Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
I II III
IV V VI
20. Third Age -
not know of what you speak,” he heard
his father’s angry voice coming from the study. “I have seen things
that I hope you never will. Your trust in Adrahil is misplaced. He
gathers an army to him, leaving Gondor’s defenses to us. He had
promised, Indis, promised that he would replace the men he called back
two years ago. No matter my urgent pleas for replacements, he refuses.
Not directly. Oh no, direct would be too straightforward. He uses
subterfuge, rumours of impending attacks as excuse; he sends Dol
Amroth’s regrets, but I do not believe him. I have seen no threat of
attack; have heard no reports of enemy movements. I have my ways,
Indis. Spies and other such tools. Gondor’s weal does not concern him.”
“He is not a fool, Denethor. He knows if Minas Tirith falls that
Belfalas will be next.”
“I am not saying he is a fool. I am saying he expects Minas Tirith
to fall and is preparing to protect his own lands. The other southern
fief lords watch him and use him as an example. None of them want to
send their sons to serve Gondor.”
“And Finduilas?” she whispered. “Was her death a part of this?”
“She married me against his will, in the end. Though he gave it
begrudgingly. For her to die under my care…” He could not continue.
Boromir quietly knocked on the door; ashamed he had listened so long.
His father admitted him with a word.
“My Lord. Forgive me for disturbing you, but you did ask to me to
Denethor’s face had lit with joy when he heard Boromir’s voice. His
enthusiastic response was met with a smile from Indis. He turned to
her. “Stop your laughing at me, dearest sister.” His mood had changed
from anger to delight in a moment. “Leave us now, if you wouldn’t mind.
I would speak to Boromir of his appointment.”
She hugged him, turned to smile at Boromir as he stepped into the
study, and left.
“Sit down, here beside me,” and Denethor sat on the settle across from
his desk. “How are you, my boy? Are you prepared?” His excitement
“I will never be as ready as I wish, Father, but I am striving to
learn all you have asked of me. And more.” He smiled in the delight of
his own initiative. “I have spent the last few months, whenever I have
had a moment from studying the ceremony and the duties that will be
mine upon commissioning, visiting the Great Library. Father, I have
found some wonderful books on the battles of our land. Did you know
there is one whole room devoted to the Battle of Dagorlad?”
“Have you given up your studies of the Elves, then?”
“Stories of Elves are for children, Father, along with other myths.
I want to study battles, Father. I want to discover why we won many and
lost others. I want to be prepared for when I go into battle.”
His fervor heartened Denethor, but his mind flew back to the time
of Amdir’s most desperate shame. He willed his son would be spared such
a thing – to have left a battle in fear and cowardice. Yet, Amdir had
recovered and had become a warrior of renown in all of Gondor. Would
that Boromir would become such a warrior. One was desperately needed.
He knew he was not the warrior that Amdir had been, nor Thengel. He
felt his own lack most acutely.
“I have read of the battle. How could it last so many years,
Father? How could the men of Gondor not given up and been defeated?”
“Do you think Gondor battled alone, my son? ‘Twas those very Elves
that you decry that brought Isildur victory. The hearts of men are
courageous, Boromir, but none are as resilient as the Elves that fought
at our side at the beginning of this age. Do not forget that, nor that
Elves were once our allies. Mayhap, the time will come when Gondor will
look towards the Elves again for aid.”
Boromir hung his head. “Aye, Father. I will remember it.”
“You like the Great Library?”
“Not as much as Faramir. I find the books I need and leave it
immediately. I take them to the parapet and study there, with the wind
in my face, and the sounds of Minas Tirith in my ears. He sits for long
hours in the dust and the dark. I do not know how he stands it!”
Denethor laughed. ‘How I used to love the Great Library, never
leaving it.’ He shivered. ‘Until Curunír.’ A sudden chill filled
Was the wizard still about? Would he assail his own son, as Denethor
had been?’ He turned to Boromir. Speaking as casually as he could, he
asked him about Faramir and the library.
“Nothing keeps him from there. Indis has fits, at times. And
Listöwel is so funny. Whenever he seems lost, she sends me to the
library and he is there, nose pressed to a scroll. Then I have to drag
him back to the nursery.”
“It is his mother’s fault,” Denethor said quietly. “She instilled such
a love in him.”
Boromir placed his hand on Denethor’s leg. “I know, Father. They
would sit for hours and read. I could not do that. I could not sit so
long. My body needed to be about.”
Denethor hugged him. “I know, Boromir. That is why the Valar gave
me two such sons: one to be my warrior and one to be my counselor.”
“Is that what I am to be Father, your warrior?”
“Aye, Boromir. That you will be, for your eye is quick and your body is
broad and strong, even now.”
“And Faramir, Father?”
Denethor smiled. “He is second son, Boromir. He will be trained in
Gondor’s ways, but you are Heir. On your birth anniversary, you will be
appointed as Squire of Gondor. Then, on your twenty-first, I will take
you to a certain place, and you will pledge your loyalty to Gondor.
There, I will name you Heir to the Steward. Faramir will receive no
Boromir looked at him with tears in his eyes. “Faramir is my equal,
Father. He has the same heart as I do. Would you leave him out like
“I am not ‘leaving him out,’ Boromir. He will be trained. He will
become a squire, as are all sons of the lords of Gondor, but he will
never be Heir. Only you will. It is as you were fated to be. By your
birth. Do you understand? No matter the love we have for Faramir, he
will always be the younger. We must help him accept that.”
“Oh! He does, Father. And it makes me angry.”
“Why, Boromir, when that is what his future holds?”
“Because he sometimes thinks circles around me, Father.”
Denethor sat back, smiling. “It is good that he does, Boromir. He will
keep you alert. Now, enough talk of Faramir; we must look to the
ceremony itself. Have you memorized the oath?”
Listöwel sat with Faramir, holding his carven horse in her hands.
The head had definitely been separated from the body and she was
hard-pressed to consider how to fix it.
“Ada can fix it. Might I take it to him?”
“He is with Boromir now. They are studying together.”
“I wish I was with them. Am I not old enough, yet?”
She heard the exasperation in his tone and smiled. “‘Tis not that you
are not old enough, Faramir, but that it is not yet your time. Boromir
is learning of his duties as squire. It will be many years, my pet,
before you will become a squire. Do not concern yourself about that
yet. Let us try to fix your horse.”
“A fastening of some kind, perhaps a nail, would hold it together. Or
“A nail would—“
“To the smithy!” Faramir suddenly yelled. “To the smithy!” And
slapped his hand on his thigh as he galloped around the nursery.
She laughed and agreed while holding her hand out for him to take it.
He ‘rode’ past her, all the while urging his ‘horse’ onward. Yelling
back over his shoulder, he pressed her to walk faster.
He slowed down as they entered the tunnel. “I miss Snowflake. A
wooden horse is acceptable for children, but I am now six. I think I
should have a horse. What do you think, Listöwel?”
“We could write a letter to Théoden King asking him? Though that
would be impolite – to ask for a gift.”
He sighed. “Mayhap we could visit again?”
“We have just returned,” she laughed. “It has only been three months.”
“But I am so much taller now and stronger, too.” He lifted his arm
to show her his muscle. “I could hold on better and ride faster; I know
“I am sure you could. The winter winds and snow are falling on
Rohan. It would be a very difficult trip to take.” She was trying
desperately to think of excuses. Denethor would never allow such a
journey at this time of year. She wanted to spare him the
“I like snow. I like sliding down it. I like the taste of it.”
“Of course you do. So do I. Yet, it is very cold and very difficult
for horses to travel in. Would you want to put your pony through such a
“No,” he said hesitantly. “Snowflake is extremely brave though. And
very strong. I have a difficult time holding his reins sometimes. He
can pull very hard.”
“You have always ridden him well, Faramir. Your father is quite proud
of your skill.”
“Someday, I am going to learn to shoot an arrow from a horse, just
like Éomund. We must go back,” he looked up at her, seriously,
is no one in Gondor to teach me such things!”
“Traditional ways of fighting in Gondor do not include shooting arrows
from horses, Faramir. Do you know why?”
He thought for a moment. “The grasslands. We do not have the
“That is correct, Faramir. We do not have the landscape for such
fighting.” It seemed unreal to be speaking of battles with a six year
old. If Finduilas were alive, she would be sickened. She tried to turn
the conversation. “Would not a carpenter be a better choice for our
horse, not a smithy?”
“Horses are always tended by smithy’s, Listöwel.” He smiled at her
lack of such knowledge.
“Here do I swear fealty and service to
and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to
do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or
war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord
release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Boromir, son
of Denethor of the House of Húrin."
“And this do I hear, Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Lord of Gondor,
Steward of the High King, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward
that which is given: fealty with love, valour with honour,
oath-breaking with vengeance."
Then Boromir received back his sword and put it in its sheath. And the
hall erupted with great shouts of joy and approval. The bells that hung
in the tall towers rang, while trumpets blared their agreement.
Hundreds of birds were released from dozens of cages, and the uproar
caused the peregrine that nested in the high towers and the very peaks
of Mindolluin to flit about above the Courtyard, calling their sanction
of the vow. The White Banners of the House of Húrin flew from
parapet, every window, hung on every door. The City was bathed in
elation and delight.
Indis beamed, tears flowing down her cheeks and wetting her bodice.
She took no notice. Listöwel clapped her hands, dancing a little
pure joy. “Ah, to have such a day. So long overdue; so long needed,”
Indis cried and Listöwel turned and hugged her.
Denethor beamed. Boromir had not forgotten one word, one bow, one
clasp of his hands, nor failed to acknowledge one of the Lords of the
Council. Everything had gone as planned. None could say his son did not
appoint himself well. He choked a few times during the ceremony,
stifling the tears that would fall. None could see how overcome he had
been by the words his own son, his very own son had said to him. His
heart burnt from the joy of it. ‘To speak and to be silent, to do and
to let be, to come and to go…’ The words echoed through his mind. His
son, his Boromir, headstrong and willful had pledged to die to himself
to serve his adar. Denethor shook at the depths of the vow. Did Boromir
realize what he had promised? ‘Aye,’ Denethor thought. They had gone
over the vow and the meaning of each and every word until Boromir could
say it as a catechism in his sleep.
Boromir stood next to the Chair as one after another of the Lords
of Gondor, then the guests, then the people, came forward to pat him on
the back. Adrahil and Imrahil were first in line, though, their status
as Princes of Dol Amroth earning them this rightful place. Denethor had
been stunned when Adrahil had ridden up to the Citadel. Not many were
allowed to ride their horses onto the very Courtyard of the White Tree,
but Adrahil would not be put off. An affront to the customs of Minas
Tirith, but Denethor, even knowing that Adrahil did it on purpose,
would not let it besmirch this day for his son. He would not chastise
his father-in-law. Boromir bowed low to his adadhron and to his uncle.
