Son of Ecthelion

Hands of the King

54. Union

Minas Tirith, 25 July, 2978 T.A.

Marlong's dower gift to Wren was great, but empty. "All of the lands of my house that lie on Anduin's hither shore. There are two farms and a mill. The first farm is north of Osgiliath..." Denethor read the list slowly, giving the gift the dignity it deserved. Marlong sat opposite, watching intently. There was no question but that the dower would be accepted, so this reading was for Marlong's pride. In addition to the abandoned lands, there was a modest house in Minas Tirith, an impressive amount of furnishings and linens that had probably once belonged to Marlong's mother, silver and plate, some livestock, and a promise of 5 gold pieces every year. There would have been more had the farms been on this side of the river, but Denethor understood the captain's obstinacy. Many Ithilieners would not take lands in Anórien, refusing to let go their promise to retake the fief. Not only did these folk become the soldiers of Henneth Annûn, they also provided many of the merchants and crafters of the City. They did not stray far south for the most part, not wishing to leave sight of their beloved Ithilien. Even when their houses dwindled they did not seek easier lands or less dangerous fortunes. They are our Lost.

Denethor nodded and looked at Marlong. 'Is there aught of your holdings you did not give to Wren?'

'Yes, my lord. I have two nieces left orphaned when my brother died, and I will provide for them when they are of an age to wed,' Marlong replied.

'How old are they now?'

'Eight and fourteen.'

'Ah.' Denethor put the dower scroll down and handed another to Marlong. 'Finduilas prepared this and would not let any see it, not even me. This is her dower to Wren.'

Marlong bowed before taking the sealed paper. His eyes grew large as he read it. When he finished, he looked at Denethor in astonishment. 'This is... beyond generous, my lord.'

'As I guessed it would be. Wren has been Finduilas's companion since she first came to Minas Tirith, and they are as close as sisters.' Denethor held out his hand for the document. 'If it is acceptable, I will send both to the scriveners to be copied.'

'Yes, it is.' The captain rose, giving Denethor the paper. Denethor walked with Marlong as far as the tunnel and they spoke of the man's assignment to Anórien. It was obvious that Marlong was eager to be back in the field and spoke enthusiastically of how he would turn the sleepy western outpost into the training ground for the best archers in Gondor. He even had plans for the northern éored to teach his men some horse skills, having been much taken with what he saw at the tourney.

A look at the sun said it was too late in the day to risk using the palantír. Denethor had been careful after that first look, not venturing so far again but keeping his eyes firmly fixed to the coast just south of the Ethir. This would be a slow task, to scout the south. Denethor already knew that he would prepare maps of the shores and particularly of the great firth, and that he would know to the last sail how many ships would need to be destroyed. But, for now, he had to be careful and not exhaust himself or worry Finduilas. What he had to do was discipline his own vision until he could no longer be led astray by the sights and dreams that lurked deep in the dark crystal.

Telperien had already found the scrolls and made a bed of them by the time Denethor returned to the study. 'Your majesty, that is an insolent use of those gifts.' The cat yawned and settled deeper into her nest. With a sigh, he made her move and tried to return the paper to a relatively neat state. Telperien kept jumping to the top of the desk to reclaimed the purloined bed. 'I think these shall need to go at once to the scriveners,' Denethor grumbled, though he gave the cat an old quill as apology for stealing her preferred toy. He paused long enough to quickly read over Finduilas's dower gift. There was an Anórien farm, selected for its proximity to the garrison, no doubt, so the Ithilien property did no harm. As he read the rest, Denethor shook his head. Did Brandir help you write this, Alquallë? This was the dower of a noblewoman. Or what the youngest daughter of the Lord Steward could claim as her due. He pondered this as he went to the shop behind the Tower and explained to the foreman what he wished done. The man assured him it would be ready on the morrow.

Dinner was cheerful, for Luinmir was there with Anna. The little girl had turned two in June, and had learned how to talk. Finduilas and Moraen took turns encouraging her to repeat things they said, which Anna did with great relish. Denethor let the women do the talking for the most part, content to watch Finduilas enjoy herself and to imagine their own daughter-to-be. It left him feeling happy. He also liked listening to the success of the Lady's Houses. Luinmir spoke briskly about the sanctuaries, how the women who stayed there were kept from wickedness. Many learned a craft or trade, making the lower circles more prosperous. The younger women, those who had no child, built their dowers, while older widows saw to that of their daughters. It seemed the Queen's Men of Dol Amroth preferred to find their brides in the Lady's Houses. Marlong was not the only soldier to wed this summer.

Finduilas shook her head to Denethor's offer of wine when they later sat in his study. 'No more of that, friend. I fear my visitor does not approve of anything save water and Master Laanga's teas.'

'I wish she was not so shy,' he teased. Finduilas had been feeling the child move for a few days, but he could not. 'Her father would fain introduce himself.'

'I barely feel anything,' Finduilas hastily assured him.

'Marlong was here today. We read the dowers and all is agreeable. The scriveners will have the final scroll ready tomorrow.' He sipped his wine. 'You startled Marlong with your gift.'

'Good! I enjoyed putting it together. Brandir helped me, and ... What is so funny?'

It took effort to stop his laughing. 'I wondered if the fool advised you.'

'He is not a fool!' she hotly protested.

Denethor held up a placating hand. 'I mean it as he himself would, and only with kindness! His heart makes fools of us with its pity.'

'Very well.' Finduilas sounded doubtful.

A thought had nagged at him all afternoon. 'Alquallë,' Denethor hesitantly began, 'you gave Wren all that she was due.'

'Why would I do anything else?' There was an edge to her voice.

'I expected no less,' he assured her, 'but... it should not have been left to you to...'

'You forsook her. Your house. I provide for those in my care.'

'Yes, that is so. But can there be no undoing of that wrong? Am I to be barred from offering amends? It is not right that... her brother be as stone to her.'

Finduilas did not leave off her sharp examination of his face. 'You may not give to the dower. All of this cruelty came about because a man thought coin could obtain love. There is one thing you could do, and it will cost you dear.'

'What?'

'Allow Violet to attend openly.'

When he tried to speak, no sound came out. Denethor had to gulp a mouthful of wine before his tongue and throat would form a word. 'No.'

'You should. If you would undo...'

'I would undo the coldness I have shown Wren. I do not care what happens to the whore.'

'That is her mother. If you wish Wren's better regard, then you will not prevent her from having her mother there.'

'That woman is...'

