Ten Thousand Years
Will Not Suffice
Chapter 4: Third Age 2942
"Focus! Focus, Denethor." The swordmaster lifted his sword again,
ready to parry.
Denethor hissed quietly and then pulled himself together, trying to
focus on the task at hand. Yet to no avail, for his mind was ever
brought back to the fact that today was his twelfth birthday. It
had been three years since last he saw his father in private.
There had been numerous times, during those years, to see him publicly
- parades, festivals, punishments - all lorded over by the Steward's
son, Ecthelion. Hope ever burned in Denethor's heart that his
father would note his presence, smile at him, perhaps even introduce
him to one of the guests, but his hope was for naught. Today,
once again, he was disappointed. No acknowledgement of this day
from any of his family. He wondered haphazardly whether or not
the Captain of the Guard had been told not to allow a celebration.
'I must not think that way. To say Ecthelion is 'lording it' is
beneath me. I must give him the respect due as the next Ruling
Steward.' But the bile rose in his throat as he thought of his
banishment. Deserved or no, he was in line for Steward of
Gondor. Was not some modicum of respect due him also? The
thoughts whirled in his mind and again, Gwinhir hit him with his sword.
"Focus! What must I do to command your attention,
Denethor?" The swordmaster heaved a sigh and turned his back on
him. "I think that you should return to the barracks, think on what we
this training means, and return when you can give me your full
attention. This will be reported to Captain Ingold."
At the age of twelve a boy was conscripted into the service of Gondor
in some capacity or another. At his age, other lads were just starting
their training; his had been in progress since he was seven. He
knew he had learned much over this time, but his heart grieved at the
loss of his family. Today, his twelfth year, tradition dictated
that Turgon was to confer the Ring of Gondor upon his hand. He
had memorized the ceremony -the Sindarin words of the oath - even
though none had stated it would happen. The swordmaster's rebuke
was the last straw.
"What would you have me do? Write a thousand times, 'I must
focus?' Will that satisfy you?" The anger was palpable in
Denethor's face and his voice. He fairly shook with rage.
Gwinhir quickly drew in his breath. Never had he heard Denethor
speak in such a manner. He walked slowly towards the lad, placed
his hand gently on his shoulder, and asked him what was wrong.
Denethor almost sobbed at the sudden expression of concern. It
had been many a year since he had felt any. Where were Indis and
Morwen? Where was his mother's family, his Uncle Cranthir?
Or his Adadhron, Turgon? None had deigned to spend time with him,
see if he was alive or dead - no attempt was made to contact him, to
his knowledge. Mayhap they had gone to the Captain of the Guard
himself to inquire about his health? He doubted it. He had
not so much as received a note from any of them. He could not believe
that Indis, of all his family, would not write to him. Cranthir was
most likely deeply involved with the defenses of Osgiliath.
Denethor had not seen him since their breaking of the fast in
Cranthir's chambers three years ago. Last of all, where was
Ecthelion? Did his father hate him so much that he cared
not what happened to him?
Gwinhir saw the despair in the lad's eyes and relented. He knew
where Denethor would find the peace he seemed to need. Sometimes
kindness was more effective than punishment. "I believe it is
time for some study of the ancient ways. Go to the Great Library
and look up the Battle of Dagorlad. I want a report by the day
after tomorrow - something on the role of King Elendil, what his
Steward was doing back in Osgiliath, the army of Gondor, the
Elves. Go now."
Denethor ran as if trolls were chasing him. There was no joy in
being let out of his training. He had failed to do his duty; he
was sent to learn swordsmanship. Shame, along with
disappoointment, pushed him towards his beloved library. He wiped
his eyes with his sleeve before entering the foyer. It was dark
and cold in here - just what he needed to heal his heart and cool his
thoughts. He walked slowly down the circular stairs towards the
archived areas. He stopped short. Someone else was
here. He coughed gently to let whomever it was know of his
approach. As he turned the last curve, he found himself face to
face with Curunír. The wizard smiled and a chill ran down
"My Lord Denethor, well met are we. I have meant for some time to
seek you out. You have been absent from many of my dinners with
the Lord Echthelion. I have asked after you, and have been told
you have been in strict training. It seems to have lasted awhile,
this strict training, if I am correct?"
Denethor felt another chill run down his spine, but the smile on the
wizard's face seemed genuine and he was in dire need of a friend at the
moment. He smiled back at the veiled inquiry. "Yes. I
seem not to be as adept as Lord Ecthelion would wish. I am
putting all my energy into my training. At the moment, though, I
have been asked to do a report on the Battle of Dagorlad. I have
heard of it, but my knowledge is slight. Unfortunately, most of
my time here in the library has been spent on the tales of the
Númenórean sea captains."
