replied, her smile widening. “Perhaps we can convince your father to allow you to open one gift today, after breakfast.”
Miriel placed her hands lovingly on top of her nurse’s, who had acted as her foster-mother since the death of Finduilas. “What would I do without you?”
“Fall into despair,” answered Andreth lightheartedly. “Now, come on, let us get you ready. It shan’t be long before the second bell rings.”
No sooner had the words left her mouth, the bell of the Citadel rang twice. Miriel was already late. Andreth hurriedly helped her wash and dress before the young woman rushed the Citadel to join her father for breakfast.
When, at last, she had made it to the Great Hall, Miriel was nearly out of breath.
Denethor, who had not waited for her, had already begun to eat. He shifted his eyes from his plate to his daughter and said, “You’re late,” in that stern voice that she had grown accustomed to hearing.
“I’m sorry, Father. I-I overslept,” she answered, approaching the table that had been set out before his black stone chair.
“Sit. Your food is getting cold,” he replied sharply.
Miriel took a seat and began filling her plate. She hated eating in the Citadel. In fact, she didn’t like being there much at all. It felt too cold, too sterile. She definitely preferred meals at the King’s House, where she still dwelt with Denethor, or even Merethrond, the Hall of Feasts. However, Denethor was spending more and more time in the Citadel, usually alone, pondering the fate of Gondor.
Sensing that Denethor was brewing in silence over her tardiness (something he viewed with great disdain), Miriel thought it best to lighten his mood by starting their conversation with a topic that nearly always brought a smile to her father’s face.
“Any news from Boromir?” she queried, nibbling on a piece of toast.
“Indeed,” answered Denethor. He dabbed his napkin on his mouth before adding, “Once again, my firstborn son has proved his prowess, hindering the enemy. Word reached me earlier this morning that he and his company will be back today, late.”
“That is wonderful news,” replied Miriel with a smile. “Then he will be here for my birthday, for the feast?”
“If things do not go ill between now and then, yes,” Denethor responded, somewhat dismally. “The might of Gondor can only hold back the enemy for so long, my daughter.”
The smile quickly faded from her fair face. The thought of some new skirmish interrupting her birthday celebration left Miriel feeling instantly sad. Too often, her brothers were called away into the field of combat. It was high time to put away the sword and pick up the chalice - to dance, sing, and hear laughter and music. Those times seemed all too few and far between.
“Do not concern yourself with matters of war,” Denethor remarked upon seeing the change on his daughter’s face. He gave her a reassuring smile. “I do not foresee either Boromir or Faramir being called away on your special day. We will have such a celebration as has not been seen in these Halls for many years. Now, let me see your smile, Miriel, for it always brightens this old Steward’s day.”
Miriel forced herself to comply with her father’s request.
“Oh, you can do better than that!” he continued, seeing that she was smiling merely to please him. “Perhaps this will help,” Denethor added, pulling from his lap an object wrapped in black cloth.
“For me?” she said, her eyes lighting up upon seeing the package.
He nodded his head in reply, handing her the gift across the table.
Miriel quickly took it and eagerly unwrapped the package. She gasped, as she clutched the silver circlet tenderly in her hands. She knew what it was the moment she laid eyes upon it. Her fingers traced the woven silver bands to the pearl swan with sapphire eyes affixed to the center. This was the headpiece that Adrahil, her grandfather, had had made for her mother long ago, for Finduilas had been a princess of Dol Amroth before her untimely death.
Tears came to her eyes. She had never had the luxury of knowing her mother, who had died while giving birth to Miriel, and was deeply touched that Denethor had given her something that he himself treasured.
“Do you like it?” he asked, watching her reaction closely.
Miriel nodded. She found herself overwhelmed with emotion. She was doing everything in her power not to cry.
“Put it on then,” said Denethor.
Miriel placed the circlet on top of her head, adjusting it slightly so that it fit more snuggly.
