16. The Gift of Númenor
I stood, almost hissing, as the Steward released Pippin. The Hobbit would not go. My heart went out to him again; his courage and fortitude awed me. When Denethor realized that Pippin would stay, he ordered him to fetch his servants.
Six strong, trembling men answered Pippin's call; they brought coverlets and laid them over the Steward's son, then picked up the bed and followed the Steward out. I started in surprise. He leaned upon a staff; too weak to carry himself along without help. Who had brought him the staff? How had this happened? Had I neglected him? I cringed in humiliation and despair, but then followed him out onto the Courtyard.
Stopping at the White Tree, we listened as the sad dripping of the Fountain on the Withered Tree overshadowed the sounds of battle; incredibly soft it was, as if the Tree and the Fountain cried for the fair City of Minas Tirith. He only stayed one moment and then we were off again, this time into the tunnel that led to the Sixth Circle. The guard let us pass with nary a word. We turned westward and walked to the Closed Door. At Denethor's command, the sentry came out of his little house, unlocked the door and let us pass. One of the servants took his lantern.
We walked down the steep road and entered the House of the Stewards. I had only been here once, when Denethor's sister had been put to rest. The horror and skin-prickling ghoulish feeling that assailed me then was increased a hundred-fold. The bodies of those entombed here were not in vaults. They lay in embalmed silence, hands crossed, upon stone pillows, for all to see. I found it unnerving, to say the least. I wondered what the poor Hobbit thought; I wondered what the customs for burial were in his Shire. Yet, I did not have time to wonder for more than a moment, for we walked forward to an open table, broad and bare. At a sign from Denethor, the servants laid Faramir down upon it. I mewed in distress. Then, they picked up the Steward and placed him next to his son. I saw him take Faramir's hand in his own and I had to force myself not to join them on the table. The servants lay them side-by-side and covered them with one cloth.
I knew Denethor had the choice of naming his own time of death. After all, he was of Númenor of old and that was the gift given them, those of that drowned island. But why take Faramir? He was not aware. He was not being given the choice. I tried to contact Denethor, to tell him to let Faramir go, but he did not hear me. I turned to Pippin, who was watching in horror.
Denethor sent for oil and torches and his servants brought them. I could not understand this. Why? And then I knew, knew what he was about and my mind flinched. He knew that the minions of the Dark Lord would not be content with his death. They would enter the House of the Stewards and tear his body limb from limb. Cut off his head... I shook as I thought of the unimaginable indignities that would befall his body and I wept in sorrow and helpless agreement.
Yet, still. Faramir? He must be given the chance to recover. The chance to make his own decision. I jumped upon the table and pawed at Denethor, begging him to listen to me. To let Faramir go, send him to the Houses of Healing. Then, if he died there, others would bring Faramir to this place and immolate him, if that is what Denethor wished. His men obeyed him in all things; they would obey him in this.
Pippin ran off - left us. I could understand his horror, but I felt abandoned.
A/N - 1) The telling of how the servants virtually picked Denethor up and placed him on the table next to Faramir, and the laying of the cloth upon them both, comes directly from ROTK. "Upon it at a sign from Denethor they laid Faramir and his father side by side, and covered them with one covering, and stood then with bowed heads as mourners beside a bed of death." ROTK: The Siege of Gondor. 2) My defense of the Cat's argument that it was Denethor's RIGHT to determine the date/time of his death. The Cat does not believe the RIGHT was taken from him. 2a) "'Then going to the House of the Kings in the Silent Street, Aragorn laid him down on the long bed that had been prepared for him.... Take counsel with yourself, beloved, and ask whether you would indeed have me wait until I wither and rail from my high seat unmanned and witless. Nay, lady, I am the last of the Númenóreans and the latest King of the Elder Days; and to me has been given not only a span thrice that of Men of Middle-earth, but also the grace to go at my will, and give back the gift. Now, therefore, I will sleep.'.... "Estel, Estel!" she cried, and with that even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep...." Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers: I The Númenórean Kings (V) Here follows a part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen; 2b) Tar Atanamir (the Unwilling) - "for he was the first of the Kings to refuse to lay down his life, or to renounce the sceptre; and he lived until death took him perforce in dotage." (UT.221); 2c) And again - "And Atanamir lived to a great age, clinging to his life beyond the end of all joy; and he was the first of the Númenóreans to do this, refusing to depart until he was witless and unmanned, and denying to his son the kingship at the height of his days." (Akallabeth: The Downfall of Númenor); 2d) "But for all this Death did not depart from the land, rather it came sooner and more often, and in many dreadful guises. For whereas aforetime men had grown slowly old, and had lain them down in the end to sleep, when they were weary at last of the world, now madness and sickness assailed them; and yet they were afraid to die and go out into the dark and the realm of the lord they had taken." (Akallabeth: The Downfall of Númenor)