21. Truths and Lies
The night simply would not end. For hours Frodo had stared at the eastern skies, waiting anxiously for the light of dawn to split the blackness. In the bleak shadows it was all he could do. It had become so deeply black that he could not even see much beyond Shadowfaxs large ears, so he had simply trusted the horse to pick their path through the rocks of Mordor. It was a frustrating thing, but he was helpless to change the situation. Thus, he had resigned to Shadowfaxs direction and watched for the sunrise.
Maybe the first streaks of light were causing the clouds to glow. Frodo peered at them doubtfully. The reddish tint betrayed the fury of Mount Dooms fiery breath, and he sighed slowly. He was three or four days from it, he believed, and though the thought brought him a bit of relief, his concern mounted as the distance he traversed increased. There had been no sign of Sam. Desperation mingled with intense worry, turning Frodos stomach into a churning, painful weight inside him. The closer he grew to the dark mountain, the more treacherous and uncertain the road became, and he was certain he would have easily lost his way if not for Shadowfax. How could Sam have possibly navigated this maze of black land? As the hours dragged onward, Frodos concerns mounted. He prayed that he had not missed some vital trace of his friend but thought the possibility all too likely. Still, he could not turn back after traveling so far into Mordor. His fear and frustration became a pressing force of despair. He did not know how he could even hope to locate Sam in the vast and barren expanse of this place. For certain he could not give up.
The small creature sighed and lowered his gaze. The dawn was stubborn indeed this morning, intent to lay in sleep and drag the endless night on forever. Frodo bitterly glanced around, concentrating on scanning his surroundings to assuage his anger. The land was black and nondescript. He had entered into a valley of sorts. The path was enclosed on both sides by tall ridges of thin rock. Guarding the front of the left wall was another small precipice that hung over a bit, as though leaning upon the firmer, larger rocks for support. The dense shadows draped a blanket of obscurity over the stone, and Frodo squinted, trying to discern reality from figment.
Boulders lined the unmarked road through the gully. Everything was so dark and dull that Frodo quickly abandoned his visual search. He closed his eyes tiredly as they burned in disappointment, bowing his head while the horse slowly trotted onward. Though he had left Gandalfs company hopeful and enthusiastic, his energy had been all but depleted by the smothering bleakness of Mordor. It was such a great and horrible place, where one mountain looked the same as the last, painfully monotonous. In the quiet places of his heart he grew more and more frightened. How could Sam have survived here? Where had he gone? Had his dear friend perhaps reached Mount Doom? Frodo gazed blearily at the horizon. Gandalf told him to trust in Shadowfax. Inside, the Hobbit held doubts that he would rather not consider. He wondered how a beast, no matter how magnificent or powerful, could know the dark roads of Mordor. Yet for days Frodo had followed the advice of the sage wizard. It seemed rather silly to now change his course.
He tried not to think, forcing his mind into a blank void. It was not all that difficult a task, given his exhaustion, and for a while Frodo rode numbly, waiting for the next dark valley to unfurl before him for inspection, hoping vainly that dawn was perhaps not so far away. His daze was in fact short lived for Shadowfax abruptly halted. Frodo glanced around briefly and quickly realized they had not yet left the gully. His irritation and confusion quickly abated as he nudged and prodded the great mount forward. Shadowfax, however, had no intention of abiding by the Hobbits wishes, standing still and tall. Frodos brow wrinkled in bewilderment when he understood. Shadowfax was telling him to look around.
His small hands clenched the animals mane, the sweaty fingers tangled in the fine hair for a good hold. Tentatively Frodo swung his short leg over Shadowfaxs back. The horse, forever aware of his needs, lowered its massive neck. Frodo was set to the ground.
There he stood a moment. He found himself shivering, though the air was quite warm, and he drew he cloak tighter about himself. From the cloth wrappings at his waist he drew the Elven knife. Even it could barely shine in this smothering blackness. He peered dubiously into the thick shadows. Gulping, he slowly stepped forward, clenching the hilt of the blade tightly in his clammy hands.
The silence was a roar in his ears, and his heart was shaking inside him. He worried that, from the night, some demon of Mordor might attack. He tried to assure himself that such a thought was silly, but his dread was difficult to simply dismiss. His footsteps seemed unnaturally loud as he rounded the edge of the wall. Because of the overhang above and the lean of the rocks, whatever lay behind the ridge was shrouded in impenetrable darkness. He stood still then, straining his eyes to detect movement or point of interest in the abyss, but failing. Then he leaned tiredly against the wall.
