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6. Version 2 of How Many Years?

Second draft posted by Marta with revisions based on Gwynnyd’s comments. Tanaqui's comments made by e-mail are included at the end. No comment was made by Gwynnyd on this draft in light of a major rewrite requested by Tanaqui.

Marta’s comments are in red.
Tanaqui’s comments are in pink-purple

*******

"How Many Years?" version 2
by Marta
12 March 2004

"They made a level space, and at its eastward end they raised a mound; within the mound Isildur laid a casket that he bore with him. Then he said: 'This is a tomb and memorial to the Kingdom of the South in the keeping of the Valar, while the Kingdom endures; and this place shall be a hallow that none shall profane. Let no man disturb its silence and peace, unless he be an heir of Elendil."

"If then Mardil had exercised the authority of the King in his absence, the heirs of Mardil who had inherited the Stewardship had the same right and duty until a King returned; each steward therefore had the right to visit the hallow when he would and to admit to it those who came with him… Nonetheless, the Stewards, partly from awe, and partly from the cares of the kingdom, went very seldom to the hallow on the Hill of Anwar, except when they took their heir to the hill-top, according to the custom of the Kings."

-- "The Tradition of Isildur," Pt IV of "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship
of Gondor and Rohan," JRR Tolkien's Unfinished Tales

"And this I remember of Boromir as a boy, when we together learned the tale of our sires and the history of our city, that always it displeased him that his father was not king. 'How many hundreds of years needs it to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?' he asked. 'Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty,' my father answered. 'In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.'"

-- "The Window on the West," Book II, The Two Towers

Marta's note: I'm not sure the quotes I use from UT are exactly right. If I send you guys along the passage will you suggest appropriate ones?

I last travelled this path with my father over fifty years ago It was not this overgrown in my memories. Saplings now grew in the middle of the trail, not just along the edges as they had of old. You could hardly call it a path, but the sons of Húrin walked it nonetheless. Each man of my house travelled it twice, once with his father and once with his son. The sons of Húrin had never needed counsel so desperately that they ventured here a third time. It was well I remembered the path so clearly, or even this second walk would not have happened. My arm lay comfortably over the Horn of Gondor that hung around my neck. I had worn it every day since that first walk. For the first time I realized I would miss its comfortable presence.

"Boromir," I called, turning back to face him as he lagged behind. His head snapped around to face me then, but not quickly enough for him to hide the furtive look back toward Minas Tirith where they would soon be celebrating his twentieth birthday. "They will still celebrate when you return," I assured him, "and they will sing all the louder for your arrival. You know you are needed here."

"The boy tries hard," Imrahil said.

"Trying hard will not help him find the path when he must lead his own son to this place." I felt Imrahil's sigh on the back of my neck and turned to face him, his torch shining warmly against my face. "Perhaps effort suffices in Dol Amroth, but in the White City it does not. The Shadow does not shrink back because we try hard, but because we remind it that Gondor is still strong."

Imrahil looked like he wanted to say more, but he mastered himself and continued silently up the hill. You flatter yourself, Denethor. The thought sprang unbidden to my mind. The Dark Lord? Fear you? And what chance is there that Gondor will survive long enough for Boromir to lead his son this way? I banished the notion to the far recesses of my mind from whence it came. You only named your heir once, and troubling words, much less troubling thoughts, should not mar such a day.

I walked back to Boromir's side, holding my torch arm out to light the path and laying my other arm across his shoulders. "Do you see that oak, my boy?" I pointed out an ancient tree whose trunk split into two halves, each twisting around the other until they merged into one some distance up. "That tree stood there when Ecthelion led me along this path when I was your age, and he said it stood when he was a boy as well. Look for it, when you bring your own son along this path, so you will know you have not lost the way."

Boromir nodded, breathing in the crisp early morning air. A bird swooped past his ear, and he turned to see it. Its song broke the pre-dawn silence, and Boromir's eyes danced as he watched its flight. Those are not the eyes of a soldier, I thought, surprised by this unusual display of mirth. But a boy you are yet, for a few hours at least.

