Idril watched the Elvish Lady of the Northern Dunedain leave the hall with young Eomer of Rohan, then turned to her cousin Hurin. “Who is she?”
“Arwen Undomiel, daughter of Elrond Half-Elven.” he answered.
She blinked. “Elrond? You mean Gil-Galad’s herald, Elros’ twin brother, *that* Elrond?”
He smiled faintly. “The same.”
Which explained why Arwen looked like an Elf but felt like kin to Idril. Another thought occurred to her. “How old is she?”
This time Hurin grinned. “Older than this hall.” (1)
“So,” Idril managed, after a stunned moment, “we are to have an ancient Elf for a queen, that should be interesting.”
Hurin studied at her narrowly. “You’ll accept the Dunadan as King then?”
She looked surprised at the question, then thoughtful. “Perhaps if I were a Man - but I’m not. I am the last of the Anarioni and a Woman as well as of impure blood. My heart tells me Gondor *must* have a King if she is to survive. Isildur’s Heir must be that King - there is no other.” then she grimaced; “But what my father will say is another matter. I should go to him, see how he and Faramir are fairing.”
Hurin looked unhappy. “Idril, Denethor is dead.”
She met his eye levelly, pale but not surprised. “How?”
“By his own hand.” he answered bluntly.
“I wish I could say I was surprised.” she said quietly. “I knew he would not outlive Faramir, but I had hoped he would chose to die in defense of his City.”
She looked at Theoden and the Northern knight, it would not be fitting to lay Denethor beside them. The Tower presence chamber then, he and Faramir together. “Where are they? Still in Father’s apartments?”
Hurin looked even unhappier. She saw him draw breath as if bracing himself, and tensed in fear. What could possibly be worse than what he’d already told her? What could her father have done in his despair to make Hurin look so?
“Faramir isn’t dead, at least not yet.” Hurin began carefully. “Mithrandir said he’s been taken to the Houses.”
But that didn’t make sense. Why would Father kill himself if his son were still alive? “Where is my father!” she demanded almost in terror. “What has he done?”
“Idril.” Hurin took her by the shoulders. “Did you know Denethor was using the Anor-stone?”
She went even paler, if that were possible, staring up at him in disbelief. “No. No, he couldn’t have been such a fool!”
“Not a fool,” Hurin said quietly, “just desperate. Desperate enough to take any risk. Sauron could not bend him to his will, but in the end he broke him. Idril, Denethor had his Men carry Faramir down to the tombs, he meant for them both to burn alive on a common pyre. Little Master Peregrin got help, Mithrandir and Beregond of the Fountain Guard. They managed to rescue Faramir but Denethor wouldn’t be saved. He got the death he wanted and lies in the ashes of his house.
Her eyes closed, Hurin tightened his grip, afraid she would swoon. Instead teardrops seeped from beneath the tightly closed lids. “Oh no,” she said softly. “Oh no. It was Father. It was Father all the time.”
“What was?” her cousin asked bewildered.
She opened her eyes, their gold glittering through tears, “The Shadow on the City, the darkness that sucked the heart and hope out of our people. It was Father‘s fault, it came through him - because he was proud and foolish enough to look into that crystal and try to match wills with the Dark Lord!” her voice rose, turning Ellevain and Vanawen’s heads and causing the honor guard to shift uncomfortably. “ Can’t you feel the difference in the very air now that he is gone?”
Hurin, alarmed, gave her a sharp shake. “Idril, this is folly, you are hysterical.”
“No, just bitter.” she answered, and sounded it. “The House of the Stewards has brought itself to ruin in time to clear the way for the return of the King - and I have now neither a father nor brothers. All have played the fool and left me alone.” and finally her anger broke in a sob.
Hurin hugged her close. “You still have a cousin, Little Spark, (2) and a new kinsman as well as a King in the Dunadan.”
