Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
I II III IV V VI
Third Age 2945
Change was all about him. Thengel and Morwen were living on the sixth
level very close to the house of Ingold. Indis was turning into a
proper lady of Gondor. Morwen was ever closer to Turgon in his hour of
need. Osgiliath had a new captain, Hurin, who was loyal to Ecthelion
and upheld his views of Gondor’s defense. Yet, the walls of the city
crumbled bit by bit, the people did not reproduce, and the defenses
were not attended to during Turgon’s Stewardship. All of this Denethor
could see every day as he rode his horse out on patrol with Captain
Thengel and his company. Denethor’s heart was heavy as was his
Thengel knew this and devised a plan to lighten Denethor’s mood, if
for only a few days. They would take their horses south towards
Lossarnach. He would bring Morwen with him. They would stop at her
father’s home and he would leave her there for a much needed visit.
Then, the plan would take hold.
‘There is need for me here, Thengel. I do not have time for an
extended trip,’ Denethor had protested. Then, there was the matter of
the nightmares. Alone, in his own room, no one heard his screams. When
they would go on overnight patrol, he devised to always take the first
watch. When he was relieved, he left camp and found some out of the way
place to sleep, schooling himself to wake before he knew the rest of
the company would wake. What would he do now?
‘I myself am most ready for any kind of a jaunt that does not
involve patrol,’ laughed Amdir. ‘I am most heartily sick of these daily
patrols and would accept any kind of diversion.’ Amdir had been taken
into Thengel’s confidence and knew what the trip portended.
‘Permission has been granted by your father,’ Thengel stated flatly,
‘and we are going. Besides, I have heard of possible warg attacks in
the foothills of Ered Nimrais and would make inquiries of those in the
area. We will take a half company and investigate.’
‘Wargs!’ said Denethor. ‘I have heard no such reports. Have their
been injuries? What damage has been done?’ Wargs had never been seen in
South Gondor. They were known to be in Rohan. Perhaps some had come
over the White Mountains? He was immediately concerned and now, nothing
could keep him from this outing.
There was an air of excitement around Thengel and Amdir that
Denethor could not fathom. His heart was troubled by the reports of
wargs and he could not rest, nor smile. Yet the two of them were almost
delirious with joy. Denethor imagined that Thengel's joy was from being
able to spend time riding next to 'His Lady' as he called Morwen. But
what was Amdir so happy about? And another thing, why was Thengel even
taking Morwen? If there was danger near Lossarnach, why would he bring
her? True, her family was there and she had not seen them since the
wedding, but still.... Once or twice Denethor saw shifty smiles shared
by the two men. Something was afoot, he was sure. But what?
The ride was long and uneventful...the early spring sun was hidden by
the White Mountains and the chill made Denethor glad he had wrapped
himself in the warm cloak of his rank. It was new and he was most proud
of it. He had been promoted to lieutenant just this past month and the
thrill was still upon him. Thengel most appreciated his skills as
soldier and diplomat. The long years of studying and training were
bearing fruit. Amdir also had finally been commissioned as an ensign
and had been assigned to Thengel’s Horse Company. Denethor was stunned
when he saw the beautiful sword presented to him by Ingold and Elleth.
It must have taken many years to save for such a weapon. He clapped
Amdir on the back in appreciation and complimented Captain Ingold on
the fine sword.
Morwen’s village in Lossarnach was more than eleven leagues from
the City. They rose early and rode hard. Finally, Thengel called a
halt. Indis had instructed the kitchen to make a hearty repast for them
and had packed it herself. The ride was long. They would need all their
strength, especially to combat the spring winds they would encounter as
they turned west towards Lossarnach; Mount Mindolluin and the Ephel
Dúath, had protected them thus far in their journey.
Thankfully, though there was now no discernable road, another telling
instance of Gondor’s fall into disrepair, the land itself was soft with
rolling grasslands. This part of the foothills was not covered with
stones and deep gullies as the northern side was. Farmers were in their
fields preparing the soil for their spring crops. Cows, pigs and sheep
were everywhere. This part of Gondor had been protected from the
ravages of war. It had been most necessary to guard it at all costs;
this was the breadbasket of Gondor. Denethor wished Indis could be here
to see the flowers. Spring lay rampant on the land of Lossarnach; she
would so love to see the wealth of flowers.
Morwen’s village was situated on the banks of the River Erui. As
the party approached, her family came out, smiling faces on these
swarthy men of Gondor. Morwen started to dismount, but Thengel was
there and offered his hand. He was still madly in love with his fair
wife and never hesitated to show it. Denethor smiled. Being motherless,
he had no training in how to treat a wife. He could not imagine his
father doing the same. Morwen introduced Amdir to her father. Then,
Berthil started to show Thengel, Denethor and Amdir their rooms, but
they stopped him and asked, most politely, if they would be allowed to
bed their horses. Thengel, being a true horseman, would not allow
another to tend his mount. The rest of the company bivouacked in the
The festivities ran late that evening and Thengel chafed at the delay.
He was ready to spend some time alone with Morwen. Good manners
dictated a different course. Finally, the men started for their
shelter, Denethor and Amdir headed for their rooms, and Thengel made to
take his wife to bed. Berthil stopped him. Morwen gave her father a
puzzled look, then left the men to themselves.
‘I would speak with you sometime during your visit, my Lord,’ he
said. ‘It is about my daughter and our coming to Gondor. Her mother and
I both are at a loss without her near. You yourself know well what
separation can do. Would you consider this?’
Thengel was dumbfounded. He shook his head, but only to clear it;
however, Berthil assumed it was a denial of the request. His face
flushed red under the darkening from the sun. He turned to go. Thengel
immediately put out his hand and gently took the elder man’s arm in
his. He profusely apologized.
‘Forgive me. It has been a long journey and our staying up late has
addled my brain. It is a simple enough request. I will speak with
Morwen before the end of our time here. Tomorrow is a long awaited day
and I will not consider a thing of such import on short notice. Please
forgive me if this does not meet your approval. I had no idea that you
would consider leaving your farm.’