"Denethor!" Imrahil called from ahead. "I found the stairs!"

Boromir sprinted ahead at that, nearly taking my arm with him, and I hurried after him. Aye, still a boy.

***

We made our way through the woods as fast as we could until at last we broke through the trees and found the stone stair. We climbed toward the sky, Boromir bounding two and three steps at a time and I not far behind, until we found Imrahil standing reverently before the raised mound.

Elbereth's stars fought that night's last fight with Anar before they surrendered the heavens, until tomorrow night. They always lost, yet they still fought on. Eärendil's ship had already passed from these mortal lands, and with that precious jewel gone my own -- my son, more valuable than any silmaril -- now had no rival.

Boromir and I walked gravely and took our places beside Imrahil at the row of white stones that circled the crest of the hill. We stood in silence, captivated by the simple image of a white ship and an eagle flying high above laid out in white pebbles on the mound. "Is that… ?" I heard Boromir asked, and Imrahil answered him.

What he answered, I could not say. They faded away, my son and my wife's brother, and I stood in Boromir's place, looking into my own father's eyes, asking him the same question.

"Nine ships there were," my father Ecthelion had said to me, his hand resting on my waist, "and they fled before the black gale of Númenor, out of that twilight of doom into the darkness blacker than the night. And the deeps rose beneath them in towering anger. Waves like unto mountains moving with great caps of tortured snow bore them up beyond the fell clouds, and after many days they were cast down upon our forgotten shores."

I looked up at him, and his eyes were clouded over, searching out the furthest West. Was Elendil's cloud like the one that now shrouded my father's eyes?

"Four they gave us for Elendil," I replied, "and for Isildur three, and for Anárion two. What more mercy should we ask of them?"

Ecthelion smiled at that. "Aye, you are right, son. Such wisdom!" He ruffled my hair. "You must forgive an old man. Sometimes we forget that the greatest trial often holds an even greater gift."

"Father?" Boromir laid his arm on my shoulder, pulling me back from the world of memories. I saw the same question in his eyes.

"Here Elendil lies." I knelt down and opened my pack, pulling out two flowers carved from the wood of one of Nimloth's heirs. "The Valar keep his grave well." I laid one flower on he mound, handing the other to my heir. Standing up, I walked to the edge of the clearing.

Some time later I heard Boromir's footsteps behind me. "How many years?" he asked quietly. "How many years to make a steward a king?"

Now it was my turn to sigh. "You asked me that question before," I replied.

"I now ask it again," he insisted.

"And I answer you the same way," I said, trying to keep my voice calm. "In Gondor, ten thousand years would not suffice."

"And yet here we stand beside Elendil's grave. Ondoher is dead, and Eärnur rode into Minas Morgul near a thousand years ago! This king who shall return, where will he hail from? Perhaps he waits in Númenor and will one day spring out of the sea?" My head snapped around, my eyes begging Boromir to watch his words in front of his uncle. It is as likely as anywhere else, father," he finished. "Gondor has no king to return."

I let my gaze drift far to the North, where I knew the Argonath stood beyond sight. I could not face him, could not tell him that grown men should not engage in such boyish foolishness. Boromir walked around to face me. "How many years, father?"

"The question is wise," I admitted softly, "but to ask it is foolish. You will be steward after me, until the king comes. And if he never returns, then you and your son after you will still be stewards, until death takes you or the world ends. And no one, not I nor your people nor the Valar themselves, will hold you in any less honour because the minstrels sang of Boromir the valiant Steward of Gondor."

Boromir nodded slowly, the words seeping in. And it was not Boromir son of Denethor who stood before me, but I saw him as Eärnur, high king of Gondor. The Shadow may yet return, but the Valar had sent me a mighty gift with which to fight it. I could not have asked for a better gift in this, the darkest hour the Faithful had endured in this age. The boy was gone, for the moment at least, replaced by a man well suited to what honour might demand of him."

