Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice: 13. Third Age 2953 - Part One

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13. Third Age 2953 - Part One

An errand-rider came with orders for Denethor to return to Minas Tirith. Ecthelion's son had few possessions and none worth saving. He left them in the watcher's hut, swung up onto the horse the rider brought, and spurred it towards home. 'Home,' he thought. A shudder ran through him. Alas, he had begun to wonder if he would ever see his City again. The beacon watcher stared, mouth agape, as Denethor rode off.

~*~

The months had turned into years and frustration had grown into something akin to hatred. Denethor was at once ashamed and proud. He knew Ecthelion would have to send for him sooner or later, but five years! Early on, he learned how to make his body hard. He watched for the beacon light at night and, once relieved of this duty in the morning, started out walking. He walked till nuncheon, living off the land, returned to the hovel for a quick lie-down, then returned to his post as night settled. He would not succumb to lassitude nor despair. He was determined to know this land and to learn all he could from it. The watcher and his family were quite dull, knew naught of reading or writing, and contented themselves with games that would keep a youngster happy, but held no challenge for Denethor.

Watching for a signal was monotonous work, but he wrote during the long nights, when his body did not freeze in the winters nor roast in the summers. His mind tried to remember all that he learned during his eighteen plus years. He started a timeline at first, and then wrote the kings' names from Elros forward and all that he could remember of their histories; then he concentrated on the line of Stewards. By the end of the second year, he began to fear for his sanity.

At last, one morning, as his path took him close to the border of Rohan, he was commanded by a hidden voice to give the password. Excitement filled his heart as he heard the language, not his own but that of Thengel's. He was delighted that he correctly interpreted the voice's question. 'Ah, men more of my own station than those I dwell with,' he thought. He held his hands in front of him and assured the voice, in halting Rohirric, that he was not a threat, but a beacon watcher. The voice came forward upon a magnificent horse. Denethor caught his breath at the beauty of the beast as it pranced impatiently in front of him, the sun shining on its ebony coat. The rider had a lance thrust before him, pointed at Denethor's throat.

"How comes a beacon watcher to know the language of Eorl?" he spat.

"I am friend of Thengel, son of Fengel, lord of the horse-masters," Denethor said quietly. "I have been..." He paused in consternation. "I have been stationed here to learn obedience." Shame colored his face, but he would not lie.

"Obedience. Then you are no lowly beacon watcher." The stranger's eyes narrowed to slits. "You are high born. Lessons on obedience are only taught to those who are worthy of it. I would have your name and quickly." The lance moved closer to Denethor's throat.

"My name is Denethor of the line of Stewards."

The man drew in his breath. "Nay, not only of the line, but son of Ecthelion!" He lowered his lance, dismounted and strode forward. "My name is Walda, sister-son of Fengel and Third Marshal of the Riddermark. I know what it means to be taught obedience," and his smile burnt the sun.

Denethor smiled back. "'Tis good to meet one of Thengel's family. He and I are great friends." His face colored again. "He was my captain before this.... posting."

"Are you free at the moment? My camp is only two leagues from here; perhaps we might share 'obedience' stories?"

And so the friendship began. Denethor nearly wept that night as he sat under the stars - to finally have someone to talk to again - someone who had lived the same kind of life Denethor had. He added Walda's name to his log with a drawing of him and his great horse. They had sat together for many hours as old soldiers do. Denethor laughed at this thought. 'Old soldiers, indeed! I am just twenty-three and Walda is twenty-eight.' But the laughter was not in earnest for had not he fought many a battle against Orcs and such, and had not his new friend told him of the battles of the Rohirrim against the same?

~*~

Denethor shook his head. He must put aside reminiscing and discover what had been happening to Gondor during his long absence. Walda had given him some news, but there had been rare visits between the two countries, so his news was not current. Of this, Denethor had been mortified. He made another vow to himself and wrote it in his log. When he became Steward, he would open the borders between the two countries, allies from long past, and ensure that errand-riders would bring news to and from Rohan and Gondor. The errand-rider was loath to give any news to Denethor; he was, after all, sworn to secrecy, but Denethor, having learned the ways of perception during his long years in the wild, bent his will to discover what he could from what the rider did not say. He grew cold as he saw fear flit in the man's eyes as he casually mentioned the Ephel Dúath. So, something had been happening there while he had been gone. Also, there seemed to have been a change in authority in Gondor. Of what, he could not be sure, but there was a hesitancy on the man's part whenever Denethor mentioned Ecthelion.

It was becoming maddening and Denethor was close to losing his patience. Three days now they had ridden at a fast pace, changing horses at the beacon stations, when the Rammas Echor finally came into view. Denethor held his breath as they turned towards the North Gate. Minas Tirith lay before him. Three leagues and he would be in his City. Tears stung his eyes. It was beautiful, more so than he had remembered, though ever had it been before him, in his mind's eye, during his long banishment. He was home!

He heard his name called the moment he passed through the Great Gate. Running towards him was Amdir, fully healed, with a smile that threatened to break his face, so wide was it. "My brother, my friend!" he cried and tried to hug Denethor, but Denethor, as soon as he had recognized the voice, had swung down from his horse and pulled Amdir into his arms. "Amdir," he choked, his voice constricted with emotion. "Amdir, my dearest friend." Long moments passed 'ere either man let go. Finally, Denethor distanced himself from Amdir and looked him over. "You look well, my friend," he battled the tears that wrecked havoc behind his eyes. He had also learnt control whilst away and would not let them fall. "Are you? Well, that is?"

"Yes, and long healed. It is good fortune that has me in the City at this time. I have been stationed at Pelargir for the last year. But due to Turgon's death, I..."

Denethor's eyes widened and his mouth fell open. "What is this you speak of? Turgon is dead?"

Amdir stepped back a pace, stunned. "Yes, Denethor, your grandsire passed seven days ago. Did not the rider tell you? Did not your father send a missive with the news?"

His face turned hard and scarlet. "Nay," he said and jumped back up onto his horse.

"Denethor!" Amdir yelled, "Wait," as Denethor urged his horse forward. Amdir shook his head. 'The Steward's family is again in the midst of upheaval. Why do they not speak to each other?' he wondered as he hurried to follow his friend up the long road to the Citadel.

