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Sundry Scrolls II  by Raksha The Demon

I.  Rider of the Last Hope (Faramir)

Wearied and chilled, as much by my father’s words as by the horrors that beset us all, I stalked out of his council to the meager comfort of my own chambers.  He had just condemned me and much of our remaining soldiery to a death with little purpose other than punishment.  Punishment for my having succored and released the Ring-bearer rather than having seized the Ring for Gondor.  Punishment for having looked to Mithrandir as well as to him.  Punishment for having lived while Boromir had died. 

My fists clenched.  Death lay ahead; but it would not raven upon me as a wolf seizes a soft lamb.  I would meet it, and the Enemy’s forces that brought it, not as the lesser son of Denethor, but as the son of six and twenty ruling Stewards of Gondor.   I would lead my brave men with pride; and we would keep the wolf from the doors of our City as long as we could, with our spears and bows and swords.  And when at last the wolf felled and tore me, let it choke upon my angry heart!

I willed my flesh to harden as the stones of the City and the tall statues of the Kings.  I willed my blood to run hot through my cold veins as if afire.  I summoned bright raiment and the finest mail to cover it, and ordered the preparation of my best warhorses.  I may not been named either Captain-General or High Warden; for those were Boromir’s titles.   But since I must now ride out in my brother’s stead, I would don attire befitting his heir.

As I awaited the coming of servants and armorers, I swept my eyes across the familiar aspect of my chamber.  The drear of the Enemy’s darkness cast a sickly pall upon the room.  Then I saw my old lute, forlorn in its corner.  I found myself picking up the lute and sitting down with the instrument cradled in my arms.  My servants had faithfully kept the lute free of dust and I had arranged for the instrument to be regularly tuned in my absence; but it was still mute, begging for my hands to loosen its stilled voice. 

I owned other instruments; a flute; a fair harp with which my uncle had gifted me some five years past; but this lute was my favorite.  My mother had played it since her girlhood.  I can clearly remember her gentle but skilled hands upon the instrument, coaxing out playful, enchanting tunes.  It is said that my mother entertained the great Captain Thorongil with this lute, playing for him and my father and grandsire in the gardens.  And there were a few golden summer afternoons when my mother guided my own hands on the lute’s strings.  Sometimes I can almost remember the sound of her voice.

I do remember the last time I played the lute:  ‘Twas the night before Boromir left us.  I supped with him and Father; and later, we all walked through the gardens. My brother urged me to send for my lute.  He wanted a song of errantry; I gave him some verses of the song of Rochon Methestel, Rider of the Last Hope.  The song celebrated the deeds of Borondir, who alone of Cirion’s six messengers rode through to carry word of Gondor’s peril to Eorl, word that resulted in the saving of our realm and our great alliance with the masters of horses. 

It was also the last time I saw my father smile.

I ran my hands over the lute’s soundboard and bridge.  I played the first chords of Borondir’s song; bold chords of challenge.  Neither he nor Boromir nor Hirgon, who my father had sent to bring aid from the Rohirrim once more, had returned to Minas Tirith.

The morning’s third bell rang out clearly, rousing me from thoughts of the past.  I set the lute down on my desk.  Hastily, for time was running out; I seized a scrap of parchment and a quill, and scribbled instructions that should I fall, the instrument should be sent to Dol Amroth.  There, perhaps, what remained of my mother’s kin might guard our treasured lute from the Darkness.

Soon, I would soon stand between my kinsman Imrahil and the vanguard of Shadow even as he helped hold the City.  I could hear the clanking sounds that heralded the arms and armor I would bear.

The time for songs was over.  The time to follow Borondir, Boromir, and Hirgon was nigh.  I rose and straightened.   My father said that gentleness may be repaid with death.  Yet his son’s hands, hands that so gladly bring forth music, are also the hands of a warrior, and will bring death down upon our foes before the final price is paid. 

Author's Note:  Tolkien mentioned Borondir's deeds and the song they inspired in Unfinished Tales, specifically Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan, note #27.


II.  Wind of Change

Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?
Song of Solomon 6:9-11

Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said: "Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall."

Appendix A, The Return of the King

The storm clatters on the rooftops of Aldburg.  In the great house on the hill, the King and the Marshal wait together.  They tremble at the scream, quickly stifled, of a beloved voice.  The woman laboring in childbed is a daughter of the House of Eorl, and will not easily yield to pain.