"Ah, then it is fate that has drawn me here at the same time as
you. I myself am fairly knowledgeable about that conflict.
Perhaps we can spend some time together and I may share my viewpoint?"
"I would be most appreciative, my Lord."
"Well, then. Let us start. Here is a manuscript that
details some of the battle. If we read it together, we might be
able to ascertain what truly happened at that time." For a brief
moment, Denethor wondered why Curunír had the document
opened. But he let it pass in his deep gratitude for the company.
The chill stayed with him during the next hours as they poured over the
manuscripts. Denethor tried to tell himself it was from the cool
air in the library, but some premonition told him that it was the
wizard's presence that caused him to feel thus. He pushed such
thoughts aside. The wizard was giving him his undivided
attention; he was treating him as an equal, sharing his
knowledge. Denethor hungered for such camaraderie. The
wizard exuded confidence, yet his voice, though cold and monotonous,
drew Denethor closer to him, and Denethor was startled to find the
wizard's hand upon his shoulder. The shiver that ran through him drew a
sharp laugh from Curunir. The wizard's white hair hung down beyond his
shoulder and the smell of herbs that reeked from his body stung
Denethor's nose. There was a presence given off by the wizard that
mystified Denethor. But he could not push the hand from his shoulder;
it would be unseemly. Despite the feeling of unease, the wizard was
fulfilling a need of Denethor's, and he would not yet leave this place.
They spent long hours strategizing how to change what had happened, to
negate the dreadful loss of life. Curunír spoke as if he
had himself been at the battle. The wizard even asked Denethor's
opinion on many aspects of the battle and Denethor, like someone who
has been in the desert for many weeks without water and sights an
oasis, threw all caution to the wind and eagerly bound himself to the
wizard. Yet, his body physically recoiled at the nearness.
He fought this feeling. He rejoiced at the attention and would let
nothing sway him. He would be able to control this, to control
At last, Denethor finally pulled himself away. "I am sorry.
I must report. I no not the time, but I feel I have long passed
my curfew. Please, perhaps we can do this again tomorrow?" he
"No, I am afraid I must be off," Curunír replied. Why did
Denethor feel this was a lie, something to keep him further bound to
this wizard? "Next time I am in Minas Tirith, I will let you
know. Perhaps at that time, barring my duties to Ecthelion, we
may meet and discuss these things further."
Denethor left the library only to discover that night had fallen.
It was long past evening report when he walked into the barracks.
Lights were already out. He had had no supper, he had dared
not go to the buttery for food, and so, on this day, his birthday, he
would go to bed hungry and hope there would be no reprisal for his not
reporting - thought he knew that was a forlorn hope.
The morning trumpet sounded long before Denethor was ready. Sleep
had come late to him; his thoughts had been on the wizard and the
strange feelings he had towards him. When the wizard spoke,
Denethor listened raptly, but when he was silent, the sense of dread
became palpable. He remembered Amdir's words from many years
before, 'It isn't good to spend time with someone you cannot
understand.' In the morning light, this advice seemed most
wise. Denethor would remember it the next time he and the wizard
Ingold strode towards his bed as Denethor was in the act of making
it. "I am told you did not report last night. Is there some
reason for this?"
"My Captain," Denethor saluted him with bowed head and hand upon his
chest. "I was working on a report for Swordmaster Gwinhir and lost
track of time. I am sorry. By the time I left the library,
lights were out. I was coming to report as soon as I was dressed."
"And that is another thing. You are late to your post. Do
you think the morning meal is to be kept waiting for you just because
you are the son of Ecthelion?"
"No... No that was not my intent." The sting in Ingold's tone
hurt him deeply. He did not know what else to say.
Ingold shook his head. "You will be put on report. You will
do stable duty immediately after you break your fast. You will
miss one of your classes and therefore, you will have to make it up
later during your free time. This will place a hardship upon
Captain Gwinhir, who must lose his free time also, due to your lack of
respect for your duty. Now go to the hall." How could a
man's back sting him so? As Ingold walked away, it reminded Denethor of
Ecthelion's turned back and he cried in shame, frustration, and hurt as
he quickly finished his bed and ran towards the company's dining hall.
As he passed the stables, a once familiar voice rang in his ears.
"Denethor! Denethor, it's me, Amdir!"
Denethor whirled around at the sound of that voice. There he was
before him, his friend of a thousand adventures! "Amdir!"
He rushed to his friend's side and hugged him fervently. "What
does this mean? Why are you here?"
"Why am I here! You silly goose. I told you I would wait
for you each morning in the stables. And you have not come -
until today. But your lack of punctuality is known to me and I
offer you forgiveness." Amdir started to laugh and once again
hugged his friend. "My father has finally allowed me to begin my
training. I turned twelve three months ago. I am now an
esquire and stationed with the Horse Guards; a commission has made it
easier to keep my promise!"
