24. Third Age 2984
"I would like to come with you," she said, hesitantly.
Indis stared at her. "But, Finduilas, we are going to Osgiliath, towards the... Are you sure you want to come?"
"If you do not mind. I thought I should see more of Gondor than just Minas Tirith."
"Well, of course. That is a splendid idea, but why not Lossarnach or Lebennin or some more pastoral place?"
"Because you are not going to those places now, and I want to be out of here, out in the open, with fresh air, and space, and new people, and trees, and..." she rambled on.
Indis laughed. "If you would like to accompany us, then I am sure Listöwel will not mind. Have you asked Denethor?"
"Oh, no. I ... I wanted to ask you first."
"We will be staying the night, you know?"
"I can do that, too. Please?"
"Of course. If Denethor approves, you may join us. It takes a few hours to reach the garrison. We will be traveling with the supply wagons. They leave at first light; will you be ready?"
"Yes," Finduilas smiled, "and thank you."
"Then I will come for you first thing in the morning. This is a pleasant surprise, Finduilas. This will be most enjoyable."
Denethor was as amazed as Indis. "I dost not understand thy sudden need, but, if thou wishest it, then thou hast my permission."
She hugged him. "Anything to be away from this city for a time."
It hurt to hear her say this. He loved his City. Yet, he had to admit, there were times when he found it refreshing to leave. What was he saying! If he did not take a sortie out every now and again, he would lose his mind! He laughed. "When wilt thou return?"
"The day after tomorrow. Indis said something about the peace that has settled and some things she has to do at thy uncle's house. So we wilt not even be staying in the barracks."
"Uncle's house? What could she... Well, thou wilt be missed. Ecthelion is sending a full company with you?"
"I know naught of the arrangements, just that we will be leaving at first light. I best be off to bed."
"I have work still to do. I will join thee presently." He smiled. "Wouldst thou save a spot in our bed for me?"
She smiled back, kissed him lightly and went into their bedchamber.
Before the sun rose, she was dressed and ready. The evening before, she had given instructions to Firieth for the children. Her heart tugged. To leave them. Only once before had she been parted from Boromir, never from Faramir. 'I must, though,' she thought. 'I cannot stay here with only the small tasks allowed me and everything so tedious and hemmed in.' She stood before Indis' door.
"Oh my. You are in a hurry, are you not?" Indis laughed. "Well, come along then. We have a cart ready and waiting."
"Oh! I had wanted to ride."
"When was the last time you went riding, Finduilas? It is a four-hour trip to Osgiliath. It will take even longer with the supply train."
"Yes," she sighed. "I had not thought of that. I used to ride - at home. But it has been a long time. Well, if that is what must be."
"We will return shortly after nuncheon, Firieth," Denethor said. "If any come for me, tell them I will return in time for the afternoon's meeting."
She handed him a food-filled basket, gave a quick hug to Boromir, and turned towards her darning.
He quickly stooped and kissed Faramir, asleep in his cot, took Boromir upon his shoulders, and walked out the door.
He hummed as he walked and Boromir beat the time on his father's head. Every now and again, he hit a little too hard, and Denethor had to gently scold. But after the scolding would come a quick tug to the lad's foot, and Boromir would giggle, knowing that was his only punishment.
The long walk to the Great Gate produced laughter, nods, and smiles from the people of Gondor. Seeing the Steward's son in such high spirits lifted the entire City. Guards on the parapets started into song as Denethor and son passed. Denethor greeted each with a wave of his hand, and, unbeknownst to him, Boromir mimicked him, waving furiously, much to the delight of the knights. Denethor's smile broadened. 'Good men and true,' he thought. The sun shone brightly upon the sight before him.
Once they reached the First Level, he stopped at Ranger's Headquarters, picked up the bundle he had left there the day before, walked out the Gate, and turned southward. Boromir was prattling on about some event that had happened in the nursery the day before, but Denethor paid no heed to it until he heard something that chilled his heart.
"Boromir, why wast thy Mama crying?" Denethor asked.