The wind besieges Minas Morgul.  Inside the dark fortress, secure upon his high seat, the Witch-King of Angmar awaits his master’s call.  But it is the wind, not the cold fire of Sauron’s thought, that intrudes into his shadowed peace.  The Lord of the Nazgûl does not shiver at a wind, but he does deem it odd.  The wind‘s sound carries a strange gladness, almost a laugh as it beats scornfully upon the tower. 

The rainstorm subsides as Glorfindel nears the Bruinen.  The Elf and his white stallion both shake out their manes, scattering droplets into the keening wind.  The trees shiver, making their shadows dance on the leaf-strewn path.  The wind then softens, and plays about the Elf-lord’s head.  Suddenly, Glorfindel stiffens, his mind flooded by old memories and the urgency of forethought.  He remembers the Witch-King; their battle on the plains of lost Arthedain.  Like a horn-call, the knowledge of Angmar’s impending fall rings in Glorfindel’s mind.  What had once been a prophecy was now, this very day, certainty.  By his hand or another’s, the demon would perish!  The Balrog-slayer rides homeward, joy in his heart and a song on his lips.

Thunder breaks over Aldburg, and the babe screams out its birth-cry in answer.  The Marshal barely breathes until the women come forth and tell him that his lady and child are well. 

“The little one is already a fighter,” Théodwyn says with a weak smile, as Éomund takes up the squalling bundle.  “She would not stop or give quarter until she was free of me.”

Éomund opens the blankets and grins.  He touches the child with hands that have birthed foals and slain orcs, and is pleased by the strength of her small limbs.  What power this tiny creature has, to have caused such commotion!  She is golden-haired and clear-eyed, as had been the newborn Éomer, but fairer!  “Wondrous,” is all Éomund can say, but his heart burns with pride.

“Welcome, sister-daughter,” says the King of the Mark.  He stoops to kiss the infant’s soft, fresh cheek.  “You shall be the joy of our Houses.”

“Let us name her Éowyn, for joy,” whispers Théodwyn.

Éomund is ensorcelled by his beautiful daughter.  He tries to think of her as a bride, a great lady, but can only see the snapping of banners in the wind and hear only the clatter of swords.  “A worthy name, Théodwyn,” he answers tenderly, looking at the baby.  “Our little shieldmaiden shall be Éowyn.  May she know the joy of victory!”

The child quiets, then fearlessly gazes up at him and shakes a fist.  Her perfect little fingers uncurl, as if reaching to grip the hilt of a sword.

Author’s Note:  The name Éowyn is of Old English derivation, probably from éo 'horse' and wyn 'joy'.  Also, I am not the first to use the quote from the Psalm to open a story about Éowyn; but I cannot remember who did it first.  If you know, feel free to remind me.

Thanx to Branwyn and LindaHoyland for very helpful beta/editorial assistance. 

III.  Before the Black Gate (Pippin)

Pippin opened his eyes only to shut them tight again and wish he could go back to sleep.  If he was to die today, and indeed it seemed like he would, why did it have to be in so miserable a place as this?  The sun rose over gloomy skies and the tall, cruel towers of the Black Gate.  Mordor!  They had come to the Dark Lord’s dark land, and in not too long a time, they would go up against that Gate and the thousands of orcs and other fiends that lay behind it.  Pippin could see no grass, no trees, not a hint of life in what should be spring.  Air and earth were grey, and the reek of Mordor rose from the ground to the rocks and crags.

Pippin’s stomach rumbled.  He remembered that he had not eaten a good meal in five days.  What he wouldn’t give now for even the scraps that his mother saved for the cats and dogs at home! 

The memory of plates heaped with sausages, scones drowning in butter and jam, poached eggs, and fried potatoes swelled Pippin’s heart as he slowly sat up, leaning on his hands.    His thinner belly rumbled again.  Far to the north of this stinking place, hobbits would soon be rising, feeding their animals and making breakfast.  But here, there was little food left; and most of it was reserved for the horses.  The army had traveled light and fast, carrying only what was needed for survival.

A Man’s booted feet appeared.  Pippin looked up into the face of his friend Beregond. 

