Denethor's gentlemen in waiting paid no more
attention to Pippin's return than they had to his
leaving. He lit one of the candles he was carrying
from a stand near the door to the bedroom before going
It was pitch dark and dead silent save for
Faramir's labored breathing. Grimly Pippin groped his
way to the nearest candlestand, stuck in the new
candles and lit them, then moved on to the next. Only
after he'd made a complete circuit of the room did he
turn to look at his master.
Faramir's face was red with the heat of his fever
and glistened in the candlelight. But his father's,
hanging over him, was cold and grey like the congealed
candle wax dripping from the stands. There was nothing
Pippin could say, nothing he could do but take up his
station by the door and wait.
After what seemed a very long time the door was
opened to admit a breathless messenger. "My Lord," he
said bowing to Denethor's back, "the first circle is
on fire and Men are flying from the walls. What are
Slowly the Steward straightened up, then turned to
the messenger a face so bleak and terrible that the
Man blanched and recoiled a step. "Why? Why do the
fools fly?" he asked. "Better to burn sooner than
late, for burn we must. Go back to your bonfire!" he
came to his feet, voice rising to a shout. "The West
has failed. Go back and burn!"
The Man turned and fled. Denethor looked after him,
then back at his son with a glitter in his eye Pippin
didn't like at all.
"Send for my servants!"
Pippin went out the still open door to the
anteroom. "The Lord Steward calls for you." he said to
the gentlemen in waiting. Then went on through the
presence chamber and down the stair to see for himself
what was happening outside.
The first circle of the city was indeed afire, and
the enemy was hurling great balls of flaming pitch
over the wall to start more. Looking down from the
embrasure at the tip of the great buttress Pippin saw
a great battering ram tipped with an iron wolf's head,
red fire in its jaws, at the Great Gate far below.
Straining trolls pulled it back then released it to
swing forward, crashing against the wood and metal of
"Oh no." he whispered.
The Great Gate quivered under a thunderous blow,
the wounded in the square and the Women tending them
stared at it apprehensively.
"Idril!" She looked up to see Mithrandir on the
wall above. "Clear the square, get the wounded and
your Women out of there."
She waved to show she had heard and turned to obey.
"Luinil, get the walking wounded up and moving, at
least as far as the second circle. Annalind,
Pharinzil, try to find me some Men to carry the
litters of those who cannot walk."
"The gate won't break." Luinil said fiercely,
denying her fear. "It *can't*!"
At that moment the ancient timbers shuddered again
under a second even greater blow.
"Get up to the second circle or higher if you can."
was all Idril answered.
After seeing her field hospital in the square
packed up and on its way she went down the lower
avenue to collect the Women at the aid stations and
start them and their charges upward as well. Then
climbed onto the wall to find Hirluin of Pinnath
Gelin, who commanded the defenses north of the Gate.
"Get your Men out of here." she said flatly. He
stared at her in disbelief, as well he might. She
explained. "The Gate is under attack, it will not
hold, nor will our Men will be able to keep the enemy
out when it breaks. If you don't go now you'll be cut
He looked at the Orc littered ramparts, nodded
reluctantly. "You're right, we can do no more good
Pippin turned away from the embrasure. If the city
was about to be breached its Steward should be told,
not that he was likely to care. The Hobbit had just
reached the fountain and the Tree when he saw Denethor
descending the steps of the Tower. Followed by six
guardsmen bearing Faramir, now dressed in mail and
silver edged surcoat, upon a bier. Followed in turn by
the somber waiting gentlemen.
Pippin stopped in his tracks, eyes filling with
tears. "Oh no." he whispered again. Faramir was dead.
He ran to join the little procession, trailing the
gentlemen servants, as they walked slowly down the
stair and through the tunnel to the sixth circle.
Turning westward they went past the grand old
mansions, some visibly decaying, watched by the wide
eyed Women and children sheltering in them, until they
came to a door in the rearward wall, guarded by a
porter in the uniform of the Citadel. At Denethor's
command he unlocked the door and they passed through.
Pippin, at the tail end of the procession, heard the
door close and relock behind them. Followed the others
down a winding, descending road hemmed in on either
side by high walls.
Eventually it opened up into a narrow street with
many side lanes snaking their way between massive
buildings of black and white stone, grand with domes
and spires and many statues looking down with empty
eyes upon the intruders.
Pippin looked around him uneasily. He didn't like
this place. Then suddenly he realized what it was; a
graveyard. These were the splendid tombs of the Lords
of Gondor and they had brought Faramir here to bury
him. Pippin stopped where he was in the middle of the
street and let the funeral cortege go on without him.
He didn't want to go into any of these grim grand
buildings or watch them lay Faramir away in cold
stone. He'd just stay here and wait until Denethor and
his attendants came out again.
