Beta'd by halfthewords, the best of bunnies.
The Captain and the Queen [1/6]
Characters/Pairing: Gradually-building Boromir/Arwen; established Aragorn/Arwen and Aragorn/Boromir; leading up to Aragorn/Boromir/Arwen. Also featuring: Faramir and a literal village full of OCs.
Rating: NC-17 total, PG in this part
Words: ~32,800 in total (Yes, really, I broke my own record); ~4300 in this part
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters belong to the Tolkien estate. I’m just playing with them.
Summary: Three years after she was crowned the Queen of Gondor, Arwen finds Boromir in a small village near the Stone of Erech. Finding him seems easy when compared to her new Quest of bringing the Son of Gondor back home. Sort of fulfils this Arwen/Aragorn/Boromir prompt on hobbit_kink.
Notes: Subtitled “An Exploration of the Problems of a Postwar Gondor”. By the way, the fic is done – I’m just posting it part by part due to the length.
Warnings: Eventual het sex, gay sex, threesome sex; politics, Arwen-centric.
The sun rose late in the village, for the White Mountain hid her light from the plains of Lamedon until late in the morn. Yet Arwen was long used to waking up at first light, and though her body was mortal now, it remembered Imladris’s dawn well, and she shook herself awake in the darkness. Her feet fell onto the cold stone ground, and she walked towards the small mirror hung up at the wall.
Customs of women’s hairstyles differed from province to province in Gondor. Arwen remembered that in Lossarnach and Minas Tirith, ladies of high birth wore their hair in intricate braids wound around their heads. Here, in a small village far away from Gondor’s main cities, women worked as often as men, and their hair was usually braided low on their necks – enough to pull the strands away from their eyes. It was a useful hairstyle, and one Arwen followed immediately once she heard of it, for it hid the curved tips of her Elven ears that she would rather have none see. Then she took a small pot of red-and-brown face-paint she had with her since Lossarnach, and rubbed the paint onto her face to imitate a disfiguring burn. For a final touch, she took the dark, sooty ash of last night’s fire from her small grate, streaking her face, wrists and hands to allow the eyes of others to easily slide past her.
Morning saw the inn silent, near all living creatures asleep except for the servants who were just awakening. Arwen loved these quiet mornings, for she could walk down the rickety stairs of the inn down to its tavern and watch as the servants trailed in, already chattering. They would make breakfast for the customers who would come in three hours after dawn, when the first work at the farm was finished. Those who came in then were mostly bachelors in their second or third decade of living; Men without wives or mothers to cook for them, and thus had to rely upon the tavern for food.
All here knew her as ‘Ioreth’, a name she had taken from an old woman in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith in a small gesture to honour her. Arwen felt guilt at the minor lies she told to them, but she kept silent about all other parts of her life. Most of the village did not ask – they were used to the lost and lonely trailing in and taking up a place within them. The village itself was young, barely three years old, built up by desperate souls who had lost all they had to orc raids and looked for a new place to live that would not strangle their hearts at the sight. These plains beside the river Morthond and facing the Stone of Erech had been long abandoned, but Arwen had learned that desperate Men were brave as well, and they took heart at King Elessar’s cleansing of the Path of the Dead to take advantage of the fertile fields fed by Morthond during its floods.
She was lifting the chairs to place them on the floor to ready for the day ahead when the stranger came in. Arwen betook him for a man of the city; not merely because he was the first to appear on every morn, but also due to his height – he was as tall as any of the Dúnedain, though that fact was hard to find out, for he was often hunched over, whether sitting or standing. She would suspect the quality of his voice and speech as well, but she had not heard him say a single word in the two months since she had first arrived in the village.
“Ioreth!” Turning, Arwen blinked at the sound of the landlord’s hiss. She placed the last stool on the ground before walking over, taking care to place her feet harder on the ground, hiding her Elven glide.
“What is it, master?” she asked.
“Don’t just stand there and stare at him,” the landlord grumbled. He pushed a full plate and a tankard of ale towards her. “Bring this over to him, will you?”
