Ten Thousand Years will not Suffice
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Age - 2948
Dancing, that is when Amdir fell in love with her, when he saw her
dancing in the moonlight in Dol Amroth. He had discovered her as he
searched for Thengel – but the quest for Thengel was immediately
forgotten in the beauty of this woman before him. And now, now he would
dance with her himself, wrap her in his arms, and find joy at the
closeness of her. They were to be wed. His mind reeled at the prospect
of it, the total unbelievably blessed thought of it. Ecthelion had
given his approval. Early spring, when the flowers in the gardens of
his mother blossomed and spread their fragrance in the air, that was
the time granted for the troth pledge. How could he ever endure the
wait? They were no longer able to spend time alone together. Tradition
dictated a time of separation, a time of preparation, for love to be
tested by distance. If only he could go on patrol somewhere far away
from the City, perhaps it would help ease the pain, the tightness in
his chest as he contemplated the months apart. But Thengel would not
allow it. He was relegated to constant training, schooling and
practice. He had twice been cut by blade when his mind had wandered to
the thought of her face, her smile, and been reprimanded vehemently by
the sword master. Yet no physical pain erased the pain in his heart. He
would see her now and again on the City’s streets, walking with Indis
or Morwen; she would look the other way following the law of Gondor,
causing his heart to tear into tiny bits. This could not be for the
good. What kind of tradition would keep two such as they apart for so
Denethor, helpless in the face of his friend’s distress, was as morose
as he. There was nothing he could do to cheer him, though he had taken
him to ‘The Three Fishermen’ on various occasions trying to lift his
spirits, take his mind off the woman he loved. Nothing was gained;
Amdir was lost in his despair. Finally, Denethor went to Thengel.
‘Please, I ask you as friend, may I take a company or a half company to
Rammos Echor or perhaps Cair Andros on the pretense of patrol for
Amdir’s sake? We will only be gone for a week, no more, but I cannot
abide looking at his visage, wracked with pain as it is.’
Thengel sighed. He did not understand the traditions of Gondor, but was
foresworn to uphold them. He was well aware of the suffering of Amdir.
He had hoped the training would be enough to take his friend’s mind off
his love, but then he smiled to himself. Had training ever given him
surcease from thoughts of Morwen when they were separated?
‘You will have orders in the morning,’ he said and was quickly engulfed
by a fervent hug from his friend.
Their orders were for two weeks; their destination was to be Cair
Andros. Denethor rejoiced at his good fortune. His mind tried to
envision an excuse that might take him towards Henneth Annûn. The
thought of the men there, waiting for relief, and the anger of his
father if he knew he disobeyed his orders, were dismissed as quickly as
the thought came. He would not lose this opportunity. Who knew that his
needs would be fulfilled at the same time as Amdir’s? A full company
was to be at his command. Never before had he been given a full
company. When last he had been to Cair Andros he had a full company,
but most were left to garrison the island. Now, they would be his. The
thrill of command ran through him at this unexpected grace. One week
later, the company rode out of the City, with the Steward’s banner
flying in the hands of Denethor’s aide, Dúinhir of Blackroot
Vale, newly come to Minas Tirith as a recruit. Denethor’s face shone
from the thrill of it - his own company, his family’s banner flying,
his friend at his side. Could life be any better? The only thorn in
this was his decision to contravene his father’s orders. It could not
be helped. He had given his word. Hot blood coursed through his veins
at the thought of his shame at the breaking of his promise. He would
have to be careful; he would have to device a way to meet with
Findegon. How would he tell him of the refusal by Ecthelion to relieve
them of their post at Henneth Annûn - brave men, left to rot in
that cave, when replacements were available. Anger burned him afresh.
He could not bring replacements, but he could offer his deepest
regrets. There was nothing more he could do.
Amdir, too deeply engrossed in his own thoughts to notice the agitation
of his friend, rode in silence. His thoughts, as ever, were upon his
beloved. A slight smile creased his eyes as he thought of his use of
Thengel’s term for Morwen. Appropriate, wonderful term – beloved. His
eyes shone with the memory of her. This march was doing nothing to
relieve his need to be near Listöwel, but he knew that Denethor
had risked much to take him from the City, to take his mind from the
forced separation. He rode closer to him and touched his arm.
‘My friend. I have not thanked you.’
‘For what, Amdir? We are obeying orders, that is all,’ Denethor said
with a laugh.
‘Nay, my friend. I know that is not all. You saw my distress and you
have used this patrol as a diversion. I know Thengel was against it. I
know that you put your friendship with him at risk. I cannot thank you
‘Amdir, you are friend to Thengel also. It was not difficult to remind
him of that. He values your friendship, as do I. We three are stronger
when we are of one mind. Today, we are of one mind. We will spend this
time building up Cair Andros along with our friendship, and when we
return, we will take Thengel to ‘The Three Fishermen’ and amuse him
with tales of our adventure. I look forward to that more than anything.’
‘Is that really all this trip means to you?’
‘Aye. We are following orders, that is all.’
‘You speak of us being of one mind. I suddenly feel that there is more
upon your heart than Cair Andros, my friend. Tell me, before you bring
sorrow or shame upon yourself. What other actions are you planning?’
Denethor took a deep breath. ‘I am being foolish, Thengel would think.
But I cannot, have not, been able to forgive my father for making me
break my promise to Findegon and his men. I cannot do this thing. I
cannot live with myself. I must go to Henneth Annûn and explain
what has happened. I cannot relieve them, but I can at least... Amdir,
how am I to endure this shame? I was foolish, yes, by saying that they
would be relieved before I had father’s permission. But it seemed so
apparent to me that there was such need. How could I have ever known
that father would stay his hand in helping them? They have been there
too long. And Damrod is now relegated to banishment, unbeknownst to
him.’ His shoulders slumped and Rochallor slowed his pace as his
master’s hand loosened his grip.
‘I believe it is time for us to set camp, my Lord.’ Amdir pulled his
own horse up. He turned to Dúinhir and commanded the lad to set
Denethor’s tent. The rest of the company dissembled and set up camp for
They sat next to each other in front of the fire, all discussion stayed
by the enormity of Denethor’s plan. Amdir set aside thoughts of
Listöwel; he now feared too much for his friend. This course of
action that Denethor contemplated would spell disaster for him. Amdir
could not understand Denethor’s compulsion to destroy himself for the
men of Henneth Annûn. They were soldiers; they had foresworn
themselves to Gondor’s care. How would he be able to persuade Denethor
to set aside this action? Was his pride such that he would invite
punishment and perhaps demotion? Shame for his friend blazed in his
‘By the Valar, Denethor, if you do this thing, you will surely... Do
you not remember when your father banished you from his household? If
you do this thing, you risk banishment again. Is your pride worth this
price? These men are soldiers. They do not expect you to disobey on
their account. They would be ashamed to have you challenge the orders
of their Captain-General. Please, I beg you, do not do this thing. Not
only will you have to bear this, but I will have to bear the shame and
regret, knowing that your concern for me led you to a path that would
cause your destruction.’
The air crackled with the vehemence of Amdir’s plea. Denethor sat in
stunned silence. ‘You speak wisely,’ he sighed at last. A shake of his
head and an arm around his friend’s shoulder told Amdir that his words
had hit home. ‘I... I would turn from your words of caution and
concern, if I could, but the words you speak hold only truth in them.
What price pride? Surely pride would be destroyed by disobedience. How
could I have thought to do such a thing? This shame has gnawed at my
heart these past months and have pushed aside thoughts of my duty to my
liege lord. I owe you much, Amdir.’
‘No more than I owe you, my Lord. No more than I owe you.’
The weeks passed quickly and Amdir breathed a sigh of relief as they
finally turned towards Minas Tirith. He had not slept well since he had
discovered Denethor’s scheme. Every morning, he had quickly scanned the
company to make sure Denethor was still with them and had not run off
in pursuit of his lost honour. He would never tell Thengel how close
they had come to losing their friend. The horror of it still shook
Amdir when he considered what might have been.
When they returned, they found Morwen was again with child and Thengel
beside himself. The joy that shone in his face spread to all who came
anywhere near him. His laughter filled the air. Denethor loved being
around him though he did not understand this compulsion to continue
begetting offspring. It was not the way of Gondor. Indis was taking it
all in stride, rejoicing at the tasks set before her, and loving every
moment of caring for Morwen, ordering clothing, and all the myriad
tasks associated with the birth of another child. Forgotten was the
long labor and the struggle and the fear that attended the birth of
Hild. It was different this time, she told herself. Though it had only
been months since Morwen had given birth, Indis was sure Morwen's body
was ready for another. She yearned to share in the thrill of this time
before them and Thengel was not above wrapping his arms around her,
swinging her in a small dance movement, and sharing the joy of the new
life with her. Indis so loved this man and his joy of life. That he
would include her in his family’s happiness was beyond her
understanding. And her gratitude was deep.
