Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice: 33. Third Age 3002

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33. Third Age 3002

"It was not so long ago, Théoden King, that we sat together at young Éomund's troth pledge." Denethor held the flagon of wine between his fingers, tracing the White Tree on the side of it with his other hand.

Théoden took the weary hand and held it. "He knew the risks. We all do, my friend. You knew his spirit - wild and free, too quick to plunge forward."

"What of your sister?" Denethor remembered the fair and cheerful daughter of Thengel.

"Théodwyn is not well. Her heart is fragile. I have asked her to return to the Golden Hall, but she refuses. She insists on staying in Aldburg. I fear for her. Her eyes, once so proud and bright as Morwen Steelsheen's, have faded behind a mask of stone."

"He had two children. Are they with their mother or in Edoras?"

"I could not part them; I thought it best they remain together."

"Will not Morwen go to her?"

"Théodwyn refuses her company, though none can control my mother. She went unbidden."

Denethor laughed quietly at the thought of the renowned stubbornness of the mother of the King of Rohan.

Théoden continued. "Morwen returned but a fortnight ago, went to her chambers, and wept. I would go myself, bring Théodwyn back with me, but Morwen says nay. I have an errand-rider at the ready, if need arises. When we are finished here, I will stop at Eorl's city and visit her."

"Ever has she been your favorite, Théoden, my friend."

"Yes!"

As smoke from his study's brazier wafted towards the ceiling, Denethor remembered that conversation well. Théoden and he had met by the Mering Stream earlier this year to discuss horses and strategies and renew their friendship. They sat quietly the rest of that evening as tents flapped in the breeze. Both lords of Middle-earth had appreciated the quiet.

For three years Gondor and Rohan had battled renewed attacks. The assaults had finally slowed; all thought a time of respite was theirs. Soon after, grief once again struck. Orcs coming out of the northern Emyn Muil had killed Éomund in ambush. He left a young wife and two small children.

Denethor remembered Éomund well. As an emissary of Ecthelion's, Denethor was sent to barter for horses; he had first met the young Rohir at the Mering Stream garrison. The meeting had turned into one of revelry, song and laughter between the men of the Mark under Éomund and Men of Gondor under Denethor. The memory of it still burned in his heart. He remembered the lovesick look that overtook Éomund when he spoke of the lovely Théodwyn.

When Denethor had returned from that sortie, he received a strong tongue-lashing from his father over the terms for the horses, but it had been a fair trade and Éomund had given him the best the Rohirrim had. After that, the two friends met frequently in Minas Tirith and along the border. Headstrong Éomund was, but one of the bravest men Denethor had ever known. It had not surprised him, the way he had died, but the loss angered and pained all of Gondor and her Steward.

Théoden had been proven wise in his concern for his beloved sister. Théodwyn had succumbed to grief this past summer. Denethor's heart grew heavy as he thought of Finduilas. A type of grief had taken her. 'Nay!' he thought angrily, 'Twas not so much grief, but fear and a too tender heart. Faramir takes after her. Faramir! Beloved son! Too quiet, too gentle, too thoughtful.'

At last, a smile creased his face. 'The exact opposite of my Boromir. Strong, bold, brave, valiant. Quick to wield a sword and shield and jump into battle. None can best the lad, when he puts his mind to it. Except for Faramir - too often my eldest lets his brother win their contests of skill. I must speak to him. He cannot continue this. Faramir must...'

'Ah, but Faramir wields a bow and arrow like unto the Elves themselves, and only nineteen years! That Faramir could be the same as Boromir. Gondor needs more like Boromir. Already the boy's sword arm is as strong as mine. His reflexes are even faster. Soon, I will not be able to best him.' His heart swelled with pride. A knock interrupted his thoughts.

"My Lord, another missive from Osgiliath."

He took the note, opened it, and swore. 'Soon all of Ithilien will be His!'

~*~

Gondor's Steward sent Boromir, of course. Boromir was always the one he turned to, at least these past four years. Instead of giving him the captaincy of Eilenach as he had decided upon the side of Mindolluin, he had kept Boromir in the City and used him as Gondor's spearhead.

Boromir was sent from one campaign to the next, always with orders to obey whomever the captain was at the garrison he was being sent to, but always with the secret order to watch everything, learn as much as possible, weigh heavily all options, and then, when the time came, inform the captain that he, Boromir, was to lead the assault.

If not for Boromir's skill and shrewdness, the Captains of Gondor might have rebelled. However, they watched his talent with shield and blade in admiration, listened to his battle wisdom and acquiesced to his superior aptitude, heard his words of encouragement and gallantry, and followed him willingly. When once the battle was won, they reveled in the glory that he gave to them.

Gondor's Captain-General was magnanimous; how could he not be? With his father's full support, he wielded the authority given him with grace. His father's confidence in him was all he needed. He did not need the adulation of the masses, but he received it nonetheless. The people grew in their love for him; Denethor's love was absolute.

When Boromir's latest task had been accomplished, he sent an errand-rider to Minas Tirith with a missive. Denethor smiled as he read his son's note.

'I would request your presence, my Lord Steward, at the river Anduin at the noon hour. I would also request the presence of my brother, Faramir. There is much I would discuss with you, but away from the City. I look forward to our meeting, your son, Boromir.'

"Come, Faramir," Denethor shouted, looking about wildly for his youngest. He knew the lad had been here a moment ago, waiting as always to hear of Boromir's latest exploits, to listen to the words of greeting that Boromir never failed to send to his brother.

Faramir ran forward. "I have ordered the horses saddled, my Lord," he exclaimed, excitement etched across his face. It had been eight long months since last he had seen Boromir and the thought of seeing his brother again filled him with joy. "As we speak, Cook is making a meal to send with us."

"Boromir will surely have planned a meal for us," the Steward laughed. "There is no need for us to carry anything but ourselves and our weapons. Come, my son, Anor is fast moving across the sky. We will be late if we do not make haste!"

