Denethor - mementos
2. The Fall
February 26, 3019 T.A.
Clad in layers of wool beneath my armour I stood watch on the wall of the City’s seventh circle. Cold mists rose from the Anduin and hovered over the Pelennor. The lower circles were shrouded in wavering clouds while a pale sun’s rays reached for Ecthelion’s Tower. From there my Lord Denethor and Captain Faramir emerged deep in debate. Of Ithilien’s defences my Lord spoke with his second son, and of Orks amassing in the east.
Suddenly they halted their steps, looked up frowning, and turned their heads to the north, eyes widening. Slowly, my Lord Denethor’s right reached for Captain Faramir. On the son’s shoulder the grip became white knuckled, bruising. Yet, Captain Faramir never seemed to feel his father’s hand.
Long they stood there, dark statues linked, staring northwards into the void, rigid-faced, wide-eyed. When they began to stir again they moved even closer together, looking silently at each other, grey eyes locked, blanched faces grim.
Days later Lord Boromir’s horn was laid into the bowed Steward’s hands.
March 10, 3019 T.A.
The shadow had risen over Ithilien. Darkness crept stealthily into our minds, and there was naught we could do but look into our own hearts for strength and resolve.
The Captain of the Guard had sent me to our Lord to deliver a sealed scroll come from Pelargir. I found Lord Denethor in his chamber, his far-ridden battle-weary son sitting drawn-faced beside him. My Lord debated hotly Captain Faramir’s judgement to send the Ithilien Rangers to strengthen the garrison in Osgiliath. And he found offence in Lord Faramir’s glances to Mithrandir. Only then I saw Mithrandir standing silently aside in the shadows, shimmering in white robes. Me thought again our Lord was easily angered in these days of hovering darkness. Now he scolded his son for having yielded a mighty weapon to an unknown halfling only to play the gracious lord.
I waited still for a quiet moment to fulfil my errand, when suddenly Lord Faramir asked if his father wished that his sons’ places had been exchanged. My Lord agreed, adding that Boromir would have shown better judgement than Faramir, that instead of squandering irresponsibly what fortune gave Boromir would have kept Gondor’s survival foremost in his heart had he been in Ithilien. There Captain Faramir’s restraint gave way and he recalled, that it was his father’s decision overruling other counsel which sent Boromir on the perilous quest instead into Ithilien.
Amongst the men of the Guard it was said that my Lord ever thought Captain Boromir the more malleable and less headstrong son. Moreover, today our Steward was beside himself with anger. I thought that the presence of Mithrandir and his support of Lord Faramir’s judgement only increased our Lord’s annoyance with Lord Faramir’s ever so self-willed decisions to heights unknown heretofore. When Mithrandir argued that the mighty thing they had spoken of would have overthrown my Lord himself, I caught my breath, seeing the baleful look my Lord cast at Mithrandir.
But thereafter my Lord Denethor grew quiet and spoke, “In what is left, let all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while they may, and after hope still have the hardihood to die free.*” Then the Steward turned to his Captain and they discussed the garrison in Osgiliath. After Captain Faramir left I gave the scroll into the hands of Lord Denethor. I have never seen our Lord berating any man as intemperately as he did his own son on this dark day.
* LotR, RotK, The Siege of Gondor
March 11, 3019 T.A.
Since days we turned our eyes ever northward. Fervently, we all hoped that the Riders of Rohan would arrive in time, that they would ride to our aid and keep the Oath of Eorl.
When the Council ended in the late morning, we heard of the Steward’s decision to hold Osgiliath for as long as our out-companies could stay the Enemy’s onslaught. Captain Faramir and all the other captains had judged Gondor’s forces too weak to hold the ruined city for any success, but our far-seeing Lord asked Captain Faramir to lead the defence of the river passage at Osgiliath. And Captain Faramir obeyed the Steward’s command. He took with him as many men as were willing or dispensable.
We saw the wisdom of Lord Denethor’s decision when the fugitives from Cair Andros came streaming into Minas Tirith, strengthening our defences. Yet, in the end, our out-forces failed to hold the Rammas Echor until the Rohirrim could reach us. But Captain Faramir was there, staying the flood of enemies, rallying his men again and again, and by his endurance alone, brought back two thirds of them to Minas Tirith. The Steward had weighed his captains and had found no other who could have done greater deeds.
March 14, 3019 T.A.
The Steward’s heir lay on his death-bed in a chamber of the White Tower, the one man who would have given us hope brought low by Southron arrows. The Steward was not seen again in hall or court after Captain Faramir was laid in his father’s bed. Messengers asking for word of our Lord’s will went away answerless. They told of a rambling father’s despair, an old man watching grey-faced as his son drowned in feverish dreams. The dark shadow over Ephel Duath was waxing as was our fear. Our Lord had abandoned us in his grief, and we were left leaderless.
March 15, 3019 T.A.
Never will I forget the fires raging, devouring our Lord.
All hope he had lost, and now longed only for death unsullied, for himself and his son. “Bring wood, bring oil! – Gondor has failed! Minas Tirith will burn! Mordor spills out Morgoth’s creatures, the Haradrim minions march, the black ships of Umbar sail hence unhindered. We will all burn. All lost, all for nothing! – For vanquished Gondor I squandered my sons. – But the last I will save! At least the last I will save from the Enemy’s pranks. No one shall take my son ever from my side again. - He is burning already. I will not wait for the Enemy. Why do you tarry? Hasten! Build the pyre!” Utterly forlorn in black shadows no thought he gave anymore to his people. Us, his servants, he used as his hands and feet to hasten his end.
Oil and wood he wanted and oil and wood we brought him. Having ever obeyed all his commands, we did not refuse him now. He was our Lord, ever faithful to Gondor, providing for all our needs. He was our guardian, who used the seeing stone to his peril - we later heard - to widen his view, to deepen his knowledge, to reveal secrets concealed. He was our protector, and seeing all threats and dangers he strengthened again and again - just in time - our battered defences at the borders of Gondor. He was our head, as we were his body, his limbs, bound to do all his bidding.
No hand did we lift to save the lifeless Captain Faramir, each of us waiting for the other to disobey our lord’s wish. With pounding hearts roaring in our ears we stood frozen, weakness in our knees and minds. In the end, it was only Beregond who dared to counter our Lord’s command, slaying faithful brothers-in-arms who did our Lord’s bidding. Only his love for Faramir, striving against duty, was strong enough to conquer obedience, only his love could overcome pledge of faith and oath of fealty, though he knew – as we all knew - that in doing so, he forfeited his life.
For the rest of my life I will mourn my own heart’s weakness, that without any argument I abandoned my former pupil helpless in his despairing father’s hands.
Late-arrived, Mithrandir tried to sway my Lord from taking his life, reminding him that his people were in sore need of a leader of men and that the bitterest of all battles had already begun, yet our Lord only scorned the wizard and lit the pyre himself towering over his son.* Unable to change the father’s iron will to take his son with him Mithrandir leapt onto the pyre and bore Faramir out of the flames.
When the devouring fire leapt wildly to the ceiling we fled the House of the Stewards, left our Lord moaning in the flames that swallowed him, the flames dancing in the Palantir.
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