Both smiled. Adrahil handed the lad a sword; Denethor smiled. He had
already given the lad a fine sword, but Adrahil again seemed to want to
cast aspersions on his son-in-law. The sword was of Elven make,
Denethor noted, and beautiful. Clean lines, but too large for the lad.
‘Ah,’ he thought, ‘this is a sword for when Boromir goes into battle.’
Denethor stood and bowed to the old Prince. Adrahil acknowledged his
thanks and moved on. Imrahil gave Boromir a fine mithril baldric to
hold the Horn of Gondor. Denethor almost stumbled. The gift was beyond
priceless. The smile that the young Prince gave Boromir was as
brilliant as the belt.
Théoden and Théodred both greeted him with hugs, as did
Erkenbrand. Their gifts were throws made from the hides of bears from
the White Mountains. Denethor nodded his thanks as Boromir thanked each
Boromir stood for hours, straight and tall, accepting the plaudits and
praises, never faltering once. Finally, the last person in line came
forward. ‘Indis,’ his heart cried out. She bowed low to him and then
handed him a rose, yellow as the sun. It was from his naneth’s garden.
He cleared his throat, trying to keep his composure. Bowing to her, he
took the flower, hung it on a tie on his tunic, and stepped forward. He
slung the Horn over his back, moved his sword to the side, and hugged
her fiercely. Tears fell. He could not help himself. He buried his head
in her shoulder so that none would see, but he knew she felt the sobs
that shook his body.
Faramir ran up to him. “I am hungry, Boromir. Now can we go eat?”
Boromir laughed and swiped the tears away. “Aye. Let us go before our
guests eat everything in Merethrond.”
He took Faramir’s hand, moved the Horn so that it swayed and bumped him
as he walked. It was an incredible feeling to have the Horn on his body
at last. He had thought his adar would not give it to him until he was
twenty-one. But Denethor had smiled this morning, as he helped Boromir
dress, and handed him the great Horn. “I would that you would have this
now. To signal your coming and going from Gondor, to raise the hearts
of our people as they hear you wind it, and to make your enemies quail
before you.” Denethor had hugged him firmly and with passion. “I am
most proud of thee, my son. Thou hast done well, thou hast prepared
well, and thou art ready. Do not question thyself in this. Do not
question thyself in thy service to Gondor. Thy heart is good and full.
By the Valar, I pray that when thou goest, thy steps shall not be
straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Thou art
strong and pure. Lay hold on instruction, do not desist; keep her, for
she 'is' thy life. Listen to those above thee, obey always, and know
that thou wilt never disappoint me. I find no want in thee, ion nîn.”
A lump came to the lad’s throat as he felt the lingering hug. ‘It is
good to be alive,’ he thought. And Faramir tugged and pulled and
exhorted him to walk faster.
He was so tired that his head hung heavy. ‘Will this practice never
end?’ he thought. His arms ached and his legs cramped. Denethor
watched, a frown upon his face. Drawing a deep breath, Boromir bowed to
the Swordmaster and lunged forward. His sword went flying. Cursing, he
bowed again, retrieved his sword, and stepped into the training once
more. Denethor called out. “You are not holding…” he fumed in silence.
“Here!” He stepped forward and the Swordmaster handed the Steward his
sword. “Boromir. This is how you hold your hand if you are going to
parry. You are holding it wrongly. See?” and he thrust at the lad whose
eyes opened wide.
“Aye, Ada. I see. Like this?” and he stepped into a parry with his hand
held just right. He smiled as his adar’s face broke into a grin.
“That is how it is done in Gondor, my son.” And he laughed and
hugged the lad. “Come now. It is time for nuncheon and Faramir awaits.”
He bowed to the Swordmaster and gave the sword back. “Thank you,” he
smiled at the man.
“To do and to let be…” the man reiterated his own vow and bowed to his
Boromir shivered. His adar was the greatest man in the whole of Gondor.
In the whole of the world.
Just then, Théodred slipped onto the practice ring, keeping well
away, hiding in the shadows.
Boromir grinned. “I thought you would sleep the day away,” he called to
him. “There is armour and a sword in the corner. Suit up and join me.”
For all his bravado, he hoped Théodred would turn him down. The
hot and his own armour grew heavier by the moment, but his friend
walked resolutely over and donned a breastplate and helmet. He
unsheathed his sword and smiled. Boromir knew that smile well.
Self-assured, the lad probably thought a winded Boromir would be easy
to best. Boromir ran to the well, drew a bucket of water, and poured it
over his head. He had worn only a light shirt under the armour and he
would not be weighted down. He walked to the center of the circle,
Boromir saw the Swordmaster smile. He was accustomed to Boromir’s
ruses. He had been winded, but he had reserves that he had yet to tap.
He stood before his friend, saluted, and then moved back.
Théodred moved in immediately. Boromir stepped back, the swing
wild. He tried not to smile. Théodred, again thinking he had the
advantage, swung again, and missed again. After a quarter hour had
passed, Boromir noted the catch in his opponent’s breath, the slight
lag between thrusts and recovery, and the sweat pouring down
He stepped forward and thrust. The blades connected, as Théodred
able to react quickly. Théodred swung again, flailing with his
sword, and missing terribly. Boromir stepped in and again his sword
connected, this time pushing Théodred’s away easily.
Théodred stumbled, caught himself and smiled. “I seem to have
Boromir said nothing, lunged and knocked the sword out of
The lad bowed. “I did underestimate you!”
“Nay!” Boromir laughed as he clasped his friend to him. “I had motive.
I am starving and need sustenance. I wanted to eat, end this quickly,
and partake of nuncheon.”
Théodred laughed. “You jest, but you beat me well and good.”
“I did not,” Boromir became serious. “I took advantage of you. If
you had been mounted, I would have been cut down in the first few
moments of battle. You are not accustomed to the armour of Gondor, nor
the sun and heat. I had only to wait until they took their toll.”
Denethor called to them. They cleaned their armour and their
swords, dunked their heads in the trough and commenced to wet each
other down, hair flung wildly about. Denethor stayed five paces from
them. Then, they joined the Steward, arm slung across each other’s
“How many times did you best Boromir during our last visit?” Denethor
asked the Prince as they walked through the tunnel.
Théodred blushed. “I took advantage of him,” he whispered.
Both boys laughed. Faramir joined them as they entered the Citadel.
“Did you have fun?”
Boromir picked him up, though his arms ached. “Aye, we did. And when
will you join us?”
“Tomorrow,” the boy said seriously. “I will be old enough tomorrow. I
have a birth day coming.”
Denethor took him from Boromir and placed him on his shoulder. “Duck!”
he said as they passed through the dining hall door.
Faramir laughed. “I do not ever want to grow older,” he suddenly said,
“I want to sit on your shoulders, Ada, forever.”
Denethor swung him down and kissed him soundly.
When the meal was complete, the four sat in front of the window; cool
air blew through it, refreshing their minds as well as their bodies. A
knock on the door startled them all. Peace and quiet had softened them.
“Enter.” Denethor called and quickly stood as Théoden entered
room. “Have you eaten?” Denethor asked; then indicated a chair as
“Some time ago,” he said quietly.
Denethor felt the strain in the man’s voice. “My lads, ‘tis time
you went to the Library for some study. Your lessons have been
neglected since our friends from Rohan arrived. And you, young man,” he
hugged Faramir, “Away with you to the nursery. Listöwel awaits.”
Heavy sighs followed his pronouncements, but they knew arguing was
useless. They each in turn hugged both men and left the room, their
noisy exit filled the room and the corridors beyond.
“I have some wine I think you would enjoy.” He walked to the
cupboards. His skin prickled on the back of his neck as he poured the
libation. Sitting, he held the glass and stared deeply into it. When
Théoden did not speak, he leaned forward. “What troubles you,
The King looked up, startled. “You do have the gift of sight.”
Denethor looked discomfited. “Some say I do.”
Théoden laughed. “Do you know how oft I have been told of your
insufferable pride? Yet, now, you act as one ready to hide.”
“I have pride in Gondor, my sons, my Knights and my people.
Foresight is a gift that I do not take lightly. I have done nothing to
earn it. So how am I to be proud of it?”
“You have stalled long enough, my
heart is not here. Are you ready to leave Minas Tirith so soon?”
Denethor stood up and walked to the window, wishing he would not hear
Théoden joined him. “I am heartsick. A foolish old man, you
but I left a sister who is with child and I would be by her side.”
“Théodwyn!” Denethor turned and hugged his friend. “She is with
child!” He sat on the sill, wonderment written on his features. He had
forgotten how easily the Rohirrim bred. “I am glad.” A great smile
covered his face, Théoden’s beloved sister with child. “You must
away, though I am sore-pressed to lose your company so soon.” He
paused. “Boromir will be unhappy. I am most surprised at the ease with
which he and Théodred renew their friendship each time they
“It is as if they are destined to mirror each other. Théodred
will be forlorn. I do not look forward to the ride home.” He laughed.
“Éomund must be chaffing. I cannot believe he has not ridden out
of here himself. It was kind of him to come.”
“He is patient,” Théoden said and then laughed mightily. “What
saying! The man has not one scrap of patience in his body. But he knows
his duty. He will stay until I say it is time to leave. And I am saying
now, it is time to leave.”
“I would ride with you to the Mering, but it is not possible.”
“I would have been delighted. Mayhap, we would have thrown in a line
once we reached the river?” He laughed loudly.
Denethor smiled. “You heard about today’s contest and that my
Boromir bested your son. So now, you want to best me at the river!”
“All know of your lack of skill, Denethor, when it comes to
fishing. It gives me joy to fill my creel while yours remains empty.”
Indis, Listöwel and Morwen had spent the last few hours packing
gifts they had made for Théodwyn. Morwen laughed. “I wonder when
Théoden will finally tell your brother,” she said to Indis. “I
never understood men. The important things they leave to the last,
while the trivial things they speak of first. They have discussed
fishing at least ten times since we arrived.”
“Nay. It would seem so, dear friend, but their minds and their
speech have been on hard things. Life is not so simple, as you well
know. I heard Théoden speaking of heightened Orc attacks from
north. How often do they strike?”
Morwen laid down the embroidered tunic. “More than twice a
fortnight. And in larger bands than ever before.” A shiver passed
through her and Indis gave her a quick hug. “I fear for Rohan. I fear
for my daughter and the life she holds. Will we never have peace?” she
“Denethor speaks often of the peace he finds in Rohan. It comforts him
to think on it. Mayhap the attacks have increased because it is soon to
be winter. The Orc, I think, hate the cold and the snows of the plains
of Rohan. They wish to do what damage they can now, before hiding again
in the Misty Mountains.”
“They hate nothing but men!” Morwen spat. “We are too spread out.
What with guarding the borders on the east and the west, and watching
the north, we have spread ourselves too thin. We cannot lose more of
Indis nodded. “We know the same loss of men here, Morwen.”
