Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice: 53. Third Age 3019 - Part Two

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53. Third Age 3019 - Part Two

1 March

"Where is Faramir?" Húrin asked as they met for the breaking of their fast. "He was not at the daymeal yestereve."

"He is in Osgiliath by now. After that, he will move deep into Ithilien. Southron forces are moving north along the road towards the Black Gate. Though he will not be able to stop them, he will be able to harry them." The Steward's tone was flat.

"Why, Denethor? Could you not give him one more day to grieve?"

The Steward of Gondor turned from his Warden and looked out the window. Habit, he supposed, for there was naught to see; Anor had yet to cross over the mountain to brighten the day. The fruit trees on the Pelennor, whether they could be seen or no, would be in bloom; the smell would be wondrous. He bit his lip, remembering how Ithilien would smell. How he loved that land! It had been years; he could not even remember when he had last smelt the thyme and rosemary, the roses and irises. Irises! His heart clenched in remembrance of his sister, dead these many years. And Amdir too. 'All I have is death for remembrance. And now Boromir has joined the list.' At the thought of his son lying dead in some forgotten glade, his heart tore open even further. He gasped and pulled at his tunic, tugging it away from his neck as he tried to catch his breath. The pain in his chest seared beyond endurance. With great effort, he strove to breathe again. After many moments, he stepped away from the window, grateful that Húrin seemed not to note his distress.

"We did not have dead from the House of Húrin to mourn this past Memorial Day, my dear cousin. Next year, if there be a Minas Tirith in which to hold such a ceremony, we will have many. The lists will be long." He paused. "I suppose, even if we are hiding in the mountains with our tails tucked between our legs, we shall have some sort of observance. The people have needs for such rituals."

"We should go to the Three Fishermen and get drunk."

Denethor turned and looked at his Warden in surprise. "I did not think you ever drank to excess."

"Not often, but today calls for some deed to allay the heart's gloom."

Sitting at his desk, Denethor shuffled through papers, not seeing anything before his eyes for his mind was still upon Faramir and the anger he had felt towards his remaining son. 'Yet, if the Wizard had something to do with Boromir's death,' he mused, 'would Faramir have known?' His mind reeled with hurt and confusion.

"I said, this day calls for action."

Denethor looked up in surprise. "What do you keep to yourself that you hint at? What is it that you needs must tell me, but are too timid?"

"There was a mishap an hour ago."

The Steward looked up, expectantly.

"The half company on Trebuchet Seven. They had new recruits; the Captain determined a practice run would be beneficial."

Denethor sat back in his chair, the papers in his hands crumpling. "How many?"

"Fourteen."

"Who was the Captain?"

"Ragnor."

"Did he not serve with Boromir?"

"Many years ago. He saved Boromir's life when they fought against a mûmak. He was raised to a captaincy two years ago and led a sortie under Boromir at the Battle of Cair Andros."

"Yes, I remember him. Boromir thought well of him. He has experience." Denethor stood up. "We did not lose… ?"

"Nay, my Lord, Ragnor lives. There were esquires under his command. From what I can discern, they panicked and the machine rolled back, crushing most of them against the opposite wall. A few of the more experienced tried to help and lost their lives also."

Denethor rubbed his chin. "We cannot lose Number Seven. It faces directly eastward."

"Nay. We will bring more esquires and give them lesser work in the company. Leave the direct operation to those who have been trained."

"We can no longer lose one man, never mind fourteen, Húrin."

"Well I know it, my Lord."

"Have letters been taken to the families?"

"Not yet. I was preparing them before I joined you."

"I would sign them."

"Of course."

"I spent the night in turmoil. I must needs attend something this day. Have the letters brought here at nunch-- for the daymeal. If you need me, send Beregond. He will know where I am."

"Thank you, my Lord." Húrin stood, saluted and left the room.

Denethor broke off a piece of bread and chewed it as he walked to his door. He put on his cloak and climbed slowly up the steps of the Citadel. When he reached the uppermost room, he unlocked the door and went in. Scarcely able to control his shuddering body, he ignored the stone and looked out the window. Anor had defeated the mountains and now shone brightly down upon the Anduin. "Faramir," he whispered. "Come back to me whole."

