Forum: Hands of the King

Discussing: Ch. 7 - Descent

Ch. 7 - Descent

Descent Denethor POV chapter. A long conversation with Thorongil, and three new OCs, two of whom will become semi-regulars. There is a lot going on in the chapter, with some background information about what Denethor has been up to since the great council. Also, a good deal of historical information and more family members for Denethor. I'm debating putting together a timeline for tracking events - have to be careful so it doesn't have spoilers. One goal here was to pay attention to Denethor's physicality. If he & Aragorn/Thorongil look as being of closest kin, then they are pretty similar in their physical abilities. They'll both be tall, agile, with keen senses and an ease of movement. Boromir and Faramir, though of different body types, are also very physical men, and I imagine that Denethor would more like than unlike his sons at a comparable age. I don't know if it came through in the first chapter, but Denethor and Thorongil vary in their favorite choice of weapon. Thorongil is a swordsman, while Denethor prefers the bow. Each is, of course, deadly with either. Typo/grammar corrections deeply appreciated, as always. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Well, at least I was forwarned against new illegitimate siblings of Denethor continuing to make their entrance. Thopugh Morwen seems to be an honest person. If you hadn't pointed it out, I would have missed the different weapon preferences of Thorongil and Denethor, but I tend to hold my often poor and very selective memory responsible for it. In other words, I should re-read the fic. I like the idea that Denethor's weapon of choice is the same as is Faramir's, BTW. One goal here was to pay attention to Denethor's physicality. Which was very impressive! (Well, it's easy to impress a couch potato like me, but still...) It definitely came across, both in the 'lesson' for Thorongil and in the ranger patrol. It's a good thing you did this because I bet I'm not the only one who tends to forget that the Denethor of your story is not the old man sitting in the Tower Hall whom we get to know in RotK, but someone at the height of his physical and mental abilities.

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

I discovered this fic sometime after you posted chapter 6, and was really excited to see that you'd updated it. It's fascinating. The fact that Thorongil is *not* A Good Guy-- the feeling of him as a character is fabulously shifted. He feels like Aragorn, but Aragorn as not entirely a good thing-- I think it captures well the ambiguity that must have existed about his presence in Gondor when he was not yet ready to claim his birthright, which I had always felt must exist. He belongs there, but not yet, and his presence there is causing trouble even while he struggles to serve Gondor to the best of his ability. So "Beruthiel" wants him to be King-- in LoTR, that's what the Good Guys want, but in this fic she is definitely not A Good Guy, and viewing this from Denethor's perspective is fascinating. Your Denethor is the most reasoned, human, and thoroughly realized one I've read-- he is everything Tolkien has implied he must be, and you're totally avoiding all the fanon ickiness about him being such a bad parent. He is the Steward, the last Steward, a powerful and strong man, whose difficult (believably!!!) life has prepared him uniquely well for the role. I am enjoying this immensely. I've taken to rereading it periodically and clicking forlornly on the "view chapters' option wishing another one would show up. I *love* the relationship with Finduilas. I find her an interesting and quite unique character (haven't read your literary source for her... am so uncultured), I like how you deal with her illness, and I *love* Denethor's response to her. I love how wistful he is, how vulnerable to her without being weak at all he is. I have repeatedly reread the scene in Chapter 5 where she fights with him and then he helps her down the stairs after her coughing, and I love the line in their reconciliation conversation where she exclaims that he's much her greater friend, and he seems actually touched. I want to see how they fall in love, and I want to see what he's like once he's given up on his resolution not to love anyone. A lot of tiny little mentions of things in this fic have been wonderful-- the oblique references to how Denethor snuck into Maiaberiel's rooms pretending to be a paramour were truly excellent, and I almost want to read the scene where it happens and yet must admit it's probably better to read about it this way. I am mostly confused by Finduilas's dreams, but I do like the dreams of Denethor. I'm terrible at figuring out symbolism, so I've no idea what the pearls could mean, and I'm utterly clueless about the eagle and suchlike... Good thing you said, "Henneth Annun" or I wouldn't have ever figured out 'oh, waterfall, Ithilien, duh'. I did see a few typos and punctuation things. I will go back and read it and point those out in a bit.

