PartIII Chapter 2.4
The brothers in the Tower Hall of Minas Tirith,
Third Age, just before dawn on 8 March 3019
A seething, swirling tempest had picked up in ferocity, and whorled its way through the tiers of Minas Tirith. The rumblings of Mordor, now awakening in all its fury, had changed the amber dawn into a blood-red sunrise. Mt Doom, burst alive with a fierce vermillion fire and a dark black plume; this cast across Gondor, a shudder in time, and all that had been before, was not as it was now.
And so it was to this parallel world, that the two brothers journeyed to their home, and whereas they had plotted their course to a particular point in time and space, it was not to this they came – for everything had changed. The Dark Lord had intervened.
So they arrived on the 8 March in the Third Age of 3019, but not at dawn as planned, but in the mid-morn, for time had slipped thus, and it was not to the Steward’s Council Room they arrived, but to the Tower Hall.
Faramir appeared first. He realised at once that his mark had been missed, but it took him a moment to orient himself, dazed as he was by his travel.
‘Was Boromir safe? Was he safe?!’ the thought raced uncontrollably.
Faramir had appeared in the far southern corner of the Hall, between the colonnades of the heroic statues. A tall and slender figure, dressed as he had been in the Third Age; for should he be seen in this time, he would look as if he had returned from Osgiliath in his ranger garb. He wore a full-length hooded cloak of olive twill fabric, fastened at the neck, with surcoat and breeches of the same material; an ochre woolen undershirt covered by a doublet of burnt umber leather, with matching gloves, high boots and vambrances, upon which were stitched the White Tree emblem of Minas Tirith. He carried a sword and bow and quiver; these, and his raiments, were marked as if by the ravages of recent skirmish. His hair, thick and long, was bistre-coloured and unkempt, and although he did not normally wear a beard, he had now a pronounced shadow, which framed his fine lips and gave emphasis to his fair complexion and aquiline nose. Some said he was soft-looking, especially compared to his older brother, but he had intense gray eyes, which displayed a determined, yet caring, spirit.
He looked around and moved further into the shadows. There were others in the Hall, he could hear muffled voices but he could not see them, and therefore reasoned that they had not seen him.
But where was Boromir? Faramir feared for his safe journey, if he had been so far off in his calculation, where would Boromir appear?
He walked stealthily between the colonnades, in the direction of the voices, and was overwhelmed by a feeling of dread and doom that seemed to pervade the Hall. Few lights had been lit and all the shutters were bolted fast. He edged his way along, barely being able to see in the shadowy light, when a hand reached out for him, and pulled him against the wall.
It was Boromir.
Boromir was taller, more robust and imposing in appearance than his younger brother. His charcoal-coloured cloak covered a nubby jet leather surcoat (with matched calf-length boots, gloves and vambrances), underneath which he wore chain mail and a maroon overshirt, embroidered with the seven stars of Gondor. His hair, coarser and darker in colour than his brother’s, hung loosely and disheveled to his shoulders. Overall the brothers shared similar facial features, most notably the same shaped mouth and nose. However, Boromir had hazel eyes, which he had inherited from his father, and while these reflected a strong and powerful will, there lay in their depths a sadness that bespoke of an unresolved need. He carried the sword and shield of an illustrious warrior, scoured by his many valiant and victorious ventures into combat.
But here and now, Boromir had been shaken by his journey and was disoriented by where he stood, so far from their planned destination.
He was unnerved by this, but more so because of his fretful reaction to this, for he had been undaunted by anything in the past. By Gandalf’s potion and spell, he had no memory of his battle against The Dark in a different time, nor as Gandalf instructed, did Faramir reveal this to him. This left Boromir with a sense of something amiss; he felt a powerlessness and vulnerability had seeped into his being, despite all attempts to shake off this feeling.
‘What has happened, brother,’ Boromir asked, ‘how is that we have ended up here in the Tower Hall?’
‘I fear that our calculations were cast astray by some other power and the necessity of leaving as we did earlier than at the dawn,’ Faramir replied, ‘but at least we have ended up together, and not far from our goal,’ then in a concerned whisper, ‘Boromir, others are in the Hall,’ and he motioned that he follow him to see who they were.
At the end of the Hall, there they saw their father, a withered figure, sitting on the Steward’s Chair beneath the throne of the King. A self-possessed man, jealous of his status as ruler of Gondor, he had maintained a persona of nobleness by wearing the formal robes and regalement of the Steward. But now he sat, a dejected image, wearing his mail in readiness for the battle he knew would come, but uncloaked and unadorned; his hair hung in disarray; his face, contorted and ashen gray. In his hands he held the shards of Boromir’s horn. He had ordered the Beacon-Hills to be set alight and the ‘red arrow’ to be sent to Rohan to summon its aid. That done, he waited in the Hall for confirmation of Boromir’s death and Mordor’s onslaught, with scant hope and a tortured will.
The ancient monoliths of marble that stood as sentinels of Gondor, monuments to audacious warriors who had protected the land from its enemies over the Ages, threw down shadows of distress and despondency, reflecting those of the soul that sat before them. Their forms grimaced into the darkness at Denethor II Son of Ecthelion II, Lord and Steward of Gondor, as he sat bent over in submission to tragedy and grief.
Boromir was about to rush to his father when Faramir pulled him back into the shadows. Someone was with Denethor. She had walked from behind were Denethor was sitting, and was talking to him, and now had her back to the brothers. But the brothers recognised the voice to be that of Calimë, the loyal maid of their mother’s, who had stayed on long after their mother’s death to look after the Steward.
‘You cannot go on in this way, My Lord, no sleep, food or drink, your health…’
Denethor interrupted, in a commanding but pitiful voice:
‘Do not pester me Calimë with your concern; I care not for my health. I will not be comforted when my son, my future and that of Gondor, lies in an unknown grave.’
Calimë knew better than to remind Denethor of his other son, but not willing to give up her remonstration, she continued:
‘Grieve as you must My Lord, but Boromir would not want you to grieve so, with no care for yourself or those of Gondor, in this time of dire threat.’
‘I will not be comforted; I wish not to care for myself or others. Leave me.’
Realising her efforts were futile, she responded firmly:
‘I will fetch Rendur,’ and left hurriedly.
‘I seek no counsel on how I should live or grieve,’ Denethor shouted after her.
Boromir wished to comfort his father, but Faramir restrained him, placing his arm on his shoulders, and insisting in a whispered voice:
‘We cannot now approach him, Boromir, Rendur will be here shortly. We must not be seen by others.’
‘I cannot stand here and do nothing,’ Boromir replied forcing away Faramir’s arm.
‘We can go into the royal chambers and search through Denethor’s papers. We may find the document that gives us the information we seek. Then when Denethor is alone, we can approach him. We must take the stone stairs so no-one will see us.’
Boromir stood looking at this figure on the Steward’s throne. It was not the father he had left on his mission that would take him into the Fellowship of the Ring. How aged and feeble he appeared, and he now saw in Denethor’s fitful demeanor, the madness of which Gandalf had spoken.
Faramir saw that Boromir was faltering at this realisation, and spoke compassionately to him:
‘Boromir, we cannot save him from himself now, nor from the death that lies ahead. But we may be able change whatever the pledge bought into your end and his.’
‘You are correct, Faramir; your wisdom is superior to mine,’ Boromir answered, ‘we must seek evidence of this pact.’
So the brothers made their way past where their father sat, to the back of the Hall. Past the statutes of those who now looked down gravely on the Steward’s and Gondor’s demise.
As they reached the farthest pillar, they saw Rendur enter the Hall and approach Denethor. They could not discern his words, but they heard Denethor loudly retort:
‘I need no help. There is nothing that can help us now!’
Boromir hesitated and started to turn back at this cry of pain, but Faramir stood in his path, and said staunchly:
‘Boromir, we must focus ourselves on our mission – perhaps this may provide answers to ease his agony.’
Boromir yielded and walked on to the statue of Elendil. In glistening white marble, this noble King of Men, stood majestic and proud. Once he had led the Last Alliance and died in glory at the Siege of Barad-dûr; now he saw the shadow of darkness threatened his land again.
It was under this statue’s huge carved shield that the key to door to the stone steps had once been hidden. The brothers hoped it would still be there after all these years. They looked where they remembered as boys it had been hidden. Boromir remembered it high up on the shield; Faramir, remembered it lower, and whispered:
‘Remember Boromir we were mere boys, so it would have appeared higher on the shield to us.’
Nevertheless convinced of their individual memories, the brothers sought the key in separate places, and to their amazement, both their searches brought forth a key.
They looked at their find, a large bronze key with gaping teeth and a smaller silver one with intricate scroll work on its bow.
‘I am sure it is this bronze one, for I remember when young thinking that as it shone bright yellow then, that it was made of gold,’ Faramir half-laughed; it was an age since he had had found anything to laughed at.