‘I understand, my Lord,’ said Berthil and walked Thengel towards
his room. ‘We will speak of this when you return – that should be in
two days time, if I remember your letter correctly?’
‘Yes, we should return on the night after next. Keep your fires lit
and we will find the house, though it be late for our return. And do
not fret over this request. It is an honorable one and not to be taken
lightly. I will think upon it while we are away.’
Denethor waited until all were asleep and then, packing up his
bedclothes, he made for the door. Amdir was there to greet him.
‘I wondered what you would do on this trip,’ his smile held pain.
‘What are you talking about? I am just going to shake these out. I … I found a spider on them.’ Denethor hesitated.
‘As at every camp since we started our patrols together?’ Amdir asked.
Denethor interrupted him, ‘Come, let us be outside. We do not want to wake the household.’
‘I followed you, my friend, the last time you took early guard outside
of Forannest. You remember, we were strengthening the wall of the
Rammos there. We spent three nights. One night, I had risen early to
play a trick on you, and found your bed empty. You were not in the
camp. I was concerned that you would be found out and decided to search
for you. And I found you. By yourself, some far distance from the camp.
You were not up yet. In fact, you were in the midst of a great
struggle. In your sleep. One in which you cried out often. Curunír was
the name most used. I waited till you quieted down, and then went back
to camp. I have followed you every night since then. And left you at
Denethor hung his head in shame. ‘Amdir, I would keep naught from
you except that which is shameful to me. I cannot shake myself of these
dreams. The wizard haunts my days, if I am not busy on other tasks, and
terrorizes my nights.’
‘When we get back to Minas Tirith, Denethor, I will go to the
healers and say I am having nightmares. They will give me something to
help. You know they still have a great wealth of remedies from the days
of Númenor. They surely must have something that will help stop these.’
‘To be free of them, Amdir!' Denethor sighed. 'Please leave me now.
Get some sleep yourself. I saw a little shepherd’s dwelling as we came
over the ridge. It will make a fine place for tonight.’
‘And what of tomorrow night, Denethor?’ Amdir asked.
‘We will leave tomorrow to tomorrow. Now, go my friend. I will be fine. See you in the morrow.’
Rain greeted them as they awoke early in the morning. Thengel was
sorely disappointed but Amdir, ever ready to enjoy life, suggested they
start out anyhow. The rain could let up; the sky did not look dark nor
was it filled with black clouds.
‘It’s just a spring rain, light and swift. I’m sure it will end soon. Why should we let a little rain stop us?’
Denethor had overheard them and wondered what rain would do to an
investigation into the activities of wargs. The rest of the company was
still eating when Amdir brought their horses forth. Denethor started
and gulped down the last of his ham. He grabbed his cloak and quickly
mounted. Thengel and Amdir were already galloping north towards the
foothills of the Ered Nimrais. What was their hurry, he wondered, and
why was not the rest of the company coming with them?
Third Age – 2945 – Part Two
They had risen at dawn and now it was almost three hours hence. It
seemed to Denethor that neither Thengel nor Amdir had any intention of
stopping. They were almost on top of the mountain so to speak. They had
left the gentle farmland behind and were truly in the foothills. They
had slowed down as they drew nearer to the mountain and as the terrain
became more difficult, but still – they did not stop.
Many times during the ride, he would call out and question what they
were doing and always, the only answer he received was a smile from
Thengel and a chuckle from Amdir. He was beginning to think this was no
warg hunt. Finally, he settled back in his saddle and relaxed. His
friends were up to something, no doubt. But that something was
definitely not dangerous – they were riding alone - with the rest of
the company sitting back on Morwen’s farm. He wondered what they were
doing. Ecthelion would be none to pleased to think that a whole half
company of his top horse soldiers would be spending a day sitting at a
farm. Yet, that thought made him smile. The men were a good lot and
deserved a day’s rest. Perhaps this was Thengel’s thought. Again,
Denethor smiled – this time it was at the thought of Thengel and what a
captain he had turned out to be. And what a friend. Denethor found more
and more that he turned to the elder for council. Amdir was as close to
him as his shadow, but Thengel was his teacher. And he was grateful. He
taught him how to lead men and gain their respect and confidence. He
taught him how to measure a situation and then deal with it. He showed
him how to react in crisis with as little loss of life as possible. He
taught him to respect his men and their lives. Denethor slowly forgot
the reason his father had placed him under Thengel’s tutelage and drank
up every bit of knowledge the Rohir would give him.
The stumble of Rochallor brought him out of his revere. He gently
patted the horse's neck to reassure him. He looked about and discovered
that they were following the River Erui. In fact, Thengel and Amdir had
definitely slowed their forward progress and were searching the terrain
– for what, Denethor did not know. Small willow trees grew on the sides
of the river. The water was clear and rushed singing from somewhere
above them. Thengel pulled up on Nahar’s reins and smiled.
‘Here. This is a good place,’ he said and started to dismount.
Amdir jumped off his horse, took off the saddle and started wiping Hros
Denethor looked at them, amazed. ‘What is this about?’ he asked.
‘This is about you, Denethor,’ said Thengel. We were patrolling the
area at the base of the Falls of Rauros when your birthday passed this
year and were not able to give you any presents of worth. This, dear
friend, is your present – two days of spending time with us.’
Denethor groaned. ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ he sarcastically asked.
Amdir laughed. ‘You have been a friend and a pain and we are paying
you back for it.’ ‘Now get off your poor horse, let him rest and eat,
and find us some nice long willow sticks. We are going fishing!’
‘This does not seem to be the proper time for fishing. Captain,’
Denethor used Thengel’s title to add weight to his plea, ‘we must be
about Gondor’s welfare and that means patrols and…’
‘Listen to me, dear friend,’ Thengel had come over and placed his
hand on Denethor’s shoulder. ‘Do you remember the night before my
wedding, when I suggested that you let Gondor go for a moment and
relax? Well, now that time has come. Turgon will have no more of
defense; we are relegated to fixing fences and doing patrols. So, while
we have this moment, we are going to rest, think of what is best for
Gondor as we sit by this stream, and plan for when your father becomes
Steward. We will be hard put to rest then.’
