22. Third Age 2983 - Part One
"Must ye tell him these stories? He is only four years old!"
"He is my only son, Finduilas, and he must know our history." Denethor spoke without reproach, with a firmness touched by warmth. "I have waited longer than was my wont in deference to thee, dear heart. He is going to be five soon," he offered in apology. His thoughts flew back to the time he was five. Bittersweet thoughts, tinged with regret. 'I wonder if I will e'er be able to look back at my childhood without bitterness and longing for better.'
"Ah, but he wilt not be thy only child, my own," she interrupted his thoughts as she lightly stroked her stomach.
Denethor gently removed his left arm from around Boromir's shoulders, quickly stood up, and hastened to Finduilas' side. "What art thou saying?" he asked, bending down to her. He knew well what she meant, what the small gesture meant, but it seemed too much to hope for. It had been over four years now and, though his love for her grew deeper each day, his hope for another child had slowly faded.
"Thou knowest of what I speak, my Lord. By this time next year, another child wilt giggle as it bounces on thy knees."
Once again, his love had surprised him. He turned his face away from her to hide the tears that sprang into his eyes. He grinned with astonishment as he saw two great sand cranes striding in the stream before him. As soon as he saw them they started majestically away, but the sight had brought further hope, for the great cranes were known to be harbingers of good fortune. Now he was glad he had decided earlier this morning to bring his family to the southern edge of Minas Tirith for a picnic. The southern ramparts blocked the view of Mordor, so that all Finduilas could see were the White Mountains to her right and the plains stretched out in front of her. He was sorry now that he had started to tell Boromir of Melendil. It had been a peaceful, beautiful afternoon, and though he knew in his heart that his son must learn all he could impart as quickly as possible, he vowed not to teach him ever again in her presence.
As soon as they returned to their rooms, he would summon the Master Healer and have Arciryas assess her to make sure all was well. A messenger would have to be sent to notify Prince Adrahil at Dol Amroth. His heart ached for a moment as he thought of his sister, Almiel. How he wished she were here to share his joy. She had never seen Boromir; she had been long dead, and now he could not share his second child with her.
"What art thou thinking, my Beloved?" Finduilas asked. "Hast thou already assigned him duties, sent him commanding great battles before thou even knowest if thou art to have another son?" She laughed lightly as she spoke.
Denethor shook his head, took her hand in his and quietly shared his sense of loss. She placed her hands on either side of his face and pulled him gently towards her own. She kissed him lovingly and sighed. "Another of the many reasons I love thee." Tears formed in her eyes. "How I wish I had known thy sister, my love, for from her has come a great man. Would that I could have learnt from her how to raise our children."
Denethor put his hands on either side of her face and returned her kiss. "Thou needest no lessons, my love. Boromir wilt be great among our people because of thee. Neither of my sisters could do better." She shrank into his arms and rejoiced at the warmth of his body next to hers.
Boromir tired of watching them; naught they said interested him. He was oblivious to the fact that another child was joining their family; he just knew that his parents were no longer paying attention to him. A small white heron had appeared on the ridge on the further side of the stream and his little legs quickly took him towards it. The long neck bobbed back and forth as it foraged for food, and therefore, it did not notice Boromir's coming. But the small splash of water as Boromir entered the stream caused it to raise its head and look towards him. Boromir saw he had startled the bird and quickened his pace for a closer look when his foot slipped on the moss-covered rocks at the bottom of the stream. He scrambled to regain his balance but did not succeed.
The silence in the air, the warmth of the sun on her face and the strength of Denethor's arms holding her lulled her into a light sleep. Denethor's shout of "Boromir!" quickly roused her. He jumped to his feet, looking frantically about, and she was standing almost as quickly next to him. She cried Boromir's name too as her heart dropped. There was nowhere to go. Where was he?
They ran to the brook, hand held tightly in hand, and looked with horror at the little body laying face up in the shallow stream. Water ran gently over the open eyes of their son, but no movement came from him. His little mouth was slightly open. Finduilas collapsed sobbing at the top of the ridge as Denethor ran down the slope and scooped his son from the water. He laid the body next to Finduilas and gently pushed on the little stomach, trying to push out whatever water might be in the lungs. Finduilas took Boromir's tiny hand in hers and repeated his name over and over. Finally, the eyes blinked and Boromir started to cough, small rivulets of water running from his mouth. Denethor sobbed and hugged him to his great chest. Boromir tried to squirm away; he did not know why his parents were crying, but he joined his tears with theirs.
His father picked him up and carried him back to their picnic area. Boromir's head was hurting and he was thirsty. He put his hand to the back of his head and it came away bloodied. Finduilas gave a tiny shriek when she saw it. Denethor quickly whipped the blanket from their now spoilt picnic - cups and plates, fruits and cheeses flew in the movement - and wrapped his son in it. Quickly he helped Finduilas to her feet and they both ran towards the Great Gate. Even though in his father's strong arms, Boromir felt every jolt and every step. His head was hurting even more now and the tears were for the pain more than from the fear that had gripped him before. Denethor cursed himself for not bringing a horse - the gate was far north of them. It would take forever to reach it and then up the six levels to the Houses of Healing; time they did not have.
