Denethor sat, a damp piece of cloth in his hand, gently caressing his son's fevered brow. Two
flickering candles stood sentry at the top of the makeshift bed, providing the only light in the
cavernous stone room. Through the still-standing thick walls, the Steward heard the noises of
unnumbered foul hosts who were tirelessly forging the destruction of his city.
His city. A shudder of anger rushed through him, and he clenched his fist around the
cloth, causing two drops of water to roll onto Faramir's cheek. Denethor steadied himself and
leaned over to dab at the water with uncharacteristic gentleness, then smoothed back a sweaty
tendril of hair from his son's steamy skin.
Faramir uttered something unintelligible, his eyes moving back and forth under closed
"Hush, my son," Denethor murmured. "We shall soon join our ancestors, and be done
with this never-ending dark."
"Lord Steward!" A clerk came bursting in, then stopped, riveted to the spot by
Denethor's look of unchecked rage.
"Penick, I did not call for you."
The Steward's icy words found their target as the man winced.
"Now get out."
The clerk wavered. "But Lord Denethor, the Prince Imrahil bade me ask about his
His voice trailed off into the gloom.
"GET OUT," Denethor hissed.
The clerk turned and ran.
The Steward rose and walked to the door, shutting it with a firm hand. He returned to Faramir's
side, intertwining his hand with one of his son's. Faramir's skin was hot, his palm slick with
sweat. A ghost of a smile flitted across Denethor's face as with his other hand he stroked the
bruised fingers, wondering how many years it had been since he had touched his second son. It was
all so achingly clear now. With clarity of purpose came freedom; he felt liberated, finally able
to express his love for his family even as he offered to the fire the deadwood of his spirit.
Here, in the gloaming and hush of stone he could, at the last, let his affections wash over
Faramir, in a silence bought at terrible cost.
Lauds, 5:45 a.m.
Eilenach Beacon, Grey Wood, Gondor
Eyes closed. Eyes open. Eyes closed.
Merry was awake, but even with his eyes open the forest was so dark that he couldn't see
anything. He pulled his blanket over his head, breathing in its earthy scent which was now as
familiar as his own pungent odor, the consequence of riding for days back to chest with another
person, and no chance to bathe. He was sure that no matter how happy Pippin would be to see him
that his cousin would immediately make some raunchy and well-deserved comment about him smelling
Pippin. Merry took another breath from within his small cocoon before casting the blanket
down. He missed his cousin. He longed for the company of anybody who would talk to him, or even
acknowledge that he existed, just as likely to suffer the fate of the Rohirrim on the
battlefield. The scar on his forehead from his days with the orcs throbbed, and he rubbed at it,
frowning into the too-quiet stillness of the early morning. For a few moments he wallowed in
self-pity and loneliness. Since Dernhelm said almost nothing to him, Merry was beginning to
wonder why on earth the young Rider had bothered to approach him at all. The Rider acted only as
though he was an additional piece of luggage, and just as mute. "He speaks more to Windfola
than to me!" Merry mused, indignant and pitiful.
He closed his eyes again, listening to the increasing noises around the camp; the tinny rustle of
Riders waking and putting on mail shirts, whickering and snorting of horses as they were tended
and fed, the crackles and snaps of wood set alight. None of it was necessarily comforting, but it
was routine and predictable, familiar sounds, tastes and odors. It was in the afternoon of his
second day spent riding in silence save the incessant rumbling of horse's hooves, his thighs and
backside throbbing in pain, when he realized that he had become quite fond of one scent in
particular: oiled leather.
The Rohirrim rode their horses hard and as swiftly as possible, but each night after their meager
meals Merry would catch the scent of leather being oiled, drifting through pockets of it as he
wandered on the perimeter of his éored, ignored by Elfhelm and everyone else. It was
a warm smell, affection and heat rubbed into its tangy scent, one which made Merry think of a
particularly potent and peaty ale served at The Strongbows in Buckland.
His imagination started meandering down dark thoughts of never having a pint of ale again, of
reliving Boromir's death, the stench of sweating orcs -
Suddenly Merry heard an odd sound. He rolled over and saw Dernhelm, his face contorted, murmuring
something he couldn't understand, squirming in his blanket. Merry cautiously wriggled over to the
Rider and shook him on the shoulder.
"Gríma!" Dernhelm hissed, his grey eyes instantly wide and full of fear.
Merry stared at him for a moment. "Were you having a nightmare? You were talking in your
The young Rider nodded curtly, then shocked Merry by placing his oddly delicate hand on top of
his, which still rested on Dernhelm's shoulder.
"It was just a dream."
Terce, 7:30 a.m.
She was almost at the bottom of the switch-backing trail before she noticed how much her jaw
ached. The creaking of the wheels of the wagon-cart behind her had managed to find reciprocal
grinding in her young teeth, though once she became aware of it, she made every attempt to loosen
her mouth. And yet, the wood would not be silent. Her teeth clenched again.
