Pride and Despair
1. Pride and Despair
Denethor looked out into the Silent Street at the guards staring back at him. Always they stand, waiting for my direction.
The time for hope had passed. At last he knew the truth he had long sought to deny. Gondor would fail. The West would fail. It is as I feared: none shall escape. Those who do not die today will lurk in the hills until they are hounded out. Men of lesser blood shall rule the last remnant of the Kings of Men. What hope can I offer our people, when I have kept no hope for myself?
His gaze fell on the guard nearest the porch. Whither goest thou, Gelmir? To death on the Pelennor? Death in the Silent Street? Death at thy lord's hand, or the hand of thy enemy? That is all the choice Fate leaves us.
"Come hither!" The words felt harsh on his lips, raw somehow, and unable to pierce the heavy air. He tried again. "Come hither!"
Far above, a winged shadow passed, and Denethor felt his heart quake within his breast. 'Twas a portent of doom, and one he had felt often over the last few days, even in his stony tower. Before, he had bowed his head, but now -- now that the end had come, he would look upon his foe. He forced his eyes skyward, gazing into the blue that was beginning to break through the darkness.
The horizon was unexpectedly clear on the afternoon Denethor and his family picnicked by the banks of the Anduin. He looked to the South, toward the river's mouth and the Sea beyond. He turned his gaze towards the West. Dol Amroth. In his mind's eye, the coastal fortress stood just beyond the edge of sight. Perhaps, if he strained his vision.... Could he see the great ships with their banners billowing in the breeze, silver swan on azure field?
Nonsense! Dol Amroth was leagues distant, and there was no use pretending otherwise. Much as he might wish to, Denethor could not draw his wife's old home nearer to her new one.
Two years ago the healers had begun to whisper. Women's sickness, they claimed. Or had it been despondency caused by Faramir's weaning? The list had run on: some imbalance in the blood; a simple pining for the Sea; or even the weight of the Shadow itself, growing in the East. Now they no longer offered names. To name it would not restore the colour to Finduilas' cheeks, nor would it make these too scarce good days come more often.
Several yards distant, wood struck wood, and boyish laughter rose above the lapping of the river against its bank. Denethor and Finduilas looked to where Boromir and Faramir stood, play swords held at the ready. Denethor remembered that stance. He had learned it years ago, when he began his training at the practice fields. He had taken Boromir there for the first time just over a year ago.
They are both rather good for their age, Denethor thought proudly. He wrapped his arms more tightly around Finduilas and leaned back against a tree, watching the game as it played out before him.
"Move your feet, Faramir!" he called.
Unmindful of his drooping sword, the four-year-old looked down at the ground and dutifully stepped to the right. Painted wood surged through the air. Startled, Faramir ducked further to the side, dodging the assault and countering with a lunge towards his still off-balance older brother. He touched the back of Boromir's knee with his own wooden blade.
"Point!" he cried proudly, tapping Boromir as the older boy stood frozen in place. Why, he is as shocked as I am! Denethor thought. Boromir was good. Very good. Was Faramir's natural skill even greater? Would the House of Húrin offer Gondor two fine soldiers one day? A father could hope.
"Point, point, point!" Faramir sang, gaily tapping Boromir's thigh, forearms, and chest with his weapon.
"I shall 'point' you," Boromir growled. Letting his own sword drop to the ground, he wrested Faramir's from his hands and threw it aside. He grabbed Faramir beneath his arms and whirled him around. The younger's shrill laugh pierced the otherwise quiet air. Boromir set his brother on the ground and chased him some way down the riverbank. Faramir outran his brother for some way, but eventually Boromir's overtook his younger brother and tackled him in a tickling hug.
Denethor found himself chuckling, much to his surprise. He leaned over Finduilas' shoulder to whisper in her ear, only to find her shivering in the late autumn breeze. He sighed.
"I thought to save this for tonight," he said. He walked over to the small stack of presents nearby, returning with a large box made from fine-cut sheets of polished lebethron lined with aromatic cedar. Sitting the box down at her feet, he kneeled to unfasten the silver clasps. Lifting out the great mantle, as deep a blue as the night sky, he stood up again and held out the garment for her to examine.
She stood still for a moment before she reached out one tentative hand to touch the cloth in Denethor's arms. Running a finger over the rich velvet, she ran her forefinger over one of the embroidered stars.
