Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice: 49. Third Age 3018 - Part Two

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49. Third Age 3018 - Part Two

Tuilérë came and went. The Council met again and was as fractious as ever. After listening for two days, Denethor's patience wore out; he summarily dismissed them. He felt their anger, their bitterness, but naught that he said could pull their clenched fingers from their heavy purse strings. Men had been sent, but so many less than promised. If he could have taken each member of the Council to the Tower room and shown them what he saw, then they would blanch in fear, swoon in terror, and not gainsay him the pittance that he asked from them.

The winter passes were still closed to Rohan, but spring already graced fair Ithilien with its beauty. Denethor stood by the Tower window and looked eastward, remembering his love for that land, how Amdir and he had oft rode there just for a brief moment's respite. But respite was no longer allowed him. He was consigned to the Tower for hours upon end, ever watching, for the Enemy moved its forces about, unrelenting, unaware that the fairest season of all was upon them. His chin shook for a moment, before he hardened himself. No time for weeping, nor for comfort, nor for love. He had troops to move again. Ever countering the Enemy's movements, but never an offense.

He knew Boromir chafed at his tactics. The boy wanted to lead a party to Minas Morgul's door and challenge the black things that lived there. As if he were Eärnur! If Denethor could, he would have taken his oldest and shaken him, tried to imbue some of Faramir's sense into him! As it was, Boromir stayed as he was bid, in Osgiliath, and prevented the Enemy from making any further headway into Gondor.

Boromir's last missive said he would return at Loëndë, but Denethor knew he must send for his heir shortly. The movement he saw in the globe could not be disputed. The Enemy was readying itself to once again attack Gondor. Great forces from Rhûn labored towards the Black Gate. Others from Harondor and South Harad were marching steadily northward. Men from Near Harad and Umbar strode forward with beasts of all kinds, including the great Mûmakil.

Yes, it was time Boromir came home and they discussed how to destroy the bridge.

Only a fortnight later, Boromir stood before him, hand held carelessly on the pommel of his sword, legs spread in easy stance, face bedecked with a wide smile. "So you can hardly rule the land without me," he laughed.

Tears stung the Steward's eyes at the easy grace of his firstborn. The frustration that Denethor had noted in late winter had left him: Boromir's eyes were bright, his face sun-darkened from long hours on patrol, his form a little more sculpted. He did so revel in combat. 'Well,' Denethor thought sadly, 'he will have more than enough of it soon.' He motioned for him to sit after they embraced. "Brandy?"

"Nay, my tastes have changed this last year. Ale will be fine. It is all the men have and I would hate to lose my fondness for the drink."

Denethor nodded and rang. Belegorn entered and greeted Boromir warmly. "It is good to see you, Captain. How fares Osgiliath?"

"As well as can be expected. I am sure you have listened as Father read my reports?"

"I have. A grave time indeed for all of Gondor."

"Father," his son turned to him, "how fare the northern reaches? Have the attacks subsided at all? I fear for the men I left there."

"The attacks have been sporadic, but I have watched closely and sent warnings to them, when I was able. Your men fare well, though I am sure they miss you." His voice dropped as he turned away, "Who would not?"

"Sorry, Father?"

"Naught. Naught at all. I have been tempted to show you something, my son, but I think the time is not quite right. Mayhap after autumn, when the Enemy usually rests. Yes, I think I will show It to you then. You will need to... Well, that will be for then." He sat across from Boromir. "Now, the Enemy is calling more and more Southrons, Easterlings, and others to him. I expect an attack within the month. I know we are better prepared than we were this winter; however, I am concerned with Osgiliath. The attack on the forge was unprecedented. Does that mean he will attack West Osgiliath again? Yes, I believe so. Therefore, I think you should strengthen your forces in East Osgiliath. I would hate to lose that half of the city again. Though abandoned, it is strategic."

Boromir nodded as he drank his ale while Belegorn stood behind him. "I agree, Father. It is easier to defend walls than to defend forests and fields such as Ithilien has. I would very much rue the day we lost East Osgiliath."

"Sad as I am to consider it, Boromir, with the forces I see pouring into Mordor every day, I deem it a distinct possibility. Therefore, we must consider the bridge over the Anduin. If the east is taken, we cannot let them swarm across the bridge and take West Osgiliath. If we lose that part of the city, we face extreme danger."

"I will further fortify the eastern city. It will mean lessening those forces on the west and at the Causeway, but it must be. How fares Cair Andros? Did you receive enough men to swell its ranks?"

"I did not. I have sent another two companies, but I had to send one to Amon Dîn and another two to Pelargir. That, unfortunately, is the extent of the men the lords of Gondor have deemed to send to us. May they rot in Mordor!"

"Father," Boromir smiled, "I do not think it quite fitting to send our allies to Mordor!"

Belegorn chuckled. "Perhaps they should be fitted with gear and sent into battle themselves."

Denethor grimaced. "What galls me the most, I think, is that most of these men have been soldiers in Gondor's service. They know what needs must be done. Yet, they seem to have forgotten what it is like when your enemy's forces outnumber your own."

"I think Belegorn's idea deserves some thought. Have them go into battle again, Father, let them see what they are missing." Boromir's smile broadened. "They would send more men to us within mere moments of the first attack they faced - and run as quickly back to their own lands as possible." Belegorn joined him in laughter.

Denethor drank his brandy quickly. "They would never assent to such a thing. And I truly would not send them. Why lesson the chances for victory with that sorry lot? Or put our own brave warriors at further risk?"

"Indeed. I wonder if any have kept to their sword practice?"

"I think not. At least none do whilst they are in Minas Tirith for the Council meetings. Mostly, I see them gallivanting between each other's houses. Most can barely walk home, so great have they imbibed. Mayhap I should place a ban on drinking whilst the Council meets?" Denethor's brow furrowed. "Then Lord Hundor would have less of an excuse to sleep through the meetings. Enough of that. We still must discuss the bridge. It will have to come down, if the Enemy regains East Osgiliath."

"I agree. There are a few engineers who are well versed in bridge construction. Belegorn, would you have Húrin join us? He will remember their names."

Denethor's aide nodded and left them.

"Have yours scouts actually seen the enemy near East Osgiliath, Father?"

"Not yet. But their numbers increase daily. Even with all our preparations, East Osgiliath would be easy for them to retake, much as it pains me to say so. When it falls, Boromir, we must destroy the bridge."

"You built it yourself, did you not?"

"I did. It will be hard to see it fall, yet it never had the grace nor the beauty that the original bridge had. I only built a skeleton of that one, a sadly lacking reproduction. I suppose, in my heart, I always knew it would be destroyed."

"Father. Our men are strong and brave. Unless an unimaginable force attacks, I can hold East Osgiliath, I am sure."

"I would hope it would be as you say, Boromir, but the enemy has siege machines of immense size. I have never seen the like of these. One Mûmak itself could easily obliterate a whole company of even the bravest knights."

Boromir lowered his head and looked at his hands. "Then, the bridge will be destroyed." He looked up again with grim determination, "But not until the very last moment. When I feel no hope of saving it. Not before, Father, I promise."

"Do not cut the time so short that you endanger your own life, my son. That I could not endure."

Chuckling warmly, Boromir stood and grasped his father, holding him tightly. "You have always known, or at least felt with your keen foresight, Father, that I jeopardize my life daily. As does Faramir. We have been blessed so far. I will continue to hope that someone is watching over us, over you."

"Come. I have had nuncheon set out for us. My servants will be distressed if we do not avail ourselves of at least something. Húrin should be joining us shortly. The man has not had much rest as of late; the list..."

"The blasted list," Boromir laughed as he sat at table. "I think it should be tattooed on every arm of the lords of your Council."