Denethor was going to introduce Thengel to a carpenter of renown. The
two friends were oft seen in the barrack’s dining hall, heads bent
together over sketches of cradles for the new one. Thengel seemed to
have a knowledge of woods and insisted that the baby’s cot be made of
oak. The finest oak, Denethor knew, grew in southern Ithilien. They
would gather a half company of the Horse Guard and make a sortie into
that land in two days time. Hild had been placed in a cradle made for
Denethor, but there were none other available that Denethor felt worthy
enough for Thengel’s newest addition.
The good-byes lasted too long from Denethor’s point of view. They would
only be gone a few days, yet the good-byes were such one would think
they were leaving for two years! Listöwel and Morwen and Indis all
gathered around the soldiers and Denethor’s face burned with shame at
the ruckus around them. Would Thengel never call the men to task and
take them away from this noise? At last, they were on their way. The
smell of horses, the snap of the banners as they rode the streets of
Minas Tirith, set Denethor’s heart skipping. He had finally been able
to put away his despondency over Henneth Annûn and concentrate on
his training again. But this sortie would be a blessed relief to the
dull routine of that training. Perhaps, he would be able to stop at
Emyn Arnen and speak with Findegon’s kin. Ecthelion had said naught of
that. He smiled a little at the thought. Some measure of honour might
yet be saved.
The ride towards Ithilien was full of soldiers' banter, horses'
hooves throwing dust into riders' faces, and the smell of fresh air,
herbs, and trees starting their spring bloom. A perfect day for a
soldier – except for this soldier. It had been almost a half year since
Denethor had left Findegon. Why would that name not leave him? Why did
the visage of that man keep rising to greet him at the beginning of the
day and sleep with him at night? Why? Was it guilt? He knew he was of a
melancholy nature, but this was beyond melancholy. It was a fixation.
Perhaps Findegon reminded him of Cranthir – they would both be of the
same age, of the same Ithilien legacy, if Cranthir had lived. How was
he to free himself from this shadow that haunted him?
Amdir guided Hros next to Denethor and smiled ruefully at the sight of
the scowl on his friend's face. What could be bothering him, now, he
wondered? 'Hallo, have you gotten us lost?' he laughed.
Denethor's scowl grew deeper. 'Not in my charge today are you, so you
have no fear of being lost.'
'Ah, is that what makes you so grim? You are not in command?'
'You have so little...' A sigh escaped Denethor's lips. 'It is because
of me that Thengel is traveling this path. I was the one who told him
of the oaks in Ithilien. Would I offer such of Gondor's wealth if I had
not expected Thengel to take the company himself?' he spat out.
'You are in some mood today, my friend, but it will do naught to take
away my joy at traveling at your side.' For a moment, the grin left his
face as he thought of what he had left behind in Minas Tirith. Then he
shook himself and smiled again. 'My Lord, will you not tell Thengel of
our adventures in the wilds of Ithilien chasing flowers?' He outright
laughed now and Denethor was hard-pressed not to join him. Finally,
after these many long years, the shame of that adventure was mellowing
and becoming a favored tale.
'You yourself may tell the saga tonight, my friend,' Denethor did
laugh. 'We will be very near to the spot at our crossing this day.
Perhaps we two could turn left and find the field. I wonder, much as
your mother loves the iris we brought back, perhaps we should dig up a
bunch or two more for her.'
'We would not even be able to find them,' Amdir said. 'They will not
bloom for another two months. Neither of us would have much luck
locating that field. If you remember, we almost didn't find them then
and the field was fully bloomed!'
'Nay, it was your constant chatter that kept my mind from focusing on
our quest. You forget how often I begged you to restrain yourself. You
were so loud the birds flew from us. Any hope I had of concentrating
was lost every time you opened your mouth.'
'I did not open my mouth for nothing, my friend. If you remember, you
were frightened near out of your wits and it was my merry mouth that
kept our spirits lifted. And I would do it again for you – any time!'
He side-stepped Hros from the arm that flailed towards him and beat a
path towards Thengel's side. He had accomplished what he had set out to
do – put a smile on Denethor's lips.
The company was passing Emyn Arnen on their right as they approached
the Harad Road. Denethor brought Rochallor next to Thengel, put his
hand on Thengel's arm and asked if they might stop for nuncheon.
Thengel was surprised. He had planned on eating on the road; the men
had plenty of dried meat and water to keep them until they set camp.
But Denethor's look told him there was more in the simple request than
thoughts of food. The mission they were on was mostly personal and
could be delayed for a time.
'Come, while the men tend the horses. I need to speak with you,'
Thengel said, giving his friend an excuse for their leaving the company
and a moment to collect his thoughts once they had dismounted.
'My Lord. You have been our Captain for many a long year. And I have
learned much from you during this time. You have been kind to share
your thoughts with me, your burdens on leading the men. I now have a
question that I cannot answer myself. I am distraught with pondering
it. May I...may I share my concern with you?'
'Denethor,' Thengel put a hand on his friend's shoulder, 'you have only
to ask.' He walked forward in silence, waiting.
'Ecthelion says that I must not contact Findegon.' The sigh was torn
from his lips. 'I have always obeyed my father. Well, most of the
time,' he groaned as he saw the look in Thengel's eyes. 'But now, this
is...I must ask you. When does a soldier have the right to disobey?'
Thengel drew in his breath slowly, trying desperately to answer his
friend truthfully without being treasonous himself. He lowered his
head, tied his golden hair back, and sat on a rock cropping. He
motioned for Denethor to sit next to him. 'I have questioned your
father's orders myself,' he said at last. 'To leave the men there,
after seventeen years of service with no respite, is reprehensible
enough, but to not send further orders? I do not understand it. There
may come a time when a soldier must disobey. However, there must be a
grave breach in the Laws of Gondor before a soldier may even consider
such a thing. Now, we must deliberate - has there been a grave breach?
Is it right to leave men to die with no knowledge that they are being
left to die?' Thengel shook his head. 'Is that what Ecthelion is doing
– leaving them to die? I am not sure. He said the Rangers of Minas
Tirith are not ready to be sent to man Henneth Annûn. That does
not establish a reason for not sending orders to the men already there.
We are bound to obey Ecthelion, but we are also bound to obey our
hearts. My heart says we must honour our fellow soldiers. But my heart
also says we must obey our Captain-General. I believe he has valid
reasons for doing this; I believe it is not a grave breach of the Law,
but I do believe it is a breach nonetheless. I cannot tell you what to
do, my friend. But I myself will obey Ecthelion in this. I will promise
you, though, once we are finished with this business, I will again
approach him and strongly urge him to send errand-riders with new
orders. What say you to that?'
Denethor lifted his head. 'Aye, my Captain,' he said, grief momentarily
lifting from him, 'I will abide by your decision. And I will hope
mightily that Ecthelion will change his mind. Or grace us with the
knowledge of why he is doing what he is doing. I must tell you this,
though, we are near to Emyn Arnen. The families of those very men are
living here. May we go through the woods instead of the Harad Road,
find their encampment and make sure all is well with them?'
'Aye, it is a good thought. I would want the same for my family.'
The smell of fires burning reached Denethor's nose before he saw the
encampment. It smelt almost like venison was being cooked, but he was
unsure. It is nuncheon; all is well, he thought. But all was not well.
The fire he smelt was of burning cottages mixed with the pungent odor
of burning flesh – not deer. His mind suddenly recognized the smell for
what it was as did his companions'. Thengel quickly stopped the company
and drew his men close. 'Denethor,' he hissed, 'take a quarter of the
company towards the east, circle the camp and wait for my signal.
Amdir, you do the same on the west but follow through to come up from
the south. Ciramir, you take the last quarter and guard my left flank.
Now, go, quietly.'
It took only moments to encircle the small encampment and Denethor
waited. The signal came and the men charged, not able to see through
the thick trees what they were about to do battle with. Fear lay cold
on their minds; righteousness blazed in their hearts. As they burst
through, they found no enemy; only the dead lay to tell of the cruelty
of the attack.
Thengel sobbed as he saw little bodies lying next to cruelly hacked
women. There were only a few bodies of men strewn about - young men at
that; none with the knowledge of how to protect their charges. Denethor
remembered that Findegon had said their sons were guarding their homes.
