Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
I II III
Third Age - 2976
A sparrow lit on the parapet and Denethor almost lost his
footing in surprise. He had stood on the wall itself, hanging onto one
of the marble pieces that was placed upright for beauty’s sake, craning
his neck for signs of the entourage. He laughed ruefully, ‘’Twould be
well and good for me to fall and crash below. An interesting way to
greet my bride!’ The laugh changed to a startled cry of joy. Dust was
disturbed in the distance, along the South Road, more dust than a lone
horseman or cart would kick up. It had to be her!
He jumped off the parapet, onto the escarpment, ran to the wall that
began his shortcut, and started down, level by level. On the fourth
level, he had to stop for a breath. “I am growing too old for this,” he
moaned softly. The pause gave his body a chance to complain. He looked
at his burning hands, surprised by the blood oozing from various cuts.
‘I think I will have to stop climbing these walls soon, and use the
streets.’ Too anxious to take the slower, longer road along the
streets, he once again grabbed a handhold and crawled down another part
of his childhood shortcut. He startled a servant who was hanging out
her mistress’ wash, but only gave a grunt of apology and continued.
By now he was on the second level and decided it would be prudent to
take to the streets; he ducked into one of the inns. The hosteller was
startled by the appearance of the son of the Steward, but, upon
request, led him to a room with sink, towels, and a mirror. Thankfully,
none of the blood had dripped onto his clothing. After cleaning up and
running a hand through his hair, he left the room, flipped a coin to
the hosteller with a mumbled thank you and walked out into the sun. It
was the first he had noticed the day; it could not be more beautiful.
Spring flowers were in full bloom, a wind, strong enough to carry the
odors away from the City and to snap the Steward’s banners, blew from
As he walked into the Ranger’s Quarters on the first level, he smiled.
Damrod never failed to amaze him; his horse was saddled and ready. The
mane was braided as was the tail, and a mithril-edged helmet covered
the horse’s head. He was glad he had worn his own best livery. ’Twould
not do to have his horse look more elegant than himself.
Horse and rider passed through the Great Gate as the City’s trumpets
were sounded. A herald rode behind him holding the White Banner of the
House of Húrin. He rode slowly; it would not do to appear too
anxious. He heard hoof beats behind him and espied Thorongil riding
towards him, followed by a contingent of Ecthelion’s personal guard,
the Steward’s banner flying in front of them. Denethor pulled his mount
up and waited. Thorongil drew next to him and smiled. “Forgive my
temerity, my Lord, but I did not think it proper that the future
Steward of Gondor should be left to greet his Lady without escort.”
Denethor smiled, turned his horse south again, and continued his
journey, Thorongil at his side. The Knights of Gondor, mounted on the
best horses in the land, black as the armour of their riders, rode in a
double file. Denethor turned slightly in his saddle to see. Pride
swelled his heart for at that very moment, the sun, coming from behind
a small white cloud, touched the Citadel. The glory of it, the beauty,
took his breath away. She could not help but fall in love with his
City, not on a day like today.
They reached the Harlond. Her escort had stopped at the ancient port
and awaited him. Adrahil stepped from the coach. One of his men brought
a fine looking stead, which he mounted. He clasped arms warmly with
Thorongil and then turned and saluted Denethor. The slight was swift
but not unnoticed. ‘So,’ Denethor thought, ‘we play games. If this
smoothes the ill content of our marriage, then I will endure any slight
for her.’ The three turned their horses and road at the front of the
column. Thorongil chatted amiably with the Prince, who chose to ignore
the Steward’s son. Denethor held his anger in check. All he wanted was
to jump off his horse, open the carriage in which she rode, and take
her into his arms. But – she was not yet his. The entourage passed
through the Great Gates while the trumpets sang out the joy that was in
his heart. He had never heard the full swell of trumpets. His
banishment had caused him to miss Ecthelion’s coronation ceremony, the
only time within his lifetime that the full call of the trumpets of
Gondor had rung out. Indis had told him how the sound had filled every
nook and hollow in the City, echoing off Mount Mindolluin itself. He
shivered for the grandeur of it. Despite his anger and frustration over
the binding of the two houses, Ecthelion would not shame Gondor by not
putting on a mighty exhibition of welcome and celebration.
The men dismounted at the great square of Isildur. Her carriage
stopped, Adrahil opened the door, took her hand and helped her out.
Denethor craned his neck, trying to manage a glimpse of her, but the
Knights of the Swan barred his way. He lifted an eyebrow. Another
slight. He would be forced to walk behind Adrahil’s men. Thorongil, it
seemed, would not allow this slight to pass, though. He took Denethor’s
arm and walked him to the front of the company. The man, well loved by
the Swan Knights, commanded respect and the company let them pass.
