Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
I II III IV
Third Age 2942 - Part One
'Focus! Focus, Denethor.'
Denethor hissed quietly and then pulled himself together. Today was his
birthday. It had been three years since last he saw his father in
private. There had been numerous times, during these past years, to see
him publicly – parades, festivals, punishments – all lorded over by the
Steward's son, Ecthelion. Hope ever burned in his heart. Yet, once
again, he was disappointed. No acknowledgement of this day. He wondered
haphazardly whether or not the Captain of the Guard had been told not
to allow a celebration.
'I must not think that way. To say Ecthelion is 'lording it' is beneath
me. I must give him the respect due as the next Ruling Steward.' But
the bile rose in his throat as he thought of his banishment. Deserved
or no, he was in line for Steward of Gondor. Was not some modicum of
respect due him also? The thoughts whirled in his brain and again,
Gwinhir hit him with his sword.
'Focus! What must I do to command your attention, Denethor?' The
swordmaster heaved a sigh and turned his back on him. 'I think that you
should return to the barracks, think on what we are about here, and
return when you can give me your full attention. This will be reported
He was now twelve years old, the time when other lads were just
starting their training. His had been in progress since he was seven.
He knew he had learned much over this time, but his heart grieved at
the loss of his family. Today, his twelfth year, tradition dictated
that Turgon was to confer the Ring of Gondor upon his hand. He had
memorized the ceremony – the Noldorin words of the oath – even though
none had stated it would happen. Today's rebuke was the last straw.
'What would you have me do? Write a thousand times, 'I must focus?'
Will that satisfy you?' The anger was palpable in Denethor's face and
his voice. He fairly shook with rage. Gwinhir drew in his breath
quickly. Never had he heard Denethor speak in such a manner. He walked
slowly towards the lad, placed his hand gently on his shoulder, and
asked him what was wrong. Denethor almost sobbed at the sudden
expression of concern. It had been many a year since he had felt any.
Where were Indis and Morwen? Where was his mother's family, Cranthir?
Or Turgon? None had deigned to spend time with him, see if he was alive
or dead – nothing, to his knowledge. Perhaps they had gone to the
Captain of the Guard himself to inquire about his health? He doubted
it. Last of all, where was Ecthelion?
Gwinhir saw the despair in the lad's eyes and relented. He knew where
Denethor would find the peace he seemed to need. Sometimes kindness was
more effective than punishment. 'I believe it is time for some study of
the ancient ways. Go to the Great Library and look up the Battle of
Dagorlad. I want a report by the day after tomorrow - something on the
role of King Elendil, what his steward was doing back in Osgiliath, the
army of Gondor, the Elves. Go now.'
Denethor ran as if trolls were chasing him. There was no joy in being
let out of his training. He had failed to do his duty; he was sent to
learn swordsmanship. Shame, along with despair, pushed him towards his
beloved library. He wiped his eyes with his sleeve before entering the
foyer. It was dark and cold in here – just what he needed to heal his
heart and cool his thoughts. He walked slowly down the circular stairs
towards the archived areas. He stopped short. Someone else was here. He
coughed gently to let whomever it was know of his approach. As he
turned the last curve, he found himself face to face with
Curunír. The wizard smiled and a chill ran down his back.
'My Lord Denethor, well met are we. I have meant for some time to seek
you out. You have been absent from many of my dinners with the Lord
Echthelion. I have asked after you, and have been told you have been in
strict training. It seems to have lasted awhile, this strict training,
if I am correct?'
Denethor felt another chill run down his spine, but the smile on the
wizard’s face seemed genuine and he was in dire need of a friend at the
moment. He smiled back at the veiled inquiry. 'Yes. I seem not to be as
adept as Lord Ecthelion would wish. I am putting all my energy into my
training. At the moment, though, I have been asked to do a report on
the Battle of Dagorlad. I have heard of it, but my knowledge is slight.
Unfortunately, most of my time here in the library has been spent on
the tales of the Númenórean sea captains.'
'Ah, then it is fate that has drawn me here at the same time as you. I
myself am fairly knowledgeable about that conflict. Perhaps we can
spend some time together and I may share my viewpoint?'
'I would be most appreciative, my Lord.'
'Well, then. Let us start. Here is a manuscript that details some of
the battle. If we read it together, we might be able to ascertain what
truly happened at that time.' For a brief moment, Denethor wondered why
Curunír had the document opened. But he let it pass in his deep
gratitude for the company.