Denethor burst into laughter. "Indeed. It would serve them right!"

Húrin entered a few moments later, sitting at Denethor's motion. "An errand-rider brings a missive from Imrahil." He handed the parchment to Denethor.

Sighing, Denethor put down his napkin and opened it. "Just as I suspected." He looked up. "Our little outpost at the mouth of the Anduin has been destroyed. There is no sign of the men stationed there; neither Imrahil's nor our men."

Silence greeted this announcement. At last, Boromir spoke. "I am glad Elphir had taken another post. Though the men lost were good men, it would be difficult for my uncle to lose his firstborn."

"Indeed. Well, we will abandon it for the nonce. Linhir and Pelargir will have to heighten their patrols. I will ask Imrahil to send more men to Linhir, to refortify that city."

"It had been completely rebuilt?"

"It has not, but it will do, for the nonce. The outwalls have been refortified; they should hold should another attack come. Húrin, I need the names of at least two bridge engineers."

"Elatan is the best we have. He is well versed in all of the disciplines. Meneldil is another. Both are well known for their abilities. Shall I send for them?"

"I remember Elatan. I believe he helped with the drawings for the bridge in Osgiliath."

"You remember rightly, cousin. Elatan was a young man then, as were you, and just newly finished with his apprenticeship. Meneldil is younger. He has only recently become an engineer; however, Elatan speaks well of him."

"Send for Elatan, Belegorn. I would speak with him as soon as possible. Have him bring the schematics of the bridge."

His aide nodded and complied.

"Nay," Denethor put up a hand to stay Húrin's exit. "Please, share a drink with Boromir and I. You have not stopped to rest since Tuilérë. I expect you have not seen Beldis in weeks?"

Húrin smiled. "I have been sequestered with many of the guilds. The list is long."

"Morgoth take that blasted list," Denethor fumed. "It seems under every stone lies a list!"

Boromir laughed. "I have never seen anyone with so many, Father. It would do you well to burn them all and start anew."

Denethor could not smile; the list truly haunted him. It seemed not one item had been crossed off it in months. "The Rammas has been raised by the Causeway Forts. I have ordered it raised by Harlond next."

Both Húrin and Boromir noted the strain in Denethor's voice. "Father, might we talk, for a moment, of spring? It is almost past and I doubt if you have walked Mother's garden of late." He watched in sadness as Denethor shivered. "Please, Father. Let Húrin speak with Elatan about the bridge. He knows what must be done. You and I may walk for a time; I would speak with you."

The Steward nodded. He apologized to Húrin. "When Elatan arrives, ask him to find the maps and schematics of the bridge. Do not tell him we are to destroy it. Tell him to return to my office tomorrow. We will discuss the bridge then." He turned and left with Boromir. In a matter of moments, they were opening the doors to Finduilas' garden. Both men stopped and smelt the rich fragrance of the flowers of Dol Amroth. "It is well we come here. It has been too long, Boromir. I would that Faramir were with us."

"As do I. He carries a heavy weight. His garrison has not the amenities that even Osgiliath has. Will you send for him soon? Might he take leave for a while? Come home and spend time with you and me? Mayhap at Loëndë?"

"Yes. I will so order it. We will quietly remember your mother here in her garden."

~*~

Elatan brought copious maps and rolled parchments along with another engineer, Melendil. "Warden Húrin told me exactly what you need, my Lord Steward. What would you have us do? Reinforce it? It will take a few months."

Denethor looked at the man; sadness filled his eyes. Obviously, Elatan was in love with his work. It would not be pleasant to tell him what they planned.

Boromir, just returned for his weekly meeting with Denethor, stood up, motioning the engineer forward. "Bring the parchments here, Elatan." He smiled as Meneldil followed the other engineer, as a pup follows its master. The Steward's son helped the two engineers roll the schematics out on Denethor's dining table. "Here, Father. I think this is the most detailed one."

Denethor stepped closer. "Ah! I remember this one well. I helped make it." He ran his hand lovingly over the drawing. He noted the engineer's smile of approval. There was no need to draw this moment out. "We are going to destroy the bridge, Elatan. I need to know the best way to do it."

Elatan sputtered, "But, my Lord. It is good and strong. It will endure another fifty years at least."

"It will endure until we demolish it. I will not discuss why it will be destroyed, but it will be. Boromir will captain the demolition company." He moved his hand over the schematic and pointed. "I think this is the best place to weaken the struts. What think you, Elatan?"

The engineer took a deep breath and leaned forward. "The traditional way to destroy a bridge is to burn it. That is the safest way."

"There will be men on the bridge until the last moment. We cannot burn it."

"If we cannot burn it, we can cut through the struts, as you say; that will weaken it enough to cause it to fall."

"I cannot have too many struts weakened else I lose my own men."

Meneldil looked at his teacher. "Elatan, if we cut through these two struts..." he pointed to the parchment, "to about two inches from the end here, it would weaken the whole structure enough. Only a few blows to each one would severe the connection and the bridge would fall."

"Yes, Meneldil," Denethor looked at the younger engineer with appreciation. "Those two struts are key. If the old bridge still stood, it would take at least twelve hours to heat the stones sufficient to make them weaken and collapse."

"Nevertheless, this is a well-made bridge, my Lord," Elatan said quietly. "You commissioned it?"

"I did. A very long time ago. I even helped build it and you were there also, Elatan, as apprentice, if I recall rightly. We made it strong for it had to carry men and supplies for the old garrison at East Osgiliath."

"Father," Boromir pointed. "That only takes care of the eastern end of the bridge. What about the western?"

"I do not think we need destroy both."

"As an added precaution, I think we must. The old Tower of the Stone in the middle of the Anduin will give our men a place to defend themselves once the eastern end is brought down. When the western end is close to being smashed, they can cross over it and escape. I think it wise to demolish both."

"Yes," Elatan sighed. "I agree with Boromir, my Lord. I understand, to a degree, what it is that is needed. You must destroy both ends. I will draw up an enlarged schematic of each and mark where the struts are that need to be cut. However, I would volunteer to oversee the duty, if I might? I hesitate to leave it to one who might cut the struts too deeply in the preparatory phase and endanger the lives of the Knights of Gondor."

"And I will join him," Meneldil stepped forward. "Elatan can supervise the work force on the eastern bridge, whilst I supervise the men on the western."

Boromir looked up in surprise. "I cannot allow it. Neither of you have been in battle before."

Elatan drew himself up and stared at Denethor. "We will not run nor cower in fear, I assure you, my Lord Steward."

"I accept your offer. Boromir, when you return to Osgiliath, prepare two details, one for each part of the bridge. We will begin demolition work on the first day of Lothron. That gives you a little more than a month to ensure that Henneth Annûn and Henneth Amrûn are well enough stocked. I will tell Faramir that Henneth Annûn will receive its supplies from Cair Andros once the bridge is down. I am not sure where we can ship supplies for Henneth Amrûn."

"Downstream to the river Poros, Father, and then north. It should not be too difficult. There is more enemy traffic in Northern Ithilien than Southern. With the noise the Haradric caravans make as they pass, they are easily avoided."

"Well enough. It will be done. We will begin preparations the day after tomorrow. I will ask Húrin to attend us." He turned towards the engineers. "Please hold these until three days hence. Then bring them here at the sixth hour. And make preparations to join Boromir in Osgiliath on the first of Lothron."

Elatan gave the Steward a sad look; then both engineers nodded and left.

"Father, we still have not enough warriors. Some outposts must be closed. Some men must leave their farms and serve in the army."

"And which outposts would you close, Boromir? Which lord will you tell, 'We deem your lands unworthy of Gondor's protection?' What women and children will you tell, 'We deem your lives not worthy?' I think not."