Refreshments were served under a portico set up purposefully for this
event. Light drinks and pastries, designed to refresh the road weary
travelers, completed the fare. After this short repast, at which
Denethor could get no closer to her than ten yards away, flanked as she
was by her family, she was returned to her carriage and the procession
started towards the Citadel.
When they had reached the Sixth Level, the carriage stopped. Finduilas
stepped out, blinded by the morning light shining off white Mindolluin
marble. She smiled when she caught sight of him. He stepped towards
her, but Adrahil took her hand and turned her towards the tunnel that
led to the Citadel. Denethor took a step back, longing filling his
face. He had forgotten any slight as soon as he had seen her.
Thorongil, putting his hand on Denethor’s shoulder, whispered, “Soon, she will be yours forever. Let Adrahil have his moment.”
Denethor grunted in agreement. “Now that she is here, in my City, I can hope.”
“I know,” Thorongil chuckled, “Believe me, I know.” His thoughts went
back to the last three years. Four times a year Denethor had persuaded
Ecthelion to allow him to go to Dol Amroth. Thorongil had no trouble
procuring permission to accompany him. Four times a year they would
fish on the return trip. Never on the way, for Denethor was
hard-pressed to see her – his beloved. Thorongil smiled, thinking of
the hours he had spent, line in a river somewhere between Dol Amroth
and Minas Tirith, listening to minute details of Finduilas: her
qualities, her expressions, her profound wisdom, until he would have to
cry, “Stop, my Lord! I can stand no more, else I will woo the fair
maiden myself.” At which Denethor always blushed and mumbled an
apology. The two men would laugh, pull their lines in, and bed down for
the night. For three years Denethor’s spirit had grown lighter and
Now the time was come at last.
The tunnel ended and they stood before the Courtyard. He gasped. She
was o’ercome with emotion; he could see it in her face. He wanted to
cry seeing the beauty of it reflected in her eyes. The stunning white
marble, the great expense of the Courtyard and escarpment itself, the
Guards of the Citadel before the Court of the Fountain with their black
surcoats embroidered with the White Tree and their winged mithril
helmets, the swatch of green grass in the whiteness, and then – she had
paused and drew in her breath – the White Tree. Was that a tear on her
cheek? Was it anguish over its deadness? He had forgotten; he should
have told her. Adrahil seeing none of the beauty, took her arm, and
forced her away from the sight. They walked to the Citadel. His heart
broke. How he wished he could have stood next to her, drinking in the
beauty and grandeur of the Courtyard through her eyes. How he wished he
could have held her and told her the tree would bloom again. How he
wanted to sweep her into his arms and love her right there, on the
spot. His face was on fire for the thought of her. He would never be
able to thank her for this glimpse of a first time sight. He wanted to
fall to his knees and worship her. He leaned against the tunnel wall
trying to catch his breath. Thorongil spoke softly. “My Lord, you don’t
want to miss her entry into the Great Hall?” Denethor blinked twice,
drew a breath and started forward.
The guard opened the doors into the Great Hall; Prince Adrahil led
Finduilas in, Denethor and Thorongil following. She turned to him for
one moment, her smile subdued, but the twinkle in her eyes stopped his
breath. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to let his heart return
to some semblance of normalcy. The group moved forward; Thorongil
gently took his arm and led him along. He was grateful; the Hall looked
magnificent, marble walls and statues polished till they shone; he
could see his face reflected in the glass-like shine of the floor. He
had Indis to thank for this, he knew.
As they approached the Steward’s Chair, Denethor’s heart dropped. A
blush of shame covered his face. Ecthelion should be on the throne, his
heart said, but he shook his head, chided himself and continued to walk
forward. ‘Ten thousand years will not suffice.’ His father’s words
wound their way around his heart. Though their blood was as fine, nay
even better than many in Minas Tirith, and those from Belfalas, never
would the sons of the House of Húrin be aught but Stewards. He
bit his lip, remembering Prince Adrahil’s grand throne at Dol Amroth.
His father was better… No, he must stay this thinking.
They bowed low, the Prince and Princess, to his father, and for that,
Denethor was grateful. Ecthelion rose from the Chair, stepped down the
few stairs, and kissed Adrahil on both cheeks, then turned his gaze
upon Finduilas. Denethor noted the slight rise of his father’s eyebrows
as he looked upon her. She looked breath taking, even after such a long
journey. Denethor’s heart stood still for one moment, then Ecthelion
pulled her close, kissed each cheek lightly, and led them to the Hall
of Feasts. Denethor sighed and Thorongil laughed at his discomfiture.
