17. Denethor's Fire
I could say further, but I will not. To this day I question my choice. I looked into his eyes, and, for a brief moment, I saw beyond the grief; I saw Denethor, Lord of the City, Steward of Gondor, son of Ecthelion of the House of Húrin. And then he was gone. The other, the one who was driven mad by sorrow, pain, death, the curséd stone, Boromir's death, Faramir's fevered brow, and lastly, the sight of the Hobbit imprisoned in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, came back in full fury. He had been forsaken by his allies, wounded to the heart by his sons' failings - Boromir's at Amon Hen and Faramir's at Henneth-Annûn, turned upon by his own guard, and abandoned by all those who left him in death, left him alone with no one to love him, comfort him, console him, support him - no one but a little, white cat who pretended to be wise and faithful and brave.
Faramir called out his name. Denethor's eyes widened. I could not endure the look of them. They will forever haunt me. He turned and looked into the Palantír; whatever he saw, took him from me at last. I left him on the pyre as the flames consumed him, as he clung to the curséd stone. I heard his scream and I wept. Pippin picked me up and carried me away. I did not struggle.
Gandalf and Beregond bore Faramir away before the House fell to the conflagration. Pippin and I followed, both of us with heads bowed. Mine in sorrow and grief. I wondered why his was. Did he love Denethor? Did he rue his choice to serve him? Or did he think he had failed Boromir since he could not save Boromir's father? I had questions to ask him, but my grief was so profound I turned from any thought at all.
We reached the Houses of Healing and Beregond and Pippin took Faramir inside. I followed them. What else could I do - I was still bound to the House of Húrin. My duty now lay with the son of Denethor, with Faramir, new Steward of Gondor. I could hardly walk as Pippin placed me on the floor. Once they saw Faramir was settled and would be taken care of, they left. Pippin asked me to come with him, but I could not. The Master Healer had not the temerity to keep me from Faramir's side. I hissed when Pippin tried to pick me up. I would not go. At last, he gave in, saluted me, and left, tears streaking down his face.
I sat on the end of Faramir's bed. 'If he dies, what do I do with myself? Should I find a fire still burning on the First Circle and throw myself into it? Faramir is the only reason I did not join Denethor. Someone has to watch for the lad; I have already been remiss, almost lost him in Denethor's fire. What else do I have to live for, if the line of Húrin is truly broken?' I kept my vigil there.
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