Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
I II III IV V VI VII VIII
Third Age - 2953
An errand-rider had come with orders for Denethor to return
to Minas Tirith. He had few possessions and none were worth saving. He
left them, swung up onto the horse the rider had brought, and spurred
it towards home. Home, he thought. A shudder ran through him. Alas, he
had begun to wonder if he would ever see his City again. The beacon
watcher stared, mouth agape, as Denethor rode off.
The months had turned into years and frustration had grown into
something akin to hatred. Denethor was at once ashamed and proud. He
knew Ecthelion would have to send for him sooner or later, but five
years! Early he had learned how to make his body hard. He would watch
for the beacon light at night and, once relieved of this duty in the
morning, would start out walking. He would walk till nuncheon, living
off the land, and then return to the hovel for a quick lie-down, then
return to his post. He would not succumb to lassitude nor despair. He
was determined to know this land and to learn all he could from it. The
watcher and his family were quite dull, knew nothing of reading or
writing, and contented themselves with games that would keep a
youngster happy, but not him.
Watching for a signal was dull work, but he wrote during the long
nights, when his body did not freeze in the winters nor roast in the
summers. His mind tried to remember all that he had learned during his
eighteen plus years. He started a timeline at first, and then wrote the
kings’ names from Elendil forward and all that he could remember of
their histories; then he concentrated on the line of Stewards. By the
end of the second year, he started to fear for his sanity.
At last, one morning, as his path took him close to the border of
Rohan, he was commanded by a hidden voice to give the secret word. He
was excited to hear the language, though not his own, but close to that
of Thengel’s and, because of this, Denethor was able to discern the
voice’s question. Ah, men more of my own station than those I dwell
with, he thought. He held his hands in front of him and assured the
voice, in halting Rohirric, that he was not a threat, but a beacon
watcher. The voice came forward upon a magnificent horse. Denethor
caught his breath at the beauty of the beast as it pranced impatiently
in front of him, the sun shining on its ebony coat. The rider had a
lance thrust before him, pointed at Denethor’s throat.
‘How comes a beacon watcher to know the language of Eorl?’ he spat.
‘I am friend of Thengel, son of Fengel, lord of the horse-masters,’
Denethor said quietly. ‘I have been...’ he paused in consternation. ‘I
have been stationed here to learn obedience.’ Shame colored his face,
but he would not lie.
‘Obedience. Then you are no lowly beacon watcher.’ The stranger’s eyes
narrowed to slits. ‘You are high born. Lessons on obedience are only
taught to those who are worthy of it. I would have your name and
quickly.’ The lance moved closer to Denethor’s throat.
‘My name is Denethor of the line of Stewards.’
The man drew in his breath. ‘Nay, not only of the line, but son of
Ecthelion!’ He lowered his lance, dismounted and strode forward. ‘My
name is Walda, sister-son of Fengel and Third Marshall of the
Riddermark. I know what it means to be taught obedience,’ and his smile
burnt the sun.
Denethor smiled back. ‘’Tis good to meet one of Thengel’s family. He
and I are great friends.’ His face coloured again. ‘He was my Captain
before this... posting.’
‘Are you free at the moment? My camp is only two leagues from here, perhaps we might share ‘obedience’ stories?’
And so the friendship had begun. Denethor nearly wept that night as he
sat under the stars - to finally have someone to talk to again –
someone who had lived the same kind of life Denethor had. He added
Walda’s name to his log with a drawing of him and his great horse. They
had sat together for many hours as old soldiers do. Denethor laughed at
this thought. Old soldiers, indeed! I am just twenty and Walda is
twenty-five. But the laughter was not in earnest for had not he fought
many a battle against Orcs and such, and had not his new friend told
him of the battles of the Rohirrim against the same?
Denethor shook his head. He must put aside reminiscing and discover
what had been happening to Gondor during his long absence. Walda had
given him some news, but there had been rare visits between the two
countries, so his news was not current. Of this, Denethor had been
mortified. He made another vow to himself and wrote it in his log. When
he became Steward, he would open the borders between the two countries,
allies from long past, and ensure that errand-riders would bring news
to and from Rohan and the Golden Hall. The errand-rider was loath to
give any news to Denethor; he was, after all, only an errand-rider. But
Denethor, having learned the ways of perception during his long years
in the wild, bent his will to discover what he could from what the
rider did not say. He grew cold as he saw fear flit in the man’s eyes
as he casually mentioned the Ephel Dúath. So, something had been
happening there while he had been gone. Also, there seemed to have been
a change in authority in Gondor. Of what, he could not be sure, but
there was a hesitancy on the man’s part whenever Denethor mentioned
It was becoming maddening and Denethor was close to losing his
patience. Three days now they had ridden at a fast pace and the Ramos
Echor finally came into view. Denethor held his breath as they turned
towards the North Gate. Minas Tirith lay before him. Three leagues and
he would be in his City. Tears stung his eyes. It was beautiful, more
so than he had remembered, though it had ever been before him, in his
mind’s eye, during his long banishment. He was home!
He heard his name called the moment he passed through the Great Gate.
Running towards him was Amdir, healed, with a smile that threatened to
break his face, so wide was it. ‘My brother, my friend!’ he cried and
tried to hug Denethor, but Denethor, as soon as he had recognized the
voice, had swung down from his horse and pulled Amdir into his arms.
‘Amdir,’ he choked, his voice constricted by emotion. ‘Amdir, my
dearest friend.’ Long moments passed ‘ere either man let go. Finally,
Denethor distanced himself from Amdir and looked him over. ‘You look
well, my friend,’ he stifled the tears that wrecked havoc behind his
eyes. He had also learnt control whilst away and would not let them
fall. ‘Are you? Well, that is?’
‘Yes, and long healed. It is good fortune that has me in the City at
this time. I have been stationed at Pelargir for the last year. But due
to Turgon’s death, I..’
Denethor’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open. ‘What is this you speak of? Turgon is dead?’
Amdir stepped back a pace, stunned. ‘Yes, Denethor, your grandsire
passed three days ago. Did not the rider tell you? Did not your father
send a missive with the news?’
His face turned hard and scarlet. ‘Nay,’ he said and jumped back up onto his horse.
‘Denethor!’ Amdir yelled, ‘Wait,’ as Denethor urged his horse forward.
Amdir shook his head. The Steward’s family was again in the midst of
upheaval. Why did not they speak to each other? he wondered as he
hurried to follow his friend up the long road to the Citadel.
His chest hurt and his breath came in short bursts. Fury drove him
upwards and his horse, straining to obey his rider’s will, stumbled at
the fourth gate. Denethor jumped from the horse and immediately rubbed
its leg. ‘I am sorry,’ he said to his mount. ‘My anger has caused me to
hurt you,’ he spoke to the horse in the language he had learnt from
Walda. He was sorely ashamed. The poor horse was not at fault. He took
the halter and started towards the next level. He tried to use the time
to quell the shaking of his limbs and the racing of his heart. What was
he going to say to Ecthelion? What could he say? He wanted to scream at
him. He wanted to punch him. He wanted to put his sword through his
throat. ‘Stop this!’ he reprimanded himself. I must be calm. I must
hide all feeling from him. Tears again threatened as he thought of the
ill he had been done these past five years. Never to see Turgon again.
It was almost too much to bear and brought remembrances of Cranthir,
his mother’s brother. How did he die? When? He wondered. It had to have
been within the last week. Now he wished he had not ridden away from
Amdir. He had many questions and would have preferred to have had them
answered before he faced Ecthelion. Just as these thoughts came to him,
Amdir ran up to him.
‘I am glad you finally decided to walk. I have had a hard time catching
you,’ his friend, always ready with a smile, beamed at him. ‘I am sorry
for your loss, Denethor, but I am so very grateful that you have been
called home. Is that selfish of me?’
Denethor stopped and turned towards Amdir. ‘Nay, friend, it is valued.
Look! It is ‘The Three Fishermen.’ Let us stop for a moment. I have
many questions, and I am afraid I must compromise our friendship by
sating my curiosity. There is much I must know before my audience with
Ecthelion.’ He pushed the door open and the familiar smell caught at
his heart. He wondered where Thengel was as he sat down in his old
chair. The mugs were cool and the ale was strong. Denethor sighed.
Amdir sat quietly next to him.
‘When did Turgon die, Amdir?’
‘Not seven days ago.’
‘Seven days. Ecthelion must have sent for me immediately,’ he refused
to use the word, father in the same sentence as Ecthelion. He had long
stopped thinking of him as that. No, that was not true. He still, in
the far recesses of his mind, wished that Ecthelion had been his
father, but no father would treat his son the way he had been treated.
Bitterness welled up in his mouth and he washed it away with the ale.
‘Where is Indis? Are she and Arciryas still...’ He could not ask that
‘Indis is living within the Citadel and Arciryas is living in the
Houses. They see each other... infrequently.’ Amdir shook his head.
‘There has been no child,’ he said, his voice reflecting the pain he
had heard in Indis’ voice when last he saw her. ‘I have not been in the
City, as I said, for quite sometime, but Indis came to dinner not a
week ago and her pain was written on her face. We had invited Arciryas
also, but, of course, your father had left orders that he was to be
assigned to the Houses that evening. Your father knows everything that
goes on. It is difficult to arrange a meeting between the two.’
‘Would you please refrain from calling him my ‘father’ in my presence,
Amdir?’ Denethor asked. His tone was soft, but his jaw was clenched.
Amdir’s eyes widened. ‘Of course, Denethor, if that is your wish.’ He
thought of Ingold and thanked the Valar for the father he had. Though
Captain of the Armies, Ecthelion’s harshness had not transferred to
Ingold. Whenever Amdir saw his father, they embraced. How strange to
have a father like Ecthelion.
‘He is my Lord and Steward now,’ Denethor hid the hurt in his voice,
and Amdir who knew every nuance of his friend's voice five years ago,
was not sure what he heard.