"Father, we must. The people will understand. The fields of Anórien can be tended with fewer men. The Rohirrim and our garrison at Amon Dîn can send sorties out, now and again, to make sure the farmers live. Conscribe the remaining men into our army. Bring the women and children to Minas Tirith. It will be safer for them anyhow. The same can be done in Lossarnach. We cannot do without more men at Osgiliath, Amon Dîn, and Pelargir. Not with the enemy massing as it is."

Denethor stood up and walked to his window. The Pelennor stretched out before him, as it always did, faithful and pure and green. His heart stopped for a moment as the memory of a decimated field filled his vision. He shook it away. "I will do as you ask. I cannot close any of the beacon hills. Though we rarely use Calenhad and Erelas, if war comes, I must have them manned and ready. We will close the garrison at the Mering Stream and hope that Rohan, if it deems a threat imminent, will call for the lighting of Amon Anwar. I will send an order to that outpost to acquiesce to Rohan's demands, if that should come to pass."

Boromir handed Denethor a brandy. His heart twisted as he saw mixed emotions flit across his father's face. He knew this was a most difficult task. It seemed almost a defeat to close these beacons. He quickly downed his own glass and refilled it. "There are the southern beacons."

"Yes. Amon Baran would be the most logical, in that range, to close. Green Oromet would be another."

"The Causeway Fort could be left unmanned."

"Nay. I will not do that. Boromir," he turned and looked at his son in frustration. "We count only ten handfuls of men with the closing of these beacons. Is this wise?"

"Then tell the lords at the Council meeting that we must have more men."

"We must. I am tired, Boromir. Let us continue this after the daymeal. Would you share it with me?"

"You need not ask. Your food is much better than the buttery's, I must say. Is Faramir coming?"

Denethor smiled. "That he is. He wrote a fortnight ago, asking for permission to attend. He should be here in time for our meal. I think it is not the Council meeting that he is anxious for; he is anxious to see you again."

Boromir laughed. "And I him. I swear he is growing taller, though how that is possible, I know not."

"Mayhap it is the waters of the falls of Ithilien. Some have said they are magic."

"Magic or no, if he keeps growing he will be taller than me, and that I cannot allow." Boromir emphasized 'that' and laughed.

"Go then and leave me to some peace. When the two of you start chattering, I can barely think. I am too old."

"Nay, Father, it is not that. You are too used to the quiet. You should leave the Tower now and again and mingle." He raised his eyebrows on the word mingle and laughed again.

Denethor stood still; his skin prickled. "What know you of the Tower?"

His son looked at him in surprise. "What about the Tower, Father? I meant your rooms here in the Tower. Is there something else? Should I know of something else?" Denethor shook his head, more to clear it than respond, but Boromir accepted it as a nay. "Well then, I will see you at the daymeal. Rest some, Father. You are beginning to look bedraggled again." He smiled as he embraced Denethor, then walked quietly out the door.

The Steward walked to the settle and dropped into it, weary beyond thought. 'I almost gave It away, and for naught. I must go there, though; too long have I been away.' But his legs felt like lead and his head suddenly ached. He felt tears prickling his eyes. "Boromir," he whispered, "my son."

Beregond stepped into the room. "My Lord, will you be dining here tonight?"

"Yes. Boromir and Faramir will join me. Send a missive to Húrin. I would have him join us.

"Then I will order pheasant? It is Boromir's favorite, when he is in the City."

"Yes," Denethor smiled. "Pheasant and wild rice with some oranges from Harad, if Cook has any. And Chocolate Pecan pie for Faramir."

Beregond grinned. "I will tell the kitchen."

Denethor did not hear him leave. He was fast asleep.

~*~

Denethor stood in his study and watched as the two engineers poured over the schematics for the last time. They would leave within the hour, headed towards Osgiliath and their appointment with Boromir. His jaw clenched. He had spent the last month daily looking into the Palantír from soon after the daymeal ended until Anor began to lighten the eastern sky. He had seen much; the Enemy would be upon them soon. He turned as Elatan's voice rose in frustration.

"But you cannot cut here. It will weaken the bridge intolerably and the men, and you, will be lost."

"Nay. Look at this strut here. It bears a substantial part of the load. Once it is cut, the bridge will collapse upon itself. It should be a sight. I am glad I am partaking in this endeavor. I have never seen a bridge this size destroyed."

The obvious delight in the younger engineer's voice flamed the anger and frustration in the elder's.

Denethor stepped closer. "How many bridges have you built, Meneldil?"

The younger blushed. "None."

Denethor turned to Elatan. "You cannot expect him to mourn that which he does not know."

The engineer bowed low. "Thank you, my Lord Steward. I will endeavor to rectify that omission when we return to Minas Tirith."

"Good. Your preparations are complete, your plans superior, your skills proved. Boromir awaits you; the detail has been formed. I want the bridge ready by the middle of Nórui, before Yáviérë at the utmost last."

"It will be done, my Lord Steward." Elatan bowed as Meneldil rolled up the parchments. The younger engineer bowed and followed Elatan from the room.

Húrin sighed. "I have always loved this month. The iris in bloom, the fields green with promise; it is good to be alive."

Denethor's eyes misted. "Indeed," he whispered, thoughts of his sons overwhelming him. "How go the fields? Were the farmers in Anórien able to plant their crops?"

"The fields of the Pelennor are planted and growing strong. The fall crop will be good. I had to send soldiers from Amon Dîn to help with the spring planting, but all is well and growing."

"Good." He heaved a sigh. "Do you know that it will be a little over a year since Boromir was betrothed to Miriel?"

"What brings that to mind, cousin?"

Húrin's tone was worried and Denethor noted it. "Do not fear for me, cousin," he smiled, "I only wish that now we were preparing for a wedding instead of a battle. A happy occasion would be most welcome."

"I oft wonder, if things had been different, would they have been happy?"

"Nay. Well, she may have been, but Boromir would not. It was a miserable match from the start. I erred dreadfully."

"You wished another from Dol Amroth would fill the void. Finduilas," Húrin spoke softly, "was a grace, a blessing. None live who could take her place."

Denethor's shoulders stiffened. "You think that is why I..." He paused to consider. "I suppose, in part, it was. I doubt Boromir remembers the date."

~*~

Boromir remembered naught but that the Osgiliath he had wrested from the Enemy and saved was now going to be lost again. Frustration tore through him, ravaged his heart, and unraveled his thoughts. He rode across the bridge with a small contingent of men, bent on a last reconnoiter of the area leading into the eastern city. The Harad Road was still viable, the stones laid during an age well before his father's fathers. He stopped the men with a gesture and dismounted. Looking to his left, towards Henneth Annûn, he weighed whether or no he should visit his brother. 'Nay, too much to be done. Faramir will return to the City for Yáviérë; I will see him then.' He turned towards his right and rued the fact that Henneth Amrûn had been abandoned. But there had been no further need for men there. The small company would be better utilized in the north. It had taken Boromir all of two days to convince his father to abandon the site. Faramir, in the end, had agreed with him, which made it even more difficult. Boromir cursed quietly. The rift was growing larger; he must do something to remind the two he loved above all else that they loved each other.

Beregond dismounted. "My Lord, would you have us camp here?"

"Nay. I have an appointment this afternoon. The Steward is sending engineers to look at the bridge. We must return by nuncheon." He looked fondly at his aide. "You think me brave enough to spend the night here at the Crossroads?"

"One would wonder," Beregond smiled, "if 'twere bravery or something else."

Boromir roared with laughter. "Folly. My favorite word. Yes, it would be folly to even sit here as we are doing, backs open to attack. Your wisdom is better than mine, for the nonce, Beregond. Let us mount and..."