Arwen nodded on automatic, concealing her heart’s joyful leap. Here was a chance to know a Man, another one whom she was supposed to rule and yet could not quite understand. She picked up the dishes and tankard, balancing them on her hands a little clumsily before she returned to the stranger.
“Your breakfast, sire,” she murmured, keeping her eyes down as was appropriate for women of ‘Ioreth’s’ station.
Up close, Arwen noted that he was thin, though the bones that showed through the collar of his rough shirt seemed to hint at higher breeding. Arwen had heard that, amongst Men, there were times when children were born between couples whom shared no marriage ties. Perhaps this stranger was one such unfortunate soul?
The stranger nodded. “Thank you,” said he, and he turned his eyes up to look at her.
In that one moment as their gazes met, Arwen felt that the air in her lungs was stolen away.
Long ago, in what seemed to be another lifetime, a Man had suffered through great travails to arrive at her father’s home. She spoke to that Man but once in his time in Imladris, when he had stumbled into a pavilion in the gardens while looking for the way back into the halls. Though Arwen had invited him to stay and partake in tea with her, he had declined, and fled from her as if she was a malevolent spirit. Yet during those quick moments, Arwen had fixed his image in her mind: his proud bearing, the red-gold of his hair (darker than the Valyrian shade, yet rivalling it in beauty), and the striking spring-green of his eyes.
Arwen could no longer claim to be immortal, yet she was still an Elf, and Elven memories did not fade. She knew the Man sitting in front of her to be ghost made flesh once more; a Man who was said to be dead and greatly mourned over. In that moment of recognition, she wished for naught else but to reach out for him, to grasp his shoulders tight and shake him hard with all the Elven strength she still had left in her. Why, she wanted to ask, did you not return? There are so many still grieving for your loss, and I fear they always will. Why have you hidden yourself away so?
Yet she would give herself away, and the efforts she had taken to appear a plain woman were far too great to be thrown away in a rash confrontation. Instead, she watched Boromir of Gondor take up his tankard of ale and drain half of it in one long gulp. She curtseyed to his small nod of dismissal, and noted with satisfaction that there was no recognition in those familiar eyes.
Instead of speaking, she retreated back into the kitchens, hiding her shaking hands in the wide sleeves of her rough cotton dress. Arwen knew without asking that Boromir would not give her the answer she so sought: she would have to find them herself.
Servant girls were few in the inn, for most of the stragglers who came in were Men who had lost their families: farmers and widows who were left the only survivors after their farmsteads or even their village were destroyed by orc packs during the long war against Mordor. When she first begun on her Quest for knowledge, Arwen had found her Westron tested, for she was far too accustomed to speaking with only lords and nobles of Men, and many of the smaller folk had shied away from her when she attempted to talk to them.
It had been a year and some months since she had begun (she was Elven still in her counting of years, for though mortality had set aches in her flesh after a long day of work in the inn, she could not fully understanding the passing of the seasons as the ticking down until the end of a lifetime), and she thought she had learned the Westron of the smaller folk well enough to speak to her.
“Master,” she asked the landlord after the moon had replaced the sun in the sky. “Who is the man who comes first every morn for his breakfast?”
The landlord looked up from where he was bent over his accounts, coins earned for the day’s work scattered around him. He gave her a surprised look. “He’s a farmhand, that’s what he is; works with the cows and the horses, mostly. He’s a good hand with them too: quiet, able to calm the animals down. He’s never been a bit of trouble, so that’s all we know of him.”
“Does he have a name?”
Shrugging, the landlord picked up a silver piece and bit it. Arwen learned, after much watching, that it was a manner of testing if the silver was true. “He has never given one. We call him Dwyte, sometimes – some of the women think he comes from Rohan, and it’s fitting, with that hair of his.”
“Has no one asked about his true name?” Arwen asked, surprised.
Giving her a wry look, the landlord pushed away his papers, placing his elbows on the wood as he looked up at her. “We don’t ask for names around here, Ioreth,” he said. “You came and gave yours easily, and there’s nowt to be blamed for that. But for some, the old names remind us only of what is lost, and they would rather be named anew.”