Denethor's chest hurt and his breath came in short bursts. Fury and grief drove him upwards and his horse, straining to obey his rider's will, stumbled at the Fourth Gate. Denethor jumped from the horse and immediately rubbed its leg. "I am sorry," he said to his mount. "My anger has caused me to harm you," he spoke to the horse in the language he had learnt from Walda. He was sorely ashamed. The poor horse was not at fault. He took the halter and led the horse up the remaining levels. He tried to use the time to quell the shaking of his limbs and the racing of his heart. What was he going to say to Ecthelion? What could he say? He wanted to scream at him. He wanted to strike him. He wanted to put his sword through his father's heart. 'Stop this!' he reprimanded himself. 'I must be calm. I must hide all feeling from him.' Tears again threatened as he thought of the ill he had been done these past five years. Never to see Turgon again. It was almost too much to bear and brought remembrances of Cranthir, his uncle. 'How had Turgon died? When?' he wondered. 'Who was with him at the end?' Now he wished he had not ridden away from Amdir. He had many questions and would have preferred to have them answered before he faced Ecthelion. Just as these thoughts came, Amdir caught up to him.

"I am glad you finally decided to walk. I have had a hard time catching you," his friend, always ready with a smile, beamed at him. "I am sorry for your loss, Denethor, but I am so very grateful that you have been called home. Is that selfish of me?"

Denethor stopped and turned towards Amdir. "Nay, friend, it is valued. Look! It is 'The Three Fishermen.' Let us stop for a moment. I have many questions, and I am afraid I must compromise our friendship by sating my curiosity. There is much I must know before my audience with Ecthelion." He pushed the door open and the familiar smell caught at his heart. He wondered where Thengel was as he sat down in his old chair. The mugs were cool and the ale was strong. Denethor sighed. Amdir sat quietly next to him.

"Amdir, I am sorry to ask again; my mind is still reeling. When did Turgon die?"

"Not seven days ago."

"Seven days. Ecthelion must have sent for me immediately," he refused to use the word, father in the same sentence as Ecthelion. He had long stopped thinking of him as that. Nay, that was not true. He still, in the far recesses of his mind, wished that Ecthelion had been his father, but no father would treat his son the way he had been treated. Bitterness welled up in his mouth and he washed it away with the ale. "Where is Indis? Are she and Arciryas still...?" He could not ask that question.

"Indis is living within the Citadel and Arciryas is living in the Houses. They see each other... infrequently." Amdir shook his head. "There has been no child," he said, his voice reflecting the pain he had heard in Indis' voice when last he saw her. "I have not been in the City, as I said, for quite sometime, but Indis came to dinner not three days ago and her pain was writ plainly on her face. We invited Arciryas also, but, of course, your father left orders that he was to be assigned to the Houses that evening. Your father knows everything that goes on. It is difficult to arrange a meeting between the two."

"Would you please refrain from calling him my 'father' in my presence, Amdir?" Denethor asked. His tone was soft, but his jaw was clenched.

Amdir's eyes widened. "Of course, Denethor, if that is your wish." He thought of Ingold and thanked the Valar for the father he had. Though Captain of Ecthelion's personal guard, the Steward's harshness had not transferred to Ingold. Whenever Amdir saw his father, they embraced. How strange to have a father like Ecthelion.

"He is my Lord and Steward now," Denethor hid the hurt in his voice. Amdir, who knew every nuance of his friend's voice five years go, was not now sure what he heard in it.

He finished his ale and stood. "Please do not come with me. This is something I must do myself. I will visit you and Listöwel when my audience is complete. Where are you staying whilst you are in the City?"

"My father's old house on the Sixth Level is still mine. We are there. And the iris still bloom," he smiled.

"My friend," Denethor crushed him with a hug. "I will be there, if I am able."

Amdir shivered. Those were the same words Denethor had used that fateful night five years ago.

~*~

Denethor entered the Great Hall's foyer. The Chamberlain gawked at him at first, and then, upon a curt command from Denethor, escorted him into the Hall. Denethor took a great gulp of air and walked towards the Steward's Chair. Ecthelion sat in it. 'This is almost too much to bear,' he thought. Officials swarmed around the Chair. The din of their voices was too much for Denethor, accustomed as he was to the silent sweep of the White Mountains. Ecthelion looked up as he heard the footsteps approach. His face blanched and his teeth clamped together.

"My son!" he said with a faint note of sarcasm running through it. "You come home at last." He turned and spoke to the men about him. "Leave me." They scurried away in fear.

"Come away from here and sit with me. It is almost time for the evening meal." As he said this, the sundown-bells rang. He walked towards his private chambers and Denethor, steeling himself for the upcoming interview, walked behind him to his study.

"You look well. A little too thin for my taste, but well, nonetheless." He walked towards a cabinet and pulled out a decanter of wine. "Please, sit," he motioned Denethor towards a hard-backed chair next to his desk. The Chamberlain entered, took the decanter from the Steward's hands and began pouring the wine. "Leave us," Ecthelion hissed.

'Ah, so this is how it will be - a gentle dance for control,' Denethor thought. Well, Ecthelion would be surprised. He had learned to dance this kind of dance.

"I am well, my Lord, if not for the ache in my heart at my long absence, although much has been learned. I am most grateful for your kindness in sending me off." He kept his tone flat and soft.

Ecthelion looked up, annoyance painting his face. "Are you making a complaint, my son?"

Denethor almost gagged at the word 'son' but held himself in control. "Nay, my Lord." He would not use the term 'father' if all the Orcs in the Ephel Dúath attacked him! "I am saying that I have missed your counsel." He raised the glass to his mouth and smiled into it.

"And I have missed your smile," and a part of him truly had. Ecthelion pushed that thought away. Did the ungrateful whelp think he had sent him off for his own purposes? Nay, he had sent him to teach him respect, obedience, order. And now this... this upstart thought to mince words with him! "You have spent your time wisely, I hope?"

"My Lord. I have spent every waking moment learning the things I believe you sent me to learn." Denethor's mind screamed the words - abandonment, treachery, malice, but his face only showed a tight smile.

"And those lessons would include?"

"Obedience, my Lord, respect for authority, respect for the Steward, and above all, undying love for Gondor. To spill my blood for her and my Steward at the Steward's request."

Ecthelion smiled, so cold - it burnt Denethor's heart. 'This man must never have loved me,' he thought bleakly. The truth scored his very being. "What would you have me do, my Lord, now that I have been allowed to re-enter the gates of the City?"

"I will send orders to you shortly. In the meantime, I would request that you go to your quarters, they have been made ready for you, and await my summons."

Denethor placed his hand to his chest, bowed low, and left the room. 'So, I am to be prisoner in my own quarters,' he thought. 'Again.'

