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Arandur Denethor

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Fo.A. 36, Faramir’s study Emyn Arnen

Faramir stands up needing to stretch his legs. They have become quite stiff because he has been sitting for quite some time now. He has been working on some documents and plans that he needs to finish in a few days. The documents, he has been studying. So far with little success. Still, he needs to learn what he can from the documents. Only then can he make appropriate plans to ensure the safety of Gondor. Plans that are desperately necessary. 

Walking around his office, Faramir considers what he has learned from the documents so far. There have been problems along the border due to the implementation of import permits. The permits are an attempt to stop the smuggling. So far, it has had little effect since the men working there have too much work to do. They cannot always inspect the permits and ware as thoroughly as is necessary. As such too much smuggling has been passing through the border. 

He knows that there is too much smuggling since he has received multiple reports about it. He needs to find a way to put it to a halt. And that is where he finds the problems. He knows how the border troops have been placed. They cannot be moved a lot without risking the safety of the border regions. But to put a halt to the smuggling, he needs to move troops. 

Sighing, Faramir looks out of the window. He needs to find a way how to move troops to optimize their ability to catch smugglers without risking other border areas. It is a puzzle he cannot seem to figure out but still needs to figure out. 

Shaking his head, he walks back to his desk. He cannot figure it out without looking carefully at the border troops he has at his disposal. Maybe this will give him some idea of how to get out of this dilemma. It will be a sorely needed solution. 

Sitting down, Faramir picks up one of the duty rosters. He looks at it before picking up another one. He follows this process for some time. It is then that he gets an idea. He can pull troops for the areas that see little problems. They can miss some men without creating a risk for their area. Doing this by all areas that see little problems, he can get the men he needs. This he finds out when he studies the numbers on the duty rosters. 

Faramir makes the plan for the reorganization of the duty roster when another thought crosses his mind. Till now, the men have been able to manage sending the prisoners back to the city for trial. But if he makes this change then the number of prisoners will increase. At that time, he knows it will no longer be possible to follow the current routine in sending them to the city. 

He needs to find another way to accomplish that. The transports, he believes might provide him with a solution. To learn if it actually will, he looks over the transport documents. He does this to learn what he can from the transports that leave from the border areas. As he reads the documents he learns the times the transports leave and what they take with them. It quickly becomes clear to him that the transports are indeed a good solution. They provide him with more than enough opportunities to transports prisoners. With this knowledge in mind, he writes out orders for the troops to transport their prisoners together with the transports. 

The sound of the door opening with a loud bang followed quickly by the door being smashed close, stops Faramir’s writing in its tracks. Boots rush over the floor coming to a stop in front of his desk. He looks up with a frown and tightened lips. In front of his desk stands a ranger. As for the name of the ranger, that eludes him at the moment. Nor is it a matter that is important right now. 

What is important is the way the ranger just entered and how he deals with it. It was a highly disrespectful way of entering his office. Barging into his room without announcing one’s presence is simply not done. At least for everyone who is not his family. The ranger should have knocked before entering. Just like the servants always do. He decides that he will berate the ranger. It is the best way to prevent future occasions from happening. Having determined that, he needs to know the ranger’s name. 

“What is your name, ranger.”

The ranger winces, shuffles his feet and looks down to the floor. Faramir does not find it surprising since his voice was like a suppressed growl. Even to his ears. And even though he did not want to make his feelings noticeable. At the same time, he keeps his face emotionless. 

It takes the ranger some time to look up. This time, Faramir uses to get his emotions back under control. The ranger needs some berating but not his anger. A deep breath has Faramir looking up. The ranger spreads his shoulders before answering my question. 

“My name is Rethon, my lord.”

“Why do you think you can enter my office without permission, Rethon?”

“The message I bring is urgent, my lord. I thought you would not want to wait to hear it.”

“Regardless of the urgency of the message or my need to hear it, you cannot enter a room without permission. Tell me, do you do the same thing with your officers when they are in their office?”

“No, my lord, I do not. I apologize, it will not happen again.”

Rethon bows his head while apologizing. At the same time, Rethon fiddles with his hands. Faramir decides not to press the matter any further. Rethon is suitably repentant. He feels that Rethon has learned his lesson. Faramir nods his head and decides that Rethon should give me the message now. He has become quite interested in it. 

“Rethon, what is the message that brought you to me?”

Faramir looks attentively at Rethon. Rethon pulls his head up quickly with raised eyebrows. Was he confused to be asked the question now? A smile appears on Rethon’s face. Faramir smiles also and awaits the answer. An answer, he does not have to wait too long. 

“Oh, yes, my lord, my message. I was traveling with a scouting party, as I am sure you know. We were to inspect a few border posts to see how they are doing. We were on our way to the last post when we saw something surprising. We saw a party coming from Osgiliath which bore the standards of Lord Eldarion and your father, Prince Denethor. I could not see who rode with the party but the standards are a good indication. The guards riding among them too. Captain Himmon send me ahead to inform you that your father will be arriving with Lord Eldarion.”

Faramir smiles amused. Rethon did not have to tell him everything. Rethon’s last sentence was more than enough for Faramir to know about. Still, it shows that Rethon has a good memory which might serve him well in the future. But back to the present. There are a few things Faramir would like to know. 

“What did you see from the party. Were they in a hurry?”

“They were riding hard, my lord, but I do not believe that they are in a hurry. At least, it did not appear to me that way. Nor did captain Himmon mention it.”

The frown on Rethon’s face shows that he is considering what he saw and was told. Most likely to determine if there is anything that he has forgotten. Moments later, he closes his eyes and shakes his head. It tells Faramir that Rethon is certain that he has not forgotten anything. It gives him the chance to ask his next question. 

“What do you think their destination is?”

Faramir only asks this question to be certain. Rethon’s earlier words gave him the indication that his father will be riding towards Emyn Arnen. But he would like to be certain. Especially, as he will have to ensure that all preparations will be made. For that, he needs confirmation which he would like to receive in words. 

“As I said earlier, my lord, you are to expect his arrival. I thought it was clear that your father will be riding towards Emyn Arnen.”

Faramir nods. It is the confirmation he sought. At the same time, he does not respond to the amused look on Rethon’s face. Nor to Rethon’s raised eyebrows. It is not something he needs to worry about right now. Nor later. Then he will have more than enough to worry about. 

It is this thought that brings a new question to his mind. He does not know if captain Himmon will meet up with his father. Or how the captain will handle the situation. That is the last question, he will ask Rethon before dismissing Rethon. 

“Did captain Himmon say anything about riding out to meet my father before you left?”

“No, I did not. I do know if I will do as you said. We did need to inspect one remaining post. I do not know if captain Himmon will delay the inspection. Or if I send some men ahead. I cannot tell you what the captain will do as I have not heard anything about it. What I can tell you is that the inspection will happen. Captain Himmon will see to that.”

Rethon looks at Faramir with certainty. It makes it clear that Rethon has no more information for him. As such he now knows all that he can about the upcoming surprise visit from his father. And in all honesty, it is not a lot. And not what he would have liked to know after being informed.

Faramir frowns at the thought. Only for shuffling to bring his attention back to Rethon. Rethon is moving nervously around. He would have imagined that Rethon would have left on his own. Only for him to remember the berating he gave Rethon. That will have stopped Rethon in his tracks. Rethon is waiting for him to be dismissed. 

“Thank you for your information, Rethon. You have been most helpful. For now, you can rest in the barracks until captain Himmon returns. Or you can leave to meet up with the captain again. What you do, is entirely your choice. But should you decide to leave then I insist that you do so after having rested for a few hours.”

“Thank you, my lord. You are most kind. I will be in the barracks should you need me.”

Faramir nods to show that he understands Rethon’s words. Rethon bows in response and leaves the room. His dismissal accepted and understood. He leans back into his chair and places his arm over his head. Now that he is finally alone, he can consider the news he received. 

He is surprised by Rethon’s news about his father’s upcoming visit. He has received no letters that mentioned that the upcoming visit will happen today. Nor has he heard rumors about it. He thought that his father would come in a few weeks. That is what his father informed him about in his latest letter. That letter, he received last month. 

To now learn that his father will come today surprises Faramir. It is not like father at all. Father would have sent word ahead. Father always does. No matter the circumstances. Even if the messenger arrives but a few hours before him. But now there is no sign that a messenger is coming Faramir’s way. Rethon would have seen the messenger and informed him about it. 

As to Eldarion’s presence, that confuses him even more. Why would father and Eldarion be traveling together? It makes no sense and the lack of word ahead even more confusing. Eldarion, like his father, always sends word ahead. Especially, if Eldarion comes to visit him. That way, he knows what Eldarion is coming to discuss, plan or do. 

But for both to not send word ahead has Faramir fearing that something terrible is going on. Looking at the ceiling, his thoughts turn to the possible reasons father and Eldarion have to visit him. He considers the possibilities there are. Are they coming to discuss something important? But then why has there been no mention of anything in the last letter? It would have given him ample of time to prepare for the discussion. 

Father must have known about the matter coming up, right? Well truthfully, not always. It might have come up only recently and be so sensitive that no message can be sent. But then Faramir would have caught word if it by way of his troops, right? To determine if that is the case, he needs more information. Information, he does not have but needs. 

Sighing, Faramir’s thoughts turn to another reason. Is there something going on in Minas Tirith? He does not know what it could be. But it does not mean it is not possible. Still, no word has reached him in the past weeks that something is going on. And the last messenger arrived yesterday. The messenger did not mention anything then. According to the messenger, life was normal in Minas Tirith. He knows that since he asked the messenger about Minas Tirith. He shakes his head. No, this cannot be the reason for their visit. 

Do they perhaps each have a different reason for visiting? That could be the case for Eldarion if Eldarion intends to visit Elboron. Elboron has forgotten to inform him about his planned meetings in the past. That would not be unlikely to be the case right now if it is. But it does not explain father. He cannot figure out a reason as to why father would visit today that is believable. 

Lifting his arm, he shakes his head once more. He needs to clear his thoughts. Until he meets with his father and Eldarion, Faramir cannot determine which of the possible reasons is the case. Right now, he needs to inform his family about the unexpected visitors. They need to prepare. To do that he needs to leave his study. With that in mind, Faramir stands up and leaves his study.


 Prince’s house, Emyn Arnen

Faramir walks around the house having searched for Elboron and Leafdaeg in their rooms and the house. So far, he could not find them there. He can search for them as they are the only ones home today. Elboron lives here and Leafdaeg is visiting. Leofdaeg is Éowyn’s son from her first marriage who lives in Rohan most of the time. Leofdaeg will need to return to Rohan in about one month.

On the other hand, Arthoron, Faramir’s younger son, is currently on patrol from which he will return in a few days. As such, Faramir cannot reach Arthoron at this time. Unlike like Arthoron’s sisters. Rohirril and Rocwen live in the city with their families. Faramir knows that he does not have time to visit them and inform them today. But he can send a servant to them. Thinking of a servant, he sees Inweth, one of his servants, approaching him. Halting his steps, Faramir beckons Inweth closer with his hands. 

“What can I do for you, my lord?”

Inweth bows as she greets Faramir. He has to smile. Inweth stays the same polite but playful woman he has known for a long time. Her black hair, though, has grown since he last saw her. Her brown eyes sparkle as she looks at him. She is interested in the request she knows he has for her. At the same time, she tries to play with him. He schools his face before responding. He has no time to play with her. 

“Inweht, I need you to send someone to my daughters and inform them that they are needed here to welcome a visitor.”

“Of course, my lord. Do you have someone specifically in mind who I should send?”

Inweth frowns and tilts her head. Faramir can see that more goes on in her head than her question. Most likely the identity of the visitor and the reason for his visit. Something which he knows interests the servants a lot. Especially, as he has not informed them about the visit beforehand. Still, he is certain that within a few hours the entire staff will know about the upcoming visit. Not that he minds much. It will ensure that the preparations will be started by the staff. Seeing Inweth’s face turning and her frown deepening, he knows that he needs to respond soon. Else she will become really worried. Something which he cannot use. 

“No, I do not. I leave it to you to make the choice.”

“Of course, my lord.”

Inweth smiles, bows and begins to walk away. Clearly, she assumes that he has said all he needed to say. Which is not the case. Faramir has more to tell her about. As such, he needs to stop her. He knows just how to do that. 

“Inweth?”

Upon hearing Faramir’s voice, Inweth turns around. The frown which was gone has returned once more. She must now be wondering why he stopped her since she assumed that there was no more to be said. Tilting her head, Inweth speaks up. 

“Yes, my lord. Is there anything else you need to tell?”

“There is. Do you perhaps know where Elboron and Leofdæg are?”

Inweth looks to the ceiling with a frown. Faramir recognizes this expression. Inweth is considering what she knows. Either from having seen or heard. He patiently waits to learn what Inweth can remember. There is little else he can do. Whatever it is, she will share it with him. Of that he is certain. He does not have to wait long. A short time later, Inweth looks back at him. 

“I believe that they are on the training fields, my lord. That is where I had to bring their refreshments to not long ago. As such they will not have left the fields yet. At least that is what I believe. If you seek them out now then they might even be enjoying their refreshments.”

“Thank you, Inweth.”

Faramir nods his head and walks forward. He now knows where he will go next. The training fields. He will inform his sons before seeking out Éowyn. If they are sparring then they will need to refresh themselves before greeting his father. 

After only taking one step away from Inweth, a hand on his arm stops him in his tracks. Turning around, he faces Inweth who looks suspiciously at him. 

“Yes, Inweth?”

“Is there anything else you need of me?”

“No, Inweth, there is nothing else I need of you. You can leave. I will seek out my sons.”

“Aye, my lord.”

Inweth bows again and walks away from him. Faramir turns around and resumes walking. As he walks, he thinks about Ceolwyn. She is Leofdaeg's sister and his children’s halfsister. She lives with her family in Pelargir and also needs to be informed. It is only more complicated to do so than with Arthoron. If he sends a messenger to her now then it will mean that he cannot inform her as to why father is visiting. If he waits, it will not matter much. Ceolwyn will learn about the visit after his father’s arrival. It will only be a day later then if he sends the messenger now. 

Because of this difference, Faramir decides that he should write a message after having talked with my father. Then he can tell her more about his father’s visit. He knows that she will appreciate it and make her way here with her family. 

Arriving at the training fields, he finds his sons putting their refreshments away. They have had enough right now and want to continue training. What they have left, they will be eating later. Elboron suddenly points at him which has Leofdaeg turning around. 

Faramir smiles and walks up to his sons. Elboron noticed his approach and informed his brother about it. They are looking at him with surprise. Their reaction is not strange since he never visits them on the practice field without having informed them about it at an earlier time. Reaching his sons, he sees their confusion growing. Leofdæg is the fastest to recover somewhat based on his words. 

“Father, is there something wrong?”

“I do not know, Leofdæg. All I know is that father is coming for a visit. And that you two need to prepare to greet him on his arrival.”

He sees his sons turning their heads. They look at each other with their confusion visible. The looks they throw each other are obvious to him. They do not know what to make of his news. And right now, they are having a silent conversation about it with each other. Sometime later, they look back at him. And this time, of the two it is Elboron who speaks up. 

“Grandfather is visiting? But I thought he would come in a few weeks. Why is he coming today? Did you know, father, that he is coming today?”

“That is what I thought too, Elboron. That he would come in a few weeks. Unfortunately, a scout gave me other information. He told me that he and his party father riding with Eldarion and guards towards Emyn Arnen. Only then did I know that father would come today. Though I do not know why father is coming. The scout did not say.”

Faramir can see the confusion on his son’s faces as he gives them these answers. Again they look at each other. They are clearly as confused as he was when he received the message. The message says a lot but at the same time, not enough. The only thing they can do now is preparing and hope to learn why their grandfather is coming. Seeing them turning back to him, again, he waits to learn what they have decided. 

“Thank you for informing us, father. We will go prepare ourselves for grandfather’s arrival. It will be good to see grandfather. Even if it is a few weeks earlier than expected.”

“That it surely is, my sons.”

He nods to Elboron and Leafdaeg and receives a smile in return. His sons pick up their refreshments and walk back to the house. Faramir turns around and follows them. He knows that he has nothing more to do on the practice fields. As he follows his sons he can hear them talking. He smiles to himself. His sons are gossiping about possible reasons for their grandfather’s visit. Not that he finds it surprising. The servants will be doing the same thing. So he cannot expect anything else from them. 

Having informed his sons, Faramir now has only one thing left to do before going back to his office. What he needs to do is find Éowyn and inform her of his father’s impending arrival. Afterward, he can go back to his study to work for a while until he has to prepare himself. 

Walking around the house, he goes to the places where he knows Éowyn usually will be at this time. As he checks them, he finds that she is not there. Faramir asks a few servants and they cannot give me a definitive answer which he can work with. This has him considering where Éowyn might be. There are but few places he has not checked yet during his initial search. Those places are their bedroom, Éowyn’s study, and the kitchen. Each is a valid place for Éowyn to be at. Even though she normally is not in those rooms at this time of the day. Except for a few rare occasions when she did.

After some deliberation on these places, Faramir decides to walk to the kitchen. If the servants are already gossiping then it would not surprise him. As well as, doing additional work for his father’s visit. It either is the case then it will surely have drawn Éowyn’s attention. And if both are the case then it will most definitely have drawn her attention. He knows Éowyn somehow always knows what is going on with the servants. As such, the kitchen is the most likely place for her to be. There she can learn what the gossip is about. If she does not know already. 

Coming up to the kitchen, he hears Éowyn talking to one of the staff. Well, talking? She seems to be harassing the poor servant more than actually talking to said servant. About what he cannot hear. He is still too far away. But what he can hear is the tone Éowyn uses. It is one of pressing for more answers. He hopes she does not intimidate the servant. She will feel bad about it later if she does.

Walking closer to the kitchen, he can hear what the harassment is about. Éowyn wants to know why the servants have started to prepare for a visitor. A visitor she was not informed about. By her tone, the servant seems to be unwilling to give Éowyn an answer. It is either the unwillingness or the servant does not know who the visitor is. The last is to be expected for only Inweth was informed about the visitor. She will have spread it without being able to name the visitor. This for he never told Inweth who would come to visit. 

But now, Faramir knows Éowyn has noticed the additional work being done. It does not surprise him at all. Éowyn is highly attentive to what is going on in the household. Both with the work and the gossip. As such, she will have noticed it and will want to know who the visitor is. Just like she wants to know why she has not been informed about it yet. Luckily, he is about to do just that. By doing it, he will save the servant from being harassed. She will no longer have to answer Éowyn’s questions. He will have to. 

Coming up on the two women, Faramir can finally see who the servant is who Éowyn harasses. It is Inweth. He knows Inweth could have given Éowyn the answers she asked for. Inweth likely did not give them to allow him to inform his wife about the visitor. He smiles to himself. He is pleased that Inweth took it into account. So right now he has to save Inweth from being harassed any longer. Only then will he inform Éowyn. 

“Éowyn, please stop harassing the poor Inweth. I know you seek answers about our unexpected visitor. Inweth does not know them all for I did not tell her everything. I will answer the questions you have. Allow Inweth to return to her duties.”

“You do who the visitor is? Then why did you not tell me before the gossip could spread? You know that I do not like such surprises.”

“I do know that. I just hoped that you would not have heard it before I found you.”

Faramir smiles at Éowyn. He smiles reassuringly while at the same time also guiltily. He does feel slightly guilty that Éowyn has heard the gossip before he reached her. Still, all he wants to do is calm Éowyn down. He does not want her to become angry with him. And he also wants the irritation she feels right now to decline. 

While smiling at Éowyn, he sees how Inweth quietly leaves as he nods with his head. The nod he gives silently to not distract himself from the conversation with Éowyn. Or to distract Éowyn from glaring at him. Éowyn turns her head slightly. He knows from experience that Éowyn is about to say something. His instinct proves correctly a short time later. 

“Who is the visitor that is coming?”

“The visitor is not exactly a visitor, Éowyn, for it is not one person who is coming to visit. It is actually visitors . The visitors are two men traveling with an escort.”

Faramir sees the confusion on Éowyn’s face. He does not know what the servants have been gossiping so far. With that, he means the details. He is certain the last bit of information is not something he has shared before. Except for his sons, that is. As such he finds his wife’s confusion understandable. Éowyn did not expect to hear about multiple visitors from him. 

Looking over Éowyn’s shoulder, Faramir can see how two young servant girls are listening in on their conversation. Their eyes shine with interest just like their whole bodies. They truly try to be secretive about it. Unfortunately, they have not chosen a good place to hide. Nor do they hide their interest well. Not that they actually hide it. Their interest is visible for all to see. He does, though, know their intention. They want to learn the latest information so they can gossip about it. And they believe that he will give it to them by allowing them to listen in on them. Unfortunately, he has no intention of allowing them to listen in on them. 

Mentioning for Éowyn to follow him, they walk away from the kitchen to their quarters. Here the two girls will not follow us. Of that, Faramir is certain. No servant enters their quarters without announcing themselves. And he knows that if he or Éowyn find them spying then they will be dismissed. 

As they walk, he stays quiet. He hears footsteps following them. He suspects that they must belong to the servants. And they are the reason why Faramir stays quiet. He does not want the servants to overhear them. But during the quiet of the walk, he begins to worry. Have the servants been making the necessary preparations? He doubts it. They do not know how many visitors he is expecting. They only expect one person. 

He tightens his fist. Faramir would like to make another reaction but that would only worry Éowyn. And that is the last thing he wants to do. But back to the servants and their preparations. Knowing how many they expect, he knows what it will mean. Too little will be prepared by them. And not the appropriate rooms. They will only prepare the guest rooms. Not his father’s room and the royal room. The two girls, who overheard him talking to Éowyn and who they are walking away from, will not tell the others in time. Of that he is certain. 

Faramir knows the kind of gossip the girls will be spreading once they know who is coming to visit. And that gossip is precisely what he wants to avoid. The only thing it will do is worry the citizens who hear it. Maybe even scare them. They will believe that there is trouble somewhere. That the visitors are coming to bring news of it. He wants to spare his people those feeling. But how will he ensure it with the girls following?

Looking to his side, he sees the contemplative look on Éowyn’s face. Is she considering who the visitors might be? As well as their escort? Most likely. Looking at her, Faramir smiles. His worries evaporate instantly. He knows they will shake the girls off. Or find a place to talk without the risk of being overheard. And once he has told Éowyn who is coming, she will ensure that everything needed will be prepared. Consequently, the servants will know how many visitors we will have. They will gossip but he does not mind that kind of gossip. It will be good for them. Suddenly, Éowyn’s irritated voice pulls him from his musing. He can tell from her voice that she is suspicious about who could be coming. 

“Who are the men that will be visiting us?”

“The men are Eldarion and my father. As well as their escort of guards.”

Faramir can see the surprise on Éowyn’s face. It is the same reaction he got from their sons when he told them. It will just be how everyone else will react once they know. He can just imagine the reactions he will get then. This thought makes him smile. It will all be highly amusing for him and everyone else who already knows. And irritating for everyone who does not know. 

“Do you know why he is coming? And should he not come in a week?”

“I do not know why he is coming. And yes, I expected him in a week. Not today. Just like you did.”

Faramir shrugs reinforcing his last words. He does not know why his father is coming. Éowyn frowns. Is she as confused by it as everyone he has informed so far? Or is she contemplating something? Éowyn tilts her head. Is she about to tell him what has been on her mind? He waits patiently. There is nothing else he has to tell her. he only needs to answer any questions she has to the best of his abilities. 

“How long do you think your father will stay?”

“I do not know. Father told me, in his last letter, that he intends to stay for a few weeks. As he now comes earlier, I do not know if his intended stay will remain the same. Or if he wants to stay longer. I, unfortunately, I cannot give you the answers you seek.”

Faramir can see the frown appearing on Éowyn’s face. He can imagine how frustrating it must be for Éowyn. She wants the answers to her questions to have the full picture of the upcoming visit. He feels the same frustration when he does not get the answers he wants. By seeing Éowyn’s frustration questions appear in his mind. Such as how he is to keep his father entertained and informed if he does not know how long his father will stay. If his father intends to stay as long as he mentioned in the letter then Faramir will have to keep him informed by letter. It will mean having to keep track of the movement of messengers. If he does not then he will have to do inform his father in person. The last possibility is not much of a problem to him. He can incorporate informing his father easily into his daily routine. Hearing a sigh, he turns his head and looks up at Éowyn. Éowyn looks him straight in his eyes. 

“Well, if I do not get the answers to those questions then how will I prepare everything? For how long do I need to prepare? For a few weeks? For longer? Though, should prince Denethor stay longer than a few weeks, I doubt it will give the staff many problems. It will be like those earlier weeks. They have then worked out a routine to get everything done. The problem with not knowing is that I cannot plan with the staff for long. But could you perhaps tell me how large the escort is? And who is part of the escort?”

Well, Faramir has survived this rant. And now Éowyn's attention is drawn to another matter. A matter, he also does not have the wanted answers for. He keeps his face neutral while internally wincing. He knows he had to answer. At the same time, he does not look forward to the reaction he will receive. Taking a deep breath, he looks Éowyn in her eyes. 

“I cannot tell you what the size of the escort is for I do not know it. The messenger did not say anything about the size. I suspect it will be an escort of normal proportions. The roads are safe enough for that. Still, I can give you no assurances as father can always choose to take a bigger escort. Especially, if he is traveling with Eldarion. Then he might deem it necessary. 

“As for who is part of the escort, I suspect Eadgar and Beregond to be among them. They always travel with father when father travels. Unfortunately, they are the only ones I can name for you. No other guard always travels with father. Only when they are chosen to be part.”

Éowyn’s irritation reaches a high at these words. She growls and throws her hands in the air. Faramir is not sure which part irritates her the most. But it does not matter at this time. Éowyn is still irritated. He does wince at her reaction. He knows what he can expect soon. And he never likes it when Éowyn is this irritated. It helps no one. Not him. Not Éowyn. It only serves to raise tempers in them both. Or in the best case, he will receive a rant. A rant which is given without screaming. And to which he can respond calmly. Hearing another growl, he looks at Éowyn. 

“How am I to prepare to house the escort with this lack of information. I cannot prepare everything properly if I do not know how many men will be riding with Prince Denethor. Why did the messenger not pay attention to the size? Why? We can only guess right now at what needs to be prepared. It has us run the risk of not having enough space prepared to house the escort. A few men we can house in our home. But if it is more than a few then we need to have a barrack prepared.”

Faramir is happy with this rant. It has given him plenty of opportunities to respond calmly. Knowing it will help, he places his hands on Éowyn’s shoulders. Looking her in her eyes, he smiles calmly before speaking up. 

“I know that you are frustrated, Éowyn. I also do not like it that I cannot give you the answers you seek. But it cannot be helped right now. We can only work with what we know. That is what we should do. And not work with what might be. My assumption of the escort’s size is based on what I know of the state of the road. I told you about that, do you remember? Besides, a normal escort is still too large to house here in our house. The barrack needs to be prepared anyway.”

He receives a serious look in return. Luckily some irritation has left Éowyn already. He can tell that by the way, her shoulders loosen their tightness. When she answers, her voice sounds much calmer to his ears. 

“I do remember you mentioning it. Still, your words give no assurance. Prince Denethor can still take a larger escort with him. Especially if Eldarion is traveling with him. Actually, I would not find it strange were he to do it. I more like to expect it. And if he did the. We will learn about it when it too late to be able to prepare.”

“I know that, Éowyn. Just calm down and prepare for a normal size escort. If there are more than we will house them in the barrack of the Rangers. There is more than enough room available as many Rangers are out on duty. Do not torment yourself with something you cannot change or affect. Besides, I am sure that the men will not mind it if they have to wait in the city until their sleeping area is prepared.”

He kisses her on her head once he is done talking. Faramir receives a smile in return. A calm feeling falls over them. Only to be broken moments later when Éowyn frowns again. She only does this for a short while sighing. Hearing the sigh has him smiling. He has confidence that she has accepted his advice and will use it now. Even if something confused her before. He has succeeded in what he attempted to do. 

“Alright, Faramir, I will let it go now. But do not make the mistake that my irritation has disappeared. No, it will still be there. The only difference is that it is not guiding me. I will instruct our servants and inform our children. Good day.”

Éowyn shakes his hands off her shoulders and walks away. He knows he has informed their children already. Éowyn does not need to do that. And before she does unnecessary work, he needs to stop her. She needs to know he already informed their children. And to be able to do that, he calls out. 

“Éowyn! Wait a moment.”

Éowyn stops walking and turns around. She looks Faramir in the eyes. Her question is clearly visible in her eyes. She wants to know why he called for her to wait. He smiles calmly hoping to put her at ease. To tell her it is no serious matter for which he called her to wait. 

“Yes, Faramir? What is it?”

Based on her stressed tone, he has not succeeded at all in putting her at ease. Well, no matter. Once Éowyn knows why he called for her to wait she will be at ease. It will also limit the amount of work she has yet to do. Both will be benefits for Éowyn. 

“I want you to know that I already have informed our boys. They know that father and Eldarion are coming. Our daughters will learn about it by the messenger I send to them. You only need to check on our boys to ensure that they are ready on time. Besides overlooking the work the servants need to do to prepare for his arrival.”

“Thank you for telling me in time. It certainly ensures that I do not do unnecessary work. But do not worry, Faramir. Everything will be prepared in time. I make sure of that.”

The cheeky smile Faramir receives tells him Éowyn is messing with him. He smiles in amusement. She has calmed down enough in the short time since he called for her to wait. Calmed down enough that she can mess with him at this time. Laughing, he answers.

“Oh, I do not doubt it. You always have everything prepared in time.”

Faramir nods to Éowyn and they go their ways. Éowyn to instruct the servants about the work they have to do. And he goes back to his office. There is still time for him to work. Looking out of a window he passes along the way, he can see the sun. Based on the sun’s position, he knows he has an hour to do some work. Then he will need to go prepare himself to greet his father.

Chapter Text

Courtyard of the Prince’s house

Horses rush over the ground. Clouds of dust raise in the air. Denethor can hear the trembling of the ground from where he rides. He knows his escort can also hear it for he rides in front of them. He does not ride in front alone for Eldarion rides at his side. Turning his head, he can see the pleased smile on Eldarion’s face. He can only imagine why Eldarion is so pleased. Eldarion is looking forward to seeing his friend Elboron again. Elboron who is Denethor’s grandson. The boys have not seen each other in a few months. Knowing how close they are whenever they are together, it is not surprising to see Eldarion so pleased.

Turning his head back to our path, Denethor can see his home in Ithilien steadily coming closer. He smiles happily. He is almost home. Home with his son and family. His family lives here while he has to spend considerable time in Minas Tirith. It is the only way for him to conduct his duty as a steward to the king in a way that pleases him. It is the only way for him to aid Aragorn in ruling. But now he is coming home again. Once Emyn Arnen was rebuilt, it quickly felt like home to him and his family.

Looking at his home, his smile widens. Here Denethor knows he will spend the remainder of the time he has left. The last few remaining months will be spent here in the peacefulness of Ithilien. Of that he is certain. His time here will allow him to pass in peace once his time has finally arrived. He knows that his visit is unexpected. As such, his son will have questions. Just as Éowyn will. He knows them to well not to anticipate being asked questions.

Crossing the gate, Denethor can finally see his reception. Just as was to be expected. His entire family awaits his arrival. Except for Ceolwyn and Arthoron. Ceolwyn’s absence, he does not find surprising. She will be home with her family in Pelargir. As such, it will be impossible for her to be here when he arrives unannounced.

What Denethor does find surprising is Arthoron’s location. He does not see his youngest grandson among his family. Arthoron should be here as he still lives at home. So where could he be that would excuse him from greeting him? Maybe on an assignment. That would certainly explain why Arthoron would not be here. But, Arthoron could also be visiting his sister. That would also leave him unable to attend.

Stopping in front of the stairs, Denethor smile at his family. He makes no move to dismount. He currently needs aid with dismounting. No matter how embarrassing it is, he cannot dismount without a mounting block and a stabilizing hand in his back. Because of his needed aid, he waits for his entire escort to ride into the courtyard. Only then will he dismount.

He looks to his side and sees Eldarion has already dismounted. Eldarion is talking to one of the stablehands. Where the stable hand came from Denethor does not care about. He listens carefully to what they are saying. He hears them talking about a mounting block. He smiles amused for a moment before placing his face takes on a neutral expression once more. He does not need to consider why Eldarion talked about the mounting block. Especially, once the stable hand hurries off. Eldarion was asking for a mounting block so he could dismount easily.

Looking at his family once more, Denethor easily sees their confusion. They must be confused that he has not dismounted yet. Eldarion’s request for the mounting block will only have added to their confusion. The last time Denethor came to visit, which was a few months ago, he did not require aid with dismounting.

Then the sound of horses moving decreases and only some nervous stamping can be heard. There is not a lot of stamping that can be heard anymore. This tells him his escort has completely entered the courtyard. Now, he can soon dismount. He is looking forward to being able to greet his family again.

At this time, Denethor notices a stable hand taking his horse’s reins in his hands. A mounting block has been placed on his left side. Now, only his aid needs to show up. He looks around to see who it will be this time. He is pleasantly surprised by who he sees. Eldarion stands next to his horse. Eldarion waits for him to dismount. Nodding to Eldarion, he dismounts.

As he dismounts, he takes his right foot out of the strap. Leaning forward, he lifts his leg over his horse’s back. He feels himself struggling with the movement. His struggling does not last long before he feels hands in his back. The hands support him while he dismounts. Once over his leg is over his horse’s back, he carefully feels with his foot for the mounting block. He is confident in the hands supporting him to not let him fall.

It takes him a bit of searching but finally, he feels the mounting block appearing under his foot. Placing his foot solidly on the mounting block, Denethor takes his left foot out of the strap and also place it on the mounting block. Turning around he feels the hands letting him go. Even though he does not feel them, he is confident they are closeby in case he needs support. Moments after having completed the turn, a hand is offered to him. He takes the offer up and let Eldarion guide him off the mounting block.

Once he is of the mounting block, he walks towards his family. They now stand at the bottom of the stairs. When they have descended, he does not know. But it will most likely have been during the time he dismounted. Reaching his family, he greets them.

“Good morning, Faramir, Éowyn, children.”

Faramir and Éowyn smile calmly at Denethor. His grandchildren try to hide their pouting at him calling them children. They fail miserably for he sees each of them pouting. Their pouts are the only reaction he gets from them. No one speaks up. But then their reaction does not surprise him at all. He knows they want to be seen as an adult. As well as treated as such. It is why they are not pleased when they are seen as children. Which is what they believe they are seen as when he calls them children. From all his family present, Éowyn is the first to respond to his greeting.

“Good morning, father. It is good to see you again. Had I known that you needed aid dismounting then I would have made the necessary preparations.”

Éowyn looks at him confidently as she speaks. Denethor makes a small smile. Her words do not surprise him. She has always been able to ensure that everything which needs to be prepared is ready in time. And he does know what she means with preparations. She means the mounting block. It would have been in the courtyard before his arrival. And also one of his grandsons would have been assigned as his aid. Whether they liked it or not. She would not have cared.

At the same time, Denethor can detect a slight worry in Éowyn’s voice. Most likely about the reason for his need for aid. He waves Éowyn’s worry away. It is of no concern right now. Besides, he has not needed aid for long now. She would have had no way of learning about his need. Knowing all this, he is aware he needs to respond to her words.

“I do not find it surprising that you did not know I needed aid, Éowyn. Besides, I have not needed the aid for long now. Only for the last month. You did not see me riding the last time you visited Minas Tirith. As such, there is no way you could have known as no one talked about it. And I have only accepted it at the insistence of Elessar.”

There is laughter all around him. Denethor can tell it comes from his family. Not his escort. Whether his escort is hiding their amusement or not, he does not care. Let them talk when they are dismissed. Right now, he only cares to talk to his family again. And speaking of family, he knows where their laughter came from. They are amused because they know how stubborn he can be. And how stubborn Elessar can be if someone needs medical care. He knows, like his family, Elessar always seems to get people to accept care in the end.

Turning his attention to Faramir, Denethor raises his eyebrow. The laughter has died down and his son has not yet greeted him. Receiving a cheeky smile, he knows his message has been received. Faramir will soon greet him as he should. This Faramir does moments later.

“Good morning, father. I am glad to know that you accepted the king’s advice. Though, I must say that you surprise us all by coming without sending word ahead.”

He knows what Faramir attempts to do with his words. Faramir tries to subtly apologize by bringing up Elessar. Also, he tries to get Denethor to tell him why he came. And why he did not send word ahead as he normally does. Here in public, Denethor refuses to discuss his reasons. He does intend to discuss them but only in the privacy of Faramir’s study. There no one can overhear them. No rumors can begin to spread. He knows that in time everything will be revealed to the people. But right now, he needs to respond to Faramir.

“I know I did not give you forewarning. I did not know about this visit early enough to do so. My visit was decided only a short while before I left. It did not allow me time to send a messenger. As for the reason for this visit, I do not want to discuss it here. Could we meet in your study together with Eldarion and Elboron in the afternoon? There I will give you an explanation.”

Denethor does not explain his request any further. He knows everyone will be able to determine what he did not say. Had he given his full explanation now then he would have been faced with questions. Questions which he knows he would have refused to answer. His refusal would have been considered worrying by his family. And had he given his full explanation then people would learn about things he does not want to be known just yet.

Right now, Denethor looks at Faramir and the boys. He awaits their answer. Not that he doubts that they will refuse his request. They are too curious to not agree. He could see their curiousness from the moment when he made his request. Their answers come instantly.

“Of course, father.”

“Of course, grandfather.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

He smiles happily. It is just the answer he expected to receive. Not that he ever doubted they would accept his request. Now, only his grandchildren need to greet him. He turns his head to them. They all look guiltily at him. Denethor opens his arms before speaking.

“Now, then my grandchildren. Do you not want to greet your grandfather.”

He is instantly assaulted by four young people. They all embrace him at the same time. He laughs at the group hug he receives from his grandchildren. Still, he struggles to keep himself standing upright. The combined weight of his grandchildren pressing on him unbalances him. Almost at the same time, they all talk to him. No one allows the other to speak out. They constantly interrupt each other. Denethor cannot understand much of what they are saying. But what he does manage to understand is how their lives have been since they last met. He is glad to learn that their lives have been normal. None of his grandchildren have had disasters in their lives.

Denethor smiles at Éowyn and Faramir. They are as amused as he is. He talks a bit with his grandchildren. He tries to encourage them to let him loose and let each other speak out. He is met with various amounts of success. A clearing throat interrupts their conversation. They turn to look at Éowyn who has stepped forward.

“Shall I guide you to your room, Prince Denethor?”

“Please do so, Éowyn.”

Éowyn offers her arm to him as support. He accepts it readily all too happy with her offer. It will allow him to find peace in his room. He began to feel a bit tired of standing for so long in such an awkward pose. If he is honest with himself. Her offer to guide him to his room is just what Denethor was looking for. Without being aware he was doing it. After having rested in his room, he will be more than ready for the meeting with Faramir, Elboron, and Eldarion.


Prince’s house

Faramir walks to his office buried in thoughts. He has some time left to work because of his father’s request. He does not need to entertain his father now. He can sort out everything before the meeting. He wants this to be done so that he will not be confronted by any surprises. As his father did not say why he wanted to meet, Faramir feels the need to prepare himself. This brings him back to his father’s request. At the time it was made it confused him. Even though he was confused he accepted the request. He wants to know for certain why his father made the request. A request which still confuses him at this time as he does not know why his father would need to make it.

Right now, he only has the potential reasons he can come up with to explain the request. One of those reasons is his father wants some time to rest before going back to conduct his duty. Another is his father wants to resign as steward. And lastly, a reason could be his father simply wants to spend time with his family.

Having those sorted out, Faramir can finally consider their likeness. He knows father too well to think he would seek out rest from his duty on such short notice. His father is more likely to not take the rest he needs than he is to take it earlier than planned. As such, this reason seems highly unlikely to Faramir. As for a potential resignation, he doubts it. His father would never resign. It is not in his nature for he loves his work as steward too much to even consider resigning. And Faramir doubts Elessar would order his father to resign. Besides, his father is too healthy for such a possibility. This makes this reason also unlikely.

As such the last potential reason remains. It seems at this time to be the only reasonable option. But if it is, then why would his father come here to be with family when he has planned to visit in a few weeks? It does not add up. This situation is similar to his father taking an early rest. He would not do either on short notice. And as no potential reason explains his father’s purpose to make his request they also cannot explain why his father came to visit. It confuses Faramir even more than when he had not thought about the potential reasons.

But then Faramir’s thoughts turn back to his father’s health. He could see it has declined since the last time he last saw him. Still, he does not believe the declined to be so severe that his father cannot conduct his duty anymore. Or that his father would be forced to resign. But his father’s current state of health does give Faramir clear hints for the future. Soon, his father will be forced to give up some parts of his duty. He cannot conduct everything on his own for much longer. Faramir knows what this means for him. He will have to step up and conduct those duties.

At the same time, it means some parts of his current duty will need to reassigned to someone else. But who it will be Faramir does not know for certain. His suspicion lies with Eldarion taking over those duties from him. It will be good practice for Eldarion when he has to completely take over from him. He does not doubt Eldarion’s skills in commanding. Eldarion has shown he can handle the responsibility in the past.

All this brings another potential reason to Faramir’s mind. His father could have come to inform him about the upcoming change in duties. Eldarion’s presence would then mean something else than he initially thought. Eldarion will not have come to see his friend again. No, Eldarion will have come along as he will be affected by the upcoming change. Eldarion needs to be here to be able to easily take over Faramir’s duties.

But for all his thoughts and ideas, he cannot seem to figure out what reason is true. It frustrates him endlessly. At the same time, his considerations calm him down. It are so conflicting feelings; his frustration and calmness. The calmness comes from having a list of potential reasons available in his mind. It gives him some hold. But he knows he has to wait until the meeting to learn his father’s real reason for both the request and visit. Faramir does not like this prospect. Still, he knows that there are no other options for him. He just has to accept the situation as it is.


Denethor walks with Éowyn’s aid to his room. One of his arms is looped into Éowyn’s to give him the support he needs. He appreciates Éowyn escorting him. Even though he knows the way to his room. But he knows his exhaustion does not allow him to walk completely on his own. The ride has exhausted him more than he is willing to admit. Knowing his family, they will have noticed his exhaustion. Even though he has done all he can to hide his exhaustion.

Right now, he feels his need to rest. If he does not then he does not know how he will get through the meeting without his exhaustion being completely obvious. Or without his exhaustion disabling him from participating to a level he expects from himself. But if Denethor rests then he will not only be able to get through the meeting and participate at his expected level but he will also be able to go around on his own. He just hopes he will reach his room soon. He does not know how much longer he can keep going. And to get through the meeting, he needs his rest. Looking around, he sees the door to his room approaching. Denethor feels relieved to soon be able to rest. Just a few more minutes in silence and he can rest. Unfortunately, Éowyn has other ideas and breaks the silence.

“Prince Denethor, might I ask why you have come to visit us now? My husband told me that he did not know you would come today. He was under the impression that you would come in a few weeks.”

He smiles amused. He should have expected this to come up. Éowyn likes to know everything she can. Faramir has talked about it from time to time with him. Not that Faramir complained. No, Faramir was more amused by it than anything else. And also pleased from time to time. By having Éowyn know everything she can, Faramir also learns about everything from her in time. 

“Yes, that is what I told him in my last letter. But plans changed unexpectedly.”

“How did they change, Your Highness?”

Éowyn tilts her head and raises her eyebrows. She is highly interested in why his plans changed. He does not mind telling her. It is just he does not want everything to be told to Faramir just yet. Denethor prefers to inform his son himself. He considers what he can do quickly. It is then that he decides to keep his explanation to the minimum of what is expected from him. He can always elaborate on it at a later time.

“I can tell you some things as to why my plans changed. But I am afraid I cannot tell you everything. I have come bearing an important message from His Majesty. And I also want to spend some time with my family. Ithilien gives me that as well as the peace Minas Tirith does not have.”

Éowyn frowns when he mentions the message he has. She tilts her head to the other side. Denethor can imagine what is going on in her head. He can also imagine what will come next.

“Is the message so important that you have to give it to Faramir yourself? Could you not have sent a messenger?”

“No, Éowyn. I could not send a messenger. My message is too sensitive to do that.”

Éowyn nods. He can see she is not satisfied but unwilling to press him. He is happy for he would have to disappoint her. What the message is, she will learn from Faramir once Faramir knows it. He sees Éowyn narrowing her eyes at him before she speaks again.

“The need to deliver the message is not the entire reason why you have come, is it?”

“No, Éowyn, it is not. I feel my end approaching and would like to spend it in the peace of Ithilien.”

Éowyn smiles sadly at him. It tells him she knows what he means to tell her. Soon enough, she knows he will leave them. This will have saddened her. But we both know it is inevitable. The smile, in itself, tells him she is pleased with the answers she got. But if she is truly happy with his answers he cannot tell for certain. It could be that she is simply happy with knowing his reason for visiting. Not specifically his answers. Being pleased with knowing his reason for visiting would certainly fit with her personality.

He looks carefully at Eowyn to see what other reactions she has. So far, she has only moved her head down. Whether she is lost in thought or interested in the floor does not matter. No, she is most definitely lost in her thoughts. The floor is not that interesting. Seeing Éowyn raising her head and looking him in the eye, he knows she will give him a response soon.

“I am sorry to hear that. My husband will be saddened when he learns about it.”

Oh, he knows Faramir will be saddened. It is inevitable. Knowing Éowyn, she will tell Faramir about it as soon as she sees him. Most likely though, she will seek Faramir out after having left him in his room. And as he wants to tell Faramir by himself, he needs to stop her from informing Faramir. But he can also soften things for her a bit before making his request. A request which is more like an order than an actual request. As such, she will be unable to deny him.

“I am just happy to be with my family for as long as I have left. Or at least with those who are in Emyn Arnen at the time. And I know how Faramir will feel about it. As such, I would like to ask you not to mention anything to him yet. I would like to inform him myself. Which I can assure you will happen soon.”

Éowyn frowns. Oh, no. He knows what he will be faced within a moment. She is confused and will confront him about it. He had hoped to avoid it. But obviously, he failed. Hiding his sigh in a cough, he looks at Éowyn. He awaits the question he will be faced with.

“Why, Your Highness? I see no problems arising if I mention it to Faramir. All it will do is give him time to work through it before the meeting.”

Denethor shakes his head. He disagrees. He does see problems arising if Éowyn informs Faramir. Seeing her frown deepening, he knows he needs to explain his shaking.

“I do not agree with you on that. If you inform Faramir before our meeting then confusion can occur. Confusion about what is going on. Also, Faramir could begin to worry about things that are insignificant or unimportant. Additionally, with this news, other matters are connected which I can explain at the same time then. I refuse to discuss them right now because of their sensitivity. By informing Faramir about everything at the same time, there will be no confusion. And I will be able to soften things for him.”

Denethor smiles slightly hoping to calm Éowyn down before she starts to fight him on his decision. Not that he would change it. He simply wants to avoid a lengthy discussion if he can. Hearing a sigh, he knows he has succeeded.

“Alright, I will not say anything to Faramir. But I will talk to him about it later. Hopefully, he will then tell me what you have not told me. I am highly interested in those sensitive matters.”

Éowyn is not happy with his request but accepts it. Her annoyed look only confirms his suspicion. As for her interest in sensitive matters, he finds it amusing. It just confirms what he knows of Éowyn. And what he has noticed before. Both during earlier meetings and today.

Silence falls over them then. They walk on for a few minutes before reaching Denethor sees his room appearing in the distance. He feels relieved to know he will soon be able to rest. Soon as in a few minutes. They walk on until they reach the door. He expects to have been left on his own to rest. Only to be surprised. Éowyn opens the door and ushers him inside. Once in the room, she lets go of his arm and looks him in his eyes. 

“I will leave you then, Your Highness. Or is there anything you need?”

Éowyn bows her head when she says goodbye. The bow does not last long. Éowyn raises her head moments later. She frowns as she asks her question. Denethor struggles to keep a smile from his face. He is amused by Éowyn’s concern. She wants to make sure she does not forget anything. But to her question, there is nothing he can think of he would need. Except for his rest. He only needs to inform Éowyn about it and decides to not spin around it.

“No, there is nothing I need. Except for some rest.”

“Then I will leave to attend my duties. Rest well, Prince Denethor.”


Walking to the kitchen, Éowyn considers what she needs to instruct the servants about. Dinner plans surely need to change to accommodate an additional person. Just like breakfast and lunch plans. A change which will last for some time. But for how long it will be she does not know. Prince Denethor has not explained to her how long he intends to stay. Well, he has not? She does remember his words. Those words do tell her something. They tell her Prince Denethor intends to stay for at least a few months. And not weeks which normally is the case.

Having sorted all this out, Éowyn thinks back to Prince Denethor’s other words. She is saddened by his mention of his future passing. Just like she was when she heard them. She would have liked for him to be around for a longer time. She worries about how Faramir will react when he hears this news. She expects him to be saddened. Had she been able to tell him then she would have been able to comfort Faramir. Now, as she can not, she needs to trust Prince Denethor to do it.

Nevertheless, some of Prince Denethor’s words do not make any sense to her. She does not know what to make of them. They can mean several things. Or be related to a manner she has heard off. But those manners, she does not know enough about to make sense of Prince Denethor’s words. Even though she was confused about his words, she agreed to stay silent about what she was told. She does not like to keep secrets from Faramir. But she has promised to stay silent. So she will stay silent. Whether she likes it or not. She has given her word and will keep it. Even though the need for it escapes her.

Éowyn promises herself one thing; she will be there for Faramir should he need her later. She does expect he will. But even if he does not, she will not mind it. She will then be there for him later. Her promise to Faramir brings another matter to her mind. She intended to look after Faramir and should do the same thing for Prince Denethor.

But what can she do for prince Denethor? There are a few things she can think of. She can make sure his every need will be met. Or she can look after him personally. Both require knowledge about what Prince Denethor intends to do with his time. Knowledge she does not have. As such, she does not have many options. To form more options, she needs the information. Sighing, she knows she has to deal with it.

Suddenly, an idea pops up in her head. There is one thing she can do for Prince Denethor. She can make his time will be as pleasant as she can. To do that, she needs not a lot of information. She can do it even without. All she needs to do is instruct the servants to do certain things. Things she can decide on the day they need to be done. And making his time pleasant, she will ensure Prince Denethor will have a good time. A good time for as long as Prince Denethor will be with them.

Chapter Text

Elboron POV

Sitting in the garden, Elboron enjoys the sun shining on his face. Turning his head to his side, he sees Eldarion lying on the grass. Eldarion lies stretched out with his eyes closed. All in all, Eldarion is the sight of a relaxing young man to his eyes. Elboron smiles amused. How Eldarion can find such relaxation he does not know. He still has questions about his grandfather’s reason for visiting. This thought has his smile faltering. There questions he has need answering. But how to get them. He could ask Eldarion. But that would mean ending Eldarion’s peace of mind. Grinning, he already enjoys the thought. He looks forward to breaking Eldarion’s peace of mind.

“So, Dar, tell me. Why has grandfather come to visit?”

Eldarion opens one of his eyes lazily and looks at him. Eldarion’s hands move behind his head propping it up. Elboron receives an annoyed look. His objective of ending Eldarion’s peace of mind has succeeded a bit. If not to the level he intended.

“You will find out why when we meet with Prince Denethor and Lord Faramir. I know as little about the reason as you do. But if you do want to know then there is only one thing you can do. You need to seek out your grandfather and ask him. I am sure he will give you an answer. Then you can tell everyone why Prince Denethor came to visit.”

Eldarion grins towards him.  Elboron can see a twinkle in Eldarion’s eyes. This combination has him pouting. Eldarion’s reaction tells him enough. Eldarion is teasing him. Eldarion knows he cannot ask grandfather at this time. Grandfather wanted to rest. As such, he cannot be disturbed. Nor would he want to disturb or not his grandfather. Grandfather will at best be annoyed and at worst furious if he were to be disturbed now. But back to the answer he received. It is entirely unsatisfactory as well as evasively worded. This knowledge annoys him to no end. He wants an answer he can use. Not answers which tell him nothing or repeat what he already knows.

At the same time, he smiles. Eldarion has clearly learned how to deal with annoying lords. Annoying for they ask questions that do not concern them. The only thing they need an actual answer if they should know about something. If they do not need to know then the only answer they should receive should be an evasive one. It is a lesson he is still learning. No matter how many times father and grandfather press it on him. He just finds it difficult to be evasive. To him, it feels like lying.

Elboron shakes his head. No matter how much he might be annoyed by it. It is good to know Eldarion has already learned the skill. Eldarion deals with lords more often than himself. It is then he pouts. He just found another reason Eldarion did it. Eldarion uses it on him to just be mean. It is not the way friends should treat each other. No, he should not focus on it. Maybe, if he asks his second question he will receive an actual answer. There is only one way to find out.

“Why did grandfather not send any messenger ahead? We both know he always does so. So why not at this time?”

“There was not enough time to send a messenger. Even I was not informed until two hours before we would leave. I was quite confused at that time.”

“I can imagine you were confused. And I know now why no messenger informed us ahead of your arrival. Except for the scout who saw you. But did you ask grandfather for an explanation?”

To be honest, it would not surprise him. He always asks and Eldarion has picked up that habit from him. He tilts his head when he receives a lifted eyebrow. The knowing smile this results in says enough. He was being questioned about his need to ask this question. He lifts his shoulder in response. Even if he did not need to he sees a use for asking.

“A scout? I did not see one. He must have been part of the group we encountered along the way. They offered to give us a few men to escort us further. Prince Denethor declined the offer. And I did ask for an explanation. Prince Denethor explained that our visit was arranged a few hours before we left. Moments before I was informed.

“Prince Denethor explained he arranged our visit during a meeting between him and father. I did not know why I would need to come along. Nor do I know now. But what Prince Denethor explained was that I need to be here because of the important message Lord Faramir will receive. What that message is I also do not know.

“You must know that we traveled a day longer than is normal. It was due to Prince Denethor’s health. It did not allow us to travel as fast as we normally do.”

Tilting his head, Elboron considers what Eldarion just told him. This visit was arraigned quickly in Minas Arnor with little time to prepare everything. It must have been hurriedly arranged. It makes him worry about what the message will be about. He knows Eldarion has been kept in the dark about the exact message. Except for one thing. The knowledge about the fact father will receive some important message. Whatever the message is, knowing grandfather and King Elessar, it will also affect Eldarion and him. Maybe it concerns grandfather’s decline in health. Whatever it is, he refuses to accept not knowing without having done all to learn about the massage.

“You must know something about the message, right?”

“I do know something. Prince Denethor was not willing to share much. All he shared was that a change will be coming for Lord Faramir. What that change will be and when it will happen, I do not know. Prince Denethor did not share anymore. No matter how much I tried to pry more out of him.”

A change? It only strengthens his belief the message concerns grandfather’s decline in health. Why else would father be facing a change? But as to when? Eldarion seems to have no idea. But Elboron does have a feeling the change will happen soon. Why else would the visit be arranged so hurriedly? He narrows his eyes. Eldarion must know something else, right?

“But there must be something you know about the change. Did King Elessar not hint at anything? Something small maybe?”

“No, father never mentioned anything at all about an upcoming change. All he was worried about was Prince Denethor’s health. He feels Prince Denethor pushes himself too much. He has been pushing Princ Denethor to take more rest. All with varying effects.”

Elboron knows he sounded desperate for answers. He does not care. His desperation has actually given him some more information. Information which can partly explain the visit. And it would mean the change is not imminent as he thought earlier. No, it will be some time away. But back to the new information. There is one thing that confuses him. He will have to see if Eldarion has an answer to them.

“So grandfather could have been sent here to rest. But then why did you have to come along?”

“As I told you I do not know.”

“I know you told me. But you know nothing more?”

“No, I do not. I wish I did. If I did then I would know why my presence here is so important. It would also give me time to prepare myself for the meeting. Either by reading or preparing myself mentally.”

“I can understand that. I would want to do that. Just like everyone else.”

Elboron lies down. He has nothing more to say and accepts he will not learn more about the message. He does not like it. But considering Eldarion knows no more, he has no choice. He will have to wait until the meeting to learn what the message is about. And why grandfather came to visit. 

The time they have left, Elboron decides after some quick deliberation to use the time to catch up. And to learn how Arhael is doing. He has not heard from here for some time. He would have liked to send a message but fears it might attract the kind of attention he seeks to avoid. He is not comfortable with his feelings becoming known. Also, Arhael knows why they cannot send messages between each other. The sender of every message to a member of a noble house is recorded. And by sending regular messages, it would raise suspicions. If they want to have a chance to be together then they need to be careful. Neither can upset the other father.

This suspicion, Elboron also does not want to raise within Eldarion. As such, he decides to focus on Eldarion’s life. It is a safe topic to talk about. He knows if he is lucky he might learn about Arhael’s life also. And Eldarion will return the favor by asking about his life. This makes him happy for Arhael has the chance to learn about his life when Eldarion returns home. It offers an added benefit to his chosen topic of conversation. He looks at Eldarion.

“How has your life been since we last saw each other.”

Eldarion looks at him with a frown and suspicion. Elboron worries his hidden agenda has been discovered. But when Eldarion shakes his head and sighs, he feels relieved.


Faramir’s study, Denethor POV

Denethor walks calmly to Faramir’s office. Here the meeting he called will be held. Even though he knows what he will have to share soon, he does not feel any nervousness. At least, not about the message. What he is nervous about is the reactions he will receive. Well, nervous? He does not feel a lot of nervousness. Only a bit for he does not know for certain what he should expect.

This brings his mind back to the people he asked to meet with. He hopes everyone will be present by the time he arrives. If not then he will have to wait with delivering his message. Knowing Faramir and especially Elboron, they will be quite nervous about the message. And when they have to wait any longer then their nervousness will only increase.

Arriving at the office door, Denethor listens to what he can hear. Inside the room, he can hear talking. Based on the voices, he can tell everyone has already gathered. He smiles happily. Now, no one has to wait to learn about his message. Knocking on the door, he waits for permission to enter. If he is right then they are already wait8ng for his.

“Enter!”

Denethor smiles. The speed with which he received the permission certainly tells him this. Entering the room, he has his earlier belief confirmed. Faramir, Elboron, and Eldarion are present. Eldarion is looking curious at him. Denethor smiles. Eldarion wants to know what he has to share. In contrary to Faramir and Elboron. Looking at them, he sees their obvious anxiousness. Elboron is playing with the hem of his shirt while looking him in his eyes. Faramir, on the other hand, has his hands folded on his legs while clenching his fists repeatedly.

Denethor feels the corners of his mouth moving. He forcefully shuts them down. It will not do for his amusement to be seen. It might create even more confusion than there is now. He walks to the only unoccupied chair and sits down. As he does this, he knows how much everyone wants to learn about his message. The heads moving in his direction confirm it. Just like the hopeful eyes which meet his. He nods to them for he will lift the suspension in the room.

“I am sure everyone wants to know why I called this meeting?”

“Yes, father. We do want to know.”

He sees how Faramir clenches his fists again. Faramir moving in his chair he barely sees. He only notices it because of how well he knows Faramir. It just shows how nervous Faramir is to learn about his message. Eldarion and Elboron nod in agreement.

“I called this meeting because of an agreement I made with King Elessar. King Elessar does not believe it right for me to conduct my work as steward much longer. In his opinion, my health cannot support it.”

“What do you mean, grandfather?”

The worry now comes to light even though they hid it well. But now they freely show it. He kinda expected it. It is only normal for family and friends to worry. But did they not connect his need for the mounting block with what he just said? Or does it worry them more? Well, he best determines if he is right.

“I mean my need for the mounting block. You must know it is all of a sudden I need it, Eldarion.”

“I know that, Prince Denethor. Two days before we left you did not need it.”

“What! Why did you not tell me, Dar?”

“I did not connect the dots.”

The angry look Elboron gives Eldarion tells a story. They were talking about him. Elboron wanted to know all he could. And Eldarion not connecting the dots. He can see an argument brewing. Better to break it up before it can start. It is always easier this way. Faramir has the same idea if his question is anything to go by.

“Why do you need a mounting block so suddenly, father?”

“I need it for my limbs do not work as well as they have done. They have become stiff and painful. Walking for a long time hurts me a lot. Just like writing and standing does. Two days ago, I had trouble reaching the king’s office. It was only then that King Elessar learned about my difficulties.”

He knows they will know what he did not say. He had no intention of anyone figuring it out for a long time. They would only have been allowed to learn about it once it would have become impossible to hide. Only for Gil to discover it earlier than intended. And because Gil insisted on getting answers. It was close to pestering him. It is just like his refusal to call King Elessar Gil in front of anyone. Only in his head will he do so.

There is one thing he refused to even tell Gil. He tires faster than normal each day. This is something he refuses to let anyone know. It is why he keeps his posture straight even though he can feel his exhaustion growing already. He looks Faramir in his face. It allows him to see the understanding on Faramir’s face growing. 

“So it means I will take over as steward soon? I will have to inform Éowyn as it changes matters for us. Did you and King Elessar discuss when I would need to begin my work?”

“Yes, you will need to take over as Steward. King Elessar has expressed his hope you would do so immediately. And of course, you will have to discuss it with Éowyn.”

“What will it mean for my position as Captain-General of Gondor?”

“That will be taken over by Eldarion as soon as he arrives in Minas Arnor You should join your friend, Elboron, for you have a promotion to general awaiting you. His Majesty expressed his confidence in you both. And wants you, Elboron, to aid your friend.”

“Thank you, Prince Denethor, for your confidence in me. I will certainly tell father the same when I return home.”

“Yes, grandfather. Thank you for your confidence. Like Dar, I will tell King Elessar the same when I visit Minas Arnor to receive my promotion.”

Elboron and Eldarion share their happy looks. Denethor smiles. It is good to see young people happy and excited. Excited for their shared fortune. Knowing how close they are, he feels confident in the future. Gondor will be well off when he has left. These young boys will aid Gil and Faramir in looking after Gondor.

Looking at Faramir, he receives the same pleased look as he wears. They are both happy for Eldarion and Elboron. When Faramir notices his look, Faramir frowns. Oh, he will be faced with a question soon. Faramir tilting his head only supports this.

“Father, do I need to visit Minas Arnor soon?”

“No, you can wait for about a month. I left everything in order. What needs to be done can be done here.”

Faramir sighs. Why? Is there something which will not allow him to travel soon? Denethor tilts his head. What caused Faramir’s reaction? He does not know but would like to. Not that he expects to learn about it soon. If Faramir did not tell it on his own just yet then he will not do so now. Well, Faramir will not do so if he does not ask about it.

“Why do you ask, Faramir?”

“I ask for Éowyn and I have plans for the next week. Had I needed to leave for Minas Arnor soon then we would not be able to do as we planned. Besides, I plan to write to Ceolwyn about your arrival here. Knowing her, she will come as soon as she receives my letter.”