"Twelve. Yes, you were always so much older than I," Denethor
gently teased him. "It is so good to see you again."
"I waited, Denethor, every day, just as I promised you. But you
never came." The hurt was strong in Amdir's face and voice.
Never had anyone had a truer friend, Denethor thought in amaze. "I
would have, if I could. At first, after our adventure to
Osgiliath, I was kept in my rooms. Shortly after that, I was
placed in Ingold's care. He had other plans for me - plans that
did not include my visiting with friends, I am afraid." Denethor
tried to keep his voice light, to keep the pain and hurt from his
friend, but Amdir would have none of it.
"My mother and father have been fighting since that day,
Denethor. Mother says it is shameful how your father is treating
you and -"
"Nothing my father does is shameful, Amdir. You must remember
that. He will be Gondor's Steward one day. Then, it will be
my turn. He does what he must to prepare me, to help me be ready
to rule Gondor until the return of the king."
Amdir stared in shock at Denethor. He had changed since their
last adventure. "My mother asks me to remind you that the irises
are still in her garden. She has watched them with care.
They have grown and flourished."
Denethor started at the word 'iris.' Tears sprang to his
eyes. He remembered the joy he had as they set out for Ithilien
to dig up the plants for Indis' birthday. He remembered the
beauty of the field of irises when they first came upon it. He
remembered the last time he had seen his father - in the corridor
outside the Great Hall. The last time he had seen him as father
He shook his head violently. "Please give her my thanks,
Amdir. It is almost a shame that your father is my warden.
I could sneak away and see the flowers, but the chance of running into
him is too great!" He suddenly smiled, "But come, my friend, I am
already late - I have not broken my fast yet, and after I do, I must
clean the stables. I only stopped to see what state they were in,
and for that I am glad; I might have missed you seeing you. But,
tell me about you, dear friend, and what you have been doing these many
"Yesterday was Denethor's birthday, Mother."
Elleth looked at Amdir in surprise. "Yes it was, my son."
She put down the cloth she was going to use to carry the meal to the
table and stared hard and long at Ingold. Ingold squirmed - this
was not to be a quiet family dinner as he had hoped. The captain
had forgotten it was Denethor's birthday.
"I saw him this morning. He looks unhappy and he does not talk
the way he used to. Mother, my friend has changed and it hurts to
see him thus. He received no presents. I did not even bring
my gift - he was not there last year or the year before. I really
did not think I would see him. No one came to visit him. He
did not tell me this, but I could tell, Mother. Why would not his
father or his sisters visit him on his birthday?"
"It is not our place to question the affairs of the Steward's family,"
Ingold said brusquely, hoping to stop the conversation by the tone of
his voice. However, he frowned to himself and remembered what a
sour day it must have been for the boy. Ecthelion had relegated
Denethor to Ingold's care almost three years ago with specific
instructions not to pamper the lad - to raise him as a soldier of
Gondor. He had obeyed. He had seen to his studies and his
training, but who was seeing to his development as a man? He had
felt burdened about this and still had yet to decide what to do.
The boy was twelve. All the ceremonies that a Steward's son was
to go through had been placed abandoned. There were none for
Denethor - no sword ceremony, no fellowship ceremony...and this last
one - the most important - the giving of the Ring. The boy was
twelve and should have been commissioned on his birthday into the
service of Gondor as an ensign as befitted one in the line of
Stewards. Ingold had broached the subject to Ecthelion and had
been sternly warned not to bring it up again. But his duty to
Gondor was also to this lad. He would approach Ecthelion
again. Gossip had slowed after the first few months of Denethor's
banishment; he didn't want it started up again. The people of
Gondor were not fools. They knew the old rituals and when they
were to be performed. He must speak with Ecthelion about this.
"Have I been wrong, my beloved?" Ecthelion asked quietly. He was
sitting in her garden off the bedroom they had shared. He had not
been in it for over a year, yet the garden had been well tended.
The gardenias' leaves were resplendent in their greenery, but it would
be many months before they would bloom. He found it strange that
they lived such a short time, as his beloved Rían had lived such
a short time.
Yet again, doubt assailed him. Unbeknownst to others, he had kept
an eye on Denethor. He would arrange to walk past the training
fields when he knew he was there. His only concern was to prepare
Denethor for the hard life that would be his as Steward in the days of
terror he knew were coming. Nothing would still this foreboding
in his heart.