Denethor clapped his hands together, pleased. A soft smile graced his normally grim face. He looked at her as memories of his first meeting with Finduilas came rushing back to his mind.
“You look so much like your mother,” he confessed, becoming misty-eyed. “So fair, so beautiful,” he added faintly.
Miriel turned her eyes to the black cloth on her lap. “I wish I had known her,” she answered softly.
“I do too,” replied Denethor somberly. He took a deep breath. And, as he exhaled, he pushed aside those memories of old, and resumed eating.
“Thank you, Father,” said Miriel, meeting his gaze.
“You’re welcome, Miriel. It would please me if you would wear that on your birthday.”
“Of course I will,” she answered, screeching her chair backwards on the marble floor. “I think I should put this in my room until then,” she continued, rising from her seat.
Miriel had turned to leave, when her father called out to her. “Miriel?”
“Yes?” she answered, turning toward Denethor.
He tapped his finger against his cheek a few times.
She hesitated for a moment.
Her father cocked his head to the side, studying her with those piercing grey eyes of his.
Immediately, she strode to his side, planting a kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Father.”
As she moved away, Denethor cupped her cheek with his hand, caressing her soft skin with his fingers. “You are the jewel of my heart, Miriel. Do not ever forget that.”
She smiled in reply, easing back so that her father’s hand slipped from her face. “Never,” she answered before hurrying from the chamber.
Miriel felt a sense of relief as she walked down the long corridor to the front doors of the Citadel. She could feel her father trying to read her thoughts, a gift given to those Númenoreans of noble lineage, and did not want him to get even a glimpse of what she had been hiding.
The air felt cool on her face as she exited the building. Glancing toward the Withered Tree, she could see someone sitting on a bench beside the fountain. She didn’t have to see his face to know who it was.
“Bregolas!” she shouted from the steps of the Citadel.
The dark-haired young man turned his head, and waved her over.
“I have to go to my bedchamber!” she announced loudly. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She then took off running toward the castle behind the Citadel.
Bregolas had noticed the jeweled circlet on her head and thought that it made Miriel look queenly. His heart fluttered.
“Miriel!” he yelled back. “Wait!” He rose to his feet and took off after her.
However, Miriel did not have as far to run. She was already inside the King’s House before Bregolas reached the back of the Citadel. He continued his sprint, taking the front steps of the castle three at a time. After entering the Halls, the young man ran down the corridors, zipping past the servants until he reached Miriel’s bedroom.
As he placed his hand on the doorknob, a woman’s voice screeched, “Bregolas, son of Halthor, what are you doing here?!” Andreth came marching down the hallway, her arms laden with clean linens.
He breathlessly answered, “I… I am here to see Miriel. She said she had to - ”
“ - You know the rules of this house,” she admonished, cutting him off as he spoke. “You cannot enter Miriel’s bedchamber! It is forbidden! Only kin are allowed in her private quarters! And, need I remind you - you are not kin of the Lord of these Halls!”
Bregolas tried to catch his breath. “Andreth, I am the protector of the Steward’s daughter. I’m her personal guard. How am I to protect her if I cannot go into her bedchamber?” he argued.
The woman stepped in front of the man, barring him from passing through the door. “And whom do you need to protect her from in her own home, hmm?” she rebuked, narrowing her eyes at the young man. “Miriel is safe. She needs no protection in her chambers.” Andreth eyed the young man suspiciously. “Or is it that you have something else in mind, son of Halthor? I am not blind. I have seen how you look at Miriel.”
Bregolas pursed his lips, trying to hold back the scornful words he wished to unleash on the woman.
“My intentions are noble, I assure you, my good woman,” he replied, proudly throwing his shoulders back and towering over the much smaller woman.
“That is good to hear,” she answered, firmly holding her ground. “Now, go wait in the front parlor as all Miriel’s suitors do.”
A miffed Bregolas had turned to leave when the bedroom door swung open. Miriel stood in the doorway, her eyes darting from Andreth to Bregolas, then back to Andreth again. “What is all this?” she asked with a frown.