The chill stayed on him during the next hours as they poured over the
manuscripts. Denethor tried to tell himself it was from the cool air in
the library, but some premonition told him that it was the wizard's
presence that caused him to feel thus. He pushed such thoughts aside.
The wizard was giving him his undivided attention; he was treating him
as an equal, sharing his knowledge. Denethor hungered for such
camaraderie. They spent long hours strategizing how to change what had
happened, to negate the dreadful loss of life. Curunír spoke as
if he had himself been at the battle. The wizard had asked Denethor's
opinion on many aspects of the battle and Denethor, like someone who
has been in the desert for many months without water and sights an
oasis, threw all caution to the wind and eagerly bound himself to the
wizard. Yet, his body physically recoiled at the nearness. He fought
this feeling. He rejoiced at the attention and would let nothing sway
him. He would be able to control this, to control himself.
Denethor finally pulled himself away. 'I am sorry. I must report. I
have no clue as to the time, but I feel I have long passed my curfew.
Please, perhaps we can do this again tomorrow?' he asked longingly.
'No, I am afraid I must be off,' Curunír replied. Why did
Denethor feel this was a lie, something to keep him bound further to
this wizard? 'Next time I am in Minas Tirith, I will let you know.
Perhaps at that time, barring my duties to Ecthelion, we may meet and
discuss these things further.'
Night had fallen. It was long past evening report when Denethor walked
into the barracks. Lights were already out. He had had no supper, and
so, on this day, his birthday, he would go to bed hungry and hope there
would be no reprisal for his not reporting – thought he knew it was a
The morning trumpet sounded long before Denethor was ready. Sleep had
come late to him; his thoughts had been on the wizard and the strange
feelings he had towards him. When the wizard spoke, Denethor listened
raptly, but when he was silent, the sense of dread became perceptible.
He remembered Amdir’s words from many years before, ‘it isn’t good to
spend time with someone you can’t understand.’ In the morning light,
this advice seemed most wise. Denethor would remember it the next time
he and the wizard met.
Ingold strode towards his bed as Denethor was in the act of making it.
‘I am told you did not report last night. Is there some reason for
‘I was working on a report for Gwinhir and lost track of time, my Lord.
I am sorry. By the time I left the library, lights were out. I was
coming to report as soon as I was dressed.’
‘And that is another thing. You are late to your post. Do you think
breakfast is to be kept waiting for you just because you are the son of
‘No...no that was not my intent.’ He did not know what else to say.
Ingold shook his head. ‘You will be put on report. You will do stable
duty immediately after breakfast. You will miss one of your classes and
therefore, you will have to make it up later during your free time.
This will place a hardship upon Gwinhir, who must lose his free time
also, due to your lack of respect for your duty. Now go to the
As he approached the stables, a once familiar voice rang in his ears.
‘Denethor! Denethor, it’s me, Amdir!’ Denethor whirled around at the
sound of that voice. There he was before him, his friend of a thousand
adventures! ‘Amdir!’ He rushed to his friend’s side and hugged him
fervently. ‘What does this mean? Why are you here?’
‘Why am I here! You silly goose. I told you I would wait for you each
morning in the stables. And you have not come – until today. But your
lack of punctuality is known to me and I give you forgiveness.’ Amdir
started to laugh and once again hugged his friend. ‘My father has
finally allowed me to begin my training. I am twelve now.’
‘Twelve. Yes, you were always so much older than I,’ Denethor gently teased him. ‘It is so good to see you again.’
‘I waited, Denethor, every day, just as I promised you. But you never came.’ The hurt was strong in Amdir’s face and voice.
‘I would have, if I could. At first, after our adventure to Osgiliath,
I was kept in my rooms. Shortly after that, I was placed in Ingold’s
care. He had other plans for me – plans that did not include my
visiting with friends, I am afraid.’ Denethor tried to keep his voice
light, to keep the pain and hurt from his friend, but Amdir would have
none of it.
‘My mother and father have been fighting since that day, Denethor.
Mother says it is shameful how your father is treating you and –‘
‘Nothing my father does is shameful, Amdir. You must remember that. He
will be Gondor’s Steward one day. Then, it will be my turn. He does
what he must to prepare me, to help me be ready to rule Gondor until
the return of the King.’