Berelach appeared in the distance, riding one horse and leading another behind. Gratitude filled Denethor's heart at the faithfulness of his aide. He knew he must have been watching them, ever vigilant from the ramparts, seen what had happened, and reacted with his soldier's instincts. He quickly dismounted, took the child from Denethor's hands and, once Denethor was seated, handed the child back to him, turned the horse and slapped it on its flank. "I will bring my Lady. Go! Now!" Denethor gave the horse its head and galloped away with no backwards look, his thoughts solely focused on the Great Gate and getting as much speed as possible from the horse.
Horns blew wildly as he entered the gates: horns of alarm. The horse's hooves quickly ate the distance and they were in front of the Houses of Healing before Denethor knew it. A servant girl was at the door and took the child from his arms as he dismounted. The last he saw of her were her heels as she raced down the corridor. Boromir had ceased crying as they rode the horse through the streets of Minas Tirith, but being held by this stranger now terrified him and he let out a wail. Denethor caught up with them, took the child in his arms, and immediately Boromir ceased his crying.
Denethor kissed his cheek over and over as he ran, saying the boy's name tenderly and telling him all was well. The familiar smell of his father calmed him and the tear-laden kisses made him sad. He touched Denethor's face with his pudgy little hand and said, "Do not cry, Papa. I am all right. Really I am."
The servant girl led him to a room with a small bed in it and Denethor sat down - hard. The healer was next to him in an instant. Denethor pulled the boy's head towards his chest so Arciryas could look at the wound. The blood flow had stopped. The girl brought bandages and hot water. Arciryas tried to have Denethor lay the child on the bed, but a cave troll would not have been able to separate these two. Arciryas gave up and gently washed the wound. He was grateful to see that the cut was not too deep, just ragged. The swelling was on the outside of the boy's scalp, which was always a good sign. He wrapped clean bandages around the wound and then around the child's head, tucking the ends in the front.
"Ioreth will care for him now. He will need some rest."
Denethor looked at his friend in surprise. "Ioreth?"
"Firieth's daughter. The girl who took Boromir from your arms when first you arrived. Surely you knew she had a daughter? Have you not met her?"
Denethor had not even noted her presence, but now, shamefacedly, he thanked her. She curtsied and began to speak, but Arciryas interrupted her.
"You should find his mother," said Arciryas, hoping to still the young girl before she got started. She had the most annoying habit of continuous speech.
At that moment, Finduilas appeared at the door of the little room and, at the sight of her, Boromir started crying once again. Finduilas sat at the edge of the bed as Denethor passed their son to her. Boromir clung with both arms wrapped tightly around her throat. The crying had stopped as soon as he was in her arms. He hiccupped and laughed. Her eyes widened. She looked at Denethor who smiled. The hiccups continued and the three of them laughed together, relief washing over them.
Indis' delight at Denethor's news brightened the room. She clasped Finduilas to her, tears filling her eyes. "We have so needed another pair of little feet in the halls of Minas Tirith. Firieth will be so happy. Since her own Ioreth left to work in the Houses, she has been lonely."
"Methinks Boromir is handful enough!" Finduilas laughed.
"Yes, that he is, but a most delightful handful. Have you sent word to your father? Does your brother know? Oh dear!" she blushed, "Now I am starting to sound like Ioreth, never stopping for even a breath!"
"Your questions are welcome and necessary. I had not even thought of Imrahil. A missive was sent home to mother and father as soon as I told Denethor. But my dearest Imrahil. He will be furious!" She laughed at the thought of her younger brother. It had been a joy having him here with her these past years, always a reminder of the love that flowed from Belfalas. She had only gratitude in her heart for Denethor. He had welcomed Imrahil with open arms and the two seemed to get along quite well. The difference in age was like unto Thengel and Denethor, so her husband had befriended the young Swan. She could see the friendship was genuine and it did her heart good. Her one fear, when she had learned of her father's request, was that the enmity between the two families would spread to her brother. But it had not. Imrahil thought highly of Denethor, thought him a fine leader, and looked to him for wisdom.
"If you do not mind, I will send for him now. I cannot let him hear this from others. He is such a comfort to me."
"I understand. I will tell the guard. You sit and rest. Arciryas has told me you are fit. There should be no problem with this child."
"Yes. After having one child, my fears have lessened. I acted as a young girl with Boromir." She blushed at the remembrance.
"Nay, you did not. You acted like any first time mother. I was most proud of you and how you fought those fears."
Finduilas hugged Indis. "I had much help from a certain man's sister."
Indis blushed. "Also, Listöwel and Firieth. They helped some." Indis laughed.
Imrahil sat in silence for a long moment. Finduilas wondered. Turning towards her, he hugged her fiercely. "I love you, dearest sister. I am happy for you." He paused and she sensed his hesitation.
"What disturbs you, Imrahil?"