Imrahil approached, carrying a jewel-studded goblet. He handed it to me, and Boromir bowed without being told. Boromir pulled his scabbard and sword from his belt and handed it to his uncle. Imrahil grasped the hilt of Boromir's sword and held it out for me to inspect. I allowed his eyes to rest on the blade for a moment; custom demanded it, though I already knew its worth. Boromir had wielded it for years already, since he first joined the guard at sixteen, and it would serve him for many years yet. Yet today, we would put it to a new use.

I handed Boromir the goblet, then took his sword and rested the flat of the blade on his shoulder. "In the name of Elendil, and Mardil, and all the Faithful, I name you, Boromir son of Denethor of the line of Húrin, my rightful heir. May your sword keep you and all Gondor safe, may your heart never falter, and may your legacy be a joy when the years have passed you by."

Boromir raised his head at that and met my eyes sincerely. "Fealty and service to Gondor, and to her Lord, I now do swear: to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, in need or plenty, in my lord's living and after his dying, from this hour henceforth, until death take me, or the world end. May my feet never falter, my hands ever find righteous work, and my heart stay true to what it holds dear this day. So say I, Boromir son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor."

I lifted the blade and handed it to Imrahil. I laid my hand at the base of the goblet and raised it to my son's lips. As he drained it I heard Imrahil say behind us, "And so do I, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth and kinsman of the Steward, hear and testify as long as I have breath to do so."

"And so do I also hear," I said at last, resolving not to let the tears welling in my eyes escape down my cheeks. "Though life may be as bitter as this wine, may you drain it to the dregs as thoroughly as you have done here today." I took the horn that hung from my own neck and raised it to my lips, sounding it more fiercely than I had ever done before.

The birds in the trees around the edge of the clearing flew from the branches, and a great rush of wings accompanied my last call. Boromir bowed his head, and I settled the baldric around his neck. "Bear this horn to good fortune, my son. Sound it at need, and a thousand orcs shall not keep your brothers in arms from your side."

I took the goblet from him and gave it to Imrahil. I placed my hands on his shoulders and drew him up, Boromir and Eärnur or some new mix of the two, son of kings and son of stewards both. I stepped forward, kissed his brow, contemplating his suddenly mature features, before stepping back. He smiled, and we walked back toward the stair leading down from Amôn Anwar. Marta's note: not sure the "I stepped forward" sentence works completely -- suggestions on phrasing gladly welcome.

If ever I needed counsel, I decided, I would not seek it here. 'Twould be sacrilege to spoil a haven such as this with anything so worldly.

1,948 words

*******

Tanaqui finally gets a chance to read this version—and wishes she had read the first version, when she identifies a big canon issue. This is an example of trying to break really bad news to an author in a nice way through e-mail (Marta can let you know if Tanaqui succeeded.):

I love so many things about this story—Denethor comparing Boromir to Earnur, the conversation about the King returning and Denethor's very smart answer, and the ceremony you use when Denethornaming Boromir his heir. However (and I really feel like I'm raining on your, I have a canon issue here that means I'm struggling to accept this story (although you will see I do think I have a way to solve it) ....

This is taking place in 2998 when Boromir is 20? Is there not one of the chain of beacons now on top of the hill? The last part of "The Tradition of Isildur" says:




Cirion gave long thought to this matter before he granted Calenardhon to the Horsemen of the North; and he judged that its cession must change wholly the "Tradition of Isildur" with regard to the hallow of Amon Anwar. To that place he brought the Lord of the Rohirrim, and there by the mound of Elendil he with the greatest solemnity took the Oath of Eorl, and was answered by the Oath of Cirion, confirming for ever the alliance of the Kingdoms of the Rohirrim and of Gondor. But when this was done, and Eorl had returned to the North to bring back all his people to their new dwelling, Cirion removed the tomb of Elendil.For he judged that the "Tradition of Isildur" was now made void. The hallow was no longer "at the midpoint of the Kingdom of the South," but on the borders of another realm; and moreover the words "while the Kingdom endures" referred to the Kingdom as it was when Isildur spoke, after surveying its bounds and defining them. It was true that other parts of the Kingdom had been lost since that day: Minas Ithil was in the hands of the Nazgul, and Ithilien was desolate; but Gondor had not relinguished its claim to them. Calenardhon it had resigned for ever under oath. Thecasket therefore that Isildur had set within the mound Cirion removed to the Hallows of Minas Tirith; but the green mound remained as the memorial of a memorial. Nonetheless, even when it had become the site of a great beacon, the Hill of Anwar was still a place of reverence to Gondor and to the Rohirrim, who named it in their own tongue Halifirien, the Holy Mount.