For a moment Frodo was tempted to return to Shadowfax and continue on his way. It seemed utterly foolish to wander into the area with no source of illumination. Countless dangers might await him in the shadows, and he would have no way to see their advance. Even if some clue of Sam were hidden in the obscurity, he would not be able to find it. As he pondered his choices, though, an idea came to him. He wondered then why he had not considered it before.
Trading the knife to his other hand, he dug into a pouch at his waist. For a moment he fished blindly, biting his tongue. Then his fingers brushed what he sought, and, grasping the small vial, he pulled it free from the leather. This he lifted to his eyes.
The clear liquid inside the crystal vessel glowed softly, chasing away the choking darkness. The item had been a gift to him from the Lady Galadriel. He closed his eyes, basking in the pale light, and remembered her gentle, melodic words. "May it be a light for you in dark places when all other lights go out." The Hobbit released a slow breath and opened his eyes once more. Such a great gift! She truly was a magnificent creature of unimaginable wisdom and foresight. He clenched the vial, which she had called the Light of Eärendil, tightly in his palm. He held his hand out then and watched in euphoria as the glow battled with the dark and illuminated his way.
Gradually he advanced between the leaning ridge and the massive wall. It was clear that something serious has upset the rocks, for strewn about the area were bits of stone that looked to be broken from some greater structure. Frodo glanced upward, but the light did not reach high enough above him to show him where the damage might have occurred. He was concerned for a moment that the wall had been weakened by whatever force that had caused the debris, but he had to brush aside the thought because, in the blackness, he was simply unable to determine the safety of the path. He resigned himself to this ignorance and steeled himself before continuing.
The vial he held before him shed its light silently as he walked, and his quick eyes darted from his shuffling feet to the darkness around him. His heart thundered and his arms and neck prickled with gooseflesh. The eerie quiet unnerved him. Should he call for Sam? The idea seemed so utterly ludicrous that he swallowed an unwitting laugh. There was no evidence that Sam was among these rocks, trapped, hiding, or otherwise. He imagined himself clinging to that foolish hope, that insane prayer, hollering into the idle shadows and disturbing the sleep of these rocks, pawning through the wreckage as he frantically searched for relief that was not to be found. More acutely still he vividly thought of the harsh disappointment at wasting his time, at returning to Shadowfax empty-handed. The frustration threatened once more.
Frodo closed his eyes, released a slow breath, and turned. As he did, he thought he heard something. The small creature stopped still in shock. Cold fear paralyzed him. Then he relaxed and listened. For a moment more it was silent before again the soft noise resounded through the area. Perhaps whatever caused the sound meant him harm, but for reasons he could not completely discern he found himself doubting there was danger and dismissing his fear as irrational. When a third time he heard it, he recognized it to be a scuffle, a twisted breath of fright and pain.
Once he realized this, he could not stop himself. "Sam?" His voice was a weak whisper that barely pierced the silence. Frodo felt his body shake, but he swallowed and found his resolution. "Sam?" he called again, his tone fortified and louder, echoing through the cavern.
Silence. Frodo held his breath and strained his ears. Had he been mistaken? Had his ears deceived him, his hopeful heart conjured a lie from the cold truth?
The word was nothing more than a weeping whimper. Frodo gasped. "Sam!"
Light crashed against rock violently as the Hobbit scrambled forward. Frantically he stumbled through the darkness, his rushed breath unbearably loud. The phial nearly slipped from his hands as he fumbled along the wall. "Sam, where are you?" He cursed his own harsh breath charging the air and his thundering heart, as they seemed so loud. Frodo swallowed and forced his pulse to slow. "Sam?"
The choking cry resounded off the rocks. Frodo straightened his bent form and reached forward with the light. It spread into the shadows, and the shuffling grew louder. A sniffle. The pale glow cleaved the blackness, and a friendship was restored.
Frodo leapt forward and embraced his friend. Sam hugged him tightly, sobbing strong enough to shake his form. Frodo closed his eyes, burying his head into Sams shoulder. A great moment passed in which the two Hobbits did nothing but hold one another, too shaken, too relieved, too exhausted to do anything else. They remained as such, breathing, feeling, basking in the renewed bond between them. How they had hurt! How they had worried! Brothers again reunited, tears shed in joy washing away pain and sorrow. Oh, to again feel such completion!
"Oh, Sam. Sam!" Frodo whispered, pulling away from his friends hold. He laid a dirty hand against Sams streaked, pale cheeks. The weak, white light of the phial made the other seem utterly ashen. "I have missed you!"
Sam gave a small smile. His lips quivered. "Mister Frodo! How did you find me?" he asked, his tone weak with emotion.