How strange Men were still to her! For the Elves, names carried great weight, for Elven parents were prone to foresight, and what they saw for the future of their child would influence their choice of names greatly. Even for the Men Arwen knew, their names were strong reminders of their heritage and House.
“I see,” she said.
“What is your sudden interest in him, eh?” the landlord asked, and he grinned, leaning forward to her slightly. “You had a good look at him this morning, hadn’t you? Did you find him comely?”
Arwen ducked her head, stifling her laughter deep within her lungs. Such words were the very reason for her disguise, for she knew that any who knew she was Gondor’s Queen would never dare to tease her, and would hide their true selves away to show her only the propriety they thought was due to her for her station.
“Perhaps,” she said, twisting the tablecloth in her hands around her fingers. She thought suddenly of Aragorn, and wondered what he would think of his wife’s appreciation for the Man he dared not admit to loving, and allowed the giggle the spring forth from her lips. “He is rather fair to look upon.”
The landlord chuckled, but shook his head almost immediately. “Best you give up on that thought,” he warned her, his gaze serious as he caught hers. “I have met many Men like him, Ioreth, and they’re not ones to be tied down. He’d run at the slightest sign of anything of that sort, mark my words.”
You are sharper-eyed than you think you are, master, Arwen thought. Aye, she knew now that Boromir would for certain leave the village if she ever approached him and revealed herself. Surely not out of fear of marriage – for the very thought itself was preposterous – but Arwen knew he would flee nonetheless: Boromir seemed to have gone through much trouble to appear as just another displaced stranger from the long wars instead of the hero he truly was, and any exposure would have him fleeing like a terrified deer.
She still did not understand what precisely it was that he was afraid of; the reasons he had for hiding from Minas Tirith and all those who loved and missed him dearly. Though their shared King never once spoke of Boromir to her, Arwen knew deep within her heart that Aragorn had long forgiven Boromir for taking the Ring, and that at times the ache of the emptiness that Boromir left behind was almost too hard to bear.
“Thank you, master.” She gave the landlord a distracted curtsey, occupied by her own thoughts. But the Man only gave a wave in dismissal, and Arwen returned to her own ponderings as she took the stairs up to the small room that she had been given for her own in return for her work.
Should she send a letter to the Prince of Ithlien to inform him that his brother was still alive? No, Arwen decided almost immediately – Boromir could not be rediscovered in one of the small, nameless villages of Gondor. He must return to Minas Tirith with the silver trumpets announcing his presence – a hero’s welcome. However, for that to happen, Arwen would have to convince him to ride back East towards Minas Tirith, and that seemed to be a great task in itself. It would require every bit of wisdom and every scrap of knowledge of Men she had.
Yet it was one she must accomplish alone. Arwen could not leave Boromir here in obscurity, and neither would she call down the entire court of Minas Tirith or even Ithilien to expose him before she knew the reasons why he chose to hide.
The next few days Arwen spent making as many subtle enquiries as she could regarding ‘Dwyte’, and received many teasing remarks about her sudden interest in the man which she tried to dismiss in a manner that would allow ‘Ioreth’ to keep her honour while preventing the good people of the village of suspecting any other reason for her interest. How odd the situations her quest had sent her into indeed, when she would rather be thought to have affections towards a Man who was not her beloved instead of divulging the truth.
Seven passes the Sun had made through the skies when Boromir found her in the tavern’s stables. She was spreading straw throughout the horses’ stalls when a shadow at the door blocked the fading light of the sunset. Arwen turned, watching as Boromir stepped into the stables, and he took a rake from the corner and begun to work without a word.
She knew that there were words on his tongue. Though she felt a tug of impatience in her breast, she only waited.
“I knew a woman named Ioreth once,” said Boromir finally, his voice echoing through the depths of the stables. He walked out of the stall, giving a smile to the calm mare inside before he pinned Arwen with a sharp emerald gaze. “The last I heard, she was a healer in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith, not a widowed seamstress from Lossarnach.”