“I thought you might like something to eat,” the tall Guardsman declared, hunkering down beside Pippin.  From a worn satchel, he pulled out four strips of dried beef, a loaf of bread, and two battered apples.  “And the Lord Elfstone sent this for you,” Beregond added, pulling out a small flask embossed with the star that Pippin remembered was the emblem of Strider's Rangers.  “He said it was an Elvish cordial.”

“Miruvor!”  Pippin exclaimed, hastily grasping the flask that Beregond proffered.  He opened it and took a deep, lovely draught.  He gave the uncapped flask back to the Guardsman, and watched the Man smile at the fresh, heartening tang of the cordial of Imladris.

Silently, they shared out the victuals, carving up the stale bread and jerky with their daggers, and then eating the apples, which were still quite tasty and juicy.  Pippin’s belly was far from full when the food was gone, but he did feel much better.  He thought wistfully of his pipe; but he had used up the last of his leaf in the chill depths of the last few nights. 

“No thank you,” he said, when Beregond passed him back the flask for a final drink.  “You keep it for later.  A tall fellow like you needs more of it than a hobbit, I would think, especially today.” 

“Well spoken, friend Peregrin;” Beregond answered, and returned the flask to his satchel.  “I will save the last draught for us to share later.”

Pippin decided against saying that they would probably not live to see anything “later”.  He smiled agreement as he reached for his surcoat.  “That was a good breakfast, Beregond; like the meal we shared on the battlements.”  It seemed a long time past, that day when he had donned the livery of the Tower Guard for the first time.  Only sixteen days, and now I go to die in it, he thought with a peculiar sort of calmness. 

“That it was,” Beregond agreed, his eyes suddenly far away.  He finished cleaning his dagger and sheathed it, then rose stiffly to tower above Pippin.  “Come then, the day breaks and duty calls.”

Pippin pulled the surcoat over the hauberk of ringed mail, and set the winged helm of Gondor upon his head.  His small sword was secure in its sheath, awaiting the coming battle.  He hopped up briskly, ready as he would ever be for what was to come. 

IV.  The Fire of Hope (Aragorn)

The young Ranger sits stiffly against a tall oak atop a hillock, watching the crossroads of the Greenway, as the Bree-men called it, and the East Road, below him.  Not far beyond, the little town of Bree sits unwary beneath the Bree-hill’s great brow, flanked by Combe, Chetwood, and Archet.  The Ranger stretches his long legs to avoid cramp, thinking briefly of the generations before him who have secretly guarded these border towns.  What did the Bree-landers know, safe in their snug and cozy houses, of the heartless evil lurking only a day’s march away?  Nothing; so they felt free to mock at any Ranger who came in occasionally from the cold to warm hands and travel-weary feet at the Prancing Pony. 

The Ranger shivers, then draws his green wool cloak close about him to ward off at least some of the twilight chill.  He can see the Prancing Pony from his cold berth, and imagines the stolid innkeep, Bartho Butterbur, stoking the fire in the inn’s huge hearth.  He can glimpse the shape of other dwellings in the village; and imagines the men and hobbits sitting down to tables, the goodwives bustling to finish their preparation of dinner, children playing, the cheerful chatter of happy families.

Someday, he tells himself.  Someday, I will have a seat grander than the Chieftain’s Chair, and more than a broken sword to offer her.  Someday, my people will come out of the hidden places and walk in the sun, and the North and South will be one again.  I shall rebuild Annúminas for her, or make a new home, where there will be fire in the hearth, and merriment, and song, and she will come to me and be my bride.  

The Ranger sighs softly, remembering the fairest lady he had ever, and would ever, know:   the musical voice, the heart-piercing glory of her eyes, the graceful figure that kindled desire, and the lovely face with those red, ripe lips.  She had looked upon him as if he were a clever child when he spoke his admiration.  Ah, but he was patient.  He would take no other woman to wife or to bed.  He would travel far, do great deeds, slay thousands of orcs and somehow find a way to cast down the Enemy’s dark tower in distant Mordor itself, if that was what it took to win Arwen Undómiel.

She will be mine, he vows, keeping his eyes upon the empty road and the flickering lights of the town.  We will have six, nay, seven, children!  We shall name our firstborn son Eldarion, for her people and he who stands as father to us both.

The heavy dampness of the March evening seems a little less close now, as he fondly imagines taking the Evenstar in his arms, and holding a small black-haired, grey-eyed boy on his lap, all safe and well by a crackling fire.  As the Star of Hope gleams in the darkening sky, the Ranger cannot help but smile.

