The Ring will come to Gondor

by Varda

Chapter One: The Ring will come to Gondor

In a narrow courtyard sparrows chirruped loudly, the sound echoing round sun-warmed stone walls. Merry heard it as he slowly came back to wakefulness, and knew at once that he was in a city.

He opened his eyes and looked around a high, airy, light-filled room, its white-washed stone walls bare except for a faded tapestry depicting a boar hunt. He was lying in a bed almost as large as his own room back in the Shire, a woven coverlet of red and gold drawn up to his chin and his head raised on snowy white pillows. He went to put his hands under him to push himself up and a fierce pain stabbed his arm, and he groaned and lay back, dizzy and weak.

At once a figure started up from a seat hidden in the window-nook and hurried over to his side.

‘Merry!’ said Pippin, throwing himself across the great bed and embracing his friend.
‘You’re awake! I’m so glad!’
Pippin hugged Merry so tightly that his arm ached, but he just laughed and made no move to push the little hobbit away.
‘Pippin! My dear, my dear….how good it is to see you!’
Pippin leaned back and smiled at Merry, unable to speak for a moment, his eyes full of tears.
‘Merry!’ he whispered. ‘I was so worried! I thought you would never wake up! But now you are back to yourself, my dear old Merry!’

Merry smiled and leaned back; he felt tired despite feeling that he had been asleep for some time. A strange urgency came over him.
‘How long have I been here, Pip?’ he asked. ‘And where is Gandalf? I better get up, I am an esquire of Rohan, I can’t waste time languishing here….’

But when he tried to sit up a red-hot pain shot down his arm. He gasped and lay still. He felt his arm with his good hand; it was bandaged, but his fingers detected the line of a wound along his forearm, stitched and dressed with the best of care. He frowned; he could not remember being stabbed by the King of the Nine, merely the sensation of cold….

Pippin was watching him closely, and with a hint of anxiety. He said;
‘They mended your wound with great care, Merry. I don’t think there will be much of a scar….’
‘What wound?’ said Merry ‘I was not wounded by the Witch king….’
‘Witch King?’ said Pippin. ‘What on earth is the Witch king? That wound in your arm you got on Parth Galen, when the Uruk-hai attacked us. Lucky for us both that Boromir arrived in time to drive them off, and bring us here!’

‘Boromir!’ almost shouted Merry, sitting up in spite of the pain. ‘What do you mean, Boromir? Pippin, Boromir is dead, he died in Parth Galen, fighting for us….’

But then Merry’s voice trailed off, for the look of horror in Pippin’s eyes brought him up short. He was staring at Merry as if he was a stranger. And then Merry looked round the room again and out the window. Even from the bed he could see the roofs of the city, falling away from this height. Smoke rose from chimneys and from a distant street a bell rang slowly. The chirruping of the sparrows was almost deafening…this was not a city at war, Merry realised. Minas Tirith was no longer under attack.

Brushing aside Pippin’s attempt to stop him and ignoring the searing pain in his arm, Merry hauled himself to the side of the vast bed, half-fell off it and stumbled over to the window. They were high up, right in the Citadel, and from this vantage point Merry could see the whole city and the Pelennor beyond; all was peaceful. On the Pelennor where armies had clashed and thousands had perished, there was only empty, rolling grassland lit by the late afternoon sun. On the causeway that crossed it a line of heavily-laden wagons was wending its way to the city gate. Merry looked up; the sky was clear; gone was the black cloud that had issued from Mordor. The war was over….

Merry whirled round and faced Pippin; the younger hobbit’s face was pale and guilty.
‘What’s happened, Pippin? Where is Gandalf? Where is Aragorn….?’

But before Pippin could reply there was the soft creak of a door opened with quiet care and with his senses heightened by fear Merry spun round and there in the doorway, his hand resting lightly on the silver hilts of a great sword, stood Boromir.

Merry felt faint and swayed and staggered back against the window ledge. Boromir covered the wide room in a few swift strides and caught him before he fell, lifted him in his arms and laid him on the bed. Merry could only stare dumbly up at him, his mind a blank….

‘What are you doing, Master Meriadoc?’ said Boromir in a mildly chiding voice. ‘You are not strong enough to get up yet!’ he glanced accusingly at Pippin and added sternly;
‘And you, Peregrine Took, you should not have let him make trial of his strength so soon…’
Pippin looked miserable, but then Boromir’s face softened into a smile and he put his hands on Merry’s shoulders and placed a kiss on his pale forehead, after the manner of his people. Then he looked at the hobbit with relief and affection and in impulse he embraced him and said;
‘But I am heartily glad to see you alive and awake, my young friend! We almost despaired of you, with that orc-thrust in your arm. You had a fever and we almost lost hope….but hobbits are made of stern stuff….!’

And he slapped Meriadoc on the shoulder gently. The hobbit could only stare back at Boromir, his mind in turmoil. His heart warred between delight in seeing Boromir alive again and the thought that this could not be happening, Boromir was dead…

‘Nothing to say to me?’ Boromir broke into his thoughts with a playful but slightly hurt question. Merry shook his head and at last found his voice;
‘No, no..I am just so surprised…everything seems so different…where is Gandalf?’

At the mention of Gandalf’s name Boromir’s expression changed; he looked stern for a moment, then he shook his head and said in a quiet voice;
‘You are not yet well at all, Meriadoc. I think you should stay confined here for a few more days. Your thoughts are confused; do you not remember, Gandalf the Grey….fell in Moria.’
‘Yes..’ said Merry. ‘But he came back, he did not die…’

But Boromir did not want to hear what Merry had to say about Gandalf. He got to his feet and said to Pippin;.
‘I want you to look after your cousin, Pippin; he is still weak and confused. I will come and visit you again after supper.’ Then he turned to Merry again and laid a hand gently on his shoulder and winked;
‘There are mushrooms for supper, Master Meriadoc!’