He finished his ale and stood. ‘Please do not come with me. This is
something I must do myself. I will visit you and Listówel when
my audience is complete. Where are you staying whilst you are in the
‘My father’s old house on the Sixth Level is still mine. We are there. And the iris still bloom,’ he smiled.
‘My friend,’ Denethor crushed him with a hug. ‘I will be there, if I am able.’
Amdir shivered. Those were the same words Denethor had used that fateful night five years ago.
Denethor entered the Great Hall. The chamberlain gawked at him at
first, and then, upon a curt command from Denethor, escorted him into
the Hall. Denethor took a great gulp of air and walked towards the
Steward’s Chair. Ecthelion sat in it. ‘This is almost too much to
bear,’ he thought. Officials swarmed around the Chair. The din of their
voices was too much for Denethor, accustomed as he was to the silent
sweep of the White Mountains. Ecthelion looked up as he heard the
footsteps approach. His face blanched and his teeth clamped together.
‘My son!’ he said with a faint note of sarcasm running through it. ‘You
come home at last. Leave me.’ He had turned and spoken to the men about
him. They scurried away in fear.
‘Come away from here and sit with me. It is almost time for the evening
meal.’ As he said this, the sundown-bells rang. He walked towards his
private chambers and Denethor, steeling himself for the upcoming
interview, walked behind him.
‘You look well. A little too thin for my taste, but well, nonetheless.’
He walked towards a cabinet and pulled out a decanter of wine. ‘Please,
sit,’ he motioned Denethor towards a hard-backed chair next to his
desk. The chamberlain entered, took the decanter from the Steward’s
hands and began pouring the wine. ‘Leave us,’ Ecthelion hissed.
Ah, so this is how it will be – a gentle dance for control, Denethor
thought. Well, Ecthelion would be surprised. He had learned to dance
this kind of dance.
‘I am well, my Lord, if not for the ache in my heart at my long
absence. Though much has been learned. I am most grateful for your
kindness in sending me off.’ He kept his tone flat and soft.
Ecthelion looked up, vexation painting his face. ‘Are you complaining, my son?’
Denethor almost gagged at the word ‘son’ but held himself in control.
‘Nay, my Lord.’ He would NOT use the term father if all the Orcs in the
Ephel Dúath attacked him! ‘I am saying that I have missed your
counsel.’ He raised the glass to his mouth and smiled into it.
‘And I have missed your smile,’ and a part of him truly had. He pushed
that thought away. Did the ungrateful whelp think he had sent him off
for his own purposes? Nay, he had sent him to teach him respect,
obedience, order. And now this... this upstart thought to mince words
with him! ‘You have spent your time wisely, I hope?’
‘My Lord. I have spent every waking moment learning the things I
believe you sent me to learn.’ His mind screamed the words –
abandonment, treachery, malice, but his face only showed a tight smile.
‘And those lessons would include?’
‘Obedience, my Lord, respect for authority, respect for the Steward,
and above all, undying love for Gondor. To spill my blood for her and
my Steward at the Steward’s request.’
Ecthelion smiled, so cold it burnt Denethor’s heart. This man must
never have loved me, he thought. And the truth burnt his very being.
‘What would you have me do, my Lord, now that I have been allowed to
enter the gates of the City?’
‘I will send orders to you shortly. In the meantime, I would request
that you go to your quarters, they have been made ready for you, and
await my summons.’
Denethor placed his hand to his chest, bowed low, and left the room.
So, I am to be prisoner in my own quarters, he thought. Again.
He stood by the casement looking out upon the Court of the White
Fountain. His tears finally fell. Too long held in, they scorched his
face. Turgon was dead, buried, and he had not been here. Arciryas and
Indis were all but separated. All of his planning had come to naught.
It was now the second day since he arrived and still Ecthelion did not
call for him. There was a guard outside his door and he praised the
Valar that Amdir had been at the Great Gate upon his arrival else they
would not have seen each other. Even Indis had not come. Perhaps she
did not know he was in the Citadel. But no, Amdir must have told her.
If he saw her. Things seemed so disjointed, so confused here. He almost
wished he were back on the plains of Rohan, his horse under him, the
men of Walda's éored around him. The last three years had been
filled with laughter, friendship, hardship and joy. Walda was a natural
leader and his men were devoted to him. His time with the men of Rohan
made the nights at beacon watch bearable.
‘The éored will assemble in one hour’s time,’ Walda said. ‘Will
you join us?’ The early morning fog hung over the foothills and made it
difficult to see, but Walda had come purposely to include him.
Denethor’s night watch was over. He almost laughed at the invitation,
swinging onto the back of Walda’s mare. To be on a horse again, in the
thick of soldiers, the smile on his face was answer enough for Walda.
‘Then come, pick out a horse and we will ride.’ And they did, directly
into the camp and right up to the pen where the horses were kept.
For the horse-lord to give him the pick of the new herd! ‘The chestnut one, is he old enough?’
‘A fine choice, yes, he is ready. And I see he likes you,’ Walda said as the horse nudged Denethor from behind.
‘Where were the Orcs sighted, my Lord?’ Denethor asked as he saddled his mount.
‘Denethor, I am no more your lord than you are mine,’ Walda smiled;
then he sobered. ‘The band was seen about two leagues to the north, in
the foothills of the White Mountains. There is a village just east of
that area. We will go there first and hope that…’ He need not finish;
Denethor knew his meaning.
The sun warmed his face and the men of the éored warmed his
heart. They were strong and stalwart, yet friendly and kind. To be
among valiant men again! They rode quickly through the plain and turned
into the foothills. Walda had given him a sword, not as fine as the one
that was in his rooms in Minas Tirith, but a good sword nonetheless. It
hung at his side and gave him a sense of completion. Too long had he
been without one, and he wondered if he would be up to battle. He had
kept his arms strong, but were his reflexes still swift? No time to
ponder as the Orc band appeared directly before them. It was a large
band, a little larger than the éored and Denethor knew they were
in for a fierce fight. He swung at the first one to attack him and the
blade hewed an arm. Denethor grunted in satisfaction. The arm still
worked. Another came at him and his horse sidestepped as it lunged
towards him. The blade of the Orc struck his mount in its left flank
and Denethor was at a disadvantage trying to cross over the horse’s
head with his sword and swing down, but he twisted his body to the left
and was able to just slay the beast before his horse fell. He scrambled
to get out from under it as another Orc attacked from his right. The
sword clashed with this Orc’s spear and Denethor found the sword hewn
in two. He jumped back, but the Orc pressed his attack, a sneering
smile on its face in anticipation of the quick and painful death it
would give its enemy. The snarl turned to a grimace and a howl as it
lost its head to Walda’s sword. Walda reached down and grasped
Denethor’s arm and Denethor swung up onto the horse behind Walda. Walda
raced to the edge of the fray and quickly let Denethor down. A warrior
was standing at the edge with a sword and a spear and he shoved a spear
in Denethor’s hand while flailing at Orcs as they assaulted them.
Denethor had never used a spear before, but war constantly teaches new
skills and he lunged at an Orc as it pressed forward. The spear went
through its neck and Denethor grimaced in surprise. He tried to pull
the spear out, but it held firm. He pressed his foot to the Orcs
forehead and pulled with all his might. It let loose and he fell
backwards, almost to the ground. Another Orc saw its advantage and
rushed him. Once again, the Rohirrim saved him. The man who had given
him the spear was behind him and quickly severed the head of the Orc.
He nodded curtly to Denethor and turned to slay another. Denethor
turned towards the one that was coming behind him and the spear found
another victim. He wished he had a sword. Another Orc was upon the
Rohirrim and Denethor saw the man fall. He rushed forward, picked up
the sword and decapitated the Orc, screaming his rage. A riderless mare
ran past him and Denethor rushed forward, grabbed the hanging halter
and pulled himself into the saddle. The horse’s nostrils flared and
fear enlarged its eyes, but Denethor held the reins firm and pulled the
horse up. After getting control, he turned the horse back into the
battle. Another Orc went down under his sword, and Denethor grunted in
satisfaction. Too many they seemed but the courage of the Rohirrim was
running the battle. The Orcs turned towards the mountains, but the
éored would not let them escape. Screams streamed from their
mouths as they killed the last remaining Orcs. Others of the
éored rode slowly through the bodies and hewed the still-living
ones. Some were walking through the corpses, kicking now and then to
ensure the enemy was truly dead. Denethor stopped his horse and sat,
stunned. These men fought with such anger.
Walda came up behind him clasped him on the arm and said, ‘I am glad you have come unscathed through that.’
‘As am I. You have lost many men this day.’
‘Aye,’ Walda said, ‘I had not thought the band that large and my scouts
were also killed. We have much to be grateful for though; the village
was their prime target and we have saved it and those who live there.’
‘What will you do with the bodies of the dead?’
‘We will bury them here. We will burn the Orcs, as is our custom, and
our dead mounts, though in a separate pyre. We would not sully the
memory of our brave steeds by burning them with that foul lot.’
They worked long and hard that day, stopping only for a quick wash and
nuncheon and then plunged back into the harsh task before them. As the
smoke rose and the sun began to set, Denethor knew he had to return to
his duty. It was hard to leave these men. The work of burying the dead
had just begun. His heart wished to stay, to help with the task, but he
knew he must return. A message would be sent to Ecthelion stating he
was disobeying his... disobeying orders. Who knew what further
punishment that would bring.
He rode towards Walda, deep in the mound of bodies, trying to sort out
who was who, so that families could be given their effects. His face
was hard as he pulled swords off bodies.
‘I must leave you now. I am sorry. I have lost the mount you gave me. I
will leave this horse with you and walk back to Halifirien. I am sorry
I cannot stay to help bury the dead, but duty calls me.’ He felt
wretched at the thought of leaving these brave men with such sad work.
Walda shrugged. ‘I understand. Keep the horse and join us when you are able.’
‘I wish I could, Walda, but if I come back to the camp with this horse,
the beacon watcher will know I have been about other things and might
report back to Ecthelion. I cannot take that chance.’
