Frodo and Denethor
Chapter 4: Eyes of the White Tower
When he woke, Frodo was lying on the cot covered with a thin blanket.
He called Sam's name by habit, looking around in hope that he would be
there. There was no one in the small chamber with him, but someone had
come in while he slept and had laid him on the bed. A plate and a
pitcher had been placed on the table, and the lamp had been relit. The
Ring still hung on his breast. He did not need even to search for it;
he was as aware of it as his need to breathe.
He was hungry and his thirst was a cruel thing, but he hesitated to
taste the meal, lest there be something foreign within that might
overcome him. He noticed that there appeared to be small portions cut
from the bread and fruit, and the cup was half-filled with water as if
sampled. Still he refrained, but huddled on the cot and wrapped the
blanket around himself. He did not know how long he had slept. He felt
as though he was being watched.
Soon there came footsteps outside the door, and voices rapid and too
low to discern. A key turned, and the door opened. Bright light spilled
into the room and flooded Frodo where he sat. He winced and shielded
"Come," Mablung said, but he came into the room himself and knelt at
Frodo’s side. "Have you taken no food? Come, master halfling, at least
drink! The water is pure, you have my oath on it." He filled the cup
and drained it, then refilled it and held it out to Frodo. "The lord of
the city would not do you so ill, Frodo Baggins," Mablung said, though
his voice was less certain that his words.
Frodo drank the water. It seemed to settle like ice in his belly. "Where are you taking me? Where is Sam? Please, let us go."
"The Steward will hear your request, perhaps, and offer some answers to
your questions. I am instructed to escort you to his audience. Will you
come?" Something in the man’s words suggested that Frodo would come,
willing or no.
The hobbit sighed and stood up. "Very well, I will come. I will not forget your kindness, Mablung."
He walked before his escort, guided by a light hand on his shoulder.
They retraced the steps to the great hall where Frodo had met the
Steward earlier. The old man sat in his dark chair on the raised step,
looking as if he had not moved at all.
Frodo was guided within ten paces of the Steward. The Ring seemed to
stir beneath his tunic. He resisted the urge to touch it. Instead he
regarded his jailor. The old man seemed to be looking at something in
his lap, but his sharp dark eyes were on Frodo’s face.
Denethor raised his head; a smile touched his face but melted not the
frost. His voice was a gentle thing. "I know not what you have heard of
me, Frodo Baggins, that you fear me so. This city… this fortress… was
built to protect you, you and all of the folk who live in the realm of
the King. I wish you would regard me as your patron."
Frodo said nothing. He merely stood before the Steward, proud but guarded.
Denethor’s smile did not waver. "Leave us." Mablung and the guards that
stood beside the doors withdrew. Frodo was alone in the vast hall with
the old man.
He looked down into his lap again, his hand moving over something that
Frodo couldn’t see. His voice was still gentle, but Frodo could hear
strain beneath his effort to sound reasonable and benign. "I am told
that you knew my son and that you traveled with him. Will you tell me
what you knew of him, and how it came about that he should perish so
close to the borders of his land without companionship or aid?"
Frodo remained silent for a time, then he answered, "Lord Denethor, I
have known and traveled with both of your sons. I cannot say why
Boromir is dead, nor give you word of his thought ere we were
separated. He had become a stranger to me, where as before that time, I
regarded him as a friend. I left my companions when it was time for me
to do so, to continue the errand to which I was appointed. An errand of
grave importance which his being delayed by this audience, if I may say
Denethor was amused. The proud tilt of Frodo’s chin and the spark in
his eye seemed to delight the old man. He chucked, the odd sound
echoing through the hall. "Had you been allowed to ‘continue the
errand’" his voice mocked Frodo’s manner of speech, "you would now be
dead, like as most. There is an army marching out of the Black Land,
where it was reported to me that you were trying to venture. What
errand would such a one as you be sent on to such a place, with only
one servant to assist you?" Frodo did not answer.
Denethor waited and at Frodo’s reticence his smile faded slightly.
Finally he spoke again, "You have some measure of wisdom, I see. Of
course I know your errand. I know many things. This seat is high and
the eyes of the White Tower are far-seeing."
"If you are knowing, my lord, then why am I here?" Frodo retorted. "The
White Council conveined and discussed this matter and your son Boromir
was present. He accepted the will of the council and even sought to aid
me in my purpose. Will you dishonour his memory by recinding his quest?"
"His quest." Denethor lost all trace of humour. "His quest was to bring
me a weapon that could destroy our enemies and save our people! That he
would have done, if he were not delayed by folly and slain as he fought
alone, defending two halflings who should not have been there! What
wisdom was that? Do you care so little for your kin that you let them
follow you into danger?"