Amdir stared in shock at Denethor. He had changed since their last
adventure. ‘My mother asks me to remind you that the irises are still
in her garden. She has watched them with care. They have grown and
Denethor started at the word iris. Tears sprang to his eyes. He
remembered the joy he had as they set out to Ithilien to dig up the
plants for Indis’ birthday. He remembered the beauty of the field of
iris when they first came upon it. He remembered the last time he had
seen his father – in the corridor outside the Great Hall. The last time
he had seen him as father and son.
He shook his head violently. ‘Please give her my thanks, Amdir. It is
almost a shame that your father is my warden. I could sneak away and
see them, but the chance of running into him is too great!’ He suddenly
smiled, ‘But come, my friend, I am already late for breakfast and then
I must clean the stables. I only stopped to see what state they were
in, and for that I am glad; I might have missed seeing you. But, tell
me about you, dear friend, and what you have been doing these many long
‘Yesterday was Denethor’s birthday, Mother.’ Elleth looked up in
surprise. ‘Yes it was, my son.’ She stared hard and long at Ingold.
Ingold squirmed – this was not to be a quiet family dinner as he had
‘I saw him this morning. He looks unhappy and he doesn’t talk the way
he used to. Mother, my friend has changed and it hurts. He received no
presents. I didn’t even bring my gift – he wasn’t there last year or
the year before. I really didn’t think I would see him. No one came to
visit him. He didn’t tell me this, but I could tell, Mother. Why
wouldn’t his father or his sisters visit him on his birthday?’
‘It is not our place to question the affairs of the Steward’s family,’
Ingold said brusquely, hoping to stop the conversation by the tone of
his voice. However, he frowned to himself and remembered what a sour
day it must have been for the boy. He had been relegated to Ingold’s
care almost three years ago with specific instructions not to pamper
the lad – to raise him as a soldier of Gondor. He had seen to his
studies and his training, but who was seeing to his development as a
man? He had felt burdened about this and still had yet to decide what
to do. The boy was twelve. All the ceremonies that a Steward’s son was
to go through had been placed on hold. There were none for Denethor –
no sword ceremony, no fellowship ceremony…and this last one - the most
important – the giving of the Ring. The boy was twelve and was to be
commissioned on his birthday into the service of Gondor as an ensign.
He had broached the subject with Ecthelion and had been sternly warned
not to bring it up again. But his duty to Gondor was also to this lad.
He would approach Ecthelion again. Gossip had slowed after the first
few months of Denethor’s banishment; he didn’t want it started up
again. The people of Gondor were not fools. They knew the old rituals
and when they were to be performed. He must speak with Ecthelion about
‘Have I been wrong, my beloved?’ Ecthelion asked quietly. He was
sitting in her garden off the bedroom they had shared. He had not been
in it for over a year, yet the garden had been well tended. The
gardenias’ leaves were resplendent in their greenery, but it would be
many months before they would bloom. He found it strange that they
lived such a short time, as his beloved Rían had lived such a
Yet again, doubt assailed him. Unbeknownst to others, he had kept an
eye on Denethor. He would arrange to walk past the training fields when
he knew he was there. His only concern was to prepare Denethor for the
hard life that would be his as Steward in the days of terror he knew
were coming. Nothing would still this foreboding in his heart.
He looked towards Osgiliath and the mountains beyond and a sense of
desperation filled him. There had been increased Orc attacks, but
nothing more. Reports of a great and deadly battle in the north had
reached his ears - Orcs and Elves and Men and Dwarves – the tale seemed
too incredible to be true. Yet his heart grew ‘pinched’ more and more
as the years passed. Perhaps he was missing his son? No, what he was
doing was right. The lad had to learn - more than any other child in
Gondor. He had to be ready when the time came. Yesterday was his
birthday. Was Rían chiding him for not celebrating it with him.
The twelfth year.
She had been gone twelve years. It seemed like yesterday. He could
still feel the warmth of her lips on his; the remembrance brought tears
to his eyes. He touched a finger to his mouth, closed his eyes, and
drank in the sweetness of the memory. He tried to imagine her face, her
hair, her eyes, but to no avail. His heart was heavy with other
thoughts. Yes, he missed her mightily, but he also missed his son.
Perhaps, it was time. He would speak to Ingold later this morning.
Discover the extent of his son’s growth; then he would make up his mind.