~*~

He stood by the casement looking out upon the Court of the White Fountain. His tears finally fell. Too long held in, they scorched his face. Turgon was dead, buried, and he had not been here. Arciryas and Indis were all but separated. All of his planning had come to naught. It was now the second day since he arrived and still Ecthelion did not send for him. There was even a guard stationed outside his door. He praised the Valar that Amdir had been at the Great Gate upon his arrival, else they would not have seen each other. Even Indis had not come. Perhaps she did not know he was in the Citadel. But nay, Amdir must have told her. If he saw her. Things seemed so disjointed, so confused here. He almost wished he were back on the plains of Rohan, his horse under him, the men of Walda's éored around him. The last three years had been filled with laughter, friendship, hardship and joy. Walda was a natural leader and his men were devoted to him. Denethor's time with the men of Rohan made the nights at beacon watch bearable.

~*~

"The éored will assemble in one hour's time," Walda said. "Will you join us?" Pre-dawn fog hung over the foothills and made it difficult to see, but Walda had come purposefully to include him. Denethor's night watch was over. He almost laughed at the invitation, swinging onto the back of Walda's mare. To be on a horse again, in the thick of soldiers; the smile on the young man's face was answer enough for Walda. "Then come, pick out a horse and we will ride." And they did, directly into the camp and right up to the pen where the horses were kept.

For the horse-lord to give him the pick of the new herd! "The chestnut one, is he old enough?"

"A fine choice, yes, he is ready. And I see he likes you," Walda said as the horse nudged Denethor from behind.

"Where were the Orcs sighted, my Lord?" Denethor asked as he saddled his mount.

"Denethor, I am no more your lord than you are mine," Walda smiled; then he sobered. "The band was seen about two leagues to the north, in the foothills of the White Mountains. There is a village just east of that area. We will go there first and hope that..." He need not finish; Denethor knew his meaning.

The sun, poking intermittently through the clouds, warmed his face and the men of the éored warmed his heart. They were strong and stalwart, yet friendly and kind. To be among valiant men again! They rode quickly through the plain and turned into the foothills. Walda had given him a sword, not as fine as the one that was in his rooms in Minas Tirith, but a good sword nonetheless. It hung at his side and gave him a sense of completion. Too long had he been without one, and he wondered if he would be up to battle. He had kept his arms strong, but were his reflexes still swift? No further time to ponder as the Orc band appeared directly before them, running from the sun and the Rohirrim.

It was a large band, a little larger than the éored and Denethor knew they were in for a fierce fight. He swung at the first one to attack him and the blade hewed an arm. Denethor grunted in satisfaction. His own arm still worked. Another came at him and his horse sidestepped as it lunged towards him. The blade of the Orc struck his mount on its left flank and Denethor was at a disadvantage trying to cross over the horse's head with his sword and swing down, but he twisted his body to the left and was able to just slay the beast before his horse fell. He scrambled to get out from under it as another Orc attacked from his right. The sword clashed with the Orc's spear and Denethor found the sword hewn in half. He jumped back, but the Orc pressed his attack, a sneering smile on its face in anticipation of the quick and painful death it would give its enemy. The snarl turned to a grimace and a howl as it lost its head to Walda's sword. Walda reached down and grasped Denethor's arm, swinging Denethor up behind him. Walda raced to the edge of the fray and quickly let Denethor down.

A warrior was standing at the edge with a sword and a spear; he shoved the spear into Denethor's hand while flailing at Orcs as they assaulted them. Denethor had never used a spear in battle before, but war constantly teaches new skills and he lunged at an Orc as it pressed forward. The spear went through its neck and Denethor grimaced in surprise. He tried to pull the spear out, but it held firm. He pressed his foot to the Orc's forehead and pulled with all his might. It let loose and he fell backwards, almost to the ground. Another Orc saw its advantage and rushed him. Once again, the Rohirrim saved him. The man who had given him the spear was behind him and quickly severed the head of the Orc. He nodded curtly to Denethor and turned to slay another. Denethor turned towards the one that was coming behind him and the spear found another victim. He wished he had a sword. Another Orc was upon the Rohirrim and Denethor saw the man fall. He rushed forward, picked up the sword and decapitated the Orc, screaming his rage.

A riderless mare ran past him and Denethor rushed forward, grabbed the hanging bridle and pulled himself into the saddle. The horse's nostrils flared and fear enlarged its eyes, but Denethor held the reins firm and pulled the horse up. After getting control, he turned the horse back into the battle. Another Orc went down under his sword, and Denethor grunted in satisfaction. Too many they seemed but the courage of the Rohirrim ran the battle. The Orcs turned towards the mountains, but the éored would not let them escape. Screams streamed from their mouths as they killed the last remaining foe. Others of the éored rode slowly through the bodies and hewed the still-living ones. Some were walking through the corpses, kicking now and then to ensure the enemy was truly dead. Denethor stopped his horse and sat, stunned. These men fought with such anger.

Walda came up behind him, clasped him on the arm and said, "I am glad you have come unscathed through that."

"As am I. You have lost many men this day."

"Yes," Walda said, "I had not thought the band that large and my scouts were also killed. We have much to be grateful for though; the village was their prime target; we have saved it and those who live there."

"What will you do with the bodies of the dead?"

"We will bury them here. We will burn the Orcs, as is our custom, and our dead mounts, though in a separate pyre. We would not sully the memory of our brave steeds by burning them with that foul lot."

They worked long and hard that day, stopping only for a quick wash and nuncheon, and then plunged back into the harsh task before them. As the smoke rose and the sun began to set, Denethor knew he had to return to his duty. It was hard to leave these men. The work of burying the dead had just begun. His heart wished to stay, to help with the task, but he knew he must return. A message would be sent to Ecthelion stating he was disobeying his... disobeying orders. Who knew what further punishment that would bring?

He rode towards Walda, who stood deep in the mound of bodies trying to sort out who was who so that families could be given their effects. The Rohir's face was hard as he pulled swords out of bodies. "I must leave you now," Denethor apologized. I am sorry. I have lost the mount you gave me. I will leave this horse with you and walk back to Halifirien." He used the Rohirric name for the beacon. "I am sorry I cannot stay to help bury the dead, but duty calls me." He felt wretched at the thought of leaving these brave men with such sad work.

Walda shrugged. "I understand. Keep the horse and join us when you are able."

"I wish I could, Walda, but if I come back to the camp with this horse, the beacon watcher will know I have been about other things and might report back to Ecthelion. I dare not take that chance."