He lifted his head, a glint of defiance in his gaze. “Aye, lady, I have been asking about you just as you have for me.”
“So you have,” Arwen murmured, ducking her head down to hide the thrill she felt that Boromir had yet to see through her disguise. “Yet Lossarnach is a large city, and the name of Ioreth is a common one, is it not?”
“You know her then, the healer-woman,” said Boromir, leaning against the closed door of the stall. “You have been to Minas Tirith.”
“Aye, I have,” replied Arwen. “Minas Tirith is a city we both know well.”
She raised her head, and with one hand lifted her heavy braid upwards, so the hair no longer obscured the pointed tip of her Elven ear. Watching as Boromir’s eyes widened, she took three steps forward immediately, closing the gap between them and pressing a hand to his mouth.
“Hush,” she hissed. She was of height to Boromir – a fact that, she remembered, was not missed by those who teased ‘Ioreth’ for her interest in ‘Dwyte’ – and she held his gaze firmly, refusing to allow him to turn away. “Do not make a sound of alarm. Ioreth the seamstress is born through great labour, and I will not have you kill her with your surprise.”
Boromir looked at her for another long moment, eyes still wide, before he closed them and nodded. When Arwen dropped her hand back to her side, he made no sound but for the soft, rasping breaths that escaped his lips.
“My Lady,” whispered Boromir finally. He jerked, as if struck, before he shook his head. “Nay, ‘tis ‘Your Majesty’ that I must name you, no?”
“You will do no such thing,” Arwen huffed. She tugged her hair back down over her ears and slouched over, becoming the plain seamstress once more instead of the Queen. “We are both here under false pretences, my lord, and I will not call you by your true name if you hide mine in turn.”
Boromir stilled, and stubbornness set almost immediately into his features. “I am no lord, and I have no name but ‘Dwyte’, Ioreth,” he said, the words half-mangled by gritted teeth.
“Your words carry too much anger for conviction, and they betray you. You knew me immediately, yet there are few mortal eyes who have ever truly looked upon me,” replied Arwen, tilting her head slightly to the side (an Elf-like gesture, she knew). She did not laugh, but instead leaned forward, until their breaths ghosted against each other’s skins. “Do you think my memory has faded? You may wear rags, and your shoulders are no longer as broad, yet your face has not changed, and neither have your eyes.”
There was a long moment of silence as their eyes fixed upon each other, neither willing to back down. Arwen knew beyond a doubt that the Man standing before her was Boromir; knew, too, that Boromir could have made a far greater effort to cast doubts upon her assumption. She had expected him to do so; had collected all the reasons for her belief during the past few days. Yet Boromir did not ask her for it even though he seemed to have gone to great efforts to conceal his true identity from others.
Perhaps he did not dissemble before her now because he was in truth like a child playing hide-and-seek – he wished to be found. Or – she thought wryly – it was more likely that he was taken aback by her revelation, and knew not how to answer the one in front of him who was both Queen and plain working woman; Elf princess and mortal commoner.
How little she knew of Boromir! In her hands she held only guesses without any way of confirming them as truth. Boromir was as much a mystery to her as Men had been before Aragorn, yet instead of frustration or despair Arwen felt excitement thrumming through her veins. There had always been a love for learning within her, and she found that there was delight not only in the learning of the ways of Men as a whole but as their myriad different selves as well.
It was Boromir who turned away first, and he made a soft growl at the base of his throat. There were deeper lines carved into the sides of his eyes now, Arwen noted, and watched as the Man rubbed his knuckles into his eyes, looking tired and almost defeated. Her hand ached to reach out to offer comfort, yet she did not think it would be welcome.
“Why have you come to this village?” he asked finally. “There are dangers here unnumbered, and you are far from any guards who could safeguard your person.” He paused, and rubbed his mouth in a gesture of sheepishness. “Truth be told, you are the last person I expected when I confronted Ioreth.”
“I am Ioreth,” said Arwen mildly, though there was strong steel in her voice. In the last stall, a mare nickered, sounding slightly distressed at the tension that was suddenly snapping in the air. “I have no need for guards, for I have spent long years travelling alone without them.”