"I know not, Papa. She wast telling me a story about her Papa and the sea. I felt wet on my head. She wast crying. Why wast she crying, Papa?"
Denethor stopped, lowered the lad onto the road, and sat next to him. "Dost thou remember when I went away for some time?"
The lad nodded his head.
"Ye cried when I came back. Remember?"
"Oh," the boy cried out loudly. "I missed thee, Papa!" and jumped up, hugging his father furiously. He said it so fervently and his actions were so earnest that Denethor had all he could do to not cry himself.
"Well, sometimes, even when we grow very big, we miss those we love. So even Papa and Mama can miss someone enough to cry over. Mama misses her Papa. Dost thou understand?"
"Good. Then let us be off to our adventure."
The child squealed with delight when Denethor picked him up again and placed him on his shoulders.
Denethor's mind, however, did not join in Boromir's delight. 'I must take her home again. I promised I would this spring. I have let the things of Gondor o'ercome my resolve. I must take her home."
By this time, they had reached the little river that ran from Mt. Mindolluin into the Anduin. Denethor laid a blanket down, pulled out poles, and handed one to Boromir.
"Today, I am going to teach thee how to fish."
"This was a magnificent house once, was it not?"
"Yes. As was all of Osgiliath. Denethor has sworn that one day we will again walk her streets and attend plays and visit the planetarium. Oh, that that day would come soon."
"There has been peace for almost a year. Perhaps things will be better now?" Finduilas hoped aloud.
"Perhaps." But Indis knew that Denethor hid much from Finduilas. "Well, I have papers I must find and some heirlooms that I had hoped to bring back with me. Make yourself at home, Finduilas. Tonight we will sup with Amdir. After that, you and I will come back here. I have had two rooms cleaned and readied for us. I hope Listöwel is enjoying her visit with him. I do not know how she endures it, being separated from him for such long periods. I could not do that."
"Neither could I. I will explore the rooms, if I may?"
"Of course. But do not get lost," Indis laughed. She turned her back and entered the study.
Finduilas moved about the house. So many rooms and all showed signs of having been well appointed with large pieces of furniture about. Though paper hung off walls, floors were covered in dust and litter, and an occasional mouse scurried by, it was apparent the house had once been quite lovely. She found a number of bedrooms, furniture covered in cloth to protect each piece. She would peek, now and again, at a piece. Each one was beautiful, well appointed and perfect for the room it was in. She came at last to what she discerned was Cranthir's own chambers. It was a simple, but large room, with a beautiful cedar chest and oak wardrobe. She opened the chest and found some old clothes, bits of paper, and... 'What is this?' she thought in surprise. A very large and ancient looking box, etched with leaves and vines, was hidden 'neath all the other paraphernalia in the chest. She struggled, but finally was able to pull it out. She wanted to sit on a chair and open it, but it was unwieldy and heavy. She contented herself with sitting on the floor. Holding her breath, she undid the latch and the box opened on its own. Before her was a handsome piece of marble, about two inches thick. Black pieces abutted by white were laid in a checked pattern. Under that was another box, just as beautifully carved. She opened that. Before her was a stunning oak 'Kings and Stewards' game set. She picked up the King and studied it. The carving was exquisite. She ran her hand over the features on the piece. 'Beautiful,' she thought, 'just beautiful.' She picked up the Steward and laughed. There was the rod of office in the Steward's hand. 'Oh my," she inhaled quickly, 'Denethor would love this.' She giggled in delight.
"Indis!" she called loudly and ran from the room. "I have found something Indis. Please come and look. May I have it? Oh please, may I have it?" She ran into the study, giggling. Indis turned in surprise.
"Did not Cranthir have children?" Finduilas asked during supper that night.
"Nay," Indis said. "Though his heart longed for children, it was not to be. He would have been a splendid father. The affection he showered upon Denethor was so touching. You know that game you found today? Well, Denethor and he used to play it once a month when Denethor was quite young. Are you planning on giving the set to him? Or were you thinking of someone else?"