V.  Moonset over Gondor (Faramir)

He stood still on the wide, flat slab of rock.  High above him, fair Ithil descended the night sky, the moon’s pale light shining upon the distant Ered Nimrais.  Below him, the Ithilien rangers slumbered peacefully in chambers of deep stone.   How many dark hours had he spent here, watching the moon, the waterfall, and the land he had guarded?

The sound of shuffling feet reminded Faramir that he was not alone.  His companion, unused to the high stone, had shifted weight. 

“You are far away,” a clear voice spoke. 

“Six years have passed since I stood here with Frodo and Samwise,” Faramir answered.  “And so much has changed.  Neither Frodo nor I thought that we could survive the perils that beset us.  I lived to become Ithilien’s lord.  And Samwise, bless his stout heart, has prospered.  Alas that Frodo did not!”

“The Ring-bearer would not begrudge us our good fortune,” his lady said, coming to stand at his side. 

“True.   Still, I would that he could have seen Ithilien bloom after the victory he gave us at so great a cost.”  Faramir lifted his eyes up to the heavens and the white orb for which this land was named.  “Think you that Frodo can still espy the moon from Elvenhome?” 

“Yes, I believe he does,” Eowyn replied unhesitatingly, leaning against him.  “And when Frodo looks at the moon, he will surely remember Henneth-Annûn, and think of your kindness to him and Samwise.” 

Faramir turned his gaze from the distant moon to the nearer, and dearer, face of his White Lady.  He kissed her brow; then he took Eowyn’s arm.  “Come, my heart; let us return to our beds. One day, we shall bring our children here; and tell them of the hobbits’ part in the story of this refuge.”

Author's Note:  This story was written in honor of the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Henneth-Annûn email list (; and was originally posted there a few weeks ago.  Thanks is owed to Branwyn for another fine beta job.

VI.  The Prisoner of Time (AU, Denethor)

In the house that the heirs of Steward Mardil have held for hundreds of years in the first circle of Minas Tirith, the twenty-sixth and last Ruling Steward sits behind marble walls, watching the sands of the hourglass trickle down the moments. 

He refuses to go to the window, or even to have it opened.  Outside, the cries are loud enough to hear all too well.  The usurper rides through the streets of the White City.  The City that had entombed his lady, the City his son had died for, now throws open her broken gates to Isildur's upstart heir like a giddy strumpet opening perfumed knees.   Faithless, thinks Denethor, all are faithless.  Not for the first time, he wonders if he should have shut his heart against the wizard's words in the Hallows, and lit his own pyre.   

"You are needed," Mithrandir had said.  And, for Faramir and their City and Gondor itself, Denethor had shaken off despair and reclaimed his duty.   He had led the defenses on the south wall, fighting in the front until the Morgul-spawn retreated, caught between the hammer of the captains of the West who scoured the Pelennor and the anvil of Minas Tirith itself.  He had seen the return of Captain Thorongil in a captured Corsair fleet, the palantír's last terrible vision proven both true and utterly false.   

Denethor had bade that Captain, now calling himself Chieftain of the Northern Dúnedain, stay outside the City walls, and returned to the Houses of Healing.  Mithrandir had begged him to let the so-called Heir of Isildur come and heal Faramir; but Denethor would not suffer the outlander to lay hands on Faramir on the strength of an old woman's doggerel.  Hands of a King indeed! 

Denethor had only allowed the removal of the sick halfling, Meriadoc, and the dead Theoden's stricken niece, to the tents of the Pelennor, because young Éomer had asked to take them, and they were under his command.  Then, exhausted, Denethor had sat by Faramir's bedside as the hours wore into the morning, and the healers and nurses and herbalists strove vainly to save his only remaining son. 

Faramir had died as the sun had risen, never waking to forgive or even speak to his father. 

In the dark days that followed, Denethor had returned to the only thing he had left, the Stewardship of his land.  He could offer no comfort to the white-faced Éowyn of Rohan, who had been brought back to the Houses of Healing for further care.  She had fled eastward, never to return, following the armies who had hurled themselves into the Enemy's maw.  Still, Denethor had labored with all his strength to fortify and rebuild and succor the White City.  Finally, word had come of the Enemy's downfall, and with it, the claim of the northern upstart to the Kingship of Gondor. 

