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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.
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.
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