"Denethor must be about the business of Gondor. You have kept him close to the City because of your needs. Will this not make it even more difficult for him to leave you when duty calls?"
She sat still, stunned by the question. Her heart knew what he was saying, but truth did not alleviate the pain she felt. Was her brother trying to make her feel guilty? How would she answer him? "I do not keep him in the City. His father has need of him."
"Gondor has need of her captain. He is the greatest swordsman I have ever seen. He should be fighting the enemy, Finduilas. I want to serve under him in the field. I learn only diplomacy here. I have learnt that in Dol Amroth. I do not say this only for myself. Do you not see how you hold him back? Do you have such little faith in him that he will not return? I will protect him with my life. Will you not let him serve Gondor in the way he should?" He looked at her stricken face and blanched. "I am sorry. I have no right to speak thusly. What occurs between a man and his wife is none of my business." He tried to hug her, but she pushed him away.
"I think it is time you leave."
"What! You wish me to leave Minas Tirith?"
"Nay. Just leave me. Now. I am sorry. I cannot think. Please, Imrahil, leave now."
He bowed to her and left the room.
She collapsed on the couch in tears.
It was a long labor. Denethor paced for hours it seemed and still there was no news. What could be wrong? Why did not Indis come out and tell him what was happening? Finduilas had seemed so tired these past few months, more so than when she carried Boromir. The babe was here too soon; it was not yet time and yet labor had started and Arciryas' medicaments could not stop it.
Boromir had run to Denethor earlier in the day crying that he wanted to see his mother. Denethor wanted to see her too. Arciryas was concerned and suggested it would be better if Denethor waited outside their chambers. So, Denethor obeyed. He lifted Boromir in his arms and walked him back to the Seventh Level, to the White Tree. He knew immediately that was a mistake. The tree was dead and a shiver ran down his spine. He did not, would not, let this be a sign of warning. He quickly walked away from there and into the Great Hall. The statues of the kings of old always gave him a sense of security. One day, the king would return and all would be right in the world. Evil would be overcome and the burden of the Stewardship would be lightened for his father. He felt a longing for the return of the king. He recited each name to Boromir, holding him close to each statue and making Boromir repeat the name as they moved towards the Throne. Finally, exhausted in mind and body, he sat at the foot of the Steward's Chair. Arciryas found him there, lying with Boromir sound asleep across his chest. The healer smiled.
"Denethor," he called, gently shaking his friend's shoulder.
Denethor was instantly awake. "What? Is she well?" he blurted out as soon as he saw it was Arciryas waking him.
"She is well and you have another son. Almost full-grown even though the length of her carrying was shortened. He is doing well. His mother suckles him as we speak. Would you like to see him?"
"Finduilas first. She is well?" he asked again in concern. At the nod from Arciryas, Denethor passed the sleeping Boromir over and ran out the Hall. He took the steps two at a time. He slowed as he entered their chambers, smiled, took in a breath or two and walked through to their bedchamber. She looked beautiful. His heart hurt to see her, so much in love was he. She smiled back at him.
"My husband, thy son is beautiful. Wouldst thou look upon him?"
He took two steps towards the bed and stopped. Indis smiled at him as Firieth prepared a tea in the corner. He could smell its sharp odor and smiled at the thought of Valerian tea. 'Too oft used,' he thought, though he was grateful to know Finduilas was being so well cared for. He walked slowly towards the bed, fearful of waking the little one. He bent over her and kissed her forehead, then sat gently down next to her. She lifted the covering and he looked at Faramir. They had decided the name a short time ago. Sindarin for sufficient jewel, they felt it encompassed their joy at the fulfillment of their family. He was to be their last; Arciryas had made it clear, Finduilas could not carry again.
"His looks are more like unto thine own than Boromir's," Finduilas smiled.
He cupped her chin in his hand. "Thou, my own jewel, hast given me two wondrous jewels. No man could be happier." He kissed her again.
"Wilt thou hold him?"
He took the bundle in his arms. The babe's eyes opened and Denethor gasped to see the depth of the great gray eyes that looked back at him. Truly, the child bore his visage. He kissed the little one gently on his forehead, touched the cheeks, and laughed as Faramir started trying to suckle his finger. "He is hungry," he laughed and gave him back to Finduilas.
As she took him in her arms and prepared to feed him, Indis came forward. "He is darling, is he not, brother?"
"He takes my breath away."
Finduilas called his name quietly. "Denethor, I would see Boromir. Wouldst thou bring him hither, please?"
"Of course, my own, I wilt return shortly." He kissed her again and left the room.
As he ran down the stairs, he started to hum the tune that Dagnir had sung many years ago. The song of Gondor. It suited him, reminded him of Finduilas and the treasure she was. "Ah," he sang aloud:
Gondor sits, mirrored moonbeams
Light her walls in Elvish dreams
All is well; Eärendil shines
'Pon my City, beloved, mine.
