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Ch. 24 - Third Age 3017 - Part Four
Denethor stood on the parapet, resting his hands on the wall that encircled the Citadel. Imrahil stood by his side.
“It is getting late,” observed the Prince of Dol Amroth.
“He will come.”
“Of course. Unless…”
“I have received no missives; no signal fires have been lit. He will come.”
“He is a fine man. He will make a good Steward.”
Denethor did not reply.
“Húrin has many duties, as of late.”
Denethor sighed and turned towards his wife’s brother. “It will probably be only months after Gondor’s fall that Dol Amroth will be besieged. I do not think the Enemy will divide its forces and send armies against both cities at the same time. However, if you cannot send help when the final attack comes, I will understand.”
“Unless we are attacked at the same time, my Swan Knights will be here. Do you doubt me?”
“I do not.”
“Then why the furrowed brow? We have been at peace these many years, my brother.”
“If not for Indis’ intervention, your father and I might have come to blows.”
“I am glad you interred her in the House of the Stewards. It is where she belongs.”
“She was as much a Steward as Ecthelion or myself.”
“That she was.” Imrahil remembered Indis’ death and asked, “How fares Théoden King?”
Denethor looked at him for a moment, then turned away. “I have sent missives, but they have not been answered. I suppose I should be grateful they are not returned, unopened.”
“Éomer patrols the East-mark, does he not?”
“He does, but I would not put him in a position of such jeopardy, ask him to take a role that is not his to take. I will continue to write to Théoden.”
“There is an oath, Denethor; he must honor it.” Imrahil squinted, not speaking until he was sure, but nay. It was naught. He turned towards Denethor. “Forlong of Lossarnach will send troops, probably even come himself. So will Dúinhir and Golasgil. The Lords of the Council will send men, when the time comes.”
“They are remarkably reluctant to send them now, as their fiefdom treaties stipulate. I hesitate to rely upon them when the real battle begins.”
“But that is why you are sending Faramir. He will persuade them. There is more than a touch of you in the lad. The lords fear you; he can use that to his advantage.”
“He will not. I have watched him in the Council meetings. He prefers to appear lordly, tries to sway them using their honor to urge them in their deeds. Yet, I know they have no honor. They care only…” He smiled ruefully and faced Imrahil. “I seem to be as a dog, chewing on the same old bone. I will speak no more of my Council’s ways. I consider sending Faramir with you and Míriel when you return to Dol Amroth. What think you of that?”
“It is a good plan; it should help Míriel feel more a part of the family. Faramir and I will keep her occupied, expound the virtues of Boromir and Minas Tirith.”
Denethor leaned more wearily upon the parapet’s wall. “Yes. He will start his progress in the fiefdoms near Dol Amroth and work his way north and east.”
“Is aught the matter, brother? You seem fatigued.”
“I am. I suppose it is the sitting with Faramir. It is hard to watch one’s son in pain. Though,” he continued quickly, “he is healing well.”
“I was with him this afternoon. The fever seems to have lifted. He is more coherent.”
“I had some other business I was about this afternoon,” he bristled at what he considered the implied accusation in Imrahil’s statement. “I am glad you were with Faramir.”
“What is this dream? He spoke of it to me but I do not understand why he dreams it now.”
“It is just that – a dream. It has no significance for us. It was in the past. Faramir, even on his sick bed, still has books brought to him. He reads too much. He should be resting. There!” Denethor straightened. “A lone rider, two-thirds of the way across the Pelennor. It is Boromir!” he cried as the Horn blew.
Imrahil smiled. “He truly enjoys winding that horn. He will have the whole City awake.”
“And well she should be when her Captain-General returns!”
He turned and walked quickly towards the Great Hall. Imrahil’s smile grew as he followed.
“Father.” He hugged Denethor warmly, then turned and hugged his uncle. “It is good to see you, though I should not be happy with you.”
“And why is that?” Imrahil chuckled. “It is not my fault that your father deems you old enough to be wed.”
“She is not here yet?”
“Not until the eighth of April, at the earliest. Are you anxious to meet her?”
“Just anxious,” Denethor interrupted and laughed. “Come, Boromir. Let us go to my study. You would have need of drink after that long dusty ride. The rains seem to have failed us so far this spring.”
“It is always raining in Ithilien, Father.” And his brow furrowed as he spoke the words.
They walked quietly down the long hall, into the passageway, and to Denethor’s study. The Chamberlain ran quickly to Denethor, saying all was ready. Denethor nodded, thanked the man, and asked him to send Húrin to him.
The fire was lit and plates filled with fruits, cheeses and breads were on the sideboard to the left of Denethor’s desk. The desk itself held a carafe of wine with four glasses set about it.
After he had poured the wine, he sat in front of the fire and motioned for Boromir and Imrahil to join him.
“You are anxious, I see, Boromir, but not about the coming announcement. What disturbs you?”
“There are reports that you have not shared with me, my Lord Steward.”
Denethor’s eyes widened. “There are many reports I do not share with you.”
“These reports impact me and the men under me. Though I am stationed at Osgiliath, as Captain-General, I should have these reports sent to me.”
“Which ones in particular do we discuss?”
“The reports from Cair Andros!” Boromir stood, frustration eeking from him. “There have been further attacks and I know naught of them!”
“There have been some attacks.”
“Father.” Boromir sat again. “Forgive me. But what is the use of me being Captain-General of all the armies of Gondor if I have no knowledge of what happens to my armies?”
“I agree.” Denethor sat for a few moments in silence. During that time, Húrin arrived, poured himself a glass of wine, and noted that all was not well in the room. He took a chair away from the three and waited.
“I cannot keep you here, which would be optimal. I need a strong captain for Osgiliath. I also need a strong captain at Cair Andros and one at Pelargir and one at… You know what I need, Boromir.”
“Hador is a strong captain, as is Guilin. Derufin would make a fine captain for Osgiliath, though I would that he could return to his father. Amlach, at Henneth-Annûn, has my respect. Pelargir is well tended.”
“The attacks seem to be focused on the north, Boromir. Though there was the one attack in Ithilien and the small one near Pelargir, I think it was a testing, no more. You have fought two major battles near the Nindalf just this past month. I believe the Easterlings are not ready to concede defeat. And Hador reports that Orcs are still entering Gondor in large numbers by the mouths of the Entwash and in Anórien.”