“I know,” the Steelsheen said, “but it does not ease my heart. What of
the other fief lords – do they send men?”
“Not enough. Never enough. Denethor constantly battles their
stubbourness. They fear for their own lands. I understand them;
however, it ill behooves them to let Gondor fall. They will quickly
fall themselves, once Gondor is undone. But come now, we have so little
time together. Tell me of Edoras.”
“I will tell you of the simbelmyne that grows on the graves of our
dead.” She bowed her head. “Forgive me,” she whispered, “I fear for
Théodwyn. If only she would come and stay with us, at least
“She refuses. Her place is beside Éomund, she says. I agree. But
not now. Now she should be in Edoras where the leeches can watch over
“And protect her from Orc?”
Morwen looked up in dismay. “I know. It is Orc I fear, not the birth.”
“Is there naught we can do,” Listöwel asked, “but let those we
go to battle after battle? Is this how life is destined to be for the
sons of Rohan and Gondor?”
Indis looked at Listöwel, sadness filling her eyes. “Unless some
device can be found, some tool to fight the One we do not name, we must
proceed as we always have done.”
“With weeping and wailing women!” Morwen’s tone was so harsh that
Indis went to her side and held her. “Do not fear for Théodwyn.
will care for her. He will let naught happen to her nor to the babe. If
danger comes too near, he will send her to Edoras. You know that.”
Morwen lowered her head. “More and more do I wish I were a man, to go
with the Riders and fight for those I love.”
“You have done that and more, Morwen. Your name, dearest
sister-friend, brings comfort and joy to your nation’s heart. You are
called Steelsheen by your people. Do you not know they give you that
title because you fill them with hope! Do not let despair o’ercome
“There is none who can help us?” Listöwel asked. “There are two
that we know who dwell in Middle-earth; there are the immortal Elves.
Cannot they help?”
“Curunír has stayed away for a very long time. When he was here,
dwelt only in the Great Library. Mithrandir is not friend to Denethor.
There is a wall of distrust built up between them these past years that
will not easily be torn down. As for the Elves - have any even seen an
Elf since the Battle of Dagorlad? I have not. I do not think they care
for the world of men, if ever they did.”
They sat in silence. Finally Morwen spoke. “We best finish our
packing. Théoden has made up his mind to depart. I will miss you
“I will say my farewells to you this evening,” Indis said as she
hugged Morwen. “Tomorrow, Denethor and I ride to Osgiliath. He hopes to
rebuild the city. Now that the bridge has been repaired and both
eastern and western Osgiliath are garrisoned, it is safer there. We
meet with his Captains.”
Théoden was gone and a gloom settled upon Denethor's heart. He
meant to go to Osgiliath at first light, but he, Théoden and
tarried at the breaking of the fast. He sent a message to Indis that
they would leave after nuncheon.
He missed the Mark, the quiet of the great plains, where one could ride
for days and see no one, no sign even of a hut to blemish the
landscape. Where the sky was always blue and the ground never shook.
He had not long for contemplation this day, nor for melancholy.
Errand-riders brought the news that Easterlings had struck and killed
an entire patrol out of Cair Andros; Orc had attacked another patrol
out of Amon Dîn. They would not travel to Osgiliath! He spent the
day and night in closed meetings with his Captains and the Council.
By morning, he had made up his mind. Climbing the stairs two at a
time, he rued the fact that he had neglected this tool. Mayhap his men
would still be alive had he spent time in the tower room. He unlocked
the door. It sat there, looking at him with disdain. He shook his head.
This was not a being; it was just a tool. Mayhap he should wait until
he was in a better mood before using it. ‘Nay,’ He thought, ‘how many
more warriors will die before my mood improves? Now is the time.’
He stepped in front of it, his back to the window. A cold shiver ran
down his back. 'Just a breeze from the window,' he thought, ruefully.
‘Nothing to do with the Stone.’ He had used it only twice this past
year. Once, only a fortnight ago to ascertain where the Rohirrim were
as they traveled to Gondor for Boromir's ceremony. A smile lit his face
as he thought of his firstborn. Pulling his thoughts away from
pleasantries, he touched the Stone. It was cold, as usual. Taking in
several deep breaths, he steadied his mind and focused on his City. The
Stone grew warmer and Minas Tirith lay before him. He paused for a
moment, drinking in the beauty that lay before him. The white
Mindolluin marble gleamed, the banners still hung from the celebration,
and the people smiled. It warmed his heart.
He turned his mind to Cair Andros. The island fortress lay quiet.
Moving further north and east, he espied a dust trail. Pushing his mind
further, he saw them, a large troop of Easterlings with many wains
following, headed east. He breathed a sigh of relief. They were
probably headed home to replenish their supplies. But, he noted the
path they took. 'Knights of Gondor will meet them when next they dare
to enter our land,' he thought grimly. 'I must come here more often; we
must be ready when they return.'
He stepped back for a moment, feeling utterly drained, and let his
hands slide from the globe. 'Have I eaten?' He wondered at the fatigue
that filled him. 'Never the mind, I will eat when I finish here.'
Another shiver ran down his spine and he considered stopping. 'Nay, the
day is new; there is time before we depart.'
Moving forward again, he willed his mind calm and placed his palms on
the Stone. It was easier to control this time. He saw his City as soon
as he touched it. Willing to see the beacon hill and the fortress
beyond, he moved northward. The outpost seemed quiet, though he noted
the weekly supply train headed towards it. He looked further north,
towards the Entwash. No sign of Orc. Finding that he held his breath,
he let it out slowly. 'Théoden,' he thought suddenly. He would
to see his old friend one more time. He turned his eyes westward and
the Rohirric caravan came into view. They were already past Eilenach.
They were not yet traveling this day. Another smile creased his face.
Suddenly, he wished with all his might that he were there with his
friend. His mind's eye saw Thengel and Walda before him, sitting by a
fire. He had been exiled from Gondor, a punishment from Ecthelion, but
the time spent on the borders of Rohan had been one of the happiest
times of his life. They were near the Mering; Thengel was cooking their
golden dorado, rather cooking Thengel and Walda's dorado. Try as he
might, he had never been good at fishing. He saw Walda leaning back on
his saddle, feet stretched before him, sword twirling in his hand. And
Thengel – he had burnt his fingers tasting the succulent fish, and was
sucking on them, easing the pain. Both were dead now. A wave of grief
o’ercame him. Tears fell unbidden.
The Rohirrim column moved and Denethor was pulled back to the present.
He sighed and let his eyes swing eastward, back towards Gondor. A quick
look at the Entwash and then, further east. His brow furrowed. There
had been no attacks from the mountains of Emyn Arnen. 'Why?' he
wondered. Quickly skipping past Osgiliath, he viewed the mountain range
and the Harad Road. Nothing moved. He had never looked past them
before, but now he felt an urge to further his gaze. Another chill ran
through him, but he dismissed it.
Boromir grabbed Faramir’s shoulder and
him tight to his body. Protection bristled from him as quills from the
porcupine. “Adar says to keep a distance from wizards, Faramir.”
“But I like his hat,” Faramir exclaimed excitedly. “How does it not
blow away in the wind?”
“Pitch, my lad,” a warm, gravely voice said.
“Nay,” Faramir giggled. “I see no pitch.”
“Ah,” the wizard smiled, “then it must be magic.”
Faramir’s eyes widened, but he said nothing, mesmerized by the kind
eyes that stared down at him. He had to bend his head far back to look
up into those eyes. ‘This must be the tallest man I have ever seen.’
Boromir tried to pull him away, but Faramir dug in his feet. “May I
touch it?” he asked, pointing to the hat sitting high upon the wizard’s
The man sat down on a bench near the very point of the parapet.
Faramir shyly climbed upon his lap as he was handed the great hat. He
squealed in delight as he put it on his head. It fell down over his
face and ended up around his neck. Boromir tried to stifle a laugh. “It
smells,” Faramir said, “but I like it, like grass and cinnamon and
smoke – not smoke from the fireplace, but smoke, like when the fields,
after harvest, are lit.”
“We must leave here,” Boromir tried to pull Faramir away, but the lad
would not leave. Boromir stalked away, hoping Faramir would follow. He
was angry; they had such little time together and Boromir had saved
this afternoon to play with his brother. He walked to the fountain and
sat, watching warily.
“Obedience is a fine thing, Faramir,” Mithrandir stated quietly.
“I am obedient. I will not go with you, but I like your smell. May I
keep your hat?”
Mithrandir chuckled. “No one would recognize me without my hat,” he
said sadly, “therefore, I cannot give it to you, but you may wear it
for a little while longer.”
Faramir had pushed the rim up and the hat rested on his forehead,
but every time he moved, the hat fell forward again, covering his face.
Every time it did, he squealed again in laughter, as if he were playing
hide ‘a seek. The wizard’s laughter echoed over the Courtyard.
Boromir found it hard to keep a straight face. He wanted to join them,
the wizard and his brother. He wanted to laugh, too. His days were
spent in training, schooling and such. There was not much laughter as
each squire competed, drilled, fought and sweat to earn the
satisfaction of their teachers. Boromir’s brow furrowed. Why had adar
asked them to stay away from the wizard? There was no sign of treachery
or danger, as far as Boromir could tell. Mayhap, the wizard was hiding
something. His adar was the smartest man in the whole of Middle-earth.
‘I will ask him why we cannot visit with the wizard. It would be best
if I knew the reason. Then, I could protect Faramir even better.' He
watched and waited, hoping Faramir would grow tired of Mithrandir and
come away with him. He had hoped they might look for treasures in the
shops on the first level. The day was growing old; he would have to
return to his barracks soon. His heart grew heavier as the sun moved
lower in the sky. Faramir played on.
The Emyn Arnen lay still and black in the distance. They called to
him, these mountains, and some part of him wished to look over the last
peak, to peer into the Fields of Gorgoroth. The Stone grew warmer
still. Númenoréans had built that tower as they had the
Minas Anor and Minas Ithil. It had been lost to the enemy, by Gondor’s
own neglect, in 2950. ‘Nay,’ Denethor thought, ‘not neglect, but lack
of warriors to hold it. Always it comes back to that. Not enough men.’
His anger stirred again as he thought of the fat lords of Lamedon,
Lossarnach, Anfalas, and Belfalas. He chided himself. He understood
their motives; he couldn’t agree with them. The globe grew warmer yet.
A part of him was surprised at the anger he felt. A part of him wanted
to withdraw from the Stone. He would not. He must see.
Once past the mountains, the plains stretched before him, desolate
ruins and rivers ran through it. Some of the rivers ran black as night,
no movement stirred them; some ran red as fire. He realized he was
looking at molten fire pouring from Amon Amarth itself, creating
rivulets running from its peak and broken sides, down to the valley
below. To his right, he saw the towers of Minas Morgul. He remembered
the painting that hung in Merethrond, of the once proud and noble
stronghold, Minas Ithil. What he viewed now was black and hideous. He
wished he had not seen it. He turned towards his left. The great tower
of Barad Dur rose high. He stayed his eye, for a moment. A part of him
did not want to draw any nearer. His mouth felt dry and his eyes
burned. ‘I should stop,’ the distant thought said. ‘Night must be nigh.
