You are too old for this. Both of you are too old. You, brother, for taking a penalty with the unquestioning humility of an obedient child. You, Father, for letting your wounded pride darken your reason, so much that you stoop to taking the issue into your own hands instead of leaving it to a subordinate. Where have the days gone when the house of Ecthélion was a beacon not of severity but of wisdom?
You spoke against him in council. The second born doubted the steward´s decree, in front of all his advisors. Hardly a great subject, you still thought it important enough to intervene. You spoke wisely and with great respect, pointing out every aspect carefully without dropping any personal remarks or raising your voice over a moderate level. And the council listened to you. Their decision followed your argument and our father bowed to their will.
I did not need to see the lines along his mouth deepen with anger. Somebody would rue this and it was clear to everybody in the room who it would be.
The council members had barely scattered when he ordered both of us to his study. Criticizing the steward´s plans is no trespass – and never should – as long as it happens in an appropriate manner and surely it is not supposed to bring vengeance upon the one who did. But that is not what this is about, not for Lord Denethor, not these days.
You leave it to your body to give away what you do not. It is told by every wince of your shoulders when leather meets flesh, an insuppressible reflex, not bound to your willpower, but your eyes remain stubbornly focused on the pattern of wood on the table top. So much you require his love, so little you offer to gain his forgiveness. Neither by boasting the bravery of the soldiers nor by submitting to his rage. You don't give him anything other than this stoic gaze, bare of any emotion. Wherever your vulnerable spot lies, little brother, it is not here.
I would jump up and stop this, stop his arm with my own hands, and it is not the knowledge that my actions might provoke worse that causes me to refrain. It is knowing that they would hurt you more than any physical torment ever could. Your kind of courage is an unpretentious one, not meant for minor causes, and I do not dare to lessen your sacrifice by giving in to a weakness of the heart.
You should be proud of him, father. A son who, without fear, speaks his truthful mind should make you proud. And yet all you see is disobedience, insolence and – beware you ever find out I even thought this — threat.
Today I watched a man who faced his fears for the greater good. A man who honours gentleness a higher value than the bravery in battle, and yet reveals a heart of strength. I have seen a steward today, and it was not you, father, it was not you.