This twelfth year also weighed heavily upon Morwen and Indis. Their
father’s path for Denethor collided with their own. Yet Ecthelion was
an imposing man and would not brook dissent nor conversation if it
dealt with Denethor; any talk of Denethor was strictly forbidden these
past years. Indis had finally decided that enough was enough. She was
going to find out what had happened that fateful day. She was almost
seventeen now. She would stand up to their father. Morwen was appalled.
She was ever so afraid of him. What would he do to Indis if she pursued
this? Would she be banished? Morwen could not bear the thought of her
beloved sister taken from her. She sobbed hysterically, held onto Indis
and would not let her go.
‘Morwen, I must. I cannot stand it any longer. He is our brother, our
little brother. I must do something to change Father’s mind. I cannot
live like this. I will not be sent away, I promise you that.’
But could she keep that promise? She hurried along the fourth level and
wished she knew what she was going to say. This woman had never been a
friend of theirs; she was the Horse Captain’s wife. What duty of life
would ever throw them together? Yet, thrown together they would be, if
Indis had any control over the matter. Perhaps she could trip outside
their door and seek help with a hurt ankle? That seemed ridiculous.
Perhaps she could say she lost her way? Oh dear, this was not working.
As she turned the corner, however, fate stepped in and she ran right
‘I’m terribly sorry, my Lady. I didn’t see you,’ cried Elleth in dismay. She picked up the flowers dropped in the encounter.
‘No, no. Entirely my fault. I wasn’t watching where I was going. You are Amdir’s mother, are you not?’
‘Why, yes, I am. Won’t you stop for a moment? I have baked some tarts –
the berries are fresh and I would love to offer you some coffee also.
My home is just a few houses down.’ In her heart, Elleth had been
trying to find a way to meet with this woman. Who would have thought
they would encounter each other on this day of all days?
Indis smiled. This was going much easier than she had hoped. As she sat
at the parlour table, she noted the simplicity and beauty of the room.
Little collectibles were everywhere. Mostly – they seemed to be stones.
Different shapes, sizes, and colors seemed to crowd every free space in
Elleth blushed. ‘My son, my Amdir, loves to collect rocks. He brings
them to me with such pride and joy – I would have them out of here, but
he is my only son….’ Why on earth was she sharing this with a member of
the noble family of Turgon? She blushed again.
‘They are lovely. And I must confess, I have no such mementos of
Denethor. I am ashamed. I cannot go into why this is; it now appears to
be one of the reasons I came to see you.’
Elleth was startled. This was not chance that brought them together. She poured the tea and waited.
Indis took a deep breath. ‘My father is a noble man. The welfare of
Gondor lies heavily upon his heart. And with our mother gone, he
strongly feels the burden of his son. I believe he sometimes feels
heavy-handed. Yet his heart is pure. And I would do all in my power to
help him. But at the moment, he has turned from any council I might
offer. I say this to prevent any harsh thoughts about him. Please, tell
me what happened that May. I must know. Our family is torn asunder and
I would right what has happened.’
Elleth took a deep breath. That day seemed so inconsequential. Nothing
untoward appeared to have happened and yet the very depths of Gondor
were disturbed by it.
‘Denethor wanted to find a truly wonderful present for your birthday,’ Elleth began.
Indis started, ‘What…my…’
‘They went to Ithilien together and found a great patch of irises. They
dug up three plants, wrapped them, and brought them back. Due to a
thunderstorm and some small injuries, they were very late returning.
Your mother’s brother sent out search parties looking for them. The
garrison in Osgiliath was up in arms. A post rider was sent to your
father. The boys were found and returned to Minas Tirith the following
day. That is when your father handed Denethor over to Ingold’s care.
Please, come with me.’
Elleth led Indis through a side door into a small garden area.
Overshadowing herbs and fledgling vegetables was a sea of tall iris
leaves. They had not yet flowered; it was much too early in the season,
but Indis could tell that they were large, healthy, and wondrous
plants. Tears spilled from her eyes. She could not speak. She
remembered telling Denethor about the forests of iris in Ithilien. She
wanted to sob aloud. She had caused this. No -- it was not her fault,
but her heart broke inside her. Such pain and suffering over flowers.
How could this be?
Elleth gently led her back into the parlour. ‘My Lady, please take a
sip of your tea.’ Elleth was beside herself; perhaps she had been wrong
in telling of the irises. She sat and waited while Indis caught her
‘I...I don’t know what to say. Would it be possible for me to take one of the flowers when they bloom?’