Stirring the fire furiously, Denethor let all his anger flow into the poker. Never would he understand his father. Never. When Denethor had told Ecthelion the name they had finally chosen, his father had grunted. "Faramir, what curséd name is that? Do you not remember what trouble the first Faramir caused? He disobeyed Gondor's rules; he went to battle in disguise, and was killed, along with his father and the heir. Disobedient brat! I am not surprised. 'Twould have been a more appropriate name for my own son."
Denethor had clenched his teeth to keep from speaking words that would have been useless anyhow. He reined in his anger. He should have told the Steward at a Council meeting, where he would have had to check his tongue. Nay, cowardice. He had not expected Ecthelion to react in such a fashion. Perhaps Ecthelion had expected them to name the boy after him? Nay, he would not... But a possibility, nonetheless. He would make certain that Finduilas did not hear of this. He had forgotten the first Faramir. He had been fond of the name when first she had mentioned it to him. He preferred to think upon the meaning, not its ancestry. He cursed quietly. Let his father think what he would, there was naught Denethor could do to change his mind. He had tried for too many years, with only failure as the outcome.
"Denethor?" Startled by the calling of his name, he turned around. She stood before him, beautiful as always. "My Lord, thou art poking the fire as if it wert thine mortal enemy." She upbraided him gently. "Is thy anger against something I might help thee with?"
He gave a short laugh. "Nay, my love, 'tis naught. A problem with the Treasury that Father asks me to solve. I must work with Lord Amandil and thou knowest how much I relish that task." It was not quite a lie; Ecthelion had spoken of such a project. "Come, sit by me. Art thou well? Thy eyes look tired."
"I am tired. Faramir nurses more oft than Boromir didst. Perhaps 'tis because he was born early. I do not know. He does not seem to do well with Firieth either. He only wants me near. But he is so sweet, I canst not deny him." She paused for a moment. "It has been two days now, my own. Thou hast not asked to see Boromir in all that time. He misses thee terribly, asks for thee constantly."
"And I have truly missed him, but Father has called two Council meetings a day, as well thou knowest. He hast assigned me the task of negotiating a new treaty with the Corsairs. Though they have been beaten, they still cause problems. They do not abide by the terms won by Thorongil. I am concerned, though the Council is not. Fools!" He stood up and paced about the room. "These lords do not seem to see the seriousness of the Corsair threat. Nor does my father," he said, brow furrowed. "It is as if Thorongil could do no wrong. Though that is not the issue. He didst well. In fact, he won a stunning victory, but that does not mean we can sit back and rest on his accomplishments. I am sure he didst not mean for us to disassemble the fleet. Nor send the sailors off to different garrisons with no hope of serving together again. He didst have, I must admit, a cohesive group of men under him. They worked well together. If we had kept the lot, put Amdir as their captain, I would not worry so much. But - Ecthelion didst not do any of this."
He walked back towards her. "Another thing that disturbs me. I have seen naught of the wizard since Thorongil deserted Gondor. I wonder what that means. I have never trusted wizards, yet it is best to keep an enemy close to hand. That way, he can be watched."
She pulled him down. "Hush. Speak not of enemies, speak of thy sons, or thy love for me," she giggled. "I wouldst think that I have lost my allure by the way thou speakest."
He pulled her close, stroking her hair and then, finally, kissing her. She blew out the candle on the table beside them.
In the morning when she awoke, she saw he stood by the door to their garden, shoulders slumped. She hurt to see him thus. Had Imrahil been right? Oh, she could not think of that possibility. Yet his fuming over Lord Amandil and the Treasury nudged at her heart. There had been a nervous energy flowing through him last night. He had spoken of Thorongil with respect, and that was most unlike him. She understood the Corsair threat. Had not the ships of Belfalas oft been attacked by those horrid men! She knew her father would agree with him. She remembered their last meeting, of how her father had pleaded with Denethor to return the sailors to Pelargir.
He had even dismissed the thought of Boromir. She knew it was not that he did not love their son, but the demands of Ecthelion... 'Ooh, sometimes I just want to... ' She reined in those thoughts. Ecthelion had been kind to her these past years. He doted on Boromir. Gave him a pony last spring. But he also gave him his first sword and urged Denethor to begin his training. And Denethor had agreed! "Ooh!" She jumped from the bed, stamping her foot in fury. He heard her and turned.
"Come here, my lady." He said as she walked quickly to him, melting into his arms.
"I love you!" was all she could say. Tears sprang to her eyes as she realized her brother had indeed spoken the truth. Denethor needed to be out and about. No sitting in a dark treasury, cataloguing jewels, gold and silver for the Steward's Heir. She blushed in shame. 'I am so weak, so silly. How do I not learn from Indis and Listöwel? I have heard them speak, when they knew not that I listened, of their battles, their sword work, their deeds of valor. Yet, I sit in shadows and fear everything. I will not continue this. Indis will help me. I know she will. She will help me become strong. Perhaps, I could learn to fight too. Yes, I could do that, I am sure.'
He looked at her, quizzically. "What art thou thinking? Thy brow is all furrowed. Art thou not well?" He held her arms a little too tightly, anxious at her expression. "Is aught wrong?"