“I’m merely looking after your best interests, my dear,” replied the woman.
Miriel smiled warmly at the nurse. “And I appreciate that. However, Bregolas is kin - distant though it may be - he is still kin.” She swept past Andreth, linked her arm with the warrior and strode down the hallway at his side.
Bregolas looked over his shoulder at Andreth, giving her a toothy grin of victory. He then turned his attention back to Miriel. Still annoyed, he said, “That woman is insufferable!”
“Oh, she means no harm.”
“I wonder sometimes,” he snickered in reply. “So tell me: what is on the agenda for today?”
“Well, our first stop will be the dress shop.”
Bregolas rolled his eyes upon hearing that. “But, I thought that you were eager to practice - ”
“Shh!” she sounded, casting a nervous glance around the corridor, hoping that none had overheard him. “Do not speak of such things with so many around.”
“No one knows of what I speak,” he answered back.
“It is not worth the risk, Bregolas!” she chastised. “Wait until we have reached your home where none can overhear us.”
Before leaving the castle, Miriel unlinked her arm from her companion. They were not lovers, though Bregolas desired otherwise. He was her closest of friends, the one person in all of Minas Tirith that she trusted completely, and the only one that knew that she was the Slayer.
It had been six months ago, in December, when she had discovered her newfound strength. She remembered that day as if it had happened yesterday. A ring had fallen from her grasp and rolled under one of the wardrobes in her room. Unable to retrieve it by reaching under the cabinet, she attempted to move it (something she could never do before, but tried nevertheless), only to find that the wardrobe skidded across the floor with ease. Miriel soon realized how great her strength truly was, but kept it secret.
Upon this discovery, her thoughts swiftly turned to Mithrandir and his last visit to Minas Tirith three years earlier. She was feeling down that day. Both Boromir and Faramir had departed the White City, to contest the might of the Enemy on Gondor’s borders. She had sat alone by the fountain of the Citadel, when the old wizard joined her. He made some rather offhanded comments (or so she thought at the time) about how great her foremothers were. He advised her to study the lore of her people, particularly the women, and to see if she could find anything on the Dagnir. She had dismissed his words at the time, finding them both strange and senseless.
Yet when her “powers” kicked in, Miriel began to delve into the history of her people, the Númenoreans of old. Buried deep in the vaults of the Citadel, she came across writings concerning the Slayer. While the scrolls did not go into any great detail, they did mention that the Council of Watchers in Middle-earth was based in the northern kingdom of Arnor, and that that was where the Watcher’s Diaries were housed.
Unfortunately, the northern kingdom had been destroyed long ago, but there were still whisperings, even in Gondor, that many men had survived the great battles and continued to dwell in those parts, hunting the wicked creatures in the wilds of northern Eriador. She knew that if she were to embrace her Calling, she would need to find those men in the north.
But, slaying wasn’t the life for Miriel, and she couldn’t understand why she, of all people, had been chosen. She was the Steward’s daughter, for Eru’s sake. She didn’t long for adventure or warmongering. She preferred living her life of frivolity within the safety of the walls of Minas Tirith. Besides, how could one woman make a difference? She was no Lúthien, or, even Haleth, women of great renown from the Elder Days. She was not brave and had absolutely no skill or interest in weaponry.
Two months later, in February, all that had changed. Miriel had found herself most anxious to leave her beloved city, to answer her Calling, and to fulfill her destiny. She knew that Denethor would never allow her to go, and if she attempted to flee, she would get caught and would then have to answer to the Lord of Gondor, something she wanted to avoid at all costs. If she were to leave, there would be no coming back. So, she took her time, planning and plotting, preparing for that inevitable day.
That is where Bregolas comes into the story. If Miriel were to learn the craft of combat, she needed to find a suitable teacher. Her brothers were definitely out of the question since they would find her sudden interest in warfare suspicious, so that ruled them out. Her thoughts turned to Bregolas, who was considered one of the mightiest warriors in all of Gondor. He was also a dear friend of Boromir, and on very good terms with the Steward. He was always welcome in their home.