Finduilas laughed. "Whom do I ever think of besides Denethor? Yes, I was hoping to clean it and give it to him. But now, knowing the history has made it even more precious to me. Boromir and Faramir will be able to play it with their father, and tradition will be handed down. That very much appeals to me."
Indis bit her lip. 'Ecthelion never played one game with Denethor,' she thought, 'not in their whole lives.' She turned her heart towards the Valar for one request - that Denethor would never be the father to his sons that Ecthelion had been to him.
The talk turned towards Dol Amroth. Finduilas' friends encouraged her to speak of her home, hoping to help her ward off the homesickness that plagued her. She spent the rest of the evening describing the good things of Belfalas. Listöwel and Amdir spoke of their meeting, laughing at the difficulty of trying to meet secretly with the whole household in chaos because of the festivities around Ivríniel's birth. Indis recalled the wonderful parties held there. The evening ended none too soon for Amdir. Listöwel would leave on the morrow and he would spend time alone with her. Their guests had the sense not to linger too long and soon, Indis and Finduilas were on their way to Cranthir's, with a suitable escort, and instructions to meet at first light for the trip back to Minas Tirith.
"Where didst thou find this?" he asked incredulously. "I have been there, to his rooms, and never did I find it. He had promised it would be mine someday." Tears filled his eyes. Many memories of Saturday after Saturday spent in joy and love and fullness of friendship swam before his eyes. The pain of loss still stung deep.
"'Twas in his chest, in his bedchamber. 'Twas under many mementos. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it, but I did not know, until Indis told me, that it had special meaning for thee. Doest thou like it?"
"I wast not there when he died. I had not seen him for many years." He tried to contain the sobs. "Life can be difficult here, Finduilas, though thou art aware of this, but it was by his death that Father and I were reconciled. To a degree," he said ruefully. "Never to the degree that I had hoped. But in some way, there was reconciliation."
"I do not understand thy father, Denethor."
"Turgon was not an easy man to live with, Finduilas. He stuck his head in the sand, as the large birds of Harad do, the ostrich I think they are called. His counselors spoke of peace. They counseled against anything that would disturb that peace. Yet, there is no peace without vigilance. He would not let Father protect Gondor. Many men died because of this. Ithilien was near wiped out. Father could not persuade grandfather to change. The burden was very great. He blamed many deaths on Turgon, even my sister, Almiel's. My father is a mighty man, but much has turned him to bitterness. His bitterness turned towards me, especially when Mother died birthing me. I know this; yet I find it difficult myself, at times, to forgive him. But I do forgive him, Finduilas. Now that my heart is so taken by thee. I never understood his loss, the pain he has lived with these many years, the darkness that engulfs him." He pulled her to him fiercely. "Do not leave me, Finduilas. I could not bear it. I will do everything in my power, I will die, to protect thee."
Preparations had all been made. The carts were packed to overflowing. Finduilas could not sleep. Tomorrow they would depart for Dol Amroth. A month it had taken to organize all that was needed. Both Boromir and Faramir would need so much. It boggled her mind. She laughed ruefully as Firieth wondered at all that they were packing.
"They must have their own toys. They must have enough clothes. Denethor said we might stay for the entire summer! That will mean clothes for the beach, for swimming, for parties... So many clothes needed. And their toys. They will not be satisfied if we do not bring at least some of their toys. Besides, we will need them to keep Boromir and Faramir occupied on the journey. I am worn just thinking of it." Her laughter belied the grievance of her words.
Firieth smiled. "I am glad the Lady Indis and Listöwel are coming with us. I have never before been in Belfalas. I am almost afraid."
Finduilas dismissed her worries with a wave of her hand. "There is naught to be afraid of, Firieth. If you have lived in Minas Tirith with all the dreadfulness that occurs here and out on that mountain without being afraid, then you will be pleasantly surprised at the peace and beauty of Belfalas. Dol Amroth sits on the sea; every part of her looks out upon it in joy. Oh, Firieth," Finduilas breathed a sigh, "it is most beautiful." Tears came to her eyes. "I cannot believe I am going home." She sat on the settle and hugged herself.
