14. The Fate of Faramir
The news received late last night caused many in the City to give up hope. The army of Mordor had left Minas Morgul. They were probably upon Osgiliath as I watched Denethor. Though the messenger had not divulged what the missive from Lord Faramir held, the news quickly spread. The Black Captain led the Enemy's host and an army from the South had joined them! Fear dwelt in many hearts. As I watched and listened, I could feel it on the parapet at this morning's meeting. All gave way to the Steward, saluting him and giving him their obeisance, but fear and doubt moved as a heavy, dry, southern wind that brings such heat one finds it difficult to breath. Added to that, the blackness everywhere unnerved even me.
None had slept this past night, since Faramir was sent east. Least of all, the Steward of Gondor. Rumors abounded. One of the worst was that Denethor had sent his son on a suicide mission; that he had ordered Faramir to go out and let himself be killed upon the walls of Osgiliath. I let all within my domain know the folly of those words, but who listens to mice, horses, or the few remaining cattle in the City!
The night had passed, uneventful, but this morning dawned blacker than ever. The escarpment was crowded with off-duty warriors. Mithrandir was watched closely for any sign of weakness. Though all still believed in the Lord of the City, most looked northward, hoping that Rohan would answer the Steward's call. Everyone knew Lord Denethor had sent the Red Arrow, though there had been no reply; it was still too early. Some eyes on the parapet watched the east, waiting for news.
Denethor was no longer using the Great Hall. The days of judgments and such were long over. There were none left in the City, nor upon the Pelennor, nor in the towns and fields nearby, who lived to give voice to complaint. All those left alive were either sent off to far destinations in hope of survival, or were warriors within the City, waiting now to fight for their very lives. He spent most of the day in the Tower room, watching, watching. I stood by his side, too dumbfounded to even sit.
I watched Denethor. He knew before the errand-rider came last night that the Black City had been emptied. He knew the Black Captain led the Enemy's army. He could tell how many were against us, how many beasts besides, how many scaling ladders they carried, how many siege engines were pushed along on their great wheels, how many towers and how many could man the towers, anything and everything that the Enemy would use against us was known by the Lord of the City and I blanched, for I watched as he documented what he saw in the stone.
When the host crossed the River on floats and barges, hidden even from him, he bit his lip. When the Anduin was lost, he drew in a ragged breath. When he saw Faramir retreat to the Causeway Fort, he groaned. When night fell and he could stand no more, he watched as Mithrandir left the City, headed eastward. I left him for a time, for I could hardly bear to see his great grief. I found a mouse or two as I crossed to the wall and ate quickly. There stood Peregrin. We stood guard there that night, looking eastward. There was naught I could do for Denethor.
When what could be called morning came, Pippin (he had told me in the middle of the night that he wished I would think of him as that, for the livery of Gondor and the weight of what he watched were too much for someone named Peregrin)... Pippin and I went to a high chamber above the Hall of the White Tower. We took our accustomed places behind the Steward. All morning missives came, verifying what Denethor had seen during the night. I knew he had pulled himself away from the globe, from the thing that could show him more clearly than any missive what was happening on the Field of Pelennor, for the sake of his men. They needed his presence to uphold their courage.
Midmorning came and along with it, Mithrandir. The first question from Denethor's mouth was for his son, 'Is Faramir come?' I bent my head in grief. Did Faramir know how much his father loved him? My thoughts were stolen from me for the Lord Denethor and Mithrandir began to spar again, their words terrible to hear. At last, Mithrandir spoke of our foe, but the Steward had already seen him, knew who he was. Had known for some time. And in hurtful words let the wizard know that he thought he was perhaps a coward.
I felt the Hobbit tremble next to me and moved closer, trying my best to assuage his fears. But the Steward and the wizard did not come to blows. Instead, Mithrandir told more of what had been happening. Of course, Denethor had seen it all - the loss of Cair Andros, the destruction of Forannest - the North Gate, and of an army come from the Black Gate.
After informing Mithrandir that his news was old, he brought us all to the walls of the City. He gave orders and Mithrandir left us. Pippin and I stood by Denethor's side and watched in horror as fires sprang up, first from the Causeway and the Rammas around it, then from the North Gate, then slowly across the Pelennor as the Enemy's troops scorched and burnt the great and fertile Field of Pelennor and the cottages and homes of our people. Groups of men ran wildly towards the Great Gate, with others on horseback behind them, covering their backs. He knew and I knew it was Faramir and his Rangers. I wept as I watched. The Steward never moved.
