1. The Resolution
Too early for the rainbow, too early for the dove
These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood.
--- Leonard Cohen, The Gypsy's Wife
This is the end. I know it with unbroken certainty. I saw the coming darkness as surely as I had witnessed it myself. The ships coming up the Anduin, sails black as carrion birds, crows feeling the scent of death.
I have warred against the Enemy one last time. I felt the satisfaction in His venomous mind, His joy at my defeat. The West has fallen before His stratagems like an ancient tree felled by a cruel wind. The walls of the White Tower will crumble before Him; His fire will burn us all.
I sit in this chamber where I have spent the hours of so many nights and listen to the City falling around me. I feel the despair and pain of the last Exiles of the West like a wound in my flesh. I wish them quick deaths. I would not see them broken by the Enemy, slaves to His will. I would not give the Shadow that final victory.
My son moans in his dark sleep. I have tried to bend my will toward him, to call out to him in his fever dream. But he has gone where he cannot hear me. He has gone to the other side now, the land of the lost.
I think of my elder son's death. I wonder if it was swift or slow, as ours will be. That poor Halfling who threw his fortune with ours could not tell me. I do not blame him for his ignorance of this matter; he came here only to find his own death awaiting him, far from the land of his forefathers. Let him follow that white-cloaked fool if he will. They shall struggle like a fish caught on a line and the Darkness will still take them.
Am I afraid of dying, I wonder? I recall the fair face of my wife as she lay lifeless, her skin white and cold. I was not with her, in that sudden final moment. Was it brief or drawn-out? Was it painful? She had been waning, her body turning against her in some perversion of fate. She suffered and I, who read the hearts of men with nary an effort, could not see it. I was blind to that dark flame that had been lit in her flesh, a fire more powerful than even that of her spirit. Did she make an end of her own choosing? To go willingly into the dark weir of death rather than endure the shameful crumbling of her own flesh, its dignity waning before probing Healers? "We are given but one life," she said to me once, under the stars, "to do as we can."
I remember her motionless face, its beautiful flesh already beginning to show the ravages of death, and think of the crushing darkness of my son's watery grave. I sit next to my younger son and watch powerless as he sinks into that black lake from which there is no return. His days have been short, a young shoot that is cut down before its prime.
I want to tell him he did well. I want to tell him our defeat comes through no fault of his own; he withstood the Enemy as long as he could, or so I would say. I want to tell him that I risked too much for naught. I want to tell him that I forgive him his constant flaunting of my will and of the pride of Gondor, even if I do not. It would be a lie shared for comfort, moments before the fall.
It is day now, or so I suppose. There will be night soon enough, starless and endless. The city burns and none can put a stop to the deadly blaze. I can hear Him gloating, laughing in his Dark tower at my crumbling White one. He will despoil the Tower of the Sun as surely as He did the Tower of the Moon, turn it into a foul haunt for His fouler servants. His Eye is wreathed in dark flame and I feel His mind once more; I can taste it, a thing bitter and dreadful. It burns inside me, yet I can bear it one last time. He wants to take us alive, my son and I, prideful morsels for His plate.
Swear fealty to me, He tells me, and I will spare both your land and yourself. I will spare even your son from his end. You shall obey my command and give me tribute, but I will leave you in peace to manage your land and live contented as you will, and I shall halt the final strike of my host. Else I will delight in the shed blood of your people, and burn your realm to my glory, and you and your son shall be brought before me and end your lives in torment and slavery, bowing gladly to my will.
Spare your offers, Lord of Darkness. Do you think the House of Stewards has forgotten both pride and dignity, and that I would serve as an ailing dotard to your will, or perhaps betray the trust of the House of Anárion to that Northern upstart, so that we might cower together in your shadow? Do you think I would see my land alive yet despoiled in your rotten peace, given piecemeal to your servants? The Steward of Gondor bows not to you. And I shall be neither your ally nor your slave nor shall you have victory over me.
I must go to my son and parlay no more with that peddler of lies. Can you hear me, Faramir? No, I know that you cannot. I kneel beside you and take your hand, and your flesh is burning. But have no fear now, for the Shadow shall not take you. I have no doubt nor sorrow, now that all is made clear. We shall go lie amidst the dead and free ourselves from the Enemy at long last. No slaves of Mordor shall we be, broken in the agony of its pits; they shall defile neither ourselves nor our bodies. The pain, I promise you, will be quick; it will be little price to pay for ruling our deaths as we could not rule our lives. It will be but short torment, before that final shore that is cool and welcoming and full of stars.
And that, my son, shall be all you and I can share, and all I can give you before the flood.
Notes:His fire will burn us all is a nearly direct quote from Mononoke Hime/Princess Mononoke, written by Hayao Miyazaki, English language script adapted by Neil Gaiman. In point of fact, the first part of the fic owes quite a lot to several of Moro's lines in the movie, though there are no direct quotes.
He has gone to the other side now, the land of the lost. A nearly direct quote from Rapaces IV, by Jean Dufaux (text) and Enrico Marini (art). One of the best graphic novel series (it's a tetralogy) ever written. Trust me on this one.
Sauron's offer to Denethor (or is it all in the latter's mind?) is loosely based on the offer the Mouth of Sauron makes in Ch X, Book V of LotR ("The Black Gate Opens").
A tip o' the hat to Alec Dossetor for reminding me of the very good reason behind Denethor's choice of fire as his means of death. Isildur's corpse was apparently not so, er, lucky (see Unfinished Tales).
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.