Faramir smiled and followed his father out of the Hall and into the entranceway. Walking swiftly, he still found it hard to keep up with his father's long strides. But try he would, the goal was well worth a few moments of sharpened breath and tightened calves. They passed through the tunnel and turned towards the stable. A groom stood in silence with two horses saddled, one the great black stallion that was the Steward's and one the roan that was Faramir's. Quickly mounting, they rode slowly down to the First Level. Faramir beamed and many waved. Denethor bowed his head graciously at his people's regard. Soldiers broke into song as they passed; the melody echoed through the streets, cascading from level to level, fading as they passed one body of soldiers standing guard on the parapets, then swelling as they encountered the next assemblage.

~*~

Boromir strode forward to meet them. He had ridden out from the Guard-towers upon the Causeway. Indeed, nuncheon had been set upon a table and an esquire stood ready to serve.

Denethor met his son and enfolded him in his arms. "You look well, my son," he beamed. "Your latest exploits are being told in all the taverns of the City. You had best keep away, ere your head grow too large for that helmet you wear," and he cuffed Boromir on the shoulder. Standing aside, Denethor let Faramir move forward.

Boromir hugged his brother warmly, whispered a greeting in his ear, then stepped back. "We do not have many hours left before Anor sets and you must leave. Please let us sit and eat."

They took their moment of silence, then sat and ate. Birds sounded close by, speaking to each other of worms and water and cool air. The day was idyllic and Denethor wondered why they did not do this more often.

After a last sip of wine, Boromir turned towards Osgiliath and pointed. "Father, the Causeway Fort needs repair here and here. The Guard-towers need to be expanded. If the enemy attacks again, we will be sore pressed to hold those here at the Rammas. I have men who are skilled and ready to do the task. I wanted you to see the state of disrepair so that you would know what I say is true."

"Boromir!" Denethor said vehemently. "I have never accused you of falsehood. You did not need to bring me here. Your word is mithril. I will order it so."

"That is not the only reason I have brought you out to the sweet fields of the Pelennor, Father. Indis ordered me to. She said you needed to be away from the City for a time. I cannot argue with Amma." He smiled warmly.

"I will be away from the City for quite some time, as will you and Faramir. Théoden King requests our presence at Théodred's coming of age ceremony. I have responded that we will, indeed, join his family."

~*~

"Do your people...?" His brow furrowed as he tried to put words to his question, finally giving up and deciding to be blunt.

"When Finduilas passed, even though she died while on the road to Dol Amroth, certain rumors surfaced." He blushed and tried to cover his shame by standing and retrieving the flagon of wine.

Théoden stood and took the flagon from his hand. "It is my home we are in; let me." He poured another cup for his friend, then, Denethor continued, "They say it was my fault that she is dead." He turned his face from his friend.

Théoden remained still. "Some say she threw herself from the White Tower. Others..." He took a deep breath to regain some control, "others even say I murdered her." He sat back, relieved to have finally voiced the stories that were whispered, even now, behind his back.

Twirling his glass between his fingers, he whispered, "I did not kill her, my friend." Quiet tears fell. "I did everything in my power to save her."

Silence filled the chamber. At last he asked the question, fearing what Théoden's answer would be. "Are there such rumors about your wife? Your daughter?"

Théoden stood. Denethor had come to Edoras to partake in the installation of Théodred as Théoden's heir, and to witness the embracing of Éomer and Éowyn as children of Théoden. It was to be a joyous time, yet Denethor dwelt in grief.

Walking towards the window, Théoden scrunched his neck, trying to consider what he could say that would soften the blow of his next words. Denethor waited. "I have heard no such rumors. It was childbirth that took my wife - though some could say different, none have. As for Théodwyn, she died at the garrison. Again, stories could be told, but I have heard none. Mayhap Morwen has."

The look of pain on his friend's face made Denethor wish he had not asked, but he knew he had to discover the truth. "If there are no rumors in Rohan," he said bitterly. "Then either your people have larger hearts and less suspicion than mine, or my people truly believe I had a hand in Finduilas' death." He leaned forward resting his elbows on his thighs and covered his face. "I cannot believe they would think that of me."

The lords of Gondor left soon afterwards. Denethor's heart was heavier than it had been since Finduilas' death. The suspicions of his people tore at him as naught else had done, not even his father's disdain, nor Thorongil's betrayal. Unbeknownst to him, the lies of the Enemy weighed heavily upon him.

~*~

When the Steward and his family returned from Edoras, they found another wave of attacks had engulfed Osgiliath and even into the Pelennor. Hordes of Easterlings were seen coming across the Noman-lands. Denethor quickly sent out company after company till Minas Tirith itself was laid bare. But the attacks continued. Finally, knowing Belfalas was not under attack, he ordered the beacon fires of the south lit. Dol Amroth sent knights, fourteen companies.

Gondor would prevail. But at what cost! New graves were being dug hourly by the shores of the Anduin, from Osgiliath all the way north to the Mouths of the Entwash. Banners, black and leaden, adorned the City. Grief lay heavy upon her people. Denethor sequestered himself in the Tower, lost in a constant battle with sorrow and exhaustion, as he commanded the Knights of Gondor. Once, a report came stating that Boromir had been lost, but two days later, a missive came saying he was well and with the men of Cair Andros. A bitter fight had been had at the island fortress. They lost four companies, two hundred and eighty men, in just two days.

Denethor's eyes, red-rimmed and swollen from fatigue, looked out upon the Pelennor. He had to step away from the globe; its power engulfed him and he was beginning to think that another voice whispered in the bowels of the thing. He shook his head. 'I am imagining things,' he thought wearily. Pushing his fingers against his temples, he willed himself awake. 'I must not rest. My people are dying.'

A light knock on the door brought him fully alert. "Who knocks?" he asked groggily.

"It is I, Father. Faramir. I have food sent by Indis."

"Go away. I have no time."

"Your sister bids me stay until you admit me. You have not eaten in two days."

He swore loudly. "Leave me alone!"

"Father. I cannot. Please let me help you."

Denethor covered the stone and slipped to the floor. He had no longer the strength to stand. "Enter," he whispered.

Faramir stepped into the room, noted his father's fallen form, and rushed forward. "Father, let me help you up."

Denethor waved him off. He put his hand upon the sill of the window and tried to stand, but, to his chagrin, he could not. He sat back with a heavy sigh. "Bring the food here. Then you may leave."

