The dead never slept alone, even in their last abode. Porters assigned to Rath Dínen’s gate dreaded night watches, and many preferred the day, for fewer ghosts troubled them then. When Faramir drew near Fen Hollen, the Closed Door, its caretaker looked at him curiously, an unspoken question written on his face: Why are you here?
Why am I here? Because the stillness of my own house is unbearable. Because tonight, weary from another day of rebuilding before Elessar’s coronation, I could not open the door to my father’s house. The door mocked me, daring me to enter. And I could not step over the threshold, knowing the emptiness waiting there. No father. No brother. No one.
The porter recognized him, and acknowledged his authority with a small bob of the head. He might receive no answer from the Steward, but he would not bar the way. Unlocking the door, he allowed Faramir to go through Fen Hollen to the street beyond, which was empty of any living Man.
Why am I here? Because duty draws my mind from sadness. Descendants of Mardil Voronwë kept faith through centuries, awaiting a king many thought would never come. Now, the king is here and needs a steward no longer. But Aragorn will need one thing in the Steward’s keeping, if only for the coronation. And the long-dead watch over it on our behalf.
He passed the House of Stewards where the dead of Húrin’s line lay, bowing his head briefly as he went. The cracked dome needed repairs, but it could wait: the spirits there would not fly from their broken home. He walked quietly, statues of forgotten kings guarding the Silent Street from intruders like the living, though Faramir did not notice them. A few steps more, and his destination came into view: Eärnil’s tomb. The stones rose above him in carven glory, shrine to deeds few remembered, as he stood before the entrance. How much easier to confront these ghosts than my own,
Faramir mused as he opened the heavy door to King Eärnil’s final resting place.
He recalled the air smelling staler, older. Faramir remembered coming to Rath Dínen as a child, when his father brought him and Boromir there for…do not think about it.
Before sadness overwhelmed him, Faramir pushed away the memory of the three Hurinionath standing together, and focused upon the present. Down the corridor he paced, past tablets that commemorated King Eärnil’s deeds and his son, King Eärnur. Eärnur had no crypt of his own, though a monument here marked his death ten centuries earlier. Before he left Minas Tirith to confront the Nazgûl who killed him, Eärnur brought his crown to this tomb, putting it into his dead father’s hands for safekeeping. Faramir walked past Eärnur’s memorial, drawn to a place all Hurinionath knew well. Slowing, he approached the spot where the line of kings ended, and the line of stewards began.
Even in death, Eärnil’s statue atop the vault looked imposing. In his hands lay the casket of black lebethron
, the silver runes upon its lid surprisingly clear: Duty. Honor. Wisdom. The crown should be inside.
He stood there, time passing, yet Faramir could not take the box from Eärnil’s hands. His eyes fixed on black and silver, Faramir found himself speaking, low words that only ghosts might hear. “It should be Father who does this. Or Boromir. Not me.” He wanted to leave, but his mind refused to let him turn away. They are not here. Would you balk at this responsibility? Perform your duty, Steward of Gondor.
Damping down sadness, Faramir lifted the casket, to determine that all would be in readiness for the coronation day. With hands that shook just a little, he opened the box, a crack only, to reassure himself the crown was there. Nestled in silken folds, he saw a circlet, silver flashed with gold, wings and jewels adorning. Reclosing the casket’s lid to safeguard the symbol of office, he placed the box back into Eärnil’s waiting hands, secure until the day all might see the crown once more. Turning towards the door, the last of the Hurinionath thought, May Elessar Envinyatar bear you to a time when all griefs are mended.
With thanks to SailingtoByzantium and HF for wonderful beta work.
Inspiration: Written for the Quickies 3rd quarter challenge of 2004.
Author's Notes: On the ruin of the House of the Stewards, after Denethor’s madness: "... as Gandalf came to the end of Rath Dínen there was a great noise. Looking back they saw the dome of the house crack and smoke issue forth; and then with a rush and rumble of stone it fell in a flurry of fire; but still unabated the flames danced and flickered among the ruins." RotK, “The Pyre of Denethor.”
On the crown’s location: "Therefore, though the years lengthened, the Steward continued to rule Gondor, and the crown of Elendil lay in the lap of King Eärnil in the Houses of the Dead, where Eärnur had left it." Appendix A.
About the casket: On the day of the coronation, Faramir met Elessar at the city Gate, accompanied by Húrin of the Keys, “and no others, save that behind them walked four men in the high helms and armour of the Citadel, and they bore a great casket of black lebethron
bound with silver.” RotK, “The Steward and the King.”
At Elessar’s coronation, Faramir says, “’Men of Gondor, the loremasters tell that it was the custom of old that the king should receive the crown from his father ere he died; or if that might not be, that he should go alone and take it from the hands of his father in the tomb where he was laid. But since things must now be done otherwise, using the authority of the Steward, I have today brought hither from Rath Dínen the crown of Eärnur, the last king whose days passed in the time of our forefathers of old’. Then the guards stepped forward, and Faramir opened the casket, and he held up the ancient crown.” RotK, “The Steward and the King.”
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.