Ten Thousand Years
Will Not Suffice
Chapter 3: Third Age 2939
It was May 25th - a very special day. It was his sister's
birthday. Indis and Morwen had been like mothers to him these past nine
years. He had racked his brain for the last few weeks trying to
think of what would be best for Indis - what would make her
happy. And finally, just two nights ago, he knew! He had
gone to Amdir who rejoiced in the thought of the adventure.
And now, the day had arrived. His father thought he was going on
his monthly visit to his Uncle Cranthir, captain of the garrison in
Osgiliath. He had been going every month, for the last few years,
to visit his mother's brother. The ruined city held only
happiness for Denethor. Cranthir had been teaching his nephew 'Kings
and Stewards' and Denethor had found that he loved the game.
Ecthelion did not. The only time, therefore, that Denethor could
play it was when he went to Osgiliath. This meant a game could
last months, but Cranthir told him the game would teach him
patience. Little did he know that the boy would spend many
sleepless nights after each visit, trying to strategize just what piece
to move next.
The board and its pieces would have dust on them when they would sit
down and they would laugh together as they wiped each piece.
Cranthir told Denethor that the set had been in his family for many
years, and that when he died, the set would go to Denethor. The
carvings on each piece were intricate and finely detailed. The
king and queen pieces were beautiful, but Denethor's favorite pieces
were the Stewards sitting on either side of the king and queen.
The little pieces even had the Steward's Staff in their hands. He
knew that the Stewards were not as powerful as the queen or the
castles, but he loved them just the same. Cranthir let Denethor
wipe those pieces himself. Lovingly, the boy took oil and
polished them until they shone so that he could almost see his face in
the warm oak.
But this day, he would slip into Osgiliath, leave a note in Cranthir's
door saying he would not be able to visit with him; then, he and Amdir
would be off on their quest. It was a glorious piece of fortune
that Indis' birthday was on a day when there was no classes and no
training. He ran to the stables immediately after breaking his
fast and loaded the cheese, fruit, bread and water that he had secreted
away while he ate his meal, into bags on either side of his pony.
He hoped it was enough for the day, but if it wasn't - In training, he
learned how to live off the land; would not this be the perfect time to
test that training!
Amdir's father, Ingold, shouted for the boys to hurry if they wanted to
be a part of the weekly supply caravan to Osgiliath. The sun was
already rising and they were late! Ingold did this every time
they went and both boys laughed, but not to his face. It was
going to be a glorious adventure!
Everything went as planned - the caravan reached Osgiliath early in the
morning. Ingold left the boys at Cranthir's quarters and quickly
caught up with his men. Denethor left the note he had written the
night before in Cranthir's door and then the boys galloped east -
towards the bridge. Shortly before they reached the sewers, they
dismounted, wiped their ponies down, and left them in an abandoned
stable with some cut up apples and water. When they reached the
sewers, they had to duck behind a pillar to let a sentry pass by.
It would not do to get caught and stopped now. After the sentry
passed, the boys slipped into the sewer. They giggled with an
excitement that was mixed with just a little fear. Denethor was
not quite sure about the sewers and where each one led, but he knew
that eventually they ended in the abandoned part of the city that lay
on the east side of the Anduin. It seemed to take forever to
cross under the river. The footing was treacherous in places;
lichen had grown on the floor of the sewers and created slippery
patches for unwary feet. Some parts were almost totally blocked
by stones that had fallen from the ceiling above and, in these places,
torrents of water from the Anduin cascaded onto their heads. But
they were fast and quickly waded through these sections. Finally,
they felt the floor rising and knew they must be near the far
shore. It had been dark for quite some time now and Denethor
berated himself for not having brought torches. He imagined his
father's scorn at such ill planning and he scolded himself for
it. But there was light now - just ahead - and both boys relaxed
in the knowledge that the first part of their adventure was
Denethor marked in his mind, and on a great stone, the place where they
came out from the sewers and then marked their path with large 'X's as
they passed through the city. It was his first time in the fallen
city. The quiet of it hurt his ears. He imagined how it had been
so long ago with children just like Amdir and himself playing in the
streets. But now - most of the streets were blocked with great
marble stones fallen during countless battles and hundreds of years of
neglect. Dust was everywhere so that their feet left large gouges
as they walked; but that was all that was there. There were no
birds, no lizards, and no insects - just layer upon layer of
dust. Denethor, not for the last time, wished they could have
brought their ponies with them.
