Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Trials of Piersyn Wyne, Part 4

I confess I do not know how to write down the many things that happened to me this day. Right now I am seated by my own bedside with a single candle glowing softly. The weather cleared, but the wind turned southeast and blows terribly chill. The streets of Bree are deserted this night: it is as if all the world knows of my sorrow.

I suppose the best thing for me to do is simply recount everything here, just as it happened. Late last night, despite the driving rain and howling winds, Leecher Cartwell of Combe visited me at my room in the Comb and Wattle. He had brought me a poultice to help close the wound on my leg. I thanked him heartily, and he left me to my sleep.

I slept much longer than I had intended, not waking until well past noon, but I felt quite myself again. My leg remained stiff and is still sore to the touch, nonetheless I immediately prepared to leave. I purchased a fine breakfast (or lunch, rather) from the innkeeper (the hard cider at the Comb and Wattle is an exceptionally fine brew!) and started for home. It is not a long trek by any measure, but I found it difficult anyway. Finally, I reached the Boar Fountain and saw my home just beyond.

Father greeted me as he always does, and soon we were deep in talk over meat and ale at the table. I will spare you the trivial things of which we spoke -- the latest edicts from Mayor Tenderlarch, the banishment of criminals -- they are all so very insignificant compared with what happened when I told father of my last moments with Jagger Jack.

"And then the villain said to me, 'You will never win this war, Gondorian!' What a fool, that cannot tell a Bree-lander from... father?"

Father's face had suddenly fallen ash-white and his hands fell to his sides.

"Are you not well? What in Middle-earth is wrong?" I asked him.

"How could he know? What else did he say to you? Anything else?" I had never seen him so visibly upset about anything.

"No, nothing. He perished a moment later," I answered. He was silent for a long while.

"It was nothing but the ravings of a lunatic and a fool, you should pay it no heed," I said.

"Yes. Yes, you are right, of course."

"Father," I hesitated. "What does this mean? Is there something you are not telling me?"

He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it again. He looked at me and, for the first time in my life, I saw tears welling in his eyes.

"I wish to the heavens you had not asked me that question, boy. I have taught you never to lie, and I will not be proven a man of no honor, to fail in following my own teachings."

Slowly, he raised himself from his chair, turned his back to me, and walked to the nearby cupboard. From far back in its darkest corner, he brought forth a small strongbox wrought of steel and blackened iron. He placed this on the table between us, then reached for his belt. He always carried all of the important keys to the town on his belt, but from among the mass on its large, heavy ring he drew a small key of artisanal design. The lock of the strongbox clacked loudly when he turned it, as if it had never been opened before. Then, father reached in, holding something I could not see in the palm of his hand. He looked at me slowly, his voice cracked with pain.

"You... are not my son," he said at last. I was speechless. He held out his hand. On it, there lay a small golden coin, or perhaps it was a medallion. It was engraved using Dwarven Cirth with the single word: WYNE.

"I wanted to tell you for many years, but it never seemed the right time. Now, I think, fate has conspired to force this moment on me at last." He sighed heavily, and sank back into his chair. "I can only hope you are not angry with me."

I did not answer at once, but it was not for uncertainty: I was merely overwhelmed at what had just been revealed to me. "No, father, and so I will always call you, for you have been my father whether by blood or by chance," I said. He smiled, but did not look directly at me yet. "Still, I would know what you know of me and ... my past."

Father breathed deeply, then told me this tale.

"First of all, you should know that I've always loved you, Piers. Always. You know I've always told you your mother died in childbirth, and that was true. But poor Lucy did not die in your birth -- it was your sister's, who passed from illness before her first winter had gone. And so I was left alone for the most miserable two years of my life.

"But, twenty-one years ago I was still a younger man and, even as you have always known me, I was a regular member of the Watch. One night, not much unlike this one, what with the wind and the rain blowing so, I was on assignment watching the Great East Road south of town. I fancied I heard a commotion out ahead of me, though it was hard to be sure in the gale. I rode forward some ways, for what seemed like hours, always fearing to stumble upon some brigand raiding party and find myself at their mercy, but I met no one.