The children await me.’ But he could not leave without one closer look.
He blinked rapidly, hoping the action would ease the pain in his eyes;
it did not. He drew closer. The tower reached to the sky, black walls
stretching in a grotesque shape. His skin began to prickle again.
‘Something moved? Nay. Something was inside?’
Slowly, he moved towards the blackness before him. Now and again, he
would breath; most of the time, he did not. The tower rose and came
closer; his mind cried out, ‘Run,’ but he could not. He held on tightly
to the globe, as if holding it tighter would protect him. He did not
know what he needed protection from, but he would not let go. The walls
were before him; he could reach his hand out and touch them. Black and
beautifully polished, they shimmered in the moonlight. He shuddered,
tried to pull back, and found he could not. He breathed deeply, forced
his eyes closed, and pulled with all his might; his hands came free. He
staggered towards the window. It was day still. Where had the moonlight
come from? What had he seen? He gulped fear down. Sliding slowly to the
floor, he sobbed. What caused the pain in his heart, he did not know,
but he was filled with a deep melancholy, the likes of which he had
never felt before. He pulled his cloak about him and huddled there, in
the dark of the Citadel’s tower room, and shivered. After a time, he
forced himself to stand upright. Staggering down the stairs, he tripped
as he rounded the corner to his quarters. His personal guard caught
“My Lord Steward! Is all well? Shall I send for the healer?”
The look in the man’s eyes nonplussed Denethor. How must he look if the
man thought he needed a healer? “I have only tripped, nothing more,” he
said brusquely, pushing the man out of the way and then almost falling
into the door. The guard stiffly opened it and moved back. Denethor’s
heart ached. Why had he done that? Why had he been so cold? This man
had served him for the last nine years. Faithfully. He tried to stand
up straight. “Thank you.”
He walked a little steadier into the room and went to the sink
stand. After laving his face and his hands, he stood still, leaning
against the table. His mind felt thick and his head heavy. Bowing, he
cried again. Great tears ran down his cheeks and into the basin. He
lurched back. The tears were black! He cried aloud and ran towards his
bed. The guard flung the door open and ran in.
Denethor shuddered. Using every ounce of his strength, he brought
his mind under control, banished the fear from it, and sat quietly upon
the bed. “I…” He could think of no excuse for the scream. “I would like
to have some wine,” he said lamely. The guard stared at him. The look
in the man’s eyes hurt. “Leave me. I am well. And send for some wine
and food.” The guard nodded and left. Denethor shook his head. He could
have pulled the rope and his servant would have gladly ordered food.
The guard must think him mad. His chin started to quiver again and a
sob escaped his lips. He stood and walked towards the basin. ‘I cannot
have seen what I thought.’ The basin was empty; no sign of tears at
all, black or clear. He sighed in relief. He walked to the window and
sat on the large sill. It overlooked the parapet. At the end of it, at
the very point of the great stone walkway, sat Faramir. Someone was
with him. Denethor strained his eyes. It was the wizard! Mithrandir!
Indis hurried from Listöwel’s room. Denethor’s own guard had sent
messenger to her, asking her to see him at her earliest convenience.
She slowed as she came to the stairwell. Smoothing her dress, she
walked up the three levels to Denethor’s suite. The guard’s face lit up
when he saw her. He stepped away from the door, took her arm, and
walked towards the back of the hall. She swallowed, wondering why the
secrecy, but waited for him to speak.
“My Lady. Forgive me for calling you away from your duties. You
know I understand duty and would not send for you for a triviality.”
She nodded as fear flitted across her mind.
“The Steward came to his quarters staggering. It was not drink that
caused his impaired gait, my Lady, but I know not what. He does not
seem injured, yet, he walked as one with a head wound. I did not
understand it, but tried to help him to his room. He…” shame covered
his face. “He pushed me aside and reprimanded me. I let him into the
room and stepped out again. Only a moment or two passed and I heard him
scream. I ran in and his face was wild. He moved about the room as one
under attack. There was no one in the room with him. Then he ordered me
to serve him food!” The man stepped back, breathing hard.
Indis took a deep breath. “You did well to call me. Did you send for a
“Nay, my Lady, he refused one.”
“Ah.” She took another breath and let it out slowly. “Thank you. Return
to your post. I will meet with the Steward.”
They walked back to the door and Indis knocked, quietly. No answer
came. She knocked again. She nodded to the guard who opened the door.
She stepped in and he closed it behind her. Blinking her eyes against
the light that shone through the wall of windows, she searched for him.
He sat on a windowsill, head bent. She walked slowly towards him, cold
shivers running down her arms. ‘He sits so still,’ she thought. Gently,
she called his name. He did not reply, did not look up, did not
acknowledge her. She called again. No response. Quickening her steps,
she reached him and sat at his feet. She placed her hand on his knee.
Looking up into his eyes, she cried aloud, “Denethor!” He said nothing.
The eyes that stared back at her were black as coal, distant and filled
with pain. “Denethor!” she cried again. He blinked his eyes.
“Ah, Indis. How good of thee to visit me,” he said in a hushed
voice. “I have missed thee.” He raised his eyebrow and looked closely
at her. “What ails thee, dearest sister?”
“Thou hast missed thy supper, my Lord, and I came to bring thee
food. Art thou hungry?” She was alarmed that he spoke in the Sindarin,
but kept her voice soft and light.
“Missed my meal?” He looked at her quizzically. “Have I missed Boromir
and Faramir, too?”
“Aye, my Lord, thou hast. Should I send for them?”
“Nay. I am most weary. I would rest for a time.” He leaned his head
back against the window ledge.
“Let me help thee to thy bed, dearest brother.”
He smiled up at her. “Please, I seem to have lost my strength this
day.” His voice grew quieter and quieter.
She helped him up, led him to his bed, and laid him on it. She
pulled a duckdown from the nearby closet and laid it over him. He
closed his eyes. ‘Oh, by the all the Valar, what could be wrong with
him?’ she thought. She pulled the rope by the bed; the guard entered.
“Send for the healer,” she said quietly. Denethor did not stir. “And
send for Listöwel.”
“Where is Adar?” Faramir asked.
“He is in his study. We are not to disturb him. I must leave you now. I
must return to my quarters.”
“But I do not want you to go. We were going to go to the first level.
“You spent too much time with the wizard. It is late now. I have my
duty to perform, Faramir. You knew that when first we met this
“You are angry with me.”
“Aye. You disobeyed Adar, you wasted our time together, and now I
have to return to my barracks. I wanted to spend time with you,
Faramir.” He meant to look as stern as possible, but the look on his
brother’s face melted his heart. “Walk with me to the Sixth Level. At
least we can spend that time together.”
Faramir’s face lit up. “Did you ride your new horse, yet?” Faramir
asked in excitement. “I have never seen such a beautiful horse. Why did
Théoden King give you such a horse? I wanted my pony, Boromir.
think he will send me Snowflake? Do you?”
Boromir laughed. “You are trying to get all the words you would have
said this afternoon into one sentence?”
The shy smile on Faramir’s face undid Boromir. “My dearest brother.
Théoden King gave me the horse as a gift. You know that. For
squire. When you become a squire, I imagine he will give you a horse
“But that is so long away,” Faramir complained. “I want my pony now.”
“We might send him a letter, Faramir, and ask him how much the pony
is. Then, we can save up and buy him. Then, you will have your pony.”
Faramir clapped his hands. “Will you help me write to him, Boromir?”
“The very next time we meet, Faramir. I promise. We are here now; I
must go in.” He hugged his brother tightly. “I will see you in seven
days. You will count them?”
“Listöwel made me a counting table. I mark it every day. It takes
a long time for a day to go by, does it not, Boromir?”
“Aye. A very long time indeed, little brother. Now, go home before
they send the guard out to look for you!” He hugged Faramir one last
time and went into the Third Company’s doors.
Faramir stood there for a moment. He still had the wizard’s smell about
him, but he wished now that he had left the wizard when Boromir had
asked him to. A tear ran down his face and suddenly he was swept up
into strong arms. The wizard smiled down at him.
“Choices are hard to make sometimes. And we cannot always see what the
choices we make will do to us. Come, I am going to the buttery. I am
famished. Are you?”
He remembered staggering, falling
hand slipping from the stone. What had assailed him? One moment he had
been looking towards the Plains of Gorgoroth, the next his mind had
burst into a thousand different colours. No, he had pulled himself away
from the globe. It did not control him. It did not. It did not! He
trembled. A cool hand touched his forehead. He opened his eyes and
Indis stared down at him. He smiled. “I am sorry. I took ill. Something
I ate,” he lied.
“Never the mind. The healer left some tea for you to drink. It should
help.” She refused to tell him of her all-night vigil, watching him
toss and turn, screaming in his sleep. She forced a shudder away. This
was no food illness. She had seen terror and despair. “The sun is
shining. Would you command Faramir and I to ride with you today? Mayhap
the warmth will rid your body of this ailment?”
He hissed. A long shuddering sound. He found himself shaking
violently. “I do not think I could sit a horse this day. Mayhap
“Aye,” she smiled. “Tomorrow you will have recovered. Faramir waits
outside for your morning tea. May I allow him entrance?”
“Nay. I do not feel quite well enough. You break the fast with him; I
will try to sleep a little longer.”
She kissed him lightly and left the room.
Faramir ran to her. “Is Ada better?”
She knew the lad had seen the healer leave as the boy had entered
the antechamber. “Aye. But not well enough for you to join him this
morning. Come,” she kissed his forehead to comfort him, “we will eat
and then we will go to the training circle. Boromir is to practice his
bow today. Would that not be pleasant? To see him, even if we cannot
speak to him?”
Faramir hugged her. “Oh! That would be so wonderful. Thank you.”
They walked to the dining hall and met Listöwel. “I saved you a
seat,” she smiled. “The entire guard seems to have taken over the hall.
The cooks are furiously baking. ‘Twill be a little time before the
griddle cakes are ready.” She laughed at Faramir’s look of
long-suffering. “Do not be concerned, Faramir. The cooks know you are
famished. You will not have to suffer o’erlong. Besides, you have some
studying to do.”
Faramir looked up in surprise. “Indis said I might go to watch Boromir
shoot his bow.”
“Oh. May I join you? We may discuss the part archery played in the
history of Gondor while we watch.”