He stood there for some long time, then turned to the globe. 'Now that Boromir is dead,' he wondered, 'will you, accurséd stone, show me his body?' Taking in two deep breaths, he strode forward, took the covering off, and let it fall to the floor. He felt the darkness before the stone even opened to his mind. 'Sauron,' he whispered, 'what have you for me this day? Think you I will cower? I will not. No matter the news that comes to my ears, no matter,' he stifled the scream that tried to rise from his gorge, 'no matter the sights before my eyes. Gondor will not fall. We will fight you to the end.'

There was no response, not even a flicker. The stone lay as dead before him. No matter what he did, it refused to open to him. He nodded, covered it, and left the room.

2 March

The next day, as red shafts from Anor's breaking filled the sky, Denethor strode to the Tower room. The stone opened to him as soon as he put his hands on it. There before him lay Rohan with Edoras as its crown. The roof of the Golden Hall shone brightly. For a moment, Denethor did not look. He did not want to see the drooling thing that was once the stalwart King of Rohan. Instead, his gaze was drawn northwards. He drew in a shaky breath and clutched the stone harder. 'Do my eyes deceive me? Is it the Wizard? He travels to Edoras? Is my son with him? Nay,' he shook his head, 'Boromir is dead. If he ever rode with Mithrandir, the Wizard deigned not to save him.' With all his strength, he forced the stone to draw closer to the three horses riding across the grasslands towards the Golden Hall.

After an hour's close scrutiny, he closed his eyes and took his hands from the globe. 'I cannot be certain. It cannot be him. Why would he ride with… ?' He opened his eyes once again and forced the stone to do his bidding. "Thorongil," he whispered brokenly. "My friend… and traitor to Gondor. So you ride with the Wizard." A harsh laugh broke the silence of the room. 'I should have known.'

He watched as the three riders, nay, he corrected himself, four, two single riders and one mount with two ahorse, rode towards the gates of the city of Edoras. They entered, after being accosted by at least a dozen Rohirric guards, into the city itself. Denethor shook his head as anger flared through him. 'So you open your doors to the Wizard. I should have known. He is the one who has changed you, taken the strength from your arms and legs, made you a doddering fool.'

It was difficult to see, once they entered into the darkness that served as a throne room for Théoden. Rubbing his eyes for a moment, Denethor squinted further, but could not discern what was about. At last, he gave up and returned to his rooms, ate a quick meal, and joined Húrin in a tour of Trebuchet Seven. He signed the letters the Warden had written and gave them back to Húrin, then walked back to the Tower room, hoping that whatever had transpired within the dim confines of Meduseld would now be opened to the light of day.

In his surprise at the sight that greeted him in the stone, he shouted, "Valar!" Théoden sat upon his horse in front of at least a thousand men, riding westward with the Wizard and Thorongil at his side. Denethor moaned in despair. "You travel the wrong way, Théoden," he shouted aloud, "Turn back. Stay at Edoras until Gondor calls. It will be soon."

But the Rohirrim rode on, heedless of the Steward's anguish. 'So - truly Rohan will not answer. Why goes he westward? He knows the battle lies to the east. To Gondor.'

Denethor drew away from the sight of the éoreds marching away from him and turned instead to the Fords of Isen where Théodred had been lost not seven days before. A battle was in hand. Théoden could not possibly arrive in time. Denethor shuddered as he watched the forces left there succumb to the attack of the enemy. It was a fierce battle and hard fought, but the Riders of Rohan were no match for the might that was arrayed against them. The Steward watched well into the night as the Men of the Mark were forced to retreat – to Helm's Deep, he supposed.

At last, exhaustion overcame Denethor; he dropped the cloth over the stone and walked the steps to his own rooms, falling upon his bed, sleeping almost before his head touched the pillow, tear tracks gleaming in the moonlight.

4 March

"So we have no hope from Théoden? Rohan will not come?" The news that Denethor shared this red-streaked morn, of great struggle within Rohan, caught the Warden by surprise. He knew of the battle where Théodred had lost his life, but he could not believe that all hope was lost. "They will come if they may. Théoden promised."

