Brothers by Dawn Felagund

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Story Notes:

A double drabbunculus written for the Silmarillion Writers' Guild's Akallabeth in August project in 2009.


Author's Chapter Notes:

Then Tar-Ancalimon, son of Atanamir, became King, and he was of like mind; and in his day the people of Númenor became divided. On the one hand was the greater party, and they were called the King's Men, and they grew proud and were estranged from the Eldar and the Valar.


He walked with a heavier foot than most; in the lot of the dead, people tended to step carefully, lightly because of the plants. He didn't. There came a faint whiff of crushed vegetation: basil.

"You could've come to your father's own funeral," gaze fixed upon the apple tree Mother had planted there. It had three leaves, still curled upon themselves, like small green fists.

 

Father had always been proud of him, for he was quick-witted and diligent, and I might have sworn that he kept a store of sharp retorts beneath his tongue. He was an unlikely librarian, but perhaps that was why the King favored him. Father liked the way he looked--his first-born son!--in the line of servants behind the throne. He wheezed with delight when the King spoke at festivals and my brother (his first-born son!) stood smirking in the blur of faces behind him. He didn't have the sword then, or the heavy stride. He was just my brother.

 

"You know why I did not."

The sword at his side said why he did not. And the heavy-buckled belt. And the traipsing feet of one favored by the king.

 

I never amounted to much. Most of our parents' income went to his college; I worked on the docks, unloading ships. Sometimes there would be a glimmer in the west that would unfold, as it came nearer, into a ship: oarless and silent upon the waves. My Quenya was awkward ("like you're choking on your teeth, you nunce!") but I spoke it. Some of the Elves came to smile in greeting when they saw me. Once, they brought my small daughter a pendant. They said it was a seashell, but it looked like they'd cut a slice from a rainbow.

 

I brushed the dirt from my hands. The tree would send its branches into the sky and plunge its roots into the earth--into my father's flesh--and deliver him to--what? Immortality? "Elvish sentimentalism," my brother had pronounced, when I'd told him of Father's wishes. "He's still dead."

 

How did the boy who'd mocked and comforted me as a lad become one of the King's Men? It didn't evolve and there was no "sparking point" (as he would say of tavern-fights); the sword and the belt and the heavy stride just happened upon him. Our father looked uneasy, watching his firstborn son behind (nearer to) the King at festival last. "It is not that we fear more but accept less!" I heard someone shouting in the streets that night. I looked out but couldn't tell if it was my brother. It could have been any one of them.

 

I left him--my brother, now one of the King's Men--beside the grave until I heard him leave, then dared look back at the tiny tree, nearly lost amid a turbid snarl of vegetation planted upon the longer-dead, expecting to see it crushed, broken. But in a moment of Elvish sentimentalism, he'd left it intact.


Chapter End Notes:

This story is a drabbunculus, which is, to the best of my knowledge, a form of my own invention. Each time I write one, I swear that I never will write another. The basic idea is that you write a drabble (or, in this case, a double drabble) and then fit several more drabbles inside of it. It's really a ridiculous form, and I doubt I'll ever write another. I hope I won't. We'll see.

A lot of my inspiration for the underlying concept of this (double) drabbunculus comes from the American Civil War. I live in Maryland--about five miles from the Mason-Dixon Line that divided the Union North from the Confederate South--and my state fell in a gray area allied to neither (and, indeed, under martial law for fear that we, too, would secede from the Union). Frederick Douglass was enslaved near where my husband and I take our seaside holidays; Union soldiers camped overnight in what is now my hometown the day before the Battle of Gettysburg. In the midst of these conflicting traditions come the stories of families split apart by differing allegiances; of "brother fighting brother." Perhaps because it is a part of my home, because I can walk, whenever I please, on the land where these people fought and slept and died, then this notion has always haunted me, and when it fell to me to write a story for the topic "division of Numenorean people into King's Men and Elendili/Elf-friends," it came immediately to mind that Numenor under Tar-Ancalimon must have been much the same, that differing allegiances also estranged loved ones even before the division became more violent under Ar-Pharazon.



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