Elleth laughed. ‘My Lady, I was just the keeper. The plants are all
yours. To do with as you will. They were your birthday gift from
Denethor. I could not keep them, even if you asked me too.’
‘Ah, but they are quite established now. You will be able to keep a
plant or two and I will still have my gift. I cannot tell you how
grateful I am to you...,’ she paused for a moment. ‘For everything.’
‘I had already decided that it was time I would go to my Father about
Denethor and this confirms it. I had no idea what had happened that
day. The punishment was set, Father’s mind was set, and the path for
our family was set. But I believe it is high time for a change of path.
And I mean to do something about it. I must go now and devise some way
to bring this to Father, find the words that will help me sway him. I
cannot thank you enough for your kindness to my brother and to me.
Please, please come to the citadel soon and we will talk again. I will
send my maid to bring the plants to my garden. I cannot wait to show
Denethor. You have made me so very happy, dear lady. Thank you!’ And
she quickly hugged Elleth and ran out the door.
Elleth sat back in amazement. Perhaps the family of Turgon was not so bad after all.
They say the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Nothing
could have stopped Indis from her resolve, nothing perhaps, but death.
Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice - Third Age 2942 - Part Three
The citadel reeled from the news. Gondor’s people flocked to the Great
Hall, words of horror on their lips, waiting for the Steward to speak,
to assuage their fears. More people gathered in the square by the
statue of Isildur opposite the Great Gate. Soldiers were seen
sequestered by themselves in doorways and alleyways. It was as if the
city itself staggered.
Cranthir was dead - along with all those who had joined him in the
day’s patrol. It was to have been a short jaunt into Ithilien – one of
the daily patrols into that fair, but now deserted land. Usually, the
Captain of Osgiliath let others lead the patrol, but today had been a
glorious day and he chafed against certain restraints imposed upon him
by the Steward. So he led the men forth, but none returned. A post
rider was immediately dispatched to Turgon, who sat on the Steward’s
chair – stunned and voiceless. Ecthelion urged him to speak to the
people, but there was naught in his eyes but despair. How could
Ecthelion say, I told you so? There was no joy in this moment of
knowledge. There was no vindication. He knew disaster was brooding on
their doorstep, but never did he think it would hit so close to home.
His last link with Rían – her brother now dead and gone. No,
wait. Cranthir was not his last link – it was Denethor! Denethor was
his last link. He would find the boy. He must find the boy. As he
walked towards the door, Turgon awoke from his stupor and called his
‘Ecthelion. Help me!’ Ecthelion bowed his head. What could he say to
the Steward? All these many years he had attempted to plead his cause
for more men in the army of Gondor, greater defenses along Osgiliath,
the retaking of Eastern Osgiliath, the Rammos Echor fortified. And all
these many years, his father had turned a deaf ear. This could have
been avoided, Ecthelion felt; this should have been avoided. How ironic
that it should be the death of one of the noble families of Gondor that
would finally cause his father to open his eyes.
‘Father, you must speak to our people. You must use this time to rally
them to the defense of Minas Tirith and of all Gondor. You must prepare
for battle. This is not a one-time occurrence. You yourself heard the
reports of the battle east of Mirkwood. There will be more Orc attacks.
You know it. I beg you – tell the people that they must send their sons
for training, that the city must be prepared for war, that the men and
women must focus on making Gondor strong again!’
‘No. No, my son. They are lost and afraid and I must give them comfort.’
‘Yes, Father. They must have comfort, but they must see that there is a plan to protect them. ‘
‘Yes, a plan. There must be a plan.’ Turgon’s eyes clouded over and
Ecthelion started at the look of age on his face. He was only
eighty-eight. He had many years left to govern Gondor. Yet, the bright
eyes and youthful stance of the Númenórean race were
gone. When had they gone and left this old man in his place?
Suddenly, the light was there again, faint, but present. ‘I shall call my captains. We will plan. We must!’
All night the captains deliberated and Ecthelion fumed. There was no
substance to the planning, no thoughts but those of defeat or denial or
And once again, fate stepped in and kept father from son.