But in seeing the keys together, they agreed that this was the key to the door to the stone steps. The key that Boromir found neither recognised, but the scroll work looked familiar although they could not place where they had seen this, but they took it as well just in case the original locks had been changed.
From the statue of Elendil to the doorway to the steps was some ten feet. The doorway itself was masked by the arched Lebethron oak paneling that covered this back wall. Even the lock had been concealed by a low-relief carving of the finger-like Lebethron’s leaves, which formed a delicate pattern across the paneling. Only if you knew a doorway existed, would you have been aware of this entrance. However the ten feet to this doorway had no cover, except by the shadow cast by Elendil himself. Faramir moved from behind the statue and looked down the Hall. His father and Rendur were still there, his father seated, but Rendur facing him and exactly the area they had to cross. Faramir signed to Boromir that it was not safe to cross to the door. They waited, discussing in whispers how they could traverse the space without Rendur seeing them. But as fate would have it, not moments later there was a resounding knock on the Main Doors of the Hall. Faramir looked out; Rendur had left Denethor and was walking to the entrance.
The brothers took their chance; they strode quickly but quietly to the doorway.
Rendur had almost reached the main doors.
Faramir put the key in the lock. It fitted but did not turn. Years had past with no-one using this door or key. Boromir urged Faramir to turn the key harder, but Faramir was concerned that it would break off in the lock. Boromir looked down the Hall, Rendur had reached the doors, if he was to open them, whoever was waiting, would have a direct view of them.
Faramir gave the key a final twist, the lock clicked, and the door sprung open. The brothers rushed through the doorway and closed the door, just as Rendur had opened the Hall’s doors.
Both brothers, took a deep breath:
‘That was close,’ Boromir gasped.
‘Just like when we hid from the governess, remember?’ and the two men, remembering their youthful escapades, smiled at one another, and Boromir came over to where Faramir stood and embraced him:
‘If only the world had stayed like then.’
It was a special moment of bonding for these two war-worn soldiers, who had shared much joy and sadness in their childhood.
‘The important thing, Boromir, is that we can do something jointly to make it like that again – and for evermore,’ and Faramir clasped his brother’s hands:
‘I treasure these moments with you now, for in our lifetime, in our Age, I only had my memories of you after your death on Amon Hen, now I have you again. If nothing else goes well, we at least have had this extra time together.’
Boromir nodded, feeling deeply his brother’s words, but he said nothing for a moment, then replied:
‘But brother let us make everything go well, for it is within our power to do so.’
And so the brothers traced the steps of their childhood, descending the stone stairs. They had no candle to light their way, but Faramir brought out the head of Gandalf’s staff, and with the Light of Tranquility, they followed the stairs downwards, then westward. These stairs had been carved out of the basalt heart of Mount Mindolluin, into the face of which Minas Tirith had been built. The stairs plunged from the Tower Hall to under the Citadel and then came up in the Royal Palace to the west, near the Council Chamber. They had been created in the Second Age as an escape route from the Tower and Palace, and were rumored to have been part of a labyrinth of tunnels that existed throughout Minas Tirith, but these sons of Gondor only knew of this stairway.
As the light was given life, another in Minas Tirith became aware of it, and beckoned by its call, made haste to meet up with it.
And far to the east, another sensed the light. He reached out for them, but it protected them within its glow. But with venom did he set his power against them, and willed that their time would run against them.
They felt nothing, knew nothing of these others watching them, drawn to them by the light, for which Faramir had given life.
As they descended, the staircase seemed not as large or as dark as their memories of it. Then it had seemed to them like a voluminous cave, with every turn possibly hiding some monster ready for a vengeful strike. However, the smell was how they remembered it, a musty yet pungent odour of primeval earth and decay. It was not now as overpowering or intolerable, but it was obvious and permeating, having lingered here for years. The brothers stepped steadily without conversation, but when they reached the bottom, Boromir stopped. He leant against the wall, and uttered trancelike:
‘The darkness pulls at me, and I feel the hand of Sauron reaching out for me.’
‘We will find what it is that ties you to the darkness. Do not let it consume you now Boromir, when we are close to its answer.’
Faramir pulled Boromir off the wall and embraced him:
‘Through our childhood you always protected me, I will protect you now until it is undone.’
Boromir did not respond but shuddered uncontrollably as he was held. For some minutes this continued, then suddenly, it passed.
Boromir looked at Faramir, again with life and intensity in his eyes, and Faramir knew it was over – for now.
Then, in a raspy voice, as if he had become hoarse through the screams of battle, Boromir responded:
‘Yes brother, as boys we worked things out as one. It pains me now to recollect that Denethor’s gaze was so fixed on me he could not see your superior strength in most things.’
‘It is not of any importance to me, especially now,’ Faramir replied sincerely, proceeding westward with Boromir at his side.
Then finally they came to doorway that led up into the Palace. Faramir reached for the keys, but the brass key fitted this lock as well. Faramir puzzled about what then the silver key opened, but now he was only intent on passage through this door. The lock clicked as it gave way and the two brothers started the climb upward, reaching the landing that led to Denethor’s private Council Chamber.
The other from Minas Tirith saw them as they came upon the landing. He stood in the shadows and observed them, and knew that an external force had intervened to bring the first- born son back – back to the city. He knew that when he was needed he would be summoned by them, so as they reached the Council doorway, he retraced his steps and waited.
Faramir put out Gandalf’s light, opened the door carefully to check that there was no-one inside. The chamber appeared unoccupied. They both entered, Faramir, locking the door guardedly. The brocade curtains were pulled closed, and the darkness sat heavily. Only from under the door to another chamber beyond, did some light filter into the space. In the shadows cast by this, the brothers could make out the objects in the room; nothing had changed from when in old lore time they had been in this room. The Council table and its chairs loomed out of the darkness at them.
Faramir went to the door to the adjoining room, and heard voices coming from within. He recognised the voices of Andil and Arion, the devoted servants of his father. They were discussing their Lord’s condition.
‘He will grieve to death; I can see it in his eyes. He does not want to live now that Boromir is gone,’ exclaimed Andil.
‘If only he had loved Boromir less and Faramir more,’ replied Arion.
‘His mind was turned by that villainous Wizard. If only Saruman had not promised so much for Boromir, and put such hope of our Lord in his future,’ sighed Andil.
‘Of what do you speak of Andil?’ questioned Arion.
‘I speak of…. I speak of nothing,’ responded Andil, ‘We had better return to Rendur. Calimë has told me that Rendur has called for Raatla to aid our Lord in this crisis. Denethor has taken his counsel and trusted him countless times in the past…’
‘They say that Raalta is a sorcerer, and that he makes plans with the Wizard of Isengard, that is why the Wizard comes so often to the Hall of Records, and why Raalta remains as the Protector of the Books. They say that the Steward should take care…’
‘You listen too much Arion, to others and gossip,’ Andil retorted, ‘Raalta is a wise man not a wizard; and Rendur is hopeful that where all others have failed Raalta can penetrate the dark that looms ever more threateningly over the Steward. In any case, it is not for the likes of us to comment. Come we must go.’
With that Faramir heard the door of the other chamber open and then close.
Faramir walked to the window and opened the curtain slightly. He was shocked to see, rather than the sun in its maiden morn flush, low and crimson, that it was near to its zenith, golden and ripe in the middle of the day’s bloom. They had planned to arrive just after dawn, but here it was clearly late morning, not only had they been misdirected in their destination, he surmised by leaving before the dawn, but this mis-timing had lost them precious hours.
Boromir had been searching in the dim light through a bundle of papers that had been placed on the table, and although in this light it was difficult to read the documents, nothing resembled a parchment binding the Steward of Gondor and the Wizard of Isengard.
Faramir went over to where Boromir was looking through papers.
‘Andil knows something of the pact,’ he announced.
‘How do you know this?’
‘I heard him in conversation with Arion declare something. Then when he realised he had released this, he hesitated,’ and Faramir repeated what Andil had declared. He did not mention the words about Boromir and himself.
‘Then, if we cannot find anything here we can ask Andil.’
‘Only with extreme caution Boromir, and as a last resort. For Gandalf warned us that we must not change anything now if it could change the future in some way not foreshadowed by The Light,’ urged Faramir.
‘Yes, but if there is no other way,’ Boromir responded, ‘I have found nothing here, but with the light from the early morn, we can now look through the chest.’
Faramir replied, ‘It is not the early morn Boromir. I fear our calculations in timing have been as askew as that for our destination, look yourself, it is late morning already.’
Boromir went to the parted curtain, and saw the sun was in its highest stand, blazoning down from an iridescent sapphire sky.
‘How is it that our calculations were so misjudged when these were determined by Gandalf? What could have gone so amiss?’