"Then let me send a rider with you. When you are in sight of the beacon-hill, you can dismount and he will take your horse and return it to me. Then you can walk into camp with no one the wiser."

"I cannot let you give up a man just to return me to Halifirien. You are in sore need of every able-bodied man to help bury your dead."

"One man, more or less, will make no difference. It is not the custom of my people to let a friend walk when a horse is at hand. Take it. I hope to see you again soon."

"Where will you be camped? Might I find you on the morrow?"

Walda smiled. "That would be good. We will camp near the same place I brought you yesterday." He clasped Denethor on the arm. "You fought well today. I am glad you have joined my company."

Denethor smiled. He was glad, too.

~*~

There was a shout in the courtyard below. Denethor looked out the casement and spied Indis speaking frantically with Amdir. A guard stood by, brandishing his sword. What could possibly be happening? Would a Tower Guard dare to draw a sword on Indis? He saw another guard running towards the three, drawing his sword as he ran. Denethor was dumbfounded. He ran to the door, opened it, and a guard stepped forward, sword drawn. Denethor stood, amazed. What had come over his City? He drew a deep breath.

"Listen to me," he said. "Something is wrong with my sister and I must go to her side. Kill me here or come with me. Either way, I am leaving this room."

The soldier blinked, sheathed his sword, and followed Denethor as he ran down the hall towards the stairs. Taking them two at a time, he descended, but not quickly enough for his purposes. His heart was in his mouth as he finally reached the door that opened onto the courtyard. He ran towards Indis and took her in his arms. "Sister, sister, what is wrong?"

Indis' eyes widened. "Denethor, you have returned," she sobbed and sank into his arms. He held her close and kept whispering her name till she calmed. "Denethor, Denethor, it is Almiel. She is nowhere to be found and I fear for her."

"Almiel? Why are you afraid for her?"

"She has not been herself for weeks, not since Turgon started slipping away from us. She stayed in his room and would not eat, nor speak with anyone. When we laid him in the Steward's House, she wailed and wept. None could sooth her. Finally, Arciryas came and forced a draught into her. She succumbed to it and was carried into the Houses of Healing. She has been under constant watch since. But her maid has told me she has disappeared and I cannot find her." Indis started sobbing again and Denethor smoothed her hair, spoke her name and held her close.

"Shush," he said, "I am here now and we will find her. I promise." He kissed her forehead and hugged her tighter. Arciryas had run up to them by this time. Denethor gently passed her to him. "Take her to her quarters and stay with her."

"Nay, Denethor, please," Indis cried. "I must continue my search." Her eyes were wild.

"Nay, my sister. You will obey me and go to your room. When you have rested, Arciryas will bring you to me. In the meantime, I will go to Thengel and muster the armies."

"Denethor, have you not heard? Thengel is no longer in Minas Tirith!" Amdir whispered in his ear.

"What say you?" Denethor stood back, stunned. "What say you?" he repeated again, hardly aware he had asked it before.

Amdir stepped closer. "Arciryas, take Indis to her rooms. Denethor, come with me."

"Where is Thengel?" Denethor asked as they ran towards the stables.

"Fengel has passed beyond this life. Thengel was called home. He left two days ago."

Denethor stopped, lowered his head, bent over and put his hands on his thighs. He tried to breathe, to take in everything that was happening. "This is not possible, that both the Steward and the King of Rohan should die within days of each other! Say it is not so, Amdir. Say that Thengel still is here." The anguish in his voice almost broke Amdir's heart.

"He is gone these past two days, against his will, but he is gone. And we must find Almiel."

"Yes." Denethor straightened again, pain obvious on his mien. "Sent away on the day I arrived. He could have waited; Ecthelion could have held him one more day." He ran past the Seventh Gate and towards the stables. "Who is Captain of the Tower Guard?"

"One has not been appointed yet. Everything has happened so fast."

"Is Ciramir still Captain of the Horse Guard?"

"Yes. And the company is here today. We should find them in the barracks," Amdir said just as they reached the stable doors.

Ciramir was brushing his steed. He turned as he heard his name shouted. "Denethor!" he grinned, taking a quick stride towards him, and then stopping as he saw his friend's face. "What is amiss?"

"The Lady Almiel is missing. A search must be made," Denethor said as he embraced Thengel's old aide. "Will you muster the Horse Guard?"

"You need not ask." He stepped to the doorway and furiously rang the old warning bell.

Chaos reigned for a few moments as the Horse Guard came at the call of the frantic bell. They quickly lined up, waiting for their captain to speak. To their surprise, and pleasure, they saw that Denethor stood next to him.

"The Lady Almiel is missing," Ciramir began. "She was last seen in the Houses of Healing. We will break into seven squads. One will away to Rath Dínen, another to the Houses of Healing... "

He droned on and on while Denethor bit his lip. Too much time was passing. 'When was she last seen?' he thought. He would take the squad to the Houses, with Ciramir's permission. He stepped forward.

"Of course," Ciramir stated when he heard Denethor's request. Amdir was already walking quickly with his squad towards Rath Dínen.

~*~

"Adanedhel!" Denethor shouted as he entered the front gate. A healer strode up to him, shushing him furiously. Denethor took the man's arms in both his hands and pulled him close. "I will speak with the Master Healer now!" he gritted the words out between clenched teeth. The man turned and raced down the hall. Denethor ordered his men to search the rooms and strode through the hall, following the man as quickly as he could. Suddenly, Adanedhel was standing in front of him. "My Lord?"

"When did Almiel leave her room?" Denethor asked, holding his temper in check. Was the man witless? What did he think Denethor wanted!

"My Lord, we have no knowledge of the time. I am sorry. She had been asleep and her attendant left her for a moment, I am told. We notified Indis as soon as her absence was discovered."

"So no one saw her leave? You have no idea which direction she went? Was anyone with her?"

"I am sorry. I have no answers to any of these questions. We have asked the staff and no one, it seems, saw her leave, no one went with her, no one knows where she went. We have searched every one of the Houses, all the hallways and storage areas, but she is no longer here."

Denethor saw genuine concern in the man's face and stepped back. It was not until this moment that he realized he had thrust himself close to the healer and had been poking him with his finger at each question asked. He shook his head. "Forgive me. If you hear of anything, any report at all of where she might be, or if anyone has seen her, please send a messenger to Indis or to me." He called his men to him as he strode back to the gate.

