Frodo and Denethor

by Lothithil

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 his eyes.

"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 so."

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 evaluation.

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 voice.

"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 ear.

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? What's ..."

"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."