Denethor knew Thengel was speaking true. It was difficult for him
to relax. Life had been hard and strange for almost as long as he could
remember; especially since his encounters with the wizard. Perhaps he
For two days, the men walked this small part of the river –
together sometimes and sometimes alone – each had found his honey hole,
his favorite spot. They would eat as they fished, tell jokes over the
rushing water, and slowly Denethor felt himself smiling again. The
river was clear and clean. Denethor had discovered the trick of finding
nooks and eddies where the water lay quiet. There the fish hid and he
found them. It was a battle, he thought to himself, between the fish
and him. One would hide and one would find. He discovered it was not
easy to catch a fish. The worms they used were not active – early
spring cool accounted for that – and, try as he might, the first day he
could catch nothing. Amdir was gloating. Already he had four on a
stringer and Denethor had not one bite. But he would not be
discouraged. He found the exercise relaxing. He watched the fish in the
little pools. Sometimes it seemed his hook would land so close that he
felt he could hit the fish on its head, yet the fish would not bite.
‘Hmmm,’ he thought aloud and Amdir laughed. ‘Having a little trouble there, Lieutenant Denethor?’
Denethor could do naught but chuckle. ‘I will learn this fishing thing and I will catch more than you, I promise you.’
Thengel had walked down from a little spot further up the stream. ‘I
believe it is getting close to sunset, my friends. Time we gathered
firewood and settled down. I have heard that fish like early morning
cool for their eating time. I am sure that is why I have caught none.
Wrong time of day, sun in my eyes, hook too straight, not sharp
enough,’ he had started a list of excuses. Both Denethor and Amdir
hooted with laughter.
As Denethor collected the firewood, Thengel set up a small tent and
Amdir cleaned his fish. He insisted they be called his fish and even
marked on a log near the fire, the length of each fish. Denethor knew
what that was for. Tomorrow, if he caught any, Amdir would hold them up
to the log and probably howl with laughter over the ‘littleness’ of
Denethor’s fish compared to his own. Denethor sighed, but it was filled
with fondness. Amdir would die for him, he knew it, but he would give
no ground when it came to this fishing!
Denethor had found some wild rice during his firewood foraging and
he brought the few stalks back to their camp. It was early for wild
rice and the pods were small, but this would do. Enough to give them
something to add to their repast.
Thengel brought out some bread that Morwen’s mother had packed. The
banquet was becoming quite substantial. They laved their hands in the
freezing river, stood and turned towards the west, and gave up their
moment of silence. Then they sat and ate and were grateful.
After the meal, Thengel brought out a small flask of wine which
Morwen’s father had urged upon him. The fire was warm against the cool
of the night. They were close to the snow line and their backs were
cold, but the wine, along with the fellowship of the fire, filled them
with warmth. Their talk had started out good-naturedly about fishing
and the prowess of Amdir, but gently moved towards Gondor and its weal.
Denethor found himself frowning again and willed his brows to unknot.
He took another drink and forced himself to relax. Thengel saw his
struggle and smiled.
‘My Lord Denethor,’ he intoned, ‘do you not wish to tell your subjects what causes your brow to furrow?’
Denethor laughed – how could he not! The smile left his face and his
eyes turned dark. ‘Gondor has changed just since I was a young boy. My
father has changed, he asks me to do things that, I believe at another
time he would not ask. I have seen Turgon take on the visage of an old
man. I have seen a wizard...' He stopped for a moment, took a deep
breath, shook his head, and continued. 'There is evil lurking in the
land we do not name. I had not expected change. I am not sure why, but
I find it troublesome.’
‘Look about you, Denethor. This mountain stream has not changed
since man came from Númenor. The change you see is transitory. Gondor
itself will not change. The land will not change, nor the White
Mountains, nor the plains of Rohan. People will change and adapt to...’
He did not want to bring up the subject of Mordor, nor what terror it
seemed to hold. He did not want to speak of such things here in the
beauty of the mountains. Yet it would be difficult to speak of Gondor
without speaking of the future. He sighed. ‘There is evil coming; we
cannot not speak of it. Yet, there is good also in Gondor and in Rohan.
Trust your people, Denethor, your men and your friends. Change will l
come; but you are learning how to adapt to it.’
They leaned back on the logs before the fire and drifted into
silent thought. These men, stalwart and strong, were Gondor’s hope. One
was Rohan’s hope. Slowly, Denethor felt peace. He closed his eyes.
Third Age – 2945 – Part Three
For almost two years he had suffered the nightmares. This day – he woke
to find he had none. Relief flooded his entire being. He had fallen
asleep by the campfire; he remembered that. Now he awoke in the tent,
alone. Where were Amdir and Thengel? He quickly threw on his tunic and
left the tent.
The fire was glowing and there was water boiling gently upon it. A
small package lay next to it, filled with bread and cheese and tea
leaves. Denethor looked around him. Upstream, he saw the head of Amdir
showing through a break in a great rock outcropping; and further ahead
of him, was Thengel.
He coloured slightly. He had slept well into the morning and his
companions had left him to rest. Gratitude filled his heart. He could
not remember a day since he had started his training, what – was it
eight years now – that he had slept in. He found it a glorious
But nonetheless, if they thought that leaving him to sleep would assure
them the spoils as fishermen, they were sadly mistaken. Smiling at the
thought, he quickly threw together his tea, grabbed the small package
of food and his willow stick and hurried to where he hoped fish would
come to him.
A touch of fog lay on the ground burning off slowly as he found his
nook and quickly baited his hook. He had tried to see what might have
been the catch for his companions so far this morning, but they were
hiding them. Denethor shrugged and forced himself to relax. He had
noticed the fish seemed to bite when there was stillness within him and
quiet around him. He would not sit; he would stand. Focus, he told
himself, and had to laugh at the memory of Cranthir during their
Stewards and Kings games and Gwinhir during his training with the sword
saying the exact same word. They would laugh to see him focusing on
Slowly the morning passed and not a fish was on his stringer. He
decided sitting might be more beneficial. Perhaps his shadow was
frightening the fish. Finally, he could stand no more and walked to
where Thengel stood.
