Six months had passed and it was raining again although it was August, usually a time of heat and dryness in this clime. Thorongil stood under the shelter of the main gallery outside his office watching the rain fall. He did not need any of his prescient ability to know in his soul that something was terribly wrong. For two weeks it had rained; a cold rain that chilled the troopers to the bone and sent torrents cascading off the mountainsides around Minas Tirith, flooding the Pelennor and turning the Anduin raging and muddy.
Thorongil distractedly watched the wind-blown sentinels trying to maintain their stances and asked Quillion for the fifth time when he last saw Fallon. Since the birth of Denethor's son, the captain's behavior, fueled by his heavy drinking, had grown steadily more risky until Thorongil had had to warn him repeatedly about putting himself and his men in unnecessary danger. Since his return from months of futilely chasing the Captain of the Havens, for a few short weeks of respite before he returned to Lebennin, the commander had faced mounds of paperwork, extensive reports for the council, recruitment to fill the thinning ranks, and the Council's anxiety about the unusual quiet in Ithilien. Unfortunately, he had had little time to spend with his captain.
Ecthelion's failing health had not helped the friction between Fallon and his brother. During the previous winter, the Steward had developed a cough and fever that came and went. As the old Steward was failing, his heir was seizing more authority. Denethor's drinking had decreased but his temper seemed to grow worse as his power increased, and much of the brunt of that temper he directed towards his brother.
While they had ridden in Lebennin through spring and early summer, special orders came from the Citadel regularly, sending Fallon into danger more than any other officer. He led a sortie into the foothills of Lamendon to ferret out a band of robbers; he rode reconnaissance into the Morgul Vale; and finally, he received a post container with the Steward's seal charging him to lead a foray against Cirith Ungol itself. Thorongil, on hearing of it, had ridden hell-bent for the White City, intervened with Ecthelion's assistance, and stopped the insane campaign, earning him Denethor's black ire.
Since the Guard's return to Minas Tirith, Fallon's own ill mood had fanned the flames of conflict until the brothers were civil only in the presence of their sire. The latest incident that had Thorongil so concerned was an argument between Denethor's lieutenant Danlin and Fallon. Lieutenant Bainon reported to Thorongil that he and Fallon had been at dinner and Danlin stopped by their table to whisper a derogatory joke about the Lady Finduilas that only the three of them could hear. Fallon had drawn his sword and threatened Danlin with death. Bainon held back his arm and Denethor's aide, fear in his eyes, left quickly. Afterwards, Fallon had stormed from the inn and disappeared. Nearly anything could send his captain into a blinding rage, but that was nearly a fortnight ago and Thorongil's subtle inquiries had not produced Fallon or his location.
Thorongil watched a Citadel guard come tramping up along the portico, feather bedraggled by the rain. He was half-expecting the summons from the Steward's office.
"Commander," the man saluted, water streaming from his helmet. "Lord Denethor needs you at the Citadel now." Thorongil refused to subject either Dagor or Quillion to the downpour and strode up the hill alone. He found Denethor standing under the covered colonnade of the Palace waiting him, pacing nervously.
"My father has been asking for my brother," said Denethor.
"I'll pass that on to him when I see him," Thorongil replied.
"You don't know in what tavern or whore's bed he might be found? When is he on duty again?"
"I haven't seen him for ten days." Thorongil decided evasion was not suited to his purpose.
"Your second in command is missing for nearly two weeks and you haven't reported this?"
"He is on leave." Thorongil reminded him. "Or I thought perhaps you had sent him on another imperative mission."
"Nay, but I heard he argued with my lieutenant. Do you know what the scuffle was about?" Denethor seemed evasive. "I believe he was actually angry at me. I had expressed to him earlier in the day that I was concerned Father might find out about his heavy drinking. He was irrational and stormed from my office." Thorongil knew that Fallon only too well of late. But, he decided to allow Denethor to believe he was ignorant of the real reason for Fallon's outburst and agreed to send word to the Steward's son as soon as Fallon turned up.