The next morning broke clear and bright. Peregrines encircled the White
Tower chattering and calling to each other. All night, Amdir had
searched every level of Minas Tirith starting with the stables and
ending with the barracks, but to no avail. Denethor was nowhere to be
found. He sat dejectedly on a stoop, holding his head in his hands. He
knew he must find him. Cranthir was Denethor’s most beloved friend as
well as mother’s brother. Where could he be?
Another loud cry from a diving peregrine made Amdir look up. He knew
where Denethor was. He ran to the back of the escarpment and started
climbing the stairs. Why hadn’t he thought of this before? He had
wasted so much time. Finally, he arrived at the door and listened
quietly, catching his breath. No sound. He couldn’t be wrong! Slowly he
pushed the door open, saw the beacon before him, but saw no sign of his
quarry. He turned to leave and saw Denethor hunched in the corner next
to the bench. His eyes filled with tears.
‘My friend,’ was all he could say.
Denethor did not even look up. His head was cradled in his arms. His shoulders shook slightly.
Amdir walked towards him and sat on the bench, as close to his friend
as he could. He knew he had not the words to comfort him, but he had to
stand next to him, to let him know that he was there for him.
A silver trumpet sang out in the morning, dispelling all darkness and
making Denethor’s heart jump. How could he sit here in mourning? He had
duties to do. As he rose, he looked at Amdir in surprise. ‘When did you
get here? Last night?’
Amdir started. ‘I just arrived a few moments ago. I came to see if you needed anything.’
‘No, but thank you, my friend. We must attend to our duties. There are
many things that must be done, preparations for mourners from far
lands, cleaning of the stables for their mounts and hunting for
sustenance for our guests. Then post riders must be sent with the news.
The burial must be in Ithilien; he would have wanted that. Will you
come with me to your father? Perhaps he will let us hunt together.’
‘You know I will follow you anywhere, Denethor. Do you want to talk
about Captain Cranthir? I remember the last time I saw him. You
remember, don’t you? We were in Osgiliath at his home and he broke the
fast with us in the morning after our adventure. He was telling us
about the time he had gotten lost. Do you remember?’
A sob escaped Denethor’s lips. ‘I remember it well. That was also the last time I saw him. His kindness – we must go.’
‘Lead on, my Lord, and I will follow,’ laughed Amdir, but there was no laughter in reply.
This was going to be a long day.
Indis was beside herself. She had called the Captain of the Watch and
requested that Denethor be sent to her. His emissary had returned an
hour later saying that Denethor was not available. She was furious. Had
Ingold forbidden it? She would go to the Great Hall and demand from her
father that Denethor be allowed to be with her at this time. She threw
her cloak around her shoulders and stamped out of her room, running
directly into Morwen.
‘Where are you going now?’ Morwen cried. She saw the look in her
sister’s eyes, the look that had been growing there these past years
and knew that she was losing her childhood friend. She also knew Indis
was growing up. Furthermore, she knew where she was headed.
‘I am away to see Father. No one will let me see Denethor and I will
not have this – on this day of all days!’ She shook, she was so
furious. ‘Cranthir was beloved of Denethor and I will not have him
mourn alone. There is no reason for it.’
Morwen took a deep breath. ‘Then I am going with you. I will not let
you fight this alone. Though I am most afraid, Indis. Are you sure we
should go? Don’t you think Father will be furious? Can we send one of
‘I value our Father’s love, but I value my own respect more. I will not
stand by and let Denethor suffer alone. Not another day will I let this
happen. My mind is made up.’
‘Woman, get back to your room. You have duties to perform. There are
notices to be designed and lists of guests to invite. It is your duty
to do these things, not mine. Gondor’s defenses are my ilk. Go! Now!’
Morwen ran back through the Great Hall, tears streaming down her eyes.
Indis stood in front of Ecthelion. She shook inside but would not let
him see it. This was too important. She must not fail – herself or her
brother. ‘You would pay heed to your guests over your own son! Lists
will be prepared, but your first duty is to your son, my Lord. I will
first command Ingold to bring him to you here within the hour. I will
go now to do that duty and the one that you have given me. Father!’ she
begged him, ‘Life is very short and our span lessons with each
generation. You must speak with him. There may not be another time.
She bowed low and turned to leave.
‘I will speak with him. But have Ingold send him to my chambers. Now go and do your duty, my daughter. Know that I am pleased.’
She almost skipped down the length of the hall. She had stood up to
him, with respect, but she had stood up to him. Now, perhaps, Ecthelion
and Denethor would be reconciled and the family would be one again.