He had made a fatal error in not leaving some of his veterans in the
camp. The only blessing about the camp was its size; too little for a
full scale attack. The casualties would be few. It seemed the enemy was
a small band – but of what. Orcs, Corsairs, Haradrim? Who had come to
this corner of Gondor and brought death? The defense had been so poor
that none of the enemy lay slain. Thengel set pickets outside the camp,
Ciramir took a scouting party to make sure that none of their foe were
left in the area, and Amdir and Denethor were assigned the duty of
searching for any left alive – friend or foe – in the burning huts,
while the rest of the men were given grave duty. Bodies were still warm
and fear held the soldiers as they watched their backs while digging
the burial holes. Denethor and Amdir wrapped cloths around their faces
and braved the flames. There could be little ones alive. Denethor shook
as he entered the first shelter. It was empty, much to his relief. The
next three were empty, but he heard cries as he approached the fourth
one. The flames were beyond the thatched roof and pieces of it were
falling into it. He called Amdir and they both ran in. On the floor
under a cot was a tiny child, dark from the soot falling around it. The
only reason Denethor saw him was because of the eyes which shone
brightly with tears. His mother must have hidden him in a blanket under
the cot in the hopes of saving his life. Denethor quickly scooped the
babe up and ran out; Amdir stayed to make sure there were none others
left behind. The roof started to collapse around him and he cried out
Listöwel and Indis were laughing at Morwen’s discomfiture. ‘If you
think you feel awkward now, remember how you will feel in just a few
month’s time,’ Elleth laughed. Morwen grimaced. Of course she
remembered. How could she forget the large abdomen, the swollen feet,
the... ‘Nay, I will think on it no longer. Nor will I grumble again,’
she said sheepishly. ‘At least for this day,’ she laughed and all four
women began giggling. They all spoke at once of how difficult it would
be for Morwen not to complain and tripped over each other’s words in
the delight of their friendship. Elleth brought more tea into the
little sewing room and the scent of orange blossoms filled the air. ‘I
believe next time we get together we must try some of the wine Thengel
‘Ah,’ Indis laughed, ‘if we did that we would surely sew two arms on
one side of our dresses and end up looking like Orcs. I can just see
Elleth cried with laughter. The sight of the four of them entering the
Great Hall dressed as Orcs was too much for her. Her friends saw the
look on her face and broke out in laughter too, their fear of Orcs
overshadowed by the absurdity of the vision Indis had brought to mind.
Morwen cried out, ‘We must get on with our sewing. There is so little
time left to us and I really do not want to be bending over such fine
work as my stomach grows!’
Indis smiled and hugged her friend. ‘We will not even consider your
helping us in your later days.’
For all the laughter, the sewing was going well, she thought. They were
concentrating on Listöwel’s attire for the moment. They had many
months to prepare for the babe, but only a few for the troth pledging.
It was to be in May. Indis took great delight in knowing the couple had
unwittingly chosen the day of her own birth for their special day.
Minas Tirith would be covered in flowers; that was all the decoration
that Listöwel would allow, the natural beauty of the gardens of
the City in full bloom.
‘Here, look at the color of this flower,’ Listöwel cried. ‘Is it
not perfect for my attendants’ dresses?’
Morwen looked in horror at the bright orange chrysanthemum in the
picture Listöwel held up. She could just imagine herself in such a
color, looking like an oliphant. She had said this out loud and the
others howled their delight.
The dresses were not going to be finished this day, Indis thought to
herself. But of what matter was that when friendship was being sewn.
‘Amdir!’ Denethor screamed the name as he watched in horror as the roof
collapsed upon his friend.
Thengel, still mounted, drove Nahar towards the hut, dismounted and ran
into the burning building. Denethor had passed the child to a startled
soldier and was right behind his Captain. The stunned men watched as
the side wall of the hut collapsed. Flames and smoke billowed from the
open door as the remaining walls tilted crazily. No sound could be
heard in the encampment – no sound but the crackling of fire and the
crashing of roofs, walls and trees, caught too near the conflagration
to be saved.
One of the men quickly grabbed a bucket, ran to the well in the center
of the encampment, filled the bucket and ran to toss its contents on
the flames. Others followed his lead. Buckets, carrying too little for
the task, were quickly filled, emptied, and filled again. The men
worked furiously, always with their eyes upon the door – waiting. Near
to seventy men kept up the work, those closest to the flames being
relieved every few moments by those closer to the well. They were
making headway – the flames were lessening but the smoke was increasing
making it more difficult to see as they dumped bucket after bucket on
the fire. The smoke had changed from deep black to white and the men
knew their battle was almost over. And still – no one came through the
Ciramir’s patrol had returned upon sighting the billowing smoke. He
feared the enemy had swung around behind them and were attacking the
company. They rode fast and hard back to the camp. He could not
understand the chaos that greeted him as they came out of the forest
into the clearing. What were the men doing? What was the haste? And
where was his Captain? He jumped off his horse and grabbed the nearest
man by the collar.
‘What is going on here?’ he yelled over the bedlam.
‘Men are caught in that hut. We are unable to rescue them.’ He pulled
himself away from the hand gripping him, picked up his bucket and ran
to the well.
Ciramir’s heart froze. Where was his Captain? He motioned for his men
to join the bucket brigade and ran towards the hut. His eyes searched
the site. Where was Denethor, Amdir, Thengel?
‘Soldier,’ he screamed. The flames were crackling as they swept through
the dry wood of the hut and drowned out all other sounds. ‘Where is
‘My Lord, he is inside the hut along with Lord Denethor. I know not who
else is with them.’
‘What were they doing in there?’ he cried in fear and frustration.
But the man could not hear him, or did not wish to answer, or was too
heartsick to reply.
Ciramir saw that the fire was slowly being extinguished. But it would
still be sometime before it was totally out. We must do something, he
thought; we cannot wait like this. He ran towards his own patrol and
motioned for his men to follow him. They ran to some nearby fallen
trees and started pulling them towards the hut. An axe was found and
branches were struck from the trunks. Then they ran towards the fallen
wall of the hut. Ciramir stopped his men.
‘Listen to me. We cannot wait for the flames to subside. We must
venture a rescue now. Who will volunteer to help me?’ All hands went up
and the men ran ever closer to the hut dragging the shorn trees behind
them. It was desperate work and Ciramir had little hope of success; but
hope was all that was left to them.
It was only mid-morning, but Morwen was starting to feel the pangs of
hunger. When she mentioned it, her friends giggled. ‘Eating for two,
this one is,’ said Elleth. ‘Come, let us to the kitchen. I had started
bread this morning. It has proofed twice and should be ready to put
into the fireplace.’ She had punched the dough down an hour ago and
placed it into two greased baking pans. ‘There are cheeses on the
sideboard; Listöwel, why don’t you bring them to the table and
cube them. Indis, there are fresh vegetables in the cooling bin. We
shall have a lovely meal. Oh, and some herbs from the garden. And bring
some chamomile leaves in too. That should help our dear Morwen’s tummy
so she can eat with ease.’
The women, starting about the business of preparing nuncheon, were
stopped suddenly by a moan from Morwen. ‘What is it?’ they all cried at
‘Some fearful thing has happened. I know not what.’
‘Is it the child? Are you having pains?’ Indis cried in distress.
‘No, no it is not I.’ Shivers ran through her body and Indis ran to her
and sat her in a chair by the table.
‘What is it, dearest sister-friend?’ she begged as she knelt by her
‘It is said that night oft brings news to near kindred. Oh dear Indis,
I fear for Thengel. Even though it is full day, something in my heart
tells me that night has settled on him whom I love.’
Listöwel’s face went white.
The flames were not as strong on the open side of the hut. The men took
the tree trunks and braced them against the front and back walls as
close as they could get. The fire seemed to be concentrated at the
other end where the three walls were conjoined and dried firewood had
been piled for the occupant’s winter heat. Part of the patrol held back
the walls with the tree trunks while others started dragging out cots,
chairs, clothes, anything that was burning. Their gloves were soon
smoldering. Others climbed over the broken furniture and shards of the
fallen roof, still ablaze in this area. They shouted Thengel’s name and
then Denethor’s as they pushed aside debris in a desperate hunt for
their comrades. The noise of the fire, the smoke blinding them, and the
shouts of the bucket brigade all conspired to keep them from finding
the lost. Their throats were raw from yelling, from smoke, and from
Dúinhir, Denethor’s aide, upon seeing what Ciramir’s men were
about, ran into the hut himself, pulling aside everything in his way
like a wose of the Drúadan Forest. His head moved to and fro,
from right to left in his frantic search. At last, he cried out so loud
that all could hear, ‘My Lord!’ and tugged at a cot near the door.
Pulling a body from under it, he swung it over his shoulder and ran for
the opening. Ciramir was next to him immediately and tried to take the
body from him, but the lad would not let go. He ran towards the center
of the square and then gently laid his burden down. Arciryas, waiting
to do something, anything to help, ran to his side and bent down to
look at the man. He drew his breath in sharply. The blackened face was
indeed Denethor’s. Sobs racked Dúinhir’s body.
Ciramir, finding new hope in the discovery, ran back into the hut
towards the place where Denethor was found. Nothing there. He turned
towards the other side of the door and his heart stopped and swelled
all at the same time. It was Thengel. He gently picked his Captain up
and ran into the open. Running towards the spot where Denethor lay, he
placed his Captain down before the healer. Arciryas stopped for a
moment and turned towards Thengel. He laid his head upon the Captain’s
chest and listened. Noise was everywhere. He pled with Ciramir to quiet
the troops and Ciramir stood and bellowed, ‘Silence!’ Immediately, all
quieted, but the buckets continued to be passed from hand to hand.