Faramir swallowed. "I cannot leave you, Father, not in this state. Let me sit with you awhile." He stepped forward and placed the tray of food at his father's side.

"I do not want you here," the Steward said gruffly. "Are you so dense?"

Eyes brimming with tears, Faramir stayed stooped, holding a goblet in his hand. "Drink this, please."

His voice was uneven and Denethor noted it. Sighing heavily, he took the cup from Faramir's hand. "Still you have not trained yourself to hide your feelings. How will you interrogate prisoners? How will you stand in front of the Council and disagree with them, while making them think you are only concerned with their welfare? How many times...?" He picked at the food before him. "Faramir, my son, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be circumspect. Will you try?"

"I will, Father."

Denethor's eyes closed wearily. "They have not rested, have not even buried their dead, yet I must send them out again," Denethor mumbled.

"Who, Father?"

"Boromir!" The gray eyes filled with tears. "I have seen them, you know. They stream from the east, from north of Dagorlad. They come in the hundreds with their armor glinting in the sun and their faces filled with hate. He will have to go out and meet them."

"Who will have to go out, Father?"

"Boromir!" The eyes grew wild. "He will have to go out and meet them and die."

"Nay, Father," Faramir's voice grew soft and gentle. "You have not seen rightly. Boromir will prevail. Close your eyes for a moment. I will not leave you."

Silence filled the Tower room. Faramir sat next to the Steward and waited. His heart was torn. He wanted to take the wrinkled hand into his own and hold it, but he knew the gesture would no longer be welcome. They had drifted apart, somewhere in these years since Boromir had become Captain-General. He had lost his father's love.

"Papa! Papa! Please wake up. I have something I want to show thee!" Faramir held his father's hand and stroked it.

Indis ran forward. "Hush, Faramir," she said gently, "Thy father needs his sleep."

"But I want to show him what I drew for him."

"Not now, ,my own."

"Might I sit and wait?"

She smiled. He was such a dear. How could she say nay? "Just for a little bit, but thou must promise not to wake him."

"I promise." He placed the drawing on the table, then sat on a chair across from Denethor and folded his hands.

She kissed his forehead, reminded him of his promise, and left them.

After a few moments, he slid off the chair and pulled it next to Denethor's. He scrambled up and sat quietly once more.

The garden was still except for the hum of honeybees. The wind was light and warm. His eyes started to close. His body startled awake. He looked towards his father. Denethor still slept.

He looked with longing at the drawing - his need to show his father fought against his need to obey Indis. He sighed and a small tear ran down his cheek.

A rough hand wiped it away. He looked up in surprise as his father lifted him from the chair and placed him on his strong lap. He was being held close and his heart lifted. He was happier than he had ever been.

Denethor stirred.

'When had his hands become so wrinkled and mottled with brown stains?' Faramir wondered. Still his father slept.

"Why the tears, Faramir?"

"I wanted to show thee my drawing but thou wast asleep and Amma said I couldst not wake thee, but I wast falling asleep too and I wast afraid thou wouldst leave me, and I wouldst not be able to show it to thee." He burst into tears.

His father held him closer. "Hast thou had thy nap today, Faramir?"

"Nay, not yet." The boy's chin quivered.

"I think 'tis time. Listöwel!" he called out and she immediately came. "Faramir needs his nap," he gently chided.

She tried to take the boy from his father's arms, but Faramir clung tightly.

"Not yet, Papa. I have not shown thee my drawing!" His voice rose as he spoke.

Denethor shook his head. Listöwel apologized profusely for letting the boy grow overtired.

"A moment, Listöwel," he said and hugged Faramir back. "Faramir, let me see thy drawing."

The boy climbed off his father's lap and went to the table. He picked up the drawing and brought it back, standing proudly as Denethor took it from him.

"This is very good. It is a picture of thy Amma?"

Faramir stared at him, his eyes wide. "It is Mama, Papa." His chin wobbled again and tears spilled. "I wanted to make one of Mama," the boy sobbed, inconsolable.

Denethor swept him into his arms. "Hast thou seen this portrait of thy mother?" Denethor asked as he carried him into his private chambers. He pointed to a large portrait hanging on the wall. She sat in a garden on the south of the City with the infant Faramir in her arms and a sleeping Boromir at her feet. Her hand rested gently upon Faramir's head. Her eyes looked towards Minas Tirith. *

"Thy drawing has the look of this one, Faramir. I could not see it well with the sun shining in my eyes. But now that we art in shadow, I see what thou hast done. It is a marvelous drawing, Faramir. I wilt hang it here, next to this one. Wilt thou let me have it?"

The boy nodded, his eyes as round as saucers. "She is beautiful, Papa."

"She is, Faramir, and so art thee. Thou lookest so much like her." His voice caught and he had to stop for a moment. "Thou art so like her."

Denethor's eyes fluttered open.

"Will you come to your chambers and rest for a time?" Faramir asked quietly.

The Steward threw the goblet across the floor and this time managed to stand. "Leave me now!" Denethor bellowed. 'The boy just does not understand - there is time for naught but Gondor.' Firmly taking Faramir by the arm, he led him to the door, opened it and shoved Faramir out. "Do not come back unless bidden."

He leaned his head against the door as he heard the muffled sobs on the other side. 'He does not understand. I must be about Gondor's business even if it means my death.' Tears were batted irritably away. He rubbed his hands over his face, pulled back his hair, and walked to the covered stand.

~*~

At long last, the battles ended. The enemy skulked away, but great damage had been done. Not so much to the Rammas Echor or the Causeway Fort or even the City itself, but damage to Gondor's people. The number of dead reached close to a thousand. For all Denethor's strategy, the war, for that is what he deemed it, had not gone well.

He shivered as he stood on the escarpment, looking out across the Pelennor. The peregrine wheeled about the Tower. He looked up. 'Was it worth my time using it? Should I have been out upon the Pelennor myself? Should I have directed the battle from Osgiliath?' He shook his head. 'Nay, the losses would have been worse.' He had full view of every battle, every skirmish. He knew where every company was and exactly the number of the foe that fought him. What he needed were men. And the Palantír could not provide them.