The brothers did not know of Mordor’s storm and Dark’s intervention in their time and plans; nor of the other in Minas Tirith, who waited for them to seek him out.
‘There is nothing that can be done for this now, we must continue with our plans, and hope that these will not go awry again,’ Faramir commented matter-of-factly, not wanting to hint any of his alarm to his brother, and then continued:
‘What of the elven chest given to Denethor. He always coveted this, and hinted of the prized objects it contained.’
‘Yes, brother, if he had valuable items, they were stored in this. But from memory it was kept locked?’
‘The silver key,’ exclaimed Faramir, ‘The silver key will fit its lock.’
‘Yes, yes Faramir, you are correct’, Boromir confirmed, and he rushed over to the chest, ‘See here, a scroll that matches that of the key..’, then he hesitated, ‘yet from some distant recollection, I have also seen that scroll-pattern elsewhere…’
But Faramir did not wait for the outcome of his brother’s quandary, for he continued to ponder as Faramir slipped the key into the lock of the chest. Made from the gold-wood of the mallorn tree of Lothlórien, inlayed with lapis lazuli, it had been a gift from the Silvan Elves to the Stewards of Gondor. It stood near the windows looking south, a treasured possession of Denethor’s.
Inside was an assorted collection of documents, scrolls and parchments.
‘Where to start?’ posed Boromir.
‘At the bottom. For whenever this pact was made, it was made soon after Denethor became Steward of Gondor,’ Faramir answered.
They carefully lifted up all the documents, but there seemed no order in the way they were stored. They appeared to be official documents, carrying the seal of Gondor and other realms.
They each took a pile and started to read. It soon became apparent that these documents dated from before Denethor’s accession. Clearly Denethor had taken to himself all documents that related to the stewardship of his fathers and their fathers.
‘I thought these papers were stored in the Royal Archives of the Library of Gondor. I did not know that Denethor had kept them here,’ Faramir stated.
‘Nor did I.’ replied Boromir, ‘But I remember that father once said that he had kept close to him all that proved his rightful claim to lordship over Gondor. He must have meant he kept all these papers here.’
After hours, Faramir got up from the table, and declared:
‘I do not think it is here.’
He looked out through the window; the sun’s light appeared to have become pale and forlorn. Rising from the city he could hear the sounds of Gondor’s preparation for attack. He knew that city was being readied for Sauron’s assault, and by his calculation, Gandalf would be arriving on the morrow. He also knew that he would soon face his near fatal blow; his mind was of then...
‘Faramir,’ he heard Boromir call, bringing him back to the now, ‘what if Denethor took this document to his private chamber in the White Tower.’
‘You are right Boromir. If he valued something profoundly, he would take it with him to this chamber… You are right!’
As Faramir said this, they heard a loud banging from the adjoining chamber and a commotion external to the Palace.
Faramir rushed to the door of the other chamber, opening it a fraction, Boromir went to the window to try to observe the happenings outside.
Faramir could just see Arion and Calimë.
‘What would the envoy from Isengard want with the Steward at this time?’ Arion exclaimed anxiously.
‘He gave no reason, he just demanded an audience,’ Calimë replied breathlessly, obviously having rushed from the Hall, ‘Arion we must take the Steward his robe immediately - and also his chain and badges - and get him properly attired; he cannot receive the envoy as he is now dressed…Oh, I do not think he is in the frame of mind to receive anyone, let alone the Wizard’s spies – I fear…’
‘Calimë, there is no point in such consternation; we must gather all we need and leave.’
They collected various items in a flurry then left, slamming the door after them.
Faramir crossed to Boromir, who stood by the window, saying in a worried tone:
‘Calimë has announced that Saruman has sent an envoy. Something malevolent is afoot, for I am sure that none from Isengard came to Minas Tirith at this time in the Third Age.’
‘I fear you are correct Faramir, for I can make out an emissary and a soldier carrying the insignia of Saruman. Those of Isengard are no allies of Gondor in this struggle against Mordor…’Boromir replied.
‘Then it would wise for us to see what this is,’ Faramir responded.
The brothers returned all the papers hastily to the chest, then left the chamber. They rushed along and then up the stairs, using Gandalf’s light.
The other in Minas Tirith sensed the light, but waited until they called him. He could not intervene if they did not request it so.
The one in the east, had been distracted with other matters, and so they passed this time with the light, undetected and unchallenged.
They reached the Hall without a stop, and warily, Faramir opened the door. Calimë was busy assisting Denethor with his cloak and regalia, Rendur was walking to the main doors, in readiness to admit the envoys.
The brothers slipped unnoticed into the shadow of Elendil. As they reached the safety of their ancestor, they saw the emissary of Saruman being ushered into the Hall.
Clothed in sweeping raiments the colour of the raven and bearing the insignia of Saruman, the S-rune, he approached Denethor. Then, not affording the Steward proper custom, the emissary did not wait to be addressed, and pronounced:
‘I come with the command of Saruman, the Wise. In terms of the Pact of Gondor and Isengard, he asks me to take counsel of the Steward, son of Ecthelion and his first-born.’
‘You have proof that my son Boromir is not dead!’ exclaimed Denethor.
The emissary stood saying nothing, for he had none.
‘So, Boromir is dead,’ wailed Denethor at them, ‘Saruman promised to protect him, now he is dead, and he wants you to have an audience with him! What madness do you speak!’ he continued now screeching at him.
‘Then none has said that he wishes to see you?’ the emissary questioned.
‘Do not taunt me with these questions, Boromir is dead. Leave me now. Tell Saruman, I curse his pact!’ Denethor had stood up, shaking with rage and teetered as he tried to lunge at him. Rendur stepped forward and assisted Denethor to his throne.
The emissary unperturbed by the performance and curse of the Steward, verbalized in a murmur, as if informing someone not in sight.
‘He has not yet appeared.’
Then as if receiving a message, unheard by any other in the Hall, he bowed to Denethor:
‘I seek your pardon, Lord Steward, and request your hospitality for some hours until I can make preparations to return to Isengard.’
‘I will honour the pledge of hospitality, but you must leave by nightfall. I will have no further audience,’ and then he motioned with an outstretched and quavering arm for the emissary to leave.
Rendur escorted the emissary to the door, and as Saruman’s agent walked he spoke in whispers to, what seemed like himself, nodding as he walked as if agreeing to some instruction given by someone not in sight.
As the doors were opened, the brothers could see the guard carrying the Saruman insignia waiting for the emissary. An animated conversation between them ensued.
The emissary re-entered the hall with the Isengard guard, arrogantly ignoring the protestations of Rendur, addressing Denethor as he sat:
‘For your protection Lord Denethor, the Wizard of Isengard invokes the alliance, and sends into your service one of his personal guards to remain with you until I can take my leave.’
At which pronouncement, the Isengard guard moved aside Denethor.
‘I seek no protection from Saruman,’ Denethor retorted.
‘But your pledge demands accepting Isengard’s offer, Steward of Gondor,’ the emissary rejoined in a threatening tone.
‘Saruman does not have dominion in Gondor,’ Denethor retaliated.
‘You are not yourself My Lord, for you know the terms of the pact.’
Denethor stood up proclaiming:
‘I will not…,’ then consumed, fell back on to his throne.
Boromir went to rush forward, but Faramir again held him back:
‘We must not show ourselves.’
Denethor then lost of the will to resist Saruman, and in the depths of dejection conceded:
‘Yes, the pact, I will honour the pact.’
The emissary spoke in sotto voce to the guard:
‘Stay until you are called, report any contact as you have been instructed, we have but a few hours’,
In their place of hiding Faramir whispered to Boromir:
‘They mean to watch for your contact of him.’
‘From where do these foul servants of Saruman come, seeking me alive,’ murmured Boromir in response.
‘I sense from the time we have emerged,’ uttered Faramir in a voice of concern and rising dilemma.
‘Yes,’ Boromir replied ‘I feel the presence of The Dark, closer now than before, now that the pact has been confirmed from the mouths of this….’ but his sentence lingered unfinished, overtaken by other thoughts and emotions now invading his mind.
Rendur had been waiting beside Denethor:
‘Come My Lord, we will go back to your chambers, you must rest.’
Denethor rose, and like a beaten animal, was helped to walk out of the Hall; Saruman’s guard following behind him.
Boromir and Faramir remained in the Hall. It was now sinister and desolate. The feelings of the tragedy that had been played out here, now – and in the past, rose and engulfed the brothers; a kaleidoscope of discontentment, desire and desperation.
Boromir walked to the throne of the Steward, where his father had just sat. Faramir followed, thinking aloud what course was now open to them.