“I tell you, all will be well, my friend. She has charm and wit and courage. She will hold her own against the Steward.”
Denethor laughed and walked behind the group. “It is still a whole
month before the ceremony. I will be able to neither eat, sleep, nor
breath until that is completed. Perhaps we should go on patrol or some
such. Anything to not be a witness to these grueling moments. My heart
stops every time a new situation arises. I know she will hold her own
against all, but I would that she did not have to. I would that we
could run away, marry, and live together in joy. I sometimes think that
will never be.”
Thorongil chuckled. “Fate would not be so cruel as to bring you two
together only to separate you. Rest in the knowledge of her love, her
loyalty. She will be yours forever, and soon, my friend.”
“It is good to hear you say such things.” A cloud passed over Denethor’s face.
“Is there aught wrong?” Thorongil asked quietly.
“A shadow sometimes seems to pass over us, as I try to look into our future.”
“Then,” Thorongil laughed outright, “You must stop looking!”
Denethor laughed loudly. “Aye, my friend. I will stop.”
Though Denethor had only jested about going on patrol, a situation
arose the very next day, and he was ordered to Cair Andros. Thorongil
stayed in the City. Damrod rode with him, along with a full battalion
of Knights, though the number in a battalion was now five hundred,
compared to the seven hundred of just thirty years ago. As they reached
the island, signs of recent battle smote their eyes. There were dead
horses, battered carts, and armour strewn along the shores of the
Anduin. The battle must have been great. He thought of the men he had
commanded just a few shorts years ago, and hoped that those he loved
and respected had not fallen. No bodies were visible. They had all been
buried and the Orc carcasses burned. The mound still smoldered.
Denethor put a hand over his nose as they passed it. Never could he
become inured to the smell. They stopped on the west side of the great
river, pickets were set, and two companies rode forward on patrol.
Damrod brought Denethor tea where he sat on a great fallen hickory
tree. His captains congregated around him. “We will wait until our
scouts return before we cross the river,” he said quietly. “I would
that we could cross over immediately, but seeing the signs of a battle
that looks ended does not mean it is so; we cannot trust that it has
ended. Nor that Orc are not waiting in ambush on the island itself. We
must content ourselves to wait here. I want no fires this night. And I
want the pickets doubled. Caution the men to keep quiet. We will leave
in the morning, if the patrols do not return by then. If they have not
returned, we will assume the worst and go in battle formation. Now,
take your rest, it might be the last you have for many a day.” He
walked to his tent and entered it. Damrod was inside, another cup of
tea waiting. “You are the best aide I have had,” Denethor smiled.
“Thank you. Get some rest yourself now. I will need you at my side
tomorrow, awake and alert.” He fell into the cot, still dressed. Damrod
shrugged, pulled off his captain’s boots, and left him.
The patrol had returned in the middle of the night with the news that
the battle had indeed been won and that those stationed at the garrison
were back guarding it. Denethor did not strike the camp, but decided to
wait till the morrow. Once they had broken the fast the next morning,
Denethor called Damrod to his tent.
“Do you know how much your worth is to me?” Denethor asked his aide as
the morning’s light bathed the tent. “Nay, do not answer. I ask you
this now for I would have your total allegiance.”
“My Lord,” Damrod started to reply but was interrupted by Denethor.
“You will never be named a Captain of Gondor. I think you know that. It
is custom in Gondor that only those with pure Númenórean
blood are made up to Captain. There has been an incident recently that
has broken this tradition, you know of whom I speak; yet, there is only
the one instance. I have asked Ecthelion to raise you, but he has
called upon this tradition and refused me. I am… I have not words to
tell you the value I place on you. I speak now, for another will be
raised to Captaincy, one whom has been only a short time with our
company. I wanted you to know, before his promotion is announced, that
you were, are, and will be my first choice for Captain. If it were in
my power, you would be one today. I…” He could not continue.
Damrod held his face impassive. Denethor was pleased, but the man’s
stoic behavior only further angered Denethor at his father’s refusal.
“I am sorry. I… I would ask that you continue as my aide, as my first
officer, and as my friend. I would understand if you would prefer
transfer to another battalion.”
Damrod blinked. “My Lord, my duty is to Gondor and to the Steward. Whatever he wills, I will. May I be dismissed?”
Denethor wanted to hug the man in gratitude. Too long had they been
comrades-in-arms to let this pass without further words. He struggled
to think what he might say to assuage the grief he expected his aide
“My Lord. There is nothing further to say. When I took commission in
the service of Gondor, I knew what her traditions were. My heart had
been set on only serving Gondor. It is my everlasting joy that I have
been allowed to serve her through you. I will go and prepare your horse
now.” He saluted Denethor and backed out of the tent.