Before she had left for her extended holiday in Dol Amroth a year ago, Bregolas had merely looked at her as Boromir’s little sister. However, upon her return in September, he viewed her quite differently.
Perhaps it is as Boromir had said upon her return. “The sea air has changed you, Miriel, for you have blossomed into womanhood and have become the fairest maiden in all our land. I’m afraid I may have to fight off the many suitors who will come seeking your hand!”
His comment caused her to flush, but his words proved to be true.
Bregolas often went out of his way to speak with her since that day. It was obvious that he had become rather fond of her, and would often tell her that the elvish blood of her mother’s kin could only be seen in her, not her brothers. They did become fast friends, though the thought of their friendship becoming more filled Miriel with doubt. He was handsome; there was no doubting that. His chiseled features more closely resembled the statues of kings than most other men in Gondor. But he was older than she, being Boromir’s age, and while he was ready to settle down and start a family, she was not. Very seldom did she think of such things.
At the beginning of March, Miriel began to put phase one of her plan into action. She convinced herself that she could share her secret with Bregolas and longed to acquire the skills needed for battle. That meant she’d have to spend time with the Gondorian warrior alone, and Denethor would never approve of such a thing, unless Miriel played her cards right.
The opportunity presented itself on the fifth of March, as she remembered well. It was a cold and dreary day. Dark grey clouds stretched out as far as the eye could see. Heavy rains lashed the white, stone city, sending streams of water across the courtyard outside the tall window Miriel sat before. Her gaze was fixed to the east, where the clouds lingering over Mordor were blacker than night.
She recalled, weeks ago, overhearing her father speaking with his councilors about the great battle of Men which would take place in Denethor’s lifetime, and, to Miriel, it seemed that that time was fast approaching.
As she sat there, transfixed, an image came to her mind: the shadows of Mordor moved further west until all of Gondor lay shrouded in an impenetrable darkness, bringing with it despair, destruction and death.
She shuddered, turning her eyes from Mordor to the pools of water forming on the stone floor of the courtyard.
Miriel already believed that the malice of Sauron had found its way into Minas Tirith. In fact, she was sure of it. Changes had come over her father in the past year; changes that she deemed were rooted in darkness. And from that root were sprouting shoots of deceit that would eventually spread throughout the city, to the detriment of all its inhabitants.
She shuddered again.
A noise from behind brought her out of her deep thoughts. She turned, glancing over her shoulder. Denethor had entered the room and was stoking the fire.
“There’s a chill in the air,” he remarked.
Miriel didn’t answer, but looked back out the window, grim-faced.
A few minutes later, her father took a seat beside her. He fixed his keen grey eyes on her, watching her, as she stared to the east. “What troubles you, Miriel?” he asked with concern.
The young woman sighed, staring unblinkingly at the darkness looming over Mordor. “It’s coming, isn’t it, Father? The doom that the Dark Lord has long been preparing will soon strike our city, will soon strike Minas Tirith,” she whispered.
Denethor followed her gaze, looking at Mordor in the distance. He wished he could lie and tell her it wasn’t so. “Yes,” he answered softly. “The great battle is coming.”
“And what of me, Lord? What should happen to me when that time comes?”
Miriel’s gaze never left the window, but Denethor shifted his eyes back to his daughter.
“What is it that you mean?” queried the Lord of Gondor.
She paused and then in a faraway voice answered, “The enemy will fall upon the city like locusts, hewing those that stand in their way. Vast will be his armies, too great for us to overcome. They will seek to destroy the mightiest lord of the free people in Middle-earth, they will seek you, my Father. What shall become of me when all is lost?” Tears welled in her eyes. “Why is it that I feel I will be captured and taken to the Land of Shadow, perhaps as a reward for one of the Dark Lord’s loyal servants, or, maybe to suffer horribly in the Dark Tower?”