They finally reached the grasslands outside the city and could see the
gentle slopes of Ithilien before them. He made a mental note to
come back to the city sometime and really explore it. They
stopped for rest and a drink of water.
Amdir grinned at Denethor. "That was a fair piece of work getting
through, wasn't it?"
Denethor had to smile too. He felt very tired. It had taken
longer than he had expected to reach this phase of their journey; he
made a note to plan more time for their return trip. But Amdir's good
spirits gave him the energy he needed to press on.
"What an adventure this is, is it not, my friend?" he said as he
slapped Amdir on the back - a gesture he had seen Ingold use a hundred
times with his men to encourage them. He vowed to himself that he
would one day be a great leader and, in the wisdom of a nine year old,
he thought he would even rebuild Osgiliath.
Now it was time to focus on the purpose of the quest. Off to the
hills on his right, he had been told of a great forest of iris.
And Indis' favorite flower was the purple iris. Somehow, he would
find this 'forest' and dig up the biggest, most beautiful iris plants,
bring them back, and plant them in the garden outside her window.
He hoped to find the most fragrant too, for the little scrawny ones
that were planted in Minas Tirith had no fragrance whatsoever.
Indis had told him tales, passed on from their mother, of this forest
of flowers. The excitement of the gift pounded in his heart and
he almost ran towards Ithilien.
They walked forever and Denethor once again realized that his legs were
too short. He knew he had grown since the Horn ceremony, but
still, he needed longer legs. And once again he wished they had
their ponies. He also began to think that this was folly - that
there was no such forest. They walked through fields of flowers,
yes, but none were the irises that he came for. The celandine
fields alone were massive - not a place went by that they didn't see
myriads of the delicate little yellow flowers. They had to watch
their footing as they went through the closely clumped ilex bushes -
their long, sharp leaves reaching out to slash at their arms. The
air smelt of late spring herbs; they were everywhere. The boys
found wild strawberry plants and smelt the sweet thyme. They
couldn't resist crushing mint and lemon balm leaves between their
fingers and inhaling the scent.
As morning turned into afternoon, Denethor began to feel that he had
made a mistake. If they did not find the field soon, they would
have to turn back. Without telling Amdir his thoughts, he decided
they must stop for lunch. Amdir was quite ready to sit.
They had found a gentle little stream running down from the hilltops
and let the water wash over their feet. Amdir prattled on about
his father and the soldiers of Gondor and how, one day, he would be a
soldier and follow in his father's footsteps. His father still
had not given permission for him to start training, but he was ready
and quite envious of Denethor. Denethor was kind and shared all
that he learned. He found it good to repeat to his friend the
many details he learned about Gondor, its history, battle strategies,
and survival techniques. It helped him remember them. The
questions Amdir posed helped him to think further. He was pleased
at all he had learned, yet, it did not seem to lessen his father's own
worry. He had overheard Ecthelion, on many occasions, decry the
turpitude of the lords of Gondor who did not listen to Ecthelion's
urgings to start their boys in training at as early an age as
possible. Only a few listened to his impassioned speeches; most
felt as Turgon did - that peace was now upon their land and it was time
to enjoy it. Besides, not that many lords thought beyond creating
their own monuments in Rath Dínen. The sight of the
abandoned houses and courts in the upper circles of Minas Tirith did
not seem to alarm them. Denethor himself was not sure of all that his
father spoke, but he knew, in his heart, that his father must be right.
He put aside the thoughts of his father. It had felt so very good
to stop and rest. He only knew that he did not want to go another
step. But what was the sense of a quest with no treasure to show
for it? So after they ate the cheese and some fruit and drank
some of their water, they started further up the hill. As they
passed through a large clump of bay trees, Denethor glimpsed flowers
ahead of them. Excitement filled him as he realized they were
nearing their destination. As they broke from the grove of trees,
a riot of purple and yellow and green struck his eyes. It was the
forest of irises! Denethor almost ran through the field, but
stopped short at the edge of it to drink in the sight and smell the
lovely fragrance in the air. It was beyond his wildest
imaginings. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of
blossoms. He had picked the right time to come. They were
in full bloom. He almost cried with delight. Indis would be
so very happy; he could imagine her smiling face. Ah, life was
He searched the field for healthy, strong plants. Only the best
would do. But something was wrong; there was some kind of blight
on the flowers. The leaves were scored in crisscross lines.