Frodo grinned in return. It seemed a massive tale, but he suddenly had energy to remember the twisted path that had carried his wearied feet since Amon Hen. He opened his mouth to speak, raising the phial to shed light upon his friends face. As Sams features were illuminated, his elation faded and his interest in his own story all but disappeared.
The visage before him was torn and bloody. A great bruise marred the pale skin of Sams left cheek, and a cut upon his brow had caked his hair with dried blood. Frodos eyes widened as he lowered the light. Sam was leaning heavily against the shadowed wall. He held his arm close to his chest and huddled. The boom in Frodos ears abruptly faded, and the wheeze of Sam was startling and inexplicably loud.
Frodo swallowed and grasped Sams shoulder. "Youre hurt " he gasped, feeling much of his previous euphoria fade in the face of the painful reality. "Sam, are you well? How badly are you wounded?!"
Sams face scrunched into a grimace, and a choked sob fled his lips. "Mister Frodo Mister Frodo!" Large tears that glistened in the pale light rolled down his cheeks. "Theyre everywhere! I I think I broke my leg," the quivering Hobbit moaned.
Panic pulsed through Frodo as he knelt. The limb was distended and bloody. Frodo winced as he gently peered closer. Sam had had the sense to apply a splint comprised of his short sword scabbard and his belt, and though the ripped cloth of his brown trousers was quite stained with red. Worry churned within him. He knew little about caring for wounds like these, and he was sure the trauma alone had and would continue to heavily wear upon Sam. "How long ago, Sam?" he whispered, aghast with what this horrible situation implied.
"Maybe a week," whimpered Sam, squeezing shut his eyes. "Master Gandalf left me to reach Mount Doom alone, you see. Why did he leave me? The Ringwraiths! Oh, the Ringwraiths!" The eyes were suddenly open and wide in unspeakable terror. Frodo shuddered. "They almost killed me! I ran, but I couldnt escape them I ended up down here, like this " Sam sucked in a shaking breath. He pressed his palm to his forehead. "I hear them, Mister Frodo," he gasped frantically. Frodo numbly watched, feeling his friends panic slam against him with the press of total fright. "The sound of horse feet pounding against the ground is so loud! For days Ive listened. Theyre searching for me, Frodo! Strider was right! They never stop hunting!" Once more the big tears filled the brown eyes, and Sam wept. "Ive been trapped here for so long "
Frodos heart ached powerfully for his dear friend. He rose again and pulled Sam into his embrace once more. Sam fell into his arms willingly, and Frodo tenderly rubbed his back. The tears came unbidden and he wept without repose. This was his burden! This was the torture he had inadvertently levied upon his dearest companion! The guilt was sour and ludicrous, but in that instant it was all Frodo could feel, pummeling his dignity and his resolve with fists of iron. The shame that for weeks had tormented him suddenly became unbearable, and he could barely maintain a grip upon his composure. He took a deep breath. The twist of fate could not be changed, but he could now make amends. "You will never be alone again, Sam," he promised, tightening his grip about his friend. A few minutes passed, and Sam began to calm. Frodo pulled back and smiled weakly. Sam released a slow breath. "I promise."
Sam hesitated and then nodded slowly. Frodos grin grew wider. "Now, come on. Lets get you out of here."
Sam sniffled. "But how, Mister Frodo?" He shook his head and lowered his gaze. A sob again threatened his tone. "Ill only slow you down. Youve no chance if you take me!"
Frodo smiled once more. "Gandalf has given me a horse, Sam!"
The other regarded him in confusion and disbelief a moment. Then he wiped his face on his sleeve and sniffled again. "A horse?" The tentative voice sounded so wistful that Frodo felt overly glad that he could provide Sam with this hope.
"Yes!" he declared jovially. "He waits outside. All we need do is go out. He can take us home!"
Silence. Sams lips twisted into a shaking smile. But the grin was quick to dissolve into a frown. "We cant go home yet, Mister Frodo." Frodo watched as his friend slide a dirty hand into the breast pocket of his jacket. Then Sam held out his palm.
Glinting in the light of the vial was the One Ring. Frodo felt his eyes drawn to it, and he suddenly could not look away as the gold shine of the band entranced him. He had almost forgotten about the Ring, and he sickly wished it could have remained as such for the return of the vile burden to his sight stirred within him feelings that both alarmed and disgusted him. He felt the soft chant return to his attention, caressing, calming, lulling. He sank into it. Idly he wondered how he could so simply return to its arms, why, after before he so detested it, he now felt such relief that it was with him once more. A sad weakness! A cruel temptation! He wanted so badly to touch it, to feel its cool metal against his finger, to submit the call. Completion. Contentment. The Ring had come home!
He jerked, snapping from his trance. Sight returned. The dry cold, the pale light, the dancing shadows. His racing heart and charged breath.
