8. The Heart Speaks The Strongest
And you stayed safe, if only for a little while.
All of a sudden, Beregond checked his surroundings in wonder. How did he find himself walking up towards the citadel, fully armoured? But then realisation caught up with him: two nights and a day had passed ever since his memories surged his mind and made him almost oblivious to anything else.In fact, ifanyone askedhim what he had been doing during that time, Beregond would certainly not have been able to answer clearly. All he would be able to say was that, after his night shift ended, he returned home; ate a little something for breakfast, much to Bergil's relief; then sat for hours on end on his chair. He never caught himself falling asleep, though he did have a vague recollection of waking up at dusk. And all that was left for him to do, since no more sleep would come at him at night, was to lie down on his bed, gazing at the ceiling as he replayed in his mind's eye all the memories he had with Faramir – practically his whole life. And now he was going to his duty once again.
After all, that was what was left for him to do. To carry on with his duty, even at thisdark hour.
As Beregond was still walking, however, whispers reached his ears that fully caught his attention. He never stopped walking, yet he did his best to listen to the conversation of the group of citizens he was passing by. Yet what he heard made his blood boil in his veins and so he quickened his pace before he made the mistake of losing his temper.
"Faramir is dead already." He snorted at the statement as he repeated it, trying to keep his voice low despite his annoyance. "What do they know? They can't even hold their tongues when they're supposed to!" he hissed, disgusted. Did these people have so little faith on Faramir? Did they see so little of Faramir's strength of heart? The fighting spirit that resided within him?
Fools. All of them.
On the other hand though… were they indeed fools? Could he deny that Faramir's condition became worse with each passing day? That he would probably not survive this day?
All feelings of anger ebbed away to be replaced by the burden of sadness, making his legs feel like lead. It was with great difficulty that he walked up to his post.
"Hello! Now that's a dreadful sight I'd rather be spared of this morning."
Beregond snapped his head up, surprised to hear Borlas's voice from so close. And though the grin with which he was welcomed made Beregond smile as well, that smile was forced.
"Do I look that awful then? I did shave, in case you haven't noticed," he said wryly.
"That's your only saving grace, I fear. Not that it helps matters much even at your best of days, just between you and me," said Borlas, winking. Yet it was clear that he was troubled, no matter how pleasant he tried to sound. His face became serious almost instantly and fixed his eyes on Beregond, concerned. "You didn't sleep at all last night?"
Beregond shook his head. "I didn't feel like it."
"You're worried about the Captain?" asked then Borlas.
"What makes you say that?" exclaimed Beregond, startled at these words.
"Nothing in particular," replied Borlas, slightly baffled. "The whole city is worried. Now that Lord Denethor abandoned his throne in his grief so as to be with his son, the only thing that holds the place together is Prince Imrahil. Though he does his best, it's not enough to boost a soldier's morale against such an enemy as the one right outside the walls." He corrected the strap of his helmet nervously. "And, if it must be said, even I am worried. I feel that if the Captain recovered then things would start to look up."
"Indeed," said Beregond with a sigh. He unsheathed his sword in salute. "I'll see you at dusk, Borlas."
"Yes, you will," said the fellow soldier, saluting as well; then started walking away. Suddenly he stopped, as though remembering something, and turned to Beregond again, smiling teasingly. "And… please try not to sleep in the meantime!" And with that, he finally departed.
Beregond took up his position on the post and stood attention, like he always did. Yet he wished with all his heart to be anywhere else but there at this time of day; for he could clearly see the smoke that rose at the outer walls of the city, and he could guess what was happening there. His hands clenched in fists in his frustration and involuntarily he saw in his mind's eye the city burned to the ground; siege engines destroying everything in their path; every last citizen murdered; and he saw himself and the rest of the guards of the citadel dashing against Orcs, Haradrim and Easterlings, trying to defend the last building standing – a small company against an entire army.
He closed his eyes momentarily as though an orkish sword really did run through him; then shuddered involuntarily.
If only Faramir were well enough! Beregond was certain that his friend would be able to encourage everyone with his presence alone and then, just maybe, there would be a chance for victory.
Immediately Beregond bowed his head and kicked an invisible stone. He was hoping for too much.
"Are you sure of this?" said suddenly an unfamiliar voice behind him.
"I carried Faramir's body myself beyond the Closed Door. Now Lord Denethor is sitting inside the chambers and asked me to bring firewood."
Beregond turned discreetly and watched the two servants walking by him, hardly believing what he was hearing. Were they really referring to the door that led to the chambers of the dead Kings and Stewards of Gondor – and their kin?
No, he didn't dare to think the unthinkable. There had to be some other explanation! He opened his mouth to call the servants and ask them what has been happening, but they were already gone. He quickly looked around for anyone else that might be nearby, yet it was to no avail. Beregond was alone. Just when he was about to swear under his breath, he caught sight of a young boy hurrying down the corridor. He waved and called, only to see that it wasn't a small boy that approached him after all.
