Chapter Twenty-Eight: Love and Light

The next day was gloriously bright. My spirit donned a pair of wings as soon as I woke to Elennar’s voice in my ear. “Isilden, get up! We have company!”

Blinking in the sunlight that streamed through the open window of my bedroom, I sat up, spotted the figure at the foot of my bed, and scrambled hurriedly to my feet. “Lord Denethor! I didn’t hear you come in… how are you?”

The Steward smiled calmly. “I’m fine, thank you. And yourself?”

“Feeling wonderful,” I answered. “Is there something you need?”

“I wanted to discuss something with you… both of you,” he said. “First of all, Isilden – about the oath you took a week or so ago. You’ve held up your end of the bargain brilliantly, and now I believe that it’s time I held up mine.

“You’ve shown outstanding fealty and valour, and I wish to make sure you are rewarded accordingly,” smiled Denethor. “And your sister will have a part in this as well.”

“A part in what?” I frowned.

Denethor’s smile now held a secret he seemed eager to reveal. “Remember the payment I promised to give in return for your actions in my service – fealty with love, valour with honour. You have already been honoured with knighthood, and now I’m here to see that the first balance is preserved.”

“What do you mean?” I couldn’t stop myself from asking.

“I mean,” replied Denethor, his eyes twinkling, “that I want to ask you something. I recall you telling me that you lost your parents in an orc attack, is that correct?”

“Yes, sir,” I said, my throat tightening at the memory, and my hand tightening on Elennar’s shoulder.

Denethor glanced at me in concern before moving on. “As soon as I heard that, I felt that something had to be done. Do you remember what I told you when I was injured in battle?”

I nodded. “You told me that you were sorry you weren’t more like a father to me. But I don’t see what—”

“Don’t you?” Denethor said softly. “I want to give you back what you lost, or at least a part of it. I know that I will never be able to replace your parents, but I still feel… if you want me to, of course…”

In that instant, I knew exactly what the man was going to say, and blurted out my decision before he could say another word.

“Oh, sir! Do you really mean that? Of course I’d be glad to be your son!”

Denethor laughed. “Well, that took care of itself, didn’t it?”

Elennar’s eyes were wide and hopeful. “Does that mean I’ll be your daughter?”

Denethor beamed at her. “Yes, it certainly does. And now, instead of one brother, you’ll have three. My two sons, Boromir and Faramir, will be your brothers, as well as Isilden.”

I smiled as Elennar gazed adoringly up at the Steward and said, “I love you, Ada.”

Denethor smiled as well, but I saw the tears in his eyes. Elennar stared at him in concern. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” the Steward replied softly. “It’s just been so long since I’ve heard the words ‘I love you’ aimed in my direction…”

“Don’t Boromir and Faramir…?” I began.

Denethor shook his head sadly. “Very rarely.”

“But they’re your sons.”

“They are grown men.”

“Well, they should still let you know that they care about you,” I said hotly.

“How am I to know that they do?” Denethor asked quietly.

“I know they do,” I told him solemnly. “When we were visiting you in the House of Healing, just before we rode to Mordor, your sons were both standing by your bedside… and they both were crying. They were crying for you.”

“Don’t do that,” the Steward murmured.

“Do what?” I asked.

“Try to convince me that I am what I’m not.”

“What do you mean?”

“Boromir would never weep,” Denethor sighed. “Least of all for me. Faramir, perhaps, but not Boromir.”

“Well, he did!” I cried. “Ask him yourself!”

In the pause before DenethorÂ’s next words, I thought I heard footsteps approaching.

“Stop it,” he whispered. “Just stop.”

“No.”

Denethor gazed sadly back at me. “Isilden…”

There was a creak as the door opened, and Boromir strode into the room, speaking to his father. He spoke only one word: “Father.”

Denethor glanced up as another figure followed Boromir into the room; it was the StewardÂ’s younger son, Faramir.

“Boromir,” Denethor said softly. “Faramir…”

“We heard the whole thing,” said Boromir.

“We’re here to make amends,” Faramir added.

The Steward wept quietly as his sons placed their hands gently upon his shoulders. He put his arms around them in a fond, fatherly embrace.

“We do love you, Father,” Faramir said solemnly.

“We both do,” Boromir nodded.

“We all do,” I told him, joining my new brothers.

“I love you, too,” Denethor replied, smiling through his tears. “Thank you… my children.”

He stood up, wiping his face with the cuff of his sleeve. “Shall we go down to breakfast?”

* * *

We entered the dining hall, and took seats at the High Table. The King and Queen were not yet present; everyone rose to their feet as the royal couple strode into the chamber. As soon as they both were seated, the meal began.

My father, brothers, sister and I laughed and chatted as though the debate of a few minutes ago had never occurred. Boromir joked with Faramir and I.