Sam regarded him with concerned eyes. "Are you well, sir?"
He could not force himself to smile. Teetering was his resolve, was his very sanity he thought, but he held tight to his composure and nodded. Sam did not seem convinced, but he obviously chose to question the matter no further. He looked disdainfully at the Ring resting peacefully in his small palm before offering it to Frodo. "Shall I return it to you?"
The desire screamed within him, but Sams worried gaze kept him tethered to his strength. He swallowed uncomfortably, resisting the urge to take the offered Ring. He was surprised at the will power the simple restraint required of him. Frodo released a held breath slowly and shook his head finally. "No." So simple. It was what he wanted, was it not? His voice sounded so weak and pathetic. Stop it! You do not want it! You do not! "You keep it, Sam." He gave a feeble grin, hoping to mask his doubt and dishonor. "Youve brought it this far. It is only right."
They stood still, quiet, awkward in the moment. Frodo was terrified that Sam would detect his weakness, that his closest friend would inevitably know his lie and see through his mask. Were his words before perhaps too fast? Were they riddled with insincerity? But Sam only nodded and smiled, closing his fingers about the Ring and returning it to his pocket. Frodo breathed a sigh of relief.
He was quick to move on. The longing had quieted, but it was now awake, and he wished not to concentrate upon it. "Lets go quickly. It is nearly dawn, and I daresay there isnt much time left."
Again Sam silently affirmed his declaration. Frodo pulled his weakened friend from the rock wall. "Lean on me," he whispered, pulling Sams uninjured arm across his shoulders.
Sam shook his head. "I left my sword back there, Mister Frodo," he admitted almost sheepishly.
Frodo glanced behind him to the shadows. It suddenly seemed incredibly claustrophobic, like a vacuum hungrily seeking to devour them. He had no wish to go back there. Instead, he offered Sam the knife. Sam accepted it hesitantly, the pommel large in his hand, and blade glowing in the pale light. His face scrunched uncertainly. "This is " Frodo cringed as Sam looked up and regarded him with wistful eyes. "Hes alive?"
He could not find it within himself to tell the truth. Sam had certainly suffered enough. Admitting his own guilt seemed utterly preposterous. He did not know if his friend could bear it, let alone if he himself could. So he nodded. And then he unwittingly embellished, because that simple gesture seemed to betray his lie. "Aragorn he and Gimli they saved him."
The words sounded wretched. They burned his ears with shame and guilt. But Sams face showed him only relief and happiness. "Oh, Im so happy to hear that! I loathed leaving Master Legolas there, that I did! He is well, then?"
Frodo bowed his head. "Yes, Sam." He forced a jovial tone into his voice. He felt a horrible, wretched monster. Who was he to betray Sams trust? How could he so simply lie about what had happened? About what he had caused? Yet the truth seemed threatening, and he could not force himself to admit it.
"Praise be!" Sam laughed. "Maybe theres a chance yet then, Frodo! Maybe there is!"
Frodo smiled weakly and nodded. The lie hung on the air, foul and hideous. But he could not expunge it. He took Sams uninjured arm and draped it over his neck. "Only if we find our way. Lets go."
Sam nodded then and leaned into Frodos sturdy form. Together the two Hobbits limped and struggled to the mouth of the collapsed wall, Frodo holding the phial of Galadriel before them to light their path. Sam was breathing heavily, struggling for each step as he fought to keep weight off of his injured leg. Frodo supported him blankly, his mind in turmoil. Why had the sight of the Ring so allured him? Why had he lied? Tears burned his eyes.
They finally emerged from the rocks. Fresh air buffeted against them, and they looked to the horizon.
Golden light spread from the dawn, breaking the black clouds and splitting the nights grasp upon the land. It brought the sky to life with an ethereal glow. It seemed almost misplaced in this black land.
Frodo watched it blearily. All the days he had traveled in shadow, in twilight, in smoke. This was too little too late.
Mount Doom scorched the sky with black and blood. It rose in the distance, calling them, beckoning them. He released a slow breath. They were so close. Yet he was so tired, and felt so different. Sam smiled faintly at the dawn, perhaps at the future, but Frodo could feel no euphoria. They would ride hard. In perhaps a day they would reach the summit of the volcano. They would brave the heat, the terrain, the danger. They would suffer such terrors for the sake of this quest. And after they destroyed the Ring, would that end it? What would become of them? How would they return to the Shire? How could they? How could destroying the One Ring restore all that had been lost?