“Then I will leave Osgiliath in Derufin’s hands and go to Amon Dîn. I will use it as my base; I will not take the captaincy from Guilin. A battalion?”
“It would seem to me at least that, perhaps even a regiment, but where we will procure the men, I do not know. The fields of Anórien are paramount in keeping Minas Tirith fed. I have ordered larger crops sown.”
“Yes.” Denethor cursed loudly. “Not enough soldiers, not enough farmers.” He bit his lip. He was exhausted. The time with the Palantír today had been extremely tiring. Yet, he had learned so much.
“Húrin. How go the plans for the evacuation?”
“I have already designated the gathering points and which families go where. I have started the list of who will be in charge of each post. As for building the granaries, I have contacted the various guilds. We meet in two days.”
“Good. Imrahil, we must have more ships. I need to have the coast protected, when the surge comes. They may think Belfalas and the other fiefdoms weak when the battle begins and be tempted to launch small attacks to strike your forces.”
“We will be ready. Yet, that will not prevent me from sending troops here. I have already promised.”
“Father? May we put this marriage aside for the moment? There is no time to even begin a courtship.”
“Time will be made,” Denethor said firmly. “If we save our City, if we save Gondor, we must have an heir. Someone must sit on the Steward’s Chair. And I prefer it be one from the long unbroken line of Mardil, of the House of Húrin. In that line there is strength.”
“Faramir will ride with Míriel when she returns to Dol Amroth, Boromir,” Imrahil said quietly. “He will help her become accustomed to the ways of Minas Tirith and the court. She is a sharp woman; it will not take her long.”
“If that is your will, Father, I will not speak of it again. When may I leave for Amon Dîn?”
“The announcement will be tomorrow. She will arrive on the eighth and I will perform the betrothal ceremony on the tenth. You may leave on the eleventh.”
Boromir shook his head in frustration. “Then let me return to Osgiliath after tomorrow’s announcement. I would spend some time with Derufin. I know you wanted the wharfs and the docks blocked. The work has not been started on that yet. Also, I would speak with him…. Well, there are other needs.”
“I wanted you to stay here until Míriel arrives, but I deem it more important that you take care of those other matters. It will only strengthen Osgiliath. There were bunkers along the road once one passed the bridge. Are they still there? Are they being used?”
“They will be, Father. Part of my plan to shore up the defenses. I will return on the seventh?”
“Yes. I will send the daily reports to you. Thank you, Boromir.” He stood and hugged him. “Go now and rest. I will see you on the morrow.”
“I visit Faramir first.”
Húrin stood and bowed as Imrahil walked his nephew to the door. “It is a hard time for us all, Boromir,” Imrahil said quietly. “Yet, Míriel is up to the challenge. Do not be concerned for her.”
“Thank you, Uncle. I count on her fortitude. Have you visited Faramir?”
“I have and he is well. The fever left him this morning.”
“Thank you!” A quick hug and he was gone.
“He is a great man, Denethor.” Imrahil took his seat again. “I look forward to working more closely with him.”
“We have other concerns at the moment. I am considering putting an outpost by the Ethir. I know the land there is swampy, but I deem it important to have an outpost closer to Harondor. I will need another captain.”
“I could send Elphir.”
“Then send him with two companies, if you can spare them. I will send two companies of Gondor’s Knights.”
“Nay, my Lord Steward. I will send four companies. It would be best if we did not mix our men.” His face turned red.
“They have all trained under Gondor’s standard?”
“It is better for men to fight as a unit, Denethor. I deem it best that they all come from Belfalas.”
“If that is your wish.”
“I will send a missive on the morrow. Are there any specific orders you wish conveyed?”
“Nay. Elphir has commanded before. It is only an outpost. Will he feel slighted?”
“He will not. And I will not keep him there long. Once the outpost is established, I will have Elphir appoint another captain. Will that suffice?”
“My Lord Steward. This does not meet your needs?”
“It does. I am concerned. You speak of not having my men serve along yours? Is there a particular reason? Given that we will all be upon the same battlefield against the Enemy in the days ahead, does not it seem worthwhile to have our men serve together now?”
“It does. May I speak plainly?”
“The Knights of Gondor have a tendency to look down upon those of Dol Amroth.” He quickly held up a hand to stay Denethor’s response. “The same is true for the Swan Knights. I know not when this discord arose, but it has. I am working to ameliorate this rift.”
“I have not heard of this before.” Denethor’s eyes stormed.
“It is only recent. There seem to be rumors of ill will amongst the men. I know not where it comes from.”
“The Enemy,” Denethor stated quietly, but firmly.
Imrahil’s breath caught. “How?”
“Are not lies and rumors what caused Númenor’s fall?” Denethor’s brow furrowed. “Húrin, send for Boromir.”
“Yes, my Lord Steward.” The Warden walked to the door and summoned the guard who saluted and left.
“This is grievous news you bring, Imrahil. I should have been notified immediately. Who noted it?”
“Elphir. He was on patrol and ran into one of your patrols. The exchange was heated. Elphir returned to Dol Amroth with his report. This happened in the first month of this year.”
“Which of my companies was it?”
“I know not. I could not quite believe it true.”
“That is not the only instance?”
“Nay. One of Erchirion’s patrols encountered the same contempt.”
“We cannot survive if we fight amongst ourselves. This must be stopped. It seems to be the southern forces; I have heard naught from our northern army. Nor have any reports come of such incidents from Rohan. Yet, as you know, my communications with Rohan are non-existent. I will send Boromir to Éomer. Faramir will not go to the fiefdoms, though the need is great; he will go to the garrisons in the south, speak with their commanders, and quell this rebellion. For that is what I deem it: rebellion.”
“I have started to do the same, my Lord Steward,” Imrahil replied.
“Then I deem it unwise to keep our men apart at the new outpost. Dividing our men only furthers the lies. Elphir is a strong captain; he will be able to thwart this behavior and help the men accept and respect each other. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
“I will order it so.” Imrahil stood. “Have you eaten, brother?”