Faramir smiles slyly at him. A smile he returns in kind. What Faramir said fits Ceolwyn completely. It is something she will do. No matter how many have tried to stop her from doing so. Looking to Eldarion and Elboron, he sees them wearing a similar expression.

“It certainly sounds like my sister. She is one to do just that.”

Sister? No, Ceolwyn is not his sister by blood but by marriage. Denethor never heard Elboron call Ceolwyn sister. He always thought they were friends. But now? Now, he starts to see that Ceolwyn has clearly become a family member to Elboron. A family member not only through his mother but most likely also felt through his father. Looking at Faramir, he awaits his response.

“You are right about that, Elboron.”

Everyone laughs at this. The serious look on Faramir’s face only added to everyone’s amusement. It is an amusing prospect for all. Especially, considering Ceolwyn’s husband. Seeing Faramir’s face lose its mirth, Denethor begins to get a suspicion. Suspicion about what will be coming his way.

“Father, might I ask how long you have had the pains and stiffness you mentioned? And more importantly, why did you not tell us about it?”

Elboron nods while Eldarion refuses to look at him. Denethor swallows a sigh and gives Faramir a hard look. This is not the question, he thought he would receive. No, he expected something entirely different. Like a question about the papers, he had delivered to this office. As for this question, he had hoped he made one thing clear. Clear to everyone he will not talk about it. The defiance he sees on Faramir’s face tells him one thing. Refusing to answer will not aid him. Faramir will not accept is. It leaves him with only one option. He has to talk about it. Whether he likes it or not.

“I have had it for a few months now. Well, at that time, it began to get really bad. It began with stiffness a few years ago. The stiffness slowly increased until pains came with it.”

“How severe does the king deem your pains to be, father?”

The worry can clearly be seen on Faramir’s face. Just like how it can be heard in his voice. This time, he lets it go. He still does not like the question. But he has to admit the question is one he finds less difficult to answer.

“His Majesty deems them to be bad enough that he does not think I will have long left. What I have His Majesty did not say.”

Faramir frowns and quickly turns his head to Eldarion. Denethor smiles amused. Faramir did not like his answer. If he knows his son then Faramir will not be satisfied. He will try to get more information from Eldarion. How much of a success this attempt will be, he does not know. He has no idea what Gil told Eldarion about his health. It could be much or not much at all. While considering this, he pays close attention to Faramir. As such, he knows just when Faramir is about to ask his question.

“Has my father's condition truly become so severe so quickly, Eldarion? Has it progresses as father said? And do you know what father suffers from?”

“Yes, Lord Faramir. Prince Denethor’s condition has become quite severe quite quickly. At least that is the impression, I got from father when we talked about Prince Denethor’s health. Father does not know for certain what caused it. And I know he has looked deeply into it. As well as discussed with mu uncles. All father could determine was that it seems to be something of the muscles.”

Faramir quickly turns his head towards the window. Is Faramir finally connecting the papers he had delivered with the change? He might but Denethor deems it unlikely. Faramir will most likely be worried about his health. Faramir turns his head again. He follows Faramir’s eyes. As he does this, he sees how Faramir’s eyes focus on a stack of papers. The way the stack is bound he knows what stack it is. It is the stack he had delivered to Faramir’s office.

“The papers I was given earlier? They relate to me becoming steward, am I right?”

Faramir finally connected the dots. The dots between the papers and the upcoming change. This realization has Denethor smiling. But at the same time, he feels how his exhaustion seeps into his bones. He must have been so focused on the meeting to fail to mention it. It might be time for him to go back to his room. But first, he needs to confirm Faramir’s words.

“You are right. These papers need your attention soon. My notes are among them. You should see how you will handle the information inside. May I go back to my room. I feel quite tired.”

“Of course, father. If you need to rest, you should go. I do not want you to exhaust yourself too much. If you require something then let the servants know. I will ensure they know to fulfill your every wish.”

Elboron and Eldarion nod in agreement. Denethor smiles amused. No one ever has told him what Faramir just did. Not that he is not pleased with it. It is just, he does not like anyone doing everything he says. He knows it will only be the beginning of what the servants will do for him. And that is just what he does not like experiencing.

As no one protests him leaving, Denethor stands up. He bows his head slightly to everyone to signal he will leave. He turns and walks to the door. Opening the door, he is about to leave the room when a voice stops him in his tracks.

“Shall I accompany you, grandfather?”

“I would appreciate it.”

He smiles to Elboron. Whether it is Elboron’s idea, he does not mind. And he does not care. Elboron accompanying him will ensure he reaches his room without too many problems. And more importantly, it allows him to talk with Elboron alone. He will now not have to find time to do talk with Elboron. He already looks forward to their talk. Even though he is well aware he might be faced with protests and pushbacks. Elboron will most likely not like to talk about it. Like usual for Elboron when discussing matters he considers private. Private and only for him.

Elboron holds out his arm to him. Smiling slightly, he accepts the offer. Together they walk to the door. Elboron opens if for him. Just as he does Denethor hears Faramir speaking up.

“Eldarion, please stay. I would like to discuss our transfer in position with you.”

Before he can hear Eldarion’s response, Elboron closes the door. Whatever Eldarion will say, they cannot hear.

Chapter Text

Faramir POV

Faramir turns his head to the window as he hears the door closing. He takes a deep breath. He does not want to conduct this conversation. But this conversation needs to happen. If not now then it will have to be conducted later. By conducting it now, Eldarion will have more time to prepare himself for the impending change. And more importantly, he asked Eldarion to stay so it does not allow him to pull out of it now.

“Lord Faramir? Are you alright?”

Faramir looks back to Eldarion. He frowns at the suddenness the questions seem to be to him. Eldarion is him looking at him with clear worry in his eyes. He smiles a bit awkwardly. How can he be alright with the news he just received? He has not yet been able to consider it. Shaking his head mentally, he knows he needs to focus on something else. Discussing the reason he asked Eldarion to stay might just serve that purpose. But before he worries Eldarion anymore, he should answer.

“Yes, Eldarion. I am alright. Or as much as I can be considering the situation and news I just received. Once I have had time to consider it, I will be fine. But let us leave it at this. Shall we begin by discussing what I have been dealing with so far? You need to know to prepare yourself for the upcoming change.”

Faramir sees Eldarion nodding. He smiles for he knows Eldarion knew it all even before he said it. He gets the impression Eldarion will say something. A few minutes later it is confirmed.

“Of course, I need to know. I cannot do my duty without what you will soon explain. Knowing will allow me to prepare myself. And by discussing it know, you will find the time to deal with your father’s news. As such, I agree that we should discuss it now. With that in mind, I would like to ask what you have been dealing with.”

Faramir smiles amused. It is truly considerate from Eldarion to think about what he will be dealing with. Eldarion is right. By discussing the impending transfer of power now, he can figure out what to do with his father’s words. With that in mind, Faramir decides it is best were he to give Eldarion an answer to the question he asked.

“The most important matter I have been dealing with is the smuggling problem on the border. The men who are stationed there cannot handle it sufficiently enough. They are simply with too few to be able to handle the problem. To ensure that it will finally be solved, I have been planning a response to this problem.”

Faramir opens a drawer in his desk and pulls out the plans and orders he has made earlier today. He hands them over to Eldarion. Looking back to the drawer, he sees another stack. He can see it is the stack of reports from the border. Without any consideration, he also pulls this stack out and hands it to Eldarion. Eldarion looks a bit taken aback. Still, Eldarion responds quickly.

“I will study them and deal with the smuggling problem, Lord Faramir. Is this the only problem along the border?”

“No, it is not. There is a shortage of guards at the border. So far I have been unable to solve it.”

Faramir smiles pleased. Eldarion’s confusion is understandable for he has only dealt with problems in the field so far. Problems which were easily sold. Or at least easier solved.

“It could be a result of the decline in men joining the army. After the war, fewer and fewer men have joined. The army does not seem much of a prospect for young men now.”

Faramir frowns. Where did Eldarion get that from? He does not know. But what he knows is Eldarions words are wrong. And he needs to set Eldarion’s belief straight.

“When you joined it changed the number of young boys for years. If only by a small number. The amount of young men joining has not decreased as much as you suggest. It has always stayed at a steady number.”

“It did increase a bit when I joined? And the joining did not decline at all?”

“No, it did not increase with significant numbers. Indeed, the numbers are not as large as they were before the war. But then we do not need so many men anymore. There has been a steady stream of young men joining after the war. We have too few men on the border, I agree with you. But I have not found the time to see where I can pull the much-needed men from. Except for the border guards who I have been shifting around. It is not a permanent solution. But for now, it will have to do.”

“So I should soon see what I can do about the shortage of border guards. I will discuss it with father once I am home.”

Faramir knows Eldarion has only ever experienced such complex matters under His Majesty’s supervision. Now, Eldarion needs to learn to do things on his own. It never hurts to discuss things later in but Eldarion needs to first work on such matters on his own.

“Eldarion, you know you need to make your own decisions as Captain-General. You do not need to discuss everything with His Majesty.”

“I know, my lord. I simply find it difficult as it is not like how I do things now. Yes, I make plans but they do not have a large range. They only affect the people I command.”

“You know that the way you make the decisions is not different from how you do it now. You make your plans first, inform the king about them in reports, and get permission when you need it. It works the same as you always did when informing me about your decisions.

Even then you only discussed it with me when you could not figure it out. Afterward, you made your final decision. Like then, you can discuss it with your officers. They can give you the advice you need and aid you in finding a workable solution.”

“Of course, I know that. I just thought it would be more different than what it sounds to be. Are there any other problems I need to know about?”

Faramir smiles. It was a very smooth way Eldarion used to change the subject. It could be done a lot better. But he decides not to focus on answering the question

“Actually there are a few other problems I am dealing with. One is road safety. It has been declining in some parts. I have the impression that brigands are increasing their activities.

“Another problem is concerts the troop movement. Some lords want more men to join their forces than they have. Some requests, I decline for I believe they have more than enough men. Still, I cannot please everyone. I need to look at where the men are needed the most. And that means declining requests which should be acknowledged.”

Eldarion frowns and tilts his head. Faramir looks away to hide his new smile. Will they now be discussing potential solutions? It would not surprise him. What would surprise him is if they do not discuss it now. He turns his head just in time to see Eldarion coming out of his thoughts.

“Mhhh. Could you not increase the patrols along the roads? It would make the brigands work difficult.”

That it certainly would. But it is not he not already tried it. Unfortunately, those brigands rarely showed up along the roads he had patrolled. As such, his attempts to stop them have been with little success.

“Is there something, my lord?

Looking up, he sees Eldarion’s worried look. He shakes his head. It causes Eldarion’s worry to increase. Sighing, he knows even better now that he needs to reassure Eldaron that nothing is wrong.

“I have tried which you suggested. But one way or the other, those brigands always seemed to know where I send the patrols. Those roads, they did not hit often. It frustrated me to no amount then. Just like it does now.

“Especially, since I have tried other options with patrolling the roads. They also all failed. Interrogating those brigands we captured does also not help. They keep their lips tightly closed. This is certainly a subject you should discuss with His Majesty.”

“It certainly makes solving this problem difficult if multiple attempts to stop it have failed. Could you give me a report or something so I know what you have already tried.”

Faramir nods and Eldarion smiles. He knows this idea is a good one as it allows Eldarion to adapt his plans. Maybe they will even give Eldarion some idea he can work with. At the same time, he knows he needs time to finish it. A few days is all he needs.

“I will give it to you before you return home.”

“Thank you, my lord. I am certain I can look at it better once I am home. Just as will be the case with the troop movements. I feel I need to look into it once I am home. Even though, I want to look at it right now. I do not like it when areas are insufficiently manned. I cannot study either matter here. No offense meant, my lord.”

“None taken. I know how much you and Elboron spend time together when you can. It certainly explains why you cannot study those matters here. As for the insufficient manning of areas, I do not like it also. But it cannot be avoided. The men who could be sent to those areas are needed there. And you are right you need time to study it carefully.”

“Do you mean to tell me that there are problems with recruitment?”

“I would not say there is a problem with recruitment. We have enough men in the army. It is true more men would be appreciated at this time. But it is not necessary once the border problems have been solved. Recruiting more men will solve the current problem by satisfying those lords who need more men. But as for the long term effect of recruiting more men, I cannot give you a definite answer. It will depend on the situation at that time.”

“I will keep it in mind, my lord. Are there any other matters which need my attention?”

Faramir frowns. There are a few matters which do need attention. But those do not concern Eldarion. Those matters need his attention. He tilts his head to consider if they have discussed everything. Moments later, he is certain everything has already been discussed. He shakes his head before responding.

“None I can come up with at this time. There are a few matters which do need attention. But those matters do not concern you. They concern me.”

“Alright, my lord. Might I ask what your plans are for the day?”

Faramir smiles amused. Have Eldarion and Elboron made plans for today? It could be possible but he does not know for certain. Eldarion could also simply be interested in his plans. Whatever the case, he does not mind telling Eldarion. He will find out later where Eldarion’s interest stems from.

“You may ask, Eldarion. I intend to study the papers father had delivered. Once, I have done that I will know what needs my attention the most. And I will know what is going on in Gondor. Also, I plan on visiting Minas Arnor soon. I hope His Majesty will have the time to meet with me then.”

“Do you know when you will visit?”

“No, I do not know for certain at this time. Why do you ask Eldarion?”

Faramir frowns. Has Eldarion planned to do something? Shaking his head, he knows it is not something he should focus on. He should focus on the king’s plans. With that in mind, it is not surprising for him to have a lack of knowledge. Still, he needs to know if only to ensure he can meet with the king. And also, from now on it is important for him to know as he will be acting as steward.

“I ask for I plan to leave tomorrow, my lord. I have matters to attend to in Minas Arnor. They were planned long before I was tasked with accompanying Prince Denethor. I have not yet informed Elboron but I will do so this afternoon.”

Eldarion scratches his head and falls silent. Faramir smiles amused. Eldarion planned to do inform Elboron later today and ask Elboron to accompany him at the same time. Of this Faramir is certain. Still, Eldarion’s silence does not last long.

“But back to why I asked. If I know when you intend to visit, I can inform father about it. I know father plans to visor Arnor next month for three months. If you want to visit then I think it has to be before or afterward. I do not know if I will accompany him considering my change in position.”

Eldarion shrugs. Faramir is not surprised if Eldarion does not accompany His Majesty. Eldarion has enough work to do for the coming weeks. As such traveling with His Majesty will be very difficult for Eldarion. If not impossible. At the same time, he now knows by when he should have visited Minas Arnor. And with the king leaving soon, he will have to live in the city. This all makes the decision for him.

“I will make sure to visit a week before His Majesty plans to leave. It will hopefully give us ample time to have the necessary discussions.”

“Of course, my lord. I will inform father when I see him. But I cannot give you any promises for I do not know his schedule in detail. Only those things which are important to me. For now, I will leave you to your work.”

“That is fine, Eldarion. I will see you for dinner?”

“I will be there. Good afternoon, Lord Faramir. I will see you again at dinner.”

“Good afternoon, Eldarion.”

Eldarion nods before he stands up and leaves. Faramir watches him leave while wondering what Eldarion has planned for the day. He shakes his head. Now that he is alone, he can finally start to work on the papers. Something he really should do as there is some urgency to it. He picks up the first paper on the stack and begins to read.

Not a minute later, he sighs and puts the paperback on the stack. He cannot seem to find the needed focus. He is constantly distracted by recent developments. He decides to focus on recent developments. Hopefully, later, he can find the focus he now misses.

But back to father’s visit, it still surprises him no matter how often he thinks about it. No matter what, he would have expected to receive word earlier than he did. And what was so difficult to not send a letter ahead. They needed to prepare either way so they could have send written a message. Giving it to a messenger could have been done by a servant before meeting up with their escort. Or His Majesty could have written to them. No matter who would have to send it, a messenger would have reached him earlier than father and his company. So, why did father or King Elessar not send a messenger? Learning about father’s unexpected arrival from a scout is annoying, to say the least.

Faramir knows had father send a messenger ahead he would have had more time to prepare himself and everything else. The lack of a messenger brings another matter to his mind; the implications of the changes. Especially, as they have been done silently. This is the impression he gets from the lack of a messenger.

But why is it being kept silent? Do father and His Majesty want to announce the changes to the public and the nobility at the same time? And when will that be? When he visits His Majesty? Before His Majesty leaves? Or will it be announced when father has died? If it will be announced after father's death? Or sooner? Well, either way, there will soon have to be made an announcement. No, it cannot be the case that the announcement about the change will be made after father’s death, can it? Faramir sighs. He cannot figure it out.

But regardless of whatever is the case, he knows one thing for certain; the apparent suddenness of the change will confuse the lords. Another thing is clear to him; the lords will do all they can to get him on their side. He hopes no one will go to extreme measures to attempt it. It will create too much trouble for everyone. Their first attempts will tell him how far they might be willing to go. It will also be just the beginning of the political movements which will be occurring once the announcement is made.

Faramir already dreads thinking about it. How could His Majesty and father decide such a change without including him into the discussion? He does not like it for it leaves him with little to no warning beforehand. Or at least not as timely as he would have preferred to get a warning concerning political matters.

Now, the moment he arrives in Minas Arnor and the news spreads, he will be harassed. It reminds him of the thoughts he had about the political movements. He hopes by talking to the king he can limit the amount of harassment he will experience. Still, had he been included then he would not have fought the decision. No, he would have likely encouraged father to step down. Especially, if he had known the state of father’s health.

But back the lords, learning about the change now leaves him with little time to check the lords' opinion about the change. Their opinion would have allowed him to prepare for whatever he will soon be faced with. There is one thing which calms him down. The lords will be in a similar position as him.

Turning his head to the window, he sees how much time he has spent on his thoughts. Too much time. He will be hard-pressed to get everything done today. He quickly begins again with his work because if he does then he will certainly not be able to finish on time.


Prince’s house, Denethor POV

Walking with Elboron, Denethor looks his grandson over. Elboron looks well and glowing. He knows just what is causing the glow. But it can wait for a little while later. He intends to make good use of their time together. Good use of their time together by learning all he can about Elboron’s life before they reach his room. They have not seen each other in a few months now. So what has happened in Elboron’s life? This is what he wants to know. Just moments before he is about to ask his question, Elboron speaks up.

“Grandfather? How has life at the court been?”

“Oh, it has been normal. Lords trying to get their plans through. Some trying to harass us into giving them more troops. Nothing abnormal.”

Denethor did not share anymore as he wants to see what Elboron will do with this. If Elboron is to aid Eldarion as a general then he needs to know Elboron can handle troublesome lords.

Looking at Elboron, he sees the frown deepening. It only lasts a moment before Elboron smiles at him. Has Elboron caught on to his objective?

“I know. That is pretty normal for lords who are present at court. At least from what I know. Father and Dar have certainly mentioned it multiple times before. Just like I have done. But grandfather, could you tell me what kind of plans the lords want to push through?”

“Nothing strange. At least not for the last few years, that is. Some lords want to be allowed to raise more taxes. They claim they have not enough money available. But—”

“Not enough available! Not enough as in wanting more money to spend. But on what? His Majesty always aides lords in getting the needed work done. He ensures they have ample funds. If either does not happen then he aides them where it is needed.”

Elboron’s eyes glinted dangerously. Denethor struggles to hide a smile. He can understand Elboron’s outrage completely. But as to Elboron’s question, he does not know where they want to spend the money on. All he has is the intelligence his informants give him. Intelligence, which is too little to act on. But before Elboron gets upset, he better calms him down.

“I do not know, Elboron. I know His Majesty is not happy with the request either. But we both do not know for certain what the lords want to spend their money on.”

Well, calling Gil not happy is expressing it softly. But Gil’s actual reaction would not be appropriate to inform Elboron about.

“Well, I would like to know.”

“And I cannot tell you.”

Elboron pouts at his answer. Denethor looks him straight in the eyes. He cannot provide Elboron with the answers he seeks so Elboron has to accept the answer he got.

It takes some time but Elboron’s pout changes into a sigh. That is a better reaction. Only moments after the sigh, Elboron looks at him with a glint in his eyes. Where does this come from? And what has Elboron planned? Denethor narrows his eyes. The glint in Elboron’s eyes does not disappear. No, a smile is added. He stays suspicious just as Elboron speaks up.

“Of course, grandfather. I know that. I was simply hoping you would have some useful insights. But do you know why the lords harassed you for more troops? Is that not a matter father deals with?”

Denethor feels his amusement returning. Elboron was not so much affected as he thought. He is happy with the question as it is something he can answer completely. Elboron’s reaction does not explain his look but he can ask about it later.

“Oh, they know they should seek Faramir out for those matters. It is just that the lords know Faramir will not give them the troops they want. As such, they hope I will agree with them and force Faramir’s hands.”

“But you do not agree with them, do you?”

Denethor laughs a bit. Elboron was smirking at him. They were both amused by the antics of the lords. He slowly gets his breathing under control. As this happens, he feels pain in his side. He grimaces but does not react further. His pain is not important. The pain allows him to get his breath fully back under control. Once he has it fully back under control, he decides it is time to respond.

“No, I do not agree with them. You would have known had I agreed with them.”

“I know, grandfather. I know.”

Denethor smiles. Elboron showed already some insight into political matters. Not as much as he would like. Still, he is confident Elboron will learn to hone his political insight better once Elboron has had some experience with lords on his own. This experience is something Elboron will get plenty of in the coming years.

Besides Elboron needing to hone his political insight, Elboron also has a few other things to learn. Such as how to obscure what you are saying and how evasive answers need to be given. It is not something he knows is easy to learn. No, it is difficult to learn if one had little time to practice. Just like Elboron has. But regardless, Elboron has to learn it. No matter what. Looking at Elboron, he decides it has been long enough for them to talk about his life at the court. It is time to change the topic of conversation. And he knows how he will do just that; by simply asking the question.

“What about you, Elboron? How has your life been?”

“My life? It has been pretty normal, grandfather. I have trained with the men and been on a few patrols. If I am not doing either then I normally aid father or read something in my room.”

Oh, but Elboron is not mentioning one thing. For as far as he knows, Elboron has always cared for his horse. He should be doing it still. Or has he stopped caring for his horse? Denethor shakes his head. He can but barely consider it. Especially as he knows Éowyn well.

Turning his head with a frown to Elboron, he contemplates how best to get to the bottom of this. He can only imagine one way of doing just that is by asking Elboron. He will do just that.

“And your horse, do you still care for him yourself?”

“Of course, I do. I thought you would know that, grandfather. It is obvious I care for my horse, is it not.”

The indignant look he receives from Elboron tells him enough. It makes Denethor laugh. It shows Elboron is still deep down the young boy he remembers. Denethor takes a few deep breaths to calm down before responding.

“Yes, I guess it is obvious. Elboron, what are your thoughts about the coming change. You know you will need to spend more time in Minas Arnor now.”

Better to change the topic before Elboron starts to pester him about it. This topic, he has chosen now, will allow him to get a deeper insight in Elboron’s thoughts about the changing positions. This way he will know if there are potential problems in the future. Or if Elboron will get distracted. Looking at Elboron, he waits for an answer.

“I know I will be more often in Minas Arnor but I do not mind. I have been given a big responsibility which is good for my future. And in Minas Arnor, I can prove myself to King Elessar and father.”

Denethor narrows his eyes. He heard the longing in Elboron’s voice. Where the longing is directed to requires little thoughts. He knows how Elboron and Arhael look at each other; like lovers. This time it is directed to seeing Arhael again. Smiling, he decides to mess a bit with Elboron. If only for his amusement.

“You forget to mention that seeing Arhael again makes you happy.”

Elboron instantly blushes and looks away. Denethor smile widens. This just confirms it; Elboron does not like to talk about his relationship with Arhael. He waits for Elboron to turn his head back which takes a few moments. Now he knows he will get a response.

“Of course, I am happy to see Arhael again. We have been good friends, grandfather. We always enjoy spending time together as we do not see each other often.”

Friends is what they are? Oh, he doubts it. Elboron and Arhael act like two young people in love. This thought has him remembering what happened shortly before he left Minas Arnor.

 

“Prince Denethor, wait a moment please.”

Turning around he sees Arhael hurrying towards him. Looking at her, he sees how she is holding something to her chest. Is she hiding what she is holding from other? The closer she gets, the more suspicious he gets that he is right.

Once, Arhael reaches him, she looks around them. It is as if she does not want people to see them together. What is she hiding? And from whom? She has never hidden anything from her parents as far as he knows. Well never? No, that is not true. She does hide something; he interest in Elboron. He only knows about is as walked up on them once. But they do not know that. He made sure to hide this from them. Who knows when he can use it. But right now his attention needs to be on why Arhael sought him out.

“Yes, Arhael. What can I do for you?”

“Could you give this letter to Elboron?”

Arhael takes her hands from her chest and holds a letter out to him. He can certainly give Elboron the letter. Still, he would like to know what it is about. Maybe it is something he can help the youngsters with.

“Of course, I can do that. What is the letter about, Arhael? Something I should know?”

He takes her letter and looks her in the eye to try and uncover why she sought him out. At the same time, he wonders what she wants with the letter. He cannot get any feelings on this for Arhael shakes her head. Why is he not allowed to know about it? Maybe she will explain soon as she looks him in the eyes.

“No, your highness. It is nothing you should worry yourself with. Only friends writing to each other.”

Friends? He doubts it. They certainly do not act like just friends. Seeing Arhael looking around again, he begins to wonder. What is she looking for? He cannot get far for suddenly her eyes widen and she practiced flees.

What scared Arhael so? Frowning he turns his head into the direction she looked at. Seeing who Arhael fleed from, his frown only deepens. Why did she flee from Gil? He smiles to Gil who wears a matching frown. Noticing the letter still in his hand, he quickly puts it into his pocket.

“Thor, what did Arhael want to talk to you about?”

“It is nothing important, Gil. Just some youghtful interest.”

Gil looks at him a frowns. He tilts his head. He refuses to tell his friend anymore. This Gil will have to do on his own. Looking away, Gil sighs and looks out of the window. Denethor stays silent to allow his friend to sort out his thoughts. It takes a few minutes before Gil looks back at him.

“Are you ready to leave, Thor? Eldarion just told me everything is prepared.”

“Yes, I am ready, Gil. It will be strange to be away from Minas Arnor. Especially as I doubt I will see it again.”

“I know. It will be strange for all, I am sure.”

Gil starts to walk and he follows. They walk in silence for some time before reaching the courtyard. Entering the courtyard, he can hear the whining of horses. Just like the rustling of people moving about. He frowns. How large will his escort be? Shaking his head, he knows he will find out later. But first it is time to say goodbye to his friend. He turns to Gil and bows.

“I was an honor to serve Gondor with you once more, Your Majesty.”

“Likewise, Prince Denethor. I hope your journey will be met with prosperity.”

Turning around, he walks to his waiting company. Eldarion helps him to mount and a few minutes later, he leaves the citadel behind.

“Grandfather, are you alright?”

“I am fine, Elboron. I was just lost in thoughts. That reminds me, a certain young lady asked me to give you a letter.”

“What? Who gave you a letter? And where is the letter?”

“The letter, I have here. I am sure you can find out who gave me the letter.”

Denethor reaches into his pocket and takes the letter out. He hands the letter over to Elboron. Elboron instantly looks at the letter carefully. Movements later, he is met with suspicious eyes.

“What do you know about this letter, grandfather?”

“Not much. All I know is that Arhael wanted me to give you this letter. She seemed like she did not want anyone to know I had it. Just so you know, I know about you two.”

Elboron stops walking and looks around. Before he is aware of it, he is pulled into a room. Elboron locks the door behind them. He looks around where they are now. He sees plenty of towels and other household materials stored around him. Turning around, he sees Elboron looking at him with worried eyes.

“What do you mean with what you just said, grandfather?”

“I know you two love each other. You have been doing so for a few years. Each time you two meet, you do so in secret. Why you have not made it clear to your families, I do not understand.”

“We never told anyone as we do not want our families to know about it.”

“Why not? I know your mother will be more than happy with it.”

“I know. I fear father’s reaction, not mother’s. Just like Arhael fears her family's reaction. So keep it to yourself. Never tell anyone before we decide to inform people.”

“I doubt you have much to fear. But all right, I will keep quiet about it. But not for long. You have to promise me to tell your parents in a month. If you do not then I will inform them what I saw during the last time you two were together.”

“I will think about it.”

Denethor smiles pleased. He mentions with his hand towards the door. Elboron follows his motion with a frown. Moments later, Elboron looks him in the eyes with a slightly tilted head. Denethor looks back at him knowing full well what Elboron is doing. He will wait to see if Elboron finds it or accepts defeat.

Hearing a sigh Denethor looks toward Elboron. Elboron turns around and unlocks the door. Elboron opens it slightly. Denethor shakes his head while Elboron looks out of the door. Does Elboron seem to avoid people from knowing they were in this room? Hearing squeaking, he looks back towards the door. Elboron stands outside the room mentioning with his hands hurriedly. He shakes his head once more before following Elboron’s instruction. After leaving the room, Elboron offers his arm again after closing the door.

It is then they walk in silence towards his room. No one says anything as they are both lost in their thoughts. Denethor considers what he recently learned about Elboron. Because of this, he is not aware of how long it takes them to reach his room. He only becomes aware of the fact they reached his room when Elboron stops walking.

“Do you need my aid, grandfather?”

“No, Elboron. You should go to enjoy the day while you can.”

“Of course, grandfather. I will see you at dinner, right?”

“You will.”

Elboron opens the door and he steps into the room. Once inside the room, he looks over his shoulder and sees Elboron standing on the other side of the door. He smiles and receives a weak one in return. Walking to his bed, he hears the door closing. He sits down to catch his breath. He was not aware he has been so exhausted by the meeting and the conversation with Elboron. Now, he regrets allowing Elboron to leave; he could have used his aid.

A few minutes later, his breathing is back under control and stands up to takes of his clothes. He proceeds to shed them and puts them on a chair to the side of his bed. Having finished this, he lies down on his bed. While falling asleep, he allows his mind to wander towards the end of the war of the ring.

Chapter Text

T.A. 3019, Citadel, Minas Tirith

Denethor walks into the room and looks at all those who are present. He smiles pleased. The entire council of Gondor has actually gathered. Well, entire? As much as is possible considering where the others are. He nods to those gathered and walks towards the table. As he does so, he sees where everyone sits. On the left side of his chair, Imrahil sits. On his right, Faramir. The other lords and captains have sat down in order of their importance to the council.

“Good morning. I am sure you all know why we are here.”

“Oh, it is difficult to miss, my lord steward.”

He glares at the lord of Anórien. He has no time for this. They have more important work to do. The only response he gets is a tilted head. Is the lord baiting him? He will not fall for it and looks away. Sighing, he decides to start the meeting. Hopefully, without any further interruptions.

“I have called you here to determine what the best course of action will be in the face of the siege on our city.”

“Well, there is little we can do. The siege is not something we can avoid. There are too few men available to hold the forces of Mordor at bay. Considering what we are facing, it will be hard on our defenses.”

“Then we need to ensure the people still in the city have a chance to escape.”

“How do you think we will do that, captain. There are no escape paths beside the great gate. I doubt you will send the people out there. They will be slaughtered.”

“I know that. What other choice do we have? None. We need to give the people a chance to escape.”

“I fully agree with you both, Nathalon, lord Bírion. But you need that what you said, Lord Bírion, is not true. There are a few escape paths in the higher levels.”

All eyes instantly turn towards Faramir. Denethor smiles for he knows which paths Faramir is referring to. At the same time, all he sees is the confusion which he fully understands. And like Faramir, he agrees with both. The great gate offers no escape but the people need to have a way out of the city. But the escape paths do. And they are called escape paths for few know about their existence.

“What do you mean, captain Faramir? I know of no other paths besides the great gate.”

“That is not surprising as the paths I referred to are not known by the people. Only a handful of people know about them.”

“Then we should use them. Any spies from Mordor will have been unable to discover the location of those paths.”

Nathalon smiles eagerly. The lords and captains all nod in agreement. Denethor nods also. The secrecy of those paths is an assurance they will need for else the people who need to flee will be slaughtered. The only thing left to do is keep their plan from the spies. Something they need to plan right now. He looks everyone in their eyes but before he can voice his decision, Imrahil speaks up.

“If we plan to use those paths then we need to ensure we can keep the spies from knowing about them and our plan.”

“How do you propose we do that, Prince Imrahil?”

All eyes turn towards Imrahil. Yes, Imrahil, how do you plan to do that? Or more importantly, have you already made a plan? Denethor tilts his head. Looking everyone in their eyes, he sees their determination to uncover the reason behind Imrahil’s words. Everyone eagerly awaits Imrahil’s answer.

“Simple. By only telling a few about the paths and our plan. And those we tell are the ones whose loyalty we are ensured of. This also means none of us can talk about our decision. If I do not overstep my bounds by giving this order, Lord Denethor.”

Imrahil looks uncertain at him. Some lords look with glee at him. Do they expect him to berate Imrahil? He would never. But then he remembers how often he has berated others who have done similar things. Looking back over the assembly, he sees some hopeful looks. One of them comes from Faramir. The longer he stays silent, the more Imrahil’s uncertainty increases. He sighs and decides to end the feeling which hangs over the room.

“You do not overstep your bounds, Prince Imrahil. It is a necessary consequence of our decision to use the secret paths. Does anyone have a problem with being unable to talk about it?”

A sigh falls over the room. Any feelings that were present evaporate. He looks over the assembly again. He sees everyone shaking their heads. Denethor nods and decides to get their conversation back on track. They have made a decision which they need to ensure sees fruition.

“Than that is agreed to. We will only tell those who we know are loyal about the location of the paths. For everyone else, we keep our plan close to our chest. That way we ensure the people will have a way to flee from the city. What remains now is planning the defense of our city.”

Everyone turns to look at Faramir. Denethor smiles eagerly awaiting Faramir’s response. Faramir’s next words will determine what they can do. And also how much problems they might be faced with. It all depends on the men they have available at this time.

“We have but few people available. Our defense will not hold long enough to prepare a defense. The Rammas Echos will not hold long enough. Not with how many are present there.”

What Faramir said makes sense. He knows the state of the defense and it is not good. And then he expresses it lightly. But then there are a few options they can use. They will have to do with what they have. And to plan, he needs accurate numbers.

“How many men do we have actually, Faramir?”

“Only a few thousand. It is far less than the force of Mordor.”

He can imagine it is. But then he knows how large the force from Mordor normally is as compared to now. A few thousand is by far not enough. Denethor scratches his head. How to solve this problem? He is considering it when Nathalon speaks up.

“And weapons? How many do we have of those?”

“Why do you ask? Do you have a proposal, Nathalon?”

“I do. We can arm all the men in the city. It will give us a few hundred more. Not enough to stop the siege but enough to hold out for a while longer.”

Denethor looks around the room to see everyone's’ reaction. The only thing he sees is nodding. Do they all agree with it? It seems like it. He looks back at Nathalon who is looking smug. He narrows his eyes. Even though he agrees with the plan he disagrees with Nathalon’s look. Suddenly, Lord Bírion speaks up.

“My lord, there is another problem we need to discuss. We need to secure the paths?”

“How do you intend to do that without giving their location away?”

Oh, Faramir, you must have some ideas to do just that. So why ask? What are you planning? Faramir’s expression is neutral so he cannot learn anything from it. He looks at Lord Bírion who looks offended. Denethor keeps his face neutral even though it amuses him a lot.

“How? By not placing men directly in their vicinity but still near enough that the paths are protected. What did you think, captain?”

Denethor looks sternly at Lord Bírion. He does not condone such a tone in this room. Lord Bírion looks at the ground with sufficient repentance. He decides to leave it at this. They have lost already too much time to his liking. All the officers need to return to the field as soon as possible. Preferably within thirty minutes. As such, he will bring their attention back to the matter on hand. But first, they need to decide on the matter on hand.

“That is a good plan, Lord Bírion. Everyone in agreement?”

All hands are raised except one. Denethor frowns. Who is this? Looking at the hand which stayed down, he is not surprised. Lord Lathron is always the one to make problems. And why? Oh, he has some ideas. Ideas he will look deeper into when this is all over. Just wait, you will have plenty of problems coming your way. Do not increase them now.

Denethor struggles to keep his face neutral. All he does is narrow his eyes slightly. He refuses to do further. But now it is time to bring their conversation back on track.

“Well, as nearly everyone agrees, we will do it as you proposed, Lord Bírion. But back to the weapons. Will we arm all men in the city?”

“I am not sure, my lord. They will only create problems for the trained warriors if we mix the men. But if we put them in the first line then it might work.”

Denethor narrows his eyes at the gleeful smile. What is Lord Lathron even thinking to gain with this? He wants to rip that smile off his face but knows he cannot. All he can do is talk to him which he intends to do. But Faramir speaks up faster.

“I disagree with that. We will not sacrifice men for nothing.”

Lord Lathron flees out of the chair. The chair falls over with a loud bang. Everyone looks to Lord Lathron with barely concealed irritation. Denethor sighs and has a feeling what will be coming in a moment.

“You coward! Your brother would not have made an issue of it. Mark my words, we will do as I proposed, captain Faramir.”

“Are you the ruling steward, lord Lathron? I doubt it as that is what I am. You do not have the authority to make such a decision on your own. And you should not threaten anyone in this room. As for right now, you will sit down right now. While you do, allow me to inform you that Boromir would also have made an issue of your plan. Just like Faramir does.”

Nodding comes from all around the table. Lord Lathron glares at everyone. What the other do, Denethor does not know but he glares back. He will not let the threat stay. It takes some time but Lord Lathron sits down. Denethor takes a deep breath before bringing the meeting back to what they were discussing before the interruption.

“If we do arm every man then we need to determine when to give the order to flee the city.”

“I agree, father. We need to give the people word ahead that the people need to flee. But then it should not be done so early that Mordor will catch wind of it.”

“But when? Captain Faramir, you did not say that. I ...”

Nathalon, really Why does he have to be so impatient. Why does he not allow Faramir to finish? Denethor sighs. He is getting very annoyed by the way the meeting is going. He looks at Nathalon with a frown before mentioning with his hand for Faramir to continue.

“I propose we give the order to evacuate the lower levels once this meeting is over. The order to flee should be given when the fifth level is breached. The people will have sufficient time to flee.”

“That might not be enough to time as they need to pack everything.”

“That is not true as I have already given the order to prepare to evacuate. And besides, there are not many women left. All the men who stay behind will ensure Mordor does not learn of the escape. While those armed protect the people.”

“I agree with you on that. It will allow for the safest way out of the city.”

Denethor smiles. Imrahil just said what he is certain everyone is thinking. Well, everyone? Not really. The frowns tell him something else. Why does their suspicion not surprise him? Oh, yes he knows why. But he better thank Imrahil for his words. Then they can focus on another matter of importance.

“Thank you, Imrahil. There is one matter left to discuss. We need to discuss what to do with the war machines.”

“I would advise against preparing them at this time. I propose to prepare them only when the Rammas Echor is about to be breached. It will be sufficient time to have the machines ready.”

“Why, captain Faramir? The Rammas Echor will not be breached easily.”

“Why? It will only be a matter of before it is breached. We do not have enough men to defend the city. So how will we be able to keep the Rammas Echor from being breached.”

“That is worrying.”

Really? Worrying? Why would they discuss escape routes if the Rammas Echor would hold? Denethor sighs. He does not understand Nathalon at all. Normally, Nathalon is not like this. So why now? It does not make sense. Faramir has just allowed him to direct their topic of conversation. He will use it.

“How long do you think it will be before the Rammas Echor is breached, captain Faramir?”

“I am not sure but I suspect it will only be at least a few hours from now. At most, the Rammas Echor will be able to hold for another seven hours.”

Mhh, he doubts the last. It sounds optimistic to him. He sees the doubts on the faces of the lords. But how to work with this knowledge. How will they know when the Rammas Echor is breached. There is only one way he can think of; by sending someone to the Rammas Echor. A voice pulls him from his thoughts.

“My lord, we do need to ensure that the men in the lower levels can flee if they are lost.”

“Do you have a plan?”

“Yes, my lord, I do have a plan. As it takes time to prepare, I propose to give them time.”

Giving the men time is a good plan. But how? Denethor considers the available options. He cannot find many. He can only come up with two. But how do others look at it? He looks over the table and only sees thoughtful looks. He nods to himself and decides to voice his thoughts.

“There are a few options we have available. We could put more men in the lower levels until the way out of the lower levels is secured. Or we could reinforce the Rammas Echor to give the needed time. Whatever we choose, we have a high risk of losing many good men. Though with the first option, we might lose more than with the second option.”

“I think the last one you mentioned would be the best option we have available.”

“What do you mean, Imrahil?”

“I mean the last option you mentioned, my lord steward. It is the best we have available.”

Nodding comes from around the room. Denethor nods showing his consent. It means now they should focus on how to get this plan executed. Securing the lower levels will require little to no discussion; it is a straightforward matter. But sending men to the Rammas Echor is not. This will require some more thought and discussion. With that in mind, he looks at the gathered lords before speaking up.

“Who will we send then to the Rammas Echor?”

“I do not like to say it but captain Faramir is the best man we have for the task.”

Denethor looks at Imrahil with a neutral expression. He does not like the suggestion. At the same time, he has to agree with Imrahil. There is no one more suited to look after this task than Faramir. But before he will order Faramir he wants to know Faramir’s opinion.

“What do you say about this, Faramir?”

“I accept the task if it is the council’s decision.”

Faramir appears calm to him but he doubts it is what Faramir is feeling. When he looks around the room, he sees worry on nearly all faces. Except for Lord Lathron who is smiling pleased. Denethor narrows his eyes. Everyone, except Lord Lathron, is aware of the risks involved. At the same time, it is clear this needs to be done.


Minas Tirith, Faramir POV

“My lord, am I dismissed? I would like to select the men who will accompany me to the Rammas Echor as well as informing them about their next assignment.”

“You are, Captain Faramir. This meeting is over as it is.”

Faramir stands up, bows and leaves the room. Behind him, he can hear the sound of chairs moving and boots hitting the floor. He does not turn around as he knows what he needs to do right now. He has no time to waste by interacting anymore with the members of the council.

As to what he needs to do, he needs to do just as he said. But besides that, he also needs to prepare himself. As he does not know how long it will take him to do all, he needs to begin as soon as possible, With all that in mind, he walks to the barracks to find his lieutenant, Eithoril.

Arriving at the barracks, Faramir looks for Eithoril but cannot locate him. Sighing, he decides to ask the men who are at the barracks if they know where Eithoril is. It becomes quickly clear no one has seen Eithoril for the last few hours. Just as he is about to leave, he hears some men talking about Eithoril. They mention something about the training fields. Based on this, he decides to visit the training fields next before he will go through the entire city. Something he hopes to avoid. It will cost him too much time. 

Walking to the training fields, he sees the preparations being taken for the higher levels. Just as they are being taken for the lower levels. Once he reaches the training fields, he looks for Eithoril but cannot find him. As such, he goes around to ask the men who are training. But this time, he will question the men more deeply. What he wants to find out is who has seen his lieutenant last.

Minutes later, he talks to a guard who remembers where he saw Eithoril last. This was near the gates on the third level. And more importantly, it was not so long ago. Faramir smiles and thanks the guards. He, of all the guards he talked to, has given him the best information.

Faramir leaves the training fields and walks towards his destination. As he walks, he sees the preparations for the upcoming siege taking shape. Men hurry around him with tools or materials. It is a sight he is pleased to see. To every officer he meets, he nods. The closer he gets to his destination, the more crowded it becomes. It does not surprise him; around this area, most defenses need to be placed.

Reaching the gate, he looks around. Initially, he cannot find Eithoril. It is just too crowded to recognize who stands where. Faramir knows there is only one way to decisively determine if Eithoril is here. He pushed himself through the crowd when people do not move out of his way. As he nears the back of the crowd, he finally finds Eithoril. Eithoril is talking to captain Bíron, the captain in charge of the third level, while keeping an eye on what goes on around him.

“Captain, what is the matter?”

Eithoril looks at him with surprise. Captain Bíron, on the other hand, quickly straightens up. Faramir nods to both men and walks closer to them.

“Eithoril, I could ask you the same thing. Why are you at this gate meeting with captain Bíron?”

He clearly remembers Eithoril telling him he would stay in the higher levels to keep an eye on the placement of the men. To now be in the third level and at the gate is surprising. It makes him wonder if there is a problem he should be aware of.

“Oh, it nothing really of importance. Captain Bíron wanted to know what he could expect. As far as he told me, he has not been out of the city for a long time. Also, he wanted to know if his early experience under captain Thorongil will serve him still. Or if the tactics changed. So I decided to accompany him to explain what he could expect here. It makes my explanation better to see the environment.”

“And have they changed?”

Faramir tilts his head and looks at Captain Bíron. He is interested in learning what Eithoril has said. Seeing captain Bíron’s smile, he gets a feeling what the answer will be.

“No, my lord. The tactics have not changed if Eithoril speaks the truth. As such, my experience will be sufficient to prepare me for what is to come.”

“Oh, I am sure Eithoril speaks the truth. Could I speak with you alone for a moment, Eithoril?”

“You can. Excuse us.”

They leave the gate behind but not before Faramir notices the confused look on captain Bíron’s face. This look lasts but moments before captain Bíron turns around towards his men. Faramir guides Eithoril through the third level towards the barracks. Reaching the barracks, he guides them into the captain’s office. He knows captain Bíron will not mind. Besides, the captain will most likely expect them to be here. Faramir sits down behind the desk and mentions for Eithoril to also sit down. Once they both sit, Eithoril does not hesitate with asking what is on his mind.

“What do you wish to discuss that cannot be said out in the open?”

“You know I attended the Council of Gondor. It was there we discussed how to handle the situation which is before us.”

“I know captain but what do you want to tell me?”

“We decided to strengthen the Rammas Echor. The task was given to me.”

Eithoril nods but frowns at the same time. Faramir smiles. He can imagine what Eithoril will tell him soon. It will only be a reminder of what he already knows. When Eithoril takes a deep breath, he knows he will hear it.

“Captain, you are aware it is a dangerous assignment? And do you know why the Rammas Echor needs to be strengthened? Should that not happen to the city?”

“I am aware of both. The city will be strengthened but needs time to do so. My task is aimed at giving the city the time it needs. I need your help in selecting the men who will accompany me.”

“I will help you. But just so you know, I will come with you no matter what. I will not abandon you. No matter what.”

“I would expect nothing less. But let us now select the men who will accompany us.”

Eithoril nods and brings paper and writing utensils to him. Faramir smiles bit knows Eithoril will be able to grasp the full plan. Even if he did not explain it. It takes a moment but then Eithoril has gathered everything, he stands next to him. The next hour, they spend on discussing who will be coming with them. And who will be ordered to stay behind? They both know strong warriors will most likely be needed to defend the city. Just like they need those warriors themselves. It results in them making consideration which gives them the men they need without risking the cities defense. It is hard work but at the end of the hour, they have a list ready with the names of the men they selected.

“I will inform the men we selected, captain. You should go prepare yourself.”

“Thank you, Eithoril. You know when we will march. Inform the men but make sure you will also be ready in time. If you are not then I will leave you behind.

Faramir stands up and leaves the barracks. He does not allow Eithoril time to respond. He walks back to the citadel where he changes his clothes and puts on his armor with the aid of his esquire. Only three hours after he left the Council of Gondor, Faramir meets up with Eithoril in the first level. There all the men who will accompany them are also gathered. A short while later, they are marching on Osgiliath.


Denethor POV

Denethor enters his study and sits down. He leans back and looks at the ceiling. The meeting has left him feeling tired. After a few minutes, he looks out of the window. Outside, he can hear how Faramir leaves the city. He sighs. Faramir is doing his duty but he still fears for his safety. If it could be avoided then he would not have allowed Faramir to take this task. All these worries have him remembering Faramir as he grew up.

Faramir has always been a thoughtful child who has a love for lore. Faramir has shown the same love for lore as he has. Due to this, they have worked a lot together in the past. Work he has alway greatly enjoyed doing. It made it very clear to him how much Faramir has come to resemble him. And also Finduilas. Their love for lore brought them together.

All these thoughts bring some concerns back to his mind. The concerns are about what would become of Gondor after his death and when Boromir rules. Boromir has always been a warrior and not a politician. But then his concerns were not too great. He simply was the most concerned about how Boromir will handle everything. Faramir’s promise to aid Boromir in any way possible and accepted was the reason his worries were not too great. Even if the promise was made in the privacy of his office without Boromir’s knowledge. Or more clearly without Boromir’s knowledge for as far as he knows.

His mind starts to drift. As it drifts, he starts to consider the latest assignment once more. He hopes Faramir will succeed but is fully aware of the risks involved. Faramir and his men will be largely outnumbered. Besides, there are not many places they can flee to. All those places can easily be ambushed. It makes the assignment dangerous and wakes an urge in him. He wants to see how Faramir is doing. But how should he do that?

Denethor thinks about watching from the seventh level but quickly dismisses it. It will not give him a good enough overview. He will not be able to see anything of importance. Maybe the Palantíri will be a good choice? But what about Sauron? Sauron has assaulted him in the past. But he managed to resist him. But will he be able to do the same if he watches over Faramir?

Still, the palantíri gives him the best chance of watching over his son and knowing how he is doing. Besides, this way he will also know how long the city has to prepare itself. Yes, he will use the palantíri. Looking out of the window, he hopes for Faramir will return to him alive with his men. They will need every man to survive the upcoming battle.

Chapter Text

Citadel, Minas Tirith

A knock on his door has Denethor looking up. Who could it be? Looking out of the window, he sees how only a few hours have passed since the council of Gondor met.

Another knock on the door. He sighs. Whoever is on the other side of the door is clearly determined. He better let the person is. He is certain another knock will come of he does not allow the person to enter. And truthfully, he has become quite interested in whoever is on the other side. With all that in mind, he decides to allow the person entry into his study.

“Enter!”

The door opens and he looks out of the window. From the side of his eyes, he can see the shadow of the person. The person is not an adult but a young boy. He turns his head and sees Bergil scuffling his feet. A small smile appears on his face momentarily.

“What is the matter, Bergil?”

“The captains asked me to summon you, my lord. They would like your advice on the planning of the defenses for Minas Tirith.”

“Did you tell me exactly what they told you?”

“Yes, my lord.”

Denethor narrows his eyes. This results in Bergil scuffling more. He does not pay attention to it. It is of no importance to him. What is important are the feelings he has. These feelings are annoyance with the captains. The audacity of them to summon him. They should have requested his presence. This is an outright disrespect. He will deal with them.

“Where are the captains now?”

He can hear the harshness in his voice. Bergil looks him in the eye scuffling around. Denethor narrows his eyes further when Bergil does not immediately answer. Does Bergil not know where the captains are? Unlikely. Seeing his response, Bergil swallows before speaking up.

“In the council room, my lord.”

“Then let us go there.”

He stands up and walks towards the door. Bergil hurries after him. He walks towards the council room while not paying attention to Bergil. It does not matter to him if Bergil follows him or not. Bergil could leave for all he cares. He does not need Bergil to be around or to guide him. He knows the way. But what he needs is to have the captains to be present so he can tell them what he thought about their ‘summon’.

Reaching the council room, he opens the door. The door slams into a wall. The captains look up and stop their discussion immediately. He looks sternly at all those present and puts the names by the faces. The captains look to the table or the wall. Anywhere but at him. He narrows his eyes and is about to berate them only to hears steps behind him. He turns around annoyed at whoever is coming to disturb him now. Imrahil walks towards him with an amused smile which disappears when seeing his annoyed look.

“So they summoned you as well, my lord steward.”

“Oh, yes, Prince Imrahil, they did. Something they know they should not have done.”

Imrahil smiles again. This time Imrahil’s shoulders shake. Denethor narrows eyes deeper. He does not appreciate the response. He will not be made fun of. Imrahil does not react to it at all. It annoys him even more. After a moment, Imrahil straightens his face.

“Shall we go see why we were called here.”

Denethor nods and turns around. The captains still look anywhere but at them. He smiles pleased. Now, he has calmed down a bit he can enjoy the result his words and actions have. The captains know what they did wrong. He looks at them once more before deciding it is time for them to explain themselves.

“Why did you summon us?”

“Nathalon summoned you, my lords. He insisted on it regardless of our protests.”

The captains save Nathalon nod. They all give Nathalon a hard look. Nathalon does not seem to be affected by it. Nathalon lifts his chin and looks them in the eye. Denethor turns towards Nathalon. Nathalon begins to squirm in front. He hides his smile in a cough before addressing Nathalon. 

“Why did you have us summoned, Nathalon?”

“We were preparing the defense of the city and we would like your input.”

“On what do you want our input?”

This question has the captains turn their attention back to Nathalon. Now, he gets an impression of what their desire is about. He already knows he will not like the answer. Nathalon squirms once more. Denethor coughs once which causes Nathalon to jump.

“Well? We would like your input on where to precisely place the troops. As well as who is ultimately responsible for which part of the defense. There was some discussion about it.”

He frowns. What discussion? It should be a simple matter to determine who is responsible for which part of the defense. No responsibility has changed. At least, he has not made a change. And Faramir would have informed him had he done so. So where does the discussion come from? He looks around the room and sees everyone looking away once more. What is going on here? He sighs and decides voicing his thoughts is the best course of action. Maybe he will get more information this way.

“I do not think it requires much thought that each of you is responsible for your level or area. Or does it?”

“No, my lord. But what about the cavalry? No one is in charge of them at present.”

So that is what the discussion is really about. Well, the cavalry? Where do they come from? He knows Imrahil brought his cavalry with him but are there more around? He walks towards the table and looks at what the captains put on the map. He picks up a list detailing all the troops present in the city. He cannot find any more cavalry present than those from Belfalas.

“Is this list complete?”

“Yes, my lord. It is complete for as far as I know. I received this list from Eithoril before he left with captain Faramir.”

Captain Bíron looks him in his eye. Denethor nods. It is just as he thought. There is no more cavalry in the city than those who came from Belfalas. It makes the decision who to place in charge of the cavalry easy. He has only one person in his mind. Looking up, he is met with confused and hopeful looks. He frowns. Do some of them want to be in charge of the cavalry? And why? None of the captains except Imrahil have experience with leading a cavalry. He decides it is best to remind them about the origin of the cavalry before telling them who he will place in charge of them. Hopefully, his reminder will give them a hint who will be in charge of the cavalry.

“Who does the cavalry consist of? They are nearly all men from Belfalas. As such, it is Imrahil who has command over them. He bright the only cavalry unit to this city and should continue to lead them.”

“Will more come?”

He turns his head to Imrahil. He is not at all surprised by the question. Knowing if more will come will allow Imrahil to adapt his plans to their arrival. But knowing the state of the road he doubts they can come. They have deteriorated quite severely in a short time. If any come they will lose many of their own to the attacks from orcs. Imrahil frowns which prompts him to react.

“I highly doubt more will come. They cannot reach the city as it is. Those men will be kept in their province. Somewhere where I suspect they will be needed.”

“And Rohan? They have a large cavalry unit.”

“Ahh, yes they do. I have already sent someone to ask Rohan for aid. If we get their aid time will tell. For them also counts it will be difficult to reach the city. As such, I advise everyone to make their plan without the possible aid of Rohan. I do not know if they come. And if they do then I do not know when.”

Everyone nods and looks at the table. Everyone but lord Bírion looks him in his eyes. He frowns hoping to prompt lord Bírion to speak up. He wants to know what is on the lord’s mind. Lord Bírion smiles calmly before speaking up.

“That is certainly true for Anórien, my lord. All the roads have orcs camped on the side. Anyone trying to get over them will be attacked.”

“What have you done about it, Lord Bírion?”

He did know the roads were dangerous but not so dangerous that everyone gets attacked. Especially larger groups. He would expect them to be relatively safe. In his opinion, they should be able to fight their way through without too many losses. But Lord Bírion’s words make him doubt that. So what has been done about the threat? To strengthen his words, he frowns.

“I have sent men to regularly clean the roads. So far, we have paid heavy prices for our attempts. My steward has orders to continue it. This so should Rohan decide to come to our aid, they will be able to use the roads. I know I risk lives with it but deem the potential aid from Rohan to be more important.”

He nods. This is indeed a suitable solution. And naturally, it comes at a high price. He agrees it should be continued so Rohan can aid them. But now that he has the answers he needs, it is time to move back to the topic on hand.

“Back to the placement of the troops, what have you all come up with?”

“Not much, my lord. Some of the captains want to take my men away. I will not allow it! I need them more than they do. How else will I be able to protect those who stayed behind? I cannot do that if I lose men to the other captains.”

This results in shouting all over the room. He hears the explanations from the captains why they require the men. Regardless of what he hears, Denethor does not pay attention to it. He knows who the men are who stayed behind. It is the healers and brave lats. They are nearly always in the higher levels. So why would it be a problem if the higher levels lose some men? In the lower levels, more men will be needed once the siege is in front of the great gate.

He looks at the map. How many men will be needed in the higher levels? He does not believe the higher levels need as many as the lower levels will need. The lower levels bring their men with them as they are abandoned. He knows just how to solve the problem and looks up. Shouting still happens and he frowns.

“Silence!”

The captains fall silent instantly and look at him with a shocked look. Most look abashed a but some eyes burn with anger. It makes him wonder what they have been screaming at each other. But regardless of his wondering, the captains need a berating once more. Even though, he had felt hope they had learned their lesson after his initial berating. He takes a deep breath.

“You are captains of Gondor! Not some roundabouts young boys. Each of you should behave according to your position. As it is obvious you cannot make a suitable decision on your own, I have made them. Before I will inform you what my decision is, I want to make it clear that there will be no discussion about my decision.”

The captains nod while Imrahil raises an eyebrow at him. Denethor smiles amused. Imrahil lightens his mood a bit. Looking back at the captains, his mood sours once more. He takes a deep breath before continuing.

“I have decided that the majority of the troops will be placed in the lower levels. In case a level is lost, all the surviving men should join those of the next level. Imrahil, you need to keep yourself, your sons and men ready on the first level for when you are needed. I will issue the order for you to move out.”

“Of course, my lord steward.”

He nods towards Imrahil while the captains nod. In the next thirty minutes, they go over the actual assignments of the men. They make a list of which men are needed at which level. From time to time tempers flare but in the end, Denethor manages to assign the men where they are needed. All without much regard to the protests of the captains.


Denethor looks around the room as he places the papers on the table. Everyone is leaving and he sits down on a chair. Well, sits down? It is more like falling into the chair. He does not know what else he can do. All he knows is that the preparations are more likely not enough. Seeing Imrahil walking towards the door, he frowns.

“Prince Imrahil, stay for a moment. I have to need to discuss a matter with you. Please close the door once everyone else has left. I do not want for us to be overheard.”

Imrahil stops and turns around with a raised eyebrow. He faces the stare with one of his. It is only then Imrahil nods. Imrahil turns around. From how Imrahil stands, he is watching the captain’s leave the room. Once the last captain has left, Imrahil closes the door.

A squire walks towards Imrahil after a hand movement. Denethor cannot hear what is being whispered. It intrigues him. What he does notice is the quiet discussion taking place. A few minutes later, the discussion is over and the squire leaves. Imrahil turns towards him. He allows his intrigue to show and frowns.

“What were you discussing with the squire?”

“I asked him to seek out Elphir to make the necessary preparations. As you wanted to talk to me I cannot do so myself.”

“Why would you do that?”

He frowns without meaning it. Imrahil’s reason will not be a surprise for him. He would have done the same were he in this position. All he wants to know is if his suspicion about the reason is correct.

“Because I need for my sons to be informed of the plans as soon as possible. Preparations need to be made. My men need to be gathered. All this, I know Elphir can look after.”

“Oh, I do not doubt Elphir can look after every preparation. I am confident Elphir can handle the pressure.”

“Thank you for your confidence, Denethor. But why did you want me to stay?”

Imrahil smiles calmly at him. Still, Denethor cannot let it go Imrahil did not mention everything. Just like he wants to know why Imrahil would change the topic so fast. They could have talked some more about the preparations. Imrahil looks at him. He sighs. He just knows he will not be able to change Imrahil’s mind. With all that in mind, he knows the only thing he can do is answer Imrahil’s question.

“I wanted to talk about Rohan with you. I want to know what your thoughts are. Especially if you believe they will come to our aid?”

Imrahil frowns and looks away. Denethor watches how Imrahil raises his shoulders. He frowns. Did Imrahil not expect the question? Rohan was mentioned during the meeting. So why the confusion? He shakes his head. As he does, Imrahil turns around.

“What do you want to know? If Rohan will come to our aid?”

“Among others, yes. When you were traveling, did you notice anything about movements on the borders of Rohan?”

“Now that you ask, no I did not notice anything. But then I was not paying much attention to it, to be honest. I was more focused on reaching Minas Tirith. Have you not received a response yet?”

So, Imrahil remembers the mention of Rohan during the meeting. But then, it is not surprising Imrahil did not pay attention to Rohan’s border. It is understandable. Imrahil frowns and stares. He shakes his head in response before speaking up.

“No, not yet. It makes me worry that the messenger was either attacked or our request denied. But then, it will be too dangerous for the messenger to return alone. You know the state of the roads. What is more, my informants do not have any information on movements.”

“How recent is the information?”

“Not really recent. You have heard about the situation with the roads, just like I said earlier.”

“Yes, I have. Do you want to say that when the roads got too dangerous you received no more information from your informants?”

“Yes, I mean to say that. But everything combined it does not give me much confidence that Rohan will come to our aid.”

“I urge you to keep the hope up. If not for yourself then for the men. They need us to show hope even if we do not feel ourselves. And as you said, you have not heard anything yet and the roads are too dangerous. Maybe Rohan is preparing to come to our aid. We do not know. So I ask you to keep hope. No matter how small the hope will be.”

“I wish I had your confidence for I do not feel any hope. Everything considering the siege looks bleak to me. How I wish my sons would be here. Boromir would know what to do.”

He looks out of the window with longing. He misses his son so much now. He sighs and feels a hand placed on his shoulder. The hand squeezes a bit in comfort. He places his hand for a moment on the other.

“Is there anything you need from me, Denethor?”

Does he need anything? Well, he needs his son. He needs the situation to become more hopeful. In other words, he needs Mordor to lose many troops. And quite suddenly at that. Or he needs to receive signs. Sings, he will have the men needed to fight off the forces of Mordor. He smiles grimly. No, there is nothing Imrahil can aid him with. He shakes his head.

“No, Imrahil, there is nothing you can do for me. You are dismissed. You should check on your men to see if Elphir has everything prepared.”

He does not turn around. He feels justified to send Imrahil to his sons. Knowing the bleakness of the situation, he would not be surprised would they all die. Imrahil should be with his family while they are all still alive.