He knew it was neither black rot nor borers. He had never seen
such horror on a plant. And yet, he now remembered that he had
seen damage on other flowers and trees as they walked through
Ithilien. What had caused it? This blight seemed to have
only affected the plants on the outside of the field, for as he walked
further in, he found untouched and healthy plants. Amdir had
followed with the pack and the wrappings that Denethor had
brought. They selected six plants - their beauty was such that
Denethor wanted to take more, but he knew they could not carry them
all, and the day was passing too quickly. They dug up the plants,
wrapped them in the cloth, soaked them with water, and put them gently
into the pack. Then they started back north towards Osgiliath.
It was now at least two hours past lunch. They had been walking
as quickly as they could, but they were tiring. Denethor called a
halt and they sat by another stream -- no, it was the same one at which
they had eaten their nuncheon and where they had dangled their
feet. They did so again. Yet Denethor was becoming
concerned. They were still very far from Osgiliath. They
must quicken their pace. They hurried down the hill, their hands
touching the bay trees' bark and laughing at the sweet smell of it upon
their hands. They ate the little wild strawberries and smacked
their lips at the sweetness.
As they passed through the southern part of the bay grove, they ran
into closely growing ilex bushes. Amdir tripped and fell headlong
into wickedly sharp leaves and cried out in pain. His hands were
stabbed and bleeding. Denethor pulled him out, but at the same
moment, more concerned for his friend than his footing, he stepped
wrongly and a large thorn from a branch fallen from an unnoticed
hawthorn tree, pierced deeply into his foot. He yelped and hopped
away. The boys came together and helped each other out of the
morass of hungry plants. At the end of the bushes, they stopped
to assess the damage. Denethor poured water over Amdir's hands,
and then Amdir looked at the thorn sticking out of the bottom of
Denethor's shoe. They both knew it had to come out.
Denethor closed his eyes, tears streaking down in dusty rivulets to
find his chin. He felt ashamed, but Amdir gently held his
"It will be all right, Denethor. I'll try to be as quick as I
can." He was able to get a good grip on the end of the thorn and
pulled with all his might. The thorn came out and so did blood,
gushing over his hand and Denethor's shoe. He gently slipped the
shoe off and washed the wound with water. Thyme plants were
nearby and they cut off pieces and rubbed them into the wounds.
It would help stop any further malady. Amdir then took some of
the cloth used for the iris plants and wrapped Denethor's foot in
it. The shoes he had worn this day were not good hiking shoes;
the thorn had gone right through the one. Once again Denethor
found himself berating himself for poor planning. He could not
keep this from his father. He could see the scowl on
Amdir seemed to sense his friend's chagrin. He started to
laugh. Denethor was in no mood for laughter, but Amdir's laugh
was contagious and he found himself, quite beside himself, laughing too.
When they finally stopped for breath, he asked, "What are we laughing
Amdir laughed loudly again and said, "We look like we have ten years of
dirt on our faces and there is yellow pollen from the irises on your
nose and your ears!" He started laughing uncontrollably again,
and Denethor's tears became tears of laughter.
Exhausted, they lay back on the grassy slope and looked up at the
clouds. The clouds - they were black and coming close!
Denethor scrambled to his feet. The wind was blowing towards
them. He had not noticed that it was rising. This day was
turning into a disaster. He should have watched the skies!
The boys picked up their precious packs and started down the slope,
moving as quickly as Denethor could hop with his wounded foot.
The wind grew stronger; the clouds grew blacker and closer. They
started to run. Denethor forgot the pain in his foot as the fear
in his heart grew. This was going to be a brutal storm.
They must seek shelter and quickly. But everywhere he looked were
groves of bay trees or mighty oaks; he knew they could not hide there
for fear of lightning. A rocky area rose up in front of them;
Denethor thought they might find a small cave or outcropping that they
could build up around them, but there was nothing.