Denethor looked up in surprise. “Nay, I do not seem to have the stomach for it tonight.”
Imrahil walked to the sideboard, picked up a plate, and put a small portion of lighter cheeses and soft breads on it. He cut up some melons and added them to the plate. “Here,” he said firmly, “The wine only fills you; it does naught to hearten you. I deem tonight’s work will be long. You must eat something.”
“You sound like Indis.”
“Then I am in good company,” Imrahil said as he sat back down.
At that moment, Boromir entered the room.
“Have you eaten, my son?” As Boromir shook his head, Denethor offered the plate Imrahil had prepared. “Here; sit and eat. We have more to discuss.”
Imrahil laughed, stood, and took the plate from Boromir. “This is your father’s. I will fix you your own plate.” And he gave Denethor a stern look and handed the plate back to the Steward.
Boromir smiled and sat. “Not eating again, Father? You look like a scarecrow. I would wager you cannot even lift your sword.”
“I can not only lift it, I can teach a young whelp to respect his father.” But Denethor’s eyes twinkled such as Boromir had not seen in a long while.
“Father,” Boromir put his hand on Denethor’s leg, “In truth, you look tired. Are you well? Forgive me for not asking before.”
“I am well, just weary. I do not like visiting the Houses.”
“So you have been visiting Faramir! Thank you. I only made it to my rooms to change before I was ordered back here.” Boromir turned and accepted the plate Imrahil offered. “Thank you, Uncle. Naught has happened to Míriel’s entourage, I hope?”
“Are you being serious?” Imrahil teased.
“Uncle. I would never, for any reason, wish ill on anyone. You should know that.”
“He was teasing, Boromir. Let us get to the problem at hand. Boromir, have you heard of dissension among the ranks? Not inside the ranks, but between those, say from Lamedon, or Lossarnach or Belfalas?”
“Not among my men. But I did note a few altercations this past week in Osgiliath. I put it down to the horror of the recent attack and men’s nerves stretched too thin.”
Denethor quickly explained what Imrahil had told him. “Were the altercations based on something such as this?”
Boromir sat back and cursed roundly. “Son of Smaug’s offspring! That is exactly what it was about. The fools! They fall prey to whispers! I will go back and strangle them all!”
“Nay, Boromir. The problem is larger than one or two garrisons. I am not sending you back to Osgiliath. I will send a missive to Derufin to root out this evil and deal quickly and harshly with those who would spread it. But for you, I am sending you to Éomer. As one of Théoden’s Marshal’s, he will know if the perfidy spreads. He must know of Gondor’s need for Rohan’s loyalty. Remind him of the oath Théoden and I renewed when his uncle was crowned king.”
“Would it not be better to go directly to Meduseld and speak with Théoden himself?”
“If would, if terms were better between us. Go to Éomer with an order for horses. That way, we spare Éomer from any retribution for speaking without his uncle’s approval.”
“Has it come to that?”
“Then I will leave in the morning.” Boromir turned to Imrahil. “Uncle, what steps are you taking?”
“I had not realized the scope of the problem. I will send errand-riders to my captains. This rebellion, as your father names it, must be stopped.”
The four men sat in silence for some moments.
At last, Boromir spoke. “I believe I should stay and keep vigil by your bedside instead of Faramir’s, Father. You look terrible. Please take care of yourself while I am away. I am not ready to be Steward yet.”
Denethor grimaced. “I will, son.”
They told Boromir of the plans for the outpost at the Ethir, which he praised highly; and the plans for the evacuation of Minas Tirith. Boromir applauded Húrin’s efforts thus far. The night closed about them.
Finally, Boromir stood and stretched. “Thank you for the meal, Uncle,” he smiled. “I go to Faramir now and then to my bed.”
“Good night,” they called as he left the room.
Denethor stood and quickly, Imrahil and Húrin did the same. “Good night to you as well, Húrin, Imrahil. I must listen to my son and take me off to bed, else he chastise me on the morrow.”
Both men laughed; Imrahil hugged Denethor and left. Denethor put his hand on Húrin’s shoulder. “You have done well, Warden. Accept my thanks.”
Húrin blushed, nodded and left the room. Denethor walked slowly to his quarters in the Tower.
“Faramir?” Boromir peaked through the half-opened door. Silence. “Orc dung,” he swore quietly.
“Is that you, Boromir?”
Boromir smiled widely and entered the room. “I was afraid you were asleep. In fact, you should be asleep and the Warden of the Houses will have my head for keeping you up.”
“I waited. I heard your Horn and I waited. Though I admit I fell asleep until I heard your footsteps. You walk like a mûmak!”
“If that is so, I will remember that when I am wed and must needs quietly enter our bedchamber in the wee hours of the morning.”
Faramir smiled. “So you plan to carouse even after you are wed.”
“Nay. I meant coming in late from a patrol or some such.”
Both men burst into laughter.
“I am tired. You must be too.”
“I can hardly sleep here another night. And the meals are awful. I think the Warden puts medicaments even in the food! I need to be away from here.” Faramir’s eyes suddenly lit up. “You could help me to my rooms?”
Boromir smiled. “I could, if properly bribed.”
“What price, my Captain?”
“The wine Uncle Imrahil brought for you. His house wine. I saw four bottles in father’s study. I will take two. They are definitely for you – to help you in your recovery.”
“They could be for you – in honor of your bretrothal?”
“Ah! I had not thought of that.” Boromir’s shoulders slumped at the mention; he noted Faramir’s concern, but could do naught about it.
“You are right though; it is probably for me. Help me out of here, Boromir.”
Slyly, his brother smiled. “Guard,” Boromir called through the open door. The man stepped into the room. Boromir looked at the soldier in surprise. “You are called Ragnor, are you not?” The man blushed and nodded. “We fought a mûmak together in Emyn Arnen?” The man’s blush deepened as he nodded again. “Congratulations! I did not remember you had been promoted to the Steward’s personal guard.”
“Thank you, Captain-General. It was because of your commendation after the battle.”
Boromir waved his hand in embarrassment. “It was well deserved! Ragnor, Captain Faramir is being moved to my quarters. Find his clothing and bring it here.” The man saluted and left.
“Your quarters? Why?”