'Wren's mother, whom she loves, and who loves Wren in return.' Denethor rose, shaking his head, and poured more wine. Finduilas also stood, arms crossed, face hard. 'Is ordinary kindness truly so difficult for you? To pity those in misfortune and not add to their humiliation? I wish you could possess Brandir's foolish heart for a single day and let it undo the trespasses of your house's pride. I would hold it more dear a gift than anything writ upon my dower scroll.' With a scornful look, she walked behind the screen.

Denethor sat in his chair near the hearth, listening to her undress and lie down. Finduilas did not understand. Violet was not like the other women. She was not seduced or led astray. She consorted with him openly, kept a house for him, gave him children, and did not care what dishonor she heaped upon any of them. And now she is the madam of a whore house and sells young women into wickedness. When Ecthelion left the Stewards House for the Tower that long-ago spring, he did as Steward Turgon bade and had stopped seeing Violet, but he left his mistress in the house in the fifth circle. Denethor snorted softly - it was the same house Ecthelion had given to Thorongil. Perhaps he continued to see her clandestinely, as I meet the captain. Denethor returned to Osgiliath soon after Ecthelion's disgrace, his father resuming command of the garrison later, near the end of summer. There had been time for a brief visit to the City near Yule, and then the long, horrible year when attacks had been unending and their worst fears were confirmed as Sauron declared himself returned. Sometime that year, the house had been emptied. Aiavalë reclaimed the girls shortly after Turgon's death, placing them with a woman known to Adanel, so that they would not be made whores like their mother. Who turned them out? Denethor's brow furrowed. He had never asked, but as he thought upon it, the most likely person was Emeldir. Turgon would not have treated his granddaughters so cruelly and no other would have had the power to order it done. For a moment, Denethor wished he had not burned Emeldir's diaries for there would probably be the truth, then thought better of it.

With a sigh, he went to the alcove to sleep. He did not allow himself to be angered by Finduilas's pointed silence or refusal to return his goodnight kiss. She fell asleep soon afterwards. Denethor lay with an arm draped over her, hand on her belly. She was still too thin, in his opinion, though Lhûn assured him that all was well. Denethor sighed softly. This was going to be a long argument. Violet could not attend, for Wren's own sake. The girl had to turn her back on her dishonorable origins and...

Under his hand, something disturbed the even rise and fall of Finduilas's breathing. As soon as he felt it, it was gone. Carefully, he pressed his hand against the curve as Lhûn had shown him how to do. Nothing, nothing, nothing, there! There it was. He held his breath, not wishing to wake Finduilas. He lifted his hand, moved it a few fingers' width and pressed again. After a small wait, a tiny tremor moved under his touch. Our daughter. His heart was pounding and a small tear escaped his eye. Too soon, the baby slept and he could not feel her anymore.

***

Minas Tirith, 4 August, 2978 T.A.

Finduilas had remained cool in her affections in the days after their argument, but she did not leave his bed nor did she forbid him to sit next to her, so Denethor did not press the issue. She only wished one answer from him and he could not give it. At night, he waited for her to sleep and then laid his hands on her, hoping to feel the child move. More often than not, their daughter obliged.

A note this morning said that Thorongil had returned from his journey through South Ithilien to see the Rohirrim in Poros and confer with Baragund. They were to meet with the Steward for dinner. Ecthelion did not make mention of Umbar, and talk remained on the condition of the Poros defense. The Steward released them as soon as the meal was finished, saying there would be more discussion in a few days when the ministers met. As they came out on the upper walk, Denethor realized he did not wish to return to an empty house and be left with only his thoughts for company. He asked Thorongil, 'Are you free?'

'I have no other plans,' Thorongil replied. 'I had thought to go to the garrison and speak to Haldan, but that can wait.'

'Come.' Denethor led them to his study after telling Dúlin to draw them some ale from the cellar. 'Is there anything to add to your report to the Steward?'

'No. The south is sleepy.'

'How long before you leave for the west?'

Thorongil sat in the chair before Denethor's desk and yawned. 'When you and the Lord Steward grant me leave to go. Preferably by the fifteenth.'

'I approve, if the Steward does, so plan for that.' A guardsman brought their ale. Denethor poured some for them both before taking his own seat, feet on his desk. 'And your return?'

The captain slouched in his chair. 'That will depend on where I go, I suppose, but not before October.' The keenness of his gaze was at odds with his slothful manner. 'Where should I go?'

'Not Dol Amroth. Not yet. Other than that, let your feet go where they will.'

Thorongil nodded and sipped his ale. 'I was intrigued by Lord Morvorin's description of the upper vales, so I thought I would ride across the land that way instead of keeping to the road.'

'Return by the road. You'll see the summer work at its completion.'

'I shall. I will need a good map for the journey.'

'I'll tell the archive cartographer to make a copy of one I have seen. It is small, but detailed.'

'Good. I think I shall go to Morthond.'

'Why?'

'I wish to see it. And I would like to speak to Lord Duinmir.' Denethor's eyebrows went up and Thorongil shrugged in return. 'His antipathy will not grow less for being avoided. If we face dire times, then he must believe that I will defend all of Gondor or he will think only of his vale.'

'Morthond has oft followed its own counsel.'

'But they are true, the men of that vale, are they not?' Denethor nodded. 'Tell me of them.' Though quietly said, it was not a request. Denethor had to compose himself so he would not merely babble all that he knew of Morthond.

'The first who lived there, they were Men of Shadow. They broke the oath they swore to Isildur upon the Stone of Erech. Their lands were forfeit for their treachery and they retreated into the hills and crags.'

'Have you seen the Stone?'

'Yes. Once. It was long ago.'

Thorongil leaned forward eagerly. 'What is it like?'

Denethor did not know how to describe the forbidding presence of the great sphere sunk into the ground. It was not like a palantír; there was no light in its depths, only a watchful darkness, like a raven's eye set in the earth. Why Isildur had brought the dreadful stone from Númenor was not set down in any scroll he had ever found. 'In your service to Thengel, did you ever go to Dunharrow?' The captain nodded. 'It is like the stones there that lead back to the Dimholt.' Thorongil shivered at the comparison. 'So, the Dúnedain took the lands of the Oathbreakers, though those men still were there. When the Great Plague struck, many were lost throughout Gondor. Then the blood of the West was mingled with that of lesser men, particularly in Pelargir, Linhir and the Morthond vale. The coastal cities took in the caravans of the east and the trade ships of the south, while Morthond mixed with the ghosts of the mountains.'