‘Then let me send a rider with you. When you are in sight of the beacon
hill, you can dismount and he will take your horse and return it to me.
Then you can walk into camp with no one the wiser.’
‘I cannot let you give up a man just to return me to Halifirien. You
are in sore need of every able-bodied man to help bury your dead.’
‘One man, more or less, will make no difference. It is not the custom
of my people to let a friend walk when a horse is at hand. Take it. I
hope to see you again soon.’
‘Where will you be camped? Might I find you tomorrow?’
Walda smiled. ‘That would be good. We will camp near the same place I
brought you yesterday.’ He clasped Denethor on the arm. ‘You fought
well today. I am glad you have joined my company.’
Denethor smiled. He was glad too.
There was a shout in the courtyard below. Denethor looked out the
casement and spied Indis speaking frantically with Amdir. A guard stood
by, brandishing his sword. What could possibly be happening? Would one
of the Tower Guard dare to draw a sword on Indis? He saw another guard
running towards the three drawing his sword as he ran. Denethor was
dumbfounded. He ran to the door, opened it, and his guard stepped
forward, sword drawn. Denethor stood, amazed. What had come over his
City? He drew a deep breath.
‘Listen to me,’ he said. ‘Something is wrong with my sister and I must
go to her side. Kill me here or come with me. Either way, I am leaving
The soldier blinked, sheathed his sword, and followed Denethor as he
ran down the hall towards the stairs. Taking them two at a time, he
descended, but not quickly enough. His heart was in his mouth as he
finally reached the door that opened onto the courtyard. He ran towards
Indis and took her in his arms. ‘Sister, sister, what is wrong?’
Indis’ eyes widened. ‘Denethor, you have returned,’ she sobbed and sank
into his arms. He held her close and kept whispering her name till she
calmed. ‘Denethor, Denethor, it is Morwen. She is nowhere to be found
and I fear for her.’
‘‘Wen? Why are you afraid for her?’
‘She has not been herself for weeks, since Turgon started slipping away
from us. She stayed in his room and would not eat, nor speak with
anyone. When we laid him in the Steward’s House, she wailed and wailed.
None could sooth her. Finally, Arciryas came and forced a draught into
her. She succumbed to it and was carried into the Houses of Healing.
She has been under constant watch since. But her maid has told me she
has disappeared and I cannot find her.’ Indis started sobbing again and
Denethor smoothed her hair and spoke her name and held her close.
‘Shush,’ he said, ‘I am here now and we will find her. I promise.’ He
kissed her head and hugged her tighter. Arciryas had run up to them by
this time. Denethor gently passed her to him. ‘Take her to her quarters
and stay with her.’
‘No, Denethor, please,’ Indis cried. ‘I must continue my search.’ Her eyes were wild.
‘Nay, my sister. You will obey me and go to your room. When you have
rested, Arciryas will bring you to me. In the meantime, I will go to
Thengel and muster the armies.’
‘Denethor, have you not heard? Thengel is no longer in Minas Tirith!’ Amdir whispered in his ear.
‘What say you?’ Denethor stood back, stunned. ‘What say you?’ he repeated again, hardly aware he had asked it before.
Amdir stepped closer. ‘Arciryas, take Indis to her rooms. Denethor, come with me.’
‘Where is Thengel?’ Denethor asked as they ran towards the stables.
‘Fengel has passed beyond this life. Thengel was called home. He left two days ago.’
Denethor stopped, lowered his head, put his hands on his thighs. He
tried to breath, to take in everything that was happening. ‘This is not
possible, that both the Steward and the King of Rohan should die so
close to each other! Say it is not so, Amdir. Say that Thengel still is
here.’ The anguish in his voice almost broke Amdir’s heart.
‘He is gone these past two days, against his will, but he is gone. And we must find ‘Wen.’
‘Yes,’ Denethor straightened again, and started running past the
Seventh Gate and towards the stables. ‘Who is Captain of the Guard?’
‘One has not been appointed yet. Everything has happened so fast.’
‘Is Cranthir still Captain of the Horse Guards?’
‘Yes. And the company is here today. We should find them in the barracks.’ Amdir said just as they reached the stable doors.
Cranthir was brushing his steed. He turned as he heard his name
shouted. ‘Denethor!’ he grinned, taking a quick stride towards him and
then stopping as he saw his friend’s face. ‘What is amiss?’
‘’Wen is missing. A search must be made,’ Denethor said as he hugged Thengel’s old aide. ‘Will you muster the Horse Guards?’
‘You need not ask.' He stepped to the doorway and furiously rang the old bell.
Chaos reigned for a few moments as the Horse Guards came at the call of
the frantic bell. They quickly lined up, waiting for their Captain to
speak. To their surprise, and pleasure, they saw that Denethor stood
next to him.
“The Lady Morwen is missing,” Ciramir began. “She was last seen in the
Houses of Healing. We will break into 7 squads. One will away to Rath
Dínen, another to the Houses of Healing… ”
He droned on and on while Denethor bit his lip. Too much time was
passing. ‘When was she last seen,’ he thought. He would take the squad
to the Houses, with Ciramir’s permission. He stepped forward.
“Of course,” Ciramir stated when he heard Denethor’s request. Amdir was
already walking quickly with his squad towards Rath Dínen.
“Adanedhel,” he cried as he entered the front gate. A healer strode up
to him, shushing him furiously. Denethor took the man’s arms in both
his hands and pulled him close. “I will speak with the Master Healer
now!” he gritted the words out between his clenched teeth. The man
turned and raced down the hall. Denethor ordered his men to search the
rooms and strode through the hall, following the man as quickly as he
could. Suddenly, Adanedhel was standing in front of him. “My Lord?”
“When did Morwen leave her room?” Denethor asked, holding his temper in
check. 'Was the man witless? What did he think Denethor wanted!'
“My Lord, we have no knowledge of the time. I am sorry. She had been
asleep and her attendant left her for a moment, I am told. We notified
Indis as soon as her absence was discovered.”
“So no one saw here leave? You have no idea which direction she went? Was anyone with her?”
“I am sorry. I have no answers to any of these questions. We have asked
the staff and no one, it seems, saw her leave, no one went with her, no
one knows where she went. We have searched every house, all the
hallways and storage areas, but she is no longer here.”
Denethor saw genuine concern in the man’s face and stepped back. It was
not until this moment that he realized he had thrust himself close to
the healer and had been poking him with his finger at each question
asked. He shook his head. “Forgive me. If you hear of anything, any
report at all of where she might be, or if anyone has seen her, please
send a messenger to Indis or to me.” He called his men to him as he
strode back to the gate.
‘Where could she be,’ he wondered? And then a chill ran through him.
‘No, it is not possible. She would not have gone there. She could not
have gone there without someone seeing her leave the City.’ He started
running towards the Seventh Gate, his men following close behind.
“Ciramir,” he shouted as he came to the stables, “get someone to saddle
a horse. We are searching in the wrong place.”
Ciramir shouted out orders and the entire company’s horses were being saddled.
“I cannot wait,” Denethor hissed, “for the whole company to muster. Too much time has passed. She could be well away by now.”
Ciramir pulled him aside. “My Lord, I beg you, tell me what you fear. Where do you think she has gone?”
“Ithilien – Emyn Arnen,” Denethor whispered, tears coming to his eyes.
“Do you know something? Has someone seen her leave?” Ciramir asked.
“No,” Denethor whispered again, leaning hard against the stable door.
“She is going there. I do not know how I know it, but I do.” He pulled
himself up and started to run towards a saddled horse.
“Someone would have stopped her at the Gate. We would have heard the alarm sound if she had forced herself past the guards.”
“You do not understand, Ciramir. Her mind is addled. She will find a
way to get out without anyone seeing her. She is not herself.”
“Then you and I shall ride immediately. I will leave instructions for
the others to join us as each unit returns.” And he ran towards
Dúinhir and gave him quick orders.
Denethor smiled. Dúinhir was still with the army and now a
lieutenant in the Horse Guards. A long way from Henneth Annûn;
Dúinhir had been his aide then. He called to Ciramir, "I would
have Dúinhir join us."
Ciramir came to his side, leading two horses. “Yes, my Lord. We can get
reinforcements in Osgiliath. Come.” They mounted the horses and road
towards the Sixth Gate, while stragglers hurried to follow them.
“I will not stay here. I must find Morwen, Arciryas. Please, help me,” Indis cried.
“We will find Denethor and hear what information he has. That as is far as it will go. You heard him order you to rest.”
“I will not rest until I know she is safe. Arciryas, I am strong. I had
a moment’s weakness in the courtyard, but I am better now. I have a
terrible fear in my heart for her. Never have I felt such dread. Please
help me find Denethor. Time is short for her; I can feel it in my
“Listöwel, you have come!” Indis cried as her friend ran towards her.
“I just heard now and came as fast as I could. Has there been any word?”
Arciryas shook his head. He was glad Amdir’s wife had joined them. “We
are going to the stables. Denethor should be there. Hopefully, he will
have a report for us.”
“What are you doing?” he said in amaze.
“I am strapping on my sword. It might come in use. Listöwel, you should probably get yours also.”
“I have it, friend. And I am ready.” She lifted her cloak and Indis saw the blade fastened at her side.
“What madness is this?” Arciryas almost shouted the question. “What do
you think you are doing? You know not how to wield a sword.”
Indis smile was crisp and cold. “You know not who you have standing
before you, Arciryas. For six long years now, Listöwel and I have
studied under the tutelage of a shieldmaiden of Rohan. Do you think we
have been unaware of the evil that has come to Mordor? Did you think we
would not prepare ourselves in any way for Gondor’s defense? We are
quite adept at swordplay. We know not what terror has befallen my
sister and I will be ready for any situation. Come, we are wasting
time. Let us to the stables.”
