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At Tharbad's Greenway Spring Faire  by Dreamflower

B2MeM Challenge: Two photo prompts from lindahoyland: A cave. The starting point for an adventure? Someone's home, where danger lurks, a shelter?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/52734929@N08/15197108769/in/photostream/lightbox/
A waterfall in M-e or Valinor What happens? A romantic interlude, an accident, a swim?).
https://www.flickr.com/photos/52734929@N08/15383625425/lightbox/
Format: Vignette
Genre: Gapfiller, Friendship, Character Study
Ratings: G
Warnings: n/a
Characters: Faramir, Mablung
Pairings: n/a
Creators' Notes (optional): I could not help it, when I saw the prompts "cave" and "waterfall" in such close proximity they all but shouted at me. It took me a while to find my voice in this; originally I wanted to do this as a "frame story" with Faramir recounting it to the hobbits, but it was rather clunky. Not until I decided on Mablung as my POV character did it begin to flow.
A rod is an antique unit of measurement: about 16 1/2 feet.
Summary: In Ithilien, shortly after Faramir becomes the Captain of the Rangers, he and Mablung make an interesting discovery.


Fairest of All the Falls

"Do you see it, Captain?" Mablung looked at his young commanding officer, wondering if he would see what Mablung had seen. The Steward's son was not only young to be a captain, but Mablung had yet to think what to make of him. Lord Faramir had been among them but a fortnight, and for the first week, their previous captain, Lord Angrod had been introducing him to the men and to his duties. Now Captain Faramir himself had only been leading them for a week since Captain Angrod, and he was different to any commanding officer Mablung had served under before this. As the Captain's second, he must learn the man's mettle.

"The waterfall is beautiful," he replied thoughtfully a smile briefly warming his solemn face. "And I thank you for the sight of it; and yet I think that you would not have taken such pains to bring me here if there was not more to it than beauty."

Mablung felt gratified. He had suspected a keen intelligence, but so far Captain Faramir had not spoken much beyond what was needful. Yet Mablung had seen him watching and observing, a keen light in his grey eyes as he studied the Rangers who were in his company. So far, there had been no need of action, and some of the men had begun to wonder if this green young fellow would say "boo" to a goose. A few had even grumbled a bit about one who got a position through blood ties rather than ability. Mablung had put a quick stop to that. And he reminded them that this was the Steward Denethor's son, and young or not, that sort of talk was both stupid and dangerous.

The Captain walked further up the bank in the direction of the waterfall, which poured majestically down over the upper river, its roar loud even at this distance. Peering closely at the head of the fall where it had carved stone clefts on either side, he squinted. Mablung knew that what he had seen was difficult to find unless the light was right. It had to be at least late in the afternoon before one could discern the shadows behind the glitter of the sparkling water.

"Mablung, do my eyes deceive me, or is there an opening behind the waterfall?" There was a hint of excitement in his voice.

"Yes, Captain, there is." And Mablung felt vindicated in his opinion of this young man. Keenly observant, clearly.

"Is that opening large enough to be useful?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, I do think it may be. I have not been all the way up there yet, but I did get close enough to see that it is probably a cave. It is at least large enough to serve as a supply post, but I suspect it is even larger than that."

Captain Faramir smiled again, and this time more than briefly. "Do we have time to go up there and find out?"

This did surprise him. He had expected that even if the Captain agreed that his find was useful, that they would go back to the others and then return later, perhaps the next day. "It will be dark before we can return to camp, Captain," he said.

"That is true. Yet we are scouting, and the men must know that occasionally scouts do find things that may be unexpected and will take more time." Captain Faramir's eyes went back to that barely visible and highly enticing opening. "And there is a full Moon tonight. Ithil will ride high." There was an eager note in the voice, almost a pleading, and Mablung was once more reminded of his commander's youth. And he was right, of course, even if it was curiosity and excitement that drove him.

"It can't hurt, sir," Truth be told, Mablung was as eager as the captain to see if his hunch about that place was true. The two of them found some dry branches in a nearby copse of alderwood, to serve as torches if they found themselves in a cavern in the dark.

