1. Repose Earned, Words Unspoken
I to my perils
Of cheat and charmer
Came clad in armour
By stars benign.
Hope lies to mortals
And most believe her,
But man's deceiver
Was never mine.
The Year 3019 of the Third Age. Lord Denethor is Steward of Gondor. His eldest son and heir, Boromir, has gone to Imladris to seek the Doom of Minas Tirith.
January 8: The Fellowship is in Hollin.
The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.
These are dark days; a man does better to trust to his own sense and wisdom, than to the partisan dealings of ambitious wizards and the imprudence of the learned. Though our realm has waned, worn by the contention and toil of years, I am yet a Lord of some influence, and do wield a great power that shall serve to uphold our cause.
Long have I foreseen this: we contend with evil forces for the fate of men. Gondor must hold, for here and here alone is the strength to stand against the corruption of Mordor. For generations beyond memory we have warded the lands of the West with the lifeblood of our people, and we shall not now fail, at the last test. The game is in play, and mine shall be the hand that directs the vital pieces.
Boromir! Return soon, my son, and bring thy father a mighty gift, a token of thy faith.
February 26: Breaking of the Fellowship. Death of Boromir; his horn is heard in Minas Tirith.
My heart forebodes that some great evil has befallen thee, son! I fear, I fear me that thou art fallen, my Boromir. How hast thou died, whilst others live unscathed, less faithful and less valiant? Alas the day: that I should outlive my eldest child, the bright jewel of my hopes and all my joy!
March 10: The Dawnless Day. The Muster of Rohan: the Rohirrim ride from Harrowdale. Faramir rescued by Gandalf outside the gates of the City.
It ill becomes you my son, to turn thus your eyes to other men while I your father and lord still live, who should have the first allegiance of your heart and mind. Ever you have misprized me, Faramir; what shall I call these latest deeds but disloyalty? Whence came this strangeness, that drives you since boyhood to seek a wizard to be the keeper of your conscience, rather than myself?
In you my father lives again, and in your voice he speaks once more: dearly honoured and cherished, and yet unjust to me. Just as did he, you look to others for counsel and commendation, and the greater part of your love that should rightfully be mine is given to another.
The more I feel now your brother’s absence, who ever gave me the first pure fruits of his heart's devotion! In his eyes I saw no shadow, nor any reproach for my imagined sins. In his undivided affection I thought to find the staff of my old age and to pass the Stewardship of this realm to one who would not despise the traditions of his forefathers. But he is gone, and with him my last best hopes for the future of Gondor.
Strange, strange to think his blood is cold
And mine flows easy on,
And that straight look, that heart of gold,
That grace, that manhood, gone.
Woe to the day that I yielded to his persuasion and sent him forth from me in your stead! And woe to the ill chances that kept him from success in his chosen duty; had he lived, he would have kept us from this treacherous day, when all our lives hang upon a fool's hope and the chanceless errantry of an ill-equipped halfling.
Strange destiny that brings us to this pass, Faramir: a fate that none of us had guessed. It seems you bear a charmed life that keeps you, though faithless to your lord, from hurt in battle; would that some such magic had guarded Boromir when he periled himself far from his homeland. But that is past and beyond help, and it seems that you now must be my heir. Not lightly shall I surrender the rights of our house in favour of a ragged pretender from a forgotten line. The thief of my father's love shall not so easily seize that which is the lawful heritage of me and mine.
With all Mithrandir's acclaimed wisdom, he sees less than I of what befalls far from here; I shall keep my counsel still and watch for portents in the Stone of Seeing.
March 11: The Council of Gondor meets. Denethor sends Faramir to Osgiliath.
I wake from dreams and turning
My vision on the height
I scan the beacons burning
About the fields of night.
Ha! Mithrandir, your schemes go awry, though you know it not. Your vaunted King, your wanderer from the North, has fallen into shadow in the land of the nameless dead. I can no longer see him from afar - he will not come now to the Tower of Guard. But even now Rohan rides to answer our call, and Gondor's borders must be held until they come.