Boromir ran into the room jumped onto her lap. "Mama, may I have a dog?"
"What!" Finduilas was stunned. 'Where did that come from?'
"Imrahil says that there are many dogs in Dol Amroth and that I can bring one home with me. I want a big dog, Mama."
'I think I will kill my brother,' she thought quickly.
"We will not bring a dog home with us, Boromir, but thou mayest play with any dog thou wishest whilst we are in my father's house. What sayest thou to that?"
The lad pursed his lips. "I want a dog."
'I am definitely going to kill Imrahil!'
"I am sorry, my son, but thou wilt not have a dog. And we wilt discuss this no further."
Denethor's heart raced as he ran along the Citadel halls, trying to breath through the painful catch in his throat. How surprised he was to feel the hot tears burning his cheeks! They had feared this day for the last month. They had postponed their trip to Dol Amroth, much to Finduilas chagrin. He promised her, once his father had recovered, that they would leave. He had ordered the carts remained packed. She had been strong and understood he was needed here in the City. However, it became quite apparent this would not happen soon. Ecthelion was dying.
He stopped in the doorway to his father's chambers. Swiping the tears from his face with the sleeve of his tunic as he had done as a child, he paused to compose himself. Never, since he was nigh unto twenty, had he allowed his father to see any emotion. He could not let Ecthelion see the despair in his eyes. He could still hope. His mind flew back to the night Thorongil had told him about hope. They had been fishing on the way back from Dol Amroth. It would be their last trip together. He had been distressed by his father's estrangement from Prince Adrahil, and wondered aloud if there would ever be anything but animosity between the two houses. Thorongil had spoken of his own love and the barriers that stood between his beloved and himself. He had said there were two disparate families involved, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they would be together and that their binding would bring the families together. Thorongil had urged Denethor to continue to hope, to continue to do all in his power to breech the gap between the Swans and the Stewards. Denethor had been unsuccessful in bringing Adrahil and Ecthelion together, but he and Imrahil's friendship had grown strong. And for that, he was most grateful.
The thought of Thorongil brought a sharp pain to his heart. He suddenly missed the man terribly. He shook his head, wondering where the former captain was. 'I must stop these thoughts.' He drew in his breath and walked to Ecthelion's bed. Finduilas was already there, holding Boromir's shoulder as they waited for his arrival. Indis was bent over the bed, whispering to their father. The tears would come, but he blinked them away.
How had his father grown so old so quickly? The fever had ravaged his body, leaving only a gaunt man lying before him. Indis pulled back, tears streaming down her face. Denethor realized with a start that Ecthelion's death would be hardest on her. He squeezed her shoulder as he moved past her. Kneeling by the bed, he took his father's hand in his own. Surprised by the heat that still engulfed the dying body, he looked towards Arciryas. The Master Healer shook his head sadly. Denethor turned back towards his father. Startled to see the eyes opened, he leaned in.
"Father," he whispered, "It is I, Denethor."
"I know it is you," his father snapped weakly. "I have not lost my wits yet."
Denethor knelt a little taller, keeping his face firm and straight.
"I go now to the Halls of Mandos and to wherever my final resting place will be. I have tried to give you my wisdom, instill in you the pride of Númenor, but you have ever been willful and followed your own heart." He paused for a moment, his eyes softening. "Perhaps, if your mother had lived, things would have been different. I have spoken with her, on occasion, you know." His eyes dimmed and became tear-filled. "I have tried to do right by you, boy. I have not succeeded and I fear for you and for Gondor." He sighed. "Would that things had been different." He looked up again into Denethor's face. "Bring Boromir to me."
Denethor stood and led his son forward, not letting go of the boy's shoulder. Though Ecthelion loved the boy, Denethor was afraid of what his father might say to the lad. Yet, he stood proud as Boromir walked forward, straight and tall, and waited for Ecthelion to speak.
