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The Siege of Minas Tirith
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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16
Night Passes

Pippin was almost ready to give up when he turned a
corner and there was Gandalf, sitting on Shadowfax
frowning off into the distance, seemingly unaware of
the soldiers streaming past him.

"Gandalf!" he ran to him, shoving the big Men out
of his way as if they were Hobbits. "Gandalf,
Denethor's lost his mind. He's burning Faramir alive!"

For a moment the wizard blinked down at him without
recognition, then his eyes flared wide in alarm as
Pippin's words registered. He reached down a hand to
haul the Hobbit onto Shadowfax. "Come!"

They galloped up the winding avenue and passed
through the gate to the fourth circle. Then Shadowfax
checked, coming to a halt so sudden his riders were
almost unseated.

Pippin felt a downwash of air, as from giant wings,
and was filled with an all too familiar dread. Peeking
around Gandalf he saw a fell beast had landed almost
directly in their path, the Nazgul on its back masked
and crowned with black iron.

"You cannot enter here." the wizard's voice rang
cold and hard. "Go back to the abyss prepared for you!
Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your
Master. Go!"

And was answered by an even colder and more deadly
voice: "Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know
death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!" the
Witch King raised his sword and red flames ran down
the blade. Pippin buried his face in Gandalf's cloak.

The wizard lifted up his staff, light blazing from
the tip. But this Nazgul did not blench from the white
fire. Sword met staff once, twice, and on the third
stroke the staff shattered in a blinding flash.

Shadowfax staggered back a few steps, as the Witch
King laughed, then checked himself. Gandalf set his
hand to Glamdring's hilt, but before he could draw the
homeliest yet strangest of sounds froze both wizard
and Witch King in their tracks and made Pippin lift up
his head to look around in bewilderment for the
source.

Somewhere, in some backyard coop, a cock crowed
welcoming the morning. And, sure enough, though the
east remained dark there was light in the west. Honest
yellow-white sunlight, seeming terribly bright in
contrast with the Shadow still hanging over the City.

Then, as if in answer to the cock, there came
another sound, faint with distance, the wild music of
horns.

The Nazgul pulled his beast's head around and took
to the air, heading out to the battlefield. "What is
it?" Pippin asked, shaking with relief. "What happened
Gandalf?"

"Day has come again," the wizard answered, sounding
a little dazed himself. "and the Riders of Rohan with
it." then with a touch of his old irrascibility:
"There are things I should be doing, but first for
Faramir!"
***

The Porter lay dead beside his door. "This is the
work of the Enemy!" Gandalf said bitterly. "Such deeds
he loves: friend at war with friend; loyalty divided
in confusion of hearts."

They galloped on; down the winding Rath Dinen, up
the central street of the tombs and then down the side
alley leading to the House of the Stewards.

Shadowfax reared, striking the steel doors open
with his hooves. Light streamed in from the
brightening sky behind them showing Beregond and
Denethor face to face, weapons in hand.

"Stay this madness!" Gandalf thundered, and for an
instant both Men looked towards him. Then Denethor
raised his sword to strike.

Snatching a spear from a guard flanking the doors
Gandalf charged forward and knocked the blade from his
hand. Denethor staggered back, almost fell.

As Shadowfax wheeled around beside the pyre Pippin
threw himself onto it to roll Faramir, soaked in oil,
into Beregond's waiting arms. The guardsman carried
the unconscious Man to the bier nearby, and as he did
so Faramir moaned and called for his father.

At the sound of his voice the madness vanished from
Denethor's face and tears filled his eyes. "Do not
take my son from me!" he pleaded. "He calls for me."

"He calls," Gandalf said gently and pityingly, "but

you cannot come to him yet. For he must seek healing,
and maybe find it not. Your part is to go out to the
battle, where maybe death awaits you. In your heart
you know this."

Again Denethor wavered, trembling and looking with
longing at the face of his son.

"Come!" Gandalf urged softly. "We are needed. There
is much you can yet do."

It was the wrong thing to say, or perhaps there
were no right words to call Denethor back to himself.
The fey, fell fire flared again in his eyes. "I am
Steward of the House of Anarion." he snarled. "I will
not step down to be the dotard chamberlain of an
upstart! If doom denies me my due then I will have
*naught* neither life diminished, nor love halved, nor
honor abated."

"Yet you shall not rob your son of his choice."
Gandalf answered.