'Where could she be,' he wondered? And then a chill ran through him. 'Nay, it is not possible. She would not have gone there. She could not have gone there without someone seeing her leave the City.' He started running towards the Seventh Gate, the men following close behind. "Ciramir," he shouted as he came to the stables, "get someone to saddle a horse. We are searching in the wrong place."

Ciramir shouted out orders and the grooms began to saddle the entire company's horses.

"I cannot wait," Denethor hissed, "for the whole company to muster. Too much time has passed. She could be well away by now."

Ciramir pulled him aside. "My Lord, I beg you, tell me what you fear. Where do you think she has gone?"

"Ithilien - Emyn Arnen," Denethor whispered, tears coming to his eyes.

"Do you know something? Has someone seen her leave?" Ciramir asked.

"Nay," Denethor whispered again, leaning hard against the stable door. "She is going there. I do not know how I know it, but I do." He pulled himself up and started to run towards a saddled horse.

"Someone would have stopped her at the Great Gate. We would have heard the alarm sound if she had forced herself past the guards."

"You do not understand, Ciramir. Her mind is addled. She will find a way to get out without anyone seeing her. She is not herself."

"Then you and I shall ride immediately. I will leave instructions for the others to join us as each squad returns." He ran towards Dúinhir and gave him quick orders.

Denethor smiled. Dúinhir was still with the army and now a lieutenant in the Horse Guard. A long way from Henneth Annûn; Dúinhir had been his aide then. He called to Ciramir, "I would have Dúinhir join us."

Ciramir came to his side, leading two horses. "Yes, my Lord. We will find reinforcements in Osgiliath. Come." They mounted the horses and road towards the Sixth Gate, while stragglers hurried to follow them.

~*~

"I will not stay here. I must find Almiel, Arciryas. Please, help me," Indis cried.

"We will find Denethor and hear what information he has. That as is far as it will go. You heard him order you to rest."

"I will not rest until I know she is safe. Arciryas, I am strong. I had a moment's weakness in the courtyard, but I am better now. I have a terrible fear in my heart for her. Never have I felt such dread. Please help me find Denethor. Time is short for her; I can feel it in my entire being."

"Listöwel, you have come!" Indis cried as her friend ran towards her.

"I just heard now and came as fast as I could. Has there been any word?"

Arciryas shook his head. He was glad Amdir's wife had joined them. "We are going to the stables. Denethor should be there. Hopefully, he will have a report for us."

"What are you doing?" he said in amaze.

"I am strapping on my sword. It might come in use. Listöwel, you should probably get yours also."

"I have it, friend. And I am ready." She lifted her cloak and Indis saw the blade fastened at her side.

"What madness is this?" Arciryas almost shouted the question. "What do you think you are doing? You know not how to wield a sword."

Indis smile was crisp and cold. "You know not who you have standing before you, Arciryas. For six long years now, Listöwel and I have studied under the tutelage of a shieldmaiden of Rohan. Do you think we have been unaware of the evil that has come to Mordor? Did you think we would not prepare ourselves in any way for Gondor's defense? We are quite adept at swordplay. We know not what terror has befallen my sister and I will be ready for any situation. Come, we are wasting time. Let us to the stables."

~*~

Denethor, Ciramir, and Dúinhir rode hard, reaching Osgiliath before night fell. How they were ever to find his sister once the sun set, Denethor did not know. Would she still be alive? His heart burned with fear for Almiel. 'I have not given report to... Ecthelion,' he suddenly realized. 'Well, perhaps another five years in banishment. She must be found.' They had stopped at the garrison to exchange horses. "Ciramir, we must send an errand-rider to Ecthelion. He must be notified of our actions."

"Yes, my Lord. I will send Dúinhir."

"Nay," Denethor said. It was strangely comforting to have his old aide by his side. "Send another, but quickly. I would be away within the quarter hour."

Dúinhir strode forward leading three horses. "We are ready, my Lord. I have brought dried meat and water for you. Please take a moment to refresh yourself. Horses are not the only things needing rest."

"Are their no others from the Horse Guard with us yet? Have none caught up to us?"

"Nay, my Lord. You have pushed our mounts hard. It will take time for the others to reach us. Captain Húrin is preparing replacements for their horses and food for them, when they come. Would you not wait for one hour?"

Denethor wiped a hand across his forehead. He was very tired. "I cannot, Dúinhir. Do you remember Henneth Annûn? Do you remember when I knew we were close to the hidden entrance? I feel the same way now. I know Almiel is in Emyn Arnen. I know she is in danger. I cannot wait."

Húrin strode forward, two large torches in his hands. "We will need these. There will be neither moon nor stars tonight. The clouds are too dense. My company is at your command, Denethor. Are you ready to begin?"

"Yes, my friend," Denethor said quietly. "You are in command, please."

"Very well, my Lord." And Húrin, Captain of Osgiliath, shouted the order for advancement. Denethor looked behind him and was comforted by the sight. The entire battalion had been called to muster. The torchlight made the company seem even larger. For the first time in many hours, hope flickered.

The road was still in good condition. The company rode east, towards Mordor. Something was different and Denethor could not put his finger on what it was. He turned to Húrin. "Captain, has some event occurred recently with Mordor. I feel a heaviness in the air."

"He whom we do not name has come to Barad-dûr. He has openly defied your father and is rebuilding the tower."

Denethor gasped. 'So all these years of waiting and watching; Ecthelion's greatest fears have been realized.'

"That is not the end of it either. The Corsairs of Umbar have allied themselves with Him. We have been under attack from both the east and the south for more than two years. The great monument at the Havens has been destroyed." Húrin's shoulders seemed to sag.

"The great white pillar at the headland? The one that took the rays of the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star? This cannot be true. They would dare to destroy Ar-Pharazôn's monument?"

"They dare not only that, my Lord. They send sorties to harass the few left in Southern Ithilien. The garrison at Pelargir is constantly on the alert. Evil times have come to Gondor."

~*~

Indis chafed at the slowness of Arciryas, yet her heart went out to him. He was a healer, after all, and not used to horses and such. Their pace was slowed by his inexperience; always, when with the Horse Guard, he had ridden in a wagon. She almost wished he had not come with them; they could be in Osgiliath by now. The band of seventy warriors surrounded her. It had taken some time for the various patrols to return to the stables, but once they had and Amdir had heard the orders that Ciramir had left for them, he had quickly ordered the rest of the horses saddled and the company set forth. They would reach Osgiliath well into the night. 'Why had Denethor gone to Osgiliath?' she wondered, and the fear that constricted her heart squeezed tighter.