There was one still left in the hut.
Arciryas looked up at Ciramir. ‘They both live, but are sorely burned.
I must have men. I have brought no unguents for burns; only salves and
creams for wounds. We must send the men to find aloe plants and
lavendar. Oh, and Comfrey root, we must find some for their lungs.
Ciramir looked at him as if he spoke Dwarvish.
‘My Lord, I have no idea as to what these plants are or what they look
like. How are we to find them?’
‘My Lord,’ a soldier stepped up close. ‘I know these plants. I will
help find them, if I may.’
‘What is your name, soldier?’
‘Baranor, my Lord, newly recruited from Lossarnach.’
‘Ciramir, send ten of your men with this man. All these plants grow
here in Ithilien. Even though it be winter’s end and they lie dormant,
still their medicinal qualities will not be diluted. Baranor,’ he
turned toward the soldier, ‘go as quickly as possible. Haste is our
greatest weapon now. Please!’
Ciramir sent off ten men with the soldier and another ten towards
Osgiliath for reinforcements and for a cart to carry the wounded back
to Minas Tirith. Then he turned towards the hut. Amdir was still
missing. His Lord would never forgive him if they found him too late.
By now the conflagration was diminished to small fires here and there.
The hut itself looked wretchedly despoiled. The roof was gone, a wall
was missing; it looked pitiful. Men were pulling out the last of the
rubble. Still, there was no sign of Amdir. Ciramir shook his head.
Where could he be? A soldier came up to him.
‘My Lord, the men are looking in the wrong places. Amdir was already in
the hut when the roof collapsed. It was only then that Denethor and
Thengel moved to rescue him. He cannot be near the door.’
Ciramir shoved the man aside and ran towards the back of the hut. The
last of the furniture was still here. He pushed a cot aside and knelt
in the soot. Tears sprang to his eyes. Only nineteen and to be wed this
spring. Gently, he lifted Amdir and strode towards the square. The men
all stood back, buckets hanging useless at their sides. One or two of
the men kicked their buckets in anger and frustration. ‘All for
naught,’ he heard one man say. He looked up. ‘Our Captain is alive,’ he
said loudly, ‘and Lord Denethor also. There may still be hope for this
one. Start a fire and boil water. I want clean cloths found and cots
set up. Get them from the other huts and place them next to the healer.
Then finish your burial duty. Dúinhir?’
The lad came to him, swiping tears from his eyes. ‘Yes, my Lord?’
‘I am raising you to the rank of ensign. I need you to take two squads
and sweep the area. We are most vulnerable now. We must not be attacked
unawares. The pickets are still out, are they not?’
‘Yes, my Lord. They know their duty. They have not left their posts,
though some are great friends of the wounded.’
‘We all are great friends of the wounded, Dúinhir; you also,’ he
put his hand on the lad’s shoulder. ‘I wish I did not have to put this
burden upon you, but fate has happened that you are next in command of
those left able to fight.’ A small humourless smile touched his lips.
Dúinhir placed his hand upon his chest and bowed. ‘My Lord, we
will do as you bid,’ and walked off. In short order, the patrol road
off into the woods. Ciramir shook his head. Almost as soon as men were
recruited, they were either dead or promoted.
His mind stirred and bits of a wizard's words trickled through the
darkness. 'You will die in fire and ash.' He wanted to go back into
nothingness, to hide from that voice. Not only was his mind torturing
him, but the faint touch of wakefulness brought incredible pain with
it. His body trembled. Someone was pressing cool cloth to his forehead,
but his hands were on fire. Fire - now he remembered and his eyes flew
open. 'Amdir,' he tried to cry, but only a whimper came from his
cracked, bleeding lips.
'Shhh,' a voice whispered in his ear as his eyes, too tired to stay
open, fell shut again. 'All is well, my Lord Denethor. Rest now,' and a
cool draught was poured down his throat. The world drifted away again.
Gratefully, he sank into its darkness.
Ciramir stood. How would they ever get back to the City? They could
move none of the injured. And yet, fear lingered in the back of his
mind. Osgiliath had yet to answer his call. Where was Húrin? Was
this massacre a ruse by the enemy? Perhaps the foe was even now
attacking Osgiliath, or worse yet, Minas Tirith? He shook his head. I
must stay calm, he thought. There is nothing more to fear. The pickets
are out, Dúinhir is patrolling the land, and I am tired. He
walked towards his Captain. Thengel sat propped against a tree; he had
refused the offered cot. Ciramir squatted down next to him.
'My Lord, should I send others to Osgiliath? Night has fallen and still
no reply. Five leagues is not that far. Someone in Osgiliath should
have seen the smoke and sent a patrol out long before our errand-riders
even left here.'
Thengel looked at him; the tiredness in his eyes was cruel to see. 'You
should be resting yourself. How long has it been now - you say we have
been here the better part of eight hours - most of it with you and the
men fighting the fires? You have worked tirelessly. Sit, here beside
me, and rest.'
'But you, yourself. How fare you, my Lord?'
'It hurts to take a breath and my head aches, but Arciryas says if I
keep drinking the comfrey tea, I should feel better soon.' A fit of
coughing racked his body. After a few moments, which increasingly
alarmed Ciramir, the hacking ceased. 'Please, sit with me.'
Trying to sit as cautiously as possible so as not to cause his Captain
further pain, Ciramir positioned himself on the ground next to him. He
laid his head back against the tree's harsh bark and closed his eyes.
He told himself it would only be for a moment.
Baranor walked up to the two men. 'My Lord Thengel,' he whispered, 'you
should sleep yourself. Arciryas has prepared this draught of valerian
tea for you. It should help you sleep, and you must needs sleep now.
Please drink it.'
'In a moment,' Thengel said, the thought of the pungent smelling tea
almost nauseated him. 'Tell me, how is Denethor?'
'He woke for a few moments but is asleep again. He is restless. The
valerian seems to do naught for him. I believe he worries for Amdir. He
calls his name. Arciryas says he will recover. It will just take time.'
Thengel looked at the lad. 'Dúinhir has been promoted; he will
no longer be Denethor's aid. Will you now take that post?'
Baranor was stunned. 'Yes, my Lord, if that is your wish.'
'It is my command. You have shown yourself well this day. He was afraid
to ask the next question. 'And Amdir? Is there hope for Amdir?'
'Arciryas has not stopped his ministrations. He had the men place him
in a trough of water for a few moments as soon as they brought him out
of the fire, as they did for Denethor and you afterwards, then he made
a poultice of aloe and lavender. He has been reapplying it to his burns
every few hours, then wrapping him in clean cloth.'
'How much of his body was burned?'
Baranor shook his head. 'His back is difficult to look upon, but it
seems to be where the burn is the worst. Blisters are already forming.
He must have tucked his hands under his stomach for they are unscathed.
And, though much of his hair has been singed, the scalp does not seem
to be badly burned. Arciryas is, nonetheless, very concerned.' If the
lad lived, Baranor did not tell Thengel, it would be a marvel.
The women insisted that Morwen be put to bed. They would call her when
they had aught to report. Indis would go to Ecthelion and inquire as to
happenings in and about Gondor.
'All will be well, my dearest,' she whispered to Morwen. 'It is only
the carrying of the babe that is giving you distress. Thengel, and all
his company, are well. Now please rest. Listowel will stay with you
while Elleth and I go to my Father.' Listowel looked at the two women -
their heads bent together in discourse. She could see the love that
flowed between them. And she wished with all her heart that one day she
would be as close as they.
Elleth and Indis started to run as soon as they left Elleth's home.
Both knew women with child were more susceptible to visions.
Ecthelion was just releasing Húrin and his troops as the women
reached at last the High Court, and the place of the Fountain before
the feet of the White Tower.
Indis stood back for a moment, assessing what was happening. Then she
stepped forward. 'My Lord, why is the battalion from Osgiliath here?
Has something untoward happened?'
Confused, Ecthelion looked at her. 'What do you speak of? Húrin
is here at my command. There is nothing amiss.'
'Forgive me, Lord. I...Morwen had a vision. I was concerned. Now, I see
that all is well. Again, forgive me, my Lord, for interrupting.' She
made as if to turn away.
'What say you about a vision?'
Indis turned back towards her Father. 'She saw Thengel, seeming unable
to breathe and lying against a tree, my Lord. But if Captain
Húrin is here, then she must have interpreted it incorrectly.'
Ecthelion looked towards Ithilien. His face whitened and his hands
clenched. 'There is smoke from the forest. Húrin , take your men
immediately and determine what is amiss. I will expect an errand-rider
Arciryas himself walked over. 'Thengel, you should be sleeping by now.
