Taking in my surroundings, I seem to notice it only now for the first time. The marble pillars stand tall and proud, elegantly adorned with intricate carvings. Between the pillars, the statues of kings long gone look upon me, speaking volumes yet uttering nothing. It is with difficulty that I finally tear my gaze away, and I suddenly realize that I'm shivering. How long has it been since this empty coldness crept into these great halls? Has the darkness already infiltrated my once-fair city?
I look down upon the broken horn once again, and my fingers curl tightly around it. Since Boromir was lost, the darkness seems to loom ever greater before me. Still pondering what lies ahead for Gondor, I barely acknowledge the sound of the door opening.
Footsteps. Then... Silence.
"Hail, Lord and Steward of Minas Tirith, Denethor son of Ecthelion! I am come with counsel and tidings in this dark hour." *
It is Mithrandir who speaks to me. I raise my head and meet his gaze. Ah, Mithrandir, Mithrandir. Do you take me for a fool? You enter my city under the guise of a saviour, but I am not blind to your secret dealings and dark ambitions; the Palantír has shown me much of your true nature...
I search his eyes for signs of guilt, but they reveal nothing.
You cannot hide your treachery behind an innocent mask, Mithrandir. After all, did I not catch a glimpse of your secret meeting with Saruman the traitor? At length you have spoken with him, and much has transpired between the two of you. I see that you have already changed your colour to that of Saruman's... What of your allegiance?
"Dark indeed is the hour, and at such times you are wont to come, Mithrandir."* I look at the wizard skeptically, barely veiling my contempt as I reply. Seldom has Mithrandir's appearance brought cheerful tidings to my people. Undoubtedly, he is here once again as the harbinger of dire news. Unfazed by my comments, he only looks calmly back at me. I swallow my anger at his indifference, and instead turn my attention to the halfling standing before me. He is examining his surroundings, his eyes filled with a bright sense of wonder... A faint flicker of recollection passes through my mind.
"It has been told to me that you bring with you one who saw my son die. Is this he?"* And is this the halfling of which the prophecy spoke?
Mithrandir responds, answering my unspoken question, "Halflings they are, as you see, yet this is not he of whom the omens spoke." *
Feeling somewhat unsettled, I direct my gaze away from him. Has he gleaned the information directly from my mind? Or have my eyes betrayed too much of my thoughts? I close my eyes briefly as painful memories return to me. Halflings. Isildur's Bane. Curse the prophecy that stole away my son! If only he had never gone on that unfortunate errand... If only Faramir had gone in his stead! Perhaps then, many would have been spared of these griefs. My son would still be here, his valour lifting men's spirits and his blade defending Gondor against the rising darkness.
Dimly aware that I have been speaking, I am jolted out of my thoughts when Mithrandir makes his reply. A small note of surprise slips into his voice as he lightly inquires about the source of my knowledge. Nay, Mithrandir, I am fully aware of this great tragedy, for the River Anduin has already brought me the unhappy news ere your arrival.
I lift up the broken horn in demonstration, drawing a cry of recognition from the halfling. Observing him carefully, I recount my limited knowledge of the events in question. As I finish speaking, I turn to the little one questioningly, hoping he will add to my story. With a wavering voice, he gives a brief account of his adventures that fateful day. My grip on the horn tightens as my worst suspicions are confirmed: Boromir had indeed blown the horn for help... But, alas, no help came to him.
A sense of bitterness stirs within me and I question the halfling sharply. Why is it that a halfling should survive, while my Boromir perishes? I push back the rising feelings of resentment and force myself to listen intently to the halfling's response.
As he describes Boromir's final moments, I recall a brief sight from the Palantír - a dark shape, hunched near a tree, surrounded by foul orcs. So... that is what has become of my beloved son? Slaughtered mercilessly by the deadly arrows of orcs? The halfling speaks appreciatively of Boromir's brave efforts, yet little comfort do his words provide me. If only Boromir were still alive....
Tiring of this train of thought and conversation, I almost dismiss the halfling and Mithrandir. Before I can speak, however, the little one steps forward boldly and offers me his sword. Whether he is merely caught up in the moment, or he truly feels the need to repay his debt to Boromir, I do not doubt his sincerity. A smile touches my lips as I look upon the halfling in a new light. I order him to hand me his sword, and I examine it with interest.