The drops of rain started falling, slowly, but Denethor knew that in no
time at all a great torrent would reach them. He could see it
further down the hill - a black sheet of rain heading straight towards
them. In desperation, he combed the earth looking for anything
that might give them shelter. At last he saw it, the abandoned
holes of the large Ithilien hares. He yelled at Amdir and pointed
them out. Amdir knew what he was thinking and found two large
tree limbs, stricken by the wind from their trunks. He gave one
to Denethor and they both attacked adjoining holes. They dug
furiously with the branches, but it was very slow work. As the
great torrent reached them, Denethor knew they must stop burrowing and
jump into their makeshift shelters. They covered themselves with
the tree limbs along with small bushes that they pulled from the
ground. It was little comfort, but at least they were not the
highest things on the field. They would be protected from the
lightning, if not the rain. They struggled to hold onto the
bushes and the tree limbs. The wind howled around them and great
gashes of lightning filled the sky.
A short distance away, one of the great oaks was torn asunder by a
mighty blast as lightning struck. An explosion of white blinded
them for an instant. When they were able to see again, they found
the tree was split in two and smoking gently. The rain was such
that a fire could not endure. Denethor yelled to Amdir to make
sure he was still all right. Amdir laughed his laugh and shouted
back that no storm could hurt the son of Ingold. Denethor wished
he had that confidence. It seemed a storm was constantly
buffeting the son of Ecthelion - and the storm's name was
Ecthelion. This day would be another one added to the list of
failures and disappointments for his father. Denethor shook the
rain from his face, but he was trying to shake this feeling of doom --
and the tears that filled his eyes.
Everything seemed very black and Denethor wished with all his heart
that the storm would end, but it seemed to stretch from one end of
Ithilien to the other. The wind howled, the thunder roared and
lightning flashed. And the hours went inexorably by. After
a very long time, the rain seemed to slow and the thunder and lightning
moved off to the north.
Denethor shouted to Amdir, "Perhaps it is time for us to go?" But
there was no response. His heart stopped and fear filled
it. Why did not Amdir reply? He had not heard nor seen
anything hit the little shelter that lay next to his, but there was no
noise, no movement from Amdir's hiding place.
He called again, "Amdir!" Nothing. He pushed the leaves,
branches and assorted storm remnants off his own refuge and stretched
his neck to look over at his friend's shelter. Nothing.
"Amdir!" he shouted aloud. And suddenly, there was hope in his
heart again. The branches were being moved slowly away and Amdir
stuck his head out.
"I am sorry, Denethor. I fell asleep," he said sheepishly.
Denethor's face broke into a grin and then into a brilliant smile and
the laughter was forced from his fear-sodden heart.
"I think some day I will have to do you harm, my friend, as payback for
the fright you just gave me!" Amdir started to laugh too and the
terror of the last hours was washed away with the wind that scurried
the storm to the north.
They picked themselves out of their shelters, brushed the dirt, rabbit
hair and wet leaves off their clothes, and sat on the tree limbs that
had helped protect them from the storm. They broke out the last
of their cheese and apples and the last of the water. The bread
had become soaked in the storm and Denethor left it for the woodland
creatures. Amdir still had hopes of reaching Osgiliath before
nightfall, but Denethor was unsure. It was a long way
still. They both sighed great sighs and stood at the same time.
"Well, my friend," Denethor said, "Let us be off on this great
adventure." Neither of them felt much like great adventurers, but
a firm face was needed to give them hope, and Denethor would find hope
somewhere along their path.
Night was falling; they were just reaching the outskirts of the fallen
city. In the dark, how would they ever find the markings on the
fallen stones? The storm had not come through the city; the dust
was still as thick and dry as when they first passed through.
This helped a little as they followed their own footsteps, but soon the
darkness was complete. The clouds still covered the sky and not a
star could be seen. Denethor bowed his head in pain and weariness
- and fright. But he would not show Amdir his fear. They
were close to the bridge, he knew it, but if they had to, they could
always find some shelter in the city and start for the sewers in the
morning. His face burned with shame as he thought of the
forthcoming scene with his father. It would be terrible.
His father would be justified in his anger and disappointment. It
had been a fool's errand that he had set out on. And if that were
not bad enough, he had dragged his friend along with him into
danger. That was unforgivable. He had a duty to his men.
How many times had he been taught that!
He gave a heavy sigh and then stopped, looked around him and found an
arched area nearby. "Amdir, we have to stop. I cannot see
any further. We will lose our path. I am not familiar with
the city. It is very large. We cannot take the chance that
we will miss the sewers' entrance. We must stop for the night."