They had ridden hard and reached Osgiliath before night fell. How they
were ever to find her once the sun set, Denethor did not know. Would
she still be alive? His heart burned with fear for his sister. ‘I have
not given report to... Ecthelion,’ he thought. ‘Well, perhaps another
five years in banishment. She must be found.’ They had stopped at the
garrison to exchange horses. “Ciramir, we must send an errand-rider to
Ecthelion. He must be notified of our actions.”
“Yes, my Lord. I will send Dúinhir.”
“No,” Denethor said. It was strangely comforting to have his old aide
by his side. “Send another, but quickly. I would be away within the
Dúinhir strode forward leading three horses. “We are ready, my
Lord. I have brought dried meat and water for you. Please take a moment
to refresh yourself. Horses are not the only things needing
“Are there no others from the Horse Guards with us yet? Have none caught up to us?”
“Nay, my Lord. You have pushed our horses hard. It will take time for
the others to reach us. Captain Húrin is preparing replacements
for their horses and food for them, when they come. Would you not wait
for an hour?”
Denethor wiped a hand across his forehead. He was very tired. “I
cannot, Dúinhir. Do you remember Henneth Annûn? Do you
remember when I knew we were close to the hidden entrance? I feel the
same way now. I know Morwen is in Emyn Arnen. I know she is in danger.
I cannot wait.”
Húrin strode forward, two large torches in his hands. “We will
need these. There will be neither moon nor stars tonight. The clouds
are too dense. My company is at your command, Denethor. Are you ready
“Yes, my friend,” Denethor said quietly. “You are in command, please.”
“Very well, my Lord.” And Húrin, Captain of Osgiliath, shouted
the order for advancement. Denethor looked behind him and was comforted
by the sight. The entire company had been called to muster. The
torchlight made the company seem even larger. For the first time in
many hours, hope flickered.
The rode was still in good condition. The company rode east, towards
Mordor. Something was different and Denethor could not put his finger
on what it was. He turned to Húrin. “My Lord, has some event
occurred recently with Mordor. I feel a heaviness in the air.”
“The One we do not name has come to Barad-Dûr. He has openly defied your father. He is rebuilding the tower.”
Denethor gasped. ‘So all these years of waiting and watching; his greatest fears had come true.’
“That is not the end of it either. The Corsairs of Umbar have allied
themselves with him. We have been under attack from both the east and
the south for more than two years. The great monument at the Havens has
been destroyed.” Húrin’s shoulders seemed to sag.
“The great white pillar at the headland? The one that took the rays of
the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star? This cannot be
the truth. They would dare to destroy Ar-Pharazûn’s monument?”
“They dare not only that, my Lord. They send sorties to harass the few
left in Southern Ithilien. The garrison at Pelargir is constantly on
the alert. Evil times have come to Gondor.”
Indis chafed at the slowness of Arciryas, yet her heart went out to
him. He was a healer, after all, and not used to horses and such. Their
pace was slowed by his inexperience; always, when with the Horse
Guards, he had a wagon to ride in. She almost wished he had not come
with them; they could be in Osgiliath by now. The band of 70 warriors
surrounded her. It had taken some time for the various patrols to
return to the stables, but once they had and Amdir had heard the orders
that Ciramir had left for them, he had quickly ordered the rest of the
horses saddled and the company set forth. They would reach Osgiliath
well into the night. ‘Why had Denethor gone to Osgiliath?’ She
wondered. And the fear that constricted her heart once again squeezed
Amdir had not been surprised by Listöwel’s carrying of a sword.
They had been in Pelargir for nigh unto a year. Listöwel had
refused to stop her training just because she had left Minas Tirith.
She had come to him one evening, plying him with wine and cheese and a
smile. Gently she had told him what the four women had been doing these
past six years and requested assignment of a swordmaster to continue
her training. Amdir had met with her the next morning and put her
through a thorough quiz of the different techniques. He had been proud
of her. She had done well. And so he had assigned her a swordmaster and
she continued her practice. The year before, many terrible changes had
befallen Gondor; her prowess with a sword lightened his heart. She
would be able to protect herself, if the worst happened.
Now he was riding towards danger with her at his side. Indis would not
be left behind and Listöwel would not leave Indis’ side. The
torches lit the old city in a macabre fashion. Eyes seemed to follow
them as they passed the ruins and arrived at the garrison. Ciramir and
his company had been gone for over three hours. They would surely be at
Emyn Arnen by now. If only he could persuade Indis to remain here. But
he knew that hope was forlorn. He helped Indis from her horse and she
quickly hugged him, whispered in his ear, “thank you,” and walked
towards the well. Listöwel had been helped by one of the men left
behind to guard the garrison. Fresh horses were quickly saddled, meal
was thrust into their hands along with water flasks. Haste was in
everyone’s mind. They remounted and rode over the bridge into Ithilien.
The screams, as they fractured the trees of Emyn Arnen, shocked Indis.
Never had she heard such a sound. She pulled her horse closer to
Listöwel’s and drew her sword from its sheath. Her hand trembled;
but the arm was strong. She knew it was only fear that caused the sword
to shake. She would have none of that. She drew in her breath, bit her
lower lip and gave a quick smile to her friend. “This is what we have
been preparing for these last years, is it not?” she screamed over the
noise. Listöwel managed a small smile back at her; Indis could see
that Listöwel had her sword in hand also. At that moment, she
dearly wished that she had asked the smithy to make new ones for both
of them. She would rectify that when they returned to Minas Tirith.
‘When you return?’ her heart questioned. ‘When we return!’ her mind
The men tried to protect them, and for this, Indis was most sad. She
did not want to have any of them dying to protect her; yet, she stayed
within the circle the unit had set around them; she would be patient.
As much as she wanted to join the fray, she would obey the unsaid
command and wait. Sooner or later, the Orcs would break through. There
were many, many more than this small band of men. In the distance she
could see Amdir and she was grateful that he was with them, but where
was Arciryas? Her heart skipped a beat; he was not with Amdir.
Gratefully, she felt a hand reach out and touch her shoulder. She knew
that touch. He had pulled next to her when she was looking around, his
heart burdened with the thought of what might happen. He did not care
if he died. Yes, he did, but he did not want her dead. He thought of
their short time together as man and wife. But the Orcs were coming
closer. He stood taller in his saddle and fervently hoped he would not
Ciramir’s company had reached Emyn Arnen, passed through it quickly,
and headed towards the resting place of the line of Húrin. It
was three leagues south of the forest. Denethor hoped he was wrong.
Perhaps ‘Wen had gone to Lossarnech to visit Morwen’s family? He should
have thought of that before rushing out of the City. ‘No, she was not
there,’ he thought. Here is where his heart was dragged to and here is
where he would find her. What end had his family come to? Drawn and
quartered like cattle; cast out as silage for the masses of Gondor. His
father’s, there he had thought it, the one word he had vowed not to use
again! Well, it was done. His father had spent the family in the hope
of the King’s return - denying Indis her happiness, shaming Denethor,
and waiting on defensive preparations for that return. Perhaps that is
why he had been sent in exile to Halifirien. Did Ecthelion think the
King was returning now and that Denethor would not accept him? No, that
was folly. Even if the King returned, he would need a Steward. All the
kings before had Stewards. As for the defense of Gondor, would he not
want to show the King that he had kept Gondor in good repair awaiting
They were upon the monuments before he knew it. The dark of the night
had hidden them from view and he had to quickly rein in his horse to
prevent a collision with one of them. Ciramir halted his horse and
strode forward, holding a torch high. Others of his company dismounted
and came forward too. Some were sent to the east and some to the west
while Ciramir, Dúinhir and Denethor strode straight ahead.
Slowly, with bated breath, Denethor walked, hoping against hope that he
was wrong. ‘She cannot be here,’ he kept whispering. A shout. ‘No,’ his
mind screamed and the pain of the unuttered scream filled his head. “My
Lord,” one of the soldiers cried. “Over here, my Lord Denethor.” His
legs would not move. Dúinhir grabbed his arm. “My Lord,” he
pretended Denethor had not heard. “You are needed over yonder.” And
gently forced him forward.
It was Cranthir’s tomb. She sat at the edge of it. Her dress was spread
out before her, as if arranged for a party, the red stains creeping
along it. Her head… He turned, fell to his knees, retched and cried and
screamed all in one breath. The blood rushed through his head and he
could hear nothing but a torrent of noise, unimaginable pain in his
heart, and eyes that burnt like the fires of Mount Doom as the tears
burst through them. Dúinhir collapsed next to him, holding his
own mouth closed.
Ecthelion received the errand-rider. The guards had already told him
his daughter was missing. He had sent for Adanedhel and listened to
what had transpired. He ordered a search to be made of the Citadel and
the area around it. She would be found, he knew. Yet, he wondered why
Denethor had raced to Osgiliath. When he read where the company was
headed, he paused. What was Denethor about? He sat back in the cold
black Steward’s chair. The errand-rider was still there. Why didn’t the
fool leave? There was nothing in the note requiring a response.
Brusquely, he waved the soldier off. He called for the Captain of the
Horse Guards. The chamberlain ran forward. “My Lord, the captain and
the whole company went with Denethor to Osgiliath.” Ecthelion’s face
turned bright red. “Denethor took the whole company with him?” he
screamed. The lad was more arrogant and rebellious than he had thought.
What further could he do to curb him? His rage made him shake. “Send
for my personal guard.” The chamberlain scurried out of the Great Hall.
Never had he seen his master this angry.
A thought, too terrible to imagine, crept into his mind as he sat
waiting. She had gone there before, soon after Cranthir had died, but
she had taken a squad of men with her. Did Denethor think she would go
there again? It was impossible to think it, yet, she been strange
lately. He cursed himself for not visiting her. Why was not he told she
was so very ill? He could not sit any longer. He strode from the Hall
and walked towards the stables. His guards rushed around him,
encircling him as he walked.
“Ingold,” he bellowed. “Ingold!” His captain ran forward. “My Lord, I
have been gathering the reports of those who are in charge of the
search. Has aught been heard?”