"Nay, my love. All is well. Please, sit here. I would speak with thee." She pulled him to the outer chamber and sat on the settle. "Please?" she motioned with her hand.
"Thou hast not broken the fast yet and the floor is cold. The fire has not been stoked. Please, my love, come back to bed."
She laughed. "Yes, I wilt come to thy bed if thou wilt come with me?"
His smile tilted slightly sideways. "Of course," he said as he walked her back to their bed. Pulling the cord for the servant, he lifted her off her feet and set her down gently. Within a moment, his manservant entered. "Bring us breakfast and start the bathwater."
The man bowed and left. Denethor joined her. As he started to kiss her, she laid her hand over his mouth. "My love, I am serious. I must speak with thee."
He sat back and looked at her. "If thou must, I wilt listen."
"My father wilt be most disturbed when Imrahil returns to Dol Amroth."
Denethor started in surprise. "What...?"
"Wouldst thou interrupt me at my every word! Listen to my words. My brother has been stationed in the City since he arrived. He has done naught but listen to Council meetings and lords airing their disagreements. He could have stayed in Dol Amroth and done the same. I believe Father meant for thee to teach him of strategies and tactics and such. Dost thou not think that is what Father had planned for him?"
Denethor stared in astonishment.
"Truly, Denethor," she chided him. "Art thou not listening?"
"Of course I am. I... I am just... surprised. Of course thou art right. As always. I have been remiss in his training."
"Where wilt thou take him?"
"I wilt send him to Osgiliath under Amdir. He wilt learn much. Amdir is a fine warrior. I trust him with my life. I trust him with Imrahil's."
"Thou art not listening to me, my husband. Didst not I ask where wilt 'thou' take him?"
This time his mouth dropped open. He raised his hands to speak, but no words would come. He touched her forehead and she giggled.
"I have not a fever. Nor art my brains addled. My brother is thy responsibility. Thou canst not send him out by himself, no matter the trust thou hast in others. When whilst thou go?"
He shook his head. "I wilt speak with Father. In a fortnight, we wilt ride to Osgiliath. And how long am I to stay there?" he inquired mischievously.
She stared at him. "How am I to know such things? Thou art his teacher. Thou must decide. But first, please, my own, spend some time with Boromir. He misses thee mightily."
"Perhaps 'tis time thou shouldst see thy brother? He misses thee mightily."
Boromir indeed missed his father. Though only two days had gone by, he had become accustomed to an early morning visit, nuncheon and after dinner play. Two whole days had seemed like an age. When Denethor entered the nursery, he screamed shrilly, "Papa, Papa," and ran to Denethor, demanding with every fiber in his little body to be picked up. Denethor hugged him tightly and walked to the garden door. "Hush, little one. Thou wilt wake thy brother. Then Firieth wilt be cross with us and we wilt be banned from sweets for the rest of the day. Thou wouldst not want that, wouldst thou?"
"Nay, Papa. What kind of sweets?"
"I do not know what the cook has planned for the day. Shalt we go to the buttery? I, in truth, am famished."
The boy squealed in delight as Denethor put him up on his shoulders. Ducking out of the room and from the disapproving looks of Firieth, the two went down the stairs.
"Papa, wilt I be a good soldier someday?" the lad called down.
"Of course, Boromir. The very, very best in all the land."
"I have not practiced with my sword for a whole month."
"Nay, thou practiced just three days ago."
"Really? Seems so much longer, Papa."
"Why art thou concerned?"
"Grandfather says I do not practice enough."
Denethor bit his lip. "When didst Grandfather say this to thee?"
"Yesterday, I think. I tried to go to see thee. Firieth become very cross when she found me. I almost made it to the Great Hall, but she stopped me and I was very angry. I wanted to find thee, Papa!"
"Oh, and Grandfather came out of the White Tower as we were going back in. I was happy to see him. And he hugged me, Papa, real tight. And then he put me down and asked me why I was not practicing? He said I must practice, Papa. He said I would not be a good soldier if I didst not practice. I want to be a good soldier, Papa." Denethor felt Boromir's hand under his chin. "Papa. Art thou listening?"
Denethor gently removed Boromir from his shoulders and sat on the stair, sitting Boromir on his lap. "Boromir, a soldier does not use only his sword. He uses his mind as well. When thou art with Mama and I, we help thee use thy mind. And that is important too. These past days, thou hast been part of a great thing. The birth of thy brother. It is important to see how new life comes into being. And so, at times such as these, a soldier puts aside one part of his training for another. That is being a good soldier. And thou wilt always be a good soldier, ion-nîn."
He had no opportunity to meet privately with his father, before the next Council meeting. He would have to wait a little longer before he proposed a short trip. He would emphasize short for, whether or no she had bid him leave, he knew Finduilas was not strong enough, yet, to be left alone. And his heart did not want to be gone o'erlong from her side. So, entering the Council chambers, he put his needs aside and sat. There was Lord Amandil, sitting next to Ecthelion. Denethor wondered what hold this lord might have upon his father. He did not seem to possess any great wisdom, nor wit, to sit at his father's right hand. Only wealth. 'Hmmm,' Denethor thought, 'seems 'tis a waste to put wealth before wisdom. But who am I? My father must have his reasons.' Ecthelion motioned and the assembly quieted.