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

A lot going on indeed! A nice job with the chair showing Denethor and Thorongil of a height like the Númenoreans. I really want to know more about the Lost and their relationship to Thorongil. [whine] I had to read the description of Denethor's descent twice, to try to 'see' it, but that may reflect my difficulty with visualization and action scenes - an admitted problem of mine. Inevitable typo patrol: No what his eldest sister might wish, if the girl’s heart did not incline towards him, he would do nothing to encourage such thoughts. and he had never know the captain to act with less than Gondor’s best interests at heart. Areas near the river could be repopulated, the hearts of the people had been lifted up, things were more prosperous. No typo here, just that 'things were more prosperous' sounds flat to my ear. Perhaps 'the land' or something like that instead of 'things'? The guards greeted him, not having noticed that their Captain-General had appeared from an alley rather than have walked down the main street. Finally, Thorongil had threatened to leave the Steward’s service rather than interact it. By the time he arrived where the were sleeping, all the men were awake and most were ready to fight. Halmir came over. Lyllyn

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Thorongil is a Good Guy - but one totally out of his depth in a situation where he has to pretend to be something other than he is. He does camoflauge well, but deception is something alien and abhorrent to him. However, if he does not mislead to some degree, he endangers himself. This only escalates as an issue as the story goes on. In some ways, it is a trial of his character - to understand the difference between a formal right to something and having the moral right to it. Which leads to the bizarre relationship between him and Denethor. I spend half my time writing this story wanting to knock their heads together and yell "Oh, will you two get over it!" I'm so glad you like what I'm doing with Denethor. Getting the right balance with this man isn't easy. I, too, am worn out from the Abusive!Denethor trope that has dominated not just fandom writing, but also the movie characterization. OTOH, this is not a person you could ever call "nice" - honorable, strong, kind (in his own manner), passionate, and so forth, but "nice" just isn't in his repetoire. He will end up being a tragic and terrible man. And he will be a real bastard to any number of people before this story is through. Finduilas has become a force unto herself. She had to be the kind of woman Denethor would fall for, and that is a tall order. Independent, intelligent, tough, but also forgiving and compassionate. Souls that complement each other. They fall in love over a long time, a little bit at a time. Denethor in love is a rather scary creature - he only knows one way to love and that is with his whole heart. Mostly, I'm enjoying writing a canonical female character who is not a bitch or a wimp or a warrior maiden. Finduilas is generally horrified at what I put Denethor through and wishes I would stop. Keep an eye on the details. They have a way of coming back at unexpected moments. Also, keep an eye on the cat. Finduilas's dreams are purposefully confusing. The meaning does not become clear for a long time. As for the pearls, well, you'll have to think a little harder. ;-) Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

A lot going on indeed! Even so, one of my simpler chapters. The one I wrapped up last night offers an explanation for the conflicting accounts of the Princes of Dol Amroth, why Mardil made his line that of Ruling Stewards (not Kings), and how Minas Tirith keeps the sea fiefs under control. It's fun having a main character who is the most learned man in Gondor. A nice job with the chair showing Denethor and Thorongil of a height like the Númenoreans. I really want to know more about the Lost and their relationship to Thorongil. [whine] Here, have a hunk of cheddar.... That also will come out a little at a time. Halmir will be back. You will end up knowing what Denethor knows, which is quite a bit given his investigative talents. The descent down the King's Stair is hard to explain. I had to do a bunch of sketches to figure it out. Thanks for typo patrol. I'll fix when all are reported. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Thanks for typo patrol. I'll fix when all are reported. I was rereading the Halmir scenes because I like him ... then I came over here to report a typo, and I see Lyllyn has already caught it. So I'll just repeat myself: good work! Julie Denethor fan, totally hooked by the idea of "The Lost"