Faramir moaned. “Always history. I am tired of history. I want to read
Listöwel sighed. “We have read Vëantur so many times I have
track! You need to read of the line of your adadhron. We have hardly
touched the history of the Swan Prince. Your mother is descended
directly from the line of the kings of Númenor. Have you not
why your adadhron is called ‘Prince’ Adrahil? We shall read about that
this morning. But not too early,” she saw the look of chagrin on the
lad’s face and laughed. “I promise. We will watch Boromir, but then we
will read of the Princes of Númenor.”
The three met again at the third bell at the entrance to the
training grounds. Indis obtained permission for them to enter. Faramir
started to run, but Indis caught him by the arm and held him back.
Whispering, she said, “Thou art the Steward’s son, Faramir. Remember
that.” Faramir nodded in understanding. “I wilt.” They walked in
quietly. Indis was shown to the Steward’s box; Listöwel and
followed. There were scarce fourteen people in attendance; most were of
the same ilk as Indis – relatives come to watch their own.
The floor of the courtyard was immaculately kept, the sand sculpted
in the traditional spiral shape of Minas Tirith and at the center, as
always, the White Tree. Other parts of Minas Tirith might be in a state
of disrepair, but the Sixth and Seventh Circles showed no sign of age
or neglect. Tradition was kept.
They sat in the cushioned seats and waited. The first part of the
practice consisted of pairings of squires. As he waited for Boromir,
Faramir kept his hands folded. Indis laughed quietly at his composure.
The lad’s legs were too short and thus stuck out straight before him.
His expression screamed of boredom. She leaned over, “Boromir will be
up shortly. He is third on the list.” Faramir nodded. Soon, Indis noted
him twiddling his thumbs. She put her hand over them, not speaking.
Faramir shrank a little into the chair and stopped the movement.
Suddenly, he jumped up; a cry of ‘Oh!’ escaped his lips, and then,
Indis rolled her eyes. As far as Faramir was concerned, the only reason
to be here was to watch his brother. She had hoped the lad would pay
attention to the techniques of the squires as they brought their swords
together. Denethor would expect such a report from his son. She saw
Faramir’s wide-eyed adoration; his little mouth was opened in joy at
the sight of Boromir, and she smiled and sat back. There was no use
trying to shift Faramir’s attention. Watching closely, she noted that
Boromir appointed himself well. He handled the training blade with
ease. Denethor had been correct; the boy was a natural swordsman. She
smiled again. He would soon pass her in skill. Then, too soon for
Faramir’s liking as noted by his heavy sigh and the sudden thrusting of
his body back fully into the seat, Boromir’s turn was over. Another
three pairings and the first part of the training session was complete
for the day. As the squires left, eight men strode forward carrying
four great round targets that they set at either end of the courtyard.
Two groundskeepers ran forward with rakes to smooth the sand. At last,
all preparations were complete.
Faramir straightened in his seat. Indis noted the keen look in his
eyes. Two lads stepped forward, bows in their hands, full quivers
strapped to their backs. They stood side by side waiting for their
signal. At last, it was given. Quickly they strung their bows and shot.
Four times the signal was given and four times their arrows were
loosed. Another signal and they bowed and left the grounds. Two more
took their places on the other end of the yard. The sun had reached its
zenith before Boromir stepped out. Indis quickly put her hand over
Faramir’s to stop the lad from clapping. Four times Boromir missed the
center, but, with each turn, the arrow came closer. Indis sighed. The
boy’s stance was wrong. She would have to speak with his trainer. Then
she noticed he did not stand at ease. His whole body was stiff. He
would not be a natural archer; he would have to practice long to master
She looked at Faramir. The boy was enraptured. After Boromir finished,
she made as if to leave, but the child sat. “It is time to leave,
Faramir. We have been here longer than I expected. You are late for
“Just a little longer,” he pleaded.
She was surprised at the intensity of his entreaty. She smiled at
Listöwel who nodded her approval, then sat back and watched
watch the squires. He sat on the edge of his seat, never moving. At
last, the final pair concluded their practice and left. The spectators
started leaving; the targets were removed, and the groundskeepers
returned to begin their cleaning.
Indis touched Faramir on the arm. Startled, he jumped. “‘Tis time to
“Is it over? So soon?” He looked crestfallen.
“May we come back tomorrow? To watch Boromir? And the archers?”
“Tomorrow we will ride with your father onto the Pelennor. He is most
anxious to be with you.”
Faramir’s face lit up. “Oh, Indis. I would very much like that.”
Tears were in the boy’s eyes and she hugged him tightly. “He loves thee
very much, Faramir, but affairs of state press down upon him. Thou must
remember that and help him.”
“I wilt, Indis. I promise.”
His memory was returning. He had been in the tower room. He had
held the Palantir in his hands. He… He had seen something. Shuddering,
the memory, accompanied by a painful bright white light, filled his
mind. Ecthelion! He had seen his father, stern and cold, looking down
at him. He had seen the Pelennor on fire and his father berating him
for letting Gondor fall. He moaned and thrust his head into the
pillows, but he could not hide from the eyes, staring at him in fury,
the lips stretched taut in a deep scowl, the brow furrowed. He threw
the bedcovers off and stood up, but found he was still weak. The stone
had not affected him like this the first time he had used it. What foul
magic was this? He walked slowly to the window and sat upon the sill.
The sun was at its apex; he had slept long. If he closed his eyes, he
still saw the scene played before him. Yet, the sun hurt his eyes. He
held his hand over them; then looked down at the Courtyard of the
Fountain. None were about except the four guards of the White Tree. He
breathed a sigh of relief. Then wondered what he had expected to see.
The memory flooded back. He had seen his sons. Faramir stood in front
of Boromir; Boromir was holding him around the chest; Faramir’s head
came well below Boromir’s chin. He saw them standing thus and he ached
to hold them both. But then he recollected the wizard. Faramir had run
to greet the wizard and then sat on his lap! Why? Faramir had
disobeyed. He wondered why Boromir had allowed this and then remembered
seeing the lad sitting on the lip of the Fountain, hands crossed over
his chest, obviously angry. Denethor chuckled. He knew Boromir’s stance
when angry; always the arms were about his chest and his eyebrow cocked
to one side. But Faramir! Faramir had disobeyed him. Anger o’erwhelmed
him for a moment. He shook his head. ‘Twas not the lad’s fault. Not
Boromir’s fault. Drawing in a deep breath, he stood. He must speak with
Faramir. He had not voiced his opinion of the wizard fully. The child
did not understand. He would be more forceful. Forbid him to see the
Indis entered the room. “I had hoped to share your noon meal?” He
stared at her for a few moments and she felt uncomfortable. “Have you
“He calls me Adar now. Had you noticed?”
“Boromir. He no longer calls me Ada. I think I will miss that.”
“He grows up, my brother. Come and eat with me.” She pulled the
rope and, almost instantly a servant brought a tray in. “I took the
liberty of ordering our food.”
He smiled quietly. “You always take care of me, do you not, my dearest
She did not like this quietness of his. What had caused it? Where
was his joy? “I love you, Denethor. It is as simple as that.”
“Is it not because I am Steward?”
She shivered. “I have always cared for you, even before you became
He stared at her. “I was Heir.”
Indis grew angry. “Who stood beside you when Ecthelion would have made
He blinked, drew in a breath, and shook his head. “My mind is not my
own today. Forgive me, Indis.”
“You have not yet eaten. Come and join me.”
She sat at the table and he joined her. After a few moments of
silent eating, he spoke. “I seem to remember Faramir wanting to break
fast with me this morning?”
“Aye. He stood outside the door, waiting.”
“He was here?” he asked doubtfully.
“I told him you were ill and would ride with him tomorrow.”
“I did not know he was here. I saw him with the wizard, the one named
Mithrandir. Did you see him?”
“I did not. I did not know he was in Gondor.”
“He is here now. I saw him this morning.”
Indis knew of Denethor’s meetings with Curunír. How he had grown
fearing wizards. She also knew of Mithrandir’s support of Thorongil.
Mayhap the wizard’s visit is what caused his change. She had thought he
had been grown out of his fright.
“I have asked the boys not to associate with any wizard, yet I saw
Faramir in the Courtyard on his lap.” The tone was quiet, but Indis
heard the anger scarcely contained.
“Mithrandir is pleasant. Faramir is kind. If the wizard had approached
him, he would be hard-pressed to be discourteous.”
Denethor bit his lip. “I do not trust them.”
“Nor do I, my lord. I will speak with Faramir.”
Denethor’s mind was made up. He must
his Captains. Their meeting in Osgiliath had been canceled twice now.
Never the mind that Adrahil, he grimaced at the thought of that man,
had invited them to the birth ceremony for his newest grandchild.
Gondor’s weal was of more import. He would not go. But when he had
discussed the invitation with Indis, she had suggested sending Boromir
as Gondor’s representative.
“The lad has just begun his training. He is only six months into it. I
do not want him interrupting it for such a little thing.”
“Adrahil is his adadhron. But more than that, he is Prince of Belfalas
and a Lord of Gondor. We must send someone.”
“Send Listöwel. She can visit her family while there.”
Indis smiled. “Denethor! You are the most stubbourn man I have ever
known. We cannot send Listöwel as Gondor’s representative. She
title. Better to send Boromir. Listöwel can accompany him.”
He paced up and down in his study. “It is not good for the lad to
interrupt his training. I am being honest. I do not like Adrahil. For
Prince Imrahil’s sake, I will send Boromir. His training must continue
while he is in Dol Amroth, otherwise I will not send him.”
“I agree. Listöwel will be given a missive for Prince Imrahil. He
will make sure Boromir has time and opportunity for training.” She
smiled again. “He will be most pleased at Boromir’s progress. I was at
practice yesterday and he did well. In fact, he did better than well.
He wields the sword as if born to it. You would have been proud.”
“You mean,” he said sternly, “I should have been there.”
She took a deep breath. “I did not say that, nor did I think it.
What has come over you, these last days? You are gruff and not
yourself.” He stopped his pacing. Pain filled his eyes and she gasped.
“You still suffer from your illness?”
“I am concerned about our meeting. You will be accompanying me?”
“Of course. I have the papers together. The mapmaker has created a
whole new set of maps of Ithilien, based upon your journal entries. We
will be ready. When do we leave?”
“Before first light tomorrow.”
“Then,” she asked, perplexed, “when will you send Boromir to Dol
He shrugged. “It cannot be helped.”
“Faramir will be alone for at least five days.”
He looked at her quizzically. “And?”
“And he should not be alone that long. You speak of sending Boromir
off and Listöwel with him. Whom do you see attending Faramir? What
the both of us gone too.”
“He is…” He paused, shook his head and sat on the settle. “I cannot
seem to think straight, Indis.” He hated showing her his weakness. He
did not understand it, nor where it came from. Nor the anger that
smoldered in his mind. But she had always been his counselor.
“What have you been about, Denethor?” He looked down at his hands and
she continued. “Do not you trust me?”