"Three long years have passed since my first choice for Gondor's Captain-General was thought of. The position has lain open too long. I have decided. Denethor." He beckoned and Denethor, striving to keep a closed face, stood and walked towards his father's chair. He saluted and waited, never sure of what his father would do next.
"I bid thee kneel."
Denethor did as he was told.
"Give me your sword and swear to me now!"
Denethor placed the sword on Ecthelion's lap and took the hilt in his hand. The long remembered, long cherished oath flowed from his lips, though his hands trembled on the sword.
"Here do I swear fealty and service to Gondor," He was grateful his voice sounded strong, echoing through the chamber, "and to the Lord and Steward of the realm, to speak and to be silent, to do and to let be, to come and to go, in need or plenty, in peace or war, in living or dying, from this hour henceforth, until my lord release me, or death take me, or the world end. So say I, Denethor, son of Ecthelion, of the Line of Húrin, Steward to the King."
"And this do I hear, Ecthelion son of Turgon, Lord of Gondor, Steward of the High King, and I will not forget it, nor fail to reward that which is given: fealty with love, valor with honor, oath-breaking with vengeance."
Then Denethor received back his sword, put it in its sheath and started to walk back to his seat.
"Stop." Ecthelion said quietly. He turned towards Lord Amandil, whispered to him, and watched as the man left his chair. "Come, Captain-General Denethor, and sit at my right hand."
Denethor near staggered in amaze, but continued to hold his face firm and still. He walked to the proffered seat and sat. The nobles nodded in approval. Then his father continued with the meeting. It was over and done with quickly and the nobles started leaving the chambers.
'A short Council meeting,' Denethor thought. He stood to leave.
"Wait for me," his father requested as he turned and bid each member fare well. Denethor sat, still stunned by his father's actions.
"You might wonder what my reasons are for the suddenness of your appointment." Ecthelion smiled and walked away from his chair. The smile chilled Denethor's heart. "Since you had caused me to lose my first choice, I was at a loss as to what to do. You know Thorongil was my first choice? He would still be my first choice if he were here. But I live and die for Gondor, as it would behoove you to set your mind to do. And Gondor must have a Captain-General. Since it seems the line is now continued, thanks to Finduilas, you are the next logical choice. I say logical, for it is not in my heart to give this to you. I expected only the best to sit at my right hand. It is not to be." He turned with fury on Denethor. "I expect total obedience from you from now on. Do you hear me?" His shout lifted the hair on Denethor's neck. "I will not continence any type of disobedience whatsoever. Else you will find yourself in the lower recesses of this Tower, chained to a wall, bereft of everything you hold dear. Do you understand me?" His voice dropped to a whisper as he hissed these last words.
Once free of the Council chambers, Denethor ran to their rooms. Finduilas was asleep. He cursed quietly and walked into the outer chamber. Despair flooded his heart and he dropped to his knees in front of the fire. His eyes lifted to the bright light and warmth that flowed from it. 'Ah, to be an ember burning brightly, no thought nor care, nor worry. 'Twould be a peaceful end,' he thought. He felt the hand on his shoulder and turned.
She gave a small moan as she dropped to her knees, and gathered him into her arms. "My love," she repeated over and over again as his tears wet her garment. "I love you, I love you, my husband." She stroked his hair lightly and continued to whisper. "Fear not. You have my love."
Slowly, his sobs slowed. He lifted his face to hers and she smiled; the madness had left his eyes. "Denethor?" She wanted to know what happened, but was afraid to ask, afraid it would bring that cold, wild fire back into those beloved gray eyes.
He gasped and pulled her tightly to him. "Finduilas. Thou art all I need, all I want. I must remember that. Thou art my life and my love. Thou art the morning and the evening. Thou art Anor and Ithil. Light and dark. I cannot live without thee."
"Ye shalt not, my own. I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."
"Hold me," he whispered. "Father has made me Captain-General." He spoke the great news quietly.
She did not understand; he should be happy, rejoicing. She waited.
After a few moments he spoke again, still whispering. "I have waited for this for so long, Finduilas. I had hoped for this for so long. Yet bitter is this time." He held her away, his eyes darting about and fear filled her again. "He thinks me worthless. He thinks I wilt fail him; that Gondor wilt fall because of me. Does he know something? Something he has not told me. Has he seen something?" His voice rose in pitch.
Quickly, she pulled him close, whispering his name. "He knows naught. He is a stupid and foolish old man. He would tear thee down."
He looked at her wildly. "Does he wish me to fail? Is that it, Finduilas? Wilt it serve him if I fail? What am I to do?"
"Thou wilt hold thy head high. He knows naught," she repeated. "Since Thorongil left, he is bereft of guidance. His mind falters. He knows not what he says. Thou wilt serve Gondor well, my love. Thou art wise and kind and fair. Thou art the best of Númenor. Do not forget that, my husband. Thou hast the blood of Númenor flowing through thee. Thou canst not fail."