"Denethor..." she began.
He placed a single finger to her lips, silencing her. "I would give you the stars in the heavens, if I could," he murmured, "and only hope you will accept this poor substitute." He wrapped it around her shoulders and pulled it tightly around her body so it would help her fight off the late-autumn chill.
"Poor substitute!" Finduilas exclaimed, surprised. She looked down at the cloak and ran her fingers absent-mindedly over the embroidered stars. At last she looked up, smiling weakly. "I remember coming to the City with my family for the winter festival every year, and seeing your mother walking through the Citadel with your father, wearing a green cloak not unlike this one. I thought it was the most beautiful garment ever made. But now you have proven me wrong."
Denethor put his arms around her and pulled her closer. "The cloak is beautiful, love," he said, "but it is only cloth. You have given me gifts many times richer." He kissed her cheek tenderly. Their eyes travelled down the field to where Faramir squealed as his brother tossed him in the air. "If we are to be judged by our gifts," he mused, "I am a niggard."
He encouraged her to sit down and poured her a cup of almond milk. He wrapped his arms around her and held her to his side, leaning back against the tree. Peaceful in each other's company, they sat and watched their sons play. But, try as he might, Denethor could not make time stand still. Soon the sun had set over the Pelennor, and the first stars appeared in the sky. It was time to go home.
"Happy birthday, love," Denethor whispered in her ear as they rose and walked over toward the carriage waiting to carry them back to Minas Tirith. He looked up at the darkening sky for a moment before smiling at her. "Next year I really shall give you the stars." Or, failing that, he added to himself, a year peaceful enough to give you more than this one day out of the City.
"Come, if you be not all recreant!" Denethor met Gelmir's eyes, and for a moment the guard hesitated. I am surrounded by cowards and fools, the Steward thought. That wizard has stolen this one's heart as well. But before he could speak again, Gelmir and one of his fellow guards ran up the steps. Denethor snatched the brand from Gelmir's hand.
Quickly he strode through the doorway, past his grandsires' corpses, to the table that awaited him. Empty. I would Faramir and I had made our end together.
No! a voice deep inside him rebelled. Would you kill your son?
The other part of him found no answer.
Denethor cast the brand into the oil-soaked wood. He leapt onto the table with uncommon agility for a man his age. Looking across the cavernous room toward the door, his gaze rested on wizard, halfling, and traitor-guard, and his eyes shone with fire like that which even now consumed the lower circles. The flames crackled and rose up around him, shrouding him from the world beyond.
He raised his other hand, a thin white rod balanced between thumb and forefinger. He looked across it toward the three onlookers. And he smiled.
Denethor pulled the door of the House of the Kings shut behind him, locking out the howling winds and pounding rain. Water dripped from his cloak, and his footsteps echoed through the vault as he marched along the first long line.
Meneldil. Cemendur. Eärendil. Anardil. Ostoher. The list went on. He had learned their names and their deeds; his tutor had made sure of that, drilling him ruthlessly until Denethor could recite the register of kings with mechanical perfection. The steward closed his eyes for a moment, recalling all the times he had passed these tables before: first with his father Ecthelion, then for several years by himself, and now with his own sons. He shook his head, opened his eyes and walked on more briskly.
Several steps behind him he heard the squeak of a leather heel, pulling him abruptly from his thoughts. Denethor turned and saw that he had outdistanced his sons. Faramir soon reached his father's side, but Boromir was lingering near the doorway, looking awkward in his new squire's uniform. He was looking down the long rows of tables, his eyes wide with revulsion. So many bodies! Denethor knew that thought well. He had hated coming to this house as a child; even now he suppressed a small shudder. But there was a time for pleasure, and a time for duty. "Boromir!" Denethor called.
He watched Boromir hurry down the aisle to catch up with his father and brother, his damp hair matted to his head. He nearly slipped on the wet marble. Fitting weather, Denethor thought grimly.
They reached the thirteenth table, the last in that line. Falastur. Denethor rounded the corner to turn his footsteps again towards the entrance, as he followed the second line that backed onto the first row. Kings died and lines were broken, so brother's son took crown from uncle's hand, but still Gondor survived. And the Stewards remembered. This yearly walk reminded them.
"Why is this row so much shorter than the first?" Faramir's voice barely reached Denethor, even though he was just a few steps behind his father.