‘Are you doing well?’ he asked.
‘As well as can be expected for this late in the morning,’ laughed Thengel.
A hint of red touched Denethor’s face but he refused to give ground.
Then a smile broke thhrough his chagrin and bad-temper and he clapped
Thengel on the shoulder.
‘I have caught nothing. The fish sit in front of me and laugh,’ he
said. ‘I have used every resource I know; I have even watched Amdir to
see what trick he might be using, but to no avail.’
Thengel laughed. ‘Did you lave your hands before baiting your hook?’
‘Why, no. I finished crushing the tea leaves, drank my tea, and then baited the hook.’
‘Ah! Therein lies your trouble. The tea leaves are bitter and the fish
can smell the bitterness on your bait. Lave your hands in water
upstream and try with fresh bait. That should help.’
Contentment came with fish. It was a strange thing to think. But it was
true. He sat by his honey hole, his stick resting in his hand, and
contemplated the feeling. It was a feeling he was not accustomed to.
Long days of training and study, long hours on patrol, and longer
discussions with his father centering on the preparedness of Gondor
left little time for contentment. Yet, today, in fact these past two
days, he was filled with this new sensation. He relished it. He did not
want to lose it. In fact, he dreaded the thought of the end of this
time of peace. Peace – not a word he had ever associated with Gondor –
and yet here he sat, on the slopes of the Erid Nimrais, contemplating
peace. It wrenched at his heart. How long were his people to endure the
horror of war and death and evil? He laughed and scowled at the same
time. It seemed he was not even allowed one moment of peace, for
Gondor’s weal was ever in his heart and his thoughts.
Thengel came over and sat beside him. The two men, one in the prime of
his life and the other just beginning it, mused in silence. Thengel had
been watching Denethor and had seen the shoulders slump. He thought he
knew the reason too. So he had left his fishing and joined his friend.
‘Life is very short, Denethor. Especially for the Rohirrim. Yet, you
have a longer lifespan than I. You should not spend it in dark
thoughts. Here is the grandeur of Gondor and of Middle Earth before
you. Drink it in, Denethor. Let it lighten the load. You have only to
look out your window on any morning or any evening and see the world at
your feet. The glint of the sun on the White Tower should bring only
joy to your heart. Do not be troubled by the future. Live today. Know
that you have friends who will sustain you when difficulty comes. If it
be my fate, Rohan will ever be at your call.’
Amdir walked over and sat also. ‘Amdir too, my Lord, will always be at your call.’
Denethor laughed. ‘If anyone saw us, we would be laughed at. Friends at
hand, fish ready to eat, a mountain spring bubbling at our feet, and
our faces drawn in scowls and frowns.’ He laughed again and Amdir and
Thengel joined him. ‘I believe it is time for a telling of who is the
better fisherman. Time to take our fish to Amdir’s log and gauge our
success...or my lack of the same, for in truth, I have caught nothing.’
Thengel laughed. ‘I will not even question the superiority of Amdir’s fishing. I cede to his prowess.’
‘How am I to gloat if neither of you offer me the chance?’ Amdir fumed.
‘All the trouble I went to yesterday to measure my fish and for what?’
‘Well,’ Denethor said, ‘you can always bring the log back to Minas
Tirith with you. I could find a carpenter to hang it in your quarters
and we could come in on cold winter nights, Thengel and I and any other
who might want to – to sit and admire it and the prowess that it stands
for.’ He ducked out of the path of the log as it flew from Amdir’s
hands. ‘Foul, foul,’ he cried and fell to the ground laughing as Amdir
rushed him and pummeled him mercilessly. Laughter spilled from them
‘I am sorry, my friends,’ Thengel pulled them apart. ‘We have a long
ride ahead of us. It is time to eat our fish, excuse me, Amdir’s fish
and depart this place.’
What had been a hard climb towards the top of the mountain proved even
more difficult on the descent. The horses had to pick their way
carefully through the rocks and uneven terrain. The men were silent and
watchful. At last, they reached the sloping hills of Lossarnach. The
sun was warm on their backs as it well advanced in its westward path.
Thengel was becoming anxious to see Morwen again. Separation from her
was difficult. He saw her face in his mind’s eye and sighed deeply. It
was delightful to have her by his side. Denethor smiled. He knew where
Thengel’s mind and heart were. It was good to see his friend this way
and he wondered if ever he would be of like mind. His heart turned
towards dark thoughts, but he pushed them aside. He had decided, up on
the mountain, that he would focus on only good. He knew it would be
difficult. Young as he was, life had been hard and his thoughts were
often dark, but no longer. He had friends who trusted him and loved
him, and he would not soon forget the lessons learned on this outing.
The night was spent in song and drink and fellowship. Berthil had laid
out a grand feast and invited many relatives and friends from the
surrounding area to join them. Not often was there time for laughter
and joy. The spring had been harsh, but the crops had finally been
sown. It was a good moment for rest and friendship. Morwen sat in
Thengel’s lap, much to the consternation of her father, but she would
have none of his scorn. Too often Thengel was gone on patrol. She was
going to enjoy this time with him - time away from his duties, from
Minas Tirith and the crush of responsibility that lay upon him. She ran
her finger down his cheek and he looked at her, winked, picked her up
and went towards their room. None stopped him for delight was plain
upon his face.
Third Age – 2945 – Part Four
The morning dawned bright and beautiful. Denethor realized he loved a
spring sky better than any other. There was a cleanness about it. A
sharpness. Berthil and Thengel had been deep in conversation during the
morning meal and Denethor had wondered at it, but they soon said their
good-byes and left the farmland behind heading southward toward the
River Erui. Before they retired, Denethor had requested that route for
their way home. He had studied the Battle of the Crossings and wanted
to see the site. Thengel thought it would be a good idea too. He had
been happy in the change of countenance on Denethor and another day
away from his father would only be helpful. There had been no messages
for him when they had returned to the farm and he deemed all was well
in Minas Tirith.