“Get my horse and bring your men. We are going to Ithilien.”
Ingold stopped and stared. “Yes, my Lord,” he quickly recovered.
Shouting to his men, he ran towards the stables. After a few moments,
he rode up to where Ecthelion had stopped. He held the saddled horse
while Ecthelion mounted. Ecthelion turned the horse, snapped at it with
the reins, and headed towards the Sixth Gate. The company scurried
after, quickly gaining their mounts and weapons and joining their
Slowly, life crept back into Denethor’s mind. His head still hurt
dreadfully, but his breath was returning. Ciramir had been busy. He had
wrapped her in a cloth. He had sent searchers to find the head. He
hoped with every fibre of his being, that it would be found. He had
started a fire so that his company’s healer, Siriondil, could prepare a
draught for Denethor. He sorely needed something. This horror was even
beyond the pain of Cranthir’s death at the hands of Orcs so many years
ago. There were signs of Haradrim. It would not bode well for the folk
of the south once Denethor was told.
“Ciramir,” the whisper came to him. He looked over and saw Denethor, still kneeling, looking towards him. “Water, please.”
“I have something stronger for you, my Lord. Please drink this. Siriondil has prepared it for you.”
“What is it? I must be fully alert. We know not if the beasts who did this are still in the area.”
“It is only mead, my Lord. And weak at that. It will give you a measure of strength and replace what you have lost.”
Denethor drank it quickly, the sweet taste of it cleaning out some of
the foulness left in his mouth. As he stood, he swayed and Ciramir
quickly held him up. “Dúinhir, your master has need of you,” he
barked at the man, still on his knees.
Dúinhir quickly rose and stepped closer to Denethor. “My Lord,
there is a seat here. Please, for just a moment, until the mead takes
effect and strengthens you.”
Ciramir handed a flagon to Dúinhir. “Take some yourself, lad.”
Denethor sat and motioned for his aide to join him. Yes, if he were
reinstated to his post, he would need an aide and Dúinhir would
suffice. He shook his head. He could not think of anything at the
moment. He must erase the sight of her. Even that small thought brought
nausea and pain with it, brought a gasp from him and caused him to
almost fall off the log they were sitting on. Dúinhir grabbed
him by the shoulder and held him upright. He pressed his own flagon
against Denethor’s lips. Denethor’s eyes steadied and he drank deeply.
‘I am useless in this state,’ he thought. ‘I must gather my wits. We
must return to Minas Tirith as quickly as possible. We must gather our
armies and find those creatures that have done this.' Again, he closed
his eyes, but the nausea passed. He stood up and was able to hold
himself up. Ciramir approached him.
“Your orders, my Lord?”
Ingold met his company, seventy strong, mustered and ready at the Great
Gate. As soon as their captain and the Steward joined them, they
started out across the Pelennor. Travelers stopped and stared as the
Steward’s own guard rode by. When they saw the Steward himself in the
forefront, tongues wagged and distress flooded the City. Rare were the
times the Steward left the City in the company of the Knights. The pace
they set as they vanished from sight only furthered the alarm of the
people. Farmers called out to their wives to come and see the spectacle
before them as the men passed their farms and rode ever eastward.
They approached the Rammos, passed through the guarded gates, and
rushed on towards Osgiliath. An errand-rider had been sent ahead and
fresh mounts were ready for them at the garrison. The lieutenant, left
in charge of the remnant of Osgiliath’s defenses, told Ingold that
Amdir’s group had passed only a half hour before. Ecthelion was
heartened. They were not in so great a hurry. Denethor must not be as
sure of himself as Ecthelion had feared. As he stated this to Ingold,
the lieutenant interrupted. “My Lord, Captain Húrin took the
battalion and followed Denethor into Ithilien. They left three hours
ago.” Ingold stared at Ecthelion. His Steward had been misinformed.
Denethor had not taken the Horse Guards. He had not waited for them to
muster. The tightness of his Captain-General’s jaw, the white sheen of
his face, told him they must spur their horses on at an even faster
pace. Night had fallen; they must hurry.
The Orcs howls turned to cries of triumph as they saw the pitiful band
of men standing in opposition to them. Though the men were on horses,
the Orcs knew they had the advantage of number. And they were not
afraid to die. This fact was all too apparent to Amdir as he watched
more than three hundred of the enemy pour through the trees. “I should
have sent an errand-rider,” he swore, but his mind had been on
Listöwel and the danger she was in, never mind that she would not
hear of their staying behind. He looked wildly towards the middle of
their party. His smile was bittersweet. They were there, his beloved
and Indis, with swords drawn and heads held high. ‘If she can keep her
courage, she will survive the first onslaught,’ he thought. After that,
none of them would probably survive. He clenched his teeth and turned
towards the hoard. It would be a swift death and for that he was
grateful. His heart swelled for one moment. This would be a different
battle than his first one, where he had turned and run. His cheeks
flamed at the remembrance, but his heart told him he had ever since
‘They do not fight as we did during our practices,’ Indis thought in
dismay as the first Orc broke through the line of men guarding them. It
had almost taken her sword with its blow; she had clung to it
desperately. Now, she raised it and swung down hard and was surprised
to feel it connect. The Orc howled its shock as it looked at the gash
in its arm. It did not stop but for a moment, and Indis had to pull her
horse back to avoid the swing of its weapon. A split second’s thought,
then she spurred her horse forward, lashed backwards with her sword,
and missed entirely. The motion almost caused her to fall off. She
clung to the mane and tried to right herself. As she did, the Orc
grabbed the reins and pulled hard on her skirt, trying to pull her off
the horse. Just as she started to slide off the saddle, the hand
loosened itself. Arciryas had struck the miserable creature on its neck
and it slumped to the ground. She had no time to thank him as another
of the beasts came at her. Once again she swung her sword and this time
it did more damage. The Orc fell to its knees and then face forward.
She sat for a moment, stunned. She had actually done it. Her arms
started to quiver and tears sprang to her eyes. Dead – she had killed
it. She shook her head trying to persuade herself it was necessary. The
point was moot though as another came through. ‘Will they never stop,’
she wondered? Again and again she was attacked and again and again she
repulsed the attack until one of the men near her could finish the
task, or until she herself had killed the enemy. Her hands were
beginning to slip on the sword and she looked down, amazed that it was
covered in a black, sticky substance. It took seconds before she
realized it was Orc blood. She almost dropped the sword in horror. Her
eyes lifted and as they did she saw Listöwel fall from her own
mount. Indis screamed.
Ecthelion’s company had reached the forest close to the mid night hour.
He wondered whether to go by the Harad Road or to go through the
forest. It would be safer, given the blackness of the night, to go by
way of the road, but his heart misgave him and he felt he should make
haste. Therefore, he turned at the path that led into the forest and
his men followed. They had been traveling well over two hours since
leaving Osgiliath. He would let the horses set their own pace, give
them a small rest and then urge them on after a quarter hour.
The sound of battle reached his ears at the same moment that Ingold
reined in his own horse. “I will send scouts, Lord Ecthelion,” he said.
“We cannot go in headlong. We are not many.”
“Nay, if it is Denethor, we will still be needed, though his company is
many, but if it is Amdir, I fear they will fail if the attackers are
substantial. We must press forward.” And he spurred his horse into the
forest. They reached the clearing. The enemy, indeed, were many. And
there were few Gondorians left. He screamed his rage and urged his
Knights forward. Urging, however, was not needed as the Knights poured
into the clearing their screams rising above the screams of the dying.
His drawn sword meted out his punishment to the enemy for daring to
trespass on the land of his fathers.
Denethor looked up at Ciramir. “We ride back to the City. I must report
to the Steward. We must mount a full-scale attack. I will not bring us
to war. That is the Steward’s prerogative. If I am correct, it was men
“Yes, my Lord. All signs point to that. I will prepare the company.” And Ciramir walked away.
‘We have a full battalion with us, five hundred men. Yet, I cannot risk
going south with only a battalion. I would we had taken the full
regiment.’ He turned towards Dúinhir. “Take a squad of men with
you and ride as fast as you are able to the Steward. Do not tell him
what has happened to Morwen…’ He closed his eyes for a moment,
swallowed tightly, and opened them again. “Tell him we have been
attacked by Haradrim and that I am returning to make my report. I will
not wait till dawn.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Dúinhir said and strode towards a group of men. They mounted and headed north.
Denethor walked towards the healer. “My head is aching. Would you have
something that might help?” The healer quickly looked through his bags,
pulled out a powder and mixed it with the mead, handed it to Denethor
and asked him to sit. “Nay, I have no time for sitting.” He met Ciramir
as the man was approaching him. Taking his shoulder, he took him away
from the company. “Give the men time for a brief rest and then we will
be off. There is nothing more we can do here. Though I would be away
from this place as quickly as possible, the horses and the men need
rest. After you have finished, please join me. I would discuss what our
response might be. I must have a plan to present to the Steward when we
return.” He turned and walked back to the log. He had to sit; his legs
were giving way under him. He must come to terms with what had
happened. He could not face his father in this state.
They had rested for more than an hour and Denethor was just ready to
muster the men when one of Duinhir’s squad rode madly into the camp. He
swiftly looked around, spotted Denethor and galloped the horse towards
him. As he jumped from the horse he cried, “My Lord, Orcs are attacking
a company of men in the Emyn Arnen!”
Ciramir came running as Denethor grabbed his shoulder. “Now?” he asked.
“Yes, my Lord. The rest of our squad stayed to fight. They are outnumbered and will fall soon. They are desperate.”
Denethor ran to his horse and mounted, leaving his gear on the ground.
The rest of the battalion did the same and soon they were racing
northward. Dúinhir was at his side, Ciramir on the other.
“Your sister is with them, my Lord,” Dúinhir said quietly.
Denethor stared. “What say you?” he cried.