“Because my bed is better, because they will look for you in your rooms and drag you back here, and because I said so. Is that not enough?”
“Wise as an owl,” Faramir chortled. “Thank you!” he said with passion. “Now, help me get this nightshirt off. I still cannot move the wretched arm up too high.”
Boromir stopped and looked at Faramir. “Are you truly well enough to leave here?”
“I am. The fever has been gone since before nuncheon; my stomach only roils when I see what they bring for me to drink; and I will go mad if I spend another night here. Are those reasons enough?”
Pulling off the shirt, Boromir sighed. “There will be no reasons enough once father hears of this. We will be in as much trouble as when we poured the water from your bedchamber’s window upon our friends and hit Adadhron instead.”
“Ouch! You had to remind me of that?”
“Here,” Boromir took the clothing from the returned guard. “Let us get these on and leave here before someone hears the racket your making.” Quickly, Faramir was dressed. The guard followed them as they walked quietly through the Houses. The torches had been extinguished and only tapers lit the corridors. At last, they were outside.
Faramir stopped. “I am sorry, Boromir. I am weaker than I thought.”
“You have not moved from that bed in close to a fortnight. Of course you are tired. Let me help you.” He put an arm under Faramir’s right side and started to walk towards the tunnel.
“The way is longer than I remember,” Faramir whispered as they came out onto the Seventh Level.
“Halt!” The gate’s guard flushed when he saw Boromir. “Forgive me, sir. I did not realize it was you.”
“You stop everyone and anyone who passes through this gate. Even the Steward,” Boromir said firmly. “And you ask for the password. Do you understand?”
“What?” The man looked thoroughly flustered. “Oh! The password, sir. I must have the password.”
“Thank you, sir. You may pass.”
By this time, Boromir could feel that Faramir’s weight was increasing. The walk was too far. “Ragnor, give Faramir your hand also.”
The guard did as he was ordered and the walk was quicker as Faramir was almost carried to the Tower. Within moments, they were at Boromir’s quarters. “Stay outside the door and let none pass, Ragnor. And thank you for your help.”
The guard pushed the door open and Boromir led Faramir in. He sat him on one of the chairs in the antechamber and quickly walked to his bedchambers. He stoked the fire, turned down the bed, and went to get Faramir. After he had him settled, he offered him some wine. “This should take the edge off the pain, Faramir. I do not think I should have allowed you this freedom; not because of the Warden, but I deem you sicker and weaker than I had thought.” He shook his head in consternation.
“Never the mind. I had forgotten how comfortable your bed is. Thank you, Boromir.” And he slipped into sleep.
Boromir covered him, then walked to a chair, moved it next to the bed, and sat upon it, resting his feet on the bed near Faramir’s feet. He sighed as sadness engulfed him. First, father and now Faramir. Neither of them taking care of themselves. In a moment, he was asleep.
‘Pounding on the door. Always, there is pounding on the door. How am I to sleep with this every night!’
“My Lord Steward,” he heard Húrin’s voice crying as the Warden banged on his bedchamber’s door; he called for him to enter. “Well?”
“My Lord Steward. Faramir is missing. He is no longer in the Houses, his guard has disappeared, and we have searched his quarters. He is nowhere to be found. Before I rouse the entire Citadel, I thought it best to report to you.”
“It is. Go to Boromir’s rooms. I believe you will find him there. If not, return to me.”
‘And I will kill him in the morning,’ Denethor thought as he turned over in his bed.
The morning came and Denethor decided he would not kill Boromir this day. He looked upon his eldest with love. “When you decided to remove Faramir from his sick bed, it would have helped if you had notified someone, anyone. Did you not think they would miss him?”
Boromir smiled as he finished the last of the sausages. “You knew where he could be found.”
“That is not the same. You tell me I must rest, and when I do, they come pounding on my door because of some of your antics!”
“I am sorry, Father. I will instruct Húrin to stay away from your quarters during the night.”
“That will work quite well when we are attacked on our borders. By morning, all of Gondor could be lost.”
Boromir smiled evilly. “Then, I would not have to wed.”
Denethor’s mouth dropped. He took a long deep breath and Boromir held up his hands in mock surrender. “I am sorry, Father, truly I am. I am looking forward to meeting Míriel. And Faramir was asleep when I left. The fever left him yesterday. He is very weak.”
“Then he will not be expected at today’s ceremony. Boromir, I want you in your best uniform, with all your accoutrements. This is a very important day.”
“Very well, Father. I best be gone then. It will take some time to prepare myself. Five layers of clothing, you know!”
Denethor smiled. “I know, and six for me.”
Boromir laughed. “I will meet you in the Great Hall at the third bell?”
“Yes. Now go and tend to yourself and let me dress in peace.”
Boromir laughed and left the room.
Denethor sat in silence, his brow furrowed. He raised his head at the knock on the door. Calling ‘enter,’ he sat back in his chair and schooled his face to calm.
“Imrahil. You look splendid. A true prince of the realm. I am glad you are here. I would have you stand in for your cousin on this day.”
“I thought as much. I dressed accordingly and you are not dressed.”
“I still have an hour. My manservant will help me.”
“Might I have the honor?”
Denethor held himself still. His hands trembled slightly. “You would ask this?”
“I would. It is a great honor for me to have a close kin betrothed to my nephew. Father would have been glad. And honored.”
“The House of the Swans are and have always been true friends of Minas Tirith.”
“I know, brother. Can you not see Finduilas’ smile? She would be happy.”
Denethor took a deep breath. He had found not thinking of her kept the tears away. He bit his lip and took another breath. “She would have been. And Boromir, her heart would sing to see him grown as he has.”
“Both your sons are a credit to you and to her.”
“Yes.” Denethor shook his head to prevent the tears from forming. “I must begin to dress. Come with me into my dressing room.”
Denethor stood behind a screen and removed his nightshirt and his hauberk, hastily donning clean under garments. He stepped in front of the screen and held up a hand. “The silk shirt first and the leggings,” he laughed, as Imrahil held out his tunic.
“Of course. The shirt, then the leggings, then the underrobe, then the tunic, then the mantle.”