"Suddenly, I saw a tumbled mass of carts and waggons, just off the Road. It was very dark, but I'd say it was roughly a furlong east of the Yellow Tree, somewhere south of the marshes. Anyway, there was nothing in sight save the remains of what must have been a sizable caravan heading westward, most likely toward Bree itself.

"Naturally, I began to search among the wreckage for any indication of what fate had befallen the travelers. What I found was you, underneath an overturned horsecart."

"There was nothing to show where I had come from or why I was left behind?" I asked.

"No. Nothing. Nothing save that gold piece there in front of you, which I found trod into the mud nearby."

"But the brigand I slew in the Chetwood -- he called me a Gondorian. Was there some clue in the lost caravan to show it was from Gondor?" I asked. "And how would the brigand know such information in the first place?"

"As to how this Jack knew anything about you, I have no idea. Nor had I ever heard of him before you told me how you defeated him. The thought would seem incredible that some nameless highway robber would be tracking an orphaned foreigner in the Bree-land for twenty years. But then you also mentioned those dark-skinned Men that were with him. Who knows what land they came from or what lord they serve?

"Certainly I noticed the waggons and carts in the caravan were far more opulent than anything you would see in this part of the world, so I quickly decided they must have been from a larger kingdom. Dale was the first place to come to my mind, although Gondor is certainly a possibility. It is a terribly long ways off and the paths between the stone-land and Bree-land have not been safe for many long years. Nor have I ever heard of such a large emissary to have passed through Bree in my lifetime. I focused instead on that medallion there. I figured it was my best chance of learning what had happened to those folk."

"Of course I took it straight to the Scholar's Stair Archives to ask them what it might mean, but they could tell me nothing. Well, except that the writing used the Dwarf-runes that were common among that folk, but we get enough Dwarves trafficking through Bree to know their writings well enough, even if we can't always read them aright."

"Well, whatever I am or am not, I am certainly no Dwarf!" In spite of the gravity of the situation, I could not help but find myself grimly amused by all of this intrigue. Father chuckled softly.

"No, but I really have no idea what you are, although your friend in the Chetwood seemed to know something we do not, that much is clear. In any case, since there was nothing else for it, I took you in and raised you myself. I felt you were brought into my life at just the right time and I always tried to bring you up as my own son. I somehow knew this day might come. And, while it may seem to have come too quickly, perhaps that is not so." He looked at me.

"You are a strong man, Piers. Much stronger than I ever was, even when I was your age. As I look at you now, with the eyes of a fellow man and not as a father, I can see you could be a great soldier. But I am no Elf, with orbs of crystal to see the future as the old tales tell it -- I am just an old Watchman."

We were silent for a while.

"I ... expect you'll be wanting to learn more about yourself. Your heritage. Whether your... real family ... might still be found?" He asked, sounding as though he both knew the answer and wished to not hear it.

"I'm not sure," I said, but a great desire to travel the world had often gnawed at me, and now it flamed up with a furious intensity. Even as I spoke the words, I knew that father had already guessed my heart.

"Perhaps you should sleep on it," was what he said aloud. "No doubt things will seem very different in the morning."

"Yes, father," I said reflexively, and stood to head to my room.

"You know," he said, stopping me, "you don't have to call me that if you don't feel it is right. There is no denying I'm not really your father, and I have withheld the truth from you all these years."

I shook my head. "No. I call you that because that is what you are to me. Even if I was really the son of the lord of Gondor, no man could never wish for a kinder, wiser, or more honorable father than you."

"Reckon that's taking it a bit far," he said, clearly touched but trying not to show it, "Still, it's not right, is it? I don't even know you true name."

"My name," I said, "is Piersyn Wyne."

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