“Tell me now the whole, Mithrandir. What befell Denethor my father? How died he while still within the walls of the city?”
Gandalf was silent for a long moment. Like a carved figure of white marble he sat, very still and lost in deep thought, it seemed.
Faramir said, “All my life I have dreamed of doom in the great wave and the fathomless waters; but now I am nightly oppressed by visions of death by fire. My father’s voice calls to me, but I cannot answer, and walls of flame divide us. These are not dreams alone but memories, I now deem.”
As the wizard was still silent, Faramir spoke once more. “Ever you have given me the truth, however bitter; have you not taught me that through knowledge and reason comes harmony of mind? Do not leave me now chained to doubt and darkness, Mithrandir.”
Now Gandalf told him of all that he knew and guessed: how Denethor had long striven against Sauron’s will and used the palantír to seek the knowledge he craved, and how he had been deceived by the malice of the Enemy, and how at last his mind had been overthrown by grief and despair.
“At the end, in his anguish and madness, he sought a swift deliverance, for he had no hope left. His guilt and remorse at having driven you, as he thought, to your death, determined him to share your fate. He would have burned you and himself on the same pyre. But by a happy chance, Peregrin was there, and he sought Beregond’s help in staying the deed until I could come to prevent it.”
Gandalf spoke sadly of how Beregond had been forced to fight the servants of Denethor and slay three of them. He went on, sparing none of the truth, telling of Denethor’s final madness and his ending upon the fire. Faramir buried his face in his hands, and wept. When at last he looked up, his face was grey with distress and a great weariness.
“It is worse, then, than I had guessed. Alas for my poor father! Beyond his strength was the task he set himself. Grievous was his passing, and the greater my sorrow that I did not divine the cause of his overthrow. Alas, alas, that I did not regard the rumours in the city! But I did not know that one of the Seven Stones remained within the Citadel. And thus I failed him,” said Faramir.
“Yours was not the failure, Faramir. I, who knew of the palantír’s existence, should have foreseen that your father would seek to use it. I did not recognise that his pride and fear were grown so great as to risk such a trial. But he was strong-minded as well as self-willed, and he would not have suffered either of us to thwart him. Give yourself no blame. It was the evil working of the Enemy’s purpose that wrought upon your father and turned his mind so far from its normal wont into madness. Yet, recall that he loved you to the very end, and misguided as his thought was, he did but try to spare you torment at the hands of your foes.”
“You seek to put a fairer face on that which is woeful beyond telling, Mithrandir. A kind thought, but it does not avail. I have understood more than your words have said, and I cannot find any light in this.”
Gandalf frowned and spoke sternly. “Grieve for your father, as indeed you must, but do not let his passing darken your heart. Remember what I said to you before: that you would be needed here for other things than war. Do not forget that you have been preserved for a better end, nor let this sorrow poison your days. The living cannot carry the burdens of the dead forever.”
Faramir looked up, and drew a hand wearily over his brow. “Verily, nor would I deny it. And my life has been dearly bought and paid for by many: by you and the halfling and Beregond, and not least, by the King. Fear not, my old friend and teacher: I shall not waste the gift.” And he wiped his tears away.
“Moreover, there is a duty unfinished now that I must consider; I would have a just settlement for all, atonement and redress alike.”
He was pale still, but a new calm overspread his face. He looked now as a man who had suffered a great affliction, but has striven against it and mastered it. He bowed to Gandalf respectfully, and the wizard placed his hand gently on Faramir’s dark hair, and blessed him.
It was thus that Pippin found them when he came in. He hesitated at the entrance to the tent. But Faramir looked up and smiled, and welcomed him.
“I beg your pardon,” Pippin said. “I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You have no need to apologise, Peregrin,” Faramir said, “For indeed, I was about to seek you out.”
“Me, sir?” Pippin said, looking surprised.
“I wished to thank you,” Faramir explained gravely, “For saving my life.”
Pippin blushed a fiery red. “Oh, I didn’t do very much you know, other than run for help. It’s my friend Beregond you should thank, Captain: he kept anyone from touching you until Gandalf arrived.”
“Nevertheless, I do thank you,” Faramir insisted. “Without your call for help, none would have known of my plight in time to bring aid. This debt I know I can never repay, but I do pledge my gratitude and friendship in return.”