The rumor that the King had come to the Houses of Healing and proved himself by curing the Men lying sick with the Black Breath filtered through the three habitable levels of the City, carried by recovered patients released from the Houses. But not all who lay under the Shadow had been brought to the healers, many lay in the mansions of the upper circles, Women and children as well as Men. As dusk passed into night a crowd gathered before the Houses, the kin of the sick seeking help for their loved ones. They came in such numbers that the Warden was alarmed and closed the gates against them, holding the crowd at bay with promises that the King would, in due course, come out to them.
But when he did he was so utterly unlike the image the Gondorim had conjured for themselves from statues and paintings and ancient tales that they could scarce believe their eyes. As he came fresh from the battle they’d expected him to be clad in armor and wearing the winged crown on his helm like the statue of Anarion in the Great Square. And to be accompanied by a retinue of squires and gentlemen as was the custom for highborn lords.
Instead they saw a grimfaced Man in a plain grey cloak over worn and dusty green leathers, his hair matted with sweat and hanging in strings. He stood, with one hand resting on the hilt of his sword, and stared back at the crowd with a cold and wary face. But as the first disillusioned shock passed, the people saw the elegant bones of the High Numenorean blood beneath the tangled hair and scrub of beard, and the mithril brooch shaped like a eagle and set with a great beryl glittering on the dusty coat, and recognized the shape of the hilt upon which his hand rested. And became aware of the power beneath the unprepossessing surface and sensed that the strange King’s mood was neither friendly nor welcoming.
Intimidated they hung back, unwilling to approach him. Finally Egalmoth, a grain merchant with a house in the Fifth circle, was urged forward by his wife. He bowed nervously before the King, and the lovely but equally unkempt Woman at his side, and began hesitantly: “My Lord, ’the hands of the King are the hands of a healer‘, or so the old saying goes, and we have heard that you healed the Lord Faramir and others in the Houses so we would ask - that is to say -” but then the piercing stare of the King’s strangely bright eyes dried the words in his throat and he could say no more.
It was his wife, Findemir, (3) who finished for him: “M’lord there are many sick of the Black Shadow in the City, Women and children as well as Men.” she said with matronly bluntness. “If you cannot help them they will die -” then her voice to failed, choked by tears.
But the King’s grim face softened and he reached out to fold her hand between his. “My Lady and I will do all we can.” he promised in a surprisingly gentle voice, then spoke to a grey cloaked man-at-arms standing nearby. “Menelgil, find my brothers and the Lady Arwen’s. We will need more than our two pairs of hands.”
The King ordered his wife and one of her brothers to tend to the sick on the sixth level, and sent his own two brothers, as plainly clad as his men-at-arms, down to the fourth. He himself, accompanied by the Queen’s second brother and the Ranger Menelgil, went down to the fifth. His first stop was Egalmoth and Findemir’s house where their daughter and grandchildren lay in the Dark Sleep.
“What happened?” he asked, bending over the Woman and two small boys tucked into the big bed.
“Yesterday, just after the attack began, I went down to the third circle to see if they were safe -” Egalmoth began
“Our son-by-marriage has his house and shop there.” Findemir put in. “He is a dealer in gold bullion and plate.”
“Half the house was down, struck by a stone,” her husband continued grimly, “I found Morniel sitting on the front step with little Galdor screaming in her arms from the pain of a crushed foot, and Glorfindel huddled beside her with a bloody head. I brought them straight back home to be tended and they seemed all right for time -”
“I thought they had just fallen asleep,” Findemir admitted tearfully, “It wasn’t until I took Morniel’s hand and found it cold that I realized they were slipping away from us.”
“I can’t understand it, my Lord,” said Egalmoth, “we always thought the Black Breath came from the weapons of the Morgul Lord and his minions but I swear no such ever touched my daughter or her sons.”
The King shook his head. “This came from the Shadow that has brooded for so long over your City.” he explained. “Those in health can resist such subtle poison for a long time, but the wounded in body or spirit soon succumb.” he looked up, his eyes shining silver in the darkened room. “Where is her husband?”