He looked towards Osgiliath and the mountains beyond and a sense of
desperation filled him. There had been increased Orc attacks, but
nothing more. Reports of a great and deadly battle in the north
had reached his ears - Orcs and Elves and Men and Dwarves - even a
dragon. The tale seemed too incredible to be true. Yet his
heart grew pinched more and more as the years passed. Perhaps he
was missing his son? No, what he was doing was right. The
lad had to learn - more than any other child in Gondor. He had to
be ready when the time came. Yesterday was his birthday.
Was Rían chiding him for not celebrating it with him. The
She had been gone twelve years. His mind reeled. It seemed
like only yesterday. He could still feel the warmth of her lips
on his; the remembrance brought tears to his eyes. He touched a
finger to his mouth, closed his eyes, and drank in the sweetness of the
memory. He tried to imagine her face, her hair, her eyes, but to
no avail. His heart was heavy with thoughts of Denethor. He
missed her mightily, but he also missed his son. Perhaps it was
time. Ingold had come to him months ago requesting that Denethor
be commissioned, but even though Ingold was many years his elder,
Ecthelion had deemed him wrong in his assessment of Denethor's
readiness. He would speak to Ingold later this morning, discover the
extent of his son's growth; then he would make up his mind.
This twelfth year also weighed heavily upon Morwen and Indis'
hearts. Their father's path for Denethor collided with their
own. Yet Ecthelion was an imposing man and would not brook
dissent nor conversation if it dealt with Denethor; any talk of
Denethor was strictly forbidden these past years. They remembered
the severe tongue-lashing they had received the first night they had
let Denethor stay with them after he had been taken out of the nursery
and away from his nurse. The nightmare had been terrible. Denethor's
eyes were wide with fright. Ecthelion had come and found him with them
and dragged the lad back to his own rooms. The look of anger on their
father's face had frozen them. Morwen had had nightmares for a
long time afterwards.
Indis finally decided that enough was enough. She was going to
find out what had happened that fateful day. She was almost
seventeen now. She would stand up to their father. Morwen
was appalled. She was ever so afraid of him. What would he
do to Indis if she pursued this? Would she be banished?
Morwen could not bear the thought of her beloved sister taken from
her. She sobbed hysterically, held onto Indis and would not let
"Morwen, I must. I cannot stand it any longer. He is our
brother, our little brother. I must do something to change
Father's mind. I cannot live like this. I will not be sent
away, I promise you that."
But could she keep that promise? She hurried along the fourth
level and wished she knew what she was going to say. This woman
had never been a friend of theirs; she was the Horse Captain's wife and
almost twice as old as Indis. What duty of life would ever throw
them together? Yet, thrown together they would be, if Indis had
any control over the matter. Perhaps she could trip outside their
door and seek help with a hurt ankle? 'That is ridiculous!'
Perhaps she could say she lost her way? 'Oh dear! This is
not working,' she thought miserably. As she turned the corner,
however, fate stepped in and she ran right into Elleth.
"I'm terribly sorry, my Lady. I didn't see you," cried Elleth in
dismay at running into, and almost knocking over, the Steward's own
granddaughter. She picked up the flowers dropped in the
encounter, trying desperately to hide her discomfiture.
"No, no. Entirely my fault. I wasn't watching where I was
going. You are Amdir's mother, are you not?"
"Why, yes, I am." The tone in Indis' voice warmed Elleth's heart
and she found the courage to ask, "Won't you stop for a moment? I
have baked some tarts - the berries are fresh and I would love to offer
you some tea. My home is just a few houses down." In her
heart, Elleth had been trying to find a way to meet with this woman,
ever since Denethor had been placed under Ingold's care. Who
would have thought they would encounter each other on this day of all
Indis smiled. This was going much easier than she had
hoped. As she sat at the parlour table, she noted the simplicity
and beauty of the room. Little collectibles were
everywhere. Mostly - they seemed to be stones. Different
shapes, sizes, and colors crowded every free space in the room.
Elleth blushed. "My son, my Amdir, loves to collect stones.
He brings them to me with such pride and joy - I would have them out of
here, but he is my only son...." She blushed again. 'I
sound like a schoolgirl blathering, not knowing when to hold my tongue!'
"They are lovely. And I must confess, I have no such mementos of
Denethor. I am ashamed. Amdir and Denethor's friendship is
one of the reasons I came to see you."
Elleth was startled. This was not chance that brought them
together. She poured the tea and waited.
Indis took a deep breath. "My father is a noble man. The
welfare of Gondor lies heavily upon his heart. And with our
mother gone, he strongly feels the burden of his son. I believe
he sometimes is heavy-handed. Yet his heart is pure. And I
would do all in my power to help him. But at the moment, he has
turned from any council I might offer. I say this to prevent any
harsh thoughts about him. Please, tell me what happened that
May. I must know. Our family is torn asunder and I would
right what has happened."