Denethor stopped short. He had almost forgotten about his sons, so absorbed had he become in the room and his own memories. Faramir's words, though spoken softly, seemed profane here, in this house of death that lent itself so well to silence and meditation.
He turned around and saw that Faramir was shivering, whether from the cold or from something else Denethor could not guess. He smiled to put the child at ease. "That is an excellent question," he said. Taking a step back, he rested his hand on Boromir's shoulder. "An excellent question for your brother." His tone was now firmer.
Boromir looked first at Faramir, then back at Denethor. The boy twisted the edge of his cloak in his hands, and Denethor guessed that he was trying to remember those few history lessons he had not managed to avoid. Several seconds passed, and Denethor felt his patience waning.
He sighed under his breath. "What is the first duty of a ruler?" he asked his sons, keeping his tone even to mask his annoyance.
"To protect Gondor," Boromir and Faramir answered together. Denethor could not help but notice that Boromir's voice, usually deep but occasionally still cracking into a youthful squeak, trailed Faramir's treble one ever so slightly. Both brothers apparently remembered the standard answer that Denethor, too, had learned as a schoolboy.
"And how does he do that?" he continued. Faramir began to answer, but Denethor held up a hand, warning him that this was also Boromir's question.
"Through valour," Boromir replied confidently. Denethor noticed that his elder son's hand automatically drifted to the hilt of the sword that hung at his side. And not a practice sword, either: this was a steel blade. Boromir was no longer a boy; he was now an esquire to the Captain of the Tower Guard.
In which case he should know better than to think Gondor's swords alone can save her, Denethor mused, silently vowing to make sure his heir missed no more lessons. "What else?" He turned from Boromir and made his way down the second row, quickening his pace slightly.
He heard Boromir clear his throat as if to answer, but no words came. After a few steps Denethor paused and once more faced his sons. Boromir, it was plain, did not know the answer, but Faramir might, if the way he bit his lower lip and looked expectantly at his father was any indication. But that was nothing new: Faramir often knew the answers to these questions. Much of the time, Boromir's replies were no more than words his younger brother whispered in his ear when they apparently thought Denethor did not see.
For a moment they stood looking at each other, but neither son ventured a reply. At last Denethor resumed his walk. "How did Falastur die?" he asked as they passed Narmacil's table and once more changed direction to begin making their way down the third row.
"Protecting Gondor," Boromir said quickly. Denethor could hear the pride in his voice and guessed that his son's eyes shone, as they often did when Boromir spoke of swords and glory. "He died in battle."
"And what became of his crown?" Denethor pressed. The question hung in the air for another long minute, and the silence was broken only by Faramir's even footsteps beside him and, further back, Boromir's shuffling feet. At last Denethor asked, "How does a ruler protect Gondor, Faramir?"
"'He gives his people an heir, and his heir a people.' So said Ereinion the Sage in the days of Calimehtar," Faramir answered quickly, rattling the words out as sharply as if he were reciting his multiplication tables.
"Very good." Denethor patted Faramir on the shoulder. "I see that one of you at least paid attention to your tutors. Now, Boromir, what did Ereinion mean?"
Behind him, Boromir's steps slowed, each footstep making an even longer squeak on the marble floor. "Do not lag," Denethor called as he and Faramir walked past the bodies of Ondoher and his two sons. Artamir and Faramir, he recalled. As always, Faramir son of Denethor's eyes lingered on his namesake, the younger son who risked a kingdom when he ran off to war.
Outside, the thunderstorm eased and the clouds parted; the dark room slowly grew lighter. A bright sunbeam shone through a window above the plinth that would have housed Eärnur. White light fell on white marble, pulling Denethor’s mind back to the task at hand.
A few steps later they reached the next-to-last table, where Eärnil lay. Boromir leaned back against the last table -- the empty one -- and began to answer. “The first duty of a leader is to leave his heir a people. He may have a company of sons, but if his people refuse to follow one of them where he would lead, or cannot follow, it is useless. If the Easterlings had overrun Gondor, it would not have mattered how many of Falastur’s sons had survived. None of our people would have lived free to follow their king.”
Aye, that lesson you know well enough, Denethor thought. Already your sword is praised, and, if the years spare you, some day it may bring you more renown than Rómendacil’s. But what of the rest? Your valour means I may leave my heir a people, but will I leave my people an heir? “And what of the other part? What did Ereinion mean, ‘He gives his people an heir’? What is the lesson of Númenor that was?”