“I have found a tool, brought by our ancestors from Númenor. It
powerful. I used it the day I took ill. Ever since, I have needed to
return to it. It is powerful,” he reiterated. “Yet, it drains me. I am
not as strong, I suppose, as those men of Númenor who brought it
the sea, but Gondor needs to use every tool available to fight this
evil that assails us.”
“So. You have used the Palantir?”
“How do you know of it?” he snapped.
“I was counselor to our father. Do you not remember? I was afforded
access to all areas of Gondor. I saw the Palantir, though our father
never used it.”
“I know that. Yet, Gondor’s plight is worse than before. I deem it
necessary to use it. And every other tool at my hand.”
“Have you researched it?”
”Do you think I picked it up one day and just opened my mind to it?”
His tone was churlish. “Of course I read of its uses.”
“If it presents your mind and body with aftereffects, might it be
better to use it infrequently?”
“I could have prevented the attacks upon our patrols if I had only
“You cannot know that, Denethor! You cannot be everywhere at once.”
“With the Palantir, I can. And I will continue to use it.” He
paused, walked to his chair and sat. “I must endeavor to strengthen
myself so it does not affect me so profoundly.” He did not tell her of
his vision, nor that he looked into Mordor’s valley. “We will send
Faramir with Listöwel and Boromir. The time in Dol Amroth will do
well. Send a rider immediately. Then, have two companies go with them.
I would have them well-protected.” He looked at her. “I know you are
concerned. The Palantir did not harm me the first times I used it. I
will be more careful, use it more wisely, I promise.”
“Thank you, my Lord.” She left the room.
“He promised to take us riding today, Indis.” The child’s chin
quivered. “I went to the stables already and brushed my horse. They are
saddling him now.”
“I am sorry, Faramir. He prepares for a meeting and you must pack for
your visit with your adadhron.”
“I do not want to go to Dol Amroth. I want to stay here with Ada.”
He sat, stubbournly, in the middle of the nursery floor. “I will not
“Faramir. Let us go to your Ada’s study. At least we might take tea
His eyes lit; jumping up, he ran to the door.
“Might you wash the jam from your face before we go?”
He licked his lips. “There! It is clean.”
She laughed loudly. “Nay, it is not. Come with me. It will only take a
It did only take a moment and before she could move, the boy was
out the door and running down the stairs. ‘Oh,’ she thought hurriedly,
‘I hope Denethor has a moment for him.’ By the time she reached the
Steward’s level, she ran into Faramir. The lad was crying.
“His door is locked and he does not answer.” He flung himself into her
“Let me try, Faramir.”
“But I called to him, and he did not answer.” His crying turned to
‘He is still so wounded,’ she thought. ‘He misses Finduilas so.’ She
held him close. “We must wipe your face again, Faramir. You do not want
your Ada to see tears.” He succumbed to her ministrations.
She knocked, loudly, on the door and called, “Denethor. It is I,
Indis. And I bring your son, Faramir, with me. Would you allow us to
A heartbeat’s time and she heard wood scraping against wood. She
turned to Faramir and smiled. “He probably did not hear you, my sweet.
The doors are heavy.”
Denethor opened the door, a frown upon his face. When he noted the
pleading in Indis’ eyes, he relented. “Faramir. It is good to see you,
my son. Why are you here?”
‘Oh!’ she wanted to slap him. “We have come to say our farewells.
Faramir will leave on the morrow,” she said as pleasantly as she could.
“He desires a hug.”
He put his fingers to his forehead. “Of course.” Turning to
Faramir, he took his hand and walked him to the settle. ‘I do not have
time for this,’ he thought, chafing at the knowledge of what had to be
done for tomorrow’s meetings.
“Ada. Can we not go riding today?”
Denethor swallowed. “I cannot. When you return, we will go. I
promise.” The boy looked at him, tears welling in his eyes. Something
in his memory awoke. “Come with me, Faramir. Let us to the garden.”
Taking the lad’s hand, he smiled at Indis and walked past her, through
the doors and into Finduilas’ apartments. He opened the garden doors
and walked through. Sitting on the stoop, he pulled Faramir into his
lap. “I have not been feeling well these past days, Faramir. My duty
calls me to Osgiliath. You understand duty, my son…”
“Ion nîn,” Faramir interrupted him.
“Ion nîn,” Denethor said and smiled. “I have not been keeping my
promises, have I?” The lad looked down at his fingers and twiddled
them. “I know. I am sorry, Faramir. When you return from your
adadhron’s, we will go riding. And I will keep this promise.”
“Ada, must I go? I want – to stay – with you,” the boy had begun to
“I will be gone, too, Faramir. You would be lonely here, all alone
in the Citadel, waiting for me.” His son turned and buried his face in
Denethor’s tunic, crying unabashedly. “I will miss you, Faramir.” He
put his hand on the lad’s hair, bent and kissed his head. “I will miss
you terribly. Remember that.”
The sun caught and held him as they
Causeway Forts. It had remained hidden behind the Ephel Dúath
before they began their journey. Now, Denethor was heartened to see it.
He looked towards Indis. Her smile told him its affect upon her was the
same. Much as he loved Minas Tirith, he knew he belonged in Ithilien.
His heart always lifted when he crossed the Anduin. This day, he would
stay on the west side of the river. His Captains, those from East and
West Osgiliath, from Cair Andros, the northern fortress of Henneth
Annûn, and the southern fortress of Henneth Amrûn, all
heart lifted. Brave and stalwart men were these, the best of
Indis sat near his right. When the dining hall quieted, he stood.
“There have been numerous attacks, as of late, upon the lands of Gondor
and of Rohan. Théoden King says they are sore-pressed. They will
able to protect our western border as we would like. That is all well
and good… and I suppose to be expected. Ever it seems our allies are
sore-pressed.” Quiet laughter greeted this statement. “Prince Adrahil,”
he used the title though it stuck in his craw to give the man any
measure of respect, “reports the same problems in Belfalas.
Thankfully,” he smiled, “we have our own men at Pelargir. I deemed it
wise to keep Captain Gwinhir there, instead of ordering him here. The
Haradrim devils have been too quiet of late. I do not trust them.”
Murmuring assent greeted this statement. “I want the garrisons here in
Osgiliath reinforced. The Rammas Echor has been rebuilt this past
summer and raised by 10 handbreadths. It will protect Minas Tirith, to
a degree.” Mutters greeted this pronouncement; most agreed. Denethor
raised his hand for silence.
Captain Durahil stood. Denethor nodded to the warrior from Cair Andros
and sat down. ‘Twas better to let them speak, think they had some say
in what was to happen to them. He would suffer the Captain this small
amount of time and then do what needed to be done.
“My Lord Steward, I deem it wise to withdraw our people from the
farmlands north and east of Amon Dîn. We cannot protect them.”
Denethor, not expecting such a statement, began to rise, thinking
furiously of the implications of the man’s suggestion. However, Indis
stood first and spoke.
“The men of Cair Andros are known for their courage and sensibility.
Food, however, is desperately needed for that garrison and the garrison
at Henneth Annûn. If the lands you speak of are abandoned, from
will you receive food?”
“More supply wains can be sent from Minas Tirith. The farmlands of
Lebennin and Lossarnach will furnish all our needs.”
“Lebennin and Lossarnach supply the entire southern part of Gondor,
along with Minas Tirith and Osgiliath. The supply wains are already
spread too thin. They take supplies from the southern fiefdoms to the
garrisons near the beacon-hills. They cannot possibly add your
garrisons to their routes.”
“What of Rohan? Cannot they supply the garrisons east of Edoras?”
Captain Amlach asked. “Mayhap they cannot supply men, but food?”
“Rohan is recovering from a drought. Their fields have not produced
their normal yield. They will not be able to help us,” Denethor said
quietly. “We will not abandon these farmlands. Not yet. But we will
draft as many men as possible. I want the conscript age lowered to
sixteen. Do not, however, leave the farmers with too few men to work
the fields.” He turned towards Durahil. “I will expect weekly reports
from your garrison, Captain Durahil.”
The Captain knew he had best sit. The look on Denethor’s face brooked
no further arguments.
“Weapons are another difficulty. The forges of Minas Tirith are
being run day and night as it is, and still we need more. It is time to
build a forge here in Osgiliath. I have already commissioned one for
Pelargir. Our workmen cannot keep up with the demand. A call must be
sent out to find smithies to man these new works.”
Captain Gelmir stood. “There are many young men in southern
Ithilien whose mothers refuse to allow them to join Gondor’s armies.
Let me speak in the villages, my lord, and recruit these men for this
duty. It is not dangerous and their milk-mothers can rest at ease,
thinking their sons are protected.” He spat as he spoke of the cowardly
women of the southern fiefdoms. Shouts of approval rang out. “I will
conscript as many as possible and send them to the smithies of Minas
Tirith. They should be trained and ready for the new steel works in
three month’s time. Granted, they will not have the skill that those
who forge swords for the garrisons of Minas Tirith, but almost any
sword can kill an Orc, if it be wielded by a stout and courageous
warrior of Gondor.” A roar of approval greeted this pronouncement.
Denethor smiled himself. “When you return to your garrison, send
out two of your aides. I cannot have you hopping about from village to
village. You are a little more important than that.”
Gelmir bowed. “Thank you, my Lord Steward.”
“We are in agreement then? The draft age will be lowered; the farmlands
will be scoured to bolster our garrisons, and two forges will be built
and manned,” he smiled warmly at Captain Gelmir, “by the sons of the
mothers of Southern Ithilien.”
Laughter greeted the decree. Denethor rued the fact that he had
waited so long for this meeting. ‘Well,’ he thought, ‘it could not be
helped what with Boromir’s ceremony.’ The cooks opened the shutters for
the serving area and the men pounced on the food set before them.
Denethor smiled at Indis. “Thank you. That was quick thinking.” She
smiled back and offered him her hand. He took it and led her to their
The sea stretched out before them – calm, grey with the sky greying
itself and touching the sea, making the line between sky and water
indistinguishable except for a few touches of pink interspersed
throughout. One large patch of washed out pink showed where the sun
would touch the sea and disappear. Boromir stood on his Naneth’s
balcony, his eyes straining, dry and burning, looking for the ship. It
was past due and worry prodded at the corners of his mind. Faramir sat
next to him, fast asleep, his head leaning against Boromir’s leg. Adar
had promised, in his last letter, that he would come to Dol Amroth and
bring Boromir and Faramir back to Minas Tirith with him. Denethor had
told his son to watch the waters; he would come from Pelargir. Two
months had passed since his Uncle Imrahil had given him the letter. He
breathed a sigh of relief; he was most grateful that he had said no
word of Denethor’s promise to Faramir. A tear rolled down his cheek.
His uncle had told him how his Naneth would stand on this very balcony,
watching the sun set. He missed her terribly. The flowers in the garden
that spread below him filled the air with the same fragrance that
encompassed her. The sun inched closer to the sea; he wanted to turn
and go to his adadhron’s hall. There was another celebration there
tonight. He knew he and Faramir were expected, but he could not pull
himself away. He rubbed his hands over the teak balcony, knowing his
Naneth's own hand had touched this very wood, that she had rubbed her
hands along it, just as he was doing, as she watched the sun set. His
heart broke. Where was Adar? Why did he not come?
