Frodo and Denethor

by Lothithil

Chapter 5: Redemption

They waited for a short time while Gandalf examined Denethor, still grouping and muttering on the floor. His eyes were white as milk, as if he had been blinded. Frodo was pleased to put him to his back. When Gandalf rejoined them they hurried away through the dark tunnel.

Frodo stumbled after a few paces so Gandalf lifted him in his arms, to spare his legs, and took the opportunity to whisper in his ear all that had happened since the Ring sounded its seductive call.

Faramir had shown the secret door and passageway, long forgotten by the Stewards of the city. Boromir the clever and inquisitive child had discovered it and shared the knowing of it only with his beloved brother, a child's generosity to the one who garnered the lesser portion of their father's love and attention.

Gandalf and Faramir had taken the time, precious as it was, to arrange an escape. The hosts of Mordor were slowly gathering on the banks of the river. The bridges were unavailable to them, but there was another way back to the woods of Ithilien, possibly.

Beneath the mountain of Mindolluin and the plains of Pelennor ran a network of disused tunnels. The dwarves had employed them in the building of the foundations of Minas Arnor, the Tower of the Sun as it had once been called. Many of those tunnels were now flooded or collapsed, the weight of years shifting to undo even the skill of the dwarves. But once there had been a passage still open, that Faramir and his Rangers used in dire need to reach the city of Osgiliath unseen. They used such passages to cross the river, for they connected with the drainage ways beneath that city, running under Anduin in dank and muddy corridors. The tunnel had collapsed at the nearer end to Minas Tirith some years ago, rendering it useless to the Rangers. But Faramir hoped that the small opening would admit Frodo and Sam, whose size might allow them to wriggle through the fallen rocks.

Peregrin had enlisted the aid of friends he had made in the City, whom he knew to be loyal to Faramir by love. Beregond and his son Bergil waited at the secret passage's exit on the sixth level. They had assembled supplies for the rescued hobbits and Anborn had brought their captured gear. Frodo gratefully accepted Sting back from the tall ranger, who knelt and offered it to him as if to a king. Sam was reunited with his cooking pots, happily fussing until he was assured that they had suffered no injury.

Now they were faced with the problem of getting Frodo and Sam to the lower circles of the city unseen. Though the sun was now limping toward the west, casting shadows long across the city, still there were many eyes alert on the streets, and three halflings together would doubtless stir some unwanted interest.

So they covered Frodo and Sam in cloaks of black and set small silver helms of the knights of the city on their heads. Then singly they were led downwards, accompanied by two men each, Sam first with Damrod and Mablung, then Frodo with Gandalf and Faramir. Peregrin came last with Bergil and Beregond, and he smiled and waved to the folks who might have seen 'him' walk past just before.

"My, the lord Denethor does keep his esquire busy, it seems," they thought as they watched him march past, before turning back to their tasks.

Frodo was nervous and had to force himself not to turn constantly to stare up at the tower above their heads. "What if Lord Denethor recovers and sends soldier's after us?" he asked Gandalf.

"I persuaded the Steward to retire for a few minutes," Gandalf said with a smile that tugged his white beard and made his face glow with humour. "He has had such a busy day, I thought a nap would do him good."

"Gandalf!" Frodo felt a thrill in his heart to see his friend smile and speak with laughter. So new and vital did the wizard seem now, but still there was that gentle and strong hand and word he had come to love and respect. He walked close to him and held his hand, wishing that their parting would not come.

Less than a day he had been here in the White City, and yet it seemed a year since he had passed through the great gates. They walked past them now, casually heading toward the place that Bergil had called the Lampwright’s Street. Many of the soldiers who had come into the city were billeted here. These men were unfamiliar with halflings and mistook them for children as they walked with their tall escorts. They headed toward a warehouse near the wall of the city on the south side.

Here they took time to let Frodo and Sam rest. Some sleep they had gotten in their private chambers, but very little, and Frodo was weary of the struggle with the palantir and the Eye. Remembering it make his shudder, and he could feel the sweeping probe of thought now, bereft of light but eager and angry. He sat between Sam and Pippin, holding their hands with his eyes closed. But he could not rest. Time was slipping away.

"Gandalf," he called softly. The wizard had been speaking with Faramir and Anborn. He put them aside and came to Frodo at once. "Gandalf, Denethor had an Eye..." Frodo did not release his friends hands, but he needed to tell Gandalf what had happened. "It was just like... I think it was..."

Peregrin interrupted him softly, "I have seen it, too, Frodo."

Frodo stared at him. "How? What was that thing?"

"A palantir, a stone of far-seeing," Gandalf answered. "With it, one can see all the lands about that his thought could reach, were it lit by light of sun or lamp. Your foolish young cousin found one that Saurman had unintentionally discarded, and looking into it he met someone he shall not soon forget."

Pippin swallowed but did not hang his head. What was done, was done and shame repaired nothing.