Despair flirted with the Steward of Gondor, danced before his eyes as he remembered what the Palantír revealed in the night. Though the moon was not yet full, still Denethor could see a little as he peered, close to the midnight hour, at the road that led from Isengard to Helm Hammerhand's stronghold. What he did see turned his heart into ice. Great torches lit up the night as a horde of evil marched towards Helm's Deep. Théoden had not a hope, of that Denethor was sure. He turned cold eyes towards his Warden.

Húrin shuddered. He ceased his questioning. "I have received no missives from Faramir."

"Did you know, Húrin, that Helm lost both his sons before he died? He himself froze to death."

A fey look came into Denethor's eyes and Húrin quickly strode to his friend and cousin, and knelt at his side. "You will not lose Faramir."

"I have already lost part of him," Denethor whispered, "to the Wizard."

"No, my Lord. Faramir is his own man."

At that, Denethor looked up; hope writ plain upon his face. "He is that. He will take no reproach from me, why should he obey a wizard?"

"He will not. Of that you can be assured."

"Bring the plans for the evacuation." Húrin saluted and left.

Denethor stood and walked to the fireplace. As he turned, he remembered their parting. The leaving had not been as Denethor had wanted. He was sure it was not what Faramir had wanted. Or needed.

"Take your rest, Faramir. Tomorrow, ere Anor breaks, I need you away to Osgiliath."

"Is not Húrin joining us for the daymeal?"

"He will. But you are weary and need not tarry here. Order a meal brought to your rooms." Denethor looked up from the papers he was signing. "Have you played of late?" His mirth at Faramir's incomprehension turned quickly to sorrow as Faramir's eyes misted. He swore at himself for the misspoken word. Faramir obviously had thought of playing with his brother. "I meant your harp. Have you played your harp of late?" he asked gently, "or did you leave it behind in Henneth Annûn?"

"I brought it home last year. Music would betray us. We sing now in whispers."

Denethor's brow furrowed. He remembered the sounds of singing that ghosted up from the depths of that hidden fortress, as his patrol would return by starlight. His heart saddened even further. For a Gondorian not to be able to sing with gusto… He found his mouth open as if trying to breathe. Shaking his head, he turned his attention back to his son. "Would you play for me?"

"Now?"

The note of incredulity in Faramir's voice irked him. "There is no enemy here to prevent it."

"I will fetch it."

"Send Belegorn." Turning back to his papers, Denethor signed another. Faramir pulled the bell and, when Belegorn arrived, sent him off. At last Denethor stood up, stretched and walked around the desk.

His aide entered with the small traveling harp, handed it to Faramir, and left Denethor's study.

Faramir spent a few moments tuning the instrument, then ran a loving hand over the strings. "It has a beautiful sound; I am surprised it has survived the elements as I carried it about. It is well crafted."

"Boromir knew quality when he saw it. He did give it to you?" At Faramir's nod, he continued. "Beauty without strength is of little use to anyone."

"A rose, Father?"

"It has thorns to protect it."

"A babe?"

"It has… I fear even my sword will no longer protect the babes of Gondor."

"When will you evacuate the City?"

Denethor walked to the sideboard and poured two glasses of wine; returning, he handed one to Faramir, then sat on the settle across from the fireplace and held the glass, twirling it absently. "Within the week."

"Why so soon?"

Denethor's cold stare made Faramir take in a quick breath.

'Will the boy never stop his questioning?' Denethor thought in fury, but his retort was stayed as Faramir began to strum the harp.

After a few moments Denethor asked, "What is that called? I know it not."

"It is something I have been writing for a few years. It is not complete. I know not if it ever will be."

"What do you call it?"

Faramir's hands stayed as a deep blush spread up his neck and across his face. "The Lay of Finduilas," he whispered.

After a long moment, Denethor said, "It has some merit. Is there more or is that all you were able to compose?"

The strings sang as Faramir answered with his harp.

Before very long, Denethor stood abruptly. "Go and rest now, Stop on the morrow, ere you leave for Osgiliath. I will have more information for you then." The Steward walked quickly to his desk, took up some papers, and began to read them.

Faramir slumped for a moment, then stood, harp in hand, murmured a good night and left the room.