The ride was long but they did not push their mounts. They followed the
river as it rushed headlong over the terrain; it ran cold and bright
from the winter snowmelt. Thengel thought they might even try their
hand at fishing again. They had stopped close to the border of Lebennin
about a league from the battle site for their midday repast. They sat
and Denethor recounted the battle between Eldacar and the cruel
usurper, Castamir. It had been a bloody battle that should have quelled
any further division in the land, but it only gave fervor to the
Corsairs. Umbar had been taken back, but then lost again. There had
been no peace between the descendants of Castamir and of Eldacar since.
Morwen was feeling a little ill and lay quietly as the men talked, some
skins thrown down for her to lie upon. Thengel gave her a glance and a
smile. How could anyone be so beautiful, he wondered? He walked towards
her, water in his hand, when he heard shouting further off and saw dust
rising from the hooves of horses. Ciramir rode up to him, his horse
lathered from the exertion.
'Corsairs!' he screamed. 'Headed this way and running hard and fast.'
'Get Morwen out of here!' screamed Thengel, mounting Nahar at the same time and riding forward to meet the enemy.
Never before had Denethor fought. Never before had he actually been on
an enemy-filled battlefield. The hairs on his arms stood up as he faced
the foe. His mind whirled...I am not ready, I am not ready, it seemed
to scream. But there was no being ready – it was time to fight or time
to run. Running was unthinkable. Thengel was before him; Amdir to his
left. The rest of the horse soldiers were behind them. The Corsairs
were before them. Great swarthy men dressed in rags it seemed. And
faces, getting closer, dressed in hideous scowls. The noise from their
throats was deafening. Denethor tried to count them, but they were too
many. He cursed himself for bringing his friends here. Then he cursed
himself for that. If they had not come, the folk of this area would
have been slaughtered. Perhaps fate had worked on his side. He drew his
sword as his body shuddered. It took all his strength to lift it. It
felt strangely heavy, this sword; he had wielded it for the last three
years. In fact, he remembered at this year's birthday, considering
getting another as this one was getting too light for him. Strange. But
no longer time for thought. A Corsair ran past the already busy Thengel
and rushed Denethor. Denethor swung his blade hard and quick, but not
quick enough. The enemy dodged the blow and retaliated with his own.
Denethor's speed from countless practice sessions saved his life. He
quickly moved Rochallor to the right; the foe sliced to the other side
and left himself wide open for the blow that finished him. No time for
rest or breath, for another of the enemy came at him, full on. The blow
dropped him from his horse and Denethor struck Rochallor on the flank
to get him away from the battle. He had a moment to settle his feet and
thus was able to give a full swing to his sword, neatly severing an
arm; the foe fell. He smiled. Another and another came. Would they
never stop? He looked wildly about for Amdir. He could not be found.
Fear gripped Denethor's heart, but there was not time for searching as
another of the foe attacked. Blood was everywhere. His hands slipped on
his sword; he wiped one on his tunic and continued. Off to his left he
saw Thengel fighting furiously – a wide smile covering his face. He was
enjoying this. He had been dismounted too, but it did not slow him
down. Denethor marveled. He had not been caught up in the battle fever.
Fear still lingered too close to his heart.
He felt the blade before he saw it, his thigh igniting in pain. His
hand automatically went to clutch the leg, but instinct told him to
hold on tight to his sword. He swung blindly at where his foe should be
and was rewarded with the feel of flesh being cut. His sword had found
its mark. The enemy lay dead at his feet. He felt the warmth of blood
streaming down his leg, but another was upon him. Furious, he did not
wait for the charge, but flung himself forward. Another lay dead. And
so it went on for days and nights, or so it seemed. Time and feeling
had left him. The battleground was all his mind saw and felt. The noise
was horrific - men yelling, horses screaming, the clash of metal on
metal, metal on leather. A moment came, one moment when none attacked
nor were near enough for his blade to do damage. He straightened
himself and looked about. The field was cleared of their foe. His ears
were blocked; no sound filtered through them. He shook his head to
clear them. Thengel standing a short space away, saw Denethor and
smiled. Denethor returned it, but somewhere in the haunts of his mind,
he was missing something. What was it? The field was deathly quiet. The
ground seemed to move gently. It was the bodies of the wounded trying
to free themselves from the dead who weighted them down. Denethor
shuddered. Amdir – that was what was missing! Where was Amdir?
'Thengel, Thengel,' he cried in fear. 'Have you seen Amdir?'
'I have not – not since the battle was joined.' They both turned,
looking in a great circle, searching the ground for their lost friend.
'I am here,' a quiet voice answered their shouts. 'I am all right. No, I am not all right - but not wounded.'
Denethor rushed to where the voice came from, far towards the edge of
the battlefield. In truth, his friend seemed unharmed. Yet, something
'Amdir. Where are your wounds? Thengel, bring the healer here.'
'No, no, please Denethor.' The plea in his voice was unbearable.
'My friend,' Denethor said, 'what is wrong? Are you so grievously wounded that there is no hope?'
Thengel came up to stand beside him. Amdir was now openly weeping.
'How did this happen?' he looked up at Denethor through his tears. 'One
moment I was next to you, waiting for the attack, and the next moment I
found myself turning away.'
Denethor sat down - stunned. Thengel shook his head.
The silence was appalling – almost as appalling as what had occurred. A
tear slid down Denethor's cheek as he looked at his friend.
'There will be other times to show your courage, my friend. You know
now what fear can do. You will be ready for it the next time. You will
not run. I know your heart, Amdir. I trust you. You will not fail us
again.' Denethor spoke with quiet conviction. He was making no excuses
for his friend; he knew him. He knew this encounter with fear would
make him a better soldier of Gondor, if he was challenged to use it.
Thengel smiled in approval. Denethor would one day make a great leader.
He rose to stand and collapsed at the same moment. He had forgotten his
wound. Luckily, it was not deep. Amdir jumped up in alarm.
Denethor laughed. 'Do not be concerned, my friend, it is but a scratch
and the wielder of the blade is lying dead on the field. There are
others with greater need than mine. Go to them and help the healer.'