"Whence came this? Many, many years lie on it."* Listening to his account of the sword, I marvel at the newly revealed aspects of this halfling. It would seem that I have greatly underestimated him. Pleasantly surprised, I accept his service. Though he may not be the halfling of the prophecy, he still holds many answers - not only of Boromir's death, but perhaps of Mithrandir's schemes as well. He may prove to be useful yet.
Mithrandir then instructs the halfling to take the hilt and begin his oath. He asks whether the halfling is truly resolved to do this, his voice subtly laced with doubt. It is quite clear that Mithrandir is hoping that the halfling will retract his words. As the halfling swears his fealty, Mithrandir stands to the side, looking on with quiet vexation and a touch of concern.
What are you afraid of, Mithrandir? Do you fear that the halfling might reveal something you wish to keep hidden?
Promptly, I summon my servants to arrange a meal for my guests. Anxious to obtain the answers to my questions, I ask to speak with Mithrandir at the end of the day instead. At once, the wizard objects vehemently, informing me of the importance of his accomplishments. So, the grey fool claims to have overthrown Isengard and broken the staff of Saruman? Though it is true that I have received words of such an occurrence, I cannot help but doubt its validity. I have clearly seen Mithrandir consorting with Saruman. What is to say this is not just a clever ploy to deceive the masses?
He concludes his speech asking pointedly whether his feats were naught to me.
And is a father's grief over a recently departed son naught to you, Mithrandir? Would you deny him the knowledge of his son's final journey?
Holding back the angry remarks, I respond tersely. I do not need a wizard's meddling advice, nor do I need his help! I look at him again, feeling his eyes burn deeply into mine. The halls fall deathly quiet again. What are you hiding from me, Mithrandir? The silence stretches on tensely. After a time, I slowly withdraw my gaze. It matters not. Nothing will be concealed from me much longer, Mithrandir, try though you might.
"Yea, for though the Stones be lost, they say, still the lords of Gondor have keener sight than lesser men, and many messages come to them."* As I mention the Seeing-stones, I cast a quick glance at the halfling. The Palantír has shown me his face. Why? I wonder if--
My thoughts are interrupted as the servants enter and set the tables. Once the guests are seated, I begin my questioning of the halfling. At times, he seems vaguely uncomfortable, wanting to look to Mithrandir for guidance, yet something always stops him... What has that wizard told you to conceal? Do you fear that you may be revealing too much? As the questioning continues, I notice Mithrandir sighing impatiently at regular intervals, a quiet anger building up within him. Still, I pay him no heed.
It is only after I am satisfied with the answers I have procured, that I make arrangements to send Mithrandir and the halfling off. Before they leave, Mithrandir accosts me once again, asking me why I have chosen not to accept his counsel. Does he not realize that his words mean nothing to me? I would be a fool to trust the words of a wizard above the words of one who is now under my command. He may well know more than the halfling, but it is doubtful that he would reveal much of that knowledge to me. And his counsel... Many a times has Saruman used those very words. What is to say that his advice will not be deceitful maneuverings for power, just as Saruman's were?
I answer Mithrandir curtly, refusing his help. Visibly dissatisfied, he leaves my presence with the halfling in tow. I lean back in my seat, furrowing my brows as the pounding within my head increases. Although Mithrandir is gone for now, I know that I must meet with him again. Is it not enough that I must contend with the shadow in the east? I do not have time to deal with treachery within my own city. Shaking off my frustrations, I reflect on what the halfling has told me instead.
We have spoken much of the fellowship, yet there are still facts that the halfling dared not mention. Mithrandir must have forbid the halfling to divulge too much information. What is the true purpose of their journey? How is it that these halflings were allowed to go on such a perilous journey? And the fellowship's leader... Much has been said about him, yet his identity remains a mystery. Who is he?
My mind slowly returns to the Palantír, anticipating and dreading our next encounter.
Next Chapter: Confrontation
* JRR Tolkien, "Minas Tirith", Return of the King
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.