Gandalf continued, "The kings from over the Seas brought them to Middle earth after the fall of Numenor, and they were used to keep the vast kingdom connected, seven stones placed in strategic places. Sauron must have captured the one that was once in Osgiliath, a master stone that sees what all the other see. I wondered how Denethor had gained his visions, and it seems to be also the source of his decay. With these tools he and Saurman have both been betrayed and misguided. I had not been aware that Denethor had found one. It must have been buried in the vaults of the city among other lost treasures, lost for centuries. “

Pippin shivered. "It was night-time when I... when I looked into the stone." he ventured bravely.

Gandalf paused and pondered. "Yes, it was. Maybe Sauron can utilize the palantir differently that for the purposes for which they were designed. It may be that he can use it to see in darkness, since that has ever been a strong ally to him. Curious..." The wizard looked at the halflings and offered them a small smile. "I guess even the wise can learn something new. No time now for supposing!"

He continued to word his thoughts for Frodo’s benefit. "Little use has the Steward put his foresight to, other than to demean the honour of the city. We cannot allow him to continue to neglect the defenses." Here the wizard was looking at Faramir, and the captain's face was long and grim. Gandalf turned back to Frodo, meeting his frightened eyes. "He has tried to show you to the Enemy, or was coerced to do so by His will. I do not know what evil will come of this."

"Perhaps... He was blinded by the light also," Frodo suggested cautiously. "I did not know what I was doing, but the star-glass that Lady Galadriel gave me seemed to... to make the thing… the palantir go dead. I know it is too much to hope that He would be injured, but maybe He will not hurry to look again soon."

"I am sure the pure light of Eärendil was most uncomfortable to Him!" Gandalf laughed a little. "He may hesitate or he may strike blindly. We do not know what he will do, and that is a disquieting thing. But we will act on what we do know, and that is that you must get out of here as quickly as possible."

Gandalf closed his eyes. The words were harder to say now than they had been in Bag End, so many months ago. "The Ring cannot stay here."

Frodo smiled grimly and stood up. "I know Gandalf. And I still intend to carry out what I have promised, even now. The world is in no less peril than it was. That much has not changed, nor my intent to see that peril ended. I still do not know the way, though. I seem to have lost my guide."

"We can offer you some guidance in this, Frodo," spoke Faramir. He relayed to Frodo their plans to help him leave the city.

When Faramir had spoke to the others of the tunnel to Osgiliath, Bergil had happily informed him that it could be passed by one of small size, and that he had himself taken the tunnel in days past. His father Beregond offered him a frown that was robbed of its sterness by such good news, and so it was decided to try the tunnel. Truly, the only alternative was to ride in the open, which would be hopeless indeed in the face of the armies of Mordor.

But Faramir despaired. "The maze of underground corridors are complex. I fear that you will be lost in them; how will you find your direction? And if you do, the armies are camped both east and west. You will have to elude them and strike toward the crossroads... and even then, the passage of Minas Morgul is hard to make, and the stair near-impossible to find. It seems outrageous that you are expected to find them alone. I should go to guide you."

Frodo smiled at the man and took his hand. "Little do you know of my folk, good Faramir. We are hole-dwellers, and living and moving underground are natural to us. Given my bearings I shall not falter. With Bergil to lead us to the place where we can find the river crossing, we shall come to light safely, should the tunnels remain intact and secret. Once beyond... well, so long as there are no rangers about, we should be safe!"

Faramir laughed at the jest, ducking his head as if embarrassed. "Your good heart and spirit heal my despair, Frodo. Obstacles rise up endless before us, and yet you bring me to laughter and hope. You must come again out of the Dark Land. I will that this not be our last meeting."

Frodo's smile faded. "I cannot lie to you, Faramir and say that such a hope lives in my heart. I have always known that this journey would have a dark ending. But I say to you: I will remember you, whatever shadows yawn before me."

Faramir knelt and looked into Frodo's eyes. "I would ask for pardon for my actions against you, and if it were possible I would seek forgiveness for Boromir as well. Restless his spirit may lie, after his dark deeds. I hope that my actions now will redeem us both. I am more loath now to release you than I was before, when first I happened upon you anigh Henneth Annuin. But it is not now for love of my father that my heart yearns to keep you."

Frodo placed his hands on Faramir's shoulders, as if giving a benediction. "I must go. I will always remember your kindness and friendship, Faramir. If forgiveness is my gift, then all your deeds I would release. Against Boromir I harbour no claim of injury. Let him be at peace and suffer no unrest on my behalf. And please, take care of my kinsman Peregrin, and Merry, too, should he appear in Minas Tirith in days to come. Don't let them get lost in your big city."

Faramir's eyes bled tears to hear this. He pressed Frodo's small hands to his forehead. "Great you are, Master, in kind heart and wisdom. It is meet that your hands be the ones to deal this doom to the Enemy of hope." He sighed and rose. "We must go. Time is fleeing."

They followed him into the darkness.