The screams of the Orcs as they left the foothills and ran forward told Boromir the enemy was confident, else they would have snuck up silently. 'Yet again,' his thoughts wandered as he quickly mounted, 'they are stupid beasts and probably did not realize they had the benefit of surprise already. Though they began their charge too far away.' He smiled as he drew his sword. A large number, larger than his company, but his men were on horses and on firm, flat ground. He did not pause, but called for the charge and led his men into the beasts.

A parry here, a thrust there and, in little over an hour, the battle was won. Any Orcs who had turned and run as they realized they were defeated, were quickly killed. Boromir sat stiffly. "I am surprised. It is daylight. The enemy is more and more confounding me."

"It is strange, my Lord. It is as if they were mindless; though outnumbered, they could see we were mounted and a goodly lot."

Boromir shivered. "I oft wonder if they have brains in those skulls or if they are indeed, some kind of machine that attacks on order. I think that is the case, Beregond. I think they are like some child's puppet on a string. The order is given to harry us and they obey, no matter the time of day, nor the odds. What power is this that can control a mind?" He shivered again, this time violently. He drew upon every once of strength in his body to combat the fear that enveloped him; something of this power terrorized him and he knew not what. "Father is correct; the Enemy prepares to attack. Let us back to the city and care for our wounded. I will send four companies here though, to give us time, when the Enemy attacks, to warn us and to slow their progress. When we return to the garrison, have Captain Gwinhir brought up from Pelargir. He will command the force."

~*~

Nuncheon came and went and yet the engineers did not come. Boromir sent a rider to the Causeway. He returned an hour later with a small group of engineers and laborers. "They walk slowly, Captain," the rider smiled as he pulled up to Boromir. "I think the laborers are concerned, being so close to the Mountains of Shadow."

"A good point. I will remember that as they go about their duties." He strode towards Elatan, roughly embraced the engineer, then stepped back and smiled at Meneldil. "I am grateful that you both have come. My men will show you to your quarters and then we will meet. Have you taken nuncheon yet?"

"Nay. The men are afraid. It took a bit of convincing to make them walk at more than a crawl." Elatan was in a good mood and Boromir laughed loudly. "For Meneldil and myself, we look forward to this posting. It is a challenge."

"It is that indeed, Elatan. I would hope it would be a challenge to rebuild it, once we destroy the Enemy completely."

"You hope for that day?" Meneldil asked, incredulously.

"I do. Why? Think you that Gondor will fall? Are not her men doughty, her captains valiant, her Steward far-seeing? Gondor will be victorious." He watched as the men about him, those standing as guard, those going to their posts or to the buttery or to their barracks at the end of their shifts, listened. He watched their shoulders straighten and their gait become purposeful. He nodded his head to those who stood close and relished the return of hope. All needed to be reminded that Gondor would prevail. He rejoiced in this opportunity to voice such thoughts to his men. After this morning's attack, he knew they were shaken. Though Gondor had been victorious, the method of attack and during daylight caused uncertainty. "The bridge will be rebuilt," he said as loudly as seemly, "so do not destroy it enough to make it difficult to rebuild."

Elatan smiled. "Yes, my Lord Boromir. We have been advised so by the Steward."

"Then go to your quarters, refresh yourselves, and return to my office. I will have nuncheon waiting."

They turned and followed the escort. Beregond smiled. "Well said, Captain." Boromir blushed.

~*~

"Father wants the bridge ready by Yáviérë, but I would ask for it sooner. The Enemy's attacks are growing bolder and more frequent. We will begin tomorrow morning, if that is agreeable?"

"It is," Elatan rolled the parchment closed. "Thank you for the meal and for the quarters. They are spacious."

"We have not as many men here as once we did. There is ample room."

"Ah. The Council did not apportion men?"

"What know you of the Council?"

"My brother is a member."

"And he tells you the Council's doings?"

Elatan blushed. "I am second to him. When he is not available, I take his place. He tells me so that I am prepared if I have to represent him."

"Forgive me."

"Nay. You were right to question, my Lord Boromir. But I must tell you, I am most distressed by their refusal. Can you tell me why?"

"Why they refuse to send men? Some say it is fear for their own lands, and I would be inclined to think such, if I had not attended as many meetings as I have. I believe the real reason is because they lack foresight. They think Gondor will stand forever, without their help. They have other concerns on their minds: planting their fields, tending their orchards, building their tombs, keeping as much coin in their own hands as possible."

"Are the treasuries of Gondor empty, my lord?"

"Nay. Not yet. The years of peace under my great, great-grandfather helped keep the coffers filled. My great-grandfather did naught to decrease them, but did naught to increase them. However, Ecthelion spent much in his defense of Gondor, especially for the Battle of Umbar. That venture took a pretty coin to fulfill. Since then, expenses have mounted. My father is a good steward and watches. He eeks good from every canath. Naught is wasted."

"Well and good then. We will waste naught in the destruction of the bridge. It will be ready in a month, at most, I promise."

"My thanks to you, Elatan. I expect the both of you to share my table each night, when our work is done."

"Thank you, my lord," Elatan said, eyebrows raised in surprise and delight. "Thank you. We go now to look at the bridge, if that is agreeable?"

"I will take you myself."

They left the captain's rooms and walked slowly toward the bridge. After only a few paces, Elatan stopped and gasped. "It is beautiful."

"You have never seen the Tower of Stone before?"

"Nay. I have only heard of it and seen drawings. Nothing could have prepared me for this. The old bridge must have been magnificent to hold such a large number of edifices. I am humbled." The engineer's eyes were wet.

"It is a magnificent sight," Boromir said as he continued them on their path. "I forget, now and again, to see the beauty of it, even in its present state. Let us spend today perusing the buildings and the planetarium. We can discuss its destruction tomorrow."

Elatan merely nodded in agreement, overcome by emotion. Boromir thought how very much he liked this man. And respected him.

They walked across the bridge and to the midsection and there beheld the burnt out Tower of the Dome. Elatan walked forward and touched a piece of the masonry that still stood. His eyes misted again as he bent his head in solemn contemplation. Finally, he turned towards Boromir. "This was built by our forefathers, by the Men of Númenor. I have thought there was hope that once again such buildings could flourish, but now, I see I am mistaken. None can compete with these engineers, these masons. It is a wonder now lost." The man broke down and wept.

~*~

The bridge work was completed, as Elatan promised, by the beginning of Nórui. Denethor came to Osgiliath to inspect the work and to visit his sons; Faramir had been invited to spend two days with his father and brother. The garrison was in an uproar for a week before the arrival of the Steward. Boromir was bent on having the outpost in spit and polish shape, endeavoring to work the men mercilessly, but none complained. The last visit from the Steward had been sixteen years prior; some of the men stationed at the garrison had not even been born.

As Denethor rode into the compound, all stood in readiness, the men in their dress uniforms, the horses with shining armor, the area swept. Boromir called the men to attention and watched as his father dismounted. Denethor returned his Captain-General's salute, then walked in front of the columns of men, giving a quick but thorough inspection. When the Steward was finished, Boromir dismissed them.

After the daymeal, the three men of the House of Húrin sat in comfortable silence. The bridge was ready, Gondor was ready, and her people would be protected. At least, that is what the three hoped. At last, Faramir cleared his throat. Denethor smiled. "What would you say?"

"That the people need to know that we strive only for their good. That they must partake of this battle. That it is not our battle alone, but the whole of Gondor's. Nay! The whole of Middle-earth's. Father. Have an assemblage in the Citadel. Invite the people there. Not just the lords and the members of the Council, but the common people. Bring them before you and tell them of your efforts, let them see what you have done; challenge them to become part of this. If Gondor falls, they fall. They must see this. They are not foolish children, Father. They are of the blood of Númenor. They will understand and become part of this fight. We cannot win without them. For all our warriors, if the people do not stand behind us, protect their own lands, farm the land and give the harvest to those in need and to the army, and raise their sons and daughters with the conviction that we must all work together to save our land..." He stopped and looked at his father with concern. "Forgive me, Father. The battle is not yours alone. Please, help our people see that. Challenge them to be the best of the blood."

