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For Virtuella for her birthday.
This follows immediately after the final chapter of "Light on the Way."
Returned to his Proper Place
Denethor son of Ecthelion found himself bemused as he followed in the train behind the first King and Queen of the Reunited Kingdom through the Timeless Halls to the Throne of Glory. Many bowed as Elessar Envinyatar Telcontar passed, she who’d been his wife and love in life upon one side and the mithril-pure figure of he who’d been Frodo Baggins of the Shire upon the other.
How is it that I now rejoice to be with him? he found himself wondering.
He could feel delight and humor rising up in the heart of the one who had been his younger son. He was intended to be our King from the beginning, Father, Faramir assured him. He has told me of how at first you and he were drawn together by friendship, mutual respect, and a shared love of learning, but how envy of how your own father treated him and fear that he might supplant you drove you to abandon that friendship, leading you to see him rather as a rival. He ever grieved at that, you know.
So he has told me, Denethor returned, regret at the lost years of possible companionship filling him.
Suddenly he paused as he saw a familiar soul awaiting the procession. My adar! It was hard to know if what he felt was delight or alarm at the realization that Ecthelion stood awaiting the party newly arrived from the Halls of Mandos. He saw his father bowing low before the one he’d always known as Thorongil, the Eagle of the North. Oh, but it was, after all, right that his father should first acknowledge the one he’d always suspected, and rightly, to be the Heir to Isildur. But the regret he’d begun to feel was swept away as he realized that although Ecthelion was giving honor to the one born Aragorn son of Arathorn, he was also approaching the one he’d known as his son, and that he, Denethor, was being swept into his father’s arms, enfolded in his father’s love!
Oh, Denethor! How wonderful to have you here with us, with your mother and me! And here is our Boromir, I see! And another son? Faramir? Ah, sufficient you have proved, more than sufficient, I trow! And this is the woman you took as your wife, the niece, I understand, of our dear friend Théoden? Welcome, my dearly beloved one, for it is our delight to greet you here. Do come, Denethor, for the One wishes to embrace you.
A great trembling filled him, and almost Denethor pulled away, until he realized that the One who sat—or perhaps stood—before them all was focused upon his approach. Suddenly he felt a welcome such as he’d not known in living memory encompass his being.
Welcome back, my dearly beloved, he heard in his heart of hearts. Welcome back, and may you never stray again.
And the one who’d for a time in Middle Earth had served as the last Ruling Steward of Gondor gave over that past, rejoicing to know that he was indeed Home, safe in the one place where he truly belonged.
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