As he does not turn, he does not notice how Imrahil reacts. All he hears is footsteps walking away from him. A door is opened and closed. The room is quiet except for the sound of his breathing. He looks up to the sky knowing he is all alone. He feels how tears stream down his face.

His solidarity has his mind moves back to the possibility of Rohan coming to their aid. He has not much hope of it occurring. Imrahil’s words did not change it. He snorts. How can he even think about the potential aid of Rohan? The entire situation is not hopeful. Rohan’s potential aid might not even aid them to a victory. Besides, Imrahil’s words just acknowledge what he believes to be the case. Another thing which plays a part is the lack of information from his informant and about road safety. There are mere factors which play in his belief. There are many more. But these few are, in fact, the most important ones. Except for what he saw in the Palantíri before Bergil sought him out. This is, by far, the most important factor.

In the palantíri, he saw what Theoden looked like. It did not give him any hope. It still fills him with dread thinking about it. The sight he saw makes him believe Theoden to be of no use for him or Gondor. It made him clear that Grima had become more powerful in Rohan. And Grima has never been positive towards Gondor. No, Grima is fully under the sway of Isengard. His informants told him this. As such by being under Grima’s sway, Gondor will be under Isengard’s. It means the oaths binding the lands have clearly been diminished. If not broken. But about that, he cannot be certain. 

As for Isengard. Saruman should have never received the keys. It is a shame his ancestors did so. Saruman has made it clear where he stands. He does not care for Gondor at all. He never has. If he cares for the other lands is another question he has no answer to. But it is a safe assumption for Denethor to believe Saruman does not care for those lands also.

This assumption, he bases on some of his latest discoveries. It became clear to him that Saruman supports Mordor. He saw the factories and orcs. He saw Saruman’s breeding. All contribute to the forming of his opinion. And with Isengard breeding a new kind of orcs, Rohan has a large problem on hand. At the same time, he knows Grima will not deem it much of a problem. If he considers it a problem at all.

He tilts his head. Maybe others will see it as a problem. If they do then they will be facing more problems than the new breed of orcs. Grima will have banished these people. Because of this, it will make it impossible for those men to come to Gondor’s aid. Who knows where these men will be.

He looks out of the window. Rohan has abandoned them. He is certain if it. Everything points to it. He just hopes Mithrandir will pose no problem with him being in the city. He cannot be fighting two battles at once. It would be disastrous for his city.

Chapter Text

Walking up the stairs, he thinks back to why he is even making his way up. He wanted to keep an eye on Faramir during his assignment. And the Palantíri in the room he is moving to just gives him a way of doing so. In fact, it is the best way as he determined earlier today. He feels his nerves rising in anticipation. He cannot wait to see how Faramir is doing with his assignment.

Reaching the top of the stairs, a door appears in front of it. He places a hand on the handle and hesitates. Shaking his head, Denethor opens the door. Inside the room, he can see the Palantíri standing. Her nerves spike for a moment before he takes a deep breath and steps inside the room.

He approaches the Palantíri. He knows he needs to watch what is going on. Still, he feels afraid of what he might see. Not that he would ever let anyone notice his fear. It is beneath him to show weakness to anyone. They can only see him as a stern leader and not someone whose afraid.

Stepping up to the Palantíri, he hovers his hands above it. Shall he do it? Shall he look? He can still walk away. There is still time. Shaking his head, he places his hands on the palantíri. He made up his mind earlier. It is of no use for him to now doubt his earlier decision. He sees himself moving over the land at a fast pace.

He halts his thoughts and looks around. To his right, he can see the brightness of Mordor. He quickly moves away and turns around. Mordor does not hold any importance to him right now. No, Faramir does. Just like his troops. As such he turns around. It has him looking at Minas Tirith. He can see some preparations being made in the distance. But what he cannot see it to small or hidden. Still, he smiles pleased with the results. Minas Tirith will be ready for the siege. Faramir has achieved his major objective already. All which is now needed is to stall for as much time as possible.

He shakes his head, he should look for Faramir and see how he is doing. He turns around once more and looks over the fields carefully. He cannot see anyone on it at the moment. Well, he can see people but those are deceased. Besides this, he can see hoofprints on the ground. From there, he can observe the direction the riders rode. He follows the tracks. During this, it becomes clear to him that Faramir has already left the fields. Faramir is long gone from the Rammas Echor.

With this knowledge, he moves his mind towards the Anduin. This is where he suspects Faramir to be. Reaching the Anduin, he looks around. He can see his forces moving on the banks of the river. He smiles pleased. So Faramir has recovered the ground they have previously lost. But then he frowns. This is quick. Have they been lured into a trap?

He looks carefully at the men to see how they are doing. The men are sitting together making the most of the moment of peace. But speaking of peace, how long do they have left? Faramir appears behind the men looking at his other side of the river. Or at least, that is the direction Faramir looks at. He follows Faramir’s line of sight. He frowns for he cannot understand Faramir’s worry at this time. Nothing worrying is happening. All this makes him understand where the men’s peace comes from. No orcs or other foul creatures can be seen. Everything is quiet.

But then, he considers what he saw and knows about Mordor. Mordor would not retreat without good reason. So, have they left for another location? Maybe but time will tell. Still, Faramir’s actions make sense to him now. Faramir was checking to see where the orcs when towards. He turns his attention back to Faramir and sees Faramir looking worriedly. What did Faramir see?

Suddenly, Faramir calls out something. The men grasp their ears. Was it a piercing scream? That would explain the men’s reaction. He shudders at the thought. He knows what it will mean if it is true. He quickly looks at the sky. His eyes widen at what he sees. He was right in his suspicion.

In the distance, and not far away, the Witch-king of Angmar appears on a flying beast. Others will most likely follow. Dread starts to fill him. Has Faramir’s victory been for naught? He shakes his head. He should not dwell on it. Faramir’s actions are what require his attention. Only this way, he can tell how his son is doing with this unexpected challenge. Or more likely this unexpected nightmare.

What are the men doing? He looks around and smiles at what he sees. The men are picking themselves and their weapons up. Those in front are forming lines and preparing for the upcoming assault. It is good they did for a moment later orcs descent on them and all hell breaks loose. Denethor tries to keep an eye on Faramir but loses him within seconds.

He moves his mind higher into the sky. Hopefully by having a full picture of the battle going on it will allow him to find his son again. He will not know what to do should Faramir perish now. He has nothing left then. He looks around the battlefield. In the back men are jumping on their horses or running away. Cowards! How could they abandon their post? They should stay and aid in the battle. Not running away.

A movement to his side draws his attention. He releases a breath he did not know he held. Faramir is fighting and moving around the battlefield. Wherever Faramir goes men hurry away as soon as they can. Some are killed while fleeing but others kill the orcs before also fleeing. Moving with the men, he notices how their retreat is complicated. All those near the back of the retreat have to fight off pursuers. But where are they going? And will they reach the target of their retreat in time? 

As he moves, he sees where they are heading. The Causeway ports appear in the distance. The first of the retreaters reach the Causeway ports which creates another amount of chaos. It does not take long for Faramir to reach the ports with the surviving men. From the men falling, he can tell Faramir loses men he will desperately need in the coming time. The orcs halt in their approach once the men are all pushed back. They immediately begin to form lines.

He looks at the men on the Causeway ports. They are also forming lines. Archers are hurrying to the top while riders and infantry prepare themselves for the upcoming attack. He looks at the number of men available and the number of orcs. He does not like what he sees. The Causeway ports cannot be held for a long time with this small number in comparison to the overwhelming number of orcs. It will only be a matter of time before they also need to be abandoned.

He sighs. He would have liked to have more time to prepare the city. That besides the fact that the city will be ready at the time when the Causeway ports will be abandoned. Looking at the men, he sees something strange. Slowly the numbers become less. Is there already fighting? He cannot see anything about it. The men are all still prepared for the coming attack. So where are the men disappearing towards?

Looking around, he sees what Faramir is doing. Faramir taps some men on the shoulder and speaks with them for a moment. Seconds later, these men are returning to the city. Why is Faramir sending men away now? What purpose does it serve? It does not make sense. He knows Faramir better than to believe Faramir acts without considering the situation. So what reason could it have?

Just as he thinks this, another surge occurs. The chaos which existed near the river appears at the Causeway ports. This time, more orcs attack. The attackers show more aggression. Archers fire arrows relentlessly and the infantry digs themselves in while fending off the orcs to the best of their abilities.

Denethor looks over the field with sadness growing. The archers do their best in cutting the numbers of orcs. But it will not be enough. For now, they can hold the orcs off. But for how long? The numbers are simply not in their favor. He looks for Faramir and sees him hurrying towards the ground. Faramir calls to the men. Men leave their position while others buy them time. Another retreat is starting. He knows what this means. The doom of Gondor is near.

What should he do? He lets the Palantíri abruptly loose. He looks out of the window. The sky is getting darker with each passing second. He looks towards the ground. What is there left to do but accept the coming doom? How will they ever be able to fight off all those numbers? They cannot do so. But what shall he do?

He turns around and leaves the room. He does not have the will left to watch the approach of the orcs on their city. He already knows what is coming. He also knows Faramir and his men will not make it. He is certain of it. Tears prick in the corner of his eyes. He swallows and forces them away. There is no use dwelling on these matters. What he needs to know is what he will do. Shall he give the order to flee now or shall he do it at a later time? Maybe a good idea to give the order at a later time. It will allow Mordor less time to discover the escapees. As such, these people can find a way to safety. He laughs shallowly as he descends the stairs. Safety? Right. They are still going to die. Only by fleeing, they have some time longer to live. So what is the purpose behind giving the order later?

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, he opens the door and walks on. Where to he has no idea. He simply walks on. As he walks, he is repeatedly ambushed by runners. Each of the runners is asking for orders. He ignores them all. Even those who ask to send Faramir aid. Why would he? He will only send the men to a death which would serve better were it to happen by defending the lower levels. And not by risking their lives to safe doomed men.

As he enters the citadel, he is immediately ambushed by two runners asking the same question. They request permission for Imrahil to ride out in aid of Faramir. He frowns. Was his earlier ignorance not a sufficient answer? Why do they even want to fight? What do they think to achieve with it? Soon they will face Mordor either way. So why do they want to meet them on the field so desperately? He shakes his head in confusion. He does not understand them.

His shaking has the runners renewing their effort. He frowns. What orders do they have? And more importantly who gave it? Certainly not Imrahil. No, Imrahil would not press him like that. Still, whoever gave the order will be in so much trouble if he gets his hands on him. No matter the siege. Regardless of all that he has his mind made up.

“No! I will not allow it. Tell whoever sends you that the cavalry will not ride out. I will risk their lives for nothing. Imrahil knows what they will be needed for. Tell him it is for the stragglers. Imrahil will know what I mean.”

“But my lord, we are speaking of your son. Do you not want his life to be saved?”

“No, my mind is made up. Leave!”

The runners hurry off scared. He sighs and shakes his head once more. Why did they not accept his words? He knows where they will be returning to. It makes him wonder how long he now will have peace? Considering their insistence, it does not surprise him if other runners will soon be seeking him out. Still, he will not change his mind. The cavalry is needed soon enough. Only with their support, the remaining people will have a chance to escape. He knows escape is futile. But if people want to flee then they should have the chance. He owes them that much.

He walks toward the parapet and looks down. A group of riders is hurrying back to the city. Hot on their heels are orcs on their beast. In the sky, Nazgul follow them. He looks away unwilling to see these brave men killed before they reach safety. He closes his eyes. As he does so, he hears people asking him to send the cavalry but ignores them. He does not understand why they do not stop coming. He made it clear he will not change his mind.

He opens his eyes and looks at the white tree of Gondor. It symbolizes the state Gondor is in right now; dying. Gil promised he would come. But how will he be able to? He cannot reach Minas Tirith in time. Nor can he use the rivers. The Corsairs will not allow him to reach the city. Those ships will ensure Mordor’s victory if they can even hold out long enough. He sighs.

“My lord, will you not consider. Your son needs aid to reach the safety of the city. Just like the men who are with him.”

Turning he sees the tearful eyes of Bergil looking at him. Oh, now they have done it. Guilt-tripping him will not work. He will not allow it. No, he will stick to his decision. He looks at Bergil intending to berate him when three runners run into the citadel.

Denethor frowns. Why are they coming? Bergil was sent as a runner, was he not? Do not tell him Bergil sought him out on his violation. Really, youngsters. He narrows his eyes at Bergil just as the runners reach him. He only pays partly attention to the runners as he already knows why they have come. He sighs.

“Alright! Tell Imrahil to ride out if he so desperately wants to risk his life and that of his cavalry. I do not know what he thinks he will achieve with it. But if he wants to, let him ride out.”

Bergil smiles brightly and runs off. The runners hot on his heels. He sighs. Has he gone soft? Maybe. But all he wanted was to have peace of mind. Something which he will not have when being constantly harassed by runners who want to have him change his opinion. But by giving it, he will finally have it.


Thirty minutes later, the beating of horse hooves can be heard throughout the city. He frowns. Are they hurrying towards the houses of healing? From the sounds of it, they are moving higher into the city. His frown deepens. Why have they passed the houses of healing? Who is coming up to the citadel?

He looks down at the fields. He can see orcs moving across the fields. They are getting closer to the city with each passing minute. In the distance, siege materials are being moved. He holds his breath. How will they be able to hold Mordor off when Mordor has all the advantages? He does not know. The siege looks even bleaker than it already did.

He turns his attention more carefully to the fields. Where is Faramir’s force? He can see no trace of it. All he can see are the deceased who lay scattered over the fields. Where is Faramir? And where is his cavalry? They are nowhere to be seen in the fields. Have they left? He shakes his head. He is too high in the city to make out details on the fields. If they have aided Faramir’s force then it will be impossible for him to see proof of it.

The hoofbeats have gotten louder. From what he hears, they are moving through the tunnel. Are they coming towards the citadel? It would appear so. But who is it? Surely not Imrahil. He knows better than to ride a horse into the citadel. The closer the sounds get the more curious he gets. He wants a word with whoever thinks it is a good idea to ignore protocol. He turns and walks into the courtyard intending to find out who is coming and giving them a piece of his mind.

Moments later, a group of riders enter the citadel. At the front rides Imrahil. He frowns. Why is Imrahil riding into the citadel? He knows the rules. This is a revelation he never expected. His confusion lasts but momentarily when his eyes land on a slumbered form in front of Imrahil. A form he recognizes immediately.

“Faramir!”

He runs forward and ignores all the other riders who enter the citadel. No one is more important to him right now than Faramir. He looks at Faramir and what he sees is not good. He knew Faramir was injured but he did not seem to be this injured. He tries to reach for his son but Imrahil does not release him.

He looks around to see who will aid him. In the distance, he can see guards approaching while carrying a stretcher. Once the guards have reached Imrahil, they reach up. He is just about to tell them this is futile when Imrahil hands Faramir over to the guards. The guards place Faramir on the stretcher they brought with them. Almost immediately, he drops down next to it. Only now can he finally take a good look at his son. Better than he could when Faramir was held in front of Imrahil. Faramir is deadly pale. His breathing is ragged. Any hope he had left leaves him with these observations. His only remaining son is dying. And all due to his actions. And no one else. He suggested it. Even if Faramir agreed to go, it has been his idea. He is responsible for all this. He should have stopped Faramir from going. Any other captain would be able to lead the assignment. Why did he not stop Faramir?

He struggles upwards and stumbles. What will he have to do now? He does not know. He cannot seem to think as if his mind is clouded. He stumbles some way back. Only then do a few impressions come to his mind. He could stay and die fighting. Or he could stay with his son. He turns his head slowly back towards Faramir. Everyone looks expectantly at him. What do they want now? Looking at Faramir, he makes a decision.

“Bring captain Faramir to his room.”

The guards look at him uncertainty. After a few moments, they pick up Faramir’s stretcher and walk towards the house of the Stewards. He stumbles and falls down. He looks around once Faramir has left his line of sight. What should he do now? Fighting and dying? Or should he stay with his son? He ponders his options as best as he can. He would have valuable time with his son where he to stay with Faramir. He wants to be with his son. He stumbles upright. 

“... Lord. My lord!”

“What!”

“What do we do now? You are in command. The men are awaiting orders.”

He looks at Imrahil. What is he talking about? What orders? He shakes his head. He does not understand Imrahil. How can Imrahil still have hope left? All his hope has left. So why the question for orders. He shakes his head before speaking up.

“Why would we be fighting? Our fight is over! Do whatever you want. I will be with my last remaining family.”

He moves forward but a hand on his shoulder stops him in his tracks. He growls and turns towards Imrahil. He is about to berate Imrahil when Imrahil speaks up.

“My lord, you do not mean that. Calm down, my lord. Your son needs healers. Send for them.”

He shakes his head. He will not allow the healers to prolong Faramir’s suffering. No, he refuses it. He looks at Imrahil. All he receives is a pleading look. He shakes his head once more. He will not be swayed.

“No, I will not! I mean what I said. Do whatever you like but do not bother me.”

“My lord!”

He shakes the hand of hurries towards his house before anyone can stop him. He will be with his son and not anywhere else. He hears shouting in the distance but ignores it. They can do whatever they like but he will be with his son. That is what is most important right now. And certainly nothing else.

Chapter Text

Denethor looks at Faramir in worry and sadness. How could it all come to this? Oh, he knows full well how it came to this. But regardless, he thinks about it again and again. It serves to teach him what he has done wrong and what he would like to change had he the opportunity to do so.

As he sits, he does not pay any attention to anything but Faramir. He wants to be constantly aware of how his son is doing. Still, from time to time he looks up. But only when there is a knock on the door. At that time, he looks out of the window; never at the door. Nor does he respond in any way. In time, silence fills the room only to be disturbed by Faramir’s breathing. The silence has his attention turn back to when he walked to the room.

The door slamming behind him calms his nerves down. If only for a bit. He remains worried about Faramir. But all he needed was to get away from these foolish people. If they want to die for no purpose then, by all means, they should do so. Just like he told them. and just like he told them, he wants to be with his son.

With this in mind, he walks further into his house. He walks through the hallways into the direction of Faramir’s room. He knows this is where the guards will have brought his son to. Reaching the room, he sees two guards standing at the door. He walks up to them and places his and on the door handle.

“Leave!”

The guards look hesitantly at him. They share a glance before leaving. He smiles amused knowing they will return sooner rather than later. He frowns. How can he still feel amusement at this time? Everything is crumbling down around him. Everything his family has fought and bled for. He shakes his head.

Looking back at the door, he carefully opens the door. As he does so his heart beats hard against his chest. Almost as if his heart is bursting out of his chest. A deep breath and he looks into the room not sure he will like what he will see.

In front of him, he can see the dim light coming from the candles and the shadows which are created. On his left side, a desk and chair stand. On the desk, multiple pieces of parchment lie scattered around. He smiles sadly for this is just what he would expect to find on Faramir’s desk. Next to the desk, he can see the bookcase filled with books.

He steps into the room and turns around. Next to the door, a closet stands. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. He turns around again and sees a bed with a table on the side. From the location, it is across from the desk. On the table stands a bowl with a cloth beside it. Next to the bed stands a chair. And on the bed, he finally locates Faramir who is covered in blankets.

He walks towards the chair and sits down. He looks at the cloth for a moment. He considers what to do and who had the idea to place it here. Smiling sadly to himself, he picks up the cloth and dips it in the water. He wrings it out before bathing Faramir’s brow. Afterward, he places the cloth on Faramir’s head. After some time, he checks Faramir’s face for fever and no matter how many times he does so Faramir’s brow stays clammy. It is like his efforts have no effect on the fever.

He turns his head towards the door with only one thought in mind. No matter the knocking which might come, he stays with his son. And this time, he will not allow his opinion to be changed or swayed. He turns back towards Faramir and carefully picks up his hand up while stroking it. His other hand brushes Faramir’s cheek in an effort to comfort his son.

“Father? Father? What is going on? How did I come here? Last I remember I was in the fields.”

“Shh. Do not worry yourself, Faramir. You got injured during your flight to the city. You will be fine. Just close your eyes and rest.”

Who is he to convince? Faramir? Himself? His scratching throat makes him sound even more upset than he already is. How will he calm Faramir then? Looking up, he sees Faramir looking at him with a frown. He strokes Faramir’s cheek before wetting the cloth again. He dips it over Faramir’s head. Faramir’s eyes flutter. He can see the strain of Faramir trying to stay awake. He strokes Faramir’s cheek again. This time, Faramir’s eyes flutter close. Faramir relaxes.

He sighs happily to know Faramir is asleep once more. He knows what is to come. And this is what he wants to keep from Faramir. Faramir should not know about it. All Faramir should know is peace from now on. But how will he ensure Faramir will not suffer more than he already does? There are but few options available to him. He can fight to protect them. But then how will he ensure Faramir’s lack of suffering? The orcs could torture Faramir after they kill him. No, this is not something he can use. But what about his other option? This would mean he ends their suffering before orcs can reach them. He nods. This is what he will do. He will end their lives to ensure the orcs cannot do it.

A hard knock on the door has him looking up. He narrows his eyes at the door but does not make a sound. A moment later, he turns his head back to Faramir. The knocking grows more insistent and more often as time passes. Still, he ignores them. All he focuses on is caring for Faramir. But no matter how often he ignores the knocking, it continues. The more time passes, the more he feels his anger growing. He can feel he is about to explode so he distracts himself by caring for Faramir.

After some time, the knocking grows less. But in return, the knocks are soon accompanied by calling. Every knock signals another call for orders. After this goes on for about an hour when he finally has enough and shakes his head. He wants all this to stop. They have done this before and been rebuffed. So why do they continue to ask for something they did not get before? What do they think to attain with this? They will all surely die when Mordor breaks through their defenses.

He shakes his head once more and returns to what he is most important right now. He puts the cloth in water, wrings it and bathes Faramir’s brow once more. This process he repeats multiple times.

Suddenly, he jumps up. Where did the shout come from? He looks around and can hear more shouting. From time to time, there is a scream. Looking at Faramir, he sees Faramir remaining asleep. He smiles sadly. Faramir does not notice a thing. But then where do the shouting and screaming come from? He looks around the room but cannot see anyone. He breathes a sigh of relief. He would have heard it, would he not?

Listening again, he can hear the sounds coming from outside the room. But does it come from the hallway or from the city? Standing up, he quietly walks towards the door. Upon reaching the door, he places his ear against the door and listens. He does so quietly as he does not want to give their location away. Nor does he want the guards to know he is doing something so undignified.

As he listens it becomes clear to him the sounds do not come from the hallway. Nor from inside his house. So does it come from the city? And how will he find out if it is? He can only think about one way; by looking out of the window. Straightening, he turns around and walks quietly towards the window. Along the way, he feels Faramir’s brow for a moment. Luckily, he finds nothing different from when he left Faramir to listen at the door.

Reaching the window, he frowns and wonders what is going on. He looks out of the window and sees the shape of the Nazgul flying on their beasts. Near the first level, a large part of the orcs is concentrated. All across the city war machines are doing their duty. Outside the walls, more orcs and other creatures are gathering. He can see the glistening of Haradrian armor. So they have joined? No surprise there. He looks back at the city and only one thought comes to his mind; has their end come?

Before he knows it, he has left Faramir’s room. He does not notice the guards at the door jumping around. Nor the guards looking confused at his retreating back. Soon he has opened a door and looks at the Palantíri in all its glory. He stops in his tracks and frowns. What is he doing here? He does not know and shakes his head. His eyes travel to the Palantíri. He tilts his head and steps towards the Palantíri. He reaches forwards with his hands.

Suddenly his hands move back to his side when his eyes widen on remembering something. He was with Faramir not long ago. He was looking out of the window at the siege. He was wondering if their end has come. He smiles grimly knowing why he came here. He was looking for a way to know more about how the siege is going. Only this way can he tell what he has to do at this time.

Looking down, the Palantíri beckons him once more. He nearly places his hands on it when another thought strikes him. He needs to have everything prepared. Tilting his head, he knows nothing is prepared in Faramir’s room. He needs to gather everything and be with his son when their end has come. Looking around the room, he locates a cloth. Grabbing it, he wraps the Palantíri in it and hurries back to Faramir’s room.

On his way back to Faramir’s room, he makes a quick detour to his room. There he picks up a sword and a few daggers. These he will need in case the orcs get close to them. He quickly hides the weapons beneath his clothing. No need for the guards to see them and ask questions. He grimaces knowing how good guards are at asking questions. Especially if they see something they did not expect or deem suspicious. The palantíri, meanwhile, he hides in the cloth and under his arm. Hopefully this will allow him to get past the guards without encountering problems.

Looking out of the window, he sees what time it is. He bites his lips knowing he has been away from Faramir for too long. It causes him to worry about Faramir’s health. Has it declined? He hopes not for he would want to be with his son then. If only to comfort him. His nervousness grows with each passing minute. He wants to be back with his son. Quickly leaving the door, he walks back to Faramir’s room.

Once back with Faramir, he places the daggers on the side table and the sword against the side of Faramir’s bed on his right side. The palantíri he places in his lap. He looks around himself with satisfaction. He has everything within reach and prepared. Only now does he place his hand on Faramir’s brow. His heart hammers in his chest. He waits a moment to feel Faramir’s temperature before heaving a sigh. Faramir is still clammy but no more than it already was.

He turns towards the bowl and wets the cloth. He uses it to bath Faramir’s brow for a moment. Faramir moves around a bit at his touch. He reaches for Faramir’s hand and squeezes it. Moments later, Faramir calms down and relaxes. He sighs happily to have eased Faramir’s distress. Then he looks at his lap. He thinks for a moment before unwrapping the Palantíri. He places his hands on the Palantíri almost immediately.

Instantly, his mind drifts towards the Anduin. He travels along the Anduin and can see sails appearing in the distance. The sails are black. He bites his lips fearing what these sails might signal. He moves closer to the sails to get a look at the signs on it. He knows there will be signs on them. What he sees instantly tells him these are Corsair ships. How many men are on these ships? He shakes his head. It does not matter for their doom is near at hand.

This thought has his mind drifting back to the fields of Pelennor. His face bleaks and his eyes widen at the sight before him. How can they hope to survive all Mordor has planned for them? He knows how; they cannot. The enemy is stronger than it has ever been before.

Quickly moving towards Mordor, he struggles with the pull from Sauron. Has Sauron recovered his ring yet? The strength of the pull has him believing this. How else could Sauron otherwise create such a pull? He is barely able to keep him from being pulled into Mordor and before Sauron. He pushes all his strength into it knowing Sauron must not get his hands on him. Or his mind. The information he has needs to be protected at all costs. His hands shoot up quickly and he stands up. Something heavy falls on the ground with a bang. It rolls over the ground until it hits a wall. His struggles breathing. He knows what it means if he is right; Sauron has regained his strength.

He turns his head and stares at his reflection in the water. His face turns ashen. His hair looks gray. His face rimpled nearly beyond recognition. His eyes widen knowing he has suddenly turned years older. He shakes his head. He cannot fail now but he does not know how to handle the situation. Mordor will overrun them. He is sure of it for it is only a matter of time. Why oh why does he even try? And why has he ever tried? He has done a lot for Gondor. He has strengthened the army and the defenses. Now all will be in vain. He closes his eyes and sacks down on the chair in defeat.

As his eyes are closed lights begin to dance before them. He opens his eyes and sees himself riding through Ithilien with his family. They seem to be alone and confused. He groans and grabs his head with both hands. His head hurts a lot. It feels like his head is breaking apart. What is this? He takes a deep breath and another image instantly comes to his mind. He sees himself dining with an older Faramir. Along the table, a few young men sit who look like Faramir. A young Rohirrim sits at the table together with a few young men and a young woman who look like her. They are talking about something. He tries to listen to what they are saying but cannot understand them. Why can he not understand them? And more importantly why do his ears ring so loudly? He can barely hear anything.

He opens his eyes when he is suddenly in the throne room. He looks around. He is not holding court. No, he sits there as an onlooker. It is the only explanation he has for why he is looking partially down on the room. Looking into the room, he sees Faramir, a Dúnedain, and Gil sitting there. They are holding court. Suddenly, the image changes. He sees his family and him riding with the older Faramir and Gil. Guards ride with them. Where are they riding towards? Oh, yes now he remembers. They are riding to inspect a forest where a strange mist had appeared. It is how they came to be in this time.

His eyes widen with realization. He knows what he is seeing. He sees how Gondor has won the war and recovered. Sadly, he has not been able to live through it. All he knows from his visit there. No matter how strange it has been, it is reassuring. He shakes his head trying to clear his thoughts. Suddenly he hears words coming from all around him.

“Adar, please remember to not despair when the siege happens. As I told you, aid will come to Gondor. It might take some time for the aid to arrive but it will come. While you wait, keep the hope up for the people, warriors and yourself.”

“I will remember that, Faramir. I am just glad to know that even though we were besieged, Gondor did not fall. Even better, Gondor is starting to prosper once more. It is just as it should.”

The images disappear slowly but he does not notice. He narrows his eyes in thought. Where were they when Faramir said these words? Where? He cannot tell. All he heard where the words. He did not see anything which would tell him where they were. He bites his lips not liking it. He wants to know where they were.

He looks around and sees Faramir lying on his bed. It is then that he notices he has left his memories. Shouting is audible from outside. He looks around confused. Where did these memories come from? Where they fake? No! He shakes his head. He knows this is not true. He can feel these memories are true. But where did they come from? And why now?

His eyes light up with a thought. If these memories are true then he has seen the future. He knows they will survive this. He turns his head knowing instantly what he has to do right now. With that in mind, he decides to call the person whose assistance he needs.

“Barhador!”

Chapter Text

Servants’ quarters, Citadel, Barhador POV

“Barhador!”

Barhador stops writing and looks around the servants’ quarters. Has he imagined the call? No, he did not. All around him, people are looking up. Many of whom are frowning. He grimaces for he understands the reason. He is also confused by this call. He knows what orders he got from Lord Denethor. And they contradict with this call. Lord Denethor expressly told him not to bother him. He had no interest in anything for some time. So why would he call right now? It does not make sense. 

It takes but a moment before every servant starts to talk at the same time. He tries to listen but because of the sound, he can only understand those who are closest to him.

“Why do you think Lord Denethor called for Barhador?”

“I do not know. Maybe he wants something done.”

“No, child. If Lord Denethor wanted something done then he would not have called for his Senechal. No, he would have called for a servant. Lord Denethor only ever called for his Senechal when he wanted something important done.”

“Why do you think he called for the Senechal then?”

He smiles at the answers this question evokes. Some are quite wild. Some are outright unbelievable. At the same time, some people try to stay reasonable. They must be working with the fact. No matter how few facts they have at their disposal.

He shakes his head. It is good people try to be reasonable but it does not hurt at this time. He knows how much people enjoy this. Especially in dark times. It serves to lighten their mood. He stands up and walks a bit around the room trying to find an interesting conversation. Most of the conversations he overhears are not worth mentioning or remembering. But one conversation draws his attention so he listens.

“What has happened between Lord Denethor and Captain Faramir?”

“I do not know. I did hear there was some heavy discussion in the war room. Maybe it has to do with that?”

“Yes, I know about it. But it is not what I meant.”

“What did you mean then?”

“I meant what has happened between them since captain Faramir’s return.”

“Oh, about that. I do not know. You know no one has seen them since the captain was brought to his room.”

“I know! I brought a bowl and cloth to the room myself and on Barhador’s orders. Besides, who would not have noticed that?”

“What are you insinuating?”

“Will you two calm down for a moment? Fighting will not give you the answers you seek.”

“So what answers do you have?”

“None which I know for certain. But what I can tell you is that Lord Denethor was mostly upset at the captain’s state of health. So I think he has been looking after his son. Or do you have any better ideas?”

Shaking accompanies this question. Barhador has to smile. It shows how much they have been paying attention to their lord. He knows the words are correct. Not because of knowledge but because of an educated guess. The shaking stops the conversation but a short while when someone speaks up again.

“So, if we agree that Lord Denethor was looking after his son then what could his call mean?”

Everyone frowns. Barhador knows they are thinking about the meaning behind the call. Something he has been doing before. And still should be doing. But then he does not know where to start. He shakes his head. But as he does so he hears someone speaking up.

“How am I to know. But what will we do with it?”

“I say we obey. Barhador has been asked for so should seek our lord out. And maybe we will learn something about it.”

Nodding accompanies it. Barhador knows how the others will attempt to gain information; by hearing him out. And depending on why he was called he will tell them. At the same time, he knows he can only agree with the statement; he should seek his lord out. And before anyone can tell him to go, he walks towards the door. As he does so, eyes follow his every move. He does not pay attention to it. All he needs to do is find his lord.


Citadel, Minas Tirith

Minutes later, Barhador comes ever closer to Lord Faramir’s room. The closer he gets, the more apprehension fills him. He does not like seeking his lord out, right now. This due to their previous interaction. At that time, Lord Denethor was not acting sensibly. Because of this, he worries about what will he find now. Will the latest request be sensible? Or will it be another insensibly order? He does not know for certain. But regardless, he will follow the order to the best of his abilities.

He sighs. Thinking about his lord has him considering something dreadful. Lord Denethor could be losing it. It certainly fits with his last interaction with his lord and is not an encouraging thought. He shakes his head desiring to focus on something else. His thoughts drift and have him considering he might be called to do something. But what might that be? He shakes his head once more. He might be worried about what he will soon be confronted with but he is still curious why his lord called him. All it does is confuse him.

As he walks, other servants and people walk past him. Nearly all of them look at him curiously. He smiles calmly. It will not do to create worry right now. Especially as he does not know if it will be needed. Time will tell. And till then these people deserve to have some time with less worry.

“Barhador, what is going on? Do you need anything?”

He looks up and sees one of the newer servants. A name escapes him at this time. A worried look is plastered over her face. Her lips appear to be trembling. He smiles calmly for a moment. He knows better than to worry about new servants. Besides, someone who is worried should not be worried more than is absolutely necessary so he considers what to say. He could lie to reassure her. Or he could tell the truth. As he knows little already, he sees no danger in telling the truth.

“No. I do not know what is going on.”

“What do you mean?”

The confusion on the servant’s face is highly amusing. Especially as he is certain everyone knows he was called by his lord. He struggles to keep his amusement from his face. He does not answer yet. Instead, he turns his head to the side as if contemplating. He knows if he answers now his amusement will be heard. He takes a few deep breaths before turning back.

“Well, I have been called by our lord. Soon, I know why I was called and then I will let you know if I need you.”

“Of course, Senechal.”

He sees the suspicion in the eyes but does not focus on it. He needs to press on. He needs to ignore his apprehension and find his lord. It is a hard fight for him to walk on but he does. And soon he reaches the room. His apprehension reaches a top. He finds it hard to breathe. He takes a deep breath and knocks once.

“Enter!”

He takes another deep breath, his heart hammering in his chest, before opening the door and stepping inside. Once inside the room, he looks around the room. Captain Faramir lies calmly on the bed. He can see the captain is still not well. Not that he would have expected something else. But what has happened? Why was he called if not for something related to Captain Faramir?

Looking around the room, he tries to see if anything is out of order. He cannot find anything. Well? If he is being truthful, he sees weapons stored alongside the captain’s bed. Lord Denethor must have brought them. It is the only explanation which makes sense to him. But why? And better yet, where is Lord Denethor?

Looking around the room, he looks for Lord Denethor. He finds Lord Denethor pacing in the room beside the bed. How could he not have seen his lord before? He shakes his head and looks carefully at his lord. Lord Denethor’s hands are behind his back. His lord’s back looks tense. Looking Lord Denethor in the face, he sees how lips are being bitten. Is his lord impatient? Or is his lord worried? Barhador frowns. What should he do? He shakes his head knowing there is only one thing left for him to do.

“My lord, you called. What do you require?”

He struggles to keep his worry from his face and voice. He is worried about the reaction he will receive. Hence his carefully worded question. Better to play it safe than to evoke his lord’s wrath. At the same time, he looks his lord in his face. He will not cower down. He refuses him. Whatever he will be faced with he will face it head-on.

“Barhador, I require my armor and weapons. And I want them quickly.”

“Of course, my lord. I will ensure everything will be here as soon as possible.”

He bows and quickly leaves the room. Once the door is closed behind him, he walks back towards the servant’s quarters without thinking. He turns a corner and once there sighs deeply. How is he to get this task done? He has been asked to bring his lord his weapons and armor. But where is it? And can he ask someone to bring it to his lord in his stead? He shakes his head. One step at a time. First is locating the weapons and armor. To do that, he decides to seek out his lord’s body servant. This servant will know where everything is stored. Barhador knows the general place but not the specifics. For that, he needs his lord’s body servant.

Walking on, he thinks about which weapons will be required. Those his lord already has in the captain’s room are out of it. So does his lord need others? He cannot be certain as he was never involved in preparing his lord for any battle. Reaching the servants’ quarters, he shakes his head. He enters and looks around for the body servant. As he does not see the servant, he asks around. No one has seen the servant for the past few hours. Almost none have any useful information for him. Except one who remembers the servant telling about his intention to look at the battle from the courtyard.

Knowing this, he decides to inspect other potential places. He cannot be certain the servant will be there now. He spoke of his intent an hour ago so he could have left the courtyard. During this search, the confusion about his lord’s orders strikes him again. Why was this order given now? It makes no sense. It should have been given hours ago if Lord Denethor intends to fight with the defenders. So where does this come from now? What has changed? He wracks his brains but cannot find any explanation. He groans to let his irritation leave.

Barhador breathes easily. He feels his thoughts turning towards Captain Faramir. He wonders what this change in orders will mean for the captain. Will Captain Faramir receive the healers' care as he should have had already? He hopes so for it is sorely needed. And he knows everyone will be agreeing with him on this. The captain needs to be taken to the houses of healing as soon as possible. The only one he knows he has to convince is Lord Denethor. He hopes he will either succeed or that his lord will come to the conclusion on his own. Still, his hope is not too high. Lord Denethor has been too unpredictable of late.

He shakes his head to come out of his thoughts. He needs to search further. And having searched the normal places, he decides to look outside the house. He decides to begin with the courtyard. He is fairly convinced his search will be successful there. But then another thought crosses his mind; how will he explain everything? He fears his order will be dismissed. Not that he can blame the servant for it. Lord Denethor’s recent behavior certainly warrants it.

Reaching the courtyard, he looks around. The courtyard is filled with many people. Looking at them, he decides to try and identify why they would be here. With it is the hope of finding the servant easier. He can see guards standing at their posts. Others have abandoned theirs and are looking at the lower levels. So is the servant here? He has high hope and looks around once more. A few servants can be seen in the distance. They are joining the guards in looking down. He approaches them when one of them turns and nudges the others. They turn around and he is pleasantly surprised. He has found the servant.

Chapter Text

“Buior?”

He waits patiently for an answer. Barhador knows Buior will answer. And if Buior’s widened eyes are any indication then he needs to recover from the shock first. He turns his head hiding a smile. It is simply amusing to see someone so seasoned as Buior startled. Especially since Buior was startled by being addressed. At the same time, he knows full well where the shock came from. From the same reason as to why Buior was startled. It does not take long for Buior to recover.

“Barhador, what are you doing here? Is there something you need?”

He wonders momentarily what to say. Should he talk about the order here in public? Should he not take Buior to the side and inform him there? He does not know certain which is the best. What he knows is the servants will be gossiping. It will circulate absurd stories. Stories he wants to avoid. so, he can better inform Buior in public.

But he also wonders what Buior was thinking. His first question is partially answered by the second. He shakes his head in disbelief. Buior knows he only ever seeks him out if he needs something. Before answering, he decides on a little teasing.

“I do not know. Am I not allowed to join you in watching the battle?”

Laughter fills the courtyard. Oh, they do not believe him. Not that he blames them. He has never shown much interest in joining the others in their watching and gossiping. But the laughter is something he is glad to hear. Glad, because of the recent events. This will take everyone’s mind off the siege. He lets is go for a while before he decides to end everyone’s wondering. But before he can speak up, Buior speaks up.

“I did not know you had any interest in it, Barhador.”

“I do not. I came here actually because someone needs you.”

Buior’s eyes widen at this. Barhador wonders what Buior must be thinking. He imagines a lot of wild things can be going through Buior’s mind. But at the same time, normal thoughts might cross Buior’s mind. He simply does not know. And right now, he is interested in knowing what Buior has on his mind.

To discover this, he looks Buior in his eyes. Buior is frowning and looking to the floor. He sighs knowing he cannot get anything out of Buior right now. As such, he looks at the others. They are looking at him with identical frowns. He struggles to keep a smile of his face. They are most likely wondering what is going on. He loses his struggle and smiles slightly imagining they are interested in the same things as he is. It is then Buior finally comes out of his shock.

“Lord Denethor? What does he want?”

“Lord Denethor wants his armor and weapons brought to him. I have seen that he has taken some weapons already to the captain’s room. So, you will most likely have to determine what has been taken and what still needs to be brought.”

“What does Lord Denethor need it? From what I know he does not want to be disturbed. Did he actually ask for me, his armor and weapons?”

Buior is frowning at him. And only just, he received a nod. Where does the frown come from? Well, at least he knows his order has been understood. Right now, he needs to figure out which question he will answer first. He thinks about what he has to say and what makes sense. In the end, he decides to answer the last question first. This one needs the most explanation. The first, he can cover real quick.

“Yes, he did as for his armor and weapons. He did not ask for you personally. But as you know where everything is I thought it best if you were to see these orders carried out. Besides, you need to aid him in preparing himself anyway. And to answer your first question, I am as surprised as you are by this turn of events.”

“But why? Do you know?”

Barhador sees how the other servants and guards suddenly get highly interested in what is going on. Even more, than they already were. He groans internally. Just what he needs. Nosy people. But is aware he cannot send anyone away. He will just have to deal with it. As such, he sighs.

“I told you that I am as surprised by this as you are. So no, I do not know.”

“Then what do you know?”

He keeps his face straight even though he wants to show his frustration. If Buior thought he would be the only one frustrated by not getting answers then he is mistaken. Even he is frustrated but simply refuses to show or voice it. Well, what can he tell Buior? Exactly what happened? Will he simply refuse to answer? Or will he keep his explanation simple? He shakes his head. Better tell what happened. Maybe it will stop further questions from being asked.

“All I know is that I received the order after Lord Denethor called for me. When called, I was with other servants in the servants’ quarters. You can imagine what this will have evoked. And the weapons, I told you about, I could see in the captain’s room. Lord Denethor seemed anxious to me. As you know where everything is stored, I decided to seek you out. So you need to find out what other weapons our lord will need.”

“And I have to aid my lord with putting everything on either way. Alright, I will see it done. Can I ask for aid in collecting everything? I cannot lift everything on my own.”

Buior bites his lips. His eyebrows frown and his fists are clenched shut. Barhador can nearly hear the sigh which does not appear. At the same time, he gets the feeling other emotions are being hidden from him. It causes him to bite his lips in frustration.

But what to tell Buior? Can he ask for aid? He thinks so for no one has much to do anyway now. So, it will not matter much if a few servants aid Buior. He shrugs and looks around. The others are looking at him. He sees a few greedy smiles and a few interested. He glares at the greedy ones before turning his head. He decides to end this conversation as soon as he can and get back into the house. He wants to leave such annoying people behind him as soon as he can.

“Yes, you can. No one has much to do anyway so ask whoever you want. Thank you for seeing it done.”

Buior nods and leaves. Barhador turns to leave also but is stopped in his track. In front of him, the other people stand. They immediately harass him as they stop him. He sighs knowing he can do little else but talk to them right now.

About thirty minutes later, Barhador walks back to the servants’ quarters. Only a short while ago, he finally managed to brush everyone off him. Something he is grateful for. He does not know how long he could have remained calm. They were frying his nerves.

As he walks, he thinks about his lord’s change in behavior. Once more. He sighs. Why can it not leave him alone? He knows why; it is so surprising and unexpected that it does not make any sense to him. As he thinks, he remembers how Lord Denethor was initially only interested in Lord Faramir. And nothing else. Now, he wants his armor and weapons. Why?

He thinks about it for a moment but then he comes up with an idea. Is Lord Denethor interested in fighting? It certainly appears like it. But this causes him to wonder where the change came from. He thinks about it as he walks through a few floors. But no matter how long he thinks about it, he cannot imagine what it is.

One thing he knows; whatever it is must be something drastic. There is nothing else which could have explained it. But what could this drastic thing be? He thinks about all kinds of possibilities. Some more outrageous than others. In the end, he determines that he will most likely never know for certain. Well, never? Not until his lord decides to share it.

As for why he will most likely never know? He needs more details to be able to make a good guess. Those details, he does not have. Besides, knowing his lord it will never be shared. He will only be able to learn about the gossips. Something he knows the accuracy off. He shakes his head. Dwelling on these thoughts will not aid him. The only thing it will do is frustrate him. He needs to go back to work and forget about this for the time being. He knows there is enough work to be done.

Moments later, he arrives at his office and goes back to work. As he works, he keeps it in mind the fact something drastic must have happened. It is all he allows himself to remember. He looks out of the window and hopes time will tell whatever the reason was.


Denethor POV

Denethor strokes Faramir’s hair with a worried expression. As he does so, he feels how clammy Faramir’s brow feels. He dips a cloth in the water and bates Faramir’s brown once more. While doing this, he bites his lips. Faramir needs more care than he can provide. He can tell this as more time passes. Why oh why did he not think about it before? He shakes his head knowing what he soon needs to do for Faramir. For now, he will care for Faramir to the best of his abilities.

Dipping the cloth once more in the bowl, he wonders where Barhador is. How long does it take Barhador to retrieve his armor and weapons? Certainly not this long. Everything is where they are always stored. It could easily be brought here in short order. So what is taking Barhador so long? He does not know but wonders about it. A thought comes to his mind; has Barhador send a servant to do this for him. It would explain how long it takes for everything to be brought to him. But how much longer will it take the person to arrive? He needs to join the men who are fighting. He needs to do what he should have done before.

Denethor can feel the need grow inside him. He feels like he cannot wait much longer. Wringing the cloth, he places it on Faramir’s head before taking Faramir’s hand in his. He strokes the hand while turning his head towards the window. He tries to determine how long it has been. But this thought has him glaring out of the window instead of looking for the time. Why should he have been dependent on Barhador? Why? Oh yes, he remembers why. He has been caring for Faramir. And right now, he does not dare to leave Faramir without someone present. Someone who is either him or a healer. Hence his order for everything to be brought here.

He feels his hands beginning the sweat and his heart speeding up. He strokes Faramir’s cheek to check for his temperature completely forgotten about looking for the time. He needs to calm himself down. Something he can do by caring for Faramir. If only for him to be distracted from his feelings. And as such calms him down. Besides this, it has another side effect. He knows his son will still be alive when he goes to defend the city.

He smiles pleased with what he feels. Faramir’s temperature is still high but has not risen. He cannot be certain but believes Faramir’s temperature has gone slightly down. Knowing this, he wonders what he has forgotten. He is certain he forgot something. But what? A knock on the door brings him out of his thoughts.

“Enter.”

He knows now what he has forgotten. He was checking the time. He wanted to know how long he has been waiting. And now, he knows it does not matter anymore. Soon, his request will be fulfilled. Or at least he hopes so. He does not appreciate having to wait much longer.

He sighs and looks at the door with interest. Who is bringing his weapons and armor? Is it Barhador or Buior? The door opens slowly while squeaking. He feels his heart beating loudly in his chest. The first person to enter is Buior who carries most of his armor. Behind him are other servants. Each carries weapons or armor. And behind them stand his guards. Each has their hand on their sword. What do they think will happen? He glares and mentions for them to leave.

He turns his head towards Buior and gives with a knowing smile. So, Buior enlisted aid. Not surprising. But did he do it with Barhador’s permission or not? That is a question he has to answer. If only for him to know what to expect later. He tilts his head. He should better ask when and where their aid was enlisted?

Buior and the servants place everything down. He watches them while considering the questions on his mind. The longer he thinks, the more clear it becomes he does not know. He simply does not know what the servants were doing before they were asked for aid. So he cannot tell. But one thing is clear; it was done before he went to collect everything.

“My lord, do I have everything here?”

He struggles to contain his laughter. Buior and the other servants stand in the room struggling with their load. Some servants more than the others. Why could they not put it down already? He shakes his head. And before they succumb to their load, he will answer the question.

“Yes, you do Buior. Nothing which will be needed has been forgotten. You all can put your burden down.”

What remains unsaid is:0 Good job. Buior does not need to hear it. He knows it already. He tilts his head and looks Buior and the others in their eyes. What is everyone waiting for? As one, the servants carefully put their load on the ground. He nods to Buior and turns his head.

Looking worriedly at Faramir, he strokes his son’s head. He needs to say goodbye. He does not want to but has to join the men. He decided to fight and had to stick with it. At the same time, he knows this might be the last time he sees his son alive. Either of them could die within the next day. Kissing Faramir’s brow softly, he stands up. It is time for him to prepare himself. Buior immediately walks forward and begins to undress him. Soon his robes are gone and his armor is placed in its place. It feels like an hour but he knows from experience Buior has him dressed in a short while. Once Buior has finished, he moves his arms and is met with the familiar feel of his armor.

“Do you need anything, my lord?”

Does he? No, he does not believe it. Everything he asked for has been brought. He looks Buior in his face and is about to respond when the words die in his mouth. What was he about to say? He frowns. Did he not forget something? It certainly feels like he has forgotten something. What is he forgetting?

Denethor looks around the room in an attempt to get his thoughts back in order. At the same time, he can also look around himself to see if he can determine what he has forgotten. He needs to figure it out soon. As he looks around, nothing appears to be out of order. Everything is where it is supposed to be. Faramir still lies in his bed. Faramir lies in his bed? His eyes widen slightly. He has discovered what he has forgotten; ensuring Faramir’s care. How he will ensure it he already knows. It requires no thought.

“Have Barhador waits for me outside.”

“Yes, my lord. I will take this to the washers. Good luck, my lord. May the valar protect you.”

Buior mentions with his head to the bucket he holds in his hands. A bucket he can see contains clothing. Most likely the clothing he shed earlier. Where the bucket came from, he does not know. Nor when Buior collected it. To both, he paid no attention. He nods which causes Buior to bow to him. Moments later, the door is opened and closed not long afterward. Denethor sighs. He is finally alone. He can finally think about everything without being disturbed.

He knows he secluded himself. What it will have caused will not a strange thing. It will have divided some of his captains. There will be those who seek to follow his example and those who do not. It will be a divide they cannot use at this time. He knows it is a real possibility that some might show him resentment when he shows up. He does not like it but knows it cannot be avoided. He cannot change the past. Nor people’s feelings. All he can do is work with it. As for those feelings, it is something he does not care a lot about. He only cares as much about the feelings as they will be useful for him. So what to do with this knowledge. Leave it? It might be the best thing to do. As he realized earlier, he can only work with the situation as it is.

As for right now, what should he do? What can he do? He does not know. He can only decide if he knows what is going on. And that does not mean knowing from hearing. He heard enough but does not know the details. He needs to know from seeing. Only then will he know all the details necessary to lead a battle.

With this in mind, he needs to determine where he will be able to gather this information. More importantly by whom he can gather it? It takes him little thought to have a first lead. Either Imrahil or Mithrandir will take command. Or maybe both. There is only one way to find out. He needs to seek them out. Both men will have then answers he seeks.

Thinking about them, he worries about what he will be faced with. How will they react? Mithrandir probably will not fight him. No, Mithrandir will be amused more than anything. Imrahil, on the other hand, will be suspicious. Not that he blames him. But he needs to seek them out. Even if he does not look forward to it. He turns his head towards Faramir once more. Maybe for the last time. He sighs knowing it is time for him to face the outside world once more.

Chapter Text

Denethor steps out of the room and closes the door behind him. Taking a deep breath, he knows he needs to face the world in front of him. Looking around, he sees nothing really surprising. The guards from before still stand at the door. Two other guards stand in the distance. They look like they are waiting for something or someone. Most likely, they will accompany him as he ventures into the city. He turns his head and sees Barhador standing in the distance. When their eyes meet, Barhador walks up to him.

“My lord, you asked to see me. How can I be of service to you?”

“Barhador, I need you to ensure that captain Faramir receives the care he needs. Have my son brought to the houses of healing; the healers there are best equipped to care for him.”

Barhador frowns and nods but does not fight him. Denethor knows why he requested it as he did. He needs to assure him Faramir receives the best care available. The healers are best equipped to do that. Something he knows he should have realized earlier. And by talking about it immediately, he cannot forget about it. Just as he makes this realization, he is brought out of his thoughts by Barhador.

“What do I tell the healers? We both know they will have questions for me. Especially Master Neston.”

“Tell them that my son’s care will be in their hands. They should give Faramir all the care he needs. There is nothing else the healers need to know.”

Barhador nods. Denethor smiles slightly. He is pleased Barhador does not question him more. He also knows Barhador is right. The healers and especially Master Neston will be questioning Barhador for any information they can get out of him. That is why he did not give Barhador specific instructions. There will be nothing they can get out of Barhador which he does not want them to know. Besides, they will know better what Faramir needs than he or Barhador will ever know.

“Is that all, my lord?”

“No, it is not. Inform the servants to prepare food. Food and water are to be distributed among the men in the higher levels. No servants are allowed to enter the levels where the fighting is occurring. Not ever. Make sure they know it.”

“Yes, my lord. I will ensure it happens.”

He smiles happily. He is pleased to know another worry has been solved. Now, his last worry needs to be solved. He knows the servants have been inactive for too long. They can from now on contribute to the siege. Something they should have done from the start. If only, he has ensured it. But as he said earlier, he cannot change the past. He can only work with what is happening. And that means he ensures that from now on the servants are contributing. Looking at Barhador, he knows he needs to respond to the words which were spoken.

“I am glad to hear that. There is something else you can do for me; have all those who are not needed to prepare the food and distributing it report to the houses of healing. I am sure the healers will be glad to have more people aiding them.”

“Of course, my lord. The servants will be glad to have something to do once more. They have been anxious with inactivity. I have seen it. As for the healers, we both know how they will see it.”

He nods knowing full well how the healers will react. They will be pleased with the aid. And annoyed they had to wait so long to receive it. Hopefully, the happiness to receive aid will be more than the annoyment. Looking around, he tries to see if there is anything else he needs to do. Finding nothing, he knows it is now time for him to leave and join the battle. He is about to walk away when his eyes move towards the door. Faramir is in there. He bites his lips. Leaving his son is something he does not feel comfortable doing.

“My, lord? Go and do not worry. I will ensure captain Faramir will be looked after. Everything else will also be taken care of. Do not worry. Do what you have to do, my lord.”

The bite on his lips eases. He looks Barhador in his eyes to determine if what he said is true. As well as to ease his heart. Something he will refuse to admit. Finding no lie in Barhador’s eyes, he turns away from the door and walks away. Soon he is followed by the guards he saw earlier.


Approaching the door leading outside of his house, Denethor feels his heart beating faster. What will he see once he has crossed through the door? And what will he see once he descends into the city? These thoughts bring many possibilities to his mind. He can be met with a damaged courtyard. Or a relatively unscattered courtyard. As for the city, he knows the city will be damaged. The question remaining is how damaged it will be. The city could be destroyed on all levels. Or the damage can be limited to a few levels. He can't tell based on what he saw and heard earlier.

The thoughts about the damage has his mind moving towards escape routes. He knows which one will be secured. But are there more? He thinks about it when his mind moves back to his youth. He remembers paths through the city which allowed him to enter and leave undetected. Something he made good use of in his younger years. If these paths are still accessible then these can serve as additional escape routes.

His eyes narrow. How well known are those escape routes? Not really, he imagines as it has always been a secret. But he knows if many people were to use them at once then they will be revealed. It will be a high risk to use them but if necessary he will do so. These paths will lead to those which are being guarded. Or at least, in the direction of those pathed.

Another thought crosses his mind; how accessible are these paths? He does not know for he has not had to use them since he became the steward. They could be entirely inaccessible right now. He simply does not know. So, should he leave those paths be? He only needs to think about it for a moment before he dismissed it. These paths will be used. Even if they pose additional problems. He will manage it somehow. Those paths will give more people a chance to flee.

He knows he only needs to give the order to use them early enough. Then it will not be too much of a problem. Especially as the guarded escape routes are citadel and on the sixth level. So for those who reach the escape routes, they will have ample time to flee through them. As well as time to hamper the orcs' ability to follow them through it.

Opening the door, he steps outside. The wind hits him hard in his face. A feeling he did not know he missed. But right now, he enjoys the feeling of wind hitting his face. Looking around, he sees the courtyard has escaped the damages of the war. At least for now. Whether it remains like this, time will tell.

Looking closer at the courtyard, he sees another group of guards stand. What are they doing here? How many guards will accompany him? He never believed two. But he also finds it strange for ten guards to accompany him. What use will they be? Four guards should suffice. Any more and they will only hamper their ability to protect him.

“My lord, where do you want to go?”

“I want to join the battle. But tell me, why are there so many guards waiting for me?”

He lifts an eyebrow to reinforce his words. This is a question he wants to have answered. Answered before he will talk about anything else. The captain lifts an eyebrow in return. He narrows his eyes. This is not the reaction he would like to receive. He nearly taps his food on the ground but manages to refrain from it. The captain stands up a bit straighter.

“Well? We do not want to take any risk with your safety.”

“I appreciate your concern. But I do not need ten guards to accompany me. Four should suffice. The others can join the army in the battle.”

The captain shuffles slightly. Almost unnoticeable. He only saw it because he was looking closely at the captain. Anyone else will have missed it. The shuffling changes in a quick nod. He smiles pleased and waits for a response. Something he does not have to wait long for.

“Of course, my lord. Where do you want to join the battle.”

“That I do not know. First, I will seek out whoever has taken command of the defense in my absence. Only when I know what the situation will I decide where to join the battle.”

Denethor nods once to show he deems the conversation is finished. He walks towards the ramp without waiting for a response. He does not need one. The captains always follow his command. And as he expected, the sound of armor moving follows him. From the sound of it, the entire group follows him. If they do, he will let them. But only four of them will stay with him. The others will join the army. Just as he ordered.

Walking down the ramp, he comes four citadel guards. They carry an empty stretcher between them. He smiles lightly. He does not need to think about what they will be doing. He knows what. They are following his orders. He now knows for certain Faramir will be cared for. He is also pleased with the fact he got to see it. He will not be left in uncertainty. No matter how small. Or how little he deemed the change his orders would be ignored.


Minas Tirith

Walking through the city, he looks at everything he sees. All in an attempt to learn what has happened in the city. At the same time, he will be able to tell where Imrahil and Mithrandir might be. They can give him the answers he seeks. He is certain of it. He only needs to find them.

Entering a new road, he is met with nothing he has not seen before. The damages here are little. It seems even more likely that the sixth level has escaped the damages from the siege. Time will tell if it stays like this. He walks without reacting to what he sees. All his thoughts focus on is the location of Mithrandir and Imrahil. A task which quickly gives him a problem. The problem being he determines that he does not know where to begin looking. They could be anywhere in the city. He could have missed them. Or he could be far away from them still. He simply does not know.

This lack of knowledge has him thinking about the men. About what he knows about them. Imrahil is someone who leads a battle from the front. So, it is likely Imrahil is wherever the battle is occurring right now. Or somewhere close to it. Especially as Imrahil will want to be close to his sons. His nephews will be fighting at the front. And if not then they will not be far away. Imrahil will thus not be far away.

As for Mithrandir, he has no idea where to look. He does not know Mithrandir well enough. It is mostly his fault as he never talked to Mithrandir a lot. And with a reason; he never liked Saruman. As such he wanted to as little as possible to do with the Istari. But back to where Mithrandir can be. All he can think about is that Mithrandir and Imrahil are together. Or he hopes at least. He cannot come up with anything else.

So where should he look for them? In a quiet area or one where there is heavy fighting? Where? Should he follow his knowledge about Imrahil? He narrows his eyes. It is at least a direction. And if he is right about them then there is only one place for him to look; there were the heavy fighting occurs.

A destination in mind, he makes his way ever lower into the city. The guards become more nervous as he continues. That is if the sounds coming from them are any indication. Any moment he stops walking, they surround him. It frustrates him to no end.

He is still not close to the fighting. What danger are they expecting? An orc disguised as soldier attacking him? Not very likely. There are no dangers here.

Turning his head towards the guards as he walks, he sees their concerned looks. Really? He already knows there are no dangers here. So why the concern? He simply cannot believe these guards. Only they act so strangely. No guard has ever acted like this. What is he dealing with here?

He shakes his head and walks on. It will not do to be distracted by this. It is something he can look into later. If he remembers it. As he descents, he finds more damage to the lower he gets. From the fourth level on, he finds roads blocked by fallen stones. Houses destroyed. It is not a good sign. The people who live here will be homeless no matter the outcome of the siege. And he knows he will have to provide for them. It is a headache he quickly pushes from his thoughts.

Reaching the gate to the second level, he stops. Guards surround him almost immediately. He ignores them. All which is on his mind is that he is not looking forward to seeing the damages here. It will be the worst he has seen so far. He is certain about it. But it will not as severe as the first level. Of that, he is also certain. There the damages will be truly severe. He would be surprised if a few buildings come out of the siege undamaged.

Taking a deep breath as silently as he can, he walks forward through the gate. As he walks around the level, he comes across a few swan knights. One of them he is certain he recognizes; it is Elphir. Could Imrahil be close by? Looking around, he sees Elphir’s brothers are also closeby. Erchirion and Amrothos are talking to a few officers. What they are talking about he cannot hear.

“Uncle, what are you doing here. Can I be of any service to you?”

He turns and sees Elphir standing in front of him. When did Elphir get so close to him? He really must have been lost in thoughts. Or paying too much attention to what he saw. But even though Elphir surprised him, he finds it no problem. It saves him time and effort; he does not need to approach any of his nephews.

“Yes, you be of service to me. Tell me, do you know where to find your father. I need to speak to him.”

He mentions with his hand to the captain. It is time for the excess guards to leave. And well immediately. He does not want to worry Elphir unnecessarily. Or more than he already does. He also does not want to keep capable men from defending the city. They will be needed. He listens closely to the captain as he sends men away. But not with words as he expected. No, the captain does not say anything. Why? Did he choose the four who would protect him already? It seems so. Those who leave must have gotten a signal. It is the only thing he can think about. The only thing which could explain it.

Even though he pays close attention to the captain, he also keeps an eye on Elphir. As such, he sees the frown on Elphir’s face. And notices Elphir looking around. For what? He follows Elphir’s example but does not see anything strange. The road is not deserted. Nor is it crowded. No, there are enough people around that they will not be overheard. And that they will not attract any attention. Just as he realizes this, Elphir finally answers.

“Father is somewhere around here. I am not sure where.”

“Where did you last see him?”

“I last saw him two alleys down.”