Elleth furrowed her brow in consternation, not knowing what to say to
ease the pain she heard in Indis' voice, nor to explain the harshness
of the events that happened afterwards. 'That day seemed so
inconsequential,' Elleth thought. 'Nothing untoward appeared to
have happened and yet the very depths of Gondor were shaken by it.'
"Denethor wanted to find a truly wonderful present for your birthday,"
Indis started, "What...my...birthday?"
"The boys went to Ithilien together and found a great patch of
irises. They dug up six plants, wrapped them, and brought them
back. Due to a thunderstorm and some small injuries, they were
very late returning. The captain of Osgiliath sent out search
parties looking for them. The garrison there was up in
arms. An errand-rider was sent to your father. The boys
were found and returned to Minas Tirith the following day. That
is when your father handed Denethor over to Ingold's care.
Please, come with me."
Elleth led Indis through a side door into a small garden area.
Overshadowing herbs and fledgling vegetables was a sea of tall iris
leaves. They had not yet flowered; it was much too early in the
season, but Indis could tell that they were large, healthy, and
wondrous plants. Tears spilled from her eyes. She could not
speak. She remembered telling Denethor about the forests of
irises in Ithilien. She wanted to sob aloud. She had caused
this. No -- it was not her fault, but her heart broke inside her
nonetheless. Such pain and suffering over flowers. How
could this be?
Elleth gently led her back into the parlour. "My Lady, please
take a sip of your tea." Elleth was beside herself; perhaps she
had been wrong in telling of the event. She sat and waited while
Indis caught her breath.
"I...I don't know what to say. Would it be possible for me to
take one of the flowers when they bloom?"
Elleth laughed. "My Lady, I was just the keeper. The plants
are all yours. To do with as you will. They were your
birthday gift from Denethor. I could not keep them, even if you
asked me too."
"Ah, but they are quite established now. We will divide them and
then you will be able to keep some and I will still have my gift.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am to you...," she paused for a
moment. "For everything."
She continued, "I had already decided that it was time I would go to my
Father about Denethor and this confirms it. I had no idea what
happened that day. The punishment was set, father's mind was set,
and that path for our family was set. But I believe it is high
time for a change. And I mean to do something about it. I
must go now and devise some way to bring this to father, find the words
that will help me sway him. I cannot thank you enough for your
kindness to my brother and to me. Please, please come to the
Citadel soon and we will talk again. I will send my maid to bring
the plants to my garden. I cannot wait to show Denethor.
You have made me so very happy, dear lady. Thank you!" And
she quickly hugged Elleth and ran out the door.
Elleth sat back in amazement. She rued some of the words she had
said to her husband concerning the family of Turgon.
They say the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Nothing
could have stopped Indis from her resolve, nothing perhaps, except
The citadel reeled from the news. Gondor's people flocked to the
Great Hall, words of horror on their lips, waiting for the Steward to
speak, to assuage their fears. More people gathered in the square
by the statue of Isildur opposite the Great Gate. Soldiers were
seen sequestered by themselves in doorways and alleyways. It was
as if the City itself staggered.
Captain Cranthir was dead - along with all those who had joined him in
the day's patrol. It was to have been a short jaunt into Ithilien
- one of the daily patrols into that fair, but near-deserted
land. Usually, the Captain of Osgiliath let others lead the
patrol, but today had been a glorious day and he chafed against certain
restraints imposed upon him by the Steward. So he led the men
forth, but none returned. An errand-rider was immediately
dispatched to Turgon, who sat on the Steward's chair - stunned and
voiceless. The chamberlain had cleared the Great Hall so that
father and son could speak in private. Ecthelion urged him to
speak to the people, but there was naught in his eyes but
despair. How could Ecthelion say, I told you so? There was
no joy in this moment of knowledge. There was no
vindication. He knew disaster was brooding on their very
doorstep, but never did he think it would hit so close to home.
His last link with Rían - her brother now dead and gone.
No, wait. Cranthir was not his last link - it was Denethor!
Denethor was his last link. He would find the boy. He must
find the boy. As he walked towards the door, Turgon awoke from
his stupor and called his name.
"Ecthelion. Help me!" Ecthelion bowed his head. What
could he say to the Steward? All these many years he had
attempted to plead his cause for more men in the army of Gondor,
greater defenses along Osgiliath, the retaking of Eastern Osgiliath,
the Rammas Echor fortified. And all these many years, his father
had turned a deaf ear. This could have been avoided, Ecthelion
felt; this should have been avoided. How ironic that it should be
the death of one of the noblest families of Gondor that would finally
cause his father to open his eyes.
"Father, you must speak to our people. You must use this time to
rally them to the defense of Minas Tirith and of all Gondor. You
must prepare for battle. This is not a one-time occurrence.