The fires burned bright that night as the men tried to dispel the
darkness of their thoughts as they buried their dead. How could
Corsairs have come so far north and none know of it? From which way had
they come? Defenses were poor indeed for such a large troop to have
come so far, unheeded. It boggled the mind. They had been on the very
doorstep of Minas Tirith! Where were the soldiers who were stationed at
Pelargir? Thengel, Denethor and Amdir sat in quiet discussion.
'Long has my father warned me of this day,' Denethor said. 'However, he
feared the name we do not speak. The Corsairs seemed to not be a threat
in this age.'
'How could they have come so far north and not be seen?' Amdir asked for the hundredth time. 'Where are the southern patrols?'
Thengel shrugged. 'Turgon has stopped them. He said there was no need.
He deemed the need was closer to Minas Tirith. We cannot now go to
Pelargir ourselves. Morwen must be returned to Minas Tirith and
Ecthelion must know of this attack. I will send a small patrol down the
Anduin and wait for their report.’ He sat in silence for a moment.
‘No!’ He pulled together his bedclothes and stood up. ‘We must go now.
We dare not wait till morning. We will not rest until we reach the
Great Gate. Though I am loath to lay this trip upon Morwen.’
‘Perhaps we should go back to Berthil’s and leave her there?’ Amdir
asked. But Thengel would not hear of it. With the enemy so far afoot,
he dare not trust her anywhere but behind the walls of Minas Tirith.
Morwen, however, had taken a turn for the worse. The healer cautioned
Thengel and said she was in no condition to ride. Thengel was beside
Denethor sat in silence. All his long life it had seemed his father had
been in battle with Turgon. Today's combat proved Ecthelion had been
correct; that Gondor was ill prepared for the future. Perhaps it was
time for Turgon to use the gift of Eru and sleep. No, his mind
screamed, not Turgon. There must be a way to break through this cloud
that hung over him, that prevented him from listening to Ecthelion.
Denethor could not bear the loss of Turgon. He became aware of the
debate going on around him, rose and looked at his friend. Amdir and
Denethor knew what must be done.
‘We will ride ahead to Minas Tirith and bring back help. Our numbers
are too few if there is another attack. It would be better if it were
just the two of us, less noise and less likely to be seen.’ Denethor
knew Thengel’s heart was torn. ‘It is little more than 15 leagues and
the South Road is flat and fast. We should be there and back by
morning, barring any difficulties. We will have a cart follow behind,
to carry Morwen back.’
‘You cannot go. You are wounded. The ride will open the wound again,’ cried Thengel.
‘It has been sewn closed and will not open. I will be of no use to you
in battle if more of the enemy are about. It would be better that I be
the one to go. Our party is now very small and with Ciramir off
scouting the land, who would you have?’
‘Go then, but be wary. This might have been a small troop, but it also
could have been a wayward patrol separated from a larger force.’ With
that Thengel slapped the flank of Denethor’s horse and they were off.
Pickets were set, the fires were lowered and the remaining men tried to
sleep. They dead had been buried, another group of mounds on an already
Third Age - 2945 - Part Five
Both Denethor and Amdir rode hard. The sky was overcast and they had
nary moon nor stars to guide them. But the road was still in good
condition and their undertaking was great. Neither spared a moment for
a word; they focused solely on where they were heading. Each man's head
swirled with his own thoughts.
Denethor's were solely on Gondor and what this attack meant to it. He
shuddered at the thought of how incredibly vulnerable they were. For
the Corsairs to have come so close to Minas Tirith - it was
unthinkable. Were there others along the way? Was this the forward
thrust of a larger force or the rear guard of such a force? That
thought sent his heart racing. Perhaps they were too late. Perhaps
Minas Tirith was already under attack. He spurred his horse faster. No
sooner had he prompted the horse to the faster gait, than he pulled
Rochallor up again. They were all tired, horses too. They had been on
the road, or in battle, since early morning. He had to give his mount a
moment's rest. Hros and Amdir needed rest too. Killing the horses would
serve no purpose.
Amdir too was deep in thought. The shame of the afternoon was still
upon him. Denethor's words had been consoling, but now, in the dark and
away from the battlefield, his heart sank. After all the training he
had been through, after all the mock battles that they had practiced,
still, when the fight was upon him, he had run. His face reddened at
the thought. He knew it had happened to others. Never had he thought it
would happen to him. Thoughts of Ingold filled his mind. What would his
father say? That thought, however, brought comfort. He knew his father
would speak to him the way Denethor had. 'It is not in the running that
a man is judged,' he had heard him say before, 'but in his coming back
to the fight.' Amdir knew this was just the beginning of Gondor's
fight. He would do everything he could to not make the same mistake. If
he had to chain himself to Denethor, he would be in the thick of it. He
pulled Hros up as Denethor slowed.
'We will walk the horses for a short distance and then give them
freedom to run again,' Denethor said. 'I can hardly stand this pace
though. We should be near Minas Tirith.'
The spike of the White Tower was suddenly before them. The moon,
recognizing the need for reassurance for these men of Gondor, broke
through the stifling clouds and lit the spike, mirroring the ghostly
light back into Denethor's eyes. It was all he could do to not rein in
Rochallor and stare at it in wonder and awe. This was one gift he
wished for his sons, if ever sons were given him, and that would be
that they would love Minas Tirith with every fiber of their beings as
he did. He gulped a quick breath of air and forced himself on.
It was well past midnight, but the torches by the Great Gate blazed. A
lone silver trumpet rang out its call as they passed inside - a Lord of
Gondor had returned. Turning into the Rangers' barracks next to the
Court of Kings, Denethor was met by Captain Inlach in his night attire.
It weighed heavily upon Denethor that the Rangers had come to such an
end - not even one guard on duty before their barracks - something
would have to be done about this. But he pushed that thought into the
back of his mind for there were greater issues pressing him onward.
'What is this need of yours that brings you here at this hour?' Inlach asked.
'Quick, a steed for myself and Amdir. Ours are spent from our journey
and we must needs speak with Ecthelion immediately. I do not trust our
horses to endure to the seventh level at the pace we must needs set.'