Amdir sensing the discouragement in his friends voice, cheerfully said,
"Ah, I love to go on these adventures with you, my friend.
Nothing ever goes as it should. And that makes them such
fun! I am glad we will have some more time together.
Perhaps you will tell me the tale of the great ship captain. You
remember - you started to tell me about the northern trip where they
came upon ice that was thicker than my body."
Denethor laughed. Amdir was a very good friend. He was glad
he was with him this night.
Suddenly, he heard sounds in the distance. Both boys looked at
each other. Though there was almost no light, they were able to
see each other's faces and what each boy saw was fear. There had
been nothing stirring in the city on their outward journey. What
could this noise be? It grew in sound and came closer.
There was nowhere for them to go. They were trapped in the place
they had chosen as a shelter. There was no way out.
Rebuking himself for not having an escape route planned, Denethor
"Did you hear that?" he heard a familiar voice call.
"I am sure I heard something off to our left. Bring the torch
A familiar voice - it was Cranthir's! Denethor rose and ran
towards the torch and his uncle.
"Forgive me! We strayed too far and I misjudged the time. I
am so very sorry," he said, tears of relief choking his throat.
"Denethor! I am so very glad to have found you. We have
been searching for hours and just a short time ago found your ponies by
the sewers. Is Amdir with you?"
"Yes, Cranthir, I am." Amdir ran to his friend's side. He
shyly hugged Cranthir in joy. They were saved -- for the moment.
Denethor woke to no memory - just a sense of joy and a feeling of
comfort - until the pain in his foot reached through his morning
grogginess and brought him back to reality. How strange it was
that he could so quickly have forgotten what happened yesterday.
All the shame of his flawed planning flooded his heart, burying the
glad parts. He thought of his father, the look of disappointment that
would surely cover his face, coupled with the knowledge that he had led
his friend into danger, overwhelmed him and he hid his face in the
pillow and wept. A soft knock at the door caused him to use the
pillow to wipe his eyes and nose. He flung the covers off and
stepped out of the bed, but the pain in his foot surprised him and he
collapsed onto the floor. Cranthir heard the thud, opened the
door, and quickly stepped to his side. Denethor stumbled on his
nightshirt as he tried to get up, hoping that Cranthir would not notice
his swollen eyes but be taken by the caring of his foot. Cranthir
picked him up, placed him on the bed and removed the bandage. He
moved the foot slowly; it was stiff and very sore, but healing had
begun. There was no sign of any malady upon it.
"You were wise to use the thyme leaves on the wound, Denethor. It
is healing and there should be naught wrong with it in due time."
Denethor choked on a grim laugh. One thing done right in a whole
array of wrong decisions, foolish choices and poor planning!
He saw the light of understanding in Cranthir's eyes as his uncle
studied him and he hugged the man tightly. He knew it would be
the last time - he had left childhood behind in Ithilien - he was now a
man. He would face his father and accept the punishment that was
due him, but, for this last moment, he would be a child still and
acknowledge the love he had for his uncle, and snuggle into the arms of
someone who loved him.
Even Amdir was quiet on the ride back to Minas Tirith. Ingold was
embarrassed that his son had been part of this folly, but he could not
blame the lad. His son loved Denethor and anything that Denethor
asked of him, he would do so and gladly. But Ingold would prefer
a month's tour of duty in some place of danger, like the Golden Wood
near the Mistress of Magic, to the duty he had to perform next - taking
son to father.
Denethor begged Amdir to keep the precious plants until he could come
for them and Amdir agreed. Unfortunately, neither one of them
knew when that next meeting might be. The fate of the irises was
tenuous at best. Elleth, Amdir's mother met them at the stables
and promised Denethor she would plant them in her own garden if he was
unable to come in a timely manner and retrieve them. Amdir hugged
his friend as he started to walk towards the Citadel, but Denethor
pushed him gently away.
"It will be all right, Amdir. I am not going to my death, you
know. It was a great adventure and I will not soon forget
it. I'm sorry - I didn't even ask how your hands are?"