Sometime later, Denethor put his hands to his face and thought upon his Finduilas. Faramir's Lay had touched deeper than he thought possible.

Húrin entered with rolls of parchment and, once again, Steward and Warden attacked the route for Minas Tirith's refugees.

5 March

Denethor stepped back in surprise; a low sound escaped his lips. "What is this?' he thought wildly. 'What do you show me?' But it was gone when once again the Steward looked into the stone.

His eyes widened, for the evil eye that oft stared back at him, showed a measure of panic. Denethor held back a smirk, so it would not see. No use letting the creature that battled him on a daily basis know that Denethor had seen. The globe closed and the Steward dropped his hands.

True, he could have continued to use the Palantír. He did not need the one in Barad-dûr open to see, but he needed to stop and determine what exactly he had just seen, in the Enemy's globe, reflected somehow into his own.

Denethor covered it and walked slowly to the window, allowing his mind to settle. The sight had only lasted for a fraction of a moment. He needed to concentrate. Unseeing eyes looked out the window. The moon shone bright and close to full.

Small hands. That was his first impression. Small hands held a stone, curly hair framed a child-like face. Bright eyes that stirred some memory deep in his spirit looked out at him in fear. But he knew it was not he that the little creature afeared, but the Enemy himself. He scoured his memory, piecing everything that he could recall from the short encounter, into one coherent thought.

At last, as the enormity of it hit him, he stepped back in horror and leaned against the wall. 'A Halfling,' his mind screamed. 'A Halfling holds another Palantír. But which one? And where?' Judging by the look of surprised shock in his Enemy's eyes, it was not in Barad-dûr? Where then?

Vaguely, he remembered reading one of the Tomes on the Palantír in the Library. There were seven, in the beginning. Only two remained, he thought. 'Ah,' a shiver ran down his spine. 'Orthanc; there was a stone left in Orthanc.' But he had thought it had been lost long ago. Obviously, he was mistaken. The Wizard, Saruman, had found it and learned how to use it. But it had to be by sorcery that he could wield it for the Wizard had not the right, as the Steward of the High King had, to use it.

'And now a Halfling peers through it! Why? How? Why would Saruman let another use it? Why would a Halfling even be in Orthanc? Surely not as a guest? A prisoner then? But why? What could a Halfling offer the Nameless One, let alone the Wizard?'

A low groan left him as he remembered Faramir's dream. 'For Isildur's Bane shall waken, And the Halfling forth shall stand.' Denethor moaned again, "By Elbereth!" Was the Halfling the carrier of the thing that caused Isildur's downfall? Could this same Halfling have caused Boromir's death? Denethor shook. His head reeled as grief once again assailed him. "Boromir, my Boromir!"

He quieted, after a time, and once grief was set aside, the enormity of his discovery overwhelmed him. 'Saruman has the Halfling and the Halfling has given it, freely or forced it matters not, the Halfling has given it to the Wizard. Denethor slumped to the floor; despair gripped him. He fought it, fought it with all his being.

'The Halfling is at Orthanc. Perhaps there is still hope. They must bring it to the Nameless One.' Saruman would come through Gondor, carrying it with him. And Denethor would be waiting. He could easily follow their progress, once they entered his realm. He would pull men away from the southern and western garrisons, cut the roster in half at the beacons, and spread them along his borders. Once he caught sight of them, he would bring his force together and attack. Then, the weapon that was so highly prized by so many would be his!

He locked the room and returned to his study, bringing Belegorn into the room with him. "Send for Húrin and my captains. And for Hirgon as well. I need them here immediately."

"It is the middle of the night, my Lord."

"Go!" he shouted, ran to his bedchamber and quickly disrobed, laved his face and neck, and changed his clothes. He ran his hand through his hair and returned to his study. There stood Húrin.

"My Lord?"

"Wait until the others arrive."

Húrin watched in surprise as the Steward pulled out the parchments containing the troop rosters for the southern fiefdoms, then those for the beacon hills. They had finished apportioning men only a week ago. What could Denethor want with them now?

The captains entered and Denethor told them of his plan. Startled, they saluted and obeyed, but Húrin again wondered, for the hundredth time, how and where his Steward gleaned such incredible information.

