Denethor is enraged.
Finduilas cowers in her bed, sobbing helplessly when she is not staring blindly at the ceiling. She will see no-one but her brother, and Denethor must admit that some part of him is grateful for this. He cannot bear to see his gentle wife so distraught; he does not want to see the swiftly-darkening bruises on her wrists and arms again.
He said he would hurt our son if I did not give myself to him! He would not let me go, he kept touching me! Denethor can still hear her terrified voice in his mind. He is dangerous, Denethor, I have always thought so. The way he has looked at me ---
She had clung to him, shaking; he had shouted for help as he held her protectively. Imrahil had arrived seconds after the guards, had seen in the broken teapot, the overturned table, the torn dress-sleeve and the marks at her wrists. "Who has done this?" he had demanded, voice harsh with anger. " I will kill him, I swear it…"
Denethor had turned to the guards rather than answering Imrahil's question. "Set a watch on the nursery immediately," he had ordered. "Two men at all times - only the nurse or blood relatives are to step foot in that room until this is settled, is that clear?"
The men had hurried to carry out his commands, and Imrahil's voice had shaken as he repeated, "Who did this, Denethor? What man would do such a vile thing?" He had dropped to his knees next to them, taken his sister's icy hands. "Finduilas?"
Denethor did not need to ask who attacked his wife and threatened his child; he has only one enemy so ruthless. But Imrahil had gone white at Finduilas' frightened whisper.
Thorongil is under guard in his small room. Lord Ecthelion overturned Denethor's orders to have the captain clapped in irons and kept in the dungeons until tomorrow, and for this, Thorongil is grateful. A night in a dank cell with the cold stiffening his limbs would put him at a disadvantage on the field.
It is all he has to be grateful for. Thorongil is shocked and bewildered by this turn of events – how could any man of Gondor, even the ever-resentful Denethor, think that he would threaten Lady Finduilas so?
Thorongil had fervently sworn that he had not laid a hand on the lady, nor had he made threats toward her or young Boromir; the Lord Ecthelion had wanted to believe him, that was clear from the Steward's face. But then Denethor had said, "Who are you, captain, that we should take your word over that of a Princess of Dol Amroth, my wife, and mother to my heir? For all your victories in battle, you are nothing more than a vagabond sell-sword with no true name. You might as well have lent yourself to Harad as to Gondor."
With swiftly-rising panic, Thorongil had realized that nothing he could say would matter, nothing he could say would prove his innocence. They have no reason to believe me, and every reason to believe her. Denethor wanted to believe it, and it was his right as Lady Finduilas' husband to take recourse. The Lord Steward might favour his judgments and strategies in battle above Denethor's, but that favour would not extend to leaving this deed unpunished.
He had glanced at Imrahil, hoping to see some sign of remorse or pity; they had fought in many engagements together, eaten and drunk together, laughed and talked of many things during the course of their acquaintance, and Thorongil had come to think of Imrahil as a true companion. But all he had seen in the Prince's face was the pain and anger of betrayal as Imrahil volunteered to be Denethor's second.
He could not hope to defend himself with the truth. Not a man in this room would believe that sweet, kind, gentle Finduilas of Dol Amroth would invite ragged Captain Thorongil to her parlor. Not a man in Gondor would believe that Lady Finduilas would demand that he pleasure her until she grew bored of his company and cast him aside. He still could not quite believe it himself, so stunned had he been by the words which had come out of Finduilas' mouth, more suited to a dockside whore than Prince Adrahil's fragile daughter.
Thorongil paces the room late into the night, though he knows he should sleep. He has fought for many reasons, but never did he think he would be forced to fight a duel for having insulted a woman's virtue. And while some men's honour would be satisfied to simply draw blood, he doubts that Denethor is one of those men. He knows that he and Denethor are well-matched in their skill with a blade; it will not be an easy battle to win.
I should not have come back, Thorongil thinks bleakly. I should not have let Imrahil convince me to take my leave of Ecthelion in person; I should have sent word and slipped away, as I had planned.
He wonders how he came be at the center of such a sordid matter; wonders why Lady Finduilas would do such a thing when he has always shown her the highest respect and regard. Why would she want him dead? He is certain she has not accused him simply because he rejected her overtures. It makes no sense. But then for what reason? His confidence is deeply shaken, for he has never misjudged anyone's character so badly.