"Master Peregrin!" cried Beregond in surprise. "Where are you off to? Shouldn't you be with Lord Denethor?"
"No, he dismissed me," said Pippin, trying to catch his breath. "Now I have to find Gandalf!"
"As you wish, I won't stop you," Beregond said, for he had seen the urgency in the Halfling's eyes. "But, please, tell me this. Where has my Lord gone? I've only just arrived, yet I heard some people say he has passed the Closed Door, followed by men carrying his son's body!"
"Yes, he has gone to the Silent Street!"
Beregond felt his heart numbing; then shattering to pieces along with his hopes.
The Silent Street: the path that led to the chambers of the dead.
Then it was true.
He bowed his head, trying to hide from the Halfling the tears that were ready to flow from his eyes, and murmured: "They said he was dying… and now he's dead."
"No! Not yet!" cried Pippin.
Beregond looked at Pippin incredulously in shock and listened to the Hobbit's narrative of what came to pass at the last few hours: Lord Denethor's talk of doom and fire, and his wish to go to the Chambers with his son, to be burned along with him while the latter still breathed.
"He has fallen before the City has," concluded the Hobbit, "and I fear he has become dangerous!"
"Then you have to go and tell Gandalf! And quickly!"
"I know! But, Beregond, I beg of you, you have to run too! Stop Lord Denethor! I'm afraid something terrible is going to happen!"
"No, I can't!" said Beregond, shaking his head with regret. "I'm not supposed to leave this post unless the Steward gives the order to do so."
"Your Steward is in no condition to order you anything!" exclaimed Pippin angrily. "Are you going to stand here expecting orders from a madman while Faramir's life might be at stake?" And before the soldier had any time to answer, he had already stormed away and was running down the stairs.
Beregond bit his lip, and looked back to where the Closed Door was; then in the direction Pippin had left. What was he expected to believe? Was Faramir really in that kind of danger? No, Beregond's mind reasoned. After all, why would Lord Denethor dare do that to his son, especially after realising how much he cared for him?
On the other hand, Beregond knew only too well how blind a grief-stricken man could prove. Didn't he stop troubling about himself or others when he lost his own loved ones? If it hadn't been for Faramir, he would have certainly killed himself, without ever realising that the bravest thing to do wasn't to die – it was to keep on living.
Yet what of Lord Denethor? What more reasons did he have to live? His wife and Boromir were already dead; Faramir was at death's door; Sauron's forces placed Minas Tirith under siege and the White City wasn't strong enough to hold them back much longer; and no one was there to help him – or rather, Denethor would have none by his side. Death seemed such an easy way out, such a blissful release.
With that thought, Beregond took a hesitant step towards the Closed Door.
He stopped himself at once. What if Lord Denethor didn't plan to go through with that folly after all? Though Pippin said Faramir might be in danger, nothing was for certain. How would it be regarded if Beregond suddenly left his post, acting in this irrational way because he preferred to follow a Halfling's suggestion rather the City's laws or the Steward's wishes? He wouldn't simply be punished, for he wasn't a boy of sixteen anymore. He would be charged with treason, rightfully for that matter, and there was only one penalty for that.
His heart missed a beat as he thought that he would have to spend the rest of his days wandering like a wild beast. There would be with no welcoming home for him, for everyone would know of his treason; his only refuge would be the loneliness of the forests and the darkness of the caves. Worse still, Bergil would have to follow him too, for he would be considered the traitor's son.
This was not the fate he wished for his son!
He bowed his head in frustration, pleading the Valar to help him do the right thing.
But what was the right thing?!
The right thing is different in every person, and it resides in your mind and your heart. They are your best guides.
Beregond froze. He remembered those words. Maldir had said them to him, long ago.
Even if it means I will have to oppose those I'm to obey as a soldier? he heard himself asking again, as he recalled that time.
Only if it means that you will have to obey at the expense of your conscience and your soul. Those are in your keeping alone. For a soldier, like every mortal, does not answer to kings or stewards in the end; but to something far more powerful and wise.
Beregond's eyes fell on his brooch, clasped on his chest and shining brightly as the sunbeams of the rising sun fell on it. That small thing had brought him and Faramir together, binding the one with the other in moments of joy and sadness; moments of courage and fear; moments of a lifetime… like brothers.
"Brothers…" he murmured, echoing his last thought.
He looked up, finally knowing what he should do. Leaving the post would mean betraying the City at a time when loyalty was much needed; but if he stayed, he would betray Faramir and his own heart – and he would not be able to live with that.
With that thought in mind, he unsheathed and finally hurried toward the Door, praying that he wouldn't be too late. As he still ran, he couldn't help thinking that he was probably making the greatest mistake of his life; but he was willing to suffer whatever was in store for him if it meant knowing that his Captain would be safe.
He just hoped that Bergil would understand this, if only in due time.
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.