The two of them walked along the side of the riverbank. The Captain gestured for Mablung to take the lead as the way grew narrower--after all, he had been closer. But they were both silent in the way of Rangers in the wild, and it mattered not for the closer they got the louder the water was. Soon they reached the spot where Mablung had ceased his explorations. The upper bank had somewhat veered away from the place where the river actually flowed through the cleft below the falls. A very rocky slope led down to the water, where shale and stones followed the course of the river. In rainy seasons this second bank might very well be obliterated by high water, but to all appearances it seemed to be the easiest route to the waterfall itself. They clambered over the rough rocky way, careful of their footing on the wet stone. Soon they were at the foot of the falls and behind the water. Another stony slope led upwards, this one seeming to be solid granite rather than river-tumbled rocks. It was not especially steep, and when they stood directly below the falls they could look upward to see the entrance to a cave. Slowly they made their way up; behind the water it was not so loud as in front of it. The way up seemed much easier than it should have been. About halfway they stopped to catch their breath, and the Captain looked at Mablung.

"Mablung, if I am not mistaken, these are steps leading up."

Mablung would not have thought of that, but Captain Faramir was right. To all appearances they stood upon a rough stone stair of shallow hewn steps. They went on, finally coming to the actual opening. It was a very short jump from the edge of the slope to the cave entrance, something easily filled in to make a sort of landing.

The two men turned, looking west through the thin curtain of the water. The Sun was just going to her rest, and the two men gasped in astonishment at the beauty of the sunset through the waterfall, like an ever-changing veil of jewels shining before them.

They stared for a moment, and then the captain said: "Henneth Annûn I name you, 'Window of the Sunset'."

Mablung looked at him, his captain's face transformed by delight and awe and a kind of majestic solemnity. Faramir's Númenórean heritage clearly shone through, and he reminded Mablung of one of the statues of his ancestors in the Citadel.

Finally, before the light failed them, they turned to look at the cave behind, for from the echoes it was clearly more than a small grotto. They took out the branches they had brought. "Just light one, Mablung," said the Captain, "for without pitch or rags to make true torches, the wood will burn quickly."

Mablung nodded, seeing the sense in that. He took out his striker and lit the end of one of the branches, and held it aloft. Now that they were within the cave, it was easy to see the signs that men had been here before.

Faramir looked up and around. "See how smooth the floor is? And look above: no hanging stone formations, no sound, even, of water dripping through the river above us. I believe this cavern may have been built by men at some time or another, though surely long abandoned."

Now that the captain pointed it out, Mablung could see the signs he was reading. How such a feat could have been accomplished he had no idea.

"I think," mused the Captain, "that at some time, this place may have served in just such a fashion as the use we plan to make of it.

They explored the perimeters of the large chamber. It was a bit over two rods in width, and close to three rods in depth. there were two side chambers and four small alcoves, evenly spaced. By the southern wall, they found the remains of a firepit, and close examination showed a narrow vent for the smoke near the top of the wall behind.

"This was clearly used either as a base camp or a place of refuge at one time," said Faramir. "It is cleverly wrought using, I think, some of those lost arts of engineering brought East over the Sea by our ancestors. I am glad that we have rediscovered it."

The two of them returned to the grotto that served as the entrance before the light in the sky had fully died, and also before their second branch burned out. They made themselves as comfortable as they could, sitting on the stone floor and leaning against the back wall as they gazed out through the water running down. The sound of it was a strange wild music in their ears.

They talked a while. Mablung spoke briefly of his family, and the captain returned the favor, speaking of his father with respect, and his brother with true affection, and of his kin in Dol Amroth with wistfulness. Captain Faramir questioned Mablung lightly about some of the men in their company, and the two spoke more in a few hours than in the entire week before.

"Look!" The Captain pointed to the silver glow that had begun to grow through their sheer curtain. "Ithil has risen; it is time to go and find our fellow Rangers. I believe that tomorrow we shall begin to make plans to move to our new home here.

As they carefully and silently picked their way through the moonlight, Mablung realized he had not thought his discovery to bear such promising fruit. But he had found something valuable on this scouting trip, and the cavern at Henneth Annûn was the least of it. For the first time in his career as a Ranger he had found a commander whom he would not only respect and follow and admire, but with whom he felt a friendship that might endure.





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