He wonders if he could overpower the guards and flee north with all speed. He is falsely accused; there would be nothing dishonourable about running.
But Thorongil knows he cannot run from this, not if he ever hopes to return to Gondor and claim his birthright.
When Finduilas finally wakes, she sees Imrahil sitting at her bedside, taking occasional sips from a beautifully engraved silver flask.
"What has happened?" she asks.
He grins merrily, and tells her of the duel at sunup. He tells her that, as custom demands, Denethor has made arrangements in case he should fall. He has named the Prince of Dol Amroth as regent to Boromir, until the boy is old enough to take up the office of Steward.
Finduilas' eyes glitter like the sun on a blade. "We are so close," she whispers. "So close, Imrahil. I wish Father were here to see all our plans come to fruition."
His grin turns predatory for a moment. "He will know soon enough, Finduilas. But do not forget, Thorongil must still win the duel. We cannot call it a triumph until Denethor is dead."
Finduilas' laugh is disdainful. She has never seen Denethor lift a sword for anything but practice. "If I am to believe the rumours of Thorongil's skill, Denethor does not stand a chance."
"Do not think it," Imrahil warns. "Denethor stands more than a chance, sister. If he wins, there is no telling what Father will do, to both of us."
Finduilas falls silent. Denethor cannot win; she cannot bear to remain bound to him for the rest of her days. And Imrahil is right; if they fail in this, Adrahil's wrath will be fearsome. They have striven toward this one goal their entire lives, and their father will not be pleased if Gondor slips between his fingers after so much hard work.
Finduilas sits on the front row of the circle of observers which have gathered to watch the duel. Denethor had protested, but she had tearfully insisted that since she was the one given insult, she should be allowed to watch her husband avenge her. In the face of her pleas, he reluctantly agreed, as she had known he would.
She keeps her eyes fixed on Denethor. The anxiety and fear on her face is real; if her husband wins, Finduilas does not know what she will do.
Imrahil stands at the edge of the square, holding Denethor's cloak. He dares not look at his sister. They are moments away from achieving all they have set out to do. Imrahil has seen both Thorongil and Denethor with a blade, and he knows that they are very closely matched. If Thorongil does not kill Denethor, then they will have to start over again, and this time, they will have to be more subtle, more patient.
Thorongil has no second; no man in Minas Tirith would offer to fill the position and risk the reprisal of Denethor. He takes deep, steadying breaths, thinking only of the task to come, not of Arwen or Elrond or the far-off safety of Imladris.
He sees the drawn, shaken face of Lady Finduilas on the front row. He cannot place what he sees in her eyes; then he glances at Imrahil, whose back is stiff and whose indefinable expression mirrors that of his sister.
Realization hits him with all the force of an orc's hammer and he is so stunned that he does not hear the call to begin.
Denethor sees nothing but Thorongil, and when the call to begin is given, he attacks with all the fury at his command. All the resentment and loathing which he has been forced to repress gives him strength he has never known before.
There is the flash of swords, the ringing of metal on metal, the grunts of the two men fighting and the gasps of the crowd when a blow lands. Finduilas hears none of it; she is now focused solely on Thorongil, as if she can will him to victory.
Later no two accounts will agree on what happened, but there is no denying the outcome. Denethor lies lifeless on the cobblestones in a pool of his own blood; Thorongil is crumpled next to him, hands clutched to his belly in an effort to stop the bleeding.
The healers take Thorongil away; Imrahil kneels next to his distraught sister, who is bent over her husband's body, wailing her grief to the skies. They do not trust themselves to speak.
"What of Thorongil?" Adrahil asks, looking up at his son, who is slow to answer. "Imrahil?"
"He has vanished," Imrahil admits reluctantly, bracing himself for his father's reaction. "Shortly after I sent you the message. The soldiers held him very dear – I assume that some of them helped him escape, thinking his life was in danger."
"As it would have been," Finduilas says coolly, smoothing the folds in her skirt in order to hide her nervousness. "So he is not a complete fool, after all."
Adrahil regards his son and daugher silently for long moments, and they exchange a quick, tense glance. At length, he waves his hand. "It is of no matter," he says. "What trouble can one mercenary give a King? I daresay that he will not show his face in Gondor again
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.