Amdir had not been surprised by Listöwel's carrying of a sword. They had been in Pelargir for nigh unto a year. Listöwel had refused to stop her training just because she had left Minas Tirith. She had come to him one evening, plying him with wine and cheese and a smile. Gently she had told him what the four women had been doing these past five years and requested assignment of a swordmaster to continue her training. Amdir had met with her the next morning and put her through a thorough test of the different techniques. He had been proud of her. She had done well. And so he had assigned her a swordmaster and she continued her practice. The year before, many terrible changes had befallen Gondor; her prowess with a sword lightened his heart. She would be able to protect herself, if the worst happened.

Now he was riding towards danger with her at his side. Indis would not be left behind and Listöwel would not leave Indis' side. The torches lit the old city in a macabre fashion. Eyes seemed to follow them as they passed the ruins and arrived at the garrison. Ciramir and his company had been gone for over three hours. They would surely be at Emyn Arnen by now. If only he could persuade Indis to remain here. But he knew that hope was forlorn. He helped Indis from her horse and she quickly hugged him, whispered in his ear, "Thank you," and walked towards the well. Listöwel had been helped by one of the men left behind to guard the garrison. Fresh horses were quickly saddled; meal was thrust into their hands along with water flasks. Haste was on everyone's mind. They remounted and rode over the bridge into Ithilien.

~*~

Húrin's battalion reached Emyn Arnen, passed through it quickly, and headed towards the resting place of the line of Húrin. It was three leagues south of the forest. Denethor hoped he was wrong. Perhaps Almiel had gone to Lossarnach to visit Morwen's family? He should have thought of that before rushing out of the City. 'Nay, she is not there,' he thought. Here is where his heart was being dragged to and here is where he would find her. What end had his family come to? Drawn and quartered like cattle; cast out as silage for the masses of Gondor. His father's, there he had thought it, the one word he had vowed not to use again! Well, it was done. His father had spent the family in the hope of the king's return - denying Indis her happiness, shaming Denethor, and waiting on defensive preparations for that return. Perhaps that is why he had been sent in exile to Amon Anwar. Did Ecthelion think the king was returning now and that Denethor would not accept him? Nay, that was folly. Even if the king returned, he would need a Steward. All the kings before had Stewards. As for the defense of Gondor, would he not want to show the king that he had kept Gondor in good repair awaiting his arrival?

They were upon the monuments before he knew it. The dark of the night had hidden them from view and he quickly reined in his horse to prevent a collision with one of them. Ciramir halted his horse and strode forward, holding a torch high. Others of his company dismounted and came forward too. Some were sent to the east and some to the west while Ciramir, Dúinhir and Denethor strode straight ahead. Slowly, with bated breath, Denethor walked, hoping against hope that he was wrong. "She cannot be here," he kept whispering. A shout. 'Nay!' his mind screamed and the pain of the unuttered cry filled his head. "My Lord," one of the soldiers shouted. "Over here, my Lord Denethor." His legs would not move. Dúinhir grabbed his arm. "My Lord," he pretended Denethor had not heard. "You are needed over yonder." And gently forced him forward.

It was Cranthir's tomb. She sat at the edge of it. Her dress was spread out before her, as if arranged for a party, the red stains creeping along it. Her head... He turned, fell to his knees, retched, cried and screamed all in one breath. The blood rushed through his head and he could hear naught but a torrent of noise, unimaginable pain in his heart, and eyes that burnt like the fires of Mount Doom as tears burst through them. Dúinhir collapsed next to him, holding his hand over his own mouth.

~*~

The Orcs' screams as they descended upon them, fractured the trees of Emyn Arnen, and shocked Indis. Never had she heard such a sound. She pulled her horse closer to Listöwel's and drew her sword from its sheath. Her hand trembled; but the arm was strong. She knew it was only fear that caused the sword to shake. She would have none of that. She drew in her breath, bit her lower lip and gave a quick smile to her friend. "This is what we have been preparing for these last years, is it not?" she screamed over the noise. Listöwel managed a small smile back at her; Indis could see that Listöwel had her sword in hand also. At that moment, she dearly wished that she had asked the smithy to make new ones for both of them. She would rectify that when they returned to Minas Tirith. 'When you return?' her heart questioned. 'When we return!' her mind answered.

The men tried to protect them, and for this, Indis was most sad. She did not want to have any of them dying to protect her; yet, she stayed within the circle the unit had set around them; she would be patient. As much as she wanted to join the fray, she would obey the unspoken command and wait. Sooner or later, the Orcs would break through. There were many, many more than this band of men. In the distance she could see Amdir and she was grateful that he was with them, but where was Arciryas? Her heart skipped a beat; he was not with Amdir. Gratefully, she felt a hand reach out and touch her shoulder. She knew that touch. He had pulled next to her when she was looking around, his heart burdened with the thought of what might happen. He did not care if he died. Yes, he did, but he did not want her dead. He thought of their short time together as man and wife. But the Orcs were coming closer. He stood taller in his saddle and fervently hoped he would not fall off.

~*~

Ecthelion received the errand-rider. The guards had already told him his daughter was missing. He had sent for Adanedhel and listened to what had transpired. He ordered a search to be made of the Citadel and the area around it. She would be found, he knew. When he read where the company was headed, he paused. He wondered why Denethor had raced to Osgiliath. What was Denethor about? He sat back in the cold black Steward's chair. The errand-rider was still there. Why did not the fool leave? There was naught in the note requiring a response. Brusquely, he waved the soldier off. He called for the Captain of the Horse Guard. The Chamberlain ran forward. "My Lord, the captain and the whole company went with Denethor to Osgiliath." Ecthelion's face turned bright red. "Denethor took the whole company with him?" he screamed. The lad was more arrogant and rebellious than he had thought. What further could he do to curb him? His rage made him shake. "Send for my personal guard." The Chamberlain scurried out of the Great Hall. Never had he seen his master angrier.

A thought, too terrible to imagine, crept into Ecthelion's mind as he sat waiting. Almiel had gone there before, soon after Cranthir had died, but she had taken a squad of men with her. Did Denethor think she would go there again? It was impossible to think it; yet, she had acted strange, of late. He cursed himself for not visiting her. Why was he not told she was so very ill? He could sit no longer. He strode from the Hall and walked towards the stables. His guards rushed around him, encircling him as he walked.

"Ingold," he bellowed. "Ingold!" His captain ran forward.

"My Lord, I have been gathering the reports of those who are in charge of the search. Has aught been heard?"

"Get my horse and bring your men. We go to Ithilien."