He turns his head. Erchirion and Amrothos stand to his left. He tilts his head. Which of the two spoke up? They both look at him neutrally. So he cannot be sure. He narrows his eyes. Erchirion is smiling slightly while Amrothos is grinning. The brat. Well, he should not have expected anything else form Amrothos. But at least he now knows Erchirion was the one who spoke up.

“Thank you, Erchirion. I will look for your father there. But tell me, is Mithrandir with him?”

“Last I saw they were together.”

He nods and leaves the boys. He knows this will result in gossip. Normally, he would not like it. But right now, he does not mind. It is not important. They need to return to their duties. And he needs to find both Mithrandir and Imrahil. Hopefully, they are still together. 

Walking into the ally, he looks around. In the distance, he can see a group standing together. If he is right then these are officers. He waits a bit to see what they are doing. From what he can see, they are not doing anything. The only thing the officers do is leaving. As they leave, he finally spots Mithrandir and Imrahil. He smiles pleased. Soon, he will have the answers he seeks. He approaches the men slowly while the guards walk around him.


The second level, Minas Tirith, Imrahil POV

“Do you think we can hold the first level?”

Imrahil looks at Mithrandir. He hopes they can but highly doubts it. He knows the situation. It does not look good. Especially, if they cannot figure out what to do right now. Mithrandir strokes his beard in thoughts. Imrahil has an idea of what answer he will get.

“I doubt it, Prince Imrahil. If we do not take the battle away from the city walls then I deem it likely they will be able to enter the city. In due time, yes. But they will be able to enter the city.”

“I know. But what can we do? It is not like we can send the cavalry out.”

He sighs knowing the cavalry will only ride out if Denethor gives the order for them to ride. Else they will be stuck in the city. A waste of resources in his opinion. They are the only ones who can potentially make a difference now. The infantry will be unable to act against the overwhelming number of orcs.

“No, it is not. Your brother-in-law is the one who needs to permit that.”

“Yes, and he is not likely to do so. I fear he lost all hope. Even though I tried to ensure he maintains hope.”

He turns his head towards the sky and thinks back to the conversation he had with Denethor in the council room. Despair was already visible then. But he had hope Denethor would not succumb to despair. Later, he feared Denethor had fallen into despair. He knows as he did then, that the people need to see Denethor during the battle. He has been their leader for so long. Besides that, Denethor is a well-respected commander.

Turning his head back towards Mithrandir, he is met with a worried look. Raising an eyebrow, he wants Mithrandir to tell him what is worrying him. He wants words and not expressions. A smile comes over Mithrandir’s face. He frowns. Where did this come from? Just as he thinks about it, Mithrandir speaks up.

“So what can we do? I doubt we have enough men to strengthen the defenses more.”

“No, we cannot. We are already stretched thin.”

Mithrandir nods. He turns his head to the sight. He does not want Mithrandir to see his concern. He knows it is futile but the knowledge calms him down a bit. As he looks to the side, he sees someone approaching him. Who is it? And why does the posture seem so familiar to him?

“What is it, prince Imrahil?”

“Nothing, I thought I saw someone who I recognized. Forget about it. It is probably nothing.”

“Oh, no. Tell me, who did you recognize?”

“That is the problem. The posture is what I recognized. Not the person directly. I simply cannot place a name to it.”

“Mhhh.”

Mithrandir turns his head into the direction he indicated while stroking his beard. Imrahil follows the turn but still keeps his eyes on the Mithrandir. This way, he can get a feeling for Mithrandir’s reaction. In the distance, he can see the person moving ever closer. Mithrandir gets a curious look on his face. What would he give to know Mithrandir’s thoughts right now. He would at least know if Mithrandir recognized the person. Now, he has to wait for a reaction to learn it.

“Ah, I see. You saw Lord Denethor.”

“What!”

His eyes widen. Mithrandir grins at him. So, he was right. He saw someone familiar. But why could he not see it was Denethor? He should have. Looking back, he does recognize Denethor. But why could he not see it before? He does not know. He can only blame it on the stress of the siege. Something he was never bothered by before.

“Yes, he is coming towards us.”

He follows Mithrandir’s direction. And Mithrandir’s words prove to be true. Denethor, indeed, walks towards them. Something, he did not pay attention to before. He frowns. Why is Denethor coming now? And why towards them? What does he want? He thinks about what has happened. Anything which might draw Denethor here.

He cannot determine anything with certainty. But at the same time, he hopes Denethor found hope again. If Denethor did then what will happen with the decisions he made? Will they be discarded? Or will they be left standing? He bites his lips. He hopes some of the last ones will be discarded. How will he ask about it?

Denethor comes ever closer. He needs to figure out soon how he will ask about it. And in such a way no further conflicts will be created. It is something he wants to avoid at all costs. Problems are something, he does not need at this time.

Once Denethor reaches them, Imrahil looks closely at Denethor’s face. Denethor does not seem to be in his right mind. He seems to be worried. Or preoccupied with something. But by what? Oh, he can guess. It is not difficult. It will most likely have something to do with all the tragedies Denethor suffered recently. It does not excuse what Denethor has done. At the same time, it makes it understandable.

“My lord Denethor, why have you come?”

“I have come because I need to do my duty. It is long overdue.”

Long overdue? Really? He nearly huffs but manages to hide it. Denethor should have done this at the beginning of the siege. Not just now. If only, Denethor had not lost hope. But with Denethor here, it is clear he found hope once more. Why else would Denethor have come? He smiles and places a hand on Denethor’s shoulder before responding.

“Yes, it is. I am glad to see you here, Lord Denethor. I am glad you found hope again. If only to fight.”

“It is good to be here where I belong. Tell me, what is the current situation?”

“You are here to take command of the battle?”

“I am.”

He smiles and squeezes Denethor’s shoulder. Denethor places his hand over it. He knows what he will say now. He will not fight Denethor’s return.

“Then I gladly turn command back to you. It will be just as it should have been from the moment the siege happened.”

“That is true. Let us do what we should be doing.”

Chapter Text

Denethor POV

“So, tell me Imrahil, how are our defenses? Are there any things I need to solve right now?”

“I can only tell you about the east side of the first level. How it is in the other areas I do not know for certain.”

Imrahil does not know? How? Imrahil is in charge, right? He should know. So why can he not? There is only one thing he can think of. Imrahil split command up because the entire level would be too much for him. It is no surprise where it the case. Overseeing the defenses of the entire level is impossible considering the siege. So who knows what the situation is in the other areas of the first level?

“Who do I need to ask about the remainder of the first level.”

“That would be Mithrandir. He oversaw everything on the west side.”

“Is that so?”

He turns toward Mithrandir. Mithrandir would not be someone he would give the command. He would never give an Istari any sort of command over his men. Never. Not after his experiences with Saruman. It made it clear to him that Istari should not be trusted. But Imrahil does trust Mithrandir and was the one in charge. So Imrahil made the decisions. He cannot begin to fault Imrahil for his decisions. There is simply a difference in opinion.

Looking at Imrahil, he is met with a knowing smile. He narrows his eyes. What did Mithrandir see that warranted this expression? Mithrandir’s smile deepens. He nearly growls. He does not like it and wants to change Mithrandir’s thoughts. To do so, he raises an eyebrow. All in an attempt to get Mithrandir to answer his question. Hearing a sigh, he is pleased to know he will now get an answer.

“Yes, Lord Denethor, I did indeed oversee the west side.”

“Then you will explain the state of the defenses there. But first, Imrahil, you will explain what you know. And I want to know everything which is happening. And what has happened.”

“Of course.”

He nods. It is not like he expected any other response. He did not ask anything. He gave an order. Something everyone would have understood. But before Imrahil talks about that there is something else he needs answers to. Something more pressing.

“Imrahil, start by explaining why you are here right now. What reason is the reason for that.”

He looks expectedly at Imrahil. He would have thought they would be closer to the first level. Or on the first level. It is something he would have thought to be wiser. They would have a better view of the battlefield there. It is something he would prefer to do. Even if it would be dangerous. He wants to have a good view of the battlefield regardless of the risks it presents to him.

“We are here because it offers the best place to discuss strategies and tactics. There is less of a chance we will need to stop from time to time. No attacks from orcs manage to reach us here. In the first level, I have had situations where arrows reached over the wall and into groups. For those groups, it did not matter if they were inside buildings. Some were always hit.

“But as for the first level, the fighting has been dreadful there. We managed to hold the orcs out. But only just. I do not know how much longer we can keep it up. You should know that most of the first level has been destroyed. That creates even greater risks to the men.”

“Not surprising. I could hear some of the things going on from the citadel. And nothing I could hear sounded good. Also, I could see the war machines of Mordor while combing here. It makes your struggle understandable. You are highly outnumbered.”

“That is true. Those machines and the overwhelming numbers of orcs make the situation dreadful.”

He nods. There is nothing he can say against it. He knows how dreadful such a situation can be for defenders. He has seen it before. No matter how much he might despise the situation, it is good to know it. He turns his head towards Mithrandir. Before he can say anything, Mithrandir speaks up.

“Lord Denethor? You should know the situation on the west side is not much different. The difference is that I have even fewer men available than Imrahil has.”

He narrows his eyes. He did not give Mithrandir permission to speak just yet. Still now, he knows the situation as it is on the first level. Not that he likes the information Mithrandir provided any more than he did Imrahil’s.

Looking at down, he wants to consider everything he learned in detail. It is only now that he notices that he stands before a table. On the table lies a map of the first level. Looking at it, he knows he needs to decide what he will do. More specifically, he needs to decide what the best course of action is. But the map interests him more. On it, he can see how many men are where and where the orcs are.

“Is this map accurate?”

“Yes, Denethor. This map is accurate. The orcs have not moved too much. Or at least they have not since I checked it about thirty minutes ago. So, have you made a decision yet?”

“No, I have not made a decision yet. Are there enough men available.”

Maybe with this information, he can make a plan. Even if he will have to change it later. He knows from experience that it is better to act on an initial plan than on no plan at all. Besides, plans are always changed. No matter the situation. No plan has ever lasted through an entire battle.

He looks Imrahil in his eyes. Sadness can be seen there. He bites his lips already not liking what he will hear. Again news which he does not want to hear or even needs.

“As of this time, barely. But it should not become any worse. Only a small amount of more problems and the men will not be enough.”

He nods. There is nothing else he can do. He sighs. He will have to work with what he has. And what he knows. Not a prospect he looks forward to. Turning his attention back to the map, he considers what to do and what he knows.

“The orcs are here in large numbers. It makes a long time defense difficult. Even a short time defending the city will be a hard task. Whatever we do will not be an easy task.”

“I know, Denethor, but I have hope we can hold out long enough for Rohan to offer us support.”

Denethor nearly groans out loud. Why does Imrahil bring Rohan up again? He has already talked about Rohan with him. How can Imrahil still hope to hold out until Rohan reaches them? How? Looking at Imrahil, he narrows his eyes before speaking his mind.

“And when will Rohan be here? When? You know how dangerous the roads are. It will take Theoden a long time to reach us. If he received my call for aid, that is. And if he manages to do reach us in time, I wonder if he still has a large enough force behind him.”

“We should hope for it, Lord Denethor. You know I was in Rohan before coming here. The entire Éored is in Edoras. I am confident Theoden King will call for the muster of the rides once he receives your message.”

Did they not listen to him? He told them already what he thinks about it. The force with which Theoden leaves will not matter if he cannot bring a large part of it to Minas Tirith. And that is also the problem which exists. He looks at them. Neither man reacts and they should; they look determined. Well, he will have to remind them.

“If they manage to get through then we might have a chance, Mithrandir. Yes, that is true. But only if Theoden does not lose many of his men. And that is a real possibility of occurring. But let us not focus on Rohan. They might come to our aid but we should focus on what we can do. We on our own. So, ... what can we do?”

“We could pull back to the second level.”

“I do not think it is so severe yet, Imrahil. We still have time and should not retreat until the last moment to do so.”

“Oh, I agree with you. I only informed you about the option we had. One I do not like. Nor deem appropriate at this time.”

“Then why did you offer it?”

Imrahil does not answer. Denethor narrows his eyes. Oh, he can make some guesses why Imrahil offered it. Like wanting to have all options on the table. Or wanting the least appropriate option handled first. It does not matter. He should focus on the matter on hand. Like what options they have to deal with the situation. So he turns his head back to the map.

“What other option do we have?”

“We could move more men to the first level to strengthen the line there.”

He nods. That sounds like a reasonable solution. Looking around, he finds a list with the location of the troops in the city. A glance and he knows this option is no longer reasonable. It is a great option. He can pull some men from the other levels to protect the first. And creating any risks.

“Lord Denethor, if I may? I would like to make a suggestion.”

“Yes, Imrahil? What is your suggestion?”

He lifts his head. Imrahil is biting his lip and looking uncertainty around. What idea does Imrahil have? And why the reluctance to give it? He frowns. Imrahil’s reaction does not evoke confidence in the idea. Imrahil does not speak up. And because he wants to know which strange idea Imrahil has, he lifts an eyebrow. This evokes a quick reaction.

“It is a bold idea, Denethor. I have to admit it. Instead of waiting here, we can take the fight to them.”

“What do you mean to say?”

“We can use our cavalry to break through the lines of orcs in front of the city.”

His eyes widen. This idea must be the night of [foolishness]. It will not serve anyone. No, it will only create more problems than there are already. Why, oh why does Imrahil want to create more problems. He should be solving them not creating them. He sighs. Imrahil seems to have a death wish. And they thought he was not in his right mind earlier. He shakes his head. It all makes no sense to him. Still, there is only one way he can react.

“Imrahil, have you lost your mind? You would be sending those men to their deaths. What purpose would it serve? That idea is the height of [foolishness].”

“It would be better than keeping the cavalry stuck in the city. They are getting restless. Just like their horses. They want to ride out in the field and not be stuck here in Minas Tirith.”

“Oh, if you know them that well why have you not given them the permission already?”

He narrows his eyes. Oh, he has an idea why Imrahil has not given the order. But he wants to hear it from Imrahil. Turning his head to Mithrandir, he scowls. Mithrandir’s amusement annoys him to no end. It is not why they are here right now. There are other things which are more important than amusing Mithrandir. He sighs and turns his head. As he does so, he taps his fingers on the table. Imrahil is quick to pick up on his unspoken order.

“Because I know that is a decision I cannot make. Only you can do that.”

“Yes, only I can permit the cavalry to ride out. So for your information, I refuse. The only thing I will do is strengthen our lines. If that does not work then maybe I will allow the cavalry to ride out. But only afterward. Not now.”

“Of course. You make the decision. We will follow you no matter what you decide to do.”


Minas Tirith

He nods. Imrahil is sufficiently abashed right now. How could he even think to do something so stupid? He does not know nor does it make any sense to him. But one other thing [interests] him; Will Imrahil follow him no matter what he decides? He highly doubts it. Imrahil might follow him but Mithrandir would never follow him. Especially if Mithrandir thinks he makes a bad decision. He knows the reputation of the Istari. They do what they deem necessary no matter what someone else might decide to do.

He sighs. No matter how annoying he mind find Mirthrandir, he will now have to work with him. For as long as he can. And that means he has to give orders.

“Imrahil, there are some citadel guards who came down with me. I do not need them. Take four of them with you. Mithrandir, you take the other two. Any man you find who has not joined the guards you drag with you. From now on every capable man will defend the city. Pass out all the weapons you have.”

He looks at both men in their eyes. He cannot fail now. Faramir needs him. If he fails then he has failed his son. But he knows he will not only fail his son for he will also fail Gil. He remembers being in the Reunited Kingdom. He remembers Gil ruling. He cannot fail. The kingdoms will be reunited. He will do all he can to ensure it for he saw it in existence. Even if it is the last thing he will do.

Imrahil nods and so does Mithrandir. Imrahil looks at him with concern and Mithrandir with interest. Can they tell what he is feeling? He shakes his head. They must know something is pressing him. It would be difficult to hide anyway. So, he does not mind. All he does is nod and both men leave. He looks at the map once more. Now it is time for him to make good on the promises he made to himself. Taking a deep breath, he walks towards the first level. Guards following close behind him.

A short while later, Denethor enters the first level. He has his sword drawn just in case. Not that he expects to use it. He just does not want to be caught unaware. He wants to be prepared for anything which may happen. In front of him, his guards walk. They also have their swords drawn. He smiles amused. No one wants to be caught unaware.

Well, no one? Not really. They are the only ones holding their swords. No one else does. So only they consider the danger of the first level. He shakes his head. He will not be responsible if they get themselves killed due to their stupidity.

He walks on for a moment before reluctantly sheeting his swords. There is no active fighting here. Holding his sword is unnecessary. It might create more problems and nervousness around him than there already is. It is something he wants to avoid. Without a sword in his hand, he finds time to consider what is going on around him. Men stand on the walls. Nearly all of them are archers. The other men stand divided; some on the walls, others in the first level.

Suddenly he hears the sound of metal hitting metal. He looks around. Around him swords are unsheeted. Where did the sound come from? It is then he notices what happens on the walls; a fight has broken out. Orcs managed to set foot in the city. His hands move to his sword upon seeing it. Unsheeting it, he hurries forward just as orcs run down the stairs from the walls.

He increases his speed and plunges into the fighting. Time passes without notice. His mind solely focused on the fighting. He blocks attacks and attacked back. He tries to kill any orc coming close to him. Sometimes it succeeds, other times it fails. But regardless, the orcs die. If not on his hands then on the hands of his guards.

Suddenly, a sword passes next to him nearly hitting him. A body drops on the ground. Turning around, he sees a citadel guard standing in front of an orc. The orc has the sword still in his chest. Another sword passes next to his face. He moves, pulls out his dagger, and pushes it into the orc’s neck. Pulling the dagger out, the orc drops to the ground dead.

Turning around, he focuses on all the orcs around him. Those require his attention. They need to leave the city. He will not let them defile it. He will not let the future he saw be undone. Narrowing his eyes, he plunged into the horde of orcs. Guards close on his heels.

Fighting continues even after dark. As time passes, weariness seeps into his bones. He fights his way to a more quiet area. There he leans against the building. He needs to rest.

“My lord, are you alright?”

Turning his head, he is met with the captain who looks worriedly at him. Looking around, he spots the other guards. They have taken up strategic positions around him. Looking back at the captain, he sees the worry has not left. He sighs. He now needs to answer the captain even though he does not want to. Well, that just means he will keep his explanations to the bare minimum.

“I am fine, captain. Only tired.”

“Then let us accompany you back to the citadel so you can rest.”

“No! The furthest I will go is the second level. There should be enough room there for me to rest.”

The captain stares at him and looks like he will refuse. He narrows his eyes. The captain gulps before nodding quickly. He returns it and walks back to the second level smiling. It still amuses him how fast he can get his men to cower before him. Especially, if he disagrees with their idea. Reaching the second level, he searches for a place to rest. Finding it, he lies down without paying attention to his guards. He knows what they will do.

After sleeping for a few hours, he returns to the first level with his guards closeby. As he enters the sounds he hears make some things clear to him; the fighting has not eased up. No, it has only increased since he left. He sighs. He had hoped it would have eased up right now. Hurrying forward, he plunges back into the fighting. Once again, he fights for hours. He kills many orcs but there seems to be no end to them.

A horn sounds in the distance. The fighting stops all around him. Orcs look around bewildered. Some seem scared. The men on the ground look at each other. From all of them, he cannot get a hint of what the sound means. A hint he receives from the walls where cheering can be heard. It is a deafening sound. He hurries up on the wall. Once there, he looks over the fields. His eyes widen in realization; Rohan has come to their aid. Finally. He looks more closely at what he can see.


First level, Minas Tirith

The flags of Rohan whistle in the air. More and more riders arrive on the outskirts of the field. All riders move into formation. They look small to him which is no surprise. They are far removed from the city. In the distance, he can see even more Rohirrim gathering. It looks to him as if Theoden has emptied his land of all men.

Seeing all this, a burden leaves him. He takes a deep breath and is surprised by how easily he can breathe. He did not know there was a tightness in his chest before. He knows they have managed to hold out long enough. Long enough for salvation to come in the form of the Rohirrim. Hope fills him for real now. None of his earlier doubts remain. Gondor has a good chance to survive the siege.

Turning back to the city, he sees fighting occurring. He can hear no sound. Everything sounds static. He looks around and sees the fighting happening around him. Guards and warriors protect him. An orc comes upon him from the side. He turns to defend himself when a body appears in front of the orc. Someone he easily recognizes; one of his citadel guards. The guard and the orc fight for a moment before the orc drops death.

The guard looks at him. He nods. The battle inside the first level is what he should focus on. He does not wait long before plunging back into the fighting. This time, he fights on top of the walls. It does not take long before the fighting abates. He takes a deep breath before looking over the wall. Is this where the orcs went to?

The siege towers remain standing where they are. But the orcs do not. They all flee from the city. Their attention solely focused on Rohan. He can see them forming lines. Turning his head, he sees how orcs are still being killed in the city. So not all of them have been dealt with or have fled. Regardless, he knows his men can handle whatever amount of orcs remain in the city. As such, he turns to the fields once more. 

In the distance, Rohan attacks the orcs. Theoden leading the charge. The orc’s lines remain. Once the Rohirrim reach those lines, they decimate them. He smiles knowing what this means; victory. Looking around, Imrahil catches his eyes. The desire in Imrahil’s eyes is clearly visible. And knowing the situation in the city, he can send out the cavalry. But shall he? No, he will not allow the cavalry to ride. Not without him. They will only ride when he joins them.

“Prepare my horse! Tell the cavalry to prepare! I want to ride out in ten minutes!”

Behind him, sounds increase. He hears his order being relayed. Looking to his side, he sees Imrahil has not moved far. Imrahil still looking at him. When their eyes meet, he receives a smile. He nods in return. Moments later, Imrahil leaves the wall in a hurry.

Following Imrahil's path, he sees the cavalry assembling in the courtyard. Horses trample around. Knights running to their horse and jumping on. Others checking their gear. In the distance, he can see his horse arriving.

Looking over the wall once more, he sees Rohan fighting. His eyes narrow. He will ride out soon. He will meet Theoden in the fields. Even if it is the last thing he will do.

Chapter Text

Pelennor field

Standing in the courtyard, Denethor looks around. The entire cavalry is present. Most have already mounted their horses. Some horses are being held by stable hands. Only one horse is absent. His horse. What is taking them so long?

Turning around, he sees how the cavalry is making final preparations. Those riders who are mounted check their gear as well as their tack. Others are still putting on their gear or checking it over. And those are the ones who reached the courtyard moments ago. They were late. Where did they come from? The third level? They should have been here long before they did.

Thinking this, his eyes turn towards the gate of the second level. He tries to catch a glips from his horse. They should have been here already. Just like the cavalrymen who were late. He needs to leave soon. Else orcs might think it a good idea to assault the walls again. Or find another way into the city. He cannot allow it to happen. He refuses.

The sounds of hoves hitting the ground get louder. He smiles. So they are nearly here. It is about time. Checking over his gear, he is satisfied it will not cause him any problems. Buior has done his duty properly. Just like always. Walking towards the front of the cavalry’s gathering, he waits for his horse. It takes a moment before his horse is brought to him. He now sees who brought his horse: Bergil.

Bergil holds the reins. Taking the reins in his hands, he mounts his horse. Nodding to Bergil, Bergil steps back. Bergil stands to the side with a worried look. Why? It is not like Beregond is among his guards, right? His eyes narrow and his lips thin. Turning to his guards, he sees them mounting horses. While they do so he quickly looks at each face seeking a similar face. He hopes he will fail. His face falls momentarily before pushing it into a neutral expression. Nobody would have seen his reaction. But now he understands Bergil’s face; Beregond is among his guards.

Turning in his saddle, he checks on the cavalry. Everyone has mounted in the meantime. He smiles. Now everything is arranged for the cavalry to ride out. Meeting Imrahil’s eyes, he nods once. Now it is time to leave.

Turning around, he looks at the gate. His eyes widen. When did the gate break? He does not remember hearing it break. Nor anyone mentioning it. But then during the battle, he was not really paying much attention to what goes on around him.

Looking at the gate, he sees how rubble is littered in the path. The gate itself has a massive hole into it. He is fairly certain the rubble comes from the hole. They cannot leave this way. Not with all the rubble in front of it. Now, he needs to ensure they can get out of the city and he knows just how to do it.

“Clear a path! Close it immediately after the cavalry has passed through.”

The guards at the gate immediately step into action clearing away the rubble. Some run into the city. Most likely to get supplies to close the gap later on. Another horse moves next to him. Turning to his left, he sees Mithrandir moving next to him. His eyes narrow again and his lips thin. Why? Why does Mithrandir feel the need to join them? He could easily stay in the city. There is no need for Mithrandir to join the cavalry.

Mithrandir smiles at him. He does not respond even though he knows Mithrandir wants to talk. He does not see the need for it. There is nothing for them to talk about. Well, nothing? There is something they could talk about but he refuses to even consider talking about it. If Mithrandir wants to ride out with the cavalry, he will not stop him. It is not like he could stop Mithrandir.

Looking back at the broken gate, he sees how the guards have nearly finished clearing a path. It will only be a moment now before he can join the Rohirrim on the field. His heart starts to beat faster in his chest. He listens to the cavalry and hears the stomping of hooves. He smiles. The horses all feel like he feels.


Riding out of the city, he rides straight at the first line of orcs he can find. The cavalry following close behind. In what formation they ride is of no importance to him right now. All he cares about is pushing through the orcs. He blocks everything out as he rides forward confident that his guards will follow close behind.

Hitting the first line of orcs, he kills whatever orc crosses his path. He pushes into the lines with as much speed as he can. All the while ensuring he does not get pulled from his horse or wounded. From time to time, an orc tries to attack him from the side. Each time, he slashes the neck. It nearly always ends in a decapitation. But even when it does not, the orc dies. All to save Gondor and ensure Mordor’s defeat.

The further he gets, the closer he gets to Theoden. His objective was nearly reached. But he cannot falter now. He needs to keep his eyes on the orcs in front and to his side. Only if he manages to survive will he be able to meet Theoden on the field.

Suddenly, a cry comes from the left side. Taking a quick look, his eyes widen. Another group of Rohirrim is attacking the orcs there. Where do they come from? Well from his left side, he knows that. But when did they arrive here? With the other Rohirrim? He does not know but feels they were not with the group he saw earlier. Regardless, if he thought Theoden had emptied his land of men before then he now is certain.

He turns his head back to the orcs in front of him. Not much later, he reaches the middle of the field. Or at least what he perceives to be the middle. It is here that he sees Theoden riding. Urging his horse forward, he rides to meet up with Theoden which he does not much later.

“Steward Denethor, it is good to see you here. I am glad we arrived on time.”

“Theoden King, I am glad to see you too. I want to thank you for coming to our aid in our darkest hour. You arrived just in time. I do not know if we could have held out much longer.”

“It is only normal for me to do so. Rohan gave an oath. We keep our word.”

“I am glad to hear that.”

He smiles. He has a feeling there is something else behind Theoden’s words but does not pay attention to it. Only the current situation is on his mind. Everything is under control now. The siege has ended. Calmness fills him. Soon the last of the orcs will be dealt with and he can move on to repair the city.

Horns sound in the distance. He turns his head towards the direction the sound came from. As he turns his head, he sees how everyone else does the same thing. The fighting stops momentarily around him. On the edge of the field, oliphaunts walk onto the field. On the back of the oliphaunts, wooden towers stand. Those towers look like carriages. Dread fills him. He knows how dangerous these beasts are and how difficult it is to kill them.

Behind the oliphaunt, a cavalry rides onto the field. The men are dressed in colorful armor. The reflecting sun is blinding. He knows what this means. A cry comes from his left.

“Haradrim!”

He turns his head and glares at the person who screamed. It will not do anything good if panic erupts. But back to the Haradrim, why would they come now? He did not expect them. Especially now. He sees how the Haradrim will be attacking them. And from behind of all places. He grinds his teeth. He does not like it. Still, he raises his sword knowing full well what his next action will be.

“Form lines! Form lines. Do not let anyone through.”

A quick glance to the Rohirrim and he sees Theoden doing the same thing. Denethor looks back at his own troops. His grip on his reins tightens. He has a feeling of what will happen now. A feeling, he buries deep within his mind. He refuses for it to control him but cannot deny it existing.

Back with the Haradrim, they fall into lines at an easy trot. Moments later, they gallop at his lines. He feels his horse moving around nervously. Tightening the reins, he stops the movement. His horse wants to leave. So does he but he refuses to show cowardice. He will face the Haradrim.

Faster than he realizes, the Haradrim reach his lines and plunge into it. Fighting breaks out once more. The orcs attacking from the sides. He knows they waited there for their reinforcements to enter the field. He slashes at the orcs. He manages to stab a few with his knife. While fighting, he does not dare look at Theoden. His situation will be similar. Denethor stays with his men fighting to keep the Haradrim at bay. They fight even though the situation looks grim. He refuses to give up for never again will he give up without a fight.

An ear-piercing cry sounds. His ears hurt. He covers them with his hands while turning his head. His eyes widen in horror. Theoden’s horse is lifted from the ground. It is caught in the mouth of the Nazgul’s beast by its neck. The beast swings Theoden’s horse around for a few moments before throwing it on the ground. All with Theoden stuck in his saddle. He is far away but still hears the sound of Theoden and his horse hitting the ground. It is a loud sound which is accompanied by the breaking of bones.

The beast lands and moves towards them. Denethor turns his head away. He knows what this means. Theoden will surely die. An event he does not want to see.

Looking ahead, he sees it will take the Haradrim some time to reach him. At the same time, his lines are still forming. Keeping an eye on it, he considers the turn of events while he has time. This turn of events makes no sense to him. He never heard from his own scouts that Haradrim were gathering. So when did they get here? He does not know and does not like it. But one thing he knows; the Haradrim’s appearance shocked and surprised him.

As he realizes this, he feels another feeling reaching him; sadness. Sadness for the turn of events. How could this have happened? Everything looked like it would turn out in Gondor’s favor. Nothing gave him any indication of what is happening now. Where did he fail? He does not know. And the longer he thinks about it, the more he begins to feel like it is not entirely his fault.

He thought all the Haradrim were already on the field with the orcs. Actually, he thought no Haradrim had come to aid Mordor. He does not remember seeing any on the field. It does not eliminate the possibility of some being here. And how much he dislikes it he has to admit Mordor prepared itself well. They have hidden the gathering of the Haradrim very well.

He looks around. What should he do? Stay with the Rohirrim or split up their forces? Or should he go back into the city? No, the city is not the place he should go to. It would serve no one. It only leaves two options open. But which one will he follow, he does not know. 

If he stays with the Rohirrim, they will have a better chance of defeating the Haradrim. Or they can form a better defense. If he splits up their forces then that will allow them to strike at multiple places at the same time. This should make things more difficult for the Haradrim. His heart moves to join Rohan. He looks up and is about to give his orders when another thought strikes him.

He has evacuation orders standing for those inside Minas Tirith. If this goes wrong then he needs to ensure the escape paths are safe. He cannot join Rohan. No matter how much he would like to. They need to return to the city’s walls. He refuses to enter the city again until this fight is over. They need to keep the Haradrim and orcs out of the city for as long as they can. His mind made up, he straightens and calls out his orders.

“Pull back! Pull back to the walls of Minas Tirith!”

He turns his horse around and gallops back towards the city. Along the way, he fights anything which crosses his path. Be it an orc, Haradrim, or warg. Behind him, he can hear the movement of the cavalry following close behind him. Everyone is in a desperate struggle to reach the city’s walls.

Along the way, he manages to catch a glimpse of the Rohirrim. They have not moved far. They have stayed where they were and are fighting the Haradrim. No clear strategy in place. He considers it foolish. As if they have a death wish. Those who stay in the middle of the field without a strategy have death waiting for them. They should have followed his example.

He bites his lips but continues. There is nothing he can do. If they want to stay, he will let them. They are not bound to his orders. Besides, they are most likely following their new leader. Who this is, he has some ideas. Most likely Éomer or if he is unavailable one of the marshalls. All ideas he will pursue after the battle. Not right now.

Suddenly a large group of orcs surround him. Pulling on his reins, he feels his horse rearing on his back legs. Loosening his hold, he feels his horse settling down. Looking ahead, he breathes a sigh of relief. He was fast enough to avoid riding headfirst into the orcs. It saved his life. Had he not reacted as quickly, he would have been pulled from his horse and killed.

Quickly looking around, he sees how his cavalry is cut off from him. Or he from them. It is just a matter of how one looks at it. But in the end, the orcs stand between him and the cavalry in large numbers. There is no way either can reach the other.

Turning his horse around, he notices how four other horses stand close to him. It makes it nearly impossible for him to turn his horse. Still, he manages but only barely. He sighs. At least, his personal guard stayed close to him. Not that it matters much now. They are with too few to protect him and themselves. It is all futile.

Narrowing his eyes, he pushes the thought to the back of his mind. He urges his horse forward. He will not die without a fight. He refuses. He hears his guard following him. He pushes at the lines of orcs. Each time, it appears he found an opening orcs quickly block his path. It does not stop him from trying. He needs to get to the city. It is the only thought in his mind.

After a long time and many attempts, he sees himself surrounded. Even more than before. And what is worse this time, he has been pushed further away from the cavalry. Looking towards the city, he can see the cavalry pushing towards him. He smiles sadly. They show their loyalty but it is useless. He cannot reach the city. Not now and not for a long time. Maybe even ever. He knows if the cavalry reaches him, they will be unable to get him safely to the city. Why do they try? They should protect the city.

Shaking his head, he looks around. He sees nothing has changed much since the last time he looked. His guards stand bravely around him. Orcs are leering. Most likely waiting to strike if he knows them. He bites his lips feeling dread filling him. He knows what this means. The same thing as before. It is the last thing he wants. At the city walls, he has safety in numbers for the archers can protect him and his guard. They are better protected by the city walls. As for being near the cavalry, it has the same effect. And both he does not have.

He sighs. No matter how he looks at it, he knows the situation is grimmer than before. It is almost bleak. And there is little he can do to make it better. But what are the little things, he can do? He can only come up with a few options. He can either try to reach the cavalry or the walls of Minas Tirith. He could also try to reach the Rohirrim. These are the only options, he has available. Considering the options momentarily, he instantly dismisses the last one. The Rohirrim are further away than the cavalry or the walls. It would be foolish to attempt to reach them. But what will he do now?

He only has two options available now. And for each, the question is: who can he reach first? The wall is far away from him. His cavalry also. Neither is close to him. So, who is the closest? Looking around, he moves back quickly. Damn, he missed the orc coming upon him. Only his quick response saved him from being killed.

Gripping his sword tight, he swings it towards the orc. Tightening his hold on his reins, he pulls his horseback. He turns his horse quickly and strikes again. The orc hisses in pain. Taking advantage of this matter, he strikes again. The orc drops death.

Having done that, he looks around. Another one comes upon him. He holds tight and when the orc comes close, he kills it. Thankfully this time without a long fight. Looking around, he tries to find other orcs. But no matter how much he looks no more orcs come running towards him. They all stay where they are, leering at him. Grinding his teeth, he knows what this means. It is not something he can do anything about.

Back to the question from before; who can he reach the fastest? Looking at the distance between the cavalry and the wall, he tries to calculate the distance. But as he looks at the distance, he makes an important observation. He sees how the cavalry is between him and the wall. He smiles. His decision has been made for him. He will do all he can to reach the cavalry. With them, he has the best chance of surviving. And hopefully, he can reach the city safely. Or as safely as is possible to do.

Kicking his horse, he urges him forward. This time, the orcs will not stop him. He will reach the cavalry. Or die trying. As he rides, he hears how his guard is close behind him.

Chapter Text

Riding toward the circle of orcs, Denethor tightens his grip on his sword and reins. He will not back down now. Shades moving past him. Moments later, two guards ride in front of him. He knows they will reach the orcs first. He smiles sadly. They will do what they can to ensure he gets through safely. Even if it puts their lives in danger. And only if he gets through those lines will he have a chance to survive.

Hitting the line of orcs, he slashes and strikes as he moves. They try to push him back. Only this time, he stands his ground. He keeps pushing. He needs to reach the cavalry. But no matter his pushing, he makes no more ground. The orcs fight back hard. Regardless of this, he refuses to allow it to stop him; he presses on. No matter what comes in front of him. His guards move closer to him. Moments later, they form a small line and press on. And again the orcs fight back fiercely.

Suddenly his path is cut off. He fights but feels like he is being pushed back. And no matter what they do they cannot hold their line. They are pushed back. He refuses to lose focus on the battle. He slashes and stabs every orc. All in an attempt to stop the orcs from pushing themselves back.

The orcs stop their push. Again they circle him. He breathes loudly. The air feels harsh in his lungs. His hands sweat in the gloves. He looks around. Why do the orcs not attack now? All they do is stomping the ground with their boots and spears. All to lure him into attacking. He knows that. As well as that he knows he needs to make the best of the situation.

Taking a deep breath, he looks at his guards and heaves a sigh of relief. None of his guards have been killed. They came out of it alright. As he looks at the guards, he sees how one of them holds his side. He grinds his teeth for he spoke too soon. They did not come out of it alright but alive. Not that it surprises him much. He knows he should have expected it. But now he needs to ensure the guard gets back to the city; he needs the healers.

Narrowing his eyes, he looks at their location. He clenches his fists. He is back where he started. Taking a deep breath, he knows what he needs to do. Kicking his horse, he rides once more into the line of orcs. He pushes at their line only to be pushed back in the end once more. This cycle repeats itself multiple times. Much to his irritation. Still, he refuses to give up each time. He knows he has no other choice. If he gives up then he will surely die. By fighting, he has a small chance of surviving. A chance, he is willing to take.

At present, he is once more back where he started. Looking over the orcs, he sees how Imrahil is pushing at the line of orcs from the other side. He must have noticed his actions. Or want to rescue him. He smiles. Regardless of Imrahil’s reason, he will make use of it. It might just be what allows him to push through the line of orcs and reach the cavalry.

Gripping the reins hard once more, he kicks his horse and rides directly into the direction of the cavalry. Hopefully, he can get through there easier. His guards are once more behind him. Moments later, he smashed right into the orcs. And this time, the progress is better in front of him. Only the back creates problems now. All the remaining orcs attack them from behind. He knows he cannot fault now so pushes harder. To survive he needs to reach the cavalry. Sooner rather than later.

Kicking his horse once again, he rides faster. They need the safety of the cavalry and soon. So he needs to move quicker. He does not know how much longer the wounded guard can keep up. And he refuses to leave the guard behind. Not if he sees a chance for them to reach safety. He slashes and stabs every orc which comes close to him.

The cavalry moves ever closer to him. He wants to smile but pushes it from his mind. Not until he has reached the cavalry will he allow himself to feel relief. It would be too dangerous for everyone where he to become relieved too quickly. The only thing, he focuses on is reaching the cavalry.

Moments later, he finally joins forces with the cavalry. And not a moment too late. The orcs who have been harassing them from behind decide to strike right now. He sees it in the corner of his eyes. He turns his horse around but stops in the middle of doing so. The cavalry surrounds him and his guards effectively blocking the orcs’ path.

Immediately, a fight breaks out. He resumes his turn and joins the fighting. They push at the orcs with greater success than he has had due to their larger numbers. The orcs are driven back. A path cleared for them to reach the city walls.

Seeing the orcs regrouping, he turns around. An action which is mirrored by Imrahil. He pushes his horse hard to reach the walls soon. It appears for a moment as if no one keeps up with him. Something which is changed after a few minutes when Imrahil catches up with him and rides next to him. Together they lead the charge back to the city walls. A charge which does not last long. They reach the walls faster than he would have expected. Once there, he turns around and raises his sword without looking at the field.

“Form a line! Let no one through.”

He glances at the cavalry and nods at Imrahil; they are following his orders. The city will be defended. Now that he is assured of that, he turns his attention back to the field. It is time for him to see what they will be facing. In front of him, the orcs are moving slowly towards them. He narrows his eyes. If they think they can lure them away from the city then they are sorely mistaken.

“Hold your line!”

Horses tramble on the ground. No other sound reached him from the horses. He keeps his eyes on the orcs confident the cavalry will remain in place. At the same time, he grips his reins tight and waits for the orcs to reach them. He knows it will be another hard fight for them but knows it is not something he can change.

A soft groan reaches his ears. His eyes widen momentarily before settling in a frown. He turns his head to the side. Next to him, a guard is holding his side with a grimace on his face. He bites his lips. Will his injured guard last long enough? He is not certain. Actually, he doubts it. Maybe it would be better were he to enter the city.

He is about to speak up when he hears shouting in the distance. He looks around to see what everyone is doing. The orcs have stopped. They stand as frozen. Some with big grins on their face. It is like everyone else. They all stop what they are doing. This does not mean anything good. Not that the shouting could signal anything good.

He turns his head in the direction of the shouting. There the harbor can be seen. The river is not visible to him. At least not clearly. But for the lack of clarity, he does not miss the flags in the distance. The flags are red. So bright, they cannot be missed. On it, he can see a black eye. He knows where these flags are attached to; ships. Ships which he can barely see. And which he does not want to see.

His eyes widen and he feels the blood leaving his face. The feeling of dread increases. What left him earlier of dread has now returned in a larger amount. He saw those ships earlier but he had hoped they would not be arriving here at this time. He had hoped they would arrive once he had dealt with Mordor. He is so wrong. So absolutely wrong. His worst fear has been realized. 

He shakes his head in disbelief. They cannot beat the Corsairs. Not with the problems they already have. They already have problems dealing with the orcs and Haradrim. Especially the Haradrim vanguard. That is what had him worried until recently. Until those ships arrived. They were struggling to keep them at bay. Something which seems futile right now.

“Adar, please remember to not despair when the siege happens. As I told you, aid will come to Gondor. It might take some time for the aid to arrive but it will come. While you wait, keep the hope up for the people, warriors and yourself.”

He shakes his head once more. Why did these words come to his mind once more? It are the same words which convinced him to join the fighting; words an older Faramir told him. But why do they come now? All the aid they could ask for has arrived. Gil has not made it in time. He is certain of it. No more aid will come.

What is the purpose of keeping the hope up? Faramir’s words were clearly wrong. He should have known. It was only an imagination of the mind. He shakes his head. This means it is not something he needs to listen to. Not again.

Looking ahead, he sees how nothing has changed. Right now, he needs to figure out what to do with the situation. He considers it while keeping an eye on the orcs. They do not move. At least one worry is taken care of. But he still does not know what to do with the situation. There are only a few things which he deems possible. And none give him much hope for survival.

“Adar, please remember to not despair when the siege happens. As I told you, aid will come to Gondor. It might take some time for the aid to arrive but it will come. While you wait, keep the hope up for the people, warriors and yourself.”

He shakes his head. He already determined these words were false. He must be imagining things. It is the only thing which seems likely. His thoughts continue to return to it. He struggles to push it away. After a long time, at least to him, he finally manages to push it away.

Smiling sadly, he acknowledges he will be dead before the end of the battle. Maybe even long before it but that is not important right now. How will he end it? There are but few options which come to his mind. They are dying in a retreat, dying in the city, or dying while fighting. He knows which one he prefers; dying while fighting. Turning to the side, he looks at his injured guard. There is no need to drag him into this. Mind made up, he addresses him.

“Return to the city with haste. Give the order for the city to be evacuated. Tell the healers to only take those who can be moved with them. All other wounded should not be left to fall to the mercy of the orcs. We will hold them off for as long as we can.”

The guard nods and turns his horse around. He does not follow the guard with his eyes. He has other matters on his mind. Turning his attention back to the field, he sees movement in the distance. It does not take him long to discover who the movement belongs; the Rohirrim. They are mounting an attack on the ships. Or do they? He follows their direction and sees they are moving towards the harbor. Near the harbor, he sees the Haradrim. They have been driven back.

He smiles. So they have found a way to deal with the Rohirrim. Their bravery will not go unanswered. He will join them. Looking around, he sees the longing in the eyes of the cavalry. Smiling at them, he speaks up.

“Gather! We will join the Rohirrim. They will not fight alone this time. Halt the evacuations for the time being.”

Trampling reached his ears. He waits for a moment to allow the cavalry to gather around him. But his patience runs out quickly. The orcs are also gathering. He will not allow them to stop him. Not again. No, he will join the Rohirrim. Or die trying.

The ships dock in the harbor. He narrows his eyes not liking what he sees. Well, he should have expected them to dock. Still, he had hoped they would need longer. Regardless of what is the case, he pushes his horse. The cavalry follows closely behind him. The ground shakes beneath them. Orcs look at them and form a line. Spears are lined up in their direction.

He narrows his eyes. It is an intimidating sight, he admits to himself, but he refuses to let it stop him. He pushes on while his heart batters against his chest. Suddenly, his guards pass him. Two on his left side and Beregond on the other side together with Imrahil. Knowing it is as safe as it can be, he takes a quick look at the harbor.

A standard is raised in the harbor. It is black with silver decorating. He recognizes the decorating immediately for what it is; a silver tree, seven stars, and a crown. He knows this standard; it is the standard of Elendil. Glancing at Imrahil, he sees how his eyes are wide. He can imagine a mouth hanging open even though it is not the case right now. He turns back to the harbor.

The standard is still there. It is no imagination. Could it be? Could Gil have reached them? He feels how hope begins to return. Worry and concern disappear. The standard is a sight for sore eyes. But until he sees who has actually raised the standard, he refuses to claim Gil has returned in front of others. Even though, he knows it can be no other. No one but Gil will have a strong enough claim to dare to use this standard. He knows what it means for the Gondorians. Just like they do as well as those who raised the standard.

Shaking his head, he raises his sword. Those orcs still need to be dealt with. This is what he needs to focus on. Moments later, he clashes with the orcs. He pushes through them with ease. They all stand around paralyzed as they slam into their line. An event he makes good use off. He strikes them and leaves carnage behind. No orc in his area survives.

Soon, he meets up with another part of the cavalry. He looks where they came from. A carnage greets them. Looking the men over, he notices a few are wounded. He rides towards them and nods to a worried-looking Amrothos. Amrothos turns his head. Immediately, another man attends to the wounded.

A few minutes later, he rides back into the fray. Next to him, the fighting has continued. He slashes and stabs every orc he can. He leaves none alive while aiming for an open area. He wants to see what is happening in the harbor. An only in an open area will he feel safe enough to do it. But until he does, he fights on.

Once he finally reaches an open area, he looks at the harbor. He can see how the ships empty. Leaving them are men of Gondor. He recognizes them easily and smiles. They are a welcome surprise. He did not expect them to arrive on time. Yes, other men from around Gondor have arrived but they nearly always came from nearby. These men come from further. None of them are on horses. These ships must have been a blessing given to them by whoever captured them.

 He back to the arrivals. He is met with another surprise. Elves, a dwarf, and Dúnedain leave the ships. He did not expect any of them. One thing he knows; these Dúnedain do not come from Gondor. No, they come from the north. Their clothing gives them away. It is not of Gondorian origin but more ragged. Not something most people here in Gondor would want to be seen in. Even the peasants.

Could they have come with Gil? He looks hopefully back at the ships. Dúnedain are still leaving. His heart beats hard in his chest. He can barely wait to see if Gil is with him. He watches every Dúnedain both leaving the ship and in the harbor. And lastly, he finally spots Gil. He is at the front of the group. How could he have missed him? A smile spreads on his face. He now knows Faramir’s words were no imagination. They were the truth. Gondor will survive and prevail. He feels how hope becomes fully restored in his heart.

A deafening sound comes from behind. He knows it for what it is; cheering. He does not need to consider where they come from. Nor does he need to look. They come from Minas Tirith. As well as from the cavalry. He raises his sword in the air joining in the cheering. He has his mind is made up about what he will do now.

“Fight! Hope has reached Gondor. Fight for hope!”

He pushes his horse to run as fast as possible. A scramble sounds behind him. He smiles; the cavalry is gathering around him. Arrows fly over his head towards orcs and Haradrim. Most likely coming from the city. He sees the orc and Haradrim falling to the ground. Moaning can be heard. No matter where the arrows actually come from, he appreciates them. It makes everything easier for him.

The cavalry leaves carnage behind them. No orc or Haradrim is left standing wherever they move. Before long, he meets up with the Rohirrim. The line blocking him was smaller than he expected. A young Rohirrim immediately comes to his side. No words are exchanged between them; they only look at each other. He nods and receives one in return. Whoever this young man is, he is clearly in charge after Theoden’s death. Later, he will learn about the young man’s identity. But right now, they need to deal with the problem before them.

Together they push further into the army of orcs. The cavalry and Rohirrim also meet up with them moments later. Joining their forces has been the right decision, he sees that now. Together they manage to kill more orcs than before when they were fighting alone. A few times, he sees how enemies are surrendering. He pays them no mind. Al, he does is notice how some Rohirrim leave the group and round them up. Whatever will happen to them is a matter for a later time.

As he rides, he thinks back to his words. He knows the meaning behind them; they are double. There is now hope for their survival for they have enough men to handle the remaining orcs and Haradrim. Also, hope or Estel is Gil’s childhood name. A name he learned about by accident. And was summarily sworn to secrecy about. With Gil’s return, hope has literally returned to Gondor. Not that many people will know this. But as he saw Gil among those disembarking, he knows the king has returned.

He glances at the harbor once more. His eyes widen at what he sees; the banner falls. Silence falls among his men. Fighting momentarily stops. The cheering from the city also stops. A heavy silence hangs in the air. He knows everyone is in shock; that is obvious. The silence actually feels choking to him. He can barely breathe. He had such hope they would survive. Now, it seems it might have been idle hope.

He takes a few deep breaths. He still feels a choking hold on his airways. He takes another deep breath. He needs to figure out what to do. At the same time, he wonders what has happened. His thoughts do not last long for within moments the banner is raised again. Why did it fall? Why was it raised again? He does not know but intends to find out later. Something else to do later. But right now, they need to deal with the Haradrim and those orcs who have managed to survive till now.

Looking at the young man, he receives a nod. Together, they ride towards the Haradrim and orcs. Gil leads a group into their back. The Haradrim and orcs are caught between a hammer and an anvil. It is a complete decimation. Only those who surrender survive. No other Haradrim or orc. The city is saved. He is certain of it now.

Chapter Text

Looking around the field, he sees everything which needs to be done. He would like to talk to Gil but knows there are other more important matters. And who knows, maybe later he can find the time to talk to Gil. As well as to learn why the standard fell. But back to the matters on hand, he knows how he will deal with them.

“Secure the prisoners and take away all their weapons. Check their camps for anything dangerous.”

A few cavalrymen ride away. So they took up his order. He has to admit, he did not assign anyone to it. They do not get far. A voice speaks up beside him and they stop immediately.

“Steward Denethor, if you do not mind we will handle the prisoners.”

He turns his head toward the voice. A Rohirrim sits on his horse beside him. The Rohirrim is wearing his armor like all of them. He is older, maybe in his forties. He has a round shield at his side as well as a black horn. His hair is golden reminiscing of typical Rohirrim. Just like his blue eyes. His posture strong as well as his body. All signs this Rohirrim is powerful and relatively well off.

He frowns looking at the man. He is familiar to him but he cannot remember his name. It is on the tip of his tongue and yet still elusive. He tries to remember his name. A few come to his mind; Elfhelm and Erkenbrand. But which one belongs to the Rohirrim, he cannot tell.  He shakes his head. It is not a matter for him to dwell on. He can ask about it later.

But what will he do with the offer? He believes to make good use of it. It will not deplete him of those few cavalrymen he has available. The Rohirrim have more men available. Even if they have had more casualties than he has experienced. So it would be in his best interest to accept.

“Alright, if you want to deal with the prisoners I will not stand in your way.”

“Thank you, steward Denethor.”

The Rohirrim kicks his horse and it starts to run away. His eyes widen. He still does not know the rider’s name. And right now, he wants to learn it. With the rider moving away, he only has one option left.

“Wait, rider. I do not know your name.”

“My name is Erkenbrand, steward Denethor. I am the lord of the Westfold.”

He nods and allows Erkenbrand to ride away. There is nothing left for him to do regarding the prisoners. They are now the full responsibility of the Rohirrim. The cavalrymen, who were riding away, now turn around and return to the cavalry. He watches them for a moment before turning his eyes back to the fields.

He sees the dead orcs, Haradrim, and other beasts lying on the field. Among them lie dead Rohirrim and Gondorians. As well as the wounded. Realizing this, he knows what takes priority here; the wounded. They are in dire need of care. So he turns around facing the cavalry.

“Take the wounded to the houses of healing and gather the deceased to be buried. Give them the care they deserve. As for the corpses of our enemies, burn them. While you gather them in piles, take any valuables you can find and bring them to the city.

What he will do with those valuables, he does not say. There is no need to have anyone taking something for themselves. Or for them to take everything for themselves. The men in the city also deserve their share of the valuables. With his orders, he is confident he can give them some of it. His orders were clear. He knows the cavalry will not disobey.

As he thinks of the city, he remembers how much there is to be taken care of there. The rubble from the destroyed houses needs to be cleared away. The city cleaned up so living there will be possible once more. Even if it will not be comfortable. It will be a necessary sacrifice for the men to make. They can start to rebuild the city at a later time. Such as when there is no longer any immediate threat.

But besides the buildings in the city, food also needs to be distributed. All of this on top of the matters on the field. He knows he cannot oversee this all by himself. He needs to start to delegate these duties. A task he does not like but is a sacrifice he needs to make.

“Imrahil!”

“Yes, Lord Denethor?”

He follows the direction of Imrahil’s voice. Imrahil has moved a bit away from him with the cavalry. The cavalrymen are busy conducting their orders. Only Imrahil still sits on his horse looking at him with a frown. He must be wondering why he was stopped. Well, it would be best for him to save Imrahil wondering.

“I need you to oversee the cavalry while they follow their orders. If possible ensure the fields are cleaned up. It will have to be done one time so it is better to start early.”

“If possible indeed. I do not think the men will have much time for cleaning the fields. They are exhausted. Following your orders will already be a challenge for them.”

“Yes, of course. You make the call when the men can take their rest. I will ensure houses are cleared for their use.”

“Of course. Will you visit Faramir?”

“Of course, I will. Why would you think I would not visit my son. The city is finally safe so all I need to do is ensure the city is taken care of. Then I can finally visit Faramir and stay with him for as long as I want.”

He nods to Erkenbrand and leaves. As he rides back to the city, he heard trembling behind him. Hooves rush over the ground. His guards must be following closely behind him. He thinks about everything he needs to do and sighs. As if he did not have enough work to do already. Now he needs to ensure houses are cleared for the men to sleep in. All because he promised Imrahil to do so. It was not something he thought about before.

Besides this, he also needs to find the time to visit Faramir. Something he would do regardless. But with everything he has to do, how will he find the time? He does know. With everything that needs to be done in the city, he has his hands full. He begins to doubts he will find time to visit Faramir anytime soon.

Moments later, he rides into the first level and looks at the damage which can be seen. Nearly all the buildings are damaged in some way. Most are even destroyed. Those that are not, have walls or pieces of the roof missing. Rebuilding will take a lot of time. Something he does not look forward to considering what he knows of the poor. Within a few days, they will have claimed the first level as theirs.

Looking at the streets, he is met with a lot of rubble. Some streets are completely covered; they are inaccessible. Beneath the rubble, limbs can be seen unmoving. From the accessible streets, moaning can be heard. The full extent of the damage becomes clear to him now. As well as the full extent of the wounded.


First level, Minas Tirith

He takes a deep breath knowing he will need to repeat his order; only this time in the city. And like on the fields, he cannot oversee everything. He needs to appoint someone to take care of the city. If he does not then he will be unable to visit Faramir either today or tomorrow. Maybe even longer. He knows if he needs to give the order if he wants to have a chance of visiting Faramir within the coming hours.

Looking around the first level once more, he sees how soldiers are running around. No one seems to have anything in mind. They run around like headless chickens. He sighs. Where is captain Mendear? He should be keeping an eye on everyone. He should be ensuring that there is some order here. He sighs deeply before walking around the first level. This is the only way he can think off to find captain Mendear.

Walking around the first level, he sees the amount of damage which was hidden from his sight. The damage is not much different from what he sees. The only difference is between the buildings. Everything else is the same. But as he walks, he sees how the officers are aiding in the headless shuffle. He sighs feeling his irritation grow. Really, he should not have appointed Mendear as captain. Not now.

Just as he thinks this, he sees Mendear talking to an officer. Is he really giving orders? He hopes so. He slowly walks towards Mendear. Mendear seems ignorant of his approach though the officer notices him. The officer quickly straightens and Mendear tilts his head. Denethor can imagine the frown appearing on Mendear’s face when the officer hurriedly cleans his armor.

He laughs for he knows this to be a useless action. The officer’s face grows red. Mendear turns his head towards him. Mendear’s eyes widen and he straightens. So, Mendear missed his approach. Well, he will excuse him as he seemed deep in conversation with the officer.

“My lord, to what do I owe this visit?”

“I came to see how you are managing, captain Mendear. I have seen the first level. I am sure you have to. So why have you not started with the cleanup yet?”

“I do not know, my lord. I was busy checking on the men. I wanted to know how many survived...”

“And?”

Mendear scratches the back of his neck and looks away. He frowns. What has Mendear so upset? Or does he want to hide something? He tilts his head and taps his finger on his leg. He will wait for a moment. Maybe Mendear will then tell him on his own. But if he does not answer soon then he will force it out of him.

“Well, more men survived than I had expected. I have been trying to get an overview of who survived and who died.”

“And how have you been doing that?”

“Oh, that is simple. I went through the first level and checked the areas. Some had more deceased than others. I imagine the fighting was more severe there. So far I have a few areas left to check.”

He watches the smile on Mendear’s face as he talks. When it appeared, he already suspected that he would receive a good answer. Or at least an answer which will not be too bad to receive. And with the answer he received, he can work. Mendear has given him a way to get his orders done. And then without upsetting Mendear too much. Not that would have minded had he to do that.

“Well, you should tell your officers to do that for you.”

“Of course, my lord. What should I do then?”

“You should see to it that the wounded are taken to the houses of healing if you have not been doing that already. The same counts for the deceased; See to it that they are gathered to be buried if you have not yet done that. Afterward, you really should be with the cleanup of your level. Clear away the destroyed houses and free the streets from the rubble.”

“Of course, my lord. I will see to it. But what about the exhausted men? They should rest.”

Mendear frowns. Denethor can barely hide the sigh which wants to escape him. Reall, Mendear? He should know that. Every captain knows the exhausted men should rest. They all should have a plan available. So why does it appear Mendear does not? He frowns. Is Mendear aiming for something else? Only one way to find out.

“Of course, they should rest. You know that, right? Just do it without hampering the work which needs to be done.”

“I do know that. But where should I send them? A specific location or somewhere in general?”

Ah, so that is what Mendear was aiming for. It is an understandable worry. But also one Mendear should have prepared for. The other captains, he suspects, will have areas already dedicated for resting. All he needs to do now is ensure there is enough space. And by that, he means the houses from the third level and up. Those, he suspects, are the least damaged.

Mendear is biting his lips. He should tell him his plan which he does moments later.

“I will make houses from the third level and up available for them to use. Just know that the cavalry will make use of those houses also.”

“Of course, my lord. Is there anything you need of me?”

“No, there is not.”

“Then if you excuse me, I have work to do.”

Denethor nods and turns away. But as he does so his mind turns to Faramir. How is Faramir doing? How has he been doing? He nearly bites his lips but manages to stop himself. No one needs to know how anxious he is. Anxious to know how his son has been doing. He needs to check on Faramir.

Making his mind up, he walks towards the gate of the second level. He will visit Faramir right now. He will not wait longer. The city can handle itself. The city? He sighs completely forgetting he only gave his orders to captain Mendear. The other captains need to receive their orders. But how will he do that without someone overseeing everything in the city?

Simple, he will not. Considering every captain in the city, he dismisses the option to put one of them in charge. That will not work. Only he can oversee everything. At least until he has found someone who can oversee everything. Checking on Faramir will have to wait. No matter how much he dislikes it.

Walking through the levels, he visits every captain and gives them the orders they need. Visiting eases some of his worries. They have been managing better than Captain Mendear. But then they have more experience; they will know what to do. He knows he needs to finish as soon as he can. And as soon as he finds someone to oversee everything. Someone he has not yet found. But someone he needs to find if he wants to visit Faramir anytime soon.

Despite his need to visit Faramir, he gives orders whenever necessary. It are mostly officers and warriors who receive his orders. All caused by their slacking or headless running. He just knows they need their orders for the city to re over from the siege. And it keeps him busy for quite some time. When he finally looks up, he sees the sun will soon set.

“Denethor?”

He turns around. Imrahil stands next to him with a worried expression. What is he doing here? He should be overseeing the fields. Not here in the city. He frowns before speaking up.

“Yes, Imrahil. What are you doing here?”

“I came to see if I could be of any aid here. The fields are well managed by Elfhelm who has sent Éomer to the houses of healing.”

“Éomer? Like the marshal Éomer? Nephew of King Theoden?”

“Yes, that Éomer. From what I have learned his sister managed to travel with the host without anyone noticing and got wounded during the battle. They are now bringing her to the houses of healing. Or she is already there, I do not know. But I know Éomer will not be far from her considering his reaction to her discovery.”

He nods. It is entirely understandable he is worried about his sister. But then, how did she manage to sneak into the host? A question, everyone wants answers to. He frowns when he thinks of Theoden. Theoden has a son, Theodred, who would want to be with his niece at this time. Especially, as they grew up together. Or at least, Theodred had seen Éowyn grow up. So why would he not be with her now?

“What about Theodred?”

“I do not know what happened to Theodred. He was not with the host. All I managed to learn is that he was killed not too long ago. But I do not know the details of his death.”

“Mhhh.”

So Éomer is the one who was in charge. He holds the highest rank among the Rohirrim. And with Theodred’s death, Éomer will be the king of Rohan. Crowned or not. He sighs. Now he needs to visit king Éomer before he can visit Faramir.

“Go to the houses, Denethor. I can manage here just fine. You need to be with your son.”

He frowns. Shall he do it? He takes a step and falters. Why does he worry?  Imrahil will know what to do. He wants to be with Faramir. This is the best opportunity he has for Faramir. He shakes his head and looks at Imrahil. He is met with a reassuring smile.

“Denethor, do not worry. I will have the city under control. Nothing will go wrong. Go!”

What should he do? What could possibly go wrong with Imrahil in charge? He knows; nothing. Imrahil is more than capable of handling it. So where do his mixed feelings about Imrahil’s offer Imrahil come from? He looks to the floor. He can only decide once he has sorted out his mixed feelings.

On one part, he feels confused. What his desire to check on Faramir that obvious? He does not think so. If Imrahil knows his feelings then he must know him well. Something which he knows is true. On another note, Imrahil might also have worked on his own feelings were he in this situation. Which one is more likely, he does not know. What he knows is that his confusion flows away.