Where is that draught I sent over?'
'It is here at my side, waiting for me to drink it. The smell would
cause a to Mûmak run for cover.'
Arciryas quietly laughed. 'It is sleep that seems to run from camp this
night. No one is resting and I fear I will have more patients on the
morrow if certain people do not rest.' He looked at Ciramir. 'Though I
see one such has finally taken my advice.'
'He did not take your advice, dear Arciryas. Sleep overcame him
'I would it would do the same for you, my Lord.'
Thengel gave a harsh laugh. 'I myself would this night were over.
Bitter has this day been. My heart gives me more pain than these burns.
I would that we were here earlier to save these people, these
children.' A sob broke from his burnt lips. 'I grieve for them as I
would for my own. Soldiers' children should not die in this manner;
their homes should not be turned into a battlefield.'
Arciryas sat for a moment, bereft of words. 'The men are very helpful,'
he finally said, trying to turn his Captain's thoughts to easier
matters. 'They are not used to doing healing work, but they are
adapting well. I have two men keeping the fires burning and two more
soaking cloth in the boiled water. I have another two stripping aloe
leaves and crushing the lavender for my poultices. Those who are on
'tea duty' do not seem to realize you must cover the tea while it is
brewing to keep the healing qualities potent, but they will learn.'
Arciryas' droining voice nearly put Thengel to sleep.
There was the clamber of horses' hooves and a horn rang out. Thengel
tried to stand but could not. Arciryas held his shoulder. 'Do not, my
Lord, you will undue all the good we have done. It is Húrin . I
can see him from here. Osgiliath has at last answered our call.'
Húrin drove his horse towards where Thengel lay. 'My Lord,
forgive my lateness,' he cried as he jumped off his horse. 'We were
called back to Minas Tirith. Your father deemed Ithilien safe with your
company here. Forgive me!'
Thengel acknowledged the bow and motioned for Húrin to sit by
him. 'I will not ask you the purpose of that summons. Suffice it to
say, I am most grateful that you have arrived when you did. The men are
exhausted. Duinhir has been on patrol for too long. Our pickets need
'And,' Arciryas interrupted, 'our Captain needs his rest.'
Thengel glared at the healer. 'We must decide what action to take now.
I confess I am too tired to think.' Another fit of coughing engulfed
Arciryas looked at him in dismay. Thengel stopped his retort with a
look. 'Denethor is badly hurt but will recover. I seem only to be
burned on my hands and the poultice is cooling.' He smiled at Arciryas.
'Our healer is quite adept at his craft. However, Amdir is in need of
additional remedies. He needs to be in the Houses of Healing.'
'We have brought no cart, my Lord. I will send for one immediately...'
'How is there no cart?' Thengel started in surprise. 'The errand-riders
were told to ask that a cart be brought.'
'My Lord, we met no errand-riders.'
Silence engulfed the camp as the few who were awake understood what
Húrin's statement meant.
'Ciramir,' Thengel gently shook his aide's shoulder. 'Ciramir,' he said
The eyes fluttered open and Ciramir quickly stood. 'My Lord?'
'Ciramir, when was the last time Dúinhir's patrol reported?'
'How long have I slept? No, it was about an hour before I came to your
'When was he to report again?'
'Every four hours, as is our custom. What is wrong?'
'The errand-riders never made it to Osgiliath. We should have sent more
than two men.'
'My Lord,' Ciramir said, 'I sent a full patrol - ten men.'
The sudden chill that swept Thengel was seen by the healer. He quickly
took another blanket and threw it over Thengel's shoulders.
Húrin sat next to Thengel, more to keep the Captain still than
for easier discourse. 'I have brought half the battalion with me. If
you would allow, I will send two companies out to relieve
Dúinhir and another two towards Osgiliath to search for the
errand-riders and to return with a cart. That leaves your company and
my last one to guard this area. Granted, your men are tired, but we
will place extra pickets. My men will take first duty while yours rest.'
'We seem stretched too thin,' Thengel said more to himself than
Húrin, 'but it will have to do.'
'I cannot leave Osgiliath untended,' Húrin said, apologetically.
'Of course you can not. I was not suggesting that,' Thengel snapped and
then immediately apologized. 'Forgive me.'
'Nay, forgive me. If this plan meets your aproval, I will set it in
'Yes, the sooner the better,' Thengel said. 'I would know what we are
up against as quickly as possible.'
Arciryas stepped forward. 'My Lord, Húrin I must beg you to use
your influence upon Thengel. He must rest. He is greviously wounded and
has yet to close his eyes.'
Thengel once again found himself glaring at Arciryas, but nothing would
stop the healer from taking care of his Captain.
In the midst of this, and at the sound of the horn, Denethor awoke. His
head ached terribly and his mouth tasted of soot. He tried to will away
the pain in his hands and to concentrate upon the talk around him. He
did not understand why, but he knew they were in serius trouble. None
heard his moan, he thought and for that he was thankful. The question
he had tried to ask went unanswered. Baranor had heard though and went
immediately to his side.
'My Lord, you spoke?'
'Is that Captain Húrin I see?'
'Yes, my Lord. He brought half Osgiliath's battalion. They are
relieving our men now. Here is some more tea, my Lord. Please drink it.'
Denethor tried to brush the cup aside, but found he could not control
his own limbs. Shaking his head to clear it only made it ache more.
'Baranor, what is happening?'
'It is as I told you, my Lord. We are being relieved. Please, drink the
Denethor lay back, exhausted. His mind whirled trying to make some
sense of where he was at and what had happened. Finally willing it, he
raised his bandaged hand and tried to touch Baranor's face. 'Baranor,
please tell me. Is Amdir...' He found he could not ask it.
'My Lord, Amdir lives. He is badly burnt, but a cart is being sent for
and Arciryas is tending him.'
'Too many words with too little meaning.' Tears of exhaustion and grief
sprang up in Denethor's eyes. 'Is there any hope for him? Nay, do not
answer that. I am sorry I asked. Go and do your duty.'
'My duty is to help you drink this tea and to stay by your side,' he
said as Denethor finally ceased his struggling and drank the tea.
Dúinhir's patrol returned shortly after and were
relieved, pickets were exchanged, and Hurin sat by Denethor's cot.
Thengel had at last fallen into a troubled sleep. But it was sleep
nonetheless. Arcaryis was tending Amdir. Húrin's duty to
Ecthelion had brought him to Denethor's side. Only eighteen years, he
mused. I remember him when he played with frogs and things. How could
time have passed so quickly? Is there ever to be peace so that children
may grow up carefree with a real future before them - not death and
destruction? The lad stirred and Húrin picked up the moist cloth
and wiped the sweat from Denethor's brow. The grey eyes flew open and
Húrin was struck by the depth of those eyes. He had seen
portraits of the Kings of Westernesse and, if ever a man of Gondor
looked like one of those Kings - this one did. Those eyes now burnt
into him and he found he could do naught but answer the unspoken
'We still do not know the enemy we face nor the extent of the damage
done. This village has been wiped out. The only survivor is the boy you
found. The patrol sent to Osgiliath is surly lost, probably ambushed.
New pickets have been - '
Findegon stood before him, his sun-darkened face contorted with pain.
'Denethor,' he hissed, 'what has happened here? Where are my people?'
'I am sorry, Findegon. Your people are dead. The village was attacked
early this morning. We do not yet know the enemies name. We came too
late.' Tears welled up in Denethor's eyes. 'Your people are all lost.
Only one child was found alive. He is over by the third tent.'
Findegon turned and moved towards the tent. Ciramir was instantly at
his side, bidden by a sign from Denethor. The Ranger bent over the
sleeping child and a cry of joy and despair escaped his lips. 'Damrod,
Damrod,' he cried and hugged the babe to his chest. Ciramir walked him
to a stool and helped him sit. A few moments passed. Húrin made
as if to speak, but Denethor motioned to him for silence. At last,
Findegon rose, placed the babe back in the cot, walked over to
Denethor, placed his hand on his chest and bowed.
'Ciramir tells me it was you saved my grandson. I thank you.' Denethor
hung his head. Fate was so strange. Out of all those lost this
day...The burden was too great, he thought, his heart breaking for
'My son was one of those guarding this camp. Would you know where he
is?' Findegon asked.
'Findegon,' Denethor sighed, 'we have buried the dead already. If your
son was here, he did not survive. I am so very sorry. We have swept the
land hoping to find survivors. There were none.'
'Not only my son, but all my kin lost as well. My wife, my son, his
wife - all gone.'
Silence and sorrow engulfed the men. None were untouched by the horror
of the day. For a fleeting moment, Denethor felt the fight was not
worth the price. Perhaps they should desert this area and move west.
