22. Grief Shared
At last, Pippin and the healer left us. I made as if to settle myself back at Faramir's feet, but the Steward would not allow it. "I will not ask again, Alqualondë."
'He has fallen, is that not enough to know?'
Faramir did not answer; his face turned hard and I had a moment's pause at the look of Denethor stamped upon his young son's face.
'He was assailed by your...' I thought a moment. The boy was so used to believing he was the cause of Denethor's frustration that I could not continue with what I was going to say. 'The battle was going ill. He saw things. You know his gift. He saw more than forty thousand Orcs, Haradrim, Easterlings, Trolls and Mûmakil encamped upon the Pelennor. War machines beyond imagining. Fell beasts in the air and on the ground. A battering ram that could fell Valinor's gates itself, if it has any. He saw a fleet of Black Ships sailing up the Anduin, the Ringbearer in Cirith Ungol, the usurper. He saw you dying at his feet.'
Faramir's face grew whiter at the long list of doom. Tears again fell.
'His mind left him, Faramir. He took you to the House of the Stewards to entomb you. He thought... The Black Breath rarely leaves a man alive; those it does are forever maimed in mind and spirit. He could not leave you to live like that, nor have you die alone and helpless, nor have your bones desecrated by the Enemy.' By this time, to my utter consternation, I found I was sobbing myself.
"He was going to burn me."
The statement, though matter-of-fact, tore at my heart. 'He had them lay you on the table and then they placed him next to you. He was going to burn himself... and you.'
Faramir hissed as great sobs shook him. He took to coughing again but motioned for me to continue.
'His servants obeyed him, as they always did, and brought wood and oil. At the last moment, Mithrandir entered and stayed them. Your father would not listen. To many things. The wizard,' at this I almost choked myself, 'the wizard tried to save him. He would not listen. When Mithrandir jumped up and took you bodily from the pyre, he cried out. But at last, he gave up.' A real choking fit shook me. 'He broke the Rod, laid himself down, pulled the Palantír from his cloak and held it to his chest. I could not look. I did not know what to do.' My crying turned into a piteous howl. 'I did not know what to do. You were badly injured, dying, and the wizard was taking you away. I felt I must follow and stay with you. I thought Denethor would want that. Would want someone you knew and loved at your side as you died. I am sorry.' My throat closed and helplessly, I lay down and wept bitter, bitter tears.
Faramir never ceased stroking my head. I wanted to bat the kind hand away. I did not deserve kindness nor pity. I deserved death. I should have died with my master. Is that not what a good servant does?
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