Where History Has Been Fixed
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Doomed to Live: 3. A Fatefule Glimpse
An old man trudged up the worn-down steps of the Tower of Ecthelion. His form was bent with grief, but his steps did not falter, and he did not stop until he reached the door of the Tower's topmost chamber. There he paused briefly ere he fumbled for the key that was safely hidden beneath the folds of his richly embroidered robe. With trembling hands, Denethor, son of Ecthelion, Lord of Gondor, unlocked the door to his secret room under the summit of the Tower.
Some of the tension left his body once the door was safely closed behind him. Leaning back against the heavy wooden door, Denethor closed his eyes, glad that this day's work was finally done. Seldom had the Steward's daily tasks appeared as burdensome as they had since the faint cry of a horn blowing had echoed through the citadel. An ill foreboding had settled in his stomach when the sound had broken off all of a sudden, intensified only by Faramir's report that he had heard his brother's horn as well and shared his father's premonition about Boromir's welfare. But due to the Steward's rather tight schedule in these dark times, Denethor had spent the rest of the day trying to focus on the tasks at hand while floating between hope and despair, unable to substantiate either feeling with more profound knowledge about his beloved son's fate until late in the evening. Tired though he was, the queasy feeling that had been his constant companion throughout every meeting and appointment since late in the morning had finally driven him up Ecthelion's Tower where there waited the one thing that promised clarity: the palantír that he kept hidden in the secret chamber, one of the seven Seeing Stones.
Once he had re-gathered some of his breath and composure, he reopened his eyes and let his gaze rest on the pillar of polished black marble that occupied the center of the small, sparsely furnished room. The top of the pillar was covered with a piece of black velvety cloth, concealing a ball of about one foot in diameter. With a sigh, Denethor broke away from the sight of the hidden palantír and turned to a low table to his left instead. Pouring himself a goblet of wine, he mentally prepared himself to bend his thoughts to his realm's northern border whence the faint call of the Horn of Gondor had come. He savoured the rich taste of the wine for another moment ere he resolutely set the goblet aside and stepped into the center of the room.
Removing the cover revealed the palantír, candlelight reflecting on the smooth surface of the dark globe. Dropping the black cloth carelessly to the ground, Denethor stepped closer, willing the palantír to reveal this morning's events near Gondor's northern border.
Fire was the first thing Denethor saw as his mind was rapidly drawn into the stone, engulfing him in the images revealed. Ash rained down onto a barren landscape that was suddenly replaced by a fiery eye. This particular image was not new to Denethor, and he adjusted his focus away from the flame, further to the west. Dimly he beheld the huge statues of Isildur and Anárion in the distance, the silent sentinels that guarded his realm.
Moving his focus away from the Great River towards its western bank, he suddenly saw dark shapes, huge Orcs, a battle, and his son, Boromir, in its middle. A cold fist clenched his heart and took his breath, spreading chill throughout his entire body until he felt unable to move, as he saw an orcish arrow force his eldest to his knees.
"No! Not Boromir!" he cried, but as he focused his eyes and will once more to the battle, the pale unmoving form of Boromir, black arrows protruding from his body, was all the palantír revealed to him.
Denethor felt his knees grow weak, but just as grief threatened to overwhelm him, the image of a tall dark-haired man running among the hideous creatures that had murdered his son attracted his attention. He watched the lone figure that almost disappeared among the huge Orcs with growing surprise until the man turned his head to the side and Denethor could see his face; an image that burned itself forever into his memory.
Denethor staggered backwards and almost fell as he withdrew. Yet the image of that man among the Orcs kept swirling before his inner eye. The face that the palantír had shown to him appeared strangely familiar. And just as he stooped to retrieve the palantír's cover from where it lay on the ground, he remembered to whom this face belonged: Thorongil.
To be continued ...
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