'As you wish, my Lord. Hurry,' he said to an underling, 'bring two horses to Lord Denethor.'
'And make sure our horses are tended well,' Denethor shouted to the servant as he mounted his new steed.
As they hurtled up each level, Denethor chafed at the distance. He
remembered as a child wishing for a horse to make this interminable
climb swifter; here he was again, wishing for a speedier route. They
left their mounts at the stable on the sixth level and hurried forward.
As they reached the escarpment and strode towards the Steward's Hall, a
guard stopped them and pointed toward the White Tower
'Lord Ecthelion is waiting for you there, my Lord. The trumpet woke
him. He bids you enter.' He motioned them forward as a chamberlain came
and requested they follow him. Denethor nodded his head as the guard
left, acknowledging his service. Ecthelion bid them sit, but Denethor
strode toward him, greeted him with bowed head and hand upon his chest.
And then began to speak.
'Captain-General,' he used his title. 'Great evil has come to Gondor. A
troop of Corsairs attacked us at the Crossings of Erui. We destroyed
them, but we lost many.' Anguish touched his voice. 'Father, it is as
you have dreaded. Gondor is under attack.'
His leg throbbed and he looked for a seat. 'The Lady Morwen is ill,' he
continued, 'She cannot be moved. Thengel has sent scouts to search the
land - to see if more of the enemy are about. But there are so few of
the company left, they will all be lost if we are not swift in sending
A servant brought mulled wine, bread and cheese, but Denethor turned
his head. Tears were so close. Amdir sent the servant back for the
'We will send help, however, I will not involve Turgon in this. It is
late and haste must be of paramount concern, but we must also use
caution,' Ecthelion said as Ingold, Gwinhir, Durahil and Inlach entered
the chamber. The healer followed behind them and quickly evaluated
All in the room listened attentively as Denethor obeyed Ecthelion and
told again, but in greater detail, of the attack and their flight to
Gondor for help. These Captains and Masters of Gondor were dumbfounded.
Denethor knew their hearts blazed with fury as they thought of Corsairs
on their beloved roads and their defiling feet on the land of Gondor.
They said nothing, however, and waited upon the Steward's Son.
'As I said as you entered, we will send to Thengel the rest of his
company, plus another. They will leave at dawn.' He held up his hand as
Denethor started to speak. 'A cart will be needed and I want it
protected along the way. Haste without wisdom creates a fool's errand.'
'I am going with them.' The entire company turned towards the even, low voice.
'I forbid it!' Ecthelion said as Indis stepped from the shadows. She
had entered unnoticed with the others, saw Denethor was being tended
to, and stayed by the door.
'Forbidden or not, my Lord, I am going,' she said as she stepped to her
brother's side. She put her hand on his shoulder. 'Morwen will have
need of me. She is with child.'
Denethor felt as if a sword had cut him once more. He should have
known; he cursed himself. She had been most anxious to see her parents.
Nothing Thengel had said would dissuade her from taking the trip. Now
he understood so many things, her tiredness at each phase of the
journey, her wanting to be near her mother almost the entire time they
had been at their homestead, her illness. He thought of his own mother,
lost at his birth, and he would not have that happen to Thengel.
'Father, we must be away now.'
Ecthelion's face had whitened at the news. Rían's cold, white
face looked at him from the grave. 'Yes, assemble the companies
immediately. The cart will follow. What healer is with the company now?'
'Arciryas,' said Denether.
Ecthelion turned towards Indis. 'If you are going, then wake Master Healer Adanedhel. He must accompany you.'
'I would be one of the company, if my Lord allows,' said Amdir. 'And I, Father,' entreated Denethor.
'Neither of you have slept since the night before last, according to your tale. You must rest. And you, Denethor, must heal.'
'Father,' Denethor looked beseechingly at the healer, 'I am well enough
to travel. The wound was tended well after the battle.' The healer
nodded his approval. 'I must go to my Captain. He has great need of me.'
Ecthelion knew of what need his son spoke. Loath as he was to agree, he
could not forbid his son this request. 'Go then, but in the cart, the
both of you, and have your horses follow behind. Rest as you can on
that ride and then aid Thengel as you may.'
It seemed the whole of Minas Tirith was awake, all but Turgon, asleep
in the Steward's Hall. Morwen had held Indis close, and then bid her
sister good-bye. She must stay by the Steward. She knew she could not
dissuade Indis from her path, but helped her pack warm robes and
clothes. Firieth, newly assigned to the Master Healer, helped pack
ointments, herbs, healing droughts and cloth for bandages and gave them
to Indis as she stopped by the Houses of Healing to fetch Adanedhel.
The soldiers left the city, hearts deep in sorrow. All knew what they
might find when they arrived at the Crossings - perhaps the entire
company dead, Thengel and his men, and the kind Morwen. The pace was
set and the company quickly outdistanced the cart and its occupants.
Denethor chafed to be riding in a cart instead of at the forefront with
his fellow soldiers. Amdir quietly bid him rest and Denethor knew he
The first pale fingers of the sun were starting to streak the sky as
the company drew close to the Crossings. Fires could be seen, lit in
the distance. Denethor had wakened an hour earlier and was heartened to
see the light. Corsairs would never light a fire so close to Minas
Tirith. He fervently hoped it was Thengel's fires that he saw, not
those of the rescuers.
He scrambled from the cart ere it stopped and searched the area for
Thengel. A sob caught in his throat. Thengel was standing apart from
his men, his shoulders shaking. Denethor knew the news before asking,
but found compelled to ask, 'Is the Lady Morwen well? Has she begun to
Thengel turned slowly towards his friend. 'The child is lost.'
Adanedhel and Indis had run to the tent that held Morwen. Dropping to
her knees, Indis quickly hugged her friend. The healer evaluated her,
shook his head, and spoke with Arciryas. 'There was nothing I could
do,' he said. 'The babe was dead ere it was born. I have tended to
Morwen's needs, but alas, there was nothing I could do.' He shook his
head in sorrow. This was the first babe he had ever lost. And for it to
be his Captain's son!