His adadhron, Prince Adrahil, had been more than kind as were all his
relatives, but the family was busy with the ceremonies associated with
the new prince’s birth and to the care of Prince Imrahil’s firstborn,
Elphir, who was a handful by himself. Boromir felt lost, at times, in
the whirlwind of activities that abounded in the royal family’s home.
He needed Denethor. A fortnight ago, they had been taken to Finduilas’
crypt, buried deep in the bowels of the palace. Someone thought it
would be good for the boys to visit it. But Faramir had cried for hours
afterwards, and Boromir found the child in his bed every night since.
Listowel, had she been about, would have been furious, but she had gone
to visit her own family in one of the little towns that flanked Dol
“Boromir,” the whispered voice caught him by surprise, making him turn
quickly. Faramir’s head slid down and bumped the floor. The boy’s eyes
opened in shock; he began to cry, very quietly. “Faramir!” Boromir
knelt next to his little brother and took him in his arms. “I am
sorry!” He stroked his brother’s hair and kissed him gently on his
forehead. “Please forgive me?” Faramir looked up and tried to smile,
but the tears made the grimace look ludicrous. “I am sorry, Faramir,”
Prince Imrahil moved from the doorway and sat next to them. “Nay,
Faramir. ‘Twas my fault. I startled your brother. I am the one to ask
for forgiveness. I was concerned. The banquet has started and neither
of you were in your appointed seats. So I came to find you.”
“Then ‘tis truly my fault, Uncle, for I wanted to see the sun set from
Naneth’s balcony and lost track of time.”
“Then come with me now. Your adadhron has refused to begin until
you are both seated.” He picked Faramir up. Looking down at Boromir, he
saw pain etched into the lad’s face. Grief lay as a burden on the lad’s
body. He took Boromir’s hand and walked out of the chambers. Boromir
heaved a sigh and left the beloved room.
“We should never have gone to Cair Andros,” Denethor stated
bitterly. “I had promised Boromir I would be in Dol Amroth over two
months ago. He hissed. “I seem to be spending my time breaking promises
to those boys.”
“I too am anxious to see them again; however, the boat will go no
faster than the winds that fill the sails.” Indis had to bite her
tongue to keep from lecturing Denethor. Three months it had been since
last he had touched the Stone. He had become himself again, and for
that she was grateful. His return to his old impatience wore her thin,
He stood on the deck and watched the land go by as the boat swept
out into the Bay of Belfalas. They had embarked on the schooner at
Harlond. Denethor had made his wishes about speed known to the Captain,
but there was naught the man could do. There was no wind. They had been
on the river too long; the winds had failed them and the Captain had
been forced to use oars. The trip south had been tedious and boring.
Indis and Denethor had spent most nights perusing their handiwork on
the newest maps. The roads between Osgiliath, Henneth Annûn, and
Andros were perfect. Every river, every hillock, every ruin had been
painstakingly added to the existing maps. A copy had been made and sent
to the cartographers. Whatever happened after this, at least the
Captains of Gondor would know where they were at any given moment. The
winds had finally picked up, coming from the north at about twenty
knots, according to the Captain, as they entered the Ethir Anduin. It
had taken them only a half-day to reach the bay. He could see Tolfalas
before them. ‘At last,’ he thought, ‘we are truly on our way.
He smiled ruefully. He should be enjoying this trip. How often had he
wished to make the same, but as Captain of his own vessel! Never had
the dream been fulfilled. It never would be. Mayhap someday Boromir….
No, his son would be too great a Captain to confine to one ship.
Faramir? Denethor had to laugh. ‘I cannot even imagine that,’ he
smiled. ‘Though the boy tries to be courageous, I think the first great
wave that hit his ship would cause him to run in terror.’ Suddenly, his
brow furrowed. He knew that Faramir oft ran to his brother’s room after
a nightmare or during one of the monstrous storms that assailed the
mountain city on occasion. How to break him of this habit? He could
not, in good conscience, do what his own father had done. He could not.
A slight shudder swept over him. ‘The wind,’ he thought, but his heart
cried, ‘thy father.’ He turned away and went below deck.
Prince Adrahil watched as the children of Denethor entered the
dining hall. He rose and greeted them personally. “We have been
waiting,” he chastised Boromir gently. “Would you sit now?”
Boromir’s face burnt with embarrassment. “I am sorry Adadhron,” but
Faramir interrupted him. “We were watching the sun set from Naneth’s
window. I fell asleep,” the boy lowered his head and Adrahil had to
bite his lip to keep from laughing.
“I can understand that, my lad, the sea breeze weaves magic upon those
who watch from that window.”
Faramir’s eyes opened wide. “Ada said the same thing a long time ago,”
he breathed quietly. “He saw an Elf from that very window.” The boy’s
voice had raised almost an octave as he said the word ‘elf.’
Adrahil stepped backwards. Quickly regaining his composure, he
indicated where the boys were to sit. Then, he cast a sharp look at his
son. Prince Imrahil only shrugged. He had heard no story of such an
event himself, he quietly told his father. ‘But,’ he thought to
himself, ‘I will learn more from Faramir before the night is o’er.’
When the Steward reached the quay,
Adrahil himself was there to greet him. A Swan Knight offered his hand
to help Denethor out of the skiff. The Steward forced the laugh that
threatened to engulf him back. He knew his way about boats and how to
disembark from one. Had not Adrahil himself taught him many long years
ago! He motioned for the man to help Indis. Of course, she needed no
help herself, but Denethor knew she would be gracious and accept the
offer. The lines had already been tied off to the pilings; the boat
stood still, and he stepped up onto the dock.
Denethor offered the Gondorian salute and Adrahil accepted it. He
motioned for Denethor to walk ahead of him on the slim dock. When
Denethor reached the end of the pier, he stopped and waited for his
“It is good to have you back in Dol Amroth, Denethor. It has been too
Denethor bit his tongue to keep the hot retort back.
Indis joined them. The Prince smiled and took her in his arms, his eyes
wet with unshed tears. “My daughter spoke often of your friendship and
what it meant to her; your kindness to her from her first moment in
Minas Tirith. I thank you.”
She returned the hug, tears spilling from her own eyes. “I loved
your daughter from the very beginning because of my brother’s love for
her,” she felt the Prince tense and continued, “but I soon grew to love
her for who she was. We became the best of friends. Nay, more than that
even, for we called each other sister-friend.”
“I know.” He let his grip loosen and stepped back “Oft she wrote of
your adventures together. Though you never did convince her to lift a
Indis laughed. “She would rather we buried them in the ground than
wield them, but she never spoke a word against our practice.”
Denethor stood looking at the sea in front of him, the white and
grey clouds scudding across the sky. He bit the inside of his cheek to
keep from sobbing. He had not spoken nor heard her name spoken by
another in many years. The pain cut through him like a knife. Would
this wound never be healed?
Indis turned towards him, ever aware of her brother’s moods. “Will
we go directly to the palace, my Lord?” she asked Prince Imrahil.
“I have a carriage waiting.” He started forward, but was stopped by a
hand on his arm.
“Would you excuse me? I would find my sons. Are they playing at the
Adrahil started. “They are not, my Lord Steward. Nor are they at
the castle of Dol Amroth. They are,” he paused for a moment, “they are
on an adventure with their Uncle Imrahil.”
Denethor’s eyes stormed, but he kept his voice low. “Why did you allow
this when you knew I would be arriving today?”
“I knew no such thing, Denethor.” He forced himself to speak
calmly, but abandoned the Steward’s title. “We have had no missive from
you for two months. I know how your duty to Gondor has delayed you in
the past.” The hint of anger rang in his voice. “I supposed your
neglect of your wife had spilled over to neglect for your sons.”
Denethor’s hand flew to his sword, his face grew livid red and his
breath came in short gasps.
Indis held his arm tighter and pulled him, as well as she was able,
away from Adrahil. She turned a withering glance upon the Prince. “That
was totally uncalled for, my Lord Prince,” she said with as much
dignity as she could muster. “If you will excuse us, I believe the Lord
Steward and I will stay here in town this night. Mayhap your manners
will have returned on the morrow.”
Adrahil turned on his heel and strode towards the carriage. Entering
it, he shouted to the driver to move on.
Denethor bent over, his hands on his knees, trying to calm himself.
He felt run through by a sword. Tears ran down his face. Indis rubbed
his back and waited.
At last, Denethor straightened. “If it had been my daughter, I
would feel the same.” He put his arm around Indis’ shoulders and
steered her towards the quay. As they walked, he felt his heart slow
and a greater, deeper grief reach into him. He gulped back the sobs
that threatened him. When they were near the dock, he stepped down onto
a walkway and helped Indis down. They walked along the beach; he held
her tightly to him.
“You are too magnanimous, my brother,” Indis finally spoke.
“Nay. My pain must be like unto his. His daughter was given to my
care and now she is dead. What have tongues been saying to him? What
rumours of her treatment at my hands has he heard? Did I even come to
bury her? To offer my sympathy? Did he ever hear from my lips the
circumstances that led to her death?” He choked back another sob. “Nay!
I was remiss. I should have come.” He looked deep into Indis’ eyes. “I
have never been to her tomb,” he whispered. “I still do not think I can
She held him for a moment. “Listöwel was with her body when
Finduilas was brought to Dol Amroth. She told Adrahil of Finduilas’
last days. She would have said nothing to him that was untrue. Where he
gets this notion that you neglected his daughter, I cannot say. But he
is wrong, Denethor. You know it in your heart. Let not grief and false
guilt assail you.”
“Rare were her visits to his home. How was he to know how she
fared? I did nothing to assuage his fears for her. I was too proud. He
was too angry at my father’s disdain for the house of the Swan. As much
as I have endeavored to create a bond between Gondor and Rohan, I
should have done the same for Belfalas." He sat heavily on a piling
sticking out of the sand. “My grief kept me from her people. Now I pay
One of Prince Imrahil’s Knights came into view. Denethor turned his
back. The man stepped up to Indis and handed a note, affixed with the
seal of the Swan, to her and stepped back a few paces, waiting, she
noted, for a reply. She opened the missive and read it. She turned to
Denethor. “Prince Adrahil sends his regrets at his behavior. He has
sent another carriage for us and begs us to stay with him at the
palace.” Denethor turned towards her. “That is what it says, Denethor.
‘I beg you to accept my hospitality.’ What do you think of that?” she
said, her voice mirroring the amazement in her eyes.
The road to Edhellond was not well tended; therefore, the party had
to ride slowly, which was better for Faramir anyhow. He wasn’t used to
bumpy horses, he had told his uncle, and giggled as Imrahil laughed.