There doesn't appear to be any information about when the beacons were created, except that it was probably after the Eorlingas came to Calenardhon and probably longer ago than 20 years before the War,Gandalf tells Pippin on the way to Minas Tirith: 'It is long since the beacons of the North were lit.'

So even if the Stewards still make the trip to Amon Anwar/Halifirien, it's not going to be the overgrown and deserted place you describe.

On the other hand, I think this scenario would work equally well (with a few changes) in the hallow on Mindolluin where Gandalf takes Aragorn and they find the sapling of the White Tree.

Sorry, Marta—I really DO love so much about this story and I hope we can work out a way round this issue.
 
***

Marta is very, very gracious about being asked to do a major rewrite. This section interleaves comments from several e-mails between Marta and Tanaqui (including the one quoted above) discussing the issue. Replies in subsequent e-mails are marked ==> and then <== .

However (and I really feel like I'm raining on your, I have acanon issue here that means I'm struggling to accept this story (although you will see I do think Ia way to solve it) ....

If you're raining on my parade, it's my fault I didn't bring an umbrella. I really should have caught that bit at the end, and I'm not quite sure why I didn't.

There doesn't appear to be any information about when the beacons were created, except that it was probably after the Eorlingas came to Calenardhon and probably longer ago than 20 years before the War,Gandalf tells Pippin on the way to Minas Tirith: 'It is long since the beacons of the North were lit.'

As much as I wish I didn't, I have to agree with you. There's no way a beacon standing less than twenty years would have been described as not having been lit in a long time.
On the other hand, I think this scenario would work equally well (with a few changes) in the hallow on Mindolluin where Gandalf takes Aragorn and they find the sapling of the White Tree.

That might actually work better. I wasn't sure precisely how far this hallows was from Minas Tirith, but I was concerned about them getting back to Minas Tirith that same day, which I thought they'd want to. ==> This Hallows is on the border with Rohan—four or five days ride from Minas Tirith (it's at the other end of the beacon chain)

Is the hallows/road to the hallows actually described in RotK? I'll look up the passage if you just tell me yes or no. ==> Yes, end of "The Steward and the King":

What other changes would I need to make?

==> here are the other things I had issues with—not many solutions, it's more questions for you to answer!

Imrahil looked like he wanted to say more, but he mastered himself and continued silently up the hill. You flatter yourself, Denethor.The Dark Lord? Fear you? And what chance is there that Gondor will survive long enough for Boromir to lead his son this way? I banished the notion to the far recesses of my mind from whence it came. You only named your heir once, and troubling words, much less troubling thoughts, should not mar such a day.

==> Just a thought here, but I was wondering whether Denethor was already using the Palantir and "wrestling in thought with Sauron" here.

I got the idea somewhere that Denethor began using the palantír soon after Finduilas died... i.e., ten years before this event? Whether he used it to "wrestle in thought with Sauron" at this point is, I suppose, up for grabs.

<== I think it's in the Palantir essay in UT that he probably started using itsoon as he became Steward and it hastened Finduilas's end. ==> You're right. At any rate it's significantly before this piece (set 2998 TA). And I've tried to reverence that in the latest version. 

Elbereth's stars fought that night's last fight with Anar before they surrendered the heavens, until tomorrow night. They always lost, yet they still fought on. Eärendil's ship had already passed from these mortal lands, and with that precious jewel gone my own -- my son, more valuable than any silmaril -- now had no rival.

==> I love the images and the concept you're trying to convey here, but it still doesn't quite work for me. Boromir is not a star.

No, but he's a jewel, and that's what is providing the light of Eärendil's ship, at least as I understand it. Perhaps it's more confusion than it's worth? <== No, it's worth wrestling with because it's a lovely image/concept. Leave it as it is and I'll give it a proper think when I do a line-by-line beta of version 3!