Another part of him is pleased. The pressure to look after the city is taken from his shoulders. He no longer has to juggle his need to look after the city with his desire to check on Faramir. He can focus on what is most important to him. Still no matter his feelings, he needs to decide what he will do. Will he accept the offer? Or will he deny it?

Everything within him tells him to accept it. If he does then he will be able to check on Faramir. Just as he wants to do ever since the battle ended. So, what will he do? Imrahil can handle this, he knows that. As such, it does not take him long before he has an answer; he will accept the offer.

“If you say so, Imrahil. I will leave you to it then while I go check on Faramir. You know where to find me if you need me for anything?”

“Yes, I know where to find you. Not that I think I will need you anytime soon. Now, go!”

Imrahil waves with his hands and smiles. Denethor nods and smiles back. Imrahil is more than capable to look after the city. Now, he can finally check on Faramir. He will finally learn how Faramir has been doing; if he has been recovering.


Houses of healing

Arriving at the houses of healing, he looks to the sky. The sky is darkening while the sun goes over the horizon. The moon is slightly visible in the sky. So far, no stars are visible. Still, it makes it clear what the time is. Has he been busy for such a long time? He does not believe it but the facts are different. But then, he has to admit he never paid much attention to the time while he was busy.

He shakes his head. The time is of no importance right now. He needs to know how Faramir is doing. And to do that, he needs master Neston, the warden. He is certain master Neston is in charge of Faramir’s care. So where is he? Looking around, a flurry of activity greets him. Healers run around. Some with robes drenched in blood. Others only have drops of blood on them. Among the healers, warriors run around. Most still wear their armor and sword. He turns his head away from some; they reek of sweat. Some have shed their armor and run around in tunics drenched in sweat.

Regardless of this, he not only sees people who were exposed to the battle. Servants run among the warriors and healers. Clearly, they have been making good use of their lack of duties. There is one maid who comes close to him. Closer than others. He grabs her arm tight stopping her in her tracks.

“My lord?”

“Summon the warden. I need to speak with him. And take me to my son.”

“Of course, my lord. I know the warden is currently busy. So if it is not urgent would you mind waiting. I will inform him of your request.”

He narrows his eyes. She has failed to react to one of his orders. Has she forgotten? He hopes not. But he also does not want to stress her too much. She is already shuffling around while playing with her skirt.

“I do not know where captain Faramir is right now. I am not involved in his care. In fact, I do not know the names of most people in the houses.”

He bites his lip not liking the implications. At the same time, he is not really surprised. He expected the houses to be busy considering the battle. In fact, the houses are often already busy when there is not battle outside the city. Considering the battle and amount of wounded, he knows the healers have their hands full. It will not do for him to keep the warden from doing his duty. He wants to visit Faramir but he can wait a bit to learn about Faramir’s recovery.

“Inform the warden about my request. It is not urgent for me to meet with him but I would like to visit Faramir soon.”

“Yes, my lord. I will inform the warden. I will also seek out where your son is and take you to him as soon as I know.”

He nods still not knowing the maid’s name. She looks at him for a few moments before walking away into the houses. He shuffles and looks at the entrance. He hopes she will be back soon. He needs to visit his son. He should have never claimed that it was not urgent for him to visit Faramir. But thinking about Faramir; how will he be doing? The maid did not say anything but then she will not know it.

He sighs. What will he do now? Walk around the houses searching for Faramir? it might be an idea but it comes with a risk. If men see him then he will need to talk to them too. If only for a little while. No, he will not do it. Just as he thinks about it, he remembers King Éomer. He remembers his realization for him to visit king Éomer and his sister. With that in mind, he walks towards the houses. And at that time, a guard walks out. Denethor sees an opportunity when it presents itself.

“Do you know where my son is?”

“I do not know, my lord.”

The guard shuffles around while looking everywhere but at him. He narrows his eyes. He highly doubts the guard's words. Words which annoy him to no end. Still, the guard needs to answer. It is clear he wants to leave but he refuses to allow it. Not until he has gotten the answers he seeks.

“Do you know? Is there anything you know?”

“Well? I know he was carried into the noble wing. I do not know which room, I am afraid.”

“Any specific area of the wing that you know of?”

“I do know for sure but I know he was not taken far into the wing.”

He nods; this is information he can work with. It gives him an idea of where to start looking. Well, only if master Neston has not shown when he has visited King Éomer. The guard looks at him for a moment before hurrying away. He nearly runs. Denethor has to smile. If it was not obvious before it is now; the guard needs to be somewhere.

Walking into the houses of healing, he walks around aimlessly for some time. He talks with those few men he encounters and who are not in a hurry. In time, he encounters the Rohirrim. They pay him no attention but he pays them attention. He follows them in silence. Only the sound of boots hitting the stone can be heard. Just like the sound of breathing. Something which comes in different shapes; from labored to calm. The breathing reflects the way the Rohirrim walk; some walk pained while others walk with strong strides.

Soon, he sees the Rohirrim entering a wing of the houses. He is close behind them in entering the wing. Once there, he looks around. All around him, Rohirrim lie on stretchers. He slowly becomes aware of the moaning in the wing. He looks closely at those he can see; they have all bandages on them. Around them, Rohirrim walk, talk, and care for them. He smiles. The scene is like a balm for his soul.

Looking up, he looks further into the wing. He wants to know if king Éomer is here with his sister. In the distance, he can see someone sitting. Narrowing his eyes, he tries to get a better look at him before approaching. A shoulder smashes into him. He hisses and turns. A young Rohirrim stands before him with wide eyes. He opens his mouth to speak but the Rohirrim quickly runs away. He sighs. He really scared the young man.

Turning his attention back to the man he saw earlier, he looks more carefully at him. The man appears to be wearing armor. He is broad-shouldered and has golden hair. The man has one arm around a bent knee on which he rests his head. Denethor tilts his head; he cannot see the man’s eyes.

Around the man, other Rohirrim stand as if on guard. Before the man, a stretcher stands. Who is on it, he cannot see from the distance. At least not for sure but the outline clearly hints at a woman. Could this be King Éomer and his sister? Denethor hopes so.

Walking towards the man, Denethor becomes aware of the staring. Rohirrim follow his movements. Whispering breaks out around him. A few Rohirrim run out of the wing; others run towards the man. Denethor struggles to hide a smile of amusement; he is clearly an interesting appearance to these Rohirrim.

Nearing the man, a Rohirrim touches his shoulder. The man looks up and talks with the Rohirrim. What they are saying, Denethor is not sure about. He can understand a few words but not everything. Despite this, Denethor immediately recognizes the man as King Éomer.

He smiles and looks down onto the stretcher. On the stretcher lies a woman who bears a striking resemblance to King Éomer; this is clearly princess Éowyn. Her face is deadly pale. It is even worse than Faramir’s complexion when he last saw his son. Do they suffer from the same thing?

“Lord Denethor, what are you doing here?”

“King Éomer, it is good to see you again. I came to pay my respects to your sister. I heard she was found on the fields wounded.”

“Yes, she was. I do not know how she managed to come along. Uncle did not want her here; he wanted her home.”

“Mhh. How is she doing, king Éomer?”

King Éomer tilts his head. The worry he saw earlier increases. It does not promise anything good but he wants the answers. King Éomer mentions with his hands. He hears the guards moving away giving them room to talk without being overheard. Once the guards are far enough away, king Éomer speaks up.

“Éowyn is not doing well, my lord. We all fear she is dying.”

He sees the tears gathering in the corners of king Éomer’s eyes. The tightness in his voice is clearly noticeable. He feels for the king. Similar feelings crawl up within him in regards to Faramir. He looks down and takes a few deep breaths to calm himself down. It will not do for anyone to notice his distress. Once he feels like he is in control he looks up.

“Let us hope for a miracle then. A hero like your sister deserves to survive the end of this war.”

“Yes, she does deserve that. Might I ask how your son is doing?”

“You may ask. I unfortunately do not have any good news. Last I saw my son he was in a bad shape. But how he is now I do not know. Before joining the battle, I had him send here. As such, the warden will know how Faramir is doing.”

King Éomer nods and tilts his head while frowning. Following his gaze, Denethor realizes king Éomer is looking behind him. He turns his head to see what caught the king’s attention. The maiden from before walks towards him. Has she knowledge about Faramir's location? Or does she have a message from Master Neston? He hopes it is at least the last for then he will know when the warden has time for him. Once the maiden reaches him, she bows to him.

“My lord? The warden asks if you would wait for him. He will be with as soon as possible and personally take you to captain Faramir.”

Chapter Text

First level, Minas Tirith, Imrahil POV

Walking through the first level, Imrahil looks around watching the men work. For the last few hours, he has been busy overseeing this level. He needed to ensure the orders Denethor gave, would be followed. And he needed to know the exact state of this level. If only to know what work lies ahead of him. Because of this, he has not yet found the time to consider everything which has happened. Thinking about it, he remembers how depressed Denethor seemed before the siege actually began.

With the meeting over, Imrahil looks at Denethor wondering if he can be of any aid. Denethor is not looking at him. No, he is placing papers on the table moments before falling down on a chair. He stands up and is about to walk away when he turns around. Denethor has his hands below his chin and is frowning. His eyes move all over the place. Eyes which have a glazed look over them. It is as if Denethor is so lost in his thoughts that he does not notice what happens around him.

Imrahil looks at Denethor with concern but knowing it is not noticed, he leaves the room. He walks calmly towards the door while considering everything he needs to do. No matter what was discussed, he will have the cavalry ready. It means he has to ensure all the horses are prepared for battle as well as the men. Just as he reaches the door, a voice stops him in his tracks.

“Prince Imrahil, stay for a moment. I have a need to discuss a matter with you. Please close the door once everyone else has left. I do not want us to be overheard.”

He stops walking and turns around confused. He stares at Denethor; a stare which is returned in kind. He keeps the stare up for some time hoping Denethor will elaborate. With nothing coming, he nods and turns around.

Looking at the doorway, he sees a few captains still leaving the room. Standing near the door, he waits for them to leave. Denethor’s request made it clear he wanted to speak with him alone. Once the last captain has finally left, he closes the door. There is only one thing left to do before Denethor gains his full attention.

Mentioning with his hand, he waits for one of the squires to reach him. As he waits, he looks closely at who approaches him. A strange face walks towards him. It must be a new squire as he has never seen this young man before.

“Yes, your highness. What can I do for you?”

“Send word to my sons to prepare the cavalry. I want them to gather on the first level.”

There is more he wants to say but he knows his sons will do as they should. They have spent so much time with him that they will know what he wants to see done without being told. Besides, this squire, whose name he still does not know, does not need to know those things. It does not concern him.

“Which one of your sons should I inform first?”

“Inform Elphir first, he can make further arrangements and inform his brothers. But discuss with him if he will inform his brothers or if you will do so.”

“Yes, your highness, I will see to it. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

He tilts his head not expecting this question. It is a pleasant surprise to him which shows this squire has been around for long enough to pick up on subtle hints. Or those more experienced have given him instructions. But whatever it is, he will make good use of it.

“It would be appreciated if you could ensure my body-servant is ready to assist me once Lord Denethor dismisses me.”

“I will do so, my lord. If you would excuse me, I will go make the arrangements.”

He nods once. The squire walks away with a jump in his steps. Imrahil laughs quietly at his retreating back and shakes his head. With this conversation done, he turns around back to Denethor. As he does so, he comes face to face with Denethor. Denethor looks at him with a frown while interest is barely hidden in his eyes.

“What were you discussing with the squire?”

“I asked him to seek out Elphir to make the necessary preparations. As you wanted to talk to me I cannot do so myself.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because I have a need for my sons to be informed of the plans as soon as possible. Preparations need to be made. My men need to be gathered. All this, I know Elphir can look after.”

While speaking, he frowns not understanding why Denethor asked this question. It is something he should have known already so why did he ask? It makes no sense. Unless Denethor is trying to mess with him. This thought has a frown appearing on his face while staring at Denethor.

“Oh, I do not doubt Elphir can look after every preparation. I am confident Elphir can handle the pressure.”

“Thank you for your confidence, Denethor. But why did you want me to stay?”

He smiles calmly intending to calm Denethor down. He has not said everything which he knows Denethor will also know. These are just matters which he will not discuss for he deems talk about them futile at this point in time. Denethor expressed confidence in Elphir, just like he has, so discussing it is not necessary.

Denethor frowns at him. As he wants to get back on track, he looks Denethor straight in his eyes. He will not back down. Those matters will not be discussed at this time. Denethor sighs and slumps his shoulders a bit. Imrahil keeps a smile on his face while knowing he will hopefully soon get the answers he seeks.

“I wanted to talk about Rohan with you. I want to know what your thoughts are. Especially if you believe they will come to our aid?”

He frowns and looks away. This is not a topic he expected but then it should not be much of a surprise. He shrugs. It will not matter if he expected it or not; it gives him an opportunity to calm any worry Denethor has down. But just like he did Denethor did not share everything with him. Imrahil decides to try and find out. With this in mind, he turns around.

“What do you want to know? If Rohan will come to our aid?”

“Among others, yes. When you were traveling, did you notice anything about movements on the borders of Rohan?”

“Now that you ask, no I did not notice anything. But then I was not really paying much attention to it, to be honest. I was more focused on reaching Minas Tirith. Have you not received a response yet?”

Denethor does not respond immediately. Imrahil frowns for he does not understand it. He did not ask a difficult question. Keeping an eye on Denethor, he wonders what is going on in his mind. Just as he does this, Denethor shakes his head and speaks up.

“No, not yet. It makes me worry that the messenger was either attacked or our request denied. But then, it will be too dangerous for the messenger to return alone. You know the state of the roads. What is more, my informants do not have any information on movements.”

“How recent is the information?”

“Not really recent. You have heard about the situation with the roads, just like I said earlier.”

That would mean the information is at least a few weeks old if not older. It is not good. As for the situation on the road, he has heard about it. Even better, he has seen it himself if at a distance. He frowns for there is one thing which confuses him; at what time did Denethor no longer receive information. He will have to ask.

“Yes, I have. Do you want to say that when the roads got too dangerous you received no more information from your informants?”

“Yes, I mean to say that. But everything combined it does not give me much confidence that Rohan will come to our aid.”

“I urge you to keep the hope up. If not for yourself then for the men. They need us to show hope even if we do not feel any ourselves. And as you said, you have not heard anything yet and the roads are too dangerous. Maybe Rohan is preparing to come to our aid. We do not know. So I ask you to keep hope. No matter how small the hope will be.”

“I wish I had your confidence for I do not feel any hope. Everything considering the siege looks bleak to me. How I wish my sons would be here. Boromir would know what to do.”

Imrahil can hear the longing in Denethor’s voice. Denethor turns away from him towards a window. He bites his lips. This is not good. Denethor needs to stay positive for the men will rely on him. Raising his hand, he places it on Denethor’s shoulder and squeezes in an effort to give comfort. Denethor’s hand comes over his for a moment.

“Is there anything you need from me, Denethor?”

Denethor stays silent longer than he likes. He suspects Denethor is not worrying himself too much. It will not do him anything good but he feels it is not something he can do anything about. When Denethor shakes his head, his worry reaches a whole new height.

“No, Imrahil, there is nothing you can do for me. You are dismissed. You should check on your men to see if Elphir has everything prepared.”

His eyes widen at the dismissal. It is not what he expected but then what did he expect? Nothing really when he thinks about it. All he knows is that he wants to encourage Denethor to not give up hope. Even though he suspects his attempt will be futile.

Knowing this, there is only one thing he can do. He turns around and walks away with lead in his shoes. Reaching the door, he opens it. Before entering the hallway, he turns his head once more towards Denethor. Denethor has not moved at all. Denethor is where he was when he walked away. Sighing, he enters the hallway and closed the door behind him.

Denethor’s depression was clear to him at that time. It worries him for it did not lighten with time. No, it only got worse. Denethor withdrew from others refusing to talk. It all came to a head when Faramir was brought back injured.

Entering the city, he pushes his horse faster. He wants to take Faramir to the houses but knows Denethor expects Faramir to be brought to him. Denethor will want to see his son. Thus, he races through the city towards the citadel while not paying any attention to where he is. Time passes quickly while it quietly washes over him like a calm wave.

His mind is drawn back to when he arrived at the field after having finally gotten permission to ride out. The permission which he got hours to like in his opinion. What greeted him was absolute carnage. The cavalry Faramir took with him was being slaughtered right in front of him. Orcs attacked from behind and Nazgul from above.

He knew he needed to rescue as many men as possible. As such, he pushed his horse faster. Dread filled his mind. It was like he was riding through a swamp during the depths of the night. He could not really see where he was going. He knew he needed to reach Faramir as soon as possible.

But just as he was near Faramir, an arrow whistled through the air. Faramir fell forward against his horse before sliding off and hitting the ground hard. He winced at the side and sound. Regardless, he rode forward towards his nephew.

“Form a perimeter around captain Faramir.”

Horses gathered around him while he jumped of his horse. Kneeling down next to Faramir, he quickly inspected the wound before snapping the arrow off. He has no time for anything else; they need to get off this field as soon as possible. If not they will be caught in the carnage. Grabbing Faramir, he lifted him up on his own horse and rode towards the city as if a fire was closing in on him.

The hoofbeats changing brings his mind back to the present. He sees he is moving through the tunnel. Soon he will have reached the Citadel and Denethor. Hopefully, soon he can take his nephew to those he needs to be with. It feels not right to him to not take Faramir to the healers but he has no other choice.

Moments later, he rides into the citadel seeing Denethor making his way towards them. Denethor is frowning at him with a furious look in his eyes. When Denethor sees them, the anger disappears. It is replaced by confusion. Something which lasts only moments before Denethor's eyes move towards Faramir.

“Faramir!”

Denethor runs forward ignoring everyone else around him. His eyes are locked on Faramir. Eyes which are overcome with dread and despair. Imrahil frowns when Denethor instantly reaches for Faramir once he is next to him. He does not release Faramir wondering what Denethor is planning to do. He expected to be ordered to the houses. Not this.

Denethor looks around. Imrahil follows him with his eyes. In the distance, guards approach with a stretcher held between them. He smiles calmly. This is something he likes to see. Reaching them, the guards immediately reach up. He moves Faramir around and carefully hands his nephew over to the guards. The guards quickly place Faramir on the stretcher. Almost immediately, Denethor drops down next to the stretcher and starts to inspect Faramir. Denethor’s shoulders sag not long afterward. Imrahil holds his breath not liking what he expects to happen soon.

Denethor staggers upwards. He takes a step and stumbles. Imrahil reaches forward but stops immediately. He knows Denethor will not appreciate his aid; it will be dismissed harshly. As such, Denethor stumbles some further before he turns his head around. His eyes move towards Faramir. Imrahil looks at Denethor trying to convene a message; what are the orders? Denethor looks them over before his eyes move back to Faramir again.

“Bring captain Faramir to his room.”

It takes a few moments before the guards step into action and lift the stretcher up. They silently walk towards the house of Stewards. Denethor stumbles along for some time before falling down. Imrahil winces not liking what he sees. Denethor stays down longer than Imrahil likes only to stumble upright once he speaks up.

“Lord Denethor, is everything alright? My Lord. My lord!”

“What!”

“What do we do now? You are in command. The men are awaiting orders.”

Denethor looks at him with dead eyes. Imrahil holds his breath. He does not have to wonder what will happen now. Denethor’s mood is clear to him as day. Denethor shakes his head a few times before speaking up.

“Why would we be fighting? Our fight is over! Do whatever you want. I will be with my last remaining family.”

Denethor walks away. Imrahil reaches forward and before he is aware of it; his hand lands on Denethor’s shoulders. Denethor stops dead in his tracks and growls before turning towards him. He holds his breath while hiding his regret. It will not aid him nor Denethor. Denethor narrows his eyes as anger grows in his eyes. Imrahil’s heart misses a beat and quickly speaks up. All in an attempt to stop Denethor from attacking him in anger.

“My lord, you do not mean that. Calm down, my lord. Your son needs healers. Send for them.”

Denethor shakes his head. He knows what it means; his words fall on deaf ears once more. Imrahil sighs while Denethor looks at him. This time he does not hide how he feels. He looks Denethor in the eyes pleading without using any words. Denethor shakes his head once more.

“No, I will not! I mean what I said. Do whatever you like but do not bother me.”

“My lord!”

Denethor shakes his hand off and hurries towards the house. No one is able to stop him. A few brave souls call after him with no effect. It is an action which he knows is futile. Most are not even brave enough to try and stop him by force.

But that situation was not the worst. Not by far. All it did was show him how depressed Denethor felt. Everything which has happened came to a height. And the worst situation came when the battle started.

Imrahil stands on the parapet looking over the field. He grips the stone-hard with his hands not liking what he sees. In front of him, the army of Mordor can be seen. The fields look like they are flooded with orcs and other creatures. No space is left free. Everything is trampled or claimed.

“Your Highness, what do we do now?”

He turns his head to the side. Captain Mendear stands beside him with worried eyes. Eyes which constantly shift between him and the fields. Imrahil smiles sadly for he sees the results of an inexperienced captain in command during situations like this. His task now will be to reassure captain Mendear and take some measure of command.

“Everything we can do. We will hold out. We have nothing left to do.”

“But how will we do that? The fields are overrun. We cannot defeat so many orcs. It is madness!”

“Calm down, captain Mendear, we should not discourage the men. They look up to us. Keep it together!”

Mendear nods but doubts can be seen in his eyes. They have not cleared any. No, in fact, they have darkened. It is not the effect he was aiming for. He knows what is left for him to do right now.

“How will we survive?”

“We will do that like we have done all the time; by fighting. Prepare the men for a long siege. Do you have any plans in mind?”

“Nor really, Your Highness. All I can think of is to place the archers on the wall. The infantry, I do not know what to do with them.”

“Your plan with the archers is great. I suggest you put a part of the infantry near the gate and another part behind the archers. They can support the archers so long as they have little to do.”

Mendear’s eyes widen while wheels turn in his head. Imrahil sees the distant look which grows in Mendear’s eyes. He waits for Mendear to respond while he considers what else he needs to arrange. As he does that, he does not lose sight of Mendear. He sees a smile appearing on the captain’s face moments before he speaks up.

“I will do that, Your Highness. Do you know where Lord Denethor is?”

“I think in the citadel. He was not doing too well when I last saw him.”

“Oh, why do you say so?”

“I say so because he has things on his mind which do not do him anything good.”

The fact that Denethor did not show up while the city prepared for the battle was no surprise to him. He saw it as a clear sign that the depression has worsened. It was, therefore, a real surprise when Denethor joined him in the field later. It makes no sense to him. Not then and not now. Right now, he wants to understand Denethor; he wants to know what caused Denethor’s change in behavior.

When Denethor returned, the darkness in his eyes was still there but not overpowering. It gave him a tiny glimmer of hope. Just enough that he would not fear for Denethor’s life. Not as he had done earlier. But what caused it is difficult to uncover. There are so many things which could have happened. He was not in the citadel to learn it so he cannot be sure about anything. He just knows too little.

Another memory comes to life in his mind. A memory of a time when the darkness returned to Denethor’s eyes. It is a memory which has goosebumps crawling over his skin. He tries to push it from the front of his mind but fails; it returns no matter what he tries.

Standing near the wall, he followed Denethor’s gaze. He saw the flags and knew where it came from. It meant nothing good. They could barely deal with the army of Mordor. The men on those ships would just be too much for them to deal with. This would be the end. An end he promised would not occur without a fight; he would take as many of them with him as he could.

As Denethor rode to meet the Rohirrim, he was close behind. This would be how he aimed to end it all. A thought, he believed many to share with him. Behind him, the ground resounded with the beating of hooves. The charge lasted forever in his mind. Everything happened in slow motion.

As he rode, he kept a close eye on the ships. Gondorians left the ships together with Dúnedain, a dwarf, and an elf. Where they came from, he did not know. Nor did he knew how they came in possession of the ships. But he did not mind. His fear did not come true. Winning this battle suddenly became possible without too many losses.

A standard was raised in the distance. He looked at it and hears shouting. The shouting reflected what went through his mind for he recognized it. It was as if a relic from history had appeared again. A smile broke out but also confusion. Who could use this standard? He knew who had a right to use this standard. But all those people are dead. There was no one around who had a right to use it, right?

“Fight! Hope has reached Gondor. Fight for hope!”

He followed Denethor as he charged into the ranks of Mordor. He slashed and stabbed any orc he comes across. As he did so, he wondered what hope Denethor was speaking off. There was more to his words than appeared at first glance. He was certain of it but he could not determine what it could be.

He looked up towards the harbor. His eyes widened when he saw the standard fall. An eerie silence fell around him. He could barely breathe because he knew what it meant. Moments later, the standard was raided again. He frowned for he did not know who just fell. He would understand if it stayed down but to be picked up again? It was almost as if the standard-bearer fell but that could not be. Still, he knew it was the only reasonable explanation. He pushed further into the ranks of Mordor while those coming from the ships attacked from behind. Together they cornered the army of Mordor.

Looking towards the citadel, he smiles. It is good to see the king returned. It means a lot to him. And most other citizens. They have waited long for the king to return. But who is the king? Time will tell. During the battle, he never saw anyone who could qualify for being king. The Dúnedain all looked ragged. No one wore better clothing.

He tilts his head. There was one man whose clothes looked to be in a slightly worse state than those of others. This person, he does not believe to be the king. But any other Dúnedain could be the king except for the standard-bearers. So, he will have to wait for the king to show himself. Something he will do with a sense of great excitement.

At the same time, he is also worried about Denethor’s reaction. He knows how attached Denethor is to his position as ruling Steward. If he is honest then he expects a fight between the rightful king and Denethor. He hopes Denethor will not be too difficult. Gondor cannot use any conflict right now. Someway Denethor and the king need to find a middle ground.

As he realizes this, he wonders if he can force Denethor into an acceptance. It is an idea which he quickly discards; it will not work. He does not even know why he got the idea. He knows all he can do now is wait; Denethor will have to handle it. He cannot interfere even though he fears what a refusal would mean. He knows which whom he would side; the king. But what the others will do, he does not know.


Houses of healing, Minas Tirith, Denethor POV

Looking around, Denethor watches as people move around. He wants to know how Faramir is doing but does not mind waiting. Well, not minding? It is more like it will not serve him in any way if he demands master Neston’s attention. All it will get him is an irritated warden who tells him only as he absolutely needs to. Besides, the time he has to wait will allow him to consider the damages he saw. And the state of the people.

He clearly remembers how some men walked around as if dead. They shuffled around as if their boots were filled with stones. Their faces spoke of great sadness if not despair. Others were pressing hands in their sides or against their arms. Most of them were leaning against a wall while walking or against other men.

But all that was not the worst he had seen. That was the trauma he saw people being affected by. Their eyes were clouded by darkness. Their movements slow and sluggish. This he saw in most. Others were almost like statutes. Their harsh breathing being the only thing which separates them. All the while sitting on the ground-hugging their knees to their chest. Of those most were silent while a few were whispering. Whispers, he could not understand. Nor made any sense to him.

It were sights which caused pity to crawl up within him. And almost sadness. But that is an emotion he does not experience. One thing he does know, he wants to aid them. But how will he do that? The most effective method would be to get them help. Something which is simply not doable. There are too few healers qualified to do this kind of work. It takes time for new healers to be trained which would mean many of those traumatized men would need to wait long for help. It is unacceptable for them to wait a long time; they need help soon. All this leaves only one thing behind which he can do; keep them occupied to the best of his abilities. With their bodies occupied their minds will not have time to dwell on their trauma.

At the same time, he knows he also needs to do something about the destroyed buildings. They need to be rebuild. What he needs to figure out is how and when to do it. Not an easy thing to do. But for now, he has an idea. The downside of it is that it will only work once the threat of Mordor is neutralized. And that means rebuilding will not be done as fast as it could be done. It is simply too much for a too short amount of time.

Knowing this, he is aware he needs to sort out the priorities. Thinking about it, he realizes it is of no use to rebuild the first level if the defenses of the city are still damaged. They have the top priority. Once they are done, other matters can be done such as rebuilding in the lower levels. Those levels received the most damage during the siege. But the lower defenses have a high need. All the other defenses require less time to repair. As such, his priority will lie with repairing the defenses of the lower levels.

Knowing this, there is another matter which comes to his mind; the current defenses. Something needs to be done about it. He needs to be sure the city can be defended until the defenses have been repaired. It is a complex matter considering he refuses to take men away from the repairing. So there is little he can do except create a barricade where the great gate was and place rudimentary defenses on the walls. Those parts of the wall which have been destroyed will also need to be barricaded. All barricades will be permanent except for the one near the great gate. This one will have to be able to open up. All this will not take too much time from the men to prepare; he expects a few days at most.

The last thing, which attracts his attention is the rebuilding of the buildings. A matter, he easily solves but also deems less important. The destroyed buildings will be rebuild after the damaged buildings are repaired. From the destroyed buildings comes less of a threat than those damaged due to risks of collapses.

Looking at the sky, Denethor wonders how much longer he has to wait. He immediately shakes his head knowing there will be many wounded. They need the warden’s care more than he does his attention. Well, only for so long as it takes for his order to be achieved again. Once everything is under control then master Neston should meet with him immediately.

Footsteps coming towards him draws his attention away from the sky. He turns his head to the side the sounds come from. In the distance, a form appears as if from the shadow. A form he quickly identifies as a person. He keeps an eye on the person approaching him for he wants to know who it is. He hopes it is master Neston. The closer the person gets, the better he sees who it could be. In the end, it is like a gift has arrived; his hope has proven true. The warden has finally come to talk to him. His time of waiting is finally over.

He smiles at master Neston while feeling relieved his plans are as finalized as he could manage. Now, he only needs to know how Faramir is doing. He hopes Faramir has been doing better. Doubts come to him unbidden. He knows what causes them. Seeing master Neston get real close, he stores the information away in the back of his mind.

“My lord Denethor, it is good to see you. How are you feeling? Is there anything which requires my attention?”

“I am fine, master Neston. I am far more interested in Faramir’s condition than in mine.”

“I do not think so, my lord. You were in a battle. Have you been wounded?”

“Only a few scrapes and bruises. Nothing severe. I ask you to take me to my son. I am anxious to know how he has been doing.”

“Of course, my lord. I ask you to have patience and follow me. I will explain everything once we are with your son. While there, I will also take a look at your wounds to ensure they will not cause you any trouble.”

He nods and follows closely behind master Neston. Protesting will be of no use, he knows that. So, he will have to bite through it no matter how much he might dislike it. As they walk, he watches closely as they enter the noble wing. The floors are covered in sand. Sometimes he finds a drop of blood on the floor or an abandoned bandage. The walls are only covered in paintings. No wounded warriors lie here. It makes him wonder where the blood and bandages come from. It makes no sense to him for these hallways would create more room to treat the wounded. Together, they walk past a few rooms whose doors are closed. There are no hints they have been opened recently.

Master Neston stops in front of a door and turns to looks at him. He raises an eyebrow not understanding this action. Master Neston merely turns back and knocks once before opening the door. Stepping inside, he is greeted by a quiet room. Only the sound of Faramir’s labored breathing can be heard together with the breathing of three others and the sound of knitting. Two he can place, but not the third. Looking around the room, he wonders who is knitting in this room. Next to Faramir’s bed, mistress Ioreth sits knitting. She looks up at the same time as they enter.

“Master Neston, my lord Denethor, what can I do for you? Is there anything you need from me?”

“No, mistress Ioreth, you can leave I am sure Lord Denethor will remain at the captain’s side for some time. You should return to your regular duties now.”

“Of course, master Neston. Seeing the captain like this is just so sad. I had to distract myself because of that. I can still vividly remember how he was when he was born; a quiet one with energy. Now I can barely see a sign of life within him.”

Denethor balls his fists annoyed at the mistress. She can never stop talking in his experience. He gets annoyed quickly whenever he is in her presence. Turning his head toward Faramir, he attempts to separate himself from her rambling. All to keep his sanity as intact as he can. Looking at the bed, Faramir lies there just as he was expecting. His face is ashen but sweaty. Faramir lies quietly with no movements visible. Nothing to show his distress. Something which surprises him for he had expected to see at least a few traces of distress on Faramir.

A moment later, mistress Ioreth is gone. He did not notice her leave. He sighs and turns his attention back to Master Neston. As he does so, he sees Master Neston placing a hand on Faramir’s forehead. A frown appears on master Neston’s face. It gives him the best chance he has to inquire about Faramir’s condition and hopefully get master Neston to forget about his own wounds.

“Master Neston, now that we are alone could you explain Faramir’s condition to me?”

“I can do that, my lord. As you can see, captain Faramir is not doing good. He is clammy and still. Too still for my liking if I take his temperature into account. He should be showing more movement. I would have expected restlessness.”

“Has he woken up?”

“Not that I am aware of, my lord. Mistress Ioreth said he was asleep the entire time she was with him.”

“When did she tell you that?”

He frowns and looks at Faramir. Was he so distracted that he did not notice their conversation? He must have been. It makes no sense to him for he did not look at Faramir for a long time. Looking up, he is met with empathy air. He looks around but cannot find master Neston. A tugging on his sleeve has him turning to his side. Master Neston kneels on the floor next to him tugging on his sleeve to roll it up. As of noticing his look, master Neston looks up.

“She told me a short time after we came here. At that time, your attention was occupied by captain Faramir. Does this hurt?”

He hisses. It hurt alright but not too much. It annoys to no end that master Neston now checks on his wounds. At the same time, he knows why master Neston does it now; he will not get the opportunity for it otherwise. Still, he refuses to allow this to stray from their conversation.

“Do you know what ails Faramir?”

“I do not know for certain, my lord. We have checked everything possible and could not find anything conclusive. I fear he suffers from the Black Breath.”

The color drains from his face and his breath is taken away. This is the absolute worst thing he could be told. He shakes his head not wanting to believe it. It cannot be true; it simply cannot be. But no matter how much he tries, he knows it to be true. He knew it from the beginning. And all this time, he was deceiving himself by denying it. Still, he wants to avoid all other possible causes.

“Are you sure? Is there not anything else he could have?”

“Well, he has a shoulder wound from an arrow. We have been caring for it and know it does not explain the captain’s current condition. I am sorry, my lord, you must know what it means. It is undeniable the Black Breath.”

“I do. I will soon have lost both my sons to the hands of Mordor.”

“Do not despair, my lord. Some men manage to escape death at the hands of the Black Breath.”

“I know what you mean but those are stories from legend. I do not believe them. What do you think Faramir’s chances are?”

As he asks this, he already knows the answer he will receive. And it will not be one he will like. Master Neston does not react for he probes the wounds on his side. Probing which is accompanied by his hissing. Nearly every probe sends waves of pain through his body. To distract himself, he looks at his arms. They have already been smeared with paste and bandaged. Coldness waves into his skin at the same time as master Neston speaks up.

“I do not have much hope, my lord. But any hope there is I will use to comfort myself, my patients, and their families. With that being said, your wounds are not as severe as some I have seen. Nonetheless, you need to apply this balm onto them each morning to ensure they heal well.”

“I will, master Neston. I thank you for your honest opinion.”

“Is there anything else I can do for you, my lord?”

“No, there is nothing you can do for me at this time. I wish to be alone with my son.”

Master Neston nods and walks away. Denethor does not look at him leaving. He only looks at Faramir. A door opens and closes in the distance. He walks to the chair mistress Ioreth occupied recently. He sighs knowing he is back where he started; sitting vigil at his son’s sickbed.


Moving the chair a bit, he sets it closer to Faramir’s bed before sitting down. Looking at Faramir, he places a hand on his brow. It is clammy; maybe even more so than last time, he felt it. It means nothing good for him. It could be the result of an infection. Master Neston claimed this could not be but he doubts it. Master Neston did not have any good news about Faramir’s recovery. He could have been told false things for his own comfort.

Biting his lips, he wonders if he should accept it. He shakes his head moments later; he refuses. He will check Faramir’s wound and only then will he decide what the decision will be. Standing up, he moves to the other side and kneels. He grinds his teeth feeling cracking in his bones where his knee connects with the ground.

Turning Faramir onto his side, he moves the shirt down. A bandage comes into view. It is wrapped tightly around Faramir's shoulder and breast. Despite how tight it is wrapped, it does not appear to constrict blood flow. From what he can see, the bandage appears to be clean. Something which does not tell everything based on his experience. Lifting it a bit, the cleanness on the other side becomes clear. The wound has not festered. This causes the wound to come to light. Cloth is in it; he knows why. Still, no infection can be seen. It corresponds with master Neston’s words; the wound does not cause Faramir’s condition.

He stands up slowly. At least now, he knows the wound has been treated well. In fact, it shows signs of healing. Something which he did not expect if he is honest. The only matter which remains a concern now is Faramir’s unconsciousness. Having ruled the arrow wound out as a possible cause, he recognizes master Neston has spoken the truth. The only thing which could have caused Faramir’s current condition is the Black Breath.

Walking back to the chair, he sits down and picks up Faramir’s hands. He strokes it calmly while his worry increases. He knows the healers can do nothing for Faramir. No matter master Neston’s words; nothing can be done. All master Neston spoke off were legends. Legends which cannot become true for there is no one around who has the abilities spoken about in the legends. Where Gil to have those abilities, he is certain he would have heard about it. He knows what it means just like he did when master Neston voiced his opinion.

Faramir’s hand suddenly stiffens in his hand. He looks up surprised. Faramir’s body is as tight as a string. His eyes widen and his heart misses a beat. He reaches forward and calmly strokes Faramir’s head while his heart hammers in his chest. What is happening? What caused this? He does not know but he does not like it. There is one he does know, mistress Ioreth did not notice this. Maybe because of her knitting but who knows. There are also other possibilities.

Stroking Faramir’s hair does not ease the stiffness. It remains as it has been. So in another attempt to release the stiffness, he strokes Faramir’s hand with his thumb. At the same time, he speaks up with a comforting voice.

“Shhh, Faramir, everything is alright. I am here. You will be alright.”

He continues this for some time even though he deems it futile. Faramir is worsening right now. Not getting better. Anything he does is to comfort himself more than anything. He knows it is the wrong thing for him to do but he cannot stop.

Chapter Text

An hour later, Denethor sighs. His back is stiff and his arms sore. Faramir lies still on the bed. The stillness belies the tension Faramir has been experiencing ever since he sat down. Clearly, his efforts to comfort Faramir have largely been in vain. Some of the tension has been released but not enough to attribute it to his comforting. For all he knows, it could be for several other reasons.

He looks up and out of the window. His muscles scream at the movement as if he is trying to stretch a tight rope. Outside the window, some sunlight greets him in between hovering dark clouds. His mind moves back to the signs he saw before. Signs of which he remembers clearly. The black ships sailing on the Anduin. A totally unwelcome sight. A sight which changed when men disembarked. They were all Gondorians or (potential) allies. But definitely not friends of Mordor. Especially once the standard was raised.

He takes a deep breath knowing what all of it means. Those men could not have come were they not gathered somewhere. And had no one captured the ships. He does not know for certain who did it but he has some ideas. All his ideas lead him to one fact; it must have been a friend of Gondor who gathered the men. If he remembers the standard correctly then it was most likely Gil. He will only know once Gil or whoever used the standard shows themself.

Looking at the shy, he smiles pleased. His memory was accurate. Gondor received aid just when it was not expected and sorely needed. The thought of the aid brings his mind back to the way the battle turned. It turned into Gondor’s favor almost immediately. It was clear the forces of Mordor were afraid of the men and the standard. He grins for he can imagine why. The thought has him simmering with excitement which he can barely contain. Regardless of the reason, he appreciates their fear for it gave his forces the change they needed to end the siege once and for all.

Light hits his eyes blinding him. In the distance, he can see a standard being raised. Hope fills his entire being. The standard falls and darkness fills his eyes. It surrounds him completely shrouding any light there is. A small light appears in the distance slowly growing. The standard appears again and hope returns to his being. Mist hangs around him containing the light around him.

The mist disintegrates. He stands in Faramir’s room in front of the window looking out towards the city. He frowns wondering what the fall of the standard meant. He cannot figure it out with certainty. All he knows is that someone has fallen or gotten injured. But who it was, remains a mystery. He hopes it is the standard-bearer for else it would mean Gil was injured. Gil being killed is something he cannot believe for then the standard would not have been raised again. At the same time, he also cannot believe Gil would have gotten injured. He is too good of a fighter for that to have happened.

If it is the standard-bearer who fell then he wonders who picked the standard up. He does not believe it is Gil for no lord would bear his own standard. So it is the question who could have raised the standard. He can only imagine it being another Dúnedain but does not know who. He never met the northern Dúnedain. And by raising it again, they showed that the lord has not been injured. Knowing this, he is confident Gil has survived the battle.


Minas Tirith, Aragorn POV

While Denethor sits next to Faramir, Aragorn looks at the broken wall wondering what he will find inside. Considering the outer wall has parts missing, he cannot imagine the situation to be any different from the fields. Especially as he can see some fires burning in the city. Steeling himself, he lifts his hood checking to see if his cloak is securely around him. He adjusts the cloak a bit before walking towards the broken gate. Lead fills his shoes as he walks. Destroyed houses appear in front of his eyes. He sees warriors walking around covered in soot and dirt.

A shadow falls over him. In front of him, light can be seen. He turns his head around. Around him, stone is seen together with the rubble of broken stone. He looks up towards an arch. He realizes he saw what he eats imagining and not the actual state of the level. With this realization, he steps through the archway into the city.

A few steps later, he is on the first level. Damaged houses can be seen. Some of them are scorched black. Men walk around carrying stones or other things. He has heard how men were affected by the Black Breath. It means they need the aid only, he or his brothers can provide. Depending on how many men were affected, they might have a lot of work on their hands.

He looks around. All men running around are low ranked soldiers. No officer can be seen. He needs them to find those affected. So, he keeps looking for an officer. After about an hour of painstaking searching, he finally located an officer; a captain at that.

“Captain, can you tell me where those affected by the Black Breath are?”

“Why do you ask? No one can do anything for them. What do you need to see them?”

The captain frowns at him with visible suspicion. An emotion he can understand for he would feel the same were a stranger to ask the same of him. As a result, he carefully ensures his body is relaxed and a calm smile is on his face.

“I can do more for them than you know. I can aid them but for that need to know where they are.”

“They are all around the city, sir. Many have been affected. Most have been taken to the Houses of Healing.”

He nods and looks around. In the distance, a familiar face walks; Halbarad’s oldest son, Halon. Halon turns towards him as if feeling eyes on himself. A frown comes over Halon’s face visible for only a short while before Halon makes his way over to him. He waits for Halon to reach him. Once he does, an expectant look crosses Halon’s face. He smiles calmly knowing where they look comes from.

“Halon, tell my brothers to take care of the people affected in the city. I will be in the Houses doing the same should someone need me.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Halon turns and hurries back towards the broken gate. Halon does not say anymore but most likely hurries back to the fields. There his brothers are looking after the wounded. As for the information he gained right now, the houses is where he is headed. He does not see the captain looking at him baffled.

Walking through the levels, he sees wounded men walking around or sitting against walls holding their wounds. Some bodies are covered by a cloth. Men are moving the bodies around. Seeing this brings him back to Halbarad’s injury.

Riding of the ramp, he sees Halbarad lifting the standard for all to see. There is no going back now. Everyone will see the claim he makes. He hopes for Gondor’s sake Denethor will not create any problems. During this war and afterward, no one has a use for more conflict. He is well aware a civil war can break out.

A shout comes from the front. He looks up. An orc runs towards them weapon held high. Others standing the distance watching and shouting. Some are smiling. Steel sliding through sheets can be heard. Horses buckle and whine. The ground resounds with the trampling of hooves. He follows their lead and holds his sword and reins tightly in his hands.

The orc reaches them slashing around. Shouts are made to kill the orc. Arrows whistle through the air. Grunting can be heard coming from the orc though it does not stop it. No, it keeps moving despite everyone's efforts until it reaches Halbarad. The sword moves through the air. Clothes rip. A weak cry sounds before Halbara falls with a grunt. He kicks his horse forward, his heart stuck in his throat.

Moments later, he arrives besides his cousin. He jumps down and kneels next to Halbarad. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Halon picking up the banner and lifting it. Men form a circle around them. It is then he feels safe enough to focus his attention on Halbarad. Feeling for the wound, he finds it quickly. His fingers pass into the wound easily nearly two knuckles deep. Blood flows freely around his hand. A pressure on his shoulder and he turns.

“Estel, go with your men. I will look after Halbarad.”

He nods to Elladan and quietly mounts his horse. A quick look at Halbarad and he rides next to Halon. Not long afterward, he enters the fray of the battle. Rohan and Gondor have already attacked from the other side. He only has one side to handle while keeping his worry for Halbarad to the back of his mind. 

He can still see and feel the wound if he closes his eyes. He knows it was a serious wound. Halbarad falling did not scare as much the orc attacking. But that was not what really worried him. That was the wound itself. And the last time he talked with Elrohir, he learned Halbarad still lives and would be taken to the Houses of Healing as soon as possible. He hopes Halbarad will survive and knows only time will tell him if this will be the case.


Houses of healing, Minas Tirith

He looks around. All around him men are carried into the houses. A few sit near the houses on the ground leaning against the wall. Men carry supplies into the houses alongside servants. Servants carry baskets with blood-drenched clothes and cloth out of the houses. The baskets are filled beyond the brink. The servants swear and groan as they walk with the baskets. All in all, it is clear to see the Houses have too much work to do. Every healer is more than needed here. Knowing this, he grabs a young healer by the arm stopping him in his tracks.

“What do you want? I have enough work to do!”

“I come offering aid. Is it possible for me to meet with the warden?”

“No, it is not possible. I am not a messenger. Besides, my patient needs me.”

“Could you seek him out while I care for your patient?”

The young healer, whose name he does not know, narrows his eyes and looks him over. The frustration he noticed before has not evaporated. No, it remains. He also knows what the healer will see; stained clothing, both with blood and dirt, stained boots, dirty hands, and face. His exhaustion might also be seen but he is not sure. All he does is hope the healer accepts his offer. It will make everything that much easier for everyone. After some time which includes multiple once-overs, a sigh reaches his ears. 

“Fine. You care for my patient but be prepared; I will check your work. No patient of mine will be unnecessarily endangered.”

“Of course not. Where can I find your patient?”

The healer mentions to the left with his head. The armload the healer carried is dropped in his hands. His arms buckle a bit before he manages to find stability.

“Over there. I just gave you what you need. If you attend to my patient now then I will seek out the warden.”

A hard look and the healer is gone. He sighs. It is not what he had expected but he is pleased by the healer’s protectiveness over his patients. It shows great promise for the healer’s future. But right now, he needs to attend to the patient.

Walking towards his patient, he looks his patient over. A cloth is pressed hard on the arm by his own hand. A bandage covers the head. It looks loose and wrongly applied for it is bound right over the place where blood seeps through. It is as if it was hurriedly applied by an untrained person. The face is sweaty and deadly pale. A grimace comes and goes. He frowns worriedly wondering how much blood the man has lost. At the same time, he knows there could be other reasons for his paleness. For example, injuries he cannot see or the wrongly applied bandage on the head.

“Good evening. What is your name? Can you tell me what ails you?”

“Are you a healer?”

“A healer, yes, but not from the houses. Can you tell me your name and where you are wounded?”

“My name is Ithil. My arm has a deep cut and my head hurts.”

“Is that all?”

“No, my ribs hurt.”

“Mhh.”

He knew there was something with the ribs or lungs. The labored breathing he heard when Ithil talked indicated it. Now, he has it confirmed; it is the ribs which affected the breathing. The possibilities run through his mind; broken and bruised. Whatever it is, he has to check it over but first the arm wound.

Lifting the cloth slightly, blood drips down over his hand. At the sides, the bleeding has stopped. Deeming the wound less of an immediate issue, he presses the cloth down again. Ithil puts his hand over it almost immediately. With the wound covered again, he turns to Ithil’s head. Checking the wound, he sees a deep cut has been made. The cut bleeds freely. It needs to be stitched just like the arm wound. Looking Ithil into his eyes, he turns Ithil’s head towards a nearby flame. The pupils dilate the same. This is good to see but it does not exclude a concussion.

Moving his hands lower, he lifts the shirt up. He is met with a black and blue chest. It looks as if someone used this man as a punching bag. He feels along the chest with his hands. Ithil hisses as he touches certain places. He knows these are the hurt parts. Carefully feeling along those spots, he can tell which of the ribs are broken. Having gone over everything, he now knows what he needs to do.

“Ithil, you most likely have a concussion based on your head wound. I cannot be sure so you will have to stay awake for the entire night. Seek out someone with whom you can stay and who can keep you awake. The cuts, I will need to stitch. Your ribs are unfortunately broken. I will have to bind them but I cannot do more for them. They need to heal with time. So, you need to avoid putting too much strain on them for the next few months.”

The man nods wincing. He carefully binds the ribs with a bandage making sure it is not too tight or too loose. Having done that, he turns his attention to the arm wound. He feels along the edges to see how it needs to be stitched. He prefers to have this known so he can work faster.

“Sir, you wanted to see me?”

He turns and looks up. Master Neston stands next behind him together with the young healer. Master Neston looks at him with a frown and a small smile. He wonders if Master Neston remembers him. The young healer, on the contrary, looks at him with a frown, narrowed eyes, and a tilted head. Most likely, the healer is suspicious about his skills.

“Yes, I did. I come offering my aid.”

“Your aid is most welcome. But l what kind aid do you wish to provide to the houses?”

Master Neston frowns. He can see the wheels turning behind the eyes. Most likely in an attempt to find the best place where he can be assigned. He lightly smiles ruefully. Master Neston is in for a surprise.

“I came offering my aid to those affected by the Black Breath.”

“The Black Breath? What could you do for them? There is nothing we can do for them except make their final hours comfortable.”

“I can do more than that. I can heal them. Tell me, do you have any Athelas?”

“Kingsfoil? No, we do not have any. Why would you need it? It is but weed and an old women’s remedy. It can do nothing for these people.”

“On the contrary, with it, I can bring them back.”

“Master Neston, I see you have met Estel already.”

All heads turn to the side. He smiles pleased to see Mithrandir there. He could aid him in reassuring master Neston none of his worries are justified. At the same time, he frowns. He does not believe Mithrandir to be here just to aid him; he most likely is needed for something. But what? Asking Mithrandir about it is of no use. All he can do is wait for Mithrandir to share the information.

“I have, Mithrandir if this young man is Estel. Do you know him?”

“I do. I have known him since he was a young boy. He is an excellent healer. He has come to aid those affected by the Black Breath, I assume. He has healed people who were affected before.”

“If you say so. He told me indeed he could aid them. His remedies though, I deem futile. There is nothing which kingsfoil can do for these people even though this young man claims otherwise. I sincerely doubt he has healed any before no matter what you say.”

“You should not doubt me, master Neston. Estel can heal these people. As I have said, I have seen him heal a cousin of his from it a few years ago. All the others he has healed were also done in the north. It is no surprise you have not heard about it.”

Master Neston turns to him. A frown and faraway look in master Neston’s eyes. He waits patiently for master Neston to process the information. Turning his head to Mithrandir, he smiles. Mithrandir smiles and nods in response. A twinkle is visible in his eyes.

“Estel, I apologize for my earlier words. I am willing to allow you to show me what you can do. I will reserve my judgment until then.”

“Thank you. Shall I finish treating this young man?”

“No, Osgardir will do this. I gave him the assignment to treat this man so he should.”

Master Neston gives Osgardir a stern look. There is more to his words than there appear to be. Osgardir quickly looks down and away while biting his lips. It is almost as if he feels guilty about something. It lasts but a moment before Osgardir focuses on him.

“What have you found?”

“I found signs of a concussion and broken ribs. The ribs I have already bound. The head wound and arm wound need to be stitched. For that, I have not had time.”

“I will check to form my own impression and to see if you have done your work well.”

“Estel is a highly capable healer; you do not need to question him on his work. He has been healing people for nearly as long as master Neston and seen much worse than you have.”

Osgardir blushes. He turns his head to Mithrandir and gives a glare. No one needs to come to his defense. Mithrandir only lifts an eyebrow and looks back at Osgardir who bites the inside of his cheek.

“Of course, Mithrandir.”

“Mithrandir, do you wish to accompany us?”

“I very much wish to do so.”

“Then follow me while I lead you both to those affected by the Black Breath.”

Master Neston turns around and walks into the houses. Aragorn follows him after throwing a glance at Mithrandir. Mithrandir only shrugs before also following. As they walk through the houses, master Neston takes a turn. They are led away from the central part of the houses to one of the side wings. If he is right then this side was rarely used during the time he was here.

Suddenly master Neston stops. They stand in front of two large doors. A creaking sound signals the opening of the door. Moaning reaches his ears through the crack of the door. It increases the further the door opens. It means nothing good for the wounded but it does mean something good for him; this is not a room filled with those affected by the Black Breath.

Stepping into the room, he sees Rohirrim lying on cots and leaning against the walls. Rohirrim walk around with blankets and whatnot. Servants do the same. In the distance, a cot lies on a raised platform. Next to the cot, a young man sits who brings Éomer to his mind. But it cannot be. Éomer was not wounded. Éowyn is still in Rohan. He frowns. How could the young man bring Éomer to his mind?

“The lady Éowyn could use your aid among others.”

“Yes, and one of the others is Faramir. Faramir caught it as one of the first, I believe. Could you check on him, Estel?”

Only now does he notice he stands next to the platform. Master Neston stands next to the man. It is Éomer. Now the name master Neston used; it was Éowyn. How did she come here? Only one way and that is by sneaking amongst the army.

Éomer looks at him hopefully. Turning his head, Mithrandir does the same. So who shall he oblige? Well, there is no question about it. At the same time, he has his doubts Thor will allow him to even attend on Faramir. Especially if his identity becomes known. He might be thrown out of the houses at the very least. It will not do the patients right. It leaves him with only one option; treating Faramir last. He does not like it for it will make his work more difficult but he has no other choice.

“I will attend on Éowyn first.”

He does not wait for Mithrandir to respond. He walks upon the platform. Only now, another cot becomes visible. On it lies a young man who almost looks like a child. It takes but a moment to recognize him; it is Merry. He was completely hidden by Éomer and Éowyn.

Kneeling, he carefully lifts Éowyn’s arm. It has caught his attention due to its color. Feeling along the arm, he feels the bones are still intact. He does not feel any spraining. He knows it is still possible to be sprained due to Éowyn’s lack of reaction to his ministrations. Regardless of this, he can easily tell she is affected by the Black Breath. That is rather obvious.

“Master Neston, can you arrange for me to receive some Athelas?”

“We do not have any here. But I can send someone looking for more. Is there anything else you need?”

“Please do so. I will also need a bowl with water.”

He does not wait to see master Neston respond, confident his request will be fulfilled. He turns around towards Merry and checks him over for injuries. He finds a few cuts and bruises which will be easy to treat. But it is the Black Breath which worries him. With Merry, it is not so obvious as with Éowyn. He has to carefully search for it. And until he receives Athelas he cannot do anything for Merry except treat the cuts and bruises.

“My lord, I found these leaves. Do they suffice?”

He turns. A young man stands before him holding out his hands. In his hands lie a few leaves. Looking the young man in his face, he is met with a face younger than he expected. At the same time, he does not know him even though he looks familiar. He frowns on being unable to place where the familiarity comes from. He mentally shakes his head. He has no time to contemplate this. He has enough work to do so he takes the leaves. He turns them over in his hand inspecting them.

“Yes, these will suffice. Thank you, young man, you have been most helpful.”

“Thank you, Bergil. You can leave now.”

The dismissal in the warden's voice is harsher than he likes. Regardless, he does not watch Bergil leave for he turns back towards Éowyn. Next to her stands a bowl of clean water. He did not notice it being placed here but is glad to see it regardless. As if reading his confusion, master Neston speaks up.

“I had servants place the bowl next to Princess Éowyn for I thought you intended to heal her first.”

“Thank you for your consideration, master Neston.”

Taking a leaf, he places the others next to him on the cloth which he closes. He crushes the leaf in his hands, breathes over it, and drops it in the bowl. The familiar fresh smell of roses and waterfalls reaches his mind. He picks up the bowl and holds it in front of Éowyn knowing she will smell something else. It takes a moment for the Athelas to work before she wakes up confused. Her eyes drift to him and around her. A frown growing on her face. He quickly checks her over before standing up unwilling to confuse her even more. He takes the bowl with him to Merry and holds it in front of him a short time later. Merry’s eyes start to flutter just like Éowyn’s.

Turning his attention to the cloth, he folds it keeping the leaves inside. Only then does he try to stand up knowing what he needs to do next. Lead fills his shoes just thinking about it. Muscles cramping tightly makes it difficult for him to stand up. Still, he pushes through it and finally stands up turning towards master Neston.

“Master Neston, if you could take me to Lord Faramir now. I would like to treat him.”

“Of course. Follow me.”

Master Neston walks away with him following closely behind. With the back turned towards him, he does not know how master Neston reacted. Something, he would like to know. If only to know what he might expect when he meets Denethor.

As they walk, familiar walls greet him. The walls which lead to the noble wing in which he resided for some time. An event which confuses him to this time. He was a captain at the time and not a nobleman who would be expected to reside there. Whoever moved him there must have gotten in a lot of trouble. Or at least, he believes so for Ecthelion would not have approved of it. No matter how much Ecthelion liked him. Goosebumps travel over his body whenever he thinks about it. In an attempt to lose them, he makes a decision.

“What can you tell me about Lord Faramir’s condition?”

“There is not much to tell, Estel. Captain Faramir is unconscious, feverish but also cold to the touch. Besides that, which is the worst, he also has an arrow wound on his shoulder.”

He nods knowing now what he will be facing. The fever can be caused by both the wound and the Black Breath. It needs to be determined what causes the fever. It is an added benefit that he can inspect the wound at the same time. Afterward, he can turn his attention to the Black Breath. Something he is confident he can handle. About something else, he is not so confident. 

He fears Denethor’s reaction when he is recognized. For him, this is not a matter of if but more of when. He expects anger for he was told to stay away. Denethor made it clear to him during their fight. The anger he feels he does not deserve for he came to Gondor’s aid as promised. It should be appreciated but it will not be. Denethor’s anger will be too great when Denethor recognizes him. The anger might also deny Faramir the treatment he desperately needs. How to solve this dilemma, he does not know.

A few options come to his mind. He could keep his face hidden or have Denethor sent out of the room. If questions are asked, he could claim to be a relative of himself. He shakes his head. The last option will not work for Denethor will not believe him. Doing this will only cause problems and will most likely worsen the situation. Sending Denethor out will also not work because it will cause suspicion in master Neston. Mithrandir might aid him, he sort of expects it, but it is not assured to succeed.

He takes a deep breath for there is only one option remaining. He needs to keep his face hidden for the time he treats Faramir. It will not be easy but he needs to do it. All he can do is be careful with how his face shows.  Afterward, he will leave the houses. It is for the best. 

Chapter Text

Knocking on the door, he waits for permission to enter. While waiting, he lifts the hood of his cloak over his face. He pulls a bit on the hood and checks on a nearby window to see if it will obscure his face sufficiently. He has no desire to be recognized by Thor.

“Enter!”

Hearing the voice, a lump forms in his throat. He reaches towards the door with his hand. Dread fills him but he pushes it aside and opens the door. As he does this, he uses the light from the room to check the placement of his hood once more. Satisfied it sits correctly, he walks into the room with lead in his shoes. Master Neston and Mithrandir follow him into the room.

Once inside, he easily locates Faramir. He nearly stops in his tracks for it is just as if a younger Thor is lying there. Looking around, he notices Thor sitting beside Faramir holding his hand. Thor is not looking at them as they enter; his entire focus is on his son. The door closes behind them which has Thor looking up.

“Master Neston, what is the meaning of this? I expected a young healer or yourself. Why do this stranger and Mithrandir accompany you?”

“I apologize, my lord. This young man is Estel. He can heal your son from the Black Breath. As for Mithrandir, you will have to ask him why he is here. I do not know.”

Denethor’s face sours. To what, he does not know. It could be due to Mithrandir’s presence. He knows full well how much Denethor loots Mithrandir. If only he would know the reason. But then, Denethor’s expression could also be due to his presence. Whether he is recognized or not. Regardless of his thoughts, he keeps a close eye on Denethor. It allows him to predict correctly when Denethor will speak up.

“Do not tell me such fairy tales. No one can heal others from the Black Breath. What do you think to achieve with this except give us idle hope.”

“On the contrary, he will not give us idle hope. He is more than capable of healing your son. I have seen him heal two people already.”

“You are fooling yourself if you believe that to be true.”

“Oh, but I know it to be true. What Estel can do is something I have never seen before. Allow him to treat captain Faramir; he can aid him while we can do nothing for him.”

Denethor narrows his eyes before he nods. He crosses his arms and taps the floor with his foot. The distrust was clearly visible in his eyes. He would like to take away this distrust but knows he cannot do so. He will have to work through it or ignore it while he works.

Stepping forward, he makes sure not to get too close to Denethor. Reaching the bed, he feels Faramir’s brow. It is clammy but also cold. Faramir trembles from time to time as if he is cold. He lifts an eyelid and is met with large pupils and an unresponsive eye. The light in the room should have resulted in a reaction. He listens to Faramir’s heartbeat and breathing. Both he does not like for Faramir’s breathing is labored. Faramir’s heartbeat is faster than normal as if one is very stressed. Pinching Faramir also does not gain him a reaction. The Black Breath has a good hold over Faramir. Stronger than he expected when he first saw Faramir.

“So tell me, Estel, where have you learned your remarkable skills?”

To keep himself occupied and from responding, he peels the bandage from the shoulder wound checking it over. Before he addresses the Black Breath, he wants to have this done. It will also allow Faramir to be able to rest quietly while recovering from the Black Breath.

Seeing the wound is a bit inflamed, he looks to the side. A jar of cream stands on the bedside table next to a cloth. Besides it, supplies for bandaging lie. Picking the jar up, he opens the lid. A familiar color greets him. Smelling the cream, he is met with the fresh scent of grass mixed with apples. He nods to himself; this is the cream which should be used to treat wounds like Faramir’s shoulder.

Picking up the cloth, he sees a few spots of the cream on it. Dipping a finger covered by the cloth in the cream, he carefully smears it around the edges of the wound. Having done that, he places the cloth back down before picking up a new bandage. He is about to wrap the wound with it when a knock comes from the door.

“Enter!”

“Master Neston, you requested a bowl of steaming water.”

“Yes, I did. Place it next to Estel. Once you have done that, I want you to check the wounded soldiers in the north wing. Aks one of the healers for advice before you start any treatment.”

“Of course, master.”

He does not watch the apprentice place the bowl down for he focuses his entire attention on wrapping the shoulder. He wants to finish this before addressing the Black Breath. It will do no good to leave work unfinished. It will give him more work afterward. And more importantly, he will have to stay in this room longer than he would like.

