Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
24. Third Age - 3014
and Faramir accompanied him to Rohan,
along with Indis and Listöwel. It was just past the feast of
and Gondor had celebrated the harvest day with much rejoicing. Their
had been an uneasy peace the last twelve years; Gondor and Rohan had
held against the most formidable of attacks by the enemy and prevailed!
Denethor had survived an assassination attempt. The farmlands were
heavy-laden with crops, spring had been greeted with many new lambs and
calves, and the Mark’s slim stock of mares had had many foals. The
grasslands of Rohan swayed as waves upon the sea. Denethor reveled in
the openness of the land, the wind on his face, and his sons beside
him. Returning to Rohan was always a welcome relief for he left the
cares of Gondor behind him. Trumpets blared to announce their arrival.
Indis had insisted they celebrate the harvest with their neighbors.
It had been too long since she had last seen her sister-friend, Morwen
Steelsheen. How Listöwel and she rejoiced when they reached the
the steps leading into Meduseld and she stood before them, slightly
bent, but her face full of joy.
“Too long, too long has it been!” The Queen Mother cried. They ran
to her and held her, tears streaming down their faces. As abruptly as
the tears came, laughter followed.
“You are too thin! Your hair has turned white! Where are your swords?”
Their instant rekindling of friendship delighted Denethor and
The three went off, chatting joyfully.
Denethor smiled. Théoden grasped his friend’s hands and held
them tightly. “Too long indeed. What has occasioned this visit?”
“Indis. It came into her head three months ago and I could not dissuade
her; I did not want to dissuade her. How are you my friend?”
Théoden smiled. “Well. In fact, I have someone I want you to
He turned and motioned to a young man who stood in the shadows. “This
is my trusted advisor, Grima, son of Galmod. He came highly recommended
from the Lord of Isengard.”
Grima bowed to Denethor. “All know of the might and wonder of the men
of Gondor. To meet their leader, their Steward, is a great honour.”
Denethor blinked in disbelief at the pale-faced man who stood
before him, yet his own face did not betray him. He bowed to
advisor. “Grima - from Isengard?”
“Nay. My family is from the Mark. Long have we lived here. My
father was a captain in the Eastfold, under Éomund. He died in
attack that killed the Marshal.”
“I am sorry for your loss.”
Grima bowed in acknowledgement. “I must be off. I am in charge of
today’s meal. I hope it meets your approval.” He turned and walked
slowly into Meduseld.
Boromir and Faramir waited. Théoden smiled as he saw them
like young colts. “You wish to see Théodred and Éomer, I
“Whatever is your wish,” Boromir said tactfully. “We wait upon Father.”
“Go, but do not be late for supper,” Denethor said with a smile.
They ran down the steps and towards the stables, their usual meeting
“Come, old friend,” Théoden smiled. “Let us to my study. It has
been overlong since you have visited me.”
Once they sat and had shared wine, Denethor locked his fingers together
and sat in silence.
“You do not approve of Grima?”
Denethor snorted. “I do not approve of the Wizard. Anyone or anything
coming from him is suspect, in my mind.”
“I know your unease regarding Curunír, but the man has lived
him these last twelve months and I find much wisdom in his words.”
A sharp hiss from Denethor greeted this pronouncement. “Wisdom, in what
“As it regards our land and our people.” Théoden’s voice became
sharp. “Is wisdom only for Gondor?”
Denethor looked long at his friend. “Wisdom for Gondor is usually
wisdom for the Mark. And wisdom for the Mark is usually wisdom for
Gondor, my friend.”
He knew Théoden heard the reprimand in his voice, but his friend
stood and walked towards the fire, not speaking. Late autumn and the
winds from the mountains were already cold, but not enough to need a
fire. Denethor watched as Théoden held his hands before the
rubbing them together.
“Are you cold?”
“My bones seem to feel the wind more intensely this season.”
Denethor wondered. “I will send you a cloak from our weavers. Lamb’s
wool keeps a body warmer, I think, than the fur of bears.”
“I do not need a cloak of Gondor. What will my people think? That I
prefer things of Gondor over those of the Mark?”
Denethor blinked, but otherwise kept his emotions in check. “Your
father preferred many things of Gondor over those of the Mark.
Particularly your mother.” He smiled gently. “I meant no insult,
Théoden. And you know that I prefer the stallions of the Mark
horse bred in Gondor.”
Théoden turned towards him. A look of consternation filled his
face. “Forgive me,” he whispered. “I do not know what came over me.” He
smiled. “Mother would agree with you. I think she looks towards Gondor
for Théodred and perhaps Éomer and Éowyn also.”
Denethor smiled broadly. “There is hope in such thoughts.”
