Kingdom of Ashes


Tree and Flower Awards, Denethor, Second Place
Tree and Flower Awards Nominee

 


Kingdom of Ashes by Linda Hoyland

The characters are the property of the Tolkien Estate. This story is written for pleasure not profit.

With grateful thanks to Raksha and Virtuella.

I knew there was something disreputable about Thorongil from the first moment that I set eyes upon the fellow. I had been away for months campaigning against the Easterlings and when I returned home, I found that Thorongil had wormed his way into my father's affections while my back was turned.

I was forced to spend my first night at home listening to my father discuss lore with this stranger over dinner. It was obvious from their easy manner together that it was not the first time he had spent the evening in my father's apartments. I had looked forward to telling my father about how I had led my men to victory, but I was hardly able to get a word in edgewise, so intent was he on what the stranger was saying.

Thorongil gave no father's name when he introduced himself. From his dark hair and grey eyes it was obvious he was no Rohir.

"You do not name your sire?" I said.

"He died when I was but a small child," Thorongil replied, not rising to my bait. "I know only that he was a good man and very brave."

Who most likely sired you out of wedlock and left your mother to bring you up alone on such tales, I thought.

"You two are so alike that you could be brothers!" my father said warmly. "Just look at him, Denethor! It seems that some of our kin still survive in the Northlands."

I snorted inwardly. "Kinsfolk indeed! A rag tag rabble that live like beggars in a frozen wasteland!"

Yet my father seemed to forget that Thorongil was nothing but a hired mercenary and treated him almost like an equal. As the weeks passed it grew worse. Thorongil ingratiated himself ever deeper into my father's affections. I feared my father was sliding into dotage. He would embrace Thorongil like one might a favoured small child, while the Northerner had the impudence to return such over familiar gestures. When I took my father to task he simply said "I am old, my son, do not deny me a little warmth and companionship in my twilight years."

"You have me, my father," I replied, but he simply sighed and changed the subject.

It was not long before Thorongil was first amongst my father's advisors and foremost amongst his Captains, only I outranked him as Captain General. I was baffled that my father was not suspicious of a man about whom he knew so little and who skilfully evaded all questions about his background.Nor could I ever sense what he was thinking ,as if he somehow had the ability to shield his thoughts. My father seemed completely blind in his love for the stranger. He was not the only one. The men loved Thorongil too. I suppose it was not surprising as he was far too lenient with them, giving other tasks to those who feared the frontline of battle, rather than rewarding such cowardice with the lash. Strange to say, though, the supposedly timid were usually at his side on the front line in the next battle his company fought, declaring they would follow him through fire or to the very borders of Mordor if he so willed it.

At the beginning I thought Thorongil was simply an ambitious upstart who was using my father's misguided affection for him to make his way in the world, but as the months turned into years I began to realise that there was more to the man than met the eye.

When Mithrandir next visited the City I noticed him deep in conversation with Thorongil. Whatever could the Wizard want with one of my father's lowly captains? Thorongil caught me observing him and coolly remarked that Mithrandir brought news from the North for him.

My father had long suffered from pain in his right hand, caused by first wielding a sword and then a pen overlong. The hand had become almost claw like and he had little use in it despite the best efforts of the healers. Soon after Thorongil's arrival I noticed my father was using his hand more and could straighten it out. It continued to improve. I assumed that either rest had worked a cure or the healers had discovered some new potion to treat him with.

One day I entered my father's chambers unannounced to find Thorongil rubbing something on my father's hand. As I entered, Thorongil made his excuses and took his leave, abandoning a jar of salve upon the table.

"Thorongil has a truly magical touch," my father informed me, flexing his hand. "He has wrought quite a cure."

I smiled indulgently at the old man, but as soon as he was occupied elsewhere, I took the jar of salve to the Warden of the Houses of Healing, anxious to learn what it might contain. The Warden sniffed the contents carefully.

"This contains only comfrey, horsetail and goose grease," he said. "They are common ingredients used in most treatments for the aches that pain the old. I have treated your father with this for years, though sadly it can do little."

"You are certain?" I persisted, puzzled.

"I would hazard my reputation upon it," said the Warden. "Now if there is nothing further I can help you with, Lord Denethor, I must return to my duties."