“That ‘Death doth come for one and all, / Some in Spring and some in Fall’,” Boromir said, quoting those anonymous verses from Númenor that every Gondorian schoolchild learned.
“Good,” Denethor said. He took three linen cloths, a tin of polish, and a vial of oil from the pouch that hung from his belt, handed the tin and one of the cloths to Faramir, and set the others on the table’s edge. “But even a bird may mimic another’s cry. What did the poet mean?” He lifted the crown from Eärnil’s lap and took one of the cloths from the table. Boromir came over to stand next to Faramir, across from their father.
As Denethor turned the crown over in his hand, running his fingers over the ancient craftsmanship and gently caressing the seven gems of adamant with the cloth in his hand, he let Boromir’s words drift over him. His son talked of death, of waves crashing against Meneltarma because Ar-Pharazôn sneered at the Gift of Ilúvatar. He spoke of plagues and Wain-riders, marriages to those who were not of the race of Númenor, foes from abroad and foes from within, and the truth that no king lived forever. But Denethor was not really listening.
Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien... The ancient words came back to Denethor unbidden. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta.... Elendil had ridden upon those wrathful waves that drowned Númenor and had stumbled onto Middle-earth’s shores, his white sails billowing in the wind. Like on the wings of sea-birds, Denethor thought. Aye, it must have been a glorious sight, if old tales speak true: the tall Sea-king spat out by the Valar.
Denethor handed crown, oil, and cloths to Boromir. He watched Boromir unstop the vial, pour some of the oil onto one of the cloths, and work the cloth into the dips of pearl on the pearl-and-silver wings. But he was too pure, too great, for these lands soiled by Melkor and his spawn. The Sea-lords often journeyed to Middle-earth, yes, but they never stayed overlong. They came, they conquered, and they sailed home to Númenor. And if they tried to stay, they were overcome. Some accepted great gifts, and died not. They cheated the gift of Ilúvatar, and joined the Nine. But what did they give in return? They forfeited their birthright -- to be free-chosen lords of Men -- and bowed to Sauron. Middle-earth broke them, as it broke Elendil.
He saw Boromir exchange the anointed cloth for the clean one his father had used. Yet Anárion’s heirs did us this one honour: they chose Húrin’s line as their stewards. We may never wear Elendil’s crown, but Elendil’s crown, with its irreproachable purity, shall shelter our line from those who would unseat us. I have seen the look in Lord Angbor’s eyes --
Denethor’s thoughts were broken by the rising tone in Boromir’s voice. His son had ended his recitation with a question.
“Your pardon. I was meditating on Elendil.” He hoped his embarrassment at being caught daydreaming was not obvious. He thought rapidly and selected the best course to cover the fact he had not been attending enough to catch Boromir’s question. Nodding to his younger son, he said, “Perhaps Faramir knows the answer?”
Boromir finished wiping away the excess oil and handed the crown to his brother. Faramir had already opened the box of polish and dipped the third cloth in it. Setting the crown on the edge of the table, he polished the filigree around the jewels. Denethor saw him look up at his brother nervously. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “How many years...” he wondered aloud. “How many years does it take to make a steward a king, if the king returns not?” At last he handed the crown back to Boromir and looked across the table at Denethor. “I am sorry, Father; I do not know.”
“That is all right, Faramir,” Denethor said, giving his younger son a reassuring smile while silently thanking him for the aid he had provided. “It is no easy question.” He closed his eyes. Indeed. How many years? Long have I desired to wear this weight on my head, to sit in that throne, the king’s seat that has stood unfilled for too many years. But... would they accept me? All of them? If I ruled for my own glory and not for that of Anárion’s line -- no longer holding rod and rule in the name of the king, until he shall return -- would Angbor still fight by my side? Or would he use his valiant knights to challenge me? He sighed and opened his eyes. Reaching out, he took the crown from Boromir and replaced it in Eärnil's lap. Nay. I cannot claim it. The laughter of Mordor would be my only reward.
Denethor walked around the table. He placed his right hand on Boromir’s shoulder and his left on Faramir’s. “Few years, maybe, in other places of less royalty.” He looked up at the vaulted ceilings, the stonework that seldom needed repair and the statues that lined the walls. He took a deep breath of the stale air that filled the chamber to calm his mind. He did not like lying to his sons, but there were some truths that Denethor could not trust to even his nearest kin, young as they were. Perhaps some day.