After the captains left, Denethor turned to Hirgon. "I have a message for Faramir, but I want it delivered to him in person, by you. And I want it spoken. Remind him of my edict: none may cross Ithilien without a pass, upon pain of death. No one, Hirgon. Even though they appear small and helpless. Without a pass, they must be put to death."

Hirgon saluted. "I will speak the message to Faramir on the morrow, my Lord."

"Return as soon as it is delivered. I may have need for you."

8 March

Húrin came in, followed closely by Hirgon. The errand-rider saluted and waited.

"Hirgon. What news do you bring? Faramir should have made contact with the enemy yesternoon at the latest."

"There was a battle in Ithilien as you foretold, my Lord Steward. Here is Captain Faramir's missive. It was sent early this morning."

Denethor scowled, took the parchment and waved off Hirgon. "I will send for you when I have completed my reply." The errand-rider saluted and left. "I cannot understand why the battle should have lasted overlong." The scowl had not left Denethor's face. "The strategy planned should have had it done and over with in hours. What could have caused Faramir to wait so long to write?"

At Denethor's direction, Húrin sat on the settle. "Battles are fortuitous things. They do not always do what we wish or plan. Perhaps an explanation is in the missive." A smile graced the Warden's face.

"Would you mock me, Húrin?"

Standing swiftly, Húrin saluted. "I would not, my Lord Steward. Never. I apologize. Profusely."

The Steward spread the parchment open and read quietly. After a time, he raised his head. "A mûmak. I had not seen… I had no report of a mûmak. But Faramir and his men seem to have come through the battle unscathed."

"And won?"

"How does one win against a mûmak?"

"You did, once. As did Boromir."

"Always by some chance. Fate stepped in and saved me. The same was true for Boromir. Now, fate shines upon my only son." He swallowed hard. "He seems to have survived his encounter. Along with many of his men."

"Then why do you glower?"

"Firstly, the battle was yesterday. Yet, he does not send a missive until now?" Denethor shook his head. "Something in what he writes gives me cause for concern. I cannot grasp what it is, but all is not as he notes."

"Shall I send another rider? Would you have me recall him?"

"Nay. Neither." A heavy sigh sounded as Denethor rubbed his forehead with his fingers.

Belegorn entered with a servant and began helping to spread out the nuncheon meal.

After both men removed themselves from the room, Denethor moved to the table, urging Húrin to join him. "The list," Denethor said.

"Might we not eat before discussing it? I have a weak stomach."

Denethor grimaced. "Weak indeed. I have seen you eat… We both know a soldier would die of starvation with a weak stomach. All we see and do, and yet we must stop, forget it, and take our daymeal else the others eat it."

Húrin chuckled. "Yes. A laggard would starve in Gondor's army."

"Any army," Denethor barely smiled. "We will leave the list till after nuncheon. By the by, have you heard aught of the farmers we brought from Anórien?"

"According to Hirgon, all is well. The spring crops are planted." A sharp hiss from Denethor, and Húrin ceased speaking. "My Lord?"

"Naught." But it was not nothing. Denethor's mind reeled as he recalled his vision of a raped and pillaged Pelennor. There would be no crop left to harvest. He wondered if he should say something, tell Húrin what he had seen. At last, he continued with his meal.

When they were finished, Denethor retired to his study. Húrin, ordered to bring the latest list, returned within a short time. Denethor rolled open the first parchment and heaved a sigh. "It is as if we run circles around ourselves, chasing after our tails as dogs do, and yet, not one item on this list is completed."

"Most are nearly complete. We cannot do further on some things. The evacuation for example," Húrin ventured to say. "The road has been divided into three parts: one for carts, one for wagons and one for horses. The staging areas are set, and all know where they are to report. I think, Denethor, that we can cross this off."

"Then the Rammas by the North Gate. Is that near to completion?"

"Ingold and his men are working on it. He is competent. It will be done."

"The water supply on the first level. Is it sufficient?"

"If the enemy uses fire--"

"Not if," Denethor interrupted him. "He will use it. He will use catapults to fling fireballs over our walls and we must have enough water for the crews to quench them before we lose the city to fire."