'Are all of that vale mixed?'

'Most, but not their lord nor the great families.'

'So Duinmir does not carry this taint?'

Denethor chuckled softly. 'No. He comes by his opposition through his own whim.' The mix of a full stomach, the summer heat, and most of a cup of ale made Denethor feel both languid and daring. I think it time for a lesson for a ragged king. 'Beyond the Hills of Tarnost, the lands are prosperous, yet also rebellious, divisive. Ancient lords and those of more recent lineage have thought to be a land apart.'

Thorongil poured them more ale. 'Pride and greed fuel dreams of dominion that thwart the proper order of things.'

'There is no greatness unaccompanied by some kind of division,' Denethor countered. 'A small people can remain together, but they will be weak, for their comity arises from their vulnerability to a larger band. To flourish, there must be many and of many kinds, not just farmers and soldiers, but scriveners and potters, glass blowers and sailors, alchemists and stone masons. Lords and... other lords. To defend this and make it persist means controlling division.'

'I thought it took power,' Thorongil replied. 'Is that not what you said?'

'You were not listening. It takes power to fend off an enemy. Power is lost most quickly in faction. Those who are divided, are conquered. But those who are not many and of many minds soon dwindle, for different desires make men ambitious for themselves and their kin. Controlling division is the art of rule.'

'I just said that. Faction disrupts the proper order.'

'No. Faction is the result of poor rule. Disagreement is not faction. The Enemy has an advantage over us in that he needs only hate and fear to accomplish his aims. We need unity, which may not come from force, but only through submission to rule. Then is strength multiplied. But for that submission to happen, there must be trust that submission will not mean destruction, that men's ambitions will be respected. Moreover, the seed of faction, pride, must not be crushed, for other things grow from it as well, greatness most of all.'

The captain took a gulp of ale and shook his head. 'You talk in circles, Denethor. We say the same thing. There is one rule that will bring peace between fellows, and defiance of that rule is faction.'

'No. You say rule exists and is defied. I say contest is the heart of rule. Let me provide an example. Arnor destroyed itself because its kings knew not how to rule. They could not guide division into proper courses, and faction ended the kingdom in less than a thousand years. Angmar but trampled upon a graveyard where not all the corpses had been buried.'

The anger in Thorongil's face was almost too great to endure. 'I think not. Arnor battled Angmar for five hundred years. Perhaps it lacked power, but it did not lack for rule.'

'The Witch-king has menaced Gondor for almost a thousand years and has had no similar success,' Denethor replied crisply.

'Did he not end your kings? I think that success to be similar,' Thorongil shot back.

Denethor smiled thinly and raised his cup in acknowledgement. 'Eärnur was a fool and suffered a fool's fate. But his death was not the end of Gondor anymore than Avedui's was the end of Arnor. Arnor had ceased to exist long before that day. The northern kingdom was fractured by the partition of 861, and that was the death blow. The sons of Eärendur willfully destroyed their own kingdom, and their heirs spent the next five hundred years destroying each other. It should never have come to the point of such faction. It was a failure of rule.'

'Really? I seem to recall a certain... Kin-strife in Gondor. Were not the sons and grandsons of Rómendacil intent on destroying each other? Did not rule fail and defiance enter? Was not Gondor fractured?' Thorongil mocked, something Denethor could not remember the man ever doing before. It was distinctly unpleasant.

'Yes, that is exactly what happened; Rómendacil's embrace of the Northmen was poorly done, Valacar's marriage was ill-advised, and Eldacar was left with war. Almost it was Gondor's end.' Denethor remembered his dreams of defending Osgiliath while his king fled. 'The failure of that time haunts us today in the form of Umbar.' Anger left the captain's face, though his gaze was still forbidding. 'You once spoke of the towers of Rhudaur, Thorongil, that they remained and their people did not.' A nod and the gaze became curious. 'You have Rhudaur. I have Osgiliath, which I may see from the walls of Minas Tirith. The danger of faction is before my eyes every day.'

'But still I say we do not disagree, Denethor,' came Thorongil's soft reply. 'You spoke of submission to what is right, to acknowledge when there is a greater wisdom to give shape to wayward desires.'

All desires are wayward. Some are simply more successful than others. 'That is obedience, captain. I speak of what will turn defiance into obedience, for division threatens ever.'

Thorongil did not answer at once and they sat for several minutes sipping their ale. 'And how may the prideful be turned from their defiance towards obedience?' The words were murmured, as though the man were speaking to himself.

'Love.' The answer came quickly, with certainty, though Denethor was not sure how he knew it to be so. 'Love will move a man to obedience when all reason fails, can compel without a word, and changes the very world around you. What matters is that you give a man the right thing to love.' And that you are not overwhelmed by it, and despair. He saw again the towers on the edge of the Sea and felt pain rise up in his breast. His hand drifted to his throat, seeking the lanyard. There was nothing. He was left with nothing...

'Denethor? Are you well?' Thorongil was crouched next to Denethor's chair, anxiously peering up at him. Denethor shook his head slightly, unable fully to free himself from the vision or a deep voice echoing in his ears. 'What is it? What do you see?' The captain grasped his shoulder. The voice and vision both withdrew at the touch.

'Nothing.' Denethor shook his head again to clear it. 'Nothing, save too much ale in this heat.'

'Truly?' Thorongil stood, unconvinced.

'Yes.'

The captain retreated to his chair, slouching in it once more. For a moment, Denethor wished to rise and follow, sit at Thorongil's feet as he sat next to Finduilas, and let the captain rest a hand on his shoulder again. Their watchful silence resumed.

'You look down upon us northerners.' It was not a question.

'Yes. As you deserve.' Denethor waited for the man to object. To his surprise, Thorongil smiled wryly, motioning for him to continue. 'There is no denying your valor or your opposition to the Enemy, but what else can you show for your labors? What is your largest settlement?' A shrug. This angered Denethor. 'Keep your silence, then. Unless you have lied to me, your settlements are less than the meanest villages of Rohan. You have not enough corn or craft to sustain your population. You may command your people's obedience, Thorongil, but you lead them to their death.'

Thorongil rose and walked away, pausing near the door. 'You understand nothing of the north, Denethor.'

'And you will say nothing of it so I may learn, though I give you all you ask! I can guess and trick answers out of you, Thorongil, but I would prefer the truth.'

'What do you want to know?'

Your true name. But he already knew that. It was hope. I already know who you are. You must know I know, or at least guess. Why will you not admit it? Denethor glared at his stubborn king. Your silence muzzles me. 'An honest answer, freely given, as I speak to you of Gondor.'