At the last, as it seemed they would be overcome, I saw him signal; a great trumpet rang from the Citadel and Denethor's rescue sortie rode out. Leading it, to the frantic shouts of the men of Gondor who watched from the walls and parapets of the Seven Circles, rode the Prince of Dol Amroth, his blue banner flying high. The cry went out, "Amroth for Gondor!" and "Amroth for Faramir."
I watched and wondered what he thought. He could have ridden out, received the glory, for was he not already wearing his mail and his great sword? Should not his banner have led the company? My love for him knew no bounds. He put his pride and his House aside to save his son.
The enemy, dumbfounded by the fierceness and surprise of the attack, having already thought they would crush the men they fought, turned and ran, dropping their weapons and torches upon the Field. The men they had chased regained their courage and turned to battle them. The retreat turned into a victory. The shouts of joy and hope that rang from each Circle and through to the Citadel strengthened as Mithrandir joined them, his staff shining bright as he rode forth. The Nazgûl turned and fled. The noise from the City was deafening. Pippin himself jumped upon the wall, shouting his encouragement. I had to wrap my tale around his ankle to remind him where he stood, lest he fall in his great joy.
As the cavalry charged and slew the enemy, Denethor signaled again. The trumpet rang out and all quieted. The men heard and obeyed their Steward, turning from the rout and returning to the City, leading those still dazed into the walls of Minas Tirith. He walked back to the chamber in the White Tower. I left Pippin and followed him.
Even as he sat, I felt a coldness permeate the room. Something untoward had happened. I watched as he closed his eyes, a thin sweat forming on his brow. He sat, silent and still as stone. I had to hold myself in check. I wanted badly to return to the parapet, discover what caused him such alarm.
At last, Prince Imrahil entered. He held the door behind him. A stretcher followed. I gasped, my mouth held open trying desperately to find breath. Faramir lay, mortally wounded, upon it. I mewed aloud and discovered Pippin at my side. In a heartbeat I was lifted in the Halfling's arms, his face buried in my chest.
Prince Imrahil told all that had happened from the time he left the Great Gate until he returned through it with Faramir in his arms. Denethor stood then, stood and looked upon his son. Imrahil stepped back, silent now. Faramir's father walked to the side of the stretcher and looked upon his son. Did he will him to rise? Did he try to give Faramir a measure of his own strength to pull through? I tried to jump down from Pippin's arms, but he held me. I wanted desperately to be at Denethor's side.
Time stood still. "I want a bed brought here." Within moments, a handful of servants brought in a bed, cushions, sheets and blankets, pillows and bolsters. They laid Faramir upon the bed and covered him, his face whiter than the sheets. "Now, be gone. All of you. Leave me alone with my son." All scurried from the room. Except Pippin and I. "Stay with him, Alqualondë." I barely recognized the voice. I nodded, wondering where he was off to. And then I realized. Even in the depths of his agony over Faramir's condition, he would look again; discern what Gondor needed, then, hopefully, return.
Pippin ran to the window and looked out. "I do not see Gandalf. I want so to speak with him. He will know if Faramir is going to be all right. Why does no one bring a healer? He is not dead. He needs help, Alqualondë. He needs a healer."
I looked at Denethor's son and felt only deep despair. Imrahil had said it was a dart from a Haradrim. They always sullied their darts, poisoned them. The healers had just reported two days ago that they had not an antidote for the newest poisons found on the tips of the weapons recovered recently. Or was it the Black Breath? 'Oh!' My heart froze within me. There was rarely recovery from the Black Breath. I mewed disconsolately. Pippin ran to my side.
My hackles rose as Denethor reentered the room. His face was not white; it was death gray. I had seen that pallor a few times upon those who, moments later, were declared dead. He sat beside his son and said not a word. I left my post at Faramir's side and mewed in supplication. He would not lift me to his lap; he did not look at me; he sat, silent as the statues in the Great Hall.
I heard the trumpet call as the Great Gate was closed. We were encircled and cut off from the rest of Middle-earth. We were lost. Ingold, last to enter, brought what I thought was the most crushing news of all. A new enemy had joined the Dark Lord and had sealed the road from Rohan. Théoden King would not be able to answer Gondor's call.
Night fell but none slept as the Pelennor suffered the ravages of the Black Army and its allies, ravaging and burning and hewing anything in their path as they waited for the signal from their master.
The Hobbit stood silent in mesmerized disbelief. I watched and knew Gondor was lost. I would not leave my Steward now, not even if the Nazgûl themselves entered the room. I was prepared to die.
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.