Denethor stopped the litany. “Now that I have the shirt and leggings on, I put on the undertunic, then the hauberk and the surcoat, then the mantle.”
“If you prefer.”
A half hour later, Denethor was clad in his Steward’s clothing, soft boots upon his feet. He strapped his belt on, then hitched his scabbard to it. Finally, Imrahil offered him his sword. He placed it in the scabbard and walked to his study. Fiddling in the drawer for a moment, he pulled out the Steward’s Ring. “Now, I am ready. Let us be off.”
They walked slowly down the stairs and into the Great Hall. It was already filled. The Chamberlain held up his hand and stopped them. He stepped forward and tapped his staff loudly on the marble floor. As the echoes faded, he spoke, “My lords and ladies. The Twenty-sixth Ruling Steward of Gondor, son of Ecthelion of the House of Húrin, Lord Denethor.”
The Hall grew quiet as Denethor walked forward. Imrahil lagged behind a step, but Denethor would not allow it, and waited until Imrahil came even with him. They began to walk together towards the Chair. The Chamberlain followed behind holding the Rod of the Steward’s office. Denethor sat and motioned for Imrahil to stand on his right. The Chamberlain bowed and offered the White Rod; Denethor accepted it.
As the invited people of Gondor moved forward, Denethor waited. Within moments, the crowd parted and murmurs of approval could be heard. Boromir, dressed in a surcoat of dark blue, embroidered with the White Tree, with gold stars hemming it, and a cloak of deepest blue leather trimmed in sable, black leggings and polished boots, his sword at his side and the Horn of Gondor slung carefully across his back, walked forward. As he approached the Chair, he smiled broadly at Imrahil, then bowed to his father.
Denethor stood. The Hall once again quieted.
“People of Gondor. I come before you today as your Steward, but more importantly, as father to Boromir.” He motioned and Imrahil stepped forward and stood next to Boromir. “My people, Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, brings suit to us in the name of his cousin, Míriel, daughter of Galador, of the House of Imrazôr. We have accepted such suit on behalf of our son, Boromir. Let it be known that on the tenth day of April, the betrothal ceremony will take place here in the Great Hall of the City of Minas Tirith of the great realm of Gondor.”
Murmurs of appreciation rose. Heads nodded and women sighed. Some gentle sobs were heard and dainty handkerchiefs were evident. Denethor sat.
Imrahil bowed to Denethor and offered the contract. The dowry would be presented at the betrothal itself. Denethor took it and handed it to his Chamberlain. Imrahil turned to Boromir and embraced him. The people cheered.
When the noise had quieted down, Denethor stood once again.
“Today also, we come to give honor to my son and your Captain-General.”
Boromir looked at him in astonishment and Denethor hid his smile. Not oft could he surprise his son. This day was turning out much better than he could have hoped. “I now confer upon Boromir, as High Warden of the White Tower, Captain-General of the Armies, Prince of the City that Elendil founded, Captain of the White Tower, and Lord of Gondor, the highest military decoration that I may bestow for extraordinary heroism in battle, not once but twice near the Nindalf. There, he and his men met the enemy who proved more numerous and fierce than our reports had told; there did he do much damage and thwarted the Enemy’s plan to conquer Gondor; there did he bring his warriors through in triumph. There was never a consideration that he would not personally lead his troops into battle. He did not sit upon his mount on a hillock o’erlooking battle and watch as his men encountered the Enemy. Nay! He led them, rode his horse before them, and gave them such courage to overcome superior forces. Come forward, Boromir, valiant Son of Gondor.”
Boromir swallowed and knelt at his father’s feet.
“Nay! Stand, Captain, and receive this collar of silver as token of our gratitude and the gratitude of your people.” Boromir turned; Denethor put the collar around his neck, lifted Boromir’s hair, and fastened it in the back. A single white stone, the purest white opal from the mines of South Harad, shone in its setting on the collar. “Your name and the names of the battles have been engraved on the back. Wear this in pride and with the profound thanks of all of Gondor.”
The crowd erupted into a roar of approval. Boromir blushed as Denethor embraced him. “I am most proud of you, my son,” he whispered.
Denethor turned him towards the people and the swell of acclamation rose. Denethor let them reward Boromir with their cries. After many moments, the Chamberlain motioned and the crowd slowly quieted.
“We have another honor to confer today. Would Damrod of Ithilien step forward?”
There was a commotion towards the front of the Hall near the doors and the crowd slowly parted. The Ranger strode forward; a look of total confusion covered his face. When he reached the step, he bowed low.
“Damrod of Ithilien, your captain, Faramir of Gondor, has recommended you for the Soldier’s Medal for distinguished service to Gondor and for acts of heroism in the face of terrible odds. During the ambush in Ithilien, you saw your captain felled by arrows, and, though the Enemy continued its attack, you put your own life in jeopardy to save his life. For meritorious service to Gondor and its people, I hereby award you the Soldier’s Medal.”
Damrod stepped up and Denethor pinned the ribbon’d badge embossed with the White Tree upon the Ranger’s tunic. Then, he embraced the man. As Damrod stepped down onto the main floor, Boromir strode forward and embraced the man also. “Thank you again,” he whispered. “Thank you!”
The Chamberlain struck the floor again and announced that refreshments would be served in Merethrond. Denethor and Imrahil walked through the open doors, followed closely by Boromir and Damrod. The crowd quickly dissipated; excitement filled the air. Boromir was forced to stand in a receiving line at the front of the hall. He had already eaten and did not much care that the food was quickly disappearing. His main thought had been regret that Faramir had not been present. He wondered if his brother was awake yet and if Ragnor had remembered to send for food so that Faramir could break his fast in comfort in Boromir’s bed. He looked over and smiled at Damrod who seemed as a fish out of water, receiving congratulations and hearty slaps on his shoulders.
“‘Twill be over quickly. The lords and ladies are in shock. I am surprised father was able to keep the betrothal a secret. By the looks on some of their faces, they had hopes for a different future for me.” He laughed quietly and Damrod, smarting from another well-wisher’s blow, laughed with him.
“I wish Captain Faramir had been here,” the Ranger moaned. “He it is that should have received an award. We all would have been dead, if not for him.”
