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What the Thunder Said
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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2
Chapter II

He who was living is now dead
We who are living are now dying
With a little patience


There are some who say Mithrandir brings only an ill wind. Not I. My companions and I would not have gained the city without him. Barely any distance from the gates, the winged terror descended upon us. The fear that Boromir and I had withstood at Osgiliath had been increased tenfold, and this time my brother was not nigh to support me. This time it was as if a thunderbolt tore through my temples; and then the shrieking began, scraping through my mind. Dragging together these remnants of my senses, I forced myself to turn Aryn to ride back to my companions, who had been unhorsed. And then, like a flash of lightning, Mithrandir shot across the field towards us, and the thunderous onslaught of the terror was diminished before his white fury.

But the sensation of unreality was not abated as I made my way up to the citadel. First, I beheld another Halfling from my dreams - and wearing the silver and black of the Tower. And, then, I had to face my father. How different his expression from that I had beheld in my vision! Cold and severe he was, and the candlelight cast cruel shadows along the sharp lines of his features. The flickering of the flames upon his face unsteadied me further. Glad I was again that Mithrandir was beside me for, at length, I could no longer counter my lord's wrath, and Mithrandir spoke in my place. Had he not been there, I believe I would have fallen down before my father's feet and begged for his forgiveness - and I do not doubt I would not have had it. As it was, I held myself in check, barely.

At length my lord gave me leave, and I retired to my chamber. It was proving harder and harder to set one foot before the other. Reaching my room at last, I sat down wearily in my chair. Tremors from that terrible assault were still shuddering through my mind, and my eyes seemed now and again to lose focus, as if the light about me were all of a sudden dimmed. At first I did not hear the gentle tapping at the door, but it became more and more insistent.

'Come!' I said wearily, drawing a hand across my face, for I had little strength left for speech, and I dreaded another such costly encounter.

'My lord. You are weary. I shall not detain you long.'

It was Mithrandir. I gestured wordlessly at the chair opposite, and he sat. We gazed upon each other. I had lit only a single candle, and his face was half-hidden in the gloom. And as I looked on him, I wondered what power it was he held to have kindled in me a love greater than that I held for my own sire.

'It was the right choice,' he said, at length.

'Indeed?'

'And I know what it cost to make it.'

I laughed, a little wildly. 'Do you know my father's final instructions to me before I set out for Ithilien? Make me proud, he said.' I shook my head. 'It seems I do not know how to do that, even when presented with such a chance as I have never had before. Alas indeed my brother was not there for him, and that I was not slain at Rauros,' I concluded bitterly.

'Yet I at least am thankful that it was you and not Boromir in Ithilien,' Mithrandir replied quietly. 'For had your places been exchanged, your brother would have brought ruin upon us all. You know this in your heart, Faramir.'

I put my head into my hands, and then felt the press of his against them. 'Try to sleep,' he said. 'Your father's mood will be little better in the morning, and you have enemies enough to face without spending your strength on combating him.'

He left me then, and I blew out the candle and tried to do what he had told me; but lying there on the bed I could hear the echo of that dreadful screaming, and I was left shivering in the dark. In time, I gave up on sleep and, wrapping a blanket around me, I lit the candle, sat back in my chair and picked up a book. But my mind was too tired to follow the words and, in the end, I simply sat and dozed, and waited for the first brown light of dawn to enter through my window. Then I rose, and prepared myself to attend the meeting of the council.

Sitting outside the council chamber, awaiting the Lord of the City to call us in to him, I rested my head in my hands and rubbed at the grit in my eyes. I was not aware for a while that a figure had come to stand before me.

'Does the Lord Faramir have naught to say in greeting to his kinsman?' a dear voice said.

'Uncle!' I cried in joy; and I stood, and we embraced. Nigh on two years had passed since last he had come to Minas Tirith, and no time had I had to journey to the coast. Seeing him once again reminded me how much I had missed him. He spoke softly some words about my brother, to console us both in our grief; then he held my face between his hands for a moment and a look of concern passed over him. 'You look fit to drop,' he said. 'When did you return to the city?'

'Yester eve, and under darkness,' I said. 'But,' and I glanced behind him at the still closed door, 'Things do not stand well between us.'

He muttered a low curse, most unlike his usual courtesy. 'Naught changes with the Lord Denethor, then. What was your offence on this occasion?'

Although I would trust my uncle with my soul, Mithrandir had not given me leave to speak about the errand of the Ringbearer, and I did not wish to broach the matter in such an open place. But I could say enough that would put him close to the mark. 'What has my offence ever been, uncle?' I said sadly. 'I am not Boromir, and that is enough. And now I live while he does not. That, I think, can never be pardoned.' As I finished speaking, we were summoned in, and he had time only to press my hand very quickly.

Perhaps if I had argued that we should defend the fords and the Pelennor at all costs, my father would have decided otherwise. For their defence seemed to me futile; and, worse, for it would needlessly cost the lives of many brave men. But this way, at least, I had obliged him by preferring a course whose denial better suited his wrath towards me.

This was to be my punishment, I reflected, as I left the council chamber; and he could not have chosen a surer fate for me than if he had sent me straight for execution. And then my spirit failed me, and I had to stop as I walked along the passageway to regain my composure. I put my forearm against the wall to steady myself, and rested my head upon it. My left hand strayed wearily to my sword hilt. Then I felt a hand upon my back. I turned to behold my uncle. He seemed to be somewhat in shock, his face grey. We clasped arms, and for a moment it seemed that I was comforting him. 'In the name of all the Valar, ride safe, son,' he implored me.

I looked back at him steadily. 'This is a bitter parting, but let us at least not deceive ourselves,' I said quietly. 'For we both know that if I return alive, it will have taken all the grace of the Valar to ensure it. And it shall not be in accordance with the will of the Steward.'

Then we embraced, and I bowed my head and rested it for a moment on his shoulder. Then I left the citadel, bound for Osgiliath, and the fate which my father had judged I deserved.

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