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Thopugh Morwen seems to be an honest person. She has her honest moments, but mostly she stays bought. I like the idea that Denethor's weapon of choice is the same as is Faramir's, BTW. Well, since JRRT said they were alike in almost every way, it made sense. It is also part of a larger theme runnign threough the story, the role of (in)sight and judgment. The bow is a waepon that requires a realtionship between seeing a target and knowing how to hit it. A shot is not always straight. In general, Denethor is someone who trusts what he sees with his own eyes, but who is also always spying new things out. Vision/direct knowledge is what he trusts. In a workshop discussion, one of the things we talked about was the different ways Denethor and Thorongil/Aragorn judge and decide. They have remarkably similar judgments about things, but they get there by different routes. Denethor's insistence on tangible proof vs. Thorongil's reliance on belief/ideology provides a fascinating juxtaposition. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

In general, Denethor is someone who trusts what he sees with his own eyes, but who is also always spying new things out. Vision/direct knowledge is what he trusts. Which just perfectly explains his use of the palantir. Ultimately, this kind of rationalism proves to be destructive, though. I wonder if a little bit of Thorongil’s way of looking at the world would have done Denethor good and might have kept him from despairing. I spend half my time writing this story wanting to knock their heads together and yell "Oh, will you two get over it!" But it’s making the tale you tell even more interesting! Denethor in love is a rather scary creature - he only knows one way to love and that is with his whole heart. I can see how this may make life for the one he loves somewhat difficult – guess she could feel stifled. At the same time, it’s a redeeming quality, even more so in the context of your fic and the mess of a marriage between Ecthelion and Emeldir. But then I’m a hopeless romantic.

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Which just perfectly explains his use of the palantir. Ultimately, this kind of rationalism proves to be destructive, though. I wonder if a little bit of Thorongil’s way of looking at the world would have done Denethor good and might have kept him from despairing. Just as too much of Thorongil's perspective is likewise misleading, yes. Their different approaches to things make them a good team because each has something unique to offer. Thorongil's spiritual certainty and Denethor's earthly common-sense augment each other, and Gondor does best when they forget themselves and simply act in concert. It is not that Thorongil doesn't understand worldly things or that Denethor has no faith - it is more that each has a powerful virtue that leaves the man unbalanced. There's also the thought that very little is left to chance in Middle-earth. If both of these men are present, both are necessary, whether in combination or alone. What if Aragorn had been killed before the Ring War, or if he had failed the various temptations placed in his path? This leads to the interesting idea that Denethor is both mentor and understudy to the true king, the one on whom the hope of the West devolves if the primary actor, Aragorn, fails. This is, to my mind, the fundamental paradox of Denethor's position. I can see how this may make life for the one he loves somewhat difficult – guess she could feel stifled. At the same time, it’s a redeeming quality, even more so in the context of your fic and the mess of a marriage between Ecthelion and Emeldir. But then I’m a hopeless romantic. So's Denethor. It is what has kept him from complete despair and cynicism, but the strain is wearing him down. Forty-five years of staring at Mordor has taken its toll. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Typos fixed and posted. I should have another chapter ready in the next day or two. Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

>>I am mostly confused by Finduilas's dreams, but I do like the dreams of Denethor. I'm terrible at figuring out symbolism, so I've no idea what the pearls could mean, and I'm utterly clueless about the eagle and suchlike<< Ok, for me two of the three pearls (dream chap. 5) where the sons given by Finduilas to Denethor, in his care after her death, and lost by him through carelessness: Boromir lost to temptation and Faramir lost to him by neglect. The third pearl was Finduilas in my mind. He got the three pearls out of the waterfall as a surprising gift and lets them drop into the water after exchanging looks with Finduilas. He did not recognize the pearls as of value for himself, as something to hold and to cherish. Denethor smiles sadly after letting the pearls slip. To me this means not simple neglect but also renunciation. In his mind he had to sacrifice his family for Gondors survival. I'm very curious what Anglachel thought of when writing these symbolisms :-) Otherwise I just chime in for a short time. I agree to all the praises given. I like the birth-defected sister. So much inbreeding should cause even more birth defects in the populace as 3% genetic defects are already standard for a normally mixed human populace, and then there are the normal birth defects like club foot and hares lip by which Aiavale is afflicted I assume. And I very much like the description and explanation of Finduilas coughing. I adore the description of Denethor, I wish for more Finduilas-Denethor interaction - and dreams as I like symbolism and mystery. I am impressed by the detailed descriptions of Gondors towns and landscapes or especially the ruin of the Emyn Arnen manor house. I confess 'The Kings stair' I found a bit daring and un-Denethor-like: Denethor climbing the walls like an ape or a thief ;-) What I really do not like, and what makes the story AU in my view, are the many many halfsiblings of Denethor. Dunedains have no bastards, though bastards often were of great importance in human history. Tolkien never recounts of even one if I remember rightly. Dunedain are as elves strictly monogamous. I think the story doesn't even need these bastards, they could be impersonated by cousins borne by aunts who married for love as true Dunedain but beneath their station. Best wishes for this impressing Denethor story and for you Anglachel. Never ponder to stop writing Anglachel :-) Elanor

