Genre: angst, h/c, friendship,drama
Warnings:Mild bad language
Characters:Aragorn, Ecthelion, Denethor.
Creators notes: I usually see Denethor as more controlled but the thunder combined with the events Thorongil refers too have pushed him to the limit.
Summary: A confrontation disturbs a quiet dinner.
Thunder rolled overhead as Thorongil made his way to Ecthelion's apartments. Thorongil wiped his brow with his sleeve. He was glad he was dining with the Steward tonight. The thick stone walls of the Citadel were much cooler than his small house just outside the barracks. He always enjoyed his evenings with Ecthelion, though. He often wondered if Arathorn had lived would they have enjoyed such evenings together with his father sharing his wisdom and experience.
There was one matter, though in which Thorongil doubted Ecthelion's wisdom. The way he so openly favoured his Captain over his son, Denethor. Last week when the Steward had attended a review of the troops he had asked Thorongil to sit beside him for a while. Then later when the time came for him to present his troops, the people had cheered far more loudly for him than when the Captain-General presented his men. If looks could kill, Denethor's glare would have felled Thorongil on the spot.
Ecthelion was sitting on the couch morosely rubbing his fingers when Thorongil entered. “Greetings, my friend,” he said. “I fear you will find me poor company tonight. The weather is making my arthritis painful.” He winced as he spoke.
“Would you like me to fetch you a healer from the Houses, or shall I see how I can ease you?” Thorongil asked, regarding the old man with compassion. Decades of signing documents had taken their toll on the Steward's fingers.
“There is no need to summon a healer when you yourself are so skilled,” said Ecthelion.
“If you call for some hot water I will prepare you some willow bark tea,” said Thorongil. “I hope together they will ease your pain.”
Ecthelion summoned a servant then Thorongil took the Steward's claw-like right hand in his own and gently massaged using an Elven technique until the servant brought a jug of steaming water.
“My hand is already eased,” said Ecthelion. “Where did you learn such arts, my friend?”
“My foster father taught me,” said Thorongil.
“I wish the healers from the Houses knew such arts,” said Ecthelion.
“I have learnt much from them too. There are plants that grow in the South we know nothing of in the North.” Thorongil took from inside his tunic the pouch of healing supplies he always carried and added some willow bark to a goblet of hot water. “Do you want me to add honey?” he asked as he placed the goblet beside Ecthelion's wine goblet on the table.
Ecthelion shook his head. “I will drink it down quickly once it cools,” he said. “Dinner will be served by then. Now tell me, how is the training of the recruits progressing?”
Thorongil was just giving him a detailed report, when after a cursory knock, Denethor entered.
“Good evening, Father,” he said. He gave Thorongil a cursory nod. “Valar! It is hot tonight. I am parched.”
“There is wine on the table,” said the Steward.
Denethor snatched up the nearest goblet and quaffed the contents. Then he grimaced in disgust and spat it out into one of the napkins.
“That was my medicine Thorongil prepared for me!” Ecthelion protested.
Denethor turned on Thorongil, his features contorted with rage. “You villain! You are trying to poison my father with your foul concoctions!”
Thorongil's features darkened, but otherwise, he did not react. “It is willow bark tea to ease your Lord Father's pain. It is harmless when used properly.”
“And what might a bastard who came out of nowhere know of the healing arts?” sneered Denethor. “What else will a charlatan like you next claim to be? A Wizard, an Elf, or maybe even the King himself?”
Thorongil blanched with a mixture of shock and rage. He clenched his fists struggling not to strike Denethor. Instead in an icy tone, he said. “I will not let you define me, Captain-General.”
“Denethor!” snapped Ecthelion. “I will not have you speak to Captain Thorongil in such a manner. He is my guest and one of our greatest Captains. You will show him the respect due to him.”
For a long moment, Denethor glared at Thorongil until he looked away unable to meet the Captain's icy stare. Then he said coldly, “If it is my lord's wish,I apologise. Goodnight, father.” He turned and strode from the room.
Just then, the storm broke overhead in all its fury. Lightning flashed followed by loud thunderclaps as the rain came down in torrents.
“I apologise on behalf of my son,” said Ecthelion.
“A thunderstorm can fray many tempers,” said Thorongil. “Would you like me to leave, my lord?” He had to shout to make himself heard over the storm.
“Indeed not, my friend. You showed great self-control. I would have you mix me some more willow bark tea and share my meal. I may not know your father's name, but I do know that you are a good and honourable man. What else you might be, it is maybe better that I do not know. ”
“I care only for your good and for that of Gondor,” said Thorongil. “You have my word on that, my lord.”
“I know,” said Ecthelion. “I know too I need every good man I can find to help defeat that villain that threatens all our futures, the Dark Lord. I shall send for more hot water and the servant can clean up the mess. While we wait, would you care for some wine?”
Thorongil and the Steward sat drinking in companionable silence, but the Captain's thoughts were troubled. Did Denethor guess his true identity as the heir to the throne of Elendil? Did Ecthelion guess for that matter? He longed to tell the kindly old man everything but to do so might unleash great evil. If only Denethor did not hate him so!
The storm continued to rage overhead as if echoing Thorongil's troubled thoughts. In his own chambers, a similar storm raged in Denethor's heart as he pondered how best he could deal with his hated rival.