Denethor had sworn to hold the City, and Gondor, against the usurper.  But his Council, that band of recreants, had refused him!  Some, like his kinsman Húrin, had been seduced away by fancies or Elvish glamours; some had feared the thousands of Rohirrim commanded by the young king who called Thorongil "brother".  And some, like his own brother by marriage, had doubted Denethor's own soundness of mind. The Council had turned away from Denethor.  They had taken away the Steward's Chair, saying that the new King would decide whether to name a new Steward to sit on it.  Denethor had gone once more to Rath Dínen, broken the white rod of his office, and laid its remnants upon Faramir's tomb. 

They had not taken Denethor's ancestral lands, his family accounts, or the heirlooms of Ecthelion and Turgon and so many others.  No one had come to demand that Denethor swear fealty to the man who had stolen Gondor from him as well as his father's love.  They had just left him alone, behind the sable curtains, surrounded by the servants who had once dutifully borne Faramir to the pyre, in the cool dignity of the ancient house. 

Outside the windows, the people sing a song that Denethor does not recognize.  He hears the trill and clang of bells, the clop of horses' hooves.  If he were to open the windows, he would see the man who took his place swaggering through streets where once Denethor's own sons had so proudly walked.  He wonders idly if they are throwing flowers down upon Thorongil's unkempt, and now crowned, head. No, he will keep the windows closed.   Perhaps he will call for tea, or wine.  Denethor really does not care much about eating and drinking anymore; but he will keep up his strength, if only to spite those who might prefer him gone.  

 The sands run their course.  Slowly, Denethor turns over the hourglass.

  Originally posted on 5/10/08 at the HASA Birthday Cards Forum, to mark the birthdays of Dwimordene and Nath

Author's Note:

VII.  Reflections in the Smoke (Gandalf)

The One Ring was destroyed. He had watched the one he had been sent to Middle-earth to cast down rise a last time in the moment of defeat, and had spared Sauron, who he had once called by other names, and even brother, a last moment of sorrow mingled with contempt. Two weary hobbits had seemingly ended Sauron's existence with the flick of a wrist, the spinning of a small circlet of unholy metal into the fire from which it came.

Sauron, Annatar, Artano, Aulendil, all the names his brother had hoarded in his long life, had amounted to so much dust, reflected the wizard who had gathered not a few names himself. Sauron the Fool! Even a cat does not leave the pantry when the mice are at large. At the end of so many Ages, Sauron had grown only in arrogance, leaving Orodruin unguarded, to his ruin.

Now, long hours after their Enemy's fall and the saving of Frodo and Sam, Sauron's onetime brother sat by the fire, blowing rings of smoke out of his pipe. Around him, the victorious armies of the West drank, told tales, stood on watch, and dozed. He had delivered the Ring-bearers into Aragorn's healing hands, and watched as Pippin, too, was tended by the returned King. There was no more that he could do for them.

For the first time in two thousand mortal years, the wizard sat purposeless, his old shoulders lightened of their heavy burden. It felt strange to have no course left but the path to the West. Narya lay quietly on his finger; its fires cooled. His own power slept, like Ulmo's waves at low tide.

Come home, Olórin; the wind seemed to sigh. He would revel, make farewells, and obey; for Gandalf was needed here no more.

VII.  Seeds Under Stone (Faramir)

It was small and new, pink and perfect.  Faramir touched it with a careful finger.   The blossom, less than half the size of his palm, poked sturdy pink petals toward the walls of glowering rock that rose above them.  Clumps of pale yellow grass spurted around the worn stones of the path that had once led two hobbits and their treacherous guide into a monster’s den.

Faramir looked down at the rubble of Minas Morgul.  Twenty-one years had passed since Frodo and Samwise had hurried through the terrible place, and watched the Black Riders lead the fell host out from the cursed city.  Twenty years he had labored, with the aid of men and Elves and Dwarves.  They had pulled down the Moon Tower, harried the fell creatures who had lingered in the tunnels and cells; cleansed the sickened stream and winnowed the corpse-flowers beside it.  And scores of years of labor still lay ahead.

Now, this sprig had arisen, likely the first true flower to bloom in the Morgul Vale in 1038 years.  It was Stonecrop, Faramir realized; not yellow as at the Crossroads, but pink as the dawn skies.   How did the flower come here, he wondered.  Had stonecrop seeds been borne on the cloak of one of his own men, or upon one of the two hobbits who had passed through the Crossroads on their fateful journey? 