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

I'm peaking in for a quick alternate interpretation about the "bastard" issue. I've been a beta reader for this story, and when I was introduced to the first bastard, I got a completely different reaction. I thought it was an excellent gapfilling proposal. When Thorongil is discussed in the appendicies (I can't remember the exact spot) there's a pasage that is pertinant: it is stated that Thorongil and Denethor looked so much alike that it was rumored that Thorongil was a bastard son of Ecthelion, and that was a reason why Ecthelion was favoring Thorongil over Denethor. -- I'm sure Tolkien used some other words than "bastard", but that's the meaning. (I also might have the order reversed -- the favortism mentioned first, then the bastard rumor.) Anyway, there wouldn't be that kind of rumor if bastards didn't happen in M-e, or didn't happen with pure Dunedain. So the way I reacted -- if there was a false rumor that Thorongil was Ecthelion's bastard, that makes it quite likely that there were true bastards. So it works for me.

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

The only thing I can find about this in appendix A is the line: "Indeed he [Denethor] was as like to Thorongil as to one of the nearest kin [...]." That might be taken as a subtle hint to rumours that the two men had the same father. I've always been under the impression that Tolkien, being a conservative and also a practising Catholic, was rather strict regarding sexual ethics by modern standards. So it's small wonder there was no place for any kind of promiscuity in the universe he created. Frankly, I can't imagine there weren't any bastards among the Dunedain, though. They were men and women, after all, and unpleasant things like adultery tend to happen among humans, no matter what the laws and customs are. So even though this wasn't a topic the Professor ever brought up in his writing, I believe it's quite legitimate for a fanfic writer to add some dark touches to the highly idealised world that is Middle-earth. Personally, I like this kind of realism (which is not to say I like Ecthelion's or Maiaberiel's sexual morals), but of course it's also perfectly legitimate to disagree, Elanor!

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

OK, I was able to go look it up myself, and a fuller quote: "...Indeed [Denethor] was as like to Thorongil as to one of nearest kin and yet was ever placed second to the stranger in the hearts of men and the esteem of his father. At the time many thought that Thorongil had departed before his rival became his master, ..." It's more ambigious than I remembered, oops. (I suppose that's partially due to fanon influence) ... but the close proximity of "nearest kin", "many thought" and "rival" makes it easy for me to conclude there were rumors about Thorongil, especially coupled with (earlier) how Ecthelion "had the aid and advice of a great captain whom he loved above all". (Plus I think the various OC half-sisters add to Ang's plot.) Granted, in the whole appendix A passage gives the effect that "Ecthelion was wise [in part because] he favored Thorongil over Denethor" -- but the material in the appendicies was written after the Ring War, and the whole narrative would be colored by the knowledge of how Denethor went mad at the end and tried to kill his son. This works both internally and externally. (Tolkien wrote the appendicies after writing the main story, and was putting in retrospective foreshadowing while filling out Aragorn's backstory.)