You yourself heard the reports of the battle east of Mirkwood.
There will be more Orc attacks. You know it. I beg you -
tell the people that they must send their sons for training, that the
City must be prepared for war, that the men and women must focus on
making Gondor strong again!"
"No. No, my son. They are lost and afraid and I must give
"Yes, Father. They must have comfort, but they must see that
there is a plan to protect them."
"Yes, a plan. There must be a plan." Turgon's eyes clouded
over and Ecthelion started at the look of age on his face. He was
only eighty-eight. He had many years left to govern Gondor.
Yet, the bright eyes and youthful stance of the
Númenórean race were gone. When had they gone and
left this old man in his place?
Suddenly, the light was there again, faint, but present. "I shall
call my captains. We will plan. We must!"
All night the captains deliberated and Ecthelion fumed. There was
no substance to the planning, no thoughts but those of defeat or denial
or worse, apathy.
And once again, fate stepped in and kept father from son.
The next morning broke clear and bright. Peregrines encircled the
White Tower chattering and calling to each other. All night,
Amdir had searched every level of Minas Tirith starting with the
stables and ending with the barracks, but to no avail. Denethor
was nowhere to be found. He sat dejectedly on a stoop, holding
his head in his hands. He knew he must find him. Cranthir
was Denethor's most beloved friend as well as uncle. Where could
Another loud cry from a diving peregrine made Amdir look up. A
smile touched his face. He knew where Denethor was. He ran
to the back of the escarpment and started climbing the
stairs. Why hadn't he thought of this before? He had
wasted so much time. Finally, he arrived at the door and listened
quietly, catching his breath. No sound. He couldn't be
wrong! Slowly he pushed the door open, saw the beacon before him,
the two beacon-tenders, but saw no sign of his quarry. He turned
to leave and as he did, he saw Denethor hunched in the corner next to a
bench. His eyes filled with tears.
"My friend," was all he could say.
Denethor did not even look up. His head was cradled in his
arms. His shoulders shook slightly.
Amdir walked towards him and sat on the bench, as close to his friend
as he could. He knew he had not the words to comfort him, but he
had to stand next to him, to let him know that he was there for him.
A silver trumpet sang out in the morning, dispelling all darkness and
making Denethor's heart jump. 'How can I sit here in
mourning? I have duties to perform.' As he rose, he looked
at Amdir in surprise. "When did you get here? Last night?"
Amdir started. "I just arrived a few moments ago. I came to
see if you needed anything."
"No, but thank you, my friend. We must attend to our
duties. There are many things that must be done, preparations for
mourners from far lands, cleaning of the stables for their mounts and
hunting for sustenance for our guests. Then errand-riders must be
sent with the news. The burial must be in Ithilien; he would have
wanted that. Will you come with me to your father? Perhaps
he will let us hunt together."
"You know I will follow you anywhere, Denethor. Do you want to
talk about Captain Cranthir? I remember the last time I saw
him. You remember, don't you? We were in Osgiliath at his
home and he broke the fast with us in the morning after our
adventure. He was telling us about the time he had gotten
lost. Do you remember?"
A sob escaped Denethor's lips. "I remember it well. That
was also the last time I saw him. His kindness - we must go."
"Lead on, my Lord, and I will follow," laughed Amdir, but there was no
laughter in reply. Amdir sighed. This was going to be a long day.
The tenders breathed a sigh of relief as the boys left.
Indis was beside herself. She had called the Captain of the Watch
and requested that Denethor be sent to her. His emissary had
returned an hour later saying that Denethor was not available.
She was furious. Had Ingold forbidden it? She would go to
the Great Hall and demand from her father that Denethor be allowed to
be with her at this time. She threw her cloak around her
shoulders and stamped out of her room, running directly into Morwen.
"Where are you going now?" 'Wen cried. She saw the look in her
sister's eyes, the look that had been growing there these past years
and knew that she was losing her childhood friend. She also knew
Indis was growing up. Furthermore, she knew where she was headed.
"I am away to see Father. No one will let me see Denethor and I
will not have this - on this day of all days!" She shook, she was
so furious. "Cranthir was beloved of Denethor and I will not have
him mourn alone. There is no reason for it."
Morwen took a deep breath. "Then I am going with you. I
will not let you fight this alone. Though I am most afraid,
Indis. Are you sure we should go? Don't you think father
will be furious? Can we send one of the servants?"
"I value our Father's love, but I value my own respect more. I
will not stand by and let Denethor suffer alone. Not another day
will I let go by without doing something. My mind is made up."
"Woman, get back to your rooms. You have duties to perform.
There are notices to be designed and lists of guests to invite.
It is your duty to do these things, not mine. Gondor's defenses
are my ilk. Go! Now!"