But as quickly as the thought came, it passed. He could never leave
Gondor nor Minas Tirith. Again, the memory of the White Tower as they
had returned from Lossernach swept through his mind and the feeling of
joy and awe as he looked upon it encompassed him. No, never could he
leave her - not alive.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful. Birds sang and still the
huts smoldered. Denethor introduced Findegon to Húrin and
Thengel. The men sat around Denethor's cot.
Thengel spoke. 'I believe you should return to Henneth Annûn and
bring your men back here. We will abandon that place for the moment.'
The look of grief on Findegon's face caused Thengel to pause and he put
his hand on the Ranger's shoulder. 'You have done everything you could
to protect Gondor. Now, we must collect our forces and report to Lord
Ecthelion. I will not leave the few men you have left here alone.'
'My Lord is wise in all things, I see. We will do as you commmand. Our
hearts will leave this place with a heaviness that I had not thought
possible to bear. All I have loved and honoured were in this land!'
'We will be back!' Denethor interjected passionately and the coughing
started anew. Baranor stepped to his side, a steaming cup of comfrey
tea in his hand. He held it to Denethor's lips and Denethor tried to
swallow sips between the coughing.
'Yes,' Thengel said, 'we will be back. Your men will be refitted with
new uniforms and weapons and reinforcements. You will again be Rangers
'Nay, my Lord,' Findegon turned toward Denethor and bowed his head. 'I
will not return here. I ask your leave to return to Minas Tirith and
serve Gondor there.'
'It is not my right to accept or reject your request, Findegon. Your
fate is in my Father's hands, but I will do everything in my power to
make this happen, if that is your wish.' The men sat in silence.
Two companies of men - a full one hundred forty soldiers of Gondor -
rode into the camp, a horse-drawn cart following behind them.
Húrin went to speak with his men and returned shortly. 'I now
believe it was Orcs who attacked this camp. The remains of the patrol
have been found. It appears to me that a band came out of the mountains
and attacked this village. They had begun their feasting when your
company was discovered coming towards them. They fled and hid nearby,
saw the errand-riders sent out, followed and attacked them. The band
was small but there was little hope for the patrol. Where the Orcs have
gone, I do not know, but I do believe they havve left the area. It was
not a large enough band to attack our strength.'
Denethor remembered the state of the bodies of his grandfather
Cranthir's company so long ago. Will we never be free, he wondered?
'We will leave tomorrow morning for Osgiliath,' Thengel stated. 'We
will send four companies out today, west, east, north and south for one
last survey of the area. Then we will head back to Minas Tirith.'
'Ecthelion ordered me to send errand-riders to him,' Húrin said.
'Nay, I will not. It has proven too dangerous unless I send an entire
company and that I will not do. I have better uses for our men than to
send them off thusly.'
Denethor sighed. His Father would be ill-pleased to have his orders
countermanded. Another sigh escaped his lips and Thengel looked up,
questioning. When Denethor said nothing, he turned towards Ciramir.
'Replace the pickets and send out the remaining two companies.' He was
interrupted by Húrin . 'My Lord, if I might, I would take a
company out myself?' Thengel nodded, weariness suddenly overtaking him.
'Ciramir, take Findegon's men and one company of ours, go to Henneth
Annûn and bring the remaining Rangers back here.'
'My Lord,' both Húrin and Ciramir brought their hands to their
chests, bowed their heads, and walked away.
'Well, Denethor, it seems you are having your way at last. The Rangers
of Ithilien have been relieved!'
'Denethor?' Thengel asked. 'What are your thoughts? Your sighs were
loud enough to wake the dead.'
Denethor's face turned as red as his burnt hands. He shook his head. 'I
would ask your pardon, Thengel. My mind has been in a thousand places,
least not Minas Tirith. My...Ecthelion will be most displeased.
Húrin should have sent errand riders as soon as he reached our
camp. You know this would have been my father's orders. Now, a full day
and a night have passed and still Ecthelion waits.'
Thengel moved his stool closer to the cot. His eyes were heavy with
fatigue and pain. 'You would question me?' he asked gently.
Denethor shook his head. 'Nay, I know you are wise, as Findegon noted,
but in the ways of diplomacy...? Know you not that my Father stands
waiting? What do you gain by not obeying him?'
'What do I gain? How can you ask that? Do you not see the need for
conserving our strength?'
Again Denethor sighed. 'My friend and counsellor. What have you taught
me about obedience? You are commanding Húrin to disobey his
Captain-General. We could survive with one less company. Would it not
be better to send one of the more worn companies at a gentle gait to
the city? Show Ecthelion the respect he is due. The men know he waits.'
Thengel let his head drop and finally Denethor realized his friend's
need for rest. He motioned to Baranor, ever close at hand, who stepped
forward. 'Please ask Arciryas to attend me if he has a moment.' Baranor
nodded and swiftly left.
'Thengel?' he touched a bandaged hand to his friend's cheek. Thengel
looked up in surprise. 'It is very near to nuncheon. Your orders are
being carried out as we speak. Would you join me for the meal?'
Arciryas arrived and, at a look from Denethor, turned his attention to
Thengel. The bandages on his Captain's hands were removed, new salve
was gently spread over the burns, and fresh cloth was applied.
'My Lord,' Arciryas said, 'it is time you took rest again.' Thengel
looked surprised at Arciryas request, saw Denethor's concerned smile,
and laughed quietly. 'Your invitation for nuncheon was a ruse I see, to
keep me by your side until our healer could arrive. Diplomacy!'
Denethor's smile widened. 'Perhaps you will join me in a cup of that
foul-smelling valerian tea and an hour's rest?'
Baranor had brought a cot and placed it next to Denethor's. The two
friends laughed quietly.
'Only for one hour,' Thengel retorted.
Morwen had been moved to Thengel's quarters in the Steward's Hall and
Adanedhel had given her a gentle sleeping draught. Indis sat at her
side while Listowel paced outside in the garden. Elleth brought in tea.
'A day and a night have passed since the vision. Do you think it was
real?' Elleth asked.
Indis sighed. 'Yes, I believe it was real and that our men are in
danger. I would that it were not so.'
Listöwel had overheard them, come into the room, and sat at Indis'
feet. Indis laid her hand on the girl's head. 'This is a fin way to
make wedding preparations,' she smiled gently at the girl. 'Our men are
strong, dearest, and when joined as they are, the three of them are
strongest. I do not feel that any of them will ever fall when they are
Listöwel smiled through the tears that now fell at Indis' words.
She had sensed the friendship, courage and strength that bound these
three men together. The gentle words of Indis gave her much hope.
Elleth poured the tea and the three women grew in their own strength
In the morning, preparations were underway for the companies'
departure. The fires had all been put out, the dead were buried and the
cart had been prepared. Amdir was placed next to Denethor and Thengel.
No sound had passed his lips, nor was there any movement from the burnt
body. They had laid him on his stomach and in so doing, part of the
bandage became dislodged and Denethor caught a glimpse of the damaged
back. He cried out in pain, 'Amdir!' but there was no answer. Thengel
took Denethor into his arms and held him close as his friend wept over
the wreakage before them. Anciryas quickly jumped into the cart and
rearranged the bandages.
'This is an order. You will both drink this before we begin our journey
or we will not begin it.' Authority rang in his voice. Húrin
stood by the side of the cart. Thengel and Denethor drank the draught
and lay back. The grim procession started towards Osgiliath and soon
sleep overcame the two friends.
It took a full day to reach Osgiliath. The cart rode slowly with
its precious cargo. Three times Arciryas called for rest. He changed
bandages, heated prepared tea, and administered it to his charges. Then
they started forward again.
When they reached Osgiliath, they found Ecthelion waiting for them. He
permitted Arciryas to take the wounded to the battallion's barracks. He
allowed no one to tell Denethor or Thengel that he was there.
Húrin brought him to his own quarters, ordered dinner to be
brought, and closed the door, telling his aide they were not to be
disturbed. Ecthelion gave him a moment to lave his hands and face and
prepare tea. When Húrin finally sat before his Captain-General,
he found a very angry man across from him.
'First, tell me how it is that no errand-riders were sent to me as I
'My Lord, I have disobeyed you. May I give my full report before you
pass judgement against me?'
'It matters not what caused this disregard for my orders, Húrin.
You know yourself that obedience is everything in service to Gondor.
There must be punishment for this.'
'Well I know it, my Lord, yet punishment should be tempered with
Ecthelion gave a soft smile. 'Perhaps if you would offer your
Captain-General a cup of tea, punishment could be stayed?'
Húrin jumped up, chagrin written plainly upon his face;
Ecthelion laughed warmly.
'Nay, dear Húrin, I will serve myself. And while I am doing so,
please tell me what you have found.'
So Húrin sat and told of the village, the wounded, the lost
patrol, and all the while Ecthelion feigned being thoroughly engrossed
in the making of tea. At the end of Húrin's report, he went to
the door and ordered the aide to bring Arciryas to him, if he was not
needed. Húrin started to speak again, but Ecthelion held his
hand up for silence. The two men sat, both deep in thought. The gentle
steps of the healer broke the silence.
