Smouldering Fire

by Evermind
For Denethor

So wise he is. So deep, so all-knowing. He sits before me, nodding sagely in agreement, as tears well in his unfeeling eyes. As if my loss was but desert well merited. As if he himself could feel the pain that tears my heart and soul assunder. As if he could possibly know the biterness, the suffering that comes to we fools who love. I used to love him once. I revered him, so great, so noble as he seemed. And yet ever more surely do I come to know, he cannot feel as I feel, he cannot live as I live. He cannot die, as my sons die. My Boromir! Alas! Too short are grown the days, and too cold the hearts of men. And he sits before me, seeming so wise, and tells me that you died with honour. With honour!

His eyes. So pitying, and yet detatched. That care not for the sorrow of one man.

Ah! He speaks so fine, this wizard, who nods his head and smiles upon me, pitying. He cannot die. He cannot be slain by sword nor fire. Ay, but my sons can! Poor mortals that he shapes to do his will. My Boromir! Ever thou didst love too well, too blindly, and now hast thy reward. What can he know? He sits in seeming grief, and yet not so remorseful that he forgets to press ever closer his advantage. Long has he had my sons' hearts in his keeping! And all the while behind this mask of careful grief, he smiles at his own subtlety. For behold - I take the bait do I not? In my grief and anger at the treachery of his death, I upbraid him, call him a fool, for sending this mighty gift beyond all help or hope. And he smiles to see it, for now he may justly name me traitor to my calling, and seek for one more worthy to propound his theme.

I look at him, and he looks at me. And in his eyes there is a smouldering fire. I match it with my own. The embers glow hot with hatred, wanting but a word to kindle them to flame.

And still he studies me. He sees one long fallen from grace, but perhaps still useful to him before the end. He thinks I do not see. He thinks me blind to all but my ambition. He thinks me foolish, vain, unworthy. And yet I do see. I see further than he can with all of his great art. I see his designs, and yet I should keep silence? He seeks to supplant me, this well I know.

His dark eyes flash with fire at the kindling of his wrath. Yet still I may challenge him with flame enough.

So wise he is. So very bold. He seeks to break me as a man might some small hindrance. Ah Mithrandir! Do I not know thee too well? With thy left hand thou wouldst use me for a whiles as a shield against the dark, and with the right thou wouldst seek to supplant me! But thou hast drawn thy noose too tight too soon, and now verily do I percieve it! Yet I should bow before this ranger of the north, and do him obescience, and lay the lives of Gondor at his feet? Nay! Last of a ragged house did I say? Perhaps, although it is not his, but mine. Last steward of the house of Minardil! What is the house of Minardil but a row of carven ghosts, and a dead steward with a dead heir? The great horn of my ancestors shall not wind again. Nor shall my son return from beyond the shadows to reclaim it. "Ah!" I hear him say "But hast thou not another son?" Yea! Verily! And he is as much thy tool as this puppet King! A lesser son of greater sires am I, but I do not need thee to remind me of my doom! I will not be thine! And no wizard's pupil shall come to the high seat of Elendil while I yet draw breath to prevent him!

I love him, yet I hate him also. Is that not strange? That I can see beyond his subtleties of words, to where, perhaps, our thoughts are more akin. Pride and despair wouldst thou say? Perhaps. But he is proud too. I see his failure, and he sees mine.

Oh they are all alike these wizards. So strong, so incorruptible. And yet they can be corrupted. Is not the White master of the palantir of his kin? Yea, is not the Dark One himself of their making? Oh they are wise these wizards. And they know that I am a broken man. They know I cannot now halt their certain victory. Yet still can I hinder it as I may! I, in whose veins runs the blood of Numenor! But what of that? They fell. The Numenoreans were slain, by treachery and treason, and the trust of those who name themselves the wise. They fell. But yet they did great deeds before the end!

He looks at me still, and the fire in his eyes might perhaps daunt a lesser man. It is I who first withdraw my gaze. Let him challenge it again, if he dare.