The garrison itself had been spared. Scouts had discovered the Orc
hoard before they crossed the Anduin. Their goal seemed to be
Osgiliath. Those not killed had run back towards the Nindalf.
As he and his men entered the gates of the island fort, a cheer went
up. Denethor noted the diminished numbers of the battalion. ‘Their
losses were heavy,’ he thought. ‘How do these Orc dare to trod on our
land?’ his mind screamed. A sudden anger filled him. ‘We cannot
continue to countenance this affront.’ Dismounting, he strode quickly
to his old office followed by the Captain of the garrison. As he sat in
the chair, he realized he was no longer Captain here and stood up in
“Nay, my Lord,” Captain Hathol said. “Please, sit. I await your orders.”
He sat back down. “Alas, I have none for you. Your orders remain the
same: guard the fort, patrol for Orc and other enemies, and keep Gondor
safe. A little thing.” His sarcasm was not lost on the Captain. “How
many have you lost?”
“A full company, nigh unto seventy men and twenty horses. Neither resource easily replaced.”
“I know. I will view the men before nuncheon. Please have them
assembled at that time. I’m sorry…” he paused for a moment. “Is there
aught that I can do for you? That my men can do for you?”
“Burial has already been performed. We had planned a small ceremony…” he hesitated. “in the morning. Would you be able to stay?”
“Of course! I would be honored. May I have the roll of those lost? I have friends here…”
“You will have it on your desk within the hour.” He saluted, turned and left.
Denethor rubbed his hands over the top of the desk. He had many fond memories from his stay here.
He decided to remain in Cair Andros for another
fortnight. Walls needed reinforcing and the battle-weary troops needed
rest. His men could provide that help and that rest. As he sat in his
office, Damrod entered. “My Lord, the horse situation is not good. They
have lost too many in this last battle. The troops here need horses for
patrol. Their territory is vast. They need them more than we who are
stationed in Minas Tirith.”
“I have been thinking on the same situation,” Denethor stated. “I
would like to lead a foray to the Mering Stream, meet with the
Rohirrim; if memory serves me, they have an outpost there. Mayhap they
will have extra mounts that we might trade for. Send two errand-riders
to Aldburg. I will write the missive now.”
The next day, before Anor itself had risen, the errand-riders were
dispatched. Three days later, Denethor led half of his battalion west.
On the third day after that, they pulled up to the Rohirric camp at the
Mering Stream as the sun reached its peak.
“My Lord Denethor?” a soldier came forward, hand brought to his
chest in salute. He laughed at the surprise on Denethor’s face. “King
Thengel himself taught me the proper way to greet the Steward’s son.”
Then he pulled Denethor into a huge hug. “I am Éomond and I am in
charge of this lowly camp. I am honored and pleased to meet the friend
of my King.” He paused. “And Walda’s. He was a cousin and a friend. I
understand you were with him at the end?”
Denethor sat on the proffered seat, a grimace covering his face.
“Aye. Would that I had arrived sooner. He was mortally wounded by the
time I reached him. We spent five years together, serving Rohan. He was
a good Marshall and a good friend. I owed him my life many times over.”
“And he you. I have heard of the battles you two were part of.
Songs, even, have been made of some of them. Perhaps tonight we might
sing them ‘round the fire?”
Denethor blushed slightly. “I have heard of no such songs. If it
pleases your men to sing them, we will listen – but – I believe songs
of Eorl, Helm Hammerhand, or even King Thengel would sound sweeter.”
After the noon meal, Éomund took Denethor to the horse enclosure. Over fifty horses were gathered together.
“Are all for sale?” Denethor asked incredulously.
“Aye, Denethor. As soon as the errand riders showed me your
missive, I knew my King would want me to do all in my power to help
you. I sent runners to nearby posts. We have assembled what we could. I
am ashamed, however. I know Gondor loves the black stallions of the
East Emnet, but I have ill news. Most have been stolen.” He held a hand
to silence Denethor’s questions. “It was not Orc. Our custom was to
leave our horses to wander free until we had need of them. A year ago,
we noticed that the blacks were disappearing. We know not who, or what,
is taking them. We now keep them in holding pens. But it harms their
spirit. They are accustomed to being free.”
“I have heard no such reports. Has the Steward been told?”
Éomund drew himself up. “The men of the Riddermark do not need Mundburg’s help in such a little thing.”
“My deepest apologies, Éomund. The sons of Eorl have long protected
the western borders that abut Gondor. Would you think that I, who have
served under King Fengel, do not know of your courage, your wisdom?