Cranthir would be most pleased. His death had meaning.
The remains, that was all they could be called, were placed in a closed
coffin and displayed in the Great Hall. When the soldiers had found the
bodies of the lost company, they stood stunned. Limbs lay far from
their bodies, tossed from the battlefield as if in mockery. Heads had
been severed and unspeakable tortures were visible on the torsos. Some
soldiers went off and did what they had to do to help overcome the
horror they felt. Sounds filled the air, sounds of sickness and
despair. Sobs racked many a search party member that day. Sacks were
brought; they massed all the parts together, to be separated and
identified in Minas Tirith. None envied the task of the healers in
correcting the chaos that lay before them.
Due to the fact that Cranthir was of the Steward’s family, though by
marriage only, it was fitting that he lay in state in the Great Hall
instead of in the Soldier’s Hall. This distressed many of his friends;
the Captain of Osgiliath had hated pomp and any show of stature. He
thought himself a simple soldier; his friends knew him as one of honour
and courage and loyalty. They would have preferred to spend their last
moments with their Captain in privacy.
Only a few torches were lit in the Great Hall. Shadows abounded, but
Ecthelion was glad. He wanted to see nothing clearly this night. He
laid his hand gently on the coffin. ‘Ah, my old friend. How I will miss
you. You understood, more than many in higher places, the need for
vigilance. You were my one ally in this battle against those who would
have us sit and wait for death to tear us apart.’ Tears formed in his
eyes, but he would let them fall. No shame for Ecthelion. A heavy sigh
left his lips. ‘I am so very sorry that I had not seen you these past
months. I am so very sorry that I did not bring Denethor to visit
again. I know your heart and his were attached – beyond even any
attachment that he and I had.’ At this thought, he shook his head. ‘I
will miss your wisdom, though I did not often listen to it. Forgive me,
my old friend.’ He bowed his head, the grief too much to bear. For some
unknown reason, he felt very alone this night, alone against the forces
of darkness and evil. Tomorrow this hall would be open to the people of
Gondor, but tonight, he would mourn in solitude next to his old friend.
He heard a noise, faint, coming from a corner near the entranceway.
‘Who is it? I have not given my permission for any to enter yet. Leave
What voice was that? It rang familiar. He turned towards the sound. A
small figure started towards him, slowly, fearfully. Suddenly the
figure began to run, legs churning down the long hall. Ecthelion
gasped. It was his son, his Denethor. He stooped and hugged the sobbing
boy to a chest that suddenly burned with unaccountable pain.
Neither spoke for some time; they just held on to each other. No words were needed. Father and son were one again.
Ecthelion sat and leaned against the coffin, still holding Denethor in
his arms. Their tears mingled, tears of sorrow for the lost one and
tears of joy for the found ones. Indis stood in the shadows and sobbed.
Morning brought rain, heavy, menacing. Torches blazed to dispel some of
the darkness of the day; the smell and smoke covered the hall. Yet the
people came. First, Cranthir’s own company, what was left of it – those
who had been too sick to patrol that day, or had leave - they proceeded
to form an honour guard around the coffin. Next came Turgon, Ecthelion,
Denethor, Indis, Morwen and the rest of the Steward’s family. After
that came soldiers, in their finest uniforms, cleaned and buffed till
every button, buckle and clasp shown clean and bright. Then Rangers in
their dark garb, browns and greens, adding a somber note to the scene.
Guests from far off lands came also, from Lossernach and Lebennen,
Rohan and Dol Amroth, great captains and leaders and kings and princes.
Finally, the people of Gondor, proud and noble and wounded; all filed
past. After the day’s viewing, the coffin was paraded to the Great Gate
on a black draped wain; the Captain’s horse led behind. The entourage
gathered before the gate and Turgon spoke.
‘My fellow men and women of Gondor. The past days have been a sore
trial for our land. It has been many long years since such violence has
been made against us. Yes, I say against us for it was not against
Cranthir and his company alone that this was done; rather, it was done
against all of Gondor.’
Ecthelion was stunned by these words. Were they finally words of
reprisal? Perhaps the Captains had come to some agreement the night of
his vigil with Cranthir’s body. Perhaps something had happened that he
did not know of. He waited in hope.
