Ten Thousand Years
Will Not Suffice
Prologue: 3rd Age 2930
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"And this I remember of Boromir as a
boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of
our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king.
"How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the
king returns not?" he asked. "Few years, maybe, in other places of less
royalty," my father answered. "In Gondor ten thousand years would not
suffice." Alas! Poor Boromir. Does that not tell you something of him?"
The Two Towers - "Of Herbs
and Stewed Rabbits" - Faramir speaks to Frodo.
"Rían is well, Ecthelion. And you -- you have a
son." Turgon took his own son in his arms and hugged him
tightly. "Your heir, my son; I am most proud of you! Have
you decided upon a name?"
"Yes, Father. He will be called Denethor."
"Ah, yes. That would seem to be an appropriate name. We
might very well have need of another Denethor. Are you suggesting our
time of peace is at an end?"
Ecthelion laughed, "Father, I have no more foresight than you in this
matter. It is a warrior's name. One of honor and I deem the
time is right for another Denethor. You are not yet ready to go
to our forefathers and I will not readily go either. Long will it
be before my son becomes Steward. He will keep peace in our land
if I have anything to do with it, just as you have."
"Well, my son," Turgon said. "Go to your wife now and tell her I
am overjoyed. Thank her for bringing the Twenty-Sixth Ruling
Steward of Gondor into this world."
As Ecthelion left his father, he wondered at this last request.
Why would he say Ruling Steward? Did he have some
premonition? Was not the king to return during Turgon's or his
own stewardship -- perhaps even during his son's stewardship? Was
not the saying among the common folk, 'when the king returns?' Is this
not what the people waited for; the hope the Stewards kept alive in
their people? Did not the ceremonies, festivals, nay every meeting end
with the phrase 'until the king return?' Was this not their sacred duty
- to keep Gondor strong in preparation for the return of the king?
Daily, the hope for the return of the king was on his lips. Was
his father saying there was no hope? And yet, Ecthelion wondered, had
he named his son after the Steward or the Elven king?
As he entered their room, his eyes were drawn to the little bundle in
his beloved's arms. So very gently Rían held their child. Their
child! And an heir. He moved quickly to her side, his long legs
striding purposefully towards her. Kneeling next to the bed, he
whispered, "My love, I am so happy." The nurse grumbled as she moved to
allow him to be closer to the bed. He heard and laughed. Nothing could
take his happiness away.
Rían looked beautiful - tired, but beautiful. She looked
at him and yet through him. There was something disquieting about
that look. "Ah, my Lord," Rían said, "There is a
foreboding in my heart as I look at our son." She gave her hand
to Ecthelion, her eyes rolled back, and she was suddenly still.
The nurse snatched the babe from her arms, placed him in the crib next
to the bed, and ran for the healer. Ecthelion stood as marble
from Mount Mindolluin. Suddenly, a horrid shaking assailed his
body and he fell to his knees.
"Rían! Rían!" he cried in panic. Gently he touched
her cheek and his hand recoiled at the coldness of it. So
quickly, so quickly the cold had come and claimed her. He forced
himself to an upright position and took her small hand in his.
"Rían!" he cried aloud, "Do not leave me. I need
you. I need your help. I need you. I need your
presence here beside me. How am I to live without you, to breathe
without you?" He touched her cheek again and resisted the impulse
to pull his hand away. Colder still was that cheek, and yet it
was the cheek of his beloved. "I need you," he sobbed.
Finally, he rose, leaned over her bed and kissed her forehead, her
cheeks, her lips. He brushed back the hair that had fallen
lightly upon her brow.
She was gone. In a moment. With no good-bye. He studied her
face -- tried to etch again each detail into his memory. The
smile he loved so was no longer there. Her lips had lost their
luster, their fullness, their smile. He would never see that
smile again. He wanted to lie next to her, to feel her in his
arms one more time, but instead, he knelt again, knelt next to her,
trying to feel her life force, trying to hear her voice, trying to feel
her hand upon his brow. His head bent forward and rested on her
shoulder. The sobs came unbidden and uncontrolled. He cared
not who heard -- he only wished she could, that she would take him in
her arms, as she had so many times before, and whisper that all would
be well. And yet, no words came from the stony lips.
Adanedhel came running into the room, saw the gray of her face and knew
she would laugh no more. The healer's heart broke for, like the
Steward's son, he was in love with this woman of the gentle smile, the
quick laugh. All of Gondor would mourn this passing, the passing
of the Lady of Gondor. He sent the nurse for Turgon. The
babe had been strangely quiet; taking him from his crib, Adanedhel
walked out of the room. He would leave the Steward's son alone
for the time being.
The funerary customs of Gondor dictated that she lay in state; for two
days the people of Gondor waited in snake-like lines to bid her
farewell. The escarpment itself had been roped off to give the
line some order, but still in silence they waited patiently. Gone
were all signs of adornment on her people. Black was the color
for this time and black was the mood of her people. The untimely
death had shaken them, sobered even the joy of an heir.
