"... I will say this: the rule of no realm is mine, neither of Gondor
nor any other, great or small."
Though spoken quietly and calmly, Gandalf's words rang in the hall and
gave Dûrlin, standing in attendance upon his lord the Steward,
glance keenly at Denethor to watch for his reaction to the stern
"All worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, those
are my care," continued the wizard. "And for my part, I shall not
wholly fail of my task, though Gondor should perish, if anything passes
through this night that can still grow fair or bear fruit and flower
again in days to come. For I also am a steward. Did you not know?"
With that he turned and strode from the Hall with the halfling running
at his side.**
Denethor watched them go, still and silent as one of the statues
lining the length of the vast chamber. Not until the polished metal
door at the far end of the Hall had closed, and the echoes of that
closing had diminished, did Denethor stir.
"I know of your stewardship, my lord Mithrandir," replied Denethor
calmly and without anger. "May you succeed in the burdensome and
difficult task set before you. Yet I repeat: I shall not be your tool.
I am lord here in Gondor, and where your stewardship touches upon mine,
I shall not give way. I alone know what is best for the care and saving
of my people, and it shall be done according to my own design, with the
knowledge I possess of what comes to us from the East.
"Your duty to other realms is worthy and necessary, but it will do
those realms little good if Gondor should perish -- at Gondor's
passing, the night you hope to prevent shall surely fall. Bulwark of
the West are we, and all peoples shall be imperiled should we fail at
last. You know this, or you would not have come here, to the place
where the hammer will fall hardest and soonest."
Denethor abruptly slumped in his chair, as if all strength had suddenly
been drained from him.
"Alas for Boromir!" he cried. "Alas that he should be lost to us,
now when the strong Sword Arm of the White Tower would avail us most!"
Dûrlin leaned forward and laid a light hand upon Denethor's arm.
Denethor allowed the touch, and seemed to derive some small comfort
"Is it certain Boromir is lost, then?" asked Dûrlin hesitantly.
"The halfling spoke of the news that Boromir had been found by Grithnir
and his men, and was recovering from his wounds..."
"And what of the halfling's vision?" replied Denethor testily. "The
vision of Boromir dead and the men with him mourning? It is unclear
whence came that vision, for he spoke cautiously of the matter -- at
Mithrandir's instruction, no doubt -- but I deem it to be truth and no
deception. I know something of such visions, and they do not lie. Did
you not notice, even Mithrandir was reluctant to gainsay the halfling's
pronouncement of Boromir's loss? My son was dear to him, there is no
doubt of that; he would cling to hope if he could, this halfling, and
so would Mithrandir. That they do not, is significant to me."
Denethor rose, and turned towards one of the tall north-facing
windows upon his left. The brightening light of morning shone
revealingly upon his grief-lined face.
"There is no safe road left for him to come to me," Denethor
murmured. "Even if he lives, his coming will be too late. All roads are
closed. But he cannot come, for he is lost to me. I know it in my
"Alas!" sighed Dûrlin. "Yet I cannot help feeling some small hope
for my lord's return, though it seem impossible. Visions are not the
same as seeing the event with the eye, and even such little hope brings
comfort in the darkness of night."
"Do you think if Boromir were alive, I would not know of it in my heart
of hearts?" demanded Denethor tersely.
"I know not, Lord," answered Dûrlin. "Your cares are many, and it
is oft hard to see the light for the darkness that presses. Perhaps I
am in error to hold out for hope, but I am a simple, practical man, and
more wont to think simply. He may yet come."
"You are no simple man, Dûrlin," Denethor said with a faint
"Believe as you will, if it comforts you. I want no comfort that has
its roots in doubt. I do not believe Boromir lives, and all my hopes
now lie with his brother."
Denethor bowed his head; then, turning away from the window, he
gestured towards the now closed door through which Gandalf and Pippin
"Let it be known that Mithrandir is to be allowed to come before me
at any time, save only when I am resting. I sense there is news of
great import which he has yet to share, that may be of use to me in
ordering the defense of the City. You, Dûrlin, see personally to
needs of the halfling when the day is done; he spoke at length of his
lost friend -- my Boromir! -- and his memories will haunt him keenly.
Do I not know what pain the dark night brings? He will know that pain
come evening. Comfort him if you can."
"I will do so with pleasure, my lord Steward."
"Go now about your daily duties. I shall call for you should I have any
Turning back to his chair, Denethor picked up the two shards of the
cloven horn that he had laid aside when accepting Pippin's offered
"Take with you Boromir's horn and put it away," he said, thrusting
the artifact into Dûrlin's hands. "It cannot bring him back, and
longer wish to see it."
Faramir was pleased with the ready state of the defenses at the
fortress of Cair Andros, despite his preoccupied and somber mood. The
ramparts were tall and strong, the watchmen upon the bastion
well-placed and alert, and the men-at-arms were there in force. The
island keep was vital to the defense of Gondor, for it guarded one of
the few places on the River Anduin where an army from the East could
safely cross in strength. It was therefore kept well-fortified on all
sides, and heavily garrisoned with fighting men.
It was also here at Cair Andros that boats were kept for those who
had errands upon the River. On the western shore, a picket of horses
was kept in readiness for the use of Gondor's message riders and the
Rangers who passed between Ithilien and Minas Tirith.
