The fear was slow to dissipate -- very
Even now, as he began to relax somewhat in the safety of Mithrandir's
fiercely protective presence, Faramir fought the urge to glance
upwards, still half expecting another attack, another wave of sickly
stench from dark wings beating above him, another ear-splitting shriek
leaving him feeling cold with dread. Almost he would have welcomed a
wound in that attack, for the pain might have helped to keep his mind
from the pursuing fear, as the fell beasts with their dark riders
swooped and harried him and his men across the plain of the Pelennor.
But the Nazgûl had not attacked with weapons, nor had the beasts
torn at them with tooth or claw, though they had been close enough to
do so with ease. Whether that had been because it was not their
intention to do more than terrorize, or because Mithrandir had come in
time to thwart their purpose, Faramir did not know, nor did he care to
dwell upon it. The less he thought on those evil creatures, the better.
Even the memory of their presence froze the heart...
The fear was slow to dissipate -- not only his fear of the winged
Nazgûl, but also his fear of losing his companions who had been
unhorsed during the attack. It had been all Faramir could do to master
his fear and control his own terror-stricken horse to ride back to
them, to give what aid he could. Little use his valor seemed in
retrospect, for what could he have done against five such formidable
foes? But he had taken no thought for that then; he knew only that his
men were in danger and he must go to them. He dared not contemplate
what might have happened to them all if Mithrandir had not come.
"Fear not!" Mithrandir said quietly beside him, as if reading his
thoughts. They were drawing nigh the Great Gate of the City, pacing
slowly so that the men on foot could keep up with them.
"Fear not," he repeated. "Your men have taken no serious injury
from this encounter. You led them well, and stood firm between them and
great evil. Have you taken any hurt yourself?"
"Nay," replied Faramir, shaking his head. "I am unscathed, but for the
memory of great dread that is slow to pass."
"Alas, such terror is their greatest weapon," sighed the wizard.
"Where the Nazgûl come, fear lingers and hope fades. But we are
beaten, and we shall not be, if we do not allow our hope to be buried
As Faramir gazed upon Mithrandir's calm face, the shadow of fear
which lurked on the edges of his mind faded, and the darkness which had
threatened to envelope him retreated.
"Yes," he replied gratefully, as they passed under the arch of the
Gate and into the City. "Hope is not buried, though fear is still very
strong. But I am as yet the master of my fear, and it shall not
overcome me. Mithrandir, I am glad you have come."
The wizard clasped Faramir's shoulder and smiled briefly.
"I have been most desirous to speak with you, Faramir. There is
much I wish to discuss -- but not before you have taken what rest you
may, and have made your report to your father."
Faramir sighed heavily.
"I am indeed weary, but I cannot yet rest. My father will not wait,
nor ought he. But neither shall you wait. You will accompany me and
hear my report, Mithrandir, for I bear news which you must receive as
"Assuredly I shall come."
Denethor awaited them in his private audience chamber, where a
brazier was lit against the chill of the evening. He bade Faramir sit
close beside him upon his left, while Dûrlin served him wine and
of fresh white bread. Faramir's low chair was set near the brazier, and
it seemed to Dûrlin that Faramir welcomed the warmth of the coals
well as the glow of light. Upon his face a faint shadow of the fear he
had endured so recently could still be seen, along with a weariness
that was only partly soothed by the wine and the food.
As Faramir began to speak of his errand, of the news of what passed
in Ithilien and the movements of the Enemy in that area, Dûrlin
aside, observing the faces of those who listened.
The wizard Mithrandir sat with his eyes closed, almost as if he
slept, but Dûrlin knew it was more likely he was listening to all
was said with a keen ear and an even more discerning mind. The
Halfling, on the other hand, made no attempt to hide the eagerness with
which he listened. He was obviously fascinated by news of places he had
never seen and by tales of battles he had never dreamed of fighting.
Dûrlin also thought he detected a growing admiration for Faramir
Halfling's gaze -- which was hardly surprising, given the captain's
close resemblance to his brother, Boromir, and his manner which put at
ease all who were near him.
The Lord Denethor gave Faramir his full attention, listening
quietly to all he had to relate, showing neither approval nor
disapproval. He seemed strangely expectant, Dûrlin noted. It was
the Steward were waiting for a piece of news that had not yet been
shared, but which he knew must surely be coming.
As if in confirmation of Dûrlin's impression, Faramir paused
suddenly in the telling of his tale, and looked at Pippin.
"But now we come to strange matters," he said. "For this is not the
first Halfling that I have seen walking out of northern legends into
the Southlands..." **
Denethor watched his son closely and with growing dismay, as he
shared the details of his encounter with the Halflings in the wilds of
Ithilien and related his decision to allow them to continue their
journey to Mordor. Every cautious word Faramir spoke -- every glance
towards Mithrandir as if to confirm that he did not say too much --
caused the Steward's heart to sink further within him as hope receded
and fear grew.
Faramir, what have you done? he cried silently, even as he schooled
his face to reveal nothing of his pain and growing anger. How could you
have done this? What of your promise to serve me with all your heart
and loyalty? I see no loyalty here -- not to me, nor to our people who
are trusting you to protect them from evil. In place of loyalty, you
give me betrayal; instead of service, you set aside my will and my
commands! What of that law which bade you slay all who pass through our
lands without my leave? What of that? Did you forget it?