Denethor was grieved at heart to hear such utterances from his daughter. He deemed that she had foreseen things as he had, but he would not have her despair, not yet.
“Do not think such thoughts! As long as there is strength in this old body of mine, I will see to it that you are protected. I will never allow any to harm you. Never!
A tear escaped from the corner of Miriel’s eye.
Denethor watched as it rolled down her cheek and splattered onto her velvety emerald green gown.
“How will you protect me, Lord, when your city is under attack?”
“The Guards of the Citadel are commanded to protect those of my line, including you, Miriel,” replied Denethor. “They are the mightiest warriors in all of Gondor, chosen for their proficiency in combat, and will not fail us.” His face became grave, his eyes doubtful. “Do you have so little faith in the blood of Westernesse?”
“It is not that I lack faith, Father, but the blood of the Númenor is not as it once was. As a people, we have fallen from grace - though by no fault of our own - that is, those that live today are not responsible for the actions of our predecessors. The Valar have taken away the gift they had given to our forebears, and with each generation, the years of life diminish - ”
“You have spent too much time reading the lore of old, Miriel!” interjected the Lord of Gondor. “It would do you good to devote more of your time to more savory endeavors - perhaps learn to play an instrument or pass the time gardening.”
Though Denethor tried to lighten her mood, it had the opposite effect. Miriel narrowed her eyes. Her cheeks began to redden with her surging anger. She slowly turned, facing her father.
“I open my heart to you, sharing what I foresee, and all you can say is that I have spent too much time learning about our forefathers! And you wonder why I drift away from you, why we are no longer close. You don’t listen. You don’t listen to me!
Perhaps you would be more inclined if my name was Boromir and I could wield a sword and lay the heads of your enemies at your feet!” she spat without thinking.
Miriel went to rise from her seat, but Denethor lay his hands on each of her arms, preventing her from doing so. Her verbal assault left him stunned. He felt as if he had been on the receiving end of a blow that he had not seen coming. His only desire was to set things right.
“What would you have me do, Miriel? What could I do to ease your troubled heart? Is there nothing that I can do?” he queried anxiously.
The young woman sank back in her chair. Pulling her arms free, she folded them across her chest. She locked eyes with her father and boldly said, “I would request that the Lord of Gondor designate a great warrior to act as my protector, one whose sole purpose is to protect me, and only me.”
Denethor’s brows shot up. He had not expected Miriel to ask such a thing. He leaned back in his chair and smiled. “My dear daughter I have many companies of men at my disposal and you merely ask for one warrior when I can give you hundreds!” he said with a laugh.
“I do not ask for hundreds. Only one,” she answered. “But I would like him to be a great captain and one of my own choosing.”
“And whom might that be?” asked Denethor, the smile still on his face.
“Bregolas, son of Halthor,” she replied without hesitation.
“Bregolas!” repeated Denethor, slightly taken aback. “A mighty Captain he is, indeed!” The smile faded from his face as he considered her request. His eyes remained locked with hers, and he tried desperately to pierce her thoughts.
However, Miriel shielded her mind against him, blocking the Lord of Gondor from seeing her thoughts or knowing her intentions.
Denethor let out a heavy sigh, shaking his head. “I loathe the thought of relinquishing Bregolas from his position with the Tower Guard, for he has proved his loyalty and prowess many times over.”
Miriel’s bottom lip began to quiver. Tears formed in her eyes once again. From the sound of it, her father was not about to let go of so valiant a warrior.
“There, there, Miriel, do not cry,” said Denethor kindly. He leaned forward in his chair, patting her hand comfortingly with his. “If that is your heart’s desire, then I will see that is done. As soon as Bregolas returns from the field, I shall summon him to the Citadel and bestow upon him a new title - the Personal Guard of the Steward’s Daughter.”
Miriel’s eyes instantly brightened. A huge grin came to her face. “Thank you, Father,” she said with a squeal of delight, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. “I shall no longer live in fear, and will feel safe wherever I may go.”