Horse and rider, a cortege of two, bore their slight burden into the valley below them, toward
the still grasses as blanched and bleak as the grey sky above. There were many mounds now, for
none could be buried up on the Firienfeld. The plain was the last eyrie for the Rohirrim who
could not, due to sex or age, fly away south to Gondor. Unseen thistles and briars clustered
menacingly in the spirits of those who remained; leaderless, abandoned.
She reached the hillocky earth, stopped her filly with a quiet word, then dismounted and loosed
the cart from her horse. Walking to the wagon, she pointedly ignored the cloth-wrapped figure,
took out the shovel, and began digging. The sun had travelled part of its arc through the dim sky
when she decided there was enough depth to bury her cousin, and dropped her implement. Her horse
was within eyeshot, grazing on new spring grass. She approached the wooden wagon, leaned over,
and with arms throbbing from overuse, gingerly picked up the body she had brought down from the
He was laid as softly as possible into the earth, though she, as his caretaker and only a few
years older than his fifteen years, was exhausted. Her cousin had fought at the battle at Helm's
Deep, and there had suffered many wounds. Mere hours before her funeral ride down the
statue-marked path, he had succumbed to infections. She used her shovel to cover him up to the
shoulders, then sank to her knees.
May the grasses sigh with your name
The wind throb with your heart which beats no more
Your light in the night sky shine down on us
She was unable to finish the lament. Instead, she took a knife from her belt, and after sizing up
her hand, chose her least-useful digit and made a light slash on her fifth finger, letting a few
drops of blood fall onto the freshly-turned earth.
Be carried to our kin, and know us by this.
Head lowered, she sat still, unkempt hair lightly teased by a mocking whisper of breeze. She
looked at the dark ground, then in a fog of blurred grief, dug her fingers into the upturned
earth, and shoved it into her mouth.
Bitterly she chewed for a few moments, trying to rationalize the grit on her tongue before she
spat it out, swearing as she did. She took a finger and scraped the tiny pebbles and foul-tasting
ground out of her mouth, then stood, wiping her hand on her skirt and spitting after running her
tongue around her teeth once more.
As she walked back to her horse to retrieve her water-skin, she was struck that she would never
get used to the taste of death.
Sext, 12:15 p.m.
The Lockholes, Michel Delving, The Shire
Not-here not-here not-here not-here
With but a little practice, she became an expert at willing herself away from what was happening
to her. She refused to recognize the smell of scorched flesh as her "proud" feet were
branded with an S and a B by the filthy men who had so humiliatingly hauled her off in broad
daylight. She forced herself to remember every nook and cranny of Bag End and the plans that she
had for the space when she began to hallucinate due to starvation and light deprivation.
At first she had fought them, wielding her umbrella as a weapon as best she could. This only made
them laugh, which infuriated her. Then the brutes had decided "the old hag didn't know her
place" after she had yelled once too often that she was a Sackville-Baggins and they would
pay. Instead, they tied her hands behind her to the umbrella itself, making her bond to it a
Then they found the branding irons and decided to have a little fun.
She had decided a while back that her son could not have known anything about what was happening
to her, that this Sharkey monster had corrupted his mind. She was rather unable to contemplate
any other alternatives.
The hobbit matron nurtured her indignation and her anger. With every intake of breath of rancid
air, filled with the scent of rotting turnips in one direction and her body's waste in another,
She was Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.
By surviving, she would have her revenge.
None, 2:15 p.m.
Lórien, eastern border
The gaze of the guard's amber eyes roamed restlessly over the lands across Anduin. Even with
Elvish sight, honed and undimmed despite his years, the view before Haldir was hazy and
indistinct. Once already the orcs from Dol Guldur had attacked, surprising the Elves of the
Golden Wood in their monstrous numbers and ferocity. The power of Galadriel held fast, however,
and not many Elves had been slain, but the focused brutality against the woods was horrible in
its unexpected slaughter.
Eastern Lórien was now a sacrificial pyre. Once-thriving mallorns, centuries old and yet
youthful in the stasis lovingly imposed on them by their mistress and caretaker, shimmered in
shameful heat radiating from hundreds of pitch-smeared torches. Haldir wished that he could shut
his eyes; that with a quick shake of his head and one long intake and outtake of breath he could
simply will the vision before him away. Instead, the wind shifted, and for a quick instant, his
heart seized in anticipation.
"Rain," he whispered, hope tripping on his tongue even as it was whisked away by the
heated pant of the consuming breeze.
His tireless eyelids closed, dark lashes resting on soot-dusted skin. He opened his mouth for a
moment, nostrils flaring. The wind shifted again, and his mouth chafed with the taste of ash,
delicate and grating. Haldir reached to his side to grasp for his water-skin, then drank
greedily. He yearned to quench his thirst even as he wished that he could command Ulmo to wring
rain from the clouds, to change the obscuring smoke caused by hungry flames to steam.
Is this to be our end? he mourned. All ancient elements of Elvish beauty, power, and
love in Middle-earth, ingested in a maw of fire more threatening than an arsenal of
He had to trust in his Lady and Lord. It was his duty. His place.