Boromir frowned. “Awards are flighty. Sometimes given when least deserved, and sometimes, like in your instance, Damrod, when they are well-deserved.”
Damrod blushed. “Thank you, Captain-General.”
Soon, the congratulators slowly thinned. “Come,” Boromir took Damrod by the shoulder, “at least there are some sweet buns left.”
They walked to the tables and began filling their plates. Denethor and Imrahil joined them. “So, did I surprise you?” Denethor asked needlessly.
“You did. I am grateful, Father. I will wear it with pride. My only wish is that Faramir could have stood by my side.”
Denethor’s brow furrowed. “I did not want the people to remember the ignominy of that attack.”
“Ignominy or no, Father, Faramir should have… It is good that Damrod received the badge. Well deserved.”
“Indeed it was.” Denethor let Boromir’s statement lay. He knew what his son wanted to say, what the regiment wanted to say, and what Damrod in particular wanted to say, but the defeat was catastrophic whether or not Faramir saved more men than thought possible.
“Shall we visit him together?” Boromir asked. “And you too, Damrod. He would want to see your badge.” Damrod again blushed and Boromir found he liked the man more and more.
Imrahil came with them and thus it was that four lords and one Ranger of Gondor walked in just as Faramir was stepping from his bath. He found the towel laid out for him and quickly wrapped it around his torso. “I did not expect visitors.” His face, still quite ashen, betrayed his discomfiture by a most rosy blush.
“We brought food, Faramir.” Boromir didn’t even notice his brother’s state of attire. “Sweet buns and honey.”
“I brought sausages,” Damrod exclaimed.
“And I brought your uncle,” Denethor smiled.
Boromir pulled on the cord and a servant entered immediately. “Wine from the Steward’s cellars, please.”
Denethor grimaced. “Not the Dorwinion bottles!”
The servant nodded and left.
Faramir, with Boromir’s help, quickly dressed and ran his fingers through his hair. Boromir led him to a chair in the study. Denethor and Imrahil sat on the settle and Boromir sat on the floor in front of Faramir’s chair. Damrod sat on the window’s sill.
Silence followed as all finally took a moment for a bite to eat, washed down by a few fine bottles of good wine, though not the Dorwinion vintage.
At last, Boromir leaned back against his brother’s chair. “We have been quite busy today, Faramir.”
“How did the ceremony go? Uncle, did you serve as Míriel’s father?”
“I did. And it went quite well, though the sound of major sniffing and snuffling and handkerchiefs flowing from maidens who had hoped to gain the Steward’s heir’s hand… It was a sad sight, was it not, my Lord Denethor?”
Denethor smiled. “I have many apologies to make to certain lords. Some had already purchased gowns for their daughters.”
Faramir began to laugh and Boromir joined him. “Would that I was there,” he said with enthusiasm.
“I missed you, brother,” Boromir said with all seriousness. “Father decorated me with the collar of silver!” he said, his voice hushed in awe. “Would you see it?”
“Oh! Boromir! Well-deserved.” Boromir had unclasped the collar and handed it to Faramir, who looked at it as if at the finest mithril in all the land. “It is beautiful.” He swallowed, trying to stem the tears. “Well-deserved.”
Boromir stood, pulled Faramir up, and hugged him. “Thank you! I wanted so much for you to be there. To share my joy!”
“I share it now. It is better in private.”
“Damrod also has received an award,” Boromir stepped back and made Damrod stand. “Look! The Soldier’s Medal.”
“Father!” Faramir turned to Denethor. “Thank you. I had not heard if my petition was granted or not.” He turned towards Damrod. “Well-deserved, Damrod. I am forever grateful to you.”
Damrod blushed and quickly sat down.
Imrahil spoke for them all. “I cannot tell you how much your deed has meant to the House of Húrin and of the House of Imrazôr.”
Silence filled the room as these stalwart men considered the action of one that saved one so dear to them all.
At last, the time came for Boromir to leave. “Damrod, will you help Faramir to his own rooms? And Father, please take no action against Ragnor in the displacement of the Warden’s patient. He only followed orders.”
“You still need to be punished for what you put both my Warden of the Houses and my Warden of the Keys through. I doubt they will willingly care for any from our house again.” Denethor’s face broke into a smile. “So that means you must take extra care of yourself whilst in Rohan these next few days.”
Boromir grinned. “I will, Father.” He handled the collar. “And thank you again. I am too filled with joy to speak further.” He hugged Denethor, Imrahil and then Faramir. Before he left the room, he saluted Damrod. “Take care of him. Remember your oath.”
Damrod began to protest, but Boromir was out the door before a word left the Ranger’s mouth.
Faramir grimaced in mock horror. “Does this mean you are still my nursemaid?”
“I fear it is so,” Damrod replied.
“Now,” Denethor said, “it is time Imrahil and I met with Húrin. The Warden still has to draw up the papers for the betrothal.”
Imrahil took Faramir in his arms and hugged him. “It is good to see you up and about.”
The Horn blew and all stood, transfixed.
“There.” Imrahil signed the last piece of parchment and set the quill down. He sat back and breathed a sigh of contentment. “It is well and good. Everything done that needs must be done. Now, when the betrothal takes place, there will be no legal matters to cause delay.”
“Thank you, brother. Húrin,” Denethor turned to his Warden, “Take these papers and put them in a safe place. You will bring them out and hand them over to the Chamberlain the day of the betrothal.”
“Yes, my Lord Steward. Now, do you have a moment to go over these final plans for the feasting tonight?”
“I leave the feast in your hands, Húrin.” The Warden looked at him in surprise, but nodded his assent. “I have something of great import that I must needs be about.” He dismissed his cousin and turned to Imrahil. “I will see you on the morrow to discuss those boats.”
“Stay a moment, brother,” Imrahil moved to the settle and sat, motioning for Denethor to join him. He handed him a goblet of wine, but Denethor declined. “Boromir suggested you take some care of yourself. I would not be a good uncle if I did not watch over you whilst he is away.”
Denethor chuckled. He sat back and took the proffered cup. Closing his eyes, he felt his body sink slowly into the deep leather. It soothed him somehow. He gulped. “There really is no time for this,” he lamented.