Yet, Gondor cannot survive without knowledge of what happens on her
borders. You must see that.” He paused for a moment, letting his words
sway the young soldier. “It is not in disparaging thoughts that I asked
my question. Gondor would be foolish not to listen to her
“Nay, forgive me,” Éomund blushed. “I am hot headed and rash.
Wisdom would be served by knowledge. You speak true. If you would
allow, I will send monthly missives to Mundburg with news of the
goings-on in our part of the Riddermark, with my King’s permission.”
“No apology is needed. You fight a desperate battle. I know; I have
been there. Your mind and resources are on other matters. Yet, it would
be in the best interest of Gondor and the men of the Riddermark to
converse as often as possible. Let us to your tent to discuss terms for
Night had come, pickets were set, and the fires were lit.
Instruments of all sort were drawn forth and the nights entertainment
begun. Denethor smiled to be back among these warriors. He knew many of
the songs by heart; it felt good to sing them again. ‘Ah, Amdir would
laugh to hear me sing, but I believe my voice has improved since our
little jaunt to Rath Dinen.’ He shared warm ale and a bedroll with
Éomund. Leaning against it, he thought, ‘I rather like this young
warrior. Headstrong, yes, but wise too. If he can keep from becoming
enmeshed in fighting, he should turn into a strong leader for Rohan.’
Suddenly, he sat up. He recognized the song as one of Walda’s favorites. “Where now the horse and rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?”
The singer sang while the harpist picked the notes. He held his breath,
such beauty in the words and the simple melody. He never understood the
last two lines, but it mattered not. Haunting was the melody and
haunting were the words. "Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning, Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?" The camp was silent for many long moments after the last note fell.
Another man began to sing and the harpist quickly followed.
Northern fields touched by sun
Awake to horns mighty sound
Rohirrim ride strong and bold
Rise with them we must.
Fealty to our king with mighty oaths
Shields raised, spears held high
Swords shining in the Riddermark
Ride now! Ride on!
Foe-beleaguered our steeds striding
March forth to battle called
Fight and fall, buried deep
To heart’s breaking.
Buried deep in snow-covered mounds
Where Gentle Simbelmynë rest awash in tears
Warriors before the Golden Hall
Sons of Eorl sleep at last.
“Mundburg has songs, too? Forgive me,” the standard bearer stood before him. “I am called Guthláf.”
Denethor smiled. This one was very young. “We have songs. I, however,
cannot sing. I will spare you pain. Damrod. What say you? Will you give
these men a song? We cannot have them strain their voices all night.
And, they must have time to down a flagon or two. Can you give them
Damrod smiled broadly. “Aye, Captain. I can.” He stood and turned towards the company.
Golden fields stretch to greet her
Sundering seas allure
Shimmering mountains tower high
Touching moonlit sky.
Hoping, waiting, all welcoming
Minas Tirith glinting
Luminous towers, gleaming white
Smite the darkness, ream the night.
Anor waits to greet the day
Wishing darkness all away
Shadows lurk, they do not sunder
Light nor shade nor worlds of wonder.
Night lies still and will not leave
Warrior widows sit and grieve
Light will come ‘tis part of life
As with battles as with strife.
Gondor sits, mirrored moonbeams
Light her walls in Elvish dreams
All is well; Eärendil shines
‘Pon my City, beloved, mine.
Hoots, hollers and backslapping followed the song. Denethor had to laugh.
“You men of Mundburg,” Éomund laughed, “only sing of the White City? Have you no other love besides?”
“She is love and mistress enough for any man, Rohirrim. Mark my
words; if ever you should happen upon her, especially when the morning
sun touches her, you will be caught in her web. None who see her forget
“Then,” Éomund sobered, “I wait to see her.”
“And I will gladly show her to you. Someday. For now, we must rest.
Tomorrow we must be off. Our men await these mounts. Gondor is indeed
blessed to have such friends as the Sons of Eorl.”
“You are to be wed, I hear,” the young warrior asked as Denethor
stood. At his nod Éomund continued. “Has my King accepted your
“Aye, Eomund, he has. He sent missives saying he will arrive
sometime soon. The ceremony will take place less than a fortnight from
now. I must away tomorrow, or I might miss my own vow taking! May I
wonder why you asked?”
“I had hoped to see his daughter again. Has the Lady Théodwyn been
invited? I…” His cheeks turned a pale red under the sun-darkened skin.
“I was hoping that the Eorlingas might rest here on their journey to
Denethor smiled, knowing why the young man hoped the entourage would
stop. He remembered the child Théodwyn and wondered. ‘The last time I
saw her,’ he thought, ‘ she was only ten. I wonder how she appears now.