“I would not have it any other way, my daughter. I would not have it any other way.”
Six days later, Bregolas returned to the city with his men. Immediately, Denethor summoned him to the Citadel.
Miriel stood beside her father’s seat when Bregolas entered the Great Hall. She saw the look of dismay in his eyes when the Lord of Gondor took away his title, and the look of joy that replaced it when he heard his newly appointed one.
Though his face remained expressionless, Bregolas’ eyes did dart to Miriel for a moment when he heard that he was to be her personal guard. He understood that this was Miriel’s doing, and was glad, for he believed that this was a sign that she had the same feelings, as he had for her. Though he’d soon realize, that was not the case.
A couple of days later, Miriel decided it was time to confide in Bregolas the real reason why she had chosen him. Wishing to go where no ears could overhear them, she asked him to come with her to the House of Stewards, where all the former Stewards of Gondor lay entombed in never-ending sleep. None were permitted to pass through Fen Hollen, the gate leading to the tombs, without the Lord of Gondor’s permission, something that Miriel was always assured. In times of disquiet, she often went there, finding peace amongst the dead. And, many times, she found her troubles lessened after talking to Ecthelion, her grandfather, whom she vaguely remembered from childhood.
Bregolas was none too fond to enter the House of Stewards. He thought it unsettling to be surrounded by so many dead Lords, and reluctantly followed the young woman.
Miriel paid him little mind, and marched over to the marble table in which Ecthelion lay in dreamless sleep. She kissed the well-preserved forehead of her grandsire before sliding a flower beneath his folded hands that rested on his chest.
The massive elongated chamber glowed with a soft light from what few lamps that had been lit. Most of the room remained dark and the shadows that danced eerily upon the walls caused the mighty Bregolas to shudder.
“Have you finished?” he asked, looking nervously about the chamber. “Can we go?” he added with an air of hope to his voice.
Miriel continued to look at her grandfather. “There is something I need to tell you, something that you must keep secret.” She turned toward the warrior. “Can you promise me, Bregolas, that what I’m about to tell you, you will not share with another living soul?”
Bregolas was intrigued. He was beginning to understand why she had chosen this spot to reveal whatever secret she was keeping. His trepidation lessened, only to be replaced with curiosity.
“I promise,” he vowed, staring at her with interest.
Miriel took a deep breath before saying, “I’m the Slayer.”
He screwed his face in confusion. “The what?”
“The Slay-er,” she said, enunciating her words slowly.
“I don’t understand,” he replied, still puzzled. “What is the Slayer?”
Miriel was rapidly becoming annoyed. Didn’t other Gondorians show any remote interest in the history of their people? What was the world coming to?
she thought to herself.
Instead of trying to explain things, she moved toward the center of the heavy marble table on which Ecthelion lay, and, with both hands, easily lifted the slab from the floor, Ecthelion and all.
Bregolas’ jaw dropped. He marveled at what he was seeing. “How can this be?” he queried in shock.
The young woman gently placed the table back on the floor. “I told you - I’m the Slayer.”
He blinked a few times, his mind spinning with too many thoughts. Bregolas’ face then hardened. “This cannot be,” he said softly. “This must be the work of he that dwells in the Dark Land.” His grey eyes widened with fear. “O, Miriel, you’ve been bewitched by the Dark Lord!” he exclaimed.
Miriel cursed under her breath and stepped toward the young man.
Bregolas took an apprehensive step backwards, unsure what Miriel would do next.
“You nit-wit!” she cried out, kicking him in the shins.
“Ow!” he sounded, immediately rubbing his leg. “Why did you do that?”
“Because you don’t believe me, and are witless! How can you think that I, of all people
, am in league with Sauron,” she growled bitterly. “It sickens me to see how little you know of the lore of our people, particularly the women. There have been Slayers before me, and I daresay there will be long after. If you think that I am merely a tool of the Dark Lord then be off! I no longer require your services. Run back to your Lord and tell him that I’m unruly and too demanding for you. I was wrong to think that you’d help me.”