“Nay. Stay but a moment. Gondor will not fall at this precise moment.” Imrahil relaxed himself. They had been so very busy these past weeks. The weeks to come would prove as stress-filled. Any moment snatched for respite had to be grabbed and held tightly. He heard a noise and looked towards Denethor. A tear ran down the Steward’s cheek. One lone tear.
“I am tired. Will you visit Faramir this noontime? I will be busy for most of the afternoon and would not see him alone so soon after his wounding.”
Imrahil nodded. He suddenly and deeply missed Finduilas. He remembered sitting in this very settle, with Denethor on his right and Finduilas sitting next to the Steward, holding his hand and smiling gently. His heart ached for his friend.
“You dwell on the past, Imrahil,” Denethor said quietly. It pained him to see Imrahil start at his words. Sometimes, his gift for seeing others’ thoughts was painful. He stood and left his study.
‘I am leaving a little too quickly, but I must see northward. I should have done this last evening, when I heard of the treachery. Húrin will be put out, but the people do not need me to carouse.’ He took the steps two at a time, despite the heavy hauberk. He had worn it so long now that its weight was hardly noticed.
When he reached the uppermost room, he paused and looked through the Tower’s window. The Pelennor sprawled before him, its spring green not quite as vibrant as it should be. Denethor remembered Boromir’s comment concerning the rain in Ithilien. He knew his son wondered if the One they do not name was responsible. As far as Denethor was concerned, anything was possible, the rains that flooded Ithilien and the drought that assailed the Pelennor. Both could be the work of the occupant of Barad-dûr. ‘Is there aught I can do about this? Nay. But I can fight his evil whispers; I can save my warriors.’
Stepping through the door, he walked slowly towards the plinth, gathering his thoughts and energies. He took the cloth from the stone and placed his hands on it, one on either side. Soon, swirls lit up the inner recesses of the Palantír and Denethor drew in a sharp breath. As it had done this past year, the smooth ball whispered to him, but he concentrated on where he wanted to look and not on the stone’s desires. The Entwash spread before him. He could see the fingers of the Mouths spread out from the east and flow towards the west and the Mering. Somewhere along that route was Éomer. He would find him for Boromir and send an errand-rider with specific directions.
What he found instead was a patrol being decimated by a large band of Orcs; the banner was that of Cair Andros. ‘The fools,’ Denethor thought, ‘Why are they in that area. Does not our treaty with Rohan state that is Rohirric territory? Had I not sent warnings to leave that area for the Rohirrim?’
This was the third such attack in less than a fortnight. Boromir had been correct; Denethor had kept these reports to himself. ‘That fool of a captain, Hador, is sacrificing his men for naught! They cannot hope to stop these raids without help.’ He turned away, no longer wishing to watch the slaughter. Besides which, there was naught he could do. Looking further north, he found no signs of Rohirrim. Turning his eyes westward, he traveled for many miles until he spied clouds of dust directly north of the Mering. ‘A large contingent of men, perhaps even an éored,’ he thought. At last, after many moments of increased focus, he saw the banner. ‘Éomer’s!’ The band was heading southward, obviously for the garrison at the Mering. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
‘It will take Boromir a week to reach there, a few days to discuss and resolve this issue and any other problems, and then another week to return. He has eighteen days before his betrothal; I fear my timing is wretched.’ He bowed his head in bitterness and that is when he felt it, a cold, dark fury reaching out to him, out from the Palantír.
He tried to pull himself away, but found his hands tightened to the stone. His vision was taken from fair, clean, bright Rohan and across the Anduin to the Ephel Dúath. His sight diminished as the walls of the Tower room seemed to enfold upon him. The air became stifling. He was pulled towards a valley that led eastward. Immediately, he knew where he was being drawn – Minas Ithil no longer, but Minas Morgul. He had not been close to that dark fortress since he was a boy. In fact, he had never actually seen the walls and tower. Tales told of a once beautiful place, wreathed in the hallow of the hills, moonlight streaming from it, moonlight, in fact, welling up through the marble walls. He shuddered. Marble such as Minas Tirith was built of. Was this really Minas Morgul he was seeing or was it the future and what Minas Tirith was destined to become?
A voice came, soft and gentle, filling his head and causing his knees to buckle. He gripped the globe tighter, refusing to be cowed. Cocking his head sideways, he listened, sure he would not succumb. Had he not met the Nameless One himself in this very orb and survived! The voice was not the same, so he relaxed a bit, enough to let down a small portion of his defenses, enough to let in the Witch-king. His eyes widened as he saw before him a being, black-robed and black masked.
“You know me well, Denethor,” the mocking voice sneered. “I am the Lord of Morgul, the Black Captain, and you will do well to hear me. All is lost. You wait for a king. I have one, Eärnur by name. Perhaps you remember him. He came to me and still lives by my power. So the king you wait for,” the sneer deepened, “has been here all along. Shall I return him to you?”
Denethor shivered. It was not true. Mayhap the voice was not even real. Mayhap it was his own fear that sounded in his heart. Quelling his fear, he listened on.
“I will bring him myself. Would you like that?”
A roiling laugh filled the Tower room, growing and building, echoing off the walls and cascading down upon Denethor, filling him with a terror the likes of which he had never felt before. His knees buckled again, but he bit his lip hard enough to draw blood and stood once again, firm. He was the Steward of Gondor, a son of Númenor, an heir of the Faithful, of the House of Húrin. He would not succumb. He swallowed, his throat so tight it hurt. The taste of blood in his mouth wakened him, strengthened him; he pulled back a little way from the globe and sighed. “Be gone, spawn of Morgoth. I will not listen to your lies.”
The orb glowed and mists flowed through it. Denethor stared at the mists, as they seemed to cover his very hands. He did not loose his grip. ‘Faramir! Boromir!’ He saw again Faramir on the cot, deadly white and still. He saw Boromir, lying in a strange craft, his arms folded, much as he had been that dreadful day Finduilas and he thought they had lost him in the little creek by the walls of Minas Tirith. But now, Boromir was full-grown and his face was still. Denethor groaned and fell; the Palantír dropped with a resounding thud that reverberated in his ears; it rolled from his hands to hit with a loud thump against the wall where it finally stopped. Quiet filled the chamber.