'I know not what would please you to hear.'

The man's dogged secrecy was infuriating. 'Anything. Everything. What is the fate of our kin in the north? If every man full grown and able came behind you, how many would you bring? Five thousand?'

The captain laughed bitterly. 'Five hundred. And not all would be men. Save your scorn, Denethor. It is a jest to you, the aid of the Lost. You want power and we have naught.' With a nod, he turned again to leave.

'I don't want you for power! If you could marshal fifty thousands, it would not suffice. Unless you come at the head of an army conjured from legend, Thorongil, it does not matter. The only power sufficient to match that,' Denethor pointed east, 'is the power of his own kind. You said yourself there will be no army from the West.'

'Then what do you want of me?'

'Why do you scorn Gondor?' Denethor walked over to Thorongil, standing between him and the doorway. 'Why will you not take what is here for you? This!' Denethor slapped his hand against the wall. 'Here is a great city, a prosperous land, stone that is not ruins, and enough for all your people. You are Dúnedain! Why do you remain Lost?'

Thorongil looked at Denethor's hand splayed upon the wall. He touched the wall, his fingers brushing against Denethor's. Gently, he collected Denethor's hand into his own, and he bowed his head over it, placing a kiss upon it where Denethor's wedding band wrapped his forefinger. 'Because I love what is there, as you love what is here. But I would not be disobedient.' The captain let go Denethor's hand and straightened to meet his eyes.

Speak the truth and unbind my own tongue. But the man remained silent, waiting for something. Denethor hesitantly said, 'Perhaps you love the wrong thing, what you cannot have, for it is beyond your reach.'

'Yes. I know. It is beyond even hope.' Thorongil smiled sadly. With a nod, he was gone.

Denethor returned to his seat, unsure what to make of this conversation and the strange obeisance at the end. What do I want of him? Gondor did not need a king. Perhaps it was owed to Thorongil for saving Finduilas, but there was something else, a wish or want of the man himself. Trust. You are my king. Why will you not trust your steward? What must I do that you will trust in me? There was nothing Thorongil asked for that was denied. He was closer to Denethor's counsels than even the Steward. He had allowed his own authority to be diminished rather than oppose the captain. What further sacrifice would be enough to convince you that I am yours?

About an hour later, Denethor heard voices downstairs, then the sound of footsteps coming up. 'Denethor?' Finduilas called sharply, 'Are you there?'

'Yes!' he answered and hurried to her, worried at the urgency in her voice. He met her on the stair. Finduilas was beaming.

'Friend, I have the most wonderful news!' she cried. 'Aeluin and Beregar are to have a child!'

***

Minas Tirith, 16 August, 2978 T.A.

In her joy over Aeluin and Beregar's news, Finduilas kept forgetting that she was angry with Denethor. He did not. During the day, she chattered happily to him about the wedding, how Aeluin was doing, that Morvorin had told Moraen that he would be in the City at that time, and how she could no longer fit into her dresses. One day Finduilas had seized his hand and pressed it to her belly. 'There! There! Do you feel it?' Together they felt their daughter kick. Since then, she had not given Denethor so much as a sharp glance, though he knew better than to think she had changed her mind about Violet.

At night, after Finduilas slept, Denethor was left alone with only their child to talk to. It is unseemly. The baby kicked sharply. Does Wren not care that she will shame her husband? She was content inside her mother's womb, uncaring of her dam's station. Should that woman be rewarded for her wickedness? A shiver, as from cold, a small creature left unprotected against stone. Did he lie in bed and lay his hand upon her, and feel this? Finduilas's skin against his palm was warm and Denethor pressed gently, wishing he could hold his daughter. Turgon, he would not... Not what? Not allow it, or not forbid it? He forbade her to be Ecthelion's mistress. But he did not forbid her to be a mother. No girl was left to suffer if he knew of it, no more than he allowed Aiavalë to be treated meanly. Turgon's ire was reserved for Ecthelion. If you make Wren choose, she will hate you even more. The girl twitched under the weight of his hand, a set of rapid jerks, then was still. All their discussions ended like this.

***

It was difficult to determine what could atone for the cruelty of their house, but Denethor believed he had it. He had thought carefully about where to speak to Wren and decided the archives were best. She had come to his small room at his request, looking at him with suspicion. 'Yes? What do wish?' she brusquely asked.

'Only to say my congratulations to you directly for your marriage, and to know if there is anything you want of me.'

'No. You met with Marlong on the dower. That is all you need to do.'

'Nothing else?'

'You are not standing for me, if that's what you're getting at.'

'Who will?'

'Just Lark.'

'Aiavalë and I stood for...'

'I don't want you. I don't want anything from you.'

Denethor sighed and looked at the ground. It would be easy to stop now, tell Wren that if she changed her mind, wished anything, it was hers, and let her go. The subject of Violet need never come up and he could simply look the other way at the wedding. For his trespass, Ecthelion should have abased himself and begged her forgiveness. His crimes have cost us all dear. Denethor met Wren's cold, contemptuous gaze. 'But still there is much that you may claim.'

She cocked her head, curious. 'What can I claim of you?'

'Almost anything. You are the one wronged. I have been a poor brother...'

'You have been no kind of brother, and I do not want you as one! What you may do is leave me be!' Maiaberiel had never spoken with so much venom as Wren did now.

'What have I done to earn your hatred?' Denethor demanded.

' "What have I done?" ' Wren mocked. 'You have treated me and my sister wretchedly. Aiavalë has shown us kindness, but you wished us to perish.'

'What do you mean? I never wished that!'

'Yes, you did! I heard it was you who demanded we be cast aside. Steward Turgon did as you asked.'

Denethor shook his head. 'No, that was not my doing.'

'Then why have our lives been made wretched? We are the only ones you interfered with. No other woman he ruined was treated so, no other daughters.'

No other woman was a whore. But that was not true. Morwen's mother had also been one. No one knows of her. 'I do not know who ordered you cast aside, and I was not in the City when it happened. I thought all was well until Aiavalë told me a different tale. Was I not sent into peril for making our sire face his abomination against you?' Finally Wren looked away. 'How is your fate worse than Luinmir's? Would you prefer to have been in Maiaberiel's hands?'

'Why should I choose one cage over another? I would have preferred to have had nothing to do with any of you.'

'Soon enough, you shall have your wish. Once you wed and go to Anórien, you are free.'

'Yes.'