I took my leave more baffled than ever. Could it be Thorongil's touch that had cured my father? That was quite impossible – unless - I had studied lore for many years and some half remembered scrap of legend hovered in my mind, but I could not recall where I had read it or the details.

Not long afterwards, though, Thorongil was almost banished from my mind when Adrahil of Dol Amroth brought his daughter to the Citadel. Long had my father begged me to marry and sire heirs, but no lady had stirred my heart until I beheld the Lady Finduilas. Her hair was like silk, her form slender as a young tree and her eyes were like glittering stars, but fairer by far than any that adorned the Heavens. From the moment I beheld her I desired her to be my wife.

Finduilas, though, although always courteous, paid me little heed. I wondered why, was I not the Steward's heir? At the Mettarë celebrations I saw her dancing with Thorongil and gazing at him with a longing in her eyes that I yearned to see directed at me. 

My father, who sat watching the dancing, remarked, "The Lady Finduilas would be a perfect match for Thorongil. I have encouraged him to ask for her hand, but he claims his heart is given to some lady in the North and he will wed no other. A pity, as I fear that means he will one day leave us to return to the fortunate maiden."

It took all my considerable powers of self-control not to berate my father for his blindness. Could he not see that I loved Finduilas? So fair a maid could not be bestowed upon a man with no lineage!

Soon after the festival ended Thorongil departed on a campaign against the Easterlings. Finduilas appeared somewhat sad and withdrawn, whether it was because she missed the scoundrel, or he had told her of her rival, I did not know, but as the weeks passed, she became more receptive to my suit and I dared to ask for her hand in marriage.

"I have grown to care for you, Lord Denethor," she said. "I did once believe that I loved another. His heart is not free though, and I must put all thoughts of him aside."

I was eager for a spring wedding before Thorongil returned and had second thoughts about staying true to his sweetheart in the North. After all, while he tarried here, she would be wondering about the strength of their attachment.

My father seemed torn between joy that I was at last willing to take a wife and sorrow that his favourite Captain was not the bridegroom, or even present at the wedding.

I was determined that my bride should have the best of everything and showered her with gifts. Finduilas spoke often of Dol Amroth, especially the sea and I was determined to show her that Minas Tirith was fairer by far.

Marriage was even better than I expected it to be. For all my knowledge of lore, I admit I knew little of women, but Finduilas declared herself well satisfied and I soon grew accustomed to being a husband. For a while I was able to banish the tiresome Thorongil from my mind. Finduilas made no mention of him and I hoped that she had put her foolish infatuation behind her.

The peace was to be short lived as Thorongil returned only a few weeks after the wedding. He was more insufferable than ever, having won a handful of skirmishes with the Haradrim. To hear my father talk, you would have thought his favoured Captain had fought in the Last Alliance. That was another odd thing about Thorongil; he spoke of the battles of old as if he had heard of them from one who fought there.

I became worried about my Finduilas. Before summer ended she grew pale and her eyes looked sad. Often I would find her gazing out of the window towards the West and her eyes would be wet with tears. I asked her what ailed her, but she could or would not say.

One day in early autumn Thorongil approached me. "I am concerned about Lady Finduilas," he said gravely.

"My wife is none of your concern!" I retorted.

"I am well aware of that, my lord," Thorongil replied with infuriating calmness. "I could not but help but notice, though, that Lady Finduilas looks unwell."

"Maybe because our hopes will soon be realised?" I countered, though I had no idea if she truly were with child or not.

"I think not," said Thorongil. "I believe that she is suffering from sea longing. If you are to have any hope of heirs, and the lady's good health, you should see that she returns home to the sea as often as possible."

Outraged at his impudent boldness I was about to issue a sharp reproof, but the fellow had already disappeared. He had a cat like ability to vanish seemingly into nothingness; and he knew when to use it.

Something in his words must have troubled me, though. I soon found myself mentioning to my lady that I could spare some time from my duties and suggesting that we visit her kin. She readily agreed to my suggestion and we set out for Dol Amroth the next week. It was a decision I was to regret. Finduilas, always so dignified in Minas Tirith, lost all sense of decorum in her father's domain and would run barefoot along the beach with her hair unbound! She even tried to get me to join her in these unseemly frolics, which I of course, refused.