"Boromir, you are the hope of Gondor. I have seen your determination and strength, your pride in our City. I know you will protect all I have worked for. Come, sit by my side." The lad did as he was bid and Denethor stood back. "Your mother is sweet and kind, Boromir, but she is weak. Do not follow her example. Be strong in everything you do. Gondor needs you strong. Continue your studies of warfare, no matter what your mother thinks. Never let your guard down. Trust no one. I had trusted someone a long time ago, and he deserted me. Trust only yourself." Ecthelion started coughing. Arciryas stepped forward. "My Lord, you must rest."
Ecthelion feebly batted his arm aside. "Rest! For what? I shall be dead soon and will have all the rest I will ever need. Boromir," his voice turned harsh as he clasped the lad's shoulder, but Denethor stepped in and moved Boromir back to Finduilas' side. His father scowled up at him. "You will fail me. You will fail Gondor. Let me speak to the boy. He will obey me."
"Father, I have always tried to obey you, to be what you wanted me to be. I promise you, I will strengthen our defenses. I will work to make Gondor strong. I will not fail you."
But the words fell on deaf ears. Ecthelion had passed away. Denethor stared for a long moment, then turned and shepherded his family out the door. Arciryas would tend to the final details. Boromir started crying and Denethor picked him up.
"Wilt I not see Grandfather any more?"
"We wilt take Grandfather to the Steward's House. Then we wilt say our fare wells. He loved thee very much, Boromir. I hope he did not frighten thee."
"Nay, Papa. He did not frighten me. I know my duty."
Denethor smiled. "Duty. Yes, Boromir, thou knowest thy duty."
But a frown creased Finduilas' brow as they walked back to their own chambers. Indis stayed behind to help Arciryas prepare the body. The embalmers had already been called and would arrive soon. There was naught for Denethor to do at the moment. He would first see to Finduilas, then go to his father's study and look to the needs of Gondor.
As they entered their chambers, the nanny came and, after both his parents hugged and kissed him, took Boromir to the nursery. As soon as he closed the door, Finduilas turned towards him, storm clouds in her eyes.
"Why didst thou let him speak thus to our son?"
He sighed, tried gently to pull her to his arms, but she would have none of it.
"War! That is all he speaks of. That is all any speak of here in this City. Am I to give my sons to pain and death? Wouldst thou see them bloodied upon the battlefield?" She was in tears, her voice rising. "I didst not bear sons to see them dead. I wilt leave here first. I will leave thee first! I wilt take them to my father. I will not let them die!" Hysteria tinged her voice and Denethor's eyes widened in alarm.
"Finduilas." He took her wrists in his hands, appalled to find them shaking. His thoughts flew to the time the earth had quaked after Thengel's death. Gently pulling her close, not letting her resist, he held her, whispered her name over and over again. He could not tell her their sons would be spared. There were no guarantees. The Unnamed One was growing stronger. As if to confirm this, the floor began to shift. Finduilas screamed and tried to run towards the nursery. He held her tightly. "The mountain cannot topple Minas Tirith, Finduilas. I promise thee. Our sons are protected. Stay thou here, by my side." He pulled her down onto the bed, lifting her feet off the floor so she would not feel the lurching under them. She shuddered and clung closely to him.
"Wilt thou not come with me and thy sons? Wilt thou not take us away from this hateful City, this evil, this horrid mountain? Please, Denethor," she begged. Looking into his eyes, she knew he would never leave Minas Tirith. Suddenly she began to wail and he pulled her more tightly to him.
"Finduilas," he whispered. "I canst leave Gondor, not now. Her people need me. Need us. They believe they are leaderless and wilt lose all hope. I canst not allow that. But, in the fall, we wilt all go to Belfalas for as long as thou wouldst. The children wilt play in the sand and the sea. And thou wilt know that Gondor is worth fighting for. Thou knowest the beauty of Lamedon and Lossarnach, the worth of the Rohirrim, and the wonder of Dol Amroth. All of these wilt fall if I do not do my duty."