Ingold stopped and stared. "Yes, my Lord," he quickly recovered. Shouting to his men, he ran towards the stables. After a few moments, he rode up to where Ecthelion had stopped. He held the saddled horse while Ecthelion mounted. The Steward turned his horse, snapped at it with the reins, and headed towards the Sixth Gate. The company scurried after, quickly gaining their mounts and weapons and joined their Captain-General.

~*~

Slowly, life crept back into Denethor's mind. His head still hurt dreadfully, but his breath was returning. Ciramir had been busy. He had wrapped her in a cloth, while sending searchers to find the head. He hoped with every fiber of his being, that it would be found. He ordered a fire started so that his company's healer, Siriondil, could prepare a draught for Denethor. He sorely needed something. This horror was even beyond the pain of Cranthir's death at the hands of Orcs so many years ago. There were signs of Haradrim. It would not bode well for the folk of the south once Denethor was told.

"Ciramir," the whisper came to him. He looked over and saw Denethor, still kneeling, looking towards him. "Water, please."

"I have something stronger for you, my Lord. Please drink this. Siriondil has prepared it for you."

"What is it?" Denethor asked, shaking his head to clear it. "I must be fully alert. We know not if the beasts who did this are still in the area."

"It is only mead, my Lord. And weak at that. It will give you a measure of strength and replace what you have lost."

Denethor drank it quickly, the sweet taste of it cleaning some of the foulness left in his mouth. As he stood, he swayed and Ciramir quickly held him up. "Dúinhir, your master has need of you," he barked at the man, still on his knees.

Dúinhir quickly rose and stepped closer to Denethor. "My Lord, there is a seat here. Please, for just a moment, until the mead takes effect and strengthens you."

Ciramir handed a flask to Dúinhir. "Take some yourself, lad."

Denethor sat and motioned for his aide to join him. Yes, if he were reinstated to his post, he would need an aide and Dúinhir would suffice. He shook his head. He could think of naught at the moment. He must erase the sight of her. Even that small thought brought nausea and pain with it. He leaned over and retched again. After, all he could do was gasp. His head reeled and he started to fall off the log they were sitting on. Dúinhir grabbed him by the shoulder and held him upright. He pressed his own flask against Denethor's lips. Denethor's eyes steadied and he drank deeply. 'I am useless in this state,' he thought. 'I must gather my wits. We must return to Minas Tirith as quickly as possible. We must gather our armies and find the creatures who have done this.' Again, he closed his eyes, but the nausea passed. He stood and was able to hold himself up. Ciramir approached him.

"Your orders, my Lord?"

~*~

Ingold met his company, seventy strong, mustered and ready at the Great Gate. As soon as their captain and the Steward joined them, they started out across the Pelennor. Travelers stopped and stared as the Steward's own guard rode by. When they saw the Steward himself in the forefront, tongues wagged and distress flooded the City. Rare were the times the Steward left Minas Tirith in the company of his knights. The pace they set as they vanished from sight only furthered the alarm of the people. Farmers called out to their wives to come and see the spectacle before them as the men passed their farms and rode ever eastward.

They approached the Rammas, passed through the guarded gates, and rushed on towards Osgiliath. An errand-rider had been sent ahead and fresh mounts were ready for them at the old city's garrison. The lieutenant in charge of the remnant of Osgiliath's defenses told Ingold that Amdir's group had passed only a half hour before. Ecthelion was heartened. They were not in so great a hurry. Denethor must not be as sure of himself as Ecthelion had feared. As he stated this to Ingold, the lieutenant interrupted. "My Lord, Captain Húrin took the battalion and followed Denethor into Ithilien. They left more than three hours ago." Ingold stared at Ecthelion. His Steward had been misinformed. Denethor had not taken the Horse Guard. He had not waited for them to muster. The tightness of his Captain-General's jaw, the white sheen of his face, told him they must spur their horses on at an even faster pace. Night had fallen; they must hurry.

~*~

The Orcs' howls turned to cries of triumph as they saw the pitiful band of men standing in opposition to them. Though the men were on horses, the Orcs knew they had the advantage of number. And they were not afraid to die. This fact was all too apparent to Amdir as he watched more than three hundred of the enemy pour through the trees. "I should have sent an errand-rider," he swore, but his mind had been on Listöwel and the danger she was in, never mind that she would not hear of their staying behind. He looked wildly towards the middle of their party. His smile was bittersweet. They were there, his beloved and Indis, with swords drawn and heads held high. 'If she can keep her courage, she will survive the first onslaught,' he thought. After that, none of them would probably survive. He clenched his teeth and turned towards the hoard. It would be a swift death and for that he was grateful. His heart swelled for one moment. This would be a different battle than his first one, where he had turned and run. His cheeks flamed at the remembrance, but his heart told him he had ever since been true.

'They do not fight as we did during our practices,' Indis thought in dismay as the first of the Orcs broke through the line of men guarding them. It had almost taken her sword with its blow; she had clung to it desperately. Now, she raised it and swung down hard and was surprised to feel it connect. The Orc howled its shock as it looked at the gash in its arm. It did not stop but for a moment; Indis had to pull her horse back to avoid the swing of its weapon. A split second's thought, then she spurred her horse forward, lashed backwards with her sword, and missed entirely. The motion almost caused her to fall off. She clung to the mane and tried to right herself. As she did, the Orc grabbed the reins and pulled hard on her skirt, trying to pull her off the horse. Just as she started to slide off the saddle, the hand loosened itself. Arciryas had struck the miserable creature on its neck and it slumped to the ground. She had no time to thank him as another of the beasts came at her. Once again she swung her sword and this time it did more damage. The Orc fell to its knees and then face forward. She sat for a moment, stunned. She had actually done it. Her arms started to quiver and tears sprang to her eyes. Dead - she had killed it. She shook her head trying to persuade herself it was necessary. The point was moot though as another came through. 'Will they never stop,' she wondered? Again and again she was attacked and again and again she repulsed the attacks, until one of the men near her could finish the task, or until she herself had killed the enemy. Her hands were beginning to slip on the sword and she looked down, amazed that it was covered in a black, sticky substance. It took seconds before she realized it was Orc blood. She almost dropped the sword in horror. Her eyes lifted and as they did, she saw Listöwel fall from her own mount. Indis screamed.