And what makes this man think Thengel would consider him? Hmmm, but
hope dwells always in a man’s heart.’ He spoke aloud, “Your King did
not say what day he would arrive, but I had hoped it would be soon.
Which again makes me anxious to retire now, so that we might strike
camp early tomorrow morning. Please forgive the abruptness of this, but
my own love will be anxious at my absence.”
“Oh! I am sorry. Aye, please, sleep now. My tent is yours.”
“Nay, I will not take your tent. Damrod has already set mine. I
will farewell you now. I am hoping we will be gone before the first
light. I thank you for your hospitality. Gondor thanks you for the
horses. May the men of the Riddermark live long.”
“Farewell to you, Captain Denethor. Fair weather and flat lands greet you.”
With that, Denethor turned and walked to his own tent.
Consternation filled his face. It was not till they had talked of the
arrival of Thengel that Denethor had remembered how time was perilous
short. Damrod greeted him. “Tell my Captains I would see them now.”
He barely had time to take a sip of the tea brewed by Damrod when the
tent flap was pulled back and his Captains strode in. “We will leave
before first light. The horses will follow the main company. Have
drovers ready. We will eat on the road.” They bowed and made to leave.
“One other thing, we must not tarry. I must start for Minas Tirith as
soon as we arrive in Cair Andros. Go now and tell the men.”
He strode up and down inside the little tent, tension causing his neck
to ache. Damrod entered and Denethor poured out his unease upon his
aide. “I have misjudged the time. She will be wondering where I am. I
cannot let her be anxious over me. I still have preparations that must
be made. The ring is done. For that I am thankful. I know Indis will
arrange the festivities, but I wanted to buy her some little offering,
some token of my love besides the ring. I have found nothing.”
“My Lord, there is an heirloom in the treasury, a dirk worn by
Turgon’s mother. The handle is encrusted with emeralds. If I remember
correctly, the emeralds are the seven stars; there is a moonstone at
the base of the White Tree. It would be a fair gift for Finduilas.”
“Aye! I remember it well.” Denethor grasped Damrod’s shoulder.
“Thank you. I will ask father for it when I return. It is a fitting
gift for a Princess of Dol Amroth.” A smile lit his face. “How can I
sleep now? My heart is o’erburndened with this joy. Yet sleep I must.
And so must you, Damrod. Go now. Wake me an hour before the company
Damrod watched the furrow on Denethor’s brow grow less and less
distinct the closer they came to Minas Tirith. It had taken longer than
his Captain had thought to drive the horses to Cair Andros. It had been
tedious work; the men were not used to herding horses. He had had to
laugh at the sight of one or another of Gondor’s Knights urging his own
stead on to catch a recalcitrant mare of Rohan that had tried to head
off to parts unknown. Too often, the horse seemed to win, and more of
the Knights would be needed to bring the animal back to the herd. He
sighed. It would be good to enter the White City, bathe in warm water,
sit on a cushioned chair, sleep in his own bed, and not smell horse!
‘Ah,’ he thought. ‘I am becoming soft.’ He turned to look back at the
men. Denethor’s sharp intake of breath caused him to quickly turn
around. His Captain had pulled up on his horse.
“My Lord. Is aught wrong?”
“Look! Look at the City! It… it begs description.”
Damrod stopped his horse and stared. Indeed, he had never seen the
White City so beautiful. Banners snapped in the stiff northern wind.
White banners everywhere. There seemed to be not one inch of Minas
Tirith not flying the Steward’s Banner. From every parapet, from every
tower, cascading down windows, covering the Great Gate, banners flew.
It was incredible. The City looked splendid. Damrod’s smile filled his
face. “My Lord. ‘Tis a wondrous sight.”
“’Tis indeed,” Denethor concurred. “This is the work of Indis. Where
and when she had the time to plan this, I do not know. It is wondrous.”
The familiar tingle prickled his body; the same sensation he felt every
time he looked at his City from afar.
Simultaneously, both men clicked their tongues, urging their horses to
a gallop. The Knights followed; amazed at the sight before them. “I
cannot fathom,” he whispered, “any place more beautiful. Surely the
Valar themselves had a hand in the making of her.”
Piercing grey eyes stared at him from the back of the Hall. He could
almost see the fire in them, not the fire of love or want, but the fire
of anger. His face blanched. He knew she was furious. This was the
first they had seen each other since the day she had arrived. E’er
since he had returned, two days ago from Cair Andros, his father had
him running. Reports must be written and offered, replacements had to
be found for those lost at the battle of the River, remuneration for
the horses discussed. This last was the worst. They had spent an entire
day arguing about it. Even this morning, on his oath-taking day,
Ecthelion had summoned him again to berate him for his actions. He had
been enraged when he heard the price Denethor had agreed upon.