He gathered up the cloths, oil, and polish. “In Gondor ten thousand years would not suffice.” And with that, the steward led his sons out of the House of the Kings and back into the living world.
Almost as if he was one of the helpless observers watching with horror as the flames wreathed and crackled, Denethor saw knee rise and hands fall to break the white rod in half. He cast the pieces into the fire that now surrounded him. Bowing to those who stood in the doorway, he clasped the palantír in his hands, the treasure that had both repulsed and drawn him for so many years, and laid himself on the table.
He may take my land, my future, my family. His voice may torment my sleep; the vision of that cursed burning Eye may plague my waking hours. But he shall not rule my end. The smoke silently billowed overhead, and the flames began to reduce his out-flung cloak to black ash. Denethor let his gaze fall on the black stone pressed to his chest, heavier than any king’s crown.
The door clanged shut behind him. Slipping the key into the lock, he turned it and heard the answering click. Good! Now I will not be disturbed.
He set his torch into the holder on the wall and took a step towards the black pedestal in the centre of the small chamber. Something stopped him before he took a second step: did he dare to brave the stone again? In the sixteen years since his father’s passing, he had only unlocked the casing twice: once drawn by curiosity, once by necessity. He remembered his father’s warning. The stones were perilous: too dangerous to use, even if he had the right to do so.
But Ecthelion had lived in a different time. He had not seen the reports Denethor had seen that afternoon. Legions of Haradrim were stirring in the South, and the latest scouting reports from Ithilien told of Haradric chieftains travelling to Minas Morgul. Harad had allied itself to the Dark Lord long ago, but her people had not travelled to Mordor in many generations. What could this mean? For they are Men, and Men do not love Orcs, no matter what their allegiance. He needed answers. He needed to see beyond Minas Morgul’s gates, to witness this secret counsel. Gondor’s very future might depend upon it.
Denethor did not let his thoughts dwell on Faramir on his first patrol beyond the River. He had known the risks when he encouraged Faramir to join the Rangers, and he must not allow love or fear to guide his course.
Laying aside his doubts, Denethor stepped across the room and stopped before the pedestal. He marvelled at the craftsmanship, just as he had the first time he saw it: hundreds of tiny hinged plates, each as inky as the midnight sky, combined to form what looked like a perfect sphere at first glance. They did not reflect anything about the room: not Denethor standing only a few inches away, nor the torch on the wall, nor the black tapestry embroidered in mithril thread showing Elendil and Gil-galad as they rode toward Mordor, with the device of Tree below and Stars above.
He took a deep breath to calm his quaking hands and again searched his ring of keys for the correct one. He found the small iron key he knew would open the case and slid it into the keyhole at the top of the palantír’s casing. After the last of the series of clicks died away, he spread the plates apart. They flipped open on their hinges and hung down from the pedestal’s surface, revealing the black stone within. Fëanor’s jewels in all their splendour could not have looked as lovely, nor proved as useful!
Denethor licked his lips in anticipation and rested his fingers on the sides of the orb. The impenetrable ebony melted away. Swirling clouds of dark purple and deep red parted before his eyes. He was rushing over the fields of the Pelennor and across the Anduin, flying like a bird, until he saw the glades of Ithilien before him. The grass suffered from the tramp of the boots of Mordor’s soldiers and the trees bled from the cuts of orcish scimitars. This was not the Ithilien of Denethor’s dreams, fertile and blooming before Sauron’s return, but Ithilien as his Captains described it.
He debated for a second whether he should search for Faramir's camp. No, I do not fear for his safety, he decided, no more than for that of any of the other troops. He is a well-trained swordsman and an even more deadly archer -- and he has the protection of his fellow Rangers. Yet Denethor knew it would do his heart good just to see the boy.
No. Already he was beginning to tire, and he knew he should not linger before the stone. He remembered the warnings he had received long ago from his father: The stones are connected. Whatever you see can also be seen by anyone looking into another palantír. And they are not all accounted for. A thousand years had passed since Minas Morgul's fall, and no one knew if that stone had been destroyed or taken. If the Enemy learned that the Steward of Gondor had a son in Ithilien... It was too great a risk. Denethor’s errand lay in the Morgul-vale, not around a Rangers’ campfire.
