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Sundry Scrolls IV  by Raksha The Demon

IV.† In the King's Shadow (Ecthelion)

The Merethrond blazed with the joy of victory and the new hope that it brought to a weary people.† Ecthelion had watched Denethor and Finduilas lead the dancers. †He held his sleepy grandson on his lap, the childís warm weight a comfort.† For the hope that lit the faces of his captains and lords had left him.† Hope had faded, fled from Pelargir and last seen heading into darkness.

I know where you went, Thorongil, but I know not why, the Steward pondered.†† Why, with Gondorís victory assured and the gratitude of the entire realm, did you flee?†† You could have had it all; should have had it all indeed, the well-earned praise for your brave deeds in Umbar, and more.† The kingship of your fathers was there, within your grasp; yet you turned your back on it. You turned your back on us.††

He had wondered at the young captainís lineage the first time he had met the warrior newly come from Rohan with Thengelís recommendation.† The man was no mere sell-sword; his perfect Sindarin and noble manner marked him as uncommon.† Ecthelion had needed no far-sight to see the manís†Nķmenorean†heritage in his height and stern, hawkish features so like those of Ecthelionís own son.† And then the stillness on the strangerís face had broken; a look of pride had flashed like a bright war-beacon in those keen grey eyes when they first beheld the throne of the Kings rising behind the Stewardís chair.†

Ecthelion had quietly searched out the ancient archives.† Thorongil came from the North, but would not say where.† When Ecthelion found a fragment of an old text that mentioned the hidden valley where, Ďtwas said, the legendary Elven lore-master Elrond fostered the heirs of Isildur long after the North-kingdoms had fallen, he had added Mithrandirís clear interest in the stranger, and came up with the line of Arvedui and FŪriel, daughter of Ondoher.†

An interesting notion, the wizard had called Ecthelionís assertion.† But Mithrandir had never denied it.†††

Ecthelion had assured his old friend that he would keep his beliefs to himself until Thorongil chose to reveal his true station.† And Mithrandir had smiled and quaffed more wine.†

Ecthelion had hoped, as trust and respect grew between him and the Eagle of the Star, that Thorongil would confide in him.† But although Ecthelion came to love the Northerner, Thorongil kept his secrets to himself.† †

I would have given you my allegiance, son of my heart; he thought, the admission both lighting and searing his soul.† I would have set you above all, even the son of my blood.† Would that I could see the realms of Isildur and AnŠrion united once more!

Denethor gave him a concerned glance as the music quickened.† Ecthelion smiled over his sorrow.† There was no reason to spoil the merriment; even if, as he suspected, Denethor was as pleased by Thorongilís departure as Ecthelion was saddened.†

He wondered what his son would do when their king returned.† Pressing a kiss on his grandsonís brow, Ecthelion prayed that Boromir would live to see that day.

Author's Notes:

Thanks are due to Linda Hoyland, for editorial assistance and encouragement.

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