After a few days, I was more than ready to return home, but the night before we were due to depart, her mother took ill and Finduilas refused to leave her. It was to be weeks before I had my wife back.

Finduilas looked radiant when she returned and it was not long before she told me that she was expecting our first child.

I was overjoyed. I was to be a father and Gondor would have an heir! A babe would benefit Finduilas too as she would surely forget her longing for the sea once she held a child in her arms. Surely too, I would regain the full measure of my father's love when I gave him what Thorongil could never give, a son to rule our land one day.

It had always irked me that my father had given Thorongil leave to use the Steward's private gardens, but now when I strolled across the lawns with my lady on my arm, her impending motherhood clearly visible, I almost felt sorry for the fellow. He had prospect of neither wife nor child. Most likely his unknown lady from the North had long since given him up as lost and wed another!

When our babe was born, my joy knew no bounds. Boromir was the fairest son that any man could wish for. He was a strong and sturdy babe with a lusty cry and bold spirit. My heart swelled with pride whenever I beheld him. I saw the envy in Thorongil's eyes as I played with my son in the gardens and I pitied him.

When Boromir was but a year old, a messenger brought grave tidings. The Haradrim had trespassed over our borders and laid waste to several villages. Worse still, they had set up camp and were venturing ever deeper into our lands.

My father spent half a day in council with Thorongil and then belatedly summoned me. Thorongil was at his side as he made his wishes plain. Every available Captain was to lead his men to the borders where we would fight the invaders until they either returned to their own soil or were buried deep in ours. It was a sound enough plan, but I was irked I had not been summoned earlier.

"I sought to grant you a little more time with your lady and child as you need to leave at first light tomorrow," my father replied mildly. "Would that you did not have to leave them, but I can make no exceptions."

"I know my duty, sire, and will fulfil it to my utmost," I replied.

"Good boy, May the Valar see you safely home!" he replied, patting me like one of his favourite hounds! He then turned to Thorongil, "Keep yourself safe, lad, and bring my boy home to me," he said, as if I were a babe to be entrusted to a nursemaid.

"You have my oath, my lord," said Thorongil solemnly.

My father then embraced Thorongil as if he were a kinsman rather than a northern nobody.

We encountered the Haradrim three days after our departure. The first skirmishes went smoothly enough, green young recruits considered expendable by their captains, despatched as easily as sheep to the slaughter. When we neared the border, though, the fighting grew fiercer when we encountered seasoned warriors. I led my men into the thick of battle; vaguely aware that Thorongil's company was fighting alongside us. Speed was the essence, so we wore only leather rather than steel for protection.

A grizzled warrior lunged at me with his scimitar cutting through my leather armour and slicing me from shoulder to hip. Pain coursed through my body. I felt the warm blood trickling against my skin. "Stand firm!" I cried to the men. I tried to continue the fight, but my legs buckled beneath me and I swooned.

When I came to my senses, I was in our camp and Thorongil was bending over me. "The battle?" I asked.

"Lord Húrin will lead our men to victory," said Thorongil. He took up his dagger and started to cut away my clothing.

"What are you doing? Cease at once!" I demanded.

"Your wound needs tending," he said with infuriating calm.

"Let me alone and fetch the healer!"

"He was slain in the battle, I fear. Be easy in your mind, I am learned in the healing arts."

"Fetch one of the men – not you!" The pain grew worse and I struggled to speak.

"Drink this, it will ease you," said Thorongil, holding a cup to my lips. "Would you have me false to my oath that I would bring you home safely?"

I tried to summon up a sharp retort but swooned again.

It was dark and all was quiet when I became aware again. The firelight hurt my eyes and I closed them again. I was naked beneath the blankets that shrouded me. My wound throbbed painfully and I burned with fever. I could smell something, which I struggled to place, as it was vaguely familiar. Then I remembered that my old nurse, who had been my mother's before, would steep the leaves of the athelas plant if my mother had a headache. It was an old wives' remedy that the healers held little store by. Some healer Thorongil was if he were treating me with such a useless herb!

He approached me, followed by one of the young lieutenants who was clutching a bowl. I closed my eyes again when he came near. I felt him pulling aside the blankets and bathing my wound. The humiliation of it all! The mixture smarted painfully and I opened my eyes to see what he was doing.