Frodo lowered his gaze. Maybe this one lie he had spoken was only a small stitch in the greatest falsehood of them all. Nothing could bring back Legolas. Nothing could undo the wrongs of Boromir, of Saruman the Wise. Many had died. Many more might should that army he had seen reached Gondor. How would destroying this silly Ring make such an atrocity right? It could not. Nothing could.
How pointless! How futile! The Rings evil was wretched indeed!
Shadowfax snorted as they approached. Sam seemed awed by the magnificent beast whose coat shined vibrantly in the morning sun. Frodo remained oblivious, dark and secluded in his thoughts, as the horse again lowered himself. He numbly helped Sam mount the creature before climbing upon the sturdy back. Shadowfax seemed to have no difficulty with the increased weight, galloping effortlessly forward.
Frodo closed his eyes. He felt Sam sigh. "Im glad you found me, Mister Frodo. The roads ahead of me, but Im not afraid anymore."
He envied Sams innocence, his simple loyalty, his unfettered and ignorant hopes. He wished for his friends ease of thought! He knew why he had lied about Legolas. He had not wanted to hurt Sam like he had been hurt. He wished not to steal Sams faith. Where was there truth beyond the cold lies of the Ring? The song was loud and comforting. Even if he were to destroy it, he knew now that that song and all its sick promises and caresses would always be a part of him.
The road was ahead of them, but Frodo
had lost his way.
The great doors of the throne room of Minas Tirith creaked open loudly as the two guards pushed them. Faramir only waited for the portal to widen sufficiently before charging through, pausing to only glance at Gandalf. The sound of his heavy footsteps echoed through the room.
Denethor raised his head quickly. He had obviously been examining some parchment of great importance, though Faramir could not see its content. He was surrounded by advisors, all of which the young man recognized saving one, whose pale skin and beady eyes he found distressing and distrustful. This man, dressed in dark robes, slid behind the collection of his fathers people. The rest regarded him with confused expressions, while this particular and strange being hid. It was then Faramir realized the bewilderment and apparent fear was not due to his appearance, but rather because of his companion.
Gandalf walked with none of his urgency but with a powerful air of knowledge and significance. The white robes swished across the floor, and his staff clanked against the marble with each step. He seemed serene yet taut
The Steward of Gondor rose from his chair. His old face, framed by a white beard and hair and topped with a simple crown, was lax in puzzlement. The old and knowing eyes first fell to his son. "Faramir?" A brief flash of annoyance crossed his face. "What is the meaning of this?"
"My Lord," began Faramir, irritated that he sounded so frantic and winded. He took a deep breath to compose himself. So much depended on his strength now. "Gandalf the White wishes to speak with you."
A hushed whisper went through the crowd of men. Denethors high brow furrowed in confusion. "The White?"
Gandalf stepped forward, immediately grasping control. "Lord Denethor," he said firmly, "we have little time and much to discuss. I have become the leader of my Order, and I have come to offer you the advice of the Istari."
"Preposterous!" roared the little man as he stepped from hiding. Faramir narrowed his eyes at the unknown advisor. "Only Saruman the Wise is worthy of such a title!"
A tense moment of silence followed. Finally Denethor spoke. "Let us not bicker." He gave Gandalf an appraising look, one tinged with a bit of suspicion and even more amazement. "There were rumors of Sarumans corruption. Until now, I had doubted their veracity."
"As well you should, my Lord," spoke again the little man. Faramir disliked his audacity. "They are rumors, and nothing more."
Gandalf grunted and stepped closer. The small, pale creature visibly recoiled. "On the contrary there has been a great deal of deception in Middle Earth years past. Saruman has fallen into darkness. He now serves the Dark Lord. He has done much to stop the free peoples of this land from protecting themselves." The man cringed and retreated yet another step. Confusion entered Faramirs mind at this fearful reaction. "I do remember you, Lord Gríma, from King Théodens court. Another name marked you then. This I remember as well. Wormtongue." The man called Gríma stiffened. Others in the room remained hushed in surprise. Faramir felt he was beginning to understand. "It does strike me as strange that you should appear here in the wake of Théodens death when Rohan clearly needed you."
Wormtongue bristled. "I have come to charge my Kings murderer and protect his allies." The beady black eyes narrowed contemptuously. "Perhaps the deceit of which you speak lies not in Rohan." The accusation was starkly clear.
Gandalf was neither impressed nor shaken. Calm was his gaze as he looked to Denethor. "We have precious little time. A great, black force stirs in Mordor."
Faramir watched the muscles of his fathers stern face shift and clench. "We knew of the evil afoot in Minas Morgul," he declared. There was a worried tone in his voice that Faramir had not often heard before.
Gandalfs face was remorseful. "There is a much more than that. Sauron rises. The fateful day is not long off now, and we must move quickly to fortify this city. An army of Orcs and ghouls grows in the east, pushing closer, bent with rage and ambition. Their intent is Gondor."