Nor could it provide surcease for the pain he had caused Faramir. He shook his head at the remembrance of that moment. He had actually accused Faramir of being obtuse. Faramir, who kept his head in his books, understood the history of Gondor and its importance better than even he did, and supported his father with such grace.

'I was tired,' he excused himself. 'Nay!' he chided himself. 'I am Steward. I have no excuse. Would I have treated another soldier under me with such contempt? Would I speak to one of my captains with such scorn?'

He had sent for Faramir two hours before, yet none had been able to find him. He stood and walked towards the White Tree. The gentle drip drop of the water from the fountain as it struck the dead stalks that stretched out from the shriveled trunk reminded him of the tears his son had shed as he stood on the other side of the Tower door. Swearing softly, he ran towards the Great Hall.

His eyes lit up. Faramir was moving towards him. He grabbed the lad by the shoulders and pulled him close. Enfolding him tightly in his arms he said, "I am sorry." After another moment, he asked him, "Come with me to the seat by the escarpment? Please."

Faramir struggled to control himself. Remembering with wretchedness the words of his father, he nodded, not trusting his own voice. They walked forward, Denethor held tightly onto Faramir's arm, the same way, Faramir remembered, that he had held tightly to it when Denethor had thrown him out of the Tower room.

At that very moment, the wizard appeared and Denethor felt his son's arm tense, saw the smile that broadened his boy's face, and wished that that smile had lit Faramir's face when first he had seen Denethor just a moment before. He stiffened and let his arm fall.

"Mithrandir," he said coldly. "Your presence has long been missed. Have you been bothering my neighbors?"

The wizard smiled and bowed low, his great hat almost touching the marble floor of the escarpment. Faramir smiled and Denethor noted again the easy bond that existed between the two.

"I have come to do more studying, with your leave, Lord Denethor."

"Studying. I wonder. How many days and hours you spend in my library. 'Twould seem you have read everything of worth."

"Not yet. You know as well as I that no one could live long enough to read all the tomes in the Great Library of Minas Tirith. As long as I have your permission, I will come to read and to study."

"What exactly do you study, Mithrandir?" he asked coldly. He noted Faramir's wince. "Do you study things that pertain to Gondor? Or mayhap to Rohan?" His eyes lit up. "Perhaps even further - to Westernesse itself?"

"All of those areas have my attention. I hope to focus, during this visit, upon the Battle of Dagorlad."

"We have just finished such a battle. Not, perhaps as terrible as the one you research, but one terrible nonetheless to Gondor."

"I had heard of your struggles."

"Yet, you did not come?" Denethor's voice turned to ice. "You did not deem Gondor important enough to offer a wizard's aid?"

"There are other battles in this world that must be attended to, battles in places with less protection than Gondor has."

"Go, then, and read your books and stay away from me and mine." Denethor's eyes flashed.

Faramir stepped forward. "Father, Mithrandir has done naught to garner your anger."

Denethor stood still, his mouth set, drawing every once of strength from his great will to not strike the lad. "Very well, Faramir, go with him and be done with me."

The Steward turned and strode towards the Great Hall.

~*~

The wind finally quieted. The dust from the battles settled. She sat in the garden with the letter upon her lap. Below her, the sounds of men burying the dead echoed from Rath Dínen, shovels and picks clanging against the hard Mindolluin marble that streaked through the hallowed ground. This garden was too close to that street. She should have gone to Finduilas' - more secluded, peaceful. A deep sorrow took her. So much death and destruction. So many people worn to shadows of their former glory. She did not know what to do.

My beloved sister-friend,

How I wish you had joined your brother on his recent visit to the Mark. I so wanted to see you. My heart has been in such turmoil these last two years. To have seen your face, heard your beloved voice, and rested in your comforting arms would have been such a delight for me. I know you had your reasons for not coming. Forgive my whining, but...

The loss of Théodwyn... Only thirty-nine. A baby, a child. You lost your sister, so I know you understand the pain of the loss of my daughter. Never had I thought to live beyond her years. She was so dear to me, Indis. A friend as well as daughter. How could I not save her? How could not my love have been strong enough to heal her? Why would she leave me? Why would she leave her children? I cannot understand this. She was a warrior's woman, Indis. She grew up and lived amongst warriors. I cannot understand how she could lose her will to live.

I did not suggest it, but as you know, Théoden took her children as his own. He has always been such a stalwart man and so strong. I find I value strength more, now that I have lost my own. He is so dear to me. His father would be proud. He stands upon the portico of the Golden Hall, the winds whip through his hair, and his stance is one like unto the Valar. Denethor values him too, which makes me very happy. Who would not value such a man! I tell him so, in no uncertain terms, and he blushes. Blushes, Indis! A man of his years. And is not a mother allowed to say such things to her son? Am I not allowed to be proud of what he has become? I am proud, Indis. I see Thengel's likeness in his jaw and the way he walks. I wonder if he learned that walk from his father or if 'tis natural? Listen to me! You must be sick of my going on about my son. Shall I talk of my grandchildren!

Théodred has been named Third Marshal of the Riddermark. He is a delight. I so wanted to show him off to you. Your Boromir and Faramir are certainly sons of Númenor. Would not our beloved Finduilas be most proud? I love to watch the three of them together; their friendship is a boon both to Gondor and the Mark. Éowyn and Éomer are almost the same age as Faramir and Boromir were when their sweet mother died. Your boys spent time with my little ones while they were here in Edoras. They sat with them at the fire and told them stories of their father. Boromir fought alongside Éomund at one time, did he not? Well, whatever. They have been kind to these two little orphans.

The winters seem colder. Do they to you, dearest Indis? No amount of furs or blankets seem to alleviate the shivering that comes upon me these last years. I am only eighty! One would think I was old! Tell me that you do not have these pains, that you are well and enjoying life? Please, dearest sister-friend, for I need some relief knowing that at least one whom I love is not growing old.

Which brings me to the reason for this letter. You laugh, I can see you, but I do have a reason for writing, other than to complain to you.