'My Lord,' Arciryas said as he bowed his head and placed his hand on
his chest. Ecthelion nodded and Arciryas reported on his movements
during the battle and afterwards, the state of his patients, and what
the recovery for each would entail.
Ecthelion nodded when he was finished and excused him.
Húrin sat in wonder. At last Ecthelion spoke. 'This has been a
hard few days for us all, has it not?' Húrin knew he was not
required to answer.
Denethor burst into the room. 'Father!' he said and hugged him close.
Ecthelion, startled, remembered Cranthir's burial day, the day he and
Denethor had been reconciled. He held him at arm's length. 'My son,' he
said warmly, 'it is good to see you. Here, sit at my side. Arciryas has
said you were resting.'
'I was, Father, but I suddenly knew you were here. I...I had to see
you.' He suddenly blushed at the rememberance of the exuberance of his
Ecthelion smiled at his discomfiture. 'As I said, it is good to see
Húrin stood as if to leave. 'No, please stay. Our greetings are
done. You have relieved the Rangers?'
'Aye, my Lord. The Orc band has not been found. We deemed it prudent.'
'Yes, it would seem so. Yet now Ithilien is empty of her soldiers and
those who live there are unguarded. I cannot leave Ithilien
'No, my Lord, I see your point. Perhaps we should abandon Ithilien
Ecthelion looked up, sharpely. 'That will not happen! Ithilien is part
of Gondor and will be under the protection of Gondor.' Vehemence
sharpened his voice.
'Father, Captain Inlach has been preparing the Rangers in Minas Tirith
for the last year. He has five full companies, well trained. Two
companies - one hundred and forty men - can be sent to Henneth
Annûn. It will be a tight fit, but the men are stalwart. Another
two companies may be stationed at Emyn Arnen and another company at
Cair Andros. The forces at Pelargir will be able to patrol South
Ithilien. If we could device a long-distance signalling system, like
the one Captain Vëantur had for his ships.' Excitement was tinging
Denethor's words as his thoughts raced to the great sea-captain of
Númenor. 'They used a system of flags, Father, dipped a certain
number of times for words. We could make shields, perhaps coat their
surface with mithril, or put polished crystals on them - anything to
reflect the light of Anor - then device some code to communicate
between the three garrisons. Well... I have not thought it all out, but
it would work.'
Húrin clapped Denethor on the shoulder. 'I do believe it will
work. Where did you read about this code?'
Denethor blushed. 'As a youth, I spent quite some time reading of the
great sailors of Númenor. The accounts are all in the Great
Ecthelion sat back; Denethor could not tell if he was angry or
interested. He held his breath. His father stood, poured tea, and set
it before Denethor who looked up in surprise. 'Drink this,' Ecthelion
said. 'Arciryas left it for you. And then retire for the night.'
Walking back to his barracks, Denethor did not know whether to laugh or
cry. He knew they could devise a system. The captains of the ships out
of Pelargir used a system that was close to what they needed. It should
be easy enough. And Ithilien must not be abandoned. It was now too
dangerous for errand riders. What would Ecthelion do, he wondered as he
fell into bed? His heart was still racing at the joy of the challenge,
but his body succumbed to sleep almost immediately.
'Why are they not back yet? Why were no errand-riders sent? Where is
Ecthelion?' Morwen wrung her hands. Dawn had found her pacing the
little garden of their apartments. Indis stood by, waiting patiently,
letting her friend spend her anguish in words and motion. Finally,
Morwen looked at her, and smiled apologetically. 'I am sorry, Indis. I
know Ecthelion is doing all he can. I just need word.'
'I know you do. Word will come when it is time. I believe we should go
to the Houses of Healing after our meal and help prepare for the
wounded. The battallion will probably have spent the night in
Osgiliath. They should arrive here around noon. Father did send an
errand rider with word that there were wounded, but no other word did
Morwen blanched. 'My heart tells me that all is well, but the vision
stays with me. I will go with you to the Houses.'
After breaking their fast, the women walked slowly down to the Sixth
Level where they were met by Adanedhel.
'We have come to help,' Indis answered his unasked question. 'Morwen
will take her time and do only tasks that require sitting. I myself,
along with Listowel and Elleth when they come, will prepare salves,
unguents, and teas, with your instruction, of course.'
Adanedhel sighed. 'There are only three wounded and a babe, orphaned.
Perhaps you will deign to take the child?'
Mowen gave a cry. 'A babe? A babe has been found? But how? Why?'
'I know none of the details. Nor the names of the wounded,' he said as
he noted Indis open mouth. 'You will have to wait, as I must.'
'I believe I can speak for Elleth. She will take the child. Know you
not its parentage?'
'Nay, as I have told you, my Lady, I have no further details. We must
Morwen and Indis left the Houses with no clear idea as to what they
would do next.
Indis and Morwen were sitting by the escarpment on the Seventh
Level watching and waiting. Dust became visible in the distance and
they knew a great company was approaching from the direction of
Osgiliath. A quick hug and then they ran to Elleth's home, found
Listöwel with her, shared their news, and proceeded towards the
First Level and the Great Gate. They paced their steps to assure Morwen
did not tax herself beyond endurance; they must protect the babe. Sober
were they and quiet. Each woman walked silently, engrossed in her own
thoughts, afraid of what each would find. At last they reached the
Great Gate, which was opening as they approached. They searched the
faces of the soldiers, holding hands in solidarity, supporting each
other through their touch. Morwen crumpled into Elleth's arms as her
eyes told her Thengel was not with the riders. Indis ran to the cart.
The entourage was so long, the cart had yet to pass through the gates.
Denethor smiled wearily up at her. She cried out in relief. Though the
ride had been long and hard for the wounded, it was a joy to see her
face, in all its state of worry. 'Your hair is a mess,' he laughed
quietly and held her hand. Tears sprang into both pairs of eyes as she
gently took the bandaged hand. Denethor loved this woman so dearly.
Always, he could rely upon her for support, love and counsel. Did she
know of his love for her? Life was so short, he had discovered. He must
tell her. He would pick a night and meet with her, share a meal and
remember times, friends and family. He would be in Minas Tirith for
awhile. He could not hold a sword and was useless to his company until
he was healed. He would use this time to spend with her. He started to
tell her of Amdir when she caught sight of Thengel, seated behind him.
'Thengel,' she cried. Immediately she turned towards Morwen. The smile
on her face told her friend all she needed to know. Morwen pulled
herself out of Elleth's arms and ran towards the cart, with Elleth
running after her trying to make her slow down. The driver by this time
realized he must stop or run over the group of women descending upon
him. Listöwel made her way past her friends, a smile upon her
face. She knew he was safe if he was with Denethor and Thengel. She
cried his name as she ran forward.
Indis stopped her. 'Just a moment, dear one, let me help you up.' She
had seen the small nod of Denethor's head towards the body lying next
to him. She knew who it was and that the injuries were serious by the
pain in her Brother’s eyes. How was she to help her friend? She stepped
down from the running board and turned to Listöwel, gently taking
her in her arms. 'Amdir is seriously injured, Listöwel. I will
help you up to him, but you must not touch him,’ she whispered in her
ear. Tears started streaming down both women's faces.
'Yes, I understand,' Listöwel whispered, scarce able to breathe
and hugged her friend. Two soldiers took her arms as she reached up and
helped swing her into the cart next to Amdir. She bent low, found a
clear space on the burned forehead, kissed it gently, then sat down
next to him and waited for the cart to continue its journey to the
Houses of Healing, his hand in hers.
Indis turned towards the people in the square as the contingent of
soldiers hurried up the street, Morwen and Elleth beside her. 'My
people, another battle has been waged for good by the men of Gondor.
The enemy is at bay again, fearful of our strength. It is now our turn
to come together under our beloved Steward and stand firm. There is no
need for fear or panic. Return to your homes, prepare the evening meal,
and commit yourselves again to Gondor's defense.' She turned, gathered
her friends and followed the entourage. Thengel looked back at her in
'There are three places that greatly concern me,' Adanedhel said
pointing them out to Arciryas. 'These two spots on the flesh that cover
the bones of his lower shoulders and this one further down on the left
side of his back. These are different burns than the rest and these
will be the burns that will kill him, if we do not treat them
'But my Lord Healer, are not the others as bad - they blister and weep?'
'Nay, though their look is not pleasant, they are not as serious as
these three places, and will heal in time. This is your first burn
patient, is it not?'
'Yes, my Lord.'
'I wish it were your last, but alas, the enemy appears to grow bolder
each day.' He turned to Ecthelion. 'What say you to this now? Is it not
time to override the Steward's Council and protect our people?'