I saw that he was crumbling the athelas leaves into the water. He was muttering something under his breath as he did so. When he saw I was awake his eyes met mine.

"Be easy, my lord," he said with his usual arrogance. "I promised your father and your lady that I would restore you to them and I am a man of my word."

"What is that?" I asked. It was a struggle to get the words out.

"Healing herbs to ease your fever," Thorongil replied.

I was about to ask him what kind of herbs, but weakness overcame me.

When I regained my senses the fever had broken, but the wound had left me weakened and I was forced to remain resting in our camp and endure Thorongil's ministrations whenever he was not fighting the Haradrim.

He insisted that I be carried home on a litter once I was strong enough to travel, but I refused to be carried into Minas Tirith like some helpless infant and insisted on riding. Thorongil was equally insistent that he ride beside me lest I stumble.

The people gathered in the street to watch the soldiers return. A cry went up throughout the City "The twin eagles have returned! Long live Captain Thorongil! Long live Lord Denethor!"

I listened dismayed. The people were regarding this Northern mercenary as my equal? Or did they believe that my father, who had loved my mother dearly, had played her false and sired a bastard? My anger, though, helped give me the strength to stay upright on the horse. As no mounts were allowed in the Citadel I was forced to suffer the indignity of being borne in a litter the final stage of my homecoming. My father and Finduilas both came to meet me, their faces anxious.

"My son!" cried Ecthelion. "Praise the Valar that Thorongil was able to save your life!"

"We received a message four days ago that you had been wounded," said Finduilas. "How do you fare, my husband?"

"The better for seeing you again, my lady," I replied. "Is Boromir well?"

"He is full of energy and has grown, I swear, since you departed!" Finduilas replied.

"I would see my personal healer, then please bring my son to me."

Despite my protestations to the contrary Thorongil insisted on helping me to my room before departing to tell my father in detail about the success of the mission.

"It is a miracle that you survived such a wound!" the healer exclaimed when he examined me. "I thought all the healers of sufficient skill to treat so grave a hurt were here at the houses. The stitches are obviously the work of an expert; they have been left in slightly too long, no doubt so that you could travel, I will remove them now. You will need to rest for a while, my lord and give yourself time to heal."

His chatter irritated me and yet it was intriguing. How could a man have learned advanced healing skills in some northern wasteland? He certainly had not acquired them at Thengel's court as the Rohirrim's court healers were trained here in Minas Tirith. And what had I read long ago about the athelas plant?

I asked for my books of lore to be brought to my room and there I read and remembered the ancient rhyme that my mother's old nurse used to mumble to herself.

"Come athelas! Life to the dying; in the King's hand lying."

It all made sense now, why Thorongil had the look of one of old Númenor. Elrond Half-elven had long held a hidden valley in the North; a sanctuary where our longfathers' lore was cherished. So had the old scrolls said, and more, of the close ties between these Elves and the lost Kings of Arnor. Elrond was known to be a lore master and healer of great wisdom.

The answer that I had sought, the riddle of the Eagle of the Star, burst in my brain like a thunderclap: Thorongil was neither Ecthelion's bastard, as some whispered, or any half-blood outcast of our kingdom; he carried the line of Númenor in full measure from the scattered remnants of our Northern kin. And more, and this nearly undid me...I realized that Thorongil could well carry the blood of Isildur himself!

If Thorongil were of Isildur's line, he might well have innate healing powers and be schooled in Elvish arts too. That would explain his uncanny abilities. The cheek of the man to ingratiate himself with my father thus when all the time he was plotting to usurp the throne!

I hurried to my father and told him what I had learned.

"Would it be so bad a thing if Thorongil was proved to be the Heir of Elendil and claimed the throne?" my father said mildly. "He is a good man and a wise one. The people love him as much as I do. To such a one I would gladly surrender the White Rod. I am an old man; I would die  happy if the King returned."

"Has he bewitched you, father?" I cried. "The man comes from a ragged house bereft of all grace and honour! Never would I bow the knee to him neither would my men and many are loyal to me."

"You forget yourself, my son, " Ecthelion said coldly. "Go now. Thorongil has plans concerning the Corsairs he wishes to debate with me. Remember that I hold rod and rule here!"

"As will I one day! And I tell you, rather would I die than surrender the white rod to that usurper! Be warned, father, you nurture a viper at your bosom!"