"How fairs the Lady Finduilas?" Thorongil asked. "I thought I might take my greetings to her."
"Indisposed, I am afraid. I'll tell her you asked after her." Denethor turned and abruptly left him standing in the rain.
Much later that night, Thorongil was roused from a fitful doze on the couch in the command office. A Citadel guard with Quillion at his side was standing over him.
"Is the Steward all right?" He started up from sleep.
"Lord Denethor requests you come immediately." ordered the guardsman. It was after midnight and streaming rain still.
Thorongil sent a spray of water sparkling in the torchlight as he removed his soaked cloak in the corridor outside the command offices. Stepping inside, he was stunned by the tableau. Fallon, hair wet and disheveled, his uniform dirty and torn as if from a fight, hands bound, sagged between two city guardsmen. His face was white and drawn beneath the growth of beard, and bruising marred one cheek and both eyes. Fallon brightened considerably when he saw Thorongil. The commander sent an angry look at Denethor who sat at his desk looking rather pleased.
"Commander, tell these fools to let me go!" Fallon's words were boldly said but his eyes pleaded to him. "Tell them you sent me to Pelargir. Tell them I had your dispatch."
Denethor waved the guards into the corridor. Thorongil, without leave, stepped over and freed his captain's hands.
"Commander, did you order Captain Fallon to Pelargir on a secret mission to exchange false information with a Southron spy?" Denethor asked.
Thorongil looked puzzled. "Ordered him to Pelargir? Denethor, you know I've been looking for him for ten days."
"Commander," Fallon sounded amazed and frightened. "I had your dispatch! It said immediately and secretly."
"Where are these orders?" Denethor asked. Fallon looked down at the flagged floor.
"I burnt them, of course."
"Of course," Denethor echoed and dumped Fallon's dispatch bag out. Papers spilled onto the desk. The documents were Thorongil's carefully collected schematics of Umbar, the troop reinforcements for Osgiliath, and sketches of the defense works at Dol Amroth.
"Fallon?" Thorongil asked, anguish in his eyes. "I need to hear why you've been gone."
"Isn't it obvious? My brother was selling out the White City to the enemy. We have long suspected someone has been collaborating with the Corsairs. Now we know who this informant is." Denethor sounded distraught. "This news would surely kill Father."
Fallon turned to Thorongil. "This is not true. Denethor, we have our differences but I am loyal to Gondor, to Father!"
Thorongil remembered witnessing Fallon's last black rage. "I hate him!" he had screamed. "I would do anything to bring my brother down!" He had been overcome by drink then but Thorongil felt it unlikely that even in drunkenness, Fallon would betray Minas Tirith, would betray him, his commander and friend. Thorongil, angry at the perceived charade, rounded on Denethor.
"What game is played here? Think, my lord. Fallon would not lie to me and he is loyal to the Steward. Something here is amiss. This is not the truth!"
"I believe we shall find the truth when the proper pressure is applied."
Denethor conducted his interrogation in the dark hours before dawn. He was a master at breaking men and rarely had to resort to the crude tools of most inquisitors. The evidence was damning: there had been no orders from Thorongil, no orders from the Steward. Denethor was ruthless, having Fallon repeat his story again and again, questioning small details, directing Thorongil to question his captain. Fallon stumbled over parts of his story repeatedly. Denethor watched him with the eyes of a tabby at his prey and began his questioning again each time his brother misspoke.
"What do you want me to say?" cried out Fallon, exhausted from ten days travel and the relentless, harassing questioning. His brother imperceptively nodded to the burly Citadel guardsman who stood at the door. The man stepped forward and neither Thorongil nor Fallon anticipated the blow. The guard's mailed hand struck Fallon twice; the second blow splattering blood from his mouth and nose. As he pulled back for a third swing, his arm was caught in an iron grip and Thorongil's Elvish dagger pressed against his throat.