"Duty!" she spat the word as though it were a curse. "Thy duty would see me dead and thy sons with me."
"Nay, Finduilas," he tried to hush her. "My duty wilt save all that we love. I promise thee. Stand by me; I beg thee. Tell me thou believest that I can save Gondor and all that we love. Please, Finduilas. I must know that I have thy trust. I must."
She collapsed into his arms, sobs racking her body. "I want to, Denethor, truly I do, but I only see death before me. I have lost all hope."
"Nay, my love, listen to my words, trust me. I will do everything in my power to save thee, to save our sons." His tears mixed with hers. Slowly her breathing steadied.
"I will trust thee, my husband." He laid her head against the pillow and kissed her, speaking soft words till she fell asleep. He sighed. He could not go to his father's study tonight.
The body lay in state five days. Lords from all corners of the land came to pay their final respects. The City lay hushed. The mountain had only stirred twice more. Thankfully, Denethor had been with Finduilas both times and allayed her fears.
Friends and warriors from his early years returned to the City. Most nights, after he was sure Finduilas slept, he would join them at 'The Three Fishermen' reminiscing about battles long ago won. Théoden brought Morwen and his son, Théodred. The lad was turning into quite a warrior. He reminded Denethor of Thengel. Éofor, Walda's son, also came with the delegation from Rohan. Dúinhir, now Lord of Blackroot Vale traveled to offer his respects. Denethor's heart was lightened by the strength and courage of the men gathered about him. One day soon, he would have to meet with the Council and decide who would stay and who would go. How he wished he could persuade his friends to return to Minas Tirith for good and become part of the Council, but he knew he could not ask it of them. They had their own fiefdoms to govern and he needed strong men stationed all over Gondor and Rohan if he was going to succeed in protecting Gondor.
During this time of mourning, he met with each of the Lords and the members of Council, testing their loyalty, firming their resolve to answer Gondor's call, and discovering their weaknesses and strengths. He would have need of every tool at his disposal to overturn any decisions that ran counter to his own. He would not let the Council rule Gondor as they had under Turgon. If they did not agree with him, he would use other means to obtain their 'yea' vote. Gondor's might had been reduced to almost nothing because of this weak Council. He would not allow them to further erode what strength remained.
On the fifth day, the procession left the Great Hall and found its way to the gate before Rath Dínen. The call was made; the guard came forth, and opened the door. It seemed all of Gondor followed the bier down the street and into the Steward's House. After the proscribed words were said, and the last of the incense burners doused, the mourners slowly turned, heading back into the City itself. Denethor spoke quietly to Indis, who nodded, then led Finduilas and Boromir to the gate. Boromir at first refused to leave. He clasped his arms around Denethor's leg, not saying a word. Denethor bent down, gently loosened the lad's hold, and pulled him into his arms.
"Go with thy mother, Boromir, she hast need of thee. I wilt come along presently. I have a duty to perform before I may leave this place. Wilt thou do that for me? Wilt thou care for thy mother a few more moments?" He wiped the tears from Boromir's eyes and set him down. Boromir looked unsure for a moment, then took his mother's hand and walked away.
Imrahil stood beside him. Denethor looked at his friend. "'Tis time for you to return to Dol Amroth. Tell your Father his rival has passed."
"Denethor," Imrahil said gently. "My father was not your father's rival. 'Tis true he challenged him on many things, but there was respect there. And honor given. Do not let bitterness grow in your heart towards my kin."
"Of course not," Denethor whispered. "You will hold your oath to Gondor, will you not, Imrahil. If Gondor calls for aid, you will answer?"
"You do not have to ask. I have been a shrewd student of yours. I have learnt well the things you have taught me. I will never fail you. Never."
Denethor clasped his shoulder. "Then go. I have promised Finduilas a visit to your home, but I cannot see that happening now. Our people have need of me. Mayhap we will journey next spring."
"Do not wait o'erlong, my brother. She needs the sea."
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.