He laughed ruefully.  Aragorn had found a far greater treasure on a mountainside, the new White Tree standing untouched in a hidden grove free of the Enemy’s sorcery.  Faramir had found only one little flower, easy prey to mischance. 

Small it was, yet still a brave harbinger of change.   One day, this and other flowers would reclaim the darkened valley, Faramir swore, looking over the land with a gladdened heart. 

Author's Notes:   This ficlet was originally written for my informal "Faramir Creation Day Challenge" on the H-A email list, marking Tolkien's recognition, in a letter written 5/6/44, of Faramir's emergence into the story of The Two Towers

I don't know much about flowers, or plants, or how long  they would take to grow in Minas Morgul; but stonecrop crowned the stone king's head in Ithilien in The Two Towers.   Check out this page at  wikipedia for
types of Stonecrop:

This piece was partially inspired by Nesta's wonderful story, "of shapes and changes in hue", that can be found here:

IX.  Cold Fire (Faramir, AU)

And here in the wild I have you: two halflings, and a host of men at my call, and the Ring of Rings. A pretty stroke of fortune! A chance for Faramir, Captain of Gondor, to show his quality! Ha!' He stood up, very tall and stern, his grey eyes glinting. 

The Window on the West, The Two Towers

For once, perhaps the only time in his adult life, Faramir took a perilous chance without pondering all its consequences.   To have so potent a weapon within his grasp, a weapon that could stave off the Enemy’s advance for years or even forever, was surely a gift of fate!  Now, fate had appointed Faramir to bear that Ring to Minas Tirith!

He took the Ring from the struggling Frodo; his Rangers restraining the impertinent servant.  At once, he knew a heady joy, as if he drank deep from a wine long stored in dark cellars.  This time, it would be Faramir who led the defense, Faramir who stopped the Enemy’s creatures long before they befouled Gondor’s borders!

Faramir had the two Halflings bound and brought with him, to save them from running into harm’s way.  The gangrel creature he slew; for it was too much of a nuisance, with its evil eyes and whining voice, to leave alive.

The power of the Ring strengthened Faramir against the flying shadows that swooped down towards him as he led his men across the Pelennor.  He noticed the look in Mithrandir’s eyes when the wizard saw what Faramir bore, but chose not to heed it.  Faramir graciously released the weary halflings into the Grey Pilgrim’s hands.  He marched to the Citadel with his head held high, the shouts of his name ringing from the lips of his people as he passed. 

In the White Tower, Faramir met his father.  He saluted, but did not bow.  Did he not bear the Ring of Rings?  Denethor’s stern face fell into confusion at the sight of him, a thing both strange and satisfying.  Denethor reached toward the Ring that burned warmly, a steady heartening flame, at Faramir’s throat.   Faramir pushed the Steward’s hand gently but firmly away, raising his own hand high to forestall any further interference.  Then he told Denethor how he had captured Isildur’s Bane.

Faramir had watched pain and sorrow score deepening furrows in Denethor’s face over the years.  Now, for the first time, he beheld a weary, frightened old man sitting in the Steward’s Chair, staring out at his son in puzzlement.  But the familiar sentiment of pity failed to stir within him.   Something else did.  Faramir looked upon his father and felt only a distant sense of scorn, rising up behind the comforting warmth of the Ring like a cold flame. 

X.  Destiny of Fire (Ecthelion)

A great day dawns for the House of Húrin! After twelve years and two sickly daughters, my dear wife has finally brought forth a son! I have an heir who will steward Gondor after my father and I depart this world.

Gondor shall rejoice with us soon enough. But just now; I would show my son to the morning star, who heralds the day of his birth. I take the warmly wrapped child in my arms and bear him through our halls. Servants and guards call out blessings on my son's head. I walk with a spring in my step, feeling far younger than my forty-six years.

I proceed outside our door, walking proudly across the Citadel's green sward. My son stirs at the touch of the fresh air, his nose snuffling at the new scent. Through the blankets, I feel him turn; and rejoice at the sturdiness of his small body. He is a strong child, stronger than my poor little girls.

I approach the withered husk of the White Tree. "May you see our Tree blossom once more, my son" I tell the babe, showing him the precious relic. The child sighs slightly and waves one pink fist. I laugh and kiss his brow.