Having dressed the shoulder wound again, he takes out the bundle of leaves. Carefully taking one out, he blows on it and crushes it in his hands before dropping them into the steaming water. He picks up the bowl and brings it close to Faramir. Lifting Faramir’s head, he allows Faramir to smell to better reach his patient.

He watches carefully as Faramir initially stays still. No changes seem to come over Faramir. Due to this, he waves his hand over the steam. After some time, it appears to have a result because a frown appears on Faramir’s brow. Faramir’s eyes flicker and he smiles. Daring a glance up, he sees relief visible on Denethor’s face.

“My l…”

He puts a finger on Faramir’s lips and shakes his head. There is no need to upset Denethor. Besides, he wants to remain hidden from Denethor. If Faramir had been able to finish his words then he would have been exposed. Faramir frowns and seeks out his eyes. The question is visible in his eyes.

Placing the bowl back on the table, he stands up. Master Neston is looking expectedly at him. Most likely to ensure he will give his assessment of Faramir’s expected recovery. He looks master Neston in the eyes to silently convey the message; he will not speak up.

Master Neston stares at him and frowns before nodding. He smiles and makes his way to the door. Moments before he reaches the door, his arm is grasped and he stiffens. Before he so much as can contemplate what happened, he is turned around despite his stiffness. Denethor stands before him. His hood is lowered nearly immediately.

He looks down. This is just what he did not want. He has to leave. Denethor is quiet now but who knows for how long. He does not want to tempt it. Taking a deep breath and cleaning his sweaty hands, he decides to do the only thing he can do at this time.

“Do not worry, my lord. Your son will recover. If you excuse me, I am needed elsewhere.”

Without allowing anyone to speak up, he turns around and leaves the room. The door closes behind him silently.


Minas Tirith

Standing in the hallway a bit removed from the room, he leans against the wall. His heart beats hard in his chest. He takes a deep breath to calm his raging heart. He did not want Denethor to know he was in the city. Now, he cannot stay here much longer. He needs to leave before Denethor drives him off. And potentially cause a civil war. Something Gondor does not need. Thinking about Denethor brings the reaction he got back to the front of his mind.

Denethor looks at him with wide eyes. His mouth opens a bit nearly falling open but being halted as if there are strings between his teeth. Hidden behind his eyes, another emotion lures which he cannot identify. It appears to be almost shock.

The hand on his arm trembles and grip tight. A trembling hand moves towards his face slowly. It hovers next to his cheek before moving down to rest on his shoulder. The hand squeezes. He shakes the arm off before speaking up.

The shock was clearly visible on Denethor’s face. It confuses him to no end for he would have expected to be attacked. He would have expected Denethor to strike him or severely berate him. A dismissal would also not have surprised him. But none of that happened. He does not know why. It makes no sense to him. Denethor is not one to forgive easily. He rarely forgives anyone for anything no matter how small the offense might be. The behavior he was shown is not normal behavior for Denethor. Not when he sees someone he does not want around.

Denethor could not have been surprised, could he? He shakes his head. Denethor never lets his surprise show. He would act as if nothing strange has happened. So, his latest reaction is strange but certainly no surprise. The only thing which makes barely any sense to him is that the reaction might come later. It would also mean he needs to leave the city as soon as possible to prevent anything from harming the victory. He knows the reaction will be more extreme if his suspicion is correct.

At the same time, he knows people need aid. He wants to give it but does not want to have conflicts occurring. So what can he do? He wonders if he should take the risk. They need his aid so if he can he should give it to them it will hopefully be worth the risk. He nods to himself. This is what he will do and only then will he leave the city. Hopefully, he will get his work done before Denethor reacts to his presence. The last thing he wants is for his presence to create a conflict which could erupt into a civil war.


Walking through the city, he sees healers hurrying around taking care of wounded men. Some men are, in fact, being cared for by despondent warriors. Clouds of darkness hanging over them. The air around them feels stale. One man, in particular, catches his attention. And this man, he approaches.

“Can I aid you?”

“No, lord. There is nothing you can do. My brother is affected by the Black Breath. He is dying and I wish to be left alone.”

“Allow me to aid your brother.”

“How? I told you he has the Black Breath. You cannot do anything for him.”

He shakes his head. The young man does not know what he can do. He has to convince him to be able to treat the brother. He is about to respond when shouting reaches their ears. The young man turns his head faster than he does.

“You are losing it, mistress Ioreth.”

“Don’t you dare suggest it, young man? I am not losing it! The king has returned. He healed the Lord Faramir, Princess Éowyn of Rohan, and a hobbit from the Black Breath. I have seen it with my own eyes.”

He snorts and smiles amused. How mistress Ioreth has seen him heal them, he does not know. He suspects she heard about it but he cannot be sure. For all, he knows she spied on them while he was healing lord Faramir. And connected the dots between that and the healing of Éowyn and Merry.

He turns his head back to the young man. He is met with hopeful eyes. He smiles calmly. The young man clearly believes mistress Ioreth’s words. Words, he knows to be true. The young man nods to his brother.

“Is it true what mistress Ioreth said?”

“Yes, it is true. I can heal your brother.”

“Yes, I can heal him. Can you bring me some boiling water?”

The young man nods and turns to stand up only to sit down immediately afterward. A bowl of boiling water is placed next to him. He turns his head to the side. A young servant stands beside him. He nods in appreciation, for now, he can treat the brother sooner.

Regardless of his appreciation, he is still confused about where the servant came from. And how the servant knew what he needed before he even asked for it. He does not allow his confusion to stop him. As he has all he needs, he sets out to heal the young man.

A few minutes later, he leaves the two brothers while one recovers from the Black Breath. From then on, he looks for men in similar positions. It does not take him long to find more patients. Whenever he offers his aid, it is quickly accepted. Apparently, word of his accomplishments has gone around. Due to his aid being accepted readily, he heals as many men as he can.

As time passes, he is joined by Elladan and Elrohir. Together they travel down the city healing men all around them. The further down he goes, the more he struggles to keep on moving. His eyes feel heavy and threaten to close. His legs feel like they are dragging stones.

“Estel, you are exhausted. Go to get camp and rest. Elladan and I can handle this.”

“You are exaggerating, Ro. I can go on; I do not need to rest just yet.”

“If you say so.”

He sees the disbelief in Elrohir's eyes but does not comment on it. He has more important things to do. His exhaustion needs to take second place. He will not allow it to stop him. As he travels further, he is greeted enthusiastically which gives him more energy. The calls he continually hears in his mind come in two versions. The first being:

“Sir, thank you for coming. I have been awaiting your arrival.”

And the second being:

“Sir, it is good to see you. You are a gift sent to us. Thank you for healing everyone you can.”

It goes on like this whenever he goes. He greets them all back and treats whoever he can. The greetings he receives give him more energy. It feels rejuvenating. It gives him the strength he needs to heal his patients. Momentarily, he forgets everything which has happened.

Having treated a young man, he stands up and walks towards another patient. A hand on his shoulder stops him in his tracks. He turns and sees Elrohir standing there with worried eyes. He frowns wondering what Elrohir wants now while hoping it is not the same as before.

“Estel, you need to rest. You are nearly falling.”

“I am fine, Ro. I do not need to rest. Stop worrying about me. I will rest when I need to.”

He tries to move away. Suddenly, everything becomes blurry in front of his eyes. His eyes drop for a moment. Fresh air reaches his awareness. It is almost as if he is walking near the waterfall of Imladris. He smells the fresh air of the water and the roses. He takes a deep breath enjoying the fresh air.

Once his senses fully return to normal, he becomes aware of the stones biting in his back. He looks up to find Elrohir hovering over him. While looking up, he feels his head moving in a lap; Elrohir’s, he realizes nearly immediately. It is the only thing which explains Elrohir’s location. Elrohir turns his head slightly all the while still looking at him with narrowed eyes.

“Do you now see you need to rest? You fainted from your exhaustion. Halon, come take your headstrong chieftain back to his tent. And make sure he rests.”

Elrohir mentions with his hand. He follows Elrohir’s hand with his head. A ranger moves towards them. He cannot see the face so he listens carefully.

“Of course, Lord Elrohir”

“You know you are to call me Elrohir.”

Halon, who he by now has recognized based on his voice, sits next to him. Halon scratches the back of his neck while biting his lips. He smiles knowing full well how long this discussion has been ongoing. Halon has not yet learned it. Whether he will or not, time will have to tell.

“I know, Elrohir. I am sorry.”

Elrohir sighs and bites his lips. Elrohir shakes his head. He can imagine what goes on in Elrohir’s mind right now.

“Just remember it next time. Know that I am not upset. But go now, ensure your chieftain gets the rest he needs before he changes his mind.”

Halon nods. And together they help him stand up. Before long, they are walking towards the gate with Halon’s hand on his arm offering support.


Houses of healing, Minas Tirith, Denethor POV

Denethor sits next to Faramir’s bed with his chin on his hand. He looks at his son who now sleeps calmly. Faramir nearly instantly fell asleep after he woke up and was shushed. Now, he can see how the cold fever, and stiffness have left Faramir. Faramir will no longer be delirious once he wakes up again. If it will be sooner or later, he does not know but he also does not care about too much. Faramir’s recovery pleases him for he did not want to lose his youngest as he did his oldest.

There was one thing which surprised him; the healer. He came in hooded and cloaked refusing to talk or make eye contact. He remembers clearly how strange it felt. The goosebumps return even thinking about it. It forced his hand when he stopped the healer from leaving. That as well as the fact the healer used skills only the kings are supposed to be able to use. If only in the old tales which he does not place too much merit in. Despite this, he knows the details intimately.

He was barely able to contain his surprise when he removed the healer’s hood. All he wanted was to see who the healer was and to thank him. He hoped it would explain why he has those abilities. So seeing it was Gil made him unable to do what he intended to. Not that Gil being here was not a pleasant surprise. He knows Gil is a talented healer but never suspected he was this talented. Well, if he does not take Gil’s heritage into account. If he does then Gill’s talent is no surprise to him. All this brings his mind back to the events surrounding his discovery of Gil being the healer.

He reaches out to the healer and grasps the healer’s arm stopping him in his tracks. He turns the healer around and takes the hood in his hand. Pushing it back, he finally sees the face which has been hidden from him. A face, he recognizes instantly. His eyes widen and his mouth falls open.

Gil looks at him with dread. He tries to speak but cannot get his voice to work. He wants to reassure his friend that everything is alright. That he is happy Gil is here. He wants to look away in shame for not being able to do this. He just is unable to take his eyes off Gil afraid if he does all of this turns out to be a cruel dream.

Regardless of the feelings, he experienced when seeing Gil, he is pleased his instincts have been proven to be right. Gil is just as he remembers him being. He looks up out of the window. Sun greets him as the light returned with Gil. It increases the happiness he feels to see Gil returned to Gondor at last.

He just feels Gil should have returned years ago. Gondor needed him then maybe more than it did recently. But despite this, Gil has kept his promise. He returned at a time of need for Gondor. Just as he promised. Even if not at the time he would have preferred for his friend to return.

There is one thing though which confuses him; Gil’s reaction. He seemed scared. An expression which does not suit Gil at all. Gil practically fled the room. He does not understand where it comes from. Nor does he know what his friend wants. Gil certainly did not act like this due to their last fight. He must know they both spoke in anger then. So how is he to mend their friendship? He is not sure. But one thing he does know; no matter what his friend wants, he will ensure he has all he needs to heal the people in the city.

“Barhador!”

“Yes, my lord?”

He looks up with a frown. No door was opened. Or at least, he did not hear one opening. It is like Barhador appeared in the room within seconds of him making the call. Barhador was fast which is a good thing. But first finding out how Barhador got here so quickly.

“You are here quickly.”

“Yes, my lord. I was in the area. What can I do for you?”

“A healer is going through the city dressed as a warrior. I need you to provide him with boiling water and whatever else he might ask for.”

Barhador tilts his head while frowning. He stares at him urgently. Barhador is to speak his mind or keep quiet about it. He has no time for Barhador to slack right now. He does not know where Gil is. And Barhador has to search for Gil which will take time. He sighs and hears Barhador do the same.

“Where do I find him?”

“I do not know. You have to discover that by yourself.”

“Is there anything I can recognize him by?”

“Well, he will most likely be around those affected by the Black Breath offering them aid. He looks just like one of the nobles who are of pure Númenorian descent and is wearing an elven cloak.”

“Alright, my lord, I will be seeking him out then. Is there anything else you need?”

“No, there is nothing. You are dismissed.”

Barhador nods and quietly leaves the room closing the door silently behind him. Now alone again, he turns his attention back to Gil and his reason for coming now. Something comes to his mind. Gil could have come to claim the throne. He shakes his head. It cannot be the reason for Gil’s reaction does not add up to it. Gil should have been excited and acting like a king if it were true and not like a scared warrior.

His confusion mounts and a headache begins. He needs to stop thinking about it even though he wants answers right now. There is only one thing he can do; seek Gil out but not today. No, he will do it tomorrow. Then he will learn about the reasons behind Gil’s reaction and his motives. But for now, he will stay with Faramir and watch over him. He can sit in peace next to his son. Something he wants to treasure as long as he can before he has to retire to his room.

Chapter Text

Dúnedain camp, Pelennor field

Walking through the Dúnedain camp, Denethor keeps his head high and proud. Inside, his nerves rage wild for he is worried about meeting Gil. The Dúnedain stare at him but he will not let it influence him. He will show them a powerful lord even if he does not always feel like one.

Behind him, boots hit the sand in quick succession. His guards follow him closely and dutifully.  He remembers clearly the discussion he had with the captain before he came to the camp.

“No, my lord, you will not be leaving the city with two guards. At least six will accompany you and no less. I refuse to risk your safety for your desire to talk to them without knowing their intentions.”

“I will be more than safe there. I wish to talk to a friend of mine who is with them. No harm will come to me.”

“I do not care if your friend were one of the Valar; you are not going there with two guards. I took an oath to protect you and I will do so. If I have to protect you from yourself then I will do so.”

He narrows his eyes. The captain was already on slippery ground but now? He knows what he is doing. The captain does not need to protect him. Definitely not against himself. Gil and the Dúnedain will not harm him, he is certain of it. It is not as if he were walking into a camp of orcs.

“You are out of line, Captain. I am still the steward. My word is absolute until the king returns.”

“If the king returns, you mean. I have heard the stories coming from the city. They are promising, yes, but the king has not returned as of yet. And if it comes to your safety, my word is absolute, not yours.”

He growls and clenches his fists. Fire rages through his veins. The captain does not know when to stop, does he? It is as if the captain has to win no matter what. He smiles grimly.

“If you are this stubborn about it then I will go alone. I know my way around the city. Better than you do so remember your place.”

The captain sighs and pouts. He would have expected to be fought again but not this surrender. It is as if he has finally made progress. Or as if the captain has given up. Whichever it is, he does not mind for both suit his needs.

“If six is too many then four should be enough. I refuse to allow you to go alone. And I will not approve of only two guards following you.”

“Three and no more.”

“Four, my lord, or I will close all exits out of the city and place guards around the walls.”

“Do that and we might have a war upon us.”

The captain looks away. At the same time, he gets the impression the captain is not giving up. Just as he is not giving up. He wants to prevent a war and thus the captain has to give up. A sight turns his attention back to the captain.

“Three it is, but only in the camp. Until you reach it four will accompany you.”

“That is acceptable. Thank you for your compliance.”

A young man, dressed like all the others he has seen, hurries towards him. Just what he needs. So far, he has not found Gil yet. Maybe this young man can give him the information he seeks.

“Wait, young man. I am seeking your lord. Where might I find him?”

“I do not know where our chieftain is. But if you excuse me, I need to be elsewhere.”

He narrows his eyes on the young man. The young man is clearly in a hurry but why he does not know. He has not seen anything which might need urgent attention. He smiles slightly. The young man might be in a hurry to meet up with his friends. But if that is the case then he should not be in a hurry. A voice breaks him from his thoughts.

“I know where he is.”

“Thank you for showing up, Halon. You are a lifesaver.”

The young man looks at Halon with such gratitude his chest starts to ache. He has to look away. Denethor would have reassured the young man. Halon does no such thing. Halon laughs at the young man who flusters.

“Always happy to help a friend. If you could follow me?”

The last part is clearly directed towards him. The young man hurries off while Halon waits for his answer. He nods.

“Of course, guide the way.”

Halon walks away without looking back. He follows closely behind together with his guards. As he walks, he notices they are guided back towards the edge of the camp. He frowns wondering why he did not see Gil if he was near the edge of the camp. As well as wondering why their lord would reside there and not in the center.

“So why do you wish to talk to our chieftain?”

“That is between me and your chieftain.”

Halon shrugs but his narrowed eyes are turned on his face. He wonders where Halon’s interest comes from. Also, he gets the feeling Halon is hiding something from him. What it is, he cannot determine. Soon they are approaching the edge when Halon makes a tight turn.

“Do you know our chieftain?”

“We have met before.”

“Really? I wonder when. Surely not when our chieftain was traveling the world.”

Denethor looks ahead without answering the veiled question. At the same time, his wondering increases and he is sure Halon is after something. But whatever it is, it does not concern Halon. It is between him and Gil. As for himself, he wants to know what Gil has planned for the future.

Arriving at a tent, he looks around and has to fight back a growl. He is in the middle of the camp. Nearly back where they started. Halon mentions for him to wait and simply walks in. No knocking or announcing himself.

“Aragorn? There is someone here to meet with you.”

“Who, Halon? Anyone, I know?”

“If his words are true, yes. … The steward of Gondor is here to meet with you. Shall I send him in or do you wish to meet with him somewhere else? Or even send him away?”

“Just send him in, Halon. Just send him in.”

Once the conversation stops, he looks to the side while awaiting Halon’s return. At this time, he wonders at the things he has heard. Among them being Halon addressing Gil by his name. How dare he talk to his lord like that. His blood starts to steam only thinking about it. None should address a lord like that. Not even him when they can be overheard.

Also, he wonders at Halon’s nerve for suggesting to send him away. Who is he to make the call? He is but a soldier and not anyone of importance. Luckily, Gil did not follow his suggestion. There is one thing which confuses him; there seems to be some sort of relationship between Gil and Halon which exceeds that of a lord and a soldier. Maybe he will learn about it sooner or later.

Footsteps head towards the opening. The short time he has left to wait allows him to look at the people around him. They do not seek as concerned with what was said as he is. He frowns wondering where it comes from. It is almost as if they know something he does not. A rustling of fabric has him looking back at the tent. Halon stands in the opening.

“Please, come in. Our chieftain can see you now”

He lifts an eyebrow. Did Halon seriously think he would not be able to hear what was said? Halon looks at him with raised eyebrows while mentioning with his arms. He shrugs and enters the tent. The boots of his guards follow until the entrance of the tent where they stop. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Halon hovering.

“Halon, leave us.”

“But, Aragorn! I promised my father …”

“Halon! Leave.”

Halon sighs and walks away with a bowed head. He smiles amused at their antics. They sure seem comfortable around each other. It does not condone Halon's insolence in addressing Gil. Something he should pay attention to if Gil becomes king which he hopes to see soon. His thoughts also turn towards Halon’s father. Who is he and how is he connected to Gil? Gil’s voice pulls him out of his thoughts.

“My Lord Denethor, may I ask why you have come?”

“Is our relationship so bad you would not be glad to see an old friend again, Gil?”

“Our friendship was destroyed, I believe, during our last fight. I...”

Gil shakes his head. Considering his words, he can imagine what Gil wanted to say. Heartache grows in his chest. He ignores it hoping to chase it away.

“Not in my opinion. We had a severe difference but not so much that it was destroyed. Besides, we have had them in the past and they never bothered any of us for a long time. Just so you know, I am glad you are here. Faramir will benefit from it. Could you tell me if you were with Boromir when he died?”

“I was indeed there.”

He smiles calmly wanting to take Gil’s unease away. The heavy pressure in the air remains. The unease in Gil’s eyes remains. In fact, it increases slightly when Gil bites his lips. He frowns but pushes past his confusion.

“I am glad to hear that. I know my son did not suffer with you near him. Your skills in healing have always been extraordinary. Tell me, how has your life been since you left.”

“Not really interesting, I am afraid. I have been with my people whenever I was not traveling around.”

“How much did you travel around?”

“Plenty.”

He bites his cheeks wondering why he gets the short answers. Just as he thinks this, he slaps himself. He knows why; Gil is still believing he is unwelcome. He sighs realizing only time will change it. Until then he has to show he welcomes his friend to Gondor.

“I cannot say I am surprised. But let me answer your question now and ask one of my own. I came here to learn what your plans are for the future. So, could you tell me?”

“I do not think there is much of a future if Frodo does not succeed.”

“Then how do you plan to aid him from here.”

“I do not. I plan to aid him by drawing out the forces of Mordor.”

“Then I will call everyone towards the council room. You collect whoever you want to have with you in the meantime. Meet me there in two hours and we will discuss this plan of yours.”


Walking out of the tent, he sees Halon leaning against another tent’s pole. Halon fidgets with his hands on his crossed arms and shuffles around. As he passes his guards, they move forward. At this, Halon looks up with worry clear in his eyes. Eyes follow his every move.

Halon almost immediately bolts once he passes him. Turning his head, he sees how Halon bolts into Gil’s tent. He smiles amused and shakes his head. The loyalty and concern are good to see but not appropriate at this time. Regardless, he walks on towards his horse knowing there is little he can do about it.

Within a short time, he has mounted his horse and rides back to the city with his guards surrounding him. The time he uses to consider the meeting. A meeting which pleases him in the sense of the outcome. Gil’s plan is highly dangerous if not reckless. His mind is not happy with it. His heart though is pleased. He knows what Gil plans for the future. And risks need to be taken all the time. So, now would be an absolute good time to do so. As he promised Gil, he will ensure all lords and captains are gathered for the meeting. One way or the other.

So how can he ensure everyone is gathered? He could seek them out personally but that would take a lot of his time. Runners would not cost him as much time. Just as having everyone assist in gathering the others. This comes with the risk of misinformation being spread by accident. As such, his mind is made up.

His guards stop suddenly. He has to pull tightly on his reins to prevent the horses from bumping into each other. His horse bucks for a moment before he gets him back under control. Shouting reaches his ears and he looks around. Stable hands rush towards them. His guards are either dismounting or have done so already. He frowns but follows their lead regardless. A stable hand takes the reins from him once he has dismounted. The stable hand guides his horse away. Others are doing the same with the other horses.

Silence reaches his ears while people move around him while talking. He looks around. His guards stand around him motionless. No one pays any attention to him. His mind made up, he walks towards the houses of healing. Boots cling on the stones behind him.

As he walks his mind moves back to Gil. He wonders at the barrier between them. A barrier, he has an idea where it came from. At the same time, he does not understand how it could have remained with Gil for so long. It has been nearly forty years. He was not that harsh during their fight, was he?

Regardless, he has to take it away but has no idea how to do so. He hopes his meeting with Gil will have a good effect. He just hopes cracks will be appearing in the barrier. Something he is sure is only a matter of time. So until then, he has to do all he can to ensure Gil starts to trust him again. And that any cracks will be widening.

Arriving in his office, he looks around. It is the same mess it has been before the siege. The table is strewn with papers. Papers litter the floor and some chairs. He sighs knowing he has to clean it up. At the same time, it is time to execute his plan. The last takes priority.


Citadel, Minas Tirith, Aragorn POV

He stands in the room looking at those gathered. A few familiar faces are among the lords and captains. He hopes none recognize him yet. Only once he has made his claim if it does not cause any problems. If it does then he wants to leave without anyone noticing.

“Thorongil, it is good to see you back in Gondor. You have been sorely missed. I had hoped my sons would be able to receive your guidance when they were learning to become captains. Unfortunately, you had left by that time.”

“Prince Imrahil, it is good to see you too. I see time has treated you kindly.”

“It has indeed. Do you have any idea why we were called here?”

He smiles slightly. Prince Imrahil looks at him with a raised eyebrow and specter look. Oh, he does know why they are here. He imagines Imrahil knows it too. Only he refuses to give a clear answer. It is for Thor to explain to all those gathered.

“I might have an idea but we should wait for Lord Denethor to explain everything.”

“Why so formal, you were close friends from what I remember. Do not tell me it is because of your legendary fight. People are still mad about our lord's actions then. My father and steward Ecthelion were particularly angry.”

“Your father and steward Ecthelion were to be expected. But not so much the people.”

He tilts his head in confusion. The people’s anger makes a bit sense to him as he remembers the love the army had for him. At least, around the time their fight occurred. It makes no sense for people to still be upset.

His mind moves back to his plan. He is slightly hopeful Thor will aid him. His plan is sound but dangerous so it will depend on how Thor thinks about him if he will receive aid. It might mean he will have to change his plan. All he knows is that he needs to aid Frodo. And afterward, he can make appropriate plans for the future. Plans which will be affected by the current and future meetings.

“It is good to see everyone has gathered as I ordered. You are all certainly wondering why I called this meeting.”

All eyes turn to Denethor who stands in front of the Steward’s chair with crossed arms. He is leaning a bit back but not so much that he will actually fall backward. No one speaks. An eerie silence falls over the room.

“No one will ask?”

No one responds. The silence continues. A stone could be heard falling; this quiet it is. Aragorn can hear the breathing of everyone in the room. Coughs echo around the room. Birds can be heard chirping outside.

“Well if no one speaks up, I will go straight to the matter on hand. I was informed that Mordor’s forces need to be drawn out to ensure our victory will be maintained.”

He breathes out deeply. A knot in his chest, he did not know existed, eases. Now, he is certain Thor will be aiding him. Just as this comes to his mind, deafening shouting reaches his ears. Nearly all lords and captains complain loudly. He can barely understand what is being shouted. What he does understand is none of them agree with what Thor said. They deem it reckless and suicidal. They do not want to leave Gondor defenseless.

He grits his teeth. Their reaction is understandable but not suitable right now. He needs enough men with him. Else their victory will be futile. Only then can he draw the forces of Mordor out and give Frodo the chance he needs. If he cannot do this then Mordor will send new forces out after some time. It needs to be dealt with once and for all.

“Quiet! My lord Aragorn, would you like to explain your plan to us? You are after all the person who brought this plan to my attention.”

“Thank you, my lord. I plan to form an army consisting of as many men as is possible. With this army, I want to make a stand on the Morannen. I have heard how none of you are willing to leave Gondor defenseless. A motion, I fully support but I still need as many men as I can get. Our current victory will be futile otherwise.”

“Lord Aragorn? Might I ask why our victory could be futile?”

Aragorn sees how some lords close their mouths. They were about to speak but prince Imrahil was quicker. The lords all shoot daggers at him with their eyes. Prince Imrahil, on the contrary, is looking at him with a raised eyebrow. He smiles knowing he has escaped the worst and needs to keep it away.

“You may ask. A brave hobbit, Frodo of the Shire, is currently in Mordor on his way to throw the One Ring into Mount Doom. With all of Mordor’s forces present, it will be difficult for him to reach his destination unseen. If he were to be discovered then Sauron will regain his full strength. We need to ensure that does not happen and give Frodo the chance he needs to finish his mission.”

“A distraction.”

Everyone else nods in agreement to the assessment. And even though they agree, many a lord has their lips pressed together tight. Some have even balled their fists. Their true opinion clear as day. One of the captains looks at him with narrowed eyes.

“How will we ensure enough men go with you while at the same time enough men are left behind to defend the city?”

“Many of the men in the houses are ready to be released. They are not yet ready for battle but strong enough to defend the city if need be.”

“One group of Rohirrim will stay behind to guard our prisoners. I refuse to allow wounded to guard them.”

“An understandable sentiment which I assume no one will protest against, King Éomer. Now we just need to decide on the number of men who will go to Morannen and who will stay behind. Captain Mendear, I heard you were wounded during the siege.”

“Yes, my lord. You want me to stay in the city?”

“I do. Know Faramir will be in command of the city. You need to discuss with him what you will be doing. You are only to seek him out after the host has left.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Immediately after Mendear stops talking, everyone talks over each other. The sound is deafening. Aragorn smiles grimly. He imagines people can hear this on the sixth level. He looks carefully at Thor who is clenching his fists. Thor clearly feels the same about this as he does.

But regardless of his feelings, he turns his attention back to the discussion on hand. Some know they will travel with the host and want to take as many men with them as they possibly can. Those who stay in the city want to have as many as possible stay behind. The discussion becomes increasingly heated with time due to the arguments and complaints being thrown around the room. This lasts for thirty minutes before Denethor clearly has had enough.

“Quiet! I have made my decision. Seven thousand will march while two thousand will remain behind to defend the city. You have all seen the banner rise in the harbor. We will march under the king’s banner. Am I understood!”

Captains nod with a smile on their faces while some lords nod with tight lips.


Minas Tirith

Denethor looks the lords over with a stern look. Some of them cower but one does not. He grins at the Denethor. Aragorn frowns wondering who this lord is. And what their history is. There is some underlying tension there. Prince Imrahil sighs next to him. More sighing reaches his ears. Signs, he knows how to handle.

“It is good that most of you understand me. Lord Lathron, you had better remember what I ordered. Having said everything, you all can leave. Be prepared to march by tomorrow. Lord Aragorn, if you could stay for a moment; There is something I wish to discuss with you.”

Slowly everyone leaves the room while talking to each other. Captains seek out Mendear and are giving him reports on the defense of the city. Are they forgetting Faramir will be in charge of the city’s defense? It clearly looks like it. Soon, before he is fully aware of it, everyone has left and he is alone with Thor.

“How do you think the meeting went?”

“I think it went reasonably well. The heat of the discussions was to be expected.”

Thor looks at him with kind eyes and smiles calmly. Aragorn keeps his face blank. Still, his confusion returns to the forefront of his mind. Thor’s reaction does not make any sense to him. Nor has it in the recent past. It is as if their fight has never happened or been forgotten.

“That it certainly was. Did you not notice anything else?”

“There appears to be some sort of conflict between you and one of the lords.”

Denethor’s face sours just as he says this. It confirms his belief. He saw how one of the lords had a staring contest with Thor. He saw the disdain Thor had for him. The daggers Thor shot from his eyes were obvious enough to him. The way everyone accepted it was another sign. As if it happens all the time.

“If you will excuse me, Lord Denethor. I have men to prepare.”

As Denethor does not react, he silently walks out of the room. He is glad he can leave because he did not want to risk anything. He needs Thor’s aid for his plan to succeed. If Thor gets upset with him, he can forget his plans.

Once outside the room, he is met with silence. No one is around. The entire hallway is deserted. A few leaves are blown around by the wind. He frowns wondering where everyone has gone. He has some ideas for the lords and the captains but not for the staff.

He shakes his head. This is not the most important thing right now; Denethor’s reaction is. The conflict between him and the lord must be extreme for it to show so in public. He remembers how often Denethor would complain about lords and captains when he was sure no one could overhear him. He never allowed it to be seen in public.

Also, their friendship no longer exists so asking for his opinion makes no sense. He knows Denethor despises him ever since their fight before he assaulted Umbar. Denethor made his opinion obvious then. He cannot imagine it changing. And Denethor never asks someone he despises for their opinion. He wants those people gone from his sight as soon as possible.

But both of these are not what confuses him the most; that is Denethor’s statement about the marching. It makes no sense to him. He has been thinking about possible reasons ever since the statement was made. He can come up with none. None of which makes sense to him. Just thinking about it has possibilities running through his mind. And a headache growing.

Just as he reaches the broken gate, he decides to simply accept Denethor’s statement. He knows cannot do anything about it. And his presence has given the men hope. He intends to give the men their glimmer of hope even though he is unsure about his own future.

Thinking about his future causes his worry to grow. So far, Thor has acted strangely. Both during this meeting and when he met Thor in his tent. He does not know how long this will last. He wonders what will happen afterward. He also does not know what caused Thor’s behavior. It makes his behavior unpredictable which he does not like. He wants to claim the throne later but doubts he can. The meeting has not taken his doubt away from him.

Chapter Text

Bíron POV

Bíron walks briskly through the city towards his barrack. He has more than enough to do. He has to check on his men for they need to be ready. Their equipment also needs to be ready. He has been looking after this for the past few days. And still, it is not up to his standards. Or it was not yesterday evening when he last checked. It feels as if a heavy stone rests on his shoulders. Everything needs to be ready for the host will leave soon. Now is the only time he has left to ensure everything is ready. He has a meeting with the captains to attend to which he expects to last for a few hours.

Entering the barracks, he narrows his eyes. They are playing games or laying on one of the cots. Do they have time to relax? He does not think so. Their armor lies on the floor. Their weapons lay discarded around. He scrapes his throat and his men jump up standing at attention.

“What do you think you are doing?”

“Uhm…”

A lead can be heard dropping in the following silence. The men shuffle around without speaking up. They glance at each other from time to time. After a few minutes of silence, no one responds to his question. He balls his fists and sighs.

“Well, do you have anything to say for yourselves?”

“No, captain, we do not. We apologize for our actions.”

“You can apologize all you want. You did not answer my question? Did you or did you not finish the preparations?”

“We did not, captain.”

He takes a deep breath. He knew this already but now has it confirmed. They did not follow his orders. If they do not work fast now they will never be ready in time when the host leaves. There is only one thing left which he can order.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Hurry up, the host will leave soon and you need to be ready. I do not want you to embarrass me in front of our lord.”

“Yes, captain. We will be ready in time. You have our word.”

“Make sure you keep your word. I will be meeting with the captains right now. And you all better be prepared before I get back here.”

Without waiting for a response, he turns around and walks out of the barrack. Once outside, he takes a deep breath and clenches his fists a few times. His arms tremble due to the strength of his clenching. He unclenches his hands. His arms still tremble. He takes a few deep breaths and forces his body to relax.

Once the trembling in his arms has stopped, he silently makes his way up towards the citadel. While walking, his mind moves back towards his conversation with his men. He saw exactly what he had expected. His men acted the same. All he does now is hope the other captains have experienced the same problems as him.

Suddenly, his eyes focus on the door before him. The door is decorated with a carving of the white tree and sword. It tells him exactly where he is. As quietly as possible, he opens the door unwilling to disturb any conversation occurring on the other side. Closing the door behind him, he sees five men are gathered around a table quietly talking. As he approaches the table, all eyes turn to him.

“Ah, captain Bíron, good you could join us already. Did your men prepare themselves as expected?”

Captain Gonodor has a wry smile on his face. The others share his expression. He sighs. Just what he needs. But then a wry smile comes on his face. Have they gone through the same? He certainly hopes so. He carefully wipes any emotion from his face before responding.

“Unfortunately, no. They were playing games among other things when I went to check in on them.”

“So all our men are the same. Why am I not surprised? But let us not dwell on our foolish men who we have to keep in check. We have enough to discuss as is.”

Every captain nods. Bírion quickly reaches the table and sits down on the empty chair. For the next hour, they discuss plans for the march of the host as well as the defense of the city. Or well, plans for the defense? It are more like suggestions as Captain Faramir, the only absent captain, will have the final say in these matters.

Returning to his barrack afterward, he is met with a pleasant sight. The men have cleaned up the barrack. All their armor and weapons lay on their beds neatly arranged and polished to the best of their abilities. They only need to put it on now. Despite this, he is pleased with the progress they made. They are as ready as one can be for the host to march. He sighs in relief. He has not disappointed his lord.


Pelennor field, Aragorn POV

He looks at the armor laying in front of him. He has no idea what to make of this. Where Thor found it, he has no idea. He almost thinks it has been prepared for him years ago. He abandons it quickly convinced it must have been meant for someone else. This is the only one which calms him a bit. Only for him to frown again.

Why did Thor give it to him? To embarrass him? It must be. This armor is clearly meant for a high-ranked member of Gondor’s army. If he has bad luck, it might give the impression he is of higher rank than Thor if he wears it. He would be the laughing stock of the year.

He shakes his head. He should not be thinking about this. He has to prepare to march out. It will not do anyone any good if he is not ready in time. He is aware everyone knows they will be marching under his banner. He narrows his eyes at this thought. No matter Thor’s intentions, he will give the men the hope they need.

Picking up his shirt, he slowly begins to dress. Soon, he is strapping the armor on but experiences problems with it. He stretches his arm behind his back to secure his chest armor. He fumbles around for a moment but cannot get a good grip on the straps. He sighs.

“Estel, why did you not call for aid. I do want to aid you with putting your armor on. But if you want to do it yourself by all means I will let you.”

“I did not want to disturb you, Dan. But if you are here and willing to aid, please do so.”

Elladan laughs and moves forward. He can almost imagine Dan shaking his head. Working together they have him dressed in the armor in no time. Only then does he turn around. He raises an eyebrow at Dan’s attire. He is dressed in the armor he usually wears when on potentially dangerous patrol.

“How did you get that armor here?”

“Oh well, I suspected something like this would happen so Ro and I hid our armor among our other gear. We did not want adar to find out we had taken it with us before we were well and truly gone. And before you asked, we aided each other in dressing. Ro is currently aiding Halon in putting his armor on. To his great amusement.”

He lifts an eyebrow. What armor is Dan hinting at? Halon does not have any armor here any more than he himself did. And why does Dan look as if he is about to laugh? What is going on? He nearly groans but can hide it behind a couch. Dan snickers behind him.

“Oh, that armor was brought together with yours.”

He shakes his head. But as he does so, Dan reaches for the straps of his chest armor. He stills allowing Dan to manipulate the straps. Together they have him dressed in no time. He turns around facing Dan who looks him over with a critical eye.

“You are dressed like a king, Estel.”

He pouts for he does not want to be so obvious. This will only cause problems with Thor. Something he wants to avoid. Why does Dan have to rub it in? He must know the situation. His eyes narrow. Could Dan be messing with him? Maybe. Then he will have to ensure no to give him much ammunition. He takes a deep breath through his nose.

“Let us wait for the signal to march.”

“Of course.”

They sit down in comfortable silence. Aragorn listens carefully for the sign the host will march soon. He does not want to be in the open too soon with this armor on. He wants to avoid staring as long as he can. Nevertheless, he intends to be ready when the lords come down with Gondor’s forces. He knows those forces are preparing themselves behind the wall. He has heard them assembling.

“Aragorn!”

“Estel, I apologize I could not hold him back any longer. He has something important to tell you.”

“Thank you for trying, Ro.”

He smiles calmly at Ro who looks at him with a tight smile. Then he turns his attention to Halon. Halon stands bouncing on the tips of his toes. He barely refrains from jumping up and down. It is not behavior corresponding to his age. It is almost as if Halon is a young boy and not the experienced captain he is. He sighs.

“Yes, Halon. What do you want to tell me?”

“I want to tell you about adar. I went to visit him yesterday evening but could not find you afterward.”

“And how is Halbarad?”

Halon looks at the floor and bites his lips. Aragorn frowns for it does not add up with Halon’s and earlier excitement. What is he missing? Has Halbarad’s condition worsened? No, it cannot be. Halon would not have been excited then.

“Adar is doing better than last time I went to visit him. He has not woken up but his fever is not as high as it was. The wound, I am told, is healing well. The healer said adar is lucky to be alive. And we have to wait for him to wake up.”

“Thank you, Halon. Did they say anything more about the wound?

“Well? Uhm…. it was infected, you know. But the infection seems to be lessening or something like that. Honestly, I am not sure what the healers told me exactly..”

“How are they treating it?”

“Why do you ask me? I do not know anything about healing except battlefield healing. And I already told you that I do not remember exactly what was being said.”

“Anyway, thank you for informing me. I am afraid I did not have the time to visit Halbarad in the Houses or I would not have bothered you with those questions.”

Just as he says this, a loud sound reaches his ears. It reaches around the city and the field. He recognizes it immediately; it is the sound of horns being blown. Hooves beating on stone can be heard getting louder. He nods knowing it is time to meet with Gondor’s army.

“Halon, make sure the men are ready. We will march soon.”

“Yes, Aragorn.”

He nods again and together they leave the tent with Dan and Ro following. They walk quietly for a while before Halon leaves them. They continue heading towards the horses. Along the way, snickering can be heard. He wonders what his men find so funny.

Reaching the horses, he stops dead in his tracks. His eyes widen at what he sees. Next to his horse, a stable hand stands holding the reins. He takes a deep breath knowing who had his horse prepared this way. While this knowledge goes through his mind, he carefully looks at the decorations. A wry smile pulls on his face for a moment before being replaced by a frown. These decorations make no sense to him. Just like the armor he now wears. These decorations are similar to what he has seen whenever Ecthelion went into dangerous territories. Which was not often.

Does Thor know the stable hand did this? Was it done with his permission? No, impossible. And were it even remotely possible then it is still highly unlikely. Thor would never have approved of it. Never. The only explanation he has, is someone smuggled it out without informing Thor. This person or persons will either be incredibly lucky or unlucky. He suspects it will be the latter.

Just then his mind moves back to Halon’s words. He knew Halbarad’s wounds were severe; he treated them shortly after they were inflicted. He can still bring the image of the wounds to the front of his mind.

Deep cuts litter Halbarad’s stomach and chest. Most have stopped bleeding. One cut has not for blood gushes from it without a moment of respite. A small pool of blood grows slowly behind Halbarad’s head. Feeling the wound, his fingers brush over a bump.

He wipes his forehead with the back of his hand. Blood drips into his eyes forcing him to close his eyes. He pulls on the sleeve of his shirt until the back of his hand is covered. This way, he frantically wipes the blood out of his eyes. He searches for cloth and nearly loses hope before he finds one. He presses it on the stomach wound.

He is fully aware Halbarad will not be traveling for some time. He will be stuck here in Gondor until then. And when that will be, only time will tell. It depends on the speed of Halbarad’s recovery. Based on his own experiences he expects it to take a few months if not a full year. The last refers to the moment when he expects Halbarad to be fully recovered.

This thought has him realizing that Halbarad will need to make a living in Gondor for himself. Something he has to talk with Thor about. He hopes Thor will not give him much of a problem. He has his doubts about it. He bites his lips only thinking about the request.


Houses of healing, Minas Tirith, Denethor POV

Walking again into the houses of healing, Denethor hears the clinging of metal close to his ears. A bustling of activities occurs all around him. It is nearly a deafening sound up he pays it no mind; he has a destination in mind. Faramir needs to know about the decision from the last meeting.

He tilts his head considering the reaction he expects to receive from his son. He cannot in good faith believe Faramir will be pleased with the decision. He clenched his fists thinking about it. He has an idea of the argument he will receive. Faramir will deem joining the host his duty regardless of his injuries; he is the Captain-General and not the steward like his father.

So how will he convince Faramir to allow the switch in places? Or more likely, how will he stop Faramir from doing anything stupid. It will be a hard discussion. Of that he is certain. There are a few options, he considers. Only one stays with him long enough; Faramir’s condition. It might be the only thing which convinces Faramir.

Stopping in front of a well-known door, he takes a deep breath. It will now be the moment of truth. Quietly opening the door, he silently slips into the room. The only sound which greets him is the sound of breathing and the blowing of the wind. Closing the door, his eyes fall on a frowning Faramir who lifts himself upright on his elbow.

“Father, why are you wearing your armor? Has something happened?”

“Nothing has happened, Faramir. Or at least not yet. I am here to inform you I will be joining the host as we set out to Morannen. While I am away you will be acting steward. I have left the orders behind.”

Chapter Text

Faramir POV

Faramir’s eyes widen. What is his father talking about? Why would he have to leave for a battle which will surely be a defeat? An attack on Morannen is useless. No, that is wrong; it is suïcide. No one can gather the numbers needed to win. Not in all of Middle Earth. Even considering such an attack is ridiculous. Whoever came up with the idea has surely lost their mind. But this is not what he voices.

“Why do you say that? I am the captain-general. If someone needs to go it should be me. You should not risk your life like that, father. If anyone needs to do it, it would be me.”

He pushes himself up further on his elbow. He struggles to stay upright and staggers a bit. In the end, he throws his blanket off. A hand pushing on his shoulder stops him in his tracks. The hand pushes him back onto the mattress. He looks at the arm and is met by a vambrace.

“You are still too wounded to fight. It would be foolish for you to leave with the troops. Besides, I am confident you can look after Gondor for the time I am away.”

His eyes widen at these words. He knows they are reasonable and just. At the same time, he refuses to accept them or the decision accompanying them. He would have wanted to have had a voice in making it. Being with the army is his place; not his father’s.

“Father! You cannot join such a dangerous battle. You are the steward and should stay here in Minas Tirith. Let me go. My injuries will not hamper me during a battle.”

“Oh, but they will and you know that. You will be following the order I gave you.”

“I will not follow an order which is just completely insane. You have a duty towards Gondor as the ruling steward. I have a duty as captain-general. Do not risk your life so easily, father. Allow me to fulfill my duty.”

“I will not let you risk your life needlessly, Faramir. I will not lose both my sons to Mordor’s agents. Not while I am alive and able to do something about it.”

“Father, you are losing your mind. Do not do it. Change your orders as you have done so often before.”

“I refuse to do so. I will go to Morannen and fight there. My decision stands.”

Faramir looks down at the blankets gripping them tightly. He bites his lips. He does not like it but gets the impression he has to accept it. His father does not seem to be willing to change his orders. He did all he could to sway his father without success. He sighs knowing what he has to do.

“Come home safely, father. I will look after Gondor during the time you are away.”

“I will do everything in my power to return safely. You know I cannot give you any assurances. But let us move on from this. How have you been doing so far?”

He looks at his father while scratching the back of his head. How has he been doing? He is not sure. He feels he is getting better the more time passes. But then he also has a slight memory of a healer. He frowns. The healer was not really dressed as those from the houses. He shakes his head. The healer is not something his father wants to talk about. Maybe if he is lucky he can bring the matter up. Else he will have to ask master Neston or another healer at another time. Looking his father in his eyes, he receives a questioning look and grimaces.

“Oh, I have been doing fine. I would like to leave this room, to be honest. But then the healers have been forbidding me from doing so. And I refuse to risk anything by disobeying them.”

“I understand that. Disobeying them is never a good idea. So you have been healing well?”

“Yes, I have been. Father, there is something else I want to talk about.”

“And that is?”

“There was a healer here some time ago. He attended to me but no matter who I ask they cannot tell me who he was. Of where I can find him. I would like to know how he aided me”

“What makes you ask that?”

“Well, from the words of the healers I get the impression he did something impressive.”

“Oh about that. He is not someone you need to worry about. All you need to know is he is a powerful healer who has some ancient healing knowledge.”

He frowns. What is his father omitting? Ancient healing knowledge. What does father mean by that? Does he know the healer? And why should he not worry about the healer? If he is to be acting steward of Gondor then he should know about the healer. Especially if the healer indeed knows some secrets the healers here do not know. Something he cannot imagine but then father is not someone to give praise where it does not belong. Just as he is about to speak up regarding his feelings, knocking sounds on the door. He frowns and turns to his father who does not seem surprised. Who was he actually expecting? He tries to gain his father’s attention but is ignored. His father only has attention for whoever is on the other side of the door.

“Enter!”

The door scratches as it opens. Why has he not noticed it before? The sound is loud if not deafening. A familiar form enters the room. He recognizes master Neston immediately. What is he doing here? A healer was with him earlier today. There should be no need for additional care. Or has he missed something?

Master Neston makes quick work of moving towards them. He bows to his father. They look at each other with slightly narrowed eyes. His father nods only. What is he missing? He looks between them but cannot figure it out. A scaping throat has him turning to master Neston.

“How are you feeling, my lord?”

“I am feeling as fine as can be. There is some pain still in my shoulder but it is something I can manage.”

“Mhh, let me know if you need anything for your pain.”

“Of course, master Neston. I will inform you if my pain becomes unbearable.”

“You better do so the moment it becomes more than it is now. Not when it becomes unbearable. I know you too well, lord Faramir, and you would only inform us after you have suffered for quite some time and when someone is pressuring you.”

Faramir bites his lips. Master Neston does not trust him to decide when he actually feels the need for pain medication. His words are clear orders. But will he follow them? He is not sure for he has a duty to fulfill. Something he cannot do while under the effects of pain medication. He knows their effects on him. At the same time, he also knows master Neston. The better part of wisdom will be shading the truth.

“I will do as you ask. But tell me why you really came. I cannot imagine it being to berate me for my habits of dealing with pain.”

“No, it is not. I came here to determine how we can ensure you recover well and at the same time conduct your duties as the acting steward.”

“Well, I have not really thought about it because I only learned about it recently. I was actually intending to leave the houses to look after everything.”

“And for how long? You are not yet recovered enough to leave for a long time.”

“I feel I have recovered sufficiently. My idea was to leave completely. You must have more need for this room than I do currently.”

“Not for as long as you need it. Besides, there are not many nobles injured. I have more than enough room in this wing which will only be used by an injured noble. And in my opinion, you need to stay here for some time yet. Yes, you can leave but not yet completely.”

“I disagree, I need to do my duty.”

“If I may offer a suggestion?”

Faramir takes a deep breath and turns to his father who looks expectedly at master Neston. He smiles amused because it is clear his father is equally frustrated with master Neston as him. Father is just better able to hide it. He glances at master Neston whose only response is a deep frown.

“Of course, my lord. What is your suggestion?”

“My suggestion is more of a compromise. For the first few weeks, Faramir will conduct his duties from here with Lord Húrin’s aid. Afterward, if we are not back yet then, he can work from the citadel and rest here during the night so long as you deem it necessary.”

“Mhh, it might work. I would need to ensure lord Húrin does not tire lord Faramir too much.”

“I am sure you can work this out with lord Húrin.”

“Then I agree.”

“Faramir?”

Four eyes turn to him. Faramir bites his lips. He would have liked to get involved when they were discussing the compromise. As it has been done now, he has no other choice to accept. Even if he dislikes having to sleep here in the houses while working from the citadel. He knows he will not get anything more out of it.

“I agree as well. I feel it is the best solution which can be found considering the circumstances.”


Denethor POV

“Having come to this agreement, Lord Faramir. I have a few more I wish to discuss with you.”

“Of course. What are those matters?”

What follows, Denethor shuts out. He has some ideas about what master Neston wanted to discuss. But it is not what needs his attention now; the agreement does. An agreement which unfortunately needed his intervention. Both men were too stubborn to make one themselves.

Nevertheless, he is pleased with their approval of his suggestion. Had they not done so, he would have used other means to ensure they would agree. But fortunately, he did not have to do so for both men agreed. And with it, Faramir will be served well for the duration of his recovery.

At the same time, Faramir will have aid while looking after Gondor. It means there will be people around to call Faramir out if he goes too far. Not that he would have accepted such a thing should he ever hear about it. No, it would have ended in a fight. Maybe the reason why no one has done so in a very long time. Or because they do not want to irritate master Neston more than necessary or at all.

On another note, by ensuring Faramir has aid he will also ensure everything gets done. With his need to recover, Faramir will have too little time to handle everything. Master Neston has already ensured it is known Faramir’s recovery is his main priority. Lord Húrin does not need to voice his opinion; he knows he will look at it in the same manner as master Neston. This means should Faramir endanger his recovery there will be two people berating and stopping him.

The only one who does not have it in mind as a priority is Faramir. Faramir will only want to please him. Especially with how he has been in the last few years. And because of it, Faramir will forget his own health. This is something he has to keep an eye on in the future. Faramir will be of no use to him or Gil if he is not in good health. But regardless of all this, he is certain of one thing; Faramir will look after Gondor to the best of his abilities.

A cold wind blows into the room with the sound of a door opening. Footsteps can be heard as well as voices talking. Denethor looks up but just as he does so the noise disappears with the sound of the door closing. He looks around. What has happened? Master Neston is gone. Only he and Faramir are left in the room. Did he just really miss their entire conversation? As well as master Neston leaving? He was not that long left in his thoughts, right? He turns his eyes to Faramir.

“What did you discuss with master Neston?”

“Not much, father. I was just getting berated for trying to risk my health. Master Neston actually threatened to confine me if I do not keep my health in mind in the future.”

“It is good to know someone has your health in their mind. You never do.”

“I know. I just have too much left to worry about to concern myself with my health. It seems insignificant in the larger scale of things.”

He just shakes his head. It is of no use to try to talk any further about it with Faramir. He will not change his mind. He smiles amused when he thinks about the warden’s words. At the same time, his irritation remains. The warden should know better than to make his threats come true.

“Well, let us move to another topic. There are preparations you need to make. Some do need to be done right now. Those you will know when you have insight into the damages done to the city. Others can be done later after we have assured our victory.”

“Are you so sure we will have a victory, father? And what kind of preparation do I need to make then? Preparations for a victory celebration?”

The frown on Faramir’s face is truly impressive. It reinforces the questions which were asked. They confirm his belief in what has Faramir worried. Some of the preparations normally do not require any words. So, the confusion is understandable. But how to answer? If he gives a direct answer it will only result in more questions being asked. So how to solve it?

He presses his lips together. He can give an indirect answer. But then he will most likely also gain more answers. He knows he has to give a sufficient answer no matter what he dies. An idea comes to his mind.

“It is something similar to a victory celebration. I will give you more information as soon as I can.”

“What do you mean, father?”

“You will figure it out on your own.”

“What did I miss?”

“That you should ask the captains who remain and lord Húrin. They can give you more answers and have the time to explain everything to you. I have to leave soon.

“Of course, father. I will do what I can.”

Chapter Text

Minas Tirith

Looking to his side, Denethor bites his lips momentarily before remembering himself. He cannot show emotions like this in public. At his side, Faramir stumbles a bit and his hands tremble. His face is pale and sweaty. He is clearly not yet fit enough to be out of the houses. What was master Neston thinking? Why did he not interfere? He has no idea but hopes Faramir will get in sufficient trouble for this. Preferably by being on reinforced bedrest for a few days.

Stepping out of the houses, he narrows his eyes. Three full companies of Citadel guards stand in waiting next to their horses. What are these companies doing here? He had asked for two companies and not three. Thinking about it, he groans.

“My lord?”

“It is nothing, Faramir. Someone just caught onto something I planned to do and prepared accordingly. Without my permission, I have to add.”

“Mhh, what did you plan to do? Does it concern the task you gave me?”

“It is nothing you need to worry about. It does indeed concern that task. Besides, you should focus on your recovery and allow Lord Húrin to assist you.”

He turns his eyes back to the companies quickly. In front of them, two stablehands hold the reins of their horses. His horse is fully prepared for what is to come. The armor rests neatly on his horse’s back. The blanket beneath it glitters in the sunlight. On its face, his horse has even more armor. Faramir’s horse on the contrary is only tacked for riding. Only a saddle and blanket have been placed on the horse’s back.

“I will do as you request. And I will look forward to learning what it concerns. My lord, how will these companies be incorporated within the host?”

“Let me worry about that.”

“Of course, my lord.”

He takes the reins in his hands before mounting his horse. Everyone else follows his example. Turning his horse around, he finds Faramir sitting a bit uncertain on his horse. Steering his horse towards him, he takes a hold of the reins.

“Are you sure you can accompany us to the gate? You are paler than before.”

“I am fine, my lord. There is nothing you need to worry about.”

He stares at Faramir who meets his gaze head-on. He narrows his eyes but Faramir’s expression does not change. After some time, he turns his horse around. Faramir is convinced he can handle himself. He will allow him to do as he pleases. If Faramir is overextending himself, master Neston will have to handle it. He cannot be bothered with it any longer.

Moving his horse forward, he hears the company following him. One man rides up next to him. He glances at Faramir who is on his other side but does not seem to notice it. Silence falls between all of them as they ride down. He uses this time to consider previous Faramir’s agreement. He is pleased Faramir agreed even though it took him some time to convince Faramir. A lot of his worries are taken from him by it. He should not have to concern himself with those matters when he has to also focus on the battle. By Faramir’s agreement, he has arranged it.

At the same time, he realizes Faramir has to look into things he will not fully understand. Faramir misses vital information to do so. It is not an ideal situation but a conscious choice he made. No one should know these things until he feels ready to share them. He grimaces slightly hoping it will not result in problems for anyone.

Glancing at Faramir once more, he is met with furrowed eyebrows. A smile tugs on his lips. Faramir’s concern for him still exists. It is good to see his recent behavior has not fully destroyed the bond which existed between them. A bond which was thin at times but one he nevertheless cherished. In the future, he will set out to strengthen it.

Reaching the first level, he is met with rubble on the side of the street. No stones lay there anymore which is a relief. The remaining gravel is not. An open space greets him where the gate once was. In its place, a wooden beam hangs over two doors made from patchwork wood. All in all, the current gates are hastily put together. Pulling on the reins, he turns towards Faramir.

“Here I will leave you, Captain Faramir. From this day forth until my return, you are the acting steward of Gondor. I have confidence you will look after Gondor’s interest to the best of your abilities while I am away with the army giving us the final success we so need over Mordor.”


Pelennor field

The wind beats on his face. He turns his eyes towards the banners and sees them flowing frantically in the wind. The horses pant loudly in the background. Still, the wind blowing makes it barely hearable. Looking around the yard, he is met with wide eyes. He frowns. What did they expect? Faramir to be going with the host? Do not make him laugh. Faramir is not in any condition to go anywhere. And besides, if they thought so, they should have looked at their attire; he is dressed for battle and Faramir is not. Turning back to Faramir, he nods.

“I bid you farewell, acting steward.”

“I bid you farewell too, my lord. I have high hopes you will return with a well-earned victory. Open the gate!”

He bows his head and turns his horse towards the gate. Moving his horse towards the gate, he hears hoofbeats following him. Banners flap in the background. Rustling metal accompanies it resounding all around him. He moves slowly through the gate knowing what he will be met with once he is out of the city.

Crossing the gateway, snickering of horses reaches his ears. Accompanying it is the flapping of banners. He looks straight ahead at the army assembled in the distance. Over their head, multiple banners flow in the wind showing which lords have gathered. A few leaves roll over the field in between them. He calmly rides towards the frozen army. Why they are frozen he does not know. They should have expected him. What is going on here?

As he nears the army, banners, and standards are lowered. It allows him to look better at both the banners and the standards. He can finally differentiate those from Gondor and Rohan. At the distance he was at before, it was nearly impossible to completely differentiate between them. It is then, he tilts his head. They are missing one banner. Gil had one when he disembarked during the siege. Where is it?

Looking over the army, he searches out the men of the north. All he can see are the men of Gondor and Rohan. What were the men of the north dressed in? He keeps his face as emotionless as he can. Let them all think he is inspecting them. The men of the north were dressed similarly as the Rangers of Ithilien but in darker colors. So, where are they now? He cannot see those colors anywhere. Slowly moving along the army, he masks his search into an inspection.

There! In the distance, a few elves can be seen. He recognizes them by the different armor than the men are wearing. And wherever they are, the men of the north will not be far away. A horse moves forward. The sun reflects off the armor stinging in his eyes. The rider is illuminated in blinding light. He narrows his eyes and shields them with his hand.

“My lord Denethor, my men are ready to march.”

“Thorongil, it is good to see you had no problems preparing. I am glad to see my gift has been well-received.”

“It was a surprise to receive it. Thank you my lord for your thoughtfulness.”

He smiles lightly and tips his head. He refuses to react to Gil’s response to his name being used. There was something about it. It was almost like a wince but he cannot be sure. It was well-hidden behind a neutral face. Still, he has a chance to discover it by responding.

“It was a pleasure. Do you wish for me to address you by Aragorn and not Thorongil?”

“I would indeed prefer to be addressed by my real name.”

“Then, my lord Aragorn, I would like for you to explain why your standard is not being shown.”

“I did not wish to sow discord among your men, my lord Denethor.”

“Nonsense, you will not sow discord. We all know what your standard means to Gondor. It was a relief for the men to see it. It brought all of us hope. I admit I miss seeing it.”

Gil mentions with his hand and dismounts. He follows his lead. Dust flows in the distance accompanied by the sound of hoofbeats. Following the dust trial, he sees it is heading back to the Dúnedain camp. At least, the direction the trail is moving towards is where the camp is located. So the standard is being fetched. The only question remaining is by whom. Hopefully, not Halon. Shivers still run over his back if only he thinks about him. Turning his eyes back to Gil, he intends to finish another business right now. It might be even more important than the other business.

“My lord Aragorn, there is another matter I wish to discuss with you.”

“And that is?”

Gil looks at him with furrowed eyebrows and a tilted head. He smiles calmly. It would do no good if he upsets Gil. At the same time, he can understand Gil’s feelings but hoped their earlier meeting had removed them. No matter, he will have to work with the situation as it is.

“I would like to ask that when we speak, we do so cordially. We have more than enough to discuss in the future and this will make those discussions more pleasant. And also, we will be able to talk in comfort while we wait for your standard-bearer to return.”

“I was not aware we were so close after the events prevailing my departure from Gondor.”

“I am aware there is a barrier between us. I regret it grew due to our fight. You need to know I am not your enemy. I regret the accusations I made.”

“I…”

A horse approaches quickly from the distance stopping Gil from finishing his sentence. Gil quickly turns his head in the direction the horse is coming from. He follows Gil’s gaze and smiles. A rider and horse are hurrying towards here. The furled standard in his hands becoming more visible the nearer he gets. Within moments, the rider is close enough to see his face. He bites back a groan; it is Halon. Just what he needed. He has to fight to keep his grumbling contained. He dares a glance around but no one seems to have noticed his struggles.

Halon stops next to Gil sharing a look with him. Whatever is being said, remains a mystery. No explanation is given nor can he understand their shared looks. He clenches his fists seeing the closeness between the men. A closeness, he would have liked to have with Gil at this time. Their silent conversation lasts but a moment. He looks at the other Dúnedain. Those closest to them are smiling. He would not be surprised if a few of them would actually be laughing silently.

A swooshing sound reaches his ears. He turns his eyes back onto Halon. He smiles brightly. The standard of the king has been unfurled and is blowing in the wind. Glancing behind him, he locks eyes with his own standard-bearer. A frown greets him. He makes a small motion with his hand glaring at him. No one should get any sign of what the standard-bearer should do.

Turning back to Gil, he smiles calmly. Gil’s eyes widen and his mouth falls open slightly. He now knows his standard-bearer followed his orders and has lowered his standard. He bows his head to make his point even clearer; Gil is the rightful king of Gondor. It will be obvious to everyone who has been watching this exchange.

The army behind him is speechless. The wind blowing in his ears louder than any sounds coming from the army. He knows why; no one will have expected him to do something like this. Some lords, he imagines, would have expected problems from Gil’s earlier declaration. The lords follow his example by lowering their standards.

With this knowledge in mind, whispering reaches his ears which he focuses on. Most of it is simple gossiping. He tins his lips. Gossiping does not require his attention at all so he shuts it out. He turns his eyes to Gil who has mounted his horse once more. He moves forward mentioning for Gil to move to the front. After a moment, Gil overtakes him with Halon not far behind him. Moving to Gil’s right, he takes up his position. Looking to his left he finds Imrahil has moved to Gil’s left side.

Turning back to Gil, he finds one company of Citadel guards have moved into a position to guard him. He smiles for he did not have to order them. They understood his intention. At the same time, a few Rohirrim have moved forward covering Éomer who is riding nearly next to Gil. Glancing at Imrahil, he finds a company of swan knights have done the same for him. Just as the other company of guards has done for him. He sees this when turning back to determine if they are ready to march.