‘We cannot disclose our presence to Denethor while they are here. For he will not be able to resist their enquiries, nor do I believe could he now withstand the shock of seeing you Boromir. Our father seems so close to total defeat of himself. Rendur and Andil will look after him.’ Then he looked at Boromir, now leaning against his father’s throne.
‘What is the matter Boromir?’
Boromir stood, glazed and rigid.
‘I feel a darkness overtaking me, as it overtakes our father.’
‘You fought this evil once, you can overcome it now,’ exclaimed Faramir, trying as best as he could to breathe some reassurance into his brother.
Then he embraced Boromir, holding him secure against the shudder that had overtaken his body and mind again. They stood so together; two brothers who had a bond of abiding friendship, but now the younger giving strength to the elder.
‘Come, we have not taken any food or drink since we left The Light. We can go to the northern quarters; no-one will be there, and I will find something for us. You will feel stronger then.’
‘No Faramir,’ responded Boromir, reeling away from his brother’s embrace, ‘for there is too-little time for such things. We must try to get access to the Tower Room. Somehow we must find a way into its secrets,’ and then continuing in the muttering of reasoning:
‘But Denethor keeps that key close to himself, and it is said that there is no other.’
He then traversed the Hall and came before the door that connected the Tower with its Hall. He tried it, but it was locked tight, but as he pulled on the handle he observed finger-like Lebethron’s leaves covering the lock.
‘Faramir, the key, the key to the doorway to the stone steps – I think it will fit here, for the lock is masked with the identical carving as that door,’ Boromir exclaimed.
Faramir, who had followed Boromir to this part of the Hall, took the brass key from his cloak and it slipped into the lock of the door, and with hardly any turning, the lock unbolted and the door swung open.
Light and life returned to Boromir’s eyes.
‘Come little brother, the secret of the pact lies within, I can feel this now with surety.’
Faramir stepped back to let Boromir pass into the Tower, and taking steps three at a time, Boromir had scaled the bottom flight before Faramir started climbing. As he did, he was overcome by racing quandaries:
‘It is good that Boromir has recovered, but what power bolsters his strength and hastens now… will I be able to save him from it if it is The Dark that fuels these?!’
The flaxen sun lingered in a copper sky, stained by Mordor’s raging toxins of hate and Doom’s caustic fumes.
In this east, he was crouched over the palantir. He had received the message and had given his instructions. His trap had been laid.
In Minas Tirith the sounds of frenzied action, of the beat of hammers and the heave of forges, and the stench of panic and fear, surged from the levels below.
‘Gandalf will be here on the morrow.’ Faramir murmured to himself, ‘The assault will begin of Minas Tirith, and we will not be able to help…’
Faramir hesitated at the bottom step, he was drawn back to the warriors of stone, who he sensed were beckoning him with some message from the past with which he needed to unlock the future. He wavered, to return or proceed; Boromir was now beyond his sight.
‘Faramir!' he heard Boromir shout.
It brought him from his thoughts with a jolt, and a panic swept over him, what madness had let his thoughts delay him and take him away from protecting his brother in such pressing circumstances.
Faramir bolted up the stairs, reproaching himself for his tardiness; what if Boromir had already entered Denethor’s secret chamber, and had already…
As he rounded the bend of the top flight, there was Boromir, to his relief, blocked by a door – the entrance to the chamber itself. He expected to find Boromir agitated, but instead he saw that that he was smiling.
‘Faramir, you have the silver key with you, the one that opened the elven chest?’
‘Yes Boromir’, replied Faramir, ‘but I do not think it will be of use here.’
'Then you are wrong little brother, for come, look, the lock has the scroll features of that key. It was the scroll around this lock that lay in my memory but I could not recall; Denethor having brought me once to this doorway when young, but which he never let me enter.’
Boromir stood aside, and Faramir put the key into the lock, and the bolt turned without resistance. Faramir opened the door, and fearful what was inside, stood in Boromir’s way from entering; he used Gandalf’s light to illuminate the darkness of its interior.
The brothers stood at its entrance. The room was small. The stonewalls of the Tower were encased in honey-coloured sandalwood panels. On these, murals were painted depicting all the historic battles of men in Middle-earth: the battles of the Five Armies; Fornost; the Field of Celebrant; the Plains, and of Dagorlad.
The brothers looked in awe. Here were pictures of the stories they had been told, grown up with; scenes of victory and defeat: of Gil-galad, Elendil and Isildur – and Sauron; of man’s triumph and fall.
The brothers gasped in wonder. They walked around the chamber. It had windows looking east out over the hills to Mordor. All windows had shutters which were bolted, but when opened, they exposed the Tower ominously to the kingdom of the Dark Lord, and the sky above now reflected the burnt-red aura that exploded from this land.
In the middle of the room, on a marble pedestal, was an object, over which a sangria shawl was draped. The brothers knew what was beneath it. The planatir.
They had never been told of its existence by their father, but they had heard rumours of this “seeing-stone”, saying it gave Denethor his wisdom and foresight.
Faramir saw that Boromir was pulled towards the object, so he grabbed his arm:
‘We dare not look at it,’ he exclaimed, ‘remember we come to find the pact.’
Near the easterly windows, on an antique desk carrying the insignia of Anárion, there was a manuscript, written in elvish, which they recognised but could not read. On the worn leather binding were embossed the words: Sha nqingaboat id Amloixä
There were also papers strewn over the desk, which they looked through, but no document resembled a pact between Gondor and Isengard. On the opposite wall was a bookcase, they searched through the manuscripts and papers that were stored here, but found nothing. Then Faramir walked to the fireplace on the northern wall. The fire was nearly out, but it still had the remnants of being, smoldering and spluttering in its death-throes. He bent down to examine something sticking out of the embers, then pulled out the remnants of a parchment. It still had a sliver of the seal of the Steward of Gondor clinging to it, but nothing of what it contained was readable. Faramir knew instantly that this had been the parchment documenting the pact between Saruman and Denethor. He gasped, for he realised that Denethor, in a fit of rage and frustration, had thrown into the fire; the very thing they had come to Minas Tirith for had been consumed by the flames.
Boromir rushed to Faramir’s side, and looked at what remained, and exclaimed in despair:
‘It is destroyed then, we are too late!’
Faramir regained his composure, knowing that he had to give Boromir hope, otherwise he feared his reaction.
‘Too late to read it here, Boromir. Not too late to find out its secrets and undo its evil hold by other means,’ he replied confidently.
‘I will face “Him” then, here and now,’ and Boromir strode over to the covered eye.
Faramir rushed in front of him:
‘You do not have the power to do so. If you look into the eye, he will pull you into his darkness. I will not let you do this to yourself, or jeopardize the Quest this way. We will find an alternative way to the pact.’
He stood up against Boromir, but he knew he was standing against Boromir and the Dark’s influence over him. Faramir drew his sword:
‘I will not, cannot let you look into the planatir,’ he said sternly, never before speaking to or challenging Boromir in such a way.
The two stood facing each other. Their wills in combat, and yet still Boromir’s fought against that of The Dark. Faramir would not sway. Finally The Dark’s influence waned, and Boromir backed down.
Faramir spoke gently now, the deadlock having passed:
‘Boromir, we have found what we wanted. That a formal pact existed; even though it exists no more on parchment for Denethor. The pact still exists. A fire consuming a parchment, would not undo a pact made with darkness.’
Faramir sought some solace, some surety, and his eyes wandered to the world beyond the chamber, but there he only saw the pallid light of an expiring day bringing Gondor ever closer to the fated battle. There was no solace to be found here.
‘We must leave now, Boromir. We must find another way. We cannot stay so close to evil’s ray.’
Boromir did not reply.
With cajoling words and physical maneuvering his brother, Faramir led Boromir down the stairs. As Faramir unlocked the Tower’s lower door, they heard the doors of the Hall opening. Faramir closed his door quickly, leaving it just ajar, it being hidden from view of those entering the Hall by the colonnade of Gondor’s warriors.
Rendur opened the door to the emissary of Saruman.
‘The Steward cannot see you. He has other matters to attend to,’ declared Rendur.
‘Then you will give the Steward a message from the White Wizard. We have been summoned and must return to Isengard. The palantir will foretell the happenings of the next days. The Steward should consult it, for Isildur’s heir rides with the Grey Wizard to reclaim his throne. Without the power of Isengard that stands behind the pact, the days of the house Denethor will be over.’
Rendur said nothing, hearing these words in disbelief and dismay. The emissary left; Rendur followed. The doors closed.
‘Surely Denethor will see that Sauron controls Saruman. This pact delivers Gondor into the hands of the Dark Lord. ’ exclaimed Boromir.
‘Saruman’s spies have gone. We will find Denethor, and if he is well enough, we will ask him straightly. We must with greatest care do this Boromir. We dare not risk what the future must bring.’ responded Faramir.