Silence. Denethor sighed, lowering his head. "It is true, then," he murmured. When he again met Gandalfs gaze, his eyes were glazed in tightly controlled fear and panic. "The rumors of the dark force rising are true. They will march to Gondor, you say?"
Gandalf nodded. "Undoubtedly. They will seek to destroy men, to knock the foundation from the defense against Mordor. From there they will ravage Rohan and Lórien. Rivendell and Mirkwood."
"You have come here to tell us this?" asked one of the other advisors shortly. Faramir stared at the man a moment, struggling to put a name to the face. When he could not, he simply brushed it aside.
"I have come," Gandalf amended, "to ferret out the hand of Saruman in this court. A great disservice has been done to you, Lord Denethor. A lie spoken by a most cunning and creative deceiver has wrongly corrupted you and placed an innocent man in jail."
Denethor had grown frustrated. His eyes flashed with anger. "There is no proof that the heir of Isildur is innocent!" he roared.
Faramir bolstered himself. "Father, Boromir is not dead," he declared evenly. He tried very hard to rid his voice of his emotion, but he heard his own sorrow. Perhaps he lives, he thought sadly. But he bore the look of a tormented man. "He is alive."
"A lie!" shouted Wormtongue. Faramir shot the man a harsh glare. It was enough apparently to quell the advisors defensive rage. "Your mind, wrought with grief and anger, may have tricked you, my Lord."
"It was neither trick nor delusion. I saw him. My eyes deceived me not."
Denethor regarded his son with surprise and dismay. "Where?"
"Not far from Cirith Ungol, my Lord." Faramir lowered his eyes, knowing again the plaintive power of Boromirs wild gaze upon him, hearing those desperate words, feeling the grasp of strong hands shaking in panic upon him. "He was well, but extremely distressed. I do not know why." The lie hurt him. He did know why. He just did not have the heart or the power to tell his father to step down.
His father ignored his moment of weakness. Cold, confused eyes turned to Wormtongue. "What say you of this, Lord Gríma?" he asked tightly.
The little, pasty man appeared rattled. Faramir found himself pleased by the sight. "Surely there has been some mistake. My eyes as well played no mischief upon me!"
Faramir could not stand his lies. "There was no mistake," he hissed.
"You are tired, my Lord. Weary and tense. Great evil has spread through Minas Morgul. Perhaps you came upon the foul work of another, a spell that created the most vivid imagining," Wormtongue offered. His voice dripped in innocent conjecture.
"For what purpose?" Denethor asked. Faramir could not detect from his fathers tone whether or not he agreed with what Wormtongue proposed.
The pale face grew wide with mock surprise. "Is it not obvious?" The man raised his hands, his dark robe swishing with the movement. "The son of Arathorn seeks to usurp the throne! Should you release him, he will immediately betray you! A man in a covenant with Elves! Please consider what I say, my Lord, for it is truth. Isildurs blood has lost its power!" The man nearly snarled, bearing yellowing teeth. "He was raised by Elves, named as their hope. He is friend to them, not to men. He will readily seize Gondor from those who rightly possess it!"
Gandalf gripped his staff tightly. "Such rubbish! The Elves pose no threat to men. The Last Alliance holds true, as strong here as it was upon the slopes of Mount Doom!" His dark eyes narrowed. "If you stand divided when the forces of Sauron march upon you, you will fall."
Wormtongue visibly bristled. "If you trust the Firstborn, they will betray you!"
Gandalf glared violently upon the small man, whose words seemed far too big given his stature. "The Elves gain nothing through betrayal. They cannot defeat Sauron alone."
"And if they do not seek to defeat?" asked another of the stewards advisors. "An army of wood Elves marches south. We cannot contend with both Mirkwood and Mordor!"
The wizards face was taut. "Mirkwoods king sent his own son as a member of the Fellowship! A father does not sacrifice lightly! Would you have the Ring destroyed, my Lord?"
Denethors eyes again flashed with anger. Their burning was not as bright this time, however. "Of course! I would not have otherwise sent my eldest to the House of Elrond!" he vehemently declared. Faramir watched his father twist the argument, seeking to pull some sense from the convoluted tales before him. "But that is not reason enough to trust. The Nine Walkers have failed. I know not the nature of their fall, and because I cannot blame, I cannot absolve."
"The fault of the Fellowship lies not with the Elf," remarked Gandalf coolly. "The corruption of the One Ring has always been the bane of man."