"Tubs have been set up all along the wall, just as you instructed, every one hundred yards. The young boys who will be staying will be used as runners and will watch for fires. They will sound the alarm. We have sufficient water ready."

"How many boys?"

"At least thirty. I would more, for that means each boy must watch over one hundred yards. If possible, I would prefer ninety, but I will not know how many are available until the evacuation is complete and we see who remains."

"That is a questionable strategy; we cannot leave that part of our defense unknown. Conscript the boys. And make it at least one hundred. We must needs have replacements for those who fall."

Húrin shuddered at the thought. Their mothers would be wild. So many of Gondor's young boys were already in the esquires. Now Denethor would take even more away from their families. Yet, what could they do? He resigned himself to it. "I will conscript one hundred and thirty. That way, each boy will cover one rod with ten more boys for substitutes and ten for running errands and missives. That would leave thirty for whatever comes along."

"My esquire has requested permission to join the main guard. I think it best if we use the esquires for more important duties than standing by their lords' sides. Send them all off and use the boys you conscript as esquires."

"It will be done."

"I would inspect the First Level and the trebuchet stations. When is the next practice run for the trebuchet?"

"First bell. Before the daymeal."

"Good then let us go and watch Number Seven. I would see what Ragnor does with what men he has left."

~*~

Before they were even returned to the Citadel, Hirgon found him. "My Lord Steward," the Captain saluted, "an errand-rider awaits in the Great Hall."

"From?"

"The South. Pelargir."

Denethor's face went white. He had been so fixed on the doings to the North and the West, that he had neglected the South these past two days. He walked swiftly to the Tower and entered. The Chamberlain greeted him at the door.

"My Lord, the rider from Pelargir was wounded and near-spent. His horse died ere he reached the Great Gate. One of your personal guards brought him hither. Forgive my presumption, but I sent him to your study."

Denethor's eyes widened. "Grave news then." He turned and ran to his study, flung open the door, and stopped. The rider sat, bent over in one of the great stuffed chairs that adorned Denethor's room, blood showing through his leather armor. His shoulders shook and Denethor had to calm himself before he walked to the sideboard and poured whiskey into a glass, then offered it to the man. The soldier tried to stand, but Denethor stayed him with a hand. "Drink this," he commanded, then sat at his desk.

The soldier gulped the spirits down, then sat looking forlornly at the glass. Denethor watched, knowing full well the news the rider brought.

"Pelargir has fallen, my Lord," the soldier finally stood. Denethor noted his legs wobbled. He took the proffered pouch and opened it. He recognized the firm handwriting of Captain Gelmir. He looked up.

"Captain Gelmir's head is on a pike in the center of the city."

Denethor lowered his head and continued reading.

Forgive me, my Lord, Gelmir wrote. They were upon us in the night. Though there is no excuse for my failure. There were too many and they had strange fire weapons, balls that opened and shot out fire and death. Beware of them! I have not seen the like before. The city itself has fallen; I hold the fort, but not for long. They have surrounded it. A battering beast pounds the gate even as I write this missive. It will not stand. Forgive me. Your servant, Gelmir, Captain.

Denethor sat back for perhaps a quarter of an hour. The rider had returned to his seat, his head in his hands. "Go to your Captain and report, then take yourself to the Houses and have that wound looked after. Tell Hirgon you are relieved for the rest of the day." The soldier saluted and left. Denethor pulled on the handbell and heard it ring somewhere off in the distance. Belegorn entered and stood, waiting. "Send for Hirgon."

After a half hour, the Captain of the Errand-riders stood before his Steward. "Hirgon, has there been any word from Lamedon, from Angbor?"

"Nay, my Lord. I will send a rider."

He wrote a quick note, folded it, and handed it to his Captain. "Give this to another. Stay near. I will need you soon."

Hirgon turned to leave. "Wait! The rider from Pelargir. How fares he?"

"He is dead, my Lord." Denethor nodded and Hirgon saluted and left.

Húrin entered but a few moments later. "Your Chamberlain sent for me."

"The man has wit. Pelargir has been taken. Captain Gelmir is dead."

"The Corsairs sail to Minas Tirith?"