After some minutes a pair of the gentlemen in
waiting reappeared, walking quickly up the street
towards the long twisty passage and the door. Pippin
looked after them in some bewilderment. Had they
Idril was chiving her various charges through fire
and ruin up the great avenue to the second gate when
they were overtaken by a surge of shaken and battered
Men, and Mithrandir on his white horse.
"The city is breached!" he shouted. "Fall back to
the second level." then he saw her. "Get the Women and
children out, get them out!" and galloped on.
She glared after him. What did he think she was
doing? But she feared the second level would prove no
refuge. The inner walls had been hopelessly
compromised over the centuries by windows, balconies
and postern doors.
Unfortunately she was right. Even before the second
gate had closed behind them the circle had been
breached in a dozen places. Orcs, Trolls and even
Wargs roamed the narrow alleys hunting for prey. The
retreat soon disintigrated into a score of desperate
rearguard actions as soldiers tried to cover the
flight of the Women, unarmed Men and wounded to the
Idril stood in the lea of a half shattered tower,
Pharinzil and Annalind huddled behind her, as Women
ran past them up a flight of steps winding steeply
between the buildings. Some, looking back over their
shoulders, screamed at the sight of massive black Orcs
all to close behind. Idril looked frantically around
for something, anything to stop them and her eye was
caught by the jagged wall looming over her.
She grabbed at a couple of the Women running by,
"Help me!" the five of them got behind the shattered
wall and pushed with all their strength, it gave a
little. A few of the Women bringing up the rear saw
what they were trying to do and stopped to help. Their
combined weight finally overbalanced the ruin and it
gave way, stones cascading down the stair to crush and
sweep away the Uruks.
"Well done!" Idril told them. "Now go on, keep
moving." obediently the Women scampered up the steps.
Before following she looked one last time down at the
wreckage and saw that one Orc was still barely alive,
half buried, mewling in pain.
Idril hesitated, torn between hatred and disgust
and an unexpected pity. Finally she drew the dagger
her father had given her and picking her way down
through the the tumbled stones drove it into the
creature's eye, ending its agony. She wiped the black
blood from the blade and turned to follow the other
Women telling herself there was no justification for
needless cruelty, even against such as Orcs.
Pippin was sitting disconsolately on the steps of a
splendid tomb adorned with gilded statues of black
stone when Denethor's gentlemen finally returned,
followed by liveried servants carrying bundles of wood
and vessels of oil like the one he'd spilled over the
beacon pyre. He watched them pass in bewilderment.
Then after a few moments saw the serving Men
returning, looking pale and shaken.
Pippin came to his feet. "What is it? what are they
"Something I have no stomach for." one of the Men
answered him bleakly.
And another said; "If you are wise Little Master
you'll come back with us. Leave the Dead to the Dead."
They hurried on up the road. Pippin, really
frightened now, went the other way - after Denethor.
Peering cautiously through the open door of the
great tomb house of the Stewards he saw guards and
gentlemen in waiting piling wood onto a wide stone
dais. They lifted Faramir from his litter to lay him
atop the pile and he moaned a weak protest.
Pippin gasped. Faramir wasn't dead at all! Why then
had Denethor brought him here?
The Steward climbed up on the heaped wood to cradle
his son's head in his lap. "The house of his spirit
crumbles." he mourned. "He is burning. Already
Suddenly Pippin realized with horror what Denethor
meant to do. Abandoning his hiding place he ran to the
pyre, tried to pull away the bundled wood. "No! He's
not dead! He's not dead!" Then Denethor seized him in
an iron grip and dragged him, struggling and pleading,
to the door.
"Hear now, Peregrin, son of Paladin," he said in an
iron voice. "I release you from my service." threw him
to the ground outside the great metal doors and
finished. "Go now and die in what way seems best to
you." then slammed the doors shut in his face.
Pippin heard him cry "Pour oil on the wood!" then
picked himself up and ran all the way back to the
locked door and pounded on it. Nearly bowled over the
porter when he finally opened it, and raced through
the sixth circle and up the tunnel to the Citadel.
Help, he had to get help for Faramir. But who? and
where? Then he remembered one of the four guards
standing round the Tree was Beregond and ran to him.
"Beregond, Beregond, you must help. Faramir isn't
dead but his father is going to burn him alive and
himself too I think! Please do something."
He saw the Man's eyes glint above the black silk
mask as they looked down on him and then away.
Remembered suddenly what he'd been told the very first
day they met: Fountain Guards couldn't speak or take
notice of anything while on duty.
A sob of frustration broke from him. "Curse this
mad city and its mad laws!" Abandoning Beregond he ran
back to the stair. Gandalf, Gandalf could help. If
only he could find him in time.