“And not even black stallions!” his father had shouted. “What possessed you to agree to that price with no stallions?”
“My Lord Steward,” Denethor spoke softly. “The Rohirrim gave us the
best horses they had. They are worth the price. They are healthy and of
good breeding stock. We paid for sires, mares, and their future
Thorongil tried to step between the two, but Ecthelion waved him away.
As he stepped back, Denethor noted a glint of green coming from a
weapon hitched to Thorongil’s belt. He drew in his breath. He knew this
dirk! Thorongil looked at him in surprise, saw where his eyes were
looking, and blushed. Ecthelion noted nothing but his own anger.
Pulling himself as tall as he could, Denethor said, “My Lord. It is
done. Gondor cannot go back on her word to her allies. If you deem the
price too high, you may take it from my pay. Or,” and he looked
pointedly at Thorongil, “you may take one of my prized possessions.
Perhaps grandmother’s dirk – the one she had promised to me?”
Thorongil’s face grew a deeper shade of red, but Ecthelion was
oblivious to the barb. “You will certainly pay for this in the years to
come - when you are Steward and the Treasury is empty because of your
Ecthelion’s words stung. “Aye, father. I will pay for it, as I will pay
for the sons not born because your lords think of building their
monuments instead; I will pay for it because my ancestors thought that
Gondor was safe and not in need of defense building; I will pay for it
when our allies turn their backs on us because we demean them; I will
pay for it when wizards rule the House of Húrin instead… ”
“Enough!” Ecthelion bellowed. “I have had enough of your whimpering and
whining, your softened heart. Gondor will be strong! Gondor’s allies
will see that they cannot take advantage of us.” He strode back and
forth in front of the Steward’s Chair. Reining in his anger, he turned
to Denethor. “I have spoken with the wizard. He has assured me we are
doing well. He suggests we strengthen Pelargir and I agree. I am
sending my Captain, Thorongil, to replace Captain Amdir at Pelargir. He
has been commissioned to restock the fleet, encourage foreigners to
join our forces under him, and remind the lords of the southern lands
to call up their sons for Gondor’s service. He will be leaving as soon
as the ceremony is complete. He will not deplete the Treasury, nor give
excuses as to why our allies rook us, nor fail us in our need. Go now.
Prepare for your vow taking to this… this…” He stopped at the look upon
Denethor’s face, and seemed to quail for a moment.
Denethor saluted him stiffly, glared at Thorongil, and left the Hall.
He shook his head to clear it of the memories of these last two days.
He must focus on her and on the ceremony. He must let all thoughts of
the last few hours dissipate. She had every right to be angry. He had
duties to perform, but she was now part of those duties. How would he
ever explain himself? What a night this would be.
The procession moved forward; Finduilas holding her hand lightly on
Adrahil’s arm, as she had the night he fell in love with her. She
looked like steel - a fine sword, honed to sharpness. By the Valar, he
wished he had left his father hours ago. The Swans reached the Chair
and bowed low before Ecthelion. Denethor took his place to the right of
the Chair. Ecthelion stood, addressed the company, motioned for
Denethor to join them, and continued. By now, Denethor’s ears were
ringing. He knew she was angry, could see it in her stance, but the
anger seemed to make her even more beautiful. Daughter of Elves indeed.
He leaned closer and whispered, “I will not forsake thee again, I vow it, here in front of the Steward’s Chair.”
She laughed and his face turned scarlet. The next moment, she placed
her hand lightly on his arm. Her brow furrowed as she spoke, “Never
leave me nor forsake me, my Lord. Thou art my very breath. I cannot
live without thee. I cannot think without thee. I cannot love without
thee. Thou art my all.”
Ecthelion stared at her. ‘Elves,’ he thought. ‘Strange creatures.’
Denethor shook at the touch of her hand. He took it in his own hand and kissed it gently, not caring what the guests thought.
Another withering look from Ecthelion, but she smiled at the Steward
and spoke. “My Lord,” she said to Denethor, “Do not stake thy life on
that vow. Thou and I will talk - but not now. It is time for my own
She turned fully towards him and spoke in a loud voice.
“How canst I say that I love thee, my Lord? What words mayest I use? No
word, no thought, no feeling is strong enough, eloquent enough to tell
thee of the love that fills my heart – because thou, my Lord, hast
filled my heart with such joy, such longing, such peace.
Thou hast opened my eyes to the world around me, to its beauty, its
smells, its colours, its sounds – birds chirping, gulls calling,
children laughing – because of thy love for me.
