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Five Moves that Denethor and Faramir Never Made
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Five Moves that Denethor and Faramir Never Made

These are mostly by Mr Altariel, although Altariel helped.


1. Queen

The papers were discovered in some far chamber of the White Tower. After short consideration, the seneschal sent them to the Queen (it was well known that the King thought little of the game).

Arwen recognized their Steward’s hand at once – less graceful than in peaceful years. But another had sorted the pages, and annotated them, and bound them, and from his careful spider-notes the Queen revived the long war between father and son.

Year after year, the old man prevailed. And then, near the end – tragedy overtook him. The winning move was missed, and he fell before his foe.

2. King

“My wife thought you’d better have these.” He put the papers on the table between them. “She does have a question, if you would permit.” The King took it for granted that both the papers and the question would be known to him.

Faramir touched them gently and let out a long slow breath. “She wants to know about the game he lost.”

Aragorn nodded.

“She is not alone in that desire.”

“Do you have his correspondence? Maybe put together, they would solve the riddle?”

He shook his head. “I never defeated him, you see. He simply forbore to win.”

3. Captain

The summer was uncommonly wet. The messengers arrived heavy with rain-soaked leather and bone-dry instructions from the Citadel.

The board was stained from campaigning, but still serviceable, and the armies stood implacably across from one another. He had been considering the position for a week, but, however often he examined it, the winning move eluded him.

The courier stood expectantly, his satchel gaping, his eyes on the threatening clouds.

“I know, I know…” The pieces silently refused to help. “Blast you all.” The Captain quickly scribbled his move on the back of an old requisition form. What’s one more defeat?

4. Pawn


“He’s blown it.”

“Knew he would.”

“He never sees the big picture.”

“Buried in the detail, see.”

“You can talk.”

“I know. But I’m just a courier. (BEAT) Makes you think.”

“Makes you think?”

“These are the people in charge of the f****n’ war.”

“Chess isn’t the same thing as war, you know.”

“No. It’s a ritualized encounter between master strategists, played out through the medium of boxwood.”

“F**k off.”

“I will. Got to take his latest effort back to the City.”

“He’s doomed. Again.”


5. Wizard

“Has he really written his move on the back of a request for socks?” Mithrandir chuckled, as was his wont. “It is not, if I may say, the best he could have made.” He rocked on his heels, his beard betraying the silent laughter that had not yet passed. “Poor boy.”

Denethor shook his head, almost imperceptibly.

“If he had used his Wizard, you would be in some trouble now.” Mithrandir’s eyes sparkled. “As it is, you have him if you move your Captain. There. See?”

“I shall play my own game, if it is all the same to you.”


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