Denethor looks haggard and drawn, Indis. I was so surprised when first I saw him as he passed through the gates into our city. His hands are wrinkled and spottled with age. His hair has grayed. He does not look like a man of Númenor; he looks more like a Rohirrim. My father was of Westernesse, Indis. He did not age like Denethor has. When he laid himself down to join his fathers, his hair was still almost midnight black and his hands were strong and firm. There were times when Denethor staggered as he walked through the streets of Edoras. He excused himself by saying the roads are rough, but he has walked these roads before and I have never seen him stumble. What is the cause of this?

My heart fears for him. Though Boromir is of an age to take the reins of Gondor in his own hands, I would wish for Denethor's wisdom and long years of experience. We of the Mark rely upon him, Indis. I know you do as does Gondor, but Indis, he looks so frail, tired and old. Has he succumbed to some wasting disease? Is there naught the healers of Gondor can do for him? Forgive my asking. I know you must see it too. I will bother you no longer on this. Just know I ask only because I love him.

On to other things. I fear my sword arm has become quite useless with the pains of old age upon it. I last rode out on patrol over three years ago, the same age as you are now, Indis! I am bitterly distraught over this prison that I now live in. Théoden refuses to even let me ride. Of course, I almost fell off a horse and he happened to be standing right there as I slid to the side. He did not seem to notice that I was able to right myself! The cad. What manner of child have I raised!

There are times I wish desperately that we had not had to return to Edoras. My beloved Thengel lies cold and alone. I am tempted to join him. Ah! I speak foolishly. You would ride here with speed and slap me for such thoughts if you could. I rejoice in our friendship.

I find I do not want to stop writing. I do not want this tenuous tie between us broken. I remember how we three were all wed, all with hopes and dreams before us, strong men at our side, not to protect us, but to support us. Those were three doughty men, were they not, my sweet Indis? I still cannot think of my beloved Thengel without crying. I know you share my pain. How has it come to this, Indis? Do the Valar despise us? Will they never again aid the Faithful? Blessed Elbereth, how has this happened?

Forgive me. I am at a loss today. All my thoughts turn to sadness and despair. I must play with the little ones; they bring joy to my heart. They are stronger than I am now, Indis.

Visit me soon, dearest sister-friend. I do not believe I have much longer to live. Or at least, write me.

My love to you and to Listöwel; remember me with fondness.

Morwen (once Steelsheen)

'I should have gone with them! I should have seen her. She needed me and I stayed here!' Thoughts of the latest battles fled from her mind as she read of the melancholy of her friend.

"Amma?"

"Faramir! Beloved, what can I do for you?" She paused a moment. "And why the downcast look? Have you and your father been quarrelling again?"

"Mithrandir is here."

"Ah. And you have visited with him?"

Faramir told her everything, minimizing, as best he could, the scene in the Tower.

"I must speak with him, Faramir." She held up her hand to still him. "Not about you so much, though that is more important, but it directly relates to the time he spends in the Tower. It is not healthy. He comes away not quite himself. He takes out his anger, his fear, his frustration on those who are about him at the time. Will you give him leeway, Faramir? Can your heart forgive him?" He looked askance and she continued. "Your words do not tell the whole tale of what happened between your father and you, but I can see hurt, deep hurt, in your eyes." Again she stilled him. "Do not speak further. I know you wish to protect him." She laughed mirthlessly. "He does not see it, Faramir, your love and devotion, your obedience, your loyalty. But I do, as does Boromir. Does that lighten your heart?"

He held her tightly to him. "You have always lightened my heart, Amma. Boromir thinks well of me?"

She kissed him lightly. "He dotes on you; he adores you; he thinks none other can best you at anything!"

Faramir smiled, though the recent hurt did not leave his eyes.

"I need to go to Edoras, Faramir. Would you come with me? I believe your father will allow it?"

"Now, Indis? We have not even buried our dead. I think Father will need me close. Or do you think," he swallowed hard, "that he would prefer me away from him?"

"Oh, Faramir! That is not what I meant at all. I meant that, now that we have a moment's respite, he could risk having you gone."

"I will go with you. It will not be a long stay, will it, Amma? I think Boromir will be returning soon. I would not want to miss him."

She smiled. "It will be a very short trip. I am hoping to persuade Morwen to return to Minas Tirith."

~*~

When they had returned, without Morwen much to Indis' chagrin, Faramir found orders awaiting him. He had missed Boromir. His brother had been in Minas Tirith for a month and then had been sent to the Falls of Rauros. Denethor wanted the outpost there refortified. Faramir was to go to Dol Amroth. Denethor had told Boromir of Faramir's promotion and his posting to Dol Amroth, and Boromir had left a letter for his brother. In it, Boromir had been profuse in his praise and congratulations. He exhorted Faramir to remember the great honor that their father bestowed upon him - his own captaincy and the highly regarded garrison of Belfalas.

Faramir went, but his heart was heavy. Imrahil was delighted to see him and welcomed him warmly. Faramir's orders were to take the leadership of the garrison there; authority for the garrison had been given, during the last days of Ecthelion's Stewardship, to the Prince of Belfalas. Denethor now took that authority back. He wanted the Knights of Gondor to answer to the Steward alone and not to Dol Amroth.

Adrahil was furious when first he heard the news, but when he understood that Faramir was to captain the garrison, he relented. 'The old fox knew I could not say nay to Faramir!' He ordered a state dinner to be held and invited Faramir and the other officers of the garrison.

Faramir was seated next to his grandfather. Imrahil, home for a time from sea duty, sat on Adrahil's right. Every now and again during dinner, Adrahil would touch Faramir's hand and smile. As they stood to retire for the night, his uncle stepped towards him.

"Prince Adrahil wishes to see you in his study."

Faramir nodded. "If I may return to my room? I have something for him."

Imrahil smiled, gave him a quick embrace, then said, "Of course. But I must say, I am happy to see you again. I love your father dearly; it is an honor to have his son in our home."

Faramir returned the embrace, then walked away, the smile on his face quickly turning into a frown. 'I wonder how happy you would be to see me if you knew Father had sent me here as an exile?' He laughed bitterly. 'Boromir would tan my hide if he heard me speak that thought aloud!' Did not his brother remind him that he had been promoted to captain and sent, as such, to Gondor's most prestigious post on the outskirts of Dol Amroth?