“Bumpy horses, you say. I am sure you are used to the horses of the
Rohirrim. Ours are not as good, I must admit, but they do love the sea
smell and that is important for a Swan.”
“Why are you called Swans, Uncle?”
“I do not really know. Except that swans have always lived in
Belfalas, great fleets and herds of them. Shall I call you Cygnet,
“That is a funny name,” Faramir giggled. “Why would you call me that?”
“Because that is the name for a baby swan.”
“I am no baby!” Faramir shouted.
Imrahil held his ear. The shout reverberated painfully.
“I am sorry, Uncle,” Faramir whispered. “I will not shout again.”
“Thank you,” Imrahil said with a slight bow of his head. “I would
most appreciate that. And I was impolite to liken you to a baby swan.
You are almost grown.”
Giggling louder, Faramir bent down and kissed his uncle’s hand.
Then he sat up again and patted those rough hands that held the reins.
“You can call me a baby if you want to, Uncle Faramir,” he said
quietly. “I love you.”
A lump caught in Imrahil’s throat and he had to swallow to stifle
the sob and blink to stop the tears that threatened to fall. He had
missed these boys so much. Their family had been ripped asunder after
his sister’s death. He knew not whom to blame: his father or Denethor.
His heart ached to offset the damage done to these little ones. ‘Swans
mate for life,’ he thought. ‘Yet, once the sweet Swan of Dol Amroth
perished, we left these little ones at the mercy of…’ He stopped
himself. He listened to often, of late, to his father’s harangues about
the Steward of Gondor. He knew Denethor, had served with him, and found
him honourable. And the love Denethor had for his children surpassed
most that Imrahil had seen. Looking down at the ebony head that leaned
against his chest, Imrahil vowed he would watch over these two, that he
would do all in his power to reestablish the bonds of family broken by
death, grief and pride.
Eärendil shone brightly the further from land they traveled.
Denethor had not been able to sleep; thoughts of Boromir and Faramir
haunted him. Their last parting had not gone well. Though Faramir
seemed to understand why they were to be separated, Denethor knew the
lad had not understood a thing. He had been more than brusque with his
youngest. The memory of it drove him to the deck. Adrahil had been most
kind to lend him this barc to take him to his sons. He had not known
what had surmounted the Prince’s obvious anger at Denethor. Perhaps
Indis had spoken with him. He only knew that, the morning after he had
arrived in Dol Amroth, the Prince whisked him onto a boat to rendezvous
with Prince Imrahil at Edhellond.
The captain had assured him they would be at the mouth of the
Ringló shortly. After that, short horsebacks ride to Edhellond.
should arrive at the Elf Haven by nuncheon, though why anyone would
want to go to a ruined Elven city, I know not.”
Denethor kept his tongue. He had neither the time nor the energy to
spend teaching a fool about the ancestry of the captain’s fathers. He
had been surprised by the lack of knowledge of this son of Mithrellas.
In fact, he had always been surprised at the utter ignorance of the
people of Belfalas. Only the Prince’s family itself seemed the least
bit interested in their ancestry. A cry pulled his attention away from
Boromir ran into the ruined building with Faramir right at his heels.
Imrahil was hard-pressed to keep up with the boys.
“Slow down!” he shouted. “Wait for me.”
But Boromir had seen something in the distance and was determined to
get a closer look. Faramir would not be left behind. As they came
closer, Boromir dug his heels in the ground, stopping so suddenly that
Faramir ran into the back of him.
“Look,” he whispered. “There is an Elf.”
Faramir strained as hard as he could to see what Boromir saw, but all
that lay before him was a statue. “Where?” he whispered back.
“There! Right in front of you,” Boromir’s voice rang with
disappointment. It was only a statue. He was so hoping to see an Elf
that his imagination ran away with him.
“It is a statue,” Faramir said.
“Aye.” Boromir would not let Faramir see that he had been fooled. “Of
course it is a statue. Did you think there were real Elves left in
Middle-earth?” He snorted to accentuate his derision.
“Oh!” Boromir turned to his little brother. “I thought it was an
Elf too, Faramir. I am sorry.” He took Faramir’s hand and they walked
through the building and back out into the sunlight. By this time,
Imrahil had reached them.
“I would prefer, my gallant warriors, that you let your Captain lead
you on this expedition.”
Faramir giggled and Boromir bowed. “Forgive us, my Captain,” Boromir
stated. “We will follow you wherever you lead us.”
Imrahil returned the bow. “Thank you. I think it is time for nuncheon.”
They had landed on the western side of the Ringló and found a
garrison of Anfalas. The Swan banner that the Captain’s mate held
convinced the fort’s officer that they were in the employ of the Swan
Prince and therefore, respectable. However, he looked sideways at
Denethor. “You are no man from Belfalas by your tongue.”
“I am not. I am a servant, however, of Prince Adrahil who has commanded
me to lead this sortie up the river. May we pass?”
The man allowed it and gave them six horses for their journey after
Denethor promised he would return them the next day. He said farewell
to the ship’s Captain and set out with the five Knights that Prince
Adrahil had sent with him.
After a long climb up the steeps slopes of the river, the land
flattened out and the ride was less strenuous on the men and the
horses. Denethor’s heart lightened. Though the land was quite different
from that of Rohan, it reminded him of it – the wildness, the lack of
habitations, the openness of it. He drew in a deep breath and realized
the sea smell was definitely different from the plains of Rohan.
Smiling, he urged his horse into a faster gait.
As the sun reached its zenith, he could discern ruins before him.
Another hour’s ride and they arrived at Edhellond. Denethor could
hardly believe his eyes. Truly, these were the ruins of an Elven
kingdom. Like nothing he had ever seen before. He pulled his horse up
and listened. Faintly, he heard noises in the distance. Children’s
laughter! He pushed his horse faster and rounded a building to be met
with the sight of Faramir rolling on the ground, laughing hysterically,
while a soiled Imrahil rolled with him. Boromir stood a little to the
side; his stance looking as if he was not sure whether to laugh or
Some sense made Boromir look up; he saw his father and came running
forward, with a cry on his lips. Denethor jumped from his horse and ran
to meet Boromir. Both stopped within a hair’s breadth of the other and
saluted. Then, Denethor fell on his knees, grabbed his son and hugged
him tightly. “I have missed you, boy!” he said gruffly, rumpling the
lad’s hair. "I thought you were going to watch for me… from your
“Oh! Adar. I so wanted to, but when Faramir told Adadhron that you
had seen an Elf at Dol Amroth, he insisted upon hearing the whole
story. And then they decided, Uncle Imrahil and Adadhron, that we must
find the Elves.” He stopped to catch his breath. “They said you were
not coming yet.” A look of pain filled the boy’s eyes. “I waited,
honestly I did, Adar. Until they said you were not coming.” He repeated
the phrase that had made him leave his watch.
Denethor hugged him fiercely. “I promised, did I not?” But then, at
the look in Boromir’s eyes, Denethor knew the lad understood that
sometimes promises were broken. “I am sorry. I meant to come so much
sooner.” He stood up and bowed. “May I have your forgiveness, my son?”
“Oh, Adar!” Boromir sighed. “Of course. If I break a promise, will you
“As long as you do not break your vows to Gondor nor to me, nor
lose your honour, I will forgive you.” He smiled and took Boromir’s
hand. Together they walked towards Faramir.
“Ada!” the boy screamed and Imrahil held his ears again. “Ada! You
came. You came.” He ran to his father and grabbed him around the waist
and hugged with all his might.
Denethor almost fell from the ferocity of the grip. “Hold, my son, you
will knock me over. You are becoming quite strong.”
With that, Faramir lifted his right arm, crooked it, and held it for
Denethor put his hand around the little arm and gave it a small
squeeze. “Yes, you are becoming quite strong.”
Faramir’s chest puffed out and he turned and looked at Imrahil. “You
see, Uncle, that is why you couldn’t best me just now. I am quite
Both Imrahil and Denethor bit their lips to keep from laughing.
“Come, Denethor, we have just finished nuncheon. I am sure you and your
men are hungry?”
“Aye. Thank you, Prince Imrahil.”
After nuncheon, they explored the old ruins further. Faramir did
not let Denethor’s hand leave his. For hours they walked the halls and
buildings, marveling at the workmanship.
“It is sad to know they are all gone,” Imrahil said quietly as they
walked back to the clearing where they had eaten their repast.
“Are they really all gone?” Denethor asked. “I know, twice, that I saw
an Elf at Dol Amroth.”
“If there are any left, we have neither seen nor heard of them.”
They sat on carved rocks and let the last of the sun warm their faces.
After a time, most of the company fell asleep, lulled by the sound of
the wind in the trees and the sense of peace and contentment that
filled the land.
“Where have you been?” Denethor held back the scream. “We searched
everywhere? Where have you been?” He held Faramir out in front of him,
his eyes burning with fear and rage and despair.
“I went to find an Elf,” the boy said plaintively. “Is that not why we
“But you should not have gone alone, Faramir,” Imrahil chided. “You
could have fallen amongst the ruins and we would not have been able to
“But the Elf wouldn’t let me fall and he showed me back to where you
The hairs on Denethor’s neck stood straight. Imrahil glanced over at
him, mouth opened wide.
“Faramir. Do not lie to me. You did not see an Elf?”
“I did, Ada. A very tall Elf with hair the colour of… well, it was
shinier than Théodred’s, but it was still golden.”
“Where?” Boromir broke in, ready to go find the Elf for himself. He
could not believe his brother had seen one and he had not!
“He went away. He said he only came to see me.”
“Why would he want to see you, Faramir?” Denethor asked.
“Because of Naneth,” Faramir said, tears filling his eyes.
Imrahil drew in his breath and Denethor hugged the boy to him.
“Why because of Naneth?”
“Because the Elves always watch over the children of Mithrellas. Who
was Mithrellas, Ada?”
Denethor sat on the ground, hard, and pulled Faramir to him.
“Mithrellas was one of your ancestors, ion nîn,”
he said softly. “She came from the far north with her friend. Somehow,
they were separated. She decided to stay here and live in these woods.
She is your… Oh dear, I have no idea how many names she might have,”
Denethor smiled. “But she is i
naneth en naneth tîn. Your mother’s mother’s mother. And
farther back than that even. You could call her Nanadhril, if you
“Then that is why the Elf watches over Boromir and me. Because of
Nanadhril.” Faramir began to yawn and leaned his head on Denethor’s
shoulder. “I walked too far today, Ada.” He petted Denethor’s cheek, as
he always did his Naneth's.
Denethor’s mouth grew dry. Never had the lad touched him in that caring
way. It touched his heart near to breaking. Denethor saw Finduilas
before him, on the settle in the nursery, holding Faramir as Denethor
sat by them, holding Boromir. The child would stroke his mother’s cheek
till he fell asleep. Denethor looked down. Faramir slept. And Denethor