Amdir burst into tears at the kindness of his friend. He knew
what awaited Denethor at his audience with Ecthelion and yet, Denethor
was concerned about him. "They are healing. I can even bend
the fingers," he said through his sobs. His mother stepped next
to him, wrapping her arm around his shoulder. "I'll wait for you,
every day by the stables, at midmorning. I'll wait for you, I
Denethor turned, straightened his shoulders and followed Ingold to the
seventh level. He was left in a small room off the Great Hall -
it seemed hours passed. His foot was throbbing and his head
hurt. He had had no food nor water since dawn and the sun was now
full in the sky. He was tempted to lie on the bench, just to rest
for a moment. He chided himself - that was unthinkable. He
must be strong.
Finally Ingold came into the room and beckoned him to follow. As
he walked down the Great Hall towards the Steward's Chair, his arms
shook; cold chills ran up and down them. He tried not to think of
what was going to happen next. He tried to remember the last time
he walked down this hall. It was the Horn Ceremony and Turgon,
with a warm smile upon his face, was waiting to greet him. There
would be no such greeting this day. His father stood next to the
Steward's Chair, his jaw clenched and his lips held tightly closed.
"What do you have to say for yourself?" he asked softly. The tone
made a muscle in Denethor's cheek quiver.
"Nothing, Father. I misjudged. I have brought shame to
you. I am sorry."
"Go to your room," Ecthelion said in the same awful, hushed tone.
"We will discuss punishment tomorrow morning. You will not leave
your room until summoned. Is that perfectly clear?"
"Aye, Father." He turned to leave, but something stopped
him. He turned back towards his father. "Father, I am truly
His father's back was turned against him. He felt the slap of it
through his whole body. He had disgraced himself, his Father and
his line. The way to his room was long - so very long.
Added to the length of it was the humiliation of an escort. The
door closed quietly behind the soldier and Denethor was left to ponder
the magnitude of his failure.
A servant brought his evening meal. Before bedtime, a healer
came, changed his bandage, gave him a cup of valerian root tea and left
him. The escort, servant, and healer were the only people he saw
after his morning meeting with his father and none were allowed to
speak to him. He knew he was to spend this time in thought as to
the folly of his deed and to discover ways that he could better
himself. He fought the tears, but as night fell, they came - like
the black deluge that had overtaken them in Ithilien. In
exhaustion, he cried so hard his face hurt. Sleep finally - blessedly -
The escort came for him shortly after the sounding of the first
bell. The pace set was fast, as if the soldier worried about a
reprimand for himself. Again, Denethor found himself in the
little room near the Great Hall. He now understood that his
father was dealing with him in the Great Hall to further drive home the
magnitude of his folly. This was no small matter to be dealt with
in his father's study.
Presently, he heard a voice in the corridor. He crept towards the
door and found that it had only partially closed. It was his
father's voice and Denethor wondered whom he was talking to. His
voice sounded sad and quiet and bitter.
"I am beside myself, Rían," he heard his father speak.
Turgon has become stubborn and foolish in his old age!" Denethor
realized that his father was speaking to Rían, as if she were
alive. He must have not realized that Denethor was only a few
paces away with an open door between them. Denethor felt sorry
for Ecthelion, that he had no one to share with. He wished he
remembered his mother, gentle Rían, for many a time a person
would stop and declare how much he looked like her and how much she was
loved and missed.
"There is evil coming upon us," his father continued. "This
feeling of dread grows stronger every day. And yet father and the
elders would have us believe that all is well - that peace is still
with us and there is nothing to fear! But my senses reel with the
enormity of an evil I cannot see. He thwarts my every attempt to
protect Gondor, Rían. I have tried to have him strengthen
the Rammas Echor, bolster the army, and raise serious defenses in
Osgiliath, but to no avail. I feel his scorn. He thinks me
a coward and weak because I fear what he cannot see. I want to make
"And now your son brings further disgrace to me. He has been a
constant thorn in my side since his birth - that same birth that took
you from me. I am forever disappointed in him. I will wash
my hands of him. Put him under Ingold's tutelage. There is
nothing further to be gained by time with him!" He threw back his
cloak and walked down the hall towards his study.
Denethor leaned back against the wall of the little room, his fingers
gripping the wall. He did not even feel the cold marble against
his back. His eyes were wide; his mouth had fallen open. He
shook. His face turned scarlet. He had been
abandoned. Disowned. He was alone! He was alone.