"Not yet. They will ransack the city, spend a few days, at the least, raping and pillaging, taking the spoils of my people. They will probably be at the Harland in less than a week."

"Angbor will not come?"

"No, he will not. He must stand and protect his own lands and people. If I know him, he will send a force to the Gilrain and fight there. It might slow the ships a bit."

"That is a dire blow."

"It is. It means we must rely on Théoden and we both know he has his own troubles. If Helm's Deep is encircled, he could be imprisoned there for months. Though, I doubt the Enemy would let him stop his progress thusly. Nay, I think Théoden dead." He closed his eyes, remembering the sight of Thorongil riding next to the King of Rohan. 'He is probably dead also. I suppose that thought should fill me with delight, though the friendship the Northerner and I once shared is gone, I loved him, at the time.'

"Should I send further men to the Harland?"

"Nay. We have none to spare. Húrin, send the order to light the beacon at nightfall. Use the white smoke. All the beacons are to be lit."

Húrin fell into a nearby chair. "Denethor," he groaned.

"I relied upon the strength of Lamedon. We are now bereft of Angbor's forces. Send the order and have Captain Hirgon sent to me."

Húrin walked to the door, opening it, and spoke to Belegorn. He turned then, with tears in his eyes, and stared long and hard at his cousin, his friend, his Lord. "I will order the beacons lit." Saluting, he left the room.

Denethor stood and walked to the window that overlooked the Courtyard. He watched as the dead branches of the White Tree swayed in the strong north winds. Shaking his head, he moved to a cupboard on the near wall and pulled out a lebethron box. He blew the dust from its lid and opened it. The stench of long-trapped air caused him to hold the box away from him for a moment, then he pulled back the black covering and looked down upon the Red Arrow.

It stared back at him, seeming as impotent as the Stone at rest, but Denethor knew when this simple token was placed in Théoden's hand, if the King of Rohan yet lived, the man would stumble at the thought of its import.

What number of men Rohan would be able to muster after the devastation of the battles at the Fords and the Deep, Denethor could not even fathom, but he was desperate, now that he had lost Pelargir and the promise of Angbor's men. 'If I had known, I would have lit the fires earlier. Yet, what good with Théoden fighting his own battles."

When Hirgon entered, he found Denethor sitting at his desk. "My Lord?"

"Your last missive, Hirgon, then I will keep you by my side. You have been valiant and true. I could not have asked for a better Captain. I know the missives I send are received, because of the faith and the duty your men feel towards you. I am sorry I have been lax in the friendship that belongs to you from your father. I would have it another way, but…"

"My Lord," Hirgon interrupted. "I owe my allegiance to you. I owe my life to you. Know my men serve at your pleasure, not mine. It is you they revere. As do I. Ask what you will of us, we will obey."

"Then take this to Rohan, Hirgon," he held the Red Arrow before him and watched as his Captain swayed at the sight and all but fell. "I know not if Théoden King yet lives, but take it to Edoras and give it to whomever is in charge."

"My Lord," the young Captain sputtered, "I will see it done." He groped for words, but none would come. There were no words to express his sorrow. And his great pride for being given such an errand. "If you do not object, I will not take esquires with me on this ride; I will take my best riders."

"That is as it should be. Put someone you trust in command whilst you are gone. Then, when you receive Rohan's answer, come swiftly back. I will be waiting."

Hirgon saluted, turned to leave, then turned back to his Steward. "Thank you, my Lord," he whispered in deep appreciation. "Thank you."

Denethor rounded the desk and took the man in his arms. "Take care and return. I owe your father that much – to see that his son lives."

Hirgon nodded and returned the embrace. "I will return in two days time."