Indis sat next to Morwen, holding her head and rocking her gently. Her
tears mingled with Morwen's. 'I suppose I should not have come,' Morwen
sobbed. 'I knew I was with child, but I so wanted to speak with my
mother. I had not even told Thengel. Never let him speak to the child
within me.' Her sobs increased as the warmth and love of Indis
penetrated the darkness that had lain about her since the healer had
told her the babe was lost. She kept running her hand over her stomach,
wishing that the child was still within. 'Indis!' she suddenly wailed.
'Indis!' And Indis held her as if she herself were a child and helped
her friend release the anguish.
Ciramir and the scouts had returned. The camp was struck and the
decimated, wounded army turned north. Denethor shook his head. Nothing
would be the same.
Third Age – 2945 – Part Six
Indis held Morwen. Thengel’s beloved sobbed and slept, sobbed and
slept. Arciryas road alongside the cart, his face contorted with pain.
He had seen men die before, had cut off limbs, had told families of the
death of their loved ones, but never had he felt this before. It cut
him deeply. Life was supposed to have been here, and joy, and the
promise of a future. Now there was just death in all its finality. His
Captain road at his side, head bowed, tears long spent. Thengel would
look towards the cart when Morwen was awake, trying to impart some
measure of comfort to her, but she would look away when their eyes met.
The world tore apart every time she looked from his face. His heart
tore with it. He had failed miserably. The little things that he had
been so very glad to do, help her off her horse, rub her shoulders
during the day, hold her close at night, all was for naught. When she
really needed him, he was gone. No good did it do to tell himself he
had been needed at the battle. He knew with every fiber of his being
that he did what he must. But riding alongside her negated everything,
everything. No wonder she would not look at him.
Morwen retched suddenly and Thengel called a halt. The constant crying
was taking its toll on her. Indis hugged her more closely and offered
her water. ‘Indis,’ she whispered for the thousandth time. ‘What am I
to do? I have lost our child. Look at Thengel, how he looks at me. He
is angry, I know it. He must hate me. Oh, Indis, what am I to do?’
‘Hush, you silly child. Thengel is dying inside. He loves you. He would
cut off his arm before he saw you in pain. The look he is giving you is
one of comfort. Can you not see it? There is no anger in him, except
perhaps at himself for leaving you, but no anger at you.’
‘Anger? At himself?’ Morwen asked, shocked.
‘Yes, anger at himself for leaving you, my dearest, for leaving you.
Thengel dismounted and approached the cart. He shook. How would she react to his presence? ‘My beloved, how fare you?’
Her eyes darted this way and that. She looked quickly at Indis who
smiled at her. He gently reached out and touched her shoulder. She did
not recoil. He breathed a sigh of relief. ‘My beloved, do not turn your
face from me. Please. Do not take your love from me. I could not bear
to lose you.’ Indis beckoned him into the cart. They sat together - he
holding her hand in his; she sobbing quietly.
The men had ridden slightly ahead and stopped. Every soldier there
loved Thengel. In varying degrees, they felt for their Captain. Death
on the battlefield was one thing – one thing they all understood. But
this loss was unthinkable.
Denethor and Amdir turned in their saddles to watch their friend. He
sat in the cart next to Morwen. They could not hear – did not want to
hear – but the droop of their Captain’s shoulders told them volumes.
Ciramir ordered the company to stand down. Some dismounted; some took
dried meat from their packs and ate. Others lay on the ground, glad for
‘Did you...’ started Amdir.
‘What is it?’ asked Denethor.
‘Nothing. I’m sorry, nothing.’
‘Seriously, Amdir, did I what?’
‘Did you think during the battle or did you just kill?’ Amdir asked.
Denethor still reeled from the battle, their headlong rush to secure
help, the loss of Thengel’s child. He sat heavily upon Rochallan.
Ciramir rode over. ‘Come, let us walk for a few moments.’ Denethor and
Amdir did as he requested and the three men dismounted and walked away
from the company. ‘I would hear your thoughts also. Forgive my eaves
Every now and then Denethor shivered at the sight of the men that he
killed. His first battle; his first kill. Would he be able to forget
their faces? He was embarrassed. The fear started again in his gut. He
did not want to go back to that time.
Ciramir sensed his thoughts. ‘There is no reason to fear the battle,
nor your reaction. It is over and done with. Now is the time, in the
sunlight and in the company of friends, to speak of it. Your first
battle. There will never be another like it. It is good to examine it
and your reactions to it. This will help you become a better soldier.
It will also prepare you for the next battle.’
‘And what if I say that fear ran rampant through my heart and my very
being?’ Denethor snapped angrily, now thoroughly embarrassed.
‘Then you would have answered correctly. Once you lose fear, Denethor,
you will be dead. Never let pride in your ability overcome your fear.
Welcome fear and use it to focus on what you must do. You did well
yesterday. I watched you – you did as you were trained. There was one
moment when you were distracted and that moment almost cost you your
life, but you recovered.’
How could Denethor tell Ciramir that that moment was when he could not find Amdir?
‘You too, Amdir,’ Ciramir continued. ‘You must remember this. Fear
drove you from the battlefield. You should have grabbed it, clasped it
to your heart and used it. Instead you let it drive you to another
horror, one that will be with you until you are tested again.’
Amdir hung his head and Denethor pitied his friend.
‘I...I see their faces,’ Denethor said quietly, almost in a whisper. I
almost wish I had left the field of battle myself. The moment of
Ciramir put a hand on Denethor’s shoulder. ‘Sadly, you will lose that
horror, Denethor. One face will soon meld into another. It is not good,
but that is the way of it. A soldier’s life...a soldier’s burden. I do
not believe the men of Númenor were created to kill. Because of
the lies of the one we do not name, Westerness is no more and we live
with the evil he has unleashed on our land.’
‘Ah, I see Thengel has remounted. Let us go.’ Said Ciramir. ‘Remember,
the both of you, what I have said. There is no shame in fear, no shame
in remorse over killing, and no shame in relying on your friends to get
you through the battle. However, remember what is at stake. Gondor! And
we who fight for Gondor know – it is all for Gondor.’