She paused for a moment, and could not help but sigh. She did not blame Boromir for his assumptions; the time she spent in Minas Tirith told her that the noble ladies of the city were often kept like hothouse flowers, sheltered, pampered, and constantly guarded. Turning away from him, she headed towards the mare, opening the stall door. The mare nuzzled her cheek, nickering once more, and Arwen stroked the long nose, and her fingers combed through the rough mane.
“You asked for my reasons without giving any of you own,” she pointed out, watching out of the corner of her eyes as Boromir flinched slightly.
Drawing a piece of carrot out from her pockets, she fed it to the mare, leaning in and blowing her breath over the nostrils. The silence stretched on between them, and when she realised Boromir would not tell her his reasons right now, she shook her head. “No matter.”
Taking a brush from the wall, Arwen started to brush down the mare as she continued. The work busied her hands, and gave her excuse to not look into Boromir’s eyes.
“I am an Elf, though mortal I am now,” she said, keeping her voice low. “For long years I lived within the valley of Imladris and the forests of Lothlórien, and though my father kept strong ties with my uncle’s people, I met them rarely, and understood none until Aragorn.” She shook her head at the thought of the long years wasted – yet how could she have known in her youth that Lúthien’s choice would also be her own?
“Though I know great stores of tales and legends of Men, I have spoken to so few of them.” The mare’s mane was now smooth, and Arwen stroked her nose one more time before she started brushing down her back. “Yet ‘tis Men who acknowledge me as Queen; ‘tis Men whom I hold a great duty to. I will not be a mere prop beside their King, much less stay in the Citadel like a caged bird, forever looking outwards behind glass towards the people who are now mine.”
Dropping to her knees, she patted the mare’s knee, urging her gently to lift up one foot to check her shoe. “Queens know and hear little, and while my ladies-in-waiting are willing to tell me all they knew, vast knowledge is still kept from me. Poor seamstresses command little reverence, and thus they hear much.” Glancing at Boromir out of the corner of her eyes, she spoke the next words carefully:
“Surely you know that to be true: does Strider not pass unnoticed, able to know the lay of the land and its people far more than Elessar?”
Boromir started at the sound of Aragorn’s names, a look passing over his eyes. Swift it was, and quickly hidden, but Arwen recognised it nonetheless: she saw the same in the mirror whenever she thought of her beloved, and she dipped her head down to hide the smile.
“Gondor is lucky to have you for her Queen,” said Boromir, and his footsteps were silent as he approached her. He held out his hand, and she took it to stand, looking deep into forest-green eyes.
“Nay,” she replied. “’Tis but my duty. To do any less will be to disappoint those who have given me such honour.”
“Am I undutiful in your eyes, then?” asked Boromir, and the uncertainty in his eyes belied his mocking tone. “I have hidden myself away, and no longer serve Gondor as her soldier.”
“Do you judge the farmers, stablehands, weavers, and all those others of this village to be undutiful creatures?” countered Arwen. “Nay, Dwyte serves Gondor still. Though you have chosen to serve in a manner I cannot understand, I will not judge you. You have your reasons, have you not?”
Boromir turned away. “Aye,” he whispered.
Arwen reached up, her tips of her fingers – still smooth and without calluses – brushing over his jaw, drawing his face back towards hers.
“I know you do not wish to tell them to me now,” she told him. “I will not force the words from you. Know this, however: whenever you wish to tell, I will listen, and you can always find me in the inn.”
She took a step away from him, beginning to head towards the stable doors. Too long she had stayed here – there were more chores to be done before sundown – and she had spoken all that she could this time.
“Ioreth,” Boromir called. “What right has a farmhand to the ear of a Queen?”
Blinking, Arwen looked at the Man over her shoulder, giving him a small, soft smile. “As much right as any Man,” said the Queen of Gondor. “However, a farmhand has every right to the ear of a seamstress; did your tongue not name me Ioreth?”
Giving him a small curtsey, Arwen swept out of the stables, leaving Boromir still pondering her words and the strange masks they wore in this small village far from the city he loved.