Boromir looked intense, his pupils dilated and a deepening green, and uttered without emotion:
‘We need not find Denethor, for I sense he is coming to the palantir. The power of evil will give him the strength to do this.’
‘Then we will meet him here, in the Tower, for we will not be disturbed here. We can seek cover and wait for him in the chamber below the summit.
So the brothers walked up the stairs, and on the landing leading to its summit they went to a small anti-room, almost an alcove of the hallway. The room was bare except for a table and chairs. They sat down, and now both consumed in their separate thoughts, waited for the arrival of the Steward. The time past, but they did not know how fast for them. Faramir broke the silence:
‘Boromir, are you still sure that he will come’.
‘I feel him close, he will come…but in his weakened state this will take time,’ then Boromir asked: ‘Faramir, have you thought how we should approach him?’
‘It will depend on the manner of his mind…’ Faramir responded, but before he could finish his sentence, they heard the bottom door being unbolted.
Faramir stood up and went to the door of the anti-room. He could hear the lumbering steps and laboured breathing of two climbing the stairs. It was Denethor being assisted by Andil. As they climbed, stopping at each flight, Faramir overheard his father speak:
‘Unless the pact holds true, all that I have worked for has come to naught. Isildur’s heir, Gandalf’s Ranger, ‘last of a ragged house bereft of lordship and dignity’ (Tolkien, ‘ROTK ‘The Pyre of Denethor’)
will reclaim Gondor’s throne. Who knows what is true or false anymore. Boromir is dead. I have no view about right and wrong, only that fate has deserted the House of Denethor. Nothing is, or ever can be, in order again.’
Laboriously Denethor arrived at the landing where his sons were hidden. Then he continued up the upper flight of stairs, Andil supporting him. The summit door opened, and Denethor stood at its threshold gasping for breath, then gave Andil his orders:
‘Andil, return to the royal chambers and bring me a manuscript that lies on the Council Room table. Wait in the anti-room until I call you back to the summit.’
Then he heard the door of the summit close and the bolt thrown. The brothers waited to hear Andil descend the steps and the bottom door of the Tower shut. Faramir and Denethor then climbed the flight of stairs, and used the key to open the door. Denethor was sitting at the desk; the planatir remained covered, the windows to the east wide open. As they stepped inside the room, he looked up and cried out in delight, jumping up as if rejuvenated:
‘Boromir, Boromir, you are alive and have returned.’
Boromir rushed to his father’s side, asking:
‘Denethor, can anyone hear through the planatir?’
But his father, tightly embracing him, continued elatedly:
‘Boromir, you are here, they were wrong…’
‘Father, can anyone hear?!’
Denethor stepped back to examine his son, holding on to his hand:
‘Boromir! Boromir!’ then answering his son:
‘No, no the palantir sees or hears nothing while covered.’
Boromir looked at Faramir, and Faramir nodded that he should continue, but before he could, Denethor frantically added:
‘They were looking for you Boromir, Saruman’s men, but I said you were dead, for that was what I was told. I received your horn, was that…’
Boromir interrupted his ravings but kindly:
‘Listen father, I have much to say. I have returned from beyond. What you see is not Boromir alive in this time, for truth is that I was killed by orcs as you were told.’
‘But you stand before me, flesh and blood, I feel you alive in body. You cannot be an apparition.’
‘There is no hope that I am alive in your world, but there are others, and Faramir and I have returned to you on a mission which will see evil destroyed forever.’
‘Then Faramir is also not real?’
‘Faramir comes with me from the future, in the form you know to alleviate your pain.’
‘Nothing can alleviate it if what you say is that truly you are dead.’
‘Father, listen, we cannot change the end of a singular soul, but we are here to change the future for all men.’
‘What care I for this future? I will listen only if your end can be changed.’
‘This it cannot be,’ Boromir proclaimed resolutely.
‘Then you come with treacherous hope,’ declared Denethor in anguish laden with anger.
‘We come with hope for the world beyond this time…’
But Denethor put his hands on his ears and stepped away, starting to shake with emotion:
‘I will not listen. I see you for what you are, Saruman’s trickery. An apparition to make me yield to his smooth words and deceitful promises. I will not agree to this. I will not listen!’
Denethor was in such a state of frenzy, Boromir and Faramir feared for his life.
Boromir took him in his arms, to restrain and comfort him, and caringly set him back on his chair. Denethor was muttering deliriously, not now to his sons but to himself, and those of the past.
‘It is as I feared,’ Faramir exclaimed, ‘he cannot reason in the state he was already in. We must get him some help. Andil has renowned healing powers, we must call him, and although I fear what might eventuate, we must bring him into our plans. He is the only other that knows of the pact and the only one who can give us counsel now, except for the Protector of the Books, and Gandalf has warned of making contact with him.’
Boromir stood forlornly looking at the agitation of his father:
‘We cannot reach him in the state he is now.’
‘If we find the meaning of the pact, it may be able to release him from this delirium.’
‘Yes Faramir, for I sense the influence of Saruman in his turmoil. We have no option but to call Andil. He can help ease Denethor’s mind, until we have a chance to rid it of Saruman.’
‘Then you must not be seen, for while my presence will be difficult to explain, yours will be impossible, and we must change as little as possible, for we know not how this will flow into the future. Boromir, quickly go to the watchtower chamber just below, it will not be where Andil will stay. I will call you when all is safe for you to appear again.’
With that Boromir rushed down the stairs and hid within the northern most chamber on the level beneath.
Then Faramir heard slow footsteps and the arduous breathing of the faithful servant approaching the landing below. He opened the door of the summit room, and called Andil’s name. He stood behind the door, waiting for Andil to climb the last lot of steps.
Andil came to the door and stood there; his Lord had always come out, for never had he been permitted to enter the chamber; however, when he saw Denethor slumped in the chair, raving, he rushed into the room.
‘My Lord, what has become of you, what baseness besets you here?’
Andil heard the door close, and turned around.
Faramir spoke calmly:
‘Do not be overwhelmed dear Andil, for I…’
But in shock Andil cried out:
‘Master Faramir, Master Faramir, you are not in Osgiliath, you have come to ease your father’s torment, answer our prayers, tell us that Boromir is not slain!’
Faramir did not answer his plea but simply replied:
‘I need your help Andil, with Denethor, and other matters.’
‘But they said you were defending Osgiliath, but that the battle was fierce. Your father has been overwhelmed by grief about what we have heard of Boromir’s death…Ah, you are here to ease his pain, for I fear all is lost for Boromir…oh what will become…,’ Andil exclaimed in ranting confusion.
Faramir stepped across to Andil and took him tenderly by the shoulders:
‘Boromir has been slain, it is true, but Andil we…, my father and I, need your strength and powers of healing. We need you to be calm. I have come in secret from the battlefield of Osgiliath.’
Andil looked at Faramir, nodding in understanding. He took some gulping breaths, and regaining his composure, replied:
‘We feared at the sight of his cloven horn, that Boromir had fallen. We need now to help the Steward accept that this is true for there is no hope for Boromir. In tribulation, your father repeatedly has refused my potions, and he cannot ask now for himself, Faramir you wish that I apply my remedies for our Lord’s distress?’
Faramir wavered in answering. What if Andil’s potion calmed Denethor, and thereby Denethor emerged from his madness and his end was changed, how would that affect the progress of the “old lore”, which he was warned must not be altered…and how, in Boromir appearing to Denethor, would that change what was to come, but would his father even remember this, or would it seem just like a dream to him… would he…, Faramir was caught in this numbing dilemma, when he heard Andil plead:
‘Young Master, I cannot bring the Steward from the depths of the darkness that has engulfed him, nor save him from the despair when the realisation of Boromir’s death comes upon him, I plead do not seek that from me, but I can ease somewhat the intensity of his torment…’
Faramir smiled, for it was an answer to his impasse:
‘Then do it, loyal Andil, ease this as best you can, but no-one is to know that you will use your remedies on the Steward or of my appearance.’
‘They came looking for Boromir, Saruman’s spies, but they have now gone,’ Andil replied in an anxious tone.
‘This I know Andil, and although that risk is over, we are still in grave peril; so no-one must be aware that I have returned, and should events in the future appear contrary to this, you must put aside all memory that I was here.’
‘I understand young Master, and you can be assured, your father took me into his confidence over these many years, I can be trusted not to disclose...’
‘Yes, Andil I am aware of this. Once we have Denethor return to some peace of mind, I will need to speak to you about what you know.’
‘I must keep his confidence yet…’
‘We will discuss this again later. Can you manage to take Denethor by yourself to his private chambers in the Palace?’ Faramir responded.
‘There is no problem, for although you see him in this tormented state in mind, there is still strength in him in body. He needs my support now, but when over the shock ….’, he hesitated, ‘my hope is that he will not be turned by bitterness when the realisation comes…’ Andil looked at Faramir; they both knew what he meant.
