Written for the "C...like Certain Circumstances in the Citadel" prompt for the 2007 B2MEM Challenge.
'Nay, I will not come down,' came Denethor’s voice from beyond the door. 'I must stay beside my son. He might still speak before the end. But that is near. Follow whom you will, even the Grey Fool, though his hope has failed. Here I stay.'
There was a silence. The other captains looked to the Prince of Dol Amroth, who glanced at his faithful shadow, who studied the guards upon the Steward’s door as if they were roasts he was contemplating carving. The guards shifted nervously, their hands close to the hilts of their weapons. The Tiger of Dol Amroth was held to be one of the most formidable warriors in Gondor.
“If your desire is to be within that chamber, my lord, I can make it so,” Andrahar said matter-of-factly. The guards paled a little.
“Nay, Andra, let me speak to him first instead,” Imrahil said softly. “We’ve enough of the Enemy to deal with without slaying each other.” Raising his voice to carry through the wood, he implored, “Brother! May I not come in and visit with Faramir, if he is so close to passing as you say?”
“Begone, Imrahil!” the voice answered with some of its usual arrogant vigor. “I will have him to myself for the last at least! Faramir is my son! You have a son here-if he has not died already, go find him and die with him! And trouble me no more!”
Imrahil bowed his head, thinking of splendid Boromir, so recently lost, and Faramir, whom he loved dearly and whom, it seemed, was going to perish as well, despite Dol Amroth’s heroic sortie to rescue him. And though his differences with the Steward spanned decades, this last pettiness inspired in the Prince nothing but grief and pity.
What would I become, were I to lose all my children?
Aloud he said, “I had thought Faramir not so sorely wounded when I brought him from the field.”
“It is the fever, my lord prince,” one of the guards volunteered eagerly, hoping perhaps to deflect Andrahar’s wrath with helpfulness. “It burns and does not abate. The healers can do nothing.”
“What of Mithrandir? Has he been here? Could he not help?”
“Healing is not one of my gifts, my lord,” the wizard said, having appeared inexplicably at the rear of the congregation. A couple of the captains jumped and at least one swore.
“Is there truly nothing you can do?” It was the heartfelt plea of a proud man, and the wizard was not unmoved. There was compassion in his dark eyes as he said, “No, my lord prince, and we have more serious matters to deal with here than the fate of one man.”
Húrin of the Keys, his expression distressed, said, “Indeed, my lord Mithrandir. We have all heard and witnessed the Steward relinquishing his authority in this time of crisis. The City must have a commander.”
“The Steward named you, Mithrandir, and I do not dispute him,” Imrahil said; then, looking around at the assembled commanders asked, “Is there any man here who does?”
The chorus of nays was unanimous, and the wizard seemed a little surprised. “But I wonder-will all your men feel the same way?” he mused.
“We know that you are the only one who can face the Black Captain and his winged horrors,” Húrin said pragmatically, and there were more nods all around.
The wizard nodded in his turn. “Very well then. But I may in fact be called away to deal with them, so I will name a second. Prince Imrahil will command when I am not there. Is that acceptable to you all?” A chorus of ayes arose this time. “Then, my lords, my first order is that you await me in the council chamber. I must speak to the Prince, then we will have a brief council of war before we return to our duties.” The captains of Gondor departed murmuring among themselves, save for Andrahar, who looked to his lord, who gave the wizard an inquiring look.
“He may stay. I know better than to attempt to separate a man from his shadow. Some things are beyond even the Wise.” Andrahar snorted. Imrahil looked longingly towards the closed door, and Gandalf saw this. “There is nothing more you or I can do for Faramir now, my lord prince, save to try to keep his City for him, so that he has a place to heal, if heal he can.” He gestured with his staff towards the door. “Come. Let us walk a bit.” Prince and commander followed the wizard down the hall and down the stairs, into an empty chamber on the floor below. A window looked down over the city, to the carnage and chaos below, and the three were drawn to it as if compelled.
Gandalf sighed as he looked out. “I thank you, Imrahil, for not disputing me up there. It makes my task easier in one way, at least.” The Prince nodded. “But despite your generosity, it is not enough. There is something more I require of you, and you alone can give it, you and your knights.”
“I will provide anything you require, Mithrandir, if I can,” came Imrahil’s ready assent, though he was a little puzzled. The wizard smiled wearily.
“Thank you. You are generous as ever, my lord prince. I remember that there was a time in your youth when you would have preferred to be player rather than prince. It is a performance I require of you now, Imrahil, the performance of your life. The people labor under a burden of fear and terror, brought upon them by Sauron’s dark minions. You and your knights can be the reminder of what Gondor truly stands for. I need you to help me inspire them to hold their ground. You are of Gondor, and they will trust you where they might not me.”
The Prince inclined his head. “Whatever I can do to help, I will, Mithrandir.”
“Besides,” his oath-brother interjected. “It is not so difficult a thing as all that, to act as if we are Gondor’s finest warriors, when in fact we are.”
Gandalf chuckled. “A great blow was struck the Enemy the day Harad cast you out, my lord Andrahar. Glad I am that you are on our side!”
“Actually, it is more that I am on his,” the Captain of the Swan Knights said by way of clarification, indicating his liege lord.
“Close enough!” the wizard said, still smiling.
“We find ourselves in the darkest of times,” that liege lord murmured, raising his eyes towards the ceiling for a moment. His thoughts were obviously still with his despairing brother-in-law and his injured nephew in the room above. “Would that we had a Thorongil here! He was truly a king among captains!” He turned his gaze back upon Gandalf, and there was an oddly knowing glint in the look he gave the wizard. “Perhaps one might yet appear?”
This time, it was Andrahar who was puzzled, and his puzzlement increased when he saw that the wizard was genuinely startled.
“I think, my lord, that a prince among captains will have to suffice for now. You must rise to meet Gondor’s need on your own.“
“May the Valar find me not lacking,” Imrahil murmured. The wizard’s dark eyes bored into his for a moment, and though many men found the Grey Pilgrim’s gaze hard to endure the Prince did so boldly, sea-grey against black. Gandalf smiled.
“I do not believe that they will. You have been training for this moment your entire life, Imrahil of Dol Amroth and now it is upon you. Let us rejoin the others. There is little enough ordering of our forces to be done, but such as it is, let us accomplish it.”
The Prince nodded, and his man fell in behind, and two men and a wizard left that chamber, never to return again while the siege lasted.
“So it was that Gandalf took command of the last defence of the City of Gondor. Wherever he came men's hearts would lift again, and the winged shadows pass from memory. Tirelessly he strode from Citadel to Gate, from north to south about the wall; and with him went the Prince of Dol Amroth in his shining mail. For he and his knights still held themselves like lords in whom the race of Númenor ran true.” The Siege of Gondor, ROTK.
Denethor's opening words are from ROTK as well.