And without waiting for Merry to reply, he turned and strode from the room.

Merry stared after him. He watched Boromir’s every move, wondering how someone he had seen mortally wounded by so many arrows could be so whole and healthy. His head spun round; was he dreaming, or mad….

The door closed after Boromir, and for a moment there was silence, then Merry said to Pippin;
‘What happened, Pip?’

The little hobbit gazed at Merry for some moments, then tears began to trickle down his cheeks.
‘Boromir took the Ring from Frodo at Parth Galen, Merry. He brought it here and gave it to his father, Denethor the Steward…’

Merry saw spots of bright colour before his eyes, but he fought off the sensation of weakness.
‘Where is Frodo?’ he asked in a voice he did not recognise as his own. There was a long pause, then Pippin replied in a bare whisper;
‘I don’t know, Merry. I never saw him alive again…neither him nor Sam…’
‘And the others?’ Asked Merry, desperate now ‘What about the others?’
Pippin hung his head and sobbed out his answer;
‘I don’t know, Merry! When Boromir took the Ring he put it on and eluded them that way. All I know is he rescued us from the Uruk-hai and brought us back here. That is all I remember. Oh Merry, what shall we do…?’

Boromir closed the door after him softly and bolted it from the outside. His heart was heavy, and he wanted to pause and listen, wondering what Merry would say when he knew the truth. But he heard footsteps and looking up saw his brother Faramir approaching along the wide, sunny gallery that ran along the upper terrace of the White Tower.

Boromir was clad in a tunic of blue silk embroidered with silver and overlaid with a hauberk of leather with mail sleeves. Over it all, even on this warm spring day he wore a thick black cloak sewn with a pattern of seven stars and a tree in silver thread. He was armed; his great broadsword hung by his side and the gem-encrusted hilt of a silver dagger was thrust into his belt. He turned to face Faramir and said;
‘Where are you going?’

Faramir was clad in an undyed linen tunic belted at the waist with a plain black leather belt and he bore no arms. His long fair hair lay uncombed on his shoulders and he had a raw half-healed scar on his cheekbone. Two black-clad guards stood beside him, their hands hovering on their sword hilts. Faramir smiled wryly at his brother and said;
‘May I see the hobbits?’
Boromir thought for a moment then said;

Faramir heaved a sigh, but his face was pale and the reply grieved him.
‘Why not, brother?’ he asked, struggling to keep his voice calm. Boromir shook his head and said in a voice that was not unkind;
‘What good would it do them, or you, Faramir?’
‘I could tell them about Frodo’ he said. ‘they would rest easier if they knew about their cousin’
Boromir snorted.
‘Tell them what happened to Frodo when he lost the Ring?’ his eyes glinted.’do you want me to be reminded forever of what I did?’
Faramir was staring at him.
‘They said that losing the Ring would destroy the mind of any who permitted it to be lost’ Boromir said to his brother. ‘I was there to see the truth of it, do you want the little ones to know what I did to their cousin?’

Faramir stepped forward and glanced to one side. Boromir, understanding the gesture, nodded to the guards to withdraw. When they were out of earshot Faramir said in a low voice;
‘It is not too late to undo the harm….’ Boromir was shaking his head. Faramir went on;
‘I am under house arrest, confined to the palace for trying to take the Ring and send it out of Minas Tirith to be destroyed, as was the hope of the Council which you attended, Boromir. Now Father has the Ring and will not yield it up. Even I, his son, lead a forfeited life. You alone are free to try to save the city from this great evil….’

But at these last words Boromir snorted and motioning Faramir to be silent he took hold of his his arm and led him to a high window which looked out over the Court of the Fountain. Below them the city lay at peace in the evening sun.

‘Look, Faramir, look!’ Faramir gazed out over the city. ‘What do you see?’ Boromir gripped his arm, Faramir just stared. Boromir said in a low, bitter voice;
‘You see peace, Faramir, peace won by the Ring. Sauron has retreated, and will perhaps never approach us again, not in our lifetime. With the Ring we are safe, the city is safe, Gondor is safe. It is all as our father predicted….’

Faramir looked at his brother in horror.
‘Safe? Peaceful?’ he asked. ‘Boromir, wake up! Have you not seen what is happening to Father? He swore we would not use this thing, this mighty gift, but only keep it in safety from Sauron, deep in the dungeons of Minas Tirith. But Boromir, father keeps in on his neck on a silver chain! He never takes it off! And peace? Do you not know the embassies of Rohan have been sent home chastised and insulted and warned that we will shortly demand tribute of them at the sword’s point? And Arnor too, Father will invade as soon as the force can be raised. Even the Shire will shortly be put in thrall….’

Boromir’s face was grim and set. He said;
‘It is all necessary, to make Gondor strong…’

Faramir turned away with a grunt of disgust. He stood looking out of the tall window for some time. A sound of a flute rose from a house in the second level; the city was at evening meal and lights were going on in the narrow little streets. Faramir said to Boromir in a voice so low the guards could not hear him;
‘If that all does not dismay you, perhaps this will; I still have some loyal to me among the Citadel Guard. They have told me that our father the Steward has ordered the two hobbits to be killed….’

Boromir reached his side in two swift strides. He seized Faramir’s arm and pulled him round to face him and hissed;
‘Is this true?’

Faramir looked sadly at his brother and said;
A guard I trust heard the order given by Denethor himself; they are to be taken to the dungeons below the Tower tonight and strangled…’