Where are the Dúnedain? He can only see Halon but no other. Turning to the army, he finds they have moved in front of the Gondorians together with the elves, halflings, and the dwarf. He locks eyes with one who glares dagger at him. He frowns before his eyes widen ever so slightly. They must have intended to do the same thing the company has done. Now, they are pushed back. Locking eyes with Gil, he nods. Gil moves his horse forward leaving Minas Tirith.


Aragorn POV

Aragorn stares ahead ignoring the company and men who ride behind him. He bites back a sigh from time to time. He does not appreciate this because it makes too much of a statement. It could result in trouble he does not want. Sharing a look with Halon, he finds his feelings are returned. With that knowledge, Thor’s actions rise to the front of his mind once more. Not that they have left his mind for long.

 

Denethor looks at his standard with a bright smile. He frowns. What is he so happy about? And why did he ask for his standard to be brought forward? He would have thought Thor would want to discuss his claim after returning from Morannen. But by having it brought forward eliminates this possibility completely.

He narrows his eyes focusing on Thor. Thor turns around toward his standard-bearer. The angle hiding his emotions. What would he give to get a look at Gil's emotions? The standard-bearer’s reaction, though, is not hidden; he frowns in response to whatever he sees on Thor’s face. They stare at each other.

After a long moment, the standard-bearer sighs glares at Thor. Thor’s shoulders twitch in response. The standard-bearer lowers the standard. His eyes widen. Why did he do this? He must know what this means. The gasping lords among the army tell him they know it also.

Looking around, he finds Dan and Ro smiling brightly. His eyes narrow. Are they laughing at him? He sighs deeply; they are. He glares at them. Whatever they find funny about this he does not share their sentiment. Legolas and Gimli are looking thoughtful while Pippin is frowning. He must not understand what has happened just now. Standards lowering has him turning back to the army. His eyes widen once more. The lords followed Thor’s example. But why? For what reason?

He still cannot believe why Thor has done this. It makes no sense. The whole events were a maelstrom of emotions for him. This and everything else which happened since their first meeting confuses him. Thor does not act like he expected him to. He does not act according to the state of their relationship. Thor has never been a very forgiving person. Why should he be forgiving towards him now?

On another note, he knows what Thor’s actions mean. He is recognized as the rightful king of Gondor. Or at least someone of a higher position than Thor. As only a king outranks a ruling steward here he is recognized as such. The present lords also understood this.

 

The army looks upon them speechlessly. A few leaves fly over the field. The wind batters against his ears overshadowing every other sound at this moment. Some lords look with their mouths fallen open. Others have furrowed their eyebrows or are biting their lips. Of those, a few are throwing daggers at him.

He does not dare show his unease. Goosebumps litter his skin making it difficult for him to not move around. He can understand their emotions to a certain degree. He is also confused and shocked. As for those who are angry, he thinks they will not accept a king. They will want things to remain as they are right now. Or could they be angry he has not made his claim earlier? He slaps himself mentally. This is impossible.

He focuses once more on the lords and tilts his head. Prince Imrahil looks at him with steel eyes but still bows his head. The young men behind him do the same. Who are they? They look very similar to him. Are they his sons? He has heard a bit from them but has never seen them.

Forcefully pulling his eyes off them, he looks at the other lords. A few bow their heads but most stare at him defiantly. It is clear Thor’s actions have thoroughly annoyed them. None appear too happy about it.

He sighs and glances around. Thor looks at him questionably. He smiles calmly even though he does not feel like it. It is almost as if he is a rope pulled too tight while being pulled from both sides. Thor is pulling him in his direction while the lords are pulling in the other. He shakes his head. If this continues conflict will be created within Gondor. It is the last thing he wants to be responsible for.

Or what Thor wants, considering his recent behavior. It is almost as if Thor wants him to take the throne. Thor’s lack of intent to create conflict makes no sense when considering his submissive act understandable. He must know it will create conflict among the lords. There will be those who are willing to accept him as king and those who will outright refuse to do so.

One thing he knows for certain, he has to prove himself as a leader to the lords. The coming battle will be the start of it. And afterward, he will have to ensure he finds ways to keep proving himself. But while he does so, he has to keep an eye on things. His actions will not create conflicts. Nor will conflict be created on his watch.


First level, Minas Tirith, Faramir POV

Watching the banners grow steadily smaller in the distance, Faramir bites his lips. Something does not feel right to him in regards to his father. And it is not father leaving with the host. No, it is father’s recent strange behavior. Father has been soo calm and collected as of late; it is surreal and unbelievable. What is going on with him? He was clearly worried but also annoyed at something.

More importantly, father has been hiding something. But what, he cannot be sure about. A few examples of hiding things come to his mind. The first being father’s refusal to explain who the healer was they were talking about. And the second being what he really should make the preparations for. No matter the examples, he cannot figure out what is being hidden from him. Are these examples even related?

He scratches the back of his neck. All of it gives him the impression the stress of recent years has not impacted his father. Something which does not add up because he can clearly remember father has, in fact, been impacted by it. And even if father had gotten over his grief for Boromir’s death, the change should not be so quick or large. It should have taken more time. A lot more time.

He clenches his fists tight. He cannot figure out what is going on with his father. Nothing makes sense. He smiles ruefully. Does nothing make sense? Well, the preparations he has been asked to make make a tiny bit of sense. Everything else seems to have no reason. No reason for being made or planned. What has father been thinking?

He looks over the banners and standards focusing on the standard of Elendil. He smiles calmly. This standard changed everything when it was unfurled. His struggle to keep his mouth from falling open remains clear in his mind. The struggle he lost was his eyes widening. He never expected to see this standard in the presence of his father. Not ever. He knows it was brought forth at his father’s request. It was not present when father entered the field. And once it was unfurled, father had his standard lowered. By doing this, he acknowledged the user of this standard as the rightful king of Gondor.

He looks up at the cloud-covered sky. Sunlight filters through the cracks in the clouds. Father’s actions regarding the king make no sense. In fact, they make even less sense than father’s other actions. It would only make a tiny bit of sense would father be waiting for the king's return. A wry smile pulls on his face. He knows his father too well. Father would never wait for the king’s return. He would never allow a king to ascend the throne so long as he is alive without fighting said king.

All father’s acceptance does is explain some aspects of the preparations he has to make. As for himself, he will make the preparations as if they are waiting for the king to ascend the throne. Even if father’s actions do not make sense. Even if he risks a harsh berating. He will make his father proud. And in time, he will be able to question his father more about his recent actions regarding the king.

Seeing the first standards and banners disappear in the distance, he turns his horse around. The company of guards follows him quietly. The gate slams shut behind him with a wooden beam being slammed onto it. Men move around behind him as well as on his sides. It is good to see they have gone back to their work.

As for returning to his work, he deems his ride back to the houses offers the best time to inspect the damages. All in all, he can see the first level has been nearly destroyed. Stones lie in heaps. A small amount of grind remains on the roads. It is impossible to see where the other buildings were before if one has not been in the city before. A few walls remain standing here and there. Just like one or two small buildings. It is questionable how long they will remain standing.

A shadow passes over him for a moment. Moments later, light blinds him. He narrows his eyes giving them time to adjust to the bright light. Opening his eyes again, he sees the second level laid out in front of him. It is a similar picture to the first level but also not exactly. The major difference is the buildings are still recognizable. The roofs, though, are mostly destroyed as well as a few walls.

Both levels will have to be repaired. Father will have known that. As well as knowing it will be impossible to repair everything in a short amount of time. Depending on the available resources, it might take anything from six months to a few years to conduct all the repairs. So what can he actually do besides make father proud?

He takes a deep breath already knowing the answer. To make father proud he will have to make preparations to repair the city. Based on his experience, this is the most important thing for him to focus on now. Without those repairs, Minas Tirith will be left vulnerable. This he has to avoid at all costs. If at all possible, he should start with executing the preparations for the repairs he made.

His eyes widen. How could he be so stupid? He just forgot something equally as important. He also needs to work out a suitable defensive plan for the city. Preferably with the captains. As such, he needs to plan to gather the captains soon. Getting answers for his questions will have to wait. And who knows, maybe later he will get the answers either way. All of this he has to do while also making preparations for a celebration.

Chapter Text

Houses of healing, Minas Tirith

Sitting down in front of the desk, Faramir looks out of the window. The sun shines in his eyes blinding him. He is forced to squeeze them shut. The heath hitting his face is a welcome delight despite the cold wind accompanying it. The heath warms his face up steadily. He knows how much work is still before him before he can take time to relax. Among the work is the need to make plans for the time until the host returns. It will be the only way to ensure everything gets done and nothing is forgotten. He does not want to disappoint father.

Sighing, he turns his eyes back to the desk. Dark wood greets his eyes. Papers lie in a neat stack on the left side. A bottle of ink stands in the right corner behind a feather. Taking a sheet into his hands, his fingers scrub over it allowing him to feel all the paper’s imperfections. Putting it down in front of him, he scrubs his hand over it to even it out.

“Where to start?”

Silence follows. No one answers his question. He smiles wryly. Did he honestly expect an answer? He is alone in the room so who could answer. However, it is obvious what he should be focusing on; the preparations which have to be started within the next two days. But which are they exactly; the preparations for the feast or the repairs to the city’s defenses.

Faramir bites his lips. There are a lot of preparations to make for the feast. The servants will be unable to finish them if they do not start anytime soon. In fact, he should start them right now. Just as this thought crosses his mind another works its way to the front. The preparations for the feast will have no purpose if there is no way to defend the city. He groans. Both of them need to be started by tomorrow. No matter what, they cannot be started anytime later. So how to solve this?

It is not easy. He is not sure if he should start them at the same time. However, he suspects it might be the best way to solve the problem. Thinking about it, he grimaces. If he does this, master Neston will most likely haunt him in a few days. All with the claim he is overdoing it even if he is only giving orders. Is there a middle way? His eyes widen. Some aspects of the feast and the defense have to be started right away but not everything. If he plans it accordingly, some things can be started later.

Pulling the lid of the ink pot, he puts it down before picking up the feather. It glides smoothly through his fingers even though he can feel small feathers alongside it. Dipping the feather in the ink, he makes a line in the middle of the paper. At the top of the paper on the right side of the line, he writes ‘defense’ and on the left side ‘feast’. Beneath each, he makes a list of tasks to be executed with an open space in front of it. Once he has listed everything, he gives each action a number based on how soon he feels they should be started. A few times, he has to go back because he finds something which is more important than the earlier task. Thirty minutes later, he puts the feather down stretching his arms and back. His arms pop with the stretch. Once done, he looks at the list.

“Finally. Now all that is left to do is make the plan to be delivered to lord Húrin.”

Again no one responds to his words. He smiles wryly out of the window. Father would not have been pleased where he to be caught talking to himself. It has always been deemed as something frivolous. But then father is not here to berate him. Best make use of the opportunity he has while it lasts. Shaking his head, he focuses back on the list before him.

For the next thirty minutes, Faramir spends his time perfecting the plan. Once he is done, he looks over his plan. A few questions come to his mind when he just reads it. Questions, Lord Húrin will surely ask himself. A door opening forces his head up. His head turns towards the door. His secretary, Tegeldir, walks calmly into the room while balancing a stack of papers in his arms. Noticing his eyes on him, Tegeldir bows with the stack in his hands. He winces when the stack nearly topples. 

“Good morning, my lord. Did you have a good night's sleep?”

“As well as can be expected. Ever since the host left, I have worried about this plan of theirs to attack Morannen.”

“Mhh. Well, that is not a concern only you have if the rumors are right. But truthfully, I cannot aid you with that.”

“Alright, what is the stack you are holding?”

“Oh, nothing important. Just some scrolls detailing past coronations. Lord Húrin was pretty insistent I bring them to you.”

“And why would he think I needed those scrolls?”

Well, if he is being honest, he has a few ideas as to why. And as they are only ideas, he wants to make sure he is not making imagining things. Lord Húrin could have another reason for having them delivered. Even if he cannot figure out those reasons. He looks Tegeldir carefully over. Tegeldir fidgets with his feet for a moment while still balancing the stack before moving forward. Tegeldir puts the stack on the desk. Raising an eyebrow, Tegeldir smiles nervously and looks away.

“I do not know for certain. Lord Húrin did not explain his reasons to me. Is there anything I can do for you, my lord?”

“Yes, could you inform me when lord Húrin wants to meet with me?”

“Not for a few days yet, I am afraid. Lord Húrin did mention wanting to meet with you and the remaining captains at the same time. He did express a request for you to give him instructions to carry out before then.”

“Ah, yes the preparations and repairs. I did already make a plan for those. If you could take it to lord Húrin? I am afraid I am confined to the houses for the remainder of this week.”

“I will do so, my lord. Is there anything else?”

“No, not at this time.”

He hands his plan over to Tegeldir who bows before walking towards the door without saying another word. Following him with his eyes, he sees the tension in Tegeldir’s shoulders. He frowns. What is going on? Tegeldir didn’t say anything was wrong. So, he must be unaware of his tension or be outright ignoring it. Well whatever it is, he’ll be looking into it. Reaching the door, Tegeldir turns around meeting his eyes. Tegeldir smiles uncomfortably for a moment before bowing and leaving the room.

Turning his head around he looks out of the window, his eyes turning towards the garden. Has the host encountered any problems yet or has their journey been uneventful? He hopes it has been uneventful even though his experience tells him otherwise. Mordor has had a strong grip on Ithilien in the past. They will refuse to give any leeway to protect Morannen. Any groups traveling through Ithilien will be met with attacks and ambushes.

Sighing, he stands up walking towards the bed. It is best if he rests for a while. Master Neston will appreciate this and hopefully, it will allow him to leave the houses earlier than the time they agreed on. Besides, his worries will not decrease if he stays awake for much longer, he will only stress himself needlessly.


Looking out of the window, Faramir watches the men working on the field. The men are dragging carcasses across the field and burning them in large piles. Glittering catches his eyes forcing him to close them for a moment. So, the men are collecting the weapons. Now, the matter remaining is figuring out if they are turned over to the officers. A knock on the door resounds through his room.

“Enter!”

The door screeches open as he turns around. Inside the doorway, lord Húrin stands there resting his hand on the door. He smiles mentioning for Lord Húrin to come inside. It makes no sense to him for Lord Húrin to be so hesitant. Walking back towards his bed, he sits down. Lord Húrin walks quietly towards the desk. He turns the chair around before sitting down. Lord Húrin looks him over for a moment before speaking up.

“Lord Faramir, I received the plan you made from Tegeldir. It is decent but in need of a few changes.”

“Is that so? Why have you not made those changes already when you found them?”

“As it is your plan, I prefer not to make changes without taking your opinion in mind.”

Faramir shakes his head. He has no idea what lord Húrin is trying to accomplish. Carefully hidden flattery does not suit him. Not that flattery suits him in general. Lord Húrin never does something like this. So why now? Despite his confusion, he has to smile wryly. Lord Húrin smiles back at him.

“Well, in that case, let us talk about those changes you had in mind.”

“Of course, my lord. If you look at these two points then you can see they should be switched.”

Lord Húrin holds the list in front of him while pointing at two actions. He looks them over before looking back to Lord Húrin with a tilted eyebrow. Lord Húrin immediately falls into an explanation. And so for the next thirty minutes, they discuss all things lord Húrin wants to change. He makes sure he understands the reasons behind the requests. Of those reasons, only one he dismisses due to it too insignificant to justify the change. In the end, his plan has been changed in a way they are both pleased with the changes. Before leaving, Lord Húrin promises to ensure his plan is executed as planned.

Closing his eyes, he leans back until his head rests against the wall. Heat builts on the left side of his face, warming it up. It is a stark contrast to the cold, he feels on the right side of his face. Despite this, his mind keeps flowing back to his father and the work left before him. He clenches his fist. His arms tremble from the strain. Forcing his arms to be still, he hisses at the sting coming from his shoulder.

Opening his eyes moments later, he stands up, stretches as much as he can, and walks out of the room. Following the hallway, he makes his way towards the garden. Maybe a quiet walk in the garden will stem the storm brewing in his mind. Brewing with the changes lord Húrin insisted on and he, at times, reluctantly agreed on. People walk past him and their voices reach his ears. The words are not understandable. Something, he does not react to. Their faces are obscured by the light of the sun.


Reaching the garden, he takes a deep breath smelling the fresh scent of grass and herbs. He feels goosebumps appearing over his body when the wind strikes him. Smiling, he steps into the garden while his mind wanders back to the discussion. Back to Lord Húrin’s words. He can hear the words as clearly as if they are being spoken right now. Most of Lord Húrin’s reasons were understandable. Nevertheless, he thought it best to stick to the plan he had made. He wanted to ensure he would have enough spare time in case something went wrong. A worry lord Húrin did clearly not share.

Walking through the garden, he makes his way towards the parapet. Looking up, he is greeted by a dark sky. Stepping up onto the parapet, he looks over the Pelennor fields. This time, he can see things more clearly than when he was in his room. A few pyres are built in the distance. They look like small triangles except for the flickering of a fire. Men are scouring the fields looking tiny. He recognizes them from the bright coloring of their armor. Glittering reaches his eyes from time to time. He smiles amused. So the plundering has started. Everything the enemy has left behind and is still useful will be gathered by them. A scraping throat sounds behind him pulling him from his musing.

Turning around, he tilts his head with a frown. Master Neston stands next to a beautiful woman. The woman has waving blond hair and is dressed in a pure white dress. Her right arm is held in a sling. Fluttering grows stronger in his stomach over time. He does not know where this came from. It is so loud he nearly blushes and wants to cross his arms over his stomach. Moving his left arm behind his back, he clenches his fist hoping this will still the feelings.

“Master Neston, my lady, I assume you are here for me. How can I be of assistance?”

“My lord, I would like to kindly request to be given another room. I feel my current room to be stifling.”

He looks the lady in her eyes. So far, she has not given him a name. Something, he would have expected to receive. But no matter, he will have to determine what to do with her request. And where best to start than questioning master Neston.

“And what have you done about it, master Neston?”

“I have not done anything, my lord. I find the request peculiar and believe the decision should be made by you. For now, princess Éowyn resides among her people here in the west wing.”

“Ah, of course. My lady, would you care for a walk? We can discuss your request in-depth then.”

“I would appreciate that.”

He holds out his arm for her to take. A hesitant smile graces her face. The fluttering in his stomach had lessened only to now increase once more. Heat crawls over his face. He hopes no one has noticed. Princess Éowyn steps up to the parapet and places his arm in his elbow. Any indication she saw anything is absent from her face. Placing his hand over hers, he walks along the parapet.

“May I ask you something, my lady?”

“Of course, my lord. What would you like to know?”

He looks at her while princess Éowyn’s eyes focus on Mordor. He frowns. Is that the reason for her request? Dread fills him by only thinking about it. Shaking his head, he decides to clear another matter up first. He cannot believe the Rohirrim would have allowed a woman to fight alongside the army. She has fought alongside the army, he is certain of it. Her arm makes it clear enough.

“How did you receive your injury?”

“It was during my fight with one of the Nazgul.”

“Really? I have never heard of anyone surviving a direct battle with the Nazgul. You must be truly lucky. Could you perhaps tell me how you came to travel with the army? Did king Theoden approve of it?”

“Oh no, my uncle did not approve of it. In fact, he had ordered me to return to Edoras to rule in his stead. It was not something I agreed with as I did not want to be left without knowing how my family would be fairing during this desperate time. As a result, I hid my identity and traveled along with the army without his knowledge.”

“That was very brave of you to do.”

“Do not mock me, my lord.”

“I did not mock you, my lady. It was very brave of you to go against your family’s wishes.”

“Mhh, if you say so.”

“You do not believe me?”

“No, I do not. Could we please turn back to the matter we have to discuss?”

Princess Éowyn stares at his eyes while she lifts her chin up. He bites his lips to keep from smiling. He is certain she would have crossed her arms had she been able to do so. Shaking his head, he smiles reassuringly at her.

“As you wish, my lady. Could you tell me what the real reason is for your request to change your room? I assume given your status you were given a private room, am I right?”

“Yes, I was indeed. Unfortunately, I find my view quite unsatisfying.”

“Oh, is that so. What view do you currently have? And what kind of view would you like to have in your new room?”

“Oh, my view mostly contains farmland and mountains. I have seen enough of those at home and would like a change in scenery. If it would be possible I would like my view to be directed towards Mordor. I find I worry a lot about my brother.”

“Understandable. I find myself worried about my father too. I can understand your wish to look towards Mordor in that regard. However, doing so will do nothing good for your own mind. At the same time, I have to admit it will allow you to get an idea of what is going on. And if worst comes to worst, you will know about it quickly.”

“Indeed. My thoughts exactly.”

Faramir smiles. It is good to know they share the same feelings. His stomach has settled a bit during their conversation for which he is grateful. Just then an idea comes to his mind; maybe, he can ask her to join him for breakfast tomorrow. He has come to enjoy her company after this short time together. And it will allow both of them to confide in someone about their concerns. Well, for as far as either is comfortable.

“My lady, I assure you I will ensure you get a room with a suitable view. I do however have to tell you that it worries me you wish to look towards Mordor.”

“You do not need to worry about it, my lord. It is simply to keep an eye on my brother for as much as I can. But still thank you for granting me my request.”

“It was my pleasure, my lady. Would I be able to convince you to join me for breakfast tomorrow?”

“Breakfast, my lord? May I ask for the reason?”

“You may ask. I find myself missing company during breakfast time and would like to gain the pleasure of your company. By sharing our breakfast we can keep each other company.”

“I would like that.”

“So I will see you for breakfast tomorrow?”

“You will if I know the time and place where we will eat our breakfast.”

He takes her hand and kisses the back of her hand. A blush comes over princess Éowyn’s face at the same time as her smile brightens. He smiles reassuringly. Princess Éowyn pulls her hand out of his hand and holds it in front of her chest. The smile never leaves her face.

“Thank you, my lord, for your offer. If you would excuse me I would like to rest for a moment.”

“Of course. I hope you can find the rest you seek. I would not want you to tire yourself too much.”

Princess Èowyn nods and turns around. Again the smile remains on her face. He escorts her out of the garden back into the houses. Once he has done so, he bows and watches her leave. Turning around, he walks back into the garden resuming his walk.

Walking past a flowerbed a short while later, he takes a deep breath. The fresh scent of herbs hits his nose. Tension runs off his back. His shoulders relax, lessening the pain coming from his injured shoulder. He closes his eyes and smiles. A cramp shoots through his legs. His eyes shoot open and he hisses. He kneels massaging his legs for a moment while looking around. In a corner, he finds a bench and smiles. This is just what he needs.

Walking towards the bench, he passes a few healers weeding the flower beds and gathering herbs. No one notices him as he walks past them. Footsteps sound behind him at a steady pace. He turns his head to the side to avoid raising suspicion. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees two guards following him. He frowns. Where did they come from? And how long have they been following him? He has not noticed them at all.

Shaking his head, he keeps walking while at the same time keeping an eye out on those guards. They follow him for a while before turning a corner. He walks on without hearing any sounds of footsteps behind him. He smiles. With them gone from his mind, it turns back towards princess Éowyn. He cannot truly understand her desire to watch the east. It only makes sense in regards to worrying about family. But it can be done from the garden or other places. One does not need a room to be able to do so. So why should she need it? He cannot understand her desire. All it will do is sour one's mood far too quickly for anyone’s liking. It will only give birth to many dark thoughts. As such, it is better to have a room with a view of something else.

Another thought crosses his mind as he considers it; will there be people who share her desire? He shakes his head. He cannot imagine anyone who would share it. Everyone would want to look at something more hopeful. Especially after the siege. The future has looked bleak for a long time. Any hope which exists will be tightly clung to. All to not lose hope and give into despair.

While thinking about this, he looks up at the bright sky. It was a surprising revelation to him that princess Éowyn joined the army secretly. He has heard of the shieldmaidens of the north but to ever meet one. He never expected he would. Besides, he doubts princess Éowyn actually is a shieldmaiden. What he felt from her was being someone with a need to prove herself. Whether this is perceived or true, he does not know. But all in all, it was an intriguing conversation.

But her joining the army was not the only thing which intrigued him; her temperament was. She acted like a typical lady to him but at the same time, he felt she was someone with a strong mind and will. She never came off as meek as some of the ladies he has met in court. Princess Éowyn knows what she wants and will fight for it. He smiles calmly at this thought, confident in his assessment.

He grips his stomach when the fluttering returns in all earnest. Alongside the fluttering, stinging appears and grows steadily. He clenches his arms tightly over his stomach and bites his lips. What are these strange sensations? It cannot be love, can it? He shakes his head confident it must be something else. But just as this thought crosses his mind, he realizes he was right in calling it love. Or at least, they are the beginning signs of love he feels. He shakes his head again. It makes no sense. He should not be feeling this just yet. He does not know princess Éowyn well enough for such feelings to surface. It should have taken a lot more time.

All of it is highly confusing. He wonders if he has mistaken his feelings. Or mistaken something else. These thoughts leave only one possibility open; he has to do all he can to get to know princess Éowyn better. Only this way, he will be able to determine if his feelings are true. And the best time to get to know her is during their shared breakfast. Tomorrow, he will begin with this. And hopefully, he can make their shared breakfast a daily event. That way, he can determine the origin of his feelings with the most certainty.


A few days later, Faramir walks towards the healers’ training room. A room, he did not know existed and was shown yesterday. In this room, he will meet the captains who remained behind and the few officials present. Together, they need to determine if his plan is progressing sufficiently.

Looking out of a window, he sees the sun has nearly risen to its peak in the sky. His eyes widen slightly. If he does not hurry right now he will be too late for the meeting. Quickening his steps, he hurries towards the room. He passes people but pays them no mind. Not even when they address him. He refuses to be distracted.

Within moments, he arrives in the hallway where the room can be found. In the distance, Lord Húrin and a captain are making their way to the room. His lips quirk up in a short-term smile. So, he will not be the last person to arrive. His smile widens remembering one of father’s lessons; the steward is never late. Everyone arrives too early. He shakes his head; he should have known not to hurry. No one would have been truly bothered had he arrived late.

“My lord Faramir, may I introduce you to captain Mendear of the first level. Captain Mendear is the only captain who currently is physically fit to do his duty and present in the city. All other captains are either here in the houses or have accompanied the army.”

Only now does he notice he has stopped walking while Lord Húrin and captain Mendear have walked up to him. Captain Mendear looks at him with a shy smile. The captain has long dark hair. The hair is held out of his face by being pulled from his forehead towards the back. He is dressed like the guards but without his armor. Nodding, he smiles back to the captain.

“It is good to meet you captain Mendear.”

“It is an honor, my lord.”

Captain Mendear bows to him. Faramir smiles amused, aware captain Mendear is being too formal. As such, he focuses on Lord Húrin and tilts his head. Lord Húrin smiles sheepishly and shrugs. He frowns wondering what this is about. It has to do with captain Mendear’s actions of that he is certain. Before he can break his mind over it, he decides to focus on something else which is on his mind.

“Lord Húrin, is our meeting just between the three of us?”

“No, my lord. Some of the captains who are nearly ready to return to their duties will be present. Just like the Rohirrim captains who have remained behind to guard the prisoners we took after the siege.”

Faramir nods. It is just like he expected. It would have been strange for only three people to be present during this meeting. His plan relies on a lot more people. This assurance is actually the reason for him asking. On another note, captain Mendear looks quite young. He would not want to burden an inexperienced captain with everything if aid would be available.

The door creaks open and he looks up. Lord Húrin and captain Mendear walk into the room. Captain Mendear turns his head back and frowns. He smiles calmly and follows them into the room after a moment of waiting. Inside, nearly all chairs along a rectangular table are occupied by either Gondorians or Rohirrim. Most of the Gondorians are either covered in bandages or have scrapes visible. At his entrance, everyone stands up and bows.  He nods to them while mentioning with his hands for everyone to sit down. At the same time, he moves towards his chair.

Reaching his chair, he sits down and looks everyone in their eyes. All the men stare at him. The silence stretches through the room as the wind can be heard blowing through a window. Outside the building, the rustling of trees is clearly auditable. He goes over everyone waiting for someone to speak up. The silence grows to an unbearable level forcing him to break it.

“How far have the repairs progressed so far?”

“They are progressing steadily, my lord. However, there is a lot of work to do and insufficient men available so it goes slowly.”

“Thank you, captain Mendear. Do any of you have any idea how the progress can be increased?”

“I have taken all the steps possible to increase the speed. But maybe my fellow captains have some ideas I did not think of.”

Captain Mendear moves his eyes over the assembled captains. Faramir follows his direction. Some captains exchange looks while others look contemplating. Whispering breaks out in the room and he leans back into the chair. He deems it better to let the captains discuss whatever they want for a moment. It might give him the best answers. It takes a while before one of the captains speaks up.

“I believe captain Mendear has done all he can. My lieutenant tells me there have been men dragged in from the fields to assist.”

“That is true, Lord Faramir. Some of my men have gone to assist in the repairs. Even though I have a dire need for them on the field.”

“So, you have assigned some of your men, captain …”

“My name is Erkenbrand, lord Faramir. I am a marshall of Rohan. Éomer cyning has placed me in charge of all Rohirrim who remained behind. We have been unofficially placed in charge of handling the prisoners.”

“That is good to know. I am glad someone from Rohan looks after the Rohirrim. You know their needs better than we do.”

Marshall Erkenbrand gives him a small smile. A few captains sigh in relief. It is obvious why; they do not want to be in charge of the prisoners. If the Rohirrim want to be, remains to be seen. His eyes fall on lord Húrin while he remains locked in his thoughts. Lord Húrin smiles before speaking up.

“That is true, my lord. Just as with Marshall Erkenbrand and the Rohirrim, the same will count for the northern lord.”

“What northern lord, Lord Húrin?”

“Oh, the northern lord who resides here in the houses. He was wounded during the battle. With him are a few injured northern Dúnedain who are unable to travel.”

“Mhhh, what do you know about him?”

“Not much, my lord. I know he and the northern chieftain are close. However, what the nature of their relationship is, I do not know. Also, I have been informed he shares a room with the other Dúnedain.”

“My lord, if I may?”

“Yes, captain Erkenbrand? What do you know about this northern lord?”

“I believe this northern lord is called Halbarad, am I right?”

Marshall Erkenbrand looks at Lord Húrin. A look is shared between them. He smiles at their interaction, grateful for Marshall Erkenbrand's checking. It would not do to receive information about a lord who is not in the houses. Lord Húrin nods after a moment.

“You are right.”

“Lord Halbarad is the cousin of Lord Aragorn, the chieftain of the northern Dúnedain, as well as his steward. Or so I believe because he was called as such a few times in our presence.”

“You are saying, Marshall Erkenbrand, that he is a nobleman?”

“It would seem so for as much as one can be a nobleman in the north. However, I cannot be certain. There were no titles used by them in our presence. They always used names or ranks but nothing else.”

Faramir turns his eyes to lord Húrin raising an eyebrow. He would like to have lord Húrin’s opinion even though he safely assumes lord Halbarad is a nobleman. This knowledge gives him entirely new problems. No nobleman should be residing anywhere but the noble wing. Lord Húrin looks at him with an emotionless face.

“I agree with Marshall Erkenbrand. If he is the cousin of the northern chieftain as well as his steward then I safely assume he is a nobleman. Just like I know you do. Of course, we cannot be completely certain.”

“Thank you, lord Húrin. You were right I made the same assumption. Lord Halbarad’s care is something I will have to discuss with master Neston. Captain Erkenbrand, is there anything else you know about him?”

“Not much, I know he has a son who went with the host. They have talked about his wife a few times but that is it.”

“Did the men ever discuss his duties?”

“My lord, excuse my impertinence but did we not come here to discuss the state of affairs in the city?”

Faramir turns towards captain Mendear and keeps his face impassive. At the same time, he wants to scratch the back of his head. Captain Mendear looks at him with a guilty expression even though he is right. They did meet here to discuss his plan. And now, they have strayed away from that topic. He wants to know more about lord Halbarad but will have to investigate at a later time. And one way to do that is to request captain Erkenbrand to stay behind for a moment after the meeting.

“Yes, we did indeed. Thank you for reminding me, captain. Where were we before we strayed from the topic?”

“We were discussing the progress.”

“Ah, yes. The progress. It is going slow but at the same time as quickly as is possible with the means available to you, am I right?”

Captain Mendear nods. He turns his eyes towards lord Húrin who tilts his head. A frown appears on his face. Faramir stares lord Húrin in the eyes struggling to keep his own frown from showing. He hopes this will prompt lord Húrin to explain his confusion. It takes a moment before lord Húrin finally speaks up. 

“Well, it is not as if we do not have other options to increase the progress. We can assign the remaining tasks to the men who are present here. Even if some are still confined to the Houses, they can work with their officers to get everything started.”

He nods in agreement. During the following hour, lord Húrin and he determine who is best able to handle which task with the captains. It is slow progress in the beginning as some outright disagree with them. In the end, everyone has tasks assigned to them and a time is agreed on for the next meeting.

Chapter Text

Slowly one by one, the captains stand up and bow to him before leaving the room. Faramir nods to them but remains seated as he wants to learn more about lord Halbarad. Now the meeting has ended is the right time to do so. Glancing towards Lord Húrin, he notices the lord has also remained seated. He tilts his head wondering if he had a matter to discuss with him. Not that he minds because he has something to discuss with Lord Húrin. As well as with Marshall Erkenbrand.

Just then, he becomes aware that Marshall Erkenbrand has stood up and is bowing to him. He looks him in the eyes and tilts his head. Marshall Erkenbrand frowns at him but remains silent.

“If you could remain for a moment, Marshall Erkenbrand? There is a matter I wish to discuss with you.”

“Of course, my lord. Am I right in assuming you wish to talk more about lord Halbarad?”

“You are right. But let us wait for the remaining captains to leave before we begin.”

He nods with his head to the captains who are lurking by the door. They are trying but failing to hide their interest in their conversation. Marshall Erkenbrand follows his eyes. He is unable to see which look crosses over the Marshall’s face. But it is safe to assume he is glaring at them or something like it. Especially because the captains all cringe and practically flee out of the room. It is like they are being chased by an army of orcs. A wide smile grows over his face in response. Within moments, the room is emptied of the captains.

“Well now that everyone has left, my lord; what do you wish to know about lord Halbarad?”

“Let us start with the question you were unable to answer due to being interrupted. What are his duties so far as you could tell based on conversations you have overheard?”

“Not much, I am afraid. What I do know is that Lord Aragorn was not always around so lord Halbarad handled all official matters during those times. However, they seemed to be mostly concerned about orcs attacking their homes. If he has more duties then I have not heard about those.”

“Mhh, so they took a great risk traveling here to our aid.”

“What do you have in mind, my lord?”

He turns his head towards lord Húrin who just spoke. Lord Húrin looks at him with a frown. He smiles reassuringly. He does not have anything major in mind. At the same time, he will need Lord Húrin’s support if he wants to see his plan succeed. The major risk he will be facing is his father who will most certainly oppose it.

“I plan on sending aid to the north after the host returns. Preferably men and supplies. I imagine they will be having difficulties feeding the people if most have to concern themselves with fighting off orcs. Especially with most of their men being here.”

“That is a decent plan but will need time to prepare. You will have to seek lord Halbarad out for this. He will know how much they might need.”

“Only lord Halbarad knows about it? I think lord Aragorn will also have this knowledge. But let us go back to our topic and not repeat the past.”

“Of course.”

He turns his attention away from lord Húrin and back to Marshall Erkenbrand. Marshall Erkenbrand is grinning outright. The grin leaves his face once the Marshall notices his eyes are on him. He puts his hands interlocked in front of his mouth hiding the smile on his face.

“Do you know what kind of man lord Halbarad is?”

“I do not know truly as I have only known him for a short time but what I was able to gather has given me the impression that he is a kind man. He cares about his son and worries for his wife. Also, he and lord Aragorn did banter once or twice when they were with us.”

He nods. This is useful information which he can use when he meets with lord Halbarad alone or with lord Húrin. At the same time, he wonders what the bickering has been about. And why a lord and steward would end up bickering. It does not bode well for their interactions if they do. Or so is his experience. But it is something to contemplate later.

“Mhh, could you tell me what kind of injury he has sustained?”

“I do not know, my lord. I know he was struck down near Harlond and cared for by lord Aragorn himself. I have been told he was severely injured by a sword to the stomach. But I know this only from hearsay.”

He smiles appreciating the information he received. It does not answer all his questions but he has gotten the message; Marshall Erkenbrand does not have the answers he seeks. He knows he has got to find someone else. Hearsay is good but not complete. And with time, the truth might have been slightly lost. It is dangerous to rely on it so long as you do not have all the facts.

“Thank you for providing me with answers to my questions for as far as your knowledge reaches. If there is nothing else you need from me you are free to leave.”

“It was a pleasure. With your permission, I will return to my men. I bid you a good day, my lord.”

He remains silent but nods his approval. In response, Marshall Erkenbrand bows and walks out of the room. He waits for the Marshall to leave before he nods with his head towards the door. Lord Húrin does not react to it and remains seated. He frowns and stands up. If Lord Húrin does not leave then he will leave. It is at this time that lord Húrin finally speaks up.

“Lord Faramir, could you wait for a moment?”

“Of course. May I ask why?”

“You may. I wonder if I should make some inquiries about lord Halbarad?”

“No, you do not need to do that. I will look into it. You have enough work to do as is.”

“It would be no issue. I can easily manage that together with my other duties.”

“Thank you for offering but I insist; I will look into it. I need to have more to do anyway. And this is not something intense so master Neston will not have any issue with it.”

“If you insist. I bid you a good day then.”

Lord Húrin looks at him with narrowed eyes and thinned lips. He stares right back, ending up in a staring contest for a moment. It is then Lord Húrin stands up and leaves. Faramir remains seated and puts his elbows on the desk while resting his head in his hands. Sitting this way has his eyes closing and opening all the time while his head falls forward. He struggles to keep his eyes open. He needs to consider the information he just received. And now would be a good time to do so. Closing his eyes for a moment, hoping it will solve his problems which it does. Once he opens his eyes, he no longer struggles to keep his eyes open. He is well aware he needs to get back to his room soon before his sleepiness returns.

With this in mind, he stands up and leaves the room. Walking along the hallway, he thinks back to what he learned about lord Halbarad. It was a great surprise for him to learn about his presence. Father never mentioned him in any way. He scratches his chin. Did father not know about the lord’s presence? No matter how unlikely, it is a possibility. At the same time, he is certain his father would have informed him had he known it. And has never known anything which caught father unaware. He always knew what was going on.

So what to do now? He already intended to seek out master Neston to discuss lord Halbarad. Maybe he should use this time to also question master Neston about his father’s knowledge? He smiles immediately. It would be the best thing to do. Master Neston would be one of the people who are most likely to give him the answers he seeks.

He nods to himself, his mind made up, and looks around the hallway. A short distance away from him, he sees two large double doors. Along the hallway people - mostly staff - walk to and from the door, passing him along the way. No matter how much he looks, none of them are master Neston.

Walking towards the door, he listens carefully if he can hear any sounds coming from the room. Listening with his ear against the door is just something he just cannot do. It would be highly unseemly. Hence him listening as he walks near the door. Unfortunately, no sounds come from the other side except for a few muffled ones. As such, he determines this must be some sort of storage room and not a patient room.

Walking on, he crosses the door as he makes his way along the hallway. People pass him once more but he does not pay them any mind. It is not as if they talk to him. No, everyone hurries along the hallway in silence. It gives him ample time to search out master Neston among the people but all he sees are healers or wounded men moving about.

Turning a corner, he is met with staff hurrying away from him with laundry or dishes. He bites the inside of his cheek aware he has accidentally stumbled into a servants’ hallway. Looking around, he searches for a way out of the alley without any success. Biting back a sigh, he walks on while keeping an eye out for other hallways. Giggling reaches his ears the further he walks.

A few minutes later, he finally locates a way out of the hallway and instantly turns around the corner. A dark and gloomy hallway lies before him. Burning torches flicker along the walls. Dead silence comes from the hallway accompanied by an oppressive feeling on his chest. Ignoring the feeling, he walks on. The tread of boots sounds behind him. He glanced back, seeing two guards standing a while back. He narrows his eyes. What are they doing here? Only one way to find out.

“Can I help you two?”

“No my lord, you cannot. We are here because Lord Húrin asked us to keep an eye on you.”

“Did he now?”

The guards nod but refrain from saying anything more. He shakes his head and turns back to walking through the hallway. Great now he’s a nursemaid ordering others to keep an eye on him. Looking at the walls, he pulls his mind away from this thought. His eyes land on the cobwebs hanging along the walls and from the ceilings. He staggers at a cobweb hitting his face and falls to the floor.

“My lord!”

Feet run towards him. Two hands grab his arms and pull him back. Worried eyes look at him while he tries to smile. A frown deepens while the hands grip his arms tighter. He hisses and wiggles his arm a bit causing the grip to be lessened.

“My lord, are you alright? What has happened?”

“Nothing severe. A cobweb just caught me unaware.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure. Thank you for your concern. You can let me go now.”

They look at him with disbelief but let him go. He pushes him upwards with aid of the wall. Once he stands he staggers for a moment but does not fall again. Taking a deep breath, he does not feel any pain which raises red flags to him. Glancing back, he sees the guards looking at him worriedly but they have not reached for him when he staggered; something he is grateful for.

Walking forward once more, he looks back at the hallway. Torches lie on the floor; their wall handles having been broken. Either completely or partially. As he walks, he crosses a few doors with broken handles or handles covered in years worth of dust. All in all, it becomes clear he has ended up in an abandoned hallway.

Hurrying forward, he turns a corner. A small light becomes visible in the distance. He smiles and makes his way towards the light as quickly as he can. The closer he gets, the lighter it becomes. He bites back a sigh, unwilling to worry his guards even more. Nevertheless, he is nearing the ending of the hallway. The only thing to determine right now is where he will end up. And then he can determine how to find master Neston.

Minutes later, he clenches his eyes shut and staggers a bit as he enters into the light. A hand touches his arm. He opens his eyes waiting for them to adjust to the light before looking backward. One of the guards stands at a distance while the other stands close to him. Following the guard’s arm, he sees it belongs to the hand gripping his arm. He lifts an eyebrow.

“Are you truly alright, my lord? You halted so suddenly.”

“Yes, I am fine. I was merely blinded by the light coming from the dark hallway. It is nothing for you to concern yourself with.”

“Of course, forgive me for overstepping my bounds.”

He waves the guard away with his hands intending to put him at ease. He does not follow the guard with his eyes, just glad he did not fight him as much as earlier. Walking forward, whispering sounds come from behind. Turning his head around, he sees the guards whispering to each other. He frowns. What is this about? His dismissal? Or are they still not entirely at ease despite his reassurances? He shakes his head aware he has more important things to focus on.

Turning his attention back to the hallway, more Gondorians walk past him the further he gets. In the distance, an open door can be seen. A dull light shines on the floor in front of the door opening. Warriors wander in and out of the room the door leads to. Around the area, a few healers wander together with a few assistants. All of it gives him hope to find master Neston there and walks closer to the door.

Just as he is about to reach the door, master Neston steps out of the room talking with another healer. He stops and watches master Neston continue with his conversation. He can only understand half of it as most of it goes above his head. He has insufficient knowledge about the language of the healers they are talking in. Master Neston suddenly looks around and locks eyes with him. Master Neston nods which he returns. He waits as master Neston finishes his conversation with the healer before turning towards him.

“My lord, can I do something for you?”

“Yes, you can. There is a matter I wish to discuss with you. If possible I would like to do so in your office.”

Master Neston looks at him questionably. He keeps his face impassive, refusing to give any gossipers fuel for their passion. Master Neston frowns but eventually nods and mentions with his hand for him to follow. A request, he is quick to comply with. While walking, he listens carefully if the guards are following him. It takes him but a few moments before he realizes they are indeed following him. He bites back a sigh. Lord Húrin’s concern is appreciated but unnecessary. He is more than safe here in the Houses.

So how to handle this? He knows the only thing he can do for now is ignoring it. It is of no use to trouble himself with a matter he can do nothing about. When he meets with lord Húrin again he can address it and learn his motivations. Looking forward, he follows master Neston as they weave their way through the crowds and the hallways towards his office. Due to the waving, it feels to him like an eternity before they finally reach master Neston’s office.

Opening the door, master Neston beckons him inside. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees master Neston’s attention turning towards the guards. He bites his lips to keep from smiling. So he was not the only one who noticed the guards following them. He imagines the guards will be feeling master Neston’s disapproval. It is a truly terrifying experience to be exposed to that look.

Faramir walks towards one of the chairs while the door clicks closed behind him. He turns his head around just as master Neston walks towards him. At this time, master Neston mentions with his hands for him to sit down. He nods and sits down, watching master Neston move behind his desk. Once he is there, he places his hands on it and remains standing while looking at him with questioning eyes.

“My lord, how are you doing?”

“I am doing fine, master Neston. I have been feeling better with every day that passes. I believe I will soon be able to leave.”

“I determine that not you, my lord. We will look at that at the end of the week and no day earlier.”

“Of course.”

Faramir lifts his hands in surrender and smiles nervously. He wants to leave preferably tomorrow if not today. He knows, however, it is up to master Neston to tell him when he can leave. He could go earlier without permission but fears what master Neston will do then. He smiles ruefully to himself; master Neston will most likely restrain him or force him to come to more check-ups than is normal. Whatever it will be, it will not be comfortable for him.

“Mhh, are you sure?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Mhh, is there anything else you want to talk about?”

“Ah yes, there is something. During my last meeting, I learned there is a northern lord here in the houses.”

“Indeed, there is. What is this about?”

“I was told he resided with his men in a wing and not in a room in the noble wing as he should.”

He looks master Neston in his eyes who looks at him calmly. He is getting the impression master Neston knows what this is about. Hopefully, he will now gain more information about lord Halbarad. Preferably about his health. An aspect he knows too little about and which he needs information about to determine if he will be able to talk with the steward of the northern chieftain. After a moment, master Neston smiles before speaking up.

“Yes, indeed he resides with his men at the request of Lord Aragorn. Lord Aragorn wished for his cousin to reside with friends.”

“Ah, so that is the reason. What can you tell me about him? Are you even aware he is a nobleman?”

“Yes, I am aware he is a noble. Again, what are you going at?”

“Did you know that lord Halbarad is not only a noble but also a steward?”

“I know. I was told so by the men with whom he shares a room. In fact, from what I managed to gather he is actually the Steward of Arnor, a position similar to your father’s.”

“Indeed. Then why is he not housed in the noble wing if you know he is the steward of Arnor? He should have been treated with the same respect my father would receive were he ever to end up in the Houses.”

“As I told you, it was at lord Aragorn’s request.”

“Who is this lord Aragorn you talk about that he has such an influence?”

He frowns. Is this man their king? Based on master Neston’s recent words, he very well could be. It would be one of the only reasons for master Neston to respect lord Aragorn’s wishes. He bites his lips as worrying thoughts reach his mind. How much does the king even know about Gondor? He imagines not much if he allowed his steward to be housed with his men and not in his rightful place. He looks at master Neston closely in his eyes but cannot see much. Master Neston looks at him calmly before speaking up.

“Lord Aragorn is the lord to whom Steward Halbarad owes his allegiance. I think you can fill in the blanks on your own, my lord.”

“I can indeed. So this lord Aragorn is our rightful king, am I right? Well, thank you for confirming. However, Lord Halbarad being a steward should have forced your hand. No matter the wishes of our rightful king. You know full well no steward or high lord is housed anywhere but the noble wing.”

“Indeed, maybe it should have. If you so desire, I will look into changing his residence at the earliest convenience.”

“I would appreciate it if you can do so. May I ask what you can tell me about his health?”

“Not a lot, my lord. You know I cannot discuss my patients with anyone but their family and themselves.”

“I know, I would ask you to share with me what you can.”

“Well, what I can tell you is that lord Halbarad’s condition is still quite severe. I assume you heard he was gravely injured. At this time, I am not certain he will survive despite our lord king having a great gift for healing and having attended to him mere moments after the injury was inflicted.”

“Oh, so time will tell if he will recover.”

“Well, not truly. His condition should improve soon or it will be unlikely he will recover.”

“Alright, thank you for informing me either way. But let us return to the matter I came to discuss; the moving of the steward to the noble wing.”

Master Neston nods and does not protest. As such, they begin discussing the arrangements to be made for lord Halbarad to be moved to an appropriate room. Most of the major decisions concerning his health, he leaves in master Neston’s capable hands. The only matter he concerns himself with is the room. During their discussion, it becomes clear Master Neston has a small non-descriptive room in his mind. It is a room he does not approve of. In the end, nearly an hour later, they manage to make the final decisions with a compromise on the room being one of them.


Stepping out of the office, Faramir bites back a sigh at the sight of the guards standing sentry there. He would have expected them to leave and not stick around. But apparently, he is wrong as they are still here. He shakes his head and simply walks past them. They will need to keep up with him if they insist on guarding him.

Glances back into the room, he sees master Neston looking over papers and making notes. He smiles knowing master Neston is now making the arrangements they both agreed on. A yawn threatens to leave him. He struggles to keep it down before he manages to hide it behind a sigh. It is long past the time for him to get back to his room and rest. Closing the door, he turns around and walks away.

Footsteps echo through the hallway from behind. He walks on listening as the footsteps continue to follow him. He nods in greeting to the people who call out to him as he walks past them. After some time, he glances slightly to the side allowing him to see the guards following him out of the corner of his eyes. Further than this, he does not pay any attention to them as his mind moves back to what he just learned.

Just as when he first learned about the steward’s housing, he still feels shocked now. Master Neston’s explanation did nothing to lessen it. His shock has only increased. He shakes his head in disbelief. The entire notion of housing a steward somewhere other than the noble wing is absurd. Not to mention entirely inappropriate. Due to this, he is pleased with the compromise he managed to make with master Neston; the steward, lord Halbarad, will be moved to the noble wing where he is supposed to reside during his recovery. He is aware it will take time but he is more than happy to wait.

Turning a corner, he sees a dark-haired man stumbling a short distance away from him. The man steadies himself against the wall. His clothing is not of Gondorian or Rohirrim origin. That much he can see. It appears similar to what he would wear when he was with the Ithilien rangers if only a few shades darker. Could this man be one of the Northern Dúnedain? He might be. It would explain why he doesn’t recognize the origin of his clothing. Quickening his steps, he walks closer to the man and touches his arm once he is close to him.

“May I be of any assistance?”

The man whirls around a startled look hidden on his face. Only due to his experience as a ranger is he able to recognize it. The face is pale and grim but shines with sweat. The man’s breathing is slightly labored. Despite this, he receives a harshly cold glare. Faramir smiles gently trying to put him at ease.

“Who are you?"

“I am Faramir, Captain-General of Gondor and Acting Steward while my father is with the host. May I ask for your name?”

“My name is Aphadon, Captain Faramir. What do you want?”

“I saw you stumbling and wondered if I may offer you my assistance.”

“That is not necessary. I just overextended myself. Thank you for your offer.”

Aphadon’s voice is as cold as ice. His eyes glow with hidden fire. He smiles nervously. He has no idea what has happened for Aphadon to react like this. If this is any indication of the men of the north then they do not have pleasant personalities. He looks away well aware he has no right to judge them until he knows what their lives have been. It could be the result of a harsh life.

Looking around, he notices people are watching them. Most are frowning or glaring at Aphadon while only a few smile amused. Waving with his hand, most people quickly leave. Turning away from them, he sees Aphadon has turned away from him. He is now glaring at those bystanders. Deciding to redirect his focus, he speaks up.

“Were you trying to get somewhere?”

Aphadon focuses once more on him and narrows his eyes. Seconds later, he sighs before answering his question.

“Yes, back to our room. I walked around the garden for a bit but need to rest now. Besides, it has allowed me to escape master Neston’s scrutiny while he checked on Halbarad.”

“I can understand the feeling. Have you enjoyed your stay here in the Houses?”

“Enjoy? What’s there to enjoy about staying here? All I can say is that I do not have any complaints. Well except for master Neston that is.”

“I am glad to hear it. Do not fault master Neston too much. He is simply dedicated to his duty.”

“I won’t. Our chieftain can be similar or maybe worse than master Neston. I learned to handle it. But if you would excuse me, my lord, I wish to return to my room to rest.”

“Of course. Is there anything I can do for you?”

“No. I can manage on my own.”

Aphadon takes a few deep breaths after this before straightening. He keeps a hand on the wall leaning slightly against it. Faramir keeps an eye on him. He is not convinced by Apahadon’s words. However, he cannot interfere too much as he is certain he does not have the necessary authority over Apahdon. Not to mention, he suspects it will not be well received if he forced his aid on him had he the necessary authority over Apahdon. Aphadon looks at him and smiles slightly.

“Are you sure?”

“I am sure, Captain Faramir. I will manage by myself.”

“Of course. Forgive me for prying. I bid you a good day.”

“Have a good day too, captain.”

Faramir nods before walking on, well aware Aphadon did not react to his apology. It remains to be seen if Aphadon accepted it. As well as if it will result in problems for him in his interactions with the steward. Stopping, he looks out of a window to the field. Small hills can be seen as well as tiny people scurrying around. He cannot see what they are doing but gets the impression they are very busy. It does not come as a surprise to him as he is well aware of how much work cleaning such a large battlefield can be.

Turning away from the window, he walks on. It does not take him long to notice the absence of footsteps following him. It makes him realize how used he has gotten to it in such a short time. Turning around, he is met with a hallway devoid of guards. Frowning, he wonders what has happened for them to leave when before they seemed insistent on following him around. He shakes his head. He will learn what is going on at a later time. At this time, he should just get back to his room.

As he walks his mind moves back to lord Halbarad’s state of health. And by just thinking about it, his earlier concern returns. A concern which he only now truly becomes aware of. Till now, it has lurked in the back of his mind. But now he knows about the steward’s state of health, he is aware of the possible consequences. Master Neston did not say it outright but the implications were there. The survival of steward Halbarad is not certain.

It is worrying on more than one point; it worries him personally as he does not know what it will mean for the people of the North. And by extension, it gives rise to uncertainty for Gondor once the king ascends the throne. It is also worrying for the people of the north as it might mean an uncertain future for them. He does not know how inheritance goes there. Nor does he know about their traditions, laws, and management.

All in all, he is unable to tell who they will have to deal with in the future as Steward of Arnor. And they will have to because he is certain the king has returned and will eventually ascend the throne. Even if no one has outright said so. All the signs are there. So, he has another matter to figure out; how the position of steward is determined in Arnor.

He frowns. Did someone not say anything about Lord Halbarad having a son? If he has then this son could be the heir. However, the problem is the son is with the host so it is uncertain l if he will return alive. As such, he wonders if Lord Halbarad has any other children. They might be in line after their brother if they are younger and the son he knows about is the eldest. If the position is inherited, that is. Well, maybe Aphadon can tell him if they meet again. Or even better yet, he can seek out lord Halbarad himself once his health allows for a meeting.


Ithilien, Aragorn POV

As he rides, Aragorn looks ahead where the Morannen rises steadily. He takes a few deep breaths aware of what they will soon be facing. Sooner than every man with him would like. Turning his head slightly back, his eyes meet those of Halon who smiles at him while proudly holding his standard. He smiles back at him before glancing towards the host.

Among the host, a few men are turning their heads around and lagging behind the others. They are the same men who were during their last rest glancing fearfully around. One or two had to be hauled back after running away in fear. With them is a captain who seems to be talking with them. What he is saying, Aragorn cannot tell because the distance between them is too great. Still, he gets the impression the captain is berating the men.

He glances away from them and sighs well aware of what it is he is seeing. He has seen it before. These men are becoming faint of heart and clearly cannot continue. The captain recognizes their struggle and is doing all he can to have them continue. And yet, he is not sure what to do with them. He has a few options available but is uncertain if they are the right ones. Closing his eyes, he looks up at the sky while considering them.

He can send these men home. It is an option he quickly abandons. If he does this then he will be forced to send men with them. It would weaken the host more than for these men to leave on their account. Especially if more men begin to suffer the same thing. He knows he cannot weaken the host in any way. So what else can he do; he can give them another task. Thinking about it, he smiles pleased with the idea. It is a good option and the best he has at this time. The men will have something to do. And at the same time, people will not talk about their faintness of heart. It will allow them to hold their heads high.

Looking back, he catches the eye of the captain who looks at him almost pleadingly. Well, for as much as he can see a pleasing look at the distance which is between them. He nods to the captain which is returned almost immediately. It is then he turns his attention back to the other men. He smiles pleased with the knowledge the captain will seek him out soon. It is then his eyes widen as he makes a realization; his actions may be seen as undermining Thor’s authority. He is still unsure how much authority he has at this time despite Thor acknowledging him as the rightful king.

So what can he do with this? He could leave it as it is and could hope the captain will not cause a fuss. He could also involve Thor in this. Thinking about it, he realizes it is the only reasonable option he has. Smiling ruefully, he decides he will seek Thor out as soon as they make camp next time. Together they will be able to determine what other duties these men will be given.

Chapter Text

Handing the reins of his horse to a nearby soldier, he looks around the clearing. Men are hurrying around setting up the camp in this clearing and those close by. He smiles amused, well aware they’ll have to tear it down soon enough. Setting up the camp is a waste of time and energy. They’ll be here for as long as it takes to rest and for him to make a plan with Thor. It reminds him to look for him which he does almost immediately.

Focusing on glittering armor, he tries to locate citadel guards, confident Thor will not be far away from them. So far, he can easily see Rohirrim mixing with Swan Knights as well as his own company of Citadel guards. Sometimes, he can even see a few Ithilien Rangers moving around but no Citadel guards who are not assigned to him. He frowns. Where have they disappeared to? It makes no sense for them to be able to disappear here.

“My lord, can I aid you in any way?”

“Maybe …?”

He turns around looking at an older man wearing a captain helmet. The captain frowns at him while he trails off wondering if accepting this offer will be for the best or not. At the same time, he frowns to himself. The captain appears familiar to him but he cannot tell from where. Glancing at the captain’s armor, he notices he is one of the Citadel guards. This means this captain belongs to the company assigned to him. It explains why he is so familiar.

But as for the offer, on one hand, he can ask the captain to aid him in searching Thor out. On the other hand, he can also deny needing any aid. Each has its benefits and disadvantages. By using the first option, he will find Thor more quickly but only if the captain knows where to look. If not, then it will take him more time.

At the same time, he is aware he will have to look for Thor for quite some time if he refuses the offer now. Potentially, he will be looking for Thor for the duration of their break. It is something he cannot use for it will mean he cannot discuss the matter with Thor as he wishes to. He does not want this to happen. So he does not have much of a choice but to accept it.

At the same time, he knows a refusal will only cause the captain to become more worried than he is now. The frown on the captain’s face has deepened. The captain has also mentioned for the guards to move around them in a circle. An order which was quickly obeyed because he can see guards moving around near him keeping an eye on the area. The captain whispers with one when he looks at him. Aragorn shakes his head causing the whispering to abruptly stop.

He smiles, aware the choice has become even clearer than it was before. If this is how the captain reacts when he is worried then he does not want to find out what he will do should he refuse the offer. He shudders slightly at the thought of Halbarad being in the position of the captain; he would be bothered by him for as long as it takes for him to speak his mind. Halbarad is not one to give up easily when he worries for him.

“There might be something you could aid me with, captain …?”

“My name is Tirron, si… forgive me, I meant my lord. What might I be able to aid with?

He smiles amused at the captain. It is obvious Tirron was about to call him sire but he was able to stop himself from doing so. He would not have minded. However, it has him realizing more people than he expected know the significance of Thor’s actions. There might be more incidents like this. He tilts his head wondering what the people think about it and how they will treat him. Depending on how many people accept his claim, it might make it easier for him. Or it might make it even more difficult. Tirron copies his behavior and also tilts his head. Shaking his head slightly, he looks Tirron in his eyes.

“Could you tell me where to find steward Denethor?”

Tirron tilts his head and frowns. Aragorn wonders what this is about. He hopes no one has gotten the idea Thor has lost his position. As far as he is concerned, Thor is still the ruler of Gondor. He has not yet made his claim and only after that would it change. Not that Thor would not be the steward in the future. No, he wants his friend at his side. Despite his thoughts, he keeps an eye on Tirron. He wants to see if he can find out what is through Tirron’s mind hoping to stem his concerns. It does not take Tirron long to respond.

“I do not know for certain, my lord. I know of a few places he could be at. If you want, I could go look for our steward and tell him you wish to speak to him. Is there a specific message you wish me to confer?”

“It would be much appreciated if you could look for him. There is no specific message to confer, Tirron, except that I wish to discuss an important matter with him.”

“As you wish, my lord. By your leave?”

He nods and watches Tirron walk away. Looking around, he searches for something to do as he has to wait for Tirron to return with news. Hopefully, he will bring Thor with him. As he looks, he sees how some men are struggling with horses. Smiling, he shakes his head while deciding to help them out.

He walks to them and quietly takes the reins of one horse. He gently pulls the horse with him receiving no resistance. Turning his head, he still sees the men struggling with the horses. One horse bucks, forcing two men to jump away hurriedly. They narrowly escape being struck by hooves. Moving his horse to a three, he ties the reins to a low-hanging branch before walking back to the men all the while wondering why they are struggling so much. Cavalrymen should not have such problems. They have ample experience dealing with difficult horses. So, are they even cavalrymen?

Looking them over, he quickly determines what he missed earlier; they are not part of the cavalry. Their boots are worn and dust covers their clothing. Some even have tears in the seams of their clothing. All signs of them being infantrymen. It would certainly explain why they are having trouble with the horses. Laughter reaches his ears and he turns around. They are the cavalrymen sitting against trees laughing their heads off.

Glaring at them, he moves to the struggling infantrymen. At his glare, the cavalrymen start coughing and jump up but he ignores them. They are not important right now because the other men need his aid. One of the infantrymen looks up at his approach while holding a tight grip on the reins of a horse. The horse pulls on the reins pulling the man to the ground. The horse skitters away and pulls the man along with him over the ground.

Aragorn runs forward while wincing. He can imagine the pain e man feels from this. Hopefully, it will not prevent him from joining the upcoming battle. Grabbing the reins, he pulls on them, stopping the horse in its tracks. The man, however, stays on the ground. He pulls the horse to a tree where one of the cavalrymen waits for him while shuffling his feet and looking apologetic.

“Shall I, my lord?”

“Yes, thank you.”

The man takes the reins and nervously ties the horse to the nearby tree. Aragorn does not pay him any more attention because he turns around. He walks to the fallen man. This man has sat up in the meantime and is rubbing the back of his head. Beside him are a few others who are attending to him.