Peregrin drew himself up and bowed with great dignity, though he blushed as strongly as ever. “In my land, Lord, we believe that among friends there are no debts, but only gifts freely exchanged. Therefore I am already repaid by your words.”
“Your folk are wise then, as well as great of heart, Sir Peregrin, as I have cause to know already. I would be honoured by your friendship.” And he took Peregrin’s hand and kissed his brow.
“The honour is mine, Lord Faramir,” Peregrin said. “But I was forgetting! Gandalf, the King requests your presence: will you come to him?”
“Indeed I will, young Took. Farewell, for the moment, Faramir: you will find me with the King when you have concluded your business in the camp.”
Now Faramir asked Peregrin where he might find Beregond, and was directed to one of the outer tents, where many were gathered to break their fast. At the mess tent, he was intercepted by a group of his Rangers, led by Mablung. “Captain Faramir!” they cried delightedly, clustering around him, vying with each other to clap his back or grip his hand. Someone raised a cheer. Faramir smiled on them with affection, returning their salutes gladly: for he loved these weather-beaten men who had served with him so long in the secret, lonely frontier war. He was grateful to see that so many had survived the great battle without loss. He asked after the men he knew to be injured, and promised to visit them as soon as he could. Then he put aside his men gently, for he had seen the man he sought, seated with a lone companion of the Guard of the Citadel.
Beregond rose, beaming with joy, and wrung the Captain’s extended hand in his relief. “My Lord Faramir! It is a great joy to see you so well mended! When we left Minas Tirith, you were yet abed.”
“I thank you, Beregond, and I am pleased to see you well also. Will you walk with me?”
They left the camp and went a little way off, up to the river. Then they sat on the bank in silence, and idly tossed pebbles into the water with the ease of long companionship. After a while, Faramir spoke.
“Do you remember how we used to play at battle, you and I? Sometimes it seems but yesterday that we practiced with wooden swords, Steward’s son and soldier’s son together.”
“You were always the better archer, but I could best you with a sword, as I recall,” Beregond said, chuckling. “At least until Boromir took to showing you tactics that the swordmaster did not know: I have not forgotten my bruised ribs after he taught you that Easterling trick of feint and parry!”
“Ha! You were well repaid for the black eye you gave me that day. In truth, I could not see what I did,” Faramir admitted ruefully. “It was by pure chance that I hit you at all.”
“And you needs must weave stories around around our weapon drills, so that we were always imagining ourselves heroes from the legends of old. Do you remember the time that you were playing at Isildur stealing the fruit of Nimloth, and Mistress Halwen caught us filching apples from her tree?”
“It was hardly my fault that you insisted Anárion would have helped his brother, and we were both caught,” Faramir pointed out.
“Yet it was always your ideas that led us into trouble! I was Beleg Cúthalion to your Túrin Turambar, Finrod when you were Beren: oh, what a to-do there was when we set that wolfskin rug afire in our play…! ”
“Yes, and somehow always the game ended with you giving your life heroically in trying to save me,” Faramir said, and suddenly the jest was no longer amusing.
“I have no words to thank you, Beregond. You have saved my life before in battle, but this is different. Well I know what it must have cost you in anguish and sorrow to draw your sword within the Hallows. Yet I fear you will pay dearer still, by our laws.”
“Faramir, since we played together as boys I have loved you. If I saved you in battle, as you say, recall that you have done the same for me and your men a hundred times over. Moreover Lord, you are my Captain, and your life is more precious to me than my own. I could not have left you to burn: do not say that you regret the outcome of my deed!”
“I cannot: I am glad to be alive,” Faramir admitted. “Life is very sweet to me, especially now I have learned joy that I never thought to know.”
“Then I am well requited. Whatever the price, I will pay it gladly.”
Faramir gripped his hand, and did not trust himself to speak for a moment. Then Beregond forced a smile, and rose, and spoke as lightly as he could. “I hear you are to be Steward still; and that is a piece of glad news. Not that it comes as a surprise, for the Lord Elfstone is fortunate to have you, as well he knows!”
And so they returned to the camp, and Faramir went to seek the King.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.