“I’ll have to get used to having three younger siblings now,” he was saying.

I snorted indignantly. “Who are you calling young?”

“Why, you, little brother.”

“Little?” I cried. “Ha! I’m older than you by far!”

“Oh?” Boromir raised an eyebrow. “I’m forty-three. And you?”

I smirked triumphantly. “Ninety-five.”

“I see,” Boromir nodded sagely. Then with a grin, he turned to the Steward. “Don’t you feel young again, Father?”

Denethor returned the smile. “Slightly. But I’m willing to bet that Isilden’s first idea of a father would be someone a bit older than himself.”

I laughed. “Very true.” Then I sobered a little and murmured, “But… I was never really sure I’d have a father again, considering… what happened.”

Denethor gazed sympathetically down at me, and Boromir squeezed my shoulder. I sighed, remembering the talk Elennar and I had shared the previous evening. Discussing my scars had helped them to heal at least a little. Perhaps I could hurry the process along some more.

“If you could go back in time and change one thing that’s happened,” I said to my kin, “what would it be?”

Boromir sipped at his glass of water before replying, “I would have fought harder against the Ring. Maybe then the Fellowship wouldn’t have broken.”

“I would have been kinder to you, Faramir,” said Denethor, gazing down at his son with tear-filled eyes. “I should have treated you better, more like you deserve to be treated. I’ll show no more favouritism between you and your siblings. You’ll all receive the respect and love that you deserve.”

Faramir smiled, his eyes moist. “I would have tried harder to be the son you wanted me to be.”

Denethor wept openly as he wrapped his arms around his second son, whispering soft words I couldnÂ’t quite hear. Faramir did the same, and they held the embrace for a few tender moments.

“Your turn, Isilden,” the Steward told me over his son’s shoulder.

I drew a deep breath. “I would never have let Elennar out of my sight. I would have set her free the day we were captured, not waited until I had to go back. And even then, I didn’t help her. But I could have. I could have killed Saruman before the battle at Helm’s Deep. He was just standing there! Why didn’t I?”

“I know why,” said a soft voice in my ear. I turned my head and saw Gandalf standing behind me, his eyes twinkling.

“You were listening?” I asked.

The wizard nodded, smiling. “Yes. I believe I can answer your question – you didn’t kill Saruman when you first wanted to, because you feared for your sister. You didn’t want to scar her young heart by exposing her to a cold-blooded murder.”

“But…” I frowned as a memory flittered to the front of my mind. “But she’d already seen murder! I killed two orcs the day we were captured, and she was right beside me. How would killing Saruman have differed?”

“Because,” Gandalf said reflectively, “it wasn’t you she would have seen killing Saruman, but the orc that she believed you to be… Snaga, was it?”

I nodded. “But after it was over, she told me she knew it was me; she was just scared to admit it.”

“Maybe. But that didn’t occur to you then, did it? I stand by what I said before, Isilden. Also, killing a human is much different than killing orcs, no matter the amount of evil.”

I nodded again. “You’re right. Thank you, Gandalf.”

“You’re welcome,” the wizard smiled. “I hope I’ve been of assistance.”

“You have,” I smiled.

Gandalf nodded respectfully before moving away. I watched him go, feeling as though a weight had been lifted off my heart. I felt I could breathe a little easier. The scars were mending.

Finishing our meal, the five of us parted ways outside the dining hall. My father and brothers walked down a corridor to the right, while Elennar and I headed out to the courtyard.

It was a beautiful morning; the sun gave out her light and warmth generously, and birds called out greetings from above. A sweet breeze cooled the summer air, playing with our hair as it sighed past. I breathed deep and remarked to Elennar, “Isn’t it lovely out?”

Elennar nodded. “Not too hot, not too cool. Just right.”

“Just right,” I echoed, as we sat on the lush grass beneath the shady White Tree. “Yes, it’s perfect.” And it was – both that day, and my life as a whole. I now had more than I could ever want, or ever had wanted.

Looking back on the past several weeks of my life, I realized that my plunge into darkness had taught me more than I ever expected it to. I had learned how to live, how to fight, and how to kill, all with help from my friends and new family.

But most of all, I learned to appreciate what I had, when I had it; for many things I took for granted might have been lost forever. My parents, my sisterÂ… and the light. I had totally lost the light, if only for a moment. And who would have thought that more darkness would bring it back? Not me.

Some say that ignorance is bliss; I somewhat agree. My unawareness of what an orc’s life is like gave me a false sense of security, a feeling that “it could never happen to me”. But it had, and I had lived, miraculously.

And now that I knew how it felt, from safe on the other side of the darkness, I was even more blissful than before. For while I had been in the light, I had indeed loved it. But somehow I had even more appreciated the view from the other side.

~ The End ~