"If this is a madness that drives me, it is one of my own making." Boromirs words resounded through Faramirs mind. His heart suddenly hurt, and his head spun. The truth hit him with little mercy. While he lingered in a daze of despair, the conflict thundered forth. Yet he did not hear the thunder of voice. The room had erupted into a flurry of shouting, but he could not comprehend the words. The gravity of what he had just realized was too powerful. Boromirs panic. Boromirs guilty eyes. Bloody hands and desperate words. He understood why his brother had asked such things of him. Terribly he understood everything.
He snapped from his reverie and focused once more. The men were arguing loudly, the angry accusations filling the chamber. To his father he looked. And the epiphany gave him courage to speak the truth. "Father," he said softly. When that did not attract Denethors attention, he raised his voice. "Father!"
There was silence. The old steward turned to look upon him with the same tired, proud eyes by which he had so many times been awed in the past. The words fled his mouth without another thought. "I say this with no disrespect." He took a deep breath. "You must abdicate the throne."
The stillness grew tighter, stifling. The room seemed to linger in a state of shock. For a moment, Faramir himself could not even believe what he had said to be real. Such treason!
Denethors eyes gained a hard glint, and the aged face pressed into a frown that tested Faramirs resolve. The shock was slow to recede, and his father chose not to speak. The emptiness pushed Faramir into explanation. He dropped humbly to one knee and bowed his head, lowering his gaze. "That is what Boromir wanted me to say." The last statement was soft, but seemed unreasonably loud in the hush.
Denethor spoke lowly. "Do you believe that is right?"
He could not lie. "No."
"Then what do you believe?"
Faramir sighed gently. "I do not know what I believe, but I do believe in him." He raised his eyes slowly. "Father, I would not say this if I thought it foolery! Boromir surely had his reasons, and I trust that."
The silence was supreme. Faramir watched his fathers eyes glaze with betrayal and confusion. When this happened, his resolve wavered. The pain upon Denethors face was unmistakable. Yet he spoke without heat. "Boromir told you this?"
"Surely not!" cried Wormtongue. "There is usury afoot here, my Lord! Deceit bears the mask of truth and love!"
Gandalf voice flared, and his eyes blazed. "Still your manipulations, Wormtongue! You shall no longer hold sway in this court!"
But Wormtongue would not be dissuaded. "My Lord, please, this is the hand of Sauron, I assure you!" he implored earnestly.
The stewards voice turned icy. "Be wary of your words, Lord Gríma, for you accuse my son."
Wormtongue closed his mouth and respectfully bowed his head. "Forgive me, oh Lord. I speak only for your protection." Faramir felt his hatred for this man simmer as he glared upon him. This advisor was little more than a snake, slithering about under camouflage of loyalty, preparing to strike. The esteem he displayed towards Denethor seemed a rouse, riddled with fake admiration and hidden intentions.
Silence descended once more. Long shadows were stretching across the room, dark and deep. Faramir released a slow breath, struggling to maintain a grasp on his floundering composure. He suddenly felt horridly weary and rotten.
Denethor stood. All eyes fell to him, waiting for his opinion on what had been said. The aging man looked worn by the weight of the situation. Above all, he seemed pressed by the choice. By the betrayal. "I I must think on this in private."
The silence endured, and the words hurt. Faramir cringed inwardly as his father quickly passed, as though the brush of air held a touch of doubt, of anger, of disappointment. "Faramir," came a mumble, "see that our guest receives proper attendance."
"Yes, Father," he whispered weakly.
Then Denethor reached the door. The soldiers pulled it open with the same heavy, loud creak, and his long strides carried him through the portal.
The chamber remained in silence. Faramir bowed his head sadly and fought against the tide of disgust and shame within him. He began to doubt the veracity of what he had proposed and his reasons in even proposing it. He felt a strong, comforting hand fall upon his shoulder. He knew Gandalf was offering him silent support, but even this did not assuage his guilt.
Anger burst inside him, and he looked up. Wormtongue stood stiffly. The golden light of sunset spilled through the windows, but even that could not remove the aura of cruelty and lies that clung to the man. Faramir gave him a harsh glare, but Wormtongues black eyes were distant, and he did not notice.
Distant with unspeakable malice.
Thunder rattled Minas Tirith that night, and Faramir could not sleep. He lay in bed, watching the bright bolts of white and blue streak the sky through the window of his room. Each flash filled his eyes with specters and ghosts of the past, of things he wished undone, of lost chances. It pierced his peace, the booming of his guilt shaking his composure as the thunder did the windowpanes. The young man gave a shaking, frustrated sigh and rolled over. His brothers image would not let him rest.