“I am sorry, my Lord, but I could not mistake her. She was there in the
middle of the attack with our men surrounding her, but they are
undermanned. I do not think…” His face turned bright red and he bit his
Denethor spurred his horse on not heeding the trees as they entered the
forest. His mind reeled as they broke through to the clearing where the
attack was taking place. So few left standing. He swung his eyes from
side to side trying to see Indis, but she was nowhere in sight. A sob
broke from his throat, but he drew his sword and charged into the fray.
The Orcs tried to overwhelm them, but Denethor’s numbers were too
great. Denethor glimpsed Ecthelion to the north of the battle and
realized his forces had just entered the fray also. The Orcs,
beleaguered on two sides, started backing away, hacking at anything
that was behind them as they tried to hide among the trees. The men of
Gondor would have none of it. They pursued with scowls upon their
faces, screams issuing from their mouths. They had seen too much
already this night. They would tolerate no more.
“Where is she? I saw her fall. I thought it was here,” Indis mumbled
words bled through her sobs. She was kneeling in the midst of the
carnage, clawing through it, digging into it, but to no avail. Arciryas
had reached her by this time and was trying to help her to her feet,
but she turned a tear-stained face towards him. “I cannot find her,”
she whispered. Arciryas stopped trying to help her up and knelt next to
her, pushing away an Orc arm with his knee.
“We will find her, my love, we will,” he said, shoving another body off
the pile. He did not know why the Orcs had suddenly retreated; he did
not care. She was alive; his eyes were only on her. A hand touched his
shoulder and he was stunned to hear Denethor’s voice.
“Arciryas, is Indis unharmed? What are you looking for?”
“Denethor,” he stood and pulled him close in a great hug. “You are why the Orcs ran?”
“Yes, my errand-riders came upon your company and called for help. We
were only a short distance away. But again, what are you looking for?”
“Listöwel. Indis saw her fall. She thought it was here.” He turned again, knelt and pulled more bodies away.
Denethor gave a quick look around. Where was Amdir? Did he know his
beloved was here? He thought he spotted him in the distance, sitting
holding his head, but he wasn’t sure. There was so much blood.
Denethor knelt next to Indis and helped move the corpses. Too many
Gondorians lay dead here, only a few Orcs. Indis did not realize he was
kneeling next to her, so great was her single-mindedness. He touched
her hand. Still, she did not look. He pulled another body off, just
then hearing Indis’ anguished cry.
“Listöwel, Listöwel,” she sobbed.
Arciryas and Denethor both stood and pulled the last bodies off the
pile. Indis had recognized her friend’s cloak hidden from the men’s
eyes. Gently Arciryas knelt again and looked for sign of breath. He
turned to Indis and said “She lives.” He picked her up and moved away
from the battlefield. Others had started fires, boiled water, laid cots
in readiness for the wounded. Siriondil was preparing salves, unguents
and bandages. As they approached, the healer indicated a cot and
Arciryas laid Listöwel on it. Indis hovered behind Arciryas as he
tended her friend's wounds. Denethor moved to Indis side and held her
close, though she had not eyes nor ears for him. Her whole being was
directed to the body on the cot. It did not matter to him. He was
content to support her in his arms. ‘One sister left to hold,’ he
thought. He would not lightly let this one go. The tears fell, unbidden
and he did nothing to hide them. Better they fell now, when others were
too busy to notice.
Ecthelion saw Indis and his heart soared. She was well and so was
Denethor. Who were they carrying though? Was it Morwen? He strode
through the bloodbath and reached Denethor’s side. It was not Morwen.
Who? He did not recognize her, but knew it must be friend to Indis. He
noted the tears in Denethor’s eyes and started to rebuke him. But
something stayed the words; time for that later.
“Where is Morwen?” he asked.
Denethor jumped, dropped his arms from Indis’ shoulders and stepped
back. “Fa-,“ but the word would not be spoken. “My Lord. She is not
here.” How was he to tell him? “Please, speak with Indis. She has need
Ecthelion reddened. The slight reprimand stung. “Of course I will speak
with her.” He turned towards his daughter and pulled her away from the
cot. Indis’ eyes were locked on her friend. Gently, he took her chin
and turned her face towards his. “Indis. I have need of you,” he said.
She blinked twice. “Indis,” he said again. “I have need of you.”
Finally, she realized who was speaking. She drew in a deep breath. “Father, what may I do for you?”
“I need you to listen to me. Your friend is tended by a healer. She
will be well, I am sure. Now, tell me why you are here? What power
caused you to leave the City. These are dangerous parts. I would not
have you harmed.”
“Morwen!” The name escaped her lips in a groan of despair. “It was Morwen, Father. She has gone and I am trying to find her.”
Denethor slipped away. He was not ready to speak the unspeakable. He
needed to find his friend. Amdir was being brought to the healing area.
Denethor nodded to the soldier helping him towards it, took his place,
and slowly walked with him.
Amdir looked up. A small smile crept across his face. Weariness and
pain struggled across his eyes. “Thank you,” he said quietly. “Thank
you for coming.” He tripped and Denethor put a hand under his arm.
“Do you need to sit for a moment?” he questioned him.
“Nay. I must find Listöwel. She was fighting in the middle of the fray and I have lost sight of her.”
Denethor’s heart twinged. “She is alive, Amdir, but she was injured. I
do not know the extent, but Arciryas is with her. He loves her as his
own. He will tend her well. I think you should sit for a moment.”
“Nay,” Amdir shuddered. “I must to her then. She needs me.” He tried to quicken his pace, but again faltered.
“Here, lean more upon me and slow your pace. We will reach her more
quickly if you rely on me.” And with that, he put all his strength into
half carrying, half walking his friend towards the cots.
By the time they had reached the healing area, Listöwel was
breathing easily. She was not awake, but her color was returning. Amdir
fell forward trying to stoop beside her and Denethor quickly caught
him, helped him to her side, and knelt next to him, gently holding him
Amdir caught her hand in his, stroked it and called her name. After a
few moments, her eyelids fluttered and she woke. He placed his hand on
her cheek and she looked at him in wonder. “I am alive? I did not think
it possible. Indis?”
“I am here, sister-friend. All is well.” Indis stepped to her other
side, knelt and took her hand. She looked up at Denethor and nodded
towards Amdir. The blood was seeping from his wound. He needed to be
“Amdir,” Denethor spoke quietly. “You must come away. You are in need
of care. You will not be able to help her if you are dead. Indis will
stay by her side.”
Amdir turned towards Denethor. His eyes were uncomprehending. He needed
help and quickly, Denethor thought. He took his arm and started to lift
him, but Amdir balked and moved closer to Listöwel. She looked at
him and gasped in dismay. “My husband, you are injured!”
He tried to shake his head, but the pain caused him to reel slightly.
“Soldier,” Denethor commanded. “You are to come with me.” Amdir nodded,
tried to stand and both Arciryas and Denethor took his arms and helped
him to the cot next to Listöwel’s.
Ecthelion’s hard hand gripping his shoulder broke Denethor’s concentration and he turned in surprise. “My Lord?”
“Where is Morwen?” The fury in his voice made Denethor cringe. He
remembered the slight rebuke and realized he would pay for it later.
“Please walk with me a pace, away from this area?”
Father and son moved away and Indis, though she wanted to remain at her
friend’s side, knew she must force herself into their presence. She had
suddenly realized that Denethor was there and yet Morwen was not. Her
father scowled at her as she approached them, but she would not let
this prevent her from listening.
Denethor would have kept walking, but Ecthelion, impatient and angry pulled him up short. “Speak now!” he commanded.
“Morwen…,” he started and then stopped, turned towards Indis and said,
“Indis, please sit here next to me.” He showed her to an oak limb
fallen in their path. She paled, but obeyed. He sat next to her, took
her hands in his, and brushed the hair from her eyes. He flinched at
the Orc blood streaking the left side of her face. “Indis, Morwen is
dead.” She nodded. His heart rose in pride. She was so strong, this
sister of his. Her eyes asked further questions. “We found her by
Cranthir’s tomb.” He hung his head. How was he to tell her what state
they found Morwen in? What could he say that would soften the blow? He
must tell her the truth. It would be found out in the end. “All signs
point to an attack by a force of Haradrim. Her head was... severed, as
is their custom.” She drew back a little, but he held onto her hands.
“Siriondil thinks she was not otherwise... interfered with.” His heart
broke; too many hard things to say. “We did not find her head. I had
soldiers looking when Dúinhir spread the alarm of the attack on
your company. We will return to the tomb in the morning and search
further.” He did not tell her they had little hope of finding it. A
trophy for them to display. He knew Indis surmised the same. She was no
fool. For that, he was grateful and sad. These are things no woman
She moved towards him, hugged him tightly and started to cry soft,
gentle tears. Ecthelion shoulders sagged. He did not know why, but
Denethor was surprised at this reaction. Arciryas looked up, saw the
trio and knew that the worst had happened. He was torn. He wished to be
with his love, but she was with her family. Did he dare intrude? The
Steward hated him; of this he was sure. He shook his head. She will
need me, he thought. For love of her, he walked forward. Sitting next
to her on the log, he touched her shoulder. She took her hand and
pulled him closer, never letting go of Denethor. They were bound
together. Ecthelion stood alone beside them.
Amdir's wounds were not serious. The head wound had bled, as all head
wounds do, and profusely. The loss of blood had caused his dizziness,
but once his wound was bandaged and his stomach filled with
herb-enhanced mead, he rejoined his company. Listöwel had been
knocked senseless by the fall from her mount, but otherwise was
unharmed. Neither would countenance being sent back to Minas Tirith
until the task at hand had been completed. After burying the dead and
sending the wounded back to Minas Tirith in carts fetched from
Osgiliath, the battalion and its support rode south towards the House
of Húrin's burial grounds. Two companies had been sent ahead to
continue the grim search. The normal chatter of a marching army was
lacking this day. The only sound was the livery of their horses,
clanking as they progressed south, for the sound of their hooves was
muffled in the soft leaves strewn upon the forest floor.