Denethor pulled a dagger from his sleeve and took a
step towards the bier, face terrible. Beregond and
Pippin hastily put themselves between. He stopped.
"So," he said, breathing heavily, "your minions rob me
wholly of my son at the last, Mithrandir. But in one
thing at least I will have my will: I will rule my own
end!"

Whirling he snatched a torch from the hand of the
nearest guard and sprang up upon the pyre before any
could stop him. Smiling viciously, directly at
Gandalf, he cast the brand into the oiled wood.

It caught at once. But it seemed to Pippin that
Denethor's eyes turned one last time to Faramir, in a
look of love and grief, the instant before the flames
engulfed him. "No!" he cried, startibg forward.

Beregond held him back. "It is too late, Peregrin.
It has been too late for him for a long time."

The flames roared, licking hungrily at the nearer
stone biers and the long dead Stewards laid upon them.
"Out!" Gandalf shouted. "Everybody out!"

They fled, carrying Faramir with them. The Wizard
reached down to slam the doors shut on the inferno,
and as he did so they heard a single, agonized cry,
from the dying Man.

Pippin collapsed in the street in tears.

"Thus passes Denethor son of Ecthelion." Gandalf
said heavily. Turned to the dazed guards and waiting
gentlemen. "As for you, servants of the Steward, blind
in your obedience -"

"Let them be, Mithrandir." Beregond interupted.
"His will was strong. He overbore them."

The wizard looked at him for a long moment, then
nodded slowly. "Very well, no reproaches. Come, let us
leave this place."

He took Pippin up behind him on Shadowfax and the
shaken guards lifted up Faramir and bore him after,
trailed by the gentlemen in waiting. As they reached
the opening to the Rath Dinen there came a great noise
from behind. Turning they saw the dome of the
Stewards' House collapse in on itself in a flurry of
sparks. No one said anything, they but looked for a
moment, then wearily began the long climb back to the
City of the living.

"Mithrandir." Beregond said in a soft yet carrying
voice. Wiping his eyes Pippin saw the guardsman had
come up alongside Shadowfax, and that he carried
Denethor's cloak bundled in his arms. "The Steward had
looked into the Anor-Stone. It showed him that which
drove him to this final frenzy."

Gandalf bowed his head. "So that is how Sauron's
will entered into the very heart of the City - through
its lord."

"What do you mean?" Pippin whispered, for both Man
and wizard had kept their voices very low.

"There was a palantir kept in the White Tower as
well as at Orthanc." Ganadalf answered. "As the peril
to his realm grew Denethor dared to look into it."

"But..but he would have seen -" Pippin's voice
failed as he remembered the horror of his own
experience.

"Seen Sauron," the wizard agreed heavily, "and
matched his will against the Dark Power. He was too
great to be subdued, but he could be decieved. He saw
only that which Sauron permitted him to see and those
visions fed the despair of his heart until it
overthrew his mind." He turned back to Beregond.
"Denethor had it with him in the tomb? What became of
it?"

"I have it here." the Man answered. And Pippin
shuddered, realizing what the furred robe must
contain. "It is now the Lord Faramir's charge but -"

"He is not fit to bear it." Gandalf finished for
him and gave him a piercing look. "And so I give it
into your keeping, Beregond. Guard it well, give it up
to none save it's rightful owner."

"I will."
****

They didn't carry Faramir all the way back to the
Citadel but only as far as the Houses of Healing, now
crowded with wounded, who overflowed into the usually
peaceful cloisters surrounding the courts.

"Papa!" Bergil came hurtling out of a doorway to
his father's arms, followed more slowly by the weary
and harried looking Man who was Warden of the Houses.

"Of course we can find room for the Lord Faramir,
Mithrandir." he assured the Wizard. Looked ruefully
over his shoulder. "Somewhere."

"Master Peregrin here will stay with him -" Gandalf
began.

"No I will not." Pippin interupted decidely, and
got startled looks from Men and wizard alike. "I am a
soldier of Gondor not a nurse, time I acted like one."
he looked up at Gandalf. "Boromir taught us to fight
and I will do what little I can in defense of his
City. For him, and for Faramir, and for my Lord
Denethor too!"

"Bergil and I will tend the Lord Faramir." Beregond
put in quietly. Looked significantly at the wizard. "I
have now a charge that I may not leave."

For a moment Pippin couldn't imagine what he was
talking about - then he remembered; of course the
palantir.

Gandalf still hesitated, clearly displeased. Pippin
braced himself for an argument, but instead the wizard
sighed. "Very well, Peregrin Took." he said
resignedly. "Let us go down and see how the battle has
fared without us."

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