"Enough! Order him away or, by the Valar, I will kill him!" The fear-filled eyes behind the winged helmet looked to Denethor. The Steward's son hesitated a moment and then, with a wave, sent the man from the room. The commander was not finished. "Enough of this, Denethor. Call this investigation done. I vouch for him upon my own reputation. Turn him loose or I will summon your father and your wife." Denethor paced near his brother.
"I thought someone who carried my father's blood would have honor enough to stand by their convictions, black though they may be, and own their crime." He mocked his brother, who watched him, horrified. "But mongrel blood tells, and a cur will always slink away." He was inches from Fallon's face and the brothers saw only hatred in each other's eyes. Denethor straightened and turned to Thorongil.
"Don't throw your good name and career away so readily on this scum, my lord," he answered Thorongil's request. "There is a witness to the crime." Venom filled Denethor's voice. He walked to the door and called in a grizzled and shifty-eyed corporal who he identified as Melonsir from the Pelargir garrison. The two guardsmen came in also. 'As escort or protection for the witness,' Thorongil thought. Thorongil could not place the soldier. When questioned, he quickly testified that he witnessed Fallon selling papers to a Southron man, a man that some identified as the Captain of the Havens.
"I was in the tavern. That one there was showing documents from that bag to a man that is suspected to be leader of the pirates. The captain took money for some of the documents. Five coins of gold." Among the papers scattered on the desk were five Harad ducats, bright in the lamplight.
"That's not true!" Fallon wrestled against the guards who held him as he jumped up to throttle Melonsir. "Thorongil, I went to where your instructions said our man would be but no one came!" Denethor sighed.
"Brother mine, I think we have already established that Thorongil did not order you to Pelargir. The story grows old and you should create another."
The commander knew the corporal was lying. He turned his silver gaze on the squirming soldier. "I believe this man is unreliable, Lord Denethor. I do not remember seeing him in Pelargir. Also, your own laws state that a common soldier cannot testify against an officer, a nobleman."
"Except in cases of treason." Denethor looked boldly at the commander, as if anticipating the challenge. "And Commander, do you really remember the face of every common soldier you pass?"
"By the Valar, Denethor, he is the Steward's son! He is your brother!" Thorongil watched Denethor's face turn red. Melonsir groveled forward.
"I have no reason why I'd lie. I say this only for the good of Gondor," he spoke boldly.
'His answer was well-coached,' Thorongil thought, 'and gold has bought him courage.' Thorongil realized the situation was hopeless; nothing Fallon could say would absolve him of the crime of which he was accused.
Denethor stepped from behind his desk, a sharp dagger in his hand. Thorongil lunged forward with a cry of protest, but Fallon waved him back.
"Let him cut my throat. It is easier than watching my father sit through a trial that makes a mockery of justice. It is easier than to watch you squander your reputation defending a bastard and a traitor." He turned his gaze on his brother. "It is easier than listening to Finduilas' sobs as I am led to the executioner's block." Thorongil saw something shift behind Denethor's eyes, and truly feared for his captain's life. Fallon bared his throat and braced for the burning cut of the knife. His brother paused, the knife hovering near his throat. Denethor stepped closer to Fallon and whispered low, soft so Thorongil could not hear him.
"It may be days or weeks or years, little brother. You may go mad anticipating. I want you to always feel that cold fear sweat, never knowing when someone will step up behind you, when the dagger will slide into your back, and I'll have my revenge." Denethor raised his dagger and hacked the rank insignia from Fallon's coat. "Clear out. Out of the Citadel. Out of the city. Only my fear of our father's health keeps me from ordering you executed for crimes against the people of Gondor."
Fallon's eyes, full of bleakness, met Thorongil's. The commander took his arm and stepped into the corridor with him. "Go to my quarters. We'll decide what to do there," he whispered.
Back in Denethor's office, Thorongil stood waiting for the Steward's son to acknowledge him. The rain still drummed outside the window. Denethor sat writing at his desk. Finally, Thorongil interrupted him.