'You speak unwisely for an old man,' Ecthelion stated, surprised at the
'I am old - yes. I have no more purpose in life than to care for
Gondor's people. I can no longer hold my tongue. Would you cause more
of our people to suffer this and also death? A whole village wiped out,
my Lord. The defenses in Ithilien are weak and the soldiers too few.
You continue to throw lives away by your cowardice.'
Ecthelion froze. He breathed in slowly and deeply. He would have struck
the healer, though his words rang bitter and true in his heart. ‘I
would have you remember,’ he hissed, trying to keep from shouting,
‘your function is to care for the wounded. You are not on my Father’s
Council nor are you a soldier. You do not know all that pertains to
these matters. I will speak of it no more.’
‘And that has been the problem,’ Adanedhel spat out. ‘No one speaks of
what must be spoken to. Not only the soldiers, the Council, nor the
Steward are effected by the paths our Steward leads us on. It is the
people themselves. And it will not stop in Ithilien. Are you too blind
to see that? The evil will spread. Next will be Osgiliath, then Minas
Tirith and the whole of Gondor. Orcs run rampant through our land and
nothing is done to stop them. Remember when the Corsairs attacked
Thengel’s company in Lossarnach? None of our enemies fear us. We are
looked upon as weak. And I am forced to care for more and more of our
people and the underandfónd bury more and more of our dead.’
‘What would you have me do?’ he whispered curtly as he pulled Adanedhel
away from the bed. ‘I have no authority. I have spoken to my Father. I
have placed my thoughts before the Council and I am rebuffed at every
turn. Go back to your patient, which is where your responsibility lies.
Leave me to my Father.’ He strode from the room.
Firieth hushed Denethor for the tenth time. 'You will sit here until I
deem your wounds are fully cleaned, bandaged, and you have drunk the
teas prepared for you. I have just now finished your hands. The burns
on your back still need unguents poured upon them. Then they must be
covered with clean bandages...'
'Please Firieth. I must to Amdir's side. At least stop your chattering,
do quickly what you must, and release me!' He chafed at every word she
spoke, every movement she made. He grew tired of the constant
ministrations. He had been treated by Arciryas; was that not enough? He
hated the Houses of Healing - always they seemed to him a prison. This
time, of all times, he must be with Amdir. He knew secret ways that
would take him to the room where his friend lay, but the woman seemed
aware of his thoughts of escape and would not leave him alone for a
moment, always using others to fetch supplies, teas and unguents.
Suddenly, tears filled his eyes. He grabbed her arm. 'Firieth, I do not
know if my friend lives or is dead. I promise you, I will remain here,
quietly, and endure your ministrations, but please,' with his freshly
bandaged hand he turned her face towards his, ‘send one of your drudges
for news, please!'
Thengel stood with the women in the little courtyard off the main door
of the Houses. Morwen was seated on a marble bench near the hedge of
aloe that protected this recess from the wind. The smell was soothing;
she had not noticed that a small peace had descended upon her. Indis
sat next to her, holding her hand. She was grateful, more than words
could tell, that Thengel had not been burned too badly. Yet her heart
was broken for Listöwel as she stood clinging to Elleth. Thengel
had told them in glowing words of Amdir's bravery but the women were
not concerned with bravery. Bravery was becoming a euphemism for death
in Gondor. Now they looked for a word of hope from him, but Thengel had
none to offer. He had seen Amdir's back as the healer had stripped the
bandages off, one by one, had seen the look of horror in Ecthelion's
eyes, and had to leave the room to empty his stomach. When he had
returned, Ecthelion had motioned him out. Now he found himself here
with the women, looked upon for strength and feeling weak.
‘I will go to Denethor,' he said quietly. 'The healers must be finished
with him by now. We will then go to Amdir. As soon as I am able, I
promise, I will return with news.' He bowed his head, gave Indis and
Morwen quick hugs and strode through the main doors.
As he walked towards Denethor's room, he shook his head. How were the
women of Gondor able to endure this constant contact with death? They
were the brave ones, left to send their men to war, left at home to
raise the children, make the bandages, and keep a measure of sanity to
lead the people by their example. He knew the four women he had just
left were leaders in the city, unbeknownst to themselves and others,
but at times like this, when fear ran rampant through the streets, he
knew these four leaned upon each other and became an example for all
the women of Gondor. He had seen Indis grow from a terrified child, at
last standing up to her father, to a strong woman whom others turned to
for comfort and courage. He remembered the sight of her in the square
and he shook his head, wonder filling him.
Denethor and Thengel stood with mouths wide watching as Ecthelion
stormed out of the room. Had they heard right? Had Adanedhel not just
berated their Captain-General? Denethor’s face burned with shame. How
dare he? How did his father not strike the man? Then he shook his head.
Was violence his only recourse when he was angry? And why was he angry?
Did not a citizen of Gondor have the right to question? Did not he have
the right to question? Yet he knew the obstacles that faced Ecthelion
and pondered what could be done. He glanced at Amdir, quiet and
unmoving on the bed. He turned to Adanedhel.
‘My Lord, you speak wrongly to my Father.’ He spoke quietly. ‘He has
tried, seriously tried for years now to open Turgon’s eyes to the
dangers present. The Council seems to be more afraid of war than
protecting Gondor. These lords have been too long from the battlefield.
Their memories cloud their judgment. They forget that all will die if
this evil is left to grow. I do not know the answers, but Father needs
your support now. You are his healer, chief healer for all of Gondor.
If others hear you speaking thus...’
‘Well am I aware of your Father’s words, but no deeds have sprung from
these words. Denethor, this cannot continue.’ He paused, ‘I am tired,’
he wiped a bloodied hand across his forehead. ‘I spoke in the heat of
my grief over the villagers. I... my sister-son had family there.’
‘Adanedhel!’ Denethor cried, 'I am sorry.’
‘Nay, ‘tis I who am sorry. I will go to your Father. There is nothing
more I can do for Amdir. He must fight this battle alone. I will return
in one hour. Please send someone to me if his condition changes. I will
be in the Steward’s Hall.’ Denethor watched the healer retreat,
shoulders bowed. His heart ached. So much death, so much sorrow.
The men stood at the foot of the bed. Adanedhel had left an attendant
to sit and watch over Amdir. Denethor did not understand why there had
been no movement from him, no sound issuing from his lips since they
had found him. What kind of death was this? The attendant moved at
Denethor’s request and he sat and took his friend’s hand.
‘Amdir. It is I, Denethor. Thengel and I are here with you. Do not lose
hope, my friend. We will stay and fight this battle with you. You are
not alone. Amdir? Amdir, please, do not give up. Do not leave us. We
have much to share yet, many adventures and battles and drinking and
dancing and laughing. Why - Listöwel is waiting for you as we
speak. They have started to make her gown. Is not that true, Thengel?
Thengel stepped closer to the bed. ‘Yes, Amdir. I just left the women.
Your mother and Listöwel have been quite busy with the
preparations for your troth taking. You have much yet to do, my friend.
Please wake up.’
‘Perhaps he is waiting for his lieutenancy. Thengel, I’m sure we can do
something about that after his deeds in Emyn Arnen.’ He tried to keep
his voice light, the fear from it.
‘Amdir?’ he tried again and was rewarded by a stirring, a low moan.
‘Amdir!’ he bent low and put his mouth near his friend’s ear. ‘Amdir,
it is I, Denethor. We are here for you.’
Another moan and the eyelids flickered in the pale face before him. He
held the hand tighter, the pain in his own negated by his concern for
his friend. He kissed Amdir’s brow and called his name again. At last,
the eyes opened and pain flashed across them. The moan turned to a cry
and Denethor wished with all his heart that he had not awakened his
The attendant quickly came forward and pressed liquid to Amdir’s lips.
Through his thrashing, Amdir swallowed some of the drought. Fear
flickered in his eyes and Denethor forced his face in front of him.
‘Amdir, you are all right. You have been injured, but you are all
right. Drink what the healer is giving you. It will help ease the pain.’
Amdir’s eyes did not convey recognition and Denethor took his friend’s
face into his hands. ‘Amdir, I am here. Drink this,’ he had taken the
cup from the healer, ‘It will help ease your pain. You are all right,’
he kept repeating as some of the liquid made its way into Amdir’s
mouth. The fear seemed to lessen.
‘Send for Adanedhel,’ Thengel demanded and the attendant ran from the
room as Thengel knelt by the bed. ‘Amdir, we are here. Do not give into
despair and fear. Your friends are with you.’
There was recognition – Denethor was sure of it. The thrashing had
lessened and the eyes were focusing, no longer rolling wildly. Once
again Denethor gave him the cup and Amdir drank of it, slowly. His eyes
were wide now, but clear.
‘Do not speak, my friend. Lie still and rest. We will not leave you.’
Amdir’s eyes closed, then opened and a smile, small, touched his face.
The eyes closed again and the breathing became slower, quieter.
Denethor sat back, relief flooding his entire body. He turned towards
Thengel. Through tears, both men smiled.