Two of Swords

by Orangeblossom Took

Two of Swords V:  King of Pentacles
Minis Tirith, Summer 2999

Denethor watched his younger son and that infernal wizard from the shadows as they cavorted in his library. It was his library and that dratted charm-peddler was in having a more cordial exchange with Faramir than he ever had. Irrational jealousy trickled though the Steward like a cold poison, hardening his heart further against his second child and his tutor. A small part of his mind told him he was being a fool and the distance between himself and Faramir was his own fault but that faint voice was no match for the overwhelming jealousy.

Faramir and Mithrandir were intent upon their studies and did not see the black-haired, black-cloaked figure that glared at them from the shadows and continued their research in a relaxed, convivial manner. Denethor wrapped his cloak more tightly about him and decided to climb the stairs to the room in the tower where his most valuable tool awaited him.

The sun had begun to set and the light was dim so Denethor required a candle to navigate the stairwells and, if a servant had been unlucky or bold enough to venture into those high corridors, the only to them would have been the flickering candle flame and the Steward’s grim white face.

Denethor entered his secret chamber and went directly to a small table draped in black silk. He pulled the covering off in a swift movement and a dark, round, and highly-polished stone was revealed. It was dark and swirling, like a storm in the night sky. It made Denethor nervous the first time he dared to use it but now he was used to it. He guarded it closely and, aside from Boromir, it was his only joy. If the wizard knew he would take it away from him. He could not allow that. A lord must know everything that occurred in his domains and could not be blinded. Through the palantinir, he could tell who was loyal and who was not. It also allowed him to check on his sons.

The Steward looked into the stone and wondered if it would show him the fate of his youngest who, at the age of sixteen, he was sending away with the Rangers, come spring. He hardly knew the boy, between his years of fostering with that pompous Imrahil in Dol Amroth and, now, he would be departing again.

Denethor knew both times were his own fault. Both times were necessary both for his own sanity and the boy’s safety. What was it about Faramir that drove him to violence? Yes, he thought the boy weak at a time when strength was needed but Boromir was a fine leader and strong. It did not matter. Faramir still had to have the stomach to govern and fight if Boromir should fall in battle and, of that, there was no hope.

“No, no hope,” whispered one soft voice, purring in his head.

“If he lives, he will betray you. He is weak,” rasped a harsher voice.

The rising moon shone through the window and its pale light banished the voices. The rages had always come upon him since he was a child. He had always had trouble with his temper. The voices were new and troubling but, as yet, they could be dispelled by nothing more than a moonbeam. Had using the orb allowed something else to worm its way into his psyche?

He wondered how long he had been staring at the orb. Its swirls had not coalesced into anything. It was the conjurer’s fault that he was not able to concentrate. He wished he dared to forbid him to enter the city.

He willed the stone to show him Faramir. The boy was sleeping and moonlight fell across his face, giving a luminescence to his pale skin and glinting off his shiny black hair. The delicacy of his features recalled Finduilas and Denethor remembered how beautiful his wife had been. To see that beauty echoed in the adolescent features of their son softened him, if only for a minute. No tears fell but his eyes shone.

A cloud crossed over the moon and the room and stone grew dark at once. A red light shimmered in its depths. That insistent voice purred, “He will betray you…”