Faramir pulled a pillow over his head to blot out the horrible brightness. Then he drew in shuddering breaths until this heart ceased its racing. Upon this he concentrated. A bit of clarity came to him and he closed his eyes. It was silent now. Perhaps he could quickly fall asleep in this brief tranquility. There was much yet to do, and he needed all of his energy. He was utterly exhausted. Perhaps he could simply drift away
There again came thunder, but this was much louder and closer. A fist slamming upon his door. A voice shouting. Though the heavy oak muffled them, the words were clear. "Lord Faramir! Lord Faramir, sir!"
Faramir shot up in bed, ripping from his doze. His frantic eyes fell to the locked door, and he scrambled from beneath the blankets. His uncoordinated feet stumbled in the dark as he lurched across the room. Frantic hands opened it.
A winded soldier appeared bearing a burning torch. Sweat glistened upon a pale face tight with fear and anger. "My Lord, you must come quickly! It is your father!"
It struck him. His heart halted in its strenuous beat. He could not breathe. Maybe the world lost substance, lost purpose, lost meaning. He lingered in a moment where there was naught but shock and dismay, and his body became to him but ice in the face of the sun. Helpless.
Yet he was moving, flying down the hall. His hands had grabbed his sword. His body had moved without direction. The darkness was thick and heavy, broken by vicious flashes and the bobbing of fire ahead. He was lost to it. Trapped inside his mind, there was only the furious sun and the horrible realization. The truth that he had been too blind to see. Too foolish! Ai, too selfish!
A great commotion grew ahead. Many men were gathered about his fathers room. Some were idly standing guard with expressions of guilt plastered upon tired faces. Others whispered and wondered. Desperately he pushed his way through. Those nearest the door saw him approach and parted.
He burst inside.
Gandalf looked to him sadly. Wise eyes aged in experience were warm with sorrow. "It is too late," he softly declared.
Blackness spread across the room. One old candle burned quietly. Spilt wine. Shattered glass. Lightning splashed Faramirs sight with blaring white.
There, on the floor beside his favorite reading chair, lay his father. Faramir regarded the form quizzically, knowing deep inside the cold fact of it but simply unable to acknowledge it. In the weak yellow light he saw red spreading across the floor. Closed eyes. Pale face. Unmoving lips. No!
The scream of despair never fled his lips. He fell to his knees beside the dead Denethor, the tears rushing from his burning eyes. With shaking hands he pulled the limp body to him. Perhaps there was yet breath! Perhaps there was yet a chance! But his father was gone from this world, his eyes sealed tightly shut as if to now guard him from the perils of life. As if to grant him the peace of eternal sleep. Rest for a life spent serving the good of his people.
The blood washed over Faramirs hands. He closed his eyes and his body shook. There came a rage he had never before felt inside him, a rancorous anger powered by sorrow and guilt and regret. Never would he speak words of apology. Never again would he know the pride of his fathers loving gaze, or hear a word of encouragement. His strong and glorious father!
There suddenly had to be an explanation. There had to be a reason! "Who did this?" he hissed, venom dripping from his tone.
The same soldier that had woken him lowered his eyes. "I am so sorry, my Lord. The Lord Gríma came and requested an audience." Slowly another soldier, this man covered in blood, extended his hand. Resting in the palm was a dagger of simple created. The sharp blade was covered in red gore. Lightning flashed and the wicked weapon gleamed sadistically. "The make is clearly of Rohan." He gave it to Faramir.
The weapon felt hard and horrible. Hot with his fathers blood. Cold with its crime. The rage became uncontrollable, slamming against his restraint, battering his guilty heart. He realized he had already known the identity of the perpetrator. It was so obvious! The lies, the anger, the hate and manipulation that look. Faramir had done nothing! Nothing!
He rose quickly. "Where is he now?" he demanded. The soldiers flinched. When they refused to respond, he bellowed, "Where?!"
"We lost him, sir. He eluded us in the shadows."
He slammed his fist upon the old table over which he had so many times in the past shared conversation with his family. His family. "Seal off all of Minas Tirith! I want him found! He shall not escape Gondor!"
The men snapped to attention, startled by their masters uncharacteristic anger. They skittered off, anxious to make right their mistakes. The thunder boomed with falling feet.
Faramir stood still, stiff. Then he snapped. He slammed the bloody dagger into the table. And for a moment he only breathed.
"If this is a madness that drives me, it is one of my own making."
It is now my madness as well.
"I have done him a great disservice. I pray he may never come to know of it."
He never will.
"If you will not trust Aragorn, then trust me. I have never before led you astray."
He felt Gandalf behind him. Felt the weight of what he must do. Felt the purpose of the world again. In that understanding, some peace came again to him. "Come," he said softly, drawing strength from his burden. "Let us make the way of things right again."
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.