Denethor - mementos
1. The Rise
I saw them riding down from the citadel, tall men they were, towering on horses. They looked like brothers, black hair sun-glinting, fair faces sharp-boned, the White Tree of Minas Tirith emblazoned on their breasts. One looked kindly around, taking in the streets and the crowds as though they were anew to him, the other looked sternly at the milling people as if taking their measure. A hush went through the crowd. I heard them whisper “Thorongil … Thorongil and Denethor”.
I turned to my father “Which one is the Steward’s heir ? And who is Thorongil ?”. Yet he could not answer me, for he too was a stranger to the Tower of Guard. My father had entered the seven-tiered city today for the first time only to give me into the Steward’s service. He asked one of the gawking bystanders and I heard the man speak “Thorongil is one of our captains newly come from Rohan.” We wondered why a warrior from Rohan looked like a Numenorean of old and swiftly became part of the whole town rumour-mongering this question without reward.
The one on the ram-nosed roan looked here and there and appreciated all around him. He was said to be Captain Thorongil. The other, Lord Denethor, sat on a snaffle-biting bay and appraised the crowd. Now they rode knees touching and spoke quietly between themselves leaning one to the other. Our eyes never left the two riders as long as we could see them above the milling crowds riding down with leisure the winding stonework gorge.
Later, avoiding the glaring sun in the shadows of arcades and walls, we followed the circles of Minas Tirith up to the seventh and asked the sentinel where to find the Lord Ecthelion.
2979 T.A. – 16 years - Squire
Reaching the heir’s chamber I called softly, fearing that our lordling was asleep. “Come in.” the Lady Finduilas answered quietly. She sat at the loom and smiled a welcome at me. Her large dark eyes left my face and fastened at the child sleeping in the alcove’s shadows. I went to her loom placed in a puddle of light beneath the small window. Her thin hands still pressed down the beam on the weft and the shuttle lay in her lap quivering while she suppressed a cough. Silently I set the sack filled with dyed wool she had asked for beside the loom and admired her weaving.
She used more and stronger colours in her weavings as usually seen in Minas Tirith and her angular patterns included animals not seen in the flowery designs of the north. One could lose oneself in those intricate traceries of flowers and leafy tendrils but I preferred the strong-coloured angular animals from the south in remembrance of my mother’s weaving.
Suddenly the curtain flew aside and the Lord Denethor stormed in. Lady Finduilas left the loom and went to the alcove where her lord had slumped in the shadows. As I hurried to the door I heard the child stirring. Turning to draw the heavy curtain tight I saw the Lady Finduilas cradle her lord’s face in her hands and stoop to kiss him. Lord Denethor reached for her and sighed “Oh Finduilas”.
2988 T.A. – 25 years - Knight
She was so light when we carried the bier to the House of the Stewards through the morning’s mist. Her living children followed us silently, I heard their footsteps in the gravel only from time to time when we halted. Our Lord Steward’s sword hilt was clinking against the scabbard’s supports, his step sure and hard. When we retreated from the bier at last placed in the large stone coffin, we saw their stricken faces, frozen, large-eyed. Lord Denethor held them close, Faramir’s face pressed against the scabbard, Boromir’s face ivory-pale as the Horn of Gondor at his throat. Then the Steward slowly sank to his knees and clasped his children close to his heart. Three raven-haired heads leaned together.
We left them alone to take leave from mother and wife, let them lament for both Finduilas and child, too small the daughter to breathe. Later the people of Minas Tirith would come.
2992 T.A. – 29 years – Knight
One night watch slowly nearing its end I saw my Lord Denethor leaving Ecthelion’s Tower. Grim-faced, he wakened a squire and sent him to fetch a messenger. Frowning my Lord paced the court. When at last the messenger arrived, panting, Lord Denethor gave him a piercing look and held out a sealed scroll agleam in a torch light. Blushing the messenger took the scroll covered by numerous seals. My Lord spoke urgently, “This message has to reach the Captain of the garrison in Cair Andros as fast as possible. Select a second messenger as reserve and choose as many horses as needed. Go now, make haste, and do not spare the horses.” The man bowed briskly and swiftly vanished into the night.
Weeks later we heard of a battle in Nindalf, where an army of Orcs and Easterlings perished in bogs and mires driven into the marshes of the Entwash by forces of Gondor and Rohan.
2994 T.A. – 31 years – Tutor
Clad in thick padding and weighed down by mail and shield Faramir went through the moves of defence to secure legs and sword-arm against my thrashing. He was fast, he was lithe, yet he seemed not engaged. I called him to attention again and again for I feared to hurt him more than need be. From nearby I heard Lord Denethor calling for the messenger Dorgond. And suddenly Faramir began to take interest in the play of attack and defence. My shield reverberated from his blows and I laughed aloud wishing his father would call always for somebody in our vicinity when Faramir had to practise.
When I said so to my Lord in my evening’s report he laughed silently and promised to come to the practise grounds for the next few weeks to rouse his son’s mind to the art of warfare. Many a morning thereafter my Lord Denethor stood in the shadows of the arcades for short periods, often stern and appraising, sometimes smiling. As our lord came at will and only during those few hours he could afford Faramir never knew when to expect him. His battle-skills improved tremendously.
2999 T.A. – 36 years - Tutor
Coming in from the cold after a long ride from Lebennin it took some time until I perceived the hush in the hall. Faramir stood defiantly before the long table. My Lord Denethor seated at the head of the table looked grimly at Boromir sitting at his side. But Boromir only stared embittered down on his plate. Suddenly Faramir spoke “Please father, do not scold Boromir for furthering my wishes.” At this my Lord Denethor swiftly changed his frowning look to Faramir and father and son locked their eyes. “But my Lord Father, don’t you see? I would honour your wishes by leaving for Ithilien. Both your sons would battle then in the defence of Gondor!”.
Furrowing his brows even deeper my Lord Denethor answered: “Thou art not trained for Ithilien’s secret warfare, my son. Thou art not used to fight without mail protection. Storming brashly through bushes and woods thou wouldest only endanger the forayers. Thou hast even since years far more often trained with the sword than with the bow. No use thou wouldest be for Gondor in Ithilien’s forces!”
But Faramir called Galdor to his side, for Galdor was a Ranger who had spent many a year in Ithilien’s wilds: “Hear me my Lord Father, this man here, skilled in wood-craft, a survivor of Ithilien campaigns aplenty, is willing to be my tutor in Ithilien’s woods and glades. He will ward me from blunders unbeknownst and dangers unfathomed.” After a long silence Faramir pleaded, “I beg you, Father, let me take care of my bow for myself. Surely I will become a sufficient archer in time, spurred as I am by need.” Unwillingly, the Steward gave his consent at last, and only with great reluctance he let his second son go to seek honour by serving in the ranks of the Rangers in Ithilien.
After some months Ranger reports lessened my Lord Denethor’s misgivings. And at Mettarë he looked with fierce pride at his two sons.
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