“We don’t know.” Egalmoth answered heavily. “Under the stones of their house I fear, I looked and called but got no answer.”
The King took two leaves of kingsfoil, bruised them and cast them in the dish of near boiling water that Findemir held for him. As their scent, fresh and enheartening, filled the air he placed a gentle hand on Morniel’s brow, and then on her sons’, and called them by their names. Their eyes opened so promptly that Findemir was amazed.
“Is that all?” she asked. “I thought there would be more to it.”
The King shook his head with a hint of a smile. “We were fortunate, your daughter and her children had not had time to wander far. Now, let me see that foot.”
He unbandaged and reset little Galdor’s crushed foot. “I fear he may always be slightly lame,” the King told the grandparents, “but he will be able to walk without a stick at least.” then he looked at Glorfindel’s head wound. “There will be a scar,” he said to the eleven year old, “a real battle scar, your first and I hope last.”
“Galdor cried, but I didn’t, did I, Mama?” the boy said proudly.
“Galdor is just a little boy,” the King answered mildly, “and cannot be blamed for acting like one.” he got to his feet. “And now I must leave you, there are others who need my help.”
He went from house to house, followed by Menelgil, healing the Shadow Sick within whether they were few or many. The tenth hour of the night found him in a grand but crumbling mansion in the shadow of the great stone pier dividing the city tending a young soldier who’d been seized off the wall by a Nazgul and thrown to the street below. By the Valars’ grace he had survived the fall but the shock of the experience and the physical contact with the evil creature caused a particularly severe case of the Black Breath, and the Man had strayed far into the shadows in the day and two nights since his injury.
His tensely watching young wife gave a cry of joy as her husband’s eyes opened at last to look around him in some bewilderment. “Belthil?” he whispered.
“Yes, darling, I’m here, Everything is going to be all right.” she looked in mingled hope and question at the King.
“The broken bones have been well set.” he answered. “It will take time and patience but he will walk and wield weapons again.”
The Woman sighed in relief, though her husband seemed still too dazed to take in the hopeful words. The King started to rise and faltered, the man-at-arms who attended him stepped quickly forward to catch his arm.
Belthil saw that the King’s face was grey and drawn beneath its thatch of disordered hair and was shocked into frankness. “My Lord, you must rest!”
He gave her a smile that took her breath away and haunted her dreams for the rest of her days. “I will. When I am finished with my work.”
Aragorn faltered again, outside in the street, and leaned against the wall of the house to recover himself.
Menelgil watched grimly. “And when will you be finished with your work, Dundan?”
His chief gave him a wry sidelong look. “When there is none left to do, as you very well know.”
The Ranger was not pleased. “You’ll kill yourself,” he said bluntly, “and then where will we be?”
“That he will not.” another voice interposed. They looked up to see Elrohir striding towards them, followed by a tall Dunedain Woman in Gondorian dress and a boy carrying a healer’s box. “Go, Estel, get some rest. Mistress Baradis and I will finish here.”
Aragorn shook his head. “Don’t be foolish Elrohir, you must be as weary as I.”
“Must I?” he asked and shook his head. “You had already spent much of your strength on the sick in the Houses of Healing even before we began this task, while I came to it fresh. And I am the elder and stronger of us two. Do as you’re told, Little Brother!”
“Oh very well.” Aragorn caught the expression, half shocked, half amused, on Baradis’ face and said: “Tell me, kinswoman, are the Gondorim so froward with their Kings.”
Beregond’s sister blinked at being addressed as ’kinswoman’, though she knew it was true enough, but answered promptly. “It is hard to say, my Lord, it’s been long years since we’ve had a King. But close kin rarely stand on ceremony even among the great.”
1. The Hall of the Kings was built on the site of an earlier, smaller hall by Tarondor , twenty-seventh King of Gondor (r. 1656-1798)
2. ‘Idril’ means ‘bright spark’, hence the pet name ‘Little Spark’.
3. The name 'Findemir' was coined by Osheen Nevoy, author of 'Boromir Returns'.
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.