'I bear you no ill will, Wren. I never have. I will be a good brother to you, though you care nothing of it. What Aiavalë may claim of me, that also is yours.'

'You will not keep me from seeing Finduilas?'

'I will not. You said Lark will be here for the wedding, to stand for you.'

'She will.'

'Will Bard also be coming?'

'Yes, Captain Baragund is allowing it.'

'What of your mother? Does she also attend?'

'It is none of your concern.'

'It is my concern that your mother be treated with dignity. If you wish it, all of your family from Pelargir will be cared for in the guest house of the Citadel.'

Wren looked at him with disbelief. 'You mean that?'

'Yes.'

'I will think on it.' Wren nodded to him and started to leave, then turned back. 'I know what I wish of you.'

'What?'

'On my wedding day, after it is done, you are to go to my father and tell him that his youngest daughter has wed.'

***

Minas Tirith, 14 September, 2978 T.A.

A month passed swiftly, and the wedding was tomorrow. Every few days brought a short letter from Thorongil, describing what he saw as he rode west. He was in Lamedon now. Lord Morvorin had met the captain in Ethring a week past and had shown him the work begun on the road between there and Linhir. Thorongil estimated it would take two more seasons to complete the route. He wrote,

In all, to rebuild the road from Pelargir to Morthond will take eight years, including this year, if only one portion is built at a time. Perhaps Minister Hallas can be convinced that the expense of building two parts would be offset by an increase in trade (taxes).

Morvorin himself was in Minas Tirith now, having ridden swiftly once Thorongil departed. He wished to report directly to Denethor and the Steward about the roads, but needed to return to Ethring by yáviérë. Denethor expected that the young lord would have some rather energetic discussions with Hallas, trying to convince the blind minister to allocate more of the purse to his beloved roads. Today, Morvorin was visiting with Moraen, Borondir and Luinmir as they put the finishing touches on Wren and Marlong's city house. Anna had decided Morvorin was her favored servant and playmate, loudly demanding that he devote all his attention to her. He cheerfully obliged, careful to keep the child out of harm's way.

The house Marlong had given to Wren was a small but pleasant home at the back of the third circle, to the north of the Hallows. It shared a wide, shallow court with a similar house where Marlong's sister-in-law and nieces lived. No one had lived in this house since his mother had died fifteen years before, and it needed repairs. Marlong himself had lived in garrisons for most of the last twenty years.

Denethor wiped his brow and admired his own handiwork. Whenever the duties of the Tower gave him time, he spent it helping fix the house. Finduilas had said at first that her guardsmen would do this, but Denethor refused. He, Beregar and Borondir labored upon it, as did Marlong. Gethron and Hunthor insisted on lending their strength. One day, Brandir appeared and began to work, and had been there every day since. As each room was cleaned and patched, the women came afterwards and filled them with things. Aiavalë bossed everyone, of course, and paid little attention to whether her veil was in place. Today, they had finished the last work, rebuilding the arbor that stretched across the back of the court. Denethor had designed it himself, inspired by an illustration in an old book. The wedding itself was to be held in the court, taking advantage of the early autumn warmth.

He walked over to a rough table where water and ale were set out for them, and gulped down a mug of water. The other men soon joined him, congratulating each other for finishing the arbor in time. Inside both houses, women's voices rose and fell as they bustled about. Denethor saw Beregar's face light up. The young man hastily gulped down the rest of his ale before hurrying over to claim Aeluin's burden. She laughingly protested and he gently scolded her for doing too much. Their child was due in March. Newcomers entered the court, calling out greetings. Wren dashed out to embrace Lark and coo over her niece. Aiavalë soon joined in the fuss. Lark and Bard's daughter had been born around loëndë. Denethor watched the gate, but no one else came after.

Evidently, Violet had talked some sense into Wren. At first, Wren said she did wish to use the Citadel guest house, but later declined, asking instead for rooms at an inn near to the gate between the second and third circles. "It is too far for Lark to walk with the baby," Wren had said, "and Bard wishes to be closer to his kin." Denethor reserved the best rooms at the inn and retained a maid for their exclusive use. He knew Violet had arrived with Lark and Bard three days before, but was keeping to the inn.

'Denethor!' Aiavalë gestured for him to come over. 'How far is it from the City to Wren's farm?'

'By horse? Three days. By wagon, eight.'

Aiavalë eagerly turned to Wren. 'See? It is not too far for me to ride...'

'What?' Denethor interrupted them. 'You are not riding that far...'

'Yes, I am!' Aiavalë retorted. 'I will go with Wren to help her set up her house there. And I intend to ride there as often as I wish.'

'Not by yourself.'

'I would prefer companions, but I know how to use a bow.'

Lark started giggling, while Bard stared at the ground, trying to hide his smirk. Denethor began to draw a breath to tell Aiavalë she was being foolish when Wren said, 'Marlong will figure out how we are to travel, Aiavalë. Will you show Lark what you did with the small room. You must see it, sister. It is perfect for writing.' With a look that said she knew she was being sent away, Aiavalë led Lark and Bard to Wren's house. When they were inside, Wren turned to Denethor. 'I need you to stand after all.'

'Will Aiavalë also stand for you?'

'Not for me. I told you I didn't want you. For Marlong.'

'Marlong?'

'He has no kinsmen alive. You are his lord, so you need to stand for him. He's too stubborn to ask for himself.'

***

The sun was warm but not too hot and small white flowers on the arbor scented the air. The court was packed with guests - soldiers, archivists, craftsmen, and a few nobles. All the officers of the City were there. Anna was perched on Morvorin's shoulders while Luinmir and Moraen stood to either side talking around him. The bells rang the midday hour and the crowd hushed, waiting for the ceremony to start. Denethor kissed Finduilas's brow, then opened the door so she could walk out and take her place under the arbor. He glanced at Marlong. 'Ready?'

'Ready.' They watched Finduilas stand before the crowd and give the invocation. Denethor offered his arm to Marlong, briefly patting his own pocket to be certain he had Primrose's ring. The pair of rings had arrows carved on them. When they reached Finduilas, Wren and Lark emerged from the other house. Denethor breathed a silent sigh of relief. He had wondered if Wren might have Violet stand for her. The ceremony went swiftly. Hands were joined, oaths pronounced, rings exchanged, and a kiss sealed it all to the cheers of the crowd. Wren was happy enough that she even embraced Denethor and kissed his cheek.

'Friend, is this not wonderful?' Finduilas said when he could finally claim her.