Neither Ecthelion nor Denethor had spoken to each other. The
estrangement was clear to the entire company. Indis rode next to her
father with Húrin and Denethor riding behind. Every few moments,
Indis would turn and give a gentle smile to Denethor and one to Amdir
who rode behind them. Arciryas was in the back of the company in the
healer's cart. They were bringing an extra one in case of further
attack. Siriondil had gone with the wounded to Osgiliath. He would stay
there until the battalion returned and then rejoin his company.
"Father, you must speak with Denethor, if for no other reason than to
hearten the men; let them see that all is well with the Steward's
house," Indis spoke quietly.
Ecthelion was silent. He had only pain in his heart, feeling bereft and
alone. Even with Indis words spoken so no other could hear, he felt the
sting in her remark. Morwen was dead. Indis, though he knew she loved
him, was torn between father, brother, and husband. And Denethor. He
pulled back his shoulders a little further, lifted his chin, and tried
to sort out his thoughts on the man. For man is what Denethor had
become while he had been away on the borders of Rohan. His actions
these past two days had clearly shown it. All this time Ecthelion had
been trying to raise a warrior for Gondor. He remembered the words of
the woman at the time of Rían's death. "All for Gondor," she had
said. Ecthelion's heart had ever been for Gondor. For her King, when he
would return. Yet his own house was in ruins. Turgon had never, in his
heart, believed that the King would return. Those were just words said
after the Silent Prayer or at the end of meetings. But Ecthelion's
heart ached for that return. He was so sure that the King would return.
He hoped it would be in his time, or perhaps Denethor's time. The urge
to have the kingdom in readiness was a heavy burden that he carried,
alone it seemed. Now that Turgon was dead, he was free to do all the
things he had planned. He remembered with a start that some of those
things had been planned with Denethor the year after Cranthir died. He
had forgotten that and their camaraderie during those few fleeting
years. He did not remember what had caused the next estrangement. The
strain of Turgon's reluctance to do anything, his memory loss, his
frailty, and finally his death had been long, gradual, and painful. All
the while, Ecthelion had tried to put his plans into action, and all
the while, Turgon had fought him bitterly. The Council had agreed with
Turgon, and Ecthelion sat as a man chained to the walls of Angband. The
price, this day, seemed too high.
He pulled his horse up and waited for Denethor to reach him. "Come, we
have much to discuss," he bid him and led him to a clearing. He
dismounted and waved Húrin and the company on. A small
detachment of his personal guard, along with Ingold, pulled up a short,
discreet distance away.
"My Lord," Denethor said. "It is not safe to tarry here with so small a company."
"Yet it is no longer safe to continue as we have done. Much of the fault lies at my door."
Denethor dismounted, surprise and concern on his face. "Of what do you speak, my Lord?"
"My son, we have had our differences. No. I have… I don't know how to
say this. Things must change. I see your time at Amon Anwar was well
spent. You have learned much. I had sent you to learn about yourself,
but your time with Walda has taught you many other skills." He smirked
at Denethor's amazement. "Did you think I would not know of your time
with the Rohirrim? A leader must know all things. You must know all
things, Denethor. Nothing must catch you by surprise. You must use
every tool available, every person available, to govern Gondor. When we
return to Minas Tirith, we will have the ceremony of the Passing of the
Title." Ecthelion was pleased and startled by the expression of wonder
that lit Denethor's face at the mention of the ceremony. "Did you think
I would not do this? Did you think I had entirely abandoned you?" His
voice broke as he spoke. "You are my son. Along with that, you are the
heir to the Stewardship. To whom else would I leave Gondor and her weal
until the King comes? Long overdue is the ceremony. We will fulfill the
requirements as soon as possible, once we return to the city."
Denethor stood in stunned silence. Never had he heard his father speak this way to him.
"We must be away now. This is a hideous business that we are about.
Morwen was much loved by me. To have her perish in this fashion… "
The tears pushed against Denethor's closed eyelids. He could not cry
here, not after his father had shown this confidence in him, but his
heart was bleeding with such pain for dear, sweet 'Wen.
When he opened his eyes, he found Ecthelion already astride his horse
and waiting for him. He scrambled to catch up with his father, still
wondering what had caused this change, but his heart felt lighter as he
exalted that he finally would be named Heir to the Steward.
Three weeks, only three weeks had passed but so much and yet so little
had been accomplished. The Council ruled the city, too many of Turgon's
captains were still in places of importance, yet Denethor felt hope.
Ecthelion and he had been poring over the rosters. Slowly they were
moving soldiers and battalions. Those troops loyal to the Council and
Turgon were being transferred to garrisons on the outskirts of Gondor.
Those who were loyal to the Steward were promoted and given positions
in the city. Soon the Council would know who was in command of Gondor
and then the Steward and his son would put their plans into place.
But as the day for the ceremony grew closer, Denethor found himself
anxious more and more often. This ceremony was the culmination of all
he had hoped for since he was six years old. This was the beginning of
his life as Heir of the Steward. He was given back his commission as
lieutenant as soon as they had returned from Ithilien, but he was no
longer with the Horse Guards; he had been transferred to Ecthelion's
own company under Ingold. Soon he would become a captain. His head
reeled. It was all so long-hoped for and all so sudden. There was
nothing to learn for this ceremony. No words were to be said except
those said by his father. And Denethor's one short word of acceptance.
He walked the parapet to the edge, to the place where the rock out
thrust and jutted into the open air, which was warm as it lifted the
peregrines up towards the mountains. He stood in awe and wonder. Such
beauty, such majesty. Even the Ephel Dúath could not dispel the
sense of joy and ownership and oneness with this sight before him, this
land of his. He sensed someone behind him and he turned. "Father."
"Be ready when the sun sets tonight. We will be walking. Do not wear
your armour, perhaps just light mail will do. And bring your sword."
That was all Ecthelion had said and then he had turned his back and
walked towards the Citadel.
They rode to the southern feet of Mount Mindolluin, just before the
lands where Denethor, Thengel and Amdir had fished many long years ago.
A small stable was found and the horses were unsaddled, tethered and
left with food and drink. Ecthelion unwrapped a small pack, pulled out
some meal and water and handed half to Denethor. They ate as the
walked. At the base of the mountain, Denethor watched as Ecthelion
strode back and forth, mumbling to himself. Finally, he gave a short
gasp and motioned for Denethor to follow him. He had found a path that
looked as if it had been made in ages long past. They followed the
path, which quickly turned into the steep ways of the mountain.
Eventually, they came to a high field below the snows that covered the
White Mountains’ peaks. The sun was just beginning to rise in the east.
Denethor saw that the field overlooked the precipice that stood behind
Minas Tirith. He gasped as the sun hit the various towers turning them
into white pencils and the Citadel shone like a slender spike of pearl.
The Vale of Anduin lay before them also, dressed as a garden, and the
Mountains of Shadow were veiled in a golden mist. Denethor pointed in
delight, “Look, Rauros, I am sure I can see Rauros beyond the Emyn
Muil. Do you see it, Father?” He could hardly contain his excitement.
Never had he seen the land laid out before him as it was in the
brilliance of this summer morning. “And there, if you follow the river,
there is the Pelargir, I’m sure, and look, Father, the sea, it must be
the sea.” He was almost in tears.
Ecthelion smiled. “This is our realm, until the King comes. We must
preserve this land, Denethor. I bring you here now, as the Kings did of
old, to pass on to you the secrets of the realm. It was the custom of
the Kings, and then of the Stewards after them, to visit this hallow
with our heirs. Here is a tomb and memorial of Elendil the Faithful.
Isildur said, ‘Unless he be an heir of Elendil...’ before he went
north, never to return.”
Denethor was silent, his eyes wide as he listened to Ecthelion.
“I hold in my hand the scroll that contains the ‘Tradition of Isildur.’
Our forefathers declared the tradition void after Calenardhon was given
to the Horsemen of the North. But I am ever hopeful that the Great King
will return and therefore, I will keep the tradition.” Suddenly,
Ecthelion was weeping. “Our line has been disgraced these many years.
The Kings before us, in truth, had begun to destroy Gondor by their
lack of concern, yet our line did nothing to stem the tide. Though the
Stewards judged it of old that, since Madril had exercised the
authority of the King in his absence, we, his heirs have the same
rights and duties of the King until he returns. Too many of our line
have wasted their time, have abrogated their duties, have looked
towards the stars and such for guidance, and Gondor slowly declined. My
son,” and at this Ecthelion grabbed Denethor’s shoulder so hard it
hurt, “we must stop this! We must prepare for the return of the King!
You and I, Denethor, we will do this together. As we have come together
here at the Hallows of Minas Tirith, so shall we come together to rule
Gondor until the King returns!” His face shone through the tears and
Denethor was taken aback. “Do not think that this reign is ours though,
my son. Yes, the blood of Númenor flows through us, even more so
through you, but, Denethor, ten thousand years would not suffice to
allow one from the Line of Húrin to become King. Our ancestor,
Pelendur, rejected the claim of Arvedui, who was related to the Line of
Húrin by the blood of Ondoher’s daughter, Fíriel. And
with that rejection went our own right to the claim, for Pelendur
wanted only a prince descended in the male line from Anárion.
You know yourself that the Faithful clung to the right of the father to
decide for his descendants. Well, our forefather Pelendur rejected his
own claim; therefore, we have no claim to the throne. You must remember
that and be faithful to that. It is our fate.”
His father sounded almost wild and Denethor wondered at the passion he
heard in his voice. Turgon had never talked of the return of the King.
None before him had, as far as Denethor remembered from his readings,
not for the last thousand years. Yet his father seemed sure that the
King would return. So, no throne for Denethor. A chill ran down his
spine as the thought came to him. Well, if that was to be his fate. But
no usurper would come and take the throne, that he promised himself. He
would test any claimants thoroughly. But he said nothing to Ecthelion.