"A pretty speech. Would you give it yourself to this assemblage?"

"Father!" Boromir stood in anger. "Speak not in jest nor mockery. What Faramir says is right. You have striven your whole life to save our people and our land. But the battle is not yours alone. Nor Faramir's. Nor mine."

"Have you both been speaking to the wizard? Is this his counsel? Do I hand over leadership to farmers and herdsmen? Or perhaps some usurper? Is that what you wish?"

Faramir put his hand on Boromir's arm and gently pushed him to sit once again; then he faced the Steward. "I have spoken with the wizard on occasion. As did your father. Ecthelion valued Mithrandir's wisdom." He knelt in front of Denethor. "I do not mimic his words. I have given thought to his counsel, as I have given thought to yours: wise words from wise men whom I value. You look with scorn upon the people, Father, and yet, they are of the blood of Westernesse. They have their own wisdom too: not just of the affairs of crops and sheep, but of the land and what must be done to save it. Listen to your people, Father. Let them speak to you."

"When they come before me, you have both seen it, they bring complaints, petty arguments against their neighbor. They have lost the purity of their blood." Denethor's voice was harsh and angry. "These are not the men of Númenor who now live within the borders of Gondor. They are lesser men. I will not curry their favor, nor beg their advice."

"I would not presume to ask you to beg," Faramir said stiffly.

"Good. Let us leave this discussion."

"Father," Faramir began diffidently, "Henneth Annûn needs men."

"As does Osgiliath, Amon Dîn, Pelargir, Cair Andros... I have not enough fingers nor toes to count all the garrisons that have such need."

Boromir chuckled at the old expression. "I remember Mother counting on Faramir's fingers and toes. Never enough, she would say."

"Doest thou speak truly?" Faramir looked at his brother in surprise. "What wast it that she counted?"

"Thy qualities," Denethor mumbled, falling into Quenya along with his son.

Faramir pulled himself from the familiar use. "Then they were not as few as they are now."

"Still as many," Denethor's eyes misted. "But sprinkled with a few..."

"I must be who I am," his youngest stated quietly.

"Even if it means going against your father's will?"

"What ill have I now done?"

"You have sent Rangers south. I closed Henneth Amrûn; I wanted no more men wasted nor lives lost in the southern regions of Ithilien. You knew that."

"There were reports of activity. I wished to ascertain their veracity."

"From whom did these reports come?"

"Captain Gelmir sent them whilst Boromir was in Minas Tirith for the latest Council meeting."

"Do I not send you reports?"

Faramir looked abashed. "You do, Father; however, I had received none from you in three days. I mistakenly believed... I should have waited."

"What matters it if he sent men south, Father?"

Faramir stood and walked to the door. He opened it and leaned against the doorpost. "I lost a company," he whispered.

"Haradrim?" Boromir asked.

"Nay. Variags. Men of Khand. Only two of my men survived to return. They ran them down with their horses. My men stood no chance."

"I have lost more than one company," Boromir protested, "as have you, Father."

"Never before has Gondor 'enjoyed' the means that we now have of ferreting out information and passing it along. I have endeavored, my entire Stewardship, to hone the tools that keep you and your men alive. Spies, patrols, additional small garrisons, and other things; these are methods I have used. What sense is there in this network I have created if we do not use it? I know of the forces, but their path did not yet tell if they were going towards Osgiliath or Henneth Annûn. You needlessly lost those men."

Faramir turned back to the table. "I did."

"And what did you learn from this?"

"To wait upon orders from you."

"Nay!" Denethor slammed his open palm against the table. "To trust me!"

Boromir sat silent, waiting for the table to steady. "When was the last time you went on patrol, Father?"

Denethor looked upon his eldest in surprise. "How dare you?"

"I only asked a simple question."

"Boromir," Faramir strode forward, his tone placating.

"I only asked a simple question," Boromir reiterated. "Mayhap Father has forgotten the need for quick action in the face of reported movements of the Enemy."

"There was no attack, Boromir. Though I thank you for your defense of me. I could have waited. Father sends missives on a regular basis. I should have waited."

"Mayhap Captain Gelmir is to blame?"

Denethor at last chuckled. "Only in your brother's defense do you ever lay the blame on another, Boromir!"

"It is true, Boromir," Faramir smiled. "However, I am at fault, not Gelmir. A good captain always questions all reports, even Father's. I did not question." He turned towards Denethor. "I did not agree with your decision to close the southern garrison."

"Insubordination?"

"Nay, Father. Pure frustration!"

Denethor sat back and smiled. "I know frustration well, my son. It sleeps and wakes with me."

"And now I add to your frustration."

"Nay." Denethor steepled his fingers. "The lack of men adds to it. In these times, every man lost is as if we have lost a company. I cannot ask the lords for more. We are bleeding them dry."

"Father, mayhap if we could improve our tactics in some way?"

Faramir clapped Boromir on the shoulder. "Yes! If we look to the ancient scrolls, mayhap there is strategy there that we have missed."

"I think not. All my life I have studied them, as has Boromir. As have you. The battles have been closely scrutinized. There is naught there to learn."

Faramir once again sat at the table. "Send riders north to Dale and Arnor, asking for help."

Denethor chuckled dryly. "The men of Dale have their own troubles. I had thought to ask Beorn. He has been a friend to Gondor for as long as I can remember; yet, I fear Orcs and Goblins harass his people, too. They are great warriors, though. As for the people of Arnor... In your Grandfather's time, northerners swelled our ranks. Since Thorongil left us..."

"He captained the attack against the Corsairs. Is there aught that might be learned from his other campaigns?"

Denethor stood, dismally failing to hide a scowl. "He spent his days at my Father's side, counseling him, along with Mithrandir." The bitterness that spilled forth with his words surprised even him. "Though I am sure the great Thorongil... Never the mind." He took a deep breath. "I can send you no more men, Faramir. Pull in some of your northern patrols. I will keep closer watch on the Morannon. Cair Andros can pick up some of the slack, though they are sore-pressed with the ambushes and sorties that spill from the Emyn Muil." He sat back and downed his glass of ale. "When the attack against Osgiliath comes, I will have to recall you and your men. They will be needed here with Boromir. Come. It has been a long day and Faramir must leave by first light."

His youngest nodded. "I will do what I can with the men on hand, Father. And I will wait for your reports."

"Nay, Faramir," Denethor's tone was rife with frustration. "I trust you and your judgment. I ask only that you obey the orders I do give you. Beyond that, you must battle the Enemy as you see fit."

"Will I see you before I leave?"

"Yes. Come here and break your fast with your brother and me."

"Thank you, Father."

Denethor stood and received his son's embrace. Boromir rose to follow his brother. "Stay, Boromir. I would speak further with you."

Boromir nodded, then embraced Faramir. "I will see you on the morrow, my brother."

Faramir smiled, saluted, and left them. Boromir sat back down.

"When the bridge falls, make sure you are well off it. We are cutting the time short. Do not send heavy carts across it any more. The cuts are deep. It will fall easily, when the time comes."

"I will make sure our men are off it."

"And you also, Boromir. It would be a waste if you fell needlessly."

Boromir looked at him in surprise, then laughed. "I pray to the Valar that my death will not be needless, Father."

Denethor did not smile, for the remembrance of the sight in the Palantír still shook him. "When the attack comes," he said at last, "be prepared for anything. Mûmakil, Uruks, fell beasts that even I know naught of. When it comes, it will be the beginning. Hold Osgiliath as long as you are able, then destroy the bridge and hold the western city. At that time, I will send as many men as I can. When you can no longer hold the city, fall back to the Causeway and the Rammas."