'Why do I enjoy other weddings more than our own?' he mock grumbled.

'Because you are surly, contrary, and impossible?' she suggested in her most reasonable voice. Beregar waved from across the court were he had chairs waiting for them. Denethor insisted that Aeluin take the one intended for himself. There were not enough tables for everyone to sit but this did not dampen spirits. People stood and talked, or found seats in the shade of the wall, and the afternoon passed merrily. Adanel and Rose manned an ale table near the gate, drawing up pints of the best drink The Messengers Rest could provide. The moment the air cooled, dancing began. Finduilas insisted that Denethor dance without her. He decided he would dance with each of his sisters who was there, from youngest to eldest. First Wren, then a very surprised Lark. Luinmir was already dancing with Morvorin, so Denethor asked Aeluin for a dance while he waited his turn. Primrose accepted with a grin; whatever she lacked in skill, she made up for in energy. It took some coaxing to get Adanel out from behind her table. Rose laughed and pushed her mother along, calling for help filling mugs.

This dance was a sedate one. Adanel was as careful and precise in her steps as she was in her business. When it ended, they were on the far side of the court from the table. Denethor held Adanel's arm when she would have returned. 'I have a question,' he murmured.

'What?'

Denethor glanced about to make sure they would not be overheard. 'Does Beregar know of his kin?'

'Not from me. What else he has heard...' Adanel shrugged. 'Why?'

'Just curious.' Denethor walked her back to the table. It was busy, with a hand outstretched for every mug filled. Denethor leaned across the table, taking one for himself. He started to thank Rose and found himself looking directly at Violet. Her hair was under a plain kerchief, her sleeves were rolled up, and a damp apron covered her dress. It was not time that had changed her. They stared at each other for a long moment, then Denethor inclined his head. 'Thank you.'

She brushed his hand lightly with her fingertips. 'Thank you, my lord.' With a brisk nod and a smile, she turned back to the barrels to draw more ale. Denethor began his search for Aiavalë. She was near Finduilas. He drank his ale and waited for dusk, then pulled Aiavalë out for a dance.

'Denethor, I'm going to hit you!' she warned.

'One dance and I'll let you go to Anórien,' he promised, giving her a winning smile. With a grumble, she acceded. He could tell she had been practicing. None too soon for his tastes, there was a final toast offered to Wren and Marlong, they danced, and then retreated into their house. Upon returning to the Stewards House, Denethor kissed Finduilas. 'I have an errand to run ere I may rest. I should not be long.'

Above the Court of the Fountain, the Tower gleamed in the starlight. Each branch of the White Tree stood out sharply against the night. Denethor walked to the third floor where Ecthelion's apartments lay and asked the doorward if the Steward was still awake. He was not kept waiting.

Ecthelion sat behind the desk in his office. The desk had a number of reports spread out across it. His shirt sleeves were rolled up, his collar open, and ink stained one of his fingers. 'What is it, Denethor?' he asked crisply.

'I need only a minute of your time.' Denethor looked carefully. Nothing. She loves you still. 'I was bidden to give you this message...'

***

Minas Tirith, Mid December, 2978 T.A.

'I'm going to bed,' Finduilas said with a yawn, 'but you should keep visiting.'

'Get your rest now, Lamb,' Luinil teased, 'for you'll have none soon enough!' Finduilas laughed, kissed them both goodnight and went to her room.

Luinil had arrived in Minas Tirith a week past with Hilda, and Imrahil was due from Anórien just before mettarë. Adrahil had stayed in Dol Amroth, so Imrahil would sit for the fief in the Great Council. It would be a quiet Yule in Minas Tirith this year. Of the western lords, only Morvorin was coming.

Denethor poured himself and Luinil another cup of wine. The last few days had been taken up with Finduilas and the incipient arrival of their daughter. He was glad for his mother-in-law's presence; Finduilas was fretting less and the house was running more smoothly since Luinil had set things in order. She smiled at him and asked, 'How are you bearing up, Denethor?'

'Me? Perfectly well. I have only a kingdom to tend to, not a baby.'

'I am sure you will do as well with your child as you do with Gondor,' she replied, then cocked her head, a measuring look in her eye that Denethor knew all too well from Finduilas. 'Adrahil is sorry he could not be here, but felt he needed to be in the falas this year. The last three Yules he has been away from Dol Amroth.'

'Given what will happen in the next two years, it is best he be there to lead.'

'Adrahil was displeased this fall when Thorongil did not come to the port, but spent much time in Morthond. He does not care for the captain's slights.'

'The Prince needs to direct his ire towards me for that. It was my wish that the captain stay in the mountain vales. He will come to Dol Amroth in the spring and learn about boats from the Prince. I would appreciate Adrahil not drowning him in the bay.'

Luinil laughed. 'It will be a great temptation, but he will refrain. I am curious, though. I have watched the two of you for almost five years, you and Thorongil. What do you intend with him?'

'That is up to him.'

'Are you still rivals?' Luinil bluntly asked. 'The Steward is ninety-two years old, and times are full of both change and trial. The captain is an ambitious man.'

'Thorongil is a great leader in war, but he has nothing else to offer. No army, no alliances, no wealth, only himself. He knows this.'

'Has he not sought to gain those things here?'

He has earned them, though he has yet to lay claim. 'At one time, perhaps, but he has been chastened and knows he will not be allowed to divide the realm for his own ends. Any rivalry that may once have existed is through.'

Luinil looked at the bedroom door, thoughtful. 'I see. In a few days, any hopes he had may disappear. In times of trial, people prefer certainty.'

'Yes. So I deem.'

***

He stalked the hills of Emyn Arnen, leading a troop of Rangers. He was young once more, fresh to full manhood. This time, though, the quarry was nor Orcs but other men, soldiers of the Usurper, who sent out patrols from Osgiliath to hunt the Faithful in Ithilien. Aldamir held Minas Anor and the Pelennor against them. The scorched capital between the two towers had become their prison. Holding it would be their end. The King would return.

***

Finduilas had gone to Laanga's garden alone that morning, refusing even Luinil's company. Luinil waited until Finduilas was gone from the circle, then had ordered the other young women to leave and stay with Aiavalë and Widow Almarian. Twice during the day, Denethor had left the house and walked to the sixth circle, trying to find Laanga's garden, but could not locate the door. He even walked the Citadel wall, looking down into the gardens behind the houses. None was the one he wanted.

At the sound of the front door opening, Denethor hurried downstairs. The herbalist stood in the doorway, Finduilas on his arm. 'It is time,' Laanga said.