Faramir retrieved the package, fully intending to return to his grandfather, but Elphir stood before him.

"I waited for you to at least say hello," the young prince said. "Do you know how long I have waited for your return? You promised to long ago, that you would come every summer! I waited."

Startled, Faramir stood still. "I am not my own master, Elphir. You know that you must obey your father; that you cannot do things as you would wish. I returned home and obeyed my father. After our last visit, I became an esquire of Gondor. Now, I am Captain of the Dol Amroth garrison. The Steward dictates my comings and goings. I wanted to be here, to visit with you and spend time in the caves along the shore, but that was not to be. You were only three when I made that promise. I should have known you would not understand. I was only seven; even I did not understand. If I promised you, I was foolish. I am sorry."

The boy rushed to him and hugged him tightly. "Now then, we will go to the caves and we will explore them to our hearts content; then we will go to Edhellond and look upon the ruins of the Elves. I know you were there; Father tells me tales of you seeing an Elf, a really alive Elf, Faramir. I want to see one too. Might we not go? Please!"

Faramir laughed. "If it is within my power to take you to Edhellond, then I will do it. I would like to see an Elf again. You have grown so." He took the boy by the shoulders and held him back. "You are old!"

"You are older still, Faramir, and I love you still. Might not we go to the kitchens and get some sweets and talk about where our adventures will lead us? I have missed you so very much."

"I will meet you as soon as I am able. Stay in your room. I must meet with Grandfather. Then, I will come and get you and we will sneak into the kitchens. Hopefully, there is some of that wondrous pie left over from dinner."

Elphir hugged him tightly. "Go then and be quick about it. Remember, Grandfather likes to talk and talk. If you do not find an excuse to get away, I will be asleep before you come. Though, I promise, I will try to stay awake!"

Faramir hugged him, turned and ran down the corridor. As he neared his grandfather's chambers, he slowed to a more stately walk. He knocked and entered. Imrahil sat by the fireplace; Adrahil stood at the window looking out at the breakers as they crashed against the cliff's rocks far below.

"You wanted to see me, Prince Adrahil?"

"I wanted to see my grandson!" Adrahil stepped away from the window and strode eagerly forward. "Your father does me a great honor by sending you to me," he enthused. "It has been much too long since either you or Boromir visited your old Grandfather!"

Faramir laughed. "You are not old, dearest Grandfather. You are timeless as the sea." Faramir returned the embrace, feeling as he did when a child. His grandfather's unreserved love brought quick tears to his eyes. He could not remember receiving so many hugs in such a short space of time.

He sat, upon invitation, and told of Adrahil's cousin, Morwen, of Boromir and Denethor. He told of the battles Gondor had fought recently and of the great triumphs that Boromir could claim. He spoke quietly of the loss of life. He offered Prince Adrahil the Steward's profound thanks for Belfalas' help during the last struggle. Though he had tried to keep his sharing light, the times he told of were grim. At last he sat in silence, holding a glass of wine in his hands. He smiled. This was the first time his grandfather had offered him wine. The glass was exquisite with the swan of Dol Amroth etched in its side. Faramir held it to the fire and watched the colors dance across it.

"And what of you, Faramir?" Adrahil's tone was gentle and kind. "You have told me naught of yourself. Are you well; are you happy?"

Startled, Faramir looked up. "I am well," he said shortly, then realized his tone was bitter.

"I make no excuses for your father, Faramir. I have dealt with him for many years. He is a hard man. Yet, and I say this grudgingly, he is wise and fair. However, his sense of duty, of purpose, never wavers. And therein lies his weakness. He sees too much. He knows too much. It puts a bitter, hard edge to him. Do not become like him, Faramir. He can see inside a man, find his weakness, and use it to control him. Always for the good of Gondor.

"I have long since forgiven him for your mother's death. I have come to see that it was a blow as bitter to him as it was to me. But I am now further concerned. Your words belie your appearance. You are not well and I can sense that your mind is in turmoil and your heart is wounded. Did you come to Dol Amroth willingly?"

Faramir took a deep breath, berating himself for being so transparent to his grandfather. Did not his father just recently chide him for not being able to hide his feelings? Would he never learn? "I will speak no ill against anyone. I have made some mistakes in judgment, as of late."

"I hear differently," Adrahil interrupted. "It is your father who has made mistakes, especially with you!"

"Please, Grandfather. Let us discuss this no further. As you say, Father is under great duress. His mind is constantly battling Mordor and those on the Council who oppose him. I have not supported him as well as he would wish. Because of that, we clash now and again. He still loves me, this I know, and I love him. Do not press me further, please, Grandfather."

"If it is your wish not to discuss these things," Adrahil said, "Then we will not. Now, tell me of your plans for the garrison."

~*~

They rode through the villages that led to Edhellond. Imrahil had asked to join them; both Faramir and Elphir were delighted to have his company.

As they crossed the bridge into the forsaken city, Faramir shuddered in anticipation. It had been many years since he had seen his Elf. 'He is mine,' Faramir told himself. 'He came to me. How I hope he is still here, that I might thank him for his care. For watching over Boromir and me all these long years.'

He heard the gentle laughter of Erchirion, sitting before his father on his great stead, and vaguely remembered a time being in that same position, with Imrahil's arms around him. 'Ah!' he thought, 'when Boromir and I came here, I rode with Uncle.' His eyes suddenly filled with tears at the remembrance of Imrahil's kindness.

Dark was almost upon them when they reached the outskirts of the deserted city. "'Twould be best to camp here for the night," Imrahil said, "else we fall into some abandoned, ill-marked well."

Faramir nodded. "Elphir and I will collect wood. There is a small hill yonder that I would take him to. We can see the whole expanse of the city from that vantage point. It will keep us both sated until morning." Erchirion begged to be included. Faramir nodded, though Elphir was disappointed. He wanted to spend time alone with Faramir.

"As the youngest, Elphir, I would oft drive my brother mad asking to accompany him everywhere. I understand Erchirion's need to be with you. Will you not let him come?"

Elphir's eyes widened, then he nodded and turned, heading for the hill.