Morwen ran back through the Great Hall, tears streaming down her
eyes. Indis stood in front of Ecthelion. She shook inside
but would not let him see it. She would not run! This was
too important. She must not fail - herself or her brother.
"You would pay heed to your guests over your own son! Lists will
be prepared, but your first duty is to your son, my Lord. I will
command Ingold to bring him to you here within the hour. I will
go now to do that duty and the one that you have given me.
Father!" she begged him, "Life is very short and our span lessons with
each generation. You must speak with him. There may not be
another time. Does not grandfather's death tell you this!
She bowed low and turned to leave.
"I will speak with him. But have Ingold send him to my
chambers. Now go and do your duty, my daughter. Know that I
She almost skipped down the length of the Hall. She had stood up
to him, with respect, but she had stood up to him. Now, perhaps,
Ecthelion and Denethor would be reconciled and the family would be one
again. Cranthir would be most pleased. His death had
The remains, that was all they could be called, were placed in a closed
coffin and displayed in the Great Hall. When the soldiers had
found the bodies of the lost company, they stood stunned. Limbs
lay far from bodies, tossed from the battlefield as if in
mockery. Heads had been severed and unspeakable tortures were
visible on the torsos. Some soldiers went off and did what they
had to do to help overcome the horror they felt. Sounds filled
the air, sounds of sickness and despair. Sobs racked many a man
that day. Sacks were brought; they massed all the parts together,
to be separated and identified in Minas Tirith. None envied the
task of the healers in correcting the chaos that lay before them.
Due to the fact that Cranthir was of the Steward's family, though by
marriage only, it was fitting that he lay in state in the Great Hall
instead of in the Soldier's Hall. This distressed many of his
friends; the Captain of Osgiliath had hated pomp and any show of
stature. He thought himself a simple soldier; his friends knew
him as one of honour and courage and loyalty. They would have
preferred to spend their last moments with their captain in privacy.
Only a few torches were lit in the Great Hall. Shadows abounded,
but Ecthelion was glad. He wanted to see nothing clearly this
night. He laid his hand gently on the coffin. "Ah, my old
friend. How I will miss you. You understood, more than many
in higher places, the need for vigilance. You were my one ally in
this battle against those who would have us sit and wait for death to
tear us apart." Tears formed in his eyes; he let them fall.
No shame for Ecthelion. A heavy sigh left his lips. "I am
so very sorry that I had not seen you these past months. I am so
very sorry that I did not bring Denethor to visit again. I know
your heart and his were attached - beyond even any attachment that he
and I had." At this thought, he shook his head. "I will
miss your wisdom, though I did not oft listen to it. Forgive me,
my old friend." He bowed his head, the grief too much to
bear. He felt very alone this night, alone against the forces of
darkness and evil. Tomorrow this Hall would be open to the people
of Gondor, but tonight, he would mourn in solitude next to his old
He heard a noise, faint, coming from a corner near the
entranceway. "Who is it? I have not given my permission for
any to enter yet. Leave me now!"
What voice was that? It rang familiar. He turned towards
the sound. A small figure started towards him, slowly,
fearfully. Suddenly the figure began to run, legs churning down
the long Hall. Ecthelion gasped. It was his son, his
Denethor. He stooped and hugged the sobbing boy to a chest that
suddenly burned with unaccountable pain.
Neither spoke for some time; they held on to each other. No words
were needed. Father and son were one again.
Ecthelion sat and leaned against the coffin, still holding Denethor in
his arms. Their tears mingled, tears of sorrow for the lost one
and tears of joy for the found ones. Indis stood in the shadows
Morning brought rain, heavy, menacing. Torches blazed to dispel
some of the darkness of the day; their smell and smoke covered the
Hall. Yet the people came. First, Cranthir's own company,
what was left of it - those who had been too sick to patrol that day,
or been on leave - they proceeded to form an honour guard around the
coffin. Next came Turgon, Ecthelion, Denethor, Indis, Morwen and
the rest of the Steward's family. After that came soldiers, in
their finest uniforms, cleaned and buffed till every button, buckle and
clasp shown bright. Then Rangers in their dark garb, browns and
greens, adding a somber note to the scene. Guests from far off
lands came also, from Lossarnach and Lebennin, Rohan and Dol Amroth,
great captains and leaders, kings and princes. Finally, the people of
Gondor, proud and noble and wounded; all filed past. After the
day's viewing, the coffin was paraded to the Great Gate on a black
draped wain; Captain Cranthir's horse led behind. The entourage
gathered before the gate and Turgon spoke in the Common Tongue.
"My fellow men and women of Gondor. The past days have been a
sore trial for our land. It has been many long years since such
violence has been made against us. Yes, I say against us for it
was not against Cranthir and his company alone that this was done;
rather, it was done against all of Gondor."