Andil then helped Denethor to his feet, and with minimal support, he supported the Steward to the door. Andil looked back at Faramir, saying
‘Will you follow soon?’
‘I will take the stone stairs, and meet you there.’
‘Ah yes, the stone stairs. No-one has used them for an age,’ Andil muttered as he walked with his Lord down the flights of steps.
Boromir had been listening just outside the chamber, when he heard Andil approach the doorway; he swiftly descended the flight and waited until he saw Andil supporting Denethor to the bottom of the flight. He then returned to the chamber.
‘I overheard all. Worry not brother that we may need to seek Andil’s assistance,’ Boromir said solemnly.
‘But we must keep all as close to what was – Boromir, you must remain hidden.’
‘Yes, little brother, you must the take in the lead in all things now.’
‘We had better go, so that I can meet up with Andil.’
Faramir had moved to the table, and picked up the elven manuscript. He turned to go, but realised that Boromir had walked to and was now standing in front of the shrouded palantir, still pulled by its veiled power. He went up to his brother:
‘Boromir, we must leave now!’
Boromir, seemed entranced by the cloaked orb, and in an emotionless voice responded:
‘It pulls at me, taunting me to measure my strength against that which is extant within.’
And it was true, something existed, for Faramir could see the outline of the globe under the cover, and there appeared to be a pulsating light of carmine, circling faster, becoming more vivid in the moments that he looked. Now it was making a whirling sound, as if trying to connect with another.
Boromir, mesmerized, reached out for the cover. Faramir grabbed his arm and wrenched him from his spot in front of the palantir. He sensed Boromir resisting the palantir, for if not, with Boromir’s superior strength, Faramir could not have overpowered him in this manner. The elven manuscript slipped from Faramir’s grasp as he forced Boromir from the palantir and the room. Out on the landing, Faramir closed the door and placed the key in his cloak pocket.
Boromir, recovered but shaken, said nothing as he ponderously walked down the steps. Faramir watched after him as he turned the corner of the following flight.
Faramir was in a quandary:
‘The manuscript, dare he open the door and retrieve it?’
He waited to hear Boromir’s steps fade as he descended the flights. He sensed the manuscript was a crucial link to the pact, so he opened the door, and rushed to where it had dropped. He did not wish to look at the palantir, but he could not resist its pull. It was still pulsating beneath the cover and the sound it was making was now excruciating; he knew it was calling out to Boromir. Faramir did not stop to look further; he picked up the manuscript, placed it in the pocket of his cloak, and rushed to the door. Just as he did, Boromir was taking the very last step to the landing. Faramir stood in his way, but this time Boromir’s form pushed against him violently, much too powerfully for Faramir to resist his advance, but Faramir grabbed the door handle and slammed it shut.
The two brothers stood on the landing, breathing rapidly, as if they had just fought off a foe. The calling of the palantir could not now be heard, and Boromir seemed free of it, but he said nothing, just stood at the threshold of the room.
Faramir knew that he could not move him and he could not stay; that Boromir was on the cusp, and it was not in Faramir’s power to move him from this. He remembered Gandalf’s light. It once had provided a barrier against The Dark, if only it could shield Boromir enough for Faramir to move him from the reaches of the palantir. He called it to light, and as they stood there, two brothers in its glow, he felt Boromir’s form relax, coming back to life and in his control, and he spoke:
‘Take me from this place, where I can be free of it,’ and he clasped Faramir’s arm in camaraderie, turned and descended.
Far in the east, he had been told of the failure of his emissaries; in fury, he had them recalled. Now he waited for the two brothers, waited for them to use the light again. He saw it come to life, and set to make his plans in its wake.
The other in Minas Tirith, felt The Dark Lord’s presence; he knew the light weakened without the Maiar touch, would not protect them this time, and now only acted as a beacon from which The Dark waited to strike. And so, this Maiar called upon his powers to mask the light from Dark’s view, such that although alight, “He” could not locate them.
In the east he screamed with anger, as he realised that another had intervened, but he cast his spell that for the two all day had past, and it was now deepest night; a time when they would be more vulnerable to him – he would find them soon again, then he began his search for this other…
Faramir walked behind Boromir, cloaking him in the light, down the tower steps, through the Hall, past the heroes of Gondor, and then the stone steps. As they walked, they said nothing; for it was as if they had passed into a caliginous void. They struggled with each step, struggling against not only a physical but a mental exhaustion, which seemed to have overtaken them. Finally they came to the Council Chamber, Faramir extinguished Gandalf’s light. Both could just drag themselves inside. It was dark with the curtains pulled, but neither brother attempted to light a candle; just the light from the adjoining room seeped under the door into this space. They sat there, in the darkness, they did not know how long. Finally, Faramir rose from his seat, and whispered to Boromir:
‘I must see if Andil has arrived with Denethor. Stay here. The adjoining door is locked, so no-one can enter. I will enter the royal chamber by the south doors.’
‘I will wait here for your return. It seems that the events of this day have sapped my energy. I will be thankful of the time to recover.’
Faramir walked to Boromir, clasped his arm in amity, and left. He found that his energy was returning, such that when he knocked on the royal chamber door, he felt refreshed.
Andil answered the door.
‘Young Master, I was concerned, for you did not come for such a lengthy time.’
‘Lengthy time Andil, of what do you speak?’ Faramir responded in surprise.
‘It has been hours since I saw you in the Tower.’
‘Hours, that cannot be Andil!’
‘It is the hour before midnight now Master Faramir, and I saw you in the Tower before nightfall, see,’ and he walked to and opened the curtains.
Faramir rushed to the window, and there a slivered moon sat in a starless sky. But this crescent did not have control of the night, for Doom blazoned its towering flames and poisonous fumes, and sent them to invade the land of men. And so it had begun…
Faramir reeled back in shock. Night, late night, how was this possible? They had lost hours in the morn, now they had lost hours in the eve. He felt an icy shiver run through him as he realised it was of Sauron’s making.
He gave his apologies to Andil, saying he would return, then rushed out the door. Andil assumed that the Young Master was ill. He shook his head at his antics, then sat down again with his Master.
Faramir ran to the Council chamber and found Boromir, still sitting in the darkness. He rushed to his side:
‘Boromir, we are under dour threat. Sauron has intervened in our time.’
‘Faramir, what are you saying?’
‘Look,’ and Faramir opened up one of the curtains.
Boromir stood up, and strode across to the window, gasping:
‘It is the dark of the night, and Mordor is afire.’
‘So in the staircase, somehow Sauron advanced our time.’
‘And this is why we felt so exhausted, as if hours of our energy had been drained from us,’ Faramir continued.
‘Yet he did not capture us, when he knew our whereabouts and was so close.’
‘No Boromir, I feel that some other force has come into play to protect us. His reach could only touch our time, but I fear this protection will not continue. We must urgently find our answers. Stay here, if he did not find you before, he will not find you now. You are safe here. I will seek the information we need from Andil.’
But Boromir did not answer.
‘Yes, little brother, I feel as if I cannot go on, as if my very essence is being drawn from my body.’
‘I will stay with you for now….’
‘No, go to Andil now, otherwise it will be too late. I do not feel the touch of The Dark upon me now as I have before, just the weariness for all that has occurred. I will be safe here. Bolt the door as you leave.’
‘So that no-one can enter?’
‘No, so that I cannot leave if called.’
Faramir understood what Boromir meant, and knew he was right; he must leave now to talk to Andil. He bolted the door of Council Chamber, then walked around to the Royal suite. As he approached the door, he felt eyes upon him, but he was desperate to see Andil, and did not have time to search these out. He knocked. Andil came to the door and stood in the doorway blocking Faramir’s path; he shook his head as if unsure what to do.
‘I apologise Andil for leaving without due justification or asking after my father, but things have happened, which have no explanation…’, but before he could finish his sentence, Andil replied:
‘Yes Young Master, there are many mysterious things happening today,’
and he stood aside ushering Faramir inside.
‘I have been to the apothecary and collected the herbs I need for the potion. I feared administering them to the Steward until you were here. He is no better than when you saw him in the Tower, I fear he will be beyond our help if we delay much longer. At worst, the potion will give him peace for a while; at best it will clear his mind and enable him to comprehend what is, and must be.’
‘Then Andil, give him your potion. You have my authority to do so,’ Faramir replied.
Andil busied himself with leaves and powders, grinding them together in a mortar. He poured in a clear fluid, and then in a chant over the concoction, he poured it into a vessel. He carefully spooned the liquid into the mouth of his Lord.
‘It will ease the torment in a short while, but will not bring him to clarity for some time.’
Faramir nodded in appreciation, then said:
‘Andil, I know it is grossly late, but I need to seek your counsel without delay.’
With this Faramir withdrew to the other end of this chamber to the annexed royal sitting room.