"I understand, Father. I will hold it as long as I can, lose what I must, and finally retreat to Minas Tirith. It will come to that, will it not?"

"It will." Denethor paused. "I have seen the White City encompassed about. Great hordes of men laying siege to her gates. We cannot win this, Boromir, not without some mighty weapon. Even if Rohan and the Elves join us, I cannot see victory. Remember the accounts of the Dagorlad?" At Boromir's nod, he continued. "The Enemy was not stopped after those long years of battle, as evidenced by our situation today. He was only thwarted for a time. I do not think any alliance today would have the strength of those who battled Him there."

"Father, there is always hope. Ever have you safeguarded Gondor. You will continue to do so, despite whatever He sends against us. And," the eldest son of Denethor smiled wickedly, "you have Faramir and me."

Denethor rose, as did Boromir. "Go now, proud child of mine, and get you some rest. I will fare you well in the morning."

~*~

Not thirty days later, Denethor noted the movement and his body reacted with violent shaking. 'It is begun,' he thought frantically. 'The Enemy has at last deemed the time come to descend upon us. I must get word to Boromir.'

It was early morning; dawn had not yet broken. He flew down the steps. The guard at the bottom, startled by the clatter of the Steward's sword against its sheath, drew his own sword. "My Lord?"

"Call Húrin, Hirgon, and Belegorn. Have them meet me in my study immediately."

The guard saluted and ran. Denethor went through the entry into the Great Hall, motioned for the Chamberlain, and canceled the morning's session. Then, he went to his study and wrote furiously until Húrin and Belegorn appeared.

"Sit. Both of you." He shuddered once again.

"The attack begins?" Húrin asked.

"It will. Probably within a fortnight, if not sooner. They spill from the Morgul Pass, the Southbound Road and the Harad Road. Not thousands, and for that I wonder, but hundreds from each way."

"Mûmakil?"

"Nay. No word of any beasts. Hirgon!" He pulled the captain to him as the man entered the room. "I need missives sent immediately to Cair Andros, Henneth Annûn, Amon Dîn, Pelargir, and Osgiliath. Have you the riders?"

"I have a dozen ready, my Lord."

"Then we will send two each to Pelargir, Amon Dîn and Osgiliath. Send three to Cair Andros and three to Henneth Annûn. I want you to go, personally, to Henneth Annûn. You know the road well and the hiding places of the Orcs. I need Captain Faramir to have this message immediately; they must pull out. Do you understand the urgency?"

"I do, my Lord. It will be done."

"Here," Denethor handed the missives to the captain. "Speed be with you."

Hirgon saluted and left. Denethor sat, at last, at his desk. "I have no date, but never have I seen a three-headed arrow pointed in the direction of Osgiliath. They will attack the eastern city, of that I am sure."

"Yet you warn the other garrisons?"

"I do. I have instructed them to send men to Osgiliath. I hope they arrive in time." He bit his lip. "I would be with my sons when the attack comes."

"But you will not," Húrin stated flatly.

"I will not." He rummaged through the maps on his desk, finally opening one. "Here is where the enemy is now." Both men stood and moved to the front of the desk. "Here is where the Easterlings and Variags are; here is where the men of Harad and Khand are; and here is where the Orcs are."

"So close," Belegorn's intake of breath echoed through the room.

"Yes. But still, they are a fair number and it will take them time to reach Osgiliath. The men from Henneth Annûn and Cair Andros can be there in days. Morgoth's breath, I wish I had noted them earlier, but they were hidden along the roads."

"Your spies did well, Denethor; do not chide yourself. We have time."

"I think so, Húrin. Now, both of you go and rest. Once the enemy gets closer to the city, I want you here at my side."

"Rest yourself, my Lord. I note you did not sleep this night. You will be sorely needed." Belegorn saluted. "I will have my replacement at your door in a moment."

Denethor nodded as the guard left. "Húrin, it has begun. Are we ready? Do I order the evacuation?"

"Not yet, my Lord. Mayhap their target is only Osgiliath, for the nonce."

"Then I will wait. I will sleep on the settle in the back room. I have not slept for two days." He began to mumble, "I had thought I saw something, but foolishly, I did not act. I hope I have not killed my sons."

"Boromir is invincible; he will guard Faramir's back. Rest, my Lord. I will return in two hours' time."

Denethor nodded, went through the door, and lay down upon the settle. His mind whirled. Cursing quietly, he again berated himself. 'I should have sent messengers yestereve, but I had hoped I was wrong.' At last, sleep overcame his dismay and guilt.

~*~

"Today is the twentieth of June. I believe I was espoused sometime around this date last year. In fact," Boromir smiled, "I was to be wed in two days time. No Loëndë celebration this year!" He chuckled dryly.

"How can you speak of celebrations when we will be under attack, if Father's missive is accurate?"

"Father's missive is correct. I have had reports from the pickets at the Crossing. The troops stationed there have been crushed. Those left alive, returned. The city will be attacked tonight, if the Orcs use their usual tactics. So what would you have me speak of Faramir? That we are all going to die before this night is over with?"

Faramir stood up. "Sometimes, your lack of fear is off-putting."

"It is not lack of fear, Faramir. You should know me by now. But hysteria will not avail us; we are prepared, as well as we can be. Now, what would I speak of besides celebrations, you ask. I suppose we could rehash our plans for the city's defense, but Father has already given us our orders and set the battle plan, as much as one can foretell which path a battle will take. I will not speak of these things; we are ready as ever we will be, given the resources we have."

Boromir sat back on the porch's chair and looked out across the compound. Everywhere, men were polishing their armor, chatting quietly by campfires, taking down the last of their laundry, and generally going about the mundane tasks of life to keep their thoughts from the upcoming battle.

"I would speak words of encouragement, but we both know we may not survive this first assault. I would have you stay here, guarding the western city," he held up his hand to stay Faramir's protest, "but, that is not part of Father's plan, nor should it be part of mine. I would have you stay next to me, not just so I might guard your back, but that you would guard mine. That also is not part of Father's plan. I will say this - when the time comes, you must promise me that you and your men will fall back. Do not suffer death for naught. We know the eastern city will be taken; do not give your life needlessly. When the battle turns against us, I will position myself by the bridge, as Father ordered; when you fall back, come to my side. We will hold the bridge as long as we are able, then we will cross it, and I will give the order to Elatan to destroy it. Keep Mablung and Damrod by your side; they are fierce warriors and little troubled by fear."

Faramir nodded. "Since you are not going to speak of battle strategy..."

Boromir laughed loudly. Most of the men in the compound looked over, relief apparent on their faces. "They are thinking, 'Boromir the valiant will lead us. There is naught to fear.' But we will lose many men this night, Faramir." Their Captain-General waved to them and the men returned to their preparations.

Bells rang and the garrison came to life. Men put down their weapons, their laundry and such, and filed towards the mess hall. "'Tis time for the daymeal," Faramir stood. "Will you give a speech?"

"Have I ever gone into battle and not given a speech?"

His brother laughed. "Never."

For a moment, Boromir blushed.

"What is it?" Faramir asked in some alarm.

"Father wrote one and gave it to me before I left Minas Tirith."

"In truth?"

"Yea."

"It is not to your liking."

Boromir looked to the Ephel Dúath, then down at his hands. "It is grim. He speaks of defeat and retreat. I would not burden our men with such statements."

"You would raise their hope where there is none?"

"Húrin told me Captain Thorongil's most favored expression was, 'There is always hope.' I think not many believed he could overcome the Corsairs. Yet, he not only overcame them, he triumphed. I have thought of that phrase many times, before I entered into battle. Is it not strange that the words of a captain probably long-dead should give me comfort?"