At his approach, the men lookup. Their eyes widen and they scramble to stand up. He smiles and mentions for the wounded man to remain seated. Multiple frowns are thrown his way in response. Kneeling next to the wounded man, he pulls the man’s hand away from the back of his head. Using his hand, he feels along the back of the head. Blood touches his hand as he feels over a small bump. Turning the man’s head a bit to the side, he pushes some of his hair away. It allows him to see the actual wound which is small and barely bleeding.

“You are lucky. It’s not a severe wound and requires no dressing unless you insist on it. I do advise you though to keep it clean.”

“Yes, my lord. Why … forget about it, it is not important.”

“If something is bothering you then it is important. What were you about to ask?”

“Well? Uhm, I was wondering why you would treat my injury when there are enough healers around. You must have a lot to do, my lord.”

“I do not mind at all. I will aid anyone I can no matter my station.”

In the distance, voices can be heard. So far, they are still little more than whispers. However, they are becoming louder with each passing second. Glancing back, he sees Tirron walking with Thor. Moments later, he turns back to the young man whose name he still has not yet learned. Something he intends to rectify.

“If you say so, my lord. Perhaps you should go, I will be fine. I believe lord Denethor is looking for you and I would hate to cause him any inconveniences.”

“Oh, I know but only for so long as you will follow my instructions. May I know your name?”

“I will, my lord. My name is Balmarath.”

He smiles at Balmarath who nods once before looking everywhere he can. The voices have, in the meantime, become so loud it is almost as if they are standing right behind them. It is a thought he dismisses almost immediately because Thor would not have been silent if he were standing right behind him. No, he would have drawn his attention at once was he so close.

After some minutes of waiting, he turns around. Tirron is standing at a distance while Thor is looking around the area. A frown and scowl are on his face. Following him with his eyes, he sees how the cavalrymen are busying themselves while looking fearfully around but never anywhere near in their direction. He has to suppress a smile because it is obvious Thor is more than capable of berating people without any words.

In the distance, though, he can hear the men talking. Those who are closeby are whispering. From their words, he learns they are exchanging ideas about why Thor would have been brought here. Some of the ideas are stranger than others. He smiles amused, unable to suppress it this time. He is happy to give the men something light-hearted to do. Deeming it long enough to have had Thor waiting, he turns around fully. Thor speaks up before he is even able to open his mouth.

“What happened here?”

“I’m not sure. One of the infantrymen fell when a horse bucked. He is not severely injured, though, merely bruised.”

“And why did the cavalry not care for their own horses?”

“That I do not know. At the time, they were enjoying watching the infantrymen struggle with the horses. One of them did come to their aid but only after I had already calmed the horse down.”

“Mhh.”

Thor looks in the direction where the cavalrymen were last. His eyes narrow. Aragorn shrugs and decides to wait for Thor to have worked through it. He is well aware they will not get anything done until then. Following Thor’s direction, he focuses once more on the cavalrymen.

Right now, they are dutifully caring for the horses. Most have their backs turned towards them. Those who have not, are looking into their direction from time to time by glancing with their eyes. Once or twice one of the men ducks their heads after glancing at them. He glances at Thor wondering if he has noticed it and intends to do something about it. But so far, Thor keeps his attention on them until he finally speaks up.

“I do not think, Gil, that the foolishness of these cavalrymen is why you wished to talk to me.”

“No, it is not. I would prefer, though, to discuss the matter in private.”

“Mhh, if you say so. Please follow me, my tent should offer us the best place to do so.”

He nods and follows Thor who guides him through the camp. He keeps his face impassive even though on the inside he wonders when Thor Hassan the time to set up his tent. And more importantly why? They do not stay here long enough to justify doing so. However, another matter requires more of his attention; Thor addressing him as Gil. On one hand, it shows a friend is talking to him. On the other hand, he is still confused about how easily Thor put their fight behind them. He has never known Thor to easily forget any fight he has had.

Despite his musing, he keeps an eye on the men they pass. Some of his kin only look up. Halon, on the other hand, actually stands up once he sees them and takes a few steps towards them. A concerned expression is on his face. He mentions for Halon to stay where he is. It causes Halon to tilt his head. He narrows his eyes in response. Only then does Halon walk back to their kin but not before crossing his arms.

He smiles and shakes his head. He does not need Halon with him right now. He needs to keep his attention on Thor and their coming conversation. Nothing more and nothing less. Before long, a small tent comes into their view and grows larger with each step. It becomes clear to him this appears to be their destination.

A short while later, they reach the tent and Thor holds the flap open. He looks to the side, seeing four guards standing at attention just outside the entrance. From where he is standing right now, they stand almost next to him. He does not remain standing there but steps inside the tent while frowning. He has not noticed the guards following them. He knew they were around him and Thor in the clearing but did not notice them since. So where do they come from now? Have they followed them without him noticing? They must have. There is no other suitable explanation. Moments after entering the tent, Thor speaks up, pulling him from his musing.

“Gil, what is on your mind?”

“Nothing of importance, I just had not noticed the guards following us.”

“Really, you did not? I do not know you to be unaware of anything that happens around you.”

“I admit I was more focused on other things and trusted my kin and friends to have my back.”

“Well, you are right to trust them. And in case you were wondering, two guards have been following you around the camp at all times. While traveling the entire company attached to you keeps an eye on your safety.”

“I know. I noticed the company did not stray far from me but have not noticed the two following me.”

He smiles, none the least surprised by this news. If he is honest with himself then it is something he should have expected. Especially when he saw Tirron order the company around when he did not answer quickly enough. Nevertheless, he is still none too pleased with the image this provides for the men. One thing, though, is for certain, Thor is consistent in considering him a friend if the nickname is anything to go with.

However, how certain can he be to address Thor by his nickname? He bites his lips at this though, not liking his perceived chances. Clenching his hands tightly, he looks up. Thor is looking at him with a frown and a tilted head. He smiles sheepishly and banishes those thoughts from his mind.

“Is there anything, Gil?”

“Not at all, Thor. Just some useless musings.”

“If you say so. Let us then return to our topic of discussion. What do you wish to discuss with me?”

He looks at Thor with a smile. Thor’s eyes narrow; he is not convinced there is only one thing he wishes to discuss with him but Thor refrains from questioning him any further. He is grateful for it as he is unwilling to discuss his true concerns with Thor just yet. He wants to discuss it with others first. And besides, it is good they will be discussing the actual reason for meeting with each other. Hopefully, this will satisfy Thor for now.

“Have you noticed that some of the men are becoming faint of heart?”

“I have heard about it but never seen any clear signs. I did notice however some have become wary though. Did you see clear signs?”

“Yes, while we traveled to this location, I noticed how a captain spent quite some time with some men. I do not know if they would have come along thus far if not for the captain’s efforts.”

“And you want to discuss this with me, why?”

“I would like to discuss with you how to handle them and who will be dealing with them. If you are willing to indulge me.”

“Mmh, I do not think there is much that can be done wrong in handling them. They must do their duty. As such, they have to continue something their captains will have to remind them of. I will not accept anything less from them. Or do you have another idea?”

“I do have another idea how to handle them but would like to know if you agree with me.”

“Well, what is your idea then?”

“I believe it would be wise to give these men another assignment which does not take them near Minas Tirith.”

“I am not sure if that would be a wise course of action. There is no need to assign another task to them even if there were other tasks to be done. And I said before, they simply need to push on like everyone is doing. Besides, what will it give for a signal to the host if we simply let them leave because they are getting afraid?”

“And what will it do if we push them forward only for them to desert when their faintness of heart becomes too much? You must know how dangerous it is for the host if they become a hindrance. Something they nearly are.”

“Mhh, no matter how much I might dislike admitting it, you have a point there. They are becoming a hindrance. But how will giving them an assignment not make them a hindrance?”

“Because they will have something to do while keeping their honor intact. And it can be easily explained to the remainder of the host without raising any suspicions.”

“That is true. Alright then, let us say we follow your suggestion; where will we send them to?”

“That I do not know for certain. You know best where their presence could be of the most use.”

He looks at Thor while hope rises in his chest. Thor seems to be willing to at least consider his proposal. He looks around the tent seeing little interesting things. Glancing at a silent Thor, he sees him frowning and scratches his chin. When he receives no response, he looks around the tent once more. The canvas is bare with nothing in front of it. Only a desk, chair, and a chest on which he is sitting are in the room. The desk is covered with papers and writing utensils.

Now, Aragorn frowns himself. Thor has set up a quick place for him to work in this tent. It would give a bit of an explanation for his actions. However, it only explains the desk and his chair. It does not explain why the chest was brought in. Except if the chest contains the documents Thor has been working with. Just as he thinks this, Thor speaks up pulling him from his thoughts.

“Well, there are a few places I can think of. The rangers could use reinforcements but then they are not equipped or trained to be among the rangers. Also, there is Cair Andros; it would be nice for it to be in our hands once more. Then we have a multitude of insignificant places to consider.”

“Before we discuss those insignificant places, I would like to point something out. Cair Andros is not too far from here. It is a place where you could easily send them to.”

“You mean ‘we’ but I see your point. It would be a good place to send them to.  But are you certain there is nothing else we can do with them? Like keeping them to the back of the host?”

“I am sure that is not an option for the same reasons as I gave earlier. There is nothing else we can do with them. I believe it is the best course of action we have.”

“Then Gil, we will give them orders to liberate Cair Andros.”

“We? You are the steward, Thor.”

“Yes, I am the steward - the king’s servant - and you, Gil, are the rightful king of Gondor. As such, we will be giving the orders. Everyone knows the king has returned. It would be strange for you not to be involved in drafting orders. Or why do you think I had us march under your standard?”

He smiles uneasily. He has not thought about it in this way. He just thought it was a hopeful gesture for the host and nothing more. Everyone knows how hopeless this charge is. So anything which would give hope would be needed. Nevertheless, this charge has to be done to stop Sauron once and for all.

But his words in acknowledging his claim - even when he has not officially made it - gives him such a calm and happy feeling. It is as if a burden he has not noticed has been lifted. Now, it only remains to be seen how the remainder of the lords will handle his claim once he finally makes it official.

“Gil, are you alright?”

He looks up, only now realizing he has been looking to the floor. Thor looks at him with a frown; his worry visible in the barely hidden shaking of his eyes. And in his tilted head. He smiles which only deepens Thor’s frown instead of lessening it. Suppressing a sigh, he speaks up.

“I am alright. I was just slightly lost in my thoughts.”

“Slightly. I think it was more than just slightly. Would you care to share your thoughts with me?”

“It is nothing for you to worry about, Thor. I was just thinking about my friends who we will be aiding with this action.”

Thor looks at him with a tilted head which he turns repeatedly without ever losing contact with his eyes. Aragorn waits patiently for Thor to finish searching his face for whatever he seeks. While he waits, he listens to the sounds coming from outside the tent. Men are talking and moving around. He cannot understand what they are talking about due to other sounds being too loud. But what he can hear is the tension in some of their voices.

Suddenly, he hears a voice he would recognize anywhere; Halon. Halon is outside the tent arguing with the guards. What it is about, he cannot tell. All he can overhear is an urgency to leave and requests for him to be summoned. Something the guards are completely unwilling to do. Or at least this is the impression he gets.

“Gil? Shall I inform the men about their new orders?”

“That would be wise, I think. And as I believe we need to leave soon, I suspect you will be doing it once we have once more camped for the day.”

“Yes, I have also heard the discussion outside. Apparently, we are ready to continue with our journey even if I do not know where this urgency comes from. And as to your suspicion, it is right. Doing it then ensures I only have to give the order once for I can gather the entire group beforehand.”

“That is certainly true.”

Thor stands up and walks out of the tent. Aragorn quickly follows the example; he stands up and follows Thor out of the tent. Once there, Halon nearly immediately tries to descend upon him, Halon would have succeeded if not for the two guards who block his path and push him back. Halon glares at them and crosses his arms in front of his chest. The guards move to stand before him blocking Halon’s view of him. Aragorn smiles amused at the guards’ and Halon’s antics.

“It’s alright. You can let him pass, he is my kin.”

The guards look at each other but let Halon pass them. Something he suspects they only reluctantly do. Behind him, he can hear how Thor’s tent is already being pulled down. Fabric is being wrapped and poles tight together. Poles thud against each other from time to time; he suspects this happens while they tie them together with ropes. Tilting his head, he looks at Halon with a raised eyebrow hoping to spur him into speaking.

“What is wrong, Halon?”

“What is wrong? Nothing severe but you said we would only rest for a short while but now we have waited here for over two hours already. When will we leave?”

“Soon. Was this what your urgency was about? As for the delay, Steward Denethor and I had something to discuss.”

He turns his head glancing at Thor who is speaking with a few captains. Nodding once, he walks away back towards his people. Halon follows him on his heels just like the guards based on the three sets of footsteps following him. Moments later, Halon walks beside him.

“What were you talking about, my lord.”

He turns his head looking at Halon with a frown. He does not understand why Halon would call him Lord and not just by his name. He has done it once before only to correct himself later. What is going on for Halon to be so formal to him? He has no idea. He just hopes it has gotten nothing to do with their current location. Or the fact he proclaimed his heritage for the world to see.

Halon looks at him with a raised eyebrow and shrugs before momentarily glancing behind him. Following his gaze, he sees the guards following them. Just as he suspected. The guards have their hands on their swords and their eyes trained on Halon. He lifts an eyebrow at them which seems to have no effect. He shakes his head not understanding where their suspicion of Halon comes from. They must have seen him as his standard-bearer earlier. It all makes no sense except if the guards and Halon clashed sometimes. Turning back to Halon, he smiles.

“We were talking about a matter concerning some of the men. It was just between us. But that is not why you sought me out, am I right?”

“No, you are wrong. It is as I said earlier.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

He raises an eyebrow, not believing Halon at all. There is another reason Halon sought him out; not their lengthy pause. Halon does not meet his eyes anymore. No, he looks everywhere else he can. Aragorn narrows his eyes, convinced his feeling has been proven right by now. Nevertheless, he does not push Halon for an answer.

Soon, they reach their side of the camp. He looks around only slightly surprised to see no one sitting but all standing next to their horses. At their approach, all the eyes turn to them. Dan and Ro look at them in relief. Just as Legolas and Gimli do. Only their relief looks different somehow. He frowns, unable to place it nor understand their concern. So, he turns towards Halon. Halon bites his lips while looking away once more. It takes a while before Halon finally speaks up.

“They were worried when you stayed away for so long. Especially so when we learned you had met with lord Denethor. We have heard many stories about the lord’s opinion about you.”

“Mhh, so far it has proven to be nothing but false rumors. Or have you forgotten he had his standard lowered before mine?”

“That is true, Estel. I know the meaning and as such it makes no sense what we heard his opinion of you is. All I ask is that you are careful.”

“Of course, Dan. When am I not being careful?”

“Oh, I am not sure. Maybe, … most of the time. You endanger yourself many more times than any of us would like to.”

He shakes his head but does not respond to Dan’s teasing. He knows the truthfulness of Dan’s words. Besides, he is unwilling to linger any longer as it will delay them for too long. So, he walks to his horse and mounts him. Without looking back, he moves his horse to the front of the host which has, in the meantime, assembled. They immediately set out. Multiple hoofbeats follow behind him. Glancing to his side, he sees Halon riding beside him with his standard flowing proudly in the wind. Halon tilts his head when he catches his eyes. He nods once but neither says anything. Glancing back, he sees Thor riding next to two captains with prince Imrahil riding not too far behind him. Prince Imrahil seems to be glancing between him and Thor with a frown covering his face. They ride on in silence.

Aragorn turns his eyes back to the road. With an absence of conversations around him, his mind moves back to the conversation he had with Thor. Thor was being very careful and reassuring then which amuses him. It is something Thor rarely did and if he did then only after it was pulled out of him by the teeth. He smiles and thinks about it, and shakes his head. The Thor from his conversation is the one people will see if they are close to him; hard on the outside, soft on the inside but also very observant with nothing escaping him. This is the person he thought he had lost long ago.

Looking at the sky, he silently berates himself. Knowing Thor and having seen what he has, he should have expected this. Thor could not have changed so much that he cannot recognize him. At the same time, he frowns, thinking about his claim; Thor was very insistent he is the king. He has not given him any trouble about it but seems to have accepted it easily. It makes no sense because he would have expected some form of resistance. Anything. But he was never faced with anything.

So what will the future bring? He does not know but realizes quickly he cannot focus on it now. Only once their task has succeeded.


Riding next to the captains, Denethor waits for them to finish their assessment. Before seeking anyone out, he wants to know who they truly think cannot continue. He will make his decision about who to send away afterward. In the back of his head, he can feel Imrahil’s eyes burning deep into his skull. A feeling he ignores.

Once the captains finish speaking, he nods and dismisses them with a nod. Almost immediately after they have left, a horse pulls up beside him. Without looking, he is convinced it is Imrahil. Whatever he wants can wait so he ignores him for now. Looking ahead, he sees Gil shaking his head. He tilts his head. What is going on? He is not sure but, at the same time, he is also unwilling to address it at this time. Whatever it is will have to wait until he has dealt with the men. This draws his attention back to what he saw of them.

Riding next to Imrahil, he keeps an ear on his words while his eyes stay on the men behind him. Some of the men fidget on the saddle looking around. One pulls his horse to the side as if to leave. He frowns. What is this man planning to do? Does he truly intend to leave? Before he can even consider it, a captain rides up to the man and pulls on the reins. The man is pulled back into formation. The captain does not leave then. No, he remains next to the man. Words are exchanged but he cannot hear what they are. He hopes the man is being berated for his actions. In such a way, he will never do something like this.

Looking over the other men, they have to also be pulled back in line repeatedly. They fidget all the time. And from time to time, they meet up with one another and start whispering if the glances around them are any indication. He sighs knowing now Gil was right. These men cannot continue even though he wants to scream at them and push them to continue.

“My lord, did you hear what I just said?”

“No, I did not. Something else occupied my attention. But do repeat what you said your highness.”

“I asked if you would stay with your decision to accept the return of the king.”

A twinkle glows in prince Imrahil’s eyes. He narrows his eyes well aware of what this means. Imrahil has a plan or is making one at this present time. Whatever it is, Imrahil will not give up. Imrahil can be quite subtle when he wants to be but at the same time, he is also quite aware of how far he can push. And, Imrahil also always seeks out ways to gain from situations like this. They get along just fine in this regard as they can both do the same thing at times.

So how will he answer this question? He can refrain from answering but dismisses this option quickly. He knows what he got to do; tell the truth. But whether or not he will be obvious about it remains to be seen. In the end, he decides to keep his words to a minimum.

“I would not have made it otherwise.”

Imrahil looks at him with a frown and tilted head. It lasts but a moment before he averts his eyes. Nevertheless, he saw the wheel turning in Imrahil’s head. As such, Denethor looks at him with a raised eyebrow. He wants to know what plan Imrahil is making this time. Hopefully not something which won’t end well for him or Gil. If he’s right then Gil is engaged. At least, he got signals about it once. It will make any marriage plans more than likely to be completely futile.

A call resounds among the men but he cannot make out the words. He looks up, following the direction the sound came from. A few men - among them a captain - are forcefully pushing some other men back into formation. He sighs. He has to give those men their new order sooner rather than later. This won’t work any longer.

He has to bite back a growl when he even thinks about their behavior of the last few days. Only after Gil pointedly out to him has he paid closer attention to them. And what he saw annoys him greatly. This latest act does not do the other men any good; not that their whispering would have any other effect. It can have a demoralizing effect for the entire host if they strengthen the feelings the other man has been able to contain.

Looking up, he privately admits - something he suspects others share with him - he can understand their feelings because he has also experienced it. This march is most likely to be doomed but also right if it ensures the survival of their land. Something not many others will know or truly understand because not everything has been shared with them. He snorts silently. Truthfully, almost nothing has been shared with the men; they only know their destination.

Thinking about the orders he will give them he feels his anger rise. They will be allowed to leave the host which he is not allowed to do. However, most lords and nearly all captains share his fate. He smiles grimly. They might not share his fate exactly for it is not true they can leave without consequences. They just have more freedom than him. Something, he is well aware they understand too. Words resound through his mind.

“Adar, please remember to not despair when the siege happens. As I told you, aid will come to Gondor. It might take some time for the aid to arrive but it will come. While you wait, keep the hope up for the people, warriors, and yourself.”

He closes his eyes feeling a calmness come over him. No matter how often he hears these words, they never fail to give him hope. He can continue because the future might be bleak right now but after the coming battle, the sun will start to shine again. Gondor will prosper. So as long as he keeps these words in mind, he can continue. These words have been a source of strength for him. So, now he will use them the same as before and continue with the present course of action.


Houses of healing, Minas Tirith, Faramir POV

Walking through the hallway, Faramir smiles brightly. He cannot wait to arrive in the garden to break his fast with Éowyn. His heart starts to beat more quickly and even skips a beat a few times. He enjoyed their first talk immensely and cannot wait to see her again. He looks forward to getting to know her even better. She gave him a new view on some matters but it is not what he is mostly interested in; finding out what moved her to request another room holds his mind in a tight grip. Something else he also wants to learn about are the Rohirrim. He has not had much interaction with them and deems it important to learn about them. But this desire is not something he can openly share with princess Éowyn. He will have to be subtle to avoid scaring her. And hopefully, it will show him how real his feelings are.

Walking into the garden a short while later, he looks around. Where has their breakfast been set up? But no matter where he looks, he cannot find the place. He frowns. He did instruct the servants to set a table for breakfast and now he cannot find it. It makes no sense for it is unlike the servants to forget it. So it can only mean one thing; he has to not have found the place where they set their breakfast up. Just as this thought crosses his mind, footsteps sound behind him. He turns, seeing a servant walk up to him.

“My lord Faramir, if you please follow me. I will show you where we prepared a table for Princess Éowyn and yourself.”

“Of course.”

He follows the young man as he guides him. During this time, he takes a closer look at the servant who is a young boy. A young boy who looks more like a runner than an actual servant. His face also seems familiar but he cannot place it nor put a name to it. The boy guides him through many paths and around many corners, some of which he did not even know existed.

Soon a clearing starts to form in front of him between the trees. The further they walk, the more he realizes they are coming upon a secluded seating area. An area, he suspects, is rarely used because he does not even know it existed. He stays silent as they walk ever closer to the clearing. Within a moment, blinding light hits his eyes. He clenches them shut and opens them a moment later.

The light clears from his eyes and the clearing slowly reveals itself in front of him. In front of him, a table has been set for two. However, no food has been placed on the table. Not yet, he suspects. Looking around, he sees a few servants scurrying around with plates of fruit. He smiles, pleased the food will be served soon.

With this in mind, he turns back to the boy. And just then he finally remembers why the face seemed familiar. It is the younger version of a face he has seen whenever Beregond was around. And if he remembers correctly Beregond has a son. But what is the son’s name again? Berion, Berenor, Bergil. His eyes widen slightly, remembering Bergil is the name of Beregond’s son.

“Bergil, thank you for guiding me to this place. This place is well chosen.”

“I am honored you think so, my lord. It was my idea with which the warden agreed.”

“Oh, and how did you manage to learn about this place. I do not think many people know about it.”

“No, my lord. Barely anyone knows about it. I found it during the siege when I needed to find some peace after being overwhelmed by the siege.”

“That is understandable, Bergil.”

A nod accompanies his words. He walks towards the table. The plates of fruit have already been placed on the table. Enough space has been left for the remainder of breakfast which is still to be placed on the table. Now, he notices the table has been set for two already. All which remains is for the remainder of the breakfast to finally be placed on the table.

The servants jump back when he moves around the table. They move around the area but he cannot tell where to. As such, he follows them with his eyes. It is difficult to see them due to them moving so quickly. It is as if they are fleeing from a fast-spreading fire. All he can see is one of them leaving while one remains behind. This servant whispers something into Bergil’s ear. Bergil does not react to it more than a simple nod once. Then the other servant also leaves the area with quick steps. His eyes focus on Bergil once more. He lifts an eyebrow wondering what Bergil was just told. Bergil shuffled for a moment before speaking up.

“My lord, your breakfast will be served in ten minutes. Halloth hopes you will enjoy the fruit which has been served in the meantime.”

“Thank you for informing me, Bergil, I am sure we will enjoy the fruit while we await our breakfast.”

“May I be excused, my lord?”

“You may, Bergil.”

Bergil bows and leaves. Faramir does not turn around but moves around the table. He listens as Bergil’s footsteps steadily become softer the further he walks. And once Bergil’s footsteps have completely disappeared from his hearing, he hears the wind blowing leaves around. Closing his eyes for a moment, he listens to what he can hear.

People are moving around while they talk with each other. Groans reach his ears from time to time. They are always accompanied by worried voices of which he cannot hear the words being spoken. Further away in the city, he can hear the hustle of men moving around and houses being repaired. He can hear the stones being placed on the ground and the mortar being scraped over the stone.

A branch cracks behind him and he turns around quickly. Who is there? A smile graces his face moments later; Princess Éowyn stands just inside the clearing with a hand on a tree. She has a hesitant look on her face while she looks around the clearing. When their eyes meet a small, hesitant smile grows on her face. Her face seems to become a bit red when they look at each other. an observation, he quickly dismisses. Instead, he focuses on her, and once more she is dressed in a white dress, her hair flowing freely behind her back while her arm is held in a sling.

“Good morning, my lord Faramir.”

“Good morning, your Highness. Did you rest well last night?”

“Yes, I did. I have to thank you for your aid yesterday; my new room suited me just right.”

“That is good to hear, your Highness. Would you like to have some of the fruit which has been laid out?”

Princess Éowyn looks around the area before tilting her head. A frown crosses her beautiful face. The confusion just flows from her face. He just does not understand where it comes from. Is it because he mentioned the fruit when they are here to break their fast? Heat grows over his face and he shuffles around trying to force it away. But no matter how much he tries it does not go away. Princess Éowyn speaking up pulls him from his thoughts and struggle.

“Mhh thank you for your offer, my lord. I will then be taking one of the apples.”

He smiles and feels his face heating up even more. He is not sure it can get any hotter without him looking like a blazing fire. Turning around, he hides his blazing face from princess Éowyn’s sight and walks towards the table intending to pick up an apple for her. Out of the corner, he can see a white sleeve becoming visible. Just as he touches the apple, a slim hand is in his way. Instead of picking up the apple, he touches the hand.

“I apologize, your highness.”

“No, I apologize, my lord. I should not have reached for the apple without asking.”

“You do not need to ask. Please, your highness, take what you want.”

Princess Éowyn smiles shyly at him and picks up an apple. He smiles in return and balls his hand to have something else to focus on. Anything to not start to shuffle around like a nervous child. His heart beats wildly in his chest. Picking up an apple, he takes a few deep breaths and tries to stop his heart from beating so fast. After some time, his heart slows down seconds before Princess Éowyn speaks up once more.

“This is a truly delicious apple, my lord.”

“That is good to hear. Shall we go for a short walk until our breakfast is ready?”

“If you would like to, my lord. I do not mind.”

“Only if you agree, your highness.”

“I do agree. May I ask how long we still have to wait for our breakfast to be served?”

He looks up at the sky to see how much time has passed. The sun has not moved much. It has barely moved an inch. Nevertheless, he can see smoke out of the corner of his eyes. Turning towards it, he sees how multiple plums of smoke grow in the sky. More than what would be normal if only the kitchens would be active. It tells him, the forges have also been opened again. He smiles well aware they need this for the city to be able to rebuild.

“I think we will have to wait for about five minutes. A short while ago, I was told our breakfast would be served in ten minutes.”

Princess Éowyn smiles at him and nods. Stepping closer to her, he feels a hand being placed in his elbow. His heart skips a beat. Looking to the side, his eyes meet those of princess Éowyn. She quickly looks away but not before he catches a glimpse of a blush on her face. Smiling, he takes a few steps forward. Princess Éowyn falls into step with him.

Walking away from the clearing, he takes a bite out of the apple. While walking, he eats it and listens to his surroundings. Crunching can be heard from his side proving princess Éowyn is doing the same as him; eating the apple. They continue to walk in silence until they both have finished their apple. At this time, he guides them to the nearest parapet.

Looking down at the Pelennor Fields, he feels a calmness come over him. Men are hurrying around looking more like ants than men. He sees fewer men than the last time he looked, which was not so long ago. One of two Elephants is being pulled to the side of the fields by horses based on the size difference between them, the horses, and people. Horses are pulling farming tools over the ground in certain places while at others men are dutifully working the ground. Turning his head around, he sees princess Éowyn studying the scene before them and smiles at the concentrated look on her face.

“Have you looked out of the city this morning?”

“No, I have not. My window did not offer this view. It is fascinating to look at.”

“Too bad, you have not done so. This is a most reassuring sight to see. People are rebuilding the fields which were destroyed only days ago.”

“I admit it is reassuring to look at but I still worry about my brother.”

“Something I understand. I have done so before. Hopefully, we will know more in a short while.”

“I hope so.”

Silence falls between them after this. He is unsure what to say now so he looks at the fields observing the men. From time to time, he glances at Princess Éowyn. She seems to be focused entirely on the east. Her eyes locked onto Mordor more than anything else. Footsteps sound behind him. He turns his head seeing Bergil moving towards them.

Noticing his attention, Bergil bites his lips all the while shuffling with his feet. Glancing at princess Éowyn, he sees she has also noticed Bergil’s approach. He smiles just as she does. Heat grows over his face and he shakes his head. A twinkle appears in her eyes only to be replaced with a longing look mere moments later. He frowns, not understanding where the longing came from. Shaking his head once more, he is determined to find out later for right now something else requires his attention.

“Yes, Bergil?”

“I came to inform you that your breakfast is ready, my lord.”

“Thank you for informing us, Bergil. Is that all you came to inform us about?”

“Yes, my lord. By your leave.”

He nods, seeing Bergil bowing before leaving at a steady pace. Turning his attention to princess Éowyn once more, he sees the longing in her eyes has not weakened. However, it has also not worsened. Small mercy in his opinion. And wanting to take the longing away - or at least understand it -, he speaks up.

“Shall we go, your highness?”

“Yes, of course.”

Her voice sounds like she is being buried under a mound of sadness. A deep longing can be heard concealed deep within the sadness. It only increases the mystery of the princess and his desire to take it away. The mystery is something he intends to uncover as much as he can. At the same time, he also wants to have a nice breakfast with her, well aware it is the only way for him to get to know her better. And he hopes this will solve the mystery which showed itself just now as well as understanding the words she spoke during their first meeting. Words which come to his mind as if they are being spoken right now.

“As you wish, my lady. Could you tell me what the real reason is for your request to change your room? I assume given your status you were given a private room, am I right?”

“Yes, I was indeed. Unfortunately, I find my view quite unsatisfying.”

“Oh, is that so. What view do you currently have? And what kind of view would you like to have in your new room?”

“Oh, my view mostly contains farmland and mountains. I have seen enough of those at home and would like a change in scenery. If it would be possible I would like my view to be directed towards Mordor. I find I worry a lot about my brother.”

“Understandable. I find myself worried about my father too. I can understand your wish to look towards Mordor in that regard. However, doing so will do nothing good for your mind. At the same time, I have to admit it will allow you to get an idea of what is going on. And if worst comes to worst, you will know about it quickly.”

“Indeed. My thoughts exactly.”

Faramir smiles. It is good to know they share the same feelings. His stomach has settled a bit during their conversation for which he is grateful. Just then an idea comes to his mind; maybe, he can ask her to join him for breakfast tomorrow. He has come to enjoy her company after this short time together. And it will allow both of them to confide in someone about their concerns. Well, for as far as either is comfortable.

“My lady, I assure you I will ensure you get a room with a suitable view. I do however have to tell you that it worries me you wish to look towards Mordor.”

“You do not need to worry about it, my lord. It is simply to keep an eye on my brother for as much as I can. But still thank you for granting me my request.”

Soon they reach the clearing once more and this time, the table is overflowing with food. A steaming kettle of which he cannot see the contents but which gives him the impression of containing soup. Multiple filled bowls stand on the table, most are filled with different kinds of fruit. Multiple plates filled with meat, cheese, bread, and whatnot. A canteen of milk and a bottle of wine stands on the table. As well as multiple small bowls, glasses, and plates.

Faramir struggles to stop his hand from scratching his head. He does not remember having asked for this overflowing of food. The kitchens have outdone themselves in a way they should not have. Their effort is something he appreciates though he will have to ensure this does not happen again. The people in the city need to have enough food to eat. They should not have to suffer for him to have such a breakfast. Nevertheless, he walks them to the table though not before taking a deep breath.

“Shall we sit down, your highness?

Princess Éowyn nods but does not speak. She walks towards the left side of the table from where he is standing. Walking with her for the last part, he holds out the chair for her. Once she sits down, he pushes the chair to the table. Only afterward does he sit down on the opposite side of her and he sees the blush on her face. He smiles at her and waves over the table.

“Does anything here have your fancy, your highness?”

“Mhh, the porridge certainly looks tempting especially with the abundance of fruit on the table. May I know what has drawn your interest?”

“Well, certainly not the porridge; it is something I never really liked if there was something else to choose. Right now, I think I will settle for some bread topped with fruit and some of the deliciously smelling soup. But your highness, do serve yourself.”

Princess Éowyn smiles shyly at him and reaches forward to an empty bowl. She quickly fills it with a large amount of porridge. While she does that, he fills a bowl with soup. Taking one of the loaves of bread into his hand, he cuts it open and smears butter on it. Reaching for the strawberries, his hand touches the princess’. Looking up, he smiles as his face heats up and pulls his hand back. Princess Éowyn frowns at him while a deep blush is on her face.

“Oh my lord, I am sorry. Do take as many of the strawberries as you would like.”

“You were first, your highness, so I will wait.”

“I insist. I will take more than I suspect you will so you should go first.”

“If you say so.”

He lifts an eyebrow while refraining from taking his share of strawberries. He watches from the corner of his eyes as Princess Éowyn reluctantly takes a large serving of strawberries while he places some salad on his bread. Once she puts the spoon down, he puts his share of strawberries on his bread. This he tops with a bit of salad.

Suddenly, he looks up when something bright flashes into his eyes. Princess Éowyn is spraying her porridge with some sort of syrup. He frowns. This is an unusual combination but then he shakes his head. It is not something he should focus on; he needs to focus on understanding the princess. Before asking the questions which have formed in his head, he waits for her to have eaten a bit. Just as he is doing right now.

“Has the room allowed you to keep an eye on your brother?”

“Well, obviously I could not see him but it eased some of my worries. And thankfully, I was able to grasp a view of Rohan in the distance.”

“Well, there is nothing as reassuring as looking at the land where one grew up. But your highness, are you worried about your homeland? Or about someone you left behind?”

“Of course, I am worried about my homeland considering the recent attacks there. There is no one important I left behind.”

He lifts an eyebrow looking at the table, not believing her at all. Her words are those of a person hiding something. She must have left someone important behind but what or who he has no idea. It could be a suitor for if he remembers correctly then she has no one left but her brother. Nevertheless, her answers offer him away in. Looking up, his eyes meet those of princess Éowyn. She notices him, smiles shyly, and ducks her head. A blush is on her face once more. Just as he feels the heat growing on his face.

“Then why did you leave, your highness?”

“Because I had no choice. I would be caged had I stayed behind.”

Princess Éowyn drops the spoon. It falls in the porridge with a loud plop. The porridge spatters over the edge of the bowl on the table. He looks up at her face. It is ashen and her arms are encircled tightly around her chest. Her body is wrecked by shaking. He tilts his head wondering what this is about. Hopefully not a reaction to the question he asked. He would not want to upset her at all. Shaking his head, he decides he has to pull her out of it.

“How would you have been caged? I do not understand what you mean, your highness.”

“Are you not caged right now?”

His eyes are kept trained on her as he wants to observe her response. Princess Éowyn lifts her head. The shaking stops and the arms fall towards her lap. She looks at him with a frown. Her confusion is visible on her face. It mirrors how he feels right now.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you are left behind and have been given a duty which does not allow you to leave.”

“You think that I am caged by my duty to look after Gondor until my father returns?”

“Yes, or are you telling me you are not burdened by your duty?”

“Maybe it worries me and I do not have the freedom I enjoyed while leading my men but I do not consider my current duty to be a burden.”

“Mhh, would you not want to be with your men more than be stuck with this duty?”

“No, because I know where they are and trust my father to look after them. Your highness, are you not happy with the life you currently have?”

He looks at her trying to see what is behind her eyes. They have become colder the longer they talk even though she has not fallen back to her previous behavior. He wants to learn where this all comes from. He suspects she is suffering because of something. Her answers have given him all the signs for it. But being unhappy with her current life would also be a good reason. He has heard of women who do not like the lives they have and do all they can to escape it. Is she such a woman?

“I have nothing to complain about.”

“But it does not feel like that, does it?”

“If I am being honest then I have to admit it truly does not feel like it. I cannot explain where these feelings come from.”

“Give it time and you will come to understand them.”

Princess Éowyn nods and stays silent. He looks at her but she is now entirely focused on eating her porridge. She does not respond to his words. He bites back a sigh because he wants to give her a life filled with happiness if they do fall in love with each other and marry. He shakes his head pushing these thoughts away. It is far too early to think about any of this. They are only just getting to know each other. It will take more time before he can even begin to consider it. And what he needs to do now is determine if his earlier feelings are true.

“My lord, are you alright?”

“Yes, I am fine. Why do you ask?”

“Oh, you have just been silent for some time now. I was wondering.”

“So how have you been? Is there anything you wish to talk about?”

“I would like to know more about you.”

“Really? What would you like to know about me?”

“Well for example, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?”

“Oh, I enjoy reading books a lot. Do you?”

“I do not know. We do not have a lot of written papers in the Mark so I have not had the luxury of reading books for my enjoyment. Paper is always reserved for important matters. May I ask what books you read?”

“Oh, I read mostly history books as well as some lore books. Would you like to borrow some while you remain in the Houses?”

“I would like to borrow some if it is not too much trouble. I am just not that interested in history or lore. Would you be able to find me books on healing?”

“Healing?”

“Yes, I admit I have become interested in it and would like to learn more about it.”

“I can certainly look for you. But would it not be easier for you to ask a healer or master Neston?”

“It might but I would like to know something before I approach them. My lord, will I see you tomorrow for breakfast? I admit I enjoyed this even if we did not have much of a conversation.”

“I would like that too, your highness.”

Princess Éowyn smiles while a blush flashes over her face. Faramir smiles shakingly. He feels heat growing over his face once more. His heart skips a beat at the sight of her blushing. Why do these things keep coming over him? Is it a sign his feelings are true? And is her behavior a sign she returns them? He is not sure but has hope. Maybe the following days will give him the certainty he desires.

Chapter Text

Morannen, Denethor POV

Looking ahead, Denethor sees a dusty plain taking an ever-larger shape in front of him. He knows what this plain is; the Dagorlad. The place he never wanted to visit but which they need to reach. It is the only way for their plan to succeed if they reach it. Next to him, the Ephil Dúath has been an endless companion ever since they started making their way north. But with the Dagorlad taking shape, the mountain disappears before them, leaving only an empty plan in front of them.

Glancing around, he looks for Gil. At this time, they must send out the scouts. It cannot wait any longer; they need to know what they will be facing in this area. And they need to finalize their battle plan. He has not brought it up yet and neither has Gil. But now, time is running out for them. These plans need to be made soon. If not right now. Seeing Gil in the distance next to Halon, he moves his horse forward.

People move out of his way while hoofbeats sound behind him signaling his guards are dutifully following him. A revelation, he quickly abandons in his pursuit of getting to Gil. The closer he gets, the more obvious it is Gil and Halon are talking about something. Soon, he nears Gil closely when Halon turns his head towards him. Halon’s eyes narrow while his lips thin. Denethor has to refrain from reacting similarly. He does not like Halon at all but also cannot use any hostilities between them at all. At least, right now.

Turning his head back, he seeks a momentary distraction. In the distance, he finds one in Imrahil and king Éomer talking with each other. It seems to be a pleasant conversation based on the smiles on their faces and their laughter. His nephews are also riding close by the two. Whether they are listening or contributing to the conversation, he cannot tell. But no matter, he has distracted himself long enough. He turns his attention back to Gil and notices Halon is no longer focused on him. Riding forward, he moves his horse right beside Gil who notices him immediately.

“Thor, is something wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong. There is just something we need to talk about.”

“Indeed, there is. I think you had the same idea as me; it is high time for us to send out the scouts. If we want to have even a small chance of surviving we need to know what we will be facing soon.”

“So I have indeed but that is not all we need to discuss.”

“If you are referring to the formatting of our men, then yes I already thought about it. However, I would prefer to discuss this with all the captains and lords present.”

“That would be ideal and I do not think we will be traveling for much further.”

“No, we will not. I would want to have the scouts’ report before we move any closer towards the Dagorlad than we currently are. If you agree then we will stop in about a mile.”

“I think that would be best. As we stop, will you instruct the scouts while I seek out the captains? Or …”

“That would be wise, I think. Most captains know you better than they do me.”

“Oh, they know captain Thorongil also well. He is still a legend here in Gondor. I just wonder how long it will take before the others make the connection.”

He laughs to himself and sees Gil frowning, a look of understanding growing on his face. Did Gil think Thorongil would not be remembered well? Some of the captains are old enough to have known him or seen him. They will have told the others the stories which are told about Thorongil’s accomplishments. He shakes his head and glances back.

Prince Imrahil still rides next to King Éomer. Imrahil is one of the people who have known Thorongil even if it was but a short time. He bites his lips to keep a laugh away. Prince Imrahil will be highly surprised to learn the heir of Elendil is the one he knew as Captain Thorongil. He would not have expected it. Imrahil would deem Gil to be kin of Thorongil but not Thorongil himself.

Soon they reach a place suitable to camp for the remainder of the day. Denethor watches as the camp is erected. Halon lingers around Gil for no apparent reason. Halon seems to be doing nothing useful. He shakes his head. He does not understand why Gil would allow it for a while before he finally sends Halon away with an assignment of - again - no importance. He has to bite his lips to keep from speaking up. Halon is highly annoying in his opinion; if he had to deal with him so often then he would have had a lot of problems with him. With Halon send away, Gil calls the scouts to him who arrive quickly. At this he leaves, confident Gil can handle the remainder on his own and also because he has better things to do.

Walking around the camp, he seeks out every captain he can find to inform them about the coming meeting and to instruct them to spread the word before he makes his way to the chosen space. There he waits for the captains to arrive after they have finished with their duties. It takes a while before nearly everyone has gathered. Only one person - except Halon who he does not miss - is absent; Gil.

“Do any of you know where Lord Aragorn is?”

“No my lord, I do not know. I have not seen him since we arrived here.”

“I saw him talking with the scouts some time ago but if he is still there I cannot tell.”

He glances at the elves present hoping they can help him where the captains fail to do so. The sons of Elrond only grin at him. He glares at them but stops after a moment when he notices the only response he is getting from them is an increased grin. Balling his fists, he turns towards one of the guards.

“Beregond, go fetch Lord Aragorn. We will wait with starting this meeting until he arrives. And make sure you press the urgency of him joining us.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Beregond bows and leaves. Snickering sounds around him. He looks up and the snickering stops immediately. He cannot tell who was laughing as everyone looks perfectly calm. It is then he turns back to laying out the maps all the while hearing the captains move nervously around. He studies the map but not without looking up from time to time to make sure everyone is behaving.

At one of those times, he sees Imrahil doing the same thing as him. From time to time, he also catches Imrahil’s eyes, the questions visible in them. Questions, he does not address because he is unwilling to even contemplate discussing them.

After some time, he can hear Gil talking with someone. Their conversation cannot be understood but their voices can be heard. He recognizes Gil’s voice easily enough but also the other. He closes his eyes. Of course, Halon would join them. Just when he thought he was rid of him. He takes a deep breath knowing also Halon is needed here as Gil’s standard-bearer.

Within moments, Gil and Halon join them. He looks up and sees the eyes of a few lords - who are within his line of sight - flickering in confusion. He can hear the scraping of boots moving and imagines a few men are bowing. The others are conflicted regarding the appropriate behavior towards Gil. He smiles at Gil who nods to him before moving to his side. He glares at Halon who quickly follows behind Gil and stands on his other side. Only then does he deign to speak to the men once more.

“Now that we all are here, I would prefer to discuss our strategy for when we are on the Morannen.”

“You mean once Mordor unleashed its full might on us? I have said so before and will do so again; this is a ridiculous thing to do.”

“Yes Lord Lathron, once Mordor unleashes its full might on us. And as Lord Aragorn explained, this charge is critical to ending the war.”

“Yes, and we will all die. I did not sign up for this.”

“Mind your tone, Lord Lathron.”

Lord Lathron fumes at him, his face reddening. It is an emotion he returns in kind. Who does Lord Lathron think he is? He has been causing nothing but problems in the past. And unfortunately, he was never able to properly deal with him due to the ongoing war. It was a risk he could not take then but it will not be long now. Once this fight is over, Lord Lathron will get what he deserves. Even if he will not be the one to render a judgment which he will regret.

“My lord Denethor, shall we discuss our strategy now that Lord Lathron has addressed his concerns.”

Gil’s voice pulls him from his thoughts and he turns towards him. It is then he sees the captains shaking their heads with big smiles on their faces. Some are even clapping lord Lathron on his back and whispering words to him. Whatever is being said, is not good because lord Lathorn’s face grows incredibly red. The only two who do not do either of these two things are Gil and Halon. Finally, Halon does something right. Denethor glares at the other captains. He knows what they are doing but does not deem the time right. Halon glares back at him misunderstanding the subjects of his ire. Turning fully toward Gil then, he smiles.

“You do not have to be so careful in your wording, Lord Aragorn. Lord Lathron is simply trying to be difficult as he has always been. But you are right, we should discuss our strategy now that everyone has gathered. And someone keeps his mouth shut for the remainder.“

All the men nod except for Lord Lathron who is silently fuming even more. The steam is coming right off his face with how bright red his face has gotten. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees Gil’s lips coming up in a smile only to disappear seconds later. A spark though is visible in his eyes. He frowns but does not turn his head to fully face Gil after having turned away from him.

Just then a discussion breaks out between the men. Multiple options are brought forward and quickly shot down by others. It happens constantly. Some want to put all the men together while others want to split them up to allow for greater mobility in tactics. His lips thin and his eyes narrow as he catches Gil glancing at him. Moments later, Gil finally contributes to the discussion, having stayed silent the entire time.

“If I may,  I would like to offer a suggestion.”

“Of course my lord, what is your suggestion?”

“I would arrange for the men to be placed in a circular formation around the two hills here.”

Gil points at the map to the two hills in front of the Morannen and makes out the circle he would have the men create. All heads turn towards the map. Glancing at the captains, he sees a few frowns coming across the faces of the younger captains while the older ones look contemplative at the suggestion. He finds the suggestion to be valid. It is the best of all the options he has heard being shared since the discussion started.

“You made a valid suggestion, my lord. A very valid one. From all the options we dismissed so far, this is by far the best one we have.”

“Prince Imrahil is right. There is little else we can do which has any chance of success.”

“Do we even have a chance of success?”

He looks up and instantly glares at Lord Lathron. Why, oh why could he not stay silent as he ordered. Is he deaf? No, just being his obnoxious self. His face becomes hot and he clenches his fists. He opens his mouth to resort when Prince Imrahil speaks up.

“Are we in agreement then with Lord Aragorn’s plan?”

The heat steadily becomes lesser. A cold wind hits his face cooling it down completely. Looking around, he is met with only nods. Prince Imrahil looks highly confident in whatever he is agreeing with. The northern captains smile at Gil with a calm look on their faces. It shows the confidence and trust they have in his tactics. It is then he notices a frown on the face of the Citadel guard captain, Tirron, who he assigned to Gil. It does not take long for Tirron to speak up.

“May I offer a suggestion?”

“Of course, captain. I am interested in hearing what you have to offer.”

He stays silent, interested in hearing Tirron's suggestion just like Gil is. He knows all the citadel captains; they never give useless advice. It is expected as the lives of those they protect depend on their solid judgment. And Tirron is one the best else he would not have assigned him to Gil.

“Well, it is more an addition to the current tactic we agreed on. Here in the front, the fighting will be the heaviest. I believe it would be best to place our best warriors in this place. They will then have the best chance of preventing a breakthrough.”

“A solid suggestion, captain. It would give us a better chance at a victory even if it does not increase our chances by much.”

“Why would you put our best men there? They can be of better use at the back of the line.”

He groans, unable to contain it. Of course, lord Lathron. Who else would cause a fuss over a solid suggestion? It would take his best warriors away from lord Lathron. Some of them are even his kin such as his younger brother who he prefers to deal with. Turning towards Lord Lathron, he glares at him.

“And why is that, Lord Lathron? In my opinion, we would be faced with heavy casualties if we do as you suggest.”

“Does it matter?”

Besides Lord Lathron, captains are frantically calling for him to stop. He narrows his eyes, hoping he is getting the message, and stops suddenly. His patience is already running thin. He will not like what will happen to him if he does not stop. Just as he thinks this, his glare intensifies.

“Are you saying the lives of the men under our command are unimportant?”

Lathron shuffles his feet and looks to the ground. The silence stretches in the group as Lathron refuses to respond. He narrows his eyes for a moment before smiling thinly. He feels certain Lord Lathron has learned his lesson this time and if not - he smiles gleefully - then he knows how to deal with him. Hopefully, Gil will not protest too much then. Gil? He turns towards Gil who looks at him with a frown. He smiles calmly unwilling to show his real emotions before speaking up.

“My lord Aragorn, I say we follow captain Tirron’s suggestion and adapt our tactics accordingly. Everyone in agreement?”

Everyone nods while Lathron balls his fists in response to the glare he gives him. Lord Lathron should not get it into his mind to protest any further. If the majority agrees - and they have -  then they will do what is agreed on. He sees Lord Lathron turning his eyes to him. A determined look is on his face. He holds his breath wondering what he will do now.

Suddenly, hoofbeats sound in the distance. The sound quickly becomes louder. He does not pay attention to it as his attention is more occupied with keeping Lord Lathron under control. And he suspects them to belong to the scouts. If it is the case then they are back quickly. Too quickly. They cannot have done a good job at scouting unless the situation there is truly dire there. Within moments, the beating stops, and men run towards them.

“My lords, excuse us. May we speak with you for a moment?”

“Of course, you may. My lord Aragorn, I wish to convene my gratitude for sending such good scouts. There really was no one better to choose.”

“Of course, my lord Denethor.”

Gil looks at him with laughter in his eyes and laughs silently, having understood what is being said. His words might sound harsh but are entirely directed at the scouts. They disrespected their duty by coming back so quickly. Out of the corner of his eyes, he sees a few badly hidden smiles as well as frowns. The scouts, he cannot tell but hears their shuffling feet.

“Shall we leave, my lord, so you can talk to the scouts with Lord Aragorn?”

“No, there is no need for that, your highness. Everyone should hear what these excellent scouts have discovered.”

He narrows his eyes at Prince Imrahil who only lifts an eyebrow. Laughter sounds from around the group. He looks around wondering who could be so disrespectful. As he looks, he notices how nearly everyone is laughing or struggling to contain it. Prince Imrahil shrugs once before speaking up.

“Of course, my lord.”

“Well then, what have you found so far. Or have you found anything at all?”

He turns towards the scouts of whom most are scuffling around. From these four, only one looks him in the eye while the others stare at the ground biting their lips. This one is also the only one to speak up.

“We have, my lord. It is just that we were unwilling to get any closer than we already went for fear of being discovered.”

“Well, what have you found?”

“The Dagorlad is empty while watchers are on the towers. On neither side of the Dagorlad, we could find any traces of traps or something hidden. While we were there, more troops from the south and east arrived.”

“How large were those troops?”

“I am not sure but suspect they were 100 each. At the very least, if not more. But then I could not uhm get a better number on them from the distance we were at. Yes, and I was unwilling to risk revealing our presence.”

“A well-chosen method for scouting in such a dangerous location. Do you not agree, my lord Denethor?”

“Mhh, yes, yes. I agree, Lord Aragorn. For the situation you four did what you could but do not think you can flout your duties in the future, am I understood.”

“Yes, my lord. We understand.”

The other scouts nod their heads very seriously. Laughter breaks out once more among the group. This time, he glares at everyone who even dares to show a hint of amusement. After the amusement calms down, he sighs. The scouts had good reasons for their actions even if he is unwilling to admit it. And at least, the men can have some fun which he knows they need. The heavy weight on them is oppressing and then is this amusement a desirable distraction. Before long, he dismisses everyone and they all leave. However, at seeing Gil leaving, he calls out.

“My lord Aragorn, could you stay for a moment?”

Gil turns around and nods before walking back to him. They stay silent watching the captains leave. While waiting, he starts to move around restlessly. He wants to talk with Gil about something but even thinking about it makes breathing more difficult. It is as if the stress cuts of his airways.  He knows what he wants Gil to do and why. And he knows Gil will fight him on it if he considers their previous actions. After some time, he does not see any captain remaining. It is at this time for him to speak up only for Gil to be faster.

“Thor, what is wrong?”

“Nothing, I just worry for what is to come.”

“If you say so. But that is not why you requested of me to stay, right?”

He sighs and watches Gil look at him with a questioning look in his eyes. He smiles as Gil saw through his excuses and decides to explain things plainly. There is no need for him to sweet-talk it.

“No, it is not. I suspect we will be able to meet with some sort of emissary from Mordor and would like for you to handle the negotiations.”

“I am not sure, Thor, that it is a good idea. I may be a captain of the host but you are the ruling steward. You or maybe even Éomer - though he has not been crowned yet - have the authority to speak for others.”

“That may be so, but you are our rightful king. The people know about it and I believe it is time we make a point of it to everyone who has not yet realized it. You are the king and I will be your steward if you want me to be.”

Gil smiles and shakes his head. He tilts his head wondering what is going on in Gil’s mind. What is he thinking and why is he amused? He made a point of acknowledging Gil’s position more times than once. So it cannot be concerning that. He watches as Gil seeks out his eyes before speaking up.

“If I had a choice in stewards then I would certainly choose you or your son. I would never take it from your house. You have served Gondor rightly in the absence of a king. It would be foolish to dismiss those centuries of hard work.”

“Then do your duty, my king.”

He bows to Gil and leaves. He does not look at how Gil responds to this and refuses to hear any more about it. Walking at a brisk pace, he hurries through the camp towards his horse. All around him, the camp is being broken down and men are moving into a marching position. He smiles pleased. Now only the last leg of their march will have to be made before the future is being decided.


Riding at the front of the group, he sees Gil looking back. He tilts his head and follows Gil’s gaze. It allows him to see the lieutenant direct the men into their position. He only looks at it for a short time before watching Gil once more. Gil does not take long before taking his attention away from them and nods to him. He returns the nod. They both know what their objective is right now even if none expect to succeed. It is unlikely for Mordor to surrender especially as they have the number advantage.

Turning back to the front, he watches as the back gates become steadily larger. Within moments, they reach the gates and come to a stop. Growling sounds from above. He looks up to see arrows being trained on their heads. A few spears are even moved into a position from which they can easily be thrown. His eyes widen at seeing the danger they are in right now. Mordor can easily kill them now. He glances at the orcs holding them for a moment before focusing his attention on the gate once more.

No one makes a sound waiting anxiously for what is to come. A loud screeching sound coming from the gate breaks the silence. Slowly. Ever so slowly the gate opens. The orcs standing guard start to shout while waving their spears around. A beating sound comes from the other side of the gate. He shares a quick look with Gil who shares his feelings of unease. Soon the future of the free world will be decided. He cannot wait for Mordor’s emissary to meet with them.

Hoofbeats sound from behind the gate steadily becoming louder. He looks towards the gate and into Mordor for the first time. Orcs move behind the gate forming larger fighting units while slamming spears on the ground. And moving towards them is a pure black steed. The steed becomes steadily more visible allowing him to see a man of great stature riding on its back. The man is dressed in all black and wears a large helmet.

His heart starts to beat loudly in his chest. This is it. The future of Gondor and the free folk will be decided now. And the truthfulness of the words he remembers will be revealed. Some things, he cannot turn back from but others have not yet been decided. The man stops a short distance away from them before speaking up. A scratching voice can be heard. One which has not spoken the common tongue in too long.

“Why have you come here? To discuss the terms of your surrender, heir of Isildur? Do not look so surprised I know your identity. My lord knows who his greatest enemies are. A pity you did not perish in one of the past battles.”

“Before I am willing to discuss our reason for coming, I would like to know who it is I am dealing with.”

“I am but a humble servant of the Lord of Gifts who tasked me with discussing terms with you, heir of Isildur. However, I am left wondering why you, Lord Denethor, do not speak. Do the stewards not rule Gondor? This heir of Isildur holds no real title. He is merely a simple ranger.”

He narrows his eyes at the ‘humble servant’. There is nothing humble about him; he is a traitor. One of the black Númenoreans. He is certain of it. His certainty grows with each passing minute the traitor speaks. And also, his height confirms this. Glancing at Gil, he sees how he is patting his horse’s neck while his back’s stiff from tension. He bites his lips before turning towards the traitor once more and glares at him. The man does not react except grin brightly. Wanting to remove the grin, he decides to speak up.

“Lord Aragorn speaks because it is rightfully his place. He retains the title of the king even if it is not yet formally confirmed. So, keep a civil tongue to the one who will be deciding your fate shortly.”

“Where does this hope come from, my lord Denethor? Last I knew you realized the futility of resisting the rightful rule of the Lord of Gifts. So why hold on to this futile hope.”

The eye glows brightly in the distance no doubt hating his earlier words. He smiles gleefully until the traitor’s words reach his mind. He glares at the traitor unwilling to back down right now. Glancing at Gil, he nods to him in such a manner it would barely be visible to those around them. It is then Gil resumes his negotiations.

“You’re referring to the victory over this war. A victory which is not yet certain. I would not make statements which have no certainty for your lord can still lose.”

“A bold statement when you are hopelessly outnumbered.”

“Are we?”

At this, the traitor falls silent. Denethor keeps his face impassive while glancing at Gil who looks calmly. Gil must certainly be enjoying this. His statements are no lies but bragging. All to get Mordor to surrender how unlike it is. Glancing around the group, he sees his feeling confirmed in their eyes. The traitor is no longer as confident as he was before. Something Gil makes good use of soon after.

“Are you ready to discuss the terms of surrender for your lord?”

“Our terms of surrender? Think about those friends of yours whom you have sent to their deaths.”

Suddenly the traitor lifts a shirt for everyone to see. It is a brightly gleaming shirt. He frowns. It almost looks as if it is made from Mithril but it cannot be. How could periannath have gotten their hands on Mithril? And why does the traitor bring it forward? The periannath’s cry of denial tells him something as does the dwarf’s growling. The traitor does not pay attention to it but keeps on talking.

“If you want to survive then you will be leaving these lands immediately without your weapons. You will accept the rule of our great lord and never bear arms against his army. We do not want to see any of you here again unless you are in chains.”

“Keep your false words for your own kin. It might convince you but not anyone here. Our friends are still alive. Of that I am certain.”

He turns towards Mithrandir, glaring at him. Mithrandir should not have gotten himself involved in this. In fact, he should not have traveled with the captains. But then why is he even surprised. Mithrandir always sticks his nose into matters he should not. Mithrandir does not seem to notice his glare as he moves his horse forward and snatches the Mithril shirt out of the traitor’s hands. Within moments, Gil turns to the distraught periannath.

“I do not believe it. Frodo is still alive. We would have known had the Ring fallen in Sauron’s hands.”

Gil nods towards him, moments before he turns his horse back to the host. They all quickly follow him. Dust follows in their wake. The host moves restlessly where they stand. The closer they get, the more visible it becomes. He can see the fear and desire of them to run. But it will not happen.

Glancing at Gil, he sees a determined look on his face. Gil knows what he must do. Unsheathing his sword, Gil comes to a stop in front of the host and addresses the host.

“Hold your ground! Hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers, I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!!!”

While Gil was speaking, he and the other captains had dismounted and sent their horses away. They won’t be needed for what is to come and should seek safety. Gil does the same once his speech is over. And only then does he finally look at the outpour coming from Mordor.

His eyes widen at the sight before him. He knew there was a large force in Mordor but this large? It goes beyond his wildest dreams. A stone drops into his stomach and his hands fall beside his body. He grapples for his sword to unsheath it but is unable to find it. Dark clouds gather in front of his mind. His thoughts turn back to the ride back. They all make so much more sense now. The sense of dread and certain doom he felt. It causes the memories to appear in front of him.

 

Riding back, he swallows and tries to hide it. This meeting did not go as he wanted. It went in completely the wrong direction. There are no other words for it. All which the ‘servant’ uttered were threats and provocations. All in an attempt to give Mordor a justification to eradicate them. He is just thankful no one fell for it. Even if it does nothing for the situation they are in right now.

His heart starts to beat faster in his chest thinking about their much-desired victory. He knows. He knows there is no way for them to win the coming fight. Absolutely no way. Mordor will show them no mercy at all. Any chance they had of a victory has just evaporated. It does not mean anything good for their future. No matter how short their future will be. It will all be pain and misery.

He clenches his hands on the reins and feels his horse taking on a nervous gallop. Patting him on his neck, he calms his own heart down with trouble. He knows he had hope before this meeting. But it has left him completely. The words which gave him so much strength and hope are nothing but an illusion of what he has desired for so long. A peaceful land under his or Gil’s rule.

As his heart finally slows down, he berates himself. Who is he even fooling? He should have known this would happen. Mordor has never really swayed to their threats or the defeats they suffered. Nor their allies. No, they always were quick to strike back harshly.

He knows now what all these thoughts did; increase the sense of desperation and doom he felt. It all guided him down a dark path from which only death is a reasonable departure. He was just so worried his hope would be proven false. It was just when he was so deep in the fog of his despair that Gil’s words reached him. And also the cheering which came from it. He was quick to join in because those words gave him the hope he needed to stand here now.

And at the same time, he knows he cannot show any sign of weakness in front of the men. He has to keep a strong face as he has always done. It was important then and is even more important right now. He will go down fighting if it is meant to be his fate to die here. And there is one thing he hopes for; being able to kill a lot of orcs and other dark servants before he dies. If all manage it then they will ensure the survival of as many men as possible. Men who will be needed to ensure people like the peasants can flee to safety.

Just as these thoughts cross his mind, the forces of Mordor encircle them. Spears are battered on the ground while loud shouts ring through the air. The ground starts to shake beneath his feet as something large comes his way. He swallows, seeing a sight out of stories; trolls. Clenching his fist, he unsheathes his sword and grips it tightly in his hand. Leather scraping against leather can be heard around him.

He narrows his eyes. The fight for their lives and the future of the free people will be decided right here. Slowly the orcs move closer to them with bright smiles on their faces. They are certainly enjoying what will be happening soon. And anyone thinking to leave has lost their chance long ago. Even without being encircled, there was no chance of leaving and now the chances have been destroyed. All that remains is fighting which they will do.