It had been furnished in the House of Húrin style, bold and grand, not at all the style of Denethor, but Denethor had not changed what tradition had passed down to him. Here were jade and lemon brocade armchairs and settee, all with turned legs and elegant scrolled arms; a mahogany table and lyre back chairs, and drapes of pure silk in autumn colours. On the walls, were vibrant tapestries depicting the history of the House of Húrin, with a plush woven carpet covering parquetry floors. Incense, made from the flowers of the Lebethron, infused the air with a fragrant bouquet. Faramir had never liked this fragrance, and found with the room closed-up that it left a rancid sickly-sweet aroma. He walked to the incense burner and put out the flame and opened the window to let in fresh air, but then shut it again; for the air of Minas Tirith was filled with the noxious fumes of fires and forges; soon the battle would be waged.
Andil was reluctant to leave the side of his Lord, but he could sense that now his Young Master needed him more. He walked across the room to where Faramir was sitting. He sat alongside him, and waited to hear what it was that Gondor’s son wanted from him. Faramir began with measured words:
‘Andil I seek from you anything that you know of a pact made between Gondor and Isengard.’
He did not mention that he had overheard the conversation between Andil and Arion prior that day, but continued:
‘I know this was told to you in confidence by my father, and that you have all these years kept this secret, but there is a reason, which I cannot reveal to you now, that I must know about this pact.’
Andil looked intently into Faramir’s eyes. He had felt an affinity with Faramir and felt saddened by the way Boromir had always been given favoured treatment by his Lord.
Then in a manner which the brothers had respected this loyal servant, throughout the years helping solve crises and their problems, he responded in a thoughtful soothing voice:
‘You are correct Young Master, I have some information, of which never I have spoken, on oath to my Lord, your father, but I sense he would agree that these times mean I may reveal them to you. Unfortunately there is not much of which I am aware, and I am not sure it will provide you with the details you need.’
He looked around at Denethor, still in his stupor, as if he was seeking his approval before proceeding. Then he continued:
‘At your mother’s death, your father was distressed, not as you see him now merely a shadow of what he was. He was strong-willed and self-assured, but overwhelmingly saddened by her passing, and what he saw as his loneliness in the future. He came to me in this state and told me of things I am not sure your mother knew all. Because shrewd as she was, she would not have sanctioned what he had done, for she would have seen The Dark in it. But I digress. Soon after taking the role of Steward, Boromir just being six, an eminent Wizard came to Gondor. He was leader of the Istari, Council of the Wise. He came with smooth words and wondrous promises,’ Andil stopped, looking back at his Master.
Faramir waited silently for more.
‘This Wizard promised a pact between Gondor and Isengard would protect Denethor and the House of Húrin from the coming of the next King, and more, that his first-born, would be a mighty warrior and lead Gondor into a golden-Age for men. And so your father thought that the Wizard and the pact held true, for Boromir grew to be this mighty warrior that had been promised. So you see Faramir, what grievous distress came upon him with news of Boromir’s death – for all that he had trusted, was not so.’
Andil stopped again at the murmuring of Denethor, and stood up to return to his Lord’s side.
Faramir stood up as well and faced this dutiful soul.
‘I thank you Andil for sharing this with me, but did Denethor ever say where and when this meeting took place or the significance of the elven manuscript in the summit room?’
‘Nothing-else did he impart to me,’ replied Andil, who was now walking across to Denethor.
Faramir did not move from where he stood. He felt despondent, for the facts he needed, Andil did not reveal, and he believed, did not know.
Andil saw the despondency in Faramir, and after checking on Denethor, came back to him, and placed his hand on his shoulder, saying:
‘There is possibly one other who could help. He is the Protector of the Books. I believe you know him. There are murmurings that he has exceptional powers. He certainly has more knowledge of the Great Books than anyone in Gondor, even they say, than the Wizard of Isengard. His appearance belies one of immense wisdom and knowledge. You mentioned a book in the summit room, Raalta commands knowledge of many languages, including Elvish. He also has no love of the Wizard of Isengard. If I were to take the book to him, and tell him the Steward wishes him to translate any sections that relate to the Stewardship of Gondor, he would do so.’
‘He would not question why?’ Faramir replied.
‘I believe he would not,’ responded Andil.
Faramir thought deeply, remembering Gandalf’s words of warning, but he had no other avenue to seek the information he needed.
‘Are you certain of his loyalty?’
‘I am certain of his loyalty to Gondor, if not to the Stewards, but I would trust him to keep any confidence he was sworn to uphold,’ answered Andil.
‘Then I ask you to do this straight away,’ said Faramir.
‘Ah, but Young Master, it is already so late.’
‘I understand Andil, but I know Raalta, he is one who works late into the night, he will still be up. I ask this as a favour on my father’s behalf and of all of Gondor, for I must depart at dawn to return to the battle of Osgiliath.
‘I see in your eyes the desperation of our times. I will take the manuscript to Raalta and ask him to return before the dawn.’
Faramir took the manuscript from his cloak and handed it to Andil.
‘Stay with your father. I expect that I will not be blocked by any guards on this night, when all is being prepared should Mordor attack.’
Faramir said nothing, knowing what would ensue in the next days. He went across to Denethor, and saw in his face that the distress was easing, but he was far from consciousness.
He paced the floor of the chamber, knowing that in the adjacent room, bolted from access to this room, his brother also needed him.
But it was not long before Andil returned.
‘All is well, Raalta, took the manuscript, and asked no questions. He will relay to me, as I told him the Steward requested, any information relating to the Stewardship. He will meet me in the minister’s office the hour before dawn.
‘My sincere thanks Andil, I will not show myself, but stand in the adjacent chamber,’ Faramir replied taking Andil’s hand in warm appreciation.
‘As you will, Young Master, but as there is nothing further that you can do now, I suggest you seek some repose. I will watch over your father, but do not expect any change until dawn. Do you wish me to discretely organize a chamber…?’
‘It is not necessary Andil; I do not want to trouble you further… I do not want to be far from Denethor this night; I will just bunk in the Council Room, for which I have a key.’
‘That is not suitable for you Master Faramir…’
‘It is all I need for now, for my men would be sleeping in rougher digs than this, this eve,’ Faramir replied.
‘Then it is as you will. Here take these blankets with you. I cannot access the Council Room through the adjoining door, for it appears to be bolted from inside,’ Andil answered, walking across to a cupboard, and taking out three blankets.
‘These are fine Andil, many thanks; I will see you before the hour of dawn. Come to me if my father’s condition changes in any way,’ Faramir continued, glad to know that Denethor would have Andil to watch over him in the night, and that he could now return to Boromir.
Faramir opened the door of the Council Chamber, not really knowing what to expect. Boromir sat at the Council table, he seemed composed. He had lit a candle and sat in front of an uncovered window, which looked across at Mordor, scarlet with hate... He was reading a document, and looked up as Faramir entered carrying the blankets, and, as if he was greeting him on any day, said:
‘Faramir, did it go well with Andil? I see you have bought blankets.’
Faramir was pleased to see Boromir so composed, but something writhed within him. He stepped into the room, locking the door behind him, and not disclosing his concern, responded equally unperturbedly:
‘Andil has confirmed the existence of the pact, but knew little-else. But he did suggest that Raalta be consulted. So with no other leads, I had Andil deliver the elven manuscript to Raalta for him to translate any passages that relate to the Stewardship,’ Faramir waited before proceeding, not knowing why he was so guarded.
‘And you believe that Raalta can be trusted?’ Boromir answered.
‘I do, on Gandalf’s word and Andil’s assurances,’ Faramir continued.
‘Then it is good that it is done,’ Boromir replied nonchalantly, ‘In your absence I have found amongst the Council’s books, a history of the Stewards, a fascinating read.’
Faramir looked searchingly at his brother; he had never been interested in the history of Stewards, other than the battles of these on Middle-earth.
‘When and where will we…you be meeting Raalta?’ Boromir questioned.
‘The hour before dawn,’ Faramir answered cautiously, not fully understanding why he was so hesitant in replying fully.
‘Then you had better try to find some rest, little brother, for I see crippling tiredness in your eyes, and I feel the exhaustion again of earlier this eve. Give me a blanket; I will lie here next to the window. We will be safe, for no one can enter here.’
Faramir felt his unease grow, but he could not say why, but a sapping tiredness descended upon him. He gave the blankets to Boromir, but he would only accept one.
Faramir unrolled his blanket nearer the door, but he went across to the window and closed the curtain.
Boromir bolted to a seated position, but then lay back down again.
Faramir felt for his keys to the Tower and the Council Chamber in his cloak. He took a chord from his cloak thread the keys on to this and then tied the chord around his neck. He kept awake, frightened of the influence of the night on Boromir. He sat upright, determined that he would wait for Boromir to be in deep-sleep before allowing himself to shut his eyes, but an acute weariness engulfed him.