~TBC~

A/N - 1) Faramir's dream can be found here: FotR: Book II; Chapter 2: The Council of Elrond; 2) There is a great amount of information on the Palantír, in the Palantír chapter (go figure) of HoMe: Book 8: Part One: VI: The Palantír. Also, there is much in the Silmarillion. Two people cannot read and agree upon what the Palantír can and cannot do. Therefore, I feel a measure of freedom in this respect; 3) It seems the Palantír of Orthanc was quite powerful, per Aragorn. 'But the Palantír of Orthanc the King will keep, to see what is passing in his realm, and what his servants are doing.' RotK: Book VI: Chapter Six: Many Partings. 4) As to whether or not Pippin was seen by Denethor.... I have always been intrigue by this little bit in RotK - 'Pippin sat down, but he could not take his eyes from the old lord. Was it so, or had he only imagined it, that as he spoke of the Stones a sudden gleam of his eye had glanced upon Pippin's face?' Isn't that a delicious quote? Doesn't it just make you wonder? Well, I couldn't stop wondering and finally considered that Denethor might have 'seen' Pippin while the Hobbit was 'caught' by Sauron. RotK: Book V: Chapter One: Minas Tirith; 5) And lastly, did Denethor know of the existence of the Ring or some such weapon? It seems to me he must have, if one reads the discussion between Denethor and Gandalf in RotK. One such part, as spoken by Denethor: "But most surely not for any argument would he have set this thing at a hazard beyond all but a fool's hope, risking our utter ruin, if the Enemy should recover what he lost. Nay, it should have been kept, hidden, hidden dark and deep. Not used, I say, unless at the uttermost end of need, but set beyond his grasp, save by a victory so final that what then befell would not trouble us, being dead." RotK: Book V: Chapter Four: The Siege of Gondor; 6) 'But soon Pippin saw that all was in fact well-ordered: the wains were moving in three lines, one swifter drawn by horses; another slower, great waggons with fair housings of many colours, drawn by oxen; and along the west rim of the road many smaller carts hauled by trudging men.' RotK: Book V: Chapter 1: Minas Tirith; 7) According to Michael Perry in his 'Untangling Tolkien,' Théoden traveled as hidden as possible, to prevent the Enemy from seeing his troops and guessing they were going to Gondor's aid. Unfortunately, this also meant Denethor probably could not see that the Rohirric army was, in fact, coming to Gondor; 8) The girth of Minas Tirith around the city at the First Level measured around 9,000 feet - almost 2 miles (or almost 2 furlongs or 80 rods or 300 yards depending upon what measurement you are using - Tolkien used rods and furlongs and such). According to Karen Wynn Fonstad's Atlas of Middle-earth. That equates to about twenty-five football fields (US) long. A lot of territory to cover!!! {Measurements - 1 league = 3 miles; 1 mile =8 furlongs; 1 furlong = 40 rods; 1 rod = 6 paces (which in later days to provide consistency among surveyors was quantified as 5-1/2 yards); 1 pace = the length of a grown man's stride} (PS - a hearty thank you to Helmsdaughter for verifying my math on the placement of the boys around the inner wall of the City): 9) I won't even go into the bells; they are insane, but you can find information on how they are used by googling for ship's bells (which is the system I believe Tolkien used.); 10) Aragorn sees the Corsairs, in the Palantir, approaching Gondor on March 6th - It takes an errand-rider about 20 hours to make it from Pelargir to Minas Tirith. On March 13, Aragorn reached Pelargir, and the Dead swept over the Corsairs' ships and captured the fleet. http://www.tuckborough.net/towns.html#Pelargir; 11) Lebethron - Faramir states it is a precious wood of Gondor. RotK: Book IV: Chapter Six: The Forbidden Pool; 12) Meaning of import: Archaic. to be of consequence or importance to; concern. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/import


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

Comments

WARNING! Comments may contain spoilers for a chapter or story. Read with caution.

Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice

littlehobbitlost - 23 Aug 09 - 11:00 AM

Ch. 53: Third Age 3019 - Part Two

Hi,

Just a quick note to say how much I am enjoying this story. Your writing captures the mood of the city and Denethor expertly. All these events conspiring to ruin the man. That he is still sane at this stage speaks volumes about his character.

Your dialogue and attention to detail are just brilliant. 

Ten Thousand Years Will Not Suffice

Agape4Gondor - 28 Aug 09 - 12:12 PM

Ch. 53: Third Age 3019 - Part Two

Ah, littlehobbitlost, my deepest thanks for your kind words. I agree with your assessment of Denethor - still sane is quite an accomplishment at this stage of the game.

Bless you for your review!


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