I left the room and almost bumped into Thorongil himself arriving for his meeting with the Steward. His face was grave, but impassive, surely he could not have overhead the conversation? Or could he?

My father refused to discuss the subject of Thorongil's true identity further. They were preoccupied in planning an attack on the Corsairs of Umbar, a hare brained venture that Thorongil had been trying to persuade my father to allow him to undertake for years. My father had until now forbidden it, not wishing to commit men elsewhere while we were under threat from both Orcs and Southrons. After our recent victory, though, the Haradrim had retreated behind their own borders, allowing us to deploy some of our men elsewhere.

It seemed madness to attack the Corsairs, though. We would lose good men to no avail, as they were renowned for their fighting skills. We had little chance of success with few ships and little experience of fighting at sea.

My father still hesitated to give the order to attack and it was a full year before Thorongil was ready to set sail with his small fleet. I rode beside my father to see them off and his final words to Thorongil filled me with foreboding.

"Should you win the victory, my friend, you will be worthy of the highest honours that Gondor can bestow," he said, embracing the Northerner.

I glared at the Captain, making it quite clear that there was one honour I would never accept him taking.

"He is brilliant in the field, but I fear, alas, that Thorongil has over reached himself this time," my father sighed as we returned to the Citadel.

A messenger brought news to my father that Thorongil had defeated the Corsairs with very few losses amongst his men. and also a message in which the Captain wrote "Other tasks now call me, lord, and much time and many perils must pass, ere I come again to Gondor, if that be my fate." I often wondered if he might have sent a private message to my father too, but if he ever did, I never  learned what it contained.

 I was told that my father turned pale at these tidings and collapsed. The healers said he had suffered a slight seizure.He remained abed within his chambers for several days.

"Good riddance to Thorongil!" I thought. I hoped that the upstart had slunk back whence he came and we would hear no more of him. I planned a celebration, supposedly to celebrate our victory, but in my heart I was rejoicing that the scoundrel had left. Not even at my wedding had I danced as joyfully. The people, though, shared my father's dismay. Thorongil had beguiled them, just as he had my poor father.

My father, though, began to age visibly from that day forward and my anger towards Thorongil increased each day that I saw my sire decline. How could he treat the old man so, to pretend that he loved him and then depart with barely a word?

A year later my lady was with child again. She bore me another son, whom we named Faramir. I know a man needs heirs, yet I admit I was a little disappointed to have another boy. I had hoped this babe would be a daughter, as fair as her mother and as gentle. I already had the fairest son and heir that any man could hope for in my Boromir! This second son could never hope to compare with him.

Faramir was a very different babe to his brother, more timid and fretful and less venturesome when he began to crawl. My father was very taken with his new grandson, though. For a while I hoped that he might rally, but when Faramir was only a year old, Ecthelion died.

Worse was to follow as my lady then began to sicken. Many times I found her gazing at the East towards Mount Doom. Then she would recoil and shudder as she murmured, "What will become of my little ones growing up under this shadow?" Other times she would gaze towards the West, or open the window and strain her ears to catch the screaming of the gulls that flew up the Anduin from the sea. The Easterlings were again violating our borders. Now I was Ruling Steward, I was constrained by my duties and could no longer take her to visit her kinsfolk at Dol Amroth. By now, she was too frail to travel in any case; she spent her days in her solar. Faramir was usually at her side; the boy was devoted to his mother. He was now a solemn little boy who liked nothing better than to peruse a book. At the same age, my Boromir was rarely without his wooden sword, fighting imaginary foes behind every bush in the gardens.

Soon after Faramir's fifth birthday, at the fairest time of year when spring ripens into summer, Finduilas breathed her last and all joy left me. I did not weep, for such weakness ill becomes a man, but it seemed that my heart had turned to ice within me. The sun's rays offered no warmth to me and I could feel joy in nothing, save the lively company of my Boromir. Faramir's weeping for his mother reminded me too much of my loss and the tears I could not shed.