Denethor’s chin shook as tears welled and spilled. He sobbed; his throat so tight he thought he would die. ‘Boromir, my beloved, what have I done?’ His son could not be dead, his child, his own! Gasping for breath, he leaned against the cold marble wall and willed himself to be strong. His hands grasped the mail shirt and the feel of the cold hauberk steadied him. ‘It is the future,’ he told himself grimly. ‘Just as the sight of Faramir dead on the cot was the future, so is this. He is not dead. And he will not die, nor will Faramir. I will… What?’ What could he do? The warriors of Gondor died on a daily basis, sometimes a hundredfold in one-day’s time. That Boromir and Faramir, and even himself, would die defending Gondor he had known since they were born. Yet, always, hope had covered his heart. He strove to discover how he could save them, but he knew he could not. He could not save Finduilas, nor Indis. Great sobs racked his body until he fell asleep on the cold, hard, marble floor with the Palantir across from him, swirling in malevolence. A hard laugh echoed off the walls and was gone.
Boromir sat in Guilin’s chair and waited for the captain to return. He had been angered by the order, Boromir felt the heat of the captain’s anger, and he had tried to assuage the captain’s fears. He would only take two companies with him, the garrison could afford two companies, and it was for only a short time, a little over a fortnight. If he understood the reports that Guilin had shown him, though, the captain had every right to be angry. The garrison could ill afford the loss of two companies with the level and strength of attacks that had assailed the fort at Amon Dîn. Silently, Boromir cursed his father for not being more forthright in communicating the scope of attacks to the northern border of Gondor.
It was imperative that he find Éomer, and quickly. First, because of the rumors of discord and division, mayhap even treason, but mostly, because of the need for strengthened guards along Rohan’s northern borders. If Gondor was being attacked, so must Rohan. He would wait the night here, gather the best warriors from the garrison, wait for the promised missive from Denethor, and then ride to Rohan.
Guilin stepped through the door, his boots heavy on the floor as if the captain filled his steps with the anger that flooded him. “I found the books you asked for. These are my finest riders.” He pointed to a column of names. “They will be ready at first light. I assume you will leave at first light?” A hint of mockery was in the strong voice.
Boromir leaned forward and took the book in his hands. “Sit, Captain. I would speak with you a moment. Have you wine or ale?”
Guilin walked to the sideboard and poured two mugs of ale, then sat in a chair in front of his desk. He handed the ale to Boromir. “Two companies, you say?”
“Enough of that for the moment. How was your trip back from Osgiliath? Did you sight any of the enemy?”
“We did not,” Guilin sighed. “All was quiet. I had hoped it meant a quiet spring, but I fear now we will be under attack until the next snows.” The captain bit his lip.
“I believe the same. That is why I must take your men, for this short span of time, and give the alarm to Rohan. If they take care of their northern borders, the burden will be lessened for you. Do you not see that?”
“Of course I see it,” Guilin’s tone was dangerously close to insubordination. “Still, if we are attacked, with one hundred forty men missing from our ranks, and with the losses we incurred at the Nindalf, I see not how we will survive.”
“You will. They have not dared to attack this garrison. You are too close to Minas Tirith.”
“That does not stop them from there constant raids upon Eastern Osgiliath,” the captain interrupted.
Boromir snorted. “Osgiliath is vulnerable. Amon Dîn, I tell you, is not. Not yet. However, if we do not receive help from the Rohirrim, that day that you fear may come. I cannot do this without your men, Guilin.”
Guilin rubbed his hands over his forehead. “I understand, Captain-General. It will be as you wish. I will hold the garrison for your return. Now, I will muster those on the list so that you might meet them.”
Boromir nodded. The captain left the small room and Boromir took a great, gulping breath as he leaned back. His eyes widened and he jumped from his chair. Running to the door, he opened it and called loudly, “Captain Guilin!” The man was halfway across the compound; he turned and looked. Boromir motioned and the man came towards him. Boromir returned to the chair and waited. When Guilin entered, he motioned for him to sit. The captain did so, puzzlement plainly writ across his face.
“Have you had recent dealings with the Rohirrim?”
“Yes. They come across the border now and then to trade for supplies. The garrison at the Mering Stream is quite some ways from the furthest eastern reaches of their border. A troop came through here a week ago.”
“How did you find them?”
“My Lord, I do not understand.”
“Were they friendly? Were they open? Were they distant? Were they brash?”
“Brash, Captain-General. I wanted to take their captain and spit in his face.”
Boromir sat back in surprise at the vehemence in the man’s voice. “How did you treat them?”
“With diffidence. Giving them the respect of one ally to another.” Guilin looked at him, questions spilling from his eyes. “Was I to do other than that?”
“Nay. And I am glad, profoundly glad, that you kept your temper. Have you reason for their demeanor?”
“I do not. For the last year… Nay, since the beginning of this year, their bearing has been changed. Has some event caused this?”
“Yes,” Boromir whispered, but kept his thoughts to himself. “You did well, Captain Guilin. Now, please bring the men to me. Mayhap Éomer and I can change this behavior on the part of the Rohirrim. Do not, and this is an order from the Steward himself, do not treat them other than as trusted allies.”
“Yes, Captain-General.” Guilin looked at him quizzically and left the room.
Boromir swore. “By every Vala known, the Enemy tears us asunder. And we go willingly, as lambs to the slaughter!” He downed the warm ale and closed his eyes, preparing for the next part of his journey.
A/N: There is one line of description in FOTR where Tolkien mentions a collar of silver that Boromir wore. It has always intrigued me. It couldn't have been something that Finduilas wore... too large... so I finally decided, since he wore the thing for 110 days on a very difficult journey, that it had special significance. I hope you like the idea of it being an award for valour. Seems only fitting. "He was cloaked and booted as if for a journey on horseback; and indeed though his garments were rich, and his cloak was lined with fur, they were stained with long travel. He had a collar of silver in which a single white stone was set; his locks were shorn about his shoulders. On a baldric he wore a great horn tipped with silver that now was laid upon his knees. He gazed at Frodo and Bilbo with sudden wonder." Book 2, Ch 2, The Council of Elrond, FotR, LotR.
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