I think not! Rather, you have chosen your own way, without thought
for our need, ignoring my wishes in this matter. That law was not made
on a whim -- nor, perhaps, was your decision to set it aside. But whim
or no, your decision will be the death of us, and you should have taken
more thought for that! Your mercy and your trust in a fool's hope have
doomed us all to slavery!
How my heart failed me when Mithrandir first told me of his foolish
plan to destroy the Enemy's Ring -- but I consoled myself with thoughts
of your faithfulness. I knew you could not fail to keep in mind the
need of your people, that you would not allow passage to anyone or any
thing that would endanger Gondor and the White City. I trusted you to
bring them to me, these two who carry the fate of the world with them.
They have the Ring of Power, Faramir, and they are taking it to Mordor
-- straight to the hand of our Enemy! And you did not stop them.
Rather, you aided them and helped them on their journey, knowing it
would be our doom.
Faithless one! How can I still trust you after this? To whom shall
I turn now, if you are disloyal? Will you still heed me if I command
you? Or will you turn away once more, spurn my wisdom, and follow your
And why do you look thus to Mithrandir? Is he your father? Does he
rule your heart so that you now hasten to follow in his madness,
forgetting that you are my son, that your duty is to me and to your
brother who is no more?
It would seem so...
Alas! that Boromir is no longer here to champion my cause. Had he
been there in Ithilien, all would have fallen differently! He would not
have forgotten his duty to me; he would have brought me this thing!
Then there would be no need for fear, no looming prospect of bondage
and slavery under a Dark Lord soon to become invincible...
What have you done to me, my son?
Still and unmoving Denethor sat, listening and watching without a
word, and his fear and anger grew behind a face that was cold and hard
Dûrlin listened helplessly and with growing despair as Denethor's
words became cold, stern and proud. His opposition to both Faramir and
Mithrandir was firm, and he would not be swayed by any argument.
"... You are wise, maybe, Mithrandir, yet with all your subtleties
you have not all wisdom. Counsels may be found that are neither the
webs of wizards nor the haste of fools. I have in this matter more lore
and wisdom than you deem."
"What then is your wisdom?"
"Enough to perceive that there are two follies to avoid. To use
this thing is perilous. At this hour, to send it in the hands of a
witless halfling into the land of the Enemy himself, as you have done,
and this son of mine, that is madness."
"And the Lord Denethor what would he have done?"
"Neither. But most surely not for any argument would he have set
this thing at a hazard beyond all but a fool's hope, risking our utter
ruin, if the Enemy should recover what he lost. Nay, it should have
been kept, hidden, hidden dark and deep. Not used, I say, unless at the
uttermost end of need, but set beyond his grasp, save by a victory so
final that what then befell would not trouble us, being dead."
"You think, as is your wont, my lord, of Gondor only," said
Gandalf. "Yet there are other men and other lives, and time still to
be. And for me, I pity even his slaves."
"And where will other men look for help, if Gondor falls?" answered
Faramir gazed with aching heart upon the cold, strained face of his
father as he argued with the wizard, and he felt close to weeping.
He does not understand, Faramir thought sadly. I was afraid it
might be so. He does not understand why I have acted thus, and that
makes him so very angry! He does not raise his voice now to us, but I
am not fooled. I know he is angry and hurt. He believes I have betrayed
his confidence in me...
My father! Why do you not trust me to do what is right? If only I
could explain so you would understand -- but I fear I have not the
words, not when you are in this mood. You believe I have been disloyal
to you, I know -- yet it is not so! Yes, I followed my own counsel in
this matter, but not without thought, and not without care for what it
might mean to you, and to this City and her people -- my people...
Do you not see I could not have acted otherwise, no matter how
grave the danger? You were not there; you did not see these Halflings,
or have speech with them! I deemed the chance to be worth taking, worth
placing my trust in Frodo and his quest. It is not such a fool's
errand, my father!
I did not forget what you expected of me in such a circumstance --
or that Boromir might have chosen differently -- but it was for me to
choose, for better or worse. Though you speak eloquently and firmly
against it, still I believe my choice to have been the right one. Would
that you understood it so!
I have not forgotten my duty to you, my father, nor my loyalty as a
son or as a captain of Gondor. This I shall prove to you in the coming
days -- through deeds, if you will not hear my words. May you see that
what I have done was right. May it lead to hope for all of us, and an
escape from despair, instead of the slavery and death you fear...
"If I had! If you had!" he heard his father say. "Such words and
ifs are vain. It has gone into the Shadow, and only time will show what
doom awaits it and us. The time will not be long. In what is left, let
all who fight the Enemy in their fashion be at one, and keep hope while
they may -- and after hope still the hardihood to die free..." **
With those words, anger and dismay were for the time being set
aside, and matters turned again to the discussion of war. Denethor was
once more the Lord Steward, and Faramir, his captain.
"What think you of the garrison at Osgiliath?"
"It is not strong..." **
** Author's note:
Faramir's words concerning meeting the Halflings in Ithilien, Gandalf
and Denethor's heated discussion, Denethor's words about keeping hope
while they may, and the final sentences concerning the garrison at
Osgiliath are all quoted directly from Return of the King, the chapter
entitled, "The Siege of Gondor."