She turned and started to storm off when Bregolas grabbed her by the arm.
“Don’t go!” he said, his face riddled with confusion and sadness. “I… I was alarmed at your strength is all. Miriel, I believe you. And I’m sorry. Do you have it in your heart to forgive me?”
She paused, her eyes searching his in the dimness of the House. “Yes, yes I do forgive you, Bregolas,” she answered, giving him a reassuring smile. “I know that this comes as a shock to you, as it did to me as well.” She stepped closer to him. He did not back away, and continued to clutch her arm. “I want to learn how to fight, how to properly wield a weapon. I want to be like you.”
His face then became grave. “Alas! It is now dawning on me that a Slayer is meant to slay. I do not like that thought at all, but I will help you as I may.”
That had happened three months ago, and Miriel had progressed nicely since then. Nearly every day, she and Bregolas practiced, for hours, sometimes in his home, sometimes in a deserted alley, and, on occasion, in the House of Stewards. As long as they were able to practice in private, she didn’t care where their sessions took place. Already, many in Minas Tirith were gossiping about how much time the two spent together. Miriel went along with it, letting people believe that she and Bregolas were having some torrid affair. It was sure better than having them learn the truth.
Bregolas waited patiently as Fíriel made the final alterations to the gown that Miriel would be wearing to her birthday feast. When the seamstress finished, she had the Steward’s daughter try on the breeches that she had made for her. Miriel had been wearing Faramir’s old clothing to practice in and they did not fit her as well as she liked, so she had Fíriel make three pairs of her very own. These she would take with her when she eventually left the city, something she planned to do soon after her birthday (though none knew of that, not even Bregolas). Before leaving the shop, she paid for the breeches with her own money so that Denethor could not question her over that most unusual purchase.
From there, she and Bregolas headed to the fourth level to have a quick bite. When they entered the tunnel leading to the next gate, they found themselves following behind a man who began to hum a song of Númenor.
Miriel stopped dead in her tracks. A cold chill swept over her, seemingly freezing her to the spot.
Bregolas had gone a couple of paces more before he realized that Miriel was not at his side. He went back to her. “Miriel. Miriel, what’s wrong?” he asked.
She didn’t immediately respond, and looked as if she had fallen into some trance-like state.
He snapped his fingers in her face, hoping to break whatever spell she had fallen under.
“What’s wrong?” he asked again, placing his hands on her shoulders and giving her a good shake.
Miriel came back to her senses, blinking several times. “It’s - it’s nothing,” she murmured. “I - I just hate hummers.”
Her mood instantly turned foul, as she took off through the tunnel.
Bregolas didn’t understand why she had reacted that way over someone merely humming a song. No matter how much he tried, he couldn’t get her to speak of it. He did, however, manage to convince her to eat before they dropped off her packages at his cottage on the second level. They then set off for the main gates of the city to begin their afternoon of training.
Over the past few days, they had moved on to archery and practiced mostly in a sparsely wooded area at the feet of Mindolluin outside the gates of the city but within the walls of Rammas Echor. The trees provided some cover from prying eyes and only those tending to the livestock or crops in the nearby fields ever came near, and were much too busy to give the couple a second thought.
Unfortunately, archery proved a much more difficult skill to learn than handling standard weapons, and Miriel’s frustration grew with each passing hour. She was nearly ready to admit defeat and forget acquiring the skill altogether, when the sound of trumpets rang out in the afternoon, bouncing from the walls of Rammas Echor to the sheer mountain side.
Stepping outside of the trees, she saw a group of people riding up the South Road from Harlond. Her heart almost leapt out of her chest when she saw the banner of a white ship and silver swan set on a blue field flying amidst the group.
“Imrahil!” she said breathlessly. “Imrahil has come for my birthday!” She tossed aside the bow in her hand and ran from the woods, eager to greet her kin…