I look to the early morning sky, now pockmarked with clouds the color of a dying fire. But far above them I can glimpse the star. "Behold, my son" I tell him, "The star of Eärendil. You must never lose hope; for the star will always abide." Yet even as I speak, one of the rust-colored clouds passes overhead, veiling the star. A hot wind stirs up from the East, bringing a noxious scent over the Citadel. My son whimpers.

"Fear not, child" I tell him, stroking the wisps of black hair on his head. "There is Darkness in the world, but none that can take Gil-Estel from us. The star remains!"

The babe quiets; but I grow angry. I know that the great Enemy of all free peoples has stirred again, and prepares to return to his fortresses of old.  Already his creatures have turned Ithilien, our fairest garden, into a wilderness.  I turn to the East. Holding my son close, I raise a fist toward the Mountains of Shadow. "This child shall e'er withhold the Tower of Guard from your grasp, Dark One. The White City will not fall! I pledge my life, and that of my son…."

A plume of smoke suddenly rises beyond the dark mountains. Mount Doom itself roars and belches acrid fumes and flames.  The babe whines and turns his head away from the sight. I stand firm, but now my heart knows fear. One day, my sturdy little son will hold the White Rod. Will he prevail against Sauron’s fire?

Mordor's red-tinged clouds sully the sunrise, shadowing my son's face. Yet I can still see, between the clouds, the star gleaming bright. "Keep hope in your heart, Denethor" I tell him. And I pray that he will.

Author's Notes:

Originally posted 9/28/05 at the September 2005 thread of the Birthday Cards Forum at HASA in honor of Tanaqui’s birthday.

Now when first Vingilot was set to sail in the seas of heaven, it rose unlooked for, glittering and bright; and the people of Middle-earth beheld it from afar and wondered, and they took it for a sign, and called it Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope. And when this new star was seen at evening, Maedhros spoke to Maglor his brother, and he said: 'Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?'

The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Ch 24, Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath

Turgon followed Turin, but of his time it is chiefly remembered that two years ere his death, Sauron arose again, and declared himself openly; and he re-entered Mordor long prepared for him. Then the Barad-dûr was raised once more, and Mount Doom burst into flame, and the last of the folk of Ithilien fled far away. Appendix A, Return of the King

According to HoME XII The Peoples of Middle-Earth, (chapter VII The Heirs of Elendil) Ecthelion was forty-six years old when Denethor, his "first son and third child" was born. There is no information as to the health of Ecthelion's daughters; I have taken dramatic license in saying they were "sickly"; though poor health might explain why there is no mention of the girls or their descendants in the published version of ROTK.

The Tale of Years in Appendix B of Lord of the Rings reveals that Gandalf discovered in 2850 (some 80 years before Denethor’s birth) that the master of Dol Guldur was Sauron.  He shared this information with the rest of the White Council.  I believe that Gandalf would have also alerted Ecthelion that Sauron was once more active. 

Oh, I stole the title of this piece from a rather depressing book (about the Cathars) by Zoe Oldenbourg that I read about 35 years ago.


XI.  Long Under Tree (Thranduil & family)

Legolas Greenleaf long under tree
In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea!
If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore,
Thy heart shall then rest in the forest no more.'

 The Two Towers

“Archer.  Perhaps  Sure-Hand.”

“I would not name him for a weapon, or skill at arms.  He is so fair a babe!”

“But I like Sure-Hand.   Or perhaps Long Spear.”

“My sweet little flower…”

“Maid-children are flowers, my queen; this fine lad will be a warrior.”

“I seem to remember, my king, a certain spring festival, where you made merry, and we traded garlands of bright flowers entwined with new leaves; and that was the day we decided to make this child.”


“What is it, little one?”

“Look, my lady; how boldly he reaches up, into the wind!”

“Yes, but what did he seize?  Nay, my son, do not suck on your prize until I see what it is.”

“Why, that leaf is twice the size of his hand, and he so young yet.  He has a bowman’s grip, strong but careful.”

“And brave, like his father.  The wind showers him with leaves; and he laughs and takes one for his own.”


“I think not, my lord and love.   The forest has claimed him, and so he should be named.”

“Perhaps you are right.   We should not deny our son the woodland’s favor.”

“Our little green-leaf!”

“Legolas.  Legolas Greenleaf.”