Faramir sat in silence.

"I will give that message to our warriors today, but I would give it to you also. You and your men will be in the forefront of the battle tonight, Faramir. No matter what you see, or the strength that comes to assail you, remember, there is always hope." He held Faramir's shoulder tightly. "I will hold the bridge until you and your Rangers cross it. Do not delay, Faramir, for I will hope for your coming."

"I will be there, Boromir."

"That is all I can ask."

~*~

Dusk finally came; Faramir and his men moved out across the bridge. They were dressed in their Ranger browns and greens, bows and quivers of arrows strung across their backs, staffs and spears in their hands. They quickly disappeared into the abandoned eastern city.

Boromir watched them leave, waited a half hour's time, then moved his knights forward. The garrison was more than half-emptied. Captain Hador followed with his men from Cair Andros, while Captain Galdor brought up the rear with his men from Amon Dîn. All told, well over two thousand men filed across the river to the defense of the eastern city. Dark had settled before the last man crossed the bridge. Slowly, each company took its place along the outskirts of the ruined city. Faramir's Rangers could not be seen, for they had blended into the forest that hemmed in the city. Boromir took up his position at the front of their forces. Captains Hador and Galdor had suggested he make his command post closer to the bridge, but that was not Boromir's way of fighting.

They could hear and smell the Enemy's forces before they could see them. The men tensed; Boromir rode the line exhorting them to courage, hope, and deeds of renown. His mail shone in the full moon's light and Faramir told him later that the men thought he looked as the Vala, Tulkas, might look. His face shone with the joy of battle, for though he lived with fear, as did any sensible soldier, as soon as they had crossed the bridge, battle lust consumed him. He was ready; his men were ready. He unsheathed his sword.

But none were ready for what came out of the eerie mist that suddenly filled the land. A band of horsemen, some afterwards said at least twenty, but others counted nearer to nine. Only those far from the line had the time to count, for those in front were assailed by such fear and despair that many turned and ran. A wail went up from the shadow riders, a wail that tore through the ears and cut across Boromir's mind in such hope-swallowing despair, that he found himself hard put to stay seated. As it was, Celebrin reared and neighed in terror. Boromir watched in horror as his men threw down their weapons and ran. Gathering his own courage, he screamed into the night to hold their positions. Most heard and obeyed.

Behind the horsemen came the Enemy's full force. Orcs and Easterlings, men of Khand and Rhûn, Corsairs, all spilled from the forest against Boromir's near-broken line. He called to Captains Hador and Galdor, who blessedly had not been so terror-numbed to have turned and run. As it was, the brave captains, having lost their own mounts, strove to bring order from the terror-induced chaos about them. As Boromir looked from his left to his right, he was astounded to see that the dark horsemen had vanished. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, then cursed loudly. "They have broken through. They will attack the bridge." He motioned and a full company of mounted knights broke from the line and followed him as he rode for the bridge. Off in the distance, he saw the Black Riders. They were far ahead and almost to the bridge. Riding furiously, he called a warning, even knowing the guard could not possibly hear him at this distance. He watched in horror as the men on the bridge jumped into the swiftly flowing waters of the Anduin. "Do not destroy the bridge," he muttered. "Not yet. Not yet. Wait. Wait." The Black Riders shrieks could be heard and felt even at this distance. The bridge had been crossed, but not destroyed. He breathed a sigh of relief. By the time he crossed it himself, the shadow riders were gone.

Captain Isilmo ran towards him. "What were they?" he cried in alarm.

Boromir jumped from his horse and grabbed the soldier's shoulder. "Where are they? Which direction did they take?"

"North," Isilmo sobbed. "They headed north. They killed none. They just rode through the garrison and turned north before the Causeway."

"Send errand-riders to the Steward and Cair Andros." He swore, "Egalmoth is in command at Cair Andros whilst Hador is here. The fool will surely lose the garrison!" He turned towards Celebrin, put his foot in the stirrup, and stopped. "I know not who or what they were, Isilmo, but I have no time now to puzzle out the answer. If they come back, send for me immediately." Beregond handed him his reins. They turned and rode back to the bridge and the Enemy.

The battle was fierce; his men already had given up most of the eastern city by the time Boromir returned to the front line, now dangerously close to the bridge. In the distance, he made out the Rangers in their dark garb. He breathed a sigh of relief, 'Faramir has retreated.' He called his captains and one by one companies crossed the bridge into western Osgiliath. At last, only he and his mounted company, along with Faramir and a dozen Rangers, including Damrod and Mablung, remained on the eastern side.

"Retreat!" Boromir bellowed. "Cross the bridge." He watched as the men obeyed and began crossing the expanse. As the last knight left the soil of the eastern city, Faramir and he followed. He gave the order, as they stood on the island that held the old Hall of Kings where Anárion and Isildur had once sat, and watched as the eastern portion of the bridge collapsed. He patted Elatan on the back as the engineer scrambled from his post to take a stand by the western portion of the bridge. Smiling, Boromir rejoiced in the one small victory; however, it was short-lived as the Enemy's archers cut down twenty of his own men. He shouted for them to retreat to western Osgiliath.

The men began to move across the bridge. His legs felt Celebrin shudder under him before his mind registered that the bridge was giving way. He shouted a warning, but it was too late. The bridge was collapsing from the western end and the knights' horses plummeted into the Anduin. Within moments, the men's mail-clad bodies were drawn under. The bridge continued to collapse, slowly eastward. He screamed as Faramir and his men fell. His own horse stumbled backwards in alarm towards the island, but it was too late. They were too far out onto the bridge. Slowly, he watched as the planks before him fell into the River. Stunned, he saw the boards under Celebrin's hooves gently angle forward, then break. He found himself weightless; his horse fell from under him. He let the reins go and kicked against Celebrin's withers in an attempt to push himself away from the horse. If Celebrin fell on top of him when they hit the water, he would die instantly. He was free! Once away, and still falling in what seemed an interminable amount of time, he looked up and watched as Elatan, clinging to the last of the boards, lost his hold, fell, and crashed upon the rocks below. Boromir cried out in sorrow, then was engulfed in the waters of the Anduin. For a moment, he was too shocked to react; then, sense came back to him and he struggled to reach the surface, tearing his own mail off as he kicked viciously. As soon as his face broke through the waters of the River, he screamed, "Faramir!" but there was no answer.

~*~

A/N - 1) A little thing that bothered me - the word engineer. But I looked it up and its origins stem from around 1350. Also, the term is used in the Napoleonic era, so I'm pretty comfortable with using it here. [Origin: 1350-1400; engine + -eer; r. ME engin(e)our < AF engineor OF engigneor < ML ingeniator, equiv. to ingenia(re) to design, devise (v. deriv. of ingenium; see engine) + L -tor -tor ] http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/engineer 2) Elatan - man of the stars (Quenya). 3) Denethor's little 'list' quote was stolen and changed from Aristophanes... 'under every stone lurks a politician.' Aristophanes, Thesmophoriazusae, 410 B.C. http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Aristophanes, but the 'origin' of dratted lists comes from dear Linaewen, who has one that haunts her by day and by night! 3) Variags - Khand was the name of a land which lay to the south-east of Mordor and to the east of Near Harad. The Men of Khand were called Variags. Little is known about Khand or its people, but it appears to have been much like Rohan; the Variags were a people of riders. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Khand; 4) Network - [Origin: 1550-60] I am always stunned when I find a word that I think is as modern as today and it turns out to be older than the hills!

Extended Notes: - VERY sorry for the copious notes, but the Battle of the Bridge is a difficult thing to research. Tolkien himself seems to have gone from one idea to another on it. You, of course, do not have to read these - but if you are inclined, I've tried to include every reference to this battle.

