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Spring Planting  by Branwyn

"This is the new field where the pear trees will grow," the farmer said, raising an arm to point. Denethor followed his gesture -- the field was a barren, brown expanse, except in the middle. There, his younger son, head bowed intently, played in the freshly-turned earth. Something has captured his interest, Denethor thought. The child’s dark hair gleamed in the slanting rays of sunlight. Nearby, a raven hopped from furrow to furrow, head bent, hunting for worms.

"It was hard work to break up the ground." The farmer shook his head. "The plough kept hitting pieces of armor. I saved them; would my lord like to take a look?"

Boromir knew not to speak out of turn, but Denethor could hardly miss that longing, hopeful glance. "We could make time for that," he said with the slightest smile. His older son had stoically endured much talk about fences and fruit trees.

"Faramir!" the steward shouted across the field. His son and the raven both turned their dark heads.

"Coming, father!" The child was running even as he spoke; close against his breast, he held something clasped in both hands.

"Father, look!" Faramir called as he ran. What has he found now? Denethor thought wryly. Often this son brought strange and wondrous gifts -- stiff hawk feathers, barred in black and gold, and soft, furry leaves, and pebble-skinned toads.

Skidding to a halt, Faramir held out grimy hands to offer his father the new-found treasure. Gray eyes shining, he slowly unfolded his fingers.

Denethor caught his breath sharply, but his voice when he spoke, though unsteady, was very gentle. "Here, let me see what you have brought me, son." I must not move quickly or shout -- if he is startled, he will clench his hand around it. Carefully, he lifted the arrowhead from Faramir's tiny palm. Rusted barbs twisted from the base, and though pitted with corrosion, the blade was still sharp. Forged in the armories of Mordor, it was a deadly piece of work.

Faramir looked up at him eagerly, his empty hands held out, expecting a story or at least some explanation. Denethor saw his clear gray eyes and the missing tooth and the earth smudged on his nose. Bowing his head, the father thought, This dread will I know for each day until I die. He felt as if the arrow had been buried in his heart.



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