XII.  Stranger At The Feast (Faramir)

The Steward who had this day given over the rule of his land to its rightful king paused in his tracks.  The weariness of the past weeks’ labors began to tire him at last.  No, it was not just the mingled fatigue and relief of accomplishing his purpose.  Faramir admitted, if only to himself, that for the first time, he felt a stranger in the Merethrond.  For there, at the High Table where his father and brother had so often sat in eminence, their new lord held sway.  The King Elessar had seated Frodo at his right hand, Mithrandir at his left.  The three other Halflings hurried to sit down on either side of the wizard and the Ring-bearer, and Faramir observed the Elf Legolas and Gimli the Dwarf coming to join them, flanked by Éomer, Éowyn and several Dunedain of the North. 

Faramir had learned enough of the office of King’s Steward to know that he had a place at the King’s table by right.   Yet it was not for the King’s Steward to put himself forward and take that place unasked; especially on this great day, this first day of Elessar’s reign.  Faramir stood taut, beset by an uncertainty he had not yet considered.   What was his place here?  No longer ruling Steward, no longer the son of Gondor’s lord, was he welcome here, or a beggar at the feast? 

He could always, Faramir supposed, sit with his Rangers, or other warriors of Gondor; or claim a free table for his own new rank as a Prince of the realm.  Much as he longed to sit at Éowyn’s side, he would not begrudge the lady her closeness to the brother she also loved.  Smoothing his face to stillness, Faramir pulled his gaze away from the unrestrained joy on the faces of the King’s companions, and prepared to find himself a seat elsewhere. 

“Lord Faramir!”  The King’s voice was raised just enough to carry.  Faramir turned back to see Elessar lift his hand in a gesture that was a greeting rather than a summoning. 

“Come, join us,” Elessar urged, with an unforced smile.  “The King would have his Steward close at hand, and Aragorn would welcome another friend at his table.”

The King’s warmth was catching; and Faramir gladly returned the smile.  As he made his way to the High Table, he noticed Mithrandir beaming at him like a proud grandfather, and the excited grins of the Halflings.  And the light that arose in Éowyn’s eyes as she looked upon him gave Faramir a different sort of pleasure.

“Hullo, Faramir!”  Pippin crowed, stretching in his chair to wave at him.  “Look, Strider’s saved a seat for you!”  Indeed, when Faramir reached the table, the King looked him in the eye again and indicated the only empty chair, between Éowyn and the tall young Northerner who Faramir had met briefly already.  Introductions were made; to the young man, who was the son of the King’s fallen kinsman Halbarad, and to others of the grave, courteous Northern Dúnedain. 

“The seating arrangements at an occasion of state will have to be puzzled out at some future time,” Elessar bespoke him.  “We never stood much on ceremony in Arnor; but I understand that Gondor expects, and often needs, a more elaborate structure.”

“The King’s Steward has never before been a Prince, my lord;” Faramir answered.  “You have already made new precedent; and the bounds between precedent and protocol can be very slight.”

The King laughed.  “Faramir, your grandfather and your father said the same thing.  Have no fear, I shall never allow myself, or the kingship, to become a slave to protocol.   I shall decide later whether the lords of the fiefs should head their own tables in this hall, or sit at mine; and I shall welcome your advice on the matter.  But this night, I wish all my friends, old and new at my table.  I only wish the table were larger.  And Faramir, I would that you call me by name.”

“Which one, Sire?”  Faramir relaxed enough to ask, a certain mischief in his voice. 

Pippin snorted with laughter, while the other halflings grinned.  Éowyn's brother mumbled something in Rohirric about ‘winged feet’.

“I suppose that ‘Longshanks’ would be inappropriate,” the King said slowly.  “So I ask you to call me the name my father and mother gave me, that of ‘Aragorn’.  Now drink with us, Faramir, to new princes and new precedents!”  He filled his cup and raised it, and all others did the same.

“Gladly I shall…Aragorn,” Faramir answered.  He drank deeply of the fine Lossarnach vintage.  He took it all in, the wine, Éowyn’s even more intoxicating nearness, this welcoming company, and the friendship offered by the King.   He had lost much; but had also gained. The strangeness passed away as Faramir joined in the feast.

Author's Note:  This ficlet is a birthday present for Linda Hoyland, whose lovely Aragorn/Faramir friendship stories, and other Aragorn stories, can be found elsewhere on this site.

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