The green grass faded away, and soon Denethor found himself in that accursed valley. Orcs swarmed about, and with them men of Harad. Denethor had expected this much. Trolls, too, prowled through the countryside, and wargs, and other creatures Denethor could not name. He saw an Orc pick some sort of bug out of his oily hair, look it over, and pop it into its mouth. Disgusted, the steward turned the gaze of the palantír to the gates of the city that was the sickly twin of his own.
Then Denethor saw the captain. He stood on the hill before the fortress gate, talking to the chieftains of Harad. Behind him stood five or six orcs, better fed than most. The captain's head was bent toward the ground, and his face was hidden under a great black cowl.
Who was he? He was much too tall to be one of the Easterlings. Not an Elf, either: the Firstborn did not freely serve Mordor, and the Dark Lord would never give one of them such high command. Perhaps a son of Harad, or one of the Corsairs? Those alliances had lasted centuries now, but Denethor had thought their people served only in their own lands and that an orc-captain commanded the Morgul garrisons. Was Sauron strengthening the old alliances, then, and enlisting Men in Mordor's own armies?
Before Denethor could consider the question further, he sensed another will, some other presence in the valley that reached out to him. The palantír filled with a fiery light, and Denethor saw a great Eye speeding through the pass. He wanted to back away, but his feet would not obey his command; another will strove for mastery of his limbs and he could do naught but stand rooted where he was. His breath caught in his throat, and his heart beat painfully in his chest, so that the steward was sure it could be heard throughout the White Tower. The Eye of Sauron!
He tried to turn the palantír-sight elsewhere, but it was no use. Wherever he looked, that flaming image took form before him. His brain raced to other images against his will. He felt his wife’s eyelids under his fingers as he drew them closed: she was dead -- gone -- and could help him no more. He saw that upstart dark-haired captain of the North gathering an army, and knew that Thorongil would ride down to steal the white rod from Denethor’s hand. Boromir lay bleeding in the woods, the Horn of Gondor cloven in two. Faramir fell upon the Pelennor, an arrow in his chest, the black serpent of Harad on its scarlet field hovering overhead.
With an overwhelming effort of will, Denethor tore his hands away from the palantír and stumbled backward, falling onto the black marble bench near the door. Leaning back against the wall, he clutched at his chest, gasping for breath.
As his breathing calmed, Denethor began to make sense of what he had seen. They are not all accounted for. Sauron must have found a palantír; that was the only explanation. The stones let the man looking into them see and hear what happened in distant lands, but he could not be seen or heard. And yet Sauron had seen him! He had shown Denethor visions. How could even Sauron do this if he did not posses a palantír? He must have recovered the Ithil-stone.
And what of the sights the palantír had shown him? Finduilas was dead, but what of the other visions? Would Thorongil ride out of the North to challenge him? That at least was likely enough. Would both his sons die defending Gondor from that northern upstart, then?
But Denethor realised that the Faramir who had lain on the Pelennor was not the sixteen-year-old who now served in Ithilien. He had seen Faramir as a man, dressed as a mighty captain and in his prime. That could not come to pass for many years, if the vision spoke truth. Boromir, too, had seemed older than he was now.
So Gondor would not face a civil war for some time yet. Meanwhile, Mordor’s strength grew, and that strength was augmented by new allies: the man who now commanded in Minas Morgul, for one. Denethor needed to learn more about him if he was to continue to counter the threat of Mordor. For Gondor's sake, he would brave the stone again, but not today.
And I must gather the strength to master the stone. As it is, I doubt I could direct the visions where I would, even without the Eye.
Black was the colour of my true love’s hair. Blue was the wave that drowned Númenor that was. White was the crown, and white was the Tree, but black was the banner that bore them all into the Shadow-lands, when Elves and Men last drew swords together, and postponed our fall for a time. Black was the eastern sky in the dream that drew Boromir from my side; black are the sails that now bring our doom closer; black is the night that never shall lift. Black is the stone that torments me, even now.
But red is mightier. Red is the blood of my people, spilled on the Pelennor. Red is the inferno that spreads through the City. Red is the Eye that I long battled in vain, and red is the flame that now devours my flesh.
Denethor gave a great cry, and afterwards spoke no more.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.