“Would you consider?”
“Of course.” He was interrupted as the bell for the midday meal rang
out. Both men stood and walked towards the Hall.
Long tables were set and food covered every inch. There was hardly
room for plates or eating utensils. Denethor was surprised to note that
Grima sat on Théoden’s right. He looked for Théodred and
found him at
the other end of the table, flanked by Boromir and Faramir. ‘What goes
on here?’ he thought, concern for Théodred fighting with joy at
the three friends with their heads bent in laughter. His heart pinched
for a moment as he remembered the times Thengel, Amdir and he had sat
thus, rejoicing in their friendship.
The meal was superb. ‘If this is Grima’s handiwork, he has shown
himself well. I wonder why Morwen did not plan the event and the menu?’
Denethor thought absently. But his mind was on his sons and
plans for them. ‘I cannot let them marry a Rhovanion,’ he thought
wildly. ‘The blood of Númenor must not be diluted further. How
prevent this without hurting my friend? Though Morwen is of
Westernesse. Is the blood pure enough? Kin-strife was done in the name
of Eldacar’s parentage. I would not let Thorongil…’ His mind whirled
with the implications of that thought, but he stilled the thoughts,
would not walk that path.
Morwen herself walked towards him. “Forgive my lack of manners when you
entered Edoras, my Lord. I was so delighted…”
She did not need to continue; he stood and took her in his arms.
“Your love for my sister has always made my heart glad. You are
precious to Gondor.” She returned the hug and he held her back in
surprise, looking at her with alarm. “Are you well?”
“I have been fighting a cold, I think, of late. But the leech is
confident I will be well soon.”
“You have no strength in you. Your embrace is like unto a child’s. How
long have you been ill?”
“For two weeks, no longer. And I am as strong as ever I was.”
“You are not! Théoden!” He turned in alarm towards
“Have you not noted your mother’s health? Take her hand. It is hot. She
has fever.” He picked her up and quickly carried her out of the hall
and to her chambers. Indis and Listöwel scurried to their feet.
followed Théoden, who had also jumped up, concern etched across
"We are going to be skinned within an
our lives. We have missed the King’s supper. Father will be put out.”
"Hush, Éowyn. If I had known you would put up such a racket…”
hissed. “Why did you come with us, if you were going to be afraid of
”I am not afraid. And who found this cave anyhow?”
"She is right, Éomer. It is wonderful; it goes back forever. So
find such a large one here in the foothills.” Faramir peered into the
deep recesses of it. “Might we go in further?”
"There may well be jewels buried here or mithril,” Éowyn said,
her voice rising in excitement.
"It looks like someone has been here before us. Look. Signs of
digging.” Boromir picked up a stone and ran his finger along the yellow
vein that ran through it. Putting the finger to his mouth, he touched
it lightly with his tongue. He quickly spat. “Arsenic. The ratter must
have been here digging for the poison. Let us be away from here.”
Éowyn had gasped at the news, but refused to leave. “But there
might be jewels or mithril,” she complained.
"There is nothing here but death,” Boromir said, grasping her arm
firmly and leading her to the cave entrance. “Théodred, do not
back here again. And I suggest you tell the ratter to hide the
entrance. The poison here is potent.”
"Then if we cannot stay here, let us at least ride to the river. I
would put my feet in and tease the fish.”
"It is turning cold. The stream runs from the mountains. It will be
frigid,” Éomer said with a superior tone. “You will take ill and
have to listen to your moans. I will not go.”
"I would ride,” Théodred said. “I have not raced you for at
year, Boromir. Are you up to it? Will you accept my challenge?”
"Where to?” Boromir said, his face splitting with a great smile.
"The river. It will stop Éowyn’s murmuring and give us a good
"Then it is the river.” Boromir jumped onto his horse.
Faramir and Éomer mounted their own horses. Éowyn was
to decide whether or not she should go back into the cave. “Come,
Éowyn,” Théodred ordered. “Join us.”
"The horse father gave me is too slow. I have no chance to beat any of
"Éowyn, stop whining,” Éomer chided. “We will meet you
there. You wanted to go to the river and now you have your wish.”
Théodred called out, “One! Two! Three!” and all four men spurred
their horses forward. Éowyn clicked and followed them as best
By the time she reached the river, her sibling and friends were
laving their faces in the clean, cold water. She quickly ran to them
and unceremoniously splashed them as hard as she could. Amidst their
yells, she shouted, “There! That’s for leaving me behind. I could have
been Warg fodder or Orc meal. Father will surely punish you for leaving
me behind!” She was furious and shook visibly.
"Be still, little sister. You were not alone. We watched you as we
rode. Do you think we would seriously leave you alone on the plains?”
