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[Index]

1

PART I

The Steward of Gondor walked quietly into the House of the Stewards, the mortuary where his honored fathers lay in peaceful rest. In his arms he carried an offering to the dead; in his heart he carried sorrow.

He stopped at the tomb of his father and knelt in homage. Reverently, he laid the flowers that he had carried on the floor before the marble edifice. He had picked the blossoms from his wife's fragrant garden and she had bound them into a pleasing garland. The blooms would soon wilt, but that was the way of all things mortal. Bowing his head, he prayed that his proud, fierce father had found peace at last.

He remembered the wizard’s words when he had left the Steward's presence in anger; the assurance that his father truly loved him. But his father had never voiced such gentle sentiments. Not to him. His duties often took him afield in the years since he was sworn to Gondor's service. In truth, the late Steward had preferred his son busied far from Minas Tirith.

The Steward of Gondor sighed as he stood up once more. His duties awaited. Sparing a parting glimpse at the bare table that would one day carry his own monument, the son of Ecthelion left the hallows. “We inherit our fathers’ shadows,” he observed, remembering his hunger for the love his father gave so freely to another. And he prayed that his beloved son would not find his shadow too burdensome to bear.

PART II

The Steward of Gondor walked carefully into the rebuilt House of the Stewards. In his arms he carried a gift for the honored dead. In his heart he carried hope.

He stopped at his father‘ s monument. Gently, he laid the gift within the folded arms of his father’s statue lying atop its table.

“Father, behold the future.” He said, pulling the blanket aside and caressing the sleeping babe’s dark head. “Your grandson, Elboron, who will one day be the twenty-eighth Steward of Gondor.” He kept one hand lightly on the infant's shoulder to hold him steady, then reached to touch the statue‘s cold marble forehead. “He will not rule the realm as you did, my lord; but he will help guide its course, and have other lordships and honors. And my love, until the day I die. I wish you could have lived to see him. He will walk in the warmth of the undimmed sun and never know the Shadow that blighted your life.”

The son of Denethor gazed at the monument again. He had been told how his father had laid him there, when he was wounded and fevered, on the slab chosen for Denethor’s marker, and had the wood brought to burn them both alive. He wished again that he could have been awake to dissuade his father from so terrible a death. Now he took up his own son again, wrapping the blanket tightly around Elboron and soothing him as he fussed briefly at the motion. The small sturdy body fit so perfectly, so warmly into his arms. The child was the greatest gift of his life. Holding him, he could understand as never before how his father’s proud spirit had been twisted by the loss of a beloved son.

“Come, my son," the Steward said softly. “Let us return to the light of day.” And he walked quickly from the hallows; to the sunlit street where his wife awaited.

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