Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice

by Agape4Rivendell

Third Age – 2930

‘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. Will we need another Denethor to bring Gondor through these times?’

Ecthelion laughed, ‘Father, you are not yet ready to go to our forefathers and I will not readily go either. It will be a long time before my son becomes Steward. 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. If peace is not upon our land during your rule, mayhap he will be the one to bring peace.’

‘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 not even during his son’s Stewardship? Daily, the prayer for the return of the King was on his lips. Was his father saying there was no hope?

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 baby from her arms, placed him in the crib next to the bed, and ran for the healer. Ecthelion stood as granite from Mindolluin. Suddenly, a horrible 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 cold 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. He rose, leaned over her bed and kissed her forehead, her cheeks, her lips. He brushed back the hair that had fallen lightly on 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 it again. 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.

The healer came, saw the gray of her face and knew she would laugh no more. His heart broke for, like his master’s son, he was in love with this woman of the gentle smile, the quick laugh. All of Gondor would mourn this passing. He sent the nurse for Turgon. The baby had been strangely quiet; taking him from his crib, Ecthelion walked out of the room. He would leave the Steward’s son alone for the time being.

The funeral had lasted too long. For two days, she lay in state and 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. 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 singing, mournful wailing, and the sickly sweet smell of incense burning 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 filled the air with such joyful laughter? None could see the desolation in his face. He strode next to his father but 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. 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 available to him. 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 be only darkness. He passed into the tower’s cool darkness with almost a sense of relief. In darkness was where he belonged. He slowly walked the steps leading upward. 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, 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. He could look out the south window and almost see the Bay of Belfalas. The gulls circled about the tower -- no white ones could be seen, only gray and dirty ones -- and 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; almost -- he could see the trees of Mirkwood. Finally, his steps led him to the east window and the mountains of Ephel Dúath. His heart skipped a beat, as it always did when he looked at the ruin that was Osgiliath. 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. Gaping holes in the roofs of the great hall and other buildings could be seen clearly. 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 palantir was here. Almost -- he felt its presence. He walked towards it and moved 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? He had no memory of reading anything about what it saw. 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 she?

But no, it didn’t even flicker. He didn’t 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 didn’t like the sound of it. He didn’t like 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. Or something was going to be amiss. Something must be done to protect Minas Tirith.

As he strode down the steps, the light from outside grew stronger. He suddenly 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 months. 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 woman’s eyes.

‘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.’