Ecthelion moved towards a bundle, unnoticed by Denethor until this
moment. As it was unwrapped, Denethor saw it contained a sword and a
shield and a horn. He s u cked in his breath quickly. It was the Horn
of Gondor. Sweat started beading upon his forehead and his body fairly
shook in anticipation. At last, he was to receive the Horn. Tears
sprang to his eyes.
“I have much to tell you of the secrets of Gondor, my son, keys to give
you to the Great Library, the vault, the Citadel and its many rooms,
the dungeons, the kitchens, all for the Heir of the Steward. You will
have a Warden of the Keys, but for the moment, I want you to take them,
feel their weight, see the glitter of them in the sun, and know that
you are being entrusted with all that is of worth in Gondor. Not only
these rooms, my son, but the people also. They will be entrusted to you
to guard them, protect them, not as slaves but as free men from
Númenor. When you become Steward, you will hand out judgment,
gather troops, you will be lord of the fiefs as long as the state of
Gondor endures.” He looked long and hard at Denethor. “Are you ready
for this, my son? Are you ready to give your life to Gondor? All for
Denethor found he had been holding his breath. He let it out slowly and
replied, “Yes, my Lord Steward, “I am ready to begin my duties as Heir
of the Steward of Gondor.”
It struck Denethor, hard. His father's contempt and scorn for Turgon
had been laid as a seed in Denethor's heart and it had grown. He saw it
now. So he had abandoned the man – the man who had loved him so as a
child. He walked slowly to the Houses of Healing – found the bench that
he used to sit on as a child – the one he and Turgon would sit on when
he was young. Tears would not come. He first had to cleanse his heart
of the contempt, the anger, and the frustration that he had come to
associate with this man. All he could think of was the sad state that
Gondor was in. All of it laid at Turgon's feet by Ecthelion. Was this
true? Did it matter anymore? Turgon was dead. And so was Morwen. And
Denethor was reconciled with his father because of their deaths. It
seemed so cruel. Why could not they have lived as Amdir's family in
love and peace? In the midst of the darkness that enveloped them now,
would not peace have been a good thing? Indis came and sat with him. He
laid his head on her shoulder, as he used to when a child. "Indis, will
we ever have peace?" he asked. "Will we ever look upon the Pelennor and
see not the path that the enemy might take, but the farms and villages
and fields of our people? Will we ever see 'Wen and grandfather again?"
A sob caught in his throat but he quelled it and held tight to his
sister. "I don't know what has come over me. Just last week I could
have flown like the peregrines. I thought the ceremony would change
things. But it has not."
"Some things never change. Evil seems to be upon us as it has been upon
Gondor for many ages, little brother. Look about you with hope - here
is the grandeur of Gondor before us. Let the sight of it lighten the
load. Do not be troubled by the future. Live today. Know that I will
ever be at your side. We are together, you and I, and always will be. I
love you dearly,"
"Not more than Arciryas?" he asked slyly.
"Nay," she smiled, "not more than Arciryas. But differently."
"I still do not understand this love of man and woman."
"You will, dearest, when you meet the woman whom the Valar have chosen for you."
Denethor guffawed. "Hah! The Valar have nothing to do with Gondor
anymore. They have abandoned it, and us. Would the servant of one of
their own be dwelling in... there, if the Valar cared? We have been
left to fend for ourselves. Oft times, Indis, it seems there is no
hope. If the Last Alliance could not contain him, could not stop him,
how are we men to do better? I never thought he would return." He
shivered and held Indis tighter. She kissed his brow gently and they
sat till the sun hid behind the mountain.
Walda had come and the sight of him lifted Denethor's spirits. The
trumpets of Minas Tirith had sounded the welcome and Denethor ran to
the parapet to see who was coming. The flag of Rohan waved proudly in
the breeze as the small troop came to the gate. Denethor used his old
boyhood passage to reach the first level as quickly as he could. Just
as Walda walked through the Great Gate, Denethor pounced on him,
pummeling his back in joy. "What brings you here, my old captain?" he
"I have been sent by King Thengel, my Lord. I am on a diplomatic
mission." Walda tried to keep a straight face, but the joy of Denethor
and his own joy caused a smile to break through his resolve. "I have a
missive for the Steward, and one for you. Will you open yours while we
walk to the Citadel?"
"Nay, I will wait until my father opens his. It has been too long,
Walda, I have missed you and our company." He blushed at saying our
company, but Walda understood. And he was grateful that Denethor felt
that kinship with the Rohirrim.
"So now he is called your father?" Walda asked in amaze as they walked
from circle to circle. "When last we were together, you did not speak
so familiarly of him."
Denethor's face fell. "Much has happened since last we battled
together. My grandsire, Turgon, has passed and my sister too. She was
murdered by Haradrim. Then Thengel was taken from me for the good of
Rohan. It has been a long month. Too much has happened. Too much that
"You are not saying your beloved 'Wen is dead? The one you spoke of so often?"
"Yes, Walda. Just a month ago. She had been addled by Turgon's death
and fled the city. We found her at his grave. The traditional way the
Haradrim kill their enemy was used upon her."
Walda was silent for some moments. "What will the Steward do? Does he plan to attack Harad?"
"Much discord has enveloped the city, Walda. His plans have not been
set yet. There are many stages that must be completed before he will
lead an attack. But your coming brings with it the winds of the plains
of Rohan and I would breath them in again."
"And so you shall, my friend, so you shall if your father accepts King Thengel's invitation."
"Now you have me wishing to tear open the missive. But I will wait. Have you eaten? Need you water?"
Ecthelion's emissaries for the new King's ceremony pulled up just east
of the mountain. The wind whipped the banners of Rohan and the crackle
of them could be heard even this far away. Never had Denethor seen
Edoras, though many times Walda had spoken of it. It was a glorious
city, much different from Minas Tirith, more rugged, but beautiful. Its
hall was called Meduseld. The roof shone in the sunlight as if thatched
with gold. Denethor was nigh speechless at the sight. His city shone
white in the sun; this one shone of gold. Walda urged the company
onward. His urge to be in his city supplanted any need for rest.
They stood before the Golden Hall, brothers in arms and in friendship.
“King Thengel,” Denethor smiled. “It has a nice sound to it.”
“Perhaps, some day?” Thengel asked.
“Nay, ten thousand years will not suffice,” he mumbled and then spoke
louder. “I am of the line of Anárion and Heir of the Steward of
Gondor. That is enough for me.”
Just as he spoke, Thorongil walked up and stood between them. Denethor
looked in amaze. ‘How dare he stand between us?’ he thought. But the
man took no notice and whispered in Thengel’s ear. Thengel quickly
apologized and left with the man.
‘What ill luck is this?’ thought Denethor. ‘What could be so important
as to take Thengel from my side as we were celebrating his kingship?’
Immediately his anger at the slight turned to anger at the man. Who was
this Thorongil? From whence had he come? Thengel had said he was from
the north. Well, folk from the north must have no manners! He watched
the two warriors walk off and his heart was bitter.
“He is a good man,” Thengel was saying, but Denethor was still
bristling over the slight done to him. “Truly, Denethor, I wish you
would befriend him. His battle sense is excellent and the men respect
him. Are you...?”
“Forgive me, Thengel. My mind was on other things. You truly like this man? Respect him? Even though you know aught about him?”
“Yes, I do, Denethor. True, he came from the north with no kit, nor
letter to establish who he was. He dresses like a vagabond, but he has
an air about him. I felt I could trust him from the moment I met him.
But, Denethor, you have the gift of foresight. What think you of him?”
“At this very moment, I find I cannot be very impartial, my friend. I
feel foolish,” he said with a gentle laugh, “but I must speak plainly.
I had hoped that we might be able to spend some time together now that
the ceremonies are completed. Perhaps we could have gone hunting, Orcs,
or boar, it did not matter. But every time we had a moment together
where we might be off on an adventure, he stepped in and took you away
for some meeting or another. I am jealous. I admit it. And I must needs
leave tomorrow. I know not when we will see each other again. We will
likely turn to Rohan for aid in the coming battle with the Haradrim. I
would see you in happier times before we go to war. But that is not how
it will be. As I said, I am jealous and selfish.”
“Nay, it is not selfish. Much has happened to both of us these past
months. We have had no time to sort out these events nor to share our
grief. When Ecthelion sent you away, I could hardly believe or
understand it. However, there was no swaying him from his decision. As
each year passed, I petitioned him to bring you home. And when he
denied those petitions, I begged to be allowed to visit you.” Thengel
sat on the stone steps and looked out over the plains of Rohan. “I
cannot tell you how I despaired for you. When word reached me that you
had surreptitiously joined Walda’s company, my heart was glad. I had
been afraid for you, for your sanity, just sitting there year after
year watching for a signal.”
Denethor groaned aloud at the thought. “’Twas not a good time – thpse
first two years. I feared for myself.” He laughed gently. “I had
thought that perhaps you had sent Walda to find me, though now I see
that was not so.”
“No, Denethor, I would not disobey your father, though my heart cried
out in pain for you. It was a bitter time for me also. And then, when
Fengel died and I was called back to Edoras, my very being rebelled.
Denethor, I love Minas Tirith, you know that, and I love Gondor. I
would not be here, if my own will prevailed.”
“You would have been the next Captain-General,” Denethor said quietly. “Gondor already misses you.”
“Who is in charge of the Horse Guards; who is the Captain-General?”
“None have been appointed to either position as of yet.” Denethor
looked up at the path between the mountains that led to Gondor. Already
his heart ached to be back in Minas Tirith. The path seemed to beckon
to him and he had all he could do to not jump upon a horse and ride
away. “I believe Húrin is the next in line for either position.
He is loyal to my father and his ideas.”
“Yes, he is a good man, but what of Captain Ingold?”
“He is still in command of my father’s personal knights. I do not see my father moving him.”
“So now we are allies!” Thengel changed the subject.
“Nay, not allies. Friends, brothers-in-arms. Forever.” Denethor laid his hand upon Thengel’s shoulder and smiled.