She sat, holding him. Finally, night fell and he slept. She had heard Firieth come in twice and quickly leave. She thanked the Valar for the woman's discretion. Once again, she heard the door open and she called out.
"My Lady," Firieth answered quietly, walking towards the fire. Her eyes grew in alarm, but she kept her mouth still.
"All is well, Firieth, but my Lord needs his rest. Please, ask his manservant to come in and help him to bed."
"Yes, my Lady." And the woman quickly left the room.
Denethor stirred and Finduilas stroked his hair, whispered his name, and wept.
They rode out with the wind in their hair and the sun on their faces and Denethor exalted in the joy of it all. His heart beat wildly in his chest; he had forgotten the thrill of mounting a new expedition. Imrahil looked over at his Captain-General and smiled. He too felt the excitement coursing in waves off of Denethor. The men behind him had started a song in time to the clinking of their horses' livery. 'Finduilas had been right,' Denethor thought. He needed to be out of the City, much as he loved it. He listened to the song and felt the hope in his men's hearts and he smiled. "Ah, today life is good, little brother," he said to Imrahil. The prince smiled back at him. "So, I am finally a part of this family? It has taken some time, my Captain."
"Nay, no time at all in the grand scheme of things. Life is short, 'tis true, even for those of Westernesse, but it is full of joy too. I must remember that more often." He smiled again and Imrahil, proud to sit horse next to him, smiled back.
The young man Swan had long waited to do battle under Denethor's command. He had oft heard tales of the logic of the man during combat. Imrahil did not doubt for an instant that they would engage the enemy. Orc activity had increased ten fold in the last few years. The Corsairs' defeat seemed to fuel the anger of the Unnamed One and Orcs spilled as water from the lush forests and mountains of Ithilien.
Amdir rode out to greet them. He jumped off his horse as he came near to the company's line and Denethor jumped off his horse at the same moment. The two men strode towards each other and hugged fiercely. They pulled away; then continued to pound each other's shoulders, laughing and speaking at a furious rate.
"Captain-General!" Amdir bellowed out the title. "My Lord, my Captain-General, welcome to the garrison of Osgiliath. Your men wait for you." He whispered in Denethor's ear. "All Gondor has waited for this moment, my friend. Too long coming, but well worth the wait. Now, I have hope in my heart." He squeezed Denethor's arm and turned him towards the garrison's gate. The battalion stood at ready, white banners flew from the ramparts, musicians played, and the men threw their hats into the air crying, "Denethor! Denethor! Denethor!" The troops that accompanied him from the White City joined their voices with the battalion's. Denethor stood, shivering from the unexpected show of loyalty and love. 'If only Finduilas were here,' he thought, 'this would be perfect.'
"Show me the map and where the last patrol was slaughtered."
Amdir put the map on the table, opening it wide; he used report books to hold it open. "Here, Denethor," he pointed. "A little south of Henneth-Annûn and west of the Mountains of Shadow."
"Henneth-Annûn was not found?"
"Nay. The Rangers are still there under Captain Dúinhir."
"He has not returned to Blackroot Vale? I thought he had married and left Gondor's service?"
"He had hoped to leave this year, but your father asked him to stay for another year."
"I would think his father would greatly desire his return. He is getting old and Dúinhir will soon inherit the fiefdom. I am surprised he has not had heirs yet."
"You are correct. He married last spring, but she is waiting for him in the Vale. She is not yet with child."
"Hmm, we must think of a replacement for him then. I want someone strong at Henneth-Annûn. It is pivotal to our defense; it always has been, always will be. Have the scouts returned yet?"
"Nay, I expect them before night falls."
"When they return, bring them directly to me. Let them not rest. I must know the whereabouts of the Orc band. I want to take Imrahil on a little hunting expedition." He smiled.
"Denethor?" Amdir paused for a moment. "Why are you here?"
"My own Finduilas threw me out of the City. Said I was becoming gruff and quarrelsome." He laughed. "Nay. I have been charged with young Imrahil's training. Since the defeat of Umbar, there are no enemies near Belfalas, at present, to learn warfare from. Prince Adrahil asked me to bring him to Minas Tirith and teach him." He pulled on his chin. "Though I believe he sent him to watch over Finduilas. And not without reason. Life in Minas Tirith has been hard for her. I know not what to do to make it easier. She longs for the sea and her people. Yes, her people. She does not consider us as hers. It has been seven years, Amdir, since she came to live in the White City. I was sure she would love it as I do." He shook his head. "I must think of other ways to make her happy. Truly was I surprised when she suggested I leave Minas Tirith for a time. What do you think it means?"
"It means you have become gruff and quarrelsome," Amdir laughed.
Denethor laughed loudly. It felt good to be back with Amdir, back in the fray. "If I may have my old quarters?"
"So very sorry, my Lord. As Captain-General, you are billeted in the best room in the city. It even has running water!" Amdir showed him to the door. "Will you break fast with me on the morrow?"