1) "Yet that hour, maybe, is not now far away. The Nameless Enemy has arisen again. Smoke rises once more from Orodruin that we call Mount Doom. The power of the Black Land grows and we are hard beset. When the Enemy returned our folk were driven from Ithilien, our fair domain east of the River, though we kept a foothold there and strength of arms. But this very year, in the days of June, sudden war came upon us out of Mordor, and we were swept away. We were outnumbered, for Mordor has allied itself with the Easterlings and the cruel Haradrim; but it was not by numbers that we were defeated. A power was there that we have not felt before.

"Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came, a madness filled our foes, but fear fell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled. Only a remnant of our eastern force came back, destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath.

"I was in the company that held the bridge, until it was cast down behind us. Four only were saved by swimming: my brother and myself and two others. But still we fight on, holding all the west shores of Anduin; and those who shelter behind us give us praise, if ever they hear our name: much praise but little help. Only from Rohan now will any men ride to us when we call." FOTR: Book Two - Chapter Two: The Council of Elrond.

2) So it was that Sauron prepared two strokes - in which many saw the beginnings of the War of the Ring. They were made together. The Orcs assailed the realm of Thranduil, with orders to recapture Gollum; and the Lord of Morgul was sent forth openly to battle against Gondor. These things were done towards the end of June 3018. Thus Sauron tested the strength and preparedness of Denethor, and found them more than he had hoped. But that troubled him little, since be had used little force in the assault, and his chief purpose was that the coming forth of the Nazgûl should appear only as part of his policy of war against Gondor.

Therefore when Osgiliath was taken and the bridge broken Sauron stayed the assault, and the Nazgûl were ordered to begin the search for the Ring. But Sauron did not underesteem the powers and vigilance of the Wise, and the Nazgûl were commanded to act as secretly as they could. Now at that time the Chieftain of the Ringwraiths dwelt in Minas Morgul with six companions, while the second to the Chief, Khamûl the Shadow of the East, abode in Dol Guldur as Sauron's lieutenant, with one other as his messenger.  Unfinished Tales: Chapter IV (i): The Hunt for the Ring.

3) Sauron must then have been filled with anger and alarm. He resolved to use the Ringwraiths as soon as he could, for speed rather than secrecy was now important. Hoping to alarm his enemies and disturb their counsels with the fear of war (which he did not intend to make for some time), he attacked Thranduil and Gondor at about the same time. He had these two additional objects: to capture or kill Gollum, or at least to deprive his enemies of him; and to force the passage of the bridge of Osgiliath, so that the Nazgûl could cross, while testing the strength of Gondor.

In the event, Gollum escaped. But the passage of the bridge was effected. The forces there used were probably much less than men in Gondor thought. In the panic of the first assault, when the Witch-king was allowed to reveal himself briefly in his full terror, the Nazgûl crossed the bridge at night and dispersed northwards. Without belittling the valour of Gondor, which indeed Sauron found greater far than he had hoped, it is clear that Boromir and Faramir were able to drive back the enemy and destroy the bridge, only because the attack had now served main purpose. Both here and in the Tale of Years the assault on Osgiliath is dated the 20th of June. Unfinished Tales: Chapter IV (ii): The Hunt for the Ring. 4) This statement no doubt relates to Boromir's account of the battle at Osgiliath which he gave to the Council of Elrond: "A power was there that we have not felt before. Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon." Unfinished Tales: Notes. 5) "I sat at night by the waters of Anduin, in the grey dark under the young pale moon, watching the ever-moving stream; and the sad reeds were rustling. So do we ever watch the shores nigh Osgiliath, which our enemies now partly hold, and issue from it to harry our lands..." The Two Towers: Book IV - Chapter Five: The Windows on the West. 6) "And the Fell Riders, less than a year ago they won back the crossings, and many of our best men were slain. Boromir it was that drove the enemy at last back from this western shore, and we hold still the near half of Osgiliath. For a little while. But we await now a new onslaught there. Maybe the chief onslaught of the war that comes." The Return of the King: Book V - Chapter One: Minas Tirith.

More Notes: - 1) I decided when writing TA 2990 that there could have been a southern 'Henneth Annûn' and I named it Henneth Amrûn for those of you who don't quite remember that chapter. 2) The southern beacon hills are never named, but they are there. I've 'created' the names for two of them.  ROTK: Bk 5, Ch 1: Minas Tirith. 3) Pie recipe. Haven't tried it, but for some reason, the Muse wanted Chocolate Pecan Pie for Faramir! http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1837,155177-250201,00.html 4) Demolition of strategically important infrastructure: As late as the sixteenth century, a raiding party that wanted to destroy a bridge, a dam, or a mill usually had to do so by means of fire or hard manual labor. For example, in January 1544 a French force raided the strategically important Po Bridge at Carignano, in the hope of destroying it and crippling the Imperialist transport network in the area. The raiders were provided with certain 'artifices of fire', which they were to attach to the bridge's posts. These gunpowder-based fireworks were supposed to ignite the bridge's posts and burn them down to the waterline. The raiders managed to surprise the guards and take the bridge. However, when the pioneers attached the fireworks to the bridge and lit them, the fireworks made a lot of noise and smoke but no apparent damage. Luckily, the French commanders, who were skeptical about these ingenious inventions, also brought with them several dozen workmen supplied with axes, hatchets and saws. Even so it took them more than four hours to accomplish the mission, and it was daylight by the time the bridge was broken. http://www.boydell.co.uk/specialopsextr.htm 5) Demolition - used around the mid 1500's - that makes it old enough for my use. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/demolition 6) In that siege and burning the Tower of the Stone of Osgiliath was destroyed, and the palantír was lost in the waters. LOTR; Appendix A: (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion. 7) The Tower of Stone - Between the two parts of the city was a great stone bridge with towers and houses upon it, and there were a number of lesser bridges as well. On the river banks were landings for the ships that carried people and trade goods up and down the Anduin from Wilderland in the north to the Bay of Belfalas in the south. http://www.tuckborough.net/towns.html#Osgiliath

A/N - 1) "On June 20, 3018, Sauron sent the Nazgul forth from Mordor. They led an attack on Osgiliath, where Gondor had an outpost to defend against the crossing of the Anduin. Sauron's purpose was two-fold: He wanted to test Gondor's defenses and he wanted to provide cover for the Nazgul's real mission, which was to seek the Shire and the Ring." http://www.tuckborough.net/sauron.html 2) Tharni is a Westron word. It is an older form of tharantin, which means "quarter"... In Gondor, it was a silver coin (Sindarin canath), worth one fourth of a Kastar, or Mirian. The Peoples of Middle-earth, The Appendix on Languages, page 48. http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Tharni. Since I have the Steward's family and their men speaking mostly Sindarin, I will go with the word canath for this. 3) The chief city of this southern realm was Osgiliath, through the midst of which the Great River flowed; and the Númenóreans built there a great bridge, upon which there were towers and houses of stone wonderful to behold.... The Silmarillion, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age  1437 III, during the Kin-strife: At last [Eldacar] was besieged in Osgiliath, and held it long, until hunger and the greater forces of the rebels drove him out, leaving the city in flames. In that siege and burning the Tower of the Dome of Osgiliath was destroyed, and the palantír was lost in the waters. The Return of the King, LoTR Appendix A, Annals of the Kings and Rulers: Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion From HASA's research library... http://resources/places_view.cfm?PLID=383


This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.

Story Information

Author: Agape4Gondor

Status: Reviewed

Completion: Complete

Era: 3rd Age - The Stewards

Genre: Drama

Rating: General

Last Updated: 06/14/10

Original Post: 01/18/05

Go to Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice overview

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