~*~

Ecthelion's company reached the forest close to the mid night hour. He wondered whether to go by the Harad Road or to go through the forest. It would be safer, given the blackness of the night, to go by way of the road, but his heart misgave him and he felt he should make haste. Therefore, he turned at the path that led into the forest and his men followed. They had been traveling well over two hours since leaving Osgiliath. He would let the horses set their own pace, give them a small rest and then urge them on after a quarter hour.

The sound of battle reached his ears at the same moment that Ingold reined in his own horse. "I will send scouts, Lord Ecthelion," he said. "We cannot go in headlong. We are not many."

"Nay, if it is Denethor, we will still be needed, though his company is many, but if it is Amdir, I fear they will fail if the attackers are substantial. We must press forward." As he spurred his horse into the forest, his men followed. They reached the clearing. The enemy, indeed, were many. And there were few Gondorians left. He screamed his rage and urged his knights forward. Urging, however, was not needed as the knights poured into the clearing, their shouts rising above the cries of the dying. His drawn sword meted out his punishment to the enemy for daring to trespass on the land of his fathers.

~*~

Denethor looked up at Ciramir. "We ride back to the City. I must report to the Steward. We must mount a full-scale attack. I will not bring us to war. That is the Steward's prerogative. If I am correct, it was men from Harad?"

"Yes, my Lord. All signs point to that. I will prepare the company." Ciramir walked away.

"We have a full battalion with us, five hundred men. Yet, I cannot risk going south with only a battalion. I would we had taken the full regiment." He turned towards Dúinhir. "Take a squad of men with you and ride as fast as you are able to the Steward. Do not tell him what has happened to Almiel..." He closed his eyes for a moment, swallowed tightly, and opened them again. "Tell him we have been attacked by Haradrim and that I am returning to make my report. I will not wait till dawn."

"Yes, my Lord," Dúinhir said and strode towards a group of men. They mounted and headed north.

Denethor walked towards the healer. "My head aches. Would you have something that might help?"

The healer quickly looked through his bags, pulled out a powder and mixed it with the mead, handed it to Denethor and asked him to sit.

"Nay, I have no time for sitting." He met Ciramir as the man was approaching him. Taking his shoulder, he took the captain away from the company. "Give the men time for a brief rest and then we will be off. There is naught we can do here. Though I would be away from this place as quickly as possible, the horses and the men need rest. After you have finished, please join me. I would discuss what our response might be. I must have a plan to present to the Steward when we return." Denethor turned and walked back to the log. He had to sit; his legs were giving way under him. He must come to terms with what had happened. He could not face his father in this state.

They rested for more than an hour and Denethor was just ready to muster the men when Dúinhir rode madly into the camp. He swiftly looked around, spotted Denethor and galloped towards him. As he jumped from his horse, he cried, "My Lord, Orcs are attacking a company of men in Emyn Arnen!"

Ciramir came running as Denethor grabbed his shoulder. "Now?" he asked.

"Yes, my Lord. The rest of our squad stayed to fight. They are outnumbered and will fall soon. They are desperate."

Denethor ran to his horse and mounted. The rest of the battalion did the same and soon they were racing northward. Dúinhir was at his side, Ciramir on the other.

"Your sister is with them, my Lord," Dúinhir shouted over the din of the horses' hooves.

Denethor stared. "What say you?" he cried.

"I am sorry, my Lord, but I could not mistake the Lady Indis. She was there in the middle of the attack with our men surrounding her, but they are undermanned. I do not think..." His face turned bright red and he bit his lip.

Denethor spurred his horse on, not heeding the trees as they entered the forest. His mind reeled as they broke through to the clearing where the attack was taking place. So few left standing. He swung his eyes from side to side trying to see Indis, but she was nowhere in sight. A sob broke from his lips, but he drew his sword and charged into the battle. The Orcs tried to overwhelm them, but Denethor's numbers were too great. Denethor glimpsed Ecthelion to the north of the battle and realized his forces had just entered the fray also. The Orcs, beleaguered on two sides, started backing away, hacking at anything that was behind them as they tried to hide among the trees. The men of Gondor would have none of it. They pursued with scowls upon their faces, screams issuing from their mouths. They had seen too much already this night. They would tolerate no more.

~*~

"Where is she? I saw her fall; I thought it was here," Indis mumbled words bled through her sobs. She was kneeling in the midst of the carnage, clawing through it, digging into it, but to no avail. Arciryas had reached her by this time and was trying to help her to her feet, but she turned a tear-stained face towards him. "I cannot find her," she wailed.

Arciryas stopped trying to help her up and knelt next to her, pushing away an Orc arm with his knee. "We will find her, my love, we will," he said, shoving another body off the pile. He did not know why the Orcs suddenly retreated; he did not care. She was alive; his eyes were only on her. A hand touched his shoulder and he was stunned to hear Denethor's voice.

"Arciryas, is Indis unharmed? What are you looking for?"

"Denethor," he stood and pulled him close in a great hug. "You are why the Orcs ran?"

"I suppose so; my errand-riders came upon your company and called for help. We were only a short distance away. But again, what are you looking for?"

"Listöwel. Indis saw her fall. She thought it was here." He turned again, knelt and pulled more bodies away.

Denethor gave a quick look around. Where was Amdir? Did he know his beloved was here? He thought he spotted him in the distance, sitting holding his head, but he was not sure. There was so much blood.

Denethor knelt next to Indis and helped move the corpses. Too many Gondorians lay dead here, only a few Orcs. Indis did not realize he was kneeling next to her, so great was her single-mindedness. He touched her hand. Still, she did not look. He pulled another body off, just then hearing Indis' anguished cry.

"Listöwel, Listöwel," she sobbed.

Arciryas and Denethor both stood and pulled the last bodies off the pile. Indis had recognized her friend's cloak hidden from the men's eyes. Gently Arciryas knelt again and looked for a sign of breath. He turned to Indis and said, "She lives." He picked Listöwel up and moved away from the battlefield. Others had started fires, boiled water, and assembled cots in readiness for the wounded. Siriondil was preparing salves, unguents and bandages. As they approached, the healer indicated a cot; Arciryas laid Listöwel on it. Indis hovered behind Arciryas as he tended her friend's wounds. Denethor moved to Indis side and held her close, though she had not eyes nor ears for him. Her whole being was directed to the body on the cot. It did not matter to him; he was content to support her in his arms. 'One sister left to hold,' he thought. He would not lightly let this one go. The tears fell, unbidden and he did naught to hide them. 'Better they fall now, when others are too busy to notice.'


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.

Story Information

Author: Agape4Gondor

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/14/10

Original Post: 01/18/05

Go to Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice overview

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