"Did anyone bring anything to fish with?” Boromir interrupted.
"I have a hook,” Faramir said.
"I will sacrifice my shirt for the thread,” Théodred said.
"I will find some bait,” Éomer said and scurried off towards the
rocks, shoving them aside. In a moment, they heard an “Ah ha!” and
Éomer ran towards them, a small cricket in his hands.
"Éowyn, start a fire. If we catch anything, we can eat it here.”
The excitement in Faramir’s voice echoed the excitement of all present.
All but one.
"I will not.” She was so tempted to stamp her foot that Faramir,
who rarely missed such things, had to stifle a laugh. “I want to fish
"We only have one hook, Éowyn,” Théodred said patiently.
Boromir fish first; it was his idea and he is the best amongst us.
Then, you can fish.”
"But why do I have to start the fire?”
"Because starting a fire is woman’s work,” Éomer snorted. “And
you are the only woman here.”
"Éomer,” Faramir stopped him. “Éowyn is a fine horsewoman
and good friend. You chide her for things she has no control of.”
Éowyn scowled. “I do not need a Gondorian to defend me. I can
Her eyes smoldered, but she did not put Faramir off. “Of course you
"Now you mock me!” She wanted to scream, but instead, jumped upon her
horse and rode off.
"I caused this,” Faramir said, “I will follow her.”
"We should return anyhow. Dark will be upon us soon and we are
already in trouble.” Théodred smiled. “It has been a most
When they entered the Hall, chaos reigned. Théodred grabbed a
servant’s arm. She squirmed, trying to free herself. “What is going
on?” he asked as he held her tightly.
"The Queen is ill. Very ill,” the woman used Morwen’s old title in
her fear. “We are bid to scrub down the tables, lest others become
"Where is she?”
"I know not. The Gondorian took her somewhere.”
"Father,” Boromir said simply. “He probably took her to her own
chambers. If we can find Amma, she will tell us what is happening.” He
put his hand on Théodred’s shoulder. “She will be fine. You will
Your leeches are good, Théodred.”
Éowyn ran down the hall. Théodred and Éomer
followed. Boromir put
up his hand to stop Faramir from following them. “This is a family
matter, Faramir. We should wait and let them discover what has
happened. Let us go to Father’s room. He will be there, I am sure. And
Amma is probably with him.”
They quickly crossed the hall and soon found themselves in front of
Denethor’s guest chambers. Boromir knocked. They waited but no answer
"Where would he be?”
"Wait a moment.” He knocked again and their father’s voice bid them
"It is the flux,” Denethor said quietly, after he let them in. “They
believe she drank tainted water a fortnight ago. The healer thought she
was recovering, but she is not. She cannot control herself, but even
worse, she is in extreme pain. Indis is with her.”
"I do not understand,” Boromir stood next to his father. “Rohan’s
leeches are very good. How could she have become so ill so quickly?”
"It is the nature of the illness. It does not lead to death.
Usually.” Denethor turned towards Faramir. “You look ill. Are you all
"I am sorrowed for her. Is there naught we might do?”
"Nothing. Just keep mischief from you, if you can. Where were you?
You were missed at dinner. I did not need to worry about the two of you
whilst this was happening.”
"We were distracted, Father. Forgive us. An unusual cave and then
Denethor smiled broadly. “Fishing! At least someone in this family can
fish. What did you catch?”
Boromir blushed. “Nothing. As a matter of fact, we never did get to
fish. Éowyn - she became upset and we deemed our transgressions
to keep us in trouble for nigh unto a year.”
Laughing, Denethor put his hand on Boromir’s shoulder. “For a fish
from that stream, I would have forgiven almost anything. You have set
my mouth to watering.” He stopped and his face blanched. “You did not
drink from the stream?”
"We did, Father. It is mountain-fed and was clear and clean.”
"Be careful. Only drink that which is boiled and strained, or ale
or wine. There is nothing to fear. This sickness is easily remedied,
but I would prefer you not to have to suffer with it.”
Boromir smiled. “We will obey you. Faramir and I will retire to our
room. If you need us, we will be there until morning.”
"Stop at the kitchens; you have not eaten.”
They bowed and left.
For three days Meduseld and its people lay in turmoil. Morwen had
taken a turn for the worse during the night. Her discomforts, instead
of lessening, increased. She was given to convulsions. Horror filled
the court and her friends. Grima worked long and hard with the leech to
make sure that everything that could be done was being done. He had
some books and herbs that the Wizard had given him, and he even tried
those. But to no avail. By the afternoon, she was wracked with
convulsions and her hair began to fall out.