"Of course, if the scouts have not returned by then. If they have, I want the captains brought together as soon as possible. We must plan our little sortie. Now, to bed with you, too. It is has been a long day for us both."
The scouts returned long before morning came. Denethor was roused as soon as they returned. The captains all gathered in the dining hall, excitement in the air. The patrol had found the band of Orcs, close unto five hundred of them, marching on the east side of Emyn Arnen close to the Harad Road. The Orcs were on the move, going northwards towards the Morgulduin. The noise created by this news was close to deafening.
Denethor raised his hand. Quiet settled quickly. He could feel his face prickle with excitement. This is what he had been born for. "My captains. We will only sting a small part of the enemy's forces, but we shall sting him nonetheless. We will break the battalion into three divisions. Amdir will command the northern forces, Imrahil will command the southern forces, and I will command the western attack. I will show each where you will wait for my signal. First, we will create a diversion. We will send a small patrol directly towards the enemy. I will lead this patrol. We will position ourselves as close to the Orcs as possible; our scent will draw them to us, and we will then turn and run. This should cause the Orcs to think we are sitting ducks and attack our men. As soon as we reach the western group, I will give the signal. Then, we will attack. All three companies must attack at once. It will be a slaughter, if, and only if we are disciplined. No one must loose an arrow before the signal, no matter the reason. No one must leave their position until the signal. Even with our great number, if we do not work as one, we will fail. Orcs have no fear of us; their strength is greater than ours, and they do not care if they die or not. Do you understand? Can you convey this message to the troops under you? Else we will fail, I assure you."
The captains' voices rose in agreement. Denethor was pleased. After ordering the men to take a quick meal, he turned towards Amdir. "Your scowl is deep enough to fall into," he laughed. Amdir just stood staring at him. "I will be quiet and listen to what you have to say, since I will have no rest if I do not."
"How can you put Imrahil in charge of one of our divisions? He is but a young man, not skilled at all in war, yet you put him in command?"
"Sit." Denethor ordered some coffee brought to their table. "Imrahil has been in charge of many of his father's companies; he has worked closely with me the few times I was stationed at the garrison of Dol Amroth, and he is clever and quick. Also," he held up a hand to stop Amdir's interruption, "I put him in charge of the southern flank. The Orcs are moving from the south. If he obeys me, and his men obey him, he should be fairly safe. The Orcs will first notice your group, after the signal to attack. Then they will notice mine. We should be well into the fray before they notice the southern division. Does that satisfy you?"
"Yes. One more thing. Why are you commanding the diversion and the western division? If something goes amiss, if you are injured or worse, there will be no one to signal, no one to lead the western group. I think you must put someone else in charge of the patrol."
Denethor's face burnt with disappointment. Amdir was correct as usual. He put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Thank you. As always, you see things I have neglected or forgotten, or wish not to see," he said with a smile. "I wanted to lead the diversion; I admit it, and I must not. I need to be with my men. It is, however, a very dangerous assignment. We will need someone who can think quickly. Do you have a suggestion?"
"Baranor," Amdir spoke without hesitation.
"My old aide? The future Lord of Lossarnach?"
"Yes. He has been stationed here under me for three years. He is astute and quick witted. If aught goes wrong, he will be able to react quickly and save his men."
"Send him to me."
Baranor strode forward, black hair and dark face smiling at Denethor. "My Lord," he said, the grin widening. "I am most grateful to see you again. The last time we met was by the Drúadan Forest, do you remember?"
"Of course, that was a difficult time. You were most helpful to Amdir, if I remember correctly. In fact, every time we have met or perchance been brought together, it has been at a time of crisis. And you have always shone forth as a stalwart and brave warrior. I have a request. I could make it an order, but I will not. We need a diversion, as you heard. I thought to lead the patrol myself, but Amdir, as you well know, has better judgment than I do, at times." Denethor smiled.
"If I may stop you, my Lord. I would like to volunteer for this, if it pleases you."
"Thank you, Baranor. It does. You will have to leave within the hour. The Orcs will set up camp before daylight. This must be done before they camp. I want them spread out, away from their captains, and as helpless as we can make them."'
"Captain-General," Baranor smiled as he honored Denethor with the title. "I have one request."
"I would pick the men to accompany me on this patrol?"
"Yes. Go, and may the Valar be with you. Leave in one hour's time. The rest of the battalion will be right behind you. Do you have a copy of the map?"
"Yes, my Lord. We know where to set the trap. I will look forward to hearing your signal." His grin covered his face.
"We will be there for you, Baranor. I promise."
Baranor saluted and left. Amdir walked over. "So, he has volunteered?"
"Yes. I have a sense about this mission. I hope I am wrong. Even though we are well prepared, I am concerned." He turned to Amdir. "Send out five more patrols. We will leave within the hour, but I want to make sure there are no surprises for us."
A/N - Denethor and Finduilas speak to each other in Quenya in the familiar. They will also teach their sons this - it will be Boromir and Faramir's mother-tongue, so to speak. I also believe that the princes of Dol Amroth would have spoken it between themselves - but not in the familiar form.
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.