They say time is a great healer, but some wounds never heal. I devoted myself to my duties as Steward. During my father's lifetime I had often wondered why he did not avail himself of the palantír in his keeping. It was the lawful right of the Steward and his heir to use the precious object. Such a mighty gift ought not be left to gather dust. When I had come of age my father had shown me the palantír, but told me it was too dangerous a thing to make use of. Maybe it was for him, but I had the greater mental powers and was a master of lore. I would have used the stone as soon as my father was buried, but my lady feared it too and I allowed her to persuade me. Now that she too had departed Arda, I was determined to exercise my rights. I would be able to see what Mithrandir and Thorongil might be plotting as well as gain an advantage over the Dark Lord.

I occasionally glimpsed Mithrandir as he scurried hither and thither, seemingly to no purpose, but Thorongil seemed to have melted back into the shadows whence he came. The palantír had great virtue, though as I could follow the movements of the Enemy and ensure that Gondor was not taken unawares. Using it took a great deal of strength and will, but the more I did so, the easier it became and my knowledge increased.

Boromir remained my greatest joy. Each day he seemed to grow taller and stronger. He had little love of lore and learning, but more than made up for that in his prowess with sword and bow. He could surpass boys several years older on the practise fields and all men loved him.

If only Faramir had been more like his brother! The boy seemed to care for little save books and animals. In a different age that might have been well enough, but Gondor, alas, needed soldiers, not scholars. Nor would I have my son acting like some farmer's lad, tending horses, playing with pups on the hearth and rescuing stray kittens.

The boy troubled me. To my dismay I realised he had an air of Thorongil about him. I knew that my lady would never have played me false and Thorongil was gone long before Faramir's begetting, but it seemed fate had dealt me a further unkind blow by giving me a son who happened to resemble my rival. My brother in law laughed when I mentioned the resemblance and insisted that Faramir was in fact like me, with the addition of Finduilas' near Elven grace.

As Faramir grew older, he shared something else with Thorongil, a friendship with Mithrandir.

"Would it not be a wonder if the White Tree were to bloom anew and the King return?" Faramir asked me one day after I had dined with my sons.

"The King will never return," Boromir said. "Why should you not take the throne, father? It is well nigh a thousand years since the last king departed."

"Because that is not the Steward's part, my son," I replied. "It would take ten thousand years or more to make a steward into a king."

"I dream of the real king coming back," said Faramir. "Then the White Tree will bloom anew and Gondor will be at peace and be a centre of lore like in the days of old. Mithrandir has been telling me of those great days of long ago."

"Mithrandir has filled your head with foolish fancies," I said sharply. "Gondor is still the greatest land in Middle-earth, but she has no need of a king. A dead tree can never be restored to life. Anárion's male line died out long ago. You should apply yourself to mastering sword and bow to defend our land. Peace is but a dream and what little we have is hard won by the sword."

Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the arts of war, as he grew older, Faramir proved a competent enough archer and swordsman and became Captain of the Ithilien Rangers. His men loved him, much as men had loved Thorongil. Of course, all loved Boromir more and deservedly so, yet Faramir's men would have walked through fire for love of their lord

Neither of my sons showed much interest in taking a wife. Boromir would need to marry eventually to sire an heir, but I had not married until late in life, and while he remained unwed, Boromir's love was not divided. Faramir had said he should one day like a wife, but no lady had stirred his heart. I was not sorry, for the boy was far too easily led astray.

After Mithrandir filled Faramir's head with stories of kings, I wondered if Thorongil were planning to return and sent spies to discover his whereabouts, as the palantír had failed to find him, but I could discover nothing. It was as if he had vanished from the face of the earth. Maybe his luck had finally run out and he was dead, or he had married his Northern girl and was busy enjoying her charms in some snowbound hovel amidst the ruins of Fornost.

As the years passed the Enemy grew in strength and ever bolder. Often I heard men say, "Would that Captain Thorongil were here!" but what would his disreputable presence have availed Gondor in her hour of need? He was but one man.

I knew we had to be prepared for an attack at any time and I wore my armour night and day and kept my sword at my side. The discomfort kept me alert and prevented me from growing soft now that I no longer led my men in battle.

I was writing commendations for the men killed in a fearsome attack on Osgiliath when my sons asked to see me. It was a marvel that they had escaped alive. It was fortunate that their uncle had taught both to swim well. I had insisted they should both take some leave before returning to their respective duties

After they had greeted me Faramir said, "Twice I have dreamed a strange dream, sire, both on the eve of the battle and again afterwards. I would seek your counsel."