Turgon was not sure what to do to relieve this. It was definitely
time to put an end to this mourning, to shake his people from this
darkness. He ordered the procession to begin. This time
reminded him too well of his own wife's demise. Long had she been
gone and long had Rían been Gondor's Lady. The people had
loved her fully. Now they waited in this never-ending line to
take one last glimpse of her.
There was much sorrowful singing; mutes walked the Citadel, mournful
women wailers filled the Court of the Fountain, and the sickly sweet
smell of burning incense wafted through the dead air that lay upon the
City as the procession made its way from the Great Hall, where the Lady
of Gondor had lain in state, to the House of the Stewards. The
guard opened the gate of Rath Dínen and Ecthelion recoiled at
the utter silence that greeted him. Was this place of absolute
stillness to be her last resting place, she who had always filled the
air with such joyful laughter? None could see the desolation on
his face; he hid his grief well.
Striding next to his father, he could see nothing. The only sense
he seemed to have was the sense of hearing -- and it heard
nothing. His ears searched for some sound that would make this a
bearable place to leave her. Yet no sound came in the painful
stillness of the City of the Dead. Perhaps if he put a wind chime
near her resting place? But no -- there was no wind in these
halls to move even the tiniest bell. She would have to be content
with his sobs when he came to visit her. One almost broke through
his reserve, but he bit his lip and quickly blinked his eyes.
They laid her upon the center dais -- others would place her in the
appointed vault after the mourners left. Gardenias were placed
all around her body. At last, Turgon gently touched his
arm. Ah, the sense of touch was still about him, he thought
gratefully. He bent over the empty body and kissed the lips one
more time. Quickly he turned and strode out of that
building. The others could barely keep up with him -- his long
stride cutting through the distance to the open door.
Yet again, tragedy had struck his family. Was there never to be
sustained joy, long life, peace? He found himself walking towards
the White Tower. The sun against its walls almost blinded
him. Nothing should be bright on this day -- there should only be
dimness. He passed into the tower's cool darkness with a sense of
relief. In darkness was where he belonged for was not his light,
his Rían, extinguished? Slowly, he walked the steps
leading upwards. It seemed to take a hundred years, but finally
he reached the room at the top. He needed to be alone. No
matter where he walked in the city these past three days, people stared
or gave him flowers, or bowed with tear-stained faces. Their pain
reflected his own and it was too much to bear.
He was glad he had come here. Always the sight of Gondor spread
before him eased his mind. He could look out the south window and gaze
towards the Bay of Belfalas. The gulls circled about the tower --
no white ones could be seen, only gray and dirty birds -- their cries
echoed the cries in his heart. Slowly he walked to the north
window and saw the slopes of Erod Nimrais, and further along, the
Anduin. He knew the Falls of Rauros lay in that direction and his very
being went there. To be standing at that place, to see the Argonath in
the distance, to feel the spray from the falls hitting his face, that
would ease his mind. Finally, his steps led him to the east
window and the mountains of the Ephel Dúath. His heart
skipped a beat as it always did when he looked at the ruin that was
Osgiliath. Dior's sister-son, Denethor, had lost this land to the
Uruks of Mordor. Would his own son, his own Denethor...? Now he wished
he had the gift of foresight, gifted to so many of his ancestors before
The river ran clean and beautiful through those ruins. The city
itself, both East and West Osgiliath, was desolate, bereft of its
people and of its hope. His Númenórean eyes could
clearly see the gaping holes in the roofs of the great hall and other
buildings though so many leagues away; the devastation was terrible.
Osgiliath was a mirror of how he imagined his heart looked -- cold,
empty, utterly destroyed with gaping holes in it. Bereft of love,
bereft of hope, bereft of her.
The Palantír was here. Almost -- he felt its
presence. He walked towards it and removed its covering
cloth. Where was she, he wondered? Was she in the land of
the West, with the Valar? Was she in the sea on some Elven
ship? Or mayhap in the sky with Eärendil? It was a
seeing stone, was it not? What did it see? If he looked
into it, mayhap it would speak to him -- of her? Or at least it
might show him her face again -- yes, that would help. Where was
But no, it did not even flicker. He did not touch it. The
other six stones were lost forever. This was just a black,
useless ball sitting here in expectation of a king's return. A
hollow laugh filled the room and Ecthelion was surprised; it was his
own voice. He did not like the sound of it. He no longer
liked this room either. He placed the cloth back upon the
stone. He looked again out the east window and shuddered.
Something was amiss in that land beyond the mountains. For a
moment, his sorrow was replaced with fear. Something must be done
to protect Minas Tirith.
As he strode down the steps, the light from outside grew
stronger. He felt a lightening of his spirit. It was time
to find his daughters and his son. Time to put aside thoughts of
the last few days. But as fate will at times - an old woman met
him as he exited the tower and offered him a bouquet of gardenias -
Rían's favorite flower. Startled, he looked into the old
"She is gone, my Lord, but will never be forgotten. As I picked
these from my garden in memory of her, so too must you pick your
children from their grief and give them to Gondor. For Gondor, my
Lord, all for Gondor."