Disquieted, he resumed his vigilant, unmoving stance, his body taut and his sight flickering
through swirls of distant burnished flame.
Vespers, 5:30 p.m.
The Lonely Mountain
The Dwarf hummed as he pedaled the grindstone. Though the words were meant to inspire, the melody
was bitter, complementing the screeching whine of metal on rock as he sharpened the blade of his
broadsword to a deadly edge. Gone now were Glóin's white robes and necklace of diamonds; the
old Dwarf wore his battle-ready garb of leather and iron. His round shield was just down the
corridor, cradled in a stand in his room, along with his mattock. There had been no meeting, no
call to arms, but without official words, the Dwarves of the Mountain knew to ready themselves
Glóin stopped his foot motions, sensing that someone else was in the room. He looked up and
saw a black bird perched on the stone ledge of the workroom window, leaning its head from side to
side, onyx eyes fixed on him.
"Yes?" Glóin asked gruffly, his thick and calloused hands holding his sword with
deceptive tenderness. "What news?"
"Orcs," the raven croaked. "Swarming."
The Dwarf made a thoughtful sound, a gravelly noise from deep in his throat. "That in itself
is not news."
The raven cawed irritably in response.
"Your folk believe they will attack soon, then?"
The bird nodded its head, its scaly talons scraping across the ledge as it delicately moved two
"The men of Dale, too, have been warned." Its voice was rough, unused to such speech
anymore. "The thrushes have spoken to King Brand."
Glóin nodded, hefting his weapon up from the grindstone, examining the blade. Still needs
polishing, he thought. He turned his dark eyes to the raven as he stood, then lowered his head
until his grey beard touched the floor, then straightened.
"Our thanks, winged comrade. May your feathers never fall."
Black feathers glinted in the sunset as the bird turned its head right and left. "You fought
at the Great Battle of Five Armies, did you not?"
There was a grating crash as the Dwarf lowered his sword onto a bench.
Silence drifted through the chamber until the raven spoke again. "Be prepared."
Glóin thought briefly of his son, perhaps buried already, last seen while in the
unexpectedly hospitable realm of a rather different Elven-king than Thranduil. Fingering a thick
band on his finger, a memoriam to a marriage long sundered by death, he focused on the
The raven's feathers rustled as it turned away, then took to flight. Glóin stood listening
to the swooshes of beating wings, heavy and sure against the air.
Compline, 7:30 p.m.
The hobbit, quaking, had come in and hastily departed, bearing away Denethor's message for his
servants. The Steward was free again to lavish his sympathies on his second-born son, his chilled
fingertips tracing a belated line of respect from Faramir's forehead, across a prominent
cheekbone, down the sweaty neck.
It was not that he truly wished to die, not now, not even when the despairing visions from
the hideously compelling seeing-stone forebode destruction on a scale that the Steward simply
could not comprehend. He had spent his life looking ahead, calculating responses, noticing the
smallest affectations of personality which could then be unraveled and thusly manipulated. He was
not malevolent, merely observant.
He had, however, been called, and he would heed the summons. The fire which raged in his son had
found a willing spark in his soul, and he could do nothing other than accept the unwitting
proposition. Like their ancestors of old, he would burn, all imperfections refined in a purifying
blaze. They were of a line of Kings. Stewards, yes, but as noble in spirit and heart as those who
had been so supercilious and yet so absent for year upon year, generation following
"Faramir," Denethor murmured. He dipped the cold cloth into water and rested it above
his son's fevered eyes, watching Faramir's dampened shirt as his son labored, panting in his need
He took his son's hand and held it to his own chest atop his cold velvet tunic, relishing the
fortifying heat of Faramir's clutching fingers against the chill of the room.
A rap sounded on the door.
"Enter," the Steward commanded.
Six men stood in the doorway, paused, then walked forward in pairs.
"You requested our presence?" one asked, his wild eyes revealing his fraying
"Tarangil," Denethor replied. "I need you to lay some blankets on my
Footsteps echoed in the room as Denethor rose unsteadily, and let his gaze scour the room until
he saw what he needed.
"Peregrin Took. My staff."
Pippin placed it in his hand as Faramir's pallet was draped, then raised. Denethor noticed that
the hobbit's face was smudged. Soot, perhaps? he pondered, then refocused his attentions.
Such a small funeral, he mused. 'Tis only fitting.
"To the Silent Street."
Denethor's authoritative voice rang through the room. He followed behind his son, ready to face
the heat which would soon consume them.
Sext (Lobelia Sackville-Baggins): "Then there was Lobelia. Poor thing, she looked very old
and thin when they rescued her from a dark and narrow cell. She insisted on hobbling out on
her own feet;
" emphasis mine. Chapter IX, ‘The Grey Havens,' Return of the
Terce (Haldir): "Three times Lórien had been assailed from Dol Guldur, [
grievous harm was done to the fair woods on the borders,[
]" emphasis mine.
Appendix B, Lord of the Rings.
Back to Fanfiction listings