Imrahil laughed and waved them away. Both the man and the two youths scampered quickly up the hill. When they reached the top, they were out of breath. Lying down upon the ground, they rested for a moment, then, Erchirion jumped up.

"Where is it?" he asked excitedly.

"There!" Faramir pointed and the setting sun caught the top of one of the derelict domes and sent beams flying. They gasped in delight.

"I do not see any Elves," Elphir said dejectedly.

Faramir smiled. "They do like to come out in the evening, according to all the old tales. Mayhap though, we have frightened them."

"Men cannot frighten Elves!" Elphir's derision was plain.

"I was incorrect in my choice of words. Mayhap they do not wish to be seen by men."

"But we are not men, Faramir, we are descendants of these Elves."

Faramir had to smile. "We are indeed, Elphir. Let us be patient. Tomorrow, we will go into the city itself and look about. It was in the very heart of the city that I saw my Elf. Right now, it is going to be too dark for us to find our way back if we tarry any further. Come!"

They made their way down the hill with an armload of firewood and dropped it near a soldier who was putting the stones in a circle, preparing for the making of the fire. When they were done, they found Imrahil and helped with the preparations for the night.

"Will you tell us a tale of Elves, Father?" Elphir asked once they finished supper.

"I would tell you a tale of Elf friends, Elphir. They became known as the Faithful, but in the beginning, they were known as the Edain. One of the most faithful was named Elros, the first High King of Númenor."

Faramir sat back. A tale of the men of Gondor. 'Good choice,' he thought.

The tale lasted for some time, Elphir and Erchirion fell asleep before it was complete, but Imrahil, noting that Faramir listened intently, continued till the death of the king.

"It is a sad tale - to me," Faramir said quietly when his uncle ceased speaking.

"How so?"

"That brother should lose brother." He shivered. "I do not quite understand how Elros could leave his brother, take mortality to himself, and know that he left his brother alone. Nor how Elrond could take immortality, knowing he would never see his brother again. I find it a hard tale to hear." He lay on his blanket, turning his back to his uncle.

After a few moments, Imrahil heard quiet sobs.

~*~

In the morning, Elphir was first up, before the sun even lifted itself above the mountains. He rushed to Faramir's bed and shook him. "It is time. Let us go up the hill again. Mayhap we will see some Elves from there and then go into the city and meet them!"

Faramir laughed. "We will go when it is light enough, cousin. Your father will not let us go this early. Come, let us stir the fire and make some coffee. It is good to be helpful. All soldiers must learn this. You are going to be an esquire next year?"

Elphir's chest bulged out in pride. "I will. I will be in Grandfather's old company. It is a high honor."

"Indeed it is. I was esquire in my father's company. Though sometimes I was held to account more closely because of it, I learned much."

"I will too, Faramir," Elphir said vehemently. "I promise."

"The coffee smells good," Imrahil approached and laid his hand on Elphir's shoulder. "As soon as we break our fast, we will ride through the city. Go and wake your brother."

Soon they were on their way. A small contingent of men stayed at the campsite while the rest accompanied their prince into the city. It was heartrending to see the desolation, 'But no more heartrending,' thought Faramir, 'than when riding through Osgiliath.' And he suddenly wondered where Boromir was and how he was faring and the thought of Elros lingered darkly in his heart.

They spent the day combing through the ruins. Every now and again, Erchirion would yell that he had seen an Elf. By the end of the day, Elphir had had enough. "Stop it!" he shouted after the last instance. "There are no Elves here!"

Faramir saw the tears in Erchirion's eyes and walked over to him. "Do not be discouraged," he said, putting his hand on the boy's shoulder. "You are very young and will have many opportunities to see Elves. I know you will see one someday," he promised.

"Oh, Faramir. I do so want to see one. Do you really think I will?"

"I am sure of it, Erchirion."

They camped for the night in the same spot. Imrahil accompanied his nephew and his sons to the top of the hill and sat with them on the grass as they watched the sun set. Imrahil told the tale of Nimrodel and Amroth. No one spoke when he had finished. The next morning they would leave this place.

~*~

Indis could not forget the pain in her friend's face. Morwen had grown as old as Denethor looked. She understood Morwen's fear for Denethor; she knew Denethor was Gondor's strength, and therefore, Rohan's strength. Somehow, she must pull him away from the Palantír, but how? Perhaps if peace were forthcoming, at least for a time, Gondor could pull her forces together, the army might be reinforced, and their losses could be recouped. Then, she would work to help Denethor improve his ring of spies and scouts. They should be able to apprise him of what was happening in Gondor, almost as quickly as that globe!

When she mentioned it to him, however, he turned upon her. "I know what I am doing!" he said forcibly. "I will, however, consider your suggestion." He smiled at her. "I am really turning into a scoundrel, am I not?"

"It is naught to be proud of. You are driving your sons from you!"

"I... Faramir is only half mine. The wizard has his other half. What will happen further along is not known."

"It is known if you continue to drive him towards Mithrandir. He loves you, Denethor. Cannot you see that? Do you not remember the little boy that used to sit upon your lap? I have always admired your wisdom, but when it comes to the wizard, you make me wonder. I know, I remember your meetings with Curunír. They were hideous and he frightened the wits out of you. But you have learned how to use your mind, Denethor, more than any man I have ever known. Use it now to be strong for your son. Do not push him into the wizard's outstretched arms!"

"He is in Dol Amroth. With his beloved grandfather. He will recover. When he returns, I promise, I will mend the hurt done."

"When he returns may not be the question, Denethor. It could be 'if' he returns."

~*~

The anguish on his brother's face tore Boromir's heart out as Faramir stood before him in his study. Boromir himself had only just returned to Minas Tirith a fortnight ago from an inspection of the northern beacon-hills. The younger son of Denethor had arrived only a short time ago from Dol Amroth. Faramir tried to report to his Captain-General, but the grief, the horror was too much to tell in words and his face contorted, betrayed the despair that ran through his heart. Boromir quickly stood, rounded the desk and held him close.