‘And now, all Gondor must learn to heal. This was a random act. There
was no sense to it. I do not believe it will occur again. We will keep
our garrison at Osgiliath for the time being, but know that the
Captains and I do not feel that there is cause for alarm. A wayward Orc
or two do not mean the end of the Watchful Peace. We are not in danger.
Know that, my people, and be at peace. We go now to bury our brethren.’
He started forward and the procession followed.
‘No,’ Ecthelion screamed in his heart. How could he keep from screaming
aloud? His jaw hurt from holding it tight shut, from not saying the
words that should have been said. His shoulders shook from the fury
that engulfed his being. Then they stooped and he stifled a sigh. He
had no authority to say another word. He must wait upon his father and
obey him. But his heart was frozen within him. What further harm had to
occur before his father would see? The death of Cranthir was for
naught. His chin trembled at the attempt to keep from crying. His heart
Muffled drums beat quietly, their cadence giving matter to the
procession’s progress. The procession passed the Pelennor and headed
towards the garrison at Osgiliath. They would pass the night there and
begin Cranthir’s last journey. The next morning dawned clear and
bright. Water still covered the streets of the old city adding a
further sense of loss. The broken city was mirrored in them and
Ecthelion sensed the puddles were the teardrops of the city, crying out
for revenge. Once across the Anduin, the party headed southward,
towards the old homestead of Cranthir’s family, now long abandoned. A
company of Rangers had been sent ahead to scout the area. Even though
it was a mighty procession, Orcs and Haradrim were not above trying to
disrupt even a solemn time such as this. There was no way the Haradrim
could not have heard of the disaster, mayhap even been part of it.
Gondor’s only hope was that they would think Cranthir would be buried
in Minas Tirith. Or better yet, that Gondor was afraid to come to
Ithilien after the massacre.
There was not a word said, nor a song sung; despair weighed heavily on
all present. The drums continued their low anguish. They passed ruin
after ruin of towns and farms lost and forsaken. Even in the depths of
their grief, the entourage was stunned by the desolation of the land.
Orcs and Haradrim had ravaged field, forest, and glade. No crops were
visible -- even fields that had gone wild were bare. Something had been
used to scorch the earth and leave the ground untenable for life.
Orchards, long forsaken, had been chopped into small pieces and left on
the ground to decay. There could be nothing more to say; the silent
screams of the denigration done to this land and to the people of
Gondor went unanswered.
Soldiers had gone, days before, to the burial site and repaired the
damage to the family vault. Cranthir was laid inside and the heavy door
swung shut and bolted. Ecthelion put his arm on Denethor’s shoulders
and the two walked away, their heads bent in sorrow. Denethor would not
soon forget this day. This day they had laid to rest his dearest
confidant, one who held him in esteem, gave him a sense of worth,
challenged him to grow, taught him how to laugh and to cry. Sobs
strangled him as he fought to hold them in. As his shoulders shook, his
father tightened his hold. Denethor’s heart soared. The touch of his
father was long sought after and long denied. To feel the warmth of his
body next to him was beyond comprehension. There was no condemnation in
that touch -- a shared moment of grief.
Then, Ecthelion started to speak to him of what had happened and what
should be Gondor’s response. He spoke to him as one man to another.
They discussed the many battles that had assailed this land in times
past and what course of action had been taken in response. Ecthelion
opened his heart to his son and laid upon him the burden of regret that
he felt for Gondor. He cautioned Denethor to show respect for Turgon,
but decried Turgon’s path for Gondor.
‘When we return to the Citadel, my son, we must devote ourselves to
understanding warfare, for war is upon us, on our very doorstep. You
have spent many a long year in learning swordsmanship and archery,
self-defense and survival training. I would now that you put your
entire self into the matter of warfare. I will instruct Ingold to
portion a time of your day to research in the Great Library. You cannot
learn enough. The past will show us how to prepare for the future. We
will meet once a week and you will bring me your findings. We will
discuss our preparations for defense, but we must also prepare for
offense. This we will do quietly, you and I. For Turgon will be laid
with our fathers one day soon and I will be Steward. Then, I can
protect Gondor; we can protect Gondor.’
Amdir and Ingold walking a short distance behind them looked at the
heads bent close together, and smiled sadly. Ingold was glad that his
Captain was educating his son; Amdir was glad Denethor had his father
back. As Ingold placed his own hand on his son’s shoulder, Amdir
sighed. Perhaps Cranthir’s death had purpose.