Faramir and his company had arrived that very afternoon, returning
from their errand to Ithilien; they awaited now only the cover of
darkness to begin the next leg of their journey. With a few chosen men,
Faramir would be making his way to Minas Tirith to report to Denethor
all that had occurred in Ithilien concerning his errand and the
movements of the Enemy's allies; the rest of the company was to head
southwards to reinforce the garrison at the fords of Osgiliath.
Standing atop the tallest rampart of the fortress, Faramir gazed
south and west to the hill of Amon Dîn, darkening now at the
dusk. There but a day ago, the beacon fires had burned brightly,
alerting all who were within view that the time for war was at hand.
Westward he cast his eye, knowing that the lighting of the beacons
would have been accompanied by the sending of other messages of equal
urgency. No doubt the Red Arrow was even now being sped on its way to
Rohan, to bring Gondor's closest allies tidings of great need. Would
they come? Would they come in time?
Eastward he turned, and observed with grave disquiet that even now
the stars were being blotted out by the encroaching darkness seeping
from Mordor -- another signal of imminent war. All that day as they
traveled, the twilight had followed them. Ithilien would soon be under
cover of darkness, and Faramir had no hope it would stop there; soon
all the western lands upon the borders of Mordor would be in shadow.
The Dark Lord's prepared assault was under way.
Northwards his eye strayed, reluctantly, and Faramir sighed
heavily. Alas for Boromir, who had gone into the North and would now
never return! Faramir sighed again, as he recalled with sorrow the tale
of Boromir's fall, as told by the halfling Frodo.
Alas! he thought to himself. How we have need of you, Boromir! The
words I spoke of you to Frodo were true: "a
man of prowess, and for that he was accounted the best man in Gondor.
And very valiant indeed he was: no heir of Minas Tirith has for long
years been so hardy in toil, so onward into battle, or blown a mightier
note on the Great Horn." But you will toil thus no more, nor
blow again that mighty note, alas!
The scrape of a foot on stone caused him to turn, and he saw Mablung
mounting the stair from the lower reaches of the keep.
"All is arranged, my Captain," Mablung announced as he approached.
"There are horses for four men at the ready; the remaining mounts are
out upon other urgent business."
"It is enough," replied Faramir. "You shall ride with me, as well
as Damrod and Anborn. The others will go on foot to Osgiliath as
planned. I will place Beregar in command, and conduct a final briefing
with him before we depart. Are the horses fresh, or have they been
ridden hard recently? I must hasten to Minas Tirith without delay, and
it will not do to have a mount that is spent."
"The horses are fresh," confirmed Mablung. "Rodnor, in charge of
the picket, assures me they are the finest of mounts and well-rested.
He has been holding these horses in reserve, knowing you would have
need of them upon your return from Ithilien."
"He has anticipated my need," answered Faramir, satisfied. "A
trustworthy man, Rodnor. He had early word of the loss of Boromir; did
you know? He knew of it from Halmir of the border patrol, who brought
to my father the shard of horn found upon the northern borders. Yet he
said nothing of it to anyone but me -- he spoke of it when last we
passed this way, journeying to Ithilien, but promised to keep the
matter to himself. He knew the danger of despair which results from a
rumor broadcast too soon."
"Yet the rumor of Boromir's loss will have gone abroad by now, I
should think," Mablung said, "whether an announcement has been made or
"No doubt," sighed Faramir. "It is difficult to keep such news
quiet, when all look for his coming and feel keenly his long absence."
"He is sorely missed," said Mablung quietly. "All the more because
his duties fall upon shoulders already bowed down with many cares."
Faramir smiled warmly as he clapped Mablung on the shoulder.
"Fear not, Mablung!" Faramir's tone was reassuring, even as his
glance was rueful. "I am not yet in danger of toppling from the weight
of my brother's duties. My shoulders are broad enough to carry the load
of two if that is what is required of me. I do not begrudge it, though
I miss having him here to share it!"
They stood together in silence for a time, gazing at the darkening
sky to the East. The setting sun shone red upon the gathering gloom,
yet could not penetrate the darkeness with its waning light.
"The twilight from the Black Land approaches steadily," observed
Mablung. "Sauron is moving, and that will prove ill for the halflings
so recently our guests -- they will be walking into certain danger."
"They knew of that danger ere they ever began," replied Faramir.
"Yet their errand is as important as any in these days, if not more
important! It cannot be set aside, merely because of the danger
"You will tell your father of this meeting?"
"Of course! If nothing else, I must tell him that I have disobeyed
him by letting these travelers walk unhindered and unguarded, against
the orders he set for me, for the protection of our lands. Perhaps he
will approve my decision when he hears of the circumstances -- or,
perhaps not! We shall see. Yet though he disapprove, I do not regret
the choice I have made. I will stand by it. There is also the matter of
Boromir to be told him; any news from one who traveled with my brother
must be reported, though it increase our sorrow."
Yet some things there are which ought not to be spoken of openly,
thought Faramir, turning his back on the enveloping shadow. May the
Valar grant me wisdom! Father must be told of all that has passed, for
the proper deployment of our defenses and the full tale of Boromir's
quest and journey -- yet what shall I tell him of Isildur's Bane?
** Author's note: Gandalf's words to
Denethor are quoted directly from the chapter "Minas Tirith" (ROTK).