Well, Lord Faramir, if you must be my heir and hold these lands after me, you shall prove your loyalty. By the blood of my fathers, you shall choose this day where your allegiance truly lies. You shall not slight me for the wizard, my son, no, not ever again.
March 13: Frodo captured by the Orcs of Cirith Ungol. The Pelennor is over-run. Faramir is wounded.
The signal-fires of warning
They blaze, but none regard;
And on through night to morning
The world runs ruinward.
Faramir! Mine was the folly, not to foresee that Sauron's malice would mark my son out for singular enmity. And I have brought thee to this end, I thy father who should have blessed thee at least at our parting. And now all omens are evil, and all chances are lost. The halfling has fallen to the dark tower, and the wizard's choices have brought us all to ruin. Hope has failed, and black sails will come down the river to seal our sordid fate.
March 14: Minas Tirith is besieged.
I mourn you, and you heed not how;
Unsaid the word must stay;
Last month was time enough, but now
The news must keep for aye.
Wilt thou not awaken, my son? Behold, thy father humbles himself on his knees before thee: speak but a word, a solitary word, for my solace. Let me see thy beloved eyes once more. Thou hearest me not, and all my tears cannot wash away the bitter words I have spoken. Wilt thou not forgive? If I must still bear second place in thy heart, so be it; I am content, if only thou wouldst wake to tell me so.
Thy flesh is scorching hot to my touch, as from some fire that consumes thee from within. I fear thou art beyond any hope of mending. A pitiless doom that brings me to these desperate straits! Yet is this not madness? to blame ill fortune that is the bitter fruit of my own deeds upon the stars and planets, as though my chosen follies were driven by some compulsion outside my soul. No, no: mine is the sin, and mine must be the blame. I have killed all that I love, wife and heir and city; and now I fear, my sole remaining son.
Wake, my Faramir! Without thee, there is none to light my great darkness. O let us speak again, we two alone, and tell old tales, and laugh, and find again the blessed memories of happy hours within these walls…
March 15: In the early hours the Witch-king breaks the Gates of the City.
When earth's foundations flee,
Nor sky nor land nor sea
At all is found,
Content you, let them burn:
It is not your concern;
Sleep on, sleep sound.
The gates are thrown down, and the walls are breached. All shall wither. All shall perish. All shall burn. This night will see no ending.
Come my son, let us make an end worthy of our blood. For we are the last of a proud race, and should not wait for a mean end at the hands of vile creatures such as now besiege the city.
Ah! thy fever rises. Let us then be seared together. I shall build us a pyre that will dwarf the fire that lives in this, thy crumbling flesh. Hush! Sleep on, my son. Peaceful repose thou hast earned. Do not wake now to further pain. Thy father shall burn hot enough for us both, hotter than grief and wrath, fiercer than pride and honour; until we cool at last into ashes of oblivion and endless night. The world will end in shadow and flame, but we will outrace its ruin, thee and I.
The title of the story is a riff off the title of Housman's poem "Parta Quies" -- Repose Earned, and off the theme of Poem XLII.
The phrase “Parta Quies” probably references Virgil's Aeneid. It's from a passage where Aeneas talks about Andromache and Helenus, who have earned "peaceful repose" unlike himself, who must navigate strange seas to achieve his destiny.
The fragments of poetry quoted are all by A.E.Housman. In order of appearance in the text, they are from:
1. I to my perils... Poem VI, More Poems
2. The year might age, and cloudy... Poem XXXIX, Last Poems
3. Strange, strange to think... Poem XLII, More Poems
4. I wake from dreams and turning... Poem XLIII, More Poems
5. The signal fires of warning... Poem XLIII, More Poems
6. I mourn you, and you heed not how... Poem XLII, More Poems
7. When earth's foundations flee... Poem XLVIII: 'Parta Quies', More Poems
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