Faramir pushed him away. "We have caused this!" he practically screamed. "We have known of these raiding parties and have done naught. Always, it seems, we do naught." He shook his head, trying to understand, trying to fathom what recourse they had. He knew there was none. "How does Father bear this trial? How has he survived all these years knowing that every step Gondor takes forward is followed by two steps backwards? That naught that the Stewards do will reverse the damage done in the past age. There are not enough men. Not enough means to win this battle." Faramir shivered. "How has Father not gone mad all these years? Sending our men to certain death at every battle, seeing Gondor raked by foe after foe."

Boromir was at a loss. Never had he seen his brother this anguished. "Please, tell me what you have seen."

Faramir took a ragged breath. "Father recalled me from Dol Amroth. He wanted certain reports and quickly. I brought a company with me over the waters of the Bay of Belfalas, through the Ethir Anduin and up the River. Just a short distance north of where the River Poros intersects with the Anduin we discovered one of the Corsair ships, deserted; we boarded it. It had obviously run aground, a gaping hole stretched across one of its sides. We were still cautious.

"I sent soldiers down the hold while the rest of us searched the captain's quarters, the galleys. Suddenly, I heard retching. I ran to the deck and discovered some of my men leaning over the sides. One of them pointed to the stairs leading to the hold. I went down slowly, cautiously. It was dark and it took a moment for my eyes to accustom themselves.

"I saw men, nay, rather boys, sitting at their stations, oars still in their hands. Their feet were chained and their hands. I walked to one slumped over his oar. My feet stuck to the deck as I moved. I was standing in blood, puddles of it. Their throats... Boromir! These were our people, Boromir! Lads from the villages of Gondor. Sons of our women. Boromir! Boromir!"

The tears started afresh and this time, Faramir let Boromir hold him. "They had been whipped and beaten before they were killed, their backs were raw! Probably their strokes were too short or too shallow. They were deemed unfit to save when the crew abandoned the ship. By the Valar, Boromir, how could men do this? I... I... I do not understand Orcs doing these things, but they are not human; they are creatures, ill made. But these, these Corsairs, they are men, Boromir." His breath came in gasps.

Boromir led him to the settle. He poured wine and passed the goblet to his brother. He remembered the first time he had come across the wickedness of men. It was hard to fathom such actions. Even more fearful was the tortured remains of those victims of Orcs. Faramir had not yet been introduced to that horror; Boromir had no hope that Faramir would be spared the sight of a man Orc-tortured.

Faramir looked up into his eyes and Boromir saw the betrayal that he felt. Faramir's eyes said his father had failed him - and so had his brother. They had betrayed Gondor and its people. All that in one look.

Boromir sat next to him. "Faramir." He stopped as shivers ran down his arms. What could he say that would make this all right? "Faramir. It is just Father, you and I. There is no one else who seems to understand this. The Council, the captains - none seem to see it as we do. I do not know why this is so, but it is. I believe things have been like this for a very long time. I believe Father has fought it for as long as he has lived.

"We see... by some precognition or wizardry or what, I do not know. But we see and it tears us apart. And slowly, bits of us are torn away. For others, it is not the same. I believe they think that everything will work to the good.

"Perhaps because Father is such a strong leader. Perhaps because he is wise. Perhaps because he does not show the fear and horror that I know dwell in his mind and in his heart. Ever has he been chained himself by circumstances. Indis once told me of their sister and how she had died at the hands of the Haradrim. Father had wanted to launch an army and attack Harad. Yet, Ecthelion was aided by Mithrandir who counseled restraint, along with a captain of his named Thorongil. And so Ecthelion did not lead an attack against the Haradrim. Indis said that ever had it weighed upon Father's heart.

"We fail Gondor daily, Faramir. We are at a loss. There is naught we can do but try to stem the tide of destruction. We cannot prevent it any longer. We have our finger stuck in the dike, trying to hold back the sea, but the sea sneaks in from other ways and pounds the land and destroys it. We stand in the gap only, Faramir. And yet the gap widens and we are only three. Do you see why we must stay together, Faramir, back every decision of Father's? There is no recourse for us. Gondor will fall. It may not be in our lifetime, but it will fall."

Denethor turned away, unseen, and walked towards the Tower. His own sons thought him a failure.

After a moment's hesitation, Faramir took Boromir's arms and held him tight. "Nay," he whispered. "Gondor will not fall, even if we are relegated to living in the White Mountains and fighting as we now do in Ithilien. As long as one Gondorian lives, Boromir," he said passionately, "Gondor lives. I will not lose hope. Join me now in that hope?" He stepped back a little and held out an arm. Boromir clasped it with all his might, swearing to his little brother to hold that vow.

Then, Boromir pulled him close, whispering in his ear, "You are my hope, Faramir. Remember that."

~*~

A/N - 1) Song was a very important part of LOTR. In the first part of this chapter, I have Denethor and Faramir walking down through the levels of Minas Tirith, and as they pass along the walls, the soldiers break into song. I use this quote from ROTK, Book V, Chapter 1, Minas Tirith, as the basis for this incident. "Hand in hand they went back into the City, the last to pass the Gate before it was shut; and as they reached the Lampwrights' Street all the bells in the towers tolled solemnly. Lights sprang in many windows, and from the houses and wards of the men at arms along the walls there came the sound of song." And in that same chapter, "And last and proudest, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, kinsman of the Lord, with gilded banners bearing his token of the Ship and the Silver Swan, and a company of knights in full harness riding grey horses; and behind them seven hundreds of men at arms, tall as lords, grey-eyed, dark-haired, singing as they came." And lastly, Denethor's most famous question of Pippin, "Can you sing?" 2) *Linaewen wrote the most beautiful story for the HASA Art Challenge focusing on a picture of a woman and her two children. I just had to incorporate the thought into this part of my tale - for the picture so stunningly could be Finduilas with Boromir and Faramir. The short story and the picture - http://lotrscrapbook.bookloaf.net/stories/01/lin/linaewen_respite.html

Just a gentle reminder - the ages of the men/women of this tale in the year 3002. Adrahil 85; Morwen 80; Indis 77; Denethor 72; Théoden 54; Imrahil 47; Boromir 24; Faramir 19; Elphir 15; Erchirion 12; Éomer 11; Éowyn 7


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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