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Elanor, Julie, & Astara, Geez, I go away for a day and a discussion breaks out! I think all three of you are losing some of the narrative forest for the canonical trees, but it's a reasonable distraction. When I wrote Ecthelion's infidelity into the story, I was not thinking explicitly of the "as of nearest kin" phrase, but quickly noted that it was a very useful coincidence. The irony being, of course, that *Denethor* looks like the (hidden) king, but everyone is reading the signs backwards, as it were. The real rumors should be wondering if Denethor is actually Ecthelion's child, since the Warden resembles Thorongil more than he does his own family. So, you end up with the strange situation where the kinship is only partially of blood, but much more of destiny - it is not a mistake that Denethor & Aragorn should be almost the same age and be so similar to each other in this particular time of trial and danger. As for the infidelity of the Steward, yes, under most circumstances, such behavior would be unthinkable among the Dunedain. So is human sacrifice, but they did do that, as well, on Numenor. The existence of behavior and customs at odds with their cultural legacy is a representation of the degree to which the society is being affected by the presence of Sauron and is itself in decline. It is a clear sign that Things Are Very Bad (TM). The Corsairs (also Dunedain) have fallen into yet worse behavior. I do point to the appendices A & B to remind everyone that Tolkien wrote of kings & other nobles often falling into stupid, wicked, and base behaviors - power corrupts. What is amazing is that the Stewards have ruled for so long and have held the kingdom together so well. As I'm presenting it, it takes the return of Sauron to directly affect this very noble house. They have had more staying power than the kings. Which leads to the character himself. Ecthelion, like so many others in Minas Tirith, is fundamentally despairing. How can they in their decline fend off this ancient enemy? It is the despair that allows his less noble impulses to take root and grow. People do not approve of what he does, but they are not going to abandon their ruler for this kind of moral failure - no leader is worse than a flawed leader. Also, by the time the story takes place, this behavior is in the past. It stopped shortly before he became Steward, and now he has Gandalf to help him overcome the worst of the sense of despair that led him into this type of behavior in the first place. It has always been significant to me that Gandalf gave so much attention to *this* Steward in particular, when he otherwise left them alone. To me, this indicates there was something wrong enough to warrent intervention. So, I'm not trying to say "Oh Tolkien *meant* that people thought Thorongil was Ecthelion's bastard." He meant the opposite - that Denethor was removed from the ordinary line of Stewards in some way. What I am trying to do is show the moral decay that has slowly crept up upon the Dunedain of Gondor, and which is finally affecting even the ruling house. It is not complete, as it is with the Corsairs, and they rally quickly when given leaders who can fend off the rot, such as Adrahil, Thorongil and, yes, Denethor. But it is there. The kingdom and the culture stand in need of a new foundation. As for the half-sisters, each one who exists has a distinct role to play in the story, and is very much her own person. The concept of legitimacy is a key one in HotK, and also that of belonging - who will be inside the society and who not, how are social boundaries drawn, who counts as kin and why, when may illegitimacy be converted to its opposite, and so on. It is crucial in how people respond to Thorongil - his membership in Gondorian society is predicated upon an illegitimate relationship in this interpretation. On what grounds can he make claims to rule? I very purposefully make Thorongil tempted by the idea he could, right now, become king if he plays his cards right. What, in the end, turns him away from temptation and towards a longer, less certain path? With the sisters, there is a less grand attempt to take a place in the society, but each strives to overcome a mixed legacy - to wrongly be of the most noble house in Gondor. It is another way to bring out the two-edged nature of an obsession with blood purity. Is someone like Beregar or Morwen less suitable for positions of authority than someone like Isilmo? Ang

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

When I wrote Ecthelion's infidelity into the story, I was not thinking explicitly of the "as of nearest kin" phrase, but quickly noted that it was a very useful coincidence. ... So, you end up with the strange situation where the kinship is only partially of blood, but much more of destiny - Oops. I knew enough to realize that ... but (scrambling) my first fanon-influenced reaction was to read "kin" in the usual scandal-type way, rather than looking at it more philosophically. As I'm presenting it, it takes the return of Sauron to directly affect this very noble house. They have had more staying power than the kings. & etc., with the politics. -- I like how you're developing this. Good luck writing!

