Gandalf stood in the shadows, watching a familiar scene play itself out once more.
His trip to Minas Tirith has been for research, to gather what information he could from the writings preserved in that ancient city, to prepare for his work against the Enemy. When he arrived there, the first man he met was Faramir, now grown, and eager to help his beloved Mithrandir in all ways possible.
The young man led the wizard down into a subbasement of the Steward’s library, pushing dust and cobwebs away until they found what Gandalf sought, a bundle of darkened parchment wrapped in oilcloth and last read long ago. Gandalf thanked the young man, and tried to send him back about his business, training the City Guard.
But Faramir would not be dismissed so easily. He urged Gandalf to join his family for supper, and to stay in the Steward’s House as a guest of House Húrin. His courtesy brought a smile to the wizard’s face, and Gandalf accepted readily, though he warned that he might be late for the evening meal…assuming he didn’t forget the meal altogether in his studies. Faramir had merely smiled and nodded at this last, then hurried back up the stairs to his other duties.
Gandalf did miss the evening repast, but hoped to meet the family later in the evening. He had not reckoned with Denethor’s new habits—hours spent up in his tower study, away from his sons, away from all others—and when at last Gandalf came up the Great Hall, several hours after the evening meal, he found only Faramir and his older brother Boromir, sitting near a dying fire, talking quietly. Gandalf joined them, and the conversation stretched out for two more hours, broken only when Denethor entered the room. All three men stood up to greet him.
“Why was I not informed that Mithrandir had returned to Minas Tirith?” The criticism was enough to burn young Faramir’s face bright red, as he hastened to explain that he had tried to inform his father, that he had left notes about the wizard’s arrival in his father’s study and bedroom when he could not find him personally. No word of greeting to Gandalf, no word to Boromir about his actions—simply scorn for the steward’s younger son.
Gandalf stood, made his apologies, and said that he wished to be no burden, and planned to leave on the morrow anyhow, his research in the Steward’s library complete. Bidding father and sons goodnight, he went out a side door and started to walk up the stairs to the room that Faramir had found for him. But something made him linger.
Now, as the hour approached midnight, Gandalf remained standing behind the side door, listening to Denethor vent his anger against Faramir. He should have been informed, Mithrandir should have been accompanied at all times, Faramir had no right to authorize entry into the Steward’s library, and on it went. Denethor’s ire seemed to know no limits, as he accused Faramir of endangering the sacred trust of their House by permitting a stranger—a wizard—access to their books and scrolls.
His mind flew back to another father and son, Ecthelion and his son Denethor, the son always overshadowed by the warrior Thorongil. As he listened to the tirade continue, Gandalf shook his head, sadly, and thought Steward, you forget yourself.