Luinil came down the stairs and embraced Finduilas tightly. 'How are you, Lamb?'

'Well enough. It is not too painful.'

'I sent the girls to stay with Aiavalë,' Luinil said, 'It will be better that they not worry.' They went upstairs to Finduilas's study. Aeluin followed a few minutes later with tea. Laanga did not ask if he should stay, but took a seat on the floor near the hearth, where he was quickly joined by the cat. Sitting there, still as time, he reminded Denethor of the dark eyed statues that guarded the ascent to Dunharrow. Finduilas tugged on Denethor's arm to make him sit on the couch, then curled up against him. As he had no idea what he should do, Denethor held her loosely and waited for Luinil and Laanga to guide them. Their calm was reassuring. Luinil poured Finduilas tea, told Denethor to make sure she drank, and then distracted them with stories and conversation. As the evening wore on, Finduilas grew restless, so Denethor walked with her in the corridor from the study to the Wall Door and back, over and over. Dúlin and Beregar brought up supper on trays, but Finduilas could not eat, only managing a few bites of bread and a cup of broth.

The contractions were coming more strongly now, and often, leaving Finduilas grimacing. Denethor found himself wishing what the battlefield surgeons said was so, that his touch could heal. He laid a hand along Finduilas's face and touched his forehead to hers. Slowly, he felt a familiar chill and his thoughts clouded, but Finduilas's breathing eased and she felt well enough to eat a few bites of meat and some more bread. Afterwards, she drowsed in his arms.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when Finduilas cried out and struggled to stand. The back of her skirt was soaked through and the couch was wet where she had been sitting. Denethor smelled something tinged with blood. Luinil and Laanga were to Finduilas's side at once.

'Water broke,' Luinil said briskly.

'Yes.' Laanga pulled a handful of the wet skirt to his nose and sniffed, then knelt to look at the fluid that dripped to the floor. 'It's clean. I will tell Lhûn to come.' Just that quickly, he gathered his cloak and was gone.

Denethor held Finduilas in his arms, trying to soothe her. She was crying in humiliation at the mess, hiding her face. 'It's all right Lamb,' Luinil crooned, wiping her daughter's tears away, 'it's only your womb opening. Aeluin, have someone clean this up and make sure the upstairs is well lit and the fires going. And have water brought for washing! Denethor, help Finduilas upstairs. We need to get her out of these clothes.'

By the time they were upstairs, Finduilas had regained her composure. 'Get my old robe, Denethor,' she said as she undid ties and buttons on her dress. 'No doubt there will be more of this and I might as well wear something that can be ruined.' She did not bother putting the robe on until after Aeluin brought water and she washed her legs.

Luinil sat Finduilas in a chair and handed Denethor a hairbrush. 'Brush her hair out, then braid it loosely. The midwives will be here soon. Who is going to wait with you?'

'Wait with me?'

'Yes. You'll need someone to wait with while the babe comes.'

'I wait here.'

'No. You wait out there,' Luinil pointed to the front room, 'and someone waits with you to keep you there. Who is it?' He shook his head. 'Borondir. He's sensible. And Brandir. They can get you drunk.' Finduilas was giggling. 'Beregar!' Luinil called as she walked out the door, 'I need you to send one of the pups...'

'I am not leaving you,' Denethor sternly told Finduilas.

'You have to, friend. I don't want you to watch,' she answered just as sternly. 'Though you shouldn't leave until Lhûn says you must.'

Not long afterwards, there was a great clatter downstairs. Luinil and Lhûn appeared, telling Finduilas to wait in the front room with Denethor while the midwives prepared the bedroom. Guardsmen hauled a large, flat washbasin into the room and then a folded metal frame. Women Denethor did not know carried in bundles and bags, Lhûn ordering them about with calm efficiency. Every few minutes, Finduilas would seize his hand and squeeze, then pant.

'Alquallë?'

'It hurts, friend.'

Lhûn told them the room was ready. The rug had been rolled up and a few thick mats of straw and cloth laid down and the metal frame held a narrow pallet. Every flat surface was covered with something - cloths, medicines, and other tools of their craft. 'It will be several hours yet,' Lhûn assured them. She did not chase Denethor away at once, but told him to stay next to Finduilas and be quiet. Hour after hour, Finduilas's pain increased. He walked her back and forth from the front room, rubbed her back when she lay on the birthing pallet, held her hands tightly when she groaned and grimaced, and willed her his strength. Lhûn would periodically palpate Finduilas's belly or place her fingers inside the womb opening, feeling for the baby. The other women sat and waited, knitting or sewing to while the time.

Well past midnight, Lhûn checked Finduilas again. When she straightened up, she turned to Denethor and pointed at the door. 'Out.'

'No. I don't wish to leave her.'

'Very commendable of you. Out, and do not come back until I say you may.'

Denethor was shaking off Luinil's and a midwife's attempts to pull him out, when Finduilas tugged his hand. 'Go, please. Mother is here.' With a kiss on her brow, he obeyed. Borondir and Brandir were downstairs in the solar, waiting for him. He told them to come upstairs; Lhûn may have barred him from the room, but he was not going to be one step further away than he had to be. Brandir tried to tease him and get him to drink something, but Denethor ignored it. He set his chair so he could watch the door to Finduilas's room and waited. Borondir sat next to him, taking one of Denethor's hands in his own.

Finduilas began to cry out. Each was a knife in him. Denethor willed that the pain could somehow be visited upon himself, that she could be spared her suffering, but the only torment was to his heart. A dozen times, he tried to rise to go to her, but Borondir held him tightly and Brandir put hands on his shoulders and made him sit.

The bells tolled the hour, and then again, and he wondered why it was going on so long. It was almost fourteen hours now. Every so often he heard one of the women encouraging Finduilas, telling her that all was going well. Denethor could not remember feeling more useless in his life. Steadily, the voices in the next room became more excited, merging together. Only Finduilas's voice was distinct, and sometimes he could make out words. 'Mama! Mama, hold me!' he heard, and later she shouted at others to be quiet. He had not known she knew such curses. After several long cries of pain, she called out, 'No, no, I don't want to die!' and Borondir and Brandir had their hands full wrestling Denethor back into his chair.

There were no more words, only sound. Denethor closed his eyes, listening for anything to tell him it was finished. He made himself relax so that Borondir and Brandir would loosen their grip upon him. Alquallë, I am here, I love you. Something warm touched his heart and he wrapped it inside. A great cry, silence, and a low murmur of voices, sounds of feet moving rapidly. 'Lamb? Finduilas? Look at me!' Brandir turned his head away, also listening.