Ecthelion was stunned by these words. Were they finally words of
reprisal? Perhaps the Council had come to some agreement the
night of his vigil with Cranthir's body. Perhaps something had
happened that he did not know of. He waited in hope.
"And now, all Gondor must learn to heal. This was a random
act. There was no sense to it. I do not believe it will
occur again. We will keep our garrison at Osgiliath for the time
being, but know that the captains and I do not feel that there is cause
for alarm. A wayward Orc or two do not mean the end of the
peace. We are not in danger. Know that, my people, and be
at peace. We go now to bury our brethren." He started
forward and the procession followed.
"No!" Ecthelion screamed in his heart. How could he keep from
screaming aloud? His jaw hurt from holding it tight shut, from
not saying the words that should have been said. His shoulders
shook from the fury that engulfed his being. Then they stooped
and he stifled a sigh. He had no authority to say another
word. He must wait upon his father and obey him. But his
heart was frozen within him. What further harm had to occur
before his father would see? The death of Cranthir was for
naught. His chin trembled at the attempt to keep from
crying. His heart despaired.
Muffled drums beat quietly, their cadence giving matter to the
procession's progress. Passing through the Pelennor, the
entourage headed towards the garrison at Osgiliath. They would
pass the night there and begin Cranthir's last journey. The next
morning dawned clear and bright. Water from a sudden storm during
the night still covered the streets of the old city adding a further
sense of loss. The broken city was mirrored in puddles and
Ecthelion sensed these were the teardrops of the city, crying out for
revenge. Once across the Anduin, the party headed southward,
towards the old homestead of Cranthir's family, now long
abandoned. A company of Rangers had been sent ahead to scout the
area. Even though it was a mighty procession, Orcs and Haradrim
were not above trying to disrupt even a solemn time such as this.
There was no way the Haradrim could not have heard of the disaster,
mayhap even been part of it. Gondor's only hope was that they
would think Cranthir would be buried in Minas Tirith. Or better
yet, that Gondor was afraid to come to Ithilien after the massacre.
There was not a word said, nor a song sung; despair weighed heavily on
all present. The drums continued their low anguish. They
passed ruin after ruin of towns and farms lost and forsaken. Even
in the depths of their grief, the entourage was stunned by the
desolation of the land. The enemy had ravaged field, forest, and
glade. No crops were visible -- even fields that had gone wild
were bare. Something had been used to scorch the earth and leave
the ground untenable for life. Orchards, long forsaken, had been
chopped into small pieces and left on the ground to decay. There
could be nothing more to say; the silent screams of the denigration
done to this land and to the people of Gondor went unanswered.
Soldiers had gone, the day before, to the burial site and repaired the
damage to the family vault. Cranthir was laid inside and the
heavy door swung shut and bolted. Ecthelion put his arm on
Denethor's shoulders and the two walked away, their heads bent in
sorrow. Denethor would not soon forget this day. This
day they had laid to rest his dearest confidant, one who held him in
esteem, given him a sense of worth, challenged him to grow, and taught
him how to laugh and to cry. Sobs strangled him as he fought to
hold them in. As his shoulders shook, his father tightened his
hold. Denethor's heart lifted. The touch of his father was
long sought after and long denied. To feel the warmth of his body
next to his was beyond comprehension. There was no condemnation
in that touch -- a shared moment of grief.
Then, Ecthelion started to speak to him of what had happened and what
should be Gondor's response. He spoke to him as one man to
another. They discussed the many battles that had assailed this
land in times past and what course of action had been taken in
response. Ecthelion opened his heart to his son and laid upon him
the burden of regret that he felt for Gondor. He cautioned
Denethor to show respect for Turgon, but decried Turgon's path for
"When we return to the Citadel, my son, we must devote ourselves to
understanding warfare, for war is upon us, on our very doorstep.
You have spent many long years in learning swordsmanship and archery,
self-defense and survival training. I would now that you put your
entire self into the matter of warfare. I will instruct Ingold to
portion a time of your day to research in the Great Library. You
cannot learn enough. The past will show us how to prepare for the
future. We will meet once a week and you will bring me your
findings. We will discuss our preparations for defense, but we
must also prepare for offense. This we will do quietly, you and
I. For Turgon will be laid with our fathers one day soon and I
will be Steward. Then, I can protect Gondor; we can protect
Gondor until the king comes."
Amdir and Ingold walking a short distance behind them looked at the
heads bent close together, and smiled sadly. Ingold was glad that
his Captain-General was educating his son; Amdir was glad Denethor had
his father back. As Ingold placed his own hand on his son's
shoulder, Amdir sighed. Perhaps Cranthir's death had