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

I think all three of you are losing some of the narrative forest for the canonical trees, but it's a reasonable distraction. When I wrote Ecthelion's infidelity into the story, I was not thinking explicitly of the "as of nearest kin" phrase, but quickly noted that it was a very useful coincidence. Hi Ang, Julie & Astara It took me a long time to come back to this story. I would like to mention that I hold the same opinion as Ang that Denethor (as Thorongil and Faramir) looks nearly like true Numenoreans. Which doesn't mean that Thorongil and Denethor are siblings, only that they have the same amount of Numenorean blood: 'He is not as other men of this time, Pippin, and whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir whom he loved best.' -Gandalf " Minas Tirith, Lord of the rings: The Return of the King As for the infidelity of the Steward, yes, under most circumstances, such behavior would be unthinkable among the Dunedain. So is human sacrifice, but they did do that, as well, on Numenor. The existence of behavior and customs at odds with their cultural legacy is a representation of the degree to which the society is being affected by the presence of Sauron and is itself in decline. I agree, you could come from this ideas to all those Ecthelian bastards. But if it were possible for Numenoreans to procreate body heirs without marriage or even without love, why then all these Gondorian heirs of Anarion did not just do that: marry a suitable lady and produce a male heir. That would be the procedure with normal humans. But it was not done like this within Anarions descendants. This I take as a hint that Numenorians marry for love. Think on Tar Aldarion, he married the wrong woman for love, and after realising her to be the wrong woman for him he changed the law of succession, because he did not even consider to marry another woman to produce a male heir as would have done a human king. Therefore I think it not possible for an Numenorean to mate without love and marriage. IMO it is not a custom but a psychological restriction. This is Tolkien's AU not our world. Therefore I consider the Ecthelian bastards AU with respect to LoTR and Silm. With the sisters, there is a less grand attempt to take a place in the society, but each strives to overcome a mixed legacy - to wrongly be of the most noble house in Gondor. It is another way to bring out the two-edged nature of an obsession with blood purity. Is someone like Beregar or Morwen less suitable for positions of authority than someone like Isilmo? But you need not bastards for this argument. Children in the female line are already accounted as less suitable. And bastards are even in human history accounted as unsuitable. Otherwise there is no need for marriage or virginity of the bride. The male progenitor has to be sure of his offspring to which all his earthly goods and rights will be bequeathed. Offspring out off wedlock poses dire doubts on the mothers fidelity and thus on the fathers paternity. So you might acclaim the realism intoduced by the bastards but IMO it is our human realism not the LoTR Gondorian world. Best wishes Elanor

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Man, rereading this is so much easier than editing my own novel. Bah, editing. Much better to do it for others. I am discovering little patience for it for my own work in myself. And so, I contribute this: They were all half-breeds, with Gondorian sires and a Haradic mother. To provide a cover for collecting the southern information, Denethor visited the house several every month or two, whether or not there was news. "visited the house several every month" is lacking a noun somewhere. I assume there was supposed to be a "times" in there.

 

 

Re: Ch. 7 - Descent

Oh my, an explanation of the river defense! The kinships are a little confusing but I could work them out eventually. But this: Ecthelion did not precisely approve of his Captain-General’s plan, but neither did he forbid it. Five years into laying the foundation for the new strategy, however, Belemir young of ague. Boromir became Captain-General, and Denethor was made Captain of Osgiliath. It took five more years of planning, with many set-backs and skirmishes, but they retook the ruins. "Belemir young of ague" is missing a verb, presumably "died"... And this one, which I don't know whether was changed or not: There was a prickle along his spine and he slowly examined the surrounding land, watching for motion. He silently took an arrow from the quiver, green feathers black on the starlight, and nocked it. On the starlight or in the starlight? -- dl7

 

 

In Forums

Discussion Info

Intended for: General Audience

This forum is open to all HASA members. It is read-only for the general public.

Membership on HASA is free and it takes only a few minutes to join. If you would like to participate, please click here.

If you are already a member, please log in to participate.

« Back to Hands of the King

Stories linked to the forum