Thou hast opened my heart by giving me family and friends who lovest me
without question,” she turned and smiled at Indis, “accept me as I am,
hold me to faithfulness, cherish me, and find me of worth – because of
thy love for me.
Thou hast opened my mouth to sing, given words to thy love and
fidelity, shared the joy of thee with others, cried with others, and
laughed with others – because of thy love for me.
I am entire because thou completest me. I am thine, my Lord, from now until always.”
He swept her into his arms, holding her close. Never had he expected
words of such passion, such commitment to fall from her lips. He lifted
her chin and kissed her deeply. Turning towards the Steward, he bowed,
placed her hand on his arm, and walked down the long Hall. The smile on
his face lit the room and caused his people to rejoice!
The ceremony was over. As she walked with him towards the Great Door,
she quietly reminded him that they had much to speak of. He stifled a
sigh. Then he spoke to her in Sindarin – love phrases he had learned
from books found in the archives. He would persuade her to begin this
day anew, from this moment onward. He would show her he meant the vow
he had just made. Whispering sweet names to her, he continued towards
the Door. “Beloved, Precious, Star of Eärendil, Daughter of Varda,
Fairest Lady of Gondor,” on and on he went. He closed his eyes for a
moment before they reached the entrance. Turning towards her, he begged
forgiveness, then took her in his arms and kissed her passionately.
Long and slow was that kiss and the guests started tittering, but he
did not care. At last, he loosened his hold upon her and turned her
towards the Door. They walked forward, smiling, out of the North Door
and into Merethrond, the Hall of Feasts.
Their moment of happiness was short-lived, however. Thorongil had come,
the next morning, to speak with him. He did not want to see him; did
not want to give him a moment to explain the meaning of the dirk. And
yet, he knew that is why the northerner came. Memories tried to flood
his mind, memories of their friendship; he willed himself not to
remember. Finally, he bid the servant let the man enter.
Thorongil quickly strode into the outer chamber, saluted, and bowed on one knee. “My Lord.”
Denethor blushed. “Stop it. Get up. There is no need for that.” The
memories would not be checked; he could not let his friend kneel to
him. “Finduilas sleeps. Let us to the balcony.” A servant followed and
laid tea, cheeses, breads, jams, and sweetened rolls on a table. “Have
you broken your fast?” At Thorongil’s shake of the head, he bid him sit
and eat. After a few moments silence, Denethor asked, “Would you tell
me why father gave you the dirk?”
“I do not know myself, Denethor. I truly do not. He gave it to me at
the same moment he gave me the Captaincy of Pelargir. A token of his
esteem. I did not want to take it. It is too grand a gift for one such
“I… ” He laughed hoarsely. “I was going to give it to Finduilas as a
gift.” He shook his head. “There are other items in the Treasury that
would be more appropriate. She does not countenance violence and would
probably put it in some corner, or at the top of some storage area, and
it would be lost. Better you have it,” he said with a small smile.
“There is another matter, Denethor.”
“Aye? What is it?”
“Pelargir. I know you have wanted to command the fleet. I know you
trained for it under Prince Adrahil. I did not ask for it. I must have
you know that.”
“I know. And my father knows I wanted it.” He stood facing the parapet.
Gulls called to each other and the sound broke his heart. He thought of
the books he had read of Minardil’s Captain of old. Captain
Vëantur. Reading of the great sea Captain’s voyages had helped
Denethor through the torments of his early childhood. Now he would
never sail the seas on adventure. Not only Thorongil’s assignment, but
also his taking of a bride, had put an end to those dreams.
“It is best you go. But first, I have another question. Did Mithrandir suggest that you have the Captaincy?”
Thorongil bowed his head. Denethor knew he had his answer. His mind
whirled. Bits and pieces of old thoughts, old fears, ran through him.
‘Wizards are not to be trusted,’ he remembered Amdir saying a very long
time ago. He sighed heavily. He had learned to fight Curunír;
now he would have to learn how to fight this wizard.
“I would spend time with Finduilas.” He laughed at the memory of the
hours he spent bending Thorongil’s ear on the graces of the fair lady.
“You understand what I mean. I look forward to our next meeting.”
“Aye, I understand, my friend. I will think on you often. I would hope
that, upon your trips to Belfalas to visit her kin, you might take the
Pelargir road and visit with me?”
“I will do that. You can appoint your best ship and transport us by the
Bay to Dol Amroth. We will laugh and sing, and perhaps put a line out.
The fish in the Bay are known for their great size!” He gave Thorongil
a great hug and showed him from the room. As he walked back in, she
stood in the bedchamber’s doorway.
“Art thou so eager to leave thy bed, my Lord?”
He smiled. Let Thorongil have the sea. He had Ulmo’s own, a water sprite.