Morning has long passed, but the world is still cloaked in darkness. The sun will neither rise today, nor tomorrow. The air weighs heavily upon my shoulders, and I feel my strength slowly leave me. Is this what my beloved Finduilas once felt as she wilted under the oppressive shadow of Mordor? Alas that her fragile soul had to endure such a plight! Never will her beauty grace my presence again, but the darkness will touch her heart no more and in that, at least, can I take some comfort.
Ah, Finduilas, though I would give the world to still have you by my side, I am glad that you can now have the peace that has eluded you in those years of sorrow and fear. You have always spoken so fondly of the sea; can you take comfort in its presence now where you are? Peace and comfort -- I have much need of both right now. But that will be waiting for me soon, will it not? Yes, soon... when all is lost, I will be joining you, and our son, as well. As for now... I will carry on with this hopeless fight - a fight for my people, but no longer for myself.
A light knock on the door interrupts my thoughts and I look up. As the door opens, Mithrandir strides in purposefully. I shoot him a look of irritation, wondering why he has chosen to come back. Did he not leave shortly after I dismissed the halfling, claiming to have tasks yet unfulfilled? Perhaps he does not think himself bothersome enough already!
"Why do you seek to speak with me again, Mithrandir? Is this a matter of great urgency?"
"I wish to speak further with you about some concerns that I currently have," he replies. "You did not give me much chance to voice them yesterday... or this morning."
"There were more important matters to be discussed." After all, your opinions are not the only ones worth considering, I add silently.
"Perhaps." He pauses before posing his question. "Will you hear them now?"
I suppress a yawn and nod, wondering for one brief instant what the wizard's reaction would be had I said "No." Shaking the thought out of my head, I turn my attention back to Mithrandir.
"Very good," he says approvingly, and proceeds to launch into his speech.
I sigh softly, hoping that the wizard will not demand too much of my time and energy. Already he has caused me nothing but grief since his ill-timed arrival! I have spent much time trying to determine his true loyalties, and now, the full extent of his treachery is finally known to me. Unfortunately, the new information obtained last night has done nothing to soothe my fears for the future of Gondor: Not only has Mithrandir plotted with Saruman to gain power, he has betrayed Saruman once his means were achieved! The tidings of Saruman's defeat were not fabrications; Mithrandir has indeed overthrown Saruman, but not for the reasons he would have us believe.
It is a cunning mind that can fool Saruman the wise, and one not to be underestimated. The last meeting between the two wizards should serve as an apt reminder of that! Saruman foolishly believed that Mithrandir could be trusted -- a mistake I do not intend to repeat.
I withdraw from my memories, still feeling a chill from the last image I saw of Saruman. No longer did he have his confidence, paling under the realization of what would happen. And Mithrandir? He laughed. He laughed and betrayed the one he claimed he would help. I will not suffer the same fate. I will not be fooled by Mithrandir's false promises, for I have seen what he plans for Gondor... he along with Thorongil.
I have already lost my wife and my son. I will not lose my kingdom!
Stabbing pains suddenly course through my head, causing me to wince. I lower my head and close my eyes tightly. These headaches have been increasing in frequency as of late... Perhaps I should not have used the palantír so soon. Yet... what choice did I have? Treason runs deep in times of darkness, and I must keep Gondor from peril! I let out a deep breath as the pain gradually fades, and I attempt to regain my bearings.
Mithrandir has stopped speaking, and I sense him halt in front of me. I glance up, wincing again as the sudden motion ignites the fire in my head. If only this pain would subside! Grimacing, I barely manage to make my reply.
"I will soon deal with your concerns as I see fit. Thank you for your time, Mithrandir."
For a moment, he seems content with my answer. Then, just as I am about to show him out, he turns back with another question.
"And something else, Lord Denethor. How is Faramir? Have you any tidings of him?"
I frown darkly at the sudden change in subject.
"Faramir is not your concern, Mithrandir," I reply curtly, narrowing my eyes in suspicion. "Now, if there is nothing more--"
"I do not mean to intrude, but I have a great sense of foreboding, and it would ease my mind to know that Faramir is safe."
I study him carefully, contemplating my reply. What trickery is this? Why does he ask for Faramir? What does he plan to do with this information? I continue to observe him warily and remain silent.
"You do not trust me enough to answer such a simple inquiry, Lord Denethor?" he asks, trying to keep his tone light, but failing in his attempt. Do I detect an edge to your voice, Mithrandir? I am afraid that not all of us are as trusting as you would like us to be, treacherous wizard.
Sensing that I am not about to respond, he presses on.
"Will you not let me help Faramir if it is within my powers to do so?" he asks sharply. "Have you no interest in his well-being at all?"
"He is my son," I say evenly, unfazed by his accusations.
Mithrandir looks troubled at my response and begins to pace. "When will Faramir be back?"
"Will you seek him out when he returns?" I ask, countering his question with my own. I am not so dim-witted that I cannot see the true motives behind your supposed concerns, Mithrandir. If you think that you will be able to secure your power through Faramir -- you are wrong. You will not succeed, because I will not let you!
"And so what if I will?" he asks, clearly frustrated. "Is it so wrong for me to visit a friend?"
I clench my fists instinctively as I hear his last word.
"My son is no friend of yours, Mithrandir!"
Taken aback by my outburst, he simply stares at me. He quickly recovers his composure and starts to speak, but I turn away from him abruptly.
"I must attend to other matters now," I say, signalling the end of our conversation. As I walk away from him, I feel a hand grip me tightly on my shoulder.
"Lord Denethor!" Mithrandir's insistent voice rings out next to me. I shake off his grip angrily and glare at him. To my surprise, he only looks back at me unapologetically, a determined expression etched onto his face. As our eyes remain locked, Mithrandir appears to grow in stature, and I am forced to take a step back. Seeing a flash of anger in his eyes, I laugh suddenly.
"I have not the time to engage in these trivial arguments with you, Mithrandir! If you truly must know, Faramir is currently on an errand to Ithilien, but I do not know when he will return from his duties." I give him a look of contempt. "Will this answer be adequate?"
"That is all?" Mithrandir raises an eyebrow and looks at me doubtfully.
"Why? Do you wish for me to alert you when he is back?" I ask snidely, my irritation mounting. Such insolence! I have already been tolerant enough of his demands. What right does he have to question me thus? I need not tell him anything if that is my decision.
Finally, Mithrandir shakes his head sadly and sighs.
"You need not trouble yourself, Lord Denethor," he answers, sounding almost tired. He starts to leave, but stops in mid-stride. He looks at me thoughtfully, and speaks again. "I know that my words have little meaning to you, Lord Denethor, but nonetheless I must say this -- let not your suspicions cloud your judgment and make you see foes where there are none. I do not ask that you place your trust in me; but I do ask that you do not lose sight of who the true enemy is!"
With that, Mithrandir turns around and departs from my chamber without another word. The door is left open after he walks off into the halls, and I notice the halfling peeking in curiously. As our eyes meet, he swiftly retreats to his original position.
"Peregrin," I call out. Hesitantly, he steps into the doorway, his head bowed. I smile at him. "Come! Let us speak for awhile!"
Next Chapter: Questions