With a lunge, Denethor eluded his kinsmen, crossed the room, and barged through the door. The room was hot and the smell intense, of blood and waste and wet things, like a battle field. No one paid him any attention. He expected that Finduilas would be on the pallet, but she was half-standing, half-squatting on one of the mats, supported by Luinil and another woman. Blood coated her thighs and the mat beneath her was fouled with blood. Lhûn knelt nearby, a hand on Finduilas's belly. Across the room, the other women stood in a knot around something on a table, but there was no sound of a babe crying. He crossed to Finduilas and took her face in his hands. She blinked once, twice, and reached for him, sagging into his arms.

'Nearly done, sweetling,' Lhûn said, 'the baby's out, now I need the cord. Keep pushing.' Finduilas shuddered and almost fell, Denethor clasping her tightly to his breast. 'That's a girl, push, push, there!' There was a strong scent of blood and Lhûn scrambled to her feet holding a shallow metal bowl filled with something dark. 'Blood knot's out!' This pleased the other women. A sharp smack on the side of his face got Denethor's attention. Lhûn was glaring. 'Since you can't follow orders, you're going to get ordered. Bring her to the basin so she can be washed.'

Orders he understood. A younger woman was adding scalding water to a pail of cooler liquid next to the large basin before the fire. Ignoring the blood and other things that clung to her, Denethor picked Finduilas up and brought her over, holding her upright while Luinil and Lhûn sluiced water on her and scrubbed off the stains. They splashed him as well, but he did not mind - they could beat him with clubs if it pleased them, as long as they let him stay. On the far side of the room, Denethor heard the baby make sounds, though it did not cry. Lhûn barked at him to turn Finduilas around so they could wash her front. It felt odd to have an arm flat across her abdomen. Lhûn checked the bleeding, toweled her off, and told Denethor to put her on the pallet. Behind them, he knew the mats were being rolled up. He knelt beside the pallet. Finduilas looked more tired than he had ever seen her.

'Alquallë?' he whispered, and was rewarded with a weak squeeze of his hand. 'Are you all right?'

Finduilas opened her eyes and summoned a slight smile. 'Ouch.' He laid his hand on her face and tried to draw away the pain. Luinil brought over a warmed blanket to augment the thin sheet and knelt on the other side of the cot, rubbing her daughter's back.

Lhûn drew near, a bundle in her arms. 'Finduilas? There is someone who wishes to greet you.' Finduilas reached out an arm. Lhûn laid the swaddled babe next to her. 'Say hello to your mother.'

Denethor looked at the puffy red face peeking out of the cloth with dismay. 'Is she... healthy?'

'He. And yes, he is healthy, as big and strong a boy child as I've ever delivered.' He? That was not right. Denethor looked up at the healer in confusion. Finduilas began to shake. 'Is something wrong, Denethor?' Lhûn said, noticing his expression.

'Yes! He is!' Finduilas crowed, dissolving into giggles. Denethor sighed and shook his head. Lhûn motioned for him to move out of her way.

'If you can bear it, you should try to let the baby suck. The sooner that happens, the sooner the womb dries up and the more milk you'll have. He'll be too tired to do much right now.' Finduilas nodded. Lhûn and Luinil helped her get the baby positioned. They exclaimed in delight at how strongly he tried to nurse. 'Ah, he'll be an easy one,' Lhûn happily pronounced. Denethor stood to the side, not certain what he should do now. Soon the baby fell asleep and Luinil tucked the blanket around Finduilas.

'Bring a chair over, Denethor,' Luinil told him, 'and sit with them while we get the room neat.' Before he sat, she embraced him and kissed his cheek. 'Congratulations, son.' Denethor sat as close as he could, ignoring the bustle behind him. After a bit, he looked around and realized no one was there save the two - three - of them. Finduilas dozed.

Carefully, Denethor pulled the bundle away from her. The face still looked wrong. With a glance at the door, he pulled at the cloth until he worked it free, exposing the baby. It was definitely a boy. Denethor touched an arm, and then again, amazed at the softness of the skin. He got out of the chair and knelt to be closer. Unwrapped, the baby's face did not look so strange. It surprised him that the child was so thin - he thought babies were chubby. Big? You're tiny. Denethor gingerly took one of the boy's hands into his own, afraid to grasp too hard. The baby's fingers clasped one of his own with great strength, miniscule fingers too short to reach all the way around. Denethor left his hand where it was and explored the rest of this new form.

Every fold of flesh was a breathtaking discovery. Denethor touched the babe tentatively at first, afraid that his own rough fingers would snag on the tender skin, then more firmly, delighting in the sensation. You. You are... you. He laid a light kiss on the little fingers that still gripped his own hand. Another followed. Denethor kissed his son, delighting in this miracle. You were not before, and now you are. Arda itself is changed that you, so utterly new, are here. Denethor knew he was weeping, but he wanted to laugh and yell from the rooftops that his son lived and the world was made anew.

Fingers brushed his cheek. Finduilas watched, smiling. 'Is he perfect?'

'Yes.'

'Then cover him so he doesn't catch cold.' Denethor hastily wrapped their son back in his swaddling cloth and returned him to his mother's arms. In a moment, she was asleep. Denethor sighed in contentment and watched them.

Behind him, the door creaked open. That quickly, Denethor was on his feet and on guard. Lhûn looked at him and chuckled. 'Now, there, Papa Wolf. I'll not harm your cub or your mate. Put your hackles down.' She checked on Finduilas and shook her head over the unwrapped baby. 'I have never known a father to resist that bundle.'

'You shouldn't wrap them up so tight.'

'Keeps them warm,' Lhûn absently replied. In a moment, the boy was swaddled again, though not so tightly. 'You should get some rest, Denethor. It will be day soon.'

'I'm not...'

'Leaving her side, of course not, so rest here.' The healer smiled and laid a hand on his shoulder. 'It was a good delivery, and she took no harm. Would you like me to take word to the Steward that the Lady is safely delivered of a boy child?'

'Yes. Please do.' Denethor retook his seat next to the bed, a hand placed so it touched both his wife and his son. He was woken from shallow sleep by the sound of bells ringing out the joyous news. The light of the new day showed dimly in the window, and Denethor remembered what day it was. His birthday.


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

In Challenges

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Author: Anglachel

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Rating: Adult

Last Updated: 07/01/09

Original Post: 02/23/04

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