Indis and Listöwel never left her side. Grima forced them to eat
drink to keep up their strength, but both women had not the stomach to
eat much. In fact, Indis was already complaining of nausea, brought on,
she felt, by watching her dearest friend suffer so.
By evening, the leech noted there was blood in Morwen’s fluids. He
shook his head. Indis took him by the shoulders and shook him. “There
must be more you can do, something you have forgotten!”
"Indis, would you chide Arciryas in such circumstances?
"You know I would, if it meant a friend’s life! I cannot understand
this. We boil everything we give her; we give her only soft foods, and
yet she becomes more ill. Perhaps it is not flux.” She started to sway.
Listöwel ran forward as she fell. She started to shake herself as
leech took Indis from her arms and laid her on the settle by the fire.
"She is just weary. There is naught to fear. She has slept little
in the time since she arrived. I will have one of the servants take her
to her quarters.”
Listöwel looked at the pale face before her and ran from the room.
“Denethor!” she cried when she reached his room. Banging on the door
and calling his name, she grew nauseous herself and slid to the floor.
An hour later, a servant found her like that. Calling for the
guards, he picked Listöwel up and took her to the chamber she
with Indis. He laid her on the great bed next to the Lady of Gondor and
ran for a leech, almost knocking a guard over as he ran from the room.
They sat quietly in the stables. “Father said we must return to
Minas Tirith soon,” Faramir said, disconsolately. “I would like to
stay, at least until your Amma is better.”
"If she gets better,” Éowyn sighed.
"When she gets better,” Théodred scolded.
"Sometimes, the sickness runs such a course,” Faramir said. “I
remember we had a servant with the same ailment, and Arciryas assured
us he would recover and he did. She will be well again. You will see.”
Boromir looked at Faramir and realized his brother spoke the words
to keep his own courage firm. “This is foolish. Morwen would not want
us to sit about, worrying. Let us to Aldburg for a day or two. There
are wild boar in the mountains near there. We can bring back one or two
for a feast in celebration of her recovery.”
Théodred’s eyes lit up. “I will ask Father. I think that wise.
She will recover and the people will want to rejoice.”
"I will not be allowed.” Bitterness hung on Éowyn’s words.
"You could at least come to the city with us,” Éomer said. “You
could shop and visit old friends.”
"Have you ever been boar hunting, Éowyn?” Faramir wondered.
She snorted. “Nay. Father does not even know that I have trained as
a shieldmaiden for the last six years. Grandmother…” Her voice choked.
“She helped me find a tutor and encourages me. Father supposes I am
learning how to be a proper lady.” She sighed again. “At least he lets
me ride. Though that nag he gave me is as lazy as Grima.” Her face
contorted in a grimace. “I cannot stand him. He watches me.”
Éomer laughed. “You are imagining things. He is so concerned
ingratiating himself with Father that he has not time for anything
else. Grima Wormtongue is not worth your concern.”
"Wormtongue?” Boromir questioned. “Is that his full name?”
"It is a nickname Éowyn and I gave him,” Éomer laughed.
perfectly. He worms his way into Father’s list of advisors. Yet, I see
no wisdom in him.”
"Let us give no further thought to him. We can leave now, with Father’s
approval. Let us find our fathers and ask.”
They walked quickly to the Golden Hall and entered. All was quiet,
the court still shaken by the Queen Mother’s illness. Théoden
his throne; Denethor stood next to him, leaning over and quietly
speaking. His manner was relaxed.
Boromir hoped that meant Morwen was recovering. “Father. Théoden
We have a request.” He continued on as neither parent spoke. “We would
like to journey to Aldburg and bring back a boar or two for Edoras’
celebration of Morwen’s recovery?”
Denethor smiled. “It is good to hear that your heart is not heavy
with worry. She will recover. Grima has assured Théoden. So a
celebration will be in order. You have my permission.”
"And mine also,” Théoden smiled. “It is a good plan.
will stay behind. I would have someone at my side until your
Grandmother returns to her rightful place at my side.”
Éowyn smiled dimly. “Of course.”
Faramir noted her hands were clenched. “Mayhap sometime away from
her usual duties would be helpful to Éowyn, my Lord. She has
constantly in contact with Grima regarding her grandmother and helping
to care for her. We would most treasure her company.”
Éowyn looked at him, gratitude filling her face.
"I had hoped… Very well. When will you leave?”
”It will only take moments to pack. The horses are ready. We will
return in two day’s time,” Théodred said. “Thank you, Father.”
He waved them away and the four almost ran out of the hall. Within
moments they reconvened at the stables, carrying small bags with only
the essentials. The guards smiled as they left Edoras, golden hair and
raven shining in the warm sun of midday, laughter filling the air about