==> All right. I've tinkered with it slightly, and included both the original and a slightly edited version in the latest version I just sent out.
I looked up at him, and his eyes were clouded over, searching out the furthest West. Was Elendil's cloud like the one that now shrouded my father's eyes?

==> Not entirely clear what you mean by Elendil's cloud

Marta quotes from the Silmarillion: And the deeps rose beneath them in towering anger. Waves like unto mountains moving with great caps of tortured snow bore them up beyond the fell clouds, and after many days they were cast down upon our forgotten shores."

<== OK, the connection between the two parts doesn't seem strong enough to me for me to "get it". "And I answer you the same way," I said, trying to keep my voice calm. "In Gondor, ten thousand years would not suffice."

"And yet here we stand beside Elendil's grave. Ondoher is dead, and Eärnur rode into Minas Morgul near a thousand years ago! This king who shall return, where will he hail from? Perhaps he waits in Númenor and will one day spring out of the sea?" My head snapped around, my eyes begging Boromir to watch his words in front of his uncle. It is as likely as anywhere else, father," he finished. "Gondor has no king to return."

I let my gaze drift far to the North, where I knew the Argonath stood beyond sight. I could not face him, could not tell him that grown men should not engage in such boyish foolishness. Boromir walked around to face me. "How many years, father?"

"The question is wise," I admitted softly, "but to ask it is foolish. You will be steward after me, until the king comes. And if he never returns, then you and your son after you will still be stewards, until death takes you or the world ends. And no one, not I nor your people nor the Valar themselves, will hold you in any less honour because the minstrels sang of Boromir the valiant Steward of Gondor."

==> I LOVE this dialogue but started wondering about whether you will have Denethor know here about Aragorn and the Northern Line at this point

That's a good question. I think he knows that a northern line exists, but he also knows that their claim was rejected. I don't think he's made the connection between Thorongil and the Northern Line, but I'm not sure what I'm basing that assumption on besides instinct.

<== There's some stuff in App A that suggests Denethor does have a pretty good idea who Thorongil may be. I am starting to wonder if part of his use of the Palantir is to try and find Aragorn and find out what he's up to

==> App. A is entirely too information-dense for my own good; there's always a bit I've forgotten. Yes, you're right, he did guess who Thorongil was, but (as I said in IM tonight) I don't think Denethor would have accepted him as a legitimate king of Gondor. I personally think he saw him as a potential usurper. But I've referenced this in the current version.

I allowed his eyes to rest on the blade for a moment; custom demanded it, though I already knew its worth.

==> Didn't understand this—whose eyes?

That should (and will) be "my eyes" -- Denethor's. 
Boromir raised his head at that and met my eyes sincerely. "Fealty and service to Gondor, and to her Lord, I now do swear: to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, in need or plenty, in my lord's living and after his dying, from this hour henceforth, until death take me, or the world end. May my feet never falter, my hands ever find righteous work, and my heart stay true to what it holds dear this day. So say I, Boromir son of Denethor, Steward of Gondor."

==> I LOVE ALL the oaths—but would Boromir not be renewing this oath, since he has been serving in the army since he was sixteen [note: LizMarta!verse fanon] and must have been sworn to Gondor then? So maybe make it clearer he's renewing it?

==> Glad to hear it! I really enjoy writing poetic prose, since it lets me indulge my poetry muse without worrying about rhyming. Notice how much of my stories have poetry or verse woven in somehow! But I was afraid I was overdoing it a bit, so I'm glad to hear it works.

==> — but but would Boromir not be renewing this oath, since he has been serving in the army since he was sixteen and must have been sworn to Gondor then? So maybe make it clearer he's renewing it? ==> Would it be sufficient to say "Fealty and service to Gondor, and to her Lord, I now do affirm: "? <== Yep :-D

==> Those are the major nitpicks, I think the rest is just phrasing. The thought sprang unbidden to my mind.

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: HASA Resources

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/05/04

Original Post: 05/22/04

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