"You were ever a dreamer, Faramir," I replied. "You need more sleep and less dreaming."

"I have dreamed it too, father," said Boromir.

"What is this dream, then?" I asked.

"I thought the eastern sky grew dark and there was a growing thunder, but in the West a pale light lingered, and out of it I heard a voice, remote but clear, crying:

Seek for the Sword that was broken;
In Imladris it dwells;
There shall councils be taken;
Stronger than Morgul-spells.
There shall be shown a token
That doom is near at hand,
For Isildur's Bane shall waken,
And the Halfling forth shall stand."

"I dreamed exactly the same," said Faramir. "I know not what it might mean, though. Lore tells that the Dark Lord broke Elendil's sword."

"Many warriors swords' have been cleft in battle," said Boromir. "The dream is a riddle to me."

"Imladris was of old the name among the Elves of a far northern dale, where Elrond the Halfelven dwelt, greatest of lore-masters," I answered. "I know not, though, whether it still endures in these latter days."

"Please, sire, let me seek out this place," Faramir begged. "Maybe this Master Elrond can give us wise counsel that we might yet avert doom. Dearly would I love to meet such a one who was friend of Gilgalad."

"No," I said firmly. If Imladris did indeed still exist, it might well be where Thorongil was hiding, and most likely Mithrandir with him. They would easily beguile Faramir and bend him to their will, setting him up as an agent against his lord and father.

"Let me go, then, father," Boromir pleaded. "I am older and hardier than Faramir. I shall surely succeed in this quest and bring help to Gondor."

"No, my son," I replied. "I need you here in charge of our defences. Now leave me, my sons, I have work to do."

Over the next few days my sons continued to plead with me to allow them to seek out Imladris. I could deny Boromir nothing. At last I reluctantly gave my permission. I could better spare Faramir, but I could not trust him if he encountered my old adversaries. Boromir's head would not be turned so easily. I counselled him before he left that he must be wary. He bade a loving farewell to me and to his brother and set off on the long journey North.

Woe the day that I ever let Boromir leave on such a dangerous mission! I thought I heard his horn sounding one fell day in winter; and then it was brought to me, broken and fished from the river. Boromir would never part with this heirloom of our House while he still had breath in his body. My son, my beloved son is dead! What hope for Gondor now without Boromir?

I sought answers within the palantír and he was there - Thorongil; but as I had never seen him before. A light blazed in his eyes while he held a great sword aloft, the sword of Elendil reforged. He now openly claimed to be Elendil's rightful heir who demanded his birthright. Birthright indeed! He has no rights in Gondor, the last of a ragged line bereft of dignity!

The enemy are fast approaching our gates. Hope is fading. Faramir returned with tidings I could scarce comprehend. He had the Enemy's weapon within in his grasp and let it slip from him in the hands of a pair of Halflings! How could he betray me thus? Boromir would have brought me a mighty gift. Oh why did I not send him North instead of my Boromir? How could he do this to me?

It all became clear, Faramir is no loyal son of mine but a wizard's pupil, who puts Mithrandir's will before his father's and lord's! He must be punished for his folly. Let him defend Osgiliath if he would prove himself a true son of Gondor!

Thorongil approaches!  Now the wizard predictably comes.  Together, to usurp me?  I think not!

Worst is to come. Faramir is sore wounded. Faramir, my last surviving child, whom I sent forth unblessed into battle. He burns now with fever within my chamber ,while without the City burns. All is burning! I have lost all. What point is there in fighting? Should we triumph today, Thorongil will come and expect me to bow the knee before him. I would not live as his dotard chamberlain watching him pour poison in Faramir's ears and making the fool boy fawn upon him.

He took my father's love; he will not take my son's together with mine office!

The Enemy will come though; Thorongil cannot stop them. The Orcs will put us to torment and defile our corpses; Faramir and I both. I have seen the Dark Lord's plans in the palantír! I will thwart his will.

I call for my servants. I will die as the heathen kings of old by fire. And I shall bear Faramir with me. I have lost all; I would not lose him too.

Come, Thorongil, and inherit your kingdom of ashes!

A/n, Some lines are taken directly from Tolkien. 

This story was written for The "Teitho" challenge, "Losers' Weepers" where it was placed second. I'm not 100% happy with it, but it was an interesting challenge to write.

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