Faramir awoke with a wrench; Boromir was pulling at the chord around his neck, dagger in hand. Faramir reflexly put his hands up to defend himself, in that split second, anticipating the blow and metal piercing his flesh. Without any words, Boromir, eyes bloodshot with fury, cut the cord and rushed to the door, opened it, and flew out of the room. Faramir sat up stunned, gasping, reconciling in his mind that he had not been stabbed. He knew how close to death he had been, and that now it was useless for him to try to restrain Boromir by himself. As he had feared, the power of The Dark had overwhelmed and controlled him now. Faramir needed help from the only source open to him; he called for Gandalf in his thoughts:
Boromir being drawn to the palantir. Need The Light to intercept.
Across time and space, the message was received by Gandalf. Gandalf sensing The Dark’s presence within The Light, relayed the message to another:
Light breached. For your mightier powers and interception.
Faramir did not know if his message was received, or what Gandalf could do, as he now rushed after Boromir. He had Gandalf’s light in his cloak, but he did not stop to use it, taking three steps in each stride.
The doors of the stone stairs and Tower had been left open. He did not stop to close them. He rushed up the Tower steps, wheezing with exertion. As he arrived at the summit landing – the door was flung open. All he could hear, as he caught his breath, was the calling of the palantir. He hesitated, dreading what he might find, for he feared he would be too late and that Boromir would already be in the hands of Sauron. He braced himself for what onslaught would be unleashed upon him if this was so; he drew his sword in readiness.
However, when he stepped inside he found Boromir on the floor, in a stupor. The covering on the planatir remained, but it pulsated with life beneath this, and from it came a piercing call.
Faramir fell down beside Boromir. He tried to rouse him, but could not, immersed as he was in unconsciousness. His breathing was shallow and erratic, as if gasping, struggling for breath. Faramir was fearful for how long this stupor would continue. He knew that he needed to remove Boromir from the palantir’s influence, but that alone he could not carry him in this state from the chamber.
The whorl of the palantir continued, and its sound so piercing in its call, Faramir could not think clearly as he considered what to do. He could remove the palantir, but was apprehensive about its powers, and mindful of Gandalf’s warning that all should remain as it was, lest the future be changed in unreckonable ways.
As Faramir strove to block out the calling of the palantir, across time and space, like the soft mists from a summer dawn rising over the plains of Pelennor, came a voice; a voice not known to him but one of such sincerity that he did not doubt it came from one of The Light.
Use the light Faramir. Use the light.
At first, Faramir, with the screaming in his ears of the palantir, did not register the meaning of the message, but then he jumped up, reached into his cloak, and pulled out Gandalf’s light. He said the words, and the star came to life, its beam embracing Boromir. He waited for some sign. As he waited, two others became aware of the light.
In a furor, to the east, “He” stepped up his action to capture the Steward’s first born – almost in his grasp!
For the other in Minas Tirith, he knew that he had been called, but that the other in the east would now be aware of the brothers’ position. He called upon his powers to shield the light and the brother’s again, but knew that this would only transiently hold off The Dark.
So this other, an agent of The Light, rushed from his chamber on the 6th tier of MinasTirith, along the underground passages, entering the Hall from the stone stairs, then he made his way across the Hall to the Tower entrance, with the sentinels urging him to move with all speed, through the opened doorway, closing it as he passed; then up the stairs to the Tower’s summit – and the chamber of the palantir.
He entered to find Faramir cradling his unconscious brother. Faramir did not hear his coming or his entrance, the palantir screaming its call.
He came over to Faramir, placing his arm on his shoulder, Faramir jerked with startle.
‘Raalta, Raalta, you have come…but you can’t be here…you cannot see Boromir,’ he exclaimed in a confused and desperate struggle for words, and the action he should take.
‘Do not fear Faramir, I have been sent by Gandalf. We have much to do and not much time left,’ Raalta replied in a half-whisper, ‘It is not safe to stay or speak here, for others can hear.’
The both looked at the palantir, still screeching, and its colours pulsating more vividly and vehemently, as if trying to burn through its cover.
‘Then I will rid us of this stone,’ Faramir uttered crazed by palantir’s call, and he stood up, but Raalta pulled him back.
‘No, all must be the same as – as before. We must leave and leave it as it is,’ Raalta responded.
‘I will bring Boromir to consciousness under Gandalf’s light and my shield, with which he will be able to resist the force of the palantir, however we must assist him down the stairs and from Minas Tirith as soon as he regains some consciousness.’ Raalta spoke assuredly, hiding from Faramir his uncertainty of the extent of his powers now the palantir was so alive.
He bent down over Boromir, and started chanting in words that Faramir did not understand. At first there was no response, but Boromir’s breathing became deeper and more regular, but there were no other signs of life in him. Raalta said nothing but took a stone of brilliant blue from an amulet he wore, and placed it on Boromir’s forehead – chanting louder, but his words could not be heard over the screech of the palantir. Faramir was sure that this would be heard all across Minas Tirith, but Raalta had closed the chamber door as he entered, and the room was sound-proofed, so no other knew of the palantir’s call; except the one who waited in the east for an answer.
Raalta stood up, and taking from around the waist of his robe, what appeared as a broad rope, he placed this over the cover of the palantir. As he did, he chanted, and Faramir saw the rope unfurl and cover the palantir completely; as it did, it swallowed its call.
Raalta returned to Boromir, and continued his chant. Faramir looked on as he once had in The Light, as another Maiar fought to wrench from The Dark its control over his brother. He waited for a sign, a sign that Boromir was not lost; then he saw a flicker of an eyelid, then the other, then a cough, and a tremor started across his body that grew in intensity. Faramir reached across to touch his brother, but Raalta, now standing, pulled him away.
‘No, Faramir, do not touch him! His body must find its own way to consciousness; otherwise,’ he hesitated in his whisper, ‘otherwise, he may not recover as Boromir once was.’
Faramir looked in shock at Raalta, he had not contemplated that there was any danger in saving his brother from the palantir, but said nothing, as Boromir’s tremor was diminishing, and Raalta was now leaning over him, chanting again but in an altered, songlike tone.
Faramir’s attention was abruptly drawn to the palantir for it had voice again. He saw with shock that Raalta’s shield of rope was being forced off the globe, and with it, it was taking the cover of the palantir. Scalding fumes were rising in a fiery bloom from the orb itself. Faramir glanced at its base and glimpsed for an instant the unveiled ferocity of the Dark Lord, the sight searing into his mind; he gasped and reeled in pain and torment, then struggling to recover, exclaimed:
‘Raalta, the palantir!’
‘I know Faramir, but we cannot touch it now, nor can we move Boromir until he recovers consciousness himself.’
The both looked at the palantir, then Boromir, and willing him to wake, they saw the tremors stop and he opened his eyes.
Raalta stooped down and hoisted Boromir up, and gesturing to Faramir to take the light and Boromir’s arm, they bore the scarcely conscious Boromir over to the door, and then through to the landing.
‘Can you support him by yourself,’ Raalta whispered, and with Faramir’s nod of acceptance, Raalta rushed into the chamber, bolting the door after him. The rope and cover were three-quarters off the palantir; the screech of its call, deafening, the fieriness of its pulse, explosive. The room throbbed with billowing heat and sound, reflecting The Dark’s boundless power.
Raalta dared not look directly at the orb, he held up his arm, his amulet shielding his eyes and reflecting its image. With his left hand he grabbed the rope and simultaneously pulled the cover over the palantir; as he did the heat of the globe burnt fiercely into his flesh; he did not flinch or hesitate to look, he turned his back to the orb and left it to consume itself. He opened then shut and bolted the door as he returned to the brothers.
Boromir was slipping in and out of consciousness, groaning in some raging battle.
‘Quick, Faramir, we must get him from here, from Minas Tirith. He knows your position through Gandalf’s light, but we cannot remove its beam from Boromir, otherwise, even with our help, he could not resist his call now. My shield will protect us… but I fear not for long… We cannot talk further, you must trust me Faramir, trust me to try to see you both to safety.’
‘I will follow all your wishes, Raalta, we could not…’
But before he could finish his words of thanks, Raalta interjected:
‘We must get him down the stairs…’
Nothing more was said as the two men started their descent, supporting the semi-conscious first-born of the Steward.
In the east he screamed with fury, but continued to chart the course of the light. He saw it intermittently, as it was shielded by another; and he saw both ebb in intensity. He could sense both wane in their power, he waited for one or both to fail.
The crescent moon was waning, its silvery light being masked by the stygian plume of Mt Doom’s storm; but this could not mask that the night was now in decline; soon Anar of Middle-earth would be rising, giving breath to a new day.