"This is a trumped up charge of desertion and collaboration. You know your brother is not guilty," Thorongil stated, hoping to reason with Denethor.
"It doesn't matter what is true and what is not, Commander. There is evidence and a witness. I could execute him now and be within my rights as protector of this city but I am merciful. My father is ill." Denethor put down his pen. "But, remember, Commander, I have the authority to imprison him and break you to guardsman, if I prefer. Leave this; my brother is a traitor to the Steward."
"Fallon is no traitor to Gondor," Thorongil said in disgust. "If this is your revenge, you condemn the city's future. You cannot afford such division with Mordor breathing at the gates. Denethor, one day you may have to account to a king for your actions. The Steward holds Minas Tirith in trust only." Denethor looked directly into Thorongil's eyes.
"These veiled threats of yours are sedition, Commander. Or, perhaps you did send Fallon to this treasonous liaison? Perhaps there is a witness to that act also."
"I speak as a concerned commander about to lead an expedition against the enemies of Gondor." Denethor gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "Who would you send against the Corsairs, my lord?"
"Oh, no, Commander. You will fight the Corsairs for Gondor. It is a desperate business: fighting pirates, one in which even officers lose their lives. As to Fallon, take him along if you like. Just don't return with him. Death in battle would be acceptable, whether from friend or foe. If he returns, I shall imprison him and execute him for the traitor he is." Thorongil took a last disgusted look at the man he once considered friend and ally, and left the room without asking leave.
Fallon had found the heady amber liquor Gandalf brought from Rivendell on his last visit. When Thorongil arrived in his quarters, the bottle was already half-empty and Fallon was more than half-drunk. He stood unsteadily and raised his glass to Thorongil.
"My commander!" he tossed back the drink and almost toppled backward. Quillion hovered nearby with a basin of hot water and a towel; it was obvious his attempts to clean the captain's wounds had met with resistance. "So, I must know. Did you and Denethor plot together to ruin me? Or, has my brother alone finally decided to rid himself of the bastard brother?"
"Fallon, I would never betray you." Thorongil responded tiredly.
"Nor I you, my lord." Fallon looked steadily at him. "'Twas your signature on the orders; I would not have gone without it." Fallon poured another drink. "That does not change that I have been banished from the city, stripped of my command, and nearly condemned to death." Quillion's gasp caught Thorongil's attention and the commander's stormy eyes and out flung hand sent him running from the room, dropping the towel and sloshing near all the water from the basin. "I fear your defense of me may have cost you all you hold dear."
"Don't fear for me." Thorongil stooped for the towel. "All I hold dear are you, Quillion, the freedom of Gondor, and those far from here. Denethor cannot harm me with threats. Besides, we have pirates to fight. You're coming with me to Pelargir." Thorongil removed the decanter from Fallon's hands and poured a liberal amount of the liquor onto the towel, pressing it to the deep cut on his cheek. His captain answered with a stifled oath. "And you're still second in command, at least until this action's through. We'll solve this."
"There is no solution. My father is very ill and I would not kill him with the kin strife between his two sons," Fallon said resigned. "Denethor knows that. No, Thorongil, I must find a new path away from here when this business with the Corsairs is ended."
Thorongil gave orders for a quick departure, and in two days, when the troop rode south, Fallon was at Thorongil's side, in uniform with both insignia and rank. It was perfectly clear to the City Guards, who had heard and discounted fantastic rumors, that Fallon was still the troop's captain.
From a high tower window, Denethor watched them wheel out of the courtyard and wind through the city to the gate. He had refused to see them off, sending an assistant instead. He glanced down at his wife, standing below, who had braved her husband's ire to wish her champion well. In the quiet words shared as Thorongil and she walked separately from the others for a few moments, he clearly saw his commander's defiance and his wife's complicity. As the crowd dispersed, he turned to the waiting rider and passed him the dispatch bag, ordering him to avoid any Gondorian soldiers on the south road.
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.