Frodo bristled. "My kinsmen are of great worth to me. I would never
discard them. Great is my grief that Boromir has been slain, for he was
a valiant man and saved my life more times than I can recount, and I
can never thank him now, nor forgive the trespass he sought against me.
Great also is my grief for my kinsmen, whom I can only assume accompany
Boromir in death." Tears were streaming from his eyes as he spoke, but
his heart burned hot in the face of Denethor’s coldness. "You are not
the only one who has lost someone beloved. And yet I pity you, lord,
for your loss has failed to make that which you still have dear to you."
Denethor stared at the hobbit, who wept and raged at him. A feeling of
power came from him, a presence of strength that he had not felt in
another before, certainly not in one of Frodo’s stature. Yet it was not
the Ring, as Denethor assumed, that raised the halfling in his
Denethor sat back, relaxing and looking again into his lap. The silence
of the empty hall seemed unnatural. Frodo waited, growing chill as the
heat of his anger flowed away. He did not wipe away his tears, not
wanting to show any weakness.
At last, Denethor moved again. He placed both hands on the object in
his lap and raising his head, he spoke again in that soft, reasonable
"You wonder, do you, how the White Tower learns what it knows, halfling?"
Denethor beckoned Frodo with his eyes, indicating for him to come
closer and look at what he held. Frodo had assumed that it was the
shards of his beloved son boromir's horn that he had been greiving over
earlier. But now the Steward's face was underlit with a dark fire, and
in spite of himself, Frodo was curious. He took a half step forward,
trying to peer over the Steward's knees.
"Many things I can see," murmured Denethor, "and they are not dreams or
visions such as Elves indulge, but scenes from far away, brought close
and clear to me." He took it in both hands and raised it so that it so
that Frodo could see.
A globe of crystal filled with fire. It blazed to red life and
transfixed Frodo in a piercing stare; a great red-gold Eye such as he
had seen only in his mind before. Breath and thought were robbed from
him, and he felt the Eye groping toward him, as if it were a hand,
drawing him nearer. His feet took a stumbling step, his face draining
of colour as he fought and forgot to breathe. He raised a hand, his
right hand, which now moved as if another will owned it, and it reached
into his breast and withdrew the light of Galadriel. The hobbit weilded
it as if it were a sword, striking toward the pain.
The star blazed forth brighter than the heart of a sun, and it filled
the hall and flashed in the crystal. A shuddering sigh rippled outward
from the dias, and Denethor was unsettled, and the palantir faltered
and went dark and inert. Frodo fell but kept his arm up, the light a
shield behind which he could think and his heart could beat again.
Behind them, the doors of the hall were thrown open, for a great cry
had been heard and the guards came to see what had occurred. They found
the hobbit kneeling on the floor, holding a glass filled with light,
and the Steward cowering on the dias next to his chair, covering his
eyes and howling. At his feet a dark sphere lay.
Anborn came forward swiftly, and he gathered the halfling in his arms.
Frodo thrust his gift back into his breast pocket and wrapped his arms
around the Ranger's neck. "Please, take me to Sam," he whispered in his
Anborn lifted him. "I think I can do even better, master halfling. Hang
on." The ranger whistled sharply, and Mablung and Damrod appeared. He
made a signal with his hands and the rangers nodded, shifting swiftly
from court to forest etiquette. Damrod raced up the steps that led to
the holding cells, and freed Samwise. Mablung had turned and barred the
door from the inside.
Frodo was staring at the Steward, who was now groping on the floor,
searching for the dark eye that had shown him so much, but could not
now see for him, his own eyes completely dazzled.
There was the sound of a door opening, and suddenly Gandalf, Faramir,
and Peregrin Took appeared. Frodo gaped at them, then struggled free of
Anborn and ran to them.
He met Pippin in a great hug, wordless with joyful tears. No time for
more, no time for words, the Ranger swept both of them up in his arms
and they hurried into the secret door that was concealed behind the
dias of the King's Throne.
Just inside, they were set down, and Frodo realeased his cousin to look
at Gandalf, whom he had though dead. Clad now in white and with a face
smooth of lines of many years, he seemed beautiful to Frodo beyond
description. the halfling raised his arms to the wizard, and Gandalf
knelt to enfold him in a warm embrace.
Frodo raised his eyes to Faramir, who stood a few step away, a smile on
his face and a hand over his heart. But before Frodo could say his
words of gratitiude, Samwise appeared and mugged him.
"Mr Frodo! are you all right? What's happened? Are we free now?
Gandalf? I thought you were dead! Mr Pippin, is that you in the dark?
"Hush, Sam!" whispered Frodo happily, hugging his neck. "I think we are escaping. Are we, Captain Faramir?"
Faramir bowed. "Follow me. I will try to undo the damage I have wrought."